Saturday, May 03, 2008

Gaza dumps raw sewage into sea, UN blames Israel

I'll bet you could see that coming, couldn't you?

And in any case, step back for a moment and consider: the Hamas regime in Gaza has made no secret of its intention to destroy Israel. In response, the UN expects Israel to supply Gaza with electricity, uninterrupted, no questions asked. Did the League of Nations scold Poland for not supplying electricity to Nazi Germany? The Israelis, on the other hand, are actually doing it, and getting no credit for doing so.

"UN: Gaza is dumping sewage into the sea," by Ehud Zion Waldoks for the Jerusalem Post (thanks to Ruth King):

Gaza's water authority has dumped 60 million liters of partially treated and untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea since January 24, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report released on Wednesday.

"The sewage discharge is contaminating Gaza seawater and posing health risks for bathers and consumers of seafood. The sewage flows northward to Israeli coasts, including near the Ashkelon desalination plant. Urgent studies are needed to examine the extent of the impact," the report reads.

The report's authors blamed Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip for the Gazans' inability to treat the sewage.

"This sewage cannot be treated due to the lack of a steady electricity supply within the Gaza Strip, Israel's restrictions on fuel imports and prohibitions on the import of materials and necessary spare parts," according to the report.

The UN said Gaza's water authority, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, required 14 days of uninterrupted electricity to treat the sewage. The utility provides more than 130 million cubic meters of water per year, according to the report, 80 percent of which ends up as sewage. Moreover, because of the restrictions on imports and exports into and out of the Strip, spare parts needed to repair the sewage treatment plants had not been allowed in.

But a security source familiar with the situation told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the vast majority of Gaza's electrical needs were being met by Israel and Egypt.

"Gaza is receiving 141 megawatts a day out of [its normal requirements of] 200 megawatts at this time from Israel and Egypt," the source said.

He also said Hamas should be dealing with the issue. "Hamas is in charge there now and they should find a solution to the problem," he told the Post.

Israel Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor said the problem was not new and that Israel was doing all it could to help Gaza process its sewage.

"The Palestinians have been pumping partially treated or untreated sewage water into the sea for years, and not just since the beginning of this year. The State of Israel assists in various ways to the pumping and water distribution and to the continued operation of the sewage treatment plants. That assistance includes approval to transfer most of equipment the Palestinian Authority has requested - the rest is in the process of being verified - and all the diesel fuel necessary to run the plants," Schor said.

These plants had not been affected by any cutbacks to electricity, he said.


"Israel is very much assisting in the approval, funding [$45m.] and in executing a large project to deal with northern Gaza's sewage, despite the continuing situation," he said, "Likewise, the construction of a large treatment plant in central Gaza has also been approved, and Israel is willing to help build two more plants in the southern region of the Strip."...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rice: Israelis, Palestinians must agree on final borders

Determining final borders is 'best thing we can possibly do,' Secretary of State says

Associated Press
Israel News

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators should decide once and for all where to draw the line between Israeli and Palestinian territory, ending the argument over Jewish housing expansion on disputed ground, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday. Rice also warned that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank do not equal a "fait accompli" that the houses or towns would remain in Israeli hands under a final settlement of the conflict.

"Ultimately the best answer is to determine what's going to be in Israel and what's going to be in Palestine," Rice said before meetings with negotiators and leaders on both sides in London and the Mideast.

Determining final borders is "the best thing we can possibly do," Rice said, suggesting she has heard Palestinian, Arab and other complaints that there is little momentum and less clarity in peace talks that are supposed to frame an independent Palestinian state before Bush leaves office.

Shared responsibility

The Bush administration has as much as promised Israel it could keep some sensitive land, but Rice was effectively warning Israel not to carry the policy too far or assume it has no consequences.

"I do not, and the U.S. government does not, accept that anything done prior to agreement can ... present a fait accompli or determine the final outcome of this," Rice said.

She did not single out any particular Israeli project as improper, but repeated the US diplomatic criticism of housing expansion in general. "It's not helpful," she said.

Rice also said that "It's far too early to start any sense of despair about the end of the year," but acknowledged that Palestinians are losing patience. "I do believe the window for the two-state solution is not open forever," Rshe told reporters traveling with her. "I think you could argue it's gotten narrower and narrower over time."

"Israel has probably the lead responsibility in helping to improve the lives of the Palestinian people but it's a shared responsibility," she said.

100,000 Palestinian refugees set to march toward northern border

Khaled Abu Toameh

More than 100,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are expected to march toward the border with Israel on May 14 in the context of the Palestinian Authority's plan to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel, PA officials told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

The PA leadership has, meanwhile, announced that it would boycott any world leader who arrived in Israel to participate in the anniversary celebrations.

The officials said the boycott would be a temporary action, adding that the Palestinians would not receive the guests in the Palestinian territories during their visits to Israel. The PA ambassador to Beirut, Zaki Abbas, has been working in the past few weeks to recruit refugees from various refugee camps throughout Lebanon for the march.

Fatah's top representative in Lebanon, Sultan Abu Aynain, has also been instrumental in organizing the event, the Post has learned.

The two have been coordinating their efforts with PA Deputy Minister for Prisoners Affairs, Ziad Abu Ein, who has drawn up a plan calling on Palestinian refugees to "invade" Israel by land, air and sea in protest against Israel's anniversary celebrations.

The plan states that the Palestinians have decided to implement United Nations Resolution 194 regarding the Palestinian refugees.

Article 11 of the resolution, which was passed in December 1948, says that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest predictable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return."

Entitled "The Initiative of Return and Coexistence," the plan urges all Israelis to "welcome the Palestinians who will be returning to live together with them in the land of peace."

A committee established by the organizers to prepare for the event met at the Al-Bireh Municipality offices this week to discuss ways of rallying support. Abu Ein told participants that more than 100,000 refugees from Lebanon were expected to take part in the march toward Israel's northern border.

He added that refugees from the West Bank and Gaza Strip would also participate in the events by staging marches toward Israeli checkpoints and border crossings.

At the meeting in Al-Bireh, the organizers strongly condemned world leaders and dignitaries who were planning to participate in the Israeli celebrations. "This is the day when the Palestinians were uprooted from their lands," they added. "It would have been better if these leaders visited the refugee camps which are the victims of Israel's so-called independence."

The plan calls on the refugees to return to Israel with suitcases and tents so that they can settle down in their former villages. The refuges are requested to carry UN flags upon their return and to be equipped with their UNRWA-issued ID cards.

The plan asks Arab countries hosting the refugees to facilitate their return by opening their borders. The plan specifically refers to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Palestinian refugees living in the US, EU, Canada and Latin America have been requested to use their foreign passports to fly to Ben- Gurion Airport, while dozens of ships carrying refugees will converge on Israeli ports.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The myth of Palestinian moderation

In his "Fundamentally Freund" column "The myth of Palestinian moderation" in the Jerusalem Post, Michael Freund rightly skewers the Administration's fantasy-based policymaking regarding Israel:

Even for a president prone to misusing the English language, George W. Bush outdid himself last week. Sitting next to Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, Bush gushed and swooned over the visiting Palestinian leader, describing him in terms usually reserved for heroes and saints.

"The president is a man of peace," Bush assured the gaggle of reporters who were present. "He's a man of vision. He rejects the idea of using violence to achieve objectives, which distinguishes him from other people in the region."

While Bush's grammar may have been uncommonly accurate that day, his description of Abbas was anything but. For even a cursory glance at some of the Palestinian president's outbursts in recent months reveal a man wholly undeserving of such praise.

On March 1, Abbas had the gall to insult the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis when he declared that Israel's counter-terror operations in Gaza were "worse than the Holocaust" (Jerusalem Post, March 2).

And in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustur on February 28, Abbas boasted that he had been the first Palestinian to fire a bullet at Israel after the birth of the PLO in 1965.

This ostensible "man of peace" then took pride in the fact that his Fatah movement had trained Hizbullah terrorists, and he did not rule out a return to the "armed struggle" against Israel in the future. And just two weeks ago, Abbas was planning to confer the Al-Quds Mark of Honor, the PLO's highest award, to two female Palestinian terrorists who took part in the killing of Israelis (Israel Radio, April 16). The event was cancelled only after it was publicized widely in the media. Need we also mention the Palestinian president's refusal late last year to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state"?


And let's cease calling Mahmoud Abbas a "moderate." Anyone who refuses to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state," makes a mockery of the Holocaust, and threatens a return to violence, is certainly not deserving of such a characterization. Instead, let's call Abbas what he really is. For if he looks like an extremist, sounds like an extremist, and acts like an extremist, chances are that he is one.

And more importantly, let's start treating him as such.

The myth of the Palestinian ceasefire

While we're on the subject of Palestinian myths, here's another.

"Palestinian groups shell Israeli areas near Gaza despite news of ceasefire," from the Ma'an News Agency (thanks to Sr. Soph):

Gaza – Ma'an – Palestinian military groups continued to launch homemade projectiles and mortar shells into Israel from the Gaza Strip despite news that the factions had agreed during talks in Egypt on a ceasefire. The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, and the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, said that their fighters fired barrages of projectiles and mortars at the Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon in the western Negev.

It appears that Palestinian factions are awaiting for the official announcement of a ceasefire before holding their fire....

