Saturday, April 12, 2008

Symbiotic Irony

It is truly ironic that the presidential hopes of the Democrats seem to be contingent on the Republican administration’s continued detection and prevention of al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the homeland. As Hillary Clinton acknowledged last year, an attack on the US would significantly and negatively affect Democratic chances. While the public has become apathetic and negative about the war in Iraq, a direct attack on the US would tend to unite the public against the common enemy, just as happened on 9/11. Another such attack, which certainly is being planned , would produce a similar reaction, to the detriment of the party out of power.So if the Republicans continue to do the fine job they have in detecting and deterring terrorist attacks for the past 6 ½ years, they are more likely to be turned out of office for their sterling performance, than if they lapse and an attack takes place. Logic would indicate that the Democratic Congress would try to bolster the administrations’ ability to detect such attacks, by passing the proposed, now stalled, FISA legislation, since it would be directly to their electoral interest. But logic is not politics.

Meanwhile, the administration is faced with the question of how to get credit for the 6 ½ years of no attacks on the US. At the time of 9/11, it was thought almost inconceivable that there would not be another attack within 6 months or a year, but now the public takes security for granted. In facts, efforts to protect the public can arouse its ire, as with airport inspections. Just this month, Secretary Chertoff of Homeland Security complained that not enough attention was being paid by the media to the UK trial of eight airline terrorist bombers, who, 18 months ago, planned to blow up seven airliners (Air Canada, American, United) while en route over the ocean from England to the US, using liquid explosives and soft drink containers. As Chertoff stated, restrictions on hand-carried liquids were imposed because of that plot, but people wondered if the threat were real. He urged the media not to bury the stories, but to fully inform the public so they would understand that the attacks were almost ready to be implemented.

Contrary-wise, as John McCain has noted, if al Qaeda steps up its attacks in Iraq before the election, that will work against the administration since the public has grown manifestly tired of the Iraq war, not seeing it related to terrorism at home, and would view any set-backs there as a further reason to lose confidence in the administration and elect the Democrats who promise to end that conflict. For that very reason, President Bush announced a halt to further troop reductions after July, in order to forestall any pre-election war gains by al Qaeda in Iraq.

There is, thus, an almost symbiotic relationship between the political parties and al Qaeda, in which the electoral chances of the former are dependent on the tactical decisions of the latter. If al Qaeda chooses to focus on Iraq and defer attacks on the US, the Democrats will profit, and that is indeed what seems to be the case. Indeed, in 2006, Ayman al Zawahri, al Qaeda’s no. 2 man, claimed that credit for the Democratic congressional victory belonged to the terrorists because of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, he has declared that the Iraq war is the central focus of the Jihadist conflict with the US and the West. This is the war that al Qaeda cannot afford to lose.

Does this mean that al Qaeda is making a deliberate choice to not attack the US and to focus on Iraq in order to better the Democrats’ chances? Al Qaeda has a history of making statements to influence US elections. In 2004, the group responsible for the Madrid train bombing, said it supported President Bush in his re-election bid, since they feared Kerry would abandon the war and, through diplomatic cunning, subvert the Jihadist movement. Just before the election that year, Osama bin-Laden issued a videotape denouncing President Bush. While initially seen as an endorsement of Kerry, CIA analysts later interpreted it as a subtle endorsement of the President, who could be expected to continue a war that the Jihadists wanted and believed they were winning at the time. A termination then might be seen to diminish bin-Laden’s leadership role because of the rise of al-Zarqawi in Iraq, who could have claimed to have beaten the Americans. Now, al-Zarqawi is dead and the tide seems to have turned against al Qaeda in Iraq due to the US military surge. Logic indicates that al Qaeda would now want a US leader like Clinton or Obama, both of whom have promised to terminate the conflict by withdrawing US troops. This is also the consensus of other terrorist groups, as quoted last year in the book Schmoozing with Terrorists.

It will be interesting to see if the US public will vote to give the terrorists what they want.

Iranian filmmaker: Holocaust never happened, Al-Qaeda and the Mossad worked together to pull off 9/11

Robert Spencer

Finkelstein, Chomsky, LeVine, Carter. They must be so proud.

Loony Conspiracy Theory Alert: "Iranian Filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh Denies the Holocaust and States: Al-Qaeda and the Mossad Carried out 9/11 Together," from MEMRITV (thanks to all who sent this in):

Following are excerpts from a TV debate with Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, which aired on Channel 2, Iranian TV on April 3, 2008. Nader Talebzadeh: When Islam appeared on the scene... Islam was around even before, but the Islam that we have seen in the past three decades has generated reactions throughout the world and is growing. It is like a landlord returning to his property. Take a look at all the big cities in America. Thirty years ago, you could not find a single mosque there, but today, there are a In Los Angeles, there are hundreds of mosques, and the same goes for New York.


Host: If there really is freedom of expression, why are they so quick to respond whenever the issue of the Holocaust and the burning of the Jews in World War II arises, or whenever somebody tries to investigate this? Why is there no freedom of expression in this case?

Nader Talebzadeh: It has recently become clear that they are intolerant when it comes to this issue. In fact, the return of Islam to the scene has revealed how intolerant they are about discussing the Holocaust. They [imprison] their intellectuals, experts, and researchers, such as Roger Garaudy and Robert Faurisson. All they did was to investigate the figures and say that they were wrong - gas chambers and Zyklon B could not have killed so many people, and the figures regarding Dachau and Auschwitz cannot be true.

Therefore, when they cannot tolerate... The appearance of Islam on the scene has made it clear... Only now are they becoming aware of their intolerance. The fact that the West does not tolerate any criticism of Israel... Today, even the White House is aware of this. Last year, Jimmy Carter portrayed this clearly in his widely discussed book, in which he wrote that it is very strange that... It is just like in the story by Hans Christian Andersen, in which the Emperor has no clothes, and it is a child who exposes this. Jimmy Carter said that nobody in the American Congress dares to criticize Israel in any way. Isn't this strange in a country that purports to believe in liberty?

Today, in America, the only people who dare to criticize Israel are Jews - you must be a [Norman] Finkelstein, a [Noam] Chomsky, or a Mark LeVine. Nobody else dares to speak out about it even in the media, let alone in Congress. It is an unwritten law. It is very strange that there is silencing of voices in a country that purports to be free and liberal.


In my opinion, Al-Qaeda and the Mossad are a team. When 9/11 took place, the FBI arrested five or six Mossad agents who were filming the building, and they were sent back to Tel Aviv that same day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Obama Selective on Terrorism: Yes to Iran, No to Hamas

Hana Levi Julian

American presidential candidate Barack Obama told reporters Thursday that he "does not agree" with a decision by former President Jimmy Carter to meet with Hamas arch-terrorist Khaled Mashaal in Damascus next week. However, Obama has previously stated that he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if elected president.

The Democratic US Senator explained to ABC News, "I think that it is entirely legitimate to make distinctions between those who are heads of state, heads of established countries and those who have advocated terrorism," he said.Ahmadinejad has clearly stated his intent to annihilate the State of Israel and also provides generous funding, advanced training, equipment, weapons and other support to Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations that attack Israeli citizens daily.

The Iranian president also announced this week the addition of 6,000 new centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear power plant, bringing the current total to 9,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges working in defiance of a United Nations Security Council ban on the program.

It is believed by the international community that Iran is engaged in developing a nuclear weapon with which Ahmadinejad intends to fulfill his vow to destroy Israel.

