3 arrested in Lebanon for allegedly spying for Israel
By The Associated Press
The Israeli government could not be reached for comment on Shabbat.
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Saturday, April 25, 2009
Last update - 16:19 25/04/2009
3 arrested in Lebanon for allegedly spying for Israel
By The Associated Press
Lebanese authorities arrested three men early Saturday for allegedly being part of a network spying for Israel, security officials said, in the latest episode in the long-running espionage war between the two countries.
Agents grabbed the three men - two Lebanese and one Palestinian - from their homes in southern Lebanon during a raid early Saturday, security officials said.
Authorities are searching for a fourth suspect, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The Israeli government could not be reached for comment on Shabbat.
The arrests were based on information extracted from a retired Lebanese general arrested earlier this week, also for allegedly spying for Israel.
The general, his wife and his nephew, who is a government security agent, were charged this week with espionage.
According to charges filed Thursday by the military prosecutor Saqr Saqr, the three provided information to Israel about Lebanese and Syrian military and civilian installations.
Lebanon considers itself at war with Israel and bans its citizens from having any contact with the Jewish state.
Lebanese authorities have made a series of arrests in recent months that appear to be part of a stepped-up campaign against those suspected of gathering information on Hezbollah militants for Israel. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 in Israel.
The retired general had worked for the General Security Department at the Interior Ministry, the same office that employed his nephew. He told interrogators he had worked for Israel for more than 10 years and regularly met with his Israeli contacts at European destinations.
The ultranationalist right wing, war monger expansionist neocon, racist, right wing (did I mention that?) Israeli FM of the right wing (did I mention that?) expansionist Zionist war criminal Israel government is reported to have said that a two state solution was the only way to achieve peace and security.
Apr. 25, 2009
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was "very moderate" during his meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman last week, and told him that a two-state solution with the Palestinians was the only way to achieve peace and security in the region, according to a report in the London-based Arab paper Al-Hayat Saturday.
The paper was quoting an unnamed Egyptian official who it described as "reliable." Lieberman, the official said, also told Suleiman that economical development of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was of utmost importance to the peace process. The official said that the meeting between the two was successful and achieved its objective.
The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report.
Regarding Gaza, the source said that the Israeli position on the subject was that any renewed cease-fire with Hamas was conditional to the release of Gilad Schalit, But, he added, any possible prisoner exchange for the abducted soldier has been put on hold as the new Israeli government studies the issue. The source said Suleiman had made it clear to Israeli officials that the current quiet on the Gaza front was due to understandings between Egypt and Hamas.
Israeli leaders told Suleiman that the strengthening of Israeli-Egyptian relations was at the top of their agenda, the official said. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he added, was expected to visit Egypt following his upcoming visit to Washington.
It would be funnier, if people were not dying.
Khamenei: US, Israel behind Iraq attacks
Posted: 25-04-2009 , 10:15 GMT
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Saturday issued a message expressing his condolences to the Iranian nation on the terrorist operations in Iraq which killed or wounded hundreds of civilians including tens of Iranians. According to IRNA, the Iranian leader referred to the US as the main accused of the terrorist operations in Iraq, saying the US forces, under the false pretext of fight against terrorism have occupied the Islamic Iraq.
"The main accused in this crime and other crimes are the US security and military forces that have occupied an Islamic state under the pretext of campaign against terrorism and have killed or wounded tens of thousands of people so far and have intensified insecurity there," his message reiterated.
Abbas Djavadi is not correct about the reason for the boycott of the UN conference to support racism. The conference was boycotted because the draft summary document endorsed the previous draft, which had labelled Zionism as racism, and because Muslims are trying to make it illegal to criticize Islamist extremism.
But Dhavadi is right that Ahmadinejad is an embarrassment. He is not so much an embarrassment for the poor Iranians, who haven't got much choice, but he certainly embarrassed the UN and all the countries who applauded him.
Ahmadinejad — An Embarrassment for Iran
by Abbas Djavadi on 20/04/2009
In a first reaction to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN conference in Geneva, Ahmad Moussavi from Iran wrote on Radio Farda's Facebook page: "I am ashamed as an Iranian. And I don't know what else to say."
At the anti-racism conference on Monday, Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being "racist." "Using the Jewish suffering and the Holocaust as an excuse [...] they created a racist government in the occupied Palestinian territories," he said, pointing to the post-World War II Western powers.
Life proved right the U.S., Germany, Canada, Australia, and some other Western countries that had boycotted the meeting, fearing that the Iranian president would repeat his previous accusations against the Jewish state. Once Ahmadinejad started his speech at the conference with anti-Israeli attacks, representatives of 25 other countries including all remaining members of the EU walked out the meeting in protest.
No, Ahmadinejad has not learned from the damage he inflicted in the past on his own country's international standing with his inflammatory, hateful polemics. Contrary to the expectation of some moderation in rhetoric to pave the way for more engagement with the new U.S. administration and the EU, he once again demonstrated that he is either irreparably useless as a president of an otherwise respected old nation or he simply "plays crazy," as another Radio Farda listener suggested, to gather more votes in Iranian presidential election in two months.
One has to see if it will help Ahmadinejad to get re-elected. To be sure, he has further isolated Iran from Western powers that his own diplomats have been trying hard to win as friends — powers that are crucially important for Iran's stability and economic development.
While vehemently criticizing Ahmadinejad's "hateful rhetoric," the U.S. has said that Washington's policy of engagement and dialogue with Tehran would continue. And the EU is not expected to go to war against Iran just for a repeated diplomatic disaster its president has created for his own country. But engagement and dialogue will be extremely complicated and overly slow, should Ahmadinejad really be re-elected in June.
Unless Tehran is on a total confrontational course with the West and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to be the Middle East's Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Ahmadinejad's repeated hate rhetoric may be an indication that he will not run for a second term of presidency. Khamenei has the final word on who will become president and Ahmadinejad has not officially registered yet as a cand
148 people (give or take a few dozen) were killed in Iraq suicide bombings in two days. Quoth Hillary Clinton:
If the bombings are evidence of "progress" and the lack of electricity and the lack of oil exports and the lack of health care - then yes, there has been impressive progress. The bombings were certainly impressive. When the opposition kills a thousand people in a day, Clinton will say "Now they are really desperate!"
It is not funny. People are dying. Nobody cares. Everyone makes believe it is a holiday. And U.S. influence in Iraq and the Middle East will die with those people. Don't imagine it can be any other way. Don't think it will not affect Afghanistan, Israel, the Gulf states and all other regional alliances. People are watching, and drawing conclusions.
But the US is sticking to the plan, no matter what:
Friday, April 24, 2009
Undeniably, this is particularly true in the Middle East.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said some critical things about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the Durban-2 conference calling for Israel's destruction and questioning whether six million Jews were murdered by the German Nazis and their collaborators. Ki-Moon said he regretted that the Iranian president's speech tended "to accuse, divide and even incite."
In response, Iran's regime has lashed Ki-moon for "double standards."
Iranian U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee condemned the UN and its officials for having allegedly "remained silent on [the] Israeli regime's abhorrent crimes against the innocent Palestinians, and on the threats, allegations and distortions made against...Iran by the Israeli regime."
Benjamin Pogrund is a veteran of the South African apartheid struggle.
The racism conference had a chance to make a better world, but Israel became the target once more and it collapsed into debacle
Durban II ends today. The five-day conference in Geneva adopted a declaration running to 143 paragraphs. If weighty words count, then the world has taken a giant step forward in the fight against "racism, discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance".
Unfortunately, of course, life is more complex than that, especially when the countries that endorsed the sonorous phrases include some of the worst violators of human rights, with murder of opponents, suppression of women and homosexuals, slavery and savage punishments.
But while recognising that it's an imperfect world, shouldn't everyone – including especially those who boycotted or walked out of the conference – now rally round and endorse the declaration? The conference did little to achieve its real purpose – to review the extent to which countries have put anti-racism National Action Plans in place (only about 10 have done so). But doesn't its declaration deserve respect as an international statement of hope and aspiration for how we should behave towards each other?
Again unfortunately, the flaws are too great, both in the process and the document. The problem starts with the organisers, the United Nations, and its offshoot, the Human Rights Council. How did they manage to allow Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the star speaker? Everyone knew he would be spitting venom; the only unknown was how much and how virulent. Yet he landed up as the keynote speaker on the opening day – leading to the extraordinary walking out of representatives of 23 states and organisations.
He seemed oblivious to the insult. But the Norwegian delegate got to the nub of it: freedom of speech, yes, but Ahmadinejad's speech "ran counter to the spirit and dignity of the conference … it promoted a spirit of intolerance".
If Ahmadinejad was the only head of state who wanted to attend, couldn't he have been (diplomatically) uninvited? Instead, UN officialdom provided him with a platform to be a one-man wrecking crew.
The Human Rights Council is itself a curious body, with strong representation by human rights abusers. They have a fixation about Israel and devote a high proportion of their meetings to the country. That could be justifiable if Israel was the only or the worst human rights offender, but it pales alongside places like Darfur, Zimbabwe, China, Sri Lanka and Iraq, which do not get anything like the same attention.
Perhaps part of the UN problem is in the lack of understanding of the issues at stake shown by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and secretary general of the conference. This is what she said in pleading against boycott moves: "I am fully aware that the reputation of the 2001 World Conference was tainted by the antisemitic behaviour of some NGOs on the sidelines."
That's a remarkable playing down of the 2001 conference held in Durban, South Africa. It is widely recalled as a "hatefest" that severely set back the anti-racism cause. NGOs frenziedly condemned Israel and the west to such an extreme extent that the government conference that followed refused to endorse their resolutions, the first and only time this has happened in UN history. Aziz Pahad, then deputy foreign minister of South Africa, Pillay's home country, later publicly apologised for the "disgraceful events" and said that his government regretted that antisemitic elements had "hijacked" the conference.
Should countries that boycotted this week's meeting – such as the US, Canada, Germany and Israel – have attended? Should the countries that walked out on Monday – such as France, Australia and Poland – have stayed to listen to Ahmadinejad and engaged him in debate?
That is what some say. Well, dialogue is crucial. It is ultimately the only way to effect peace between warring people. But there is also the saying attributed to the late Sir Isaiah Berlin: "Whatever the attributes of a brick wall, one thing about it is that you cannot talk to it."
Would it have been possible to sit down to a polite conversation with Adolf Hitler and persuade him that he was wrong to believe that Jews, Gypsies and Russians were sub-humans deserving only of mass death? Would there have been any point in trying to engage Ahmadinejad in debate, and in a large conference setting at that, to tell him his views are lunatic and evil?
The week has not been entirely bad. ICARE (the Netherlands-based Internet Centre Anti-Racism Europe) notes that it has been "absolutely incomparable" with Durban 2001: only 314 accredited NGOs with 1,073 delegates, nothing like Durban. "It is mostly a well-behaved affair with only a few incidents. Stickers and some flyers were confiscated by the UN police … A small number of side events were cancelled because of content … and/or abusive language. A few NGO delegates and one journalist had their accreditation revoked."
Going beyond this, however, what has emerged from this week is depressing and worrying: during the Ahmadinejad diatribe, many in the conference hall, from Africa, Asia and Latin America, applauded and cheered his attack on Israel as a "racist state" and on the west.
Who wants to be involved with people who behave like this? Who wants to be associated with their nice-sounding words against racism and intolerance?
On Comment is free this week, while many denounced Ahmadinejad, some commenters supported him, showing no embarrassment at lining up with a man whose government denies elementary rights. Amnesty International reports large-scale arrests, incommunicado detention and torture of dissidents and minorities and persecution of religious minorities. Iran executes children under the age of 18. Adultery can be punished by death.
They also parrot Ahmadinejad's "Israel is racist, Zionism is racism" cry. Israel is certainly subject to attack for its oppression of Palestinians and its occupation. But the "racist" charge is as inaccurate and unthinking as the "apartheid" label. Israel has a Jewish majority and they have decided that they want a state for Jews. That is their right and it is nothing exceptional. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and a host of other countries declare themselves, even in their constitutions, to be Muslim or Arab states. Does anyone accuse them of racism? When Ahmadinejad pours out his Holocaust denial and his call to wipe out the Zionist, Jewish, state, why do these Cif bloggers not condemn him as the racist that he is? Where is their morality and what are their values?
The pity of it is that the Durban Review Conference had a chance for success. Hopes were high 11 months ago when the first preparatory committee meeting was held in Geneva to start deciding on the conference's date and place.
The dark shadow of Durban 2001 hung heavily: no one wanted a repeat of that awful event. It was clear that no governments wanted to stir up trouble. Everyone wanted to work to draw the world together to fight racism and discrimination. UN officials made plain that there was no money and no administrative structure to mount an NGO conference. NGOs would have only limited opportunity to submit their views. No one even wanted the phrase "Durban II". It was called the Durban Review Conference.
But as the months passed, Israel again became the target. Islamic countries, responding to the Danish cartoons row and other criticisms of their religion, demanded a block on free expression of views about religion. A week before the start, the conference was heading for disaster. It was Durban II. Through negotiations and trade-offs, the attacks on Israel and the restrictions on freedom of speech were deleted and the conference was saved. But still remaining was and is an endorsement of the Durban 2001 declaration which contains two paragraphs singling out Israel – the only country named.
Canada was the most prescient about what was to come. As early as January last year, it announced that it would not attend the Durban Review Conference. Israel continued to hope for better things, and only in November did it say it would not take part. One by one, other countries decided to stay out. The US sent observers who had a good look and then said the conference was beyond repair.
These countries put the Geneva meeting into perspective. The nations that quit before and during the week are those that lead the world in democratic government and respect for human rights. Each one can be faulted in one way or another. But no one does better than them. Their citizens are the freest in the world. Their distaste for the Geneva conference tells the tragic story of another opportunity missed to gain a better world.
The myth of Iraq pacification has crumbled. As the US has withdrawn forces from Iraq, it seems the suicide bombings have begun again in earnest. Following twin bombings that killed at least 69 on Thursday, a second set of twin bombings have killed at least 60 on Friday. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Taleban insist they want to take over that country, which possesses nuclear weapons, and found an Islamist caliphate: :
It is not necessary to comment on any of this. Bombs speak louder than words.
By STEVEN LEE MYERS and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
Published: April 24, 2009
BAGHDAD — Twin suicide bombers struck outside the gates of the holiest Shiite site in Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 60 people and wounding scores more, according to preliminary reports from police officials.
The blasts came a day after the single deadliest day in Iraq in more than a year, and punctuated a deadly outburst of violence in recent weeks.
Friday's bombings occurred near the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, one of the twelve imams of Shiite Islam, in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad. Like the previous bombings, the attacks appeared to target Shiites in particular.
An interior ministry official said that most of those killed appeared to be Iranians making pilgrimages to the shrine. Two suicide bombers blew themselves as they mingled with crowds gathered in front of checkpoints at the main entrance to the shrine, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak publicly. In addition to those killed, at least 125 others were wounded.
The streets around the shrine have already been hit by two other suicide bombings this year.
On Thursday three suicide bombings — one in Baghdad and two in Diyala, the restive province northeast of the capital — killed more than 80 people. In barely 24 hours, five bombings have killed at least 120 people and wounded 230.
Thursday's deadliest bombing destroyed a restaurant in the city of Muqdadiya, killing at least 47 people, most of them Iranians travelling in buses. On Friday, a morgue official said the toll had risen to 56 killed, Agence France-Presse reported from Diyala's capital, Baquba.
While violence overall remains far below the worst years of the war here, a string of attacks so far this month has raised concern that insurgents, terrorists and other fighters have regrouped themselves with the intention of inflaming sectarian tensions and weakening Iraq's government and security forces as the Americans reduce their military presence on the ground in advance of a full withdrawal at the end of 2011.
"The government was treating the situation like they'd won a victory," said Sheik Jalal al-Din Saghir, a member of Parliament from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite political party. "They relaxed. We can't ignore that there were security successes, but that doesn't mean the story is finished."
The government may have scored at least one important security victory on Thursday, announcing the capture of a major leader of the Sunni insurgency, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. But reports of his arrest, and even his supposed death, have been announced before, and some American military officials even question whether such a man exists.
Iraqi leaders say Mr. Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militant forces that includes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown group that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners.
The Iraqi military provided no further details about the arrest, and the United States military has not confirmed it.
On Thursday, Hussein al-Shami, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, defended the government's security gains.
"The security situation is still good, but there are some sleeper cells that are targeting the softer areas," he said. "They just want to send a message to the government and the world that they are still here."
The woman who blew herself up in Baghdad's central Karada district on Thursday resembled most of the other women crowded outside a food distribution site that was catering mainly to those displaced by the war.
She wore a black abaya and, like many of the other women, was walking with a child, in her case a young girl, according to Iraqi Army and police officials who interviewed survivors at the scene.
The woman stood out, the witnesses said, only because she began nudging her way through the crowd, which had been waiting patiently for the bags of flour, bottles of cooking oil and other staples that the police were handing out. The witnesses said she tugged the child, who looked about 5 years old, along with her.
Once she reached the center of the crowd, she set off the blast, with explosives that the police believe she hid under her flowing clothes.
Afterward, a tattered black abaya stuck to a wall on the first-floor balcony of an adjacent apartment building, singed by the explosion. The sidewalk was littered with bags of macaroni and loose leaf tea that had been part of the giveaway. Flies swarmed on bits of human flesh.
One woman sat on the ground, wailing as she beat the sidewalk with the palms of her hands. She said she had lost her husband, her son, her sister and six grandchildren.
An Interior Ministry official said 28 people had died in the explosion, including 12 police officers. Fifty others were wounded.
It was not immediately clear how many of the victims were children.
At nearby Ibn al-Nafis Hospital, women who were visiting the injured moaned loudly. The patients lay on stretchers, some with burns over much of their bodies.
"I was close to the area, wondering why there was a crowd,'" said Adnan Ibrahim, 25, who had a bandage over his left eye. "After that, I don't know what happened. It felt like there was something very heavy on my face. I discovered that I lost my eye."
Ali, a man in his 30s who had been selling fruit from a small cart with his brother Haider, said his brother had noticed the crowd of women and children gathering nearby and gone to find out what was happening. Ali had stayed with the cart.
Moments later, Haider was dead, and Ali, who gave only his first name, was wounded by shrapnel.
At the hospital, Ali sobbed and struck his head against the metal door of a large refrigerator where bodies had been placed.
"It's like I lost my ribs," he said.
In the second attack Thursday, in the city of Muqdadiya in Diyala Province, a suicide bomber set off his explosives in a popular restaurant where several busloads of Iranian tourists had stopped to get snacks, to pray and to use the restrooms, the Iraqi police said.
The restaurant, Khanaqin, is in a neighborhood known as being particularly violent and in a province where Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia remains active. The restaurant has been placed off limits to tourist groups traveling from Iran to some of Iraq's Shiite holy places, but bus drivers sometimes stop there anyway, the police said.
At least 47 people were killed and 70 injured in the blast, which brought down the restaurant's roof, the police said. Almost all of the victims were Iranians.
Five other people were killed Thursday in Diyala Province when a man detonated his suicide vest as a car carrying a local Awakening Council leader passed, officials said. The leader was killed, as were four bystanders.
The Awakening Councils, groups throughout Iraq that were paid to leave the insurgency and fight on the government's side, have been singled out in recent attacks.
Reporting was contributed by Suadad N. al-Salhy, Muhammed al-Obaidi, Mohamed Hussein, Atheer Kakan and Steven Lee Myers from Baghdad, and an employee of The New York Times from Diyala Province.
Now he remembers...
Last update - 06:29 24/04/2009
PM spokesman: Naming Gaza op 'Cast Lead' was a PR mistake
By Cnaan Liphshiz
Naming Israel's incursion into Gaza Operation Cast Lead was a public relations faux pas, a top government spokesman said on Wednesday.
"I didn't like the name," Mark Regev, the prime minister's spokesman for international media, told a crowd of some 150 listeners in English. "From a public relations point of view, it was a mistake."
Regev, who immigrated to Israel from Australia in 1982, said at the Modi'in municipality, "The Israel Defense Forces chooses its names by some computer or by some system which I don't understand. And the truth is that the Hebrew name Oferet Yetzuka [referring to Hanukkah dreidels] sounds lovely. It's the translation into English which sounds inappropriate."
Regev, 49, added that whenever he spoke to international media, he "never once said 'Cast Lead' because it has connotations in English that are problematic," opting instead for "the Gaza Operation" to describe the attack, which came in response to rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians.
"The English translation wasn't the most effective way to get our message out and it's an important point because if you can control the terminology of the debate, you can win the debate," he said.
The IDF Spokesperson reacted to Regev's statement by saying: "Mark Regev's opinion is legitimate."
Negative reporting abroad about Israel, Regev also said, relies on the openness of Israeli society and the self-critical nature reflected in its local media.
"This is a core value of our society. But our neighbors don't share it," he said.
Is this the important news? Bibi "I intend to enforce the law with regard to the outposts"
Last update - 13:07 24/04/2009
Czech PM: We'll fight EU calls to freeze Israel ties By Barak Ravid
Czech Prime Minister Mirel Topolanek told President Shimon Peres on Friday that his country, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, would fight against calls within Europe to suspend the upgrade of relations with Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday told the visiting Czech premier that Israel's relationship to the European Union should not be linked to its relationship to the Palestinians.
"Don't set conditions for us," Netanyahu told Topolanek during their meeting. "Peace is in Israel's interest no less than it is in Europe's interest, and there's no need to make the upgrade in relations with Israel conditional on progress on the peace process."
Topolanek is the first foreign government leader to visit Israel since the Netanyahu cabinet was sworn in three weeks ago. The talks between the two were reportedly conducted in a relaxed atmosphere. But Topolanek brought up the issue of construction in West Bank settlements and European concerns that this could prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"If Israelis can't build homes in the West Bank then Palestinians shouldn't be allowed to either," Netanyahu said in response. He told the Czech leader he has no intention of halting the expansion of existing settlements. "I have no plans to build new settlements, but if someone wants to build a new home [in an existing one], I don't think there's a problem." He characterized the West Bank as "disputed territory" over which negotiations must be held.
Topolanek asked Netanyahu whether he intended to evacuate the illegal outposts on the West Bank, as Israel has promised in the past in the road map and other agreements. Netanyahu said the outposts are both a domestic and foreign issue. "I intend to enforce the law with regard to the outposts," he said.
As rotating president of the EU, the Czech Republic is involved in the upgrading of Israel's relations with that organization. The upgrade was suspended after the formation of the Netanyahu government and his refusal to accept the "two states for two peoples" formula. A few weeks ago, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg announced the cancellation of a summit scheduled for June between Netanyahu and his European counterparts.
"We expect a clear commitment from the new [Israeli] government to pursue negotiations with the Palestinians," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Brussels on Thursday. "We expect a stop of all activities undermining our objective to a two-state solution - and this includes in particular settlement expansion, which is continuing on a daily basis. The ball is now in the court of Israel."
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Yet another article about the Bibi-Obama clash
The Jewish Daily Forward
April 22, 2009 - 12:00am
Are they headed for a diplomatic divorce? Or can this relationship be saved?
The growing number of differences between the new Obama administration and the newer Netanyahu government is coming into view at a sensitive time. American envoy George Mitchell seemed, during his recent Middle East visit, to draw attention to the apparent disconnect between his vision and Benjamin Netanyahu's by making a mantra of the very policy that Netanyahu has declined to support — the "two-state solution."
At the same time, Netanyahu's choice of foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, continues to raise eyebrows; Lieberman's fiery inaugural speech, in which he charged that Israel is not bound by the Annapolis process, did not help assuage fears. More recently, he used his first major interview since his appointment to give a blasé view of relations between Israel and the United States. "Believe me, America accepts all our decisions," he told the Russian newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets before going on to say that the two-state solution is a nice slogan that lacks substance.
Israel's politicians and foreign relations experts are sharply divided on how to interpret all this. Some say that an Israel-America clash is in the offing and that we are witnessing, in the words of Ben-Gurion University professor Yoram Meital, the "relative calm before the storm."
Some see the storm clouds already gathering, even as word comes from the White House that President Obama and Netanyahu will likely meet at the end of May. Ophir Pines-Paz, one of the Labor lawmakers who led the opposition to his party joining the governing coalition, said in a statement: "Lieberman is conducting himself like an elephant in a china shop and is inflicting strategic damage on Israel's interests. In light of Lieberman's remarks it is uncertain whether or not there is any point to the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama."
And yet, others believe that reports of friction, if true at all, are exaggerated, that the administrations will work together smoothly, and that they will find considerable ground for agreement. Talk of a clash is "all hot air," former Israeli peace negotiator Gidi Grinstein told the Forward.
There is no doubt that Israel's policy toward the peace process is now under review. When they met, Lieberman told Mitchell that the "traditional" approach has brought neither results nor solutions. Meanwhile, the White House has indicated that it is more set than ever on the Saudi-backed Arab peace plan — a plan that Lieberman described on April 22 as "a dangerous proposal, a recipe for the destruction of Israel," and that Netanyahu is also thought to oppose.
"There is a clash of agendas and priorities between the right-wing Israeli government and the agenda Obama is trying to advance," said Meital, head of Ben-Gurion University's Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy. "I think that this government would do anything capable to buy time in not achieving the Arab Peace Initiative. It will be like a car on full gas but in neutral, saying we would like peace and to hear new ideas and develop them, while producing nothing on the ground."
Referencing Obama's more open stance in Latin America, some analysts predict that he may engage Hamas and/or Hezbollah, or foster an atmosphere where European allies feel increasingly comfortable doing so.
But there is another theory, diametrically opposed, that Obama and Netanyahu look poised to come to a common understanding on Hamas and Hezbollah and, in so doing, make progress possible on the Palestinian issue.
"If you look at it objectively and lay out all the strategic cards, you see that for Israel to make concessions, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah need to be neutralized first," said Eytan Gilboa, senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
While Meital and others who emphasize Jerusalem-Washington tension suggest that Netanyahu is fundamentally opposed to the two-state solution, Gilboa predicts that if these threats are dealt with, Netanyahu will agree to it. "Most Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state if it is going to be peaceful, but not if it becomes like Gaza. This is exactly what Netanyahu is going to say," Gilboa argued.
Grinstein, the former negotiator who now heads the Reut Institute think tank, shares the belief that the two-state solution will bring together Israel and America rather than divide them. "Once the Israelis are done with their reassessment, and the Americans done with theirs, they may well find themselves much closer than people imagine," he said.
The notion that there is tension over the two-state solution is a red herring, he said, as it is part of the "road map" that the new Israeli government accepts. In his view, equally inaccurate is the idea that America is determined to see final-status negotiations in the coming months. Grinstein said Netanyahu's assumption "that it isn't possible to reach final-status negotiations at the moment is probably more relevant than the idea that you can."
With Gaza ruled by Hamas, and the West Bank by the weakened Palestinian Authority, he expects America's administration to share this conclusion. Israel and America will both arrive at the belief that "putting the two-state solution through a moment of truth at such a moment may be dangerous," he said, reasoning that if statehood were to be declared, the P.A. could be "so weak that you could see the entire [Palestinian] political system implode."
According to Washigton Post, Israel tried to link the peace process to progress in stopping Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons:
The new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran's rising influence in the region, according to top government officials familiar with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's developing policy on the issue.
"It's a crucial condition if we want to move forward," said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, a member of the Israeli parliament and former ambassador to the United States. "If we want to have a real political process with the Palestinians, then you can't have the Iranians undermining and sabotaging."
But this was promptly denied:
But wait, it's not over yet, because US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists that progress in stopping Iran depends on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace procress:
Both sides have to realize that that the linking is a fact of life, if not a policy. There is no way to make peace with the Palestinians as long as Iran will continue to support Hamas and block peace efforts. Any peace agreement, especially one brokered by the USA, would be sabotaged by Iran's tame terror groups: Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
On the other hand, it is hard to imagine a coordinated Middle East effort to deal with Iran unless there is either peace between Israel and the Palestinians, or, the Arab street and public opinion as well as American public opinion come to perceive Iran as a direct threat.
What better way to mark the UN racism conference than sectarian violence? According to this story 69 are dead in two bombings, but a top militant or freedom figher, Omar al Baghdadi, has been reported captured. As the US withdraws from Iraq, the death toll inevitably rises. But almost every report reminds us that the death toll has gone down dramatically in the last two years. Not for long. With no soldiers, you will get no victory.
Nobody knows if Baghdadi was really captured, but what is certain is that the dead people (at least 69) are dead and the bombs really blew up. Baghdadi seems to be experienced at being killed, as he was reported killed several times before:
As for the attacks, they are the usual sort of thing:
All right thinking and progressive people support the resistance, right?
Jew-haters can note with pleasure that Mr. Ahmadinejad, who rarely fails to entertain, was given great encouragement by the President of Switzerland. Dear neutral Switzerland. From Turkey here is a web log with a lightly different take on Mr. Ahmadinejad, the Iranian racist:
Ahmadinejad: 'Idol of Zionism should be broken'
Apr. 23, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that the "idol of Zionism" should be broken in order to "save humanity."
"Free nations will not bow to the idol of Zionism and would break it, although it has already been broken," Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the city of Eslamshahr, not far from Teheran.
The Iranian president claimed there was growing positive sentiment towards Iran worldwide, saying, "The Islamic Revolution is being exported to the world now. People in different parts of the world, even in the US and Europe, are currently talking about fighting against Zionism," he claimed.
He said that "even in Switzerland and the US people say what the president of Iran is saying. They say they favor peace and justice."
Ahmadinejad and several of his ministers arrived in Eslamshahr on Wednesday as part of a provincial tour in the Teheran province.
That's not a typographical error and this doesn't happen that often...
Cairo, 22 April (AKI) - The Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader, Sayed Imam Abdel Aziz Sharif, has blamed Islamist movements in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon for recent wars that have resulted in pain and suffering for their people.
"Hamas and Hezbollah have lit up the fire of Israeli wars to then unload their burden on the population," said Sharif, also known as Doctor Fazel.
He expressed his views in the second part of his latest book, 'The Gaza Shirt', published from his prison cell at al-Aqrab in southern Egypt, according to a report in the Arab daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat.
He strongly criticised both groups for their actions.
"Their way of acting and governing is in strong contrast with what the Prophet Mohammed did. During his time there were many disenfranchised and oppressed Muslims in Mecca, however, the prophet never declared holy war at the beginning," said Sharif.
Sharif said what the Islamist Hamas movement did during the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza "has nothing to do with Islam" and said Islamist movements should "take responsibility and assess whether they are capable of fighting a war before unleashing it."
The title chosen by Sharif for his latest book uses the word "shirt" as a metaphor for achieving his own political objectives.
