Saturday, April 03, 2010

Is The Obama Administration Working Toward Engaging Terrorist Groups Hamas and Hizballah or Not?

Barry Rubin

The widely read Cable, a publication of Foreign Policy magazine, responded to my article about apparent hints that the Obama Administration and its favorite think tank might be involved in pushing the idea of dealing with Hizballah, a revolutionary Islamist group in Lebanon which is terrorist, genocidally-intended toward Israel, and a client of Iran and Syria.

For my original article, see here (
Despite the fact that I was very careful and responsible, accurately quoting the letter I had received, the article’s headline was entitled, The nonexistent Obama conspiracy to engage Hezbollah,” as if the whole notion was ridiculous. But the only evidence that this isn't happening is a rather unpersuasive, or at least very strange, denial by the project's director.

The author, Josh Rogin, interviewed the head of the project, Thanassis Cambanis, a journalist who is also an adjunct professor (that means he teaches a course) at Columbia University on the story. But guess what? Rogin didn’t interview me. Isn’t that rather unfair, would you say?

According to Rogin, the project's official letter:

“Led Rubin, whose post got wide traction in the blogosphere yesterday, to speculate that `the Center for American Progress is going to issue a report calling for U.S. engagement with Hizballah, and that it has been encouraged to do so by important officials in the Obama Administration.’"

That’s not speculation; that’s what Cambanis’ assistant told me, as Rogin himself admits:

“The Cable reviewed the original email sent from the Columbia student to Rubin. It did state that the project was ‘for’’ the Center for American Progress and `will be presented to senior US policymakers in the administration,’ both of which were incorrect, Cambanis said.”

So let’s get that straight: My article was 100 percent accurate in describing the letter I received but Cambanis said his own assistant simply made up the claims that it was being done for the Center for American Progress and was being presented to Obama Administration officials.

Wouldn’t one expect that Cambanis reviewed the letter before it was sent? And if he did, isn't this a serious misrepresentation on his part? But if his assistant just made stuff up, one should ask if this student is being disciplined or fired. After all that is something pretty serious to make up and send out to mislead people, isn’t it?

Cambanis also rejects the idea that he intends to endorse engaging Hizballah in his report. But everything Cambanis has written shows that he is a strong advocate of the idea. The letter’s writing, as I quoted it, also indicates it. Did the student make that up also?

So we are left with two possibilities: Either the letter was describing a project being done for a research center close to the Obama Administration and it had been arranged to submit it to the U.S. government or Cambanis and his staff made it up.

The Cable seems content to accept Cambanis’ explanation which essentially said: Move along, nothing to see here. Yet that doesn’t satisfy me. Either Cambanis is guilty of a serious misdeed or my “speculation” was close to home. And Cambanis's record makes the idea that he is part of the pro-Hizballah lobby quite persuasive. Which is it?

If Rogin had contacted me, I could have told him some additional things that indicates my conclusions were based on other sources who are aware of this project.

And also, to understand the general framework of the situation, what could be more ironic that the same day this article in the Cable ran, the Wall Street Journal reported:

“Several high-profile former U.S. officials, some with close ties to the Obama administration, met with leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in recent months, raising hope inside the group that its views are being heard at the White House. White House officials and participants in the talks emphasize the meetings weren't sanctioned by Washington. U.S. officials say there has been no change to Washington's insistence that Hamas take a number of steps before official dialogue can begin. Still, the talks have been interpreted by some officials inside Hamas, Israel and the Palestinian Authority” as implying that the Obama Administration was exploring engaging Hamas.

Perhaps their assistants just put it on their schedules without informing them about the meeting? I don’t know if the Obama Administration is going to engage with Hamas—probably not—or Hizballah—more possible. Yet we know there are people lobbying for these moves who are on good terms with the administration or are themselves high-ranking officials. That's not a non-existent "conspiracy."

And, equally important, people in the region believe this is going to happen. What is the effect?

Israel: Can we trust a U.S. government that might be engaging terrorist groups that openly declare they want to destroy us.

Palestinian Authority: Are the Americans going to sell us out? How can we be more moderate? We better stick to a hardline position!

Lebanese moderates: The U.S. government is selling us out. We better cut our own deal with the Syrians and Hizballah!

Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, and Syria: The Americans are surrendering! Full speed ahead! Our strategy is working.

Now, even if the Obama Administration has no intention of such engagement by letting this stuff happen its behavior is having a terrible effect on the region.

Incidentally, you’ve probably forgotten the article I wrote reporting on Brennan’s statements about Hizballah. A left-wing reporter said to him conversationally—but at a public function—that Brennan had told him privtely that he wanted to engage Hizballah. Since Brennan is the advisor to President Barack Obama on terrorism-related issues that seems a matter for real concern.

Or to see this mentality at work, look at the State Department Press Briefing of April 2. Hamas attacks Israel, Israel responds. And the State Department briefer says that the better way to deal with Hamas attacks on Israel is to...negotiate!

"QUESTION: -- there were some Israeli strikes in response to rocket attacks. What’s the U.S. – what is the U.S. communicating to the two sides about this?

"MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve said many times, I don’t know what the predicate was for the Israeli action. The Israelis have a right to self-defense. At the same time, as we have said many times, we don’t ultimately think that there is a military solution to this. It’s why we have been pressing the Palestinians and the Israelis to get into proximity talks that can lead to direct negotiations. But we are always concerned that steps taken by either side, legitimate or otherwise, can be misconstrued, can be twisted, and end up causing turbulence that can be an impediment to progress.

"So our message remains to the Israelis and Palestinians that we need to get the proximity talks going, focus on the substance, move to direct negotiations, and ultimately arrive at a settlement that ends the conflict once and for all."

Even if the Obama administration's goal is to reach a two-state solution real fast, does it make sense to suggest that this is going to solve the problem of Hamas, which continues to be a revolutionary Islamist group backed by Iran and Syria while seeking to commit genocide on Israel? And it also wants to overthrow Fatah and turn the PA into an Iranian-backed Islamist regime engaged in permanent war. Regarding U.S. policy, whatever happened to: PA good; Hamas bad?

So if the administration is thinking of opening contacts with two of the most important revolutionary Islamist and terrorist groups in the Middle East, which are also clients of Iran and Syria, it shouldn't just deny that, it should stop playing with the notion and move toward a much tougher position.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood

Tens of thousands visit Hebron and Machpela

The Jewish Community of Hebron
April 02, 2010

Tens of thousands visited Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela, celebrating Passover at the semi-annual Hebron Music Festival. For almost seven hours, premier performers entertained thousands in the Machpela courtyard. The event included a debut: Yonatan and Aharon Razel singing the hit written by Yonatan and sung originally together with Yaakov Shweky: MiSheAmdah. A special ceremony took place during which certificates were awarded to several Knesset members and two Deputy Ministers, Ayoob Kara and Gila Gamliel, for their loyalty to Eretz Yisrael and assistance in having Ma'arat HaMachpela declared a 'national heritage site.' All belong to the Shdulat Eretz Yisrael, a body of 40 Knesset members lobbying for Jewish presence in all of Israel.

Ayoob Kara said, "“We are friends of America and walk hand in hand with America but nothing will move us from Hevron – not even Hussein Obama.”

MK Aryeh Eldad said, ""Five years ago, not many people understood that Gush Katif is the security belt of Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva. Hevron is the security belt of Jerusalem”

Several Arab attacks were reported, including massive damage done to a bus which entered the 'wrong' part of Hebron, and was bombarded with rocks on all sides. One woman was slightly injured.

A Hebron spokesman issued the following statement:
The mass turnout of people to Hebron over the past few days is more than encouraging. It is a specific sign pointing to the healthy state of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel. There are those who would seek our expulsion from our homes in the first Jewish city in Israel. However, this is a small minority. An overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel understand the importance and significance of Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela to Jewish culture and tradition. Ma'arat HaMachpela did not need 'approval' as a site of national heritage, being that this place is the very roots of all Jewish heritage in Israel. However, it is very heartwarming to again witness the tremendous love of Am Yisrael to Hebron and Hebron's Jewish community. These events spoke loudly and clearly to all Israel and the entire world:
Hebron, Me'az u'leTamid – Hebron, Past, Present and Forever.
We call on people from Israel and from around the world to continue visiting Hebron this summer, ensuring that it will never be forgotten: Jewish Hebron is not expendable!

Photos and movies can be seen at:

Iran bought uranium enrichment hardware from China

An Iranian procurement firm linked to Iran's nuclear program has obtained hardware for uranium enrichment which was manufactured by a French company that until recently was owned by American industrial conglomerate Tyco International, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

The Journal reported that over the last few weeks the private Iranian firm purchased critical valves and vacuum gauges from an intermediary Chinese company based near Shanghai.
Both the French and the United States firms denied knowledge of the business transaction, The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that Western authorities are currently investigating how the gauges and valves reached Iran despite sanctions intended to prevent such equipment from entering Iran.

According to a Vienna-based diplomat, The International Atomic Energy Agency has been aware of the transaction since January and is probing the matter, the journal reported.

"Some deliveries got through [to Iran], others didn't," the Wall Street journal quoted an investigator familiar with the IAEA probe, who added that it is not uncommon that manufacturers are unaware of the destination of the products manufactured in their companies.