Olmert, Livni Rebuff Carter
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both turned down invitations to meet with Carter when he is in the region, claiming busy schedules, but an Israeli source told the Washington Times, "You draw your own conclusions." Other officials have expressed anger at Carter's meeting with Mashaal. However, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman and Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman have set meetings with the former president.

The former president, whose recent book compares Israeli policies on the Palestinian Authority with former apartheid policies in South Africa, is scheduled to tour Sderot as well as travel to Ramallah to talk with PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) before heading to Damascus for his meeting with Mashaal.

State Dept 'Counseled' Carter Against Meeting
US State Department officials said Thursday that Carter had planned his meeting in violation of American policy and had been warned not to carry it out.

"US government policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and we don't believe it is in the interests of our policy or in the interests of peace to have such a meeting," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. The spokesman added that US officials had "counseled the former President about having such a meeting."

If Carter does meet with Mashaal, it will not be the first time he has tried to violate US policy regarding Hamas. The former president has offered to mediate ceasefires between Hamas and the rival Fatah terror group, and between Hamas and Israel – despite the fact that US officials are opposed to negotiating with the group.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jimmy Carter to Meet Hamas Chief in Syria

Ezra HaLevi

Former United States President Jimmy Carter is planning to meet with the head of the Islamist terrorist group Hamas.

According to the Al-Hayat Arabic paper, Carter is planning to meet with Khaled Mashaal, who heads Hamas from Damascus, Syria, during a visit to the country in the coming weeks.

The meeting, the paper said, is scheduled for April 18.Carter, who during his presidency brokered talks between Egypt and Israel that resulted in Israel relinquishing half of the territory liberated in the Six Day War to Egypt, has recently become openly hostile to the Jewish State.

Carter recently penned a book accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. In his lectures, he has also endorsed increasingly prominent conspiracy theories attributing America’s woes in Iraq and Islamist terrorism in general to Israel’s policies and the perceived omnipotence of the Israel lobby.

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz wrote that Carter's book "is so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omissions that were it a brief filed in a court of law, it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court."

Carter’s press secretary Deanna Congileo, told Fox News that Carter will indeed be visiting the region in April and would not deny that a visit with the infamous terror chief is planned.

O Jerusalem! America drafts plan to cut in 2

Aaron Klein

Allows Palestinian security control,
asks Israel to forfeit Temple Mount

JERUSALEM – The United States, which has been mediating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority here, has proposed a plan to divide Jerusalem, WND has learned.

The plan, divided into separate phases, among other things calls for Israel eventually to forfeit parts of the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site.

According to the first stage of the U.S. plan, which was obtained by WND, Israel would give the PA some municipal and security sovereignty over key Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

The PA would be allowed to open some official institutions in Jerusalem, could elect a mayor for the Palestinian side of the city and would deploy police forces to maintain law and order. The initial stage also calls for the PA to operate Jerusalem municipal institutions, such as offices to oversee trash collection and maintenance of roads.

After five years, if both sides keep their certain commitments called for in a larger principal agreement, according to the U.S. plan the PA would be given full sovereignty over the eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods and also over sections of the Temple Mount. The plan doesn't specify which parts of the Temple Mount would be forfeited to the Palestinians.

After the five year period, the PA could deploy official security forces in Jerusalem separate from a police force and could also open major governmental institutions, such as a president's office, and offices for the finance and foreign ministries.

The U.S. plan leaves Israel and the PA to negotiate which Jerusalem neighborhoods would become Palestinian. According to diplomatic sources familiar with the plan, while specific neighborhoods were not officially listed, American officials recommended sections of Jerusalem's Old City as well as certain largely Arab Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Jabal mukabar, Beit Hanina, Shoafat, Abu Dis and Abu Tur become part of the Palestinian side.

As WND reported previously, many of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including all of Shoafat, a large Arab section, were constructed illegally on property owned by the Jewish National Fund, a Jewish nonprofit that purchases property using Jewish donors funds for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement.

According to diplomatic sources, the plan is being discussed by Israel and the PA but has not yet been accepted.

The sources said the plan was delivered earlier this month by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her trip to the region to push Israeli-Palestinian negotiations started at last November's U.S.-backed Annapolis summit, which aimed to create a Palestinian state before the end of the year.

Since Annapolis, negotiating teams including Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia have been meeting weekly while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas have been meeting biweekly.

The U.S. is "very deeply involved" in all aspects of the negotiations, according to a top diplomatic source.

To demonstrate the level of U.S. involvement, the source pointed to recent U.S. supervision of Israeli commitments to dismantle about 50 West Bank anti-terror roadblocks and to bulldoze what are called illegal outposts, or West Bank Jewish communities constructed without government permits.

"The U.S. oversaw the removal of each and every roadblock, making sure the roadblocks were actually removed," said the source.

"Also, even though Israel prepared a report of all illegal outposts and handed it to the Americans, U.S. officials have been doing their own very specific independent investigating to find each and every illegal outpost and then oversee their dismantlement," the source said.

Olmert's government has hinted a number of times it will divide Jerusalem.

In December, Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon said the country "must" give up sections of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian state, even conceding the Palestinians can rename Jerusalem "to whatever they want."

"We must come today and say, friends, the Jewish neighborhoods, including Har Homa, will remain under Israeli sovereignty, and the Arab neighborhoods will be the Palestinian capital, which they will call Jerusalem or whatever they want," said Ramon during an interview.

Positions held by Ramon, a ranking member of Olmert's Kadima party, are largely considered to be reflective of Israeli government policy.

Olmert himself recently questioned whether it was "really necessary" to retain Arab-majority eastern sections of Jerusalem.

Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount – Judaism's holiest site – during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians have claimed eastern Jerusalem as a future capital; the area has large Arab neighborhoods, a significant Jewish population and sites holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

About 231,000 Arabs live in Jerusalem, mostly in eastern neighborhoods, and many reside in illegally constructed complexes. The city has an estimated total population of 724,000.

Israeli Prof’s Poll Upends His Own Thesis

P. David Hornik | 4/10/2008

Prof. Sammy Smooha, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Haifa University, has published his annual Arab-Jewish Relations Index for 2007. And as usual Smooha, who has been maintaining for years that the Israeli Arabs are not undergoing radicalization, is trying to put the best possible face on the results.

Smooha is quoted as saying:

Looking at it all in perspective and in comparison to surveys conducted over the years, it is important to note that there isn’t a trend towards extremism in the attitudes of the Arab population or entrenchment among the Jewish public.

Yet, in the poll,

the percentage of those [Israeli Arabs] that deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish-Zionist state rose slightly from 62.6% last year to 64% this year, as did the percentage of Arabs who deny Israel’s right to exist (from 15% last year to 20% this year). Although the distinction between the two kinds of “right to exist” isn’t clear, the former sounds like dissolution and the latter like demolition. With Israeli Arabs holding such attitudes, it’s not surprising that the poll also found 64% of Israeli Jews saying they refuse to enter Israeli Arab towns.

Smooha, while allowing that “The index exposes the dimensions of the deep rift between Arabs and Jews,” bases his positive reading on the findings that 75% of the Arabs say Israel is a good place to live, 71% of them say they prefer it to any other country, and 58% say that Israel is democratic enough for them.

There’s indeed a hypocrisy here that has surfaced before; Israeli Arabs, while always—particularly their Knesset members—condemning Israel in public statements, also fiercely reject suggestions that in a final settlement some of their communities would become part of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli Arabs know about the PA and the Arab countries—and realize that they’re much better off with Israel’s democracy and standard of living.

