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July 30, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

How the CIA Got It Wrong on Iran's Nukes - Edward J. Epstein (Wall Street Journal)
    In a stunning departure from a decade of assessments, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran declared: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."
    Unfortunately, as the Obama administration has now acknowledged, the NIE's conclusion was dead wrong, costing us precious time in dealing with a serious threat. What caused such a disastrous mistake?
    As James Risen, the New York Times national security reporter, explains in his book State of War, in 2004, a CIA communications officer accidentally included data in a satellite transmission to an agent in Iran that could be used to identify "virtually every spy the CIA had in Iran."
    This disastrous error was compounded because the recipient of the transmission turned out to be a double-agent controlled by the Iranian security service.
    This allowed the Iranian security service to control the information these agents provided the CIA, which may have been vulnerable to receiving misleading secret intelligence that Tehran had abandoned its nuclear ambitions.

California Insurers Divest $400 Million in Iran-Related Assets (Lexology)
    California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced on July 1, 2010, that insurers in his state had sold about 20% of the assets the industry holds in the 50 companies that the California Department of Insurance has identified as doing business with Iran's nuclear, energy and defense sectors.

In U.S.: 1,211 Anti-Semitic Incidents in 2009 (Anti-Defamation League)
    The 2009 ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released Tuesday, counted a total of 1,211 incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, property, and community institutions across the U.S.
    There were 29 physical assaults on Jewish individuals, 760 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment and threats, and 422 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism.

Poll: Israeli Jews Oppose Additional Unilateral Withdrawal (IMRA)
    A poll of 500 adult Israeli Jews by Geocartography was broadcast on Israel Channel 1 television on Tuesday on a program marking 5 years after Israel's disengagement from Gaza:
    Was the 2005 disengagement from Gaza the right thing to do? Yes 25%, No 54%.
    Would you support another unilateral withdrawal? Yes 21%, No 62%.
    Did the disengagement strengthen or weaken Israel's deterrence? Weaken 55%, No impact 28%, Strengthen 8%.

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Bribes "an Integral Part of Egyptian Business Culture" - David E. Miller (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    A 2009 survey by the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies found that 47% of small and medium businesses in Egypt are forced to offer government clerks cash bribes in order to obtain business licenses and must continually bribe them in order to avoid fines.
    Sobhy Essaila, who participated in writing a report on the survey for the center, said that neither the payers nor the recipients of bribes consider the transaction to be a bribe, but rather consider it to be normal payment for services rendered.
    "This is considered to be an integral part of the Egyptian business culture," he said.

Palestinian Tycoons with Libya Links behind Tory Donations - Holly Watt (Telegraph-UK)
    The Conservative Party in Britain has received a six-figure donation from a company owned by Palestinian millionaires who were developing Libya's vast offshore oilfields.
    The Conservatives received more than £100,000 from CC Property Company, owned by S&K Holdings, a firm controlled by Palestinian billionaires Hasib Sabbagh and Said Khoury. Sabbagh died earlier this year.
  Another firm owned by the two men, Consolidated Contractors Company, is operating in Libya's offshore Bouri oilfield.

Wanted Nazi Suspect Charged in Germany - Kirsten Grieshaber (AP-Washington Post)
    Samuel Kunz, 88, the world's third most-wanted Nazi suspect, has been charged in Germany with participating in the murder of 430,000 Jews while serving as a guard at the Belzec death camp.
    See also Gruesome Charges Detailed Against Suspected Nazi - Kirsten Grieshaber (AP)

Israel Museum in Jerusalem Reopens After $100 Million Renovation - Judy Lash Balint (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
    After three years of renovation, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem reopened to the public on July 26, firmly reestablishing itself as the most important repository of Jewish culture in the world.
    The $100 million renovation doubled the museum's gallery space and completely redesigned the interior.
    "You can stand at the heart of the museum and you will...see the entrances to our collections for archaeology; Jewish art and life; the Western fine art traditions; the non-Western fine art traditions; our main auditorium; and our main temporary exhibition galleries," said James Snyder, the museum's director.

