Bangladeshi Professor demands lifting of travel ban on Israel
Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, an eminent scholar, researcher, Professor of Dhaka University and Chief Coordinator of Jatiya Nirbachan Parjabekkhan Parishad [JANIPOP] and in English National Election Observation Council said in a popular television talkshow named Tritiomatra which was telecast on September 13, 2009 from 12:45 am that, Bangladesh government should immediately lift travel ban on Israel.
Pointing to the fact that Bangladeshi government has already allowed its citizen using 'Red Passport', which are issued to Ministers, Members of Parliament, civil and millitary officials to visit Israel, while on the 'Green' color passport, which is issued to the civilians of Bangladesh, it is written 'ALL COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD EXCEPT ISRAEL'.
Prof. Kalimullah termed such double standard as gross violation of citizen's rights.
It may be mentioned here that, Bangladesh continues travel, business, telecommunication and postal ban on Israel. Israeli flag carrying vessels are not allowed to enter Bangladeshi territorry for years.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that, a large number of Muslim nations are having full diplomatic relations with Israel, while Saudi Arabia has economic relations with Israel since 1982.
Indonesia although does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, there is no such travel ban on its citizen from visiting Israel. Islamic Republic of Pakistan also has economic relations with Israel
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The United States will focus on Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is to develop weapons, in upcoming talks with Tehran despite its refusal to discuss the subject, the White House said on Saturday.
"This may not have been a topic that they wanted to be brought up but I can assure that it's a topic that we'll bring up," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One as President Barack Obama traveled to talk about his healthcare initiative.
The United States said on Friday it would accept Iran's offer of wide-ranging talks with major powers despite the Islamic Republic's stated refusal to discuss its nuclear program.
Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is for civil energy uses, not weapons.
Gibbs welcomed Iran's willingness to talk, but expressed disappointment that it ignored the nuclear issue and he made it clear that the subject would come up during the discussions.
"The Iranians have responsibilities to the international community to walk away from their ... ballistic nuclear weapons program," Gibbs said. "That's what the focus from our side will be in these talks and that's our goal."
Six major powers -- the permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as Germany -- offered Iran trade and diplomatic incentives in 2006 in exchange for a halt to uranium enrichment.
They improved the offer last year but retained the demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, something Tehran has ruled out as a precondition.
Iran on Wednesday handed over a five-page proposal that offered wide-ranging talks with the West but was silent on its nuclear program.
"We think this gives us an avenue to directly address the Iranians, what we think their responsibilities are, to put pressure on them throughout the international community and strengthen our hand as we move forward," Gibbs said.
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; writing by Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
The U.S. pension fund giant, TIAA-CREF, confirmed in statements to the media on Friday that it divested from Africa Israel Investments, owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, earlier this year.
A pro-Palestinian group reported Friday that the move was in protest against the firm's business ventures in the West Bank.
The statements came in response to a letter initiated by Adalah-NY (the New York office of the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) and signed by TIAA-CREF clients.
The fund's investment in Africa Israel amounted to only $257,000, so the financial effect of the divestment is minimal. The news of the divestment came as the Israeli firm was suffering a deep financial crisis, having recently announced that is unable to meet its liabilities to its bondholders.
Officials at Adalah-NY claim that TIAA-CREF made the decision after the organization presented data on Africa Israel's activities in the West Bank.
Adalah NY noted in its press release that "Despite the recent divestment from Africa-Israel, the new June 30th TIAA-CREF report indicates that the fund continues to invest clients' money in a number of companies supporting Israeli settlement activity including Israel Discount Bank, Cellcom Israel, Bezeq Israeli Telecommunications Corp, Bank Leumi, and Motorola, among others."
Earlier this month the Norwegian government announced it was pulling all of its investments from Elbit Systems, which manufactures the monitoring system installed on several parts of the West Bank separation fence.
Norwegian Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said that the decision was based on the recommendation of her ministry's council. "We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law," Halvorsen was quoted as saying, explaining that the separation barrier impinged on the freedom of movement of West Bank residents.
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat - Egyptian and Israeli sources stated Friday that Cairo and Tel Aviv are close to reaching agreements on developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, at the heart of which is the prisoner exchange deal between the two sides. The sources also stated that these agreements would be made public following a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
In this regard, the sources also referred to important meetings between Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, Israeli negotiator Haggai Hadas and head of the Hamas politburo Khaled Meshaal on the "prisoner exchange deal." They added that the fact that the Israeli Interior Minister will be accompanying Netanyahu on his visit to Cairo is a good indication, from the practical side, that a prisoner exchange deal will be reached soon.
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hadas' visit to Cairo lasted many hours and he met Omar Suleiman and a number of his senior aides in order to discuss the details of the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The sources said "the Egyptian President will meet Netanyahu and his delegation over Iftar [the breaking of the fast in Ramadan] in Heliopolis, Cairo, in order to discuss developments in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the prisoner exchange and bilateral ties between Tel Aviv and Cairo."
On his part, North Sinai Governor Major General Mohammed Abdul Fadil Shousha said that Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah border crossing to Palestinian pilgrims trying to make their way to Saudi Arabia. An official at the Rafah border crossing said that Egyptian authorities will open the crossing again next Tuesday for three days so that hundreds of stranded Palestinians on both sides could cross and spend Eid al Fitr with their relatives in the Gaza Strip.
There is no doubt that the United States had no choice other than to accept Iran's offer of "dialogue" that excluded its nuclear program. Especially since Russia made it clear that it would block U.N. Sanctions. There is also no doubt that the dialogue will be sterile and simply waste more time, and that the Obama administration policy of negotiating with Iran has clearly failded. Here is an opinion about the latest Iranian negotiations ploy:
The Iranian response to the international community regarding negotiations on the nuclear issue did not provide any answers. Instead of Tehran providing answers on its nuclear file, it presented a package of proposals and ideas to solve international problems and issues and to solve current regional issues. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a few days ago that "the nuclear issue is finished and there will be no discussion of it."
Iran showed that it was willing to take part in helping solve the problems of terrorism, the Palestinian issue, Iraq, and also Afghanistan. In other words, Tehran is presenting itself as a leader of the entire region and the proof is that it wants to solve our problems. Perhaps this explains some important matters for us. When Iran is demonstrating its willingness to help solve the pending issues then this means that it has a hand in what's happening in the region. When Iran talks about being willing to help solve the problem of terrorism, this explains why some members of Al Qaeda go to Iran, for example [Fawwaz] al Otaibi who handed himself in to Saudi authorities. Iran's willingness to help in Afghanistan also explains the discovery of an arsenal of Iranian weapons, including rockets, detonators and the like, which belonged to Taliban fighters. The same happened in Iraq where there are supporters of Iran, or Hamas in Palestine or Hezbollah in Lebanon.
This all suggests that Tehran is not serious about responding to the fundamental issue; the Iranian nuclear file. This represents a great danger to regional states firstly because of the intentions of Iran's Mullahs and secondly because it opens the door to nuclear armament in a region that is already full of violence and conflict.
It seems that we're back at square one. If there are some states in the international community willing to accept a nuclear Iran like [a nuclear] India and Pakistan for example, Israel will certainly not be one of them. This would explain the confusion that overcame everybody when asked: where did Netanyahu disappear to for nine hours? Was he in Moscow or somewhere else?
Israel is in a race against time in preparing to deal with Iran and preventing it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Israel might carry out a swift and fatal blow in order to prevent nuclear armament.
...With regards to Israel, there is no doubt it will exploit the political failure of US President Barack Obama's extended hand for dialogue with Iran and this would explain the numerous military maneuvers that Israel conducted and continues to conduct and its overt and covert diplomatic actions.
In other words, the author believes that what Iran is saying is, "You need protection - from us."
Who wrote this Op-Ed? Frank Gaffney? Michael Ledeen, Brett Stephens, an Israeli? Where did it appear? WSJ, TNR, Frontpage magazine? A "neo-con Zionist" publication, right? Wrong. The auther Is Tariq Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of Asharq al Awsat. He cannot be mistaken for a Zionist or a member of the Israel lobby. The article: an: Has the Ghost of Military Action Returned?
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor confirmed on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had visited Russia this week but declined to elaborate on the affair, which has triggered media accusations of official disinformation.
"He was in Russia. It created some controversy about the way it was published in Israel," Meridor told Reuters in Geneva on the sidelines of a conference about global issues hosted by Britain's International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"The content was not discussed in public. Some things are better discussed (privately)," added Meridor, who is also Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy.
Netanyahu angered some Israeli newspapers on Thursday over what they described as lies issued by his office about a secret flight to Russia.
Explaining why he had disappeared from public view for a day, a statement issued on Monday by the prime minister's office quoted his military attache as saying that Netanyahu had visited a security installation in Israel.
Israeli media reported he had toured a facility of the Mossad intelligence agency. But on Wednesday, mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronot reported that Netanyahu had, in fact, flown secretly to Moscow to voice concern over the possible sale of Russian anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
Reports of the Moscow visit followed the interception by Russian warships of a cargo ship off West Africa last month. Media reports, denied by Russia, said the Arctic Sea was carrying to Iran S-300 missiles that were detected by Israel.
The air defense missiles issue has been a sore point in relations between Moscow and Israel, which has lobbied Russia to pull away from selling them to Iran, saying they could protect nuclear facilities if Israel was to launch air strikes.
The real question is, who gained a strategic advantage? Did Israel squander a strategic opportunity created by a brilliant tactical advantage? The important thing is not how many Hamas people were killed, but who will rule in Gaza and in Israel in 50 years.
Hamas has undertaken a major process of examination and investigation into its deeply flawed performance in the course of Operation Cast Lead, sources say. The review process is aimed at developing a new doctrine for Hamas to enable it to achieve its ambition of rivaling Hizbullah in its abilities. It remains to be seen if the reforms will deliver an improved result in renewed future hostilities with Israel or whether, as with Operation Cast Lead, Israel will once again display an ability to frustrate and set Hamas back on the tactical level.
Hamas carried out the first review of its performance immediately following the conclusion of hostilities. This was followed by a second major investigation in the spring, amid harsh criticism of the group's performance from its Iranian and Syrian sponsors. Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades leader Ahmed al-Ja'abari, and northern brigade commander Ahmed al-Ghandour were particularly singled out for criticism.
The cull of senior Hamas operatives in the course of Operation Cast Lead was heavy. Politburo members Nizar Rayyan and Said Siyam were killed. Senior commanders of the Executive Force, like Salah Abu Shareh (who headed the EF's security apparatus) and Mahmoud Watfah (head of its military wing), also lost their lives. Around 50 explosives experts are reported to have died. Operatives at this level are not easily replaced. But more fundamentally, the defensive doctrines developed by Hamas prior to Cast Lead comprehensively failed the test.
All of its strategically important attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers in the course of the fighting were unsuccessful (at least three close calls were reported). Its failure to score any success against the IDF's heavy armor was particularly noted. This was in stark contrast to the Second Lebanon War in 2006, in which Hizbullah's relative success in damaging a large number of tanks formed an important part of its claim of "divine victory."
The Hamas investigation, according to sources, was particularly focused on probing the failure to repel the IDF's push into Tel al-Hawa - Israel's deepest incursion into Gaza City. The investigation discovered widespread desertion by members of the Kassam Brigades in the face of the IDF advance. It found that many fighters, who had received instructions to withdraw if they feared being overrun, took a liberal interpretation of this, disappearing well in advance of the IDF's arrival. A Gaza rumor has it that 100 gunmen from the Zeitoun area were stripped of their membership in the organization following Cast Lead.
The extent of the Hamas failure can be summed up if one considers the official figures given by the organization on the ordnance fired in the course of Operation Cast Lead. According to Kassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeideh, Hamas fired 558 rockets, of which 345 were Kassams and 213 were Grads, and 422 mortar shells; 53 sniper attacks were carried out and 79 bombs were detonated. Nineteen pitched battles with IDF forces took place.
The result was the death of six IDF soldiers. If one compares this with the statistics of Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 - in which 23 IDF soldiers were killed in a single battle in the Jenin refugee camp - the extent of the failure becomes apparent.
Hamas managed throughout the course of the Gaza war to maintain constant rocket fire on Israel. This was a significant symbolic achievement, but not a great deal more. It constitutes the sole military success of any kind for which Hamas is able to take credit.
Clearly, something went awry for the rulers of Gaza in the fighting. Their patrons in Teheran and Damascus were angry and concerned. The image of success, of having finally found a way to deny the IDF victory and cause Israel setbacks, is an important element in the psychological warfare of the Iran-led regional bloc. This image has taken a series of blows so far this year. The Gaza events rank high among them.
