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Friday, January 29, 2010

Dubai death of Hamas terrorist blamed on Israel

"Brother" al-Mabhuh died a martyr according to Hamas. They should rejoice that he is in heaven with 72 virgins, but they are not consistent.
 Hamas is not especially beloved of the Dubai or Egyptian governments. Accidents can happen. Especially if you are in the terrorism business. Perhaps the death of a terrorist "in suspect circumstances" should be registered as "death from natural causes" or "occupational disease." But it is best to blame everything on Israel of course..
Ami Isseroff
By Adel Zaanoun (AFP)
GAZA CITY — The Islamist Hamas movement blamed Israel on Friday for the death in Dubai earlier this month of one of the founders of its military wing and threatened retaliation at a time of its choosing.
"Mahmud Abdel Rauf al-Mabhuh died a martyr in Dubai on January 20, 2010 in suspect circumstances that require an inquiry in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates authorities," Hamas said in a statement released in its Gaza stronghold.
"We hold Israel responsible for the assassination of our brother and leader," the statement said, adding Hamas would "retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate moment."
There was no immediate Israeli reaction to the allegation, which gave no details on exactly how he died.
There was also no immediate comment from the authorities in Dubai on Hamas's appeal for a joint inquiry.
In Damascus, where Hamas has its leadership in exile, politburo member Izzat al-Rishq also accused Israel of assassinating Mabhuh in a statement posted on the group's website.
"The Zionist enemy assassinated commander Mahmud al-Mabhuh in the United Arab Emirates," Rishq said, adding that Hamas would "avenge the blood shed by the martyr."
Born in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip, Mabhuh was one of the founders of Hamas's Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades armed wing. He was 50 at the time of his death.
Hamas said his remains had been flown to the Syrian capital where a funeral was to be held later on Friday.
Hamas said Mabhuh was behind the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in separate operations in 1989 during the early stages of the first 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising.
Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sadon were both later killed.
Mabhuh also masterminded a number of other attacks on Israeli targets and Israeli authorities demolished his home in Gaza in retaliation.
Mabhuh spent several spells in Israeli custody. After his last release, "he spent his life being hounded by the Zionist occupier until he succeeded in leaving the Gaza Strip," Hamas said.
"Our brother had been a target for the occupier ever since his participation in the kidnapping operation against the two Zionist soldiers, and for his role and support for the resistance."
Over the years, a number of Hamas leaders have died in operations Israel calls "targeted killings."
In 2004, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack in Gaza.
One month later, another Hamas leader in Gaza, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was killed when two missiles hit his car.
And in 1997, agents of Israel's Mossad overseas intelligence service poisoned Hamas's now leader Khaled Meshaal in a botched assassination bid in Jordan's capital Amman that nearly ruptured Israel's relations with its eastern neighbour.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in June 2007.
In December 2008, Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Palestinian territory in a bid to stem persistent rocket fire by militants.
It ended with reciprocal ceasefires the following month since when there have been sporadic rocket or mortar attacks and retaliatory Israeli air raids but no major fighting.

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Hamas is denying it targeted civilians in Israel

It is obvious why Hamas is denying it targeted civilians in Israel. It is equally obvious that they are lying. They targetted civilians both during the war and after the war. Hamas rockets did not kill 10 soldiers as stated below. Several soldiers were killed in friendly fire.

Ahead of a Feb. 5 deadline to respond to war crimes charges in the UN-sponsored Goldstone report, Hamas said it had meant to hit military targets last winter. Human Rights Watch disagrees.
By Erin Cunningham Correspondent / January 28, 2010
Gaza City, Gaza
Ahead of a looming deadline for Israel and Hamas to respond to war crimes charges in the UN-sponsored Goldstone report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) hit back today at a claim made by Hamas earlier this week that its fighters did not commit war crimes in its three-week war with Israel last winter. Instead, said Hamas, its fighters struck civilian areas in Israel "by mistake" when launching rockets at the country's military installations.
"Hamas's claim that rockets were intended to hit Israeli military targets and only accidentally harmed civilians is belied by the facts," the HRW statement said. "Civilians were the target," the statement continued, "and deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime."
The Hamas claim was revealed in an internal document obtained by the Associated Press. Local media say it is part of a larger report Hamas plans to send to the United Nations (UN) later this week, ahead of a Feb. 5 deadline imposed by the UN on both Israel and Hamas to provide evidence they are carrying out independent investigations into allegations of war crimes.
Failure to comply may result in the UN taking up war crimes proceedings against the two at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Hamas hasn't launched serious inquiry
But rights groups here say despite announcements that it plans to launch an investigation, Hamas has so far fallen short of a serious inquiry into the conduct of its own fighters
"I am not confident they are carrying out a serious investigation," says Khalil Abu Shammala, director of the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights – one of the 11 Palestinian rights groups that called on Palestinian leaders to investigate war crimes last week. "But the problem is this: while they want international recognition, they also don't understand international criteria for such procedures."
"They think the international community will adopt their story, that they didn't mean to target civilians, and that will be it," Mr. Shammala continues. "But this is not a joke. If they continue like this, they should be very afraid, just as the Israelis should, of criminal prosecution."
The move may be just a public relations stunt meant to boost its international image, local analysts say. Others say the movement assumes the international community is more focused on Israel, also accused of war crimes and which rebuffed this week UN calls for an independent inquiry into its own army's actions.
"This apparent revelation by Hamas that it hit civilian targets during the war is nothing new, but I think they are looking for legitimacy from the international community, to present themselves as cooperative and open to criticism," says Gaza-based political analyst, Talal Okal.
"They know that Israeli actions during the war are seen as being far worse," Mr. Okal continues. "So I don't think they are taking the whole process very seriously in this respect."
Goldstone report
Rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups from the Gaza Strip during the war killed 13 Israelis, including 10 soldiers, and injured more than 800. More than 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, were killed by the Israeli offensive, according to Palestinian and international human rights groups.
In a 575-page report published by a fact-finding mission commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, the team accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes for targeting and failing to protect civilians. The report calls Palestinian rocket-fire "indiscriminate," and therefore a violation of international law.
Hamas government spokesmen were unavailable for comment, but the Islamist movement has so far been very vocal in its support for the UN war crimes investigation, allowing the mission to conduct its work in Gaza last summer and even criticizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for dropping his endorsement of the mission's findings in October.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

UN Human Rights Council's JUSCANZ group admits Israel with US help

A tiny step forward in the nightmare of UN boycotts of Israel.
U.N. Rights Group Ends Israel Exclusion
UN Watch Lauds U.S. Role, Calls on U.N. to Lift Remaining Barriers
Geneva, Jan. 27, 2010 – After decades of exclusion, Israel was granted membership in a United Nations caucus in Geneva.
Israel's admission to the Human Rights Council's JUSCANZ group -- an acronym for the non-EU democracies of Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- was approved last Friday by consensus, and signifies they regard the Jewish state as "like-minded." The group has expanded over time to include Norway, Switzerland and other Western countries.
"For this to happen in Geneva, and especially at the Arab-dominated Human Rights Council, is an historic accomplishment for Israel and for the principle of equality," said Alfred Moses, Chair of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization.
"It's a significant achievement in an arena where regression is the norm, one that will allow Israel for the first time to participate in a UN consultative group on human rights issues," said Moses.
"This is particularly important during a time when countries are planning for the 2011 reform of the council, a body that has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the world's victims of human rights violations."
"The diplomatic victory followed years of diplomatic efforts, which were supported by UN Watch as a necessary implementation of the UN Charter's equality guarantee for all nations, large and small. The United States is one of several countries that deserve particular credit for finally making it happen."
The change does not apply to JUSCANZ consultations in New York, nor to the Asian regional group's continued exclusion of Israel. UN Watch called on the United Nations to remove remaining discriminatory barriers to Israel's full and equal participation within UN voting and consultation blocs.
"We also urge the Human Rights Council in particular to remove its permanent agenda item targeting Israel; to eliminate its post of a permanent investigator on alleged Israeli violations, where guilt is presumed in advance; and to end the policy whereby three-quarters of all council resolutions have been devoted to the one-sided censure of Israel, and Israel made the object of more special sessions than the total for the rest of the world combined."
UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.

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Netanyahu Address at Auschwitz, marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day

I want to thank the Government of Poland for the historic effort it is making to commemorate the greatest catastrophe that befell my people and the greatest crime committed against humanity.
We have gathered here, Poles and Jews, at the crossroads of tragedy. Our long shared history included tremendous cultural accomplishments and the lowest low humanity has experienced. We were here. We remember those who froze to death; if they did not freeze to death, they were executed by gas, burned in the ovens. We remember also that one-third of the Righteous Gentiles, those who risked their lives and their children's lives and those of their families in order to save others, were Poles. We remember all this.
As we stand here to commemorate the past, we are helping to build a future of decency, truth and hope for our two peoples and for all mankind.
Now I will speak in Hebrew, the reborn language of the people whom the Nazis sought to exterminate.
The voices of millions of my people gassed, burned and killed in a thousand different ways rise out of this cursed ground. In the final moment of their lives, many whispered or cried out the timeless words of our ancient people: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." Perhaps a few used their final breath to chant another age-old prayer: "Remember what Amalek did to you. Never forget!"
To those who were murdered here, and to those who survived the destruction, I come from Jerusalem today with this promise: We will never forget! We will never permit those who desecrated this monument to death to distort or wipe away your memory. We will always remember what Amalek's Nazi heirs did to you. We will be prepared to defend ourselves when a new Amalek appears on the stage of history and threatens again to annihilate the Jews.
We will not delude ourselves into believing that the threats, vilifications and Holocaust denials are merely empty words. We will never forget. We will always be vigilant.
The Holocaust author, K. Zetnick, in his testimony at the Eichman trial, called the death camps "another planet". But the horrors of the Holocaust occurred not in a far away world but right here on earth. It was not the work of beastly animals but of beastly men, of loathsome and despicable murderers.
The most important lesson of the Holocaust is that a murderous evil must be stopped early, when it is still in its infancy and before it can carry out its designs. The enlightened nations of the world must learn this lesson.
We, the Jewish nation, who lost a third of our people on Europe's blood-soaked soil, have learned that the only guarantee for defending our people is a strong State of Israel and the army of Israel. We have learned to warn the nations of the world of approaching danger but at the same time to prepare to defend ourselves.
As the head of the Jewish state, I pledge to you today: We will never again permit evil to snuff out the life of our people and the life of our own country.
I came here today from Jerusalem to say to those who perished here: The people of Israel live! We have returned to our homeland, to the land of our fathers, to our capital Jerusalem. We have come from every corner of the earth - Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Jews from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia, Poland and Yemen, Romania and Iraq, France and Morocco, Jews from seventy lands and five continents.
Some who came almost didn't make it. Barracks #16 at the Birkenau death camp, a few meters from here, housed a17-year old Jewish youth who suffered from the 80 lashes he received in the Ghetto from his Nazi tormenters. No one believed the boy would live, but he survived and escaped from the camp. With the victory over the Nazis 65 years ago, he immigrated to Israel. Fifteen years later, he was the Israeli police officer guarding Adolph Eichmann when the Jewish state brought the Nazi henchmen to justice.
That young man is Michael Goldman. With his wife Eva, he raised a family in Israel, and they have five children and nine grandchildren. Michael is with us here today - a witness to the Holocaust, a witness to the redemption.
The Jewish people rose from ashes and destruction, from a terrible pain that can never be healed. Armed with the Jewish spirit, the justice of man, and the vision of the prophets, we sprouted new branches and grew deep roots. Dry bones became covered with flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet.
As Ezekiel prophesized:
"Then He said unto me: These bones are the whole House of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are doomed.' Prophecy, therefore, and say to them: Thus said the Lord God: I am going to open your graves and lift you out of your graves, O My people, and bring you to the land of Israel."
I stand here today on the ground where so many of my people perished - and I am not alone. The State of Israel and all the Jewish people stand with me. We bow our heads to honor your memory and lift our heads as we raise our flag, a flag of blue and white with a Star of David in its center.
And everyone sees. And everyone hears. And everyone knows - that our hope is not lost.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lancet Study Blames Palestinian Wife-Beating on Israel

Lancet Study Blames Palestinian Wife-Beating on Israel

Posted By Phyllis Chesler On January 24, 2010 ...

Lancet Study Does Not Mention Honor Killings, Forced Veiling, Arranged Marriages, etc.

It's official. Britain's premier medical journal Lancet [1] has been completely Palestinianized. It no longer bears any relationship to the first-rate scientific journal it once was. Perhaps Lancet is no longer a standard-bearer but has become a follower in the global movement in which standards have plunged, biases have soared, and Big Lies now pass for top-of-the-line academic, scientific work.

The post-colonial academy is itself thoroughly colonized by the false and dangerous ideas of Edward Said (please read my dear friend Ibn Warraq's most excellent book Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism [2]). However, I once believed that Said's paranoid perspective had primarily infected and indoctrinated only the social sciences, humanities, and Middle East Studies. We now see his malign influence at work in a new article, just out today, by professors who work at the Department of Medicine at Harvard University; the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at Minnesota University's School of Public Health; The Boston University School of Medicine; the School of Nursing at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; and at the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

Their study [3] is titled: "Association between exposure to political violence and intimate-partner violence in the occupied Palestinian territory: a cross-sectional study." And yes, they have found that Palestinian husbands are more violent towards Palestinian wives as a function of the Israeli "occupation"— and that the violence increases significantly when the husbands are "directly" as opposed to "indirectly" exposed to political violence.

I believe that Arab and Muslim men, including Palestinian men, are indeed violent towards Arab and Muslim women. I also believe that war-related stress, including poverty, usually increases "intimate partner violence," aka male domestic violence. But beyond that, how does one evaluate this study?

First, let's follow the money. This study was funded by the Palestinian National Authority as well as by the Core Funding Group at the University of Minnesota. The Palestinian Authority is not a disinterested party. But even worse: The data was collected by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Palestinians are the people who once told the world that Israeli soldiers shot young Mohammed al-Dura, committed a massacre in Jenin, and purposely attacked Palestinian civilians (who just happened to be jihadists dressed in civilian clothing or hostage-civilians behind whom the jihadists hid).

