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December 19, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Doubled Its Rocket Arsenal During Cease-Fire - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Hamas possesses a rocket arsenal that is double the size and range of what it had six months ago. Hamas has 8-10,000 rockets of various types.
    Six months ago, its rockets had a 20-km. range (12 miles). Today, its rockets may be able to hit Beersheba.
    Hamas' defense system for Gaza includes eight divisions and 16,000 armed personnel, as well as anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, and 50 km. of underground tunnels.

European Commission Funds NGOs that Manipulate Israeli Democracy (NGO Monitor)
    The European Commission distributes 5-10 million euros annually under the Partnerships for Peace Program (PfP) to Israeli, Palestinian, and European civil society organizations.
    While the EU claims to support "civil society initiatives that promote peace, tolerance and non-violence in the Middle East," the evidence shows that many of the grantees reflect a very narrow political perspective and exacerbate the conflict through biased campaigns against Israel.
    PfP-funded NGOs include the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions headed by Jeff Halper, a prominent participant in the "Free Gaza" boat trips and campaigns in support of Hamas in August 2008; Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch, whose publications regularly omit the context of terror and employ "apartheid" rhetoric that contributes to the demonization of Israel; and the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem, which is involved in the anti-Israel divestment campaign.
    More than half of the PfP projects show a clear and consistent bias in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
    This constitutes an attempt by a group of EU officials to directly interfere with the internal affairs of Israel, and to manipulate Israeli democracy to conform with the dominant EU "political vision."

Jewish-Muslim Relations in Sweden - Mikael Tossavainen (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    Some 300-350,000 Muslims live in Sweden or about 4% of the population. The number of Jews is estimated at 15-20,000.
    The last decade has seen a rise in Jewish-Muslim tensions on the grassroots level, and attacks on Jews by Muslims have occurred. Tensions increased particularly with the outbreak of the Second Intifada.
    There are few projects of interfaith dialogue or other forums for exclusive Muslim-Jewish interaction.
    On some issues of religious practice, such as circumcision and ritual slaughter, the Muslim organizations and the Jewish community have a common interest in fostering understanding in the general Swedish society.

Radioactive Bomb-Detection System Installed in Haifa Port (Ha'aretz)
    A device designed to detect radioactive material has been installed in Haifa port, Israel Channel 2 television reported Thursday.
    The device will scan all the containers that enter Haifa port in search of radiation.
    The Haifa facility is part of a project that spans the globe, with American satellites monitoring suspicious vessels and containers holding delicate materials.
    Similar facilities have been installed in European, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern ports.