Yeah, sure, that's it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Shift Toward an Israeli-Syrian Agreement

George Friedman

The Middle East, already monstrously complex, grew more complex last week. First, there were strong indications that both Israel and Syria were prepared to engage in discussions on peace. That alone is startling enough. But with the indicators arising in the same week that the United States decided to reveal that the purpose behind Israel’s raid on Syria in September 2007 was to destroy a North Korean-supplied nuclear reactor, the situation becomes even more baffling.
But before we dive into the what-will-be, let us first explain how truly bizarre things have gotten. On April 8 we wrote about how a number of seemingly unconnected events were piecing themselves into a pattern that might indicate an imminent war, a sequel to the summer 2006 Lebanon conflict. This mystery in the Middle East has since matured greatly, but in an unexpected direction. Israeli-Syrian peace talks — serious Israeli-Syrian peace talks — are occurring.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israeli media that Israel had been talking to the Syrians, and then that “Very clearly we want peace with the Syrians and are taking all manners of action to this end. They know what we want from them, and I know full well what they want from us.” Then Syrian President Bashar al Assad publicly acknowledged that negotiations with Syria were taking place. Later, a Syrian minister appeared on Al Jazeera and said that, “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions, on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.” At almost exactly the same moment, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that, “If Israel is serious and wants peace, nothing will stop the renewal of peace talks. What made this statement really interesting was that it was made in Tehran, standing next to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, an ally of Syria whose government rejects the very concept of peace with Israel.

We would have expected the Syrians to choose another venue to make this statement, and we would have expected the Iranians to object. It didn’t happen. We waited for a blistering denial from Israel. Nothing came; all that happened was that Israeli spokesmen referred journalists to Olmert’s previous statement. Clearly something was on the table. The Turks had been pressing the Israelis to negotiate with the Syrians, and the Israelis might have been making a gesture to placate them, but the public exchanges clearly went beyond that point. This process could well fail, but it gave every appearance of being serious.

According to the existing understanding of the region’s geopolitical structure, an Israeli-Syrian peace deal is impossible.
The United States and Iran are locked into talks over the future of Iraq, and both regularly use their respective allies in Israel and Syria to shape those negotiations. An Israeli-Syrian peace would at the very least inconvenience American and Iranian plans.
Any peace deal would require defanging Hezbollah. But Hezbollah is not simply a Syrian proxy with an independent streak, it is also an Iranian proxy. So long as Iran is Syria’s only real ally in the Muslim world, such a step seems inimical to Syrian interests.
Hezbollah is also deeply entwined into the economic life of Lebanon — and in Lebanon’s drug production and distribution network — and threatening the relationship with Hezbollah would massively impact Damascus’ bottom line.
From the other side, Syria cannot accept a peace that does not restore its control over the Golan Heights, captured during the 1967 war. Since this patch of ground overlooks some of Israel’s most densely populated regions, it seems unnatural that Israel ever would even consider such a trade.
Forget issues of Zionism or jihadism, or even simple bad blood; the reality is that any deal between Israel and Syria clashes with the strategic interests of both sides, making peace is impossible. Or is it? Talks are happening nonetheless, meaning one of two things is true: Either Olmert and Assad have lost it, or this view of reality is wrong.

Let’s reground this discussion away from what everyone — ourselves included — thinks they know and go back to the basics, namely, the geopolitical realities in which Israel and Syria exist.

Peace with Egypt and Jordan means Israel is secure on its eastern and southern frontiers. Its fundamental problem is counterinsurgency in Gaza and at times in the West Bank. Its ability to impose a military solution to this problem is limited, so it has settled for separating itself from the Palestinians and on efforts to break up the Palestinian movement into different factions. The split in the Palestinian community between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helped this strategy immensely, dividing the Palestinians geographically, ideologically, economically and politically. The deeper the intra-Palestinian conflict is, the less of a strategic threat to Israel the Palestinians can be. It is hardly a beautiful solution — and dividing the Palestinians does not reduce the security burden on Israel — but it is manageable.

Israel does not perceive Syria as a serious threat. Not only is the Syrian military a pale shadow of Israeli capability, Israel does not even consider sacrificing the Golan Heights to weakening the Israeli military meaningfully. The territory has become the pivot of public discussions, but losing it hasn’t been a real problem for Israel since the 1970s. In today’s battlefield environment, artillery on the heights would rapidly be destroyed by counter-battery fire, helicopter gunships or aircraft. Indeed, the main threat to Israel from Syria is missiles. Damascus now has one of the largest Scud missile and surface-to-surface missile arsenals in the region — and those can reach Israel from far beyond the Golan Heights regardless of where the Israeli-Syrian political border is located. Technological advances — even those from just the last decade — have minimized the need for a physical presence on that territory that was essential militarily decades ago.

The remaining threat to Israel is posed by Lebanon, where Hezbollah has a sufficient military capability to pose a limited threat to northern Israel, as was seen in the summer of 2006. Israel can engage and destroy a force in Lebanon, but the 1982-2002 Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon vividly demonstrated that the cost-benefit ratio to justify an ongoing presence simply does not make sense.

At the current time, Israel’s strategic interests are twofold. First, maintain and encourage the incipient civil war between Hamas and Fatah. The key to this is to leverage tensions between neighboring Arab states and the Palestinians. And this is easy. The Hashemite government of Jordan detests the West Bank Palestinians because more than three-quarters of the population of Jordan is Palestinian, but the Hashemite king rather likes being king. Egypt equally hates the Gaza Palestinians as Hamas’ ideological roots lie in the Muslim Brotherhood — a group whose ideology not only contributed to al Qaeda’s formation, but also that of groups who have exhibited a nasty habit of assassinating Egyptian presidents.

The second Israeli strategic interest is finding a means of neutralizing any threat from Lebanon without Israel being forced into war — or worse yet, into an occupation of Lebanon. The key to this strategy lies with the other player in this game.

Ultimately Syria only has its western border to worry about. To the east is the vast desert border with Iraq, an excellent barrier to attack for both nations. To the north are the Turks who, if they chose, could swallow Syria in a hard day’s work and be home in time for coffee. Managing that border is a political matter, not a military one.

That leaves the west. Syria does not worry too much about an Israeli invasion. It is not that Damascus thinks that Israel is incapable of such an operation — Israel would face only a slightly more complicated task of eliminating Syria than Turkey would — but that the al Assads know full well that Israel is happy with them in power. The al Assads and their fellow elites hail from the Alawite sect of Islam, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that the Sunnis consider apostate. Alawite rule in Syria essentially is secular, and the government has a historic fear of an uprising by the majority Sunnis.

The Israelis know that any overthrow of the al Assads would probably land Israel with a radical Sunni government on its northeastern frontier. From Israel’s point of view, it is far better to deal with a terrified and insecure Syrian government more concerned with maintaining internal control than a confident and popular Syrian government with the freedom to look outward.

Just as Syria’s defensive issues vis-à-vis Israel are not what they seem, neither are Syrian tools for dealing with Israel in an offensive manner as robust as most think.

Syria is not particularly comfortable with the entities that pose the largest security threats to Israel, namely, the main Palestinian factions. Damascus has never been friendly to the secular Fatah movement, with which it fought many battles in Lebanon; nor is it comfortable with the more fundamentalist Sunni Hamas. (Syria massacred its own fundamentalists during the 1980s.) So while the Syrians have dabbled in Palestinian politics, they have never favored a Palestinian state. In fact, it should be recalled that when Syria first invaded Lebanon in 1975, it was against the Palestinians and in support of Lebanese Christians.

That invasion — as well as most Syrian operations in Lebanon — was not about security, but about money. Lebanon, the descendent of Phoenicia, has always been a vibrant economic region (save when there is war). It is the terminus of trade routes from the east and south and the door to the Mediterranean basin. It is a trading and banking hub, with Beirut in particular as the economic engine of the region. Without Beirut and Lebanon, Syria is an isolated backwater. With it, Damascus is a major player.

As such, Syria’s closest ties among Israel’s foes are not with the two major indigenous Palestinian factions, but with the Shiite group Hezbollah. The Syrians have a somewhat tighter religious affinity with Hezbollah, as well as a generation of complex business dealings with the group’s leaders. But its support for Hezbollah is multifaceted, and anti-Israeli tendencies are only one aspect of the relationship. And Hezbollah is much more important to Syria as a tool for managing Damascus’ affairs in Lebanon.

The Basis of a Deal
Israel and Syria’s geopolitical interests diverge less than it might appear. By itself, Syria poses no conventional threat to Israel. Syria is dangerous only in the context of a coalition with Egypt. In 1973, fighting on two fronts, the Syrians were a threat. With Egypt neutralized now and behind the buffer in the Sinai, Syria poses no threat. As for unconventional weapons, the Israelis indicated with their bombing of the Syrian research facility in September 2007 that they know full well how — and are perfectly willing unilaterally — to take that option off Damascus’ table.

Since neither side wants a war with the other — Israel does not want to replace the Alawites, and the Alawites are not enamored of being replaced — the issue boils down to whether Israel and Syria can coordinate their interests in Lebanon. Israel has no real economic interests in Lebanon. Its primary interest is security — to make certain that forces hostile to Israel cannot use Lebanon as a base for launching attacks. Syria has no real security interests so long its economic primacy is guaranteed. And neither country wants to see an independent Palestinian state.

The issue boils down to Lebanon. In a sense, the Israelis had an accommodation with Syria over Lebanon when Israel withdrew. It ceded economic pre-eminence in Lebanon to the Syrians. In return, the Syrians controlled Hezbollah and in effect took responsibility for Israeli security in return for economic power. It was only after Syria withdrew from Lebanon under U.S. pressure that Hezbollah evolved into a threat to Israel, precipitating the 2006 conflict.

