Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gulf leaders gather amid differences over Gaza summit

Arab Times

MUSCAT, Dec 29, (Agencies): Gulf leaders meeting in Oman on Monday began an annual summit that is set to be clouded by differences over Israel’s three-day-old onslaught against the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Qatar has offered to host an emergency Arab summit on the crisis in Doha on Friday, although Arab diplomatic sources in Cairo were quoted on Monday as saying some states do not favour this. After a preparatory meeting of Gulf foreign ministers late on Sunday, regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia made plain its strong reservations about the summit plan. “The ministerial council has not decided about the proposed extraordinary Arab summit, and has referred the matter to the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said after a marathon five-hour session. “There is no point in attending an Arab summit of statements, without having the right conditions for success and influence,” the official Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit was quoted in press reports on Monday as saying such a summit “could be dangerous and subject to criticism, especially if it does not result in practical measures.” The crisis in Gaza, where the Israeli offensive has now killed more than 340 people and wounded 1,550 since Saturday, had threatened to derail preparations for the Gulf summit. The Arab foreign ministers’ meeting now set for Wednesday was originally planned for Sunday, the same day as the preparatory meeting for the summit, but was rescheduled. Differences over Gaza threatened to overshadow the summit’s original agenda, which was dominated by the six Gulf states’ plans for economic integration and combating the global economic crisis.

At the summit opening Oman’s Sultan Qaboos underscored the need to address the global financial crisis, calling for measures to stabilise oil prices. “There is a need to establish a mechanism for stability in oil prices, in a way that it would not burden the consumer... and not harm the producing countries, while it allows their development plans to continue,” he said. The six countries together sit on 25 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves and 45 percent of its oil reserves, and can afford to dip into their bulging treasure chests after crude prices hit record levels this year. “The Gulf is not comfortable at all at this level,” he said in an interview. “I think the level we need is towards $60 so that we don’t have any deficits. We (Oman) are obviously, at $45 (a barrel budgeted), are projecting a deficit in the region of $800 mln next year.”

Oil prices have tumbled from a record peak above $147 a barrel in July to around $38.40 a barrel on Monday on concerns about waning global demand amid the financial crisis. Omani Foreign Minister Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdulla said the summit would focus on strengthening economic coordination among the six countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain — that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose politic bloc. “They will try to avoid any further damages from the international financial crisis, in that regard there is very strong coordination,” he told Reuters.

Bin Sultan noted that there was a fresh impetus for countries to work together. “Of course some countries have surpluses,” he said. “The problem is when countries have surpluses, coordination doesn’t get priority. The financial crisis will push us for more coordination.” But Gulf rulers were certain to focus at least initially on the bloodshed in Gaza before turning their attentions on how to tackle an oil price slump and a global financial crisis that has brought an end to a six-year regional economic boom. “(Gaza) is the most prominent event on the summit,” Abdel-Rahman al-Attiyah, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), told reporters after an opening session of leaders in the Omani capital, Muscat.

“Gaza was discussed yesterday, has been discussed in the meetings today and will be discussed tomorrow at all levels. It will be reflected in the summit statement and therefore this issue is one of the hottest in the summit.”

The prime minister of Qatar, the only Gulf state with an Israeli envoy, called the attacks “savage and unjustified”. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in a telephone conversation that “Arabs feel that Israel had no intention of achieving peace,” the official Qatar news agency reported. But Gaza violence is unlikely to derail the bloc’s economic agenda as they seek to better coordinate fiscal policies to weather a global crisis that has sent major economies, including the United States and Japan, into recession. “It (the agenda) is going to be concentrated on domestic matters, on the economy,” Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah told Reuters.

“They will try to avoid any further damage from the international financial crisis. In that regard, they need very strong coordination.” The Arab foreign ministers are working out an emergency plan for dealing with the ongoing Israeli offensive on Gaza Strip, Arab League Assistant Secretary General for Palestine Affairs Mohammad Subeih said here on Monday. “The suggested plan is an integrated one envisaging political aspects on how to stop the Israeli raids and reconstruction aspects for rehabilitating the health, housing, and infrastructure services in Gaza Strip,” he told KUNA. “The league is coordinating with its member states in developing the comprehensive plan and sending urgent assistance and relief materials to the Palestinian people,” Subeih pointed out..

Israel Partisans Set New Record For Decades-Old Trick Of Brazenly Rewriting History, Blaming Israel

Arab hostility toward Israel seems to oscillate between pathological aggression and victimized resentment, underscored the entire time by utterly shameless denial. So Hamas can violate the ceasefire for months by shooting at Israeli civilians and at Israeli soldiers. They can brag openly about those violations. They can declare over and over in the plainest terms that they have no interest in renewing a ceasefire. They can hold barbaric rallies and go so far as to mock Israel for keeping whatever ceasefire there is while they themselves are violating it. But after three days of Israeli self-defense UN officials are standing on stage telling international media outlets that Hamas was observing a super-secret ceasefire and Israel is responsible for its breakdown. It's jaw-droppingly brazen. It's hard to blame the Palestinians for trying though. This has been a successful anti-Israel trick for more than half a century. Months and years of genocidal incitement, boasts about glorious Arab victory, derision of Israeli cowardice - and then, when Israel responds, a frantic run into the international community's skirts to moan piteously about Israeli aggression. It's not just that the West let this become a habit. Through international conferences where anti-Semitism is excused as "anti-Zionism," routine bait-and-switch anti-Israel diplomacy, and pervasive anti-Israel double standards - the international community has spent decades creating and nursing this pathological petulance. It's been this way since before Arab and Muslim countries realized they could excuse their genocidal rantings by reference to "The Occupation" (although in subsequent years they became so enamored with that bit of rhetoric that they invoke it even when it makes no sense - it's a reflexive verbal tic, a placeholder for "now I get to say something anti-Semitic about Zionist cabals").

How deeply entrenched is this tactic? It goes back at least as far as the Six Day War and probably to the 1950s. It's always the exact same pattern - vicious aggression, spectacular failure, historical revisionism (Lebanon II is the exception - since Hezbollah could claim victory they get to boast about how they deliberately maneuvered Israel into the war).

The next few paragraphs are an overview of the broad sweep of anti-Israel diplomacy, mostly to show how tediously predictable this stunt is. If you don't have the patience for that you can just drop down to the link dump at the bottom. It's a small demonstration of the sheer mendacity it must be taking to rewrite the few weeks before Operation Cast Lead. But if you skip the middle you'll miss out on all the insanely frustrating historical parallels.

UN Palestinian Stooge: "It's Obvious" That Israeli Attack Violated 48-Hour Truce That No One Knew About Until Now

Posted: 29 Dec 2008 09:25 PM PST

They're just making this up as they go along:

Palestinians in Gaza believed Israel had called a 48-hour lull in retaliatory attacks with Hamas when Israeli warplanes launched a massive bombardment of militant installations in the Gaza Strip, a UN official said Monday. Karen Abu Zayd, commissioner of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which helps Palestinian refugees, raised the possible violation of an informal truce in a video press conference with UN reporters from her base in Gaza... Abu Zayd said Palestinians in Gaza were surprised when Israeli warplanes sent more than 100 tons of bombs crashing down on key security installations in Hamas-ruled Gaza starting Saturday morning because it was in the middle of the lull...

What we understood here (was) that there was a 48-hour lull to be called, and this was called by the Israelis, Abu Zayd said. They said they would wait 48 hours. That was on Friday morning, I believe, until Sunday morning, and that they were going to evaluate. There was only one rocket that went out on Friday, so it was obvious that Hamas was trying, again, to observe that truce to get this back under control, she said.
"It was obvious": the awkward phrase of unblinking morons who can't formulate even dumb justifications for their shameless lies. First year argumentation students roll their eyes at that phrase but this idiot is getting broadcast by international media outlets. (1) There were 25 shells fired at Israel on Friday morning which is 24 more than 1. (2) If Hamas backed off even a little bit over the course of that day it was because one of their rockets fell short and killed two Palestinian schoolgirls. (3) Hamas never, ever wavered from their total rejection of a renewed ceasefire. (4) Hamas had spent all of the last week mocking Israeli restraint - you have to be dribblingly gullible to believe that they were just this close to being respectful of two days of contemplative Israeli introspection.

Worse than being insultingly stupid - this is pathetic. Hamas got caught flat-footed because they believed their own propaganda. The genuinely thought that Israel would appease them no matter how blatant their war crimes. So now to save face they're going with "the sneaky Jews lied to us." How quaint. References and previously behind the jump...

Global Outrage As Egypt Sprays Palestinian Civilians With Gunfire
Posted: 29 Dec 2008 03:41 PM PST

Just kidding, obviously. That's just what normal countries get to do when angry mobs try to breach their border and shoot at their forces:

Gaza residents on Sunday breached the border fence with Egypt in several places and hundreds have crossed the frontier prompting Egyptian border guards to open fire, said officials and witnesses on both sides of the border... At least 300 Egyptian border guards rushed to the area to reseal the border, the official added on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press... Egyptian border guards opened fire to drive back the Palestinians. Residents also commandeered a bulldozer to open new breaches. Egyptian state television reported that Hamas security forces shot an Egyptian border guard and killed him. An Egyptian security source said Hamas forces had also shot an Egyptian policeman in the leg.

