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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Obstacle to peace? Palestinians rebuff US bid to restart peace talks

This really does speak for itself,

Palestinians rebuff Clinton bid to relaunch peace talks
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent
The Palestinian Authority on Saturday rejected a proposal by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the renewal of peace negotiations with Israel, Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erakat said.
Clinton's proposal was for the final-status talks to be relaunched on the basis of understandings over West Bank settlement construction reached between U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, and the Israeli government, according to Erakat.
He said the Palestinians rejected the offer during a meeting in Abu Dabi between Clinton and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Ahead of the meeting, Erakat said that settlement building, which the Palestinians want Israel to halt completely, was the key to renewing peace negotiations, and that there were still differences between the two sides

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U.S. official: US "concerned" about Syria support for Hezbollah and Hamas

Well yes, Syrian sheltering and arming of terrorist groups just might be a cause for concern and a teeny weeny obstacle to peace, but hey, no biggy. The Returers report put "terrorist" in quotes, as though there was room for debate about the nature of Hamas and Hezbollah.
The United States wants to move beyond dialogue to a more constructive relationship with Syria but will not trade away Lebanon's sovereignty to do so, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday.
Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, also said that for such potential to be realized, Syria must address U.S. concerns about some of its regional policies, such as its support for "terrorist" organizations like the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, as well as its control of foreign fighters trying to enter Iraq.
Feltman said while recent trips to Syria by himself and U.S. special envoy George Mitchell had laid the groundwork, "we believe that there is further potential for a positive, constructive U.S.-Syrian relationship."
"Our dialogue with the Syrians is not going to come at the expense of Lebanon's sovereignty," he added in testimony to a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.
Feltman said that in Lebanon, there were expectations that a cabinet could be announced in the coming days, and "we certainly hope this is the case." He did not elaborate.
Lebanon held a parliamentary election in June, when voters endorsed the U.S.-backed anti-Syrian coalition led by Saad Al-Hariri, son of assassinated statesman Rafik al-Hariri. But the failure to form a new government since then has underlined the potential for setbacks in its fragile politics.
Syria dominated Lebanon until the killing of Rafik al-Hariri in 2005, which led to the withdrawal of its troops from the country. Damascus still holds great sway through allies such as Hezbollah, a heavily armed Lebanese Shi'ite group which also has strong Iranian backing.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama started talks with Syria soon after he was inaugurated in January, ending a boycott of several years under his predecessor George W. Bush.
During a trip to Syria in May, Feltman told the Syrian government the United States was committed to seeking a peace deal between Syria and Israel, a main objective for Damascus in its rapprochement with Washington.

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Report: Lebanon nabs top militant over rocket attack against Israel

Last update - 11:01 31/10/2009       
Report: Lebanon nabs top militant over rocket attack against Israel
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Lebanon arrested a man suspected of orchestrating a recent rocket launch toward northern Israel, the Lebanese daily As-Safir reported on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Lebanese troops found and dismantled four rockets ready for launching near the border with Israel last Wednesday, a day after the Katyusha was launched from the southern village.
The Katyusha fire was the first such incident since last month, and the ninth since the Second Lebanon War.
The attack drew a rapid response from Israeli artillery in a brief flare-up across the border. Neither the rocket nor the artillery caused casualties.
The man, Fadi Ibrahim, also known as "Sikamo," is allegedly a member of the radical Sunni Muslim militant group Fatah al Islam, an organization with known ideological ties to al-Qaida.

The As-Safir report said Ibrahim is considered an aide to the group's leader, and that he the head of the group's bomb-planting and rocket-launching operations in Southern Lebanon, directed also at UNIFIL forces stationed in that area.
Lebanese intelligence, according to the report, apprehended Ibrahim after drawing him out of the Ein el Hilweh refugee camp, near the costal city of Sidon.
Also on Saturday, Lebanon's Foreign Minister, Fawzi Salloukh, told pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that Israel had overreacted to the launches and that it wasn't waiting until a joint investigation of the incident by UNIFL and the Lebanese army could be concluded.
Salloukh added that the Israeli reaction comes even after Lebanon severely condemned the attacks and as both its and UNIFIL forces are working to maintain regional stability and implement UN resolution 1701, which saw a truce between Israel and Lebanon following the 2006 war.
Salloukh confirmed that he had indeed instructed the country's envoy to the UN to send a message to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon protesting Israel's bombardment of the southern Lebanese village of Houla, the site from which a the Katyusha rocket was fired at the Upper Galilee last week, saying it was a blatant violation of resolution 1701.
The Lebanese foreign minister added that there were no clear signs that Israel was about to attack it's neighbor to the north, since Lebanon was working to implement resolution 1701.
However, Salloukh did say that Israel's persistent violations of the UN resolution, in the land, the sea, and the air, which include orchestrating an alleged espionage network, lead him to the conclusion that Israel is laying the groundwork to justify a future strike against Lebanon.

On Friday, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Hayyat reported that Lebanon's ambassador to the United Nations has warned that Israel is exhibiting signs of an imminent attack on his country,
Ambassador Noaf Salaam sent missives to the United Nations secretary general and to the Security Council condemning Israel's recent artillery fire on the village of Houla. the Salaam called the artillery fire a clear violation of Lebanon's sovereignty as well as of UN Resolution 1701.
According to Al-Hayyat, Salaam described in his missive repeated Israeli threats against the Lebanese government and citizens, an expression he believes signals Israeli plans for to attack.
Salaam also said that the Israeli decision to bomb Lebanese territory following every Katyusha attack delayed and prevented Lebanese forces from investigating the rocket attacks.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Bilal al Rabah - No such place; Palestinians invent a mosque and a tomb to invalidate Tomb of Rachel

The Tomb of Rachel is a recognized and venerable Jewish holy place in Palestine, and was recognized as such by Muslims throughout history. Recently, in order to claim their right to the "holy place" and block Jewish access, Palestinian Arabs have begun calling the place "Bilal al Rabah" and have invented a "history" for the place that doesn't exist at all in old photographs or books. Elder of Zion pointed out the deception that has just now appeared in a Ma'an News story, and he traced the history.
Ami Isseroff

Today was the traditional anniversary of the death of the matriarch Rachel, and thousands of Jews went to Rachel's Tomb to pray. Ma'an reported it this way:

Thousands of Israelis, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jews, descended on the tomb of the Biblical matriarch Rachel in a militarized compound in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday.

Right-wing religious groups petitioned Israel's highest court in 2004 to re-route the wall to include the tomb on the western side. To this day the site, formerly known as the location of the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, is accessible only from the Israeli side.
Was Rachel's Tomb ever really known as the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque?

The answer is, of course, no. That name was created relatively recently - believe it or not, in the 1990s!

As Nadav Shragai revealed in a
2007 article:
In 2000, after hundreds of years of recognizing the site as Rachel's Tomb, Muslims began calling it the "Bilal ibn Rabah mosque." Members of the Wakf used the name first in 1996, but it has since entered the national Palestinian discourse. Bilal ibn Rabah was an Ethiopian known in Islamic history as a slave who served in the house of the prophet Muhammad as the first muezzin (the individual who calls the faithful to prayer five times a day).When Muhammad died, ibn Rabah went to fight the Muslim wars in Syria, was killed in 642 CE, and buried in either Aleppo or Damascus.22 The Palestinian Authority claimed that according to Islamic tradition, it was Muslim conquerors who named the mosque erected at Rachel's Tomb after Bilal ibn Rabah.

The Palestinian claim ignored the fact that Ottoman firmans (mandates or decrees) gave Jews in the Land of Israel the right of access to the site at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Palestinian claim even ignored accepted Muslim tradition, which admires Rachel and recognizes the site as her burial place. According to tradition, the name "Rachel" comes from the word "wander," because she died during one of her wanderings and was buried on the Bethlehem road. Her name is referred to in the Koran, and in other Muslim sources, Joseph is said to fall upon his mother Rachel's grave and cry bitterly as the caravan of his captors passes by. For hundreds of years, Muslim holy men (walis) were buried in tombs whose form was the same as Rachel's.

Then, out of the blue, the connection between Rachel, admired even by the Muslims, and her tomb is erased and the place becomes "the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque." Well-known Orientalist Professor Yehoshua Porat has called the "tradition" the Muslims referred to as "false." He said the Arabic name of the site was "the Dome of Rachel, a place where the Jews prayed."

Only a few years ago, official Palestinian publications contained not a single reference to such a mosque. The same was true for the Palestinian Lexicon issued by the Arab League and the PLO in 1984, and for Al-mawsu'ah al-filastiniyah, the Palestinian encyclopedia published in Italy after 1996. Palestine, the Holy Land, published by the Palestinian Council for Development and Rehabilitation, with an introduction written by Yasser Arafat, simply says that "at the northwest entrance to the city [Bethlehem] lies the tomb of the matriarch Rachel, who died while giving life to Benjamin." The West Bank and Gaza - Palestine also mentions the site as the Tomb of Rachel and not as the Mosque of Bilal ibn Rabah.28 However, the Palestinian deputy minister for endowments and religious affairs has now defined Rachel's Tomb as a Muslim site.29

On Yom Kippur in 2000, six days after the IDF withdrew from Joseph's Tomb, the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida published an article marking the next target as Rachel's Tomb. It read in part, "Bethlehem - 'the Tomb of Rachel,' or the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque, is one of the nails the occupation government and the Zionist movement hammered into many Palestinian cities....The tomb is false and was originally a Muslim mosque."30
Indeed, the earliest reference I can find to such a name is from the BBC in 1997, and for the rest of the 90s that is the only news outlet I can find that ever used that terminology.

