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August 13, 2010

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Turkey Accused of Using Chemical Weapons Against Kurdish Rebels - Daniel Steinvorth and Yassin Musharbash (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons.
    Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), thought to have been killed in September 2009.
    A forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital said it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died "due to the use of chemical substances."

Suspected U.S. Serial Killer an Israeli-Born Christian Arab - Eli Senyor (Ynet News)
    Elias Abuelazam, 33, who is suspected of committing five murders in the U.S., is well known in the Christian Arab community in the Israeli city of Ramla.
    "He is a bulky man, a frightening character, someone you don't want to mess with," said an acquaintance.

PA Leaders Do Not Reject Armed Conflict - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei said in a recent interview in Al Sharq Al-Awsat: "All the options are open, as I see it. Negotiations, political activity, popular activity and [armed] resistance - and we must continue with it."
    He added that the use of armed conflict - "resistance" - is a function of its profitability: "If it gives me [benefit] without costing me, yes."
    Qurei's message is that armed conflict is not to be rejected, but is to be used on the basis of profit and loss considerations.
    Nabil Shaath, Fatah Commissioner of Foreign Relations, said "the decision to renew negotiations was a tactical decision, i.e., a temporary, defensive decision." (Al-Dustur [Jordan], June 10)
    Shaath also said the Palestinian people "has the right to act in the way of the armed struggle. We have acted in this way for 100 years. Fatah led it [the armed struggle] for 23 years, and Hamas adopted it for 15 years. We are proud of all of our shahids (martyrs), and it is our right to return to the armed conflict whenever we view that as our people's interest." (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 7)

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Palestinian Villagers Lose Canadian Lawsuit (CBC News)
    Quebec's Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that Palestinians from the village of Bil'in trying to sue two Montreal companies operating on the West Bank need to go through Israel's legal system.
    The case went to trial and the villagers lost, but they turned to the Court of Appeal.
    The three-judge panel decided Wednesday that it requires a great deal of imagination to claim Bil'in's case has a serious connection to Quebec.

Video: Gazans Still Choose Israeli Hospital Care - Sara Sorcher (Israel21c)
    Every year thousands of Palestinian patients from Gaza and the West Bank are treated in Israeli hospitals. Patients also come from many Arab countries, some of which still don't even recognize Israel.

Video: Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone - Michael Totten (YouTube)
    "Blurred Vision," an Iranian exile band based in Toronto, has produced a remake of "Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd, changed to apply to Iran in 2010.
    It's an electrifying piece of music video art, especially the scene at the end where a Persian woman steps into the light and removes her state-mandated head covering.
    The scenes where Iranians battle it out in the street with state-security thugs are real and were shot in Tehran.

Tourism to Israel Reaches All-Time High - Ron Friedman (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Tourism Ministry announced Monday that 280,000 people visited Israel in July, 11% higher than last July and an all-time record for the month.
    1.9 million tourists arrived between January and July, an increase of 34% over the same period last year, and 10% more than in 2008 - a record year for tourism.
    According to a survey, 34% of tourists in 2009 were Jewish and 58% were Christian. 52% were repeat visitors.

