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March 12, 2010

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U.S. Encouraged Protester's Family to Sue Israel - Akiva Eldar (Ha'aretz)
    Sarah Corrie Simpson, sister of Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an IDF bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, is in Israel for a civil suit against the State of Israel being heard in Haifa District Court. She told Ha'aretz Thursday that it was a U.S. government official who first encouraged them to sue the Israeli government, and that the family has met with many senior American officials.
    See also Corrie's Father: U.S. Embassy, Biden's Staff, "Very Supportive" (Maan News-PA)
    Three officials from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv attended the hearing in Haifa District Court on Wednesday, among them Consul General Andrew Parker.
    The Corries also said they met with aides to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Craig Corrie, Rachel's father, characterized Biden's staff as "very helpful, very supportive."
    U.S. officials have pledged to attend every court session, he said.
    See also below Commentary: The Case of Rachel Corrie

State Department Criticizes Goldstone Report, Palestinian Rhetoric (State Department)
    The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report, released Thursday, noted that the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (commonly known as the "Goldstone report") "was widely criticized for methodological failings, legal and factual errors, falsehoods, and for devoting insufficient attention to the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and the fact that Hamas and other Palestinian militants were deliberately operating in heavily populated urban areas of Gaza."
    In addition, the report said: "Rhetoric by Palestinian terrorist groups included expressions of anti-Semitism, as did sermons by some Muslim religious leaders. Some Palestinian religious leaders rejected the right of Israel to exist. Hamas' al-Aqsa television station carried shows for preschoolers extolling hatred of Jews and suicide bombings."

West Bank Crossings Closed to Foil Temple Mount Riots - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    Following intelligence obtained by police of plans to riot in Jerusalem, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a 48-hour closure of West Bank crossing points.
    Last Friday Arabs on the Temple Mount hurled stones at Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall below.
    Entrance to the Temple Mount for Friday Muslim prayers will be restricted to holders of Israeli IDs, aged 50 and above for men, and women of all ages.
    During the closure, passage will be permitted in humanitarian, medical, and exceptional cases, and the passage of goods will continue uninterrupted.

Tensions Reported within the Hamas Leadership - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Tensions have appeared in Hamas' power structure between the Gaza-based group and the Damascus-based leadership.
    The head of the Hamas politburo, Damascus-based Khaled Meshal, recently appointed his deputy, Musa Abu Marzuk, to a post akin to Hamas defense minister. Palestinian sources say the head of Hamas' military wing in Gaza, Ahmed Ja'abari, refuses to take orders from Abu Marzuk.
    Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of the group in Gaza, recently resigned from the negotiating team in the deal for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. It is believed he opposed the tough stance of the Damascus-based leadership in the negotiations and its unwillingness to sign a reconciliation deal with Fatah. In both cases Zahar adopted a more pragmatic stance than Meshal, siding more with the Egyptian position.

Hamas Releases British Journalist - Fares Akram (New York Times)
    British journalist Paul Martin was freed in Gaza on Thursday after being held for 25 days by the Hamas authorities. He was arrested Feb. 14 at the trial of a Palestinian accused of collaborating with Israel.
    Martin had planned to testify on behalf of the man, the subject of a documentary Martin made in 2008.
    A British parliamentary delegation visited Gaza over the weekend and raised Martin's case with Hamas. "I'm happy that I'm free," he told reporters at the Erez crossing.

