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July 1, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Financial Links Uncovered Between Hamas and Gaza Flotilla Organizers (Israel Defense Forces)
    According to Israeli military intelligence, the terrorist organization Hamas and several organizations behind the 2011 Gaza flotilla have similar funding sources.
    Three Islamic charity funds from the Hamas-affiliated Charity Coalition directly fund Hamas and some of the organizations connected to the 2011 Gaza flotilla.
    The European Campaign to End the Siege (ECESG), one of the flotilla's leading organizers, is a UK-based umbrella organization of more than thirty Europe-based groups; it openly supports Hamas.
    Most of its organizations - founded as Muslim Brotherhood branches in Europe - are participating in the 2011 Gaza flotilla.
    ECESG Chairman Dr. Arafat Madi Mahmoud Shukri also serves as chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC). Due to PRC's flagrant links to Hamas, it was declared illegal in Israel.
    The Switzerland-based Droit Pour Tous organization and the Italy-based group ABSPP are openly and intimately involved in Hamas charity efforts as well as efforts to illegally break the lawfully enforced naval blockade on Gaza.
    See also Who Is Behind the Second Gaza Flotilla? - Ehud Rosen (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

U.S. Sanctions Syrian, Iranian Police for Syria Crackdown - David Gollust (VOA News)
    The U.S. on Wednesday imposed sanctions against a Syrian police unit and key Iranian security officials in connection with Syria's lethal crackdown on protestors. U.S. officials accuse Iran of providing material support for Syrian repression.
    Those cited include the Syrian Political Security Directorate and the head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Jamil Hassan.
    Also designated, for providing support for human rights abuses, were the chief of Iran's Law Enforcement Forces, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, and his deputy, Ahmad-Reza Radan - who traveled to Damascus in April to aid the Syrian crackdown.

Six Caught in Moldova Smuggling Bomb-Grade Uranium to North Africa - Corneliu Rusnac (AP)
    Six people have been detained in Moldova for smuggling uranium that can be used to make a nuclear weapon.
    Interior Ministry official Vitalie Briceag said Wednesday the uranium-235 was brought in from Russia, and the smugglers were trying to sell it to a North African country for euro20 million ($28.85 million).

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Israel Confirms New Offshore Gas Reserves - Ari Rabinovitch (Reuters)
    Israel Land Development (ILD) Energy said on Thursday an independent evaluator estimated two of its offshore drilling sites, located about 70 kilometers off-shore from Tel Aviv, held a total 6.5 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas.
    The company identified a 54% probability for geological success at its deep-sea Myra and Sara fields.
    The reserves at Myra and Sara will strengthen Israel's burgeoning natural gas resources. Two even larger fields, Tamar and Leviathan, were discovered off Israel's coast in the past few years.

Egyptian Schools Teach that Jews, Christians Are Infidels - Oren Kessler (Jerusalem Post)
    "Egypt's schools present Islam as the 'only true faith,' and believers in other religions - including Coptic Christians - as infidels," said Yohanan Manor, chairman and co-founder of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE), a Jerusalem-based think-tank that presented a new report this week at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Death in the West Bank: The Story of an "Honor" Killing - (Guardian-UK)
    After the discovery of Aya Baradiya's body more than a year after the 20-year-old university student went missing, her uncle confessed to Palestinian police, claiming it was an "honor" killing.
    He and his accomplices had put a plastic bag over the young woman's head and thrown her, alive, to the bottom of a well.

2,000-Year-Old Priestly Burial Box Is Real, Archaeologists Say (Fox News)
    Israeli scholars have confirmed the authenticity of a 2,000-year-old burial box bearing the name of a relative of the high priest Caiaphas of the New Testament.
    The ossuary bears an inscription with the name "Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priest of Maaziah from Beth Imri."
    The Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday that tests have confirmed the inscription is "genuine and ancient." 

1st Woman Commands IDF Sniper Platoon - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    Among the graduates of the IDF Ground Forces officer course Wednesday was 2nd Lt. Noy, 21, a combat soldier in the Caracal Battalion who became the first female officer to command a sniper platoon.

