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August 6, 2010

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PA: Hamas Ordered Rocket Attacks on Eilat, Aqaba - Anshel Pfeffer and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    The commander of Hamas' military wing in Rafah, Raed al-Atar, is responsible for ordering the firing of Grad-type Katyusha rockets at Eilat and Aqaba from Sinai earlier this week, Palestinian security officials say.
    Palestinian security sources said Atar carried out the attack with the approval of Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal, based in Damascus, and with the backing of Iranian intelligence agents, who appear to have initiated the mission.
    According to intelligence sources, a number of Gaza militants crossed into Sinai through the Rafah tunnels, where they were met by Egyptian drivers and the rockets. They drove in off-road vehicles toward Taba on the Red Sea coast, avoiding security checks by the Egyptians.

    See also Egypt Hunts for Palestinians Who Fired Rockets at Israel and Jordan (Egyptian Gazette)
    Egyptian security deployed several hundred extra forces in Sinai Thursday, declaring the area under "extreme emergency" following the launch of rockets from the area earlier in the week.
    Security officials said investigations are underway to find the Palestinians who fired seven Grad rockets toward the Jordanian and Israeli port towns of Aqaba and Eilat on Monday.
    "An official Egyptian source said Palestinian factions from the (Hamas-ruled) Gaza Strip were behind the launch," the official Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.
    "Egypt will never, under any circumstances, tolerate the use of its lands by any party to harm the country's interests."
    See also Egypt's Hamas Dilemma - Frida Ghitis (World Politics Review)

Israel Releases Turkish Flotilla Ships in Goodwill Gesture - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Over two months after they took part in a flotilla aimed at breaking the blockade of Gaza, three Turkish vessels, including the Mavi Marmara, left Israeli ports for Turkey on Thursday.
    The Israel Foreign Ministry sent a message to the Turkish authorities expressing Jerusalem's expectation that Ankara would prevent other Turkish vessels from violating the Gaza blockade.
    A senior government official said, "This is a confidence-building measure, with the idea being to bring the relations back on track."

Turkish Jurist Criticizes Conduct of Flotilla Organizers (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    On June 6, 2010, Deniz Som, writing in the Turkish opposition paper Ilk Kursun, quoted remarks made by Resat Volkan, a research fellow in the faculty of international law at Turkey's Marmara University, that the conduct of the Mavi Marmara was a violation of international law, giving Israel legitimacy to take control of the ship by force.

Turkey Reports 90 Percent Drop in Israeli Tourists (AP-Boston Globe)
    Turkey says the number of Israeli visitors dropped by 90% in June compared to the same period last year.
    According to the figures posted on Turkey's Tourism and Culture Ministry website Thursday, only 2,600 Israelis visited Turkey in June, compared to over 27,000 in June 2009.

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Gazans: Blast in Hamas Weapons Factory Hurt 50 - Mahmoud Abd al-Fattah and David E. Miller (Jerusalem Post)
    An explosion in Deir el-Balah in Gaza on Monday that obliterated eight homes, damaged another 30 and wounded over 50 people, originated in a weapons factory in an uninhabited house belonging to Alaa al-Danaf, a field commander of Izzadin Kassam, the military wing of Hamas.
    Local residents said that in the past they had appealed to Hamas to cease their activities but were quickly silenced.
    Hamdi Shaqqura, a spokesman for the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said armed groups try to hide the existence of bombs in residential areas because local residents "would not agree to live on a barrel of explosives."

Globalization Hits Palestinian Kaffiyeh Industry - Gideon Levy (Ha'aretz)
    For nearly 50 years, the Hebron factory of Yasser Hirbawi has been producing kaffiyehs, but now his machinery is silent.
    The market for the checkered scarf has actually flourished in recent years as the kaffiyeh has become a political symbol in Europe, but who will buy a Palestinian kaffiyeh when there is a Chinese model for half the price?

Oil-Eating Israeli Bacteria for BP Spill (Israel21c)
    A natural "bioremediation" technique developed by biologists at an Israeli university may hold the key to the oil spill cleanup in the wake of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Professors Eugene Rosenberg and Eliora Ron from Tel Aviv University use naturally occurring oil-munching bacteria to clean hard-to-reach oil pockets that are produced when oil mixes with sand and organic matter on beaches and forms a thin layer on waterways.
    "It's worked to clean up an oil spill on the coast of Haifa," Ron reports, "so we've got evidence it could work in Florida, too."
    Their solution addresses the small percentage of oil left behind that sits under rocks and forms a thin film on the water after the surface pools have been sucked up and the oil has been contained. 

