Saturday, February 21, 2009

Katyusha hits Galilee community; 3 lightly hurt

Rocket fired from Lebanon lands near home in northern community, lightly injuring three members of the same family ; sources say second Katyusha landed in Lebanese territory, launching may be result of weather-related malfunction; IDF returns fire; Hizbullah denies involvement

Hagai Einav
Israel News

A Katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon Saturday morning landed near a home in Israel's western Galilee region. Three members of the family residing in the home sustained mild injuries in the attack, and two more suffered from shock. The wounded were treated by Magen David Adom paramedics and then evacuated to a hospital in Nahariya. The structure was damaged. ASecurity sources in Lebanon said a second Katyusha landed in Lebanese territory. They said the rocket fire emanated from the area of Mansouri, south of Tyre, and that Israel responded by firing at least six artillery shells into southern Lebanon

Sources said the 122-milimeter rockets may have been discharged prematurely due to a technical malfunction that resulted from the inclement weather conditions.

Security personnel examine rocket's landing site (Photo: Shai Vaknin)

A report of an explosion at one of the Galilee's communities was received at approximately 8 am; residents initially thought the noise was related to the stormy weather, but then realized it was the result of a rocket attack after detecting smoke billowing from the damaged house and hearing the cries of the family members, who were asleep when the rocket hit.

The commander of the local police station, Superintendent Victor Buskila, said "the rocket landed in an open area in close proximity to a house; damage was caused to two homes, and all of the injuries are mild."

Shrapnel hit the room of a 14-year-old boy, who was sleeping in another room when the rocket landed near his home. His sister, who was lightly wounded, told Ynet "we were in the room when we suddenly heard a loud blast. At first we thought it was thunder, but then the windows shattered and black smoke filled the room. We began to scream. My younger brother was crying, so my parents came and took him out of the room. Within minutes neighbors, ambulances and police arrived – they told us a Katyusha had landed near our house. We were in shock."

Shattered glass in room after rocket strike (Photo: Shai Vaknin)

The head of the local council said the siren did not sound prior to the strike. "It's miracle no one was killed. Had the rocket landed just a few meters to the north, it would have had disastrous consequences."

A statement issued by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's office following the rocket fire said Lebanon was committed to implementing UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended a month-long war between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006.

He said the attack threatened the area's stability and condemned Israel's artillery fire.

"Prime Minister Siniora (said) the rockets launched from the south threaten security and stability in this region and are a violation of resolution 1701, and these issues are rejected, condemned and denounced ... Israeli artillery (fire is an) inexcusable violation of Lebanese sovereignty," the statement said.

Hizbullah, for its part, denied any involvement in the attack.

During Israel's military offensive in Gaza Katyushas were fired at the northern part of the country in two separate incidents. On January 14 a rocket barrage hit the Galilee region. Lebanese officials said the attack was apparently related to the IDF's activity in the Strip. No Israelis were injured in the strike, but two were treated for shock.

A few days prior to that attack a Katyusha fired from Lebanon directly hit a nursing home in Nahariya, and another rocket landed in the town's vicinity.

Two people were lightly wounded and evacuated to the local hospital. Five other residents were treated for shock.

In mid-January UNIFIL forces discovered five rockets in south Lebanon, just north of Rosh Hanikra. Lebanese media said the projectiles were not prepped for firing into Israel.

Reuters contributed to the report

Friday, February 20, 2009

Operation Cast Lead and International Law Strategic Assessment Volume 11, No. 4, February 2009

Sabel, Robbie

A combination of factors has led to particular interest in issues of international law in the study of Operation Cast Lead. These factors include the amorphous political status of the Gaza Strip; the problem of application of the rules of war to asymmetrical warfare between a modern military and urban guerrillas; the role of the UN Security Council; the involvement of European and other states in attempts to resolve the dispute; the intensive involvement of NGOs in Gaza; the widespread coverage by the international press and particularly Arab TV; the increasing involvement of judicial discourse in Israeli society and the IDF; and attempts by Palestinian organizations and their supporters to brand Israel's campaign and tactics as illegal. The article that follows reviews several international law issues that are particularly related to the operation in Gaza.

Self Defense against Urban Guerrillas

International law and the UN Charter recognize the inherent right of states to use force in self defense against an armed attack. The right applies even if the attack is by irregular forces. Following 9/11, the UN Security Council explicitly recognized the right of states to self defense against terrorist attacks. However, if the area from where the attack occurred is under the military occupation of the state being attacked, then it could be argued that the applicable law is that of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the rights of the occupying power to arrest and take legal action against violators of the law. If Gaza was under Israeli military occupation prior to the campaign, then Israel, according to this argument, should have simply arrested the Hamas rocket firing teams.

Occupation, however, requires effective control; only then do the laws of occupation apply. Clearly there was not sufficient Israeli control, if control at all, to allow police type actions. The legal status of Gaza is not clear and in the absence of effective control and ability to carry out police type actions, Israel correctly invoked its right to use force in self defense against attacks emanating from Gaza. The applicable law is thus the law of armed conflict.

Proportionality in the Use of Force?

To justify the claim of self defense, the use of force must be in proportion to the attack. A minor border incident does not warrant a full armed conflict in response. Proportionality can be measured not only against an individual attack but against an accumulation of attacks if they were part of a pattern. Regarding Operation Cast Lead, the Hamas attack by thousands of rockets clearly justified a response of armed attack.

Once parties are in armed conflict, the rule of proportionality is no longer applicable or relevant, except as regards civilian casualties. The rules of war do not impose a game type of equilibrium. In an armed conflict a party is entitled to use superior force to destroy the enemy's armed forces and military capabilities and not only to respond in kind. The UN Security Council authorized the US and its allies to defeat Saddam Hussein's military, not just to force it to vacate Kuwait. An aggressor state or organization must take into account that it is liable to meet a potential victim state that will use "disproportionate force" to defend itself.

Application of Laws of War to an Asymmetrical Conflict

Hamas has not denied that its attacks were targeted at Israeli towns; such attacks are a violation of the laws of war. Furthermore Hamas used civilians to shield its combatants, which is also a violation of the laws of war. There are reports that the Hamas leadership headquarter was located in the basement of a hospital, a further egregious violation. Reciprocity, which is normally an essential element of international law, did not exist in this conflict. Nevertheless, the IDF correctly saw itself as being bound by the laws of war in its conduct, notwithstanding the total disregard of these rules by its opponents.

Civilian Casualties

Where combat takes place in a built up area, civilian casualties are a tragic but inevitable consequence of a military operation. International law obligates that if there are civilians close to military targets, efforts must be made to minimize civilian casualties, and the civilian casualties may not be disproportionate to the military advantage to be gained. Hamas frequently fired from civilian areas. In the Gaza operation, the IDF repeatedly warned civilians of impending attacks, using leaflets and mass telephone messages. Civilian casualties apparently constituted about one third to one half of all casualties. It does not appear that any other military has ever taken such steps to minimize civilian casualties, nor is there any other similar conflict on record in a built up area where the percentage of civilian casualties in relation to combatant casualties was lower than in Operation Cast Lead.

Civilian Targets

A civilian target, including a mosque (or church or synagogue) that is used for military purposes such as storing weapons and ammunition, loses its immunity from attack and becomes a legitimate target. Any other rule would lead to granting an illogical advantage to an enemy hiding weapons in such a building. Israel had information that a certain hospital was used for hiding the leading staff of Hamas. Nevertheless Israel refrained from attacking the hospital because of the civilian casualties that would be caused by such an attack. The civilian police in itself not a military target, but where the police is part of the military establishment, as it was under Hamas, it becomes a legitimate target.

Phosphorous Shells

Like every military in the world, Israel uses phosphorous shells in flares and smoke shells, and for marking targets. Such shells are standard equipment in all NATO militaries as well as the Arab states' armed forces. They are of course dangerous to handle when burning but absolutely legal. The International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed that there was no evidence that these shells were used in Gaza in any irregular way.

Supplies to the Civilian Population n Gaza

Classic laws of law permitted total embargos, as was done during the Second World War. Modern laws prohibit starvation of civilians as a means of warfare. Israel took the unprecedented step of allowing the large scale delivery of food and medical supplies from its territory into Gaza while actual fighting continued. Furthermore, Israel applied a unilateral ceasefire of some three hours every day to ensure distribution of such food and medicine.

Iranian Responsibility

A state selling weapons is not normally legally responsible for the results of their use. However, Iran trained Hamas operatives and financed and supplied rockets to Hamas, knowing that the rockets were to be used against civilian targets. This could well entail legal responsibility by Iran for the actions of Hamas.


