Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is Mahmoud Abbas the Obstacle to Peace?

Kenneth Bandler

The perfect storm is gathering in the Middle East, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas seems to be steering the ship directly into it.

In September, just as summer vacation ends, critical elements of the peace process will converge, seriously threatening Israel. First, the Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks, an experiment launched in May under U.S. auspices, will reach the end of its four-month mandate. They are supposed to lead to a resumption of direct negotiations. Former Senator George Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy, has been shuttling the short distance between Jerusalem and Ramallah in an effort to convince Palestinian leadership to sit down at the same table with Israelis, as they had for more than 16 years before Abbas cancelled direct talks 18 months ago. The history of Arab-Israeli peacemaking shows that direct talks are imperative to resolving core issues.

However, Abbas is not only avoiding direct talks, but seems reluctant even to continue proximity talks, turning again for cover to his Fatah Party leadership, to the PLO and even to the Arab League. Not difficult: Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa recently called the proximity talks “a comprehensive failure.”

So, only two months after Mitchell began his shuttle diplomacy, Abbas is upping the ante. In addition to demanding a total Jewish construction freeze in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, Abbas now wants the U.S. to obtain from Israel written guarantees on the final borders for a Palestinian state. Amr Moussa conveyed the same message to Mitchell when they met July 18 in Cairo.

As Ronald Reagan would have said, “There you go again!”

Glenn Beck

Seriously, when will Palestinian leaders acknowledge that four consecutive Israeli prime ministers – Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu – have stated Israel’s commitment to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Back when there were direct talks, very sweet offers were made. Barak, with the support of President Clinton, offered more than 90 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and even floated the idea of sharing Jerusalem. But the answer from Yasser Arafat in 2000 was the second intifada. Olmert made a similar offer on West Bank territory, as well as a piece of land on the Israeli side of the border, in 2008. But Abbas, rather than continue negotiating, followed in the footsteps of his mentor and predecessor, spurning the Israeli offer and summarily cancelling peace negotiations.

Furthermore, Abbas now insists that Israel begin negotiations from Olmert’s offer. Maybe the Palestinian leadership has a different concept for negotiations, but typically one should not expect to automatically go back to previously rejected terms.

Abbas – and his Arab state allies – must stop complaining and return to direct interaction with Netanyahu to find solutions. Of course, that presumes Abbas and company truly want to realize an independent Palestinian state, living in peace and security alongside Israel. There is reason for doubt. As more time passes, Abbas, his Fatah Party and the Arab League are confirming that they are willing accomplices in creating blockages in the peace process.

Second, Israel’s ten-month moratorium on new construction in the West Bank also ends in September. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision last November to impose the freeze was unprecedented. This was a gesture, in part, to President Obama, who had made the settlements issue a centerpiece of his Middle East policy, but also, and more importantly, a good-faith gesture to Abbas, yet another Israeli effort to convince the PA President to resume direct talks.

Some have asserted that the freeze is not full. True, the Israeli government moratorium does allow for completion of about 3,000 housing units in existing communities that were started before November 26, 2009. And, it never included Jerusalem. Yet, significantly, for the first time in history, there has been zero new settlement construction, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Extending the moratorium may be wise for Israel, but Netanyahu’s decision no doubt will be influenced, in part, by what Abbas does or doesn’t do. Continuing to boycott direct talks will not be helpful.

Third, world leaders will gather in New York in September for the UN General Assembly. One of the standard features of this annual gathering is adoption by the world body of a series of resolutions bashing Israel. The coincidence of impasses in peace talks and the settlements freeze will likely add fresh fodder to the UN debates. Again, Abbas, as well as other Arab leaders who truly seek peace with Israel, could use the UN podium to speak out in a more positive and encouraging manner about the future of their region, to offer visions for peace with Israel.

All of this will test the will and wisdom of the Obama administration’s foreign-policy team. Perhaps President Obama himself may insist on meeting at the UN with Abbas and Netanyahu together, to jump-start the long delayed direct Israeli-Palestinian talks. That could help reset the navigational tools on the Abbas ship to sail more purposefully towards a peaceful destination.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Living With Hamas

P. David Hornik

The Israeli army announced this week that on June 22 it had arrested a Hamas cell that, not long before, had ambushed a police van with rifle fire and killed one policeman while injuring two. The van, which was hit at about 7:20 a.m. on June 14, was on the way from the Israeli town of Beersheva to the West Bank town of Hebron. The policeman who was killed, Yehoshua (Shuki) Sofer, 39, was supposed to get married on September 20 and had been serving in the Hebron police subdistrict for 14 years. A couple of things about this case are notable. One is that, according to information from the IDF spokesperson presented on the Foreign Ministry’s website, some of the arrested terrorists “had been held by Israeli security forces in the past for their involvement with…Hamas….” In other words—all the captured terrorists being in their twenties—they were held for short periods presumably for offenses well short of murder or attempted murder. On the other hand, it was known that they belonged to Hamas, an organization sworn to Israel’s destruction via the mass murder of Israelis—and yet they were set free to live and roam in proximity to Israelis.

It is often said that Israel must “take risks for peace.” In this case, it took risks—not so much for peace, but to uphold presumed Western norms. If the Hamas members, when previously “held,” had, for instance, been expelled to Lebanon or even Gaza, Israel would have been pilloried—as it was in the early 1990s when the Rabin government expelled 415 Hamas terrorists to Lebanon temporarily, for two years, after a wave of murders. In that case, as described by Martin Kramer,

Israel’s action caused an international uproar. The Palestinians claimed that Israel had violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the images from south Lebanon, where the deportees camped out in tents in a winter landscape, boomeranged on Israel. Even the United States wouldn’t stand by Rabin. The U.N. Security Council passed a unanimous resolution which “strongly condemns the action taken by Israel, the occupying power, to deport hundreds of Palestinian civilians.” U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger said the deportation would raise “a lot of serious problems for the peace process,” which the [George H. W.] Bush administration wanted to keep “in as a good a shape as we can between now and when Clinton comes in.” Israel soon found itself capitulating—offering to take back some of the deportees, and eventually, within less than a year, all of them. By all reckonings, Israel was defeated politically; Hamas emerged strengthened.

