Saturday, July 17, 2010

Human rights activists slam Assad

Human Rights Watch report reviews Syrian president's first decade in power, says he 'has not delivered on promises to increase public freedoms, improve human rights record'

Israel News

During a decade in power, Syrian President Bashar Assad has not delivered on promises of greater freedoms or rights for his people, Human Rights Watch said on Friday. Assad "has not delivered on his promises to increase public freedoms and improve his government's human rights record during a decade in power," HRW said in a report on the eve of the anniversary of his accession.

"Whether President Assad wanted to be a reformer but was hampered by an entrenched old guard or has been just another Arab ruler unwilling to listen to criticism, the outcome for Syria's people is the same: No freedom, no rights," HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement.

* Click here to view full report

The report noted that in his July 17, 2000, inaugural speech, Assad had spoken of the need for creative thinking, transparency and democracy.

"However, the period of tolerance that followed Assad's ascent to power was short-lived, and Syria's prisons quickly filled again with political prisoners, journalists and human rights activists," the report said.

"Syria's security agencies, the feared mukhabarat, detain people without arrest warrants and torture with complete impunity," said the report, entitled "A Wasted Decade: Human Rights in Syria during Bashar Assad's First Ten Years in Power."

'Kurds denied basic rights'

It said that two years after prison authorities and military police had used firearms to quell a riot at the Saya prison outside Damascus in July 2008, "Syrian authorities have not revealed the fate of at least 42 detainees, at least nine of whom are believed to have been killed."

"Censorship is prevalent and extends to popular websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Blogger," the report by the New York-based organization added.

It noted that rights violations included repression of Syria's large Kurdish minority.

"The Kurdish minority, estimated to be 10% of the population, is denied basic group rights, including the right to learn Kurdish in schools or celebrate Kurdish festivals, such as Nowruz (Kurdish New Year)."

The report said an estimated 300,000 stateless Kurds are waiting for citizenship, despite repeated promises by Assad.

"Whatever hopes Syrians might have had for a new era of political openness under Assad's rule have been dashed," said Whitson.

He "has no excuse to continue to stall on needed reforms to his country's human rights record," she added, noting that US and European officials had been reaching out to Syria and had held regular meetings with the Syrian president.

"Now that he has emerged from his internationally imposed isolation, he should open up his country."

Erekat says demolitions threaten talks


PA chief negotiator tells US envoy no talks without concessions.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians have warned a US envoy that it will be difficult to revive peace talks if Washington cannot stop Israel from demolishing Arab homes or building for Jews in east Jerusalem, their chief negotiator said Friday.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said he warned Mitchell in a letter that the demolitions, along with Israeli plans to build more houses for Jews in east Jerusalem, threaten peace prospects "If the United States cannot stop these measures, then the Israeli practices will lead to undermining all efforts that have been exerted to revive the peace process," Erekat said he wrote to Mitchell.

White House envoy George Mitchell is expected to try to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting Saturday to agree to direct negotiations with Israel. Abbas aides say they expect Mitchell to tell the Palestinian president what Israel is prepared to do to make that happen.

Abbas has said he won't return to the negotiating table unless Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Abbas also wants Israeli assurances that talks will pick up where they broke off under Netanyahu's predecessor in December 2008. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has declined to make such a commitment.

Comment: Equal application of the law only applies to Israel?

How the mighty have fallen

07/16/2010 18:17

Shas’s local faction is deteriorating steadily.

In the summer of 1983 Nissim Ze’ev, a wellknown local Sephardi rabbi, cofounded a nonprofit organization called the Association of Sephardi Torah Keepers, whose aim was to establish educational and cultural institutions adapted to the character of Sephardi Jews who observed a strict religious way of life. Ze’ev, who had already established Navat Israel, a large institution for Sephardi girls, managed to bring together to the association’s inauguration ceremony the leading figures of the Jerusalem Sephardi haredi community for a conference on these issues, headed by former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef. One of the most important outcomes of this gathering was the decision to establish a party of representatives to run in the city council elections. As president of the organization, Ze’ev received the blessings of Yosef, and a few months later he presided over a party of Sephardi haredim on the city council. And thus Shas was born.

“Suddenly we met different haredim,” recalls Amos Mar-Haim, then deputy mayor to Teddy Kollek. “We were used to the hassidim and the Litvaks, the Ashkenazi leadership who were very strict, even radical – but the guys from Shas were much more tolerant, open, substantially less extreme in their views and opinions. Nissim Ze’ev was very prominent, very dominant, and the two other members – Shas obtained three mandates in the 1983 Jerusalem elections – always did what he wanted. Their main interest was education. They wanted schools and institutions for their children that were separate from the haredi Ashkenazi stream,” says Mar-Haim, though that does not negate their right to study in any institution.

Within less than a year, the new political phenomenon grew to such an extent that it became a nationwide movement. Almost overnight, Shas developed from a local party aimed at solving a few issues that offended Sephardi pride to a rising political power. In 1984, in the party’s first participation in the general elections, it obtained four seats. The prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, who was one of the first to understand what that meant, was recorded on camera as saying to a member of another party, “But they have four seats. We’ll have to take them into account from now on.”

For years, the Jerusalem city council was considered a stronghold of the Shas movement, and it was the model on which the political movement based itself to recreate the same success. Today, there is hardly a city council in the country that doesn’t have its own local Shas representative, including the bastion of secularism, Tel Aviv.

“I was still single then,” recalls Eli Simhayof, one of the leading figures of Shas today. “I remember very well the atmosphere when we got the results of the elections for the city council. It was like a miracle happening before our eyes. It was thrilling. The feeling was that at last we could hold our heads high. We had gained our independence. We were no longer inferior and disregarded by our brethren the Ashkenazim. It’s hard to describe, but it was a very festive atmosphere.

We were happy, and I think we were also very naïve.”

Now, 27 years later, the four members (compared to five under mayor Uri Lupolianski) of Shas on the city council are becoming ever less relevant. Shlomi Attias, the former leader of the party, left the city council recently to go out and earn a living. Since he had not been given the position of deputy mayor (with its NIS 40,000 salary), the father of 12 children decided to leave politics and start a career. Today, he is the director of the Company for the Reconstruction and the Development of the Jewish Quarter and confirmed to In Jerusalem that he has no intentions of going back into politics.

Officially, no one dared to criticize him. “How would anyone expect a father of 12 to forgo a decent salary?” says Attias. “I have a family and an obligation toward my children first.”

NEVERTHELESS, THERE is a sense among some of the employees and former assistants of Shas members at the municipality that Attias’s departure is just the first brick coming loose from the movement’s structure, heralding its demise.

Simhayof, a longtime rival of Attias’s as head of the party, was recently released from police arrest following his suspected involvement in the Holyland scandal.

But he has also found himself a job. Once the powerful president of the prestigious finance committee at city hall, Simhayof is now head of the haredi town of Tel Zion.

“For someone like him, who has the virus of politics deep in his veins, this is a real punishment,” remarked a veteran city council member from another party.

The third member of Shas, Shmuel Yitzhaki, who has always been the lone oppositionist in his party, never missed an opportunity to criticize his fellow members in public, especially on the issue of the Sephardi girls who are not accepted to prestigious Ashkenazi institutions. Although he is highly appreciated for his integrity and honesty, Yitzhaki is not regarded as the person who could bring Shas back to its former glory. Aware of the delicate situation of his party on the city council, he said this week that the deterioration is the result of neglecting the people’s needs. “I have always been very careful not to forgetwhat my mission is – to serve the modest and the poor and, above all, to support the families whose daughters are not accepted to Ashkenazi institutions year after year.”

As for the new city council member, David Michaeli, nobody knows for the moment if he has the capacity to develop into a leader as Eli Yishai did before him when he was a city council member.

The general feeling at Kikar Safra is that while the Ashkenazi haredim managed to maintain quite a few of their advantages despite MK Meir Porush’s failure to win the election, something turned sour for the Shas party on the city council. “It was pathetic to see them moving their stuff from the main building to the small and modest offices of Building 4, where the city council members who are not on salary are located,” said one municipal employee. In fact, it took the Shasniks a while to realize that nobody needed them anymore in Mayor Nir Barkat’s administration.

“What is really painful is the realization that our failure, which is also at a great personal cost [in loss of deputy mayorships], is in fact much more crucial in its public cost,” explained a Shas member who did not want to be identified. “The fact that we know that it was in our hands, that it could have been very different, adds to the pain.”

