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January 14, 2011

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Israel: Hundreds of Hizbullah Outposts South of Litani River in Lebanon - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli security sources told Ha'aretz that developments in Lebanon are seen at this point as internal and not an immediate risk to Israel.
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah engineered the crisis but he is in no hurry to spark a civil war.
    Contrary to reports, the IDF did not significantly increase its alert level on the northern border. But Israel remains keenly aware of Hizbullah's growing strength.
    At a recent meeting between the IDF, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, the Lebanese officers claimed there was no Hizbullah activity in the south of the country.
    In response, the Israeli officers produced a map with hundreds of dots marking Hizbullah outposts and bunkers south of the Litani River.

Baby Martyrdom Culture among Shiites in Iran and Lebanon (MEMRI)
    Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV (Lebanon) reported on the Ashura ceremonies in Iran and Lebanon on Dec. 11, 2010:
    "Tens of thousands of mothers in the Islamic Republic of Iran marked what is known as 'the Day of the Infant Abdallah,' after the youngest martyr of Karbala. The ceremonies, which were held in over 1,000 Iranian towns and villages, reenacted the killing of Abdallah, the son of Imam Hussein, while in the hands of his father in the desert."
    One mother said, "We will complete the path of jihad. We hope that our children will continue along the path of Imam Hussein."
    Another said, "We have come here today in order to say to Imam Hussein: We will all make sacrifices for you. We will sacrifice our children for you."

U.S. Grants Jordan an Extra $100 Million in Economic Aid (AP-Business Week)
    The U.S. is giving its longtime Jordanian ally an additional $100 million in economic aid in addition to the $363 million in regular U.S. economic assistance. Since 1952, U.S. assistance has totaled $7 billion.

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Obama Administration Ramping Up War on Terror - Kimberly Dozier (AP-Washington Times)
    The Obama administration has ramped up its secret war on terror groups with a new military targeting center to oversee the growing use of special-operations strikes against suspected militants around the world.
    Run by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the new center will speed the sharing of information and shorten the time between targeting and military action.
    The White House has more than doubled the numbers of special-operations forces in Afghanistan, as well as doubling the CIA's use of missile strikes from unmanned drones in Pakistan and expanding counterterror operations in Yemen.
    See also Military Drones Becoming Bigger, Speedier, Deadlier - W.J. Hennigan (Los Angeles Times)

Israel to Lease Firefighting Airplanes from Canada (JTA)
    Israel will lease firefighting airplanes from Canada as it waits to purchase six new ones from the country at a cost of $200 million. The new planes will be ready in about two years, according to the CBC.

London School of Economics Audience Throws Out Anti-Israel Motion - Jonathan Hoffman (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    In a debate co-organized by the London School of Economics Israel Society and Palestine Society, the motion "This House believes in an academic boycott of Israel" was decisively rejected on a show of hands.
    Of an audience of around 700, 55-60% voted against the motion.