This was a point on which Israel and the United States didn’t agree. The United States, fighting in Iraq, wanted an additional lever with which to try to control Syrian support for militants fighting in Iraq. They saw Lebanon as a way to punish Syria for actions in Iraq. But the Israelis saw themselves as having to live with the consequences of that withdrawal. Israel understood that Syria’s withdrawal shifted the burden of controlling Hezbollah to Israel — something that could not be achieved without an occupation.

What appears to be under consideration between the supposed archrivals, therefore, is the restoration of the 2005 status quo in Lebanon. The Syrians would reclaim their position in Lebanon, unopposed by Israel. In return, the Syrians would control Hezbollah. For the Syrians, this has the added benefit that by controlling Hezbollah and restraining it in the south, Syria would have both additional strength on the ground in Lebanon, as well as closer economic collaboration — on more favorable terms — with Hezbollah. For Syria, Hezbollah is worth more as a puppet than as a heroic anti-Israeli force.

This is something Israel understands. In the last fight between Israel and Syria in Lebanon, there were different local allies: Israel had the South Lebanese Army. The Syrians were allied with the Christian Franjieh clan. In the end, both countries dumped their allies. Syria and Israel have permanent interests in Lebanon. They do not have permanent allies.

The Other Players
The big loser in this game, of course, would be the Lebanese. But that is more complicated than it appears. Many of the Lebanese factions — including most of the Christian clans — have close relations with the Syrians. Moreover, the period of informal Syrian occupation was a prosperous time. Lebanon is a country of businessmen and militia, sometimes the same. The stability the Syrians imposed was good for business.

The one faction that would clearly oppose this would be Hezbollah. It would be squeezed on all sides. Ideologically speaking, constrained from confronting Israel, its place in the Islamic sun would be undermined. Economically speaking, Hezbollah would be forced into less favorable economic relations with the Syrians than it enjoyed on its own. And politically speaking, Hezbollah would have the choice of fighting the Syrians (not an attractive option) or of becoming a Syrian tool. Either way, Hezbollah would have to do something in response to any rumors floating about of a Syrian deal with the Israelis. And given the quality of Syrian intelligence in these matters, key Hezbollah operatives opposed to such a deal might find themselves blown up. Perhaps they already have.

Iran will not be happy about all this. Tehran has invested a fair amount of resources in bulking up Hezbollah, and will not be pleased to see the militia shift from Syrian management to Syrian control. But in the end, what can Iran do? It cannot support Hezbollah directly, and even if it were to attempt to undermine Damascus, those Syrians most susceptible to Tehran’s Shiite-flavored entreaties are the Alawites themselves.

The other player that at the very least would be uneasy about all of this is the United States. The American view of Syria remains extremely negative, still driven by the sense that the Syrians continue to empower militants in Iraq. Certainly that aid — and that negative U.S. feeling — is not as intense as it was two years ago, but the Americans might not feel that this is the right time for such a deal. Thus, the release of the information on the Syrian reactor might well have been an attempt to throw a spoke in the wheel of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

That might not be necessary. Nothing disappears faster than Syrian-Israeli negotiations. In this case, however, both countries have fundamental geopolitical interests at stake. Israel wants to secure its northern frontier without committing its troops into Lebanon. The Syrians want to guarantee their access to the economic possibilities in Lebanon. Neither care about the Golan Heights. The Israelis don’t care what happens in Lebanon so long as it doesn’t explode in Israel. The Syrians don’t care what happens to the Palestinians so long as it doesn’t spread onto their turf.

Deals have been made on less. Israel and Syria are moving toward a deal that would leave a lot of players in the region — including Iran — quite unhappy. Given this deal has lots of uneasy observers, including Iran, the United States, Hezbollah, the Palestinians and others, it could blow apart with the best will in the world. And given that this is Syria and Israel, the best will isn’t exactly in abundant supply.

'Hamas stole 60,000 liters of Gaza fuel'


The head of the Palestinian Authority's gas agency confirmed Tuesday that Hamas gunmen had raided the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, stealing at least 60,000 liters of fuel meant for the Gaza power station in order to fill their own vehicles.

The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday that on at least four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city. Eyewitnesses said that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.
Gas agency head Mojahed Salam told Israel Radio that his workers were threatened at gunpoint and that he instructed them to obey the orders of the armed men so they wouldn't be harmed.

"They took control of the fuel and fired toward the terminal in order to torpedo the flow of fuel to the Strip and to pressure Egypt into reopening the Rafah border crossing," said Salam.

Also Tuesday, an Egyptian security official said that Egyptian border guards discovered five new underground smuggling tunnels north of the Rafah border crossing.

The official said two tunnels were used to pump fuel to the Gaza Strip due to the severe energy shortages. One of the tunnels was found in a kitchen with a pump connected to a hose running through it.

The tunnels were found early on Monday, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some 50 jerry cans of fuel and another pump were found in the second tunnel which opened into an olive orchard 150 meters from the border.

Meanwhile, under heavy security, Israel transferred a large amount of wheat to the Gaza Strip.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Isi Leibler
April 29, 2008

It's disconcerting and sad to see American Jewish "progressives" frenziedly lobbying the American administration to pressure Israel for further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians.

To make matters worse, they understate - even obfuscate - their real game plan. They describe themselves as "pro-Israel," "Zionist" and "moderate." They lay claim to being the true custodians of peace, portraying other Jewish leaders and AIPAC as neoconservatives and extremists. While tempting to dismiss their behavior and Orwellian doublespeak as naïve and inconsequential, recall that the sham Soviet peace fronts succeeded in duping many gullible well-meaning liberals into endorsing campaigns promoting totalitarianism. It's all the more bizarre because no one would suggest that the current Israeli government is "hawkish." On the contrary, the Olmert government has lost the confidence of its people precisely because of unilateral concessions which undermine Israel's security and embolden terrorists. His government is an amen chorus which capitulates to every demand imposed on it by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It has provided weapons to the Palestinians which will almost certainly once again be redirected against Israel; it has released and granted amnesty to terrorists; and despite bitter opposition from the IDF, it has closed checkpoints and acceded to demands compromising security which have already resulted in Israeli casualties.

Yet like a replay of the odious behavior of Haaretz editor David Landau, who told Rice that it would be his "wet dream" for the US "to rape Israel" for its own good, American "progressives" are urging their government to exert pressure on Israel for further unilateral concessions.

This is not a new phenomenon. For years the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) has been lobbying the White House to get tougher with Israel. They claim that in 1993, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin appreciated their support for his efforts to reach a peace settlement with Arafat. They fail to mention that in contrast to Olmert, Rabin did stand up to US pressure. Rabin would have exploded had he encountered Jewish organizations exploiting his name as a means to justify lobbying the US administration to exert pressure on Israel.

As far back as 2005, IPF president Seymour Reich boasted how his organization had successfully persuaded Rice to force Israel to make concessions on the Gaza border crossing - concession that have since resulted in the loss of Israeli lives.

More recently the IPF shamelessly lobbied the White House to press Israel to negotiate directly with Hamas. Reich wrote to Rice on March 21 that "no progress can be made if Hamas - the governing body in Gaza - is totally excluded from the process." M.J. Rosenberg, IPF's policy director, urged the U.S. to "be extending carrots and not just slapping them [Hamas] with sticks".

The Progressive Jewish Alliance, another self-styled "pro-Israel" body, promotes exhibitions on US campuses of photo montages alleging the dehumanization of Palestinians by the Israeli army. They insist that their demonization of the IDF represent an expression of their love for Zion.

Now with great fanfare and endorsement by much of the US liberal media, we have a new "progressive" initiative: an amalgam of various far-left organizations and individuals spearheaded by "Americans for Peace Now" and "Brit Tzedek V'Shalom" to establish "J.Street," a political action committee. Although proclaiming their intention to espouse "moderation" and bring "balance" into American Jewish leadership, their actual intent is to further US pressure on Israel and to undermine AIPAC, the highly effective pro-Israel lobby.

Such behavior is especially unconscionable since - aside from permits for extra housing to cope with natural growth in the densely Jewish populated settlement blocs implicitly endorsed by President Bush - the Olmert government has conceded to all US government demands. It has even discouraged AIPAC and American Jewish leaders from trying to neutralize State Department pressures on itself for fear of antagonizing the administration.

J Street also publicly opposes the use of force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, which undermines Israel's campaign to pressure Iran from going nuclear. In addition, J Street supports a swift withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, calls for direct dealings with Hamas and urges Jews to boycott Christian Zionists - Israel's strongest allies. J Street intends to raise funds to provide $50,000 for selected Congressional candidates supporting these aims.

Aside from a number of respectable personalities under the illusion that they have associated themselves with a "moderate" body seeking to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, J Street is mainly supported by prominent far-left Americans and Israelis like Ron Pundak, architect of the Oslo Accord. One of its principal theorists is Daniel Levy, a former adviser to Yossi Beilin who trivializes Palestinian incitement to murder Israelis.

Former Jewish Agency chairman Avrum Burg, who has compared Israelis to Nazis and has urged the former to follow his lead and obtain European passports, is another notable J Street supporter. Burg's ranting against his country is so vile that even most of his Israeli associates distanced themselves from him. Writing this week in Haaretz, Burg pushed the envelope further and provided a gift to anti-Semites everywhere by accusing AIPAC of imposing "dual loyalties" on American Jews and of "institutionalizing near-treason and turning it into an enormous octopus of a political mechanism with enormous dimensions and numerous victims."

