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September 17, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Call to Try Israeli Officials for "War Crimes" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinians on Wednesday welcomed the UN's Goldstone Report and called to bring Israeli government officials and IDF officers to trial for "war crimes."
    Like the majority of Arab media, Palestinian newspapers gave prominence to the accusations against Israel while completely ignoring or downplaying those directed toward Hamas.
    Al-Quds, the largest Palestinian daily, ran a front-page headline: "Israel Perpetrated War Crimes and Violated International Law."
    Palestinian political analyst Ghassan al-Shami condemned the UN report for its criticism of the rockets fired at Israel from Gaza.
    See also below Commentary: The Goldstone Report

Qaeda Ally in Gaza Recruiting from Hamas - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Palestinian Islamist radical groups inspired by al-Qaeda are recruiting thousands of members in Gaza including senior militants from Hamas, a senior figure among the radicals known as Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi said this week.
    Maqdessi said nearly 500 people had been detained since the August 14 Hamas attack on the Jund Ansar group, whose leader Abdel-Latif Moussa was killed.
    He said the group was attracting senior militants from Hamas itself - a trend borne out by the deaths of former members of Hamas' Qassam Brigades alongside Moussa.
    "Leading Qassam figures are now attending lectures our Salafist sheikhs are giving in secret," Maqdessi said.

Snubs Await Ahmadinejad in U.S. - Eli Lake and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times)
    With hundreds of Iranians still in jail and at least 36 dead in clashes with security forces, even Americans who have long favored engagement with Iran are feeling queasy about greeting its president during his scheduled visit to New York next week for the UN General Assembly.
    Even the Quakers say they won't meet with Ahmadinejad. "We decided this year, we are not going engage with him in a big public meeting in New York as we have in the past," said Joe Volk, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
    "It is best for Americans to let the dust settle on the elections before we engage."

Toronto Film Festival Counter Protest (JTA)
    Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Portman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Alexander and Lenny Kravitz are among a prominent list of celebrities opposing a group that has criticized the Toronto International Film Festival's spotlight on Tel Aviv.
    Titled "We Don't Need Another Blacklist," their statement applauds the festival's decision to spotlight Tel Aviv.
    See also Jane Fonda Apologizes over Toronto Petition - Ben Child (Guardian-UK)
    Jane Fonda has apologized for signing a petition decrying the decision of the Toronto film festival to showcase films from Tel Aviv.
    In the Huffington Post, Fonda said she had signed the letter "without reading it carefully enough, without asking myself if some of the wording wouldn't exacerbate the situation rather than bring about constructive dialogue."

