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November 19, 2010

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UN Committee Slams Iran over Human Rights Record - Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
    The UN General Assembly's Third Committee, its human rights committee, on Tuesday accused Iran of serious human rights violations in a move sponsored by the U.S., EU, Canada and other Western countries.
    The resolution on Iran received 80 votes in favor - six more than a similar declaration last year - 44 against and 57 abstentions.
    The resolution lists such violations as torture, flogging, amputations, stoning, and "pervasive gender inequality and violence against women."

Drones Sold to Russia Could One Day Serve Hizbullah - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Russia is trying to reassert itself as a global superpower and has increased its arms sales to Lebanon and Syria as a part of that effort, according to Yiftah Shapir of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies.
    Moscow is set to sell Syria the Yakhont land-to-sea missile with a range of 300 km., that would be a "game changer" if it fell into the hands of Syria's ally, Hizbullah, Shapir said Thursday.
    Shapir discussed the sale of Israeli UAVs to Russia in recent years, noting that Russia is not planning on arming its military with Israeli weapons.
    "They want to copy the UAV technology and reproduce it. This was made clear during the sale."
    "My greatest fear is that in the future, we could see this same UAV technology in the hands of enemies. This could reach Hizbullah, and that would change things," Shapir warned.

Egypt Rejects U.S. "Meddling" in Internal Affairs (VOA News)
    Egypt has accused the U.S. of meddling in its internal affairs, after Washington called for international monitors to observe the country's upcoming parliamentary elections.
    The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Thursday the U.S. is acting like an "overseer" and not respecting the country's sovereignty.
    Cairo expressed dismay about a Nov. 2 meeting in Washington between President Obama's national security advisors and a group of American foreign policy analysts pushing for political reform in Egypt.
    The Foreign Ministry described the bipartisan Egypt Working Group as aiming to "spread chaos in the Middle East." 
    See also Political Change in Egypt: A Role for the United States? - Dina Guirguis (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

German Parliament Demands Release of Captured Israeli Soldier (JTA)
    A German parliamentary motion demanding that Hamas release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit passed on Nov. 11.
    It calls for allowing the Red Cross to visit the soldier who was captured in a cross-border Gaza raid in March 2006.
    The motion was presented by the Christian Democratic Party and Christian Social Union, the Social Democratic Party, the Free Democratic Party and the Greens.

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Dutch Media Story a "Modern Blood Libel" - Cnaan Liphshiz (Ha'aretz)
    Dutch media this month published articles accusing Ariel Sharon of personally murdering Palestinian children in Lebanon, which the Israel Foreign Ministry called "a modern blood libel."
    Volkskrant, the third largest paper in The Netherlands, published an interview with Dutch-Jewish director George Sluizer, 78, who said he witnessed Sharon killing two Palestinian toddlers with a pistol in 1982 in Beirut while filming a documentary there.
    Sharon's successor as defense minister, Moshe Arens, said Sluizer's account was "a lie." "Sharon would never shoot a child and he was not in Lebanon in November of 1982. Thirdly, protocol prohibits ministers from carrying weapons. As civilians they are not allowed to carry firearms."
    Amram Mitzna, former chairman of Israel's Labor Party who served under Sharon during the First Lebanon War, called Sluizer's account "total nonsense."

Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Threatens Israelis, in Hebrew (Reuters)
    An al-Qaeda-linked group issued a Hebrew threat on Thursday to avenge Israel's killing of two Gaza militants.
    In the half-minute-long recording posted on a website used by declared al-Qaeda affiliates, a member of the group Jemaa Ansar al-Sunna, which has a presence in Gaza, tells the "aggressor Jews" they will not be safe from rockets and other attacks until they "leave the land of Palestine."
    Mohammed Nimnim and Islam Yassin, killed in Israeli air strikes on November 3 and November 17, were Gazan leaders of the Army of Islam, a Palestinian Islamist group inspired by al-Qaeda.
    Israel accused them of planning to attack Israelis in Sinai.