Another key Israeli supporter is David Kimche, a leading figure in Israel Policy Forum. Kimche was director general of the Foreign Ministry under Yitzhak Shamir, where I had regular dealings with him. In those days, not only was he a hawk, but he even had the reputation of savagely roasting any Jewish leader who dared question Israeli government policies. "We live and die by our decisions, while you sit and pontificate from your armchair," he would say. Today he identifies with the extreme left. The Israel Council of Foreign Relations, which he heads, recently hosted a meeting in Jerusalem for ex-president Jimmy Carter, obliging the sponsor, the World Jewish Congress, to formally dissociate itself from the event.

The "progressives" will also try to capitalize on the fact that the Barack Obama campaign has embraced former ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and appointed him Obama's adviser on Middle East affairs. Kurtzer, a Jewish dove, previously urged the Administration to take a tougher line with Israel. In his just-released book - Negotiating Arab Israel Peace - Kurtzer refers to the withholding of loan guarantees from the Shamir government by the first President Bush as an example of how an American government can effectively bring Israel into line. He accused Dennis Ross - the Clinton-designated Middle East representative - of having been biased in favor of Israel. He even castigates the Clinton and Bush Administrations for not employing sufficient Arabists in the State Department.

The US is the only country capable of withstanding pressure from Arabs and their allies to isolate and delegitimize Israel. Thankfully, US public opinion and Congress has never been more favorably disposed towards Israel than today.

Yet over the past year, the Bush Administration has tilted from its former policy. Nor can we exclude the possibility of a future US administration distancing itself further from Israel.

It is therefore imperative that American Jewish leaders not underestimate the damage "progressive pro-Israel" groups can inflict, especially in light of the mainstream liberal media support J Street has enjoyed at its launch.

In the face of existential threats, Israel needs the support of America Jewry more than ever. While all are free to express their opinions, "peaceniks" who have the gall to call on the US to put the heat on Israel to act as they believe best, rather than what the citizens of that democracy have decided is, must be exposed as fringe groups outside the Jewish mainstream.

Turkey says Israeli-Syrian peace needs long time

Arab media:

ANKARA (AP) - Turkey's foreign minister said Monday that a lot remains to be achieved before any peace agreement between Israel and Syria, but that his country will continue to act as a go-between to encourage them to restart direct negotiations.

Turkey, which has close ties to both Israel and Syria, revealed recently that it is trying to help restart low-level talks between the two countries as a prelude to bringing their leaders together for peace negotiations.
Ali Babacan said an agreement between the longtime enemies would require "strong political determination" from both sides.

"We are still at the very beginning of the process," Babacan told reporters during a news conference with New Zealand's foreign minister. His comments were in response to a question on Turkey's mediation efforts.

The last round of direct peace talks between the two countries broke down in 2000 over the details of Israel's proposed withdrawal from the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Mideast War.

Babacan said Turkey would pass messages between the sides until they are ready to meet.

"Talks will continue to take place through Turkey for a while," the foreign minister said. "When the issue is a little more mature, then I hope that the sides will meet each other." "It is a very promising development," Babacan said of Turkey's mediation efforts.

"There has been diplomatic traffic for the past year, which has intensified in the past few months." Turkey has not commented on media reports saying Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Syria indicating that Israel was willing to give up the Golan Heights in return for a peace treaty. Erdogan met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Saturday.

Israel has refused to comment on the reports. But Olmert said earlier this month that he sent messages to Damascus on peace prospects though he would not disclose the contents.

A 'Long Hot Summer' in Lebanon?

Rick Moran

"Whenever I want to know how bad the situation is in Lebanon, I look in the trunk of Rabieh's car. If there are only a few revolvers, the situation is fine. If there are a few automatic weapons, the situation is tense. And if it is packed with AKs and M16s, I know the situation could explode at any time."
(A member of the Democratic Left Party in Lebanon)

The talk is of guns in some quarters in Lebanon and of how expensive firearms have gotten. An AK-47 that cost $75-$100 a year ago now goes for between $700-$1000. The government is fully aware of the gun market but can do nothing. After all, they can't disarm Palestinians in the refugee camps nor take Hezb'allah's guns away from them. How can they stop people from arming themselves for protection against... what? Indeed, that is the question in Lebanon today as the political stalemate between the western backed March 14 government and Syrian/Iranian backed Hezb'allah continues. Plans to end the stalemate come and go but the political life of Lebanon is at a standstill. Hezb'allah ally Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri continues to schedule a vote for President in Parliament -- 17 times since December. But Berri and the Hezb'allah led opposition (which includes the largest Christian party led by Michel Aoun) do not recognize the "legitimacy" of the government led by Prime Minister Foaud Siniora, and hence are agitating for a new one -- this time with Hezb'allah dominant. They refuse to show up at these scheduled parliamentary sessions thus denying the majority a quorum to get the business of electing a president over with.

The question "Can they do that?" is irrelevant. This is Lebanon. And in a nation so tied up in political knots, so on edge as the result of the murderous Syrian gangster regime next door that assassinates ministers and Members of Parliament who oppose them, all sides recognize the peril of taking the wrong step or making the wrong move or even of saying the wrong word.

The immediate problem facing the factions is a replacement for Syrian puppet President Emile Lahoud. He stepped down last November and the two sides have been at it hammer and tongs since. Every candidate put forward by the March 14th Forces has been summarily rejected by Hezb'allah. This was true even when the government swallowed its pride somewhat and agreed to nominate General Michel Suleiman, head of the Lebanese army and a nominally pro-Syrian figure.

At first, it appeared that Suleiman would breeze through and solve the presidential problem. But like a gambler who just can't take his winnings and leave the table. President Assad in Syria nixed the idea until the make up of a new government had been agreed to. Since then, Hezb'allah has added the stipulation that there will be no president until the current electoral law -- which favors Christians at the expense of Muslims -- is reformed.

Back to square one -- or before square one if you wish. Since early in the year, Sunnis and Shias have been buying guns while the old militias -- who never gave their firearms up in the first place -- have reportedly begun to drill. There have been some clashes in the streets between the factions, mostly riots over some perceived insult by one side or the other. The overall mood in the country is tense.

And now that they have completely bollixed up the political situation in Lebanon, Hezb'allah has felt free to get back to the business of destroying Israel. In recent months, a gigantic recruiting campaign has been underway as they have emptied towns and villages in the south of young men and sent them off to training camps in the Bekaa Valley, and in special cases, Syria and Iran:

The significance of this latest recruitment drive is that Hezb'allah is apparently seeking to not only replace losses suffered in the war but also expand its military capabilities. And many analysts believe there is only one reason for Hezb'allah to make this move: they plan to incite another war with Israel sometime soon -- perhaps as early as this summer.

The Israelis are still reeling from their perceived failure in the war with Hezb'allah. The Winograd Commission Report exposed several deficiencies in leadership, training, and tactics that are just now being addressed by the IDF. But the army can hardly be expected to have reformed itself in a few months. And with a looming conflict with an expanded Hezb'allah on the horizon, the Israeli government is watching political developments in Lebanon very closely.

Indeed, one reason for the expansion of the militia could be to have more fighters available if the clashes in the streets get serious -- something Hezb'allah is perfectly capable of manipulating if they choose. At the moment, it appears unnecessary because the paralyzed government of Prime Minister Siniora continues an inexorable process of moving toward meeting opposition demands on changing the electoral law and forming a new "Government of National Unity" that would give the opposition veto power over cabinet decisions.

What choice do they have? The canny old Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt has come to the conclusion that the majority must talk with the opposition and that the basis of those talks must be meeting opposition demands:

"Jumblatt noted the divergence in point of views between opposition leaders over dialogue. "MP Michel Aoun is rejecting dialogue while Berri is calling for it. If this is a maneuver on their behalf, let us check their intentions."

"'If this dialogue will not lead to the election of a president, the public opinion will be at least informed of the obstructing party,' he added.

"'Probably this is the justification of the Syrian support to dialogue,' Jumblatt declared.

"He also noted that March 14 forces must agree over the electoral law. 'Dialogue will indicate the matter over which we can agree with the opposition.'"

The majority could, in fact, call a special session of parliament and elect a president by majority vote any time they wish. But Hezb'allah has hinted that if they do that, the opposition will form their own government thus all but precipitating a civil war.

It comes down to this: the majority is seeking to act responsibly, bending over backward to accommodate the opposition's demands while trying to maintain its position as the legally elected government. The opposition, backed by Syria, is simply sitting back and throwing monkey wrench after monkey wrench into the process. For in the end, chaos in Lebanon benefits only one man and one regime: Bashar Assad's Syria.

There is little the US can do to prevent Syrian influence in Lebanon from causing an eruption of violence. In fact, it is an open question whether the next president -- be he McCain or Obama -- can resist the temptation to abandon Lebanon in favor of jump starting the Middle East peace process or getting Syria to assist us in Iraq.

Michael Young points out the perils of engaging Syria in dialogue:

"Is it really in the U.S. interest to engage Syria in this context, when its major Arab allies are in the midst of a conflict with Iran they view as vital? In fact, I'm not at all convinced that asking Arab states to change Syrian behavior through 'more robust interactions and investments in the country' would work. The Arabs have repeatedly tried to change Syrian behavior through more congenial means, most prominently at the Arab League summit in Riyadh last year. The Syrians have ignored this. Why? Because they know the price for their return to the Arab fold would be to give up on a return to Lebanon. They're not about to do that, because only such a return, one that is total, with soldiers, would give Syria the regional relevance it lost in 2005, when it was forced out of Lebanon.

"It would also allow Syria, from Beirut, to undermine the Hariri tribunal, which threatens the future of the Syrian regime and which will probably begin operating next year. In this, Syria has the full support of Hezbollah, which realizes that without a Syrian comeback, the party will continue to face a majority in Lebanon that wants the party to disarm. I find it revealing that Jon failed to mention Lebanon once in his post. That's because advocates of engaging Syria realize that the only way you can bring about an advantageous dialogue with Damascus is to give it something worthwhile. That something can only be Lebanon, the minimal price Syria would demand to offer positive concessions in return."

