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May 14, 2010

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UN Elects Libya, Other Rights Violators to Human Rights Council - Edith M. Lederer (AP)
    Seven countries accused of human rights violations, including Libya, Angola and Malaysia, won seats on the UN Human Rights Council Thursday. Libya received 155 votes.
    Iran withdrew from the race on April 23 after facing strong global opposition for severe human rights abuses.
    Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, which heads a coalition of 37 human rights organizations that campaigned to defeat Libya's candidacy, said that "by electing serial human rights violators, the UN violates its own criteria as well as common sense."
    "Choosing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to judge others on human rights is a joke," he added.
    See also Libyan President of the UN General Assembly: Gaza Siege Is Worse than the Nazi Camps (MEMRI)
    Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, a Libyan national, has been president of the UN General Assembly since June 2009. He told Syrian TV on April 11, 2010: "The siege on Gaza is a disgrace for the entire international community. It is a camp that is worse than the camps of the Nazis in the past."

Gaza's Car Industry (DPA-Ha'aretz)
    You can get a brand new BMW in the impoverished Gaza Strip, but you'll have to pay about twice as much for the privilege.
    The Hamas authorities in Gaza have decided to grant licenses to smuggled cars, explains car salesman Mohamed Nasrallah. "I pay $10,000 to the government in order to make the illegal smuggled car legal with an official license," he says.
    He buys the smuggled car for $25,000, takes a $5,000-dollar profit, and sells it to the consumer for $40,000.
    Zeyad Zaza, the minister of economy in the Hamas government, says there are 60,000 vehicles in Gaza.

Did the Peace Process Radicalize Palestinians? - Miranda Devine (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
    Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who writes for the Jerusalem Post, was in Sydney with the message: the peace process may do more harm than good.
    He said that after the 1993 Oslo accords, American money poured into the corrupt coffers of the PLO, whose chiefs built themselves huge beach villas while the Palestinian people grew disillusioned.
    Arafat's rule was ''not much different than other Arab dictatorships, though not as bad as Saddam [Hussein]."
    The PLO took people flooding out of Israeli jails and made them generals and colonels, despite not finishing high school. Car thieves were now interrogators. ''The longer in an Israeli jail, the higher the rank.''
    He said the process radicalized Palestinians and empowered Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group backed by Iran and Syria, declared a terrorist organization by the U.S.

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Israeli Becomes European Taekwondo Champion - Allon Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
    Bat El Geterer, 23, claimed a gold medal at the European Taekwondo Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, winning the under-57 kg. competition.
    Geterer, who represented Israel at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, beat a Ukrainian opponent 8-2 in the final for her fifth win of the day.

The U.S. Presbyterian Church's Renewed Attack on Israel - Dexter Van Zile (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    In March 2010, anti-Israel partisans in the Presbyterian Church's Middle East Study Committee (MESC) released a 172-page report that demonizes Israel and downplays Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jews and their Middle Eastern homeland.
    This report, which will be on the agenda of the PC(USA)'s General Assembly scheduled for July, is nothing short of a full-scale assault on Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state.
    Delegates at the General Assembly will debate a resolution declaring Israel guilty of apartheid and another calling on the denomination to condemn Caterpillar for continuing to sell products to Israel.

Facing Hatred on Campus: You Can't Fight Fire with Flowers - Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
    An increasing number of students report that efforts to demonize Israel have intensified on college campuses.
    The Muslim Student Union (MSU) and Muslim Student Association (MSA), allied with groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), focus single-mindedly on one goal: demonizing Israel.
    The methods used by the MSU, MSA and SJP have only one goal - instilling hatred and intolerance against Israel and anyone who dares to defend it and the sincerity of its search for peaceful coexistence.
    See also Israel Campus Beat (Conference of Presidents-Israel on Campus Coalition-Jerusalem Center)
    The Israel Campus Beat reports on what's happening on campuses around the country.