Second, let's note that the study has a political goal which trumps any objective academic or feminist goal. (These researchers claim to have a "feminist" perspective). In my view, this study wishes to present Palestinian men as victims even when (or precisely because) those men are battering their wives. And, it wishes to present Palestinian cultural barbarism, which includes severe child abuse, as also related to the alleged Israeli occupation.

Third, therefore, the study has purposely omitted the violence, including femicide, which is routinely perpetrated against daughters and sisters in "occupied Palestine" and has, instead, chosen to focus only on husband-wife violence and only on couples who are currently married. The honor murders of daughters and sisters by their parents and brothers is a well known phenomenon in Gaza and on the West Bank.

I have written about some high profile cases before. "Souad" barely survived being set on fire [4] by her West Bank family because she became pregnant out of wedlock by the man who promised to marry her; Israelis nursed her back to health and she fled the area for Europe, where she wrote a book about her near-death experience. Asma'a al-Ghoul [5], whom I interviewed in 2008, was fired for writing a series of articles about honor killings on the West Bank and in Gaza. These barbaric, misogynist, and femicidal customs are not due to any alleged political, military, or economic "occupation" by Israelis.

Fourth, if one is completely serious about violence against women, the researchers would have factored in the role of Hamas, which has "occupied" Gaza both militarily and religiously. Since they have done so, more and more (previously modern) women have been forced to veil; more child marriages as well as arranged marriages are now taking place.

Indeed, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have lured young Palestinian women into becoming suicide killers [6]. In 2002, they manipulated Wafa Idris, a clinically depressed woman into blowing herself up, and in 2004, they lured Reem al-Riyashi, a wife and mother of two, into an affair and then threatened to shame her (which would have led to her being honor-murdered). Instead, they gave her a path to glory.

This study chose not to include such terrible violence against women because it could not, strictly speaking, be attributed to the alleged Israeli occupation—or to the still unresolved matter of the disputed territories.

Fifth, had the Lancet study wished to study—truly study—the effects of war in terms of an increase in male domestic violence at home, they would also have studied or at least referred to studies about the fate of Israeli women in terms of "intimate partner violence"; after all, they are also women and they are on the other side of the exact same conflict. A comparison might have been both just and arguably more feminist. In addition, this study would have tried to establish some kind of base line or control group i.e. the researchers would have compared their Palestinian-on-Palestinian domestic violence with the domestic violence rates in other Arab, Muslim countries such as Jordan, Syria, or Egypt, where there is no alleged (western) occupation exists.

Sixth, Lancet is a British journal and it has hereby descended to the same level of anti-Zionist/anti-Jewish propaganda that is quite common among Britain's own non-academic journalists. Countless British journalists have done precisely what this study has attempted to do: Blame it all on Israel.

Lancet has done this before [7], and I have written about this rather nasty tendency more than once. I have also written about this tendency among feminists in my book The Death of Feminism [8]. Make no mistake: This Lancet study is introduced by Rita Giacoman, a real feminist, who teaches at the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University which is located in, as Lancet describes it, "Occupied Palestinian territory."

In 2002, in an updated version of her book The Price of Honor, British-American (and anti-Zionist) journalist Jan Goodwin claims that the Israeli military policies of self-defense have emasculated Palestinian men. Curfews keep grandiose, woman-hating, and honor- and shame-reared men at home for long hours. Based on anecdotal evidence, Goodwin believes that such men take their considerable frustrations out on women and children. Here, Goodwin quotes Suha Sabbagh, who says that the "Palestinian male, a father, the authority figure in the house, has lost all his authority." Goodwin dwells on the systematic "humiliation" of the Palestinian man by the Israelis. She writes: "Much of this belittling has taken place in front of their children and womenfolk," which in turn has "cut down" the image of the Palestinian man as the family's "hero" figure. "For Arab men, this is the same as losing their masculinity."

And here Goodwin, like so many other feminists, contradicts herself. Arab and Muslim overly vigilant paternal authority is precisely what has brutalized Arab and Muslim women. In 1992, Jean Sasson published Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia [9]. The unnamed al-Saud princess (whose story Sasson tells), describes the typically cruel way in which fathers, brothers, and husbands treat their "womenfolk." Let me quote her: "The authority of a Saudi male is unlimited; his wife and children survive only if he desires. In our homes, he is the state…From an early age, the male child is taught that women are of little value…the child witnesses the disdain shown his mother and sisters by his father; this leads to his scorn of all females…[the] women in my land are ignored by their fathers, scorned by their brothers, and abused by their husbands."

Iranian-Swiss Carmen bin Laden, in her book Inside the Kingdom [10], portrays life for women under Saudi male rule similarly. Women cannot go out without a male escort and they cannot leave the house or the county without male permission and accompaniment. A daughter can be married against her will, a father can seize custody of his children and not allow their mother to ever see them again. Bin Laden writes: "I rarely met a Saudi woman who was not afraid of her husband…A wife cannot do anything without her husband's permission. She cannot go out, cannot study, often cannot even eat at his table. Women in Saudi Arabia must live in obedience, in isolation, and in the fear that they may be cast out and summarily divorced."

Saudi Arabia has not been "settled," "colonized," or "humiliated," by Israelis.

Jordan has not been "settled," "colonized," "occupied," or "humiliated" by Israel. And yet, Jordan has a high rate of honor killing. According to Elaine Sheeley, in her 2007 book Reclaiming Honor in Jordan [11], nineteen to one hundred honor killings take place in Jordan each year. Based on another author's use of United Nations statistics, Sheeley also cites a much larger number of honor killings in Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank. (I am not sure how they came to this figure or if it is at all accurate but the number given is 2,550 per year).

Due to the Bedouin leadership, honor killing is rampant in Jordan; the police jail the intended victims (for their safety) rather than the potential perpetrators; and even the King dare not sign into law serious sentencing consequences for an honor killing. Judges are allowed to use their discretion in sentencing and sentences are very light.

Egypt is not colonized by Israel, and yet serious violence against women is common there. This includes female genital mutilation, wife-beating, daughter-beating, forced marriages—and, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the forced veiling of previously modern women.

More at Lancet Study Blames Palestinian Wife-Beating on Israel

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Palestinian Authority has become an obstacle to peace.

This Palestinian view reveals more than it intended to. It should be clear now to all fair minded people that Palestinian obstructionism is preventing the renewal of the peace process. Earlier, the Palestinian Maan news service reported that Palestinians had added what seems to be an impossible precondition to renewal of negotiations. Israel must agree to withdraw from all territories conquered in the Six day war. If that is a precondition, then presumably the negotiations are about what part of Tel Aviv the Palestinians want.
The aide, Nimer Hammad, told Ma'an that Abbas asked that Israel commit to a real settlement freeze even for a limited period of time. His second request was that negotiations be based on the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and a full withdrawal to those armistice lines.
Ami Isseroff

U.S. Pressures Abbas on Peace Talks, Official Says
Saud Abu Ramadan, Gwen Ackerman
January 26, 2010 - 12:00am
The U.S. is putting pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace talks with Israel while avoiding confrontation with the Jewish state, a senior Palestinian official said.
"Washington, along with the international community, is pressuring the Palestinians without obliging Israel to stop settlement construction," Nabil Shaath, a member of the decision-making Central Committee of Abbas's Fatah party, said today in an e-mailed statement.
Palestinians broke off the last round of Middle East peace talks at the end of 2008 to protest Israel's military action in the Gaza Strip. Abbas says he won't resume negotiations unless Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank.
Failure to solve the conflict with the Palestinians is a bigger threat for Israel than the Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today at a Tel Aviv conference. "The lack of an answer to the problem of drawing borders in the historic Land of Israel -- and not an Iranian bomb -- is the most serious threat to Israel's future," Barak said, in remarks broadcast on Israel Army Radio.
U.S. envoy George Mitchell met separately with Abbas and Netanyahu last week in his latest attempt to get the two back to the negotiating table. Netanyahu has declared a partial 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement-building and has been urging Abbas to return to peace talks. The U.S. has welcomed the move, easing its previous demands for a complete halt to construction.
'Leadership is Firm'
Shaath, a former foreign minister for the Palestinian Authority, said that Abbas would not give in to the pressure.
"The Palestinian leadership is firm in rejecting the U.S. and Israeli demands," Shaath said, adding that Abbas is currently traveling abroad to enlist support for his position. "The U.S. is not interested in a collision with Israel and that's why it is directing its pressure toward the Palestinians."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Jan. 18 after meeting in Berlin with Netanyahu that she also planned to press Abbas to grasp the offer of negotiations with Israel when she meets with him early next month.
"We need movement" in the peace process, Merkel said at a joint press briefing in Berlin today with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

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Letter to a "Peace Activist"

From Laurence Seef, who has inaugurated the Israel Proud Web Log
The Peace Activist

This letter was written in response to an article written by a self-proclaimed "peace activist".
I suggest reading this individual's article first at: to pick up the thread.

Dear Gila,

I stumbled onto your article "God Bliss" through a link from a website that recommended reading your article.
I read the article.

I also read about your commendable commitment, devotion and activities to bring peace into this troubled area. I respect all those who are concerned with making the world a better place and take the time and effort to do so, ultimately contributing to bringing about positive change for our generation and those to follow.

However, your article troubles me deeply, perhaps as deeply as your contempt for those who turn a blind eye to the hardships of the Palestinian populations in Gaza and the West Bank. It troubles me fivefold.

Firstly, unknown to many, there is a media war, a media "intifada" that does as much damage to Israel and the Jews, in Israel and abroad, as does Antisemitism, biased ignorant hate, war and bloodshed. I am certain that you do not intend contributing to the countless hate websites at worst, or anti-Israel sites that feed on disinformation published on the internet to swing public opinion.

We both know that "each small step counts", and that words are powerful and cause wars. I am thus personally very careful and selective with what I say and convey, no matter what my disposition or the subject.

While I respect open debate and freedom of speech, I take into account the "public opinion" you mention in your article. Yes, you want to make a change in Israeli society and I respect that. Yourpublicized website article addresses the entire public, which unfortunately addresses many outside of Israeli society. Now, you don't exactly hang out your dirty washing or publicize your relationship hitches, but rather work on them from within. Since there is no need to convert the converted, this leaves the "floaters" to swing and I dread thinking of the floating Mr. Smith who reads your article. The uncanny ease of hanging out dirty washing with little consideration of the impact and consequences, borders on masochism.

You might like me to qualify some of above, as I will do after each section. I can refer you to a number of online sources with direct links, but will suffice with adding headings for now, pending your response – "The Al-Dura Affair", "the Jenin Massacre", "Honestreporting", "Pallywood", to provide just a few. 
Continued - Letter to a Peace Activist

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Goldstone exposed

A devastating critique. It is thorough. This is only a small part of it. Few have had the temerity to deal with the huge pile of verbiage and baseless criticism contained in the Goldstone report, and probably Goldstone is right, most people didn't even read the Klassik Komix version. It is enough for hard line critiques of Israel to know that it lambasts Israel, and it is enough for others to know that it makes unfair and impossible to substantiate accusations, especially the accusation that the Israeli government intended to harm civilians. Goldstone doesn't have the evidence to prove intent, or even to infer it.
Alan Dershowitz has provided a detailed, blow-by-blow analysis.
Ami Isseroff

Goldstone continues to complain that no one has read his report.  Dershowitz has.  Unpublished essay published with his permission.

The Case Against the Goldstone Report: A Study in Evidentiary Bias

by Alan Dershowitz[1]

I. Introduction


The Goldstone Report, when read in full and in context, is much worse than most of its detractors (and supporters) believe.  It is far more accusatory of Israel, far less balanced in its criticism of Hamas, far less honest in its evaluation of the evidence, far less responsible in drawing its conclusion, far more biased against Israeli than Palestinian witnesses, and far more willing to draw adverse inferences of intentionality from Israeli conduct and statements than from comparable Palestinian conduct and statements.  It is worse than any report previously prepared by any other United Nations agency or human rights group.  As Major General Avichai Mandelblit, the advocate general of the Israeli Defense Forces, aptly put it:


"I have read every report, from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Arab League.  We ourselves set up investigations into 140 complaints.  It is when you read these other reports and complaints that you realize how truly vicious the Goldstone report is.  He made it look like we set out to go after the economic infrastructure and civilians, that it was intentional:  It's a vicious lie."[2]


The Goldstone report is, to any fair reader, a shoddy piece of work, unworthy of serious consideration by people of good will, committed to the truth.


Most of the criticism and praise of the report has been based on its highly publicized and controversial conclusions, rather than on its methodology, analysis and substantive findings.  The one statement Richard Goldstone has made, with which I agree, is that many of the report's most strident critics have probably not read the entire report.  But it is also true, though I have not heard the report's biased author say this, that many of the report's most vocal defenders and advocates have also not read it.


It is not surprising that so few of the report's critics and supporters have actually made their way through its dense and repetitive texts.  The version I originally read was 553 pages long plus appendices.  There are 1223 footnotes, though many of its most critical statements are not well sourced.  It is poorly written, obviously drafted by several different hands and without the benefit of a good overall editor.  It is laden with internal inconsistencies, shoddy citations of authority, and overall poor craftsmanship.  If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, this report lacks even the grace of a dromedary.  Most of the commentary on the report, both pro and con, seems to be based on its somewhat sanitized summary and conclusion.  Some of the worst mistakes are buried very deep in the report, many of the most serious ones toward the end.


Efforts are currently underway by supporters of the report to have governments, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, religious groups and distinguished individuals sign on to the report, so as to give it the credibility it now lacks.  No one should do so without reading the report in full—and without reading responsible criticisms (and defenses) of the report.  I have read every word of the report and compared different sections.  I have offered to debate Goldstone about its contents.  He has refused, as he has generally refused to respond substantively to credible critics of the report.  My offer to debate still stands.  If he refuses, as I expect he will, let him at least respond to the serious legal, factual and moral criticisms contained in this study and others.[3] As the head of the mission and the report's most visible public defender, Goldstone has a public obligation to respond to responsible criticism, which to date, he has not done.


In the coming week, the Secretary-General of the United Nations will present a compilation of responses to the Goldstone Report.[4] I am submitting this analysis for inclusion.


The Israeli military will soon publish a detailed rebuttal to the Goldstone Report, providing photographic and other hard evidence that contradicts its most serious "findings."  I am not in a position to deal with specific military issues.  But I am in a position to consider and evaluate the evidentiary methodology employed by the Goldstone Report.


