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Friday, December 11, 2009

Breakthrough Report: Israeli peace initiative to give Palestinians a capital

Report: Israeli peace initiative to offer Palestinians a capital
An unnamed official source in Jerusalem has informed us that Israel is about to make the Palestinians a generous offer for a capital city in the framework of peace negotiations.
"We are going to make this proposal to get the peace talks going, so the Palestinians do not feel so bad about having to give up their demands for a settlement freeze and stock in Israeli high tech companies," the source said. "We understand that such gestures are needed to advance dialogue, and in view of our unbreakable bond with the United States, we want to help President Obama, who has been so helpful in advancing suggestions for peaceful compromises that Israel should make," the source continued. "Likewise, we do not want to lag behind the Europeans, especially the Swedes, who have been so generous with Israeli concessions."
"What we are proposing is that the Palestinians will get a part of Stockholm as their capital. The idea has been broached with Palestinians and they are not averse. Stockholm is a Muslim holy place. According to a 2000 nanosecond - old Muslim tradition, the prophet Muhammad tethered his flying horse on the Kungsholmgatan when he had to make a rest stop in his journey to heaven. We are sure that the Swedish government, especially Mr. Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, will gladly make this minor sacrifice for peace," the official noted.
"The big advantage of this plan is that Stockholm consists of different islands, so it will be relatively easy to divide it up between the Swedes and the Palestinians," the official pointed out. "If the Swedish government should nonetheless object to this excellent plan for advancing the Palestinian cause, we warn them not to try and drive a wedge between Israel and the Palestinians on this issue. Divide and conquer will not work here. .
U.S. State Department officials were excited about the new proposal. "This is certainly in the spirit of the Nobel prize that President Obama got for not being Geourge Bush. The United States is always happy to back a peace plan that involves concessions from others," a high official commented.
Ami Isseroff  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You don't say: ADL finds Egyptian media are anti-Semitic

It should not require a major study to show that media that print articles claiming Hitler was right about the Jews, and portraying the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the blood libel as factual just might be anti-Semitic. But sometimes it is necessary to belabor the obvious.
Ami Isseroff  

ADL: Egyptian media anti-Semitic

Dec. 8, 2009

The Anti-Defamation League released a "Report on Anti-Semitism in the Egyptian Media" on Monday, citing the country's culture of permissiveness which enables anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment to flourish.

The report, delivered to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and members of the Obama administration last week, sours President Obama's hope that Egypt could be a leader in improving Muslim and non-Muslim relations.

"These alarming manifestations of anti-Jewish attitudes undermine attempts by the US administration to deliver on the promise of better relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim world in President Obama's Cairo address," ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said on Monday.

Furthermore, the anti-Israel press and lack of government action present a major obstacle to Obama's vision of normalized relations between Israel and Arab countries, Foxman said.

Popular Egyptian daily newspapers and television programs portray Jews as "stooped, hook-nosed and money-hungry, fighting for world domination."

The ADL report highlights 58 editorial cartoons - from mainstream Egyptian newspapers - which portray Jews and Israelis using anti-Semitic stereotypes. The cartoons from the mass circulation dailies Al-Ahram, Al-Gumhuriyya and Akhbar Al-Yawm also include offensive images of the Holocaust and swastikas.

The report also presents excerpts from articles in the Egyptian press claiming that Americans and Israelis rape Iraqi and Palestinian girls, Israel pollutes Palestinian drinking water and Jews control the American media.

"President Mubarak's government continues to engage in business as usual when it comes to blatant expressions of anti-Semitism in the media, which seep into Egyptian society," Foxman said.

In October, Egypt attempted to exclude Israeli doctors and scientists from an international breast cancer conference.

The ADL addressed President Mubarak in a letter accompanying the report, criticizing the lack of public condemnation and censure of anti-Semitic expressions and actions.

"On numerous occasions, ADL officials have met with you and members of your government to urge Egypt's leadership to speak out against such anti-Semitic expressions and to make clear that the demonization of Jews is unacceptable in Egyptian society," the letter states.

"To our disappointment, such condemnations have been rare, and all too often we have heard representatives of your government justify these examples of hate as understandable expressions of anger toward Jews."

