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July 15, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Human Rights in Syria: Six Thousand Political Prisoners - Lina Sinjab (BBC News)
    Today Syria is no longer isolated by the West. But the authorities show no sign of relinquishing the tight control which the Baath Party has exerted since it took power in a 1963 coup and banned all opposition.
    A campaign of arrests has left an estimated 6,000 people in jail as political prisoners.
    Meanwhile, about 400-450 people are subject to official travel bans, although the real number could be in the thousands, human rights groups say.
    "There is a continuous deterioration in the human rights situation in Syria," says lawyer and head of the Syrian Human Rights Organization Mohannad al-Hassani.

Two Somali-Americans Charged with Aiding Terror - Andrea Elliott (New York Times)
    Federal officials unsealed an indictment in Minneapolis on Monday charging two young Somali-Americans, Salah Osman Ahmed, 26, and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, with providing material support for terrorism.
    More than 20 young Americans are believed to have joined a militant Islamist group in Somalia, the Shabaab, that is affiliated with al-Qaeda.

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West Bank Cancels Leonard Cohen Concert in Protest Against Israel - Rachel Shabi (Guardian-UK)
    A Leonard Cohen concert planned in Ramallah on the West Bank in September has been cancelled.
    Cohen, who is not believed to have a large fanbase in the West Bank, was scheduled to play at the 736-seat Ramallah Cultural Palace, a day after appearing at the 55,000 capacity Ramat Gan stadium near Tel Aviv.
    "Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel's colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel," the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said in a statement.