Yet another reason why Egypt is highly unlikely to pull Hamas's chestnuts out of the fire they've been stocking for months. Keep in mind that this is a country where media outlets conduct interviews about whether mass rape of Israeli women is a justified war tactic; where politicians have tried to prohibit Israeli religious pilgrimages; where a popular anti-Semitic conspiracy theory is that Israel is handing out distorted Korans with all the "Muslims should annihilate Jews" passages deleted - and the Egyptian government is still comfortable saying that this war is Hamas's fault. References:

* Gaza residents breach Egypt border; Israel bombs 40 smuggling tunnels [Ha'aretz]
* So... When Does Hezbollah Get Involved? (Plus: Why Egypt Will Stay Out) (UPDATE: Or Not) [MR]
* Hey Gals, Check This Out - If You're In Egypt You Can Pretty Much Forget About Fighting Back When You're Assaulted
* Egyptian MPs: Stop Israeli pilgrimages [JPost]
* Egyptian Group Warns Israel Passing out "Distorted" Korans in Africa, Leaves out Verses on Jihad and the Joooos.... Previously:
* Hey Gals, Check This Out - If You're In Egypt You Can Pretty Much Forget About Fighting Back When You're Assaulted
* Another Day, Another Sign That The Muslim Brotherhood Is Gearing Up To Roll Egypt
* Sound Of Church Bells Drives Egyptian Mob Into Frenzy. Final Tally: 13 Injuries (Plus: Entirely Predictable Media Coverage)

Moronic Former Israeli Defense Minister: You Know What Would Be Really Cool? Foreign Peacekeepers In Gaza.

Posted: 29 Dec 2008 10:47 AM PST

Didn't this guy get fired after he tried to ruin the last war that Israel fought?

Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that Israel should not rule out having an international force maintain the peace in the Gaza Strip, once Operation Cast Lead is concluded. "That option should be explored and if enough international elements set up a force which could be deployed in strategic points, it shouldn't be ruled out." The operation's end, he said, is still far: "If we compare this operation to the Second Lebanon War, (back) then we didn't have direct negotiations with the Hizbullah either. Hamas is like Hizbullah, but unlike Lebanon, there is no nation to deal with... what we need to do is find an element to fill that gap.

Hopefully someone will pat him gently on the head, congratulate him on his apt analogy, and point out that it means that putting foreign troops in Gaza would be a total disaster. Sure he might say that his plan is endorsed both by Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad - who doesn't think that Jews have any rights to Jerusalem and keeps stressing Fatah's unity with terrorists - and by anti-Israel EU diplomats. But that's kind of my point too.

References: * Peretz: Arab world should be part of new Gaza order [YNet]
* Take Away Hezbollah's Collaborators, Human Shields, And Useful Idiots. Disband UNIFIL Now. [MR]
* Moderate Western-Trained Palestinian PM: Not So Much With This Jews And Jerusalem Thing [MR]
* Fatah Moderates Respond To Billions In Aid By Stressing Unity With Terrorists [MR]
* EU envoy: Gaza int'l force may be set up quickly [JPost] Previously:
* UNIFIL Soldiers Catch Hezbollah Moving Weapons, Get Shooed Away
* He Misspoke: Biden's Obnoxiously Smug Assertion About Hezbollah Was Actually An Aggressively Stupid Policy About Syria (Plus: They Just Don't Know Stuff)
* Obama NSA Pick James Jones: Hey, How About Some International Troops In The West Bank?

Hamas's Militarized Mosques Not Immune From Israeli Jets
Posted: 29 Dec 2008 09:20 AM PST

In addition to that University weapons facility, Israeli jets damaged at least two separate mosques yesterday. It's not just that Hamas uses mosques as weapons depots - they've always done that. But Gaza mosques are now full-blown barracks, used to house and brainwash Hamas's most fanatical soldiers:

If Israel ground forces were to roll into Gaza, they would face 15,000 fighters who have absorbed the lessons of the Lebanon War... "For two years Hamas, with Iranian assistance, has been working hard on developing its military power, using Hezbollah as a model."... The heart of the force is the 1,000 elite Iz al-Din troops who "undergo rigorous military training as well as participating in ideological classes held in mosques." They undergo urban warfare training, including exercises simulating an assault on a settlement complete with covering machine-gun fire and antitank fire prior to the assault. Some of the instructors were trained in Iran and Lebanon.

The weird thing about this is that the link between political Islam, jihadism, and military conflict is an Islamophobic myth. So I have no idea what they're even doing in there. In any case I'm guessing we'll hear more outrage about the Israeli attacks than we heard about, say, that Fatah raid on a Hamas mosque last September. Or that other Fatah raid on a Hamas mosque two Novembers ago. Etc.

References: * IAF air strikes target Hamas centers at Islamic University [JPost]
* Hamas Uses Mosque For Explosives Storage, Snipers' Nest, Wounding IDF Soldiers [MR]
* Hamas Fighters 'Using Hezbollah as a Model' [Danger Room]
* Palestinian Arab police raid mosque. No one protests! [Elder]
* Islamic World Explodes Into Riots As Fatah Targets Hamas Mosques, Imams [MR]
Previously: * Boston Globe Notices UN Is Not Entirely Fair To Israel (Plus: Lebanese Muslims Pissed That Even Israel Is More Humane Than Syria) [Video]
* Palestinians Commit Several War Crimes in Just a Few Hours. Instead of Reporting That, Reuters Publishes Gripping Tale of Glorious Palestinian Martyrdom (and We're Not Even Exaggerating About That...)
* Guns? Hidden In A Palestinian Mosque? No Way

Several Good Reasons Why Hezbollah Either Will Or Won't Attack
Posted: 29 Dec 2008 07:51 AM PST

A few reasons why Hezbollah will probably attack Israel: (1) They say they're going to. (2) IDF intelligence is taking the risk seriously enough that they're already doing overflights to try to deter Hezbollah. (3) They were already ready to start a war last week. (4) There's only so long that Hezbollah can have Al Jazeera painting them as the heroes of the Palestinian cause without doing something about it. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, albeit one with an well-trained army: a lot of what they accomplish is through image management and propaganda. A few more days of painting themselves into a corner and Nasrallah won't have any alternative. (5) Iran has a significant stake in making sure that Hamas doesn't get dismantled. They control Hezbollah and might try to double down.

And now a few reasons why Hezbollah will probably stay on the sidelines: (1) They say they're going to. (2) Israel had already publicly changed its doctrine concerning target selection in Lebanon, officially putting all Lebanese infrastructure on the table. Nobody really paid attention because it was the post-Lebanon II IDF and everybody thought it was bluster. But given the intelligence coup that Operation Cast Lead appears to be built on: Hezbollah has to wonder just how much Israel knows about their military infrastructure and to what degree the IAF would be able to untangle it from Hezbollah's human shields. (3) The Lebanese army - such as it is - isn't sure whether Israel's serious about all of Lebanon being in play. But they're not taking any chances: they're preventing protests from getting out of control and are monitoring the border for Hezbollah activity. (4) Hezbollah and Syria have every incentive to wait for an Obama administration before heating up the border. In the meantime Nasrallah can whip up public support by scapegoating counties like Egypt for selling out Hamas. (5) Iran has to calculate that Hezbollah involvement puts Iran's diplomatic position at risk, if only because they'll be forced to again stake their reputation on Hezbollah's success. They have their own a huge incentive to wait a couple of months. So yeah - I dunno. It's the Middle East and we're talking about pathologically anti-Semitic genocidal lunatics. Tough to make predictions.

References and previously after the jump...

Iran-backed Terrorists in Gaza Kill 3, Wound Others in Continuing Rocket Attacks on Israel

Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists in Gaza killed three Israelis in separate rocket attacks on Israeli cities Monday (Dec. 29). One of the dead was an Israeli-Arab construction worker in Ashkelon; 16 others were wounded in that attack. In the city of Ashdod, a woman was killed at a bus stop; four others were wounded. The third attack killed an Israeli in the western Negev; seven others were wounded. [1] Later on Monday, rockets struck the Israeli cities of Ofakim and Yavneh; Yavneh - which lies 22 miles (35 km) from Gaza - is the northernmost Israeli city ever hit by Gaza rockets. [2]

In addition to the 27-year-old construction worker killed by the Grad rocket in Ashkelon Monday morning, a number of the other workers also were Israeli Arabs. Five of the injured are in serious condition. [3]

Nir Marciano, who lives across the road from where the rocket struck in Ashkelon said, “I heard a small blast followed by a bigger one, which rocked the house and the windows. It was simply terrifying. The blast was so strong it blew me inside.” [4]

The Hamas attack on Ashdod marked the first time that city has been hit by missiles fired from Gaza. The woman who was killed had run into a bus station seeking shelter after a rocket warning siren sounded; she died of shrapnel wounds. Of the four others wounded in that attack, one sustained serious injuries. [5]

No details were available about the Israeli killed in the western Negev.

Iran-backed Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups fired more than 40 rockets at Israel today (Dec. 29). [6] They have fired more than 150 rockets and mortar shells at Israel since Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began “Operation Cast Lead” Saturday (Dec. 27), [7] using targeted air strikes on Hamas militants and installations in Gaza to try to stop the terrorists’ more than three years of almost daily attacks on Israel.