Looking at some old books, I see it was called "
Kubbet Rahil" by Muslims in 1901. This travelogue from around 1880 says: ...We came to Rachel's tomb, a small square whitewashed domed building, part of which dates back to the twelfth century. It stands by the side of the road, a mile short of Bethlehem. It is in possession of the Jews, and is only opened on Thursdays; but we looked in through a small aperture on the south side.
Many other 1800's-era books do describe Rachel's Tomb as a mosque or as a place of worship for both Jews and Muslims. But none of them give any Arabic name that doesn't include the word "Rachel" in some form. And certainly none of them describe the spot as being exclusively Muslim.

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Rabbi Yoffie's address to the J Street conference

Not everything Yoffie said at the J Street conference will make the J people happy. As for the Jews, they should be happy that the J people at J Street got to hear this message. I hope it was received well. .
Rabbi Eric Yoffie • Op-Ed
Published: 30 October 2009
Editor's note: The Jewish Standard published an abridged version of the Oct. 26 address by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president, Union for Reform Judaism, to the J Street conference. The complete text follows:
I am grateful for the invitation to be with you at J Street's first national conference. The growth of J Street has been extraordinary in every way. I offer my congratulations to Jeremy Ben-Ami and his associates, and I welcome the opportunity to address you and share my views.
Let us begin with a simple question: What is a pro-Israel organization?
I suggest that pro-Israel organizations are those that possess two characteristics.
First, they are organizations that support the idea that Israel must be a Jewish and democratic state. By "Jewish state" I mean a state with a stable Jewish majority, and by "democratic state" I mean a state that grants full political and civil rights to all who dwell permanently within its borders.
Pro-Israel organizations know that the creation and support of a Jewish and democratic state is the central value of Zionism-indeed, it is the very reason that Zionism came into being. And absent a two-state solution, there will be no such state. I am astounded that those who resist a two-state solution, who speak the language of permanent occupation, and who even refuse to reject expulsion of Arabs from Israel or the territories will be considered by some as pro-Israel, while advocates of a two-state solution will not.
Second, pro-Israel groups are those that stand in abiding solidarity with the State of Israel. To me this means seeing Israel as a cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing. It means feeling blessed to live at this moment when Israel has returned to history and the Jewish people have achieved real power and mastered the gun. It means recognizing that Jewish life cannot be sustained without Israel at its core. To be sure, it means telling the truth about Israel and speaking honestly to Israel's leaders; solidarity with Israel never means just singing Hatikvah. But it is also to battle Israel's enemies on the right and the left, to reject the trap of false moral equivalence, and to never, ever, express contempt for the State and its people. And it is to avoid like the plague the self-haters in the Jewish community who defend the rights of every group except their own.
I suggest that we need a broad, sensible, and inclusive definition of what it means to be pro-Israel, built on the two pillars that I have proposed. And let us beware of those who insist, in effect, that the only way to be pro-Israel is to be "just like me."
A few words on Gaza-since it was an exchange that J Street and I had on Gaza that generated so much attention earlier this year.
After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas spent three years launching rockets and missiles into southern Israel-continuing attacks that had begun years earlier. These rockets traumatized children, terrorized the population, drove people from the cities, and brought normal life to a halt. At one point, the population of Sderot dropped from 24,000 to 10,000. Every playground in Sderot had a bomb shelter, and 75% of the children there suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome-which meant, simply, that they were in shock, and that even six- or seven-year olds slept in their parents' rooms and frequently wet their beds. For years, Israel worked to generate support from the international community to stop the attacks, but diplomats clucked their tongues and did nothing. And for years, Israeli citizens in the south hated their own government almost as much as they hated Hamas, because, in their eyes, their government had abandoned them.
Yes, the situation was complicated; there were other factors at work-there always are. And once the war began, the people of Gaza suffered profoundly-which deeply saddens us all. Nonetheless, the reality that I have described is what led to the war. How many years would American parents sit by while their children were reduced to zombies, afraid, every morning, to walk out their front doors? How many rockets would need to land in your backyard before you demanded that your government act, and act decisively? We all know, in fact, that there is not a single American parent who would tolerate for a single week what Israeli parents tolerated for years.
If I have a complaint against the government of Israel, it is that I wonder if it should not have acted sooner in Gaza. There are those who think that targeted military action, undertaken earlier, might have been effective and might have reduced the terrible death toll of innocents that ultimately ensued. In any case, I want to be clear: I supported Israel's military action in Gaza then, and looking back, I reaffirm that support now. And I oppose negotiations with Hamas — which is rejectionist, religiously fanatic, and anti-Semitic — until such a time as it meets those conditions set forth by both the United States and by the Quartet.
This is not the time for a full discussion of the Goldstone report, which in my view was fatally flawed. There are many questions that one might legitimately ask about Israel's conduct of the war: Why was it necessary for Israeli forces to use so much firepower? How do you carry out a war against a terrorist organization that attacks your citizens and hides amid a civilian population? What risks are Israeli soldiers obligated to take, beyond those inherent in combat, to prevent harm to civilians? The Israelis that I know are asking these questions; it is right for them to do so, and it is right for the government of Israel to deal with these issues.
But the Goldstone report chose not to focus on these questions. Its central assertion is that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians, intentionally causing their deaths. This is a stunning and outrageous charge. I reject it, the people of Israel reject it, and — most important — it is not supported by the facts. This is not a thoughtful judicial report attempting to make difficult moral judgments. It is a political report based largely on unverifiable Palestinian claims that is meant to be used as a sledgehammer to bludgeon Israel.
If you doubt this, read the report. Its reasoning is shaky in some places and more often absurd. The accusations against Palestinians are expressed in language that is understated and restrained, while the accusations against Israel are expressed in wording that is sweeping, bold, and absolute. And upon closer inspection, many of these charges include phrases such as "it seems that," "it would appear," and "we have no definite proof but..." In an interview in the Forward, Goldstone acknowledged that nothing in the report could be used as proof in a court of law and that it contained no actual "evidence" of wrongdoing by Israel. Among the public that heard about this report and the diplomatic community that seized upon it, I doubt if one person in a hundred is aware of what we are now told is the report's limited scope. Didn't Justice Goldstone have an obligation to make this clear from the beginning? And this too: you cannot be a moral agent if you serve an immoral master, and Richard Goldstone should be ashamed of himself for working under the auspices of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
It will be important for Israel to continue with the investigations that it has already begun. Still, I suspect and I fear that the damage has already been done. This report, no matter how compelling the refutations that follow, will become a staple of U.N. gatherings and international meetings. It will be used to incite against Israel and to portray every Israeli leader connected with the military as a war criminal. It will become an instrument to inflame Palestinian extremism. And it will be invoked every time that Israel defends itself against attacks on its civilian centers. In short, it has made the work of peace much harder than it already was.
I would like to turn now to the settlement issue, which has received so much attention this year. Regrettably, in my view, the public discussion has not been enlightening; it has obscured far more than it has revealed.
The simple fact, absent from so much of this discussion, is that there are two kinds of settlements: those east of the security fence and those west of the security fence. Those west of the fence are in three major blocks, and in a sense are the extended suburbs of Jerusalem. Virtually all of those who support a two-state solution have recognized that these blocks will be part of Israel in any conceivable settlement, with the Palestinians being offered a land swap as compensation. If the settlement borders were to be defined by mutual agreement, there is no reason why additional buildings in these blocks should pose a problem for any of the parties.
East of the fence are the settlements around Hebron and between Nablus and Ramallah-what I would call the "ideological settlements." Approximately 100,000 settlers live in these areas-twice the number that lived there in the 1990s-and there is no way that a viable, contiguous Palestinian state can come into being unless they are removed. As I have said, without a Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, there is no way for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic. And as you know, support for a two-state solution is the policy of the government of the United States and both of its major political parties, not to mention the policy of those governments in Europe and the international community that remain friendly to Israel and committed to her security. It is also the policy of the State of Israel.
But here is the problem: it is not clear that those 100,000 settlers can ever be removed. I have friends in Israel on both the right and the left who generally agree on nothing but who agree on this. It is too late, they say. It is simply not credible to believe that any Israeli government would be willing or capable to remove so many settlers from their West Bank homes.
I reject their thesis, because to accept it is to give up on the idea of a Jewish and democratic Israel. But I worry that even if it is not too late, time is fast running out.
The American government and the international community have accepted the Israeli occupation on the assumption that it is temporary. But after 40 years, that is a hard claim to make, especially when the number of settlers in what would be the heart of a Palestinian state continues to grow. And once it becomes clear that the conditions for a Palestinian state simply do not exist, Israel will face demands for a "one-state solution" based on the principle of "one-man-one-vote." And this, of course, is not a solution at all, because a single-state solution will soon yield a Palestinian majority. And Zionism did not come into being, I suggest, so that the Jews could be a minority in somebody else's state.
Yes, I know, there are those who proclaim that Israel will simply defy the world. It will retain the settlements and Israeli rule, and the world be damned. I am among those who believe that it cannot and will not, and to suggest otherwise is to misread both what is happening in the world and the extent of Israel's power. And even if it could, how many of us would want a Jewish state with unrecognized borders that contains a large, hostile minority deprived of basic civil and political rights?