Elbit Unveils New Sensor - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Elbit Systems unveiled on Sunday a miniature wireless sensor that is buried underground and can detect human and vehicular movement. Called SAND - Smart All-Terrain Networked Detectors - the sensor has a life of five years.
    The system detects and tracks the movement of people as well as vehicle movements, while its unique algorithms filter out animal movements.

Israeli Sniff-Detector Allows Paralyzed People to Write Messages, Surf the Net and Drive a Wheelchair (Discover)
    In Israel's Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital, a 51-year-old woman who was paralyzed by a stroke is completely aware, but unable to move or speak. To communicate, she uses a "sniff controller" to control machines with her nose.
    Developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science, when a patient sniffs, the device measures the change in pressure inside the nose and converts this into electrical signals that are passed to a computer.
    With just a sniff, people can move a cursor on a screen, allowing locked-in patients to write messages. Quadriplegics can even use the device to surf the web, or drive a wheelchair.

Farmers in India Benefit from Israeli Techniques - Rajni Shaleen Chopra (Indian Express)
    At the orchards of two progressive farmers near Sirsa in southern Haryana, extension experts from Israel are demonstrating techniques that can help kinnow (a variety of orange) growers reduce costs and increase yield.

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Video: Palestinian Corruption and Humanitarian Aid (FreeMiddleEast)
    The Palestinian Authority receives more humanitarian aid per capita from the international community than any other country in the world. Yet the billions of dollars that are meant for schools, hospitals and infrastructure have been spent on luxury villas, casinos and payments to terrorists.