The principal legal criticism of Israeli tactics in Operation Cast Lead appears to revolve around the issue of proportionality. It could be questioned what is a proportionate response to an attack of some four thousand Hamas rockets targeted at civilian towns over a period of three years. Beyond that, however, it is relevant to emphasize that once armed conflict develops, international law does not require proportionality of response. A state defending itself may indeed strive to cause disproportionate damage to its enemy's military targets and military capabilities. Let the attacking state or organization beware.

Hamas refuses to free Israeli soldier in return for lifting Gaza blockade

• Leader accuses Israel of backtracking over truce
• Corporal's fate linked to release of Palestinians

* Ian Black in Damascus
* The Guardian, Friday 20 February 2009

Hamas has flatly rejected Israel's demand that it free a captive soldier in return for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian movement called instead for international pressure on Israel to force the borders open to relieve the humanitarian crisis after last month's war.Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy leader of Hamas, accused Israel of backtracking over a truce agreement and warned that Corporal Gilad Shalit would only be released in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. "We will not change our position," he told the Guardian in Damascus yesterday.

On Wednesday Israel's security cabinet agreed to maintain the blockade and to hold back from any truce until the release of Shalit, who was captured in June 2006 near the Gaza boundary fence. Until then it seemed a new truce was imminent.

Hamas and Egypt, which is mediating between the Palestinians and Israelis, had been treating the two issues as separate. But Ehud Olmert, Israel's outgoing prime minister, has been pressing to put Shalit at the heart of any deal. Olmert has just weeks left in office following this month's elections and is keen to secure the soldier's freedom before his term is up.

"Israel and Egypt and Hamas have known for two years that the Shalit file is completely separate from other issues," protested Abu Marzook, just back in the Syrian capital from the truce talks in Cairo. "We are ready to start negotiating about Shalit, but the issue is not linked to any other as far as we are concerned. This is not acceptable to us."

The soldier is believed to be alive but his whereabouts are unknown and he has not been seen by the International Red Cross. "It's good that they [the Israelis] don't know where he is, otherwise they would have killed him," he claimed.

Abu Marzook signalled however that fresh information about Shalit might be provided if Israel moved Palestinian prisoners being held in solitary confinement to normal cells, released unwell female prisoners and published information on the Hamas fighters Imad and Adel Abdullah, said to have been abducted by Israeli forces.

He said contacts between Hamas and European and US representatives had multiplied since the war, despite Hamas being formally designated as "terrorist" by the US and EU over its refusal to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by interim peace agreements. "There's been a big change since the war. But a lot of the people we've met have asked us to keep the talks confidential."

Hamas has sent a letter to President Barack Obama via US senator John Kerry who yesterday visited Gaza, the BBC reported. There was no information about the letter's contents.

Abu Marzook welcomed Obama's appointment of George Mitchell as special envoy for Middle East peace, describing the former senator as a "non-Zionist American representative" who had criticised Israeli settlements and helped to broker peace between Britain and the IRA. But despite hints of a potential shift in Washington, there was no sign that Mitchell would meet Hamas; he failed even to visit Syria on his first regional tour this month.

Abu Marzook said Hamas favoured reconciliation talks with Fatah, led by the western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank. Ending internal divisions is seen as key to lifting the Gaza blockade, enforced since the Islamist movement won elections in 2006, and tightened the following summer.

The 22-day war, which Israel launched with the aim of halting Palestinian rocket fire, killed at least 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians, destroyed about 5,000 homes and ruined much of Gaza's already rickety infrastructure. But it was a Palestinian victory because Israel failed to achieve its goals, argued Abu Marzook.

"Now there is global support for Hamas and not just in the Arab and Muslim worlds," he said. "This is a moral judgment against Israel. Israel has had moral support and legitimacy since the second world war and its propaganda has described Hamas as a terrorist group. There's been a real change on those two points - but this mass support has not managed to break the blockade of Gaza."

should American Jews be worried yet‏

Why is John Kerry In Gaza?

In 2006 there was a Hamas attack on an American diplomatic convoy in Gaza. Since then the rule has been, US Government personnel were to avoid the Gaza Strip because there was no way to guarantee their safety without strong coordination with the terrorist group Hamas and the terrorist enablers UNRWA. For years, the UN has been sitting on it's "petards" trying to define terrorism so it can be called a crime against humanity. What the United Nations has been missing this whole time is all they had to do is click their heels together three times and say, "there's no place like home," because one of their own organizations, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is a classic example of a terrorist operation. The UNRWA is a self-perpetuating bureaucracy, and like all self-perpetuating bureaucracies, their mission is to maintain the status quo. The status quo in their case means preventing peace.The Agency was founded to help the Palestinian refugees (yep its just for them) improve their lives, but it acts a s a recruitment, promotion and planning arm of the terrorist organizations:

Fred Gottheil of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign characterizes this as UNRWA's "moral hazard" saying that UNRWA works to perpetuate the Refugee problem:

"the result was the creation of a perverse set of incentives among refugees that discouraged many from pursuing viable options to their long-term refugee status. It also encouraged many non-refugees in the region to attempt to register for refugee status or at least to take advantage of the entitlements UNRWA offered. Finally, UNRWA's half-century tenure as a caretaker agency helped create a relatively large and influential bureaucracy that, as stakeholders in the provision of entitlements, pursued self-serving agendas that tended to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee condition rather than its resolution...." In short, the system encouraged refugees to remain that way forever rather than to shed that status. As such UNRWA fits this rubric because of how it works in tandem with Palestinian society, which would also provide pressures to ensure those so defined remained permanently as disadvantaged refugees.

The UNRWA is Structured in a way that will enable the UN's Arab countries to use it as a political tool:

This is reinforced by the fact that, structurally speaking, the Commissioner of UNRWA works in an exceedingly political stage while receiving little if any guidance from the Advisory Commission or the General Assembly. As Edward Buehrig writes, "paradoxically, because of the highly political context in which UNRWA operates, the Commissioner General receives little guidance from either the Advisory Commission or the General Assembly. This leaves to him and aides the major burden of political determination. This freedom is what enables the Commissioner the ultimate autonomy to push whatever political agenda he/she desires or, perhaps more accurately, to accede to the non-UN pressures of Arab states or radical Palestinian groups."(Buehrig, Edward H. The UN and the Palestinian Refugees, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971, P. 57)

Today Senator John "Why the Long Face" Kerry, along with Congressmen Keith Ellison and Brian Baird are touring Gaza. They are being led around by UNRWA and their security is arraigned by Hamas, one thing is certain they are getting a skewed version of last month's events in Gaza.

The question is does this signal a change in American policy toward Israel and Terrorists? After all Kerry is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
Congressional ban on members visiting Gaza under the bus Ed Lasky
Since Hamas took over control of Gaza and started launching missiles into Israel, there has been an unofficial halt to Congressional visits to Gaza ..

Hamas, lest we forget, has in their Charter the pledge to kill Jews wherever they may live. Nevertheless, now there appears to be a change to that Congressional rule. Two Democratic Congressmen are visiting Gaza now; and John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also crossed the border into Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The two Democratic Congressmen are Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Congress’s first Muslim, and Brian Baird of Washington.

Baird had this to say of his visit:

Baird said that the visit represents a change in the United States' attitude and approach to Gaza, under newly elected President Barack Obama.

Ellison chimed in:

The destruction from Israel's recent military operation in Gaza was beyond description.

Kerry has not issued comments so far. He is being escorted through Gaza by officials from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency-a group that has been harshly critical of Israel, that has had terrorists on its staff and, that has allowed use of its facilities by terrorists. All on our dime.

Kerry is most assuredly getting an earful.

Baird is not speaking for the Administration. Nor is Ellison. Nor are any of the politicians meeting with Hamas officials (at least, “officially”). And with Europea n politicians also speaking with Hamas, it may not seem like much. Nevertheless, the breaking of the de facto ban on Members of Congress visiting Gaza is telling.

Comment: Asleep at the Wheel should only be the name of a Country group-it should not reflect the attention of American Jews!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What Israeli identity crisis?

Selwyn Freeman
February 18, 2009

The Times' Feb. 14 editorial, "Israel’s identity crisis," is unfair to Israel. In particular, the editorial's questioning of Israel's ability "to be both a Jewish state and a democratic state" is patently absurd. The suggestion that these objectives are mutually exclusive simply has no basis in reality.. Israel was established with the aim of extending civil rights to all of its people (not just Jews). For the most part, despite ongoing threats from neighboring Arab and Muslim states, Israel has successfully realized this ambition. As The Times correctly states, Israeli Arabs "vote in free elections, criticize the government and run for public office, privileges denied to many of their brethren elsewhere in the region."