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Hurva Synagogue Restored in Jerusalem's Old City - Benjamin Balint (Wall Street Journal)
    The Hurva synagogue in the heart of the Jewish Quarter remained in ruins for six decades, but has now been restored after eight years of construction. The ark, which stands beneath the building's gleaming 82-foot-high dome, is a nearly exact replica of the original that stood on the spot more than 150 years earlier.
    In 1701 a group of Polish immigrants to the Holy Land started to build a synagogue at the site. Two decades later, after the group had exhausted its funds, Arab creditors destroyed the building.
    In the 19th century, with funds from Sir Moses Montefiore, the Rothschilds and communities as far-flung as St. Petersburg, Baghdad, Cairo and India, the Ottoman sultan's architect, Assad Effendi, was hired to erect a domed structure. The impressive result, completed in 1864, became for the next eight decades the tallest Jewish landmark in Jerusalem.
    During Israel's War of Independence, on May 28, 1948, soldiers of Jordan's Arab Legion set off explosive charges and reduced the Hurva to rubble.
    The reconstruction of this most storied of Jerusalem's synagogues represents a deep and irrepressible Israeli urge to rebuild.
    The writer is a fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Bold New Gaza Play Skewers Fatah and Hamas - Adel Zaanoun (AFP)
    A new play has shocked audiences in Gaza by shouting out what many mutter behind closed doors - that Palestinian politicians are a bunch of crooks.
    The biting comedy entitled "Umbilical Cord" goes after Hamas and Fatah, accusing them of ignoring the suffering of their people and selling out to Iran and the U.S., respectively.
    The main Palestinian factions are represented throughout the play by four men in suits sarcastically referred to as "The Great Ones," all carrying briefcases labeled "politics."
    A colored cord identifies their factions - green for Hamas, yellow for Fatah, black for Islamic Jihad and red for the smaller leftist factions, hence the title.
    "Setting up a faction is easier than opening a shop," says Lafi al-Ahbal, the wise fool of the play. "If you want to set up a faction just shout slogans about Jerusalem and the settlements and the wall....You'll make a fortune in aid."

Women's Rights in the Middle East 2010 - Sanja Kelly (Freedom House)
    As the governments of the Middle East and North Africa enact social and political change, the unequal status of women presents a particularly formidable challenge as women throughout the Middle East continue to face systematic discrimination in both laws and social customs.
    Deeply entrenched societal norms, combined with conservative interpretations of Shari'a (Islamic law), continue to relegate women to a subordinate status.
    Women in the region are significantly underrepresented in senior positions in politics and the private sector, and in some countries they are completely absent from the judiciary.
    Perhaps most visibly, women face gender-based discrimination in personal-status laws, which regulate marriage, divorce, child guardianship, inheritance, and other aspects of family life.
      Nevertheless, important steps have been made to improve the status of women over the last five years.

Executing the Hangman - Abraham Rabinovich (Jerusalem Post)
    In 1965 the Israeli government deployed the Mossad to South America to assassinate the Nazi Herbert Cukurs, the Hangman of Riga, in a way that would resonate internationally and make it difficult for Germany to enact a proposed statute of limitations on war criminals.
    In a rare departure from the secrecy that normally shrouds such affairs, a member of the hit team has described the assassination in detail with the apparent permission of the Mossad.
    As an SS officer in Riga, Cukurs had been responsible for the murder of more than 30,000 Jews. He had even shot a baby in front of its mother. He fled to Brazil in 1946 and operated a marina in Sao Paulo.
    According to the plan, Cukurs would be lured to Montevideo and taken to an isolated building where he would be subdued. The charges against him would be read to him as well as the verdict handed down by "Those Who Will Never Forget." Only then would he be killed. A note containing the verdict would be left on the body.

Useful Reference:

The U.S.-Israel Enduring Partnership (Jerusalem Post)
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's speech at Tel Aviv University on Thursday.