The word refers to an episode in the history of Islam, when the caliph or Islamic leader Muawiya used it as a pretext to kill the previous caliph, Uthman, and seize control of the Islamic caliphate from Ali, the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law.
He assumed the caliphate after Ali's assassination and forced the abdication of al-Hassan by threatening further bloodshed in 661. He ruled until 680 AD.
Israel claimed its three-week military offensive against Gaza in December and January (photo) was designed to stop Hamas firing rockets into Israel.
More than 1,330 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli military offensive known as Operation Cast Lead and more than 5,400 were injured, according to Palestinian medical sources.
The 2006 Lebanon War was a military conflict between the Islamist Shia group, Hezbollah, and Israel that began in July that year and lasted for 34 days.
A United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect in August 2006, although the conflict formally ended in September when Israel lifted its naval blockade of Lebanon
Organizations always seem to get the poll results that support their opinions. J-Street, which supports unconditional legitimization of the Hamas organization and a wider role for the US in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, found in a recent poll that 69% of American Jews support a strong role for the United States in Israeli-Palestinian peace even if it means publicly disagreeing with or exerting pressure on both Arabs and Israelis and the same percentage support the US working with a Fatah-Hamas unity government, like the one that ended in a Hamas coup in 2007.
An ADL poll found however that:
Very strange that J-Street and ADL get such different results, isn't it?
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By AMY TEIBEL – 5 hours ago
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Wednesday that Iran must be reined in if Israel and the Palestinians hope to move along the path to peace.
Ayalon made it clear, however, that this was not an Israeli condition for going ahead with peacemaking, though Israel charges that Iran is the main backer of the violent Islamic Hamas rulers of Gaza as well as Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
"We should continue on the path of peace with the Palestinians as if there is no Iran threat," Ayalon told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.
"Simultaneously, we should move forward on stopping Iran as if there was no Palestinian issue," added Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
Tehran is working hard to derail any possibility of effective peacemaking through its backing of anti-Israel militants in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Lebanon, he said.
"Realistically and effectively, if we want to go on the path without additional obstacles and dangers to the process, we have to rein in Iran" because of its nuclear program, its dissemination of extremist ideology and its support of terrorism, Ayalon said.
"But this is not a condition for going ahead with the Palestinians," he said....
<g> I wonder what could possibly have gone wrong. Perhaps it was the same sort of problem that was experienced by the ship of immigrants that Yasser Arafat once tried to bring to Israel. Perhaps it was the hand of God, or perhaps God helps those who help themelves. Clare Short won't give up, but she should remember that accidents can happen.
Last update - 22:30 22/04/2009
Hamas video address to British MPs fails due to technical glitch
By Barak Ravid
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal's plan to address British lawmakers in an unprecedented video teleconference on Wednesday failed due to a technical glitch.
The Damascus-based Meshal had hoped to address the parliamentarians as part of the Islamist group's campaign to persuade the West to engage in dialogue with Hamas as part of the Middle East peace process.
Event organizers had hoped the session could help persuade the U.S. and European governments to review their policy toward Hamas, but were unable to speak to Meshal when a video link failed.
Independent British lawmaker Clare Short, a former Labor Cabinet minister and one of the event's organizers, said she would invite Meshal to address a future meeting in the same way.
Last update - 22:07 22/04/2009
U.S.: Iran faces 'crippling' sanctions if nuclear talks fail
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Tehran could face "crippling" sanctions if diplomatic talks failed to end Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.
The United States believes its decision to seek to engage Iran over its nuclear program and other issues would increase its leverage to impose sanctions if talks fail," Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington.
"We actually believe that by following the diplomatic path we are on, we gain credibility and influence with a number of nations who would have to participate in order to make the sanctions regime as tight and crippling as we would want it to be," Clinton told U.S. lawmakers.
The United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain said on April 8 they would ask EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to invite Iran to a meeting to find "a diplomatic solution to this critical issue," referring to the nuclear row.
It marked a significant shift in U.S. policy under President Barack Obama, whose predecessor George W. Bush shunned direct talks with Iran as long as it continued with enrichment activity.
If such talks fail, however, it is unclear whether the United States would actually be able to persuade China and Russia, which have resisted harsh sanctions on Iran, to then impose tougher penalties.
Iran welcomes "constructive" talks with world powers on its nuclear program but insists the Islamic state will press ahead with its disputed work, state television quoted an official statement as saying on Wednesday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran...welcomes constructive and fair talks based on mutual respect and believes current problems could be resolved through talks," the statement said.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue its nuclear activities in an active interaction with the International Atomic Energy Agency in the framework of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) like other agency members," it said.
The United States and its Western allies suspect Iran is aiming to develop nuclear bombs and want it to halt sensitive uranium enrichment. Iran rejects the allegation and has repeatedly ruled out halting such activity.
April 22, 2009
GENEVA (JTA) -- The United Nations pulled credentials from a number of Jewish activists who disrupted a speech by the Iranian president at the Durban Review Conference.
Of the 46 badges that were pulled this week for disruptive behavior, the vast majority were from individuals accredited through Jewish organizations. Notably, the French Union of Jewish Students lost 21 badges.
Credentials were stripped as well from four members of the European Union of Jewish Students and one B'nai Brith member. Between them, the French and European Jewish student groups had 370 members accredited, amounting to more than one-third of all the NGO activists at the conference.
U.N. officials said they believed Jewish activists who already had their credentials pulled swapped badges with members of another group, Coexist.
"It seems they were in league with each other," said Rupert Colville, a U.N. spokesman.
Some of those who lost their credentials were ejected after they donned rainbow wigs and clown noses and rushed the podium during the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Others were barred because they were found to be hiding clown paraphernalia and plotting a second disruption, said Colville.
The United Nations is still investigating how many other individuals may have been involved, with the U.N. accreditation of entire groups possibly revoked if they were found to have coordinated the disruptions. No charges are expected to be filed against individuals.
"I don't think that throwing a nose is a criminal offense," Colville said.
Two members of an Iranian group were expelled for distributing "offensive materials" and an Israeli journalist was sent out for "screaming racist comments" from the gallery, according to Colville.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
What Will Happen if Iran's Regime Gets Nuclear Weapons?
Despite all the talk about Iran getting nuclear weapons, there is a huge misunderstanding about what this would mean.
The only scenario discussed is whether or not Iran's regime would use such weapons to attack Israel. The chance of that happening is relatively small statistically, but that outcome would be so horrifying it looms far larger.
There are real reasons to think that a nuclear Iran would not accept Israel's existence and will try to wipe Israel off the map, killing millions of people and triggering a war far worse than the Middle East--or the world--has ever seen.
Still, if that is the "only" problem that would result, the key argument is whether or not it would happen. And if that is the "only" problem, it is going to be primarily a matter of concern for Israel and those who might care about its fate.
Last update - 18:58 22/04/2009
Clinton: U.S. won't deal with Hamas until it accepts our terms
By Haaretz Staff and Agencies
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday the United States would refuse to deal with or fund a Palestinian government that included Hamas unless it met three international conditions.
"We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agrees to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority," Clinton told the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee.
Clinton also said the United States believed its decision to seek to engage Iran over its nuclear program and other issues would increase its leverage to impose sanctions if talks fail.
"We actually believe that by following the diplomatic path we are on, we gain credibility and influence with a number of nations who would have to participate in order to make the sanctions regime as tight and crippling as we would want it to be," Clinton told U.S. lawmakers.
Meanwhile, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority leader would meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on May 28.
Abbas wants the U.S. to persuade the new Israeli government to accept a two-state solution - namely, separate Israeli and Palestinian states living alongside each other in peace, Nabil Abu Rudeineh said. Abbas also wants the U.S. to persuade Israel to halt its settlement construction, according to Rudeineh.
Israel's new hardline government has balked at supporting the creation of a Palestinian state, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he plans to keep building in settlements.
On Tuesday, Obama said he expected Israelis and Palestinians to make gestures of good faith within months to revive the languishing Mideast peace process.
The White House said Netanyahu would visit Washington in the next few weeks and that Obama planned to host Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as well, for further talks on Middle East peace.
The United States is interested in promoting the peace process through a series of confidence-building gestures between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states, a senior American official who declined to be named told Haaretz.
This is the detailed report we have all been waiting for
Conclusion of Investigations into Central Claims and Issues in Operation Cast Lead
22 April 2009 , 17:49
Claims against Incidents where UN and international facilities were fired upon and damaged during Operation Cast Lead
The investigation was conducted by Col. Itzik Turgeman with the objective of thoroughly examining claims regarding 13 incidents in which facilities, structures and vehicles associated with the United Nations (UN) or other international organizations were damaged.
The majority of the incidents that were investigated were detailed in the complaints submitted to the IDF by the UN during Operation Cast Lead and thereafter, while other incidents were discovered during the process of investigating.
The investigation showed that the IDF took numerous measures to avoid hitting facilities and vehicles affiliated with the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations. These facilities were marked on IDF maps in advance according to the information provided by the international organizations. Clear orders were given stating that the hitting of facilities and vehicles of this sort must be avoided. Coordination between the IDF and the UN, the Red Cross and the international organizations was done via a special Civil Administration situation room and a center for humanitarian coordination that was established in order to allow day to day humanitarian aid coordination.
Investigation shows that Hamas and the other terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip placed the facilities used by the UN and other international organizations in substantial danger. With the knowledge that the IDF limits its operations in the vicinity of such facilities, the terror organizations intentionally launched rockets and mortar shells adjacent to them. Similarly, Hamas and other terrorist organizations located headquarters, bases, weapon storage facilities and other terrorist infrastructure close to the sensitive facilities of the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations.
Below are the findings of the investigation with regard to some of the prominent incidents that were investigated:
A. Claims about the Incident at the UNRWA school in Jabaliya ("Fahoura" School)
The incident occurred near the UNRWA school ("Fahoura" School) in Jabaliya on January 6th, 2009. Hamas operatives used a site located only 80 meters away from the school to launch mortar shells at IDF forces. The shells exploded next to an IDF force operating in the area, and represented a grave threat to the soldiers. The previous day thirty IDF soldiers were wounded by Hamas mortar fire. The mortar fire presented a very significant threat to the lives of IDF forces.
Following a confirmed and cross-referenced identification of the source of the fire, the soldiers under attack responded with minimal and proportionate retaliatory fire, using the most precise weapon available to them, with the purpose of stopping the Hamas fire. The return fire hit the Hamas operatives who were firing the mortars and stopped their fire. All of the shells fired by the force landed outside of the school grounds (contrary to claims made by Hamas). Sadly, due to the fact that Hamas was firing from a populated area, the return fire also resulted in unintentional harm to civilians in the vicinity.
Despite the fact that the incident took place outside the UNRWA school grounds, Hamas was quick to accuse Israel of intentionally hitting the UN Facility. The investigation showed unequivocally that those claims were false. This was reinforced by the UN in a press release published subsequent to the operation. Additionally, the investigation showed that a cell of five terror operatives and seven civilians outside of the school grounds were hit, contrary to the 42 deaths that were reported by Hamas inside the school grounds.
B. Claims made Regarding Damage to the UNRWA Headquarters and to a Building which turned out to be a Red Cross Pharmaceutical Storage facility in Tel El-Hawa
Two incidents were investigated that took place on January 15th 2009 during fierce fighting in the Hamas' stronghold in the Tel El-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza city. Hamas deployed anti-tank squads near sensitive facilities in the neighborhood, intending to deliver a strategic blow to the IDF (e.g. by hitting an IDF tank).
Damage to a structure that turned out to be a pharmaceutical storage facility– The investigation showed that during the battle, IDF forces came under fire from both anti-tank and small arms fire by terrorists located next to a structure that was later discovered to contain a Red Cross pharmaceutical storage facility.
The IDF returned fire towards the source of fire only after an IDF armored bulldozer suffered a direct hit from anti-tank fire. During the ensuing exchange of fire, which included the IDF's responsive firing, it appears that the structure containing the storage facility was hit. The IDF was not provided with the location of the storage facility in question by the Red Cross prior to the operation and therefore was not marked on the IDF's maps, unlike other Red Cross facilities. No one was injured during the incident.
Damage to the storage facility in the UNRWA headquarters compound – Concurrently, in the same general area, the IDF deployed a smoke screen in order to protect a tank force operating in the neighborhood from Hamas anti-tank crews who had positioned themselves adjacent to the UNRWA headquarters. The smoke screen was intended to block the terrorists' field of view. Information received by the IDF shows that the smoke screen did assist in protecting the force and prevented precise anti-tank fire against IDF forces. The smoke projectiles were fired at an area a considerable distance from the UNRWA headquarters, and were not intended to cause damage to either person or property. However, it appears that fragments of the smoke projectiles did hit a warehouse located in the headquarters, causing it to catch fire.
During the incident, claims were also made that an explosive shell or shrapnel hit the UNRWA headquarters. The investigation showed that these were shells, or shell fragments that were fired at military targets within the battle zone.
The damage caused to the UNRWA headquarters during the fighting in the Tel El-Hawwa neighborhood is the unfortunate result of the type of warfare that Hamas forced upon the IDF, involving combat in the Gaza Strip's urban spaces and adjacent to facilities associated with international organizations. These results could not be predicted.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the forces did not intend, at any stage, to hit a UN facility. Following UN complaints that an explosive shell had hit the headquarters, the forces were ordered to cease firing explosive shells in the region in question. Following the receipt of reports about the fire in the warehouse, all firing in the area was stopped. The entry of fire-fighting trucks to the area was coordinated with the IDF in order to assist in extinguishing the fire.
C. Terrorist Use of UN Vehicles
The investigation also looked into a complaint that an UNRWA vehicle was fired on in the Tel El Hawa neighborhood on January 14th 2009. The investigation reached the conclusion that during the incident a vehicle was fired upon, which it was later claimed belonged to the UN, but the vehicle did not bear UN markings. The vehicle was traveling in an area that international organizations had been clearly informed was forbidden for the movement of vehicles. The vehicle was carrying a Palestinian anti-tank squad. It was fired upon only after it had unloaded the terrorist squad and advanced towards the forces in a manner creating a genuine concern that it was a Hamas car bomb.
D. IDF-UN Coordination
During the operation, the IDF constantly coordinated with the UN and other international organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Coordination included the movement of 500 vehicles and convoys and the transfer of a continuous supply of food and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Many other problems were efficiently solved in real time. However, despite the thorough coordination, the investigation showed that during certain incidents there were failures in coordination.
In one instance, an IDF force fired upon a UN truck, which did not bear UN markings, on a journey that had not been coordinated ahead of time with the IDF. The investigation showed that closer coordination of the movement of UN vehicles is required, with an emphasis on precise routes and schedules.
The investigation concluded that the IDF did not, at any time, fire with the deliberate intention to hit a UN vehicle or facility in any of the 13 incidents investigated. In one instance the IDF targeted a group of people who were present in a UN-affiliated school late at night, at a time in which there were no classes taking place in the school, following specific intelligence and relying on the suspicion that led to the conclusion that they were participating in terrorist operations. In another incident, IDF forces attacked a UN vehicle which was being used for terrorist operations.
The IDF made sure not to hit facilities and vehicles associated with the UN and other international organizations and operated with extreme caution in order not to harm more than 1800 sensitive facilities located in the Gaza Strip. The IDF also coordinated almost 500 different vehicle movements during the fighting. However, as noted, in a very small number of incidents facilities and vehicles were unintentionally hit.
In relation to the scale of fighting and the threat posed by Hamas, the damage caused to UN facilities and vehicles was relatively limited as a result of the various precautionary measures taken by the IDF. The small number of incidents where damage was unfortunately caused occurred first and foremost as a result of Hamas' doctrine. Hamas as well as other terrorist organizations chose to fight under the cover of sensitive humanitarian facilities.
It should be noted that in one incident where it was found that a UN vehicle was fired upon in a breach of the IDF's rules of engagement, the soldier in question was court-martialed.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was presented with the conclusions of the investigation. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also emphasized the importance of avoiding harm to UN and other international facilities. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi emphasized how important it is that IDF forces on all levels are familiarized with the locations of sensitive facilities within their assigned combat zone. He ordered that the regulations regarding safety-distances from sensitive facilities be highlighted, specifically with regard to the use of artillery. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also ordered that steps be taken to improve the coordination between the IDF and UN organizations working in the field, in the areas where it was lacking.
It should be noted that the incidents which were investigated by the IDF were also examined by the UN Board of Inquiry appointed by the UN Secretary General for the investigation of damage caused to UN facilities in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Despite the fact that the investigation by the IDF was initiated prior to the decision by the Secretary General to set up a UN committee of investigation, Israel cooperated with the UN committee and presented it with the findings of its investigation.
Claims regarding incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews
The investigation was conducted by Col. Erez Katz, and looked into claims that the IDF fired on or attacked medical crews, facilities, structures and vehicles. Some of these claims were described in a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court during the operation. During the investigation, additional claims were identified and the investigation was expanded to also include these incidents.
The investigation showed that the Hamas systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and uniforms as cover for terrorist operations. This included the extensive use of ambulances to transport terror operatives and weaponry; the use of ambulances to "evacuate" terrorists from the battlefield and the use of hospitals and medical infrastructure as headquarters, situation-rooms, command centers, and hiding places.
For example, Ismail Haniyeh decided to place his central command center in one of the Shifa Hospital units, while the senior leaders (both military and political) stationed themselves in another unit. On the ground floor of the hospital's main building, an entire wing was closed off and was solely used by Hamas terror operatives. At the wing's entrance, terror operatives prevented entrance to all uninvolved civilians.
In other instances, Hamas terror operatives seized control sections of Al-Shafa Hospital. Hamas also took control of a Red Crescent medical clinic in Khan Yunis, converting it into a prisoner detention facility.
In testimony by an ambulance driver published in the Italian newspaper Corriere de la Serra the driver claimed that he was forced by Hamas to extract terror operatives from the fighting zone, with the knowledge that he could coordinate with the IDF to temporarily hold fire so that he could safely evacuate the wounded. Several instances were reported in which ambulances were witnessed carrying armed Hamas terror operatives alongside the medical crews.
This illegitimate and illegal use of medial facilities sometimes resulted in damage being caused to them.
After investigating the incidents it became clear that of the seven casualties reported during the incidents in question, five were Hamas operatives. In addition, it was determined that in some of the incidents in which medical vehicles were damaged, the vehicles were driven in a suspicious manner, without prior coordination with IDF forces and in some cases without being clearly marked (such as using flashing lights) . This caused, in some cases, the vehicle to be incorrectly identified, and aroused the suspicions of the forces that the vehicle might be used for a suicide attack.
In one example an IDF force sheltering in a structure in the Gaza Strip received a concrete warning that terrorist elements intend to execute an attack against the force. Following the warning, the force identified an ambulance driving speedily towards the structure, bypassing a roadblock. The force took a number of warning measures (including the firing of warning shots in the air) which failed to bring the ambulance to a halt. The ambulance continued to progress towards the structure and reached the threatening distance of 50 meters from the structure, at which point the force fire in towards it. Only then did the vehicle turn around and drive off in the other direction.
In a separate incident, an ambulance was identified driving towards a shelter occupied by IDF forces, late at night, without any prior coordination, clear markings or flashing lights, raising suspicion that it was a car bomb. The force fired warning shots into the air, followed by warning shots near the vehicle. When the vehicle was only 100 meters away from the force, constituting a serious threat to the force, the force opened fire on it. In this incident as well, only then did the vehicle halt, turn around and drive away in the other direction.
In two of the incidents investigated (which were both mentioned in the Supreme Court appeal), it turned out that members of the medical crew who were supposedly "hit" in the incident – are alive and well. With regards to other incidents, the investigation could not find any evidence that they took place (likewise, at the time of some of the alleged incidents the, IDF was not operating at the location in question).
The investigation looked into an incident in which a building containing a mother-and-child clinic was attacked by the IDF. It became clear that Hamas used the same building as a weapons storage facility. The attack was aimed against the weapons storage facility. The investigation further showed that the clinic was not signposted in a way that made it possible to identify that building contained a medical facility. Nevertheless, the investigation clarified that the residents of the building were given a warning prior to the attack. Given that the IDF was not aware that there was a clinic located there, there was no intention to hit it.
The investigation also showed that IDF forces at all levels were directed to take extra caution to avoid harming medical crews and facilities, and in many cases ceased to operate when there was a medical vehicle or medical staff present in their area of operation. The forces took extraordinary care, as obliged by international law and in some incidents even refrained from attacking "medical vehicles" even when it was clear that they were in fact being used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the fighting. The investigation clearly showed that the forces were well aware of, and respected the special status given to medical crews, vehicles, structures and facilities. In addition, the orders relating to the use of force near medical vehicles were strengthened during the operation, making the IDF regulations stricter than those obliged by international law.
In addition, the investigation noted that the IDF operated a medical situation room in the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison, which coordinated the evacuation of bodies, the wounded and trapped civilians from the combat zone. During the operation, the medical situation room coordinated 150 different requests.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, accepted the recommendations made by the Head of the investigation, stating that the awareness of the importance of preventing harm to medical crews, facilities and vehicles must be preserved. These issues should be practiced by all forces in "incidents and responses" drills. Finally, the Chief of the General Staff ordered an examination of the operation of the humanitarian corridor which was opened for the benefit of the local population during the fighting.
Towards the conclusion of the investigation, the IDF received additional claims relating to allegations of firing upon medical facilities and vehicles. These claims are currently being investigated.
Claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed
The investigation was conducted by Col. Tamir Yidai and looked into seven incidents in which it was claimed, civilians were harmed by the IDF. This is a highly sensitive matter, for any loss of human life is unfortunate. This is especially true for the IDF, an ethical army that emphasizes the values of human life and the purity of arms. The investigation reached the conclusion that that in all of the incidents which were examined, IDF forces did not intentionally attack civilians who were not involved in the fighting.
In circumstances where there existed the risk of unintentionally harming uninvolved civilians, the IDF took many measures to minimize this risk, including the use of precise intelligence and providing warnings prior to the attack.
During the incidents in question, IDF operations did cause harm to uninvolved civilians. However, the results of this investigation make it clear that this was not intentional, but the result of circumstances beyond the control of the forces or due to unexpected operational mistakes. A significant proportion of the incidents occurred as a result of Hamas' illegitimate use of its own civilians. The Hamas took cover amongst the civilian population and used civilians facilities and structures as part of its terrorist operation against Israel.
The incidents which were investigated:
• The attack on the house of senior Hamas operative Nazar Ri'an (January 4th, 2009) - The investigation showed that Ri'an's house was attacked due to its use by Hamas for storing large quantities of sophisticated weapons. Prior to the attack, the forces took a long series of measures to avoid harming uninvolved civilians (It must be stressed that Ri'an could have been considered a legitimate military target due to his central role in the planning and executing terror attacks, was not the target of the attack. The target was the weapons storage facility located in his home). These measures included a phone call notifying of the planned attack, the firing of preliminary warning shots using light weapons, waiting a sufficient period of time to allow the residents of the house to evacuate, and the identification of a group of people exiting the house. Only at that point, after all indications led to the conclusion that the building was empty, was the house targeted. It was later discovered that for unknown reasons, Ri'an and his family stayed in the building in spite of the many warnings and lengthy period of time allowed for their evacuation. Secondary explosions were clearly visible following the attack, proving that the building was used as for weapons storage.
• The attack on the house of Dr. Abu el Eish (January 17th, 2009) – The investigation showed that an IDF force identified suspicious figures on the third floor of the building, raising suspicions that the figures were observing IDF forces in order to direct sniper fire from another building. This was a method of action used by Hamas throughout the operation. Prior to firing at the snipers and the spotters, the regional commander took a series of measures to ensure that the suspicious figures were gunmen and that no civilians would be endangered by the attack. Accordingly, the commander waited 20 minutes before ordering the attack. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts made, four women who were in the same house as the spotters were hit.
It should be noted that Israeli security forces urged Dr. Abu el Eish to leave his house and the combat zone in the days prior to the incident, but he chose to remain in his house in spite of the clear risk.
• Truck apparently carrying oxygen tanks (December 29th, 2008) – the truck was targeted after the accumulation of information which indicated convincingly that it was carrying rockets between a known Hamas rocket manufacturing facility to a known rocket launching site. The attack was carried out near a known Hamas rocket manufacturing site and after a launch. It was only later discovered that the truck was carrying oxygen tanks (similar in appearance to Grad Missiles) and not rockets. The strike killed four Hamas operatives and four uninvolved civilians. It is important to note that the oxygen tanks being carried in the truck were likely to be used by Hamas for rocket manufacturing.
• The Al-Daia family residence in the Zeitoun neighborhood in the city of Gaza (January 6th, 2009) – the incident in question was a result of an operational error with unfortunate consequences. The investigation concluded that the IDF intended to attack a weapons storage facility that was located in the building next to the Al-Daia family residence. It appears that following an error, the structure that was planned to be attacked was the Al-Daia residence rather than the building containing the weapons. The house that was actually attacked (the Al-Daia residence) did receive a number of warnings beforehand, including the preliminary firing of ammunition which causes little damage and the use of the "Knock on the Roof" special warning method. However, due to the mistake in identifying the building, the warning phone call was received prior the attack by the residents of the building containing the weapons storage, not the Al-Daia residence. This may have been the reason that the Al Daia family did not leave the house before it was mistakenly hit it. This is a highly unfortunate event with severe consequences. It was ultimately caused by a professional mistake of the type that can take place during intensive fighting in a crowded environment against an enemy that uses civilians as cover for its operations.
In addition to the abovementioned incidents, the head of the investigation looked into two incidents in which it was claimed that attacks directed at mosques lead to the deaths of uninvolved civilians. With regard to the first incident, relating to a strike against the "Maqadme" mosque in Beit-Lehiya on January 3rd, 2009, it was discovered that as opposed to the claims, the mosque was not attacked at all. Furthermore, it was found that the supposed uninvolved civilians who were the casualties of the attack were in fact Hamas operatives killed while fighting against the IDF. The second incident, regarding a supposed strike that hit the "Rabat" mosque in Bet Lehiya on January 9th, 2009 – no testimony of any IDF forces operating in the area was found. The mosque is still standing unharmed.
In all of the incidents investigated, there were no breaches of international law, and in some of them it was clear that the actions of the IDF were in fact stricter than those demanded under international law. As in any combat situation, and specifically when fighting a terrorist organization that uses its own people as human shields, the investigation discovered isolated failures, some of which lead to the harming of civilians.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff determined that even in those unfortunate incidents in which the investigation showed that the IDF operated in a way that caused harm to uninvolved civilians, the harm was not intentional and was caused despite measures that were taken to prevent it. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that clear regulations and orders be made on the basis of the conclusions of the investigation.
It must be added that the IDF is currently looking into a series of additional claims that were made against it. Upon the completion of an initial inquiry into these events, it will be decided whether they will be further investigated, in accordance with the facts and IDF investigations policy.
The use of weaponry containing phosphorous components
This investigation, which was conducted by Col. Shai Alkalai, focused on the use of munitions containing phosphorous components in Operation Cast Lead throughout the duration of the operation.
The investigation found that IDF forces used two different types of munitions containing white phosphorous.
It was found that during the operation, a very limited amount of the first type was used by ground and naval forces. The munitions included mortar shells fired by ground forces (not artillery shells) and 76mm rounds fired from naval vessels. These munitions contained phosphorous as the active ingredient and are not intended to create smoke screens.
The use of such munitions is legal under international law subject to certain limitations derived from their incendiary capabilities. The investigation showed that use of these munitions was done so in accordance with these limitations – they were only fired at open areas and were used for marking and range-finding rather than in an anti-personnel capacity. In one single incident, in an open uninhabited area, ammunition containing phosphorous was used to uncover tunnel entrances.
Let it be reemphasized that no phosphorus munitions were used on built-up areas or for anti-personnel purposes.
As a precautionary measure, even though international law does not prohibit the use of such means, as of January 7th 2009, it was decided that in order to further minimize the risk to civilians from munitions containing phosphorous, the IDF would cease to use the munitions containing larger quantities of phosphorous (i.e. those not used for smoke screening). All IDF forces were directed to act accordingly.
The investigation discovered that phosphorous munitions which contained phosphorous intended for purposes other than smoke screening were used after January 7th 2009 on two occasions, by ground forces and the Israel Navy respectively, for marking purposes. These two exceptions were looked into during the investigation, which found that on both the incidents there was no breach of any of the rules of international law.
It must be stressed that the ammunition containing phosphorous used by the IDF is standard, legal and is used by other western militaries worldwide, including states who are signatories of the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The investigation showed that the use of white phosphorous made by the IDF was in accordance with Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law and more specifically, the obligations with regard to munitions with incendiary characteristics.
Most of the munitions containing phosphorus which were used during the operation were of a second type, and contained pieces of felt dipped in phosphorous in a manner that is not intended to cause injuries and which are non-incendiary, and are used exclusively to create smoke screens. Moreover, these are munitions which conform in full, with international law. In addition, the limitations under international law on the use of "incendiary munitions" do not apply to this type of munitions.
In this context is should be emphasized that the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which defines specific limitations on the use of "incendiary munitions", clearly states that smoke obscurants are not considered "incendiary munitions". Israel is not a party to the Third Protocol, but it should be noted that even states that are a party to the Protocol make use of smoke shells which contain a small quantity of phosphorous for the purpose of smoke obscuration.
The use made by the IDF of obscurant smoke shells was for military requirements only (e.g. camouflaging armored forces from anti-tank squads deployed by Hamas in Gaza's urban areas). This use was in accordance with international law, while balancing between operational and humanitarian considerations. The use of smoke obscurants proved to be a very effective means and in many cases prevented the need to use explosive munitions whose impact would have been considerably more dangerous.
After having being presented with the conclusions of the investigation, the Chief of the General Staff emphasized the importance of a clear doctrine and commands on the issue of various munitions which contain phosphorous. In addition, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that any use of phosphorous for purposes other than smoke obscuration be treated as exceptional.
Damage to infrastructure and destruction of buildings by ground forces
This investigation, carried out by Col. Adam Zusman, focused on issues relating to the infrastructure operations and the demolishing of structures by the IDF forces during the ground operations phase of Operation Cast Lead. During the investigation the commanders of the forces that participated in the operation were questioned in relation to the issues being investigated. In addition, the investigation gathering data from relevant institutions and examined the relevant military orders.
