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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Obama: May is Jewish American Heritage Month

Reports of Obama being an enemy of the Jews (and a Muslim and a Communist) were apparently "greatly exaggerated" to say the least. But whenever the boss lays it on too thick, you can figure he's probably going to ask you to take a cut in pay or explain that it is too bad he no longer has work for you.
Last update - 13:18 13/05/2009    
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent 

U.S. president says Jewish American history 'demonstrates how America's diversity enriches us all.' 
U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared May Jewish American Heritage Month, saying that the "United States would not be the country we know without the achievements of Jewish Americans."
Obama called on all Americans to "commemorate the proud heritage of Jewish Americans with appropriate ceremonies and activities."
"Unyielding in the face of hardship and tenacious in following their dreams, Jewish Americans have surmounted the challenges that every immigrant group faces, and have made unparalleled contributions," Obama said. 
He added, "Jewish American leaders have been essential to all branches and levels of government. Still more Jewish Americans have made selfless sacrifices in our Armed Forces."
Obama said that Jewish American community has set an example for all Americans. "They have demonstrated that Americans can choose to maintain cultural traditions while honoring the principles and beliefs that bind them together as American," said Obama. "Jewish American history demonstrates how America's diversity enriches and strengthens us all."

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Another day, another boycott Israel call

Norway's largest labor union called on Saturday to boycott Israel until "the occupation of the Palestinian Territories is lifted."
The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, whose members constitute more than a third of the country's employees, said in a statement that "both Israel and the Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security, and as long as this is not achieved, the Israeli government is to be held accountable."
The organization urged Israel to put an end to the "illegal occupation," respect the 1967 borders, halt the expansion of the settlements and remove the security barrier.
"The UN should play a proactive role to this end, and if these efforts fail, the Norwegian government should pioneer an international campaign against the occupation," the statement further read.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Michael Oren: Seven Existential Threats and Ha'aretz falsification

An article in Commentary by Israel's new ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, discusses what he sees as Seven Existential Threats to Israel. These are: Loss of (East) Jerusalem, The Arab Demographic Threat, Nuclear Armed Iran, Delegitimation,  The Hemhorraging of Sovereignty, Terrorism, Corruption. Most of these require little explanation. The Hemhorraging of Sovereignty refers to this:

Israel does not assert its sovereignty over large sections of its territory and over major sectors of its population. In East Jerusalem, a few hundred yards from where Israeli building codes are strictly enforced in West Jerusalem, Arabs have illegally built hundreds of houses, many of them in historic areas, with impunity. The situation is even worse in the Negev and throughout much of the Galilee, where vast tracts of land have been seized by illegal construction and squatters. Taxes are erratically collected in these areas and the police maintain, at best, a symbolic presence.

Israel fails to apply its laws not only to segments of its Arab population but to significant parts of its Jewish community as well. Over 100 outposts have been established illegally in the West Bank, and Jewish settler violence perpetrated against Palestinian civilians and Israeli security forces is now regarded as a major threat by the IDF.

Israel also balks at enforcing many of its statutes in the burgeoning Haredi community. (According to a recent report, by the year 2012, Haredim will account for one-third of all the Jewish elementary school students in Israel.) Though it is difficult to generalize about Israeli Haredim, the community overwhelmingly avoids military service and eschews the symbols of the state.

A significant percentage of Knesset members, Arabs and Jews, do not recognize the validity of the state they serve. Some actively call for its dissolution. Israel is, quite simply, hemorrhaging sovereignty and so threatening its continued existence as a state.

It is certainly frustrating and inexplicable that Israeli laws do not seem to apply to Haredim, or special laws are made to exempt them from participating in the life of the country. The Tal law exempts them from military service. By terror and threats they have also forced segregation of buses on certain routes, so that women must ride in the back of the bus. While the fact that Arabs were allowed to squat wholesale in the Silwan area is inexplicable, it is now a fact, and reversing it will take a lot of doing.  

We may each have slightly different threat assessments, but overall one has to admire his reasoned approach. I am not sure that loss of (East) Jerusalem would be an existential threat. It would be bad. Israel existed for nineteen years without East Jerusalem. Jewish Jerusalem was always top-heavy with Haredim and problematic, but that is not necessarily an existential threat. Corruption, disunity and demoralization are worse threats than loss of real estate, and Oren is right to point out the need for a revival of Zionist values. 
Oren writes:
Israel, the Jewish State, is predicated on a decisive and stable Jewish majority of at least 70 percent. Any lower than that and Israel will have to decide between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. If it chooses democracy, then Israel as a Jewish state will cease to exist. If it remains officially Jewish, then the state will face an unprecedented level of international isolation, including sanctions, that might prove fatal.
His solution is to form two states. Without negating the two state solution, we must note that there is every likelihood that the Jewish majority will shrink to 70% in the future, depending on one's definition of Jewish. 21% of Israeli inhabitants are Arabs and an additional 4-5% are not Halachic Jews - admitted under the law of return because at least one of their grandparents was Jewish.
These are only relatively minor quibbles with an important and basically upbeat, "can do" essay. Oren concludes:

...  The most pressing need is for leadership. Indeed, all of these threats can be surmounted with courageous, clear-sighted, and morally sound leaders of the caliber of David Ben-Gurion.

Though remedies exist for all of the monumental threats facing Israel, contemplating them can nevertheless prove dispiriting. A historical context can, however, be helpful. Israel has always grappled with mortal dangers, many more daunting than those of today, and yet managed to prevail. In 1948, a population half of the size of that of Washington, D.C., with no economy and no allies, armed with little more than handguns, held off six Arab armies. It built an economy, tripled its population in ten years, and developed a vibrant democracy and Hebrew culture.

Nineteen years later, in June 1967, Israel was surrounded by a million Arab soldiers clamoring for its obliteration. Its economy was collapsing and its only ally, France, switched sides. There was no assistance from the United States and only hatred from the Soviet bloc countries, China, and even India.

And look at Israel today: a nation of 7 million with a robust economy, six of the world's leading universities, a pulsating youth culture, cutting-edge arts, and a military that, in its last two engagements, was able to mobilize more than 100 percent of its reserves. According to recent polls, Israelis are the second-most patriotic people in the world, after Americans, and the most willing to defend their country.

Israel in 2009 has treaties with Jordan and Egypt, excellent relations with Eastern Europe, China, and India, and a historic alliance with the United States. By virtually all criteria, Israel in 2009 is in an inestimably better position than at any other time in its 61 years of independence.

Though the severity of the threats jeopardizing Israel's existence must never be underestimated, neither should Israel's resilience and national will. That persistence reflects, at least in part, the success of the Jewish people to surmount similar dangers for well over 3,000 years. Together with Diaspora Jewry and millions of Israel supporters abroad, Israel can not only survive these perils but, as in the past, it can thrive.

I was therefore rather shocked to see this article by Akiva Eldar, which seems to have no relation to Oren's article whatever, and is headlined: New envoy to U.S.: Soon Jews won't want to live in Israel. Please read both of these articles, and decide for yourself if Oren says anywhere that Jews won't want to live in Israel or any of the other things that Eldar attributes to him.  Perhaps Ha'aretz will think better of this libelous headline and change it, but it would not change the article.
Ami Isseroff

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Egyptians uncover large munitions cache in Sinai

May. 15, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Egyptian security forces uncovered an immense munitions cache near the Israeli border, the London published newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Friday.
An Egyptian official assessed that the 266 rockets, 51 mortar shells, 21 grenades and 43 mines uncovered in northern Sinai were meant to be smuggled to Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip.
Last Monday, Egypt discovered a large quantity of ammunition intended for Hamas use near Ismaeliya, Sinai.
Egypt has recently intensified its security presence in the border town of Rafah, setting up checkpoints and dirt roadblocks to reign in smuggling into Gaza, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported at the beginning of the month.
About 500 policemen, including plainclothes officers, have been deployed in the city and on dirt tracks and side roads leading to the border, it said.
The increased security has led to heightened tension between smugglers and security officials, and in several incidents the former fired in the air when stopped by police.
Egypt is also doing its utmost to maintain stability between Israel and factions in the Gaza Strip in the wake of renewed attacks into Israel, an Egyptian official told the Post.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Andy Griffith goes to Washington?

Hooray for the hayseeds! Here's the sequel to that wonderful, juicy 'that Jew' remark by Kim Hendren, who is trying to Jew his way out of paying the political price for bigotry:
Hendren explained, "I don't use a teleprompter and occasionally I put my foot in my month."  At the meeting, Hendren addressed the comments that Sen. Schumer made shortly before last week's meeting.  Sen. Schumer, appearing on MSNBC's Rachael Maddow Show, said "The hard right, which still believes that when the Federal Government moves, we chop off its hands, still believes in the traditional values kind of arguments, in strong foreign policy, all that is over."  Hendren told me, "At the meeting I was attempting to explain that unlike Sen. Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on 'The Andy Griffith Show.'  I made the mistake of referring to Sen. Schumer as 'that Jew' and I should not have put it that way as this took away from what I was trying to say."  
A Jewel of a remark. Now if only the Nazis had  had teleprompters, it would have saved the world a lot of grief, right? If you don't have a teleprompter, you're allowed to be a bigot. That makes it OK, see?
As I rememember Andy Griffith, he didn't have a mean bone in his body, and he wouldn't ever have referred to anyone as "that Jew" or that "that X."  Traditional values in Arkansas include lynchings and things. It's American as apple pie and Governor Orval Faubus. Remember him?

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Muslim view: The Beleaguered Christians in Bethlehem - Whose fault?

Khaled Abu Toameh
Christian families have long been complaining of intimidation and land theft by Muslims, especially those working for the Palestinian Authority.
Many Christians in Bethlehem and the nearby [Christian] towns of Bet Sahour and Bet Jalla have repeatedly complained that Muslims have been seizing their lands either by force or through forged documents.
In recent years, not only has the number of Christians continued to dwindle, but Bethlehem and its surroundings also became hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters and members.
Moreover, several Christian women living in these areas have complained about verbal and sexual assaults by Muslim men.
Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay "protection" money to local Muslim gangs.
While it is true that the Palestinian Authority does not have an official policy of persecution against Christians, it is also true that this authority has not done enough to provide the Christian population with a sense of security and stability.
In addition, Christians continue to complain about discrimination when it comes to employment in the public sector. Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority 15 years ago, for example, not a single Christian was ever appointed to a senior security post. Although Bethlehem has a Christian mayor, the governor, who is more senior than him, remains a Muslim.
As a Muslim journalist, I am always disgusted and ashamed when I hear from Christians living in the West Bank and Jerusalem about the challenges, threats and assaults that many of them have long been facing.
The reason why I feel like this is because those behind the assaults and threats are almost always Muslims.
For decades, the delicate and complicated issue of relations between Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land was treated by Palestinians as a taboo. Most Palestinians chose to live in denial, ignoring the fact that relations between the Muslim majority and the tiny Christian minority [about 10%] have been witnessing a setback, particularly over the past 15 years.
On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land, a Christian merchant told me jokingly: "The next time a pope comes to visit the Holy Land, he will have to bring his own priest with him pray in a church because most Christians would have left by then."
Indeed, the number of Christians leaving Bethlehem and other towns and cities appears to be on the rise, according to representatives of the Christian community in Jerusalem.
Today, Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15% of the population. Five or six decades ago, the Christians living in the birthplace of Jesus made up more than 70% of the population.
True, Israel's security measures in the West Bank have made living conditions more difficult for all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike. But to say that these measures are the main and sole reason for the Christian exodus from the Holy Land is misleading.
If the security fence and the occupation were the main reason, the Palestinian territories should by have been empty of both Muslims and Christians. These measures, after all, do not distinguish between Christians and Muslims.
On the other hand, it is also incorrect to assume that the Christians are leaving only because they are afraid of their Muslim neighbors. Christians are leaving because of the poor economy, and because they no longer feel secure in their homes. But they are also leaving because most of them, if not all, find it easier to merge into Christian-dominated societies in the US, Canada, EU and Latin America, where many of them already have relatives and friends.
In fact, Christians began leaving the Holy Land long before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. But the number of those moving to the US and Canada has sharply increased ever since the Palestinian Authority took control over Bethlehem and other Palestinian villages and cities. When the second intifada erupted in September 2000, Christian leaders said they were "terrified" by the large number of Christians who were leaving the country.
Ironically, leaders of the Palestinian Christians are also to blame for the ongoing plight of their people because they refuse to see the reality as it is. And the reality is that many Christians feel insecure and intimidated because of what we Muslims are doing to them and not only because of the bad economy.
When they go on the record, these leaders always insist that Israel and the occupation are the only reason behind the plight of their constituents. They stubbornly refuse to admit that many Christians are being targeted by Muslims. By not talking openly about the problem, the Christian leaders are encouraging the perpetrators to continue their harassment and assaults against Christian families.
And then the day will really come when the pope, on his next visit to the Holy Land, will not find any Christian to welcome him.??

