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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ephraim Katzir, Former President of Israel and renowned scientist, dead at 93.

Ephraim Katchalski-Katzir was a gifted scientist and an Israeli patriot, who did honor to the office of president, contributed to Israeli and world science as well as to Israeli defence,  and enriched our lives. He believed that Israel must be a model society and that scientists should contribute to improvement of this "pilot project. In 2005, he summed up his vision thus: 

I have always thought of Israel as a pilot plant state in which dedicated people can explore all kinds of imaginative and creative possibilities aimed at improving society and the state. I feel certain that in the years to come we will continue to operate as a testing ground, drawing on the fruits of science and technology to determine the best and most satisfying ways of living in a country geared to the future. The highest standards of health care, educational practice, and cultural and recreational facilities will flow from research and development in the natural sciences, as well as in automation, computer science, information technology, communication, transportation, and biotechnology. I believe it is possible to create such a pilot plant state by encouraging the development of science-based high technology industry and agriculture. Once it gains momentum, this core of activity will contribute significantly to the economic growth and prosperity of the country. In this pilot plant state, I would like to see a free, pluralistic society, a democracy whose citizens live by the rule of law, and a welfare state in which public services are efficiently handled. Great emphasis will be laid on excellence in science and research, literature, and the arts, thus enriching the intellectual and cultural life of every citizen.

We Jews are eternal optimists. We have always believed, even in the depths of our despair, that the Messiah will come, even if he tarries a little. I am sure that ultimately we will create our model society geared for life in the twenty-first century and founded on the great moral and ethical tenets that we have held sacred since ancient times. (Katchalski-Katzir, E., Reflections , Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol. 280, No. 17, Issue of April 29, 2005, pp. 16540–16541).

His biography: Ephraim Katchalski-Katzir.
Ami Isseroff  
Last update - 22:41 30/05/2009    
Israel's fourth president Ephraim Katzir dies, aged 93
By The Associated Press

Ephraim Katzir, Israel's fourth president and an internationally recognized biophysicist died Saturday at his home in Rehovot, several weeks after his 93rd birthday.
Katzir's 1973-1978 tenure spanned two seminal events in Israeli history: The 1973 Yom Kippur War and the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977.
He left the presidency after one term to return to scientific research, declining a second term due to his wife's illness.
"Ephraim Katzir was devoted to the state of Israel in all that he did and was a scientific pioneer," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "He also contributed to Israel's security, and his integrity and modesty set an example."
Born in Kiev in 1916, Katzir immigrated at age 6 with his family to British-ruled Palestine and studied biology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, receiving his Ph.D. in 1941, according to his official biography on the Foreign Ministry Web site.
He served in the Haganah, the underground Jewish defense organization, where he helped to set up a military research and development unit that developed explosives, propellants and other munitions.
During the war that followed Israel's independence in 1948, he was appointed head of the military's science corps. He served as the Israeli military's chief scientist from 1966 to 1968, the Web site said.
Katzir was among the founders of Israel's renowned Weizmann Institute of Science and headed its biophysics department, where his work on synthetic protein models deepened understanding of the genetic code and immune responses.
Katzir was awarded the Israel Prize, the country's highest honor, in 1959 for his contribution to the natural sciences. He received the Japan Prize in 1985 for his work on immobilized enzymes used in oral antibiotics. In 1996, the former president was selected as the first Israeli to be invited to join the American Academy of Sciences.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Abbas is waiting for Obama to unseat Netanyahu

In the Washington Post, Jackson Deihl reports:
Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze -- if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. "It will take a couple of years," one official breezily predicted. Abbas rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession -- such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees.
Instead, he says, he will remain passive. "I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements," he said. "Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life." In the Obama administration, so far, it's easy being Palestinian.
Abbas's mistake is that if the Netanyahu government falls, the next government is likely to be even more right wing. Netanyahu may lead it, but its constituents may be the National Union Party and Yisrael Beitenu, without Labor.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Review - Benny Morris - One State Two States

I have to say that Benny Morris's book, One State, Two states, is certainly balanced. Generally Arab accounts of the Israeli-Arab conflict discuss only the refugees of the 1948 war, and do not discuss the war, which the Arabs started. Pro-Zionist accounts often discuss the war, but ignore the refugee issue entirely. Morris, as I wrote, is balanced. He manages to discuss neither the war nor the creation of the refugees. He avoids these events and many others, which may be why his book is so skimpy. The book is not without value. It reminds people of the ferocious opposition to a peaceful settlement and it exposes the fraudulent nature of One State solutions and the hopelessness of "binational state" and canton proposals. But Morris omits a great many events and facts that should be taken into account in discussing the conflict, how it was made, and how it could be unmade. Here's my full review: . Book Review: Benny Morris, One State, Two States.  

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Jewish Nakba

The Jewish Nakba
Expulsions, Massacres and Forced Conversions
By Ben-Dror Yemini
May 16, 2009

They say that she was stunningly beautiful. Sol (Suleika) Hatuel was 17 years old when she was beheaded. A Muslim friend claimed that she had succeeded in converting her. When Sol denied the claim, she was accused of renouncing Islam and was condemned to death. Her case reached the sultan.

In order to prevent her death, the community elders tried to persuade her to live as a Muslim. She refused and said, "I was born as a Jew, I will die as a Jew." Her fate was sealed. It happened in 1834. She was from Tangier and was executed in Fez. Many make pilgrimages to her grave. Despite the fact that the incident was immortalized in eyewitness testimony, in a famous painting and in a play, her story has been forgotten. The following article is dedicated to her and to the victims of the Jewish Nakba.


Every year on the 15th of May, the Palestinians − and many others around the world along with them − "celebrate" Nakba Day. For them, this is the day that marks the great catastrophe that befell them as result of the establishment of the State of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs became refugees. Some fled, some were deported. The Nakba grew to such enormous proportions that it is preventing a solution to the dispute.

We must remember that in the 1940s, population exchanges and deportations for the purpose of creating national states were the accepted norm. Tens of millions of people experienced it, but only the Palestinians (and they are not alone in this) have been inflating the myth of the Nakba.

However, there is another Nakba: the Jewish Nakba. During those same years, there was a long line of slaughters, pogroms, property confiscation of and deportations − against Jews in Islamic countries. This chapter of history has been left in the shadows. The Jewish Nakba was worse than the Palestinian Nakba. The only difference is that the Jews did not turn that Nakba into their founding ethos. To the contrary.

Like tens of millions of other refugees around the world, they preferred to heal the wound. Not to scratch it and not to open it and not to make it bleed even more. The Palestinians, in contrast, preferred bleeding to rehabilitation. And now they are also paying the price.

The industry of lies has intensified the myth of the Nakba and turned it into the ultimate crime. The Nakba has spawned innumerable publications and conferences, to the point of completely distorting the actual historical process. The Deir Yassin massacre has become one of the milestones in the Palestinian Nakba. There is no need to hide what occurred there (even though the issue of the massacre is in dispute). Innocent people were killed. There were a few other instances of behavior that should be exposed and condemned.


A long series of massacres was perpetrated against the Jews in Arab countries. They did not declare war on the countries in which they lived. They were loyal citizens. That did not help them. Their suffering was erased. Their story is never told. The Palestinian narrative has taken over history. There is no need for a Palestinian narrative versus a Zionist narrative. We need to shake off narratives in favor of the truth. And the truth is the number of Jews murdered was greater, their dispossession was greater, and their suffering greater...

A stunning testimonial from those years, which actually comes from the Arab side, sheds light on the issue. In 1936, Alawite notables sent a letter to the French Foreign Minister in which they expressed their concern for the future of the region. They also referred to the Jewish question: "The Jews brought civilization and peace to the Arab Muslims, and they dispersed gold and prosperity over Palestine without damage to anyone or taking anything by force. Despite this, the Muslims declared holy war against them and didn't hesitate to massacre their children and women … Thus, a black fate awaits the Jews in case the Mandates are cancelled and Muslim Syria united with Muslim Palestine". The interesting thing is that one of the letter's signatories was none other than the great grandfather of Bashar Al Assad, the president of Syria.

We must remember that Nakba Day is the date of the declaration of Israel's independence, May 15th. We must remember what happened just a few hours after that declaration. The Secretary of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzamaha, announced the declaration of war against Israel: "This war will be a war of annihilation and the story of the slaughter will be told like the campaigns of the Mongols and the Crusaders."

The Mufti, Haj Amin Al Husseini, who was close to Hitler during the Second World War, added his own bit: "I am declaring a holy war. My brother Muslims! Slaughter the Jews! Kill them all!" The mini-Holocaust of the Jews in Arab countries.

Various documents, some of them discovered only in recent years, show that the declaration of war was far broader. It was actually a declaration of war on the Jews.

Research that was conducted, among others, by Prof. Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice of Canada, shows that the Arab League formulated a bill that would place a series of sanctions on the Jews, including confiscation of property, bank accounts and more. The preamble to the bill states that "All Jews will be considered members of the Jewish minority in the State of Palestine." And if the fate of the Jews of Palestine was sealed, the fate of the Jews in Arab countries was clear.

The bill was indeed the background to the sanctions against the Jews in Arab countries − sometimes by way of legislation, as happened in Iraq and later in Egypt, and sometimes by taking those measures without the need for any legislation.

According to the industry of lies, the Jews in Arab countries lived peacefully in their environment, under the protection of the government, and it was only because of the Zionist movement and the harm done to the Arabs in Palestine that the Jews began to suffer.

This lie has been repeated innumerable times. Most of the Jews in Arab countries did not undergo the horrors of the Holocaust. But, even before the advent of Zionism, their situation was not any better. There were periods in which the Jews enjoyed relative peace under Muslim rule, but those periods were the exception. Throughout Jewish history in Muslim lands there were humiliations, expulsions, pogroms and a systematic deprivation of rights.


We can, of course, start with the conflict between Muhammad and the Jews. Muhammed undertook social reforms, bringing the Arabs out of the Jahaliya period, and borrowed the concept of monotheism - primarily, perhaps, from the Jews. Many motifs from the Jewish religion appear in the Koran, for example, circumcision and the prohibition on eating pork. But Muhammad wanted to convert the Jews, They, of course, refused. The result was a confrontation that ended in the expulsion and slaughter of hundreds.

The Jews, as the "People of the Book," were given the right to live under the protection of Islam and to practice their religion. From time to time, from generation to generation, the conditions underwent changes. In many cases, the Jews lived under the covenant of Khalif Omar.

This covenant enabled them to live as protected people ("Dhimmis"), albeit with inferior status. But many times, under Muslim rule, they were not even allowed a life of inferior status.


One of the proofs of the coexistence of Jews and Muslims is Jewish prosperity under Muslim rule in Spain and the Golden Age. The reality, however, was different.

It encompassed continued violence against the Jews. In 1011 in Cordoba, Spain, under Muslim rule, there were pogroms in which, according to various estimates, from hundreds to thousands were murdered. In 1066 in Granada, Yosef Hanagid was executed, along with between 4,000 and 6,000 other Jews. One of the worst periods of all began in 1148, when the Almohad dynasty came to power (al Muwahhidūn), and ruled Spain and North Africa during the 12th and 13th centuries.


Morocco was the Arab country that suffered from the worst series of massacres of Jews. In the 8th century whole communities were wiped out by Idris the First. In 1033, in the city of Fez, 6,000 Jews were murdered by a Muslim mob. The rise of the Almohad dynasty caused waves of mass murders. According to testimony from that time, 100,000 Jews were slaughtered in Fez and about 120,000 in Marrakesh (this testimony should be viewed with caution). In 1465, another massacre took place in Fez, which spread to other cities in Morocco.

