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December 15, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

UN: People in Gaza Aren't Starving - Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Although conditions in Gaza are far from ideal, many Gazans are able to get by on what the Hamas-controlled smuggling tunnels provide.
    Coupled with a large surplus of fruit and vegetables, the vast majority of people in Gaza aren't wanting for food.
    Reports that 50% of children are suffering from malnutrition are exaggerations, says Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director of the UN Development Program. "It's an economic crisis, a political crisis, but it's not a humanitarian crisis. People aren't starving," he said.
    The market in Rafah, on the border with Egypt, is packed with products and with shoppers.

Calls in Iran to Topple Egyptian, Saudi Regimes - Y. Mansharof (MEMRI)
    Iran's attacks and accusations against Egypt and Saudi Arabia have recently intensified. In early December, Iran's leading conservative government dailies Kayhan and Jomhouri-ye Eslami accused the Egyptian and Saudi regimes of treason, and called on their peoples to topple their regimes.
    Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari, who is close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, praised Khaled Islambouli, the assassin of the late Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat, and called to follow his example.
    See also Iranian Group Attacks Saudi Airline Office Over Peace Plan (AP-International Herald Tribune)
    A militant group attacked the office of Saudi Arabia's state-owned airline in Tehran over a Saudi-backed peace initiative with Israel.
    The group - Ikhwan al-Radwan, or Brothers of Heaven - attacked the Saudi Arabian Airlines office with several Molotov cocktails Wednesday, an Iranian state-run newspaper reported Saturday.

Israel: Hamas Representative Not Identified in Guardian Column - Anshel Pfeffer (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    The Guardian has refused to publish a letter from Israeli Embassy press attache in London Lior Ben-Dor complaining that a Nov. 21 article by Palestinian academic Azzam Tamimi had not properly identified him as Hamas' London representative.
    Ben -Dor wrote: "It is truly lamentable that the Guardian chose to give Tamimi such a prestigious platform. It is even more lamentable that the paper did not inform the readers who Tamimi really is and what he represents," writing that Tamimi "is de facto Hamas' spokesperson and representative in London."