Scientists Dig Below Dead Sea to Probe Earth's History (Telegraph-UK)
    An international team of scientists has begun drilling deep below the Dead Sea in an effort to extract material that could provide an unusual look at Earth's history over the past 500,000 years.
    The project aims to examine the layers of sediment left behind beneath the lowest place on Earth over the course of millions of years, providing clues about shifting weather patterns, seismic activity and climate change.
    The governments of Israel and Jordan as well as the Palestinian Authority are co-operating with the project.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel and U.S. Struggling to Conclude Settlement Freeze Pact - Crispian Balme
    Talks between Israeli and U.S. officials aimed at reviving Middle East peace negotiations have hit snags over incentives promised by Washington to persuade Israel to resume a freeze of Jewish settlement building. An Israeli official said on Friday the U.S. appeared reluctant to commit to paper all the promises Netanyahu says he was offered verbally last week.
        The latest snag concerned a pledge that Israel says U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made to provide the country free of charge 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion. Netanyahu's coalition allies demanded a written pledge from the U.S. to make clear the building freeze did not include east Jerusalem and to spell out there would be no U.S. pressure for any subsequent moratoria.
        The Israeli official said there appeared to be a disconnect between the White House and State Department, with Obama unhappy that Clinton had offered so much. However, he added that Netanyahu's office thought a deal could be reached in the coming hours and that the prime minister would get the necessary backing from his cabinet at the weekend. (Reuters)
        See also Israel Says No Building Freeze in Jerusalem - Amy Teibel
    Israel insisted Thursday it would keep building homes in east Jerusalem. Israeli officials said Washington had agreed to exclude the eastern sector of the holy city from the 90-day moratorium and there would be no further demands for construction curbs in the West Bank when the latest moratorium expired. On Thursday, however, a senior Obama administration official said the U.S. and Israel were still "haggling" over details of the written assurances.
        Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said any future moratorium would not apply to Jerusalem. "Israel makes a clear distinction between the West Bank and Jerusalem," Regev said. "Jerusalem is our capital and will remain as such. The previous moratorium did not apply to Jerusalem....If there is a future moratorium, it will similarly not apply to Jerusalem."  (AP)
  • Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad Discusses Resorting to the UN - Ali El-Saleh
    In an interview published Thursday, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said:
    Q: Regarding the issue of resorting to the UN and the Security Council if the negotiations failed in order to obtain international recognition of the Palestinian state?
    Fayyad: "The issue is not one of deciding to go to the Security Council or internationalization itself because what we are seeking is not the proclamation of a state but the establishment of a state....That is why I always say that what we should pin our eyes on is not the proclamation of the state but the establishment of the state since the state was proclaimed in Algeria in 1988. I am not against going to the Security Council."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also Averting Palestinian Unilateralism: The International Criminal Court and the Recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a Palestinian State - Dore Gold with Diane Morrison
    A unilateral declaration of statehood, instead of a negotiated solution to the conflict, would not only be a treaty violation, but could affect international reactions to the newly created Palestinian state. According to the Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, a state is required not to recognize or treat as a state any entity which has "attained the qualifications of statehood in violation of international law."
        To circumvent this problem, the Palestinian Authority might attempt to be conferred with statehood by others, especially by international institutions that decide it already has the attributes of a state. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Key UN Official Concerned Over Arms Flowing to Hizbullah in Lebanon - Benni Avni
    After briefing the Security Council Thursday, Secretary General Ban's special envoy to Beirut, Michael Williams, a Briton, admitted the obvious: several recent incidents prove the presence of arms south of Lebanon's Litani River in violation of Security Council resolutions. He added that speeches by the leader of Hizbullah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, force him to "assume that there's weaponry smuggled into the country."
