There are no cats in America. Or are there? The embarrassing question of whether there are still Jews in Kurdistan - and what to do with them - has reared its ugly head again, according to a Kurdish reporter whose name we are withholding for his own safety (With thanks: Ami).
The government of Kurdistan is being urged by hard-line officials publically to declare that there are no Jews in Iraqi Kurdistan. Yet is is common knowledge that a number of Jewish families still remain there.
A Kurdish reporter quoted a senior source as saying: " the government will not expel any remaining Jews but equally we can't guarantee full security for them. At the same time we will not prevent the state of Israel (from acting) if they want to take them back".
The reporter told how last year on (Israeli) Channel 10, a program showed a Kurdish family from Shtula (sic) returning to Irbil to find their relatives. The TV program upset some Kurdish officials. The reporter tried to interview the Jewish family in question. But they were not ready to comment on the program because they were afraid of being attacked by Jihadist groups in Iraq. Continued - Kurdistan won't expel Jews, but can't secure them
Contact: Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East
Christians for Fair Witness Says Episcopal Resolutions on Palestine/Israel are Biased
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East ("Fair Witness") is concerned about four resolutions regarding Palestine/Israel that have been submitted by the Standing Commission on Anglican & International Peace with Justice Concerns for consideration at the Episcopal General Convention in Anaheim, California, July 8-17, 2009.
In the preamble of these resolutions the Standing Commission quotes an article by Dr. Sara Roy, whom it describes as a "daughter of a [Holocaust] survivor," exploiting the history of the Jewish Holocaust and using it as a weapon against Israel in a statement condemning the occupation.
In the preamble the Standing Commission writes at length about the Israeli occupation, the settlements and the separation or security barrier as the obstacles to a two-state solution. It is completely silent however, when it comes to Palestinian terrorism, Qassam rockets from Gaza, suicide bombing from the West Bank, the Hamas/Fatah split, and the rejection on the part of the Hamas government of any negotiated peace with Israel as possible obstacles to a two-state solution.
One of the proposed resolutions asks for prayers so that "the Wall around Bethlehem and all other barriers [can] come down." But it does not ask for prayers to end terrorism against Israeli citizens.
If the Standing Commission has even a pretense of fairness, why does it name only the actions of Israel as obstacles to peace, while ignoring the actions of the Palestinians and Palestinian leadership? Adopting a blame Israel for everything approach is unrealistic, unfair, and unlikely to advance the goal of achieving peace in the Middle East.
Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Esq., National Director of Fair Witness asks "are these resolutions reflective of real dedication to Gospel justice? Or are they reflective mostly of a bias against the Jewish state and a willingness to unfairly blame Israel for all of the violence and injustice in the region"?
Is easing the Gaza siege going to send the wrong message about Hamas legitimacy? Palestinian polls show a decline in Hamas popularity in Gaza as the Gaza closure drags on. Is there a way to disociate a humanitarian gesture from support for the illegal and genocidal Hamas regime?
The Defense Ministry has recommended a partial lifting of the embargo on the Gaza Strip as a goodwill gesture toward the Palestinians to spur talks to free a long-held captive soldier, Israeli media reported Friday.
Israel has been linking the opening of Gaza's borders to the release of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas militants for over three years. Hamas has been pushing for a deal to trade him for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli jails.
Israel imposed a near-total embargo of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Hamas militants violently took control of the territory.
According to the new plan, reported by the news Website Ynet, Israel would increase supplies of coffee, tea, soups, meat, fish and canned goods into Gaza ahead of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which begins in August, to promote a deal for Shalit.
Israel would also renew shipments of fuel, clothing, kitchenware and egg-laying chickens as part of the package.
Ynet reported that the proposal had been drafted by defense officials and awaits the approval of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The Defense Ministry would not officially comment on the report.
The idea behind the plan, according to Ynet, was to lift the embargo gradually and link it to progress on Egyptian-mediated talks aimed at releasing Shalit from captivity. The plan does not include transferring products such as steel and concrete, which are needed to rebuild the battered territory but could also help Hamas improve its military capabilities.
Hamas and other militants have fired thousands of missiles at Israeli border towns and communities in recent years.
Israel has come under heavy pressure from the international community - including the Obama administration - to lift its embargo, which has crippled the Gaza economy. Gaza has survived largely thanks to a booming underground smuggling trade between Gaza and Egypt.
Is the Obama administration about to turn over a new leaf in its relations with Israel?
This is a peculiar way of putting it:
The post will include responsibility for Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the Middle East. The announcement of Ross's appointment came June 25 after a week of speculation in Washington.
I always thought Iran and Iraq ARE in the Middle East, didn't you? One possibility is that Ross is really going to implement a more realistic policy. The other possibility is that he was appointed so that a "friend of Israel" could be used to deliver the same unpleasant message.
Washington — The promotion of Middle East adviser Dennis Ross to a senior White House position may open the door to a more positive tone by the United States toward the Israeli government, experts believe.