Norway - A Paradigm for Anti-Semitism - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Post)
    Among parts of the Norwegian elite, Jew-hatred and rabid anti-Israelism intermingle.
    The Jewish population, even before the war, was never more than 2,000 and now numbers 1,300. Yet Norway must figure prominently in any future history of post-war European anti-Semitism.
    During the war, the Norwegians rounded up Jews and robbed them before shipping them off to Auschwitz. After the war, Jews were robbed further by the Norwegian democrats.
    During the restitution process, they had to pay for the administration of those of their assets recovered from the looters.
    The writer is the author of Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Slammed in Iran Over Stand on Hizbullah
    Ahmad Khatami, the Friday prayer leader at Tehran University, slammed U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's criticism of Hizbullah. "If Obama wants to decrease hatred, he has to stop making worthless comments," Khatami said. Obama said he would make clear to Tehran that its nuclear program was "unacceptable," along with support of Hizbullah and the Palestinian group Hamas, and its "threats against Israel." (AFP)
        See also Nasrallah Thanks Iran for Support - Abe Selig
    An Iranian university in the Isfahan region granted Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah an honorary doctorate in political science last week. On the occasion, Nasrallah expressed his gratitude to the Islamic Republic for its support. He said the victories Hizbullah has scored against Israel were a direct result of Iranian support. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gates: Relations with Iran to Remain Tense - Yochi J. Dreazen and Margaret Coker
    Defense Secretary Robert Gates has long advocated diplomatic engagement with Iran, an idea that is also a top priority of the incoming Obama administration. But at a high-profile security summit in Bahrain on Saturday, Gates accused Iran of fomenting instability in Iraq and continuing to pursue both nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Iran's "every move seems designed to create maximum anxiety in the international community," he said. The upshot is that the frosty U.S.-Iranian relationship seems unlikely to thaw anytime soon. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Tens of Thousands Mass in Gaza for Hamas Anniversary
    Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters massed in Gaza City on Sunday to mark the 21st anniversary of the Islamist movement's founding. Ismail Haniya, the head of the Hamas administration in Gaza, boasted that "Hamas is stronger and will remain stronger because it draws its strength from God." Top Hamas official Mahmud Zahar boasted that the group had grown "from a support base of a few thousand people to a backing of millions in Arab countries and around the world." "It has succeeded in striking at Israel's national security."  (AFP)
        See also Israeli Prisoner Ridiculed at Hamas Rally - Khaled Abu Toameh
    During Sunday's massive Hamas rally, a Hamas member dressed as kidnapped IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Shalit was led to the stage by Hamas militiamen where he pleaded for his life in Hebrew. "I miss my father, I miss my mother," the "soldier" declared as thousands of Hamas supporters shouted, "We will never recognize Israel." Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert, called the skit "another example of [Hamas] cruelty and inhumanity." (Jeruaslem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Report: Hamas to End Gaza CeaseFire - Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel, Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury
    Hamas does not plan to extend its truce with Israel beyond Dec. 19, the Damascus-based head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshal, said on Sunday. Israel informed Egyptian mediators on Sunday that it would like to extend the truce. Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's political-security department, noted that Israel rejects Hamas' view that the truce is set to expire this Friday. The agreement reached last June included no expiration date, he insisted. Gilad said Israel will support extending the truce only if Hamas once again enforces a complete cease-fire. In recent weeks, though it has largely refrained from firing at Israel itself, Hamas has allowed other Palestinian groups to do so almost daily. On Sunday, Palestinians fired one Kassam rocket and three mortar shells at Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iranian Ship Heading to Gaza Has Hidden Agenda - Yaakov Lappin
    An Iranian Red Crescent vessel due to set sail for Gaza this week carries a "hidden agenda," providing cover for an attempt by Tehran's al-Quds Force to spread its influence and possibly ferrying intelligence agents, Prof. Raymond Tanter, president of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, warned on Saturday. Iran's Red Crescent Society and other Iranian charities, such as the Imam Relief Committee and the Persian Green Relief Institute, were all "agents of the Iranian regime to carry out its subversive activities," Tanter said. "In Iraq, the Red Crescent operates as a cover for the Quds Force."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Economic Crisis Makes Iran More Vulnerable to Sanctions - Hossein Askari
    Before Barack Obama "engages in aggressive personal diplomacy" with Iran, he'd be better off first allowing Iran's economic crisis to take its toll on the mullahs before getting down to serious business. Ahmadinejad's populist expenditure policies, coupled with the unprecedented collapse of the oil market, have driven Iran into an economic tailspin, leaving the country more vulnerable to focused economic sanctions than it has been in thirty years. When oil was at $150 a barrel, Iran's government spent the windfall as if there were no tomorrow. Now Iran finds itself in a precarious financial position with oil at $46.
        Iran is no superpower. Its GDP is less than 2% of that of the U.S. Its military is puny; Iran fought Saddam Hussein for eight years and could not advance even 100 miles into Iraq. A rush to negotiate would only embolden the mullahs, extract unnecessary concessions from the U.S. and subject Iranians to clerical rule for the foreseeable future. The new administration would be wise to back-burner serious negotiations with Iran for a while. The writer is the Iran professor of international business and international affairs at George Washington University. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Terrorists Need Sensational Media Coverage - Guy Bechor
    The more the media covers terror attacks, the more we encourage them. The media makes a living because of terror. The media must have drama, tension, excitement and horror so that anxious people buy more newspapers and watch more television. At the same time, terrorism needs the media to bring horror and fear into every household in the world. The terrorists realized that in order to create a spectacular display, they need to kill Westerners, and hurt Jews as "added spice." We certainly have to report such tumultuous events, but we must restrain the sensationalism of the coverage.
        When Israel was faced with devastating suicide bombings, our media gradually lessened the coverage, refraining from close-up shots, miserable relatives, and other harsh scenes. This neutralized some of the horror and achievements of terror. The Americans greatly censored the September 11th attacks. No body was shown on the screens, names were not published, and funerals were not seen because America takes into account national morale and the enemy's glee.
        Here is a small comfort: Every time we see such horrific international attacks, this strengthens Israel and its arguments, and positions the Palestinians, Hamas, and Hizbullah in a wholly different context; not as a local phenomenon, but rather as part of a global terror offensive. The writer is a lecturer in Arab Law and Middle East Politics at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ynet News)
  • Ideological Clash of Two Jihadi Titans Shakes Al-Qaeda - Caryle Murphy
    A bitter, year-long feud has shaken al-Qaeda's ideological pillars. Sayyed Imam, an esteemed theoretician of jihad whose ideas helped shape al-Qaeda's ideology, continues to attack Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's no. 2. "Zawahiri's support among jihadis is still strong, but he is losing the media battle to convince the public that al-Qaeda is winning," says William McCants, a Washington area-based analyst of militant Islamism who monitors al-Qaeda Web activity.
        In Nov. 2007, Imam released Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World, a book that refuted al-Qaeda's terrorist tactics and ideology and was especially critical of Zawahiri. Zawahiri responded in March with Exoneration, a book charging that Imam lacked credibility because he wrote from an Egyptian prison and was supervised by U.S. intelligence. Last month, Imam's reply to Zawahiri, a book titled Denudation of the Exoneration, was serialized in Cairo's Al Masri Al Youm newspaper. In it Imam vigorously rejects the victimization theme in jihadist thinking. "The cause of Muslims' problems is Muslims themselves," Imam writes. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:

    Israel Responds to IAEA's Letter on Syria's Nuclear Site - Nili Lifshitz (Wall Street Journal)

    • The International Atomic Energy Agency's letter of Dec. 3 ("Probing Syria's Nuclear Project") defending the agency's record in investigating Syria is astonishing, but not surprising, Each time the agency comes under political criticism for handling of a Middle Eastern country's flagrant breaches of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or its safeguards agreement, the agency immediately resorts to publicly invoking Israel's name.
    • Compliance with legally binding nonproliferation commitments is the cornerstone of an effective global regime. Past and present practices by four Middle Eastern countries which exploit their NPT membership to disguise the true nature of their nuclear programs have been a source of grave concern to the international community. The IAEA should take responsibility for the manner in which it has been dealing with these four countries, none of which is Israel.
    • The claim that Israel is withholding critical information on the site is nothing but a smokescreen. Targeting Israel will not absolve IAEA of its prime duty to get to the bottom of Syria's nuclear activities.
    • Only a different approach by the agency, one which focuses on its professional mission, will reinstate its reputation and credibility in the mission to uncover clandestine nuclear programs and effectively handle dangerous proliferation activity by rogue regimes.

      The writer is spokeswoman for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

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