Hamas Says Israel Dumping Aphrodisiac Gum on Gaza (AFP)
    Hamas claims that Israeli intelligence services are supplying Gaza with chewing gum that boosts the sex drive in order to "corrupt the young," an official said on Tuesday.
    He said Hamas has detained members of a gang that helped bring in the products. "They admitted during the investigation they were linked to the Zionist intelligence services," he said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama: Iran Post-Election Protests Could Affect Nuke Talks - Anderson Cooper
    President Obama said in an interview Monday: "Given the outrageous violence that we've seen directed against peaceful demonstrators post-election, the crackdown by hard-liners against journalists, the raiding of foreign embassies, it's not clear whether or not you have the kind of room in Iran that would walk through the door that we've left open for them to stand-down on nuclear weapons development and to be able to pursue a more peaceful path with their neighbors and abide by international norms."
        "I think that it's important for us to recognize that although the prospects of bilateral engagement may have been shifted as a consequence of this post-election activity, that we still have a multilateral tract with the Europeans and the Russians and the Chinese and others; that no matter what happened, we were going to have to mobilize to help obtain some sort of serious agreement with the Iranians and that diplomatic effort is going to continue....My hope is that they continue to see this as an opportunity. But obviously, you know, what's happened over the last several weeks raises serious questions."  (CNN)
  • Iran Executes Thirteen Sunni Rebels - Robert F. Worth
    Iranian authorities executed 13 members of the Sunni Muslim rebel group Jundallah by hanging Tuesday in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan. Iran has accused the U.S. of supporting Jundallah, which claims to be fighting on behalf of the Baluchi ethnic group in Iran and Pakistan. (New York Times)
  • Greek Telethon for Gaza Hospital a Scam - Jean Cohen
    A campaign in Greece to raise money to rebuild a Christian Palestinian hospital in Gaza allegedly destroyed by Israel appears to be a scam. For nearly a week in February, Greece's official state television network inundated viewers about a telethon on Feb. 9 to raise money to "rebuild the Christian hospital in Gaza that Israelis destroyed with their bombs" in January. The telethon included recorded video messages by Greek President Carolos Papoulias and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni, along with a parade of Greek politicians, singers, public personalities and trade unionists. Many used the telethon to cast broadsides at Israel. The campaign raised $1.67 million, according to telethon organizers, who said little Greek children had broken their piggy banks for Palestinians in need.
        A JTA investigation revealed, however, that no Christian hospital was on the UN list of structures in Gaza damaged in January. Two Palestinians living in Gaza reported that the only Christian hospital in Gaza, Al Ahli, financed by the Church of England, was used during the war and did not receive a scratch. (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hizbullah Arms Cache Explodes in South Lebanon - Hanan Greenberg
    A series of explosions on Tuesday in an abandoned building in Khirbet Silim, about 10 miles north of Lebanon's border with Israel, was caused by a fire in a Hizbullah weapons depot, a Lebanese security official said. According to Israeli security sources, the depot contained rockets which Hizbullah was hiding for future use against Israel. Israeli sources said the incident shows that Hizbullah continues to hide weapons among the civilian population in southern Lebanese villages, despite the explicit ban of such activities in UN Resolution 1701 and the presence of UNIFIL and Lebanese army forces. (Ynet News)
  • Israel: Human Rights NGO Has Lost Its "Moral Compass" - Herb Keinon
    The Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday slammed a recent Human Rights Watch fundraising delegation to Saudi Arabia as evidence the organization has lost its "moral compass." "A human rights organization raising money in Saudi Arabia is like a women's rights group asking the Taliban for a donation," Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said Monday. "If you can fundraise in Saudi Arabia, why not move on to Somalia, Libya and North Korea?" he said.
        Regev's comments came two weeks after Israel was ripped for alleged misconduct during the Gaza operation in reports issued by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, two high-profile human rights NGOs. "We discovered during the Gaza operation and the Second Lebanon War that these organizations come in with a very strong agenda, and because they claim to have some kind of halo around them, they receive a status that they don't deserve," a senior official said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Human Rights Watch Raises Funds in Saudi Arabia by Demonizing Israel (NGO Monitor)
        See also Human Rights Watch Lauded in Saudi Arabia - Nasser Salti
    Human Rights Watch is gaining more recognition and support in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. During their recent visit to the Kingdom, senior members of the organization were given a welcoming dinner in Riyadh, where they presented a documentary and spoke on the report they compiled on Israel violating human rights and international law during its war on Gaza earlier this year. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What the U.S. President Needs to Hear - Editorial
    Whenever American Jewish leaders are invited to the White House to talk about Israel - as 16 were on Monday - the prime purpose of the invitation is not to give them an opportunity to sway the leader of the free world, though their views may be genuinely sought, but for the administration to diminish the prospect of them lobbying against the president's policies. We're not suggesting that Obama is substantively less pro-Israel than most of his predecessors. But we are concerned over his refusal to embrace the 1967-plus strategy enunciated by his predecessor, at a time when his administration is demanding a freeze even to Israeli construction in Jerusalem areas captured in 1967.
        If the administration feels it faces no countervailing pressure, it will go on deepening the erroneous perception that settlements are the obstacle to peace. This alienates Israel's majority, which is willing to make painful territorial concessions, yet believes that ill-tempered calls for an unconditional freeze everywhere only encourage Palestinian intransigence. Pro-Israel Americans should caution Obama not to lose the Israeli "street" as he seeks favor with the Arab one. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Tipping Point in Tehran: A Gathering Opposition Faces a Weakened Regime - Robin Wright
    The erratic uprising in Iran has redefined political action throughout the Middle East. Before the June 12 presidential election, the Islamic republic had never been so powerful. Tehran had survived three decades of diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions and emerged a regional superpower, its influence shaping conflicts and politics from Afghanistan to Lebanon. But the day after the election, the Islamic republic had never appeared so vulnerable. The virtual militarization of the state has failed to contain the uprising, and its tactics have shifted the focus to Iran's leadership. Given its advancing nuclear technology and regional influence, Iran believed before the election that it held the trump cards in any negotiations. Now, politically disgraced, it is the needy one. (Washington Post)
  • Has Ahmadinejad Lost His Global Following? - Liam Stack
    For 30 years, Iran has cast itself as a leader of resistance to Israeli and Western policies, and few of its leaders have done as much for that image as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Under Ahmadinejad, Iran's "resistance" brand has gone global, challenging Western hegemony in the name of defending the globally downtrodden and winning allies from Lebanon to Venezuela. But analysts say Iran's resistance image has been challenged by Ahmadinejad's controversial June 12 reelection.
        "People can see now that Iran has the same authoritarian political systems as the Arab world," says Nabil Abdel Fattah, assistant director of Cairo's Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a think tank with government ties. "Ahmadinejad is not a hero." Josh Stacher, a professor of Middle East politics at Kent State University, says: "Every state in the region has a president or a king that the people on the ground disagree with, and every state has seen rigged elections....The amount of people on the streets in Tehran show that people there aren't buying Ahmadinejad's resistance rhetoric anyway, and that could spread through the neighborhood." (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:

    IDF Responds to "Breaking the Silence" Claim of Gaza Rights Violations (IDF Spokesperson, 15 July 2009)

    • The IDF Spokesperson regrets that yet another human rights organization is presenting to Israel and the world a report based on anonymous and general testimonies, without investigating their details or credibility. This organization denied the IDF the minimal decency of allowing it to investigate the testimonies prior to the report's publication, while defaming and slandering the IDF and its commanders.
    • The organization "Breaking the Silence" should urge those who made these claims to really "break their silence," and to present specific complaints to the IDF, and not hide behind general and anonymous statements. As with the testimonies made at the Rabin Military Academy several months ago, a considerable number of the testimonies in this report are also based on hearsay.
    • The IDF engaged in the Gaza Operation after eight years of continuous rocket fire on Israel's southern communities, heavily affecting daily life. During the operation, the IDF succeeded in targeting the Hamas terror organization, increasing Israel's deterrence and restoring security to the area.
    • The IDF is committed to investigating any claim, supported by facts, that is brought to its attention. The IDF expects every soldier and commander who feels that they have witnessed a violation of the IDF commands and regulations to turn to the appropriate authorities with all of the facts regarding the incident, in accord with their legal and moral obligations. The IDF operates on the foundation of uncompromising ethical values.
    • From the investigations conducted by the IDF regarding the Gaza operation, it is clear that IDF soldiers operated in accord with international law, despite the complex and difficult fighting.

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