Hamas has therefore engaged in extensive internal discussions intended to lead to the formulation of a new doctrine. According to sources, two distinct orientations emerged from this, corresponding broadly with the growing political divide in Hamas between the veteran leadership of the movement and elements committed to a more extreme al-Qaida style approach. The latter favored the acceptance of a much higher casualty rate of Hamas fighters, through the resumption of direct attacks on Israeli forces, and the reinstatement of attacks on Israel and in the West Bank. This adventurous and probably suicidal approach, however, has not been accepted.
Rather Hamas has adopted a more modest series of reforms. These center on overhauling the movement's tactical doctrine, adopting a new and intensified, externally-supported training program for Kassam Brigades fighters, increased smuggling and upgrading of arms, the building of a new, underground tunnel structure and an attempt to tighten internal security.
Regarding the first issue, Hamas over the summer has been carrying out intensified military training at its various training camps and military academy in the Nuseirat refugee camp. The academy, ironically, is named after the Palestinian ideological godfather of al-Qaida, Dr. Abdallah Azzam. In contrast to the pre-2009 period, when Hamas took great pride in parading its military capabilities, the nature of this training has not been publicized.
The new approach is thought to be more offensive, and is intended to hit at the rear bases of an incoming IDF force. Hizbullah is thought to be deeply involved in the new training program. (This is not a new development. Elements who had trained with Hizbullah in the Bekaa Valley were also involved in the fighting earlier this year.)
On the issue of smuggling, Egyptian efforts at cracking down on weapons smuggling into Rafah have increased in recent months. In addition, as reported in the media, there have been the attacks on arms convoys in Sudan which were on their way to Gaza, and the revelation of a Hizbullah-led arms smuggling network in the spring; 49 operatives, led by Hizbullah member Sami Shihab (Muhammad Yousef Mansour) are now on trial in Egypt for organizing this network.
The Egyptians, however, are making no efforts to curb commercial smuggling into Gaza, which now forms a major source of income for the Hamas regime. As a result, Hamas is mixing the bringing in of arms with the import of commercial goods. Part of the levy placed on commercial owners of tunnels is thought to include requiring them at short notice to be ready to bring in arms for Hamas. Extensive redigging of tunnels destroyed in the bombing of the Philadelphi corridor began already in January.
In addition to the extensive tunnel network, seaborne smuggling is also continuing. Hamas claims as a result of these efforts to now have a more extensive array of weaponry than before the war.
Hamas lost a very large amount of weaponry in the course of Operation Cast Lead. Key storage facilities under mosques and public buildings were discovered. The movement blames the presence of Fatah "informers" for its failures in this regard. Hamas believes that Fatah members at street level provided real-time information to IDF forces. The movement settled accounts with a series of executions of Fatah men after Cast Lead. Improving internal security is now a major task facing the rulers of Gaza.
The picture of Hamas in Gaza that emerges in the post-Cast Lead period is a complex one. On the one hand, its rule survived the operation intact. No concerted Israeli effort to bring Hamas down was undertaken, and Hamas swiftly reasserted its authority after emerging from the rubble, despite the heavy blows it had taken.
On the other hand, the many failures in the movement's performance have tarnished its reputation and accentuated internal divisions. The most important of these splits is between the movement's traditional leadership which wants to continue its current path, and the growing number of Salafi militants concentrated in the Kassam Brigades, who would like to see greater Islamic observance in society and a return to a collision course with Israel.
Operation Cast Lead represented a significant tactical defeat for Hamas and hence, an important though far from decisive setback for the regional alliance which it is part of. The movement has picked up the pieces and engaged in a rethink of the methods that failed it. Of course, Israel too will have sought to learn its lessons from the experience of the Gaza War. As to who drew the better conclusions - this will be answered only in the next round of fighting between these two seemingly irreconcilable foes.
The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.
Continuing the revelations about the interesting hobby of HRW investigator Marc Garlasco (see HRW anti-Israel investigator Garlasco may be obessed with Nazis) these articles translated from the Hebrew press provide more damning evidence about the lineup of Human Rights Watch investigators who are either anti-Israel or weird. The latest addition is Marc Garlasco, who collects Nazi "memorabilia" as a hobby. He wrote a book about it. His reaction to these reports is a bit revealing:
"I would reply, but I don't want to encourage them, wrote Garlasco under the pseudonym Flak88, "Anyway, I doubt if they read my book. More than anything else, it is related to my work."
"That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!" --Flak88 (aka Marc Garlasco), wehrmacht-awards.com, 2005
"To imply that Garlasco's collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention" --HRW statement, September 8, 2009
CAN OF WORMS
(Article by Ben-Dror Yemini, Ma'ariv, 8.9.09, p. A7)
If it was only one case, it would be possible to claim it was a coincidence. Even two cases are not proof. But the more that Human Rights Watch (HRW) – the most important international human rights organization – is exposed, the more it becomes clear that something there really stinks. No, this is not a gentle phrase; it is certainly not diplomatic. But it is doubtful if there is a word that better describes the can of worms being exposed there. Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division, the division responsible for the astonishing reports against Israel, served on the advisory committee of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee before joining HRW and supports boycotting Israel. Her deputy is Joe Stork, who was also revealed in this newspaper as an anti-Zionist radical who opposed any recognition of Israel and as a member of a team that issued a statement supporting, or at least understanding, the massacre of athletes in Munich.
NGO Monitor, led by Prof. Gerald Steinberg, is currently releasing a detailed report on HRW that also exposes the systematic misleading, and also the deception, as well as additional members of the organization, such as Lucy Mair, Reed Brody, Darryl Li and Nadia Barhoum, the common denominator of which is radical anti-Israel activity. They are supposed to be "objective judges." It is becoming clear that their credibility is equal to that of Al-Qaida's reports on the Zionist movement. The major problem is their reports receive serious coverage in the respectable media in Israel and throughout the world.
Now joining the party is Mark Garlasco, HRW's senior military analyst, who was previously in the vanguard of venomous reports against Israel.
This is the man, for example, who determined that an Israeli shell caused the deaths of an entire Palestinian family in Beit Lahiya on the Gaza coast in June 2006, and other various accusations related to the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. Space is too short to list Garlasco's quantity of errors. But he is against Israel so it's OK.
It is still not clear if Garlasco is himself a Nazi. Claims to this effect deserve detailed scrutiny but it seems that one may suffice with what there is. He collects Nazi memorabilia. This is not innocent collecting. In many cases, collectors belong to a grouping with a clear ideology; sane people are not among them.
Garlasco led the American army's targeted elimination unit in Iraq. He was also among those responsible for pursuit of Saddam Hussein. Then how did the targeted elimination man become a senior HRW official? How is it that the militarist from the Right is stuffed into the lairs of the Left? Could it be that the Nazi memorabilia fancier also fancies a movement whose ideology is the closest thing to the Nazi movement?
The answer lays in what usually joins the extreme Left and the extreme Right in the world at large: Hatred of Israel. What is even clearer is that HTW is being exposed as a dangerous organization that needs a serious shake-up. Human rights around the world deserve much more that terrorism admirers like Stork or Nazi memorabilia collectors like Garlasco.
Marc Garlasco, the seniorHuman Rights Watch expert is one of the authors of some of the most venomous reports against Israel and the IDF. But he has another occupation: He a compulsive collector of Nazi insignia and memorabilia. Yesterday Garlasco wrote in his blog: "I would reply, but I do not want to encourage them." The organization is trying to explain: "That is part of Garlasco's work as a military historian."
Another scandal hits the human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of Israel's biggest critics regarding the Palestinian population. Three weeks ago Ma'ariv disclosed that senior figure Joe Stork is a radical anti-Zionist who opposed any recognition of Israel, and even showed understanding for the Munich Massacre of athletes. Yesterday it became clear that Mark Garlasco, the organization's senior military researcher is an enthusiastic collector of Nazi memorabilia.
Garlasco, who is responsible for a number of harsh reports against Israel and the IDF – amongst which was a report that presented Gaza residents' claims about the IDF's use of phosphorous shells during Operation Cast Lead, as well as a report on the deaths of an entire family on the Beit Lahiya beach following an IDF bombing – is a regular attendant of Nazi memorabilia collectors' forums and has even written an extensive book on the subject.
Mark Garlasco's loaded hobby was revealed yesterday in the blog Mere Rhetoric. The blog succeeded in cross-checking data from Garlasco's open biographical records and the details of a surfer using the pseudonym Flak88, a German anti-aircraft shell. This same surfer demonstrated both great interest and knowledge on Nazi memorabilia collecting. The blog's authors even hinted that, in light of the overlapping details, both figures – the real one and the virtual – are actually one and the same.
The blog's research showed that Flak88 is in the habit of collecting various Nazi memorabilia, like medals and insignia, and to post pictures of them on the forums of similar collectors. In 2007, Flak88 made a posting on a forum dedicated the Wehrmacht, the Nazi army. "Friends, he wrote, "this year I was lucky and I collected a few items. Most I already had. I hope that you enjoy the pictures." Flak88 added links and documents to the posting, which authenticated them. Apart from that, Flak88 wrote an extensive book, with over 400 pages on collecting Nazi items. The book sold for $100 on Nazi collector forums.
Emma Daly, Communications Director at Human Rights Watch, confirmed to Ma'ariv that Flak88 and Mark Garlasco are the same person. With that she clarified that the organization denies the suggestions regarding Garlasco's tendencies. "Mark Garlasco is not pro-Nazi," said Daly, "These allegations are monstrous. He does not delve into Nazi memorabilia. Garlasco is a student of military history and he has an interest in military history."
With that, Garlasco's biography, as it appears on the HRW website, shows that he has a BA in Government and a Masters in International Relations. Before joining HRW he was employed by the Pentagon as an analyst on the subject of Iraq. After joining the human rights organization, Garlasco became its senior military expert and headed investigation teams to Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia.
In recent years Garlasco has been involved in a series of investigations against the IDF, in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon. Garlasco, for example, checked the allegations against the IDF on the use of cluster bombs in the Second Lebanon War. In the past months Garlasco published two reports on Operation Cast Lead: In one he determined that the IDF used phosphorous shells and in the second he checked the use of UAVs. "The UAV operators can see their targets on the ground clearly and can divert the missiles after launch, Garlasco determined. "Based on those abilities, Israel must explain why there incidences of civilian casualties."
Professor Gerald Steinberg, Director of NGO Monitor, which published this on Garlasco yesterday, is sure that there is a direct connection between the reports that he writes and his fetish. "HRW is considered a very prestigious, very moral, organization," says Steinberg. "It leads the attacks against Israel, on the basis of human rights violations, but a number of senior figures there have an anti-Israel ideological background. We see this clearly with Garlasco."
Garlasco himself replied laconically to the publications. "I would reply, but I don't want to encourage them, wrote Garlasco under the pseudonym Flak88, "Anyway, I doubt if they read my book. More than anything else, it is related to my work."
"Dear Mr President, we've got your back in supporting Middle East peace. J-Street supports immediate and indefinite suspension of American aid to the Palestinian Authority until and unless Mr Abbas agrees to meet with Mr. Netanyahu. Those who support Palestine understand that from time to time it requires some tough love, for its own good. "
Less than two weeks before the UN General Assembly is to meet, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remains adamant in his refusal to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, potentially jeopardizing the Obama administration's plans to hold a tripartite meeting in New York on September 23 or 24.
Abbas insists there will be no meeting with Netanyahu, nor a resumption of negotiations, unless Israel completely freezes settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The United States and Israel are still hoping that an agreement on a temporary freeze in settlement construction, along with an Israeli announcement to that effect, will convince Abbas to change his mind.
Haaretz has learned that Abbas has relayed messages in recent days to senior U.S. and European officials, as well as Israeli officials, saying he did not intend to participate in a tripartite meeting at the UN General Assembly and that he was not willing to meet with Netanyahu.
A political source in Jerusalem said that Israel's recent announcement of 455 new building permits and the delay in declaring a freeze in settlement construction are the reasons Abbas is refusing to participate in a tripartite meeting at the United Nations with U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.
During a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos on Wednesday, Netanyahu said he was uncertain that a tripartite meeting would be held in New York. He said that if a meeting with Abbas did not take place at the UN, then one was likely to take place in early October.
"We have wanted this meeting for five months now," Netanyahu asserted. "It is the Palestinians who are posing preconditions to a meeting."
Netanyahu also expressed a degree of disappointment at the extent of goodwill gestures from the Arab states the Obama administration had managed to receive in exchange for Israel's intention to freeze West Bank settlement construction. The prime minister told Moratinos that "it was a modest normalization package" and highlighted the refusal of Saudi Arabia to agree to make a goodwill gesture toward Israel.
Netanyahu said the U.S. administration continues to pressure the Arab states, and a certain amount of progress had been achieved in a number of Persian Gulf states.