And for those who say that the "one-state solution" is a scare tactic and an exaggeration, I say: wake up. Look around. It is already happening, right now. And not only among certain Palestinian factions, but on our own campuses here in America. And I do not refer to campus anti-Semites and Israel haters, who will despise us no matter what. I refer to reasonable and moderate groups who are looking at the facts on the ground and are beginning to say: "We have tried for 40 years. A two-state solution would be best but it just isn't possible. Let's see if we can find a democratic framework to accommodate everyone."
Too many American Jewish groups have their heads in the sand on these matters. They talk to each other or to themselves, but not to their own children on campus. They embrace those elements of the American religious right that endorse settlement as a religious principle without realizing that the influence of these groups is not growing but declining. But those of us who do the actual work of making Israel's case with religious groups, communal groups, and local leaders know full well the damage that the settlement issue causes in grassroots America.
You can convince Americans of the miracle of Israel's founding and the justice of her struggle against terror and rejection.
You can convince them that it makes demographic and political sense for Israel to trade settlements near Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority in return for land elsewhere in Israel.
But you cannot convince Americans that it makes sense for an Israel that supports a Palestinian state to maintain a large settler population in the heart of the West Bank where that state must come into being. The simple fact is that it makes no sense at all, and Americans, being a sensible people, know that.
Too much of the American Jewish community responds to this problem by saying things that convince no one.
Settlements are not the issue, they say. I agree that they may not be the issue, but they are certainly an issue-and one that threatens the Zionist enterprise and that we ignore at our peril.
Jews should be able to settle anywhere in the Land of Israel, they say. I agree, if those Jews are prepared to live under Palestinian sovereignty. But the overwhelming majority of settlers are not willing to live in a Palestinian state-which means that what they are really calling for is permanent occupation.
Israel has shown that it can withdraw settlers, they say. In theory true, but the withdrawal from the "ideological settlements" would be ten times larger than all of the withdrawals carried out in the past, each of which was profoundly traumatic for the people of Israel. Historical experience is more of an argument against the possibility of such a withdrawal than it is in favor.
American Jewish leadership is right now focused on the threat of Iran. I share their fears, and I favor the immediate imposition of tough economic sanctions-multilateral if possible, unilateral if not. In my view, our government is right to affirm that sanctions are the preferred response, but that no options should be taken off the table. This is not the time for a full discussion of this matter, but I will say that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, some Arab states will quietly drift into Iran's orbit, while others will move quickly to acquire nuclear weapons of their own. In these circumstances, any possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace will evaporate.
Time is not the ally of peace in this situation, and inaction is not an option. The stakes for Israel are much too high. I am therefore puzzled by those on the left who appear content to allow the situation to continue as it is. They seem far more prepared to tell us what should not be done than what should be done to deal with this grave threat to Israel's very existence.
But for those on the right, my question is: if you fear that you will wake up in two, three, or four years and confront a radical Iranian state brandishing nuclear bombs, why do you not fear that you will wake up in two, three, or four years and confront an emerging consensus — not only from our enemies but also from our friends — that a two-state solution must give way to a one-state solution? The latter possibility is no less likely and in some ways no less dangerous than the first.
Given the dangers posed by settlements in the heart of the West Bank, and the slow but inexorable increase in the number of their residents, it is not enough to propose that Israel should build no additional settlements there. What I would hope to see is an Israeli Prime Minister who will look these settlers in the eye and say: you will have to leave your homes because the settlement map contradicts any conceivable two-state solution map. What I would hope for is a government of Israel that will offer generous incentives for them to leave so that the process can begin now. And if need be, let military installations be put in place to deal with security issues that may arise from the settlers' departure.
We should not demonize the settlers. They have done what Israeli governments, of both the right and left, have permitted — and in some cases encouraged — them to do. With strong government leadership, I believe that most will be prepared to relocate. But to those who will not-those who embrace an ugly fundamentalism and misread the Torah for their own purposes-we must be prepared to say: Maspeek. Enough. We must put an end to the appeasement of those whose messianic dreams have too long held Israel hostage. We do not accept that a small group of fanatic holy men, probably numbering no more than a few thousand, know what God wants for us, and we must not put the destiny of the Jewish people in their hands.
And what of the Palestinians and the Arab world? Are they ready for peace?
There are those in our community who are certain that they are, and there are those who are certain that they are not. I come down firmly in the "I don't know" category.
Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate man, committed to creating a state for the Palestinian people. He has promoted economic reform, brought a measure of stability to the Palestinian street, and been effective in curbing the threat of terror. On the other hand, Mr. Abbas is politically weak; we do not know if he can impose his will on the chaotic politics of Palestine — a politics that is too often hate-filled and bloody-minded. The Arab states, meanwhile, have done far less than they might have to move us in the direction of peace. The Saudis put forward a peace plan but then made it a "take it or leave it" deal, refusing to negotiate with Israel in any way.
It is also true that the Right of Return remains an absolute article of faith for the entire Arab world. I do not see this issue as incidental but as a major stumbling block. The Jewish people will not accept, in principle or practice, the return of refugees to the territory of a Jewish state. Furthermore, the demand for such a return raises fundamental questions about Arab intentions. Why exactly do you demand that millions of people return to a state that is utterly foreign to them in nationality and culture — not to mention that we are talking about a return to houses and land that in fact no longer exist? Some of my friends on the left, knowing the intensity of Arab feeling on this matter, believe that the best way to resolve the issue is through studied ambiguity; let's devise a formulation, they say, that is sufficiently vague that all sides can claim victory. But such an approach would be a disaster and would be rejected by any government of Israel. Absent an unambiguous agreement to resolve all issues, including this one, and to end the conflict once and for all, peace will not be achieved. Reaching an agreement on these terms, therefore, needs to be our explicit goal.
So yes, I am troubled by the positions of Arab and Palestinian leaders. I do not know if they are ready for an agreement, or what can be reasonably expected of them. While I am convinced that the great majority of the Palestinian people yearn for peace and an end to bloodshed, they have not been well served by those who speak in their name.
But none of this is an argument for maintaining or expanding ideological settlements. If it is true that peace is not possible at this moment, this is not a reason to advocate policies that will make it impossible for there ever to be peace.
And it is certainly not an argument against the President of the United States doing all that he can to promote an agreement. Precisely because the prospects for peace are uncertain, it is more important than ever for the Administration to search out every possibility for moving forward. The President has been right to reach out to Palestinians, the Arab world, and the Muslim world. He, Secretary Clinton, and Special Envoy Mitchell know that Middle East peace requires an American presence and that nothing happens unless the United States is involved. And they are absolutely correct that the status quo does not serve Israel's interests.
And this too: despite the somewhat grim picture that I have painted of Palestinian politics, there are, of course, Palestinian leaders who seek dignity and peace for both sides in this conflict. And if these moderates are not strengthened, the only party left will be Hamas. Therefore, reaching out to the moderates and strengthening their hand is a vital and pressing interest of the government of the United States.
And if, despite everything, a true peace remains beyond reach, then what?
My hope is that the government of Israel, with the support of the American Jewish community, will do everything that it can to maintain the support of the American government and the American people.
My hope is that the government of Israel, with the support of the American Jewish community, will do everything necessary to demonstrate her commitment to a two-state solution and a Jewish and democratic Israel.
And if I had to propose a political strategy for these purposes, it would be the following: let the government of the United States and the government of Israel embrace the proposal put forward by David Makovsky and others to arrive at an understanding with the Palestinians on the final borders of the Jewish and Palestinian states. Such an agreement would be far short of an actual peace, but its advantages would be many: it would send a message to the world, reaffirming the principles of a two-state solution; it would provide a political horizon for Abbas and hope for the Palestinian people; it would enable Israel to build in the settlement blocks close to Jerusalem and would prepare the ground for evacuating settlers in the heartland of the West Bank; and it would strengthen Israel's internal unity and her position in America and the world.
If Israel and the United States were to agree on these borders, even if the Palestinians did not, it would shift the focus back to the obligation of the Palestinians to come to terms with a Jewish homeland. Let Israel make the offer, and let the Palestinians choose between peace and fanaticism. A comprehensive peace is surely preferable, but a "borders first" strategy may be the next best alternative.
Let me conclude by reminding you that even in these difficult times, there are reasons for optimism.
First, the Prime Minister of Israel has affirmed his commitment to a two-state solution, creating a new reality on the Israeli right. Extremist voices in Israel are perhaps less prominent than they once were. And most Israelis, while skeptical of Arab intentions, remain sensible, pragmatic, and supportive of a two-state approach.
Second, the President of the United States has decided, wisely, to engage the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace now, and not to wait until the end of his term. While the Administration has stumbled a few times along the way, it has given high priority to its search for an agreement, and has understood that the status quo is unacceptable and dangerous to Israel's security and well-being. And while I may not agree with all of J Street's positions, your commitment to and advocacy for the two-state solution, the peace process, and the issues surrounding settlements are an important contribution to both American politics and American Jewish politics.
And third, the Iranian threat, as deeply troubling as it is, creates a convergence of interests between Israel and her Arab neighbors, and offers a small window of opportunity that, we hope, all parties will be wise enough to exploit.
So yes, we need to affirm our optimism and our hope. We need to remember that Israel's fate rests not only in the hands of Israel's citizens, but in the hands of the Jewish people. We need to join, as untiring partners, in the building of Zion. And we need as well to ask for God's guidance, and to pray that peace and redemption will come to Israel's borders and that harmony will hallow Jerusalem's gates — bi'meheira u'viyameinu, speedily, and in our day.