Shortly after the report was published Saturday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that actions against Iran over its nuclear programs would just increase the country's motivation for more technological progress.

"You cannot intimidate our nation by such threats and cannot hinder our progress," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Sirjan in south-eastern Iran, where he inaugurated an industrial project.

"The more you [the world powers] try to hinder us by force, the more such threats will increase the people's motivation," he said in the speech carried live by the news network Khabar.

U.S. President Barack Obama told CBS on Friday that evidence shows Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, adding that he felt his administration should continue the pressure on Tehran to cooperate with the international community over its contentious nuclear program.

Earlier Friday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said after meeting China's foreign minister and other officials in Beijing that Iran and China agreed during talks in Beijing that sanctions are "not effective."

"In our talks with China it was agreed that tools such as sanctions have lost their effectiveness," Jalili told a news conference in the Chinese capital, speaking via a Chinese translator.

Asked if China backs sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, he said: "It's up to China to answer that."

Jalili also said that international sanctions would not prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear activities. "Iranians are familiar with sanctions ... We consider sanctions as opportunities ... We will continue our [nuclear] path more decisively," Jalili said.

The United States and Israel, meanwhile, have both been making efforts to engage China in pursuing harsh international sanctions against Iran over the latter's contentious nuclear program.

Last week China announced for the first time that it would consider going along with sanctions against Iran, even though its final decision will be made following talks in the UN Security Council over the substance of the resolution that will be brought for a vote.

Meanwhile, A U.S. intelligence report on the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missiles in 2009 was delivered to Congress last week. The unclassified version concluded that the Chinese government has implemented, during the past two years, legislation that is meant to monitor the export of banned items, but enforcement is not complete.

"Chinese entities" continue to sell items "related to missiles" to many clients, including Iran, according to the report.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Israeli planes carry out 7 missile attacks on Gaza


Israeli planes and helicopters mounted at least seven missile attacks on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Friday, destroying what an Israel Defense Forces spokesman described as Palestinian munitions sites.

Four air strikes blew up two caravans near the town of Khan Younis, witnesses and Hamas officials said. There were no casualties. A fifth missile hit a cheese factory in Gaza City, setting it on fire, witnesses and Hamas officials said. Hospital officials said two children were slightly wounded by flying debris.

Helicopters struck twice in the central refugee camp of Nusseirat, destroying a metal foundry. There were no casualties.

An IDF spokesman confirmed the attacks, saying they had targeted two weapons-manufacturing plants and two arms caches.

The air strikes were Israel's response to a Palestinian short-range rocket that was fired across the border into Israel on Thursday, the spokesman said. The attack, which went unclaimed by any Palestinian faction, caused no damage.

Last Friday, Major Eliraz Peretz and Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky were killed while pursuing a group of Palestinian militants trying to lay mines near the border fence. Two other soldiers were wounded in the incident, and two militants were killed.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Storm in a Teacup is Well-Orchestrated Campaign!

Steven Shamrak

Not long ago, the assassination of a renowned terrorist in Dubai , UAE, was big news for several weeks. Without any solid evidence, Israel was immediately accused and implicated in his death. As soon as newspapers and TV channels realized that the audience had become tired of this 'news', they calmed down about this issue and another anti-Israel tempest in a teacup was created. This time it is 'the best friend of Israel ' who is culprit and creator of the 'storm'. For some inexplicable reason, the Vise President of the United States made a big issue out of a routine announcement of construction approval in an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Jerusalem. In spite of the unfortunate apology by the Israeli Prime Minister, which should not be made, and several explanations given, this well-orchestrated anti-Semitic campaign, as many others before it, has been run frantically by media outlets (who said that Jews own the press?) and continuously fuelled by invisible and skillful hands for a few weeks now. Even if Ramat Shlomo was in East Jerusalem (see note below), Israel must say "get lost" to all anti-Semitic idiots or fake friends and do what is in the best interest of Jewish people! Our enemies, the Muslim and those traditional 'European' ones, will never be satisfied, regardless of what Jews do or refrain from doing. Genocide of Jewish people has always been and still is on their agenda! We must stop paying attention to their venomous attacks, as they are designed to weaken Israel and distract our attention from reaching our own national goal and we must start working seriously toward reunification of Eretz-Israel and removing of all enemies from Jewish land!

Note: "Let's get the facts straight. Ramat Shlomo is not in "east" Jerusalem as often reported, but in North Jerusalem. It is not a new settlement, but an existing, established neighbourhood. The planning request application has already taken years and will take at least another three for the first brick to be laid." - Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador to the UK.

Major Snub Raised No US Outrage or Media Screaming! Mrs Clinton made clear to Russia prior to her visit that the Obama administration was opposed to the timing of the nuclear plant's launch. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the plans as soon as Mrs Clinton arrived for a two-day visit. (Israel is the only country that is not allowed to conduct its own policies!)

Israel Need to Re-evaluate the 'Friendship' with Obama. For a head of state to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, was unheard of.

Hypocrisy of the Headlines and the US Policy:

Obama: Israel's Announcement of New Jerusalem Housing Not 'Helpful' - Nothing is helpful for Arabs, as far as Israel s existence is concerned! Must we care?

Say "Get lost" to Deceptive Idiots. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said it clearly to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in challenging her strong anti-united Jerusalem stand at American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting: "Jerusalem is not a settlement; it's our capital." Netanyahu spoke several hours after Secretary Clinton. (Anti-Israel bigots, like Clinton , should not be given stage at the Jewish meeting. The time of being nice to them has passed. We must be clear and unapologetic about our rights and goals!)

Who is the Real Villain in the 'Peace' Game. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, emboldened by U.S. President Barack Obama's tough talk on Israel, has rejected American-mediated talks with Israel . Abbas told the Arab League summit in Libya that Israel must make more concessions. (What concessions has the PA made?)

Another 'Honest Broker' and 'Friend' of Israel is Busted. The London Daily Telegraph and the London Daily Mail have published findings that former Prime Minister Tony Blair's, the Quartet (Russia, the U.S, the EU, and the UN) envoy to Middle East, has secret financial deals with Kuwait's royal family and an oil firm dealing with the Middle East .

Self-hating Traitors in Cahoots with the Friends . Eric Yoffie, president of the United States-based Union for Reform Judaism, is calling on the State of Israel to enact a construction ban for Jews in portions of Jerusalem liberated from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War.

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak

We have done enough intellectual and analytical work about the behaviour of our enemies, Islamic and anti-Semitic thugs. It has taken too much of our time and effort, with no resolve. We must come up with an answer to the most important question: "How can we unite Jewish people behind our national goal - re-unification of Eretz-Israel?" The rest is easy!

The Quartet: Another Burking anti-Israel Dog. The Quartet called for a restarting of negotiations between Israel and the PA, and the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years, calling on Israel to freeze all construction in Judea and Samaria, including construction for natural increase. (Why don't they call for freeze on all construction by the PA at the same time?)

Saudi Arabia Seeks Strike on Iran. The German news magazine Der Spiegel has reported that Saudi Arabia is hoping Israel will strike Iran's nuclear facilities, and is even prepared to open its skies to Israeli warplanes to allow such an operation to take place.

Would He Arrive in Saudi Arabia on a Muslim Holiday? The UN Secretary General was deeply offended that there was no official reception other than a security detail when he arrived in Israel on Friday night. What a Chutzpah! He arrived in the Jewish State on Shabbat and expected Israel to break Jewish religious codes to greet him. (Even giving security protection to a bigot was too much!)

Idiocy Still Dominates in Israeli Courts. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court handed down a six-month suspended sentence to three young men for calling on Israelis to oppose the 'disengagement plan' by blocking roads. (Charges should have been dropped long ago!)

Obama is Pro-Arab, Americans are pro-Israel. Around 42 percent of Israelis view U.S. President Barack Obama as pro-Arab, and only seven percent see him as pro-Israel. Thirty-four percent of the respondents are reserving judgment with a neutral view, most likely because they are ashamed of the fact that they supported and were fooled by Obama. A recent poll in the United States has shown an 8 to 1 margin of Americans saying that their government should side with Israel in the conflict with the Palestinian Authority. (When the oil business and traditional anti-Jewish sentiments are involved, even in the great democracy like the US, public opinion is worth nothing!)

Quote of the Week: "In my country there are 170,000 Armenians; 70,000 of them are citizens. We tolerate 100,000 more. So, what am I going to do tomorrow? If necessary I will tell the 100,000: okay, time to go back to your country. Why? They are not my citizens. I am not obliged to keep them in my country." - Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey - Muslim and Arabs rulers are never concerned with or pay attention to international opinion. They speak their minds and intentions quite clearly. It is time for Israel to learn this useful trait!

Israel's Fifth Column. Arab MK (member of Knesset) Ibrahim Tzartzur said that Jews do not have any right to Jerusalem and called on "the Islamic nation" to liberate it from Israeli hands. (He was elected by and represents views of Arab-Israeli votes - the enemies within. All enemies must be removed from Jewish land!)