The question is how much stock to put in that when at the same time a total of 84% of Israeli Arabs say Israel either shouldn’t exist as a Jewish-Zionist state or shouldn’t exist at all.

Smooha, for his part, has been insisting for years that the trends are encouraging. In 2004 he wrote in Lebanon’s Daily Star that

The Palestinization of [the Israeli Arabs’] identity, culture, and ties is moderated by their pervasive Israelization. Even their Islamization is restrained by the realization that as a Muslim minority in a Jewish state, they cannot and must not try to take over and Islamize the state.…

Public opinion surveys that I have been conducting since 1976 provide ample attitudinal evidence for these incontrovertible facts: 21.5% of the Arabs rejected Israel's right to exist in 1976, 6.8% in 1995 and 10.2% in 2003; 17.9%, 6.0% and 3.1%, respectively, supported the use of violence in order to improve their condition in Israel….

Apart from the fact that the 2007 poll shows a deterioration on both those measures and that the above quote doesn’t include the “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish-Zionist state” category, Smooha also came up with results for 2006 that were even more shocking.

That year’s poll found almost 50 percent of Israeli Arabs justifying Hizbullah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in July 2006, 90 percent viewing Israel’s bombings in Lebanon as war crimes, and no less than 48 percent justifying Hizbullah’s launching of rockets at Israel even though Hizbullah largely targeted parts of northern Israel with considerable Arab population and several of the 43 Israeli civilian casualties were Arabs.

Smooha indeed remarked:

One would expect Israeli Arabs to be more pro-Israel due to the unique situation in the last war.… the Hizbullah rockets endangered their lives and property too.… Hizbullah, a Shiite movement, is supported by a fundamentalist Shiite non-Arab country (Iran) that the Arabs are not keen on….

But if Smooha’s optimism still survives those results and the 2007 results, it’s because it runs deep. As he wrote in the Israeli journal Alpayim in 1999—possibly heartened by a lull in the terror-war then still known as the Oslo peace process—

the Israeli-Arab conflict is coming to an end. It has been fading for two decades. The end of the conflict is a non-reversible process, which advances in stages, backed by international support and grounded in both Jewish and Palestinian public opinion.

Smooha, in other words, has an intellectual—and presumably also an emotional—stake in his optimism, and won’t let a little thing like the appalling findings of his own surveys dampen it.

Smooha may be right that the Israeli Arabs’ Israelization—or, alternatively, grudging acknowledgment of their good fortune to live in Israel—will keep them from large-scale insurrection. But unlike the general Israeli Jewish population that steers clear of Israeli Arab towns, Smooha doesn’t have the gumption to look at the deep-seated animosity for what it is.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at He can be reached at

Ahmadinejad has doubts

First about the Holocaust, now 9/11. "Ahmadinejad: US used September 11 as 'pretext' for invasions," by Aresu Eqbali for Agence France-Presse:

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States on Tuesday of using the September 11, 2001 attacks as a "pretext" to launch invasions and cast doubt on the accepted version of the terror strikes.

"On the pretext of this incident a major military operation was launched and oppressed Afghanistan was attacked. Tens of thousands of people have been killed until now," he said in a speech broadcast on state television. "Poor Iraq was attacked. According to official figures... one million people have been killed," he said in the speech marking Iran's day of nuclear technology.

He appeared to cast doubt on the official version of the attacks, saying the names of those killed had never been published and questioning how the planes had hit the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

"An event was created in the name of the attack against the twin towers. We were all sad. It was said that 3,000 people were killed," Ahmadinejad said.

"But the names of the 3,000 people were never published and nobody was able to respond to the main question, which is how is it possible that with the best radar systems and intelligence networks the planes could crash undetected into the towers."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Wright's a product of privilege, not poverty

Morton A. Klein

The whole world knows that for nearly 20 years, Sen. Barack Obama has attended Chicago's Trinity United Church and that his pastor is Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In his speech on race last week, Obama criticized some of Rev. Wright's statements, but also essentially excused and rationalized Wright's sermons.

He summarized the reality for many African Americans growing up in past decades -- inferior, segregated schools; discrimination; lack of economic opportunity, inability to provide for one's family -- before stating, "This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African Americans of his generation grew up." Half right. African Americans suffered, many even horrifically, in the past. But Rev. Wright was not one of them.

How do I know? It happens that, as a Philadelphian, I attended Central High School -- the same public school Jeremiah Wright attended from 1955 to 1959. He could have gone to an integrated neighborhood school, but he chose to go to Central, a virtually all-white school that attracts the most serious academic students in the city. The school then was about 80 percent Jewish and 95 percent white. The African American students, like all the others, were there on merit. Generally speaking, we came from lower- and middle-class backgrounds. Many of our parents had not received a formal education and we tended to live in row houses. In short, economically, we were roughly on par.

I attended Central a few years after Rev. Wright, so I did not know him personally. But I knew of him and I know where he used to live -- in a tree-lined neighborhood of large stone houses in Philadelphia's Germantown section. Rev. Wright's father was a prominent pastor and his mother was a teacher and later vice principal and disciplinarian of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, also a distinguished academic high school. Two of my acquaintances remember her as an intimidating and strict disciplinarian and excellent math teacher. In short, Rev. Wright had a comfortable upper-middle class upbringing. It was hardly the scene of poverty and indignity suggested by Sen. Obama to explain what he calls Wright's anger and what I describe as his hatred.

In recent days, we have seen clips of several of Rev. Wright's sermons, showing him declaring "God Damn America," blaming America for intentionally creating the drug problem, for creating the AIDS virus, for supporting Israeli "state terrorism against Palestinians," for being responsible for causing Sept. 11, for being white supremacist and racist and for intentionally keeping people in poverty.

We have also learned that, last year, a publication affiliated with Rev. Wright's church honored with a lifetime achievement award Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has said that "Judaism is a gutter religion," that "Hitler was a very great man" and that "white people are potential humans, they haven't evolved yet." In fact, Rev. Wright accompanied Farrakhan in the 1980s on a visit to Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, which was then illegal under U.S. law.

One can excuse anger, but no one should rationalize hatred. That is why the Zionist Organization of America, of which I am national president, believes that it is insufficient to simply disagree with the views of hateful race supremacists -- it is necessary to disassociate from them.

Imagine for a moment if a white candidate for high office attended for 20 years a church led by a white supremacist pastor who railed regularly against blacks and accused them of bringing down civilization. Imagine if he honored neo-Nazi David Duke with a major award. Imagine if, when these facts emerged, the candidate said he disagreed with and criticized the pastor's statements, while also saying he was largely unaware of them.

Imagine that he also tried to rationalize these views by referring to the anger felt by impoverished whites even though the pastor himself actually grew up in comfortable circumstances. Imagine also that his pastor retired amid the praises of his congregants and successor, but that the candidate refused to quit the church while continuing to praise the pastor for his good works helping poor whites. His criticism of the pastor would hardly suffice.

This is the situation Sen. Obama now faces. I make no judgment on why he joined and stayed with Rev. Wright and his church, although I am deeply concerned that he did so. Sen. Obama would be doing the right thing and reassuring the American public in the process that he will not tolerate hate, divisiveness and anti-Americanism by quitting the church.

Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.

Out Damn Spot

Nidra Poller | 4/9/2008

It’s been called the mother of all fauxtography, the biggest media hoax of our times, the most damaging image ever attached to Israel, an icon of hatred, blood libel on an international scale: the shooting of Mohamed al Dura, a 12 year-old Palestinian boy allegedly gunned down by murderous Israeli soldiers on September 30, 2000 at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip.