Since Israel’s six-month ceasefire with Iran-backed Hamas formally ended Friday (Dec. 19) Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 200 missiles, rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. Attacks over the weekend killed a 30-year-old resident of the southern Negev city of Netivot and wounded four others. [8]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Hamas is responsible for the current situation in Gaza and said he had asked Hamas not to end the ceasefire.

Said Abbas during a joint press conference yesterday (Dec. 28) with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit, “I say in all honesty, we made contact with leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. We spoke with them in all honesty and directly, and after that we spoke with them indirectly, through more than one Arab and non-Arab side... We spoke with them on the telephone and we said to them: We ask of you, don't stop the ceasefire, the ceasefire must continue and not stop, in order to avoid what has happened, and if only we had avoided it." [9]

Since Israel gave up all of Gaza in 2005 – relinquishing homes, farms, places of business and worship – terrorists have launched more than 6,400 rockets and mortars into Israel from Gaza. The attacks have killed 13 civilians, wounded more than 800 and traumatized thousands of others. [10] The only remaining Israeli in Gaza is Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit who was abducted from Israel on June 25, 2006 by Hamas in a bloody cross-border raid in which the terrorists killed two IDF soldiers and wounded four others. [11]

On Sunday, the IDF operation targeted 40 weapons smuggling tunnels built by terrorist groups in Gaza. The IDF also struck two mosques that were being used as weapons, ammunitions and explosives depots. Following the air strike, there were secondary explosions indicating that large quantities of the explosives and ammunition had been hit. [12]

During the weekend, a Katyusha missile hit the Negev town of Kiryat Gat for the first time. Kiryat Gat is more than 12 miles (20 km) from Gaza. [13] Hamas and other Iran-backed terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the attacks. [14]

During the past year, Iran-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 3,000 rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians in the southern Negev region; the attacks earlier this year killed four people and wounded more than 270. [15]

Said Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, “We want to restore the quiet and the tranquility and give the residents of the south the ability to live the normal lives that every country provides its citizens.[16]

"Residents of Gaza, we are not your enemies and we are not fighting against you. This terrorist organization has brought disaster to two peoples. Israel is not fighting the Palestinian people but the Hamas terrorist organization that has taken it upon itself to act against the residents of Israel.” [17]

Despite the ongoing attacks, 63 truckloads of humanitarian goods were transferred Saturday (Dec. 27) from Israel to Gaza and 120 truckloads were transferred today through the Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings. [18] On Sunday, Israel transported 160 tons of food and medicine into Gaza. [19] The IDF provided the aid in coordination with the UN, UNSCO, UNRWA, Red Cross and WHO. [20] On Friday (Dec. 26) Israel transferred more than 90 truckloads of vital goods to Gaza residents. [21]

During the six-month truce, Israel delivered 17,000 truckloads of goods into Gaza. [22] Click here for a comprehensive list of humanitarian aid delivered during the six-month ceasefire.

During a visit five months ago to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, then-candidate and now President-elect Barack Obama defended Israel’s right to protect itself from such attacks: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing." [23]

Speaking about the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama also said during the visit, "A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." [24]

In addition to firing missiles at Israeli civilians, the terrorist groups have conducted a sustained campaign of attacks against the border crossings from Gaza into Israel. In 2008 alone, there have been more than 17 attacks or attempted attacks on the crossings.

Graph: Rockets and Mortars Fired From Gaza June – December 2008

Contact info
Israeli officials and experts in the U.S.

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sallai Meridor
Contact him through Chief of Staff Lior Weintraub at cell: (202) 679-1248 or e-mail:

Israeli Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff:
office: (202) 364-5578 or cell: (202) 276-3300 or e-mail: dcm@israelemb.org

Israeli Embassy Spokesman Jonathan Peled
cell: (202) 276-2800 or e-mail: sp@washington.mfa.gov.il

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev
Contact her through spokeswoman Mirit Cohen at cell: (347) 539-1896 or miritc@newyork.mfa.gov.il

The Israel Project Founder and President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
cell: 202-365-0787 or jenniferm@theisraelproject.org

The Israel Project – Israel Office Executive Director Marcus Sheff (in Israel)
cell: 011-972-54-807-9177 or marcuss@theisraelproject.org

Israeli officials and experts in Israel
(Please note: to phone from U.S., add 011-972 to beginning of number and remove the “0” at the beginning of the number; outside the U.S., add your country code and then "972"; also remove the "0" from the beginning of the number)

Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee (English & Arabic): 050-628-6646

Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Media and Public Affairs Aviv Shir-On (English & German): 050-620-3623

Prime Minister's International Media Adviser (English) Mark Regev: 050-620-3264

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor (English, Spanish & French): 050-620-3277

Israeli Ambassador to France Danny Shek (French & English): 050-620-3682

Government Press Office Director Daniel Seaman (English): 050-620-5432

Government Press Office Arabic Dept. Director Dr. Fawaz Kamal (Arabic): 050-620-5427

Foreign Ministry Arabic Dept. Acting Dir. Ophir Gandelman (English & Arabic): 050-620-3548

Former Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzvi Hefetz: (English & Russian): 054-469-6969

Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Gillerman (English): 050-688-8777

Col. (res.) Miri Eisin (English): 050-552-0646

BIOS for select Washington- and New York-based officials and experts:

H.E. Sallai Meridor, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States

Before becoming Israel’s ambassador to the United States in late 2006, Ambassador Sallai Meridor served as Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization (WZO) from 1999-2005. Prior to this, Mr. Meridor served as treasurer of the Jewish Agency and the WZO and as head of the Settlement Division of the WZO.

Prior to his work with the Jewish Agency, Mr. Meridor served as an advisor to the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel. In his governmental service, he was involved in the designing of Israel's foreign and defense policies, played a role in the peace process leading to the Madrid Peace Conference, participated in the negotiations that followed as the representative of the Ministry of Defense, and led Israel's Inter-Agency Steering Committee on Arms Control.

Born and educated in Jerusalem Mr. Meridor earned a B.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He served as an intelligence officer in the Israel Defense Forces. He is married and has three daughters.

FULL BIO: http://www.israelemb.org/bios/Sallai-Meridor/Sallai-Meridor.html

H.E. Jeremy Issacharoff - Deputy Chief of Mission

2005: Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission to Embassy of Israel in Washington D.C.

2003: Asked by United Nation's Secretary-General to serve on his Advisory Board for Disarmament Affairs, consisting of experts in the realm of arms control and disarmament from approximately twenty countries.

2001: Deputy Director-General For Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Overall responsibility for arms control, non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, export controls and regional security.

1999-2001: Head of Regional Security and Arms Control, MFA.

1998-1999: Member of the Strategic Policy Planning Group and the Joint Strategic Planning Committee, both designed to be senior consultative working groups with the United States on strategic and military affairs. In addition, appointed Representative of the Foreign Minister to the Inter-Ministerial Committee, to establish the National Security Council in Israel.

1993- 1998: Minister-Counselor For Political Affairs in Embassy in Washington DC. Responsible for liaison with the State Department and the National Security Council on bilateral policy issues including the peace process, multilateral talks, strategic and military cooperation, arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation with particular emphasis on Iran's efforts in WMD and missile areas. Member of Israeli delegation to the Multilateral Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security.

1993 - 1993: Policy Counselor in the Foreign Minister's Bureau, Jerusalem.

1989-1993: Personal Adviser to the Director General of the Foreign Ministry. Member of Israeli Delegation to peace talks with Lebanon held in Washington pursuant to Madrid peace conference.

1986-1989: Policy Adviser to the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in New York. Responsible for range of policy matters including peace process, disarmament and legal affairs.

1985: Israel's Representative to the First Committee on Disarmament Affairs of the UN General Assembly.

1984: Acting Director of the Disarmament Division in Foreign Ministry and Inter Ministerial Coordinator of the project to establish a Voice of America relay station in Israel.

Full bio: http://www.israelemb.org/bios/Jeremy_Issacharoff.htm

Jonathan Peled, Israeli Embassy Spokesman

Jonathan Peled joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1992 and is currently Minister-counselor and spokesman of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Before assuming this position he was the Foreign Policy (Diplomatic) Advisor to the Speaker of the Knesset.

Between 2004 and 2006 he served as Israeli Ambassador to El Salvador and Belize. Prior to that he was Foreign Ministry Spokesperson in Jerusalem. Jonathan has held diplomatic postings in Turkey and in Argentina, where he dealt with political affairs, press and information. Before his first posting in Istanbul, he served as Assistant Policy Advisor to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, participating in the peace negotiations following the Oslo Peace Accords.

Jonathan is a graduate of Tel-Aviv University in Political Science and Economics. He holds the rank of Major (res.) in the Israeli Air Force, where he served for 7 years as an Aircrew officer.

Before joining the Foreign Service, and while studying, he worked for EL- AL Israel Airlines.

In addition to Hebrew and English, Jonathan is fluent in Spanish and has a command of German.

Full bio: http://www.israelemb.org/bios/jonathan%20peled.htm

H.E. Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations

Ambassador Gabriela Shalev is Israel’s 14th Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She began her tenure on Sept. 3, 2008, marking the first time a woman was appointed to this post.