And that, gentle reader, is the bottom line. Obama can talk about meeting with Assad all he wants and it won't advance the cause of peace with Israel one damn bit unless he's willing to betray Lebanon.

Lebanon is not only the key to Syrian influence in the region it is also the key to Assad's survival. Some may be unfamiliar with Syria's role in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and the formation of a tribunal (now under UN auspices due to Lebanon's political paralysis) to try and convict the perpetrators.

The ongoing UN investigation has shown that 4 Lebanese army generals (now in custody) in cahoots with Syrian intelligence, carried out the car bombing that killed Hariri. The prosecutors have also uncovered evidence that the subsequent political assassinations of several leading government parliamentarians, journalists, and other anti-Syrian figures was also masterminded by Syrian intelligence as well as leading members of Assad's regime -- including Assad's own brother in law Assef Shawkat who became head of intelligence 30 minutes after Hariri was killed.

The Tribunal, if allowed to function fully and properly, will no doubt indict people very close to Bashar Assad himself. This would spell catastrophe for Assad and Syria which would come under severe sanctions by the US and the United Nations. Since Syria's forced withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, the economy has taken a nosedive thanks to the drying up of "protection money" and other means by which Syria milked the Lebanese economy to benefit the regime. The pressure to get rid of Assad would be intense. There would probably also be calls for regime change from both Arab and western governments.

In short, most analysts agree that the number one priority of the Syrian regime is to get back into Lebanon and try and derail the Tribunal. No deal with the Arabs or the west about Iraq, about WMD, about the Golan, or about their relationship with Iran will take place without a quid pro quo involving Lebanon.

There is no apparent timetable to Hezb'allah's plans. They don't have to war with Israel anytime soon nor do they appear in any hurry to force the political situation in Lebanon to any kind of dénouement. But it is equally clear that they now feel they have the upper hand in Lebanon. The explosion may not occur this summer. But it appears that the Syrians and Hezb'allah will get everything they want unless the government is prepared to stop them.

Rick Moran is associate editor of American Thinker, and proprietor of the website Rightwing Nuthouse.

Page Printed from: at April 28, 2008 - 11:57:37 PM EDT

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Israel and Iran"

Arlene Kushner

This evening the Israel Law Center, Shurat HaDin, sponsored a talk by Brig. Gen. Yossi Kupervasser, former head of Military Intelligence, on the subject, "Does Israel have a Response to the Iranian Nuclear Threat?"

The topic of his talk not withstanding, the General was quick to say that this should not be considered an Israeli problem, but rather a Western problem. Nor is the threat "simply" Iran, but rather the radical Islamic movement, with Iran at its fore, and its goal of changing the world order. The Iranian regime is confident that it will succeed in its goal of achieving nuclear weapons because the West's threats to date have been empty. One red line after another has been crossed by Iran over the last few years and there have been no repercussions.

Pressure via the international community is not possible because Russia and China, on the Security Council, have not been cooperative. This is because they are not entirely unhappy with Iran's progress, as each has a desire to upset the current world order in its own way.


What is frequently ignored is that Iran has been doing R&D on its nuclear weapons program for some 15 years. There is currently some disagreement as to precisely how far Iran has come to date, but what is clear is that the window of opportunity for responding is closing -- there is perhaps a year remaining before Iran has nuclear capability, perhaps two years.

The Iranians are prepared to endure hardship for the sake of their long term goals. Deterrence will work with them only if they believe that continuing with their nuclear development will endanger the Islamic revolution. Any pressure placed on Iran must be backed up with a convincing threat of military action.

As to that action, should it be necessary, far better that the US should take it. Should this not be the case, Israel is capable of military action that will set back Iran's nuclear program for perhaps five years. (General Kupervasser suggests that the memory of what Israel did might well remain for far longer than five years and act as a deterrence to rebuilding.)

The military action would be difficult for Israel because multiple sites are involved, but it would be doable.

The General, of course, was not at liberty to speak about how this would be done, nor would he address actions that might be taken by Israel should Iran go nuclear before that military operation was put into place. (He has genuine concern about delays that might end up bringing us to that point -- in essence action should have been taken yesterday.)


Coincidentally, Haaretz reports just today on a statement by Commander of the Israel Air Force, Major General Eliezer Shkedi, who said in a television interview that "in Nazi Germany, people didn't believe that Hitler meant what he was saying. I suggest that we refrain from repeating that line of reasoning and prepare ourselves for anything."

According to Haaretz, Shkedi, who is soon to retire from his position, spent much of his service "dedicated to the preparation for a possible mission that was never discussed in public: an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, should international economic sanctions prove to be fruitless."


Looking back over the past week, we see the following, which merits at least passing mention:

Talk of a "truce" (technically a hudna) in Gaza. First it came from Carter, when he met with Hamas officials, and then from the Egyptians, who were speaking about a six-month lull. The big breakthrough was ostensibly that Hamas was willing to have this hudna just in Gaza, with hopes that it would eventually extend to Judea and Samaria as well, but with no demand that it be inclusive from the start.

No point in revisiting all of the details or statements, because in the end it is not sincere on the part of Hamas and (presumably) it is not going to happen. Yesterday Mashaal told al-Jazzeera that there might be a ceasefire but that:

"It is a tactic in conducting the struggle. ... It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people's interest ... to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit...the battle is to be run this way and Hamas is known for that. In 2003, there was a cease-fire and then the operations were resumed."

That, to a tee, is the description of a hudna -- an official lull that allows Arabs to regroup and strengthen towards the time of renewing "the struggle."

We must hope that Israeli officials do understand this.

Hamas, which is hurting, is seeking a lifting of the blockade of Gaza in exchange for the ceasefire, but at a minimum would have to get other groups such as Islamic Jihad on board.


It made big news this past week when it was revealed that Olmert -- using the Turks as a go-between -- allegedly made an offer to Syria to return the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

That it came just when the details about Syria's nuclear reactor were being made public seemed to many as more than a little strange. There are claims that the connection in timing was not incidental -- that there was some intention on Olmert's part to allow Syria to salvage some dignity at a time of embarrassment, so that it would not overreact precipitously. (I am not sanctioning such an approach -- merely reporting on it.)

At any rate, this will in the end also be talk that comes to nothing. For what was not emphasized in most media reports about Israel's willingness to give up the Golan was what was expected in return -- cessation of assistance to Hezbollah, a break with Iran, throwing Mashaal of Hamas out of the country, etc. This is simply not about to happen.

In a statement to the Qatari paper Al Watan, today, Assad said that the time has not come for direct talks between Syria and Israel.


The Golan is not only a significant strategic asset to Israel because of its height, it is also a much loved and strikingly beautiful area where vineyards thrive and recreational facilities have been established. Not insignificantly, it is the watershed for a good deal of Israel's water.

Considered by Israeli law to be fully a part of modern Israel (civic and not military law applies), it is a region that according to Jewish law was also part of the ancient land of Israel (religious laws of the land, such as shmitah, apply here).

Most Israelis are much opposed to surrendering this area and a measure is being brought to the Knesset that would require approval within a national referendum before the Golan could be relinquished.


At the beginning of Pesach, three disguised vehicles, carrying a considerable volume of explosives, was driven towards the Keren Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza and detonated. Thirteen IDF troops were wounded.

Keren Shalom is a crossing through which humanitarian supplies are driven. This is one of a series of events in which terrorists attempt to do damage to the very facilities that make life more bearable for the people of Gaza. To many this is simply incomprehensible, but that's because we're not thinking like terrorists. The guess in most quarters is that the terrorists believe it is better that the people suffer than that Israel look good for helping. In fact, suffering Gazans makes great PR. In the case of Keren Shalom, 200 trucks laden with humanitarian supplies are permitted by Israel to enter Gaza each week.

According to Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, head of the Southern Command, "Hamas is exploiting the compassion and generosity of the State of Israel by targeting humanitarian crossings. This is a deliberate attack against aiding the Palestinian population."

There is a further speculation that humanitarian compassion demonstrated by Israel is perceived by the terrorists as a sign of our weakness.


A similar action took place just today, when Hamas gunmen inside of Gaza attacked trucks on their way to Nahal Oz in Israel in order to receive fuel. The trucks, which had to turn back, were scheduled to bring fuel to UNRWA and to hospitals in Gaza.


While on Friday, Shimon Mizrachi and Eli Wasserman, two Israeli security guards at the Nitzane Shalom Industrial Zone, were shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist coming out of nearby Tulkarm. The complex houses nine factories that provide jobs to Palestinians.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades all claimed responsibility.

see my website

Sunday, April 27, 2008

LGF Exclusive: How Much Does It Cost to Buy Global TV News?

An LGF reader who worked for Associated Press TV News sent me the following article explaining how APTN works, and suggesting a reason why their coverage of the Middle East is so overwhelmingly biased against Israel:

How Much Does It Cost to Buy Global TV News?

The vast majority of the TV news pictures you see are produced by two TV news companies. Presented here is a case for how a large amount of money has been used to inject a clear bias into the heart of the global TV news gathering system. That this happens is not at question, whether it is by accident or design is harder to tell.