Ross, a veteran peace negotiator known for his strong ties with Israel and his past work with a Jewish think tank, will be special assistant to the president and senior director of the Central Region at the National Security Council. The post will include responsibility for Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the Middle East. The announcement of Ross's appointment came June 25 after a week of speculation in Washington.
In his previous post as a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ross's responsibilities were limited to the Southwest Asia region with a focus on Iran. His new NSC post gives him a say over a much broader area. Ross also will oversee Iraq policy in the run-up to United States troop withdrawal. In addition, he will advise on the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.
The Obama administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in Jerusalem are looking for ways to reach an understanding on Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank after weeks of locking horns over the issue. The administration in Washington has called for a full freeze on settlements, a demand Israel has so far rejected.
"It's clear that if Obama wants to advance something on Iran, and on the Israeli-Palestinian front, he will need to reach a modus vivendi with Israel, and that will require someone who knows the Israelis well," said Aaron David Miller, a former peace negotiator who has written extensively on attempts by the United States to promote Middle East peace. Miller called Ross's appointment "smart policy and smart politics," and noted it would "put someone who understands Israel in a position close to the president."
Ross does not support expanding settlements or allowing Israel to build freely within settlement blocks in the West Bank. In his previous positions as chief peace negotiator under Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, Ross spoke with Israelis about the need to freeze settlement activity in order to avoid prejudging the final borders of the two states and to demonstrate good will.
But Ross may be more in tune with those calling on the Obama administration to ease pressure on Israel. In a June 29 opinion article in The Washington Post headlined "End the Spat With Israel," columnist Jackson Diehl called the administration's insistence on a full settlement freeze "a loser" and argued that the United States should seize the opportunity created by the upheaval in Iran to "creep away from the corner into which it has painted itself in the Arab-Israeli peace process."
Some members of Congress hold similar stances. Many Jewish leaders also believe that Netanyahu's June 14 speech, in which he accepted a two-state solution to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians as his ultimate "vision," should be welcomed by the administration as an Israeli attempt to end the crisis.
But others, such as M.J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis for the dovish Israel Policy Forum, say the pressure from the United States may, in fact, be working.
Signs of Israeli willingness to compromise on settlements became apparent after the June 30 meeting in New York between Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, and the administration's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. At the meeting, Barak spoke, for the first time, of Israel's readiness to temporarily halt building in settlements on the condition that Arab countries become more involved in the peace process. Mitchell gave no indication of American reaction to the Israeli proposal in the meeting's immediate aftermath. But after four hours of discussion, Mitchell agreed to continue talks with Netanyahu when he visits the Middle East.
Israeli officials who recently met with Ross focused their conversations with him on issues relating to Iran's nuclear program because of Ross's portfolio in his previous position as special adviser to Clinton. But an Israeli official who had negotiated with Ross on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process said he believed that Ross saw the settlement issue as "part of a package" and was always open to "practical solutions."
Ross has refrained thus far from communicating with the organized Jewish community as a whole. While Mitchell has been speaking routinely with Jewish groups, Ross was taking a more behind-the-scenes role. Still, he is a well-known figure in the Jewish community and is widely appreciated for his pragmatic approach to peacemaking.
"The most commendable thing about Dennis Ross is that, unlike some other alumni of the Clinton era, Ross is not locked into outdated views which are a function of ideology. He consistently allows reality to affect and shape his analysis," said Nathan Diament, director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Orthodox Union, a group that is ideologically close to the settler movement.
Analysts and commentators speculated that Ross's broader responsibilities in his new White House post reflect in part Obama's dissatisfaction with National Security Adviser James Jones, and Obama's wish to have a designated senior adviser who will be in charge of long-term planning and of the strategic view of the region.
According to press reports, Ross was eager to leave the State Department since he could not find his place between the existing bureaucracy and teams of special envoys engaged in on-the-ground negotiations.
In entering an already staffed NSC, Ross is bound to step on some toes not only of Jones, but also of current directors, including Douglas Lute, who was in charge of Iraq policy and will now focus on Afghanistan; Daniel Shapiro, senior director for Near East and North Africa, who was in charge of Obama's outreach to the Jewish community during the presidential campaign, and Mitchell.
"I don't think that anybody should, though, believe that this will conflict or supersede the important work that special envoys are doing on the ground in many of these places," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters following the appointment.
Based on their previous work and statements, Ross and Mitchell represent different approaches to the conflict: Mitchell has a strong belief that an agreement is possible, based on his successful experience in Northern Ireland, while Ross brings a more skeptical approach based on three decades of fruitless negotiations in the Middle East.
Christians for Fair Witness Appreciates Step Forward By UCC on Israel/Palestine
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East ("Fair Witness") appreciates the step forward on Israel/Palestine taken by the United Church of Christ ("UCC") General Synod this past week in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The UCC held a consultation on Israel/Palestine June 1-3, 2009 in response to the 2007 Resolution and the 2007 Executive Council Action which directed the denomination to, respectively, conduct "ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict," and to "engage in dialogue with traditional as well as new voices among ecumenical colleagues, regional partners, and interfaith colleagues representing diverse perspectives."