Since then, Israel has never contemplated such measures. The world’s “conscience” is quiet; Hamas and other terrorists arrested for relatively minor offenses, yet known to be lethally dangerous, are routinely freed after short detainments; those such as Shuki Sofer and his loved ones pay the price for the “risk.”

"Irrefutable Evidence"

Arlene Kushner

I begin today with a link to a shortened version (a trailer) to a new video called, "For the Sake of Nakba," produced by the Center for Near East Policy Research.

Please! Take five minutes to see it, bookmark it, and share it absolutely as widely as you can.

Regularly I receive links to various videos that are referred to as "must see." Or, "this will blow your mind." All of this, and more, applies to this trailer. Let's get the movement started, and let's see this making the rounds of the Internet. "Nakba" means catastrophe in Arabic, and it is how the Arabs refer to the founding of Israel. In this film you will see how UNRWA -- that purportedly benign humanitarian agency that cares for the poor suffering refugees -- promotes "the right of return" and the destruction of Israel via jihad.

Everyone but everyone needs to have this information in order to be well informed.

In fact, while you are sharing this, please make certain that your elected officials in Congress have the information. Provide the link, and the one short paragraph of explanation, above, about Nakba and what you will see in the film. Ask your elected officials what they are doing to block UNRWA's current policies. The US provides UNRWA with more than 30% of its budget -- Congress has clout, if it chooses to use it.

For your Congresspersons:

For your Senators:

Ask everyone you send this to, to do the same. A groundswell of protest can make a difference and Congressional action on UNRWA would have a huge impact on the situation here.


Just because something is anticipated doesn't mean it needs to be accepted with equanimity.

We knew that Obama's lovefest with Israel was just an act, that his intentions towards us had changed not an iota. Now, already, we are confronting the confirmation of this. And it is enraging.

This came through yesterday from JINSA -- one of the most trustworthy and on-the-mark agencies around -- in its Report # 1007:

"Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, was dispatched last Friday to the Brookings Institution to advance the charm offensive that seeks to convince Israelis and American supporters of Israel that the Obama Administration is Israel's best friend. He worked hard, but his bottom line was that Israel - not the Palestinians and not the Arab states - needs to do more for peace, specifically the 'two state solution' to which the administration is wedded but which appears increasingly unlikely."

JINSA cited a "sometimes reliable source" as having said: "Officials acknowledged that the White House, which endorsed $20 billion worth of arms sales to the Middle East in 2009, has not approved any Israeli requests for combat platforms or other major military sales in 2009 and 2010." JINSA will be confirming this.


What the US has provided is $205 million for Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system. But lest you imagine that this was motivated by a genuine concern for our security, take a look at what JINSA tells us Shapiro said about it, not once, but twice:
First: "It is our hope that the Administration's expanded commitment to Israel's security will advance the process by helping the Israeli people seize this opportunity and take the tough decisions necessary for a comprehensive peace."

And then: "Bolstering Israel's security against the rocket threat will not by itself facilitate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conversely, a two-state solution will not in and of itself bring an end to these threats. But our support for Iron Dome and similar efforts do provide Israel with the capabilities and the confidence that it needs to take the tough decisions ahead for a comprehensive peace."

In case anyone was in doubt, JINSA clarified what is meant by the term "tough decisions": "a euphemism for ceding territory, ceding political rights, ceding security control to others."

"There was more in the speech that is worth noting," wrote JINSA, "and we will, but it will take a while before we get over the idea that Obama Administration support for Israel's defense - such as that support is - is a function of the administration's determination to have Israel take actions that increase the risk to its people." (emphasis added)


I am not exactly happy about what follows here, either. But in this instance we are doing it to ourselves:

Israel has provided a response to the UN regarding the Goldstone Report. Commitments have been made by us regarding ways to reduce civilian casualties in future conflicts. Most notably, these include:

[] Restricting the use of white phosphorous as a smoke screen. This use of phosphorous is legal under international law -- it is not using the phosphorous as a weapon. But, OK, it can inadvertently cause civilian damage sometimes.

[] Integrating a Humanitarian Affairs Officer into each combat unit.

This is particularly bad news. In all instances -- whether taking on Hezbollah in Lebanon, or Hamas in Gaza, or terrorists in Judea and Samaria -- we are dealing with those who do not play by the rules and could not care less about loss of civilian life. Yet it is our forces that will be monitored every step of the way and forever held accountable.

This inhibits our ability to defend ourselves, for we will be afraid of being second-guessed after the fact. Not only is this not a way to win a war (and winning is the critical point here), there is no other fighting force in the world held to such standards. No one imagines that the US military must have a "humanitarian affairs officer" in each combat unit -- not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan -- in spite of civilian casualties. While the irony is that we are the most ethical fighting force in the world.


The report to the UN further speaks about investigations into the actions of our soldiers, with specific mention of two IDF soldiers who have been indicted for putting a Palestinian minor at risk, and a soldier who is suspected of killing a Palestinian civilian.

It is appropriate for us to stay on top of such incidents, and to levy charges and penalties where appropriate. But what sticks in the craw is our need (or perceived need) to report this to the UN. Fighting is not a clean endeavor, and even in the most humane of forces incidents will occur (sometimes because of maliced motivations and sometimes because of poor judgment in a difficult situation). Not only are we making ourselves accountable to some of the biggest bums going -- representatives of nations who have no regard for human rights -- this all feels as if it's a sort of acknowledgement that there was some merit to the Goldstone Report. Or so it will be interpreted.

