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May 9, 2011

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Iran's Revolutionary Guard Training Arab Agents in Venezuela (Arab Times-Kuwait)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard is allegedly training a large number of Kuwaitis, Bahrainis and Saudis in a private training camp located in Waheera, a remote area near the borders of Venezuela and Columbia, and intends to use them to carry out terrorist activities within their respective countries and other areas across the world in case Iran is attacked militarily, Al-Seyassah daily quoted one of the militants who broke away from the group as saying.
    The training camp is run in cooperation with Hizbullah and Hamas. The trainees were given courses in making bombs, carrying out assassinations, kidnapping people and transporting the hostages to other locations.
    In case there is a war against Iran, the trainees are to target all embassies of Gulf countries, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan in Latin America.
    The source also said the money Iran makes through drug trafficking and money laundering is equal to the budget of some countries.

Hamas Breaks Up Salafist Bin Laden Rally in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Hamas on Saturday broke up a protest by dozens of conservative Islamists who had gathered in Gaza City's main square holding up posters of bin Laden and chanting, "We warn you America; we warn you Europe."
    Some banners read, "We are all your soldiers Osama" and "Osama is alive inside us."
    Hamas' head in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh had denounced bin Laden's killing as an assassination "of an Arab holy warrior."

Muslim Mobs Attack Christian Churches in Egypt, 12 Dead - Samer al-Atrush (Telegraph-UK)
    Attacks by Muslim mobs on Coptic Christian churches in Cairo left at least 12 people dead.
    Muslim protesters had tried to storm the St. Mena's church in the Imbaba district on Saturday evening, claiming Christians were holding against her will a woman who had converted to Islam and married a Muslim. A fire bomb thrown from the Muslim side set fire to an apartment building next to the church.
    Christians standing guard outside the church chanted: "Oh God! Oh Jesus." The Muslims chanted back: "There is no God but Allah."
    Muslim protesters also set fire to a second church in the same district and attacked Coptic-owned businesses.
    See also Egypt Clashes Turn Spotlight on Islamist Radicals - Matt Bradley (Wall Street Journal)
    On some level, the violence is an effort to intimidate Christians whose protection by the Mubarak regime was perceived by many as preferential treatment, said Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a human-rights group.
    "Muslims are convinced that Copts were too powerful under Mubarak, and are motivated by the desire to teach Christians a lesson right now," Bahgat said. Hard-line Muslims want to show Christians "that they need the protection of Muslims, that the West is not going to protect them."
    Egypt's democratic revolution is allowing the deep ranks of Egypt's Islamists to stretch their legs in public, after generations in the shadows.

