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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Richard Goldstone not popular among south African group

Oct. 1, 2009
'Fury, outrage, disappointment, betrayal" were the words bandied about, the tone of voice noticeably harsh. In telephone interviews with The Jerusalem Post from Johannesburg this week, there was no escaping the fact that South Africa's Jewish community was incensed.
This Yom Kippur, had Judge Richard Goldstone asked for forgiveness, which he didn't, he would have found that even the most virtuous members of his old community could not bring themselves to grant it. From their golden boy, he has gone to being the wicked son.
There is palpable anger at Goldstone within the mainstream South African Jewish community; a feeling that one of their own has betrayed them, sold them out. Not simply one of their own, but one of their most respected representatives, someone they held in high esteem, a champion of the new South Africa. Here, the much-respected judge has fallen a long way since publishing his scathing report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza; his once formidable stature shattered, his golden aura blackened. The once-brave judge who opened up apartheid's can of worms and took on Yugoslav and Rwandan war criminals, did not do the brave thing this time - he did not defend Israel against the Human Rights Council onslaught. He did the opposite - he lent his standing, his Jewishness, to the attack on his people.
If during Operation Cast Lead a small minority of South Africa's Jews signed a petition of "not in my name," then the vast majority of the community is now saying "not in my name" to Goldstone.
Very few people think Goldstone did the right thing by taking the job of heading the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission into the Gaza operation. There is some appreciation that his report did, for the first time, criticize Hamas, but there is overwhelming rejection of Goldstone himself and his report's conclusion.
"He sold us out," said an angry Ze'ev Krengel, the usually soft-spoken, liberal, Zionist chairman of the South African Board of Governors. "The damage has been done. He proved that terrorism works, that if you fight from within your own civilians you can win."
Community leaders had a bad feeling about the commission from the start. They were convinced that its mandate was flawed, despite Goldstone's inclusion of a probe against Hamas, and that the members of the commission had already shown themselves to be biased against Israel. With all that proof, they believe, Goldstone should never have taken on the job.
"If [former United Nations high commissioner for human rights] Mary Robinson refused to lead the mission, how could judge Goldstone agree to it?" Krengel asked.
Why did Goldstone take the job? The cynical argue that at his advanced age (Goldstone is 71), he was looking for ways to keep his name in the spotlight, to keep himself relevant. Some think he is vying for the position of next UN secretary-general, and that his latest work will endear him to the large non-aligned bloc. People who know him believe he acted out of arrogance; that he thought he could get another high-profile feather in his cap. Others think he truly, naively believed he could make the commission more impartial and more balanced because of who he was: a judge and a Jew. Still others who know him well believe his heart was truly in the right place, even if he was sometimes too ambitious.
In the end, there is almost wall-to-wall agreement in the community that Goldstone took on a flawed case, and that he has sullied his good name.
GOLDSTONE'S REPORT has capped what has been a very difficult year for South Africa's Jews. The trouble started during the IDF's Gaza operation in January. First came the anti-Semitic tirade by former deputy foreign minister Fatima Hajaig at a pro-Palestinian rally in the Lenasia township outside of Johannesburg at the height of the fighting.
"No matter which [US] government comes into power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George Bush, the control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money, and if Jewish money controls their country, you cannot expect anything else," Hajaig said.
The Jewish Board of Deputies, usually wary of rocking the boat, went after Hajaig with everything they had, demanding a retraction and apology. They got a tepid apology, but the incident made many in the community feel very uncomfortable.
Next came an aggressive and sustained anti-Israel campaign by the country's largest trade union, COSATU, one of whose top officials said his organization "would make life hell" for Zionists and their supporters. South African Jews took that to mean them, and COSATU never dissociated itself from those comments.
This incident was followed by a COSATU-affiliated labor group refusing to offload Israeli-made goods from a ZIM ship docked at Durban Harbor. That action, while ultimately unsuccessful, received a lot of press coverage.
Next came the fiasco at the Limmud conference held last August. David Benjamin, a South African-born Israeli serving in the IDF Military Advocate-General's unit during Cast Lead, was brought out to the conference to talk about Israel. When the South African branch of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC)got wind of Benjamin's visit, they accused him of being a war criminal - arguing that his position in the army made him responsible for allowing attacks on civilian targets - laid a charge against him at a Johannesburg police station and demanded his arrest. This was, of course, picked up by the media.
The situation got worse when the PSC, at an acrimonious demonstration outside the annual Jewish learning seminar, accused WITS University's Vice Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa of hosting a "war criminal" on the university's Parktown campus, where Limmud had rented out lecture halls. Furthermore, the PSC accused Jewish security guards at the Limmud conference of "apartheid-style" racial profiling by not allowing black students onto the campus during the conference, a charge denied by witnesses at the event.
The vice chancellor, under intense pressure from the PSC, responded to the charges by establishing a committee of inquiry into the matter, led by another respected Jewish South African anti-apartheid activist and human rights champion, Geoff Bundlender. Nongxa, in an e-mail sent to the entire WITS staff, said he was "appalled at what is happening in the Middle East… at atrocities committed against civilians" - and Nongxa wasn't referring to the civilians of Sderot. Bundlender, who has been interviewing Limmud and PSC officials, is expected to release his report in the coming days.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, an aggressive anti-Israel demonstration, organized by the PSC and led by anti-Zionist Jewish politician Ronnie Kasrils, was held after Cast Lead outside the main Jewish community center in Johannesburg, and not, as in the past, outside the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria.
This sent out a message that the Jewish community, and not just Israel, was being targeted, according to Geoff Sifrin, editor of the South African Jewish Report.
"This was the first time that a Jewish institution was targeted, and it led to a feeling of embattlement," Sifrin told the Post.
ALL OF these events of the past year combined to put the Jewish community in an uncomfortable position, a sense of accumulating discomfort. And it is into this maelstrom that Goldstone's report, with its scathing and unbalanced attack on Israel, landed with such force. A sense of sustained embattlement, mixed with disgust at his "betrayal," has given birth to the fury at Goldstone. Here was a respected Jewish judge vindicating the accusation made by the PSC: that, in essence, David Benjamin was a war criminal, that Israeli soldiers could be considered war criminals. With his report, Goldstone went a step too far for the mainstream South African Jewish community.
There are, however, more nuanced voices among some in the Jewish community who know Goldstone very well, and who feel that the blame should be shared by the Israelis. The sense among these people is that in the absence of Israeli cooperation with the Goldstone mission and a genuine attempt to investigate the IDF's actions, the report could never have been balanced. They posit that Goldstone was not reacting to a perception of Israeli excess, and that he is far too objective to have been influenced by the perceptions of others.
Without a doubt, Operation Cast Lead has caused tremendous harm to Israel's reputation in South Africa. Some in the Jewish community see the attempt to minimize Gazan civilian casualties as essentially backfiring, primarily because of the extent to which it lengthened the conflict. The net result was bad publicity for Israel, week after week.
Even though Goldstone hasn't lived among them for years (he lives in London), local Jews are very upset, especially since many in South Africa know the Goldstone family and have taken pride in the fact that one of their own was such a global champion of human rights. They feel that Goldstone has been coopted, drawn into the ongoing, increasing anti-Israel movement. According to Krengel, Sifrin and others, the vast majority of South African Jews can be characterized as very Zionist.
"That's not to say they're not open to Israel being criticized - they are. But it has to be within reason," Krengel told the Post. "It's so sad that a respected elder member of the tribe would bash Israel so unfairly."
South African Jews who are considered - by the official Jewish community leadership - to be anti-Zionist make up about 10 percent of the community, but they are a vocal minority with a lot of colorful characters.
"I'd say the South African Jewish community is made up of 90% staunchly pro-Israel people, and 10% staunchly anti-Israel, and Goldstone is very much part of latter group," said Krengel, the top Jewish official. Only a small proportion of Jews in South Africa would agree with what Goldstone has done and support the findings of his commission, he added.
Krengel and the others, who preferred to remain anonymous, say they are "very, very angry" at Goldstone.
"In the end, the biggest loser will be Richard Goldstone, who will go down in history as the person who judged Israel unfairly," said Krengel. "He had the power to right the wrongs [of the anti-Israeli Human Rights Council], but he didn't. He did the opposite."
For more of Amir's articles and posts, visit his personal blog Forecast Highs

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Ahmadinejad is Jewish ??

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed to have Jewish past
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vitriolic attacks on the Jewish world hide an astonishing secret, evidence uncovered by The Daily Telegraph shows.

By Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat
Published: 7:30AM BST 03 Oct 2009
 Ahmadinejad showing papers during election. It shows that his family's previous name was Jewish
A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.
A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.
The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.
The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from "weaver of the Sabour", the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior.
Experts last night suggested Mr Ahmadinejad's track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.
Ali Nourizadeh, of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, said: "This aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's background explains a lot about him.
"Every family that converts into a different religion takes a new identity by condemning their old faith.
"By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society."
A London-based expert on Iranian Jewry said that "jian" ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews.
"He has changed his name for religious reasons, or at least his parents had," said the Iranian-born Jew living in London. "Sabourjian is well known Jewish name in Iran."
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said it would not be drawn on Mr Ahmadinejad's background. "It's not something we'd talk about," said Ron Gidor, a spokesman.
The Iranian leader has not denied his name was changed when his family moved to Tehran in the 1950s. But he has never revealed what it was change from or directly addressed the reason for the switch.
Relatives have previously said a mixture of religious reasons and economic pressures forced his blacksmith father Ahmad to change when Mr Ahmadinejad was aged four.
The Iranian president grew up to be a qualified engineer with a doctorate in traffic management. He served in the Revolutionary Guards militia before going on to make his name in hardline politics in the capital.
During this year's presidential debate on television he was goaded to admit that his name had changed but he ignored the jibe.
However Mehdi Khazali, an internet blogger, who called for an investigation of Mr Ahmadinejad's roots was arrested this summer.
Mr Ahmadinejad has regularly levelled bitter criticism at Israel, questioned its right to exist and denied the Holocaust. British diplomats walked out of a UN meeting last month after the Iranian president denounced Israel's 'genocide, barbarism and racism.'
Benjamin Netanyahu made an impassioned denunciation of the Iranian leader at the same UN summit. "Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium," he said. "A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies the murder of six million Jews while promising to wipe out the State of Israel, the State of the Jews. What a disgrace. What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations."
Mr Ahmadinejad has been consistently outspoken about the Nazi attempt to wipe out the Jewish race. "They have created a myth today that they call the massacre of Jews and they consider it a principle above God, religions and the prophets," he declared at a conference on the holocaust staged in Tehran in 2006.

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kibbutz sucess?