The standards to which we are being held, and to which we are permitting ourselves to be held, exceed the standards applied anywhere else. It is a part of the international effort to deprive us of legitimacy.


Speaking of holding Israel to a different standard, we have an article by Khaled Abu Toameh, written for Hudson NY, which asks:

"When was the last time the UN Security Council met to condemn an Arab government for its mistreatment of Palestinians?

"How come those who call themselves 'pro-Palestinian' turn a blind eye to the fact that Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and many more Arab countries continue to impose severe travel restrictions on Palestinians?

"A news story on the Palestinians that does not include an anti-Israel angle rarely makes it to the front pages of Western newspapers.

"The demolition of an Arab-owned illegal building in Jerusalem is, for most correspondents, much more important than the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Lebanon are denied the right to own property, do not qualify for health care, and are banned by law from working in a large number of jobs." (emphasis added)


This report, written by Joe Klein, which first appeared in Time Magazine, has now been picked by several other sources.

"An Attack on Iran is Back on the [US] Table":

"...when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Fox News on June 20, "We do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons," he was reflecting a new reality in the military and intelligence communities. Diplomacy and economic pressure remain the preferred means to force Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal, but there isn't much hope that's going to happen. So the military option is very much back on the table.

"Intelligence sources say that the U.S. Army's Central Command, which is in charge of organizing military operations in the Middle East, has made some real progress in planning targeted air strikes - aided, in large part, by the vastly improve human-intelligence operations in the region. 'There really wasn't a military option a year ago,' an Israeli military source told me. 'But they've gotten serious about the planning, and the option is real now.' Israel has been brought into the planning process. One other factor has brought the military option to a low boil: Iran's Sunni neighbors really want the U.S. to do it.",8599,2003921,00.html

This, my friends, is good news.


So is the fact that Russia has decided not to deliver to Iran the S-300 surface to air missile defense system -- it has already been sold to Iran, but the most recent sanctions preclude delivery.


Evelyn Gordon has written a fascinating piece in the Commentary blog on how Israel can win the PR war. In essence, it recommends going on the defensive instead of being defensive. You've heard this theme here before.

Gordon cites PR guru Frank Luntz:

"...when people have preconceived notions about Israel, it’s very hard to dislodge those notions — to convince them, for instance, that Israel did not wantonly target civilians in last year’s war in Gaza, or has not created a humanitarian crisis there by its blockade. But it is possible to persuade them that no matter how bad Israel is, its enemies are much, much worse — and therefore even someone who dislikes Israel should nevertheless back it against those enemies."

Says Gordon, another PR expert, Sarah Kass, explains it thus:

"Israel’s enemies are conducting a classic PR offensive, designed to keep the focus relentlessly on Israel and away from themselves. Thus they never talk about themselves; they talk only about Israel.

"Israel, however, does the opposite: it talks almost exclusively about itself, constantly trying to defend its own actions rather than focusing on its enemies’ actions. And to listeners, this just sounds like 'whining.'

"What Israel should be doing is exactly what its enemies do: focusing relentlessly on the other side. For only in that context — a battle against a truly evil enemy — can Israel’s defensive measures ever be understood."


This approach works. Luntz told of a meeting he had with “high income, high education, politically connected” Brits who were “so hostile to Israel” that “I’d given up … There was no message that resonated remotely well with them. And I finally said ‘to hell with it. We’ll give them the Hamas Charter’.”

At the end, “28 of the 30 said, ‘How dare Israel negotiate with these people?’”

(Note: We're not negotiating with Hamas, but never mind, the sentiment is what counts here.)

(Thanks BudnPhyl)


The Turks are strengthening its ties to Hamas, as the Turkish FM has met with Mashaal.

But there seems to be a trade-off here: We are now hosting a Greek prime minister for the first time since 1992, as George Papandreou (son of Andreas) is moderating his stance towards Israel. Analysts feel that the tensions between Israel and Turkey (historical rival, if not arch enemy of Greece) is a factor in what's happening.


Fatah officials are saying they will back direct talks between the PA and Israel, provided that Abbas's terms are met. We are already familiar with those demands, which include an understanding about borders and security up front.

Muhammad Dahlan, a member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah (that name has a moderate ring, does it not?), says that "Fatah wants to see real progress on the issues of borders and security. We also want a complete freeze of settlement construction, including natural growth, especially in occupied East Jerusalem."

Especially, huh?


The best response is Ari Harow's piece, "Why Jerusalem Matters," from the JPost, on eve of Tisha B'Av.

"On this Tisha Be’av day, as we approach direct talks with the Palestinian Authority, it is imperative that we state loudly and clearly that Jerusalem is our heart and soul, our national raison d’être. Guaranteeing a united Jerusalem without one iota of hesitation or equivocation is not a matter of choice, but rather a national obligation."


Harrow, by the way, until quite recently was bureau chief for PM Netanyahu. Hope his former boss is paying attention.


see my website

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Israel and US Near Deal for F-35 Advanced Fighter Plane

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Israel is nearing a $3 billion deal for 19 advanced F-35 warplanes that would give it a significant military advantage, Pentagon Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, told Reuters.

"The ball is in their court. I am waiting for them to make a decision any day," he added. Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer, has not commented on the status of the deal, but Lockheed is known to be anxious over sales because of European countries’ reviews of spending programs. Wieringa added that the Obama administration and the Pentagon view Israel’s buying the F-35 as “part and parcel" of American security policies.

Lockheed Martin has promoted the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter as the centerpiece for 21st century global security while strengthening international political and industrial partnerships. The fighter plane combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.

One of the sticking points in the purchase by Israel has been its desire to incorporate Israeli systems in the plane.

Weiringa did not disclose what specific radars and other equipment would be included with the F-35 fighters for Israel, but sources reported that Israel is satisfied with the technology in the final agreement.

