Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Water Ambassadors

Ari Bussel

Agriculture and water played a pivotal role in Biblical history, to such an extent that Jewish people still bless God every day, “He who returns the wind and brings down the rain” or “He who brings down the early morning dew” depending on the time of the year. Without water, the Land of Milk and Honey would become barren and dry, its trees would wither, its future in doubt. Water is intrinsically intertwined in Israel’s history, from parting the sea to allow the escape from tyranny and slavery to the days the Israelites were wondering the desert and yet all their needs were met. Other highlights include Elijah the Prophet standing on Mount Carmel seeing a tiny father-of-cloud approaching; supplying water to Jerusalem in King David’s time; the aqueducts built during Roman time from Haifa to Caesarea – still standing today – and during the same era the water-collecting and storing mechanism in Massada.

In the beginning of the 21st Century, water has become the new blood libel against Israel. Seeing the effectiveness of the argument “The Holocaust Never Happened,” Israel’s enemies now use the very weapon once used to thirst the Jewish inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem in an attempt to force them to surrender against Israel. All it takes is to accuse her of the wrongdoings her enemies never hesitated to commit.

Water assumes a modern, every day importance as well. The most known phrase in Israel is “And You Save Every Drop.” Every drop of water is crucial, from not wasting water to clean one’s car (use a bucket rather than a hose) to using a two-tier water container in the bathroom. Water is so expensive in Israel that people are trained, from very early age, to conserve.

This week the largest desalination plant opened in Israel, from seawater to drinking water that actually taste good. Israel has long been the leader and pioneer in water technologies, from drip irrigation to gray water usage in agriculture.

A classroom guide about water for grades one through 12 is readily available online and in numerous textbooks. Water is part of the curriculum in Israel, thus reinforcing what children learn out of necessity at home. Moreover, water is the subject of songs and dances in Israel, truly embracing a cultural experience.

It is exactly in this context that foreign photojournalists came to Israel to take pictures and tell a story. The story is part of a major project, a special National Geographic issue about a thirsty world.

What did they find in Israel? Nothing of the sort I describe, not a thing that every Israeli child had experienced since early age: the great respect shown a very scarce resource, the admiration, the dependence and the knowledge that water comes with a price.

Against that background of care and conservation, the photojournalists did not describe the Israeli reality. Instead, they focused on a story they wanted to tell, one of hatred and suspicion, one twisting reality into an attack on the Jewish State.

Dressed as a photo exhibit, National Geographic blames a water shortage and the ills of the region on Israel. The Dead Sea is drying up and it is Israel’s fault. Israelis consume more water than Arabs and this too is Israel’s fault. With ever increasing population pressures throughout the arid Middle East, there is a decreasing water table, so BLAME ISRAEL.

Reinforcing the photo-exhibit message are pictures and captions showing Israel exploiting water supposedly by growing crops that are high consumers of water. Implying Israel does not know her right from her left is foolish given most crop types were refined over the decades to better adapt to the climate. Most irrigation types and water used—gray water—were developed for lessening Israel’s dependence on water.

Every first, second and third grader in Israel can educate the world about water and its conservation. Their innocence will do the trick. The sophisticated National Geographic photojournalists with their ultra sensitive cameras and amazingly twisted hearts and minds set out to frame Israel for crimes she never committed. It is easy to accuse, and let the lies carry in the wind, like fire in a dry field on a scorching day.

“More humanity per pixel” says the Los Angeles-based Annenberg Foundation that opted to host the exhibit during the fifty days between Passover and Shavuot. Today, on the fiftieth day, let us celebrate water, not hate, and let us learn from Israel and her long history intermingled and dependent on water. We must disallow the spread of propaganda against Israel under the guise of a National Geographic photo exhibit.

Alas, the day is here that cultured people are using sub-texts and innuendos to blame Israel for wrongdoings never committed. Before we, too, find her guilty by association, based on unsubstantiated allegations that sound good, let us investigate, learn from all that Israel can offer and celebrate the true Israel and the vital water lessons she provides.

Israel needs each and every one of us to combat the lies. The war does not rage in Israel proper, but right here in Los Angeles and on campuses throughout North America. It is in museums and places of culture and thought, locations that should have been the first to reject the lies, yet most adamantly embrace them.

To counter the lies we need to become Israel’s true Water Ambassadors and restore to the world a semblance of sanity and respect before the truth is buried forever.

In a new leaflet by the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center, “2010 Top Ten Anti-Israel Lies,” water is not mentioned. A recent lecture by a doctoral student titled “Thirsting the Palestinians” held at Loyola Law School in Downtown Los Angeles and a billboard on Sunset Strip promoting the same lies were just appetizers. The Annenberg Exhibit is ushering in hatred with all its glory, propaganda with all its might, via no other doors than those of the Jewish Community itself. The very leaders of the community seem not to have noticed it.

Shame, Wallis Annenberg. Your love of photography and your family’s many contributions to culture cannot justify your helping to propagate hatred toward Israel and the Jewish People. Take action, lest you remain an accessory, a major facilitator in fact, to this horrible blood libel.

It is time to stand up and speak against the continued delegitimization, demonization and dehumanization of the Jewish State. Lest we ask later “why did we not do something about Israel’s fall when we had a chance,” let us answer the following now: If not we, who, and if not now, when?

In the series “Postcards from Israel—Postcards from America,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers to view and experience an Israel and her politics through their eyes, an Israel visitors rarely discover


This point—and often—counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

© “Postcards from Israel—Postcards from America,” May, 2010


Friday, May 21, 2010

The fruits of weakness
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, May 21, 2010; A19

It is perfectly obvious that Iran's latest uranium maneuver, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, is a ruse. Iran retains more than enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. And it continues enriching at an accelerated pace and to a greater purity (20 percent). Which is why the French foreign ministry immediately declared that the trumpeted temporary shipping of some Iranian uranium to Turkey will do nothing to halt Iran's nuclear program. It will, however, make meaningful sanctions more difficult. America's proposed Security Council resolution is already laughably weak -- no blacklisting of Iran's central bank, no sanctions against Iran's oil and gas industry, no nonconsensual inspections on the high seas. Yet Turkey and Brazil -- both current members of the Security Council -- are so opposed to sanctions that they will not even discuss the resolution. And China will now have a new excuse to weaken it further.

But the deeper meaning of the uranium-export stunt is the brazenness with which Brazil and Turkey gave cover to the mullahs' nuclear ambitions and deliberately undermined U.S. efforts to curb Iran's program.

The real news is that already notorious photo: the president of Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, and the prime minister of Turkey, for more than half a century the Muslim anchor of NATO, raising hands together with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most virulently anti-American leader in the world.

That picture -- a defiant, triumphant take-that-Uncle-Sam -- is a crushing verdict on the Obama foreign policy. It demonstrates how rising powers, traditional American allies, having watched this administration in action, have decided that there's no cost in lining up with America's enemies and no profit in lining up with a U.S. president given to apologies and appeasement.

They've watched President Obama's humiliating attempts to appease Iran, as every rejected overture is met with abjectly renewed U.S. negotiating offers. American acquiescence reached such a point that the president was late, hesitant and flaccid in expressing even rhetorical support for democracy demonstrators who were being brutally suppressed and whose call for regime change offered the potential for the most significant U.S. strategic advance in the region in 30 years.