This is not to say that Israeli Arabs have been completely happy with their treatment by Israel. In this regard, The Times explores whether Israeli government aid for the Arab population has been as generous as for the Jewish population. However, the editorial fails to consider ways in which Israeli Arabs benefit to the exclusion of Israeli Jews. For example, male Arabs are generally exempted from Israel's three-year military service requirement and ongoing reserve military training that is generally imposed on the male Jewish population (a small proportion of Israeli Arabs do in fact volunteer for military service). Among other obvious benefits, this exemption allows Arab men to begin their careers or university studies three years ahead of their Jewish countrymen.

The suggestion by The Times that Israel's status as a democracy conflicts with the socioeconomic differences between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews or the call by some politicians for loyalty oaths (which American schoolchildren recite every day) is ridiculous. There are a number of groups in the United States that are generally poorer than, say, white Protestants. Does The Times believe that the United States' democratic credentials should be in dispute? Moreover, there are Western countries that have actually enacted discriminatory policies. For example, the monarch of Britain must be a Protestant and cannot marry a Roman Catholic. Does The Times believe that Britain's status as a democracy should be called into question?

The Times acknowledges that "Arabs in Israel are growing more radical, more identified with the Palestinian national movement, and that many are more sympathetic with Hamas than in the past." But The Times goes on to argue that "weakening the country's democracy is not the solution" without providing any evidence that Israel is in fact doing this. The Hamas charter openly calls for Israel's destruction and allows for coexistence among people of different religions only under the rule of Islam, so Arab Israeli citizens who support Hamas are actually supporting religious intolerance and the destruction of their own state. Can one imagine the response by the United States if American Muslims were to begin waving Al Qaeda banners and openly advocating the destruction of the United States and the murder of non-Muslim Americans? Israel's forbearance in the face of similar provocation is quite amazing.

Perhaps most unjustified is The Times' assertion that "the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza ... would ease the pressure between Jews and Arabs everywhere." At Camp David in 2000, Israel offered the Palestinians a sovereign state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat refused this offer and later launched a new round of terrorism against Israel. Many have argued that this indicated that the Palestinians do not want a state side by side with Israel but, rather, a state in place of Israel. The way in which the Palestinians under Hamas have used the Gaza Strip as a launching pad for violence since Israel's unilateral withdrawal in 2005 seems to confirm this. Given the egregious human rights violations in Gaza and in much of the Arab and Muslim world (to which alleged Israeli mistakes pale in comparison), perhaps a better question for The Times would be if it's possible to be an Arab or Muslim state and a democracy.

Ultimately, the suggestion that Israeli Arabs are somehow oppressed by Israel is belied by the fact that the vast majority continue to choose to make their lives in Israel. This is no great surprise given that, unlike Arab and Muslim nations, Israel is a Western-style democracy that extends civil rights to all of its citizens and has a relatively high standard of living. The fact that Israel has been able to achieve this in spite of its neighbors' hostility is a tremendous accomplishment.

Selwyn Freeman is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia.

Lies from Gaza

19 February 2009

Lies from Gaza

They have shown us only the Israeli bombs and tanks, but there is another truth Hamas keeps hidden: civilians used as human shields, summary executions, dozens of disappeared people, UN aid stolen, the money pocketed by the movement leaders.

Here are the testimonies of Palestinians who no longer want to live in terror.
The dirty war of HAMAS


“To die with us is a great honor. We will go to Paradise together or survive until victory. Allah’s will be done.“ In this way Hamas militiamen responded to the entreaties of the Palestinian civilians not to use their homes as positions during the terrible Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip from December 27 to January 18.

Now that the international spotlights have been turned off, Panorama has gone to see what happens in Gaza and discovered the other side of the war, just as dirty, that has not been told: entire buildings taken hostage, the population used as human shields and, for the dissidents, even today the risk of getting a bullet as “quislings”.

A far from theoretical danger: since the end of December, 181 Palestinians have been summarily executed, kneecapped or tortured because they opposed Hamas.

But it is not over: now the Islamic movement that rules Gaza with the Koran in one hand and a gun in the other wants to control everything, including aid and reconstruction.

The Andalous building in the Al-Karama neighborhood of Gaza City is reduced to a skeleton of concrete. The Israelis have hit hard, and this middle-age Palestinian couple has nothing left but to pick up the rubble of an apartment not yet paid for. They escort us on what remains of the indoor stairs, on the condition that Panorama uses only their family nicknames. “We knew that it was going to end up like this. Since the early days of the attack the muqawemeen (the guerrilla fighters of the Palestinian “resistance”, AN) had positioned themselves in the twelfth and thirteenth floors, with the snipers. Every now and then they tried, to no avail, to shoot down one of those UAVs that the Israelis use”, says Abu Mohammed, shaking his head. In the building, not yet finished, lived 22 families: more than 120 civilians, including women and children. The Israelis had begun calling the tenants’ cell phones ordering them to vacate the premises. Then, the militiamen got a more explicit message: a fighter dropped a bomb on the empty courtyard on the other side of road without causing victims, but opening a huge crater. “A delegation of householders beseeched the militiamen to leave” resumed the tenant.“ The answer was: “You will die with us or we will survive together”.

On January 13 the Israeli F16’s hit the building at 9:30 P.M. “At night we would go to sleep at our relatives’ homes: we were saved, but no longer had a home and we still have to repay 9 years of the loan” says Om Mohammed in despair, a veil on her head. The Islamic Bank does not grant exceptions.

In another building in Gaza, in the Al-Nasser neighborhood, lived about 170 civilians distributed on eight floors. When the militiamen positioned themselves on the roof, a former Palestinian colonel went to parley explaining to them that they would draw Israeli bombs on the children of the building. “It will be a great honor if you will die with us,” replied the defenders of Gaza. As the officer insisted, they fired a burst of Kalashnikov over his head to get rid of him.

At Sheik Zayed, 20 kilometers to the north, a Palestinian pharmacist was barricaded with his family on the second floor of his condominium. The Islamic militants had placed a booby trap on the front road and were hiding on the third floor with the detonator. “They wanted to blow up the first Israeli tank that was passing. I tried to explain that the reaction would be furious and would strike even our apartments. In the end, to save ourselves, we had to go” accuses the pharmacist with a veil of resignation in his eyes.

In the Tel Al-Awa district of Gaza, invaded by the land incursion of Israel, there are people who were taken hostage twice. “Call me Naji, which means survivor, because if you write my real name they’ll kill me” begs the Palestinian householder. “The Hamas men arrived at night to sleep under the stairs. First in uniform, then in plain clothes and with concealed weapons. We tried to bolt the door, but there was nothing to be done. The entire building was used as a shield by the militiamen and could be bombed at any moment.“

When the men of Hamas won the elections in the Gaza Strip, Naji was pleased of the change, but now he hates them. “They launch rockets (on Israel, AN) without any military result other than self destruction” says the survivor. “They do it to get money from their Iranian and Syrian sponsors.” When the Israelis arrived, the “resistance” fighters in the district had disappeared. To find them the soldiers entered the building. Together with the other men of the condominium, the Palestinian was held prisoner for a day and a night. “I was taken hostage twice in the same war”, sighs Naji. “And the Hamas men have even threatened to settle the score at the end of hostilities, because I protested”.

In other cases, the thugs of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, did not limit themselves to threats. Osama Atalla was 40 years old and his youngest daughter, Iman, had been born five days earlier. He was killed on January 28, 11 days after the cease-fire. Atalla was an elementary school teacher and an activist of al-Fatah, the party of the moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen. “He openly criticized Hamas, but never wielded a weapon against them” claims Mohammed Atalla, a relative of the victim.

The murderers came to his home to apprehend him with two off-road vehicles full of armed people. With masked faces they showed membership cards of the Palestinian internal security. “Just a few routine questions. We’ll bring him back within half an hour “ they told the family. The elementary school teacher was tortured for a whole night. Then they killed him, shooting him point-blank in the hip, just before leaving him dying in front of the Shifa hospital.

“Since the war we have documented 27 summary executions. 127 other people were kidnapped, tortured or shot in the legs. At least 150 people were forced under house arrest. We know nothing about the fate of a hundred Hamas prisoners. The numbers could be higher, but many cases are not reported because people are terrified. “ The complaint on Hamas’ dirty war against its opponents comes from Salah Abd Alati, a member of the independent Commission on Human Rights in Gaza.

From Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank where Abu Mazen governs, the names of 58 kneecapped people have been made public.

112 other Palestinians have legs broken by blows of iron bars or cement blocks. They are, for the most part, supporters of al-Fatah: they are accused of collaborating with Israel against Hamas. From Ramallah, the Palestinian minister for prisoners and refugees, Ziyad Abu Ein, has spoken of “terrorism” and “crimes committed against the Palestinian people.”

