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November 20, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Major Hasan's Islamist Life - Daniel Pipes (FrontPageMagazine)
    Initial responses from the U.S. Army, law enforcement, politicians, and journalists broadly agreed that Maj. Nidal Hasan's murderous rampage had nothing to do with Islam.
    But evidence keeps accumulating that confirms Hasan's Islamist outlook, his jihadi temperament, and his bitter hatred of kafirs (infidels).
    One official at Walter Reed Army Medical Center told colleagues of his worries "that if Hasan deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, he might leak secret military information to Islamic extremists."
    Another official reportedly wondered aloud to colleagues whether Hasan might be capable of committing fratricide, recalling Sergeant Hasan Akbar's 2003 rampage.
    At Ft. Hood, his supervisor, Captain Naomi Surman, recalled his telling her that as an infidel she would "burn in hell."
    The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
    See also How Nidal Malik Hasan's Path Turned More Radical - Patrik Jonsson (Christian Science Monitor)
    See also Senators Say Fort Hood Shooting Was Terrorism - Patrik Jonsson (Christian Science Monitor)

Israel, Egypt Squeeze Gaza Tunnel Business - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Fearing loss of life and money, Palestinians are abandoning tunnels that supply Gaza.
    Many tunnel workers have concluded that the risk of being buried alive by Israeli bombardment and accidental ground collapses or poisoned by gas pumped underground by Egyptian security forces is just not worth it. Around 100 people have been killed in the past year.

Iranians and Saudis Fight a Proxy War in Yemen - Ryan Mauro (Pajamas Media)
    Iran is now waging a proxy war against Saudi Arabia and Yemen by supporting a radical sect of Zaydi Shiites described as the Houthis, after the founder of their movement.
    A former Houthi official has confirmed that the group is receiving Iranian funding and training from the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force and Hizbullah. He said members of Hizbullah may have been killed in Yemen.
    The Iranians are trying to create a Shiite empire extending from Iran through southern Iraq to Syria - where the Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Muslims, are in power - to Lebanon.
    If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it is easy to predict where they will go next: Bahrain, whose population is majority Shiite, and Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which is 75% Shiite and is the location of 90% of the country's oil.
    The Saudis and Yemenis are hoping they can squash the Shiite insurgency, but no matter what success they achieve, they will always be one Iranian decision away from facing a reignited conflict.

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New Report on Palestinian Internet Use - Oded Yaron (Ha'aretz)
    According to a new report published this week by the Global Information Society Watch, one-third of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have a computer at home, but only 16% have Internet access. In contrast, the rate of Internet use in Egypt is 20% and in Jordan reaches 64%.

Fighting Old and New Anti-Semites on Campus - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    The battle against old and new campus anti-Semitism is usually fought with classic methods: public debate, op-eds, letters to the editor, petitions, letters to university administrations or efforts to persuade them to take action, requests for the investigation of incidents, legal actions, and the mobilization of allies.
    Often, however, the number of haters of Jews and Israel is many times larger than the number of those willing to fight back, tilting the academic playing field in the battle of ideas.
    Methods to be used in the battle against anti-Semitism on campus should include counterattack, ridicule, exposure, "name and shame," monitoring, documentation, mobilizing lawyers for arguing, as well as legal actions.

    See also Israel Campus Beat (Conference of Presidents-Israel on Campus Coalition-Jerusalem Center)
    The Israel Campus Beat reports on what's happening on campuses around the country.