For the Obama administration, a tripartite meeting at the UN has great significance as the United States would like to transform the event into the starting point for the resumption of negotiations between the two sides, and are thus presenting it as a substantial step forward.
The Palestinian stance is causing a great deal of agitation among American officials, who are concerned about the possibility of failing to arrange a meeting. The Americans have relayed messages to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in recent days, urging the two sides to moderate their positions in order for a meeting to take place.
On Saturday night, U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, is due to arrive in Israel for meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and is expected to pressure Abbas to meet with Netanyahu. Mitchell is also scheduled to travel to other countries in the region.
In Jerusalem, the U.S. envoy will seek to finalize a deal with Netanyahu on the hiatus in settlement construction. There is still disagreement between the United States and Israel on the duration of the freeze. The Spanish foreign minister told Netanyahu that Mitchell had told him the United States was demanding a year-long freeze. Netanyahu did not offer any details but said that the "matter had not yet been finalized."
The prime minister would like to see a six-month freeze go into effect, while analysts have said that a likely compromise will result in a nine-month freeze. The unresolved issue of settlement construction continues to add tension to U.S.-Israel relations. Rumors that Mitchell would cancel his trip to Israel had also circulated.
On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that as far as the United States is concerned, "Israel is obligated to cease settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, or anywhere outside the borders of 1967." He also said that the efforts now are concentrating on creating the right atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinians so that they can sit and resolve the ongoing conflict.
Mitchell is scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday and with Netanyahu on Monday. Sunday afternoon Netanyahu will travel to Cairo for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Netanyahu and Mubarak will discuss the developments on the issue of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas since 2006.
However, the crux of the conversation with Mubarak will be the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Israeli leader will seek the president's assistance in convincing Abbas to attend a tripartite meeting in New York.
Sep. 10, 2009 JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Syria may be operating more nuclear sites, apart from the reactor at Deir Azour which was bombed by Israel on September 6, 2007 in what came to be known as Operation Orchard, former US envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Gregory Schulte told Channel 10 Thursday evening.
"I think there were other activities that gave us concern, that gave the IAEA concern… IAEA inspectors actually asked to go to a number of other sites, and the Syrians wouldn't let them go there; they claimed they were military sites. They claimed the uranium particles that the inspectors found at the destroyed reactor came from Israeli bombs," Schulte said.
In the past, the Syrian accusation was brushed aside both by the IAEA and Israel, as the uranium used to strengthen the metal of shells is of a different type than the uranium used in producing nuclear energy.
Schulte went on to criticize the conduct of Mohammed ElBaradei, the Egyptian-born outgoing IAEA chief who has been accused by Israel many times of being biased.
"I tell you Mohammed ElBaradei was not happy ... he was mad at Israel, he was mad at the United States; he didn't express any discontent about Syria," he said.
Schulte added that ElBaradei issued a statement following Operation Orchard, "where he sort of deplored Israel's unilateral action, he deplored the late provision of intelligence which was a direct slap at the United States."
Moving on to the issue of Iran's nuclear pursuit, Schulte said the Islamic republic was using a tactic of stalling to the West while continuing to work on its program.
"Iran is always trying to buy time," he said. "The question is, can you sort of convince them to stop doing that, convince them that they have to negotiate seriously... so the trick is to convince them that the opportunity to buy time is running out and the need to negotiate seriously." Iran needs to "show a willingness to suspend these activities," he said, referring to enrichment of uranium, a process which can serve to produce electricity but also to build a nuclear weapon, Schulte added.
Earlier Thursday, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Teheran's envoy to the IAEA, suggested that any negotiations with Western powers would not address the Islamic republic's nuclear program, according to a report carried by Iran's state-run al-Alam television station cited by Reuters.
"Teheran is prepared to have fair and substantive talks about various problems, including the guarantee of access by all countries to nuclear energy and preventing the proliferation of nuclear arms," Soltanieh reportedly said.
"But these talks do not include Teheran's nuclear program and legal activities in this connection," he was quoted as saying. His comments came just a day after Iran presented world powers with a proposal for new talks. Teheran is faced with a US threat of harsher new sanctions over its nuclear program if it fails to begin negotiations in earnest by the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of September.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ruled out negotiations over uranium enrichment, the UN's central concern regarding his country's nuclear program.
Most other depictions of the menorah were made only after the temple's destruction, and if this finding is indeed earlier it could be closer to the original, said Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Probably that is not true. What is true is that most depictions of the Menorah that have been found were made after the destruction of the temple.
Many Palestinians insist that there was never any temple in Jerusalem and that Jews did not have sovereignty in the land in ancient times. Therefore, archeological finds like these have poltiical importance. Certain archeologists and other self appointed authorities dismiss such findings as "bourgeois empiricism."
Sep. 11, 2009 Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israeli archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest depictions of a menorah, the seven-branched candelabra that has come to symbolize Judaism, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Friday.
The menorah was engraved in stone around 2,000 years ago and found in a synagogue recently discovered by the Kinneret.
Pottery, coins and tools found at the site indicate the synagogue dates to the period of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, where the actual menorah was kept, said archaeologist Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The artist might have seen the menorah during a pilgrimage and then recreated it in the synagogue, she suggested.
A small number of depictions of the menorah have surfaced from the same period, she said, but this one was unique because it was inside a synagogue and far from Jerusalem, illustrating the link between Jews around Jerusalem and in the Galilee to the north.
The menorah, depicted atop a pedestal with a triangular base, is carved on a stone which was placed in the synagogue's central hall.
The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman legions in 70 AD. The Arch of Titus in Rome, erected to mark the Roman victory, depicts troops carrying the menorah from Jerusalem to symbolize the defeat of the Jews. The menorah became a Jewish symbol and is featured today on Israel's official emblem.
Most other depictions of the menorah were made only after the temple's destruction, and if this finding is indeed earlier it could be closer to the original, said Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
"If you have a depiction of the menorah from the time of the temple, chances are it is more accurate and portrays the actual object than portrayals from after the destruction of the temple, when it was not existent," he said.
The ancient prayer house was discovered in the town of Migdal, usually identified as the birthplace of the New Testament's Mary Magdalene, whose name is thought to be based on the town's.
Sep. 11, 2009 Jpost.com staff and ap , THE JERUSALEM POST
Large forces of police, firefighters and Magen David Adom paramedics were dispatched on Friday afternoon, as two Katyusha rockets fired from southern Lebanon landed in open areas in the western Galilee.
No casualties or damage were reported in the incident, which marked the fourth such attack this year.
IDF troops launched retaliatory artillery fire towards the source.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that one of the rockets was located near Nahariya, and the IDF said that the rockets were apparently 122 millimeters in diameter.
A senior Lebanese military official said that the rockets were fired from the town of Qlaileh, near the Lebanese port city of Tyre.
No group took immediate responsibility for the cross-border attack, though radical Palestinian factions in Lebanon have been suspected of firing rockets into Israel in the past.
Elder of Zion appears to be the first to find out that Marc Garlaso, the Human Rights Watch's military advisor who seems to invariably give anti-Israel "advice," has a peculiar fascination with Nazi memorabilia.
Several blogs and others critical of Human Rights Watch have suggested that Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch's longtime senior military advisor, is a Nazi sympathizer because he collects German (as well as American) military memorabilia. This accusation is demonstrably false and fits into a campaign to deflect attention from Human Rights Watch's rigorous and detailed reporting on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government. Garlasco has co-authored several of our reports on violations of the laws of war, including in Afghanistan, Georgia, and Iraq, as well as by Israel, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
Garlasco has never held or expressed Nazi or anti-Semitic views.
Garlasco's grandfather was conscripted into the German armed forces during the Second World War, like virtually all young German men at the time, and served as a radar operator on an anti-aircraft battery. He never joined the Nazi Party, and later became a dedicated pacifist. Meanwhile, Garlasco's great-uncle was an American B-17 crewman, who survived many attacks by German anti-aircraft gunners.
Garlasco own family's experience on both sides of the Second World War has led him to collect military items related to both sides, including American 8th Air Force memorabilia and German Air Force medals and other objects (not from the Nazi Party or the SS, as falsely alleged). Many military historians, and others with an academic interest in the Second World War, including former and active-duty US service members, collect memorabilia from that era.
Nobody suggests that Garlasco is an actual Nazi, so the HRW response is besides the point. He does seem to have a rather sick hobby. The write-up below, written before HRW acknowledged that the collector of "memorabilia" and the human writes investigator are the same fellow, illustrates some aspects of Garlasco's hobbies. OK, not a Nazi, but weird, no?
UPDATE: I've published a critical followup to this post, both because I've gotten specific emails accusing Garlasco of being a Stormfront.org contributor (100% not true) and because there's a general risk that this controversy is becoming one about him personally (misses the point). He's a guy who has a lot of inchoate sensibilities when it comes to Jews and the Jewish State, and there's obviously something going on that's consistently tilting his reports in an anti-Israel direction. If he was just incompetent then 50% of his mistakes would favor Israel.
He should never have been tasked with producing reports about the Middle East, if for no other reason than there's something moving him other than level-headed analysis. It's not straightforward and its not vulgar, but it's obviously doing work.
But this isn't about him as an individual. It's about HRW's institutional culture, where people couldn't tell that something was amiss because everyone holds the same opinions he does. His anti-Israel biases are literally institutionalized in that organization. As I said at the bottom of this post, this is their mess as much or more than it is his. More elaboration at the followup.
ORIGINAL: There are two Marc Garlascos on the Internet. One is a top human rights investigator who, having joined Human Rights Watch after several years with the Pentagon, has become known for his shrill attacks on Israel. The other is a Marc Garlasco who's obsessed with the color and pageantry of Nazism, has published a detailed 430 page on Nazi war paraphernalia, and participates in forums for Nazi souvenir collectors.
Both Marc Garlascos were born on September 4, 1970. Both have Ernst as their middle name. Both live in New York, NY. Both have a maternal grandfather who fought for the Nazis. I've put links and screenshots on all this after the jump, and you can click through for full-sized versions. It's hard to escape the conclusion that both Marc Garlascos are the same person.
Bloggers and activists concerned about Israel have been baffled and frustrated by the first Garlasco almost since he joined HRW. On his public photography site he posts gratuitous Palestinian and Lebanese death porn in between galleries of cute Western-looking kids playing soccer (no link - keeping his kids out of it). He provides a seemingly never-ending stream of interviews to all kinds of outlets, where he spins tales about ostensible Israeli atrocities. The only problem is that many of these tales - per Soccer Dad and IsraPundit and Elder of Ziyon and NGO Monitor and CAMERA and LGF - are biased and inaccurate. That doesn't stop Garlasco from putting them into the kind of HRW reports that make their way into international anti-Israel condemnations and academic anti-Israel dissertations.
Then there's the second Marc Garlasco, who I caught wind of from Elder of Ziyon. Elder had just finished tearing apart another one of HRW Garlasco's anti-Israel reports when he found the Amazon profile of collector Garlasco. This Garlasco's Amazon book reviews show a nearly obsessive knowledge of Nazi-era Luftwaffe Flak and Army Flak. A little more searching revealed that he's written a gigantic book on the subject that retails for over $100. He regularly participates in forums about Nazi medals under the handle Flak 88, where he posts galleries of his prizes and admires what others have managed to collect. On those forums he uses the email email@example.com, which points to a family genealogy site he set up in 2002.
If both Garlascos are the same, Human Rights Watch almost certainly knows about his creepy hobby. It took me less than an hour on Google to confirm Elder's hunch to my satisfaction, and not much longer to lock the whole thing down. There's even an Amazon widget displaying Garlasco's nook at the bottom of his Huffington Post article, though that may be automatically generated. The book might even be listed on his CV because, after all, none of this is illegal. Just potentially unseemly.
The collector Marc Garlasco certainly doesn't keep his day job secret from his fellow memorabilia collectors. There are at least two public references to his life as an HRW investigator on the forums. In one thread he posts dozens upon dozens of pictures from his collection at the end of 2007, which he describes as having been a "very lucky" year. A friend responds "Jeez Louise!! I had no idea HRW paid the big bucks!!" In another thread he comments on a badge and gushes "I would kill for that - WOW!" A friend responds "now now, HRW boy, don't go overboard!"
So we have to assume he's not leading a double life and that his employers know about his extracurriculars. If so we can also safely assume they've investigated the numerous demonstrable errors in his anti-Israel writeups. They presumably concluded that his apologism for antisemitic genocidal Hamas lunatics is unrelated to his obsession with antisemitic genocidal Nazi lunatics. That would be interesting to hear.
If Garlasco has been less than forthright about what he does in his off-time - and if HRW hasn't taken an hour to Google him and figure it out for themselves - that would be interesting in a different way.
