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December 9, 2011

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Video: The Truth About the Refugees - Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs-YouTube)
    The reason there are still Palestinian refugees after more than six decades is because of Arab leaders' recalcitrance to accept their brethren, and the UN, which created a separate agency with unique principles and criteria for Palestinians.
    The video also highlights the Jewish refugees who were forced out of their homes in the Arab world, and were subsequently absorbed by the State of Israel.

Blast Hits Pipeline in Syrian City - Anthony Shadid (New York Times)
    A pipeline carrying oil to a refinery in the Syrian city of Homs was blown up Thursday, activists and the official Syrian news agency said.

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Study Finds Reuters Middle East Coverage Tainted by Arab Propaganda (PRWeb)
    A study published in the November-December issue of the Journal of Applied Business Research finds that Reuters coverage of the Middle East conflict is systematically tainted by propaganda and influences readers to side with the Palestinians and Arab states against the Israelis.
    Researcher Henry Silverman of Roosevelt University analyzed 50 news-oriented articles for the use of classic propaganda techniques, logical fallacies and violations of the Reuters Handbook of Journalism, a manual of guiding ethical principles for the company's journalists.
    Across the articles, over 1,100 occurrences of propaganda, fallacies and handbook violations in 41 categories were identified and classified.
    In the second part of the study, 33 university students were surveyed before and after reading the articles, to assess their attitudes and motivation to support the Palestinians/Arabs or the Israelis.
    The study found that on average, subject sentiment shifted significantly following the readings in favor of the Arabs and that this shift was associated with particular propaganda techniques and logical fallacies appearing in the stories.
    Read the Study - Reuters: Principles of Trust or Propaganda? - Henry I. Silverman (Roosevelt University)

The Future of Hebron's Jewish Past - Melanie Phillips (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Hebron has become a synonym in the West for oppression of the Palestinians, but it is in fact those Jewish residents who are hanging on by their fingernails to a minimal right of access to one of Judaism's holiest sites - the Cave of Machpelah, where Abraham and the patriarchs and matriarchs are said to be buried.
    It is also grotesque to call the Jewish residents "settlers" as if they are colonizing land with which they have no connection. Jews have lived in Hebron for thousands of years but have been repeatedly driven out, as in the 1929 pogrom when Arabs slaughtered 67 adults and children.
    The restored Jewish presence in a town of 130,000 Arabs is a mere 90 Jewish families, restricted to an area comprising some 5% of the town.
    Far from the impression that Arab Hebron is wretched and impoverished, it is highly prosperous, delivering around one third of the West Bank's entire GDP.
    Friendly relations have been established between local rabbis and the remarkable Sheikh Jabari, leader of Hebron's largest clan, who some years ago prevented the planned torching of a nearby synagogue. Sheikh Jabari has publicly acknowledged the right of Jews to live in Hebron.
    The PA is trying to ethnically cleanse the Jews again from Hebron, while Sheikh Jabari is supporting the rights of the Jewish people to their own heritage.