Syria Bans Facebook over Golan Heights - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Syria will launch a campaign demanding a boycott of Facebook because the site permits Israelis living on the Golan Heights to list "Israel" as their country of residence, according to Tuesday's Al Quds al Arabi.
    Syrian authorities also restricted access to Facebook due to concerns that Israeli Web users would try to initiate contact with Syrians. Authorities in Damascus have also banned access to YouTube.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Drops Plans for European Missile Shield Against Iran Rocket Threat - Peter Spiegel
    The White House will shelve Bush administration plans to build a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, based on a determination that Iran's long-range missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated. The administration concludes that U.S. allies in Europe face a more immediate threat from Iran's short- and medium-range missiles and will order a shift toward the development of regional missile defenses for the Continent. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also New Developments in Iran's Missile Capabilities: Implications Beyond the Middle East - Uzi Rubin (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Europe Wants Stiffer Sanctions on Iran - Robert Marquand
    Europe's leaders - led by France, Germany, and Britain - have talked an increasingly tough line on Iran sanctions, including cutting off imports of oil and gasoline, should Iran not satisfy nuclear demands by the UN. But they will now wait for the Oct. 1 talks between Washington and Tehran to play out. "The EU has so far been able to agree to sanctions stronger than the UN asked for," says Bruno Tertrais of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "The consensus position on Iran is fairly hawkish." Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said Tuesday the EU should "unilaterally" adopt sanctions if the UN can't agree to them on Iran. (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Europeans Set Low Expectations for Iran Talks - Robert Marquand
    The terms offered by Iran for negotiations with the U.S. and other powers now scheduled to take place in Istanbul this October are seen by some in Europe as a bid by Tehran to buy time for its nuclear program - and an expression of growing Iranian confidence. Europeans give points to the Obama administration for a tactical approach to Iran that they say makes sense - "you want to say you've tried everything before turning the screws," said Bruno Tertrais of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "They are definitely trying to buy time. That's what they've always done. Their approach has not changed. Their offer is a sign Iran has absolutely no intention for meaningful negotiations. After six years at this with the EU, the UN, they well know such an 'offer' is off the mark," Tertrais said. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S., Israel Discuss Framework for Renewed Peace Process - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. Middle East envoy Mitchell will meet again Friday to try to arrive at a formula which would enable a trilateral summit next week of the U.S., PA, and Israel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York. The Americans continue to demand that Israel freeze construction in the settlements for a year, while Netanyahu has only agreed to six months. The Palestinians refuse to attend a summit without such a freeze. Israel opposes any future statement by President Obama that the border between Israel and the Palestinian state will be based upon the 1967 borders, with adjustments. Netanyahu is demanding an American commitment to defensible borders for Israel.
        Netanyahu is also demanding that the framework for negotiations be consistent with his speech at Bar-Ilan University in which he spoke of a demilitarized Palestinian state; a Palestinian declaration acknowledging Israel as the state of the Jewish nation; and an understanding that any agreement would bring an end to the conflict. Israel also objects to setting a two-year time frame for a final-status agreement. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF to Remove 100 Roadblocks in West Bank - Anshel Pfeffer
    The Israel Defense Forces began razing about 100 "dirt mound" roadblocks from the entrances to Palestinian villages across the West Bank on Wednesday, as part of an ongoing effort to improve life for Palestinians. The roadblocks had been erected at the start of the second intifada, as Israel was struggling to defend itself against a wave of Palestinian suicide terror attacks. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Nabs Senior Hamas Terrorist - Yaakov Katz
    Muhammad Harwish, a senior Hamas terrorist and one of the planners of the 2002 Park Hotel Seder night suicide bombing, was arrested Tuesday in Zurif in the West Bank by the Border Police's counter-terror squad. Harwish, head of Hamas' military wing in Tulkarm, was apprehended along with his personal aide, Adnan Samara. Security officials also announced Tuesday that in July and August, they arrested five Fatah-Tanzim operatives near Ramallah, including a member of the PA security forces and a Palestinian who lived in the U.S., who were involved in a number of shooting attacks near Route 60, a main highway. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Goldstone Report

