Saturday, October 04, 2008

Palestinian Abbas plans Syria visit

MK Tibi says Palestinian Authority leader to visit Damascus October 12 to discuss Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Damascus this month to discuss efforts to reconcile his Fatah movement with Islamist Hamas rivals and peace talks with Israel, Palestinian officials said on Friday. Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab lawmaker and confidant of Abbas, told Reuters the Palestinian leader would visit Damascus on October 12 for consultations.

Tibi said Abbas has been in close contact with Assad to coordinate positions on issues including efforts to reconcile Fatah with Hamas since the Islamists seized control of Gaza from Abbas last year.

Fatah officials said Egypt would host reconciliation talks among several Palestine Liberation Organisation factions and Hamas on October 14, then submit a report to the Arab League, which has been trying to resolve the feud.

Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator, also confirmed Abbas' plans to meet Assad, saying they would seek to "coordinate positions on all issues."

Abbas' ties with Syria had long been strained over the location of Hamas headquarters in Damascus, but have improved recently with Abbas' visit to Damascus in July and his talks this year with Assad in European and Arab capitals.

Abbas and Assad have each held separate inconclusive talks with Israel in the past year. The talks with Syria were indirect, with Turkish mediation.

Israel warns Hizbullah war would invite destruction

IDF Northern Command chief says in any future war Israel would use ' disproportionate' force on Lebanese villages from which Hizbullah will fire rockets at its cities. 'From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases,' Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot tells Yedioth Ahronoth

Israel would use "disproportionate" force to destroy Lebanese villages from which Hizbullah guerrillas fired rockets at its cities in any future war, an Israeli general said in remarks published on Friday. "What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on," said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army's northern division.

Dahiya was a Hizbullah stronghold that Israel flattened in sustained air raids during a 34-day war with the Shiite group two years ago.

"We will apply disproportionate force on it (village) and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases," Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

"This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved," Eisenkot added.

Some 1,200 Lebanese and 159 Israelis were killed during the war, which was sparked by a Hizbullah cross-border attack against an Israeli army patrol.

'Hizbullah building capabilities against us'

The army's failure to halt daily barrages of rockets against Israeli cities during the war prompted a wave of criticism of military commanders as well as calls on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign over his handling of the conflict.

Israel accused Hizbullah of firing rockets from civilian homes in southern Lebanon during the war, a claim echoed by human rights groups who also accused Israel of using excessive force that claimed the lives of innocent civilians.

Eisenkot said Hizbullah, backed by Iran and Syria, had significantly improved its rocket fire capability since the end of the war two years ago.

He rejected accusations that Israel was violating a UN-brokered ceasefire by sending aircraft on reconnaissance flights over Lebanon, saying the aerial missions were necessary given that Iran and Syria continue to arm Hizbullah in breach of the UN truce.

"Hizbullah is building capabilities against us that contravene the agreement signed by the Lebanese government at the end of the war," said Eisenkot. "Therefore there is legitimacy to continue the flights over southern Lebanon and over Lebanon in general."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Palin stands her ground in VP debate with Biden

In feisty debate with Democratic opponent, Republican vice presidential nominee accuses Obama of preparing to wave a 'white flag of surrender' in Iraq; both candidates express their support for Israel. Polls conducted immediately after debate declare Biden the winner

AP and Yitzhak Benhorin
Israel News

WASHINGTON - A well-coached Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a novice on the American political stage and the first woman nominated by the Republicans as vice president, recited the party's campaign play book with ease. In a feisty debate with Democratic opponent Sen. Joe Biden, she accused his presidential running mate Barack Obama of preparing to wave a "white flag of surrender" in Iraq. Biden shot back Thursday night that she and Republican presidential nominee John McCain were "dead wrong" about Iraq from the beginning, and the United States was wasting $10 billion a month in that country while ignoring the real center of terrorism, Afghanistan and its mountainous shared border with Pakistan.

Palin: Don't 'second guess' Israel / Ynetnews
Republic vice presidential candidate says in interview to CBS that Israel must have the opportunity and ability to protect itself, emphasizes that US can't afford to send message that they would allow second Holocaust
Full story

According to polls conducted immediately after the debate, Biden defeated his opponent. In a CBS survey, 46% of respondents said the Democratic vice presidential candidate overpowered the Republican nominee, while only 22% said Palin had won.

A CNN poll also crowned Biden the winner, with 51%, while Palin was supported by only 36% of respondents.

Americans voters were treated to one of the most intensely awaited political exchanges in an already historic presidential campaign that has stretched across well more than a year and culminates with the US financial system threatened with collapse and voters facing the possibility of economic pain not felt in the country since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Palin also charged Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, of voting against funding for US troops in combat and chastised Biden for defending the move, "especially with your son in the National Guard" and headed for Iraq.

"John McCain voted against funding for the troops," as well, Biden countered, adding that McCain had been "dead wrong on the fundamental issues relating to the conduct of the war."

Biden did not immediately reply to Palin's mention of his son, Beau, the Delaware attorney general, who is scheduled to fly to Fort Bliss, Texas, on Friday before deploying to Iraq. Palin has a son who is in Iraq with the Alaska National Guard, although she did not mention that.

The only issue the two VP candidates seemed to agree about was their support for Israel. They both made it clear that they support a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, without pressuring Israel to accept an imposed solution.

Israel is our strongest ally, Palin said, vowing not to allow a second Holocaust despite Iran's desire to destroy the Jewish state. She promised the McCain administration will continue to work with Israel.

'Beyond bad judgment'

Palin also called Obama naive for saying he was willing to engage the leaders of Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

"That is beyond bad judgment. That is dangerous," Palin said.

The face-off began with Palin saying the best way to gauge Americans' feelings about the failing US financial system and a pending $700 billion federal rescue plan was to go to a community soccer game and ask the parents on the sidelines.

"I bet you're going to hear fear," she said, assuring voters that she and McCain were the "mavericks" who could reform the system that allowed the financial crisis to develop.

Palin said "Joe Six-packs and hockey moms across the country" needed to band together to say "never again." Those are both terms Palin has used to describe herself as she has sought to ingratiate herself with middle-class Americans.

Palin and Biden (Photo: AFP)

As Biden sought repeatedly to convince voters that McCain and Palin had proposed nothing that would change the policies of the Bush administration, Palin said: "There you go again," borrowing a famous line that former President Ronald Reagan used in his debate with President Jimmy Carter. She challenged Biden to look forward not backward.

With the Republican ticket falling in the polls, Palin was carrying a heavy burden in the back and forth with Biden, a 36-year veteran of the US Senate.

McCain took a huge gamble in choosing Palin, whose addition to the ticket initially mobilized the party's conservative base around his candidacy. In the intervening weeks, however, her inexperience and provincial demeanor have become fodder for late-night television comedians.

Also, in the month since she stepped onto the national stage, the 44-year-old Palin has proved uneven in solo news interviews, showing a lack of experience and breadth of knowledge normally expected in a candidate who would take over in the White House should the 72-year-old McCain win the election, then become incapacitated.

An Associated Press-Gfk poll released Wednesday found that just 25% of likely voters believe Palin has the right experience to be president. That is down from 41% just after the Republican convention, when the Alaska governor made her well-received national political debut. The same survey shows Democrat Barack Obama with a 48% to 41% lead in voter preference with less than five weeks remaining until Election Day, November 4.

'Obama promoting redistribution of wealth'

Biden opened the debate by blaming the Republican party's handling of the country's economy over the eight years of President George W. Bush's administration, which Biden said would be continued by a President John McCain.

He also defended the Obama plan to raise taxes of Americans making more than $250,000 annually as a matter of "simple fairness."

"This is not punitive," he said, adding that middle class Americans deserved tax breaks.

Palin said Obama was promoting a "redistribution of wealth" that would result in fewer jobs and a reduction of tax revenues.

Biden called the Republican Party's plan for revising the American health insurance system the "ultimate bridge to nowhere," referring to the financial boondoggle that was killed in Alaska after first being supported by Palin, as governor.

Palin refused to blame global warming on human activity, but conceded the Earth's climate was changing. Biden said the planet was growing warmer because of the burning of carbon dioxide-emitting fuels, and Republicans could not solve the problem because they did not acknowledge its true cause.

Palin stood her ground against a man 21 years her elder and one of the Senate's foreign policy deans. Biden, loquacious and gaffe-prone, made it through the 90-minute confrontation without stumbling or talking himself into a corner.

Public Broadcasting Service journalist Gwen Ifill moderated the debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. She had become part of the pre-debate news coverage because of criticism from some conservatives over a book she is writing, titled "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." It examines how politics have changed among black Americans since the civil rights era of the 1960s. The journalist says she has not yet written the chapter on Obama and questioned why critics assume it will be favorable toward the Democratic candidate, a first-term Illinois senator.