They've watched America acquiesce to Russia's re-exerting sway over Eastern Europe, over Ukraine (pressured by Russia last month into extending for 25 years its lease of the Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol) and over Georgia (Russia's de facto annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is no longer an issue under the Obama "reset" policy).

They've watched our appeasement of Syria, Iran's agent in the Arab Levant -- sending our ambassador back to Syria even as it tightens its grip on Lebanon, supplies Hezbollah with Scuds and intensifies its role as the pivot of the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance. The price for this ostentatious flouting of the United States and its interests? Ever more eager U.S. "engagement."

They've observed the administration's gratuitous slap at Britain over the Falklands, its contemptuous treatment of Israel, its undercutting of the Czech Republic and Poland, and its indifference to Lebanon and Georgia. And in Latin America, they see not just U.S. passivity as Venezuela's Hugo Chávez organizes his anti-American "Bolivarian" coalition while deepening military and commercial ties with Iran and Russia. They saw active U.S. support in Honduras for a pro-Chávez would-be dictator seeking unconstitutional powers in defiance of the democratic institutions of that country.

This is not just an America in decline. This is an America in retreat -- accepting, ratifying and declaring its decline, and inviting rising powers to fill the vacuum.

Nor is this retreat by inadvertence. This is retreat by design and, indeed, on principle. It's the perfect fulfillment of Obama's adopted Third World narrative of American misdeeds, disrespect and domination from which he has come to redeem us and the world. Hence his foundational declaration at the U.N. General Assembly last September that "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation" (guess who's been the dominant nation for the last two decades?) and his dismissal of any "world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another." (NATO? The West?)

Given Obama's policies and principles, Turkey and Brazil are acting rationally. Why not give cover to Ahmadinejad and his nuclear ambitions? As the United States retreats in the face of Iran, China, Russia and Venezuela, why not hedge your bets? There's nothing to fear from Obama, and everything to gain by ingratiating yourself with America's rising adversaries. After all, they actually believe in helping one's friends and punishing one's enemies.

Film: IDF - Most Humane Army in the World

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

A Soldier's Story, released by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), shows why the IDF is known as the world's most humane army.

The movie shows Maj. Ro'i Levy of the Golani Brigade discussing a dilemma he faced during Operation Cast Lead - similar to dilemmas faced countless times by other IDF soldiers and officers.

"I saw a group of perhaps 200 Arab girls [in Gaza], and behind them I saw three terrorists placing a Kassam rocket into a launcher, ready for launching at Israel. The only weapon with which I could respond was a machine gun - which is not accurate." The narrator then places the burning question in bold relief: "Should Maj. Levy have ordered his soldiers to fire their machine guns, and risk killing Palestinian children - or hold their fire and allow terrorists to fire Kassam rockets at Sderot, possibly killing Israeli children?"

The end of the story, Maj. Levy, is that he "did not pull the trigger - and the terrorists in fact launched a Kassam rocket."

"Did I do the right thing?" he asks - and the question is left hanging, on the stark backdrop of the common practice of Israel's enemy of taking shelter behind children.

An IDF pilot tells another aspect of Israel's humanity-in-war: "When I have sighted a target, I have to inform headquarters a minute before I am ready to shoot, and then again 30 seconds before, and then again ten seconds before - just in case a civilian has entered the picture in the interval. It has happened many times that with ten seconds to go, I am ordered not to fire..."

The pilot similarly said that even when he is being shot at, he is not permitted to return fire "unless it is verified where the bullets are coming from at me. How can I know that he's not shooting from within a kindergarten?" Hamas has no such qualms, aiming rockets indiscriminately at residential areas, schools and kindergardens, which, for example, have killed a college student when a rocket hit the Sapir campus and a young girl returning from her youth group meeting.


Terror Teddy Bear Teaches Martyrdom

Maayana Miskin
A7 News

Hamas continues to educate children to become “martyrs” who die while waging war on Israel. In one of the latest episodes of its children's television show, Pioneers of Tomorrow, the terrorism-loving teddy bear Nassur urges children to sacrifice themselves, and a caller assures them that if they become martyrs, they will go to Paradise. "Dear children, when we grow up, we will become martyrs, God willing... the pioneers of tomorrow will liberate the Al-Aksa Mosque," Nassur declares.

A caller from Holland then sings a song that begins, “When we get martyred we will go to Paradise... No, don't say we are too small.” The song concludes, “I am willing to sacrifice my blood for my country. Without Palestine our childhood means nothing.”

The episode, first aired in April, was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Nassur's reference to Al-Aksa Mosque reflects recent accusations by Palestinian Authority clerics that Israel is attempting to damage the structure. The mosque, located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is controlled by the Muslim Wakf; however, some clerics continue to accuse Israel of attempting to seize control of the site for Jewish use.

The character of Nassur is the fourth to co-host Pioneers of Tomorrow. Previous co-hosts, who worked alongside a girl named Saraa, included a Mickey Mouse look-alike named Farfur, a bee named Nahoul, and a rabbit called Assud.

The first three co-hosts were written off the show after starring for several months, and their young fans were informed that the characters had been murdered by Israel. Farfur was shown being beaten to death by Israeli agents, Nahoul was pictured dying of an illness after Israel denied him medical care, and Assud was depicted taking his final breaths after being wounded by an Israeli military offensive.

Fatah TV: All Israel is 'Palestine'

Incitement continues on Palestinian Authority television as well. A children's television show broadcast this week and translated by Palestinian Media Watch teaches that all of Israel is rightfully part of a state called Palestine.

During the show, children are asked to point to places they have visited “on the map of Palestine.” Children point to Israeli cities such as Haifa and Yafo (Jaffa). “So you've visited many different places in Palestine... It's good that we're always visiting new places in our state, Palestine,” the host replies.

US approves $205m. for Iron Dome

21/05/2010 08:07

House votes overwhelmingly to deliver Obama-pledged aid to Israel.

WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives approved $205 million in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense project by a vote of 410-4 on Thursday. The project is being developed to protect civilians, primarily along the Gaza Strip and Lebanese border, from short-range rockets and mortar attacks. With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-California) said following the vote.

Following US President Barack Obama’s announcement of the allocation last week, the House decided to hold an expedited vote on the funding rather than include it in the defense appropriations that has been the usual mechanism for aid to Israel’s missile defense program, since this way, if the Senate takes a similar approach, the money can be delivered more quickly, House staffers said.

US sources said Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s lobbying for the program during a visit in April had helped convince the administration to back it. The US has given tens of millions of aid for the longer-range Arrow and David’s Sling missile defense projects.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

56 MKs petition Netanyahu: Let Gaza evacuees build in West Bank settlement despite freeze

Residents of former Gaza settlement Netzarim had been in the throes of building neighborhood in Ariel when Israel declared a 10-month construction freeze.
By Jonathan Lis

Fifty-six members of Knesset on Thursday petitioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to allow construction of a neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, despite Israel's promise to freeze building there for 10 months. The neighborhood in question would be constructed for evacuees of the former Gaza Strip settlement of Netzarim, who have been without permanent housing since Israel's disengagement in 2005.

The petition was initiated by Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin and National Union MK Aryeh Eldad, and was signed by most Kadima lawmakers and Labor MK Eitan Cabel.