Israeli Innovators Build New "Silicon Valley" (AFP-TerraNet-Lebanon)
    With a concentration of start-ups just behind that of Silicon Valley, Israel is becoming the new standard for high-tech.
    Internet-related activities contributed $12.6 billion to the Israeli economy in 2009, representing 6.5% of GDP, according to a report from management consultancy McKinsey. The web economy has created 120,000 jobs, accounting for 4% of the country's workforce.
    "Israel is the country with the most engineers in its population, and it ranks second behind the United States in the number of companies listed on NASDAQ," said David Kadouch, product manager at Google Israel, which opened its R&D operation in 2007 and currently has 200 employees.
    Some 500 start-ups are created every year in the country, whose economy grew by 4.7% last year, compared to an average of 2.8% for other OECD-member countries. The OECD forecast for Israel in 2011 is 5.4%.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Court Indicts Four Hizbullah Members over Hariri Car Bomb in Lebanon - Martin Chulov
    Lebanon's senior prosecutor has received criminal indictments for four members of Hizbullah, who are accused of assassinating the country's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and killing 21 others in a car bomb attack on the Beirut waterfront on 14 February 2005. Lebanese media named the men as Assad Sabra, Hassan Issa, Salim Ayachhe and Moustapha Bagreddine, all senior members of Hizbullah. (Guardian-UK)
  • Dutch Government Rejects Palestinian Statehood Plan - Mike Corder
    The Dutch government Thursday rejected a Palestinian initiative to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. After a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal rejected the idea of the Palestinian initiative going to the General Assembly. "No, it will not be supported by the Netherlands," Rosenthal said. Instead, Rosenthal called for a resumption of "direct negotiations, right now" between Israel and the Palestinians. The Netherlands sends millions in development aid each year to the Palestinian Authority. (AP)
  • Oren Presents Israel's Priorities for Talks
    Israel's U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, outlined for Jewish leaders Thursday his country's list of priorities in framing peace talks with the Palestinians, in a conference call organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Oren said renewed talks should be framed by "terms of reference": recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; no return of Palestinian refugees; a long-term military presence for Israel along the Jordan-West Bank border; and that an agreement would end all claims.
        "We are looking at President Obama's speeches from mid-May, looking at those areas we can live with, other areas that with clarification can satisfy our needs." "If we can agree, proceed and convince the Europeans to come on board and have a united platform and present the Palestinians with a fait accomplit...[we] just might divert them from going to the UN," Oren said. (JTA)
  • U.S. Sees Iran Behind Rising Troop Deaths in Iraq - Tim Craig and Ed O'Keefe
    Three U.S. soldiers were killed this week in a rocket attack at a U.S. base near the Iranian border, the military said Thursday, bringing June's death toll to 15 and marking the bloodiest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years. Military officials blamed the mounting death toll on the growing sophistication of weapons that insurgents and Iranian-backed militia groups are using, including powerful rockets, armor-piercing grenades and jam-resistant roadside bombs suspected of coming from Iran.
        According to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, chief spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, the primary threat to the Americans comes from three Shiite militia groups in Iraq trained and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Anti-Missile System Must Be Deployed along Border of Future Palestinian State - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with three key Democratic congressmen on Wednesday, Reps. Gary Ackerman and Nita Lowey of New York, and Henry Waxman of California. According to a government official, Netanyahu spoke of two critical security aspects of any agreement with the Palestinians. The first is a long-term Israeli military presence on the Jordan River to combat the smuggling of arms and terrorists into the West Bank from Jordan. The second is the deployment of Iron Dome anti-missile batteries along the border of a future Palestinian state to prevent missile attacks from the West Bank on Israeli cities.
        Netanyahu said Israel would pay for the batteries, but would also need American assistance. He said the Iron Dome benefits America as well because it is a system that can be used to protect American bases abroad. Israel currently has two Iron Dome systems in operation, and a third is to be delivered by the end of the year. President Obama approved $205 million in the 2011 budget to enable Israel to buy four more. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Activist Sees Third Intifada as Unlikely, But... - Avi Issacharoff
    Taisir Nasrallah, of Balata, was one of the Fatah youth leaders in the Nablus area during the first intifada. He does not believe a third intifada is likely in the near future. In the second intifada - which, unlike the 1987 popular uprising, was a war by militant groups against the Israel Defense Forces - Balata was one of the toughest bastions of fighting against Israel. Nasrallah, 50, is now director general in the Nablus governor's office and a central Fatah activist.
        "We've obtained stability. There is one authority, the security branches function and the economy has improved. This affects the Palestinians much more than a UN declaration or vote," he says. "People feel the second intifada didn't do them any good," says Nasrallah. "The stability has improved their life and finances. Perhaps there will be celebrations following the UN recognition, but it's not likely to turn into a third intifada." His colleagues agree. Ahsan Khader (brother of imprisoned Fatah leader Hussam Khader) says there is no talk of escalation, although in a few years, maybe even decades, "everything will change around here."
        A five-floor community center, called Jaffa Center, was built seven years ago and is funded by foreign organizations. Nasrallah's dream is to have the center move to Jaffa when the day comes, he says proudly. "We give the kids courses on the right of return and teach them that the Israelis stole their lands. We've sent hundreds of camp children into Israel to see the villages and towns that were taken from us. We took them to Jaffa, Ramle." "Our message is that without a doubt they will return to the places from which they were driven out," he says. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Gaza Flotilla 2