What he meant is that in the mayoral election of November 2009, Barkat, who was running against haredi candidate Meir Porush, tried to win Shas over to his side. “Barkat met with us and asked us to support him, promising full cooperation in return. We know now, as we knew then, that he is a man of integrity and would have honored his agreement. But that meant working independently, against the haredi candidate. It turned out that Shas, the party that was created to raise the honor and independence of the Sephardim, could not dare to act according to its own interests. The rabbis refused to accept the agreement, and the rest is history. Porush lost, but the Ashkenazi haredim, who lost one seat but had a total of eight seats, entered into a very generous arrangement with Barkat, leaving us way behind.”

As for Barkat, he found a strong ally in the religious Zionists of Habayit Hayehudi. Today, their leader David Hadari is deputy mayor and president of the Finance Committee.

As a result, the Shas representatives have not yet yielded a deputy mayor, and even the committees over which they preside are far from being the most influential.

Here is an example of how the exclusion of Shas from the inner sphere of influence and important decision-making has had its effects. A Beit Ya’acov school in Ramot, which holds 1,700 girls – among them a large number of Sephardim – has long been suffering from poor conditions, such as caravans instead of concrete buildings and a gross lack of facilities. Until two years ago, there was a tacit understanding that as soon as the secular Yoni Netanyahu school was vacated, the building would be handed over to Beit Ya’acov. But today, the strong partner at Kikar Safra is no longer on the haredi side, and certainly not Shas.

“As a result, the Netanyahu school was given to the Rapopport school, despite the fact that it also serves students who don’t live in the neighborhood, which belongs to the religious Zionist stream, the new allies of the mayor,” says the city council member.

On the issue of the segregation of Sephardi girls in Ashkenazi institutions, 27 years of being on the city council has not succeeded in putting an end to the situation. According to Yitzhaki, he hasthe names of 20 girls who are still not registered for first grade in the coming school year “just because they are Sephardi.” Yitzhaki, who has always been deeply committed to the issue, was the only Shas member to openly accuse his fellow party members of betraying the Sephardi girls for the sake of politics.

FOR YEARS Nathalie Lestreger was the closest assistant to Shas founder Nissim Ze’ev, who today is an MK. “Whoever worked at the municipality at the time will remember the convivial atmosphere that prevailed in his office,” she recalls. “Members of all the parties – Left and secular, as well as religious or haredi Ashkenazim – would start their day at the municipality by passing through Ze’ev’s office, eating burekas he would bring from home.”

When Lestreger came on the scene in 1989, still in the days of Teddy Kollek, Shas was already part of the landscape of the municipality. “His [Ze’ev’s] first assistant was a shy young man named Eli Yishai, who also became a city council member. But when Shas became more involved on the national level and Aryeh Deri became the political leader, Yishai quickly understood that it would be better for him to stick to Deri, and he left.

I think what characterized Ze’ev the most was his deep sense of hesed [lovingkindness]. He certainly has political savvy, but he was really after doing good and helping people,” she says.

“There is a huge difference between his real personality and his image in the public or in the media. He has had quite a few bold expressions, that’s true, but he is also the kind of man anyone could call at any time of the day or night to ask for help and never be turned down – religious, secular, Jews and Arabs alike.”

Lestreger has not been at the municipality or close to Shas for a long time. Today she is a member of the Conservative movement and a rabbinical student at the Schechter Institute – not exactly the typical surroundings of Nissim Ze’ev. Yet she recalls vividly the atmosphere among the party members in her day.

“The phenomenon called Shas could not have been born anywhere else but in Jerusalem. Here was the most natural soil for it: Sephardi Jews from all over the world, most of them modest people who kept their traditions alive. They were close to the Ashkenazi haredim, studied at their institutions, yet suffered from disdain and experienced the pain of seeing their traditions disregarded. What’s more, all the great rabbis of this community were here, especially Ovadia Yosef. Shas had to be created here.”

“They [the members of Shas] all had great respect for Teddy Kollek,” adds Mar-Haim. “But the most important thing was that we could really rely on them. They would never use threats as a weapon, never set fire in the streets to obtain what they wanted.

They always used the technique of persuasion, negotiations. It was a real change compared to what we had to face with the Ashkenazi haredim. I think what characterized them most was their commitment to their communities – hesed, support, community interests. They were very much aware of the situation of their peers, tried very hard to bring some relief, some improvement, especially in the education issues.

“If today, somehow, there is still an understanding that the north of the city will largely be in haredi hands and the south-ern part will stay open, secular and pluralistic – well, that is an achievement we should thank Shas for. They were always realistic, pragmatic. I think they were good partners.

If they had been in charge of things here, many things would look much calmer and less radical today.”

As for the changes that have led to Shas’s decline, Mar-Haim believes it is a general process – as with the Likud, which has always been a local strong movement and has only one representative on the city council (Elisha Peleg), and what happened with Labor, whose representative Hilik Bar is a member of Barkat’s party.

According to Arye Dayan, a journalist who wrote a book about Shas, the trend is not surprising. “The fact that Shas was created first on the local level doesn’t mean it had to stay there. I believe that the decline of Shas is more representative of the decline of all the political parties in Israel today,” he says.

He adds that in his view, the party had roughly three stages. “First as a group created to take care of the Sephardi interests within the Ashkenazi hegemony; then the period of Aryeh Deri, who led a bold struggle against that hegemony; and now, again, at least for the moment, back to the basics of the first period,” he says.

“Then it is clear why the leaders of Shas, in front of the Ashkenazi rabbis and leadership and with the High Court of Justice in the background, couldn’t do anything but remain silent in the Emmanuel case and dare not openly criticize the discrimination against the Sephardi girls,” he continues, referring to the recent struggle against the segregation of Sephardi girls in the Beit Ya’acov school there.

When all is said and done, the consensus is that if and when Aryeh Deri decides to make a comeback, everything will change. “Those who gave in and left, and those who lost hope will all come back and restore Shas to its former splendor,” say many Shasniks, including at least one MK who prefers to remain silent for the moment.

Dayan also believes that if Deri decides to return to political life, it will have a tremendous effect on the situation of Shas, “but I’m not sure that it will change much on the city council.”

For the moment, Simhayof is waiting for the mayor to grant him the title – and the salary – of deputy mayor. Rumors in the corridors of Kikar Safra have it that the decision has already been made but the timing is problematic. Simhayof has been released after much interrogation, which so far has proven nothing against him, but the file is still not closed. Once that is behind him – and many believe it won’t take long – things might improve, and the Shas electorate will once again have somewhere to register their grievances.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Gaining Strength?"

Arlene Kushner

A correction: Congressman Mark Kirk of IL is running for the US Senate, but he has not yet achieved that position. Thus, my reference to him as Senator Kirk the other day was premature. (Thanks for catching this, Jeff.)


What sort of strength am I seeing?

Let's start with the rally against the mosque being planned for Ground Zero. I thank the many people who wrote to me about this. Seems the mainstream media didn't see fit to report on it in any significant way (which tells us a great deal about mainstream media). But last month there was a major rally at Ground Zero protesting the building of that mosque. It was organized by the founders of Stop the Islamization of America: Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, and other groups. Fern Sidman, described this rally, which brought out in excess of 5,000 people, in Frontpage magazine:

There have been other sorts of protests since, and there is a movement to declare the building on the site where the mosque is slated to be erected an Historic Landmark, which would prevent its demolition. Americans in large numbers, it seems, are not prepared to sit still for the construction of that mosque, and this is an encouraging sign.


I have just learned of a group called Idahoans United for Israel. Director Allen Gorin wrote to me that, "You should know that even in states like Idaho, with very few Jews, Israelis are viewed as the guys with the white hats!"

All right!


A new right-wing, staunchly pro-Israel group, “Emergency Committee for Israel,” has been established under the leadership of Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and American Values leader Gary Bauer. Its members say they are tired of "political correctness" and polite criticism of the Obama administration.

For starters they are taking on Joe Sestak, a Democratic congressman from PA who has demonstrated something less than staunch support for Israel; he is supported by J-Street, which has contributed $75,000 to his campaign.

Additionally, Kristol has questioned whether AIPAC has been treading too softly with regard to Obama.

You can read more about this group here:


Leaders of several American Jewish groups are said to be expressing concern that this new organization might be "polarizing." Head of ADL, Abe Foxman, is quoted as saying, "I think it will have an effect on the political debate. That's troubling in the sense that what we've always striven to do is make sure that support for Israel in the US is a bipartisan effort."