'Gotcha journalism'

Palin has seemed poorly informed in the few interviews she has granted. In a CBS television News interview aired Wednesday she appeared unable to cite a US Supreme Court decision with which she disagreed while saying many decisions had divided Americans. She likewise could not name magazines and newspapers that she reads.

She also has been widely lampooned for citing Alaska's proximity to Russia as an example of her foreign policy expertise. Palin has never visited Russia, and until last year she had never traveled outside North America.

McCain and other Republicans criticized such questions as "gotcha journalism," and he defended his running mate in appearances Thursday on several television talk shows.

Also Thursday, McCain abandoned efforts to win Michigan, a Great Lakes industrial state where he had thought he might win.

Republican officials with knowledge of the strategy said McCain was removing staff, curtailing advertising and canceling visits to the battleground state. Resources will be sent to Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida and other competitive states.

Polls show support shifting rapidly to Obama since the first presidential debate on September 26 in Mississippi. Although the candidates discussed the depth of their experience and their foreign policy preferences, it appeared that their comments on the faltering US economy most influenced voters.

Both men, as well as Biden, returned to their Senate seats on Wednesday to cast votes in favor of the much-revised $700 billion Bush administration plan to rescue America's failing financial system. The measure, rejected Monday by the House of Representatives, was expected to go to the floor a second time, perhaps on Friday. The first House vote sent the stock market into a 778-point nose-dive, the largest one-day point drop in history.

Amnesty’s obsession with Israel

Amnesty persistently condemns Israel while ignoring suffering elsewhere

Yael Beck, Merav Fima
Israel Opinion

Even in a month when war raged in Georgia, Amnesty International continued to focus on the Gaza Strip, persistently blaming Israel for ongoing Palestinian hardship. Amnesty, in fact, issued harsher condemnations of Israel than of any party to the Georgian conflict. With a ceasefire holding between Israel and Hamas, resulting in a period of calm, Amnesty stubbornly continued to spew hollow publications repeating outdated allegations.

Moreover, Amnesty took pride in its relentless criticism of Israel, while the rest of the world rightly concerned itself with the unfolding crisis in Georgia. In a press release, the organization boasted: “With the ceasefire holding, the suffering in Gaza has fallen off the international news agenda. However, Amnesty International members continue to campaign.” This “explanation” merely highlights Amnesty's obsession with Israel, regardless of the reality on the ground.

Regular readers of Amnesty’s material are not fooled by their non-stop publications condemning Israel and can easily discern that they seldom reveal anything new. Many of its press releases are identical, except for minor alterations. Amnesty’s ulterior motive appears to be to maintain a constant production rate of material denouncing Israel, regardless of actual developments.

For example, Amnesty’s distasteful decision to continue issuing condemnations of Israel during a period of intense intra-Palestinian fighting clearly illustrates the point. Unsurprisingly, Amnesty failed to mention, let alone praise, Israel’s commendable acceptance of Fatah members fleeing from Hamas.

While devoting so many of its resources to Gaza, at a time of acute suffering and human rights abuses in Georgia, Amnesty International failed to provide effective coverage of the Georgian conflict. Although one would reasonably expect Amnesty to immediately respond with urgency to such a crisis, raising awareness for its victims, Amnesty preferred to focus on its usual target: Israel.

For instance, on August 12, 2008, the organization released a statement headlined “Trapped – collective punishment in Gaza.” An expanded version was re-issued on August 27, 2008. As NGO Monitor analysis has demonstrated, the report lacks evidence and credibility, largely ignores the context of terrorism, exploits international legal terminology, and presents data in a highly selective and distorted manner.

Concurrently, Amnesty released a series of vague and neutral statements calling on all sides of the conflict in the Caucuses to avoid harming civilians, without assuming a clear stance, nor providing comprehensive reporting on the events.

Lame response to Georgian conflict

Amnesty's scarce coverage of the war in Georgia is not the result of inaccessibility. Human Rights Watch managed to provide ongoing and insightful coverage, based on its delegation's observations. Such limp statements on Amnesty's part betray its commitment to the defense of every individual’s human rights.

Disappointingly, Amnesty expressed less concern regarding the events in Georgia, despite the fact that a greater number of civilians were killed during that conflict than over the course of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. On that occasion, Amnesty rushed to condemn Israel in almost-daily publications. It did not hesitate to portray Israel as an aggressor and largely ignored the fact that civilians in northern Israel suffered a constant barrage of rockets launched by the Hizbullah terrorist organization.

Amnesty’s lame response to the recent Georgian conflict, overshadowed by its focus on Israel, indicates that the Second Lebanon War simply served as an incentive for Amnesty to pursue its shameless Israel-bashing. Had its aversion to war been genuine, Amnesty would have responded as forcefully or even more vocally to the Georgian conflict.

Were it truly concerned with the universality of human rights, Amnesty would apply the same standards to all countries. Hence, Amnesty's aim appears clear: to persistently condemn Israel, even if it means neglecting those suffering in other, more pressing conflicts across the world.

The authors are researchers at NGO Monitor,

ADL sees surge of anti-Semitism following market crisis

Internet forum, blogs rife with newfound wave of 'virulent' anti-Jewish rhetoric tied to ongoing financial calamity. 'Whenever there is trouble or uncertainty in the economy or world events, Jews become the scapegoats,' says ADL director

Yitzhak Benhorin
Israel News

WASHINGTON – The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a report on Thursday warning of a sharp resurgence of anti-Semitism in the wake of the financial crisis. Internet discussion boards and blogs dealing with the meltdown on Wall Street are being flooded with hate speech, ADL says "We know from modern history that whenever there is a downturn in the global economy, there will be an upturn in the level of anti-Semitism and bigotry, and that is what we are seeing now," said ADL National Director Abe Foxman.

"The age-old canards about Jews and money are always just beneath the surface. As we witnessed after 9/11, whenever there is trouble or uncertainty in the economy or world events, Jews become the scapegoats, and ugly anti-Semitic canards are given new life."

In hundreds of messages echoing rhetoric found on neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites, posters to mainstream forums promote centuries-old stereotypes and conspiracy theories alleging Jewish control of the economy, banking and the government.

The ADL notes that several posts "have gone so far as to resurrect Nazi-era propaganda with threads such as 'The Jewish Problem' or comments such as, 'The Final Solution 2?."

Other examples: 'Jews have infiltrated Wall Street and Government and have ruined our country.'

'What is a GS Jew? Goldman Sachs?'

'Jews are greedy, rotten slime balls. They (Jews) love money nothing else, no faith or religion can be so heartless to their victims.'

"The good news is that providers of Internet services and moderators of message boards and even individual users are quick to react whenever anti-Semitism enters the discussion," said Foxman. "The service providers are responsive, and in most cases the offensive messages are quickly removed. But in many cases - especially with online discussions that occur in real time and are closely followed by large groups of users - the damage is already done."

The report says that in addition to the text posts, some are also posting videos to sites like YouTube, claiming that the Jews "are exploiting the current economic crisis as part of greater conspiracy to control the country and to harm non-Jews."

Who are we?

If ever national soul-searching was called for in Israel, it is now

Arlene Kushner
Israel Opinion

Do we know any longer? The signs are strong that here in Israel we have lost our way. We have now entered the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If ever national soul-searching was called for, it is now:

We are an ancient people, with a bond to the land that is 3,000 years old. Driven out two millennia ago, we did what no other people has ever done – what the historians had thought was impossible: We returned to the land, with identity intact, and with the sanction of international law. We revived our ancient language and have flourished beyond all expectations. Time and time again, we defeated enemies against odds that were considered insurmountable. In the course of a defensive war over 40 years ago, we once again acquired the cradle of our heritage: The Old City, with the Temple Mount; Hebron and the Machpelah; Shilo; and more. A Jewish presence was returned to our ancient areas that had been rendered Judenrein by Jordan..

But we have a government that is apologetic about our possession of what is ours. We are being told we must give away areas that are historically Jewish, and quickly, because the “window of opportunity” is closing. What will happen if we don’t pull back to pre-’67 lines (lines, it should be noted, that were only meant to be temporary armistice lines)? The world won’t accept our legitimacy.

Excuse me? We are legitimate, in every sense of the word. The notion that we might require the present-day sanction of the United Nations would be farcical if it were not so serious; the UN, which may elect Iran to the Security Council.

The simple, unalterable truth is that the world respects us as legitimate when we respect ourselves. If there is a window of opportunity closing, it is the window to our own dignity and sense of who we are.

We are meant to be a light unto the nations.

With regard to hi-tech and medicine, we are precisely that. We have gifted the world with our advances far more than most people care to acknowledge.