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Considers Push for UN Action in Syria - Jay Solomon
    The Obama administration is considering pressing the UN to pursue a "special inspection" of alleged Syrian nuclear sites, a senior U.S. official said Thursday, a move that could leave Damascus facing a Security Council reprimand if it doesn't comply. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, has repeatedly rebuked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in recent months for denying IAEA inspectors unhindered access to as many as five sites potentially tied to a covert nuclear-weapons program. U.S. officials said Syria's lack of cooperation with the IAEA poses a major threat to the global campaign to contain nuclear weapons. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Poll: Arab Majority Backs Nuclear Iran - Benjamin Birnbaum
    A new poll shows that the percentage of the Arab world that thinks a nuclear-armed Iran would be good for the Middle East has doubled since last year and now makes up the majority. The 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll found that 57% not only believe that Iran's nuclear program aims to build a bomb but also view that goal positively - nearly double the 29% who thought so in 2009. The percentage of those who view an Iranian nuclear bomb negatively fell from 46% to 21%. The survey was conducted by University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami in conjunction with the polling firm Zogby International. The survey's findings stand in marked contrast to the stances of most Sunni Arab leaders, who fear the regional implications of an Iranian bomb.
        Patrick Clawson, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, "I just don't think that the problems associated with Iran having nuclear weapons are very vivid for many of the people answering these polls, whereas their desire to show the United States and Europe that Middle Easterners can stand up against Western pressure is very vivid."  (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Advanced Weaponry Given to Lebanese Military Could Reach Hizbullah - Hilary Leila Krieger
    The distinction between the Lebanese Army and Hizbullah has become "cloudy" and advanced weaponry given to the Lebanese military could find its way to the Islamist group, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren warned on Wednesday. Oren said that in recent incidents the Lebanese military has aimed shoulder-fired rockets at Israeli installations and permitted its soldiers to stone patrolling Israeli soldiers. "The Lebanese Army shares all its intelligence with Hizbullah. There are high-ranking officers in the Lebanese Army who are closely associated with Hizbullah," he added. In the case of an outbreak of full hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah, Oren concluded, "The Lebanese Army has thrown in its lot with Hizbullah in any future conflict with Israel."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: U.S. Transferred $720 Million to Lebanese Army Since 2006 - Doron Peskin
    According to data published in the Arab and global media, the U.S. has invested $720 million in aid to the Lebanese army since 2006. The U.S. has equipped the Lebanese army with new Engagement Skills Trainer (EST 2000) marksmanship simulators, which provide soldiers with realistic firearms training on pistols, rifles, and machine guns. (A Lebanese army sniper killed an IDF commander and seriously wounded another officer on Tuesday.)
        "Using cutting-edge technology and training - like the EST 2000 - the Comprehensive Training Program will provide theoretical, technical, and tactical training focused on increasing the ability of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to accomplish its many diverse missions," according to the American Embassy in Beirut. A few months ago a shipment of U.S. equipment provided to the LAF included 1,000 M16A4 rifles, 10 missile launchers, 1,583 grenade launchers, and 538 sets of day/night binoculars and night-vision devices, the embassy said. (Ynet News)
        See also U.S. Provided Lebanese Army with Sniper Rifles - Aram Nerguizian and Anthony Cordesman
    U.S. assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces since the 2006 Israel-Hizbullah War has included 150 M24 sniper rifles for special forces use and more than 12 million rounds of ammunition. (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
  • Lebanese Army Showing Increasing Hostility - Yaakov Katz
    In 2009, Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) soldiers pointed their guns at IDF troops on five occasions. Since the beginning of 2010, the number of such incidents has climbed significantly. The IDF has also noticed a radical shift within the LAF top command, which has increased its anti-Israel rhetoric. The LAF today is more than 60% Shi'ite and many of the soldiers openly cooperate with Hizbullah. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Lebanese General: Soldiers Who Opened Fire on Israeli Troops Were Following Orders - Roee Nahmias