        Jerusalem has long argued that despite the deployment of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon in the aftermath of its 2006 war against Hizbullah, the Iranian-backed terror organization is now more heavily-armed than ever, with tens of thousands of warheads aimed at major Israeli population centers. But to date no UN official acknowledged knowing anything about such arming, which would constitute a violation of Security Council resolutions.
        UNIFIL's official position is that to date it has found "no evidence" of illicit arms in its area of jurisdiction south of the Litani - despite at least three major explosions that rocked southern villages recently, indicating the presence of weapon caches. (New York Sun)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Kurtzer: U.S. Statement on East Jerusalem Hard to Come By - Tovah Lazaroff
    The U.S. would set a policy precedent if it made a clear statement that excluded Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem from any settlement freeze, former American ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer said Thursday. It would represent the first time Washington had clearly stated its policy with respect to east Jerusalem, Kurtzer said. And therefore, he indicated, it was highly unlikely that a clear written commitment would be made.
        In the 1990s, the U.S. vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions condemning east Jerusalem construction. But at the same time, the U.S. has often chastised Israel for building in east Jerusalem. Israel's right to continue to build in east Jerusalem has become a critical component of the incentives package now under discussion that the Obama administration wants to exchange for a 90-day freeze on new settlement construction. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Rocket Strikes Near Israeli Town of Ofakim - Ilana Curiel
    Palestinian gunmen in Gaza fired a rocket into Israel Thursday night that hit the Ofakim area. It was the first Grad rocket to hit the area since the 2009 Gaza operation. Three cows were injured and a building sustained damage. (Ynet News)
        See also The Gaza "Lull" - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Almost every week, rockets or mortar shells land in Israeli communities near Gaza. IDF forces deployed along the border sustain sniper fire, anti-tank rockets, RPG missiles, and roadside bombs. Since the beginning of 2010, more than 70 mortar shells and a similar number of rockets were fired into Israel, including two long-range Grad rockets fired at Ashkelon. During the same period, more than 100 "fence incidents" of all types took place.
        IDF preventative defensive operations are mostly managed in a kilometer-wide buffer zone extending from the border fence to the outskirts of nearby Palestinian neighborhoods. Within this area, the IDF defined a 300-meter strip as a "special security zone" (SSZ) where the IDF prevents the movement of Palestinians even if they are not armed.
        Currently there are some 5,000 rockets in Gaza. Most are Kassams and Grads, and a few dozen are heavy Fajr 5 rockets (possessing a range of more than 40 miles). Most of this arsenal is held by Hamas, but significant quantities are also possessed by Islamic Jihad, which receives its orders, funding and arms from Iran.
        Gaza may ignite at any moment. Under such circumstances, we should expect to see rocket barrages landing not only in Ashkelon and Beersheba but also at the outskirts of central Israel communities. In such a case, Israel would have no choice but to embark on a major ground incursion into Gaza in order to paralyze the rocket fire. (Ynet News)
  • Seven Foreign Nationals Arrested for Setting Fire to Jewish Land in West Bank - Yair Altman
    Twelve anarchists - five Israelis and seven foreign nationals - were arrested by Israeli security forces Thursday on suspicion that they had set fire to a field owned by Jews at Bat Ayin in the West Bank. The fire consumed some 50 dunams (about 12 acres) of land. At 8 a.m., a group of 30 anarchists, accompanied by photographers from Al-Jazeera television, arrived at the site, set the field on fire, and planted olive trees in the torched soil. "When the olive trees grow, the Civil Administration has a difficult time determining who the land belongs to," said one local resident. The land has been set on fire three times over the past few weeks by anarchists.
        "This has been going on for a year and a half now, on an almost weekly basis," said Yaki Morag, head of security for the village. "Yesterday and the day before anarchists burned 90-year-old trees on land that belongs to the Jewish National Fund near Kfar Etzion."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Give Iran a Reason Not to Fear a Military Attack? - Editorial
    Part of President Obama's mantra about Iran has been that "all options are on the table" - meaning he will not rule out military action to stop its attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. So why does Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates keep undercutting the message? Twice in the past week, Mr. Gates has publicly argued against a military option - even though neither the U.S. nor Israel appears to be close to launching a strike.