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Jewish business: Letting it all hang out

The Jew word in politics. And once it is out, the bigot can conly dig himself deeper into the mess, no matter what he does. After using the Jew word, Henren said:
"I ought not to have referred to it at all," Hendren told The Associated Press. "When I referred to him as Jewish, it wasn't because I don't like Jewish people."
Oh yeah? If Schumer was a Baptist would Hendren have called him "that Baptist" - just to make sure we knew which Baptist he meant? Not satisfied with that, Hendren said:
"I shouldn't have gotten into this Jewish business because it distracts from the issue," Hendren said.
That's right. There's nothing wrong with saying "that Jew" unless it distracts from the issue, that's why Hendren should not have said it. Bigotry is OK, but not when it gets in the way of a good argument. The  Jew  business is a separate business, and should be taken care of separately, right?
 Those who maintain the mythology of leftist anti-Semitism should take note: anti-Semitism is bi-partisan.
Ami Isseroff

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas said Thursday that he referred to Sen. Chuck Schumer's Jewish faith as he criticized the Democratic lawmaker from New York.
State Sen. Kim Hendren said he regretted referring to Schumer as Jewish when he criticized the senator during a recent appearance before a Republican group.
"I ought not to have referred to it at all," Hendren told The Associated Press. "When I referred to him as Jewish, it wasn't because I don't like Jewish people."
Hendren, who is the only announced candidate challenging Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, made the remarks before the Pulaski County Republican Committee last week. Jason Tolbert, a conservative blogger, quoted Hendren Thursday admitting that he referred to Schumer as "that Jew."
Hendren told the AP that he didn't remember if he referred to Schumer as "that Jew" but said he did refer to that fact that Schumer is Jewish. Hendren said he made the reference as he talked about comments the senior New York senator made criticizing some elements of the Republican Party.
"I shouldn't have gotten into this Jewish business because it distracts from the issue," Hendren said.
Officials with Schumer's office declined to immediately comment on Hendren's remarks.
Hendren, who once ran for governor as a Democrat against Bill Clinton in 1982, announced last month that he was running against Lincoln. Hendren is also the minority leader in the state Senate.
Lincoln is seeking a third term in the Senate.
Several Republicans have said they're also considering a run against Lincoln, including state Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway and former interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin.

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US tries to prevent flow of arms and terrorists from Syria to Iraq

U.S. targets al Qaeda in Iraq operative

Thu May 14, 2009 12:46pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday moved to block the assets of the head of a group it said had funneled money, weapons and terrorists from Syria to al Qaeda in Iraq.

The Treasury Department said it would freeze assets held by Abu Khalaf under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with him.

It said that as of January, Abu Khalaf was in charge of the Syria-based "foreign fighter facilitation network" formerly run by Abu Ghadiyah, another target of the U.S. Treasury.

"Previously, Abu Khalaf was reportedly second in charge of Islamic State of Iraq in Syria, a group formed by AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) that has claimed responsibility for mass kidnappings and a series of major attacks," Treasury said.

The United States has taken similar action against a number of other people it accuses of supporting militants in the region.

(Reporting by Corbett B. Daly; Editing by Vicki Allen)


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Doctored Gaza casualty claims accepted as 'proof' Israel committed war crimes

Palestinian NGOs have doctored Gaza casualty claims, and these fake statistics are widely quoted to back claims that Israel killed "civilians."

PCHR's Gaza casualty claims discredited (again)

An in-depth report by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzilya) has exposed the false casualty claims of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) regarding the Gaza fighting (January 2009). According to the report:

"by checking the names on the PCHR list against Hamas websites, we found that many of those claimed by PCHR to be ―civilians were in fact hailed as ―militant martyrs by Hamas. Others listed by PCHR as ―civilians killed in Israeli raids later turned out to be Fatah members killed by Hamas, some of them in ―execution style killings. While both PCHR and ICT consider civil policemen to be noncombatants, our researchers found that many of the civil policemen killed also held operational ranks in the Hamas ―military wing. In fact, due to the structure of the Hamas ―military, it was difficult to draw a clear dividing line between purely civilian police functions and activity in support of ―military operations."

Independent research by bloggers and Jonathan Dahoah Halevi confirm these findings, which follow criticism of PCHR from NGO Monitor and CAMERA.

PCHR claims that only 236 out of 1,417 fatalities were combatants (16.6%). The IDF figures contrast sharply with these numbers: 709 affiliated with terror organizations, 295 classified as "uninvolved [in hostilities]," and 162 not-yet-identified.

PCHR's "statistics" have been widely cited as authoritative by NGOs and the media.

Also, on April 29, 2009, PCHR "Call[ed] upon the PNA [Palestinian National Authority] to announce an immediate moratorium on the use of [the] death penalty," after a Palestinian court sentenced a defendant to death for "treason and selling Palestinian lands to Israel." While not commenting on the issue of the alleged "crimes," PCHR also condemned Palestinian penal codes that "violate[] international standards of fair trial and do[] not include fair and independent mechanisms of appeal."

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Netanyahu makes surprise trip to Jordan to meet Abdullah

Netanyahu makes surprise trip to Jordan to meet Abdullah

May. 14, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a surprise trip to Aqaba on Thursday for talks with King Abdullah II.

The brief visit to Jordan's capital comes ahead of the prime minister's trip to the US on Saturday night and his meeting with US President Barack Obama on Monday.

Abdullah, who met Obama last month, was the first regional leader to meet the new US president.

During a visit to Berlin earlier this month, Abdullah said Israel, Syria, Lebanon and other Arab nations should sit down together to try to resolve the Middle East conflict under a new "combined approach," which he said was currently under discussion with the US.

Speaking to NBC's "Meet the Press" at the end of April, Jordan's king urged Obama to take a more forceful role in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, warning of a new Mideast war if there is no significant progress in the next 18 months.

Abdullah has called on Netanyahu to support the Arab peace initiative, endorsed in 2002 by the 22 members of the Arab League, which calls for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders.

Netanyahu has been trying to forge cooperation with moderate Arab nations against the threat posed by Iran and its regional proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas.

On Monday, he met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm e-Sheikh and said Israel expected Egyptian "help in the struggle against extremists and terrorists who threaten peace." He also said he hoped for an immediate renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians.

Although Thursday's trip to Jordan was not formally publicized ahead of time, government sources said some two weeks ago that Netanyahu and Abdullah might meet prior to the former's trip to the US.

Meanwhile, before Netanyahu heads out to Washington, National Security Council head Uzi Arad, the prime minister's senior adviser Ron Dermer and Attorney Yitzhak Molcho, his personal go-between with the Obama administration, were set to fly to the US.

The three were expected to meet US National Security Council official Dan Shapiro to make preparations for Netanyahu's meeting with Obama.

Also Thursday, Israel Radio quoted a senior Jerusalem source as saying that Israel had assured the US that it was not planning any "surprises" on the Iranian issue by making any moves that weren't coordinated with Washington.

AP contributed to this report

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Obama to Netanyahu: Don't surprise me with Iran strike

----- Original Message -----
From: News-M
To: MewNews
Sent: Thursday, May 14, 2009 3:56 AM
Subject: Obama to Netanyahu: Don't surprise me with Iran strike

It is incredibly stupid of the USA to issue this warning, because it is telling the world that if Israel does strike, USA cannot claim, as they did in 1967 and after the destruction of the Iraqi reactor, that they had no prior knowledge. Whoever leaked this is not too bright either.
Last update - 03:11 14/05/2009       
Obama warns Netanyahu: Don't surprise me with Iran strike
By Aluf Benn
U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that Israel not surprise the U.S. with an Israeli military operation against Iran. The message was conveyed by a senior American official who met in Israel with Netanyahu, ministers and other senior officials. Earlier, Netanyahu's envoy visited Washington and met with National Security Adviser James Jones and with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and discussed the dialogue Obama has initiated with Tehran.
The message from the American envoy to the prime minister reveals U.S. concern that Israel could lose patience and act against Iran. It is important to the Americans that they not be caught off guard and find themselves facing facts on the ground at the last minute.
Obama did not wait for his White House meeting with Netanyahu, scheduled for next Monday, to deliver his message, but rather sent it ahead of time with his envoy.
It may be assumed that Obama is disturbed by the positions Netanyahu expressed before his election vis-a-vis Tehran - for example, Netanyahu's statement that "If elected I pledge that Iran will not attain nuclear arms, and that includes whatever is necessary for this statement to be carried out." After taking office, on Holocaust Memorial Day Netanyahu said: "We will not allow Holocaust-deniers to carry out another holocaust."
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak do not oppose American dialogue with Tehran, but they believe it should be conducted within a limited window of time, making it clear to Iran that if it does not stop its nuclear program, severe sanctions will be imposed and other alternatives will be considered.
The American concern that Israel will attack Iran came up as early as last year, while president George W. Bush was still in office. As first reported in Haaretz, former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Barak made a number of requests from Bush during the latter's visit to Jerusalem, which were interpreted as preparations for an aerial attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Following the Bush visit to Jerusalem, about a year ago the previous administration sent two senior envoys, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and the former U.S. national intelligence chief Mike McConnell to demand that Israel not attack Iran.
The previous administration also gave the message greater weight through Mullen's public statement that an Israeli attack on Iran would endanger the entire region. Since that statement, Mullen has met a number of times with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A real anti-Zionist argument

Enemies of Zionism - here is the real low down on what's wrong with those racist reactionary Zionists. Don't miss this. A must for every progressive anti-Zionist.

Click here if you cannot see the video below


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Egyptian fantasy: Starbucks must be boycotted because Starbucks logo shows Queen Esther!