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Test Yourself: How Much Do You Know about Jerusalem? (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Seeks $205 Million for Israel Rocket Shield
    President Barack Obama will ask Congress to provide $205 million to Israel to spur production and deployment of a new short-range rocket defense system, administration officials said on Thursday. (Reuters)
        The Pentagon has told Israel's Defense Ministry that President Obama has approved funding for the purchase of more than ten Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries. A senior Israeli defense official told Ha'aretz on Thursday, "The Americans were skeptical at first, but after they saw the results of the last test run they were impressed and became confident in the system's abilities."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Spain: Israel Seeking to Ease Tension with Syria, Lebanon
    Israel is trying to ease tension with Syria and Lebanon, the Spanish foreign minister said on Thursday, after Israeli charges that Damascus was smuggling Scud missiles to its Lebanese ally Hizbullah. "Israeli authorities asked me to convey a message to Syria and Lebanon, which is that they seek to ease tension, and they expressed their willingness for negotiations," Miguel Angel Moratinos said in Beirut. (AFP)
  • U.S. Tries to Blunt Iran Anti-Sanctions Push - Matthew Lee
    The Obama administration moved Thursday to head off a joint Turkish-Brazilian effort that could help Iran avoid new UN sanctions over its nuclear program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that Iran is not serious about accepting international demands to prove its nuclear program peaceful. Clinton will likely give the same message to Brazil ahead of a weekend visit to Tehran by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Turkey and Brazil are members of the Security Council and are opposed to new sanctions.
        State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that Clinton had stressed that "Iran's recent diplomacy was an attempt to stop Security Council action without actually taking steps to address international concerns about its nuclear program." "There is nothing new and nothing encouraging in Iran's recent statements," he said. Iran's "lack of seriousness about engagement requires us to intensify efforts to apply greater pressure."  (AP)
  • U.S. Lobbies Foreign Firms Against Doing Business with Iran
    Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, has been successful in persuading foreign banks to cut ties with Iran. Now, he is widening his focus to include service providers, insurers and manufacturers. "We view the business community as an ally....We have information regarding Iranian illicit conduct that they might not have, and we provide them with the advantage of our viewpoint so they can better assess their own risks," Levey said in an interview.
        "There is a tide setting in against doing trade with Iran and it is just becoming more difficult for everyone involved," said Philip Roche, a London-based lawyer. "As a result of our efforts to impose additional multilateral sanctions on Iran, as well as Iran's own defiance, international companies are increasingly coming to the correct conclusion that the risks of doing business with Iran are high and have announced that they are withdrawing from Iran," White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said. (Reuters)
        See also Foreign Companies Stepping Away from Iran (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to U.S.: Official PA Incitement Must End
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met Wednesday with Lt.-Gen. Paul Selva, the U.S. envoy appointed to monitor the implementation of the Roadmap. Ayalon noted the continued incitement by official Palestinian institutions, including the encouragement of popular violence, naming streets and squares after the mass murderers of innocent civilians, and the continued boycott of Israeli goods and the delegitimization of Israel in the international arena. He noted especially the Palestinian attempt to prevent Israel's acceptance into the OECD.
        This aggressive behavior by the Palestinian Authority runs counter to the positive atmosphere that Israel is trying to create through continued alleviation of conditions for the Palestinians, with emphasis on the removal of roadblocks and the opening of crossings, support of the Palestinian economy, and a moratorium on building. Ayalon stressed that this PA activity harms the trust of the Israeli public and does not contribute to creating a positive atmosphere for the proximity talks. Ayalon expressed the hope that the proximity talks will lead quickly to direct negotiations between the parties. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Arab Member of Israeli Knesset Calls for Establishing Islamic Caliphate that Includes Israel