We deserve better
But our national reputation has been sullied of late because of unprecedented levels of corruption. It matters not whether Ehud Olmert is ever indicted; the investigations and the testimonies have done their damage. The image is a dirty one, not befitting us at all. A light unto the nations must have sterling integrity.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief when Olmert submitted his resignation. As the process has since unfolded, Tzipi Livni, by a margin of 431 votes, won a primary that makes her the head of the Kadima party; if she is able to put together a coalition she will become our next prime minister.

A fresh start, you imagine? Hardly that.

Multiple charges have surfaced of irregularities within that primary – charges that are particularly significant because Livni’s margin of victory was so slight. These accusations have been made by supporters of Shaul Mofaz, the candidate who came in that very close second in the election, and by Avi Dichter, who was also a candidate, as well as serving as internal security minister. These charges are too serious to ignore.

There are complaints that hours of the polls were extended at Livni’s request because some of her supporters had not had time to vote. Meanwhile, Dichter has charged that “in quite a few polling stations,

people who hold official positions in Kadima were walking around and crudely getting involved not in how to vote, but rather, whom to vote for."

Right now we are running the risk that Olmert will be replaced by someone who achieved her position via improprieties. Are we so inured to “irregularities” – have we sunk so low – that we accept this without a murmur?

A great cry should go up now from the people. We deserve – we must have! – Better. Demanding this would be a huge step towards reclaiming ourselves and who we are meant to be.

Arlene Kushner is a Jerusalem journalist and author

Palin Wants Embassy in Jerusalem; Biden: No Comment

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( Republican vice presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin, in a televised debate Thursday night with Democratic nominee Senator Joe Biden, called for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, echoing Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain's policy. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has backtracked on a statement that Jerusalem is the "undivided" capital of Jerusalem, and Sen. Biden did not comment on the status of the capital or moving the embassy.
Sen. Biden did not comment on the status of the capital or moving the embassy.

Gov. Palin opened up the foreign policy part of the debate with support for the two-state solution and a statement that "Israel is our strongest ally." She added, "We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel…. We will support Israel [and] a two-state solution, building our embassy, also, in Jerusalem--those things that we look forward to being able to accomplish, with this peace-seeking nation, and they have a track record of being able to forge these peace agreements."

Sen. Biden countered that "no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel" than himself. He focused his comments with criticism of the Bush administration, which he blamed for backing elections in the Palestinian Authority that resulted with a Hamas legislative majority. He similarly slammed the current government for allowing Hizbullah to become a part of the Lebanese government.

"We will change this policy with thoughtful, real, live diplomacy that understands that you must back Israel in letting them negotiate, support their negotiation, and stand with them, not insist on policies like this administration has," he stated.

Concerning Iran, Gov. Palin said that the United States could use its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent. "That's a safe, stable way to use nuclear weaponry," she explained, while backing strong economic sanctions against North Korea and Iran to discourage them for acquiring nuclear weapons.

Biden did not comment except to comment that Sen. Obama once told a Republican senator, "We've got to do something about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ahmadinejad's evil words aren't just talk

Threats by Iran's president are not empty rhetoric; he means what he says, and we ignore him at our peril.
Tim Rutten
October 1, 2008
We Americans are accustomed to regarding political rhetoric much as Dr. Johnson did epitaphs. "They are not," he wrote, "given under oath."

In other words, we don't expect public men or women to speak the truth from public platforms. When it comes to our own parochial affairs, there's probably a bit of weary realism in that. However, this casual expectation of rhetorical hypocrisy has inhibited from the start our ability to recognize and deal with the threat posed by Islamist radicalism. ime and again, the spokesmen for these movements have told the world precisely what they intend. Time and again, the scant handful of Americans who bothered to take notice have dismissed what was said as the product of political alienation, as the consequence of economic marginalization, as a hangover of post-colonial insecurity or as tactical bluster.

No. These people mean exactly what they say, and they mean it for precisely the reasons they say they do. They genuinely believe in the extreme and often heretical variants of Islam to which they cleave, that faith guides their actions, and their public statements are expressions of that faith.

Time and again, though, we willfully have blinded ourselves to this fact, partly because modern minds balk at accepting what is essentially medieval reasoning at face value, and partly because it's the conveniently amicable thing do to.

That, plus the simultaneity of a national election and Wall Street crisis, account in large part for the silence that greeted last week's abominable speech by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the United Nations. In the course of a characteristically rambling diatribe, Ahmadinejad, one of the world's great public anti-Semites, had this to say:

"The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner. It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential or premier nominees in some big countries have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings, swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to attain financial or media support.

"This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people. These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and the threats of the Zionist network against their will."

There's a temptation to dismiss all this as simply "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" nonsense. But consider this other statement of Ahmadinejad's, made in a TV address in 2006: "Zionists and their protectors are the most detested people in all of humanity, and the hatred is increasing every day. ... The worse their crimes, the quicker they will fall."

Or perhaps this, from 2005: "Israel must be wiped off the map. ... The establishment of a Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world."

By "world oppressor," Ahmadinejad means the United States. He happens to belong to a Shiite sect that believes it can hasten the coming of the Mahdi, the Islamic savior, by the creation of chaos in the world. And like his brethren among the Sunni jihadists, he means what he says.

Mary Halbeck, one of the West's foremost scholars of jihadism and its religious origins, describes Islamist extremists as "committed to the destruction of the entire secular world because they believe this is a necessary first step to create an Islamic utopia on Earth." Their "view of the enemies of Islam means that their depiction in the Koran and hadith [commentaries on the Koran] is valid today in every detail. The Jews in particular have specific negative characteristics. ... They are notorious for their betrayal and treachery; they have incurred God's curse and wrath; they were changed into monkeys and pigs."

This is what the men who brought the hell of 9/11 to America believed. This is what Ahmadinejad believes and what he simply awaits the opportunity to act on.

When the delegates to the U.N. General Assembly applauded Ahmadinejad's speech last week, and the American media passed over it in silence, this is the sentiment to which they gave their respective explicit and tacit approval.

Shame on them; shame on us.

Manual outlines signs of Muslim radicalization in prisons

More on the phenomenon of radical Islam's spread in prisons. "Manual outlines Muslim radicalization in prisons," by Elaine Ganley for AP, October 1: PARIS (AP) — Security officials from several European countries have developed a manual to help prison authorities prevent their jailhouses from becoming incubators for Muslim extremists.

The manual, developed by France, Germany and Austria, includes signs that may indicate that a prisoner was becoming radicalized, including the presence of a growing beard. A prison group feared the manual could stigmatize Muslim inmates.

The document was distributed at a two-day closed-door conference of European security experts that ended Wednesday. It will be given to prison personnel.

Prisons "can be a facilitator and an accelerator" of radicalization and inmates are often "strongly destabilized" and therefore malleable, said Christophe Chaboud, head of France's Anti-Terrorist Coordination Unit.

"It is not a question of religion but of confrontation with the West," Chaboud said in a telephone interview.

Islam is the second-largest religion in France and, while there are no official figures available, Muslims make up a large part of the inmate population — the majority in some prisons.

A disproportionate number of Muslims can be found in prisons in other European Union countries.[...]

Experts say radicalization can range from an interest in religious books to hostility toward non-Muslims seen in a refusal to shower with them. Several top officials said new beards were one warning sign.[...]

The spokesman for the International Prison Observatory, Hugues de Suremain, voiced fears the manual could further stigmatize Muslim inmates, who lack the range of religious benefits provided to Christians.

Exactly which "benefits" are those?

France began massive arrests of Islamic militants linked to insurgents in Algeria after deadly bombings in subways and elsewhere that began in 1995 and terrorized the nation.

But it was only in 2004 that authorities began to act on the simmering threat posed by jailed extremists looking to turn even non-practicing Muslim inmates into radicals and recruit for their cause

A road paved on reality


Listening to the news in Israel these days, it is hard to escape the feeling that the Israeli political discourse has become dangerously irrelevant. Take Iran for example. On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the heads of UN member states, "The dignity, integrity and rights of the European and American people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner."

Ahmadinejad then promised that Israel will soon be destroyed - for the benefit of humanity.

For these remarks, he received enthusiastic applause from the world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly.

And how has Israel responded? It hasn't done anything in particular. And it has no intention of doing anything in particular.

This point was made clear to the public on Wednesday when Israel's new UN ambassador, Gavriela Shalev, gave an interview to Army Radio. While bemoaning Ahmadinejad's warm reception, she said that the world leaders were probably just being diplomatic. She noted that many of their ambassadors say nice things about Israel to her in private.

Israel's woman at the UN devoted most of her interview to defending the UN. In fact, she said she believes it is her duty not simply to defend Israel to the world body, but to defend the UN to Israelis. As she put it, her job is "correcting the UN's image in the eyes of the people of Israel."