The investigation showed that Hamas based its main line of defense on civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (i.e. buildings, infrastructure, agricultural lands etc.), and specifically on booby trapped structures (mostly residential), the digging of explosive tunnels and tunnels intended for the moving of people and weaponry. This created an above ground and underground deployment in the Gaza Strip's urban areas by Hamas. During the operation, IDF forces were forced not only to fight the gunmen themselves, but to also deal with the physical terrorist infrastructure prepared by the Hamas and other terrorist organizations in advance. As part of this challenge, the forces demolished structures that threatened the forces and had to be removed – houses which were used by the enemy; other structures used by the enemy for terrorist activity; structures that prevented the forces from moving from one area to another (given that many of the roads were booby trapped); structures that were used to protect Israeli soldiers; agricultural elements used as cover for enemy tunnels and infrastructure; and infrastructure next to the security fence used by Hamas for operations against IDF forces or for digging tunnels into Israeli territory.
IDF operations which were intended to demolish booby trapped or structures rigged with explosives (and other similar operations) successfully prevented the enemy from detonating these structures while IDF forces were in them, despite the enormous efforts made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, who rigged a substantial number of buildings to explode in the areas where the IDF operated.
The investigation shows that in all the areas of operation, the decision to authorize the demolishing of houses was only made by high ranking officers. In addition, the destruction of buildings was only initiated after it was determined by the forces that they were vacant. As a result, as far as the investigation was able to determine, no uninvolved civilians were harmed during the demolition of infrastructure and buildings by IDF forces.
The investigation showed that in many cases, the preparations made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations were responsible for the significant damage caused to houses. This was due to the secondary explosions caused by the detonation of explosive devices or weaponry placed by Hamas within the structures. This was illustrated by an incident which was investigated, in which a building in one of Gaza's northern neighborhoods was fired upon, resulting in the unexpected detonation of a chain of explosive devices planted by Hamas, damaging many other buildings in the neighborhood.
The investigation showed that the orders and directions given with regard to damage to property during the operation, at all levels, emphasized that all demolition operations should be carried out in a manner which would minimize to the greatest extent possible the damage caused to any property not used by Hamas and other terror organizations in the fighting. During the investigation it was apparent that that this issue was not stressed sufficiently in the written plans for the operation. However, the investigation clearly showed that the forces in the field understood in which circumstances structures or infrastructure could be demolished as well as the limitations relating to demolitions.
The investigations did not identify any instances of intentional harm done to civilian infrastructure and with the exception of a single incident (which was immediately halted by the relevant Brigade Commander, and was dealt with using disciplinary measures) it didn't find any incidents in which structures or property were damaged as "punishment" or without an operational justification. In all of the areas in which the IDF operated, the level of damage to the infrastructure was proportional, and did not deviate from that which was required to fulfill the operational requirements.
Overall, the extent of damage caused to buildings was a direct result of the extensive use by Hamas of those same buildings for terrorist purposes and targeting IDF forces.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi accepted the recommendation made by the head of the investigation to create clear regulations and orders with regard to the issue of demolition of infrastructure and structures as well as a clear combat doctrine. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation that the combat doctrine should include a definition of relevant "incidents and responses" to be distributed amongst all combat forces. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation to create a clear procedure of documentation and reporting for such operations. The conclusion that the extent of the demolished infrastructure and building was proportionate, in light of the operational requirements, was also approved by the IDF Chief of the General Staff.
I had just finished posting the item that claimed a Kuwaiti political candidate had called for normalization of relations with Israel, a reasonable proposal that therefore had no chance whatever of happening, when this article came up. This is the Middle East, and nobody will let you forget it.
Last update - 17:48 22/04/2009
Kuwait politician who called to normalize Israel ties quits parliament race
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Salah Bahman, an independent candidate for the Kuwaiti parliament, has dropped out of the race a day after he called for full normalization of relations between Israel and Kuwait, igniting a storm of controversy in the Persian gulf state.
In a radio interview Wednesday, Bahman backtracked on his previous statement before announcing his withdrawal from the race.
During an interview Tuesday with the news Website "Al-Arabiya", Bahman said Kuwait needed to normalize relations with Israel immediately after their liberation from Iraqi occupation.
Bahman stated that Kuwait plays an important role in international relations and normalization of ties with Israel would have a "positive influence" on Kuwait's role in diplomatic affairs.
Bahman added that if positive relations between the two countries were formed, it would help Kuwait and the remainder of the Arab world.
Bahman said he doesn't fear for his life after his statements were aired, saying he believes in what he said and he has faith in the freedom of speech in Kuwait.
Kuwaiti law bans ties with Israel and has policies against calling for ties with Israel, which it refers to as "the Zionist entity."
This makes sense, so it won't happen. It is the Middle East after all.
Apr. 21, 2009
jonathan beck , THE JERUSALEM POST
A journalist running for Kuwait's parliament in next month's general election called on the Gulf state Tuesday to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.
"Israel is a reality and has international influence... Kuwait would benefit from Israel's influence if we establish relations," said Saleh Bahman, who is running as an independent.
He also said relations between Kuwait and Israel would improve the oil-rich country's standing in the West.
In an interview published on Al-Arabiya TV's Web site, Bahman said he was not afraid after having called for normalization with Israel.
"The residents of Kuwait live in security, and there is no threat to my life," he said. "What I said comes from deep conviction, and I have complete freedom to express my views."
Bahman said many important people in Gulf states had met with their Israeli counterparts, and normalization was a possibility.
He also said his proposal was viewed positively by intellectuals and academics in Kuwait. He expressed hope that the country would take "swift" steps to establish relations with Israel, including bilateral opening of embassies.
Kuwait, a staunch US ally, has so far resisted pressure to end its boycott of the Jewish state and has repeatedly said it would be the last Arab country to establish ties after any peace deal with the Palestinians.
Earlier this year, a number of Kuwaiti lawmakers submitted a bill calling for a total ban on dealing with Israel and proposing hefty penalties for violators. The bill has not been yet been debated.
The Kuwaiti parliamentary election is scheduled for May 16.at
Published April 2009
There are voices in the Obama Administration who believe that the Kremlin is able and willing to exert pressure on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, perceived geopolitical and economic benefits in the unstable Persian Gulf, in which American influence is on the wane, outweigh Russia's concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran. The Kremlin sees Iran not as a threat but as a partner or an ad-hoc ally to challenge U.S. influence.
Today, both Russia and Iran favor a strategy of "multipolarity," both in the Middle East and worldwide. This strategy seeks to dilute American power, revise current international financial institutions, and weaken or neuter NATO and the OSCE, while forging a counterbalance to the Euro-Atlantic alliance.
Russian technological aid is evident throughout the Iranian missile and space programs. Russian scientists and expertise have played a direct and indirect role in these programs for years. According to some reports, Russian specialists are helping to develop the longer-range Shahab-5, and Russia has exported missile production facilities to Iran.
Moscow has signed a contract to sell advanced long-range S-300 air-defense systems to Iran. Once Iran has air defenses to repel Israeli or American air strikes and nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles, it will possess the capacity to destroy Israel (an openly stated goal of the regime) and strike targets throughout the Middle East, in Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. Beyond that, if and when an ICBM capability is achieved, Tehran will be able to threaten the U.S. homeland directly.
Given the substantial Russian interests and ambitions, any grand bargain would almost certainly require an excessively high price paid by the United States to the detriment of its friends and allies. Russia simply does not view the situation through the same lens as the U.S.
President Barack Obama hopes that Russia and Europe would assist U.S. efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program. However, having spent a week in Berlin in Spring 2009 talking to German officials,1 and having followed closely Russia's policy on Iran since the mid-1990s, including meetings with Presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev and other officials, it looks like Europe's and Russia's interests on Iran diverge too much from those of the U.S. to provide either meaningful carrots or weighty enough sticks. For example, a senior German Foreign Ministry official expressed a "hope" that Iran will not weaponize, while proposing weakening and narrowing the existing sanctions regime against Tehran, and warning not to bring the Iranian people closer to the leadership of the Islamic Republic.2
At this point, Obama Administration officials, Russian diplomats, and European policymakers and analysts suggest that Moscow's geopolitical and economic interests, German fear of confrontation - even through imposition of a robust sanctions regime, and American emphasis on multilateral diplomacy will fail to stop the Iranian drive to acquire nuclear weapons.
The Iranians are not sitting on their hands. Nor do they need a stockpile of highly enriched uranium for peaceful purposes. On March 1, 2009, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Iran had stockpiled enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb. This is the first such definitive commentary from a senior Pentagon official. A week later, Israel's military intelligence chief, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, told the Israeli Cabinet that Iran had crossed the technological threshold to producing a nuclear weapon. It may not be long, it seems, until Iran has the bomb.3 If it does, Russia will have a lot to account for, and so will the authors of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which denied that Iran is seeking to weaponize its nuclear program.
A nuclear-armed Iran would be a game changer and threat to the region, as Iran will likely utilize its nuclear arsenal to bully neighbors, deter other nuclear powers, and provide diplomatic cover for its terrorist proxies, such as Hamas and Hizbullah. Tehran is likely to foster its hegemony in the Persian Gulf and trigger a regional nuclear arms race, not to mention the existential threat to Israel, which should be an unacceptable outcome to U.S. interests, Europe, and countries in the region. But is it?
Russia to the Rescue? Not So Fast
In order to prevent this outcome, there are voices in the Obama Administration and in Europe, including in the expert community, who believe that the Kremlin is able and willing to exert pressure on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, as the high-level bipartisan commission jointly organized by the Nixon Center and Harvard University's Belfer Center and chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel recently suggested.4 The report calls for, among other things, making Russia a "partner in dealing with Iran." This may be a case of wishful thinking, as a close examination of Russia's relationship with Iran will reveal Moscow's interests and agenda, as well as expose its unhelpful and enabling behavior towards the Islamic Republic.
Some in Washington have interpreted recent Russian statements as signs that the Kremlin may be more willing to cooperate on Iran than in the past. According to President of the Nixon Center Dimitry Simes, in a recent closed-door meeting at the Kremlin, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev purportedly expressed "concern" and "alarm" in "very graphic language" over Iran's satellite launch. He stated that this launch represents how "far-reaching Iran's nuclear ambitions are."5 This statement may have been aimed in enticing the Obama Administration to offer concessions to the Kremlin in exchange for promises of Russia's engagement on Iran. Yet only a few days later, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov publicly stated, "We still believe that at this point in time there are no signs that this [Iranian nuclear - A.C.] program has switched to a military purpose."6 This public statement is in accordance with previous Russian leaders' public statements and assessments of Iran's nuclear and "civilian" space programs as peaceful.7
Russia is playing a sophisticated game of Star Trek's multidimensional chess. It combines a realpolitik recognition of Moscow's relative weakness vis-à-vis Washington with a desire to push America out of its desired zone of military and political predominance - the Persian Gulf. In the era of expensive oil, more tension at and around the planet's "gas station" drives up energy prices - a boon to energy export revenue-dependent Russia. And an arms race in the Gulf may benefit Russia's weapons exports. After all, Moscow sold weapons to both sides during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. Perceived geopolitical and economic benefits in the unstable Persian Gulf, in which American influence is on the wane, outweigh Russia's concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran. Why?
The Primakov Doctrine Revisited
Russia has excellent Iranian human intelligence sources which go back to the Soviet era. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani attended Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, and hundreds of Iranian engineers and scientists studied in Russian military, security, and engineering schools. Russian scientists work in the Iranian space and nuclear programs. Russia is fully aware - and profits from - the Iranian push to acquire deliverable nuclear weapons.
Yet past Russian actions, such as delaying and temporarily withholding delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran, postponing the transfer of sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft batteries to Iran, and providing limited support for weak sanctions regimes indicate that Russia is trying to have its cake and eat it too. It demonstrates responsiveness to the U.S. and, occasionally, even to Israeli pressures and entreaties, while inexorably enabling Iran to get its wishes. The analytical challenge in assessing Russia's willingness to cooperate with the West is to interpret Russia's actions versus its rhetoric and to place both in the context of Russia's perceived interests and its strong and multifaceted relationship with Iran.
Russia's ambitions in Iran go back to the czarist and Soviet eras, when in the eighteenth century the South Caucasus and the Caspian littoral - until then under Persian hegemony - came under the sway of St. Petersburg. The Soviets occupied northern Iran during World War II. Later, Russian intelligence predicted the victory of the Khomeini Revolution long before Washington realized the scope of the geopolitical disaster it faced after the abandonment of its ailing ally, the Shah. Moscow sold weapons to both Baghdad (its principal client) and to Tehran. Today, Russia's commercial interests in Iran span from billions in arms sales and the transfer of nuclear and space technology to lucrative oil and gas contracts for state-controlled Russian companies. These ties, and the potential of bilateral trade, are greater than its economic links with Israel.
The Kremlin sees Iran not as a threat but as a partner or an ad-hoc ally to challenge U.S. influence.8 It also sees Iran as a key platform to expand its regional and international influence. While the Iranian agenda is clearly separate from that of Russia, the Kremlin uses Iran as a geopolitical battering ram against the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf region and the Middle East. Therefore, Russian support for Iran's nuclear program and arms sales are not only economic and export issues, but reflect a geopolitical agenda which is at least twenty years old.
These efforts are part of a strategy aimed at creating a "multi-polar world," which came about as a reaction to the perceived decline of Soviet stature in the waning years of the Cold War, and was called by this author "the Primakov Doctrine." Named after Foreign Minister Evgeny Primakov, this doctrine was a response to the emergence of independent states in Eastern Europe and Eurasia and the enlargement of NATO. In early 1997, Primakov and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, issued a joint statement calling the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf "totally unacceptable."9
Today, both Russia and Iran favor a strategy of "multipolarity," both in the Middle East and worldwide. This strategy seeks to dilute American power, revise current international financial institutions which comprise the post-Bretton Woods world order, shift away from the dollar as a reserve currency, and weaken or neuter NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, while forging a counterbalance to the Euro-Atlantic alliance, with Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, and terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah, while hoping to attract China, India, and other states to this anti-U.S. coalition.10
Vladimir Putin has pursued his own version of this doctrine since his ascendancy. Signaling the importance of Iran, one of the first things Putin did when he came to power was to abrogate the secret 1999 Gore-Chernomyrdin Agreement. This accord was set to cut off Russia's arms supply to Iran after the then-current contracts were fulfilled.11 While Putin also hosted Iranian presidents in Moscow and visited Iran himself, these high level ties have not resulted in cancellation of the Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Russia's Contribution to Iran's "Civilian" Space Program
On February 5, 2008, J. Michael McConnell, then Director of National Intelligence, presented his Annual Threat Assessment to the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence. The assessment stated that Iran is developing and deploying longer-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. However, the report failed to mention the involvement of Russia in this development.
Iran maintains that the test launches for its satellite program are of a civilian nature. However, Iran's space program is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards - the most trusted militarized security component of the regime, not unlike the Nazi SS and Stalin's NKVD.12 It is worth remembering that the Soviet secret services were in charge of its nuclear program under the leadership of Lavrentii Beria, Stalin's much-feared security chief. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an alumnus of the Revolutionary Guards, is publicly and visibly involved with the space launch program. The development of successful space programs has historically occurred in tandem with ICBM programs, and satellite-launch capability is quite similar to intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities.13
Russian technological aid is evident throughout the Iranian missile and space programs. Russian scientists and expertise have played a direct and indirect role in these programs for years. For instance, Iran's first satellite was built and launched in Russia. On February 5, 2008, Iran launched a ballistic missile described as a "space launch vehicle," or SLV. The rocket, called the Explorer-1, was launched from a new and secret space center in northern Iran. It is probable that this new missile was none other than the Shahab 4, which is likely based on technology transferred by Russia.14 This is likely the single-stage Soviet SS-4 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which was deployed in Cuba during the Missile Crisis of 1962. Russia also used to have a space-launch version.
According to some reports, Russian specialists are helping to develop the longer-range Shahab-5, and Russia has exported missile production facilities and technical documents, as well as fuel, to Iran.15 Iran and North Korea are cooperating in developing missile technology, and Russia may be facilitating technology transfers between the two; for example, the Shahab-5 is based on the Taepodong-2 first developed by North Korea and now being employed by Iran with Russian help.16 The launch of the new North Korean space vehicle on April 4, 2009, should be a reason to examine how that model may further boost Iranian ballistic missile capabilities.
Iran's Race to Space
In March 2009, Iran launched its first indigenously produced satellite into orbit ahead of schedule using an Iranian-built rocket, the Safir-2 ("Ambassador"). The Safir-2 rocket is a two-stage rocket that, if reconfigured as a ballistic missile with a light warhead, could have a range of roughly 1,500 miles. This is sufficient to reach most parts of the greater Middle East. Iran has even more powerful rockets in its inventory such as the Shahab-3. The critical insight from this demonstration is that the launch of the Safir-2 represents a milestone for Iran in its quest to deliver larger payloads to longer distances.17 If a country can launch a missile that can place a satellite payload into orbit, then it may develop the ability to hit a target anywhere on Earth, given adequate warhead and command, control, and communications capabilities.
Another reason why Russia is so eager to assist Iran may have to do with Moscow's clearly-articulated assessment that the U.S. and NATO are a threat. This was an explanation for Moscow's opposition to the U.S. missile defense deployment in Europe.
If Iran achieves nuclear/ballistic missile capacity, it could further intimidate NATO countries currently hosting important U.S. bases in Europe. А refusal by NATO allies to provide aid to the United States in a future conflict could fracture the alliance's cohesion, an outcome that Moscow would welcome. Thus, Russia may be using Iran as an important chess piece - not only to threaten U.S. interests in the Gulf, but eventually to undermine the Trans-Atlantic alliance.
Finally, Tehran's development of longer-range ballistic missiles with the capacity to reach most of Europe might also deter NATO countries from allowing U.S. forces to use bases on their territory in a contingency to assist Israel, not unlike the Yom Kippur War scenario when only the Netherlands and Portugal allowed U.S. military cargo ships refueling on their territory, while the rest of Europe was intimidated by the threats of the Arab oil embargo.
Russia's Support for Iran's Nuclear Ambitions
Iran is also continuing with efforts to develop its uranium enrichment capability, ostensibly for civilian purposes but with the potential for making nuclear weapons. The light-water reactor and Bushehr nuclear power plant initiated by the German firm Siemens in the 1970s but completed by Russia are an essential part of Iran's nuclear infrastructure, which has received Russia's support since 1992. Russia provided the technical expertise, nuclear fuel, equipment, parts, and other components for this reactor.18
Russia and Iran completed the Bushehr plant on February 25, 2009, when the reactor was tested successfully. The actual launch of Bushehr will likely take place in Fall 2009. Russia and Iran have recently agreed to sign a ten-year nuclear fuel contract and to operate the reactor with the help of Russian experts.19 If operated "off the books," however, the complex will be capable of producing enough nuclear material for thirty atomic bombs a year.20
Iran currently returns spent uranium fuel to Russia, but it is feverishly developing its own uranium enrichment capability; this would give it the ability to process reactor fuel into weapons-grade material.21 This capability poses an acute danger to global non-proliferation efforts and to President Obama's stated priority to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The question is whether Russia shares these laudable goals.
Russia's Security Blanket over Iran
Russia is involved in providing Iran with a key component to enable it to achieve and deploy an offensive strategic capability and posture, making its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal invulnerable to outside attack. In March 2009, Russian state news agencies confirmed that Moscow signed a contract as early as 2007 to sell advanced long-range S-300 air-defense systems to Iran, and "the contract itself...is being gradually executed."22
The sale of the ostensibly defensive S-300 to Iran would be a game changer in the Middle East. This system, coupled with the Russian-made TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile system already deployed there, would offer Iran a shield against potential air strikes aimed at its nuclear program.23
Once Iran has air defenses to repel Israeli or American air strikes and nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles - and sources indicate that this may occur sooner rather than later - it will possess the capacity to destroy Israel (an openly stated goal of the regime) and strike targets throughout the Middle East, in Europe, and the Indian subcontinent.24 Beyond that, if and when an ICBM capability is achieved, Tehran will be able to threaten the U.S. homeland directly. The choice then will become starkly resembling the early Cold War: deter or pre-empt.
Russia pretends that it can manage these developments and that it can play a vital role in brokering an agreement. If it does, then Moscow, which helped create the problem, can then negotiate the solution. This is evident by the Russian statement which followed the revelation that Moscow had signed the 2007 contract with Iran to sell the S-300. An anonymous official claimed that "the further implementation of the contract depends in large part on the developing international situation and the decision of the country's leaders."25 In February 2009, when the U.S. Manas air force base was evicted from Kyrgyzstan after Russian pressure, Moscow then offered a re-supply route through its territory, enhancing its own sway over Central Asia and possibly pocketing some of the transit fees and payments for refueling and other services.26
Russian Bears Bearing Gifts
The Obama Administration should use extreme caution in negotiating Russian cooperation on Iran. Moscow's interests in Iran are commercial and geopolitical in nature, and until now mostly militated against substantial cooperation or any potential "grand bargain." This so-called bargain would involve the U.S. delaying or canceling plans for European-based U.S. missile defense and barring NATO's doors to Ukraine and Georgia.
Russia is demanding scaling back U.S. relations with Russia's "near-abroad" countries and overlooking its abysmal rule-of-law situation and its security services' human rights excesses - in exchange for Russian cooperation on preventing Iran from going nuclear. With the realpolitik school, including such octogenarians as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former President George H.W. Bush's National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and their acolytes, ascending in Washington, this looks like a plausible bargain - if Moscow delivers. And herein lies the rub.
In addition to nuclear and arms sales, the Kremlin has major plans with Tehran in the energy sector. The Kremlin is in the process of creating an OPEC-style gas cartel with Iran and other leading gas producers, to be headquartered in Moscow. By launching this cartel, Moscow hopes to enhance its energy superpower status.27 In addition to nuclear sales, Russia is also engaged in oil and gas "swap" deals with Iran that are accruing Russia influence in Tehran, in the Caspian Basin and the Persian Gulf.28 Moscow and Iran also are planning a massive energy and transportation corridor to connect the Indian Ocean, the Caspian, and Europe. The chances of Russia risking this ambitious agenda will depend on what the Obama Administration offers in exchange - and whether Moscow can pocket the concessions and continue its multi-faceted relationship with Tehran.
This is not the time for naïveté. Given the substantial Russian interests and ambitions, any grand bargain would almost certainly require an excessively high price paid by the United States to the detriment of its friends and allies.29 Russia simply does not view the situation through the same lens as the U.S. Moreover, Russia considers Iran as a partner and a de-facto ally in its plans to regain international influence. Russia has yet another powerful incentive not to ally itself with the Obama Administration's Iran policy and "deliver" Tehran: Iran's ascendancy in the Gulf and subsequent friction with the Sunni Arab world serves to boost oil prices and, thus, Moscow's balance sheet.
Russia blocked a set of UNSC sanctions against Iran after the Russia-Georgia war and has provided limited support to previous sanction rounds. Unless this changes, the United Nations as an international organization (including the Security Council), and a robust sanctions regime as a tool, are not going to work as an option for dealing with Iran because Russian (and possibly Chinese) intransigence and European caution are likely to block any such efforts.
The Iranian challenge to the Obama foreign policy agenda also underscores the need for an effective missile defense strategy for the Middle East and Europe, which will be vulnerable to Iranian ballistic missiles. The potential consequences of a nuclear strike on Europe or Israel justify having the insurance provided by a missile defense system.30 Beyond that, the U.S., Europe, and Israel need to consider military options if diplomacy, including sanctions, fails. During the 2008 presidential election campaign, candidates Obama and Hillary Clinton said that "all options are on the table." They should not be swept under it.
To conclude, with Russia providing support for Iranian ambitions diplomatically, technologically, and militarily (to defend their missile and nuclear programs from attack), and the "grand bargain" price likely being too high, the U.S. is left with a difficult problem.
* * *
1. The author wants to thank the American Council on Germany, its President William Drozdiak and Vice President Stephen Sokol, for the invitation to the Spring 2009 Berlin Study Tour.
2. German Foreign Ministry briefing, April 2009.
3. Ariel Cohen, "Iran Now on the Brink of Making the Bomb," United Press International, March 20, 2009,
4. The Right Direction for U.S. Policy Towards Russia, March 2009, ttp://www.nixoncenter.org/RussiaReport09.pdf
5. Phillip P. Pan and Karen De Young, "Russia Signaling Interest in Deal on Iran, Analysts Say," Washington Post, March 17, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/17/AR2009031703033.html
6. "No Sign Iranian Nuclear Programme Has Military Intent: Russia," AFP, March 20, 2009, http://www.spacewar.com/2006/090320094343.v7054d9x.html
7. Stephen Blank, "Russia and Iran's Missiles," World Politics Review, February 9, 2009, http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articlePrint.aspx?ID=3269
9. Ariel Cohen and James Phillips, "Russia's Dangerous Missile Game in Iran," Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum, November 13, 1997, http://www.heritage.org/Research/RussiaandEurasia/EM503.cfm
10. Ariel Cohen, "How the Obama Administration Should Engage Russia," Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on "Prospects for Engagement with Russia," March 19, 2009, http://www.heritage.org/research/russiaandeurasia/tst031909a.cfm
11. Mark N. Katz, "Russian-Iranian Relations in the Putin Era," Demokratizatsiya, Winter 2002, http://mars.gmu.edu:8080/dspace/bitstream/1920/ 3046/4/Russian-Iranian%20Relations%20in%20the%20Putin%20Era.pdf
12. Ariel Cohen, "Why Are the Revolutionary Guards Running Iran's ICBM program?" United Press International, September 30, 2008, http://www.upi.com/Security_Industry/2008/09/30/ Why_are_the_Revolutionary_Guards_running_Irans_ICBM_program/UPI-18751222786545
13. Martin Sieff, "North Korea's Satellite Claim Means ICBM Threat Is Real at Last," United Press International, February 24, 2009, http://www.upi.com/news/issueoftheday/2009/02/24/ North_Koreas_satellite_claim_means_ICBM_threat_is_real_at_last/UPI-13811235497413/print
14. Ariel Cohen, "Iran's Satellite Booster Likely to Have ICBM Capability," United Press International, September 29, 2008, http://www.upi.com/Security_Industry/2008/09/29/ Irans_satellite_booster_likely_to_have_ICBM_capability/UPI-95421222701978
15. Ariel Cohen, "The Real World: Iran's Space Rocket Launch," Middle East Times, February 9, 2008, http://www.heritage.org/Press/Commentary/020808c.cfm
17. James Phillips and Baker Spring, "Iran's Satellite Launch Underscores Growing Military Threat," February 4, 2009, Heritage Foundation, Webmemo No. 2270, http://www.heritage.org/research/middleeast/wm2270.cfm
18. "Bushehr," Globalsecurity.org, October 10, 2008, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/bushehr.htm (March 16, 2009)
19. "Russia, Iran to Sign 10-Year Nuclear Fuel Supply Contract," RIA Novosti, February 25, 2009, http://en.rian.ru/russia/20090225/120304285.html
20. "Bushehr," Globalsecurity.org, October 10, 2008, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/bushehr.htm
21. Ariel Cohen, "The Real World: Iran- N. Korea with Oil?", Middle East Times, April 11, 2008,
22. "Report: Russia Confirms Missile Contract," Associated Press, March 18, 2009,
23. Ariel Cohen, "Can the U.S. F-35 Fighter Destroy Russia's S-300 Systems?" United Press International, January 20, 2009, http://www.upi.com/Security_Industry/2009/01/20/ Can_the_US_F-35_fighter_destroy_Russias_S-300_systems/UPI-39001232464740
24. Mark Lavie, "Israel Believes Iran Can Build Nuclear Weapons," Associated Press, March 8, 2009, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ml_israel_iran;_ylt =AnvVKNHaGc4YRgg5EL3xpgLZn414; "Iran Leader's Comments Attacked," BBC News, October 27, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4378948.stm
25. "Russia Has Not Delivered S-300 Missile Systems to Iran - Source," Novosti, March 18, 2009, http://en.rian.ru/russia/20090318/ 120623475.html (April 1, 2009).
26. Ariel Cohen, "How the Obama Administration Should Engage Russia."
27. Ariel Cohen, "Gas OPEC: A Stealthy Cartel Emerges," Heritage Foundation WebMemo, April 12, 2007,
28. "Russia, Iran Signed Hydrocarbon Memorandum Allowing for Swap Operations," Itar-Tass, March 15, 2009, http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html? NewsID=13680390&PageNum=0; "Iran: Is Tehran Using Russia as Insurance Against Tougher Sanctions?" Eurasia Insight, March 17, 2009, http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insightb/articles/eav031709b.shtml
29. Ariel Cohen, "How the Obama Administration Should Engage Russia."
30. Stephen Blank, "Russia Challenges the Obama Administration," Strategic Studies Institute, December 2008,
http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/pub900.pdf; Ariel Cohen, "The Real World: Between Iran and Poland," Middle East Times, July 12, 2008, http://ww.heritage.org/press/commentary/ed071208a.cfm
* * *
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Apr. 22, 2009
Haviv Rettig Gur , THE JERUSALEM POST
Almost two-thirds of Israeli Jews support sending NATO troops to the West Bank in a peacekeeping capacity, according to a poll conducted by Jerusalem-based KEEVOON Research and set to be released on Wednesday.
Israeli Jews supported the presence of NATO peacekeepers in Palestinian areas by 62 percent to 34%, the study found. But that support was not shared among Israeli Arabs, who opposed the idea by 44% to 24% - though a third said they did not know or refused to answer the question.
"We are seeing a change in the readiness for third-party intervention in the conflict," according to Dr. Lars Hansel, head of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung office in Jerusalem, which commissioned the study.
"Three or four years back, there was no readiness for international involvement, but I think this changed because of the EU monitoring mission in Rafah, which was seen positively, and the German marines deployed on the Lebanese coast, who are seen [by Israelis] as a welcome development. We are clearly sensing a shift in discourse in Israel about this," Hansel said.
Indeed, a majority of respondents (54%) supported outright Israeli membership in NATO (33% did not). Support rose to 60% when only Jewish responses were counted.
This high support was almost identical among Jerusalem and Tel Aviv residents - 65% and 64%, respectively - suggesting that this view cut across social, religious and political divisions. A similar majority was maintained among the voters of all major parties, including Labor (70%), Israel Beiteinu (67%), Kadima (63%) and the Likud (59%).
The study also found that more than two-thirds of Israelis (69%) would like to join the European Union, with just 18% opposing the idea. Support was higher among Jews (75%, with 15% opposing) than among Arabs (40% vs 30% opposing).
To test the strength of this support, the survey presented a hypothetical situation in which "Israelis would be able to live or work anywhere in Europe, the shekel would have to be replaced eventually with the euro, and the Law of Return might be amended."
Even then, support for joining the EU narrowly defeated opposition by 44% to 43%.