No Independence for Basques. French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that his government plans to crack down on Basque separatists. (Basque lands are still occupied by Spain and France. Their language is not even recognized as European by the EU. But Europeans and other 'friends' of Israel feel morally superior to lecture Israel, the country that for over 60 years, in spite of occupation of Jewish land by Arabs, has been trying to make peace with them.)

International Harassment is Working. The Jerusalem Municipal Building Committee approved the construction of housing units for Arabs but refused to grant permission for construction in the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa. The move is likely due to fears that it would upset the Obama administration during Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the U.S. (Israel must ignore international harassments. They will never end unless Jewish State will start to care about its own interest first!)

The Settlements Aren't the Problem

by Bret Stephens

&it would be a splendid thing for Israel to tear down its settlements, put the settlers behind its pre-1967 borders, and finally reach the peace deal with the Palestinians that has been so elusive for so long.

Except for one problem: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn't territorial. It's existential. Israelis are now broadly prepared to live with a Palestinian state along their borders. Palestinians are not yet willing to live with a Jewish state along theirs.

That should help explain why it is that in the past decade, two Israeli prime ministers - Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 - have put forward comprehensive peace offers to the Palestinians, and have twice been rebuffed. In both cases, the offers included the division of Jerusalem; in the latter case, it also included international jurisdiction over Jerusalem's holy places and concessions on the subject of Palestinian refugees. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also offered direct peace talks. The Palestinians have countered by withdrawing to "proximity talks" mediated by the U.S.

It also helps explain other aspects of Palestinian behavior. For Hamas, Tel Aviv is no less a "settlement" than the most makeshift Jewish outpost on the West Bank. The supposedly moderate Fatah party has joined that bandwagon, too: Last year, Mohammed Dahlan, one of Fatah's key leaders, said the party was "not bound" by the 1993 Oslo Accords through which the PLO recognized Israel.

Then there is the test case of Gaza. When Israel withdrew all of its settlements from the Strip in 2005, it was supposed to be an opportunity for Palestinians to demonstrate what they would do with a state if they got one. Instead, they quickly turned it into an Iranian-backed Hamas enclave that for nearly three years launched nonstop rocket and mortar barrages against Israeli civilians...

The withdrawal also exposed other things. For years, Israel's soi-disant friends, particularly in Europe, had piously insisted that they supported Israel's right to self-defense against attacks on Israel proper. But none of them lifted a finger to object to the rocket attacks from Gaza, while they were outspoken in denouncing Israel's "disproportionate" use of retaliatory force.

Similarly, Israel withdrew from Gaza with assurances from the Bush administration that the U.S. would not insist on a return to the 1967 borders in brokering any future deal with the Palestinians. But Hillary Clinton reneged on that commitment last year (it is time for Israel to re-evaluate and drop all commitments that were made under duress and compromised Israel's security and the interests of the Jewish people), and now the administration is going out of its way to provoke a diplomatic crisis with Israel over a construction project that - assuming it ever gets off the ground - is plainly in keeping with past U.S. undertakings.

In the past decade, Israelis have learned that neither Palestinians nor Europeans can be taken at their word. That's a lesson they may soon begin to draw about the U.S. as well... (Which, considering the number of betrayals commited by the United States, is long overdue!)

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On behalf of my family

Bryan Atinsky, who lost his family in car accident, calls for change in Israel's driving culture

Bryan Atinsky

It is funny to talk about love at first sight, but when I first spotted Efrat when she visited my apartment at the time in Givataim, as a friend of my roommate Michal, I immediately changed plans and invited myself with them to some concert that was playing at the art museum in Tel Aviv that day. From then on I was intrigued by her intelligence, her deep ethics and her Yemenite beauty. She became my closest friend and lover and we married three years later in December of 2002. We loved to play guitar together, and sing and go to concerts and walk in nature, and her calm and methodical ways complemented my more hyper and spontaneous tendencies. She was a woman of deep convictions and love for her family. She was the first person in her whole family to ever not only go through university, but receive a PhD, and this was an aspect of pride for her whole family. Seeing her dedication and work that she was doing in her post doctorate, leaves me with sadness at the loss of potential that she could have brought to this world.

Scene of horrific accident (Photo: Herzel Yosef)

My five year old daughter Noam was my other best friend in the whole world. We were a lot alike in many ways, from the curly hair, to our sense of humor and irreverence. Every day she filled me with joy, asking questions about the world that allowed me to see again the mystery and awe-inspiringness of the universe through the eyes of a child searching for discoveries. Noam had a love for music and dance and art and cinema and even wrote a play for her 5th birthday party. She had, along with me, a voracious appetite for graphic novels and stories.

At bedtime, my wife, Efrat would have to remind me to stop reading and get out of Noam’s bedroom each night because neither of us would want to end our readings together. We had a close bond that will forever be remembered by me, but forever be a scar in my heart.

Ya’ari, my son and my youngest child was just beginning to truly show his personality. He always had a smile and laugh (except when he was hungry, which he would let us all know loudly), and loved to be cuddled, played with and sung too. He would jump for hours in his jumper with glee. With his chubby cheeks and his Yemenite complexion, we all thought he looked like a little cuddly Eskimo baby. My heart hurts at the thought of the loss of ever being able to get to know him as a fully developed individual.

Esther Gamliel, my mother in law was a loyal and loving grandmother, wife, mother in law, and parent to all her children. She helped Efrat and I for many years in so many ways and came to visit us in Athens, Georgia (USA), twice in one year to visit and help us with our new child Ya’ari, and celebrate Noam’s fifth birthday.

Since becoming aware of their death due to the inappropriate and selfish actions of the driver who killed my beloved family, my life has taken a tailspin, and my bereavement is the hardest thing I have ever been through, sometimes making me feel as if I am being ripped apart. But I know that they would want me to continue with my life in as fulfilling a way as possible, and I KNOW that they would want their tragedy to not have been in vain. That is why I feel obligated to work, in their name to do all I can to change the driving culture on the roads in Israel, and to demand of the police and government to enforce the laws of the road, so that the likelihood that this terror will occur to others, will be significantly reduced.

Harsh enforcement of existing laws

Many people argue that “Drivers, not road, are to blame for deadly crashes.” This commonly accepted point is understandable, knowing the wild and aggressive behavior of Israelis on the road, but it is fallacious. We Israelis should be asking ourselves why Israeli driving culture has deteriorated so. Like all human beings, we are broadly self-interested actors, who will modify their behaviors depending on the potential personal cost of our actions. At the moment, in Israel, there is, for whatever reason, a serious disconnect between peoples’ actions and any thought of a real, immediate consequence.

This is the reason that the behavior continues. It is not some essentialist part of the Israeli genes or Israeli culture that we "just have to live with." In the end, the police are responsible for creating a sense of responsibility and change in behavior among the drivers in Israel. And if manpower and budget are not allocated immediately to change this situation, then these deaths are the direct blame of the Government and Police. They should not get away with blaming bad drivers. It is a structural and institutional issue that facilitates their bad driving behavior and it is a structural and institutional solution that is needed.

A happy family (Reproduction photo: Avi Moalem)

While educating good behavior in our schools and communities and having PR advertisements on the television and the radio, reminding people of the need for good driving behavior are a small part of the solution, they are miniscule in comparison to the need to enforce EXISTING laws on the books and to move quickly to contemplate what is the threshold needed regarding fining and incarceration of individuals that will reach the critical mass needed to significantly cause a change in the culture of driving in Israel. While educating our children in grade school about good driving ethics may sound good, we don’t have the time to wait 15 years until they are drivers to change the situation

Harsh enforcement of existing laws, however, will have direct and immediate impact. Moreover, from an understanding of the way in which behavior modification is most efficiently accomplished, immediate reward and punishment is essential to having a more lasting effect on behavior. So while having cameras set up is one part of a solution, the fact that they receive their punishment in the form of a fine in the mail so far down the line, limits its effectiveness.

That is why it is so important to have large number of hidden speed traps with the real presence of human police officers on the road, and the constant changing of location of those speed traps. Where I grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs (and am now staying since my family was killed), people are hesitant to drive even eight kilometers per hour over the speed limit, because they NEVER know where or when a police car will be hidden behind a tree somewhere to give them a ticket for speeding. The same goes for the fear of turning lanes without using ones blinkers or passing in a no passing zone (which is what killed my entire family.)

Direct consequences

One excuse given for the slowness of change in Israel on this subject is budgetary. However, it’s the government’s duty to its citizens to protect our safety. They talk about “security,” but spend only NIS 440 million on the budget of the Road Safety Authority, less than 1% of the Defense Budget. This despite the fact that many more people die in car accidents than in wars and terrorism.

But in point of fact, it is very apparent that a culture of good driving behavior begins with the basics. All everyone needs to do is look around their own neighborhood and see that it is sometimes almost impossible to discern whether a road is one way or two way, because people will park on the left against traffic at their whim if there is an open space. This is against the law and dangerous. In the past, my wife Efrat and I got into a scrape (luckily going at a slow speed in a small neighborhood) when a car that was parked against traffic pulled out directly into our lane.

