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April 6, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Three Charged in 2005 London Transit Attacks - Jane Perlez (New York Times)
    British authorities charged three Muslim men Thursday with conspiring to help with reconnaissance and planning for the July 2005 suicide-bombing attack on the London transit system, which killed 52 people.
    The attack, Britain's deadliest in peacetime, was carried out by four Britons of Pakistani origin.
    Mohammad Shakil, 30, Sadeer Saleem, 26, and Waheed Ali, 23, are from the Beeston area of Leeds. Three of the four suicide bombers lived nearby.

Teachers Drop the Holocaust to Avoid Offending Muslims - Laura Clark (Daily Mail-UK)
    Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a study funded by the UK Department for Education and Skills has revealed.
    Some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.

Ukrainian President Not Going to Israel (Kommersant-Russia)
    Israeli authorities have declined Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's request to visit Israel for Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Day on April 16.
    The Israeli Foreign Ministry has asked Kiev several times to coordinate a time for an official visit, but the timeframe has shifted repeatedly. Two weeks ago, Yushchenko sent a request to visit during the observance.
    According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, Yushchenko intended to use his visit to draw parallels between the Jewish Holocaust and the Ukrainian Holodomor, the famine of 1932-1933.
    Kiev holds that the artificial famine was an act of genocide against Ukraine by the USSR and is demanding international recognition of it.
    More than 60 countries have signed a document prepared by Ukraine confirming the genocide. Israel has not, out of a desire to maintain good relations with Russia.

Synagogue in Chicago Vandalized - Yaniv Salama-Scheer (Jerusalem Post)
    Vandals spray-painted "Free Palestine" and "Death to Israel" on the Ner Tamid Ezra Ha-Bonim Synagogue on the North Side of Chicago during Pessah.

Yemeni Jews Face Growing Sectarian Troubles - Ginny Hill (Christian Science Monitor)
    In January, Yahya Yousef Mousa, one of the several hundred Jews still living in Yemen, was confronted by masked gunmen from a Shiite sect who told him and his neighbors to leave their homes in the northern province of Saada or lose their lives.
    Now, Mousa and eight Jewish families from the village of Salem are living in a secure residential compound in the capital, Sanaa.
    Their expenses are being paid by the Yemeni government, currently battling an armed rebellion by the same Shiite group that threatened the Jews.

Israelis Laud Alaska Sailor for 1947 Exodus Mission - Brandon Loomis (Anchorage Daily News)
    A young Alaskan named Jack Johnson sailed into history and an Israeli hero's stature in 1947, but never really realized it until he returned to the Mediterranean this winter at age 80.
    Johnson, who in December retired from piloting ships around Alaska, had a dizzying youth during World War II and then found himself at the right bar in Marseille when the Zionist group trying to slip Jewish refugees past a British blockade into Palestine asked him to join their crew.
    An Orthodox Russian Christian, he signed on to crew aboard the Exodus, a ship that attempted to move some 4,500 refugees and in so doing is widely credited with evoking the world's sympathy toward the formation of Israel.

Rise in Arab Volunteers for National Service - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    Shlomit, an organization that arranges placements for Israeli national service volunteers, registered 213 young Arab volunteers between December and March, compared with 130 volunteers in all of 2006, according to data published Thursday.
    Approximately half of the new Arab volunteers are Muslims, including many Bedouin, and the other half are Christians, mostly from the western Galilee.
    According to Haya Shmuel, director of Shlomit, many local Arab leaders make a point of insuring that those volunteering for national service serve in their own communities.