  • Israel's Gaza Sea Blockade Is an Act of Self-Defense - Amos N. Guiora
    Self-defense against threats to national security and individual citizens is a core right and duty of all nation-states. From 2005 to December 2008, more than 10,000 missiles were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, placing more than 700,000 Israelis in daily danger of attack. Israel's Gaza blockade represents the essence of the nation-state's right to self-defense.
        According to international law, states can declare and impose a sea blockade as a means to prevent contraband from being smuggled into their territory. For the blockade to be lawful, the contraband must pose a danger to the nation-state. "Due notice" must be given that a blockade is in effect and that it will be defended. Israel's Gaza sea blockade meets these requirements.
        If the flotilla were truly a humanitarian mission, its organizers would act in concert with Israel to better the lives of the civilian population in Gaza. As it stands, should the flotilla set sail, Israel will enforce its legal sea blockade. To do anything less would abrogate its duty to its citizens and its right to self-defense under international law. The writer is a professor of law at the University of Utah. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Life for Palestinians in Gaza Improved, So Why Send Flotilla There? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Last weekend thousands of Palestinians in Gaza preferred to enjoy their time on the clean beaches, swimming, sunbathing, riding horses, sailing, smoking water pipes and barbequing. Photos of this were published by a Hamas-affiliated website in an attempt to show that the situation in Gaza under Hamas rule is not as bad as many people think.
        No one is saying that the situation in Gaza is very good. It was never good - not when Egypt was there, not when Israel captured it in 1967, not when the PLO assumed control in 1994 and not under Hamas today. There has always been poverty in Gaza, where more than 80% rely on handouts from UNRWA and international aid organizations. But the irony is that, in comparison with the past, the situation in Gaza these days is much better, and many Palestinians are saying they don't miss the anarchy, corruption and lawlessness that prevailed under the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.
        Wouldn't it have been better if the flotilla organizers had planned a journey to the border between Turkey and Syria to help the thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled from their country in recent weeks? Those refugees cannot go to the beach or shopping malls and many of them are complaining about lack of basic foods and medicine. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • Gaza Shelves Stocked; Palestinians Cause Own Medicine Shortages - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    If pro-Palestinian activists manage to slip past Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, they might be surprised by what they see in the Hamas-controlled enclave when they disembark. Roads are being paved, houses are being built, new cars have taken to the busy streets and shops are full of myriad products. Egypt's recent uprising has eroded policing in the Sinai, allowing smugglers to bring in more supplies through tunnels, aiding the reconstruction of Gaza's infrastructure. The Hamas economy minister, Ala al-Rafati, estimates that up to 14,000 workers had returned to their jobs in the construction sector in recent months, and up to 1,000 factories, most of them small-scale family firms, had resumed operation.
        Mahmoud Daher, the Gaza office director of the World Health Organization, said shortages of medicine and medical equipment cannot be blamed directly on Israel. Daher said the two main reasons were a failure by the Palestinian authorities to pay suppliers on time and a lack of cooperation between health authorities in the West Bank and Gaza, which are governed by rival Palestinian movements. (Reuters)

