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February 9, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Objects to Pakistan Freeing Nuke Salesman A.Q. Khan - Karen DeYoung (Washington Post)
    Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was released Friday from five years of house arrest for selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
    Officials said the Pakistani Interior Ministry will limit and monitor Khan's telephone calls, visitors and activities.
    However, U.S. officials sharply objected to Khan's release.
    Khan, 72, is revered in Pakistan as the father of the country's nuclear weapons program.
    See also U.S. Sees Dangers in Khan's Release - Bobby Ghosh (TIME)
    State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said Friday that Khan "remains a serious proliferation risk."
    Proliferation experts say his release could encourage others - including some in the Pakistani nuclear program - to follow his example.
    See also What Motivated A.Q. Khan? - Urs Gehriger (Die Weltwoche-Switzerland)

CIA: British Islamist Extremists Are Greatest Threat to U.S. - Tim Shipman (Telegraph-UK)
    The CIA has launched a vast spying operation in the UK to prevent a repeat of the 9/11 attacks being launched from Britain.
    U.S. officials believe that a British-born Pakistani extremist entering the U.S. under the visa waiver program is the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on American soil.
    The CIA stepped up its efforts after the Mumbai massacre laid bare the threat from Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has an extensive web of supporters in the UK.

France Ending Naval Mission Off Gaza (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office says a frigate deployed off Gaza is ending its mission to help fight arms smuggling and monitor a cease-fire.
    The helicopter carrier, sent to the region two weeks ago, will leave Saturday.