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Israel and the Iranian A-Bomb

Yossi Klein Halevi does a good job of catching the mood of Israel regarding the Iranian nuclear problem, but ambiguity rather than dread seems to sum up the mood.
The Return of Israel's Existential Dread

In tabloid cartoons and dinner conversations, Israelis brace themselves for war with Iran.
The postcard from the Home Front Command that recently arrived in my mailbox looks like an ad from the Ministry of Tourism. A map of Israel is divided by color into six regions, each symbolized by an upbeat drawing: a smiling camel in the Negev desert, a skier in the Golan Heights. In fact, each region signifies the amount of time residents will have to seek shelter from an impending missile attack. If you live along the Gaza border, you have 15 seconds after the siren sounds. Jerusalemites get a full three minutes. But as the regions move farther north, the time drops again, until finally, along the Lebanese and Syrian borders, the color red designates "immediate entry into a shelter." In other words, if you're not already inside a shelter don't bother looking for one.
The invisible but all-pervasive presence on that cheerful map of existential dread is Iran. If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, Tehran's two terrorist allies on our borders—Hezbollah and Hamas—would almost certainly renew attacks against the Israeli home front. And Tel Aviv would be hit by Iranian long-range missiles.
On the other hand, if Israel refrains from attacking Iran and international efforts to stop its nuclearization fail, the results along our border would likely be even more catastrophic. Hezbollah and Hamas would be emboldened politically and psychologically. The threat of a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv would become a permanent part of Israeli reality. This would do incalculable damage to Israel's sense of security.
Given these dreadful options, one might assume that the Israeli public would respond with relief to reports that Iran is now considering the International Atomic Energy Agency's proposal to transfer 70% of its known, low-enriched uranium to Russia for treatment that would seriously reduce its potential for military application. In fact, Israelis from the right and the left have reacted with heightened anxiety. "Kosher Uranium," read the mocking headline of Israel's largest daily, Yediot Aharonot. Media commentators noted that easing world pressure on Iran will simply enable it to cheat more easily. If Iranian leaders are prepared to sign an agreement, Israelis argue, that's because they know something the rest of us don't.
In the last few years, Israelis have been asking themselves two questions with increasing urgency: Should we attack Iran if all other options fail? And can we inflict sufficient damage to justify the consequences?
As sanctions efforts faltered, most Israelis came to answer the first question affirmatively. A key moment in coalescing that resolve occurred in December 2006, when the Iranian regime sponsored an "International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust," a two day meeting of Holocaust deniers. For Israelis, that event ended the debate over whether a nuclear Iran could be deterred by the threat of counter-force. A regime that assembles the world's crackpots to deny the most documented atrocity in history—at the very moment it is trying to fend off sanctions and convince the international community of its sanity—may well be immune to rational self-interest.
Opinion here has been divided about the ability of an Israeli strike to significantly delay Iran's nuclear program. But Israelis have dealt with their doubts by resurrecting a phrase from the country's early years: Ein breira, there's no choice. Besides, as one leading Israeli security official who has been involved in the Iranian issue for many years put it to me, "Technical problems have technical solutions." Israelis tend to trust their strategic planners to find those solutions.
In the past few months, Israelis have begun asking themselves a new question: Has the Obama administration's engagement with Iran effectively ended the possibility of a military strike?
Few Israelis took seriously the recent call by former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to shoot down Israeli planes if they take off for Iran. But American attempts to reassure the Israeli public of its commitment to Israel's security have largely backfired. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent threat to "obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack against Israel only reinforced Israeli fears that the U.S. would prefer to contain a nuclear Iran rather than pre-empt it militarily.
On the face of it, this is not May 1967. There is not the same sense of impending catastrophe that held the Israeli public in the weeks before the Six Day War. Israelis are preoccupied with the fate of Gilad Shalit (the kidnapped Israeli soldier held by Hamas), with the country's faltering relations with Turkey, with the U.N.'s denial of Israel's right to defend itself, and with an unprecedented rise in violent crime.
But the Iranian threat has seeped into daily life as a constant, if barely conscious anxiety. It emerges at unexpected moments, as black humor or an incongruous aside in casual conversation. "I think we're going to attack soon," a friend said to me over Sabbath dinner, as we talked about our children going off to the army and to India.
Now, with the possibility of a deal with Iran, Israelis realize that a military confrontation will almost certainly be deferred. Still, the threat remains.
A recent cartoon in the newspaper Ma'ariv showed a drawing of a sukkah, the booth covered with palm branches that Jews build for the autumn festival of Tabernacles. A voice from inside the booth asked, "Will these palm branches protect us from Iranian missiles?"
Israelis still believe in their ability to protect themselves—and many believe too in the divine protection that is said to hover over the fragile booths. Both are expressions of faith from a people that fear they may once again face the unthinkable alone.
Mr. Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and a contributing editor to the New Republic.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Report: Iran proposes "big changes" to draft atom deal

Who is surprised by this? Perhaps President Obama and BBC listeners and readers, since the latter heard and read that Iran welcomed the agreement and would sign it. As expected, Iran will propose "changes." The changes will be big enough to prevent a meaningful agreement. They will not be big enough to prove that Iran is trying to wreck the agrement. So the negotiations will go on, and on and on, and the centrifuges will keep spinning and spinning, and the earth moving equipment will keep hollowing out mountains for more nuclear installations like the one near Qom. Then one day, Iran will have the bomb, and everyone can innocently say, "<g> who expected that?" Right?
Iran proposes big changes to draft atom deal: report
Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:09pm EDT
By Reza Derakhshi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran proposed changes to a U.N.-drafted nuclear fuel deal on Thursday, Iranian media said, making demands that appeared to challenge the basis of the agreement with the United States, France and Russia.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which had requested a reply by last Friday, said its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, had now received an "initial response" from Tehran.
"(ElBaradei) is engaged in consultations with the government of Iran as well as all relevant parties, with the hope that agreement on his proposal can be reached soon," the IAEA said in a statement. It gave no further details.
The Iranian pro-government daily Javan said in an unsourced report that Iran wanted shipments of low-enriched uranium (LEU) -- for conversion abroad into fuel for a Tehran research reactor -- to take place in stages, not in a single consignment.
It also wanted simultaneous imports of higher-enriched fuel from other countries for the same plant.
The conditions were likely non-starters for Western powers, which suspect the Islamic Republic covertly seeks nuclear arms capability. Tehran says its program is only for electricity.
"If the Iranian position is as described, it gets the IAEA nowhere," a western diplomat in Vienna said. "They are undercutting Mohamed ElBaradei, who is seeking to help them demonstrate the peaceful intent of their nuclear program."
Under ElBaradei's plan, Tehran would transfer about 75 percent of its known 1.5 tons of LEU in one shipment to Russia by the end of this year for further enrichment. The material would then go to France to be converted into fuel plates.
These would be returned to Tehran to power the U.S.-built reactor, which produces radio-isotopes for cancer treatment.
The U.S. role would be to upgrade safety and instrumentation at the plant, Iranian officials said.
France reacted cautiously to the reports of Tehran's latest position, saying it wanted to see Iran "respond clearly and positively to the proposal submitted by the IAEA, which is fully supported by France, the United States and Russia."
Western powers were likely to rebuff Tehran's proposed amendments because their priority is to reduce the stockpile of Iranian LEU to ward off the danger that Iran might turn it into the highly enriched uranium needed for an atom bomb.
Sending most of the LEU abroad would buy about a year for talks on forging a long-term solution to the nuclear dispute, in which Western powers want Iran to halt enrichment in return for economic incentives.
Iran's request for nuclear fuel imports is problematic because U.N. sanctions ban trade in such materials with Tehran.
Western diplomats said Iran risks rekindling demands for harsher sanctions unless it acts on the fuel plan and other nuclear transparency measures before the end of the year.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated that his country would not retreat "one iota" on its right to a nuclear program and suggested it was gaining ground in the dispute.
"They (the West) used to tell us to halt everything (nuclear activities), but today they have announced their readiness to cooperate with us in fuel exchange and technology," he said in a speech in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Thursday.
"We welcome cooperation on nuclear fuel, power plants and technology and we are ready to cooperate," he added, without saying whether Iran would accept the IAEA proposal or not.
But Iran's English-language satellite station PRESS TV quoted an unnamed source as saying that Iran did not trust other countries involved, such as the United States and France.
"Iran needs to receive guarantees that the nuclear fuel for Tehran's research reactor will in fact be supplied," it quoted the source as saying. "Iran as the buyer of the nuclear fuel should determine how much fuel it requires to purchase."
The draft fuel deal emerged from talks that followed an October 1 meeting in Geneva, where Iran also told six big powers it would open a newly disclosed enrichment site to U.N. inspectors.
Four senior IAEA inspectors returned to Vienna on Thursday after a first visit to the site, which Iran expects to start operating at the end of 2010. The team chief said it "had a good trip" but would not elaborate. Details are likely to come in the IAEA's next quarterly report on Iran, in mid-November.
The inspectors wanted full access and documentation to verify that the plant, being built beneath a mountain, was designed to enrich uranium only to the low purity needed for electricity, not the high level suitable for bombs.

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Obama to tell Israelis: US-Israel alliance is ubreakable

Here's to unbreakable alliances, unsinkable ships, to Yitzhak Rabin and to the passengers and crew of the SS Titanic.
Obama to tell Rabin memorial: U.S.-Israel alliance is unbreakable
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The alliance between Israel and the United States is unbreakable, U.S. President Barack Obama will tell Israelis at a memorial ceremony for former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Saturday night.
Obama will make the comments in a videotaped message in which he also will pledge that U.S. support for Israel's defense will never be undermined.
The video is another step in the U.S. leader's attempt to speak directly to the Israeli public in light of the very low level of support he has among Israelis.
Obama will also tell Israelis that the U.S. will never give up on its joint goal with Israel to reach a just peace and coexistence between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world.
He will also mention the legacy left by Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish extremist.
Several polls over the past few months show the American president has won the support of only 6 percent to 10 percent of the Israeli public, with people saying Obama does not support Israel.
Obama's advisers are worried about his lack of popularity and the expressed feeling that he is hostile to Israel. They believe this seriously harms his ability to advance the peace process with the Palestinians. Obama's advisers see this as the reason why Israelis view his diplomatic initiatives on both Iran and the Palestinians so negatively.