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.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Honor Terrorist After Biden Visit - Isabel Kershner
    Dozens of Palestinian students from the youth division of Fatah, the party led by Mahmoud Abbas, gathered in El Bireh in the West Bank on Thursday to dedicate a public square to the memory of Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel's history. Mughrabi was the leader of a Palestinian squad that sailed from Lebanon and landed on a beach between Haifa and Tel Aviv. They killed an American photojournalist, hijacked a bus and commandeered another, embarking on a bloody rampage that left 38 Israeli civilians dead, 13 of them children. To Israelis, hailing Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism. But Fatah representatives described Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history."We are all Dalal Mughrabi," declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee. "For us she is not a terrorist."
        An official PA ceremony was put off due to the visit to the region by Vice President Biden.   The square, planted with greenery and flowers, is outside the Palestinian Authority's National Political Guidance headquarters. Political guidance chief Gen. Adnan Damiri said a statue of Mughrabi would be erected in the square. Palestinian Media Watch said the Palestinians had named two girls high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship and two summer camps for Mughrabi in the last two years.
        At a cabinet meeting in January, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "Whoever sponsors and supports naming a square in Ramallah after a terrorist who murdered dozens of Israelis on the coastal road encourages terrorism." Addressing the Palestinian president he added: "Stop the incitement. This is not how peace is made." Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said that turning Mughrabi "from a murderer into a martyr" and "putting her on a pedestal as a role model for young Palestinians is a message that is problematic in the extreme."  (New York Times)
  • U.S. Says It Believes Mideast Talks Still On - Andrew Quinn and Cynthia Osterman
    State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley cast doubt over comments by Arab League chief Amr Moussa on Wednesday saying that Mahmoud Abbas had decided to scrap indirect Mideast peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians following Israel's announcement of new construction in Jerusalem. "I don't think that that report that's been circulating for the last 24 hours is accurate," Crowley said. "As far as I know, we are still moving forward. We have not heard from the Palestinians that they have pulled out....George Mitchell is planning to be in the region next week for further discussions on these issues. We remain committed to the process that is underway."  (Reuters)
  • U.S. Sees Support for Iran Sanctions Push - Phil Stewart
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday in Abu Dhabi that leading Gulf states appeared ready to lobby China to support sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Asked whether the Gulf states were ready to help the U.S. overcome Chinese and Russian doubts on sanctions, Gates said: "I have a sense that there is a willingness to do that. Although there is less need with respect to Russia, because I think Russia is pretty much already there. It's mainly China."
        "I think everybody in the region is concerned about Iran," Gates said, adding that worries were rooted in "rising Iranian interference and covert activities throughout the region, in addition to their missile and nuclear program."  (Reuters-Washington Post)
  • EU Parliament Urges Hamas to Immediately Release Kidnapped Israeli Soldier - Yossi Lempkowicz
    The European Parliament on Thursday urged Hamas to "immediately" release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped on Israeli soil near Gaza on 25 June 2006. MEPs meeting in Strasbourg also called upon Hamas to grant Sgt. Shalit rights and privileges pursuant to the Geneva Convention. Amendments to the resolution aimed at introducing a reference to Palestinian prisoners in Israel were rejected. The resolution urges Hamas "to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Sergeant Shalit without delay."  (European Jewish Press)
        "This young man lives in a cave, with no visiting rights, no doctor, no lawyer, no mail, no trial, (and) no Geneva Convention (of human rights)," said Belgian liberal MEP Frederique Ries. (Expatica-France)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Interior Minister Yishai: Israel's Relationship with U.S. Is Above All Else - Mazal Mualem
    "Our relationship with the Americans is above all else. It is an alliance that has survived complicated periods, and I had no intention of harming those ties, or to challenge the American administration, or to present obstacles to this important visit by the vice president," Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Thursday. Yishai says the Ramat Shlomo housing announcement was caused by an unfortunate coincidence: a visit by Vice President Biden and a decision by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee. He said the ministry has assessed the lessons of the incident, so that similar occurrences will be avoided in the future.
        Yishai explained, "It was technical authorization only. The committee session was scheduled two weeks in advance, and no one in the committee knew that the vice president of the U.S. was coming." "In Jerusalem there is no freeze on construction, so there was nothing unusual," Yishai added. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Ayalon: Timing of Jerusalem Construction Announcement Was a Mistake - Natasha Mozgavaya
    Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Thursday defended the construction of new housing units in Jerusalem, saying sovereignty over Israel's capital has never been negotiable. "There is no doubt that the Palestinians will try to use this to either stop the upcoming indirect peace talks, or to extort more concessions from us, and I have explained to U.S. government officials that there will be no more concessions," he said. The U.S. condemnation on the matter was due to the timing of the announcement and not the content of the issue, he noted. "I told them that it was poor timing, but it was not planned and it was a serious mistake which is currently being probed in Israel," Ayalon said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Rocket Strikes Kibbutz - Micha Immanuel
    A Kassam rocket fired from Gaza damaged a building in Kibbutz Nirim on Thursday, the IDF said. In response, the Israel Air Force bombed a weapon manufacturing facility and an arms smuggling tunnel. "The IDF will not tolerate the firing of rockets by terrorist organizations at Israel and will continue to respond harshly against any attempt to disrupt the calm in Israel's southern communities," the IDF Spokesperson said. More than 25 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the beginning of the year. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Building in Jerusalem