Cores Reveal When Dead Sea "Died" - Jonathan Amos (BBC News)
    Sediments drilled from beneath the Dead Sea reveal that this remarkable body of water all but disappeared 120,000 years ago, demonstrating just how dry the Middle East can become during Earth's warm phases.
    "The reason the Dead Sea is going down is because virtually all of the fresh water flowing into it is being taken by the countries around it," said Steve Goldstein, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, US.
    "Global climate models are predicting that this region in particular is going to become more arid in the future." Prof. Goldstein presented the results of the drilling work at the 2011 American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco.
    The Dead Sea is at the lowest land point on the planet, more than 400m below sea level. Since 1997, the lake's surface has fallen more than 10m. The size of the Dead Sea has fluctuated with the coming and going of ice ages.
    In the midst of the last ice age some 25,000 years ago, the Dead Sea reached its maximum extent, with the then water surface standing 260m above where it is today.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Congress Rebuffs Administration Pleas to Ease Impact of Sanctions on Iran
    Republicans and Democrats are pressing ahead with sanctions that would target foreign banks that do business with Iran's Central Bank. Tough sanctions are the most viable option short of a military strike on Iran. The sanctions measure sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was added to a broader defense bill now the subject of closed-door negotiations.
        Few lawmakers, even Democrats, have argued the administration's case for weakening the sanctions. "I think Democrats are scratching their heads that the administration is leading them into a policy provision which not a single Democratic senator can support," Kirk said in an interview. He said he spoke to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., on Thursday and he indicated that the House negotiators would accept the sanctions provision.
        “The to inflict crippling, unendurable economic pain over there. Iran's banking sector - especially its central bank - needs to become the financial equivalent of Chernobyl: radioactive, dangerous and most of all, empty," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Inside the Conference Negotiations on Iran Sanctions - Josh Rogin
    House and Senate leaders are meeting this week behind closed doors to work out language for new sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), and the administration is pressing key Democrats to adopt their position, which aims to weaken the sanctions measures. At the center of the debate is an amendment, passed the Senate by 100-0 over the very public objections of top Obama administration officials, which would direct the administration to take punitive measures against foreign banks that do business with the CBI.
        Initially, the administration turned to House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) to help them with the changes. But Berman said at a conference on Thursday sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, "I will not, and Congress should not, give into entreaties from the administration or dilute our approach to sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran's petroleum transactions."   (Foreign Policy)
  • Five French UN Peacekeepers Wounded in Lebanon Bombing
    A roadside bombing in southern Lebanon on Friday wounded at least five French UN peacekeepers near Tyre, Lebanese military and security officials said. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Envoy: Washington Closely Coordinating with Israel on Iran - Barak Ravid
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said Thursday, "There is no issue that we [the U.S. and Israel] coordinate more closely on than on Iran." "We believe Iran is pursuing a military nuclear capability and we are determined to stop it," he added. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Expects Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks - Herb Keinon
    Both the U.S. and the Quartet expect Israel and the Palestinians to meet in direct negotiations and exchange comprehensive proposals on issues of security and territory, U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro said Thursday. In September the Quartet discussed the exchange of comprehensive proposals when it drew up a new framework for trying to bring the sides back to the table. Israel's position is that the comprehensive proposals are to come out of negotiations between the sides, and not as a result of the Quartet mediating between them. Shapiro's comments appear to support Israel's interpretation. Quartet representatives will return to Jerusalem next week for separate talks with Israel and the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Terrorist Killed in Gaza Air Strike - Avi Issacharoff and Gili Cohen
    An Israeli air strike in central Gaza killed a Palestinian militant in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade who plotted to commit terror attacks against Israeli citizens and security forces along the Israel-Egypt border, the IDF Spokesperson said on Thursday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Eyes Increased Deterrence - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The hit on Assam Subahi Ismail Batash in Gaza was a targeted interception. It's highly probable that the rocket fired by an IAF aircraft that killed Batash and his nephew stopped a terror attack. Batash had sent a suicide bomber to infiltrate Eilat through Sinai in 2007 and kill Israelis.
        As part of the conclusions drawn following the terror attack on the Israel-Egypt border in August, which claimed the lives of eight Israelis, it was revealed that Israel had prior, detailed intelligence about the Popular Resistance Committees leadership's intentions to carry out the attack, and how it gave the order to the Egyptian and Bedouin cell that carried it out. In light of the events, the IDF instated a policy meant to spare no effort in preventing any terror attack, attempted abduction or projectile fire emanating from Gaza or Sinai. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Fire Rockets from Gaza, Israel Air Force Targets Hamas Training Camp - Yaakov Katz
    In response to a spate of rocket fire from Gaza, the Israel Air Force struck targets connected with terrorist activity in Gaza on Thursday, the IDF Spokesman's Office said. Palestinian medical sources said that one civilian was killed and 13 others were wounded. Hamas "chooses to operate in the heart of civilian population centers and uses human shields," the IDF said. On Friday, the IDF said that collateral damage caused to civilians was due to the presence of explosives and weapons at the targeted sites, including rockets. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Sending the Wrong Signals to Iran - Editorial
    Iran has been showing signs of increasing nervousness about the possibility that its nuclear program will come under attack by Israel or the U.S. From the West's point of view, this alarm is good: The more Iran worries about a military attack, the more likely it is to scale back its nuclear activity. The only occasion in which Tehran froze its weaponization program came immediately after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when it feared it might be the next American target.
        What doesn't make sense is a public spelling out of reasons against military action - like that delivered by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last Friday. Alarmed Iranian leaders could well conclude that they have no reason for concern after all.
        The administration is resisting pressure from allies such as France and from Congress to sanction the Iranian central bank. The administration's stance resembles Mr. Panetta's message. In effect, it is signaling that it is determined to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon - unless it means taking military or diplomatic risks, or paying an economic price. (Washington Post)
  • The Importance of Sanctioning Iran's Central Bank - Ilan Berman
    It is painfully clear that the economic pressure levied by Washington so far has fallen short of dissuading Iran's ayatollahs from seeking the bomb. Sanctioning Iran's Central Bank represents one of the most potent ways to hit Iran's chief export commodity: oil. The Central Bank of Iran serves as an intermediary between the state oil company and the Iranian regime's international energy customers. By isolating the bank from global markets, the U.S. can help dry up critical funding for the Iranian regime and its strategic programs. The impact, moreover, could be magnified exponentially if such sanctions are coupled with an international embargo on Iranian crude oil exports - something that European countries have begun to discuss in earnest.
        The Administration worries about the potential impact of such a designation on global oil prices. However, countries like Saudi Arabia have already indicated their willingness to ramp up oil output in order to offset any commodity price increases that would occur if and when Iranian oil goes offline. And if Washington makes judicious use of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to mitigate price spikes in the global energy market, the effects on domestic consumers are likely to be more minimal still. The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council. (Forbes)
  • When It Comes to Israel, Why Is the World Silent? - Ron Prosor
    Imagine that the citizens of El Paso, Laredo and San Antonio have to stay inside their homes. Schools are closed, businesses are shut and people have to suspend their lives because groups in Mexico are firing thousands of deadly missiles at Texans across the border. Sometimes a school is hit, sometimes a grocery store, and every so often someone is killed. Imagine a similar occurrence in Seattle, Detroit or Cleveland - with rockets raining in from Canada.
        The very thought of terrorists in another country attacking Americans at random is ludicrous. You know the president would immediately order the U.S. military to respond, root out the terrorists and make sure that the Canadian or Mexican governments clearly understood that this behavior would not be tolerated. The UN Security Council would immediately condemn this infringement on a country's sovereignty and the safety of its citizens. The UN charter makes a country's self-defense as legal as it is logical. This is universally understood.
        So why is it not natural to support the same for Israel? Since the beginning of October, more than 70 rockets and missiles have rained down on southern Israel from Gaza, which remains under the control of the Hamas terrorist organization. Last week, Israel's northern towns were hit by rockets fired from Lebanon. Last month, a man was killed when a rocket struck his car on his evening commute home. If it is not OK to fire deadly rockets at the citizens of any of the other 193 member states that make up the UN, why is the world silent when the victims are Israelis? The writer is Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Cataloguing Palestinian Duplicity - Editorial
    Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta seems to have come up with the solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian impasse: "Just get to the damn table," he said in response to a question on what Israel should do next. How foolish of the rest of us not to have thought of that sage advice years ago and saved so many lives. Of course Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted on numerous occasions that he is ready to sit down and negotiate directly with the Palestinians at any time. It's the Palestinian Authority that is holding out.
        It's disturbing, but not surprising, that administration after administration in Washington since the Oslo agreement of 1993 has ignored the essential stumbling block to real peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. That's the refusal of the Palestinian leadership, including the "moderate" Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, to acknowledge Israel's right to exist.
        Just this week an important new book arrived that details in exhaustive fashion the duplicity of the PA, under President Mahmoud Abbas, in speaking to the West of its recognition of Israel while at the same time spreading hate speech and glorifying terrorists at home. Deception: Betraying the Peace Process, by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik of Palestinian Media Watch, chronicles the statements and actions of the PA.
        We hope it's not too naive to believe that if the facts about the PA's behavior were known more widely, Western funding, starting with the U.S., would be leveraged far more effectively, with the threat of a complete cutoff if the situation persists. An authentic agreement is less about getting to "the damn table" than preparing Palestinian children to accept rather than seek to destroy a Jewish state. (New York Jewish Week)
  • Hillary, Israel Is Not Iran - Gilad Erdan
    Hillary, our dear friend. A few days ago, you expressed your deep concern about harm to the status of women in Israel, which you said reminds you of the events in Iran. By the way, in our country, a woman serves as the president of the Supreme Court, a woman is the head of the opposition, a woman serves as a major-general in the army, and I could give you many more examples. Each of the sectors in Israel - men and women, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, and others - has representatives in the Knesset, courts, academia, media and all the mechanisms of society.
        If you are concerned about the status of women in Israel, I'm certain you are much more concerned about the status of women in other countries friendly to the U.S., such as Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive; or in Arab countries such as Egypt or Qatar, where men can marry several women and divorce them without any reason, leaving them without any rights, without custody for their children and certainly without alimony; or in Muslim countries such as Indonesia or Pakistan, where women are executed on charges of adultery. But, somehow, I do not recall that you have expressed your concern about it or have taken any steps to stop it.
        Just like in the U.S., we are taking care of equality between men and women, and we don't need help. We even get a little offended when we are the targets of moralistic preachings on this subject. Israel is not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it would be better to begin where the real problems are. The writer is Israel's Minister of Environmental Protection. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli Poll: 64 Percent Say Clinton Wrong to Compare Israel to Iran - Aaron Lerner (Israel Hayom-IMRA)
  • Revisionism, Rejectionism and Arab-Israeli Peace - Irwin Cotler
    Once again, the UN commemorated the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 29 by continuing to ignore the plight of Jewish refugees. Turning history and law on its head, the world body once again failed to note that the Arab countries not only rejected a Palestinian state and went to war to extinguish the nascent Jewish state, but also targeted the Jewish nationals living in their respective countries.
        The annual November 29 commemoration should be transformed into an International Day of Solidarity for a Two-Peoples Two-State Solution - as the initial 1947 Partition Resolution intended - including solidarity with all refugees created by the Israeli-Arab conflict including Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
        Jurisdiction over Palestinian refugees should be transferred from UNRWA to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. There was no justification then - and still less today - for the establishment of a separate body to deal only with Palestinian refugees, particularly when that body is itself compromised by its incitement to hatred. The writer is a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Weekend Features