The Starbucks coffeeshop logo shows a mermaid. This Egyptian cleric insists that Starbucks must be avoided by all good Muslims because its logo shows - Queen Esther! Expensive coffee is not my thing, but really this is absurd. This video, shown on Egyptian state television, is part of the peace dividend. Can Israel expect more such "dividends" as a result of the ongoing peace process? To get this propaganda, is it really a good idea to trade away territory? Is this what "normal" relations mean?
CLick here if you cannot see the video below

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Americans kill 95 children in Afghanistan

Afghan Official: 95 Kids Died in US-Taliban Clash
Afghan official: 95 children killed in battle between US forces, militants; US disputes number
Ninety-five Afghan children are among the 140 people said to have died in a recent U.S.-Taliban battle in western Afghanistan, according to a list drawn up by Afghan officials, a lawmaker said Wednesday. The U.S. military disputed the claim.
Afghans blame U.S. airstrikes for the deaths and destruction in the villages of Gerani and Ganjabad in Farah province.
Sixty-five of the reported victims on the list were female, either adults or children, said lawmaker Obaidullah Helali, a lawmaker from Farah and a member of the government's investigative team. If the Afghan toll is correct, it would be the largest case of civilian deaths since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban.
U.S. military spokesman Col. Greg Julian said "there is no physical proof that can substantiate" the Afghan list of victims. The U.S. has refused to release a number of people it thinks died in the May 4-5 clash in Farah's Bala Baluk district.
Julian said militants are to blame for the deaths because they kept villagers hostage during the fight.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also has said that women and children were among dozens of dead people its teams saw in the two villages, but it did not provide an overall figure.
President Hamid Karzai has said the strikes were "not acceptable" and estimated that 125 to 130 civilians died.
Afghan members of the delegation investigating the clash delivered condolence payments to victims' families Tuesday, Helali said. The payments — $2,000 for the dead and $1,000 for the wounded — were ordered by Karzai, he said.
Julian suggested that it is the condolence payments that might be one reason for villagers to report these high numbers.
"It's very difficult to determine an exact number and there's a climate that encourages exaggeration," Julian said.
Karzai has long pleaded with the U.S. to minimize civilian deaths during its operations. Past incidents have drawn immediate outcries from the government, which contends that such killings undermine support for the fight against the Taliban.
The disputed incident comes as the Obama administration is gearing up to roll out a new strategy for the region, which involves linking success in Afghanistan with security in neighboring Pakistan, where Taliban militants are active along the border.
The U.S. has also pledged long-term nonmilitary efforts here — for example, civilian expertise in farming and other specialties — along with an increase of 21,000 U.S. troops.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Palestinians and Israeli Jews to reach equal number by 2016, data shows

Last update - 12:36 13/05/2009       
Palestinians and Israeli Jews to reach equal number by 2016, data shows
By Haaretz Service
The Jewish and Arab populations in Israel and the Palestinian territories will reach an equal number by 2016, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
The data, which was published as part of a special study to mark 61 years since Israel's independence - or Naqba, as referred to by Palestinians - cites a growth of more than nine million self-identified Palestinians since 1948.
There were 1.4 million Palestinians recorded in the area in 1948, whereas by 2008 the number of self-identified Palestinians worldwide hit a census of 10.6 million.
According to the Bureau, 5.1 million of those who call themselves Palestinians reside in Israel or the Palestinian territories. Currently, there are 5.6 million Jews living in Israel.
Palestinian refugees worldwide comprise 44.3 percent of the self-identified population. Some 16.3 percent living in the West Bank, 23 percent in the Gaza Strip, 41.8 percent in Jordan, 9.9 percent in Syria and 9 percent in Lebanon. According to the data, one-third of Palestinian refugees live in camp enclaves.
The bureau's data relies on the fact that many Israeli Arabs also identify themselves as Palestinians.

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This is news to whom? "Hezbollah deputy chief: We actively support Hamas"

Last update - 11:05 13/05/2009       
Hezbollah deputy chief: We actively support Hamas
By Haaretz Service
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem said that the Lebanese militant group has been actively supporting Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"It is one of the secrets of the resistance that we don't talk about the details of our support, but suffice to say that we are giving them every type of support that could help the Palestinian resistance. Every type that is possible," Qassem said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Tuesday.
When asked whether Hezbollah was supplying arms or training to Hamas, the sheikh said, "We leave this to be seen in time to come."
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, last month admitted to having operatives working in Egypt, after Cairo arrested 49 members of a suspected Hezbollah cell. Hezbollah, however, denied that it was planning terror attacks on Egyptian soil.
"Egypt has now revealed that we have given military support to Palestine," Nassem told the Financial Times.
"We have done so for a while but we have not talked about it.... We are asked about our specific and limited support for Gaza while nobody questions the U.S. about their total and unflinching support for Israel. We are always questioned but nobody questions the U.S.," he said.

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Holocaust Survivors leader: Criticism of Pope exaggerated

Noah Frug has the right take on the pope in my opinion. The pope is entitled to his opinions. We must be his gracious host, even if his emissary tries to lie clumsily about the pope's past, and even if the pope has made some retrograde changes in Catholicism. Anti-Semitism is a fact. It is ingrained in European culture and it does not go away just by saying to people "Please stop being anti-Semitic."  We cannot use our position as sovereigns over the Christian holy places to extort concessions from the pope or to humiliate and embarras him.
This is a strange idea:
 I would expect the pope to declare that anti-Semitism is a sin; as a religious man he is supposed to condemn the phenomenon.

Is anti-Semitism a sin like homosexuality or using condoms, or is it a worse sin or what? How can anti-Semtiism be declared a sin in Catholicism, if the writings of the early Christians and the bulls and missives of the earlier popes are permeated with it? How can we expect them to negate their entire history in that way?   We cannot tell leaders of other religions what is a sin in their religion. That is their own decision.
Anti-Semitism must be fought subtly and wisely. We must never put ourselves in the position of begging favors from the pope, nor of insulting the office of the pope and antagonizing our Catholic brothers without any positive result.  The pope is not responsible for the Holocaust. The Catholic church is no more responsible for the Holocaust than than were the leaders of all the free nations, including the United States, who did nothing to stop it and gave no asylum to Jews seeking refuge. There are legitimate issues that may be raised regarding current Vatican policy. It is not appropriate to use a state visit as a public platform for addressing those issues.  

After pontiff's Yad Vashem speech slammed as 'devoid of any compassion', leader of Holocaust survivors group says 'he is not the president of a Zionist organization'
Yael Branovsky
Published:  05.12.09, 00:52 / Israel News
While Pope Benedict XVI's speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum drew the ire of the Holocaust memorial's chairman Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the head of the Consortium of Holocaust Survivors' Organizations in Israel said the criticism directed at the pontiff was exaggerated.

"(The pope) is not the president of a Zionist organization, so why should we have any complaints towards him?" Noah Frug said Monday night.
 "He came here to bring the Church and Judaism closer together, and we should consider his visit positive and important," Frug said.

However, other Holocaust survivors were less accepting of the pope's rhetoric. "He was looking for a way to avoid addressing the Holocaust," survivor Shmuel Rainish said. "It is difficult to boycott the leader of billions, but I would expect him at the very least to apologize for the wartime pope's (Pius XII) silence during the Holocaust."

Zeev Factor of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel said, "As a native of the county that carried out (the Holocaust), I would expect the pope to declare that anti-Semitism is a sin; as a religious man he is supposed to condemn the phenomenon.
"In any case it is good that he arrived (in Israel); this way we know what people have learned and what they've forgotten," he said.
Rabbi Lau criticized the pope's speech as being "devoid of any compassion, any regret, any pain over the horrible tragedy of the six million victims. Even the word 'six' was not included."

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Decline of Christians in the Middle East

The decline of Christianity in the Middle East is often attributed to the Israeli occupation, but the truth is that it pervades every country in the Middle East and has nothing to do with Israel. It has to do with economics, and with differential birthrates, and with people being scared, and justifiably so.
JERUSALEM — Christians used to be a vital force in the Middle East. They dominated Lebanon and filled top jobs in the Palestinian movement. In Egypt, they were wealthy beyond their number. In Iraq, they packed the universities and professions. Across the region, their orientation was a vital link to the West, a counterpoint to prevailing trends.
But as Pope Benedict XVI wends his way across the Holy Land this week, he is addressing a dwindling and threatened Christian population driven to emigration by political violence, lack of economic opportunity and the rise of radical Islam. A region that a century ago was 20 percent Christian is about 5 percent today and dropping.
Since it was here that Jesus walked and Christianity was born, the papal visit highlights a prospect many consider deeply troubling for the globe's largest faith, adhered to by a third of humanity — its most powerful and historic shrines could become museum relics with no connection to those who live among them.
"I fear the extinction of Christianity in Iraq and the Middle East," the Rev. Jean Benjamin Sleiman, the Catholic archbishop of Baghdad, said in a comment echoed across the region.
The pope, in a Mass on Tuesday at the foot of the Mount of Olives, addressed "the tragic reality" of the "departure of so many members of the Christian community in recent years."
He said: "While understandable reasons lead many, especially the young, to emigrate, this decision brings in its wake a great cultural and spiritual impoverishment to the city. Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: in the Holy Land there is room for everyone!"
On Sunday in Jordan the pope argued that Christians had a role here in reconciliation, that their very presence eased the strife, and that the decline of that presence could help to boost extremism. When the mix of beliefs and lifestyles goes down, orthodoxy rises, he said, as does uniformity of the cultural landscape in a region where tolerance is not an outstanding virtue.
A Syrian international aid worker said, "When other Arabs find out that I am Christian, many seem shocked to discover that you can be both an Arab and a Christian." The worker asked to remain anonymous so as not to bring attention to his faith.
The Middle East is now, of course, overwhelmingly Muslim. Except for Israel, with its six million Jews, there is no country where Islam does not prevail. This includes Lebanon, where Christians now amount to a quarter of the population, and the non-Arab countries of Iran and Turkey.
Local Christians are torn between sounding the alarm and staying mum, unsure whether attention will reduce the problem or aggravate it by driving out those who remain.
With Islam pushing aside nationalism as the central force behind the politics of identity, Christians who played important roles in various national struggles find themselves left out. And since Islamic culture, especially in its more fundamental stripes, often defines itself in contrast to the West, Christianity has in some places been relegated to an enemy — or least foreign — culture.
"Unless there is a turn toward secularism in the Arab world, I don't think there is a future for Christians here," said Sarkis Naoum, a Christian columnist for the Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar.
Just as some opponents of President Obama sought to defame him by claiming he was a Muslim, so in Turkey was President Abdullah Gul accused of having Christian origins. Mr. Gul won a court case last December against a member of Parliament who made the accusation.
A century ago there were millions of Christians in what is today Turkey; now there are 150,000. There is a house in Turkey where the Virgin Mary is believed to have spent her last days, yet the country's National Assembly and military have no Christian members or officers except temporary recruits doing mandatory service. Violence against Christians has risen.
Among Palestinians, Islam is also playing an unprecedented role in defining identity, especially in Gaza, ruled by Hamas. Benedict's arrival in Jerusalem on Monday prompted a radical member of the legislature in Gaza to call on Arab governments not to greet him because of his contentious remark in 2006 regarding the Prophet Muhammad.
The West Bank Palestinian leadership, more secular, tries to include Christians to ward off separatist sentiments and stop the population decline. It has been a losing battle. In 1948, Jerusalem was about one-fifth Christian. Today it is 2 percent.
Rafiq Husseini, the chief of staff of President Mahmoud Abbas's office, said of the exodus of Christians, "It is a very negative thing if it continues to happen. Our task, from the president downwards, is to keep the presence of the Christians alive and well."
In Bethlehem, where the Church of the Nativity marks where Jesus is said to have been born, Christians now make up barely a third of the population after centuries of being 80 percent of it. Emigration is the first option for anyone who has the opportunity, and there are large communities of Christian émigrés throughout the West to absorb them.
"Economy, economy, economy," said Fayez Khano, 63, a member of the Assyrian community, explaining the reasons for the continuing exodus while cutting olive-wood figurines in his family workshop on Manger Street. Mr. Khano's three adult children live in Dublin, and since business is slow he and his wife are about to go to Dublin for six months.
The story has been similar in Iraq. Of the 1.4 million Christians there at the time of the American invasion in 2003, nearly half have fled, according to American government reports and local Iraqi Christians.
Many left early in the war when they were attacked for working with the Americans, but the exodus gained speed when Christians became targets in Iraq's raging sectarian war. Churches were bombed, and priests as well as lay Christians were murdered. As recently as March 2008, an archbishop was kidnapped and killed outside the northern city of Mosul.
And in Egypt, where 10 percent of the country is Coptic Christian, the prevalent religious discourse has drifted from what was considered to be a moderate Egyptian Islam toward a far less tolerant Saudi-branded Islam, making Copts feel less comfortable in their own country.
In Saudi Arabia, churches are illegal. In the rest of the Persian Gulf region, Christians are foreign workers without the prospect of citizenship.
The decline of the Christian population and voice in the region is not only a source of concern for Christians, but for broadminded Muslims as well.
"Here in Lebanon, Muslims will often tell you Lebanon is no good without the Christians, and they mean it," said Kemal Salibi, a historian. "The mix of religions and cultures that makes this place so tolerant would disappear."
Reporting was contributed by Isabel Kershner from Bethlehem, Rachel Donadio with the pope, Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul, Robert F. Worth from Beirut, Lebanon, Mona el-Naggar from Cairo and Campbell Robertson from Baghdad.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mubarak: Arab peace initiative will not be amended

It could not be clearer:

Several diplomats have said that the Americans are asking Arab nations to drop demands for a right of return for Palestinian refugees and agree to either resettle them in the host countries or in the Palestinian territories.