Neither President Obama nor President Mubarak had publicly reacted to the ADL's report by press time.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Human rights scandal: Gaza patients denied treatment in Israel

Anyone who denies aid to seriously ill patients must be cruel and depraved. Rights groups should protest the inhumane and barbaric violation of the rights of Palestinian patients who are refused travel to Israel. Students and others are also being face with an arbitrary wall of bureaucratic red tape. This scandalous behavior must be condemned by the UNHRC, the PCHR, the Women in Black, Physicians for Human Rights and all the usual defenders of Palestinian rights.
Are you all ready? Do you have your signs out? Be sure to picket the right people though.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, the territory's Hamas rulers further restricted the movement of its 1.4 million residents. Gaza has been virtually cut off from the world since a violent Hamas takeover in 2007, with border closures enforced by Israel and Egypt.

Hamas recently announced that even the few still able to travel - university students, top business people, patients with life-threatening illnesses - need to get permission from Hamas to leave the territory.

The ruling has further complicated the already obstacle-ridden travel of those seeking treatment in Israel.

At Gaza's Erez crossing into Israel, medical workers said that Hamas police on Tuesday held up an ambulance carrying a baby boy for about an hour, demanding that his parents first get a travel permit. The boy had swallowed a battery and was headed to Israel for urgent treatment.

Dozens more patients were returned to Gaza and told to apply for permission, in line with the new policy, the medical workers said.

Hamas government spokesman Hassan Abu Hashish said the new policy was meant to minimize "chaos." He did not elaborate.

Abu Hashish, what have you been smoking?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palivision revisited: The Palestinian martyr who wasn't: German documentary debunks Al Dura killing - again

Who killed Muhammad al Dura (or was he killed)? Al-Dura was the poster boy of the Palestinian violence, which Marwan Barghouti initated, by his own confession (boast actually) in September of 2000. Made famous by doctored French TV footage, the supposed murder of twelve year old al-Dura by evil Zionist IDF forces was fuel for a thousand real murders.

Too late, the truth is slowly coming out: there was probably no Israeli murder of al-Dura, and the entire incident was some sort of Palivision hoax. A trial in France revealed the facts. The verdict of that trial is being appealled, but there is no denying the facts - the French film makers intentionally omitted crucial footage showing al-Dura alive after his supposed "death." Apart from that, it was impossible for Israeli troops to shoot at Al Dura and leave the shell marks that were evident in the area.

Al-Dura's body is not moldering in any grave most likely, but the al-Dura hoax goes marching on - many still believe it, just as they believed the fabrications about the "Jenin Massacre" and just as they believe Israel committed war crimes in Gaza in the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead that was carried out to stop Hamas rocket attacks.

Ami Isseroff  

German documentary to debunk al-Dura shooting

Dec. 9, 2009

A German documentary that is the latest to attack media reports from nine years ago related to the shooting death of 12-year-old Palestinian Muhammad al-Dura will air on Channel 1 Wednesday night.

Dura was allegedly shot by Israeli soldiers at the Gaza Strip's Netzarim Junction in September 2000, during the first days of the second intifada, and the footage of his death has become a familiar image to hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide.

Within months of the incident, however, challenges began surfacing regarding the veracity of the footage, which was broadcast worldwide by French news agency France 2. The claims have centered on discrepancies between the claims of Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, and the footage itself, which some argue shows that Dura and his father Jamal could not have been shot from the IDF position at the Netzarim Junction.

The German documentary, titled The Child, the Death and the Truth, is the second by filmmaker Esther Schapira dealing with the Dura affair. Her previous film, the 2002 documentary Three Bullets and a Child, for the German channel ARD, purported to reveal serious discrepancies in the claims by Abu Rahma and France 2 Israel correspondent Charles Enderlin regarding IDF responsibility for Dura's death.

The debate has been the subject of lawsuits between France 2 and French media critic Phillipe Karsenty. Those are still ongoing, with a France 2 appeal to the French Cour de Cassation, the country's highest appeals court.

