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July 3, 2009

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Japanese Diplomat Elected UN Nuclear Chief - Sharon Otterman (New York Times)
    Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, 62, who favors a firm approach toward Iran, was elected to lead the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday, narrowly edging out South African diplomat Abdul Samad Minty.
    Amano will replace Mohamed ElBaradei, whose term expires in November.
    Depicted by experts as the candidate favored by the U.S., Amano favors maintaining the current approach toward controlling nuclear proliferation in Iran.
    See also Israel's Favored IAEA Candidate Elected - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

U.S.: Hamas Digging Smuggling Tunnels Sixty Meters Deep - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    American engineers who serve as consultants for the Egyptian military have recently informed Israel that Hamas has succeeded in digging 60-meter deep smuggling tunnels to avoid detection and destruction by the IDF, Israeli defense officials said on Thursday.
    According to a recent report on Al-Arabiya TV, there are 800 tunnels along the Gaza-Egyptian border.

Nobel Winner Calls for UN Human Rights Envoy for Iran - Daniel Bases (Reuters)
    Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient Shirin Ebadi called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday to appoint a personal envoy to investigate human rights abuses in Iran, in a letter also signed by the International Federation for Human Rights and the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
    Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, has called on Ahmadinejad to prosecute those who shot protesters and pay compensation to their families, while also calling for fresh elections held with UN observers.

Taliban Buying Children for Suicide Bombers - Sara A. Carter (Washington Times)
    Pakistan's top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is buying children as young as 7 to serve as suicide bombers in the growing spate of attacks against Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. targets, U.S. Defense Department and Pakistani officials say.
    A Pakistani official said the going price for child bombers was $7,000 to $14,000 - huge sums in Pakistan, where per-capita income is about $2,600 a year.
    Using child suicide bombers "is the grim reality of the Taliban Frankenstein that now threatens to overwhelm the Pakistani state," said Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution scholar who chaired a review of Pakistan-Afghanistan strategy for President Obama.

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My Grandson Can Visit the Biblical Places He Learned About in School - Lenny Ben-David (New York Jewish Week)
    Uriya and 80 other first-grade boys received their certificates last month on completing their study of the entire book of Genesis.
    What was truly unique about Uriya's reception was its location: The Shrine of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron in the West Bank - the traditional site of the graves of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah, the second holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
    Jews lived in Hebron for centuries until an Arab massacre of Jews in 1929 forced the survivors to flee.
    For centuries the Muslims forbad Jews from entering the tomb. Only after the 1967 war, when Israel pushed the Jordanian Legion from the West Bank, were Jews able to return to Hebron and enter the shrine.

Secret British Agent Identified as Hungarian Jew - Nick Squires (Telegraph-UK)
    14 prisoners were hurriedly moved out of Rome by the retreating Germans on June 4, 1944, the day that the city was liberated by the advancing British and Americans, taken to the outskirts of the capital and shot in the back of the head by their SS guards.
    13 were later identified, 7 of whom had been working as agents for OSS, the American intelligence agency. But the last remained unknown, his final resting place marked by a plaque on a tree which read in Italian "the Unknown Englishman" and rumored to be a British Army officer, Captain John Armstrong.
    Now Italian investigative journalist Gian Paolo Pellizzaro has established that the special agent was Gabor Adler, a Hungarian Jew who had been recruited by the British Special Operations Executive.