After listening to Palestinian, Israeli, and American speakers representing a broad range of opinions and perspectives, the resulting consultation report acknowledged, among other things, that "There exist multiple narratives between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as within the Israeli Jewish and Arab communities, and within the Arab and Palestinian communities."
Fair Witness appreciates the step forward that this consultation and this acknowledgment represents on the part of the UCC, which historically has not given any voice to the mainstream Israeli narrative. Fair Witness also notes, however, the failure in the consultation report to completely abandon the unfortunate tendency to focus primarily on and overemphasize Israel's culpability for the conflict in the region.
Rev. Stephen G. Thom, UCC pastor and Fair Witness Executive Committee member, was present at General Synod and said "Fair Witness applauds the UCC's on-going commitment to justice. We strongly encourage the denomination to continue its efforts in moving towards a more moderate, balanced and just stance on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict."
During the recent uprisings in Iran following the June 12th elections in that country, I have been approached by dozens of individuals asking me what is going on in Iran's Jewish community today.
The simple answer is pure fear, an emotion which is nothing new to Jewish minorities who have lived and somehow survived massacres, pogroms, as well as forced conversions in Iran for the past 2,700 years.
Since the current crisis broke out in Iran, I have had scores of Iranian Jewish activists and leaders repeatedly remind me to "watch" what I write about with regard to the government in Iran.
They fear that what is said by our community in the U.S. may possible jeopardize the lives of the Jews living in Iran.
Usually "Arab Jews" is employed by anti-Zionists, who are trying to create a mythical Jewish-Arab society where Jews and Arabs lived in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of Islamic tolerance and Arab culture that was destroyed by Zionism, as if the Golden age of Harun al Rashid and Muslim Spain had extended throughout Arabdom and Islamdom in space and time. Some pro-Zionist sources have used this term as well, (eg. "Hundreds of thousands of Arab Jews fled Arab states").
Though my ancestors were born in Turkish Palestine, their ancestors had come from Europe. I am not personally affected by this term, but it seems jarring and out of place to me, just as it does to Bataween (see Reject the Expression "Arab Jew" ) , and to Philologos (see Reject the 'Arab Jew'). As I do not have any personal experience or history to rely upon, I can only reason by analogy from the experience of Jews in Europe, which is understood far more clearly.
Ella Habiba Shohat asserted:
"I am an Arab Jew. Or, more specifically, an Iraqi Israeli woman living, writing and teaching in the U.S…. To be a European or American Jew has hardly been perceived as a contradiction, but to be an Arab Jew has been seen as a kind of logical paradox, even an ontological subversion [leading to] a profound and visceral schizophrenia, since for the first time in our history Arabness and Jewishness have been imposed as antonyms…"
Shohat does seem to have a point at first glance. Of course, if Ella Habiba Shohat wants to call herself an "Arab Jew" it is her privilege, but it seems to to me that most Jews from Arab countries object to this term. As an outsider, I have been trying to explore why the term "Arab Jew" turns my stomach, and why it is objectionable to so many Jews whose ancestors came from Arab countries. After all, we do not object to "European Jew" or "American Jew" or "Egyptian Jew." What is the difference? Why is Ella Habiba Shohat wrong?
The question can perhaps be answered in Jewish fashion, by asking two or three other questions. "What do we mean by 'Jew?'" "What do we mean by 'Arab'"? But first let us ask, "Why aren't Arabs who live in Israel called 'Jewish Arabs'"?
Ella Shohat, David Shasha, Prince Turki al Feisal and others may immediately object that "Jew" refers to a religion and not to a people. Therein lies the first part of the problem. Many of the Arabs of Israel, or as many prefer to call themselves, Palestinians, refuse to accept the validity of our nationhood, and would not like to be associated with the Jewish "religion." But I define my own identity. I do not try to define that of Prince Feisal or that of Mahmoud Abbas, but I don't want them to tell me that I am a member of a religion, or perhaps an "Arab Jew," just because I live in the Middle East.
My ancestors came to the land from Europe, over 100 years ago. Some of my cousin's ancestors came to the land from a different part of Europe, Spain to be exact, several hundred years ago. Even if I spoke fluent Arabic and wore a kaffiyeh, I would not be mistaken for an "Arab Jew," and neither should my cousin's ancestors be called "Arab Jews." If there are "Arab Jews" then the statement, "I am an Arab and you are a Jew" would not make much sense. Nor would it make any sense to say that the Arab Arabs attacked the "Arab Jews" of Hebron and Jerusalem in 1929, yelling "Idbah al Yahoud" - "Murder the Jews." Perhaps they should have yelled, "Murder the Arabs." If there were were really Arab Jews, it would make no sense for Arabs to say "Kulu al ard Arabi" (All the land is Arab) or "Filastin Arduna wa'al yahud kilabuna" (Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs) in order to assert that Israel does not belong to the Jews.. If we are all different types of Arabs, there would be no quarrel here and no problem. There would not be an Israel-Arab conflict. At most there would be a conflict between the Muslim Arabs of Palestine and the Jewish Arabs of the Land of Israel. We can see immediately that the whole line of reasoning is utterly absurd.