Shalev's appointment to the UN was the work of Foreign Minister - and would-be prime minister - Tzipi Livni. And her view of her role as Israel's ambassador is strictly in keeping with what Livni perceives as the job of Israel's top diplomats. They are the world's emissaries to Israel.

Livni has spent the better part of the past three years at the Foreign Ministry telling us that the UN is our friend, the Europeans are our friends and that the Americans and Europeans and the UN will take care of Iran for us. The Palestinians are also our friends.

As anti-Semitic forces grow throughout the world, Livni has not communicated one single policy for defending Israel abroad that doesn't involve the kindness of strangers. Her response to Ahmadinejad's speech was a case in point.

The one thing the woman who believes that she has the right to lead the country without being elected by anyone thinks that Israel should do in response to Ahmadinejad's call for our physical destruction is to object to Iran's bid to join the UN Security Council. Livni's only concrete response to Ahmadinejad's promise to annihilate us was to issue a directive to Israel's embassies telling our diplomats to ask their host governments not to support Iran's bid for Security Council membership.

Livni doesn't actually think Iran is Israel's greatest challenge. The Palestinians are. And as far as she is concerned, giving the Palestinians a state by handing over Judea and Samaria (and Jerusalem, although she never says it outright), as quickly as possible is Israel's most urgent task. We need a two-state solution and we need it NOW, she says.

Neither Livni nor her colleagues in Kadima, Labor and Meretz, nor her supporters in the Israeli media ever bother to acknowledge the troublesome, inconvenient fact that the Palestinians don't want a state. They want to destroy our state.

This basic fact was made clear - yet again - on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Livni took time out of her busy schedule of political meetings with Labor, Shas and Meretz leaders with whom she is attempting to build a government without being elected by anyone, to meet with Fatah's chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei. Although Livni refused to tell us what she talked about, she promised that progress was made toward the urgent imperative of forming a Palestinian state.

But Qurei was not so enthusiastic. In fact, he was contemptuous of Livni and of the very notion of peaceful coexistence between the Palestinians and Israel. After the negotiating session, Qurei told Reuters that if the talks toward an Israeli surrender of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem collapse, the Palestinians will renew their terror war against Israel. In his words, "If the talks reached a dead end, what do we do? Capitulate? Resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right."

Just to make sure he understood Qurei properly, the reporter asked whether that meant that the Palestinians would renew their suicide bombing campaign against Israelis. Qurei responded, "All forms of resistance."

We have been here, of course, a million times before. This is the same threat that Yassir Arafat and his men have made - and implemented - repeatedly since signing the Oslo Accords with Israel 15 years ago. They use terror and negotiations in tandem to squeeze Israel into giving away more and more of its land. And it works.

When Livni heard about Qurei's remarks, she called him and reportedly told him that they were unacceptable. So he said he was taken out of context. No skin off his back.

He knew Livni wouldn't do anything. At the same time that Livni said his remarks were unacceptable, she pledged to continue negotiating Israel's surrender of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem with him for as long as she remains in power.

Today, Livni and her colleagues in Kadima, Labor, Meretz and Shas are working fervently toward forming a new government that will continue holding irrelevant but dangerous negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians, and pretending that Iran's nuclear weapons are not going to be used against Israel. They argue that we need the "political stability" that they can provide us in this dangerous time.

The Israeli media gives these fantasies their full support. Indeed, anyone who notices that the world is sitting back and allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons or points out that the Palestinians don't want a state is immediately shot down as an alarmist and an extremist.

This national discourse - which has been the only one permitted in the country since the advent of the "peace process" with the PLO 15 years ago - is Israel's Achilles' heel. Until the general public is set clear on the reality of the world confronting the country, there is no chance that Israel will take the necessary steps to defend itself and ensure that it survives.

Understanding this basic fact, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon has taken it upon himself to tell the Israeli public the truth about the world we live in. Ya'alon is a rare bird among Israel's current pantheon of luminaries. He is an honest man who lives by his principles, and he doesn't bend them, ever.

Last week Ya'alon published a book called The Longer Shorter Road in Hebrew. Ya'alon, whose tour of duty as chief of Staff was unceremoniously cut short by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in June 2005 due to his trenchant opposition to Sharon's planned withdrawal of IDF forces and Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip, has written a book that sets out the facts of life clearly, credibly and passionately.

The book's title is derived from a speech that Ya'alon's commander, Yoram Ya'ir, gave to his officers during the First Lebanon War. Ya'ir explained that short-cuts are not necessarily better than long roads. In fact, it is often better to take the longest route. As Ya'ir put it, "There is a long road that is short and there are short roads that are long."

Ya'alon uses Ya'ir's point to demonstrate that the Israeli Left's insistence on peace "now" and a solution to the Arab-Israel conflict "now" has placed Israel on a strategic trajectory that has brought it, and will continue to bring it only bloodshed and danger. Israel's enemies in the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria and Iran view Israel's insistence on finding immediate solutions to the threats it faces as a sign that Israeli society is collapsing.

As a consequence, every step that Israel has made toward appeasing its neighbors - from recognizing the PLO and bringing Arafat and his legions into Judea, Samaria and Gaza; to retreating from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005; to failing to properly prosecute the Second Lebanon War in 2006; to doing nothing to combat Hamas's regime in Gaza since 2007; to embracing the false paradigm of peace at Annapolis last November - has strengthened their conviction that Israel can and will be destroyed.

Ya'alon also dwells on the moral collapse of Israel's political and media elite and that collapse's adverse impact on the senior command echelons of the IDF. The abandonment of Zionist values and public and private integrity by our politicians and media has cast and kept Israel on a path of self-delusion, where the only thing that matters is immediate gratification. Politicians promise the public "hope" based on illusions of peace-around-the-corner to win their votes. The media support the politicians' lies both because of the media's post-Zionist ideological uniformity and due to their refusal to acknowledge that their populist demands for peace "now" have brought Israel only war and danger.

Ya'alon's book is part memoir and part polemic. He reminds Israelis of what it is about us that makes us a great people, worthy of our land and privileged to defend it. At the same time, he chastises our failed leaders who have tricked the public into following a strategic path that endangers us. His book's greatest contribution is not in providing a set path forward, but in courageously and unrelentingly explaining the reality that surrounds us today and in showing the public how it is that we have arrived in our current predicament.

In exposing himself, his values and his beliefs to the public, and juxtaposing his own leadership experience and personal integrity with the corruption and weakness of our political and intellectual leaders, Ya'alon is telling the public in a very clear way that there is an alternative to defeatism and self-delusion, and that he - and we the public - represent that alternative, that "longer shorter road."

Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and their colleagues on the Left in the Knesset and the media insist that we not take that longer road to security and peace. In fact, they deny that it even exists. They attempt to convince us that elections are unnecessary by arguing that there is no difference between political parties today, because their short cut to defeat is the only path available to us.

It must be fervently hoped that Ya'alon will soon enter the political fray. Like the Likud under Binyamin Netanyahu, Ya'alon is proof positive that Livni and her cronies are lying. There are great differences between those that would lead us and the paths they would take.

And the only road to safety is the long road that is paved on reality.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1222017398112&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

DBF: The Bust of a Bailout

George Will
Wednesday, October 01, 2008

His name was George F. Babbitt. He was 46 years old now, in April 1920, and he made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but he was nimble in the calling of selling houses for more than people could afford to pay.
-- "Babbitt" by Sinclair Lewis (1922)

WASHINGTON -- We are waist deep in evasions because one cannot talk sense about the cultural roots of the financial crisis without transgressing this cardinal principle of politics: Never shall be heard a discouraging word about the public. Concerning which, a timeless political trope is: Government should budget the way households supposedly do, conforming outlays to income. But the crisis came partly because so many households decided that it would be jolly fun to budget the way government does, hitching outlays to appetites.

Beneath Americans' perfunctory disapproval of government deficits lurks an inconvenient truth: They enjoy deficits, by which they are charged less than a dollar for a dollar's worth of government. Conservatives participate in this, even though deficits fuel government's growth by obscuring its cost.

The people can emulate the government because credit has been democratized. Democratization of everything is supposedly an unquestionable good, but a blizzard of credit cards (1.5 billion of them, nine per cardholder), subsidized loans and cheap money has separated the pleasure of purchasing from the pain of paying. Furthermore, the entitlement mentality fostered by the welfare state includes a felt entitlement to a standard of living untethered from savings.

Populism flatters the people, contrasting their virtue with the alleged vices of some minority -- in other times, Jews or railroad owners or hard money advocates; today, the villain is "Wall Street greed," which is contrasted with the supposed sobriety of "Main Street." When people on Main Street misbehave by, say, buying houses for more than they can afford to pay, they blame the wily knaves who made them do it, such as the "nimble" Babbitt.