  • The Jerusalem Housing Announcement, U.S.-Israel Relations, and Peace Efforts - Jeffrey Heller, Adam Entous and Tom Perry
    Israel says it was business as usual - a low-level planning committee giving the thumbs-up to another housing project for Jews in what Israel considers to be part of Jerusalem, its declared - and unrecognized - capital. Netanyahu assured an embarrassed Biden that the announcement shouldn't have been made now and in any case, nothing would be built there for years.
        U.S. officials seemed to take Netanyahu at his word that he did not know the project would be announced during Biden's visit. Biden sought to play down any rift by describing the prime minister as a close personal friend during a speech in Tel Aviv. Israeli officials made clear the project and the construction of other homes for Jews in Jerusalem, an area not covered by a limited settlement freeze Netanyahu announced in November, would go ahead.
        The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank may seek to stall the process for a few weeks, but U.S. officials expect the negotiations to begin, possibly as early as next week when U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell returns to the region. Many analysts believe it will be difficult for Abbas to resist U.S. pressure for long. (Reuters)
  • Israel, PA Preoccupied with Existential Threats - Stephanie Gutmann
    After the Israeli Interior Ministry announced a construction project in contested East Jerusalem, Vice President Biden reportedly said that the lack of an agreement over Palestine is "endangering U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan." Oh please. Like what's really irking the Taliban and al-Qaeda is the placement of borders over in Palestine. If there was a "final status agreement," everybody would settle down and take up crocheting. The VP's comment reveals some profound confusion about how the region works.
        Almost everyone - Israeli and Palestinian alike - admits in private that with Hamas busy stockpiling Iranian weapons and tightening its law enforcement and Sharia noose on the citizens of Gaza, there was little chance either Abbas or Netanyahu would commit to terms that change the status quo significantly. Both, in their own way, are quite preoccupied with very large existential threats. The Palestinian Authority is as menaced by Hamastan as Israel. In fact one of the factors keeping Abbas' crew from being completely overrun by Hamas (as it was in Gaza in 2007) is the presence of "occupying" Israeli soldiers.
        Most of the PA declarations, therefore, about Israel's "intransigence" in building this apartment building or that are a form of semaphore, mostly directed to the EU - we can't be expected to offer our people a free press or end incitement to terrorism while we're under Zionist occupation, so please keep giving us aid. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Time Doesn't Stand Still for Jews in Jerusalem - Marty Peretz
    The Palestinians have only themselves to blame on Jerusalem, as on other disputed matters. In 2000 and 2001, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to a peace that included handing over the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem for the Palestinian capital. (Ehud Olmert made the same offer in 2008). The Arabs always believed that time was on their side, that their reluctance to negotiate and sign would somehow improve their position. But time does not stand still, and it certainly no longer stands still for the Jews. Having waited in exile for 2,000 years, having struggled over nearly a century for a Jewish commonwealth, have tried to engage its neighbors in parley for more than half a century, the Jewish polity will no longer tarry, and it is justified in not tarrying.
        The American quick fix of "indirect" negotiations plays into the Palestinian historic habit of eluding reality. But, if they will not sit with the Israelis, how can they possibly make peace with the Israelis? (New Republic)
  • Jerusalem: It's All in the Timing - David Hazony
    In a report about building 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem, the New York Times headline reads: "As Biden Visits, Israel Unveils Plan for New Settlements." An earlier version of the story, which has since been edited, described Jerusalem as home to "thousands of settlers." What Netanyahu knows, and Biden apparently does not, is that the vast majority of Israelis, including those who favor a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians, do not, and will never, look at Jerusalem as a settlement or at residents of its neighborhoods as "settlers."
        Unlike the U.S., Israel is an actual party to the negotiations and has a right to draw red lines. One such line that must not be crossed is undoing the unification of Jerusalem that happened in 1967 and that still captures the imagination and commitment of both the great majority of Israelis and a very large number of diaspora Jews. Jerusalem is home to more than 700,000 citizens, of whom two-thirds are Jews. It has granted far greater and more liberal access to non-Jews worshiping at its shrines than the Palestinians have ever done with regard to Jewish (and Christian) freedom in the territories it controls. Anyone hoping for a successful negotiation leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel had better forget about the division of Jerusalem. (Commentary)

