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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gaza Siege Myth - by the numbers

What is impressive is not the statistics about the threat, as the quantities of aid being shipped into Gaza and the expoort activity. The "Gaza Siege" is a myth.

Gaza by the Numbers: One Year After Operation Cast Lead
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon - Dec 15, 2009

On Dec. 27, 2008, Israel Defense Forces began a defensive operation in Gaza-Operation Cast Lead-to stop Iran-backed Hamas and other terrorist groups from their years-long campaign of firing thousands of rockets, mortars and missiles at Israel.[1] [2] During Operation Cast Lead, Israel focused on dismantling Hamas' terrorist infrastructure while minimizing civilian casualties.[3] The operation, which ended Jan. 18[4] , was made more difficult - and dangerous - because of Hamas's widespread use of civilians as human shields.[5] The defensive operation has reduced by 90 percent the number of rocket, missile and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza.[6]
Following are facts and figures about the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza:
Key Statistics

1 million: Israeli civilians under threat from Hamas rocket fire.[7]
15: Seconds Israelis have to get to a bomb shelter once a warning siren has sounded.[8]
2 million: Leaflets the Israel Air Force dropped on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, warning civilians to stay clear of Hamas fighters.[9]
200,000: Phone calls made by the Israeli army to civilians in Gaza warning of an impending strike near their residences.[10]
8: Years Israel has endured rocket, missile and mortar fire from Gaza.[11]
1: Israeli left in Gaza - Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit,[12] kidnapped by Hamas from Israel on June 25, 2006.[13]
3,200+: Rockets and mortar fired from Gaza in 2008.[14]
6,500+: Rockets and mortars fired from Gaza since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.[15]
10,389: Rockets and mortars fired from Gaza 2001-2008.[16]
1,000+: People in Israel injured from rockets and mortars fired from Gaza since 2001.[17]
27: Number of people killed by Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks since 2001.[18]
242: Rockets, missiles and mortars fired at Israel from Gaza since the end of Operation Cast Lead.[19]

Iran-Backed Hamas Terrorism

727: Rockets and mortars fired from Gaza, January - September 2009.[20]
17: Attacks on Gaza goods crossings by Palestinian terrorist groups in 2008.[21]
80: Percent of mosques in Gaza which Hamas reportedly controls, some of which are used for weapons storage, command and communications headquarters.[22]
37 mi (60km): Range of Hamas rockets in Gaza acquired after Operation Cast Lead.[23]
2.5 mi (4 km): Range of Hamas's anti-tank missiles, smuggled into Gaza since the end of Operation Cast Lead.[24]
1,500: Number of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt (estimate)[25]
59 ft (18 m)/6.8 mi (11 km): Length and depth of metal fence Egypt is building on Sinai-Gaza border to prevent tunnel smuggling operations.[26]
22 mi (35 km): Distance between Gaza and Yavneh - the northernmost Israeli city hit by Gaza rockets on Dec. 28, 2009.[27]
900: Hamas operatives trained by Iran.[28]
$20 million - $30 million: Funding Iran provides annually to Hamas. Iran gave Hamas another $50 million following Hamas's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections.[29]

Israel's Humanitarian Aid to Gaza

900: Percent increase in humanitarian aid delivered to Gaza in 2009, compared to 2008.[30]
630,253: Tons of humanitarian aid delivered to the Gaza Strip, Jan. 19 - Dec. 13, 2009.[31]
24.5 million gallons (92.7 million liters): Heavy-duty diesel fuel delivered to the Gaza Strip, Jan. 19 - Oct. 31, 2009.[32]
10,346: Gaza residents who entered Israel for medical and humanitarian reasons, Jan.19 - Nov. 7, 2009.[33]
57,295 tons: Monthly average of humanitarian aid entering Gaza since Operation Cast Lead, Jan. 19 - Dec. 5, 2009.[34]
11,508: Monthly average (in tons) of humanitarian aid entering Gaza from February - June 2008, a period of intense rocket fire.[35]
34,253 tons: Monthly average of humanitarian aid entering Gaza during period of calm, July - December 2008.[36]
18,500: Permits Israel issued to Gaza residents to enter Israel or travel overseas in 2009.[37]
28,400: Flowers from Gaza scheduled for export to Europe on Dec. 10, 2009.[38]
250,000: Flowers from Gaza scheduled for export beginning Dec. 13, 2009.[39]

[1] IDF Spokesperson's Unit communiqué, Jan. 3, 2009
[2] "IDF Operation in Gaza: Cast Lead," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 21, 2009, Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Aerial_strike_weapon_development_center+_Gaza_28-Dec-2008.htm, accessed Dec. 15, 2009
[3] "IDF Operation in Gaza: Cast Lead," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 21, 2009,, accessed Dec. 15, 2009
[4] Ravid, Barak, "Cabinet meets on unilateral truce," Haaretz, Jan. 17, 2009,
[5] Hamas exploitation of civilians as human shields: Photographic evidence, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 6, 2008,, accessed Dec. 15, 2009
[6] Greenberg, Hanan, "90% drop in rocket attacks since Cast Lead," YnetNews, Dec. 9, 2009,,7340,L-3817828,00.html
[7] "Summary of Rocket Fire and Mortar Shelling in 2008," Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Jan. 1, 2009,
[8] "IDF Operation in the Gaza Strip," The Military-Strategic Information Section Daily Update - Day 4, Dec. 30, 2008.
[9] "IDF Releases Information on Military Investigations," website of the IDF, April 22, 2009,; Greenberg, Hanan, "IDF to give better warnings before attacks," YnetNews, July 29, 2009,,7340,L-3753851,00.html
[10] "IDF Releases Information on Military Investigations," website of the IDF, April 22, 2009,; Greenberg, Hanan, "IDF to give better warnings before attacks," YnetNews, July 29, 2009,,7340,L-3753851,00.html
[11] "Israeli Injuries and Fatalities Due to Rocket and Mortar Fire," The Israel Project,
[12] Nahmias, Roee, "Report: French doctors examined Gilad Shalit," YnetNews, Dec. 6, 2009,,7340,L-3815500,00.html
[13] Gilad Shalit: In terrorist captivity since 25 June 2006, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oct. 2, 2009,, accessed Dec. 15, 2009
[14] IDF Spokesperson's Unit communiqué, Jan. 3, 2009
[15] IDF Spokesperson's Unit communiqué, Jan. 3, 2009
[16] IDF Spokesperson's Unit communiqué, Jan. 3, 2009
[17] "Israeli Injuries and Fatalities Due to Rocket and Mortar Fire,"; Kershner, Isabel, "Despite Strikes, Israelis Vow to Soldier On," The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2008,; "Iran-backed Terrorists in Gaza Kill 3, Wound Others in Continuing Rocket Attacks on Israel," The Israel Project press release, Dec. 29, 2008,
[18] "Total Deaths from Qassams and Mortars," The Israel Project,, accessed Dec. 14, 2009
[19] Greenberg, Hanan, "90% drop in rocket attacks since Cast Lead," YnetNews, Sept. 12, 2009,,7340,L-3817828,00.html
[20] IDF Spokesperson's Unit communiqué, Oct. 4, 2009
[21] "Palestinian Gunmen, Suicide Bombers, Attempt Attack on Israel-Gaza Border," The Israel Project, June 8, 2009,
[22] Katz, Yaakov, "Hamas preparing 'offensive' tunnels," The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 10, 2009,
[23] Katz, Yaakov; Stoil, Rebecca Anna, "Yadlin: 'Hamas has many 60-km range missiles'," The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 4, 2009,
[24] Katz, Yaakov, "Hamas preparing 'offensive' tunnels," The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 10, 2009,
[25] El-Khodary, Taghreed, "Goods Flood Gaza's Tunnels, Turning Border Area Into a Shopping Mecca," The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2009,
[26] Bradley, Matt, "Egypt to build tunnel barrier at Gaza border," The National, Dec. 10, 2009,
[27] Harel, Amos; Yagna, Yanir, "Rockets fired from Gaza kill 2 Israelis within hour," Haaretz, Dec. 29, 2008,
[28] "Hamas," Council on Foreign Relations,, accessed July 7, 2008
[29] "Hamas," Council on Foreign Relations Web site,, accessed July 2, 2007; "Iran pledges $50m Palestinian aid," BBC, April 16, 2006,
[30] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 4, 2009,
[31] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 4, 2009,
[32] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec 4, 2009,
[33] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec 4, 2009,
[34] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec 4, 2009,
[35] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec 4, 2009,
[36] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec 4, 2009,
[37] "Increased humanitarian aid to Gaza after IDF operation," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 4, 2009,
[38] "Israel allows flower shipments from Gaza to Europe," Xinhua, Dec. 10, 2009,
[39] Cunningham, Erin, "Roses for Europe: Israel eases Gaza blockade to allow flower exports," The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 10, 2009,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Leading Black trade unionist disgusted and dismayed by misuse of her name by pro-BDS campaigners

This is regrettably typical of tactics of the Israel boycott movement: to use names of celebrities or leaders without their permission, to claim that any action taken to sell Israeli investments for any reason is due to the boycott and divestment efforts. It is what may be expected from a movement based on racism in support of terror.
Clayola Brown, the national president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute — a leading organization for Black trade unionists in the United States — has sent this email message to "Labor for Palestine":
It is with disgust and dismay that I find my name listed as a signer of "Boycott Apartheid Israel: Open Letter from US Trade Unionists."  I demand that my name be removed immediately!
Prior to seeing the letter on the Palestine Chronicle website, I had never seen such a letter or engaged in discussions about its content.  I find it disrespectful that someone would attach my name to a document and circulate such a document without contact with me, or consent from me.
Please make every effort to convey my demand to and any other publications that you have used or are likely to use your letter with.

