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July 22, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

PA Incitement Continues During Proximity Talks - Itamar Marcus, Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The first two months of Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks have brought no changes in the quality of the messages being transmitted from the Palestinian Authority and Fatah to Palestinians.
    Contrary to the PA's moderate statements to the West, its statements to its people in Arabic continue to delegitimize Israel's existence, deny Israel's right to exist, define the conflict with Israel as a religious war for Allah, promote hatred through demonization, slander and libel, and glorify terror and violence.

Gaza's Attack on Modernity - Lorenzo Cremonesi (Corriere della Sera-Italy, 14 July 2010)
    Basher Bseiso, 20, a singer from the "Peace Group" (Fariq Salam), very popular among young rap-lovers in Gaza, explains: "We are victims of the repressive religious government which, due to a distorted reading of the Quran, prohibits free music."
    Jamal Abu al-Qumsan, 43, director of the most famous art gallery in Gaza, sends out from his home: "Thanks to all of you democratic people, from all over the world, who are fighting the Israeli embargo of Gaza. But please, at the same time, could you also denounce the Hamas repression of intellectual freedom?"
    In the culture war in Gaza, the more extremist wings of the religious front want to close the beach to girls; they forbid any privacy for unmarried couples; they consider Western music and fashions as a danger to public "morality."
    Hamas has now imposed a "Godfather" regime on its own people. Punishment doesn't only mean prison, or even torture; rather, it means ostracism, losing one's job, denigration, social isolation.
    Bseiso speaks with rage of having been beaten up on April 28: "I was riding my motorcycle when a group of Ezzedin Al Qassam militiamen came up alongside me, knocked me to the ground and beat me with sticks."
    Until a few days ago, Qumsan couldn't sit down or lie on his back due to the beatings he suffered between May 5 and May 12.
    They say that in the former beach house of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, the cellars have been turned into torture chambers for the "enemies of Islam."

Report: Donors Sending Expired Medicine to Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinians claim that most of the donated medicines sent into Gaza are past their expiration date, Al-Jazeera reported on Wednesday.
    Mounir el-Barash, director of the donations department in Gaza's Ministry of Health, said only 30% of the aid sent into Gaza is used.
    Gaza officials also expressed anger at receiving burial shrouds for children from Arab countries.