Does this mean privatization is the road to kibbutz success? How do we define success? What should be the goals of kibbutz and does this model of privatization fulfill them?
By adapting, kibbutz movement finds success
By Dina Kraft · September 25, 2009
KIBBUTZ MA'ABAROT, Israel (JTA) -- Shaul Daniel, 66, has spent most of his life on this kibbutz, working the land: fields of avocado, corn, wheat, chickpeas and cotton.
But now, like most kibbutzim and moshavim, a team of foreign workers -- in this case, Thais -- do the agricultural labor at Kibbutz Ma'abarot.
"When I die, I don't think anyone will even know the way to our fields," says Daniel, a lifelong member of Ma'abarot whose parents were among the kibbutz's founders. Established in 1934, Ma'abarot is among Israel's most prosperous kibbutzim.
"It's hard for me that we no longer work in agriculture ourselves anymore. I think it builds a person up and helps make a group into a cohesive, united whole," he says. "Today there is not the same motivation to do hard, physical labor."
A century after the first kibbutz was founded along the shores of the Kinneret, the kibbutz movement is finding success in the 21st century by shifting from its more ideological, socialist and agricultural roots to industry and, in a growing number of cases, varying degrees of privatization.
Some kibbutzim are struggling for their survival. But more are undergoing a renaissance as they liberalize policies of communalism. With their reputation for high quality of life, kibbutzim are finding more and more younger people are choosing to stay on the kibbutz, and newcomers from the city are eager to move in.
Kibbutz Ma'abarot is a few miles east of Netanya. With its lush green lawns, close-knit social network, sought-after schools and brand-new neighborhood of two-story, pastel-colored houses, it's flooded with second-generation members who want to return to live here with their spouses and young families.
The wave of returnees to Ma'abarot began about a decade ago, when the kibbutz came into money thanks to flourishing manufacturing. Materna, one of Israel's leading baby milk formulas, is made on the kibbutz, as is a pharmaceutical factory and two companies that make popular brands of dog and cat food.
"Now suddenly everyone wants to join the kibbutz," Daniel says.
Of his three adult children, two have moved back to the kibbutz and are raising their children there.
Nearby, Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'Sharon has a waiting list of people wanting to move in. The kibbutz, where Defense Minister Ehud Barak grew up and his mother and a brother still live, is financially stable but had been facing difficult times until 2004, when its members voted to privatize.
In opting to privatize, Mishmar Ha'Sharon joined 179 of Israel's 270 kibbutzim that made the same choice. Privatization relieves kibbutzim of the significant financial burden of fully covering all members' needs -- including food, health, education and even water and electricity bills. Members at privatized kibbutzim receive differential salaries if they work on the kibbutz; those who have jobs outside can keep their income.
To keep the kibbutz running as a community, members pay social service fees. The kibbutz's earnings from industry also are funneled back into the communal pot.
"Five years later I can say the decision to privatize was the right one," says Ronen Simcha, the general secretary of Mishmar Ha'Sharon. "The members' standard of living has improved and the kibbutz is run better.
"We saw that staying in place was going to lead to a social rupture and a financial crisis."
Established in 1924, Mishmar Ha'Sharon has 199 members. The kibbutz expects 30 percent growth in the next two years.
Like most kibbutzim, Mishmar Ha'Sharon needed time to recover from the economic trauma of the 1980s, which threatened to doom the movement into extinction. With the Likud Party in power, the days when the kibbutzim were a pet project of successive socialist-oriented Labor governments were gone. At the time, Israel was struggling with hyper-inflation, and kibbutzim found themselves millions of dollars in debt.
A government-adopted plan to help kibbutzim repay their debts over an extended amount of time helped lead the recovery. But in the 20 years it took for that recovery to be felt, some 20,000 members left kibbutzim. Today, Israel's 270 kibbutzim have an overall member population of 120,000, plus about 20,000 children, soldiers and others whose official membership is pending.
The recovery for the kibbutzim has been striking. Less than 10 years ago, about half of Israel's kibbutzim were considered financially unstable. Today that number is down to about 15.
Kibbutz Lotan, a small kibbutz deep in the Arava Desert about a 40-minute drive north of Eilat, was among the kibbutzim that pulled themselves back to a stable position. Formed in 1983 by a mix of American immigrants and native Israelis affiliated with Israel's arm of the Reform movement, Lotan stabilized with the help of a local agricultural association that let it repay its debts slowly.
Its income is derived mostly from its date groves -- also tended by Thai workers -- and program for eco-tourism, which include workshops in organic gardening and renewable energy. Other tourist draws are a bird-watching center, a guest house and an ecological park.
Lotan has considered privatizing but has remained a cooperative kibbutz.
"The traditional model of kibbutz still suits us," says kibbutz member Daphna Abel. "We find lots of positive things from being a cooperative community. It is something that helps us invest in our social relations. It's the glue that safeguards our community."
She says the decision to hire Thai workers to help with the date groves was a difficult one, but ultimately "we had to deal with the marketplace's realities" in order to compete globally.
"The goal today is economic survival," says Aviv Leshem, spokesman for the Kibbutz Movement, an umbrella group of the kibbutzim. "Cooperative living is still all right for some, but not all. Ultimately, every kibbutz has to think of itself as a business."

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Hamas head Khald Meshaal promises to kidnap more Israeli solidiers

Directly from the horse's mouth, we have confirmation of what common sense would suggest has to be true: Giving in to Hamas blackmail in the Shalit kidnapping will be rewarded by more kidnappings. So this is a really good deal right, and we should go for it? Maybe 20 or 30 Israeli soldiers will be kidnapped, and there will no longer be any deterrent value in arresting terrorists. If you are an Israeli, you might be the next terror victim.

Here's the story:
Khaled Mashaal vows to abduct more Israeli troops in order to free all Palestinian prisoners
In a speech in Damascus, Syria, Mashaal congratulated the Palestinian people on Israel's release Friday of 19 female prisoners in return for a video of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
 The Hamas leader promised to work for the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel.
 He said those who were able to capture Shalit and hold him safely for more than three years are capable of capturing "Shalit, and Shalit, and Shalit until there is not even one prisoner in the enemy's jails."
Earlier Friday, Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh congratulated the female Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli prison on in exchange for the Shalit videotape
Haniyeh said the swap was a great victory for the Palestinian resistance.
 "This is an achievement for the Palestinian factions that captured Shalit," he said at a press conference in Gaza.

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US Jews still back Obama

According to a recent Gallup poll, Jews still support Obama - almost more than any other religious group (atheists, agnostics and the unaffiliated gave him 65%).  But Obama is losing support across the board - as happens to any new president.
Here's the story: :

American Jews give President Obama a 64 percent job approval rating in a new Gallup poll, significantly higher than any of the other religious groups surveyed and the national average of 52 percent.
The 64 percent number is a decline from 83 percent approval in a January poll, but Gallup says this is in line with the overall national decline in Obama's popularity and not anything unique to the Jewish community:
Importantly, the decline in approval of Obama among Jews since January is no greater than that seen among the general public. This suggests that since Obama became president, his actions on Middle East policy issues -- particularly relating to Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute -- have not had a disproportionately negative (or positive) impact on his image among U.S. Jews.
Between January and September, Obama's average monthly approval rating fell by 14 percentage points among all Americans and by 19 points among Jews. Both shifts represent about a 20% decline in approval from January.
Compared to other religious groups, Obama was considerably more popular among Jews -- no doubt due in part to the fact that Gallup found 66 percent of those Jews surveyed to be Democrats compared to just 27 percent who identified as Republicans. Obama had job approval ratings of 54 percent among Catholics, 47 percent among Protestants and just 32 percent for Mormons. Those who identified as atheists or agnostics, or said they had no religious affiliation, were slightly higher at 65 percent.
NJDC president David Harris said the numbers "gives the lie to the myth that the president's support in the Jewish community is waning" and demonstrate that "there is no loss of support for this president due to his committment to pursuing peace and security" for Israel.
Although the poll does not explain the reasons why those 19 percent of Jews no longer approve of Obama's performance, the fact that his decline in Jewish support is similar to the president's drop among all Americans show that "American Jews are just that -- Americans" and mirror the feelings of the country as a whole, Harris said.
UPDATE: Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks says he's surprised that the NJDC could be so upbeat when Obama is "hemorrhaging support across the board."
"I don't think it's a reason to celebrate," said Brooks. "Usually Jews are the last to go" in supporting a Democratic president, he said, but "they're losing Jews as fast as they're losing everybody else."
The Gallup poll of 379 Jews was conducted throughout the month of September, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percent.
After the jump, NJDC's statement on the results, and RJC's response:
David A. Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), released the following statement:
In recent weeks, we've seen Republican talking heads reaching to suggest that Jewish support for President Barack Obama is waning. Now we see the truth from Gallup, the polling firm that correctly predicted the trend line late in the 2008 election resulting in then-Senator Obama receiving 78 percent of the American Jewish vote. As Gallup concludes, "President Obama enjoys staunch support from U.S. Jews…" This confirms what Gallup found during the 2008 presidential election campaign, when Jews overwhelmingly indicated they were voting for Obama over John McCain." Importantly, Gallup also finds that their poll "…suggests that since Obama became president, his actions on Middle East policy issues – particularly relating to Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute – have not had a disproportionately negative (or positive) impact on his image among U.S. Jews."
Gallup's rigorous scientific findings demonstrate clearly once and for all what we've  known to be true for some time: Obama was elected with overwhelming support from American Jews, and he continues to enjoy overwhelming and strong support from American Jews.
And RJC's statement:
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks released the following statement today:
The Gallup poll released earlier today is an extremely thorough survey of Jewish voters across the country. The results of the poll reinforce what we and others have been saying for some time, that many in the Jewish community are experiencing "buyer's remorse" with regard to their support for President Obama.
Support for President Obama among Jewish voters is eroding at an significant rate. Since January, Obama's approval rating has collapsed from 83% to 64%, a 23% decline in support, with the trend line indicating a clear downward trajectory.
Contrary to what Democratic spinmeisters would have you believe, there really can be no silver lining in these results to give comfort or joy to Democrats.

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Report showing BBC bias in Middle East coverage to be scuttled

Well OK, we don't need a report to tell us the BBC is biased...
A legal bid to force publication of a BBC review of its Middle East coverage has been rejected in the High Court.
London lawyer Steven Sugar wanted the so-called Balen report, which was drawn up in 2004, to be revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.
But Mr Justice Irwin ruled that, as the material was held "for the purposes of journalism, art or literature", the corporation had no duty to disclose it.
He also ruled the BBC did not have to disclose information about expenditure.
The judgement followed requests for budget details of the BBC's news and sport coverage as well as programmes including EastEnders and Top Gear.
Public gaze
In 2004, senior news editor Malcolm Balen examined hundreds of hours of television and radio broadcasts to compile the 20,000-word report.
Mr Sugar, from Putney, south London, wanted it to be part of the debate about alleged anti-Israeli bias at the BBC.
If we are not able to pursue our journalism freely and have honest debate and analysis over how we are covering important issues, then how effectively we can serve the public will be diminished
BBC spokesman
He has argued that the Freedom of Information Act was badly drafted and prevented disclosure of material which should be publicly available.
But the BBC said the report was always intended as an internal review of programme content, to inform future output.
It has said it was vital for independent journalism that debates among its staff about how it covers stories do not have to be opened up to the public gaze.
In his judgment on the Steven Sugar case, the judge said he had taken account of the fact that the BBC was a public body under the Act which was publicly funded, adding that there was a public interest in accessing information about its activities.
But he also said there was a public interest in preserving the freedom of journalism as well as creative and artistic activity.
He told the court: "Different views may legitimately be taken about these questions, particularly at the margins or where the principles collide.
"The resolution is for Parliament, not for the courts or the tribunal. The resolution is contained within the proper meaning of the language of the statute."
Welcoming the ruling, a spokesman for the corporation said: "The BBC's position is that free and impartial journalism is vital to our viewers and listeners and is at the heart of public service broadcasting.
"If we are not able to pursue our journalism freely and have honest debate and analysis over how we are covering important issues, then how effectively we can serve the public will be diminished."
After initially being dismissed by the Information Commissioner, Mr Sugar's request to see the report gained the backing of the Information Tribunal.
The BBC's subsequent appeal against that decision was upheld by the High Court in 2007, backed by the Appeal Court the following year.
The High Court and Appeal Court supported the BBC, saying that the case fell outside the scope of the act and that the Information Tribunal had no jurisdiction.
However, the Law Lords ruled that the tribunal did have jurisdiction, and that the High Court must reconsider the case based on the other issues raised in the BBC's defence.

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Gilad Shalit Tape

Gilad Shalit Tape, showing kidnapped Israeli soldier held by the Hamas. After identifying himself, giving his ID number and the names of his parents and siblings, Shalit reads from Newspaper "Falastin" of 14 September 2009 in Arabic, which he shows to verify the date, Shalit then mentions an incident in the past when his parents visited him on the Golan heights to help verify his identity and states that the "Mujahedin" of "el Qassam" are treating him well. He says he hopes that the Netanyahu government will not miss this opportunity to free him.

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Another day, another Qassam - Hamas celebrates prisoner release with fireworks

Twenty Arab prisoners were  released today in return for a one minute video of Gilad Shalit. At the same time, a Qassam rocket was fired from Gaza. Probably a coincidence, since such rockets are always being fired from Gaza. 
Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket into the western Negev early Friday morning, in another of several recent incidents along the border with the Gaza Strip.
The rocket, which did not trigger the regional warning system, known as 'Color Red' alert, struck an open field in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.
No damages or injuries were reported.
Later in the morning, the 'Color Red' alert was sounded, in what later turned out as a false alarm.
On Wednesday, the Israel Air Force struck smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, just hours after Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a Qassam rocket into the western Negev.
The rocket, fired earlier in the night, struck an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. No injuries were reported.
The night-time exchanges came after IAF planes had attacked smuggling tunnels in the southern part of the Strip earlier Wednesday, in response to rocket fire and shots fired by Gaza militants at IDF soldiers along the border fence, Israel Radio reported.
The rocket attacks caused neither caused casualties nor property damage, according to Army Radio. The first reportedly struck in the Eshkol region, and the second hit an open field north of Gaza.
In another recent incident, IAF jets destroyed a rocket launcher ready for action in the northern Strip on Tuesday.
The IAF confirmed that the launcher was hit and destroyed.