There were pogroms in Tetuan in 1790 and 1792, in which children were murdered, women were raped and property was looted. Between 1864 and 1880, there were a series of pogroms against the Jews of Marrakesh, in which hundreds were slaughtered. In 1903, there were pogroms in two cities – Taza and Settat, in which over 40 Jews were killed.

In 1907, there was a pogrom in Casablanca in which 30 Jews were killed and many women were raped. In 1912, there was another massacre in Fez in which 60 Jews were killed and about 10,000 were left homeless. In 1948, another series of pogroms began against the Jews which led to the slaughter of 42 in the cities of Oujda and Jrada.


A series of massacres occurred in Algeria in 1805, 1815 and 1830. The situation of the Jews improved with the start of the French conquest in 1830, but that did not prevent anti-Jewish outbursts in the 1880s. The situation deteriorated again with the rise of the Vichy government. Even before 1934, the country was permeated by Nazi influences, which led to the slaughter of 25 Jews in the city of Constantine. When it achieved independence in 1962, laws were passed against citizenship for anyone who was not a Muslim and their property was effectively confiscated. Most of the Jews left, usually completely penniless, together with the French ("pieds noirs").


In 1785, hundreds of Libyan Jews were murdered by Burza Pasha. Under Nazi influence, harassment of the Jews intensified. Jewish property in Benghazi was plundered, thousands were sent to camps and about 500 Jews were killed. In 1945, at the end of World War II, a program against the Jews began and the number of murdered reached 140. The New York Times reported the horrible scenes of babies and old people who had been beaten to death. In the riots that broke out in 1948, the Jews were more prepared, so only 14 were killed. Following the Six Day War, riots broke out once again and 17 Jews were slaughtered.


A massacre occurred in Basra in 1776. The situation of the Iraqi Jews improved under British rule in 1917, but this improvement ended with Iraq's independence in 1932. German influences increased and reached a peak in 1941 in the pogrom known as Farhud, in which 182 Jews were slaughtered (according to historian Elie Kedourie, 600 people were actually murdered) and thousands of houses were pillaged.

Those were the days of Haj Amin al Husseini, who preached violence against the Jews. After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Iraqi parliament acted according to the Arab League bill and in 1950 and froze the assets of Jews. Sanctions were imposed on those who remained in Iraq. The Farhud massacre and the harassment from 1946 to 1949 to all intents and purposes turned the Iraqi Jews into exiles and refugees. The few thousand who remained in Iraq suffered from harsh edicts. In 1967, 14 Iraqis were sentenced to death on trumped up charges of espionage. Among them were 11 Jews. Radio Iraq invited the masses to the hanging festivities.


The first blood libel in a Muslim country occurred in Syria in 1840, and led to the kidnapping and torture of dozens of Jewish children, sometimes to the point of death, and a pogrom against the Jews. In 1986, the Syrian Minister of Defense, Mustafa Talas, published a book, "The Matzah of Zion," in which he claims that the Jews did, indeed, use the blood of a Christian monk to bake matzah. Same old anti-Semitism, new edition. Other pogroms occurred in Aleppo in 1850 and in 1875, in Damascus in 1848 and in 1890, in Beirut in 1862 and in 1874, and in Dir al Kamar there was another blood libel which also led to a pogrom in 1847. That year, there was a pogrom against the Jews of Jerusalem, which was the result of that blood libel. In 1945, the Jews of Aleppo suffered severe pogroms. 75 Jews were murdered and the community was destroyed. There was a resurgence of the violence in 1947, which turned most of the Syrian Jews into refugees. Those who remained there lived for many years as hostages.


There was a pogrom against the Jews of Mashhad in Iran in 1839. A mob was incited to attack Jews, and slaughtered almost 40. The rest were forced to convert. That is how the Marranos of Mashhad came into being. In 1910, there was a blood libel in Shiraz in which 30 Jews were murdered and all Jewish homes were pillaged.


There were fluctuations in relations in Yemen that ranged between tolerance and inferior subsistence, between harassment and pogroms. The Rambam's Letter to Yemen was sent following a letter he received from the leader of the Yemeni Jews, describing edicts of forced conversion issued against the Jews (1173). There were further waves of apostasy edicts which cannot be detailed here for lack of space.

One of the worst milestones was the Mawza exile. Three years after Imam Al Mahdi took power in 1676, he drove the Jews into one of the most arid districts of Yemen. According to various accounts, 60 - 75% of the Jews died as a result of the exile. Many and varied edicts were imposed on the Jews, differing only in severity. One of the harshest was the Orphans' Edict, which ordered the forced conversion of orphaned children to Islam. In nearby Aden, which was under British rule, pogroms occurred in 1947 which took the lives of 82 Jews. 106 of the 170 shops that were owned by Jews were completely destroyed. Hundreds of houses and all the community's buildings were burned down.


As in the other Arab countries, the Jews of Egypt also suffered inferior status for hundreds of years. A significant improvement occurred when Muhammad Ali came to power in 1805. The testimony of French diplomat, Edmond Combes, leaves nothing in doubt: "To the Muslims, no race is more worthy of contempt than the Jewish race." Another diplomat added, "The Muslims do not hate any other religion the way they hate that of the Jews."

Following the blood libel in Damascus, similar libels began to spread in Egypt as well and incited mobs to carry out a series of attacks: in Cairo in 1844, 1890, and in 1901-1902; and Alexandria in 1870, 1882 and in 1901-1907. Similar attacks also occurred in Port Said and in Damanhur.

Later on, there were riots against the Jews at the end of World War II, in 1945, in which 10 were killed and hundreds were injured. In 1947, the Companies Law was passed, which severely damaged Jewish businesses and led to the confiscation of property. In 1948, following the UN resolution on partition, riots began in Cairo and Alexandria. The dead numbered between 80 and 180. Tens of thousands were forced to leave, many fleeing and abandoning their property. The lot of those who remained did not improve. In 1956, a law was passed in Egypt which effectively denied the Jews citizenship, forcing them to leave the country with no property. This was an act of pure expulsion and mass property confiscation.


The above is just a partial list out of a long series of massacres in Muslim countries. It happened before the Zionist endeavor. It continued with the Zionist endeavor. We are talking about a succession of events. Tens of thousands were murdered simply because they were Jewish. So the fairytale of coexistence and blaming Zionism for undermining that coexistence is yet another completely baseless myth.

Before the UN vote on partition in November 1947, Egypt's ambassador to the UN, Heykal Pasha, warned that "The lives of a million Jews in Muslim countries will be in danger if the vote is for partition… if Arab blood is spilled in Palestine, Jewish blood will be spilled elsewhere in the world."

Four days afterwards, the Iraqi foreign minister, Muhammad Fadil al Jamali said that "We will not be able to restrain the masses in the Arab countries, after the harmony in which Jews and Arabs lived together." There was no harmony. There had been a massacre of Jews just a few years earlier. El Jamali lied, of course. The very same Iraqi government had encouraged the harassment of Jews and issued orders to confiscate all Jewish property.

Additionally, the Iraqi leader of the time, Nuri Said, had already presented a plan for expelling the Jews in 1949, even before the hasty − actually forced − exit of the Jews from Iraq. He also explained that "The Jews are a source of trouble in Iraq. They have no place among us. We must get rid of them as best we were able." Said even presented a plan to lead the Jews via Jordan in order to coerce them into passage to Israel. Jordan objected, but the expulsion was implemented anyway. Said even admitted that this entailed a type of population exchange.

So the massacres, the pogroms and the great expulsion of the Jews was a continuation of their suffering under Muslim rule. There have always been Muslims who came out in defense of the Jews. They are also worthy of mention. That were also periods of prosperity, but it appears that most of the Jewish prosperity, as in Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s, in Algeria in the 19th and 20th centuries, in Iraq in the 1920s − was under colonial rule. In most cases, the situation of the Jews was bad before the European invasion and worsened once again with the end of the colonial era.

* * *

Throughout the relations between Jews and Arabs, in Arab countries or in the course of the Zionist enterprise, there was not one case of a pogrom against Muslims of the type committed by the Arabs against the Jews. Even in the worst cases, which must be condemned, such as Deir Yassin, they occurred as part of a military confrontation.

Those are cases that should be condemned, but we need to put things in perspective. The Arabs slaughtered the Jews without any hostilities and without any military excuse, just because they were Jews. And those few Arabs who were killed, were killed as part of a military campaign. Despite this, any injury inflicted on the Arab population resulted in innumerable investigations and references. The worst abuse of all, the abuse of Jews by Arabs, was erased and forgotten.

Let's return to Deir Yassin, the ultimate symbol of the Nakba. We have called it an indecent act and we will repeat that. But we must note that it was preceded by a series of murderous terrorist attacks against the civilian population. Waves of incidents, which to all intents and purposes were actual pogroms, by an incited mob that attacked the civilian population. Thousands of Jews were slaughtered – women, children and the elderly. The Palestinians even murdered their own people. In the great Arab Revolt in the 1930s, 400 Jews and 5,000 Arabs were killed, most of them at the hands of their brethren.

The months before Deir Yassin were the worst of all. 39 workers were murdered at the Haifa refineries, 50 Jews were killed by car bombs in Jerusalem, and on and on. In total, in the four months between the vote on partition and the declaration of establishment of the State of Israel, 815 Jews were murdered, most of them before the Deir Yassin incident (on April 9, 1948), some afterwards (the slaughter of the Hadassah hospital convoy: 79 killed, April 13, 1948). Most were civilians. Most died in massacres and terrorist attacks. And that is the real background. Far more murdered Jews. But they have all been forgotten. They should be mentioned. That is the Jewish Nakba, whose victims, in Israel and around the world, are mentioned less and less.

The Palestinians paid the price: Close to a million Jews lived in Arab countries at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel. Just a few live there today. Most left because they suffered from pogroms and the threat to their lives. It was a crueler expulsion than the one suffered by the Arabs of Palestine, who paid the price for the declarations of war and annihilation made by their leaders. Even the Jewish property that was confiscated or abandoned as a result of the expulsion is more valuable than the Arab property that remained in Israel.

Various investigators have tried to estimate the value of the confiscated Jewish property following the forced departure of the Jews from Arab countries, compared with the Arab property left in Israel following the forced departure of the Arabs. Economist Sidney Zabludoff, an international expert in the field, estimates that the value of the Arab property is $3.9 billion, compared with the value of the Jewish property which is $6 billion (at 2007 values).

So even in this area, the Palestinians' claims are refuted. They dragged the Arab countries into war. They paid the price. And they are the ones who caused the Jews to pay an even higher price. Both in property and in blood.

This article is not intended to cultivate the Jewish Nakba, and it by no means includes all the cases of pogroms, property confiscations, forced conversions and other harassment. The purpose is precisely the opposite. When they understand, in the Arab world in general, and the Palestinians in particular, that suffering, expulsion, loss of property, the cost in lives, is not the monopoly of one side, they may, perhaps, have the sense to understand that this past is a matter for history lessons. Because if we start to perform a political accounting, they have an overdraft. The Jewish Nakba was far greater. The suffering was enormous. But it is the suffering of many nations, Jews and Arabs among them, who went through the experience as part of the creation of new nation states.

It is therefore worth presenting the story of the Jewish Nakba. Not for the purpose of increasing the hostility, but for the purpose of presenting the truth, and for the purpose of reconciliation between the nations. Inshallah.