In this analysis, I will focus on the two central conclusions reached in the report.  The first is that the real purpose of Operation Cast Lead was not to protect Israeli civilians from Hamas rockets, over eight thousand of which had struck Israel over a nine year period.[5] According to the report, Israel used the rocket attacks on its citizens as a pretext, an excuse, a cover for the real purpose of the operation, which was to target innocent Palestinian civilians—children, women, the elderly—for death.  This criminal objective was explicitly decided upon by the highest levels of the Israeli government and military and constitutes a deliberate and willful war crime.  The report found these serious charges "to be firmly based in fact" and had "no doubt" of their truth.[6]


In contrast, the Mission decided that Hamas was not guilty of deliberately and willfully using the civilian population as human shields.  It found "no evidence" that Hamas fighters "engaged in combat in civilian dress," "no evidence" that "Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack," and no support for the claim that mosques were used to store weapons. [7]


As we will see, the report is demonstrably wrong about both of these critical conclusions.  The hard evidence conclusively proves that the exact opposite is true, namely that:


  1. Israel did not have a policy of targeting innocent civilians for death.  Indeed the IDF went to unprecedented lengths to minimize civilian casualties; and


  1. That Hamas did have a deliberate policy of having its combatants dress in civilian clothing, fire their rockets from densely populated areas, use civilians as human shields, and store weapons in mosques.


What is even more telling than its erroneous conclusions, however, is its deliberately skewed methodology,[8] particularly the manner in which it used and evaluated similar evidence very differently, depending on whether it favored the Hamas or Israeli side.


The evidentiary bias of the report should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the members of the Mission and statements they have made both before, during and after working on the report.[9] There were four members: A Pakistani woman, who was formerly Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; an Irish man, who was formerly a Colonel in the Irish Defense Forces; a British woman, who is a professor at the London School of Economics; and a South African man, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.


The Pakistani member of the Mission, Hina Jilani, signed a letter (along with two other Mission members) before even being appointed stating that "The events in Gaza have shocked us to the core."[10] After the report was completed, she made statements indicating that victims must not only be listened to, but that it would be "very cruel to not give credence to their voices."[11] She did not mention that the "voices" of the Gaza witnesses were monitored and controlled by Hamas, since their testimony was televised, and that much of it was demonstrably false and contradicted by hard evidence.


The Irish member of the Mission, Col. Desmond Travers, refused to believe evidence that undercut Hamas' position even when it was on videotape and utterly uncontradicted.  This is what he said about weapons being stored in Gaza mosques: "We also found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions.  Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion….If I were a Hamas operative the last place I'd store munitions would be in a mosque.  It's not secure, is very visible, and would probably be pre-targeted by Israeli surveillance.  There are a [sic] many better places to store munitions."[12] Not only is there physical evidence that conclusively proves that mosques are a favorite place to store rockets and other weapons, but Hamas leaders boast of it.


The British member, Christine Chinkin, had already decided the case before hearing one bit of evidence.  Here is what she said in a letter that bore her signature written before she was even appointed to the Mission: "The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence…. The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire….Israel's actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary….As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law…. [T]he manner and scale of its [Israel's] operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas."[13] Here is the curious manner in which Goldstone responded to claims Chinkin was biased: "This is not a judicial inquiry.  If it had been a judicial inquiry, that letter she'd signed would have been a ground for disqualification."[14] If her bias would have been a ground for judicial disqualification, then surely her conclusions should not be credited by quasi-judicial bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, the U.N. Council on Human Rights and other governmental and non-governmental bodies.


Finally, the South African member, Richard Goldstone, insisted that the hearings in Gaza be televised, thereby assuring that all witnesses had to tow the Hamas party line or risk certain death.  Goldstone also lied about the role Hamas played in escorting and presenting evidence to the Mission.  Here is what Goldstone wrote about being escorted by Hamas: "I must, however, categorically deny the allegation that Hamas officials accompanied Members of the Fact Finding Mission at all, let alone 'at every stage of their visit to Gaza.'  Reports to that effect are denial of truth, as I have already publically stated.  I would have found this to be quite unacceptable."[15] The actual truth is quite different.  According to an Associated Press article published on June 9, 2009, "Hamas security often accompanied his [Goldstone's] team during their five-day trip to Gaza last week, raising questions about the ability of witnesses to freely describe the militant group's actions."[16]


How could Goldstone possibly know who among those escorting him were affiliated with Hamas?  The reality is that nothing significant takes place in Gaza without the approval of Hamas.


Richard Goldstone has acknowledged that he accepted the role of Chairman with a clear preconceived agenda. [17] He has told numerous Jewish friends and acquaintances that he agreed to take on the task in order to "help Israel."  He believed that he would bring "balance" to the report.  Whether his real motive was to help Israel or to accomplish some other goal, it is always disqualifying to come to a quasi-judicial fact finding function with a preconceived agenda.  Sometimes it causes one to lean over backwards, sometimes forwards.  But leaning in either direction is inconsistent with objectivity.


II. Goldstone: Israel Intentionally Kills Innocent Civilians


I begin with the Mission's most irresponsible criticism of Israel.  At bottom the report accuses the Jewish state of having implemented a policy in Gaza that borders on genocide.  It blames the civilian deaths that occurred during Operation Cast Lead not on the fog of war, not on the use of human shields by Hamas, not on the inevitability of civilian casualties when rockets are fired from densely populated urban areas, not even on the use of "disproportionate force" by Israel.  Instead it blames the Palestinian civilian deaths on an explicit policy devised at the highest levels of the Israeli government and military, of killing as many Palestinian civilians as possible.  It concludes that Operation Cast Lead was not designed to stop the rocket attacks on Israel's civilians—more than eight thousand over a nine year period.[18] Instead, the rocket attacks merely served as an excuse for the Israeli military to achieve its real purpose: namely the killing of Palestinian civilians.  Lest there be any doubt that this is the accusation being made, read the words of the report itself:


"While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole."[19]


At other points in the report, the language "at least in part" is dropped.  Instead the report concludes that Israel's "overall policy [was] aimed at punishing the Gaza population" and that its "force [was] aimed not at the enemy," but at "the civilian population."[20] It found that Israel was guilty of "the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians" and that the killings "are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions."[21] "[T]he Mission finds that the incident and patterns of events that are considered in this report have resulted from deliberate planning and policy decisions throughout the chain of command, down to the standard operating procedures and instructions given to the troops on the ground."[22] "[I]n every case the Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians," and the report considered that "the civilian population as such" was "the object of attacks," rather than the collateral victims of military actions directed against combatants.[23]


These are among the most serious charges ever leveled by a United Nations organization against a member state.  It accuses Israel of using Hamas rocket attacks against its civilians as an excuse—a cover—for a carefully planned and executed policy of deliberately targeting innocent civilians for mass murder.  As philosophy professor Moshe Halbertal, a strong peace advocate and frequent critic of Israeli military actions (including during Operation Cast Lead), put it:


"Now, there is a huge moral difference between the accusation that Israel did not do enough to minimize collateral civilian death and the claim that Israel targeted civilians intentionally.  It might well be that Israel should have done more than it did to minimize collateral deaths—it is a harsh enough claim, and it deserves a thorough examination.  But the claim that Israel intentionally targeted civilians as a policy of war is false and slanderous."[24]


Even Israel's most vociferous domestic critics—The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and B'Tselem—acknowledge that "Israel did not have a policy of intentionally killing civilians…."[25] Jessica Montell, Executive Director of B'Tselem, wrote, "I was disturbed by the framing of Israel's military operation as part of 'an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience.'  The facts presented in the report itself would not seem to support such a far-reaching conclusion."[26] While condemning the operation as disproportionate, or worse, these organizations did not cross the "huge moral" line—the line irresponsibly and mendaciously crossed by the Goldstone Report—of accusing Israel of intentionally targeting civilians for death.  As the New York Times reported:


"[V]irtually no one in Israel, including the leaders of Breaking the Silence and the human rights group B'Tselem, thinks that the Goldstone accusation of an assault on civilians is correct.  'I do not accept the Goldstone conclusion of a systematic attack of civilian infrastructure,' said Yael Stein, research director of B'Tselem.  'It is not convincing.'"[27]


One would expect that before making so serious and unprecedented a charge, the report would present overwhelming direct evidence of such a policy.  Israel is, after all, an open society with an aggressive investigative media, a strong independent judiciary, many dissenting voices, vigorous opposition parties, a vibrant peace movement and few secrets.  Yet the report presents absolutely no hard evidence to support its serious accusations of a governmental policy of deliberately maximizing civilian deaths.


Indeed, much of the evidence cited in the report proves precisely the opposite—that Israel's policy was to minimize civilian deaths, while attacking those responsible for targeting Israeli civilians with rocket attacks.  Moreover, it ignores massive amounts of evidence—some specifically offered to it, other publicly available in open sources—that prove beyond any doubt that the central conclusions of the report are demonstrably false.


Goldstone has himself acknowledged that there is no actual "evidence" that the report's conclusions are correct.  Indeed, he has gone even further and admitted that "If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven."  He has also said he would not be embarrassed "if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved" [28]—as it appears likely they will be, by photographic and other hard evidence.[29] Yet Israel's enemies cite the report as if it proved its charges beyond all doubt.  That is because the report itself is written so as to suggest, quite falsely, that it had proved its case.  For example:


"The Mission considers this position ["The operations were in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at publishing the Gaza population…."] to be firmly based in fact…."[30]


"[T]he systematic and deliberate nature of the activities described in this report leave the Mission in no doubt that responsibility lies in the first place with those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw the operations."[31]


The reality is that the report's central conclusions—that Israel's policy was to maximize the deaths of civilians—is not "firmly based in fact."  It is made up of whole cloth and contradicted by the evidence purportedly relied on by those who wrote the report.  Moreover, it is disproved by public record evidence deliberately ignored by the report.[32]


The report relies on five categories of evidence that purport to prove that Israel's true intention was not to defend its civilians against Hamas rocket attacks, but rather to maximize the deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians.  These categories are: statements of military leaders; statements of political officials; the nature of Israeli weaponry; the number of civilian casualties; and the fact that the IDF deliberately attacked food supplies and non-human civilian targets, such as a wastewater plant.


The first category consists of statements—generally quoted with little or no context—made by Israeli military leaders before the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.  These include the following:


"In its operations in southern Lebanon in 2006, there emerged from Israeli military thinking a concept known as the Dahiya doctrine, as a result of the approach taken to the Beirut neighborhood of that name.  Major General Gadi Eisenkot, the Israeli Northern Command chief, expressed the premise of the doctrine:


What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. […] This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved."


"After the war in southern Lebanon in 2006, a number of senior former military figures appeared to develop the thinking that underlay the strategy set out by Gen. Eiskenot. In particular Major General (Ret.) Giora Eiland has argued that, in the event of another war with Hizbullah, the target must not be the defeat of Hizbullah but 'the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure and intense suffering among the population… Serious damage to the Republic of Lebanon, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hizbollah's behavior more than anything else.'"


"These thoughts, published in October 2008 were preceded by one month by the reflections of Col. (Ret.) Gabriel Siboni:


With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate[33] to the enemy's actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher. Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite… In Lebanon, attacks should both aim at Hizbollah's military capabilities and should target economic interests and the centres of civilian power that support the organization. Moreover, the closer the relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Government, the more the elements of the Lebanese State infrastructure should be targeted. Such a response will create a lasting memory among … Lebanese decision makers, thereby increasing Israeli deterrence and reducing the likelihood of hostilities against Israel for an extended period.  At the same time, it will force Syria, Hizbollah, and Lebanon to commit to lengthy and resource-intensive reconstruction programmes…


This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well. There, the IDF will be required to strike hard at Hamas and to refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers. The IDF should not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves, but by means of imposing a ceasefire on the enemy."[34]


These polemic snippets—calculated to deter Hezbollah and Hamas from firing rockets at Israeli civilians—were selected from thousands of statements made over the years by IDF officers.  Even so, not a single one of them—nor any statement quoted in the entire report—calls for the maximization of Palestinian civilian deaths, or for the specific targeting of Palestinian civilians.  They specifically exclude targeting civilians for death from the list of appropriate punitive actions, such as damage to "national infrastructure," the "elimination of the Lebanese military" and generic "suffering of hundreds of thousands of people."  Civilians always suffer from military actions, and even from lesser sanctions.  For example, on December 11, 2009, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that sanctions against Iran would be intended "to persuade the Iranian government that they would actually be less secure with nuclear weapons" because "their people will suffer enormously" from sanction.[35] Surly such a statement could not be used to prove that the United States intends to kill Iranian civilians.


The so-called "Dahiya doctrine" of responding to rocket attacks with disproportionate force intended to destroy infrastructure says nothing about specifically targeting civilians for death.  To the contrary, the quoted material says that "punishment must be aimed at the decision makers," referring to those who make the decision to allow the rockets to be fired, and to "civilian power that supports" the terrorist organization, namely Hamas.  Ordinary people, civilians, are not mentioned.  Their exclusion is significant.  Yet the report misused this doctrine and these quotes to try to prove that the object of Operation Cast Lead was the killing of civilians.


The report itself admits that it does not know "whether Israeli military officials were directly influenced by these writings."[36] But it reaches the conclusion that "what is prescribed as the best strategy appears to have been precisely what was put into practice."[37] Yes!  The destruction of physical infrastructure.  Not the targeting of civilians.  Indeed, what was "put into practice" was a policy of warning civilians by phone, emails, leaflets and other means.  As we shall see, Israel went to great lengths to protect civilians, not to attack them.


Instead of looking to the hard evidence that is completely inconsistent with any Israeli policy of targeting civilians and maximizing civilian deaths, the report focused on selective statements of Israeli leaders made before Operation Cast Lead and calculated to deter rocket attacks by threatening a disproportionate response.


It is more than ironic that the same report refused to credit much more specific statements made by Hamas leaders before Operation Cast Lead.  On February 29, 2008, Fathi Hammad, a leading Hamas legislator, made the following statement:


"For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine.  It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death like you desire life.'"[38]


The report quoted this statement and then chose to ignore it.  This is what it said:


"Although the Mission finds this statement morally repugnant, it does not consider it to constitute evidence that Hamas forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack."[39]


Nor apparently did it consider it in any way relevant to whether Palestinian civilians willingly allowed themselves to be used as human shields—or even as to whether the IDF might reasonably have believed it to be relevant when they planned the operation.