"Despite the many hardships they endured, including temporary housing for almost five years in caravans and trailers, [the evacuees of Netzarim] have built a spending community and contributed much to the spiritual life and found a solution to the welfare troubles in the city of Ariel," the MKs wrote in their petition.

The lawmakers added that the project to see permanent housing for these evacuees has met a number of difficulties, including legal and budget problems.

"About six months ago – when they had already overcome the difficulties, raised the needed funds, and the project seemed to be already in its opening stages – it was stopped once again when the cabinet decided to freeze [settlement construction]," the MKS wrote.

In their petition, the lawmakers claimed that every day permanent housing for these evacuees was delayed was another injustice. They called on Netanyahu and Barak "to intervene personally and immediately, to bring urgently bring an end to the foot-dragging, to approve an exception to the freeze and advance the project of Netzar Groves in Ariel."

Signatories to the petition included Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi [Kadima], Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon [Yisrael Beiteinu], deputy minister Gila Gamliel [Likud] and deputy minister Ayoub Kara [Likud].

Badge of honor for Israel

Chomsky ban was the right move, sign that our survival instincts still intact

Arieh Eldad

Quite a few freedom of speech fans, champions of democracy, and other people detached from the realities of our life and convinced that Birzeit University is located in Switzerland stood up to fight on behalf of Professor Noam Chomsky, who was prevented from entering Israel. Many times in history did intellectuals stand up to fight the battles of their state’s enemies. Lenin, who led the communist revolution in Russia, was once asked about his opinion on the West European and American intellectuals who battled on his behalf, and characterized them as “useful idiots.” Chomsky is certainly no idiot, yet there is no doubt that this is how our enemies characterize him behind closed doors, while they rub their hands with glee when they see and hear a Jewish Israel-hater enlisting for their cause.

Chomsky is known as one whose venomous criticism of the State of Israel is being uttered from many platforms worldwide, so those who play dumb wonder: Why does it matter if he also speaks in Israel? Yet apparently there is one common denominator to soccer goalkeepers, real estate agents, and professional cursers – all of them know that the most important thing is location.

There is no doubt that freedom of speech is a basic democratic right. Hence, anyone who so wishes can bring a stool from home, place it at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, and deliver any speech they want. One is even allowed to support Israel there, imagine that. However, even Britain’s democracy does not believe that the BBC should air speeches in favor of the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s right to kill soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s not only what you say that is important; no less important, and possibly even more so, is where you utter your curses.

Before World War II, British national William Joyce established a fascist party in the UK. On the eve of the war, when it was clear to him that he will not be allowed to operate in Britain, he traveled to Germany and started working on behalf of German propaganda. His broadcasts, which were uttered in a British accent and were premised on intimate familiarity with British society, caused real demoralization in England and in its colonies. The British referred to him as Lord Haw Haw, and at the end of the war nabbed him, tried him on high treason charges, and hung him.

Message to our enemies

Britain did not cease being a democracy even when it fought for survival, yet nonetheless, nobody even imagined the possibly of allowing Lord Haw Haw to bark from London during the war. Why then do democracy lovers want Lord Chomsky to bark curses against the State of Israel from our own backyard? Where is the borderline between democracy and suicidal tendencies? Between freedom of speech and reckless abandon?

There is no doubt that Chomsky’s hate for Israel will continue to be distributed, as a free service granted to all our enemies, even after he was banned from entering Israel. Thanks to the enthusiastic support from home, we shall also be condemned for banning his entry by those who always seek excuses to do so.

Chomsky is a famed linguist, yet most of his fame (and possibly his livelihood) in recent years stemmed from him becoming a professional Israel curser. Whoever invited him to deliver a speech at Birzeit knew that location is the most important thing, because after all his words are published even when he curses us from Boston. Nonetheless, they bothered to invite him, and he bothered to come here in order to curse us from up close.

Had Israel allowed him to enter, this would have been interpreted in Ramallah, Gaza, Damascus, and Tehran as yet another sign that Israel is no longer able to produce antibodies against the internal erosion wrought upon us by the Left and threatening to rot the Center as well.
The “entry banned” seal stamped in his passport is a badge of honor for Israel. It’s proof that there are some people among us who still hold on to their survival instincts.

MK Professor Arieh Eldad is a member of National Union

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Steven Shamrak

Is a Celebration for Receiving the TORAH on Mt SINAI.

The Battle for Jerusalem is a Battle for Truth.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attended the annual Jerusalem Day celebration at the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem . In his speech, Netanyahu stressed the importance of Jerusalem and the unbroken connection of the Jewish people to the city, quoting the verse from Isaiah 62: "For Zion's sake I will not be silent and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still, until her righteousness emerges as a shining light and her salvation burns like a torch"... The PM continued: "There can be no justice without truth and if there is a perversion of justice vis a vis our city and nation, it means the truth has been perverted, because the truth is that Jerusalem is our city and we never compromised on that," he said, "not after the destruction of the First Holy Temple, nor after the destruction of the Second. We were a majority in the city until the 9th century and we returned 2000 years later and witnessed the city's destruction once again.

There is no other nation that feels this deeply about a city. Yet there is no other nation that has allowed such complete freedom of worship to other religions in this city. We will continue to build Jerusalem, a city that is full of life."

The Speaker of the Knesset, MK Ruby Rivlin spoke at the start of the event, saying "Over the last year, Jerusalem has lost many supporters... Today, some Zionist political parties who spoke of united Jerusalem until a short while ago, are now seeing the city as a problem and obstacle to our continued existence here. The same politicians who voted laws protecting Jerusalem into effect are now looking for loopholes in those same laws that will allow them to raise their hand against Jerusalem... Zionism without Zion, without Jerusalem is an empty shell. Our ability to withstand attacks on Jerusalem depends a great deal on our resolve and patience, on our ability to bide our time until the sword that is drawn over the city is removed."

Jerusalem and Torah - Even in Name They are Linked.

The Midrash tells us that when Hashem came to designate a name for His favorite city, He was, as it were, faced with a dilemma. Malkitzedek, otherwise knows as Shem son of Noach, first referred to the ancient city as "Shalem." Years earlier, Avraham, following his offer of his son Yitzchak as a sacrifice on what was to eventually become the Temple Mount, called it "Yireh." To call it only "Shalem" would be an affront to the righteous Avraham; to call it only "Yireh" would be an insult to the righteous Malkitzedek. The Divine solution was to combine the two and call the city "Yireh-shalem" which English translation has formed into Jerusalem. (It does not support the claim of so-called Palestinians, does it?)

Stop Desecration of Ground ZERO. Stand up and oppose the building of a mosque at ground ZERO. We have sensibilities too. Muslims must not be allowed to offend the sensibilities of the innocent dead and those who survived murder by terrorists shouting, in the name Islam and of the Koran, "Allahu Akba" as they killed 'infidels' at the World Trade Center

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak

While so-called Palestinians strongly oppose the presence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, it is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 Arabs are working on building them. Regardless of their Jew-hating feelings, all anti-Semites love Jewish money!

Rear Admission by European. On a visit to Ben Gurion University, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said that Islamic fundamentalism was the common enemy of Europeans, Israelis, and Arabs as well. (They all know about it but in fear of offending their oil suppliers afraid to talk about it!)