Continued (Permanent Link)

From Fair Witness: Review of Naim Ateek’s “A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation”

Justice, Peace and Education in Rev. Naim Ateek's "A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation"

In his most recent book, "A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation,"  Rev. Naim Ateek  claims to be about the "struggle for justice and peace" between Israelis and Palestinians and that he merely seeks to "educate."  But almost every sentence in his book indicates otherwise.

Justice is not served by hurling false accusations at Jews and Israelis

           "even before the establishment of the state of Israel, Zionists were using violence and terrorism unashamedly to achieve their goals."  (p. 41)

           "This belief that Palestinians are worth less than Jews, hidden in the hearts of some Zionists, began to be put into practice over time.  It has been a slow and creeping genocide."  (p. 47)

Justice is not served by accusing a people of being immoral because of their desire for nationhood and threatening that Jewish statehood will lead to world-wide disaster

            "Silence about the immoral core of Israeli statehood makes us all complicit in breeding the terrorism that threatens a catastrophe which would tear the world apart."  (p. 45)

Peace is not achieved by likening suicide bombers to biblical heroes

           "Read in the light of the suicide bombers of this century, the story [of Samson in the Bible] poses a  barrage of question. Was Samson a suicide bomber? Was he acting on behalf of the God of justice who wills the liberation of the oppressed?  Was God pleased with the deaths of thousands of men and women of the Philistines? Are we confronted with similar stories today in the experience of suicide bombers? Is it legitimate to tell the story of Samson by substituting Ahmad for his name? Can it be said that the God of justice is active in working out the liberation of the oppressed Palestinians through the likes of Ahmad?" (p. 123)

Justice is not achieved by being blatantly dishonest about the peace process


           Rev. Ateek claims that since 1988 the Palestinians "have officially extended their hands, expressing their eagerness to make peace with Israel, yet Israel has spurned these offers." (p. 153).   Yet, he must know that the peace process ultimately failed in 2000  after Israel accepted the offer of a two-state solution under the Clinton Parameters while Chairman Yasser Arafat refused the offer, choosing instead to pursue a bloody course of suicide bombing against Israel.

Peace is not achieved by insulting another religious tradition

           Rev. Ateek wonders if "Jews today understand the  . . . [Book of Jonah]. . ." (p. 75)

           And he implies that Judaism is nothing more than "an antiquated tribal theology that still insists on a special Jewish god, on the privileges of a special people of God . . ." (p. 76)

Rev. Ateek is not educating when he grossly distorts biblical and modern history and misrepresents facts

           Rev. Ateek must know that Jesus Christ was Jewish, not Palestinian, and lived in Israel years before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and renamed the area "Palastina" and probably a few centuries before any Arabs arrived in the region.  Yet in an apparent attempt to wipe out the Jewish connection to Israel and deny the Jewish roots of Christianity, Rev. Ateek brazenly distorts biblical history by writing "Palestinian liberation theology focuses on the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, who was also a Palestinian living under an occupation."  (p. 11)

More here: Justice, Peace and Education in Rev. Naim Ateek's "A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation"

Continued (Permanent Link)

West Bank: Your taxes at work, building schools named after terrorists

If U.S. Government Ignores Palestinian Incitement to Violence There's No Hope for Peace

By Barry Rubin

There is probably no more obnoxious action of the Palestinian Authority (PA) than its continuing glorification of terrorists who have murdered Israelis. Not only does this show a lack of support for any peace process, but doing so for facilities built with U.S. taxpayer money is against U.S. law.

To my knowledge, the U.S. government has never pressed or even mentioned this issue. It is important as a signal of the lack of effort to hold the PA to commitments. If the current administration wants to press for progress, this is the kind of question which must be taken up, especially since PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is about to go to Washington and meet President Barack Obama.

In a May 25 2009, Jerusalem Post op-ed, Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, who deserve credit for monitoring this issue, point out that $900 million in aid to the PA is being offered. Yet the PA's new computer center is named after "the martyr Dalal Mughrabi""who led a terror attack which murdered photographer Gail Rubin and then hijacked a bus in which 37 civilians, 12 of them children, were gunned down. To honor terrorists is against the U.S. law governing the funding of Palestinian institutions.

Last year, the PA sponsored a football championship for children and a summer camp named for Mughrabi, someone who has know positive achievement. A party was also held under Abbas's personal auspices for top students named for Mughrabi.

A television program was also produced which called the killing of 38 Israeli civilians "one of the most important and most prominent special operations" and referred to Mughrabi as a "heroic fighter."

This is by far the only such example of such behavior.

The PA never seriously cooperated, for example, in the investigation into the murder of three U.S. government employees in the Gaza Strip when it was in control. The killings were carried out by an ally of Hamas, which of course shields these people at present.

What were these Americans doing in Gaza? Protecting embassy personnel who were visiting there to arrange scholarships for Palestinian students.

The authors recall that in 2002, after a girls' school was named for Mughrabi, the U.S. State Department cancelled the funding. The PA then promised to change the name and the money was paid. The school, however, continues to carry Mughrabi's name.

Reread the previous paragraph. To see the perfect symbol of the problem with U.S. Middle East policy you need look no further. No one in the region takes America too seriously because it does not follow up and enforce its positions. The PA knows that it can do what it wants and pay no price. There is no—repeat no—real pressure on it to stop incitement, educate its people for peace, make any real compromise or concession. Instead, this "moderate" institution is continuing to teach its children that being a terrorist is the highest calling and due the greatest honor.

Just like Hamas does.

The Western media also has no interest in this issue either despite energetically seeking out any issue on which Israel can be criticized, even often when such things are made up and prove to have no basis in reality.

We have seen, and will see, the administration devote huge efforts to stopping settlers from adding a room onto an existing apartment. Will it devote any effort at all to turning the PA in the direction of peace or even enforcing U.S. law?

Continued (Permanent Link)

IAF will increase use of drones (UAVs)

A similar approach is being used by the United States. As the optics and sensors of drones improve, they will take over more and more ground support missions.
Israel Air Force plans to increase fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles used for operational missions by up to 50% in next two decades. 'We try to use drones wherever there's no need to use manned planes,' says squadron's deputy commander
Hanan Greenberg
Published:  05.28.09, 11:06 / Israel News
The Israel Air Force's busiest operational tools have to be its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Several of them roam the skies at any given time, controlled by a command center at the Palmachim base in central Israel.

The drones handle about a third of the IAF's missions. "They fly wherever needed, even if it's a long-range flight," Major Gil, deputy commander of the IAF's UAV squadron, told Ynet.
Nicknamed the Shoval ("Trail"), the UAV can stay airborne for nearly 40 hours and reach faraway destinations at that. "It can take on any mission the Air Force wants it to," said Gil, following foreign publications suggesting drones took part in an alleged Israeli strike on an arms convoy in Sudan, in early 2009.

As the Air Force gears for the decades ahead, the UAVs stand to be dealt a bigger piece of the operational pie: "We try to use UAVs whenever and wherever there is no relative advantage to the use of a manned plane," said Gil. "I estimate that by 2030, 50% of aircrafts used will be unmanned." 

Complexities of a joystick
The operational aspect of controlling a UAV is split between two people – the one responsible for making sure it takes off and lands safely, and the one tasked with controlling its aerial maneuvers.

Moving the control panel's joysticks may look simple, but it takes precision skills and extensive experience. The little machine has become an IDF staple, says Gil, "And every commander would tell you that he would love to have UAVs to provide him with real-time images and information.

"Its flexibilities allow us to cater to a division commander in the Gaza Strip one minute, move to a spot over the West Bank the next and fly to the northern border on the third."
Shoval UAVs are routinely used to scan the various military sectors and build the IDF's "target bank." At wartime, however, they become a major operational tool, locating rocket launching pads and fire hubs.
The Palmachim squadron is currently expanding, "as the IAF is undergoing a process of enlarging its unmanned alignment. We have quite a few missions that have gone from manned to unmanned operations," said Gil.
The UAV control center gives an accurate image of the situation on the ground. In Gaza, says Gil, "you can see the urban density and the way in which the terror groups operate, so we are no longer surprised when children arrive in live-fire areas to collect rocket tripods.
"The IDF has more operational freedom in the West Bank – we can get the intelligence and carry out our mission within hours. The northern border is something we keep track of off the time, so we won't be caught off guard," he added.

The enemy, he says, is always trying to find new ways to eliminate the IDF's "eye in the sky": "They are well aware of the fact that there are UAVs hovering over them, watching, but they can't hide forever. We have patience. The aircraft are patient and they can stay up there for as long as it takes."

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North Korea ready to sell nuclear weapons to al-Qaeda, expert warns

            May 27 2009 By Bob Roberts 
            NORTH Korea is ready to sell nuclear bombs to al-Qaeda, experts warned yesterday.
            As the crisis over the rogue regime's nuclear bomb explosion deepened, former diplomats said there was a clear and present danger from the Pyongyang government.
            Graham Allison, former US defence minister under Bill Clinton, said the international community regularly underestimated North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's willingness to do the unexpected.
            Sanctions Allinson, now an expert on international affairs at Harvard University, said: "Could this guy believe he could sell a nuclear bomb to Osama bin Laden? Why not?"
            The warning came as North Korea said it was ready for war over the threat of sanctions from the United Nations.
            In a statement on the official news agency KCNA, the rogue regime said America was pursuing a "hostile policy", adding: "Our army and people are fully ready for battle against any reckless US attempt for a pre-emptive attack."
            South Korea said it would join US attempts to intercept North Korean ships which could be carrying nuclear weapons.
            North Korea said it would regard the move as an act of war. And it also fired two more test missiles to prove its readiness for conflict.
            UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - a South Korean - said he was "most deeply disturbed" by the move.
            Yesterday, UN diplomats began work on a resolution to punish North Korea for its underground nuclear test.
            Diplomats said they were seeking "tough measures", including further sanctions.
            In an emergency session of the UN Security Council, countries condemned the latest test.
            The US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said: "The US thinks that this is a grave violation of international law and a threat to regional and international peace and security."
            Blockade The UN will now have to decide how tough the sanctions will be.
            A blockade could spark military clashes in south east Asia and lead to a fullscale war. But failure to take action could encourage other states like Iran and Syria to develop nuclear weapons.
            Monday's nuclear bomb test came after North Korea walked away from long-runnindisarmament talks.
            The country agreed in 2007 to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and diplomatic concessions.
            But it accused the US, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia of failing to meet agreed obligations.

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Israel kills senior Hamas operative

The Palestinian authority will have the luxury of protesting Israeli brutality in public, and being delighted at the elimination of a West Bank Hamas operative in private.
Abdel Majid Dudin, head of Hamas' military wing in South Mount Hebron, who was responsible for series of deadly terror attacks in Israel, killed in gunfight with special police force attempting to arrest him; no injuries reported among forces
Efrat Weiss
Published:  05.28.09, 13:11 / Israel News
A special police unit on Thursday killed Abdel Majid Dudin, head of Hamas' military wing in South Mount Hebron, who was responsible for a series of deadly terror attacks in Israel, including bus bombings in Jerusalem and Ramat Gan. He has been wanted by the Israeli defense establishment for 14 years.
The special force, operating in cooperation with the Judea and Samaria Division's Judea Brigade, arrived to arrest the man near the village of Dura. Dudin was killed in a gunfight which erupted in the area. No casualties were reported among the Israeli forces.