    The Case of Rachel Corrie

  • Israel: IDF Not to Blame for Activist Rachel Corrie's Death
    The State Prosecutor's Office appealed Thursday to the Haifa District Court to dismiss outright the civil suit filed by U.S. activist Rachel Corrie's family against the Defense Ministry for compensation for their daughter's death. Corrie, 24, was killed in 2003 by an IDF bulldozer as she and other activists tried to use their bodies as human shields in Gaza. The driver said he did not see her, and the IDF ruled her death an accident.
        "Rachel Corrie was injured as a result of her prohibited action, for which she is solely responsible, due to her considerable negligence and lack of caution," the Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. "The IDF thoroughly investigated the incident, including a Military Police investigation, in the framework of which considerable evidence was collected. The bulldozer driver and commander were investigated by the Military Police and the unequivocal conclusion was reached that they did not see - and could not have seen - Corrie due to the bulldozer's limited field of vision."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Statement Regarding Civil Suit in the Matter of Rachel Corrie (State Prosecutor's Office, Tel Aviv District-IMRA)
        See also IDF Advocate General: Rachel Corrie's Death an Accident - Joel Leyden
    An investigation conducted by the Judge Advocate's Office concludes that Rachel Corrie, who was in a closed military zone and interfering with IDF operational activities, was killed by accident. "The driver at no point saw or heard Corrie," a military source said. "The International Solidarity Movement, to which Corrie belonged, was directly responsible for illegal behavior and conduct in the area of Corrie's death and their actions directly led to this tragedy."  (Jerusalem Post, 26June2003)
  • Martyr - Cynthia Ozick
    The International Solidarity Movement is a front: a creature of the PLO, and under its vigilant supervision. In the U.S., recruits are encouraged, partly funded, and trained by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Though the ISM is touted as non-violent, in reality it acts not merely as a shield for violence but as its proponent. Every Friday, the ISM organizes riots at Israel's security fence, erected to deter infiltration by suicide bombers.
        Once in Gaza, the new recruits are called on to stand as human shields before arms caches or shooter hideouts. If through some mishap a young foreigner should be hit, all the better: fuel for international outrage. For the opportunistic leaders of the ISM, Rachel Corrie's death is neither piteous nor pointless: it is pure bonanza. (New Republic, 7Dec2006)
  • American Killed by Israeli Bulldozer - Molly Moore
    Rachel Corrie was kneeling in front of the bulldozer and tried to scramble out of its way, said Tom Dale, 18, a British protester who said he was standing several yards away. "She tried to stand up and fell over backwards." Thom Saffold, a founder and organizer of the International Solidarity Movement, said, "It's possible they [the protesters] were not as disciplined as we would have liked....But we're like a peace army. Generals send young men and women off to operations, and some die."  (Washington Post, 17Mar2003)
  • The Death of Rachel Corrie - Joshua Hammer
    A damning photograph shot by an ISM activist and almost immediately released by Reuters appears to show Corrie standing before the bulldozer and addressing the soldiers with her megaphone seconds before being crushed. Yet the infamous photo turned out to be misleading. In fact, the megaphone photo was taken hours before Corrie's death; she had handed the loudspeaker to a colleague some time before she was run over, and she was kneeling, not standing, in front of the machine when she was killed. Newspapers ran corrections.
        The army reservist who ran Corrie down is a Russian immigrant with long experience as a bulldozer operator. On Israeli TV he insisted that his field of vision was limited inside the D9 cabin and that he had no idea Corrie was in front of the machine. "You can't hear, you can't see well. You can go over something and you'll never know," he said. "I scooped up some earth, I couldn't see anything. I pushed the earth, and I didn't see her at all. Maybe she was hiding in there." The IDF compiled a video about the Corrie incident that includes footage taken from inside the cockpit of a D9. It makes a credible case that the operators, peering out through narrow, double-glazed, bulletproof windows, their view obscured behind pistons and the giant scooper, might not have seen Corrie kneeling in front of them. The writer was Jerusalem Bureau Chief for Newsweek at the time. (Mother Jones, Sept. 2003)