A nice new shopping mall opened today in Gaza: Will the media report on it?

Will the Western media show these images?
All notes below by Tom Gross

Please scroll down below for photos of the new shopping mall that opened today in Gaza. I have also attached new photos and film of Gaza’s hotels, beauty spas, swimming pools, beaches and street markets -- images the BBC, New York Times and others refuse to show you. Meanwhile, Hamas are deliberately leaving some Gazans in plastic tents, in order to fool gullible Western journalists and politicians who are brought to Gaza to witness a staged “humanitarian crisis.”

(Photo of a new mall that opened today, July 17, 2010. If there “are no building materials allowed into Gaza” how did they build this shopping center, or the new Olympic-size swimming pool pictured below?)

Two days ago the EU pledged tens of millions of EU taxpayers’ euros to add to the hundreds of millions already donated to Gaza this year, much of which has been misused to procure arms.

UPDATE, Sunday July 18, 2010:

Some journalists who subscribe to this list have asked me for a quote. You are welcome to use the following.

Political and media commentator Tom Gross said:

“On a day when (because EU Foreign Policy Chief Baroness Ashton is in Gaza) the BBC and other media have featured extensive reports all day long on what they term the dire economic situation in Gaza, why are they not mentioning the new shopping mall that opened there yesterday?

“When leading news outlets mention the so-called humanitarian flotillas from Turkey, why do they omit the fact that life expectancy and literacy rates are higher, and infant mortality rates are lower in Gaza than corresponding rates in Turkey? Have they considered that perhaps the humanitarian flotillas ought to be going in the other direction, towards Turkey?”


Last year, this website revealed to a Western audience pictures of the bustling, crowded food markets of Gaza that the Western media refuse to show you. Earlier this year, I reported the new Olympic-size swimming pool of Gaza (no shortage of building materials or water here) and the luxury restaurants, where you can “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”. (Over 300,000 people have viewed photos on that webpage since May, according to my website monitor.)

Now I want to draw attention to the fact that this morning, on the day that the EU again criticized Israel (but not Egypt) for supposedly oppressing Gazans, on a day when the BBC TV world news headlines again lead with a report about how “devastated the economy in Gaza is,” an impressive new shopping mall opened in Gaza (photos below, followed by a selection of other photos from Gaza).

Will those Western journalists who write stories about “starvation” in Gaza and compare it to a “concentration camp” report this?

Instead of reporting on the mall opening, the British-based international satellite broadcaster Sky News reported today “The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire.”


Photos from Saturday, July 17, 2010:

More photos here.

Here is a news report in Arabic on the opening of the mall from today’s Palestine Times.

This is the official website of the Gaza mall.


Before I draw attention to other photos below, please let me restate again my overall position since several other commentators have misrepresented it recently:

I have consistently supported the creation of an independent Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel since I first became interested in politics. But there is no point in creating a new Palestinian state if it will primarily be used as a launching ground for armed attacks on Israel, which would only in turn likely lead to a much bloodier war between Israelis and Palestinians than anything we have witnessed in the past.

In order to make sure any Palestinian state is peaceful, and respects human rights for both its own citizens and its neighbors, it is crucial for Western policy-makers not be misled into making bad policy (as they have so often done in the past) in part, at least, as a result of believing the utter distortions of Western journalists, who greatly exaggerate the suffering of Palestinians and consistently cover up for the misdeeds of Hamas and Fatah.

Of course, one should not forget that the media is full of stereotypes and mistakes about other issues. Yet when every allowance has been made, the sustained bias against Israel is in a league of its own.

I am not for one moment suggesting that Israeli misdeeds should not be fully and unsparingly reported on (and indeed Israel being a vigorous democracy, such misdeeds are widely reported on in the Israeli media itself, and debated in the Israeli Knesset). But propagating the falsehoods of Fatah and Hamas propagandists has done nothing to further the legitimate aspirations of ordinary Palestinians, any more than parroting the lies of Stalin helped ordinary Russians.

Such bias, I believed, is not only wrong in itself but seriously detrimental to international efforts to bring about peace between Palestinians and Israelis.


These are some of the photos previously carried on the dispatch “Fancy restaurants and Olympic-size swim pools: what the media won’t report about Gaza” (May 25, 2010).

Above: the courtyard of the Roots restaurant in Gaza.

Above: A part of the restaurant’s 12-page menu, which includes a wide range of meat, poultry and seafood dishes. The restaurant is popular with Gazans holding weddings and other celebrations, UN and NGO workers, and foreign journalists.

Here are more pictures of the restaurant. (Also see more pictures of Roots further down this dispatch.)


Whereas the restaurant above is one of those popular with wealthier Gazans, the pictures below show life for ordinary people in Gaza.

Above: Recent photos show one of Gaza’s fruit and vegetable markets, a cake shop, and a children’s toy store in Gaza city. Hardly the “World War II-era concentration camp” that some Western journalists have claimed Gaza resembles.

Tom Gross adds: As I have written before, of course there is poverty in parts of Gaza. There is poverty in parts of Israel too. But when was the last time a foreign journalist based in Israel left the pampered lounge bars and restaurants of the King David and American Colony hotels in Jerusalem and went to check out the slum-like areas of southern Tel Aviv? Or the hard-hit Negev towns of Netivot or Rahat?

Playing the manipulative game of the BBC is easy. If we had their vast taxpayer-funded resources, we too could produce reports about parts of London, Manchester and Glasgow and make it look as though there is a humanitarian catastrophe throughout the U.K. We could produce the same effect by selectively filming seedy parts of Paris and Rome and New York and Los Angeles too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Losing the Scent in South Lebanon

Jonathan Spyer*

July 20, 2010

Last week, the IDF released evidence of Hizbullah stockpiling of weaponry in populated civilian areas of southern Lebanon. The IDF material showed an aerial map of the Shi'ite town of El Khiam. The map showed details of a developed military infrastructure woven into the fabric of the town's civilian population. While the precise details were new, the fact of Hizbullah's use of civilian areas as bases for its military reconstruction after 2006 is by now no longer a major revelation.