Palestinians reported that the operation lasted many hours. According to the sources, the forces tried to get the man to come out of the house he was hiding in by using bulldozers.
Eyewitnesses told Palestinian security forces that Israel Defense Forces soldiers blew up a well which was said to contain explosives. Several local residents were reportedly arrested by the force operating in the area.
Dudin, 45, is a senior Hamas member who was even jailed and released by the Palestinian Authority in the past. He has been wanted by Israel since the 1990s for his alleged direct involvement in terror attacks. He has also been wanted by the PA.
In the 1990s, the IDF demolished his home due to his involvement in terror attacks. Brigadier-General Noam Tibon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, said following the operation that the army "will reach every terrorist who killed Israeli citizens."
IDF forces operating in the West Bank overnight arrested 12 wanted Palestinians: Two were arrested in Jenin, seven were detained in Nablus and three near Jericho. All were turned over to security forces for further interrogation.
Earlier this week, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi said that the Palestinian's security forces' fight against terror was improving, but it was still too early to "give them full security responsibility."
Hanan Greenberg and Ali Waked contributed to this report

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Green rodent control - from Israel

A Little Help From Up Above: Israel is Replacing Pesticides with Owls and Falcons
by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada  on 05.27.09
Next Step: Bat Houses?
Farmers in Israel are doing some eco-judo, turning a problem into a solution. BirdLife International reported that many birds of prey in the region were dying because they were eating rodents that had been poisoned by pesticides. But now, there is a will to reduce the use of these poisons and instead use the birds of prey (owls, kestrels) as natural pest controllers. Good for the birds, good for the farmers. Probably not so good for the rodents, but you can't please everybody... Read on for more details.
BBC News writes:
Many farmers are installing nest boxes to encourage the birds, which hunt the crop-damaging rodents.
In Israel, where there is a drive to reduce the use of toxic chemical pesticides, this has been turned into a government-funded national programme.
Jordanian and Palestinian scientists and conservation charities have joined the scheme.
And since kestrels hunt during the day and owls hunt at night, there is a continuous 'surveillance' of the fields. Much better than spraying poison around...

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spain and Portugal: Descendants of Conversos support Israel

What is truly remarkable is not that Jews are supporting Israel, but that descendants of Conversos, of "Marranos" remember their ties to the Jewish people and come out in public to supprt Israel after hundreds of years! A testament to a people who have kept the link alive after centuries.

Ami Isseroff

Jews of Spain, Portugal come out to support Israel

May. 27, 2009

Prompted by the recent rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment across Europe, particularly in Spain, dozens of descendants of Bnei Anusim (whom historians refer to by the derogatory term "Marranos") gathered at Barcelona's Jewish Community Center last weekend to participate in a seminar aimed at training them to be effective advocates for Israel.

The seminar marked the first time since the creation of the state that Bnei Anusim - Jews from Spain and Portugal who were forced to convert to Catholicism in the 15th century but secretly retained their Jewish identities and/or traditions - had formally taken part in an effort to defend a positive image of the Jewish homeland.

It was during Operation Cast Lead, when a group of Bnei Anusim, some of whom had traveled for hours, gathered in Madrid in support of Israel, that the idea for the seminar arose.

Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, which ran the event, explained the desire of Bnei Anusim to advocate for Israel: "They are seeking to have a connection to the Jewish people, whether spiritually, culturally or intellectually."

Among the experts brought in to help run the seminar were Dr. Ra'anan

Gissin, a spokesman for former prime minister Ariel Sharon, and Deputy Ambassador to Spain Einat Kranz-Nieger. The participants were provided with the tools to advocate for Israel in the local and international media.

According to Freund, whose organization reaches out to "lost Jews" to help them reconnect with their Jewish heritage and identity, there are tens and perhaps even hundreds of thousands of Bnei Anusim spread throughout Spain and Portugal who are aware of their unique connection to the Jewish people.

While a majority of Bnei Anusim are Catholic, Freund noted that many of those who decided to partake in the Shavei Israel seminar were from a group that has been more active in strengthening its Jewish identity, including some who are seeking conversion and becoming observant Jews.

In the past three decades, as the societies of Spain and Portugal have opened up, Bnei Anusim have felt more comfortable revealing their connections with Judaism and Israel, he said. However, in some cases, those open connections have prompted harsh criticism and acts of hatred against them.

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Everyone's dirty war against the Kurds

The Kurds are the invisible and forgotten people of the Middle East and indeed of the world. UN resolutions, human rights, self determination are all for other peoples. Kurds do not get a one state solution or a two state solution. They don't get any solution or any protection. The EU ignores persecution of Kurds in Turkey. Nobody cares about persecution of Kurds in Iran or Syria. Amnesty International and HRW are virtually silent. There are no groups to boycott Turkey or Iran or Syria for killing Kurds, denying them rights to their own culture or occupying what should be their homeland. There is no UN Secretariat department devoted to Kurdish rights. Quite simply, nobody cares. It is open season on  Kurds.

05/27/2009 07:16 PM
'We Used to Murder People at Night When the Soldiers Weren't Around'
By Daniel Steinvorth in Istanbul
When members of the special Turkish police unit Jitem arrived at night, Kurdish inhabitants of southeast Turkey knew there would be another disappearance. Investigators are now looking into the activities of this allegedly disbanded secretive organization from the 1990s -- and the 'death wells' where its victims were hidden.
Things had been going well for Nimet Karaaslan and his new business. But when the Kurd opened up his little restaurant in the spring of 1993 in Cizre, a city right near Turkey's border with Syria, men wearing dark sunglasses and carrying submachine guns paid him a visit. "Give us your restaurant," they ordered him.
The men were part of Jitem, a special unit of the Turkish gendarmerie charged with "intelligence gathering and counterterrorism," and they made themselves at home in Karaaslan's restaurant. They practiced with their weapons, and they set up a center for interrogating and torturing people. The restaurant was in a good location. From the front, you could look out over the snow-covered peaks of the Cudi mountains on the Turkish-Iraqi border, where units of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish separist group, are still entrenched today. From the back, you could look out over the Tigris River, which separates Turkey from Syria.
The Ipek Yolu Highway, the Turkish name for the Silk Road, runs right past the front of the building heading toward Iraq. And behind it there is a sea of chest-high, green corn broken by the occasional well. The wells turned out to be great places for getting rid of the bodies of those who were executed.
For years, people in the surrounding villages kept quiet. And then, in 2002, the army lifted the region's state of emergency, and the men from Jitem disappeared. For a long time, people thought that speaking about Karaaslan's restaurant increased their own chances of disappearing.
But, since March, the area has been home to backhoes and salvaging equipment. What was once unheard of is now happening in southeastern Turkey -- in Cizre, in Silopi, in Kustepe and wherever else local lawyers have filled a petition to have the "death wells" opened. Turkish officials have now started to dig for the remains of Kurds who have disappeared. But the digging also means working through one of the darkest chapters in this country's history, when Turkish security forces waged a dirty war against supporters of the PKK and its suspected supporters.
Shot 'Like an Animal'
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of civil rights activists, politicians and businesspeople suspected of having ties with the PKK were kidnapped and murdered. No one knows their exact number, and it was only in rare cases that the victims were even identified. Many corpses were dumped into wells; others were doused in acid and thrown into fields. The horror of the sight was meant to serve as a deterrent. But the majority disappeared without a trace and are still listed as missing.
One of the missing is the Kurdish construction worker Ramazan Solmaz. His wife Piroze last saw him on January 15, 1993. "He was on his way to work when they caught him," she says. "That's all I know. There are no traces, no clues. I'd just like to know where his body is. I just want to bury him." Piroze and a friend have put their faith in Cizre's bar association. "My husband, Selahattin, was shot in broad daylight in 1998 right on the street," say her friend, who is wearing a pitch-black version of the traditional Kurdish gown. "Just like that. Like an animal."
At the time, the women didn't even think about filing a criminal complaint. In Cizre, confronting those in power had its consequences. The powerful included not only the soldiers and the people from Jitem, but also members of the radical-Islamic Turkish Hezbollah, a militant Kurdish organization unrelated to the Lebanese Hezbollah. The war between the Turkish army and the PKK raged in the mountains surrounding Cizre. But in the city itself, it was this group that held power over life and death. A brutal leader of this clan named Kamil Atak once let himself be nominated to become mayor. As local politicians will tell you, the former shepherd used to take pleasure in "feeding" his captives to his Hezbollah fighters.
Spreading Fear and Anxiety
Even after the state of emergency was lifted in 2002, Atak remained under the protection of state security forces. Just over two months ago, on March 23, police arrested Atak as part of a nationwide operation after he garnered the attention of investigators working on the "Ergenekon" case. Soon after Atak's arrest, authorities also arrested Cemal Temizöz, a colonel in the military police, who also sowed fear and anxiety among the inhabitants of Cizre.
"Ergenekon" is the name of a place in popular Turkish mythology, but it is also the name given to a conspiracy of networked ultra-nationalists. Roughly 150 of its members are now standing trial in Turkey. The former soldiers, police officers, journalists, professors and everyday Mafiosi stand accused of having planned a coup against the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The trial has been going on for more than six months. It is the most explosive trial in recent Turkish history.
Among the accused is Veli Kücük, the retired general who allegedly founded Jitem. Kücük's arrest in January 2008 was the most sensational event of the year. As things have turned out, though, the kind-faced grandfather appears to be untouchable. It is still hard to tell whether the military used Kücük as a sacrificial pawn or whether the generals in Ankara believed he had become too powerful.
Jitem's Bestial Interrogation Methods
For the top brass in Turkey's military forces, the issue of Jitem remains taboo. The government continues to deny its existence. According to the semiofficial version, at least, the organization served as something like a "counterguerrilla" force against the PKK that completed its mission long ago and has since been disbanded. The last fact seems to have been confirmed by former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, when he claimed in a television interview that Jitem "no longer" existed.
By far the most comprehensive reports of Jitem's activities can be found in the memoirs of the organization's former agents. One of them is Abdülkadir Aygan, who now lives in Sweden. Aygan tells a shocking tale of having first been a member of the PKK before being recruited to work for Jitem. "We used to murder people at night during the long hours when the soldiers weren't around," Aygan says, describing Jitem's activities. "Many of the people we captured had been indicted by a court or the gendarmes," he adds. "But many of them had also been denounced by their completely normal fellow citizens. No one survived an interrogation by Jitem people."
The Fate of Hasan Ergül
Other former henchmen of the state, such as Tuncay Güney and Yildirim Begler, are now talking about the war against the PKK. From the safety of exile in Canada, Sweden and Norway, men like these recount the names of the victims and the places where their mass graves can be found. They describe the bestial interrogation methods and the orders to kill that always came "from the very top." They talk about how the gendarmes would bathe the dead in acid baths and make them disappear in wells. And they never fail to mention the type of cars the Jitem usually used: white models of the Renault 12-based "Toros" manufactured in Turkey between the 1970s and 1990s. When the angels of death appeared in their white cars, inhabitants knew that one of their friends or neighbors would be disappearing soon.
The case of the disappeared Kurd Hasan Ergül exemplifies the vividness of these Jitem veterans' revelations. On May 23, 1993, the farmer from the village of Cukurca got on his tractor with his three-year-old son to drive to the hospital in a nearby city. But they didn't get far. After stopping at a nearby gas station, Ergül was surrounded by three vehicles that blocked his path. The men who got out of the car weren't wearing uniforms. They dragged Ergül off his tractor and forced him into the back seat of one of the cars. They drove off, leaving the crying boy behind.
It would be years before Ergül's relatives finally became aware of his ultimate fate. They learned it when they heard the confession of former Jitem member Abdülkadir Aygan, who spoke about how Ergül was strangled to death, put in a sack and dumped into a remote lake.
Seeking Certainty and Closure
In the end, all the searching and inquiries of Ergül's brothers had been in vain. But after Aygan's confession, they did succeed in figuring out where Ergül had been dumped, where fishermen later hid his body and where his unidentified corpse had been buried in an anonymous grave not far from the lake. "Now we're waiting for the results of a DNA test," says Ergül's brother Ata. "Then we will finally have some certainty."
This is a sign of progress -- but there are also contradictory signals coming out of Turkey. For the first time, the country seems prepared to come to terms with its recent past. But even though light is now being thrown on the dirty war waged during that period, the war between the Turkish military and the PKK continues to rage. In military terms, the separatist movement has been significantly weakened, and its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been in prison for years. But it is still capable of launching deadly bomb attacks, such as the one in late April, when a remotely denoted bomb threw a military vehicle into the air, killing nine Turkish soldiers.
The government avoids talks with the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which has channels of communication with the PKK. Instead, in recent weeks, the government has preferred to impose order high-handedly by arresting more than 200 DT politicians.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Can Israel depend on those who have Proven Undependable?