The film will air at 9:45 p.m. on Mabat Sheni, Channel 1's investigative program.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sex industry: Dirty little secret of Palestinian Society

Amira Hass's articles about real and imagined Israeli abuses are generally publicized with great fanfare by anti-Israeli bloggers. Here is an Amira Hass article they may not like too well, exposing one of the dirty little secrets of Palestinian society - forced prostitution of young women. It is the other side of "honor killings" in a repressive society. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There has not been a report on rapes and abuse of Christian women by Palestinian "liberation" groups, nor a report about the extent of illegal drug trafficking and counterfiet CD industries and protection rackets used to support the "militant" factions.
Undoubtedly, whatever publicity this report gets by the Israel haters, will be prefaced by a length explanation of how the prostitution racket is the fault of the Zionists.
Ami Isseroff
Flourishing Palestinian sex trade exposed in new report
By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent
Young Palestinian women are being forced to into prostitution in brothels, escort services, and private apartments in Ramallah and Jerusalem, including areas inhabited by Jews, according to a report released Wednesday. The Palestinian organization SAWA (All Women Together Today and Tomorrow) published the paper, the first of its kind, urging Palestinian society to break its silence over its sex industry.
The report was compiled with support by UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, which allotted resources for research on the subject. SAWA conducted research and interviews for the study in the beginning of 2008, but for a variety of reasons has only now been published. The report, which is titled "Trafficking and Forced Prostitution of Palestinian Women and Girls: Forms of Modern Day Slavery," was released in conjunction with the ?Global 16-day Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women."
The report claims that women are trafficked from different areas of the West Bank, in particular urban areas, as well as from the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Women from Eastern Europe who are sold into the sex trade in Israel are also occasionally brought to the West Bank, where they work in designated apartments. There are a number of legally registered hotels and cleaning companies that offer "double services," which include sexual services for men.

Researchers only spoke with a small number of people for the study, among them several women, cab drivers, lawyers, hotel owners, and Palestinian police investigators, and came away with the impression that trafficking in the Palestinian territories is not run by a sophisticated network. Researchers also spoke with Palestinian women pimps in their 40s and 50s, who themselves are former prostitutes. One of these pimps had a Jerusalem identity card and owned four apartments. She allowed the women working for her to go out freely, but used intimidation to ensure that they would return. She also supplied them with customers from cities inside Israel.
The report notes that like in other places around the world, women are forced into prostitution due to economic hardship, the Palestinian cases brought to their attention mainly stemmed from incidents of sexual violence, and occasionally forced marriage at a young age. Some of the women mentioned in the report are students at institutions of higher education in the West Bank, and some are high school students. In a number of cases that came to the authors' attention via the press, fathers sold their daughters through "back door" marriages, in which an announcement of marriage is made without the involvement of a religious official. When one girl is seen to be married repeatedly in the same way, it is clear that it is a cover for sex trafficking.
While the authors of the report stress that the prostitutes' clients range from "rich businessmen to young people," they do not give any further details as to their identities and backgrounds.
The report urges the Palestinian authorities and Palestinian society to acknowledge the existence of the problem. It calls on Palestinian non-governmental organizations to propose a bill that would treat prostitution as sexual violence and to work for the enactment of this law. The report also encourages the rejection of the stance that prostitution is a "choice;" and proposes the training of law enforcement authorities to treat the women with respect and fairness. The report also calls for the creation of shelters, as well as more support for existing shelters, where women forced into prostitution can find refuge.
Sawa was founded in 1998, and provides services, including an emergency hotline for women and children. It provides teaching and training in schools and with the police on the issue of violence against women