    During a meeting with IDF and UNIFIL representatives at the Naqoura crossing Wednesday, Lebanese General Abdul al-Rahman Shitli said Tuesday's deadly border incident was initiated by Lebanese soldiers as part of a general policy and was by no means an "isolated incident."  (Ynet News)
  • Lebanon Must Prevent Provocations or Pay the Price - Giora Eiland
    Hizbullah continues to serve as the dominant military power in Lebanon and determines whether peace or war will prevail on the Israeli border. In the Second Lebanon War, Israel only fought against Hizbullah. The result was that while Haifa residents stayed in bomb shelters for weeks, Beirut residents went to the beach. Should the northern provocations continue, they may lead to a third Lebanon war. Such a war would be different than the Second Lebanon War in one main aspect: It will be a war between Israel and Lebanon.
        As nobody is interested in seeing Lebanon devastated, the way to prevent the next war would be to prompt the U.S. and France to convey the following message to Lebanon: Prove that you control the country and prevent provocations. Should Lebanon choose to be a satellite state of the "axis of evil," we would have no reason to prevent Israel from hurting you badly. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland chaired Israel's National Security Council from 2004 to 2006. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Charges Golan Druze, Israeli Arab with Spying, Hunting for Syrian Defector - Jack Khoury
    Three men were indicted this week in Israel for allegedly spying for Syria, including hatching an elaborate plan to kidnap Major Bassam Adel, a Syrian pilot who defected to Israel in 1989. Majd Sha'ar, 58, and his son, Fida, 27, are residents of the Druze town of Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, while Mahmoud Masarwah, 62, is a resident of the Israeli Arab town of Baka al-Gharbiyeh. They are charged with having had contact with Syrian intelligence officer Madhat Salah, a former resident of Majdal Shams.
        Masarwah reportedly heard that a man of Syrian origin lived in Baka al-Gharbiyeh and was allegedly the pilot who had defected to Israel. In 2007, Majd and Masarwah traveled to Amman to meet with Salah, who ordered the two to kidnap the man. The indictment lists a number of meetings and exchanges between the suspects and Salah in Amman, Cairo and Turkey and on the Internet. The suspects are also charged with filming military installations and the Hadera power plant. (Ha'aretz)
  • Preparing for Future Wars - Alex Fishman
    The recent helicopter crash in Romania drew attention to the Israel Air Force's activity in that country. As opposed to common perception, Israel's Air Force deployments in Turkey were not terminated in the past two or three years because of deteriorating ties between the two states. The Air Force itself concluded that it exhausted all benefits inherent in the Turkish training sessions. At this time, Italy, Romania, Germany, Greece, and the U.S. allow Israel's Air Force to engage in more realistic training sessions ahead of future threats. The reports about the termination of training flights in Turkey in the wake of the Gaza operation or the flotilla incident are yet another Mideastern myth. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama's Briefing on Iran: Pressure, Not Diplomacy - Robert Kagan
    President Obama and his top advisers give a briefing to journalists this week on the state of the sanctions regime against Iran. Without making any absurd predictions about the likelihood that the regime would now be persuaded to give up its quest for a nuclear bomb, they argued that the new sanctions would at least cause the regime significant pain. However, the president did not take this as a sign that there might now be a new opportunity for diplomacy. He and his advisers disparaged recent Iranian mumblings about resuming talks as nothing new. And they displayed no eagerness to press for renewed talks or to make new dramatic gestures.
        The president went out of his way to note that the Iranians are masters of delay and deception. He explained in some detail why the deal Turkey and Brazil struck with Tehran was a nonstarter. He repeatedly acknowledged that the regime may be so "ideologically" committed to getting a bomb that no amount of pain would make a difference. The officials made perfectly clear that there was no new diplomatic initiative in the offing. The writer is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Washington Post)
        See also Obama Makes the Case that His Iran Policy Is Working - Marc Ambinder
    President Obama has detected "rumblings" that global sanctions against Iran are slowly prodding the country to rethink its nuclear ambitions, though he conceded that Iran continues to pursue a full-fledged nuclear weapons program. "It may be that their ideological commitment to nuclear weapons is such that they're not making a simple cost-benefit analysis on this issue," Obama said. If Iran's "national pride" drives their policy, "then they will bear the costs of that."  (Atlantic Monthly)
        See also Another View of the Obama Briefing on Iran (Economist-UK)
  • Double Down on Iran Sanctions - Editorial
    Just a month after President Obama signed the Iran Sanctions Act into law, the new restrictions appear to have gotten Tehran's attention. Gasoline imports into the Islamic Republic fell nearly 50% in July from May. The problem is that although sanctions have forced many Western companies to stop doing business in or with Tehran, other firms are already attempting to fill the breach.
        A report released Thursday by the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies identifies 18 companies that continue to have substantial energy operations in Iran. They include Russia's Gazprom, China's Sinopec, Venezuela's PdVSA, Turkey's Tupras, and India's Oil & Natural Gas Corporation. The report also lists Western giants such as Germany's ThyssenKrupp, which remains involved in Iran's refining and petrochemical sectors, and the Linde Group, which supplies LNG technology to support Iran's natural gas developments. One useful step the Obama Administration and its European partners could take to give the sanctions more bite is to fine companies that continue to violate the sanctions act. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • At the Crossroads to Peace and War in the Middle East - Michael B. Oren
    Rarely have the lines in the Middle East's sands been drawn so distinctly. Arrayed on one side is the peace-seeking camp that opposes militant extremism and favors direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. On the other are the organizations, many of them surrogates for Iran, that work to undermine moderate governments and violently impede any effort for peace. Much will depend on the Palestinian Authority's willingness to enter direct talks as well as on the steadfastness of pro-Western governments, in the region and beyond, to stand up to Iran and its proxies. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United States. (Washington Post)
  • Abbas: Missing Another Opportunity? - Editorial
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convinced President Barack Obama that face-to-face negotiations are preferable to the unproductive, indirect "proximity talks" now underway under the auspices of U.S. envoy George Mitchell. It's hard to argue with his contention that only direct talks between the parties, with Washington playing a supportive but not dominating role, can break through the lengthy Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. As he has done so many times in the past, a timid, shortsighted Abbas is waiting for the U.S. administration to force Israel to make concessions, which he says are necessary to instill confidence among the Palestinian people, without doing much of anything to bolster the confidence of wary Israelis.
        Abbas has refused to stop the incitement in the schools and media; he has offered no constructive solutions to the huge problems posed by Hamas control of Gaza. His entire strategy seems to be to set new preconditions for direct talks and to try to shift the blame for the ongoing stalemate to Netanyahu. Only direct talks with Israel can lead to the Palestinian state Abbas claims is his No. 1 goal. (New York Jewish Week)
  • Planned Canadian Boat Trip to Gaza Is Exercise in Israel-Bashing - Editorial
    Charity is supposed to be fuelled by a selfless desire to help others, but it's hard to see any such motivation in the plans advanced by Canadian activists, members of Gaza Freedom March (GFM), to charter a boat and sail to the Gaza Strip. On the contrary, the idea reeks of self-aggrandizement and narcissism, along with the usual helping of contempt for Israel. While Israel has largely lifted the blockade, allowing in most consumer goods, what these activists seek is a self-serving stint in Israeli custody, which amounts to both a badge of honor and a battle scar.
        As a liberal democracy in the Middle East in a region awash in authoritarian regimes and militant puritanism, Israel has had to fight for its survival right from its inception. Despite being a beneficiary of the very same freedoms Israel is defending, the GFM is anxious to lend its support to the other side in a struggle half a world away. These activists could do with a little less selfishness and a lot more self-reflection. (Calgary Herald-Canada)