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Iran will turn down western proposal

Iran's offer to compromise is, "We will take what you offer, but we won't give up anything." Not much of a compromise. They are hell-bent on building a bomb.
Iran will not retreat "one iota" on its nuclear rights, but it is ready to cooperate on issues regarding atomic fuel, power plants and nuclear technology, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday.
He said the provision of nuclear fuel for a Tehran research reactor was an opportunity for Iran to evaluate the "honesty" of world powers and the United Nations nuclear agency.
He was speaking on the day Iran was expected to present its formal response to a UN-drafted nuclear fuel deal which is meant to help ease tension over Tehran's disputed nuclear program. Iranian media say Tehran will accept the framework of the deal, but also demand changes to it.
Earlier Thursday a team of UN nuclear inspectors returned from a visit to a previously secret Iranian uranium enrichment site, with their leader expressing satisfaction with the mission.

What the inspectors saw - and how freely they were allowed to work - will be key in deciding whether six world powers engaging Iran in efforts to reduce fears that it seeks to make nuclear weapons seek a new round of talks with Tehran.
The Fordo site is near the holy city of Qom. Iran revealed it was building it September 21 in a confidential letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Just days later, the leaders of the U.S., Britain and France condemned Tehran for having kept it secret.
The West believes Iran revealed the site's existence only because it had learned that the U.S. and its allies were about to make it public. Iran denies that.

Tehran says it wants to enrich only to make nuclear fuel. But the West worries that Iran wants to create fissile warhead material.
"We had a good trip," said Herman Nackaerts, who headed the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection team.
Nackaerts said the nuclear agency planned to analyze the data from the visit, adding that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei would then report in due time on the results.
The team's findings will be presented as part of a report to the IAEA's 35-nation governing board. Beyond that, ElBaradei is expected to brief the six countries - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - attempting to persuade Iran to freeze enrichment.
The visit was the first independent look inside the enrichment plant, a former ammunition dump burrowed into the treeless hills south of Tehran. The inspectors were expected to have studied plant blueprints, interviewed workers and taken soil samples before wrapping up the mission.
Iran's other enrichment plant - a sprawling underground facility at Natanz - is already under IAEA monitoring. But its general refusal to heed UN Security Council demands and freeze enrichment has resulted in three sets of Council sanctions.
While the Islamic Republic insists it is enriching only to create fuel for a future nuclear reactor network, the international community is concerned because the material could be further enriched to weapons-grade uranium, used to arm nuclear warheads.
Along with the IAEA briefing on Fordo, the six powers are also awaiting another development later in the day or Friday that will go into determining whether they follow up on talks with Tehran early this month. By Friday, the Islamic Republic has promised to reveal whether it accepts a plan that would have it ship out 70 percent of its enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment.
The West said that Iran agreed in principle to do so at the Oct. 1 talks in Geneva, tentatively accepting a proposal that would see Russia enrich the exported material further for use in Tehran's research reactor.
The plan would commit Iran to turn over more than 2,600 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium - more than the commonly accepted amount of low-enriched uranium needed to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Sending such a large amount out would thus temporarily get rid of most of the material Tehran would need to make a bomb.
But if Tehran did accept the plan in Geneva, it has subsequently backtracked.
Ahead of announcing its formal decision it has indicated that may insist that it be allowed either to buy the fuel for the Tehran reactor from abroad - or to ship the material in small batches. That would not reduce fears about further enrichment to weapons-grade uranium because Iran would be able to quickly replace small amounts it sent out of the country with newly enriched material.

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Remembering Yitzhak Rabin

It is sad but fitting that Yitzhak Rabin, one of Israel's greatest generals and greatest Zionists gave his life for peace. It is tragic but typical that he gave his life because of lack of unity and trust among the Jewish people. It may be 50 years before some acknowledge that he was right, but they will. There can be no other way. I know there are those who disagree, but they are not Zionists. Zionism is not about hating other Jews, and it much more than real estate.  
Ami Isseroff
Yitzhak Rabin memorial ceremonies planned throughout Israel
Oct. 29, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Memorial ceremonies marking 14 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin z"l and classes about tolerance will be held in schools around Israel on Thursday morning.
The official state memorial service for Leah and Yitzhak Rabin will be held at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem at 3 p.m. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, ministers, MKs and family members are expected to attend.
At 5 p.m., the Knesset will hold a special session in memory of the late prime minister.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Liberal anti-Semites in Egypt

Why are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic?
            Cairo  Wall Street Journal
            Later this week, Egypt will play host to the 56th Congress of Liberal International, which bills itself as the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties. Among the nearly 70 parties represented by LI are Britain's Liberal Democrats, Germany's Free Democrats, and the Liberal Party of Canada. In the U.S., LI's Web site cites the National Democratic Institute as a cooperating organization since 1986.

            In Cairo, the visiting delegates will be hosted by the Al-Gabha, or Democratic Front Party. Western liberals (in the old-fashioned sense of that word) are always delighted to discover like-minded people in the Third World, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Arab countries. Yet, at least in Egypt, there's a dirty little secret about these self-described liberal parties: They are, for the most part, virulently anti-Semitic, sometimes opportunistically but just as often out of deeply-held rancorous convictions.

            Consider the case of Sekina Fouad, a well-known journalist who also serves as the DFP's vice president. In an article published earlier this year, Ms. Fouad dismisses any distinction between Jews and Israelis, the reason for which is "the extremity of the doctrine of arrogance, distinctiveness and condescension [the Jews] set out from and seek to achieve by all means, and on top of which blood, killing, terrorizing and frightening." She corroborates this argument with an alleged statement by "President" Benjamin Franklin, asking Americans to expel Jews since they are "like locusts, never to get on a green land without leaving it deserted and barren."

            Needless to say, Franklin never made any such statement, not that a journalist like Ms. Fouad would bother to check. She also asks the question "Are Zionists Human?" which offers backhanded credit to Jews for having "helped [her] understand a history full of examples of their expulsion, getting rid of them and their unethical and inhuman methods." In earlier writings, Ms. Fouad has written about what she calls "Talmudic teachings that determine types of purity unachievable by the Jew unless by using Christian human sacrifice" for the making of "blood pies." Not surprisingly, she also dismisses the Holocaust as part of an "arsenal of Jewish myths."

            Nor is Ms. Fouad some kind of outlier in the Egyptian liberal movement. Take Ayman Nour, who contested the 2005 presidential election under the banner of his own party and was subsequently jailed for nearly four years, becoming something of a cause célèbre among Western officials, journalists and human-rights activists.

            Immediately after his release earlier this year, he attended a celebration organized by opposition groups-including the Muslim Brotherhood-in the northern city of Port Said, commemorating "the first battalion of volunteers from the Egyptian People setting off to fight the Jews in 1948." The word "Jews" was stressed in bolded black lettering on the otherwise blue and red banner hanging above the conference panel. Yet far from trying to distance himself from that message, Mr. Nour got into the spirit of the conference, talking not only about his solidarity with Palestinians but also "the value of standing up to this enemy, behind which lies all evils, conspiracies, and threats that are spawned against Egypt."

            Then there is the case of Egypt's oldest "liberal" party, Al-Wafd, whose eponymous daily newspaper is one of Egypt's most active platforms for anti-Semitism. Following President Obama's conciliatory Cairo speech to the Muslim world, columnist Ahmed Ezz El-Arab faulted Mr. Obama for insisting that the Holocaust was an actual historical event and gave nine historical "proofs" that it had never happened. He concluded that "the evil Jewish lies succeeded in creating an atmosphere of hatred for Germans that resulted in the death of millions."

            These examples are, sadly, just the tip of an iceberg. What makes them all the more remarkable is that, contrary to stereotype, they do not have particularly ancient roots in Egypt. Until Egypt's Jews were expelled by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and '60s, Egypt had a millennia-old, thriving Jewish community. As late as the 1930s, Jewish politicians occupied ministerial posts in Egyptian governments and participated in nationalist politics.
             But all that changed with the rise of totalitarian and fascist movements in Europe, which found more than their share of imitators in the Arab world, both among Islamists and secularists. When Egypt's monarchy was overthrown in 1952 by a military coup, anti-Semitism became an ideological pillar of the new totalitarian dispensation.
            Since then, Egypt has evolved, coming to terms (of a sort) with Israel and adopting at least some elements of market-based economic principle. But anti-Semitism remains the political glue holding Egypt's disparate political forces together. Paradoxically, this is especially true of the so-called liberals, who think they can traffic on their anti-Semitism to gain favor in quarters where they would otherwise be suspect or unpopular. They have taken to demonizing Jews with the proverbial zeal of a convert.
    Westerners, who tend to treat Arabs with a condescension masked as "understanding," may be quick to dismiss all this as a function of anger at Israeli policies and therefore irrelevant to the development of liberal politics in the Arab world. Yet a liberal movement that winds up espousing the kind of anti-Semitism that would have done the Nazis proud is, quite simply, not liberal. That's something the visiting delegates should know before they come to Cairo. More importantly, it's something the Arab world's genuine liberals need to understand before they once again commit moral suicide.
Messrs. Bargisi and Tadros are senior partners with the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth.

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Komen foundation claim untrue: Israel boycotted at Egypt Breast Cancer Conference after all

Previously, the Susan G. Komen foundation had claimed Israelis were welcome at the Breast Cancer conference in Cairo. Coming so late, the announcement seemed suspicious. It was untrue, it seems. Boycott and lie about it seems to be a new strategy.