    In an interview with Kul Al-Arab, published in Israel on May 7, Mas'oud Ghanaim, a member of the United Arab List (Ra'am-Ta'al) in the Israeli Knesset, said: "There is a need for the return of the Islamic Caliphate, and I think that this is the ideal solution to the weakness, collapse, and crumbling afflicting the Arabs and Muslims....An Islamic caliphate is in the interest of the Jews themselves, since their golden age as Jews came during the [medieval] Islamic Caliphate....Israel must be part of the great Islamic state."  (MEMRI)
  • European-Funded Political Lobbying on Jerusalem
    Ir Amim, which promotes the Palestinian narrative on Jerusalem, produced the Jerusalem Moments film series. As noted by David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, the series "contained just about every imaginable one-sided, context-deficient, unbalanced misrepresentation of Israel rolled into one nasty package...a relentless Palestinian Israel-bashing." Direct funding from foreign governments provides approximately 67% of Ir Amim's budget. The balance is provided indirectly by European governments (via Oxfam NOVIB), the Ford Foundation, and other sources. (NGO Monitor)
  • IDF Employs New Thermal Camera for Border Surveillance - Dan Tamir
    The IDF Central Command has begun deploying the Magna thermal camera system. "It is a warning system that provides intelligence coverage over a specific area and provides a warning response to an intrusion," says Maj. Oshri Itach. The Magna combines thermal cameras and regular cameras, and can scan an area over a range of several miles. Once the system absorbs suspicious vibrations, it transfers the data to a collection system in an operations room. "The moment that our enemies understand that they can not pass through certain areas even when there is no fence, we will have reached our goal," explained Lt. Lior Ovadia. (BaMahane-Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Being Clear about Ambiguity - Emily B. Landau
    When the Egyptians demand that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, this has one meaning only, that Israel must relinquish its presumed nuclear weapons. The way the NPT is currently formulated, there simply is no other way for a state to join. The choice is to join as a non-nuclear weapon state or not to join at all. So, anyone who thinks that this suggestion/demand is merely about ending Israel's policy of "ambiguity," or increasing transparency, or bringing Israel closer to the global regime, is misguided and mistaken. It's a call for total and complete disarmament. In the current regional atmosphere - especially in light of an aggressive, nuclearizing Iran - this is not a realistic proposition.
        Israel's only purpose here is to establish effective deterrence against threats to its very survival. Secrecy generally serves that goal. All Israel needed was to create a degree of doubt. In fact, since nuclear deterrence depends on some information becoming available, absolute secrecy would actually have undermined the country's policy.
        Ending ambiguity will not result in Israel being accepted as an openly declared nuclear state, but will, rather, only contribute to mounting pressure for it to join the NPT - namely, to accept total disarmament. For Israel, nuclear ambiguity has served as an essential insurance policy for survival. With Israel not coming out in the open, Arab states did not feel unbearable pressure to respond in kind. The writer is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
  • The End for America in the Middle East? - Michael Young
    Most Arab regimes are old and have lost much legitimacy by consolidating their authoritarianism while offering their younger, expanding populations little in the way of consensual social contracts, useful educational opportunities, and better living conditions. The one-time sway of leading Arab states has devolved to non-Arab states on the region's periphery: Turkey, Israel and Iran. This has had negative consequences for the U.S., whose political preeminence in the region rested on the old Arab order. At the same time, the Obama administration is in the throes of psychological retrenchment over the Middle East.
        Today, Obama's priority is to withdraw from Iraq, effectively denying Washington the primary terrain needed to contain Iran, but also to exercise its power over Syria and to an extent Saudi Arabia. The U.S. will have to rely on the frail Gulf states to push back against the Islamic Republic. Not surprisingly, Iran sees very few serious obstacles coming from its Gulf Arab neighbors. And these would dissipate completely if Tehran were to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran has the added ability in places such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, but also in Yemen, of being able to mobilize members of disgruntled Shiite minorities.