Mendel Kaplan Dead at 73 (Ha'aretz)
    Former chairman of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors Mendel Kaplan, a leading South African-Israeli philanthropist, died Thursday in Cape Town. He was 73.
    Kaplan led major reforms at the Jewish Agency and donated to numerous projects in Israel and elsewhere including universities, museums, and archaeological and social welfare projects.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • World Leaders to Meet on Iran's Failure to Halt Nuclear Program - William Branigin and Thomas Erdbrink
    The U.S. and five other world powers will meet in Brussels on Friday to discuss what steps could be taken against Tehran for its refusal to accept a deal aimed at resolving the dispute over its uranium enrichment program. Hard-liners in Tehran have stymied a deal reached in Geneva on Oct. 1 that would have stalled Iran's ability to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. Iran has raised various alternatives that the West considers unacceptable. (Washington Post)
        See also Israel Urging Iran Sanctions - Herb Keinon
    Following Iran's rejection of the latest international effort to prevent it from building nuclear weapons, Israel is urging the international community to impose sanctions aimed at denying Tehran any nuclear fuel cycle capabilities. Behind the scenes, Israel is arguing that Tehran's refusal to allow the export of most of its low-enriched uranium demonstrates that it wants to preserve that stockpile for non-peaceful purposes. Furthermore, Iran's failure to come clean about its Qom enrichment facility, buried deep inside a mountain and intended to hold 3,000 centrifuges, underlines its failure to act within legal international provisions.
        As a consequence, Israel believes, Iran should be penalized by the UN Security Council. It should be prevented from putting the Qom facility to any enrichment use. Moreover, the international community should insist on the cessation of all enrichment and all plutonium production. If more sanctions cannot be imposed via the UN because of insufficient support, Israel argues that they should be applied as soon as possible by a coalition of the willing. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Iran Dissident Seeks More American Pressure on Regime - Jay Solomon
    Mohsen Makhmalbaf, spokesman for Iran's main opposition movement, called for President Obama to increase his public support for Iranian democrats and intensify financial pressure on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Makhmalbaf, who was the campaign spokesman for Iranian presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, said he believes the current Iranian leadership is incapable of cutting a deal with the West over its nuclear program. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Outlook for Tough Iran Sanctions Is Dim - Robert Burns
    The Obama administration is shifting the focus of its Iran policy from talk to sanctions, but the prospect of winning early international support for toughened new penalties appears dim. Equally problematic is finding a set of sanctions that would have a significant impact on Iran's pursuit of an atom bomb. While diplomacy has been unsuccessful so far, it may improve the administration's chances on sanctions by demonstrating to the Europeans, Chinese and others that Washington has at least tried to find an accommodation with Iran. "Many of them are still instinctively against sanctions, but Iranian intransigence has put them in a bind," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (AP)
  • Muslim Countries Seek Blasphemy Ban - Frank Jordans
    Four years after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad set off violent protests across the Muslim world, Islamic nations are mounting a campaign for an international treaty to ban blasphemy that puts them on a collision course with free speech laws in the West. Such a treaty would require countries to limit free speech if it risks seriously offending religious believers.
        "Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "I strongly disagree." The U.S. is worried by the Islamic Conference campaign. Behind the scenes it has been lobbying hard to quash the proposal, dispatching a senior U.S. diplomat to Geneva last month for talks described as akin to trench warfare. (AP)
  • U.S. Moves to Block Restitution from Iran in Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing - Bryan Bender
    241 U.S. servicemen were killed in the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, in what many consider the first major terrorist attack against the U.S. In 2007, a federal judge ruled that Iran was liable for $2.65 billion in damages to be shared by 150 families seeking restitution. But now, the Obama administration is going to court to try to block payments from Iranian assets that the families' lawyers want seized, contending that it would jeopardize sensitive negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
        Despite legislation passed by Congress to make it possible to sue foreign governments that sponsor terrorism, in a filing in federal court, the Justice Department is arguing that giving the money to the victims "can have significant, detrimental impact on our foreign relations, as well as the reciprocal treatment of the United States and its extensive overseas property holdings." Over the years, Iran, which since 1984 has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. government, has been found liable for nearly $10 billion in damages for attacks on Americans attributed to the Lebanese Hizbullah and Palestinian terror groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad that the U.S. says are financed and trained by Iran. (Boston Globe)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Peres: "Gilo Is Under Israeli Sovereignty" - Mati Tuchfeld
    Israeli President Shimon Peres strongly opposes the new American demand to stop construction in the neighborhood of Gilo in Jerusalem. "There is no doubt that the Gilo neighborhood is within Israel's sovereignty and one cannot alter the realities of life presently in this place."  (Yisrael Ha-Yom-Hebrew, 20Nov09)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Seeking Final Accord with PA - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interested in a final-status agreement and not an interim one, if and when negotiations with the Palestinian Authority resume. Netanyahu said this week that if there was "courageous leadership" on the Palestinian side, a resumption of negotiations could lead to a final peace agreement, and that this was preferable in his mind to an interim agreement based on a Palestinian state within temporary borders. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas: "We Will Not Give Up the Resistance"
    Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, said on Nov. 12: "We will not recognize Israel, we will not give up the resistance, we cling to every inch of Palestinian soil, other statements are political maneuvers." "Most of Hamas' funds and efforts are invested in the resistance and military preparations....We are intent on the resistance." Mashaal's remarks reflect Hamas' true priorities, the most important of which is rebuilding its military infrastructure in Gaza in preparation for the renewal of military-terrorist attacks against Israel, instead of relieving the distress of the Palestinian population. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel and PA Have Convergence of Interests to Stop Hamas - Paul Lungen