Give me a break! This group was formed because the "bi-partisan effort" has been insufficiently supportive of Israel during difficult times. Apparently Fox thinks being wishy-washy on Israel is all right as long as everyone hangs together.

Maybe (it should only be) the new group, rather than polarizing, will open dialogue that will eventually move other groups to be more forthright and dynamic in their support of Israel.


We may not always know what we're doing, but we're not stupid: A poll here in Israel indicates that Obama's recent "charm offensive" (in the words of the JPost) had very little effect. Only 10% of Israelis think the administration is pro-Israel. That's up from 1% before the offensive. Perhaps it's Obama who is stupid for thinking that we might be so easily swayed.


Mitchell is back in town, and he has his work cut out for him. For Fatah is urging PA president Abbas to continue to refuse to enter direct talks with Israel in spite of the pressure the US is applying.

Fatah put out a statement, reported by AFP, that said:

"The lack of credibility and confidence resulting from the Israeli rejection of the indirect talks, which have achieved no progress, will become entrenched as 'givens and facts' if there is a transition to direct talks.

"That is something the Fatah leadership has not and will not accept."

The next step? Undoubtedly, leaning on Netanyahu to accede to some of the PA demands in order bring it to the table.


See commentator Moshe Dann on "Why peace won't happen":,7340,L-3920255,00.html


More after Shabbat...

see my website

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"More That's Good"

Arlene Kushner

As I write, it appears that we have won the day with regard to the Libyan ship that had been headed for Gaza. Last report is that it changed course during the night, and that the captain had indicated he would dock in the Egyptian port of El-Arish. The ship is being watched closely, in the event that it again shifts course and heads for Gaza.

Apparently there had been some indirect communication between Israel and the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, the organization headed by Moammar Gaddafi's son, Saif, that underwrote this venture. What our government found particularly satisfying was the international support received for our refusal to let this ship proceed.

US State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said yesterday:

"We have urged the Libyan government to avoid unnecessary confrontations...

"We, along with our partners in the in the Quartet, urge all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that cargo can be inspected by the government of Israel, and transferred via land crossings into Gaza."

The EU issued a similar statement.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called this a victory for Israel.


A word about Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and his Foundation: According to the IsraelMatzav blog, citing CBS, "the Obama administration" has committed to a grant of $200,000 for this organization. Senator Marc Kirk (R-IL) wants it withdrawn because Saif was responsible for securing the early release from prison of the Lockerbie bomber and bringing him back to a hero's welcome in Libya. (thanks, Cheryl H)

Based on my experience in these matters, however, I would like to make an educated guess about something here. While I certainly don't quarrel with the Senator's objection to providing a grant to this foundation, it seems to me that saying it came from "the Obama administration" is a bit vague. My hunch would be that this came from US AID and Obama knew nothing about it. US AID, which operates with shocking lack of accountability, does just fine on its own, thank you, with regard to funding of dubious projects. Not long ago I wrote about US AID underwriting of a PA Tourist Ministry booklet that described the "State of Palestine" as if it were a reality.


There were Arabs, waiting at the Gaza coastline and expecting to be able to welcome the Libyan ship, who are a tad disappointed. Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyah called the ship "our sailing hope at sea," and had urged that it not be diverted by "tricks" from its original course.


Statements made by Hanin Zoabi -- shortly after she entered the Knesset as a member of the (Arab) Balad Party -- made it clear that she was big trouble. Last March, for example, she said she welcomed Iran's development of nuclear weapons because it was "more useful to the Palestinian issue and more standing against occupation than a lot of the Arab countries. This is our interest..."

Israel has an enormous (I would say, excessive) tolerance for Arab dissidents within the Knesset who make anti-Israel statements and sometimes act in ways that are not in Israel's interest. But yesterday Zoabi got her comeuppance. Because she had traveled as a passenger on the Turkish flotilla ship, the Marmara, and referred to the blockade of Gaza as "the big crime of Israel," she was stripped of her Knesset privileges, including such things as use of a diplomatic passport and enhanced freedoms regarding international travel. She was accused by some Knesset members of being a traitor, and I would say that was fairly accurate.


Israeli courts have tended to work against actions to chastise and limit the participation of Arab MKs who are clearly not interested in Israel's wellbeing as a Jewish state.

The former head of the Balad Party, Azmi Bishara, resigned from the Knesset and fled the country after he was accused of assisting Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War. Until now, he has actually (I kid you not -- I couldn't make up anything this perverse) been receiving his Knesset pension because the court ruled that Israeli law does not permit it to be revoked. Well, the Knesset is in process of changing that law.

A new law, referred to as the "Bishara law," has passed through the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs and is expected to pass in the Knesset, but has not yet. It would prevent Bishara from receiving Israeli funds, but would also apply to others within a defined category.


A correction from yesterday: I wrote that Jerusalem and the Golan, where civil law has been applied, are "fully Israeli" and have a different status from Judea and Samaria. I have been advised -- and I appreciate this advice -- that while, indeed, civil law does apply to both Jerusalem and the Golan, Jerusalem has been officially annexed and the Golan has not.


We've been hearing about a consistent drop in Obama's popularity on the part of the American electorate. But here is information -- encouraging indeed -- regarding the degree to which American Jews in particular have become disenchanted with the president.

Says commentator Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post:

"The drop in Hispanic support [12%] is dwarfed by the astounding 36-point drop in support for Obama from one of the most reliable Democratic constituencies: Jewish voters. Jewish Americans are outraged with Obama, says former New York Mayor Ed Koch. And it's not because Obama's middle name is Hussein."

(Thanks Craig K.)


We probably can count this as good news too:

Riad al-Maliki, foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, during a visit to Bulgaria today, said negotiations with Israel without the participation of an international party would be meaningless.

"We have always said, we need a third party. Without the presence of a third party it would be a waste of time."
(Translation: We don't believe we can get what we want unless the US leans on Israel for us.)

We don't know, of course, if this is going to be official PA policy, although we do already know this is the way PA officials think. If Abbas does refuse to come to the table, then Netanyahu's (potentially risky) "I'm willing and eager to negotiate" approach will have paid off.


The IDF has now declassified information on how Hezbollah has turned south Lebanese villages into military bases.

Since the 2006, Hezbollah has focused on moving military installations from open areas to 100 civilian villages, in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is exceedingly important for the world, and in particular journalists, to understand this process. When there is war with Hezbollah (and it's likely coming) the deliberate large scale use by Hezbollah of human shields is going to generate more civilian deaths -- whatever precautions Israel may take. Everyone needs to understand, up front, where the fault will lie.

The IDF spokesman's site below provides maps and a 3-D video explaining how Hezbollah has been going about this.


As to that impending war, Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, writing in the Washington Times, says:

"The discovery of a gigantic natural-gas reservoir less than 100 miles off Israel's coast seems like great news for the diplomatically and militarily embattled country. The gas finding will strengthen Israel's energy security, enable it to become an important gas exporter and contribute wealth to its economy.

"It also could be the pretext for the next Middle East war.

"Ten years after Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah is struggling to find a cause that would enable it to continue its 'liberation war' against Israel.

"...days after Israel announced its gas discovery, Hezbollah claimed that the deposit extends into Lebanese waters and that it would not allow Israel to 'loot' Lebanese gas resources.

"The discovery blows fresh wind into Hezbollah's sails, giving it a new cause to fight for and a new opportunity to hurt the Israeli economy. Furthermore, by opening a new front in the Mediterranean, Hezbollah is gaining legitimacy for holding onto its arms. Even non-Shiite sects in Lebanon accept Hezbollah's role in protecting Lebanon's waters. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt recently said that Hezbollah's 'weapons are important to defend the oil in the Sea of Lebanon and national resources in the country.'"


Luft speaks of Hezbollah in this regard, but keep in mind that Hezbollah is now part of the Lebanese government. And it was Lebanon's Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, who claimed that part of Israel's newly discovered gas field lies within Lebanon's territorial waters.

The field, called "Leviathan," was discovered in June off the coast of Haifa. It is estimated to contain 15 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to potentially enable Israel to become an energy exporter. Earlier, a field called "Tamar" was discovered not far from this latest field. "Tamar" alone is believed to contain enough gas to supply Israel for the next twenty years, and "Leviathan" is thought to be twice as big.

In response to the Lebanese challenge, about three weeks ago, Uzi Landau, Minister of Infrastructure, replied, "We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law."