The fact of this activity is not seriously in doubt. It is in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war. The mechanisms by which Hizbullah and its allies act to neutralize the 12,000 strong international force tasked with preventing the movement's military activities in Lebanon's south have also been in evidence over the last couple of weeks.

Tensions have been steadily rising between elements of the UNIFIL forces deployed in south Lebanon (specifically - the French contingent) and supporters of Hizbullah's "resistance." A number of incidents have taken place. On June 29, UNIFIL conducted a 36-hour deployment exercise.

In the days that followed, members of the French contingent were attacked in the village of Touline by a crowd which pelted them with rocks, sticks and eggs.

On Saturday, July 3, in the village of Kabrikha, a gathering of around 100 civilians blocked the road, preventing a French UNIFIL patrol from entering the village. The soldiers were reportedly disarmed, and a number were injured. The Lebanese army eventually intervened to separate the crowd from the patrol. Villagers interviewed after the incidents claimed that UNIFIL troops had tried to enter homes - a claim which a spokesman for the UN forces denied.

Michael Williams, UN special coordinator for Lebanon, meanwhile, described the incidents as "clearly organized."

Williams was correct. Mobs of 100 civilians do not suddenly appear by accident in southern Lebanon. It is not an area known for its liberal attitudes toward freedom of political association. In the Shi'ite villages of the area, the only force able to march, demonstrate and make its presence felt is the "resistance" - that is Hizbullah - and its allies.

Sure enough, as UNIFIL commander Alberto Asarta Cuevas sought assurances in the days that followed, Hizbullah leaders issued a number of statements expressing puzzlement at UNIFIL's recent increase in activity. The movement's deputy chief Naim Qassem laconically advised UNIFIL to "watch what it does." Hussein Haj Hassan, a movement member who serves as minister of agriculture in the current Lebanese government, described UNIFIL's behavior as "incomprehensible." "One wonders what they want," he added.

In the Lebanese manner, a rumor then began to do the rounds that the UNIFIL deployment exercise was in fact a trial run of a move whereby international forces moved to prevent rocket fire on Israel. A Hizbullah-associated MP, Muhammad Raad, said that that if a particular country affiliated with UNIFIL wanted to "give the Israelis a card," it should not seek to do so at the expense of southern Lebanon. It was unacceptable, said Raad, that "some UNIFIL units" might be taking orders from their own minister of defense, rather than from the UN.

In reality, Israeli commanders could only dream of such activity being undertaken by the UN force. But such an interpretation has the unmistakable quality of a further warning to the international forces not to overstep the recognized rules of the game between them and Hizbullah. Hizbullah expects a "live and let live" attitude both from the international forces and from the Lebanese army regarding its military activities and preparations in the south.

FOLLOWING A series of consultations with the Lebanese government and armed forces, UNIFIL commander Asarta this week issued a contrite statement, apologizing to the residents of the south for the inconvenience to them caused by his force's activities. He expressed his "love" for Lebanon. It was later announced that henceforth, UNIFIL would no longer use sniffer dogs in patrols (a point which had reportedly particularly annoyed the villagers). Also, it was reiterated that UNIFIL would not enter houses and yards in populated areas, except with prior coordination and the involvement of the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Given that the UNIFIL activity that prompted the actions and statements by Hizbullah did not differ in a major way from previous practices, a number of theories have been raised as to why the "resistance" chose to draw attention to it in the way that it did.

In an interview with the Lebanese An-Nahar newspaper, Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces movement, speculated that the decision to move against the French UNIFIL contingent related to anger at France's decision to vote in favor of further sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. According to such an interpretation, the latest events would be by way of a friendly reminder to the French of the vulnerability of their troops in southern Lebanon.

Geagea also noted French support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This is the body charged with investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The latest reports suggest that the tribunal is soon to issue indictments. Hizbullah is now considered to be the main suspect in the killing. But whatever the precise reasons for Hizbullah's latest move against the French element in UNIFIL, the recent events once more demonstrate the relative helplessness of the UN force.

The photos released by the IDF last week may have reassured Israelis by demonstrating the extent of its "coverage" of southern Lebanon. But they also showed the degree to which Hizbullah has been able to rebuild and rearm undisturbed south of the Litani since 2006. Some 160 Shi'ite villages have been turned into armed camps similar to El Khiam, we are told. All of this has taken place under the sensitive noses of the (now demobilized) UNIFIL sniffer dogs. The dogs, or someone else, have also apparently chewed up and digested UN Resolution 1701

*Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel

Sinai Option - The Road to Permanent Peace!

Steven Shamrak.

It is not enough to rebuke enemies - Israel must have clear plan of action in order to reunite all Jewish land and stop anti-Jewish international hypocrisy!

Do you know any other way that has not been tried?

Only 120 years ago, most parts of the Middle East, including Palestine and entire Sinai Peninsula, were a desolated, arid, land mass which did not belong to any country. It was a no man's land with which for 2000 years Jews had an unbroken spiritual and historical bond!

The creation of a Mandate system after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War 1 and in the grip of the new masters, Britain and France, laid the foundations of the current Arab-Israel conflict: Trans-Jordan was part of the Palestinian mandate, which was allocated for creation of a Jewish state by the League of Nations in 1922, in accordance with the Balfour Declaration. Therefore, its separation from Palestinian mandated land was an illegal act. Unfortunately, the dominant imperial powers, Britain and France, controlled the League of Nations which they used to rubber stamp their shady deals at the time.