Either way, someone needs to explain why he keeps getting sent to the Middle East to write debunked report after debunked report, lest people suspect that he has an unseemly motive for his consistently anti-Israel errors.
A profile of collector Marc Garlasco from one of his forums, tying together his email, birthday, name, and Flak88 handle:
If you follow his email address to garlasco.com you find that his birth year is 1970 and his middle name is Ernst:
And here's yet another forum, this one selling the Marc Garlasco / Flac88 tome. The book also sells on a bunch of other sites and as a used bookon Amazon. But this page is one of the places where his online handle is listed along with the rest of his info:
Again from the collector Marc Garlasco's Amazon review page, the story about how his maternal grandfather fought for the Nazis. It can't be his paternal grandfather because the review right below talks about how the paternal grandfather had arrived in America at the turn of the century:
For myself this book was an eye-opener. My grandfather was in Flak from 1938-1945. He began as a range-finder (Entfernungsmesser) operator on 88s preparing for sea-lion, and later became a radar operator. This probably saved his life. As more and more Flak men were pulled into line units to fight on the ground in Russia and elsewhere, the skilled radar operators stayed on the Western Front to monitor the daily fleets of aircraft flying to Germany and they provided what little early-warning the Luftwaffe would have until everything collapsed. It gave me a better understanding of my grandfather's service as well as an appreciation for what Westermann terms the world's most advanced air-defense network at the time.
As for HRW Marc Garlasco: his Wikipedia page shows that his birthday is Sept. 4, 1970. This page from allexperts.com gives the same information plus his full name:
Marc Ernst Garlasco was born on Sept. 4th 1970 in New York City, NY to Albino Joseph Harlasco and Notburga Elizabeth Grossman. He is a former Intelligence Officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon and is currently a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch and is HRW's resident expert on battle damage assessment, military operations, and interrogations. He also leads HRW's work on Abu Ghurayb, civilian military contractors, and non-lethal weapons.
Garlasco flew to Germany on behalf of the Pentagon at least a dozen times, where he... visited relatives. His mother is German, and his German grandfather was constantly asking him: "Why on earth are you in the military?" The grandfather, a former soldier in the German Wehrmacht, had long ago become a fervent pacifist. "I experienced a war, Marc," he told his grandson, "and it's horrible."
Again - don't mistake all these blockquotes and screenshots as evidence of some kind of hard-nosed journalism. This is just due diligence. In total all this material took no more than 90 minutes to compile and a few hours to organize and write up. If these are the same Garlasco, he's not going of his way to link his private and his public lives - but he's not skulking in anonymity either. This is HRW's mess to explain as much or more than it is his.
The slogan "Israel Apartheid" was invented to discredit Zionism. It implies that Zionism is a colonialist racist entity like the white government in South Africa, and therefore that Zionism must be destroyed.
CHEAP COMPARISON (Article by Hirsh Goodman, Yediot Ahronot, 9.9.09, p. 41A)
It has become fashionable to use the word "Apartheid" as an adjective to Israel these days, particularly since the first Durban conference in August 2002. We have the "Apartheid wall" and "Apartheid roads" and are regularly called an "Apartheid state" as alluded to by former US president Jimmy Carter in the title of his recent book "Peace not Apartheid."
Israel is not an Apartheid state. I know. I came from one. To compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa demonstrates ignorance and, in many cases, malevolence. Apartheid South Africa was unique and should be remembered as such lest it be repeated.
Elements of Israeli society may be guilty of racism, and there is no denying some discrimination against Israeli Arabs, but this is no Apartheid South Africa. And Israel's occupation and settlement of the West Bank may be unfair, unjust, and brutal, but it is a result of a clash of nationalisms over territory, not the imposition of economic and social slavery though a codex of laws aimed at discrimination for the benefit of a tiny minority of the country's population. Yes in some places there are separate roads for Palestinians and Jewish settlers and the separation barrier is hideously ugly, but these are responses to security problems, not the imposition of a pre-meditated discriminatory system.
In Apartheid South Africa there was no independent legislature, no free press, no open and accountable government, no representation, and no independent judiciary. Apartheid meant total economic exploitation by two million Whites who enslaved, abused and systematically discriminated against people ten times more numerous than them. It was a system of madness that was dedicated to forcibly moving millions upon millions of people from their tribal lands to Bantustans, leaving people with no means of support other than to work for minimal wages in the country's mines or as domestic servants.
Apartheid South Africa carried out more judicial hangings than any other country on earth, including Black men who were found having sex with a white woman, something automatically assumed to be rape. It was a place where people disappeared into the night never to be heard of again if they opposed the regime, including anti-Apartheid activists from among the Jewish community.
If you were Black you needed a pass to be in the city and if caught without one you were summarily sentenced to months of hard labor in prison work gangs, and if you were Black you lived under curfew, and you had to have a note from the master or the madam allowing you out after hours, something I remember providing for our servant Grace when I was nine.
It was a dark horrible regime of fear with no intention of ever making peace with the Black people, only to continually exploit them. Say what you may about Israel's conflict with the Palestinians at least the sides are engaged in some form of conciliatory process, at least people on both sides can see a theoretical resolution of the problem. In Apartheid South Africa no resolution of the conflict was ever intended and if international sanctions had not brought the Apartheid regime to its knees those behind it would still be firmly in power.
There was the Shoah and there is genocide. There was Apartheid South Africa and there is discrimination, racism and occupation. These things should not be confused.
A Hebrew University announcement brings this exciting archeological news, a find of a coin cache from the period of the Bar Kokhba revolt of the Jews against the Romans. Coins issued by this revolt typically read "Year 1 of the freedom of Israel" |Year 2 of the freedom of Israel" etc. and had Jewish symbols. The cache also contains Roman coints of this period.
Jerusalem, Sept. 9, 2009 – The largest cache of rare coins ever found in a scientific excavation from the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt of the Jews against the Romans has been discovered in a cave by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University.
The coins were discovered in three batches in a deep cavern located in a nature reserve in the Judean hills. The treasure includes gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons.
The discovery was made in the framework of a comprehensive cave research and mapping project being carried out by Boaz Langford and Prof. Amos Frumkin of the Cave Research Unit in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University, along with Dr. Boaz Zissu and Prof. Hanan Eshel of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, and with the support of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
The some 120 coins were discovered within a cave that has a "hidden wing," the slippery and dangerous approach to which is possible only via a narrow opening discovered many years ago by Dr. Gideon Mann, a physician who is one of the early cave explorers in modern Israel. The opening led to a small chamber which in turn opens into a hall that served as a hiding place for the Jewish fighters of Bar-Kokhba.
Most of the discovered coins are in excellent condition and were overstruck as rebels' coins on top of Roman coins. The new imprints show Jewish images and words (for example: the facade of the Temple in Jerusalem and the slogan "for the freedom of Jerusalem"). Other coins that were found, of gold, silver and bronze, are original Roman coins of the period minted elsewhere in the Roman Empire or in the Land of Israel.
Bar-Kokhba coins of this quality and quantity have never before been discovered in one location by researchers in the Land of Israel, although over the years antiquities looters have found and sold large numbers of coins from this period. The high value of such coins has served as an incentive for thefts in recent decades, especially in the Judean hills, where many such caves exist.
Prof. Frumkin points out the significance of this particular cave, owing to its size, its proximity to Betar, and the large collection of coins found there. Ancient Betar was the site of the "last stand" of the rebels led by Bar-Kokhba in their struggle against Roman rule in Judea from 132-35 CE.
"This discovery verifies the assumption that the refugees of the revolt fled to caves in the center of a populated area in addition to the caves found in more isolated areas of the Judean Desert," said Prof. Frumkin. He also noted that the discovery adds significantly to our knowledge of the Bar-Kokhba revolt, about which there is not a great deal of historical information.
The coins as found
Detail of Bar Kokchba revolt cache coin
Details of the Bar Kokhba revolt cache coins
Dr. Zissu points out that one of the fascinating aspects of the Bar-Kokhba revolt is the intensive use of the rebels and Jewish refugees of natural and man-made caves as hiding and refuge places in the face of extensive Roman search-and-destroy missions. Those who fled to the caves took with them food, weapons, drinks, coins and various documents. Sometimes they even took with them the keys to their houses that they abandoned in the hope that one day they would be able to return to them.
Apparently, the people who left behind the cache of coins that has now been found did so during the period of the revolt, following their flight from their homes or from battle with the Romans; however they were unable to return to their hiding place to recover their valuables.
Of particular relevance is this order issued by the Hamas during operation Cast Lead:
"" In accordance with the policy of the factions of the jihad resistance in Gaza …we inform you that it is completely forbidden to issue information about the numbers, names or pictures or any [other] detail about the shaheeds and wounded of the resistance . The order is in force until the end of the Zionist aggression which is clear to us and our nation, with the consent of Allah, may he be exalted. Any [report] which violates these rules will be deleted and a warning will be sent to whoever is responsible for the posting. Let us all be soldiers of the resistance, and if we cannot assist it, at least let us not assist the enemy [fighting] against it." "
The following is the published response of the IDF Spokesperson to B'telem allegations:
Approximately six months ago the IDF publicized official statistics, gathered and confirmed by the Research Division of the IDF Defense Intelligence, citing the number of casualties during Operation Cast Lead. According to these statistics, there were 1,166 Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip, the majority of which (709) were terror operatives affiliated with the Hamas terror organization, some of whom belonged to other terror groups.
The "B'Tselem" report is not based on facts or on accurate statistics. Furthermore, among its sources, B'Tselem officially states that it based its findings, on cross referencing statistics from investigations of Palestinian human rights groups and various websites and blogs, including those of the militant wings of terror organizations and that of the Palestinian Police.
The discrepancy in the numbers is based on the fact that B'Tselem's sources are organizations with a vested interest, and it does not have the tools, nor the intelligence capabilities with which it can within a necessary degree of confidence know the causes of death or the affiliations of these casualties.
The Hamas terror organization is hiding these statistics so that it can play on international public opinion so as to increase support in its violent acts of terror. For example, the way in which Hamas "police officers" are categorized in the report, where Hamas is presenting operatives in its military wing as police officers whose job is to enforce law and order. This is done in order to minimize the number of casualties amongst its forces, while inflating the number of civilian casualties.
By shifting public attention to the number of casualties, Hamas is diverting attention from the real issue, in which this terror organization specifically and deliberately endangered the lives of the residents in the Gaza Strip, where on the other hand, as much as was possible, the IDF sought to prevent the harm of uninvolved noncombatant civilians. It should be remembered, that the IDF engaged in Operation Cast Lead after a prolonged period of continuous rocket and mortar fire on hundreds of thousands of Israeli residents. The firing of these rockets was done from within population centers in the Gaza Strip, while using the local residents as a human shield from behind which it would launch its terror attacks.
With regards to the categorization of the "police officers," information can be found that proves their terrorist activities on the website of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center: www.terrorism-info.org.il.
An example of the double use of Hamas "police officers" in reports can be openly seen in a statements made on June 28, in which the Hamas Minister of the Interior, Hamad Fatahi, and also Haled Mashal himself, admitted that on the first day alone, 400 or 500 "Hamas warriors" had died. Furthermore, as Hamas has a policy of withholding information regarding sustained casualties during the operation, it is possible that the number of terror operatives who were killed is higher than the IDF's calculations.
It should also be stated the Manager of Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health and Emergency Services Ministry stated that there were approximately 1400 casualties during Operation Cast Lead. A possible explanation for this discrepancy is that a number alone was given unsupported by identifying names, as well as the addition of natural death cases, which stands at approximately 400 per month in the Gaza Strip, possibly caused by the confusion at Gaza Strip hospitals during the operation.
As was explained to the organization, the IDF is unable to disclose the methods in which it gathers such information, as it is classified.
Hamas/Fatah reconciliation will probably be bad for Israel and peace prospects. It is unlikely that the Hamas or the government that they join would recognize Israel. According to a leaked document, the unity government platform would state that the government honors past agreements, which include the Oslo accords, but would not recognize Israel. The Oslo accords include recognition of Israel. The attitude of Western governments to this new government is crucial. If they provide aid and recognition to the unity government, they would, in effect, be recognizing and legitimizing Hamas as well as agreeing to the overthrow of the Oslo agreements. Given the friendly attitude to Hamas of certain European governments, it is not unlikely that this would occur. Too many governments consider that Palestinian unity is a desirable goal in itself, regardless of the nature of that unity.
The government would be inherently unstable. If Hamas loses elections, they are not likely to relinquish power, and would probably stage another coup. This time, they might overthrow the Hamas in the West Bank as well. It is very unlikely that Hamas would agree to give up its arms and allow official security forces to be the sole armed force, as required by the Roadmap for Peace.
