Blast rocks Hezbollah stronghold south of Beirut, 2 reported wounded
By ZEINA KARAM
The Associated Press
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Saturday, December 26, 2009
Explosion Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold Near Beirut
Blast rocks Hezbollah stronghold south of Beirut, 2 reported wounded
By ZEINA KARAM
The Associated Press
Three bombs planted under a car exploded south of Beirut on Saturday, wounding two people in an attack that apparently targeted an official from the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the state-run news agency said.
The official National News Agency said the explosion was caused by "three bombs tied to each other" that were placed under the car of an official believed to be from Hamas.
But Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press they could not independently confirm what caused the blasts or who the explosions targeted. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which controls the area, sealed off the streets in the southern suburb of Haret Hreik and prevented journalists from getting close to the scene.
One senior police official said the blast occurred in a neighborhood that houses an office belonging to Hamas.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
A Hezbollah official contacted by The Associated Press declined to comment, saying he had no information.
Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, was not available for comment Saturday. A person who answered his mobile phone aid he was not available and that he had no information on the explosion.
The explosion comes on the even of Ashoura, Shiite Islam's most important religious holiday.
Explosions in the area, which is almost completely controlled by the Shiite Hezbollah, are very rare. Hezbollah has its own arsenal with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, which it says it needs to fight off any threat from Israel.
The area was bombed out by Israel during the monthlong 2006 war with Hezbollah.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is expected to address tens of thousands of supporters commemorating the Ashoura holiday by video link on Sunday.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Jimmy Carter should get a Nobel prize for cynicism. His unbridled attack on Israel and the Jews was the result of Saudi bribes evidently. His half-hearted apology was due to his son's political career. And all of it is wrapped in an aura of sainthood.
Carter: Grandson's race not reason enough to apologize
By Ron Kampeas · December 22, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Jimmy Carter is asking the Jewish community for forgiveness -- and insists it's not simply because his grandson has decided to launch a political career with a run for the Georgia state Senate.
Jason Carter, 34, an Atlanta-area lawyer, is considering a run to fill a seat covering suburban DeKalb County should the incumbent, David Adelman, win confirmation as President Obama's designated ambassador to Singapore.
The seat, which is university heavy -- Emory, among others, is situated there -- also has a substantial Jewish community.
The senior Carter outraged Jewish leaders with his book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," and they strongly criticized the former U.S. president for what appeared to be his likening of Israel's settlement practices to apartheid and seeming to place the brunt of the blame for a lack of peace on Israel.
On the subsequent book tour, Carter further enraged many Jews by intimating that the pro-Israel lobby inhibited an evenhanded U.S. policy.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Guardian headline: "Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs"
There were many things wrong with the Guardian headline. It implied that the Israeli government made an official admission of a crime knowingly committed by the government - that is false. The organ harvesting in question was done by the Abu Kabir Pathology laboratory and only a few people knew about it. The headline implied that Israel admitted that the Aftonbladet story claiming Israel killed Palestinians to harvest their organs and sell them to crooked Jews in the United States. Nobody made any such admission and it is not true. Organs were harvested for medical purposes in Israel and occasionally for research purposes, and they were taken from people who were already dead, not people who were murdered in order to harvest their organs.
And of course, the organs were not just taken from Palestinians.
Guardian: Headline on Israeli organ harvesting was serious error
By Gili Izikovitch, Haaretz Correspondent
The British paper The Guardian issued a correction on Tuesday, conceding that it should not have run the headline "Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs" on a story that, according to the correction, "did not match the article."
"We should not have put the headline on a story about an admission, by the former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv, that during the 1990s specialists at the institute harvested organs" the correction on the Guardian website read.
"That headline did not match the article, which made clear that the organs were not taken only from Palestinians. This was a serious editing error and the headline has been changed online to reflect the text of the story written by the reporter."
The story, whose headline was changed to "Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent," quoted a report by Channel 2's Ulpan Shishi last week, which included a 2000 interview with Professor Yehuda Hiss, former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute.
The American anthropologist who conducted the interview in an academic capacity released it recently in the wake of a report in a Stockholm newspaper about Israeli organ harvesting in Gaza.
Professor Hiss said in the interview that until the 1990s, pathologists used to harvest organs, especially corneas and skin, from the bodies of soldiers, Israeli civilians, Palestinians and foreign workers, without getting consent from their families. This practice, according to the Channel 2 report, has since been abandoned.
Chanoch Marmory, former editor of Ha'aretz, discusses how he was taken in by the Pallywood Muhammad al-Dura fabrication. The supposed murder of Al-Dura by Israeli soldiers, broadcast around the world, sparked the major violence of the so called Second Intifada. Marmory He was not the only one who "bought" the Muhammad al-Dura fabrication. The IDF bought it too. And when I circulated, simply as a point of information, news of a reconstruction that showed that Israeli soldiers could not possibly have killed al-Dura, I was bitterly condemned as a Zionist propagandist. But it was all a lie, just as the "Jenin Massacre" was a lie, and just as the "Gaza Humanitarian crisis" is a lie.
The title "Purity of shame" - "Tohar Habusha" is a pun on a Hebrew expression for ethical conduct.
By: Chanoch Marmory [Former editor of Haaretz]
Today, when I know more about the way in which the Palestinians related their tragedy, and from across the years and experience accumulated during those years, I can openly accept even the film of German journalist Esther Schapira, "Al Dura - child, death and the truth". Today I know we bought that story too quickly, and cheaply.
It was on my shift, so you can certainly see self-criticism in what is written here. Nine years have gone by since then, and the personal memory of every detail has gone dull a long time ago. But the emotional turmoil caused in me by the scene of father and son, Jalal Mohammed A-Dura and young Muhammad, I remember well. Those were feelings of shame and anger.
In the face of every scene of horror, the emotional reaction of the journalist precedes the journalistic one. Muhammad A-Dura was then my son's age, and it was easy to identify with the pain of the father who had his child lying shot at his feet. But we had to pull together and act as journalists even if the redness of shame often covered the cheeks.
The important lesson the years of intifada had taught me is that there is no way to do real journalism with veiled eyes. And even when the purity of shame blurs the vision, it is forbidden to abandon, even under the most difficult of circumstances, the basic tools of the journalist – curiosity, skepticism and a critical approach. Later it became evident how well the Palestinian side would exploit the embarrassment and shame of journalists like me as a tool in its combat.
The contribution of a minute and a half video segment taken at the gunfire exchanges at Netzarim junction on September 30, 2000 was decisive in turning protest demonstrations over Ariel Sharon's visit at Har-Homa into a complete Intifada. The clip that reflected the story of a son's dying in his father's arms after the two were caught partially exposed in the heart of the gunfire scene was embarrassing and shocking and was taken at face value: The was son killed and the father injured in the exchange of fire – whether it be IDF fire or Palestinian fire.
Wonder for the meaning of the event evaporated completely after the then Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Boogie Yaalon and Major General Giora Eiland stated publicly that the child was shot by IDF fire, accidentally of course. Even when the IDF investigated and retracted to state that Al-Dura was killed by wild Palestinian crossfire, we did not return to it. Anyone who then tried to keep digging around this innocent case the case was seen as a madman or one with a political agenda - or both.
We've left the issue with a certain relief, especially when the blaze swept all the territories and the full resources of journalistic coverage. Today it is clear we should have been more skeptical about eye impressions, also that the eyes were of only one camera: the camera of Talal Abu-Rahma, questionably hot material from the front, where there are those who describe it as Pallywood – the Palestinian video drama industry.
In time it became clear how this market took hold in the world, and especially in Western Europe, what drew the European media to provide with relative comfort and with low risk, bloody stories from the intifada fields of battle to a mostly non-critical audience that is not particularly selective. It was easy for the Palestinians to sell stories to the foreign press, and it was easy for those stories to produce bold headlines.
In disproving at least one instance I was involved personally; in setting things straight in the story of Abu-Ali, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp during the days of "Operation Defensive Shield", which was given in the French magazine "Le Nouvel Observateur" the title: "My Nine children were buried under the rubble". Abu-Ali's house was indeed destroyed during the battle, but his children escaped and were found safe and sound. However, and despite this, the French magazine, which did a very sloppy job, avoided publicly retracting their words.