As a result of the deal, in 1922, in order to secure Britain' s financial interests in the Suez Canal, Sinai was illegally given to Egypt by the British with the permission of King Hussein of Hejaz and Nejd, now Saudi Arabia. In return, Britain transferred control of the land east of the river Jordan to Hussein's son, Abdullah. Control of the Golan Heights was transferred to the French-run Syrian Mandate and in exchange the United Kingdom got control of the newly discovered oil fields in Kirkuk.

Since its independence, Israel has fought many wars with its implacable Arab neighbours, signed numerous cease-fires, so-called Hundas and even peace agreements. But all those efforts have not brought about any permanent solution to the endless terror Israeli society has been enduring daily.

The solution that can bring permanent peace to Israel and let Arabs live with dignity in their own country was proposed over 100 years ago. It has been deliberately ignored and disallowed by the United Nations.

It is the Sinai option - the transfer of all of the Arab population from the land that used to be called the "Palestinian mandate" to the Sinai Peninsula, an area of contiguous land which is comparable in size with the entire Palestinian mandate: Israel, Gaza, Judea , Samaria, the Golan Heights and Jordan! This plan presents a real opportunity for a permanent peace:

1. It will separate the two entirely incompatible communities and will create an environment conducive to the development of a new Arab entity totally independent from Israel.

2. It will provide the Arabs with a contiguous landmass. Isn't that what the PA is demanding?

3. It will give the Arabs full territorial, financial, military, political and religious control over the land, natural resources and population. There will be no dependency on Israel!

4. The new entity will be accountable for its actions in accordance with international law.

5. Israel will be able to securely control its border with the new Arab entity and keep it accountable for any terror activity.

6. All anti-Israel terror-inclined elements will be removed from the Jewish lands.

And, this plan is relatively easy to implement because:

1. The new entity can be either part of Egypt or become another independent Arab state.

2. There are only around 250,000 people living in Sinai today, predominantly Bedouins.

3. The SINAI OPTION will resolve the so-called Palestinians refugee question as they can easily be settled in the Sinai. Note: Over 70% of Jordan's population is so-called Palestinians others are descendents of the refuges from Saudi Arabia.

4. Every year the International community has been wasting/spending billions of dollars merely on conflict maintenance in the region. The SINAI OPTION offers the opportunity for investment in the permanent resolution of the conflict and it will free up billions of dollars that can be used to alleviate the suffering of people the world over.

5. Population transfers were successfully implemented before and after the adoption of the fourth Geneva Convention resolution. In fact, Israel is the only country this resolution targeted in order to prevent the transfer of the Arab population from Israel after the war of Independence!

6. It will create investment opportunities and would be of great benefit to Egypt as well a financial bonanza for the Arabs who are currently living in Judea-Samaria, Gaza and Jordan.

7. It will improve the lifestyle and living conditions of millions of Arabs and will bring peace, stability and prosperity to Jews in Israel.

8. The plan can be implemented humanely and gradually under the supervision of the International community or it can be implemented by force, unilaterally by Israel, when the Arab enemies of the Jewish state start the next war or perpetrate a hideous act of terror against the Israeli population. Israel must be ready to implement the SINAI OPTION at any time!

This is the only way toward permanent peace in the region and the fulfilment of the 2000 year old commandment and inspiration of the Jewish people - the return to the G-d given land of our ancestors!

The International community, Arab and Muslim countries insist that they want peace in the Middle East! Therefore, why don't they even want to hear about this alternative plan? And the fact that during the breakout through the Sinai border with Egypt, instigated and planned in advance by Hamas, half of Gaza's population were able to cross the border during the first two days is a proof that the Sinai Option easy to implement and a practical way to start the process of ending Arab occupation of Jewish land and establishing true and permanent peace in Israel, free of Arab terror.

Gloom of the Next War. Hizbullah has reportedly deployed up to 5,000 fighters along the Lebanese border with Israel. The Israeli military has collected evidence of a massive Hizbullah operational presence in homes, schools and hospitals.

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak

In order to understand Zionism and the Arab-Israel conflict one must adopt the attitude of a scientist: Put a side all personal assumptions and ideologically or psychologically influenced preconceived ideas. Study the facts of history! If one is not a hard-core anti-Semite or self-hating Jewish addict, the conclusion is obvious!

Not Big news for Headlines? Germany in effect vindicated Israel by outlawing the IHH 'charity' group whose Turkish branch viciously attacked Israeli Navy commandoes on the high seas. Germany said that IHH is linked with Hamas, which the European Union classifies as a terrorist organization. The United Nations has accused Israel of wrongfully attacking the IHH-sponsored Mavi Marmara ship.

No Rush! Professional Refugees can Wait 60 years More. Lebanon's parliament postponed to next month talks on the 'controversial' issue of granting employment, social security and property rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

Israeli Flag Flown in Jericho. About fifty Jewish worshipers prayed at the ancient Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho. The city was turned over to the PA as part of the (useless and dangerous) Oslo Accords in the mid 1990s. One of the worshipers said "this morning is another step in the renewal of Jewish life in the city of Jericho, and will not rest until we shall renew it as it was until a decade ago."

What Would Happened if Israel had Adopted the same Law? Muslim women in France may soon be prohibited from completely covering their faces in public areas. A new law banning the wearing of the "burka," or "niqab," in public spaces passed by a near-unanimous vote, 335 to 1, in the French National Assembly.

Quote of the Week: "The land is not to be sold in perpetuity, because the land belongs to me - you are only foreigners and temporary residents with me." - Leviticus 25:23

Understanding Muslims' Mindset

Diffusing the present dangerous confrontation between Islam and the West demands rational impartial and cool heads to untangle facts from myth, understand the Muslims mindset, and redress any grievances on either side.

The Muslims' perennial complaint is that the imperialist West - all colonial powers of the past, as well as the United States of America - have victimized them for decades and even centuries and continue to do so in every conceivable way... let us focus on the general mindset of Muslims which bears heavily on the hostility:

* Patriarchy and Authoritarianism: The Muslim's mind is imprinted with authoritarianism which starts with the supreme authority...