In the anti-Zionist narrative, the "Old Yishuv" Jews of Palestine were "Arabs," while the Zionists were all Europeans. The "Arab Jewsm" so the fiction goes, lived in wonderful harmony with their Muslim neighbors, save for a few pogroms here and there that can be excused on the grounds of Arab exuberance. But the new Zionist European Jews did not fit in. In reality of course, Zionism was "invented" by Sephardi as well as European Jews, and was heralded by the writings of Rabbi Yehudah Alkalai before Theodor Herzl was born, but "narratives" reinvent their own historic reality for their own political purposes.
If all that were required to end the Israeli-Arab conflict would be that the Jews of Israel integrate into Arab culture, we could learn Arabic, eat even more humus, tehina, olives, ful and barud, and learn to play the oud and the ney and dance the debka. The early Shomrim did precisely that. They dressed as Bedu and spoke Arabic and did horse tricks better than the natives. They played the ney and sang Arabic songs and danced Arabic dances. Nonetheless, no Arab would call them Arabs or Arab Jews. We would also have to ask why, If Jews living in the Arab countries were "Arab Jews," these particular "Arabs" were summarily expelled from Iraq, Egypt, Libya and other "Arab" countries.
In times past in the Middle East, there were ethnic groups, but for a long time there were no real nation states or national movements. Therefore, there perhaps was not much occasion for opposing Arabness and Jewishness as antonyms in the past. Jew can refer to a person of a particular religion, or a person belonging to an ethnic group, people or nation. It has only in more recent times consciously assumed the full political and social implications of "nation," because the modern consciousness of nationhood is only a few hundred years old at most. Arab originally referred to the people of the Arabian peninsula, an ethnic and tribal grouping, as well as a language and culture group. They included Jews undeniably, who could in some cases quite properly be called "Arab Jews."
However, after the rise of Muhammad, the Arabs forcibly converted or spewed out all the Jews from among them, beginning infamously at Khaybar. From then on, the existence of "Arab Jews" within Arab society was tenuous at best, just as the existence of "German Jews" in German society was a contradiction that had to resolve itself. "Arab Jews" could never fully participate in Arab society. They could not go to war with Arabs, or take part in all aspects of Arab culture, which were built for the most part on Islam. The Arab empire spread over the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and the term "Arab countries" was applied indiscriminately to Egypt and to Morocco and Tunisia and Algeria, because the conquered inhabitants of these countries adopted the Arabic language. The so-called "Arab Jews" might occasionally be ministers in these countries or advisers, but they could not, by law, be knights or rulers, and their political successes very often ended in disaster and Pogroms.
These "Arab Jews" moreover, were very unlike the German Jews or the French Jews in a significant way. European Jews came to a host country with a majority culture. The Jews of Persia, later called Iran and Iraq, were there before these countries were Arab countries. In Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey there are also Kurds and in North Africa there are native Amazigh peoples. None of these call themselves "Arabs" and nobody calls them "Arabs" except perhaps in propaganda. Only Jews are given this "honor."
If the term "Arab Jews" was based on reality, and expressed the great identification of the Jewish people or religion with surrounding Arabic society and of the Arabs with their Jewish brethren, then we have to ask why the Jews of Sana in Yemen were expelled in the 17th century for example. Why did one group of Arabs take it upon themselves, for no reason, to persecute a different group of "Arabs?"
In modern times, the division became more acute. Arab nationalism arose and became a political force. The Ba'ath party was created as an expression of Arab nationalism. In theory, all 'Arabs' could join this party, but it seems that while it was created by a Christian and a Muslis and had a Christian and Muslim membership, the Ba'ath party did not include many Jews, if any. How was it that the "Arab" Jews were excluded from such a central and defining "Arab" undertaking? Following the Ba'ath party, Gamal Abdel Nasser developed Pan-Arabism. Isn't it peculiar that the Jews, so active in other progressive movements in Europe and even in the Middle East, were not prominent players in the most important Arab nationalist movements? The Baath party had an unfortunate habit of hanging certain "Arabs," just because those "Arabs" were Jews. Why did they distinguish between one sort of Arab and another? The term "Arab Jew" cannot explain this very well.