Ami Isseroff

Stop boycotts of Israelis at international medical conferences, IMA demands

Oct. 27, 2009
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Israel Medical Association on Tuesday denounced all boycotts of Israelis at international medical conferences such as the one held in Cairo last week on coping with breast cancer.

IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said that Israeli doctors and scientists are often confronted by hostility when attending professional conferences abroad.

Eidelman said that medicine and science are not political. Even those who oppose policies of the government of Israel should never inject politics into these fields, which aim to save lives and to which Israelis contribute a great deal, he said.

He called on the government to launch a serious campaign against such boycotts and have "zero tolerance" for them. The IMA, he said, would be happy to participate in such efforts.

Eidelman added that conferences that keep Israelis out would constitute a "black day for science in Israel and around the world."

Nancy Brinker, founder and head of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization that raises significant amounts of money to fight breast cancer, claimed last week that despite threats in Egypt, Israelis were not barred from the Cairo conference.

But the Foreign Ministry and the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization said they had been.


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80 dead in Pakistan bombing as Taleban welcome Hillary Clinton

President Obama's policy of dialogue with Muslim extremists may have suffered another setback, as Taleban provided lethal fireworks to welcome Secretary of State Clinton.  
Oct. 28, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
A car bomb tore through a crowded market in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 80 people hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in the country to show American support for its campaign against Islamist terrorists.
More than 200 people were wounded in the blast in the main northwestern city of Peshawar, the latest in a surge of bloody attacks this month by suspected militants apparently aimed at denting public backing for an army offensive against al-Qaida and Taliban close to the Afghan border.
The blast set scores of shops on fire and sent a cloud of gray smoke over the city. TV footage showed wounded people sitting amid the debris as people grabbed at the wreckage, trying to pull out survivors. One two-story building collapsed as firefighters doused it with water.
Clinton, on her first visit to Pakistan as secretary of state, was three hours' drive away in the capital of Islamabad when the blast took place. Speaking to reporters on her plane, she praised the army's new anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan and promised a new era in relations between Pakistan and the United States.
The explosion was in a neighborhood home to many Shiite Muslims, who have often been targeted by Taliban and al-Qaida allied Sunni extremists. It hit a market reserved for families. Many of the dead were believed to be women.
Emergency room doctor Zafar Iqbal said 80 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded in what police said was a suspected car bombing.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Peshawar has been the target of three of 10 major bombings or raids blamed on Islamist militants this month.
The attacks have killed more than 250 people. Most have targeted security forces, but at least four bombs have gone off in public places, apparently to sow fear and undercut support for the government.
The Taliban have warned Pakistan that they would stage more attacks if the army does not end an offensive in South Waziristan tribal region, where the military has dispatched some 30,000 troops to flush out insurgents. 

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Call for support for Iranian students for democratic change

Call for support for Iranian students for democratic change
Please join us in front of the 10 Downing Street – London.
Students, workers, teachers, women's rights groups and millions more are planning to take to the streets in Iran to demand change. Despite the Government's threats to crack down on those who come out that day, brave men and women are determined to show their resolve for change one more time. Let us add our voice and send a message of support that they are not alone.
They deserve our support.
Time:  11:00 – 13:00
Date:   Wednesday, 4 November
Place:  Whitehall, opposite 10 Downing Street (Nearest tube station: Westminster)

Please Tell pass the word on and invite everyone you know n London.

Background Info:
On 4 November, 1979, hardline radicals who called themselves student followers of Imam Khomeini, stormed the US embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage, holding them for 444 days. This action was highly praised by Khomeini. Since then the mullahs' authorities have organised an annual demonstration to commemorate the event marking it as the day of struggle against oppression.
However, after 30 years, those who have claimed to struggle against oppression have become oppressors themselves! Ahmadinejad, was one of the radicals in the US embassy tormenting the hostages, later in Evin prison he evolved to one of the most cruel interrogators and torturers who used his talent to break the morale of the dissident Iranian students, intellectuals, and opposition leaders in dungeons taking part in their execution.
This year, on 4 November, calls have gone out on the Internet by all opposition groups inside and outside Iran who want to see an end to this regime to stage a counter-demonstration against the mullahs.
This is the first big planned protest since June 2009 presidential elections when widespread demonstrations rocked all major Iranian cities. Over 300 people were killed and some 4,000 opposition backers were arrested in a crackdown in street protests that erupted after Ahmadinejad was re-elected.  Hundreds of thousands chanted "Down with dictator" and condemned the fraudulent election result.
Ahmad Jannati, a top mullah official and head of the Guardians Council, in last Friday prayer sermon broadcast on state radio, threatened people against popular plans for holding demonstrations on 4 November.

He said," 4 November is a day of struggle against oppression worldwide, some people who have made plans for this day to do something else must know that their plans will fail".

He added; "Any action that goes against the path of the people and against Velayat (religious rule) is destined to fail. ...authorities must act firmly against them".
"If the judiciary and the intelligence services act lightly, this would be a betrayal, you cannot treat with kid gloves those who have acted like our worst enemies" Jannati said.
Despite threats and promises to crack down on the crowd, opposition networks are working tirelessly to hold a momentous rally.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Israel advocacy - When all else fails - try humor

Here's news for a lot of Europeans:
- Israel is not headed by a dictator
- Arabs can vote in Israel.
Since many people do believe Israel is headed by a dictator, despite our best efforts at Israel advocacy, the only thing to do may be to laugh.
Ami Isseroff

Bring out the Laughter Brigade

Oct. 17, 2009
Daniella Ashkenazy , THE JERUSALEM POST

We've tried everything - from serious advocacy to provocative pictures of sexy sabras in bikinis. With every newspaper on the face of the earth reporting Israel's bedlam-bordering-on-anarchy two-Jews-three-opinions political culture, it's rather amazing, but a third of the Germans, Spanish and English and 20 percent of Americans recently polled believe Israel is headed by a dictator. This is only one finding in a survey conducted by Midgam in collaboration with El-Al, published in the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot.

We've featured Israel's free-wheeling openly-gay community as a come-on for tourists with alternative lifestyles, but 20.6 percent of the Spanish and 15 percent of the English and the Germans are sure that stoning - like in the Bible - is part of the Israeli judicial system.

All things considered, maybe it's a blessing in disguise that 10 percent of all Americans have never heard of Israel. Twenty-nine percent of the Germans who have, think Arabs can't vote.

The one ploy we Jews have yet to try is our oldest and most effective weapon. Humor.

YES, IT'S time to crack out the humor, bring on the clowns - and they come in a host of packages: Silly politicians and Kafka-like ordinances, two-bit crooks and weird court cases and people with harebrained schemes.

Israel is a militaristic country? Let's fight back by introducing folks to the IDF recruit who was afraid of the dark, whose Jewish mother snuck into boot camp and accompanied him on patrol, disappearing at daybreak. And the reserve combat unit that found itself wresting with feeding two famished Palestinian lions during the Cast Lead campaign.

Wanna kill the "stoning image" and leave an indelible impression? Scholarly descriptions of the Israeli court system won't make a dent. Tell the average Tom, Dick or Helmut about the minister of justice throwing the book at overly-judicious judges in the lower courts who've gotten into the bad habit of writing long-winded decisions "as if everyone was on the Supreme Court." They'll never forget it.

Israel is a gloomy and dangerous place? That's what focus groups find among Jewish kids. The best antidote for such adolescents is a hefty dose of anecdotes about… Israeli adolescents.

Take your pick: impudent young entrepreneurs who one August night "took over" an empty office building parking garage in the heart of Tel Aviv, set up an open-air disco that attracted thousands of youngsters, then vanished into the heat of the night with the take. Or, the partially-unidentified "benchmarkers" who attached little engraved metal plaques to benches along Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard - declaring "Amnon's Bench" or "Hilah's and El'ad's Bench," leaving city officials scratching their heads at this strange graffiti. And those are just the appetizers.

Want to balance the picture of Israel being "a country filled with religious fanatics"? This glum plum was discovered by the focus group people, this time studying adults. Share the news about an Orthodox rabbi from Caesaria who donned a pair of rollerblades to make Shabbat minyanim at two different synagogues at opposites ends of town.

These are all genuine news items published in reputable mainstream Hebrew papers. They just never made the Washington Post. Most didn't even make the Jerusalem Post. Nor Chuck Shepherd's syndicated column News of the Weird carried by 250 papers across the globe… because almost all these stories which we journalists label "soft news" are safely hidden in the back pages of the Hebrew press.

Take the stories about an enterprising security guard who chose to hold up the very bank he was hired to protect against suicide bombers, or the court ruling on a divorce settlement requiring the man to pay his former spouse one pregnant goat a year for the next 35 years - raising serious questions over "who got whose goat"?

The above events occurred in the middle of the 2000-2005 Terror War - two out of literally thousands of quirky news clippings I have from that time.

CLEARLY, SOMETHING is very wrong with the way Israel is being perceived even by our most ardent supporters, if an American-Jewish woman felt compelled to go on three solidarity missions in 2002 saying "it was like visiting a relative in the hospital."

Furthermore, anecdotes like these can be skillfully used by hasbara activists, particularly on campus and in schools - lacing their argumentation with humor to defuse tension and break down stereotypes, or burying hecklers in a sea of laughter with a few well-placed shots of humor. This kind of input about Israel has the power to unsuspectingly undermine the preconceptions of even the most dedicated Israel-basher.