"Self-Irrigating" Plant Discovered in Israeli Desert (ANI/Thaindian News)
    Researchers from the University of Haifa-Oranim in Israel have managed to make out the "self-irrigating" mechanism of the desert rhubarb, which enables it to harvest 16 times the amount of water expected for a plant in this region.
    The plant's extremely large leaves improved its ability to survive in the arid climate.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama: Iran Cannot Be Permitted to Be Nuke Power - Jennifer Loven
    President Barack Obama says he is "not reconciled" to the idea of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. The president said Thursday that a nuclear-armed Iran would likely trigger an arms race in the Mideast that would be "a recipe for potential disaster" and that Iran must not be a nuclear power. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Iran's Ahmadinejad Faces Diplomatic Isolation - Jeffrey Fleishman and Borzou Daragahi
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be the diplomatic equivalent of damaged goods now that he's won a much-disputed reelection. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev publicly greeted Ahmadinejad at a recent meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but did not grant him a private meeting as he had the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Belarus, the Iranian leader was met not by President Alexander Lukashenko, but by the speaker of the upper house of parliament. In the Middle East, where Arab regimes have long been wary of Iran's ambitions, authorities in Jordan withdrew licenses for two Iranian news organizations this week and the sultan of Oman reportedly canceled a trip to Tehran.
        Iran's future relations with the world will depend on the "regime's ability to recover from the deep separations that are currently present within its ranks," said Wahid Abdul Magid, a Middle East affairs analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. (Los Angeles Times)
  • As Violence Subsides, Concrete Pours in West Bank - Luis Ramirez
    The Palestinian territories are experiencing a marked economic upturn as a halt in violence leads to increased trade and investment. "It is way quieter now in the West Bank than the way it used to be even six months, or 12 months ago," said Ofir Gendelman, who heads the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce. "When there is quiet, when there is security, the economy will flourish and this is what we see."
        Construction projects can be seen just about everywhere. The town of Ramallah is preparing to open a newly-built five-star hotel, the result of European investment. Improved security has led the Israeli army in the past year to remove more than 140 checkpoints, allowing for the freer flow of people and goods in the West Bank. "It is easier to negotiate with someone who has a normal life, someone who is not desperate, someone who does not feel disenfranchised," added Gendelman. "I think that the betterment of the economic situation in the West Bank has definitely improved the chances to reach a peace deal."  (VOA News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel's Foreign Minister: Settlements Issue Blown Out of Proportion - Jack Khoury
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday responded to remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Israel's construction in West Bank settlements jeopardized the two-state solution, saying the world has blown the settlements issue entirely out of proportion. "The situation in the West Bank and the cessation of settlement construction shouldn't top the international community's agenda." "North Korea fired three missiles today, despite the warnings and the sanctions, and the world is still occupying itself with Yitzhar and Migron." He added: "We all saw the occurrences and the dramatic events in Iran. Does the attempt to lead a normal life in Judea and Samaria top that on the international community's priority list? We have to bring things back into proportion."
        "We are certainly a government that wants to advance toward a resolution of the conflict, to come up with solutions, that isn't afraid to take responsibility. But taking responsibility doesn't mean that we always have to concede."  (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Amnesty Report on Gaza Ignored Hamas War Crimes
    The IDF issued the following response to the Amnesty International report on Israeli conduct during the recent Gaza war: We find it both questionable and objectionable that a well-respected and ostensibly objective international organization such as Amnesty could produce a report on the Gaza operation without properly recognizing the unbearable reality of nine years of incessant and indiscriminate rocket fire on the citizens of Israel. The slant of the report indicates that the organization succumbed to the manipulations of the Hamas terror organization. The Gaza operation was a result of nine years of Hamas' unrelenting Kassam, Grad and mortar shell fire on more than a quarter of a million of Israel's citizens.
        Furthermore, the report presents a distorted view of the laws of war that does not comply with the rules implemented by democratic states battling terror. It also ignores the efforts of the IDF to minimize harming uninvolved noncombatant civilians while engaging terrorists who were operating from densely populated areas and using the local population as human shields. In many cases, the IDF warned the local population via leaflets, radio broadcasts, and direct calls to private cellular telephones. The IDF only targeted military targets and avoided harming civilians, sometimes to the detriment of its own military interests. In addition, the IDF enabled the transfer of humanitarian aid and also instituted a daily cease-fire so that the goods could be safely distributed. (IDF Spokesperson)
        See also International Law and the Fighting in Gaza - Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell (Global Law Forum)
        See also Hamas, the Gaza War, and Accountability Under International Law - June 18, 2009 Conference Summaries (Jerusalem Center)
        See also Test Yourself: How Do We Apply International Humanitarian Law During Wartime? (Jerusalem Center)
  • Israel Facing Intensified "Legal War" - Amir Mizroch
    Israel is facing intensifying legal campaigns that aim to deter Israel from using force against Hamas and Hizbullah. Senior defense officials noted four damning reports in one week from human rights organizations about the IDF's conduct in the Gaza operation. There is a certain level of frustration within the defense establishment at the disconnect between the huge efforts invested in minimizing harm to Palestinian civilians and the growing tide of international accusations of war crimes emanating from the offensive against Hamas six months ago. "There is a war being waged against us in the legal sphere. Its aim is to delegitimize Israel and to create deterrence against a possible use of force in Gaza and Lebanon again," a senior defense official said.