According to Hansel, "there is a general attraction to the EU, which is interesting because it is based not only on economic issues, but also on values. The study showed that Israelis liked the EU in part because it promotes democracy and pluralism. For Israelis, the EU stands for certain values and a certain kind of prosperity."
Nearly half of Israelis welcomed EU aid to the Palestinians.
After being told that "the European Union is the largest donor to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and is committed to improving their humanitarian and economic situation," 47% of Israelis said this caused their support for the European organization to increase, while 37% said it diminished their support.
Similarly, 54% said the EU's support for a two-state solution encouraged them to support the EU, while 34% said it hurt their support.
Israelis were less forgiving on the question of a potential EU dialogue with Hamas, however, as 59% said it would reduce their support for the EU. And though they generally held a high opinion of the European organization (63% favorable), Israelis were evenly split (36% to 34%) on whether it had advanced or impeded the peace process in recent years.
Unlike with NATO, opinion on the European Union seemed to depend heavily on political and religious belief and age. Large majorities of Kadima, Labor and Meretz voters and most Israelis over 51 said they liked the European umbrella organization, while much of the opposition came from large segments of the young Israeli population, the Orthodox, and voters for Arab parties.
The study asked Israelis to rate their opinions of several well-known foreign leaders. The results showed that Israelis were as susceptible to the charisma of the new American president as people from any European country: Barack Obama was the most popular of the world leaders, with a favorability rating of 74% and just 11% saying they had an "unfavorable" view of him.
The high figures indicate that Obama's popularity is widespread even among Israel's political Right.
After Obama, Middle East negotiator and former British prime minister Tony Blair is the next-most popular foreign leader, with 68% favorable to 14% unfavorable.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy came third with 64%. That marks a doubling of support for the French presidency compared to Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac. In 2007, Chirac had 29% approval and 63% disapproval among Israelis.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana came in last among foreign leaders mentioned in the poll, with 26% approval and 28% disapproval.
The study put a particular focus on Israelis' views of Germany, finding that two-thirds had a favorable opinion of the country. Fully 62% of Israelis believe Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, improves the country's image abroad.
The survey included a battery of other questions.
Asked about their main concern vis-a-vis their government, Israelis said they were overwhelmingly more concerned about the economy than foreign policy by a margin of 61% to 12%.
In the wake of February's election (the study was conducted from April 1 to 5), the poll found a significant swing toward optimism among Israelis compared with the last poll from 2007. Two years ago, fully 77% of respondents said the country was going in the wrong direction. By 2009, that figure had dropped to 50%.
However, Israelis' views of Turkey took a sharp turn for the worse, in the wake of the bitter diplomatic dispute between the two countries over Operation Cast Lead in January. Approval for Turkey dropped from 65% in 2007 to just 34% in the current study.
The survey also questioned Hebrew-speaking respondents about the countries from which their grandparents had come, concluding that 40% of Israeli Jews had European origins and were likely eligible for European citizenship. The 2007 poll found a similar figure of 36%.
The KEEVOON poll was directed by Mitchell Barak, funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and advised academically by Dr. Sharon Pardo of the Center for the Study of European Politics and Society at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. It questioned 600 participants - 500 Jews polled in Hebrew and 100 Arabs polled in Arabic.
This article can also be read at
Not surprising that Hamas would abuse the protection of medical facilities during Operation Cast Lead. This information was in fact more or less known during the operation, and it is surprising that nothing was done about it.
Apr. 22, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh set up a command and control center inside Shifa Hospital in downtown Gaza City throughout Operation Cast Lead in January, the army announced Wednesday.
IDF probes launched following the operation discovered that Haniyeh, as well as other senior Hamas commanders, took over a ward of the hospital and set up a command center for the duration of the operation.
Hamas believed that Israel would not target the hospital due to the high risk of collateral damage.
Guards were posted at the entrance to the ward and field commanders used to take advantage of the humanitarian corridor and cessation of action that the IDF instituted every day for several hours to enter the hospital and meet with senior Hamas officials to receive instructions.
Senior Hamas commanders also set up command centers in al-Shafa Hospital as well as in a Red Crescent clinic in Khan Yunis and used it as a detention center.
An IDF probe, conducted by Col. Erez Katz, focused on the targeting of health facilities, vehicles and medical teams. The probe discovered that out of seven medical personnel claimed to have been killed by the IDF, five were Hamas operatives, including one who was the nephew of the Hamas health minister. Two were civilians.
The probe also uncovered a number of cases during which ambulances were used by Hamas to transfer operatives. Testimony by a Palestinian medical worker and obtained by the IDF revealed how Hamas forced the Red Crescent to hand over medic and nurse uniforms for its operatives.
This article can also be read at
In many respects, Oren is a perfect choice. He is personable, moderate and articulate, though he has no dipomative experience. He will represent Netanyahu's view ably and he is savvy enough not to turn off reasonable liberals.
Historian Michael Oren to be Israel's ambassador to Washington, reports say
Tue, 04/21/2009 - 6:08pm
Michael Oren, a senior fellow and scholar of Middle Eastern diplomatic and military history at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's choice to be his ambassador to Washington, sources in Israel and Washington say.
(Richard Silverstein and Politico's Ben Smith earlier reported this.)
Oren, a New Jersey native who emigrated to Israel in the 1970s, is a published historian and contributing editor to The New Republic. He spoke to NPR during Israel's recent Gaza campaign in his capacity as a reservist serving as a spokesman for the Israeli military.
Hearing the appointment was a done deal, a plugged-in Washington Middle East hand said Netanyahu's choice for the key post of a historian with strong ties to the neoconservatives who never previously served in any diplomatic function was slightly puzzling. "Not sure Netanyahu understands the changes in D.C.," he said.
Other recent Israeli government appointments have not done much to ease awkward relations between the new Obama and Netanyahu administrations. As previously reported, Netanyahu's long time advisor and choice to head his national security cabinet, Uzi Arad, has written several letters to try to resolve U.S. counterintelligence concerns that prevented him from receiving a U.S. visa two years ago. JTA recently reported that Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has chosen another Israeli official connected to the AIPAC case, Naor Gilon, to serve as his chief of staff.
(Meantime, the Washington Post reports Tuesday that prosecutors are considering dropping charges against two former AIPAC lobbyists.)
Netanyahu was not first in line among Middle Eastern leaders to get face time with Obama at the White House. That went to Jordan's King Abdullah II, who held meetings with Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today.
But the White House said Netanyahu will get a meeting in the next few weeks. Obama will invite Middle Eastern leaders, including Netanyahu, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for separate meetings in the coming weeks, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. The series of meetings, Gibbs said, is part of the Obama administration's effort to "achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East."
By Barry Rubin
Why Iran's president has the cojones to take on the West
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Why did Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with the full backing of Iran's regime, behave as he did at the Durban-2 conference?
One reason, of course, is that he believed every word he said, and much of the Iranian Islamist regime thinks the same way. This factor should always be remembered, lest people think this was only some cynical ploy.
As the Iranian Islamist regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, once said, the revolution was not just about lowering the price of watermelons. That is, this was not merely a movement for materialist reasons but one that believes it was executing G-d's will on earth. Ideology was central.
To explain this properly, permit me to digress a moment. People often ask: why did Jews under Nazi rule in Eastern Europe not flee or do more to escape the Shoah (Holocaust). After extensive research and interviewing, it is clear to me that while there were a number of factors but foremost was the disbelief that the Germans would murder them all.
Remember that these Jews were forced into slave labor. They produced goods, farmed crops, and repaired roads. In effect, they were helping the German war effort. These laborers were paid nothing and fed barely enough to stay alive. Why, then, would the Germans destroy, so to speak, a goose that was laying eggs if not necessarily golden ones, possibly losing the war in the process?
The answer is: because they believed in their own ideology they would not act pragmatically but rather make their own defeat-and own deaths-more likely.
The second factor that should be remembered is that of miscalculation. A leader, particularly if reckless and overconfident, will take an action he thinks is in his interest but turns out to be a disaster. The best internal Middle East examples are those of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser provoking the crisis that led to the 1967 war and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Nasser thought he could score points in the Arab arena and at home by threatening to wipe Israel off the map and taking at least some major steps toward war. He miscalculated. Israel attacked and inflicted a huge defeat on him.
Saddam Hussein thought he could score points in the Arab arena and at home by seizing Kuwait, making himself the Arab world's leader, plus getting many billions of dollars from that oil-rich little country. He miscalculated. A U.S.-led coalition attacked and inflicted a huge defeat on him.
For Ahmadinejad, then, ideology and miscalculation are major factors. They will continue to be major factors if Iran gets nuclear weapon.
But of course, as with Nasser and Saddam Hussein, there are shorter-run calculations. Three are important:
Domestic popularity. This is always a basic factor with Middle Eastern radical regimes. Not all Iranians will support Ahmadinejad and many hate the regime. But among the 20 percent hardcore and perhaps 50 percent total who can be mobilized, they may cheer Ahmadinejad. Iran is strong, its enemies are weak, and its leadership is courageous. America, the Jews, and the West are satanic. Rally to the Islamic regime!
Regional popularity. Iran's regime is seeking to be leader of the Muslim world and the leading power in the Middle East. But in doing so it has two very big problems: Iran is mostly Shia Muslim; most Muslims (especially Arabs) are Sunni Muslims. Iran is mostly ethnically Persian; Arabs are Arab. How to overcome these barriers? Iran already has Arab and largely Sunni allies--Syria, Hamas, Hizballah-but that's not enough. So by becoming the leader against America, the West, and Israel, Iran hopes to override these problems. Who cares if we are Persian and Shia, Ahmadinejad says, we are the true Muslims doing what your governments aren't doing.
Global popularity. While this is a miscalculation, Ahmadinejad and other regime leaders believe that this kind of behavior can make them popular throughout the world. This includes not only Muslim-majority countries but also the Third World and even the West. In a recent interview with Der Spiegel magazine [see source below] Ahmadinejad said that he believed most Germans also hated Israel and wanted to see it wiped out. Certainly, there is reason for him to believe such things.
Some better-informed regime leaders view Ahmadinejad as a disaster. The problem is that the top leadership is backing him, and thus his words and actions do represent the regime. The June elections will almost certainly return him to office for more years, years during which Iran will get nuclear weapons.
There's one other extremely important point on which Ahmadinejad is misunderstood. It is true that he does not control the government. The most powerful man in Iran remains the supreme guide, Ali Khamenei. But Ahmadinejad, allied with powerful current and former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, is building his own apparatus. In the future, he could well emerge as the uncontested leader of Iran. For the moment, though, it is enough that he has the regime's backing.
Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders-though not all-believe the West is weak and cannot respond to their aggression. They are not, as sympathizers portray them in the West, trembling people motivated by fear of external attack. Clearly, Iran has legitimate security concerns. But the real threats are heightened by their own behavior. If they were in fact so frightened they could change policy and reduce the threat. Some regime leaders, though not those in control right now, advocate just such a policy. Unfortunately, the West hasn't helped them enough by making that threat more credible through denunciations and effective sanctions.
So here's the bottom line: By failing to oppose Iran more effectively, the West is unintentionally encouraging it to be more extremist and dangerous. By failing to help relatively moderate Arab regimes, the West is making them more susceptible to having to appease Iran. By pressuring and criticizing Israel, the West is encouraging Iran's regime to believe it can be destroyed.
Not a pretty picture. But neither is that of the would-be fuehrer being an honored guest at UN meetings. No wonder Ahmadinejad and his backers believe that theirs is a winning bet.
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Why not focus on making Jerusalem a good place to live, instead of a place one has to visit? Make Jerusalem into a wonderful city, and people will come to visit because they want to come, not because their school drags them there!
Mayor Barkat: "Bring All Israeli Students to Jerusalem,"
Jerusalem, Israel, April 22nd 2009 – Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat presented a plan for an initiative to bring every Israeli student twice to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel, to Minister of Education Gidon Sa'ar yesterday.
The initiative was created in cooperation with the Minister of Education in light of the fact that there is a high rate of Israeli youth who have not visited Jerusalem. The initiative aims to expose all Israelis to Jerusalem, including its spirituality, heritage, and culture.
The visits will be held in the form of daylong visits. Each school will tailor their visit around a series of clusters of sites highlighting both Jerusalem's rich history and future. All students will begin their tour from a look-out from one of the city's key vantage points and promenades. Then, students will travel to one of the central government buildings such as the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and Safra Square. Students will visit one of Jerusalem's historic sites – such as Ammunition Hill, Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, and Yad Vashem. In addition, students will also be exposed to the spiritual sites of the city, such as the Western Wall, Western Wall Tunnels, the City of David, and the Jewish and Christian Quarter. Emphasizing Jerusalem's unique culture, students will experience the way of life of Jerusalem by visiting the market and the city center, touring museums and cultural institutions.
Mayor Barkat: "It is imperative that all students throughout Israel come to experience Jerusalem. We intend to offer students a tour-style journey through the past, present, and future of Jerusalem. Students will be able to experience the city on many levels and create a direct connection between them and our eternal capital."
It was concluded that a joint Steering Committee would be created between the Ministry of Education and the Municipality of Jerusalem to implement the plan.
For more information, contact email@example.com.
But would he want to live here?
Paul Reiser, mad about Israel
By Nicky Blackburn
April 20, 2009
It's the voice that gets you first. His hit TV series, Mad About You, may have wound down some 10 years ago, but the moment you hear Paul Reiser's familiar, gently ironic voice, you're waiting for a punch line. And Reiser is quick to oblige. Even when he's making a serious point, there's a joke hovering somewhere in the background about to be made.
Reiser first came to Israel 25 years ago, to visit his then girlfriend, Paula Ravets, (now his wife) who was studying for six months at Tel Aviv University. They swore to visit often, but it was only this April that he and Paula finally made that promise a reality.
As Reiser discovered, 26 years has made a big difference to Israel. "It's looking better than I do," quips the 52-year-old. "It looks better, it looks younger, snappier. I look a little tired."
Reiser, an actor, producer and writer, came to Israel on a family visit, with his two boys, Leon (eight) and Ezra (13). With family scattered all over the country, they have been touring - from Haifa, to the Dead Sea, Masada and Jerusalem.
Telephone numbers shoved into his hand
"It's amazing. It's like no other place," Reiser tells ISRAEL21c. "When we told friends we were coming here, numerous telephone numbers were shoved in our hands - relatives, friends, friends of friends. We have billions of cousins here, but everyone told us we just had to meet their friends and relatives."
The trip to Israel is the first trip abroad Reiser and his family have made in some time. "I haven't traveled in a while, and getting out into the world was kind of invigorating," he says. "There's something about Israel that opens your eyes. Seeing the vibrancy of the community, and realizing what a lot is going on."
Before he left LA, Israeli friends told him that the Israel he sees on the news is nothing like the real Israel, and he admits this is true.
"I'm interested in human stories and the human side," he tells ISRAEL21c. "My brain doesn't understand the big stuff, but I understand people one on one. When you're in the comfort of your home, and you read about Israel - this explosion, that bomb - you get a picture in your head. But there's much more to it than that.
"People have misconceptions about Israel. If you just read the headlines, it looks like constant crisis, but when you are here, you get a different feeling," explains Reiser.
People are getting on with their lives
"The threats are real, but you don't see it. Instead you see a thriving active world, where people are getting on with their lives, taking their kids to school, and going to work," he says. "There's such a wealth of humanity that isn't reflected in the headlines. It's an infinitely positive experience."
Reiser began his career as a stand-up comedian. His first breakthrough into movies came in the classic 1982 movie Diner. He went on to star in a number of films including Bye, Bye Love, The Marrying Man, Aliens, and Beverly Hills Cop I and II.
Reiser is best remembered, however, for his role as Paul Buchman in the comedy series, Mad about You, with co-star Helen Hunt as his wife. The popular seven-year NBC series, which Reiser helped create, write, and produce, was critically acclaimed, and won many awards. By the final season in 1999, Hunt and Reiser were making $1 million per episode.
In the wake of this, Reiser starred in a few films, including My Beautiful Son, One Night at McCool's, and Women vs. Men, but he preferred to take a lower visual profile, focusing on writing and producing instead. He set up his own production studio, Nuance Productions, named after a speech his character gives in Diner.
He has also written two books, Couplehood, which sold over two million copies and reached the number one spot on The New York Times best seller list, and Babyhood, the follow up, which describes his experiences being a first-time father, which also made The New York Times best seller list.
Staying home with the kids
Reiser, who was born and raised in New York, but now lives in Los Angeles, admits that his real joy in the last 13 years, is being a father, and spending time at home with his boys. "I've been taking it easy in the last few years, staying home, being with the kids," he explains.
During his visit to Israel he was able to meet Israeli comedians and writers, and also chat to young Palestinians and Jews involved in coexistence projects through the organization OneVoice.
"I'm friends with the founder, and we've been talking on a number of occasions about coming out to Israel and doing something, so he arranged the meeting," says Reiser, who is a member of the OneVoice Entertainment Council.
"It was great just to get the chance to talk to these kids and to see what creative and courageous steps people are making to bring both sides together. No one is aware that there are people with really different stories, wishes and dreams," says Reiser.
The trip to Israel also proved enjoyable for his children. "They're eating it up," says Reiser, whose trip coincided with Passover. "It amazes me how they can hit the ground running. It was a great opportunity for them to meet their extended family, and for the next generation to get to know each other. It's hard traveling with kids, you move at a different pace and it takes a long time to do things, but it's more fun."
A cool technology for the disabled
During the vacation his family also visited the start up Argo Medical Technologies. First featured in ISRAEL21c in the summer of last year, the article shot the company to worldwide attention. Since the item appeared in July last year, Argo has been filmed by 12 TV networks around the world, including CNN. It has also featured in dozens of newspapers, from The Washington Post, to The Teheran Times.
"A friend showed me the article and it looked like such a cool technology," admits Reiser. With his visit to Israel already planned, he decided to meet the Haifa-based company during his trip. ISRAEL21c provided the contacts and a visit was arranged.
He was impressed by what he saw. Argo has designed a quasi-robotic ambulation system that enables wheelchair users to stand and walk upright. The device was developed by Dr. Amit Goffer, an electrical engineer who was paralyzed in an auto accident. He developed the prototype at home, and then set up the company to take it commercial.
"It looks like some cool Robocop mechanism," says Reiser. "It's a tremendous innovation and a remarkable piece of technology. It's amazing to see such a cool innovation with fabulous commercial potential coming out of this tiny little office with just a handful of guys.
"There's obviously something brewing in Israel," he adds. "There's so much innovation taking place in the country, in so many different areas and there's a very active high-tech community. There are obviously a lot of very clever people here."
Another book on the way?
Today, Reiser continues to produce pilots and write occasional screenplays. He also blogs from time to time on politics in The Huffington Post. "I'm having a lot of fun," he says, adding that he has no present plans to return to acting. "I'm taking it kind of slow and enjoying it," he says.
He is now working on a new pilot, not yet named, which he believes has good potential. "I've just started it, but I think it will do well. I've got to do some work now. It's time my kids saw me go out to work. They're like 'Dad, aren't you ever going to go to work?'".
So will he set one of his screenplays or pilots in Israel? "Maybe I'll do a special episode in Israel," he says. "I'll keep it in mind."
And what about a new book - on 'teenage-hood' perhaps? "It's all so interesting and funny to raise kids," replies Reiser. "It's so rich. You look at your kids and everything you do seems more interesting with them, than it would be without them.
"I have been jotting down some things in case," he admits. "I'll see if it comes together as a book. If the worst comes to the worst, I'll give it to my friends as a napkin."
Next time, Reiser hopes he'll make it back to Israel sooner rather than later. "It's been an exciting trip and we'd love to come back," he says. "I haven't got too many more 25 years left in me."
Jewish World Review April 22, 2009 /28 Nisan 5769
By Jonathan Mark
JewishWorldReview.com | Did you observe Passover? The Huffington Post (April 9) headlined a piece by Rabbi Michael Lerner, "Pharaohs Can't Celebrate Passover." If you supported Israel's Gaza war, the pharaoh is you. According to several recent political cartoons, if you support Israel, Hitler is you, too.
Rabbi Lerner, leader of the Jewish Renewal movement and editor of Tikkun, writes, Passover has "become a problem for many Jews. … Millions of Jews have been watching Israel's role in Gaza and the West Bank with particular horror this year." The "wildly disproportionate response of the Israeli army… has shocked and dismayed many Jews whose identification with their Jewishness came primarily through their commitment to its ethical teachings."
He adds, the newly elected Israeli leaders, "whose campaign was filled with racist attacks on Arab citizens … have pushed many American Jews to question how they can celebrate Passover with a full heart this year. As several congregants put it to me, 'We Jews have become Pharaoh to the Palestinian people — so we would be hypocrites to sit around our Passover table celebrating our own freedom, rejoicing at the way the Egyptians were stricken with plagues and their first born killed, while ignoring what Israel is doing today in the name of the Jewish people.'"
In The Washington Post (March 26), columnist David Ignatius took aim at those so-called pharaohs. He points out that the U.S. has a policy against funding the settlements, "yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes."
Critics — and he mentions Rabbi Lerner's ally, Peace Now — are questioning, "why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. A search of IRS records identified 28 U.S. charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007."
One wonders if Ignatius, so "troubled" by those tax deductions, was equally troubled by with President Obama's intention to give $600 million of our tax dollars to West Bank Palestinians, and $300 million to Gaza.
In March, Palestinian TV on the West Bank celebrated the anniversary of a 1978 terrorist attack in which an Israeli bus was hijacked, leaving 38 dead Jews, including 13 children. In April, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW.org.il) posted a video of a Hamas TV pre-seder blood libel. The "skit" depicted Jews in black hats, shuckling in prayer, gesturing in a Jewish parody, discussing Muslim blood.
Father: "Shimon, look, my son… You have to hate the Muslims…. You have to drink the Muslims' blood… Where are you going, my son?"
Son: "To wash [before prayer with water]…."
Father: "Muslims do this, not us! … We have to wash our hands with the blood of Muslims."
Meanwhile, with President Obama making overtures to the Islamic world, The Christian Science Monitor (Mar. 28) suggests "ten terms not to use with Muslims."
At a time when "racist" and "apartheid" are commonly used to refer to Zionists, columnist Chris Seiple, president of a group promoting religious freedom, writes, "I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends… regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them…. We need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context."
The problematic words? "Clash of Civilizations… Secular… Assimilation… Reformation…. Jihadi…. Moderate…. Interfaith… Freedom… Religious Freedom… Tolerance."
Moderate? "This ubiquitous term is meant politically but can be received theologically. If someone called me a 'moderate Christian,' I would be deeply offended."
Interfaith? "This term conjures up images of watered-down, lowest common denominator statements that avoid the tough issues and are consequently irrelevant."
Freedom? "Freedom can imply an unbound licentiousness."
Tolerance? "Tolerance is not enough."
At least seven of those concepts are cherished by Jews, but what do I know? I'm so out of step, at my seder the Jews are the good guys. I'm still on the last page of the Haggadah, where the innocent kid, Shlomo Nativ, 13, was slaughtered with an axe by Islamic Jihad in Gush Etzion, April 2.
As Rabbi Lerner says, Passover was a problem for some Jews this year. The Nativs got up from shiva for the seder. Shlomo took care of his family's goats. One kid. One kid.
This speaks for itself, though one would like a bit more detail! Of course, nobody is going to believe the IDF's own investigation, especially when little wrongdoing was found. However, it was evidently a reasonable investigation of the type that would be expected and accepted if it were any country but Israel. The conclusions of the parallel Hamas investigation are awaited with baited breath.
22 Apr 2009
Conclusions of five investigative teams assigned to investigate events relating to the conduct of IDF soldiers during Operation Cast Lead
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi recently approved and authorized the publication of the conclusions of five investigative teams assigned to investigate events relating to the conduct of IDF soldiers during Operation Cast Lead.
The teams, headed by officers of the rank of Colonel, were composed of officers who were not a direct part of the chain of command in the operations in question and were appointed by Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi to thoroughly investigate a number of issues which were brought to general attention (by, amongst others, international organizations and the international and Israeli media).
The five investigative teams dealt with the following five issues:
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit emphasizes that these experts' investigations are not a replacement for the central operational IDF investigation of the entire operation which is continuing at various levels and which will be concluded by June. Additional issues are also undergoing a process of verification or investigation at various levels within the IDF.
The decision of the Chief of the General Staff to appoint the five investigative teams emanates from the IDF's professional, moral and legal obligations to thoroughly a number of claims which were made in relation to the conduct of the warfare. The process of examination involved a series of operational investigations, which are the accepted procedure in the IDF and other western militaries. These were carried out by three expert investigators of the rank of Colonel who had no direct involvement with the incidents in question.
In accordance with accepted IDF protocol for professional investigations, the investigators operated independently and were provided with access to all relevant materials and the freedom to question any of the relevant personnel. They were given the complaints that reached the IDF and other Israeli authorities, interviewed many soldiers and officers, and gathered relevant documents and other materials. It should be noted that each soldier whose testimony was requested was required to cooperate with the investigation, and the investigators received full cooperation.
The investigations showed that throughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians whilst taking cover amidst uninvolved civilians in the Gaza strip and using them as human shields. Notwithstanding this, the investigations revealed a very small number of incidents in which intelligence or operational errors took place during the fighting. These unfortunate incidents were unavoidable and occur in all combat situations, in particular of the type which Hamas forced on the IDF, by choosing to fight from within the civilian population.
The government of Israel ordered the IDF to embark on Operation Cast Lead as part of its duty to protect its citizens following eight years of rocket fire on Israeli communities in southern Israel. This fire was especially difficult during the three years since the "disengagement" when Israel withdrew from Gaza, and during two months prior to the operation when 160 rockets and mortars where fired at Israel. During these years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children, women and men were terrorized by endless attacks executed by Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of rockets and mortars were fired at schools, kindergartens and residential neighborhoods. No other choice was left other than to act against these continuous acts of terrorism whose cost was many killed and injured, in body and soul, and which disturbed any attempt to live a normal life in the cities and communities of Israel's south.
The fighting in Gaza took place in a complex battlefield against an enemy who chose, as a conscious part of its doctrine, to locate itself in the midst of the civilian population. The enemy booby trapped its houses with explosives, fired from the schools attended by its own children and used its own people as human shields while cynically abusing the IDF's legal and ethical commitment to avoid injuring uninvolved civilians.
In order to ensure compliance with the IDF's obligations under international law, the IDF invested an enormous effort and huge resources to warn civilians in the Gaza Strip away from harm. The IDF dropped more than 2,250,000 leaflets during the fighting, used Palestinian radio, made personal telephone warnings to more than 165,000 Gaza residents and carried out a special warning shot procedure ("A knock on the roof"), in order to ensure that Palestinian civilians could avoid harm. Additionally, the IDF made extensive use of accurate munitions, wherever and whenever possible, to minimize harm to civilians. In addition, during the operation the IDF authorized humanitarian convoys to enter the Gaza and employed a humanitarian recess for several hours a day.
The IDF operated in accordance with moral values and international laws of war, trained its soldiers to act in accordance with the values and norms which bind the IDF, and made an enormous effort to focus its fire only against the terrorists whilst doing the utmost to avoid harming uninvolved civilians. Like other militaries that are forced to fight a terrorist enemy that hides and operates under a civilian cover, the IDF had to face difficult moral dilemmas as a result of the illegitimate approach of Hamas. This approach turned Gaza's urban areas into a battle field and intentionally made use of uninvolved civilians, civilian buildings and sensitive humanitarian facilities (i.e. hospitals, religious and educational institutions and facilities associated with the UN and other international organizations).
The investigations clearly showed that the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF's legal commitments were implemented in the operational plans, the training the forces received prior to the operation and the orders that were given during the operation. In some of the incidents the IDF even placed more limits on its actions than required under international law, and acted with restraint in order to avoid harming civilians.
The IDF achieved the aims and objectives that were set and struck a heavy blow to the terror organizations lead by the Hamas, by targeting terrorists, military infrastructure and weapons manufacturing facilities. The complex operation involved cooperation between air, naval and ground forces together with different intelligence agencies, including both reserve and regular forces. Prior to the operation, careful planning and preparations were undertaken in order to ensure that the units were and command centres were trained and ready for any challenge.
The investigation process was lengthy due to the extent of the fighting, the complex and thorough work of the investigators, the time required to gather information from the various units involved in the operation, and comprehensive cross-checking. With regard to some of the investigations presented here, some specific additional issues are still being checked, and additional allegations are now being investigated.
In accordance with usual practice, a summary of each investigation will also be presented to the Military Advocate General, who is entitled to decide whether additional checks need to be done or if there is the basis for opening another type of investigation. His decision is entirely independent and he is subject only to the law.
Due to their significance, the conclusions of the investigations and the opinion of the Military advocate will be presented for review to the Attorney General.
Is this a great setback for Israel or a meaningless gesture?
Aide: Obama to meet Abbas on May 28 in White House
By Haaretz Staff and Agencies
An aide to Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinian president will meet with President Barack Obama in Washington on May 28.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh says Abbas wants the U.S. to persuade the new Israeli government to accept a two-state solution - namely, separate Israeli and Palestinian states living alongside each other in peace.
Abbas also wants the U.S. to persuade Israel to halt its settlement construction.
Israel's new hardline government has balked at supporting the creation of a Palestinian state. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he plans to keep building in settlements.
On Tuesday, Obama said he expected Israelis and Palestinians to make gestures of good faith within months to revive the languishing Mideast peace process.
The White House said Netanyahu would also visit Washington in the next few weeks.
The United States is interested in promoting the peace process through a series of confidence-building gestures between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states, a senior American official who declined to be named told Haaretz.
Last update - 14:27 22/04/2009
Lieberman: Right of return makes Arab plan unacceptable
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday his opposition to an Arab peace initiative stemmed from its demand for a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to Israel proper.
"The clause on the right of return cannot be agreed to," he declared at a cabinet meeting on the government's diplomatic policy.
"This is a subject upon which there is wide agreement in the government and in the public as well."
Lieberman's criticism of various peace efforts has stoked consternation in Israel and abroad.
The firebrand rightist was earlier quoted by Army Radio as branding the Arab plan, which was launched in Saudi Arabia and offers pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from Arab lands, as "a dangerous proposal, a recipe for the destruction of Israel."
After Lieberman ruled out the initiative, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated the importance of seeking a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement.
"An Israeli program for a comprehensive regional accord is the main line of Israeli policy for the coming years, and secures Israel's future in the region," Barak said in closed meetings.
He added: "Israel needs to formulate with the United States the details of this initiative, which also includes guarantees for Israel's security interests, the security components and Jewish character of the state - without the right of return."