  • President Peres: Goldstone Report Makes a Mockery of History - Roni Sofer
    Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to the UN Goldstone Report saying that it "makes a mockery of history" and that "it does not distinguish between the aggressor and the defender." "War is crime and the attacker is the criminal. The defender has no choice. The Hamas terror organization is the one who started the war and also carried out other awful crimes. Hamas has used terrorism for years against Israeli children....The report gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives and ignores the obligation and right of every country to defend itself."  (Ynet News)
        See also Justice in Gaza - Richard Goldstone (New York Times)
  • UN Investigation of Israel Discredits Itself and Undercuts Human Rights - Alan M. Dershowitz
    The report commissioned by the notorious UN Human Rights Council is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been drafted by Hamas extremists. In effect, it actually was. Members were accompanied on their investigations in Gaza by Hamas activists who showed them only what they wanted them to see. The group was eager to find or manufacture "evidence" to support what the Human Rights Council itself had directed them to find, namely that Israel committed "grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip." This conclusion was reached before any investigation.
        The lowest blow and the worst canard is the claim that the Israeli judicial system "has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards." This is a direct attack on the Israeli Supreme Court by a lawyer who knows full well that there is no country in the world that has a judicial system that demands more accountability than the Israeli system does. There is no judicial system in the world that takes more seriously its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law.
        The report is not intended to establish general principles of international law, applicable to all nations. It is directed at one nation and one nation only: the Jew among nations - Israel. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • IDF Judge-Advocate General: Israel Right Not to Cooperate with Goldstone - Yaakov Katz
    The distorted and one-sided UN report proves that Israel had been right not to cooperate with the Goldstone mission, IDF Judge-Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit said Wednesday. "From an initial review of the report it is clear that it is biased, astonishingly extreme, lacks any basis in reality and is a sharp deviation from the mandate given to the mission." Mandelblit spoke of a new "legal front" that the IDF was facing and warned of attempts by numerous NGOs - and possibly European countries which support them - to deter Israel from launching future military operations by threatening its officers with legal action.
        Prof. Asa Kasher, author of the IDF's code of ethics, noted that "this report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that unfairly deals mostly with Israel. These are anti-Israel politics that contain a level of anti-Semitism in them." Kasher noted how the report opened with a detailed description of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. "It is as if this is how it all started," he said. "They did not bother to ask why there was a siege, which was done out of self-defense."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • UN Smears Israeli Self-Defense as "War Crimes" - Gerald M. Steinberg
    The tendentious and extremely biased report succeeded in angering Israelis from across the political spectrum. The report condemned every Israeli response to the 8,000 rockets fired by Hamas, but its recommendations did not include any steps to end this aggression. And while Israel is accused of committing acts of terror, the report never acknowledges that Hamas committed acts of terror, even though it is legally banned as a terrorist organization by the U.S and EU. The Goldstone report will increase Israeli cynicism regarding the viability of international institutions and guarantees of Israeli security and fair treatment. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • The Moral Inversion of the Goldstone Report - Melanie Phillips
    The Goldstone report does worse than establish a moral equivalence between the instigators of genocidal violence and those who were attempting to defend themselves against it. It presents Israel, the victims of such aggression, as war criminals and the Palestinians, the actual instigators of terror, as its victims. This is not moral equivalence but moral inversion. Even worse, Goldstone presents the Palestinian aggressors as victims of Israel, requiring Israel to make reparation to those from whose houses and streets it was attacked. No reparations to Israel are required from any Palestinians, even though Goldstone accepts that Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by firing thousands of missiles at its civilians.
        This disreputable piece of work will embolden and empower Hamas and Palestinian terrorism, provide the jihadis of the UN and their accomplices with the means further to persecute Israel and endorse its genocidal attackers, and incite the Arab and Muslim world still further to aggression and to war. (Spectator-UK)
  • The Goldstone Report: 575 Pages of NGO "Cut and Paste"
    The 575-page Goldstone report is primarily based on NGO statements, publications, and submissions, in numerous cases simply copying false and unsubstantiated allegations. (NGO Monitor)
  • Observations:

    UN Must Hold U.S. to Same Standard as Israel - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)

    • Two weeks ago American airplanes fired on two oil tankers in northern Afghanistan at the request of a German military officer, killing some 70 people. The U.S. and Germany are responsible for the attack, together with NATO members Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. If the international community is committed to international law and universal ethics, it should investigate the assault.
    • If the U.S., Germany and NATO refuse to cooperate with investigators, the UN should consider transferring the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It may be necessary to put the U.S. president and the German chancellor on trial for committing a severe war crime that did not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Absurd? Yes.
    • The U.S. has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the last few months encouraged Pakistan to make an extremely brutal military move in its Swat Valley. The U.S. was not required to account for it because everyone understands that this is the price of the terrible war on terror.
    • Only Israel is required to uphold a moral standard no superpower or Middle Eastern state is required to uphold.

          See also Will U.S. Now Let Goldstone into Afghanistan? - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)

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