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July 10, 2009

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Iranian Exile Speaks Out Against Militia He Once Supported - Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times)
    As he watched the violence of recent weeks unfold on television and YouTube, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, an exiled Iranian, recognized some of the attackers. They were once good friends he served with in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ansar-e Hizbullah, the informal shock troops loyal to the supreme leader.
    On his Persian-language blog, he has listed the names and phone numbers of about a dozen militia members whom he has spotted in photos and video of the demonstrations.
    One of them rang him up, telling him, "This is unethical." Ebrahimi responded, "You're killing people. Isn't that more unethical?"

IDF Training Emergency Response Teams to Counter Hizbullah Border Attack - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Three years after the Second Lebanon War, the army is preparing northern border communities for Hizbullah infiltration.
    The IDF has trained and equipped civilian rapid-response teams to counter any Hizbullah attempt to infiltrate border communities with the goal of killing civilians.

Israeli Medical Chief Returns Fire on "Torture" - Leon Symons (London Jewish Chronicle)
    The Israeli president of the World Medical Association, Dr. Yoram Blachar, has been under attack from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) which claim that a number of Israeli doctors have either collaborated with the security services in the torture of prisoners, or have turned a blind eye to the practice.
    In May, an open letter signed by 725 doctors called for Dr. Blachar's dismissal, while an Internet petition backing Dr. Blachar has attracted more than 4,000 signatures.
    Dr. Blacher has challenged his main critics to put up or shut up.
    Speaking in Oxford last week, Dr. Blachar said: "The legal situation in Israel is that torture is a criminal act. I wonder why PCATI or the PHR-I do not file a complaint with the Israeli police or the Attorney General's office, citing those physicians for breaking the criminal law. This can be done at any moment."

Saudi Religious Squad Beefs Up Anti-Vice Patrols (Reuters)
    Saudi Arabia's powerful religious police plan a summer anti-vice drive to enforce prayer-keeping and modesty.
    With over 5,000 men, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has wide powers to carry out raids in search of alcohol, ensure shops and restaurants are shut at prayer time, enforce the segregation of unrelated men and women in public and ban women from driving.