* Blind Obedience: A dangerous feature of the authoritarian personality is the relative lack of independent thinking. This deficiency makes the person highly amenable to manipulation...

* Focus on Goal: To Muslims, the goal is everything. As religious fascism, Islam condones any and all means to achieve its goals. The ultimate objective of Islam is the rule of the entire world under the Islamic Ummah...

* Fatalism: One of the greatest subtle, yet important differences between the Muslim's mindset and that of the people in the West is the extent to which Muslims are fatalistic. There is hardly a statement that a Muslim makes without being conditional - conditional on the will of Allah...

* Psychological Uniqueness: People as a group or as individuals are different and none is perfectly healthy psychologically...

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Balancing the Scales"

Arlene Kushner

Tonight begins a time of fasting, and of mourning. This is primarily for the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem, but our tradition tells us this was also the day on which multiple other calamities have befallen us over the centuries, such as the Jewish expulsion from Spain. It is a time of introspection for the nation. Especially is this the case today, as we face threats and must examine our actions in several regards. Yes, we must be strong. Yes, we must make proper decisions with regard to our security and our rights. But we are taught that we must also look inward at our own behavior. Baseless hatred (sinat hinam) is said to have been the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple


Perhaps of particular note here is the linkage of this day with the sin of the spies. The Torah tells us that Moshe sent 12 spies into Caanan, which had been given to the people by G-d, to check it out. Ten returned with a report that was dire, causing the people to be afraid to enter. The gift that G-d had given the people was defamed: there was no trust that G-d would keep us in the land, and no confidence in our ability to manage ("we were as grasshoppers").

Thus do I write about balancing the scales, which is what Rav Kook said we were obliged to do. Balancing the scales: Accepting and appreciating this land as the gift from G-d that it is.

Books can be written -- and undoubtedly have been written -- on what this means. I ask that you contemplate this for yourselves.


For a special video from Aish that addresses these issues and the lesson of Tisha B'Av:


I would also like to share here a moving video called "Home Game."

Five years ago, the Israeli citizens of Gush Katif were forcibly removed from their homes. This is a story of one of those communities -- Netzer Hazani. The expulsion was planned for the day after Tisha B'Av. Three weeks earlier, the annual Gush Katif basketball tournament -- in which the youth of the communities participated -- was begun. The final game, traditionally scheduled for right after Tisha B'Av, was to take place the very day that the expulsion was to happen, in Netzer Hazani -- with the community's kids competing for the championship. The game was not cancelled. These kids, with an incredible spirit of courage (defiance?) played amidst what was happening about them.

See this film made by the kids. Remember what happened. And then vow -- in the spirit of Tisha B'Av -- that something like this should never happen again.


Last night I attended a panel discussion, sponsored by The Legacy Heritage Fund, in conjunction with the Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, and the South African Zionist Federation in Israel (Telfed).

The subject was "Combating Israel's Delegitimization: Debunking the Apartheid Myth."

The program began with a video clip designed to show us what we are up against: Azmi Bishara -- former Israeli Member of Knesset who fled the country when accused of aiding Hezbollah during the war -- charging Israel with apartheid.

In the course of the program, it was noted more than once that Bishara was himself evidence for the ludicrousness of the charges he was leveling. In a genuine system of apartheid, he could never have been elected to the Knesset.


Professor Gideon Shimoni -- originally from South Africa, and former head of Hebrew University's Institute of Contemporary Judaism -- then examined the true nature of apartheid, as it existed in South Africa. In doing so, he was able to clarify how different it was from anything that goes on here.

The manifestations of apartheid within the society of South Africa existed for over 100 years, even though it was not institutionalized more formally by the National Party until 1948. The conflict that developed over this had nothing to do with nationalism. The issues were inclusion and sharing, and were predicated purely on race. A white minority manipulated the conditions of all non-whites, while refusing to negotiate any of the pertinent issues.

More was involved than exclusion from democratic electoral rights of anyone who was not white: whites determined which schools non-whites could attend, and what hospitals would treat them. Non-whites were sometimes forced to move to specifically designated areas.


Here in Israel, tensions are not racial at all, but ethnic -- regarding peoplehood. And the basis of those tensions is a struggle between two national movements. The tension arises with Palestinian Arabs who are not seeking inclusion within our system. What they want is separation, via their own state. This in no way parallels what transpired in South Africa, and is emerging from an entirely different set of circumstances.

What is more, Arabs who are Israelis have full entry into the system. It's not just with regard to democratic process: Arabs in this country are treated by the same hospitals that treat Jews. In fact, Arab doctors, who may have been trained in the same medical schools Jews attend, often practice in the same hospitals. This totally puts the lie to the charges that our system is race-based.

There are semantic distortions involved in apartheid charges leveled against Israel. Apartheid becomes a code word, a generic pejorative label separated from context.


Dr. Dore Gold -- former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, and head of the JCPA -- made different arguments. There are two parts to the apartheid charge, he noted. The first part involves a white minority that suppresses a non-white majority, but the second part of the charge involves colonialism. The white minority in South Africa was European (Afrikaners, who were originally Dutch or Huguenot) -- occupiers enforcing their will upon the majority indigenous population.

It is this that is the most serious charge made against Jews in Israel: We are said to be outsiders, occupiers, enforcing our will on the indigenous majority population. And it is this that must be most vociferously refuted. It is not remotely the truth, and carries with it serious implications.

The Mandate for Palestine of 1922 recognized our pre-existing right to this land. Actually, since 1863, Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem. The rise of Israel is anti-colonial.

This is part of the attempt to delegitimize Israel: it is representing Israel as alien here, without rights.


