Report: One-Third of Hizbullah's Forces Are in Syria - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
As the Syrian Army deteriorated, Iran decided it was time to mobilize Hizbullah for war.
About one-third of Hizbullah's troops are now in Syria, according to some estimates.
This reflects a strategic decision on Iran's part not to let Syria fall into the hands of radical Sunnis, the Muslim Brotherhood, or organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda, even if Assad's regime falls.
Iran's goal is to maintain its status in Syria, and hence in Lebanon as well, even after the regime falls.
Erdogan Calls Zionism a Crime against Humanity (Anatolia-Hurriyet-Turkey)
"Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity," Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said Wednesday in Vienna.
See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Responds to Erdogan's Statement (Prime Minister's Office)
"This is a dark and mendacious statement the likes of which we thought had passed from the world," Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
See also U.S. Slams Erdogan's Comments Equating Zionism with Fascism (AP-Fox News)
The U.S. rejected a statement by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan who compared Zionism to fascism at a UN meeting aiming to promote dialogue between all faiths.
U.S. National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said the characterization was "offensive and wrong" and said people of all religions should "denounce hateful actions and overcome... differences."
See also Israel "Seeks to Repair Ties with Turkey" (UPI)
Israel is reported to have sent messages to the Turkish government in recent days saying it's interested in restoring "a more positive dynamic" in badly strained relations with its onetime strategic ally.
Swiss-Based Glencore Bartered with Firm Linked to Iran Nuclear Program - Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
Swiss-based commodities giant Glencore supplied thousands of tons of alumina to an Iranian firm that has provided aluminum to Iran's nuclear program in a previously undisclosed barter arrangement, intelligence and diplomatic sources say.
Even as the West imposes stringent restrictions on banks that do business with Iran, Tehran keeps finding new ways to do business with willing partners.
Morsi and the General - Daniel Nisman (Wall Street Journal Europe)
In August 2012, after a devastating militant attack on Egyptian troops in the Sinai Peninsula, a newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi seized the opportunity to fire Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and a number of other generals following 17 months of incompetent military rule over post-revolution Egypt.
But now, six months later, the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have returned to challenge an increasingly loathed President Morsi - quite possibly laying the groundwork to bring Egypt back under military rule.
On Feb. 20, the Egyptian press reported that the SCAF had been holding meetings behind closed doors in the president's absence on matters relating to security and stability.
Since then, Egyptian media has been awash with rumors over a possible scheme by the president to sack Gen. Abdel Fattah El Sissi, whom Morsi chose to replace Field Marshal Tantawi.
The Future of Hizbullah - Adel Al Toraifi (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
When the Arab Spring broke out, Hizbullah adopted the official Iranian stance in support of regime change, but as the uprisings continued, Syria changed the rules of the game, whereby Hizbullah sided with the Assad regime at the expense of unarmed Syrian citizens.
This can be considered the critical moment when the party lost its regional popularity, and transformed into a sectarian and ideological opponent for broad sectors of the region.
Hizbullah is no longer considered a hero in the Arab world, but rather the odious enemy of the masses, who used to boast of the party's achievements a few years ago.
This could change the position of Hizbullah and its forces not only in Lebanon but in the whole region.
In the event of the fall of the Assad regime, there are no guarantees that the war will not spread towards Hizbullah's areas of influence inside Lebanon, and the party could soon find itself confronted by many forces greater than it.
Credit Lyonnais Suit over Middle East Attacks Nears Trial - Christie Smythe (Bloomberg)
Credit Lyonnais SA may have to face a trial over claims by victims of Middle East attacks that the bank aided a Hamas affiliate, a U.S. judge ruled.
About 200 victims and family members affected by 14 separate attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories can move forward with their case, said U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry in Brooklyn, New York.
The victims are seeking damages from Credit Lyonnais, a unit of France's third-largest bank, under the Antiterrorism Act of 1992, which allows U.S. citizens to pursue liability claims against parties who aid terrorists.
The bank handled accounts for a Paris-based group that U.S. officials described in 2003 as a fundraiser for Hamas.