You may not realize it, but if you watch any TV news broadcast on any station anywhere in the world, there is a better than even chance you will view pictures from APTN. BBC, Fox, Sky, CNN and every major broadcaster subscribes to and uses APTN pictures. While the method by which they operate is interesting, it is the extra service this US owned and UK based company offers to Arab states that is really interesting. About the Associated Press

The Associated Press (AP) is a not-for-profit news gathering and dissemination service based in the US.Formed in 1848, the AP grew up from an agreement between the six major New York newspapers of the day. They wanted to defray the large telegraphy costs that they were all independently incurring for sending the same news coast to coast. Despite being highly competitive, they formed the Associated Press as a collection agency and agreed to share the material. Today, that six-newspaper cooperative is an organization serving more than 1,500 newspapers and 5,000 broadcast outlets in the United States. Abroad, AP services are printed and broadcast in 112 countries.

Associated Press Television News

Associated Press Television News (APTN) is a wholly owned subsidiary of AP. It was formally set up as a separate entity in 1994. It is run as a commercial entity and aims to make a profit. Any profit it does make is fed back to AP (which is non-profit making: APTN profits reduce the newsgathering costs incurred by the 1500 US newspapers that collectively own the AP). APTN is the largest television news gathering player (larger than Reuters, its only true competitor in this field). While AP is based in the US, APTN operates out of large premises in Camden, London. They have news teams, offices and broadcast facilities in just about every important place in the world.

APTN uses news crews and broadcast facilities all over the world to record video of newsworthy events (in News, Sport and Entertainment). These pictures are either sent unedited or very partially edited back to London. Most news is fed back within hours but they also cover and feed certain events live (news conferences in Iraq, press conferences after a sporting event etc.). Most of these stories are sent in with “natural sound”: there is no journalist providing a voice over, but the choice of what to shoot is in the hands of the local producer and camera crew. Local crews are sometimes employed directly by APTN, or more often “stringers” are hired for a particular event or paid for the footage they have already captured.

Once the stories have been fed back to the UK they are edited. This is a round the clock operation. The goal is to produce a 30 minute news bulletin comprising 6 or 7 stories every few hours. These stories are made by editing down the raw “rushes” that come in from all over the world. This is done by a team of producers who work for the news editor. They don’t supply a voice over but they do edit, discard and sequence pictures dictating the emphasis and direction of the story. They will accompany each story with a written description of each shot and the general reason this was a story. This is repeated for News, Sport & Entertainment with a geographical emphasis that shifts around the world as different markets wake and sleep. The output of this is called the “Global News Wire” (GNW).

The Business of TV News

This is how APTN makes its money: news organizations (mostly TV but not all) subscribe to APTN and pay an annual amount to both watch and then re-use the stories that are fed over the GNW. The stories are supplied with sound, but no journalist to do a voice over. Most commercial news stations (like the BBC, SKY, Fox or CNN) would take this feed, decide which pictures to use then re-edit it and supply an appropriate voice over for the story. The video comes with a written description of the shots and the events that occur in them.

The fee for this feed depends on the size of the receiving organization, their audience size and a negotiation with APTN’s sales force. It is pretty much impossible, however, to operate a TV news organization without taking feeds from either APTN or Reuters or usually both. The agreement with APTN usually allows the receiving news channel unlimited use of the video for two weeks. If they want to re-show those pictures after that they have to separately license the pictures (which can cost anything from $100 to $10,000 per 30 seconds depending on the content).

A Separate Service for Arab States

However, there is another significant part of their business model that affects the rest of the business. While most of the world takes news pictures with minimal interpretation beyond editing, the Arab Gulf States have asked for and receive a different and far more expensive service. These states pay for a complete news report service including full editing and voice overs from known journalists. The news organizations in the Arab countries don’t do anything (beyond verify that they are appropriate for local tastes) before broadcast.

What this means is that while there are around 50 people producing news pictures for the whole world working in Camden at any time, there are a further 50 Arabic speaking staff producing finished stories exclusively for the Arab states of the gulf. This has a tremendous effect on the whole feel of the building as these two teams feed pictures and people back and forth and sit in adjacent work areas. The slant of the stories required by the Gulf States has a definite effect on which footage is used and discarded. This affects both the Gulf newsroom and the main global newsroom.

This full service feed is much more expensive for the customers than the usual service, but it is also much higher margin for APTN. This is partly because there is great commonality in what they can send to most of the Gulf States taking this service: stories are made once and used in a number of countries.

Disproportionately Negative Coverage of Israel

Anything involving Israel is a favorite with Gulf Arab states for showing to their viewers. Could this be the reason why Israel receives such a disproportionate amount of particularly negative coverage especially and increasingly ever since the early 1970’s? HonestReporting is usually unable to decide which is most biased: AP or BBC. As the BBC is often using APTN footage, the difference is minor. A significant twist to what is seen, concerns what is not seen. Footage such as the Palestinian mob joyfully lynching two Israeli reservists in Ramallah in October 2000 is held by APTN’s library: any attempt to license this film for reshow is carefully vetted. Requests for the use of “sensitive clips” are referred directly to the Library director. This is not the case with clips that paint Israel in a bad light. Likewise, the re-showing of Palestinian celebrations on 9/11 is considered “sensitive”.

The way in which raw footage such as APTN’s is compiled into a news report and sent round the world has also been analyzed. The Second Draft gives a comprehensive view of how editing can make all the difference. APTN is the gatekeeper that sits between you and the actual event. You will never see what the editors at APTN see before they compile your evening news. What do you think is cut out?

The Wrap-Up

Was this organization set up with this in-built bias on purpose? Is there some way that the expensive payments made by Gulf state governments form part of a deliberate attempt to skew the media?

In “Islam and Dhimmitude” (2002) by Bat Ye’or on p294-296 she recounts how decisions were taken in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 to try to put across an anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist message. Successive conferences resolved to contribute vast sums “to universities, centers for Islamic studies, international communications agencies, and private and governmental organizations in order to win over world opinion.” (p296).

The messages from these conferences stressed an addition to the more familiar violent jihad: they also emphasized the importance of jihad by the written and spoken word—what we would recognize as classic propaganda. Without question APTN’s interesting business model represents a concrete example of an ongoing financial “contribution” to an important communication agency promoting a pro-Arab bias.

Is Israel really that bad?

Yair Lapid has a few questions for Israelis who think that things are so bad around here
Yair Lapid

If the state of education is so bad here, academia is in a freefall, and the brain-drain is in full force, how do you explain the fact that our high-tech sector is so successful, that the number of scientific publications is the highest in the world per capita (just like the number of patents,) and that we invented the disk-on-key and cell phone text messages?

If we don’t care about anything anymore and have no interest in what’s happening in the country, how do you explain the fact that Rabin Square gets filled up by protestors five times a year, that the evening newscasts are the most watched TV shows, and that most arguments around here are about politics? If the public lost its faith in the IDF, our mutual responsibility is fading, and the number of draft-dodgers is skyrocketing, how do you explain the fact that all of us are so preoccupied with the fate of our captives, and that the round of recruitment that enlisted to the IDF immediately after the Second Lebanon War broke an all-time record after 70.8% of new recruits asked to join combat units?

If government corruption is everywhere and the law is a joke, how do you explain the fact that the son of a former prime minister is in jail, the former Labor minister was recently convicted over a bribe, and that our prime minister is constantly under investigation?

If our press has became silly like in America, yellow like in England, and irresponsible like in Italy, how do you explain the fact that newspapers last week cast aside all our supermodels to make room for publishing a chapter from David Grossman’s new book?

If the economy is collapsing, the concern for the poor is constantly declining, and the Treasury has been taken over by a gang of neo-conservatives who do whatever they feel like, how do you explain the fact that the number of poor Israelis has declined for the second year in a row, that the Wisconsin Plan appears to be a success story, and that not even one person has died of hunger in the history of our country?

If every ultra-Orthodox family has 10 children and more people are becoming religious, how do you explain the fact that the ultra-Orthodox have remained 8% of the population, exactly as they were when Israel was established?

Life expectancy high, unemployment low

If the Russian immigrants are failing to integrate, prefer to live in their own ghettos, read Russian newspapers, watch Russian television, and shop at their own shops, how do you explain the fact that all of them learned Hebrew, that their children are joining the IDF en masse, that about 80% of them own their apartment (a higher percentage than the general population), and that they show no intention of returning to Moscow?

If our youths are violent and detached, drink too much alcohol, and only care about going to clubs and stabbing each other, how do you explain the fact that close to 250,000 children are members of youth groups, and that tens of thousands choose to embark on a year of social service or join groups that help the needy?

If our immigration police is facing collapse because of the burden, the Agriculture Ministry brings here masses of Thai workers, every elderly Israeli has a Filipino nurse, and thousands of Palestinians come here to work every day, how do you explain the fact that unemployment in the first quarter of the year dropped to 6.5%, a 15-year low?

If our healthcare system is collapsing, our doctors are leaving, and extra health insurance coverage costs a fortune, how do you explain the fact that our per capita national expenditure dedicated to healthcare is only 7.8% of our GDP, roughly half of what it is in the US, and only two thirds of what it is in Germany and France? And how do you explain the fact that life expectancy here is higher than in all the abovementioned countries?

If President Bush is the best friend Israel ever had, Italy’s Berlusconi declares that he is warmly pro-Zionist, France’s Sarkozy decided to include Holocaust studies at every school in the country, Germany’s Angela Merkel ended the support for the Palestinian Authority and visited the Knesset to tell us how much she loves us, and Tony Blair appointed himself as a peace ambassador, how do you explain the fact that we feel like everyone hates us?

If our personal safety is declining, crime is skyrocketing, and we no longer can leave the house for fear that someone will rob us, how do you explain the fact that in a particularly broad national poll 81% of Israelis said that they are satisfied with their neighborhood and 75% said that “they feel safe when they walk alone on the street at night?”