        The impact of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement on the Gulf and Iraq, the critical playing field in the American-Iranian rivalry, would be relatively limited. The Palestinians have been a tool used by Iran, as has Lebanon, to protect its core objective: building up its supremacy in the Gulf. Iran's priority is to progressively undermine America in the Middle East. Hizbullah and Hamas act as useful shock absorbers for Iran while it develops a nuclear capability, the cornerstone of its bid for regional hegemony. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Borders Can Be Redrawn, But Hatred Is Embedded - Joan Brunwasser
    Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), said in an interview: "Demonization of Jews...and Israel is very common among the PA. Israel has been accused by a senior official of the PA of spreading AIDS intentionally among Palestinians, of trying to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque by injecting acid into the foundations, of doing 5,000 medical experiments a year on Palestinian prisoners, and much more. This demonization and the hatred it creates becomes the justification for terror."
        "It cannot be overcome without a total change in direction. That is why it is so urgent that we start now. Borders can be redrawn with one political decision, but hatred is embedded. It can only be changed if there is a courageous Palestinian leader who will receive world support only if he replaces the hate promotion with peace education." "Palestinians did not always hate Israelis, they were taught to hate....[In 1996] after 28 years of daily contact between Israelis and Palestinians, Israel received the best rating in the world with 78% of Palestinians giving Israel a 'positive' rating in democracy and human rights....So, open borders and contact between the Israelis and Palestinians created healthy attitudes and respect. It was the terror and hate education of the PA that ruined the trust."
        "My hope is that peace education can turn back the clock. The same way the Palestinian Authority poisoned their people with hate education, they can rectify the situation with peace education. That's why I see PMW's role as central to the peace process. When the Palestinian Authority decides to change its message and turn to peace, we will be the first to know it and the first to publicize it."  (OpEd News)
  • An Emerging China-Iran Tandem - Richard Javad Heydarian
    China is beginning to establish its foothold in the energy-rich Middle East by forging strong ties with regional powers and gradually challenging U.S.-Israel regional dominance. Thanks to decades of double-digit economic growth and accelerating military modernization, China now has both the need for and the capability of engaging the Middle East. Through the 1990s, China provided an increasing amount of ballistic missile technology to Syria. During the Iran-Iraq war, China was a key military supplier for Iran. From the 1980s to 1997, support for nuclear programs became a pivotal element of Beijing's effort to forge a strong partnership with Iran.
        For Iran, faced with an increasing investment vacuum and international isolation over its nuclear program, China represents a potential remedy for the development of its vast energy resources and a source for modern military technology. China sees Iran as a counter-force to U.S. allies in the region and has contemplated establishing a naval presence in the Persian Gulf. In the past five years, China has emerged as the major investor in Iran, with an estimated $120 billion worth of energy investments. In 2009, China signed over $8 billion in new energy investments. Seemingly, there is an emerging China-Iran tandem. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
  • A Chance to Stand Tall Against Iran on Human Rights - Roxana Saberi
    When I was incarcerated in Iran's Evin prison last year on a trumped-up charge of espionage, I was fortunate that my case received a great deal of international attention. I believe the pressure from this international support eventually persuaded Iranian authorities to free me one year ago this week. Some Iranian decision-makers do care what outsiders say about the Islamic Republic.
        As the international community focuses on Iran's nuclear program, it should also make human rights a first-tier issue. When the UN Human Rights Council meets in Geneva next month, Washington and the EU should lead calls for a mechanism to investigate human rights atrocities in Iran. A bigger push should be made to send a UN special envoy on human rights to Iran and to aid Iranians, including the many journalists forced to flee their country out of fear of persecution. The writer was detained for 100 days in 2009 in Iran. (Washington Post)