Today, when I know more about the way in which the Palestinians related their tragedy, and from across the years and experience accumulated during those years, I can openly accept even the film of German journalist Esther Schapira, "Al Dura - child, death and the truth" that was broadcast last night on "Mabat Sheny".
Today I know we bought that story too quickly, and cheaply. We were skeptical towards the IDF investigation, also because the army had a reputation of a body that suits investigative conclusions to its own needs. But from the moment when the army itself took responsibility for the case, we rid ourselves of it, while at the same time we showed impatience towards tests conducted by those perceived as obsessive. In the midst of the intifada there is no time for those who dig around in an old case, when events pile up on the table frequently.
Yair Atinger, the only one of the TV critics who referred this morning to the film that was broadcast last night, offers as a main lesson from it: "Do not believe anything that runs on the screen". I agree with his statement and his words that that "a picture, even a video image, may be the perfect lie, and effective television needs trusting viewers, not necessarily intelligent ones".
However I find it hard to accept Atinger's inclusion of the Al-Dura case into one package with Elvis legends and stories of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, i.e. in the category of conspiracy theories. If you take into account the fact that a minute and a half of photographic material created the great myth of the second intifada, a myth of the suffering, heroism and sacrifice, which generations of Palestinian children grow on, we should have made every effort to get at the truth of the affair. It was our job, to tell what exactly happened. And if not us, anyone who is willing to stick a pin in this myth should have been accepted openly. We had to try to distinguish between bothersome possessed people and meticulous researchers.
The question whether Muhammad Al Dura had indeed been shot by Israeli fire or if it was Palestinian gunfire will no longer get an answer. What happened there in the heat of battle could not be proven any more – especially given that the former Gaza Division commander, Brigadier General Yair Naveh, ordered the immediate destruction of all constructions located at Netzarim junction that were within firing distance of the outpost, and among them the wall that the father and son clung to during the shooting.
Either way, Esther Schapira manages to impress us with the contradictions she found in that video segment: the ground beneath the killed and the injured is without blood stains, fresh blood stains that emerge at the scene later, and blood stains on the video that pop up and disappear and change their location on the body of Muhammad as if they were a red rag he was holding in his hand.
Schapira presents the testimony of the sole witness, the cameraman Talal Abu-Rahma, who filmed for Charles Enderlin, a regular representative of the French network France 2, as false and fraudulent and baseless. She finds contradictions in his testimony that claims Al-Dura died before his eyes. According to him, he watched the continuous shooting from his car for about 45 minutes, took about 18 minutes of film, yet only submitted fragmented footage of one minute and a half of the father and son, when he could allegedly have shot continuously and had a charged battery in his hand. Abu-Rahma inexplicably interrupted the filming and his video did not capture the entire process of extracting the body, though he could have done so.
Schapira finds flaws with the father's version in regards to his own injury. With the aid of an Israeli doctor who treated him before, she proves that the scars he presented as caused in the Netzarim shooting incident were caused in mysterious circumstances for which he underwent treatment in Israel. Her hypothesis: body injuries such as those are caused by Hamas members as punishment for those who collaborated with the enemy, hence the question arising is even wilder: Has Hamas used the father and son forcing them to position themselves at the scene, so that the father will make amends for his crime against them?
Schapira presents the court verdict from a year ago, in which a French court accepted the appeal of Phillip Karsenty, a French Jew who has devoted most of his time to the rebuttal of the Al Dura story. After he claimed that the report Enderlin had broadcast was staged (Enderlin never stayed in Gaza during the shooting, but in Ramallah), France 2 filed a libel suit against Karsenty, and he was convicted initially. The courthouse of appeals did not ratify Karsenty's assertion, but ruled that it is not libelous. During the trial France 2 was forced to reveal the raw material taken before editing, and in a short piece that was not aired the boy, declared as dead, is shown to be moving his limbs.
Schapira does not settle for this. She creates a broader picture, of directing of injury scenes, of conflicting testimonies, of irrational scheduling, and finally raises a claim, relying on a face recognition expert, that the boy who was brought for burial that day at the mass funeral is not Muhammad Al-Dura, but another boy whose name is Rami Al-Dura, who was shot in his head or at least had a marking on him similar to a gunshot wound. From here, in her opinion, the possibility of raising the question if he is actually dead is open.
It is not clear who is this Rami Al-Dura, and under what circumstances was he killed. Esther Schapira makes it clear in the language: she does not claim that Muhammad Al Dura is alive. She just claims that he did not die during the video taking at the Netzarim crossing and that he is not the boy that was brought for burial during the funeral procession. This sounds like a fantastic option, but the whole scene is full of contradictions and inconsistencies. And there are those who made vast political capital from the funeral procession. Elvis case, then, it is not.
The Palestinian myth will remain strong even if there would be found clear cut evidence that the story of Muhammad Al-Dura was staged entirely. There will always be those who will argue that even if it is not clear what exactly happened there, the basic story remains as is: a helpless child was caught in Israeli fire and was shot deliberately.Now that this film was presented to us, it is clear that what you see in the video shots of Talal Abu- Rahma is not the whole story. And possibly, it is an entirely different story. Suddenly, with considerable delay, the need returns to do another round on it, in an attempt to get at the truth. Now I have to know what really happened there. It's not a petty matter and not a question of professional honor. I must know who they are, and of course, who we are.
Iran bans services for dissident cleric: websites
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian authorities have banned memorial gatherings for a leading dissident cleric, with the exception of those in his birthplace and the holy city of Qom, opposition websites reported on Thursday.
The reports on the Kaleme and Parlemannews websites came a day after they and other pro-reform websites said security forces had clashed with supporters of late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri who were gathering for such a service in the city of Isfahan.
Montazeri, a government critic who was born in the central town of Najafabad, died on Saturday in the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, where vast crowds attended his funeral procession on Monday, some chanting anti-government slogans.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported a reformist former government spokesman detained after Iran's disputed June election had been sentenced to six years in jail.
It said Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, who backed opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in the vote, was sentenced by a court on charges including acting against national security, propaganda against the Islamic system and possessing classified documents.
"Based on the court's decision Ramezanzadeh was given a six-year obligatory jail sentence," Fars quoted a Revolutionary court statement as saying. It did not say when the verdict was issued. Revolutionary courts usually handle security cases.
Thousands of people were arrested after the poll, which the opposition says was rigged in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's favor. Most of them have since been freed, but more than 80 have received jail sentences of up to 15 years in connection with protests and violence after the vote, the judiciary says.
Montazeri's death occurred in the tense run-up to Ashura on December 27, a politically important Shi'ite religious commemoration that offers the opposition another opportunity to show its strength.
That day coincides with the traditional seventh day of mourning for Montazeri, when more memorial services are usually held.
"According to an announcement by the Supreme National Security Council, with the exception of Qom and Najafabad, the holding of any meeting (memorial service) for Montazeri will be forbidden throughout the country," Kaleme said.
As an example, it said a planned memorial service in the city of Kashan, south of Tehran, was banned on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, opposition websites said security forces armed with batons and tear gas clashed with Montazeri supporters in Isfahan and nearby Najafabad.
If confirmed, the incidents would further highlight escalating tension in the major oil producer, six months after a disputed presidential vote plunged the Islamic Republic into its deepest internal crisis since it was founded three decades ago.
But a senior local official denied reports of clashes in Isfahan, blaming foreign media of "staging a psychological war" against the clerical establishment by publishing such reports.
Montazeri, an architect of the 1979 Islamic revolution and a spiritual patron of the opposition, was a fierce critic of the hardline clerical establishment who denounced Ahmadinejad's re-election in June as fraudulent.
Ahmadinejad's re-election, in a vote the opposition says was rigged, kindled the biggest unrest in Iran's 30-year history and split the political and clerical establishment.
The authorities deny poll rigging charges and have portrayed the huge opposition protests that erupted after the poll as a foreign-backed bid to topple the Islamic establishment.
Despite scores of arrests and security crackdowns, opposition protests have repeatedly flared up since the vote.
Iranian media reported Tehran would from next month ban banknotes which have been scribbled upon, a move one conservative website said was in response to the appearance of political slogans on some of them.
Expressions in support of moderate opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, such as "Oh Hossein, Mirhossein," have occasionally been cropping up on the Islamic Republic's banknotes since the disputed election.