        To be clear: We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates' prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared - reasonably or not - that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.
        Mr. Gates' Pentagon has been a center of opposition to discussing military options for Iran for years. Given the potentially high costs and uncertain outcome of such a mission, that's understandable. But by sending the message to Iran that U.S. military action is not a serious possibility, the defense establishment only makes it more likely that the U.S. and Israel will eventually face a terrible choice between launching an attack and accepting an Iranian bomb. (Washington Post)
  • Don't Link Military Aid to Political Support of Israel - Interview with Elliott Abrams
    Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA it is unlikely the 2011 deadline for a peace agreement suggested by the Obama administration will be met by the Israelis and Palestinians. "They have been negotiating for a very long time and they have not been able to overcome the differences on some critical issues like Jerusalem or security arrangements," said the former foreign policy advisor to U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. "It may be too optimistic to expect the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement by 2011 on all issues which separate them when they have not yet started negotiations."
        Abrams told VOA he opposes the U.S. plan to provide American warplanes to Israel in exchange for an extended freeze on West Bank settlements even though he is not opposed to military aid to Israel. "It is the linkage." he says. "The Israeli agreement to extend their construction freeze in the West Bank by 90 days is now linked to a squadron of jets and to U.S. vetoes in the UN Security Council." He said the U.S. should be making decisions in the Security Council on the basis of principle. "If it is a bad resolution we should veto it," he says. "Similarly, the U.S. should give Israel what it needs, but it should not be linked to a 90-day extension of the freeze."
        "We in the U.S. are in favor of establishing a Palestinian state," said Abrams, "and they (the Palestinians) would be the main beneficiary of returning to the negotiating table, yet they are the ones refusing to go to the negotiating table."  (VOA News)
  • Arab Paper: Abbas' Insistence on Settlement Freeze Pointless - Roee Nahmias
    In a column in Asharq al-Awsat titled "The Palestinian President's Gifts," Al-Arabiya TV Director-General Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over his insistence on a construction freeze in the West Bank, "In exchange for 90 days of construction freeze the Palestinian president gave Israel 20 fighter jets...and has prompted Jewish donors around the world to support the construction of houses and apartments in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem," he wrote. "Had it not been for the freeze terms, the Israelis might not have won all this. The Palestinian side fell victim to the illusion that halting settlement building is beneficial."  (Ynet News)
  • Settlement Subtleties - Gil Troy
    Reducing the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the settlements is an act of historical vandalism, defaming the memory of nearly 30,000 Israelis, very few of whom died in settlement-related violence - most of whom died because of the continuing Arab refusal to accept Israel's existence. Obsessing about the settlements blames Israel while absolving the Palestinians of responsibility. It is a form of racism, condescendingly treating the Palestinians as if they are not accountable for their deeds and words.
        It ignores the fact that Israel withdrew from 25 settlements in Gaza and Samaria in 2005, then endured thousands of rocket attacks and a Gaza takeover by Hamas, whose charter targets the entire Jewish state - and the Jewish people. It overlooks the fact that when Yasser Arafat led his people away from the Oslo negotiations back toward terror in 2000, Palestinians blew up Jerusalem buses, Tel Aviv felafel stands and Haifa cafes, treating all of Israel as a "settlement."
        Traditionally, when countries fight, the winner keeps the territory. I challenge my historian colleagues to name one example when a country won a defensive war, then voluntarily returned the territory it conquered, if it had a prior claim to the land. The writer is professor of history at McGill University and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Muslims Project Islam's Worst Traits onto Israel and the Jews - Raymond Ibrahim
    On Sep. 7, Egyptian cleric Abdallah Samak said on Al Rahma TV: "The Jews are known for their merciless, murderous, and bloodthirsty nature....The number one characteristic of the Jews - which appears in the Bible - is that they are always prepared for combat. They believe that it is their fate and destiny to be in a state of perpetual war." The notion of "perpetual war," in fact, is straight out of Muslim doctrine and history - best recognized by the word "jihad" - and has no corollary in Judaism or any other religion. According to sharia, once Muslims are strong enough and have proper leadership, they are obligated to expand the realm of Islam through offensive jihad. (Hudson Institute New York)