In contrast to this dismissive attitude toward this and other specific and bellicose statements[40] and threats of Hamas political leaders, the report attributed considerable weight to vague and general statements made by Israeli political officials during and after Operation Cast Lead.  It focused particularly on one statement made by Tzipi Livni who was then Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs.  On January 13, 2009, Livni said, "We have proven to Hamas that we have changed the equation.  Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond.  It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild—and this is a good thing."[41]


The report also quotes Eli Yishai, then Minster of Industry, Trade and Labour.  Yishai said on January 6, 2009,

"It [should be] possible to destroy Gaza, so they will understand not to mess with us…it is a great opportunity to demolish thousands of houses of all the terrorists, so they will think twice before they launch rockets.  I hope the operation will come to an end with great achievements and with the complete destruction of terrorism and Hamas.  In my opinion, they should be razed to the ground, so thousands of houses, tunnels, and industries will be demolished….[T]he operation will continue until a total destruction of Hamas."[42] The report quotes Yishai as saying on February 2, 2009, "Even if the rockets fall in an open air or to the sea, we should hit their infrastructure, and destroy 100 homes for every rocket fired."[43]


With these quotes in hand the report concludes, "Statements by political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza leave little doubt that disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy."[44] There is an argument, albeit a very weak one, that these quotes suggest an unlawful policy of disproportionate destruction of property.  This argument is weak because the use of the word "disproportionate" quoted on page 9 supra does not constitute an admission that unlawfully disproportionate force would be employed under the standards of international law.  Under international law, the harm collaterally inflicted on civilians must not be disproportionate to the military objective.[45] But there is no prohibition against using overwhelming—that is disproportionate —military force against a legitimate military object.[46] Israel had a perfect right to kill every single Hamas fighter, even if that number was in the thousands, in order to stop the rockets from endangering millions of Israeli civilians.  The fact that 8,000 Hamas rockets succeeded in killing only a dozen or so Israelis, does not require Israel to limit the number of Hamas combatants killed.  Reading the quote on page 8 does not suggest that the speaker was urging disproportionate civilian casualties but rather he was urging military force greater than and disproportionate to the number of Israelis killed by to the rockets that were being fired at Israeli civilians.  This is perfectly lawful under international law.  If proportionality were required in relation to military targets, it would be impossible for countries like the United States to employ its overwhelming military weapons—drones, tomahawk missiles, stealth bombers—against terrorists, who are poorly equipped but determined to kill.


To argue, moreover, that these polemical statements directed against property and terrorists conclusively prove a "deliberate policy" of "violence against civilians" is simply absurd.  Livni suggests that Israel will "go wild" on Hamas in order to restore deterrence, and nowhere suggests civilians will be targeted.  Yishai says he wants to "destroy Gaza," but quickly clarifies that this means "complete destruction of terrorism and Hamas," a legitimate military objective.  The report concludes that Yishai's quote regarding destruction of homes may suggest "reprisals against civilians … contrary to international humanitarian law."[47] Unsurprisingly, the report omits that in this same speech Yishai clarifies that homes destroyed will be "terrorists' homes while informing them in advance —so as not to hurt the family members."[48] This deliberate omission is particularly disturbing, since it is directly relevant to the report's most damning condemnation of Israel, and the omitted portion of the quote undercuts the report's conclusion.  One can be extremely critical of some of the statements quoted in the report without using them as a basis for the non-sequitur argument that they prove an intent to do what they pointedly do not advocate: namely the deliberate killing of babies, innocent women and other civilians.


Continued here: The case against the Goldstone Report


Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab reformist view of American Middle East policy

A trenchant and cogent analysis of the problems of US Middle East policy. This is an important point to understand:
And finally, and most important in many ways, a freedom gap that has so far frustrated every attempt at peacemaking in the region, because the dividends of peace hold more promise for the peoples of the region than most of their ruling corrupt and authoritarian regimes.
But the Arab states and the Arab public have to understand, along with the US, that the US has to deal with the Middle East as it is. If it doesn't solicit good relations with undemocratic regimes, that doesn't leave the US many potential friends in this part of the world. If the Arabs want democracy and development, it is up to them to make the effort. Democracy cannot be imposed from outside, as Arabs were reminding the United States only a few years ago, when the Bush administration was trying to do just that.
There may, unfortunately be a way out for America - it may be forced out of the Middle East by Iran.
Ami Isseroff
For America there is no way out
By Ammar Abdulhamid
Commentary by
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Despite occasional calibrations reflecting changes in administration, the policy of the United States toward the broader Middle East and North Africa region remains highly influenced by a set of misperceptions and ideological stances more related to American domestic politics than to regional realities. This situation has constantly undermined Washington's efforts and, occasionally, its desire to play a positive role in the region, serving to transform the US into a convenient scapegoat upon which ruling regimes heap blame for all regional woes.
To further complicate matters, the misperceptions involved have long become indigenous to both US political parties, where persistent bickering serves to make officials and experts impervious to serious criticism and, consequently, unable to conduct any serious course correction. Indeed, the various actors involved in formulating American foreign policy have grown too addicted to scoring points in an ongoing ideological battle than in trying to keep up with the continuously shifting realities on the ground in the Middle East.
This tendency has served to make US foreign policy highly reactive, episodic, disconnected, and subject to manipulation by outside parties whose interests and approaches often do not coincide with those of the US. Through misinformation campaigns and intensive lobbying that plays and preys on the ideological differences between the groups making or influencing policy in Washington, American friends and foes alike have, in effect, undermined Washington's ability to chart a course of action in the region that is truly commensurate with its interests.
A kind of willful blindness that has become all too prevalent in certain quarters is making the situation even more desperate. It is shifting the regional focus of the US constantly from the peace process, to the war on terror, to democracy promotion, to Iran's nuclear challenge, to calls for open engagement and promises of development aid, to thoughts of gradual disengagement from the region, at least on the micro-level. Each one of these approaches has been hailed as the key to solving, if not the region's problems per se, then, at least, American problems in the region.
Yet this reductionism contrasts sharply with the approach favored by America's friends and foes in the region, all of whom tend to operate on a multi-track basis. Successive governments in Israel, for instance, have for the last two decades continuously affirmed their commitment to the peace process, while simultaneously engaging in activities to undermine it, including the expansion of settlements, collective punishment, and the cutting off humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.
The Syrian regime has also perfected this fine art of stonewalling with its talk about peace and security on the one hand, and its ongoing support for all sorts of terrorist groups undermining the stability of Syria's neighbors on the other.
Such behavior, by Israel, Syria, or any other regional state, which might appear contradictory at first, has, nonetheless, proven quite effective over the years in enabling the players involved in exacting concessions and creating new facts on the ground that better serve their perceived interests. Meanwhile, the US continues to pursue a single-minded path, then another, and another, before lapsing into whimsical ideas of regional disengagement like a bumbling behemoth.
But the US will not be able to maneuver its way out of this situation by turning is back on a region actively engaged in exporting its turmoil to the world. There is no exit for the US from the region, and attempts at macro-managing the region's transition cannot take place in the absence of a micro-understanding of its shifting realities. America's real challenge, then, is to figure out a role for itself commensurate with its long-term strategic interests, rather than scurrying for an imaginary way out.
Success in this regard, however, requires serious reevaluation of America's basic assumptions about the very issues behind its current involvement, especially the following:
First, the war on terror, where the
US focus on military solutions and security alliances with authoritarian regimes has played right into the hands of the terrorists and the corrupt regimes that support them;
Second, the Arab-Israeli conflict, that has recently evolved into a regional struggle for realignment involving Iran and Turkey, and to a lesser extent India and Pakistan, and where Arab regimes and non-state actors are becoming more clients than serious decision-makers;
Third, the Iranian nuclear challenge, where every diplomatic maneuver and threat of economic sanctions or military strikes seems to bring closer, rather than delay or rule out, the specter of a regional nuclear arms race;
Fourth, a developmental gap that has affected even the supposedly rich and stable monarchies of the region, that is when one is willing to look beyond the façade of fantastical projects;
And finally, and most important in many ways, a freedom gap that has so far frustrated every attempt at peacemaking in the region, because the dividends of peace hold more promise for the peoples of the region than most of their ruling corrupt and authoritarian regimes.
Until the US formulates a vision for its role in the region based on an objective assessment of realities on the ground, rather than the ideological ramblings of "experts" from the left and the right, and until it develops a real multi-track strategy that seeks to simultaneously address each of the challenges highlighted earlier, American involvement in the region will continue to be disastrous, no matter who is in charge in the White House.
Ammar Abdulhamid, the founder and director of the Tharwa Foundation, is a Syrian author and human rights and democracy activist who is currently based in Washington DC. He enjoys a global reputation as an outspoken advocate for social and political change in the broader Middle East and North Africa. The current article is part of a series advocating the revamping of US foreign policy in the region. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Want to understand Al-Qaeda? Here's a clue

Want to understand al-Qaeda? Who doesn't?
 Michael Totten interviewed Lee Smith concerning his new book: A Strong Horse. Lee Smith has a great insight. Smith seems to be saying that in the Middle East, the major political motivator is internal Middle East politics. The attacks on the United States by Al Qaeda and anti-Americanism in general are generated by the needs of Middle East regimes in the domestic and inter-Muslim arenas. Here's the heart of the argument:
MJT: The title of your book is The Strong Horse. Can you tell us exactly what that concept means?

Lee Smith: It comes from Osama Bin Laden's observation that when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse. I know this idea will be confused with the notion that Arabs understand only force, an idea often, and incorrectly, attributed to the Bush administration. It is useful to recall that throughout history most of mankind has "understood" force. Those lucky few who are fortunate enough to be able to live their political lives free of the fear of violence are largely concentrated in the capitals of contemporary Western Europe and along the east and west coasts of the United States, who not coincidentally happen to make up the primary audience I was writing for, so I wanted to explain that the inhabitants of the Arabic-speaking Middle East are not as fortunate as we are. To say that Lebanon is held at gunpoint by an armed gang, or that Lebanese journalists are assassinated for their work, Syrian intellectuals and Egyptian rights activists are typically thrown in prison and tortured, and regional minorities like the Shia, Druze, Alawi, Christians, Kurds and Jews have often been the target of purges and political violence all in the name of Arab nationalism, a corporatist ideology that seeks to erase communal as well as individual difference, is not to say that Arabs only understand force, but that violence is a central factor in Arab political life and it is impossible to understand the region without taking this into account.
MJT: On the first page of your book, in the first paragraph even, you said we all took 9/11 too personally. I think a lot of readers who will love your book might also be a bit startled when they see that. Can you explain what you mean?
Lee Smith: Yes, it took me a while to get to that point in my thinking about 9/11. As I say in that same passage, as a lifelong New Yorker, someone who was raised there, went to school and lived there, I took 9/11 personally, as an attack on my hometown, my family and friends. That's the reason I went to the Middle East to find out what happened, because I took it personally. However, as I spent more time in the region I came to see 9/11 outside of the framework of Islam v the West, even as this conceit has great appeal across the American political spectrum. The right of center tends to argue that there is a war between Western civilization and the lands of Islam; the left of center typically contends that the problems of the Middle East are essentially the result of Western interference in the region, from colonialism to Zionism to American hegemony in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. After a while, I came to see that the issues in the region began in the region and belong to the region, and while Western influence has often been harmful, and more often beneficial, to the Arabs, it has been a very minor factor in shaping a region thousands of years old. There is indeed a clash, but it is between the inhabitants of the Arabic-speaking Middle East, and the 9/11 attacks were essentially an overflow of those issues that reached American shores.

MJT: There are indeed a number of clashes in the Middle East that have little to do with us, and it's easier to see this up close than it is from a distance. There are, for instance, clashes between Islamists and secularists; between Sunnis and sectarian minorities like Shias, Christians, Alawites, and Druze; between Arab Nationalists and ethnic minorities like Persians and Kurds. Why would one of these factions think it could get a leg up on the others by killing thousands of people in the U.S.?

Lee Smith: I am not sure if that's exactly how I'd explain 9/11. But let me start by saying that it's true one of the ways that various groups compete against each other for shares of power is by going after third parties. For instance, I argue in the book that Hezbollah's dominant, though largely obscured, issue is the region's Sunni majority. There is no doubt that Hezbollah despises Israel and would very much like to bring about its demise, but their deeper, perhaps existential, concern is not the some 5 million Jews on Lebanon's southern border, but the Sunni sea that has engulfed the Shia for more than a millennium. And so fighting Israel establishes this Shia militia's credentials as genuine Arabs, even as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi argued shortly before his death that Hezbollah was actually a Zionist front that protected the Jews from the real, i.e. Sunni, resistance. So, here is some of the sectarian animus at work in the region, the clash of Arab civilizations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Israeli President Peres Addresses the German Bundestag in Hebrew

A symbolic healing of the wounds of the  Holocaust.
Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Address by the President of the State of Israel
H.E. Shimon Peres
at the German Bundestag
January  27, 2010
I stand here before you, as the President of the State of Israel, the home of the Jewish People.
While my heart is breaking at the memory of the atrocious past � my eyes envision a common future for a world that is young, a world free of all hatred.
A world in which the words "war" and "anti-Semitism" will be dead words.
Distinguished gathering,
In the Jewish tradition that accompanies us for thousands of years, there exists a prayer in Aramaic recited when mourning the dead, in memory of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.
The mothers, whose infants were torn from their arms, and the fathers, who watched in horror as their children were pushed into the gas chambers and their children go up in the smoke of the crematoriums, did not have the time to recite nor to listen to this ancient prayer.
On this occasion, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to recite this prayer, here and now, in the name of the Jewish people, in memory of, and in honor of, the six million Jews who turned to ashes:

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"Exalted and hallowed be His great Name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.  May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Messiah in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen." 
And the prayer ends with the words which became a symbol in the State of Israel, a dream in the Jewish world:
"He, who makes peace in His Heights, may He, in his compassion, make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.  And they responded: Amen."
My Friends, the leaders of the German people and its representatives,
In the State of Israel, and across the world, survivors of the Holocaust are gradually departing from the world of the living. Their numbers are daily diminishing.
And at the same time, men and women, who took part in the most odious activity on earth � that of genocide � still live on German and European soil, and in other parts of the world.
My request of you is:  Please do everything to bring them to justice.
This is not revenge in our eyes. This is an educational lesson. This is an hour of grace for the young generation, wherever they may be. That they may remember, and never forget, that they should know what took place, and that they never, absolutely never, have the slightest doubt in their minds that there is another option, other than peace, reconciliation and love.
Today, the International Remembrance Day for the victims of the Holocaust is the day on which the sun shone for the first time sixty-five years ago, after six evil years, its rays revealing the full extent of the destruction of my people.
On that same day, the smoke still rose above the bombed incinerators, and the blood-stains and ashes still heavily lay on the soil of the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The train-station platform was silent. And the "selection ramp" was empty of people. On the monstrous field of slaughter settled a deceptive atmosphere of tranquility.
The ear caught only the quiet, yet from the depth of the frozen ground emanated a scream that broke human hearts, and ascended to the passive and silent heavens.
On January 27th, 1945, the world awoke to the fact, somewhat too late, that six million Jews were no longer among the living.
This day not only represents a memorial day for the victims, not only the pangs of conscience of humankind in the face of the incomprehensible atrocity that took place, but also of the tragedy that derived from the procrastination in taking action.
This constitutes the lesson learnt from the world's inattention in the face of the rising flames, and the killing machine that operated day after day, year after year, with no opposition.
Three years beforehand, on January 20th, 1942, not far from here, in "Villa Wannsee," on the shores of the beautiful lake, a group of senior officers and bureaucrats, headed by Reinhard Heydrich, convened to devise and coordinate the "Final Solution" plan for the "Jewish Question."
Adolf Eichmann diligently worked on a document that identified the target population intended for deportation and extermination.
It encompassed all the Jews in the European continent. From the three million living in Poland, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union, to the two hundred Jews living in tiny Albania.
Eleven million Jews were marked to die.
The Nazis performed an effective job, and from Wannsee the path led to Auschwitz, to the gas-chambers and the incinerators.
I stand before you on this day and in this place, distinguished leaders and representatives of a different Germany, democratic, as the representative of the State of the Jews, of the State of the Survivors, of the State of Israel.
I am humbled by the significance of this daunting and elevated position.  I believe and hope that you feel as I do.
I can see in my mind's eye, at this very moment, the imposing image of my deeply respected grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Melzer, handsome and dignified.
I was blessed to have been his beloved grandson. 
He was my guide and mentor.
He was the one who taught me Torah. I see him with his white beard and dark eyebrows, enveloped in his Tallith (praying shawl), among the congregation praying in the synagogue, in the town where I was born, Vishniev in Belarus.
I wrapped myself in the folds of his Tallith, and with much emotion listened to his clear and lovely voice.  It is still ringing in my ears, as he recited the Kol Nidrei prayer of Yom Kippur, in the hours and the moments when, according to our belief, the Creator of the world determines who to life and who to death.
I still remember him at the train station from which I, an 11-year-old child, started on my journey from my village to Eretz Israel.
I remember his poignant embrace. I remember the last words and the order that heard from his mouth: "My boy, always remain a Jew!"
The train whistled and started on its way.
I continued watching my grandfather until he disappeared from sight.
That was the last time I saw him.
When the Nazis came to Vishniev, they ordered all the members of the community to congregate in the synagogue.
My grandfather marched in front, together with his family, wrapped in the same Tallith in which I enveloped myself as a kid. The doors were locked from the outside and the wooden structure was torched. And the only remains of the whole community were embers.
There were no survivors.
Distinguished gathering,
The Holocaust raises painful questions that touch on the infinite depth of a man's soul.
To which depth can the evil in man sink? And to which extent can a people that knew culture and respected intellect, remain silent?
What kind of atrocities can be performed? How much can a moral compass be silenced? A rational deliberation be crushed? How can a nation  consider itself to be "a superior race" and others inferior?
And the question still remains today why did the Nazis see in the existence of Jews a great and immediate danger?
What induced them to invest in the killing machine such extensive resources?
What motivated the Nazis to continue operating with such determination to the very end, even though their defeat had already appeared on the horizon?
Was a Jewish power threatening to block the "thousand-year Reich?" Could the persecuted people, crushed by the boot of the oppressor, stop the destructive war machine of the Nazis?
How many divisions were at the disposal of the Jewish communities in Europe? How many tanks, war-planes, guns?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Nazi rabid hatred cannot be solely defined as "anti-Semitic."
This is a commonly-used definition.  It does not fully explain the burning, murderous, beastly drive that motivated the Nazi regime, and their obsessive resolve to annihilate the Jews.
The war's objective was to conquer Europe; not to settle scores with Jewish history.
And if we constituted, we the Jews, a terrible threat in the eyes of Hitler's regime, this was not a military threat, but rather a moral threat.
An opposition to the desire that denied our faith that every man is born in the image of God, that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that all men are equal.
A Jew, even when unable to defend himself, will still sanctify God's name, and fulfill the commandments.
Since the day when the Jewish nation was founded, we have been commanded: "Thou shall not kill!" "Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself!" "Seek peace and pursue it!" � in every situation, in every place.
This na?ve Jew, who believes in these commandments, I now see in front of me, in the form of my good grandfather, the most honest and beloved of men.
The Nazis tried to demonize him.
They burned him and his brothers alive. The flames burned their corpses. But not their spirit.
They tried to depict my people in horrible propaganda films and on the pages of "The St?rmer" as parasites, sewer-rats, and the propagators of illnesses.
The Nazis tried to forget, and induce others to forget, the values of justice and mercy.
As a Jew, I always carry the pain of the holocaust endured by my brothers and sisters. As an Israeli, I regret the tragic delay in the establishment of the Jewish State that left my people with no safe harbor.
As a grandfather, I cannot come to terms with the loss of one and a half million children � the greatest human and creative potential that could have changed Israel's destiny.
I am proud that we are the arch-enemy of Nazi evil.
I am proud of the legacy of our forefathers, diametrically opposed to the doctrine of racism.
I am proud of the revival of Israel, the moral and historic answer to the attempt to erase the Jewish People from the face of the earth.
I thank the Lord that peoples rose and crushed the madness, the evil and cruelty.
The Holocaust must always be prominent in our minds and in the conscience of humanity, and serve as an unequivocal warning in perpetuity.
As a binding decree to uphold the sanctity of life, equality among men, freedom and peace.
The murder of Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany should not be seen as a kind of astrophysical "Black Hole," that ingests the past as well as the future.
The Holocaust must not become a barrier against faith in decency, in hope and in life.
I ask myself today how would the European Jews have wanted us to remember them? Only through the smoke of the incinerators? Or to also remember life before the Holocaust?
If there is a collective voice for the millions of European Jews, this voice calls upon us to look ahead. To be what the victims could have been and were not.  To create anew what we lost when they were annihilated.
The contribution of German Jewry, who identified with their country, to fields such as culture, science, the economy, and the standing of Germany as a whole, was extensive, out of proportion with the size of the community.
In the thousand years of their existence, the Jews of Europe moved with the forces of Europe's advances.
From the golden era of Spain to the golden era of Germany.
The Jews of Europe were instrumental in advancing and developing the spheres of science, technology, the economy, literature and the arts of this continent.
This they achieved because when they were banished from their countries, they were forced into a nomadic life. They were
well-versed in literature, multi-lingual merchants, a people blessed with  doctors, writers, scientists and artists. Many of them played prominent roles in Germany's culture and contributed to the world at large.
I am overwhelmed at the thought of the tremendous stream of visionaries and inventors that burst forth from the foundations of the Jewish towns, the Jewish ghettos. From the homes of the Jewish bourgeoisie, when Jews were permitted to enter the gates of the universities.
As with the stroke of a wand, there appeared Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, Karl Marx, Herman Cohen, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Heine, Moshe Mendelson, Rosa Luxemburg, Walther Rathenau, Stefan Zweig and Walter Benjamin.
Common to these dissimilar people is their tremendous contribution to human thinking, their contribution to modernism in their own exceptional way.
They guided the sight of Europe and the world to a new future.
And now we are left with the decisive lesson: "Never again" � never again a racist doctrine.
Never again the feeling of superiority.
Never again a so-called divine authority to incite, murder, scorn the law, deny God and the Holocaust.
Never again ignore blood-thirsty dictators, hiding behind demagogical masks, who utter murderous slogans.
The threats to annihilate a people and a nation are voiced in the shadow of weapons of mass-destruction, which are held by irresponsible hands, by irrational thinking and in an untruthful language.
To prevent another holocaust, we must educate our children to respect human life and to promote relations between peoples based on peace.
Respect individual cultures and universal values, turn every time anew to the Ten Commandments.
Unlock scientific secrets with lit torches, microscopes and telescopes, to advance into the realm of new remedies for human beings and their souls. Food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, air to breathe. Knowledge for humankind.
As the British Mandate came to an end, David Ben-Gurion, leader of the newly revived Jewish nation, declared the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Arabs rejected the U.N. resolution and their armies attacked Israel.
Indeed, a few hours after its Declaration of Independence, seven Arab armies invaded Israel, with the object of destroying it even before it was established.
We faced them alone. With no allies, with our backs to the last shores of hope that the Jewish People still maintained.
Had we been defeated in war, this could have been the end of our people.
The IDF  won this desperate battle, in which historical justice and human heroism joined forces. Holocaust survivors were already serving in the IDF, and some of them fell in the line of duty.
The small Israel, while it was still licking its wounds, immediately opened its gates to the remnants of the Holocaust survivors and the multitude of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. All other gates were closed to them.
Distinguished gathering,
We remember that as we were still bleeding from our wounds, help came from an unexpected quarter, from the new Germany.
Two leaders, prominent in the annals of history, stretched their hands out one to the other, from the two sides of the abyss:
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the father of the Democratic Federation of Germany, and David Ben-Gurion, the founding father and first prime minister of the State of Israel.
On September 27th, 1951, from the Bundestag podium, Adenauer spoke about the responsibility of the German people for the crimes of the Third Reich against the Jewish people, and the intention of his government to devise a compensation agreement for the loss of Jewish property and help in the revival process of Israel.
The decision of the government of Israel to hold direct negotiations with the German government provoked a stormy reaction thus far never experienced.
Holocaust victims with death camp numbers embedded in their arms were among the stone-throwers at the Knesset and there were those who sided with Ben-Gurion.
Ben-Gurion stood by his decision: there is a new Germany. With it we have to discuss the future, not only the past.
The distressed Knesset gave its consent.
The restitution payments helped in Israel's economic recovery and contributed to its accelerated development.
It was my privilege at the time, as a young man, to serve as his assistant, and later as Ben-Gurion's deputy at the Ministry of Defense.  I learned that while Israel was building its home, it also had to defend its sons.
Also here we found an attentive German ear, providing us with defense equipment.
Unique ties developed between Germany and Israel.
The friendship that was established did not develop at the expense of forsaking the memory of the Holocaust, but from the memory of the dark hours of the past. In view of the joint and decisive decision to look ahead � towards the horizon of optimistic hope. Tikkun Olam � putting the world aright.
The bridge built across the ravine was built by painful hands and shoulders that were carrying the burden of memory. It rested on strong moral foundations.
We built a living memorial for our brothers and sisters. With ploughshares that turned the arid desert into thriving orchards.
With laboratories that generated new life. With defense forces able to defend our survival. On the pillars of an uncompromising democracy.
We believed, and continue to believe, that the new Germany will be doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that the Jewish state will never again have to fight for its survival alone.
That murderous and condescending dictatorships will never again raise their heads, in our era.
David Ben-Gurion, who predicted a different Germany, was right.
Thank you.
From Konrad Adenauer, who found a common language with David Ben-Gurion, and Willy Brandt, who kneeled in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto heroes, and you, Members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, from Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, and other leaders, you strengthened the foundations and ties of friendship.
And institutions, financial organizations, cultural centers, intellectuals and doers, who contributed to the enrichment of these unique relations.
You, President Horst K?hler, you declared at the Knesset in Jerusalem that "the responsibility for the Holocaust is part of the German identity." We very much appreciate this.
And you, Madam Chancellor, Angela Merkel, you have conquered the hearts of our nation with your sincerity and your warmth. You said to the American Senate and House of Representatives that "an attack on Israel will equate an attack on Germany." We shall not forget this.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Close to sixty years have passed since the founding of the State of Israel.
We have withstood the test of nine wars.
We reached two peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
We gave back that which fell into our hands in the wars to the countries with whom we made peace.
We remained a country small in size and poor in raw material.
Our land is barren, yet we were still successful in developing a model agriculture esteemed by many to be one of the best in the world.
We compensated for the lack of natural resources with cutting-edge scientific and technological advances that have brought us to the forefront of scientific developments.  These accomplishments make up for the smallness of our land.
We have seen an ingathering of exiles. The major part of the Jewish people today lives in Israel.
We have regained our language.
We are the only country in the region in which its citizens speak the same language that was spoken four thousand years ago � the Hebrew language, the language of the Bible.                  
Jewish history continues to move forward on two parallel tracks:
The moral track, encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. The document which was written some three thousand years ago, has not required any change and has become the basis of western culture.
And the scientific track, which unravels hidden secrets and breaks genetic codes, concealed in the past from the eyes of men and which, unraveled, change our lives.
Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.  In it some million and a half Arab citizens live with equal rights. We shall not allow discrimination against anyone on account of their nationality or faith.
We overcame the global economic crisis and have returned to growth.
Our culture is modern and traditional at one and the same time.
Israeli democracy is ebullient. Without a dull moment.  It never remains idle, not even in times of war.
Israel's victories did not eliminate the dangers it faces. We do not crave for land which is not ours.  We do not wish to rule other peoples. But do we have the right to close our eyes.
Our national ambition is distinct and clear, to make peace with our neighbors.
Israel supports the principle of the "two state solution".
We paid a price in wars, we did not hesitate to also pay a price for peace.
Also today we are prepared to relinquish territories to achieve peace with the Palestinians and to enable them to establish an independent, prosperous and peaceful state.
Like our neighbours, we identify with the millions of Iranians who revolt against dictatorship and violence.
Like them we reject a fanatic regime, which contradicts the United Nations Charter.  A regime which threatens destruction, accompanied by nuclear plants and missiles and who activates terror in its country and in other countries.
This regime is a danger to the entire world.
We want to learn from the Europeans, who unshackled Europe from a thousand years of war, and bitterness and enabled Europe's young to substitute the hostility of their forefathers by brotherhood.
It would be wise to learn from their experience, to dream about a Middle East in which its countries will depart from the conflicts of their parents on behalf of peace for their children.
Establish a modern regional economy that would fight new and common challenges: Hunger, desertification, sickness and terror.
Promote scientific cooperation to improve the standard of living and secure quality of life.
The common god of all is the god of peace, not the god of war.
Distinguished gathering,
I stand here before you as a man who believes that it is in your power, and in our power, to contribute to the creation of a new history.
Threats on Israel will not divert its heart from peace.
I believe that peace is attainable.
I stand here before you as the son of a people that aspires to contribute in every way they can to attain a world which is enlightened and lucid, where men will act as human beings to human beings.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day of communion and reflection.
An hour of education and hope.
I started with Kaddish and will end with the Hatikva:

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"In the Jewish heart, a Jewish spirit still sings,
And the eyes look east, toward Zion,
Our hope is not lost, our hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
In the land of Zion and Jerusalem."
Permit us, allow yourselves, to dream and realize the dreams.      