Mubarak ruled out amending the initiative.

"Don't keep asking for an amendment. It will not be amended so long as you ask for it. All the countries are not approving the amendment," he said.

And President Mubarak also said:

Progress in peace negotiations must come before Arab recognition of Israel, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview with Israel TV broadcast late Tuesday.

So that there is no mistake - the Arabs will recognize Israel only if Israel "makes progress" to implementing right of return for Palestinian refugees. In other words, they will recognize Israel only if Israel agrees to commit suicide.
And Mubarak will also cooperate in HIS solution to the Iran problem:

Mubarak said in the interview that Egypt's views on the threat Iran poses are different from those of Israel.

He also said Egypt favors a Middle East without nuclear weapons, broadly hinting that he meant eliminating Israel's stockpile of nuclear bombs. Israel does not confirm or deny possessing nuclear weapons.

That means, that Israel must also give up the right to have nuclear weapons in order to "solve" the problem of Iran - that is the reward Israel will get for cooperating in this "peace initiative."
And yet somehow, Israel is singled out as the obstacle to peace.

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Fair Witness Questions Whether America Magazine is Biased Against the Jewish State


May 11, 2009

New York, New York

Contact: Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

(212) 870-2320

Fair Witness Questions Whether America Magazine is Biased Against the Jewish State

In light of America Magazine's on-going and consistently unfair coverage of the Arab/Israeli conflict, Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East asks if the editors of America harbor a bias against the Jewish state.

One need only look at the last few issues of America to document this apparent bias. While discussing Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land, editor Drew Christiansen laments Israel's "assault on Gaza" without reminding his readers of the eight years of almost non-stop Qassam bombing that preceded and precipitated Israel's invasion. ("Of Many Things," May 11, 2009). In this same article, Fr. Christiansen writes about "Israeli pressures on Palestinians" without putting these pressures (which do exist and which are very problematic) into the context of an on-going battle Israel faces with Palestinian terrorism.

In a May 18th editorial, America singles out Israel as the only country in the Middle East that presents a challenge to President Obama's foreign policy. ("Steering a New Course") Israel's "implicit threat to disarm Iran" is cited as a threat to peace without so much as mentioning that this "implicit threat" is in response to a very real and existential threat Israel faces -- a soon-to-be nuclear Iran's express promise to annihilate Israel.

A review of a book by the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem ("A Daring Vision," Ed Gaffney, May 18), cites the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 war without citing the analogous dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Jews during that war. The later dispossession of Palestinians during the 1967 war is discussed but the fact that Egypt, Syria and Jordan were the aggressors in the war and fought with the express goal of driving Israel into the sea is not. The review mentions the failed peace summit at Camp David but remains silent as to the fact that it was Yasser Arafat who rejected the Clinton Parameters, opting for years of suicide bombing over a two-state solution that would have given the Palestinians about 97% of the West Bank, all of Gaza and East Jerusalem for a capital.

Even Israeli educational policies provide ammunition for America's relentless assault; the magazine singles out Israel for its lack of teaching about Christianity, without any discussion about how well the Arab states do when it comes to teaching their schoolchildren about religions other than Islam. ("Signs of the Times," May 4, 2009).

"I just do not understand America's approach to the Jewish state," says Rev. Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis, pastor of San Rafael Parish, San Diego, California. "All of America's coverage of the state of Israel is negative. There is a constant skewing of history and reality, in a way that seems designed not to educate and inform, but to inflame passions against Israel."

According to Fr. James Loughran, S.A., Director, Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, "one can certainly criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic. But there is a point where this criticism crosses a line and can be explained no other way. Any chance to condemn Israel is seized upon and magnified by America, while any opportunity to explain Israel's position or discuss its unquestionable good points is ignored."

"In light of the long history of anti-Semitism within our Church," says Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College, NY, "unbalanced criticism of Israel represents an attitude that is dangerous and irresponsible and at some point has to be challenged."


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Report: U.S. blocking Israeli access to F-15SE and F-35 air dominance aircraft

This is a continuation of the sad theme discussed here: F-35: Should Israel develop an independent air superiority alternative?. If this report is correct, the State Department and the Pentagon are once again using US military aid to Israel to gain a stranglehold on Israeli security decisions as well as foreign policy. It is intolerable interference with national sovereignty, but as long as the US pays the bill and has a monopoly, Israel has no real choice. It underlines the urgent need for an Israeli alternative air craft that is not dependent on the Pentagon. It is irresponsible for Israel to continue to depend on the United States for vital air defence and deterrent capabilities. This is beyond political maneuvers and differences of opinions. It could really jeopardize Israeli defence.
The article is written by someone with little technical expertise. The point of the F-15SE and F-35 is that they are not just "fighter jets." The problem with keeping all the computer technology of the F-35 in the USA is not the long repair time, since in theory the US would provide spare computers. The problem is that they also could fail to provide such spares if Jim Jones or Rahm Emanuel doesn't like something Israel does, and by keeping a stranglehold on the flight control computer, the US prevents Israel from modifying the aircraft in almost anyway, since most modifications that matter would have to be controlled by that flight computer and taken into account by it.
If you care about  Israel please write to the President and other US officials and tell them not to play irresponsible political games with Israeli security.
Ami Isseroff
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has imposed obstacles on Israeli efforts to procure U.S.-origin fighter-jets.   

Administration sources said the White House has drafted measures that could prevent Israel and other non-NATO allies from procuring U.S. fighter-jets, including the F-35. They said the administration would require that Israel obtain special permission from the Defense Department and State Department to acquire the Joint Strike Fighter.
The administration has also been resisting Israeli requests for technical data on the new F-15SE fighter-jet.
Under the proposals, the Pentagon would order modifications of JSF to provide the aircraft with nuclear strike capabilities. The sources said such a capability would provide the Pentagon with access to government budgets to maintain and develop the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
"Once JSF obtains nuclear strike capability, there becomes a problem with exports," the source said. "NATO countries would have less of a problem; non-NATO countries would need special exemptions."

The sources said Lockheed Martin would not be instructed to develop both nuclear- and non-nuclear models of the F-35 for the first stage of production. Israel has sought to become among the first export clients of JSF.
Over the last few months, the administration has rejected a series of Israeli requests regarding modifications of the F-35. They included Israeli electronic warfare systems and acquisition of U.S. software codes that would allow Israel to repair the aircraft's central computer. The U.S. refusal meant that the Israel Air Force would be forced to send the F-35 to the United States for any repairs, a process that could take months.
The sources said the State Department has been delaying Israeli requests for pre-export licenses required for an examination of the new generation F-15.
The sources said the administration has not approved the new F-15 for the Foreign Military Sales program. They said this could prevent Israel from using U.S. military aid to purchase the aircraft from Boeing.
"This is a legal issue," a source said. "The F-15SE might not qualify for FMS."

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I bet you didn't know this exciting news, right?

Obama to push Israelis, Palestinians on peace

Tue May 12, 2009 12:01pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will urge Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian leaders to take the steps necessary to achieve peace in the Middle East when they visit Washington this month, the White House said on Tuesday.
The White House said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would visit on May 18, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on May 26 and President Mahmoud Abbas on May 28.
"With each of them, the president will discuss ways the United States can strengthen and deepen our partnerships, as well as the steps all parties should take to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab states," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Obama has pledged to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a high foreign policy priority for his administration and has dispatched former Senator George Mitchell as a special envoy to the region.
The Obama administration has also stepped up pressure on Israel's new government to accept the goal of a Palestinian state and halt expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land. Since coming to power in March, Netanyahu has balked at recognizing the goal of Palestinian statehood.
U.S. officials have so far declined to comment on a newspaper interview in which Jordan's King Abdullah, a recent visitor to the White House, said Obama was drawing up a new peace plan for the Middle East.
The Times of London said the peace initiative could form the centerpiece of his major address to the Muslim world in Egypt on June 4.
(Reporting by Ross Colvin; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Galloway sooz Jooz, Kenney

British MP George Galloway is suing Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and the heads of two major Jewish groups over remarks they made about him when he was barred from entering Canada in March.
Galloway was scheduled to appear on a speaking tour in Canada but the Canada Border Services Agency denied him entry. Kenney refused to override that decision, saying he would not give special treatment to someone who gave financial aid to Hamas.

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Syria Allied with al-Qaida Against the United States? Might that be a Problem?

Syria Allied with al-Qaida Against the United States? Might that be a Problem?

Barry Rubin
While the United States has been trying to engage Syria, the Syrian regime has been busily engaging Americans: in battle.

That's indirectly of course but it is all part of Damascus's never-ending battle against America.

What is spectacularly important—and should be a major crisis with energetic responses by the United States and European countries—is that the Syrians are smuggling al-Qaida terrorists into Iraq. This has been going on for years but when the Bush administration said so the media paid less attention. Now this is not only being confirmed by the Obama administration as happening but it's increasing.

Let me repeat this: al-Qaida, which is the Enemy Number One for the United States, remember those people responsible for September 11, is working closely with the Syrian government to murder Americans.

Sounds like a matter for high-level concern, doesn't it? 
More - Syria Allied with al-Qaida Against the United States? Might that be a Problem?