PA Just Slaps Israel in Face. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Ha'aretz that Israel had done much to advance peace with the Palestinian Authority, but that the PA had responded by "slapping Israel in the face." Lieberman said "I think we made countless gestures, and what did we get in return? The glorification of terror." The day before the invitation to join the OECD was issued to Israel, PA Prime Minister "Salam Fayyad approached dozens of countries with a request to sabotage that acceptance. They keep going on with their stories about war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. After all, PA President Mahmoud Abbas himself called and asked us, pressured us to continue the military campaign and overthrow Hamas," Lieberman said.

Livni Brainwashes Children by calling Treason "Patriotism". In a meeting with eleventh grade students in Jerusalem Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni, said that, "Israeli patriotism today means promoting the idea of two states. This is in the Jewish Zionist interest." (There is a Jewish saying: "Any evil can be justified by quoting Torah out of context")

Obama not a Friend of Israel. The Obama administration is preparing to join an international UN-backed advisory group the Alliance of Civilizations. The Bush administration boycotted the group when it was founded in 2005 because it feared the group would become a forum for bashing Israel and the United States. Those concerns were magnified a year later when the alliance released a report that officials in Washington said unfairly blamed Israel and the United States for many of the world's problems.

Quote of the Week: "How odd of G-D to choose the Jew. But not as odd as those who choose the Jewish G-D, and hate the Jew!" - Francis A. Schaeffer

Lack of Corage and Vision. High officers leading this week's big war game in northern Israel confronted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi with harsh criticism over the lack of a clear government strategy for dealing with the rising Hizballah threat of aggression and the uninterrupted flow of advanced weaponry from Syria to Hizballah.

Foe in the Knesset. In an interview with the Kol El-Arab newspaper, Arab MK Masoud Ranaim, a member of Re'em-Ta'al party and of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, called to establish an Islamic caliphate that would include Israel. He also said that all means are warranted to "protect" Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Actual Issue of the Right to Vote is Ignored. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation is scheduled to discuss a bill preventing the assassin of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir, from voting in general elections. (Why is the committee not interested in discussing the rights of Israeli Arabs, who do not have loyalty to the country they live in, to vote and live?)

Government of Lebanon is Hezbollah Partner! Lebanese President Michel Suleiman announced Saturday that Lebanon "cannot and must not" tell Hezbollah to disarm before reaching a deal on a defense strategy. A United Nations deal to end the Second Lebanon War in 2006 required Hezbollah to disarm. (No one is furious when Muslim states ignore UN resolutions.)

Tear Down Illegal Arab Buildings Now. Illegally built homes in east Jerusalem will be demolished in the coming days, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch announced on Wednesday. The minister said there had been delays in carrying out the orders due to diplomatic concerns, but that the concerns no longer applied and that the demolitions would go ahead. "Police have no instructions to refrain from carrying out the demolitions. They will be carried in the coming days," Aharonovitch said. "There were times when the political echelon thought the timing for implementing the orders was inappropriate, because of diplomatic processes. The orders were not canceled, but were delayed. If there were such delays, they are no longer in effect."

Hypocrisy in Action:

"US Officials Monitoring Jerusalem Construction" - Maybe it is time for Israel to start monitoring US construction on Native American land and other territories occupied by the United States! In contrast, it is Jewish land that is occupied by the enemies of Israel!

Neo-Nazis Murder Yeshiva Student. Ukraine police have found the mutilated body of Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva student Aryeh Leib Misinzov, who disappeared in Kiev on April 20, the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday, when Neo-Nazis often carry out attacks on Jews.

Netanyahu is the Weak Leader and a Liar. Member of Knesset Michael Ben-Ari, the National Union, said that "The Likud government of (Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu is leading Israel to destruction." He was responding to the announcement made in Washington that Netanyahu had committed to freeze construction in the northern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo: "His yielding to the dictates of (United States President Barack) Obama will bring about the division of Jerusalem." Not long ago, before Likud party members voted to postpone elections for all the party's institutions, based on promises that Netanyahu would not freeze building in Jerusalem and would never divide the city.

UN Elects Iran to Women's Rights Watchdog.

by Joseph Abrams

(Another example of the UN s consistent hypocrisy!)

Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged "immodest."

&Buried 2,000 words deep in a UN's press release distributed last Wednesday on the filling of "vacancies in subsidiary bodies," was the stark announcement: Iran, along with representatives from 10 other nations, was "elected by acclamation," meaning that no open vote was requested or required by any member states...

Iran' s election comes just a week after one of its senior clerics declared that women who wear revealing clothing are to blame for earthquakes, a statement that created an international uproar - but little affected their bid to become an international arbiter of women's rights.

"Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," said the respected cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi.

The Commission on the Status of Women is supposed to conduct review of nations that violate women's rights, issue reports detailing their failings, and monitor their success in improving women's equality.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Report on Palestinian Incitement? Ha'aretz Has More Pressing Concerns


Rather than reporting on the contents of a new paper documenting Palestinian incitement, Ha'aretz's Barak Ravid engages in journalistic acrobatics. He attacks the report's authors for their ostensible political views, and is critical of Israel's Foreign Ministry for daring to adopt the report.Last week's menacing headline read: "Foreign Ministry working with rightists against Palestinian incitement" (May 7, 2010). Barak Ravid dedicated several paragraphs to the fact that a Israeli Foreign Ministry briefing was "turned over to a politically right-wing nongovernmental organization" to conduct "an aggressive campaign against the Palestinian Authority over alleged incitement against Israel."

And what exactly is this "politically right-wing nongovernmental organization"? Palestinian Media Watch, headed by Itamar Marcus. According to PMW's Web site, the organization monitors and analyzes the Palestinian media focusing on the messages delivered by the Palestinian leadership -- the Palestinian Authority and Hamas -- to the Palestinian population "through the broad range of institutions and infrastructures they control." In other words, PMW reads Palestinian newspapers and watches Palestinian television, identifies incitement, and translates the material into English and Hebrew. How, exactly, can it be identified as "right-wing"?

Marcus' findings are indeed eye-opening and raise serious questions about the willingness or lack of willingness on the part of the Palestinian Authority to minimize hatred and create an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation with Israel. Even Ravid acknowledges:

PMW's activities are entirely legitimate, and some of its findings could clearly be categorized as disturbing evidence of anti-Israel incitement.

What then, is the relevance of the following sentence?

Yet many of the journalists in attendance, who included many representatives of foreign media outlets, were not aware that PMW is led by a right-wing activist, and that many other activists, from Israel and abroad, are involved in it.

Now let's assume for a minute that we are indeed talking about right-wing activists. The press conference was intended to publicize PMW's latest report dealing with Palestinian Authority incitement, especially the glorification of terrorists who murdered or were responsible for the murders of hundreds of people. The report examines a hundred incidents in which the Palestinian Authority named places or events after 46 different terrorists. These namings involved schools, a kindergarten, a computer center, summer camps, a soccer tournament, an activity center, a sports team, a square, a street, a university club, a dance troupe, a youth movement dorm, a military unit, a television series, a team on a television gameshow, and a graduation ceremony.

The glorification of these murderers, according to the report, constitutes institutional incitement on the part of the Palestinian Authority. The report demonstrates how, in this context, the highest levels of leadership, including Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas are directly responsible for or give their blessing to this sort of activity.