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Shalit Video on Demand

Hamas demanded (and got!) 20 prisoners to show a one minute video of Gilad Shalit taken at an uncertain point in time.
October 3, 2009
Video Shows Captive Israeli Soldier in Good Health

JERUSALEM — Israel received a video showing the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas for more than three years, Gilad Shalit, in apparently good health, on Friday after releasing 19 Palestinian women from jail, with one more to be released shortly to complete the deal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were among the senior officials who first saw the video, along with military officials, who checked its authenticity. A copy was then flown by helicopter to northern Israel where the Shalit family watched it privately in their home. The family decided to allow the video to be made public, and it is expected to be broadcast on Israeli television on Friday afternoon.
The video is Israel's first glimpse of Sergeant Shalit since June 2006, when he was seized in a cross-border raid by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups and taken into Gaza.
A year later, Hamas released an audiotape of the soldier believed to be authentic. His family has also received at least two letters written in what family members said was his handwriting.
The exchange was the most tangible sign of progress so far in years of negotiations for the soldier's release, first through Egyptian mediators and more recently through Germans, and a tentative first step toward a larger deal — though Israeli officials said earlier this week that the negotiations were likely to remain long and arduous.
Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, hailed the deal as a great political achievement. Of the 19 prisoners released, 18 returned to the West Bank and were received by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, at his headquarters in Ramallah.
But the largest celebration was reserved for Fatima Younis Zaq, 45, the only one from Gaza. Ms. Zaq, who is affiliated with the extremist group Islamic Jihad, was arrested in May 2007 at the Erez crossing on her way into Israel. She was charged with having undergone military training and planning a suicide bombing, but had not yet been sentenced. She returned to Gaza on Friday to a hero's welcome along with an infant son who was born in jail, her ninth child.
Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, and other leaders greeted Ms. Zaq. "This is a day of victory for the resistance and steadfastness," Mr. Haniya said.
Most of the released women were near the end of their prison terms and were no longer considered dangerous, Israeli prison officials said.
The former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, authorized the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in several batches to bolster the standing of Mr. Abbas after Hamas routed his forces and took over Gaza in 2007.
But until Friday, no prisoners had been released since the more conservative Mr. Netanyahu came into power in March.
After months of apparent stagnation, Hamas now seems eager to project a more proactive image, with its leaders making upbeat statements about a possible reconciliation with Mr. Abbas and his mainstream party, Fatah.
With an eye on elections that are supposed to take place in 2010, Hamas is also eager to boost its popularity in the West Bank.
The Islamic group is demanding the release of up to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for Sergeant Shalit. There are up to 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Osama Mazeini, a Hamas leader, said on Friday that his group would remain "steadfast" in its demands.
Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don’t write off the kibbutz yet

By Martin Sherman · September 18, 2009
LOS ANGELES (JTA) -- When I left South Africa to volunteer to be a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces in 1971, Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael agreed to host me for the duration of my military service.
My assigned residence at the kibbutz -- located about 20 miles south of Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast -- was a single room in a wooden shack without running water, air conditioning or other modern conveniences. The nearest showers and toilets were public and situated at least 100 yards from my spartan abode.
It was a far cry from the way I live today at the kibbutz -- in a roomy three-bedroom apartment equipped with all the latest electronics and a spacious porch that opens onto a stretch of manicured lawn surrounded by variegated bougainvilleas.
In many ways this dichotomy encapsulates much of the change that has taken place over the past few decades in the kibbutz movement in Israel, and at Ma'agan Michael in particular. There has been a dramatic metamorphosis affecting not only the outward appearance of the kibbutz and sources of its livelihood, but also the manner in which it perceives itself and is perceived by others.
In the past few decades, Ma'agan Michael has changed from a tiny, impoverished fishing village into a sprawling, affluent community with a variety of industrial, commercial and agricultural activities. Today the major source of income is Plasson, a multimillion dollar global plastics manufacturing corporation whose shares are traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
The shift reflects how kibbutzim have deviated sharply from their socialist roots into full-fledged participants in the capitalist system.
As Israel's most successful kibbutz, Ma'agan Michael has preserved a high degree of cooperative life. At less prosperous kibbutzim, economic hardship has forced privatization of elements that once were collective.
In stark contrast to its former ideology of asceticism, today's kibbutz is replete with once-scorned human comforts and privately owned gadgetry. In fact, much of Ma'agan Michael's communal activity is conducted online from members' private homes, where they can reserve a car from the kibbutz's ample fleet, submit work schedules or receive medical test results conducted at the inhouse clinic.
The dominant ethos that characterized the kibbutz well into the 1970s was that of members who were rugged warrior-farmers strongly rooted to the land, willing to sacrifice life and limb to defend Israel. For a young man eligible for military service, it was taboo not to serve in a combat unit. Societal emphasis and social stature was focused more on the physical than the cerebral. While academic study was not overtly shunned, any pursuit not deemed absolutely necessary for the acquisition of skills to enhance the kibbutz's productive operations often elicited expressions of suspicion and derision.
Today, however, every child of Ma'agan Michael members is guaranteed the opportunity to attain an academic degree or some chosen equivalent without any connection to future earning potential. Similar developments have taken place in virtually all of Israel's kibbutzim.
A watershed moment for the kibbutz movement came in 1977, when a Likud government was sworn into power for the first time and kibbutz members feared that their long-maligned political opponents, whom they had labeled as fascists, would seize kibbutz assets. Hasty economic decisions were made that began the chain of events that brought many kibbutzim to the brink of economic collapse. Interestingly, religious kibbutzim, which viewed Likud's ascent with far more equanimity than their secular counterparts and reacted with less alarm, fared far better economically.
The importance of military service as a social imperative declined. Service in non-combat capacities in the IDF -- even draft evasion -- were treated with increasing tolerance.
As the kibbutz began casting off the mantle of national leadership, the social rewards of membership diminished commensurately. As the sense of belonging to society's elite waned, many members -- particularly the more talented and younger ones -- began leaving the kibbutz for the lure of the city. This move, once considered the ultimate act of betrayal, became acceptable and commonplace.
Although Ma'agan Michael largely has been spared the detrimental impact of this phenomenon, it devastated the kibbutz work force and jeopardized the future of many other kibbutzim.
If current trends continue, kibbutzim likely will be overtaken sooner or later by the very bourgeois materialism they once held in such contempt.
However, this is far from inevitable. There is sincere soul-searching going on in Ma'agan Michael about the community's future: how to maintain social solidarity in an age of individualism and how to fashion the kibbutz's role in society at large.
It is premature to write the epitaph of the kibbutz movement. Even without individual financial rewards, Ma'agan Michael's members have brought the kibbutz to the forefront of global achievement in agriculture -- particularly animal husbandry, aquiculture and orchard cultivation.
Furthermore, the continued contribution of the kibbutz movement to the Israeli military should not be underestimated. In my family, virtually all the men served as officers in elite combat units – Air Force, Navy and special forces. This is not unusual. In recent military operations, kibbutz combatants were among those with the highest casualty rates -- a sign that kibbutzim still contribute in high proportions to Israel's combat forces.
It is not at all clear where the kibbutz will be in 2020 or what form it will take. But those who predict its inevitable demise may be surprised.
(Martin Sherman is a professor in security studies at Tel Aviv University and this year is the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise/Schusterman Visiting Professor at the University of Southern California and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.)

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Iran agrees to inspection of Qom site and more talks

What it means is anyone's guess. A process with unclear goals has now reached another milestone on the way to the unclear goals. Iran says repeatedly that it will not agree to suspend its uranium enrichment activities as demanded in UN Security Council resolutions. It is not clear what there is to talk about in that case. Iran is willing to talk about getting more enriched uranium from another country, and presumably would be happy to get more Western aid, get the sanctions that are in place lifted etc. Are these talks about capitulation to Iran?
Ami Isseroff
U.S. and Allies Hold Nuclear Talks With Iran
Parties Agree to Second Meeting; IAEA Making Arrangments to Visit Enrichment Site
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009 12:46 PM

GENEVA, Oct. 1 -- A senior U.S. diplomat held a rare bilateral meeting Thursday with his Iranian counterpart, and Iran agreed to further talks with six major powers on its nuclear program, officials said.
Iranian state television announced Thursday afternoon that Iran and the six countries -- meeting here for the first time in 15 months -- would hold a second conference before the end of the month.
Western diplomat sources said preparations were also underway for the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit Iran's newly disclosed uranium enrichment facility near Qom before the next meeting takes place.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana confirmed that a second meeting would be held and said Iran plans to cooperate "completely and fully" with the IAEA on visiting the Qom site in the "next couple of weeks."
Iran had previously said it would allow an IAEA visit, but the logistics and timing had not been worked out. In a third agreement, Solana said that Iran would transfer some of the low-enriched uranium it has produced to other countries in order to be converted into higher-enriched uranium for use in a research reactor for medical purposes. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told The Washington Post last week that Western assistance on this issue would be a confidence-building step. Solana said it was significant -- and central to Western concerns -- that Iran had agreed to contribute some of its enriched uranium to this effort.
"This is only a start, and we shall need to see progress" on the steps necessary to instill confidence in Iran's program, Solana said. He called the deal on the research reactor "an agreement in principle."
In the first such high-level talks between Washington and Tehran in years, the chief U.S. negotiator, Undersecretary of State William J. Burns, had a private discussion with his Iranian counterpart, Saeed Jalili, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. He said he could not immediately offer any additional details, but a Western diplomat said the meeting lasted 30 minutes and took place after the morning session, held in an 18th-century villa in the Geneva countryside, as other delegations gathered for lunch.
The morning session was devoted mostly to a restatement of positions, with the six powers saying a generous incentive was on the table if Iran would open its nuclear program to inspection and Iran countering that the discussion needed to be broadened to other issues, another Western diplomat said. He said Jalili brought up the nuclear issue in a general way in the context of addressing nonproliferation.
"We are hoping to get to the meat in the afternoon," the diplomat said.
Iranian state television also reported that Jalili told Solana at the talks that Iran would not give up its "certain rights" to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. But diplomats said they hoped the meeting would mark an important turning point in a seven-year stalemate over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"We are expecting the beginning of a serious process between Iran and the international community," a third diplomat said.
During the lunch -- a cold buffet of fish dishes and salads, accompanied by wine and coffee -- the diplomats gathered in the back garden of the Villa Le Saugy, admiring the beautiful views of the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva as they mingled in small groups.
U.S. officials signaled Wednesday that they would seek a bilateral meeting with Iranian diplomats during the discussions. The talks between Iran and major powers were structured to allow for both group meetings and informal, bilateral sessions with Iran; a senior administration official said the latter would be "an opportunity to reinforce the main concerns we will be emphasizing in the meeting." He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity ahead of the talks.
President Obama has sought to make engagement with the Islamic republic and other antagonistic nations a central part of his foreign policy, but until now Iran has spurned his efforts. Nevertheless, the talks could be the most substantial and in-depth conversation between the United States and Iran since relations were severed after the Iranian revolution 30 years ago. Burns, the chief U.S. negotiator, is a career diplomat who joined in similar major-power talks in July of last year, in the final months of the Bush administration, but was barely permitted to speak under rules set by the White House.
The senior administration official said Wednesday that "we are committed to meaningful negotiations to resolve what are growing international concerns about Iran's nuclear problem." But, he added, "this cannot be an open-ended process, more talks for the sake of talks," especially after the revelation last week that Iran has a second uranium-enrichment plant under construction. "We need to see practical steps and measurable results, and we need to see them starting quickly."
Until Wednesday, U.S. officials had said they had not decided whether a bilateral meeting with Iran was desirable. Wednesday's comments marked a distinct shift in tone, with the official emphasizing how the schedule provides the "opportunity" and "possibility" of such a meeting.
In what officials said was an unrelated development, the State Department announced that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his wife had been granted last-minute U.S. visas Wednesday morning. Mottaki, who came from the U.N. General Assembly to Washington to visit the Iranian Interests Section, held no meetings with U.S. officials during his brief stay. He is believed to be the first senior Iranian official to visit Washington since relations with the two countries were cut off.
"It's a coincidence," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of the timing of the visit. "But if it leads in a constructive direction, we welcome it."
Mottaki said the atmosphere of the Geneva talks was "constructive," and he suggested that Iran was ready to "enhance" the discussions to the summit level, Bloomberg news service reported.
Jalili, the chief Iranian negotiator dispatched to Geneva, was expected to press for acceptance of an Iranian proposal that would move beyond the nuclear issue and launch talks on a broad range of areas, including Afghanistan and reform of the United Nations. Whereas U.S. officials want to narrow the discussion to nuclear weapons, the Iranians want to broaden the topics on the table in order to test areas of cooperation with the United States. In Tehran on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad told a cabinet session that "this meeting is a test to measure the extent of sincerity and commitment of some countries to law and justice," according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
U.S. officials believe that the revelation of the enrichment facility, hidden in an underground bunker near the holy city of Qom, has given them leverage heading into the talks. In a blow for Tehran, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Wednesday said Iran violated rules on timely disclosure. "Iran was supposed to inform us on the day it was decided to construct the facility. They have not done that," Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview with CNN-India.
U.S. officials said they will demand that the IAEA be given unfettered access to the facility, as well as people and documents, within weeks. Ahmadinejad last week floated the idea of the United States supplying enriched uranium for medical research as a confidence-building proposal; U.S. officials said Wednesday that the proposal is being examined by the IAEA but that there is no chance the United States will provide such material to Iran.
The other countries at the talks are Britain, France, Russia, Germany and China, many of which are sending their top professional diplomats. As a sign of U.S. seriousness -- and the intense media interest -- a substantial team of White House and State Department officials, including three spokesmen, is accompanying Burns. The press attention also led the Swiss government to move the talks to the isolated Villa Le Saugy.
Another key player is Solana, the European foreign policy chief and the head interlocutor with the Iranians on behalf of the major powers. Solana, a nuclear specialist, earned a doctorate in physics from the University of Virginia in 1971 and has been intimately involved in the effort to open up Iran's nuclear program. Over the summer, however, he announced he would retire in October, and it is unclear who will fill his critical role.
Thursday's meeting is the culmination of a stop-and-go process that began in 2003 under the auspices of Britain, France and Germany, which feared that the United States and Iran were headed to an armed clash over the nuclear program. Tehran suspended its program for two years, but the deal with the Europeans fell apart and Iran restarted enrichment activities after Ahmadinejad became president.
In 2005, the United States, Russia and China joined the European countries in trying to press Iran with a combination of sticks and carrots. But Iran repeatedly said the carrots -- economic and political incentives -- were not good enough, and it shrugged off the sticks, which came in the form of three U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that it halt enrichment activities.
The initial package of incentives offered by the six countries in 2006 included only a vague reference to Iran's security concerns because the Bush administration insisted that that section of the offer be largely gutted. By contrast, a revised package put forth in 2008 -- and reaffirmed by the Obama administration this year -- pledges to negotiate extensive security commitments, including supporting Iran in "playing an important and constructive role in international affairs."
The Obama administration, like the Bush administration, has also supported Solana's concept of a "freeze for a freeze," a six-week period for preliminary talks that blurs the lines between suspension and discussion. Under Solana's plan, talks could begin as long as the allies halt efforts to increase sanctions and Iran does not expand its nuclear program. Then formal negotiations would start as soon as Iran suspended enrichment. Bush drew a line at formal U.S. participation until Iran suspended enrichment, but Obama dropped that requirement.
In any case, the Iranians repeatedly insist that they will never suspend their enrichment activities. U.S. officials said Wednesday that they are open to other ideas for jump-starting serious negotiations, but suspension remains a goal.
Staff writer Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.