Fire Department, New Synagogue of Fort Lee Aid Counterparts in Israel - Jennifer Kim (Fort Lee [NJ] Suburbanite)
    The Fort Lee fire department recently assisted the New Synagogue of Fort Lee in its effort to help the fire department of Nahariya, Israel.
    The synagogue is working with the Jewish National Fund's Friends of Israel Firefighters to create a matching grant fund to purchase a new, more modern fire truck for the Nahariya force.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Major Powers Drawing Up Framework for Mideast Talks - Douglas Hamilton
    Major powers are working on a statement to set the basis for direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told EU foreign ministers Thursday. Ashton said the Quartet initiative "should help President Abbas rally enough support, both at home and abroad, to engage in direct talks." The Quartet says Israel should halt settlement building in the West Bank and reach a full peace agreement with the Palestinians within 24 months, creating a state on the basis of the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.
        Ashton's letter made clear that these terms, contained in the Quartet's statement from Moscow on March 19, would form the basis of its statement "to be issued concurrently with the announcement of the launch of direct talks." A Western diplomat said Quartet officials were working on the language of a statement "inviting the parties to go back to direct negotiations." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev noted, "The government of Israel has been calling for the immediate start of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians for more than a year now."  (Reuters)
  • Flotilla Focus Turning to Terror Ties - Joel Mowbray
    Key congressmen are pushing the Obama administration to complete its investigations of the Turkish charity that sponsored the Gaza flotilla for its possible ties to terrorism. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Cal.) and Ed Royce (R-Cal.), the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs terrorism subcommittee, sent a letter last week to the Treasury Department stating that publicly available information "strongly supports designating" as a terrorist entity the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief (IHH). They relied mostly on the group's reported connections to Hamas and al-Qaeda, which predated the flotilla incident.
        Designating the Turkish IHH as a "Global Terrorist" would help thwart its ability to assist terrorists. It would be shut out from the U.S. financial system, and it could not work with U.S. charities, nongovernmental organizations or governmental agencies, nor could it raise money in the U.S. It would also send a signal that the U.S. supports the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and that efforts to break it will not be taken lightly. (Washington Times)
  • Jerusalem Muslim Cemetery Hoax
    Around 300 Muslim gravestones destroyed by Israeli bulldozers in a Jerusalem cemetery earlier this week were set up in the last few months in a bid to snatch government land, the Jerusalem Municipality charged on Thursday. "The municipality and the (Israel Lands) Authority destroyed around 300 dummy gravestones which were set up illegally in Independence Park on public land. The court approved the removal of all the dummy gravestones which were laid in the last seven months," the municipality said in a statement. "This is a fraudulent set-up, one of the biggest in recent years, whose aim is to illegally take over state land." Underneath the tombstones excavators found only "plastic bottles, cigarette packets and parts of a sprinkler system," the statement said. It accused "Islamic elements" of trying to pull off a huge scam. (AFP)
  • French Minister Calls Israeli Boycott a "Crime"
    France's interior minister has called boycotts against Israeli products in France "a crime." In a recent letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux wrote, "You have called my attention to the value of punishing the agitation of the group Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions in view of the acts of its members in certain food stores....Just as you, I consider the campaign led by this group and their statements made on such occasions calling for a boycott of Israeli products as, arguably, constituting a crime of racial provocation and discrimination." Last month the center's Paris-based director for international relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, described in a letter to Hortefeux how members of the group remove kosher products it suspects to be from Israel from store shelves and burns them.   (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Aims to Be Space Superpower - Yaakov Katz
    Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to approve an ambitious plan to increase sales of Israeli space platforms to nearly $8 billion a year. The plan calls for the government to increase support for space research and development that would focus on "mini-satellites." Israel is one of the few countries that can independently develop, manufacture and launch satellites, said Prof. Haim Eshed, head of the Defense Ministry's Space Division. "We have the assets, but we are not marketing them."
        Much of the investment will focus on the miniaturization of satellites and their payloads. Israel's specialty, Eshed said, lies in manufacturing "mini-satellites" like the recently launched Ofek 9 that weigh just a few hundred kilograms, in contrast to the mammoth satellites of several tons operated by the U.S. and Russia. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF to Dismantle Protective Wall that Blocked Gunfire on Jerusalem Neighborhood
    The Israeli army will begin dismantling a concrete barrier installed eight years ago, during the Second Intifada, to shield Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood from arms fire from the neighboring West Bank Arab town of Beit Jalla. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said the barrier's removal reflects the stable security situation at this site in recent years. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - Nadav Shragai