    Britain, Islamism, and Anti-Semitism

  • Britain's New Export: Islamist Carnage - Daniel Pipes
    Three British Muslims were convicted last month for a 2006 plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners with the hope of killing up to 10,000 people, a near-disaster that offers a pungent reminder of the global danger poised by UK-based radical Islam. The Heritage Foundation calls British Islamism "a direct security threat" to the U.S. and The New Republic dubs it "the biggest threat to U.S. security." A CIA study in 2009 concluded that British-born nationals of Pakistani descent constitute America's most likely source of terrorism. Confirming, updating, and documenting these reports, London's Centre for Social Cohesion, run by Douglas Murray, has just published Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections, with detailed biographical information on 215 perpetrators of "Islamism-related offenses."
        Britain's Security Service estimates that over 2,000 individuals residing today in Britain pose a terrorist threat, thereby implying that the United Kingdom may face the worst internal terrorist menace of any Western country other than Israel. In addition, 28 countries have come under assault from British-based Islamist terrorists. The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections - Robin Simcox, Hannah Stuart, and Houriya Ahmed (Centre for Social Cohesion)
  • Shimon Peres Versus the Brits - Efraim Karsh
    Last week Israeli President Shimon Peres provoked anger among British politicians and Anglo-Jewish leaders when he told a Jewish website that the British establishment had always been "deeply pro-Arab...and anti-Israel," and that this was partly due to endemic anti-Semitic dispositions. While observers responded that Britain had been the midwife of the Jewish state, the truth is that no sooner had Britain been appointed as the mandatory power in Palestine, with the explicit task of facilitating the establishment of a Jewish national home in the country in accordance with the Balfour Declaration, than it reneged on this obligation.
        In 1921, the British government severed the vast and sparsely populated territory east of the Jordan River ("Transjordan") from the prospective Jewish national home and made Abdullah, the emir of Mecca, its effective ruler. In 1922 and 1930, two British White Papers limited Jewish immigration to Palestine and imposed harsh restrictions on land sales to Jews.
        Britain's betrayal of its international obligations to the Jewish national cause reached its peak on May 17, 1939, when a new White Paper, issued just prior to the Nazi extermination of European Jewry, imposed draconian restrictions on land sales to Jews and limited immigration to 75,000 over the next five years. In the postwar years, tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors who sought to run the British naval blockade were herded into congested camps in Cyprus, where they were incarcerated for years.
        Prime Minister Clement Attlee compared Holocaust survivors wishing to leave Europe and to return to their ancestral homeland to Nazi troops invading the continent, while the last high commissioner for Palestine, General Sir Alan Cunningham, said of Zionism, "The forces of nationalism are accompanied by the psychology of the Jew, which it is important to recognize as something quite abnormal and unresponsive to rational treatment." The writer is professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The History of Anti-Semitism in Britain - Danna Harman
    Prominent London litigator Anthony Julius, whose latest book, Trials of the Diaspora, presents an ambitious history of anti-Semitism in Britain, said in an interview: "It is perfectly and patently true that there has been a significant and complicated element of anti-Semitism in English attitudes towards Jews and relations with Israel. I would absolutely not want to deny that there is anti-Semitism. There is a tendency among the Anglo-Jewish establishment to deny it out of desire to fit in with the larger political establishment and to them I would say, you are wrong - it does exist....[However,] there is also a strong philo-Semitic component here, and even more significantly, there is a strong component of real politics and pursuit of national self-interest in Britain's words and actions."
        "It's troubling that it is necessary for schools and shuls to be protected by security guards. And it's also troubling that people don't think it's troubling....There is no doubt that there are high levels of anti-Israel discourse in some of the Muslim communities here which become anti-Semitic....It's also plain that there is a sort of perceived opinion now about the history of Israel that is utterly and ignorantly hostile to Israel."  (Ha'aretz)

    Weekend Feature

  • A Muslim Pilgrimage to Jerusalem - Salim Mansur
    I arrived on a Saturday, when practically all of Jerusalem shuts down for the Jewish Sabbath. The Old City was open, however, and after a brief rest I headed down Jaffa Rd., Jerusalem's main artery, for my first visit to the Holy Sanctuary or, in Arabic, al-Quds Sharif. I joined the evening prayer congregation at the Dome of the Rock and bowed, knelt and touched the sacred soil of Jerusalem with my forehead.
        Later I walked over to the Western Wall, where a large number of Jews of all ages were gathered at the end of their Shabbat. The ease with which I moved - alone and without restrictions - from the inner sanctum of the Muslim sanctuary to Judaism's holiest site, embracing both, is a testimony to the openness of Israel as a Jewish state and democracy. Palestinian, Arab and Muslim narratives of Jerusalem's recent history, however, are a denial of what my experience affirms, and the larger denial of Jewish rights that is the source of conflict here. (Toronto Sun-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Who Is Responsible for Gaza Radicalism? - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • British ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips claimed in a recent interview that Israel's sanctions' regime in Gaza "was breeding radicalism." The message is that the problem is completely due to "us." The other side has no history, no worldview, no ideology, and no goals.
    • Let's recall that the U.S. actually urged, and Israel accepted, Hamas participation in Palestinian elections, even though the group did not accept the Oslo Accords, recognize Israel, or cease using terrorism. When Hamas won the elections, neither the U.S. nor Israel tried to intervene or reverse the results.
    • There was a border industrial area that provided jobs for Gazans from Israeli companies until Hamas attacked it. Finally, near the end of 2008, Hamas tore up the ceasefire and launched a massive rocket attack on Israel.
    • This is not a picture of Gazans being driven to radicalism, it is a story of how a radical policy forced Israel to react.
    • Phillips' line that it is Israel's policy which is creating "another generation of people that are not going to feel that friendly about Israel" is ludicrous in light of this reality.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya.

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