  • Walking 40 Miles in Jesus' Shoes - Daniella Cheslow
    A new trail across northern Israel offers travelers the chance to walk - or trot on horseback - through New Testament sites in the footsteps of Jesus. The newly opened Gospel Trail winds for 39 miles, from Nazareth down to Capernaum, the fishing town where Jesus is said to have established his home base. The Tourism Ministry believes the new trail may attract up to 200,000 Christian pilgrims to northern Israel over the coming year. Christians are a rapidly growing segment of Israeli tourism, comprising about two-thirds of the 3.45 million people who visited in 2010.
        Jose Leonardo from Houston walked the trail at Tel Kinrot, a hill filled with archaeological finds that looks over the Sea of Galilee. He said he was especially moved by a visit to Mount Tabor. "It's great to walk where Christ actually walked and just to know that so much history is here," Leonardo said. "I think every Christian should come out here and actually experience that walk to get closer to God and know his land and his people."  (AP)
  • Did a German Officer Prevent the Massacre of the Jews of Eretz Yisrael During World War I? - Lenny Ben-David
    A German photographic collection contains a picture of General Erich von Falkenhayn leaving Palestine in 1918 and bears an amazing caption which claims that Falkenhayn prevented a Turkish massacre of the Jews of Palestine in World War I. Falkenhayn served as the Chief of Staff of the German Army and was the commander of Turkish and German troops in 1917-1918. A Falkenhayn family genealogy, posted on the Internet, elaborates further: "While he was in command in Palestine, he was able to prevent Turkish plans to evict all Jews from Palestine, especially Jerusalem. As this was meant to occur along the lines of the genocide of the Armenians, it is fair to say that Falkenhayn prevented the eradication of Jewish settlements in Palestine."
        Dr. Jacob Thon, head of the Zionist Office in Jerusalem, wrote in 1917, "It was a special stroke of good fortune that in the last critical days General von Falkenhayn had the command. Jamal Pasha [Turkish governor of Syria and Palestine] in this case - as he announced often enough - would have expelled the whole population and turned the country into ruins."  (Israel Daily Picture)