The incident, fortuitously filmed by France 2 cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, has been at the center of debate ever since. Al Dura, the poster boy of the al Aqsa intifada, has served as justification for some of the most atrocious crimes of this decade—two Israeli reservists massacred by an enraged mob in Ramallah to avenge Mohamed al Dura; the Palestinian boy’s shooting spliced into the beheading video of WSJ’s Daniel Pearl. Echoes of the hatred generated by the al Dura image resound to this day. The murder of eight students at Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva is the latest in a long series of savage attacks against civilians in Israel and Jews worldwide, in revenge for some Ur-crime committed against Palestinians.Despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, France 2 Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin has never withdrawn the accusation that the boy was killed and his father wounded by gunfire “from the Israeli positions.” The origin of that hypothetical gunfire is a moot question to observers who claim the whole scene was staged.

While Israeli authorities hunkered down, hoping the al Dura accusations would fade away, France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin has staked his reputation on keeping them blood red. French media closed ranks and stifled the controversy on their home turf but it kept bouncing back internationally. Determined to silence “enemies” once and for all, France 2/Enderlin brought defamation suits against three websites that had posted critical examinations of the al Dura report, losing one on a technicality and winning two on generalities.

But one of the defendants, Media-Ratings director Philippe Karsenty, appealed and Enderlin’s slam-dunk litigation is looking more like a boomerang. Whereas the court of first resort had avoided questions that might have embarrassed the state-owned television network, Laurence Trébucq, the no-nonsense president of the three-judge Appellate Court panel, lifted the lid to see what’s cooking and ordered France 2 to turn over the raw footage. The court got a stingy 18-minute excerpt, but it was enough to confirm the initial observation that France 2 stringer Talal Abu Rahma did indeed film fake battles, simulated injuries, and comical ambulance evacuations…that fateful day. And the al Dura shooting? Also staged? Or paradoxically authentic?

Evidence and closing arguments were heard at a marathon session on February 27th. Initially convicted of defaming France 2/Enderlin without conducting a proper investigation, Philippe Karsenty presented bushels of evidence that the judge observed with rapt attention. France 2/Enderlin brought in its Big Bertha in the person of Maître François Szpiner, former president Chirac’s personal counsel. Szpiner defended the Paris Mosque in the Charlie Hebdo-Danish cartoons case (he lost) and was literally dispatched to represent Ruth Halimi whose son Ilan was tortured to death by the anti-Semitic “Gang of Barbarians” in February 2005. The aggressive, abusive, sarcastic Szpiner did not attempt to defend the facts on the ground, obviously a lost cause. He saved his ammunition for underhand blows and snide remarks about “The Jew who gives money to a second Jew who gives it to the third Jew who fights to the last drop of Israeli blood.” Karsenty, described with a snarl as a cross between the Shoah negationist Faurisson and the 9/11 revisionist Meyssan, has it in for Enderlin, says Szpiner, because the France 2 correspondent covers the hotheaded Mideast conflict with consummate fairness and not, as some would wish, as a fight between the good guys and the bad guys. Enderlin, in turn, vouched for his trusted Palestinian cameraman, assuring the court that if Talal had engaged in crooked reporting, the Israelis would have revoked his accreditation.

In fact, Abu Rahma’s accreditation has not been renewed since 2002 because, according to Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman, he was filming staged scenes. Invited to react to this information, news director Chabot relayed the request to Enderlin who shot back with a half dozen insulting e-mails including one in English—addressed to the Foreign Press Association—identifying me as “that lady.” “You are a militant,” wrote Enderlin, “I expect nothing from you. You won’t even mention that we won four libel suits and the Avocat Général recommended confirmation of Karsenty’s initial conviction.” In the midst of the bluster, Enderlin confirmed that the GPO withdrew accreditation from all Gaza and West Bank journalists, including Abu Rahma, at the end of 2001. Any other explanation, he threatened, is a lie.

Caught off guard during a brief recess during the trial, Arlette Chabot let off steam. “I just want this shitty affair over and done with. I want Karsenty to lose! This nutty case has been bugging me since day one.” Implying that her people have no idea where the murderous gunfire came from, she assured the gentleman who had buttonholed her that she was willing to investigate everything and everyone if she could only get this shitty case off her back. What about the fact that the dead child identified as Mohamed al Dura was brought into the hospital between noon and 1 PM while the alleged shooting occurred at 3PM? Making the motions of someone who turns back a clock, madame Chabot explained there was “some kind of time change that day in Gaza.”

Chabot had already left the premises when Philippe Karsenty stood before the court and replied soberly to the ultimate question: Why are you doing this?

“I will not give up. I owe it to the father of Daniel Pearl, beheaded with the image of Mohamed al-Dura incrusted in the video. I owe it to my parents, who taught me to respect the truth. I owe it to the Jewish people, victim of lies, I owe it to France, I owe it to history.”

The verdict will be pronounced on May 21st.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The rabble that is the Israeli cabinet

Isi Leibler
April 8, 2008

It is not merely that our prime minister is a failed leader, repeating the same flawed policies which led to our recent self-inflicted disasters. His dysfunctional ministers, content to remain ignorant of the concessions being offered to the Palestinians with life and death implications for us all, are equally blameworthy. In addition, they suffer from a malady commonly described as "flapping gums," an uncontrollable urge to conduct their private political theater via statements and leaks to the media.

Instead of working in unison, they condemn the policies of their government, criticize ministerial colleagues, and frequently even contradict their own statements. No democratic government in the world has ministers behaving in such an undisciplined and irresponsible manner. Of course, the problem is the prime minister's weakness and his lack of any coherent policy beyond struggling to retain power. He conducts sham negotiations with a corrupt and impotent Palestinian clique who publicly deny our right to exist as a Jewish state, threaten to revert to armed struggle, and retain militias which continue launching murderous acts of terror against our civilians.

The contradictory statements made in relation to the stillborn cease-fire with Hamas exemplified the chaos. Initially both Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak adamantly denied even indirect negotiations concerning a cease-fire with Hamas. As rumors of American-inspired Egyptian mediation surfaced, Olmert suddenly hinted at the possibility of a de-facto truce. The IDF, which strongly opposed a truce on security grounds, was instructed to cease offensive actions against Hamas for a week. Yet Barak vigorously denied the existence of a cease-fire to visiting US presidential candidate Senator John McCain. The following week, under pressure from Condoleezza Rice, and despite undisguised resistance from the IDF, Barak backtracked on easing border control crossings, dismantling roadblocks and checkpoints and providing weapons to Palestinian.

Similar zig-zags and daily policy changes were made in relation to Syria. One day Olmert would announce that negotiations were inappropriate because of the behavior of the Syrians. The next day he would proclaim the opposite. Combined with subsequent suggestions of an impending war, these contradictory statements left Israelis utterly confused.

What eventuated in the wake of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva massacre also reflected total chaos. Traumatized Israelis were shocked to learn that the parents of the mass murderer had set up a public mourning tent bedecked with Hamas flags in east Jerusalem. Ultimately the Hamas flags were forcibly removed, but unlike the Jordanians who prohibited relatives in Amman from setting up a public mourning exhibition, Interior Minister Avi Dichter saw no reason to deny the family of the killer the right to do so in Jerusalem. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik protested, demanding, unsuccessfully, that the tent be dismantled.

Despite discreet suggestions not to visit the yeshiva, Education Minister Yuli Tamir insisted on paying a personal condolence call. She was treated with the utmost respect by the rabbis, but upon leaving, was accosted outside by a group of youngsters (not necessarily associated with Mercaz Harav) who shouted epithets at her. Hooliganism is unacceptable and should be prosecuted. But it was also insensitive for a founding member of Peace Now to foist herself on the ideological power house of the settlement movement during such a traumatic time.