One of the victims is Aaed Obaid, a former military policeman loyal to Al-Fatah. With blue eyes, a small red beard, and hollow cheeks, he is achingly lying on a sofa at his home in Gaza City. Under the blanket he hides his bandaged left leg. “On January 26, around 7 P.M., I was sitting outside the door chattering with my brother,” he says. “Four armed and masked men arrived in a silver off-road vehicle, such as those used by Hamas. They apprehended me, hooded me, and dragged me away. I hadn’t done anything.“ First they took him to a militiamen training center, telling him that they were going to execute him. Then they made him pray and dumped him back into the car. “At some point they pulled up near the Shifa hospital and made me lie down on the ground. They fired two Kalashnikov shots at my left leg, without even telling me what I was accused of. “

The brother of the kneecapped man, Obaid Adel, is one of the Al-Fatah prisoners released from the Saraia prison, in central Gaza, before the Israelis bombed it. A neat mustache, anger in his eyes. “Some prisoners were injured by the bombs and brought to Shifa. At least seven have been slain in their hospital beds. “

After using the war to settle internal issues, now Hamas wants to control the distribution of aid and reconstruction. It also tried to confiscate the aid of UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees.

On February 4, Hamas policemen seized 406 food rations and 3,500 blankets intended for 500 Palestinian families. The day after, the UN chief official in Gaza, John Ging, firmly declared to Panorama: “It is the first time and it will be the last time they steal our aid. They must return it without arguing. “ During the night, a few hours later, 300 tons of food supplies were also seized. UNRWA has decided to suspend the arrival of aid to Gaza until the stolen goods are returned. On February 9 the fundamentalists surrendered and returned it all, but they always seek to manage consensus through the aid.

“Whatever gets through from Rafah, the border crossing with Egypt, ends in the hands of Hamas. Distribution is dealt with by the social committees of the mosques, 90 percent of which are controlled by the Islamic movement,“ explains Mkhaimer Abusada, a political science lecturer at Al-Azhar University of Gaza. Distribution lists, which favor those who support Hamas, are the weapon of consent in exchange for aid. In late January, the police stopped the trucks of a local humanitarian organization that works for an Italian NGO. They wanted the water distribution lists.

To meet the head of a Palestinian NGO, funded by the European Union and by the American USAid agency, we cautiously wander at night. The appointment is at Jabaliya. The chairman of the NGO is afraid of Hamas, not of the Israelis. “They want to force their men to control the distribution” accuses the source of Panorama. “We were told not to conduct statistics on destroyed homes: they are going to lay their hands on the reconstruction too. I know dozens of families who have suffered the Israeli aggression, but are discriminated against with regard to aid because they do not support Hamas. “

In Beit Lahiya, in the north of the Strip, Fatima’s home is partly destroyed. “ I went to the Islamic Society, an organization close to Hamas that deals with aid and reconstruction. I don’t vote for them. Strangely enough I was not registered in the distribution list” tells the middle-aged woman wrapped in a multicolored veil.

A Gaza journalist has lost a beautiful two-story house. He was handed over 380 euros to get an initial arrangement. “Friends of Hamas have pocketed 4 thousand euro. To a neighbor of mine who had just shattered window panes but is one of them, aid arrived straightaway” protests the journalist.

Despite the disaster, the Islamic movement has declared victory. A bitter joke circulates among the Palestinians of the Strip: “A couple more victories like this and Gaza will disappear from the face of the Earth.” But something is changing: a poll of the Beit Sahour Palestinian Public Opinion Center reveals that the consensus for Hamas in the Strip has dropped from 51 percent in November to 27.8 after the war.

מח' מידע ואינטרנט – אגף תקשורת
16 פברואר 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Security cabinet decides: No truce before Schalit released staff, HERB KEINON AND BRENDA GAZZAR , THE JERUSALEM POST

Israel will not accept a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip before Gilad Schalit is released, the security cabinet decided unanimously Wednesday, after discussing the issue for several hours.

In doing so, the cabinet accepted the position of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The cabinet also decided that while Gaza crossings would continue to facilitate the passage of vital humanitarian supplies for residents of the Strip, any further opening of the crossings was dependent on Schalit's release.

During the meeting, Olmert said that accusations Israel was pulling out of a finalized cease-fire agreement were baseless.

"We didn't give Egypt any agreement or framework for a deal from which we have suddenly withdrawn," he said. "I understand that there is some debate now over the goals of [Operation Cast Lead], but a [cease-fire] deal was not one of them. All along, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was adamant in her objection to any talk of a deal. I supported reaching understandings with the Egyptians."

While Olmert stressed that the decision did not mean Israel wanted a dispute with the Egyptians, he said that "we need to protect our interests."

Olmert read out a number of quotes from a document agreed upon with the Egyptians in June 2008 regarding the last cease-fire. One of these was a statement that without Schalit's release, a truce with Hamas could not be maintained.

"We said this unequivocally and it was clear to our Egyptian partners," he said. "There is no reason for Israel to act now as though it has lost every shred of self-respect, and submit to Hamas's terms."

On Tuesday, Olmert signaled that the negotiation process was still far from complete, saying it should be concluded in a "short period," but leaving open the possibility that a deal might not be finalized until after he left office.

"One thing is clear, the foundations that we set [for Schalit's release] - even if they are not completed during my tenure - will make it possible to return him immediately afterward," Olmert said during on a tour of the Western Wall and nearby archaeological sites.

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has indicated that Hamas would not accept linking Schalit's release to the cease-fire deal.

"Israel is responsible for blocking Egypt's efforts to broker a [Gaza] truce by adding a new condition at the last minute," AFP quoted him as saying.

"A truce can come about only in exchange for a lifting of the blockade and the reopening of the crossing points. It is unacceptable to combine the truce issue with the question of Israeli prisoner Gilad Schalit," he said.

Earlier Tuesday, however, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat quoted a senior official in the organization as saying that Hamas had no objection to the demand that a deal on Schalit's release be finalized before a cease-fire agreement, as long as Israel releases all of the prisoners on Hamas's list.

While Olmert insists that conditioning a cease-fire on Schalit's release was his position all along, it apparently took the Egyptians, who have been negotiating both for Schalit's release and a cease-fire agreement for weeks, by surprise.

Cairo had been anticipating a decision from the security cabinet Wednesday that would enable a cease-fire agreement, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304816185&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Courting Injustice

Joseph Klein | 2/17/2009

The International Criminal Court (“ICC”) is a permanent world court that has universal jurisdiction today to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, and crimes of war. These crimes are so broadly defined that, in the hands of unaccountable prosecutors and judges, they can be made to include just about any acts or consequences normally associated with military action, including against terrorists and the states that sponsor them. While the crime of aggression was also included as one of the core crimes within the ICC’s mandate, it remains non-operational until a provision is adopted defining the crime and setting out the conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction.. A Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression has been meeting at United Nations headquarters and other venues to work out such a provision, which will be submitted to the ICC’s governing Assembly of States Parties for final adoption. As the Special Working Group’s work product is entering its final stages, it is evident that it is moving in a potentially dangerous direction that will let terrorists and their state sponsors off the hook for their acts of aggression.

After delivering a pro-forma report to the press on February 13, 2009 at the United Nations’ New York headquarters, the Chairman of the Special Working Group (Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the UN) made a startling admission during the question and answer session that followed. When pressed under questioning, he conceded that terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden would not be subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction over the newly minted crime of aggression because they are not leaders of a member state. In this example of Alice-In-Wonderland justice a democratic nation’s leaders who order military force to be used in reprisal against terrorist strongholds in another state or territory could be prosecuted under the proposed definition of the crime of aggression, but the terrorists whose aggressive acts initiated the conflict in the first place would escape prosecution.

This entrapment of democracies which are trying to deal with the scourge of terrorism traces its roots to the thirty-five year old General Assembly Resolution 3314 entitled “Definition of Aggression”.[1] It is this definition that the ICC’s Special Working Group is incorporating into its definition of the crime of aggression.

The General Assembly’s definition of aggression sets forth an open-ended list of acts that would automatically cover the United States’ use of force in Iraq to “attack” Saddam Hussein’s genocidal regime, and the United States’ “military occupation, however temporary resulting from such invasion or attack”. The quoted words are taken directly from the resolution. Israel’s occupation of territory formerly held by Jordan, Syria and Egypt, and its efforts to strike terrorist enclaves at their source, would also be deemed an automatic violation of the crime of aggression.

The General Assembly resolution states that “[N]o consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression.”

At the same time, the resolution’s definition of aggression does not bar, in its words, “peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination” from doing whatever they believe they need to do to in their “struggle” for “self-determination, freedom and independence.” The definition of aggression also does not prejudice in any way “the right of these seek and receive support” from friendly states.