Of course, this may be just another Middle East rumor.
Sep. 9, 2009 Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal's recent visit to Egypt has brought the Islamist movement and Fatah closer to ending their differences, sources close to Hamas in the Gaza Strip revealed on Tuesday.
In another sign of rapprochement between the two parties, Hamas has welcomed plans by senior Fatah officials to visit the Gaza Strip for talks aimed at resolving the crisis.
The Fatah officials who are expected to visit the Strip include Nabil Sha'ath, Jibril Rajoub, Mahmoud al-Aloul and Fakhri Bsaiso.
The sources said that Mashaal has agreed to sign a "reconciliation accord" with Fatah after the Egyptians promised to permanently reopen the Rafah border crossing between Sinai and southern Gaza.
They said the agreement would be signed before the end of the year.
The Rafah terminal has been formally closed since Hamas seized control of the entire Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. Under pressure from human rights groups and many Arabs, the Egyptians occasionally open the border crossing for a day or two for "humanitarian cases."
Cairo's pledge to reopen the border crossing on a permanent basis is seen as a significant victory for Hamas, which has been struggling hard in the past few years to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
According to the sources, Hamas and Fatah are very close to reaching agreement over the reconstruction of the Palestinian security forces under the supervision of Arab countries.
Again, this is seen as an achievement for Hamas, which has long been demanding an end to Fatah's exclusive control over the Palestinian Authority security forces.
Fatah, the sources said, has also agreed to make concessions on three other issues: bringing Hamas representatives into PLO institutions; the release of all Hamas supporters from PA prisons in the West Bank; and the establishment of a unity government that would not be committed to the Oslo Accords, but would only "respect" them.
"The Egyptians said that they would reopen the Rafah border crossing if the two sides signed a reconciliation accord," said a Hamas legislator in Gaza City.
He said that the two parties have yet to reach agreement over the timing of the next presidential and parliamentary elections. He added that Hamas was opposed to holding these elections early next year as requested by Fatah.
"Hamas first wants to see if Fatah will fulfill all its commitments under the planned agreement," he explained. "If we see that Fatah is abiding by the terms of the reconciliation and that the Egyptians have fulfilled their promise to reopen the Rafah terminal, then we can start discussing a date for the elections."
A Hamas delegation headed by Mahmoud Zahar arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for additional discussions on ways of ending the rift with Fatah. The delegation is also expected to hold talks with Egyptian security officials on the prospects of reaching a prisoner exchange agreement that would resolve the case of kidnapped IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit.
The Hamas delegation is scheduled to visit Damascus later this week to brief Hamas leaders there on the outcome of their talks in Cairo.
This is the second Hamas delegation to visit Cairo in less than a week. Last weekend, Mashaal headed another high-level Hamas delegation that held similar talks with intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman and other senior government officials on the power struggle with Fatah and on the prisoner swap issue.
This article doesn't require much comment, other than to note that the Iran policy of J Street and Americans for Peace Now seems to be inexplicable to Israelis of all political persuasions. All in favor of getting bombed by Iran, say "Aye!" What, no takes here?
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Israel's highest-ranking female soldier, Brig. Gen. Yisraela Oron, was sounding all the right notes for her J Street hosts.
At the tail end of a U.S. tour for the left-wing pro-Israel lobby, Oron was lending her considerable security credentials to its platform: a two-state solution, territorial concessions by Israel and a robust U.S. peacemaking role.
The conversation with a group of reporters then turned to Iran and its nuclear potential, and Oron was unequivocal: yes to engagement, but on a timetable that would be tied to punishing sanctions.
"The thing that worries me and that worries other Israelis is that it is not limited in time," Oron said as the faces of her J Street hosts turned anxious, adding that "I'm not sure I'm expressing the J Street opinion."
She was not. J Street explicitly opposes a timetable and has reservations about proposed additional sanctions.
The awkward moment pointed to a potential split between left-wing pro-Israel groups and the Israeli constituents for whom they claim to speak. Unlike the Israeli-Palestinian issue, little dissent exists among Israeli politicians over how to deal with Iran.
That puts left-wing U.S. Jewish groups at odds with Israeli left-wingers.
"There is a more hawkish perception among virtually all circles in Israel" than there is in the United States, said Yossi Alpher, a consultant who has worked with Americans for Peace Now. "It's very natural. Iran doesn't say the U.S. has no right to exist and doesn't do the equivalent of denying the Holocaust. It doesn't deploy proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah against the United States and on its borders."
Right now, the differences are not pronounced -- the administrations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama are virtually on the same page on the need to confront Iran, and soon. That could change, however, if Iran makes a serious counter offer to Obama's proposal to engage.
Last week, the Iranians said they had made such an offer. Its details are not known, but it will be part of the "reassessment" Obama has pledged to complete by the end of September, when the major world powers meet at the U.N. General Assembly.
"If Iran engages and the Obama administration argues that a deal has been made, the Israeli government will be very wary," Alpher said. "This could immediately create a whole world of suspicions."
Under those circumstances, the vast majority of American Jewish voters who backed Obama last year would be faced with the first either-or U.S. vs. Israel issue in decades, and groups that describe themselves as pro-Israel and pro-peace will find themselves for the first time speaking for virtually no one in Israel on a critical issue.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will lobby in Washington on Sept. 10 and rally outside the General Assembly on Sept. 24 for sanctions that would end the export of refined petroleum to Iran, which imports 40 percent of its refined oil.
On Israel's left, the Labor Party, currently part of Netanyahu's governing coalition, aggressively backs sanctions. Its leader and the current defense minister, Ehud Barak, makes Iran's isolation the centerpiece of his exchanges with his counterparts in the West.
The smaller Meretz Party, to Labor's left, also backs Iran's isolation. It routinely frames its arguments for robust peacemaking in terms of the need to contain Iran's ambitions.
Former Meretz leader Yossi Beilin tells audiences that Yitzhak Rabin, the late Israeli prime minister who launched the Oslo process in 1993, did so principally because of his fears of Iran. Beilin told a German audience last year that he "advocates increased sanctions towards Iran in order to stop centrifugal uranium programs."
Avshalom Vilan, a Meretz Knesset member until March, was a forceful advocate of reaching out to the nations most able to wound Iran's economy, including Germany and India.
Across the ocean, however, left-wing U.S. Jewish groups -- not to mention non-Jewish left-wing groups -- are against more sanctions.
Americans for Peace Now has the most pronounced opposition.
"We don't think crippling sanctions are right if the meaning of that is that the sanctions will not be targeted against Iran's governments and leaders but will target Iranian people," spokesman Ori Nir said. "We think that's not only morally wrong but is also strategically perilous."
Other left-wing groups also hedge on the prospect of sanctions.
The Israel Policy Forum, in a July 15 paper, encouraged engagement and said threats of enhanced sanctions were "not necessary" because Iran's leadership knew they were forthcoming.
The most recent statement from Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, dated July 2008, rejects "diplomatic isolation or veiled threats of military action" and advocates "utilizing diplomatic and economic incentives and sanctions together."
In a policy statement, J Street says it does not oppose further sanctions "in principle," but "under the current circumstances, it is our view that ever harsher sanctions at this time are unlikely to cause the Iranian regime to cease weapons development." Engagement should "not be conducted with a stopwatch," it said.
The Reform movement, which often aligns with the left-wing groups on Israel-Palestinian matters, is a bit closer to the Israeli position when it comes to Iran.
Rabbi David Saperstein, who directs the Reform's Religious Action Center, disputes Americans for Peace Now's contention that the proposed enhanced sanctions are immoral.
"These were chosen as a much more targeted way to put the maximum pressure on the power structure in Iran," he said.
The other left-wing pro-Israel groups arrived at their Iran policies partly because of their alliance with an array of liberal Democrats wary of engaging Iran in the wake of the Iraq War and its resultant quagmire. Behind the scenes, these groups have sought sanctions that would not harm ordinary Iranians.
Supporters of tougher sanctions argue that sanctions targeting the regime have been in place for years and have had little effect.
Shai Franklin, a senior fellow for U.N. affairs at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, said that gravitating away from deference to Israeli constituencies may be healthy for some U.S. Jewish groups.
"It makes the conversation more interesting, and once that happens you'll find more people getting involved, from the right and left," he said.
Steven Spiegel of the Israel Policy Forum said differences might emerge next month over the pacing and intensity of sanctions.
"The Iran difference is part of a differentiation that has got to be addressed," he said. "At some point there has to be a serious dialogue between American Jews and Israel and the Obama administration and Israel."
One tactic might be to remind Israel that Obama's policy of engagement with Iran appears to have rallied support in Europe in recent weeks for tougher sanctions.
"The doves," Spiegel said, "accomplished what the hawks could not."
Shai Franklin and Micah Halpern make a very important point: Iran is not just about Israel or Jews. The protests against Ahmadinejad must not be limited to Jewish groups. Everyone should understand the danger posed by Iran as well as the pernicious nature of its regime. Rallies composed of Jews only and Op-Eds about the danger to Israel send the wrong message.
By Shai Franklin and Micah Halpern · September 2, 2009
NEW YORK (JTA) -- Alongside many heads of state and prime ministers, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly later this month in New York. Jews will turn out across the street to raise voices in protest.
Jews have a legitimate concern about Iran. So should everyone else in the world. Iran's nuclear program and ongoing support for terrorism are a threat to most nations.
One of the most effective vehicles for countering Iran is getting non-Jews and non-Americans to take public positions.
The Jewish community can have a substantive, indirect impact on Iran's actions and policies. Here are some of the strategies that could bear fruit if pursued in a coordinated and consistent way:
* A concerted nongovernmental effort must be launched to enlist non-Jewish allies and experts across Latin America, Africa and Europe, even in China. Such partners can push their governments to take a meaningful stand against Iran. Have them push their governments to publicly honor their commitments to international treaties and U.N. Security Council resolutions, and to their own laws.
* Solicit governments to issue joint statements reaffirming sanctions and get governments to sign up their neighbors in the movement to pressure Iran. Most immediately, they should support President Obama if he announces new measures against Iran, which also could help Israel take more risks on the Palestinian track.
* If leaders insist on attending Ahmadinejad's U.N. address, they should be pressed to clarify at what point they will be prepared to walk out. Will it be if Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, if he questions Israel's right to exist, if he promotes terrorism and the killing of innocent lives? The act of walking out, as has been proven in the past, leaves a lasting impression, as it did at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva in April.
* Speakers from countries other than the United States and Israel must be encouraged to use part of their own addresses -- at the United Nation and at the rallies -- to directly confront Iran, telling Iran that the world's patience has worn thin. They should underscore this message in their side meetings with other world leaders.
The best example of how to use the U.N. General Assembly came two years ago when then-President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina used his address to criticize Iran for its sponsorship of the 1994 AMIA bombing, which killed 86 civilians. Kirchner had standing, since Iran was behind two horrific terror attacks in his country. He had credibility, as a major world leader. He had an audience, comprising most of his fellow heads of state.
Iran does care what certain parts of the world think -- just not what Americans or American Jews think. In 2007, Iran gave away millions of dollars and signed billions in trade deals in a failed bid to keep Interpol from issuing "red notices" against five of its senior military and intelligence operatives for their role in the AMIA attack. Last April, Iranian voters watched Ahmadinejad be humiliated when European delegates walked out on his anti-Jewish rant at Durban II.
For all the valuable words spoken at rallies and printed in expensive newspaper ads, the actual impact of public Jewish advocacy on impeding the Iranian threat is negligible. Massive public campaigns by American Jews are important to the Jewish community -- and to the U.S. government -- but they will not persuade other governments to tighten the screws on Iran.
Jews certainly need to make their voices heard, but rallies have limited impact. Compared to the hundreds of thousands who recently marched in Iran against Ahmadinejad, 10,000 Jews in New York are at best a footnote to what everyone already knows: The Tehran regime is not legitimate, and it is a threat to regional and global peace.
Continue the rallies. That is how future leaders are forged, that is how politicians learn our priorities. That is how we teach our children about the importance of standing up against modern-day Pharaohs and dictators. But Jewish rallies will not stop Iran.
Iran watches every single diplomatic move in certain parts of the world. They send out their own people to do the convincing and secure their agenda. Jews must do the same in order to restrict and contain Iran. This means ensuring sufficient international pressure that the regime at last faces real consequences if it proceeds with its nuclear program. This means going government by government, and for this we won't need cameras or microphones.
Shai Franklin is senior fellow for United Nations affairs at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. Micah Halpern, a Middle East expert and terror analyst, is the author of "Thugs" (Thomas Nelson, 2007).