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Native American solidarity with Israel

Rappahanock Tribe Chief Anne Richardson will be presenting Minister of National  Infrastructure Dr. Uzi Landau with her original Native American Headdress  and a Declaration of Alliance

"We love Israel and want to show your people the solidarity that we as Native Americans have with you" writes Chief Anne Richardson
Rarely do Native Americans speak out on the issue of Israel, but Chief Anne Richardson, fourth generation Chief of the Rappahannock tribe, the first woman chief in Virginia since the 1600's, has come to Israel to do just that.
 Chief Anne Richardson will be presenting Minister Landau with a Native American headdress and a Declaration of Alliance signed by the Chief and her Tribal Council as a symbol of their covenant with Israel. The Chief will be bringing a message of support and solidarity to the State and people of Israel, while Minister Landau will be conveying the warm support of Israel with a message of hope and continuity.
 "We love Israel and want to show your people the solidarity that we as Native Americans have with you" says Chief Anne Richardson Government Minister of National Infrastructure Dr. Uzi Landau, known as being deeply invested in reconnecting the people of Israel to the land of Israel, sees a natural parallel with the Native American peoples. 
 In 2006, Chief Anne Richardson renewed the covenant with the Queen of England. In 2005 she presented President Bush with  a "Proclamation of Forgiveness".  She also presented him with a "Never Again" pin asking him to always stand to ensure a holocaust would never again take place in America or in Israel.
Dedicated to improving the lot of Virginia tribes, Chief Ann Richardson received this year (2009) a national award from the Department of Labor called the "Chiefs Award," This is the highest award given by the Department of Labor for her excellence in leadership and advocacy for the rights of Native Americans across the country.  In addition, she has worked for the past ten years ministering reconciliation to tribal nations in America and established Restoring Nations International Ministries in 2007, teaching reconciliation, redemption and healing of land to indigenous people.


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Egyptian book burning culture Czar vows to crush Israeli culture

Farouk Hosny has set out to destroy Israeli culture. Of course, this is contrary to the spirit of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, if not the letter, but the Israeli government has been silent on this point. Hosny lost a bid to run UNESCO, because he threatened to burn all the Israeli books in the Alexandria library. Even the UN did not like the idea of a book burner as culture Czar.
Israel and Egypt each publish about 7,000 -8,000 books each year (Israeli statistics  Egyptian Statistics), but Egypt's population is over 10 times that of Israel, and Arabic books, unlike Hebrew ones, can be sold throughout the Arab world.
Farouk Hosni, who recently lost vote for UNESCO leadership, declares intention to launch 'culture war against tyranny, dwarf Israel vis-à-vis Egyptian culture'; Outraged minister blames racism, Jews for UN defeat
Roee Nahmias
Published:  09.26.09, 20:36 / Israel News
In an interview with Egyptian newspaper al-Masri al-Yaum, Hosni charged that he lost the UN vote because of "radicalism, racism, and the Jews," who he claied attacked him over his harsh views against cultural normalization vis-à-vis Israel.
Hosni used the interview to declare what he referred to a "culture war on tyranny," vowing to challenge Israel on all fronts, thereby dwarfing its status vis-à-vis Egypt.

"Israel's position prompted me to challenge it on a series of issues in order to dwarf Israel vis-à-vis Egypt and its culture he said. However, he clarified that he is declaring "a culture war against tyranny, rather than against the culture itself."

The Egyptian minister also accused America's UNESCO representative, as well as the envoys of Eastern European states, Japan, and the Jews for undermining his candidacy.
On Friday, United Arab Emirates newspaper al-Khalig published another interview with Hosni, where he stated that he is reverting to his traditional stance against normalization with Israel. The Egyptian minister softened his rhetoric ahead of the UN vote, ostensibly in a bid to boost his chances.

In previous interviews Hosni claimed that he received harsh emails that included "curses from Israelis and from the Israeli lobby, which controls the media."

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goldstone indicted fictional character as history's greatest rapist of Muslim women

This sort of thing can happen when you don't bother about things like rules of evidence.
( Judge Richard Goldstone, whose recent United Nations Human Rights Council investigation purported to find evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, once indicted a fictional Serbian character and a dead man for war crimes as well. As in Gaza, those indictments were also allegedly based on "eyewitness testimony."
Goldstone headed the Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY),
The problem for NATO forces in tracking down the serial rapist was that Gruban from Bijelo Polje, also known as Gruban Malic, is a fictional character.
established by the United Nations in 1993. In 1995, one year into his term as chief ICTY prosecutor, Goldstone presented an indictment of several Serbs for war crimes and crimes against humanity. As brought to light in the weekend edition of the Hebrew-language Makor Rishon newspaper, among those indicted was a man identified as "Gruban".
Gruban, later identified more fully as Gruban from Bijelo Polje, was charged with viciously raping Muslim prisoners in what was identified by the prosecution as essentially a Serbian concentration camp. His crimes were given weight by an anonymous individual identified only as "Witness F", who claimed to have suffered at the hands of the notorious war criminal.
As described by Makor Rishon, "Within just a few months, the black silhouette of 'Gruban' was plastered on a poster of the most wanted war criminals in Bosnia." At the time, Makor Rishon noted, the American newspaper The Boston Globe published an article wondering why the poster of "Gruban" stated that his description, father's name, location and age were all listed as "unknown".
The problem for NATO forces in tracking down the serial rapist was that Gruban from Bijelo Polje, also known as Gruban Malic, is a fictional character from Hero on a Donkey, a famous Serbian novel about World War II by Miodrag Bulatovic.
The Gruban hoax was the result of a conversation in a Bosnian cafe between Yugoslavian war correspondent Nebojsa Jevric and an American journalist desperate to see a "real war criminal", according to Makor Rishon. Jevric identified "Gruban Malic" by name as the Serbian people's "worst war criminal", having committed the most rapes.
After the indictment of "Gruban" became known, Jevric capitalized on his countrymen's bemused fascination with Goldstone's "investigation" and wrote a book called Hero on a Donkey Goes to The Hague. In the book he detailed how his comment to an American reporter took on a life of its own.
In 1998, even after the true identity of the "war criminal" was known, the charges against "Gruban Malic" were officially dropped for lack of evidence by Goldstone's successor. Thirteen other flesh-and-blood Serbs were also taken off the same ICTY indictment docket alongside "Gruban" - including a man that Goldstone indicted several years after he had already died.

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Survey: US Jews overwhelmingly support key Israeli positions

An annual survey commissioned by the American Jewish Committee found that American Jews overwhelmingly support key Israeli policy positions, even though about 30% of the respondents characterized themselves as "distant" or "fairly distant" in their identification with Israel. 94% of the respondents insisted that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state in any peace agreement. 75% believe that the ultimate Arab goal is destruction of Israel.  79% believe Israel cannot achieve peace with a Palestinian government that includes the Hamas. A plurality of 49% nonetheless support creation of a Palestinian state. Only 8% support Israel dismantling all of the West Bank settlements, but 52% support dismantling some of the settlements. 51% are opposed to President Obama's call for a complete Israeli settlement freeze.  54% approve of the Obama administration's handling of US-Israel relations. 59% approve of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of Israeli-American relations.  58% oppose Israeli compromise regarding the unity of Jerusalem in any peace settlement. 51% do not believe a time will come when Israel and its Arab neighbors will be able to settle their differences peacefully. 53% of the respondents identified themselves as Democrats, only 16% identified as Republicans, with 30% labeling themselves "independent."
Regarding Iran, 66% of American Jewish respondents would support an Israeli attack on Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons and 56% would support an American attack on Iran. By way of comparison, a Zogby poll in October of 2007 found that 49% of Americans supported a US attack on Iran at the time. No more recent data are available for comparison.
The dovish J Street lobby group has contended that its insistence on an Israeli settlement freeze is representative of the views of a majority of American Jews. The survey does not bear out this contention.
Ami Isseroff

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Saudi Arabia Denies Green light for Israel attack on Iran

As expected, Saudi Arabia has denied the Daily Express report that they gave a green light to Israel to attack the Iranian Qom nuclear complex.
Saudi Arabia Dismisses "Daily Express" Report
Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Saudi official yesterday dismissed reports that Saudi Arabia had agreed to turn a blind eye to Israeli aircrafts flying through Saudi airspace in the event of Israel attacking Iran's recently announced new nuclear facility.
The Saudi official described the report published in the British "Daily Express" newspaper on Monday which claimed that the director of MI6 and the chief of Israeli Mossad had met with Saudi officials in London and concluded an agreement that Saudi Arabia would agree to turn a blind eye to Israeli aircraft using its airspace in the event of Israel attacking Iran's new nuclear facility as being "completely untrue and baseless."
The official source called for the Sunday Express to retract this report which has no basis in fact or reality.
Then again, they would have to deny it even if it was true, wouldn't they? So who knows?
Ami Isseroff

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Where is J Street now that we need them to support the President?

Support the President: open letter to J Street and all peace loving Americans

Dear J-Street,
President Barack Obama has laid it on the line at the UN regarding Iranian violations of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations. The Iranian nuclear program clearly constitutes a threat to world peace and to peace in the Middle East, and President Obama has rightly called on Iran to comply with the relevant Security Council Resolutions and to immediately (not according to a time table) open its clandestine Qom facility to IAEA inspections.

The President has taken a very brave stand on a matter that is vital for peace in the Middle East, for World Peace (we should always capitalize World Peace), for American interests and for Israel. Everyone who is pro-peace and pro-Israel should be standing with him. This is one issue where there is perfect commonality of interests between the United States, Israel, all other American allies in the Middle East and everyone who is really interested in peace.

The President needs our support. The United States is fighting a lonely and difficult battle against European apathy, Chinese cupidity, cynical, Machiavellian Russian geopolitical calculations and self-interested consultants and lobbyists like the American-Iranian Council.

For some reason, I have not gotten any e-mails from J Street urging me to support the President. Not a word! That's really odd, because just a few weeks ago, J Street was bombarding everyone in the Middle East with endless messages telling us "Support the President" "We've got your back Mr. Obama" - and praising Barack Obama's drive to engage Iran.

I didn't see any recent mention of the Iranian nuclear development issue at your Web site either. As I said, it is really strange.

Now that Barack Obama is really trying to do things to advance Middle East peace, J Street has fallen strangely silent. There are no more calls to support the President. No more messages impressing upon us the urgency of Middle East peace! Why are you silent? Let's hear it from J Street - "We've got your back, Mr. President."

You know, J Street, evidently you people are all rather busy, and I don't want to take up any more of your time, but something occurred to me. it's a funny thing. I checked your donor list. It seems you got a donation from the American Iranian Council. Of course, that couldn't possibly be the explanation for J Street's silence on this important issue, could it? I'm not implying anything here, just saying. If I were not a trusting person, I might get the wrong idea.

There must be a simple explanation for J Street's silence about Iranian nuclear weapons. Maybe J Street is just off for the holidays. As Jeremy Ben-Ami explained to the New York Times, J Street celebrates Buddhist Seders. Probably they are off observing Taleban Tashlich* and Shiite Sukkoth. I'm sure that must be the reason they are not out there cheering the President when he needs their support so badly.