A recent edition of the JPost magazine had a feature article on the Jewish community of Toronto, considered to be one of the most vibrant Zionist communities outside of Israel. In that context, I would like to mention one energetic group, Canadians for Israel's Legal Rights. They have a brand new website:


see my website

Haniyeh to ship: Dock in Gaza

Dozens of Palestinians flock to beach in anticipation of aid vessel's arrival. Street in Jabalya named after Turkish flotilla raided by IDF commandos on May 31 to 'commemorate shahidim'

Ali Waked
Israel News

It remains unclear whether the Libyan aid ship al-Amal (Arabic word for hope) will eventually dock in Gaza or in Egypt's El-Arish Port, but dozens of Palestinians flocked to the Hamas-ruled territory's beach on Wednesday in anticipation of the vessel's arrival. In addition, several ships took part in a special flotilla in protest against the Israeli Naval blockade.

The dozens of members of the Popular Committee Against the Siege who arrived at the beach waved the Palestinian and Libyan flags and held posters bearing the images of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif Al-Islam, whose charity organized and sponsored the aid ship's journey.

Jamal al-Khudari, chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the ship is determined to unload the humanitarian supplies in Gaza.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called on the Libyan aid ship to stay on course and dock in Gaza.

"Don't fall for any tricks and don't dock in any other port other than the one in Gaza. You are our sailing hope at sea," he said.

Speaking at a ceremony in Jabalya during which a street was named after the Turkish flotilla which was raided by Israeli commandos as it made its way to Gaza, Haniyeh said Israel's recent decision to ease its blockade was aimed at "bypassing our demand to lift the siege entirely."

The Hamas leader said naming a street after the Turkish flotilla conveyed a clear message that the Palestinians "are loyal to the shahidim (martyrs) who were killed at sea by cruelty and cynicism.

Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound vessel.

"The Good and the Bad"

Arlene Kushner

It's helpful sometimes to start with positive news. We should never think that it's all bad.

The Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee has approved the construction of 32 new units in Pisgat Ze'ev, which is an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood over the Green Line.

This decision was delayed for weeks because of the visit of Netanyahu to Washington -- to avoid charges of sabotaging his meeting with the president. Now it is said that construction can begin immediately.
The 32 units represent just a small part of a larger project of 220 units that is in the works. Another 48 units are expected to be approved next week.

According to YNet, Attorney Elisha Peleg, a member of the committee and head of the Likud faction at the Jerusalem municipality, has said, "We will continue to build Jerusalem in all of its neighborhoods, without political considerations, in the planning and construction committee."


Of course, the furor has already begun, with PA officials claiming that we're destroying chances of peace, etc. etc. Especially in light of Netanyahu's recent comment on Jerusalem, we must hope that the municipality stands strong.


The latest not-so-good news comes from the PA side: Reportedly, Abbas might reconsider and come to the table for direct negotiations after all. This will be determined after Mitchell's next visit, which is to take place soon.

It is quite clear -- but I feel the need to make this explicit -- that a promise by Israel to make such gestures as taking down some checkpoints is not what would be bringing the PA back to the table. Hardly.

PA officials are saying they've now had "direct assurances" from Obama. Exactly what those assurances are is left unsaid, but they are claiming that the president briefed them after his meeting with Netanyahu.

If this is true, it is not exactly surprising, but would be MOST unsettling. We still don't know what Netanyahu promised Obama -- and there is certainly no reason whatsoever to trust the president when he offers conciliatory words regarding his deep and abiding concern for Israel.

But I wonder if there is not something additional going on. For Netanyahu met Obama a week ago. Would the PA have first been briefed now? On Saturday, three days after that meeting, Abbas was still saying there was no reason to go to direct talks. Obama is undoubtedly applying a great deal of pressure. It would be the style of PA officials, when pressed, to make it appear that they weren't conceding anything, but had been "given" something.


The PA position, which really hasn't changed, is that before they go into direct talks they want answers on whether Israel will be willing to freeze construction (after September) in Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.

This is where we come smack up against the announcement regarding building in Pisgat Ze'ev. I must assume that if Netanyahu had made a commitment to Obama regarding no building in eastern Jerusalem, he would act now to stop the building. Whether or not it actually moves ahead is not an insignificant matter.

The PA, additionally, wants to know if Israel will commit to recognizing the pre-'67 line as the future border for a Palestinian state.


It may be that PA officials are simply posturing to appease Obama, and that they intend to blame Israel for lack of cooperation and refuse to come to the table. The blame game works both ways.

What is certain is that -- no matter if they sit at the table -- no deal will be reached. Quite simply, if Abbas wishes to live (and I mean this literally) and perhaps retain his position, he cannot accept as his closing deal -- which would include "end of conflict"-- anything that Israel is prepared to offer.

In the end he would walk away as Arafat walked away from the offer made by Ehud Barak in 2000. It is said that no PA leader can accept less than what Arafat demanded. Abbas knows that Hamas waits eagerly to be able to finger him as the sell-out.

Perhaps Netanyahu is not intimidated by the possibility of Abbas coming to the table because he is counting on being able to throw up his hands and say, "See, world, I tried my best, but look what I'm up against."


There has been talk for many months about a bill that would require a public referendum within 180 days if our government made a decision to cede land in the Golan Heights or Jerusalem. Only the approval of 80 members of Knesset (out of 120) would render the referendum unnecessary.

At one point I was quite excited about the possibility that it would pass, thus tying the hands of the prime minister with regard to his ability to unilaterally commit to giving away these significant parts of Israel. There was a great deal of discussion on the issue -- including expression of concern about how the referendum would be structured. In December, in the course of a Knesset debate at the time of the first reading of the bill, it became clear that a majority of the members of Knesset supported this.

Since then, however, it has been lost in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. It eludes me as to why it ended back there if there had been one reading: I see it as a delaying tactic. As wise and sensible as such an approach sounds to some of us, it is something of a political hot potato. Those on the left oppose it, because it makes less likely the possibility that the government could concede these areas in the course of "peace" negotiations. That is the point, is it not? The prime minister is also undoubtedly opposed. Whether he would choose to give away these areas or not, he would not want his freedom to do so restricted. (When does a head of state ever willing accept additional limitations placed on his or her power?)


Right now, passage of this bill would have a significant impact on the possibility for direct negotiations. The PA would know, up front, it was not going to get any of Jerusalem, even if there had been Obama reassurances.

And precisely because of the current political situation, those on the left are saying passage of the bill now would be an affront to Obama -- and would undercut Netanyahu's declarations about putting everything on the table for discussion. While those on the right are thinking, "If not now, when?"

Enter MK Yariv Levin (Likud), Chair of the Knesset House Committee and one of the bill's initiators. He says he will not wait for a vote in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, but will soon be bringing the bill to the Knesset for its required second and third readings.

If only!

You can be sure that I will monitor this carefully. Given various legalities and political pressures, I hardly see this as a done deal.


A note of explanation: Some of you may be wondering why this bill wasn't worded to apply to surrendering land in Judea and Samaria as well. While it is fervently to be wished for -- that our government should be prevented from facile decisions to give away any part of the land -- there is legally a difference between Judea and Samaria on the one hand, and eastern Jerusalem and the Golan on the other.

Civil law was applied to all of Jerusalem and to the Golan. These areas are considered to be fully Israeli. Foolishly, the same was not done with Judea and Samaria. These areas remain a theoretically contested region that Israel administers.

Thus a bill that restricted giving away any part of these areas would have a tougher time passing in the Knesset. (Certainly a higher percentage of Israelis would consider a surrender of some of Judea and Samaria than would permit giving up of some of Jerusalem.) As I understand it, it was thought wiser to present a narrower bill that has a better chance of passage.

In point of fact, if a national referendum prevented surrendering any of Jerusalem, there would be no deal and no surrender of Judea and Samaria anyway. For the PA would accept no deal that didn't include Jerusalem.

Finally, I add that there are those today pushing for applying civil law at least to the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, if not to all of the region. This is past due if only because residents of Judea and Samaria live under different (military) administrative law, when they should be counted as equal to every other Israeli citizen.


The investigation of the Turkish flotilla incident by a committee headed by Maj.Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland has ended and the report has been presented. In brief he faulted the IDF for "mistakes," but not failures. He criticized the lack of a back-up plan, and inadequate sharing of intelligence. He said, however, that the commandos conducted themselves with "professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness," and that the actions taken on the ship that resulted in nine deaths were justified.