The government of Israel has defined the end of Palestinian incitement as part of its basic requirements under the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The PMW report, which consists mostly of quotes from the Palestinian media, deals precisely with this topic. Even if Itamar Marcus is a "rightest," does this have any impact whatsoever on the substance of the report or its findings? Barak Ravid could have reported on the contents of the report instead of dealing with the irrelevant subject of the political leanings of the organization's director.

A Fund Comparison

But the story does not end there. Why does Ravid define Marcus as a "rightest"? Because his organization receives funds from the New York-based Central Fund for Israel, which also donates funds to settlements, among other things. It appears that in pointing out this information Ravid seeks to provide a counterpoint to the recent attacks on self-defined human rights organizations and their donations from dubious funds and European countries. Ha'aretz is apparently attempting to hit back specifically at the criticism of the New Israel Fund, which gives grants to leftist organizations, by drawing a comparison to the Central Fund for Israel.

But there is really no room for comparison. While the New Israel Fund decides how to divvy up the donations that it receives, the Central Fund for Israel is simply a vehicle for making donations from the United States to Israel. Whoever donates to the Central Fund for Israel does not donate to the fund itself, but is required to earmark which organization or institution he wishes to contribute to. In other words, the money flows directly from the donor to the institution or organization of his/her choice. In contrast, in the case of the New Israel Fund, the donor never really knows where his/her donation will end up.

The difference is signifant. While one fund has full discretion to decide where the donations will go, the other is not at all involved determining the money's final destination. In this case, whoever requests to give to Palestinian Media Watch is not also potentially donating to settlements unless he specifically chooses to do so. Thus, the conclusion that this organization is right-wing due to its ties to the Central Fund for Israel is mispresentative and erroneous. Moreover, nowhere on PMW's site is there any suggestion of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nothing which would indicate a political leaning. The organization focuses solely on its mission: monitoring Palestinian media and exposing incitement. Does Ha'aretz consider this monitoring a rightest activity? No one from the left is concerned about this topic?

In addition, Ravid complains about the relationship between the Foreign Ministry and the NGO. On May 6, the same report was presented to members of the American Congress in a hearing sponsored by two senior Congressmen. What's acceptable for the Americans is not allowed for the Israeli Foreign Ministry? One would assume that the members of Congress spent more time focusing on the contents of the report than on the political leanings of Itamar Marcus.

Towards the end of the article, Ravid goes even further, ridiculing the Foreign Ministry for going after Palestinian incitement. Referring to the Foreign Ministry's "incitement index," he writes: "So far, the campaign against the PA has yielded only modest results." Maybe if Mr. Ravid and Ha'aretz had actually covered the content of the report, instead of engaging in journalistic acrobatics to promote their agenda, their readers would gain an understanding of how Palestinian incitement works and to what degree it exists.Ha'aretz could have helped place the subject on the agenda instead of burying it in a pile of ridicule and cynicism.

New Desalination Plants Water the Desert

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu I
A7 News

A huge new desalination plant dedicated this week is planned to help end Israel’s constant worry for enough water for farms, factories and homes. “Water, water everywhere and more to drink” may be a new phrase for Israel as the new plant begins to pump 10 percent of Israel’s water needs. AThe facility on the Mediterranean Coast at Hadera, located between Haifa and Tel Aviv, is the largest of its kind in the world and the third largest in Israel. Two more plants are on the drawing boards, with all five of them projected to provide two-thirds of the nation’s water.

The desalinated water will be cheaper than the cost of pumping from the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) to the national water carrier, according to Teddy Golan, CEO of the IDE Technologies group that built the 1.5 billion shekel ($400 million) desalination plant.

President Shimon Peres was on hand and raised a cup of water to toast the new project. If all goes according to plan, the Kinneret will return to flood levels in several years after all of the desalination plants come on line. The desalinated water from the Mediterranean also will allow the dams to the Kinneret to be opened and help replenish the drying Jordan River and the rapidly depleting Dead Sea.

The Hadera plant uses reverse osmosis technology, which means the sea water does not have to be heated, as is done in larger plants in the world that are less environmentally friendly. The entire process of desalinating the water takes 35 minutes from the time it enters pipelines in the sea.

The mammoth plant covers more than 18 acres and actually is two facilities that can operate independently from each other. Together, they can provide 127 cubic million liters, or 33 million gallons a year.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"As Shavuot Approaches"

Arlene Kushner

Tomorrow night at sundown we begin Shavuot, the festival that marks our coming to Sinai and receiving of the Torah. It is traditionally a time for all-night study, and a time for marking who we are as a people and what our purpose on this earth truly is. I didn't want to go into the holiday without having written. And yet I am finding it difficult to write, because it seems I deliver so much news that is heavy, and gets increasingly so.


Before I move to some of that news, I want to share the link to the Arutz Sheva "Tamar Yonah Show" from Sunday. I was interviewed with regard to what the PLO and the PA are truly like. Don't know how long this will be up.


Saeb Erekat, chief PA negotiator, delivered a talk to the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Sunday. If we examine his words -- which are cloaked in conciliation and "longing" for peace -- we can see very readily what the PA position is. He actually said:

"We, as Palestinians, decided to give Mitchell, Clinton and Obama a chance...I talk with Mitchell about the core issues.

"There's no need for negotiations. There is a need for an agreement. All the alternatives are on the table. This is the moment of truth. We are all experiencing birth pangs. We need leaders ready to make sacrifices. My options are two states according to the 67 borders, with territory exchanges and security arrangements. If you've come to the conclusions that you can't offer this because you don't have anyone to rely on – I'm not afraid.

"... Don't miss the opportunity… The negotiations are over. The time has come to decide. Not interim decisions, not future decisions, not past decisions. A final agreement."

Translation: We don't need negotiations because that implies give and take, and compromise, and we're not into compromising. We will hold out for what we demand, and we're counting on President Obama to shove what we have demanded down Israel's throat. That's why we support "proximity talks." We get to deal with the US and not Israel. Either Israel takes what we demand, or we'll see what comes next.

Words of genuine peace, no?


Of course, he flatly refused to consider issues that have been Netanyahu demands: "We will not agree to a military presence in the Jordan Valley, we will not agree to (Israeli) control of water, we will not agree to settlements there or Israeli industry there."


Then, please, see this by Khaled Abu Toameh, on the Hudson NY site, with regard to how the "proximity talks" actually benefit Hamas and Iran.

"The Obama Administration is making a mistake forcing Israel and the Palestinian Authority to discuss 'core' issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders and settlements when the two sides are crying out that the gap between them on these explosive topics remains as wide as ever.

"There is no doubt that the talks will fail. Mahmoud Abbas and Fayyad will be the first to pay the price because Palestinians will turn to them and demand that they stop talking about peace and coexistence with Israel. The only ones who will benefit from this are Hamas and its friends in Tehran and Damascus. The “proximity talks” will eventually undermine the moderates and boost the extremists among the Palestinians.

"By insisting on putting the issues of Jerusalem and refugees on the table, the Obama Administration is placing Israelis and Palestinians on the course of collision."


The news from Barry Rubin -- in his recent piece "Russian traps - and moves" -- is grim as well.

"If America’s Middle East position collapses in the forest will anyone hear it? The answer is either ‘no,’ or ‘just barely.’ As I’ve predicted, Russia is coming back into the region and it is going to play a very bad role. Moscow is linking up with the emerging Islamist alliance of Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.