  • Lebanon

  • Lebanon's Justice Delayed - Editorial
    On Thursday the world learned the identities of those indicted for the murder of Rafik Hariri. Moustapha Badreddine, brother-in-law of the late Hizbullah military supremo Imad Moughnieh, topped the four-man list. It is now up to the Lebanese government to serve arrest warrants to the four and pack them off to The Hague. We wouldn't be surprised if their whereabouts remain unknown for many years.
        There is a lesson here about what happens when the UN is handed the reins in any significant proceeding. Though UN investigator Detlev Mehlis worked quickly to show Syria's hand in ordering the hit, the investigation bogged down under subsequent investigators. Reports went missing, documents were leaked, a key Lebanese investigator was murdered. Above all, the political window during which the investigation had the full backing of a sympathetic Lebanese government closed.
        Nor is it likely that justice will ever be meted to those who gave Badreddine and his comrades their orders. Hizbullah is a disciplined and hierarchical organization that works hand-in-glove with Damascus and answers to its masters in Tehran. The fact that the indictments rose no higher than these four characters indicates how badly the overall enterprise has failed. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also The Controversial Life of the Hariri Tribunal - William Harris (Foreign Affairs)
  • UN Tribunal Exposes Hizbullah - Jonathan Spyer
    Hizbullah's legitimacy in the eyes of non-Shi'ite Arabs in Lebanon and beyond has significantly diminished in recent years. The issuing of indictments against four Hizbullah members for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri will only serve to accelerate this process. Hizbullah members, whose guns were proclaimed as serving a national Arab and Islamic "general will" against Israel, now stand accused of the murder of an iconic Sunni Arab politician from the very heart of the Arab mainstream.
        Hizbullah's support for the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, even as it brutally crushed an uprising by the Sunni majority, has further served to tarnish the movement's reputation. There is widespread fury and disgust among Lebanon's Sunnis at the reports of possible Hizbullah involvement, alongside Iranian personnel, in crushing the protests. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Spy-Gadget War Rages between Hizbullah, Israel - Nicholas Blanford
    Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah's acknowledgment that three members of his group had been caught spying, two of them for the CIA, is the first time that the party has admitted in public that a Western intelligence organization has infiltrated its ranks. Marwan Faqih, the owner of a garage in Nabatieh who allegedly planted GPS tracking devices within vehicles of Hizbullah members, was potentially the closest Israel has come to penetrating the organization in recent years.
        In October 2009, Hizbullah detected a tap on its fiber-optic network near Houla. A team of Hizbullah technicians walked the line, checking the buried cable every few meters while being tailed by an Israeli UAV. Eventually, they discovered an interceptor hooked into the fiber-optic cable, a transmitter and a battery pack. The Israelis, realizing the device had been discovered, attempted to blow it up but only the transmitter was destroyed. The interceptor and battery pack were successfully blown up the following day.
        Since early 2010, some UNIFIL battalions have been picking up rocket launch signals on their ground radars. The radars show the source of fire inside Lebanon, track the trajectory and mark the impact point in Israel. Only there were no rocket launches. UNIFIL has been unable to determine whether Hizbullah has found a way to trick radars by transmitting false launch signals or whether the fake readings are a form of Israeli interference. (Daily Star-Lebanon)

  • Syria

  • U.S. Policy on Syria - Bilal Y. Saab
    A State Department official enumerated to me three reasons why Obama and his foreign policy team are not likely to go all the way and ask Syria's Assad to step down. One, war weariness: The American people are dead set against another war in the Middle East. A forceful policy toward Syria that is backed by the credible threat of military intervention will not be supported by the American people. Furthermore, Libya killed all chances of more aggressive U.S. action in Syria.
        Two, no regional consensus: The crushing majority of Arabs, governments and publics alike, supported NATO's intervention in Libya. On Syria, there is no regional consensus whatsoever. Three, no critical mass among Syrian protestors: The Syrian popular uprising is viewed in Washington as a "rural phenomenon" and until it becomes more "urban," more forceful action by Americans and the international community will remain elusive. The images of thousands of Egyptians demonstrating in Tahrir Square made it relatively easy for Washington to call for Mubarak to leave. No such images have appeared in Damascus. The fact is: Assad is here for now. (National Interest)
  • How We Syrians Live in Fear of the Secret Police - Sebastian Akkam
    The overwhelming sense on the streets in Aleppo, where I live, is one of profound fear of the previously powerful Assad regime - which as it becomes increasingly threatened may engage in ever more reckless acts. The general fear is of unexpected arrest by unidentified agents for an unspecified crime.
        The SIS (Special Investigation Service) is an enormous, well-paid secret police service set up in the early 1970s with the help of the Stasi in East Germany. It uses torture to extract information about dissident groups, who are all described as enemies of the state. There is no right in this country to claim innocence. Suspects are immediately detained without access to family or to legal advice. Detention in prison is indefinite and the location is secret. Cells are often underground. (London Evening Standard)