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

U.S. counters EU Resolution on Jerusalem

The US did not back the Israeli position on Jerusalem, but it did strike out against a European attempt to take the lead in making Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. The US is not interested in having others play on its turf, which was the whole object of the European resolution.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 23:21 08/12/2009    
By Natasha Mozgovaya and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service  
Shortly after European Union Ministers announced their support for the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that the fate of Jerusalem should only be determined by Israel and the Palestinians in talks.
"Our position on Jerusalem is clear. United States policy remains unaffected and unchanged: As has been stated by every previous administration which addressed this issue, the status of Jerusalem, and all other permanent status issues, must be resolved by the parties through negotiations," the statement read.
The status of Jerusalem - a city holy to three religions - is a sensitive issue for Israel, which considers the city to be its indivisible capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.
 Last week, Sweden presented a draft document supporting the division of Jerusalem and the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Click here for the EU draft document on the division of Jerusalem.
Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Ministry officials responded with harsh criticism to the European declaration, saying that Sweden, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, had failed.
"The peace process in the Middle East is not like IKEA furniture," one official said, making a reference to the do-it-yourself Swedish furniture chain. "It takes more than a screw and a hammer, it takes a true understanding of the constraints and sensitivities of both sides, and in that Sweden failed miserably."
The Foreign Ministry said that Tuesday's EU statement was substantially softer than Sweden's initial draft, once again demonstrating Sweden's failure as the rotating president of the union. "Sweden has done nothing over recent months to advance the Middle East peace process," the Foreign Ministry officials said. "The EU's only saving grace is that some of its members are responsible and moderate nations that didn't support the Swedish draft, which looked like something taken out of the Fatah platform at the Bethlehem conference."
The senior officials added that a group of nations had "saved the European Union from itself, since any other decision would have dealt severe harm to the relations between Jerusalem and Brussels, and would have prevented the EU from becoming an important partner in the peace process."
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry issued an official response to the EU statement, saying that the "European Union ignores the primary obstacle to achieving a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians: the Palestinian refusal to return to the negotiating table."
"Given the Israeli government's efforts to renew the negotiations, Israel regrets that the EU has chosen to adopt a text that, although containing nothing new, does not contribute to the renewal of negotiations," the statement continued.
"In light of the extreme draft originally presented by the Swedish presidency at the start of discussions, Israel does welcome the fact that at the end of the process the voices of the responsible and reasonable EU states prevailed, balancing and improving the text. We also welcome the recognition given to the measures and efforts taken by Israel to enable the resumption of negotiations," it went on to say.
"We expect the EU to act to promote direct negotiations between the parties, while considering Israel's security needs and understanding that Israel's Jewish character must be preserved in any future agreement," concluded the statement.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also issued a statement, saying that he "completely rejects the decision of the EU to support the division of Jerusalem," calling it a real danger for the future of Jerusalem and predicting that such a division would never work. Barkat noted that the recent celebration of the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Berlin reminds us that "no divided city in the history of the world has functioned properly."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Christians For Fair Witness Questions CMEP Disregarding Israeli Settlement Freeze

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East questions the failure of Churches for Middle East Peace ("CMEP") to discuss Israel's 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction in its November 30, 2009 Policy Newsletter.

CMEP describes itself as a "coalition of 22 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant national church bodies and organizations. . . . [which] works in support of U.S. policies that are conducive to Israeli-Arab peacemaking."

On November 25, 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would impose a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements in an attempt to restart peace talks. Palestinian leadership, however, rejected the proposal and refused to restart negotiations because the freeze does not include East Jerusalem. Apart from an unclear and dismissive reference to "Israeli's [sic] offer of "restraint" on settlement activity . . ." CMEP failed to mention this in its recent Newsletter.

"Even if CMEP does not think the Israeli gesture was sufficient, surely it merits discussion in a newsletter devoted to peace in Israel and Palestine," notes Rev. Thomas Prinz, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg, Virginia.

In the Newsletter, CMEP bemoaned the fact that "momentum has been lost in peace efforts" and listed various options for U.S. action including a suggestion of possible support for unilateral action on the part of the Palestinians.

"The CMEP Newsletter also complained about settlement activity that went on during the Oslo years. But Israel's settlement activity, as ill-conceived and unhelpful to the peace process as it was, did not cause the final failure of Oslo, says Fr. James Loughran, S.A., Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute. "Ultimately Oslo failed because Palestinian leadership walked out of negotiations at Camp David and later refused to accept the Clinton parameters."

"Concessions from one side in any dispute are generally made at the negotiating table, not prior to getting there," notes Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale, New York. "So no matter how much further one thinks Israel needs to move on the issue of settlements, this latest action is encouraging and should have been used to bring the parties back to peace talks. Isn't that the goal? Why would a church organization dedicated to Middle East peace merely ignore this opportunity?"


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"Arab Jew:" A Muslim Arab discovers... He is Jewish!

A story that is not really incredible, because there are many many Jews like this man, and many more whose identity is buried centuries back. These are the real "Arab Jews."

My Muslim background left me unprepared for this shocking discovery.

by Mark Halawa

Growing up in Kuwait, I had the best of everything. My father owned a successful construction company, and provided us five children with amenities like piano lessons, swimming, calligraphy and trips all over the world. Although we were Muslims like everyone else, we were totally secular and my father always aimed to shield us from religious people whom he described as crazies.