    Weekend Features

  • Yitzhak Rabin on Jerusalem Day
    On Jerusalem Day 15 years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington: "Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people and a deep source of our pride....It is the dream of the return to Zion....In Israel we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as capital of the State of Israel. There are not two Jerusalems. There is only one Jerusalem."  (Conference of Presidents)
  • Warsaw Unveils Memorial to Daring Ghetto Escape - Roman Frister
    A military band played Hatikva Thursday as the Polish capital unveiled a memorial to underground fighters who fled the Warsaw Ghetto shortly before its liquidation in spring 1943. The memorial is at the exact location where 40 men and one woman were spared certain death at the hands of the Nazis by escaping from the sewage canals beneath the ghetto. Simcha Rotem, a Jerusalemite and former underground fighter, told the audience of fleeing the ghetto 10 days before its liquidation and making contact with municipal sewage workers to arrange the evacuation.
        The monument is the brainchild of Maciej Kozlowski, a former ambassador to Israel. The monument is shaped like a sewage pipe with a ladder at its end, from which hands are seen clinging desperately. Next to it is a sculpture shaped as a Star of David, and the names of all of those involved in the escape operation, both rescuers and survivors. (Ha'aretz)
        See Photo of Warsaw Memorial (AP)
  • Hiking the Israel National Trail - Maya Hasson
    Many countries have hiking trails. But few are so small that you can walk clear across them in two months or less, and even fewer have landscapes so varied that they allow a hiker to pass from desert hills to flat wastelands to green forests and lakes and rugged mountain tops in such a short period of time. For those willing to invest time, sweat and blisters, the Israel Trail, a 620-mile route running the length of the country from the Red Sea to the Israel-Lebanon frontier, offers an incomparable way to see one of the world's most interesting places. The trail is beginning to catch on with Israeli hikers, but few foreign travelers have discovered it yet. (AP-ABC News)
  • Zookeepers Try to Repopulate Israel with Biblical Animals - Sarah Grooters
    There are nearly 100 different types of animals mentioned in the Bible, many of them key players in well-renowned tales: the lions in Daniel's den; the dove that scouted for dry land from Noah's ark; the ram that was sacrificed by Abraham to save the life of his son, Isaac. Today, many of them are gone, hunted to the point of extinction or driven away by ongoing conflict.
        Yehoshua Shkedy, chief scientist for the Israel Parks Authority, has been trying to repopulate Israel with biblical animals for the past 15 years. Even as Shkedy wants to bring back lions and hippopotamuses, he focuses on the animals that realistically stand a chance to thrive again, like Persian fallow deer and vultures. "Israel is now too dense to reintroduce large predators," said Shkedy. "We lost the bear, for example, but who would be courageous enough to bring back a bear?"  (Religion News Service)
  • Observations:

    No Ordinary Jerusalem Day - Jonathan Tobin (Commentary)

    • Israel this week celebrated Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the unification of the city in 1967 according to the Jewish calendar, when Israeli troops routed the Jordanian occupiers of the eastern, northern, and southern parts of the town, and of the Old City. In June 1967, the barriers that had divided Jerusalem since the 1949 armistice were torn down, and the Jewish people were reunited with their holiest places, from which they had been barred during that period.
    • This is the first Jerusalem Day since President Barack Obama made it clear that a repartition of the city has become one of America's priorities in the Middle East. Though the city has been Israel's capital since 1949, Obama's is the first administration to state explicitly that the Jewish presence in the parts of the city that the Jordanian occupiers vacated in 1967 is illegal and to actively oppose the building of Jewish housing even in existing Jewish neighborhoods.
    • Though more than 200,000 Jews live in the eastern, northern, and southern sections of the city, which the media routinely incorrectly labels "East Jerusalem," U.S. diplomats have made it clear to the Israelis that any building that goes on in these neighborhoods of the capital is a "provocation."
    • By turning the building of Jewish housing in the city's Jewish neighborhoods into an international incident, Obama has made it impossible for the Palestinians to demand anything less than the eviction of the Jews from the city.
    • Although there was never any chance that the Palestinians would accept any peace deal under any circumstances, Obama's ultimatum about freezing housing projects in Jerusalem has certainly ensured that peace is further away than ever.

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