Israeli Arabs Big Consumers of Matza - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    During the Passover season, the Israeli Arab public regularly consumes large quantities of matza.
    A journalist associated with the Islamic Movement in Israel said he also bought matza. "The kids can't get enough of it. They eat it like crackers."
    A man from Baka al-Garbiyeh said his children and wife preferred to eat matza with a spread of jam or chocolate.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UK Envoy Meets Hamas PM Over Kidnapped BBC Reporter - Isabel Kershner
    Senior British diplomat Richard Makepeace, the British consul general in Jerusalem, met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas in Gaza on Thursday to discuss the fate of kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. It was the first meeting between a senior Hamas official and an official EU envoy since the new Palestinian unity government was formed in mid-March. The meeting was described by a British diplomat as having taken place on "humanitarian grounds" and not as a change of policy. (New York Times)
  • Powerful, Unchecked Clan Surges in Gaza - Dion Nissenbaum and Ahmed Abu Hamdan
    Along the southern stretches of Gaza City, in a stronghold surrounded by concrete barriers and patrolled by armed guards, a powerful clan has evolved into a force that the PA is afraid to confront. Palestinian officials suspect Mumtaz Dagmoush and his extended family of 15,000 of involvement in every major recent crisis in Gaza, from the capture of an Israeli soldier last summer to the unresolved kidnapping of a BBC correspondent last month. "If I try to arrest someone I will end up in a confrontation with the whole society," said Ali Sartawi, a member of Hamas and the PA's new justice minister. "An agreement with the families is very important for establishing law and order. They have to be partners. Confrontation is not an option."
        This week Talat Dagmoush said his family is willing to cooperate with the new government only if it demonstrates that it's willing to crack down on all crime in Gaza, not just on one group. The Dagmoush alliance with Hamas crumbled in December when two family members were killed in a clash with Hamas militants. Since then, the clan has demanded that Hamas turn over 18 men who it says are responsible for the deaths. (McClatchy-Tribune)
  • Rise in Radical Islam Last Straw for Lebanon's Christians - Michael Hirst
    Christians are fleeing Lebanon to escape political and economic crises and signs that radical Islam is on the rise in the country. According to a poll, nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating. More than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies. About 60,000 Christians have left since last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. "Lebanon has always been a bastion of religious tolerance, but now it is moving towards the model of Islamization seen in Iraq and Egypt," said Fr. Samir Samir, a Jesuit teacher of Islamic studies at Beirut's Universite' Saint-Joseph. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
        See also Hizbullah's Mix of Prayer and Politics - Alia Ibrahim (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Fatah Commander Rejects Calls for Calm - Ali Waked
    Zakariya Zubeidi, a commander in Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who is wanted by Israel for a series of terror attacks, took responsibility on Thursday for a bomb attack against Israeli soldiers in Jenin. He said his group would not heed calls by Mahmoud Abbas to halt attacks against the Israeli army. (Ynet News)
        See also Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades Fire Rockets at Ashkelon and Sderot
    The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the main military wing of Fatah, have announced their responsibility for launching a rocket at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Thursday. The Brigades said in a statement that their launching operations will continue "in all areas of Palestine," referring to historic pre-1948 Palestine. In a separate incident, the Al-Aqsa Brigades also claimed responsibility for launching three rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday. (Maan News-PA)
  • 25 Palestinians Killed in Gaza Infighting Last Month - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA security sources said 25 Palestinians were killed in Gaza last month in internal fighting. Another four were killed in the West Bank. "The Gaza Strip is full of thugs and gangsters who are responsible for the ongoing anarchy. Soon the Gaza Strip may be declared a dangerous zone, which means that all international organizations would have to leave," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a close aide to Mahmoud Abbas. "Thousands of gunmen continue to roam the streets and the new government hasn't done anything to restore law and order. Every day you hear horror stories about people who are killed and wounded," said a human rights activist in Gaza City. He said at least 46 civilians had been kidnapped in Gaza in the past four weeks.
        Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the commanders of the PA security forces knew where kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was being held, but were doing nothing to release him. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas, Fatah Clash in Gaza on Friday (Reuters)