For Tamir, this episode was ideological manna. Despite her awareness that the rabbis had strongly condemned the abuse and reiterated the need for students to display respect to representatives of the state, she rushed to the TV cameras to express her shock and outrage. She misrepresented Mercaz Harav Yeshiva as an extremist undemocratic institution, suggested dark parallels with the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, and hinted that government funding for Mercaz Harav could be at risk.

Tamir was backed by National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who warned, "We'd seen such things before when Rabin was murdered and apparently they have not learned the lesson.... Their incitement may lead to another political murder." A few weeks earlier in New York, Ben Eliezer had called for the release of the convict, Marwan Barghouti, he described as the only Palestinian "leader" capable of making peace with Israel.

To crown this madness, the only Arab government member, Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadele, responded to the decision to hold one minute's silence at football matches for the murdered students by calling for a matching commemoration for Palestinians killed by IDF actions in Gaza.

Contradictory statements concerning the future of Jerusalem also reflected ministerial chaos. Deputy Premier Haim Ramon initially announced that Jerusalem would be divided, even implying that jurisdiction of the Temple Mount would be handed over to the Palestinians. After humming and hawing, Olmert conceded that a division was indeed being contemplated. However after Interior Minister Eli Yishai responded by threatening to withdraw Shas from the government, the prime minister agreed to defer discussions on Jerusalem. However, Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that Jerusalem was in fact being negotiated - which was confirmed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. To add further confusion, Minister for Pensioners Affairs Rafi Eitan, in total disregard of the negotiations, publicly announced that Jerusalem would remain united forever.

In an effort to divert pressure from his constituency to leave the government, Yishai announced that in response to demands from his party, Olmert would approve new housing within the settlement blocs. He was promptly contradicted in New York by Livni, who also condemned her government's decision to build in Givat Zeev and warned of an impending collision with the Americans. Yishai's predictions were ratified when Olmert once again contradicted himself and approved the additional housing.

Then we were subjected to Barak's bizarre proclamation that prior to future military responses to Hamas, approval would be obtained from the Supreme Court.

There were other outbursts. While the prime minister and foreign minister were urging the world not to deal with Hamas, Minister without Portfolio Ami Ayalon publicly called on Israel to deal directly with Hamas. And while Hamas and the PA were endeavoring to restore their partnership, Livni continued holding secret negotiations with the Palestinians. Yet that did not inhibit Dichter from stating that "the talks with the Palestinians about Gaza are in a state of brain death" and vowing that he would not endorse any agreement with the Palestinians in which implementation would be delegated to the next US administration. The next day the infrastructure minister reiterated his mantra that "only the release of Barghouti" could salvage the "not actual" talks.

The madness climaxed when Prime Minister Olmert recently told Ashkelon residents to adjust themselves to having "red alerts" for a long time. At the same time, while visiting a school in the city, the prime minister engaged in a mock "drill" with the children, who would hide under their desks when he called "red alert." When our prime minister makes defeatist remarks to citizens facing missile attacks and indulges in such bizarre "games" with schoolchildren, one is sorely tempted to question whether he is losing the plot. But that in no way detracts from the fact that the entire government shares responsibility for the chaos enveloping the nation.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1207486215554&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Original article available at:

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Monday to grant amnesty to 10,000 Arab illegal aliens residing in Judea and Samaria, according to Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiator Saeb Erekat. The move would grant the illegals permanent
Approximately 54,000 Arabs in Judea and Samaria fall into this category.
resident status. The amnesty, if enacted, would apply to those Arabs who entered the country legally, on foreign passports, and then remained in Judea or Samaria beyond the terms of their visas. According to various estimates, approximately 54,000 Arabs in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria fall into this category. 12,000 have already received residency rights through conventional requests submitted to Israeli authorities. Israel has been more restrictive on Arab immigration since the beginning of the Oslo War in 2000.

Erekat revealed the tentative approval for amnesty shortly after Prime Minister Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met for talks on Monday. The meeting was the first between the two men in over a month. In a three-hour meeting, they discussed the discreet ongoing negotiations between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and PA negotiator Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala). Olmert and Abbas reportedly agreed to speed the pace of negotiations in order to reach an agreement before the end of the year.

In his other comments, Erekat dismissed recent Israeli goodwill gestures, such as the removal of dozens of checkpoints in Judea and Samaria, as "a PR stunt."

"The siege and closure continue to be hermetic," Erekat claimed. "There is no change on the ground.... The West Bank is becoming a prison."

Erekat said that "settlement activities occupied a large part of the negotiations" between Abbas and Olmert. According to Erekat, Abbas told Olmert that "settlement expansion" needs to stop.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said that "both sides raised concerns."

Monday, April 07, 2008

"Hints of War"

Arlene Kushner
April 7, 2008

We are now in the midst of the largest National Home Front Training Exercise ever undertaken in Israel. Beginning yesterday, and extending until tomorrow, it was designed to allow various agencies to practice coordination and appropriate response in case of a war emergency that reaches the home front (which undoubtedly the next war will). A variety of scenarios are being rehearsed: conventional and non-conventional rockets hitting Israel, chemical-biological incidents, etc. There will be field drills and a nationwide siren sounded as a test tomorrow (except in the area of Sderot, where sirens are not tests).

The sense that our nation is prepared is enormously important. It was stated up front that this was not planned in relation to any particular current event, i.e., the tension in the north. But this is how our enemies are reading it -- as a muscle flexing meant to be a threat.


And, predictably, an Iranian official stated that "The states of the region must closely watch the Israeli drill. These provocative actions should be brought to the attention of the relevant officials in the international community."

In response, National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, not known for cautious and judicious speech, commented that "an Iranian strike on Israel will lead to an Israeli response that will devastate the Iranian nation."


On Friday, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter was accompanying a group from the Canada Israel Committee to the area adjacent to Gaza. When they climbed to Givat Nazmit, a popular observation point, in order to survey the area, a sniper shot at the group, wounding Dichter's personal assistant, Mati Gil. The IDF responded immediately, shooting at the source of the fire until it stopped.

A statement quickly came from Hamas saying they were responsible and had been aiming at Dichter himself. Later there were claims that an al-Qaida group was responsible. There were also various opinions voiced as to whether the sniper would have known Dichter was there, or whether he was simply aiming at a large group.


By late last week the IDF reported removal of 10 roadblocks -- near Tulkarm, Nablus (Shechem) and Kalkilya.

An obviously distressed Israeli security official commented that, "There is no doubt that the removal of the roadblocks will make it easier on terrorists to carry out attacks and then escape back to the territories, but the decision was made at government level."

While a PA security official claimed, "not one roadblock has been removed. Maybe the IDF removed roadblocks in its own bases, but not in the Palestinian Authority and certainly not in the West Bank."

If we can't win anyway, why even bother?


Allow me, please, to share here some of the most recent happenings in the PA:

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was cited in the journal al-Rai, in Kuwait, on Saturday as saying: "There is no solution for the troubles in Gaza, or for the rockets being fired from it. All we can do is transfer funds to the Gaza Strip."

Transfer funds? The PA pays certain salaries to people in Gaza. But of course none of it gets into Hamas hands, right?


A dozen Al Aksa gunmen who had agreed to go to a PA prison in exchange for being taken off the Israeli wanted list have escaped from the prison (actually, for the second time). They ran because they were being beaten by a guard.