With all the funny Jews out there - some say 80 percent of all comedians are Jewish - it's time we mobilized cadres of talk show scriptwriters, standup comedians and humor columnists and satirists - even off-Broadway playwrights who will begin using this kind of material in their professional lives.

There is an overabundance of wacky news from Israel that can make the cut on its own merits just waiting to be spoofed and savored, that happens to paint Israel as the comical, familial, quirky and, at times, unbelievable place it really is.

No one's preconceptions - friend or foe - will survive intact.

The writer is a seasoned bilingual Israeli journalist who writes features for The Jerusalem Post and once wrote serious and humorous copy for a host of other print media (Israel Scene, Jerusalem Dateline, Davar, Telegraph, Haolam Hazeh) who are 'dead' due to no fault of her own. She authors Chelm-on-the-Med© Online ( which serves as an open source for incredible snippets of daily life in Israel culled from the Hebrew press.

Continued (Permanent Link)

EU drawing up lists of IDF "war criminals"

The anti-Israel party rages out of control.
Last update - 08:21 27/10/2009       
EU lawyers draw up list of IDF officers suspected of Gaza war crimes
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
Human rights lawyers and pro-Palestinian activists in a number of European countries hold lists with names of Israel Defense Forces soldiers allegedly linked to war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Existing legislation enables arrest warrants to be issued against these officers if they enter those countries.
Lawyers in Britain and other European countries have been collecting testimonies of Palestinians and other data from Gaza since January, which they maintain proves that war crimes were committed by the IDF during the offensive. The evidence is linked to IDF officers holding ranks of battalion commander and higher, who were in command during various stages of Cast Lead.
The other nations who have lawyers collecting information on the matter include the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Norway, whose laws, as well as Britain's, allow the issuance of arrest warrants against foreign citizens suspected of war crimes.
Attorney Daniel Makover from London is coordinating the efforts in Britain. One of his colleagues visited the Gaza Strip several weeks after the fighting in order to collect testimonies. Palestinians civilians also gave the legal assistant their approval, and asked that he file the suits in their name, in line with British law.
Speaking to Haaretz, Makover refused to offer details on the identity of the IDF officers or how many were listed, but said that much depends on the specific details of each case. Makover said that anyone who was involved in an incident may face criminal charges. The attorney added that there are officers who are obviously candidates for charges, and others who are less obvious, but emphasized that it depends on the facts collected on the ground.
Makover said that the Goldstone report on the fighting in the Gaza Strip will bolster the efforts of the activists, and said that some of the instances mentioned in the report were already known to the attorneys. Makover is part of an unofficial network of attorneys operating in various countries in Europe, exchanging and sharing information so that suspected officers may be arrested in those countries.
The information is often received from pro-Palestinian activists who follow Jewish or pro-Israel groups that invite IDF officers to deliver lectures. In some instances, this information is relayed to border controls. Makover said that a small number of names of IDF officers is already on a British police watch list, and that when they arrive in Britain the authorities will issue an arrest warrant that will lead to their possible detention.
A number of human rights groups are busy working to create an international organization that would enable closer surveillance of those they suspect of war crimes and torture, as well as seek warrants for their arrest.
The IDF did not wish to specify the instructions it has given to officers before they travel abroad. In practice, many of the officers who participated in the Gaza operation have been asked to consult with legal experts at the Foreign Ministry, where they are instructed how to behave abroad and where they need to lower the profile of their identity; in some cases they are advised not to visit certain countries.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement saying: "The ministry is aware of efforts undertaken by Palestinian groups and their supporters to harm IDF officers through legal and public relations means, and is working to prevent such efforts."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good news about Israel

Oct. 26, 2009
Shmuley Boteach , THE JERUSALEM POST
Over the weekend I read Start-Up Nation, the new book about why Israel has emerged as a global leader in hi-tech. Even if its authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer were not my friends, I would still say this book is the best ad for Israel in recent memory. Sidestepping the usual discussion of Israel as an embattled nation, it focuses instead on the invincible ingenuity of the Israeli people, and their vast technological contribution to the global economy. Where the Israeli army is discussed, the focus is not on soldiers chasing down terrorists but on how the Israeli military serves as a commercial networking tool for soldiers. So the book both informs and inspires.
Am I the only one tired of hearing only bad news about Jews and Israel? Remember the old joke about the Jew who loves reading anti-Semitic magazines? When asked why he says, "When I read Jewish newspapers, all I hear is that we're hated. When I read the anti-Semitic alternatives, they tell me we run the world!"
ISRAEL IS not a victim. Less so is it a tragic nation. Rather, as Start-Up Nation makes clear, Israel today is one of the most highly educated and technologically advanced nations on Earth, with one of the planet's fastest-growing economies. It's time that Jewish papers and periodicals stop with the tired, worn stories predicting Israel's imminent demise.
True, Israel has implacable, terrorist enemies, and yes, Iran is building a bomb which is an existential threat. That's all mighty serious stuff.
But is that all there is to the modern Jewish story? Is there not also a story of breathtaking success? If only the world could hear about Israeli universities ranking in the top 10, of its growing number of Nobel Prize winners, of Andy Grove, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates rushing to invest in Israel and how a crazy percentage of the world's computer chips are manufactured in the Jewish state.
The time has come for world Jewry to see Israel as the place where the limitless potential of the Jewish people is finally being made manifest. All we needed was for people to get out of our way, and just look at how we thrive. And we prosper not as a self-absorbed nation but as a people who make vast contributions to all of mankind.
In light of this, it is time for Israel to consider forgoing American economic aid. I understand the military aid; the country has an insane number of crazies who wish to destroy it. But the economic aid creates an unnecessary dependency, undermines the perception of Israel as a prosperous country and gives the US undue influence over Israeli policy. Surely we all believe that decisions governing Israel's right to defend itself should be taken by the Israeli prime minister rather than the American president.
There is more.
Many a Jew has wondered aloud why the Arabs got all the oil and Israel got none. What could God have been thinking in making despots and dictators like the Saudis and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi so insanely rich, while Israel has to struggle for every shekel it earns?
Only now to do we see the truth. Oil is the greatest curse ever to befall the Arabs.
By simply digging a hole and having money flow from the ground, the Arab states had little incentive to build universities or a hi-tech industry. And when the day comes - and it will - when the world finally finds an alternative energy source, these despotic regimes will collapse, returning to the sand from which they arose.
This isn't rocket science. All of us know at least one rich friend whose kids don't have to work, and who consequently became indolent. Israel has had to struggle for everything it has. No country has ever been more unjustly reviled or more continuously attacked.
Conversely, no country better inspires the world to ponder the infinite capacity of humans to rise from the ashes of despair and build a shining state on a hill.
Israel still has a lot of problems and a lot of enemies; it must remain hyper vigilant.
But it is time for the other side of the story to be told as well.
It is time that more books like Start-Up Nation begin to focus on Israel's colossal achievements.
The writer, founder of This World: The Values Network, has just published The Blessing of Enough and The Michael Jackson Tapes.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saudi TV sex scandal: Spare the rod and spoil the TV producer?


The Saudi king has waived a sentence of flogging on a female journalist working for a TV channel which aired graphic accounts of sex in the kingdom.

King Abdullah cancelled the sentence of 60 lashes against Rozanna al-Yami, after being briefed on the case.

The programme broadcast by Saudi-owned Lebanese channel LBC caused a huge scandal in the conservative kingdom.

Three men who bragged about their sexual adventures in the show, as well as the cameraman, have been jailed.

No reason has been given for the king's decision. It is the second time he has intervened in a high-profile flogging sentence in two years.

The original programme was part of a series called Red Lines, examining taboos in the Arab world, including extra-marital sex in Saudi Arabia.

Mazen Abdul Jawad provoked outrage by describing his techniques for meeting and having sex with Saudi women.

He has apologised and claimed LBC tricked him, but he was jailed for five years and sentenced to 1,000 lashes.

Three of his friends who appeared on the show got two years each and the cameraman was jailed for two months.

The station's offices in Saudi Arabia were closed down and two of its producers - both female - put on trial.

LBC has made no comment about the cases.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Since when is Ziad Asali pro-Israel?