If girls here have bad taste in clothing, every third girl gets a piercing in her belly button, half of them are tattooed like an Irish sailor, and the sweat wipes off their makeup three minutes after they leave the house, how do you explain the fact that every tourist who arrives here immediately declares that Israeli women are the most beautiful in the world?

If we have turned into a bunch of uncultured barbarians who yell on the street, swear, show contempt to academia and the arts, and only watch television, how do you explain the fact that we are number one in the world when it comes to museums per capita, number two in the world when it comes to reading books, that the percentage of Israelis who go to the theater (41%) is double the percentage of those who go to soccer games, and that one of four Israelis attended a classical music performance this year?

If we suffer so much, a plane ticket on sale is only $240, and Canada is happy to let us in, how do you explain the fact that we’re still here?

Iraqi Author 'Aref 'Alwan: The Jews Have an Historic Right to Palestine

In an article posted December 7, 2007, on the leftist website, [1] 'Aref 'Alwan, an Iraqi author and playwright who resides in London and is the author of 12 novels, [2] states that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine because their presence there preceded the Arab conquest and has continued to this day.

In the article, titled "Do the Jews Have Any Less Right to Palestine than the Arabs?" 'Alwan called on the Arab world to acknowledge the Jews' right to Palestine, because justice demanded it and also because doing so would end the violence and the killing of Arabs, as well as intra-Arab strife. He added that such a move would also open up new avenues for the Arab world that would be more consistent with the values and needs of modern society. 'Alwan writes that the Arab League is to blame for the refusal to recognize the 1947 U.N. partition plan, for starting a war to prevent its implementation, and for the results of that war, which the Arabs call the Nakba (disaster). He points an accusing finger at the Arab regimes, the Arab League, and the educated circles in the Arab world, saying that they had all used the term "nakba" to direct popular consciousness toward a cultural tradition that neither accepts the other side nor recognizes its rights - thereby promoting bigotry, violence and extremism. He also claims that there have been attempts to rewrite Palestinian history, in order to deny any connection between it and the Jewish people.

'Alwan contends that the "Nakba mentality" among Arabs has boomeranged, giving rise to tyrannical rulers, extremist clerics, and religious zealots of every description. In his view, the Arab world will never shed the stigma of terrorism in the West unless it abandons this concept and all that it entails.

To boost his claim that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine, 'Alwan provides an overview of Jewish history in the land of Israel. He questions the validity of the Islamic traditions underpinning the Arab claim to Palestine, Jerusalem, and the TempleMount, and presents evidence that religions that preceded Islam had conducted rituals on the TempleMount.

As an example of the traditional Arab mentality that does not accept the other or recognize his rights, 'Alwan discusses the Arabs' abuse of the Kurds in Iraq and of the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon.

The following are excerpts from the article:

The Nakba: A Great Lie

"When the Salafi mob in Gaza tied the hands and feet of a senior Palestinian official and hurled him, alive, from the 14th floor, I asked myself: What political or religious precepts must have been inculcated into the minds of these young people to make them treat a human life with such shocking cruelty?

"Earlier, I had watched on TV as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers were thrown from the second floor [of a building] in a Palestinian city. Whether or not it was the same Salafi mob behind that incident, [one asks oneself]: What language, [or rather,] what historic linguistic distortion could have erased from the human heart [all] moral sensibilities when dealing with a living and helpless human being?

"Arabs who are averse to such inhuman behavior must help me expose and eliminate the enormous lie that has for 60 years justified, extolled, and supported brutality. [Such behavior] is no longer limited to the expression of unconscious [impulses] by individuals, but constitutes a broad cultural phenomenon, which began in Lebanon, [spread to] Iraq and Palestine, and then [spread] - slowly but surely - to other Arab states as well.

"This enormous lie is what the Arabs called the Nakba - that is, the establishment of two states in Palestine: the state of Israel, which the Jews agreed to accept, and the state of Palestine, which the Arabs rejected.

"In our times, when science, with its accurate instruments, can predict climatic changes that will lead to drought or the movement of tectonic plates that causes earthquakes, it is inconceivable that a modern man can, without making a laughingstock of himself, attribute the destruction of cities ancient or modern to the wrath of Allah. Nevertheless, today, 80% of Arabs claim this to be the case. They are neither embarrassed nor afraid of being laughed at.

"This high percentage includes not only the illiterates who densely populate rural areas, villages, and small and large cities, but also students, teachers, lecturers, graduates of institutions of higher education, scientists, technology experts, physicians, graduates of religious universities such as Al-Azhar, historians, and politicians who have held or are currently holding public office.

"It is those numerous educated elites who have forced the Arab mentality into a narrow, restrictive, and deficient cultural mold, spewing violence, terrorism, and zealotry, and prohibiting innovative thought... All this was done to instill a false sense of oppression in the hearts of the Arabs, and to destroy them with the infectious disease of despair and confusion.

"[This attitude] is rooted in the 1947 Arab League resolution stating that Palestine is a 'stolen' land and that none but a Muslim Arab is entitled to benefit from it as an autonomous [political entity], even if another's historic roots there predate those of the Muslims or the Arabs."

The Nakba Boomerang

"[The upshot] of this confusion in [Arab] mentality is that the lie has boomeranged on the Arabs. [Thus] appeared [on the scene] Saddam Hussein, Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar Al-Assad, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, Hassan Nasrallah, Nabih Berri, Khaled Mash'al, Isma'il Haniya, and Mahmoud Al-Zahar, whose young [thugs] threw the senior Palestinian official from the 14th floor. Finally, from the foot of the eastern mountains bordering the Middle East came Ahmadinejad, who is committed to preparing the way for the anarchy and destruction that accompanies the advent of the long-awaited Mahdi, who will resolve the Palestinian problem.

"Today, owing to the ideological distortions that have afflicted the Arab popular consciousness since the so-called Nakba, and [also owing] to the lies that have accumulated around this notion, [the label of] 'terrorism' has become attached to Arabs, wherever they are.

"Despite the great political and cultural efforts by large and important Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and some Gulf states to restore Arab ties with the rest of the world, and to curb the culture of terrorism in Arab societies, they have all failed. This is because these attempts to rectify [the situation], from both within and without [the Arab countries], both stemmed from and were a logical extension of the concept of the Nakba.

"This proves that the Arabs have no hope of extricating themselves from the cultural and political challenge of terrorism unless they come up with [new] and different [fundamental] premises, and with an outlook completely free of the fetters of the religious ritual that they have devised in modern times and called the Nakba.

"Although Palestinian senior officials, leaders, educated circles, and public figures, whose patriotism is beyond doubt, have come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel, the aforementioned 80% of Arabs... do not accept this view, and consider it religious apostasy. Leaders of the [Arab] states in the region, and party leaders, inflame sentiment, entrancing them with the drumbeat of extremism.

"With the strident chorus of its secretaries, the Arab League ensures that every car crash in Gaza or the West Bank is interpreted as an Israeli conspiracy against the Arab future. This is because the Arab League... was established as a pan-Arab entity whose main function was to write reports and studies rife with distortions of fact so as to quell the conscience of any Arab who dared think independently and expunge [the concept of] the Nakba from his consciousness. [It has done] this instead of devising creative strategies for cultural and economic development, so as to improve the deteriorating standard of living in the Arab societies."

The Nakba is Rooted in a Culture that Does Not Recognize the Right of the Other

"Why did the partition resolution, which gave a state in Palestine to the Jews and one to the Arabs next to it, become the Nakba - [the star] that rises and sets daily over the Arab lands without emitting even the tiniest ray of light to illuminate the path for their peoples?

"Did the Jews have any less right to Palestine than the Arabs? What historic criteria can be used to determine the precedence of one [nation's] right over that of the other?

"Refusing to recognize the right of the other so as to usurp his rights was a governing principle of the Islamic conquests from the time of 'Omar bin Al-Khattab; during that historical period it was the norm. [But] at the turn of the [20th] century, this principle was abandoned and prohibited, because it sparked wars and [violent] conflict. The international community passed laws restricting the principle of non-acceptance of the other, in the founding principles of the League of Nations in 1919. Subsequently, with the U.N.'s establishment, these laws were developed [further], with appendices and commentary, to adapt them to the current historical era and to express the commonly accepted values of national sovereignty and peoples' right to self-determination.

"But because of their sentimental yearning for the past and zealous adherence to [old] criteria, the Arabs purged their hearts of any inclination to adjust to the spirit of the age. They thus became captives of the principle of non-acceptance of the other and of denying the other [the right] to live, [among] other rights.

"As a result, damage was done to the rights and interests of non-Arab nations and ethnic groups in the Arab lands - among them the Kurds, the Copts, and the Jews. [Thus,] the Arabs still treat the numerous minorities that came under their dominion 1,400 years ago in accordance with the laws from the era of Arab conquest.

"Despite the consequences of denying the other the right to exist, not to mention other rights - that is, [despite] the oppression, conflicts, wars, and instability [resulting from this]... the Arabs have steadfastly clung to their clearly chauvinist position. All problems in the region arising from minorities' increasing awareness of their rights have been dealt with by the Arabs in accordance with [the principle of non-acceptance]... [even] after the emergence of international institutions giving these rights legal validity, in keeping with the mentality and rationale of our time."

Refusing to Accept the Other: The Kurds in Iraq; the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

The Kurds

"The denial of the Kurds' national rights by the Iraqi government, and the Arab League's support for it, has brought on wars lasting 50 years - that is, three-quarters of the life span of the state that arose in Iraq...