In Lieberman's first comprehensive interview on foreign policy since taking office, the foreign minister said the Obama Administration will put forth new peace initiatives only if Israel wants it to.
U.S. President Barak Obama, meanwhile, wishes to take up parts of the Arab peace initiative, and to request Israel and the Arab states begin implementing them gradually. The Americans believe that this will increase the trust and encourage progress on the direct Israeli-Palestinian track.
Haim Ramon, a lawmaker from the centrist opposition party Kadima, Wednesday called Lieberman's positions ridiculous.
"They do damage to Israel because they unnecessarily cause tension in the
relations with the U.S.," he said.
Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz issued a similar condemnation of the foreign minister's comments. "Lieberman is behaving like an elephant in a china shop, and is causing strategic damage to the State of Israel," he said.
Pines-Paz said Lieberman was damaging the dialogue between Israel and the Obama administration. "In light of Lieberman's remarks, it is not certain whether there is any point in a Netanyahu-Obama meeting."
He was referring to the White House announcement on Tuesday that Obama has invited Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian leaders for separate talks in the next few weeks on the Middle East peace process.
All this looks frankly, like a lot of words meant to fill up paper.
The Time Game with Iran INSS Insight No. 103, April 21, 2009
Things are heating up in the Middle-East nuclear/political arena. Iran is resisting any possibility of honestly negotiating the nuclear issue with the west/US alliance, the US is hinting at possible concessions to Iran, Israeli sources are talking possible offensive action against Iranian nuclear installations, and US officials are against such action. Egypt is confronting Iran and instability is in the air. Perhaps more than the recent US elections, the timetable is now dictated by the closing deadline of Iran's nuclear progress.
Reading the IAEA periodic reports there is no reason to change the previous estimate that Iran will have accumulated enough Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) to enable it to further enrich it and produce 25 kilograms of High Enriched Uranium (HEU), should it wish to do so, by the end of this year. This deadline is quoted by many as the latest date at which a diplomatic solution has to be arrived at. There were many calls to set a deadline for concluding the talks with Iran.
In any case, the talk about the end of this year is politically, not technically or militarily, motivated. Everybody wants to give President Obama the breathing space he needs to try to attempt and reach a "diplomatic" solution through engagement. Secretary of State Clinton's rather strange statement "We really don't know what to believe about the Iranian program. We've heard many different assessments and claims over the years" was probably designed to buy time for her President. The US intelligence community knows very well the status of Iran's nuclear project. One has to read between the lines of the official statements and testimonies to know that the situation is getting to be very serious.
Furthermore, any action that would not give the US President a minimal time for even attempting the diplomatic route that he so actively advocated before and following his election would probably be counter-productive, especially in the case of Israel, a historically close ally of the US. This does not mean that Israel would not take military action alone, once the talks had failed or if Iran was found to be much further advanced in her quest for nuclear weapons than previously estimated. The statement by US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair that Iran may have acquired fissile materials from external sources does stress the need for urgency. Should engagement fail, Israel would be in a better position to convince the US, if not to actively support, then at least not to interfere, with any military action.
No doubt, Secretary Gates' statement that a military attack by Israel would only delay Iran's nuclear project by one to three years and strengthen its resolve is well taken. However, the alternative, if and when engagement fails to achieve its aims, is not so great either. Engagement will fail either through total disagreement between the negotiating parties, or through a US agreement to the unthinkable today – enrichment activities in Iran. This has been hinted at and then denied, but there are no serious assurances that this would not happen. US sanctioned enrichment activities in Iran will again provide Iran with the time it needs for furthering its nuclear capabilities. Iran does not have to take a decision now to actually produce nuclear weapons. All will be ready for that day at a not-too-distant time in the future. The Iranian regime's hatred towards Israel will not be lessened in any case. The threat will remain the same, or even worsen.
It is certain that once the US formally joined the European Union in the negotiations, it will take the lead role. No agreement will be reached without US consent, which will have in effect a veto power over any unsatisfactory solution. The US will therefore be held responsible for any unsatisfactory effect this could have on the regional states, and subsequently over the world's energy supply in particular and the overall security situation in general.
The need for a firm US stand at talks with Iran is essential. A weak starting position will only strengthen the Iranian stand, stated many times in recent days by several Iranian officials (although not by all), that the nuclear project is non-negotiable. Should the US proceed from this starting point it will not only lose its declared purpose to prevent Iran from achieving a military nuclear capability, but lose its standing in many states of the region, especially those bordering the gulf.
The Iranians have already made a significant gain, when the US more than hinted that there would be no prior linkage between negotiations and the suspension of enrichment activities. The Iranians are famous for their tactics in playing for time. The US must not fall into that trap. Therefore, President Obama must set himself a time limit even if he does not disclose it to anyone. One can understand why a public disclosure could be seen as presenting Iran with an ultimatum and, given the Iranian sense of pride, greatly diminish the possibility of reaching an agreement. In setting the time limit, the President must remember that any time gained by the Iranians during the negotiation process would be used to further advance their project. In addition, one must bear in mind that nothing would induce the Iranians to "rollback", and demolish any achievement, in materials or facilities, as a part of any agreement. This could only come about by a profound change in the Iranian regime, and even then this is not certain.
Although for the US there is also the grave economic crisis to deal with, this will be resolved one way or the other, given enough time and allocated resources. In a way the Iranian nuclear issue is the Cuban missile crisis all over again. It will test the ability of the newly-elected US President to confront the adversary and better him. In a way this is a make or break situation for Obama.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Apr. 20, 2009
IRWIN J. MANSDORF , THE JERUSALEM POST
David Newman recently provided an impassioned defense of academic freedom on these pages, but in doing so, managed to cast not a few aspersions on what he called the "McCarthy right" attitude of several organizations active in promoting Israel's case on campuses throughout the world. Among those he criticized were the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), a group that I have been a member of for quite some time and where I serve on the task force for medical and public health issues.
Prof. Newman bunched SPME with a number of other organizations and accused it of being "oddly named," taking funds from the Jewish National Fund and not taking up the cause of Arab academics denied their rights. I will leave it to the SPME board to respond to these claims, but for myself, I can personally attest to the clear erroneousness of much of what Newman claims characterizes members of these organizations such as myself.
I direct a program in Jerusalem for students who spend a year in Israel prior to returning to the US, UK and Canada to resume university studies. The program, held at Midreshet Lindenbaum, a religious school and funded by the David Project (which, I would imagine, Newman would also classify as a yet another biased right-wing organization) is anything but partial. My students have heard from people like Jeff Halper and the women of Machsom Watch.
They have visited Palestinian protest tents and seen Palestinian areas that suffer from a serious lack of services. They have had discussions with Ahmed Tibi as well as "international" Palestinian activists and visit the checkpoints to see firsthand what Palestinians experience. A Palestinian woman is one of our regular lecturers on the "Palestinian narrative" and all that it entails. Newman, or anyone else for that matter, would be hard-pressed to describe the program as a biased example of right-wing attitudes.
Yet when I have tried to solicit an Arab journalist, any Arab journalist for that matter, for a panel discussion with a member of the Israeli press at an event for my students at Columbia University in New York, I was met with blunt refusals. Not one of the Arab press members that I contacted or were contacted through mutual friends was willing to share the podium with myself, an Israeli academic, and another fellow journalist from Israel.
Perhaps they preferred the type of panels that I recently attended at some American universities, which labeled themselves as "teach-ins." A bland and innocuous title indeed, until one attends and sees that every single "teacher" professes the same clearly anti-Israel views without even the appearance of balance by professors who may think differently. It is as if any view that would support explanations that do not view the IDF as baby-killers or the State of Israel as an illegitimate colonial enterprise are invalid.
BUT MORE TROUBLING is how the intellectual dishonesty of these academics extends beyond the campus and permeates what should be scholarly and scientific work. I have been personally involved, as an SPME task force member, in formulating responses to several articles published in professional academic journals.
When the prestigious Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published an article entitled "The prevalence of psychological morbidity in West Bank Palestinian children," I wondered how a junior surgical resident along with a microbiologist managed to get a paper published in a clearly psychiatric journal. After looking into the matter, it turned out, curiously enough, that these two were recently mentioned in the Marxist-Leninist Daily as sponsors of a rally discussing Cuba and human rights and each had a rich record of political activity that included accusing George Bush of war crimes, working with an organization called the Che Guevera Brigade and calling for the banning of the United Jewish Appeal in Canada. Now, these may be perfectly legitimate political views and activities, but where exactly is the psychiatric expertise that would allow them to conduct "research" on psychological factors when it comes to West Bank children?
This fear was not unfounded. Not to my surprise, the authors, in a profoundly faulty piece of research, found that "settlement encroachment" was responsible for the problems of Palestinian children. And who was the psychiatric expert upon whom they based some of their findings? None other than Noam Chomsky, who is a noted linguist, but certainly one whose clearly left political views are far more apparent than his expertise in psychiatric morbidity.
The story does not end here. When the SPME, with myself as corresponding member, sent a letter to the editor which critiqued not the politics of the article but rather the weak science, which included the lack of evidence or references, the lack of appropriate scientific design, the choice of nonstandardized test instruments and the inaccurate citing of the psychological literature, the letter was rejected for publication. When we asked for an explanation, the then-editor refused to provide one, stating that the article was a "carefully conducted" example of "good science." He also stated that to publish our critique would promote a "polarized view" of the conflict.
Rather than simply ignore this blatant anti-intellectual attempt to deny academic freedom, I led an effort where the SPME provided a detailed scientific analysis of the faults of the study and distributed this analysis to leading psychologists and psychiatrists (most of whom were not SPME members) in various academic departments throughout the world. With over two dozen endorsers, the analysis was sent to the new editor of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry who, after much give-and-take and a desire to avoid being embarrassed by having the analysis published elsewhere, decided to publish it.
What was troubling here was not any difference of opinion that may have existed between SPME members and the editors of the Canadian journal or the authors of the article on West Bank children. Rather, it was a clear attempt to use academic scholarship and science to promote a political agenda and to stifle any attempt to provide criticism of the science of the work, which here took the form of extreme anti-Israel views.
Academic freedom certainly means that divergent views must be respected and tolerated. But it also means that science and scholarship must not be corrupted and distorted to improperly support a political position. Newman is right when he says that spreading accusations of "self-hating Israelis" and "Jewish anti-Semites" is to be condemned. But what about academics who improperly use poor research to provide "scientific" evidence of the ills of Israel? Is not that also an example of a danger to democracy, freedom and truth? Right now, it is only the organizations that Newman claims are a danger to freedom that provide the structure for combating the lies published in the name of science.
That is a shame, and I hope Newman agrees.
The writer is a psychologist who heads the David Project's Leadership Program in Israel-Arab Studies at Midreshet Lindenbaum and serves on the SPME task force on medical and public health issues.
Racism: Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, in a personal letter to heads of parliament around the worldhttp://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/04/racism-speaker-of-knesset-reuven-ruby.html
and head of information office
Jerusalem, April 21, 2009
Nisan 27, 5769
The Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, in a personal letter to heads of parliament around the world:
"The hate expressed by the President of
Today, the People of Israel are marking Holocaust Remembrance Day as we do every year on this date. Israel mourns the murder of six million of its sons, daughters, elderly and infants. Hundreds of state and community ceremonies and events are held throughout Israel and around the world to mark this Memorial Day. Schools and other educational institutions devote the whole day to studying the lessons of the Holocaust, and particularly the universal lesson – the duty to fight against racism and hate.
At 10:00 o'clock this morning a siren was sounded throughout Israel marking a two minute silence. Every Israeli stopped whatever they were doing, stood silently, bowed their heads in respect, remembering.
Cars and busses stopped by the side of the road. The bustle of daily life came to a stop. The busy streets grew silent.
Everything stopped. We remembered our grandparents who we never got to meet; we remembered that only a generation or two ago Jews were hunted like animals. We remembered that not long ago, in the middle of the twentieth century, Jews had no refuge anywhere in the world.
But this morning, in contrast to Remembrance Days of past years, we, the citizens of Israel, Jews all around the world and every man of conscience faced a new reality that we believed would never reoccur. A reality we had thought was no longer possible in a world that had experienced the horrors of the Second World War.
73 years after the Berlin Olympics, yesterday the world witnessed the return of Adolf Hitler.
This time he has a beard and speaks Persian. But the words are the same words and the aspirations are the same aspirations and the determination to find the weapons to achieve those aspirations is the same menacing determination. Unfortunately, just as at that shameful Olympic event, the world has again given him a platform.
Yesterday, in Geneva, we saw how representatives of the worlds leading democracies stood up and stormed out of the UN Durban II Conference hall in response to the incendiary words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. No doubt they recalled the devastation caused to their countries when the world disregarded the first Hitler. But we also saw how hundreds of representatives of other countries nodded in agreement and even cheered the words of the Iranian President.
We saw how the Secretary General of the United Nations – the organization that was established in order to ensure that there would never be a second Hitler –
remained in his chair and later, softly and hesitantly condemned the appalling incitement. We also saw the honour bestowed on Hitler's successor when he was received by the President of Switzerland. All this of course was carried out in the name of diplomatic protocol and the duty to maintain neutrality. Yesterday, more than a few Jews recalled Swiss neutrality during the 1940's.
However, dear colleagues, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of diplomacy. Today we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of neutrality. Today we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of diplomatic protocol. Today, every civilized human being must decide whether he belongs to the Sons of Light or to the Sons of Darkness; the camp of the civilized world or the camp of the enemies of humanity.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the destruction and devastation the first Hitler brought to the world, it is to be found in the realization that anyone who remains silent, anyone who ignores evil, anyone who deals with the devil – he too in the final analyses pays the price.
I therefore call upon you, my colleagues around the world, not to remain silent, not to turn away and above all not to think for one moment that Ahmadinejad is not a threat to you too.
I call on you to initiate action in your parliament that will convey a clear message to the whole world that we have learned the lessons of the past and that 2009 will not be a repetition of 1939.
Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin
A strategy for dealing separately with the two Palestines
by Yossi Alpher
The Palestinian unity government talks chaperoned in recent months by the Egyptians appear to have failed. Cairo is now talking about forming a joint committee or "executive framework" that will be virtually powerless vis-a-vis the two existing Palestinian governments in Ramallah and Gaza. This appears to constitute primarily a way for all involved to save face without admitting total defeat. The important unity issues--a jointly-formed government with an agreed platform, ground rules for new elections, merging Hamas into the PLO--remain unresolved. In the absence of a unity government, little or none of the international aid pledged for rebuilding dwellings destroyed in the recent war is finding its way into the Strip.
Accordingly, the de facto reality all parties face for the foreseeable future is that of the past two years: three states or political entities--Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Under these circumstances, while a two-state solution remains the only viable outcome to the entire conflict, talk of achieving it in the near future rings hollow. On the other hand, those Israelis who believe the present situation of a divided Palestine works to Israel's advantage risk cultivating, through neglect, not one but two time bombs in our midst: a militant Islamist Gaza and a weak and unstable West Bank.
Thus it behooves us to ask: Given that the current "three state" situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, how can we make the best of it? Before we contemplate reuniting the West Bank and Gaza, we need two separate strategies for these separate and disparate entities.
In the West Bank, we have to look for ways to ensure that moderates remain in power by implementing genuine confidence- and security-building measures that support them. This means an absolute freeze on all settlement expansion, dismantling of outposts and even--if and when the security situation permits--coordinated unilateral Israeli withdrawal from additional parts of the West Bank. While some form of final status talks may be helpful in creating an incentive for Palestinians--and US President Barack Obama's resolve in this regard is encouraging--the real work that Obama's emissary George Mitchell should prioritize is ensuring Israeli and Palestinian compliance with these conflict-management measures in the West Bank. This should be easier to accomplish with the Netanyahu government than insisting immediately on a full-fledged Israeli-Palestinian peace process similar to those that have failed since 1993.
Regarding the Gaza Strip, the situation is more clear-cut: all relevant parties must begin by recognizing that their strategies have failed. Israel's military strategy failed back in January, as did the economic boycott strategy it pursued for nearly two years with the complicity of Egypt, the PLO and the Quartet. Egypt's strategy of ensuring that Gaza is an Israeli problem just blew up in Cairo's face with the revelations about Hizballah's espionage and sabotage operations on Egyptian soil: Gaza is an Egyptian problem, too. Perhaps this explains why Israel's reliance on Egypt to mediate ceasefire and prisoner-exchange deals with Hamas has also failed. Meanwhile, Cairo's attempt to broker renewed Fateh-Hamas unification is failing because Hamas, with Iran's backing, refuses to compromise its extreme views concerning Israel-related issues while the PLO is too weak to bend Hamas to its will.
Unless and until Hamas radically changes its attitude toward Israel, Jerusalem has every reason to quarantine it from the West Bank, lest a unity government or Palestinian elections strengthen its presence there. But quarantining physically should not mean ignoring politically. It's time for Israel to signal that it is prepared to talk to Hamas unconditionally. On the initial agenda: prisoner-exchange and a long-term ceasefire. If these can be accomplished, then and only then should they be followed by a joint exploration of ways in which peaceful coexistence with Gaza can be merged with peace with the West Bank. Such an order of business, which is not necessarily incompatible with the Likud's approach to the conflict, appears more promising than the failed policies of the past two years.
If Hamas refuses to talk directly with Israel--as most but not all Hamas leaders insist--then at least Israel will have taken the initiative and cast off its intransigent image. If Hamas insists on more Arab mediation, Israel should--with all due respect for the good intentions of our Arab friends--refuse. The experience of recent months appears to indicate that the fragmented and weak Arab state system is not up to the task of dealing with militant but dynamic Arab non-state actors in ways that benefit Israel.- Published 20/4/2009 © bitterlemons.org
Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University
How appropriate that Hamas leader Khaled Meshal will address British MPs in honor of Holocaust day. No doubt Clare Short has invited him to expound his views on the solution to the Jewish problem. The issue regarding Hamas is not just that it is a terror organization, but that it is an organization that openly preaches genocide in contravention of international conventions. Perhaps there is no stopping an idea whose time has come - as events proved in the 1930s, and as they are proving once again.
The UN is attempting to whitewash the carnival of hatred at its Durban conference in support of racism.
No, nobody forgot. It's about Jew-hate of course. The AP report claims misleadingly:
But in fact, the agreement ratifies the anti-Semitic resolutions of the previous conference. The meeting of the Swiss President with Ahmadinejad, and the fact that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sat through Ahmadinejad's speech will not be forgotten. Some delegates walked out, but many more applauded Ahmadinejad's racist speech.
Swiss order is to be maintained: Wigged hecklers booted from Durban II
What is especially ominous, is the statement of the Swiss President:
Switzerland, of course, was neutral between Nazism and decency before. That did not prevent the Swiss from storing the gold taken from the fillings of concentration camp victims to the account of the reichsbank and of Nazi officials, or from allowing the use of Swiss railways stations as way-stations for Jews being transported to concentration camps.
Of course, anti-"Zionist" protestors will not be expelled, but rather given facilities for organizing their incitement.
Here is the story:
Israel's historic development in natural gas
Apr. 17, 2009
shmuel even , THE JERUSALEM POST
An historic development has marked Israel's energy scene in recent months. In January 2009, a large natural-gas reserve was discovered at the Tamar 1 drilling site (90 kilometers west of the Haifa shoreline), and in late March there was a report of a natural-gas discovery at the Dalit 1 drilling site (60 km. west of the Hadera shoreline). The potential of this site is still being examined.
These discoveries come on the heels of other discoveries of natural gas in the Mediterranean off the coast of Israel, starting with the discovery of the first large reserve in 1999, west of the Ashkelon shoreline. The amount of gas at Tamar 1 is estimated to be at least three times the amount discovered in the past off Ashkelon and Ashdod (the Yam Thetis site), and the value of the gas is assessed at some $15 billion.
On January 18, 2009, following the companies' reports of the gas discovery at Tamar 1, national infrastructures minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer informed the government: "We are witnesses to an historic as well as formative moment for the Israeli energy market." He added: "If drilling at the Tamar site actually produces the amounts quoted, then Israel's dependence on other supplies will decrease, though not disappear altogether."
Natural gas is created by bacteria from organic matter and is a mixture of different gases, with methane being its chief component. The source for much of the organic matter in our region is primeval sediment from the Nile River deposited in the Mediterranean. There are also large natural-gas deposits off the Egyptian shoreline and the Gaza Strip in the sediment course of the Nile.
The new discoveries of gas off of Israel's coast are made possible by innovative deep-sea drilling technologies, but their cost is high. For example, the depth of Dalit is around 1,200 meters, and the drilling is planned to reach a depth of some 3,700 m. The estimated cost of the drilling operation stands at $50 million.
Natural gas is the cheapest energy product on the Israeli market. Compared to other fuels such as mazut, diesel and coal, it burns relatively cleanly and emits fewer pollutants and hothouse gases. Building power stations operating on natural gas is relatively cheap; they need relatively little space, and they can be built anywhere, unlike coal-burning power stations that must be built on the shore - a densely populated and expensive area.
The advantages of using Israeli gas compared with using imported kerosene or gas lie in the direct income generated to the country's Treasury as a result of royalties and taxes and a contribution to Israel's balance of payments. The Israeli gas revolution also intensifies the search for natural gas and fuels in Israel and thereby contributes to employment in the energy sector.
The major drawback of using natural gas compared with kerosene and coal is the difficulty involved in its storage and transportation in containers in its natural state. The cheapest and most efficient way to market it to consumers is by an infrastructure of gas pipes. Therefore, the development of the gas market depends on the parallel development of three components: searching for gas, delivering the gas and consuming the gas.
Nonetheless, it is possible to turn natural gas into a liquid (LNG) at condensing installations, which would allow the product to be moved without a network of pipes. Israel is preparing to operate LNG installations starting in 2015.
The National Infrastructures Ministry estimates that there will be a gap of some years between the time the Tamar 1 site is fully developed, and ready to supply gas, and the expected depletion of the gas at the Yam Thetis site in 2012. In the interval, Israel would, to a large extent, depend on Egyptian gas and might even suffer a natural-gas shortage.
The discovery of gas at the Dalit 1 site is likely to change this forecast, if the anticipated amounts are indeed there. In light of the data on Dalit 1 and its proximity to existing infrastructure for transporting the gas by sea (presently serving the Yam Thetis site), it would be possible to begin moving gas from the site as early as 2012. This would close the expected gap between the depletion of the Thetis Sea site and the start of supply from Tamar 1, and even meet the rising demand expected to occur by the new gas-based power stations.
Local natural gas is important in reducing Israel's energy dependence. More than most nations in the world, the State of Israel has a clear interest in reducing its dependence on the imports of critical resources, including energy. Most of Israel's energy sources are located in remote areas, the supply routes are narrow and limited and it has experience (after the Yom Kippur War) with oil being used as a weapon.
Furthermore, Israel is liable to suffer from disruptions to its energy supply resulting from events not necessarily connected to the Arab-Israel conflict. Like other countries, for example, Israel suffered an oil shortage during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which caused skyrocketing prices and supply difficulties.
Egypt is Israel's only source for imported natural gas, although in the past, importing gas from Russia through Turkey and the Palestinian Authority was considered. The considerations motivating Israel and Israel Electric to purchase Egyptian gas included the large gas reserves in its territory, the desire to vary the country's gas supply sources, initiating competition between the Egyptian and the Israeli suppliers, and political considerations (the natural-gas agreement is one of the hallmarks of peace). These considerations remain valid.
Nevertheless, because of the increasing dependence on gas by Israel's electric system, a critical infrastructure for any Israeli economic activity and growth, and the resistance of the Egyptian opposition to exporting gas to Israel, the long-term viability of this particular supply channel is questionable.
One such challenge occurred in November 2008, when a Cairo court rendered the gas agreement signed with Israel in 2005 void as a result of a petition submitted by the opposition, which protested the low price of the gas in Israel. The regime appealed the decision and the ruling was reversed, but at the same time raised the cost (in an agreement made on February 22, 2009).
In the course of the public debate about the sale of gas to Israel, the Egyptian regime made it clear that the supply of gas to Israel was a function of the peace agreement between the two nations and that Israel was not asking for preferential terms compared with Egypt's other customers.
In any case, according to media reports, after the discovery of the Tamar gas field, EMG (the Egyptian gas supplier) said it was not worried about the implications of the discovery because, on the basis of projections of the National Infrastructures Ministry, the Israeli gas market would need both the quantities of gas guaranteed it by the Egyptians and the gas from Tamar.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, it is in Israel's best political interests to develop Palestinian gas fields. However, the continuing conflict, the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the discovery of gas in Israel reduce the possibility of taking advantage of these reserves in the foreseeable future.
In conclusion, the discoveries of natural gas will supply the Israeli energy market with relatively cheap and environmentally friendly energy. They vary Israel's energy sources and are in line with Israel's interests in reducing its dependence on energy from external sources. Nonetheless, it is important to accelerate the rate of development of other alternatives to oil and coal, and in particular to develop the field of renewable energy. (INSS)
The Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) is a policy research and applied strategic learning organization within the National Defense University, serving the US Department of Defense, its components and interagency partners.
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1239710717288&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
Saudi Arabia has begun the long march into the twentieth century. It is not clear if this is due to grass roots pressure, the active initiative of the innovative King Abdullah, the pressure of the former US administration for reform or all of these combined. Perhaps more than anything else, it is a reaction to the threat of Al-Qaeda type extremism. Whatever it is, it is a fact:
Apr. 21, 2009
THE MEDIA LINE NEWS AGENCY , THE JERUSALEM POST
A Saudi television channel has aired a controversial rape scene that appeared in a drama series, drawing criticism from conservative groups in the Kingdom.
The scene was part of the TV drama series A-Sakinat Fi Qulubina (Dwelling in our Hearts) and was viewed by thousands when it recently aired on a Friday night.
The three-minute scene depicts two sisters who are kidnapped by men they met on the Internet, taken by force to a place outside of Jedda, beaten and raped.
The airing of the scene is an indication of a bolder line being taken by the Saudi media, which is now more inclined to expose social problems and reflect them in local productions.
The executive producer of the production company that made the program said he had expected the program to be controversial.
Hasan 'Asiri, of the A-'Sadaf company for Audio and Visual Production, told the Saudi daily Arab News that Saudi dramas, up until recently, tackled social ills more subtly and by implication only.
By making these problems more public, people will understand that such violence is unacceptable, he said.
The program has received top viewership ratings since January.
Other controversial issues that have been tackled in the series include AIDS, marital abuse, and problems facing Saudi women.
Critics of the program say it was one-dimensional and painted Saudis in a bad light before millions of viewers throughout the Middle East.
Regarding the rape scene, they said it conveyed the message that women who used the Internet were asking for trouble and that it erroneously implied that women should avoid using the Internet altogether, according to Arab News.
One drama critic said the series was more frightening than educational.
Abeer Mishkhas, a Saudi journalist and a columnist with Arab News, said the fact that it was being broadcast on the privately owned MBC1 and not on a government channel would likely be a factor in the high viewership ratings.
"Some people won't be happy to see this," she told The Media Line. "Conservatives in Saudi Arabia are not happy with having women on television in general, let alone showing rape scenes."
Thirty-five clerics recently called on the Saudi minister of culture and media to ban women from appearing in the media, warning against what they called violations of Islamic law by doing so.
They urged the minister to ban the showing of women dancing, singing, presenting news or talking: whether in Arabic or a foreign language.
As a female Saudi journalist, Mishkhas said she welcoms groundbreaking programs such as A-Sakinat Fi Qulubina. "It's about time we start talking about what's happening in society. We tend to cover up things and say they are private and shouldn't be discussed in public. But that approach hasn't helped and just made things worse," she said.
Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States in the war against terror, but it has come under international pressure because of its tight religious practices.
Saudi Arabia observes a strict form of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism.
Restrictions in the Kingdom are particularly harsh for women, who are banned from driving and cannot perform most tasks outside the house without being accompanied by a male guardian, usually a husband, father or a close family member.
Women's rights activists say Saudi King Abdullah has been instrumental in bringing about reform to improve the situation of women, including opening up job markets for women and expanding their opportunities for acquiring a higher education.
Also, women have made considerable strides in the Saudi media over the past few years.
More Saudi women are getting high-level jobs in media -- including positions as correspondents or editors -- and women can now acquire a higher education in communications studies with the government's blessing.
This article can also be read at
Headline: France: Racism conference on right track. Vraiment! There has not been such a wonderful success in solving the Jewish problem since the Wannsee Conference, or perhaps since the conference at Evian sur Bains in 1938!
Durban Diary, day one: Ahmadinejad's ugly entrance
This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in The New York Daily News.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance in Geneva Monday at the UN's so-called anti-racism conference, Durban II, made the point better than anyone else. The UN's idea of combating racism and xenophobia is to encourage more of it. Ahmadinejad was the very first speaker as the substantive session opened. Handed a global megaphone by the UN, out flowed unadulterated hate speech.
The phenomenon was astonishing. The UN provided a platform for a virulent antisemite on the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. In the name of fighting intolerance, they translated his words into six languages and broadcast them around the world. As he entered the grand room at the UN's Palais Wilson, he was met by a round of applause. And this is what he said.
He began by denying the Holocaust: The "Zionist regime" had been created "on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and dubious question of holocaust."
And he continued with a genocidal agenda: "the egoist and uncivilized Zionism have been able to deeply penetrate into their political and economic structure including their legislation, mass media, companies, financial systems, and their security and intelligence agencies. They have imposed their domination to the extent that nothing can be done against their will. As long as they are at the helm of power, justice will never prevail in the world. It is time the ideal of Zionism, which is the paragon of racism, to be broken. The world Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuse religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces."
As he spoke, the European Union countries that had not withdrawn earlier finally stood up and walked out. But they didn't really understand what had just happened at all, for when he was finished, all but the Czech Republic went right back in.
Ten countries have now boycotted this second Durban hatefest: Canada, Israel, the United States, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. The rest of the world remains inside, providing legitimacy to a forum for hatemongering. They are under the impression that there is no lasting damage being done here either to the credibility of the institutional host or to the cause of protecting human rights. They are wrong.
And the real victims of human rights are all the poorer for it.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Arab Countries: Fight Terrorism Before It devours you!!
By: Elias Bejjani
How superficial, naive, and childish are those Lebanese and Arab officials, clergymen and politicians who voiced their surprise and shock after the recent unveiling of a terrorist Hezbollah cell in Egypt. They are either deceiving themselves and their people, or are totally detached from reality, residing on Mars. and not in the Middle East in general, and in Lebanon in particular.