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'The pope was never in the Hitler Jugend'

Criticism at a festive and cordial occasion is never wise and will always lead to ugliness and unfortunate verbal incidents. It can always provoke equally ugly retorts. The Israeli statements were not always wise or diplomatic, and did not preserve the dignitas and proper comportment of a sovereign state as they should (see The Pope in Israel)  and those of the Vatican are equally insensitive.
 The Vatican spokesman states:
He said that the pope should not have to "repeat all the time in every speech all the points that are being made."
It is too bad that Lombardi does not like to hear uncomfortable things. With respect, it is necessary to repeat the lessons of Anti-Semitism because it is not a dead issue. Because within the Church there are those who deny that it is true, who worship "Martyrs" like  Andreas of Rinn and  Simon of Trent, and  who claim that the Inquisition was a myth. There is a Biship who denies the  Holocaust and a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, and there is more than one sainted pope who was a persecutor of the Jews.  When the Judensau is removed from all the churches in Europe, then perhaps it will be easier to forget. It is necessary because not long ago a certain Vatican official belied the entire history of forced conversions by declaring self-righteously that there is no compulsion in religion according to Catholicism. 
Membership in Hitler Jugend was not exactly voluntary as is clear from the memoirs of Gunther Grass, and in any case, a child is not responsible for his or her actions. The pope did chose to wear the uniform of the Catholic Church, however, and when he gives a talk at Yad Vashem, during a visit that will probably be unique, it is certainly the time to condemn the Nazi atrocities in no uncertain terms. Therefore Lombardi's attack should better have been an apology.  
But we could have done much better without all this pointless and tactless rancor on both sides.
Ami Isseroff  
'The pope was never in the Hitler Jugend… and he should not have to apologize for being forced to wear Wehrmacht uniform,' says Vatican spokesman in terse defense of Benedict XVI following tepid reception to much-anticipated speech at Yad Vashem
Ronen Medzini Published:  05.12.09, 15:28 / Israel News 

The course of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel has been decidedly less smooth than Catholic leaders might have hoped, perhaps prompting Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi's strongly-worded rejection of the criticism leveled at the Holy See following his speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Monday.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday at a special press conference in Jerusalem, Lombardi accused the pontiff's detractors of having ruled against the pope's address before it was even delivered. He added that the pope had already denounced the acts perpetrated by the Nazis, and had also mentioned the number of those killed at the reception held at Ben Gurion Airport upon his arrival on Monday.
A main point of contention with the pope's choice of words was his decision not to touch on the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Christianity. He also used language deemed too soft, opting for 'killed' rather than 'murdered,' and there was not mention of the number of Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis. There was also some expectation to hear the pope talk of the Holocaust as a German national who had, albeit briefly, been a member of the Wehrmacht.
Lombardi, however, said that the pope had spoken of his German heritage in previous addresses, including during his historic visit to Auschwitz. He said that the pope should not have to "repeat all the time in every speech all the points that are being made."
'He was never in the Hitler Jugend'

Lombardi also slammed what he called inaccuracies in the Israeli media's reports of the pope's biography, namely his service in the Hitler Youth.
"The pope was never in the Hitler Jugend, never never never," the Vatican spokesman said, later reiterating this point four more times during the press conference.
Lombardi insisted that members of Hitler Youth were volunteers, whereas the pope had been forced to join anti-aircraft troops near his hometown, which was subjected to Allied aerial raids. Lombardi said that pope had been studying theology at a seminar prior to his forced enlistment at the age of 16, and that towards the end of the war he was caught by American forces and abandoned the anti-aircraft auxiliary unit to return to his religious studies.
The pope did not choose to wear the uniform of the Wehrmacht, Lombardi said, and he should not have to apologize for what was forced upon him. Those who know the pope and who have read his biography know that he is not a militaristic man, the spokesman added.
Lombardi also criticized the behavior of Sheikh Taysir Tamimi at the interfaith conference at the Notre Dame church in east Jerusalem on Monday. "In a meeting dedicated to dialogue, this intervention was a direct negation of what a dialogue should be," he said in a written statement.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Ahmedinajad - Israel's Secret Weapon

The statement
"Meanwhile the world, distracted by expressions of outrage, amazement and admiration for Ahmadinezhad's mix of bravado and insanity, lost sight of the purpose behind the conference."
is misleading. The confeference,  which was supposed to be about racism, not about Israel and the Palestinians, was derailed from the start by its obsession with Israel. Ahmadinejad ruined the conference just by being invited. He is one of the major practitioners of racism and bigotry, against Jews, Christians, Bahai and Kurds.
How Ahmadinezhad helped Israel
  Rasool Nafisi

The Durban Review Conference held in Geneva in April was set to examine progress made toward the goals of the previous conference in 2001: to eliminate racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. Many expected the conference would condemn Israel's attack on Gazan civilians, but what transpired was indeed the opposite. The resolution passed in Geneva helped Israel's stance by commemorating the Holocaust. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad had a lot to do with this outcome, albeit inadvertently.

The conference was filled with a sense of premonition even before it was convened. Ahmadinezhad's presence had made participants uneasy. Anticipating the worst, the gentle UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summoned Ahmadinezhad before the conference started and censored the part of his speech about the Holocaust. Ahmadinezhad, however, was on the loose again and was going to try to own the conference. Struggling hard to demonstrate to the world that the emperor had no clothes, he attacked the West for being racist, with Israel, of course, at its pinnacle in this respect. EU representatives walked out in protest, and clowns threw tomatoes at him. The plucky president however didn't care. Representatives of the "oppressed nations" remained and applauded him, which is apparently what matters to him. Meanwhile the world, distracted by expressions of outrage, amazement and admiration for Ahmadinezhad's mix of bravado and insanity, lost sight of the purpose behind the conference.

The UN chief's statement summarized Ahmadinezhad's impact: "I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve." Most of the world, including Iran's staunch ally, Russia, found the speech deplorable and counterproductive. However, those who matter to Ahmadinezhad such as Hamas and Pakistani Muslim activists showed support.

Iranian television repeatedly aired footage of the applause by the third world delegates without a single reference to the walkouts or the clowns. Ahmadinezhad propagandists chose two different tactics to deal with the embarrassing event: painting the walkouts as a manifestation of the "intolerance" of western imperialists and portraying the event as a success of "epic scale". The mastermind of the strategy was most likely head of the Iranian National Security Council Saeed Jalili, who believes, based on the axiom attributed to the German strategist Carl von Clausewitz, that the best defense is offense. The method of propaganda designed to turn the truth on its head so unabashedly also might have been borrowed from a German political strategist who took the approach: the bigger the lie, the more the people will believe it.

Some Iranian journalists and political activists questioned Ahmadinezhad's speech. They felt Iran was humiliated by the event. A reporter asked Rahim-Moshaei, the president's trusted advisor, why he gave speeches that resulted in humiliation for Iran. "What a strange question," Rahim-Moshaei retorted. "There was a time when [we were so isolated] we were not even allowed to attend conferences. Now we walk in, and others walk out; do you call this our isolation?"

Some in Iran saw Ahmadinezhad's fierce attacks on the West and Israel as a calculated measure to help him win in the June 12 presidential elections. This may well be the case, if we assume Iranians are mesmerized by their president's reckless gallantry abroad. It is a fact that Ahmadinezhad has made foreign policy "successes" appear as his presidency's major achievement. It is absolutely necessary for him to look like a winner outside, as his economic and social policies inside have led to chaos and disappointment domestically.

The Geneva speech could also have been meant to rally the Arab street behind Iran by suggesting that Arab rulers were too cowardly to speak out against Israel. The more Arab governments rally against Iranian policies in the region, the more Ahmadinezhad relies on the Arab street.

We may also point to the president's pressing need to be constantly in the limelight. Yet his deep anti-Israel angst seems to reflect more than skin-deep political calculations and may require a psychological analysis. The environment where Ahmadinezhad grew up, meaning Iran under the Shah, was largely free of anti-Israel sentiments. The top leaders of the revolution, who had previously cut their teeth on the politics of Lebanon, brought home to Iran anti-Israel sentiments prevalent in Arab countries.

But Ahmadinezhad was too young at the time to be among them. So the question remains as to how he developed his anti-Israel fervor. There is no reference to such feelings or activities in his short autobiography. He grew up in a village near a small town in the desert. However, an accusation made by Mehdi Khaza'li, the progeny of the prominent Ayatollah Ahmad Khaza'li, may shed some light on Ahmadinezhad's psychosis.

Khaz'ali claims that Ahmadinezhad's real family name is "Saboorchian," a Jewish name that he changed to "Ahmadinezhad". Khazali, naming a few other prominent leaders of the Islamic Republic as new converts to Islam from Judaism, questions whether a Jewish cabal has crept in and taken over the revolutionary government! As outlandish as Khazali's claim seems to be, it has gone unchallenged. If there is any shred of truth in it, then we can see Ahmadinezhad's fierce anti-Israel sentiment under a different light. Could he be just another convert unsure of his newly acquired identity, resorting to extreme measures to prove himself? Could he be the watered down, modern equivalent of Tomas de Torquemada?

No matter what the motive, many Iranian analysts believe their president's uncontrollable rage and hatred expressed in public are helping rather than hurting Israel; the Durban II conference just provided another piece of evidence. These days, a saying attributed to an Israeli general is making the rounds among Iranians: "If Ahmadinezhad is not on the Israeli payroll, he should be."- Published 7/5/2009 ©

Rasool Nafisi teaches the sociology of development and Middle Eastern studies at Strayer University. He is a political consultant focusing on Iran. His latest work (coauthored) is "The Rise of Pasdaran" about the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Rand Corporation, 2009)

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Sheikh Tamimi attacks Israel at interfaith meeting with the pope

It is not exact to say that the Pope walked out, since he stayed to the end of Tamimi's diatribe and shook his hand. The Vatican disociated itself from Tamimi's hate speech however. Those who have delusions of impending peace should take note of the attitude of the representatives of the "moderate" Palestinian authority to the Jewish question.
Sheikh attacks Israel, pope walks out
May. 11, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, launched a poisonous verbal attack at Israel at a Monday night gathering attended by Pope Benedict XVI.
In a meeting with organizations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, Tamimi called upon Muslims and Christians to unite against what he said were the murderous Israelis.
Taking the podium after the pope without being on the original list of speakers scheduled for the evening, Tamimi accused Israel of murdering women and children in Gaza and making Palestinians refugees, and declared Jerusalem the eternal Palestinian capital.
Following the diatribe and before the meeting was officially over, the pope exited the premises. Army Radio reported that the pope shook Tamimi's hand before walking out.
Minutes after the embarrassing occurrence, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, released a response to the incident.
"The intervention of Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi was not previewed by the organizers of the interreligious meeting that took place at Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem," the message read. "In a meeting dedicated to dialogue, this intervention was a direct negation of what [it] should be," it continued.
"We hope that such an incident will not damage the mission of the Holy Father aiming at promoting peace and interreligious dialogue, as he has clearly affirmed in many occasions in this pilgrimage," Father Lombardi added.
"We hope also that interreligious dialogue in the holy land will not be damaged by this incident," the message concluded.
Last month, Tamimi reissued a warning to Palestinians against selling their homes or properties to Jews, saying those who violated the order would be accused of "high treason" - a charge that carries the death penalty.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Greeting the Pope in Israel

We must make facts by what we do, not by what we say. History cannot be erased by words, but it can be reversed by deeds. 

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel has provoked some reactions that are out of tune with the decorum of the occasion. It is easy to remember old slights, and harder to remember who we are today and who and what we represent.

My thoughts below have nothing to do with any religious views of the author, or any views of Pope Benedict as a person. They relate to Zionism, to the abilities of our people to transcend pettiness and live up to the demands of sovereignty, and to fulfill with honor and grace the sovereign duties of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, who are currently the secular guardians of many of the holy places of the Christian faith.  My thoughts below have nothing to do with any religious views of the author, or any views of Pope Benedict as a person. They relate to Zionism, to the abilities of our people to transcend pettiness and live up to the demands of sovereignty, and to fulfill with honor and grace the sovereign duties of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, who are currently the secular guardians of many of the holy places of the Christian faith.  Continued - The Pope in Israel

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestine Nakba

If you want to know the causes and history of the Palestine Nakba (disaster) of 1948, consider this.

Palestine Nakba: Letter to the children of the  Moukhtar of Colonia

 To all descendents of the Sheikh-Moukhtar of Colonia, the former Arab village near Jerusalem Salam Aleicum Va' Rkhamat Allah.

 I apologize for not sending you this letter to your address because of two simple reasons: One, I do not have your family name. Two, I do not have your addresses. Yet, I have decided to write this letter and place it on the Internet hoping that one of you or your friends will come upon it and will deliver it to you. 