"Banknotes on which there are writings or are stamped or have any additional signs will be invalid," the Jam-e Jam daily quoted central bank official Ebrahim Darvishi as saying.
The Ayande website, seen as close to conservative politician Mohsen Rezaie, said in a headline about the move: "The central bank's reaction to the writing of slogans on banknotes."
(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Richard Williams)
The supposedly "pacified" Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades at work....
Dec. 24, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
Security forces discovered the remains of an improvised explosive device (IED) on the side of Route 443 last week after it failed to fully explode, the IDF announced Thursday.
Firecrackers attached to the bomb went off but the rest of the device did not. The minor explosion of the firecrackers caused major traffic disruptions on the highway which connects Jerusalem and Modi'in.
The bomb was found by IDF and Border Police forces near Dir Naballah, south of Ramallah last Thursday night and later destroyed by the IDF in a controlled explosion.
Road 443 is one of Israel's main arteries, and the attack was intended to target passing motorists.
The IED was created from a gas balloon and firecrackers. Attached to the explosive was a sketch of how and where the Palestinians planned to plant the bomb on the side of the road, causing the most amount of damage as possible.
The sketch also included the wording: "Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the Alla Abu Sharifa Unit", in an apparent reference to the terror group behind the attack.
Road 443 connects Jerusalem with Modi'in and Tel Aviv, and is under heavy IDF and Border Police security. There are occasional stoning and Molotov cocktail attacks on the road from surrounding Palestinian villages.
IDF sources said that they would continue operating against Palestinian terrorists that are targeting Israeli civilians and security forces.
In recent months, the IDF has noted a slight increase in attempts by Palestinians to carry out terror attacks in the West Bank. This is attributed to frustration among Palestinian youth with the current deadlock in the peace process with Israel.
Yesterday's Financial Times published an opinion piece by New York University professor and Israel critic Tony Judt. Arguing that 'Israel must unpick its ethnic myth', Judt claims that Israel's classification as a Jewish state is the underlying cause of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and as such, this element of the state's identity should be removed..
9 December 2009
The Guardian's reporting of the Tzipi Livni arrest warrant story fell short of journalistic standards yesterday when it failed to properly identify prominent pro-Palestinian lawyer Daniel Machover, who was quoted condemning the UK government for its response to the issuing of the warrant.
18 December 2009
Dec. 24, 2009
Abe Selig , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israel is ready and willing to hold immediate negotiations with the Palestinians, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told a group of more than a dozen Arab reporters, the bulk of them Palestinian, during a unique press conference held in east Jerusalem on Wednesday.
"We are ready to sit down tomorrow morning if you are," the former Labor party chairman told the group. "Right now there is an historic opportunity in that the prime minister of Israel, who was elected by the right-wing, has taken two unprecedented steps - he's recognized the need for a Palestinian state and he has frozen settlement construction. In my opinion, he's the only one who is strong enough to arrive at a [comprehensive peace] settlement.
"We've wasted the last 43 years," Ben-Eliezer continued. "But whether we like it or not, we're going to have to live together for the next thousand."
The press conference, which was organized by the Arab media division of The Israel Project - a non-profit organization which helps educate the press and the public about Israel - was the first of its kind featuring both Palestinian reporters and an Israeli cabinet minister.
"There are 350 million Arabs worldwide and their opinions are formed by what they hear, see and read in the Arab media," The Israel Project's Executive Director, Marcus Sheff told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting.
"We know that it's extremely important for us to communicate with them, and this was a great opportunity to do that, featuring a minister with a background like Ben-Eliezer's - and who speaks Arabic no less," he said.
The reporters themselves seemed keen to have direct access to an Israeli minister, and didn't shy away from asking tough questions.
Some spoke to Ben-Eliezer about the situation in the Gaza Strip, while others brought up ongoing tensions in east Jerusalem.
"These are all problems that can be solved at the negotiating table," Ben-Eliezer told them. "Which is why it's so important that we start talking. Everything is negotiable, and if Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] is willing to sit and talk, and come up with some results, maybe for the first time, everyone will be surprised."
Other issues broached by Ben-Eliezer were Sunni-Shi'ite relations in the broader Arab world, the split between Hamas and Fatah, peace negotiations with Syria and the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
"Iran is an issue that the entire Middle East will have to deal with, sooner or later," Ben-Eliezer said. "I recently met with [Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar] Suleiman and told him exactly this. I also told him that the sooner Egypt gets involved with the issue, the better."
While the press conference was held in English, Ben-Eliezer, who left Basra, Iraq for Israel when he was 15 years-old, did field a number of the reporters' questions in Arabic and even replied to some of them in his mother-tongue.
Overall, the meeting was cordial and the minister was even able to draw a few laughs from his audience.
But the main point of Ben-Eliezer's remarks was the need to return to the negotiating table and find a middle ground. "What we need are strong leaders," Ben-Eliezer said. "[Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat was strong, and [Jordanian King] Hussein was strong," he said. "That's why we were able to make agreements. We need a strong [Palestinian] leader who is willing to do the same, because we are two peoples who want to live on the same land, and I think we can find solutions for everything."
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Palestinians are quietly at work in the West Bank, building a state. They are doing it with Israeli assistance we are told. Is this a good thing? Perhaps. But what if the Palestinians don't follow the Israeli but, but rather follow the Palestinian plan, and refuse to make a state in the boundaries and with the limitations required by Israel? What if they make demands, as they announce they will do, in the UN and get international support for thos demands, like the recent EU declaration about Jerusalem?
Building peace without Obama's interference
A promising, independent Palestine is quietly being developed, with Israeli assistance.
By Tom Gross
The Wall Street Journal
December 3, 2009
It is difficult to turn on a TV or radio or pick up a newspaper these days, without finding some pundit or other deploring the dismal prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace or the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinians. Even supposedly neutral news reporters regularly repeat this sad tale. "Very little is changing for the Palestinian people on the ground," I heard BBC World Service Cairo correspondent Christian Fraser tell listeners three times in a 45 minute period the other evening.
In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent that day in the West Bank's largest city, Nablus. The city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity, in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.
As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah's office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)
Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus's gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.
MORE MERCEDES THAN IN TEL AVIV
Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I've seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)
The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d'Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.
A NEW PLANNED CITY
A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Two weeks ago, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.
Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.
Palestinian economic growth so far this year – in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere – has been an impressive 7 percent according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11 percent, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.
NO, NOT A CONCENTRATION CAMP
In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods – see for example, these photos from last Friday's Palestine Today newspaper about the Eid celebrations in Gaza. These are not the pictures you are ever likely to see on the BBC or Le Monde or The New York Times. No, Gaza is not like a "concentration camp," nor is the "humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur," as British journalist Lauren Booth (who is also Tony Blair's sister-in-law) has said.
In June, The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank (with three percent of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas told Diehl. "The people are living a normal life," he added with a candor he rarely employs when addressing Western journalists
Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.
BORDER DISPUTES ALL OVER THE WORLD
The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don't clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one. (The last time an American president – Bill Clinton in 2000 – tried to hurry things along unrealistically, it merely resulted in blowing up in everybody's faces – literally – and set back hopes for peace by some years.)
Israelis and Palestinians may never agree on borders that will satisfy everyone. But that doesn't mean they won't live in peace. Not all Germans and French agree who should control Alsace Lorraine. Poles and Russians, Slovenes and Croats, Britons and Irish, and peoples all over the world, have border disputes. But that doesn't keep them from coexisting with one another. Nor – so long as partisan journalists and human rights groups don't mislead Western politicians into making bad decisions – will it prevent Israelis and Palestinians from doing so.
(Tom Gross is the former Jerusalem correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph.)
Though some of Ben-David's attempts to associate J Street with Saudi Arabia are stretching a point, the meetings, the board members and the funding seem to be a smoking gun connecting J Street with Arab interests that cannot possibly be considered "pro-Israel."
Posted By Lenny Ben-David
Talk about a tough sale. Imagine being Saudi Arabia's public relations firm in the United States in the months after the 9/11 attacks, which were perpetrated by 19 terrorists, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals. Shilling for a tarnished Saudi Arabia was the daunting task that faced Qorvis , a Washington-based PR company. The $14 million contract surely compensated.