Israel Upgrades Kenya's Medical Abilities - Ryan Jones (Israel Today)
    Israel provided a major boost to the Kenyan medical system in November when a team of Israeli aid workers built the first full emergency room in Kisumu, the country's third largest city.
    A team of 10 Israeli engineers built the state-of-the-art facility and equipped it with the best medical equipment, all free of charge, in a project undertaken by MASHAV, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Agency for International Development Cooperation.
    On Monday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that it will use the new facility as a base from which to train local Kenyans in emergency medicine.
    MASHAV also intends to repeat the Kenyan project in Uganda and Tanzania in the coming years.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Clinton: Israel Makes Its Own Decisions on Peace
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the limits of U.S. power Thursday in a combative exchange with an Al-Jazeera reporter, saying, "We can't stop a lot of countries from doing things that we disagree with and we speak out against." "Israel is a sovereign country and it makes its own decisions," Clinton said. Clinton pointed out that Israel has reasons to be cautious. "You often make decisions based on your own experience and history," she said. "And when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon they got Hizbullah and 40,000 rockets and when they pulled out of Gaza they got Hamas and 20,000 rockets."  (AP)
        See also Clinton: Corruption Is Corroding Arab Economies - Mark Landler
    At a regional development conference in Qatar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that corruption was corroding Arab economies and making life impossible for foreigners who ran businesses in Arab countries. "Trying to get a permit," she said, "you have to pass money through so many different hands. Trying to open up, you have to pay people off. Trying to stay open, you have to pay people off. Trying to export your goods, you have to pay people off. So by the time you pay everybody off, it's not a very profitable venture."  (New York Times)
        See also Clinton Issues Stark Warning to Arab Leaders on Reforms
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday delivered a stark warning to Arab leaders that they will face growing unrest, extremism and even rebellion unless they address depleting oil and water reserves and enact real economic and political reform. Clinton said the Arab world's economic and political space must be opened up for youth, women and minorities. Without that, respect for human rights, improved business climates and an end to pervasive corruption, she said young people will increasingly turn to radicalism and violence that will bleed outside the region, threatening not only Middle Eastern stability but the rest of the world. (AP-USA Today)
        See also The Failure of Governance in the Arab World - Simon Tisdall (Guardian-UK)
  • Hamas Deploys Forces to Stop Gaza Rocket Fire - Ibrahim Barzak
    Gaza's Hamas rulers deployed forces near the Israeli border Thursday to try to prevent smaller militant groups from firing rockets, a sign that the movement fears Israeli retaliation for the escalating barrages from the Palestinian territory. Hamas leaders also called together representatives of the militant groups and told them to hold their fire, according to Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu. Hamas assembled the militant groups after Egypt warned the militant Islamic rulers of Gaza that Israel was serious about bringing the rocket fire to an end, according to a participant.
        At least 25 rockets and mortar shells have exploded in Israel's south this month and the frequency of rocket attacks has been creeping upward in recent weeks, according to the Israeli military. Several Israelis have been wounded. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Rebuffed by China and Russia
    Iran's proposal for a diplomatic tour of its nuclear sites floundered on Thursday after China effectively rejected the invitation and Russia said such a trip could never replace UN inspections or negotiations with world powers. The EU had turned down Iran's offer to allow selected ambassadors to visit two nuclear installations this weekend. The U.S. was not invited. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's nuclear envoy, said that ambassadors from Egypt, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria had accepted the invitation and that the tour would go ahead. (Reuters-New York Times)
  • U.S. Meets with Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators
    U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell met separately on Thursday with Israeli and Palestinian envoys as part of Washington's bid to revive peace negotiations. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Mitchell met first with Palestinian envoy Saeb Erakat and then with Israel's Yitzhak Molcho.
        Crowley on Thursday reiterated U.S. opposition to a Palestinian proposal for a UN resolution condemning Israel's settlement building. Washington believes the UN "is the wrong forum to address these complex issues," and that Israelis and Palestinians should "find a way back to direct negotiations as the only way" to resolve their differences. (AFP)
        See also White House Seeks New Ideas about Mideast Peace - Laura Rozen
    With U.S. Middle East peace efforts at an impasse, the Obama administration has sought new ideas from outside experts on how to advance the peace process. The solicitation of ideas comes as the administration's peace efforts are "utterly stuck," said one outside adviser on Wednesday. "They are taking a few weeks [to regroup and solicit] ideas to push forward give a real jump-start to what would be meaningful negotiations," the adviser said. (Politico)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Rockets from All Fronts Will Reach Tel Aviv Next Time
    Tens of rockets will hit Tel Aviv in the next conflict, causing major damage and many injuries, the commander of the Dan Region in the Home Front Command, Col. Dan Zussman, told Army Radio. "The first missile to hit Tel Aviv will startle people sitting at local cafes. However, with our instructions and cooperation from citizens, we expect the initial shock to pass."  (Israel Defense Forces)
  • German Submarines Make Their Way to the IDF Navy - Mor Sopher
    The Israeli Navy is prepared to receive two new submarines acquired from Germany. (Bamahane-Israel Defense Forces)
  • Erdogan: Turkey Will Stand by Hamas
    Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told Al-Jazeera Wednesday that his country stands by Hamas. "We stand by Hamas when they are right, because the Hamas movement is a resistance movement. I do not see Hamas as 'terrorist.' They are people who defend the land," Erdogan said. He urged Quartet head Tony Blair to include Hamas in the peace process, saying: "Peace will not come out of a Hamas-excluded table." Erdogan also called on Israel to apologize and pay compensation for the May 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara ship. (Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades-Hamas)
  • Virtual Tour of the Shepherd Hotel Area - Yaacov Lozowick
    The other day a private developer destroyed a large Jerusalem building which has been empty for decades, so as to construct an apartment building on its site. The building, originally built by the infamous Haj Amin al-Husseini in the 1930s, was confiscated during WWII by the British, while Husseini was hobnobbing with his Nazi friends in Berlin. Along the way it became known as the Shepherd Hotel.
        I took snapshots in all directions while standing at the entrance to the Shepherd complex. To the north is the sports center of the Hebrew University. To the east is the Hebrew University campus, part of the Arab neighborhood of Wadi Joz, and the highway to Maale Adumim. I then stood just north of the compound and saw the Israel Ministry of Housing and a medical clinic of the Klalit Israeli health fund. (Ruminations)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lebanon: Iran Retains the Initiative in the Mideast - Jackson Diehl
    Lebanon is a prime front in the regional cold war between Iran, Syria and their militarized proxies, including Hizbullah and Hamas, and the "moderate" and mostly Sunni U.S. allies. An eruption of actual civil war in Lebanon does not seem to be imminent, in spite of the likelihood that an international tribunal will soon indict members of Hizbullah for the murder of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's father. Hizbullah's move vividly demonstrated that the Iranian side retains the initiative. Because Hamas and Hizbullah are the two strongest military forces in the Levant other than Israel, they have the capacity to provoke, to disrupt and to start an armed conflict at any time of their - or Tehran's - choosing. The most imminent threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East, however, is not war; it is revolution. (Washington Post)
  • Hizbullah Challenges Lebanon's Prime Minister Hariri - and President Obama - David Schenker and Matthew Levitt
    As indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) unfold in the coming months, the key for Washington will be to maintain international support for the tribunal in the face of heightened tensions and perhaps sporadic violence. During their meeting, President Obama reportedly emphasized to Prime Minister Hariri the "importance of the work of the STL as a means to help end the era of political assassinations with impunity in Lebanon." The administration should continue to emphasize the importance of the STL finishing its work. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Behind Lebanon's New Political Crisis - Nicholas Blanford
    The anticipation of the Hariri murder indictments is exacerbating already fraught nerves. The tribunal's prosecutors are expected in the coming days to hand their evidence to the pre-trial judge, who will assess whether the case is legally sound before allowing the indictments to be served. Sources briefed on the workings of the tribunal told TIME they expect the indictments to be made public at the end of February or early March. (TIME)
  • A History of Hizbullah - Richard Spencer
    Hizbullah operatives are widely believed to have coordinated one of the most stunning terror attacks before 9/11, the double truck bombing of the American and French barracks in Beirut with the loss of 299 lives in 1983. Now it is the most powerful single political force in Lebanon. It objects to the fact it is still designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Yet its flag still shows a defiantly raised fist clutching a Kalashnikov. (Telegraph-UK)

  • Other Issues

  • The Iranian Slowdown - Editorial
    There appear to be solid reasons to conclude that UN and other Western sanctions and covert operations have hindered the Iranian nuclear program. But as Secretary of State Clinton emphasized this week, the changed timeline does not mean that the threat of Iran's program is over or that the urgency of confronting it is lessened. "We don't want anyone to be misled by anyone's intelligence analysis. This remains a serious concern," she said. "We have time. But not a lot of time." The challenge for the Obama administration, Israel and other allies will be to make use of that window to force a definitive end to the Iranian bomb program. Most likely it will require a fundamental change in Iran's hard-line regime. (Washington Post)
  • The Israeli Way of War - Michael J. Totten
    Abe Lapson, an IDF director of combat engineering, hosted me at the urban warfare training center in the northern Negev. They built a scale-model city out there in the desert where Israeli soldiers engage in sophisticated combat exercises. There are mannequins representing civilians and peacekeepers who aren't to be touched, as well as enemy soldiers and terrorists. "We take extra precautions, even when it puts our own troops in danger," says Lapson. I've never been to a Hizbullah training camp (they blacklisted me for "writing against the party"). Still, I'm certain they don't have dummies representing civilians who aren't to be touched.
        Israel, like the U.S., follows the Law of Armed Conflict. No one else in the Middle East does, especially not the likes of Hamas or Hizbullah. I met with one of the Judge Advocate General officers at the Israel Ministry of Defense. Part of her job entails launching investigations and bringing criminal charges against her fellow soldiers. Can you imagine Hamas or Hizbullah investigating their fighters and punishing them if they harmed Israeli civilians? The very idea is absurd. The whole point of firing missiles at cities and sending suicide bombers into restaurants and onto buses is to murder as many civilians as possible. These are war crimes. (Pajamas Media)
  • Will Freedom Come for Sudan's Slaves? - John Eibner and Charles Jacobs
    The British suppressed black slavery in Sudan in the first half of the 20th century. But the practice was rekindled in the 1980s as part of the surge in Islamism in the region. In 1983, when Khartoum's radical leaders declared strict enforcement of Shariah law throughout the country, the Christian and tribalist South resisted. Shariah-sanctioned slave raids were used as a weapon to break Southern resistance.
        Armed by the government in Khartoum, Arab militias would storm African villages, shoot the men, and capture the women and children. The captives were beaten and raped immediately. Some who resisted had their throats slit. Taken North - roped by their hands into lines or carried individually on horseback - they were distributed to masters. Boys were used as goat and cow herders, little girls as domestics. As they grew, they became concubines and sex slaves. Slaves slept with the animals and were given rotten scraps from the masters' table. Boys were killed for losing a goat.
        There is a racist aspect to this slavery. Blacks were cursed as Abd (black slave) and kuffar (infidel). Many were forcibly converted to Islam. The North-South war, lasting 23 years, was ultimately declared a "jihad" by Sudan's Islamist President Omar al-Bashir. In 1999, the Arab League declared that slavery was nonexistent in Sudan and that to say otherwise was an insult to Arabs and Muslims. For fear of offending Islam, many Western NGOs have turned a blind eye. People of goodwill should demand that all of the remaining slaves be set free. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Slow Disappearance of Turkey's Jewish Community - Rifat N. Bali
    Turkey's Jewish community is one of the few remaining diaspora communities in a country with a Muslim majority. Despite its apparent dynamism, its long-term viability is doubtful. The community does not have any influence or play any role worth mentioning in Turkey's cultural, political, or intellectual life. Furthermore, in recent years the entire community has become the target of much resentment and hostile rhetoric from the country's Islamist and ultranationalist sectors.
         The Mavi Marmara incident was an acid test for Turkish Jewry. The Turkish public perceived the incident as the murder of Muslim Turks by the Jewish army and started asking Turkish Jews whose side they were on. The incident also triggered a wave of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories in the Turkish media and among public figures. The writer is a research fellow of the Alberto Benveniste Center for Sephardic Studies and Culture in Paris. (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)

  • Weekend Features

  • Arab Donor Registry for Bone Marrow and Stem Cells Established in Israel - Marlene R. Eckstein
    The first and only registry for unrelated Arab donors of bone marrow or stem cells has been developed at Israel's Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. Stem cell and bone marrow transplants can cure certain cancers and other serious disorders.
        In 2008, Professor Chaim Brautbar and Dr. Amal Bishara, an Israeli Arab immunologist, established the Arab registry, since the Arab genome differs from that of other ethnic groups. Data from over 9,000 Israeli Arabs have been stored in this registry and also added to the international database in Leiden, Holland. (Poughkeepsie Journal)
  • Send in the Clowns to Boost IVF Success?
    In a study of 219 women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Israeli researchers found the odds of success were greater among women who were entertained by a professional "medical clown" right after they had the embryos implanted in the womb. Overall, 36% became pregnant, versus 20% of women who'd had a comedy-free recovery after embryo implantation. (Fox News)
  • Archaeological Excavations in Israel 2011
    Israel's Foreign Ministry has posted a list of archaeological excavations scheduled for 2011, including descriptions of the dig and other information for volunteers who would like to participate. Sites include Ein Gedi, Khirbet el-Maqatir, Bethsaida, Ashkelon, Zeitah, Kfar HaHoresh, Tel Burna, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tel Gezer, Wadi Hamam, Tel Hazor, Tel Dor, Tell es-Safi/Gath, Hippos (Sussita), Ein Qashish, and Nahal Mahanayeem. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

When the Western Press Gives Credence to Anti-Israel Propaganda - Lee Smith (Tablet)

  • Israel's enemies are waging a relentless information war against the Jewish state, and Israel is losing. An example: Last week, the New York Times reported that a Palestinian woman named Jawaher Abu Rahmah had died from inhaling tear gas after participating in a demonstration against the separation barrier, according to the family. Israeli military officials claimed they had evidence that she died from complications due to the medication she was taking for cancer.
  • It's not clear why the Times failed to treat the story with more circumspection: If the chances of dying from inhaling tear gas in an open space were not infinitesimal, wrongful-death suits would prevent police forces from using it, as they do throughout the U.S. and Europe, to disperse riotous crowds.
  • At the least, this is evidence of a lazy press corps that ought to take its work a little more seriously; at worst, it means that the Western media knowingly participates in a campaign to slander and libel a UN member state.
  • The Arabic word taqqiya is frequently used to denote the kind of dissimulation practiced by Muslims in the Middle East. The concept is a useful reminder that this is a part of the world where saying the wrong thing to the wrong person can be costly. Yet Westerners are very sensitive to the idea that some cultures do not value truth-telling in the same way that we do. So we pretend that Arab societies respect the truth as much as we do.
  • The reason the Arab countries do not lead the world in any field is not because they are any more violent or stupid or lazy than anyone else; rather, it is because the culture is set against the very principles of reason that make success possible. It is no mystery why Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah must come to New York for medical treatment - even though his country is more than wealthy enough to build first-rate medical facilities. The culture of the kingdom rewards students for memorizing the Quran, not for scientific explorations.
  • Western cyber-optimists argue that information technology like satellite television and the Internet will so inundate the Arabic-speaking Middle East with images and information that it will entirely reconfigure Arab societies. But culture is more powerful than technology, and how a society uses any given technology is determined by its culture. This is why no one wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to have a nuclear bomb, but no one has a problem with France's weapons program. This is also why the Internet is not going to open the eyes of those Arabs who are instead more inclined to use it to spread disinformation.
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