            The urge to sit down at my desk, open my laptop and write this letter came to me during my evening walk, which as usual is up the western slope of Mount Herzl. During most evenings one can enjoy in these hours the beautiful sunset over the mountains of Jerusalem and the typical breeze, which adds to the charm of this special city. Reaching the top I sat to rest and looking to the west I could see the village of Motza. This reminded me that I forgot, last month to observe my second birthday. You may wonder what do I mean by my second birthday? Well, I was born twice in Jerusalem. The first time I was born on July 13, 1928 and the second time I was born again, with all my closest family, namely parents and elder brother, about a year later, on 24 August 1929, when I saved the lives of my entire family by getting the mumps. I got it just two days before my family was scheduled to travel and spend a long weekend at the home of my parents' friends, the family of the Makleffs, at the village of  Motza in the close vicinity of Jerusalem. Just then the enigmatic virus causing Parotitis epidemica decided it is time for the general attack. My mumps cancelled this vacation. We were invited by Mrs.Batia Chaya Makleff, Let Her Soul Rest in Peace, who was a friend of my mother's family, to come for a weekend to their place on the outskirts of the village, surrounded by a beautiful orchard. When my mother expressed her anxiety because of the rumors of riots by the Arabs of the neighboring Arab village of Colonia, Mrs. Makleff calmed her anxiety by saying: "They are our brothers, they come to me whenever they need any advice or need an injection. They call me their sister." As my parents and the Makleffs were observant Jews, the voyage was planned for Friday. I got the mumps on Thursday so we stayed at home.

Continued - Palestine Nakba: Letter to the children of the  Moukhtar of Colonia

Continued (Permanent Link)

President Peres Welcomes Pope Benedict XVI

Address by the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres,

On the Occasion of the Visit of Pope Benedict XVI

Your Holiness;

The State of Israel greets you today most warmly,

and welcomes you with an open heart. We, in the homeland of the Jewish people, are delighted to host you and your delegation on your journey to the Holy Land.

In keeping with the tradition of hospitality from the days of Abraham,

it is with deep appreciation that we welcome you.

We are attentive to your message and extend a carpet of friendship

as you travel our land.

We greet you with a common word in our language which conveys the essence of our dreams:

Your Holiness,

Pope Benedict the Sixteenth:



In you we see a promoter of peace;

a great spiritual leader;

a potent bearer of the message of peace to this land and to all others.

Our history serves witness as much to unity in devotion to the Almighty as to the consequences of earthly divisions.

Judaism is built on tolerance of other faiths.

In the words of Micah:

"For all people walk each in the name of his god.

And we will walk in the name of the LORD

our God Forever and ever". (Micah 4,5)

" כִּי, כָּל-הָעַמִּים, יֵלְכוּ, אִישׁ בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהָיו; וַאֲנַחְנוּ, נֵלֵךְ בְּשֵׁם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ--לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד".

Divisions are stubborn,

but the peoples of our region have tired of wars.

We shall leave the divisions to history,

And the new history we shall write in letters of faith and peace.

We have lost our most precious in battle.

We have found hope around the negotiating table.

Democracy was never interrupted by war and peace alike.

Our people experienced suffering.

We knew Holocaust.

Our state emerged out of the ashes of our innocent sisters and brothers who were exterminated in Hitler's gas chambers.

The smoke of the crematoria became a light that guided our lives.

Our home in Israel is a refuge of life for those who saw only death.

As descendents of the victims,

our hearts are sensitive to the suffering of others.

Your Holiness,

Spiritual leaders can pave the way for political leaders.

They can clear the mine-fields that obstruct the road to peace.

The spiritual leaders should reduce animosity. 

so that political leaders do not resort to destructive means.

Old divisions have aged and diminished.

So more than the need for another armored vehicle, we need a strong, inspiring spirit to instill both the conviction that peace is attainable,

and the burning desire to pursue it.

Ties of reconciliation and understanding are now being woven between the Holy See and the Jewish people.

We cherish this process and your leadership.

Our door is open to similar efforts with the Muslim world.

From the day we returned to our homeland after two thousand years of exile,

we have been committed to freedom of religion and worship for all in this land,

and enable everyone to commune with his God upon his choosing.

All of us: Jews, Christians, Muslims, all people of faith,

recognize, that, today's challenge is not the separation of religion and state,

but the uncompromising separation of religion from violence.

Our universal God commanded us not to kill and called upon us to sanctify human lives.

In the past, enmity was tremendous,

but the menace of bows and arrows was limited.

Nowadays, the danger of modern weapons is unlimited, and any expression of hostility, even if trivial,

can serve as a trigger for the destruction of peoples, nations and humanity as a whole.

Your Holiness,

This year, the year of your visit here,

may reveal an opportunity for us and our neighbors, to attain peace.

While many political clouds still darken the horizon;

and the voices of incitement obscure the sound of peace;

and much violence converged on the crossroads of our lives;

most peoples in this region yearn for peace.

Heeding their call, concerted efforts can yet turn this year into a historic one for the benefit of

All peoples.

All religions.

All children.

A year of regional peace, not just a local one.

From here, from Jerusalem, from this land on which the Prophets walked, I wish to offer a prayer:

That walls of hostility fall, that hatreds of the past disappear,

That a new history will bring a new dawn,

to permit the coming generations

to be born in peace,

to live in peace,

and to impart a legacy of  peace to their descendants.

That we be freed of threats and violence,

and that justice is secured for all peoples.

Security for every person.

This prayer, a prayer of man to God, shall reach its destination.

Each will deliver it in its own language, each prayer in good faith,

None censored. Unfettered.

We pray that every person will live in tranquility and freedom in his own home, with his family and children. Neither houses of slaves, nor houses of masters.

We shall pray together,

that mothers,

all mothers,

regardless of religion or nationality,

no longer know hardship or anxiety,

and raise infants who know not the taste of sin,

and children whose future will not be curtailed.

With you, Your Holiness, we shall pray,

that the Creator gives us the wisdom to be humble;

the call not to humiliate others;

The remembrance that every man is born in God's image.

And while we are different, the essence of equality is the equal right to be different.

Differences should never be addressed with waving swords.

To reinforce our commitment to restore The dignity of men;

The freshness of air;

The purity of water;

The fertility of land;

The hope of the young.

Your Holiness,

As you stand at the gates of Jerusalem the Eternal,

From this place, from the City of God,

our blessings shall escort you, with the wish that your prayers shall reach both the heavens and the ears of men.

May the beacons of history illuminate your steps on the soil of the Holy Land.

We welcome you in peace.

With your departure, may the legacy of peace prevail.

May your visit bring peace.


Continued (Permanent Link)

A de facto settlement freeze?

This is what is claimed - that Israel has been engaged in a de facto settlement freeze:
"Every year all over Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) there is a quiet expulsion of thousands of young couples who are forced to leave their communities due to a lack of housing and budget freezes that have continued for years courtesy of Israel's governments," said Danny Dayan, the head of the Yesha council of settlements.
Dayan and other municipal leaders convened a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday where they cited figures which they claim are the result of the government's freeze on settlement expansion.
Dayan argued that the news media and left-wing groups paint a false picture alleging that construction in settlements is continuing apace. In reality, the near complete freeze on building in the territories has pushed some 1,600 young couples - out of the 2,100 couples who marry each year in the West Bank - to live in communities far from their parents and the towns in which they grew up.
Dayan and settler leaders demanded that the Netanyahu government alter this policy, as the prime minister vowed he would do during his election campaign. They accused political officials of "littering Netanyahu's road to Washington with distorted facts that are completely contrary to the reality on the ground."
That's what it says - don't know if it is true.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

The strange thing about US policy in the Middle East: It worries both Arabs and Israelis

Those who think that only "right wing neocon ultranationalist Jew Zionists" like Avigdor Lieberman are worried about US policy in the Middle East need to think again. You don't have to be Jewish to be scared of US - Iranian rapprochement, as this article from Gulf News tells us. Pay attention to the last part:
Gates said in December that the US was not seeking "regime change" but "behavioural change" in Iran. This line was echoed last week by Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who stated that "we [Americans] are not for regime change [in Iran]. Our effort must be reciprocated by the other side. Just as we abandon calls for regime change in Tehran and recognise a legitimate Iranian role in the region, Iran's leaders must moderate their behaviour and that of their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas".
This is exactly what worries the Arabs in the region. What does Kerry mean when he bluntly says he "recognises a legitimate Iranian role in the region"? Why would Iran cave in and acquiesce, and be cooperative and accommodating, if the price was not right? The US has already given Iran the ultimate assurance - that there will be "no regime change".
The Americans have to put themselves in the Arabs' shoes and see their dilemma. The siege mentality that has set in does not emanate from speculations but from the situation that is unfolding before our eyes.
When the Americans deny something, it is likely to be true. So, should the Arabs in general and the Gulf states in particular be concerned by the ongoing open fist-close fist monologue, which could evolve into a productive dialogue when the interests of Washington and Tehran intersect? Or are concerns about the possibility of a 'grand bargain' between the US and the Iranians unfounded, as Gates and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contend?
If a US-Iran deal comes through, it will most likely be at our expense. If we do not wake up and get our act together, we will be in for a rude awakening. Then we will have only ourselves to blame.
Ami Isseroff
US-Iran relations worry Arabs
By Abdullah Al Shayji, Special to Gulf News
Published: May 10, 2009, 22:52

US officials have reassured Gulf and other Arab officials that America's opening up to Iran won't be at the expense of the Arabs because of the historical and strategic ties between the US and its Arab partners and allies in the region.
The latest assurance came from US Defence Secretary Robert Gates during his visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He downplayed the thawing of relations with and the cosying up to Tehran, which is keeping Arabs on edge. They fear another betrayal by the Americans if the Iranian price is right.
"There's probably some concern in the region that may draw on an exaggerated sense of what's possible. And I just think it's important to reassure our friends and allies in the region that while we're willing to reach out to the Iranians, as the president said, with an open hand, I think everybody in the administration, from the president on down, is pretty realistic and will be pretty tough-minded if we still encounter a closed fist," Gates said. He went on to lament Iran's "closed fist".
Gates highlighted the opening up to Iran "for the purpose of improving security throughout the region". In order to reassure those of us in the Arab world, Gates made it clear that "building diplomacy with Iran will not be at the expense of our long-term relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have been our partners and friends for decades". But these reassurances, ironically, seem to strengthen our sense of insecurity and confirm our fears about the prospect of a grand bargain between the two rivals if the price is right - and if the Israelis endorse it, after ensuring that Iran's nuclear programme is discussed.
This dialogue could be more direct and gather steam after the Iranian presidential elections on June 12. What is alarming for us in the region is the publication a few days ago of an intelligence report by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The report cites Iran's nuclear progress, and says faulty intelligence was responsible for underestimating Iran's progress towards designing a nuclear warhead before Tehran halted its programme in 2003. The report suggests that the US engagement with Iran must convince Tehran to halt its nuclear programme and accept tough international controls.
But what alarms the Arabs are the current geo-strategic realities, which Iran uses for its own advantage and employs to serve its interests and project its power. This is made possible as a result of US miscalculations and through Tehran's proxies in the region.
Iran realises that the US is seeking "responsible withdrawal from Iraq". Iran is following the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, and is alarmed at the re-emergence of the Taliban. Iran is worried at the situation in Pakistan as the US seeks to stabilise that nuclear state, which has become a major security challenge for the Obama administration.
The Obama administration is increasingly engaged in what Richard Hass calls the "war of choice" - that is, the war in Afghanistan, the major frontline in the 'war on terror'.
In addition to this, the Obama administration needs Iran to play a constructive role in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and to reign in its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza. All of these regional problems give Iran a strong card to play in its confrontation with the Americans.
Gates said in December that the US was not seeking "regime change" but "behavioural change" in Iran. This line was echoed last week by Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who stated that "we [Americans] are not for regime change [in Iran]. Our effort must be reciprocated by the other side. Just as we abandon calls for regime change in Tehran and recognise a legitimate Iranian role in the region, Iran's leaders must moderate their behaviour and that of their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas".
This is exactly what worries the Arabs in the region. What does Kerry mean when he bluntly says he "recognises a legitimate Iranian role in the region"? Why would Iran cave in and acquiesce, and be cooperative and accommodating, if the price was not right? The US has already given Iran the ultimate assurance - that there will be "no regime change".
The Americans have to put themselves in the Arabs' shoes and see their dilemma. The siege mentality that has set in does not emanate from speculations but from the situation that is unfolding before our eyes.
When the Americans deny something, it is likely to be true. So, should the Arabs in general and the Gulf states in particular be concerned by the ongoing open fist-close fist monologue, which could evolve into a productive dialogue when the interests of Washington and Tehran intersect? Or are concerns about the possibility of a 'grand bargain' between the US and the Iranians unfounded, as Gates and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contend?
If a US-Iran deal comes through, it will most likely be at our expense. If we do not wake up and get our act together, we will be in for a rude awakening. Then we will have only ourselves to blame.
Dr Abdullah Al Shayji is professor of international relations and head of the American Studies Unit at Kuwait University.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

US 'war criminals' use white phosphorus in Afghanistan?