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Small strike could have ended Iran Nuke program in 2004

Forecast for 2010: Cloudy and stormy, possibility of scattered missile showers.
One strike could have ended Iran nuclear program in 2004
By Aluf Benn and Amos Harel
It is possible that years ago, the problem of Iran's nuclear project could have been solved by one tough blow and with relatively minimal risk. At that time, the project was dependent on one facility: the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan.
If it had been bombed, Iran would have lost large quantities of raw material for uranium enrichment, and its nuclear program would have been set back years. But nothing happened, and the Iranians went ahead and dispersed their facilities and materials into fortified bunkers that would be far more difficult to hit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to do everything in order to prevent the Iranians from acquiring military nuclear capabilities, but if he fails, he can pin the blame on his predecessors, who flinched from attacking at the propitious moment. Perhaps that is what National Security Adviser Uzi Arad was getting at when he blamed previous governments for leaving Netanyahu "scorched earth" in advance of further confrontation with the Iranian threat.
People who spoke about the Iranian nuclear project with Netanyahu after last February's election, but before he took office, got the impression that he is determined to act against Iran and for this reason returned to power. He described the nuclear project as an existential threat to Israel - as the potential second Holocaust of the Jewish people.
In the face of international apathy regarding the Iranians in recent months, he frequently praises U.S. President Barack Obama for his diplomatic moves to thwart the Iranian threat, and talks about the importance of encouraging opponents of the regime and independent Internet sites in Iran.
In every public reference to the subject, Defense Minister Ehud Barak emphasizes that "all the options remain on the table." For his part, former prime minister Ehud Olmert relied on the advice of Mossad chief Meir Dagan, head of the "forum for the political prevention of the Iranian nuclear project." Olmert and Dagan believed the Iranian bomb could be delayed by a few years by diplomatic or other means, without incurring the tremendous risks entailed in a war. Barak, in contrast, sought even then to cultivate an option within his field of responsibility.
In May 2008, when then-U.S. president George W. Bush visited Israel, Barak (who was defense minister at the time) and Olmert met with him at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem. They smoked cigars and talked about the Iranian threat. Barak surprised Olmert - whose relations with him were strained - by asking Bush to discuss military matters. Bush refused. Some time later, when he met with Barak in Washington, the president told the minister: "You really gave me a scare" (the actual wording was less diplomatic).
When Netanyahu took office, however, Israeli officials even gave foreign media briefings and leaked details about an attack in the works.
Struggles over power
Today Barak and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, believe that Israel needs to create capabilities to deal with every scenario. Their stance is partly explained by considerations related to a struggle over power and influence. The defense establishment received a large budget increase for deployment in the face of the Iranian threat, and if that money is to be invested in the IDF and not elsewhere, the army has to persuade the political echelon that it can do the job. If it is impossible to deal with Iran, it would be better to invest the money in secret operations.
This is also an inter-organizational struggle: If the Iranian nuclear project is described everywhere - including in a speech that the director of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, gave this week at the Institute for National Security Studies - as the No. 1 threat to Israel, the identity of the person who formulates the response to it is of crucial importance. Once the army presents a plan to solve the threat, Ashkenazi will be in the game, too, and not only Dagan, whose relations with the chief of staff have turned hostile in the past year.
Ashkenazi has a professional duty to prepare the IDF, to the best of his ability, for the possibility of launching an attack on nuclear sites in Iran. In military forums a frequent comment is that "history will not forgive us" if it turns out, after policymakers ask the IDF for a response to the threat, that the General Staff has not done its homework.
There has been more than one instance in which strategically important decisions were made mainly because the defense establishment put forward a persuasive operational solution that fired up the imagination of the political leaders. Prime examples are the assassination of the Fatah terrorist Raed Karmi in 2002, the assassination of Hezbollah secretary general Abbas Musawi and the plan to assassinate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (Operation Bramble Bush), which was curtailed mainly because of the "Tze'elim 2" training accident (the last two cases, by the way, took place in 1992, while Ehud Barak was IDF chief of staff).
It is also hard to ignore the part played by the air force "lobby," consisting of past and present pilots. Many seem to have a "can do" mentality: If there are bombs, a flight route and targets, all that needs to be done is to move the munitions from point A to point B. Their enthusiasm and persuasiveness can be infectious.
The preparations under way in Israel have a mirror image in Iran, which this week tested a long-range missile and signed a defense pact with Syria. Every few weeks a senior Iranian official threatens a painful and destructive response if Israel dares to attack.
But despite the growing tension around the world, senior experts on security and strategy believe that there is little likelihood of an Israeli attack. In not-for-attribution conversations, they say Israel will not act without a green light from the White House. An Israeli attack on Iran would imperil key U.S. strategic interests - its intended military presence in Iraq until late in 2011, the supply of oil, the stability of the Persian Gulf regimes - and therefore will require authorization from Obama. It is very doubtful that Netanyahu will be able or will want to act alone, leaving Israel exposed to Iran's harsh response without a protective American military and political umbrella.
Year of decision
Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, a former head of the National Security Council, said this week that in his view, Israel will have to decide in the year ahead whether to attack or not. "The question of a decision on attacking Iran's nuclear capability is liable to be very much not theoretical but very practical in 2010," Eiland said at the same conference at which Yadlin spoke. According to Eiland, an Israeli attack will be feasible only in the event that a crisis occurs in nuclear-related talks between Iran and the great powers, followed by a cessation of negotiations altogether and the failure by the United States to cobble together an international coalition against the Iranians.
Another retired major general, Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, who was a Kadima MK in the previous Knesset and advised Olmert on security affairs, noted at the same conference, "If there is no choice, Israel can set back the Iranian nuclear process."
Iran can be expected to retaliate against such an attack with Shihab missiles. Ben-Israel, who specialized in operations research in the air force and took part in planning the attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981, estimated that Israel would be hit by about 80 Iranian missiles - twice the number that Saddam Hussein fired at Tel Aviv, Haifa and Dimona during the 1991 Gulf War. According to Ben-Israel, the Iranians would also make use of Hezbollah, which serves them to deter Israel from attacking their nuclear facilities: "Hezbollah has more missiles than it had during the Second Lebanon War, but the number of missiles that will be fired at Israel will not be much larger than it was then." (In 2006, some 4,200 Hezbollah missiles and rockets struck Israel, killing 54 people.)
Even if Obama agrees to an Israeli attack, the real dilemma that will confront Netanyahu, his colleagues in the forum of seven and the heads of the army and intelligence, will lie in assessing the benefits vs. the damage. Israel will survive an Iranian missile attack and a rain of rockets from Lebanon. But an attack also carries strategic costs, which will only be aggravated if the operation against Iran does not succeed: Israel will be denounced as a militant and aggressive state, the price of oil will soar, America and its allies in the gulf are liable to be adversely affected - and worst of all, Iran will be perceived as the victim of Israeli aggression and will obtain international legitimization to renew the devastated nuclear project. Israel will also have to gamble on whether Syrian President Bashar Assad will join the war on the side of Iran, or will follow custom and sit on the sidelines.
Only on paper
Another critical question in this discussion concerns the deployment on the Israeli home front. In the wake of the Second Lebanon War, the political and military echelons understand how exposed the civilian population is to a massive missile and rocket attack. The summer of 2010 has already been earmarked by the IDF as an in-principle target date for completion of repairs on essential lacunae. But despite the massive media coverage given to the multilayer defense system against missiles, it is worth recalling that most of its components still exist only on paper. In every scenario of warfare projected for the years ahead, many more missiles will be fired at Israel than can be intercepted by its anti-missile system.
In the face of all the risks and damage, what will Israel gain from an attack? A three- to five-year delay in the manufacture of the Iranian bomb, according to the optimistic estimate. Is that worth the certain price that will be paid and the risk entailed in a complicated air mission so far from home? Do Netanyahu and Barak have what it takes to make that decision? It's not certain. And these doubts lead the experts to assess that Israel will agonize and will talk about a strike, but will do nothing. In their view, it is more reasonable that the U.S. and Iran will continue their dialogue, with "controllable" crises erupting from time to time. As long as Obama sees to it that Israel does not feel isolated and abandoned in the face of the Iranian threat, Netanyahu will not dare attack.
Understanding this, Obama dispatched 1,500 soldiers to Israel for a missile-defense exercise about two months ago, and he continues to operate the sophisticated warning radar that Bush stationed in the Negev. The president prefers to reassure Israel on the Iranian front and exact concessions from Netanyahu on the Palestinian front. The question that is apparently not now under discussion between Jerusalem and Washington is the stage at which Iran will agree to stop its nuclear project under international pressure. Will this be a case of Iranian nuclear brinkmanship, with Tehran just a decision away from a bomb, or will Iran gamble and go the whole way? Even then, it's likely there will be enough experts in the administration and in American research institutes who will recommend that Israel take a deep breath and adapt to the new situation. In other words, learn how to stop worrying and love the bomb.
Despite the experts' assessments - and as MI head Yadlin hinted this week - no scenario promises that the year ahead will be quiet and tranquil. Most of the wars in the past broke out by surprise, because of mistaken risk assessments or seemingly irrevocable political commitments. The same could happen between Israel and Iran.
Prof. Yehoshafat Harkabi was director of Military Intelligence in the second half of the 1950s. Some officers in the present General Staff continue to view his books, notably "Israel's Fateful Hour" and "Nuclear War and Nuclear Peace," as relevant guidelines even today. "What is special about our situation in Israel is that we cannot allow ourselves a process of learning by trial and error," Harkabi wrote in 1986 in the last chapter of "Israel's Fateful Hour." "We cannot allow ourselves the calamities of mistaken policy, lest we are unable to turn around and start over. Our great weakness is that it is very doubtful whether we will be able to backtrack from the wrong path ... Many countries can adopt foolish policies and will suffer accordingly, but without experiencing any great ill, whereas we are permitted only narrow margins of error" [unofficial translation]. Harkabi quotes the British military historian Basil Liddell-Hart: "An important difference between a military operation and a surgical operation is that the patient is not tied down. But it is a common fault of generalship to assume that he is."