For heaven's sake, whom are these officials, clergymen and politicians fooling? Is there no concerned individual in the whole Middle East, and in the free world countries who is not yet aware of the fact that Hezbollah is merely an Iranian militant brigade connected directly, and on level to the Iran's notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_Revolutionary_Guards_Corps)
Who in Lebanon and in its neighboring countries does not know that Syria during its occupation era of Lebanon (1976-2005), had forced the armed Hezbollah organization on both the Shiite community, and the Lebanese people under the false disguise of resistance against Israel? Syria and Iran jointly orchestrated, by brutal and criminal means, the erection of a mini Hezbollah state in the Shiite suburbs of Beirut, South and Bekaa, and accordingly exempted it from being disarmed in 1990, after all other Christian, Druze and Sunni Lebanese militias were disarmed in accordance with the "Taef Accord," that put an end to the civil war in Lebanon.
Hezbollah from day one of its formation by the Iranian Mullah's in 1982 was, and is still being used by its two masters, Syria and Iran, to destabilize peace, democracy and freedoms in Lebanon, to carry against the Lebanese and the Arab countries all Iran's and Syria's dirty jobs of assassinations, kidnapping, smuggling, intimidation, drug trafficking and havoc.
Hezbollah, is not a Lebanese party by any means, but a mere Iranian armed proxy occupying by force and against the will of the Lebanese people, a big portion of Lebanon, and at the same time crippling its central government and destroying all its institutions, on all levels and in all domains.
Hezbollah's terrorism is now targeting the biggest and mightiest Arab country, Egypt. According to the Egyptian judiciary, government, security authorities, and media, a Hezbollah cell was uncovered. It was planning to execute very serious sabotage attacks in both Egypt and Israel.
Egyptian official reports stated that Hezbollah's General Secretary Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy Sheik Naiem Qssiem were personally directing, monitoring and supervising the cell's activities that included also extensive campaigns to convert Sunni Egyptians to Shiite denomination, and smuggling of weapons, money and men to the Palestinian Gaza Strip in a bid to support their ally, Hamas.
According to Egyptian police, the Hezbollah cell is headed by Sami Shihab, a prominent Hezbollah militant. and a Lebanese Shiite national. Egypt has been detaining Shihab for the last six months, and recently arrested 49 nationals of various Arab countries on suspicion of being members of a terrorist network on behalf of Hezbollah . The accused have allegedly planned to carry out attacks inside Egypt, including tourist sites frequented by Israelis.
Hezbollah 's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah admitted publicly that Sami Shihab is a member in his organization, and that he was assigned by its leadership, "to help the resistance of Palestine," and, "to move military equipment and members to help the resistance" in Gaza. During his live television address, two days after the cell was uncovered, Nasrallah denied accusations that his group is trying to harm Egyptian security, or is planning attacks on Egyptian targets, saying such claims, "are meant to sully the image of Hezbollah among the Egyptian people."
Nasrallah portrayed Hezbollah's actions as meant solely to aid the Palestinian people, saying; "if helping our occupied, battered, and hungry Palestinian brothers is a crime, than I confess to this crime." During the last Hamas-Israel war Nasrallah had called publicly on the Egyptian armed forces and on the Egyptian people to topple the regime.
Since its formation in 1982, Hezbollah has carried several deadly attacks in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestinian West Bank, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Turkey, Argentina, and South America. The bloodiest attacks against the USA and French troops were executed in Beirut by Hezbollah in 1982.
One wonders why it took Egypt, whose intelligence services are so efficient, so long to uncover Hezbollah's cell? Definitely, no one will believe the Egyptian authorities' claim that they did not learn for years that all Iranian weapons smuggled to the Gaza strip (to Hamas) are funneled through the underground secretive tunnels digged by the Gaza Palestinians on the Egyptian-Gaza joined borders.
There is also no slightest doubt that Egypt knew for years that Hezbollah men have been in charge of the Iranian smuggling of weapons to Gaza, via Sudan-Egypt, in cooperation with the Sinai Bedouin smugglers and drug traffickers, and at times through the Egyptian sea territorial waters.
The basic and actual problem for the increase of terrorism and terrorists in the Middle East lies in the "Ostrich" policy that the Arabic regimes have been adopting since the early fifties. The rulers of these regimes have been practically burying their heads in the sand and keeping a blind eye on the terrorists' activities as long as they did not target directly their countries.
Sadly, even the U.S. and Europe followed the same "Ostrich" policy, and watched from far away terrorism influence grow and spread in many countries, especially in Lebanon. The USA and many European countries even traded with Syria and Iran intelligence information and expertise, in spite of the fact that these two oppressive regimes sponsor, finance, harbor, train and use most of the terrorist organizations among which are, Hezbollah , Hamas, Fateh Al Eslam, Jond Al Eslam, Al Qaeda, and many other Palestinian and Muslim extremists and fanatics.
The USA took terrorism threats seriously only after Al Qaeda's September 11/01 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks), devastating attacks. Meanwhile Europe is still indecisive, and mostly cajoling and appeasing the terrorists. In the Middle East, the majority of the Arab countries still do not only have an actual anti-terrorism policies, but finance, glorify, harbor and support the most lethal terrorism groups, Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is worth reminding the Arabs and the Western countries with the wise warning that was uttered in the late fifties by Lebanon's famous politician, thinker and philosopher, Charles Malek ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Malik), at a time when Lebanon was being devoured by terrorists and extremists, while the whole world stood idly watching. Malek cautioned the western world saying: "Help Lebanon defeat the terrorists, extremists and fanatics while you can, because if you don't now, they will soon attack Europe and after that target the USA it self."
Hezbollah would not have dared to send his terrorist cell to Egypt or to threaten another Arab country if the Arab regimes did not help to keep Lebanon a battle field and an arena for their own wars, or if the Arab countries had helped in the liberation of Lebanon and not sided with its occupier, the Syrian Baathist regime for 28 years, or if the Arabs had not cowardly cajoled and appeased Hezbollah and glorified its big fabricated delusion and lie of liberating south Lebanon in year 2000, or if the Arabs had stood openly against Hezbollah in year 2006 after instigated a devastating war with Israel, and if the Arabs had seriously pressured Syria not to supply Hezbollah with 50 thousand missiles and had stopped the smuggling of men and weaponry through its boarders to Lebanon, and if the Arabs had faced steadfastly the Iranian expansionism schemes with unity and decisiveness.
The time has come for the Arab countries to stand firmly against terrorism and to eradicate its Iranian-Syrian tools, Hezbollah and Hamas, once and forever. To effectively do so they should first stop appeasing, protecting and financing Syria.
At the same time they should unite together to fight and abort the Iranian expansionism's vicious scheme that is targeting all their countries.
The Syrian regime must be given two options, either to cut all its terrorism ties with Iran and stop harboring and exporting terrorism, or face very strict Arab economic sanctions plus complete political isolation and severing of diplomatic ties.
It is time also for the Arab countries to put Hezbollah , Hamas and all other terrorist organizations on their terrorist lists, and deal with them accordingly, like the USA, Canada, Australia and some of the European countries.
Arabic laissez-faire and avoidance-avoidance attitudes in the face of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas did not work and will never do. The Arab countries should talk with the Axis of evil countries and organizations the only language that they are able to comprehend, force and deterrence.
This is so right and obvious, and yet nobody has written about it. There is not going to be any big confrontation, because it would be stupid for either side to have one. Even if there are differences of opinion, they will be minimized. There were in fact, material differences of opinion with the Bush administration, over settlements, treatment of Hamas and of course, Iran. But nobody made a big deal out of them. Admiral Mullen said then, precisely what he has said now, and the Bush administration, like the Obama administration, had not given Israel a green light to attack Iran.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
THE CONFRONTATION CON-GAME
By Barry Rubin
There are many people eager to see President Barack Obama and his administration bash Israel, or predict that's already happened. But the administration has yet to make significant direct anti-Israel actions or statements.
Despite rumors and speculation at this point there's still no solid evidence. While, obviously, things could change at any time I expect this widely predicted conflict isn't going to take place.
Let me emphasize the word "direct" from the first paragraph. Inasmuch as the U.S. government gives up too much to Iran, Syria, and radical Islamists, it hurts Israel's interests, as well as those of most Arab governments and the United States itself.
Still, what's happened so far is being taken out of context by those who want a U.S.-Israel confrontation because they hate either Israel or Obama.
Contrast this alleged confrontation with the real but largely ignored conflict in U.S.-Europe relations. Obama's trip to Europe was a failure. To everything he asked—a parallel strategy for dealing with economic troubles, getting Turkey into the European Union, or more help in Afghanistan—the Europeans said "no." Then everyone proclaimed the visit a great success.
With Israel, it's the opposite. No confrontation happens but it's presented that way. Let's look at some examples:
--Endorsing a two-state solution isn't an attack on Israel's government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't oppose a two-state solution—and hasn't for 12 years--but emphasizes this would only happen if and when a Palestinian leadership proves its credibility and makes a decent offer. If the Obama administration says it's going to succeed, so did its last three predecessors.
This issue raises the most important single guideline for Israeli policy, which shouldn't merely consist of saying, "We want peace and a two-state solution" ten times a day. It should raise its own demands that the Palestinian Authority keeps its commitments and that any negotiated solution include Palestinian as well as Israeli concessions.
Giving the Palestinians a state is conditional on that happening, not a blank check given whatever they do. There's nothing wrong with Israel demanding reciprocity. A strategy of offering everything and demanding nothing neither made Israel popular nor brought about a negotiated solution.
--U.S. engagement with Iran: While this is risky and likely give Iran's regime time to develop nuclear weapons, administration statements say engagement's purpose is to stop that. I'm not sure a Bush administration would be doing much more. The key point will be whether the Obama administration ever concludes Iran's regime doesn't intend to change its behavior.
More - THE CONFRONTATION CON-GAME
Most Durban delegates applaud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial speech; Jordan, European countries walk outhttp://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/04/most-durban-delegates-applaud.html
Frustrating that the article doesn't tell us what countries walked out, but Ynet reported that Jordan was one of them. Good for you, dear neighbors! At least some countries did not applaud Holocaust denial.
Honor roll: Countries (in addition to Israel) thatboycotted the Durban II conference on furthering racism: Australia, Canada, Holland, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, United States,
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon remained seated through the Holocaust denial remarks. Numerous delegates applauded.
Delegates walk out on Ahmadinejad at Geneva
Apr. 20, 2009
JPost.com Staff and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the eradication of Israel as he addressed the United Nations anti-racism conference which
opened its week long event in Geneva on Monday.
"Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights at eradicating this barbaric racism. Efforts must be made to put an end to Zionism," he said in the rambling speech he gave at the podium.
As he spoke, some 23 EU delegates were seen walking out the room when Ahmadinejad said Israel was created on the "pretext of Jewish suffering" from World War II.
Ahmadinejad began his speech by pointing the finger at the United States, Europe and Israel and said they were destabilizing the entire world. "Those in authority at the time set off two world wars," Ahmadinejad said, in an accusation directed at Western powers. He went on to accuse those powers of "killing hundred of millions of people and causing mass destruction" also in Africa and Asia.
"Those who won [the Second World War], considered that the world was with them," he said, and "set up laws that were oppressive and trampling."
Ahmadinejad then went on to criticize the UN: "The Security Council set up after World War II, let's analyze it. The veto vote - is that equality? Is that justice? Is that equality amongst human beings?" he asked, "Or rather is it arrogance and humiliation? The Security Council must be the most important body for decision-making in order to promote peace. If a law is based on force, how can we secure peace and justice? The seeking of power and arrogance means racism, injustice and occupation."
At this point the Iranian president's speech moved to the subject of Israel and the Palestinians.
"As was the case after World War II, armies occupied other territories and people were transferred from territories. In reality, under the pretext of compensating for the evil done in the name of xenophobia, they in fact set up the most violent xenophobes, in Palestine."
"The Security Council made it possible for that illegitimate government to be set up. For 60 years, this government was supported by the world. Many Western countries say they are fighting racism; but in fact support it with occupation, bombings and crimes such as those committed in Gaza. These countries support the criminals," Ahmadinejad said.
Just as Ahmadinejad took the podium at the opening of the international anti-racism conference in Geneva on Monday, two men in multi-colored clown wigs stood up from both sides of the conference hall and tried to reach the podium. One of the men threw a soft red object at Ahmadinejad.
He was immediately escorted out of the hall by security personnel. In his opening remarks, Ahmadinejad called the man "ignorant."
Calls from the balcony were heard throughout the speech.
Still, the majority of the delegates greeted the Iranian president with a round of applause.
Ahmadinejad also blamed Israel for America's invasion of Iraq, which he said benefited Israeli arms sales.
He spoke to the UN assembly on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis
during World War II.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the global war of deligitimisation of Israel is the alliance of the European extreme left with terrorism.
So, for example, Respect's George Galloway is quite jubilant about supporting Hamas and denies that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel off the map. Meanwhile Gerry Adams, former IRA supremo turned politician, also sees fit to cosy up to Hamas.
Of course, the common interest of the extreme Left, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran is their loathing of Zionism. The fact that this includes loathing of Jews generally is glossed over by the Left, is denied or represented as paranoia or an attempt to scotch criticism of Israel. It is why the Dutch Labour Party supports demonstrations at which bigots call out "Hamas Hamas, Joden aan het Gas" (Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas). Here's a YouTube video where Harry van Bommel, a Dutch MP, is leading a chant of "Intifida" to an unchallenged background chant of "Hamas Hamas, Joden aan het Gas"
An appropriate reminder to Mr. Ahmadinejad. Thank you Joe McCain.
There is a lot of worry popping up in the media just now -- 'Can Israel Survive?' Don't worry about it. It relates to something that Palestinians, the Arabs, and perhaps most Americans don't realize -- the Jews are never going quietly again. Never. And if the world doesn't come to understand that, then millions of Arabs are going to die. It's as simple as that. Throughout the history of the world, the most abused, kicked-around race of people have been the Jews. Not just during the holocaust of World War II, but for thousands of years. They have truly been 'The Chosen People' in a terrible and tragic sense.
It is always better when people are honest about their intentions. Therefore, among the (relatively) moderate Arab voices, Ramzy Baroud's article deploring nonviolence (that's right - not a typo) is outstanding.
Baroud, who has been fighting the good fight to drive the Jews into the sea, pulls no punches and leaves nobody with any illusions. In an editorial published by the European funded Maan News service, Baroud expresses his dismay regarding the world support for non-violence. Let's not decry murder, says Baroud.
Yes! Finally someone said it. Gandhi and King are terrible examples for Palestinian children, who are supposed to be learning to kill Jews. I mean, why is there a Martin Luther King Day, but there is no Genghis Kahn day? The Unibomber doesn't get his own commemoration day either. Why doesn't the world honor real heroes of murder and genocide like Osama Bin Laden or Heinrich Himmler If Baroud had his way they wouldn't honor wimps like King and Gandhi.
Human Rights Watch says Islamist group killed at least 32 in attacks on political rivals and suspected collaborators
Human Rights Watch today accused the Islamist movement Hamas of a campaign of killing and attacks against Palestinians in Gaza that has left at least 32 dead and dozens more seriously injured.
The attacks came over the past three months, beginning during Israel's three-week war in Gaza. "Hamas authorities there took extraordinary steps to control, intimidate, punish and at times eliminate their internal political rivals as well as persons suspected of collaboration with Israel," Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
During the Gaza war 18 Palestinians, many suspected of collaborating with Israel, were killed. Most had escaped from Gaza's main prison after it was bombed by Israeli aircraft at the start of the war. A further 14, at least four of whom were in jail at the time, have been killed since the end of the war.
"The unlawful arrests, torture and killings in detention continued even after the fighting stopped, mocking Hamas's claims to uphold the law," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division.
It was the worst internal Palestinian violence inside Gaza since Hamas, which won Palestinian elections three years ago, seized full control of the strip in mid-2007.
The accounts corroborate witness testimony reported by the Guardian at the time and appear to show Hamas took advantage of the chaos of the war to exert control over its political and security rivals in Gaza. Other Palestinians have also spoken of a campaign of intimidation against secular and moderate groups in Gaza.
Human Rights Watch said the extent and frequency of the attacks "strongly suggests" they resulted from a policy decision by Hamas leaders.
Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza also found 49 Palestinians were shot in the legs in punishment attacks and around 73 were severely beaten, suffering broken arms and legs, from the start of the war in late December until the end of January. Some of the attackers were not identified, but many appeared to be from Hamas.
Hamas told Human Rights Watch charges had been brought against police over two deaths and that another two were being investigated. "Four investigations into 32 deaths are not enough," Stork said.
Taher al-Nunu, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, denied Hamas forces were involved in extrajudicial killings. He said: "Some resistance factions claimed they had killed suspected collaborators during the Israeli war on Gaza and in areas where battles took place, and we have launched an investigation which has not yet been completed."
Human Rights Watch said Fatah, the rival, western-supported Palestinian faction that controls the West Bank, had also used "repressive measures" against its Hamas opponents. It said Palestinian human rights groups recorded 31 complaints of torture by the Fatah-led security forces, as well as one death in custody and the arbitrary arrest of two Palestinian television journalists.
"Western governments that support and finance the Fatah authorities in the West Bank have remained publicly silent about the arbitrary arrests and torture against Hamas members and others," said Stork.
In the most recent incident, on Sunday, a Hamas MP and preacher, Hamed Bitawi, was injured after he was shot in the leg by an officer from the Fatah-led security forces in the West Bank city of Nablus.
Human Rights Watch has also accused Israel of violating international law during the Gaza war, including by what it said was indiscriminate use of weapons such as white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas.
Just in time for the racism conference too. How appropriate! BBC's editorializing about "family vendettas" is not accurate and is an attempt to whitewash the precarious position of Christians in Egypt.
Christians killed in Egypt feud
Two Christian men have been shot dead after an Easter vigil in the south of Egypt, security sources say.
Another Coptic Christian was reported injured in the attack near the village of Qena.
Police are searching for four Muslim men suspected of having carried out the shooting, which is thought to have been the consequence of a family vendetta.
A security source quoted by Reuters said those killed had recently been freed from prison for killing a Muslim.
Vendettas are common among clans in southern Egypt, being pursued equally bitterly within faith communities as between Christians and Muslims.
Coptic and Orthodox Christians marked Easter on Sunday, a week later than their Catholic and Protestant counterparts.
Copts account for about 10% of Egypt's 80 million population.
I will go further. Recently, I looked for good books about Zionism in Amazon. Most of the cheaper and newer books they had there were fiction masquerading as non-fiction - The Zionist plot to take over America, how the Zionists hide their horns under their hats etc. The Zionist books featured prominently that were not malicious tended to be old or expensive or both. One book cost $525.00. Why spend $525.00 to find out about Egyptian Jews and Zionism, when for the same money you can get 20 books about Apartheid Israel and the Zionist plot?
Apr. 16, 2009
Seth Frantzman , THE JERUSALEM POST
In the prelude to the recently published My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century by Adina Hoffman, the author notes that "no one has ever written a biography of a Palestinian writer before... Most Western readers have little if any experience of that culture and literature."
Hoffman, founder of the Jerusalem publisher Ibis Editions, couldn't be more mistaken. The West is overflowing with an endless supply of obscure non-fictional Palestinian stories - and a corresponding lack of stories regarding the Jewish Israeli experience.
Recent trends in non-fiction dealing with Israel and Jews tend to focus on one of three categories: books that defend Israel, such as Daniel Gordis's Saving Israel; Alan Dershowitz's Case for Israel; and Ya'acov Lozowick's Right to Exist. Then there are the books about Jewish lives in Arab countries, such as Lucette Lagnado's The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, Andre Aciman's Out of Egypt and Marina Benjamin's Last Days in Babylon. (There is also Dalia Sofer's Septembers in Shiraz.) The last group deals with personal memoirs, the "conflict" and coexistence. These include Uri Avnery's 1948: A Soldier's Tale, Tom Segev's various books, works by Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim and Michael Oren, and such studies as Adam LeBor's City of Oranges and Sandy Tolan's The Lemon Tree, the latter now a movie.
THE FIRST category comprises less emotional books from a fact-on-top-of-fact point of view. The second invariably tells of the luxury and greatness of Jewish life in Arab lands and, in the case of Babylon, paints a negative picture of the role of Zionism. Benjamin describes how the Palestinians "had drawn the short straw" in the 1947 UN partition plan and "the proposed Jewish state... contained nearly all the citrus land and 80 percent of the cereal land... The Israeli government was unsympathetic to the plight of the refugees [and] not content with their straightforward removal." Benjamin blames the existence of Israel for the breakdown of relations after the "wonderful interlude in which Jews were welcomed by the rest of Iraq's peoples."
The last category of books, with the exception of those of Michael Oren and Benny Morris's recent writings, speak mostly negatively about the role of Zionism and Israel. The "coexistence" narratives inevitably involve a Jew "confronting" the past of Zionism, its "myths" and its "dark underbelly."
Books about Palestinians, by contrast, work on a very different level. They involve the obscure, the poetic, the personal and the emotional. From Raja Shehadeh's Palestinian Walks to Suad Amiry's Sharon and My Mother-in-Law and My Happiness, they deal with individuals, the landscape and the personal. Autobiographies of Palestinians are also popular, such as Edward Said's Out of Place, Shehadeh's Strangers in the House, Karl Sabbagh's Palestine, Sari Nusseibeh's Once Upon a Country and Ghada Karmi's In Search of Fatima. The last of these claims to tell the "narrative... unusually, from the Palestinian side." Who are they kidding?
THE problem extends itself to the realm of film. Israeli films that are famous abroad invariably deal almost exclusively with coexistence, Palestinians or the "conflict." Take, for instance Syrian Bride (2004), Free Zone (2005), The Band's Visit (2007) and Waltz with Bashir (2008). All involve a Palestinian or Arab theme as the catalyst.
It gets even more ridiculous when one considers the recent film For My Father, about a Palestinian terrorist who dates a Tel Aviv Jewish girl before embarking on his mission. In this monstrous "coexistence" film - an "Israeli-German production" - the hateful murderer dates those he wants to kill, but Israeli director Dror Zahavi explains that the bomber "isn't motivated by hatred of Jews or wanting to destroy Israel." No, certainly not.
Part of the problem, no doubt, surrounds the hunger of the international reading public for stories about the conflict. However, it seems as if no one is trying in the least to raise its expectations. Instead, like reality television, we cater to the lowest common denominator. The question should be, where is our Kite Runner?
We are drowning in the conflict and the obscure. From Wendy Pearlman's Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada and Amira Hass's Drinking the Sea at Gaza, we can't escape the most minor stories of random Palestinians, second-rate politicians and poets.
Two new books, one by Jimmy Carter and the other by Benny Morris, were recently published, once again promising plans that "will work" to end the situation. Israeli archeology is undermined as being based on a "nationalist myth" and the settlers are maligned for their "accidental empire" or for being "lords of the land."
The binational heresy is rearing its head again and the Israel lobby shows no sign of going away.
Israel needs books about itself, about its obscure and interesting characters and peoples. It needs its Israeli walks and books about obscure poets and the beach at Netanya. Give us good nonfiction books about Israel and the Jews. That truly will be unusual and one of a kind, unlike all these Palestinian narratives.
The writer is a PhD student in geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and runs the Terra Incognita blog. firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you know what day today is, kiddies?
It's Holocaust Memorial day in Israel.
Yes, that's right. And what better way is there to honor our martyred dead then to hold a racist anti-Semitic conference in Switzerland? Thank you dear United Nations. Thank you dear Swiss government for hosting the Durban II conference on the final solution to the Jewish question, and inviting Libyan and Iranian experts in the field. .
And the honored speaker at the conference will be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Isn't that exciting?
Today is another special day for racists too. It is Adolph Hitler's Birthday! How fitting that the UN Racist conference should open today, with a speech by Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad!
Here is Ahmadinejad's favorite guy on his 50th birthday. Happy Birthday Adoph. Hope it's warm enough for you where you are.
Just in time for Adolph Hitler's birthday, coinciding with Holocaust Memorial Day and Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech in favor of Racism at the racist conference, here is the report of the Stephen Roth Institute on Anti-Semtism.
Antisemitism Report of Tel Aviv University
The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, at their annual meeting with the press highlighted the Institute's findings regarding the situation of antisemitism in 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
A stormy Beginning to 2009 compared to 2008
A Year of Moderate Decline in Antisemitic Activity
(on the opening day of Durban II)
January 2009 proved to be an exceptional month. With the start of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip on December 27, a wave of antisemitic manifestations swept the world. These included both violent incidents (arson attacks on synagogues, assaults on Jewish individuals, desecration of cemeteries, and vandalizing of Jewish property and Holocaust monuments) and verbal and visual expressions (insults, threats, gruesome caricatures, and stormy demonstrations). Although most of these activities featured traditional antisemitic motifs, their use was more extreme, intensive, and vociferous than was hitherto known. Muslim activists and organizations worldwide, and especially the radicals among them, showed a high degree of mobilization and were the moving force behind the demonstrations, together with leftist and human rights activists, and to a lesser extent extreme right circles. Jews and former Israelis also took part in some of the rallies, mostly in the US.
It should be emphasized that it is not yet possible to determine exact numbers of violent incidents during the first month of 2009, but Jewish communities and monitoring organizations have pointed to a sharp rise in all types of antisemitic activities. According to the CST in the UK, for instance, 250 incidents of all types were counted in January, compared to 35 during the same month in 2008. From the data we have received to date, we estimate that there were close to 1000 manifestations of antisemitism of all types in January world wide. The violent cases (including use of arms, assaults on persons, and desecrations) numbered close to 90, three times that of January 2008. February and March witnessed a sharp decline in violent incidents, reaching figures that were in fact lower than the equivalent months of 2008, but the virulent verbal and visual expressions and the atmosphere of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rage have not yet subsided. A similar pattern followed the 2006 Second Lebanon War – an immediate sharp rise and then a steep decline, albeit to a lower degree.
The leitmotif of antisemitic expressions evident at the beginning of 2009 was not classic stereotyping of the Jews and Israelis as Jews, but abuse of the Holocaust, first and foremost, as a political tool against Israel, with the analogy of Israelis/Zionists/Jewish supporters of Israel with Nazis becoming almost an axiom. This outright equation − Magen David=swastika − is intended to underline that if Nazism, the monster of the modern era, has no right to exist, then the Jewish state and its supporters, too, should be eliminated. This equivalence has caught on easily because of widespread ignorance, especially among younger generations, regarding the Holocaust and its uniqueness, as well as the history and politics of the Middle East crisis; because of the lingering memory of the Holocaust that generates fatigue of the Jew as the ultimate victim; because of the desire of youngsters and left-wingers for a symbol of evil to combat and for a cure to the world's maladies; and finally, because radical Muslim propaganda, which efficiently enhances the image of the child-killer Jew, radiating cruelty and violence since its Biblical inception, has turned anti-Zionism into antisemitism.
There is little doubt, then, that the anti-Zionism of 2009, which is being expressed with frightening hatred and intensity, serves as a focal point for various parties and is essentially antisemitic; moreover, its expression is different in nature from other protests against other states in conflict.
* * * * *
The year 2008 witnessed a continuation of the trend of relative stability in numbers of antisemitic violence, with an approximate 11 percent decrease compared to 2007. A decline was recorded especially in Britain, Canada and Australia, but Belgium, the US, Hungary, Italy, and Lithuania reported an increase. The economic crisis which began in the summer triggered anti-Jewish reactions, most notably in eastern Europe and the Arab world, but not violent activities.
Some 560 violent cases occurred in 2008 world wide, compared to 632 in 2007. The use of weapons declined, perhaps as a result of anti-terrorist measures in many states, while other forms of violence, such as arson, remained at the same level. Though hard to quantify, threats, insults, graffiti, and slogans were on the rise, evidence of the general antisemitic atmosphere. There were fewer attacks on persons (about 170 cases compared to 255 in 2007), yet figures for vandalizing of schools, synagogues, cemeteries, community centers, monuments, and private property remained relatively unchanged.
We stress that despite a decrease in certain years (such as 2005 and 2008), the level of the overall number of incidents in the first decade of the new century has never returned to that of the 1990s, so that the general tendency is one of a continuous rise.
General Analysis 2008/9
The year 2008 witnessed a continuation of the trend of relative stability in numbers of antisemitic violence, with a small percentage decrease compared to 2007 (except for Germany, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, and the US, where numbers increased). The economic crisis which began in the summer triggered anti-Jewish reactions, most notably in eastern Europe and the Arab world, but not violent activities (see below for a detailed analysis of 2008). We stress that despite a decrease in certain years (such as 2005 and 2008), the level of the overall number of incidents in the first decade of the new century has never returned to that of the 1990s (see graphs below).
January 2009 proved to be a striking exception. With the start of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip on December 27, a wave of antisemitic manifestations swept the world. These included both violent activities (arson attacks on synagogues, assaults on Jewish individuals, desecration of cemeteries, and vandalizing of Jewish property and Holocaust monuments) and verbal and visual expressions (insults, threats, gruesome caricatures, and stormy demonstrations). Although most of these activities featured traditional antisemitic motifs, their use was more extreme, intensive, and vociferous than was hitherto known. Muslim activists and organizations worldwide, and especially the radicals among them, showed a high degree of mobilization and were the moving force behind the demonstrations, together with leftist and human rights activists, and to a lesser degree extreme right circles. Jews and former Israelis also took part in some of the rallies, mostly in the US.
It should be emphasized that it is not yet possible to determine exact numbers of violent incidents during the first months of 2009, but Jewish communities and monitoring organizations have pointed to a sharp rise of all types of antisemitic activities. According to the CST in the UK, for instance, 250 incidents of all types were counted in January, compared to 35 during the same month in 2008. Based on the data we have received to date, we estimate that there were close to 1000 manifestations of antisemitism of all types in January world wide. The violent cases (including use of arms, assaults on persons, and desecrations) numbered close to 90, three times that of January 2008. February and March witnessed a sharp decline in violent incidents, reaching figures that were in fact lower than the equivalent months of 2008, but the virulent verbal and visual expressions and the atmosphere of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rage have not yet subsided. A similar pattern followed the 2006 Second Lebanon War – an immediate sharp rise and then a steep decline, albeit to a lower degree.
The leitmotif of antisemitic expressions during the last months of 2008 and beginning of 2009 was not classic stereotyping of the Jews and Israelis as Jews, but abuse of the Holocaust, first and foremost as a political tool against Israel: the equation of Israelis/Zionists/Jewish supporters of Israel with Nazis became a recurring theme in demonstrations and individual expressions, especially in the West, which appeared to have abandoned completely post-World War II taboos on denigrating the Holocaust. This outright equation − Magen David=swastika − which symbolizes ultimate evil, cruelty, and disregard for human values, is intended to underline that if Nazism, the monster of the modern era, has no right to exist, then the Jewish state and its supporters, too, should be eliminated.