Russia's Gazprom Signs Deal to Market Israel's LNG - James Marson
(Wall Street Journal)
has signed a 20-year deal to market liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Tamar floating project in Israel, the Russian gas company said Tuesday.
The Tamar LNG project, based on the Tamar and Dalit offshore fields, is scheduled for commissioning in 2017.
Video: Israeli Prime Ministers and U.S. Presidents - Amb. Yehuda Avner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Amb. Yehuda Avner, advisor to five Israeli prime ministers and author of the best-selling "The Prime Ministers," discusses "The Evolving Relations between the U.S. and Israel."
"The strategic interests of a global superpower are inevitably not synonymous with those of a small regional power."
"Few of Israel's prime ministers avoided differences of opinion and sometimes outright confrontations with American presidents."
16,577 Immigrants to Israel in 2012 - Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)
16,577 new immigrants arrived in Israel in 2012, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, including 7,234 from the former Soviet Union, 2,432 from Ethiopia, 2,290 from the U.S., 2,048 from Ukraine and 1,653 from France.
Israel Only Country in West to Reduce Debt - Gad Lior (Ynet News)
Israel is the only country in the West which reduced its debt as a proportion of GDP in 2012.
The Israeli government's debt was 73.5% of GDP, compared to 74.1% in 2011 and 80% five years ago.
Debt has increased in all Western countries in recent years, and in some it has even reached more than 100% of GDP.
In addition, Israel is also the only country in the West whose credit rating has increased since 2008.
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- Bipartisan Group Backs Measure Stating U.S. Support for Israel's Self-Defense
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Thursday announced the introduction of a resolution saying that if Israel is "compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military and economic support to the government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people and existence."
"No one wants another conflict anywhere in the world militarily, but we also don't want a nuclear-capable Iran," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "This is not a green light to Israel to do anything other than defend itself....We will be there," Graham said. Joining Graham was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). (AP-Washington Post)
- U.S. Announces Expanded Battlefield Aid to Syrian Rebels, But Not Arms - Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung
The Obama administration will provide food and medicine to Syrian rebel fighters, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, announcing cautious U.S. support that falls far short of the heavy weapons or high-tech gear the rebels seek. "The stakes are really high, and we can't risk letting this country - in the heart of the Middle East - be destroyed by vicious autocrats or hijacked by the extremists," Kerry said. The U.S will send supplies through the rebels' central military headquarters, with U.S. advisers supervising their distribution.
Washington also will send an additional $60 million to help the umbrella Syrian Opposition Coalition provide basic services such as sanitation and education in areas the rebels now control. Britain and other nations working in concert with the U.S. are expected to provide the rebel Free Syrian Army with battlefield equipment such as armored vehicles, night-vision devices and body armor.
- Palestinians Warn on Possible Obama Visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem
Palestinian political and religious leaders on Sunday stressed that U.S. President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to visit Israel in March, should not visit the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem in a way that might compromise its "Muslim sovereignty."
Sheikh Akrameh Sabri, head of the higher Islamic council and former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said that Obama must enter the compound through a gate that was not under Israeli auspices.
"Any visitor is welcome to Al-Aqsa, but they should follow the regulations of the Waqf and enter through the Lions' Gate and not through Mughrabi Gate, to ensure Muslim sovereignty....Al-Aqsa belongs to Muslims only and it is their place of worship and we refuse that any Israeli official accompanies the visitor." The White House has announced neither the dates of Obama's visit nor its itinerary. (AFP)
See also Eager Israelis Send Invites to Obama Ahead of Tour - Tia Goldenberg
It seems like everyone in Israel wants to be a part of President Obama's upcoming visit.
From West Bank settlers to peace activists, universities to municipalities, Israelis of all stripes are sending him invites.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- No Evidence Palestinian Inmate Was Victim of Violence - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
There was no evidence of poisoning or physical violence against Arafat Jaradat, the Palestinian prisoner who was found dead in his Megiddo Prison cell last week, according to an autopsy report released by the Israel Health Ministry on Thursday. Fractures in the ribs and hemorrhages on the skin were typical of people who undergo intensive resuscitation in an attempt to save their lives. Resuscitation was performed for 50 minutes by prison physicians and Magen David Adom paramedics. PA President Mahmoud Abbas called for an international inquiry into Jaradat's death, saying he had been "assassinated" and was tortured.
