Saturday, December 11, 2010

Palestinian Affairs: Abbas’s biggest threat


Many Palestinians seem interested in following the news about the Abbas-Dahlan dispute.

The recent decision by Argentina and Brazil to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders may have been big news for Israeli and Western journalists, but for many Palestinians the real story in the past few days was the confrontation between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former security commander Muhammad Dahlan.

Some of Abbas’s top aides have accused the overambitious Dahlan of trying to stage a coup against the PA leadership – an allegation that has been strongly dismissed by him as a “joke.” A source close to Dahlan said this week that Abbas and his top lieutenants were suffering from a case of “severe paranoia.” “They think that everyone is against them,” the source said. “They don’t trust anyone. They are panicking because they are afraid of losing their jobs.”

All the denials in the world can’t convince the Palestinians that nothing wrong is going on in Abbas’s backyard. Ramallah is awash with rumors about a “conspiracy” by Dahlan and his associates to topple Abbas.

Even as the PA leadership was celebrating the declarations from Argentina and Brazil, many Palestinians seemed to be more interested in following the news about the Abbas-Dahlan dispute.

According to some, the rivalry between the two poses the biggest challenge to Abbas since he entered office in January 2005. It’s much easier for Abbas to handle the threat coming from Hamas than to deal with “dissidents” within his Fatah faction.

Dahlan is not the first and only top Fatah leader to fall out with Abbas. Another serious challenge to Abbas has come from veteran Fatah and PLO leader Ahmed Qurei, a former PA prime minister who has also been accused by the PA president’s inner circle of seeking to “undermine” the leadership in Ramallah.

Dahlan, who is in charge of Fatah’s “information portfolio,” is not a lone voice in the desert. He is believed to enjoy the backing of many members of the Fatah central committee and some senior officers in the PA security services.

Ever since he and his men were expelled from the Gaza Strip more than three years ago, Dahlan has succeeded – with a lot of charisma and money – in establishing new bases of power in the West Bank.

In Ramallah, he has often been seen moving around in a big convoy of vehicles with many armed bodyguards. This has angered Abbas and many of his senior aides in the Mukata “presidential” compound.

About two months ago, Abbas decided to reduce the number of policemen who guard Dahlan’s house in the city from four to two. For Dahlan, the presence of four policemen outside his house was a sign of his senior status and significant importance.

No one knows exactly why Abbas took the decision to “humiliate” Dahlan by reducing the number of policemen guarding his house.

Some say that he did not like the fact that Dahlan was acting as if he were more important than Abbas by surrounding himself with a large number of bodyguards and using armored vehicles.

Dahlan, they add, managed to create the impression among many that he was more important than Abbas.

Others say that the real reason for the fallout between the two is a dispute that erupted between Dahlan and Abbas’s wealthy sons, Tareq and Yasser.

Dahlan is reported to have bad-mouthed the sons, who are prominent businessmen, accusing them of exploiting their father’s position to make a huge fortune. Dahlan is also believed to own several businesses in the West Bank, Egypt and some Gulf countries.

Abbas believes that Dahlan has also been “inciting” other Fatah officials against him.

Abbas’s advisers have accused one of these officials, Nasser al-Qudwa, a nephew of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat, of “conspiring” with Dahlan to undermine the PA leadership.

The allegation came after a report in The Wall Street Journal claimed that many Fatah members regarded Qudwa as the next Palestinian leader.

Tensions between Abbas and Dahlan reached their peak earlier this week when the PA security forces shut down a private TV station belonging to a commercial company owned by the latter. The station, Falasteen al-Ghad (Palestine tomorrow), had 35 employees, who were all sent home by the security forces.

The closure coincided with reports about the arrest of more than 45 security officers who were known as Dahlan loyalists. They worked for various branches of the security services in the West Bank.

Abbas’s recent decision to remove most of the local commanders of the Preventative Security Force from their jobs only added fuel to the fire, sparking a new wave of rumors about a plot to stage a coup against the PA leadership.

Many Palestinian editors and journalists have been warned against making any public reference to the power struggle between Abbas and Dahlan. One journalist who dared to report about the dispute was thrown into a prison in Bethlehem for five days.

It appears now that Abbas is determined to take the fight with Dahlan to the end.

Earlier this week, the PA announced that it would seek the help of Interpol in the arrest of former officials suspected of embezzlement of public funds. Some Palestinians are convinced that the announcement is directed against Dahlan and his men.

One source said that the PA has already issued an arrest warrant for Dahlan’s longtime friend and number two, Col. Rashid Abu Shabak, who is currently living in Egypt. According to the source, Abbas has also appealed to the Egyptian and Jordanian authorities to stop treating Dahlan as a VIP whenever he visits.

The embattled Dahlan this week sought the help of the Egyptian government in resolving the crisis with Abbas. He met in Cairo with Egyptian General Intelligence Director Omar Suleiman and complained that Abbas was targeting him and his supporters for no reason.

ON SULEIMAN’S advice, Dahlan granted a series of interviews to major Arab media outlets in which he vehemently denied that he had been planning to overthrow Abbas’s regime. Dahlan accused the “fifth column” of being behind the rumors and, in yet another bid to calm down Abbas, reaffirmed that he had no wish or plan to become the next PA president.

There’s no doubt that Abbas’s problems at home will affect his attitude toward other issues, first and foremost the peace process with Israel. Some Palestinians believe that Abbas’s recurring threats to dissolve the PA and resign are directly linked to growing opposition to his policies within Fatah.

By issuing such threats every now and then, Abbas is sending a message to the Americans and Europeans that they have no choice but to continue supporting him and his government against attempts to undermine or overthrow his authority. The biggest threat to Abbas’s government in the West Bank is no longer Hamas as much as it’s disgruntled and disillusioned Fatah leaders yearning for change.

Carmel fire death-toll rises to 43


29-year-old prison prison warder, cadet in officers' course, succumbs to serious burns and injuries sustained in bus fire that killed 36 others.

One of the prison guards on board the bus that was engulfed in flames on the first day of the Carmel fire over a week ago died noon Saturday at Haifa's Rambam Hospital.

Deputy Shift Commander Jalal Bisan, 29 of Kfar Jat, leaves behind a wife and two children. He will be laid to rest Sunday at noon in the Kfar Jat cemetery.His death brought the death toll to 37 of those in the bus on its way to Damun Penitentiary to help with its evacuation, killed when the fast-moving fire engulfed their bus in flames.

The guards were participating in a new officers’ training course that started this year, which received specialized training in order to improve prisoner treatment and become directors in the prison system.

The Carmel fire burned some 50,000 dunams, destroyed hundreds of homes and killed 43 people.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Round and Round We Go"

Arlene Kushner

If I remember correctly, there's an old children's rhyme that says, "round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows." But here in Israel, we had better make it our business to know where we're stopping, or at least where we are headed. We are not playing a game.