Video: The Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Movement Seeks the Destruction of Israel (YouTube)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Arab League Backs Palestinian Refusal to Immediately Restart Direct Talks with Israel
    Arab nations on Thursday backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to immediately restart direct talks with Israel despite heavy pressure from the U.S. While Arab foreign ministers endorsed the idea of direct talks, Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani of Qatar said they left the timing up to Abbas, who has laid down several conditions. On Thursday, Abbas said he would require written assurances either from Israel or the Americans on borders and settlements to start the direct talks. (AP-New York Times)
        See also Palestinians Hold to Preconditions for Peace Talks - Tony Karon
    "We can't want this more than the parties want it." Through two U.S. administrations, this has been a constant refrain from U.S. officials discussing peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Yet wanting it more than the parties may be exactly where the Obama Administration finds itself Thursday after the Arab League endorsed PA President Mahmoud Abbas' preconditions for entering direct talks with the Israelis. Despite strenuous U.S. efforts to cajole him into unconditional direct talks, the Palestinian leader is insisting on written guarantees that Israel will halt all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and that the basis of a peace agreement to be negotiated at such talks will be Israel's borders from before the 1967 war. (TIME)
        See also Diplomats: Abbas Preparing to Hold Direct Talks with Israel - Adrian Blomfield and Samer al-Atrush
    Mahmoud Abbas is expected to bow to U.S. pressure by agreeing to hold direct peace talks with Israel within weeks, according to Western officials. Despite publicly insisting that he has no interest in face-to-face negotiations unless Israel agrees to a raft of demands, Abbas is preparing the ground for what could be the resumption of direct talks after over 18 months of stalemate, handing President Obama a foreign policy success ahead of midterm elections in the U.S. this November. Western officials, as well as a number of independent observers, believe Abbas will reverse his opposition to direct negotiations in early September. "What Abbas is saying in public is not necessarily what he is saying in private," a European diplomat said. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Rocket from Gaza Hits Israeli City
    Gaza militants fired a Grad rocket into the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Friday. The city, with a population of 122,000 located 11 miles north of Gaza, was a regular target for Palestinian militants before Israel's Gaza offensive last year. Since then, Ashkelon has largely been quiet although some rocket and mortar fire from Gaza has continued close to the border. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Rocket Explodes in Heart of Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
    The Grad rocket was fired from the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. Eight people suffered shock. Two empty floors of an apartment building and several cars sustained damage. Many windows were shattered. Police dispatched to the rocket's landing site urged the residents to stay in their homes for fear of additional rockets. Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin said that "this is a very serious incident, the worst since Operation Cast Lead (the 2009 Gaza operation). There is no doubt that such a hit inside the city is an escalation."  (Ynet News)
  • Gaza Friday Sermon on Hamas TV: Muslims Should Wage Jihad to Liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Filth of the Jews
    A Gaza Friday sermon, aired on Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV on July 16: "Dearly beloved, the Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] is subjected to a vicious campaign of Judaization and defilement, at the hands of the filthiest creatures made by Allah - the Jews....Today, we see the brothers of apes and pigs destroying homes with their occupants still in them, uprooting trees from their land, and killing women, children, and the elderly."
        "Our people will never relinquish the Al-Aqsa Mosque or Palestine. We will redeem it with our souls, with our blood, with our sons...until this holy land is purified from the filth of the Jews." "When an enemy invades a Muslim country, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Muslim man and woman. A son should set out on Jihad even without the permission of his father, a wife should set out even without the permission of her husband."  (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Report: Hizbullah Commander's Brother-in-Law Prime Suspect in Hariri Killing
    Mustafa Badr Aldin, the brother-in-law of assassinated Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh, is the prime suspect in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, Israel Channel 1 television reported Thursday. Aldin also commanded the failed attempt to assassinate Kuwait's ruler in 1985. Current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Rafik's son, is pressuring the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon not to publish the suspect's identity due to his government's ties with Hizbullah. (Ynet News)
  • German Spy in the Mideast: "Arab Intelligence Agencies Too Busy Protecting Regimes to Be Effective" - Yossi Melman
    For 11 years, Wilhelm Dietl was an agent for the West German intelligence service BND in the Middle East, with his work as a journalist for the now defunct German weekly Quick providing his cover. He visited Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other places, and met with terrorists, military commanders, intelligence services representatives and politicians.
      He acknowledged in a June 2007 interview in Ha'aretz: "I collected information and ran agents. I bribed army officers. I traveled throughout the Middle East - Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt." Recently Dietl published a book in German titled Shadow Armies: The Secret Services of the Islamic World, about the history of the spy agencies in Islamic countries, especially Arab ones.
        "The Arab agencies see their primary task as preserving the regime or the leader and therefore, they are cruel and without limits. They are above the law; they are the law itself. They see themselves as a divine entity. They torture suspects relentlessly, so it is not surprising that many suspects are willing to confess to every crime."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iran Starts Feeling Heat - Charles Krauthammer
    The Arab states are no longer just whispering their desire for the U.S. to militarily take out Iranian nuclear facilities. The United Arab Emirates' ambassador to Washington said so openly at a conference three weeks ago. Shortly before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Pat Buchanan famously said that the "only two groups" that wanted the U.S. to forcibly liberate Kuwait were "the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States." That was a stupid charge, contradicted by the fact that George H.W. Bush went to war leading more than 30 nations, including the largest U.S.-led coalition of Arab states ever assembled.
        Twenty years later, the libel returns in the form of the scurrilous suggestion that the only ones who want the U.S. to attack Iran's nuclear facilities are Israel and its American supporters. The UAE ambassador is neither Israeli nor American nor Jewish. His publicly expressed desire for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities speaks for the intense Arab fear, approaching panic, of Iran's nuclear program and the urgent hope that the U.S. will take it out. TIME reports ("An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table," July 15) that high administration officials are once again considering the military option. This suggests that after 18 months of failed engagement, the administration is hardening its line. The Iranian regime is beginning to realize that even President Obama's patience is limited - and that Iran may actually face a reckoning for its nuclear defiance. (Washington Post)
  • Iranian Sanctions Impact Depends on Waivers, Timing - Rep. Elton Gallegly
    Now that the President has signed into law additional sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program, will the sanctions work? One key to that question is whether the President allows all the sanctions in the new law to take effect or if he will use the considerable waiver authority the White House insisted upon before giving the green light to Congress for the sanction bill's final passage in June. The new law depends heavily on the willingness of the White House to fully implement it. There is considerable doubt about this since no U.S. administration has fully implemented the previous sanctions on Iran in place since 1996.
        The other key ingredient to the success of the new sanctions is timing. Several, including Central Intelligence Director Leon Panetta, have said sanctions, no matter how strong, may be too late. If that is the case, the U.S. needs a backup plan in place if Tehran is undeterred. Tehran's goal is not just to "wipe Israel from the map," but to directly threaten U.S. security and interests. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Cal.) is a senior member of both the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees. (Jewish Journal of Los Angeles)
  • Sanction Multipliers: New Laws Would Get Tough on Companies that Affiliate with Mullahs - Joel Mowbray
    In the wake of enactment of major sanctions against Iran, some in Congress are looking for new ways to tighten the noose further. Preparing for increased sanctions over the past several years, the Iranian mullahs have developed myriad business relationships with Western and Asian companies as an economic buffer. Taking aim at that buffer, two new bills are being designed to use the disinfectant of sunlight to help apply public pressure and, in many cases, give overworked government officials information they can use to shut down activities that run afoul of the law.
        The Iran Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the House last week, would force publicly traded companies to list in their regular filings all business dealings - including the revenues and profits - that their subsidiaries and affiliates have in Iran that could be covered by various sanctions. The Securities and Exchange Commission would be required to establish a website with a searchable database of listed activities, which is a powerful tool for activists and investors alike. "Simply being on that list will encourage companies to behave responsibly," explains the bill's author, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). The other bill would force oil companies seeking drilling permits in U.S. waters to certify that they are not investing inside Iran and disclose any joint ventures they have with Iranian-controlled businesses. (Washington Times)
  • Iran's Nuclear Puppet-Master - Charlie Gillis and David Armstrong
    Iranian-born Canadian Mahmoud Yadegari contacted 118 companies across North America and sent more than 2,000 emails to suppliers in hopes of getting his hands on parts used in the enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel. His "handler" in Tehran, Nima Tabari, steered Yadegari through the forest of manufacturers, suppliers and middlemen capable of providing the parts Iran so desperately seeks.
        Tabari is a living symbol of the Islamic republic's indifference toward UN sanctions and domestic criminal laws intended to stop it from getting the bomb. Investigators believe he has as many as a dozen agents working around the world. If the Yadegari case is any guide, Tabari spends most of his time looking for so-called "dual-use" parts that can be put to work in nuclear centrifuges. (Macleans-Canada)
  • The Expanding Business Empire of Iran's Revolutionary Guards - Mark Gregory
    Iran has embarked on a remarkable - many would say bizarre - experiment in business management. Domination of a fairly sophisticated, energy-rich economy has been handed to a secretive military organization that started out as a religious militia. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is now believed to control a third of the Iranian economy. The IRGC has been building its economic influence for more than 20 years but the process has greatly accelerated since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - himself a former guardsman - took office in 2005. (BBC News)


  • No "Linkage" of Israeli-Palestinian Dispute to Other Regional Conflicts - James Kirchick
    Why is it that Israeli apartment construction in east Jerusalem, and not, say, the mass killing of Muslims in Sudan, stirs the hearts of the Arab world? One would have been hard-pressed to find much substantive coverage of that genocide in the Arab media, which is busy directing the attention of Arabs to the many small ways in which "crusader Zionists" and their American allies oppress Muslims. The reason for the double standard can probably be found in the fact that the perpetrators of the Sudanese genocide were themselves Muslim (and Arab), and their victims black. But the stunted maturity of Arabs' political culture does not excuse Western acceptance of their hyperbole. Let the Arab and Muslim world show some anger at the vast array of human rights abuses committed by their own and against their own before we accept their mawkish claims of indignation on behalf of the Palestinians at face value.
        It is one thing to say that the Palestinian people deserve a state. It is another thing entirely to say that their lack of having one is in any way responsible for bombings in Bali or Baghdad. To do so buys into the propaganda of the most vicious and reactionary forces in the Middle East, who cynically exploit the Palestinians for their own ends. There's no real reason to believe that Arab attitudes toward the U.S. would change were it to forge a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, a deal which, given the present state of Palestinian politics, would not last long.
        Let the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolve itself on its own terms, if it is ever to be resolved, and let us not force upon the parties a solution that neither of them are willing to accept and that will only prove to be a prelude to the next phase of the Islamist struggle. The writer is a contributing editor for the New Republic. (World Affairs Journal)
  • Do We Really Want Direct Talks between Israelis and Palestinians? - Aaron David Miller
    Barack Obama's administration has been lobbying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Arab governments hard to return to direct talks with Israel. But Obama should very careful what he wishes for. Israelis and Palestinians will certainly have to negotiate directly and own their peace process, but even with a strong American role, the odds against a conflict-ending accord remain long indeed. The Obama administration should be very careful that in its hurry to get direct talks going, it doesn't spark an Israeli-Palestinian crisis that makes that fact all too painfully clear. (Foreign Policy)
  • The Nakba Obsession: The Biggest Obstacle to Peace - Sol Stern
    The Nakba ("disaster") is the heart of the Palestinians' backward-looking national narrative, which depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin. But the Nakba narrative is a myth - a radical distortion of history. During the 1948 war and for many years afterward, the Western world expressed hardly any moral outrage about the Palestinian refugees.
        The fighting in Palestine had broken out only two years after the end of the costliest military conflict ever. 11 million ethnic Germans living in Central and Eastern Europe - civilians all - were expelled from their homes and force-marched to Germany by the Red Army, with the approval of Roosevelt and Churchill. Historians estimate that 2 million died on the way. Around the same time, the Indian subcontinent was divided into India and Pakistan; millions of Hindus and Muslims moved from one to the other, and hundreds of thousands died in related violence. Against this background, the West was not troubled by the exodus of a little more than half a million Palestinians after a war launched by their own leaders.
        In the Balata refugee camp, inside the West Bank city of Nablus, many of the 20,000 residents are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of the Arab citizens of Jaffa who fled their homes in 1948. Balata's young people are nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors' homes. If Israel and the Palestinians ever managed to hammer out a peace treaty, PA President Mahmoud Abbas would have to go to Balata and explain to its residents that their leaders have been lying to them for 60 years and that they are not going back to Jaffa. Which is one of the main reasons that there has been no peace treaty. (City Journal)
  • Does Jordan Practice Apartheid Against Palestinians? - Mudar Zahran
    The causes of Jordan's recent line of official hostility toward Israel are deep-rooted in the makeup of the Jordanian state itself. Jordan is a country with a Palestinian majority which allows them little or no involvement in any political or executive bodies or parliament. This lack of political and legislative representation of Jordanians of Palestinian heritage has been enforced by decades of systematic exclusion in all aspects of life expanding into their disenfranchisement in education, employment, housing, state benefits and even business potential, all developing into an existing apartheid no different than that formerly adopted in South Africa, except for the official acknowledgement of it.
        The fact that East Bankers have done very well under the current situation provides motive for Jordanian officials to maintain the status quo and work on extending it; especially as the helpless Palestinian majority has no say and very little it can do against such conditions. The writer is a researcher at the University of Bedfordshire. (Jerusalem Post)

    Other Issues

  • Can New York Times Reports on Israel Be Trusted? - Andrea Levin
    A May 7 story by Ethan Bronner cited "Nancy Kricorian, a New York City novelist and poet who visited here for the first time as part of the Palestinian [writers'] festival," who was quoted as "infuriated" at "military checkpoints and the separation barrier." She was presented as an apolitical literary soul newly encountering Middle East realities. Actually, Kricorian is the New York coordinator of the Code Pink organization and promotes stridently anti-Israel political positions. The Times should require candid identification of radical (and factually questionable) sources being cited. The writer is executive director and president of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. (Jerusalem Post)
  • For Biased Critics of Israel, Even Its Defensive Actions Violate Human Rights - Jeffrey Robbins
    Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof devoted an entire column to calling upon Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, while mentioning not one word about the rocketing of Israeli civilians that had brought about the blockade, and whose recurrence the blockade is intended to prevent. Indeed, for much of the past decade, Israel has been forced to defend itself from charges that defending itself is a crime.
        From 2000 to 2004, the Palestinian leadership organized a suicide bombing campaign aimed at killing and maiming as many Israeli civilians as possible. About 1,100 Israelis were blown to pieces and 5,000 more were wounded or maimed. This is the rough proportional equivalent of about 55,000 Americans killed and 250,000 Americans wounded or maimed. A bombing campaign whose very purpose was to take innocent human life should have triggered universal condemnation of Palestinian violence. It didn't.
        Similarly, from 2000 to 2008, families of southern Israel were subjected to between 8,000 and 10,000 rockets, missiles, and bombs fired at them by Hamas gunmen embedded in civilian neighborhoods in Gaza. Yet the progressive community remained largely silent. It turned out that it wasn't the 8 years of targeting Israeli civilians that was the human rights violation. It was the Israeli effort to stop the attacks from Gaza in 2009. The writer served as a U.S. Delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission under President Clinton. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Food Co-op Shows Hatred toward Israel - Edward Alexander
    The Olympia, Washington, Food Co-op has grandly announced its intention to boycott Israeli products unless that country disbands itself as a Jewish state. To earn a place for its products on co-op shelves, Israel must forfeit its right to defend itself by tearing down its security fence and must bring back the Arab refugees who, in an entirely self-inflicted calamity, fled in 1947-48 rather than accept the UN's two-state solution. There is only one country whose "right to exist" - though recognized by the League of Nations nearly a century ago and confirmed by the UN in 1948 - is considered a legitimate subject of debate. The writer is a University of Washington professor emeritus. (Tacoma News Tribune)
  • Springtime for Jew-Haters - Caroline B. Glick
    This week Oscar-winning conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone joined Helen Thomas and Mel Gibson in the swelling ranks of out-of-the-closet celebrity Jew-haters. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Stone said that Adolf Hitler had been given a bum rap and that through "Jewish domination of the media," the Jews have inflated the importance of the Holocaust and wrecked U.S. foreign policy.
        The most endemic form of contemporary anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism. There is no reason to be surprised that anti-Semites deny that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. After all, they deny that every other form of anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism. It is self-evident that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Zionism after all is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. To say that Jews - uniquely among all the nations - have no right to freedom and self-determination is obviously anti-Semitic.
        During her just ended career in the British Parliament, Clare Short became known as an outspoken anti-Zionist. She rejected Israel's right to exist and castigated it for its "bloody, brutal and systematic annexation of land, destruction of homes and the deliberate creation of an apartheid system." But Short's Israel kick didn't end with her frequent condemnations of imaginary but lurid Israeli crimes. As time went by, Short began channeling centuries of British Jew-hatred. Like her forefathers who blamed Jews for rain, drought, plague and fire, Short blamed Israel for global warming. (Jerusalem Post)
  • To the Chorus of Chronic, Compulsive Critics of Israel - David Harris
    You just can't contain your rage against Israel, can you? A mere mention of Israel and you're out of the starting gate in record time with another tirade accusing it, and its defenders, of every conceivable evil in the world - from Nazism to Apartheid, from blood libel to mass murder - the facts be damned.
        Could it be that your real ideal is a Hamas-run society, with its all-enveloping political and religious suffocation, relegation of women to the status of virtual male property, intimidation of the tiny Christian community, unadulterated anti-Semitism, and reverence for the cult of violence? The writer is Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee. (Huffington Post)

    Weekend Features

  • Memoir Recalls Israeli Diplomat's Rise from Bedouin Village to San Francisco - Stacey Palevsky
    Ishmael Khaldi started his adventures 38 years ago in a two-room tent in a small Bedouin village with no running water or electricity. "Growing up in a tent doesn't mean you can't reach San Francisco and be a diplomat - it means the sky's the limit," said Khaldi, who served more than two years in San Francisco as the vice consul general. His new memoir is called A Shepherd's Journey: The Story of Israel's First Bedouin Diplomat. "Being a spokesman for Israel is simply another way of defending my country, which is the mission and pleasure of my life," he writes in his memoir.
        "Do Israel's Arab citizens suffer from disadvantages? Yes they do," he writes. "Do African Americans and other minorities living 10 minutes from the Berkeley campus suffer from disadvantages? The answer is also an emphatic, 'yes.' So should we launch a Berkeley Apartheid Week? Or should we seek real ways to better our societies and make opportunities available to more people?"  (San Francisco Jewish Weekly)
  • First Female Arab Combat Soldier in IDF - Rotem Caro Weizman
    Cpl. Elinor Joseph is the first Arab female combat soldier in IDF history. She was born and raised in an integrated neighborhood of Jews and Arabs in Haifa, but attended an Arab school. Her father served in the IDF Paratroop Brigade. Despite the opposition of her friends, she decided to enlist, explaining: "I understood that it was most important to defend my friends, family, and country. I was born here."
        After basic training, Elinor went for a medic's training course, where she was selected as the outstanding soldier of the course. She was then assigned to be a medic at a border crossing. During moments of misgiving she would remember, "there was a Katyusha [rocket] that fell near my house and also hurt Arabs. If someone would tell me that serving in the IDF means killing Arabs, I remind them that Arabs also kill Arabs." "I treated all the people at the checkpoints in the same manner, because we are all human....People knew I was there and that I wouldn't hold my tongue if need be, so they had a constant reminder to treat the Palestinians well. But really, their treatment was always full of respect."
        But she wanted to contribute more and was accepted in the Karakal Battalion, an infantry combat unit composed of male and female soldiers. "Although everybody is surprised in the beginning, I have always been respected, not just me but also my customs and my religion." Elinor believes that by being a combat soldier she is granting all Israeli citizens, including Israeli Arabs like her parents, a better and quieter life. "At the end of the day, this will always be my home too," she says. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • The Kindness of Israelis - Michael J. Totten
    A few days ago, I announced that I'm leaving for Israel this week, and the same thing happened that always does when I mention in public that I'm on my way over there. My in-box filled with offers of generous assistance from Israelis whom I've never met or even heard of. Most offered to buy me dinner. Some said I could sleep on their couch or in a spare bedroom. A few even offered to show me around, introduce me to people, and set up appointments for me. This rarely happens when I go anywhere else in the world. It happens every time I've announced a trip to Israel, and it has been happening to me for years.
        I get these sorts of offers from the entire range of Israeli society, from people affiliated with Peace Now to the settler movement. I can always count on kind and generous people in Arab countries to help me out once I've arrived, but only Israelis reach out so extensively, so consistently, and in such large numbers before I even get off the plane. Readers should know that Middle Eastern hospitality is a regional thing and isn't only on offer from Arabs. (Commentary)
  • Observations:

    Why Is Abbas Avoiding Direct Talks with Israel? - Yossi Alpher (

    • While the PLO hesitates to engage in any negotiations with the current Israeli government, there may be additional, more intriguing explanations for Abbas' preference for indirect talks.
    • One is Abbas' political weakness within his Fatah movement. He is seen as a lame-duck leader and there is strong sentiment among his potential successors opposing any concessions to Israel.
    • A second is the veto power that Hamas in Gaza seemingly can exercise over any real negotiating progress.
    • A third explanation is Abbas' own hard-line positions on core issues like refugees and the Jerusalem holy basin. We got a sense of Abbas' red lines in his rejection of Olmert's far-reaching proposals in late 2008; why should he now position himself possibly to be seen yet again rejecting reasonable Israeli proposals?
    • A fourth reason could be current progress in the Palestinian state-building project, which is essentially an exercise in unilateralism. The anticipated political endgame of this dynamic, a year from now, requires international recognition of a Palestinian state and could conceivably even be compromised by the existence of productive direct negotiations. Indirect negotiations, on the other hand, are adequate for coordinating the kind of Israeli unilateral gestures, such as relaxing security demands and withdrawing from additional territory, that reinforce the state-building process.
    • One could argue that the proximity talks have proven convenient for all concerned.

      The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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