- Israel Police: Palestinians Fabricated Claim that Jewish Settlers Torched Cars - Chaim Levinson
Israel Police on Thursday discredited claims that Jewish settlers were behind the burning of six Palestinian cars in the West Bank village of Qusra last week.
"After a vigorous investigation, and in light of evidence brought to light using advanced technology, it can be said that the incident was not committed with nationalistic motives....A number of statements made by the village complainants do not match up with the crime scene evidence. The nationalistic story was fabricated, and never occurred," the police said in a statement. (Ha'aretz)
- Egyptian Police Search for 500 Palestinians Who Entered Illegally, Some Accused of Terrorism
Egypt's Interior Ministry is searching for 500 Palestinian Hamas members accused of illegally entering the country between Feb. 14 and 24, security sources said.
Three are suspected of terrorist activities.
- Is There Room for Agreement between the Obama Administration and Tehran in Nuclear Talks? - A. Savyon and Yigal Carmon
Even if we accept the mistaken assumption that Iran seeks only threshold status - mistaken because of the ever-growing evidence that it is persisting in its development of nuclear weapons and that for this reason it will not accept true oversight - there still, in our assessment, remains no area of agreement between the sides.
The conflict with the West is not just about the nuclear issue. Supreme Leader Khamenei's main aim is to obtain immunity for his regime from any attack by the West. His secondary aim is to upgrade Iran's status regionally and globally, to that of a power equal to the world's superpowers - all of which are nuclear.
Iran will not negotiate directly and one-on-one with the U.S. unless its status is considered equal to that of the U.S., and unless there are no U.S. preconditions, such as sanctions. For this reason, Iran is demanding, as the first condition for negotiating with the U.S., the removal of all sanctions against it.
For Tehran, the nuclear talks, which it seeks to prolong, are aimed at achieving several goals: a) buying time to advance its nuclear program; b) establishing its international strategic status as the one state standing against the 5+1 without backing down; and c) forcing the West to accept it as another world nuclear superpower.
- Is the U.S. Kowtowing to Iran in Nuclear Talks? - Editorial
In the eight months since Iran last agreed to meet with the international coalition, the offer to Tehran has grown more, rather than less, generous. "It was they who tried to get closer to our point of view," crowed Tehran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili.
While the previous proposal last May called for Iran to shut down the Fordow underground nuclear plant and to ship its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium out of the country, the latest bid scales back the Fordow shutdown to a suspension of operations and allows Iran to retain some of that 20 percent-enriched uranium. The coalition also appears to have offered a greater easing of sanctions.
If Iran altered its own, unacceptable proposals from previous rounds, there was no indication of it. That raises the possibility that the regime will simply pocket the easier terms and return to its stonewalling, with the expectation that another crumbling of the coalition position will ensue. History suggests these are the tactics of a regime convinced that it can outlast and outmaneuver the U.S. and its partners.
- Reasons to Be Cautious on Iran Talks - James Blitz
After two days of talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Iran has told the U.S. and five other world powers that it is prepared to hold a couple more meetings in March and April to try to resolve international concerns that it wants a nuclear bomb.
Do more meetings just mean stalling for time? In Geneva in 2009 and in Istanbul last April, Iran made similar declarations, giving the green light for further talks on confidence-building measures that went nowhere.
It was the six world powers that came up with the compromises at Almaty - not Iran. They no longer seek complete closure of the underground Fordow enrichment plant, just a commitment to "reduce the readiness" of the plant.
Meanwhile, Iran is steadily building up nuclear capability on the ground and the timescale has shortened within which a deal must be reached if this epic diplomatic stand-off is not to end in war.
- The Sanctions Paradox - Clifford D. May
The sanctions being imposed on Iran are unlikely to succeed, yet they are an essential component of any serious and strategic policy mix.
Sanctions may be most useful after a strike against Iran's nuclear-weapons facilities. At that point, American and other Western diplomats will need all the leverage they can get to assure that Iran's rulers verifiably end the nuclear-weapons program, halt terrorism sponsorship, and ease domestic oppression. If an agreement cannot be reached, continuing and even tightening sanctions will make it more difficult for Iran to replace facilities destroyed after a military option has been exercised.