All of this will be incorporated into the definition of the crime of aggression that the ICC will be able to prosecute. As usual, this typical example of UN-speak sounds half-way reasonable on its face because it uses the terminology of human rights and self-determination. However, in actuality the exception to the definition of aggression is subject to being manipulated in order to justify terrorism and to go after the democratic state leaders who are trying to defend against it. For example, on the basis of repeated UN Human Rights Council declarations branding Israel as a racist occupying power, it will not be considered an act of aggression for terrorists organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah to launch rockets into Israeli population centers and kill innocent civilians because they are engaging in a legitimate “struggle” against “domination” by the Israeli “racist” regime. And Iran would bear no culpability for providing arms, funding and training to their terrorist surrogates because it is merely helping “peoples under colonial and racist regimes” to achieve their “freedom”.

When the ICC ultimately obtains jurisdiction to prosecute Israeli government leaders for the crime of aggression in addition to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, there will be no defense allowed that would show how the actions of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran to carry out their vow to eliminate the hated Jewish state prompted Israel’s response.

In the face of the terrorists’ own declared efforts to destroy a member state of the United Nations, the ICC would be restrained by these glaring loopholes from taking legal action against terrorist leaders for the aggression they ordered and carried out. In short, the terrorists and their state sponsors will have impunity from the crime of aggression.

There is another serious danger lurking in the plans of the ICC’s Special Working Group to push through its definition and procedures governing the international crime of aggression. It poses a direct challenge to the UN Security Council, which has the sole legal authority under the United Nations Charter to determine whether an act of aggression has been committed by a member state and to enforce such a finding against the aggressor.

Under a version of the proposal that is strongly favored among Arab and developing

countries, the ICC prosecutors would be empowered to end-run the Security Council process altogether. The aim is to enable the ICC to charge and order the arrest of leaders of the United States and Israel even though they have not ratified the Rome Statute treaty that created the ICC. The current check on the ICC’s authority to proceed with a prosecution in such circumstances would be eliminated for the crime of aggression, namely the requirement of Security Council referral which is subject to being vetoed by the U.S. and the other permanent members.

An ICC investigation of alleged aggression by an individual in a leadership position of a state, whether or not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, could be commenced if the General Assembly, the ICC’s own Pre-Trial Chamber or the International Court of Justice (author of the advisory opinion declaring Israel’s security fence to be illegal) has determined that an act of aggression has been committed. The Security Council would not have to be in the picture at all.

Even with the best of intentions, an international criminal court is utterly incompetent to deal with complex international peace and security questions that are so intertwined with the issue of whether acts of aggression really occurred in certain circumstances. It can only consider the case of the individuals brought before it for trial without regard to the broader context of their actions in defending the citizens to whom they are responsible as political leaders. This limitation is demonstrated by Article 53(2) (c) of the Rome Statute, which focuses on the individual circumstances of the victims and perpetrators in determining whether “the interests of justice” would be served by proceeding with a prosecution. Nothing is said about also considering the broader consequences of prosecution on international peace and security.

There are political, economic and military considerations in weighing whether a member state’s use of force constitutes an unjustifiable threat to international peace and security. The Security Council is the only UN body which is even remotely equipped to balance all of these considerations. The veto power of the permanent members has certainly been used to frustrate effective Security Council action in the past, but it also has the virtue of providing a check against rash or narrowly focused actions. The ICC is inherently incapable, and is not legally constituted, to render the kind of nuanced, multi-faceted judgments that are often required.

Add to the ICC’s incompetence the fact that it has buckled under pressure from the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the African Union. Due to such pressure, for example, the ICC has sat on issuing an arrest warrant against President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan that had been requested by the ICC Prosecutor. In his application, the Prosecutor accused Omar al-Bashir of mobilizing the whole state apparatus, including the army and the Janjaweed militia, to methodically commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur since 2002.

Despite the Security Council’s referral of the Darfur matter back in 2005 to the ICC for further action and its unanimous reiteration in June 2008 that justice and accountability are critical to achieve lasting peace and security in Darfur, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber has taken no action to date on the Prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant. That could change at any time, but the delay has only served to prolong the suffering of people who are truly victims of injustice.

At the other extreme, without waiting for a referral from the Security Council, the International Criminal Court announced a preliminary investigation of its own earlier this month into whether Israel committed war crimes during the recent Gaza war, after the Palestinian National Authority's move to recognize the ICC's authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This follows in the wake of long-standing demands by OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu that Israelis responsible for attacks on Palestinians should be tried for war crimes.

The ICC investigation is on top of a full-scale investigation by the UN Human Rights Council that is already underway and a separate UN Board of Inquiry on Gaza just set up by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. None of these triplicate investigations, which deal essentially with the same subject matter, are being coordinated with each other.

Not even waiting for the results of these investigations, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency has reported that dozens of arrests warrants have already been issued for Israelis. "We will use universal jurisdiction to deal with these war criminals," said the head of the Gaza Human Rights Center Raji Sourani.[2]

Israel is concerned enough about the prospect of international show trials that it has formed a special legal team to defend Israeli soldiers against potential war crimes charges.

President Obama has expressed some concerns about the ICC, particularly as it may affect our own soldiers’ safety. Although he is open to the possibility of joining the ICC at some point in the future, he said last October that “many questions remain unanswered about the ultimate scope of its activities”. If the crime of aggression is added to that scope of activities without far more adequate safeguards than we have seen to date and without including within its definition the acts of aggression by terrorist leaders, there will be yet another reason added to the many that already exist for continuing to decline membership in this dysfunctional global court.


[1] United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314, adopted during the twenty-ninth session on December 14, 1974.

[2] IRNA (January 24, 2009).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent
February 16, 2009

In translating Shragai's column, Haaretz failed to translate the authors first paragraph-(see below)

We, Women in Green and other Land of Israel activists who are fighting for the different hills and locations in the Land of Israel that are in danger of being taken away from us, sometimes get discouraged that we do not immediately see the positive results of our activism. This article should fill us with faith and strength never give up any struggle. We will continue to struggle for our right to the entire land of Israel and we pray that Hashem will make us see the day when we return, not only to places like Bet Hashalom in Hevron, but to all places we have temporarily been taken away from, such as Gush Katif, Northern Samaria and, yes, even Yamit.Some 1,700 dunams of land in the northern part of Efrat were declared state land last week, paving the way for the West Bank settlement to start the process of seeking government approval to build there.

The Civil Administration issued the declaration after rejecting eight appeals by Palestinians against the move. A ninth appeal was accepted, and the land covered by this appeal was consequently removed from Efrat's jurisdiction.

However, construction is still a long way off. First, the Civil Administration must formally allocate the land to the Housing Ministry, which, under new rules adopted by Ehud Olmert's government, cannot be done without approval from both the prime minister and defense minister.

Then the Housing Ministry must give Efrat's local council a permit to start the usually long planning process, which involves securing permits from various agencies. Only then can the work of building some 2,500 housing units in the Givat Ha'eytam neighborhood begin.

Since the outcome of the elections makes it likely that the next government will lean more to the right than the current one, Efrat plans to wait until the new government takes office before submitting its request.

Efrat, with around 9,000 residents, is the largest settlement in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and Givat Ha'eytam is the last unbuilt hill of the seven within the town's jurisdiction. Despite being the hill nearest Jerusalem, Ha'eytam lies outside the planned route of the separation fence, which has yet to be built in this area.

Gush Etzion is one of the settlement blocs that all Israeli governments have said they want to retain under any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

[Here is the translation of Nadav Shragai's Hebrew paragraphs, as a public service by Women in Green]

A year ago the residents of Efrat, together with the Action Committees of Jerusalem and Kiryat Arba, led a fierce public battle that included constant ascensions to the hill with the purpose of changing the route of the separation fence (that is still not built there) so that it would include the Eitam hill.

The struggle did not succeed but the Ministry of Defense ordered the paving of a road around the Eitam Hill in order to protect it from illegal Palestinian building and in order to increase the surveillance by the Civil administration.

Last Friday, in a belated Tu Bishvat tree planting ceremony held by the Efrat residents on the Eitam Hill, the residents were told about the fact that Eitam's legal status has been confirmed as State land. Israeli flags were waiving on the hill and speeches were given.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin reminded the public that Efrat should have been started first on the Eitam Hill and then continue southwards. "The assumption was that because of all of Efrat's hills, Eitam was the closest to Jerusalem, it would be the easiest hill to build on. Who would have thought then that specifically for this hill we will need to struggle so fiercely" he said.

The mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi, said that he would be happy to build his house on the hill. Others reminded of the fact that 300 dunams of the Eitam lands were bought tens of years ago by the Aminouta company (a branch of Keren Kayemet.)

In the coming months, the action Committees who have been part of the struggle for the hill, plan on holding different activities such as performances, lectures and marches, even before the actual planning of the building of the new neighborhood.