Four graves (Photo: Avi Moalem)

Now ask yourself, have you EVER seen someone ticketed (you yourself included) for this illegal (and potentially dangerous act)? You know the answer is no. There is simply no enforcement of even this BASIC traffic law. And this fact definitely has influence on the Israeli public’s simple sense of disregard for a culture of good driving. One suggestion that I have that should be immediately implemented is that municipalities should first go to all cars parked on the wrong side of the road against traffic and put a warning sticker on their vehicles stating something along the line of “You have parked illegally against traffic and this existing law will begin to be enforced on X day in two weeks time. This is your last warning. On X day, you will be fined 400 shekels for this traffic violation.”

Why is this so important? Because it will begin to get the Israeli public to understand on a basic and direct level that that there are proper safe behaviors on the road and that there are direct consequences for their actions of ignoring these rules of behavior.

While there may be some apprehension on the part of the Israeli public to actually call for harsher fines and stronger policing upon themselves, this is not my intention in the least. Instead we should be thinking of this in the most positive way possible. If the driving culture in Israel can be changed after the initial shock of increased enforcement, I have no doubt in my mind that Israel could reach the level of countries like in Scandinavia and the UK, where adherence to traffic laws are much more an ingrained part of cultural behavior and the percentage of needless deaths on the road are much fewer.

I have lost my family already to this current situation, and while I can never turn back the dial and get my loved ones back, I do not want any other Israelis to have to go through the utter terror and ripping apart of their heart and soul that I am going through. If my calls for the police, government and the citizenry to take upon themselves the needed budget, resources and manpower to make this less likely to happen in the future, than that is all I can now do to honor the deep and everlasting love I have for Efrat, Noam, Ya’ari and Esther.

Comment: I join your quest and ask that all caring Israel's do the same. The lack of respect on our roads is killing people-a red light is only a suggestion to many-stop the madness.

The Despicable Tom Friedman – Archetypical Self-Hating Jew

Tom Friedman, Again

By Jason Maoz, Senior Editor

Jewish Press, March 19, 2010

Thomas Friedman, who in the past has written of American officials being held “under house arrest” in the White House, by an Israeli prime minister, used a crass Yad Vashem metaphor to describe Israel. He viewed Menachem Begin’s pride in things Jewish as “his pornography” (more on those statements later), is at it again, this time likening Israeli leaders to dangerously inebriated motorists. Vice President Joseph Biden, wrote Friedman on Sunday, should have reacted in the following manner to the Israeli announcement, made during Biden’s visit to Israel last week, of new apartments being built in East Jerusalem:
“He should have snapped his notebook shut, gotten right back on Air Force Two, flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: ‘Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk.’”

When it comes to Israel, Friedman, the New York Time’s foreign affairs columnist, has long had a short fuse, especially when Israeli officials have had the temerity to disagree with Friedman’s presumed wisdom. Usually Friedman expresses his anger in the plodding, workmanlike prose for which he’s been lampooned by a number of writers (not that it’s prevented his books from automatically becoming best-sellers). But, on occasion he lets loose and the invective goes flying.

He did so in a 2004 column in which he wrote of Israel’s then-prime minister “Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he’s had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates....”

As former New York City mayor Ed Koch noted at the time on Bloomberg Radio, “Of all the anti-Semitic slurs, one of the most outrageous is that Jews secretly control the world. Last week we heard yet another version of the same old lie, this time from Tom Friedman.” Koch continued: “Friedman, who is so full of himself, believes he can resort to the anti-Semitic slur of secret Jewish control, and avoid criticism because he is a Jew. In reality, Friedman disgraced himself and his newspaper. His false words, coming at a time when anti-Semitism is skyrocketing worldwide, are particularly irresponsible and repulsive. If he is capable of feeling shame, I hope he feels it now.”

Friedman’s vicious streak when it comes to Israel was on full and painful display in his 1989 book From Beirut to Jerusalem. As the Monitor has noted on a couple of occasions, Friedman boasted of how his disdain for Menachem Begin colored the dispatches he filed as a Times Middle East correspondent, first in Lebanon and then in Israel.

Friedman’s contempt for Begin led him to crudely psychoanalyze the Israeli prime minister. “Begin,” he wrote, “loved the idea of Jewish power, Jewish tanks, Jewish pride. They were his pornography. He needed a war to satisfy his deep longings for dignity....”

Friedman ascribed much of what he found objectionable in Israel to what he characterized as the country’s unhealthy obsession with the Holocaust, which he blamed in part on the presence of Holocaust studies in Israel’s high school curriculum.

In a turn of phrase so flippant and insensitive it’s hard to believe it could come from a Jew, Friedman dismissed the State of Israel as “Yad Vashem with an air force.” And in writing about his coverage of the 1982 Lebanon war, Friedman came as close as a journalist (how demeaning to the profession to call this ignorant hack a journalist – jsk) can to admitting a lack of objectivity.

Friedman didn’t appreciate the answers he was getting during an interview with Major General Amir Drori, commander of Israeli troops in Lebanon, so he proceeded to turn in a classic hatchet job. “I buried Amir Drori on the front page of The New York Times,” boasted Friedman, “and along with him every illusion I ever held about the Jewish state.”

Two decades later, nothing’s changed. On the bright side, Friedman is now an opinion columnist and readers know in advance they’re getting Friedman’s subjective views rather than the unvarnished, undisputed truth. In that position, he’s considerably less harmful than he was as a foreign correspondent shoehorning his personal issues with Israel, Jewish pride and Holocaust remembrance into news slots supposedly reserved for objective coverage.

Jason Maoz can be reached at

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gaza Border Tensions: A Drift toward War?

Jeffrey White

The March 26 clash between elements of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Golani Brigade and Palestinian operatives near the Gaza border was the most serious since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. The incident has exacerbated tensions -- already on the rise due to increased rocket attacks on southern Israel -- and added to concerns that another Gaza war is looming. Neither Hamas nor Israel has a clear interest in renewing large-scale hostilities, but the dynamics of the border conflict point toward escalation. The two sides did not necessarily want a war in December 2008 either, but it came anyway. The Incident
The clash began as a routine IDF response to Palestinian activity near the border security fence. IDF personnel observed what appear to have been Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives planting explosives near the fence (also a routine activity). A force from the Golani Brigade's 12th Battalion responded by crossing the fence and penetrating some distance into Gaza near Khan Yunis to investigate the activity. A firefight ensued, resulting in the deaths of two IDF soldiers (including the battalion's deputy commander) and the wounding of two other Israeli personnel. Two Palestinian operatives were killed as well. Several other incidents reportedly followed, with other Palestinian operatives attempting to plant explosives along the fence.

Rising Tensions
The clash occurred against a backdrop of escalating tensions with Palestinian demonstrations in Jerusalem, incitement by Hamas, rocket attacks on southern Israel by other organizations, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza targets accompanied by official statements of warning. From March 17 to March 24, Palestinian operatives in Gaza fired eleven rockets into southern Israel. None were attributed to Hamas, but the preceding several weeks had been very quiet, with no rocket strikes reported amid Hamas efforts to actively discourage them. The increase in rocket firing has led some to question whether Hamas has altered its policy and is permitting, or at least not discouraging, such attacks. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak publicly raised this possibility on March 27, in the wake of retaliatory airstrikes on March 19, 20, 23, and 24.

The ongoing clashes along or near the border are also adding to the tensions. These clashes are part of a contest between Palestinian factions and the IDF over control of the fence and parallel buffer zone. Palestinian forces seek to extend their control up to the fence itself, likely as a preliminary step for launching terrorist attacks into Israel, while the IDF seeks to dominate the buffer zone within Gaza to thwart these intentions. This struggle has led to a steady toll of casualties, mostly on the Palestinian side.

The Israeli doctrine for responding to such incidents is aggressive. Commanders are expected to react strongly, making direct contact with Palestinian operatives inside the buffer zone even at the risk of taking casualties. Just two days before the March 26 clash, an IDF soldier was killed in a "friendly fire" incident during an aggressive Golani Brigade response to Palestinian activity. Similarly, Hamas's Qassam Brigades have been directed to actively oppose Israeli incursions into the buffer zone. The group established an observation network that alerts commanders to such incursions, permitting a rapid reaction. This network played a role in the March 26 clash, alerting Qassam combat forces that fired on the Golani element inside Gaza, according to Qassam accounts.

Palestinian political disputes seem to be driving tensions as well. Such disputes are evident on several fronts: the internal Hamas debate between hardliners and pragmatists over the role of violent action against Israel in the current environment; Hamas's efforts to contain jihadist elements in Gaza; and Hamas's contest with the Palestinian Authority over who leads the "resistance" against Israel. Hamas leaders are having difficulty presenting the movement as the vanguard of resistance while at the same time suppressing attacks on Israel out of concern over another invasion. Domestic Hamas opponents have scored points by highlighting this contradiction, which helps explain why the group has devoted so much effort to promoting its March 26 "victory." Egypt's continued progress on a smuggling barrier along the Gaza border has only added to the pressure on Hamas. The barrier threatens the group's tunnel system, through which it imports not only weapons, but also consumer goods vital to maintaining political support.

All of these developments are occurring within a context of continued military preparations by both sides for what many believe will be another major conflict. Although the IDF does not seek such a war, it has effectively been preparing for the next round since the end of Operation Cast Lead. Earlier this month, the IDF Southern Command completed a major headquarters exercise focusing on renewed conflict in Gaza. And after the March 26 incident, Israel deployed additional artillery batteries near the border. For its part, Hamas has continued its own buildup since Cast Lead, importing weapons (including new long-range rockets), fortifying its positions, and expanding its military tunnel network under Gaza. Both sides are sensitive to and closely monitoring each other's activity.