I grew up being told that Israelis and Jews were the lowest type of creature in existence, put on Earth only to kill us Arabs. In math class the teacher would say, "If one rocket killed X number of Jews, how many would six rockets kill?"

My father was rabidly anti-Israel. He was a product of Nasser's school of thought: secular from a Muslim point of view, yet deeply dedicated to the idea of pan-Arab unity. Israel, he believed, was an American proxy in the post-colonial Middle East.

My father was a supporter of the PLO since the 1960s when Yasser Arafat (who founded the PLO while living in Kuwait) was raising money from wealthy Palestinians working in Gulf States. As an engineer, my father participated in a program where the engineering association in Kuwait would deduct money from his monthly salary to be sent directly to the PLO. He insisted that war and resistance was the only way to deal with Israel.

In the summer of 1990, when I was 12 years old, our lives changed completely. We were on vacation when Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait. My father's business -- along with much of the country -- was ravaged. Our savings became worthless pieces of paper. We could not go back to Kuwait, so we immigrated to Canada. My father did manage to sneak back in for a few days to retrieve important business documents that would later be useful in recovering compensation from a United Nations fund.

Praying in the Dark

Of my family, I'm the only one who stayed in Canada. My father never really adjusted to life in the New World, and he had good business contacts back in Jordan, so my parents returned there. All my siblings also moved back to the Middle East. One brother runs a successful company in Jordan, two brothers are studying in Egypt (one dentistry and the other business), and my sister lives in Dubai where she works in the banking industry.

One evening in 2003, I was studying at the university library in London, Ontario, when I happened to notice an older man. From his chassidic garb, he looked like a religious Jew. My curiosity was aroused, so I approached him and asked, "Are you Jewish?"

With a gentle smile on his face, he said, "No, but I like to dress this way." I didn't know whether he was joking or not. All the religious people I had come across in the past were pretty scary. Are Jews supposed to be funny?

His name was Dr. Yitzhak Block, a retired professor of philosophy. We exchanged a few words and then he asked about my background. My family history is pretty complex, and I get a headache every time I have to explain it all. So I simply told him that I'm an Arab from Kuwait, and mentioned that my grandmother from my mother's side is Jewish.

My mother's parents met in Jerusalem when my grandfather, an Arab from the West Bank, was serving in the Jordanian army fighting the Zionists. He was 18 years old and my grandmother was 16. Her father ran a school in Jerusalem -- the same school where she would jump off the wall to meet my handsome, uniformed grandfather. They fell in love, got married, and lived for a number of years in Shechem (Nablus).

After my grandfather was discharged from the Jordanian army, the family moved to Kuwait, where oil profits were fueling huge business and construction projects. That's where my mother met my father and got married.

Knowing about my grandmother's Jewish background always made me curious about Jews. Whenever we were on vacation in Amman, Jordan, I used to constantly watch the Israeli channel -- when my parents weren't around. My favorite was the Israeli national anthem, and I would stay up late waiting to hear them play it at the end of the TV transmission.

Standing there in the university library, this religious Jew, Dr. Block, looked at me and said, "In Muslim law, you're considered Muslim, since the religion goes by the father. But according to Jewish law, you're Jewish, since Jewish identity is transmitted by the mother."

My head started to spin and memories of my childhood in Kuwait began to surface. I recalled how my grandmother had a funny name on her documents, Mizrachi, which I never heard before. She also had a small prayer book with Hebrew letters, and she prayed in the dark crying. (I thought the Wailing Wall was so named because crying was a part of prayer.)

Aside from a vague family legend, my grandmother never mentioned anything about being Jewish -- but now the pieces were fitting into place. I thanked Dr. Block for the conversation, and ran home to tell my roommate what I heard. He smiled and said, "So you're a Mus-Jew!" I was not amused.

I went to my room and called my mother. She rebuffed the story, saying, "Don't listen to people like that. We are Muslims and that's that."

I decided to call my grandmother myself and bring up the subject.

I beat around the bush a bit -- after all, she'd been denying it for the past 50 years -- and then finally blurted out, "Grandma, are you Jewish?"

She didn't answer the question directly, but she started crying and spoke about the years of Arab-Israeli conflict. She told me how her brother Zaki had been killed in Jerusalem before the rebirth of the State. To me that was sufficient confirmation of her Jewishness and I decided to leave it at that.