In their 2002 contract, Qorvis promised to  "draft and/or distribute talking points, press releases, fact sheets, and op-ed pieces in order to promote the [Saudi] Kingdom, its commitment to the war against terrorism, peace in the Middle East, and other issues pertinent to the Kingdom."
Soon thereafter, a new organization appeared on the American scene, the "Alliance of Peace and Justice in the Middle East." In April 2002, the organization ran radio spots  on dozens of stations across the U.S. extolling the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by then-Crown Prince Abdullah and attacking Israel's settlements.
According to one ad: "The [Saudis'] fair plan [would] end the senseless violence in the Mideast." The plan involved Israel's "withdrawal from the Palestinian land it has unjustly occupied for years. … There will be no more midnight raids and random searches, no more violence." "Start the peace — end the occupation" is the phrase that ends the ads. It is followed by the words "paid for by the Alliance of Peace and Justice."
Who was behind the alliance? One American Jewish activist tracked them back to a Virginia address, which just happened to be the offices of Qorvis.
Eight months later, in documents submitted to the U.S. Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Office (FARA), Qorvis began to fess up. They listed receipt of $679,000 from the Alliance of Peace and Justice for "payment for radio, television, and print ads."
In a tiny footnote, Qorvis added this classic piece of obfuscation:
When he was confronted by reporters in 2002, Qorvis CEO Michael Petruzzello told them that  the financial backers of the "alliance" included the Arab American Institute (AAI), the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council, and the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.
In December 2004, the other shoe dropped when the FBI raided several Qorvis offices as part of FARA compliance investigations. A grand jury was convened, but details of their findings were never made public.
As of November 2009, no FARA registration was ever made by the Alliance of Peace and Justice despite Qorvis' claim that Saudi institutions paid the alliance, and despite Qorvis' portrayal of the alliance as a separate American organization. Nor are there FARA filings for one of the organizations named by Petruzzello, the Arab American Institute, despite their receipt  of $300,000 from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in that very busy year of 2002.
The Arab American Institute was founded by Arab-American and Democratic Party activist James Zogby, an early supporter of Barack Obama . (Zogby was rewarded for his support in July when he was asked to deliver the keynote address at the Justice Department's 45th anniversary commemoration of the Civil Rights Act.)
Another AAI leader is Wisconsin businessman Richard Abdoo, a member of the organization's board of governors.
Little was heard of the Saudi peace plan after the Alliance of Peace episode. Until recently, that is.
Abdullah's peace plan, also called the "Arab Peace Initiative" and the "Arab League Plan," was presented on an "all or nothing basis " in 2002. It insisted on the Arab interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which demands a return to the 1949 armistice lines, a position at odds with the American and British drafters' intentions. The plan also demands a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue "in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194." That resolution is understood by the Arabs to include the Palestinian "right of return" to areas they fled between 1947 and 1949, areas and even major cities in today's Israel. Israel rejects "the right of return" as a mortal threat to its existence.
Today, the Saudi plan is a major tenet in J Street's platform.
J Street's website position papers state , "U.S. leadership can be deployed … to normalize relations between Israel and the Arab world, utilizing the Arab Peace Initiative and helping to create institutional frameworks for regional cooperation."
When asked about the plan in a Ha'aretz interview in June 2009, J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami responded, "Yes, we support the idea behind the Arab Peace Initiative — which is that resolution of the conflict needs to be regional and comprehensive."
In a November CNN interview  with Christine Amanpour, Ben-Ami referred to the Arab plan repeatedly, including: "The Arab League has put on the table not simply an Israeli-Palestinian deal, but an Israeli-Arab comprehensive peace with the entirety of the Arab world."
Why does J Street push the Saudi initiative? Perhaps the answer lies in the new "alliance" that has been formed — the very close ties between Saudi Arabia, the Arab American Institute, and J Street.
In September 2009, J Street joined some 30 ethnic and religious groups to support Obama's Middle East diplomatic efforts. One of the groups was the Arab American Institute, which posted on its Internet site the coalition's statement . Included was this clause: "We support the idea of a comprehensive regional peace that builds on the Arab Peace Initiative."
A member of J Street's advisory board, Judith Barnett, worked on aspects of the Saudi account for Qorvis in 2004. She was also  one of the first contributors to J Street's PAC and was later joined in the PAC by Nancy Dutton, the Saudi Embassy's Washington attorney; Lewis Elbinger, a U.S. State Department official who was based in Saudi Arabia; and Ray Close, the CIA's station chief in Saudi Arabia for 22 years who later went to work for Saudi intelligence bosses. Close's son Kenneth registered at the Justice Department as a foreign agent, working for  Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, the author of the Saudi peace plan.
Beyond sharing support for the Saudi plan, the J Street-AAI financial and ideological ties also appear to be very tight. Richard Abdoo is a member of J Street's finance committee with its minimum contribution of $10,000 to J Street's PAC. James Zogby recently wrote in the Bahrain Gulf Daily, "On October 25,  the Arab American Institute and J Street convened a joint meeting that brought leaders and activists from both communities together as an expression of our shared commitment to advance a just and comprehensive Middle East peace."
J Street's embrace of the Saudi initiative is not a surprise, considering the strong endorsement the plan received from George Soros, J Street's purported godfather and sugar daddy.
"The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative," Soros wrote in a 2007 manifesto , "[is] a settlement to be guaranteed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, based on the 1967 borders and full recognition of Israel. The offer was meant to be elaborated by Saudi King Abdullah at the Arab League meeting to be hosted by Saudi Arabia at the end of March. But no progress is possible as long as the Bush administration and the Ehud Olmert government persist in their current position of refusing to recognize a unity government that includes Hamas."
Incredibly, the billionaire blames AIPAC for the initiative's failure, a factor that may explain Soros' burning desire to create a left-wing alternative to AIPAC. "Both for the sake of Israel and the United States, it is highly desirable that the Saudi peace initiative should succeed; but AIPAC stands in the way. It continues to oppose dealing with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas."
Despite its recent national conference, J Street still defies definition. Beyond Ben-Ami, its ubiquitous and loquacious director, the decision-makers and major funders of J Street remain anonymous. The Saudi-Arab-American Institute-J Street nexus begins to provide some definition to the self-proclaimed "pro-Israel" organization. But more disclosure is needed.
It's a hanging day in Qom city, Iran...
Two Iranian convicts who escaped execution on Tuesday were hanged hours after being recaptured, Iranian media has reported.
The men and five relatives who aided their escape from the hangman's noose were caught on the way to the coastal town of Bandar Abbas, officials said.
No additional information was given about how they managed to escape.
Iran executes more people than anywhere else in the world except China, human rights groups say.
The men, named as Esmail Fathipour and Mohammad Esfandiarpour, were convicted of arms smuggling offences and bank robbery, the Fars news agency reported.
The men's family reportedly overpowered security services as the men were being hung in the town of Sirjan.
The officials have not said what punishment the family members will face.
This year the Iranian government has increased the already high number of executions, possibly as a way of asserting its authority in the wake of the disputed presidential election result, BBC correspondents say.
Human rights groups accuse Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty but Tehran insists it is an effective deterrent that is used only after a lengthy judicial process.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
This scenario may or may not reflect reality. The heart of it is this assumption:
"The idea was to create a situation whereby the Americans try a new, bilateral approach to Iran -- both in terms of curbing its nuclear project and finding a way of satisfying its other demands," said Landau...
But in fact the US did try such an approach, and it seems there is no deal to made. The Iranians announced time and again that they will not curb their nuclear project. At the same time, their other demands and goals are not compatible with US strategic interests. Iran wants to be a regional hegemon and to eliminate US hegemony entirely. That means that Iran would control the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, as well as calling the shots in Lebanon, Irag Syria and possibly in Egypt as well as the Persian Gulf. The US cannot tolerate such a scenario, regardless of its relation with Israel. Israel may indeed be sidelined, because Israel is not the most important problem posed for the US by Iran. The question is whether the United States fully realizes the other dangers, or whether they are still obsessed about Iran vs Israel.
Last update - 21:42 22/12/2009
Think-tank: U.S. will sideline Israel in Iran nuclear dispute
Israel will find itself diplomatically sidelined and militarily muzzled as the United States pursues a nuclear deal with Iran next year, according to a closed-door wargame at Israel's top strategic think-tank.