The Turkish foreign minister, while welcoming this report, says his government will continue to push for an additional international inquiry.


Now, hopefully having learned the necessary lessons from the confrontation with the Turkish ship, we are on the edge of confronting a Libyan ship.

The ship, known as the Almalthea, which left from Greece over the weekend flying a Moldovian flag, is reportedly being"shadowed" by the Israeli Navy; if it were to continue on course, unimpeded, it would reach Gaza tomorrow. Oue navy in touch with the ship; the message that has been delivered is if it does not change course by midnight tonight and head for El-Arish, Egypt, it will be intercepted.

Allegedly, the ship is carrying 2,000 tons of food and medicine, under the auspices of a charity chaired by the son of Muammar Gaddafi. But there are no limits to the amount of food and medicine that Israel would permit into Gaza via land crossings. Carrying these goods by sea is an exercise in futility, unless the intention is simply to break the blockade. Once unloaded in Egypt and inspected, all humanitarian goods would be transferred to Gaza.


It should be worth your while to read JINSA Report 1005, "The President's Tin Ear."

This examines the "disconnect [on Obama's part] between words, attitudes, facts and policies that makes a lot of people - not just Jews, not just Israelis - anxious."


Brigitte Gabriel -- an American journalist with Christian Lebanese roots and founder of ACT! for America -- has written a stunning response to journalist Helen Thomas, in which she documents Jewish rights to the land better than many Jews might be able to do it:

Read it, and share it:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crowd of 10,000 Declare: The Temple Mount Belongs to Jews

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

A huge crowd of 10,000 Jews gathered at the old gates of the Temple Mount Monday night and declared their allegiance to the holy site, which rally organizers said is being separated from Jews by discriminatory practices by the police The “pledge of allegiance” to a Jewish Temple Mount and a united Jerusalem was part of the monthly “March around Old City Temple Gates,” a colorful event featuring the recital of Psalms at various closed gates around the Temple Mount.

The monthly march usually attracts 2,000-3,000 people, but organizers successfully brought out thousands more Monday night as Jews around the world marked the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av. The Ninth of Av is marked every year as the day when foreign invaders destroyed the First and Second Holy Temples.

The marches feature music and dancing and are peaceful, but police have barred several of the monthly prayer rallies during the past year because of fears of Arab violence.

National Union Knesset Member Uri Ariel told the crowd that deterioration in security and the increasing discrimination against Jews in Jerusalem prompted the unusually large turnout. In his speech he described the “surrender of Jerusalem to Arabs,” the worsening security in several Jewish neighborhoods, disturbances by anarchists and the discrimination by police who severely restrict the ability of Jews to ascend the Temple Mount.

Jerusalem council member Aryeh King reminded the crowd that the Temple Mount site is closed to Jews most of the time while police allow non-Jewish tourists to freely visit the holy site.

Israel accepts Muslim rules that forbid a Jew from praying out loud or even carrying a prayer book when ascending the Temple Mount.

Farrakhan Demands Reparations from Jews

Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
July 13, 2010

Louis Farrakhan recently sent a three-page letter along with two books to the heads of sixteen Jewish organizations.

Dated June 24, 2010, the letter is resplendent with a crescent-and-moon flag and Farrakhan's impressive-sounding title ("National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam"). In it, he announces that the books (volume two of The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews and Jews Selling Blacks: Slave Trade by American Jews) present an undeniable record of Jewish anti-Black behavior, starting with the horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, the labor movement of the North and South, the unions and the misuse of our people that continues to this very moment.

Farrakhan challenges the recipients of his letter – who range politically from Jeremy Ben-Ami (of J-Street) to Lee Rosenberg (of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) to Morton Klein (of the Zionist Organization of America) –

to find one act committed by me or those who follow me that has injured one Jewish person, stopped Jews from doing business, hindered their education, injured their families, sullied or desecrated their synagogues.

"You will not find one," declares Farrakhan, who then asks: "on what basis do you charge me and us as being 'anti-Semitic'?" Quite the contrary, Farrakhan avers, "we could now charge you with the most vehement anti-Black behavior in the annals of our history in America and the world. We could charge you with being the most deceitful so-called friend, while your history with us shows you have been our worst enemy." Farrakhan could also dwell on the fact that Jews are "sitting on top of the world in power, with riches and influence, while the masses of my people here in America, in the Caribbean, Central and South America and elsewhere in the world are in the worst condition of any member of the human family."

He could make these points, he notes, but he chooses not to: "I do not write this with vitriol, hatred, bitterness, or a spirit of vengeance." Instead, he hopes to establish ties with Jews: "I have pleaded with you over the years for a sensible, intelligent dialogue. You have rejected me." Despite prior failures, the publication of these two books inspires Farrakhan to try anew: "I again ask you for a dialogue."

For Farrakhan, dialogue equals reparations. Because Jews "are in a position to help me in the civilizing work that The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was given to do by Allah (God)." More specifically: "This is an offer asking you and the gentiles whom you influence to help me in the repair of my people from the damage that has been done by your ancestors to mine." In other words, after years of unsuccessfully demanding reparations for blatcks from the U.S. government, he is now looking to Jews to make amends for their alleged past injustices.

Farrakhan presents this moment as both a unique opportunity for Jews ("This is a wonderful way of the present generation of Jews to escape the Judgment of Allah") and as an ultimatum:

you may either gather your forces for an all-out struggle against me, the Nation of Islam, and the truth that I and we speak and write, or as an intelligent and civilized people, we can sit down and carve out a way forward that can obliterate the stain of the past and render us, Jews and Blacks … in a new, honorable, and mutually respectful relationship.

Should Jews spurn this offer, Farrakhan threatens "disgrace and ruin":

should you choose to make our struggle to our people more difficult, then I respectfully warn you … that the more you fight and oppose me rather than help me to lift my people from their degraded state, Allah (God) and His Messiah will bring you and your people to disgrace and ruin and destroy your power and influence here and throughout the world.

He signs off with "Respectfully and Sincerely Submitted, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Servant to the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the West."


(1) In a major speech on June 26, Farrakhan announced having sent these books to more than the named Jewish leaders:

we have published Volume No. 2 of The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. … I sent this book, and another one that is printed called Jews Selling Blacks, to Mr. Abraham Foxman of B'nai B'rith [sic], and to all the leaders of the major Jewish organizations. I sent it to President Obama, to Rahm Emanuel, to David Axelrod, to Timothy Geithner, to Larry Summers, to Ben Bernanke.

(2) According to Farrakhan's publication, The Final Call, none of the Jewish leaders responded to his letter other than to denounce it.

(3) The "Nation of Islam Historical Research Team" (note the absence of individuals' names) produced the first volume of The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews in 1991. In brief, the first volume was akin to The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, not a scholarly tome but an artifact of conspiracist propaganda intended solely to spawn hatred against Jews. Harold Brackman began to demolish its scholarly pretensions in Ministry of Lies: The Truth behind the Nation of Islam's "The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews" (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994) and Saul S. Friedman finished the job in Jews and the American Slave Trade (Transaction, 1998).

(4) Attempts to blame the trans-Atlantic slave trade on Jews reminds one of conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Jews: in both cases, Jews are brought gratuitously into a story overwhelmingly about Muslims.

(5) Farrakhan relies on obvious but clever duplicity in his letter: "we could charge you" with a host a charges but will not do so. We are offering you a deal but if you turn it down, "disgrace and ruin" await you. The letter amounts to an unsubtle attempt at extortion.

(6) It also offers a perverse example of benign antisemitism, whereby a person hopes that Jews will use what he imagines to be their power to help him – in this case appealing for help with "the gentiles whom you influence."

(7) One might think that with Barack Obama in the White House and Africa enjoying high economic growth rates, Farrakhan would stop focusing on Jews to "lift my people from their degraded state."

(8) The letter fits a pattern of antisemitism on Farrakhan's part that goes back to his re-establishing the Nation of Islam in 1978. In contrast, under Elijah Muhammad, who died in 1975, Farrakhan and the NoI more generally evinced little interest in Jews.

(9) Klein of ZOA calls this letter "a veiled call for violence against Jews" and he is right: Farrakhan full well knows he would not get the reply he demands.

(10) Farrakhan has praised Obama as "the hope of the entire world," the "one who can lift America from her fall," and as one sent by "the Messiah." Obama's presidency has apparently emboldened him to renew his attacks on Jews.

(11) Where are the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council? One awaits their condemnations of Farrakhan.

