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February 17, 2009

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Egypt Cracking Down on Gaza Smugglers? - Ashraf Khalil (Los Angeles Times)
    Gaza smuggling-tunnel owners have begun to direct their fury at the Egyptian government as Egypt has begun to impose stronger checkpoints throughout the Sinai Peninsula to prevent merchandise from reaching the tunnel zone.
    There's talk of police using informants to find hidden entrances and destroy dozens of tunnels with explosives or huge water hoses.
    "They seem to be taking it seriously this time," says Musab Shurrab, a police officer stationed at the border wall.
    Tunnel traffic resumed for about a week after Israel ended its offensive in Gaza on Jan. 18, with a new wave of goods appearing in Gaza's markets.
    Then, the owners say, something changed as extra security forces began appearing on the Egyptian side of the wall.
    Tunnel owners say they hope the current crackdown is just a temporary show by the Egyptians to satisfy international demands.

New Hamas TV Puppet Declares War on Zionists - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
    After having three Hamas children's television puppet hosts - the Mickey Mouse look-alike, the bee and the rabbit - all die on TV, Hamas has introduced a new one, a bear named Nassur.
    The bear appeared Friday on Hamas TV promising to be a Jihad fighter, and declaring war on the Zionists.

Tennis Channel Won't Televise Dubai Event in Protest - Richard Sandomir (New York Times)
    The Tennis Channel will not televise the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships this week to protest the United Arab Emirates' refusal to grant an entry visa to the Israeli player Shahar Peer.
    See also Bye-Bye, Dubai - Harvey Araton (New York Times)
    Tennis should finish its business in the gulf this month and say, "Bye-bye, Dubai."