Knowing that heat breeds haste, errors and unintended consequences, George Washington praised the Senate as the saucer into which legislation is poured to cool. In this crisis, however, the House of Representatives has performed that function. Republicans, especially, slowed a Gadarene rush to ratify the deeply flawed original bailout legislation.

Voting against the bill -- against putting taxpayers' money at risk in order to clean up a mess that some people got rich by making -- was easy, but not necessarily wrong. The $700 billion figure exaggerated the plan's probable cost, but accurately measured something worse -- the enormous enlargement of government's power.

So the joint declaration by John McCain and Barack Obama that Congress should "rise above politics" was mere gas. The legislation touched elemental questions -- the meaning of justice, the parameters of freedom and the proper functions of government. Democrats charge that the crisis is market failure arising from an insufficiency of government, in the form of regulation. Well.

Suppose that in 1979 the government had not engineered the first bailout of Chrysler (it, Ford and GM are about to get $25 billion in subsidized loans). Might there have been a more sober approach to risk throughout corporate America?

Suppose there had never been implicit government backing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Better yet, suppose those two had never existed -- there was homeownership before them, just not at a level that the government thought proper. Absent Fannie and Freddie -- absent government manipulation of the housing market -- would there have developed the excessive diversion of capital into the housing stock?

The rising generation of thoughtful Republicans was represented on both sides of Monday's vote. Virginia's Eric Cantor, 45, and Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, 38, supported the legislation because they had helped to achieve substantial improvements in it, such as requiring financial institutions to help finance their bailout, giving the Treasury potentially valuable equity in firms revived by public funds, and eliminating a slush fund for Democratic activists. Texas' Jeb Hensarling, 51, and Indiana's Mike Pence, 49, voted against what they considered a rescue model fundamentally flawed because (in Hensarling's words) it "could permanently and fundamentally change the role of government."

It is potentially catastrophic that this crisis comes in the context of a closely contested election and a collapse of presidential authority. Congress should disconnect from a public that cannot be blamed for being more furious about than comprehending of this opaque debacle. The public wanted catharsis, and respect for its center-right principles, and got both with Monday's House vote. It still needs protection against obliteration of the financial system.

Copyright © 2008 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Profile-you should know about this group!

Established in 1988, the Israeli-based non-governmental organization New Profile (NP) describes itself as “a feminist group working to de-militarize society in Israel, to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land conquered in 1967, to generate a life-preserving, egalitarian, humane society, and to uphold the right to freedom of conscience.” NP’s members include women and men who seek to “initiate change in the gendered and militarized mind-sets fuelling war in Israel-Palestine and [war] with other neighboring countries; educate the public on the crucial connection between militarization, inequality and sexism; conduct interventions against the militarization of Israeli education; and uphold the right to all forms of draft resistance and conscientious objection.” NP provides legal and other support for those who refuse to serve in the Israeli army.

On September 15, 2008, Israel's Attorney General ordered an investigation into NP for its “incitement to avoid military service.” According to media reports, “New Profile’s website tells people what to say to IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] mental health officers to create the impression that they [the NP supporters] are psychologically unfit for service.”

NP regards Israel as “a soldiers’ state” whose “militarized society” is filled with people perpetually “living as warriors.” In NP’s analysis, “[t]he hegemonic culture in Israel nurtures admiration for might and physical prowess, an aggrandizement of Jewish nationals, and a devaluation of the lives of Arab nationals.”

Asserting that Israelis are falsely “taught to believe that the[ir] country is faced by threats beyond its control,” NP says “we now realize that the words ‘national security’ have often masked calculated decisions to choose military action for the achievement of political goals.”

In its effort to transform Israel's allegedly violent and aggressive culture, NP seeks to establish “a fundamentally changed education system, for a truly democratic civic education, teaching the practice of peace and conflict resolution, rather than training children to enlist [in the military] and accept warfare.”

Viewing the 1948 creation of Israel as a “Naqba,” or “Catastrophe,” for the Palestinian people, NP holds “Israeli Jews and the Israeli state” entirely responsible for “the ongoing war” with Arabs in the region.

NP disseminates its message through lectures, study days, and workshops ranging in size from small-scale events held in private homes, to much larger seminars and conferences.

NP supports divestment from companies based in Israel, and from corporations that do business with Israel, as “an important tool in challenging [those] involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” One such company is the Caterpillar corporation, whose equipment is used by the IDF in razing the homes and strategic facilities of Palestinian terrorists.

NP is funded directly by numerous individuals and organizations, including the Quakers (United Kingdom), SIVMO, Cord Aid, Gush Shalom, and Zochrot; the last of these is a radical Israeli NGO that campaigns for the Palestinian “right of return” and seeks to “raise awareness” about “the Naqba.”

NP is an active member of the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), an umbrella group that also includes Machsom Watch, Women in Black, and others. Financed by the New Israel Fund, CWP “is committed to the struggle to end the occupation, to the full involvement of women in peace negotiations, [and] to an end to the excessive militarization of Israeli society.”

NP’s international partners include such organizations as Jewish Voice for Peace, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Oxfam (Great Britain), Novib (Netherlands), the Quakers (United Kingdom), the Quakers UN (Geneva), the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, the World Council of Churches, and Sabeel.

In recent years, NP has participated in an Alternative Summer Camp (run by Zochrot) described by its sponsors as “a safe and fun place for teenagers to deal with such complex issues as the occupation, feminism, ecology, militarism and more.” One particular workshop offered at this camp focused on “the Palestinian Naqba and how the inhabitants of Arab villages were driven out of their homes in 1948.”

NP also partnered with Zochrot on Israel’s Independence Day in 2007, actively taking part in public commemorations of the “59th anniversary of the Naqba.” Moreover, NP has worked on a “Small Arms and Light Weapons” project with Amnesty International and the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions.

Portions of this profile are adapted, with permission, from the NGO Monitor article “NIF-linked ‘New Profile’ Investigated for Illegal Activity.”

Olmert advocates Israeli pullouts

Al Jazeera

Ehud Olmert, Israel's outgoing prime minister, has said that Israel will have to leave much of east Jerusalem and allow Palestinians to form a state equal in size to the area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In an interview with the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, published on Monday, Olmert also said that peace with Syria would require withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

"[I am saying] what no previous Israeli leader has ever said: we should withdraw from almost all of the territories, including in East Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights," he was quoted as saying.

Olmert resigned on September 21 amid corruption allegations and will officially step down once a new government has been formed.

Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, agreed at a meeting in the United States last November to push for a comprehensive peace deal before the end of the year.

Yediot Ahronot noted that the remarks in its "legacy interview" go further than any the prime minister made before he effectively became a lame duck in September.

"I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth," Olmert said.

"A decision has to be made. This decision is difficult, terrible, a decision that contradicts our natural instincts, our innermost desires, our collective memories, the prayers of the Jewish people for 2,000 years."

Stalled talks

Peace talks between the two sides have stalled over the borders of a future Palestinian state, the future status of Jerusalem and the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

The construction of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of a future state, have also proved to be a major obstacle.

"I'd like see if there is one serious person in the State of Israel who believes it is possible to make peace with the Syrians without eventually giving up the Golan Heights"

Ehud Olmert,
Israeli prime minister
According to Western and Palestinian officials, Olmert has previously proposed an Israeli withdrawal from some 93 per cent of the occupied West Bank. Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

In exchange for settlement enclaves, Olmert has suggested handing over a desert territory adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as land on which to build a transit corridor between Gaza and the West Bank.

"We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace," Olmert said in Tuesday's interview.

Olmert has previously argued that the issue of Jerusalem be considered at a later date because the difficulties in reaching an agreement.

But on Tuesday he said that giving up parts of the city was critical to securing Israel's security.

"Whoever wants to hold on to all of the city's territory will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won't work," he said.

Concrete offer

Saeb Erakat, a senior adviser to Abbas, said Israel must "translate these statements into reality" if it is serious about wanting to achieve a peace deal.

"We haven't seen these statements translated into a piece of paper, into a concrete offer," he told the AFP news agency, stressing that "the road to peace is through ending the occupation and [Israeli] settlements in the West Bank".

During his time in office, Olmert reopened indirect negotiations, through Turkey, with Syria after an eight-year freeze.

"I'd like see if there is one serious person in the State of Israel who believes it is possible to make peace with the Syrians without eventually giving up the Golan Heights," he said in the interview.

Israel annexed the territory in 1981, a move never recognised by the world community.

More than 18,000 Syrians, mostly Druze, are left from the Golan's original population of 150,000 people. The region now is home to nearly 20,000 Jewish settlers.