Gaza Conflict Dynamics
The current situation is complex and shifting. Increased Israeli-Palestinian tensions in the West Bank have produced increased rocket firing from Gaza as Palestinian factions there show support for those in the West Bank. Palestinian political competition both inside and outside Gaza could push Hamas, however reluctantly, to a more adventurous policy regarding attacks on Israel -- if not directly via Hamas strikes, then by giving other organizations a freer hand. Hamas may or may not have already relaxed suppression on such groups due to various pressures. Whatever the case, when rockets are fired into Israel, the IDF often responds by hitting Hamas targets, and when Palestinian operatives approach the border fence, the IDF responds aggressively.

Israel is attempting to reinforce the level of deterrence it established with Cast Lead via airstrikes and warnings, but there is a sense that this is not enough -- that deterrence is eroding under current conditions. Israeli civilians in the south are also increasingly uneasy about the spike in rocket attacks and border incidents, adding to the pressure on the government and military to respond strongly. Senior Israeli officials have mostly been cautious about the situation, although Likud minister Yuval Steinitz stated on March 28 that Israel might have to reoccupy Gaza to destroy the Hamas regime. In addition, some Southern Command officers have taken a tougher public line than IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who has been very cautious.

What Is Next?
Israel has enjoyed the relative quiet in the south since Cast Lead and lacks sufficient justification for a major operation in Gaza. It is also in the midst of a difficult political wrangle with Washington, one that could be exacerbated by another war. Hamas appears to have learned from the uncontrolled escalation that it abetted prior to Cast Lead and also needs quiet for its own reasons. Accordingly, it has spent substantial political capital to prevent attacks on Israel. On March 20, one of Hamas's senior officials in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, made a public statement basically condemning rocket fire against Israel as helpful to the enemy. And even while crowing about the March 26 clash, the group was at pains to point out that it was acting defensively and that it had not changed the rules of the game. The group's concerns were also reflected in reports that its Gaza leadership went to underground shelters during that incident.

Despite these reservations on both sides, the dynamics of the Gaza situation are tending toward increased violence and larger military operations. Managing these dynamics and preventing a major conflict will be a challenge for both Israel and Hamas.

Jeffrey White is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute, specializing in the military and security affairs of the Levant, Iraq, and Iran.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Significance of Passover for Contemporary Arab and Muslim History

Barry Rubin

One of the greatest little challenges of my life--at least in terms of needing to react instantly--came when I was sitting in a meeting with high-ranking Egyptian officials during Passover. One of them asked me if it was true that the Jews had a holiday about defeating the Egyptians. I realized I had about ten seconds maximum to come up with the best answer.

And it then came to me: "Ah, I replied, those were jahiliyya times." In Islam, the time before the beginning of that religion is viewed as a time of not only paganism but barbarism. Pharoah is a villain in the Koran. So they instantly accepted my answer: celebrating a story which ends with the drowning of pharoah isn't an act against Egypt but against a hated tyrant.

We are in a similar situation today. Change for the better will only come when the ideas and individuals who dominate the Middle East today--and oppose modernization, women's equality, democracy, peace with Israel, and real friendship with the West--are seen not as heroic leaders embodying Arabism and Islam but as unrepresentative tyrants.

That is not going to happen any time soon. It will take decades. Coincidentally, I just read the following written by George Orwell in 1946:

"Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible….This habit of the mind leads also to the belief that things will happen more quickly, completely, and catastrophically than they ever do in practice. The rise and fall of empires...are expected to happen with earthquake suddenness, and processes which have barely started are talked about as though they were already at an end.”

Yes, this process has only "barely started" and there is a long way to go. Indeed, it is arguably true that more in the West have accepted the "Middle East" interpretation of reality in the last decade than the other way around, viewing Islamists as heroic revolutionaries and tyrannical regimes as fighters for the underdog.

A brave Syrian oppositionist once asked me whether I thought democracy would come soon to his country. I choked up, having to much respect for him to tell him a pleasing lie. He understood my silence: "Oh, well," he sighed, "maybe in my children's time."

And so let me give greetings today especially--though not exclusively--for the democratic forces in Turkey, the democratic opposition in Iran, and in Syria, and those who dream of a free Lebanon. Your liberation will come also. Not when those tyrants' and the revolutionary extremists triumph. On the contrary, it will come when the waters close over them for the last time.

But only when the masses see what so very many of them are so proud to extol today as greatness as instead the political and social equivalent of the jahiliyya times they despise--the time of slavery to men who acted as pharoahs and to ideologies that extolled the equivalent of barbarism--will it be anywhere near an end.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood.

Obama's Israeli coalition members

Americans watching in horror as Barack Obama makes clear that he is an enemy, not a friend of Israel, will be shocked to know that while the Israeli public shares their estimation, the Israeli media and the political left are taking Obama's side against Israel. It is important to understand the context behind what is happening today in Israel because the powers that be on the Israeli Left are advancing several different agendas at once by attacking Netanyahu.

For their part, Yediot Ahronot, Ma'ariv and Channel 2 television news which is owned by more or less the same people as Yediot, are all battling Netanyahu as a proxy against his political supporter US billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson owns the new free daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom and his is distributing for free in 350,000 copies a day. Recently, Yisrael Hayom began publishing a weekend newspaper as well.

Before establishing Yisrael Hayom, Adelson made two attempts buy Ma'ariv which has been hemorrhaging cash for years. After the leftist media establishment circled the wagons to block him, Ma'ariv's primary owners, the Nimrodi family rejected his offer.

Just this month, they sold a large share of the newspaper to high-tech multimillionaire Zaki Rakib. Media analysts suspect that something other than financial interests played a role in the deal because no one believes that Ma'ariv has a future in light of Adelson's move to capture the newspaper advertising market with his free paper. Among other things, it has been reported that Rakib has just formed an investment fund with Yediot's heiress Judy Shalom-Nir-Mozes.

So too, in Jul 2008 Yediot lost its monopoly, (i.e. more than 50% share) of the Israeli daily newspaper market due to Yisrael Hayom's erosion of its readership. Both Yediot and Ma'ariv declared war against Netanyahu in the hopes that by putting the squeeze on him, he will prevail on Adelson to cut back on Yisrael Hayom's circulation. In light of Yediot's owners' ownership shares in Channel 2, financial interests have played a role in the television station's animosity towards the premier.

The Israeli media's business interests are perfectly aligned with their ideological interests, which are overwhelmingly far left. As many of you know, last year, through my position as the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy, I launched Latma, a Hebrew-language, satirical media criticism website to expose the political bias and incompetence of the print and broadcast media in Israel to the domestic audience in a new way. For the past several weeks, I have been posting the English subtitled versions of our weekly videocast The Tribal Update.

At any rate, the ideological bias of the Israeli media has similarly led the local press to take Obama's side against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Since Netanyahu returned from the US, Yediot, Ma'ariv, and the far-leftist flagship Ha'aretz have been pressuring him to adhere to Obama's diktat and bring Kadima in as a senior coalition member while ejecting Shas and Yisrael Beitenu. In the past week, Ha'aretz has manipulatively published polling data to create a false perception of Obama as friendly towards Israel twice. Ma'ariv and Yediot have both blamed Netanyahu for the rift with Obama and Ha'aretz has repeatedly called for the overthrow of his government, (in the interest of Israel's crucial relationship with Washington, of course).

Add to this mix the behavior of the political left. First we have the anti-Ehud Barak chorus in the Labor party. Since Barak joined Netanyahu's government, a half of his party has rejected his move and consistently voted with the opposition against the government. This means that we have seen a de facto spilt in the Labor party for the past year. In the interests of maintaining the fiction that Barak remains the leader of the far left party, Netanyahu has given in the Barak on substantive issues to placate his party members and prevent them from breaking off and forming a new party.

Labor's five cabinet ministers for their part, have no interest in leaving the government but to placate Labor primary voters - the decisive faction of which are Israeli Arabs - they give lip service to the Obama administration's demand that Netanyahu bring Kadima in to the government. They of course know that if Kadima joins the coalition, they will lose their ministries, which is why there is no reason to take statements by the likes of Binyamin Ben Eliezer and Shalom Simchon seriously. But the media, which wish to weaken Netanyahu, has seized on half-hearted statements by Ben Eliezer and Simchon as well as by Avishai Braverman to attack Netanyahu.

Finally, there is Kadima and its chairwoman Tzippi Livni. As I wrote last week, there is suspicion that Kadima colluded with the Obama administration to initiate the current crisis in relations. Since Netanyahu returned to Israel, Livni has been pouring salt on his wounds and very publically blaming Netanyahu for the crisis, alleging that he isn't serious about peace and that he is a coward because he won't bow to Obama. So too, Livni and her lackeys in the party are demanding that in exchange for their agreement to save Netanyahu from himself, that the premier disassemble his government, rewrite its guidelines, fire all the current ministers from their positions and give Kadima full control over his policies.