How Can Israel depend on those who have Proven Undependable?

By Barry Rubin

Back in 1993, when the "peace process" began, President Bill Clinton told a press conference that Israel was ready to take risks for peace and he told Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, "If you do that, my role is to minimize those risks."

One of the most important elements in contemporary Israeli thinking is the irony of those words. Clinton, of course, meant them and his intentions were good. But looking back from 2009, the risks taken by Israel and the concessions it has made have repeatedly plagued the country and cost the lives of thousands of its citizens.

Not only has the United States—and the Europeans who made similar pledges—failed to minimize the costs of this process but in most cases they have not even acknowledged it. Israeli concessions have not, as was expected, led to increasing support and public respect, quite the opposite.

Anyone who wants to deal with the conflict today must acknowledge and deal with this experience but we find that it is not happening. In the statements of Western leaders and in the media, what we usually discover is that such matters are either not mentioned at all or only passed over in ritualistic fashion. There is much talk about Israeli concessions and responsibilities, virtually none about Palestinian ones.

Thus, the two-state solution (TSS) or stopping settlement construction or removing roadblocks are spoken about as if these things alone will bring peace. There is little about a Palestinian Authority (PA) end to incitement to murder Israelis and denial of Israel's right to exist (which goes on daily) or better security efforts, or agreement to end the conflict or to resettle refugees within a Palestinian state. There is little acknowledgement that Hamas's control of the Gaza Strip is not just an inconvenience but an almost total roadblock for any hope of peace.  More:  
How Can Israel depend on those who have Proven Undependable?

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Aoun, Hezbollah: From Lebanon with Laughs

Michel Aoun will have the next to the last laugh. We know who gets to laugh last...

From Lebanon with Laughs: "You Are in Beirut, Lebanon"

Barry Rubin
This satire is making the rounds in Lebanon as elections approach. The main character, Michel Aoun is a Christian politician allied with Hizballah. He would sell his mother--or, more immediately, Lebanon--in order to be president some day. He may well give an Iran-Syria backed government the seats it needs to take over the country.

"You are in Beirut, Lebanon"

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally.

The test features an unlikely, fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, and spontaneous.

Please scroll down slowly and give due consideration to each line.

You are in Beirut, Lebanon. There is chaos all around you caused by an explosion followed by a severe blaze. You are a photo journalist working for a major newspaper and you're caught in the middle of this epic disaster. You're trying to shoot career-making photos. There are cars and people swirling around you, and disappearing under the flames.
Suddenly you see a man in a burning car. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be burnt alive. You move closer. Somehow the man looks familiar. You suddenly realize who it is. It's General Michel Aoun. At the same time you notice that the raging flames are about to take him under forever. You have two options - you can save the life of General Aoun, or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the country's famous men.

What is the question - Click here: From Lebanon with Laughs: "You Are in Beirut, Lebanon"

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran rejects yet another nukes offer from the West

Overall, it is possible to say with fair certainty and some understatement in fact, that Iran has rejected every approach to negotiating the nuclear development issue consistently, and that alll attempts at dialog have been futile. When the Bush administration refused to negotiate with Tehran, critics claimed the Bush administration was the attitude. Now that the Obama administration is willing to negotiate on almost any terms, Tehran has rebuffed them as well, saying they will only negotiate through the IAEA about IAEA issues.
It is hard to understand how or why anyone would expect that further attempts at dialogue will be fruitful.
Last update - 18:17 25/05/2009       
Iran rejects Western proposal for freezing Nuclear program
By Agencies
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday rejected a Western proposal for Tehran to "freeze" its nuclear work in return for no new sanctions and ruled out any talks with major powers on the issue.
The comments by the conservative president, who is seeking re-election in a June 12 presidential vote, are likely to further disappoint the United States administration of President Barack Obama, which is seeking to engage Iran diplomatically.
The United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain said in April they would invite Iran to a meeting to try and find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear row.
The West accuses Iran of secretly developing atomic weapons. Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, denies the charge and says it only wants nuclear power to generate electricity.
Breaking with past U.S. policy of shunning direct talks with Iran, Obama's administration said it would join such discussions with Tehran from now on.
"Our talks [with major powers] will only be in the framework of cooperation for managing global issues and nothing else. We have clearly announced this," Ahmadinejad said.
"The nuclear issue is a finished issue for us," he told a news conference.
Ahmadinejad was asked about a so-called "freeze-for-freeze" proposal first put forward last year under which Iran would freeze expansion of its nuclear program in return for the UN Security Council halting further sanctions against Tehran.
Western diplomats say the proposal remains on the table. Ahmadinejad last month said Iran had prepared its own package of proposals to end the stalemate.
"We will not allow anyone to negotiate with us outside the agency's regulations and issues," he said on Monday, referring to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency. "From now on we will continue our path in the framework of the agency."
Obama has offered a new beginning of diplomatic engagement with Iran if it "unclenches its fist", but Washington has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails.
Ahmadinejad, facing a challenge in the election from moderates advocating detente with the West, has made angry rhetoric against the United States and it allies his trademark since he came to power in 2005.
Challenge to Obama
Ahmadinejad called Monday for a face-to-face debate with his American counterpart Barack Obama at the United Nations.
The challenge was made at a news conference as he stepped up his campaign for re-election in Iran's June 12 presidential vote.
Iran says it is ready for "constructive" talks but has repeatedly rejected demands to halt sensitive uranium enrichment which can have both civilian and military purposes.
No cooperation with North Korea
Asked about North Korea's nuclear test on Monday, Ahmadinejad said: "In principle we oppose the production, expansion and the use of weapons of mass destruction."
He said Iran had no missile or nuclear cooperation with North Korea.

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USA can learn about home front preparedness for terrorism from Israel

A recent US report praises Israel for involving citizens in homefront terrorism preparedness:
Crisis Preparedness and the Public   
by Phil Leggiere  
Friday, 22 May 2009
A report titled Public Role and Engagement In Counterterrorism Efforts: Implications of Israeli Practices for the U.S., prepared for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Science and Technology by the Homeland Security Institute (a federally-funded research and development center which serves as the Department's think tank) examines both why that is the case, and how study of Israeli citizen involvement in crisis response might help US preparedness and "social resilience" improve.
The study was co-authored by Dr. Sibel McGee (the principal investigator), Catherine Bott, Vikram Gupta, Kimberly Jones and Alex Karr. Published as a PDF document it has not yet been released on the web.
"The successful management of emergency situations," according to the report, " requires not only competent emergency response personnel and prudent and effective emergency plans by the local/state/federal government, but also a public that is equipped and empowered with knowledge and information."
The report cites Israel as a primary example of a nation with an effective track record in motivating and maintaining public mobilization in support of counterterrorism efforts. A reflection of that success, the report suggests, is that "the level of public understanding of the terrorist threat and readiness for terror-induced emergencies is such that Israeli public has an impressive ability to bounce back from frequent terrorist attacks."
To accomplish this, according to the report, the Israeli government pursues a comprehensive and diverse program to bolster a strong public resilience and utilizes it as a deliberate counterterrorism tool.
As the report describes it the Israeli government pursues a multi-facted strategy to inspire effective public participation in counterterrorism efforts.
"First," it says, " a comprehensive and extensive public education and awareness program on terrorism ensures public understanding of the threat, its serious consequences, and the need for readiness and response skills."
" Second," the report adds, " the public is educated on how to handle and report suspicious activity, persons, and vehicles and the public is treated as the true first responders and its ability to effectively handle emergencies is regularly tested through periodic training and drills."
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, "the Israeli government's risk communications with the public on terrorism-related issues are balanced, precise and honest. They also reflect adequate differentiation in the messaging in accordance with the audience and intent." In the United States, on the other hand, within the official paradigm of homeland security, terrorism is subsumed under an "all-hazards" approach.
"Both the public and the government perceive counterterrorism primarily to be the responsibility of the government," the report notes critically . "In official emergency management and security/counterterrorism programs, the term 'the public' appears to be frequently understood to mean only uniformed /official first responders. Thus, large parts of the public at large are excluded."
As a consequence of these limitations, the report notes, the level of public participation in counterterrorism efforts and readiness programs for catastrophic incidents—both natural and manmade, including terrorism-related emergencies, is very low in the US.
The report recommends that DHS "champion greater understanding, in both the general public and within those responsible for homeland security, of the public's unique role in ensuring its own safety and homeland security."
" Emergency authorities, in particular," it says, " need to change their perceptions of the public from seeing them as victims to considering them as partners and force multipliers.
As a way to reinforce this understanding the report's authors believe that DHS needs to support programs that inform, educate, train, and prepare the public to take a role in ensuring its own safety and security. The current all-hazards approach, despite its benefits, they argue, has an unintended consequence, terrorism-specific preparedness issues are not adequately understood and addressed.
The problem is that Americans are Americans and Israelis are Israelis. Israel is Israel. The required change would involve a cultural upheaval on several levels:
1) General understanding that the country is constantly at war. Israelis never understood American reluctance to institute security checks as airports. American authorities understood that their citizens don't want to be "haslled." Israelis saw it as reckless irresponsibility.
2) Widespread involvement of citizens in the military, so that every third bystander in a terrorist event is a soldier or ex-soldier.
3) A sense of community that causes people to stop immediately to help terror and accident victims. This is a characteristic of both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, as has been proven over and over in numerous emergencies.
4) Ideological dedication.  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Diplomatic path to stop nukes in action

Those who insist that diplomacy is a viable way to stop nuclear weapons development in rogue states should consider the case of North Korea, which exploded a second atomic device despite the most frantic and earnest diplomatic efforts.
Pyongyang announces that it successfully carried out underground test as part of 'measures to bolster nuclear deterrent for self-defense'; test followed with missile launch
News agencies
Latest Update:  05.25.09, 09:19 / Israel News
North Korea announced Monday that it successfully carried out a second underground nuclear test, less than two months after launching a rocket widely believed to be a test of its long-range missile technology.
Just hours later, Pyongyang fired a short-range missile, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a diplomatic source as saying.
South Korean officials were checking into the Yonhap report that the North fired a surface-to-air missile with a range of about 130 km (80 miles) from its coast Musudan-ri missile range, from which it fired a long-range rocket in April.

Russia's United Nations ambassador Vitaly Churkin was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying that the UN Security Council would meet on Monday to discuss North Korea's nuclear test. Moscow currently holds the rotating monthly presidency of the Security Council.
"Japan made a request to the president of the Security Council that they hold a Security Council meeting on North Korea," said a diplomatic source, asking not to be identified.
North Korea, incensed by UN Security Council condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch, had warned last month that it would restart it rogue nuclear program, conduct a second atomic test as a follow-up to its first one in 2006, and carry out long-range missile tests.
On Monday, the country's official Korean Central News Agency said the regime "successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of measures to bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense."
The regime boasted that the test was conducted "on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control."
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency security session. His spokesman, Lee Dong-kwan, confirmed that a North Korean nuclear test was possible.
The United States is gravely concerned by North Korea's claim to have tested a nuclear device, is still analyzing the data and is consulting members of the UN Security Council on next steps, a State Department official said on Monday.