Not even a warning shot by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - the simulation featured an undeclared Israeli commando raid on Iran's Arak heavy water plant - would shake U.S. President Barack Obamas's insistence on dialogue.
Israel's arch-foe, meanwhile, will likely keep enriching uranium, perhaps even winning the grudging assent of the West.
"The Iranians came out feeling better than the Americans, as they were simply more determined to stick to their objectives," said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser who played Netanyahu in the Nov. 1 wargame at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
Reflecting Israel's relative isolation, Eiland and his team spent much of the simulation sequestered from the multilateral talks in the snug, three-storey INSS building.
"Netanyahu" did have hallway encounters with President Barack Obama -- played by Zvi Rafiah, an Israeli ex-diplomat with extensive U.S. ties. But their chats were hasty and hazy.
"Our leverage over the Americans, when we could prise them away from the Iranians and Europeans and others, was limited,"Eiland told Reuters. "Pretty much the only card we had to play was the military action card. And that's a faded card."
Assumed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal, Israel has hinted at preemptive air strikes as a last resort for denying Iran the means to make a bomb. But many experts believe Israel would be tactically stymied and loath to cross Washington, which is wary of unleashing a fresh Middle East conflict.
"I care about Israel. I must defend Israel. But Israel cannot act unilaterally," said Rafiah, channelling Obama.
Balking and Brinkmanship
The simulation -- in which several serving Israeli officials took part on condition their names would not be made public -- was run by Emily Landau, a senior INSS policy expert. Reuters obtained a first look at the conclusions after they were passedto the Netanyahu government.
"The idea was to create a situation whereby the Americans try a new, bilateral approach to Iran -- both in terms of curbing its nuclear project and finding a way of satisfying its other demands," said Landau, who sees little future for U.N. Security Council sanctions given Russian and Chinese balking.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said the wargame results would be incorporated in internal strategic assessments. Such papers are not generally shared with the United States.
As it happened, the wargamers hunkered down in long-set stances: Iran entertaining negotiations while refusing to give up nuclear projects it says are peaceful; the United States talking tough but avoiding outright threats; and Israel fuming.
Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, a former chief of Israel's military intelligence who played Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, envisaged Tehran staying on its nuclear track "unless facing a threat to the survival of the regime".
"That just wasn't forthcoming from the Americans or their coalition," Zeevi-Farkash said, adding that "Obama" should have buttressed negotiations by boosting the U.S. naval deployment in the Gulf or persuading India to slash its business ties to Iran.
According to Zeevi-Farkash, Iran would be unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, preferring to use such weaponry to protect against invasion and wield regional clout. As such, a preemptive Israeli strike could spur Iran to get the bomb.
"Iran would argue that it was the victim of international aggression, and appeal for foreign understanding," he said, adding that, as Khamenei, he had kept open communications with other world powers while negotiating with the United States.
The simulation saw brief brinkmanship after the imagined Israeli sabotage at Arak. "Khamenei" responded by dispatching a Revolutionary Guards commander to Syria and Venezuela, flaunting Iranian influence near the Israeli and U.S. orbits.
To the dismay of "Netanyahu", "Obama" did not answer this with force, though he did extend security guarantees to Israel.
Eiland said the simulation pointed to an eventual U.S.-led shift to a policy of allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium and of "containment" should Iran eventually gain nuclear arms.
Israel would have to go along with its U.S. ally, Eiland said: "Israel cannot act alone here. An American-Iranian deal would divest Israel of the ability to attack Iran."
Perhaps it is more important to understand why Europeans are not so pro-Israel. After all, Europeans and Americans supposedly share the same values. Clearly they do not agree about Israel. It is also important to follow changes in American attitudes to Israel and to the Palestinians. What is important is not so much how people think, but how attitudes are changing and why. 29% is a large number of Americans who have a negative image of Israel. It is not just Muslims or leftist extremists. It is also important to see who holds what opinions. If the 29% are mostly academics and people in leadership positions, it is bad news for Israel.
by Jeff Jacoby
Four reasons that put Americans sharply at odds with the rest of the world.
Why are Americans so pro-Israel?
Of all the ways in which the United States marches to the beat of its own drummer, few are more striking than the American people's consistent and deep-rooted support for the Jewish state. In a recent nationwide survey, the Gallup organization asked Americans: "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?" For the fourth year in a row, 59 percent — nearly 6 in 10 — said their sympathies were with Israel, while just 18 percent sided with the Palestinians. When respondents were asked for their opinion of various countries, 63 percent said they had a favorable view of Israel (21 percent said very favorable), compared with just 15 percent who thought highly of the Palestinian Authority.
Conversely, only 29 percent of Americans told Gallup that their opinion of Israel was negative, even as a whopping 73 percent expressed a negative attitude toward the Palestinians.
This overwhelmingly positive feeling for Israel is normal for the United States, but it puts Americans sharply at odds with the rest of the world. At the United Nations, for example, nothing is more routine than the castigation of Israel. Similarly, any time Israel is forced to use its military power in self-defense, it comes under the harsh glare of the international media, which subject it to a scrutiny far more unforgiving than any other country receives. It was only a few years ago that a poll commissioned by the European Union found that a plurality of Europeans regarded Israel as the greatest threat to world peace — more menacing than even North Korea or Iran.
So what makes Americans different?
Foreign policy "realists" could certainly suggest reasons why close friendship with Israel is not in America's interest, beginning with the fact that most of the world doesn't share it. There are 300 million or more Arabs in the world, and they sit atop a vast share of the world's oil supply. Why endanger American access to that oil by maintaining such close ties to a nation with only 6 million people and no petroleum to export? Why risk incurring the wrath of Islamic terrorists by supporting Israel, a nation most of them detest? Surely it would make more sense — so a "realist" might argue — for Americans to distance themselves from the world's lone Jewish state, and tilt instead toward the much greater number of nations and governments that are hostile to Israel.
Yet most Americans instinctively reject such advice. The national consensus in support of Israel is longstanding and durable, and it isn't grounded in economics, energy policy, or a quest for diplomatic popularity. Nor, as some conspiracy-minded critics have claimed, is it because a "Zionist lobby" in Washington routinely hijacks US foreign policy, manipulating America into serving Israel's ends.
The roots of America's bond with Israel lie elsewhere.
First, Americans stand with Israel because in it they recognize a liberal democracy much like their own: a nation in which elections are lively, fair, and democratic; in which freedom of speech and the press are core values; in which the political rights of minorities are respected; and in which a commitment to civil liberties and justice is woven into the very fabric of society.
Second, Americans know that Israel is a stable ally in one of the world's most critical and volatile regions. Its intelligence service is perhaps the world's finest, its military is the best in the Middle East, and its painfully acquired expertise in counterterrorism is invaluable — all the more so as we wage our own war against jihadi terrorists.
Third, Americans sympathize with Israel because they understand that the enemies of Israel state hate the United States as well. The suicide bombers who revel in the death of innocent Jews, the fanatics who chant "Death to Israel," the Iranian- and Syrian-backed forces that launch rockets from Gaza or Lebanon with the aim of shedding Israeli blood — they are steeped in the same murderous ideology as Osama bin Laden and the Islamists who slaughtered so many Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
And fourth, there is a deep religious bond between American Christians and the Jewish people, a bond that stretches back to the earliest era of American history. More than a century before the Revolutionary War, the Puritan leader Increase Mather taught his followers to anticipate the day when the Jews would return to their homeland and establish "the most glorious nation in the whole world." In 1819, former President John Adams wrote of his wish to see "the Jews again in Judea an independent nation." Today, tens of millions of American evangelicals passionately support — even love — the Jewish state, and consider it nothing less than their duty as Christians to stand with Israel and her people.
Why are Americans so pro-Israel? For reasons practical and idealistic, religious and strategic. They are linked by the kinship of common values — an affinity of strength and decency that reflects the best of both nations, and sets them apart from the other nations of the world.
This article originally appeared in the MetroWest Jewish Reporter
The committee of legal specialists was set up in response to the Gaza offensive last winter. Alleged victims are encouraged to take legal action in Europe
James Hider in Jerusalem
The Islamist group Hamas is masterminding efforts to have senior Israeli leaders arrested for alleged war crimes when they visit European countries including Britain, a top Hamas official involved in the effort has told The Times.
