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February 19, 2009

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Islamist Arrested in Philippines over Plot to Attack Israeli, U.S. Embassies (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Police have arrested Muslim militant Muaweya Abubakar Masabpi, who allegedly was involved in deadly bombings in the southern Philippines and planned to attack the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila, officials said Wednesday.
    National police chief Jesus Versoza said Masabpi belongs to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and has worked in past attacks with the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah.

Yemenite Immigrants Arrive in Israel - Yael Branovsky (Ynet News)
    Ten immigrants from Yemen arrived in Israel Thursday by way of a third country. They include Said Ben-Israel, one of the Yemenite Jewish community's leaders who was attacked and a grenade was thrown at his house.

Egyptian Political Dissident Released - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
    Egypt's most prominent political dissident and a one-time presidential candidate, Ayman Nour, was unexpectedly released from prison on Wednesday.
    Nour was convicted in 2005 of forging signatures on petitions he had filed to create his party, in a case widely seen as politically inspired. He only needed 50 signatures, but turned in thousands.
    He would have been eligible for parole in July.

Dubai Plays Politics with Women's Tennis - Editorial (Washington Post)
    After Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer was denied a visa by Dubai, the only appropriate action for the Women's Tennis Association and the tournament's corporate sponsors (including Newsweek, a part of The Washington Post Co.) is to take the tournament elsewhere next year unless every legitimate competitor is admitted.
    See also Sweden to Play Israel in Empty Arena - Oliver Grassman (Reuters)
    Sweden will play their Davis Cup tennis first round tie against Israel next month in an empty arena in Malmo - where some 25% of the population are Muslim immigrants - because of security concerns, the Swedish news agency TT reported on Wednesday.