Those who rule Iran are ambitious, hateful, and ruthless - but they are not stupid. They recognize and respect strength. They smell weakness and comprehend the strategic opportunity open to them when their enemies vacillate.
If sanctions pressures increase and if there is a credible threat of military force behind them, a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the nuclear standoff becomes a possibility. By contrast, irresolution and attempts at appeasement can only enhance the likelihood of conflict by emboldening those who believe they are waging a divinely endorsed war against America and the West.
The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Nobody Wants War with Iran. But It Must Be an Option - Jake Wallis Simons
From the Israeli point of view, although many experts believe that Iran would not be so irrational as to develop and deploy a nuclear warhead, this is counterbalanced by the regime's frequent threats against the Jewish state, and propagation of aggression towards it. Netanyahu is adamant that a policy towards Iran should take into account the "never again" lessons of the Holocaust. This underscores the seriousness with which Israel must take such threats.
- Palestinians to Hagel: "We Don't Need U.S. Troops Here" - Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinians repeated this week their opposition to the idea of deploying a U.S.-led international force in the West Bank and Gaza.
"We will not agree to the presence of any foreign forces in our territories," spokesmen for various Palestinian groups said. "Such forces, especially if they are led by the U.S., would be viewed as an occupying power."
The Palestinians were commenting on a 2009 report that resurfaced this week, entitled, "A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement,"
co-authored by then-Sen. Chuck Hagel, who was confirmed this week as U.S. Secretary of Defense, that talks about deploying a "U.S.-led multinational force."
Any foreign military intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only complicate matters and pave the way for Muslim fundamentalists from all around the world to fight against the American "infidels" and their Arab "collaborators." (Gatestone Institute)
- Abbas Needs an Heir Apparent - Jonathan Schanzer
PA President Mahmoud Abbas is 78, a heavy smoker and a cancer survivor. In 2010, he reportedly was admitted six times to a Jordanian hospital for health reasons.
Should the unthinkable happen, according to Palestinian Basic Law, Article 37, "the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council shall temporarily assume the powers and duties of the Presidency."
The current speaker is Aziz Dweik, who ran on the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform ticket. Should Dweik succeed Abbas, it would be the end of any possible peace process.
Yet Abbas has refused to allow political challengers to emerge in the West Bank.
Washington is also concerned about the rise of Hamas. That's why the U.S. has plied Abbas' government with financial assistance, military training, and intelligence cooperation to ensure that Hamas does not take over the West Bank as it did Gaza. But Washington has done so at the expense of the Palestinian political system, which has grown ossified and brittle.
Abbas understands very well the significance of naming a successor. In 2003, Abbas became the first prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, upon the insistence of President George W. Bush. The timing was fortuitous, as Yasser Arafat died the following year.
The writer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Los Angeles Times)
- The PA Promotes Terror, the UK Pays for It - Gordon Henderson
A culture of hate has wormed its way into the very fiber of Palestinian society. Incitement is pervasive in Palestinian school textbooks, on television programs and at cultural and sporting events. Palestinians have been consistently and unremittingly taught to hate Jews, Israel and the West, with maps replacing the State of Israel with "Palestine," images of children carrying weapons, and cultural events named in honor of notorious Palestinian terrorists.
The PA financially rewards terrorism by paying a monthly salary to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons convicted of terror offenses. The more horrific your terrorist activity and the more Israelis you killed, the larger your salary. These payments are partly funded by the British taxpayer since they come from the PA's general budget, into which the UK contributes more than £30 million each year.
What chance does a faltering peace process stand if one of the parties makes it official policy to circulate material denouncing their supposed peace partner? Ultimately, incitement amounts to the abuse of Palestinian children. No peace agreement will be able to guarantee peace if a generation of Palestinians is growing up indoctrinated to hate Israel. We must insist, as policy, that the PA ends the indoctrination of its youth with views that jeopardize a future of peaceful coexistence.
The writer, a British Conservative MP, is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel.