The PA put out a call asking them to return voluntarily. Nothing doing, was their answer. We returned voluntarily the first time we ran, but not now.

Said an Israeli spokesperson: "It's clear that dealing effectively with terrorism by the PA government is an integral element in the peace process. These people escaping from jail is a matter of concern to Israel." I would think so.


Fatah old-timers (Arafat cronies who have been in charge through to the present) are expressing new concerns about the threat of a coup by the "young guard, "reports Khaled Abu Toameh in the Post. This is hardly a new scenario, but has been growing more intense in recent weeks, as Fatah is preparing for its first General Conference since 1989, at which time new leaders are supposed to be elected.

The recent scandals that have emerged within Fatah -- which involve the old guard and documents suggesting the embezzlement of millions -- have exacerbated the tensions. But the younger people challenging the old timers are afraid that Abbas will not permit them to assume new positions. In fact, it has been suggested that the tensions will prevent the conference from taking place at all.

From his prison cell, Marwan Barghouti is believed to have a good deal to do with the movement to oust the old timers. (Which makes it clear why Abbas is in no rush to see him released in the course of a prisoner exchange.)

All of this internal unrest impinges upon the ability of the Fatah-dominated PA to conduct negotiations with Israel.


From one source I have picked up this information, which still requires confirmation: Reportedly, Hamas and Fatah have been negotiating for the last few weeks and are on the verge of reaching the framework for an accord that would lead to a unity government.

This would require Olmert to break off all talks, even if Abbas at this point did not. (And it is likely that Abbas would, because Hamas, which would have the upper hand, would not be a party to negotiations.)

While, as I said, this requires further confirmation, it strikes me as likely because Abbas knows how weak he is (how close to being toppled by Hamas in Judea and Samaria) and because he doesn't really want a two-state solution anyway. It cannot be emphasized enough how much the political discourse in the Palestinian areas has radicalized, and how little support Abbas has for striking a deal, even within his own Fatah party, which remains committed to Israel's destruction. The young guard may be anti-corruption, but that doesn't mean they want to deal with us.

What is more, I noted not long ago that after the signing of the accord in Yemen, which committed the two sides to talk further, it suddenly became strangely quiet, with no further news reports on what was happening. (Right after the signing, Abbas hedged, and I saw that as potentially a way for him to play both ends against the middle.) So, when I now read that Abbas has chosen to do this in secret, it does not strike me as surprising in the least. Presumably, Abbas, who had promised Bush he wouldn't deal with Hamas, hopes to extract maximum benefits from the US before tipping his hand.

It may be (it seems to be) that the pressure from Rice to give the maximum to Abbas was a last, desperate attempt to show him that he's better off negotiating with Israel. But what would be most disturbing, should it be true, is the suggestion that Rice knew, as she made those concessions, that Abbas was already in the process of talking with Hamas but chose not to deal with it as it would have resulted in considerable embarrassment to her.

If this turns out to be so, it means she was making concessions hoping to still lure Abbas away, but mindful of the fact that what was offered might in the end come into Hamas hands. This would have the makings of her undoing, I would say.

It would probably be too much to hope, that this might teach the US invaluable lessons: That the promises of the Palestinians cannot be trusted. And that ideology trumps economy (that is, that the Arabs cannot be bribed into making peace).

I will refrain from further speculation here and go into "wait and see" mode.


That splendid Israeli-Arab (Muslim) journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who reports so accurately and incisively for the Post, recently gave a talk at the University of Oregon in which he said that two, if not three, generations of Palestinians would have to be educated for peace before the situation would change.

I had recently said I thought it would take at least a generation. Now I see I was being optimistic.

see my website

Arabs must take a long, self-critical look in the mirror

Emilio Karim Dabul

Monday, April 7th 2008, 4:00 AM


There was a time centuries ago in Arab countries when intellectual introspection was common and the culture produced searching, self-critical scholarship in various arenas.

That time is gone. Today, brave and questioning souls like Irshad Manji, who calls for an Islamic Reformation, receive death threats. Without the ability to look inward, Arab blame for problems is projected outward - meaning, at Israel and the U.S. That is very dangerous for the world.

As an Arab-American, recent events have reminded me in very stark terms why introspection needs to return to the Arab world in a big way, as quickly as possible, as a prerequisite for anything resembling peace, in the Middle East or elsewhere, to be a real possibility. . First, look at what Fatah just attempted to do regarding American victims of Palestinian terrorism. Because of the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, numerous lawsuits have been brought against Fatah and other Palestinian terrorist groups that have injured or killed Americans while in Israel. Recently, the State Department decided it might intervene in some of these judgments, which had found in favor of the defendants and held Fatah and other Palestinian groups liable for millions of dollars in damages, because Fatah had complained that these judgments would bankrupt them and that this in turn would hurt the peace process.

Yes, you heard right. Fatah complained that they were being held financially liable for injuring and killing Americans in Israel, acts for which they had previously claimed responsibility!

And our own State Department wanted to support them in this complaint, supposedly in the interest of peace, by having these judgments nullified. Joseph Heller, the author of "Catch 22," couldn't have come up with a more surreal scenario.

Fortunately, advocates like the Endowment for Middle East Truth, made noise, and as a result of that pressure, the State Department has backed down for now.

But where is the proper sense of shame that might stop a group like Fatah from lodging such a complaint to begin with?

The only explanation is that by having such a pathological, externally focused sense of blame, aimed exclusively at Americans and Jews, no such sense of reasoning or decency applies.

The recent massacre of the Yeshiva students in Jerusalem by a Palestinian Muslim fits the same pattern. Gaza celebrated - yes, celebrated - the cold-blooded and ethnically motivated murders of these religious students, most of whom were teenagers.

Why are we, as Arabs and Arab-Americans, not lining the streets in Ramallah and all the way to New York to decry this sort of barbarism?

Let me say unequivocally that I am ashamed. And I am angry. Nothing, nothing in the world justifies these sorts of actions. Tell me, when have you ever heard of Israelis celebrating the killing of Palestinians?

Yes, there are a few glimmers of progress. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has issued a call for interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. And The New York Times actually called Hamas out on its murderous, anti-Semitic rhetoric.

But these are drops in the bucket, not a rising tide.

The centuries-old downward spiral of tyranny, poverty, fanaticism and finger-pointing is the rule, not the exception in most Arab countries.

At this point in Arab history, we must finally renounce these fatally flawed tendencies to blame everyone but ourselves. As Arab-Americans, we must lead the way, away from groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations - which consistently claims big, bad America is the oppressor and poor Arabs are almost always the hapless victims.

Let us begin anew the path toward our own glorious Renaissance abandoned long ago, and pursue the higher road that will be ours when we finally look more deeply and critically at ourselves.

Dabul is a novelist and commentator on Middle East issues.

Syria on Alert 'Because Hizbullah Revenge Attack is Near'

Gil Ronen

Syria has raised the state of alert of its armed forces because it knows Hizbullah's revenge attack against Israel for the killing of Imad Mughniyeh is near, according to Israel's Channel 2 TV.

Soon after Mughniyeh's death, Israel warned Syria that it would hold it responsible for any revenge attack launched by Hizbullah for the killing of Mughniyeh, its operations officer. Syria is due to release its official findings in the probe into Mughniyeh's death. He was killed in an explosion in Damascus in February.

The paper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which is published in London, reported that since Mughniyeh's death, Syria has arrested dozens of suspects, including "Palestinians and senior Syrian army officers." Sources in Damascus told the paper that the investigation established that foreigners were behind the murder of Mughniyeh.