The obvious truth is that unlike the term "European," which is descriptive of a culture and geographic location, "Arab" today refers to a political and national movement that excludes the legitimacy of Jewish nationality. This is especially the case when the term is used by anti-Zionists. So a part of the answer to Ella Shohat's innocent quesion is, "It's the politics, stupid." But of course, she is not stupid and knows very well that the "Arab Jew" canard is trying to make a political point, and to create a political reality where none existed and none ever did exist. In the original countries of their Diaspora, Ella Shohat's ancestors, and David Shasha's ancestors were not "Arabs" when it came to assigning national allegiances, and they weren't included in real Arab national movements. They might have been prominent journalists and even politicians, but they remained on the periphery and found themselves advocating causes that were really alien to their own reality. They might be mistaken for "Arabs" by USA immigration officers, not by Arabs.
Ella Shohat's family in Iraq were Iraqi Jews, just as Theodor Herzl's family were Austrian Jews. But just as Hitler did not include these "Austrians" in his vision of the greater German Reich, so the Arab nationalists who started the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad did not include Ella's family in the Arabic Ouma. Ella's problem with identity is really the same as that of many European Jews, who tried so hard to be good Germans or good Poles or good Ukrainians or Russians or Communists and to advocate the national and political aspirations of their host country or society. In some rare cases this adopted Jewish nationalism succeeded, but very often in ended in tragedy, rejection and murder. With the rise of nationalism, almost every Diaspora community experienced the same problem. They found that despite adopting the language and some of the culture of their host countries, they could not really be "part of the action" in most cases. Sooner or later, many were vomited forth from their adopted societies whether they liked it or not. This produced the deeply conflicted feelings of many Jews toward their "old countries" - whether the "old country" was Germany or Iraq or Egypt. Jews were well off in Iraq, but they had also been well off in Germany and Austria. The rise of nationalism threatened Jewish existence everywhere in the Diaspora. There is nothing new in that statement and no big discovery.
It is too bad that the Shashas and the Ella Shohats of the world didn't yet come to terms with that frustrating and depressing aspect of Jewish existence -- rejection from a host group with which you may want to identify -- but there is no reason for them to invent a false narrative that portrays a perfect Diaspora extence that never was. German Jews could invent a similar tale, if they left out a few unpleasant details. Wasn't the Lorelei written by a Jew? After all, didn't they have their Heine and their Walther Rathenau and their Fritz Haber? Of course, Rathenau was assassinated by the Nazis and Haber died broken hearted after being disgraced and expelled. But they were very very German, these Jews, with all their heart and soul. Only the Germans didn't think so.
Nonetheless, the terms "German Jews" "French Jews," "Egyptian Jews," "Iraqi Jews" or "Yemeni Jews" all have a reasonable meaning, either because they denote the culture of the group of people in question, or their place of residence or their nationalities. "European Jews" makes sense in several contexts. "Europe" is not a nationality opposed to Judaism, and the northern European Jews had in common their own jargon language (Yiddish). set of customs and social network. "Arab Jews" does not make sense in the same way, since Yemenite Jews do not have the same customs as Iraqi Jews and neither are similar to the Jews or Turkey (descendants of Spanish Jews) or those of North Africa. There is only one country called Arabia, and there are no Jews living in it. There is only one national movement called "Arab" and Jews are excluded from this movement as a national group. Exceptions might be made for "token Jew" individuals to "prove" a perverse political point. Turki al Feisal may talk about "Arab Jews" but he will not let any of them become citizens of Saudi Arabia in the foreseeable future. Why would it be desirable or necessary for Israeli Jews, all of us, to become "Arab Jews" in order for there to be peace in the Middle East? Are there Arab Turks and Arab Persians? If someone suggested that all the Arabs must become Jewish Arabs or Zionist Arabs in order for there to be peace, Turki al Feisal would be very angry indeed.
"Arab Jews" might have been a logical possibility 200 years ago, when "Arab" referred only to culture and language, just as "German Jews" were German speaking Jews who lived in the various principalities where German was spoken, but that is no longer a reality."Arab Jews" as a term today seems to have a logic similar to "mice of the feline persuasion." The mice are not invited to the cat party except as dinner, and the Jews are not invited to the Arab party except in a capacity analogous to that of the mice.
Whatever the connotation of "Arab Jews" might have been two or three centuries ago, today the term must represent something between a fiction and an oxymoron. Through my admittedly non-Mizrachi Jewish eyes, it seems to be an absurd attempt at make believe, no less absurd and dangerous than the term "Germans of the Mosaic faith" coined by Reform Jews in 19th century Germany. Just as there are Jews who insist that they are "Arab Jews," so there are Jews who insist, even after all the horrible history of the last century, that they want to be Germans or Poles who are incidentally "of Jewish origin." It is their right to call themselves whatever they like. At best, it will mean giving up and forgetting their Jewish origin. At worst, it will end in tragedy. The tuition for understanding the depth of that folly was prohibitively high, and should not be paid again.
Iraqis partied to celebrate the departure of American troops from Iraqi cities, but the terrorists had a different sort of blast in mind - the kind made by car bombs. We could see this coming of course, but nobody wanted to think about it or take the precautions needed to save lives.