Over the next few months, I avoided the whole issue of Judaism, mainly for the sake of not upsetting my mother. Besides, I was just finishing university, and career was my main priority. I was content with telling myself that I belonged to a mixed-faith family.

Streaming Tears

About a year later, I was rollerblading one day in my neighborhood when I took a hard fall and badly sprained my wrist. The road was smooth so I couldn't figure out why I had fallen. I couldn't stop thinking that it seemed like a push from Above. These thoughts caught me by surprise, since I wasn't into spirituality and I never had any religious connection. I was a bodybuilder, had tons of friends, and was on the heels of a successful career as a foreign exchange trader. So why had this happened?

Because my wrist was heavily bandaged, I was forced to take off work for a few days. Dr. Block had mentioned the name of his synagogue, so that Saturday morning, I decided to go check out the scene. I was hesitant at the thought of everyone being from European background and me the only Middle Easterner, but I decided to go anyway.

I called a cab and got dropped off at the synagogue. As I walked in, the first person I saw looked Indian. He shook my hand, said "Shabbat Shalom," and handed me a kippah. Then I saw a black man which really surprised me. And Dr. Block was there, too.

I was handed a prayer book, shown the proper page, and before I knew it everyone was singing, V'Shamru:

"And the Children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel, it is a sign forever that in six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed."

Something hit me and I felt as though I knew this song. I just stood there taking in the sounds, the smells and the sights. Everything felt whole and perfect. It was the opposite of everything I'd ever heard about Jews or Judaism. At this point my tears were streaming in freefall.

It was the opposite of everything I'd heard about Jews.

After the services finished, I met everyone over Kiddush. I spoke with an Egyptian couple and we shared our personal stories. Jews from all backgrounds were gathered together and I was another piece of this puzzle.

After Kiddush, I accepted Dr. Block's invitation to join him for lunch. I told him: "I can't believe I'm here, singing and praying in Hebrew. I could never have imagined it."

He smiled and said, "It's not so hard to believe. Every Jew is born with a little Torah and a little Menorah inside." He then pressed his shoulder up against mine and said, "All it takes is for another Jew to bump into him and light it up."

Dreams of Peace

My interest grew from there, and I began studying Torah and keeping Shabbat. Last year I spent a month in Israel touring and studying on Aish HaTorah's Jerusalem Fellowships program. It was a great "homecoming."

I still keep in close contact with my family and old friends. They're wonderful people and I love them very much. Yet it's hard to relate to them on many levels. In the Arab world there are tons of misconceptions and misinformation regarding Israel. So I am working to develop a program to educate Arabs about Jews and Judaism, to dissolve the stereotypes propagated by the Muslim media and schools. I hope that my unique background can help bridge some of that divide.

Another way I hope to achieve this is to help establish economic relations between Israel and Arab countries. That would create trust and shared experience, which could be directed toward the goal of a genuine and lasting peace.

Another issue I'm trying to address is how the Arab world is filled with Holocaust denial. This past summer I went to Auschwitz, and I am working to produce the first-ever Arabic documentary about the Holocaust. I want to explain to Muslims in their own language exactly what happened.

It often seems like the Arab-Israeli conflict is intractable. Yet I believe in today's world, there is a real opportunity for a breakthrough. Arabs today have a more universal education, which makes them more open and curious. Also they are meeting Israelis and Jews in their travels around the world, which breaks down misconceptions. And as we saw during the recent protests in Iran, many young people in the Muslim world are yearning for reform. On top of all this, they have high-speed Internet access which opens up all kinds of new avenues of communication, and the possibility of forming new friendships unrestricted by borders or political agendas. Perhaps this can be the basis of a grassroots movement to mend relations and hopefully one day achieve peace.

My Jewish cousins are all living as Muslims in the Middle East.

The other issue that needs urgent attention is intermarriage in Israel. Unfortunately, a story like my grandmother's is not so rare. Many young Jewish women are wooed by Arab men and brought back to live in their villages. The children and grandchildren are never told the truth, especially with political tensions and the emotional unrest this would cause a family. As a result, many Jews are lost to our people. My mother has five sisters, and from there I have a few dozen cousins who are all Jewish -- all living as Muslims in the Middle East. I recently met a seventh-generation Israeli, whose cousin married a Palestinian and went to live in Saudi Arabia; her descendents are Jews living in Saudi Arabia.