    David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in Toronto last week that Iran remains an existential threat to Israel. But he did not foresee an imminent Israeli strike aimed at degrading its nuclear capability. Makovsky noted that Iran appears to be "playing games," "making promises" and "stretching things out." Israel and the U.S. are onside when it comes to addressing the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons - for now. The U.S. appears to be pursuing a three-phase strategy of engagement/negotiations, punitive sanctions and a military option as a last resort, he said. "I think there's a high level of appreciation in the West that if phases one and two fail, phase three is inevitable, whether the U.S. favors it or not."
        Turning to the Obama administration's efforts to pressure Israel to freeze settlements, Makovsky said the administration is re-evaluating its Mideast policy, and he expected it to return to a more familiar approach that is less confrontational. "The real story," Makovsky said, "is the convergence of interests of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to ensure that what happened in Gaza [a Hamas takeover] does not come to a theater near you."  (Canadian Jewish News)
  • Palestinians Need Clarity, Not Charades - Rami G. Khouri
    Mahmoud Abbas has reverted to an old political trick by saying he will resign and not run for re-election, and he only accentuates his own weaknesses and the dysfunctionalities of the Palestinian national institutions he heads when he engages in silly charades like his current tour of Palestinian towns and villages where the multitudes demand that he remain in power. The last thing the Palestinians need now is to be reminded that they are on track to become yet another Arab security state with a leader for life who basks in hero worship and personality cults and faces no serious forms of accountability. The Palestinians need honesty, humility, consensus-building and clarity from their leaders, and Abbas gives them none of these. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Another Unilateral Declaration of Independence Won't Mean Palestinian Statehood - Victor Kattan
    The Palestinian Authority is reportedly seeking international support for issuing another unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). This would not be the first declaration of "independence" the Palestinians have issued. In 1948, the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini declared the independence of Palestine. In 1988, the Palestinian National Council issued a declaration of a state of Palestine. The Palestinians did not attain independence in 1948 or in 1988 and are unlikely to attain independence now if the PA goes ahead with another UDI.
        Over 100 states recognized "Palestine" in 1988. However, it lacks some of the most essential elements of statehood including effective control over its territory. The EU and the U.S. have cautioned Abbas from prematurely issuing a UDI. And their support is crucial. (Guardian-UK)
  • The "Least Bad Option" with Iran - James F. Smith
    Associate Professor Matthew Bunn, lead investigator for the Managing the Atom program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, argues in a new policy paper that a new round of negotiations with Iran has virtually zero chance of getting Iran to stop all enrichment of uranium, however tough the sanctions become. Iran already has 8,000 centrifuges in place, so insisting on zero centrifuges would all but ensure there is no deal - raising the chances of a military showdown. Bunn says the best alternative is a deal that would allow Iran very limited enrichment in exchange for full transparency and strict controls on Iran's nuclear program. That would fulfill the ultimate Western goal of ensuring Iran does not pursue a nuclear weapons program. (Boston Globe)
        Read the Report: Beyond Zero Enrichment: Suggestions for an Iranian Nuclear Deal - Matthew Bunn (Belfer Center-Kennedy School-Harvard University)
  • The Goldstone Report Indicts an Entire Nation on False Charges - Gerald Steinberg
    A UN "fact-finding report" written under a mandate provided by the UN Human Rights Council, which is dominated by members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Egypt, etc.), indicts the entire Jewish nation on false charges of "war crimes," deliberate killing and disproportionate force. Most of the Goldstone report's evidence repeats the claims and publications of more than 50 so-called civil society organizations that claim to promote human rights, but, as a careful look at their activities demonstrates, most of their work is ideologically determined. By any logical definition of proportionality, after 8,000 rocket attacks, on which Goldstone and his colleagues remained silent, Israel had the moral right to flatten all of Gaza. The writer is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and heads NGO Monitor. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • The UN Banishes a Critic - Editorial
    Anne Bayefsky, an expert on human-rights law from Toronto and an accredited UN observer, delivered a two-minute talk at the UN earlier this month after the General Assembly had issued a resolution endorsing the Goldstone report, which levels war crimes charges at Israel for defending itself in the face of Hamas rockets. "The resolution doesn't mention the word Hamas," she said. "This is a resolution that purports to be even-handed; it is anything but." Whereupon Bayefsky was summarily stripped of her UN badge and evicted from the premises.
        "The Palestinian ambassador is very upset by your statement," Bayefsky says the UN security chief told her. For the record, the UN claims that Bayefsky was not entitled to speak where she did, though representatives of nongovernment organizations have used it in the past. The UN continues to bar Bayefsky from the premises, despite calls on her behalf by the U.S. mission and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. We hear the UN's NGO accreditation committee, chaired by Sudan, will likely make the final decision. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Show Needn't Go On - Michael J. Totten
    It has been years since I spoke to a single person in the Middle East who thinks the Arab-Israeli conflict will be resolved any time soon. Almost everyone knows, at least in their gut if not their head, that peace today between Israelis and Arabs is a fantasy. The Middle East will stop performing its "peace process" theater as soon as we stop demanding it. And as soon as we stop demanding it, time, resources, and energy can be spent on something that might be slightly productive. We can't solve this problem right now, but we can try to make it less deadly by isolating and even blockading the combatants instead of cajoling their paymasters into talks they don't take seriously. (Commentary)