At this current stage, the hills of Efrat that are populated are the Rimon hill, Teena, Gefen, Dekel and Zayit. On the Dagan hill there is a neighborhood of caravans with the students and families of the "Siach Yitzhak" yeshiva and additional young couples and on the Tamar hill there is another neighborhood of caravans with young couples and the "Neta Sorek" mechina.


Prof. Paul Eidelberg

Genuine realism requires a theological understanding of the enemy. Genuine realists know that territorial compromise with Muslims only whets their appetite for further aggression . Genuine realists know there are no empirical grounds to expect Muslims to renounce Jihadism-the precondition of peace-unless they are so devastated as to expunge their desire to wage war for a hundred years-as the Allied powers did to Nazi Germany.

Israel , especially Jerusalem , is the focus of Islam's war against the West. The West is steeped in denial. Israel must awaken the West by going on the offensive. It must destroy the terrorist network west of the River Jordan. But as I have indicated , this goal requires basic reform of Israel's political system whose fragmented and transient nature precludes the execution of any coherent and long-term national strategy. In the final analysis, the only way to solve Israel's conflict with its Arab enemies-and this includes its own Arab citizens-is to make Israel more Jewish. The institutional reforms I have proposed will contribute very much to this objective because they will empower the people, most of whom are to the right of Israel's ruling elites. The February 10 election witnessed the political power of Israel's right-minded public, which would become even more united and effective under my proposed system of governance. Nor is this all.

We need leaders who understand that it is precisely the failure of Jews to insist on their God-given and exclusive ownership of the Land of Israel that encourages Arabs to persist in their war against our people. Since the goal of the Arabs-depicted in their maps-is to conquer all of Palestine , a rational government of Israel should adopt the following course of action:

1. Abrogate the Oslo Agreement and eliminate the entire terrorist leadership. This will demoralize the Arabs. No Arab leadership will speedily arise and command the loyalty of the artificial collection of rival clans called the "Palestinians."

With the PA destroyed, Israel's Government should declare Jewish sovereignty over Yesha. (The Arabs in these areas will retain the personal, religious, and economic rights they enjoyed under Israeli law, but they will not vote in Israeli elections . )

The Government should establish unequivocal jurisdiction over the Temple Mount .

4. It should move certain cabinet ministries to Judea, Samaria , and Gaza . (This will convince Arabs that the Jews intend to remain in these areas permanently . )

5. The Government should pass a Homestead Act and sell small plots of land in Yesha at low prices to Jews in Israel and abroad with the proviso that they settle on the land, say for a period of six years . This would diminish the dangerous population density of Israel's large cities and encourage Jewish immigration to Israel .
6. Develop model cities in Yesha by attracting foreign capital investment on terms favorable to the investors . Based on experience, and given Israel's present Gross Domestic Product of $170 billion, at least 150,000 Jews could be settled in Judea and Samaria within a few years . Their presence will prompt many more Arabs to leave, as tens of thousands have done in the past, and in greater number if offered generous incentives.

As concerns Israel's itself, I advocate the following measures:

1. The Law of Return should make explicit that Israel is a Jewish commonwealth, that its Jewish character is its paramount principle to which all other principles are subordinate.

2. Amend the "grandfather clause" of the Law of Return to diminish the number of gentile immigrants, and devote the vast sums saved to assimilate gentiles now residing in Israel .

3. Enforce Basic Law: The Knesset, which prohibits any party that negates the Jewish character of the State

4. Enforce the 1952 Citizenship Law, which empowers the Government to nullify the citizenship of any Israel national that commits "an act of disloyalty to the State . " (I would amend the term "act" to protect freedom of speech and press . )

5. Put an end to the notorious tax evasion of Arab citizens and their countless violations of building and zoning laws .

6. Terminate subsidies to, or expel, Arab university students who call for Israel's destruction, and require Arab schools to include Jewish studies in their curriculum.

7. Phase out U . S . military aid to Israel (now less than 1 . 5% of the country's GDP), as well as American participation in Israel-Arab affairs . Both undermine Israel's strategic interests as well as Jewish national pride .

There is still a lot of work and many obstacles to bypass until we reach the actual settling of the Eitam hill in Efrat, but this article is very uplifting.

Israel Covert Operations‏


Israel launches covert war against Iran Israel has launched a covert war against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran's nuclear programme, US intelligence sources have revealed.

By Philip Sherwell in New York

16 Feb 2009

It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project, the experts say.

The most dramatic element of the "decapitation" programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran's atomic operations. Despite fears in Israel and the US that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its ability to build atom bomb, Israeli officials are aware of the change in mood in Washington since President Barack Obama took office.

They privately acknowledge the new US administration is unlikely to sanction an air attack on Iran's nuclear installations and Mr Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Tehran puts any direct military action beyond reach for now.

The aim is to slow down or interrupt Iran's research programme, without the gamble of a direct confrontation that could lead to a wider war.

A former CIA officer on Iran told The Daily Telegraph: "Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way that they don't realise what's happening. You are never going to stop it.

"The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don't want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It's a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks."

Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the US private intelligence company with strong government security connections, said the strategy was to take out key people.

"With co-operation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear programme and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain," she said.

"As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration's outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result."

Mossad was rumoured to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran's Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported "gas poisoning" in 2007.

Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli "hits", intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the programme, according to Western intelligence analysts.

"Israel has shown no hesitation in assassinating weapons scientists for hostile regimes in the past," said a European intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. They did it with Iraq and they will do it with Iran when they can."

Mossad's covert operations cover a range of activities. The former CIA operative revealed how Israeli and US intelligence co-operated with European companies working in Iran to obtain photographs and other confidential material about Iranian nuclear and missile sites.

"It was a real company that operated from time to time in Iran and in the nature of their legitimate business came across information on various suspect Iranian facilities," he said.

Israel has also used front companies to infiltrate the Iranian purchasing network that the clerical regime uses to circumvent United Nations sanctions and obtain so-called "dual use" items – metals, valves, electronics, machinery – for its nuclear programme.

The businesses initially supply Iran with legitimate material, winning Tehran's trust, and then start to deliver faulty or defective items that "poison"

the country's atomic activities.

"Without military strikes, there is still considerable scope for disrupting and damaging the Iranian programme and this has been done with some success,"

said Yossi Melman, a prominent Israeli journalist who covers security and intelligence issues for the Haaretz newspaper.

Mossad and Western intelligence operations have also infiltrated the Iranian nuclear programme and "bought" information from prominent atomic scientists.

Israel has later selectively leaked some details to its allies, the media and United Nations atomic agency inspectors.

On one occasion, Iran itself is understood to have destroyed a nuclear facility near Tehran, bulldozing over the remains and replacing it with a football pitch, after its existence was revealed to UN inspectors. The regime feared that the discovery by inspectors of an undeclared nuclear facility would result in overwhelming pressure at the UN for tougher action against Iran.

The Iranian government has become so concerned about penetration of its programme that it has announced arrests of alleged spies in an attempt to discourage double agents. "Israel is part of a detailed and elaborate international effort to slow down the Iranian programme," said Mr Melman.

But Vince Canastraro, the former CIA counter-terrorism chief, expressed doubts about the efficacy of secret Israeli operations against Iran. "You cannot carry out foreign policy objectives via covert operations," he said. "You can't get rid of a couple of people and hope to affect Iran's nuclear capability."

Iran has consistently asserted that it is pursuing a nuclear capability for civilian energy generation purposes. But Israeli and Western intelligence agencies believe the 20-year-old programme, which was a secret until 2002, is designed to give the ruling mullahs an atom bomb.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hamas Puppet Bear Declares War

Gil Ronen Hamas Puppet Bear Declares War

After having three puppet hosts -- Farfur the Mickey Mouse look-alike, Nahoul the bee and Assoud the rabbit -- all die on TV, Hamas children's television has introduced a fourth puppet host. The new one, a bear named Nassur, appeared Friday on Hamas TV promising to be a Jihad fighter, and declaring war on the Zionists. Below is the full transcript of the video (by Palestinian Media Watch):

Nassur: "I will join the ranks of the Izz A-Din Al-Qassam [Hamas Brigades. I will be a Jihad fighter with them and I will carry a rifle. Do you know why, Saraa?"

Saraa: "Why?"

Nassur: "To defend the children of Palestine, the children who were killed, the children who were wounded, the orphaned children. That's why, from this moment, I declare war on the criminal Zionists. Not only me, me and you. You are ready, right, Saraa?"

Saraa: "We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for our homeland!"

[Al-Aqsa TV, Feb. 13,

Comment: Until the West makes it it unacceptable to continue with this kind of indoctrination there is NO POSSIBILITY of a change in social and cultural behavior. As long a s the West continues to fund, pursue "talks" send "officials" to discuss the next "peace document" Hamas, Hizzbollah and even Fatah will make a mockery of our policies towards them. I await leadership brave enough to not only acknowledge this but to also change the direction of its foreign policy.