        "The last Gaza war is not over yet. It is being fought on another front for now....There are hundreds of petitions, cases, legal opinions and actions cropping up across the world. The phenomenon is very wide and growing. The other side has a lot of money that comes from countries and people not friendly to Israel," the senior defense source said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Fire at IDF Patrol on Gaza Border
    Palestinian gunmen fired at an IDF patrol along the Gaza border near the Nahal Oz crossing on Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why the U.S. Hard Line on Israeli Settlements Is Counterproductive - Steven J. Rosen
    The high-profile public campaign to confront Israel on the issue of West Bank settlements was an unusual way to welcome the new leader of a close friend of the U.S. Diplomacy toward an ally normally begins with building relations of trust on areas of agreement, and only later engaging discreetly on issues where there are sharp differences. Why instead did the administration team roll out a campaign of diktats, virtually nailing a decree to Netanyahu's door? Why so dismissively brush aside understandings crafted by the George W. Bush administration, understandings that had achieved a significant reduction of settlement construction?
        Few in Israel are prepared to freeze construction in the settlement "blocs" that the Clinton administration anticipated would be annexed to Israel as part of a land swap creating a Palestinian state. Nor does Netanyahu have either the legal authority or the support of the public to ban Jewish housing inside the juridical boundaries of Jerusalem. Absolutist demands for a total freeze may win applause in the U.S., but they go much too far to succeed in the real world.
        If Obama's purpose in authorizing this confrontation was to provide an incentive to the Palestinians and the moderate states in the Arab League to take the steps they need to take for peace, his policy is likely to fail. Reinforcing the long-standing belief in the Arab world that the U.S. can "deliver" Israel reduces Arab incentives to make concessions in direct negotiations with Israel, rather than increasing them. The writer served for 23 years as foreign policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. (Foreign Policy)
  • Why Does the World Accept the Notion of Palestinian Apartheid - A State Free of Jews? - Jonathan D. Halevi
    The Palestinians have won international recognition for their demand to establish a Palestinian state from which all Jews will be expelled. The basic law of the Palestinian Authority expressly states that "Islam is the official religion of Palestine" and that "the principles of Islamic law are the primary source of lawmaking." The international community has permitted the Palestinians what it tries to keep from Israel: the Palestinians are within their rights to establish a country based on the religion of the majority of its citizens. Human rights champions accept the morality of establishing an apartheid, racist, Palestinian state which openly and proudly states its intention of being Judenrein.
        No one contests the right of the Palestinians to a national state even if it is based on racism and is liable to be an extremist theocracy like Iran, a foretaste of which can be seen in Gaza since the Hamas takeover. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Cuts Salaries of PA Officials to Fund Koran Studies - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
  • Why Is It that the Arabs Don't Revolt? - Rami G. Khouri
    The stark contrast between the street demonstrations in Iran and the absence of any such popular revolts in the Arab world raises the question: Why do top-heavy, non-democratic governance systems persist in the Arab world without any significant popular opposition or public challenge? The same pressures and indignities that annoy many Iranians and push them to openly challenge their rulers are prevalent throughout much of the Arab world: abuse of power by a self-contained ruling elite, the absence of meaningful political accountability, dominance of the power structure by security-military organs, prevalent corruption and financial abuse, mediocre economic management, enforced leadership-worshipping and personality cults, and strict social controls, especially on the young and women.
        One possible explanation is that frustrated Arabs do not relate to their central government in the same way that Iranians do. Arabs seem to largely ignore their governments, and instead set up parallel structures in society that satisfy the needs that governments in more coherent countries normally provide. Discontented citizens throughout the Arab world have channeled their energy into several arenas that coexist in parallel with the state. These include Islamist and other religious movements, tribal structures, and non-governmental organizations. Some of these movements, like Hizbullah and Hamas, have become parallel states in every respect. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • An Insidious Cultural Campaign: The Dead Sea Scrolls Are a Jewish, Not a Palestinian, Artifact - Ed Morgan
    The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are being exhibited this week at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), came from the Israel Museum which houses the scrolls in Jerusalem. Opponents of the exhibit include the Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Canadian solidarity groups supporting the Palestinian cause. The ROM is right to stare down the protests. In the first place, the part of the West Bank in which the scrolls were discovered was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan - an occupation condemned by virtually every existing international organization, including the Arab League and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. If one doesn't like Israel's current possession of the scrolls because of Israel's occupation of the territory from which they come, one cannot possibly like the Jordanian claim any better.
        More to the point, in Annex II to the 1994 Oslo Agreement, the Palestinians expressly recognized Israel as custodian of all artifacts found in the West Bank and Gaza pending a final resolution of the conflict. If Israel's current custodianship of the Dead Sea Scrolls was good enough for Yasser Arafat, it is certainly good enough for the ROM.
        In addition, the scrolls are part and parcel of Jewish, not Arab, history. The Hebrew-language parchments graphically demonstrate a society practicing Judaism and living a Jewish life in biblical times in what is today Israel and the West Bank. They predate by at least seven centuries the arrival in the region of an Arabic-speaking population and the Islamic religion, and give a portrait of the existing Israelite culture well before the birth of Christianity. In exhibiting the scrolls, the State of Israel can hardly be said to have appropriated a Palestinian artifact. The Jewish state is preserving nothing more than Hebrew-speaking, Jewish cultural history. The writer is a professor of law at the University of Toronto. (National Post-Canada)