Israel's Case Ignored in Secret UK Government Memo - Leon Symons (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    An internal UK government briefing note on Israel's recent action in Gaza prepared by the Foreign Office and the Home Office's research and information unit is written almost entirely from the Palestinian perspective.
    The memo, headed: "The British government position on the situation in Gaza," contains only two mentions of Hamas and gives no explanation or context as to how or why Israel launched its operation on Dec. 27.
    See also UK Foreign Office Diplomat Arrested over "Anti-Semitic" Rant - Ben Leach (Telegraph-UK)
    Rowan Laxton, 47, an expert on the Middle East and head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office, allegedly shouted "f*****g Israelis," "f*****g Jews" while watching television reports of the Israeli attack in Gaza in the London Business School's gym on Jan. 27.
    He is also alleged to have said Israeli soldiers should be "wiped off the face of the earth" during the rant, which was overheard by staff and gym members.
    A complaint was made to police and Laxton was arrested for inciting religious hatred through threatening words and behavior.
    See also Rise in UK Anti-Semitic Attacks Worst in Decades - Mark Townsend (Observer-UK)
    Police patrols have been stepped up in Jewish neighborhoods following the most intense period of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain in decades.
    Anti-Semitic incidents are running at around seven a day.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Halts Aid to Gaza in Dispute with Hamas - Griff Witte
    The UN aid agency that serves more than half the residents of the Gaza Strip suspended humanitarian shipments on Friday, accusing Hamas of confiscating UN material for the second time in a week. The UN Relief and Works Agency said Hamas seized 10 trucks filled with rice and flour. Earlier in the week, the agency had accused Hamas of confiscating blankets and food from a UN warehouse. In a statement from New York, the world body said the suspension would remain in place "until the aid is returned and the agency is given credible assurances from the Hamas government in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts." John Ging, head of the relief agency in Gaza, said Hamas' actions had "crossed a red line." "We're not going to bring aid in here and let it be hijacked by Hamas or anyone else." (Washington Post)
  • Cyprus Ship Is Carrying Prohibited Weapons-Related Material from Iran
    A ship detained by Cyprus appears to be carrying banned weapon-related material from Iran prohibited under UN resolutions, a senior Cypriot source said on Saturday. A UN panel monitoring compliance of sanctions said that on the basis of evidence provided, the Cyprus-flagged "Monchegorsk," sailing from Iran to Syria, is carrying a cargo that is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. (Reuters)
  • Arrests Made in Venezuela Synagogue Attack
    Seven Venezuelan police agents and four civilians have been arrested in connection with an attack on a synagogue that sparked international condemnation, investigators said on Sunday. President Hugo Chavez told Venevision TV on Sunday: "What a coincidence, the gang leader is a metropolitan police officer who for the last four years was the personal bodyguard of the synagogue's rabbi." (Reuters)
        See also Venezuela's Jews Fear More Attacks - Fabiola Sanchez
    As President Hugo Chavez intensifies his anti-Israel campaign, some Venezuelans have threatened Jews in the street and vandalized the largest synagogue in Caracas - where they stole a database of names and addresses. Now many in Venezuela's Jewish community fear the worst is yet to come. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Jews in South America Increasingly Uneasy - Juan Forero and Joshua Partlow
    In Argentina - which has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, about 250,000-strong - Jewish leaders describe a tense climate in which swastikas have been painted on Jewish schools, and graffiti demanding that Jews leave the country have been scrawled on walls. In Bolivia, President Evo Morales expelled the Israeli ambassador over the Gaza war. Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that outside of the Middle East, anti-Semitism has been most intense in Latin America. "There is no longer even an effort to differentiate between criticism of Israel and criticism of the Jewish people." (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA: Hamas Converts Hospitals into Jails - Roee Nahmias
    The Palestinian Health Ministry, run by the PA in the West Bank, accused Hamas Saturday of commandeering a number of hospital wards in Gaza and converted them into interrogation and imprisonment compounds. Hamas took control of wards in Shifa Hospital, as well as al-Nasser Hospital and the psychiatric hospital. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket that landed in the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday morning, a Kassam rocket hit a parking lot in a kibbutz, damaging several cars. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Air Force Strikes Hamas Targets in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Israeli aircraft struck Hamas outposts in Gaza early Monday in retaliation for Sunday's rocket fire on Israel. (Ynet News)
        More than 35 Kassam rockets, mortar shells, and Grad missiles have been fired at Israel since a cease-fire ended Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza over two weeks ago, the IDF said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Prisoner Exchange with Hamas Could Bring Down Abbas - Avi Issacharoff
    Senior PA and Fatah officials say an agreement to free abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit bodes ill for Mahmoud Abbas. Such a deal would free all the Hamas representatives now sitting in Israeli prisons. Hamas has a large majority in the parliament, which could meet and call for new elections. After securing a prisoner exchange deal and a "victory" against Israel in Gaza, Hamas would expect increased support.
        Arab papers have mentioned Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti as one of the prisoners who could be freed in the Shalit deal. However, even though Barghouti enjoys wide support among the Palestinian public, he would have a difficult time lashing out against Hamas, which secured his release. In new elections, Hamas could win the Palestinian presidential election, too. Israel would then be forced to deal with a Hamas-controlled PA in both the West Bank and Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Prosecution of Israel in International Criminal Court Seen Unlikely - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is reportedly looking into the possibility that the PA can initiate an ICC investigation into whether Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. However, such an outcome is considered "extremely far-fetched," says Dr. Robbie Sabel, a lecturer in international law at Hebrew University and former legal adviser to the Israel Foreign Ministry. First, the court would have to determine that either Hamas or the PA had sovereignty over Gaza. No Palestinian body has been permitted to join any international organization that implies statehood, and for the ICC case to be valid, they would have to be recognized as the sovereign rulers of Gaza and then be allowed to join the ICC.
        "But then, every person who is a citizen of this Hamas 'state' would be subject to the court's jurisdiction," said Sabel. "There's no way any Palestinian organization would subject its members to the jurisdiction of the court" because then any of their members who committed a crime could also be tried. "This attempt is a complete nonstarter...but they've already achieved their media goal," Sabel added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • No Choice But to Fight - Yossi Klein Halevi
    The Middle East conflict has been transformed from a nationalist struggle over the creation of a Palestinian state into an Islamist struggle against the existence of a Jewish state. Terror enclaves aligned with Iran - Hizbullah in the north, Hamas in the south - have formed on our borders. For the first time since the 1948 war, the Israeli home front has become the actual front. Meanwhile, an Iranian regime whose threats to destroy Israel have become so routine that they are scarcely reported anymore may be about to cross the nuclear threshold. And the notion that Israel's very existence is a moral affront is spreading, not only in Muslim countries but in the West.
        Most Israelis today want a two-state solution, but few believe it will end the conflict. Even many who oppose settlement-building no longer believe that settlements are the obstacle to peace. Instead, we've become convinced that the real obstacle remains the existence of a Jewish state in any borders. Since the collapse of the Oslo peace process, Israel has been caught in one ongoing war. Though the enemy repeatedly shifts, from Hamas to Hizbullah to Iran, the common aim is jihad, and its target is civilian Israel. The curse of Jewish history - the inability to take mere existence for granted - has returned to a country whose founding was intended to resolve that uncertainty.
        The fear of losing our ability to defend ourselves explains, in part, the motivation with which Israeli soldiers fought during the recent war in Gaza. Yet we know we have no choice but to fight this war we tried to avert. The writer, a fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land. (International Herald Tribune)
  • UN Increasingly Critical of Hamas, Softening on Israel - Joel Mowbray
    A UN agency's suspension Friday of aid into Gaza in response to armed Hamas militants on Thursday stealing hundreds of tons of food intended for Palestinians is the latest in a series of tougher stances against Hamas. Also last week, the UN reversed its earlier claims that the IDF had bombed a school in Gaza administered by UNRWA, reporting that in the incident, "the shelling, and all of the fatalities, took place outside rather than inside the school." Separately, Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special representative for children and armed conflict, said the organization will investigate the use by Hamas of children as human shields. (Fox News)
  • Observations:

    A War Against Hamas, Not Against the Palestinians - Mark Sofer (Indian Express-India)

    • One of the saddest aspects of the fighting in Gaza is that it never should have happened. We had reached a point where it was impossible to go on like this any longer. The southern part of our country had been under a barrage of rockets, missiles and mortar shells for over six years. Some 20,000-30,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilians saw up to 500,000 people permanently within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter. Over time, this is an impossible situation for any country to stomach.
    • Military confrontation must always be the last resort. We really and truly tried everything and in the past six months reached a truce brokered by Egypt, but the missiles hardly stopped for a day. In the last three days of the truce, there were another 300 rockets.
    • If anybody can believe for a minute that we had anything but the best of will and the best of intentions towards the Palestinians in Gaza, they need only look at the facts. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza without getting anything back. We did it solely to try and reignite the peace process. It cost us $2.5 billion; we were forced to take out 8,000 families who had been living there all their lives. Then the rockets restarted in all their fury.
    • The death of a Palestinian is as hurtful to me as a death of an Israeli - as long as they are completely uninvolved in Hamas. This was a war against Hamas, this was not a war against the Palestinians. We believe strongly that Palestinian society is the victim, as we are, of some of their own extremist leadership in Hamas.

      From an interview with Israel's Ambassador to India.

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