The Israel Navy has prevented a propaganda ship from entering Gaza port. Those who really want to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza can do so through land crossings. This ship of activists was not interested in helping little children and helpless people, but in making a political point - legitimizing the genocidal Hamas in the name of "human rights." Too bad they will get as much publicity from having the ship intercepted as they would have had had it been allowed to pass. But previous experience shows that the activists who arrive in Gaza are not content to distribute aid, but insist on holding press conferences comparing Israelis to Nazis, which is what their "mission" is really about.
An IDF Navy unit took over a ship that was en route to breaking the naval closure on the Gaza Strip, the IDF said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Overnight, Navy troops spotted a vessel with a Greek flag, which had embarked on a journey from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus towards the Gaza Strip.
After the Navy contacted the ship and realized it was headed to Gaza, the troops clarified that the Strip is under naval closure and that because of security concerns it will not be allowed to reach the beach of Gaza.
The ship, named Arion, continued sailing to Gaza despite the Navy's warnings, and after refusing to heed consecutive calls not to sail to the Strip, Navy troops mounted the ship and navigated it to the Ashdod port.
The Arion's crew and passengers will be transferred over to relevant authorities, the military statement said.
The IDF added that any entity wishing to transfer humanitarian aid can do so through land crossings, after coordinating with the relevant Israeli authorities.
The United States has re-approved its Israel loan guarantees program, subject to meeting fiscal targets, the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem said Tuesday.
The move comes amid tensions between Israel and the Obama administration over Jerusalem's settlement policy in the West Bank.
"Re-approval of the loan guarantees shows significant faith in Israel's economy by the U.S. government," Yarom Ariav, the Finance Ministry's director-general, said in a statement after signing the agreement.
Earlier in the decade, to help Israel deal with a recession caused by a global downturn and a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings, the U.S. in 2002 provided a package of $9 billion in loan guarantees, where Israel could sell bonds internationally with the backing of the United States.
The guarantees have been instrumental in sovereign ratings upgrades by credit ratings agencies.
Israel still has $3.8 billion left to use by 2011 after already issuing $4.1 billion in bonds backed by the U.S. and a $1.1 billion deduction for Israeli settlement building and concerns over the West Bank separation fence.
Israel would only be able to use up to $3.2 billion in 2009 but another $333.3 million will be released in 2010 and another $333.3 million in 2011 if Israel sticks to its fiscal targets.
Under the deal with the United States, Israel must meet a 2009 budget deficit target of 6 percent of gross domestic product and keep fiscal spending to 3.05 percent above 2008 spending, and, in 2010, Israel's budget deficit cannot exceed 5.5 percent of GDP while state spending cannot be 1.7 percent above 2009 levels.
Those targets are the basis of Israel's 2009 and 2010 budgets, which lawmakers are expected to approve in the next few weeks.
Israel also has to present a roadmap for a new medium-term fiscal rule that would guide spending growth and deficits through 2015 while progress on privatization of state-owned seaports and the electricity sector must continue.
The U.S. and Israel agreed to expand a partnership in energy and technology research and development activities and in 2010, Israel will be required to improve intellectual property rights protection.
According to the deal, the guarantees amount may be reduced for activities "the president of the United States determines are inconsistent with the objectives and understandings reached between the United States and State of Israel regarding implementation of the loan guarantee program.
A Spanish court has dropped its investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes. A bit of sanity is restored, and Israel will not have to open a probe into the Inquisition or Spanish war crimes in suppressing the legitimate right of resistance of the Basque people, or possible collaboration with Nazis of the Franco regime. Of course these would be absurd, but the Spanish investigation was absurd as well. It served its purpose nonetheless, which was to demonize Israel. Haaretz reports: The action in question killed the great humanitarian Salah Shehadeh, and unfortunately also killed some of his relatives and neighbors. The Spanish judge did not investigate whether or not the suicide bombings planned by Shehadeh were crimes against humanity.
Spain's National Court on Tuesday decided to shelve an investigation launched by one of its judges into a July 2002 air strike by the Israel Defense Forces on a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip, judicial sources said.
Leading Hamas militant Saleh Shehadeh was killed when the Israel Air Force dropped a one-ton bomb on his apartment building in Gaza. The explosion destroyed the building and killed 14 other people, most of them women and children. Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu had argued that it could constitute a crime against humanity.
The suspects named by Andreu included former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and six current or former IDF officers or security officials. The case had created some diplomatic tension between Spain and Israel.
The court decision followed a preliminary approval by parliament of legislation limiting the right of Spanish judges to investigate alleged human rights violations abroad.
Last month, Spanish lawmakers almost unanimously passed a resolution which could end the right of Spanish judges to investigate serious crimes like genocide anywhere in the world in cases where courts in the affected country do not act.
Spain's Socialist government said earlier this year it would change the law after protests from Israel over the High Court's decision in January to launch a war crimes probe into the seven Israeli officials.