Japan will respond 'in responsible manner'
A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country would respond to North Korea's nuclear test "in a responsible fashion" at the United Nations.
"We are now aware of the news that the DPRK (North Korea) conducted a nuclear test for the second time, so we are certainly going to respond in a very responsible manner," said Kazuo Kodama on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Vietnam. "Definitely we are going to respond, we have to, at the UN Security Council."
Seismologists from the US, South Korea and Japan reported activity shortly after 9:50 a.m. in a northeastern area where North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.
The Japan Meteorological Agency measured the seismic activity at magnitude-5.3. Quake expert Gen Aoki noted that its depth was "very shallow."
"The area is not active seismically so it is highly possible that it could be an artificial quake," Aoki said in Tokyo.
In Seoul, the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources reported seismic activity in Kilju in North Hamgyong Province - the same area where North Korea carried out a nuclear test in October 2006.
Seismological measurements back North Korea's claim that the test was far stronger than in 2006.
At the Chinese border city of Yanji, 130 miles (200 kilometers) northwest from the test site, an emergency siren sounded shortly before 9 a.m. when officials thought an earthquake occurred. A receptionist at Yanji's International Hotel said she and several hotel guests felt the ground tremble.
An official at Yanji's government seismological bureau, who declined to give his name, said his agency confirmed that some type of explosion occurred, "but it is hard to say what kind of blast it was."
North Korea's 2006 test measured magnitude-3.6, an official at the Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul said. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

Previous test drew widespread condemnation
Monday's test raises the stakes in North Korea's standoff over its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006, drawing widespread international condemnation and drawing stiff sanctions from the UN Security Council.
The Security Council demanded that North Korea eliminate its nuclear weapons and ordered countries to prevent Pyongyang from importing or exporting any material for weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles.
The surprise nuclear test prompted five nations to pressure the North to agree to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid and other concessions - a pact Pyongyang signed in February 2007. North Korea began disablement in November 2007.

That process came to a halt in July 2008.
South Korean troops were on a high alert but there was no sign North Korean troops were amassed along the heavily fortified border dividing the two Koreas, according to an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing agency policy.
 North Korea is believed to have at least a half-dozen atomic bombs. However, experts say North Korean scientists have not yet mastered the miniaturization technology for mounting a nuclear device onto a long-range missile.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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Bibi caves on appointment of anti-Semtiic Egyptian to head UNESCO

Sorry - there just isn't any good excuse for this.
Last update - 00:41 01/01/2009       
Netanyahu lifts objection to anti-Israel Egyptian minister as head of UNESCO
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz COrrespondent
Israel agreed to lift its objection to the appointment of Egypt's vehemently anti-Israeli culture minister as head of UNESCO, following a recent meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Farouk Hosni, who has served as Egypt's culture minister since 1987, has declared that if he could, he "would burn Israeli books in Egyptian libraries." Despite such rhetoric, Hosni is a leading candidate for the top spot in the UN's education and cultural organization, having been recommended by Mubarak.
As part of a secret agreement, reached during their May 11 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Netanyahu promised Mubarak that Israel would cease the international campaign it has waged against Hosni's appointment during the past year. It is still unclear whether Netanyahu, who is known for his insistence on the principle of quid pro quo in Israel's relations with the Arab world, received something from the Egyptian leader in return.
Exact details of the "arrangement" between Netanyahu and Mubarak were kept secret and were not reported to the media, even though such practice would constitute a radical change of Israeli policy.
However, a senior source in the Prime Minister's Office confirmed the development, but insisted the decision was made following a personal request by Egypt's president and several European leaders. Moreover, the source said Israel's gesture was part of a broader set of understandings, in which Egypt will respond in similar fashion at a future gesture. "We received a substantive and worthwhile return. We would not have done this unless Israel's interests benefited," the source said.
Netanyahu's promise to lift Israel's objections contradicts the position of the Foreign Ministry. The instructions from the Prime Minister's Bureau caught Foreign Ministry officials by surprise; the ministry subsequently circulated a telegram on the new directive to several Israeli delegations abroad who had until then been waging a public and diplomatic campaign against Hosni's appointment to UNESCO.
"Following Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Egypt, and at the request of President Mubarak and in line with understandings with Egypt, Israel has decided to lift its objections to the appointment of Farouk Hosni to the post of UNESCO secretary-general, changing our position to not-opposed," the classified telegram dated 14 May reads.
Netanyahu has said on several occasions recently that he is interested in normalizing ties with the Arab world. However, Hosni has stood at the forefront of Egyptian opposition to a normalization of ties with Israel. The Egyptian culture minister is strongly opposed to normalizing relations with Israel and made public anti-Israel statements, which drew attention because of their implied anti-Semitism.
As culture minister, Hosni banned Israeli films from international film festivals in Cairo and forbid an Israeli book stand at the international book fair there.
Hosni has also been quoted in the media as saying that Israel and the Jews are not cultured and steal from the cultural heritage of other nations.
Following criticism, Hosni gave a conciliatory interview to Yedioth Ahronoth.

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Canada minister: New anti-Semitism more dangerous

Really, it is hard to see that any other anti-Semitism could be more dangerous than Nazism, but it is good to have some friends in the world.
Last update - 00:54 01/01/2009       
Canada minister: Leftist-Islamist anti-Semitism more dangerous
By Raphael Ahren
A "new anti-Semitism" that emanates from an alliance of Western leftists and Islamic extremists is more dangerous than the "old European" form of Jew-hatred, Canada's minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism said as he wound up a four-day trip to Israel Sunday.
"The existential threat faced by Israel on a daily basis is ultimately a threat to the broader Western civilization," said Jason Kenney, explaining the staunchly pro-Israel positions of his government, led by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"It's a threat that comes from profoundly undemocratic forces that don't have the same conception of human dignity or freedom, and which abuse Israel as a kind of representative of the broader West and Western liberal-democratic values," said Kenney. "I also very acutely understand the nature of the new anti-Semitism, and I think it's even more dangerous than the old European anti-Semitism."
Kenney said many anti-Israel attacks come from adherents of a form of anti-Semitism that who appear to view a Jewish homeland as illegitimate.
"Israel is not perfect, obviously," Kenney said. "Israelis should be the first to admit that. But we acknowledge that so much of the criticism Israel faces is motivated by a dangerous form of anti-Semitism that tries to hide behind anti-Zionism and is represented by a coalition of the far left in the West with extreme currents of jihadi Islam that seek the destruction of the Jewish nation. They seem to believe that the Jewish people are the only people in the world that don't have a right to a homeland."
The 40-year-old, who earlier this month was elected Canada's "Best Overall MP" by fellow parliamentarians, prides himself on being responsible for his country's decision to shun the United Nations-sponsored Durban II conference on racism, based on fears it would be misused as a platform for unfair criticism of Israel. Canada was the first country to announce its boycott of the meet, even ahead of Israel.
Before coming to Israel, Kenney visited Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, as Canada is home to many immigrants from these countries, he said. After arriving Thursday, he visited a Jewish Agency absorption center in Mevasseret Zion, outside Jerusalem, and met with his Israeli counterpart, Immigration Minister Sofa Landver. He also spoke to Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman and Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein, who is also the former chairman of the interparliamentary Canada-Israel Friendship Group.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

When is a "pro-Israel" group not pro-Israel?

When Doves Can't Flock Together
By Ephraim Sneh
Published May 20, 2009, issue of May 29, 2009.
Twenty-four years ago this month, then-defense minister Yitzhak Rabin appointed me military governor of the West Bank. In two years in that post, I learned that reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians is both feasible and necessary.
In 1988, after I had retired from military service, Rabin and then-foreign minister Shimon Peres asked me to lead the first secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Since then, I have dedicated most of my energies to promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
In this effort, I have enjoyed the cooperation of American Jewish groups that shared my commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians. I considered the stances of these organizations to be in line with the positions of the Zionist peace camp in Israel.
Recently, however, I have come to feel that we no longer share the same convictions, that our paths have diverged. Some American Jewish organizations that are at the forefront of pushing for peace have begun adopting positions that contradict Israel's most basic security needs and that ultimately are at odds with the goal of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.
We have seen dovish Jewish organizations advocate including Hamas in a Palestinian unity government (and support the idea of offering American aid to such a government), fight against the swift enactment of tough sanctions against Iran and vehemently oppose military action against the Islamic Republic — action that may eventually prove to be necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Certainly, I do not consider a military operation to be the preferred option. It is the very last resort. But we cannot afford to be complacent about the nature of the threat we face.
Iran is ruled by a despotic theocracy, with a horrendous record of human rights abuses. This regime is fueled by a fanatical ideology of hatred: Hatred of the West, of its culture, of democratic values. Hatred of Jews and their state. Hatred of Muslims who believe in peace and democracy.
The Iranian regime has one main ambition: to turn Iran into a superpower, leading more than a billion Muslims all over the world. Developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, controlling the corridors for oil and gas, undermining moderate governments in the Middle East — these are the Islamic Republic's means of establishing hegemony.
A permanent-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be a devastating blow to the Iranian regime's hateful ideology. If Palestinians reach an accord with the "godless Zionists," why should the average Iranian in Tehran or Isfahan hate Israel? This is why the Iranian regime does everything in its power to impede progress between Israelis and Palestinians.
Hamas is the main tool that the ayatollahs use to disrupt the peace process. Iran has sent large sums of money and huge amounts of explosives, arms and ammunition to Hamas. Thanks to this generous support, Hamas was able to conquer Gaza in June 2007.
Between Hamas — which represents a minority of Palestinian society, according to all available polls and studies — and the Palestinian majority, there is an unbridgeable divide. This divide is not primarily about Israel. Instead, it concerns the character of a future Palestinian state: Will it be a Taliban-like state or a modern, democratic one? Will there be a cinema in Nablus? Will folklore festivals be permitted in Qalqilya? Will the beach in Gaza be open simultaneously to men and women? There is no compromise between these two visions for Palestinian society. That is why reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah fail time and again.
Moreover, a Palestinian government that includes Hamas will never accept an agreement with Israel based on the Clinton parameters for peace. Hamas would force any unity government to adopt negotiating positions that would be unacceptable to even the most dovish Israelis.
But Gaza is not the only front in Iran's offensive. The soft, naïve attitude of the Western democracies toward Iran has enabled the ayatollahs to reap more achievements. Just as Hamas took over Gaza, Hezbollah has tightened its hold over Lebanon. Iraq, meanwhile, is moving gradually into the Iranian orbit. Who will be Iran's next target?
The Islamist-fascist regime in Tehran must be stopped, not hugged. Effective economic sanctions are the best way to make it impossible for the regime to govern, and to create a revolutionary situation in Iran.
Wasting time with futile talks, with gestures to the ayatollahs, will pull the rug out from under the feet of moderates in the Middle East. Policies that postpone confronting the danger that a nuclear Iran poses to Israel and other American allies in the region will bring about a nuclear arms race or make a military operation against Iran unavoidable.
I remain firm in my belief in the necessity of Israeli-Palestinian peace. But I also believe that achieving peace requires a willingness to stand up to the enemies of peace.
Ephraim Sneh has served as Israel's minister of health, minister of transportation and deputy minister of defense. He is the author of "Navigating Perilous Waters: An Israeli Strategy for Peace and Security" (Routledge, 2005).