Jewish Students Held Hostage in Toronto Hillel - Tori Cheifetz (Jerusalem Post)
    Jewish students at York University in Toronto were forced to take refuge in the Hillel office last Wednesday as anti-Israel protesters banged on the glass doors, chanting, "Die, Jew, get the hell off campus."
    See also Manchester U. Students Vote to Condemn Israel - Jonathan Kalmus (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    In an emergency general meeting of the Manchester University's Student Union on Wednesday, 550 students voted for a motion to boycott Israeli goods and condemn Israel's Gaza operation, defeating 200 voting against.
    See also Oxford Students Defeat Anti-Israel Campaign - Marcus Dysch (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    A motion calling for the university to condemn Israel's action in Gaza was rejected by the Oxford University Student Union on Friday by 40 votes to 21.
    Jewish academics at the university had earlier expressed concern over last month's library sit-in by anti-Israel protestors.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Report: Israel Launches Covert War Against Iran's Nuclear Program - Philip Sherwell
    Israel has launched a covert war to disrupt Iran's illicit nuclear program, U.S. intelligence sources have revealed. A former CIA officer on Iran told the Daily Telegraph: "Disruption is designed to slow progress on the program, done in such a way that they don't realize what's happening....The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don't want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It's a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks."
        Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, a private intelligence company with strong U.S. government security connections, said, "With cooperation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear program and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Weakens Grip of Islamic Hard-Liners - Jeffrey Fleishman
    King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia weakened the hold of Islamic hard-liners Saturday by appointing the first woman to a ministerial post and dismissing a leading fundamentalist cleric and the head of the nation's powerful religious police. The king dismissed Sheik Ibrahim Ghaith as head of the Commission of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which oversees the religious police. The monarch also removed Sheik Saleh Lihedan as chief of the country's highest religious tribunal. In September, Lihedan issued a fatwa saying it was permissible to kill TV executives for broadcasting "evil" and immoral programs. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Saudi Arabia Appoints First Female Minister - Julian Borger (Guardian-UK)
  • French Court Holds Vichy Government Responsible for Deporting Jews During Holocaust - Verena von Derschau
    France's Council of State, its top judicial body, on Monday recognized the French government's responsibility for the deportation of Jews during World War II in the clearest such recognition of the state's role in the Holocaust. Thousands of Jews were deported from France to Nazi death camps by the collaborationist Vichy regime. The council called for a "solemn recognition of the state's responsibility and of collective prejudice suffered" by the deportees. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Livni to U.S.: Don't Participate in "Durban II" - Raphael Ahren
    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told visiting leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Monday that Israel must give up part of its land "in order to remain a Jewish and democratic state." "Israel is fighting for existence not only because it's the only democracy in the Middle East, but also because it's the only Jewish state in the world." She also said Israel must take the initiative and come forward with its own peace plan to head off international programs. "Any plan put on the table will not be in our interest," she said.
        She appealed to the U.S. not to participate in the UN-sponsored Durban II anti-racism conference, set to be held in Geneva this April, which is expected to be an anti-Israel forum. "Israel expects the free world not to participate in Durban II," she said. The Conference of Presidents comprises 51 member organizations representing virtually all political and religious streams of America Jewry; from the Orthodox Union to the Union of Reform Judaism, as well as the American Friends of Likud and the local branches of Peace Now. (Ha'aretz)
  • Netanyahu: Palestinians Should Have Sovereignty, But Not at Israel's Expense
    Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting leaders from the Conference of Presidents on Monday that while he would not want to govern the Palestinians, Israel must maintain control of all borders and airspace. The Palestinians "should govern themselves, but they shouldn't have certain powers that would threaten the State of Israel," he said. Netanyahu also ruled out unilateral territorial pullbacks, charging that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has allowed Hamas to take over the territory. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama's High-Risk Engagement at the Durban Review Conference - Gerald Steinberg
    The Obama Administration's decision to jump into the preparations for the UN's Durban Review Conference is a bold but risky move. If the Americans succeed in reversing the agenda so that it actually focuses on discrimination against minorities around the world, and is not another platform for anti-Israel obsession, it would mark a major success and set the stage for restoring U.S. influence and values. Alternatively, if this strategy fails, and the text remains poisonous, an American-led walkout with the 27 members of the EU and some others would delegitimize the Durban process.
        However, if Washington hesitates and compromises, allowing the Organization of the Islamic Conference and like-minded NGOs to control the agenda, the participation of the world's democracies will do immense damage. (Jerusalem Post)
  • All Over Europe, Evidence of a Rise in Anti-Semitism - Denis MacShane
    The periodic crises that have shaken world capitalism in the past century and a half are marked by a common political phenomenon: the rise of political anti-Semitism. Attacks on Jews and Jewishness constitute the canary in the coal mine that tells us something is going seriously wrong. The UK's Community Security Trust reports as many attacks on Jews in the first weeks of 2009 as in the first six months of last year. As the world enters a new era of economic crisis, anti-Semitism is back.
        Is it unreasonable to argue that the reason that there is worldwide anger against Israel but not against other regimes or religions that carry out massacres of Muslims is because the Israelis are Jews? Jews are again made to feel they are not full citizens of the countries of their birth because they refuse to support the right of Hamas and Hizbullah to use terror attacks against Israeli civilians. The canary in the coal mine seems in danger of its life once again. Denis MacShane, MP, is a former Minister for Europe and the author of Globalizing Hatred: the New Anti-Semitism. (Times-UK)
  • The Coming Swarm - John Arquilla
    A new "Mumbai model" of swarming, smaller-scale terrorist violence is emerging. The basic concept is hitting several targets at once, even with just a few fighters at each site. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been using swarm tactics for several years. Jemaah Islamiyah - the group responsible for the Bali nightclub attack that killed 202 people in 2002 - mounted simultaneous attacks on 16 Christian churches in Indonesia on Christmas Eve in 2000. Even 9/11 itself had swarm-like characteristics. In the years since, al-Qaeda has coordinated swarm attacks in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen and Iraq. This pattern suggests that Americans should brace for a coming swarm. The writer teaches in the special operations program at the Naval Postgraduate School. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    The Morality of the Gaza War - David Forman (Jerusalem Post)

    • Now, after the war in Gaza, every Arab country and every terrorist organization knows that Israel, no matter which political party heads the government, will no longer play by conventional rules, feeling itself restricted by international pressure or restrained by internal moral discussions.
    • From now on, should we be forced into war with our sworn enemies, we will use all the power at our disposal to defeat them. If they come after our civilian population, their civilian population will be endangered tenfold. We must liberate ourselves from making moral comparisons to demonstrate to the world how ethical we are. Even if we were to prove not only the justice of our cause, but the utter brutality of Hamas, it would matter little.
    • Should we not unleash our strength to combat a terrorist ministate that turns our life into a living hell through a constant and indiscriminate barrage of bombs being fired into the country with the sole purpose of killing as many innocent people as possible? Like any nation, Israel not only has the right, but the responsibility to use its entire military might to protect its citizens.
    • Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, more than 6,000 rockets were fired into the South. The world would tell us that our recent response was disproportionate; America, NATO, England, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the allied armies of World War II were never subjected to a similar torrent of hypocritical criticism.
    • Should we have waited until a Grad missile struck a kindergarten, killing dozens of children, so our reaction would then be judged proportionate?
    • We should make no apologies for the war except to express our sorrow for Palestinians who are so willingly sacrificed because of the bellicosity of those of their brethren who cry out for our ultimate destruction. In the end, the war in Gaza was a practical necessity; and, as such, our incessant discourse about the ethical implications means very little.

      The writer is the founder of Rabbis for Human Rights.

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