    The distances between many Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Arab neighborhoods slated for "separation" are within light-weapon range, from tens to hundreds of meters, and certainly within machinegun range. With the outbreak of the Second Intifada, firing began from the Palestinian Authority town of Beit Jalla toward the homes of Jewish residents in Jerusalem's nearby Gilo neighborhood. The firing began in September 2000 and continued intermittently until 2005. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Former Fatah Operatives in Gaza Announce Military Wing
    A network of former Fatah operatives in Gaza announced on July 7 the establishment of its military wing, the Al-Ansar Battalions. The group, which does not recognize Mahmoud Abbas as a leader, espouses armed struggle, and was supported by Hamas from its inception. At the announcement ceremony, flags of Turkey were raised and flags of Israel and the U.S. were set on fire. A representative of the Turkish organization IHH made a video address. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • 120 Rockets and Mortars Fired at Israel from Gaza in First Six Months of 2010 - Talia Wissner-Levy
    Rockets from Gaza continue to be fired at Israel. Since the beginning of 2010 until the end of July, 120 rockets and mortars were launched at Israel by Palestinians from Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • First Ramadan Friday Prayers in Jerusalem Conclude Uneventfully - Ronen Medzini
    The first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan concluded uneventfully at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Some 80,000 Muslim worshippers dispersed when the prayers were over. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Doesn't Abbas Want Peace Talks? - Jackson Diehl
    Eighteen months ago, when the then-new Obama administration tried to jump-start Middle East peace negotiations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas balked. He said he would not agree even to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unless Netanyahu made several big concessions in advance - including recognition of a Palestinian state on the basis of Israel's 1967 borders and a freeze on all Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank.
        Convinced that Netanyahu was the problem, the Obama administration spent the next year in a crude and clumsy effort to extract those concessions. Netanyahu stoutly resisted; the administration belatedly discovered that it could not compel a democratic ally to comply with its demands. Eventually a rough compromise emerged: Netanyahu publicly accepted the idea, but not the pre-defined borders, of a Palestinian state; and he imposed a partial and temporary freeze on the settlements, which is due to expire in September. The administration agreed that should be good enough to start formal peace talks. But Abbas is still refusing to meet Netanyahu unless the Israeli leader - or Obama - guarantees those big concessions on borders and settlements in advance.
        This is not, as Abbas' spokesmen contend, a matter of either principle or domestic politics. The Palestinian president has negotiated with numerous Israeli leaders and did so without a settlement freeze or other preconditions. Here we come to the real mystery about Abbas: Does he really want peace? Or would he, like Yasser Arafat before him, prefer the messy status quo to going down in history as the Palestinian who once and for all accepted a Jewish state? Abbas received a far-reaching offer from Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, that met the territorial conditions he now sets. He refused to accept it even as a basis for negotiations. (Washington Post)
  • Should the U.S. Stop Funding the Lebanese Army? - Janine Zacharia
    After Israel and Hizbullah fought a war in 2006, President Bush bolstered assistance to the Lebanese army to create a counterweight to the Shiite militia. Now, after a deadly clash last week between Israeli and Lebanese troops, some on Capitol Hill want to stop funding Lebanese forces entirely. A day before the Aug. 3 border fight between Israel and Lebanon, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Ca.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had put a hold on $100 million in assistance to the Lebanese military because of his concern that Hizbullah's influence over the army had grown.
        Some lawmakers in both parties have also expressed frustration at the Lebanese military's lax patrolling of the border with Syria and the continued flow of Iranian-made weapons to Hizbullah. Israel estimates the group has now amassed an arsenal of roughly 40,000 rockets, four times what it had during the 2006 war. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said after spending more than $700 million over five years on the Lebanese military, "it has become clear that assistance to Lebanon has not advanced U.S. national security interests."
        In interviews with former Lebanese military officials, current politicians and an array of observers in Lebanon, not a single person said he thought the army would take steps to disarm or distance itself from Hizbullah in the near term, with or without U.S. assistance. "Most of the Lebanese army now is against Israel and is pro-Hizbullah," said retired Lebanese general Elias Hanna. Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war. When Hizbullah took over Beirut in May 2008, the Lebanese army not only avoided confrontation, but also facilitated Hizbullah's seizure of certain key institutions. Many of the army's key figures are Shiites sympathetic to Hizbullah, including the powerful deputy head of Lebanese military intelligence. The last two Lebanese army commanders, both Christians, struck a pro-Hizbullah stance that helped them become presidents. (Washington Post)
        See also Is Hizbullah Planning a Power Grab in Lebanon? - Meir Javedanfar
    Hizbullah has warned that the deal brokered in Doha two years ago that awarded the group veto power in the Lebanese cabinet is about to collapse. The deal was made after Hizbullah's attack against Sunni Lebanese forces left 90 dead. Fearing civil war could break out, the Lebanese factions traveled to the Qatari capital to work out a deal to return calm to Lebanon. The Shiite organization could be about to launch a domestic power grab. (RealClearWorld)