What all of this shows is that for Netanyahu, and for Israel a moment of truth has arrived. His challenge domestically is to unmask Kadima's Livni as a radical leftist. The way to do this is by tearing apart her party by bringing all centrist-right Kadima MKs into his government under the leadership of Livni's rival Shaul Mofaz. So too, he has to move in a manner that will embolden the far left members of Labor to bolt the party. If Labor cracks up, Netanyahu will be able to give a portion of their ministries to Kadima breakaways. This is the only thing Netanyahu can do to derail Obama's gambit to destabilize and dismantle his coalition. According to this report, Netanyahu seems to be operating on this logic.

Netanyahu leads the country at its hour of greatest peril. This week's battles along the border with Gaza as well as the riots in Jerusalem must be met with overwhelming force and now if a full-scale war is to be averted and Israel is to maintain the initiative of when and how to attack Iran. At this time, he needs a weakened opposition in order to neutralize the adversarial US President's ability to topple his government.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Princeton Experience

Nonie Darwish

On March 24, I gave a lecture at Princeton University sponsored by the Whig-Clio Society, the Tory and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, CAMERA. I was previously scheduled to speak in November, but that appearance was canceled after pressure from the Muslim groups on campus. My experience at Princeton was positive and similar to many campuses that I have visited through the years. I often receive emails from students who tell me they left with a lot to think about. After my speech, I always try to pick Muslims from the audience in the Q and A period since I enjoy challenging questions. The audience is sharply divided, representative of today’s sharp divisions in American society. The majority came to learn about the topic, in this case: “Human and Women’s Rights Under Sharia.” That group is very concerned about those who are demanding Sharia in the West and the implications of such an oppressive law on freedoms and the Bill of Rights. This group is usually quiet, often give me a standing ovation and wait in line to ask ask questions and thank me. I often get one or two Muslim students who whisper to me: “I agree with what you say”. At the Princeton event, there was a UN representative who came from NY especially to hear me and thanked me for my presentation afterward. There was also a professor from a nearby college who also thanked me and invited me to speak at his campus.

There is also always a group in the audience that consists of members of the Muslim Student Association, who are more concerned to discredit me than hear me, regardless of how carefully I document what I say or how many times I state that I am not hear to offend the good and peace loving Muslims, but to speak about the ideology of political and legal Islam. To this group, the way Sharia law and hate speech is practiced in the Muslim world today is irrelevant. They belittle it as untrue and deny any connection between hate education and violent jihad. Any exposure of human rights violations is quickly attributed to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Speakers who are concerned like myself are accused of “offending Muslims” personally. It does not matter how many TV video clips cursing and condemning Jews and non-Muslims on Arab TV exist, their response is always: “I never saw such a thing on Arab TV,” and that Islam is a religion of peace. Such clips are not to be judged as offensive to Jews, Christians or women. Exposing them to the West makes Muslims the victims. It is Muslims who become “the offended group” when Muslim hate speech is exposed.

Then there is a third group who are the defenders of the “offended groups.” These are well-intentioned Americans who care about spreading harmony and understanding between the student body regardless of what is happening in the outside world. To those students the world revolves around campus life and if Muslims and others get along on campus then the rest of the world should get along to. What is going on in far away 54 Muslim countries is thus irrelevant. To them images of little children being taught to curse, hate and commit violence in the name of Islam is debatable and explainable. The attitude is: “Who are we in America to judge what is going on under Sharia law in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran or Pakistan?” To this group it is easier to blame the messenger who is accused of exaggeration, lying or being hateful. That messenger has rocked the boat for the “offended groups.” Never mind that this offended group at Princeton has called me Nazi, Ku Klux Klan, etc.

In an article by Jason Jung, the Daily Princetonian, on March 25, entitled “Darwish criticizes Islamic Law,” I was accused of watering down my speech, which is not true. My speech is the same. Mr. Jung quoted Saud Al-Thani, president of the Muslim Students Association, who said: “I found many examples of inaccuracy. She talked about the book of law as something that is fixed, when political leaders in the Muslim world do not follow exactly the same laws as their predecessors. Law is flexible.”

Mr. Jung did not follow up by asking Al-Thani for one example of the “inaccuracy” I gave. Also Al-Thani believes that Islamic law is flexible and changing. I would have liked a follow up question asking where did Al-Thani see the change in Sharia law? What Islamic law books exactly document such flexibility and change? A law by nature is a statute; it is either voided or replaced by another law. I presume that Al-Thani means that some Muslim governments look the other way in the degree of application of the law, but that does not mean that it is not a threat on the head of every citizen of the Muslim State that might take the life of a person in a whim.

For example, leaving Islam is punishable by death in all schools of Sharia, no exception, and we have all seen the Afghani man, a couple of years ago who was on trial and sentenced to death for leaving Islam. How does Al-Thani see the law of apostasy being flexible in Muslim countries? Can he give me one example of one Muslim country where the rights of Muslims to openly leave their religion are protected and where a former Muslim can live in relative safety while openly practicing a different religion?

In the article, Al-Thani said that he lived in Qatar for nine years, and that he hadn’t seen the videos I featured. I did not create such videos, they are all taken from main stream Arab TV channels in Egypt, Saudi, Syria, Jordan, etc. Princeton students are smart kids, and to deny a well documented phenomenon on the basis that “I have never seen it” is remarkable.

The Arab world today can no longer hide its intense incitement to hate and jihad. It is all over the Internet and has grave consequences on Christian, Jewish and other minorities in the Middle East. It would have been more credible for the Muslim Student Association to actively stand against such an epidemic of cruel insightful and hateful jihadist propaganda on Arab TV. Where are their condemnation letters to Arab TV stations, to Muslim Imams, to Al Azhar Islamic University, telling them to end the hate and incitement? Where are their demonstrations against the stoning and flogging of women in the name of Islam happening today? Instead, the MSA chooses silence and to demonize speakers like myself who love their culture of origin and want to rid it of such atrocities and human tragedy. Again, the MSA, like the Muslim Brotherhood, wants to silence speech instead of facing reality. Supporters of the “offended group” continue playing the game of political correctness to accommodate certain groups. They do not want to rock the boat on the perfect life on campus with facts outside in far away places.

The article also mentioned Ahsan Barkatullah, a Muslim originally from Bangladesh, who commented about the TV clips I showed and said: “Does an isolated quote mean anything? Why doesn’t she give us statistics on what percentage of children in Arab countries have seen those type of clips? I never saw any of that.”

Again, denial on the basis of “I never saw it” or the unbelievable request of giving statistics of how many Arab children watch those hateful programs on TV. I would like to invite Barkatullah to watch Nahoul and Farfour on Arab TV. He also added, “Ms. Darwish does not have a Ph.D … When she makes comments, she has no authority.” He then added: “I’m not saying you need a Ph.D., but a person like me has personal experience as well. Doesn’t that mean I am the authority?” My response to this is: One does not need a Ph.D. to understand the meaning of “Kill apostates and adulterers,” especially after seeing 5,000 reported honor killings annually in the Muslim world. One does not need a Ph.D. to fear for his/her life from Sharia, which encourages vigilante street justice against adulterers and apostates. Tell that to Salman Rushdie or Ayan Hirsi Ali.

Barkatullah also stated: “Religion is like literature, you can interpret it in a hundred different ways.” This is exactly what scares me about Muslim scriptures, where moderate Muslims ignore the violent commandments, contradictions and vagueness. They say these scriptures are “misunderstood.” At the same time, the problem is that many Muslims take such violent commandments at face value. That leaves apostates and the victims of Islamic jihad at the mercy of Sharia enforcers who eagerly take matters into their own hands.

We can continue the defensiveness, denial and blame game, but we can also accept the challenge, grow and change. Human rights are not negotiable even in the name of God. They are sacred and, in my view, more divine than scriptures. It is a sad day in America when obvious violations to human and women’s rights are ignored — and speaking out against them is considered hate speech.

Jews Barred from Cairo's Maimonides Synagogue
by Hana Levi Julian

( The Egyptian government has announced that it will not allow Jews to pray in Cairo's newly-restored Maimonides Synagogue, in retaliation for Israel's security response to Arab rioting on the Temple Mount

“The Al-Aqsa Mosque is part of the heritage of the Palestinian Arabs and Israel is not entitled to block them from it,” said Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. A Qatari newspaper quoted Hawass in a telephone interview late last week as saying the Maimonides Synagogue would be treated an an Egyptian antiquity, not a Jewish house of worship.

Nor will he allow the Egyptian Jewish community to administer the site – a direct response, he said, to the “provocative practices carried out by the Jews in their celebration which was held in the temple.” Hawass was referring to the wine served at the opening of the synagogue and the joyous dancing with which the celebration was carried out – both practices which he said were offensive to a billion Muslims.

The report “confirmed the temple will not be delivered to the Jewish community in Egypt in any way,” with Hawass stressing that “he would not allow any Jew to pray in the temple, and would not allow any Israeli to pray in the temple.”

Previous reports indicated that Egyptian authorities would allow Jews to pray in the synagogue.