(Times of Israel)
See also Debate in Norway on Funding the PA - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Norwegian state-owned TV, NRK, recently aired an 11-minute report on the direct connection between the PA's promotion of hatred and terror glorification and Norwegian funding of the PA, at 300 million kroner a year ($52,628,700). The report noted that Palestinian "children grow up learning that Jews are 'Satan with a tail.'...Adults hear that Jews are evil and not to be trusted. It is perhaps not surprising that the hatred is growing. The messenger is a [PA] government that receives large amounts [of money] from Norway." (Palestinian Media Watch)
- Erdogan's "Zionism" Comments Isolate Him and His Country - Matthew Duss and Michael Werz
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently grouped Zionism with anti-Semitism, fascism, and Islamophobia as "crimes against humanity." Casting Zionism in this way is not only deeply offensive but also quite historically inaccurate and has the potential to promote or justify violence.
Modern Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people. Developed in response to centuries of anti-Semitism in Europe, it holds that Jews represent a national group and are thus deserving of self-determination in a state of their own. By declaring Zionism a "crime against humanity," Erdogan implies that it should meet resistance appropriate to such a grave crime - namely, force.
It is in both Turkey's and the U.S.' interest to heal tensions between Israel and Turkey. Prime Minister Erdogan's incendiary remarks make that more difficult and act against Turkey's long-term national interest.
Matthew Duss is Director of Middle East Progress at the Center for American Progress, where Michael Werz is a Senior Fellow.
(Center for American Progress)
- Disgraceful Diplomacy: EU Leaks and Secret NGO Processes
Many of the claims and conclusions in the "EU Heads of Mission Jerusalem Report 2012," which recommends various sanctions against Israel, are based on non-verified statements and prejudicial opinions of NGOs which themselves receive funding from the EU and European governments. The secret cooperation between the EU and fringe NGOs produces damaging and ill-informed policies.
This "echo chamber," whereby the EU and European governments fund NGOs and then repeat their false, inaccurate, or misleading allegations in determining foreign policy, also exacerbates conflict between the EU and Israeli consensus positions. (NGO Monitor)
- Israel Looks Inward - Einat Wilf
The recent Israeli elections were not about peace, and had very little to say on the matter. To borrow the American term, Israelis have chosen to focus on "nation-building at home."
Israelis made a rational choice. They took a look around them - at the Arab world, at the West Bank - and realized that they are not likely to face any major policy choices on these fronts anytime soon. They understood that the Arab world will be overwhelmed by its own problems for years to come. The Arabs in the West Bank, while continuing to detest Israel's control over them, are still unable to make the difficult choices that would yield an agreement that would end this control.
Israelis reminded themselves that while the conflict with the Arab world has been raging for more than a century, it has never stopped them in the past from building their society, culture and economy. The fact that there might be no immediate solution to the conflict with the Arab world does not mean that they have to put their lives as a people and a country on hold. In the absence of a realistic chance of achieving peace, the rational course for a productive and dynamic people is to turn their energies elsewhere. The writer is a former Member of the Knesset.
- Freshwater Losses in the Middle East - Jay Famiglietti
A new study on recent (2003-2009) water losses in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, based on data from a NASA satellite, concludes that the Middle East may be expected to continue to lose fresh water resources over time, primarily due to climate change. The best available science indicates that the arid and semi-arid regions of the world will become even more so: the dry areas of the world will become drier (while conversely, the wet areas will become wetter).
In the Middle East, some countries, notably Israel, are pioneers of efficiency, while others are less advanced. Israel excels in highly water-efficient farming, but much of the Middle East is still losing a lot of groundwater.
Consequences for the Middle East include more prolonged drought, which means that the underground aquifers that store the region's groundwater will not be replenished during our lifetimes, nor during those of future generations. Moreover, the rapid rates of groundwater depletion that we report will only accelerate the drying of the region.
- The Desalination Revolution: How Israel Beat the Drought - David Horovitz
For the foreseeable future, Israel's water crisis is over, says Alexander Kushnir, who heads Israel's Water Authority. Kushnir identifies a refusal to "rely on fate" as the key to a genuine strategic achievement in a desert region desperately short of natural water. The solution was desalination, on a major scale. The first large desalination plant came on line in Ashkelon in 2005, followed by Palmahim and Hadera. By the end of 2013, when the Soreq and Ashdod plants are working, there'll be five plants - built privately at a cost of $2 billion.