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sderot Media Center: Tiny organization fights to make Sderot's voice heard

Last update - 00:21 18/12/2009       
Tiny organization fights to make Sderot's voice heard
By Jake Sharfman
Just under three years ago, on a warm Friday night in Sderot, Noam Bedein was forced to flee his synagogue in the middle of a shabbat service when the dreaded "tzevah adom" (color red) siren bellowed warning through the Negev speakers.
An incoming Qassam rocket was rapidly on its way, approaching the Western Negev city from the Gaza Strip, and within 15 seconds a huge explosion was heard no more than 50 meters from the synagogue.
"There really wasn't much you could do at the time besides pray," Bedein recalled.
"When the explosion hit, everyone that was covering for safety jumped up, grabbed their children and rushed outside to hope it didn't hit their own home. This was a normal way of life for us and that particular moment was a very emotional and life-changing experience for me."
Bedein knew at that time he needed to act for the people of Sderot. And act he did.
Bedein founded the Sderot Media Center, a non-profit organization located in the heart of Sderot that acts, among other things, as a media outreach center designed to present the Israeli perspective of a community living in constant threat and terror of Qassam rockets launched from Gaza.
What began as a grass-roots movement with nothing more than a laptop, borrowed from a friend, the Sderot Media Center thrives off circulating information and personal stories of the citizens of Sderot and the Western Negev among media outlets, diplomats and students from inside Israel and around the world.
"We're trying to present this side of the conflict, the stories of what it is like to live in a rocket reality like no other place in the world and we?re doing it from the source, which is very important," Bedein said. "The media coverage from around the world is not balanced in this part of the region and we are trying to counter that dis-balance of information and the Gaza narrative."
What proves so challenging for Bedein and the organization's six other employees is, in fact, that counter-balancing.
In light of the massive discrepancy between the destruction in Sderot and in Gaza, along with the disproportionate death tolls, the SMC is going up against millions of dollars in media campaigns by Hamas in Gaza that has the ruins to add fuel to their media campaign fire, while the Sderot community takes priority in re-building the Qassam devastation in a just and timely manner.
However, through testimonials, documentaries, short stories and hard evidence, the SMC continues to fight to make their voice, along with the voices of the citizens of Sderot, heard loud and clear.
The Center divides its time as requested. Student groups round out about half of the visitors to the Center, while foreign press, diplomats from abroad and humanitarian groups demand the remainder of the Center?s time and attention.
In addition, Bedein has traveled the globe from parts of Europe to Capitol Hill, even presenting the Goldstone Committee, which investigated Israel's offensive in Gaza, with an unofficial Israeli perspective of material and video footage of the rocket reality in Sderot.
Bedein has recently come to the realization that his privately funded Sderot Media Center has become recognized as an international source of information.
"It's very easy for the Palestinians in Gaza to gain sympathy picture-wise because of the severe devastation from Cast Lead. On the other hand, over here, you have such a huge psychological impact and trauma these rockets and constant sirens have created on the people, in addition to injuring over 1000 in the process," Bedein said. "12,000 rockets in the past nine years and 8,000 since Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005 have been fired at Israel, this has an enormous impact and what we are trying to do is express and present this psychological impact through different media outlets. We just want to be heard."
Another aspect of the Sderot Media Center, the most powerful in Bedein's view, is the creative, self-expression aspect the organization cultivates to actually help deal with the trauma brought about by nine years of rocket fire.
Just a few months ago, the SMC organized a plethora of drama sessions for 40 teenage girls from two high schools in Sderot, alongside psychological treatment, to teach the girls how to express themselves by acting out the stories of growing up under the constant threat of rockets.
Coined the Community Treatment Theater, the girls performed outside Sderot for the first time when they traveled to the Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah in Jerusalem and performed before a large, diverse audience just last month. The purpose of the performance was not only to allow the girls to express themselves, but also to raise awareness of what their life has been like growing up in Sderot.
"It's no doubt that the youth have been most affected by the rockets, actually being raised and going through their childhood in this rocket reality without knowing any other," Bedein said. "Having 70 to 94 percent of children diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder here, it's a common understanding of the need to have a place to express the trauma and the stories. This has unbelievable potential and is in fact the future of our center."
The SMC is proud of the fact that they are a private initiative, receiving no funding from Israeli government of any kind, and the reality is that they don't want it.
Bedein prefers to stay far away from any sort of bureaucracy that comes along with getting government funds, and it is very important to Bedein and to SMC to retain the organization's private status.
"This has very little to do with politics. We are not political and we have no agenda whatsoever," Bedein added. "We are not here to give a solution, we are here to present the problem. Without first identifying the problem, there is no way to get to a solution."

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Jews for Hamas

Strangely there are a number of Jewish initiatives on behalf of the genocidal terrorist  <a href="">Hamas</a>, notwithstanding the fact that the Hamas announce their intention of destroying the Jewish people in order to bring about the end of days. There are rabbis who have organized themselves to alleviate the non-existent "humanitarian" crisis in Gaza, for example, and now the "pro-Israel" J  Street lobby has joined the Hamas bandwagon, calling for political action to pressure Israel to end its blockade of Gaza. They swallowed the Hamas propaganda about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and claim that alleviating this crisis will make Gazans more amenable to peace. Read about it here: J Street's 'pro-Israel' effort on behalf of the Hamas

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Abbas turned down maximalist Israeli peace offer but insists he can make peace in 6 months

Palestinian Authority  chairman (or President Mahmoud Abbas insists he could make peace with Israel if only Benjamin Netanyahu's government froze new construction in Jerusalem and agreed that 1967 (1949 amristice lines) are the basis of negotiations. But Abbas did not respond when former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had offered the generous terms described below in previous negotiatons. There is really nothing more that Israel could offer in the way of territory than what is described here.
Of course, Abbas will continue to insist, as he has in the past, on "return" of several million "refugees" to Israel. He will refuse to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, as he has done in the past, and he won't allow Israel any rights of sovereignty in East Jerusalem.
Haaretz exclusive: Olmert's peace plan
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent
Map of Olmert Peace proposal 2008
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert proposed giving the Palestinians land from communities bordering the Gaza Strip and from the Judean Desert nature reserve in exchange for Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank.
According to the map proposed by Olmert, which is being made public here for the first time, the future border between Israel and the Gaza Strip would be adjacent to kibbutzim and moshavim such as Be'eri, Kissufim and Nir Oz, whose fields would be given to the Palestinians.
Olmert also proposed giving land to a future Palestinian state in the Beit She'an Valley near Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi; in the Judean Hills near Nataf and Mevo Betar; and in the area of Lachish and of the Yatir Forest. Together, the areas would have involved the transfer of 327 square kilometers of territory from within the Green Line.
Olmert presented his map to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September of last year. Abbas did not respond, and negotiations ended. In an interview with Haaretz on Tuesday, Abbas said Olmert had presented several drafts of his map.
The version being disclosed Thursday in Haaretz is based on sources who received detailed information about Olmert's proposals.
Olmert wanted to annex 6.3 percent of the West Bank to Israel, areas that are home to 75 percent of the Jewish population of the territories. His proposal would have also involved evacuation of dozens of settlements in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern Samarian hills and in the Hebron region. In return for the annexation to Israel of Ma'aleh Adumim, the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, Ariel, Beit Aryeh and settlements adjacent to Jerusalem, Olmert proposed the transfer of territory to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8 percent of the area of the West Bank as well as a safe-passage route from Hebron to the Gaza Strip via a highway that would remain part of the sovereign territory of Israel but where there would be no Israeli presence.
Olmert gave Col. (res.) Danny Tirza, who had been the primary official involved in planning the route of the security fence, the task of developing the map that would provide the permanent border between Israel and the Palestinian state. Olmert's proposed annexation to Israel of settlement blocs corresponds in large part to the route of the security fence. In his proposal for a territory swap, Olmert rejected suggestions previously raised involving the transfer to the Palestinians of the eastern Lachish hills, deciding instead to establish communities there for evacuees from the Gaza Strip. He also showed a preference for giving the Palestinians agricultural land over the transfer of the Halutza sands near the Egyptian border.
The implementation of the Olmert plan would require the evacuation of tens of thousands of settlers and the removal of hallmarks of the West Bank settlement enterprise such as Ofra, Beit El, Elon Moreh and Kiryat Arba, as well as the Jewish community in Hebron itself.
Olmert reached a verbal understanding with the Bush administration to the effect that Israel would receive American financial aid to develop the Negev and Galilee to absorb some of those settlers evacuated from the West Bank. Other evacuees would have been resettled in new apartments to be built in the settlement blocs that Israel would annex.
Olmert's office said in response to the disclosure of the plan: "On September 16, 2008, [Olmert] presented Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] a map that had been prepared based upon dozens of conversations that the two held in the course of the intensive negotiations after the Annapolis summit. The map that was presented was designed to solve the problem of the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state. Giving Abu Mazen the map was conditioned upon signing a comprehensive and final agreement with the Palestinians so it would not be used as an 'opening position' in future negotiations the Palestinians sought to conduct. Ultimately, when Abu Mazen did not give his consent to a final and complete agreement, the map was not given to him."
Olmert's office also told Haaretz that "naturally for reasons of national responsibility, we cannot relate to the content of that map and the details of the proposal. At the same time, it should be stressed that in the details contained in your question, there are a not inconsiderable number of inaccuracies that are not consistent with the map that was ultimately presented."
Olmert is currently suggesting that his map provide the basis for the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians. In his talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign statesmen, the former prime minister has said the international community must demand a formal response from Abbas to the Olmert proposal and proceed from there in the talks. Olmert has not presented the detailed map to Netanyahu.
Shaul Arieli of the Council for Peace and Security, which developed a map with a final border as part of the Geneva Initiative, said Israel's capacity to swap territory with a future Palestinian state is more limited than what Olmert reportedly proposed.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Syrian Liberal: 'Not a Single Ray of Hope' in Arab World