The claim comes amid continuing diplomatic fallout after a British arrest warrant was issued last week against Tzipi Livni, who served as Foreign Minister during Israel's Gaza offensive last winter. The warrant was withdrawn when it became clear that Ms Livni, now leader of the opposition, was not in the country. Its existence apparently prompted her to cancel a trip to attend a meeting in London.
President Peres described the incident as "one of the greatest political mistakes" that Britain could have made and calling for the law to be changed. "Everything is based on ... a hostile majority public opinion," he said last week. "The British promised they would fix this and it is time that they do so."
Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, have each expressed their concern and their opposition to the warrant.
The campaign by Hamas takes advantage of an aspect of law in England and Wales that allows anyone to apply for an arrest warrant for alleged war crimes without the need for a prosecuting lawyer. The identity of the person or organisation that applied for Ms Livni's warrant has not been made public, but Hamas says that it initiated the move.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said yesterday that the Government was "looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again".
Diya al-Din Madhoun, who heads the Hamas committee set up to coordinate the campaign, said that it had "all the political and military leaders of the occupation in our sights", although he did not specify its future targets. He told The Times: "This has absolutely become our policy."
The committee of legal specialists was established after the Gaza offensive to investigate allegations of war crimes carried out by Israeli forces. It compiled 1,500 cases over several months and started to encourage alleged victims to file charges against Israeli leaders in countries such as Britain, Spain, Belgium and Norway, according to Mr Madhoun. The committee intended to put the victims of alleged crimes in touch with lawyers and legal institutions in Europe, he said. "We do this as a government trying to protect our people and prevent these massacres from recurring."
Hamas had not been involved directly in filing legal cases or contracting lawyers, he said, but its governing administration had acted as a facilitator. "We have provided a group of independent lawyers in Britain with documents, information and evidence concerning war crimes committed by Israeli political and military leaders, including Ms Livni."
About 1,400 Palestinians died in the conflict. Many were civilians, although Israel and the Palestinians have disputed exactly how many. Mr Madhoun said that the countries such as Britain were chosen because their legal system allowed for the prosecution of foreign citizens for crimes not committed on their soil. He criticised demands for Britain to change its laws.
The Israeli daily newspaper Ma'ariv said that lawyers acting for the committee "go into action each time an Israeli senior official arrives in a European country in which they are operating. The 'incrimination file' formed by Hamas on the respective senior official is then dispatched to them, and from there it is sent to the court with a request for an arrest warrant."
Other organisations have tried to use European legal systems for a similar purpose. In 2003 a Belgian court ruled that Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli Prime Minister, could be tried in Belgium for war crimes over his role in the notorious Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982.
In July this year the National Court of Spain issued arrest warrants against six Israelis including Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Defence Minister, over war crimes allegations dating back to 2002. Several other Israeli politicians and officials are believed to have avoided travelling to Britain because of the threat. In September a British court declined a similar legal action filed against Ehud Barak, who is still serving as Defence Minister and has diplomatic immunity.
"These reports show that it is not human rights that drive these suits but an anti-Israeli campaign at the service of Hamas," Yigal Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said.
In Gaza Mr Madhoun urged European countries to resist Israeli pressure.
An article in a Norwegian magazine quotes the opinion of one trade unionist that perhaps maybe Israel is not as diabolical as Norwegian propaganda claims. It seems to me that this little candle in the darkness is not necessarily a signal that Norwegians are coming to their senses - just a dissident voice. There were probably such people during the Crusades as well, as there were in Germany during the Holocaust.
Every once in a while there is a respite, a lull, and you see articles like the above in magazines where you would not expect to find them and you think "ah well that's fine now maybe Norway and Norwegians can get back to having normal relations with Israel the same way we used to in the sixties" and the next thing you know it's back to normal and Mads Gilbert screaming bloody murder at Israel and friends of Palestine up to their usual bullying tactics at a supermarket or in the schools or some such.
The article above is from the union magazine Tjenestemansbladet (Serviceman's magazine) and is titled "Wants to open closed doors" and deals with a Norwegian union activist who claims that Israel is not as bad as the bullying squads wants us to believe, and maybe we ought to deal with them properly and not just try and kick them out of the world community and arrest their readers and some such.
Unauthorized translation: "Norwegian LO (TUC) has painted a negative picture of Israel. Israel is a great country with many great people. I wish we could have a more nuanced debate".
Indeed we do wish we could have a more nuanced debate. It is perhaps no coincidence that the union man in question is from a officer's union. Norwegian officers are realistic professionals who are learning about the down to earth realities of war in Afghanistan. If anyone in Norway understands what it means to "hide behind the civilian population" it is these guys.
Let us hope this is a real thaw we are seeing the beginnings of here.
After ranting for years, at every opportunity about the evil Jews and their control of the US government, spreading racism for fun and profit, lying about the history of the Middle East and peace negotiations, Jimmy Carter admits he "may" have caused Israel harm and repents ( see Carter apologizes to Jewish community):
In a letter released exclusively to JTA, the former US president sent a seasonal message wishing for peace between Israel and its neighbors, and concluded: "We must recognize Israel's achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel. As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so."
It is better than nothing. To which a spokesman for the progressive coalition against Israel and the Jewish conspiracy will reply, "Now he tells us. We were all ready with the gas chambers and the other things needed to deal with Jewish control of the United States (AKA ZOG - The Zionist Occupied Government) and now Carter seems to be having second thoughts. Without Carter to lead us, we are a flock that has lost its shepherd. Anyone want to buy some brand new gas chambers?"
Carter's "apology" is fluff. "I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so." doesn't do it. An Al Het is ordinarily offered for inadvertant wrongs that might have been done without being noticed. It is not a confession of guilt and repentance for specific transgressions. It is like the Godfather "apologizing" for "any harm I may have done" after wiping out someone's family. It indicates that Carter doesn't understand or will not admit that lying about Israel is wrong, and that claiming that Jews control America and won't let him tell the truth is evil rubbish.
He didn't present incorrect fiction about the peace process inadvertantly or in the spirit of constructive criticism. He was not there to correct and improve, since lies and inflammatory slogans like "Apartheid" cannot be constructive or improving. He deliberately spread lies about Israel. Carter's falsehoods were deliberate. He would not retract his infamous fiction about the map of peace proposals even after Dennis Ross pointed out that it is a lie. He still did not retract it. He also spread racist incitement about Jews in the United States. At least he could have said, "ooik, the Saudis paid me a lot of money to do this. I'm sorry, but you know, business is business." He needs to acknowledge and disown specific lies that he spread. Without that, his "apology" is an insult to our intelligence, an attempt to ingratiate himself with Jews and with decent people who were horrified by his anti-Semitic rants, while at the same time giving himself a license to continue doing exactly the same thing.
The Emperor Constantine, after leading a life of violence, was finally baptized on his deathbed, to wipe away all sin. Jimmy Carter is not there yet, and there is no indication he is done sinning. His apology to the Jews is premature. He will sin again.
The door to repentance and forgiveness must always be open. But Carter must really apologize. He must admit that no sinister Zionist conspiracy has stifled his freedom of speech, that his account of the peace process was fraudulent, that his justification for terrorism was beyond the pale.
These generous gifts show that all is not darkness in the US Jewish community. People still care about Jewish education. How can we make Jewish education more effective, so it reaches more students, is cheaper, and really does help to guarantee the next generation of Jewish leaders, or at least, the next generation of American Jews? Or are we expecting too much of Jewish education?
Last update - 10:18 22/12/2009
Boston's New Jewish High School is growing up By Judy Rakowsky
Defying the recession and concerns about Jewish philanthropy after Bernard Madoff, a group of anonymous donors recently gave $12.25 million to Gann Academy, a 13-year-old pluralistic Jewish high school in suburban Waltham, Mass., enabling the school to retire its building debt.
School officials will say only that the donors are several families, some not from Boston, who have an existing relationship with the school and who believe in Gann's mission of "raising the next generation of Jewish leadership," as development director Deborah Golden put it. "Our mission resonates with a lot of people, even if they are not moved to send students here," Golden said.