Jewish Left Wins, Jews and Israel Lose

Dennis Prager
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For decades most of the organized left has fought against Republicans and conservatives more than against the world's greatest evils. During the Cold War, starting in the late 1960s, one heard little if anything from the left about the evils of Communism or of Communist societies such as the Soviet Union or Communist China. But one heard a great deal about the evils of American anti-Communists; Ronald Reagan was vilified much more than Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. But last week, a new line seems to have been crossed. The organized Jewish left -- i.e., left-wing Jewish organizations that claim to be committed to the welfare of Jews -- made it clear that even in the fight against the greatest enemy of the Jewish people, the Jewish left prefers to fight what it considers an even greater enemy -- conservatives and Republicans.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who has repeatedly called for the annihilation of Israel and who denies the Holocaust, came to speak at the United Nations. The day before he was scheduled to speak, Jewish organizations across the religious and political spectrum had organized a "Stop Iran" rally at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the UN. They had invited Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and then invited Republican vice-presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The intent was to maximize publicity for the anti-Iran cause, the most important Jewish concern (and arguably the most important world concern) today. With Clinton and Palin present, the world press would cover the anti-Iran rally, and the Jewish community could show the world and America that this was one cause that knew no politics -- the most prominent female Democrat and the most prominent female Republican would both lend their names and prestige to this rally.

However, the moment that Clinton learned that the organizers had invited Palin, she withdrew. For Clinton, giving the other most popular woman politician in America publicity was unacceptable -- even among New York Jews, one of the steadfast liberal and Democratic groups in America. The near collapse of the Stop Iran rally was of less consequence to Clinton than denying Palin a public platform.

Not many were surprised by Clinton's action. What was alarming was the realization that for much of the Jewish left -- not leftists who happen to be Jews and for whom the welfare of the Jewish people is not particularly significant, but left-wing Jews who claim to care deeply about Jewish survival -- fighting Palin is of greater importance than fighting Ahmadinejad.

Left-wing Jews and Jewish organizations put intense pressure on the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to cancel the invitation to Palin. And the pressure worked.

As the liberal editorial page of New York's major Jewish newspaper The Jewish Week put it:

"But somehow, a big-tent cause like Iran as a terrorist power seeking nuclear arms has become so politicized within our community that Monday's rally was more about the non-presence of Gov. Sarah Palin than about the very real presence at the UN of a Holocaust denier whose goal is to destroy our way of life."

Yet, in a rare move, publishing an entire speech that was never given, Ha'aretz, Israel's equivalent to The New York Times in its prestige and in its liberal politics, published the speech that Palin would have given. In Israel, liberal and even many left-wing Jews know that Iran is a greater threat to Israel than American conservatives.

The Palin speech was so good it should be read by every American concerned with Israel's survival. And it was so nonpartisan that it praised Clinton for being at the rally. To say that Palin -- who has the American, Alaskan and Israeli flags in her Juneau office -- is a better friend of the Jews and Israel than much of the American Jewish left sounds odd only to Jewish leftists.

But the Jewish left acts as if it fears and hates her more than it fears and hates Ahmadinejad. That is why within days of her nomination Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., announced that "John McCain's decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for president in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans. Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel. … It is frightening that John McCain would select someone one heartbeat away from the presidency who supported a man who embodies vitriolic anti-Israel sentiments."

Wexler's statement was false: Palin supported Steve Forbes, not Buchanan. And associating Palin with Nazi or anti-Israel sympathies is morally loathsome, not to mention weakens the struggle against real anti-Semites.

For left-wing Jewish organizations and their supporters -- as opposed to many rank and file liberal Jews -- the real fight is against Republicans and especially Christian conservatives (as a community, the Jews' best friends) more than against a nuclear Iran.

After the cancellation of Palin, a left-wing Jewish organization that was influential in opposing Palin's appearance, an organization called J Street, on whose Board of Advisors sits the executive director of, headlined on its website: "We Won!"

That is indeed the case. The Jewish left did win. Which is why the Jews and Israel lost.

Copyright © 2008 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rosh HaShanah Begins Mon. Night

Hillel Fendel
The Jewish People begin nearly a month of holidays Monday evening: Two days of Rosh Hashanah, followed on Thursday by the Fast of Gedaliah. The fast commemorates the end of Jewish rule in the Land of Israel following the destruction of the First Holy Temple some 2,500 years ago. Two days later will be the Sabbath of Repentance, a central day in the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (inclusive). This is the annual period in which Jews take upon themselves to correct their faults of the past year, and more carefully fulfill the Torah's commandments, vis-a-vis both G-d and fellow man.

Asked why such a reckoning is not done more often throughout the year, Rabbi Shmuel Tal, head of the Torat HaChaim yeshiva in Yad Binyamin, has explained [the following is paraphrased]:
"One who plans a long journey is advised to first climb a hilltop and take a comprehensive view of the route he plans to take. However, if he continually climbs hilltops to take such views, he will not be able to actually proceed on his hike! The same is true here: We are given an opportunity once a year to take stock of our lives and where we are going, but most of the time, we must actually be living - performing the commandments and trying to follow G-d's way as best we understand... This does not mean that a person should not review and note his deeds and misdeeds every day - but the 'big picture' must be examined once a year."

Five days after Yom Kippur (Thursday, Oct. 9), the holiday of Sukkot begins. In Israel, the holiday is seven days long - one day of a Sabbath-like holiday, followed by six days of Chol HaMoed, on which many every-day activities are permitted (except for on Sabbath). Immediately afterwards, on Tuesday, Oct. 21, is the one-day Sabbath-like holiday of Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, known as the Rejoicing of the Law. Tuesday night will see post-holiday Hakafot Shniyot celebrations - a continuation of the day's singing and dancing in honor of the Torah - all around the country.

Outside Israel, the holidays are celebrated slightly differently. Sukkot begins with a two-day Sabbath-like holiday (Oct. 14-15), followed by five days of Chol HaMoed, on which many every-day activities are permitted (except for on Sabbath). Immediately afterwards, on Oct. 21-22, are two days of Sabbath-like holidays: Shmini Atzeret, and then Simchat Torah, known as the Rejoicing of the Law.

New Year Commemorations
As the Jewish New Year is not a time of great joy, but rather a time for careful stock-taking of one's relationship with G-d, the Rosh HaShanah prayers - longer, more melodious, and more intense and inspirational than on a normal Sabbath - concentrate on G-d's Kingship and His judgment of all creatures. Based on the commandment in Numbers 29:1, 100 shofar blasts are dramatically sounded throughout the prayers, "awakening" us to improve our ways. The Tashlikh prayer is recited on Tuesday afternoon, preferably by a live stream of water in which we ask G-d to "throw away" our sins.

Upon returning home, special foods are served, especially sweet ones for a sweet year, as well as fruits that require a special Shehecheyanu blessing in honor of their being eaten for the first time since the previous season. Pomegranates are often served for this purpose.

As many as 40,000 Jews of all stripes, mainly Breslover Hassidim, are already in Uman, in Ukraine, to spend the holiday at the gravesite synagogues of their spiritual leader, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who passed away in Tishrei of 1810. Many say that their "Rosh HaShanah in Uman" is a life-changing experience, or at least provides them the spiritual replenishment they need for the coming year. Some rabbis, however, oppose the idea of leaving the Holy Land to spend holy days in the Diaspora.

More Smears By Hari


Hari is adept at employing inappropriate or inaccurate imagery and almost immediately mentions the "military's blockade of Gaza - reducing it to rubble just a short drive from hi-tech Tel Aviv". In reality, with or without the current ceasefire, Israel has certainly not been reducing Gaza to "rubble". Israel also has no apologies to make for building a state that includes "hi-tech" Tel Aviv and other highly developed cities in stark contrast to Palestinian mismanagement of their own resources. HonestReporting isn't very popular with Independent columnist Johann Hari who prefers to attack us rather than address his one-sided opinion pieces. At the risk of being accused again by Hari of attempting to shut down his freedom of speech, we take a look at his latest efforts to smear Israel in an article full of shortcomings:

* Hari is adept at employing inappropriate or inaccurate imagery and almost immediately mentions the "military's blockade of Gaza - reducing it to rubble just a short drive from hi-tech Tel Aviv". In reality, with or without the current ceasefire, Israel has certainly not been reducing Gaza to "rubble". Israel also has no apologies to make for building a state that includes "hi-tech" Tel Aviv and other highly developed cities in stark contrast to Palestinian mismanagement of their own resources.
* With no context and the implication that Israel acts aggressively out of sheer malice, Hari refers to "how desensitised Israel has become to the violence committed in its name" and how "the potential indictment for war crimes of Livni's main rival, Shaul Mofaz, was barely an issue." There is a simple reason why this was barely an issue - this apparent "story" as reported by The Independent itself, refers to one letter from an Israeli professor urging the Attorney General to investigate Mofaz based on allegations published by journalists in a book. Hari (and The Independent at the time) have simply embellished a non-story.
* Employing guilt by association, Hari smears Livni as a supporter of terrorism: "In theory, the winner Livni should be in a strong position to understand nationalist "terrorists" who have planted bombs on buses and in cafes - because she was raised by them." This, despite the fact that Livni is intimately involved in current peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and is a leading proponent of a two-state solution. Can Hari not see the absurdity of his smear at the same time as a generation of Palestinian children have been and are actively being brought up on an education of hatred and violence towards Israel?
* In seeking to smear Tzipi Livni, Hari also leaves himself open to the charge that he does not believe that Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians is terrorism. Hari places the word "terrorism" in quotation marks, thus not making it entirely clear whether or not planting bombs on buses and in cafes is terrorism, whoever carries out such an act. He does, however, refer to "Arab civilians who were trying to prevent the creation of the state of Israel". In Israel's War of Independence, those Arabs who "were trying to prevent" Israel's creation were engaged in acts of violence and terror against Israeli civilians and were certainly not the benign "Arab civilians" that Hari seeks to portray.
* After referring to Livni's family as "terrorists", Hari reveals a hidden admiration for Palestinian violence. While implying that Livni's upbringing was marred by "tales of blowing up marketplaces, cafes and hotels," Hari suddenly reverses gears and defends these same types of actions - when carried out by the Palestinians against Israel. "How would Livni's parents have responded to mass punishment - blockades, checkpoints, bullets? Would they shrug and surrender?" he asks, apparently defending blowing up civilians in suicide bombings and firing rockets indiscriminately at civilian residential areas. For Hari, there is no limit to his finger pointing at Israel. He blames Israel both for being terrorist and for fighting terrorism.
* A theme running through many of Hari's opinion pieces is the placing of blame solely on Israel's shoulders. Palestinians bear no responsibility for their situation in Hari's eyes. Hari refers to blockades, checkpoints and bullets as "mass punishment", while omitting any mention of Palestinian terrorism and the need for Israeli measures to defend her civilians. Likewise, according to Hari, the Oslo process was "rigged in Israel's favour", despite the fact that Oslo was a bilateral process that the Palestinians were also responsible for.
* Hari's limited understanding of the conflict is apparent when he claims that "Stripped of a state, they [Palestinian nationalists] are fighting for one - and every Israeli attack makes them more radical and enraged." Putting aside the fact that Palestinians were never stripped of a state (a sovereign Palestinian state has never existed and the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected those opportunities to create one such as the Arab rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan), how can Hari ignore the priorities of the radical Islamist Hamas, which aims at the destruction of Israel ahead of any aspirations to Palestinian statehood?

Yet again, Johann Hari has written an op-ed full of holes and open to criticism. Hari has previously demonstrated that he is rather sensitive to such criticism. Despite Hari's protestations, it is your right to use the information above and send your considered comments to The Independent -

How Not to Stick Up for Your Country

P. David Hornik | 9/29/2008

Mahmoud Abbas, Golden Boy of the current U.S. and Israeli leadership, was not so nice Friday when, in a special UN Security Council session on Israeli settlements requested by the Arab states, he insisted that Israel not build one more home for Jews in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and that the presence of Jews there was wrecking the peace process. Even by UN standards it hadn’t been a great week, with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday spewing gutter anti-Semitism to a packed house at the General Assembly and subsequently being warmly embraced by General Assembly president Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua. Compared to that, what was a little more Israel-bashing in the Security Council?

“The first chapter of the Road Map,” Abbas complained on Friday, “talks about halting the settlement policy. Nothing has been done. The same policy continues.” He also said “This activity is an obstacle to peace and is preventing solutions….”

Saudi foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal chimed in that the settlements constitute the “one issue that threatens to bring down the whole peace process” and called on Israel to “cease all settlement activity including the issue of permits.”

There is much that could be said in response, and new Israeli UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev gave it a try. But the fact that Shalev, an obscure jurist and academic, was given the post by Foreign Minister—and possible prime minister—Tzipi Livni would inspire pessimism in those who see Livni as a formerly staunch Israeli who now complies with the international script for Israelis as people dying to bestow statehood on Abbas and his Fatah movement.

Shalev, in any case, said, “While settlements remain a delicate issue, they are not the principal one. You must remember that the Jewish nation is also sensitive about this sacred land.”

And: “Israel understands its commitment to peace. Do you, the Arab states, understand your commitment?” She added that really promoting peace would have to entail working for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Shalev is also paraphrased as saying that “a stranger visiting the UN might suppose from the debate that Hamas violence, missile attacks fired over Israel’s border, the buildup of Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and Iran’s nuclear ambitions posed no problem to the Mideast peace process.”

And finally: “We in Israel are committed to a two-state solution. We continue to negotiate with the Palestinian president. Israel is prepared, if the conditions arrive, to make painful concessions” on the settlement issue.

In other words, she didn’t do too well; her statements unfortunately have the ring of trying to prove, if people would just try a little harder to understand, that her country is actually “good” and willing to carry out all the details of the script.

She doesn’t, for instance—at least in what was reported—ever reply directly to Abbas himself, the main accuser; indeed she’s also quoted as saying that “Security Council discussions are irrelevant and pointless. The real things are taking place two floors below us in a bilateral meeting between Abbas and (Israeli president) Shimon Peres.”

But are Abbas and his Palestinian Authority really blameless for the “lack of progress”; is it really only the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran who are spoilers?

Shalev could, for instance, have demanded to know why just last week Abbas’s chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia threatened Israel with suicide bombings. She could also have asked why the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reacted to her boss, Tzipi Livni’s, victory in her party’s primaries with a sickening caricature of Livni with a dagger and bloodstained hands next to a dove with its head in a noose.

And since Abbas invoked the Road Map and the fact that it “talks about halting the settlement policy,” Shalev could have mentioned that this document’s reference to an Israeli settlement freeze comes at the very end of a long paragraph requiring the Palestinians to “immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence…end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services…undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood…”—and the uncomfortable fact that so far the Palestinian Authority hasn’t done a single one of those things and in fact practices systematic incitement fostering ongoing frequent terrorism.

But this, by now, would be way too much nastiness; what about Israeli leaders’ image as people always fawning over Abbas, Qureia and company and singing their praises as enlightened moderates?

And what of Shalev’s admonition that “the Jewish nation is also sensitive about this sacred land”? Wasn’t that, at least, a somewhat gutsy venture into the politically incorrect, daring to broach the tabooed fact that the “West Bank” is—apart from its critical security importance—the biblical heartland and Israel shouldn’t be expected to toss it away like a used car lot?

Indeed, she could have gone on to ask, pointedly, why the presence of Jews in Judea and Samaria should make peace impossible, whether Abbas is requiring that the state he supposedly desires be Jew-free and, if so, why that should be acceptable; whether Abbas could cite any other instances in today’s world of a peace agreement stipulating that one side has to destroy dozens of towns and villages and forcibly remove tens of thousands of residents; why the Palestinian Authority not only negates any Jewish connection to Judea and Samaria but systematically denies any Jewish connection to Jerusalem itself along with the entire land and state of Israel; or whether Abbas was aware of any instances of Arabs or other Muslims agreeing to the wholesale abandonment of land they consider sacred/historically resonant or essential to a state’s defensibility.

But Shalev—according to the reports we have—said none of that; instead she was quick to correct her indiscretion by assuring her audience that “Israel is prepared, if the conditions arrive, to make painful concessions”—that is, to show that it is a “good” little country after all and, in return for the peace it fantasizes about, forfeit its most basic rights and needs.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at He can be reached at

Alliance of the zealots

Assaf Wohl condemns attack on leftist professor, but thinks he too is part of Israel’s fanatical camp

Hello Professor Sternhell,

I was greatly saddened to hear about the attempt to physically harm you. I will start by saying that my words here are not meant to encourage an attack on you or, heaven forbid, justify what already happened. Such incident is intolerable and just like any other sane person I hope that law enforcement authorities will properly deal with the attackers. Yet from here on, I view myself as being exempt from the obligation to condemn what had happened throughout my piece; instead, I will address the issues in a to-the-point matter. Well, Professor Sternhell, it appears that we disagree in respect to identifying the danger threatening the State of Israel. Your statements show that you view the settlements as the root of all evil in our country. I, on the other hand, believe that the eternal danger to our state and people comes in the form of well-known zealots. They are the ones who since early on in Jewish history made sure to ruin, time and again, any attempt to build a national autonomy; and you, Professor Sternhell, display obvious signs of belonging to this zealot genre.

Zealotry is not the exclusive territory of the religiously devout. Anyone who ever visited a university knows that, as opposed to the yeshiva world for example, the proper academic approach will always aim to address the words being uttered, rather than focus on the person who uttered them. Therefore, it doesn’t matter at all whether a person who called on tanks to roll onto the settlement of Ofra is an anarchist or an Israel Prize-winning professor whose words are backed by impressive bibliographies and footnotes.