The key questions that might be asked are: why did this wave of antisemitism erupt with such immediacy, as if activists had been waiting for the opportunity to set their plans in motion, and why has the comparison to the Nazis, sometimes accompanied in demonstrations by slogans such as "Death to the Jews" and "Jews to the gas," caught on with such zeal?
First, despite the growing interest in the Holocaust among non-Jews in many countries, especially in the West, its burdensome, lingering memory generates fatigue of the Jewish people because of what seems to be their constant harping on their image as the ultimate victim, without regard for the many other tragedies that have happened since in the world. The equation of Israel, a Jewish state, together with its Jewish supporters, with Nazis and Nazism, transfers the yoke from Europe's neck to that of Israel and the Jews. The resulting sense of relief, especially in Europe, the focal point of World War II, is reflected in the massive demonstrations and banners carried by the participants.
An additional reason is widespread ignorance among the younger generations concerning the Holocaust and its uniqueness, despite recent attempts to teach it in a number of countries. Their vague knowledge about mass killings that took place during World War II makes the Holocaust seem similar to many other massacres that have happened since, and paves the way for an easy acceptance of the equation with Nazis. Ignorance, too, about the history of Zionism as a Jewish national movement and about the Middle East conflict is no less prevalent, and it facilitates an unqualified comparison to the Holocaust rather than to other military, territorial, or even religious struggles.
About 20 million Muslims – some estimates are higher – live today in central and western Europe, and the equation of Jews with Nazis serves the radicals among them both as a political tool against the existence of Israel and the weakening of its supporters, and as an additional instrument for the building of a strong, cohesive Muslim identity around a common goal. Protests against the analogy or against the calls to kill Jews were scarce and weak. Western democratic Europe is torn between its liberal values − including political correctness − and anxiety that the growing Muslim presence in every sphere of life will get out of hand. The younger generations, especially on the left, which have been growing up with this reality, have been seeking direction, preferably an anti-establishment ideal. They march through the streets with a keffiah around their necks, identifying with Hamas and other terrorist organizations and sympathizing with the Palestinians as the contemporary underdogs, with complete disregard for other conflicts and tragedies, such as Sudan and Darfur, or Tibet and Chechnya.
Classic Christian antisemitic motifs, too, have been effectively used in Muslim propaganda, two in particular. One is the ritual murder libel: continuing the myth of Jesus' crucifixion by the Jews, it alleges that Christian children are slaughtered before the Jewish Passover in order to use their blood for baking matzot. Today the sight of Palestinian children – sometimes portrayed in a crucifixion pose − in Arab TV series, in caricatures and photos, and at times even in mainstream newspapers, combined with the scenes of casualties during the Gaza operation, resonates, leaving a vivid, enduring impression. This, in turn, has led to a second motif, that of the ugly, greedy, bloodthirsty old Orthodox Israeli or Diaspora Jew (most Jews today are secular) that is reminiscent of Nazi portrayals. Moreover, cruelty and lust for vengeance are seen as ingrained, even genetically coded in Jews, since Biblical times in accordance with the instructions of a vengeful god that emerged in the Land of Cana'an. Thus, alleged Jewish characteristics are projected onto Israelis, both as individuals and especially as a public, to the extent that any decent person feels obliged to combat this evil.
Demonstrators and others who express outrage against Israelis and Jews protest when they are accused of antisemitism, claiming they are anti-Zionist. It should be stressed that according to the international Working Definition of Antisemitism, agreed upon by 25 EU countries, (and de facto, by many of the 55 OSCE member countries), anti-Israelism (a discrimination in itself) becomes antisemitism when it uses symbols and images associated with classical antisemitism, when it denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination or applies double standards by requiring of it behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, when it holds Jews collectively responsible for steps taken by the State of Israel, and – most importantly in the 2009 case – when it draws comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
There is little doubt, then, that the anti-Zionism of 2009, which is being expressed with such frightening hatred and intensity, serves as a focal point for various parties and is essentially antisemitic; moreover, its expression is different in nature from other protests against other states in conflict. Finally, an analysis of the early 2009 wave of antisemitic manifestations shows that it was the result of a fusion of Muslim interests, youth and activists searching for a banner, and traditional antisemitism.
Prof. Dina Porat, Head of the Stephen Roth Institute – 054-6824383
Dr. Moshe (Vyacheslav) Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress
Asi. - Maria 0079165977010
Dr. Esther Webman, Acting Director of the Stephen Roth Institute – 054-5458686
Institute Researchers –
Dr. Rafi Vago – 052-4377847
Dr. Graciela Ben-Dror – 050-7677935
Dr. Haim Fireberg – 054-4602205
Ms. Sarah Rembiszewski – 054-4630822
Ms. Irena Cantorovich – 054-7233760
Will the ZAO replace the ZOA? Should it? The important thing is that someone has finally said in public, loudly, that Zionism and support for occupation are not synonymous. But what is really needed is to get those Zionists who oppose the occupation to also oppose Zionism-bashing and delegitimation of Israel.
Obama, Netanyahu, and Zionists Against Occupation
By Bradley Burston
ROME - It occurred to me while leaving St. Peter in Chains.
I decided to do the very last thing the Jewish People needs: start a new Jewish organization.
The inspiration was the unassuming but sublime church of San Pietro in Vincoli [St. Peter in Chains]. Tucked into a back corner of the city, it is home to Michelangelo's monumentally wistful marble of Moses.
There is no more perfect representation of the contemporary Zionist enterprise than that of this first of all Zionist ideologues - the melancholy language of the sculpture's eyes and clenched sinews a simultaneous translation of betrayal, disillusion, ire and the clutch of hope against all better judgment.
This is the Basilica of the Displaced Person. No one is more displaced than this prince who cannot feel at home in his native Egypt, but who will forever be denied entry to that promised place he knows he belongs.
By the Renaissance, Moses' truncated fate extended to the sculpture itself, stuck here for 500 years in a well-tended purgatory, a permanent Diaspora, far less grand if perhaps far better suited than the one - the much better-known St. Peter's across town - originally offered to, and snatched away from, Michelangelo.
What better time, then, to think about promised lands?
In particular, what better time to think about what separates Israel from a future of genuine calm and confidence?
This is, after all, the bedrock challenge facing Benjamin Netanyahu as he scrambles to cobble together a foreign policy.
This is also a key challenge for Barack Obama as he lays the groundwork for an ambitious regional solution to a brace of Arab-Israeli and pan-Muslim conflicts.
When the two meet in the coming weeks, the press will watch closely for nuances in terminology, and concessions from one side or another over the nature of a future Palestinian state.
So what can a cold marble Moses tell the rest of us about a course of action and a path toward peace?
This is what I took away from St. Peter in Chains, and a prophet of Judaism, Islam and Christianity holding tablets close to the vest: Jews have to end the occupation for the sake of Zionism.
Herewith, then, a manifesto of one. The founding document of Zionists Against Occupation:
1. Thou Shalt Not Have Other Gods Before Me.
2. Thou Shalt Not Make For Thyself an Idol
3. Thou Shalt Not Bow Down to Them
4. Thou Shalt Not Use the Lord's Name in Vain
It is time to acknowledge that the settlements are the Golden Calf of the current generations of believing Jews.
The settlements have made much of Orthodoxy delirious with worship of property, even some elements of Orthodoxy who refrain from fully recognizing the legitimacy of the state of Israel. They have tried to make settlement synonymous with Zionism, even when settlement conflicts with Israel's strategic and diplomatic interests.
It is time to recognize that settlement of the West Bank is a commandment which came not from God, but from rabbis, which is to say, all too often, from politicians.
5. Thou Shalt Not Steal, Nor Covet That Which Is Your Neighbor's.
6. Thou Shalt Not Murder.
7. Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, So That Your Days May Be Long in the Land that the Lord your God is Giving You.
Both the Jews and the Palestinians have valid claims to the Holy Land. If the Holy Land is to be shared, Israelis and Palestinians both will have to sacrifice legitimate grievances for the sake of a livable future, one which honors ancestors by making it possible for children to grow and thrive.
Finally, and most importantly, it is time for Jews to recognize how lethal the occupation is, to the idea of maintaining a Jewish state.
When right-wing Jews say that all of the Holy Land, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel proper, belongs to the Jews alone, they are in effect de-legitimizing Israel. They are adding fuel to the arguments of Hamas, which views all of Israel, West Jerusalem, Haifa, and Sderot alike, to be occupied Arab land.
In the end, the question of whether Israel will be a Jewish state will not depend on what the Palestinians say, but on what the Jews do.
8. Thou Shalt Not Be Silent.
9. Thou Shalt Not Look Away.
10. Thou Shalt Use the Word Occupation
It is time to follow Ariel Sharon's example and call the occupation what it is. It is time for Zionists to stand up and declare strong support for Israel and strong opposition to the occupation. Not for the sake of the Palestinians. For Israel's sake.
"Controlling 3.5 million Palestinians cannot go on forever," Sharon told a weekly meeting of stunned Likud leaders, Netanyahu among them, in May, 2003. "You want to remain in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem?"
"The idea that it is possible to continue keeping 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation - yes, it is occupation, you might not like the word, but what is happening is occupation - is bad for Israel, and bad for the Palestinians, and bad for the Israeli economy," Sharon said.
If the last 40 years are any indication, the Palestinians will be able to survive the occupation. A healthy state of Israel will not.
Thjis is certainly a step in the right drection! Of course, it won't get nearly as much coverage as the race riot caused by the parade of Kahana people last month.
Rivlin urges reconciliation in Umm el-Fahm
Rebecca Anna Stoil , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 19, 2009
Bringing with him one right-wing Jewish MK, one left-wing Arab MK and a message of understanding and reconciliation, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin visited Umm el-Fahm Sunday, meeting with local leadership during the first official visit of a Knesset speaker to the Wadi Ara city.
Rivlin promised that the restive city would remain an integral part of the State of Israel, and said that he did not believe that Arab citizens should be expected to sing the national anthem.
" Immediately on being elected to the chair the Knesset, Rivlin said that he wanted his first visit to be to Umm el-Fahm," said Rivlin aide Harel Tubi Sunday. "He was aware that there was tension between Arabs and Jews there, and he, as a democrat, as a Jabotinskyite, sees Arabs as full citizens entitled to full rights under the law."
Rivlin met with Umm el-Fahm Mayor Sheikh Khaled Hamadan at the town's municipality, and said, "We need to launch a dialogue between us and to stop sweeping things under the rug."
Hamadan praised Rivlin for his visit and congratulated him on his new position.
"We welcome all our guests with flowers, and anyone who enters our gates will be received according to the finest Arab tradition," he said. "But whoever calls to uproot us is not welcome."
He asked Rivlin to work toward the advancement of the Arab sector and to bridge the gaps, and the Knesset speaker reiterated that he would do what he could to aid the town's citizens in problems that could be solved domestically.
Rivlin also expressed understanding for the difficulty that some Arab citizens feel singing the words of the national anthem.
"I can't force a non-Jew to sing 'As long as in the heart, within, a Jewish soul still yearns,'" said Rivlin, "but at the same time, citizens cannot go against the State of Israel."
Rivlin expressed his opposition to coalition partner and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's plan for land and population swaps. Lieberman has centered on the northern town as a focus of his proposal.
"There are those who say we need to transfer Umm el-Fahm, but Umm el-Fahm is, was and will always be an Israeli city. I say the same concerning Jerusalem," he said.
Rivlin's visit came a month after scores of far-Right activists waving Israeli flags and singing "Am Yisrael Hai" marched on the outskirts of Umm el-Fahm, sparking clashes between stone-throwing Arab youths and police. The Knesset speaker said there was no link between his visit and the right-wing march.
"I have not come because of the march or to protest the march," he said. "Umm el-Fahm is an Israeli city, and we needn't say any more because it has been decreed that we live together. We were meant to live together, and forging ties between us is a vital condition for peace in the region."
Even MKs usually critical of the government's - and especially the Likud's - relations with Arab citizens saw the visit in a positive light. MK Said
Nafa'a (Balad) said that the visit was welcome and important in renewing dialogue within the town.
Rivlin was accompanied on his visit by Habayit Hayehudi MK Uri Orbach and Hadash MK Afo Agbaria, an Umm el-Fahm resident.
"We must focus on living together, and no matter what, we need to stop deprivation and discrimination," Agbaria said during the visit.
Right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir criticized Rivlin, saying that the visit constituted flattery of hostile forces, but Tubi emphasized that "there was not weakness, but simply a respectful dialogue in which both sides expressed their opinions without giving up on their interpretations, stances and worldviews."
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
That's free enterprise, no? What is interesting is how little media coverage this issue gets in the West. UNICEF has protested.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Outraged human rights groups are calling the decision by a Saudi court to — not once, but twice — refuse to void the marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a man several years her senior a form of human trafficking.
On Saturday, for the second time since December, a court in the Saudi town of Unaiza upheld the marriage of the Saudi girl to the much older man, on the condition that he does not have sex with her until she reaches puberty, Reuters reported.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood condemned the marriage Wednesday as a "clear and unacceptable violation of human rights."
"The Saudis know of our concern," Wood told reporters. "And it's not just our concern. It's a concern of others in the international community."
Organizations like UNICEF were troubled by the ruling, calling it an abuse of the child's rights.
"UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports that Saudi Arabian tribunals have decided not to annul the marriage of an 8-year-old girl," the U.N. children's agency said in a statement on its Web site. "Irrespective of circumstances or the legal framework, the marriage of a child is a violation of that child's rights."
"This particular girl was sold, literally," Dr. Ali Alyami, founder and director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, told FOXNews.com. "This is pure human trafficking. The girl's father was in need of money and he sold her."
Financial problems prompt some Saudi families to marry off their underage daughters to much older men — a practice the kingdom's chief cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdelaziz Al al-Sheikh endorses. Media reports claim that the 8 year-old girl's father arranged the marriage in exchange to clear his debts with the man.
The ruling reportedly prompted Saudi Justice Minister Mohamed al-Issa to call for regulations on such marriages with the goal of ending "arbitrariness by parents and guardians in marrying off minor girls," an announcement seen as jargon used to satisfy opponents.
"This is rubbish, they've been saying this for a long time," said Alyami. "It's just to silence their critics. They will pass something just to calm the situation down. There will be no drastic changes to the system."
Alyami said the ruling further contributes to a "very nasty" environment for women in Saudi Arabia due to "oppression and condemnation" solely based on their gender.
"It's a sad moment for women's rights and particularly of young girls in Saudi Arabia. It's a gross and huge violation of human rights," added Ibrahim AlMugaiteeb, president and founder of the Human Rights First Society.
"The judge's refusal to nullify the marriage means that every young girl whose father is bankrupt or in debt can sell their girls just because he's getting the right price," AlMugaiteeb continued.
Alyami, meanwhile, called on U.S. officials to intervene.
"First and foremost, our government should condemn this," he said. "President Obama should lead the way."
Click here to read more on this story from Reuters.
FOXNews.com's Joshua Rhett Miller and FOX News' Nina Donaghy contributed to this report.
The beginning of every Israeli attempt to approve its image is an announcement like this one, and usually that is also the end. Do it, don't talk about it.
Israel recruits gay community in PR campaign against Iran
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel is stepping up its public relations effort to discredit Iran within the international community, and part of its new campaign focuses on Tehran's abuse of human rights and sponsorship of terrorism.
"We have to lay the foundation in the world, and particularly in Europe, in order to be able to take harsher steps against Iran, especially in the economic sector," said one senior political source in Jerusalem.
The new campaign, to be overseen by the Foreign Ministry, aims to appeal to people who are less concerned with Iran's nuclear aspirations and more fearful of its human rights abuses and mistreatment of minorities, including the gay and lesbian community.
The campaign plans to recruit the international gay community, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed in 2007 when he said there were no homosexuals living in his country.
The campaign will also reach out to Jewish groups who want to bring more attention to Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and some members of the Iranian regime's anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist views.
About NIS 8 million have already been budgeted for the new campaign, which also includes increased briefings for foreign journalists on the Iranian nuclear program and greater use of the Internet and sites such as YouTube.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman want to broaden the PR campaign on the subject of Iran in the wake of increasing international willingness to negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program. One political source said there appear to be greater expectations in the U.S. and in Europe that diplomacy will solve the nuclear dispute.
However, the assumption in Israel is that dialogue will not lead to fundamental change in Tehran's stance and that the regime will not relinquish its nuclear aspirations, even in exchange for an incentives package from the international community.
The senior political source in Jerusalem said it is necessary to lay the groundwork now for the possible diplomatic failure. Despite talk of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, the current campaign focuses more on harsh economic sanctions against Tehran.
Last update - 09:42 20/04/2009
Swiss leader, Ahmadinejad meet despite Israeli objection
By Haaretz Service
Swiss President Hans Rudolf Merz met Sunday with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Geneva on Sunday, a day before the opening of the United Nations anti-racism conference.
Merz described the presence of Ahmadinejad at the Durban II conference as a good chance to discuss ways to mature bilateral ties as well as regional and international cooperation, according to the Iranian Student News Agency.
Ahmadinejad - who has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and denied the Holocaust - is slated to speak on the first day of the conference, which happens to fall on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Israel, which is boycotting the conference along with many Western countries, on Sunday voiced explicit criticism of the Swiss president's offer to meet Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the conference in Geneva.
Israel's former foreign minister Silvan Shalom, who was recently appointed regional cooperation minister, called the offer "wretched," adding: "The fact that Ahmadinejad is embraced by the Swiss president and others leads him to think that there is no reason to back down from his line of thinking."
Deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon said that the meeting "caught us by surprise," telling Army Radio that Merz's meeting "hurts him and Switzerland more than anything else."
Israel has sent a delegation to Geneva to publicly protest Durban II, a summit many Western countries fear will be used as a forum to criticize Israel.
As part of its publicity campaign, the Israelis will organize demonstrations during the speech, and will distribute materials on human rights violations in Iran - with particular emphasis on public executions and violence against women.
The campaign will be overseen by Israel Ambassador to Geneva Ronnie Lashno-Yaar. He will be assisted by Nobel Prize laureate Elie Weisel, U.S. law Prof. Alan Dershowitz and film actor Jon Voight. A special media room will also be set up in Geneva, to provide immediate responses to anti-Israeli statements.
Meanwhile, Dershowitz on Sunday was escorted out of the Geneva hotel where Ahmadinejad was to stay, after declaring that he planned to challenge the Iranian leader about his views on Israel and the Holocaust.
Statement by FM Liberman on the Durban II Conference
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister's Bureau)
Israel has decided to boycott the international conference supposedly promoting the struggle against racism, which will open tomorrow (20 April, 2009) in Geneva, because it reached the regretful conclusion that instead of discussing issues regarding the international struggle against racism and xenophobia, the conference will once again serve as a platform to denigrate Israel and single it out for criticism. This was the case with the first Durban Conference in 2001, during which the real issues on the international agenda were ignored in favor of unfettered attacks against the State of Israel.
An international conference, in which Ahmadinejad - a racist known for his constant preaching of Israel's destruction - is not only invited to participate, but is welcomed as a central speaker, clearly demonstrates the forum's true goals and character.
Israel cannot ignore the fact that the conference, which is hosting a serial Holocaust denier, is taking place precisely on the day in which Jewish people commemorate the six-million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, murdered in Europe by Nazi Germany and its followers.
The State of Israel expresses its gratitude to those countries who have already announced that they will boycott this conference of hypocrisy opening tomorrow in Geneva, and calls on other countries to follow their example.
This was more or less to be expected, given the firm stance of the Merkel government in fighting Anti-Semitism, The Durban II conference will become significant according to who does not attend, and should point out the urgent need to reform the United Nations. Regrettably, any reform is likely to be in the direction of giving more power to states like Libya and other rights violators.
The stand of the Vatican is disappointing.
Germany cancels its plans to attend Durban II conference
Apr. 20, 2009
Tovah Lazaroff , THE JERUSALEM POST
On the eve of Monday's controversial Durban II UN conference on racism, Germany announced that it had canceled its plans to attend the event out of concern that it could be "abused as a platform for other interests."
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday night that he made the decision to boycott the conference in Geneva after consulting with other European Union nations, and he urged those attending the conference to "stand up for the effective fight against racism and ethnic discrimination."
The week-long meeting is widely expected to repeat the inflammatory, anti-Israel rhetoric that marred the first UN racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
On Sunday, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands added their names to the small but growing list of countries that have opted to boycott the event. The US announced its boycott on Saturday night, and several weeks ago, Italy, Canada and Israel announced that they would not attend.
France has warned that it may not participate, but it has still not announced its intention to make good on that threat.
Speaking at a counter convention to Durban II organized by a group of NGOs upset that the conference has failed to focus on human rights abuses in countries such as Libya, Iran, Cuba, Egypt and Sudan, France's Human Rights Ambassador Francois Zimeray took issue with his country's indecisiveness.
"This evening I would have liked to give you the definitive position of France, but unfortunately we will have to wait a little bit because the French position has not yet finally been decided.
"There are still consultations going on," Zimeray said.
On Sunday, US President Barack Obama lashed out at the language of the conference's draft declaration, saying it showed "antagonism toward Israel in ways that were often times completely hypocritical and counterproductive."
Jewish groups who have gathered in Geneva to combat the anti-Semitic activity that has surrounded the conference, including a two-day anti-Israel conference held Saturday and Sunday, welcomed the news that additional countries were pulling out.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said: "A boycott is a logical consequence for all countries really interested in combating racism. It is lamentable that the EU has not found a united position, but at least some governments have shown leadership on this important matter."
Israel Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Roni Leshno Yaar said, "We are accumulating a critical mass of countries that are about to walk out."
The issue, he said, was not just the final text or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presence at the conference.
But a UN spokesman for the conference Rupert Colville told the Post that only a small number of countries had opted not to attend. As proof of how many of the 192 UN member states planned to show up, he said that 83 of them were already scheduled to speak at the event.
Among those who stated on Sunday that they intended to appear was Great Britain.
But it said that it could walk out if the event was hijacked by the kind of anti-Semitism that had overwhelmed the 2001 version that met in Durban, South Africa. Israel and the US had walked out of that conference to protest the venomous anti-Jewish atmosphere.
"We will have plans in place so that if it becomes clear that the conduct of the proceedings is degenerating and is getting to a point that we saw back in 2001 in Durban, then of course we will be ready to consider a range of options, including up to walking out of the Conference," a Foreign Office official said on Friday.
The Foreign Office also said it was concerned with the presence of Ahmadinejad.
"I'm sure you're aware President Ahmadinejad is going to be attending and will speak to the conference on Monday afternoon. It goes without saying that's one speaker in particular that we are anxious about in terms of what the content of his speech might amount to."
Hinting that the UK may walk out of his speech, the Foreign Office said: "Again that's a judgment we will have to make depending on just what it is he says and how he says it and what we actually think it garners in the conference room."
A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain would try to guard against "an unacceptable attempt to deny the Holocaust"; Iran has tried to eliminate any mention of the Holocaust in the conference's final statement.
Speaking on customary condition of anonymity, the official said Britain hoped the meeting would spur a "collective will to fight racism."
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, who is hosting the conference, said she was upset that the US had opted not to attend.
"I am shocked and deeply disappointed by the United States' decision not to attend," Pillay said.
She conceded some countries were focusing solely on one or two issues to the detriment of the fight against intolerance, but said it was essential that the issue of racism be tackled globally.
Explaining the US decision to boycott "with regret," Obama said in Trinidad on Sunday: "Hopefully, some concrete steps come out of the conference that we can partner with other countries on to actually reduce discrimination around the globe, but this wasn't an opportunity to do it."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman echoed Obama's remarks, calling it "a hypocrisy summit."
"The fact that a racist like Ahmadinejad is the main speaker proves the true aim and nature of the conference," Lieberman said.
Israel could not ignore the fact that the Geneva conference was taking place on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, he added.
Ahmadinejad, who plans to address the gathering at its opening session Monday, was greeted by Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz on Sunday upon his arrival in Geneva, much to the chagrin of Israeli and Jewish leaders.
The Ahmadinejad visit to Switzerland amounts to "a pathetic meeting that embarrasses the host," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post.
The respect accorded to the Iranian president "is harmful at a time when all the West is moving away from legitimizing an outright Holocaust denier who is busy planning the next Holocaust," Ayalon said.
The Jewish community in Geneva plans to hold a special event on Monday for Holocaust Memorial Day that is also intended to be a protest against Durban II.
At the same time, anti-Israel groups plan an event comparing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza with that of the Warsaw Ghetto.
But the simmering tensions as the pro- and anti-Israel groups gather to stage protests around the conference were not publicly evident in the city or in the UN building where the conference is set to take place.
Here flags flew and water sprouted from the nearby fountain, where the only activity that could be seen was a mother playing with her child in the fountain's puddles.
At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said the conference was needed to eliminate racial intolerance around the world. Asia News, a Catholic news agency that is part of the missionary arm of the Vatican, said of the pope's comment: "The Holy See is distancing itself from the criticisms of some Western countries."
Jonny Paul and AP contributed to this report.
This article can also be read at
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Obama: Durban II risks 'hypocritical' Israel hatred
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday said that the United States had decided to boycott a United Nations conference on racism because the draft for the summit risked declaring "hypocritical allegations" against Israel.
"I would love to be involved in a useful conference that addressed continuing issues of racism and discrimination around the globe," Obama said in Trinidad on Sunday after attending the Summit of the Americas.
But he said the language of the UN's draft declaration "raised a whole set of objectionable provisions" and risked a reprise of the 2001 predecessor summit in Durban, "which became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel in ways that were often times completely hypocritical and counterproductive."
The Obama administration announced Saturday that it would boycott the conference, scheduled to begin on Monday in Geneva, due to language about Israel and the West in the meeting's final document.
"We expressed in the run-up to this conference our concerns that if you adopted all of the language from 2001, that's not something we can sign up for," Obama said on Sunday. "Our participation would have involved putting our imprimatur on something we just didn't believe in."
Concern is high that the April 20 to 25 conference in Geneva may descend into heated debate over Israel that marred the last such gathering eight years ago, especially since Iran's hardline president - who has called for Israel's destruction - will attend.
The United Nations said it organized the forum to help heal the wounds from its last such conference, in Durban, South Africa. The United States and Israel walked out of the 2001 conference after Arab states sought to define Zionism as racist.
Anyone who thinks anti-Semitism is a thing of the past should view some of the materials on the Web even today, that relate the blood libel accusations as if they are true. These Web sites are not intended as jokes. Consider also the massive industry of Holocaust denial or insistence that it was someone else who did the killing. The Jedwabne Pogrom is an example. On July 10, 1941, the Jews of Jedwabne were murdered by their Polish neighbors, who took their homes and their property. But many Poles refuse to acknowledge the truth. They have nothing against kikes, they say, or else they say that in the first place, it was the Germans who killed the Jews, and in the second place, the Jews deserved it in the first. place. And in any case, none of them will ever give up the Jewish property that they stole. Stalin is said to have observed that one dead person is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. The devil - the pain of the Holocaust is not in the masses of numbers, but in the individual stories, and in the hearbreak and frustration of knowing with certainty that anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past. The demon still lives.
Consider this, from Research on Lesser-Known Nazi Sites Is Now Public :
Cat appointed to watch cream: Libyan racist rights violations exposed by Palestinian at Durban II conferencehttp://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/04/cat-appointed-to-watch-cream-libyan.html
Libya's Durban II Chair Cuts Off Libyan Victim
News and Analysis from UN Watch in Geneva Briefing No. 190 | April 18, 2009
UN Watch Turns Tables on Libyan Chair, Exposes Durban 2 Hypocrisy
The U.S. has decided not to attend the Durban II conference opening Monday in Geneva -- click here for more.
Meanwhile, the top story on Swiss TV news last night was the surpise "coup d'eclat" by UN Watch, when it turned the tables on the Libyan chair of the Durban II planning committee, in a showdown yesterday that exposed the U.N. hypocrisy whereby the chief organizers of a world "anti-racism" conference are themselves the worst perpetrators of racism and discrimination. See the full exchange below, and related legal brief. Click here for dramatic video (in French). Stay tuned for the YouTube video of the full debate.
United Nations Durban Review Conference
Statement by United Nations Watch
Thank you, Madame Chair.
I don't know if you recognize me. I am the Palestinian medical intern who was scapegoated by your country, Libya, in the HIV case in the Benghazi hospital, together with the five Bulgarian nurses.
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop... stop.... I ask you to stop. You are, you are not addressing the agenda item... I will allow you to resume only if you address the agenda item we are discussing.
[Victim resumes testimony]
Section 1 of the draft declaration for this conference speaks about victims of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. Based on my own suffering, I wish to offer some proposals.
Starting in 1999, as you know, the five nurses and I were falsely arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, brutally tortured, convicted, and sentenced to death.
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop... You are again not addressing the agenda item. I urge you to address the agenda item.
[Victim resumes testimony]
All of this, which lasted for nearly a decade, was for only one reason: because the Libyan government was looking to scapegoat foreigners. Madame Chair, if that is not discrimination, then what is?
On the basis of my personal experience, I would like to propose the following amendments regarding remedies, redress and compensatory measures:
One: The United Nations should condemn countries that scapegoat, falsely arrest, and torture vulnerable minorities.
Two: Countries that have committed such crimes must recognize their past, and issue an official, public, and unequivocal apology to the victims.
Three: In accordance with Article 2, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such countries must provide victims of discrimination with an appropriate remedy, including adequate compensation for material and immaterial damage.
Madame Chair, Libya told this conference that it practices no inequality or discrimination.
But then how do you account for what was done to me, to my colleagues, and to my family, who gave over thirty years serving your country, only to be kicked out from their home, threatened with death, and subjected to state terrorism?
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: There is a request for a point of order. I give Libya the floor for a point of order.
LIBYAN DIPLOMAT: Madame Chair, I object to the testimony by UN Watch. This is not the correct agenda item. Thank you, Madame Chair.
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI: We shall now move on to the next speaker...
[Due to the unjustified cut-off by the Chair, the following portions were unable to be read.]
How can your government chair the planning committee for a world conference on discrimination, when it is on the list of the world's worst of the worst, when it comes to discrimination and human rights violations?
When will your government recognize their crimes, apologize to me, to my colleagues, and to our families?
This week, at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, the five nurses and I will present our complaint and compensation claim against Libya, filed with the UN Human Rights Committee, the highest international tribunal for individual petitions.
The slogan for this Conference is "Dignity and justice for all." Does this include your own country's victims of discrimination?
Thank you, Madame Chair.
Bulgarian Nurses Sue Libya in International Tribunal; UN Watch as Co-Counsel
Related to the above testimony, click here for the new 100-page legal complaint filed by the Bulgarian nurses against Libya with the UN Human Rights Committee, the highest international tribunal for individual human rights complaints. See excerpt below, from pages 98-100, focusing on Libya's role as chair of the Durban II preparatory committee. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer formerly with the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, is serving as co-counsel in the action together with Dr. Liesbeth Zegveld, an international law professor and attorney in the Netherlands. The complaint is released here for the first time to the public. (Click here for the related complaint filed by Dr. El-Hojouj last year.)
Both Dr. Dr. El-Hojouj and Bulagrian nurse Kristiyna Valcheva will speak tomorrow at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, on Sunday, 19 April 2009. Watch live webcast at www.genevasummit.org This time Dr. El-Hojouj will be able to deliver his full speech — without interruptions.
Following is the excerpt from the Bulgarian Nurses vs. Libya lawsuit dealing with the Durban II conference.
Significantly, Libya today holds itself out as a world leader in combating racism and discrimination. In August 2007, Libya undertook to lead the worldwide struggle against racism when it was elected by the United Nations Human Rights Council to chair the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference. Also known as "Durban II," the conference is mandated to review progress made on implementation of measures adopted in the final declaration of the 2001 World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa ("the Durban Declaration"), including assessment of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Upon being named Chairperson on August 27, 2007, Libyan ambassador Najjat al-Hajjaji thanked "all member states of the UN for the confidence you have placed in my country," Libya, to chair the racism review conference. In the context of the battle against discrimination, the Libyan representative specifically called attention to "[p]ersecution of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, those of particular ethnic groups." She expressed pride that the Durban process allowed "victims of racism to speak loud" about their suffering; for enabling "those who have been excluded and ostracized to break the bonds of silence"; and that "we have been able to diagnose face of racism today. To agree to practical steps."
However, she omitted to mention Libya's own actions since the adoption of the 2001 Durban Declaration, which, as documented extensively by the CERD and human rights NGO's, includes precisely the persecution of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and those of particular ethnic groups, including Libya's crimes committed against the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor on the basis of racist and xenophobic discrimination.
Speaking in October 2008, at the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee, the Libyan representative said that "the fact that we are here today shows the commitment of our countries to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance." She called for "dignity and justice for all" and said:
Once again, Libya deliberately omitted to mention – as documented extensively by the CERD and human rights NGO's – its own "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance," including against the Bulgarian nurses. Nor did it mention Libya's own failure to "make the right decisions" to alleviate the problems faced by the authors while suffering in Libyan prisons.
It is noteworthy that, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, an important concern of the Durban Review Conference is racism against migrant workers. However, in the extensive Durban Review sessions, debates, and other proceedings that have taken place since August 2007, Libya's oral and written submissions have deliberately omitted any mention of its documented practices of discrimination against migrant workers, or any mention of its specific violations against the authors.
On the contrary, in response to the Durban Review questionnaire circulated by the UN as part of the Durban Review process, where countries were asked about their implementation of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, Libya insisted on its unequivocal respect for non-discrimination principles, and cited in particular the treatment of foreign workers:
Asked to identify concrete measures for racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Libya declared:
The remainder of Libya's submission included declarations such as "Libya does not have the practice of racial discrimination, it is combating it through the struggle against imperialism, fascism and racism at the global level. Many countries have not yet abided by their international treaty obligations"; Libya "is a harmonic country which provides equality to all people on its ground"; "Libya's legislations [sic] prohibited and criminalized all forms of discrimination even before Durban Declaration for combating racism as it was described before through adopting national legislation that prohibit discrimination mainly in law 5 and 20 of 1991."
Nowhere in Libya's response to the pertinent questions of the Durban Review questionnaire did Libya acknowledge its documented practices of racism and discrimination against foreign workers in general – as detailed above by the CERD and human rights organizations – or its years of violations of human rights, inter alia on grounds of discrimination, perpetrated against the Bulgarian nurses in particular.
Libya violated its duties under Articles 2(1), 26 and 14 ICCPR, to respect the rights of the authors, recognized in the ICCPR without distinction of any kind, to guarantee equal treatment before the law, and the equal protection of the law and its specific duty to provide the authors with equal protection before courts and the entitlement, in full equality, to the minimum guarantees. There is substantial evidence of widespread discrimination by Libya against authors, all of which supports the conclusion that Libya's actions were in intent and effect acts of prohibited discrimination.
 See, supra, section entitled "Evidence of Libya's racist discrimination against foreign workers".
 Statement by the Chairperson, Second Substantive Session of Durban Review Conference Preparatory Committee (6 October 2008), video available at http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=032.
 See, supra, section entitled "Evidence of Libya's racist discrimination against foreign workers".
 Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region, A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2, 18 July 2008, para. 16.
 Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region, A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2, 18 July 2008, para. 18.
 Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region, A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2 (18 July 2008), para. 19.
 Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region, A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2 (18 July 2008), para. 20.
 Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region, A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2 (18 July 2008), para. 21.
 See, supra, section entitled "Evidence of Libya's racist discrimination against foreign workers".
From Palestinian Media Watch:
A Hamas cleric who once participated in an international conference of "Imams and Rabbis for Peace" -- whose delegates vowed to "condemn any negative representation" of each other's religions -- has wholeheartedly espoused Hamas's racist ideology in a recent Friday sermon on Hamas TV.
Ironically, this latest profession of Hamas's genocidal racism was preached and broadcast at the start of the month in which the UN is meeting in the "Durban II" conference in Geneva to condemn Israel as being "racist."
According to the Hamas interpretation of Islam, the Jews are inherently evil, seek to rule the world, and are a threat to Muslims and all of humanity. Therefore they are destined to extermination. In the words of Hamas religious leader Ziad Abu Alhaj, "Hatred for Muhammad and Islam is in their [Jews'] souls, they are naturally disposed to it..."
He asserts that because of the Jews' inherent evil, the Jewish state, "Israel ... is a cancer that wants to rule the world." One can find the details of the Jews' plan in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which he jokingly refers to as "The Protocols of the Imbeciles of Zion" (a play on words in Arabic). He concludes that the Jews are destined to be annihilated:
"The time will come, by Allah's will, when their property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, and no Jew or Zionist will be left on the face of this earth."[Hamas (Al-Aqsa) TV, April 3, 2009]
He also claims that the Jews wanted to murder Muhammad.
This imam, who is preaching the genocide of Jews, participated in the Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in 2006, which also featured many prominent rabbis from Israel. The final statement from the Seville conference included the pronouncement, ". . . We condemn any negative representation of these [religious beliefs and symbols], let alone any desecration, Heaven forbid. Similarly, we condemn any incitement against a faith or people, let alone any call for their elimination, and we urge authorities to do likewise."
Click here to view www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzK114-Q8zg
The following is the text of the Hamas sermon calling for the extermination of Jews:
"Who is it that is leading the world today in the vicious, all-encompassing war against Islam and Muslims? The answer is clear: it is the Jewish nation. It is the Jews who today are leading the all-encompassing war against Muslims...
We, the Muslims, know the nature of Jews the best, because the Holy Quran taught us. The prophetic traditions explained at length to Muslims the true nature of Jews... Their war and their hatred for Muhammad and Islam is in their souls, they are naturally disposed to it.
Israel today lives in the heart of Arab-Muslim territory, and it is a cancer that wants to rule the world. Know, my brothers! The Jews' expansion today brings the dissemination of an ancient thinking...
They argued with Allah's prophet Moses; they wanted to kill Allah's prophet Jesus, and wanted to murder Allah's prophet Muhammad...
The Jews want to destroy every inch ... Perhaps their famous book, which they deny [its authenticity] - known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but we call it, "The Protocols of the imbeciles of Zion" - in this book, my brothers, the Jews set down their plan to besiege the entire world by land, by air, and by sea - conceptually, economically, and its communications, as is happening today...
The Jews' grandeur today, and their ascent to the world's throne, is because America, with all of its power, is ruled by the Senate, I won't say 'American' but rather 'Jewish' [Senate] ... The time will come, by the will of Allah, when their property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, and no Jew or Zionist will be left on the face of this earth."
Iran increases its political and economic presence in Latin America, defying the United States and attempting to undermine American hegemony. It also foments radical Shi'ite Islamization and exports Iran's revolutionary ideology, using Hezbollah to establish intelligence, terrorism and crime networks, liable to be exploited against the United States and Israel.
1. Since Ahmadinejad was elected president of Iran in August 2005, there has been a marked improvement in the country's relations with Latin America , especially Venezuela and Bolivia . The common denominators are their anti-American ideology and the desire to provide a satisfactory revolutionary alternative to what they consider American imperialism. Iran exploits its relations with Latin America to establish a foothold (using, among other means, Hezbollah) and to establish a political, economic, religious and terrorist-intelligence presence in the region.
2. The springboard for Iranian influence, and the figure marketing Iran to other Latin American countries, is Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez , a leader in anti-American defiance. Chavez has met with Ahmadinejad a number of times in both Tehran and Caracas , and in effect opened Venezuela – and later Bolivia , Nicaragua and Ecuador – to the Iranians. Latin American leaders who were almost unknown in Tehran until Ahmadinejad was elected have become familiar faces, and their relations with Iran are blooming.
3. Iran 's increased activity in Latin America is part of its overall strategy , and its goals go far beyond the desire to achieve hegemony in the Middle East . Iran , which regards itself as besieged by the United States and stubbornly conducts a nuclear crisis with the West, seeks to pose a revolutionary challenge to America in its own back yard, as well as in various areas of Asia and Africa . To that end Tehran exploits its relative advantages of anti-American ideology and rhetoric. The Iranians use as political leverage petrodollars and Muslim populations, some of them Shi'ite-Lebanese, living in key Latin America countries and potentially able to advance Iranian interests.
4. Those interests, which lie behind Iran 's desire to strengthen relations with Latin America , are:
i) To improve Iran 's strategic position vis-à-vis the United States by posing a potential threat and creating a kind of balance of power which will challenge America by collaborating with revolutionary countries in Latin America and establishing a significant presence on their soil. Iranian assets in Latin America may be used practically in the dialogue the Obama administration is trying to advance with Iran to settle the nuclear crisis.
ii) Economically , to erode the sanctions imposed on Iran through new markets. That can be done by coordinating prices with the major oil exporting countries ( Iran and Venezuela are respectively the fourth and fifth largest exporters of oil in the world). That also can be done by cooperation in refining crude oil should the sanctions against Iran be ramped up, since Iran has difficulties in refining its own oil and is completely dependent on imported distillates.
iii) To damage Israel 's relations with Latin American countries , for example the severing of Israel 's diplomatic relations with both Venezuela and Bolivia during Operation Cast Lead. In addition, such a situation creates an internal political climate which encourages attacks on Jewish communities in Latin America , as witnessed by the vandalizing of the largest synagogue in Caracas , the capital of Venezuela.
"Get out!" Graffiti on the wall of the Caracas synagogue
(Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins for Reuters, January 31, 2009).
iv) To create intelligence and terrorism networks which will provide Iran with operational options to respond to events or initiate terrorist attacks against Israel and the United States, under the right circumstances when the order is given.1 Iran uses its proxy Hezbollah , whose activities and presence are widespread and increasing in Latin America , including in ordinary crime such a drug dealing.
v) To spread Iranian, Khomeini-inspired Shi'ite Islam to the non-Muslim communities in Latin America, and at the same time to disseminate the ideology of the Iranian Islamic revolution and Iranian political influence in Muslim communities, especially Shi'ite-Lebanese (part of Iranian activities around the world).
5. As it does in the Middle East , in Latin America Iran uses terrorism and subversion to advance its aims. And as in the Middle East and elsewhere, the main Iranian operational arm is the Revolutionary Guards . The Revolutionary Guards assist Hezbollah, whose activities in Latin America began before Ahmadinejad , and serve as its proxy for constructing terrorist networks. Hezbollah raises the funds necessary for maintaining the terrorist networks in Lebanon and Latin America and connections with local criminal cartels, such as those in the Gran Chaco triangle bordered by Brazil , Argentina and Paraguay , Venezuela 's Margarita Island and among the drug cartels of Colombia and Mexico . During the 1990s Hezbollah and Iran 's terrorist networks in Argentina were used to carry out two mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires (the bombing of the Israeli embassy in 1992 and of the AMIA building in 1994) in retaliation for the blows suffered by Hezbollah in Lebanon .
6. The United States is well aware of the threats and challenges posed by Iran 's activities in Latin America . That was recently made evident by a series of statements from senior American figures working in the military, the intelligence community and the State Department about the dangers of Iranian activity. For example, in January 2009 Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense , told the Senate that he was "more concerned about Iranian meddling in the region than [about] the Russians [meddling in the same region]." Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence , told the Senate Armed Forces Committee in March 2009 that Chavez's growing ties with Iran and the corruption prevalent in Venezuela were creating a convenient environment which Hezbollah could exploit for its own uses. James Stavridis, Commander of the US Southern Command , told the Senate Armed Forces Committee in March 2009 that there had been an increase in the level of Iranian activity, including the opening of six new embassies in Latin America during the past five years and extensive activities concerning religious conversion [i.e., conversion to Shi'ite Islam] in the region. He said that it "is a concern principally because of the connections between the government of Iran , which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah..."
7. As far as Israel is concerned, Iran 's activity in Latin America is a wasps' nest of short-term and potential long-term threats . Politically , Iran 's activity is liable to sabotage Israel 's relations with Latin American countries, as has already occurred with Venezuela and Bolivia . It also encourages physical manifestations of anti-Semitism targeting local Jewish communities, as occurred in Caracas , Venezuela . With regard to terrorism , Iran exploits its growing ties with Latin American countries to construct local terrorist networks , using the Revolutionary Guards and its own intelligence services, with Hezbollah as its proxy. In our assessment, the networks are already in place and some of them are operative. Twice during the 1990s they carried out suicide bombing attacks in Argentina and are liable to be used in the future for retaliatory attacks within the more limited Israeli-Lebanese-Palestinian context or even against Israel as part of Iran's overall confrontation with the United States and Israel, for example in the scenario of escalating the nuclear crisis.
8. The objective of this study is to examine the various aspects of Iranian policy in Venezuela and in Latin America in general. The study illustrates the dangers and challenges inherent in the situation for Israel , and even more so for the United States and the West. It is divided as follows:
i) Iranian activity in Latin America, America 's back yard.
ii) The presidents of Iran and Venezuela : a new revolutionary vision.
iii) Petrodollars and economic cooperation as levers of political influence.
iv) Harnessing Latin American policy to Iran 's Middle Eastern agenda.
v) The Tehran-Caracas-La Paz axis.
vi) Ecuador as a target for Iranian activity.
vii) Seminars in Iran on Latin America .
viii) Latin America as a target for the spread of Shi'ite Islam and the export of the Iranian Islamic revolution's ideology.
ix) The Wayuu tribe and Hezbollah Venezuela as a case study.
x) Using electronic media for propaganda in Latin America .
xi) Crime and terrorism in the service of Hezbollah and Iran in Latin America .
xii) Rising worries in the United States .
The study in Hebrew: The Hebrew version
This is precisely correct. Israel must never be seen as an obstacle to peace and must always be seen as pro-active for peace.
Apr. 19, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to put forward an Israeli peace initiative based on the Arab plan for resolving the Middle East conflict and establishing a Palestinian state.
During a policy review meeting convened by Netanyhau, Barak suggested a formula according to which Israel's security requirements and its demands that it be recognized as a Jewish state could be met. He said there was no way out of a comprehensive regional agreement which included a two-state solution and a solution to the refugee problem, which he said lay within a Palestinian state.
Barak said that there was no reason for a collision with Washington.
"US-Israel ties are deep and close," he said. "We can and need to reach an understanding on all issues on the agenda."
Sunday's meeting, held at the Prime Minister's Office, was also attended by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other top officials, including National Security Council head Uzi Arad and Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-military bureau chief.
The meeting was a precursor to Netanyahu's trip to Washington in May, which is expected to follow the finalization of the new government's foreign policy.
"I am prepared to negotiate with any side that desires to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians," said Netanyahu. "Contrary to reports, I don't condition dialogue with the Palestinians on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Nevertheless, progress in the peace process does depend on the willingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state."
The prime minister emphasized that there was full cooperation between himself, Barak and Lieberman.
US President Barack Obama has said that he believes a two-state solution should be the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and his Mideast envoy George Mitchell said in Jerusalem last week that a "two-state solution is the only solution" to the conflict.
A train with no brakes is a very apt description for Iran. It has no brakes and no reverse gear, and it is putting itself on a collision path with a cement wall. Passengers should get out if they can.
Apr. 19, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iran's development and progress is like a moving "train with no brakes and reverse gear," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday, according to IRNA - the Islamic Republic News Agency.
Speaking at the 14th gathering of police commanders and senior officials, Ahmadinejad added that Iran was committed to building a "moderate and exemplary society based on justice, love and brotherhood in this sacred territory."
He claimed that the Iranian nation was the front-runner in all scientific, research, cultural, moral, political and economic fields, and praised the Islamic republic's influence on international relations, the news agency reported.
Ahmadinejad said that despite efforts to isolate Iran, the Iranian nation was "currently one of the dearest world nations."
The Iranian president claimed that enemies' efforts to damage national sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, security and freedom of the Iranian people were destined to fail, IRNA said.
He also emphasized the need for Iranian vigilance to counter the "enemies' conspiracies."
The bottom line: If Israel (or the USA for that matter) attack Iran, Iran achieves its goal, much more surely than if they are not attacked.
It's that time of year again. London Times, as they did in the past, is reporting that Israel is about to attack Iran, or at least it is giving that impression. And the impression "worked" -- it spawned a lot of headlines in other journals that make it look to the casual reader as though Israel is really on the verge of attacking Iran.
Reading the fine print shows that it is not so, even according to the London Times
The emphasized text tells us clearly that Israel is not about to attack Iran and does not consider it a good option, but holds this option in reserve as a deterrent. Yossi Melman advises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Iran. Others also think Israel can and should and will attack Iran to prevent development of a nuclear weapon.
The importance of such events, if they are done right, for gaining understanding for Israel, cannot be overestimated. It is noteworthy that this item appeared first in Israelity Web log and then in Huffington Post.
April 19, 2009 - 9:56 AM by Karin Kloosterman ·
They couldn't have come at a more dangerous time. Six university newspaper editors from America visited Israel for the first time last December, and the already planned trip happened to coincide with the first week of the recent Gaza Conflict.
In a reality style documentary, the young Americans had their week-long visit taped by a camera crew hired by Project Interchange, a Washington-based organization that develops seminars for Americans and international guests in Israel. The film is being screened tomorrow at Georgetown University.
In Israel, the editors, including Georgetown's The Hoya newspaper editor Andrew Dubbins, met with a wide range of leaders and citizens in an attempt to get beyond the headlines to learn the complexities of the Middle East peace process.
The documentary was written and directed by Patrick Ryan Morris from Project Interchange, and features Dubbins, along with other editors who were in Israel from December 30th to January 5th.
"I was an editor of a newspaper in college," says Morris. "From that experience, I know that you cannot bring journalists to Israel, or anywhere for that matter, and force an ideology on them or a version of the truth."
He hopes to screen the film at campuses throughout the United States.
Project Interchange brings new delegations of "influentials" to Israel twice a month from around the world. Muslim leaders from France came to a seminar in Israel in December, meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. In November, women executives from the U.S. construction business enjoyed a week-long seminar. Before that, European environment leaders were in Israel. Each group of guests enjoy tailor-made trips, adapted to their interests and expertise.
The world premiere of the The Editors, the film, will take place tomorrow evening – April 20th at 8:00 pm, at Georgetown University's ICC Auditorium. The screening will be followed by a wrap party at Cafe St. Ex.
For more details and a map of how to get there, see The Editors on Facebook.
For more about Project Interchange, see the ISRAEL21c feature story on the organization.
Dutch Foreign Minister Boycotts Racism Conference
Dutch, following US, also announce boycott of UN racism conference
By MIKE CORDER Associated Press Writer
THE HAGUE, Netherlands April 19, 2009 (AP)
The Dutch foreign minister announced Sunday he is boycotting a U.N. anti-racism conference because some nations are using it as a platform to attack the West.
The Obama administration has also said it would not attend the meeting scheduled to start Monday in Geneva.
There are fears in the West that the meeting will be marred by heated debate over Israel that cast a shadow over the last such anti-racism conference eight years ago in the South African city of Durban, especially as Iran's hardline president -- who has called for Israel's destruction — is to attend.
Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said in a strongly worded statement that a proposed closing declaration for the April 20-25 meeting was "unacceptable."
In recent weeks, Dutch diplomats had worked feverishly behind the scenes to try to salvage a final statement that would be acceptable to all nations, proposing a number of alternative texts.
But Verhagen described negotiations over the declaration as "grim" and said Western nations were subjected to political attacks.
"The anti-racism conference is too important to abuse for political goals and attacks on the West," he said. "The Netherlands will not be a part of it."
Verhagen said some countries were planning to use the summit to put religion above human rights and rein in freedom of speech.
The U.S. pulled out of the conference "with regret" Saturday citing similar reasons, saying Israel could be singled out for criticism.
The U.S. and Israel walked out of the Durban meeting in 2001.
Verhagen said his boycott would in no way diminish Dutch commitments to fight all kinds of racism and discrimination around the world.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Last update - 12:55 19/04/2009
'Swiss leader's offer to meet Ahmadinejad wretched'
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
The Swiss president's offer to meet Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the "Durban 2" conference in Geneva is "wretched," Israel's former foreign minister told Army Radio on Sunday.
"This meeting that will take place compounds a crime with a sin," Silvan Shalom, who was recently appointed regional cooperation minister, told Army Radio. "The fact that Ahmadinejad is embraced by the Swiss president and others leads him to think that there is no reason to back down from his line of thinking."
Senior government officials on Saturday expressed anger toward Swiss President Hans Rudolf Merz over his scheduled meeting with Ahmadinejad in Geneva on Sunday.
President Hans Rudolf Merz intends to meet the Iranian president prior to the politically charged United Nations Durban II anti-racism conference, which is being boycotted by Israel other countries for its anti-Israel and anti-Zionist bias.
Deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon says a planned meeting between Switzerland's president and his Iranian counterpart is pathetic.
Ayalon says the meeting "caught us by surprise." He told Army Radio that Merz's meeting "hurts him and Switzerland more than anything else."
A high-ranking Jerusalem official noted that Israel is both indignant and astonished at the plan to hold the meeting, especially since the Swiss president is known to be a friend of Israel.
"There's no reason to hold such a high-profile meeting with a pathological Holocaust denier such as Ahmadinejad," the official said.
"It is offensive to shake the hand of the Iranian president who fouls his mouth with horrific displays of anti-Semitism, preaches for Israel's destruction, and hangs men, women and children in the streets of Iran's cities," the official added.
This is an important and positive step for peace, that would help to turn the Arab Peace initiative into a peace proposal rather than a piece of worthless paper. That's the good news. The bad news, is that they are just talking about it - it has not happened. And it is not enough, unless a very definite understanding of Arab conditions for peace comes with it. Nobody knows what a "Just solution" to the refugee problem might mean, for example. It is also spurious to assume that because Arabs made a nice gesture, Israel is obligated to drop its own just claims to East Jerusalem for example.
Apr. 19, 2009
HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPost correspondent, washington , THE JERUSALEM POST
King Abdullah of Jordan told Jewish leaders here Friday that Arab countries need to take steps to encourage Israel to advance final-status negotiations with the Palestinians, according to several participants in the closed-door meeting.
The participants said that Abdullah's comments were notable because, in contrast to several similar meetings with him in recent years, it was the first time he spoke about Arab responsibilities for moving the process forward beyond the confines of the Arab Peace Initiative, and suggested it indicated new possibilities for regional peace-making.
Several meeting attendees said that Abdullah staked out the concept of an "Arab deposit," or commitment of deliverables, echoing the formulation of the Rabin deposit - a reported pledge of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin that Israel would withdraw from the Golan if the Syrians met certain conditions - used to push forward the peace process with Damascus.
Jordanian sources, however, denied that Abdullah referred to a "deposit" or otherwise articulated such a position at what they stressed was an off-the-record meeting.
The Jordan Embassy press office issued a statement after the event saying simply that in meetings with Jewish, as well as Arab and Muslim American groups, the king had stressed the urgency of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution and that "the Arab Peace Initiative offers a significant opportunity to reach a comprehensive peace that will meet the legitimate rights of all parties and ensure normal relations for Israel with all its Arab neighbors."
Jewish leaders who participated in the conversation, however, said Abdullah also referred to Iran and the impetus it provides for working together to solve the regional discord.
"He thought that there was more common ground than ever existed before between Arabs and Israelis, given the common threat of Iran," said one of some 20 Jewish officials at the 45-minute meeting, who described Abdullah as more optimistic about prospects for progress than in other conversations.
The issue of Iran is expected to come up between Abdullah and US President Barack Obama in their meeting Tuesday, with the Jordanian leader making the argument that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis provides the key for weakening the potency of Iran and its proxies, Hamas and Hizbullah, on the Arab street by denying them a central argument for their approach.
Towards that end, Abdullah indicated he would like to see the US present its own plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, perhaps along the lines of the Clinton parameters for a two-state solution outlined by America during then-president Bill Clinton's term.
American sources, however, say that the new administration is still getting to know the key players and learn their positions, rather than developing an independent proposal.
While US officials see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a major issue whose resolution could help improve the overall situation in the Middle East, they rejected the premise that it was the central problem driving regional developments, including Iranian influence.
Still, the US sees Jordan as a crucial moderate ally in the Middle East and is welcoming Abdullah, the first Arab leader to be received by Obama, as a means of invigorating its efforts to spur Israeli-Palestinian peace.
US officials are increasingly referring to the Arab peace plan as an approach that could provide a way forward, and appreciate Abdullah's efforts to maintain support in the Arab world for the program.
The proposal offers Israel full normalization with Arab countries in return for a complete withdrawal from the lands captured in the Six Day War, including east Jerusalem, creation of a Palestinian state and a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees who wish to return to Israel.
This article can also be read at
Here is an interesting take (in Hebrew) on the significance of the canard of the Gaza massacres manufactured by Ofer Shelah and Amos Harel. To me, it leaves out some of the most important questions and problems, because the main issue of this story and the way it was presented is the damage that it did to Israel abroad.
Obviously, if the US wants to do business with Iran, it will have to accept the legitimacy of Islamic justice. This was a great gesture of peace to the Americans, since ordinarily Saberi would have been raped before being murdered, as is customary.
US 'Deeply Disappointed' as Iran Convicts Reporter
Iranian court sentences US journalist to 8 years for spying; Obama 'deeply disappointed'
By ALI AKBAR
The Associated Press
Iran convicted an American journalist of spying for the United States and sentenced her to eight years in prison, her lawyer said Saturday, complicating the Obama administration's efforts to break a 30-year-old diplomatic deadlock with Tehran.
The White House said President Barack Obama was "deeply disappointed" by the conviction, while the journalist's father told a radio station his daughter was tricked into making incriminating statements by officials who told her they would free her if she did.
It was the first time Iran has found an American journalist guilty of espionage — a crime that can carry the death penalty.
Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen, was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But earlier this month, an Iranian judge leveled a far more serious allegation, charging her with spying for the United States.
The Fargo, North Dakota native had been living in Iran for six years and had worked as a freelance reporter for several news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.
The journalist's Iranian-born father, Reza Saberi, told NPR that his daughter was convicted Wednesday, two days after she appeared before an Iranian court in an unusually swift one-day closed-door trial. The court waited until Saturday to announce its decision to the lawyers, he said.
Saberi's father is in Iran but was not allowed into the courtroom to see his daughter, who he described as "quite depressed." He said she denied the incriminating statements she made when she realized she had been tricked but "apparently in the case they didn't consider her denial."
Saberi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, told The Associated Press he would "definitely appeal the verdict."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States was working with Swiss diplomats in Iran to get details about the court's decision and to ensure Saberi's well-being. She said in a statement the United States will "vigorously raise our concerns" with the Iranian government.
The United States has called the charges against Saberi baseless, and the State Department said Thursday that Iran would gain U.S. good will if it "responded in a positive way" to the case.
Obama has said he wants to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program and other issues — a departure from the tough talk of the Bush administration.
Iran has been mostly lukewarm to the overtures, but Iran's hard-line president gave the clearest signal yet on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic was also willing to start a new relationship with Washington.
In a speech, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was preparing new proposals aimed at breaking an impasse with the West over its nuclear program.
But Iran's judiciary is dominated by hard-liners, who some analysts say are trying to derail efforts to improve U.S.-Iran relations.
The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran after its 1979 Islamic revolution and takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Relations deteriorated further under the former President George W. Bush, who labeled Iran as part of the so-called "Axis of Evil" along with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea.
Saberi's conviction comes about two months ahead of key presidential elections in June that are pitting hard-liners against reformists who support better relations with the United States. Ahmadinejad is seeking re-election, but the hard-liner's popularity has waned as Iran's economy struggles with high-inflation and unemployment.
Some conservative Iranian lawmakers played down Saberi's conviction, saying the verdict would not affect any ongoing efforts to build trust between the United States and Iran.
"Although there is a wall of mistrust between Iran and the United States, the judicial verdict won't affect possible future talks between the two countries. The verdict is based on evidence," said lawmaker Hosseini Sobhaninia.
Saberi's father disagreed, telling NPR, "I don't think they have any evidence and I haven't heard any evidence that they have made public."
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Iran for arresting journalists and suppressing freedom of speech. The government has arrested several Iranian-Americans in the past few years, citing alleged attempts to overthrow its Islamic government through what it calls a "soft revolution." But they were never put on trial and were eventually released from prison.
"The Saberi case is the latest example of how Iranian authorities arbitrarily use spying charges to arrest journalists and tighten the gag on free expression," said Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
Meanwhile, NPR said it was "deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence."
Iran has released few details about the charges against Saberi. Iranian officials initially said she had been arrested for working in the Islamic Republic without press credentials, and she had told her father in a phone conversation that she was arrested after buying a bottle of wine.
An Iranian investigative judge involved in the case later told state TV that Saberi was passing classified information to U.S. intelligence services.
Her parents, who traveled to Iran from their home in Fargo in a bid to help win their daughter's release, could not be reached by the AP for comment on Saturday.
Saberi's father has said his daughter, who was Miss North Dakota in 1997, had been working on a book about the culture and people of Iran, and hoped to finish it and return to the United States this year.
Associated Press Writer James MacPherson in Bismarck, North Dakota contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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