Hawass also denied reports that American Jews had helped pay for the restoration of the synagogue, which he said had cost the Council several million dollars. However, he said, Egypt will continue to restore its ancient synagogues, with the next one to be in Alexandria, the Temple of the Prophet Daniel.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hand-pick “Peace Partner” for Israel - Mahmoud Abbas

A lot like PM Netanyahu picking Al Qaeda and the Tanzim as peace partners for the US

From: Press Release by Zionist Organization of America


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has pointed to continuing, prolific examples of Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas’ ongoing support for the legitimacy of anti-Israel terrorism and rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. This week, it was reported, “Abbas … said that the Palestinian people had a national right to resistance against Israeli occupation” This statement came only days after the PA honored terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who commanded the terrorists that perpetrated the 1978 coastal road bus hijacking, in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were slaughtered. Abbas’ PA has also honored Mughrabi on previous occasions, including holding a public celebration for her 50th birthday last January.

Only weeks earlier, Fatah-controlled PA TV broadcast a sermon from Nablus’s Bourin Mosque on January 29, in which Jews were declared “the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger … Enemies of humanity in general” and Muslims exhorted to murder them with the words “The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them…”

Last December, Abbas himself referred to the three Fatah terrorists that murdered an Israeli, Rabbi Meir Chai, as “shahids” [holy martyrs] and dispatched a personal emissary to visit the families of the terrorists. Abbas said, “Our latest Shahids (Martyrs) are the six who were killed in cold blood by Israeli forces in Nablus [terrorists who killed Rabbi Avshalom Meir Hai] and in Gaza [terrorists carrying explosives and a ladder near Israel's border fence]” Dec. 31, 2009,

Mahmoud Abbas in his own words:

· On recognizing Israel: “It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel” “I say this clearly: I do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will.”

· Fighting Israel: “We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation … Our rifles, all our rifles are aimed at The Occupation” On Jews: “The sons of Israel are corrupting humanity on earth”

· On wanted Palestinian terrorists: “heroes fighting for freedom” “Israel calls them murderers, we call them strugglers”

· “The ways of the shahids [martyrs] Arafat, Abu Jihad [Khalil Ibrahim al-Wazir], George Habash and even Sheikh Ahmed Yassin – are the ways we recognize. These are the ways in which we are meant to preserve the national interests of the Palestinian people”

· On Hamas: “We must unite the Hamas and Fatah blood in the struggle against Israel as we did at the beginning of the intifada. We want a political partnership with Hamas”

· · On Yasser Arafat: “It is our duty to implement the principles of Yasser Arafat” “We will continue in the path of the late president until we fulfill all his dreams” “The Palestinian leadership won’t stray from Arafat’s path”

· On disarming Palestinian terrorists: a “red line” that must not be crossed (‘Candidate Abbas confronts delicate balance on Hamas,’

· On jailed Palestinian terrorists: “our heroes.” In a statement broadcast by PA radio on ‘Prisoners Day,’ “Our position was and is still unwavering – that it is not possible to make peace with Israel unless all prisoners and all detainees are freed …There will be no signing of any agreement that does not guarantee freedom for all of them”

· On the so-called ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants - If implemented would end Israel as a Jewish state: “The issue of the refugees is non-negotiable … We … reject any attempt to resettle the refugees in other countries” (Khaled Abu Toameh, ‘Abbas: Aim guns against occupation,’ “We will not give up the right of return” (Ali Waked, ‘Abbas: We won't waive right of return.’

· On the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah: A source of pride and sets an example for the “Arab resistance”

· On Saddam Hussein: “Saddam Hussein has entered history as a symbol of Pan-Arab nationalism”

ZOA National President Morton a. Klein said, “The ZOA has long maintained that Mahmoud Abbas, the PA that he heads and the Fatah party that controls it and which he co-founded, are unreconstructed supporters of terrorism and not genuine moderates and peace makers. In the midst of the honoring of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi by his PA and having made no concession or gestures to either Israel or the Obama Administration, Abbas is willing to say publicly that terrorism is a Palestinian “right.”

“A Palestinian leader who neither arrests terrorists nor ceases to honor them is not one who will lead Palestinians on a new path of peace and reconciliation. We have here a clear demonstration that Mahmoud Abbas and the PA cannot even be shamed into ceasing to honor a bloodthirsty terrorist. It should come as no surprise that this glorification of terror and terrorism continues when Abbas’ Fatah calls to this day in its Constitution for the destruction of Israel (Article 12) and the use of terrorism as an essential element in the campaign to achieve that goal (Article 19).

· “As we noted at the time of Fatah’s August 2009 Conference:
· It is clear that Fatah still does not accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, that it seeks its destruction,
· That it demands the so-called ‘right of return’ whereby Israel would be inundated with Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war and their millions of descendants and
· That it will not conclude the conflict even were a peace agreement to be signed.

Given this shocking record, we renew our long-standing call for the Obama Administration to desist from ignoring the incitement to hatred and murder within Abbas' PA and to insist in talks with Abbas and other PA officials that the PA takes immediate action to comprehensively end this glorification of terror. Only when Palestinians reject the idea that it is a religious and national duty to murder Jews and to celebrate those among them who act on this instruction will there be any prospect of peace.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

ZOA: Clinton Owes New Yorkers An Apology

David Lev
A7 News

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her "to apologize to your former New York constituents (when you were their Senator) for having misled them by falsely claiming to support an undivided Jerusalem as Israel's capital." The letter was signed by Morton A. Klein, President of ZOA; Dr. Michael Goldblatt, Chairman, National Board; Dr. Alan Mazurek, Chair, Executive Committee and Steven Goldberg, Esq., Vice-Chairman, National Board.
The letter went on to say, "when you were New York's Senator from 2001 to 2009, you repeatedly stated in speeches and in a September 2007 position paper that you believed 'Israel's right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, must never be questioned.' Your spokesperson, Jim Chon, even said, 'this paper is a reflection of her consistent policy.that hasn't changed.'

"Madame Secretary, you also signed the June 2004 Senate Resolution endorsing President Bush's letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that supported Israel 'retaining major Israeli population centers' in Judea and Samaria in any final peace agreement.'

"We make this demand following your passionate and heartfelt condemnation of Israel for announcing the construction of Jewish homes in a Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem by stating that Jews building and moving there 'is an insult to America.' The only reasonable interpretation of this policy is that it is a first step toward dividing Jerusalem."

Despite Israel's unilateral concession of a ten-month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, excluding Jerusalem, which the Obama Administration and you had accepted and even praised, the Administration harshly condemned Israel. Secretary Clinton made a harsh telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in which, according to the words of the State Department, she called the Israeli announcement "a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship (Glenn Lessler, 'Clinton rebukes Israel over east Jerusalem plan, cites damage to bilateral ties,' Washington Post, March 15, 2010). Clinton also later described it as being "not only an insult to [visiting Vice-President Joseph] Biden, but an insult to the United States" (Moshe Dann, 'A blessing in disguise,' Yediot Ahronot, March 15, 2010).

The ZOA letter went on to say, "Your shocking words about Israel building in east Jerusalem is especially perplexing in light of the fact that you have ignored Congress passing the 'Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995' by a margin of 93 to 5 in the U.S. Senate and 347 to 37 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"The Act which is U.S. Law stated:

(1) Jerusalem should remain an undivided city.

(2) Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the state of Israel.'

It also stated

(1) Each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital.

(2) Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel.

(3) The city of Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's President, Parliament, and Supreme Court, and the site of numerous government ministries and social and cultural institutions.

(4) The city of Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism, and is also considered a holy city by the members of other religious faiths.

(5) From 1948-1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan.

(6) In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited during the conflict known as the Six Day War.

(7) Since 1967, Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel, and persons of all religious faiths have been guaranteed full access to holy sites within the city.

(8) This year marks the 28th consecutive year that Jerusalem has been administered as a unified city in which the rights of all faiths have been respected and protected.

(9) In 1990, the Congress unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 106, which declares that the Congress ``strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city."

(10) In 1992, the United States Senate and House of Representatives unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 113 of the One Hundred Second Congress to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and reaffirming congressional sentiment that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "It took only a few months to confirm that Secretary of State Clinton bears little resemblance to Senator Clinton on Israel issues and was apparently misrepresenting her true views and beliefs on Israel to her New York constituents. From having once loudly proclaimed support for an undivided Jerusalem, upon becoming Secretary of State, suddenly, parts of an "undivided Jerusalem" became places where Jews may not move or build, even though Jews were a majority in eastern Jerusalem from the mid-1800s until 1948, when Jordan forced Jewish residents to flee, and are now a majority once again. Her recent harsh words of condemnation - a term used in diplomacy normally only to describe the most heinous acts committed by a non-democratic regime, confirms that Secretary Clinton did not believe what she said about Jerusalem when she was Senator Clinton.

"Preventing Jews, because they are Jews, from moving into or developing their communities in Jerusalem is a racist and even apartheid American and Palestinian Arab policy which aims to weaken Israel's claim to Jerusalem an is a first step towards dividing the city. This is a policy one would never have expected Secretary Clinton to support in view of her previous unequivocal statements, as U.S. Senator from New York, of support for a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.

"Secretary Clinton owes her New York Jewish and pro-Israel constituents a public apology," the ZOA said.