U.S.-Israel BIRD Foundation to Invest $9M in Research Projects - Yaniv Magal (Globes)
    The U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation will invest $9 million in 12 joint projects between Israeli and U.S. companies in 2009 in the life sciences, communications, nanotechnology, and energy.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Report: Russia Selling Iran Advanced Air-Defense System
    Russia is currently fulfilling a contract to deliver S-300 air defense systems to Iran, RIA news agency quoted confidential sources as saying on Wednesday. The S-300 system could help Iran fend off air strikes on its nuclear sites. "Moscow has earlier met its obligations on supplying Tor-M1 [short-range surface-to-air missile] systems to Iran and is currently implementing a contract to deliver S-300 systems," RIA reported. The most advanced version of the S-300 system can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km. away. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Moves Against Firm Acting as Front for Iran Bank - Jeannine Aversa
    The Bush administration moved Wednesday to clamp down financially on the ASSA Corp. of New York City, suspected of acting as a front company for Iran's Bank Melli, which has been accused of providing support to Iran's nuclear program. "This scheme to use a front company set up by Bank Melli - a known proliferator - to funnel money from the United States to Iran is yet another example of Iran's duplicity," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Florida Jury Convicts Iranian in Night Goggle Case - Curt Anderson
    A federal jury on Thursday convicted an Iranian woman of attempting to obtain thousands of pairs of sophisticated U.S.-made night-vision goggles for Iran's military and police. Jurors found Shahrazad Mir Gholikhan, 31, guilty of seeking to violate the U.S. embargo against Iran. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel Urged to Ease Pressure on Palestinian Banks - Bob Davis
    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank urged Israel's prime minister to ease Israeli pressure on the Palestinian banking system, arguing that Israel's policies "undermine the viability of the Palestinian banking sector as a whole, greatly inhibit Palestinian-Israeli trade and divert resources away from the banking system toward unregulated informal channels."
        At issue is a tug-of-war over cash transfers from Israel to Gaza. Gaza's economy runs on shekels, the currency of Israel. Recently, Israel approved a cash shipment of 100 million shekels ($25.5 million) into Gaza, averting a banking crisis for the time being. Without the necessary cash, Palestinian bankers feared a run on their banks. Israeli banks, fearful of being sued for abetting terrorist financing, are also looking to end their banking relationship with Palestinian banks. If that were to occur, Palestinian banks would have a tough time handling payments from abroad. (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Declares End to Cease-Fire
    Hamas announced Thursday that the six-month cease-fire with Israel in Gaza was officially over. On Thursday Palestinians fired nine Kassam rockets and seven mortar shells at Israel. Close to 50 rockets have been fired over the past three days.
        Following the Hamas announcement, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that the cease-fire should be "respected and extended." "The U.S. condemns recent rocket attacks on Israel. Violence will not advance, but retard, the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians." "Hamas can be a part of the peace process by accepting the principles outlined by the Quartet: renunciation of violence and terror, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements between the parties."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gunmen Fire at Israeli Farmers as Truce Ends - Yaakov Katz and Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gaza Cease-Fire Ends - What Now? - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Senior Israeli security officials still feel the time is not yet ripe for a broad ground operation in Gaza. The strongest reason is that would be hard to go into Gaza at the height of an Israeli election campaign. General elections will be held on Feb. 10. It's quite possible that a major operation will eventually take place, but the decision to go ahead will only be made when there's a genuine sense that there is no other choice. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel UN Envoy Protests Hamas' "Shalit Show" - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev slammed Hamas Thursday at the UN Security Council over Hamas' anniversary celebrations, which included a Hamas member playing the part of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "As a human being - as a mother - I was appalled to hear about a rally that took place in the center of Gaza City" where "150,000 people gathered and cheered for a show that mocked the misery of Gilad Shalit, the suffering of his family, and the compassion of the people of Israel, and people around the world." "Gilad Shalit has remained in Hamas captivity for 910 days and nights," she said. "We expect the international community to do its utmost to bring him home safely." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Looking Straight at the Saudi Peace Initiative - Asher Susser
    The Saudi peace initiative is a welcome one, even if Israel does not accept all its details. However, it is impossible to conduct a serious discussion on the Saudi peace plan without knowing exactly what it says - that is, to analyze it textually. The initiative was first approved at the Beirut summit in March 2002, and was approved again at the Riyadh summit in March 2007.
        In Riyadh it was determined that: "The achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem should be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 while rejecting all forms of patriation [resettlement]"(in Arabic - tawtin). This is where the real problem lies, since the beginning of the statement is not consistent with the end. How can an agreement with Israel be arrived at on the refugee question, which clearly cannot be based on the return of millions of refugees, if from the outset the possibility of resettling refugees who will not return to Israel is rejected?
        The problem is that this position, which opposes all resettlement, is impossible for Israel. Marwan Muashar, Jordan's first ambassador to Israel, who eventually became Jordan's foreign minister, who was among the main writers of the first Saudi initiative, reveals in his recently published book that he immediately realized the problem in this formulation, and explained this to his Arab colleagues. Nevertheless, the closing statement of the Beirut summit, which was published along with the initiative, asserts: "The [Arab] leaders regard Israel as bearing the full legal responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem and for their expulsion and reaffirm their total rejection of plans of solution or the schemes and the attempts intended to resettle them [tawinihin] outside their country." The writer is a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Bans a UN Rapporteur Who Compares the Jewish State to Nazi Germany - Alan M. Dershowitz
    The UN has appointed Richard Falk as its supposedly impartial "rapporteur" on Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories. Falk is a notorious crackpot who believes that the U.S. is hiding the truth about 9/11, implying that our government has "complicity" in that terrorist attack. Falk has written that it is not an "irresponsible overstatement" to accuse Israel of perpetrating a "criminalized" Nazi Holocaust on the Palestinian people.
        I propose a new rule for civil discourse in a civilized society: anyone who compares what the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust with what the Israelis are doing with regard to the Palestinians should be disqualified from being taken seriously on any issue relating to Jews, Israel or the Middle East. Such people have a right to express their obscene and barbaric views, but they should be treated as pariahs by all decent people who believe in nuanced and calibrated consideration of complex and divisive issues. Comparison between the Holocaust and Israel is simply beyond the pale of reasoned discourse. That Falk was selected by the UN to assess the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians tells us more about the UN than it does about Israel. (Hudson Institute)
  • Europe's Jewish Problem - Denis MacShane
    As Europe faces up to its old demons of financial breakdown and job losses, a wind from the past is blowing through the continent. The extravagant rhetoric of the demagogic left and right is gaining ground, and the most obvious manifestation is the return of anti-Semitism as an organizing ideology. According to a recent Pew survey, the percentage of Germans who hold unfavorable views of Jews has climbed from 20% in 2004 to 25% today. In France, which has the largest number of Jews of any European nation, 20% view Jews unfavorably - up from 11% four years ago. In Spain, negative views of Jews climbed from 21% in 2005 to nearly one in two this year. In Poland, the percentage of those with unfavorable opinions about Jews is up from 27% in 2004 to 36% today. The writer, a Labour MP, has just published: Globalising Hatred: the New Antisemitism. (Newsweek)
  • Stay Away from Durban II - Anne Bayefsky
    The UN's World Conference Against Racism, scheduled for April in Geneva, is referred to as "Durban II," a follow-up to the infamous 2001 "Durban I" UN racism conference in South Africa. The outgoing administration has not made a decision regarding U.S. participation, which means Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have it in their power to discredit the meeting by staying away. A boycott of Durban II sends a message that the real victims of racism are not alone. A boycott denies legitimacy to a platform for hatemongers and a cover for human-rights abusers. For states to show leadership against racism and intolerance, they must join Canada and Israel and stay away. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, edits (Ha'aretz)
        See also Get Ready for Durban II - Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
    This year the UN General Assembly adopted 14 resolutions specifically criticizing Israel, and seven more expressing support for the Palestinian people. All together, the 21 resolutions addressing alleged Israeli violations stretched to 61 pages, compared with only 20 pages for resolutions critical of other countries - including Sudan, Iran, Syria and other nations with massive human rights abuses.
        The 2001 UN Durban Review Conference was an eight-day platform for attacks against the State of Israel, in close cooperation with Iran and other Islamic regimes. Now the UN is busy preparing more anti-Israel resolutions and using U.S. tax dollars to plan "Durban II." In October, the UN Human Rights Council, which is hosting the conference, released a draft document condemning Israel as guilty of apartheid, accusing it of crimes against humanity and genocide. The U.S. has vowed not to participate without proof that the conference will not become another internationally sanctioned assault against Jews and Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why Israel Is Not an Apartheid State - Yona Eshkenazi
    Apartheid was a legal system that enforced discrimination, segregation and oppression based on skin color. Israel is the opposite. Its legal system enforces equal civil and political rights for all citizens regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. As South African Minister of Home Affairs Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi declared during a visit to Israel in 2003, "The Israeli regime is not apartheid. It is a unique case of democracy." (Denver Rocky Mountain News)

