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November 12, 2010

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Brits Held Against Will by Gaza Aid Ship (Telegraph-UK)
    Seven Brits trying to take aid by sea from Libya to Gaza are reportedly being held by the ship's captain against their will and heading for Greece in an apparent row over money.
    The captain of the Greek-managed ship Strofades IV set off from the Libyan port of Derna while the vessel was still tied up, snapping mooring ropes and bumping into the harbor wall.
    The Road to Hope charity organizing the cargo said the boat was now sailing towards Greece with 10 aid workers - seven Britons, two Irish and an Algerian.

Israel Warns of al-Qaeda Attack in Sinai - Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's National Security Council on Thursday issued a severe terror and kidnapping warning for Israelis traveling to Egypt and Sinai.
    The council called on all Israelis in Sinai to leave as soon as possible.
    Earlier, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported that Egyptian security forces arrested a cell of over 25 people suspected of planning to attack Israeli tourists in Sinai.

Gunfire from Gaza Hits Israeli Kibbutz (AFP)
    Two bullets fired from northern Gaza on Thursday slammed into an Israeli kibbutz, causing damage but no injuries, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
    "The shots were fired from the Gaza Strip and hit a building and a vehicle in Kibbutz Zikkim," a collective village located several hundred meters from Gaza.
    "It was a large weapon, much bigger than a (machine gun). It was a long-range, 0.50 caliber bullet," he said.

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Palestinian Faces Life in PA Prison for Bashing Islam on Facebook - Diaa Hadid (AP-CBS News)
    The case of a shy barber from the West Bank town of Kalkilya is highlighting the limits of tolerance in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority - and illustrating a new trend by authorities in the Arab world to mine social media for evidence.
    Walid Husayin, 26, the son of a Muslim scholar, secretly posted anti-religion rants on the Internet during his free time. Now, he faces a potential life prison sentence on heresy charges.
    "He should be burned to death," said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, 35, a Kalkilya resident. The execution should take place in public "to be an example to others."
    After his mother discovered articles on atheism on his computer, she canceled his Internet connection. Instead, he began going to an Internet cafe. Then a cafe worker supplied snapshots of his Facebook pages to Palestinian intelligence officials.
    Gaza's Hamas rulers also stalk Facebook pages for suspected dissenters, said Palestinian rights activist Mustafa Ibrahim. Internet cafe owners are forced to monitor customers' online activity, and alert intelligence officials if they see anything critical of the group or that violates Hamas' stern interpretation of Islam.
    Both governments also create fake Facebook profiles to befriend and monitor known dissidents.

German Mayor Fights "One-Sided" Nakba Exhibit - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    The mayor of Freiburg, Dieter Salomon, pulled the plug on a Palestinian "Nakba" exhibit, which was slated to open Friday in the local library, because "from the perspective of the city of Freiburg, the presentation is one-sided," Edith Lamersdorf, the mayor's spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
    The Cafe Palestine group filed a lawsuit against the municipality, and on Wednesday a court ruled that the exhibit can be displayed.
    Salomon told the Badische Zeitung newspaper, "Palestinian Arabs do not appear in the presentation as responsible and active actors in this conflict. There is, for example, no discussion of the anti-Semitically motivated Arab pogroms that took place since the mid-19th century, and especially after 1945, in the Jewish settlement areas in the Arab regions. The other 'Nakba' [catastrophe] meant flight and expulsion for hundreds of thousands of Arab Jews, who had to leave their homes and were taken in by Israel."

Luxury Hotel to Open in Gaza (Maan News-PA)
    Nablus businessman Munib Al-Masri told journalists last Friday that his company decided to inaugurate a five-star hotel in the northern Gaza Strip that had been completed in 2007.