Amb. Shalev is a leading expert in Israel in the fields of contract law and procurement contracts. Until her early retirement in 2002, she was a full professor of contract law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and wrote nine books and more than 100 articles about contract law. She was formerly the President of the Academic Council and Rector of Ono Academic College in Israel. Amb. Shalev was also a visiting law professor at universities in the U.S., Europe and Canada, including Harvard Law School, Temple University and Boston College. She has received numerous awards and has served on several prestigious boards.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Founder and President, The Israel Project

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the founder and president of The Israel Project (TIP), an international non-profit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace. TIP has offices in Washington and Jerusalem.

Mizrahi meets regularly with top Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, Ambassador Sallai Meridor, author Natan Sharansky and many others. She also works frequently with pro-Israel organizations including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jewish federations, Jewish community relations councils and Hillel organizations.

Mizrahi previously served as a foreign affairs legislative assistant to the U.S. Congress. She studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has degrees in International Relations and Judaic Studies from Emory University. Her work earned her recognition as a "Point of Light" by President H. W. Bush. Mizrahi also has been honored with the Louis D. Brandeis Award by the Baltimore Zionist District. The Forward newspaper has twice listed Mizrahi in its "Forward 50" most influential Jews in America. Mizrahi was recently named to the March of the Living’s newly established advisory board.

Full Bio: [html] [pdf]

Marcus Sheff, Executive Director, TIP Israel Operation

As Executive Director of The Israel Project’s Israel Office, Sheff leads The Israel Project’s team in Israel. In this capacity, he manages the delivery of information from Jerusalem to over 56,000 journalists around the world, as well as day-to-day direct outreach to the 450 members of the foreign press based in Israel. The Jerusalem-based operation drives TIP’s unique programs in Israel, which include regular press conferences and press events, the ‘Intellicopter’ (helicopter) and specially crafted ground tours for the media, as well as TIP’s Media Center in Sderot. TIP’s Israel Office also conducts media training of pro-Israel advocates and outreach to the Arab-language press in Israel and around the world.

Sheff and the Israel team created what has become a vital resource for the media based in Israel, where 70% of the news about the region is gathered. He meets regularly with Israeli leaders, spokespeople, diplomats and NGOs on strategic communications issues and appears regularly in the international media. Sheff has worked as a media and communications professional in Israel for 20 years, beginning as a political reporter for the The Nation and later becoming an editor at The Jerusalem Post. He then set up a strategic communications company whose clients included government ministries, many of Israel's top 20 companies and international publishers and advertising agencies. The company became the leader in its field. After selling the company, Sheff represented international publishers and media organizations in Israel and around the world.

As a reserve officer in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Sheff was a prominent spokesperson for the IDF during all recent crises and trained senior IDF officers in media skills. He has appeared on behalf of the IDF on the BBC, ITV and Sky News, as well as dozens of other US and European TV and radio outlets. He serves on the editorial board of “Engage,” an organization that challenges contemporary anti-Semitism. Sheff studied at the University of Leeds, where he was elected General Secretary of the Leeds University Union and was active in national student politics.


[1] Harel, Amos; Yagna, Yanir, "Rockets fired from Gaza kill 2 Israelis within hour," Haaretz, Dec. 29, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050925.html; Hadad, Shmulik, “Laborer killed by rocket in Ashkelon,” YnetNews, Dec. 29, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3646309,00.html

[2] Harel, Amos; Yagna, Yanir, "Rockets fired from Gaza kill 2 Israelis within hour," Haaretz, Dec. 29, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050925.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] Hadad, Shmulik, “Laborer killed by rocket in Ashkelon,” YnetNews, Dec. 29, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3646309,00.html

[5] Harel, Amos; Yagna, Yanir, "Rockets fired from Gaza kill 2 Israelis within hour," Haaretz, Dec. 29, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050925.html

[6] Harel, Amos, Yagna, Yanir, “Israeli killed as barrage of Palestinian rockets pound west Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 29, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050925.html

[7] IDF Spokesperson’s Unit communiqué, Dec. 29, 2008

[8] Curiel, Ilana, “Man killed in rocket strike,” YnetNews, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3644954,00.html; Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak and Issacharoff, Avi, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “Army readies for 'limited' Gaza action as 22 mortars hit Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 26, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050338.html

[9] “Mahmoud Abbas: Hamas responsible for violence,” Palestinian Media Watch, Gaza Update 4, Dec. 28, 2008

[10] Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; Berger, Ronny and Gelkopf, Marc, “The Impact of the Ongoing Traumatic Stress Conditions on Sderot,” Natal, The Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War in cooperation with Dr. Mina Tzemach, Director, Dachaf Public Opinion Research Institute, Oct. 2007

[11] Harel, Amos; Issacharoff, Avi; Haaretz Service and Reuters, "Two soldiers killed, one missing in raid on IDF post," Haaretz, June 25, 2006, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/730994.html

[12] Information relayed by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Dec. 28, 2008

[13] Adayat, Fadi and Harel, Amos, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service, “One Israeli killed, 4 hurt as Palestinian rockets hit Negev home,” Haaretz, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050399.html

[14] “Gaza-Hamas Fact Sheet,” Embassy of Israel, Dec. 22, 2008; "Hamas fires at Israel, threatening hopes of renewed ceasefire," The Telegraph (UK), Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/3933368/Hamas-fires-at-Israel-threatening-hopes-of-renewed-ceasefire.html

[15] Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; “Hamas fires at Israel, threatening hopes of renewed ceasefire,” The Telegraph (UK), Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/3933368/Hamas-fires-at-Israel-threatening-hopes-of-renewed-ceasefire.html; “Rocket barrage from Gaza as Hamas ends six-month calm,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site, Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA

[16] PM Olmert press briefing on IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, Dec. 27, 2008

[17] PM Olmert press briefing on IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, Dec. 27, 2008

[18] Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak and Issacharoff, Avi, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “Army readies for 'limited' Gaza action as 22 mortars hit Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 26, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050338.html

[19] Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; Berger, Ronny and Gelkopf, Marc, “The Impact of the Ongoing Traumatic Stress Conditions on Sderot,” Natal, The Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War in cooperation with Dr. Mina Tzemach, Director, Dachaf Public Opinion Research Institute, Oct. 2007

[20] IDF Spokesperson’s Unit Communique, Dec. 27, 2008

[21] Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak and Issacharoff, Avi, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “Army readies for 'limited' Gaza action as 22 mortars hit Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 26, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050338.html

22] Ravid, Barak, "Obama in Sderot: Nuclear Iran would be game-changing," Haaretz, July 23, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1004747.html

[23] Ibid.

[24] "Obama says nuclear Iran a "grave threat," Reuters, July 23, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSL2376765320080723

Crush Hamas and brave the backlash

Michael B. Oren | December 30, 2008
The Australian

CNN International's coverage of the weekend's fighting in Gaza concluded with a rush of images: mangled civilians writhing in the rubble, primitive hospitals overflowing with the wounded, fireballs mushrooming between apartment complexes, the funeral of a Palestinian child. Missing from the montage, however, was even a fleeting glimpse of the tens of thousands of Israelis who spent last night and much of last week in bomb shelters; of the house in Netivot, where a man was killed by a Grad missile; or indeed any of the hundreds of rockets, mortar shells, and other projectiles fired by Hamas since the breakdown of the so-called ceasefire.

This was CNN at its unprincipled worst, grossly skewering its coverage of a complex event and deceiving its viewers.

Yet Israel should not have been surprised.

Over the past few weeks, as the tahdiyah ("period of calm" in Arabic, the term similarly preferred by the Hebrew press) unwound and finally dissipated, Israel's policy has been to refrain from responding militarily to Hamas rocket fire.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni went to Egypt and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared on al-Arabiya TV to bear the message that Israel did not want war with Hamas; instead, Israel was committed to renewing the tahdiyah. The purpose was to build up a moral case for retaliating against a recalcitrant Hamas and limiting the international fallout that invariably follows any Israeli attempt at self-defence.

But the tactic has never really worked and failed this time as well. Within minutes of the first Israeli air strike, the Arabs were screaming "massacre" and the media had all but forgotten the serial assaults that provoked it.

The press once again attached the word "disproportionate" and the term "continuing cycle of violence" to describe a supremely justified and largely surgical (the targets were exclusively military, the victims overwhelmingly Hamas gunmen) operation.

At the time of writing, the UN Security Council is meeting and will no doubt find Israel and Hamas equally guilty for disrupting the ceasefire and demand its immediate restoration.

One wonders why Israel even bothers. Instead of undermining the Zionist ethos of defending Jewish lives at all costs irrespective of bad publicity and perilously broadcasting weakness to its enemies, perhaps Israel should simply declare that the slightest violation of the ceasefire - a single Qassam - will precipitate an immediate and disproportionate response.

Since it's going to be condemned for it anyway, why shouldn't Israel smash Hamas promptly and massively and reap the benefits in terms of self-respect, deterrence, and a respite for its embattled citizens?

The confusion surrounding Israel's tactics in the Gaza - Israeli tank and infantry forces are now gathering for a possible ground incursion - is indicative of a deeper bewilderment.

The Government is purportedly divided over the operation's goals, with Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak in favour of toppling Hamas, while Olmert prefers to revive the tahdiyah.