Saar: Gov't Will be Nationalist

Hillel Fendel Saar: Gov't Will be Nationalist

MK Gideon Saar, #2 in the Likud and a leading candidate for a top ministerial post if and when Binyamin Netanyahu forms the upcoming government, has issued yet another reassurance to the religious and Zionist parties: “The new government will be based on our natural partners in the nationalist camp.”

“What is this we hear about a nationalist-bypass route,” asked Shimon Cohen of Arutz-7, “wherein the Likud, Kadima and Labor form a unity government of the large parties, thus obviating the need to take the religious parties?” “There is no such animal,” Saar said. “It is just a spin by Kadima to drive a wedge between the Likud and our natural partners on the right. The voters have voted nationalist, and we have said many times that the new government will be built along these lines, and will not be a unity government that leans to the left.”

“There has also been talk,” Cohen then asked, “that possibly Ehud Barak and some others from the Labor party would join the new government – what can you tell us about that?”

Saar hesitated, and then said, “At this point, we’re not dealing with such a thing. We have not hidden our opinion that Israel needs as broad a government as possible, but it has to be clear which path has won the elections and which one has lost. The voters rejected the path of the outgoing government that brought rockets to many places in Israel, exactly as we warned, and therefore we have to take a different path, and that’s what we will do.”

Cohen: “So why, if there are 65 MKs on the right, compared with 54 others – since the 11 MKs of the Arab parties won’t join any government – then why is the Likud so zealously trying to bring another party into the government?”

Saar: “There is no zeal, there is just a desire to do so, given the heavy challenges that face us…”

Cohen: “There is a serious question about Netanyahu working with the new US administration under Obama. It’s clear that Obama is not as hawkish as the Bush government. What can you answer?”

Saar: “Netanyahu and nationalist governments have worked well with Clinton and with Democratic administrations in the past, and the same will happen this time. A Netanyahu-headed government will be able to maintain both our special relationship with the U.S. and Israel’s vital interests. There have been many incidents in the past in which we and the U.S. had differences of opinion. For instance, even Ronald Reagan, our very good friend, objected when we struck the nuclear reactor in Iraq in the 1980s – yet our friendship was maintained.”

A-7: “Back on the issue of forming a coalition government: How do you think the issues dividing Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu – specifically, the latter’s demand for civil marriage – can be resolved?”

Saar: “I think it can be resolved, because once we define the problem as those who cannot be married according to Jewish Law, there is no reason not to find a solution in the form of civil marriage for that sector and not for the entire population. I also think that the parties involved – Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and United

The Operation in Gaza and the Palestinian System Strategic

Brom, Shlomo

One of the interesting aspects to the fighting in Gaza was the behavior of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. While there were expressions of public protest, they were on a relatively small scale, both in comparison to similar protests in the West and in the Arab world, and when considering the images of death and destruction shown on Arab television. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces helped temper the protests by directing them to locations where friction with Israeli defense forces would be avoided. Yet in any event, from the outset the protests were low key. It appears there were two main reasons for this. On the one hand the relatively low participation reflected the mood of the Palestinians who have tired of the ongoing failing struggle, and understand that terrible damage was suffered by the Palestinian people as a result of the recklessness on the part of Hamas, which did not correctly assess the Israeli response. On the other hand it reflected the serious weakening of Hamas’ political infrastructure in the West Bank. This process resulted from some decline in support for Hamas due to its forceful takeover of the Gaza Strip and its failure to improve the lives of Gazan residents, but mainly from a series of effective actions by the Palestinian Authority and Israel against Hamas’ political and economic infrastructure in the West Bank. For example, a significant number of Hamas political activists were arrested, the Palestinian Authority succeeded in taking control of a large number of mosques where Hamas operated, and the organization's financial assets were impounded. In the absence of a functioning political infrastructure, Hamas struggled to motivate the masses to protest.

Another indication of Hamas’ weakness in the West Bank was its failure to realize its threat to inflict heavy damage on Israel from this area. Hamas did not manage to launch even one single significant terrorist attack from the West Bank during the fighting, and the few attacks that took place during this period were spontaneous attacks by Palestinians who decided, on their own initiative, to carry out attacks using improvised means (knives, arson, and so on). After the ceasefire there was one shooting attack, although it is unclear if this was a Hamas attack. One may conclude from this that Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure has also been crushed through intensive efforts by Israel’s security forces in recent years, and recently by the actions of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces as well. This does not mean that some Hamas cells are not operating still, but their capabilities are limited.

At this stage it is difficult to assess how the recent conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas will impact on the relative political power of Hamas and Fatah, headed by Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinians in and out of Gaza presumably understand the damage Hamas has caused them, the more favorable situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank under Abbas, and that area's greater prospects for further future improvement. This understanding can lead to a drop in support for Hamas and a rise in the power of Abbas and Fatah. On the other hand, during the fighting Abbas and the Palestinian Authority were perceived as collaborating with Israel and as irrelevant to the Palestinian cause, while Hamas again demonstrated that it is the only party that is willing to take Israel on and not succumb despite the large number of casualties. While this image of Hamas may have suffered to an extent because the organization did not succeed in carrying out its many threats and only inflicted limited damage on Israel, it is still strong. Since the end of the campaign Hamas has tried to boost this image and create a perception of its having been victorious in this campaign because it did not succumb and stayed on its feet, thereby “forcing” Israel to stop the fighting. If Hamas does not increase its efforts to stop the violent activity from the Gaza Strip, this will indicate that Hamas operatives might even believe this to be the real situation. The balance between these two antithetical elements is still unclear although the findings of a recent public opinion poll may indicate that support for Hamas has increased.[1] In any case, even if Hamas loses additional support, it will presumably continue enjoying significant popularity among the Palestinian public. It is also likely that even if there is strong criticism of Hamas in Gaza because of the campaign, this will not hurt Hamas’ control of the Strip, and critics will be wary of expressing their criticism and certainly will not stage an uprising against Hamas.

The fighting in Gaza helped Abbas navigate his way past January 9, 2009 which, according to Hamas and many Palestinian legal experts, is the date his term as president of the Palestinian Authority ended. After it recovers from the shock of the fighting in Gaza, Hamas will likely renew its verbal attacks on Abbas on this matter, but it is doubtful whether this will have any real effect that will unsettle Abbas’ regime.

Another question is the impact of the developments in Gaza on the dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. Prior to the war the dialogue was deadlocked, due to the lack of real interest among both sides in progress. Egypt is trying to renew the dialogue as part of the post-campaign agreements, but is highly doubtful if this is attainable in the coming months. Hamas was not interested in the dialogue prior to the operation in Gaza because it preferred to conduct it from a position of strength, and it believed it would be in such a position after January 9. Now, after that hope has faded and it finds itself in a position of weakness, it is doubtful it will be interested in dialogue.

The situation in Gaza following the campaign has potential major impact on Israel's political process with the Palestinians. If a new deterrence balance has indeed emerged that will make Hamas hard pressed to renew the firing from Gaza, and certainly if the arrangements with third parties – principally the US and Egypt – make it hard for Hamas to rehabilitate its power, one can assume that stability and relative calm will continue for some time along this border. If Egypt succeeds in mediating between Israel and Hamas and an agreement is reached that will consolidate and strengthen the ceasefire, this will contribute to the stability, which in turn can help renew and accelerate the political process with the Palestinians. Although Abbas put contact with Israel on hold during the fighting because he was forced to display public displeasure with Israel’s actions, it is likely that he will want to renew it after the dust settles. In the meantime, there will be a new government in Israel, and this will help him turn over a new leaf. It is more convenient for both sides to conduct a political process when the security situation is calm. In this respect Hamas’ weakness in the West Bank also contributes to the possibility of advancing the political process.

If the expectations of stability in the Gaza sector prove unfounded and the small scale rocket firing and attempts to carry out terrorist attacks along the border continue, Israel will likely first try to bring about calm through air attacks that will exact a greater cost than before. If this too does not help, Israel will probably embark on an ongoing series of wider military operations that will be designed to continue weakening Hamas and achieve freedom of movement for Israel’s security forces throughout the Gaza Strip. At this point there would be the risk of anarchy in Gaza and the disappearance of the central government, as happened in the West Bank following Operation Defensive Shield. In such a case Abbas would not likely agree to return to the Gaza Strip, "riding on Israeli tanks." In any case, continuation of the fighting will make it hard for the two sides to conduct serious talks, let along conclude them successfully and implement the agreement, even if they wanted to. In this case Israel will have to decide between renewing its military rule and anarchy in Gaza.