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US will allow Iran to continue nuclear program

Inspections did not prevent Iran from building a heavy water reactor and manufacturing centrifuges in secret. How will they prevent Iran from getting the bomb?
By Edward DeMarco
May 24 (Bloomberg) -- Iran may be able to retain its disputed nuclear energy program with international inspections, President Barack Obama's top military adviser said today.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "that's certainly a possibility" when asked on ABC's "This Week" program whether it would be acceptable for Iran to have a nuclear program similar to Japan's. Japan enriches uranium for use in reactors and reprocesses spent fuel under international supervision.
The U.S. is preparing for talks with Iran intended to achieve a breakthrough and limit Iranian nuclear ambitions while easing the security concerns of Israel and Arab nations. Mullen reiterated his view that an Iranian nuclear bomb capability would be "incredibly destabilizing" for the Middle East.
Mullen said "the unintended consequences of a strike against Iran right now would be incredibly serious as well as the unintended consequences of their achieving a nuclear weapon," a goal he said was probably still being pursued.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has increased tensions with the West since taking office in August 2005, pursuing a nuclear program that the U.S. and several major allies say is likely a cover for weapons development.
Iran, under three sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, says the program is peaceful and intended to generate electricity.
Full Inspections Impossible
Iran isn't allowing sufficient scrutiny of its nuclear facilities, inspectors say. The International Atomic Energy Agency, in a February report, said inspectors checking into the construction of an Iranian nuclear reactor at Arak are no longer able to rely on satellite surveillance of the site since the completion of a dome over the plant.
The government in Tehran has supported radical Islamist movements such as the Gaza Strip-based Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Ahmadinejad has questioned the scope of the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist.
U.S. officials have said that Iran may seek a peaceful commercial nuclear energy effort that complies with its international inspection obligations...


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Palestinians whitewash desecration of Christian graves

The constant emigration of Christians from Palestinian territories is due to the equally unrelenting and systematic victimization of Christians by the Muslim majority, but it is invariably blamed on Israel. Christians are afraid to complain about persecution and terrorization. Therefore, when an incident such as the desecration of graves described here occurs, Christians hurry to insist each time that "nothing like this has ever taken place."
Last update - 19:55 24/05/2009       
Vandals desecrate Christian graves in West Bank
By Reuters
Vandals desecrated some 70 graves in two Palestinian Christian cemeteries on Sunday in what a Palestinian Authority official said was a rare attack on the Christian minority in the occupied West Bank.
A church official in the village of Jiffna near Ramallah where the attack took place called in Palestinian security officials to investigate, but neither he nor the investigators said they had any initial clues who was responsible.
"This unfortunate incident has brought Muslims and Christians closer and many from the Muslim community have shown solidarity with us and have condemned this action," said Greek Orthodox Church official George Abdo.
He added that grave stones had been smashed and metal and stone crosses knocked off graves in the attack, which was discovered on Sunday. The head and a hand of a statue of the Madonna adorning one of the graves were also broken off.
Abdo said it was the first time such an incident had occurred in the village.
Issa Kassissieh, a Palestinian Authority official and adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas on Christian affairs, said he believed it was "an isolated act against Christian symbols".
"Palestinian Christians and Muslims have always lived in harmony in the Holy Land," Kassissieh said.
Jiffna, northeast of Ramallah, is home to some 1,600 inhabitants, about two thirds of whom are Christians from the Greek Orthodox and Catholic communities.
The Palestinian Authority says 50,000 of the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinian population are Christian.
Many Christians have emigrated over the past 30 years. Pope Benedict called on Christians not to abandon the Holy Land during a visit to the region earlier this month.

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Barry Rubin on Joe Biden in Lebanon

Here Comes Joe, There Goes Lebanon

By Barry Rubin
It's really nice that Vice-President Joe Biden went to Lebanon in order to, in the words of the White House statement, "reinforce the United States's support for an independent and sovereign Lebanon" prior to the June 7 elections there.

That and whatever is the current prevailing price will get you a cup of coffee.

Of course, Hizballah said that the visits by Biden following that of
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a terrible "interference in Lebanon's affairs."

Strangely enough, I'm not aware of any U.S. statement complaining about Iranian and Syrian interference in Lebanon's affairs. This is connected to the current policy that basically amounts to, if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. Since the current administration won't admit to being in conflict with anyone, except perhaps al-Qaida, it cannot fight back effectively.

As for the media, the New York Times investigated the elections and did find a country whose interference in Lebanon should be criticized...Saudi Arabia. 


Here's the problem: if your adversaries wage a struggle using all their assets plus a great deal of dissimulation and trickery and you don't, well, guess who's going to win?

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Mullen: Iran 1-3 years from nuke, doesn't want Iran to be 'struck'

Here is the all time most courageous, forthright and clear policy statement of any USA administration regarding Iran:

Mullen did not respond when asked if it was possible to take out Iran's nuclear program militarily at an acceptable cost.

"I won't speculate on what we can and can't do. Again, I put that in the category of my very strong preference ... to not be put in a position where we -- where someone -- where Iran is struck," he said.

Americans should be proud to have a government with such clear and understandable policies, that pose clear red lines. Serious, what the heck does that mean? Of course, Mullen couldn't say much else.  Anything less confusing than that such as "no options are off the table" or "diplomacy is not the only option we are considering" would be subject to a barrage of Sy Hersh articles insisting that the US is about to obliterate Iran next week. But he did say something: the use of the passive voice implies that in the event, it would not necessarily be the USA, but "someone" who would be striking Iran. We wonder who that someone might be.

Iran within 3 years of nuke: U.S. military chief

Sun May 24, 2009 12:05pm EDT

By Alan Elsner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran could be within one to three years from developing a nuclear weapon and time is running out for diplomacy to defuse the problem, the top U.S. military officer said on Sunday.

The assessment from Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, matched that of some independent analysts but appeared to go further than recent official statements from the U.S. government.

"Most of us believe that it's one to three years, depending on assumptions about where they are right now. But they are moving closer, clearly, and they continue to do that," Mullen said on ABC's "This Week."

Since coming to power in January, President Barack Obama has made some diplomatic overtures to Iran that have so far been rebuffed. He said last week he would not pursue this policy indefinitely and would like to see some progress on the nuclear issue by the end of this year. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and intended to produce electricity.

Iran last week successfully tested a missile that analysts said could hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf, a major source of crude oil for the United States.


Mullen said a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities could have grave consequences -- but so would a nuclear-armed Iran.

"The unintended consequences of a strike against Iran right now would be incredibly serious," he said. In congressional testimony last week, he used the word "calamitous" to describe the same scenario.

Israel has said it could not accept a nuclear-armed Iran while the United States has also refused to rule out military action. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated the Jewish state should not exist.

"That's why this engagement in dialogue is so important. I think we should do that with all options on the table as we approach them," Mullen said.

"And so that leaves a pretty narrow space in which to achieve a successful dialogue and a successful outcome, which from my perspective means they don't end up with nuclear weapons," he added.

His words went further than recent statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates who said of Iran on March 1: "They're not close to a stockpile, they're not close to a weapon at this point and so there is some time."

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the U.S. Congress in February: "We continue to assess Iran probably has imported at least some weapons-usable fissile material but still judge it has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon."

The United States and other Western powers are concerned that Iran could combine elements of its uranium enrichment and missile programs to create a nuclear weapon, although Tehran denies it intends to do this.

A recent report by the joint U.S.-Russian think-tank EastWest Institute said Iran could develop a basic nuclear device in 1-3 years and a missile-borne nuclear warhead five years after that.

Mullen did not respond when asked if it was possible to take out Iran's nuclear program militarily at an acceptable cost.

"I won't speculate on what we can and can't do. Again, I put that in the category of my very strong preference ... to not be put in a position where we -- where someone -- where Iran is struck," he said.

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U.S.: Jerusalem's status subject to negotiation

During the US election campaign, Barack Obama famously appeared at the AIPAC convention and declared his support for Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. That pledge lasted a few minutres and was quickly  "clarified" as meaning the direct opposite.
U.S.: Jerusalem's status subject to negotiation
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent
The U.S. State Department said Sunday that the future status of Jerusalem would be determined through peace negotiations, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's declaration last week that the capital would "never again be partitioned and divided."
"Jerusalem is a final status issue. Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve its status during negotiations. We will support their efforts to reach agreements on all final status issues," a State Department spokesman said when asked to respond to Netanyahu's proclamation that Jerusalem would always remain under Israeli sovereignty.
At a state ceremony marking the annual Jerusalem Day on Thursday, Netanyahu said" "United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided."

The prime minister said he had made the same declaration during his recent visit to Washington, where he met with United States President Barack Obama over the peace process and Iran's nuclear program.
"Only under Israeli sovereignty will united Jerusalem ensure the freedom of religion and freedom of access for the three religions to the holy places," Netanyahu added.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said later Thursday that Netanyahu's position on Jerusalem was a setback to the goal of a two-state solution, which is strongly supported by the Obama administration.
"Mr. Netanyahu, by saying that, he's saying the state of conflict will be eternal," Erekat said.

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May 25: Lebanon's bogus holiday

May 25 sacrifices & Hezbollah The Dragon
By: Elias Bejjani

May 25/09

Believe it or not, on May 25 each year since 2000 Lebanon has been celebrating a so-called "Liberation & Resistance Day." Sadly, this celebration commemorates a bogus event, and a phony heroism that did not actually take place.

On May 22, 2000 the Israeli Army unilaterally and for solely Israeli domestic reasons withdrew from the security zone of South Lebanon in accordance with UN Resolution 425. The withdrawal was a fatal Israeli decision that has inspired the Hamas terrorism acts and the on-going havoc in the Palestinian Gaza strip.

The unilateral Israeli withdrawal created a security vacuum in south Lebanon. The Syrians who were occupying Lebanon at that time and fully controlling its government, did not allow the Lebanese Army to deploy in the south and fill this vacuum after the Israeli withdrawal. Instead Syria helped the Hezbollah militia to militarily control the whole southern region, and even patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli army's withdrawal was executed without any military battles, or even minor skirmishes with Hezbollah, or the Lebanese and Syrian armies. The Syrian regime, in a bid to justify both its on going occupation of Lebanon and the avoidance of disarming Hezbollah, came up with the "Shabaa Farms occupation big lie" and declared Hezbollah a Liberator, alleging it had forced Israel to withdrawal from South Lebanon.

Syria, in the same camouflaging and devious context, dictated to both the Lebanese parliament and government to declare May 25th a National Day under the tag of  "Liberation & Reistance Day".

In reality Hezbollah did not force the Israeli withdrawal, and did not play any role in the Liberation of the southern Lebanese region. In fact both Hezbollah and Syria deliberately hindered and delayed the Israeli withdrawal for more than 14 years.

Every time the Israelis called on the Lebanese government to engage in a joint, serious effort under the United Nations umbrella to ensure a safe and mutually organized withdrawal of its army from South Lebanon, the Lebanese government refused to cooperate, did not agree to deploy its army in the south, and accused the Israelis of plotting to divide and split the Syrian-Lebanese joint track. This approach to the Israeli calls was an official Syrian decision dictated to all the Lebanese puppet governments during the Syrian occupation era.

Since then, Hezbollah has been hijacking Lebanon and its people, refusing to disarm and advocating for the annihilation of Israel. This Iranian mullahs' terrorist army stationed in Lebanon, is viciously hiding behind labels of resistance, liberation and religion. Hezbollah has recklessly jeopardized the Lebanese peoples' lives, safety, security and livelihood. It has been growing bolder and bolder in the last four years and mercilessly taking the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people hostage through terrorism, force and organized crime.