MEMRI Special Dispatch - No. 2684 December 9, 2009 No. 2684 
Syrian Liberal: 'Not a Single Ray of Hope' in Arab World
In an article in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, Syrian liberal Zein Al-Shami lamented the state of the Arab world, saying that instead of taking care of its acute problems, it is preoccupied with petty and oppressive practices that only confirm stereotyped opinions about it.
Following are excerpts from the article:[1]
We "Wish In Our Hearts That We Were Not Arab Citizens"
"As we follow the latest reports from the Arab world... and compare them to reports from other countries and societies, we feel so much frustration and shame that all of us wish in our hearts that we were not Arab citizens. This sad [fact] reflects the general deterioration that prevails in our countries.
"In Lebanon, we spent months waiting for the birth of the national unity government. With all that is said about its civilized people and rich culture, and with all the Arab, regional and international 'interest' [that has been focused] on it, we wonder how Lebanon managed to function so [long] without a government."
Lebanon's Citizen Sees "Syria, Iran, France, America and Saudi Arabia as... Hold[ing the Key to] His Present and Future"
"It is very disappointing that the formation of a government is sabotaged by arguments about who will be appointed to which ministerial position and which party or stream will get which [ministerial] portfolio. A Lebanese [citizen] feels great pain that the political future [of his country] depends on agreements between foreign [elements] and on the influential countries in the region. And it is very sad that the Lebanese [citizen] sees Syria, Iran, France, America and Saudi Arabia as sources of advice and authority and as the ones who dictate the distribution of portfolios [in his government], and [believes] that they hold [the key to] his present and future, more than his fellow Lebanese [citizen] who lives in his neighborhood or in a nearby village."
"The World is... Preoccupied with the Trial of Journalist Lubna Al-Hussein" in Sudan
"Let's drop the issue of Lebanon, since [attempting] to follow its internal politics would cause even a scientist of Einstein's [caliber] to have a stroke...
"Turning to Sudan, for example, we discover amazing things. Despite the disturbing problems [afflicting] this large country - from Darfur and [the troubles in] the south to the drought that periodically strikes it - the world is unfortunately preoccupied with the trial of journalist Lubna Al-Hussein.[2] Her trial has blotted out [all of Sudan's problems] and has caused [the world] to focus on the trousers she wore...
"We must say that in this trial, which occupied world public opinion for a short while, the Sudanese court won a resounding victory by confirming all the stereotypes about the Arabs and Muslims, for example that they oppress women and think that their honor resides in the woman's body and [depends on] the extent, type and shape of the garments she wears. This [situation] is indeed shameful considering the considerable progress made by women in other parts of the world, in the fields of science, politics, and art. Many other countries and peoples laugh when they hear... how the Arabs forget all their political and economic problems, their poverty and their backwardness, in order to focus on a woman's clothing and its impact on their honor."
Somali Extremists "Forgot All of Somalia's Problems..." - And Flogged a Woman for Wearing a Bra
"Not far from Sudan, in Somalia, there recently emerged a movement called Shabab Al-Somal [i.e., Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen], which controls large parts in the center and south [of the country], and in them enforces strict laws banning movies, plays, dancing, soccer games, and all types of music, including mobile phone ringtones. And that's not all. Recently, these extremists did a peculiar thing: they caught a Somali woman and flogged her in public for wearing a bra. They announced loud and clear that wearing a bra contravenes [the precepts of] the religion because it constitutes deception and fraud.
"Once again, they unfortunately forgot all of Somalia's problems - the division, the drought, and the internal wars. They forgot all of Islam's noteworthy achievements and focused on women, on the weakest sector in a backward society, so as to prove once again just how far the Arabs are from what is happening in the [rest of] the world."
Hamas "Is Preoccupied With Forcing Women to Wear the Hijab" in Gaza
"[The same thing] is happening in Hamastan [i.e. Hamas-controlled Gaza], where the [Hamas] movement is forcing all the Gaza residents to [live by] its laws and opinions - [as though] it has already achieved its great national goal of reconciliation with its rival, Fatah, and as though it has already liberated all the Palestinian lands from the Israeli occupation, and solved the problems of unemployment, poverty and hunger that are crushing the Gazan population.
"It is strange that a political movement - whose political goals and plans are presumably aimed at liberating the Palestinians and their land - is preoccupied with forcing women to wear the hijab in school, in court and on the beach. In fact, Hamas is lately issuing laws pertaining to women that are not much different from those of Shabab Al-Somal, including a law that forbids a girl or a woman to sit on a motorcycle behind a man, even if he is her brother, father or husband - because, according to Hamas, this contravenes [Muslim] tradition."
In Kuwait, "Voices Call On Women MPs to Wear the Veil"
"Turning to Kuwait, we occasionally hear voices calling on women MPs to wear the veil. It is encouraging to find that in Kuwait there is opposition to calls of this sort, as part of political and social activism under the banner of the struggle between the past and future, or between tradition and modernism."
In "Secular" Syria, First Graders Learn Islam - "When They Do Not [Yet] Know the Difference Between a Muslim, a Christian, a Shi'ite, and a Druze"
"Even in Syria, a secular state, the authorities have recently introduced a [Muslim] textbook on religion into the first-grade curriculum, even though the classrooms are shared by pupils from different faiths, sects and religious streams. [The pupils are exposed to this textbook] at an age when they do not know the difference between a Muslim, a Christian, a Shi'ite and a Druze. Instead of preparing a unified religious curriculum appropriate to [all] religious cultures, the [Syrian] Culture Ministry is fostering the children's awareness of discriminatory sectarianism - something that was foreign to the previous generations."
"There is Not a Single Ray of Hope [in the Arab World]"
"In Iraq, Libya, Egypt and other Arab states, the situation is [even] worse.
"There is not a single ray of hope [in the Arab world]."
[1] Al-Rai (Kuwait), October 22, 2009.
[2] A Sudanese journalist and activist who was prosecuted in July 2009 for wearing trousers.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A childrens' peace fable - by a child

This little story should make everyone who is serious about peace in the Middle East think deeply about what it means and how to achieve it.
"When the Shark and the Fish First Met"

A small and gentle fish was swimming in the middle of a peaceful ocean. All of a sudden, the fish saw a shark that wanted to devour him.

He then began to swim very quickly, but so did the shark.
Suddenly the fish stopped and called to the shark:
"Why do you want to devour me? We can play together!"
The shark thought and thought and said:
"Okay- fine: Let's play hide and seek."
The shark and fish played all day long, until the sun went down.
In the evening, the shark returned to his home.
His mother asked:
"How was your day, my dear shark? How many animals did you devour today?"
The shark answered: "Today I didn't devour any animals, but I played with an animal called FISH."
"That fish is an animal we eat. Don't play with it!" said the shark's mother.
At the home of the fish, the same thing happened. "How are you, little fish? How was it today in the sea?" asked the fish's mother.
The fish answered: "Today I played with an animal called SHARK."
"That shark is the animal that devoured your father and your brother. Don't play with that animal," answered the mother.
The next day in the middle of the ocean, neither the shark nor the fish were there.
They didn't meet for many days, weeks and even months.
Then, one day they met. Each one immediately ran back to his mother and once again they didn't meet for days, weeks and months.
After a whole year passed, the shark went out for a nice swim and so did the fish. For a third time, they met and then the shark said: "You are my enemy, but maybe we can make peace?"
The little fish said: "Okay."
They played secretly for days, weeks and months, until one day the shark and fish went to the fish's mother and spoke together with her. Then they did the same thing with the shark's mother; and from that same day the sharks and the fish live in peace.
Gilad Shalit,
Class 5b
Maale Hagalil Elementary School
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Islamist thugs in 2006 and has been held in captivity to be ransomed against a list of about a thousand terrorists, including the notorious Marwan Barghouti, initiator of the second Intifada and responsible for numerous murders.
Do you still think the US should pressure Israel to ease the blockade of Gaza?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Haaretz (Hebrew): Why a Peace Agreement with the PLO has not been Reached