The political process that began after the Annapolis Conference incorporates two elements: political negotiations, which is process that works from the top down, and a process of building the Palestinian Authority’s capabilities, and particularly its security capabilities, which is a bottom up process. Hamas’ weakening will make it difficult for it to disrupt the process of building up the Palestinian Authority’s capabilities, although the image that was created of collaborating with Israel may damage the legitimacy of the Palestinian security forces in the eyes of the Palestinian public. These forces will have to demonstrate their contribution to Palestinian interests and the welfare of the population in order to limit this damage.

Another issue that may affect the development of the Israeli-Palestinian political process in the longer term is the impact of the campaign in Gaza on internal developments within Hamas: how will the internal balance of power evolve, will the positions be toughened, or will it be possible to change stances and make them more flexible. On the one hand, the cost paid by Hamas could generate a process of moderation in which the political branches of Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank will gain strength vis-à-vis the military arm in Gaza and the external leadership in Damascus. On the other hand, Hamas' anger and frustration, particularly in a situation in which it feels that the results of the fighting help intensify the siege and the pressure on the organization, can lead to the military arm gaining power. However, the Damascus-based leadership will probably continue to control the finances and the weapon supplies to Hamas, and this affects the balance of power within Hamas.

In any case, even if the results of the fighting create a convenient environment for the continuation of the political process, this does not mean that an accelerated political process will take place in the coming year. The fighting in Gaza coincided with political transitional periods in the US and Israel, and the position of the Obama administration and the new government in Israel will have a crucial influence on the Israeli-Palestinian political process. In the United States the picture is becoming clearer. President Obama, who straightaway announced that he intends to give high priority to the Israeli-Palestinian track, appointed former senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East, who in turn has already made his first visit to Israel. On the other hand, the picture on the Israeli side is less clear. The Israeli positions are dependent on the coalition formed after the elections. The fighting in Gaza may strengthen support for less compromising stances towards the Palestinians, and boost those who argue that Israel cannot hand over more territory to the Palestinians given the risk that such areas might become launching bases for attacks against Israel. While this position is challenged by the Palestinian Authority's positive performance during the campaign, it is not clear how much this fact left its mark on the Israeli public and might overcome wariness to handing over additional territory to Palestinian rule.,7340,L-3667302,00.html.[1]

Obama Wants a Unity Government


( U.S. President Barack Obama wants Israeli politicians to form a unity government, according to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. According to the report, Obama is willing to put pressure on Israeli leaders behind the scenes to achieve unity as long as his actions do not become known to the public. In the Israeli elections last week, Kadima gained 28 mandates as opposed to Likud’s 27, but the right-wing bloc gained 65 mandates as opposed to the left’s 44. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu has asked Kadima to join him in a national unity government, but some Kadima MKs want Kadima to go to the opposition.

Guest Comment: he arrogance of Barack Obama in thinking that he has the right to dictate what kind of government Israel should have !! He knows nothing about the history of the region, has all left wing advisers many of whom are antagonistic toward Israel and would not mind seeing it disappear. Whatever Obama knows about the area he has learned from friends like Khalid Rashidi.* (below are some notes about Rashidi's activities.) We know that Obama called Israeli President Peres after the elections to say that he favors a 2-state solution. He has also indicated that Israel must give up the Golan, divide Jerusalem, and leave Judea and Samaria. This, of course, would render Israel so weak that it would lead to the destruction of the country. Another adviser, Samantha Power**, suggested 'invading Israel'. (see article below.) These are just a couple of Obama advisers whom we know to be anti-Israel.

Israel is a sovereign nation and, as such, has the right to form her own government and make decisions in her best interest. Previous governments have yielded to international pressure and the Arabs interpret concessions as weakness. The country is at the forefront of the same battle that the rest of the world is fighting against radical Islam. Obama does not even want to use the expression 'war against terror'. He is willing to mend fences with the Muslim world whose goal he does not even understand; the dismantling of Israel would be the result of 'peace' with the enemies of democracy (Obama seems naive as to the results of his actions.) The goal of radical Islam is the destruction of Western civilization to be replaced by a worldwide caliphate and sharia - strict Islamic law. Experts in Arabic - fluent in the language - understand the goals, read their newspapers daily, monitor their programs and know what is being said to their people - not in English which is doctored to be heard by us.

Let it be understood that the wars that Israel fights ( 2006 - Lebanon; 2009 - Gaza) are being supported by Iran - the same country that is threatening 'the big Satan' - the U.S. as soon as it destroys ' the little Satan' - Israel. (G-d forbid both ) Israel has been fighting for her freedom and survival and that impacts the West. Obama now wants to remove Syria from the terrorist list and to being diplomatic relations with the country. Syria has waged wars against Israel and, although the Olmert gov't has been speaking with them there is little to trust. The Syrians have had relations with Iran; they occupied Lebanon for a long time. Why has Syria been on the terrorist list in the first place?

Here is the report about Obama and Israel; it is not just Israel that must take heed. Interference in the workings of a democratic country is a big 'no-no'.


Russia close to selling S-300 anti-air missiles to Iran for its nuclear sites

February 15, 2009, 9:56 PM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile's military sources report that Iran's defense minister Mostafa Najar travels to Moscow Monday, Feb. 16 to tie up the last ends of Tehran's purchase of a brigade of advanced Russian S-300 air defense missiles to guard its nuclear sites. Our Iranian sources report that Najar will be the guest of the Russian defense ministry and the giant missile manufacturers Almaz Antey and visit the new missile's production and testing sites.

Its components are produced in dozens of factories across Russian – the missile itself at one group, the radar systems in another and the missile batteries at a third.

DEBKAfile's Washington and Jerusalem sources recall that prime minister Vladimir Putin in his previous role as Russian president personally assured the US and Israeli governments more than once that he would never release the lethal S-300 missiles to Iran. Their acquisition would make an air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities extremely difficult and dangerous.

Washington sources believe that the Kremlin is about to comply with Iran's request in order to turn the heat on the Obama administration for a final decision to waive plans to install an American missile shield in East Europe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Turkish-Israeli Ties in a Stew

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Turkish-Israeli Ties in a Stew

Relations between Israel and Turkey worsened Saturday with Ankara's official warnings that Israel's election results "painted a very dark picture" for the Middle East. Turkey also summoned Israel's ambassador following a critical statement by an IDF officer. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with Turkish media, "Unfortunately we have seen that the (Israeli) people have voted for these (rightist) parties and that makes me a bit sad. Unfortunately the election has painted a very dark picture."

Israel has had friendly relations with Turkey, and comments on a general election are considered unusual.

However, the country's relations with Israel have been problematic since last month's dramatic confrontation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, when Erodgan scolded Israeli President Shimon Peres over Israel's war against terror in Gaza and called for the United Nations to expel Israel from the international body. Erodgan walked out during a response by President Peres.

In an apparent response to the criticism, IDF ground force commander Major-General Avi Mizrachi commented that the Turkish Prime Minister should "look in the mirror" before criticizing Israel. His references, some of them veiled, to genocide of Armenians, Turkish oppression of Kurds and its occupation in northern Cyprus prompted Ankara to summon Israeli ambassador Gabi Levy.

In an effort to calm the storm, the IDF issued a rare repudiation of Mizrachi's comments, stating that they did not represent the IDF position.
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Ministers Will 'Pay the Price'

Hana Levi Julian Ministers Will 'Pay the Price'

The government is likely to agree to "pay the price" set by Hamas terrorists for the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, according to Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit.

The minister told reporters prior to the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday morning that he was "willing to pay the price to bring [Shali home," even if that meant a two-step process, "so long as Gilad is released from Hamas hands in the first phase and passed to the Egyptians." Sheetrit said as he went into the meeting, "We must not make any agreement without including Shalit." The Kadima Interior Minister wasn't the only one who expressed his willingness to deal.

Shas party chairman and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, also said "We mustn't make progress with the ceasefire without Gilad Shalit," echoing Sheetrit's words, "We will need to pay a heavy price for his return."

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, meanwhile, appeared to be setting the stage for public opinion to accept a cabinet decision on the matter, with an interview on Voice of Israel government radio prior to the cabinet meeting.

Dichter told listeners during the broadcast that the government is prepared to free numerous Palestinian Authority terrorists with "blood on their hands" in order to secure Shalit's return.

However, he was cautious in talking about terms for a deal that might include the top terrorists whose freedom has consistently been demanded by Hamas – Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, PFLP secretary-general Ahmed Sada'at, and Hamas bomb maker and terror mastermind Abdullah Barghouti.

Dichter sidestepped the question of whether Israel would actually agree to their release, instead saying carefully that it was unlikely that Israel would allow the senior terrorists to return to their homes in Judea, Samaria or Gaza.

For days, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been saying that Israel is unwilling to seal any Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Hamas terrorists if Shalit's return is not included as part of the deal.

On Saturday night, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement that bluntly said "Prime Minister Olmert's position is that Israel will not reach understandings on a lull before Gilad Shalit's release."