All my relatives know that I'm practicing Judaism, and for the most part they're accepting. I can talk to them about Judaism and they're politely interested. We love and respect each other. My father is resistant, however, given that secularism and war against Israel are the two ideological pillars of his life. When I first became interested in Judaism, I didn't tell him straight out. We were having a political discussion and I mentioned that I support the State of Israel. That ignited a big clash and I've learned to only discuss these matters with him in an indirect way. I always know when I've crossed the line; he gets angry and calls me a "Zionist."

The other big exception -- not surprisingly -- is my grandmother. I've asked her a number of times for more information about her family background, but she refuses to talk about it. Maybe one day I will find the key to opening her up.

Growing up, I was taught that Jews were the source of all evil, descended from monkeys and pigs. On the other hand, I had the image of my grandmother holding her small prayer book with the Hebrew letters, praying with tender devotion. She is the sweetest person I know and there's no way she came from a bloodthirsty gang of murderers. She gave me a Jewish soul, and in her own way, it was she who kept my Jewish spark alive.

Click on a player below to hear Mark speak about his experience.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bibi: 'Iran can now produce nuclear bomb'

'Iran can now produce nuclear bomb'

Dec. 8, 2009
Rebecca Anna Stoil , THE JERUSALEM POST

Israel's most challenging strategic problem is the Iranian nuclear program, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday, during which he also painted a pessimistic view of the situation along Israel's northern border.

"In the last year, two things have happened: Iran has advanced its military nuclear program, and Iran has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the international community," Netanyahu told the committee, adding that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities was Israel's "central problem."

"Our highest interest is in preventing Iran's [nuclear] armament," he said.

To that end, Netanyahu added, "there is coordination with America regarding Iran - information and intensive assessment - and diplomatic coordination cannot be ruled out."

He did, however note that "it is not clear if cooperation by Russia and China against Iran will continue, but at this time, we do have an agreement."

"The use of the Internet and Twitter against the Iranian regime is a great thing," said Netanyahu. "In past years, Iran was portrayed as an unpleasant regime, but today there is deep hatred on the part of part of the Iranian nation against the regime. It is trickling out and constitutes a very important resource for the State of Israel."

Maj-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, the head of Military Intelligence's research division, told committee members that Iran has succeeded in enriching 1,800 kg. of uranium, which is "more or less enough for one-and-a-half nuclear bombs."

Iranian proxy Hizbullah, Netanyahu added, has also increased in its power and influence.

"If before, we related to Hizbullah as a militia on the side, today it has become the real Lebanese army," he said.

Hizbullah "has supplanted the Lebanese army as the significant force. It is arming itself and organizing itself like a regular army. The Lebanese government and Hizbullah are growing interconnected, and they will share joint responsibility for any attack on Israel," the prime minister warned.

Baidatz presented the committee with information that tens of thousands of Hizbullah fighters and rockets were deployed both north and south of the Litani River, and noted that the rockets currently deployed threatened the southern parts of Israel as well as the north.

In light of the information, Netanyahu went on to say that UN Resolution 1701, which was formulated following the Second Lebanon War in an attempt to prevent the re-armament of Hizbullah, had "totally collapsed."

"It did not withstand the test of reality," he said.

The prime minister drew parallels between the failed resolution and any possible final status agreement regarding the West Bank, asserting that "that is why any future arrangement in Judea and Samaria must be better and withstand the test of reality. Any future entrance of rockets and missiles to Judea and Samaria must be prevented as part of a future agreement. There must be direct oversight by Israel on future security arrangements, something that didn't happen in Gaza or Lebanon."

Netanyahu also addressed negotiations with Syria, reiterating that Israel was willing to engage in direct contact with Damascus, but that if a third-party moderator was necessary, that Israel would prefer France over Turkey, the previous choice for mediator.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) commando dies in training

Shayetet 13 is the approximate equivalent of the US Navy seals. Originally inspired by an Italian navy commando unit, Shayetet 13 was neglected for many years. Beginning in the 1990s, it became an increasingly effective counter-terrorism unit,as carrying out or participating with Sayeret Matkal in some spectacular operations such as the Aviv Neurim operation in Beirut. Mortality and casualties from training accidents have always been a problem, particularly in the early days when diving suits were often of poor quality.
Dec. 7, 2009
A soldier from the elite navy commando unit Flotilla 13 died early Monday morning in a diving accident in the waters of the Ashdod Port.
The soldier, 19-year-old Gal Azulai from Zichron Yaakov, was training for diving maneuvers in enemy ports. He had been diving at a depth of three meters for about an hour-and-a-half when he became stressed.
Azulai's diving partner noticed he was in distress and the two immediately surfaced. The partner fired a flare and a standby medic with a team on a nearby dingy evacuated him to the dock where he was met by an ambulance.
Azulai received CPR for 40 minutes but efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. A doctor in the ambulance pronounced him dead en route to Assaf Harofeh Hospital.
Navy Commander Admiral Eliezer Marom ordered the launching of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the soldier's death. Military police have also launched their own independent probe. Azulai's diving equipment has been sent to experts for investigation.
The water temperature was 22 degrees Celsius, within the norms for the maneuvers, and the soldiers were wearing diving suits.
All diving exercises have been suspended until the conclusion of the investigation.
Azulai was a soldier in the Flotilla 13 unit. Known in Hebrew as 'Shayetet 13,' the unit is the Israeli equivalent of the US Navy Seals and is one of Israel's most elite special forces units. Navy sources say he was known to be in good physical condition and had four months remaining of his training before becoming a certified commando.
Flotilla 13 has conducted dozens of operations over the past year, most recently seizing an Iranian arms ship that was illegally smuggling weapons to Hizbullah.
Azulai was posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.
His funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Zichron Yaakov military cemetery.
This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Yossi Melman proposes: Let's take the "Zion" out of Zionism

We Jews are no doubt a very clever people. Just ask any Jew and he or she will tell you about our Nobel prize winners, about Maimonides, about Baruch d'Espinoza, about Albert Einstein and many others. Any Anti-Semite will also tell you how clever and shrewd we Jews are. So it is not surprising that one of the tribe has come up with an earthshaking proposal that will make the Middle East safe for peace. He is not just any Jew. He is a journalist for Ha'aretz, which considers itself the cleverest and most sophisticated of all Israeli newspapers, and he is not just any journalist. He is the internationally renowned Yossi Melman. Everyone knows how clever and knowledgeable he is.

Melman's proposal is that Israel will give up claiming Jerusalem as its capital. Don't get excited, it's only temporary, maybe for a thousand years or so, until tempers cool down a bit. After all, we waited 2,000 years, so what's another little temporary delay for us Jewish people? This will, Melman assures us, remove a major obstacle to peace. Who among us is not ready to make sacrifices for peace? Melman also proposes that the Palestinians will give up claiming Jerusalem as their capital. Since the Palestinians do not have men of genius among them like Melman, that is not likely to happen until Hell freezes over, so perhaps Melman's proposal is a bit impractical. On the other hand, Melman's proposal is timed impeccably to coincide with the EU resolution proposed by the Swedes. That which would recognize a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, but would not recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Swedes will love the Melman plan.

More at Newest Jewish Invention: Zionism without Zion

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Obama security adviser: Picture on Iran not good - You don't say!

"The news from Iran is not good," to paraphrase a statesman of an earlier generation. Actually, the picture regarding Iran was not good two years ago. Now it is approaching disaster. The fault did not begin in the Obama administration, but in the absurd National Intelligence Estimate that estimated with a low probability of certainty that there was a high probability that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon. There is a high probability, estimated with virtually absulute certainty, that the NIE report was a political fabrication.
At the time, the Bush administration could see no way forward in Iran if they were building a nuclear weapon other than attack. Since attacking Iran was out of the question, it was vital to "prove" that they were not building a nuclear weapon, and had no plans to do so, regardless of facts.
Last update - 17:28 06/12/2009       
Obama security adviser: Picture on Iran not good
By The Associated Press
U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser said Sunday that the door remains open for Iran to work with other countries on its nuclear program. But James Jones also said that "picture is not a good one."
The clock is ticking toward the end of the year, Jones said during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union. That is the deadline Obama gave with regard to when it would be clear if Iran was ready to work with the United States, other United Nations Security Council members and Germany to assure the world it was not trying to build a nuclear weapon.
So far, Iran has rejected calls to enter negotiations, and Obama is believed preparing to seek harsher international penalties against Iran. Jones said the door remains open for Iran to change course.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and it has a right to enrich uranium to produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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