"Meanwhile, the Obama administration praises Russia for allegedly supporting sanctions against Iran. Russian support, at best, consists of throwing a bucket of fluid over the sanctions’ plan to water it down.

"Back in the real world – the Middle East, not Washington – let’s begin with Syria. The Obama administration says it is going to pull Syria away from Iran, but the two countries are coming closer together. Syria’s open goal is to pull the US away from Israel, but meanwhile it is finding still another ally to back its ambitions.

"The recent visit of Russia’s President Dimitry Medvedev with a huge entourage was a major step toward reestablishing the old Soviet-Syria relationship. There were broad economic talks, including the possibility of Russia building a nuclear reactor for the Syrian dictatorship."


Have you picked up on the common denominator of these two "bad news" pieces? In both cases the situation is being fueled by an obtuse or damaging Obama policy.


Defense Minister Barak, who seems to be working as Obama's buddy these days, has delivered a statement to his Labor party faction that literally makes me sick to my stomach:

"The Americans are trying to organize sanctions against Iran, are busy stopping North Korea, and other countries like Somalia and Yemen.

"Therefore, they expect Israel, too, as a friend, to mobilize in the areas in which it can help the overall effort – in other words, in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

"A fundamental change is required in our relations with the US. We cannot do this without a far-reaching political initiative on our part."

He warned against Israel being depicted as refusing peace, and explained, "Our real challenge is to look over the small things and march toward the challenge and opportunity encased in Israeli political initiative towards negotiation and agreement."

So, in order to be Obama's friend, and to be sure we are not "depicted" as "refusing peace," we should overlook "small things." What small things? Like a united Jerusalem and full expression of our rights to the land?

This is the man who offered Arafat an incredible deal in 2000 (from our side, incredibly bad) and was turned down. But it seems he learned nothing. How can he see "opportunity" given what Erekat is saying (above)? How can he even pretend to see opportunity?


And so, as Shavuot approaches, I pray that the Almighty will protect not only from our enemies, but from "leaders" such as this.


Good news:

There is a campaign begun, headed by Eli Avidar, to downgrade perks for Arabs in our prisons to conform with international law. (Yes, we do much more than is required by the Third Geneva Convention.) This is long overdue, and I hope the campaign succeeds.

It is hoped that this will help to secure the release of Gilad Shalit: “If we do not cause a situation in which they [Arab families of those in our prisons] pressure their leaders...the chances to free Gilad will continue to diminish.”


Israel Military Industries has developed a rocket -- named the Enchanted Spear -- that can hit targets up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) away with a precision of 10 meters (32 feet). It can carry various heads and is constructed to destroy ground targets.

More significantly, an Israeli start-up, Eltics Ltd, has developed the Black Fox Active Adaptive IR Stealth System.

Night vision equipment is commonly used these days and is certainly in the possession of our enemies, such as Hamas. This technology renders helicopters, armored personnel carriers and ships invisible to thermal night vision systems and guided missiles.

As was explained by Israel National News, "The equipment analyzes the thermal signature of the environment, and then screens the exact same signature on to plates fitted on to the machine."

Pretty neat, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of our having the advantage as we approach prospects of war down the road. The Black Fox is in the advanced prototype stage and developers are seeking additional funds.


Let me end here with a YouTube video about Israel. I picked up this link on a site call "My Israel -- Israel Sheli." It's in Hebrew, but you can readily get the sense of it without much language. Stunning and moving footage of our history -- from Ben Gurion's declaration of a state, through early years of our founding, and our wars, to the present.


see my website

Government Accountability Office Report Worries: Does The U.S. Training Palestinian Soldiers Lead to Peace or War

Barry Rubin

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues reports that rarely make headlines yet analyze as objectively as possible U.S. government programs. These reports are long (the one on the Palestinian Authority is 60 pages) and detailed. In other words, not many people will read them. Too bad.
One new report is "Palestinian Authority: U.S. Assistance Is Training and EquippingSecurity Forces, but the Program Needs to Measure Progress and Faces Logistical Constraints." GAO-10-505, May 11. It recounts that the United States has spent $400 million to train, equip, and build facilities for PA security forces. Five battalions have already been trained and six more will be so in future. All the equipment supplied is non-lethal. U.S. money is also being used to create a Strategic Planning Directorate in the Palestinian ministry of interior.

There are some good reasons for this program, of course. Increasing the PA's ability to defeat any Hamas overthrow attempt is important, and a better PA security force can maintain order, thus allowing improvements in living standards and--in theory--lay a basis for peace.

Yet there are also considerable risks. The report says that the U.S. agencies "have not established clear and measurable outcome-based performance indicators" to assess progress. What's most important is that these relate to anything positive coming from the program:

"Targets they set to measure progress...focus on specific program outputs, such as the number of battalions or personnel trained and equipped, rather than on broader program outcomes such as helping the PA meet its Roadmap obligations to achieve the transformation of its security sector and create a professional, right-sized" security force.

What does this mean? Simply that there's no evidence that training is producing security forces more likely to block terrorism against Israel, repress (rather than join!) radical elements, or obey any orders from moderate Palestinian politicians (if they were ever to give such orders).

Let's face it: U.S.-trained forces are most likely to use their training and equipment in future to fight Israel in a third intifada than to use their power to assist a compromise negotiated settlement.

Israel does not oppose this program and in some ways is pleased by the outcome. At present, there is progress in establishing order on the West Bank and some minimal cooperation on blocking terrorism. But it is also understandably skeptical regarding some aspects of the U.S. project. The report politely notes that Israel sometimes blocks or slows the delivery of supplies and equipment. Should anyone blame it for doing so?

What the GAO report basically says is this: Is there any reason to believe that this training will contribute to stability, peace, moderation, PA support for U.S. policies, or the security forces willingness to fight Hamas or even radicals within Fatah?

To which I would add: How many members of the security forces being trained have also been involved in cooperation with Hamas or continuing participation in terrorist involvement either individually or through membership in the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades or Tanzim?

In another report, "Firms Reported to Have Commercial Activity in the Iranian EnergySector and U.S. Government Contracts." GAO-10-639R, May 4, the GAO lists seven foreign companies that have received $900 million in U.S. contracts over the last five years (one-third of it during the Obama Administration, in 2009) despite being involved in Iranian development of its energy industry. The three best known are Eni (Italy), Total (France), and Hyundai Heavy Industries (South Korea).

There has been some real progress in discouraging companies from investing in Iran, in large part because they fear forthcoming sanctions will open them to penalties or force them to suspend expensive projects. But what will happen after only very weak sanctions have been passed by the UN Security Council? Will these companies conclude that it is now safe to reengage with Iran's economy?

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; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood

Our Arab minority

17/05/2010 07:51
The dangers of an increasingly alienated group.

On Saturday, many Arab Israelis marked the 62nd anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state as the “Nakba” – or “catastrophe day” – taking to the streets in towns and cities inside the Green Line to protest Israeli injustices. This year’s incarnation of the Nakba commemorations was fairly standard, and as such underlined unfortunately standard concerns about the integration, or lack thereof, of the community. Recent developments suggest that the passage of six decades has not healed differences and that, if anything, some Arab Israelis’ intransigence has escalated Two prominent Arab Israelis – Balad activist Omar Abdo and director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, Ameer Mahoul – were recently arrested on suspicion of spying for Hizbullah. Leading Arab Israeli organizations have called to join a boycott launched by the PA against about 1,000 Jewish-owned companies in Judea and Samaria. There is now rioting of some degree or other on or near the Temple Mount before and during nearly every major Jewish holiday.