Of the 2 billion cubic meters of water Israel uses per year, half will be "artificially" manufactured by year's end - 600 million cubic meters from desalination and 400 from purified sewage and brackish water for use in agriculture.
Kushnir adds that Israel also supplies 30 million cubic meters annually to the Palestinian Authority and 70 million to Jordan, in line with formal agreements.
(Times of Israel)
- Heroes to Heroes Helps Wounded U.S. Vets Recover - Margaret Price
After leaving Iraq as a wounded soldier in 2004, Harrison Manyoma of Humble, Texas, remained haunted by his experiences, which had culminated in a roadside car bomb explosion. Last year, he learned of Heroes to Heroes, the organization that takes groups of wounded U.S. war veterans, especially those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, on a trip to Israel.
For Mr. Manyoma, that journey produced an emotional bridge to healing. Since returning from Israel, his nightmares have disappeared. "And I've gotten a sense of peace that I'd thought I'd never find again." Why Israel? Many American soldiers, returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan shaken and numbed by bloody conflict, have found their communities - and sometimes their families - can't relate to their condition, says program founder Judy Schaffer.
But in Israel, much of the population has been more closely involved with war. "These people can provide the emotional and spiritual support needed to help traumatized vets." Throughout the trip, the American vets - none of whom has been Jewish - travel with several current and former Israeli soldiers, building bonds as they share experiences.
(Christian Science Monitor)
- The Film Lebanon Refused to Submit for an Oscar - Yasmina Hatem
Lebanon refused to endorse Lebanese Director Ziad Doueiri's film "The Attack" because it wasn't shot in Lebanon and had Israeli actors in it.
The film, which is based on Yasmina Khadra's French-language novel, is the story of an Arab surgeon living and working in Tel Aviv. After a bomb attack in a Jewish restaurant, the surgeon finds out his wife is the prime suspect.
The Academy Awards' rules do not specify that a movie submitted to the Foreign Film category has to be about the country of origin or to be shot there. In fact, two of the three movies nominated in the category this year (Austrian film "Amour" and Canadian film "Rebelle") do not take place in the countries that submitted them.
Doueiri says his choice of location was logical, as 60% of the film takes place in Israel. As for his choice of actors, he said, "I couldn't very well hire Egyptians to play Israelis. That would be ridiculous and not believable....And Palestinian and Israelis work side-by-side every day. Why do we have to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians?"
The Palestinian-Israeli Textbook Study: Flawed and Wrong - Elihu D. Richter (Times of Israel)
- Last month, press reports on the joint U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian study, "Victims of their Own Narratives," conveyed the impression of a symmetric prevalence of incitement in Palestinian and Israeli textbooks. This impression is wrong. I was one of four Israeli members of the Scientific Advisory Panel who withheld our endorsements of the final report.
- The study had major limitations. It was narrowly confined to textual excerpts alone, and did not include homework assignments, guidebooks for teachers, and the larger educational environment of children. It therefore did not capture much of the explicitly horrendous incitement in the public square, summer camps, children's TV programs, and print media. The study did not look at Hamas-run schools.
- Contrary to most press reports, the hard data in the study in fact showed substantial differences between Palestinian and Israeli state textbooks. Negative images of Israelis were far higher in Palestinian texts than were negative images of Palestinians in Israeli texts.
- The most striking contrasts had to do with Palestinian delegitimization: ignoring the existence of the other. 97% of Palestinian maps omitted Israeli cities or Jewish holy places as compared to 12% of Israeli maps that did not list Muslim sites or holy places.
- Another problem with the study is that it scored historical facts which are painful truths as negative depictions of the other. For example, Israeli excerpts describing the horrors of the Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes are defined as conveying a negative message.
Prof. Elihu D. Richter MD MPH is head of the Genocide Prevention Program and Injury Prevention Center and Director of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention. He is the retired head of the Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Injury Prevention Center at Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
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