Syria has accused Israel of being behind the assassination.

'Assassination planned in Syria'
Meanwhile, former Syrian vice president Abdel Khalim Khaddam is accusing Syria of killing Muygh
Sources in Damascus said the investigation established that foreigners were behind the murder of Mughniyeh.

Interviewed by a Lebanese newspaper, Khaddam said that the head of Syrian intelligence was replaced because the investigation he conducted showed that those who planned the assassination came from within Syria.

Khaddam was forced into exile and took up residence in Europe after he criticized the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Hizbullah: Home Front drill 'aggressive'
Hizbullah's Deputy Director Sheikh Naeem Kassem said Sunday that the Israeli Home Front exercise is a preparation for war and part of "Israel's aggressive character."

Kassem said the exercise had three purposes: first, to boost the morale of the Israeli people, which has been low since the Second Lebanon War; second, to convince the Israelis that the army has overcome the failure and is ready and has drawn all the lessons from the war; and third, he explained, "it is part of the preparations for war, because Israel is always on a war footing."

The Al-Arabiyah television network reported Sunday that the Lebanese military ordered residents of southern villages to move away from the border with Israel. According to the report, the Lebanese Army set up dirt roadblocks and inspection towers along the border with Israel to prevent Lebanese civilians from g
The Lebanese military ordered residents of southern villages to move away from the border with Israel.
etting too close to the fence.

Heightened alert
Tension between Israel and Syria has been high recently, and there were reports that Defense Minister Ehud Barak cancelled his planned visit to Germany this week because of it. Defense Ministry advisor Amos Gilad denied this report and said that the Defense Minister changed his schedule because of a heavy workload.

Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Dan Harel told reporters last week: "I see no reason at all for unusual tension in the North, and I do not think that any side is interested in a military confrontation."

However, he also made what reporters saw as a hinted threat at Syria, following reports that Syrian forces were on a heightened state of alert.

"Anyone who tries to strike Israel should keep in mind that Israel is the strongest country in the region and that its response will be hard and painful. We are always alert and ready," Harel warned.

Hurva Synagogue to be Rebuilt

Hillel Fendel

The Cabinet has upgraded the status of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, including it in the purview of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The dome has been rebuilt, and the plan is to totally rebuild the twice-destroyed synagogue.

The synagogue is located in the main square of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City.

The Cabinet decision included a review of the history of the famous synagogue, which was built and destroyed several times, leading to its being nicknamed the Hurva (ruins) Synagogue. The land on which it stands was purchased in October 1700 by a group of Ashkenazi Jews headed by Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid of the Polish town of Shadlitz.
The goal was to build an Ashkenazi synagogue in Jerusalem, but a short time later, Rabbi Yehuda passed away, and his followers were unable to fund the construction work. It stood half-built for 20 years, until it was destroyed by local Moslems.

During the 1800's, Ashkenazi Jews returned to Jerusalem, and they decided to build the synagogue anew. In the Hebrew month of Nissan of 1853, the construction began, funded by Sir Moses Montefiore, and in Elul of 1864, a large, new, glorious synagogue was dedicated on the site.

The building stood for 84 years, until a Jordanian shell destroyed it in the course of the fall of the Old City to the Jordanians during the War of Independence. Only the foundation and several pillars remained standing.

After Israel liberated the Old City during the Six Day War of 1967, it reconstructed one of the four arches that supported the large dome atop the building. This arch became a symbol of the Hurva synagogue, and of many aspects of the Old City in general.

More refurbishing work is presently underway there, and the plan is to rebuild the synagogue altogether. The work is being carried out by the government-owned East Jerusalem Development Company, which has full rights to the property. The government decision stipulated that the Heritage Foundation will work together with the company in the future.

The Foundation's function is to develop, preserve and maintain the Western Wall plaza and surroundings for the benefit of worshipers and visitors. It must initiate and encourage trips and tours of the area for schools, soldiers and tourists, and in general encourage educational activities regarding the Western Wall.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, rabbi of the Western Wall and Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, told Arutz-7, "We accept this additional mission with great responsibility. The Hurva was a very important and central site, and it must be built up to be a site that will bring as many people as possible close to Torah and the Holy Temple."

The East Jerusalem Development Company is currently engaged in developing many sites in the Old City, including a cable car to Mt. Zion, the Ophel Park along the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, the Tzidkiyahu Cave between Herod's Gate and Damascus Gate, walks along the ramparts, the Roman Square inside the Damascus Gate, and the Gihon Spring in the City of David. Another site that local residents hope will join the list is the Kotel HaKatan (the Small Wall) - a small segment of the northern extension of the Western Wall.

Former President Carter hints at support for Obama

Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, one of a handful of high-profile Democrats who has remained neutral in his party's presidential primary battle, has hinted he supports Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.

Carter told a Nigerian newspaper that his home state of Georgia and his hometown of Plains backed Obama in the state's February 5 primary. His children, their spouses and his grandchildren support Obama as well, he said.

"As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for but I leave it to you to make that guess," Carter told the newspaper This Day on Thursday. A Carter spokeswoman confirmed the statement. Carter, 83, served as president for one term from 1976-81. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Democratic Party rules allow nearly 800 elected officials and party insiders, known as "superdelegates," to back whom they want at the party's nominating convention.

Those who remain unaligned are being courted by both campaigns, as they could mean the difference between victory and defeat in the hard-fought battle to win the nomination and take on Republican John McCain in the November election.

Neither Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black president, nor Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady who would be the first woman president, is likely to clinch the nomination through the state-by-state primaries and caucuses that continue through June.

"Both President Clinton and Senator Clinton have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter and have enjoyed their relationship with him," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said. "He is free to make whatever decision he thinks is appropriate."

An Obama spokesman declined immediate comment.

Obama's camp has argued superdelegates should support the candidate who finishes with the most pledged delegates won in state contests.

Other superdelegates who remain uncommitted include U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee.

Carter has said he will remain uncommitted until the Democratic National Convention in August, Carter Center spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said.

Carter was in Abuja, Nigeria to help African countries fight Guinea worm disease.

(Additional reporting by Matt Bigg; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at

Sunday, April 06, 2008

View from America: Unreasonable concessions

Jonathan To

Conflicts between the religious needs of minorities and those of the rest of society always have the potential to take a reasoned debate off the tracks.

That's what happened when the otherwise trivial question of the hours of operation of a gym on Harvard University's campus become a major cause célèbre. AThe dispute centers on the request of six female Muslim Harvard students. Speaking with the support of the Harvard College Women's Center, they point out that since their faith forbids them from wearing revealing clothing in the presence of men, the school ought to provide women-only hours at one of its gymnasiums where they can work out in comfort without any males there to leer at them.

The university responded positively, and since Feb. 4, no men have been allowed in the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic for sessions amounting to six hours per week.

No Big Deal?

Given the fact that this is but one of a number of such facilities on the campus, and the hours set aside are but a fraction of the total available to everyone, the school probably assumed that the concession was not a big deal.

If so, they were dead wrong.

The decision to exclude men from the gym has set off a furious debate not only at Harvard, but on the editorial pages of many of America's leading newspapers.

Adding fuel to the fire was Harvard's decision to allow the Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast across the campus from the steps of the main library during the recent "Islam Awareness Week." Harvard computer-science professor Harry Lewis wrote in The Boston Globe that the university was being hypocritical since it upheld gender equality under other circumstances, but decided that Islam's needs trumped other values. Moreover, he added, the school's refusal to allow the military's ROTC program on campus showed that its devotion to diversity (which Harvard claimed was at stake) was subject to exceptions based on the political popularity of the group in question.