American Charged with Trying to Join Terrorist Group - Spencer S. Hsu and Michael Alison Chandler (Washington Post)
    Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, was arrested Wednesday as an alleged terrorist recruit after he had been stopped on his way to join an al-Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, federal officials said.
    34 Americans have been charged by U.S. authorities since January 2009 with direct involvement in international terrorism.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.: Final Status Issues to Be Discussed Only in Direct Mideast Peace Talks
    State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley was asked on Wednesday:
    Q: Palestinian President Abbas gave an interview. He seems to be saying that he would like the United States to specify what the boundaries of a Palestinian state would look like before he enters into direct talks....Is that something the United States would be prepared to do?
    Crowley: "Our message to both parties is let's get to direct negotiations as quickly as possible, where, in fact, we can address the fundamental issues and the process, including borders. These are issues that we think can only be resolved within the context of direct negotiations.... Ultimately, in order to address the concerns that we know that both parties have - refugees, security, Jerusalem, borders - those are going to be resolved in the direct negotiations themselves."  (State Department)
        See also Israel: Time to Begin Direct Negotiations Without Preconditions - Tessa Unsworth and Labib Nasir
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in an interview: "Why hasn't there been any progress? Because the Palestinians have not resigned themselves to the fact that in order to sort out all the issues between us we have to sit, we have to talk, and we have to do it directly, without preconditions." "If we arrange all the details before negotiations, what are the negotiations for?...If they want to know in advance what will be the agreement, then why should we even meet?"
        Israel also has "a lot of grievances," said Ayalon. It would like to know the Palestinians are going to change school curricula to end the "culture of hate." It would like to know the security arrangements "so that terrorists will not be able to pop up again once they take over sovereignty."  (Reuters)
  • UN Peacekeepers May Be Outstaying Their Welcome in Southern Lebanon
    The continued presence of an international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is increasingly dismaying locals, whose anger is reportedly being fueled by the Lebanese militant group Hizbullah, which has its stronghold in the area. "The hand that touches the weapons of the resistance will be cut," a poster reads in French, bearing the image of Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, in a clear warning to UNIFIL, the French daily Le Figaro reported Monday. UN Resolution 1701 calls for the area to be free of any armed personnel or weapons other than those of the Lebanese government and UN forces.
        "The French roll into the streets with their tanks. They violate our privacy," local resident Ibrahim told Le Figaro. "They take pictures and one week later we see Israel circulates more photos of villages in the south. One must assume there is a connection between them and Israel."  (Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to UN: More Gaza Flotillas Harm Peace Efforts - Jordana Horn
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev told the Security Council Wednesday of "Israel's deep concern regarding new reports of yet another flotilla departing from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip," saying "the phenomenon of flotillas to Gaza is not conducive to the efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East." "We call upon the international community to exert its influence on the organizers of this provocative action," Shalev said.
        Shalev decried Hizbullah's actions in Lebanon as "a blatant violation of international law and basic dictates of humanity." "In Lebanon, the terrorist organization Hizbullah continues to build and embed its military infrastructure into the civilian population," Shalev said. "Transfers of sophisticated weapons from Syria and Iran to Hizbullah systematically violate the arms embargo. At the same time, this terrorist group continues to place increasingly sophisticated and deadly weapons within villages, adjacent to schools, hospitals and civilian homes."
        She concluded: "How many times in this chamber have our neighbors recognized Israel's right to exist as the homeland for the Jewish people? Or condemned Hamas terrorism and violence against Israeli civilians? Or spoke out against those who call for us to be wiped off the map? Not once. The silence is deafening."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Poll: EU Countries Support Iran Sanctions - Hilary Leila Krieger
    In a new poll, citizens of Germany (80%), France (83%) and Sweden (90%) said that they wanted the international community to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons rather than agreeing that Iran has the right to develop nuclear weapons. Those surveyed also said they want to see the EU impose further sanctions: Germany (70%), France (66%), and Sweden (78%). (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Terrorists Preparing to Fire Rocket Targeted by IDF
    IDF soldiers identified a number of suspects preparing to fire a rocket at an IDF force adjacent to the security fence in northern Gaza on Wednesday. The IDF force fired at and hit the operatives. One was killed and others were injured. (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Palestinian Infiltrating West Bank Settlement Killed - Chaim Levinson
    Israel Defense Forces soldiers fired at a group of Palestinians attempting to infiltrate the Barkan settlement in the northern West Bank on Wednesday night. One Palestinian suspected of being armed was killed, and another was arrested. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Are the Palestinians Opposed to Ending the Occupation? - Jonathan D. Halevi
    The dual-headed Palestinian regime in Ramallah (Fatah) and in Gaza (Hamas) has totally rejected Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman's proposal to recruit the European Union to build power stations to supply electricity, desalination stations, and sewage treatment plants for Gaza. Sami Abu Zuheiri, a Hamas spokesperson, explained that "although Gaza was liberated in practice from the military and settlement presence, it is still from a legal and practical standpoint under occupation." He argued that Israel, "the occupying country," must continue to provide for Gaza's needs.
        The Hamas position exemplifies one of the major absurdities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, which took pride in liberating Gaza from the Israeli occupation via Jihad, is struggling with all its might to preserve the "Israeli occupation" and obligate Israel to continue transferring supplies to an entity that avowedly declares that it will liberate all of Palestine, liquidate the State of Israel, and kill and expel its Jewish inhabitants.
        Why are the Palestinians still adamant in their opposition to receiving total independence on at least part of Palestinian territory? Because the Palestinian leadership has not renounced the idea of liberating Palestine in its entirety. The objective of both the PA and the Hamas government is identical, namely, keeping the lava of the refugee problem at full boil, as this constitutes the key to the ultimate objective of the historic Palestinian odyssey - the liquidation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Global Law Forum)
  • Rising Speculation about Bombing Iran's Nukes - Michael Barone
    The fact is that Iran has been at war with the U.S. since 1979, when it seized and held our diplomats for 444 days - an act of war under settled principles of international law. Later, the mullah regime sponsored the 1983 attack on our Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon and attacks on our soldiers in Iraq - more acts of war. Six presidents have chosen not to retaliate for reasons of prudence that have much to commend them. War with Iran would be a terrible thing. But one can also believe, as the UAE ambassador incautiously said, a nuclear-armed Iran would be even worse. (San Francisco Examiner)
  • Observations:

    Israel: Not Just a Strategic Asset, But a Strategic Bonanza - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • It is to America's advantage to have a nation of friends, whose people and government are firm supporters of and advocates for American interests in the broader Middle East. There is no country in the Middle East whose people and government are so closely aligned with the U.S.
    • A commonality of culture and values manifests itself in many ways, from how Israel votes at the UN to how its people view their role as being on the front line against many of the same threats we face.
    • It is to America's advantage to have in Israel an economy that is so closely associated with ours and that is such an innovator in the IT field, in high-tech medicine, and in green technologies, like the electric car. The Obama administration made the economic health and well-being of the U.S. the pillar of its National Security Strategy.
    • Israel - through its intelligence, its technology, and the lessons learned from its own experience in counterterrorism and asymmetric warfare - has saved American lives. And when you add to this Israel's unique counterproliferation efforts - destroying nuclear reactors in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007) - Israel's contribution to our security is even greater.
    • What we really need in the Middle East are more "Israels" - more strong, reliable, democratic, pro-American allies. It would certainly be nice to have one or two in the Gulf. What we should really want as allies are countries that, with a strong America behind them, can take care of themselves and project our basic values in the process.

      The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute.

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