Continued (Permanent Link)

International Holocaust Rememberance Day: Turkey Condemns anti-Semitism

Today is international Holocaust Memorial day, a day established not long ago to honor victims of the Nazi genocide. It took a bit of courage and grace for Turkey to issue a statement condemning the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism. Remember, this is the Middle East, where Holocaust denial and Anti-Semitism are taught in the school systems of many countries, and where even UN schools for Palestinians do not teach about the Holocaust. Turkey maintains good relations with Iran. Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists that the Holocaust is a myth invented by Zionists.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday with a statement in which it condemned the Holocaust and vowed to prevent anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination.
Sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry say that the Turkish statement was exceptional compared to statements of recent years.

"Condemning the Holocaust as the most grave and unprecedented crime against humanity throughout history, taking necessary precautions to prevent genocides in the future and promoting the endeavors to educate new generations are not only a duty of every member state of the UN, but also an obligation to humanity," the Turkish statement read.
"Stemming from its belief in mutual understanding, tolerance, freedom, security and democracy, Turkey is resolute to continue its stance to prevent anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination."

The Turkish statement also commended Turkish diplomats who risked their lives during the Second World War to save people from the Nazis.

The Turkish statement did not refer specifically to Israel or Jews as victims of the Holocaust.
A few days ago, the Israeli Foreign Ministry released a seven-page report to the "septet" of key cabinet ministers in which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was charged with indirectly inciting and encouraging anti-Semitism.

According to the report, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's humiliation of the Turkish ambassador earlier this month seriously offended Turkey, but also made it clear to Ankara that it had crossed red lines in its relationship with Israel.

The report was written by the Center for Political Research, which performs the ministry's in-house intelligence analysis, and has already been distributed to Israeli embassies and consulates abroad.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Ayalon, both of Yisrael Beiteinu, are the leaders of the government's aggressive anti-Turkey faction, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, both of Labor, head the conciliatory, pro-Turkey faction.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

I am Israel film - New Version and background

Here's a new version of the I am Israel YouTube video. Some background about this video: The strange music and some other features are explained by the fact that it is a parody of a viciously anti-Israel video that was published on YouTube a few months ago. The other video is about what you would expect, and is not handicapped by the limitations of truthfulness.
Please watch this and forward the link to friends.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Arabs react to the Iranian threat

In some places, Sunni Arabs are rebuilding Jewish synagogues as Lee Smith notes (as long as there are no Jews to go with the synagogues) but in Iraq, the government is trying to erase the Jewish character of the Shrine of the Prophet Ezekiel. We should not rush to make generalizations. .
Ami Isseroff
They Dig Us
Arab regimes are restoring abandoned Jewish historical sites, a subtle acknowledgement of where power now resides in the Middle East
By Lee Smith
"Where's the synagogue?" I ask a young solider in a beret. A member of the large security detail guarding the Lebanese prime minister's residence, he is leaning against a jeep and cradling an automatic weapon in one hand. He pulls on a cigarette and regards me warily. I am a foreigner asking directions to a place of Jewish worship from a soldier too young to know Jews as anything but warlike neighbors to the south. He jabs his thumb to the left of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's new mansion, Beit al-Wasat, which was built on land worth tens of millions of dollars, right beside the Maghen Abraham synagogue, the center of a Jewish community that no longer exists.
It's strange seeing the synagogue's Hebrew letters in the middle of Beirut. Hezbollah billboards near the Southern border sometimes bear propaganda translated into Hebrew, and there are Hebrew letters on the tombstones of Beirut's Jewish cemetery. But Maghen Abraham is a different story, a Jewish house of worship being rebuilt in an exclusive Beirut neighborhood with the blessing of the Lebanese government. It would be a symbol of rebirth, if not for the fact that no one is likely to worship there, certainly none of Lebanon's five and a half million Jewish neighbors in Israel, with which the Beirut government is officially at war.
"It's a vanished community in what was a vanished neighborhood," says Nada Abdelsamad, author of an Arabic-language novel, Wadi Abu Jamil: Stories of the Jews of Lebanon, named after this onetime Jewish district. The book's first printing sold out quickly. "People were interested to know something about the subject," Abdelsamad explains. "Some people didn't know we used to have an active Jewish community."
Aside from Israel, Lebanon was the only Middle Eastern country in which the number of Jews increased after 1948. It wasn't until the civil war that started in 1975 that Jews began to leave the country in large numbers. The chief rabbi of Lebanon left in 1978. "The Jews left in silence," Abdelsamad says. "They didn't try to contact their old friends. So the Lebanese still don't know what happened."
A more pertinent question might be, what's happened to make the Lebanese, and other Arabs, so interested in Jewish cultural remains like Maghen Abraham? In Cairo, the Egyptians are restoring a synagogue in a neighborhood called the Alley of the Jews. In Baghdad, officials are demanding the return of the books, manuscripts, and records of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, which American forces retrieved in the early days of the invasion from a building belonging to the Iraqi intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat.
"Iraqis must know that we are a diverse people, with different traditions, different religions, and we need to accept this diversity," the director of the Iraq National Library and Archive, Saad Eskander, told the Associated Press. "To show it to our people that Baghdad was always multiethnic." Or, as Zahi Hawass, general secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, sad in a New York Times interview, "What we are doing now is not for the Jews. It is for us, for our heritage."
These restoration projects, as Arab officials like Eskander and Hawass have attested, are not meant to revive the Jewish communities of the Middle East. They are meant to convince the world of Arab tolerance. The Cairo synagogue renovation coincided with Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny's bid to head UNESCO, a post he failed to win in part because of his apparent sympathy with Holocaust deniers and his anti-Israeli remarks. Tolerance of Jewish cultural remains can be exchanged for Western goodwill and aid without necessitating any messy engagement with actual Israelis. The mufti of Syria explained to a visiting delegation of American academics that the conflict with Israel was a war not against Jews but against Zionists.
And yet if you listen closely there is a deeper and more important subtext to the Arabs' strange and sudden fascination with the remains of the vanished Jewish communities of the Middle East. These restorations of Hebraic antiquity are not simply a safe way of acknowledging the longevity, and thus legitimacy, of the Middle East's oldest surviving religious community. They are also the means by which Arab governments have begun to recognize that community's influence and power over their fates. For it is Jewish warplanes, not Jewish remains, that have Arab princes and presidents captivated. Nowhere has this been made more explicit than in the recent valentine to Mossad chief Meir Dagan published in Egypt's semi-official daily newspaper Al-Ahram, calling him "the Superman of the Jewish state." Dagan is worthy of Cairo's love insofar as he "has dealt painful blows to the Iranian nuclear program." Thus the only question Egyptians ask a visitor from Washington: When will the Israelis finally bomb the Iranian nuclear program?
Egypt and its Arab allies believe that Obama's engagement with the Iranians will fail, that the Russians and Chinese will not join a sanctions regime, and that the Americans will eventually move to a policy of cold war-style containment and nuclear deterrence. The American president and his Middle East adviser, Dennis Ross, intimated that the Israelis might take dramatic action against Iran's nuclear program, confirmation for many Arab observers that the United States has taken its own military options off the table. This is not the case, these same observers believe, for the Israelis, who have acted against Iran's eastern Mediterranean allies—Hezbollah and Hamas—and will, with luck, take action against Iran itself.
Israeli strength and Arab weakness are therefore seen as part of a common pattern that will yet bring about the defeat of a common enemy: Iran. Here in Beirut there's talk that Prime Minister Hariri's recent trip to Syria, where he was coerced into humbling himself before the regime that allegedly assassinated his father, was merely a maneuver in a holding pattern until the Israelis strike. Sources close to Hariri explained to me that Saudi Arabia, the young prime minister's patron, believes an attack is imminent and that there is still time to wrest Syria away from the Iranians. Hariri's visit was seen as a down payment on an expected Syrian realignment.
The Arab fascination with Israeli might is nothing new, explains Lokman Slim, a Lebanese Shiite and founder of a Beirut-based, pro-democracy NGO called Hayyabina. "It's partly in the realm of fantasy," says Slim. "It's a sexual dream about the military libido—it's a dream the Arabs and Israelis share, but that the Israelis also enjoy in reality."
We're sitting in a bar in a Sunni quarter of Beirut. Everyone at the table is Shiite but anti-Hezbollah—which means that they are more worried than even the Sunnis that Iran might acquire the bomb. An Iranian nuclear capability would represent a victory for the ideology and culture of resistance, and would condemn Lebanon's Shiite community to another generation of wandering in a wilderness of ignorance, violence, and oppression.
When I explain to Lebanese Shiites that the big foreign policy debate in Washington right now is not about Iran but about Afghanistan, they are speechless. "What vital interest does Washington have in Afghanistan?" they ask. "Rocks? Where is the oil? You are afraid of looking weak because Osama Bin Laden says you are?"
The Sunni Arab states are no longer capable of shaping the region or even their own destiny, and so they wait to be rescued by Israeli Jews. The vast, opulent halls of Arab authority are vacant shells, while the crumbled synagogues of Beirut and Cairo are reminders of a power that once dwelled among the Arabs but has since migrated elsewhere.
Regional power has shifted away from Washington's familiar Arab partners and toward non-Arab states. The fate of the Middle East no longer depends on the desires of Cairo and Riyadh. The choices that shape the lives of Arabs are now made in Tehran, Tel Aviv, and perhaps a newly ascendant Ankara.
An Israeli strike on Iran may or may not be a mirage, but it is the only possible salvation for Arab states too weak to control their own destiny. Though Washington is still the pre-eminent power in the region, its confused and changing priorities appear to have blinded it to the Middle East's new configuration, and it is unlikely that America's continuing political and financial crises will make our vision any clearer.
One reason that the White House's Middle East peace process has, in Obama's words, "not moved forward," is that old Clinton hands like Dennis Ross, George Mitchell, and Rahm Emmanuel believed the Egyptians and the Saudis still had great influence. When events proved them wrong, they appeared simply to throw up their hands and blame the stubbornness of the locals. But something much more profound has changed.
When we wake up to that change we will find that one distinguishing characteristic of the shift in regional power to Iran, Turkey, and Israel is that all three countries are less dependent on the United States than they were five or ten years ago. Iran has troubles at home but is also a rising nuclear power that has been freed from the threat of an American military strike. Turkey was jilted by the European Union and no longer looks to America and the West. Israel has little interest in continuing to spend political capital to help Barack Obama.
The days when Prince Bandar, the longtime Saudi ambassador to Washington, smoked cigars on the Truman balcony have begun to look good when compared to an era in which the significant regional powers are neither Arab nor American, and do not feel the same urgency about returning Washington's calls. What such a region will look like is anyone's guess. It may not be very pleasant to live in. But it will surely be interesting to watch.

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Adel Darwish

Having had my work (whether books, news reports, ‎commentary or analysis I contributed in newspapers, TV or ‎Broadcast) plagiarised by fellow hacks – yes they have no ‎f***** morals – I decide to publish this obituary of Saddam ‎Hussein's cousin General Ali Hassan Al-Majid, also known as ‎Chemical Ali, who was executed today in Baghdad, on my blog ‎as more than one obituary that will appear in the National ‎papers tomorrow arelikely to be  plagiarised from my work. I did in fact ‎publish an obituary of Gn Al-Majid in the Independent on ‎Tuesday 8th April 2003, after he had faked his own death and ‎we fell for it.‎

IN JANUARY 2003, just three months before the ‎war that toppled the Baath regime from power in ‎Iraq,  Saddam Hussein's first cousin General Ali ‎Hassan al-Majid visited Damascus to shake hands ‎with the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, before ‎going to Beirut, where he used foul language and ‎cursed "other Arabs" who were not coming to ‎Iraq's aid and who permitted American and British ‎troops on their soil. Egyptian officials leaked to the ‎press that they had been expecting a delegation ‎from Baghdad, but, when they found out it was ‎headed by Majid, they cancelled the visit.‎

Known within the inner circle of the late Saddam ‎Hussein's ruling Bath Party regime as ' the man for ‎dirty missions' was executed by hanging today ( ‎‎25th Jan 2010) in Baghdad after being convicted on ‎‎13 counts of killings and genocide, in a trial that lasted ‎several month in 2008/2009. He was sentenced to death ‎in four separate trials, including one that focused on his ‎involvement in a poison gas attack against Iraqi Kurds that ‎killed about 5,000 people, which earned him the nickname ‎‎'Chemical Ali'. His execution had been delayed for political ‎rather than legal reasons, namely negotiations with ‎representatives of Sunni Arabs from his tribe and former ‎ruling Baath party members over participating in the ‎political process and reducing violence.  ‎

Al-Majid was known for his ruthless and strong ‎hold on the army. In December 2002 the British ‎Foreign Office showed a film of Majid kicking and ‎slapping prisoners, and army deserters. "Let's ‎execute one so the others will confess," he says in ‎Arabic, with the heavy accent found only in the ‎Tikriti homeland of Saddam Hussein. Turning to ‎another captive, he says: "Don't execute this one. ‎He will be useful to us." Majid kicks one of them, ‎whose hands are tied behind his back, before ‎pointing his handgun to the man's head and ‎executing him in cold blood.‎

Majid was one of the most brutal members of ‎Saddam's inner circle and was entrusted by his ‎cousin to defend the southern sector of Iraq and ‎the historic city of Basra against British troops ‎during the 2003 American lead invasion. He had ‎been dubbed "Chemical Ali" by the Kurds and other ‎opponents for ordering a 1988 poison gas attack ‎that killed thousands of Kurds.‎