DJ Schneeerweiss -- originally from Australia, currently Coordinator of the anti-boycott strategy of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- says he prefers to turn around what Dr. Gold referred to with regard to the delegitimization of Israel. He doesn't wish to do our detractors' work for them, and so refers to the assault on Israel's legitimacy.

The assault, he said, is broad, as there are attacks on supporters of Israel, as well as on Israel. Words count and there is currently an attempt to brand us. This is not about facts, it's a PR barrage. They merely have to make the label stick, and they know what will follow. It's a case of the malevolent leading the ignorant.

A variety of strategies are necessary:

There is loss of context today, as Jewish history is less well known. We must educate, telling our story.

There is an attempt to dismiss our humanity. Stories must be told that redress this, showing the human side of Israel.

Explain to people how ostracizing Israel can effect their lives because of all the helpful scientific and medical innovations that come out of Israel.

Expose the truth about those who oppose us, who are themselves anti-human rights. (Note: the nations making the claim of apartheid against are not exactly paragons of a modern, liberal society that support human rights.)

Reclaim liberal language: Refer to the rainbow character of the Israeli people (i.e., make the point that we are not all white). Promote our peace credentials.

Refute arguments, as appropriate. Engage via dialogue and argument.

Using the "virus" analogy, we must inoculate society against these charges so that they don't become mainstream. We shouldn't delude ourselves that every instance of such charges can be eradicated.

It is important not to over-react. Sometimes ignoring a charge is the best way to go, as making a fuss leads to more press for the "apartheid" accusations.

We must stay our course and build our resources via speakers, writers, etc. We can win this!


To those who are fasting: an easy and meaningful fast.

see my website

Chief Sephardic Rabbi: Bolt Coalition if Conversion Law Fails

Gil Ronen
A7 News

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, said Sunday that in his opinion, the religious parties in the coalition should leave it if a proposed law regulating conversion to Judaism (giyur) is not passed. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that he opposes the proposed law formulated by MK David Rotem (Israel Our Home). Rotem had obtained the agreement of key religious authorities from different Orthodox streams for the bill.

The bill would determine, for the first time, that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is the sole body authorized to deal with conversions, so that all recognized Israeli rabbis could perform conversions, they could not be nullified, but that conversions would be Orthodox i.e. will be carried out after the convert “accepts the burden of Torah and commandments according to Jewish Law.”.

"If they were to listen to my advice,” Rabbi Amar told Hareidi-religious radio station Kol BaRama, “they would all stand as one person with one mouth and one heart and tell [Netanyahu]: it's either the Conversion Law or we leave.”

"The Reform Jews are using the diplomatic situation to threaten the Prime Minister,” the Chief Rabbi said. “They sit there [abroad] and they want to dictate our lives [in Israel]. I told the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that if G-d forbid the High Court allows a Reform conversion, we will be splitting the nation into two parts.”

"The result would be that one part of the nation would not marry the second part,” Rabbi Amar explained. “This is not a game... this is not a social crisis. This is a tearing apart of the nation into two nations, and the ones who will lose by it are the ones who do not abide by the Torah and commandments. We will not be able to marry them. Such things have happened in the past.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mubarak Replacing Mitchell? Bibi, Abbas Visiting Egypt Sunday

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to visit Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Sunday in what may be a scenario to avoid a disaster for the American-sponsored indirect ”proximity talks.” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs’ European department director Freddy Eitan describes the current scene as a “diplomatic ballet.”

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell returned to the region late last week to set the stage for a resumption of the discussions and was promptly rebuffed by Abbas, who kept his word that he would not agree to meet Israeli leaders without an extension of the building freeze against Jews in Judea and Samaria.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Mubarak was postponed twice last week, once reportedly due to the Egyptian president’s trip to Germany for a medical check.

No one is suggesting that there will be a three-way summit, but the convergence of both leaders in Cairo on the same day may not be a coincidence. Egypt has billed itself as the representative of the Arab world that can guide—if not actually order—Abbas what to do.

With virtually all political observers warning from the outset that Mitchell’s efforts were doomed to failure. Mubarak has the chance to steal the show. Neither Abbas nor Netanyahu can afford to backtrack without losing their respective political bases, but the threat of renewed violence may force their hands, according to Bar-Ilan University political science Professor Gerald Steinberg.

If the date passes without any diplomatic progress, the Arab street, which has been full of expectations, may erupt.

Discussions between Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House earlier this month threw the ball back into Abbas’ court, with Abbas in the unusual position of being under pressure from President Obama to accept direct talks with Israel.

Eitan suggests that the United States still has one card to deal to Abbas: money. He told the Chinese news agency Xinhua that offering additional aid to the Palestinian Authority “could well open the door to a continuation of the process even though the trust between Abbas and Netanyahu has not returned to what it once was.”

Palestinian child: Fatah conference taught youth to be future "combatants" against Israel

by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

A Palestinian child said on official Palestinian Authority TV that a key message he took home from the Fatah movement's Sixth General Conference was for young people to see themselves as future "combatants" against Israel. This was the child's understanding of the conference's importance:
"I came here following the conference elections. I hope that there will be more conferences like the Sixth Fatah Conference [in August 2009]. These conferences are important for us because it makes us aware of leadership and that we will be combatants and wage resistance (violence) against the Israelis."
[PA TV (Fatah), July 8, 2010 and July 15, 2010]

Click to view interview with child

PMW reported on Fatah's Sixth General Conference in August 2009 which was as a unique opportunity for Fatah under PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to join the peace process by renouncing Fatah principles and platforms that call for Israel's destruction. As PMW has documented, the Fatah leaders rejected the world's demands to recognize Israel, and continued to promote armed struggle as central to the movement's aims. The Fatah charter still calls for Israel's destruction, and can be viewed in Arabic on Fatah's website. The English version of the Fatah charter that used to appear at Fatah's website has been removed.

See PMW's website section documenting the PA's continued support for armed conflict that was a central theme of the Fatah General Conference.