Nobody seems to know how long Israel's operation will last or the criteria for deeming it successful. No Israeli leader, whether from Kadima, Labor or Likud, has articulated a clear vision for Israel's relationship with the obstreperous Strip.

Here, too, there is nothing original. In 1949, at the end of Israel's war of independence, Israeli forces surrounded Gaza in an attempt to conquer it and annex it to the nascent Jewish state. Frustrated in that gambit, Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion secretly sought to purchase Gaza from the Egyptians in the early 1950s, and then, during the 1956 Suez crisis, Israel briefly occupied the Strip.

Israeli soldiers in 1967 received unequivocal orders not to enter Gaza, but they did so anyway, and remained there for the next 20 years until prime minister Menachem Begin tried to convince the Egyptian leadership to take control of Gaza, fruitlessly.

Israel proceeded to build settlements in the Strip, but not enough to stake a firm territorial claim. It installed a Palestine Liberation Organisation administration there, but later disavowed it as corrupt and terror-ridden. It initially coddled and finally combated Hamas.

Finally, in 2005, prime minister Ariel Sharon, former champion of the Gaza settlements, uprooted all 21 of them and their 8100 inhabitants.

Once renowned for his brutal suppression of Gaza terrorists, Sharon also ignored the 1000 Qassam rockets that flew on the heels of Israel's withdrawal. Hamas was consequently empowered and eventually took over the Strip, creating the Hobbesian conditions that Israel faces today.

Olmert began his term with a boom - a war in Lebanon in 2006 - and is now leaving with a bang - the 2008 war in Gaza. Today, however, Olmert is more experienced, more sombre, less cocky. He now plays the role of the responsible adult.

Nevertheless, this latest round of fighting provides Israel with an opportunity to end its painful chronicle of indecision on Gaza and to embark on a lucid and realisable policy.

Can Israel co-exist with a Hamas-dominated Gaza? What are the alternatives (the re-introduction of Egyptian forces, for example) to a renewed Israeli occupation of the area? To what degree will the international community accept a zero-tolerance approach to rocket attacks against Israel, and, more crucially, will the incoming US administration of Barack Obama publicly endorse that stance?

These and other questions might be answered in the coming days if Israel, withstanding the media backlash, dares to ask them.

Michael B.Oren is a professor at the school of foreign service at Georgetown University. He is author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.

The New Republic
Thanks Ronit Fraid.

Ralph Peters on Israel‏

DEAD Jews aren't news, but killing terrorists outrages global activists. On Saturday, Israel struck back powerfully against its tormentors. Now Israel's the villain. Again.

How long will it be until the UN General Assembly passes a resolution creating an international Holocaust Appreciation Day? Israel's airstrikes against confirmed Hamas terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip were overdue, discriminating and skillful. So far, this retaliatory campaign has been a superb example of how to employ postmodern airpower.

Instead of bombing empty buildings in the dead of night in the hope of convincing bloodthirsty monsters to become peace-loving floral arrangers - the US Air Force version of "Shock and Awe" - the Israeli Defense Force aimed to kill terrorists.

Israel's attack aircraft appear to have accomplished that part of the mission. As I write, some 300 terrorist dead have been reported in Gaza, while the propaganda-savvy information office of Hamas has strug- gled to prove that 20 civilians died.

Given the fact that Hamas adheres to the terrorist practice of locating command sites, arsenals and training facilities in heavily populated areas, the results suggest that the IDF - supported by first-rate intelligence work - may have executed the most accurate wave of airstrikes in history, with a 15-to-1 terrorist-to-civilian kill ratio.

The bad news is that it still won't be enough. While Israel has delivered a painful blow against Hamas, it's still not a paralyzing hit. The only way to neuter such a terror threat - even temporarily - is to go in on the ground and scour every room, basement and underground tunnel in a region.

That would mean high Israeli casualties and, of course, condemnation of Israel's self-defense efforts by every self-righteous, corrupt and bigoted organization and government on earth, from Turtle Bay to Tehran.

What have been Israel's "crimes?" Not "stealing Palestinian land," but making that land productive, while exposing the incompetence and sloth of Arab culture.

Israel's crime isn't striking back at terror, but demonstrating, year after year, that a country in the Middle East can be governed without resort to terror. Israel's crime hasn't been denying Arab rights, but insisting on human rights for women and minorities.

Israel's crime has been making democracy work where tyranny prevailed for 5,000 years. Israel's crime has been survival against overwhelming odds, while legions of Arab nationalists, Islamist extremists and Western leftists want every Jew dead.

But Israel's greatest crime was to expose the global cult of victimhood, to prove that hard work, fortitude and courage could overcome even history's grimmest disaster.

Was it a crime to hand Gaza back to Palestinian authorities, to give peace a chance? Look what Israel received in return for trading land for peace.

Let us never forget the fundamental truth that, while Israel longs to live in peace with its neighbors, those neighbors openly profess the desire to eliminate Israel and exterminate its people.

Indeed, Arab and regional jealousy toward Israel is so all-consuming, so necessary to excuse the Arab art of failure, that even these judicious airstrikes will hardly make a dent in the terrorist threat.

Unless Israel sends in ground forces for the long haul - and thousands of IDF reservists are being mobilized - there will be, at best, a temporary respite from terror attacks. Even a new occupation of Gaza would not fully solve the problem.

A crucial point about interfaith and interethnic conflicts that we sheltered Americans refuse to understand is that, all too often, there's just no good solution - and not even a bad solution, short of acts of barbarism.

It's a rare conflict that results in an enduring peace. Unintended consequences abound. At times, you fight just to buy time, to gain breathing space - or merely to frustrate an enemy's designs for a limited period.

That's the situation Israel faces: No hope of an ultimate victory, but a constant fight to survive. Enemies who believe their god ordains their actions can't be placated. For faith-fueled terrorists, such as the core members of Hamas, the struggle with Israel's a zero-sum game. Compromise is, at most, an expedient tool, never an acceptable end state.

What will we see in the coming days? Much depends on Israel's resolve. The most probable scenario is that Hamas will continue launching terror rockets for a few weeks to salve its wounded vanity and maintain the image of "resistance," but will ultimately reduce its attacks against Israel - while it rebuilds its cadres and restocks its arsenal.

Israel will have bought time, not peace.

What might Israel have done better? It's essential to take out the top terrorist leaders. But Israel's government remains reluctant to target the cowardly Hamas leaders hiding in Damascus - or even the top terrorists remaining in Gaza.

For terrorist bosses, the rank-and-file are disposable and replaceable. You can't just kill the gunmen. You have to kill the names.

We may sympathize with the average Palestinian family, exploited by generations of corrupt leaders and now caught in yet another round of violence. But let us never forget that Israel hasn't fired thousands of blind rockets into Palestinian cities, that Israeli suicide bombers don't attack Arab restaurants and bus stops, and that Israel seeks to avoid harming civilians - while Hamas seeks to kill as many civilians as possible.

In a world where there are no good answers, Israel just answered as best it could. The world's response? "How dare Jews defend themselves."

Humanity doesn't progress. It just changes clothes

Monday, December 29, 2008

Exclusive: over 60 per cent of Britain's Muslim schools have extremist links, says draft report

Damian Thompson at Dec 17, 2008 at 13:05:37 [General]

Britain's Muslim schools have been sharply criticised in a controversial draft report commissioned by a leading think tank which suggests that over 60 per cent of them are linked to potentially dangerous Islamic fundamentalists. An early version of the report, entitled When Worlds Collide, alleges that of the 133 Muslim primary and secondary schools it surveyed, 82 (61.6 per cent) have connections or direct affiliations to fundamentalists. The 133 schools are in the private sector but supposedly subject to Ofsted inspection.

The report also claims that some of these schools teach "repugnant" beliefs about the wickedness of Western society and Jews.

The claims in the report, written by Denis MacEoin in response to a commission from Civitas, will provoke ritual cries of "Islamophobia" from the Muslim Council of Britain and fellow travellers such as Koran Armstrong. MacEoin has been careful to back up his claims with evidence - in particular, screen captures of links to Islamic hate-mongers, including supporters of Al-Qaeda.

Civitas, however, is not prepared to endorse MacEoin's 61.6 per cent figure, which will not appear in the published version of When Worlds Collide. A spokesman for Civitas explains: "We want to concentrate on claims that are absolutely robust, rather than complicated material, some of it in Arabic, that might unjustly damage someone's reputation."

Perhaps the most alarming finding of the draft I've seen is that so many of these schools (including ones with no connections to political extremism) are bricking up their pupils behind a wall of Koranic injunctions and Sharia law.

The schools known as Darul Ulooms, which base their curriculum on a seventeenth-century Indian teaching system, include very few secular subjects, claims the report. It says: "Their aim is not to prepare pupils for life in the wider world, but to give them the tools for a more limited existence inside the Muslim enclaves."

The consequences for bright Muslim British girls are absolutely dire. Lively intellects are being destroyed and brilliant careers cut off before they can begin. To quote the report again: “Every year, an incalculable number of Muslim teenagers and young women are lost to the wider world that informs their citizenship.”

The numbers are increasing fast, and there is confusion over how many schools exist. The growth of non-Muslim schools, says MacEoin, is “hugely overshadowed by a rapidly growing sector of Muslim institutions. These now number 127 [sic] full-time schools and an estimated 700 part-time madrassas for intense religious instruction [and that doesn’t include the Darul Uloom seminaries] … Many recreate in the UK the style and content of schooling that can be found in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.” Great.