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Israel to release 20 prisoners for information on kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit

Filed at 5:20 a.m. ET
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's Security Cabinet has approved the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners in exchange for proof that a captive Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip is alive.
In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Wednesday that it expects to receive a video showing the soldier is alive and well. The deal is to be carried out on Friday.
The statement says Israel accepted the Egyptian-brokered deal as a confidence building measure. Egypt has been trying to mediate a prisoner swap since Hamas-linked militants captured Sgt. Gilad Schalit more than three years ago. Schalit has not been seen since his capture.
Netanyahu says it's important that the world know that Schalit is alive and well, and that he holds Hamas responsible for his safety.

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Mumbai Jewish memories

I wonder if the results of this attack would satisfy judge Goldstone's criteria, or if he would think the Jews put up too much resistance?
By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
MUMBAI, Sept. 29 -- The only clue to what's inside this secret location is a small mezuza, a door ornament that traditionally marks a Jewish home. Nearby, Indian police officers with assault rifles stand guard near high iron gates.
This is Mumbai's new Chabad House, a Jewish center that keeps its whereabouts private after attacks here in November that left more than 170 people dead, including a rabbi and his wife. The center's address is given out only to Jews looking for a place to observe Friday night Sabbaths, eat a kosher meal or show solidarity after what happened last year.
Of those killed in the three-day siege, security experts said, Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivkah, 28, were probably the only ones singled out for execution. The young emissaries from the orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement were tortured and killed inside the old Chabad House, also known as Nariman House, during the attacks. Their 2-year-old son, Moshe, was dramatically rescued by his Indian nanny.
As Mumbai mourned for those killed in the attacks, the rabbi's father, cradling his orphaned grandchild at a prayer service, vowed that the Chabad House would rise again in the same spot. But that was not to be.
Daily life in Mumbai returned to normal in the days after the attacks, in which 10 gunmen working in teams of two struck at 10 sites, but many Jews and Israelis in Mumbai -- and across India-- are scared.
"We have had a beautiful life in India. We were always accepted," said Reema Sisodia, who was close friends with the rabbi's wife. "Now we have been shocked in the most brutal way. There is a lot of fear."
Any feeling of normalcy is a long way off for Mumbai's Jewish community. "It's a healing process," said Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, director of the Chabad Mumbai Relief Fund, which raised money for Moshe's care. "But this is our tribute to them, to keep going, even if it's tough."
After a long search, a couple has been found to replace the Holtzbergs, whose portraits hang in the new Chabad House. But, for security reasons, the new rabbi and his wife asked not to be named.
"My parents do worry for me. And sometimes I am afraid to go outside," said the new rabbi's wife, a soft-spoken woman who was arranging a plate of kosher beef brought to her by a traveler from New York. "But they are also proud of us for coming."
In this seaside metropolis of 14 million, security gaps remain vast, Indian analysts say. They say Mumbai is almost impossible to police, given the size and skill of the police force, as well as the city's growth in the past decade.
Last week, the Israeli government warned of "imminent" terrorist strikes across India by Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Taiba, an Islamist group accused by the Indian and U.S. governments in the November attacks. Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau recommended that Israelis and Jews in India avoid crowded areas -- an almost impossible task, especially in Mumbai, one of the world's most densely populated cities.
The travel warning came during the most holy month in the Jewish calendar, which includes Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, a day of atonement with a 25-hour fast. After sunset Monday, members of the Chabad community in Mumbai broke their Yom Kippur fast quietly over apple-and-chocolate cakes and water.
The gathering was far smaller than in previous years, when the Nariman House hosted an array of guests: young Israeli backpackers looking for a break, American and Israeli businessmen, Jews from across the world on yoga or meditation retreats, along with some of the city's estimated 4,000 Jews.
Rescued from the bullet-scarred walls of the Nariman House was a painting of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last living leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The Lubavitch community has dispatched more than 4,000 husband-and-wife teams to run such Chabad centers in 73 countries, including in volatile ones such as Sri Lanka, Congo and Iraq.
In 2003, the Holtzbergs, newly married, opened the first Chabad center in Mumbai, one of 12 across India. The deeply religious Rabbi Holtzberg was seen as understanding and open toward young secular Israelis.
"They come to India to do everything the army didn't allow them to do," Holtzberg once wrote in an online journal, referring to young Israelis, who are required to join their country's armed forces for a certain amount of time. "Their shoes had to be polished and tied -- here they wear sandals. They had to cut their hair -- here they grow their hair long."
Today the Nariman House still looks like a war zone.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which owns the building, is trying to figure out what to do with it. Its officials plan to hold a memorial there to mark the first anniversary of the attacks.
Israeli officials say it is an unsafe location, near narrow and dark alleys, where enemies could hide easily.
Over trays of braided challah bread, many at the Yom Kippur gathering said they didn't want the new Chabad center to turn into a heavily guarded bunker. Its very mission is to reach out to Jews who are away from home.
"I practically stalked them to find the location," said Sharon Zeevi, 27, an Israeli who is traveling across India. "I knew the Holtzbergs. I was with them here two years ago. I really wanted to find the new location."
A little later, she was pleasantly surprised to see a friend and fellow traveler from Israel. They hugged and laughed and caught up on each other's journeys.
"You found it," Zeevi told her. "Come, break your fast."

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Support growing for Israeli investigation into Gaza Operation

PM mulling commission into IDF actions during Cast Lead

Sep. 30, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was set to convene a meeting of top ministers late Wednesday morning, to discuss establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate IDF actions during Operation Cast Lead.

The commission would aim to curb a recent wave of calls to prosecute Israeli leaders and top IDF officials for alleged war crimes, after the release of the Goldstone Report, Army Radio reported.

According to Israel Radio, senior Israeli officials said that as the Goldstone report is full of lies and distortions, Israel should probe how Richard Goldstone and the other members of the commission reached their conclusions.

The report, which was released some two weeks ago, concluded that Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court if it did not conduct internal investigations and begin prosecutions within six months. It said the authorities in Gaza must do the same, or risk coming before the ICC as well.

After the report was published, meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, in an attempt to garner the latter's support in the campaign against the report.

In a statement released Wednesday, the defense minister's bureau said that over the course of the conversation, the former Supreme Court president said that if the relevant bodies requested it of him, he would "agree to examine the investigations conducted by the IDF, thus potentially contributing to the battle against the report."

"[Ehud] Barak trusts the IDF's probes and consistently rejects any external investigation in their place," the statement added. The defense minister "contends that the Goldstone Report is fraudulent, biased and manipulative; it turns the tables and analogizes the bloodthirsty terrorists and their victims, who exercised their right to self-defense."

The defense minister updated Netanyahu on the conversation.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report


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Should Israel investigate Gaza War?

Yes, Israel should probe Operation Cast Lead. However, it is not likely that any probe will be satisfactory to Judge Goldstone unless it condemns the entire Israeli general staff to hang. Any other verdict will be considered a white wash.
Last update - 05:12 30/09/2009       
College head: Israel should probe Gaza war before it's forced to
By Ofri Ilani
If Israel does not investigate its most recent military operation in Gaza, it will be forced to do so by the international community, Prof. Uriel Reichman, president of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said yesterday.
"A commission headed by a Supreme Court justice must immediately be established to examine Operation Cast Lead. And although the [Goldstone] report is very much not fair and borders on incitement, it also raises questions regarding our actions in Gaza," Reichman said.
Reichman called for a probe in a joint statement with former education minister Amnon Rubinstein, a fellow jurist who is also affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Center.
"The situation requires balance between protecting our existence and the humanist heritage of our people. The harsh accusations of the Goldstone report being disseminated worldwide cannot be ignored. We must investigate Israel's conduct in Operation Cast Lead to stand guard over the combat morality of the Israel Defense Forces," he said.
Reichman said one unfair conclusion of the report is that Israel planned to harm innocent civilians.
"Israel is presented as a murderous country. Without saying so outrightly, [the report] describes Israel as an apartheid state. It says the Israeli justice system is unreliable in overseeing the military and in its attitude toward the Arab minority. It determines that the Arab minority lacks freedom of expression and protest.
"The most infuriating thing is the invalidation of the legal system. After the Israeli legal system has been attacked from within for interfering too much, the Goldstone report now argues that it does not interfere enough," the statement said.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Iranian Nukes and Muhammad Ali's Dukes

Why does Ahmadinejad seem to win every round? Is he really the greatest? Can he really float like a butterfly and sting like a bee?

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Ukrainian Pres vows to conserve Babi Yar massacre site

Ukrainians had planned to build a nice hotel over the site of the WW II Babi Yar massacre. They have retreated from from the plan, for now.
Last update - 16:33 29/09/2009       
Ukraine leader vows to guard Babi Yar, site of WWII massacre
By Reuters
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko promised on Tuesday to protect as a sacred spot the site of a World War Two Nazi massacre of Jews after an outcry over tentative plans to build a hotel complex nearby.
Some 150,000 people, mostly Jews but also including Ukrainians, Russians, Poles and Gypsies, were shot by Nazi troops at Babi Yar, a wooded ravine on the outskirts of the capital city Kiev in a two-year period from September 1941.
A decision earlier this month by the city council to build a hotel near the memorial site over the next few years prompted an outcry from Jewish groups worldwide and human rights groups.
Kiev mayor Leonid Chernovetsky has since stepped in and vetoed the proposal, though the affair has left a sour taste with the city's 25,000-strong Jewish community.
"The Babi Yar memorial is sacred. The Ukrainian leadership will not allow any defilement of the memory of our fellow citizens and will ensure the proper protection of their place of perpetual rest," Yushchenko said in a statement marking the 68th anniversary of the start of the massacre.
Over a two-day period from Sept. 29, 1941, a total of 33,771 Jews were killed by Nazi troops and dumped into a huge pit, nearly half of them children.
The area where the killings took place is now sprawling parkland which is not properly marked off and is the site of several monuments to victims of the massacre whose remains lie there.
The city authorities had proposed building a complex of hotels across Kiev, one of which would have run alongside the Babi Yar memorial park.
But they have denied there was any intention of putting up a hotel in time to house football supporters during Euro-2012.
"Nobody is intending to erect buildings for Euro-2012 on human bones," Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Vasyunik said.
"To disturb the bones (of people) is a terrorist act for all Kiev people and it is a terrible thing that such a thought even entered anyone's head," said David Melman, an aide to Ukraine's chief rabbi Moshe Asman.
He said the nature of the killings was such that it was impossible to say exactly where the remains of the Babi Yar victims lay and he suggested that building plans should give the whole area a wide berth.
"It is not as if Kiev is so overbuilt that they cannot find another place for hotels," he added.

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US has a plan for Iran - or does it?