The gift comes five years after a group of anonymous donors made a $45 million gift to Boston Jewish day schools. The anonymous nature of both gifts are unusual; 95% of the donors to educational institutions are acknowledged publicly, said Rae Goldsmith, vice president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
"This feels like a huge vote of confidence that's appropriate for our bar mitzvah year," said Rabbi Marc Baker, Gann's head of school. Baker hailed the donors for shunning the spotlight and aiming their philanthropy at the unglamorous target of debt retirement. "They understood this isn?t about them, and that's amazing," he said, adding, "After all, how do you name debt after somebody?"
Leaders in Jewish fundraising and education hailed the donors for departing from the norm of funding construction and academic projects, and for choosing to support education out of the many Jewish causes that are in need. Brandeis University historian Jonathan Sarna said: "Clearly the Jewish community, like many Americans individually, is too heavily leveraged, too deeply indebted to the banks. I hope that this gift becomes a 'game changer' in Jewish life and finds many imitators."
Gann started with fewer than 50 freshmen and sophomores in 1997, in a small building at Brandeis. Originally, the school was given the name The New Jewish High School of Greater Boston and subsequently moved to a bank building in downtown Waltham, where it was housed for five years.
In 2003, the school borrowed $15 million in construction bonds to create the sprawling campus it now occupies. It changed its name to Gann after a $5-million gift from the late Joseph and Rae Gann.
The school has grown to 310 students in grades nine through 12, and now has a $10 million annual budget and annual tuition that is more than $27,000, not counting the cost of the junior-year term in Israel that most students pursue. The grant is not going to make an obvious impact on many students, Baker said, because it is going to add only $220,000 a year to the operating budget, since that was the amount in the budget dedicated to paying off the debt. But to be debt-free is a huge relief, he said.
"Rather than spending in excess of $750,000 a year in debt-service payments, the school can now utilize those available revenues to increase financial aid, enhance programs, attract top administrators and faculty, and improve and expand the physical plant, and build the necessary reserves," said Elizabeth Jick, board president and managing director of Zions Bank.
The gift comes at a time of concern that the recession might reverse the consistent growth in Jewish day school enrollment. Over the past decade, Jewish day school enrollment grew by 25% to 228, 175, according to a study by the Avi Chai Foundation. But most of that growth was in Orthodox schools; enrollment in non-Orthodox schools increased by 5% in the first half of the decade, but dropped 2.5% over the past five years. The number of community day schools, the fastest-growing non-Orthodox segment, nearly doubled over the decade to 120 from 58, according to Marc Kramer, executive director of RAVSAK, an association of community schools.
Gann leaders and fans of pluralistic Jewish education see the gift as a sign of a broader trend of support for nondenominational education, which encourages the acceptance of differences and active engagement around those differences. As Baker said, in the old model, "we look at what we have in common. Here, we look to create dialogue and educate through discomfort about how we are different."
That's certainly the way some students see their school. Hillel Lehmann, a senior whose father was the founding head of school, started a debate club and a radio station and has enjoyed the way the faculty and administration encourage initiative. "I can grow as a person, and Gann has given me the necessary tools so I can develop my own identity," Lehmann said.
Ezra Samet, a 2001 graduate and current Gann board member, said that the rigorous academics and vigorous discussions at Gann made for a seamless transition to his freshman year at Columbia University. "There is buy-in between the faculty and students [that] I've never seen anywhere else; it's much more than a series of classes. It really draws kids and families into the community."
Donald Sylvan, president of the Jewish Education Service of North America, cautioned against interpreting the Gann gift as a trend. "What we have here is a wonderful specific gift to a wonderful pluralistic day school."
Nevertheless, Sylvan acknowledged that with the Gann gift, three of the four donations of more than $10 million to Jewish day schools in recent years went to pluralistic schools. Those include $25 million in 2007 to found the Adelson Upper School, a private Jewish high school in Las Vegas, while another pluralistic school, the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Md., received $15 million in 2005. The Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School in Wynnewood, Pa., which is linked to the Conservative movement, received $20 million in 2001. The $45 million gift to Boston schools in 2004 was divided up among Jewish day schools in the city.
Rabbi Joshua Elkin of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, a day school organization, said that the Gann gift sends a strong message not only about pluralistic education, but also about support for Jewish education.
"Gifts like this," Elkin said, "come because donors believe in the mission."
Contact Judy Rakowsky at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sawyer pressed Ahmadinejad, however, for a yes-or-no answer about his country's nuclear plans.
"Will you say to the American people, tonight, that Iran will never weaponize nuclear material? There will be no nuclear weapon in Iran, ever?" she asked.
Ahmadinejad declined to give a yes or no and did not positively rule out the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Instead, he shook his head and said, "We have got a saying Iran which says 'how many times shall I repeat the same thing?' You should say something only once. We have said once that we don't want nuclear bomb. We don't accept it."
Maybe he said "yes," and maybe he said "no." Maybe he answered, and maybe he didn't. In National Intelligence Estimate language, "There is a high probability that there is a medium probability that there is a possibility of scattered nuclear missile attacks in Europe." The Seijil-2 missile has a reported range of 2,500 KM, putting a lot of European targets in range.
Exclusive: Iran Prez Won't Say Yes-or-No to Nuclear Bomb
Tells ABC's Diane Sawyer Obama Didn't Deserve Nobel Peace Prize
By MARGARET ARO and MARK MOONEY
Dec. 21, 2009—
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declined to give a yes-or-no answer on whether he could assure the West that Iran would never weaponize its nuclear material and turn it into a bomb.
In an exclusive interview with ABC "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer, the Iranian president also scolded the U.S. and other nations that have threatened sanctions against Iran unless it reins in its nuclear ambitions and submits to international inspections of its nuclear facilities.
"They tell us. 'Let's negotiate.' Then from the other hand, they are saying 'sanctions are coming.' They show the stick.
"Respectable lady," Ahmadinejad said, "this approach has failed... raising the stick of sanctions and then saying let's negotiate. It has failed. It's over. It's not repeatable." Ahmadinejad rejected evidence that Iran is working on a neutron initiator, a device which has no civilian uses but is the trigger for a nuclear weapon. It was first reported in the Times of London which cited an internal Iranian document. The plans for a neutron initiator has been described as the "smoking gun" that allegedly proves Iran's nuclear program is intent on building a bomb.
When Sawyer asked the Iranian president if he wanted to see the document, he waved it away.
"No, I don't want to see them at all. I don't," he said. "They are all fabricated bunch of papers continuously being forged and disseminated by the American government." White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod told ABC News the accusation that the U.S. fabricated documents was "nonsense."
Ahmadinejad called the reports that it is working on a bomb trigger "fundamentally not true," and said the continuing accusations that the Iranian regime is working to build a nuclear arsenal has "turned into a repetitive and tasteless joke."
Sawyer pressed Ahmadinejad, however, for a yes-or-no answer about his country's nuclear plans.
"Will you say to the American people, tonight, that Iran will never weaponize nuclear material? There will be no nuclear weapon in Iran, ever?" she asked.
Ahmadinejad declined to give a yes or no and did not positively rule out the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Instead, he shook his head and said, "We have got a saying Iran which says 'how many times shall I repeat the same thing?' You should say something only once. We have said once that we don't want nuclear bomb. We don't accept it."
Sawyer interviewed Ahmadinejad in Copenhagen, Denmark, after he attended the United Nations conference on climate change. During the interview, the Iranian president asked nearly as many questions as he answered, and was at times combative, at other times almost playful.
Moments after Sawyer sought her "yes or no" answer on whether Iran would ever weaponize its nuclear fuel, Ahmadinejad interrupted Sawyer and asked with a smile, "Do you think it was right to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Obama? Now you can give me a yes or no answer."
"It's up to you," she replied, prompting Ahmadinejad to add, "What has he done for peace in the world?"
Ahmadinejad Defiant Over Sanctions Threat
Ahmadinejad used his time to congratulate Americans on the upcoming Christmas holiday, or the "birth anniversary of Jesus Christ" as he called it. He praised Jesus as "a prophet of God." He also used the moment to scold the West for its foreign policies.
"I would like to ask a question," he began. "Which part of the behavior of the American government's correspond with the culture and teachings of Jesus Christ?... If Christ was here today, would he not punish the American statesmen for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would he not resist them? He would definitely resist them."