Looking a little further back, Yom Kippur 2008 saw clashes in Acre between Arabs and Jews; 2006 saw pro-Hizbullah declarations by several Arab Israeli leaders during the Second Lebanon War... and the list goes on.

The danger posed by an increasingly alienated, angry, and rapidly growing Arab minority living within the Green Line has been largely eclipsed by the prolonged conflict with the Palestinians in the territories. But it most certainly constitutes a similar, albeit less acute, demographic threat to the future of a democratic Jewish state.

Even if we were to assume that the Arab fertility rate, presently at 3.8%, will gradually fall to the Jewish rate of 2.9%, the Central Bureau of Statistics forecasts an Arab minority of 24% by 2030. Some 30% of children 4 or younger will be Arab by then, which means that in the ensuing decades the Arab-Jewish ratio in Israel could reach 30-70.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that many Israeli Arabs do not see themselves as a minority striving to integrate into a dominant Jewish culture, but rather as part of the overwhelmingly Arab Middle East majority. This view was expressed last week by MK Masud Gnaim (UAL-Ta’al) who told the Arab-language Israeli newspaper Kul Al-Arab that Israel should be incorporated into an Islamic caliphate.

Recommendations put forward in recent years by organizations such as Adallah Legal Center for the Rights of the Arab Minority in Israel, the National Committee of Arab Mayors, and Mada al-Karmel Center for Applied Social Research, call to dispose of such Jewish aspects of the state as the national anthem “Hatikva,” the national flag with its Star of David, the Law of Return, the Jewish Agency and the Israel Lands Administration, Hebrew as the official language and even the very name of the state – to be replaced by something less Jewish-sounding. They also demand the return of Arabs to villages their families left in 1948.

These add up to demands for the dismantling of the Zionist enterprise, pressed by Israeli Arab advocates who apparently lack any appreciation for the uniqueness of the world’s only Jewish sovereign entity, achieved after nearly 2,000 years of exile.

IMPROVING ARAB-Jewish relations in Israel is a shared necessity. But the State of Israel can be both Jewish and democratic. Further steps should be taken to stamp out discrimination against Arabs, who also need reasonable job opportunities, decent housing, better schools, better infrastructure in their towns and cities, more self-owned businesses, a more equitable share of the state budget and genuine opportunities for fuller integration.

Some of this is happening. In 2008-2009 there were 1,050 Arab volunteers for national service, compared to just 240 in 2004-2005. This is despite wide, vocal opposition among local Arab leaders to national service.

The government has also recently allocated $40 million to boost investment in private Arab business – in the kind of approach that carries so much more positive potential than Yisrael Beitenu’s “no loyalty, no citizenship” effort, which proposes to make certain benefits conditional upon acts of loyalty such as national service.

Speaking recently to The Jerusalem Post, Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom said that Arab political parties consistently receive much less than the 20% of Knesset votes they might expect, because many Israeli Arabs are alienated by their radical positions.

Responsibilities work both ways. Israel’s Arabs should indeed steer clear of radical, extremist representation. And they must be made to feel that, while the State of Israel is Jewish and will remain that way, it is also a democracy that will do its best to protect the rights of all its citizens.

MFA Newsletter

Cabinet communique

The Cabinet approved a plan to encourage the return of expatriate Israelis and set a goal of bringing approximately 15,000 Israelis back to the country per annum.

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat))

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 16 May 2010:

1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks:

"Today, the Government will approve a special plan to encourage the return of Israelis who reside abroad. There are approximately 750,000 Israelis living abroad and our goal is to bring at least 15,000 of them back home per annum. To this end, the aforesaid plan will include - inter alia - tax breaks, education benefits, medical assistance and national insurance benefits. The plan will be operated by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office. I thank everyone who has been involved. This is very important because these people are, first of all, our flesh and blood. Their absorption and economic integration, upon their return, is usually very quick. Naturally, they have the same national background and they know the language and the culture. They also are familiar with other cultures, the creativity and work standards of which we are sometimes interested in adopting here.

A certain turning point is currently taking place. Many of them left Israel due to the absence of possibilities, and now some would like to come back, thanks to the existence of possibilities, since the Israeli economy seems to be faring better than some others, including those of developed countries. Therefore, we welcome them and will now adopt a plan that will - for a limited time - offer the aforesaid benefits. For all those who have relatives abroad (I daresay that is almost all of us), contact your relatives about today's decision and tell them that it is not only right, but worthwhile, to return to the country, and bring them back.

I would also like to discuss two projects that have been stuck for years. They have to do with two populations that are important and dear to the Israeli public, that see themselves as hurt by these decisions, but we made the decisions and we are carrying them out.

First of all, there is the Kishon basin, the gas pipeline that we have begun to lay in order to bring natural gas to the Haifa Bay area. Every year, several people die or are stricken with severe respiratory diseases, and we know that part of this problem will be resolved. Part of the problem may be resolved by laying a gas pipeline, which is also good for the economy and for the development of the north. Therefore, we decided to lay the pipeline, I hope by agreement and understanding with the Druze community; this is our aspiration. But what is most important is the general welfare. We made the decision and we are carrying it out for benefit of everyone.

The second decision has to do with Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. After the Second Lebanon War, it was decided to build a bombproof emergency room adjacent to the hospital. There is an important ultra-orthodox population that sees itself as hurt by this decision but, here as well, after checks, we reached the decision that it must be carried out. The general welfare is also decisive here. I think that this is the guiding principle. We are holding consultations, to the degree that this is possible, and are trying to reach agreement with parts of the public, but the Government's ultimate commitment is to the general welfare. This is how we have acted and this is how we will act."

2. Prime Minister Netanyahu received a basket of fruit from children from the Nahal Sorek Regional Council area, on the occasion of the upcoming Shavuot holiday.

3. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan briefed the Cabinet on their visit to the Expo 2000 in Shanghai, including their meetings with leading Chinese political and economic officials.

Finance Ministry Director-General Chaim Shani briefed ministers on the possibilities of Israeli-Chinese economic cooperation.

Prime Minister Netanyahu noted Israel's intention to open China's markets to Israeli companies and defined Israel's goals in this regard.

The Cabinet discussed the aforesaid briefings.

4. The Cabinet approved a plan to encourage the return of expatriate Israelis and set a goal of bringing approximately 15,000 Israelis back to the country per annum.

5. Justice Ministry Director-General Guy Rothkopf and Justice Ministry Commissioner of Patents Noam Meir briefed the Cabinet on current plans for the Patent Office.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on Wikipedia

16/05/2010 03:54

The international campaign to erode Israel’s legitimacy is slowly expanding its reach into the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, according to Israeli sources familiar with the Web site’s operations. The collaborative reader-edited encyclopedia is the Internet’s sixth-most popular Web site, making it a central clearinghouse for knowledge and opinion worldwide. Since it is written by the public, it tends to deal in greater detail with issues in the media spotlight.

No wonder, then, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is covered from countless angles across a spectrum of articles.