What made me think of "round and round" is the direction being taken by the Obama administration regarding "peace talks." It's a whole new direction, you see, a "new initiative," as it were. I've lost count of the number of "new initiatives" we've seen.
What's going to happen, we're being told, is that US officials will be meeting in Washington in coming days with representatives of Israel and the PA -- separately. Sound like the "proximity talks" that Obama started off with? Don't be silly. If the US admitted this, it would be admitting that "the process" had taken a step backwards. It's not backwards, it's "new."

PJ Crowley, State Department spokesman, explained:

"We're going to focus on the substance and try to make progress on the core issues themselves [borders, refugees, security, Jerusalem]. We think that will create the kind of momentum we need to get to sustained and meaningful negotiations."

Whose inspired idea was this?

Has the Obama administration not noticed that Abbas is still saying that he will not come to the table until all construction in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has been frozen? That, in fact, Abbas is being obstructionist to the maximum?


Abbas is planning on meeting as soon as possible with Egyptian officials in Cairo (who will tell him that he should give the US more time before going to the Security Council). He will, of course, consult with the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee regarding a response to the American announcement. Then he hopes to see the Arab League convened in Cairo -- perhaps as early as next week -- for advice on how to proceed.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh has said that there will be no PA response to the US plans until members of the Arab League have been consulted. Abbas has told the Americans that the PA won't be sending a representative to Washington for talks with US officials until there has been that consultation with the Arabs. (So, no "indirect" talks yet, either.)


Allow me here to cite Yasser Abed Rabbo, whom journalist Khaled Abu Toameh describes as "a top PLO official closely associated with Abbas."

Abed Rabbo says that the US decision harmed Washington's credibility as an honest broker:

"If they can't convince Israel or force it to stop settlement construction for a specified time, how will they make Israel accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders (sic)?" he asked in an interview on the PA's Voice of Palestine radio station.

"Instead of announcing that Israel is responsible for the failure of the negotiations, the US administration is giving the Israelis an opportunity to waste more time. The US policy has failed because of the blow it has received from Israel."


What we see with this quote is the absolute and total lack of intention by the PLO/PA to negotiate with Israel. They still imagine that they can force (embarrass?) Obama into leaning on Israel hard enough so that they can get what they want.

What must be asked is how many decision makers in Washington -- or media sources in the US -- are aware of this statement by Abed Rabbo. We have it from the JPost because Abu Toameh, who is straight as they come, provides this information in translation from the Arabic. The PA radio station, most clearly, broadcasts in Arabic.

So let's help set the situation straight here. Use the quote by Abed Rabbo and the URL.

Send this to your elected representatives in Congress (lame duck though some are), and to the State Department, and to the White House. Put it up on blogs and lists, write letters to the editor, call in to radio talk shows. Ask over and over, how, in light of this evidence, the US government thinks it can promote genuine peace negotiations with real give and take and real compromise.

For your Congresspersons:

For your Senators:

For Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Public Communication Division (accepts opinions from the public)

Phone 202-647-6575 Fax 202-647-1579

For President Barack Obama:

Fax: 202-456-2461 White House Comment line: 202-456-1111

e-mail form via:


In addition to providing this Abed Rabbo quote, it's important to emphasize that no pressure should be put on Israel to make concessions of any sort whatsoever -- especially as it's clear how obstructionist the Palestinian Arabs are.

(Can we not expect pressure of one sort or another by the Americans to be forthcoming.? Is not leaning on Israel and cutting the Palestinian Arabs slack the standard American MO?)


I recommend that you read the piece in Haaretz by Israel Harel, "Palestinians, not Israel, hold the key to peace."

"...After more than four futile decades of unnecessary pressure on Israel, the Americans should revolutionize their approach and concentrate their efforts on those who hold the key to peace: the Palestinians. True, this is contrary to the opinion of the Israelis that the Americans listen to [left-wing, pro-Israeli concession Israelis], but it has traction for most Israelis. Even more important, it is right.

The essence is this: As a first step, the Arabs must be brought to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and as the national home of the Jewish people, in a public and binding way. As part of a peace agreement they must declare, on behalf of all their factions, the end of the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians and a complete relinquishment of the right of return.

A binding Arab commitment to these three elements will convince many Israelis who today do not believe in the Arabs' desire for peace to reconsider their position...."


And then, a far more powerful piece by Benny Morris, "Bleak House: The prospects for a Palestinian state have rarely been more grim."

What makes this particularly potent is that Morris was for a long time one of those left-wing Israelis of the sort Obama might want to listen to. But he has clearly adjusted his thinking. Please pay it careful attention and share it broadly. It exposes important truths:

"...Even before we can get to such practical questions [regarding governance, economic aid, etc], though, there is a another more fundamental question that goes to the heart of the continuing historical struggle between two peoples for the same piece of land: What will be the geographical contours of the envisioned Palestinian state and what will be its nature? Put simply, will the envisioned state encompass all of Palestine, including the territory of the existing Jewish state, Israel, or will it include only the West Bank and Gaza Strip and, perhaps, Arab-populated East Jerusalem? And will the envisioned state be a secular, perhaps even 'democratic,' republic as promised by the Fatah-led PNA, which rules the West Bank, or will it be a fundamentalist, Islamic, sharia-based state, as sought by Hamas, which rules Gaza? Will one of the parties absorb or co-opt the other, or will the Palestinians maintain this political bifurcation indefinitely?


"Which brings us to the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiating impasse. I am not talking about the tactical problem posed by continued or discontinued Israeli construction in West Bank settlements...I am speaking of a basic, strategic impasse which, unfortunately, is far more cogent and telling than the ongoing 'negotiations,' which are unlikely to lead to a peace treaty or even a “'framework agreement for a future peace accord. This unlikelihood stems from a set of obstacles that I see as insurmountable, given current political-ideological mindsets.

"The first, the one that American and European officials never express and—if impolitely mentioned in their presence—turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called 'secular' and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should. (Emphasis added)

"This basic Palestinian rejectionism, amounting to a Weltanschauung, is routinely ignored or denied by most Western commentators and officials. To grant it means to admit that the Israeli-Arab conflict has no resolution apart from the complete victory of one side or the other... (Emphasis added)

"In this connection, our age, it may turn out, resembles the classic age of appeasement, the 1930s, when the Western democracies (and the Soviet Union) were ranged against, but preferred not to confront, Nazi Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy, and expansionist Japan. During that decade, Hitler’s inexorable martial, racist, and uncompromising mindset was misread by Western leaders, officials, and intellectuals—and for much the same reasons. Living in unideological societies, they could not fathom the minds and politics of their ideologically driven antagonists. The leaders and intellectuals of the Western democracies, educated and suffused with liberal and relativist values, by and large were unable to comprehend the essential 'otherness' of Hitler and ended up fighting him, to the finish, after negotiation and compromise had proved useless."