"After fabricating arguments to justify the [1921] combining of the Basra region with the Baghdad region in order to establish a new state in Iraq, British colonialist interests demanded that a large area historically populated by Kurds be added to the new state. [This was done] to satisfy the aspirations of King Faisal bin Al-Hussein [bin Ali Al-Hashemi], who had been proposed as head of state in return for protecting British interests in the region.

"In his persistent refusal to grant the Kurds their rights, from 1988 through 1989 Saddam Hussein murdered approximately 180,000 Kurds, in an organized [genocidal] campaign he called 'Al-Anfal.' He then used mustard gas against one [Kurdish] city (Halabja), killing its residents (5,000 people). The Arab conscience silently acquiesced to this human slaughterhouse, while Arab League secretary-general (Shadhli Al-Qalibi) called the international press coverage of these events 'a colonialist conspiracy against the Arabs and the Iraqi regime.'

"Syrian Kurds are considered second-class citizens, and are banned from using their language or [practicing] their culture in public."

The Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

"The ethnic oppression of the Kurds [in Iraq] was echoed by sectarian extremism against the Copts [in Egypt]. In both cases, the Arabs used the principle of denying the existence of the other so as to strip him of his rights.

"The Copts, who [initially] assimilated Arabs into their society, but who have over time themselves assimilated into Arab society, discover time and again that this assimilated state is but a surface shell, which quickly cracks whenever they demand equality... As a result, Egypt, as a state, is gripped by constant social tensions that keep rising to the surface and threatening to undermine its stability...

"Sectarian extremism in Egypt took the form of an organized party with the 1928 emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, with the aim of splitting Egyptian society into two mutually hostile and conflicting parts. This was in line with the Arab religious and political principle of denying legitimacy to all non-Muslims or non-Arabs, [a principle practiced] since the Muslim armies reached Egypt in 639 [CE]...

"In Lebanon, the presence of armed Palestinian militias - which was in accordance with the decision of the Arab states - encouraged the formation of Lebanese militias, both Sunni and Shi'ite. Chanting slogans proclaiming Palestinian liberation, they frightened Christians by appearing armed in streets swarming with Lebanese [citizens] and tourists.

"This eventually led to a confrontation with Christian militias, which had also armed themselves out of fear of the pan-Arab slogans and fear for the [preservation of] the rights of the Christian sects.

"Lebanon was engulfed by an ugly 15-year civil war, that ended only after Syria, which had played an ignominious role as instigator [of the hostilities], attained full protectorate status over Lebanese affairs and the Lebanese people - [and this] took on the nature of colonialist hegemony...

"After the Lebanese were liberated from this [Syrian] control, in 2005 the clouds of civil war - albeit of a different kind - reappeared on the Lebanese horizon. The Arab League is making no effort to prevent the eruption [of this civil war] for two main reasons. First, the Syrian regime still supports ethnic tension, in order to regain control of Lebanon; and second, the current majority government, which opposes the renewed Syrian influence, is predominantly Christian...

"We had hoped that the Arab national conscience would recover from the illness afflicting it since the time of the Nakba, and that it would adopt [views] which, if not ahead of their time, would at least be appropriate to our time. But a group of journalists, writers, and several Arab historians guided by the principle of non-acceptance of the other has twisted the facts and concocted a false and gloomy history of the region - thereby trampling these dreams to the ground."

Jews Have a Rich and Ancient History in Palestine

"The Arabs see the Palestinian problem as exceedingly complicated, while it actually appears so only to them - [that is], from the point of view of the Arabs' emotional attitudes and their national and religious philosophy. The Arabs have amassed false claims regarding their exclusive right to the Palestinian land, [and] these are based on phony arguments and on several axioms taken from written and oral sources - most of which they [themselves] created after the Islamic, and which they forbade anyone, Arab or foreigner, from questioning.

"When the Arabs agreed to U.N. arbitration... to resolve the Palestinian problem, it transpired that their axioms clearly contradicted reliable historical documents [that] this new international organization [had in its possession]. As a result, they wasted decades stubbornly defending the validity of their documents, which do not correspond to the officially accepted version of the region's history - which is based on concrete and solid evidence [such as] archaeological findings in the land of Palestine, the holy books of the three monotheistic religions, accounts by Roman, Greek, and Jewish historians... and modern historical research..."

Jewish and Christian Ritual Sites in Jerusalem Predate Muslim Sites

"[A look at] the story of Al-Aqsa is now in order - a site considered holy by Muslim Arabs, who call it 'Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif' [The Noble Sanctuary] and [believe that] it was set aside for them by Allah since the time of Adam.

"[This site] contains several places of worship, including the Dome of the Rock, built by the [Umayyad Caliph] 'Abd Al-Malik bin Marwan in the seventh century CE - that is, 72 years after the Muslim conquests. This religious public gathering place was erected over a prominent [foundation] stone at the peak of 'Mount Moriah.' [Mount Moriah] contains three ancient Jewish public worship sites, as well as [some] Christian sites... The octagonal structure of the Dome of the Rock Mosque was constructed on the site of an ancient Byzantine church, adjoining Solomon's Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

"Since the majority of Muslims claim that the Temple Mount is an Islamic site to which no one else is entitled, they do not acknowledge the presence of Jewish and Christian places of worship predating the Dome of the Rock within its walls...

"The Arabs take great pride in their tolerance of and benign treatment of the Jews and Christians who lived under the Muslim rule since the Muslim conquests. This account is part of the distortions underpinning the edifice of the Arabs' religious and national culture. [Arab] writers and historians keep eulogizing this epoch... while the truth is the opposite of what they claim. [Indeed,] the Pact of 'Omar [compelled] the Jews and the Christians to choose between either abandoning their religion and embracing Islam, or paying the [poll] tax in return for being permitted to reside... and receive protection of life and property in their homeland. [The Pact of 'Omar] allowed them to practice their religion, build new houses of worship, and repair the old ones [only] with the permission of a Muslim ruler, and subject to numerous conditions.

"In subsequent historical periods, the Muslims imposed [additional restrictions] on the members of [these] two religions: They forbade them to raise their voices during prayer; [they forced them] to conduct their prayers and religious ceremonies in closed areas so as not [to disturb] passersby; they forbade them to carry weapons, ride saddled horses, or build houses taller than those of the Muslims. [Christians and Jews] were required to show respect for the Muslims, e.g. by giving up their seat to a Muslim if he wanted it. They were banned from holding government posts or from working in 'sensitive' public places.

"The Koranic verses cursing the Jews and casting doubt on [the veracity of] their Holy Book [the Torah] promulgated a desire among Arabs to set themselves above the Jews who lived in their midst, humiliating and persecuting them even without pretext. In time, this treatment made large numbers of Jews abandon their cities and their land and emigrate... while those who stayed [in Palestine] until the 19th century remained marginalized, living among the Arabs like criminals in a foreign land...

"The Arabs claim that the 'Wailing Wall' has been their property since the Prophet Muhammad tied his horse Al-Buraq to one of its supports when Allah transported him by night from the Holy Mosque in Mecca to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem... Although this night-journey story seems dubious, Arab historiography after the advent of Islam contains such oddities as giving a horse the prerogative of making a wall weighing more than 2,000 tons into Muslim property. This is only one of thousands of examples of tales concocted by zealots, with which they swept away the Arab imagination.

"...When the U.N. resolution on the partition of Palestine was issued on November 29, 1947... the Arabs refused to recognize it. They thereby rejected the state set out by the resolution as the right of the Palestinians and the Arabs, with the aim of establishing legal and historical equity. The Arabs called this resolution the Nakba, while their new states, formed several years before the State of Israel, launched the first war against Israel, in which regular military operations were combined with local attacks by gangs comprising Palestinians and Arabs from Arab regions near and far. [That war] ended in [the Arabs'] defeat. Persisting in their error, the Arabs established refugee camps for the Palestinians who had fled during and after the war...

"Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas... was the first Palestinian leader to acknowledge that the Christian church in Gaza plundered by Hamas gangs had stood there 'before [we] came to Gaza.' By this he meant 'we the Palestinians' - particularly the current Gaza residents, [the descendants of] Bedouins from the Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula and of others, of unknown origin. [These people were] attracted by the wealth of the new Islamic state that extended from Persia to Southern Ethiopia, and came after the Muslim conquests and set themselves up over the local population - Christians, Jews, Phoenicians, Byzantines, and the remnants of the Sumerians...

Arabs Must Recognize the Jews' Right to Palestine

"In order to prevent more bloodshed among the innocent [population]... and in order to keep the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, and the West Bank from making [these regions into] a quagmire that will spread to engulf all Arab states and societies, the Arabs must reassess the question of the Nakba and come up with a new, courageous vision for the region and for the future of its residents.

"[This vision] must involve public recognition of the Jews' legitimate right to their state - which is based on historical fact - instead of [recognition] of the writings filled with anger and demagogy produced and formed into an ideology by the confused [Arab] consciousness - a consciousness built upon lies, myths, and distortions stemming from the principle of non-acceptance of the other.

"The most important factor in strengthening such a new vision is [the adoption of] a principle [requiring] official condemnation of all individuals, groups, companies, religious and political parties, and totalitarian regimes that built their glory and hollow leaderships upon the notion of the Nakba, and which are always ready to absorb other false claims and fabrications.

"This must be done, so that a modern Arab face is turned to the world - [a face reflecting] ethical values that will not allow any Arab, under any pretext, to oppress his son or his brother who differs from him in religion, ethnicity, or ideology."

[1] (formerly ), December 7, 2007.

[2] 'Aref 'Alwan is the first Arab author to publish his novels on the Internet. His doing so was the subject of his January 20, 2005 interview in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.