    Weekend Features

  • Israeli Invention Allows for Early Detection of Cancerous Skin Tumors - Dan Even
    A new Israeli invention allows cancerous tumors on the skin to be detected and examined before they become visible to the naked eye, Ben-Gurion University announced. The developer of the new instrument, Ofir Aharon, a doctoral student at the electrophysiological department at Ben-Gurion University, said the technology "allows manipulation of different light frequencies and adjustments to electric fields to examine skin lesions."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Tel Aviv University Develops New Wound Dressing with Antibiotics
    About 70% of all people with severe burns die from related infections. But a revolutionary new wound dressing developed at Tel Aviv University could cut that number dramatically. Prof. Meital Zilberman of TAU's Department of Biomedical Engineering has developed a new wound dressing based on fibers she engineered that can be loaded with drugs like antibiotics to speed up the healing process, and then dissolve when they've done their job. A study published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Applied Biomaterials demonstrates that, after only two days, this dressing can eradicate infection-causing bacteria. The new dressing protects the wound until it is no longer needed, after which it melts away. (Medical News)
  • Bone Repair "Breakthrough" at Hadassah - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
    A team at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Medical Center has managed to separate platelets and adult stem cells from the blood and bone marrow of patients with fractures and inject them - causing the bones to meld in a quarter to third of the time and repairing some breaks that would have failed to heal. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Water Tech Thrives in Weakened Economy - Ari Rabinovitch
    Israel's water technology sector has prospered despite the global financial crisis, largely due to global stimulus packages and penetration in developing countries, officials said on Wednesday. Water companies benefit from both infrastructure and cleantech spending, both cornerstones of stimulus packages. Water recycling company Aqwise, whose system breeds bacteria to break down organic waste, saw its sales increase 50% in 2009. (Reuters)
  • Observations:

    Palestinians Start to Show Progress - Mortimer Zuckerman (U.S. News)

    • The Arab assault on the Jews has continued for more than half a century. After Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres promoted the Oslo agreements, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert, prime ministers all, made dramatic proposals in search of a live-and-let-live relationship with the Palestinians - and all were rejected. Prime Minister Sharon voluntarily withdrew every last Jewish settler and soldier from Gaza. It meant forcing close to 10,000 Jews out of their homes. Did it bring peace? No, the Gazans hunted the Jews who had left. They turned Gaza into a launching pad for thousands of rockets against the Jewish people.
    • In yet another effort to find peace, the Israelis risked their own security by dismantling security barriers and checkpoints - down from 147 to 14 in the West Bank. They have "not been getting much credit for it," in the words of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but the economic results are dramatic.
    • Obama's speech in Cairo in June, which he thought would open a door to the Muslim world, did not gain any takers. The only one who responded to Obama was Prime Minister Netanyahu, who made public his commitment to have two states for two peoples.
    • Netanyahu's approach holds that peace will come from the bottom up, not the top down. It is both about economic development and about bringing security under control. Several hundred gang leaders created chaos in the territories, holding back commercial and economic life, demanding protection money, killing and wounding Arabs and Jews alike. In 2007 the director of the Israel Security Agency approached the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, offering the wanted men a deal. If they ended their involvement in terrorism, gave up their weapons, and placed themselves under the protection of the PA, they would be taken off the wanted list after a three-stage trial period. The plan worked. Almost 80% of the gang leaders have left the world of crime and terrorism.
    • This progress will take more time. The Israelis will not buy words; they will buy only deeds. They will not accept the West Bank as a platform for rocket attacks that could reach every major Israeli population center.

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