Why a Peace Agreement with the PLO has not been Reached
Ze'ev B. Begin
[Translation by Israel GPO]
Published (in Hebrew) in Haaretz – 5 Dec 2009
"To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them," wrote former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (The Washington Post, 17.7.2009). "It would be worth exploring the reasons that the Palestinians rejected my offer and preferred, instead, to drag their feet, avoiding real decisions."
The main elements of Olmert's proposal, as understood by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mahzan) were: acceptance of the principle of the "right of return" for Palestinian Arab refugees and resettling thousands of them in Israel; Israel's withdrawal from 98 percent of the territory of Judea, Samaria and Gaza; and a land swap for the remaining two percent (Washington Post, 29.5.09). In addition, Olmert proposed a "safe passage" between Gaza and Judea; acceptance of the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State; and relinquishing Israel's sovereignty on the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives and the City of David while proposing a joint administration of these sites by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the PLO, the United States and Israel (The Australian, 28.11.09).
What this means is that at the end of 2008 Mahmoud Abbas rejected a concrete proposal for the establishment of a state in all of Samaria, Judea and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem. The failure of the recent negotiations, following the failure of the previous round of negotiations in 2000, demands an explanation.
As a first attempt to explain the recent failure, it was suggested, mainly in Israel, that the belated nature of the offer and the weakness of the Olmert government at the time the offer was made led the PLO to reject it. PLO leaders, however, at no point questioned the prime minister's authority to negotiate with them, just as they did not question the authority of Ehud Barak in 2000, after he lost his parliamentary majority. The PLO leaders suggested more substantial explanations for the most recent failure.
Saeb Erekat asserted that Jerusalem had been left unsolved (Al Jazeera, 27.3.09; translations from Arabic are by the Middle East Media Research Institute, and appear on its Web site). He later claimed that the problem had been Israel's refusal to acknowledge PLO sovereignty in the entire area up to the 1967 lines before attempting a detailed demarcation of the border (Al Dustour, 25.6.09). Recently, Mahmoud Abbas stated that it was the number of refugees who would be allowed to return to Israel that had remained in dispute (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 10.11.09). However, of all these, the most precise and thorough explanation for the failure of the negotiations is to be found in the simple words of Abbas: "The gaps were wide" (The Washington Post, 29.5.09). Obviously, to narrow the gaps after all the concessions Israel offered, the      PLO still demands more.
This means that the explanation for the rejection of Israel's far-reaching proposals is a profound one, and is to be found in the adherence of the PLO leadership to the traditional, extremist positions of the movement. While it has been argued that these positions are no longer valid, they were in fact recently reaffirmed by the sixth Fatah conference in Bethlehem, convened in August 2009.
Resolutions of the Fatah Conference
The principal ideological resolution of the conference reads: "The goals, principles and methods, as they are written in Chapter One of the [Fatah] charter, are the basic point of departure for our movement, and are part of the ideological and political identity of our people." The Charter is posted on the official Fatah Web site, and includes, in Chapter One, Article 19: "Armed struggle is a strategy, not a tactic. The armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a crucial element in the battle for liberation and for the elimination of the Zionist presence. This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated."
The practical translation of this declaration is reflected in the conference's resolution on the issue of refugees: "Efforts must be made to implement the right of return and restitution for refugees, and they are entitled to have their property restored. Likewise, the refugee problem should [be handled] uniformly, with no differentiation based on the refugees' location, including the refugees within the 1948 areas [pre-'67 Israel]."  Before the Conference, Saeb Erekat explained that "there is restitution for each article: not return or restitution but return and restitution," (Al Dustour, 25.6.09).
The suggestion in some circles, that the PLO will eventually give up on the "right of return" but will only announce this at the very last moment, is not supported by facts on the ground: the very last moment has already passed twice - in  2000 and in 2009.
This unequivocal position regarding the "right of return" is well tied to another resolution of the Fatah conference: "There must be absolute opposition, from which there will be no withdrawal, to recognizing Israel as a 'Jewish state,' in order to protect the refugees' rights and the rights of our people on the other side of the Green Line [i.e., Arab citizens of Israel]." This statement is a direct echo of the announcements by Fatah leaders made several months prior to the conference. Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) said: "It's not fair to demand that we recognize [Israel] as the state of the Jewish People because that means an evacuation of the Arabs from Israel and a predetermination of refugees' future, before the negotiations are over. Our refusal is adamant," (Haaretz, 26.5.09). Abbas explained that the PLO refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, since it would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees within Israel (Washington Post, 29.5.09).
However, the source of Fatah's opposition to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is deeper than that. It arises from the reaffirmation of the term "Zionist entity," meaning that the ideology of the movement is still based on the assertion that Judaism is not a nationality, but only a religion, which has no right to a sovereign state. Hence, recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people contradicts the profound ideology of Fatah, as explained by Erekat before the Fatah conference: "Whoever asks you to recognize the Jewish State asks you to fill a form requesting to join the Zionist movement. This movement maintains [the idea] that religion is nationality," (al Dustour, 25.6.09).
Hence, what we see is a solid ideology: "The liberation of Palestine" will come in the wake of the return of the refugees to Israel and the "elimination of the Zionist presence," and no decision contradicting this plan, such as acceptance of Israel as a "Jewish state", can be allowed. Whether such a plan can be realistically implemented in the near future is unimportant. Declaring it is aimed mainly at the movement activists, in order to keep them politically alert with a clear understanding of the common goal. Experience shows that Fatah resolutions and declarations by its leaders should be regarded seriously, and the competition for public opinion support between Fatah and Hamas increases Fatah's commitment to its stated policy.
In August 2009, attempting to improve its image, Fatah could have refrained from any discussion of its Charter, or could have adapted it to current political conditions by eliminating its extremist sections. However, by preferring a blatant reaffirmation of the Charter, the conference demonstrated the importance that its delegates attribute to adherence to their original goal. Abbas, who has been recently threatening to resign, did not try to prevent the acceptance of the extremist resolutions at the conference through a similar threat, and has not expressed any
 reservations about them.
We can therefore assume that the updated platform of Fatah indeed defines the impossible Fatah conditions for an agreement with Israel. Fatah does not really accept the "two-state solution" and does not view an independent state within the 1967 lines as its final goal. This explains well the series of events since 1993: the Fatah leadership violently violated the Oslo Accords, it failed to reach an agreement with Israel in 2000 despite far-reaching concessions offered by Prime Minister Barak, and it turned down Prime Minister Olmert's proposals in 2008. This is in accord with the fact that in 2008, when the Israeli delegation asked the PLO delegation whether a final agreement with Israel would include an article declaring the end of conflict and an end to further demands, the reply was in the negative.
Refraining from reaching an agreement with Israel has served the PLO well, as explained by Erekat: "At first they told us that we would run hospitals and schools, later they were willing to give us 66 percent, at Camp David they reached 90 percent and today they have reached 100 percent. Why then should we hurry, after all the injustice caused to us?" (Al-Dustour, 25.6.09).
Those who urge Israel to reach an agreement with the PLO "now" should explain what they suggest doing if negotiations are resumed, as the PLO is demanding, at precisely the point where they left off in 2008. There is no indication that the PLO agrees now to terms it declined a year ago, and hence it is clear that in this situation the PLO will make additional demands. Those who prod us should suggest what else Israel is expected to concede? I have not heard an answer to this question, except for mutterings "but we have to try." As long as Fatah does not fundamentally change its platform, there will be no Zionist faction in Israel that is capable of reaching a final-status agreement with it.
Reality must not be artificially beautified. This is indeed a regrettable situation, but we cannot allow it to cause despair. As was the case 100 years ago, our future in our land does not depend on the ill-will of our neighbors' leadership. It is in our hands. We have proven that.
The writer is a minister in PM Netanyahu's cabinet.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Deputy FM Danny Ayalon: An Open Letter to the Arab World

This letter was published in Arabic in the London Arab daily As-Sharq al-Awsat.

An Open Letter to the Arab World
By Danny Ayalon

Since the reestablishment of our state, Israeli leaders have sought peace with their Arab neighbors. Our Declaration of Independence, Israel's founding document that expressed our hopes and dreams reads, "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help." These words are as true today as when they were first written in 1948. Sadly, sixty one year later, only two nations, Jordan and Egypt, have accepted these principles and made peace with the Jewish State.

Since the reestablishment of our state, Israeli leaders have sought peace with their Arab neighbors. Our Declaration of Independence, Israel's founding document that expressed our hopes and dreams reads, "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help." These words are as true today as when they were first written in 1948. Sadly, sixty one year later, only two nations, Jordan and Egypt, have accepted these principles and made peace with the Jewish State.

Recently the Israeli government has made significant steps to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and reach out to the Arab world. In his Bar-Ilan speech in June, Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly stated his acceptance of a Palestinians state living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel. My government has removed hundreds of roadblocks to improve access and movement for Palestinians and has assisted the facilitation of economic developments in the West Bank, through close cooperation with international parties to expedite projects and remove bottlenecks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a right-wing government has, in an unprecedented move, declared it would refrain from building new settlements in the West Bank. All of these moves taken together amply demonstrate Israel's willingness for peace.

This Israeli government is also committed to extend a hand to all of our Arab neighbors, its leaders and its citizens, to join together to face some of the major challenges facing us all in the coming years.

 For the first time in many years, we find ourselves on the same side in seeking to quell and defeat the forces of extremism and destruction in our region. While many see the threat from Iran directed solely at Israel, we in the region know differently. Together, we understand the menace that emanates from the extremist regime in Tehran. A regime that seeks to export its extremist ideology across the region and beyond, while arming terrorist groups that seek to destabilize moderate Sunni regimes and aiming for hegemonic control of the Middle East and far beyond.