And all this is happening with the implicit consent of the Government, Ofsted – and Christian leaders, who bang on about the threat to “faith schools” (and, in the case of R. Williams, the virtues of Sharia) while shielding their eyes from the evidence that many Muslim faith schools are poisonously anti-Christian.

I've seen many of the extremely damaging screen grabs on which MacEoin bases his claims. Memo to the Muslim Council of Britain: start lining up irate spokesmen now.

Diana West: Friends and Enemies

Diana West surveys the world's mad reaction to Israel's defending itself -- including that of putative U.S. allies Iraq and Afghanistan.It's quite simple, really: Israel strikes back at jihad, finally, and the world takes sides. So far, the sides looks like this: On Israel's side in its strike against jihad are the US and Australia (here); against Israel's strike on jihad are, well, just about everyone else, from France to Iran, from Russia to the UN, from Iraq (hat tip Andrew Bostom) to Afghanistan.

Hey--aren't Iraq and Afghanistan, after all that American blood and billions spent "democratizing" them, supposed to be allies in the "war on terror"? And isn't Hamas a terror organization? So, wouldn't that make Iraq and Afghanistan opponents of the Hamas jihad on Israel? (Insert hysterical peals of laughter here.)

Answer: Not if the teachings of Islam on jihad and dhimmitude have anything to do with it. And they do, despite the West's cowardice to face these politically incorrect, politically inconvenient, politicially demanding facts.

For the record, here's what the Foreign Ministry of what President Bush styles as the "young democracy" of Afghanistan said:

The Afghan Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Sunday strongly condemning Israel's air raids on the Gaza Strip of Palestine that left hundreds of civilians dead and injured, Xinhua reported.

"The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is following the recent attacks by Israel on the innocent people of Palestine with great concern and strongly condemns these attacks," the statement said.

The statement noted that "the bombardment and killing of civilians cannot be justified with the policies of Hamas."

That's just great. Really glad to know the incoming Obama administration will be sending thousands of American troops to Afghanistan to attempt to shore up this stalwart Afghan "ally" in global war on terror, or whatever they're calling it now. And how different would a Taliban statement on Gaza be from the Afghan government's? Never mind.

Then there's Iraq--the same Iraq President Bush has long predicted will be (when?) "an ally in the worldwide struggle against the terrorists" and a "strong ally in the Middle East." Already, the Iraqi government, a spokesman for the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and the country's Biggest Cheese, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have all condemned Israeli airstrikes on terror targets in Gaza.

Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said condemnation didn't go far enough.

"Expressing condemnation and denunciation for what is going on against our brothers in Gaza and expressing solidarity with them by words only doesn't mean anything in the face of the big tragedy they are facing," he said in a statement released by office in Najaf.

"Now more than at any other time, both Arab and Islamic nations are required to take a practical stance for the sake of stopping this repeated aggression and to break the unfair besieging of these brave people," the statement said, without giving details of the proposed stance.

Only a child in a fairy tale would expect anything else.

Hizballah Top Dog: "Northern Israel will burn as Gaza is burning"

"He speaks via a video hook-up from his hideout due to fears of assassination by Israeli agents." What a lion!

"Hizbullah Vows to Open Second Front in Gaza Conflict," by Hana Levi Julian for Israel National News, December 29 (thanks to Carl in Jerusalem): (IsraelNN.com) Hizbullah terrorists have vowed to open a second front against Israel in the north in retaliation for the IDF military operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Terrorist chief Hassan Nasrallah issued a statement on Hizbullah's Al-Manar television station Sunday, vowing that "northern Israel will burn as Gaza is burning." Nasrallah rarely appears in person; he speaks via a video hook-up from his hideout due to fears of assassination by Israeli agents, following the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Hizbullah officials were quoted in a number of Arabic-language publications on Saturday warning that they would not permit Israel to attack Gaza without retaliating.

Last week seven Katyusha rockets were discovered primed and ready for launching in southern Lebanon, located near the northern border of Israel. All seven were aimed at targets in the Jewish State. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- anticipating such a reaction -- warned Hizbullah Saturday night in his speech informing the nation about the military operation in Gaza that any "others who may seek to take advantage of the situation would be wise not to."

The last time Israel faced a two-front war was in June 2006, when a military conflict began with a cross-border raid by Hamas terrorists near the Kerem Shalom Crossing with Gaza that resulting in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Two other soldiers were killed and a fourth soldier was critically wounded in the attack. Shalit remains captive in Gaza to this day.

Less than a month later, in July 2006, Hizbullah terrorists carried out a cross-border raid in northern Israel, kidnapping and ultimately murdering IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

The attack, which was conducted simultaneously with the launch of a barrage of Katyusha rockets at Jewish communities in northern Israel, opened a second front in the military conflict that had began with Gaza, and ignited the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

US Supports But Cautions Israel

Hana Levi Julian US Supports But Cautions Israel

The United States has come out with a statement expressing strong support for Israel's need to carry out "Operation Cast Lead" against Gaza-based terrorist organizations, but cautioned the Jewish State to avoid civilian casualties. n a statement issued Saturday by White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, the Bush administration said "Hamas's continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop. Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people."

That having been said, however, Johndroe went on to caution Israel to avoid wounding civilians, as did U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a separate statement issued by her office late Saturday night.

"The U.S. strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," read the terse statement from Secretary Rice. "The ceasefire should be restored immediately. The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza," it concluded.

Israel's Preparations Aimed at Minimizing Civilian Casualties

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed reporters and the nation in a news conference Saturday night that Israeli intelligence had worked assiduously to avoid civilian casualties. "We worked very hard over the recent months to ensure that our intelligence would enable us to attack terrorists while keeping civilian casualties to a minimum," he said.

Olmert added, "Israel's war is with Hamas. We are not at war with the Palestinian people." He noted, however, that Israel intended to "restore quiet to the south. We intend to take care of our citizens as any other country would."

The IDF also said in a statement of its own that it had selected its targets with great care, focusing solely on Hamas targets and infrastructure facilities.

"The targets that were attacked were located by intelligence gathered during the last months and include Hamas terror operatives that operated from the organization's headquarters, training camps and weaponry storage warehouses," said the IDF statement.

However, the army spokespersons' unit warned that any person engaging in any form of terrorism in Gaza will be considered a fair target in the current military campaign.

"The IDF Spokesperson wishes to emphasize that anyone sponsoring terror, hosting terror in his house, housing terror in his basement and sending his wives and children to serve as human shields – is considered a terrorist."

"The IDF will continue its activity against terror activities according to operational assessments held by the Chief of the General Staff. The IDF is ready to widen and deepen its activity against all terror organizations… as long as it is necessary," read the statement.

Almost as an afterthought, the IDF pointed out, "In addition, the Home Front Command and emergency authorities took all necessary measures for preparing the civilian population."

The statement was no idle boast. The public instructions and bulletins issued in the past by the IDF to prepare the civilian populace have never been as detailed as those sent out to the media upon the start of Operation Cast Lead on Saturday.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hamas threatens to harm Livni, Barak

Islamist group figure in Gaza Strip says organization will strike Foreign Minister Livni 'inside the Knesset compound…will hunt Defense Minister Ehud Barak down'; also threatens revenge against 'traitors in Ramallah, Arab world who took part in scheme against us'

Ali Waked
Israel News

The death toll in the Gaza Strip continued to climb on Sunday, and Hamas heads broke out with threats against the Israeli leadership. Hamas figure in the northern Gaza Strip Fathi Hamad said his organization would hurt Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

"We will reach that Zionist in her house, inside the Knesset compound. We will also get to the traitors in the Muqata compound in Ramallah and to all those in the Arab world that had a hand in the scheme against us. We will hunt Barak down and reach all of them," Hamad said.

"Today we are sending a message through the sea of blood that was spilled here and we will not surrender and we will defeat the enemy. From here, from within the proud Strip, we say to all our enemies: We will get to you, defeat you, and hunt you down one by one.

"We will reach the Zionist leaders in their homes, we will get to you, the collaborators in the Muqata in Ramallah, and we will settle the score with you one by one."

Hamad added that "Hamas and the organizations will settle the score with anyone who was involved in the attack on Gaza, in the participation in this scheme and in supporting this attack.

"The heroes in the Strip will continue to fight and prove the youth and fighters of Islam and the Palestinian organizations cannot be defeated," he said.

Israeli leaders boost security
Meanwhile, security around Livni and Barak was boosted. However, a Ynet examination revealed that the increase in security had more to do with protecting the three leading candidates ahead of the upcoming general elections, than with the IDF operation in Gaza.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security is at its peak.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday morning that Hamas could have avoided the attacks.

"We talked to them and we told them 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop' so that we could have avoided what happened," he said in Cairo.

In a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Abbas said he wanted to protect the Strip. "We want to protect Gaza and we don't want it to be destroyed."

Abbas added, "Now there are vigorous efforts towards protecting our people in the Gaza Strip."

The president stressed that he was interested in "returning to dialogue as soon as possible" and that it was very important to stand up to "the Israeli aggression against civilians in the Gaza Strip in which over 270 were killed and hundreds injured.