Here is what looks like a plan, but probably is not - US will pressure insurance companies about doing business with Iran. So other insurance companies will be formed or found instead, who will provide the services at higher rates. Not much is accomplished by half measures taken against a determined opponent.
U.S. Aims To Isolate Iran if Talks Fail
Sanctions Would Disrupt Global Trade Over Nuclear Issue
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Obama administration is laying plans to cut Iran's economic links to the rest of the world if talks this week over the country's nuclear ambitions founder, according to officials and outside experts familiar with the plans.
While officials stress that they hope Iran will agree to open its nuclear program to inspection, they are prepared by year's end to make it increasingly difficult for Iranian companies to ship goods around the world. The administration is targeting, in particular, the insurance and reinsurance companies that underwrite the risk of such transactions.
Officials are also looking at ways to keep goods from reaching Iran by targeting companies that get around trading restrictions by sending shipments there through third parties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Hong Kong; and other trading hubs.
The administration has limited options in unilaterally targeting Iran, largely because it wants to avoid measures so severe that they would undermine consensus among countries pressing the Iranian government. A military strike is also increasingly unpalatable because, officials said, it probably would only briefly delay any attempt by Iran to produce a nuclear weapon.
Whatever steps are taken, officials said, their goal would be to disrupt the Iranian economy across many sectors, particularly businesses that help support Iran's military and elite.
As a practical matter, the effort would build on efforts during the Bush administration that targeted leading Iranian banks and the key Iranian shipping line. In many cases, officials said that rather than impose new sanctions, they would need only to tighten enforcement of existing rules and regulations. Indeed, the key architect of President George W. Bush's effort, Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey, was retained by President Obama to ensure continuity in a possible squeeze on Iran.
In the case of the insurance industry, the administration would extend a prohibition against providing the "transfer of financial resources or services" to aid Iran's nuclear and missile programs, currently enshrined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737, to include insurance companies, export credits and the like.
Iran has raised tensions in the region with two days of missile tests, which were previously scheduled but came just days ahead of Thursday's meeting in Geneva between Iranian diplomats and representatives of major powers, including the United States. The administration is pressing for Iran to provide international inspectors immediate access to a second uranium-enrichment facility that was made public last week and to agree to serious talks to rein in its nuclear ambitions.
"Towards the end of the year, we'll be able to calculate how much progress" has been made in those talks, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday. "If they continue to fail to answer the questions, then obviously there will be implications and consequences to that, as well."
The administration has sought to display a united front with its partners in the talks -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. But Russia and China are especially wary of imposing more sanctions beyond those contained in three U.N. Security Council resolutions aiming at deterring Iran. Russian officials on Monday began backing off from statements made last week by President Dmitry Medvedev suggesting that Russian resistance to sanctions was weakening.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian news agencies that the missile launches were "worrisome" but added, "I am convinced restraint is needed." Similarly, a Foreign Ministry source told Russian news agencies that Western powers needed to restrain themselves.
Both Russia and China have veto power on the U.N. Security Council, and reluctance by either to support additional sanctions would make it extremely difficult and time-consuming to erect additional international measures. But many European and Asian countries demand the cover of a U.N. resolution before taking economic action against another country. As a result, administration officials are focused on measures that they can argue are already authorized under existing resolutions.
"Ninety percent is enforcement," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Ten percent is new rules. They have the mechanisms in place."
Already, Levey has pressured more than 80 banks around the world to cut their ties to Iran, saying that any cost-benefit analysis would show that the business is not worth the risk of unwittingly assisting groups such as the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The U.S. government has also backed the message with tough fines against some foreign banks. The Dutch bank ABN Amro in 2005 agreed to pay $80 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Libya, and Lloyds this year paid a $350 million fine for secretly channeling Iranian and Sudanese money into the American banking system.
Insurance is the lifeblood of the shipping industry, but often insuring cargo consists of several layers. One critical aspect is reinsurance, in which an insurance company spreads the risk of a deal to dozens of other companies around the world. If the pool of potential reinsurers for Iranian goods shrinks because of international pressure, shipping would become increasingly difficult and costly for Iran.
Last year, as an example of the emerging strategy, the Treasury Department designated Iran's national maritime carrier, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), as engaging in deceptive activities such as repeatedly changing its ships' names in an effort to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce and proliferation activities. The action essentially warned U.S. financial firms not to engage in any business with it or its subsidiaries. Officials expect the European Union to follow suit if talks with Iran fail to make progress this year, which would make it difficult for such companies as Lloyds or Munich Re to continue providing re-insurance for Iranian business.
Early this year, an IRISL-chartered ship, the Monchegorsk, was stopped at Cyprus carrying weaponry allegedly headed for Hezbollah -- an incident that U.S. officials said highlights the dangers of reputable financial firms dealing with Iranian entities.
Even so, the effort is not likely to produce instantaneous results.
"The idea of targeting insurance and reinsurance is a good one," said David F. Gordon, a former State Department official who is director of research at Eurasia Group, a political risk and consulting firm. "It is the only potential game-changer around. But I am not sure it will be enough to move the Iranians and do it in a timely fashion. The Iranians are very committed to the program."

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Troubling future war scenarios for Israel

The interesting news in this article is not the evaluation that 'Hizbullah had better intel than Israel in 2006', but rather the possibility that Hezbollah would infiltrate small commando teams into Israel in the next war, and speculation that political problems may impact on American arms supply to Israel. But the solutions offered for threats to the arms supply show that Israeli military thinkers cannot get over the idea that they must depend on the USA for arms.
Ami Isseroff
Sep. 29, 2009
Hizbullah had better intelligence information than Israel and better control of its forces during the Second Lebanon War, according to an official IDF scorecard compiled recently by a top navy officer.
The article - which was given an award by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi - was written by Lt.-Col. Robi Sandman, and was published in the latest edition of Ma'arahot, a monthly journal on military issues.
During his research for the article, titled "How the Arabs are preparing for the next war," Sandman asked 24 senior IDF officers to grade the army and Hizbullah in 10 categories, on a scale of 1 to 10.
While the IDF enjoys superior technology, the scorecard revealed that the army performed poorly in gathering intelligence on Hizbullah, did not command its troops effectively during the monthlong war and lacked motivation to win.
In intelligence, Hizbullah received a 7 and the IDF a 6; in military doctrine and strategy Hizbullah received a 9 and the IDF a 5; In technology, the IDF received a 9 and Hizbullah a 5; in training and organization, Hizbullah received a 8 and the IDF 7, and in tactical command Hizbullah received a 8 and the IDF a 6.
The 24 officers also ruled that Hizbullah had greater motivation to win than the IDF. Hizbullah received a score of 8 in the motivation category, while the IDF scored only 4.
In the article, Sandman claims the IDF is currently structured in a way that it will not be able to prevent thousands of fighters - from Hizbullah or Syria - from infiltrating deep into Israel.
The next war, he wrote, will likely include Hizbullah sending hundreds of teams comprised of 4-5 fighters each, armed with anti-tank missiles and sniper rifles, into the Galilee.
"We need to recognize that the IDF with its current structure cannot provide a response to the unbelievably well-equipped force that is rising up to destroy the State of Israel," he wrote.
These hundreds of squads will be able to rely on local Israeli-Arab infrastructure in the Galilee, Sandman wrote. He recommended that the IDF immediately establish small, elite reconnaissance squads capable of countering this threat.
Sandman also warned of the possibility that in a future conflict, the United States might not help Israel as it had in the past. During the 2006 war and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the US airlifted advanced weapons and ammunition to Israel to refresh dwindling stockpiles.
Sandman warned of two main catalysts for a possible lack of support. The first was what he called the decreasing influence the Jewish community had over the US government.
"This trend will continue to get worse, due to assimilation and the fast rise of other minorities such as the Hispanics, which amount to 30 million [people] today in the US," he wrote.
The second was a possible change in government and subsequent policy that "could leave Israel without an ally."
As a result, Sandman recommended that the IDF ask the US to establish additional warehouses with emergency stockpiles of weaponry in Israel, even "if Israel has to pay for their maintenance."
The US already has several warehouses with weaponry in Israel.
His second recommendation was that Israel and the US hold joint training exercises to prepare for the possibility that the IDF will one day be under threat and require American troop support.
"This type of support will be important one day in an emergency, but could also serve as a deterrent for enemies when planning an attack," he wrote.•
This article can also be read at

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Iran won't discuss nukes at nuke talks

Thumbing his nose at the West, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is about to score big again, humiliating the USA and earning the admiration of the US-haters in the Middle East. The US waited 9 or 10 months for "dialogue" with Iran about its nuclear program, but it seems the discussions that will open on Thursday will be about anything but that.
Last update - 14:34 29/09/2009       
Iran refuses to discuss nuclear 'rights' in talks with world powers
By News Agencies
Iran will not discuss issues related to its nuclear "rights" at its meeting with six world powers in Geneva on Thursday, the Islamic Republic's nuclear energy agency chief said on Tuesday.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, made clear this included a recently exposed uranium enrichment plant that has drawn Western condemnation.
"We are not going to discuss anything related to our nuclear rights, but we can discuss about disarmament, we can discuss about non-proliferation and other general issues," Salehi told reporters, three days before the crucial talks with world powers worried about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"The new site is part of our rights and there is no need to discuss [it]," he said, adding Tehran would not abandon its nuclear activities "even for a second."
State Press TV quoted the official as saying late Monday that Iran would soon inform the United Nations nuclear watchdog of a timetable for inspection of the nuclear plant.
"Yes, the inspectors will come and inspect," Salehi said, adding Tehran was in constant contact with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"We are working out a timetable for the inspection and we will soon be writing a letter to them about the location of the facility and others," he said, without elaborating.
The exposure of a second nuclear fuel facility, under construction south of Tehran, added urgency to the rare meeting in Geneva on Thursday.
Iran conducted missile tests on Sunday and Monday, further ratcheting up the tension with Western powers.
U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded that Iran come clean on its disputed nuclear program and a White House spokesman on Monday urged "immediate unfettered access" to the new site.
Iran has rejected Western condemnation of the new facility, saying it is legal and open to investigation to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Press TV, Iran's English-language state television, said Salehi had noted that the plant was under construction within the framework of IAEA regulations, saying, "Iran has taken all the precautionary steps to safeguard its nuclear facilities."
Citing its interview with Salehi, Press TV added: "Iran says it will soon inform the International Atomic Energy Agency of a timetable for inspection of its recently announced nuclear facility."
"Salehi said that his country will try to resolve the issue both politically and technically with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and the IAEA," Press TV said on its website.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, told the BBC on Monday he had had a couple of meetings with IAEA inspectors and it was agreed they would be given access to the site "in the near future". He gave no date.
The United States and its Western allies have made clear they will focus on Iran's nuclear program at the Geneva meeting. Iran has offered wide-ranging security talks but says it will not discuss its nuclear "rights."
Israel, the U.S. and other Western nations suspect Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb capability. Iran, a major oil producer, says its nuclear work is solely for generating electricity.
"It is against our tenets, it is against our religion to produce, use, hold or have nuclear weapons or arsenal, how can we more clearly state our position, since 1974 we have been saying this," Press TV quoted Salehi as saying.
Iran parliament warns against foreign pressure
Also on Tuesday, Iranian lawmakers warned the U.S. and other world powers against further pressures over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, just days ahead of the key international meeting.
Iran's parliament lashed out at criticism over the previously unknown uranium enrichment facility, but did not elaborate on what action would be taken if the pressure continued.
"If the 5+1 repeats the past mistakes, the parliament will put other decisions on agenda," lawmakers said in a statement, referring to the five members of the Security Council and Germany.
Parliament's warning could refer to a bill awaiting ratification in parliament that calls on the government to speed up its uranium enrichment activities.

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Christians for Fair Witness Questions America Magazine’s Uncritical Acceptance of Goldstone Report

Christians for Fair Witness Questions America Magazine's Uncritical Acceptance of Goldstone Report

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East  questions America Magazine's uncritical acceptance of the Goldstone Report ("Siege Mentality" (October 5, 2009). The report is rife with indicia of prejudice and lack of due process. The resolution mandating the fact-finding mission accused Israel of "the targeting of civilians . . ." and one of the investigators judged Israel guilty of "prima facie war crimes," -- all prior to any actual investigation. The report is based almost entirely on unverifiable Palestinian claims and publications from highly politicized pro-Palestinian organizations which were accepted at face value and quoted directly. Israel's assertions that it warned civilians and planned military operations to minimize civilian casualties were summarily dismissed.

"Why then, did America's editors accept this report wholesale, with no critical eye or ear?" asks Rev. Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis, pastor of San Rafael Parish and Vicar for Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs in the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, California.

One glaring flaw in Goldstone, is its failure to find conclusive evidence of Hamas' use of civilians and civilian infrastructure for military purposes despite extensive and readily available evidence to support such use. The report makes no mention of incidents of Palestinian rockets launched from schools or the use of mosques to store explosives despite solid video evidence. Goldstone also claims to have found no evidence that Palestinian armed groups forced civilians to remain within the vicinity of Israeli attacks. But in an article in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Gaza residents explicitly stated that Hamas fighters shot at Israeli forces from their houses after forcibly preventing them from leaving. Contrary to numerous contemporaneous reports in media outlets like the New York Times, the report denies that Hamas fighters wore civilian clothing, hid in hospital facilities and used ambulances for military purposes.

"America places Israel in a moral bind by saying it agrees Israel has the right to defend itself, while at the same time complaining that it targeted civilian infrastructure," notes Rev. James Loughran, S.A., Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute. "Since Hamas was thoroughly embedded in the civilian population, it would have been impossible to attack Hamas and at the same time avoid targets where civilians were located."

"One of war's evils is that it has always exacted a toll on non-combatants," reminds Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton , the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale, New York. "During World War II Britain and the U.S. engaged in wholesale bombing of German cities and made no effort to avoid killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. But in this era of terrorist militias that fight out of uniform and from within civilian populations, massive civilian deaths will occur even when an army exerts considerable effort to spare them. Therefore, before engaging in such warfare, all nations -- Israel included -- should determine whether widespread civilian casualties are inevitable, and if so, acceptable. The international community might have to consider recalculating moral and legal standards of proportion where combatants choose to deploy from within civilian areas. Reasonable and thoughtful people may debate these questions for sometime to come, but irresponsible accusations of deliberate targeting of civilians and collective punishment, which amount to little more than mindless name-calling, only impede the serious reflection these issues warrant."

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Upholding the traditions of Islam: Caning for drinking beer

Headline: Beer-Drinking Muslim Woman's Caning to Go Ahead.  The young lady drank beer and will be punished by caning. Her parents are law and order advocates:
Kartika's father, Shukarno Abdul Muttlib, 60, told The Associated Press that while the family had yet to be informed of the judge's latest decision, his daughter "accepts the punishment" and would like it to be carried out sooner rather than later.
"We obey the law," he said, adding that "it's a challenge ... (but) it's the way of my life."
Nothing like law abiding citizens and respect for tradition, is there? That's what keeps society together, as Shirley Jackson portrayed in the short story, The Lottery:

"They do say," Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, "that over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery."