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

Why the Death of Israel Wouldn't Slow Anti-U.S. Terrorism

IPT News

A fairly dishonest discussion about the root causes of Islamist terrorism is being pushed with renewed vigor. It is based on the false claim that American support for Israel fuels the terrorism targeting us. At best, this is academically dishonest, ignoring a laundry list of grievances that has been used to justify terrorism.

Yet, as Americans celebrated Independence Day, Thaddeus Russell took to the pages of the Daily Beast to argue just that. In an article titled, "Does Israel Make Us Safer?," Russell puts the issue bluntly:

"There was not a single act of Arab terrorism against Americans before 1968, when the U.S. became the chief supplier of military equipment and economic aid to Israel. In light of this fact, it's difficult to credibly sustain the argument that Arab terrorism is spawned by Islam's alleged promotion of violence and antipathy toward American culture or by a 'natural Arab anti-Semitism.'"

That's not exactly true, as others have pointed out. And it ignores the words terrorists themselves have used to explain their motivation.

A look at recent terror attempts finds American support for Israel nowhere in the picture. Instead, terrorists describe their belief that America is at war with Islam. They want to strike back, or to stop Americans from fighting Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, or to punish them for having done so.

That's what would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad said in his defiant guilty plea in federal court last month. "It's a war," he told the court. "I'm going to plead guilty a hundred times over because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes ... we will be attacking the U.S. And I plead guilty to that."

Nidal Hasan gunned down 13 soldiers at Fort Hood because he felt he had to stop them from going to battle zones where they might kill his fellow Muslims. His spiritual mentor, radical Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, called Hasan "a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."

Russell is but one voice pushing the theory about American support for Israel despite evidence to the contrary. During the annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference July 4th weekend in Chicago, speaker Paul Larudee called the Palestinian issue the most important to resolve, arguing that while "people are constantly talking about terrorism," the Palestinian issue "is at the bottom of many of the problems that our community is facing. It's at the root of the problems we are facing in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Yemen and in the United States."

Fellow panelist Hatem Bazian called Israel's 2008 war with Hizballah in Lebanon "a poster recruitment for terrorism," because "they see that the one-sided U.S. policy is failing them and therefore they feel that militarization and going through terrorism is the only option."

National Islamist organizations have pushed this line for years. At a March 2006 fundraising dinner in Anaheim, "Sami Al-Arian Banquet Dinner," Ali Mazrui of the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) Policy Committee said that Israel's "militarism" triggered the terrorism against it and the United States:

"Israeli repression and militarism provoke suicide bombers and give rise to movements like Hamas and Al Qaeda. The Israeli atrocities and repression cause terrorism in the United States, and terrorism in turn threatens civil liberties in America….The behavior of the State of Israel threatens not merely democracy within the Jewish state; Israel threatens democracy in America as well."

At a January 2009 program at Masjid Omar al Farouk in Anaheim, entitled "Gaza, Jerusalem and Palestine: What You Need to Know," Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the perception that America is Israel's "partner in the crimes" against Muslims makes us an enemy ripe for targeting by terrorists:

"We tend to forget that actually the terrorists who committed the September 11 attacks, one of the main grievances they raised, almost the only one they raised, what was it? Palestine. They said it was because of the U.S.'s unconditional support of Israel that we're doing this."

Reading these statements, one would think that the panacea to America's problems—or at least the end of terrorism aimed at America—is simple. Cease support for Israel, even if that allows Islamist extremists to destroy it. After that, radical Islamists and terrorists like Al Qaeda will leave us alone.

While Israeli action, or the country's mere existence, may indeed serve as a source of motivation for some terrorists, it is not the primary cause. For proof, look no further than a 1998 fatwa issued by the World Islamic Front, widely considered to be synonymous with Al Qaeda, calling on Muslims "to kill Americans and their allies-civilians and military." The primary justifications for the edict?

* "First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.
* Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million…despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation. So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.
* Third, if the Americans' aim behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula."

A plain-text reading of the fatwa suggests that America's support for Israel constitutes one half of one of the three main justifications of terrorism. The fatwa places far more emphasis on justifying terrorism against Americans who are "the crusaders" and are "occupying" and "plundering" Muslim lands such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Even when Osama bin Laden talks about Palestine, analysts believe it is at least partially a cynical play at popular support. He started speaking more exclusively about Palestine in 2008, prompting Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, to note the shift came as Al Qaeda in Iraq was defeated.

In addition, many Muslims turned against it after Al Qaeda attacks killed so many fellow Muslims.

"Al Qaeda could now be preparing its followers for a strategic failure in Iraq," Inkster told the BBC. "It therefore needs a rallying cry and Palestine is a no-brainer."

A Slate magazine article reached a similar conclusion four years earlier:

"Bin Laden continues to emphasize the plight of the Palestinians, as he has since the second intifada broke out in 2000, because he knows that is a bigger winner for him with ordinary Muslims than the corruption of the Saudi monarchy, his old hobbyhorse."

Arguments like Russell's fail to address the threat posed by Islamic terror to Western countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Australia, Canada, Bosnia, India, and so many others that do not significantly support Israel. It also ignores the threat of terrorism faced by the Philippines by Abu Sayyaf and to Somalia by al Shabaab—a violence that is unrelated to Israel but shares a foundation of Islamist extremism.

Then there are the global aspirations for many hardcore Islamists. They want a Caliphate, a world ruled by Islamic law, and will do what it takes to create that. Take Abu Hamsa al-Masri, an imam jailed in England for inciting murder, and wanted by the U.S. for terror charges. In addition to coveting global sharia law, al-Masri's interpretation of Koranic verses allows for open season on non-Muslims, or the Kaffir.

"Killing of the Kaffir for any reason you can say it is OK, even if there is no reason for it," he has said, advocating a variety of means from poisoning to ambushes. "You must have a stand with your heart, with your tongue, with your money, with your hand, with your sword, with your Kalashnikov. Don't ask shall I do this, just do it."

Does such a blood lust die if America abandoned a long-standing ally? Not likely.

"Swallowing Hard"

Arlene Kushner

That swallowing is necessary before taking in information on all the things our prime minister is saying as he pursues peace -- or the illusion thereof. Pursues it with a vengeance. I remain convinced that he is confident that Abbas will not come through -- the evidence for this smacks us in the face! -- and that there will be no meaningful negotiations, and that in the end there will be no Palestinian state. As I have indicated previously, I believe that he sees this charade as the smartest way to make Israel come out on top at the end of the day. He will be able to point to himself as the person ready to cooperate and to Abbas as the stumbling block.

At one point, in an interview, he even said that he is prepared to take "surprising" risks for peace, but that he needs a partner -- he cannot go out on the trapeze alone. His analogy is clear, as Abbas's hands are not outstretched to us.

But yet, the things he says! That he believes we can have peace in a year. Really? Under ideal conditions I don't believe this would be the case. Of course, he qualifies this by saying implementation would take a lot longer.

And then there were these unsettling words:

"We have differences of views with the Palestinians. We want a united city [Jerusalem]. They have their own views. This is one of the issues that will have to be negotiated. But I think the main point is to get on with it, what are we wasting more time for?"


I myself remain unconvinced that this is the best way to go.

If I correctly understand what he suggests regarding the time lag between laying out parameters and actually implementing everything, he's going down a very dangerous road. You don't agree to anything (especially not on paper) unless you are certain that implementation is possible. We must protect ourselves, making certain that when the whole thing does fall apart, we're not committed to parameters that might come back to haunt us later.

Netanyahu is able to reject PA demands that we begin negotiations where Olmert left off because Olmert had put nothing in writing. It must remain thus.


I deeply regret our failure, even now, to hold PA feet to the fire. Netanyahu will advance to the table for face-to-face talks (if Abbas will show up) even though there has been no movement at all towards re-publishing PA textbooks without the message that jihad is good. The time necessary for peace to be implemented is actually decades. There can be no genuine peace until we have a generation of Palestinian Arabs that wasn't raised on hatred for us.

This is the party that Netanyahu is prepared to negotiate with:

Last week, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Hezbollah "spiritual leader," died. Fadlallah was on the US list of terrorists. He had issued a fatwa (religious ruling) sanctioning suicide attacks on US troops and on Israel. According to Reuters, a doctor treating Fadlallah before his death reported that, while he was still conscious a nurse him asked if there was anything she could bring him. His reply: "I ask for nothing except that the Zionist entity should pass from the world."