 The Iranian regime has many tentacles spread out across the region sowing destruction and despair amongst the people. The enemy of the people of Lebanon is not Israel, but Hizbullah. The enemy of the Palestinian people is not Israel, but Hamas. The enemy of the Egyptian people is not Israel, but militant Islamist opposition groups. All of these groups, and many others, receive their commands from Iran, who wish to control and suppress any aspirations the region has towards freedom and advancement.

 Iran seeks to hold an entire region, including its own people, to ransom and keep it engaged in conflicts orchestrated and directed from Tehran. Whether it is in Morocco, Iraq or Yemen, Iran is constantly interfering with Arab sovereignty for their own nefarious gain. Israel and its Sunni neighbors alike are in the sights of Khameini, Ahmadinejad and their minions.

 If Iran is able to attain nuclear weapons, the situation becomes inexplicably and inexorably worse. The Iranian regime has demonstrated that if feels unrestricted in its ability to dominate our region, a nuclear umbrella will only embolden its acolytes to act unrestrained to the detriment of us all. Only together can we face this threat and remove it.

Another issue that entails mutual political will to overcome is the threat of climate change to our region. Many reports and organizations are pinpointing the Middle East as an area that will suffer gravely as rain falls even more infrequently and temperatures rise.

Recently, the leading international scholars on climate change met in Copenhagen and released an important report on this issue. They claimed that climate change will exacerbate conflicts and increase strains and violence among competing groups. We are already witnessing water rights and growing desertification as underlying reasons for the intensification of conflicts in our region.

"Making the desert bloom" has been a core component of the Zionist ethos and successes throughout the decades. Israel has been able to turn desert into arable land and barren landscapes into forests. We constantly share our agricultural miracles with our friends in Africa and Asia and it is for this reason that many countries of the developing world have sought partnership with Israel in addressing their own agricultural challenges.

However, as Israel's founding fathers wrote in 1948, Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East. Our partners in peace, Jordan and Egypt, and especially the Palestinian Authority, bear witness to our endeavors in this direction. Israel has actively cooperated with Egypt on the "Mubarak Project" for the establishment of an irrigation demonstration system in Nubariya and annually trains hundreds of Jordanians in Israel in fields such as sustainable eco-friendly agricultural methods.

For us to be able to face these and many other challenges, we need to break with the paradigms of the past. The Jewish People are here because of our historical, legal, moral and national rights.

Those naysayers who can not countenance a Jewish political presence in the region will doom all of us to many more decades of conflict and instability. It is time for courageous leaders to emanate from the Arab world as did Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1979 and Jordan's King Hussein in 1994 and recognize that peaceful coexistence is far better for all of our people than enduring conflict and enmity.

We recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative is an important document, and is welcomed in Israel as a crack in the denial of an Arab recognition of Israel. However, like the Palestinian Authority's dictates to Israel on the peace process, it remains frozen in 1993.

Since the historic handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, Israel has taken major strides both politically and strategically towards the Palestinian position.

Both in 2000 at Camp David and in 2008 during the Annapolis process, Israeli prime ministers offered the Palestinians everything possible for peace and on both occasions the Palestinian leadership rejected these offers.  The Palestinian Authority, like the Arab Peace Initiative, is still holding to its maximalist positions and has not moved an inch towards Israel since 1993. These positions are obviously untenable for peace and reflect a worldview that ignores Israel's significant gestures and seeks to enforce a solution that will mean the end of the Jewish State. Recent Palestinian and Arab League declarations only enforce this view.

It is surely time to look to the future and break with former intransigencies to create a better future for all the people of the region. Israel has gone very far and is prepared to do its part, but we must be met by a willing partner. Without this, the region is doomed to more conflict and will negate the unity of purpose in the Middle East that is necessary to face the mounting challenges from without and within. 

Danny Ayalon is the Israel Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs


Continued (Permanent Link)

Smoking gun of Iran's nuclear weapons project?

Sensational and scary news. According to the report, Iran is building a neutron initiator. That would be the smoking gun of Iran's nuclear weapons project - if it is authenticated. This is from the Times of London however, the people who brought you the Israeli "ethnobomb" canard and countless stories about the Israeli attack on Iran that was just about to happen, but never did. It is not the most reliable source, but it cannot be ignored.
Ami Isseroff
Confidential intelligence documents obtained by The Times show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb.

The notes, from Iran's most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion. Foreign intelligence agencies date them to early 2007, four years after Iran was thought to have suspended its weapons programme.

An Asian intelligence source last week confirmed to The Times that his country also believed that weapons work was being carried out as recently as 2007 — specifically, work on a neutron initiator.

The technical document describes the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which independent experts confirm has no possible civilian or military use other than in a nuclear weapon. Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan's bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint.

"Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, there is no civil application," said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which has analysed hundreds of pages of documents related to the Iranian programme. "This is a very strong indicator of weapons work."

The documents have been seen by intelligence agencies from several Western countries, including Britain. A senior source at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that they had been passed to the UN's nuclear watchdog.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said yesterday: "We do not comment on intelligence, but our concerns about Iran's nuclear programme are clear. Obviously this document, if authentic, raises serious questions about Iran's intentions."

Responding to The Times' findings, an Israeli government spokesperson said: "Israel is increasingly concerned about the state of the Iranian nuclear programme and the real intentions that may lie behind it."

The revelation coincides with growing international concern about Iran's nuclear programme. Tehran insists that it wants to build a civilian nuclear industry to generate power, but critics suspect that the regime is intent on diverting the technology to build an atomic bomb.

In September, Iran was forced to admit that it was constructing a secret uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. President Ahmadinejad then claimed that he wanted to build ten such sites. Over the weekend Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, said that Iran needed up to 15 nuclear power plants to meet its energy needs, despite the country's huge oil and gas reserves.

Publication of the nuclear documents will increase pressure for tougher UN sanctions against Iran, which are due to be discussed this week. But the latest leaks in a long series of allegations against Iran will also be seized on by hawks in Israel and the US, who support a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities before the country can build its first warhead.

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: "The most shattering conclusion is that, if this was an effort that began in 2007, it could be a casus belli. If Iran is working on weapons, it means there is no diplomatic solution."

The Times had the documents, which were originally written in Farsi, translated into English and had the translation separately verified by two Farsi speakers. While much of the language is technical, it is clear that the Iranians are intent on concealing their nuclear military work behind legitimate civilian research.

The fallout could be explosive, especially in Washington, where it is likely to invite questions about President Obama's groundbreaking outreach to Iran. The papers provide the first evidence which suggests that Iran has pursued weapons studies after 2003 and may actively be doing so today — if the four-year plan continued as envisaged.

A 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded that weapons work was suspended in 2003 and officials said with "moderate confidence" that it had not resumed by mid-2007. Britain, Germany and France, however, believe that weapons work had already resumed by then.

Western intelligence sources say that by 2003 Iran had already assembled the technical know-how it needed to build a bomb, but had yet to complete the necessary testing to be sure such a device would work. Iran also lacked sufficient fissile material to fuel a bomb and still does — although it is technically capable of producing weapons-grade uranium should its leaders take the political decision to do so.

The documents detail a plan for tests to determine whether the device works — without detonating an explosion leaving traces of uranium detectable by the outside world. If such traces were found, they would be taken as irreversible evidence of Iran's intention to become a nuclear-armed power.

Experts say that, if the 2007 date is correct, the documents are the strongest indicator yet of a continuing nuclear weapons programme in Iran. Iran has long denied a military dimension to its nuclear programme, claiming its nuclear activities are solely focused on the production of energy for civilian use.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: "Is this the smoking gun? That's the question people should be asking. It looks like the smoking gun. This is smoking uranium."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reviving old traditions - Priest leads mob in smashing menorah in Moldova

Regrettably, anti-Semitism is a solid part of tradition in the areas of Russia that used to be the Jewish pale of settlement, and outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence and pogroms, particularly around Christmas and Easter time, are a part of the tradition.
Dec. 14, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Dozens of people led by an Orthodox priest smashed a menorah in Moldova's capital, using hammers and iron bars to remove the candelabra during Hanukka, officials said Monday.
The 1.5 meter(5-foot)-tall ceremonial candelabrum was retrieved, reinstalled and is now under police guard.
Police said they were investigating, but there was no official reaction from Moldova's Orthodox Church, which is part of the Russian Orthodox Church and counts 70 percent of Moldovans as members.
The national government said in a statement that "hatred, intolerance and xenophobia" are unacceptable.
Jewish leader Alexandr Bilinkis called on the Orthodox Church to take a position over the priest's actions.
The Jewish community was thriving before World War II but there are now estimated to be just 12,000 Jews in the former Soviet Republic. Twenty years ago there were 66,000 Jews. Many emigrated to Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Christians For Fair Witness Questions CMEP’s New Posting On Israeli Settlement Freeze


Christians For Fair Witness Questions CMEP's New Posting On Israeli Settlement Freeze


Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East questions the Churches for Middle East Peace ("CMEP") website posting on Israel's settlement freeze.  Fair Witness previously issued a press release (Dec. 8) questioning CMEP's failure to discuss Israel's 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction.  Shortly afterwards CMEP posted a Bulletin on the front page of its website which included a feature on the freeze entitled "Temporary Settlement Moratorium and the Response." 


CMEP, however, omits the critical fact that the freeze was a deliberate attempt by Israel to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, not a unilateral measure taken with no intention of moving onto a negotiated settlement.


"We are glad to see CMEP at least acknowledging that Israel has taken this step,"  said Fr. James Loughran, S.A., Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.  "But we are  surprised that CMEP did not acknowledge  that PM Netanyahu expressly presented the freeze as a way of restarting peace negotiations.  That was the whole point of the freeze.  We are also surprised that, while they posted some helpful links, CMEP's discussion was cast wholly in negative terms.   CMEP emphasizes that the freeze is 'one-time, temporary' and that Jerusalem remains a 'very serious problem . . .'  They complain about the potential for settler violence. Why is a Christian peace organization  not seizing this opportunity for peace making?"


"I admit to being thoroughly confused by this," says Rev. Thomas Prinz, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg, Virginia.   "The stated goal of CMEP is to 'encourage negotiated, just, and peaceful resolutions to conflicts in [Israel/Palestine].'  This is a chance to do just that.  PM Netanyahu said 'I hope that this decision will help launch meaningful negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that would finally end the conflict . . .'  So why does CMEP take a negative attitude?  It makes no sense."


"Parties rarely, if ever, make serious concessions  prior to starting negotiations," notes Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale, New York. "Why would a church organization dedicated to Middle East peace attempt to downplay this Israeli action?  Even if CMEP sees the gesture as imperfect --  isn't it a golden opportunity to encourage the parties to get back to the negotiating table?"

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel and the world as they ought to be

This is what Israel and the world ought to be and as we would like them to be. When can we expect a similar parade in Gaza or Mecca? History would have been different, if the Jews could refuse to have enemies.
Ami Isseroff
By Bradley Burston 
This is where the war ends.
It begins here.
It begins in a city which practices what Jerusalem preaches
And what Jerusalem, with its vicious holy men, betrays:
God's work.
I have seen the future. It was last Friday,
in the faces of thousands of people marching in the street
in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
in the face of a little girl dancing on the shoulders of her father to music played on a pensive oud and a goblet drum
and to music played on a jacked electric guitar and a trombone
"It's true," says my wife, looking at the crowd, straight and gay and Jew and Arab and citizen and foreign worker and refugee, devout and atheist, care giver and victim of domestic violence:
"God doesn't make mistakes."
There was every reason to skip this march for human rights.
It was supposed to rain.
No one was likely to show up.
My foot was broken.
But when the crowd began to move
From the square where Yitzhak Rabin sang publicly for the first time, and was then killed,
What they began to chant
Changed everything:
"Yehudim, Aravim - M'sarvim L'hiyot Oyavim"
Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies
This was a march about what is wrong with Israeli society
But it was an expression of what is right with it.
A woman, elderly, religious, watches the mysterious, uncategorizable mingling of tribes straggle past her down the street. The signs speak of the rights of lovers to marry, of Africans who have cheated genocide to make a new home, of Gilad Shalit to return to his. Of the right to share the Holy Land between two peoples, for the sake of, and despite, the two peoples' many quarrelsome sub-tribes, camps and splinters.
As we pass, the woman on the sidewalk asks "Are you people trying to kill my country?"
My 15-year old daughter answers without hesitation. "Has v'shalom." Heaven Forbid.
I want a word with the people - my people and theirs -
Who treat land as sacred, and people not theirs, as dirt:
My war with you is over.
My enemy today is the word Never.
This is where it begins.
Not the Jerusalem of murderous faith and a vengeful God
But in a city which faces God because it faces the world.
"This is a taste of the World to Come," my wife says, the crowd swaying to music, other peoples and their own.
A year from now, at the second annual Israeli march for human rights, there will be still more people. More people who, in their songs and their movement and in their self-respect, will be saying,
"This country is too young to die.
I declare the war is over."
Next year in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Continued (Permanent Link)

What is Hanukkah about, what is history about and what is David Brooks about?

David Brooks seems to have created a bit of a stir with his article about the "true" history of Hanukkah. His main controversial but more or less unarguable points are that the Maccabees were "fanatics" who along with their good deeds also did brutal things like forced circumcision, and who revolted against a "superior" Hellenistic civilization, and that the "miracle" of Hanukkah (or "Hannukah" or as some people spell it, "Honnoker") was an invention of religious authorities. .

What Brooks writes is basically more or less true according to recorded history, but recorded history is not always unbiased, and it is certainly not true in a larger sense. Those who compare the Maccabees to current "hard core" settlers are off the mark. The Maccabee revolt was a revolt against foreign oppression, not a revolt against a Jewish government by Jews living as free people. That is the main point that seems to have escaped Brooks. The issue was not eating ham or not eating ham, but rather who makes the decisions in the land of Israel, the Jews or the Seleucid kings. There are other nuances that Brooks missed.

The Seleucid empire of Antiochus was not an enlightened Greek city state, but an Asian despotism of the usual kind that had assumed some of the superficial trappings of Greek culture. There was no great academy in the Seleucid state and there were no philosophers or writers of great literature or splendid architects fostered by that society. It was neither Athens nor Sparta nor Corinth.

Taken out of context, the forced circumcisions practiced by the Hasmoneans are barbaric. But in history, context is everything. When Pliny wrote to Trajan concerning the troublesome Christians, it was considered a hallmark of Roman tolerance that Trajan agreed that those Christians who recanted their faith would not be "punished." The other side of that judgment is of course that those Christians who were steadfast in their faith would be "punished." The "punishment" was death. Circumcision in that context seems to be a fairly mild remedy for religious deviance. The Maccabees, from their point of view, had no choice. The Seleucid rule had split the Jewish people. Those who remained uncircumcised would be lost to the Jewish people. It would be absurd to practice the mores of the 2nd century BC in the twenty-first century, but it would be equally absurd to judge force the mores of the twenty-first century on the Maccabees.

The Maccabean revolt, explained in terms that the New York Times would understand and endorse, was "legitimate resistance to occupation." The fate of Jewish traitors was no different from the fate of French collaborators with the Nazis at the hands of the Maquis. If you liked the American Minutemen, the Maquis and the Partisans, you should love the Maccabees. If you liked Benedict Arnold and Quisling, you will shed many tears for the collaborators killed by the Maccabees.

Brooks should also consider that the things that you are liable to read in the ancient history books, they ain't necessarily so. This cuts in many more directions than he might imagine. Our main source for the doings of the Maccabees and the history of that period is Josephus Flavius. Flavius seems to have been as precise as he could be about material facts that could be checked, but was probably very misleading as to motives and events that could not be checked. He was both a Pharisee and therefore opposed to the Maccabean/Hasmonean dynasty, and a Hellenizer anxious to please his new Roman masters. He had many axes to grind and he ground all of them in his books. Like all ancient histories, they should be treated with respect, but with skepticism.

The "miracle" of Hanukkah was no doubt the Pharisee way of attempting to make a secular celebration "kosher." Later, they took more drastic steps, because any display of national feeling was dangerous. They replaced the feast of Nicanor, celebrating a victory over the Seleucid general, with the fast of Esther, marking the probably mythical events of Purim, and more or less suppressed Hanukkah entirely. The Pharisees were careful to serve their Roman masters in suppressing anything that related to inconvenient manifestations of national spirit.

Brooks should keep in mind that every nation and every faith has edifying miracles associated with their history. Is Brooks going to write next about the issue of George Washington and his cherry tree, or are we going to be treated next to a scientific discussion of whether Jesus Christ was really born on December 24, whether or not there is a Santa Claus and whether or not virgins can give birth to male children, in honor of Christmas? I don't think so. If Brooks is really daring, he can take up the question of flying horses, and examine the story of Muhammad's night journey to Jerusalem on his flying horse (pretty good horse) al Buraq from the point of view of equine aerodynamics, refueling problems, wind resistance etc. It is a poor idea to look a gift miracle or miracle horse in the mouth.

It is very unlikely that Brooks or anyone else will take up subjects that are offensive to the Christian and Muslim religions, or question the national myths of other peoples, or that the New York Times would publish such stories. Why is the Jewish religion different from all other religions, and why is the Jewish people different from all other peoples?

There is a perhaps more to Brooks' innocent-seeming meanderings about Hanukkah than appears at first sight. For Hanukkah, more than any other modern Jewish holiday, was adopted by the Zionist movement as the Zionist holiday. If the Maccabees were benighted fanatics fighting "progress" and enlightenment, then how would David Brooks characterize Theodor Herzl? Is Brooks' article really about oil that lasts or doesn't last eight days and forced circumcision. or is it really about Zionism, Herzl and Ben-Gurion?

Ami Isseroff

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One man's view of Israel - Butch Bradley

Not every non-Jew who comes to Israel views Zionists as Nazis or people with horns and tails.
Dec. 11, 2009

What the voices in Butch Bradley's head had to say about Israel.

Butch Bradley was the neophyte among the four American comedians who have been touring Israel in recent days, doing stand-up routines to sold-out Anglo audiences for the Koby Mandell Foundation.

Ari Liberman is the familiar compere and organizer of these tours - raising funds and awareness for the Foundation, which was founded in memory of comedy-loving Koby, 14, who was murdered along with his friend Yosef Ish-Ran by Palestinian terrorists near his home in Tekoa in 2001. (The comics are paid a modest stipend funded by an anonymous donor, so that all proceeds from ticket sales go directly to the Foundation.)

Mark Schiff, another member of the tribe, has a son in yeshiva here, and Steve White, an African-American who's plainly part-Jewish at heart, came five years ago and has demonstratively learned a fair amount of Hebrew and Yiddish since then.

But the Catholic Bradley was a first-timer, and it showed - in the best of ways.

His routine on Sunday night in Jerusalem opened with 10 minutes of fresh and inspired comedy - fresh, as in: compiled that day; inspired, as in: by the Old City.