Israeli Software Decodes Speech Emotions (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    An Israeli software program that identifies emotional states through voice analysis may transform the worlds of sales and medical diagnosis.
    Dr. Yoram Levanon, founder and CEO of eXaudios Technology (, has developed an emotional decoding program based on a computer analysis of voices that can even diagnose conditions such as autism and Parkinson's, as well as their severity.
    After developing a product for call centers, Levanon discovered, after analyzing 50,000 voice samples in a variety of languages, that intonation is the key.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton and Netanyahu Talk Security and Peace
    Thursday's meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the resumption of peace talks was followed by a joint statement that said their discussion included "a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides." "Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States' unshakable commitment to Israel's security and to peace in the region."
        Clinton added that "the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements." The discussions "focused on creating the conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations aimed at producing a two-state solution."
        For his part, Netanyahu said he would like to broaden the talks to include "many other Arab countries. It is our common goal. We are quite serious about doing it and we want to get on with it."  (CNN)
        See also Netanyahu Meets Clinton in New York - Shlomo Shamir
    After more than six hours of talks with American officials Thursday, a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu's entourage said that progress had been made in discussions with the U.S. on the package of incentives to be offered to Israel to extend a freeze on settlement construction. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Clinton-Netanyahu Hold Marathon Meeting - Laura Rozen
    Did the meeting seem successful? "Absolutely," former U.S. peace negotiator Aaron Miller told Politico. "Six hours means negotiations; that means that they're ironing out differences between the U.S. and Israel on a formula for resumption" of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Israeli papers Thursday suggested Netanyahu was seeking some sort of long-term U.S.-Israeli security agreement. (Politico)
  • Greece Frets over Turkey's Ties to Iran - Ben Birnbaum
    Turkey's growing ties to Iran and opposition to NATO missile defenses targeting Tehran are raising "many doubts about Turkey's future" among officials in the alliance, Greek Deputy Defense Minister Panagiotis A. Beglitis said in an interview. Beglitis said his government took a dim view of the Gaza flotilla incident "because we had some information coming from Turkey concerning the involvement of some very strange people in the flotilla...some Turks which have been undercover as members of humanitarian NGOs."
        Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis told the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa Thursday that he could envision "a not-impossible situation in which Turkey and Iran may change places, in which Turkey becomes the Islamic republic and Iran becomes the Western democracy."  (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: If Peace Deal Is Possible, It Can Be Reached in a Year - Interview with Maria Bartiromo
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday: "I want to see those [peace] negotiations resumed. And frankly, what I have in mind is not merely to achieve a peace between us and the Palestinians, but a broader peace with most or all of the Arab states. Now, that is a game changer because we'd have political benefits for all of us, [since] everybody understands we have a common adversary in Iran."
        "As we've recognized the Palestinian state, will they recognize the Jewish state? Will we end the conflict? Because we don't want a Palestinian state to be a state which continues the conflict....And in our part of the world, the only peace that holds is a peace you can defend."
        "I said that we should take the coming year and try to fashion this historic peace agreement, and people said, well, how can you finish it in a year? And I said you can finish it in a year - if there's a deal out there, you'll finish it in a year. And if there's not a deal out there, then more time will not change it."   (CNBC-Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Palestinians Still Say Israel Poisoned Arafat - Avi Issacharoff
    Thousands of Palestinians filled the plaza in front of Ramallah's Muqata government complex to mark six years since Yasser Arafat's death Thursday. Arafat's nephew Nasser al-Qudwa, a Fatah Central Committee member, reiterated accusations that Israel had poisoned the Palestinian leader, and the crowd responded with waves of applause. "We will continue to do everything in order to get to the bottom of Arafat's assassination and poisoning," al-Qudwa said. Qudwa, 51, served as the PLO's UN observer and is mentioned as a possible successor to Abbas. (Ha'aretz-Ynet News)
        See also Abbas Vows to Walk in Arafat's Footsteps - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian position remains a Palestinian state free of settlements, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the right of refugees to return to their homeland, PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared Thursday at a rally marking the death of Yasser Arafat. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Saudi Drones Could Threaten Israel - David Ignatius
    A year ago, Saudi Arabia was fighting a nasty border war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Saudis began bombing Houthi targets inside Yemen on Nov. 5, 2009, but the airstrikes were inaccurate, and there were reports of civilian casualties. The Saudis appealed to America for imagery from U.S. surveillance satellites so they could target more precisely, but it was opposed by the State Department. So the Saudis turned to France, which has its own reconnaissance satellites. Using precise satellite intelligence, the Saudis were able to monitor the Houthis' hideouts, equipment dumps and training sites, and then attack with devastating effectiveness. Within a few weeks, the Houthis were requesting a truce.
        The Saudis now want their own satellite capability, and they will soon request bids from Western companies for such a system. Riyadh also wants drones that can see and attack enemy targets in remote places. Washington has been weighing whether to include versions of its Predator drones in an arms sale to the kingdom. Such weapons would boost Saudi ability to deter Iran, but they could also threaten Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Dealing with Tehran - Adm. (ret.) James A. Lyons
    For 30 years, when it has come to addressing Iran's acts of war against the U.S., Iran has been treated as a "sanctuary" from which it openly continues to conduct acts of state-sponsored terrorism and also train, equip and lead through proxies and the Quds Force the adversaries we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iranian theocracy is behind repeated acts of terrorism or combat killings of hundreds, if not thousands, of our military and civilian personnel.
        The latest information I have is that the illegitimate Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime is coming apart from within. However, we are in a race to bring about the downfall of this corrupt regime before it can achieve a nuclear weapon or nuclear device. The opposition in Iran is poised to act, but it requires outside support. The writer was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the UN. (Washington Times)
  • British Liberal Democrats in Amazing Turnaround on Israel - Robin Shepherd
    Israel has a new friend in Great Britain. Hitherto the most anti-Israeli political party in the country, the Liberal Democrats appear to have performed a volte face with Nick Clegg - the party's leader and Deputy Prime Minister to David Cameron - saying that his party had got it wrong on Israel. ""I'm not certain that we have always made ourselves clearly heard on this, so let me say it again now: Israel's right to thrive in peace and security is non-negotiable for Liberal Democrats," Britain's Jewish Chronicle quoted Clegg as saying. "No other country so continually has its right to exist called into question as does Israel, and that is intolerable....There can be no solution to the problems of the Middle East that does not include a full and proper recognition of Israel by all parties to the conflict." The writer is director for international affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London. (robinshepherdonline)
  • Does Hamas Love Obama? - Amir Taheri
    When Bush said he wanted a two-state solution, he saw the realities on the ground as the starting point. Obama and his special emissary, George Mitchell, however, have talked about a return to the pre-1967 "borders." But there were no borders in 1967 - only cease-fire lines drawn at the end of the 1948 war. And there was no Palestine to have any borders - the cease-fire lines separated Israel from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Indeed, a return to those cease-fire lines would be tantamount to recreating a situation that had already led to two wars. (New York Post)
  • Hamas Targeting Fun in Gaza - Ulrike Putz
    A new water park in Gaza provided relief from monotony and misery. Hamas, though, has now burned it down. One night in late September at 3 a.m., around 30 members of Hamas appeared, tied up the park's 10 security guards and got to work with gas canisters and lighters. The flames engulfing the water park's buildings could be seen from as far away as Gaza City. "That's one and a half million dollars, up in smoke," says co-owner Alladin Mohammed al-Araj, a former economics minister in the Hamas government. He says the targeting of his water park is due to the increased influence of hard-liners within the government.
        Hamas has split into two camps: the "Erdoganis" and "Talibanis." The first faction supposedly adheres to the ideas of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, advocating a democratic system with a nod to Islam. The hard-liners allegedly model themselves after the Taliban in Afghanistan and aspire to install a theocratic government. When the attackers struck a month ago, they told the guards that, next time, they would get a bullet to the head. Since then, 6 of the 10 guards on the night shift have quit. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • U.S.-Syrian Thaw Sours over Lebanon Tribunal - Dominic Evans
    Tension over a UN-backed investigation in Lebanon over the killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri has soured a tentative rapprochement between the U.S. and Syria. The two countries exchanged tough rhetoric over the last two weeks, with President Bashar al-Assad accusing the U.S. of spreading chaos in the world and U.S. officials accusing Syria of trying to undermine stability in Lebanon. The war of words underlined how little progress President Obama's engagement policy with Damascus has yielded.
        Syria has shown no sign of addressing U.S. hopes it will cut support for Hizbullah and Hamas, or distance itself from Iran. "Syria and the United States have been keeping the engagement process on life support; that's all that's been happening for the last year," said Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group. (Reuters)
  • Muslim Wars - Editorial
    In January, a mob of 1,000 Muslims burned down two Christian churches in Sumatra, Indonesia, because there were "too many faithful and too many prayers" going on. This week in Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy against Muhammad. She had been working on a farm with other women when she was asked to fetch some drinking water. Her Muslim co-workers refused to drink it because it was "unclean" after being touched by a Christian. An argument broke out, and later Ms. Bibi was attacked by a mob.
        This case illustrates the true complexities and depth of intolerance America faces in dealing with the world's Muslims. (Washington Times)
  • The Arabs' Worst Enemy: Themselves - Walter Rodgers
    Bernard Lewis, the renowned Princeton scholar of Islam, has called attention to the Arab tendency to play "the blame game." He notes Arabs traditionally blamed the Mongols, the Ottoman Turks, the colonial powers, and now the Jews and the Americans for everything that has gone awry in their once proud and accomplished history.
        Arabs lament that billions in U.S. aid give the Israeli military an insurmountable advantage. But they disingenuously forget that American dollars also keep the lights on - and governments running - in a host of Arab and Muslim lands, from Egypt and Jordan to Pakistan and the Palestinian territories. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • The "Truths" We Were Told - Interview with Danny Seaman by David Horovitz
    I've been working for Israeli public relations for 27 years, and there were certain "truths" that we were told: That if we adopt UN resolutions, there'll be peace. If we recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination, there'll be peace. If we remove settlements, there'll be peace. And over the past 25 years Israel recognized the PLO as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people; relinquished territory; removed settlements. Yet the end result was not the peace that we were promised. In no way am I criticizing the efforts for peace. Peace is a strategic necessity for the State of Israel. But in this case, these "truths" that we were promised only increased violence and extremism.
        We represent Western civilization in this area. These extremists who are assaulting Israel, it's a prelude to what can be expected in Western societies. If it's not stopped on Israel's borders, the rest of Western civilization will end up facing the same kind of thing. The writer served as director of the Government Press Office for the past decade. (Jerusalem Post)

    Weekend Features

  • Israel Is a Lovable Rogue - Kevin Myers
    Canadian Gabriel Latner, 19, presented the most brilliantly audacious defense of Israel since Moses parted the Red Sea at a Cambridge Union debate. Gabriel proposed the motion in the CU that Israel is a rogue state. His first argument was statistical. There are 195 countries in the world; Christian, Muslim, secular. But Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish. His next argument came from its treatment of Darfurian refugees who are scorned throughout the Middle East, and even shot on sight in Egypt. But they are welcomed in Israel. Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbors. Quite so.
        As Gabriel himself said, there has never been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East - except for Israel. And of all the countries in the region, Israel is the only one where lesbians, gays and bisexuals enjoy equality. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, homosexuals are put to death. Yet again, Israel is the rogue. Gabriel then added another argument - that Israel willfully disregards international law. Look how in 1981 the Zionists destroyed Saddam Hussein's nuclear bomb plant. The rogues! (Independent-Ireland)
  • Durban III to be Held in U.S. - Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman
    The UN General Assembly is planning to convene the Third Durban World Conference Against Racism a few miles from Ground Zero on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. The first conference, held in Durban, South Africa, just before Sept. 11, degenerated into an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatefest, and last year's Durban II opening keynoter was Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Washington Times)
  • Pilgrims Fill Jerusalem's Streets - Jill Hamilton
    Christian pilgrims are now so numerous in the Old City of Jerusalem that this ancient metropolis seems to becoming for Christians what Mecca is to Muslims. They are arriving in record numbers. "October saw the greatest number of Christian tourists here for 30 years," said a hotel manager at Jaffa Gate. A similar tourist buoyancy is seen all over Israel. Visitors to the state have risen 30% with a total of 3.2 million predicted for 2010.
        Muslims now make up 25% of the residents in the historic Christian Quarter, while the shops and offices are 90% Muslim. A similar imbalance is seen in the Christian schools run by the churches where around two-thirds of the students are Muslim. (Guardian-UK)
  • Iraqi Christians Put to the Sword - Adrian Blomfield
    The Stars of David carved into the stonework of the low-slung buildings that line the alleyways of Abu Nuwas Street in Baghdad are little more than a curiosity these days - a memento of a civilization lost to the pages of history. Judaism has a connection to Iraq that no other faith can match. The patriarch Abraham may well have been born there; the prophet Jonah reluctantly returned to foretell the destruction of Nineveh. Centuries later, the Bible tells us that the exiled Jewish people sat down by Babylon's rivers and wept for their homeland. Yet Jewish links to Iraq are far from ancient history. In the 1920s, there were 130,000 Jews in Baghdad, 40% of the population. Today, after decades of persecution before and immediately after the creation of the State of Israel, there are no more than 8.
        The Iraqi Christian community is one of the oldest on earth. Yet after a series of attacks in the past month by Islamist extremists, fears are mounting that Christianity in Iraq is doomed to follow Judaism into oblivion. Earlier this week, Athanasius Dawood, the exiled archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church, gave a warning that the minority was facing extinction at the hands of a campaign of "pre-meditated ethnic cleansing."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Anti-Semitism in Hungary - Laszlo Molnar
    Anti-Semitism reemerged in Hungary after the transition to democracy in 1989. Traditional anti-Semitism has resurfaced and received an institutional framework, while verbal and physical aggression against Jews and Roma has intensified. The openly anti-Semitic, anti-Roma party Jobbik received 17% of the vote in the April 2010 national elections. The far-right subculture includes nationalist shops - where one can find Nazi, neo-Nazi, and fascist literature along with pagan and wartime pro-Nazi, Hungarist symbols - as well as radical-nationalist and neo-Nazi festivals and events. This subculture has been able to promote its ideology without any serious consequences over the past decade as the emergence of Jobbik enabled anti-Semitism to become part of the mainstream public discourse. (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Most Turks Don't Know What Really Happened on the Mavi Marmara - Claire Berlinski (Standpoint-UK)

    • In May, the Mavi Marmara - a ship full of civilians but not full of humanitarian aid - sailed from Turkey to join the Free Gaza flotilla. I've lived in Istanbul for five years and I've spoken to hundreds of Turks about these events. The Turkish people have no idea what happened because the most basic facts surrounding these events have not been reported in Turkey and almost no one in Turkey understands any language but Turkish.
    • Turks think of themselves as charitable and compassionate, as indeed they are. They genuinely believe, because this is what has been reported here, that the Palestinians are starving. They believe that the ship was on a humanitarian mission. They do not know that there were no humanitarian supplies on the Mavi Marmara.
    • The men and women to whom we spoke were astonished when we told them that Israeli officials had invited the ship to disembark at Ashdod and deliver the aid overland. What is also astonishing is not that we see so much hostility towards Israelis among Turks, but that we see so little of it. Given the level of anti-Semitic propaganda to which they are exposed, this can only be attributed to their basic decency.

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