Old Man Warner snorted. "Pack of crazy fools," he said. "Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live hat way for a while. Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' First thing you know, we'd all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There's always been a lottery," he added petulantly. "Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody."

"Some places have already quit lotteries." Mrs. Adams said.

"Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of young fools."

Where would we be without tradition?

Ami Isseroff


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Iran to set date for inspection of second illicit nuke plant

Just as soon as the plant can be cleaned of evidence that it would have been used to make fissionable Highly Enriched Uranium, Iran will allow inspection of the plant. Of course, there is never any way to know about the plants we don't know about.
Indications are that the US knew about this plant in 2003. How did that impact the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that said Iran is not building a nuclear weapon?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:31 29/09/2009       
Iran: We'll soon set time for inspection of second nuke plant
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies
Iran will soon inform the United Nations nuclear watchdog of a timetable for inspection of a newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant, the Islamic Republic's atomic energy agency chief was quoted as saying late Monday.
State Press TV said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, made the comment three days before crucial talks between Tehran and world powers worried about its nuclear ambitions.
The exposure of a second nuclear fuel facility, under construction south of Tehran, added urgency to the rare meeting in Geneva on Thursday, which has been described by analysts as "a last chance" before the application of harsh sanctions against Iran.
Iran conducted missile tests on Sunday and Monday, further ratcheting up the tension with Western powers.
U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded that Iran come clean on its disputed nuclear program and a White House spokesman on Monday urged "immediate unfettered access" to the new site.
Iran has rejected Western condemnation of the new facility, saying it is legal and open to investigation to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Press TV, Iran's English-language state television, said Salehi had noted that the plant was under construction within the framework of IAEA regulations, saying, "Iran has taken all the precautionary steps to safeguard its nuclear facilities."
Citing its interview with Salehi, Press TV added: "Iran says it will soon inform the International Atomic Energy Agency of a timetable for inspection of its recently announced nuclear facility."
"Salehi said that his country will try to resolve the issue both politically and technically with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and the IAEA," Press TV said on its website.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, told the BBC on Monday he had had a couple of meetings with IAEA inspectors and it was agreed they would be given access to the site "in the near future". He gave no date.
The United States and its Western allies have made clear they will focus on Iran's nuclear program at the Geneva meeting. Iran has offered wide-ranging security talks but says it will not discuss its nuclear "rights."
Israel, the U.S. and other Western nations suspect Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb capability. Iran, a major oil producer, says its nuclear work is solely for generating electricity.
"It is against our tenets, it is against our religion to produce, use, hold or have nuclear weapons or arsenal, how can we more clearly state our position, since 1974 we have been saying this," Press TV quoted Salehi as saying.
Iran tests long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel
Two days before the opening of talks between Iranian and U.S. officials, the Islamic Republic went ahead with a test launch of long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel.
Iran test-fired its Shahab-3 missile, which puts Israel within reach along with Saudi Arabia and U.S. Army bases in the Gulf. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet Tuesday with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue.
The two will meet at Brighton, where Britain's Labor Party is holding a conference. Barak will meet British Foreign Secretary David Miliband Wednesday for a talk on the same subject.
The successful launch of the Shahab-3, which the military said has a range of 2,000 kilometers, came on the second day of war games led by the Revolutionary Guards.
The Foreign Ministry denied any link between the missile tests and the October 1 nuclear talks in Geneva. The war games had been scheduled many months ago, but were seen in the West as an act of defiance, especially in light of the recent exposure by the United States of a facility for the enrichment of uranium which the Iranians are said to have set up in Qom.
Iran has refused UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment, which the United States and some of its allies allege is aimed at developing weapons. The United States, Britain and France said last week Iran secretly built a second plant for enriching uranium in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran's construction of the underground facility at Qom may prompt additional economic sanctions, including restrictions on banking and oil-and-gas technology, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNN Monday.
The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency said it was informed by Iran on September 21 that a new pilot fuel-enrichment plant was under construction.
Iran's test firings during the war games are "deeply destabilizing," the French Foreign Ministry said in a news conference broadcast online. "We're calling on Iran to choose the way of cooperation and not that of confrontation," the ministry said.
The Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles, which can travel 300 to 700 kilometers, were launched late Monday, General Hossein Salami, head of the air force, told Press TV.
The Federation of American Scientists says the Shahab-3 only has a range of 1,290 kilometers, though the Shahab-4 is capable of 2,000 kilometers. In May, Iran launched a Sejil-2 missile, which it said has a range of 2,000 kilometers.
The latest maneuvers are a routine operation to assess the country's military ability, the government in Tehran said. The exercise, called Prophet IV, is aimed at "practicing management of long-term preventive and defensive operations," Salami said on the Guards' Web site.
The maneuvers coincide with the start of Iran's "Sacred Defense" week, marking the eight-year war with neighboring Iraq that ended in 1988.
Barak Ravid contributed to this report.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Report: Saudis give Israel green light to attack Iran nuclear site

This report from the Daily Express is reminiscent of another recent Sunday Times report that was quickly denied by the Saudis and Israelis. The new report states:
INTELLIGENCE chief Sir John Scarlett has been told that Saudi Arabia is ready to allow Israel to bomb Iran's new nuclear site.
The head of MI6 discussed the issue in London with Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Saudi officials after British intelligence officers helped to uncover the plant, in the side of a mountain near the ancient city of Qom.
The new report makes no sense. A green light to bomb a single site would not be very useful.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egypt: Death penalty for counterfeit virginity device?

Beware of cheap Chinese imitation virgins!
Egypt anger over virginity faking
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC Arab Affairs analyst 

Pre-marital sex carries a strong social stigma in many Arab societies
A leading Egyptian scholar has demanded that people caught importing a female virginity-faking device into the country should face the death penalty.
Abdul Mouti Bayoumi said supplying the item was akin to spreading vice in society, a crime punishable by death in Islamic Sharia law.
The device is said to release liquid imitating blood, allowing a female to feign virginity on her wedding night.
There is a stigma about pre-marital sex in some conservative Arab societies.
The contraption is seen as a cheap and simple alternative to hymen repair surgery, which is carried out in secret by some clinics in the Middle East.
It is produced in China and has already become available in other parts of the Arab world.
The device is reported to be on sale in Syria for $15.
Professor Bayoumi, a scholar at the prestigious al-Azhar University, said it undermined the moral deterrent of fornication, which he described as a crime and one of the cardinal sins in Islam.
Members of parliament in Egypt have also called for banning import of the item.

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Egypt's government controlled Al-Ahram to boycott Israel

Egypt's government controlled al-Ahram publishing group has decided reportedly to boycott Israel. The boycott was apparently decided upon in reaction to the failure of the candidacy of Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni to be appointed director of UNESCO. This was indeed a very rare instance in which the UN rejected an atrociously anti-Israel course of action. Hosny, who was to be the world's culture Czar, is an advocate of book burning. Apparently even the UN considered that to be an inappropriate stand for a culture czar. Hosni blamed his failure on international Jews, because it was Hebrew books that he advocated burning.  
Egypt and Israel concluded a peace treaty in 1981, that includes a clause against incitement. Israel gave up all of the Sinai peninsula in return for the promise of "normalization," yet Egyptian media regularly publish articles and films lamenting the fact that Hitler did not complete the massacre of European Jews and propagating the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion
The boycott move is Egypt's response to President Obama's call for normalization of relations between Arab countries and Israel. Egypt receives about $2 billion a year in American military aid. It has a controlled press, very unfree elections, and a policy of persecuting Christians. Al Ahram regularly publishes vitriolic diatribes against Israel.
The ostensible reason for the boycott was that Israel has ""gone against peace and elected an extremist government which opposes peace and supports killing and destruction."
At the meeting, the board also decided on unnamed disciplinary measures against Hala Moustafa, a reporter who had met with Israeli ambassador Shalom Cohen.
The board of al-Ahram is appointed by the Egyptian government and serves at its pleasure.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran tests missiles capable of hitting Israel

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,   is rallying support for his regime. In this test of wills with the west, he is coming off best, and that is how he will be judged in his own country.
September 29, 2009
Iran Conducts New Tests of Mid-Range Missiles

PARIS — Locked in a deepening dispute with the United States and its allies over its nuclear program, Iran said that its Revolutionary Guards test-fired missiles with sufficient range to strike Israel, parts of Europe and American bases in the Persian Gulf.
"Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran," a senior Revolutionary Guard official, Abdollah Araqi, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
The reported tests of the liquid-fueled Shahab-3 and the solid-fueled Sejil-2 missiles were not the first, but they came only days after President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain used the disclosure of a previously secret nuclear plant in Iran to threaten Tehran with a stronger response to its efforts to enrich uranium, including harsher economic sanctions.
On Sunday, Iran also test-fired three short-range missiles, with a range of 90 to 125 miles, according to state-run television.
The tests were reported less than two weeks after President Obama canceled former President George W. Bush's plans to station a radar facility in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland to create a so-called shield against potential missile attacks from Iran. Instead, he plans to deploy smaller SM-3 interceptors by 2011, first aboard ships and later in Europe, possibly even in Poland or the Czech Republic.
Earlier this month, administration officials cited what they called accumulating evidence that Iran had made more progress than anticipated in building short- and medium-range missiles that could threaten Israel and Europe than it had in developing the intercontinental missiles that the Bush system was more suited to counter.
A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry told a news conference that the latest missile tests had been planned for some time and were not linked to the nuclear dispute, the state-run English-language Press TV reported.
Nonetheless, the tests came days before the first direct contact in decades between the United States and Iran at international talks in Geneva, set for Thursday. Analysts said the launchings may have been intended to give Iranian negotiators the appearance of a stronger hand at the talks.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but many in the West say it is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon.
Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, was asked at a European defense ministers' meeting in Sweden on Monday if he was concerned about the missile tests.
"Everything that is done in that context is a concern," he said, adding that the dispute over Iran's newly disclosed second enrichment facility "has to be resolved immediately" with the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency.
The missile tests on Monday were part of an effort to improve Iran's defenses, Press TV said.
Television stations broadcast video of a missile being launched from what appeared to be desert terrain, with a plume of flame as it streaked upward, leaving a white trail as it crossed the sky.
Press TV said the Shahab-3 and Sejil-2 had been fired Monday as the third part of a military exercise named The Great Prophet IV. It said an "optimized" Shahab-3 missile had a range of 800 to 1,250 miles, while the Sejil was a two-stage missile powered by solid fuel. Parts of western Iran lie some 650 miles from Tel Aviv.
"Both of the projectiles accurately hit their designated targets," Press TV said, without giving details of where the missiles landed.
The maneuvers included tests of missiles with shorter ranges.
"Several models of medium-range Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles were tested during the military drill on Sunday night," Press TV said on its Web site.
It quoted the Air Force commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, as saying Shahab-2 missiles could hit targets between 200 miles and 450 miles from their launch sites.
There was no indication whether the testing of longer-range missiles — often taken in the West as a sign of potential hostile intent by Iran — was timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. They had, however, been expected as part of the missile tests.
In July 2008 the Revolutionary Guards test-fired nine missiles, including at least one that the government in Tehran described as having the range to reach Israel.
Iran unveiled the Sejil missile in a test-firing last November and claimed also to have tested an updated Sejil-2 in May.
The Sejil-2 is a more sophisticated missile than the Shahab-3, although it has a similar range. Iran first acquired the liquid-fueled Shahab-3 from North Korea. The Sejil-2, experts said, can be stored in mountains, transported, reassembled and fired on shorter notice, and thus could be harder for Israel or other nations to target.
Concern about Iranian hostility toward Israel is matched by frequent speculation that Israel might launch a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities rather than allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. But, last weekend, Israeli officials expressed satisfaction at the growing international pressure on Tehran after the revelation that Iran had been building an undeclared uranium enrichment facility.
The Obama administration is scrambling to assemble a package of harsher economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program that could include a cutoff of investments to the country's oil and gas industry and restrictions on many more Iranian banks than those currently blacklisted, senior administration officials said Sunday.
Hassan Qashqavi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Monday that the second enrichment facility was in a village called Fordo, about 115 miles south of Tehran, and 60 miles from Natanz, the site of Iran's known enrichment plant, The Associated Press reported. That would place it — as United States officials have said — close to the holy city of Qum.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How an American Zionist is made