  • What It Means If the Button Is Pushed - Reuven Pedatzur and Yitzhak Yaakov
    Some of those involved in formulating policy in the face of the anticipated Iranian nuclear threat are convinced that a nuclear war can be won, a nuclear strike is survivable, and an active and optimistic society can be rebuilt. Such claims are generally based on game theory and war games that would result in a severe blow to the Israeli population, but one that we could live with.
        Anyone wishing to adopt these optimistic scenarios should look at the estimates of the damage that a nuclear strike in the heart of Tel Aviv would wreak. They are based on a study by U.S. nuclear scientists who used data collected during nuclear testing in the U.S. If a single 100-kiloton bomb fell in greater Tel Aviv, out of 2.5 million residents, about 500,000 would be killed by the explosion and 1 million would be injured. It is easy to guess what would happen if several nuclear bombs were dropped. The ensuing radiation could not only double and triple the number of fatalities, but also render the affected areas uninhabitable for years. Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yitzhak Yaakov was head of research and development in the Israel Defense Forces. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • The Undeclared War with Iran Is Far from Over - Amir Taheri
    The seizure of hostages is based on an ancient tradition first practiced by early Islamic conquerors. The Arab general Saad Abi Waqqas realized that Muslim fighters were awestruck by the Byzantine soldiers. He solved the problem by putting captured Byzantine soldiers on show to demonstrate that the "Infidel" were fragile men, not mythical giants.
        The mullahs' first aim was to capture some Americans. Last September, they set a trap for a platoon of GIs from the 101st Airborne Division patrolling the Iraqi border with Iran. After an intense shooting match with the Iranian force sent to capture them, the Americans managed to flee to safety. So the British, whose rules of engagement prevent them from fighting Iranians even in self-defense, were chosen as the softer target.
        The seizure of the British naval personnel is the latest episode in a low-intensity war that the Islamic Republic has waged against the West for almost three decades. In this war, Iran has killed hundreds of Western, especially American and French troops, in suicide attacks in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. More recently, its agents have killed at least 200 American troops and an unknown number of British soldiers in Iraq. (Times-UK)
  • Hostage Diplomacy - Editorial
    Will the Security Council reward Tehran for taking hostages as a diversionary tactic - or turn up the heat? The message from the hostage incident: Sanctions are working. Tehran is squirming. The regime knows it has a lot to lose. You want to stop Iran from going nuclear? Dial up the pressure fast. (Chicago Tribune)
  • They're Free, But Britain Has Been Humiliated - Editorial
    The satisfaction of a diplomatic challenge eventually handled with skill is soured by the string of psychological humiliations that Britain has suffered. First, there is the apparent incompetence of the Royal Navy in providing insufficient protection to lightly armed inflatables. Second, the seized personnel lost no time in admitting to having trespassed and in apologizing for their mistake. The old military practice of giving name, rank and number, and no more, has obviously been abandoned. Third, the denouement of this crisis showed Ahmadinejad in the most favorable of lights. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Ahmadinejad Knows Little About the Outside World - Caroline Davies and David Blair
    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected mayor of Teheran in 2003, although the turnout was only 12%. As mayor, he ordered the police to arrest any couples seen holding hands in the streets. One retired diplomat who served in Iran describes Ahmadinejad as nothing more than an "over-promoted municipal politician." All candidates standing in Iran's presidential contest must be vetted by the Council of Guardians, a powerful committee of hardline clerics. The Council barred reformers from standing in the 2005 presidential contest, giving Ahmadinejad an easy run.
        Ahmadinejad knows little about the outside world and appears to glory in Iran's isolation and poverty. The rules of diplomacy, the history of Europe, even the Arab countries of the Middle East mean little to him. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iran Forces Israeli Rethink - Simon Tisdall
    Tehran's sinister hand is seen in all the key problems facing Israel, including Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas, and in the fostering of what Professor Amnon Rubinstein calls Israel's "sense of abandonment surrounded by a rising sea of Islamism." The Ahmadinejad phenomenon represents by common agreement an existential threat. It is radically altering the way Israel views its neighborhood.
        One result has been the effective downgrading of the Palestinian issue. Officials welcome the latest U.S. peacemaking efforts. But they say ongoing, low-level conflict can be "managed" almost indefinitely. Similarly, Israel's relations with Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia, have reached a high in recent months, driven not by a developing affinity, but by shared fear of Iran. (Guardian-UK)