Palestinian Media Watch reports -- -- that Abbas sent an emissary to the hospital to wish Fadlallah a speedy recovery, and then sent condolences to the family after his death. Additionally, Fatah has set up a mourning tent for Fadlallah in Jenin.


Meanwhile, as I indicated above, Abbas is still balking. Two days ago, he said:

"We have presented our vision and thoughts and said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it [direct talks] will be futile.

"If they say, 'Come and let's start negotiations from zero,'that is futile and pointless."

Even statements from Obama regarding the need to move to direct talks are not having an effect, at least not yet.


But what are we doing? In a "been-there, done-that" action, following Netanyahu's meeting with Obama, we are talking about some "good will gestures." When you read about this, you made need to do more than swallow hard. You might be inclined to bang your head against the wall.

Why are we doing this? Because Obama wants us to, clearly. But this is after statements had come from our side (pre-Obama meeting, admittedly) declaring that we have made enough concessions and it was the PA's turn. How foolish this makes us.

There is the usual litany of possibilities -- varying slightly with the source -- regarding taking down of checkpoints, increasing security cooperation, release of some prisoners, etc. Ostensibly what will these get us? Why, they'll provide incentives for Abbas to come to the table.

Forgive me, but this is very very stupid. If Abbas genuinely wanted a Palestinian state he'd be rushing to the table to firm up details. (And we must thank Heaven that he's not doing this!)

As it is, Abbas has some very big problems. If he comes to the table he is going to be expected to make some accommodations towards a settlement, and he has neither the inclination nor the latitude to make them. The political climate in the Palestinian Arab areas of Judea and Samaria won't allow it, and he has Hamas breathing down his neck as well. Any concessions and he'll be labeled a traitor. Why does he publicly salute a terrorist such as Fadlallah? Because the street expects this.

It's terribly foolish to imagine that the concessions we would make will convince the street to embrace negotiations. Because we release some prisoners, or take down some checkpoints is no guarantee that the "refugees" will be able to "return," or that the PA will get all of eastern Jerusalem. And these are non-negotiable items for them.


We're are also seeing here in Israel a great deal of press regarding the changes in Obama. As I believe the changes are tactical and do not represent a change of heart, I do not intend to belabor this matter unduly.

You might find this piece by Yisrael Harel, "Obama sobers up," interesting:


A great deal more to follow soon...

see my website

Monday, July 12, 2010

Come Visit Israel

Ari Bussel

I like to fly light, but it never seems to work. The one exception is when I return from Israel to the United States. Everything here is cheaper, so I really do not buy things in Israel, other than recently published books in Hebrew. In Israel, magazines and books in duty free are exempt from VAT, a substantial savings when the price of a book is close to $20. On the way to Israel, however, the situation is quite different. I take everything, from grocery bags (the paper type because they are bigger here) to paper towels (also bigger and better). Truth be told, one can buy everything in Israel, American made, but the cost is often prohibitive.

During a recent visit I had a cold, but the price of Vitamin C frightened me so much I decided not to buy any. Somehow, Israelis manage. I could not. My American dollars disappear quickly, their buying power sadly insufficient.

Time and again I am amazed at how many people have not been to Israel. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism dedicates a substantial budget to promote Israel, and indeed Europeans are coming to Eilat, where it is summer year round (they all return home burned red from too much sun), Christians are coming to the holy places, from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Jerusalem. Israelis arrive in droves to visit their families and, in recent years, young Jews are treated to “Birthright Taglit (Discovery),” a free trip to explore their Jewish roots.

Yet, there are so many who are afraid to go. I cannot blame them since Israel is in the news daily, usually portrayed as an evil occupier, an Apartheid state, a dangerous place altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Israel is modern and ancient, magical from within and like no other place on earth. It does not simply possess history; Israel is history. Its shopping centers bustle with people, its streets are full of pedestrians. Traffic is a mess, but still people communicate with one another. Some shout, others curse, still others just use their hands for obscene gestures. It is all done in a way you can understand, even if you do not speak Hebrew.

One dares not cross the street in a cross walk, since hardly anyone will stop. Although, the situation is not much different here in Beverly Hills, where a new operation will soon be on the way to enforce the law. The markets are a “must” place to visit, for the colors and smells and abundance is like nowhere else. At entrances to all public places, one needs to open one’s bags for inspection, a constant reminder of the Palestinian’s aspirations for 72 virgins and penchant for homicide bombings.

Tel Aviv is a microcosm of New York and Europe combined; a city that neither stops nor sleeps. There are nightlife and cafes on the major streets. There is a beach with warm Mediterranean water, museums, more per capita than elsewhere in the world, and history in every building. There are also sectors where foreign, illegal workers congregate and others where it is too sleazy and too dangerous for respectable people to even visit.

The very best breakfasts are served at Israeli hotels, included in the price of the stay. These are buffets filled with foods as far as the eye can see, an amazing feast to the eyes and taste buds. Be warned, though, as prices for overnight stays are very expensive. It is exactly for that reason that Israeli tourists prefer Cyprus, Turkey (yes, Israelis are forgiving and quite forgetful), Greece and the former Soviet Union countries. A weekend excursion, including airfare, is cheaper than a one-night stay at an Israeli hotel. Then again, there is that breakfast like no other.

I would highly suggest not to drive but to use public transport instead. Israel is so tiny that the sense of distance is distorted. A wrong turn, a few more miles (kilometers in Israel), and you are at a border crossing. Zoom, where did Israel go? Better safe than sorry – do not drive!

When using public transportation, if you do get lost, it will be part of the adventure, and you will still be safe. People will be eager to help as everyone speaks English. You will find that many other languages are spoken, a mixture of Jews who came to their homeland and yet carry their former lives, accents and modes of behavior. Taking a bus or the train between cities is a true experience since you will hear people conducting their lives on the phone, all in public. Anyone can listen, and often people will provide an opinion.

Israelis are very warm people. They not only communicate while driving and express what they think to others but will be eager to invite you for Shabbat dinner or just to a visit. Do that for it is always safe. Part of the Middle Eastern mentality dictates that a guest is a king. This is also true in regard to enemies. Once invited, they are sacred. Possibly this is the reason Palestinians, Hamas members, Gazans and other terrorists seek medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. They receive the very best medical care, even when the reason for their arrival is an injury suffered during a terrorist attack they carried out.

Amazing when you hear of instances where patients returned strapped with explosives to repay those who saved their lives and rehabilitated them. Some things in the Middle East never change.

You will see many soldiers, young men and women of 18 or 19, in uniform and carrying handguns or M16s. They are part and parcel of the country’s very being, of Israel’s future. They, representing all walks of life, are in a melting pot that matures and molds them into productive members of society.

You need only see the smile on a young woman fighter pilot to understand there is no differentiation between men and women. The magnificent smiles on the faces of Ethiopian children will assure you Israelis also do not differentiate based on skin color. Even before its formation as a modern state, Israel openly absorbed immigration. The process is never easy, but the harvest is the children born in Israel. They know nothing else, and are like fruits of a cactus, spiked on the outside, juicy and full of life within.

Israel is wondrous and miraculous. Make sure to visit her capital, the heart of Jews for thousands of years. Jerusalem is the most unique place in the world, for there one feels closest with the Creator. Breathing the air, walking in the streets of Jerusalem is a fulfilling experience that begs for more. Go visit the Western Wall, the archeological excavations and just wander the streets. You will witness for yourself the miracle of a united city, the capital of the Jewish State.

Nestled on a mountain among trees is Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. There, on the Avenue of the Righteous, we stop to remember those who, despite great personal danger, risked everything to help others. Forever they will remind us there remains a grain of goodness in humanity, a flame that cannot be doused despite the darkness that seeks to engulf us.

Israel is a unique country, safe and inviting, welcoming and enticing. You are filled with a sense of wanting “more.” Thus, while my suitcases are always empty on the return, I am filled with memories and experiences that have energized me, feelings that keep me charged until the next visit.

I am surprised I have never been charged for overweight luggage when returning to the United States. I know the spiritual, emotional and precious gifts I receive while in Israel place me way over the limit.

Come visit Israel, it never disappoints and always delivers the experience of a lifetime.

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,” July, 2010


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Two Worlds: An Insight Into Culture Wars and Political Battles

Barry Rubin

When does a cliché become a major social revelation? I was reading a novel by Clive Barker, Galilee, (despite the title it has nothing to do with the Middle East) and came upon a passage that shook me up. Sure, I’ve read this kind of thing before, seen it in films and on television, heard it in songs, yet there was something special about this rendering.