Hamas Prisoner Dies in PA Jail - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas supporter Muhammad Abed Haj, 30, from Jalkamus, near Jenin, was found dead in his prison cell last week. PA security officers said he had hanged himself, but Haj's family insists his death was the result of brutal torture.
    The latest case has prompted human rights activists to demand a full inquiry into numerous allegations of torture in PA prisons in the West Bank.
    Ra'fat Nasif, a Hamas spokesman in the West Bank, said the PA was holding more than 500 Palestinian "political prisoners" affiliated with Hamas.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Says It Will Unseal Gaza Only If Soldier Is Freed - Isabel Kershner
    Israel's security cabinet voted Wednesday to make the opening of Israel's border crossings with Gaza conditional on the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was seized in a cross-border raid and taken into Gaza by Hamas and other militant groups in June 2006. Hamas is demanding the release of as many as 1,400 Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails in return for the captive soldier. Israel is also seeking an end to rocket and mortar fire by Palestinians in Gaza against population centers in southern Israel, and a halt to weapons smuggling by Hamas. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Senators: Syria Must Change Behavior - Albert Aji
    Syria must change its behavior if it wants its relations with Washington to change, Democratic Sens. Benjamin Cardin and John Kerry said Wednesday during a visit to the region. The U.S. has criticized Syria for supporting militant groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah and has accused Syria of not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. After meeting with Assad, Cardin said the U.S. administration will be watching Syria's actions "very carefully." He blamed Syria for the deteriorated relations, saying Syria has isolated itself by sponsoring international terrorism, providing safe haven for terrorist organizations and Syria's "troubling relations with Iran." "Dialogue is important but actions speak louder than words," he added. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Europe Opens Covert Talks with "Blacklisted" Hamas - Anne Penketh
    European nations have opened a direct dialogue with Hamas. Two weeks ago, two French senators traveled to Damascus to meet Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, while three weeks ago, two British MPs met in Beirut with the Hamas representative in Lebanon, Usamah Hamdan. "Far more people are talking to Hamas than anyone might think," said a senior European diplomat. Hamdan said Wednesday that since the end of last year, MPs from Sweden, the Netherlands and three other western European nations had consulted with Hamas representatives.
        Political contacts with Hamas are banned under the rules of the international Quartet for Middle East peace on the grounds that the Palestinian faction remains committed to the destruction of Israel. The international community insists that the ban will only be lifted once the Islamists agree to recognize Israel and renounce violence. (Independent-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: War Crime Charges over Gaza Offensive Are "Legal Terror" - Tomer Zarchin
    War crimes charges brought abroad against Israeli soldiers and officers involved in operations in Gaza are nothing but "legal terrorism," IDF Col. Liron Liebman, who heads the military prosecution's international law department, told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Wednesday. There is little chance that war crimes charges abroad will end in conviction, since procedural issues will end up derailing the allegations before they reach that stage, Liebman told Ha'aretz. But that doesn't much matter to those bringing the charges since "the goal is achieved when the charges are publicized," he said.
        International law expert Yoram Dinstein said at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv last month that a ratio of three or four civilian deaths per combatant death was the norm in most wars. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli Justice Minister: "We Risked Troops' Lives to Protect Palestinians" - Aviad Glickman
    Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann told the Conference of Presidents Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces took every measure during the Gaza operation to prevent the killing of civilians. "We are in a reversed situation, in which the Israeli army defends the enemy's civilians," he said. Friedmann said the IDF obeyed international law, Israel did not commit any war crimes, and that many times Israeli soldiers put themselves at risk in order to avoid hurting civilians. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets into Israel Thursday morning. Also, Israel Defense Forces soldiers wounded a Palestinian attempting to plant a bomb near the Keren Shalom border crossing. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • One Month After the Gaza War - Leslie Susser
    A month after the Gaza war, Palestinians have fired nearly 50 rockets and mortars at civilian targets in the Gaza periphery. Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Hamas took a heavy beating in the war and that the Gaza-Israel border is on the verge of a long period of quiet. He sees the daily dribble of rocket fire as a pathetic attempt by Hamas to show it's still around, while Hamas keeps saying how close the sides are to a new 18-month lull.
        The view in the Israeli Cabinet and among the top brass of the Israel Defense Forces is that the war transformed Israeli deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas and in the region as a whole. In the war, Hamas' elaborate defense strategy against an Israeli incursion collapsed. The web of tunnels and booby-trapped buildings proved ineffectual, and in the fighting many Hamas fighters and field commanders were killed with minimal Israeli losses. The IDF estimate is that Hamas needs a long period of quiet to rebuild devastated military and civilian infrastructures. (JTA)
        See also How Successful Was Israel's Gaza Operation? - Stuart A. Cohen
    In Israel's Gaza operation, it was the Israeli side that declared a unilateral cease-fire. The Hamas leadership did not have to make any formal concession in order to bring about a cessation of the IDF onslaught. Hence, it could always claim that the attack had in fact failed, provided enough Hamas leaders survived to tell that tale - which was indeed the case. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Jihad TV in Europe - Mark Dubowitz and Roberta Bonazzi
    The Iranian-backed Hamas and Hizbullah are deploying terrorist television stations in their war against Western democracies. Thanks to Arab satellite companies, Hizbullah's al-Manar and Hamas' al-Aqsa beam their incitement and hatred into European living rooms, radicalizing Muslim immigrants throughout the Continent. Following a 2006 letter to then-President George Bush signed by a majority of the U.S. Senate, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Treasury Department designated al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity.
        In 2004, the EU and the governments of France, Spain and Holland determined that al-Manar violated a European law prohibiting incitement to hatred in broadcasting and European satellite providers Eutelsat, Globecast, Hispasat and New Skies Satellite ceased transmission of the station. Yet the Saudi-based, Arab League-owned Arabsat and the Egyptian government-owned Nilesat still allow al-Manar to broadcast incitement and violence to Europe's Muslim population. Al-Manar has become alarmingly popular with Europe's young Arabic-speaking Muslims. On one German television program, young Muslims in Berlin cited the station as a factor influencing their hatred of the U.S. and Jews. Mr. Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Ms. Bonazzi is executive director of the European Foundation for Democracy. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Separating Myths from Facts - Michael Gove
    There is a wave of public feeling which holds that Western nations that take up arms against terrorist enemies are guilty of near-criminal folly. Their actions will be horrifically self-defeating, the terrorists they target will only emerge strengthened. A wave of criticism hit Israel in the aftermath of the counterterrorist fighting in Jenin, when words such as "massacre" and comparisons with the Russian razing of Grozny bubbled to the surface. The Chechen action cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. In Jenin the total number of casualties was 75: 26 terrorists, 23 Israeli soldiers and 26 civilians. Each death a tragedy. But the reality of that grim arithmetic is that it does not add up to the massacre that was reported. As we consider the heart-rending suffering in Gaza, let us also root our reaction in hard, corroborated facts which in some cases are only now emerging firmly. The writer is a Conservative member of the British Parliament. (Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    What Israeli Identity Crisis? - Selwyn Freeman (Los Angeles Times)

    • The Los Angeles Times' Feb. 14 editorial, "Israel's Identity Crisis," questioning Israel's ability "to be both a Jewish state and a democratic state," is patently absurd. The suggestion that these objectives are mutually exclusive has no basis in reality. Israel was established with the aim of extending civil rights to all of its people (not just Jews). For the most part, despite ongoing threats from neighboring Arab and Muslim states, Israel has successfully realized this ambition. As the Times correctly states, Israeli Arabs "vote in free elections, criticize the government and run for public office, privileges denied to many of their brethren elsewhere in the region."
    • The suggestion that Israel's status as a democracy conflicts with the call by some politicians for loyalty oaths (which American schoolchildren recite every day) is ridiculous.
    • The Hamas charter openly calls for Israel's destruction and allows for coexistence among people of different religions only under the rule of Islam, so Arab Israeli citizens who support Hamas are actually supporting religious intolerance and the destruction of their own state. Can one imagine the response by the U.S. if American Muslims were to begin waving al-Qaeda banners and openly advocating the destruction of the U.S. and the murder of non-Muslim Americans? Israel's forbearance in the face of similar provocation is quite amazing.
    • Given the egregious human rights violations in Gaza and in much of the Arab and Muslim world, perhaps a better question for the Times would be if it's possible to be an Arab or Muslim state and a democracy.

      The writer is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia.

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