Hard Choices for Hamas with the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood - Pinhas Inbari (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Hamas is abandoning the sinking ship of Syria and many senior cadres have already settled in Gaza. At the same time, Iran has cut its subsidy to Hamas.
  • Not only is there a need to find new accommodations for Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal and company, but there is also a political price: the need to decrease terror and transform itself from a pro-Iranian/Syrian "muqawama" ("resistance") movement into a typical political party of the Muslim Brotherhood-type that are now in the process of taking control in the Arab world.
  • The Hamas leadership in Gaza prefers engagement with Cairo because the prospects of Muslim Brotherhood dominance are much more advanced in Egypt and the close vicinity to Gaza is promising for an eventual joining of forces to advance to the restoration of the worldwide Islamic Caliphate.
  • The problem is that both the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood cannot accept it as a militant movement that threatens the precarious security situation in Egypt and the delicate balance the Brotherhood wants to establish with the military in Cairo. It is not that the Brotherhood doesn't care whether Hamas continues to be a "resistance" movement - to the contrary - but as long as they don't do it from Cairo.
  • So what can Hamas do? Abandoning the "resistance" is a non-starter; conducting resistance from Gaza is possible, but the leadership is not sure if they can sustain another Israeli blow of the scope of Israel's 2009 operation. They may aspire to move the "resistance" to the West Bank - and this is exactly what they are currently trying to do - but here they face the IDF.

    The writer, a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper.
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