"We do not want and will not agree to our people being destroyed. Again we stress that we are responsible for every drop of blood that is spilled amongst our people."

Tsafrir Ronen

Like the light that continues to travel from a star that has died - long after it has gone. We must continue in this light.
We shall see this through - with a sense of deep loss - and carry on with the courage that Tsafrir had.

This evening - after Shabbat - a message came through that Israel and the Jewish people have lost a hero - Tsafrir Ronen- a moshavnik from the north. He was an unusual man - fiery in his defense of Israel, had made documentaries about our history and rights to the land and was working to create a TV channel directly from here in order to tell the Jewish narrative to the world. . Tsafrir was unique- a secular Israeli in his 50s -with a completely traditional attitude towards Eretz Yisrael as he always called the Land. He knew where each of the tribes had lived, the Biblical name of each city and he cherished the dream of continuity in the future because he knew from where we had come.

Tsafrir was knowledgeable in the history of the region and the promise of less than 90 years ago by the League of Nations which committed to the re-creation of a viable Jewish homeland including what is today Jordan and Palestine. It pained him to see the continuous whittling down of even the western territory - that which is called 'Palestine' and comprises only 22% of the original promise - in an effort to appease others - and the ongoing efforts in the interest of a fictitious 'peace process'.

During Sharon's 2005 'expulsion' of Gush Katif and 4 northern communities in Samaria, one of the latter in this catastrophe was Homesh and Tsafrir was involved in Homesh First - a return to that place -as a start. He also traveled to Hevron frequently to stand with those who live there. This was a long trip each time from his home up north but he did what he thought was right for the country. Surely the recent forced expulsion of Jewish families from Bet HaShalom in Hevron and the policies of some Israeli governments played a part in undermining his health; he was so completely invested in preserving the integrity of Israel.

During some conferences where Tsafrir was among the speakers, others referred to their notes; Tsafrir spoke extemporaneously - from his heart - impassioned by his deep love for Eretz Yisrael and how this is a Land to be cherished. His spirit and actions transcended all of politics.

Today, Chanukah - a holiday that commemorates heroism of our people - we have lost a modern day hero. We are in a state of shock and grief; our response must be to continue his work. Our deepest condolences to his wife, children, and the other members of his family.

Jerusalem, Israel

Doris Wise Montrose, President and Founder
All Board Members
Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors

Eli E. Hertz, President
Myths and Facts, Inc.

Joel Blasberg, Filmmaker
Withdrawal From Gaza

Saturday, December 27, 2008

'We'll abduct female soldier'

Popular Resistance Committees spokesman says group plans to kidnap female soldier should IDF enter Gaza, so that 'Gilad Shalit will be able to start family'; Gaza groups have more than 10,000 rockets, 'can drop martyrs from sky into Tel Aviv,' he says

Sharon Roffe-Ofir
Israel News

Palestinian threats: An Israeli invasion of Gaza would draw a harsh Palestinian response, including the kidnapping of more Israeli soldiers, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees warned Friday. Specifically, the group would aim to kidnap a female soldier, the PRC's Abu Abir told the Nazareth-based Arb al-Dahel.

"The resistance movement is talking about the abduction of a female soldier, and we're certain we'll succeed," he said. "Then, Gilad Shalit will be able to start a family, and the negotiations will be for the release of the Shalit family."

Abu Abir also hinted that the abducted Israeli soldier was not held in the Gaza Strip.

"Even if Israel thinks about entering Gaza, or dropping an atomic bomb that would wipe out Gaza, it won't be able to kill Gilad Shalit," he said.

"Ehud Barak won't dare attack," the spokesman told the newspaper, addressing the possibly of an Israeli strike. "He and the Shin Bet know what awaits them in Gaza. Should the IDF attack, Israel won't be able to sustain the Palestinian response even for a day. Any entry into Gaza would prompt the abduction of soldiers – either alive or dead."

"Should Israel enter Gaza, our madness would grow tenfold," Abu Abir added.

When asked whether Palestinian groups possess missiles that can hit Tel Aviv, the PRC spokesman said: "We have more than 10,000 missiles. Some of them are Russian-made, and others are anti-aircraft missiles…We have the ability to neutralize Israel's tanks, and we can also drop martyrs from the sky into Tel Aviv and its suburbs."

"We have missiles with a range of more than 40 kilometers," he added. "It isn't our custom to say what we possess; we'll only do it after we rain the missiles down on the target. All cities within the occupied Palestine are included in the resistance movement's plans."

Friday, December 26, 2008

The 'realist' fantasy


Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion. Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.

While Hamas joyously renewed its jihad against Jews and Christians, its overlords in Iran also basked in jihadist triumphalism. The source of Teheran's sense of ascendancy this week was Britain's Channel 4 network's decision to request that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad give a special Christmas Day address to the British people. Ahmadinejad's speech was supposed to be a response to Queen Elizabeth II's traditional Christmas Day address to her subjects. That is, Channel 4 presented his message as a reasonable counterpoint to the Christmas greetings of the head of the Church of England.

Channel 4 justified its move by proclaiming that it was providing a public service. As a spokesman told The Jerusalem Post, "We're offering [Ahmadinejad] the chance to speak for himself, which people in the West don't often get the chance to see."

While that sounds reasonable, the fact is that Westerners see Ahmadinejad speaking for himself all the time. They saw him at the UN two years in a row as he called for the countries of the world to submit to Islam; claimed that Iran's nuclear weapons program is divinely inspired; and castigated Jews as subhuman menaces to humanity.

They saw him gather leading anti-Semites from all over the world at his Holocaust denial conference.

They heard him speak in his own words when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

And of course, over the years Ahmadinejad has often communicated directly to the British people. For instance, in 2007 he received unlimited airtime on UK television as he paraded kidnapped British sailors and marines in front of television cameras; forced them to make videotaped "confessions" of their "crime" of entering Iranian territorial waters; and compelled them to grovel at his knee and thank him for "forgiving" them.

The British people listened to Ahmadinejad as he condemned Britain as a warmongering nation after its leaders had surrendered Basra to Iranian proxies. They heard him - speaking in his own voice - when he announced that in a gesture of Islamic mercy, he was freeing their humiliated sailors and marines in honor of Muhammad's birthday and Easter, and then called on all Britons to convert to Islam.

Yet as far as Channel 4 is concerned, Ahmadinejad is still an unknown quantity for most Britons. So they asked him to address the nation on Christmas. And not surprisingly, in his address, he attacked their way of life and co-opted their Jewish savior, Jesus, saying, "If Christ was on earth today, undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers."

He then reiterated his call for non-Muslims to convert to Islam saying, "The solution to today's problems can be found in a return to the call of the divine prophets."

THE FACT of the matter is that Channel 4 is right. There is a great deal of ignorance in the West about what the likes of Ahmadinejad and his colleagues in Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas stand for. But this isn't their fault. They tell us every day that they seek the destruction of the Jews and the domination of the West in the name of Islam. And every day they take actions that they believe advance their goals.

The reason that the West remains ignorant of the views and goals of the likes of Hamas and Iran is not that the latter have hidden their views and goals. It is because the leading political leaders and foreign policy practitioners in the West refuse to listen to them and deny the significance of their actions.

As far as the West's leaders are concerned, Iran and its allies are unimportant. They are not actors, but objects. As far as the West's leading foreign policy "experts" and decision-makers are concerned, the only true actors on the global stage are Western powers. They alone have the power to shape reality and the world. Oddly enough, this dominant political philosophy, which is based on denying the existence of non-Western actors on the world stage, is referred to as political "realism."

The "realist" view was given clear expression this week by one of the "realist" clique's most prominent members. In an op-ed published Tuesday in Canada's Globe and Mail titled, "We must talk Iran out of the bomb," Richard Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that given the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the dangers of a US or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations, the incoming Obama administration must hold direct negotiations with the mullahs to convince them to end their nuclear weapons program.

In making this argument, Haas ignores the fact that this has been the Bush administration's policy for the past five years. He also ignores the fact that President George W. Bush adopted this policy at the urging of Haas's "realist" colleagues and at the urging of Haas himself.

Moreover, Haas bizarrely contends that in negotiating with the mullahs, the Obama administration should offer Iran the same package of economic and political payoffs that the Bush administration and the EU have been offering, and Teheran has been rejecting, since 2003.

Even more disturbingly, Haas ignores the fact that Teheran made its greatest leaps forward in its uranium enrichment capabilities while it was engaged in these talks with the West.

So in making his recommendation to the Obama administration - which has already announced its intention to negotiate with the mullahs - Haas has chosen to ignore Iran's statements, its actions, and known facts about the West's inability to steer it from its course of war by showering it with pay-offs.

Haas and his colleagues in the US, Europe and on the Israeli Left are similarly unwilling to pay attention to Hamas. In an article in the current edition of Foreign Affairs, Haas and his colleague Martin Indyk from the Brookings Institute call on the Obama administration to either ignore Hamas, or, if it abides by a cease-fire with Israel, they suggest that the Obama administration should support a joint Hamas-Fatah government and "authorize low-level contact between US officials and Hamas." The fact that Hamas itself is wholly dedicated to Israel's destruction and Islamic global domination is irrelevant.