A chain-smoking, pot-bellied officer, with no ‎educational qualifications, Majid impressed ‎Saddam with his ruthlessness. Majid was known as ‎‎"the man for dirty missions", according to Hytham ‎Rashid al-Waheeb, a presidential aide to Saddam ‎for 10 years. "Whenever Saddam Hussein finds ‎himself in a crisis, there is usually one man he ‎turns to - General Ali Hassan al- Majid."‎

In August 1990, after Baghdad's invasion of ‎Kuwait, Saddam appointed Majid military governor ‎of Kuwait, renamed Iraq's "19th province" but ‎replaced him three months later for fear that his ‎brutal reputation was strengthening the hand of ‎Kuwait's allies. Six hundred Kuwaiti civilians ‎disappeared under Majid and remained missing ‎even after the Fall of Saddam regime, although ‎some of their remains were found in many mass ‎graves discovered in the past few years.‎

In 1987, Saddam made him chief of the Baath ‎Party in northern Iraq with the task of suppressing ‎an uprising among the Kurdish minority. Over the ‎next 12 months, Majid ordered nerve- and ‎mustard-gas attacks on scores of villages, ‎including on the town of Halabja in March 1988. He ‎lead the "Anfal" ("spoils of war") campaign against ‎Kurdish rebels who took advantage of Iraq's 1980-‎‎88 war with Iran to step up their long campaign for ‎autonomy in their northern heartland. Chemical ‎weapons were used up to 60 times during the two-‎year campaign he waged against the Kurds.‎

Majid was responsible for the murder or ‎disappearance of some 100,000 Kurds and the ‎forced removal of many more. Iraqi opposition put ‎the figure at 150,000. Hundreds of Kurdish villages ‎and communities were destroyed.‎

He was also the architect of the 1970s "torched ‎land" policy which set Kurdish orchards on fire ‎when peshmerga fighters were sheltering in them. ‎He deported thousands of Kurds from the northern ‎mountains to the deserts in the south, causing ‎misery and disease as part of his "Arabisation" ‎policy.‎

On the eve of the 1991 uprising in Kurdistan - ‎where he was in charge of the Northern provinces ‎after brutally putting down the uprising in the ‎south - he took hundreds of Kirkuk and Erbil ‎residents, including Kurds, Assyrians and ‎Turkomans as human shields. They were freed in a ‎deal with the Kurds.‎

Ali Hassan al-Majid is thought to have been born in ‎‎1939 in Tikrit, north- west of Baghdad, where ‎Saddam's tribe of Abu Nasir lived. There was no ‎proper birth register or documentation on those ‎days. Majid was given a messenger job through ‎Brig-Gen Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, who filled the ‎army with his tribal relatives. He remained a ‎warrant officer and motorcycle messenger in the ‎army until the Baath party led a coup in 1968 ‎making Bakr president. Majid was promoted ‎quickly to the rank of brigadier-general and served ‎as Interior Minister in 1989-91, and as Defence ‎Minister in 1991-95, as well as a regional party ‎leader.‎

In the 1960s, Saddam had recruited him, and ‎many other clan members, to a gangster-like ‎secret network without the knowledge of the Baath ‎party leadership. Gangs led by Saddam, ‎Mohammed Saeed el-Sahaf (the Baath information ‎minister nicknamed comical Ali for denying that ‎Iraqi army was defeated when the American ‎invading forces were only a mile away from his ‎head quarters in April 2003), Izzat al-Duri and ‎Tariq Aziz (the last deputy prime minister in ‎Saddam regim) controlled the Baghdad ‎underground crime scene and terrorised their ‎opponents. Saddam kept the organisation secret ‎until he used the apparatus to take over the ‎leadership of the Baath party to become president ‎in a bloody purge in 1979. Majid took part in ‎liquidating no less than 15 party members, whom ‎he shot in cold blood in one afternoon.‎

He was loyal to Saddam through a Mafia-style ‎bond. In 1995 he joined Uday, Saddam's eldest ‎son and a pathological killer, in leading a group of ‎Tikriti thugs who killed his own uncle and father-‎in-law Kamel Ali and his cousins Hussein Kamel ‎and Saddam Kamel and the rest of the family ‎members. The two Kamel brothers - who were also ‎Saddam's sons-in-law - had committed the sin of ‎fleeing Iraq to Jordan with Saddam's two ‎daughters. Hussein Kamel, who had been in ‎charge of the Weapons of Mass Destruction ‎programme, gave UN inspectors valuable ‎information. Saddam claimed to have forgiven ‎them and invited them back to their death.‎

Saddam forced Uday, who was apparently ‎paralysed by an assassination attempt in 1997, to ‎marry the 16-year-old daughter of Majid. A lavish ‎wedding was designed by Saddam to heal a rift in ‎the ruling family after the murder of the two high-‎level defectors.‎

Saddam's inner circle was made up of relatives or ‎clansmen like Majid, upon whose loyalty he could ‎count. And certainly Majid was among the closest. ‎Iraqi exiles in London cheered at the news of his ‎death.‎
It was the second time they did so, as in April ‎‎2003  after an airstrike on Majid's house in Basra ‎he managed to flee after faking his own death by ‎dressing up an aid in his General rank uniform and ‎leaving his identity papers in the pockets. He ‎mutilated the face of the dead-man before fleeing. ‎It wasn't until several weeks later that DNA tests ‎proved that the corpse found was not that of ‎Majid.  .‎

Ali Hassan al-Majid, army officer: born Tikrit, Iraq ‎‎1939; Iraqi Interior Minister 1989-91, Defence ‎Minister 1991-95; found guilty of genocide in 2008; ‎married; died Baghdad, Iraq 25 January 2010‎

Copyright 2010 by Adel Darwish. Republished by permission. Not to be republished, reprinted or quoted in whole or in-part without prior permission from the author Adel Darwish.


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The case for Israel at the Council of Europe

The Council of Europe debate was an opportunity to present the main points of Israel's case and to answer specific Palestinian Arab accusations. Deputy FM Danny Ayalon did a very effective job and provides an example worthy of emulation.
Ami Isseroff  
Today (26 January), Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon addressed the plenum of the Council of Europe during a debate on the situation in the Middle East. Ayalon led a delegation of Israeli Members of Knesset who came to Strasbourg to attend the meeting. Palestinian Minister of Public Works and Housing Mohammed Ashtiyeh's attended on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
The Deputy Foreign Minister told the Council of Europe that he appreciated and admired the European manner of resolving its own historic conflicts and hoped that the Middle East can learn from this. Ayalon told the plenum that two members of the Israeli government and two members of the opposition attended the meeting to demonstrate that all of Israel is united in its desire for peace. "We come from a culture of peace that is 4,000 years old," Ayalon said.
The Deputy Foreign Minister reiterated Israel's desire to resume negotiations with the Palestinians. "We have been alone sitting at the negotiating table for nine months, since the creation of this government, but we are still waiting for the Palestinians to take their seat," Ayalon continued. "There is absolutely no reason to place more obstacles than were placed before, we once again reiterate our call for the Palestinians to meet with us without preconditions from either side."
The Deputy Foreign Minister said that Israel accepted Mitchell's latest proposals and called on the Palestinians to do the same. Ayalon also reiterated the difficult concessions taken by this Israeli government, including Prime Minister Netanyau's Bar-Ilan speech, recognizing two states for two peoples, removal of over two-thirds of the checkpoints in the West Bank allowing increased access and movement and the temporary moratorium on new settlement construction.
Ayalon referred to the offers made by former Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert to the Palestinians in 2000 and 2008 respectively. "These offers went over 95% of the way towards the Palestinian demands, yet they were still rejected," Ayalon said. "We are only here participating in this debate because these overly generous offers were rejected, concessions are required of both sides." In response to Ashtiyeh's contention that the Palestinians are foregoing 78% of historic Palestine, Ayalon stated that there has never been a Palestinian state in history and the word Palestine is Roman in origin and not Arabic. "The purpose of giving this name was to erase the connection between the Jewish People and their land," Ayalon said.
In reaction to a comment from the floor stating that Israel was the Goliath and the Palestinian are the David, Ayalon retorted: "Stop using Jewish history and terminology distort reality. If anyone is David in the Middle East, it is Israel. There is one Jewish state with 22 Arab states and six million Jews compared with 300 million Arabs in the Middle East. Israel's territory totals a third of one percent of the whole land mass in the Middle East."
The Deputy Foreign Minister expressed his hope that the Council of Europe will reach a balanced view on the situation. "We call for impartiality and not to fall into the trap of old rhetoric, like singling out the settlements. This is a mistake when there are so many other issues to contend with like incitement and terrorism," Ayalon said.
The Deputy Foreign Minister also spoke of the threat of Iran to the region and its influence on Hamas. "Today, it is clear that Hamas represents Iranian and not Palestinian interests," Ayalon said. "Iran is a threat to the whole region and beyond."
Ayalon also noted that he was addressing the plenum the day before the international community commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz 65 years ago on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. "Tomorrow, decent people will commemorate this day. However, certain nations like Iran will not commemorate this occasion and will continue to deny the Holocaust while seeking to the means to perpetuate another one. We must remove the Iranian threat. Just as Hamas and Hizbullah can reach all of Israel with their rockets, so Iran can reach into the heart of Europe with theirs," Ayalon concluded.
Just before the debate, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met with the new President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mevlut Cavusoglu, member of the ruling party in Turkey. The Deputy Foreign Minister congratulated Mr. Cavusoglu in his inauguration as President and said that he looks forward to strengthening Israel's relationship with the Council of Europe.
The two discussed hopes for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and the role the Council of Europe. "We call on the Council of Europe to play a constructive role and not take a prejudicial approach while discussing specifics to a solution," Ayalon said to Mr. Cavusoglu. "This denies the parties the opportunity to negotiate freely and emboldens only one side."
Ayalon also referred to the issue of delegitimization and incitement. "While we are aware that Iran and Hamas call for the destruction of Israel, Fatah's constitution still calls for the elimination of Israel, despite the recent Fatah conference," said the Deputy Foreign Minister.

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Iran nuclear weapon: More probable they are building it, same time estimates

The intelligence discussed below does not change the estimate of when Iran would have a bomb ready to drop on say, Israel or Saudi Arabia. That will probably not happen until 2012 or 2014. They could have a primitive bomb this year, but it would be too large to "deliver" the experts claim.
But it does provide more substantiation to the surmise that Iran really is building a bomb. The conclusions of the infamous US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran stopped its program to create nuclear weapons seem to be increasingly improbable.
The problem of what could be done and will be done to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb is another matter. The United States does not seem to have a real plan in this regard, and did not give the necessary attention to divising a plan or getting the international political support needed to make it succeed. That was true under the Bush administration, which is responsible for the fictional NIE -- a way of making the problem go away instead of dealing with it, and it is still true under the Obama administration. It is a bi-partisan failure.
Ami Isseroff
Intelligence from Tehran Elevates Concern in the West
By Dieter Bednarz, Erich Follath and Holger Stark
The West has long been suspicous of Iran's nuclear program. SPIEGEL has obtained new documents on secret tests and leadership structures that call into question Tehran's claims to be exclusively interested in the peaceful use of the technology.
It was probably the last attempt to defuse the nuclear dispute with Tehran without having to turn to dramatic new sanctions or military action. The plan, devised at the White House in October, had Russian and Chinese support and came with the seal of approval of the US president. It was clearly a Barack Obama operation.
Under the plan, Iran would send a large share of its low enriched uranium abroad, all at once, for a period of one year, receiving internationally monitored quantities of nuclear fuel elements in return. It was a deal that provided benefits for all sides. The Iranians would have enough material for what they claim is their civilian nuclear program, as well as for scientific experiments, and the world could be assured that Tehran would not be left with enough fissile material for its secret domestic uranium enrichment program -- and for what the West assumes is the building of a nuclear bomb.

Tehran's leaders initially agreed to the proposal "in principle." But for weeks they put off the international community with vague allusions to a "final response," and when that response finally materialized, it came in the form of a "counter-proposal." Under this proposal, Tehran insisted that the exchange could not take place all at once, but only in stages, and that the material would not be sent abroad. Instead, Tehran wanted the exchange to take place in Iran.
Once again, the Iranian leadership has rebuffed the West with phony promises of its willingness to compromise. The government in Tehran officially rejected the nuclear exchange plan last Tuesday. To make matters worse, after the West's discovery of a secret uranium enrichment plant near Qom, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defiantly announced that he would never give in, and in fact would build 10 more enrichment plants instead.
Highly Volatile Material
But officials in Washington and European capitals are currently not as concerned about these cocky, unrealistic announcements as they are about intelligence reports based on sources within Iran and information from high-ranking defectors. The new information, say American experts, will likely prompt the US government to reassess the risks coming from the mullah-controlled country in the coming days and raise the alarm level from yellow to red. Skeptics who in the past, sometimes justifiably so, treated alarmist reports as Israeli propaganda, are also extremely worried. They include the experts from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose goal is prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
After an extensive internal investigation, IAEA officials concluded that a computer obtained from Iran years ago contains highly volatile material. The laptop reached the Americans through Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and was then passed on to the IAEA in Vienna.
Reports by Ali Reza Asgari, Iran's former deputy defense minister who managed to defect to the United States, where he was given a new identity, proved to be just as informative. Nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who "disappeared" during a pilgrimage to Mecca in June 2009, is also believed to have particularly valuable information. The Iranian authorities accused Saudi Arabia and the United States of kidnapping the expert, but it is more likely that he defected.
Iran's government has come under pressure as a result of the new charges. They center on the question of who exactly is responsible for the country's nuclear program -- and what this says about its true nature. The government has consistently told the IAEA that the only agency involved in uranium enrichment is the National Energy Council, and that its work was exclusively dedicated to the peaceful use of the technology.
But if the claims are true that have been made in an intelligence dossier currently under review in diplomatic circles in Washington, Vienna, Tel Aviv and Berlin, portions of which SPIEGEL has obtained, this is a half-truth at best.
According to the classified document, there is a secret military branch of Iran's nuclear research program that answers to the Defense Ministry and has clandestine structures. The officials who have read the dossier conclude that the government in Tehran is serious about developing a bomb, and that its plans are well advanced. There are two names that appear again and again in the documents, particularly in connection with the secret weapons program: Kamran Daneshjoo and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Secret Heart of Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program
Daneshjoo, 52, Iran's new minister of science, research and technology, is also responsible for the country's nuclear energy agency, and he is seen as a close ally of Ahmadinejad. Opposition leaders say he is a hardliner who was partly responsible for the apparently rigged presidential election in June. Daneshjoo's biography includes only marginal references to his possible nuclear expertise. In describing himself, the man with the steely-gray beard writes that he studied engineering in the British city of Manchester, and then spent several years working at a Tehran "Center for Aviation Technology." Western experts believe that this center developed into a sub-organization of the Defense Ministry known as the FEDAT, an acronym for the "Department for Expanded High-Technology Applications" -- the secret heart of Iran's nuclear weapons program. The head of that organization is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 48, an officer in the Revolutionary Guard and a professor at Tehran's Imam Hossein University.
Western intelligence agencies believe that although the nuclear energy agency and the FEDAT compete in some areas, they have agreed to a division of labor on the central issue of nuclear weapons research, with the nuclear agency primarily supervising uranium enrichment while the FEDAT is involved in the construction of a nuclear warhead to be used in Iran's Shahab missiles. Experts believe that Iran's scientists could produce a primitive, truck-sized version of the bomb this year, but that it would have to be compressed to a size that would fit into a nuclear warhead to yield the strategic threat potential that has Israel and the West so alarmed -- and that they could reach that stage by sometime between 2012 and 2014.
The Iranians are believed to have conducted non-nuclear tests of a detonating mechanism for a nuclear bomb more than six years ago. The challenge in the technology is to uniformly ignite the conventional explosives surrounding the uranium core -- which is needed to produce the desired chain reaction. It is believed that the test series was conducted with a warhead encased in aluminum. In other words, everything but the core was "real." According to the reports, the Tehran engineers used thin fibers and a measuring circuit board in place of the fissile material. This enabled them to measure the shock waves and photograph flashes that simulate the detonation of a nuclear bomb with some degree of accuracy. The results were apparently so encouraging that the Iranian government has since classified the technology as "feasible."
SPIEGEL obtained access to a FEDAT organizational chart and a list of the names of scientists working for the agency. The Vienna-based IAEA also has these documents, but the Iranian president claims that they are forged and are being used to discredit his country. After reporting two years ago that the Iranians had frozen their nuclear weapons research in 2003, the CIA and other intelligence agencies will probably paint a significantly more sobering scenario just as the UN Security Council is considering tougher sanctions against Iran.
Mulling Sanctions
When France assumes the Council's rotating chairmanship in February, Washington could push for a showdown. While Moscow is not ruling out additional punitive measures, China, which has negotiated billions in energy deals with Iran, is more likely to block such measures.
China could, however, approve "smart" sanctions, such as travel restrictions for senior members of the Revolutionary Guard and nuclear scientists. Fakhrizadeh is already on a list of officials subject to such restrictions, and Daneshjoo could well be added in the future.
But the West would presumably be on its own when enforcing sanctions that would be truly harmful to Iran -- and to its own, profitable trade relations with Tehran. The most effective trade weapon would be a fuel embargo. Because of a lack of refinery capacity Iran, which has the world's second-largest oil reserves, imports almost half of the gasoline it uses. Sanctions would trigger a sharp rise in the price of gasoline, inevitably leading to social unrest. Experts are divided over whether it would be directed against the unpopular regime or if the country's leaders could once again inflame the Iranian people against the "evil West."
This leaves the military option. Apart from the political consequences and the possibility of counter-attacks, bombing Iran's nuclear facilities would be extremely difficult. The nuclear experts have literally buried themselves and their facilities underground, in locations that would be virtually impossible to reach with conventional weapons.
While even Israeli experts are skeptical over how much damage bombing the facilities could do to the nuclear program, the normally levelheaded US General David Petraeus sounded downright belligerent when asked whether the Iranian nuclear facilities could be attacked militarily. "Well, they certainly can be bombed," he said just two weeks ago in Washington.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jewish Agency: anti-Semitism peaked in 2009

At least AP and Washington Post ran the story, albeit with a grammatical error in the headline and a lame "Israelis say" attribtuion. This is alarming news.  
Israelis says anti-Semitism peaked in 2009
Sunday, January 24, 2010; 12:56 PM
JERUSALEM -- The findings of an Israeli report released Sunday says 2009 saw the most anti-Semitic incidents in western Europe since World War II.
The report by an Israel-led umbrella of organizations dedicated to the combat of anti-Semitism outlined hundreds of violent incidents in Britain, France and Holland.
It said the number of incidents in the first three months of 2009 in western Europe surpassed that of all of 2008. That followed Israel's invasion of Gaza, which evoked harsh reactions.
In France, for example, there were 631 anti-Jewish incidents in the first half of 2009, of which 113 were violent, according to the report. Worldwide, eight people were killed in attacks last year.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky pledged to dispatch representatives from the semi-governmental organization to combat what he said was growing anti-Semitism at European universities.
Click here!
The Israel-based agency deals with immigration and Jewish issues.
On the Net:

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Shrine of the Prophet Ezekiel

Below is a  letter sent to the Director General of UNESCO concerning the attempt by the Iraqi government to rob the Jewish people - and the world's historical heritage, of the historic shrine of the prophet Ezekiel. It is not the first time that Muslim rulers have had designs on this Jewish holy site. Centuries ago, Muslims concocted a "study" that "proved" that the shrine was really a mosque which the Jews, in violation of their dhimmi status, had turned into a shrine that is the supposed grave of Ezekiel.   
Below the letter there is an article providing background on the issue. Please write to UNESCO General Director Irina Bokova at 1, rue Mollis, Paris 75732, France to show that there are people who care about this issue. Americans should be particularly concerned that this barbaric violation of religious tolerance, not too far removed from the Taleban destruction of ancient statues of Buddha, is being done by a government put in place by the American military and supported by US tax dollars.
Please use your own words and do not send an exact copy of this letter.
Thank you.
Ami Isseroff

Director General of UNESCO
Dear Mrs Bokova,

I was troubled to see reports that the Shrine of the Prophet Ezekiel in present-day Iraq, is being divested of its original Jewish character. 
This 2,500 year old holy place predates both Christianity and Islam, although it is venerated by all monotheists.  Ezekiel was a devout Jew; he spoke in Hebrew and his message was first heard by the Children of Israel, to whom he brought the Lord's word. 
Although the significance of his words is universal, and I am glad to know that pilgrimage to the site is not limited to the adherents of any one religion, I feel it would be unjust for the origins of the Prophet Ezekiel to be overshadowed, or forgotten.
In the present situation in the Middle East, it is difficult to predict when Jewish pilgrims will be able to enter Iraq in safety, to visit the shrine of Ezekiel and other holy sites there.  It would be very sad if the Jewish connection were to be erased and forgotten.
As director general of UNESCO, I hope you will be able to ensure that the site is saved, perhaps by a decision to proclaim it a World Heritage Site.
Yours sincerely,
"Behold, all souls are mine....if a man be just and do that which is lawful and right... and hath not oppressed any, but that hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled not by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry and hath covered the naked... that hath withdrawn from iniquity, hath executed true judgement between man and man... to deal truly... he shall surely live, saith the Lord God."
(From Ezekiel, Chapter 18)

From Point of No Return

Eyewitnesses have now confirmed Israeli press reports that irreversible damage has been done to the Jewish character of the ancient shrine of the biblical Prophet Ezekiel at al-Kifl south of Baghdad. Workmen have painted over age-old Hebrew inscriptions.

Professor Shmuel Moreh, chairman of the Association of Academics from Iraq in Israel, who raised the alarm, received the following message from a friend:

" The tomb is safe. However, the Hebrew inscriptions were removed not by intention, but as a result of building and reconstruction in the tomb itself. The unskilled workers are unaware of the significance of these inscriptions, so they cover them with paint or build upon them. In such case the damage and our loss is great and irreversible."

Following articles on Ur News <> , Point of No Return here <>  and here <> , <>  in the blogosphere, in  The Jerusalem Post <>  and Ynet News <,7340,L-3832780,00.html> , Iraqi TV News showed (old) footage of undamaged upper inscriptions and blamed Saddam's Ba'ath regime for whitewashing the lower part of the Hebrew inscriptions. However, it seems that the upper inscriptions have also now been covered over.

Professor Shmuel Moreh is trying, besides raising a worldwide media campaign, to find a way to reach the Iraqi authorities. He wishes to ask them to investigate the damage and urge that the reconstruction of the tomb be entrusted to UNESCO in order to stop further damage. " The world can't stay indifferent towards the destruction of one of the oldest and most sacred and important shrines in the world," he says. To contact the Director General of UNESCO, Mrs Irina Bokova, please write to her at 1, rue Mollis, Paris 75732, France

When Iraq still had a Jewish community, the shrine of Ezekiel was one of the most important Jewish sites in Iraq. Some 5,000 Jewish pilgrims used to visit the prophet's tomb at Passover. They would stay in accommodation adjoining the shrine. Thousands of Jews lived and owned land in the town of al-Kifl.

On a visit to the tomb in 1910, <> David Solomon Sassoon wrote in his diary: "the lovely building over the grave is extremely old, built from very big stones said to be the work of King Jehoachim. Above the doorway was a plaque dated 1809/10, which has inscribed on it – 'this is the tomb of our master Yehezkel the prophet, the son of Buzi the Kohen, may his merit shield us and all Israel. Amen."

"The room with the grave is very high and has flowers painted on the walls and the names of important visitors to the grave. It is mentioned that my grandfather David Sassoon repaired the building in 1859. The grave is very large: 12 feet 9 inches long, 5 feet 3 inches wide and 5 feet 1 inch high. It is covered with a decorated Parochet, which was sent by David Sassoon from Bombay. It is also written on the walls of the visit of Menahem Saleh Daniel to the grave in 1897/8 and his donation to redecorate the grave. Nearby, another room has five tombs of Geonim (Sages)."
It is feared that unless action is taken at once, UNESCO may feel that damage to the shrine may become too extensive to declare it a World Heritage site. This happened in Babylon, not far away from al-Kifl, where Saddam erased priceless traces of the ancient site when he built his modern palace.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Reverend Stephen Sizer and his anti-Zionist Anglican thought police

Rev. Stephen Sizer is a known hater of Israel. He is infamous for reinstituting the championing of active Jew hate based on theological grounds - a practice that some people thought, mistakenly, had been buried quite a while ago, especially in enlightened, multipluralistic England. 
Sizer uses his theology to bash not only Israel and Jews, but any people who happen to be Christians who might support Israel for any reasons and to any extent. He labels any Christian who supports Israel as a "Christian Zionist," regardless of their theological beliefs or lack of them.
If anyone had tried to shut him up, Sizer would be the first to complain that the nefarious Zionist conspiracy was stifling "legitimate criticism of Israel." Unfortunately, nobody has shut him up. The Anglican church tolerates his noxious doctrines. But Sizer himself has resorted to bullying those who disagree with him, and enlisted the cooperation of the British police in doing it!  He has managed to somehow turn the usually friendly and polite British constables into a variety of Gestapo agents acting on behalf of Sizer's bigotry, who go about "warning" people who do not have proper respect for Sizer  Sizer insists that he will continue this systematic campaign until he has cowed all resistance to Sizerism.
Citizens of the UK should take note that if they express political opinions that someone does not like, especially if the someone is Sizer, they could be getting a visit from the local constabulary. Perhaps the British police only enforce Anglican theology as in the good old days or maybe they will do this service for Muslim clerics as well.You may want to have some questions asked in parliament. Meanwhile, be careful of your views on the Eucharist and the nature of the Trinity as well as your views of Sha'aria law.
Will Britain be re-instituting loyalty oaths soon? Will non-juroring clergy and lay people who do not swear to uphold the doctrine of Sizer be excluded from government service?  
Meanwhile, those of us who do not enjoy the dubious "liberties"  of England and the "protection" of Her Britannic Majesty can all blog about it wherever we are. If you live in a commonwealth country however, beware. Sizer claims his thought police will operate there as well.
Ami  Isseroff

We are all Seismic Shock or Rev. Sizer and Big Brother

This time the term Seismic Shock doesn't have anything to do with the tragedy of Haiti. It is about less shocking (but still amazing) story of a blogger being muzzled by a strange synergy between a religious cleric and the gendarmes of the state where both the blogger and the cleric reside.

You may not believe (or want to believe) it, but the state in question is not China, Burma, Cuba or any other of the long list of places where blogging is a risky business. It is United Kingdom - the motherland of modern democracy and freedom of speech. The blogger in question goes under a moniker
Seismic Shock and the cleric with the awesome powers to deploy the British police at will is Stephen Sizer, "the vicar or pastor of Christ Church, the international community church of Virginia Water". We'll delve later into more details related to the Reverend, let's discuss the case.

Seismic Shock has done a research into some questionable activities of the Reverend. Apparently, the activities include (but not limited to) dissemination of emails from Holocaust deniers, sharing platform with Holocaust deniers, and shamelessly flaunting his anti-Zionist theology before Iran's apocalyptic Holocaust-denying regime. You can read more about the "Christian" deeds of our good pastor (or vicar, whatever the heck it means) in
this post (thanks to Engage).

While United Kingdom is known as a welcoming place for outrageous litigations (frequently successful) against bloggers, this time pastor Sizer has chosen a novel way to intimidate and silence the blogger: he unleashed on him the local constabulary. Again, it may sound unbelievable for the time and the place, but here it is:

At 10am on Sunday 29th November 2009, I received a visit from two policemen regarding my activities in running the Seismic Shock blog. (Does exposing a vicar's associations with extremists make me a criminal?, I wondered initially). A sergeant from the Horsforth Police related to me that he had received complaints via Surrey Police from Rev Sizer and from Dr Anthony McRoy – a lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology – who both objected to being associated with terrorists and Holocaust deniers.
The sergeant made clear that this was merely an informal chat...
WTF? An "informal chat"? Is it how the Big Brother designates its (hardly lawful) activities these days? Is it an acceptable practice in UK (granted, formally an Anglican kingdom, but we are so used to this designation being a somewhat funny lip service to a sacred British penchant for tradition) to deploy police force on a mere whim of an Anglican cleric? Is it just another facet of freedom of speech we, unwashed non-British heathens don't grok?

Continued (Permanent Link)

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