Barker is introducing a character who was born in a small Ohio town and has now become incredibly wealthy, powerful, and famous. He contrasts her past and present in two paragraphs.
On the one hand is the Ohio town where she was born and grew up: “It was a claustrophobic life she lived here: dull and repetitive. And the future had looked grim. Single women in Dansky [the town] didn’t break their hearts trying for very much. Marriage was what they wanted, and if their husbands were reasonably sober two or three nights a week and their children were born with all their limbs then they counted themselves lucky, and dug in for a long decline.”

Pretty depressing, right? But now….

“There was another life out there, which she’d seen in magazines and on the television screen: a life of possibilities, a movie-star life, a life she was determined to have for herself.” And she gets it.

I think, with suitable adaptations for those of an intellectual bent and for different countries, this is the elite vision of the two worlds. In one, life is dreadful and boring, dominated by tradition, religion (she went to church in Dansky), and a closed mentality. There is nothing positive about such a life. It is dominated by the conservative, the status quo, scary religious fundamentalists, small-town bigots, and the…well let’s have an expert explain it:

"They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Thus says Barack Obama, currently president of the United States. No wonder these people--the "common people"--are so hated and looked down on by their "betters" up at the Harvard (ivory) castle.

And of course we aren’t just talking about looking down on small towns but also small or medium-sized cities deemed provincial, whole areas of the country, and even the wrong side of the tracks--which in this case means the suburbs--in big cities. That's pretty much everything outside of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, tracts of northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and scattered academic enclaves.

That's Cambridge, Massachusetts, not Cambridge, Maryland. Washington DC, not Washington, Pa. New York, New York, not York, Pennsylvania. San Francisco, not San Jose.

No wonder young people who go to college from this background—or who are told that this is their background—want to forget their pasts and reach for the glamorous world of cosmopolitan utopia, unlimited immigration, no war, no enemies, those who cling to...what exactly? How about this:

They get bitter that their intellectual professional class hasn't been in power, they cling to gun control or atheism or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or romanticizing illegal immigration and foreign revolutionaries, or the destruction of a real sense of community and of institutions and traditions that work.

Who do you imitate and who are your role models if you want to pass from one world--which you are told, and may consider, dingy and boring and depressing--to another? The beautiful people of decades ago were movie stars, sports' heroes, the rich, and entertainers who were largely apolitical. Today's equivalent convey leftist values (perhaps disguised as liberal). You don't need to seize control of the corporations if you indoctrinate the business elite's children. Anyone who produces or sells goods is from the lower order. The way to go is government employment, law, academia, or non-profit groups, perhaps running a labor union (but not being a worker) or being a community organizer (getting money from government.

Today, teachers and professors explain why World I ideas are bad and World II ideas are great. Patriotism, religion, earning money through business are World I; cosmopolitan sneering, trashing traditional values, and making a living through government jobs or grants is World II How could one who thinks that way not vote for someone like Barack Obama?

Yet if one has contempt for most of the American people how could one possibly not have contempt for America itself? And that's precisely what has happened.

What of the sense of community? The beauty of worship. The satisfaction of hard work and being self-reliant. The closeness of the traditional family. Those things that used to be considered so essential to the virtues and values of America? How about the way that immigrants, because they knew

I don’t want to romanticize small-town values or traditions as such. There is truth, too, of course in what Barker describes. Yet it seems to me some kind of balance is needed, a balance that has been thrown out the window in our era. Rather than try to treat people equally and to be truly open to other viewpoints--which is the pretense--the only change regards precisely who is demonized.

To me, being a liberal—in American terms, the points can be adjusted for other democratic countries--is not to think a Republican politician more frightening than anti-American demagogues, a believing Christian scarier than a revolutionary Islamist, or that most of America is more distasteful than foreign cultures whose values are alien to democracy and freedom. People who think that way aren’t liberals, they are radicals who want to transform their own societies into something very bad. And you can insert the appropriate names.

For a related article on this topic, see here.

Note: For those who don't know, Barker is British, apolitical, and widely considered the world's greatest author of horror fiction, though this book is more of an alternative history. The fact that he's so far removed from politics made the observation all the sharper in inspiring me to write this. Which reminds me of the time I was reading a really arcane academic book on medieval Spain and suddenly came on a totally out of place passage attacking Israel.

Study Shows that Beinisch Prefers Left-Wing Groups

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

The Regavim Association has issued a report showing that the Supreme Court gives blatant preferential treatment to left-wing associations.

Regavim’s full name is the Association for the Preservation of State Lands –i.e. from being taken over by hostile elements. Its report is based on the results of a four-year study of the Supreme Court’s approach to law suits brought by various groups – and especially in the pre-ruling stages, when the legal merits of the various cases are not yet known. The report shows the Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, in particular, is biased towards the left wing.

The preferential treatment towards lawsuits brought by the left wing is manifest in the following areas: Rushed proceedings, Beinisch’s participation on the judicial panel, the issuance of restraining orders against the State, intervention in government decisions, and especially the final rulings.

The report includes many petitions brought against illegal construction, Jewish and Arab. The seriousness with which suits against Jewish construction is taken is shown to be much greater than similar petitions against illegal Arab building.

“The Court’s approach to the various suits brought before it was analyzed based on objective and quantifiable parameters,” the report states, “and the findings show clearly that while left-wing petitions receive serious and rigorous consideration, similar suits brought by those identified with the right-wing [nationalist camp] are treated lightly and with derision.”

Among the parameters analyzed were the time it took for the Court to respond to a petition; the number of sessions held on the matter and the duration over which they were spread out; the panel of justices appointed to deal with them; and the issuance of restraining and interim orders.

Regavim explains that its report concentrated on the procedural matters of a given suit, which take place before its merits are considered. “At this stage,” the report’s author, Betzalel Smutrich, explains, “the decisions reflect the judges’ basic positions and biases, if any, towards the matter. This is why the tremendous differences between the right-wing and left-wing petitions, as we show in the report, cannot be attributed to scholarly legal hairsplitting.”

“The facts described in the report clearly indicate a consistent and conscious policy that is based on political outlooks,” Smutrich says, “and it is led unequivocally by Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch.”

Smutrich stopped short of calling for Beinisch to disqualify herself from political lawsuits, however – presumably because she is not likely to do so.

“The public cannot be expected to place its trust in its judges under such circumstance,” he concluded.

Compliment in Presbyterian Report Embarrasses J-Street

Gil Ronen
A7 News

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) convening in Minneapolis will debate this week whether to endorse an official church study committee report that compares Israel to the worst regimes of the 20th century, including Nazi Germany. The report, which also mentions ultra-liberal Jewish lobby group J Street as a sign of “hope,” seems to have embarrassed that group. J Street Vice President Rachel Lerner called out to the Presbyterians to reject the 'study.' She said that the report’s authors never consulted her group before choosing to mention it.

She added that “with the passage of this study, the Church will alienate us and as a result our activists will not want to work with you and this will damage completely the possibility of a future relationship.” She said she was “saddened” and “angered” by the report. However, Lerner clarified that even if the study is adopted, J-Street will not be issuing a directive to its local branches to cease partnering with local Presbyterian churches.

Presbyterian Alan Wisdom also asked his fellow church members to reject the report. In his testimony in Minneapolis, he said that the report likens Israel to a “Nazi state,” to South Africa under apartheid, and to the former Soviet Union.

Wisdom was quoted by Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in an article in FrontPage Magazine.

The report mentioned Hamas as being “militant” but fails to note that its charter calls for Israel’s annihilation. It also claims that Iran poses no danger even if it acquires nuclear weapons because it “has not invaded any other country for centuries.” The study further urges that the U.S. cut off aid to the Jewish state in order to “bring Israel to compliance.”

New York Times religion reporter Gus Niebuhr, grand nephew of pro-Zionist Christian ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr, warned fellow Presbyterians that the “terribly imbalanced” report would “obscure” Presbyterian influence in America.

Niebuhr was joined by Presbyterian pastor and Christian Century magazine publisher John Buchanan.

“Early reports suggest Presbyterians will tone down the report somewhat,” Tooley wrote, “more explicitly affirming Israel’s right to existence and deleting some of the harsher anti-Israel rhetoric.”

In June 2004, the U.S. Presbyterian Church's General Assembly adopted a resolution that called on the church "to initiate a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel."