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July 23, 2010

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U.S. Upgrades Diplomatic Ties with Palestinians in Bid to Woo Abbas - Natasha Mozgovaya, Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Now PA diplomats in Washington will enjoy diplomatic immunity.
    "This decision reflects our confidence that through direct negotiations, we can help achieve a two-state solution with an independent and viable Palestine living side by side with Israel," said White House spokesman Thomas Vietor. "We should begin preparing for that outcome now, as we continue to work with the Palestinian people on behalf of a better future."
    A week ago, American officials contacted Jerusalem to see whether Israel would object to the upgrade, a senior Israeli official said. Prime Minister Netanyahu responded that he had no objections.
    See also PLO Mission in Washington Permitted to Fly Palestinian Flag (Palestine Note)
    The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Mission in Washington was upgraded to a "Delegation General" on July 20, Palestinian ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat announced on Thursday.
    The change does not represent full diplomatic recognition, but the office in Washington will now be allowed to fly the Palestinian flag.

The Revolt Against Iran's Supreme Leader Begins - Michael Ledeen (Pajamas Media)
    The bazaars are still on strike. I know that the Los Angeles Times said the strike was over a couple of days ago, but I think they have it wrong.
    There could be no greater sign of the regime's mounting insecurity than the fatwa issued Tuesday by Khamenei asserting that he rules in the name of the Prophet, and that obedience to the supreme leader is the same as obedience to Mohammed. Dictators only do such things when they know they are not being obeyed.
    A member of the Iranian regime's Assembly of Experts confessed in a statement on Monday that the Iranian people despise state-run TV programs and do not watch them. According to the state-run Fars news agency, Haeri Shirazi pointed to the failure of the regime's policy of preventing free access to information through satellite channels.

Disco Group Told to Drop "By the Rivers of Babylon" from West Bank Gig (AP)
    When the 1970s disco group Boney M performed in Ramallah this week, the band was prevented from performing one of its biggest hits.
    Lead singer Maizie Williams said Palestinian concert organizers told her not to sing "By the Rivers of Babylon." The song's chorus quotes from the Book of Psalms, referring to the exiled Jewish people's yearning to return to the biblical Land of Israel.

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Israel to Return Flotilla Boats to Turkey - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy is expected to inform local authorities that Israel will return the Turkish boats which took part in a Gaza-bound flotilla.
    Israel's leaders made the decision following negotiations with Ankara, during which Israel demanded that the vessels would not take part in future sails to Gaza. The move is another attempt to prevent an escalation in the tense relations with Turkey.

In Egypt, Diary of "Torture" Captures Police Brutality - Miret El Naggar (McClatchy-Christian Science Monitor)
    Hundreds of allegations have been logged into Egypt's "torture diary," a chronicle of claimed police brutality compiled by the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, an independent victims advocacy group in Cairo.

The Swedish Mana Affair - Mathan Ravid (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    Freelance journalist Dilsa Demirbag-Sten, a member of the Swedish Arts Council's reference group for cultural magazines and journals, came out against granting state funding to the journal Mana.
    On 22 January 2008, she wrote in the newspaper Expressen about "Mana's strong anti-Semitic tendencies and pure conspiratorial fantasies."
    Mana is owned by the Iranian-Swedish Solidarity Association (ISS).

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Sanctions Slow Development of Huge Natural Gas Field in Iran - Thomas Erdbrink
    Increasingly tough international sanctions over Iran's nuclear program have significantly slowed development of the South Pars gas field as Western firms such as Shell, Total and Halliburton have pulled out of the project. South Pars is the Iranian portion of a natural gas reservoir about two miles below the Persian Gulf between Iran and Qatar. The reservoir is the world's largest gas field. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, and Malaysia's SKS Ventures have taken over some parts of the project, but the bulk of the work is now done by local consortiums, some of them affiliates of the Revolutionary Guard's construction arm.
        In addition to problems obtaining financing, companies face difficulties in procuring key instruments and hiring drilling rigs, industry insiders said. At the South Pars site, the number of workers has dropped to 20,000, down from a peak of nearly 100,000 when several projects were underway. (Washington Post)
  • UK May Curb Arrest Warrants for War Crime Suspects - Natalie Hanman
    The British government is proposing to give the director of public prosecutions (DPP) the power to veto arrest warrants for suspected war criminals in the UK. The move is an attempt to make it harder for arrests under the law of "universal jurisdiction" and comes after a series of high-profile cases in which Israeli politicians faced arrest in the UK.
        An attempt by British lawyers to obtain an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister and now opposition leader, from a London magistrates court late last year prompted the then government to try to change the legal process by requiring the approval of the attorney general. The proposed changes outlined Thursday by the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, instead give the DPP a veto power over arrest warrants.
        Clarke said: "Our commitment to our international obligations and to ensuring that there is no impunity for those accused of crimes of universal jurisdiction is unwavering. It is important, however, that universal jurisdiction cases should be proceeded with in this country only on the basis of solid evidence that is likely to lead to a successful prosecution - otherwise there is a risk of damaging our ability to help in conflict resolution or to pursue a coherent foreign policy."  (Guardian-UK)
        See also Spanish Activists Sue Israeli Leaders - Roni Sofer
    Two months after the Gaza flotilla incident, a civil claim will be filed on Friday in Spain against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, six of his cabinet ministers and Navy Commander Eliezer Marom, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
        The Foreign Ministry said Friday in response: "Israel's actions are legal and in accordance with international law. Just like the flotilla organizers did not have humanitarian aid in mind, but only used it as an excuse for provocation and violence, the people filing the lawsuit are not really interested in law and justice, but are using them as a tool against Israel."  (Ynet News)
  • Gaza Smugglers Cut Underground Egyptian Steel Wall - Karoun Demirjian
    Smugglers have cut hundreds of holes in an underground steel wall Egypt is building along the border with Gaza, two Egyptian security officials said Thursday. "It's a big failure," said one Egyptian official of the undertaking. (AP)
  • Hizbullah Expects Members to Be Indicted in Death of Lebanese Prime Minister - Bassem Mroue
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday in a televised speech that Hizbullah members will be among those indicted in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He said that the current prime minister, Saad Hariri, informed him of the upcoming indictments by an international tribunal investigating the suicide truck bombing which killed his father and 22 others. (AP-Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Prepares for Lebanese Flotilla - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
    Israeli defense officials said that the navy had deployed ships at sea Thursday amid forecasts that two vessels from Lebanon were preparing to depart for Gaza in an effort to break the blockade. One of the ships is carrying women and the other is carrying journalists. The organizer of the ships is Syrian national Yasser Kashlak. Israel has made clear that it will not let the vessels break the blockade. (Jerusalem Post)
  • International Bodies Join Forces to Fight Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial
    An agreement was signed Wednesday in Jerusalem that boosts the strength of the forces in the global arena fighting against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. The cooperation agreement is between the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (ITF) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), an operative branch of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
        This year, Israel was chosen for the first time to head the ITF, which was founded ten years ago at the initiative of the Swedish government. Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said the agreement will give an enormous boost to the fight against the delegitimization of Israel and anti-Semitism in the world, bringing into cooperation the 27-member ITF and the 57-member ODIHR. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Hidden Tombs Uncovered on Mount of Olives - Abe Selig
    Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin came to the ancient Ashkenazi section of the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem on Thursday, where he visited the recently rediscovered tomb of Rabbi Sa'adia Mishkelov - a 19th-century leader of religious immigrants to Israel. Rivlin explained that "Rabbi Mishkelov was a student and emissary of the Vilna Gaon, and a leader of a group of the Vilna Gaon's disciples that came to Israel in 1809." "My family also came to Israel by order of the Vilna Gaon, who instructed his followers to come settle in Jerusalem," Rivlin added.
        Mishkelov's tomb was discovered as part of an ongoing project undertaken by the Jerusalem Development Authority, which searches for hidden tombs. While more than 25,000 gravestones have already been documented and entered into an online database of tombs on the Mount of Olives, organizers estimate that there are between 200,000 and 300,000 in the cemetery. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Mount of Olives Cemetery Data Base (view with Internet Explorer) (City of David)
        See also The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: Why Continued Israeli Control Is Vital - Nadav Shragai
    The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives is the most important Jewish cemetery in the world. The area has constituted a religious and national pantheon for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, containing the tombs of the illustrious dead of the nation over the course of 3,000 years. (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hitting Tehran in the Tank - Editorial
    A task force report released this week by the American Foreign Policy Council entitled "Toward An Economic Warfare Strategy Against Iran" lays out some of the potential measures short of war that could push Tehran towards a peaceful solution. The task force concludes that the U.S. needs to "marshal a comprehensive economic warfare strategy toward the Islamic Republic - one that leverages the latent vulnerabilities inherent in the Iranian economy to ratchet up the cost of the regime's nuclear endeavor."
        The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, signed into law on July 1, has taken special aim at Iran's gasoline sector. The act authorizes sanctions "on any entity that provides, or helps Iran obtain, refined petroleum, including suppliers, shippers, banks, insurance and reinsurance companies, as well as companies that supply equipment to Iran that could be used to expand or construct oil refineries." The task force also recommends comprehensive programs targeting Iranian pipelines, financial services, international trade, promoting divestment and export controls. (Washington Times)
        Read the report: Toward an Economic Warfare Strategy Against Iran (American Foreign Policy Council)
  • U.S. Clueless in Gaza? - Mark Silverberg
    The Gazans' first act of "independence," after the Israeli withdrawal from the territory in 2005, was to destroy the lucrative greenhouse industry that the Israelis left behind. According to the Heritage Foundation, since the Oslo Accords in 1993, the U.S. has showered $2.2 billion in bilateral aid on the Palestinians, in addition to more than $3.4 billion for humanitarian aid funneled through UN organizations since 1950.
        Vast amounts of these aid funds have been diverted to allow Hamas to building its war infrastructure such as bunkers, fortifying positions and digging tunnels. Some $10 billion has been spent globally in the last decade on the Palestinians; yet Gaza remains as pro-terrorist as ever. Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization, controls the distribution of all goods entering Gaza. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • When Arabs Tweet - Rami G. Khouri
    We are witnessing a continuing social revolution in how youth throughout the Middle East use Web sites, cellphones, chat systems, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other rapidly evolving new media. But are the new digital and social media a credible tool for challenging established political orders and bringing about political change in our region?
        My impression is that these new media today play a role identical to that played by Al Jazeera satellite television when it first appeared in the mid-1990s - they provide important new means by which ordinary citizens can both receive information and express their views, regardless of government controls on both, but in terms of their impact they seem more like a stress reliever than a mechanism for political change.
        Watching Arab pundits criticize Arab governments, Israel or the U.S. - common fare on Arab satellite television - is great vicarious satisfaction for ordinary men and women who live in political cultures that deny them serious opportunities for free speech. Blogging, reading politically racy Web sites, or passing around provocative text messages by cellphone is equally satisfying for many youth.
        Such activities, though, essentially shift the individual from the realm of participant to the realm of spectator involved in an act of passive, harmless personal entertainment. Young people use the digital media mainly for entertainment and vicarious, escapist self-expression. The writer is director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. (International Herald Tribune)
  • The Slow Death of Palestinian Democracy - Mustafa Barghouthi
    Palestinian municipal elections were supposed to have been held last week. The cancellation of this election was an unjustified, unlawful, and unacceptable act that makes a mockery of the interests of the Palestinian people. The only lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians will be based on a settlement negotiated between two democracies.
        The Hamas government prevented voter registration in Gaza, thus stopping elections from taking place there. However, though Hamas would boycott the election, it soon became clear that Fatah would still face tough competition from unaligned, democratic parties. Then, the government in the West Bank announced that it was postponing the election until further notice.
        This raises a fundamental question about the meaning of "state-building." Doesn't this term mean more than new construction projects, big government buildings, and a larger security apparatus? The writer, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was a candidate for the Palestinian presidency in 2005. (Foreign Policy)
  • Syria's Old Habit of Dominion over Lebanon Dies Hard - Michael Young
    Last weekend, Lebanon's prime minister, Saad Hariri, traveled to Damascus, where Lebanese and Syrian officials signed 17 bilateral agreements. Little has changed in the way Syria views Lebanon from the days when the Syrian army was in the country. For President Bashar Assad, Lebanon is there primarily to serve Damascus' regional interests, regardless of whether this undermines its sovereignty. Damascus only gains by using Lebanon as an open field for conflict, even as it profitably sells itself as the only party able to contain Hizbullah and mediate between the divided Lebanese. In other words, Syria is replicating its much-used tactic of setting fires it offers to extinguish. (The National-UAE)

    Weekend Feature

  • Participation of German Women in Genocide Far Greater than Previously Thought - Isabel Kershner
    According to new research, the participation of German women in genocide during the Holocaust, as perpetrators, accomplices or passive witnesses, was far greater than previously thought. Researcher Wendy Lower, an American historian now living in Munich, has drawn attention to the thousands of seemingly ordinary German women who willingly went out to the Nazi-occupied eastern territories as part of the war effort, to areas where genocide was openly occurring. Lower, 45, presented her work for the first time at this summer's workshop at Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research.
        Thousands of German women went to the eastern territories to help Germanize them. Women ran the storehouses of belongings taken from Jews. There were up to 5,000 female guards in the concentration camps, making up about 10% of the personnel. Several witnesses have described festive banquets near mass shooting sites in the Ukrainian forests, with German women providing refreshments for the shooting squads whose work often went on for days. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    IDF Morality in the Gaza Operation - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • A report presented by Israel to the UN this week in response to accusations of "war crimes" in Gaza raised by the Goldstone Report clarifies the ethical dilemmas faced by the State of Israel in its fight against terrorism and the high moral standards of the IDF's rules of engagement.
    • On January 3, 2009, a number of Palestinian civilians were killed by an IDF missile that struck near the entrance to the Al-Maqadmah mosque. An IDF investigation found that the missile strike had been directed at two terrorists observed firing Kassam rockets at Israeli cities. A number of factors combined to cause these unfortunate fatalities.
      • There was a "ticking bomb" element. The two Kassam operatives had to be neutralized before they could launch more rockets at Israeli civilians.
      • IDF commanders who authorized the attack did not know that the building, which had no minaret, was a mosque. Furthermore, the Israeli command did not know that a door that led into the mosque was open. It was shrapnel from the missile that killed civilians located inside.
      • Finally, two IDF officers selected a more powerful missile than was authorized because the missile that had been approved was not immediately available and, with time running out, no Palestinian civilians could be seen in the area. Nevertheless, the officers were punished for their choice.
    • Hamas launches rockets from inside densely populated civilian areas, intentionally and cynically using Gaza's residents as human shields. Israel is faced with difficult, split-second choices in response. America, Britain, Germany and other Western countries with forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan behave no differently and often with fewer moral scruples.

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