Foreign Policy Experts/Grassroots Leaders Join Gary Bauer in Defense of Israel

Foreign Policy Experts/Grassroots Leaders Join Gary Bauer in Defense of Israel

WASHINGTON, March 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer's campaign in defense of Israel, the United States' only reliable democratic ally in the Middle East, garnered the support of major foreign policy experts this week as well as thousands of signatures from across the country, Bauer said on Friday. More than 63 percent of the American people support Israel and recognize the special friendship we have with that nation," said Bauer, president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families. "The image of Obama bowing to foreign kings while lecturing Israel about whether that nation can build homes in its own capital is jarring. Across the country, Americans are organizing to protest Obama's anti-Israel foreign policy."

Bauer and leading foreign policy commentators sent a letter to President Obama this week insisting that he stop bludgeoning our ally and creating a false "crisis" between our two nations. Signers included: Clifford May, President, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; former Senator Rick Santorum; Tom Rose, former editor of the Jerusalem Post; Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum; Dr. Michael Ledeen, Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Ralph Peters, Retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel and columnist; Jamie Fly, Foreign Policy Initiative; Norman Podhoretz, former advisor to the U.S. Information Agency; Midge Decter, well known neoconservative author and journalist; Jeff Bell, Director of Policy, American Principles Project; and many others.

Foreign policy experts and leaders - as well as thousands of other Americans - are adding their names to the widely distributed letter.

"As a nuclear Iran becomes an imminent threat, as terrorist networks continue to threaten U.S. lives and soldiers at home and abroad and, as Muslim states allow terrorists safe refuge, it is outrageous that President Obama reserves his harshest language for a long-time ally and democratic friend," said Bauer. "We will continue to rally opposition to counter the Obama Administration's bashing of Israel and to urge the administration to come up with a serious plan to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran."

To view the letter or sign the petition, go to:

For interviews or more information, call the American Values media office.

A modest proposal

Ira Sharkansky

It may be time for Barack Obama to visit the Knesset.

Anwar Sadat's visit in 1977, and his opening words "In the name of God, Mr. Speaker of the Knesset, ladies and gentlemen...I come to you today on solid ground to shape a new life and to establish peace" brought tears to more than a few Israeli eyes, broke through barriers of distrust, and helped to make possible the agreements reached 10 months later at Camp David. One should not exaggerate the influence of public opinion on government policy. It may be marginal to much of foreign policy crafted in secret meetings designed to keep the media at bay. However, Israelis' distrust of the American President reminds us of the feeling about Egyptians prior to that Knesset speech. At the very least, it does not make it easy for the population or the government to look with favor on what the President and Secretary of State are demanding.

The latest poll commissioned by the Jerusalem Post shows that only 9 percent of the Jewish population think that Barack Obama is on their side.

An earlier poll commissioned by Ha'aretz indicates that more than a quarter thinks that he is an anti-Semite.

On the other hand, signs are that a visit to the Knesset at this time would be pointless. Better that the President concentrate his charms on Ramallah, and then try Gaza before approaching Jerusalem.

Insofar as he has decided to reestablish diplomatic relations with Syria, the President might visit Damascus on his way to Jerusalem and ask President Assad if he wants to come along. They can flip a coin to see who speaks first when they get to the Knesset.

The essence of Israeli criticism, as I perceive it from conversations with leftist colleagues at the university and listening to no end of officials and ordinary citizens is why is he picking on us, when his more serious problems are with the Palestinians. Some of those problems are of long standing, claiming national rights to pre-1967 armistice lines long obscured by population movement, and a return of refugees to homes that no longer exist. Some are the product of the Obama administration, insisting on no construction in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as a precondition for even indirect negotiations.

There is also considerable agreement that the bombast and slippery lack of reliability shown by Israel's Prime Minister are part of the problem, along with fanatics making a point about moving into Arab neighborhoods known for their extremist hatred of Jews.

The best interim solution is to do nothing. The Prime Minister should not respond to the President's insistence for an early response to his demands. By some reports, the deadline for a response has already passed, and we are on the verge of the Passover holiday. The ground may be laid for bi-lateral silence. The President and his colleagues can use the time to think about how far they have gotten toward the goal of peace--or even friendly conversations--in this neighborhood.

The period for this "interim" solution may be quite long, at least until there are signs of moderation in the Palestinian camp.

This proposal may be nothing more than the latest foolishness of a policy observer, without a party label, who claims an ego smaller than those of the Israeli Prime Minister or American President.

Don't laugh too loudly. I am serious, if somewhat less than optimistic.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Abbas rules out peace talks without settlement freeze

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled out attending indirect "proximity talks" with Israel unless it halts the construction of settlements.

Mr Abbas told an Arab League summit he would not resume negotiations as long as Israel maintained the "status quo" in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

He was seeking support after Israel appeared to refuse to back down in a row with the US over East Jerusalem.

Israeli tanks have withdrawn from Gaza after an overnight incursion. It came after the killing of two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian militants in the worst fighting in the territory for more than a year.

Hamas said its fighters had been involved in the initial border clash, but insisted their actions were defensive. Israel said it began when its troops spotted militants planting explosives along the border.

Reports said one Palestinian was killed during the subsequent Israeli incursion.

In Gaza City, Islamic Jihad militants rallied on Saturday to urge the summit to reject talks with Israel.


In a speech to the summit in Sirte, Libya, President Abbas demanded an immediate end to Israel's building on occupied territory, particularly East Jerusalem.

"We cannot resume indirect negotiations as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy and the status quo," he said.

"Negotiations on the borders [of a future Palestinian state] would be absurd if Israel decides on the ground the border.

"We have always said that Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown and the gate to peace."

Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are held to be illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, described the Israeli position as "madness" and warned Israel could find itself isolated.

The Arab League's Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, said member states should prepare for the possibility of the peace process's "complete failure".

"It's time to face Israel," he added. "We have to have alternative plans because the situation has reached a turning point."

Mr Moussa also attacked US and Israeli efforts to forge a regional front against Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme.

Israel, he said, was exploiting the question of Iran to further its own interests at the expense of the Arabs.

"I know there is a worry among Arabs regarding Iran but this situation confirms the necessity of a dialogue with Iran," he added.

"This leads Israel to isolation," he told the conference. "By adopting such an attitude, Israel is not only violating international law, but also violating human feelings, conscience and history."

US officials recently indicated that failure to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians was making it harder to rally Washington's Arab allies to isolate Iran.

9 Mar: Israel announces the building of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem during visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden.
Mr Biden condemns the move
11 Mar: Mr Biden says there must be no delay in resuming Mid-East peace talks, despite the row
12 Mar: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Israeli move is "deeply negative" for relations
15 Mar: The US says it is waiting for a "formal response" from Israel to its proposals to show it is committed to Mid-East peace
16 Mar: The US envoy to the Mid-East postpones a visit to Israel
17 Mar: President Obama denies there is a crisis with Israel
22 Mar: Hillary Clinton tells pro-Israel lobby group Aipac Israel has to make "difficult but necessary choices" if it wants peace with Palestinians.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu tells Aipac Israel has a "right to build" in Jerusalem
23 Mar: Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu meet behind closed doors with no media access
23 Mar: Jerusalem municipal government approves building of 20 new homes in East Jerusalem
24 Mar: Mr Netanyahu ends Washington trip talking of a "golden" solution amid US silence

Ramat Shlomo
[Mr Netanyahu's] position is that there is no change in Israel's policy on Jerusalem that has been pursued by all governments of Israel for the last 42 years
Israeli prime minister's office

Unveiled at the start of a visit to the Middle East by US Vice-President Joe Biden, the decision caused one of the worst crises in US-Israeli ties for decades.

During a visit to Washington last week, the White House tried to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to commit to several confidence-building measures to persuade Mr Abbas to return to the talks.

A senior Palestinian Authority official has told the BBC that to re-enter the indirect negotiations it would require assurances that the Ramat Shlomo project would not be implemented for at least three years, and that the Israelis would not "continue to take actions which destroy our credibility".

An Israeli government spokesman said on Friday there had been a "narrowing of the gaps" between Israel and the US, but Mr Netanyahu stressed there had been "no change in Israel's policy on Jerusalem".

In November, Mr Netanyahu announced a 10-month suspension of new building in the West Bank. But his government considers areas within the Jerusalem municipality as Israeli territory and thus not subject to the restrictions.

'Capital of two states'

UN chief Ban Ki-moon attended the summit and urged Arab leaders to continue supporting US efforts to revive the peace talks.

He said Jerusalem's significance should be respected and the city "should emerge from negotiations as the capital of two states".

The BBC's Rana Jawad, in Tripoli, says this is the first time the UN has specified what it would like to result from the talks about Jerusalem.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the UN statement, telling the BBC it was "the right course for a solution in accordance with international law".

Israel's approval two weeks ago of plans for 1,600 new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo prompted the Palestinians to pull out of the proximity talks mediated by the US special envoy, George Mitchell, which both sides had only just agreed to attend.

Unveiled at the start of a visit to the Middle East by US Vice-President Joe Biden, the decision caused one of the worst crises in US-Israeli ties for decades.

The Arab League summit is expected to end on Sunday with a resolution to include a plan to establish a commission of legal advisors to pursue cases in international courts regarding East Jerusalem.

Correspondents note this summit has seen fewer Arab heads of state attending than usual, with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon sending other representatives.