    Weekend Features

  • "The Anti-Germans" - The Pro-Israel German Left - Simon Erlanger
    A small but influential pro-Israel movement within the German left challenges the existing anti-Israel consensus. The "Anti-German" Movement, as it is known, grew out of a communist student organization. Fearing the emergence of a new fascism from the social and political dynamics of reunification, the Anti-Germans fight any manifestation of German nationalism, aligning themselves with the victims of Nazi Germany and their descendants. Likewise, seeing elements of German nationalism in the German Peace Movement, the Anti-Germans have become its strong opponents.
        Today the Anti-Germans discern fascism and militant anti-Semitism as most apparent in Islamism and therefore strongly denounce militant political Islam. At the same time, they offer unconditional support for Israel, the Jews, and the U.S., in opposition to the dominant political discourse among the German public in general and the left in particular. The Anti-German Movement has become an influential publicist movement centered on several magazines and journals. As writers, social scientists, and journalists, Anti-Germans have been able to exert a growing impact on the left and on public opinion. Dr. Simon Erlanger a journalist and historian, teaches Jewish history at the University of Lucerne. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
  • York University Middle East Conference Anything But Academic - Na'ama Carmi
    I hesitated whether to accept the invitation to participate in the conference at York University on "Models of Statehood in Israel/Palestine." Such conferences are frequently hijacked and become anti-Israeli events. But not in my worst dreams did I imagine an atmosphere that was totally incompatible with academic discourse. A hostile atmosphere toward people with different views generally, and Jewish-Zionist Israelis in particular, was created. Anyone who challenged the Palestinian perspective was intimidated or even labeled a racist.
        What happened at York University reflects a worrying, dangerous and, unfortunately, not uncommon pattern. Persons who demand the protection of human rights abandon them and display little tolerance for the views of others when they have the power to marginalize them. This was not an academic conference, but an "academic" version of Durban. The writer teaches at the faculty of law of Haifa University in Israel. (Toronto Star)
  • An Arab Supporter of Israel - Deena Yellin
    Brigitte Gabriel, 44, is a Lebanese Christian who authors best-selling books defending Israel's right to exist and launched an organization devoted to warning the West against the dangers of Islamic fundamentalists. Her parents and teachers raised her to believe that Israel and Jews were evil. In 1982, Gabriel accompanied her mother to an Israeli hospital, where she saw respect, humanity and compassion she didn't realize existed beyond her immediate family. In the emergency room, "the doctors treated everyone according to their injury, not according to their background," says Gabriel. "They treated my mother before the Israeli soldier lying next to her." She realized she had been sold lies by her country about Jews and Israel. "I was betrayed by my country and rescued by 'my enemy' Israel."
        She married an American war correspondent and moved to the U.S. in 1989. After 9/11, she founded the American Congress for Truth, a nonprofit organization devoted to motivating Americans to take action against terrorism and the threat radical Islamic fundamentalists pose to Western civilization. Today, ACT has 55,000 members and 255 local chapters. "Lebanon was torn and ruined by Muslim radicals. Even though the Christian Lebanese say things against Israel in public, inside their homes they cheer Israel on, hoping Israel will crush the Islamic fanatics."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Narrative Dissonance - Martin Peretz (New Republic)

    • More and more, history has become a competition between and among narratives, self-consciously disdainful of what we used to think of as fact. But real history is the telling and interpretation of actual happenings, and it requires what used to be called knowledge - correct facts and warranted interpretations of them.
    • There are two basic narratives to the nearly century-old Jewish and Arabs-of-Palestine dispute. What is most brazen or, at best, bizarre in Obama's historical recitation in his Cairo speech is the stark omission of the whole Zionist enterprise. Instead, he chose to understand the Jewish presence in Palestine as a sort of restitution for the Holocaust.
    • The result was to diminish the determination of the Jewish people through the ages, and especially since the age of nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century, to reclaim their homeland and restore its dispersed sons and daughters to Zion - not as a reparation, but as a right. By the time World War II - before the Holocaust - began, there were already more than 500,000 Jews in Palestine. Most of them had arrived as their palpable reply to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, to the approval by the League of Nations of a British mandate for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
    • Jewish sovereignty in postwar Palestine was only one of several rearrangements contemplated for the vast territories that had been governed by the Ottoman Empire, now expired. From this land mass emerged the states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, North Yemen, and various other adjustments of frontiers on behalf of the Wilsonian principle of the self-determination of nations. These countries, composing almost the entire Fertile Crescent, were vouchsafed to the Arabs, their first experiments at self-government in history.
    • Tiny Palestine was intended for the Jews. They were already at work in the desert, in the swamps, in their kibbutzim, in their new cities, including Tel Aviv, in their bourgeois enterprises, in their universities and research institutions. And, moreover, they had revived their ancient language, making it a living tongue. Hitler had nothing to do with this revolution. Is all this not a revolution worthy of presidential recognition?

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