Many of those who hoped for the end of apartheid, and those of us who were involved in the struggle in one way or another, were deeply disappointed and hurt by the vehement anti-Zionist stand of South African leaders. It is not a matter of "ingratitude" - but of seeing the justice of rights for Jews as well as rights for Africans. It is especially shameful that some of the leading South African anti-Zionists are Jewish, like Ronni Kasrils. We did not expect that South Africans would stand out in the cold demonstrating for our rights, as we did for South African rights, but we didn't expect them to spit in our faces or to make tasteless and unfair remarks about the Palestinians paying for the Holocaust.
Therefore it would certainly be heartwarming if, as the article below claims, there is to be a change in South African policy regarding Israel.
Johannesburg — When Jacob Zuma, South Africa's new president, appeared before the country's premier Jewish umbrella group in late August, the audience before him was concerned about the tack his government might be taking not just toward Israel, but also toward South African Jews who support it. ILAN OSSENDRYVER What's in a Handshake?: President Jacob Zuma (right) meets with Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian Justice Minister, who is a Jewish community activist.
Just two weeks before the August 29 meeting, the Palestinian Solidarity Committee of South Africa lodged war crimes charges with the police and the Justice Ministry against 70 South Africans for their alleged involvement in Israel's military campaign in Gaza last winter.
Unlike the United States, where both the group and its charge might be seen as marginal, here the action attracted the backing of Ronnie Kasrils, a Jewish hero of the South African anti-apartheid struggle who until last year was the country's intelligence minister. At a press conference tied to the action, Kasrils, who remains a prominent member of Zuma's own African National Congress party, called on the government "to investigate and, if appropriate, [to] prosecute in South Africa individuals involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity during Israel's Operation Cast Lead," as the Gaza campaign has been dubbed by Israel.
But Zuma, in a speech warmly received by his audience, enveloped the community in a pragmatic embrace that explicitly eschewed the anti-Zionist tendencies of some parts of his own base.
"This country has a massive skills shortage as a result of decades of neglect and deliberate underinvestment," Zuma said in his address to an audience of about 800 at the 54th National Conference of the Jewish Board of Deputies. Consistent with broader initiatives to encourage South African ex-patriates to return to South Africa and help build the country's nascent democracy, Zuma alluded to the shrinkage through emigration of the South African Jewish community to 80,000 today from 120,000 a generation ago. Noting "the emigration of skilled people" from South Africa, he said, "We must work to reverse the trend. The message we want to send to people who have left the country to live and work abroad is that South Africa will always remain their home, and I will always welcome whatever contribution they can make to building this nation."
When it came to policy, in his speech, Zuma
pointedly rejected any hint of support for dismantling Israel or staking out a militant stance against it.
Instead, he reconfirmed his government's commitment to Washington's goal of a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
"We support the position of the United Nations and the Middle East Quartet that the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that ends the occupation that began in 1967," Zuma told the Jewish gathering. "It is a solution which fulfills the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples — Israel and an independent, adjoining and viable state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security.
"We will continue to offer whatever assistance we can towards the resolution of this matter, including sharing our experience in ending apartheid through negotiation," said Zuma. "In this respect, we would like to work together with the South African Jewish community."
For South African Jews, Zuma's message was clear: You are safe and welcome here. "As president," he stressed, "I regard as one of my duties the need to preserve the unity of this nation, and to cultivate its diversity. We must remain on guard against any manifestations of antisemitism and other intolerances."
But in a country where charges of "apartheid" against Israel for its policies toward Palestinians carry enormous emotional punch, it remains to be seen whether the president's message—delivered within the Jewish community and not more broadly—will be enough. For many, the Palestinian Solidarity Committee of South Africa's action revived memories of other recent tactics designed both to pressure Israel and to discourage South African Jews from supporting it.
Last February, workers affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions— an important component of the ANC — refused to offload a ship carrying Israeli goods in the harbor of Durban. Working in partnership with the PSCSA, COSATU, which helped lead the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, announced the beginning of an anti-apartheid style sanctions campaign against Israel, saying it would pressure the government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.
The next day, 200 supporters of COSATU and the PSCSA demonstrated outside the offices of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. Addressing the protesters, Kasrils, again, compared "Israel's massacre in Gaza" to genocide. The former government minister insisted that the demonstrators were not targeting South African Jewry but rather Zionism, the Israeli government and its supporters. But the march on the Jewish communal organization's headquarters rather than the Israeli Embassy signified to many Jewish observers an attack on the Jewish community itself.
One month before this, many Jews were also unsettled when then-deputy foreign minister Fatima Hajaig told a cheering crowd, "The control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money."
Hajaig apologized to the Cabinet for her statement after the Jewish Board of Deputies lodged a complaint of hate speech against her with the South African Human Rights Commission. Due to the legacy of apartheid, South African constitutional protections of free speech do not extend to hate speech. The board of deputies then withdrew its complaint.
But Zuma, in contrast to such instances of hostility, altered his original schedule on the night of his speech before the Jewish Board of Deputies in order to stay for the entire evening's program. As a consequence, the line-up was altered so that other speakers appeared earlier, in accordance with protocols that call for the president to always conclude an event.
Among other things, this allowed Zuma to hear the evening's second keynoter, former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler — a prominent human rights lawyer and notable advocate for Israel. Cotler, who met with Zuma and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe before the opening of the conference, stressed that, through the history of anti-apartheid struggle that had shaped it, South Africa could be a moral force in the international community.
Citing South Africa's constitution, Cotler said, "I know of no other charter of rights in the world that speaks so comprehensively about rights, because it was anchored in the inequality that was previously experienced."
In a separate interview with the Forward, Cotler said: "I think they are giving expression to this [human rights commitment] on the domestic level. I found both President Zuma and the minister of justice committed to doing the right thing for the South African people. The country has a lot to teach other democratic rights-protecting societies, including Canada, about what they are doing in the justice agenda, in gender equality, in protecting the vulnerable and in anti-discrimination law and policy."
Cotler wondered whether South Africa's leaders would exercise their moral authority similarly on the world stage. The government, for example, recently refused to admit into the country the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan exile leader, due to pressure from China. "South Africa has to take its place on the world stage and speak with moral authority on the great issues of the day to advance the international human rights and justice agenda," Cotler said. "I believe that they will have the moral voice to provide that moral leadership internationally."
In his earlier talk with Zuma, Cotler asked the president for South Africa's support in censuring Iran at the U.N. The censure motion, co-sponsored annually by Canada at the U.N. General Assembly, has not been supported by South Africa in the past. But in the wake of the beatings, mass arrests and allegations of torture by Iranian government agents after Iran's disputed election last June, "I would hope to see a change not only in South Africa's voting patterns at the U.N., but also in its public advocacy," Cotler told the Forward.
For now, Zuma largely impressed his South African audience. "The most positive thing, which particularly impressed people, was that Zuma stayed the whole night," said Zev Krengel, the board of deputies' national chairman. "It showed people he is prepared to engage."
Marlene Bethlehem, a past chair of the umbrella group, agreed. "Listening to Cotler, his body language was totally engaged," she noted.
Avrom Krengel, chair of the South African Zionist Federation, added: "His speech was as balanced as any you would get out of a government official. It was a very carefully calibrated statement of South African government policy designed for our audience, neither to cause offense nor to divert from South Africa's stated policies. It spelled out South Africa's support for a peaceful settlement, said that the occupation must end, there must be a two-state solution and that South Africa is here to help."
It was also notable to some that when he named the many Jews prominent in the anti-apartheid struggle, Zuma omitted mention of Kasrils.
Still, some were concerned by his failure to comment directly on the fact that a former government official was promoting prosecution of South Africans for war crimes.
"He should have addressed the war crimes situation more explicitly," Bethlehem said.
But Krengel did not agree. "The war crimes thing was a big story in our lives, but nothing in the life of the nation where you have taxi drivers striking and soldiers mutineering," he said.
A Sudanese court fined Luna Hussein 500 Sudanese pounds (about £127) for wearing trousers. That punishment came instead of the 40 lashes she was supposed to get under Sudanese Sharia law. She says she will keep fighting the case to prove her innocence, but it seems to me that they have here dead to rights. No doubt she was wearing trousers and there is no doubt what the law states. She had been arrested by police along with many others after a party. Ten other women arrested for the same offence pleaded guilty and got 40 lashes as the law demands.
Women demonstrated on her behalf. Men counter-demonstrated. Dozens of men in traditional Islamic dress who shouted slogans and denounced Hussein and her supporters, describing them as prostitutes and demanding a harsh punishment for Hussein. Perhaps prostitutes wear trousers in Sudan.
Obviously Venezuelan exports are intended to immunize Iran against the threat of a boycot of refined petroleum products. The article states that Venezuela will import "machinery" and "technology" from Iran. What sort of machinery and technology might that be, and would would Venezuela by making with that machinery? We all know what is the most interesting Iranian technology. It is not likely that Venezuela will import machines for weaving Persian rugs, is it? Gas centrifuges for refining uranium can be considered "machinery." Will the US have a nuclear neighbor in South America?
Sep. 7, 2009 Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Venezuela has signed an agreement to export 20,000 barrels per day of gasoline to Iran, state TV reported Monday, boosting Teheran's defiance of looming Western threats of fuel sanctions if it doesn't suspend its key uranium enrichment program.
The two countries signed the agreement late Sunday during the visit to Iran of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who pledged to deepen ties with Iran and stand together against the imperialist powers of the world.
Western leaders have threatened to impose further sanctions against it should Iran refuse to bend to Western deadlines for nuclear talks aimed at curbing Teheran's nuclear activities. But the Venezuelan fuel will help cushion Iran against the biting sanctions.
"On the basis of a strategic decision, it was agreed to export 20,000 barrels a day of gasoline from Venezuela to Iran," state TV quoted Chavez as saying at the end of his visit. The fuel shipments will begin in October.
One of Iran's weakest points is its dependence on fuel imports. Despite its vast oil resources, it lacks the refinery capacity to meet its own demand and must buy vast quantities of commercial-ready fuel on the open market.
Iran has managed to ride out the limited sanctions so far without serious hardships, although lack of significant foreign investment has left the economy stuck in low gear for years.
Iranian leaders - particularly Ahmadinejad - have repeatedly insisted that Iran would never abandon its ability to make its own nuclear fuel.
The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is aimed at only at generating electricity.
US President Barack Obama and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to agree to talks on its nuclear program. Iran has rejected any deadlines but its top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said last week that Teheran has prepared to present a package of new proposals and would be ready to open talks "in order to ease common concerns in the international arena."
Chavez said Venezuela will import machinery and technology from Iran in return for its gasoline exports, the TV report said.
The broadcast also quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that the two countries agreed to set up a bank together to help finance joint projects.
Why Israelis and Americans are angry - It is not as simple as many think. Almost everyone says that Israelis are angry with the United States and President Obama, and Americans are angry at Israel. If "everyone says it," it must be true. Israelis are also angry at American Jews, supposedly, and American Jews are angry at Israel. It's supposedly all about the US demand for a freeze on building in West bank settlements, an issue that revealed a gap of understanding and trust between the Israeli government and the American administration, and between Israelis and (some) American Jews.
The poll data on Israel seem to be unambiguous. According to one survey, only 12% of Jewish Israelis believe President Obama's policies favor Israel. According to another survey, only 4% of Jewish Israelis believe President Obama's policies favor Israel. At least one person expressed the bizarre opinion that this is due to Israeli racism. Since 31% of Jewish Israelis believed Obama is pro-Israel last May, and larger percentages approved of his election, this is unlikely, unless most Israelis had not noticed Obama's skin pigmentation at the time. More: at - Why Israelis and Americans are angry
In the end, it's all about money. That's what brought the nominally Zionist Union of Progressive Zionists under the umbrella of the very nominally pro-Israel J Street, which gets money from the American Iranian Council among others, and "boasts" (if that is the word) people like Henry Siegman on its board. And that will evidently bring Brit Tsedek Veshalom into the fold too. It might also bring the moribund Israel Policy Forum, which seems to spend $1.7 million on just about nothing (they had 3 staffers, but one, the main one, left). $1.7 million doesn't buy what it used to, I guess.
Peace Now (actually, American Friends of Peace Now) is mentioned in the article as well. If they are merged into J Street, it will mean that the entire Zionist peace camp has been vaporized by the charm of J Street lucre.
Considering its relatively small budget ($3 million) J Street has made quite a bang compared to AIPAC, the real pro-Israel lobby group, which has a budget of $70,000,000. It is not really known what size segment of Jewish opinion J Street represents. Part of the secret of J Street's is the ability to mobilize grass roots volunteers. Traditional Zionist organizations in the United States are not very good at doing that and are not oriented to grass roots activity or integration of volunteers.