    Weekend Features

  • How Israelis Secure Airports - Michael J. Totten
    While air travel terrorists have yet to use the same weapon twice, U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents look for the item the most recent terrorist used. Security officials should pay less attention to objects, and more attention to people. The Israelis do. They are, out of dreadful necessity, the world's foremost experts in counterterrorism. And they couldn't care less about what your grandmother brings on a plane.
        Instead, officials at Ben-Gurion International Airport interview everyone in line before they're even allowed to check in. And Israeli officials profile. Israeli Arabs breeze through rather quickly, but thanks to the dozens of dubious-looking stamps in my passport from Lebanon and Iraq, I get pulled off to the side for more questioning every time. And I'm a white, nominally Christian American.
        If they pull you aside, you had better tell them the truth. They'll ask you so many wildly unpredictable questions so quickly, you couldn't possibly invent a fake story and keep it all straight. Don't even try. They're highly trained and experienced, and they catch everyone who tries to pull something over on them.
        The Israeli experience isn't pleasant. The system has its advantages, though, aside from the fact that no one looks or reaches into anyone's pants. Israelis don't use security theater to make passengers feel like they're safe. They use real security measures to ensure that travelers actually are safe. Even when suicide bombers exploded themselves almost daily in Israeli cities, not a single one managed to get through that airport. (New York Post)
  • Secret Papers Detail U.S. Aid for Ex-Nazis - Eric Lichtblau
    A secret history of the U.S. government's Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a "safe haven" in the U.S. for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II. The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades.
        Perhaps the report's most damning disclosures come in assessing the CIA's involvement with Nazi emigres. The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) learned that some of the Nazis "were indeed knowingly granted entry" to the U.S., even though government officials were aware of their pasts. "America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became - in some small measure - a safe haven for persecutors as well." More than 300 Nazi persecutors have been deported, stripped of citizenship or blocked from entering the U.S. since the creation of the OSI. (New York Times)
  • Holocaust Remembrance in the Council of Europe: Deplorable Victims and Evil Ideologies without Perpetrators - Elisabeth Kuebler
     The current European politics of Holocaust remembrance, with its interplay of multiple perspectives of Holocaust history, is marked by the hijacking of the Jewish perspective by including numerous other real and self-claiming victim groups under the Holocaust definition, very general and superficial feelings of shame, and the ascription of a role-model character to the righteous among nations for present-day good citizenship behavior.
        On the flipside, evil ideologies and subsequent crimes are being denounced without clearly pointing to the individuals and societies who are guilty thereof. The Strasbourg-based intergovernmental Council of Europe, whose establishment dates back to the immediate postwar era, produces pedagogical programs on Holocaust remembrance. Strikingly, the council's fight against anti-Semitism is institutionally separated from the Holocaust remembrance and education portfolio. Dr. Elisabeth Kuebler is a lecturer at the Department of Government of the University of Vienna, and college professor at the Lauder Business School, Vienna. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
  • Marking Centenary, the Kibbutz Reinvents Itself
    The kibbutz - Israel's communal farms - are marking their 100th anniversary. In search of revival, the kibbutz movement has embraced decidedly capitalist ways, and with the reinvention, membership is perking up, from both new blood and former members. At Kibbutz Hulda, members no longer receive equal allowances but are paid according to the type of work they do, with managers making more than simple workers. The kibbutz supports itself largely through members' salaries from outside jobs, agriculture, and by leasing land and buildings to outsiders.
        The total kibbutz population today is 127,000, up from 115,300 five years ago - about 1.6% of Israel's population. There are 270 kibbutzim, whose factories and farms produce 9% of Israel's overall industrial output, worth $8 billion, and 40% of its agricultural output, worth more than $1.7 billion. Kibbutz Sasa's Plasan armored vehicle factory has won contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. military.
        The brainchild of eastern European socialist Zionists, the kibbutz movement was unique because no other voluntary form of collectivism attracted so many devotees. About 15 kibbutzim still follow the full traditional communal model. (AP)
  • Observations:

    Never Again? - Leon De Winter (Wall Street Journal)

    • In A New Shoa: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism, Giulio Meotti, an Italian author and journalist, has written a monumental study of pain and grief, of mourning and remembrance, of hatred and love. Meotti makes clear that he considers Palestinian terrorism and Arab hatred of Israel and the Jews the continuation of Nazi anti-Semitism.
    • He shows that Palestinian and Arab rhetoric is focused on Jews - not just Israelis. The dream of the Islamists is to destroy the Jewish people, not just the sliver of land called Israel.
    • Meotti's list of murderous anti-Semitism by Palestinian leaders and media is exhausting. But it is a list the Western media ignore as it would destroy the prevailing narrative that the Mideast conflict is about land and Palestinian suffering. It isn't. It is about that old sickness, Jew-hatred. Meotti writes of "more than 150 suicide attacks carried out, plus more than 500 prevented. It's a black hole that in 15 years swallowed up 1,557 people and left 17,000 injured."
    • This 400-page study of Jewish love of life is indispensable for anybody who wants to understand Israel's position in the world and the tragic position of the Jews in history. There is the story of Massoud Mahlouf Allon. "He was mutilated, bludgeoned and beaten to death while giving poor Palestinians the blankets he had collected from Israelis," Meotti recounts. Or the disabled Arnad, who was blown up in the seat of his motorized wheelchair in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market.
    • This book doesn't dumb down evil. It doesn't try to understand terrorists as victims of their socio-economic circumstances, doesn't miscategorize them as poor or uneducated (they are often middle class) or driven allegedly to despair by the very same people they murdered. No, in A New Shoah, the terrorists remain what they are, the executors of a hate-filled religious ideology.

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