  • A Long-Term Truce in the West Bank - Michael Young
    In the West Bank, a long-term truce is effectively in place. Palestinians have no stomach for a new armed struggle, Hamas' default scheme if all else fails.
        Islamist parties have lost momentum throughout the Middle East in recent years. They offer no persuasive vision for nation-building. In Iraq's elections last weekend, religious parties lost ground to broad-based "nationalist" lists. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is divided over how to deal with the state. Hamas has failed in its bid at governing, and its crushing of Fatah in Gaza in 2007 created many enemies. Even Hizbullah, arguably the most successful of the Islamist groups, has dangerously antagonized Lebanon's Sunnis in recent years, while all it offers to the Lebanese is a prospect of incessant conflict with Israel.
        Handing Hamas a lifeline now is a terrible idea. It would only increase Syrian and Iranian control over the Palestinians at a time when PA Prime Minister Fayyad is strengthening autonomous state institutions. It would also indicate that Hamas has succeeded, when the movement has, in fact, systematically undercut Palestinian interests. Hamas may eventually have to be brought into peace talks, but that should happen only when the movement's power is greatly diminished, not a moment sooner. The writer is opinion editor of the Daily Star in Beirut. (The National-UAE)
  • Spy: Arafat Plotted the Second Intifada - Matthew Kaminski
    Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder and leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the West Bank, and the author of Son of Hamas. Throughout the last decade, he was one of the top spies for Israel's internal security arm. "There is a logical explanation," he says. "Simply my enemies of yesterday became my friends. And the friends of yesterday became really my enemies." In 1996 while at the Megiddo prison in northern Israel, "every day, there was screaming; every night, torture. Hamas was torturing its own people!"
        A few months before the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, at Camp David PLO chief Yasser Arafat had turned down the Israeli offer of statehood on 90% of the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital. According to Yousef, Arafat decided he needed another uprising to win back international attention. So he sought out Hamas' support through Sheikh Yousef, writes his son. Those meetings took place before the Palestinian authorities found a pretext for the second Intifada. It came when future Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Yousef's account helps to set straight the historical record that the uprising was premeditated by Arafat.
        Yousef claims that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group born during the second Intifada, was made up of Arafat's guards, who were directly funded by international donors. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also A Genuine Palestinian Freedom Fighter - Claudia Rosett (Forbes)
  • Refugees and Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Michael Steinhardt
    Over the past decade a great illusion has taken hold of three successive American administrations that the path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians will come through negotiating the fate of West Bank settlements. But the real issue that separates Israel and the Palestinians is refugees. Descendants of the Arabs who left their homes in 1948 now number in the millions. The Palestinians want these people returned to Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel says no, knowing this would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Over the past ten years, two Israeli premiers have offered to give back virtually the entire West Bank in exchange for peace. The Palestinians have refused, citing the unresolved plight of the refugees as the reason.
        What would a final deal on the refugee issue look like? It's high time we found out. The Arabs have, in the past, demanded unlimited repatriation of families to land they left behind. Rightly or wrongly, that's not how refugee crises get resolved in the real world. President Obama should marshal his considerable popularity abroad to build an international coalition to solve the refugee problem, once and for all. As a first step, the coalition would create a fund to be used to create new communities within Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere, and to help educate and employ the refugee populace. As a second step, the coalition would seek homes for at least some of the refugees beyond the borders of the West Bank and Gaza.
        Only the Palestinians will be able to say whether this is good enough. If it is, peace is truly possible. If it isn't, we will know that, too. And at least we will know that we tried. The writer is co-founder of Birthright Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also A Ladder for the Palestinians to Climb Down from the Tree - Akiva Eldar
    "It is not enough for an applicant to claim that a particular place or property is a 'home,'" the judges of the European Court of Human Rights ruled last week, to the dismay of the Greek refugees from Northern Cyprus who had filed a petition concerning their right of return. "He or she must show that they enjoy concrete and persisting links with the property concerned." The Greek refugees, who had fled during the Turkish occupation in the 1970s, have demanded that their property be returned to them. However, a majority of the court's 17 judges fully accepted the Turkish position - whereby reality overrides "family roots" and time outweighs sentiment.
        With this decision, one of the world's most respected international legal institutions on the matter of human rights thus opened a new chapter in the ongoing controversy surrounding refugees' right to return to their homes. Eyal Benvenisti, a professor in Tel Aviv University's law faculty and an international expert on issues concerning refugees, attributes great importance to the decision: "The injured side that decides to wait until the end of time will one day wake up to discover his rights have become obsolete....In other words, anyone who is interested in ending the conflict and solving the refugee problem has received from the European court a very convenient ladder for climbing down from the tree."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Armistice Now: An Interim Agreement for Israel and Palestine - Ehud Yaari
    More than 16 years after the euphoria of the Oslo accords, the Israelis and the Palestinians have still not reached a final-status peace agreement. The prospects of a deal between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas are slim, since Abbas already rejected former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's far-reaching proposals - the sort of offer Netanyahu would never make.
        The best option is to seek a less ambitious agreement that transforms the situation on the ground and creates momentum for further negotiations by establishing a Palestinian state within armistice boundaries. In diplomatic terms, this formula would strive to reach interim agreements but stop short of resolving the final-status issues of Jerusalem, the refugees, and permanent boundaries.
        A small sovereign state within the pre-1967 boundaries has never been the fundamental goal of Palestinian nationalism; instead, Palestinian national consciousness has historically focused on avenging the loss of Arab lands. As the prominent Palestinian academic Ahmad Khalidi has argued, "The intention behind the state today is to limit and constrain Palestinian aspirations territorially." The writer is Lafer International Fellow at The Washington Institute and Middle East commentator for Channel 2 news in Israel. (Foreign Affairs-Washington Institute for Near East Policy)