Washington — The dovish Washington-based Israel lobby J Street is about to take over the Jewish community's largest likeminded grassroots organization.
The anticipated merger of Brit Tzedek V'Shalom with J Street will give the lobby its own national network of volunteers. It is but the latest in series of seemingly strategic acquisitions through which J Street -- which calls for increased U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process -- is seeking to develop a multi-tiered operation mirroring that of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, its much larger, mainstream rival.
According to unofficial accounts, J Street and Brit Tzedek V'Shalom are in advanced talks that are expected to lead to the latter's absorption in J Street as the lobby's field operation branch.
The move is yet another demonstration of how the 18-month old lobbying group has been changing the political landscape on the Jewish left and consolidating its power at a time when other groups are struggling to survive.
Brit Tzedek officials have stressed that talks with J Street are only at their initial phase and would probably be concluded by October, in time for J Street's first national conference. But the emerging bottom line is clear: Brit Tzedek's operation will become part of J Street, although the groups will not formally merge and they will not have a joint board.
"We always believed that in order to have a greater impact we need to be as big as possible," said Steve Masters, Brit Tzedek's president, "that's why having an opportunity to work together is important." The two groups already have some joint programs and, according to Brit Tzedek leadership, there is full agreement on the political line, which supports a two-state solution, opposes settlement activity and advocates greater U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process.
Still unclear is what, if anything, will be left of Brit Tzedek once the cooperation agreement is finalized. "We've not reached any conclusion yet," said Diane Balser, the group's former executive director, who is now consulting on the cooperation talks. "We don't know if the brand will remain," she added.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street's executive director, made clear that any future cooperation would be within the framework of his organization. "They [Brit Tedek activists] will have to decide how they'd like to become active with us as individuals," he said.
J Street currently has a budget of approximately $3 million and 22 employees on staff. This is dwarfed by AIPAC's $70.6 million budget, of course. But it represents a solid financial base for a new group on the dovish end of the spectrum. Americans for Peace Now, for example, a much older, well-established group, took in just $2.25 million last year.
Ben-Ami believes that his group's financial base is the main incentive for Brit Tzedek to enter a cooperation agreement. "It gives them access to funding that Brit Tzedek could not achieve on its own," he said. "They've gone as far as they could and now they need us if they want to move to the next level."
Brit Tzedek distinguished itself from other dovish Jewish groups by developing a massive grassroots operation. It claims 48,000 volunteers across the country who take part in local pro-peace activity, lobby their elected representatives and work with communal institutions to promote their agenda.
The group has a small budget of less than $900,000 and a staff of five.
What makes Brit Tzedek attractive for a J Street takeover is its active network of local chapters and organized supporters. Even more significant is the group's rabbinical outreach operation, which maintains close ties with likeminded rabbis in pulpits throughout the country.
"It's a huge asset," said Ben-Ami of J Street," I am very impressed they have more than 1000 members of clergy in their network."
The acquisition of Brit Tzedek is expected to help J Street reach beyond what Ben-Ami calls the "click activists" — supporters whose activism is done mainly sitting at their computer. The Brit Tzedek grassroots operation is known to be active in organizing meetings with representatives and showing up at political gatherings to make a statement.
But the prospective cooperation agreement is just one of several recent moves by J Street intended to broaden the group's scope of operation and reach out to areas and audiences beyond the Washington-based political advocacy crowd.
J Street's takeover last October of the Union of Progressive Zionism was also seen as step in this direction. The tiny left-leaning campus organization was merged into J Street in order to serve as the group's outreach arm to another key audience: young Jewish students.
Another crowd the lobby has in its sights is mainstream Jewish activists who have, up to now, largely stirred clear of J Street due to its leftist image. J Street's latest recruit, Hadar Susskind, is hoping to reach out to these activists and make them "look at it differently." Susskind comes to J Street after serving as vice president and Washington director of the mainstream Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the organized Jewish community's umbrella group for advocacy on domestic issues.
Susskind's previous role not only earned him a reputation as a savvy political hand; he also became a well-known figure in the federation system and in local Jewish community relations councils. "The fact that I am lucky to be in a position to know many people in the community across the country will hopefully help," he said, "I hope that people who had never looked deeply at J Street will now do so."
Susskind's personal background could also help – he grew up in Israel and served in a top combat unit of the IDF, a far cry from the stereotype of the Jewish peacenik.
But as J Street grows by leaps and bounds, other groups in the Jewish left are struggling. With resources limited due to the financial downturn and with J Street attracting many of the donors, organizations such as the Israel Policy Forum and Americans for Peace Now are trying to adjust to a new reality. For Brit Tzedek, the cooperation with J Street is seen as a way of ensuring the group's survival and of adding another dimension to its advocacy work. Americans for Peace Now is seen as maintaining stability, although it is not growing in staff or budget.
The Israel Policy Forum is trying to explore its own merger possibilities, as insiders say the group is "on the brink" and is maintaining itself "from month to month." On Sept. 3, IPF lost one of its key employees, MJ Rosenberg, who wrote the group's popular opinion column and served as its face in the national media. With Rosenberg leaving IPF to join the Media Matters, a liberal media monitor website, the group's Washington office will be left with only 2 staffers. According to tax records, IPF has seen a steady decline in donations in the past years and received only $1.7 million in 2007.
In his column in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, liberal Arab intellectual and scholar Dr. Mamoun Fandy calls on the Palestinians to take advantage of the current global political climate, which he says is favorable to them, to advance their cause. He says that the Arabs must confront the Palestinian leadership with its shortcomings - such as its rejection of the political proposals offered to the Palestinians, its damaging adherence to a "resistance" aimed at self-glorification, and the Hamas-Fatah schism - and states that the Palestinians must decide right now whether to be part of the problem or part of the solution.
Following are excerpts from Dr. Fandy's column: 
"Where Should Someone Who Wants to Mediate in Solving the Palestinian Problem Go" - to the PA or to Hamas?
"Where should someone who wants to mediate in solving the Palestinian problem go? Should the Europeans and the Americans go to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, or to Hamas in Gaza? Who should former U.S. senator George Mitchell or EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana talk to...?
"Today, there is in fact no Palestinian partner [for peace] - and the idiotic warring Palestinian factions can take 'credit' for that. There are of course those who make a living from the [intra-Palestinian] struggle, with their writing or their television programs, but they are not confronting the Palestinian [leadership] with this truth. But it's better to discuss the Palestinian problem like adults, not like adolescents.
"In terms of international [climate], there has never been a better opportunity than there is right now for solving the Palestinian problem. Europe supports the Palestinians and wants a U.N. resolution establishing a Palestinian state, like the resolution that established the state of Israel - and Javier Solana is pushing for this. [U.S. President] Barack Obama is most certainly the best U.S. president ever for the Arabs in general - and for the Palestinian problem in particular. The ones who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state today are the Palestinians and the Israelis - in that order...
"The birth of a new state in the Middle East - which is an unstable region from the outset - must have international support and aid, and must [contribute] to the stability of the entire region. A state that only adds to the anarchy is undesirable. A Palestinian state will add to the region's stability if it has a strong and cohesive leadership, and if it is led by a forceful individual. One such Palestinian leader is Muhammad Dahlan, a powerful security figure, who despite Hamas's opposition to him has the best capabilities and the most [correct] outlook [to bring about] the birth of a Palestinian state that is a partner in the region's security and stability...
"The behavior of the various Palestinian factions, and the rivalry between them, looks to the world like efforts to maintain the status quo. [Hamas prime minister] Isma'il Haniya and [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash'al have so far shown no political maturity proving that they want a solution instead of rejecting one."
The Palestinian Leadership Must Confront Its Shortcomings; "The Palestinians Today Are the Worst Enemy of Their Own Cause"
"There is no doubt that the occupation and Israel's establishment of settlements contribute nothing to solving [the Palestinian problem]. But in our articles in Arabic, which are not directed at Israel, we must confront the Palestinian leadership with its shortcomings. Condemning Israel must not be a free pass for the Palestinian factions to commit folly against their own people and their own cause. Those of us with any sense will reject any immunity from criticism for the Palestinian leadership.
"It is important that we be honest in criticizing the Palestinian situation, which is precarious in the best of cases. Once I was invited to a meeting with the Palestinian foreign minister, in an important country. During the meeting, the Palestinian foreign minister was shown a map of the Israeli settlements. When the minister took hold of the map, I immediately realized why the Palestinian cause is going nowhere: He looked at the map, but [could not make head or tail of it]. It was obvious that he had never looked at a map in his life. I wondered: Why, when we have the best intellectuals from the best universities in the world, do we let these leaders represent us… This is a question that the Palestinians must answer for themselves.
"The people in Gaza or in the West Bank want a state like everyone else has. They want a better life under a sovereign state that respects their humanity. In this aspect, Gaza is no different than Lebanon, Egypt, or Syria. The [Palestinian] people are tired of this pointless 'resistance' - because resistance must have a political goal.
"States and movements do not fight or resist unless there is a political goal behind the war or the resistance. To date, the Hamas leadership, and even many in the Fatah leadership, have not convinced us that they are striving to attain a particular logical and practical goal. If the goal [of the resistance] is for a few members of the leadership to be recognized as symbols of resistance and [national] honor - we are perfectly willing to give them this recognition, but there is no need to sacrifice innocent lives in order to accomplish such a limited goal.
"However, if the goal is realizing the dream of establishing a Palestinian state, and for this people to live in dignity like other peoples - then that is a different struggle, which requires new strategies. The first [of these] strategies is the creation of a united leadership for the future Palestinian state - one that will convince its enemies to negotiate with it and to give it the land. It is easy to convince friends - but solving the problem requires first of all convincing enemies…
"The Palestinians today are the worst enemy of their own cause. The time has come for us to tell them this openly, out of love, and not out of vindictiveness.
"There Will Never Be a Political Situation Better Than There Is Now for the Arabs, And Particularly for the Palestinians"
"Global political circumstances have changed since Barack Obama entered the White House. There will never be a political situation better than there is now for the Arabs, and particularly for the Palestinians. Thus, the Palestinians must be flexible with Obama if they wish to solve their problem; they must unite their leadership, and they must commit to a cessation of violence and to return to the discussion table to deal with the two-state solution presented in the Arab [peace] initiative... No one in the international community who wants a solution seeks three states [Gaza, Ramallah, and Israel]. Israel too must understand that this time there will be no way around accepting a Palestinian state alongside it.
"The era of delay is over. We already know that Israel will not accept such a state without intense international pressure… At the Fatah [Sixth General Conference],  the Palestinians must... create the impression that they are a people worthy of independence - and not a people in some adolescent stage, in which its sons consume each other.
"The Palestinians again face an historic choice: whether to be part of the solution or part of the problem. They also [now] have [an opportunity] to give Palestine a cohesive leadership, with a single address - to which the whole world can come if they want to talk."
Salah Uddin Shoab Choudhury has paid dearly for his struggle against radical Islamism in his native Bangladesh. His voice needs to be heard. Is there a non-nasty side to radical Islamism? Besides suicide bombing, repression and violence against women and despotic regimes, I guess they are OK if you like that sort of thing.
Many nations having Shariah Law or Mullah rule in the world are continuing to commit various forms of notoriety in the name of Islam. I know, what Islamists and people like Ahmadinejad or Wahhabis or notorious groups like Hamas, Hezbollah or Al Qaeda are doing, is not Islam at all. To get more specific answer as to why I have drawn such conclusion, we need to carefully read this entire article to understand, what is happening in those nations, which are having Shariah law or laws of Mullahs. Here we have reports on sexual assualt inside Iranian prison by the prison guards by taking the refuge of sermons issued by Mullahs. It is evidently proved that such practices are continuing in Iran since the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.
A highly influential Shi'a religious leader, with whom Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regularly consults, apparently told followers last month that coercion by means of rape, torture and drugs is acceptable against all opponents of the Islamic regime. In the wake of a series of publications worldwide regarding the rape and torture of dissident prisoners in Iran 's jails, supporters of Ahmadinejad gathered with him in Jamkaran, a popular pilgrimage site for Shi'ite Muslims on the outskirts of Qom , on August 11, 2009. According to Iranian pro-democracy sources, the gathered crowd heard from Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi and Ahmadinejad himself regarding the issue.
According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center [ITIC], an independent intelligence analysis organization, Mesbah-Yazdi is considered Ahmadinejad's personal spiritual guide. A radical totalitarian even in Iranian terms, he holds messianic views, supports increasing Islamization, calls for violent suppression of domestic political opponents, and, according to the ITIC, "declared that obeying a president supported by the Supreme Leader was tantamount to obeying God."