The Legitimization of Hamas - James Kirchick (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas is obscurantist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, warlike and rejectionist. It calls for the death of homosexuals and bans dancing.
    Its charter beckons Muslims to hunt down Jews from "behind rocks and trees," claims that Muslims "have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad," and accused Jews of "Nazism."
    It picks fights with Israel that result in the needless deaths of Palestinian civilians.
    It could end the blockade in Gaza tomorrow if it wanted to, simply by laying down arms, renouncing terrorism and accepting Israel's right to exist - but no amount of Palestinian suffering will ever cause it to do so.
    Israelis, the majority of whom have long supported a two-state solution, cannot be expected to make deals with an organization constitutionally bound to the genocide of Jews.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Half of Democratic Senators Urge PA Aid Cut-Off
    Half of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate urged President Obama to suspend assistance to the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism. The letter, signed by 27 Democratic senators, which was sent May 6 and initiated by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), said: "It is imperative for you to make clear to President Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United States, including its receipt of U.S. aid."
        The letter notes that U.S. law proscribes assistance to any government that includes Hamas, unless it and its ministers comply with principles laid down by the Quartet: recognizing Israel and renouncing terrorism. "We urge you to conduct a review of the current situation and suspend aid should Hamas refuse to comply with Quartet conditions."  (JTA)
  • Syria Crackdown Escalates, Spreads - Liz Sly
    The Syrian regime tightened its grip on protest hot spots around the country Sunday, dispatching tanks into the town of Tafas in the south and continuing to shoot and detain citizens as part of a relentless crackdown. At least 14 people were killed in Homs by sharpshooters deployed on tall buildings who have been firing at anyone who stepped outside, according to Wissam Tarif of the human rights group Insan. He said nearly 10,000 people have been taken into custody since the uprising began in March, and the death toll stands at 716. The demonstrations have mushroomed to encompass virtually the entire country. (Washington Post)
        See also Sweeping Arrests in Syria after Military Rolls In - Sarah El Deeb
    Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said more than 200 people were picked up Sunday in Banias on the Mediterranean coast. Security forces killed 30 people in nationwide protests on Friday. (AP)
        See also As Tanks Line the Streets, Syrians Stand Firm to Defy Brutal Regime - Khalid Ali and Kim Sengupta (Independent-UK)
  • Hamas Leader Nods to New Partners - Charles Levinson and Matt Bradley
    Hamas leader Khaled Mashal said his movement will make decisions about how to wage its struggle with Israel, including if and when to use violence, in consensus with more moderate Palestinian factions. "How to manage the resistance, what's the best way to achieve our goals, when to escalate and when to cease fire, now we have to agree on all those decisions as Palestinians," said Mashal in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in Cairo. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Hamas Leader: The Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation - A Step Towards Restoring the Land, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa
    On May 7, Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Badie met in Cairo with Palestinian figures, including Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Mashal; the secretary-general of the Popular Front–General Command, Ahmad Jibril; Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shalah; and Fatah official Sahar Basiso. Mashal said at the meeting that the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation strengthened the Palestinians in their struggle to end the occupation and restore the land, Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is the right of the entire Arab and Muslim nation. He added that the winds of change blowing in Egypt placed the goal of liberating Palestine within reach, and that the Palestinians hoped to host their Egyptian brothers for a prayer in Al-Aqsa. (MEMRI)
  • Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Urges Review of Israel Ties - Heba Saleh
    The Muslim Brotherhood opposition group in Egypt has called for a review of the 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and says it should be resubmitted to a "freely elected" parliament for approval. Egypt is due to hold parliamentary elections in September and the group is likely to emerge with the largest bloc in the assembly. "We should now raise our voice to ask for: an end to normalization [with Israel] which has given our enemy stability; an end to [Egyptian] efforts to secure from infiltrators the borders of the Zionists; the abolition of all [joint] economic interests such as the Qualified Industrial Zones agreement and the export of Egyptian gas to Israel," said Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's leader. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also U.S. Planning $1 Billion Debt Relief for Egypt - Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Remembrance Day: Israel Remembers Its Fallen Soldiers
    Remembrance Day, which began on Sunday evening, May 8, is a day of collective and personal anguish mingled with awe and honor for the fallen. A total of 22,867 men and women have been killed defending the Land of Israel since 1860. Since the end of the War of Independence, 2,443 people have been killed in Israel in terror attacks - 13 in the past year. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Israel Stands Still to Commemorate Fallen Soldiers
    Israel stood still on Monday morning as a siren sounded to commemorate fallen soldiers on Israel's Memorial Day. The country grinds to a halt at the sound of the siren, with cars stopping on the highway so that people may stand and pay their respects to the country's fallen soldiers. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Remembering the Fallen - President Shimon Peres (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Memorial Day Address - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Hamas Holds First Rally in Ramallah in Four Years - Mohammed Mar'i
    For the first time in four years, hundreds of Hamas members and supporters took to the streets in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday to celebrate the signing of a reconciliation deal between rivals Hamas and Fatah. Ahmed Musleh, a West Bank-based Hamas legislator, said "it is the first time in four years" that Hamas members and supporters "can hold a Hamas flag alongside a Palestinian flag in the West Bank." Similar rallies were held in the cities of Nablus, Jenin, and Hebron. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Strategic Affairs Minister: Hamas Signed Unity Deal Out of Weakness
    Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Saturday that Hamas signed the unity agreement with Fatah out of weakness and that it should not be believed that they are moderating their extreme views toward Israel. The former IDF chief of staff said that Israel's improved ability to defend itself with the recently deployed "Iron Dome" anti-rocket system contributed to the Gaza leadership's decision to reconcile with the Palestinian Authority. Israel should not "delude" itself into thinking that the agreement between the Palestinian factions is a real reconciliation. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • A Fatah-Hamas Deal - Editorial
    The recent agreement between Fatah, which leads the Palestinian Authority and has committed to peace with Israel, and Hamas, which has committed to Israel's destruction, is not the answer. We have many concerns about the accord, starting with the fact that Hamas has neither renounced its legacy of violence nor agreed to recognize Israel. The U.S. and the other members of the Quartet need to put the new government on notice that all support will be carefully scrutinized and that firing Mr. Fayyad would be a big mistake. They need to tell Hamas that if it is serious about coming in from the cold, it must halt all attacks on Israel and recognize its right to exist. A negotiated settlement is the only way to guarantee Israel’s lasting security. (New York Times)
  • The End of the “Peace Process" - Elliott Abrams
    The agreement between Fatah and Hamas marks the end of a long period of cooperation and negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians. Cooperation with Israel to improve life in the West Bank and security cooperation against terrorism have now been jettisoned in favor of the appearance of unity.
        Why now? Hamas' invaluable support from Syria is as shaky as the Assad regime itself, and its usual opposition to PA elections is softened by the prospect of winning them. Moreover, Hamas has long sought to enter and dominate the PLO but was kept out of it. Abbas' willingness to let Hamas in is a considerable victory for Hamas. But why did Abbas do it? Public opinion polls suggest that Palestinians want national unity and reconciliation, so Abbas is playing to the voters. With polls showing that Hamas is quite unpopular in Gaza and weaker than in 2006, Fatah should be able to win the PA and PLO elections.
        Due to the deal with Hamas, any hope Israel's enemies, or its "friends" in Europe, had that President Obama would push Netanyahu into serious concessions when they meet in late May is now gone. The U.S. needs to be far clearer: we cannot and will not support any government where Hamas has a real influence and the security forces stop fighting terror. We must certainly not fund such a government, and indeed once Prime Minister Fayyad leaves we should be very wary of the financial practices of the PA. We do no favor to any Palestinian who really seeks peace, democracy, and independence if we pull our punches when a murderous terrorist group maneuvers to gain power in - and then take power over - all the Palestinian territories. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The Reconciliation Agreement between Fatah and Hamas - An Initial Evaluation - Pinhas Inbari
    The reconciliation agreement signed by Fatah and Hamas may result in a ceasefire in the Gaza region until September since Hamas will not want to explode the situation on the eve of the UN session. Yet the Hamas-Fatah disputes remain. Abbas defined Hamas in an interview with Egypt's Al-Ahram as the "opposition," while Hamas perceives itself as the government.
        Another manifestation of the dispute is the argument about the identity of the new prime minister to replace Salam Fayyad. Abbas accepted the Hamas demand to select a prime minister from Gaza because he also wanted to see Fayyad out. Abbas' candidate is the former foreign minister in the unity government that was established after the ill-fated Mecca accords, Ziyad Abu Amru, while the Hamas candidate is the NGO operative Jamal al-Kudari. While Abu Amru is an academician close to both Abbas and Hamas, who will cooperate with Ramallah in promoting the statehood project, Kudari is responsible for organizing the "freedom flotillas" to break the closure on Gaza, which may create the provocations that could topple the statehood project. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Report: Abbas May Reappoint Fayyad to Head PA Government - Oren Kessler
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas may reappoint Prime Minister Salam Fayyad following last week's unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Sunday. (Jerusalem Post)