Jackson Diehl, writing in the NY Times -- "Obama's double-or-nothing moment in the Middle East" -- observed that:

"The latest collapse of the Middle East peace process has...left President Obama with a tough choice: quietly shift one of his prized foreign policy priorities to a back burner -- or launch a risky redoubling of U.S. efforts."

The president has made the wrong choice. He has set himself an impossible task.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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Arguments over Hamas MPs use of Red Cross office as HQ


The three politicians were ordered to leave J'lem. Instead, they’re meeting foreign dignitaries, handing out literature and holding press events.

The east Jerusalem office of the International Committee of the Red Cross has become, over the last six months, the de facto headquarters of three Hamas legislators, who had been ordered by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to leave the city. They have established a protest tent there, met with overseas dignitaries, and on Thursday held a press conference, while various Israeli officials argue about what to do with them.

Ahmad Attoun, Khaled Abu- Arafa and Muhammad Totah – all representatives of Hamas’s Change and Reform list in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – timed their press conference on Thursday to mark International Human Rights Day, which takes place on Friday. And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Abbas supports Sudanese president accused of Darfur genocide

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has expressed his personal support for the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who is accused of being responsible for the genocide in Darfur. In a letter to the Sudanese president, Abbas wrote that he and Palestinians "have complete faith in the wisdom of President Omar Al-Bashir. In 2008, evidence was presented in the International Criminal Court of Justice that showed that "Al-Bashir committed the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur." The crimes against humanity include "murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape." [ accessed Dec. 8, 2010] Warrants for his arrest have been issued by the International Criminal Court.

PA TV News reports that a member of the Fatah Central Committee, Azzam Al-Ahmad, was sent by Abbas to deliver a personal letter to the Sudanese president. In it, Abbas wrote that the Palestinian people "stand side by side with the brother country Sudan." The Palestinians, wrote Abbas, "emphasize" their "complete willingness to stand with Sudan in everything it wants and in the way it wants."

Click to view the PA TV News report on Abbas's letter to President Omar Al-Bashir.

The following is the excerpt from the PA TV News report on Abbas's support to the Sudanese president:

PA TV News host: "President Mahmoud Abbas's envoy delivered to member of Fatah Central Committee, Azzam Al-Ahmad, a written letter from His Excellency [Abbas] to his Sudanese counterpart [President] Omar Al-Bashir... Al-Ahmad said that President Mahmoud Abbas expressed in his letter the Palestinian people's support for the efforts of the Sudanese leadership in the face of the dangers that threaten Sudanese unity."
[TV news shows Al-Bashir reading Abbas's letter]
Azzam Al-Ahmad, member of Fatah Central Committee: "President Abbas's letter says that the Palestinian people and its leadership stand side by side with the brother country Sudan, and that they have complete faith in the wisdom of President Omar Al-Bashir in coping with these dangers. We emphasize our complete willingness to stand with Sudan in everything it wants and in the way it wants, in order to support the unity of the land of Sudan and its people."
[PA TV (Fatah), Nov. 28, 2010]

The True Face Of Israeli Racism

Steven Plaut

Allow us to introduce you to young Kochav Segal Halevi. The 26-year-old Israeli is receiving death threats. In fact, he had to go into hiding. His offense? He purchased an apartment in the Arab town of Ibillin, not far from Haifa.

The Arabs there do not like the idea of their town being polluted by the presence of a Jew. I mean, one Jew and there goes the neighborhood. Arabs who sell property to Jews have similarly been threatened and attacked. And of course the moderates from the Palestinian Authority routinely torture and execute Arabs who sell to Jews. I mention this because the leftist media in Israel and in the world are, as usual, up in arms over supposed Israeli Jewish racism against Arabs.

Yes, there are Jewish closed communities in Israel, some of them religiously observant, where one must be accepted by admissions committees, and they tend to refuse membership to Arabs "to preserve the character of the community." (In religious communities, non-religious Jews get barred as well. Other communities, including kibbutzim, have age and marital status restrictions.)

But the reality is that, by and large, Israeli Arabs can live in just about any Jewish area in the country, while Jews cannot move into any Arab town, village or neighborhood. Jews cannot move into the Arab areas because they will be murdered if they move there. Every Israeli understands these unwritten "rules of the game."

In fact, Jews often risk their lives just passing through Arab areas, as a group of four Jewish Hebrew University students discovered during a recent weekend when they were almost lynched after making a wrong turn into an Arab neighborhood next to the campus.

Arabs from (Arab) Nazareth routinely buy housing in (Jewish) Upper Nazareth, but Jews from Upper Nazareth never purchase property in (Arab) Nazareth, knowing they'd be killed if they did. During the pogroms by Galilee Arabs in the summer of 2000, Arabs invaded Upper Nazareth and attacked Jews there. The Jews of Upper Nazareth did not attack Arabs in Nazareth. So who are the racists there?

More generally, the new party line of the radical Left is that, yes, Arabs must be permitted to live anywhere they want among Israeli Jews, but no, Jews must be prevented from ever moving into areas the Left regards as "Arab" - i.e., places where Jews do not belong. Hebrew University's tenured leftists and their jihadi fellow travelers have been leading the marches in Jerusalem to prevent Jews from moving into neighborhoods inside Jerusalem regarded by the Left as areas where Jews are regarded as "intruders."

Many parts of the Galilee today have Arab majorities. The Jews in Carmiel and Safed, to name but two towns, feel they are under demographic siege. Much of the local opposition to Arabs moving into those towns is based on the fact that violence and hostilities have broken out whenever significant numbers of Arabs moved to neighborhoods there. After all, we are in the middle of a war and the local Arabs, by and large, openly identify with the country's enemies.

The anti-Israel Left sees "racism" in calls to restrict Arabs moving into the Jewish towns of the Galilee, but has never expressed an iota of criticism about the violent threats that prevent Jews from moving into Arab areas. Those folks have had nothing to say about the plight of young Halevi. That's not racism, you see.

The Left also is completely silent about the violent attacks by Arabs against right-wing Jewish protesters who hold marches in some Arab towns, like Umm al-Fahm, the seat of the Israeli Arab pro-jihad Islamofascist movement (a movement that openly identifies with the Hamas). After all, those Jewish marchers are violating the anti-Jewish sensitivities of the local Arabs.

Of course, when gay pride marches are held in Jewish religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem (but never, mind you, in Muslim neighborhoods there), no leftist thinks those marchers should be expected to respect local sensitivities.

It is true that threats against Jews, which effectively prevent Jews from living in Arab areas in the Galilee and Negev and elsewhere, are not formal and officially proclaimed. Nevertheless, everyone in the country understands the threats of violence that operate against Jews seeking to live in Arab areas.

Again, the leftist knee-jerk response to Jewish "invasions" of areas where "Jews do not belong" has been to demand that the Jews be evicted. Arabs routinely move into many Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa and there have been virtually no incidents of violence against them. Meanwhile the Left keeps insisting that any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority must involve the complete eviction of all Jews living in the West Bank. Arabs will be free to live in Israel after any such "peace deal," but Jews must be prohibited from living in what could become "Palestinian areas."

So who are the real racists? Where is the real apartheid?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"Forging On"

Arlene Kushner

Haifa Police District Chief Superintendent Ahuva Tomer, 53, who was grievously injured in the Carmel Forest fire, has passed away. She was so badly burned, not only over her skin, but with heat having seared her lungs, that I believe it is appropriate to say in this instance her passing might be considered a blessing. Her suffering, had she lived, would have been immense. She is to be saluted for her bravery and her devotion to her job. The JPost had this to say about her today:

"Those who knew her well say that throughout her police service, Tomer’s personal warmth and self-effacing humor, coupled with her professionalism and absolute dedication to the personal security of Haifa’s residents, made her one of the most esteemed and popular police commanders in Israeli history...Her determination to manage crises from the field rather than the office...has been held up by her commanders and subordinates alike as model leadership conduct."

That "refusal to stay in the office" has now led to her death.


I have picked up comments from experts in forestry who say that a reasonable amount of recovery of the Carmel Forest can be expected over time even if no re-planting is done. The pines of the Carmel region have cones that respond to heat by splitting open and scattering their seed -- causing new trees in large numbers to sprout. Additionally, some of the larger trees had roots so deep that they will have survived and in time will regenerate tree growth.

Work in the forest will be necessary to facilitate this to the maximum. But I'm reading that it might be appropriate to wait a year to see what grows naturally before new planting is done.

If you haven't yet made a donation towards fire recovery, and are still considering doing so, you might want to consider helping people first.


The Haifa Fund -- which I mentioned in my last post: -- is attending to the immediate needs of people who have suffered from the fire, lost their homes, etc.

Another venue for donations is The World Mizrachi Movement Carmel Forest Emergency Fund:

Their assistance will go to families bereaved by the fire, and to the destroyed Yemin Orde -- a youth village that is a residence and school for troubled or disadvantaged youth.

(If you donate here, clarify in the "comments" that you are donating for the fire emergency fund.)


Prime Minister Netanyahu -- whose popularity is up since the fire crisis -- is appointing a team for Carmel rehabilitation, headed by Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg. He says he is seeking to make the rehabilitation process "as short as possible."

There are three missions, he explained: "to return home the people who were evacuated and to care for those who were harmed; to rebuild those homes which were destroyed and restore infrastructure; and to assure the rehabilitation of Mount Carmel."

Then he addressed head-on what (some) people are thinking, if not saying: "Two of these missions are immediate. And when I say immediate, I do not mean months or years from now, as was the case with the Gaza Strip settlements. We want a different type of treatment here -- very quick and very efficient."

Let it be so!


Some 250 homes plus other structures were destroyed in the fire -- many others were damaged -- with Yemin Orde, Kibbutz Beit Oren, and the Ein Hod artists' village hit the hardest.

The Cabinet has approved an emergency aid package of 60 million shekels.

Temporary compensation of 2,500 shekels (close to $700) per person for purchasing basic necessities will be provided for those who cannot return home within a month. The prime minister has instructed the Construction and Housing Ministry to provide mobile homes for those now homeless; Welfare and Social Services Ministry will increase social services in the area.


Netanyahu is not eager to address the issue of who is responsible for Israel's weakness in firefighting capacity. Avoiding the question of whether he will appoint a government committee of inquiry, he says he is focused on rehabilitation, and on building a better firefighting capacity now.

The Knesset, however, may be inclined to push for a formal inquiry. Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) has called for a formal commission of investigation, declaring that "If we don't pay attention to what occurred and fearlessly investigate it, then we will not learn the necessary lessons."

Don't know that a civilian Winograd Committee (which is what Braverman is calling for) is the way to go. But he is certainly correct that we as a nation have many failings to address head-on. Unfortunately, it all becomes so politicized.

Right now fingers are being pointed at Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), as his ministry oversees the firefighting infrastructure. But Yishai, attempting to duck, claims that he made requests for additional funds that were ignored by the Finance Ministry, headed by Yuval Steinitz (Likud). Yishai even referred back to former Prime Minister Sharon, who had established weak policies on the matter. On it goes -- there's lots more -- and it's not a pretty picture.

A report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss -- drafted before the Carmel fire -- will be released very shortly; the Knesset State Control Commission will hold hearings on its findings.


Saying that international assistance to Israel during the Carmel fire crisis "should serve as a model for additional collaborations in the region," Netanyahu has now also proposed a regional fire extinguishing force that would additionally assist in cases of natural disaster. He has communicated with the Greeks, Egyptians, and Jordanians regarding this plan, and is clearly looking for an improvement in relations with Turkey.

Can emergency assistance be parlayed into something more positive with regard to our relationship with our neighbors? Obviously, that is what our prime minister is hoping. Unfortunately, the possibilities remain dim.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that the Turkish readiness to send two firefighting planes to help Israel was in the nature of a humanitarian act and does not substantially change the situation.

Speaking to the Turkish parliament today, he said:

"If anyone wants to turn a new page, they must first admit their crime... apologize and pay compensation."

(This, of course, is with regard to the incident last May in which "activists" sailing on the Mavi Marmara -- part of the flotilla that left from Turkey and was attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza -- attacked Israeli soldiers when they boarded the ship after it refused to change direction. The attack was obviously premeditated, and the soldiers' self-defense resulted in the death of nine Turkish citizens.)

"And we are also saying that the embargoes -- which have been relaxed but that's not enough -- must be lifted.

"If we see these steps being taken, then we will evaluate the situation..."

According to AFP (Agence France-Presse) news agency, diplomats from Israel and Turkey met in Geneva over the last couple of days to try to smooth over relations between the two countries. AFP says:

"The two sides are reportedly seeking a deal, under which Israel would apologize over the raid and compensate the families of victims, while Turkey would agree to send back its ambassador to Tel Aviv."

Let's hope AFP is wrong, for an Israeli apology would be revolting. There is no comment from the Israeli government.


And Egypt? Seems they're having a problem with sharks coming into shallow water and attacking tourists in the Sharm el-Sheikh area at Nama Bay. One shark bit off the arm of a snorkeling tourist. According to an Israeli shark expert in Eilat, this is likely happening because over-extensive deep-water fishing has deprived the sharks of food, driving them into shallow water.

But that's not the way the Egyptians are seeing it. Said South Sinai Governor Muhammad Shousha, according to an Egyptian state news site:

"What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm."

The Israeli response-- that the claims were "too ludicrous" to comment on -- is appropriate. But how, pray tell, does Israel establish better relations in the face of a mindset such as this?


Last Friday, Brazil recognized a Palestinian state, and yesterday Argentina did the same, recognizing a "free and independent" Palestinian state based on 1967 borders (sic). The Argentinean Foreign Ministry said this recognition was designed to help "definitively advance the negotiation process that will lead to the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East." Uruguay has announced intention to do the same in 2011.

Israel has expressed "regret and disappointment," saying:

"Recognition of a Palestinian state is a violation of the interim agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, which established that the statue of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be discussed and solved through negotiations."

Clearly, such international moves as this encourage PA obstinacy and foster the fallacious thinking of its leaders, to whit, that they can have it all without making any compromise.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reportedly preparing a major statement on the peace process. Mindful of the length of this posting, I will table discussion of this and much more for the next posting.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How Much Land is Enough?

Ruth R. Wisse

Before you begin reading this, please have before you on screen, paper, or wall, a reliable full-scale map of the Middle East, one stretching from Morocco to Afghanistan, from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Aden. You will note that the territory covering 5.25 million miles belongs to states of the Arab League—18 independent Arab states and three part-Arab Muslim states, Mauritania, Somalia, and Djibouti. There is one holdout in that hegemony: Along the Mediterranean, south of Lebanon, east of Egypt, and west of Jordan, is the 8,000 square mile Jewish state of Israel—the only Jewish homeland that ever was and ever will be. The population of Israel, 7 million, is 20 percent Arab. The ratio of Arab to Jewish land is 640:1. If I were an Arab Muslim in, say, Saudi Arabia (830,000 square miles, population 23 million) with its wealth of oil fields along the Persian Gulf, I might wonder why Jews, who blend ethnicity and religion just as Arab Muslims do, should claim so little land when we cover so much. Why does my country house two holy cities—Mecca and Medina—whereas Jews claim but one—Jerusalem, site of the Temple of Solomon and Herod? What accounts for the astonishing disparity between how much land the Arabs got in history and how little was left to Jews?

Were I a Palestinian Arab citizen of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (34, 495 square miles, population 5.8 million), with its magnificent city of Petra, I would wonder why we didn’t federate with the Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank when that territory was in our possession until 1967? Why didn’t we settle our refugees as the Jews did theirs in a territory one quarter the size of ours? Since the number of Arab refugees from Israel equaled the number of refugee Jews fleeing Arab lands, why didn’t we accept this population exchange? Why did we join the Arab wars on Israel with the aim of driving the Jews into the sea?

As an Arab in Egypt (386,874 square miles, population 74 million), I’d be troubled by the Arab movies I saw on television, one charging the Jews with world conspiracy, the other showing a cabal of Orthodox Jews slitting the throat of an Arab boy, pouring his blood into a basin, and making Passover matzah that they boast tastes much better than the ordinary kind. Why does our media repeat and recreate these anti-Semitic images, even as we object to anything that touches Muslim honor? Why are we fed this scummy hatred of Jews instead of being encouraged to visit Israel and to study Hebrew?

And then there’s Iran, not Arab but Muslim, hence not included in the above statistic (613,660 square miles, population over 65 million). Why does our leader rant at the Jews—“There was no Holocaust!” “There will be no Israel!” —when no Jew ever raised a hand against him? What purpose is served by this posturing against a country and a people so much smaller than ours? And why can’t we Muslims can’t solve our own rivalries instead of ganging up on a country that functions fairly well?

Not being an Arab or a Muslim, I can only wonder why students raised in those societies do not ask these questions, encouraging their governments to change their policies. More than that, I marvel at the fact that some of my colleagues apparently share the assumption that Arab and Muslim leaders are entitled to over one-tenth of the world’s land surface, while questioning the right of Jews to land about one-ninth the size of Syria. Do they really believe that Arabs and Muslims are innately so much worthier than Jews?

Much has changed in the Middle East during the past six decades, but one political feature remains disturbingly constant. The Arab League formed in 1945 to prevent the emergence of Israel, launching the most lop-sided war in human history, a war that continues hot and cold to the present day, pitting multiple non- and anti-democratic regimes against the Jewish State.

Scapegoating Israel and the Jews became a means of deflecting attention from the mounting failings and weaknesses of those regimes, very much the way that scapegoating the Jews served some Christian and anti-Semitic rulers in their time. Arab leaders who sought peace with Israel, such as King Abdullah I of Jordan and Anwar Sadat of Egypt, were assassinated by rivals. Religious and secular factions competed with one another over whose aggression against Israel was bloodier and more intimidating.

Moreover, the war against Israel required the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs to permanent refugee status, lest their productive redeployment mean (as Cairo radio put it in 1957) “the final disposal of a moral asset.” The Arab world fueled its war against Israel with the permanent misery of Palestinian Arabs—and ascribed that misery to the “oppressor Jews” in a more perfect moral inversion than any literary Satan ever proposed. Postmodernism adores moral inversions, which may be why some Harvard professors have so eagerly joined the “devil’s party.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Look again at the full-scale map. Keep it always within reach and often within sight. Don’t let any course or discussion of the Middle East proceed except in its presence. And if the need arises, ask why Arabs and Muslims think they deserve odds greater than 640:1.

Ruth R. Wisse is Peretz Professor Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature.

Hand Book Shows ICNA's True Goals

IPT News
December 6, 2010

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is preaching a global Caliphate and Islamic Shari'a law over America to its members, according to the 2010 ICNA Member's Hand Book. This is a very different message than the group's public outreach efforts, and contradicts claims that the organization is a tolerant, mainstream Islamic group.
As the hand book spells out, the organization's ultimate goal is "the Establishment of Islam" as the sole basis of global society and governance. It also encourages members to deceive people in its proselytizing campaign to help fulfill this goal. This aim is one that ICNA has been actively pursuing as the group has set its sights on America's constitutional separation of religion and state.
It's not the first example of radicalism by one of America's largest Muslim organizations. ICNA's magazine has featured interviews with terrorist leaders in Pakistan, called on youth to fight abroad in Kashmir, and honored like-minded extremist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and South Asia's Jamaat-e-Islami. Concerns have also been expressed about 5 young members of the group's Virginia mosque, who were arrested and convicted on terrorism charges after attempting to link up with and fight for Pakistani terror groups in December 2009.

As the hand book explains, ICNA doesn't just believe that religion is a private affair. "Establishment of the Religion" extends beyond the individual and family and into the society, state, and world. "These words [Establishment of the Religion] include not only practicing the religion in individual and collective life and propagating its true teaching to others, but also striving to make this Deen [religion] a way of life for all," the hand book reads.

ICNA's charter is even more explicit. It calls for the "establishment of the Islamic system of life" in the world, "whether it pertains to beliefs, rituals and morals or to economic, social or political spheres."

For ICNA, this means being the American branch of a global phenomenon that they refer to as the 'Islamic Movement.' The 2010 Hand Book notes, branches of this movement "are active in various parts of the world to achieve the same objectives. It is our obligation as Muslims to engage in the same noble cause here in North America."
Working in an 'Islamic Movement' culminates in an Islamic super-state, the Caliphate, the hand book says. Believers have an obligation to strive to reestablish a collective body of Muslims worldwide, organized into the super-state under the direction of a Caliphate and Islamic law. The group wants "the united Muslim Ummah [community] in a united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah in accordance with the laws of shari'ah."

While these ideas may have been popularized decades before by the Muslim Brotherhood and South Asian radicals in Jamaat-e-Islami, ICNA is emphasizing them today in its education and membership.

The group also realizes that achieving its aim is a slow process and involves several stages. In a section called, "Levels of work by the Islamic Movement," ICNA lists five stages to attain a global Caliphate. The group advocates spreading its view of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, starting with the individual and family, and then implementing the "Establishment of the Religion" in the society, state, and global level.

In the early stages, members pass through the "Tarbiyah Process," an education consisting of radical literature promoting Islam in place of Western systems at later stages in the Islamic Movement. For example, the group advocates that members read Fathi Yakin's To Be A Muslim, a book which declares that "true commitment requires every Muslim to dedicate his or her life in a jihad to establish and maintain a system of Islamic governance." Likewise, the book pits Muslims against non-Muslims, by declaring all non-Islamic political and social systems to be contrary to Islam. As Yakin declares, "The adoption and adaptation of capitalist, socialist, communist or other manmade systems, either in whole or in part, constitutes a denial of Islam and disbelief in Allah the Lord of the worlds."

At the "Societal Level," ICNA advocates Islamist solutions to society's problems while providing social services and proselytizing to non-Muslims. Often, this is done in a deceptive way, such as through the organization's WhyIslam branch. On one hand, the hand book openly states that "WhyIslam is a subdivision of the Dawah [proselytizing] Department" that "works to promote Islam among non-Muslims." However, the document instructs ICNA members to state a different mission by WhyIslam to non-Muslims, one that wants to "build a bridge of understanding between Muslims and Non-Muslims" and "to educate the American public with accurate information of Islam."

In the next stage, called the "State Level," Islam gains traction in a larger segment of society" and "a good part of the society's thinking individuals join the movement. Then it may move to establish an Islamic society, obedient to Allah's commands."
The struggle then reaches the "Global Level" with worldwide ambitions. "Wherever the Islamic movement succeeds to establish true Islamic society, they will form coalitions and alliances. This will lead to the unity of the Ummah [Muslim nation] and towards the establishment of a Khilafah [Caliphate]," the book says in the section, "Levels of work by the Islamic Movement."

While this may seem like a farfetched concept of world domination, it is actually the same philosophy embodied by the group that ICNA admits founded it. Jamaat-e-Islami [JI], a radical South Asian group committed to the same purposes of a regional and then global Caliphate, promotes an identical message of Islamist domination of society, government, economics, and culture. ICNA maintains its connection to the group with a senior member of the JI from India, Yusuf Islahi, teaching in the organization's headquarters. Likewise, the 2010 hand book and other membership reading lists repeatedly emphasize the radical literature of JI's founder, Sayyid Abul 'Ala Maududi.

Maududi's books, like Let Us Be Muslims, are regular features in the group's education about replacing secular governments with Islamic ones. "Briefly speaking, it would be enough to state that the real objective of Islam is to remove the lordship of man over man and to establish the kingdom of God on Earth," declares Maududi in Let Us Be Muslims. He goes on to promote destroying non-Islamic governments, stating, "the duty devolves on you that wherever you are, in whichever country you live, you must … snatch away the power of legislation and lordship from those who do not fear God and are unbridled. And then taking over the leadership and superintendence of God's servants, conduct the affairs of the government in accordance with God's laws."
In Witness Unto Mankind, another book on ICNA's reading list, Maududi discusses how Islam will bring about the destruction of Western political and social systems. With the rise of Islamic political power, "secularism will lose all credibility and authority. Their philosophy and world-view, their economic and political ideologies, will prove fake and spurious when confronted by your truth and right conduct," he states. "The forces that today belong to the secular camp will, one by one, break away and join the camp of Islam. A time will, then, come when communism will live in fear of its very survival in Moscow itself, when capitalist democracy will shudder at the thought of defending itself even in Washington and New York, when materialist secularism will be unable to find a place even in the universities of London and Paris, when racialism and nationalism will not win even one devotee even among the Brahmans and Germans."

This militancy has led countries like Bangladesh to ban all of Maududi's books and arrest leading JI members. Pakistan has followed suit, arresting other JI leaders in anti-militancy operations. India has also banned the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the former student branch of JI in that country, for its connection to al-Qaida and domestic terrorist operations.

ICNA's message in 2010 reinforces its long-held belief in spreading Islamist ideals, which it believes will culminate in a Caliphate. While its benevolent face preaches social justice and charity work, the goals it espouses to members tell a very different story.

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Diminishing Flames"

Arlene Kushner

With the help of the "supertanker" that dropped a combination of water and fire retardant on the Carmel fire during the night, it is hoped that the fire is now under control, although not yet completely out. After consulting with relevant officials, PM Netanyahu (who has stayed on top of the situation throughout) has decided to cancel the arrival of additional planes from international sources.


At the end of this post I will provide ways in which you can donate to help with rehabilitation and restoration. Half of the Carmel Forest, which is managed by the Nature and Parks Authority, has been destroyed -- a combination of natural growth and trees planted by the Jewish National Fund over the years. There has been a loss of thousands of trees that were over a hundred years old; the fire also destroyed shrubs that were unique to the area.

The bulk of the restoration work will fall now to JNF. Explained Eli Stenzler, JNF Chair:

"[After the fire dies down] we will go tree by tree to make sure they are not still burning. After the flames are put out, our foresters will go tree by tree again to see what can be saved and what has to be replanted. We will replant oak trees, but also almond and pomegranate trees so that people can have shade but also see fruit."

He indicated that it was still too early to tell how long it would take for the trees and greenery to grow back, but that the time required would certainly be substantial.

“It could take dozens of years, but we know how to do it. We have some of the best experts in the world whose specialty is rehabilitating forests after fires. The areas that burned during the Second Lebanon War [five years ago] are green again.”

The animals from the Hai Bar refuge are safe.

The well-know Carmel Forest Spa Hotel was protected from flames and stands intact.

I neglected to mention yesterday that Ein Hod, which suffered severe damage, is an artists' colony. Losses there were very keenly felt.

Police Chief Ahuva Tomer is still fighting for her life but has stabilized a bit.


As a result of incorrect information I received yesterday, I had indicated that the prison guard cadets who were killed in the fire were mostly Druse. Someone in the Haifa area has informed me of my error, and I stand corrected. My source tells me there were three Druse, one Muslim, and the rest were Jews.


Of course, the accusations, the self-defense, and the finger-pointing have begun with regard to whose fault it was that Israel's firefighting equipment and firefighting crews were inadequate. I do not wish to consider this extensively now, but may well return to it.

Quite frankly, Israelis are shaking their heads at this sad state of affairs and saying, "That's Israel." A failure to do long term planning is almost a trademark of Israeli governments. (If there had been sufficient attention paid even five years ago to the possibility that we might face a drought, and had adequate desalination plants been constructed, we would have sufficient water now. But as it is, we don't.)

In this instance there are actually two issues. One is the sense that life, and trees, and homes, may have been lost that might have been saved had Israel been better prepared. It's a fairly unbearable thought. Although I myself have doubts -- because of the dry conditions and the high winds that prevailed -- as to whether we necessarily would have been able to stop the fire before it became lethal, even with better equipment and more firefighting staff. What might have -- should have -- been achieved is a lesser degree of damage. (And I'll have more to say about the difficulty of stopping the fire below.)

JPost editor David Horovitz addresses this issue in his piece, "The impotent 'if only' of our northern inferno":

"[Fire Service spokesman Hezi] Levy said some firemen and women had to be pulled out of the field against their will by their commanders after hours at the front, simply to take a short break, rest, eat and drink a little.

“'They are working utterly without concern for themselves,' said another senior fire officer late on Friday night.

"In a series of public appearances on Friday and on Saturday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu repeatedly praised the 'divine heroism,' the spirit of sacrifice, displayed by the firefighters. By them and all who fought alongside them.

"...Such heroism, indeed, such willingness to sacrifice and such resilience have long since been a dependable characteristic of Israel’s response to emergency.

"...Time and again, when required to pull together, this country has risen to the challenge. And the emergencies never seem to let up.

"...The people of Israel are capable of uniting in times of crisis,” said Netanyahu several times.

"If that heroism, resilience and unity have been one source of comfort, amid a fire-zone described by eyewitnesses as 'apocalyptic,' a second source has been the scale and speed of the international response to Israel’s pleas for help.

"Often, in recent years, it has been Israel that has stretched out a hand to other nations in distress, to the victims of natural disaster – most recently to earthquake victims in countries including Haiti and Turkey.

"This time the roles were reversed, and the international community has not failed us.

"...Netanyahu amended his mantra on Saturday night to reflect the remarkable international solidarity: 'The people of Israel are united, and lots of the nations of the world are united with us,' he said.

"...Once the flames are finally doused by all the local and international heroes, and the heart-wrenching funerals endured, the dark side of this unprecedented national disaster will have to be confronted head-on.

"Chiefly, it appears thoroughly unconscionable that the Fire Services’ repeated entreaties for greater budgets – to replace and supplement equipment and bolster manpower from the current 1,400 to 2,400 – have been rebuffed for years.

"...Netanyahu said on Saturday that there was 'no shame' once this blaze had gathered intensity – borne on the gusty winds, rapaciously devouring a countryside that has seen no rain for months – in Israel’s incapacity to fight alone, in our desperate, answered pleas for international assistance.

"Perhaps not. The 'shame' is that the inferno was not prevented or staunched far earlier.

"And the challenge now is to ensure that Israel moves efficiently and effectively forward to sophisticated self-sufficiency, from the impotent, fatal, heartbreaking “if only” of the northern inferno of December 2010.


Now, after the fact, there will be considerable enhancement of our capacity to fight fires. Netanyahu is talking about a fleet of planes that can combat fires solely from the air. We'll see.

And this leads us to another concern: There is now an acknowledgement that preparedness with regard to fighting fires is part of being prepared for the next war in the north. Once Hezbollah aims rockets our way, there will be fires started at multiple sites, and we had better be able to put them out quickly.

This unbearably painful episode may have been our wake-up call on this front.


Now as to the other reason why staunching the Carmel fire was difficult: Arson.

I had alluded yesterday to the fact that there was not one fire, but several fires in the forest, far enough away from each other so that it would be extremely unlikely that they were started by sparks carried in the wind.

Since writing that, I have uncovered specific instances of suspected arson being reported in the Carmel Forest area. Firebombs have been thrown in various sites; the IDF has a video of a truck leaving an area where a fire started; etc. At a Friday night emergency press conference at Haifa University, Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said, “There have been a number of arson attacks in the northern district.”

There is a tendency to call these incidents "copycat arson," but this downplays what is going on. We are familiar with the concept of "copycat" crimes or vandalism. A primary illegal or destructive act takes place and then certain mentally unbalanced people seek to mimic it, so that in days following the act is repeated in different locales.

But here, my friends, I believe we are dealing with arson as terrorism, perpetrated by Arabs who in the main are Israeli citizens.

According to Arutz Sheva:

"Radio Haifa interviewed several people who witnessed car horn-honking and other acts of public celebration in the Arab village of Furadis, south of Haifa, after news of the tragedy became known Thursday.

"According to the report, Arab citizens uploaded to a Facebook account gruesome photographs of charred bodies of victims. Other Arabs expressed their feelings by clicking 'like.' The police are said to be investigating the matter and the Facebook page is said to have been closed.

"However, the pictures have already begun making the rounds worldwide. A group called 'Mujahedeen of Palestine,' identified with Al-Qaeda, put the pictures of the bodies on a YouTube video. The video includes text that says 'Muhammad's lions' came out at night to set alight the land of the 'occupiers.'"

Khaled Abu Toameh wrote today in the JPost about the gleeful response to the fire in much of the Arab world. One of the statements he shared from the Arab media (not clear from precisely where) is this:

"Alahu Akbar! This is an effective weapon. We call on our Palestinian brothers to set fires to all forests." (Emphasis added)


While the Carmel Forest was the primary focus of the arson, it is important to point out that fires were also started across the country -- notably in the Jerusalem Forest, but in other locales as well: in Gilo, close to Nazareth, etc. etc.. Depending on the source, it might be said that there were a handful of such incidents, or actually dozens.


And then there is the question of whether the primary fire may have resulted from arson as well. I was ready, in the beginning, to accept the official verdict of carelessness by two teenage boys from the Druse village of Usfiya. It was said that they had a picnic and didn't douse the flames from their cooking fire. But now I've uncovered too much to feel certain of anything.

There is, for example, this from a CNN report on Friday:

"Israeli police said Friday that they suspect arson in the wildfire that has killed at least 41 people and injured 17 in northern Israel over the past two days.

"Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld cited 'suspicious objects' found Thursday. He did not elaborate."

While, according to Arutz Sheva:

"...Later reports said that while most of the residents of Usfiya are Druse, the youths who were arrested are Arabs." This is not, to my mind, a final, definitive statement, but it raises yet more questions. (Druse are loyal Israeli citizens and would not likely be suspected of arson as terrorism.)

The father of the boys, who have been taken into police custody, claims they were framed, and that his sons were taken from their home "as if they were terrorists." Is this simply a distraught father speaking, or did he pick up on a police attitude because there is more going on than what we've been told?


All of this requires a hard look because there is an official tendency to play down accusations against Israeli Arabs for fear of exacerbating tensions.


Following are some places for sending donations to help recovery after the Carmel Forest fire:

To the JNF Forest Fire Emergency Campaign.

Friends of Israel Fire Fighters, managed by JNF.

The Haifa Foundation. Go here for information on needs and ways to donate. About a billion NIS are needed. In the US, it's the American Associates of the Haifa Foundation. Good to earmark your donation for the fire relief.

Jewish Federations Fire Relief Fund.

The Orthodox Union Emergency Forest Fire Fund


Exploration of other issues that I had hoped to write about today will be tabled again for a couple of days hence. It is Chanukah, and tomorrow is a day with my grandchildren. (Schools are closed for Chanukah.)

Since it is Chanukah, let me close with this music video many people are enjoying:!


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

see my website

Sunday, December 05, 2010

PM Addresses Nation Regarding the Fire in Northern Carmel

Avi Yellin

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Saturday evening at a Haifa University press conference that following the tragic loss of 41 lives in the Carmel fires which began Thursday morning, his main goals were preventing the loss of more lives and putting the fire out from the air with international assistance.

Netanyahu said that thanks to the cooperation of the firefighters, police, Magen David Adom and other volunteers, the first goal of saving lives had successfully been reached. The prime minister also referred to the help Israel received from other nations, including Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, as "heartwarming," clarifying that there was "no shame" in receiving foreign assistance in putting out a fire of this magnitude.

"We've helped other countries in the past, now they're helping us," he said.

Netanyahu added that the Boeing supertanker plane that was scheduled to arrive overnight at approximately 1am would greatly help in fire fighting efforts due to its ability to fly at night.

He added that the number of planes coming from other countries will be doubled or even tripled in the coming days.

Netanyahu further stated that he intends to "cut the bureaucracy" in order to get displaced residents of the North back to their homes as soon as possible.


Arlene Kushner

The dense forest area on the mount of Carmel, at the edge of Haifa, was a well known and magnificently beautiful spot. Until a couple of days ago, it looks liked this: But, as most of you undoubtedly know, a fire started in that forest on Thursday, that turned into a raging inferno -- without a doubt the worst fire Israel has ever had to cope with:


When the winds blew, this inferno advanced at a rapid rate as a wall of fire reaching 40 meters (that's more than 130 feet) high. When I learned of this before Shabbat, it sent shivers through me, but I tell you frankly that it's difficult for me to envision.


Now that Shabbat is over, I wanted to do this posting, providing basic information with as much clarity as I can achieve about this tragedy, which surely most of you are already aware of at one level or another.


Our grief, first is for the 42 persons (so far identified) who were lost in the fire. Forty one were prison guard cadets who were being rushed to the local Damon prison to help evacuate prisoners who might be at risk in the fire. Their bus was overwhelmed by the advancing fire and falling trees. Only two survived from that bus. Most of the dead were Druse. Additionally, a 16 year old volunteer firefighter, Eldad Rivan, who had rushed to join his unit, perished.

And for those who have been injured. Most notably, Haifa Police District Chief Superintendent Ahuva Tomer, who was in a police car following the bus with the cadets. She is now in Rambam Hospital in Haifa, fighting for her life, after having been burned over most of her body.

In all some 16 persons have been injured in the fire.


There is sadness for the suffering of those involved at a variety of levels -- the hardship of the firefighters and the residents of nearby communities who lost their homes.


And there is certainly grief that wildlife in the area have perished (although rescuers have tried to bring out as many as possible, especially from an animal reserve area at Hai Bar), and that some 5 million trees have been lost -- trees that may take as long as 40 years to be replenished -- over an area of some 12,500 acres (50,000 dunams). What a loss.


The initial fire is now thought to have been started by two brothers, aged 16 and 14, who carelessly started a bonfire near their home in the Druse town of Usfiya. They have been arrested.

But there is a strong belief that other secondary fires were lit by arsonists, as well. As one police officer explained:

"It is not a fire that is consuming an entire area. If you stand in one place you can see fires that are four or five kilometers apart. These were not set by a spark flying in the air." It is likely that we will be hearing more on this.


Clearly, the fire was far worse because of the drought we are currently enduring. The forest was bone dry.


Every possible resource available to Israel was called out to fight the fire and manage the emergency -- fire fighters, police and army personnel. Particularly distressing was the poor quality of the firefighting infrastructure and the lack of sufficient personnel. Israel simply was not prepared for this, and there will be a great deal more to say about this matter.

Prime Minster Netanyahu put out a call for help, and the international response has been exceedingly gratifying: Assistance has come in the form of personnel and equipment, including planes, helicopters and chemicals, first from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey and then from the UK, the US, Jordan, Egypt, Switzerland, Russia, Holland, France, Azerbaijan, Spain, Germany, and Romania. This has been most heartening.

In a talk to the nation tonight, PM Netanyahu said there is nothing to be ashamed of, that we had to call on international help. We should have been better prepared, but indeed there is no shame in having needed help. Israel is often the first nation in the world to respond to crises elsewhere. Good to know that there are those who will respond to us. The thought has already been raised that the goodwill generated by this event might have some diplomatic carryover, e.g., in our relations with Turkey.

The Foreign Ministry has been coordinating this international aid. (According to Danny Ayalon, deputy foreign minister, tonight, some of those who came to help us now had been recipients of our assistance in the past.)

Israel has also leased the huge "supertanker" plane from a US company, Evergreen; it can hold over 80,000 liters of water or firefighting chemicals, sixteen times the amount of the average firefighting plane. It is coming in from California, and I believe is due to arrive at about 1 AM this morning.

747 supertanker may be used at Gulf oil spill


Heartening, as well, to see how Israelis respond in the emergency with caring and selflessness. This is a typical Israeli pattern and a source of enormous pride. Many homes were opened -- especially in the Shomron (Samaria) -- to those who had to flee the fire.


As I write, the fire is dying down in some areas, but there is concern about winds that come up at night fanning the flames again. It is hoped that the arrival of the "supertanker" may make the critical difference. Not only is it the largest of firefighting planes, it is the only one able to operate at night. (I have no clue why this is so.)

People living in some areas -- Tirat Carmel, the Denya neighborhood of Haifa, Kfar Galim, Kibbutz Hahotrim and Moshav Megadim -- who had been evacuated, have now been permitted to return to their homes.

According to my information, other areas are still off limits -- Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, (where some houses have been destroyed) and Yemin Orde. The fire is still active on the eastern section of the mountain ridge -- around Usfiya, Daliat al-Karmel, Kibbutz Beit Oren (which has been significantly destroyed), and Hai Bar.

Undoubtedly, this will be updated tomorrow.

Other news and commentary will follow.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

see my website