  • It's Time to Get Tough on Iran - Michael Eisenstadt and David Crist
    An increasingly belligerent Tehran may be the one that makes the move that sparks a conflict with the U.S. - whether by an act of terrorism, by facilitating insurgent attacks in Iraq or Afghanistan, or by a military provocation in the Gulf or elsewhere - unless Washington, acting with both caution and firmness, moves to avert such an eventuality. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have proclaimed on numerous occasions their belief that the U.S. is a declining power, that the international order that underpinned U.S. influence is crumbling, and that U.S. strength has been sapped by long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran appears to be stepping up support for insurgent attacks against departing U.S. troops in Iraq, in order to create the impression that the U.S. was forced out of the country.
        Iran has also been reassured by Israel's growing isolation, which it sees as part of a long-term process leading to the demise of the Jewish state, and has been emboldened by the slow but steady progress made by its own nuclear and missile programs. Thus, sensing weakness in its enemies and perceiving an opportunity, Iran's leaders might be tempted to hasten this process of "decline" by making a move intended to humiliate the U.S. and highlight the limits of American power. Ahmadinejad's new defense minister, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, made his career in the Quds Force - the branch of the Revolutionary Guards involved in terrorism and the export of the Islamic Revolution. He was personally implicated in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, as well as other acts of terrorism. Michael Eisenstadt is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. David Crist is a Pentagon historian and visiting fellow at the Washington Institute. (Foreign Policy)
  • Internal Divisions among Iranian Hardliners Come to the Fore - Mehdi Khalaji
    There are signs of deep internal divisions in Iran's hardline camp, part of a longstanding pattern in the Islamic Republic: as soon as one faction seizes power by cutting out its opponents, it splits into warring parties. Until recently, the old conservatives and new conservatives remained united because they saw the reform movement as a serious threat to the regime. Yet Khamenei now believes that the regime's oppressive machinery has successfully managed the postelection crisis. As a result, the unbridgeable gap between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's circle and traditional power centers such as the clergy and bazaar has become apparent.
        The old conservatives control two branches of government (the judiciary as well as the Majlis and its associated Guardian Council), while the more powerful executive branch is in the hands of new conservatives led by Ahmadinejad. Neither faction seems capable of eliminating the other from the political scene, but each can impede the other's initiatives. The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Why the U.S. Must Make the Middle East Less Important - Michael Mandelbaum
    American foreign policy this fall will feature the Middle East: we will see a push for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear-weapons program and the hope that Iraq will remain stable as U.S. troops leave. Experience suggests that the chances of success for all three are poor. Over the years, the Middle East has proven inhospitable, if not downright hostile, to American initiatives. Recognizing this, the two previous administrations launched signature programs to transform the region into a friendlier place for American interests. Both failed. The Obama team should try a different approach, one that begins at home.
        The Clinton Administration tried and failed to make peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Obama Administration's prospects are no brighter. Since no policy open to it can make the Middle East safe for the U.S. and the world, the Obama Administration should act to make the world safe from the pathologies of the Middle East. It can do that by making the region less important. The Middle East matters because the world depends heavily on its oil. Since the U.S. uses so much oil, a major reduction in American consumption would substantially lower the global total. The less oil the world uses, the less important the region that has so much of it becomes. (TIME)
  • Observations:

    A Palestinian People, Yes; A Jewish People, No? - Shlomo Avineri (Ha'aretz)

    • A deep, tragic misunderstanding characterizes Arab views on Israel's identity. In the standard Arab view, "Jews" are comparable to "Christians" or "Muslims." In other words, they are a religious group, not a nation. But the essence of the Zionist revolution is the view that the Jews are a nation, and as such, they have the right to national self-determination in a political framework. This principle was accepted by the UN in 1947 in its decision to partition British Mandatory Palestine into two states - Jewish and Arab (not Jewish and Muslim-Christian).
    • To be sure, Jewish identity has a religious component, just as there is a Muslim dimension to Arab national identity.
    • One of the problems that complicates attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the fact that the Arab side has difficulty recognizing that Jews in Israel view themselves as a nation. Identity is a matter of self-definition, not external definition. Just as Jews are not the ones who will determine whether the Palestinians are a people or not, Arabs cannot determine whether the Jews are a people or not.
    • Anyone who rejects the Jews' right to define themselves as a nation denies them a fundamental human right, to which Jews, just like the Palestinians, are entitled.
    • The constitutions of Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon define their countries' identities as Arab. So Arab is fine, but Jewish is not? In my dictionary, there is a whiff of racism in this distinction.

      The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry.

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