Similarly, Haas and Indyk assume that Damascus can be appeased into abandoning its support for Hizbullah and Hamas, and its strategic alliance with Iran. Syrian President Bashar Assad's views of how his interests are best served are unimportant. Both Assad's statements of eternal friendship with Iran and his active involvement in Iran's war effort against the US and its allies in Israel, Iraq and Lebanon are meaningless. The "realists" know what he really wants.

MUSLIMS AREN'T the only ones whose views and actions are dismissed as irrelevant by these foreign policy wise men. The "realists" ignore just about every non-Western actor. Take Iran's principal Asian ally, North Korea, for example.

This week North Korea's official news agency threatened to destroy South Korea in a "sea of fire," and "reduce everything treacherous and anti-reunification to debris and build an independent, reunified country on it," if any country dares to attack its nuclear installations.

North Korea made its threat two weeks after Kim Jung Il's regime disengaged from its fraudulent disarmament talks with the Bush administration. Those talks - the brainchild of foreign policy "realists" Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill - were based on the "realist" belief that the US can appease North Korea into giving up its nuclear arsenal. (That would be the same nuclear arsenal that the North Koreans built while engaged in fraudulent disarmament talks with the Clinton administration.)

After Pyongyang agreed in February 2007 to eventually come clean on its plutonium installations (but not its uranium enrichment programs), and to account for its nuclear arsenal (but not for its proliferation activities), Rice convinced President Bush to remove North Korea from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terror and to end its subjection to the US's Trading with the Enemy Act this past October. And then, after securing those massive US concessions, on December 11 Pyongyang renounced its commitments, walked away from the table and now threatens to destroy South Korea if anyone takes any action against it.

North Korea's behavior is of no interest to the "realists," however. As far as they are concerned, the US has no option other than to continue the failed appeasement policy that has enabled North Korea to develop and proliferate nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. As the Council on Foreign Relations' Gary Samore said, "I think we're sort of condemned to that process, because we don't really have any alternative."

Samore and his colleagues believe there are no other options because all other options involve placing responsibility for contending with North Korea on non-Western powers like China, South Korea and Japan. More radically, they involve holding North Korea accountable for its actions and making it pay a price for its poor behavior.

As the "realists" claim that the US has no option other than their failed appeasement policies, back in the real world, this week military officials from the US's Pacific Command warned that North Korea may supply Iran with intercontinental ballistic missiles. These warnings are credible given that North Korea has been the primary supplier of ballistic missiles and missile technology to Iran and Syria and has played a major role in both countries' nuclear weapons programs.

Defending Channel 4's invitation to Ahmadinejad, Dorothy Byrne, the network's head of news and current affairs, said, "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential. As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."

When you think about it, broadcasting Ahmadinejad really would have been a public service if Byrne or any of the delusional "realists" calling the shots were remotely interested in listening to what he has to say. But they aren't. So far from a public service for Britain, it was a service for those who, unbeknownst to most Britons, are dedicated to destroying their country.


This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1230111707087&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Israel seeks international approval for Gaza Op

FM Livni speaks to counterparts, as well as to representatives in the EU and the United Nations, emphasizes necessity of Israel reaction to unceasing, civilian-targeted rocket fire from Hamas-controlled territory

Roni Sofer
Israel News

The opening of the Gaza crossings Friday morning and the expected transfer of 40 trucks full of food and humanitarian supplies appears to be a tactical decision. Israeli sources say that the move's objective is to allow the Gaza community to stock up on basic necessities, and thus mitigate the situation in the eyes of the international community, in the event that the IDF will need to undertake a military operation in the coastal enclave. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will hold a series of meetings Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (called the kitchen cabinet) to discuss the option of a potential Gaza operation.

One topic of these meetings will be the homefront's state of readiness and Israel's ability to improve it in the days leading up to a military operation in Gaza. Another meeting will deal with political measures that the Foreign Ministry must achieve in the international community.

Israel has already made a move in this last category over the past few days across the United States, Europe and even in Arab countries, in order to at least to communicate the country's side of the conflict.

Livni herself spoke with her counterparts in many of these countries, as well as to representatives in the United Nations and European Union, emphasizing the necessity of a reaction by Israel to unceasing, civilian-targeted rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in the past week.

'Israel will need to use all its force'

Many of the foreign representatives expressed concern for the humanitarian considerations in Gaza, in the wake of a potential Israeli operation, and this is what the kitchen cabinet's third meeting will deal with.

Foreign Ministry efforts to plead Israel's case will are expected to continue next week.

Livni met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Thursday to discuss the developments in Gaza. Upon her return the foreign minister said "Israel cannot accept the situation in the Strip and must protect its citizens.

"Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors, but we cannot accept the fact that an extremist terror organization is trying to dictate our domestic situation while seeking better terms for a ceasefire that it has violated," she said. "Israel will not be able to restrain itself for much longer.

An official in Jerusalem said "if and when we do launch an operation, we must be prepared to deal with all of its aspects. As it appears now, the international community is calling for Israeli restraint, but it also understands that the current situation is intolerable and that Israel has no other option but to respond militarily to the ongoing rocket fire by Hamas gunmen on our innocent civilians."

On Thursday evening a Qassam fired from Gaza landed in an open area near Ashkelon's southern industrial zone; there were no reports of injuries or damage. In all, six rockets and more than 10 mortars were launched toward Israel throughout the day.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Thursday regarding the situation in the South that "Israel will need to use all its force in order to damage terror infrastructure and create a different and safe reality in the Gaza vicinity."

Despite the rocket fire, Barak announced that crossings into Gaza will be opened Friday to allow for the transition of humanitarian supplies to the Palestinian residents of the area.

Barak's decision to open the crossings was based on recommendations by professionals in the defense establishment, as well as appeals from international sources.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

How to win Islam over

Olivier Roy and Justin Vaisse
Herald Tribune

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would convene a conference of Muslim leaders from around the world within his first year in office.. Recently aides have said he may give a speech from a Muslim capital in his first 100 days. His hope, he has said, is to "make clear that we are not at war with Islam," to describe to Muslims "what our values and our interests are" and to "insist that they need to help us to defeat the terrorist threats that are there." This idea of trying to reconcile Islam and the West is well-intentioned, of course. But the premise is wrong.

Such an initiative would reinforce the all-too-accepted but false notion that "Islam" and "the West" are distinct entities with utterly different values. Those who want to promote dialogue and peace between "civilizations" or "cultures" concede at least one crucial point to those who, like Osama bin Laden, promote a clash of civilizations: that separate civilizations do exist. They seek to reverse the polarity, replacing hostility with sympathy, but they are still following Osama bin Laden's narrative.

Instead, Obama, the first "post-racial" president, can do better. He can use his power to transform perceptions to the long-term advantage of the U.S. The page he should try to turn is not that of a supposed war between America and Islam, but the misconception of a monolithic Islam being the source of the main problems on the planet: terrorism, wars, nuclear proliferation, insurgencies and the like.

This will be an uphill battle, since this view of a monolithic, dangerous Islam has gained wide acceptance. Whether we're talking about civil war in Iraq, insurgency in Afghanistan, unrest in Kashmir, conflict in Israel-Palestine, nuclear ambitions in Iran, rebellion in the Philippines or urban violence in France, people routinely - but wrongly - single out Islam as the explanation, rather than nationalism or separatism, political ambitions or social ills. This in turn reinforces the idea of a global struggle.

Even the recent attacks in Mumbai, India, cannot be seen primarily through the prism of religion. What the terrorists and supporters of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militant group believed to have carried out the attacks, have achieved is to make normal relations between India and Pakistan impossible for the foreseeable future. Such groups have always used regional conflicts like that in Kashmir to hold on to power.

Islam explains very little. There are as many bloody conflicts outside of regions where Islam has a role as inside them. There are more Muslims living under democracies than autocracies. There is no less or no more economic development in Muslim countries than in their equivalent non-Muslim neighbors. And, more important, there exist as many varieties of Muslims as there are adherents of other religions. This is why Obama should not give credence to the existence of an Islam that could supposedly be represented by its "leaders."

Who are these leaders anyway? If Obama picks heads of state, he will effectively concede bin Laden's point that Islam is a political reality. If he picks clerics, he will put himself in the awkward position of implicitly representing Christianity - or maybe secularism. In any case, he would meet only self-appointed representatives, most of them probably coming from the Arab world, where a minority of Muslims live.

And such a conference would have negative effects for Western Muslims. By lending weight to the idea of a natural link between Islam and terrorism, it would reinforce the perception that they constitute a sort of foreign body in Western societies.

Most Western Muslims want first and foremost to be considered as full citizens of their respective Western country, not part of any diaspora. And most of them share the so-called Western values.

If the idea of a Muslim summit meeting should be dropped, then what should Obama do?

No more - but also no less - than carrying out the ambitious program he put forward during the campaign: closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, withdrawing from Iraq, banning torture, pushing for peace in the Middle East and so forth.

These are not in any sense concessions to "Islam," but on the contrary a reassertion that American values are universal and do not suffer any kind of double standard, and that they could be shared by atheists, Christians, Muslims and others.

Obama should also put more faith in the capacity of the rest of the world to recognize that America has turned the page on eight catastrophic years. After all, Americans have just elected a president whose middle name is Hussein. That name goes a long way with many Muslims.
Olivier Roy is a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Justin Vaisse is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution..