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August 25, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Lure of the Homeland Fades for Palestinian Refugees - Lina Sinjab (BBC News)
    The right of return for Palestinian refugees is a major sticking point in the upcoming U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace talks, but some younger Palestinians - having never laid eyes on their ancestral homeland - say they do not actually want to go back.
    With generations of Palestinians now having lived in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, they have established deep roots outside their ancestral homeland.
    "On the record, because it is politically incorrect to say otherwise, all of them would say, 'Yes, we would return to Palestine.' But once you sit with them in private, you hear a very different point of view," says political analyst Sami Mubayyed.
    Yasser Jamous, 23, lives in a Syrian neighborhood identified as a refugee camp, but there are no tents or slums in sight. It is a residential area with beauty salons and Internet cafes.

Video: The Iranian Bomb - The Song (Latma-YouTube)
    In a new satirical video from the makers of "We Con the World," the Iranian minister of destruction sings about the bomb:
    "You think it's just about Israel, oh that's so cute. Just wait till you and I have a dispute."
    Chorus: "The bomb, the bomb, I'll have the bomb. Cause you have waited way too long."

Norway Divests from Two Israeli Companies (JTA)
    A fund overseen by Norway's Ministry of Finance divested from two Israeli companies involved in construction in the West Bank.
    The Norway Oil Fund, managed by the Norwegian Central Bank, divested from Africa-Israel Investments and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus Ltd. on Monday.

Don't Blame Israel for Arab Failures - Salim Mansur (Toronto Sun-Canada)
    The fact of how small Israel is territorially, and how this fact deepens its sense of vulnerability, weighs down upon anyone who visits the country.
    Israel is merely a dot relative to the Arab world, and yet made responsible for the problems of the Middle East and the inability of the Arab-Muslim culture to deal with the challenges of the modern world.
    The Arab world, excluding Iran and Turkey, is comprised of 22 countries with a total area around 13 million sq. km. and a population of nearly 350 million. Israel is barely 22,000 sq. km., or about three times the size of New York City, with a population of 7.5 million of which 20% are Israeli Arabs.
    An objective consideration of the huge disparity in size and population between the Arab world and Israel should dispel the drivel the world has been fed that Arabs are the "underdog" in a colonial struggle against Jews as a colonizing people.
    Arabs, Muslims and their apologists in the West fault Israelis for the collective failure of the Arab world.
    It is as if the plight of Palestinian "occupation" by Israelis explains the Sudanese civil wars and genocide in Darfur, or the savage killings inside Algeria, or the long list of atrocities, gender oppression, humiliation of religious minorities, wars, military dictatorships, violence and murder in the name of Islam across the Arab world.
    It is sheer absurdity to hold Israelis responsible for the utterly dysfunctional nature of the Arab world.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Three Dead in Hizbullah-Sunni Clashes in Beirut - Meris Lutz and Borzou Daragahi
    Three people were killed and several others wounded when clashes broke out between members of Hizbullah and Ahbash, a conservative Sunni movement, in the Beirut neighborhood of Bourj Abu Haidar on Tuesday. Hizbullah official Mohammad Fawaz and Ahbash official Ahmad Jamal Omairat were killed in the fighting, which included machine guns and rockets. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Hamas, Fatah Clash in Lebanon after Prayer Dispute
    Three people were wounded Monday after a dispute between clerics loyal to Fatah and Hamas over who would lead prayers at a mosque in Tyre turned into armed clashes. Well-informed sources said the incident reflected tensions between Hamas and Fatah over the resumption of direct peace talks with the Israeli government. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Hizbullah Chief Calls on Lebanon to Build Nuclear Reactor
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Lebanon's government to follow in Tehran's footsteps and build a nuclear facility to generate electricity like the reactor in Bushehr, Iran. The Lebanese daily As Safir reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Lebanon on Sep 11. (Times of India)
        See also Hizbullah: Iran Can Equip Lebanese Army (AP)
  • Israel Rejects UN Human Rights Council Flotilla Investigation
    UN officials say the Israeli government is blocking them from speaking to Israeli soldiers about the country's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. UN Human Rights Council investigators from Britain, Trinidad and Malaysia have been refused entry by Israel, which rejects the mission as biased. The council's inquiry is separate from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's own panel on the incident. Israel is conducting its own investigations into the flotilla incident as well, one by the military and one by an independent panel. (VOA News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas: Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks Illegitimate, Coerced by U.S.
    Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Tuesday that the upcoming U.S.-backed direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are illegitimate and the result of coercion by Washington. He said the talks "do not obligate our people to anything." Meshal also called on Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II not to take part. (AP-Ha'aretz)
  • U.S., Israel Seek "Creative" Solution for Settlements
    Israeli officials confirmed Monday that the government is in quiet talks with the U.S. in search of a "creative" solution that will allow at least some limited construction in settlements to take place after Israel's 10-month moratorium ends on Sept. 26. "Many options are being discussed," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. In Washington, a U.S. official confirmed the dialogue with Israel. (AP-Ynet News)
  • Tony Blair: Delegitimization of Israel Is Affront to Humanity - Herb Keinon
    To delegitimize Israel is an affront not only to Israelis, but to those "everywhere, in every part of humanity, who share the values of a free and independent human spirit," Quartet envoy Tony Blair said on Tuesday in a speech at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He said the best answer to those who sought to delegitimize the Jewish state "lies in the character of Israel itself, in the openness, fairmindedness and creativity of the Israelis." "What you have created is a remarkable example for the rest of us."
        "The issue of delegitimization is not simply about an overt denial of Israel's right to exist. It is the advocating of prejudice in not allowing that Israel has a point of view that should be listened to," he asserted. "A consistent conversation I have with some, but by no means all, of my European colleagues is to argue not to apply rules to the government of Israel that they would never dream of applying to their own governments or their own countries."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Tony Blair's Five Steps toward Fighting Israel Deniers - Orit Arfa (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What We Think and What the Arabs Believe - Herbert I. London
    In the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll conducted for the Brookings Institution, one can get a glimpse of Arab opinion in the so-called moderate countries of Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Those thinking Israel is a huge threat are 88% (down slightly from 95% in 2008). The idea that the U.S. is the main threat to Arab countries declined from 88% under President Bush to 77% under President Obama. The Iranian threat grew from 7% in 2008 to 13% in 2009 and down to 10% in 2010.
        Several conclusions emerge: The adjective "moderate" hasn't any place in the Middle East. Negative attitudes to Israel persist, and it is unlikely this will change substantially as long as Israel exists. There is relatively little change in the Arab attitude about Obama and Bush. Despite the imperial aims of Iran and its threats against Sunni-dominated states, Arabs believe that the U.S. is a far greater threat to their societies. This adds up to an Arabic-speaking community where radicalism is ensconced; where, despite foreign aid, diplomatic appeasement and attempts at cultural understanding, a passionate hatred of Israel and the West is unflagging.
        As a consequence, policy implications are apparent: The effort to appease, flatter and buy off has not worked. The notion that Obama represents a new chapter in Middle East history is regarded as mythology. There cannot be a peace as long as Israel is regarded as a greater threat than Iran. The writer is president of the Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • Before We Talk to Hamas - Ron Prosor
    The Quartet has long applied three principles Hamas must adopt to take part in negotiations. It must renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. At no point has Hamas satisfied these conditions - or indicated any intention to do so. The Hamas charter advocates the destruction of the State of Israel, the genocidal slaughter of Jews and the imposition of an Islamic state governed by sharia law.
        Some in the West fondly refer to Hamas as the elected representatives of the Palestinians. While Hamas won the Palestinian council elections in 2006, it was not a mandate to violently overthrow the Palestinian Authority. Nor does it justify terror against Israel. Only 32% of Israeli voters believe talks with the Palestinians will lead to peace. It is the Israelis who require confidence-building measures. In Gaza, no missiles would mean no blockade. It is that simple. The writer is the Israeli ambassador in London. (Guardian-UK)
  • Swedish Hostility toward Israel Is Becoming Anti-Semitic - Ronald S. Lauder
    Malmo police say that, of the 115 hate crimes recorded in the city in 2009, 52 were aimed at Jews or Jewish institutions. Anti-Semitism is back, and what is taking place in Malmo is merely an extreme manifestation of what is happening across the whole of Sweden. Swedish mainstream hostility to Israel has clearly begun to cross the line into outright anti-Semitism.
        A second major issue at play here is Sweden's Muslim population. While all manifestations of intolerance against Muslims must be firmly resisted, it is also vital to recognize the danger that some Muslim immigrants have brought with them from their home cultures: bigotry against Jews and Israel. When mainstream politicians, newspapers, and churches rail against Israel, many Swedish Muslims inevitably see this as a green light for them to unleash their own hostility toward ordinary Jews. They feel that their anti-Semitism is acceptable. The writer is president of the World Jewish Congress. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Will an IDF Withdrawal from the West Bank Mean a Safe Haven for Extremist Groups? - Col. Richard Kemp (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • To stand any real chance of success, every insurgent or terrorist movement needs a safe haven to operate from. Israel has had more than a flavor of what it can mean to leave hostile groups in control of lands adjacent to its own borders in southern Lebanon and in Gaza. Any similar move to totally cede control to the Palestinians of the West Bank or a part of Jerusalem would carry immense risk.
    • Some might argue that a modern high-tech state can monitor hostile activities outside its borders. But surveillance and intelligence collection against a deeply embedded, secretive, extremist network operating within a dense civilian population is the most difficult target, and no national intelligence organization can be confident that it will have a high success rate against such a target.
    • It has been suggested that an international force, perhaps a NATO force, should replace the IDF presence in the West Bank, an idea that raises a number of very serious questions. Where are the NATO troops going to come from and how long are they going to stay? Some nations are simply not prepared to put their troops into undue danger.
    • What would happen to those who were prepared to take part in such a force when the going got tough, as it inevitably would? Think of Lebanon in 1983 when suicide bomb attacks killed 300 troops and led to the withdrawal of the French and American peacekeeping forces, or al-Qaeda's attack in Madrid which led to the withdrawal of Spanish forces from the Iraq campaign. Just how sure could we be that the electorates in contributing countries would allow their militaries to remain deployed in the West Bank under these kinds of pressures.
    • To what extent would a NATO mission get in the way of a vital Israeli effort to protect their own people? Finally, a failed NATO mission and a West Bank under extremist control, flourishing under a security vacuum there, would encourage and strengthen violent jihadists everywhere in the world.

      Col. Richard Kemp is former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

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