    Other Issues

  • The Lebanon-Israel Tragedy - Reda Mansour
    Three times Israeli forces entered Lebanon and fought on that country's soil, but never against its people. In the '70s it was Yasser Arafat and the PLO who built a country within a country and chose Lebanon to be the frontline in their war of terror against Israel. In the '80s, Syria came to Lebanon claiming an attempt to keep the peace and chose instead to keep the country. Of late it is Iran that has chosen to make Lebanon its sacrificial lamb, with Hizbullah the executioner. A whole generation of those living in northern Israel and southern Lebanon has grown up knowing the horrors of wars designed not in Beirut or Jerusalem but rather in Tehran, Damascus, and Gaza.
        Tel Aviv and Beirut are like sister cities on the Mediterranean. They welcome visitors from across the world with rich cultures and a firm embrace of diversity, while working to give their guests and inhabitants a sense of normality shielded from the surrounding conflicts. In the Middle East the struggle has always been between those who wanted to spread freedom and democracy and those who feel threatened by it. For decades Islamic extremists have tried to destroy both Lebanon and Israel because our way of life offers an alternative to their dark and oppressive existence.
        In Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, Lebanese and Israeli immigrants work and flourish together. Lebanese families send their children to Jewish schools and befriend Jewish neighbors. Lebanese businesses even employ young Israeli men and women as security advisers. My hope is that the coastal road between Haifa and Beirut will one day be reopened. My prayer is that we will end this vicious war, Israel's kidnapped sons will be returned to their families, and Lebanon will be returned to its people. The writer is the Atlanta-based Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S. (Charlotte Observer)
  • Nonie Darwish: Muslims Must Welcome the Jews in Our Midst
    Egyptian-American writer Nonie Darwish, interviewed on Al-Arabiya TV on March 23, said: "We should begin to view the Palestinian Arab cause in a different manner. For 58 years we have been fighting Israel....Enough, we must resolve this problem, because it hinders the progress of the Arab peoples." "We must be just and grant the Jews security. There are five million of them, and we are 1.2 [billion] Muslims. What are we afraid of - five million Jews? We must welcome them, so they can live in our midst."
        "We must stop the terrorism in Israel, and we must not encourage Hamas to say it wants to annihilate Israel. Ahmadinejad is not even an Arab - what does he have to do with Israel? Is he acting this way in order to unify his people?...We call upon the Arab countries to stop teaching hatred to the Arab children, and to stop teaching them to hate the Jews and the Christians."  (MEMRI)
  • Gaza Seen as Palestinian Shame, Banana Republic - Bernd Debusmann
    Factional fighting, political bickering and a failure to establish law and order have turned Gaza into a symbol of Palestinian shame and are pushing the Palestinian national movement toward collapse, according to prominent Palestinian intellectuals. "It is time that Palestinian leaders looked at their own weaknesses instead of blaming everything on Zionism, imperialism and other outside forces," said Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia University's Middle East Institute. Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, said, "officials with the mind-set of a banana republic are causing tremendous damage to the Palestinian cause." (Reuters)
  • Reliance on NGOs Saps State Department Report's Credibility - Gerald Steinberg
    The lack of credibility and professionalism reflected in the chapter on "Israel and the Occupied Territories" of the annual U.S. State Department report on human rights seriously undermines the credibility of the rest of the report. The main reason is the almost total reliance on allegations made by the large number of non-governmental organizations active in this conflict zone. Instead of doing their own research, the authors of this report parrot the claims of highly political NGOs. Groups such as Adalah, Mossawa, HaMoked, B'Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Human Rights Watch are the real authors of this chapter. With the exception of HRW, these NGOs are funded by European governments, radical church groups, and similar donors. (JTA)
  • Observations:

    Britain's Humiliation - and Europe's - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)

    • Iran has pulled off a tidy little success with its seizure and release of those 15 British sailors and marines: a pointed humiliation of Britain, with a bonus demonstration of Iran's intention to push back against coalition challenges to its assets in Iraq. Further, it exposed the impotence of all those transnational institutions - most prominently the EU and the UN - that pretend to maintain international order.
    • The quid pro quos were not terribly subtle. An Iranian "diplomat" who had been held for two months in Iraq is suddenly released. Equally suddenly, Iran is granted access to the five Iranian "consular officials" - Revolutionary Guards who had been training Shiite militias to kill Americans and others - whom the U.S. had arrested in Irbil in January.
    • Where then was the EU? These 15 hostages, after all, are not just British citizens but, under the laws of Europe, citizens of Europe. Yet the EU lifted not a finger on their behalf. Britain asked the EU to threaten to freeze exports, $18 billion a year of commerce. Iran would have lost its No. 1 trading partner. The EU refused. So much for European solidarity.
    • Ironically, the existence of transnational institutions makes it harder for collective action against bad actors. In the past, interested parties would simply get together in temporary coalitions to do what they had to do. That is much harder now because they believe such action is illegitimate without the Security Council's blessing.
    • The capture and release of the British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the "international community" and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the Security Council and get a statement that refuses even to "deplore" this act of piracy. Then turn to the despised Americans. They'll deal some cards and bail you out.

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