  • Other Issues

  • Will September UN Vote Lead to Palestinian Authority's Collapse? - Guy Bechor
    The U.S. already made it clear in the most explicit way that it would impose a veto on a unilateral Palestinian move at the UN Security Council in September. Yet Abbas insists on rushing towards the wall. Palestinian disappointment may be immense and destructive. Palestinian violence may result and possibly focus on Israel, but also turn domestically, against the Palestinian Authority that prompted the failure.
        Israel already warned that should the PA seek to establish a Palestinian state, the Oslo Accords shall be annulled. In this case Israel would no longer collect Value Added Tax on behalf of the Authority, and that would mean that the immense monthly fund transfers to the PA and to Gaza shall draw to an end. The Authority will then collapse within a week or so. Moreover, Arab states are not enthusiastic about handing over money either. (Ynet News)
  • Hostility Exposed on Isawiya Streets - Editorial
    Nir Nahshon, 28, was traveling from Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus to Ma'aleh Adumim last Sunday when, in his words, he "met death face-to-face." Misdirected by his GPS device, he found himself in Isawiya, an Arab neighborhood just outside Jerusalem's French Hill, inside Jerusalem city limits. Some people began hurling cement blocks at Nahshon's car. Then he was pulled from the vehicle, beaten and kicked. Nahshon might well have met a dreadful fate had it not been for Isawiya's courageous mukhtar, Darwish Darwish, who took him into his home and shielded him.
        Like the Ramallah lynching of two reservists on October 12, 2000, at the start of the second intifada, the readiness to resort to violence against an Israeli whose "crime" was merely to take a wrong turn into an Arab neighborhood persists. Such hostility is fed by the steady dose of incitement and demonization of Israel that so often pollutes the official PA media, its educational system and mosques.
        A few days ago, Jewish mourners visiting their mother's grave at the Mount of Olives cemetery were attacked at close range by stone-throwing Arabs. Last month, five policemen were wounded at A-Tur after rocks and firebombs were thrown at them. All of these cases - and there are numerous others - occurred inside sovereign Israel. The grim concern is that any Jew in a predominantly Arab area may find himself in mortal danger. How stark a contrast to the period before Camp David 2000 when tens of thousands of Israelis did their weekly shopping in the West Bank without having to fear for their lives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The "Gandhi of Palestine"? - Andrew Gilligan
    The British police have finally caught up with Israeli Islamist leader Raed Salah after he was served with an exclusion order by the Home Secretary on the grounds of his undesirability. The idea that someone like this could seriously be described as "the Gandhi of Palestine" (as does the "Middle East Monitor" website) illustrates the terrible mess the Palestinian cause has got itself into. Perhaps if they really had had a Gandhi - peaceful, non-hating and above all a builder, not a spender, of moral authority - the Palestinians might have got more of what they want and deserve by now. Instead, they've got Raed Salah. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Extremist Islamic Forum of Europe Sponsors a Man Who "Calls Jews 'Germs' and 'Monkeys'" - Andrew Gilligan
    Raed Salah is a Palestinian who reportedly wrote the following piece of poetry in the Hamas journal: "You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques, Slaughterers of pregnant women and babies. Robbers and germs in all times, The Creator sentenced you to be loser monkeys, Victory belongs to Muslims, from the Nile to the Euphrates."  (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Raed Salah Accused Jews of Using Children's Blood to Bake Bread - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)

Flotilla Plots a Course that Ignores Inequities and Terrorism of Hamas - Richard Humphreys (Irish Times)

  • I readily understand the humanitarian impulse of those participating in or supporting this flotilla, but I would like to set out my own view as to why we should be slow to endorse this Gaza flotilla.
  • To me, the crucial issue is: why do the Israelis feel obliged to put that blockade in place? They feel obliged to have a blockade because the Hamas regime in Gaza has used munitions and rockets smuggled into Gaza to launch attacks on Israeli civilians.
  • The flotilla is not really about bringing aid. The Israeli government is committed to assisting the bringing of aid to Gaza by land. Some of the ships, including the Irish one, are reported to be carrying little or no aid.
  • Here in Ireland we should recall that the political representatives of paramilitarism were not admitted into the talks process until there was a permanent ceasefire. We should be able to understand from experience that it is simply not realistic to expect Israel to lift all of their security measures on Gaza without likewise having a ceasefire guarantee.
  • The Palestinian regime also needs to be asked hard questions about the level of human rights they are prepared to secure for their own people. Equality for women and rights for gays and lesbians do not conspicuously feature in the Sharia-style regime that Hamas has unleashed on its civilian population. We must not be selective in our concern for rights.
  • We know what it means to build relationships with our former adversaries. Building such relationships is not assisted by grandstanding, confrontational and provocative gestures such as the proposed flotilla.

    The writer is Labour Party councillor for Stillorgan.
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