  • An Avowed Existential Threat from Iran - Yoel Marcus
    Iran publicly declares its intention to destroy the Jewish state. We are facing a lunatic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeatedly and publicly declares that the Holocaust never happened, and has now "discovered" that the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers were perpetrated by the Americans to give them an excuse for the war on terror. This is a country whose leaders seek to turn all the moderate states in the Middle East into an unbroken stretch of Sharia extremism. Alongside its race for nuclear weapons, Iran is building a huge conventional military on both land and sea. It also has an arsenal of long-range Shihab missiles that threaten Europe and even America.
        It is not just the countries of this region, but all the world's sane states that ought to be worried by what is going on in Iran. And that is all the more true for Israel, which has been marked as the first target for being wiped off the face of the earth. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Enriches Companies Defying Its Policy on Iran - Jo Becker and Ron Nixon
    The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington's efforts to discourage investment there, records show. Both the Obama and Bush administrations have sent mixed messages when it comes to doing business in Iran. Of the 74 companies identified as doing business with both the U.S. government and Iran, 49 continue to do business there with no announced plans to leave.
        Recently, after 50 lawmakers from both parties complained to President Obama about the lack of enforcement, the State Department announced a preliminary investigation. Officials said they were looking at 27 deals, and that while some appeared to have been "carefully constructed" to get around the letter of the law, they had identified a number of problematic cases and were focusing on companies still active in Iran. Among the companies is the Brazilian state-controlled energy conglomerate Petrobras, which last year received a $2 billion Export-Import Bank loan.
        If the administration hoped that the loan would bring Brazil in line with its objectives in Iran, it would soon prove mistaken. On Nov. 23, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited Brazil, and Iranian officials said they might offer Petrobras additional incentives for further investment. The visit infuriated American officials. (New York Times)
        See also List of Companies Profiting from Iran and the U.S. (New York Times)

    Other Issues

  • The Prerequisite for Peace in the Middle East: Arab Recognition of the Legitimacy of Israel - Kenneth J. Bialkin
    In all previous peace initiatives, the magic formula was for Israel to make concessions so that a sovereign Palestinian state could be established. Israel was pressed to yield land and forego settlements in areas considered its homeland, which were acquired in wars following Arab aggression.
        A peace process which rests upon Israel's unilateral concessions is doomed to fail - unless and until the world also demands that the Arab states (including the Palestinians) recognize Israel's legitimacy and sovereignty, explicitly and openly. The Arab world must come to recognize that the Jewish claim for a state and for land and recognition did not begin in the twentieth century and is not simply compensation for the suffering of the Holocaust. The Jewish claim for recognition has abided for more than 3,000 years. The failure to convince the Arab world to internalize the right of the Jews to share the Land of Israel and to put an end to the conflict means the conflict and the state of war will continue. The writer is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • "I Fought Apartheid in South Africa - Israel Is Not Apartheid" - Malcolm Hedding
    Apartheid was a totalitarian system of governance - not unlike many of the regimes in the Arab world today. A white minority subjugated the overwhelmingly black population. It was ideologically driven and obsessed with racial superiority. Black people could not vote, own property or even move freely inside their own country. There is absolutely nothing equivalent to this in the dispute between the Palestinians and Israel today. Within Israel itself, Arabs and Jews share the same shopping malls, benches, hospitals, theaters and, in many cases, suburbs. The privilege of voting is given to all and the Knesset has 13 Arab members. Jews and Arabs often work together at construction sites, businesses, hotels and elsewhere.
        Israel is a democratic state and is definitely not governed by a totalitarian minority. In the disputed territories, some 98% of the Palestinian Arab population now lives under the governance of their own Palestinian Authority. True, Israel has adopted security measures that curtail their movement, but these have been necessitated by the conflict and are legitimate acts of self-defense, rather than acts of racial discrimination.
        The truth is the apartheid accusation is just another smokescreen in the war against Israel. I should know because I grew up in the dark apartheid era in South Africa and stood against it to my peril. As a minister in South Africa, the writer participated in the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s and was threatened with detention without trial. Today, he is executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Is Israel a Colonial State? The Political Psychology of Palestinian Nomenclature - Irwin J. Mansdorf (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Israel's creation, far from being a foreign colonial transplant, can actually be seen as the vanguard of and impetus for decolonialization of the entire Middle East, including a significant part of the Arab world, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
    • What is not popularly recognized is how the Arab world benefited from the Balfour Declaration and how it served the Arab world in their nationalist goals and helped advance their own independence from the colonial powers of England and France.
    • Despite the essentially parallel processes of independence from colonial and protectorate influence over the first half of the twentieth century, only one of the national movements at the time and only one of the resulting states, namely Israel, is accused of being "colonial," with the term "settler-colonialist" applied to the Zionist enterprise
    • This term, however, can assume validity only if it is assumed that the "setters" have no indigenous roots and rights in the area. As such, this is yet another example of psychological manipulation for political purposes. The notion of "settler" dismisses any historical or biblical connection of Jews to the area. Hence, the importance of denial of Jewish rights, history, and claims to the area.
    • Lest there be any confusion about what a "settler" is, those who use the terminology "settler-colonialist" against Israel clearly mean the entire Zionist enterprise, including the original territory of the State of Israel in 1948. The "colonial Israel" charge is thus rooted in an ideological denial of any Jewish connection to the ancient Land of Israel.

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