Not only did you fail to apologize for your grave words, you actually pride yourself on your intention to continue uttering them. And for what purpose exactly? Beyond the benefit of media attention, what does your approach contribute? What exactly were you thinking when you said: “…There is no doubt in respect to the legitimacy of armed resistance in the territories themselves. Had the Palestinians possessed a little wisdom, they would focus their struggle on the settlements…” (Haaretz, May 15, 2001.) How can these words of yours be interpreted in any other way except a call on Palestinian murderers (“armed resistance in the territories,” as you referred to it) to harm your political rivals across the Green Line?

Or how about your message regarding the need to dispatch tanks to a community that is home to men, women, and children? “Only those willing to move on Ofra with tanks would be able to curb the fascistic current that threatens to drown Israeli democracy.” (Davar, April 5, 1988.) Isn’t this zealotry?

A practical solution

When I hear your words, I suspect that foreign considerations push you to the leftist-zealot end of the spectrum. I get the impression that your words seek to imitate a very specific figure. More accurately, I’m talking about a grumbling old man, who enjoyed arguments and disputes, and wore a black kippah. Let’s call this 91-year-old child by his name: I suspect that you want to be a little Yeshayahu Leibowitz. You want to be famous, admired, and controversial like him. If this is so, forget about it, and not only because his shoes are too big to fill (for all of us.) In order to be a Leibowitz, there is a need for loftier idealism than what you have displayed so far - and you will also have to give up your Israel Prize.

Indeed, I do not liken you to Leibowitz, but rather, to Yohanan from Gush Halav and to Shimon Bar Giora, who prompted the destruction of the Second Temple. He who wants tanks to move on a civilian community, or advises murderers to focus on a specific population comprising his rivals, and whose claim to fame is making his brethren “see red” – is in my view a zealot who undermines the basis of our existence as a society.

It is difficult for me to bear zealotry from both sides, and when it comes to this issue I’m quite zealous. Therefore, please allow me to propose a practical solution, for you and for the entire nation of Israel, which would make our situation better. But please, take a deep breath before reading on and count to 10, at least. Indeed, without being granted his or your permission, I propose that you and rightist Professor Hillel Weiss cooperate. I remind you to count to 10.

Well, both of you will co-write an article under the headline: “The dangers of zealotry in modern times and the ways to address them.” As both of you are very busy people who are preoccupied with burning issues day and night, we shall set the target date for this article as the holiday edition of newspaper for Yom Kippur next year. I am even willing to take upon myself the despicable and depressing duty of putting the bibliography in order. That way, perhaps we shall take the first step in the long journey to rehabilitate Israeli democracy.

So what do you say, Professor Sternhell? Are we going to go for it?

Shalit: Israelis will celebrate while Gilad rots in captivity

Kidnapped IDF soldier to spend third Jewish New Year in Gaza prison. 'The fact he and we cannot celebrate with the rest of the country is particularly painful and difficult,' his father Noam tells Ynet. Gilad's friends organizing holiday meal outside PM's residence

Ahiya Raved
Israel News

Another holiday without him: This is the third year the Shalit family will mark the Jewish New Year without its son Gilad, who is being held captive in Gaza. "It's not easy knowing that while all the people of Israel – almost – are celebrating Rosh Hashana, Gilad is still rotting in captivity," Shalit's father Noam told Ynet.

PRC: Release 1,400 prisoners or Shalit will spend many holidays in captivity / Ali Waked
Spokesman for group holding IDF soldier says toughened stance result of Israel's 'foot-dragging' in prisoner exchange negotiations; adds ' we have no problem releasing Shalit once prisoners are freed'
Full story
The "Friends of Gilad Shalit" group is organizing a holiday meal which will be held outside the prime minister's residence on Monday evening.

The group announced that the menu would be particularly lean. "The meal will try and simulate the holiday meal Gilad is eating in captivity on his third holiday there, and will only include dry and basic food and not a proper holiday feast," one of the group members said.

According to Noam Shalit, despite all efforts exerted the family members are unaware of his condition and do not know in what kind of conditions he is being held.

The letter delivered to Hamas by Noam Shalit, through French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has yet to be handed over to Gilad.

"Last week I spoke to the presidential Élysée Palace," he said, "but they had yet to receive confirmation that the letter was delivered."

'Olmert still responsible'

The changes expected in the State's leadership mean nothing to the Shalit family. Ehud Olmert is still prime minister, and as far as they are concerned, he is the person responsible for Gilad's return.

This is the reason why the friends' holiday meal, which was initially planned to be held outside the home of newly elected Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, will eventually be held outside Olmert's home.

"We’re not freeing the prime minister of his responsibility so fast. He must return Gilad home during his shift," said Noam Shalit.

"Tzipi Livni? She is busy with her coalition issues now, her political issues. It's not even clear whether she will be prime minister. As far as we are concerned, Olmert is still prime minister with all this implies, also as the head of a transit government."

And is there any news in terms of the negotiations for Gilad's release? "The only new thing we know is what everyone knows, that the Ramon committee came up with a list of 450 prisoners who can be released.

"I heard the Hamas men's declarations – both ways – following the list, but Hamas men are good with declarations. They forgot that these statements should be part of a negotiation to have any effect. Negotiations are not held through declarations on al-Hayat."

The Shalit family is not alone in its struggle. Miki Goldwasser, the mother of fallen IDF soldier Ehud Godlwasser, slammed the government on Sunday, focusing on the ongoing transfer of funds to Hamas.

"Do you really think the funds Israel is transferring to the Hamas regime in Gaza are allocated to the civilians there? The money is used to purchase more and more weapons that are later aimed at us. Our government is impotent," she stated.

On the backdrop of the kidnappers' threats to toughen their stance in the negotiations, the Shalit family has not much left apart from hope.

"We only have one hope and one wish for the new year: To be able to celebrate the next Rosh Hashana in our home, with Gilad, with all the people of Israel, and not outside the home of any prime minister.

"Although as far as we are concerned every passing day is another day in captivity, the fact that he and we cannot celebrate with the rest of the country is particularly painful and difficult."

No Interim Peace Deal with Israel, Saudi Says

Asharq Alawsat
Arab media

UNITED NATIONS, (AP) - Arab nations will totally reject any partial or interim solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because historically such arrangements have become permanent, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Saturday. While supporting current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to reach "a comprehensive final solution," Prince Saud Al Faisal said "the least that we expect from Israel during these negotiations is that it should halt all settlement operations."

"The continuation of settlement activity in the occupied Arab territories renders the negotiations meaningless and makes it difficult for us to convince our peoples of the feasibility and benefits of achieving peace," he said.

At a Security Council meeting Friday on Israeli settlements, held at Saudi Arabia's request, Saud said the settlement problem is the "one issue that threatens to bring down the whole peace process."

He said that addressing it was the only way to save the peace deal brokered in Annapolis, Maryland, early this year by President Bush's administration, which set the goal of achieving a substantive peace accord by January 2009 when he leaves office.

Saud took up the issue again in a speech he was scheduled to give to the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting. He did not deliver the speech and it was distributed to all U.N. members, said Brenda Vongova, the assembly president's assistant spokeswoman.

The foreign minister said Arabs have affirmed their commitment to "a just and comprehensive peace based on international law" and have not yet received the same commitment from Israel.

"Please allow me, on behalf of the Arab Group, to make it absolutely clear that we will totally reject any partial or interim solutions, because history has taught us that such solutions tend to become permanent," he said.

While peace negotiators representing Israel and the West Bank's moderate Palestinian leadership privately report progress, the talks are taking place in a vacuum, and haven't been accompanied by serious goodwill gestures that could help them succeed.

Israel's corruption-tainted prime minister Ehud Olmert, who launched the talks together with the Palestinian president, has stepped down, the Palestinians remain deeply divided, and time is running out.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reminded the Security Council on Friday that "just one year ago, there was no peace process," and noted that Israel and the Palestinians continue their negotiations, along with many other partners.

In his speech to the General Assembly, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said it was time for the Mideast to develop "new regional frameworks to overcome our long-standing challenges" and ensure "stable and lasting peace."

He said it was time to consider the possibility of creating an organization that would include "all states in the Middle East, without exception, to discuss long-standing issues openly and frankly" to reach a stable and durable understanding between all parties."

U.N. diplomats pointed to the words "without exception" as significant because that would mean Israel's inclusion.

Many Arab leaders called for a peaceful solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran insists it is purely peaceful and aims to produce nuclear energy but the U.S. and many Western nations suspect Iran's goal is producing nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia's Saud expressed hope that Iran will take practical steps "to ensure a peaceful and rapid solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear program and save the region from devastating conflicts, futile arms races and serious environmental hazards."