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WikiLeaks: Syria Helped Orchestrate 2006 Mohammed Cartoon Riots (DPA-Ha'aretz)
The government of Syria was active in organizing the 2006 riots that erupted across the Arab world following the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the Oslo daily Aftenposten reported Monday, quoting U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. Embassies targeted included those of Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
A diplomatic cable said the Syrian premier had, "several days before the demonstrations, instructed the Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassoun to issue a strongly worded directive to the imams delivering Friday sermons in the mosques of Damascus."
The riots ended when Syria "felt that 'the message had been delivered'."
The incident resulted in the evacuation of Norwegian diplomats and demands for compensation.
Israel's Islamic Movement in Holy Battle or Scam? - Nechama Duek (Ynet News)
About two months ago, Jerusalem municipality employees were stunned to discover 250 new tombstones in the ancient Muslim cemetery in the capital's Independence Park.
Municipality employees removed 150 of the fictitious tombstones, most of which had nothing underneath them but weeds and dirt.
The tombstones that doubled overnight in the Jerusalem cemetery is only one example of a wider trend.
"Placing the tombstones there is part of the Islamic Movement's attempt to take over state-owned land," said Israel Land Administration Spokeswoman Ortal Tzabar.
Islamic Movement activists are also demanding to reclaim the mosque in Caesarea - which is currently a restaurant; the mosque in Ashkelon - which has been converted into a museum; as well as additional mosques in Jerusalem and Tiberias, in addition to thousands of other sites.
In certain cases, the activists simply take over a site; they fence it, paint the ruins and even reinstate prayer services.
A brochure published by the Al-Aqsa Foundation stated: "The properties of the Muslim waqf are numerous and varied. Research shows that they are spread over an area equal to a sixth of the size of the State of Israel."
Government consultant Dr. Yechiel Shavi says the Islamic Movement's struggle over holy sites "is part of an extensive campaign aimed at securing an Islamic-Palestinian foothold within the boundaries of the State of Israel."
New Jewish Press Website Opens - (Ha'aretz)
The Historical Jewish Press website, launched on Monday, currently holds more than 400,000 pages from 20 Hebrew, French, Ladino, English and Hungarian-language newspapers.
Visit the Historical Jewish Press Website (Israel National Library-Tel Aviv University)
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- Islamist Terrorists Plotted Christmas Bombing Campaign in London - Caroline Gammell
Nine alleged terrorists of Bangladeshi origin were charged on Sunday with plotting a Christmas bombing campaign in London, targeting sites that included the Stock Exchange, Big Ben, the Mayor's Office, and the U.S. Embassy.
Police searches uncovered two issues of the al-Qaeda extremist magazine Inspire. An article in one issue was entitled "How to make a pipe bomb in the kitchen of your mom," while another included "What to expect in jihad." Other extremist material found was entitled "39 Ways," which said it was intended to help people "serve and participate in jihad." Anwar Al-Awlaki, the extremist Yemeni preacher whose teachings support and encourage violent jihad against the West, is alleged to be the inspiration for the plot, the court heard. (Telegraph-UK)
- Iran Hangs Man Convicted of Spying for Israel
Iran's official IRNA news agency said Ali Akbar Siadati, an Iranian man convicted of spying for Israel,
was hanged on Tuesday in Tehran's Evin prison. Siadati was arrested in 2008 and accused of providing Israel with classified information on Iran's military capabilities. In 2008, Iran hanged another Iranian convicted of spying for Israel.
- Boom Times in Ramallah - Maher Abukhater
The recent groundbreaking for a new Palestinian Authority presidential headquarters in Ramallah underscored an unprecedented building and investment boom in the West Bank city. Land prices have tripled. International hotel chains are arriving. And master-planned housing projects are underway around town.
Overseeing Ramallah's expansion is Mayor Janet Mikhail, a Christian independent whose slate won six seats on the 15-member City Council and formed a coalition with Islamist Hamas against Fatah, the West Bank's dominant political party.
(Los Angeles Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Israel Won't Apologize to Turkey for Gaza Flotilla Raid - Barak Ravid
In an interview on Israel's Channel 10 on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We do not want to apologize to Turkey but we are ready to express sorrow, as we have expressed, over the loss of life....But first we want to protect our soldiers. We demand that Turkey recognize that Israel did not act maliciously and that our soldiers acted in self-defense." Netanyahu said a compromise had not yet been found in the effort to patch up diplomatic ties with Turkey, but that it was in Israel's interest to resolve the issue.
See also Text of Netanyahu Interview (Prime Minister's Office)
- PA Reconsiders Ban on Palestinian Labor in West Bank Settlements - Avi Issacharoff
The Palestinian Authority has reconsidered a proposal that would have barred Palestinian laborers from working in West Bank settlements after Jan. 1 because it is unable to offer the workers alternative employment. The number of Palestinians employed in settlements has grown to nearly 35,000 and they support a Palestinian population of more than 200,000. PA legislation barring employment in settlements would be an economic blow to Palestinians in the West Bank.
- Report: Egypt Seizes Gaza-Bound Anti-Aircraft Missiles in Sinai
Egyptian security forces in Sinai recently seized a large store of weapons and explosives that were to be smuggled into Gaza including dozens of anti-aircraft artillery shells and several anti-aircraft missiles, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
- President Obama’s First Two Years in the Middle East - David Schenker
Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has been the most obvious of the Administration's regional setbacks. Regardless of how one regards Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that President Obama's approach has been counterproductive, resulting in the first cessation of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in more than 15 years.
In addition, the decision to renew diplomatic dialogue with Iran and Syria has proven a predictable, though real, disappointment, despite unprecedented goodwill gestures. The Administration has persisted with its efforts to entice Syria out of the Iranian orbit, a tack that has confirmed the Assad regime's longstanding conceit that "no problems can be solved in the Middle East without Syria." This in turn has emboldened the anti-Western alliance of Damascus, Tehran, and Hizbullah, undermining other U.S. interests and allies in the region.
The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to 2006 he was Levant director to the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
- Iran's President Nuked by the Economy? - Xan Smiley
It is the economy that could lead to Ahmadinejad's downfall. Unemployment has been rising inexorably. The official rate of 15% is surely an underestimate; the official figure for the jobless young was 29% and rising. The production of oil, the country's main source of income, has been steadily falling due to a lack of technology and investment. In 1978 Iran produced 6m barrels a day; in 2000, 4.5m; most recently, 3.5m. This will fall further in 2011. The official inflation rate is 9%; the unofficial figure is at least 30%. Meanwhile, sanctions are biting, making it ever harder for the country to get credit or foreign investment.
- Islamists Slaughter Christians, and Jews Are Blamed - Evelyn Gordon
Two months ago a synod of Middle East bishops proclaimed Israel the main source of Middle East Christians' woes, blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring the flight of Christians from the Middle East.
In reality, more than half of Iraq's Christians - hundreds of thousands in all - have fled their country since 2003 after being targeted in numerous deadly attacks. Compare this to the scene in Bethlehem, where tourism is up 60% over 2009 despite Israeli "oppression." Or compare Iraq's Christian crisis to the fivefold increase in Israel's Christian population, from 34,000 in 1949 to 152,000 in 2009. (Commentary)
- U.S.-Trained Palestinian Policemen Escalate Repression, Brutality - Khaled Abu Toameh
Over the past two years, Palestinians who protested in public against the policies of the Palestinian Authority have been assaulted and beaten by U.S.-trained Palestinian policemen. Palestinian journalists and human rights activists who tried to document these assaults have also been beaten. Abbas and Fayyad have not hesitated to use violence against their critics. Many of those who spent time in Palestinian prisons and detention centers in the West Bank say they were subjected to various methods of torture.
It is hard to understand why the Palestinian Authority, which relies heavily on U.S. and EU taxpayer money for its survival, is allowed to get away with human rights violations. In recent weeks, several Palestinian government employees said they received warnings from the Palestinian security services and senior Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah not to meet with "Jewish correspondents" or any other foreign journalist suspected of being "pro-Israel." (Hudson Institute-New York)
"How Can You Defend Israel?" - David Harris (Huffington Post)
- After a lecture at a British university, an old acquaintance said to me: "I read the things you write about Israel. I hate them. How can you defend that country? What happened to the good liberal boy I knew 30 years ago?" I replied: "That good liberal boy hasn't changed his view. Israel is a liberal cause, and I am proud to speak up for it."
- Sometimes it's the small things, the driving lesson in Jerusalem, with the student behind the wheel a devout Muslim woman, and the teacher an Israeli with a skullcap. It's the two gay men walking hand-in-hand along the Tel Aviv beachfront and no one looked at them. It's the Friday crowd at a mosque in Jaffa.
- It's the central bus station in Tel Aviv where a free health clinic was set up for the thousands of Africans who have entered Israel, some illegally. While tiny Israel wonders how many such refugees it can absorb, Israeli medical professionals volunteer their time in the clinic.
- It's Save a Child's Heart, an Israeli institution providing children from Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and other Arab places with world-class cardiac care for free.
- It's the Israelis who, with quiet resolve and courage, are determined to defend their small sliver of land against every conceivable threat - the growing Hamas arsenal in Gaza; the dangerous build-up of missiles by Hizbullah in Lebanon; nuclear-aspiring Iran's calls for a world without Israel; Syria's hospitality to Hamas leaders and transshipment of weapons to Hizbullah; and enemies that shamelessly use civilians as human shields.
The writer is executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
See also Merry Christmas from Jerusalem - Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic Monthly)
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