If translated into a law, the resolution would restrict Spain, which had been praised by international campaigners, to only investigating cases in which the accused is in Spain or Spaniards are victims.
Riot police clashed with up to 3,000 protesters near a mosque in north Tehran on Sunday, using tear gas and truncheons to break up Iran's first post-election demonstration in five days, witnesses said.
Witnesses told The Associated Press that some protesters fought back, chanting: Where is my vote? They said others described scenes of brutality - including the alleged police beating of an elderly woman - in the clashes around the Ghoba Mosque.
The reports could not immediately be independently verified because of tight restrictions imposed on journalists in Iran.
North Tehran is a base of support for opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has alleged massive fraud in Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election and insists he - not President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - is the rightful winner.
Sunday's clashes broke out at a rally that had been planned to coincide with a memorial held each year for Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, who came to be considered a martyr in the Islamic Republic after he was killed in a 1981 anti-regime bombing.
It was Iran's first election-related unrest since Wednesday, when a small group of rock-throwing protesters who had gathered near parliament was quickly overwhelmed by police forces using tear gas and clubs.
Iran's standoff with the West over its crackdown on opposition protesters escalated Sunday after authorities detained several local employees of the British Embassy in Tehran - a move that Britain's foreign secretary called harassment and intimidation. The European Union condemned the arrests.
Iranian media said eight local embassy staff were detained for an alleged role in post-election protests, but gave no further details. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said about nine employees were detained Saturday and that four had been released.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Corfu, Greece, issued a statement Sunday condemning the arrests and calling for the immediate release of all those still detained. The 27-nation bloc also denounced Iran's continuing restrictions on journalists.
# They make clear to the Iranian authorities that harassment or intimidation of foreign or Iranian staff working in embassies will be met with a strong and collective EU response, the statement said.
The arrests are reminiscent of the 1979 US embassy hostage crisis. Evidently that is one of the rewards of engagement with Iran. Actually, as many as 150 may have been killed in Iran, and not 17, which is the more or less official government figure cited below by BBC. The EU has threatened a stiff response. The French will send a note. The British will keep a stiff upper lip.
Tehran has blamed the US and UK for post-election unrest
Iran has detained eight local staff at the British embassy in Tehran on accusations of having a role in post-election riots, local reports said.
The embassy has not yet confirmed the report from the semi-official Fars news agency, which did not name its source.
Relations between the countries are strained after Tehran accused the UK of inflaming unrest, which London denies.
Some 17 people are thought to have died in street protests after the disputed 12 June presidential poll.
Tehran has expelled two British diplomats in the past week, and the UK has responded with a similar measure.
There is no independent confirmation of the latest arrests.
"Eight local employees at the British embassy who had a considerable role in recent unrest were taken into custody," Fars said, without giving a source.
The UK Foreign Office said in London: "We have in the last few days received a number of, sometimes confused, reports that British nationals or others with British connections have been detained. We continue to raise them with the Iranian authorities."
This video tells the inside story of Gaza war crimes. It is in the form of a memorandum addressed to Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African Jewish jurisprudent who heads the UN appointed Gaza fact findign mission. In it you will see how the Palestinians are full of the love of life and humanity, and their plans for peace with the Jews. If you are thinking of giving money to support humanitarian aid to Gaza, joining a demonstration to end the Gaza siege, or joining an Israel boycott initiative, you need to see this film, so you have all the facts about the Zionist persecution of Palestinians. Don't miss it.
Click the link if you cannot see the embedded video below:
Where, oh where, is the ultranationalist racist we read about in the Associated Press and Reuters dispatches?
FM Liberman interview with Radio Reka
FM Liberman says of his first comprehensive official visit in Europe, the US and Canada that the results greatly exceeded expectations.
Interview with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on his visits to Europe and the United States Radio Reka, June 25, 2009 [Translated from Russian]
Q: Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is here today participating in the afternoon edition of the "News Today" magazine on Radio Reka. How would you sum up your comprehensive official visit in the countries of Europe, the United States and Canada?
FM Liberman: The results greatly exceeded our expectations. The EU-Israel Association Council is held once a year, when Israel meets with the 27 member states of the European Union. Most of the foreign ministers of the European Union's member states hold personal meetings every morning. Meetings of the Troika and the External Relations commission take place in the afternoons, and a press conference is given at the end. Many critical decisions are made in an informal atmosphere over dinner. We were in many senses apprehensive of a tough European stance towards us. Israel is one of three states, besides Switzerland and Norway, which are not members of the European Union and have very close ties to it. We had quite a few worries about the political developments, but it turned out that the situation is fine, and our friends are numerous than we imagined. Only two countries and one foreign minister demonstrated a hostile, incomprehensible attitude towards us.
Q: Whom are we talking about?
FM Liberman: Belgium, Luxembourg and the French foreign minister. In the case of France, we're probably talking more about a personal attitude than an official French one. We were attacked from these quarters with reproaches and criticism.