Key Mennonite Institutions Against Israel - Dexter Van Zile (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    Mennonite-supported peacemaking institutions have been at the forefront of the effort to discredit Israel to audiences in North America. These institutions portray Jewish sovereignty as the cause of conflict and suffering in the Middle East and downplay Muslim and Arab hostility toward Jews and Israel.
    The prescription for peace offered by these activists especially those affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Christian Peacemaker Teams is for Israeli Jews to abandon their insistence on maintaining Israel as a sovereign Jewish state and acquiesce to a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    The MCC has conducted a campaign to portray Iranian President Ahmadinejad as a legitimate partner in dialogue and a victim of bad publicity.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Protesters Clash with Police in Tehran - Thomas Erdbrink
    Thousands of anti-government demonstrators were attacked with batons and tear gas by security forces Thursday near Tehran University as they defied warnings from the authorities that they would crush any demonstrations. Plainclothes security personnel shoved people into unmarked vans with blacked-out windows. In one incident, a student named Hadi said in a telephone interview, "robocop-style policemen attacked a group of people. The crowd ran off, only to be blocked by a group of Basijis [pro-government militia]. Instead of turning away from them, the crowd actually charged the Basijis and started fighting and beating them up."  (Washington Post)
        See also Current Protests Involve a Broad Coalition - Christa Case Bryant
    Iran expert Robin Wright, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, notes that the protest movement is driven by a diverse coalition including two former presidents, a former prime minister, the Islamic world's most politically active women, ethnic minorities, sanctions-strapped businessmen, taxi drivers, famous filmmakers, and members of the national soccer team. But Wright cautions that this movement is not looking to bring about another revolution. "What we're talking about is not a new revolution or a counterrevolution....They're talking about reforming it, refining it, and holding the officials accountable."  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Egypt Arrests Al-Qaeda-Linked Terrorists Plotting Suez Canal Attacks
    Egyptian authorities arrested 25 militants with links to al-Qaeda on suspicion of plotting attacks on oil pipelines and ships in the Suez Canal, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. The new cell was led by a Palestinian and included 24 Egyptians. One of the suspects had met with the Palestinian Army of Islam group in Gaza to receive instructions on attacking targets in Egypt. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Still Waiting for Palestinian Response on Start of Negotiations
    Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon said Wednesday that Israel is still "waiting for the response of the Palestinians to our call to sit with us directly, and without any preconditions....We would like to sit with them in order to solve many of the issues." "Irrespective of that, we are moving forward on the other two tracks that Israel believes are major pillars to establish peaceful coexistence and, hopefully, peaceful relations and a treaty with the Palestinians." "We support and applaud the good work of General Dayton, the Europeans, and anyone who can help build the Palestinians' capacity to govern themselves in a responsible way, to do away with terror....This capacity building is continuing with the help and facilitation of the Israeli government."
        "Israel has taken major steps to help spur the Palestinian West Bank economy....We have removed two-thirds of the checkpoints: out of 41, only 14 remain in operation....All checkpoints surrounding major cities in the West Bank are now removed." "The growth that we see in the Palestinian economy in 2008...according to the World Bank, is 8% and according to the forecast of the World Bank we have 8% growth for the next two years for the Palestinians. We see decreasing unemployment in the West Bank."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Easing of Restrictions for the Palestinian Population in the West Bank (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Murder of Taxi Driver in May Was Terrorist Attack - Hanan Greenberg
    A joint investigation of the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police has revealed that Gregory Rabinowitz, 56, a taxi driver whose body was found in May near Gan Yavne, was killed in a terror attack. Mahmad Maraneh and Muhammad Khaledi, two residents of Arranah, a Palestinian village near the West Bank city of Jenin, were arrested and later confessed to the act. (Ynet News)
  • Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Claim Responsibility for West Bank Shooting Attack - Ali Waked
    The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility on Thursday for the shooting attack in the morning near the settlement of Ofra. Gunmen fired at an Israeli car traveling in the area, but no injuries were reported. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Continues Entrenching Its Control after Gaza War
    Israel's Gaza operation caused severe damage to Hamas' military, security, administrative and civilian structures in Gaza. In the six months since the fighting ended, Hamas has made an effort to restore its internal security forces and military-terrorist wing (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades) to their previous strength and to upgrade their capabilities. At the same time, Hamas strives to control and supervise the rebuilding process, while not allowing the Palestinian Authority to gain a foothold. However, the internal Palestinian rivalry between Hamas and Fatah did not abate but rather has increased. A fierce struggle between Hamas and the PA for the $4.5 billion in promised financial aid has, in effect, prevented the money from being used to rebuild Gaza infrastructure.
        Since the fighting, Hamas has smuggled in dozens of rockets, hundreds of mortar shells, dozens of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and tens of tons of explosives and raw materials for the manufacture of homemade weapons. The tunnel system beneath the Egyptian border is a vital channel for smuggling weapons. Weapons are being manufactured again, and military training and instruction have been renewed.
        Hamas is making an enormous effort to establish its political control by suppressing its opponents. Fatah activists have been detained and executed and Hamas has increased its control of various civilian systems (education, health, unions, NGOS, clans). Today there is no internal threat to the stability of the Hamas regime. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Has Force Worked for Israel? - Bruce Jentleson
    Is it the case that the lessons of the last 10-15 years are that force has worked and diplomacy has not? According to the dominant Israeli argument: The Gaza war was intended to impose substantial costs on Hamas and to deter further attacks on Israel. It achieved both; e.g., attacks from Gaza are down since the war. The same regarding Hizbullah and the 2006 Lebanon war: Look at the northern front and how quiet Hizbullah has been, and how weakened the recent elections showed it to be in Lebanese politics. Oslo didn't work; unilateral withdrawals, both in Lebanon and in Gaza, gave land but didn't bring peace. The status quo is not great for Israel, but it's tolerable. Risk aversion says keep relying on military power.
        An alternative analysis: One can see a strategic logic for Hamas by which the price it paid had value as a diversionary war, detracting attention from problems of its governance and re-igniting the enemy on which to increase its appeal. Hizbullah came out of the 2006 Lebanon War strengthened. But it then overplayed its hand by unleashing its militias into Lebanese politics in 2007-08. As for Palestinians as a credible peace partner and viable state: This may not be the world's hardest case for state-building, but it's up there. Among the many challenges their leadership faces is better synching their maximalist positions on terms of a peace and their more limited capacities as yet to function as a viable state. The writer is professor of public policy and political science at Duke University. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
  • Iran: Pursuing the Apocalypse - Rafael L. Bardaji
    If there was any hope to start a new relation with the Iran of the Ayatollahs, that hope is gone now. Westerners often tend to forget that the Iranian regime, which Khomeini created thirty years ago, is theocratic, fundamentalist, and revolutionary. Its structures are not subject to reform and it is incorrigible in its nature. With a good overdose of good will, it is easy to build one's hopes up over Iran, yet the Islamic Republic of Iran is not your average regime.
        Ahmadinejad is popular among Iranians due largely to his advocacy of the atomic program and nothing can make him think that he must give it up now. Extending the promise of starting a new relationship with the Iranian regime would be a moral abomination and a political crime. The Western community will also be digging its own grave because the Iranian leaders want the bomb to guarantee the success of its Islamic revolution. (GEES-Strategic Studies Group-Spain)
  • Israel Needs Advice from Ireland, Not Condemnation - Eamon Delaney
    Is there any hope of a more even-handed approach by the Irish government to the Israeli-Palestinian problem? Last week the Israeli government pointed out the speed with which Micheal Martin, the minister for foreign affairs, condemned the incursion into Gaza last year. "It was hasty, it was way too severe, it did not take into account many key elements," said Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor. "Israelis in general felt that it was insensitive and unhelpful. Many Israelis were really offended by some of the official Irish reactions, and it's a pity." Given that the Gaza operation was supported by a great majority of the Israeli people, Martin's knee-jerk response was hardly the way for the Irish to influence matters. No other European country used such language at the outset.
        A more balanced approach would also be more in touch with how the Irish public sees the Middle Eastern conflict. Media coverage of the Gaza invasion was much more informed and balanced than the political debate. The Israeli actions may at times seem disproportionate, but the Irish public has wearied of the suicide bombings and the unyielding Islamic militancy of Hamas. Older Israelis have a great respect for Ireland. Zionism was inspired by the Irish independence struggle, during their own fight with the British. Eamon de Valera was a great admirer of Israel. (Times-UK)
  • Muslim Double Standards - Tarek Fatah
    This week, more than 100 Muslims have died and thousands more have been arrested in China. Yet not a peep of protest has been heard on the streets of Cairo, Karachi or Tehran. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, it seems, is too busy imprisoning and herding Iranian Muslims to jail to hear the outcry in Xinxiang. This is not the first time the so-called ummah has shrugged off the massacre of fellow Muslims. The genocide of Darfuri Black Muslims at the hands of the Arab janjaweed militia and the Sudanese government has passed unnoticed by the larger Islamic world. Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy mused: If Israel invaded western China, maybe the rest of the Muslim world would wake up.
        We Muslims need to wake up to an ethical challenge. It is immoral for us to stay silent when Muslim-on-Muslim violence takes place, but yell at the top of our lungs when the victims suffer at the hands of non-Muslims. This is a double standard that the Koran prohibits. The writer is author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. (National Post-Canada)
  • Travesty International - Editorial
    Last week, the human rights organization Amnesty International issued a report on the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. The document, entitled "Operation 'Cast Lead': 22 Days of Death and Destruction," almost in its entirety targets Israel. Of the 117 pages in the report, 11 pages discuss the Palestinians' role in the conflagration. In a breathtaking dismissive sweep that typifies the agency's long-standing approach to Israel, the report states: "Amnesty International has seen no evidence that rockets were launched from residential houses or buildings [in Gaza] while civilians were in these buildings." But there can be no denying the plain, simple truth of deliberately launching rockets at men, women and children in their homes, schools, daycare centers and synagogues.
        The IDF responded to the report: "We find it both questionable and objectionable that a well-respected and ostensibly objective international organization such as Amnesty could produce a report on Operation Cast Lead without properly recognizing the unbearable reality of nine years of incessant and indiscriminate rocket fire on the citizens of Israel. The slant of their report indicates that the organization succumbed to the manipulations of the Hamas terror organization."
        The war to uproot the terrorists and their infrastructure was justified and necessary. Amnesty so unfairly, so determinedly targets Israel that it makes of their report an international travesty. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • Observations:

    The Search for a Palestinian Partner - Interview with Dr. Uzi Arad by Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)

    Dr. Uzi Arad served in the Mossad for more than 20 years and later initiated and managed the annual Herzliya Conference on national policy. He now heads Israel's National Security Council. He said in an interview published Friday:

    • Regrettably, we have not so far been successful in bringing about Arab internalization of our right of existence. I have not yet encountered an Arab personage who is capable of saying quietly and clearly that he or she accepts Israel's right of existence. I don't see among the Palestinians a process of truly drawing closer to acceptance of Israel and peace with Israel. I also do not see a Palestinian leadership or a Palestinian regime but a disorderly constellation of forces and factions.
    • There is no Palestinian Sadat. There is no Palestinian Mandela. Abbas is not vulgar like Arafat and not militant and extreme like Hamas. But even in him I do not discern the interest or the will to arrive at the end of the conflict with Israel. On the contrary, he is preserving eternal grievances against us and intensifying them. The more Israel moves toward the Palestinians, the more they move away. And they do that because even the moderates among them do not really want a settlement. At most, they are striving toward a settlement in order to renew the confrontation from a better position.
    • The majority of Israel's governments insisted that Israel would stay on the Golan Heights. That is also the position of the majority of the public. If there is a territorial compromise, it is one that still leaves Israel on the Golan Heights and deep into the Golan Heights.
    • If you want to enforce the clauses of the Roadmap, you have to enforce all of them. And security violations are more serious than building violations: Kassam rockets kill people, settlements do not. If they come to us and count every settlement, they have to apply the same indices and the same principles to the Palestinians.
    • If there is an Israeli-Palestinian settlement that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel's membership in NATO and a defense alliance between Israel and the United States should be part of the quid pro quo that Israel will receive.
    • Serious experts who are not Israelis look at the Middle East and say that if Iran is nuclear in 2015, the Middle East will be nuclear in 2020. And a multi-nuclear Middle East is a nightmare - five or six nuclear states in a jumpy and unstable region.

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