With the shock and awe only a newcomer can muster, Bradley marveled at the extraordinary mix of populations living on top of each other in this most contested of environments, and marveled still more that there were "cars in the castle" - vehicles "coming out of nowhere" at crazy speeds within the crenelated walls.

The tour guide, Yael, was wonderful, he avowed graciously, before declaring to much audience hilarity that she plainly had no idea where she was taking his little group on their day trip, as they bounced between Jewish and Christian and Muslim areas and back again, up and down winding alleys, and even in and out of leaky tunnels, before emerging to be targeted by those crazy Israeli drivers again.

"I'm blessed with voices in my head," Bradley told me by telephone the next day, when I asked him how he'd managed to assemble so much new material, so fast, and to such comic effect; Herb Keinon, reviewing the night's line-up in Tuesday's Jerusalem Post, was not the only one in the audience to recognize Bradley's set as "the highlight" of a bill in which all four performers were outstanding. "I improvised the first 10 minutes based on events before 5 p.m. that day," Bradley went on. "I'm not here to lecture. I'm here for real. I don't want to insult the intellect with a joke I'd tell in Iowa."

Bradley actually came off stage, he says, worried that he might have upset people with some of the material about the Old City. Maybe it was all too holy, too fraught. "In America, the whole Old City would be roped off and you'd have to pay 50 cents and look at it from 300 yards away," he mused. And when a 13-year-old girl (mine) came up and gave him a quick hug after the show, he says he worried that maybe she was Orthodox and he shouldn't have hugged her back.

I reassured him on both counts. His comedy, delivered with a certain manic energy and all manner of physical contortions for further emphasis, was sensitive and warm. He'd obviously been moved by his short visit here, and it showed. "Sure," he avers. "I felt like I was walking in a museum in the Old City - a museum I could feel and touch. It was overwhelmingly emotional; I felt like crying."

I spoke to Bradley as his comic cluster headed down to the Dead Sea for a little R&R. (I think it was Liberman who had gagged the night before that only in Israel could we be worrying about the deteriorating state of something that was already officially Dead.) The telephone reception wasn't too great en route to the lowest spot on the planet, and conversation was further complicated by evident jocularity in the car. "Whoa, I think we just passed a camel," Bradley shouted at one point. "We did just pass a camel. Unbelievable!"

But I'd wanted to speak to the popular New Jersey-born stand-up because of Liberman's introduction. He'd noted that, for Bradley - a comedy club and TV favorite who got the bug watching Rodney Dangerfield and Don Rickles in their heyday at Atlantic City, where his mom worked in the casinos - any danger ostensibly involved in touring Israel was nothing compared to his ongoing series of performances for US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'd also been struck by Bradley's brief mimed encouragement to Israel, however comic, to bomb Iran - an elaborate convolution of arms, legs and facial expressions conveying the message that the job had to be done, that Israel could do it, and that if the rest of the world went ballistic, well, to hell with it.

THE STARTING point of his comic commitment to US troops abroad, Bradley explained, was 9/11. "I spent the first few hours [after the attacks] wondering, 'Do I go to war? Do I have to move home? Where do I fit in?' I felt I needed to be involved in some fashion - as a comedian, like Bob Hope, can be involved." (Hope was named an "Honorary Veteran" by an act of Congress in 1997, having headlined 60 tours for US troops for half a century from 1941, including during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.)

It might sound crazy to have felt the imperative to tell jokes after 9/11, Bradley acknowledges, but that's what he does for a living, so that's what he felt he could contribute. He started writing letters to anyone and everyone who might want to make use of his talents, and wound up doing a show to mark Hope's 100th birthday in May 2003 for a military audience. The military brass, he half jokes, "came up to me afterwards and said, 'We hear you want to perform for the troops. Pack your stuff, you'll be on a plane tomorrow.'… Actually, three weeks later, I went to Kosovo, Bosnia, stayed in Macedonia."

Since then, Bradley has toured repeatedly in both Afghanistan and Iraq - "It's the first thing in my life I did that felt completely good," he told an earlier interviewer - genuine front-line experiences where his audience's, and his own, lives are in danger. Which is why, whatever other American friends' concerns about the purported risks of his visiting Israel, it was not one of his greater personal-safety challenges to be playing the cozy, plush Beit Shmuel auditorium in downtown Jerusalem, with a fairly casual security guard on the door and a group of relaxed immigrants as his audience.

"I was asked, was I afraid to come to Israel? Afraid? Don't be ridiculous. I'm going to help support this amazing [Mandell] foundation [which runs a variety of programs for terror victims and their families]. Going to this beautiful place. We have cities in America where they boast that, I don't know, they have the biggest pancake or something. You're Jerusalem. You're living history. You win."

"I DON'T think of them as soldiers," says Bradley of the troops he entertains in the heart of true war zones. "They're moms and dads and brothers and sisters and high school friends. And I don't think of myself as performing in front of troops. I don't wear protective clothing. Jeans, a T-shirt, inappropriate shoes - like I've just stepped out of the pub. So they can forget everything…"

Even under those circumstances, the voices are still talking in Bradley's head - the jokes are still coming, and get delivered fresh on the day of their arrival. "In Iraq last time, they told me one day this four-star general would be there. I said okay, cool. They'd served us steak that day at the base, with plastic silverware. I must have broken five forks and six knives. So the general's there in the audience, looking at me. And I find myself asking him, 'Why are you giving us plastic silverware on steak day? You trust us with M-16s...'"

What else? "Well, would you believe they have speed bumps at these Forward Operating Bases? Are you serious? Is this really a place where we should slow down? And they have these rules in the air force that they have to wear reflective belts. We're in a blackout zone in Iraq and they're walking around with these neon belts on."

The troops themselves, says Bradley, have noticed some of these absurdities. But they've shrugged and forgotten about them. "I push the envelope on some of this stuff. But I'd rather get the troops laughing and get told off afterwards."

He usually goes out with a comedian who hasn't been before - the freshman and the old comedic war hand. "Two guys telling jokes" - it's easy on the logistics. "They just throw us into a Blackhawk. Much easier than a rock band. Much easier than 10 cheerleaders..." Comic pause. "… which they'd prefer."

From his intermittent flying visitor's perspective, Bradley says he feels Iraq is much safer than Afghanistan right now. "We're doing something right," he begins, then lapses characteristically into semi-humorous mode. "I'm sure it's nothing to do with weaponry. Probably involves money being paid somewhere."

But wherever he's playing, he says "leaving is the hardest part. I always feel that I want to do one more show. They're protecting the freedom - these are everyday people, protecting our freedom. The rest of us get to forget. People don't realize that the troops are under duress all the time. All the time. Walking to the bathroom. They carry their towels to the showers waiting for the next attack."

WHICH BRINGS us to Israel - a country which, even on this brief acquaintance, Bradley says "touches your heart." He sees us simply as "real people, just trying to live. And you've got all this banging on your front door late at night."

He also describes us as a kind of "huge family," which may hold a further secret of his empathy, since he comes from one himself. "I have a fiancé and millions of Irish cousins," he says. "I'm going to bring them all, tell them all to come."

America, he declares, with a conviction that defies dissent, "would go to war for Israel without a second thought. Even if not officially, the airports would be full… We do respect and love family.

"I was raised by a single mom," he flows on. "We hug a lot. We say I love you. We pray. We go watch our cousins play high school football. We're an Irish-Italian family, and we respect time. We know it's not there forever. We're postal workers, police officers, waiters and waitresses, concrete workers - real people. If my brother calls me at 3 a.m. I'm there."

And when Israel called, Butch Bradley was here. Bless him.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Attention - Urgent - Gaza Human Rights Violations

Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world, and in 2009 more than 165,000 Christians will have been killed because of their faith, most of them in Muslim countries, according to a human rights organization that is visiting Israel starting Sunday.
Something for Judge Goldstone to investigate. Every day is kick a Christian day in some Muslim countries...

NGOs: Hamas disinters Christians in Gaza

Dec. 12, 2009

Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world, and in 2009 more than 165,000 Christians will have been killed because of their faith, most of them in Muslim countries, according to a human rights organization that is visiting Israel starting Sunday.

"Hamas digs up the bodies of Christians from Christian burial sites in the Gaza Strip claiming that they pollute the earth," said Reverend Majed El Shafie, President of One Free World International (OFWI), who will head a delegation of human rights activists, members of parliament from Canada and religious personalities.

During their visit to Israel the delegation will hold a conference on human rights and persecuted minorities at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The conference will provide new statistics on the persecution of minorities in Muslim countries.

El Shafie said that between 200-300 million Christians are being persecuted in the world, 80 percent of whom lived in Muslim countries and the rest in communist and other countries.

Members of the delegation will meet with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat in the hope of enlisting Israel to champion their cause.

OFWI is a human rights organization whose headquarters are located in Toronto, Canada. The organization numbers some 3,000 members, divided into 28 branches that are active in countries all over the world, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and even Iran.

El Shafie, 32, was born in Cairo to a distinguished Muslim family of lawyers and judges. Through a Christian friend he was exposed at an early age to hatred toward the Christian minority in Egypt.

He decided to convert to Christianity, wrote a book about it and as a result became an outcast and a victim of oppression.

In 1998 he was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and condemned to death.

El Shafie managed to escape, fled to the Sinai, where a Beduin family hid him for two months, and crossed the Israeli border on a jet-ski. He was arrested in Israel and was imprisoned for over a year in Beersheba, until he was released through the assistance of the UN, Amnesty International and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which managed to obtain political asylum for El Shafie in Canada, where he emigrated. He founded OFWI in 2004

Continued (Permanent Link)

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