There are not a lot of real American Zionists - the kind who have no background in the Zionist Yishuv, and are not very religious, but nonetheless leave their home and come to Israel. Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, is one of them.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - His office in the embassy - with the picture of Israel's president hanging above the desk, a statuette of appreciation from the Nahal Brigade behind it and a long row of books - is probably not too different from the offices of ambassadors the world over. But the tasks confronted by Israel's top diplomat to the United States, Michael Oren, are entirely different. Since taking over the job in May, he hasn't had a moment of peace and quiet. Nonetheless, he says, "There are no dramas," adding that, "There's not much time to sleep either, but I'm enjoying every minute."
He landed in Washington in the midst of a conflict between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. After Netanyahu's announcement that he was going to give approval to continuing construction in the settlements, and the White House's response, in which it made clear that the U.S. administration found that unacceptable, the new ambassador needed all his powers of persuasion to explain that there is no crisis in relations between Israel and the United States. "The White House did not condemn the decision, it expressed regret, and the announcement ended with a constructive statement." He also wants to emphasize that he was not "called in for a clarification" at the U.S. State Department, but came "for a friendly and polite conversation."
"There was tension, but we understand their internal complexities and they understand ours. There may be a fear of an erosion in the U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative military advantage, which had already begun during the Bush administration, but America renewed the guarantees, and we also reached an understanding about the Arrow missile [defense system]."
Michael Oren is not among the prime minister's close circle of friends. But the fact that he is a historian and was, until recently, a research fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem (a research and educational institute with a neoconservative orientation that is funded by Sheldon Adelson and Ron Lauder, among others), his American origin and his frequent appearances in the foreign media served as an excellent calling card for him. His appointment as ambassador "did not surprise me," admits Oren. "Netanyahu was looking for someone who is familiar with the U.S., who would know how to decipher and explain the Israeli situation to the Americans and the American situation to the Israelis. There's a new administration here, which relies partly on the support of sectors with which we had no connections in the past - the African-American and Hispanic communities - and it has a new worldview, in which Israel's place is different.
"But anyone who thinks that the Americans have lost direction doesn't remember what happened here in the 1970s. They say that America is tired after two wars in the Middle East? I remember it being tired after Vietnam."
How do you turn a historian without previous diplomatic experience into an ambassador?
"You throw him into the water. I worked in the past in the Israeli delegation to the United Nations, and that's an advantage. But you also learn and stay up to date. A week ago, for example, I logged on to Twitter, I answered the questions of YouTube users."
An Egyptian newspaper has already dubbed Oren "the most dangerous man in Washington," because of his ramified connections in the American administration. In Congress he is sometimes mistakenly introduced as "our ambassador in Israel." Oren is modest: "Although I'm not the first ambassador of American origin, it helps a lot even to be familiar with American speech, which is full of expressions from sports that every American knows. And yet, when they described me in Israel as 'an American Jewish scholar,' I was quite insulted. I've earned my Israeliness, I did everything to be considered as Israeli as possible, whether on the kibbutz or as a combat soldier in the army. And still, my children are totally Israeli - whereas I'm half American."
Oren, who for many years served as a commentator on American TV channels, now finds himself in the crossfire. In an interview on CNN, when Oren was asked about the possibility of an Israeli attack against Iran, the interviewer, Fareed Zakaria, interrupted his reply (in which he said that Israel supports U.S. efforts to open a dialogue with Iran) and said: "You don't mean that." Oren is not angry. "I can only ask of a journalist that the question be fair and to the point, and every question Fareed asked was to the point, even if not simple," he says.
In the fairly recent past, you supported unilateral withdrawal. How do you now explain that the territories belong to Israel and that the United States demand that Israel freeze construction in the settlements is unacceptable?
"In the past I was a writer, a researcher, a commentator. I could say whatever I pleased. Today I represent a government, a country. I don't ask people in the Obama administration how things they wrote five years ago accord with Obama's agenda. Anyone who is called to the flag stops being a private individual. But to this day I have not encountered a question about the government's position with which I had a serious problem.
"I received quite a lot of criticism when I said that there's no crisis in Israel-U.S. relations. But as a historian, I know that a crisis is what there was in 1956, when [president Dwight D.] Eisenhower threatened to impose sanctions on Israel in order to force it to withdraw from Sinai. Recently a senior senator asked to see me about a complaint he had received about a proposal to remove some sign in Arabic in the Jerusalem area. I reminded him that if you travel 20 miles south of Washington, you can see a sign that says, 'Manassas, Virginia.' There's no sign for the previous name of the place, 'Bull Run,' because in the Civil War there were two tough battles there that were won by the South, and the state of Virginia insisted that the name Bull Run be removed from the signs. I said to him: 'Here too there are battles over signs because of what happened 150 years ago.'"
'The only Jewish boy'
Oren's family immigrated to the United States from Ukraine. His grandmother, he says, spoke Yiddish all her life. Oren was born in 1955 as Michael Bornstein and grew up in New Jersey. His father had served as an officer in the U.S. Army, and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, and in the Korean War. The family belonged to a Conservative synagogue, and Oren studied in an after-school Hebrew school. He says that, "during that period I was unable to learn Hebrew. I even did my bar mitzvah in a transliteration into English .... I was a restless child and I didn't have good grades, so I was channeled into a class for kids who were on the fast track to the gas station or to prison. In 10th grade, one of my teachers noticed that I could write and got me out of that class. I had to relearn basic things, but in the end I attended good universities." Oren received his B.A. at Columbia University, and a master's in international affairs there, and went on to complete a doctorate in Near East studies at Princeton. In recent years he served as a visiting professor at both Harvard and Yale Universities.
In high school, Oren experimented with scriptwriting, and even won a contest, but, he says, "from an early age I knew that I would immigrate to Israel. I was the only Jewish boy in a Catholic neighborhood, and in the 1960s, anti-Semitism was almost a daily experience for me. Once they shattered the windows of our house, another time they wrote hate slogans. I was quite an outsider because of my Judaism and I had fistfights with the Catholic children in the neighborhood. And maybe I actually went to Israel because of the picture of Yossi Ben Hanan at the Suez Canal with a Kalashnikov above his head on the cover of Life magazine after the Six-Day War."
When Oren was 15, he came as a volunteer to Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. After college, he spent a year working as an adviser in the Israeli delegation to the UN during the tenure of Yehuda Blum, and only in 1979 did he immigrate to Israel, at which point he changed his last name to Oren and enlisted in the Paratroops. "That was a wonderful period," he recalls. "I arrived, and within a month a peace agreement with Egypt was signed. The atmosphere in Israel was great. We also won the European basketball championship."
Oren's first war was the Lebanon War. "I was in a unit that was caught in a Syrian ambush on the second day of the war. My direct commander was killed, almost everyone was wounded, the unit fell apart, and I joined a Paratroops force that went up to Sidon. Part of the story that's described in 'Waltz With Bashir' - it's simply seeing my experiences on the screen. But the film has a political message that is hard for me to accept, to the effect that the Palestinians are innocent, whereas they are part of the conflict. In the summer of 1982, I got married, and the next day I returned to Beirut."
When he was discharged from the army, Oren was asked to be an emissary in the Soviet Union, operating as a liaison to Jews who were refused permission to immigrate to Israel. Those were the last days of general secretary Leonid Brezhnev (who died in November 1982), and Oren and the other emissaries were considered a subversive factor and were the targets of KGB surveillance. At every meeting with Jews, he says, "we knew that there was a possibility that we wouldn't return. In one city we arrived at such a meeting and when we entered the courtyard, behind the trees the KGB men were waiting in ambush. We didn't see them immediately, but the commander of the organization there saw the ambush from the third-floor window and she ran downstairs and attacked their commander. A tiny girl of 16 simply threw herself on him and began shouting in Russian, 'Help, help!' and all the windows opened. She said, 'What, will you beat me up too?' and they turned around and left. We entered and we knew that we had about 10 minutes until they returned. And in fact, after 10 minutes, the KGB people almost broke down the door, entered and shouted in Russian. They arrested us. We began to go downstairs. And the people from the underground stood on the third floor staircase and sang 'Hatikvah' as we were led off in arrest."
Oren gave up his American citizenship only this year, for the sake of the appointment; earlier he returned for periods of study and work in the United States. He completed his doctoral studies in 1986 at Princeton, where his eldest son was born. Upon his return to Israel he hoped to be appointed an adviser in the government, but that happened only in 1992 when prime minister Yitzhak Rabin appointed him director of inter-religious affairs. "Rabin had a wonderful trick," he recalls. "I would come to see him with a delegation of senators, for example, and he would say: 'Ask me any question.' And then he would give a 20-minute answer - exactly the same answer, no matter what the question was."
When he retired from reserve duty in the Paratroops, Oren was asked to be the IDF spokesman in English during Operation Cast Lead. Oren says that he personally has never regretted the decision to immigrate to Israel, not even when his sister-in-law, a teacher from the United States who had come for a sabbatical in Israel, was killed in a terror attack in 1995, and not when his eldest son, Yoav, was wounded in the second intifada. He says that his children support the decision, too.
In Oren's varied resume, there is also a period when he served as the CEO of a high-tech firm. "A friend of mine needed someone with an academic degree in his company," he explains. "That was when the high-tech bubble burst and every day a director resigned or collapsed, until I found myself in the job of CEO." The firm was sold in the end, at a good time for him, because then the Shalem Center opened in Jerusalem and he was accepted as a research fellow there. That's when he wrote what became his best-selling book about the Six-Day War. Just then, in the mid-1990s, the archives were opened in Israel and in other countries, says Oren. "I was the first to access these documents, and I also got to archives in Jordan, Syria and Russia."
The book, "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East" (Oxford, 2002), was very successful. Oren says he wrote the book, "Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present," which was published in 2007, under the influence of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, in order to help the Americans bridge the gap in their minds between the romantic image of the Arabs as keffiyeh-wearing camel riders and those who crashed into the World Trade Center with commercial airplanes.
Oren admits that in spite of the success of his history books, he had quite a few disappointments as well. "I have a file at home as thick as a phone directory with all the rejection letters I've received. From the age of 12, I used to write one poem a day, and at the age of 13, I wanted to publish a book of poems. When they rejected me I took it very hard, I cried. Had I known at the time how many rejection letters I would eventually receive, maybe I would have stopped writing."
In his present job, it's not clear if and when he'll have an opportunity to write. "I glanced at the schedule for the coming year and I didn't see any vacations. In the U.S. there's a tradition of vacation for leaders, in Israel it's less common. The ambassador also customarily joins American leaders on their visits to Israel. Condoleezza Rice [the former U.S. secretary of state], for example, visited our region 26 times."
Oren doesn't believe that another intifada will break out, because "Palestinian society is tired, and on the West Bank the economic situation has improved, too," he says. He prefers to speak about peace from the viewpoint of the historian: "I know that you don't make peace from one day to the next, but there are also surprises in history. What happened in France and England, which fought one another for 1,000 years? In 1967 when IDF soldiers fought in the streets of Jerusalem, I don't think that anyone imagined that we would be able to board a bus and travel to Amman. We're living in an era of accelerated processes, with events taking place in short periods of time."
Iran, of course, is one of the most pressing issues the ambassador must deal with, as well as the talks that the Americans and other major powers are planning to conduct with the Islamic regime beginning next month. The date, claims Oren, is insignificant, but Iranian capability to assemble a nuclear bomb, is of great significance. "The moment they have a launching system and a mass of uranium, even at a low level of enrichment, the moment the Iranian leadership decides to go with the program, they can do it quite quickly, in one fell swoop. The U.S. administration promised us that if the Iranians don't give a clear answer to the American proposal, they are committed to going ahead with the sanctions."
Are the Americans questioning you regarding the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran?
"Have you ever asked how hotdogs are made?" he laughs. "There are things that it's better not to ask."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Decline and fall of Libyan Jews

Decline and fall of Libyan Jews
(From Point of No return)
The Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi  knows all about Jews. Jews dressed like Arabs and lived in harmony with Arabs, he tells Time magazine. But they are heading to disaster because they dared have their Jewish state, instead of one state shared with the Palestinians. Gaddafi here restates the old dhimmi idea - the Jews are 'our Jews' who must defer to Arabs for protection.
So successful was coexistence in Libya, that  under Gaddafi's watch Libya became judenrein! For the benefit of Time readers and others who are tempted to believe Gaddafi's lies, Point of No Return charts the decline and fall of Libyan Jewry:
1938 Italian racial laws applied to Libya's 30,000 Jews
600 Jews die in Giado work camp
1945 Two-day pogrom: 130 Jews killed
1948  14 Jews killed in pogrom
1949 - 1952 : 90 percent of Jews flee for Israel
1951  Constitution abolished. PM Mahmud Muntassar says Jews can have no future in Libya.
1952 Independent Libya bans emigration, joins the Arab League
1953 Libya signs up to the anti-Israel boycott. Night-time searches of Jewish homes for 'Zionist' material
1954 Maccabi sports club closed
1960 Muslim appointed head of Jewish community council
1961 Assets belonging to Libyan Jews in Israel seized. Only Libyan nationals can buy property (excludes Jews). Jews cannot vote.
1963 Nasserists press for closure of US and UK bases
1963 Murder of Jewish leader Halfalla Nahum, 84
1967 Six-Day War. Jews donate to Palestinian cause. 60 percent of Jewish assets destroyed in Tripoli. Italian and Jewish shops burnt. 10 Jews killed.
300 Benghazi Jews detained for own safety. Two families (14 people) massacred. Almost all Libya's remaining 5,000 Jews evacuated out of the country.
2002 Esmeralda Meghnagi, Libya's last Jew, dies.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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