Q: Mainly for the known reasons?
FM Liberman: However, I must mention that at the end of the evening, after the meal, all the participants were in high spirits, including Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Javier Solana and the Czech foreign minister. It's important to emphasize that the Czech Republic, a country with a very constructive attitude, is one of the European states that is friendliest to Israel. We succeeded in maintaining our position and preserving the level of good relations. We signed an action plan until the end of 2009. The meeting ended with a much better feeling than expected.
Q: You expected less favorable results. What do you think affected this development you mentioned?
FM Liberman: We have many friends in Europe; we underestimate our status; and do not devote attention to the countries that we consider allies. We assume there's no need to invest in relations with countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania. The countries new to the European Union – the states of central and eastern Europe – are actually the ones that understand us and the problems we face better than the prosperous western states that have been living under optimal conditions for many years. Countries such as Holland and Denmark encounter quite a few internal problems, so their attitude toward Israel has become better and more positive. The same holds true for Italy. That is to say, Israel is no longer an isolated country. Not everyone is against us. We have many allies and we must devote attention to them, invest time, effort and money in developing relations with them; otherwise, we won't achieve good results.
Q: As foreign minister, do you intend to invest time, effort and attention in this regard?
FM Liberman: Of course. Yesterday, I returned to Israel from a trip that lasted ten days, during which I visited Brussels, Luxembourg, the United States and Canada. Yesterday I had three meetings – with the Hungarian prime minister, the Dutch foreign minister and the Czech foreign minister, who is serving as the rotating president of the European Union. There is no alternative to good public relations work, a personal approach and attention, plain and simple. That's what we are trying to do.
Q: Please briefly explain the new European position. What are its principles, and what demands is the EU making?
FM Liberman: As of now, the European Union has decided in many senses to adopt the United State's position for itself, and is not presenting any independent stance on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The union has accepted the American approach in its entirety. On different subjects, however, such as the Iranian one and the whole connection to the crisis that occurred as a result of the recent elections there, the union has surprisingly taken a much tougher stance than the new American administration. Yet on the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Europeans have adopted the American position as a whole. So the situation is not so simple. It must be understood that in Israel's view, the European Union is the most important market – this is our number one import and export market. Even the American market comes in second after the EU market.
Q: The meetings you held in the United States were not easy, for example, your meeting with the US secretary of state.
FM Liberman: I would like to add something about Europe. At the NATO headquarters in Brussels, I met with the organization's secretary-general. In my estimation, NATO today has become an important factor, a very important ally for us. This organization participates in discussions on many strategic world problems and takes part in a long list of military maneuvers. These days, warm, friendly ties are being forged between the organization and us, even closer ones than the ties between its member states. As far as everything connected with the United States is concerned, it's true that the meeting was not easy. I don't understand their obsession with the settlements. We had many subjects on the agenda and managed to come up with a joint position on all of them. We reached an agreement on all the main clauses, except for the one point related, of course, to building settlements in Judah and Samaria.
Q: And expanding existing settlements to provide housing.
FM Liberman: But also in everything related to the United States, the position is much more positive than what might have been anticipated. The meetings in the State Department and the White House naturally reflect the administration's position. The meetings in the Senate and Congress were fascinating. I met with more than 40 congressional representatives and senators, including key figures. I got together with Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry and many others. Many people there understand all the problems of the Middle East very well, know how to assess the risks we are undertaking, and are aware of the true state of affairs here. In conclusion, I will say that the visit to the United States was extremely successful. Now efforts are being made to reach an agreement on the last point on the agenda. I assume that we will reach an agreement and a reasonable compromise on this topic as well.
Q: You are optimistic, and have summed up the trip positively. Please tell us about the visit to Canada.
FM Liberman: Canada is definitely an ally. Today it's hard to point out our most loyal ally, but Canada is undoubtedly an exception, in the positive sense. Canada was the first to boycott the Durban II conference that was held in Switzerland. In Canada I met with the head of the opposition and of course with my colleague, the foreign minister. I also had meetings with four other ministers, including the minister of finance and the minister entrusted with matters of international trade. It's hard to find a country friendlier to Israel than Canada these days. Members both of the coalition and the opposition are loyal friends to us, both with regard to their worldview and their estimation of the situation in everything related to the Middle East, North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Somalia. No other country in the world has demonstrated such full understanding of us. The Jewish community in Canada is very united, unlike the communities in most countries, and it maintains solid contacts both in the government and in Parliament. I got the impression of a whole, harmonious picture of great support for Israel.
Q: The Canadian option might be the best one?
FM Liberman: Canada is so friendly that there was no need to convince or explain anything to anyone. We had amiable talks in a supportive atmosphere; we seriously discussed the problems existing in the world. We need allies like this in the international arena.
Q: Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, thank you very much for this full review of your visits and your hard work, which is so important to Israel. All the best to you.