Israel's 63rd Independence Day

  • Israel at 63: Population of 7,746,000
    Israel population stands at 7,746,000 people, a 2% increase (150,000) compared with 2010. 5,837,000 (75%) are Jewish; 1,587,000 (20.5%) are Arab. Over 70% of the Jewish population are native-born Israelis. Some 24,500 immigrants arrived in the past year. (Ynet News)
  • Video: Volunteers Who Came to Fight for Israel's Independence
    "The Volunteers: Answering the Call of History," tells the stories of people like Vidal Sassoon, who left a hairdressing apprenticeship in England to come fight in the Palmach; Yeshiva University Chancellor Norman Lamm, who volunteered in a bullet making factory in upstate NY; Harold Katz, who dropped out of Harvard Law School to help bring illegal immigrants to Palestine, and others who volunteered to help found the State of Israel. (Toldot Yisrael)
  • Video: "The Hope" - Israel's National Anthem (YouTube)
  • Israel Offers Free Access to National Photo Collection
    Israel has decided to open the Government Press Office's National Photo Collection to the public, free of charge. The collection includes some 200,000 digitized photos. (Israel Government Press Office)
  • Major Knesset Debates, 1948-1981 - Netanel Lorch
    Now online, the major Knesset debates dealing with the critical issues in Israel's history from 1948 to 1981. Each of the six volumes is available in full in pdf format, as are 18 key debates on major issues. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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