On the other side of the debate, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus answered that "it's reasonable to set aside a few off-peak hours at one of Harvard's many gyms." Identifying herself "as a member of another minority religion, Judaism," she added that "it's not offensive to have the call to prayer echoing across Harvard Yard, any more than it is to ring church bells or erect a giant menorah there." But is this just a reasonable accommodation to a few without damage to everyone else?

The answer is that there are limits to what a minority faith can expect in the way of accommodation.

Marcus herself cites the 1998 case of the "Yale 5," a small group of Orthodox Jews who insisted that they could not conform to the school's rules, which demanded that they live in one of the co-ed dorms on campus.

As one who reported on that story at the time, I remember well how that case generated support from conservatives around the country, who perceived them as defending traditional values against immoral academia.

But, as is the case with many such cases, the farther you got from New Haven, the more attractive the demand was.

What was really at stake was an attempt by an ultra-Orthodox group to embarrass other equally observant Jews, who saw no problem with living on a same-sex floor while members of the other gender lived on other floors in the same building.

The "Yale 5" lost their case because it was understood that if their sensibilities were offended by what they imagined might be going on in their classmate's rooms, then they could get an education elsewhere.

The principle at Harvard is the same. The law can require reasonable accommodations for minorities, but reasonable does not mean that the rest of society need to alter its values to satisfy the convenience of the few.

It would be unthinkable that public schools here demand, as they have in France, that Muslim girls take off their head scarves or Jewish boys their kipot in order to sit in class. But the Harvard decision is akin to a decision to mandate those girls their own female-only classrooms.

In those cases where institutions do rightly accommodate minorities, such as the provision of cafeterias where kosher and halal food can be obtained, as is the case at Harvard and many other schools, the accommodation does not exclude people since anyone can elect to eat a kosher sandwich.

Likewise, the passive exhibit of a menora on Harvard Square or the sound of a bell is very different thing from authorizing a call to prayer, whose translation amounts to a public proclamation that all non-Muslim faiths are false. The public square need not, as rabid separationists demand, be rendered naked of faith. But it is another thing entirely to provide a minority a beachhead from which it may seek to delegitimize everyone else.

Context of Intolerance It would, however, be disingenuous to debate this case without acknowledging that it's being discussed in a context in which an aggressive Islam is fighting for control of not only Muslim and Arab societies, but the West as well.

While the left-liberal milieu of Cambridge might be a long way from a debate about the viability of the imposition of Shari'a, or Muslim religious law (as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently suggested to a shocked Britain, which has seen its capital transformed into what author Melanie Phillips termed "Londonistan") on our society, but there is little question that Islamists are pushing in a direction that should worry everyone.

That includes moderate Muslims, who will now face additional pressures - even in hyper-secular Harvard, or anywhere else where such demands are met - to conform to the behavioral norms sought by the ultra-religious.

Harvard may have rushed to act to avoid being termed Islamophobic by pro-Islamist groups like the Council of American Islamic Relations and other grievance-mongers who foster the myth that Muslims have been subject to widespread discrimination since 9/11.

As columnist Andrew Sullivan wrote last week on his Atlantic magazine blog, "They [Harvard] would never do that kind of thing for any other religion. … What's next? Removing all gay men from the locker room?" American Jews, who have always fought to protect the few from having the majority trample their rights, are naturally sympathetic to the desire of another minority for respect. But we should shrink from backing measures of highly selective and politicized "tolerance" which may be the forerunner of other demands that will restrict rather than expand religious and political liberty.

A Harvard gymnasium isn't necessarily the place where the West must begin its defense against jihad. But what at first glance seemed like an easy way to indulge a minority might well be the harbinger of something much more troubling.

The writer is executive editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.

Former Al-Aksa Chief: We Lost, US Gen. Dayton Runs PA

Ezra HaLevi

Arab affairs correspondent Avi Yissacharov, who works for several media agencies including Army Radio, published an interview with the veteran commander of Fatah’s Al-Aksa Brigades terrorist group.

Writing in Haaretz, Yissacharov describes a downtrodden demoralized Zakariya Zubeidi – once the brazen chief of Yasser Arafat’s terrorist arm. He confirms that under Arafat, despite the Oslo Accords, he was receiving clear instructions from the terror chief. "Everything that was done in the Intifada was done according to Arafat's instructions, but he didn't need to tell us the things explicitly. We understood his message,” Zubeidi reminisced. “Back in [Arafat’s] day, we had a plan, there was a strategy, and we would carry his orders."

Zubeidi is portrayed as having given up terrorism. Yissacharov paints a picture of a late-sleeping unemployed ex-terror chief with no gun and disillusioned with the future of the “struggle for Palestine”:

Zubeidi: "Today I can say explicitly: We failed entirely in the Intifada. We haven't seen any benefit or positive result from it. We achieved nothing. It's a crushing failure. We failed at the political level - we didn't succeed in translating the military actions into political achievements. The current leadership does not want armed actions, and since the death of [Arafat] there's no one who is capable of using our actions to bring about such achievements. When [Arafat] died, the armed Intifada died with him."

Yissacharov: "What happened? Why did it die?"

Zubeidi: "Why? Because our politicians are whores. Our leadership is garbage. Look at Ruhi Fatouh, who was president of the PA for 60 days as Arafat's replacement. He smuggled mobile phones [last week]. Do you understand? We have been defeated. The political splits and schisms have destroyed us not only politically - they have destroyed our national identity. Today there is no Palestinian identity. Go up to anyone in the street and ask him, 'Who are you?' He'll answer you, 'I'm a Fatah activist,' 'I'm a Hamas activist,' or an activist of some other organization, but he won't say to you, 'I am a Palestinian.' Every organization flies its own flag, but no one is raising the flag of Palestine."

Asked if he was not, as a leader of the terror offensive against Israel, admitting defeat, Zubeidi answered: "Even Gamal Abdel Nasser admitted his defeat, so why not me?...We are marching in the direction of nowhere, toward total ruin. The Palestinian people is finished. Done for. Hamas comes on the air on its television station and says 'Fatah is a traitor.' That is to say, 40 percent of the nation are traitors. And then Fatah does the same thing and you already have 80 percent traitors."

Asked why he retired from terrorist, Zubeidi answered: "I got tired. When you lose, what can you do? We, the activists, paid the heavy price. We've had family members killed, friends. They demolished our homes and we have no way of earning a living. And what is the result? Zero. Simply zero. And when that's the result, you don't want to be a part of it any more. Lots of other people, as a result of the frustration, and because Fatah doesn't have a military wing any more, have joined the Islamic Jihad. Those activists are still willing to pay the price.

The terrorist’s assessment of the situation is that the US is running the show in Judea and Samaria, using Fatah as a proxy: “Today the president of the Palestinian people is General Dayton [the US general tasked with training Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas’s forces –ed.]. They're all working for him, he is the boss. A PA no longer exists."

Zubeidi says that when 2008 comes to an end without a Palestinian state, a war will be launched against the Fatah-run PA itself. “I'm telling you that if by the end of 2008 a Palestinian state isn't established, there is going to be a war here,” he said. “Not against Israel, or between Hamas and Fatah, but against the PA. The citizens are going to throw the PA out of here. Today the PA is doing what Dayton and Israel are telling it to do, but at the end of the year, when Israel doesn't give the Palestinians a state, the PA is going to be thrown out. There's going to be an all-out war here, for control of the West Bank."