This looks strangely like a replay of the accusations against Israel in Gaza. Is there something odd about a certain sort of munition or is there some elaborate fakery going on? Is Time Magazine going to be shrieking about this?
Concerns white phosphorus used in Afghan battle
By JASON STRAZIUSO and RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writers Jason Straziuso And Rahim Faiez, Associated Press Writers
KABUL – Doctors voiced concern over "unusual" burns on Afghan villagers wounded in an already controversial U.S.-Taliban battle, and the country's top human rights groups said Sunday it is investigating the possibility white phosphorus was used.
The American military denied using the incendiary in the battle in Farah province — which President Hamid Karzai has said killed 125 to 130 civilians — but left open the possibility that Taliban militants did. The U.S. says Taliban fighters have used white phosphorus, a spontaneously flammable material that leaves severe chemical burns on flesh, at least four times the last two years.
Using white phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is considered legitimate under international law, but rights groups say its use over populated areas can indiscriminately burn civilians and constitutes a war crime.
Afghan doctors told The Associated Press they have treated at least 14 patients with severe burns the doctors have never seen before. The villagers were wounded during last Monday's battle in Farah province.
Allegations that white phosphorus or another chemical may have been used threatens to deepen the controversy over what Afghan officials say could be the worst case of civilian deaths since the 2001 U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban regime.
In Kabul on Sunday, hundreds of people marched near Kabul University to protest the U.S. military's role in the deaths. Protesters carried signs denouncing the U.S. and chanted anti-American slogans.
The incident in Farah drew the condemnation of Karzai, who called for an end to airstrikes. The U.S. has said militants kept villagers captive in hopes they would die in the fighting, creating a civilian casualties controversy.
However, President Barack Obama's national security adviser said Sunday the United States would not end airstrikes. Retired Gen. James Jones refused to rule out any action because "we can't fight with one hand tied behind our back."
Along with Afghan and U.S. investigations into the battle, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has been looking into concerns that white phosphorus may have been used after strange burns were reported. Nader Nadery, a commissioner in the leading rights organization, said more investigation was needed.
"Our teams have met with patients," Nadery told AP. "They are investigating the cause of the injuries and the use of white phosphorus."
White phosphorus is a spontaneously flammable material that can cause painful chemical burns. It is used to mark targets, create smoke screens or as a weapon, and can be delivered by shells, flares or hand grenades, according to
Human rights groups denounce its use for the severe burns it causes, though it is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory.
The U.S. military used white phosphorus in the battle of Fallujah in Iraq in November 2004. Israel's military used it in January against Hamas targets in Gaza.
Col. Greg Julian, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said the U.S. did not use white phosphorus as a weapon in last week's battle. The U.S. does use white phosphorous to illuminate the night sky, he said.
Julian noted that military officials believe that Taliban militants have used white phosphorus at least four times in Afghanistan in the past two years. "I don't know if they (militants) had it out there or not, but it's not out of the question," he said.
A spokesman for the Taliban could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The U.S. military on Saturday said that Afghan doctors in Farah told American officials the injuries seen in wounded Afghans from two villages in the province's Bala Baluk district could have resulted from hand grenades or exploding propane tanks.
Dr. Mohammad Aref Jalali, the head of the burn unit at the Herat Regional Hospital in western Afghanistan who has treated five patients wounded in the battle, described the burns as "unusual."
"I think it's the result of a chemical used in a bomb, but I'm not sure what kind of chemical. But if it was a result of a burning house — from petrol or gas cylinders — that kind of burn would look different," he said.
Gul Ahmad Ayubi, the deputy head of Farah's health department, said the province's main hospital had received 14 patients after the battle, all with burn wounds. Five patients were sent to Herat.
"There has been other airstrikes in Farah in the past. We had injuries from those battles, but this is the first time we have seen such burns on the bodies. I'm not sure what kind of bomb it was," he said.
U.N. human rights investigators have also seen "extensive" burn wounds on victims and have raised questions about how the injuries were caused, said a U.N. official who asked not to be identified talking about internal deliberations. The U.N. has reached no conclusions about whether any chemical weapons may have been used, the official said.
Afghan officials say up to 147 people may have died in the battle in Farah, though the U.S. says that number is exaggerated.
The investigation into the Farah battle coincides with an appeal by Human Rights Watch for NATO forces to release results of an investigation into a March 14 incident in which an 8-year-old Afghan girl was burned by white phosphorus munitions in Kapisa province.
The New York-based group said Saturday that white phosphorus "causes horrendous burns and should not be used in civilian areas."
In the latest violence, a double suicide bomb attack killed seven people and wounded 20 in southern Afghanistan on Sunday. The majority of casualties were police and army units responding to the initial attack, said Dawood Ahmadi, the governor's spokesman.
A roadside bomb in eastern Nangarhar province killed eight construction workers traveling on a rural road on their way to build a checkpoint for the country's border police, an official said, while a truck driver and two assistants died in a roadside bomb blast in Zabul province while transporting goods to a U.S. base, police said.
Taliban militants have increased their attacks the last three years as the country's insurgency has turned increasingly bloody. President Barack Obama is sending 21,000 additional U.S. troops to the country to bolster the record 38,000 American forces already in the country.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran and Syria as terror supporting states and their reactions to the US report

Syria's reaction to the report came after the item below was published. According to Ha'aretz, the Syrian government daily tishreen states:
Syria's Tishrin newspaper said U.S. policies of isolation, blockades and sanctions adopted by the former U.S. administration have put the United States in an intractable impasse. It said Washington can reverse this path if it stepped up its role in promoting peace, security and stability in the Middle East.
The United States should get rid of foolish policies and replace them with openness, dialogue and discussions through transparent practices, the foremost of which is an open and final reversal of the policy of sanctions against states and peoples, the newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
Strangely, Tishreen did not mention when Syria and other Arab states would begin lifting the Arab boycott of Israel.
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) May 5, 2009
Iran and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism in the annual report
on terrorism issued by the US Department of State
1. Iran and Syria, two countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism by the US Department of State, have consistently pursued a long-term strategy of encouraging and inciting violence and terrorism against Israel ("resistance") by relying on Palestinian terrorist organizations (mostly Hamas) and the Lebanese Hezbollah. The purpose of that strategy is to strengthen the radical Iranian-Syrian axis in the Middle East, to weaken Israel by hitting its economy and social structure, to reinforce the radical Islamic forces in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, and other sites in the Middle East and worldwide, and to undermine the prospects of a US-sponsored Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
2. Iran and Syria tend to play down or even deny the military-operative nature of the assistance they provide to what the US Department of State has designated as terrorist organizations, portraying it as political, informational, or even humanitarian assistance. However, reliable intelligence information collected by Israel , the US , and other countries conclusively proves that those claims are false. The annual report on terrorism issued by the US Department of State, based on considerable information held by the US , conclusively proves that in 2008 there was no real change in the extent and nature of Iranian and Syrian support of terrorist organizations. For their part, the Iranians deny the findings of the report, claiming that it is the US which pursues a strategy of violence and terrorism, and that Iran itself is a "victim of terrorism".
3. The US Department of State's annual report on terrorism, published in April 2009, dedicates a separate chapter to state sponsors of terrorism. Iran and Syria, two major state sponsors of terrorism, feature prominently in Chapter 3, which deals with the two countries. The report indicates that Iran remained the most significant state sponsor of terrorism and that it has long employed terrorism to advance its key national security and foreign policy interests. The report further notes that Iran continues to rely primarily on its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps- Qods Force to clandestinely cultivate and support terrorist and Islamic militant groups abroad, including: Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, certain Iraqi Shi'a militant groups, and Islamic militants in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and elsewhere (pp. 10, 182-183). Also according to the report, Hamas and Hezbollah continued to finance their terrorist activities mostly through state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Syria (p. 120).
4. As indicated in the beginning of the chapter about Iran (pp. 182-183), " Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism". Iran's involvement in the planning and financial support of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy.
5. The report asserts that Iran remained a principal supporter of groups that are implacably opposed to the Middle East Peace Process . Iran provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). Iran's provision of training, weapons, and money to Hamas since the 2006 Palestinian elections has bolstered Hamas's ability to strike Israel. According to the report, in 2008, Iran provided more than $200 million in funding to Lebanese Hezbollah and trained over 3,000 Hezbollah fighters at camps in Iran (p. 183). Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Iran has assisted Hezbollah in rearming, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. 1
6. The report indicates that Iran 's Qods Force,2 the elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards, is the Iranian regime's main instrument of supporting terrorism outside of Iran . According to the report, the Qods Force provides assistance in arms, training, and funding to Hamas, other Palestinian terrorist organizations, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi militants, and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan .
7. Iranian authorities continued to provide lethal support, including weapons, training, funding, and guidance, to Iraqi militant groups that targeted Coalition and Iraqi forces and killed innocent Iraqi civilians. Iran's Qods Force continued to provide Iraqi militants with Iranian-produced advanced rockets, sniper rifles, automatic weapons, and mortars. In addition, Tehran was responsible for some of the lethality of anti-Coalition attacks by providing militants with the capability to assemble improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that were specially designed to defeat armored vehicles. 3 According to the report, The Qods Force, in concert with Lebanese Hezbollah, provided training both inside and outside of Iraq for Iraqi militants in the construction and use of sophisticated IED technology and other advanced weaponry. 4
8. As for Al-Qaeda, the report indicates that Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior Al-Qaeda members it has detained, and has refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran also continued to fail to control the activities of some Al-Qaeda members who fled to Iran following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (p. 183). 5
9. In some places, the report mentions the growing ties between Iran and Latin American countries (which, we believe, may potentially increase Iran 's terrorist activity in Latin America ). The report also mentions that the US is concerned about the activity of Hezbollah and Hamas supporters in the tri-border area between Argentina , Brazil , and Paraguay . Regarding Iran 's terrorist activity in South America , the report mentions the following:
a. Shipment of chemicals to Venezuela seized in Turkey : In November 2008, Turkish customs officials at the Port of Mersin seized a suspicious Iranian shipment bound for Venezuela which contained 22 shipping containers of barrels of nitrate and sulfite chemicals, commonly used for bombs, along with dismantled laboratory equipment. Customs officials detected the equipment during a search of 22 containers manifested as "tractor parts." They were being transshipped to Port of Mersin by trucks from Iran . In December, customs officials asked Turkish Atomic Energy Authority and military experts to examine the seized material. At year's end, disposition of the shipment remained undecided (p. 105).
b. The report also indicates that Iran and Venezuela continued weekly flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas (p. 180). Passengers on these flights were reportedly subject to only cursory immigration and customs controls in Caracas . Venezuelan citizenship, identity, and travel documents remained easy to obtain, making Venezuela a potentially attractive way station for terrorists. 6
10. The chapter on Syria (pp. 184-186) starts by saying that Syria was first designated in 1979 as a state sponsor of terrorism (meaning it is now thirty years since it was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the US Department of State). Syria has not been directly implicated in an act of terrorism since 1986, although it did continue to defend what it considered to be legitimate armed resistance by Palestinians and Hezbollah against Israeli occupation of Arab territory, and by the Iraqi opposition against the "occupation of Iraq ." The report also mentions (p. 185) Syria 's involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which is still being investigated by the UN. Syria assisted terrorist organizations by providing them with military, financial, political, and informational support, as detailed in the report.
11. The report asserts that Syria provided political and material support to Hezbollah and allowed Iran to use Syrian territory as a transit point for assistance to Hezbollah. Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), among others, based their external leadership within Syria 's borders. The Syrian government insisted these groups were confined to political and informational activities (a false claim often made by the Syrians), but groups with leaders in Syria have claimed responsibility for deadly anti-Israeli terrorist attacks. As for Hezbollah, the report further adds that, highlighting Syria 's ties to the world's most notorious terrorists, Hezbollah Operations Chief Imad Mughniyah, perished in a February 12 car bombing near Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) headquarters in the Damascus neighborhood of Kafr Sousa. The report mentions that Mughniyah was wanted in connection with the 1983 bombings of the Marine barracks and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut , which killed over 350. The Syrian government acknowledged that one of the world's most wanted terrorists had been present and died on Syrian soil.
12. The report asserts that President Bashar al-Asad continued to express public support for Palestinian terrorist groups. For example, Hamas Politburo head and de facto leader Khaled Mash'al and his deputies continued to reside in Syria . Syria provided a safe haven for Mash'al and security escorts for his motorcades. Mash'al's use of the Syrian Ministry of Information as the venue for press conferences this year could be taken as an endorsement of Hamas's message. Media reports indicated Hamas used Syrian soil to train its militant fighters, even though Syrian authorities claimed they attempted to prevent such activities. 7 The Syrian government allowed Palestinian conferences organized by Hamas, PIJ, and other terrorist organizations to take place in Syria .
13. The report states that throughout 2008, Syria continued to strengthen ties with fellow state sponsor of terrorism, Iran . Syria 's Minister of Defense visited Tehran in May and initiated a Memorandum of Understanding on defense cooperation. Syria also allowed leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups to visit Tehran (p. 185). The report further notes that Asad continued to be a staunch defender of Iran 's policies, including Iran 's "civil" nuclear ambitions.
Reactions to the report
14. The US Department of State's report on terrorism was severely criticized by Iranian spokesmen, who wondered that the new administration, which had talked about change, did not change its view of Iran and was continuing to make false accusations against it. Initial reactions follow:
a. Iran 's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, staying in Cuba for the Non-Aligned Movement conference, said that the United States ' accusations and the American "despicable" attitude were groundless. He further added that the US had no authority to accuse other countries of supporting terrorism while it followed a racist approach and continued its occupation, and that its doings in Guantanamo Prison were not to be forgotten (IRNA, May 1, 2009).
b. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi noted that Iran was itself a victim of terrorism and was always suffering from terrorism at the hands of the Mojahedin-e Khalq. 8 He said that 16,000 Iranians had been killed by that organization. He also added that Iran had always spearheaded the struggle against terrorism, unlike the US , which supported "the Zionist regime which is a symbol of government terrorism" (Fars News Agency, May 4, 2009).
15. In response to the US Department of State's report, Hezbollah issued an announcement saying that it was not at all surprised by the findings of the report and by its "old-new" allegations, which Hezbollah considers "a badge of honor". The announcement says that the Americans do not address the term of "resistance" or anything that has to do with that term (used by Hezbollah and terrorist organizations, that term legitimizes violence and terrorism). It further states that the US , which does nothing but "occupation and aggression", arrogantly brands peoples and governments "terrorists". The announcement argues that when the US administration speaks negatively about Hezbollah, it actually praises it, because "Hezbollah's value is not in its impressive technology but rather in its willingness and commitment to matters of justice, in the spirit of deep responsibility to fight the inequity and the aggression of the occupation" (Hezbollah's organ Al-Intiqad, May 1).
16. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah portrayed the report as part of a global US-led attack against Hezbollah, referring also to the semi-annual report issued by the UN Secretary-General. 9 According to Nasrallah, the purpose of the report is to portray Hezbollah as an organization involved in terrorism, drug trafficking, murder, forgery, and so forth. Nasrallah claims that such allegations are baseless, because Hezbollah represents "noble, real, pure and pristine resistance, which has perseverance, which fights the holy war [jihad], which is honest and loyal". He further notes that the problem with all the report writers is the respect and prestige commanded by Hezbollah, and the fact that the organization refuses to recognize Israel and the US regional hegemony. Nasrallah brought up the claim that if Hezbollah limited its activities to Lebanese internal affairs, even if those activities were violent, its name would be crossed off the list of terrorist organizations. According to Nasrallah, it is designated by the US as a terrorist organization because its goal is confronting Israel (Al-Manar, May 1).
17. The Syrian official media has yet to respond to the findings of the annual report issued by the US Department of State. An unofficial Syrian website published a response on behalf of an organization calling itself Syria 's Independent Committee, which proclaims itself a representative of all sectors of Syrian society. The website countered the US report with a report of its own, portraying the US as a state sponsor of terrorism. The reason for that, the report says, is that the US formerly supported Bin Laden and established the Al-Qaeda organization in Afghanistan, it supports "the Israeli terrorism", it occupied Iraq and committed a genocide there (all4syria, May 2).

1 Assisted by Iran and Syria , Hezbollah does not uphold Security Council Resolution 1701 and continues building up its military infrastructure in southern Lebanon . See our August 12, 2007 Information Bulletin: "One year since the acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the second Lebanon war: An interim report" .
2 See our April 2, 2007 Information Bulletin: "Using the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards as the main tool to export the revolution beyond the borders of Iran " .
3 One of the latest roadside IEDs developed using Iranian technological know-how is Shawaz 4, a shaped IED found in the possession of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Using high-energy explosives, those IEDs can reportedly penetrate over 200 mm of steel.
4 Iranian technological know-how on producing lethal IEDs (such as Shawaz) was also provided to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. See our January 12, 2009 Information Bulletin: "Iranian Support of Hamas" .
5 For more on Iran 's former "dual role" regarding Al-Qaeda, see our April 2003 Information Bulletin: "Iran as a State Sponsoring and Operating Terror" .
6 On the activity of Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards in Venezuela , see our April 19, 2009 Information Bulletin: "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" .
7 As at April 2008, 600 Hamas operatives trained in Syria . See our April 8, 2008 Information Bulletin: "Hamas's military buildup in the Gaza Strip" .
8 Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is a left-wing terrorist organization which operates in Iran since the 1960s. Since the 1980s, after Khomeini's revolution, the organization operates outside of Iran , mainly against the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is designated as a terrorist organization by many countries, including the US . It is also designated as a terrorist organization in the latest report on terrorism for 2008 (p. 283).
9 For more information on the UN Secretary-General's report about the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559 and Hezbollah's response, see our April 28, 2009 Information Bulletin : "Exposure of a Hezbollah network in Egypt: state of affairs, implications, and reactions in Egypt and in the Arab and Muslim world".

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arabic hackers trash Israeli Arabic information Web site

Hackers sabotage Arabic 'hasbara' site
May. 10, 2009
An Arab-language web site dedicated to presenting Western and Israeli news stories to the Arab world was hacked on Sunday morning, by a group signing off as 'Gaza lovers.'
The web site,, edited by former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Zvi Mazel, and maintained by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was reduced to a black screen featuring a photograph of an Arab militant brandishing a weapon. Visitors were unable to access any of the site, hacked by a group calling themselves 'The C-H-Team,' and were instead faced with an abusive paragraph in broken Hebrew referring to the site staff as "children of monkeys and pigs".
The hacking was discovered on Sunday morning by the web site team at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The internet provider was working to restore the site.
In the site's 18-month history, many small-scale attacks have taken place according to Mazel, but Sunday's incident was the worst. A few months ago, Mazel's team received 150 empty emails within seconds - an unsuccessful attempt to crash the web site. "I knew [sabotage] would happen," explained Mazel, "because I am aware of what happens in the Arab world, I have been following the Arab world in the last 40 years…"
Mazel could not confirm whether Sunday's incident was connected to the barrage of emails received previously, but he admitted it was a possibility: "They tried to do something in the last few months but they did not succeed. Now they put their most intelligent fellows on it. It might be the same people, I don't know."
The web site attracts 2000-3000 visitors every month, some of whom hail from Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the West Bank. Mazel emphasized he was surprised by the number of positive reactions to the site he has received. "Some of [the feedback] was negative… they say it's a Zionist site… but quite a number were positive and they told us that they think we can make peace, Israel has a right to exist and we can co-operate together," said Mazel.
Despite the attack, Mazel remained defiant: "We will continue… The principle is to tell Arabs what they cannot get from their own press. In the Arab press, they don't write everything about what's going on in the West and what the West think about them," said Mazel. "One of the aspects of confrontations between Israel and the Arab world is also on the level of ideas… [The hackers] don't accept criticism or other opinions… We live in a completely different society where everything is free, where self-criticism of the time [appears] in the press… There is a lot of fighting and terrorism, but we must try to [facilitate] dialogue and we are doing it. They don't want it and by hacking into such sites, they tell us 'whatever you say isn't interesting, you are the bad fellows and we are going to fight you.'"

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is there an Iraq talk deadline?

Several days ago, Jerusalem received a classified notice reporting on a meeting between a senior European official and the special U.S. envoy on Iran, Dennis Ross. The telegram stated that Ross said this autumn, probably October, was the target date for concluding the first round of talks.
If the telegram was classified, how come we are reading about it in a newspaper?
U.S. puts October deadline on Iran talks
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The United States has set October as its target for completing the first round of talks with Iran on its nuclear program, according to confidential reports sent to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday, during talks with his German counterpart, that Iran must not be allowed to continue stalling for time on its nuclear program.
Several days ago, Jerusalem received a classified notice reporting on a meeting between a senior European official and the special U.S. envoy on Iran, Dennis Ross. The telegram stated that Ross said this autumn, probably October, was the target date for concluding the first round of talks.
Ross said that unless the U.S. sees a change in Iran's position on its nuclear program, Washington's stance toward Tehran will stiffen at that time, the source explained.
Several days ago, Ross visited Egypt and several Persian Gulf countries for talks on Iran's nuclear program. Washington has not informed Israel of its plans. So far, Israel has heard about developments between the U.S. and Iran secondhand, via European sources.
A political source in Jerusalem said information received so far suggests that the Americans are interested in dialogue with Iran in the near future and plan to hold four to five months of talks. The U.S. will reevaluate the state of talks in the autumn, and will then decide how to proceed.
The United States is still waiting for an Iranian response to the Western offer for dialogue, which was sent to chief Iranian negotiator Said Jalili several weeks ago.
"At the pace the Iranians are moving, it is not at all clear whether by fall the dialogue will have begun," the source said. "If the Iranians continue being evasive, it may be necessary to change the dialogue strategy."
In June, a foreign ministers' conference is scheduled to take place in Italy regarding Afghanistan. The Iranians have been invited to participate, and if they do, the first meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki will probably take place there.
Presidential elections are also scheduled to take place in Iran in June, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is facing opposition from reformists and scathing criticism for his domestic policies, particularly on economic issues. If he loses the election, this may usher a change in Iranian attitudes regarding talks with the U.S.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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