At the Jamkaran gathering, Mesbah-Yazdi and Ahmadinejad answered questions about the rape and torture charges. The following text is from a transcript by Iranian dissidents to be a series of questions and answers exchanged between the Ayatollah and some of his supporters.
Asked if a confession obtained by applying psychological, emotional and physical pressure was valid and considered credible according to Islam, Mesbah-Yazdi replied: "Getting a confession from any person who is against the Velayat-e Faqih [Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists], or the regime of Iran's mullahs] is permissible under any condition."
The Ayatollah gave the identical answer when asked about confessions obtained through drugging the prisoner with opiates or addictive substances.
He was asked, "Can an interrogator rape the prisoner in order to obtain a confession?", which was the follow-up question posed to the Islamic cleric.
Mesbah-Yazdi answered: "The necessary precaution is for the interrogator to perform a ritual washing first and say prayers while raping the prisoner. If the prisoner is female, it is permissible to rape through the vagina or anus. It is better not to have a witness present. If it is a male prisoner, then it's acceptable for someone else to watch while the rape is committed."
This reply, and reports of the rape of teen male prisoners in Iranian jails, may have prompted the following question: Is the rape of men and young boys considered sodomy?
Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi: "No, because it is not consensual. Of course, if the prisoner is aroused and enjoys the rape, then caution must be taken not to repeat the rape."
A related issue, in the eyes of the questioners, was the rape of virgin female prisoners. In this instance, Mesbah-Yazdi went beyond the permissibility issue and described the Allah-sanctioned rewards accorded the rapist-in-the-name-of-Islam:
"If the judgment for the [female] prisoner is execution, then rape before execution brings the interrogator a spiritual reward equivalent to making the mandated Haj pilgrimage [to Mecca], but if there is no execution decreed, then the reward would be equivalent to making a pilgrimage to [the Shi'ite holy city of] Karbala."
One aspect of these permitted rapes troubled certain questioners: What if the female prisoner gets pregnant? Is the child considered illegitimate?
Mesbah-Yazdi answered: "The child borne to any weakling [a denigrating term for women] who is against the Supreme Leader is considered illegitimate, be it a result of rape by her interrogator or through intercourse with her husband, according to the written word in the Koran. However, if the child is raised by the jailer, then the child is considered a legitimate Shi'a Muslim."
Meanwhile, the same devil Ahmadinejad in another live interview with state run radio station said that that any rape or torture of political prisoners in Iranian detention centers in recent months had been carried out by "enemy" agents, not the government."
Recently two prominent members of Iran 's human rights community, the feminist lawyer and journalist Shadi Sadr and the blogger and activist Mojtaba Samienejad, published essays online from inside Iran arguing that far from being a new phenomenon, prison rape has a long history in the Islamic Republic.
In her essay Ms... Sadr wrote:
"Published reports are available about these types of torture committed against women political prisoners after the 1979 Revolution. The most systematic type of reported rape has been the rape of virgin girls who were sentenced to death by execution because of political reasons. They were raped on the night before execution.. These reports have been substantiated by frequent statements from the relatives of women political prisoners. On the day after the execution, authorities returned their daughter's dead body to them along with a sum considered to be the alimony. Reports state that in order to lose their virginity, girls were forced to enter into a temporary marriage with men who were in charge of their prison. Otherwise it was feared that the executed prisoner would go to heaven because she was a virgin!
"It is known beyond a shadow of a doubt, that during the 1980s, the rape of women political prisoners was prevalent. It was so prevalent as to make Ayatollah Montazeri, who was Khomeini's deputy at the time, write the following to Khomeini in a letter dated October 7, 1986: "Did you know that young women are raped in some of the prisons of the Islamic Republic?""
Recently Mr. Samienejad, who was imprisoned in the past for blogging but has managed to avoid detention this year, published a post, in English, headlined, Memories of Prison and Raped Prisoners. Mr. Samienejad's post began:
"The practice of rape on prisoners, brought up by [reformist Mehdi] Karoubi in his letter to [former President Ali Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, has existed for the last three decades in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Many prisoners have written about it in their memoirs, and rumors have always existed about the issue... Prisoner rape is one of the most horrific forms of human rights violations in Iran , but not much has been said about it until now, despite its widespread practice. Social stigmas have made people reluctant to discuss the issue, and an admission of the practice would have had grave implications for the Islamic Republic. However the taboo is broken now; Rafsanjani, the second most powerful figure of the regime, has now publicly been informed about rape in prisons. A door has been opened and the issue must now be discussed. I saw and heard about many rape cases during my prison term. With the issue now open for discussion, I want to retrieve from my memories some of the stories and retell them, so we can better know who these rapists are.
In the first of five harrowing memories, Mr. Samienejad writes that during his detention four years ago:
"The terms 'coke bottle' and 'baton' were constantly used by my interrogators, who were threatening to use these objects on me."
Mr. Samienejad also describes his unsuccessful attempt to get prison authorities to accept a letter of complaint he wrote on behalf of another prisoner who appeared to have been raped. He concludes:
"Prison authorities never investigate these cases and do not take them seriously. If I were to write all my memories of such cases I would have to write about many cases. What you just read in this article are only a few examples of what I saw. In my two years of imprisonment, I witnessed and heard about hundreds of cases of rape. I will write about them gradually in the future."
Despite what he says is this first-hand knowledge of brutal abuses by Iranian authorities, Mr. Samienejad contacted The Lede to say that it is important to him that outsiders understand that the blame lies within specific individuals. According to Mr. Samienejad he and other Iranian activists were upset that an editorial about prison rape in New York Times was headlined "Shame On Iran ."
Iranian pro-democracy activist and eminet journalist Shirin Sadeghi wrote in an article: "On Friday June 19, a large group of mourners gathered at the Ghoba mosque in Tehran to await a speech about the martyrs of the post-election protests by presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. According to one Iranian blog, 28-year-old Taraneh Mousavi was one of a group of people that was arrested by plainclothesed security forces for attending the gathering.
"Taraneh, whose first name is Persian for "song", disappeared into arrest.
"Weeks later, according to the blog, her mother received an anonymous call from a government agent saying that her daughter has been hospitalized in Imam Khomeini Hospital in the city of Karaj, just north of Tehran -- hospitalized for "rupturing of her womb and anus in... an unfortunate accident".
"When Taraneh's family went to the hospital to find her, they were told she was not there.
"According to another Iranian blog which claims to have original information about Taraneh from her family, Iranian security forces contacted Taraneh's family after the hospital visit warning them not to publicize Taraneh's story and not to associate her disappearance with arrests made at post-election protests, claiming instead that she had tried to harm herself because of feeling guilty for having pre-marital sex.
"Witnesses have come forward to the various Internet sites who are covering Taraneh's story, stating that she was mentally and physically abused in Tehran's notorious Evin prison and also that a person who matches her physical description and injuries had been treated at the Imam Khomeini Hospital, was unconscious when witnessed and was later transferred out of the hospital while still unconscious.
"Taraneh's is not the first allegation of brutal raping of a post-election protester -- according to the UK Guardian, an 18 year old boy in Shiraz was repeatedly gang raped by prison officials while in detention after being arrested for participating in the protests on June 15. That boy's father won't let him back in the family home."
Despite its agitations for reform, Iranian society remains traditional, according to Iranian-British blogger Potkin Azarmehr, and it's the stigma of rape that is being used as a weapon against the protesters. "By killing protesters, the government makes martyrs of them, but by raping them and allowing them to live, it makes them shunned in society," Azarmehr said.
Not that the stigma of rape is exclusive to Iran and other more traditional societies. A friend of Azarmehr's who is presently in Iran told him that he's sick of hearing that people like Taraneh are better off dead" from friends abroad, just because they can't handle the fact that she's been raped.
The psychology of threatening protesters and political activists is not a new science. The strategies and ultimate goals are the same for any kind of torture: to humiliate, disembody [through denying the victim authority over his/her own physical self], extract confessions [whether true or false] and ultimately permanently terrorize the victims to prevent further 'disturbances'... The last part often fails spectacularly, as victims tend to feel even more antagonism toward the perpetrators, and even more of a 'do or die' mentality about agitating for change at any cost.
Prison abuse and torture is also about marking these victims as defiled human beings -- it's like a scarlet letter of social isolation against them, to deny them the community support and strength which they need to move past those memories and not be defined by them. This is where others can step in and change the very attitudes toward abuse which so many institutions count on when they commit these crimes.
The story of Taraneh's condition is still unfolding and there are no certain confirmations of its details beyond the reports of bloggers who are obliged to remain anonymous for safety reasons -- but the idea that political prisoners are being mistreated in this way is not new to Iran and is a significant element of a program of terror which has sustained the current system in Iran.
With allegations of sexual assault in prisons brought to the fore in Iran , authorities meet with Mehdi Karroubi, the figure who broached the taboo subject, to look into the claims.
Rapporteur of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Kazem Jalali, who heads a Parliament committee tasked with probing into the death and detention of those arrested in the post-election frenzy, said the board met with the leading opposition figure on August 24, 2009 for examination of evidence provided on alleged jail rape.
The three-hour meeting took place after Karroubi wrote a letter to the influential Head of the Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, on July 29, claiming that jailers brutally raped post-vote protesters in Iran 's detention centers.
The publication of the letter caused an uproar inside and outside Iran , with many clerics saying that if true, the issue would be a catastrophe for the Islamic Republic.
Jalali told Mehr News Agency that six lawmakers -- including himself, Omidvar Rezaei, Ali Motahhari, Mehdi Sanaie, Parviz Sorouri and Farhad Tajari -- met Karroubi in his office on Monday where he talked about four alleged victims of jailhouse rape at the hands of security personnel.
According to Jalali, the two-time former Majlis speaker will introduce the alleged victims to the probe committee for further investigation.
Karroubi, however, said that while these four victims are ready to testify before Parliament, they do not feel safe to do so.
The head of the Majlis probe committee said it would be scheduled that the four alleged victims speak up about their torment in front of the board.
He added that the committee is also set to hold a meeting on the issue with Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and the country's newly-appointed Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.
Alongside the meeting with the probe committee, Karroubi's party Etemad-e-Melli [National Trust] published a report on its website which made public remarks by an inmate who had allegedly been subject to sexual abuse.
The victim says defeated candidate Karroubi helped him get through difficult times after his dreadful experience and get rid of suicidal thoughts.
The victim adds that he had met with a representative of the former general prosecutor who after listening to his account expressed his sympathy to him, saying "alas" in reaction to the situation.
A 15-year-old boy, Reza, has alleged that he was locked up in Iran 's Basij militia base for 20 days, where he was beaten up, raped repeatedly and subjected to sexual humiliation and abuse.
Reza is so horrified with the incident that he refuses to go outside and is terrified of being left alone.
"My life is over.. I don't think I can ever recover," The Times quoted Reza, as saying.
A doctor who is treating him, has confirmed that he is suicidal, and bears the appalling injuries consistent with his story.
Reza's family is also enduring the pain with him and is exploring ways to flee Iran .
Reza's ordeal began in mid-July, when he was arrested along with 40 other teenagers during an opposition demonstration.
He claimed that the arrested teenagers were taken to the Basij militia base, where they were blindfolded, stripped to their underwear, whipped with cables and then locked in a steel shipping container.
Reza claims that three men on the first night singled him out and pushed him to the ground... He further said that one held his head down, another sat on his back and the third urinated on him efore raping him. [Source: Asian News International].
And here is another disturbing information from Bangladesh , on persecution of religious minorities and forceful conversion of Hindus by influential Muslim thugs. Bangladesh Minority Watch [BDMW] - Dhaka received an appeal from Ajoy Kumar Dey and his wife Mrs. Dolly Rani Dey of 84/1 Nagar Khanpur under Police Station and District – Narayanganj on the allegation that their only minor son –Suvashish Dey  was abducted on 30.07.2009 at about 12-30 p.m. from their house and forcefully converted to Islam. Suvbashis is a meritorious student and he passed Secondary School Certificate and Higher School Certificate examinations with credit. But the police neither assisted to recover their children nor arrested any perpetrators despite specific allegations made to police. [General Diary Entry No. 1713 dated 31.7.2009 filed by Ajoy Kumar Dey]. Ajoy Kumar and Dolly Rani believe that their only son was abducted for forceful conversion by the thugs belonging to Islamic fundamentalists groups.
Both the news on rape inside prison in Iran or forceful conversion in Bangladesh are matters of great concern. The global population favoring peace should raise voice against such atorocious attitude of the Islamist regimes or nations with majority Muslim population before one more male or female prisoner is sexually abused in Iran or another religious minority member is abducted for forceful conversion in Bangladesh .
SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist Skype: shoaibnoca Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz www.weeklyblitz.net Director, FORCEFIELD NFP PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006 Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007