    Weekend Features

  • Temple Mount Rubble Yields Ancient Coins - Etgar Lefkovits
    Two ancient coins, one used to pay the Temple tax and another minted by the Greek leader the Jews fought in the story of Hanukka, have been uncovered amid debris from Jerusalem's Temple Mount, Israeli archeologist Gabriel Barkay said Thursday. The two coins were recently found in rubble discarded by Islamic officials from the Temple Mount that is carefully being sifted.
        The first coin, a silver half-shekel, was apparently minted on the Temple Mount itself by Temple authorities in the first year of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66-67 CE. One side of the coin shows a branch with three pomegranates, and the inscription "Holy Jerusalem"; the other side bears a chalice from the First Temple and says "Half-Shekel." In the Bible, Jews are commanded to contribute half a shekel each for maintaining the Temple in Jerusalem. The coin uncovered shows signs of fire damage, most likely by the fires that destroyed the Second Temple when it was invaded by the Romans in 70 CE, Barkay said. The second coin bears a portrait of the Greek leader Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who ruled in 175-163 BCE. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Ombudsman: Radio-Canada Erred on Airing Anti-Israel Documentary - Janice Arnold
    Radio-Canada's ombudsman says the network should not have broadcast a U.S.-made documentary that tries to make the case that the American media's coverage of the Middle East is biased in favor of Israel. Julie Miville-Dechene says the five-year-old film "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land: U.S. Media and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" "contains anachronisms and inaccuracies, and militant pro-Palestinian groups were involved in researching" it.
        "The fact that this documentary is biased toward the Palestinian cause is not the issue here. Radio-Canada has the right to broadcast point-of-view films, as long as they are clearly identified as such," she says in a report issued Dec. 8. "This pro-Palestinian documentary presents one point of view, one side of the coin," she said. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • Observations:

    Prying Syria From Iran Is Counter-Intuitive - Michael Young (Daily Star-Lebanon)

    • There is disconcerting haziness whenever American officials explain why it is time to talk to Syria. The principal argument is that the Syrians can be broken off from Iran and Hizbullah, that now is the time to pry Bashar Assad away from his dangerous liaisons. That reasoning, when not utterly naive, happens to be counter-intuitive. Assad knows that it is his dangerous liaisons that make engaging Syria desirable; the Syrians' strong card is their ability to dance with Iran and Hizbullah and Hamas and manipulate the Lebanese and Palestinian scenes while continuing to oversee mayhem in Iraq. For Assad to give all that up as a prerequisite for dealing with Washington is a non-starter. It would mean surrendering his leverage before getting down to the serious business of negotiations.
    • The reality is that it is the Americans who want a new relationship with Syria, so the onus is on them to make the concessions. Hafez Assad spent decades playing the spoiler in the Middle East, many Americans were killed thanks to his efforts, but that only induced successive U.S. administrations to pursue him with greater vigor. Syria has violated UN resolutions on Lebanon that the Bush administration considered vital, most damagingly Resolution 1701, but the fact is that Bashar Assad has paid no price for this and may soon be rewarded with heightened attention from the Obama administration.
    • Assad is under no great pressure from the U.S. to give up anything significant. So why does so potentially bad an arrangement seem high on the agenda of those in the Obama transition team dealing with Middle Eastern affairs? For many policymakers, the Syrian dictatorship remains attractive because it wards away the prospect of non-state Sunni Islamists taking over in Damascus. That Syria has been at the epicenter of efforts to arm and assist non-state actors such as Hizbullah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda seems largely irrelevant to Western policymakers.

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