He was defiant of the international threat of tougher sanctions on Iran if it didn't agree to agree to proposals to limit its ability to make nuclear bombs.
"We don't welcome confrontation, but we don't surrender to bullying either. If you want to talk with us under fair conditions, we welcome it. If you are saying you are going to impose sanctions, then go and do it," Ahmadinejad said.
The Iranian president rejected any suggestion by Amnesty International and opponents of the government that the regime doesn't tolerate criticism or street protests. The country has been split over charges that the presidential election earlier this year was rigged and a subsequent brutal crackdown on street protests.
"In Iran we have got freedom, more than what there is in America," Ahmadinejad claimed.
During the interview, the Iranian president was reminded about his promise to help release Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd. "Are you still going to do your best to set them free?" Sawyer asked.
"Yes," Ahmadinejad curtly replied. "But I have got a question to you. How do you know they have accidentally crossed into Iran? How do you know they were looking for waterfalls and forests?"
When Sawyer asked if there was evidence that the trio were anything but adventurous tourists, Ahmadinejad shot back, "Who has told you this? Are you a judge?"
Sawyer tried to reply, but Ahmadinejad cut her off. "Just let me finish. Have the intelligence agents told you this?"
Pressed on whether the Americans will go on trial, the Iranian president said, "I am not the judge to judge about it."
Despite Ahmadinejad's earlier statement that he would help in obtaining their release, Iran's foreign minister stated last week that Shourd, Bauer and Fattal will be put on trial, charged with espionage.
Hiker's Mom Made Christmas Appeal to Ahmadinejad
The Americans were arrested July 31 when they were found wandering on the Iranian side of the border after trekking through the mountainous region from a hotel in northern Iraq. They claimed that they were sightseers and didn't mean to cross the badly defined border in the area.
Bauer is a freelance journalist based in the Middle East and originally from Minnesota; Shourd is also based in the Middle East as a writer and teacher and is from California; and Fattal is an environmental worker from Oregon.
Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd, appealed last week to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to release her daughter and her two friends as a gesture in the days before Christmas.
Sawyer raised the issue of the hikers' families being in "enormous anguish" since they have been unable to visit them or speak to them. "Will you help arrange that?" Sawyer asked.
"We aren't happy about it either. We are unhappy about all prisoners. In America, there are 3.5 million prisoners. We are unhappy about all of them," Ahmadinejad said. Moments later he added, "I think they have corresponded......We should ask the judge. They might be able to do it."
Monday, December 21, 2009
It is not clear if this is done because of Obama, or in spite of Obama...
US ups funds for Israeli missile defense
Dec. 21, 2009
HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPost correspondent in WASHINGTON , THE JERUSALEM POST
US President Barack Obama has signed a defense spending bill that includes $202 million in funds for Israel's missile defense programs, the White House announced Monday.
The 2010 defense appropriation, however, does not contain funding for the F-22, which would have extended the program. Israel had long wanted to purchase the stealth jets, but current law prevents their export. With the program now slated to end, Israel will focus on the F-35, an even more advanced plane that doesn't have the same restrictions but which will take many more years to become operational.
The Obama administration had opposed further funding for the F-22 and several other pet projects of Congressional appropriators on the grounds that they were too costly and not necessary given the asymmetrical military challenges the country faces. Though the bomber was originally included in the bill - sparking a veto threat - the final version cut the allocation in a political victory for Obama.
Congress was ultimately successful, though, in increasing the amount of money given to Israeli missile defense projects developed in coordination with the United States.
The Arrow-3, a controversial program that initially faced push-back from US Pentagon officials, will now get $50m. as opposed to the $37m. originally requested by the administration.
In addition, the short-range ballistic missile defense program will get $80m., with the balance for the existing long-range program. The total is some $25m. more than was approved last year.
"We are tremendously pleased with the ongoing cooperation between the United States and the State of Israel in the area of missile defense," an Israeli official said after Obama signed the bill this weekend.
He noted that cooperation to deal with mutual threats has gone on for the past decade, and that "we're very pleased with the continuing commitment, as has been demonstrated in the allocation for 2010."
i think he means this as an insult mehitabel.
Kuwaiti Daily Al-Qabas on "the Zionist Cockroach"
In a December 11, 2009 column titled "The Zionist Cockroach" in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, Kuwaiti columnist Fakhri Hashem Al-Sayyed Rajab compared the Zionists to cockroaches capable of survival in any situation, and said that they used dishonorable means to assure their continued existence. He wrote that the Zionists had taken over the world and caused everyone worldwide to hate the Arabs and the Muslims, while the Arabs failed to display a unified stance and kept their reaction to themselves. "There are [various] types of cockroaches: wingless, winged, German, American, Asian. Cockroaches are among the most primeval of the earth's creatures; they can withstand harsher conditions than any other creature, and adapt rapidly to their environment. They say that there are 4,000 kinds [of cockroaches]. The cockroach can survive a week or two without its head, and a month without food. It can withstand many times more radiation than a human can, and will fight to survive.
"I compare the Zionist to the cockroach: For thousands of years, the Zionist has fought [to remain] alive, by all possible means: plunder, exploitation, deceit, killing, and 'laying [its] eggs' across the world so that its offspring will continue to exist until Judgment Day.
"The Zionists have managed to quietly take over the world, imperturbably... and now they are the most powerful force in the world – not in physical strength and weapons stockpiles, but in their power of thought, economics, and planning in all countries, so that [these countries] obey them, and whoever opposes them must watch out. A simple declaration against them means a cruel attack by them – and antisemites beware!
"Their power, and their veins, branch out to southwards, northwards, westwards, and eastwards, and it was recently learned that the Zionist lobby has infiltrated the British government. An investigation is now underway to uncover where the[ir] funds are coming from and what group is providing support.
"Unfortunately, with us Arabs, everything remains in the heart, even our heartfelt reactions.
"We heard about Switzerland's stance regarding the ban on building new minarets, and we did not hear about the united Arab position condemning this action. None of us disagrees that there is a Zionist cockroach behind every issue that arises and is fabricated against the Arabs, particularly the Muslims. These are the [Zionists'] plans; making the foreign world hate the Arab and Muslim existence; occupying Palestine, the Golan, Sinai, and Lebanon; ; for 9/11, and up to the [Swiss] minaret ban. Maybe in the future they will forbid us from entering their countries.
"Our craftiness is in dance and roulette games; see what [the Zionists] have attained by means of [craftineess in ] science and politics, [and what] we have attained by means of oppression and domination!
"In essence: Woe to the nation whose ignorance has made it the laughing-stock of all other nations!"
 A line from a poem by the classical Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi.
Christians for Fair Witness On The Middle East Cautions U.S. Churches Regarding The Kairos Palestine Document
[December 21, 2009] On December 11, 2009, a group of Palestinian Christian leaders issued a document now commonly known as the " Kairos Palestine Document." These leaders describe the document as "a word of faith, hope and love," offered at a time when, according to the drafters, Palestinians have "reached a dead end" because of the Israeli occupation. Ultimately, the document is a call for divestment and economic boycott of Israel.
Rev. Thomas Prinz, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg, Virginia and Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East ("Fair Witness") Executive Committee member, urges our churches to "remember that this document was written entirely by Palestinian Christians. It reflects their narrative and their truth and should be respected as such. But the role of U.S. churches is not simply to adopt the position of one side in a conflict, and then act as their megaphone. Our role is to act as peacemakers. We need to take seriously all the parties' legitimate concerns, and then take a stand informed by the facts and by a broad vision and an inclusive, constructive view."
Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis, Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego and Fair Witness Executive Committee member, says "this document too often fails to acknowledge some fundamental truths. I understand that it comes from a place of deep Palestinian suffering. But we will not advance peace by placing all the blame on Israel's shoulders, or by promoting the false idea that boycotting Israel will solve this conflict."
Fair Witness therefore strongly cautions the U.S. Churches and encourages them to read the Kairos Palestine Document with an open heart but not with an uncritical mind. We also encourage our churches to seize the current opportunity to act as peacemakers -- rather than fan the flames of this conflict by showing contempt for and punishing one side through acts of divestment and boycott.
Please visit the front page of our website for analysis of The Kairos Palestine Document.
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