Attendees at the conference of the "pro-Israel" J Street organization include Salam al-Mayarati, Ziad Asali, Trita Parsi. They would be very surprised to be labelled as "pro-Israel."
David M. Weinberg
BESA Center Perspectives Papers No. 94, October 25, 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The pious spiritual claptrap that characterizes J Street's conference in Washington this week is both a conceit and a new form of Jewish apostasy.  Conference speakers earnestly broadcast their "profound" Jewish and "spiritual" identities in order to besmirch the mainstream Jewish community and engender a distancing in US-Israel relations. This certainly does not fool the American Muslim leaders who are speaking at the conference. They know and appreciate exactly what J Street is up to.
It was the Buddhist seders that tipped me off to the real conceit behind J Street. The sensitive "progressive" types behind the new Washington lobby are deeply concerned, it seems, for the morality and soul of Israel.
Gee, thanks.
A love for Buddhist seders, a penchant for avant garde poetry (including a ballad entitled The Queer Intifada), and an abiding concern for Israel's spiritual quintessence – all while being intermarried down to nearly the last Jewish soul among them – is how The New York Times recently characterized the founders and key staff members of J Street. They seek, you see, justice and holiness and Jewish meaning in the world. Especially in the Arab-Israel conflict.
This explains the preponderance of numerous, vaporous spiritual types at this week's big J Street hug-in in Washington. Rabbi Sharon, Rabbi Amy, Rabbi Tirzah, Rabbi Jennie, Rabbi Julie, Rabbi Toba and Rabbi Melissa are among the prominent speakers. They are "diversity facilitators," "spirituality counselors," and "interreligious leaders" at places called Neve Kodesh, Brit Tzedek, Dorshei Tzedek and Just Vision.
So much "Tzedek" (Justice)! So much "Kodesh" (Holiness)! So much overflowing of honey, holiness and justice! At a political lobby conference, no less. Perhaps the organization should be renamed Spiritual Street.
You know that all this righteousness just needs to be exported – through tough love, if necessary – to Israel. To repair the Middle East. To spiritually save Israel in spite of itself. Or at least to salve the sacred American Jewish soul.
Well, enough, I say, of this misty, sentimental and self-serving gobbledygook. All this soft spiritual urgency, supposedly on "behalf of" Israel, belies a triple conceit; or should we say, a great deceit.
Firstly, J Street is peddling the nutty notion that spirituality has anything to do with Mideast peace. The latent chutzpa is the insinuation that authentic identification with the Jewish prophets and morality dovetails with the dovish side of the political map. If only American Jews and Israelis were more religiously dovish and in touch with the forgiving and compassionate side of their Jewish souls – we would do the "left" thing and concede more generously to the Palestinians. Then, lo and behold, peace would come to the Mideast.
The second conceit is that such J Street-peddled nonsense – along with J Street support for talks with Hamas, opposition to military action against the Hamas, and opposition to sanctions or military action against nuclear Iran – represents the majority of American Jewry. Hogwash. Patently false.
The third conceit is that, if only Israel were to change – and it is J Street's job to get America to force Israel to change – then peace would come to the Mideast. As if Israel was the party unwilling to compromise. As if Israel hasn't already offered the Palestinians at Oslo and Camp David and Taba and Annapolis just about everything they want of post-67 Israel. As if the Palestinians have compromised on their demands one wit since the great handshake on the White House lawn. But it is Israel that needs to be pressured, say the J Street moral oracles.
J Street is a new form of Jewish apostasy. Its adherents hasten to embrace their Jewishness (even if they don't really know much about authentic Jewish tradition and morality) in order to besmirch Israel and the mainstream Jewish community. They earnestly declare how "profoundly" Jewish they are, in order to engender a distancing in US-Israel relations.
I guess that's why J Street has spent most of its resources bashing long-standing supporters of Israel – calling them extremists and right-wingers and accusing them of a "silencing" – and listing things that Israel must be made to do. All this, instead of calling out the dangers of Iranian nuclear weapons or Palestinian genocidal anti-Semitism. That's why they fret over the Jewish soul instead of working to save and protect the physical Jewish State of Israel.
The only people clearly not fooled by all this spiritual mumbo-jumbo are Salam al-Mayarati, Ziad Asali, Trita Parsi and other leaders of the American Muslim Public Affairs Council, American Task Force on Palestine and the National Iranian American Council – all of whom are speaking – surprise, surprise – at the J Street Jewish soul jamboree this week. They undoubtedly see past the pious claptrap, and know – and appreciate – exactly what J Street is up to.
The writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He blogs at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel to set up team to review Gaza war probe

Last update - 09:38 26/10/2009       
Israel to set up team to review Gaza war probe
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
Following much deliberation and evasion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have devised a plan to resolve pressure on Israel to independently investigate the war crimes allegations made by the Goldstone commission.
The commission, headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, investigated the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces during their winter offensive in Gaza. In their report, the commission accused both Israel and Hamas, the Gaza rulers, of committing war crimes.
Netanyahu, Barak and high-ranking defense officials met Sunday afternoon and decided to appoint a small task force, not an inquiry committee, to review the issue.
Netanyahu instructed Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman to coordinate the task force, which will present its recommendations as to Israel's course of action on the Goldstone report and its ramifications.
The team will make recommendations on what should be done in the diplomatic, legal and public relations planes.
The prime minister said during the meeting that the establishment of an investigation committee was "not an option."
"IDF soldiers and officers will not be subjected to investigation," he stressed.
An official at the prime minister's office said that there were "differing opinions on what should be done."
Barak added that "we sent the fighters on the mission, and they deserve our full support."
"Israel is prepared to fight against the legitimacy of the Goldstone report. In addition, Israel will act to amend rules of war to adjust them to the battle against terrorists who fight from among civilians," he said.
Netanyahu and Barak voiced hope that "this move will put the issue to rest", a government aide speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Israel invaded the Gaza Strip last December in what it said was a response to rocket fire by Palestinian Hamas. It refused to cooperate with Goldstone's United Nations fact-finding mission, citing bias concerns.
The Goldstone report lambasted both sides in the war, which killed up to 1,387 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, but was harsher toward Israel. It gave both sides six months to mount credible investigations or face possible prosecution at The Hague.
Goldstone has said he would have confidence in an independent Israeli investigation. Such panels have, in the past, prompted high-level political resignations and reshuffles.
But the political source said Netanyahu and Barak did not want to supersede a series of internal military investigations that supported the army's tactics. The handful of court-martials since the war has been on minor charges such as looting.
"The idea is to set up a team to double-check the findings, to ensure there was no whitewash or lack of professionalism," the source said, adding that Netanyahu's and Barak's initiative awaited cabinet approval next week.
Asked why the government resisted the idea of an independent investigation, the source said: "Netanyahu is afraid of having his hands tied if further action is required in Gaza."
A Netanyahu spokesman declined comment.
Israel has lobbied against any bid to bring the Goldstone report to the UN Security Council. Netanyahu said such a move would be an assault on Israel's right to self defense and would hurt U.S.-led efforts to revive peacemaking with the Palestinians.
Hamas has said it would form a committee to investigate the allegations in the Goldstone report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaddhafi: Give the Palestinians Nukes, All Arabs should have Nukes

Mad Muamar  in an interview with Sky News:
Arab states, as well as the Palestinians, should be allowed to develop nuclear weapons as long as Israel retains its nuclear program, Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi said in a televised interview Sunday night.
"If the Israelis have the nuclear weapons and the nuclear capabilities, then it is the right of the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Saudis to have the same," the Libyan leader told the British Sky network.
Gadhafi also claimed that "even the Palestinians should have the same because their counterparts, or their opponents, have nuclear capabilities."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian negotiator Erekat blames Israel for stalled peace talks

The blame game - Israel offers unconditional talks, but Palestinians say Israel is an obstacle to renewing negotiations. Palestinians insist on renewing negotiations from the last offer, but at the time they refused to sign off on what was agreed, and the new Israeli government is not obligated by the previous offers.
Palestinians say Israel is violating the roadmap, but they have not fulfilled their own basic phase I obligations, which include dismantling terror groups. Instead, one of the terror groups took over Gaza. They were supposed to stop incitement, but the US funded Palestinian education system teaches that Haifa is a part of Palestine, and internal Fatah resolutions call for the destruction of Israel. You wouldn't know any of that from the Reuters report below.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 12:04 26/10/2009    
 PA negotiator: Israel to blame for stalled peace talks  By Reuters 
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are unlikely to resume any time soon, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Monday, blaming Israel for the impasse and urging Washington to do the same.
"The gap is still wide and Israel does not give a single sign of meeting its obligations under the road map, halting settlement activities and resuming negotiations where they left off," he told Voice of Palestine radio.
"I do not see any possibility for restarting peace talks in the near future," Erekat said.
The U.S.-backed peace "road map" of 2003, which charts a course to Palestinian statehood, commits Israel to halting settlement activity in the West Bank.
"If President [Barack] Obama's administration cannot make Israel abide by its commitments, it has to announce that Israel is the party that is obstructing the launching of peace negotiations," Erekat said, referring the road map agreements.
Resisting U.S. pressure to comply, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a complete cessation of construction within settlements, saying the needs of growing settler families must be accommodated.
Israel also accuses Palestinians of failing to meet their road map commitments to curb violence and incitement against Israel - notably by Hamas Islamists who have controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Netanyahu has also rejected Palestinian demands to abide by what they said were land-for-peace understandings reached with his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, in a year of negotiations that followed a U.S.-sponsored peace conference in November 2007.
Clinton's assessment
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Obama a less-than-glowing assessment of Middle East peace efforts.
Her status report followed separate meetings in Washington between Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, and Israeli and Palestinian negotiators aimed at narrowing the gap and restarting direct talks suspended since December.
Obama is sending Mitchell back to the region for a fresh attempt at restarting peace talks, and Clinton will consult with Arab foreign ministers on the subject in Morocco in early November, a U.S. administration official said last week.
Netanyahu has called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations immediately without preconditions.
Locked in a power struggle with Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, Abbas last week called presidential and parliamentary elections for January - but Hamas said it would not cooperate, raising the possibility any vote could further deepen the schism between the West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

t America Magazine’s Omissions and Misrepresentations in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

Christians for Fair Witness is Concerned about America Magazine's Omissions and Misrepresentations in the Israeli/Palestinian ConflictChristians for Fair Witness on the Middle East ("Fair Witness") is concerned about the unbalanced manner in which the weekly Jesuit publication America Magazine has covered the conflict in the Middle East.

A careful review of America's coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over the past fourteen months (September 2008- October 2009) revealed repeated omissions and misrepresentations which invariably resulted in Israel's actions being portrayed in a particularly negative light while the relative culpability of Palestinian militants and their political leadership was seriously downplayed.

This is in contravention of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications' instruction that:
Communication must always be truthful, since truth is essential to individual liberty and to authentic community among persons . . . (Ethics in Communications, IV, June 4, 2000)

and the Councila's caution to the media against:
. . . fostering hostility and conflict, demonizing others and creating a mentality of "us" against "them" . . . (Ethics in Communications, III(13))

Please visit our website for the full report:


Continued (Permanent Link)

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