Sadly, Hezbollah is systematically devouring Lebanon day after day, and piece by piece, while at the same time marginalizing all its governmental institutions in a bid to topple the Lebanese state and erect in its place a Shiite Muslim regime, a replica of the Iranian Shiite mullahs' fundamentalist republic. Meanwhile the free world and Arabic countries are totally silent, indifferent, and idly watching from far away the horrible crime unfolding without taking any practical or tangible measures to put an end to this anti-Lebanese Syria-Iranian scheme that is executed through their spearhead, the Hezbollah armed militia.

Who is to be blamed for Hezbollah's current odd and bizarre status? Definitely the Syrians who have occupied Lebanon for more than 28 years (1976-2005). During their bloody and criminal occupation, Syria helped the Iranian Hezbollah militia build a state within Lebanon and fully control the Lebanese Shiite community.

But also the majority of the Lebanese politicians, leaders, officials and clergymen share the responsibility because they were subservient and acted in a dire Dhimmitude, selfish and cowardly manner. If these so-called Lebanese leaders had been courageous and patriotic and had not appeased Hezbollah and turned a blind eye to all its vicious and human rights atrocities, intimidation tactics, crimes and expansionism schemes, this Iranian Shiite fundamentalist militia would not have been able to erect its own mini-state in the southern suburb of Beirut, and its numerous mini-cantons in the Bekaa Valley and the South; nor would Hezbollah have been able to build its mighty military power, with 70 thousand militiamen, or stockpile more than 50 thousand missiles and force the Iranian "Wilayat Al-Faqih" religious doctrine on the Lebanese Shiite community and confiscate its decision making process and freedoms.

Since Hezbollah's emergence in 1982, these politicians have been serving their own selfish interests and not the interests of the Lebanese people and the nation. They went along with Hezbollah's schemes, deluding themselves that its militia and weaponry would remain in South Lebanon and would not turn against them.

This failure to serve the people of Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to make many Lebanese and most of the Arab-Muslim countries through its terrorism propaganda to blindly swallow its big lie of theatrical, faked resistance and Liberation.

Hezbollah would not have been able refuse to disarm in 1991, like all the other Lebanese militias in accordance to the "Taef Accord," which called for the disarmament of all militias. Hezbollah would not have become a state inside the Lebanese state, and a world-wide terrorism Iranian-Syrian tool which turned against them all after its war with Israel in year 2006 and after the UN troops were deployed on the Lebanese - Israeli borders in accordance with the UN Resolution 1701.

On May 7, 2008 Hezbollah invaded Sunni Western Beirut killing and injuring in cold blood hundreds of its civilian citizens, and attempted to take over by force Mount Lebanon.

A few days ago Hezbollah's General Secretary Sheik Hassan Nasrallah called that day (May 7, 2008) a great and glorious victory for his resistance, and threatened the Lebanese that a replicate of that day will take place if they do not succumb and obey his orders.

Hezbollah is a deadly dragon that the Lebanese politicians have been allowing him to feed on sacrifices from the southern Lebanese citizens, especially on those who were living in the "Security Zone" and who fled to Israel in May 2000 after the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon. This dragon who enjoyed devouring his southern sacrifices has now turned on all the Lebanese and if they do not stand for their rights and dignity, he will keep on devouring them all one after the other.

We call on the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Parliament and on all the free and patriotic Lebanese politicians and leaders to cancel the May 25 National Day, because it is not national at all, and also to stop calling Hezbollah a resistance, put an end for its mini-state, cantons and weaponry, and secure a dignified, honorable and safe return for all the Lebanese citizens who have been taking refuge in Israel since May 2000.

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Arabs (except Egyptians) like Obama

Egypt is America's major ally and the recipient of the most US aid among Arab countries, yet Obama is not too popular there. Your tax dollars at work, dear Americans.
Last update - 11:40 24/05/2009       
Arabs like Obama but are still suspicious of U.S.
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent
President Barack Obama appears to have successfully made inroads with Arab public opinion during his first few months in office, a new poll suggested over the weekend.
A survey by the University of Maryland/Zogby International poll - conducted in the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Morocco - showed that 45 percent of the 4,000 Arabs surveyed view Obama positively. If Egypt is removed from the survey - Egypt's population is larger and more neutral than other countries - Obama's positive rating soars to 60 percent.
About half of the Arabs in six countries said in a recent poll they have a favorable view of Barack Obama and were hopeful about U.S. foreign policy.
A majority - 77 percent - of Arabs said they have a "somewhat unfavorable" or "very unfavorable" attitude toward the United States, down from 83 percent last year. It ranks second only to Israel as the country Arabs view as the world's biggest threat.
Obama will not be presenting an American initiative for Middle East peace during his June 4 speech in Cairo, the White House announced on Friday.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Obama's speech would address Washington's relationship with Muslims worldwide.
"This will be a broader speech about our relationship with Muslims around the world," said Gibbs at the daily press briefing. "I know there has been some conjecture that included in this speech will be some detailed comprehensive Mideast peace plan, and that is not the intention nor was it ever the intention of this speech."
Gibbs noted that Obama could not address the Muslim world without referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but added that the speech would not focus on it.
The White House announcement comes as no surprise to the Netanyahu government. Israel has long known that President Barack Obama would not present his Middle East peace plan during his upcoming visit to Cairo, a senior Jerusalem official said.
The official said that the U.S. has yet to formulate a cogent diplomatic initiative, and that the administration will not do so until the president completes his first round of meetings with all of the region's leaders, Israel Radio reported.
When asked about Obama's stance on Jerusalem, Gibbs said, "Those are final status issues that the parties themselves have agreed to work out in whatever negotiation would be had. That's not something for the president to intone."
Following Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, various media reports had speculated that Obama would unveil a new U.S. initiative for achieving peace in the Middle East as part of his upcoming speech meant to improve relations with the Muslim world.
A spokesman for the National Security Council told Haaretz several days ago that Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Nahmoud Abbas - who is scheduled to visit Washington this week - came to the U.S. to clarify their positions on various subjects, but no peace plan is currently on the table "despite rumors to the contrary."

Continued (Permanent Link)

WHO: Life expectancy in Israel among highest in the world

Last update - 12:25 24/05/2009       
WHO: Life expectancy in Israel among highest in the world
By The Associated Press
Israelis on average live long lives, among the highest in the Western world, yet there is still a gap to close with the Japanese, according to a World Health Organization study.
A girl born in Japan today will likely live to celebrate her 86th birthday, the longest life expectancy anywhere in the world. Men fare best in the tiny European nation of San Marino, where the average boy will live to 81, the WHO said Thursday.
The West African country of Sierra Leone has the shortest life expectancy for men - just 39 - while Afghanistan fares badly for both sexes, with men and women living on average to 41 and 42 years respectively.
In Israel, the life expectancy for women is 82 years, while men live on average until the age of 79.
The figures in WHO's annual World Health Statistics report are from 2007, the latest year available.
They show that some countries have made remarkable progress in increasing life expectancy since 1990 - partly by ending wars, partly through successful health initiatives.
Eritrea increased its average life expectancy by 33 years to 61 for men, and by 12 years to 65 for women. In Liberia the figure for men jumped 29 years to 54, and rose 13 years to 58 for women. Angola, Bangladesh, Maldives, Niger and East Timor also increased the average life expectancy for men and women by 10 years.
Other countries showed a sharp declined over the same period.
Women's life expectancy in Zimbabwe fell by 19 years to 44; Zimbabwean men live to 45 on average, compared to age 57 in 1990. Lesotho recorded a 16-year drop for both men and women to 43 and 47 respectively. Women in Swaziland live to 49 on average, a drop of 14 years. Men's life expectancy in the southern African country declined by 12 years to 47.
Botswana, Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia also reported significant drops in life expectancy for both sexes.
In the United States, the life expectancy for men rose to 76 from 72 years, and for women to 81 from 79 years.
In Russia, the average life expectancy for men dropped to 60 from 64 years since the time of the Soviet Union. For women the drop was less marked, to 73 from 74 years.
The figures are only one of over 100 health indicators that WHO tracks in its 193 member states.
Others include mother and child mortality; prevalence of diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis; access to doctors and medical facilities; and health expenditure per person.
Some of these indicators form part of the U.N.'s so-called 'Millennium Development Goals' that are to be achieved by 2015.
WHO said the trend for deaths in young children was promising overall, with a global drop of 27 percent since 1990.
Some 9 million children under 5 years old died in 2007, compared to 12.5 million in 1990.
"The decline in the death toll of children under five illustrates what can be achieved," said WHO's director of statistics, Ties Boerma.
The increased use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria, oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea, better access to vaccines and improved water and sanitation in developing countries are proving particularly effective, he said

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sorry Barack, no 57 state solution

Barack Obama seemed to have imagined he could cobble together a Middle East peace deal just like that. It all seemed so reasonable. But he is finding the usual problem, the same problem that Middle East peacemakers have come up against since Ralph Bunche (Folke Bernadotte had a health problem - a different matter). Arab peace offers become less and less real the closer one comes to trying to implement them. .
Last update - 21:54 23/05/2009       
Arab League: No 57-state solution to Mideast conflict
A "57-state solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict that would see Muslim-majority countries offer Israel full diplomatic recognition in exchange for peace "is not on the table," the head of the Arab League said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a meeting of foreign ministers from the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in Damascus on Saturday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa said media reports suggesting the OIC might offer Israel a joint peace deal were inaccurate.
"This is not on the table. All talk of this is inaccurate," Mussa said.
Jordan's King Abdullah II, in a May 11 interview with the Times of London, had spoken of a "57-state solution."
"We are offering a third of the world to meet (the Israelis) with open arms," King Abdullah said two weeks ago. "The future is not the Jordan River or the Golan Heights or Sinai, the future is Morocco in the Atlantic to Indonesia in the Pacific."
"The Jordanian proposal is in accordance with the Arab proposal," Mussa said Saturday. "The conflict would be finished with Israel's withdrawal from all occupied territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state."
Mussa said that if Arabs and Israelis struck such a deal, other predominantly Muslim countries would likely follow suit.
"But we do not see any progress in the current circumstances," he added. "Though there is a lot of clarity in the U.S. position, which can benefit everyone involved."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Democracy Iranian style: Ahead of elections, Iran 'blocks access to Facebook'

Twitter, anyone?
Iran 'blocks access to Facebook' 
Facebook says it is investigating reports of the ban
Iran's government has blocked access to social networking site Facebook ahead of June's presidential elections, according to Iran's ILNA news agency.
ILNA suggested the move was aimed at stopping supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi from using the site for his campaign.
Facebook, which claims to have 175m users worldwide, expressed its disappointment over the reported ban.
So far there has been no comment from the authorities in Tehran.
'Access not possible'
"Access to the Facebook site was prohibited several days ahead of the presidential elections," ILNA reported.

Mr Mousavi was Iran's prime minister when the post was abolished in 1989
It said that "according to certain Internet surfers, the site was banned because supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi were using Facebook to better disseminate the candidate's positions".
CNN staff in Tehran reported that people attempting to visit the site received a message in Farsi that said: "Access to this site is not possible."
Facebook expressed disappointment that its site was apparently blocked in Iran "at a time when voters are turning to the Internet as a source of information about election candidates and their positions".
Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, is seen as one of the leading challengers to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 12 June elections.
His page on Facebook has more than 5,000 supporters.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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