Yet, according to Israeli editors of the encyclopedia who asked to remain anonymous so as not to damage their editing rights on the Web site, these articles are slowly being taken over by pro-Palestinian campaigners in an effort to tilt the encyclopedia’s narrative of the conflict and its history to reflect their position.

The essence of the encyclopedia is the theory that constant correction by an unlimited “cloud” of knowledgeable individuals will result in greater accuracy and objectivity than is seen in encyclopedia entries produced by experts.

But the theory breaks down precisely when it is needed most, say the Israeli editors.

In those sections of the encyclopedia that garner the most controversy, Wikipedia employs a system of controls and limitations meant to prevent an “edit war,” when mobs of like-minded people repeatedly edit their views into the articles.

These controls include limiting the editing rights of the general public, blocking users who repeatedly edit their opinions into the articles, and submitting major disagreements to behind-the-scenes debates and to the encyclopedia’s ArbCom, or Arbitration Committee, its highest level of dispute resolution.

However, in recent months, Israeli editors have sensed a growing presence of pro-Palestinian activists who have begun to develop ways to sidestep these controls. The result has been the introduction of narratives that question Israel’s legitimacy and advocate international legal and political action against the Jewish state.

Any claims made in Wikipedia articles are supposed to meet three criteria: they must be verifiable, cannot include original research, and all narratives must be presented from a neutral point of view.

Based on these rules, the encyclopedia allows editors to describe ideological positions, but not to advocate for them. Yet, say critics, that distinction creates a lot of room for advancing agendas.

For example, an article titled “Israel and the apartheid analogy,” weighing in at well over 10,000 words, purports merely to explain the analogy, not to support it. Yet while a long litany of arguments for “Israeli apartheid” are offered in detail, including quotes from well-known figures and even Israeli sources, only a handful see Israeli or pro-Israel responses.

“The article itself is legitimate. The problem is that when you read it, it’s clear that it is actually arguing that position,” a veteran Wikipedia editor from the center of the country said.

The pro-Palestinian activists also employ a tactic known as “POV [point-of-view] forking,” or starting a second article on a nearly identical subject to present the original subject through a new narrative.

Thus, since editing the article “Palestinian territories” is now too difficult, a new article exists for disseminating similar information without the oversight employed in the original. Its title, “Occupied Palestinian territory,” means it will come up in similar searches alongside the original.

These activists also use teams of like-minded editors working together to sustain debates about new edits ad infinitum, thus improving the chances that their changes will be accepted and preventing the removal of any claims they have added.

One of the most important recent debates that showcased this ability concerned the technical definition of Mandatory Palestine as a state. Pro-Palestinian advocates have brought pro-Palestinian Western academics, along with selected quotations from British, Ottoman and UN sources, to argue that Palestine has always had the legal status of statehood, whether under Ottoman, British or Israeli occupation.

The purpose of the campaign is simple. If Palestine has always been a state, it has the legal right to turn to international tribunals to sue Israel for war crimes, a move that is difficult for non-state actors under the rules governing the International Criminal Court and other bodies.

This argument is a central plank in the pro-Palestinian campaign that seeks to find new ways to attack Israel’s legitimacy in the international arena. It is put forth in the article “State of Palestine,” which exists independently of the geography-focused “Palestine,” or other related articles such as “The Palestinian territories” and “Proposals for a Palestinian state.”

According to an editor, “We face what can only be described as an organized campaign that brings to bear a huge number of sources, even if most of them are problematic and polemical, and is willing and able to debate without end and not to allow changes to articles until the debate is concluded.”

This fierce battle has not gone unnoticed within the Wikipedia hierarchy. The Web site Arbitration Committee has held consultations on the issue for months. In its “proposed decision,” it recommended a series of sanctions to be employed by anyone caught manipulating articles toward one side or another.

It reminds editors engaged with the issue that “when editing in subject areas of bitter and long-standing real-world conflict, it is all the more important to comply with Wikipedia policies such as assuming good faith of all editors, including those on the other side of the real-world dispute, writing with a neutral point of view, remaining civil and avoiding personal attacks, utilizing reliable sources for contentious or disputed assertions, and resorting to dispute resolution where necessary.”

It has also come up in the Hebrew-language Wikipedia, where editors were summoned to “stand guard on those issues where Israel comes up,” in the words of an Israeli editor.

But policing the Wikipedia space might be nearly impossible in the face of sufficiently organized and determined efforts to change its narrative. Though Wikipedia’s edits are public – and available for all time in an article’s backpages – the editors and debaters remain anonymous. Thus, it is a system that rewards those willing to debate without end, while near-universal anonymity makes it nearly impossible to trace an orchestrated campaign.

“This is a difficult arena to operate in,” admits an editor, “but the stakes are higher than at any newspaper.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thousands join left-wing J'lem rally

16/05/2010 02:37

National Left, Peace Now groups call for "an end to the occupation."

Under the banner "Zionists are not settlers!" thousands of left-wing activists held a rally near Zion Square in Jerusalem on Saturday night to voice their disapproval of current government policy and to declare their support for a "Jewish state, for the Jewish people, with clear and recognized borders. The large demonstration, which was organized by the National Left (Smol Leumi) movement, Peace Now and "Ofek" - the Meretz faction at Hebrew University - lasted nearly an hour and featured brief remarks from each of the movements' representatives.

Eldad Yaniv, Labor chairman Ehud Barak’s former bureau chief, and one of the National Left movement's founders, addressed the cheering crowd, saying, "We're calling for an end to the occupation - with or without an agreement!"

"We're calling for a Jewish state, for the Jewish people with clear and recognized borders!" he said. "Not a Jewish state built on settlements and discrimination!"

Yaniv's fledgling political movement aims to rebuild the Left from the ground up, encourage Zionism among the left wing, and serve as an umbrella for parties to the left of Kadima in the next election.

“We have been working for months to wake up the Zionist Left in Israel,” Yaniv told The Jerusalem Post last week. "We have held parlor meetings across the country three or four times a week, and now we have decided to return to the streets with Israeli flags and say that Zionists aren’t settlers, and that the time has come to end the occupation and build a society that can be a light unto the nations.”

Additionally, the throngs of participants - police estimated the crowd at 2,000, organizers put that number closer to 5,000 - could be heard chanting slogans enthusiastically and cheering the speakers on.

"We are here tonight to reclaim the Zionism of Ben-Gurion," one participant, Tzachi, from Tel-Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post. "We're tired of Zionism being associated with the right-wing only, and we came out tonight, to Jerusalem, the capital, to let our voices be heard."

While a number of buses brought in scores of demonstrators from Tel-Aviv and other locations across the country, a large contingent of Jerusalem residents had turned out for the protest as well.

"Living in this city, working or studying here, you can really feel that there are segments of the population that are trying to hijack the political process and shut out anyone who doesn't fit their mold," downtown resident Alon Zehavi told the Post.

"I felt it quite strongly while watching the Jerusalem Day parade last Wednesday," he continued. "All I could see were yeshiva students and settlers, dancing and cheering their way towards the Old City. The crowd was so homogeneous."

"And as someone who sees their future here in this city and in this country, it was important to me to come down here tonight and make my voice heard. Because I am left-wing, I am a Zionist, and it's important to me that [Israel] remains a Jewish, democratic state."

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report