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Iran Threatens to Act First on EU Embargo - Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Javier Blas (Financial Times-UK)
Iran has threatened to pre-empt a European embargo on its oil by halting its exports to the region immediately, a move that could hit economically weak southern European countries.
The EU this week approved a ban on crude oil imports from Iran from July 1, a five-month delay designed to give Greece, Spain and Italy time to find alternative supplies.
Emad Hosseini, spokesman for the Iranian parliament's energy committee, said lawmakers in Tehran were finalizing a draft bill to stop all oil trade with Europe before the EU begins its oil embargo against Iran.
Son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Barred from Leaving Egypt - Leila Fadel (Washington Post)
Sam LaHood, director of the Egyptian program of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said Thursday
he was prevented from leaving Egypt at Cairo airport Saturday along with at least five other Americans
working for pro-democracy groups.
IRI was one of three U.S.-based nonprofit groups in Cairo that were raided and shut down on Dec. 29 by Egyptian authorities, who accused the groups of using foreign funds to support unrest in Egypt.
"To have a strategic U.S. ally issue bans against American citizens is deeply troubling," said Scott Mastic, IRI's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
This weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the issue in a call with Egypt's foreign minister. President Obama also brought up the rights of NGOs specifically in a phone call last week.
In private, State Department officials have told Egypt that its actions are jeopardizing U.S. aid to Egypt's military.
Israeli Paratroopers Prepare for Airborne Strikes (UPI)
The Israeli military on Jan. 17 conducted its first full-scale parachute exercise in 15 years for at least 1,000 paratroopers in
its airborne brigade as part of military preparations for "any possible scenario."
"Every Western military which respects itself needs to know how to parachute large forces, bring them together and then launch an attack," said airborne brigade commander Col. Amir Baram of the nighttime drop.
The most probable targets for airborne forces would be Hizbullah's fortified missile depots in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Hizbullah possesses more than 42,000 missiles and rockets.
Hundreds of these are capable of hitting anywhere inside Israel, including all major cities and towns as well as strategic targets such as air bases.
The paratroop exercise dovetails into the special operations offensive concept the military is honing to hit Israel's enemies on their own turf.
In December, the Israeli military formed a new formation known as the Deep Corps which combines all special forces units under one command for operations in hostile territory.
Egyptian Army Foils Gas Pipeline Attack (Egypt Independent-Al Masry Al-Youm)
The Egyptian military on Thursday countered an attack on a natural gas facility in northern Sinai located 10 km south of el-Arish.
Masked men in two vehicles approached the facility and attempted to plant explosives, but found the armed forces and local guards lying in wait.
After repairing damage to the pipelines caused by a series of bombings, Egypt resumed pumping eight days ago to consumers in Israel and Jordan.
Film Shows Palestinians, Jews Saving Lives - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
A 25-minute film about cooperation between Jewish and Palestinian volunteer paramedics for the Orthodox Jerusalem organization United Hatzalah has been broadcast four times this month by the global Arab TV network Al Jazeera in English.
"Saving lives is a religious act for me," says Fadi, one of 100 Arabs currently volunteering for UH. "People need to live."
See also View the Video - Witness: Jerusalem SOS (YouTube-Al Jazeera)
To provide first aid, Jewish and Arab volunteer paramedics cross the city's boundaries that most other residents do not.
Turkish Parliament Speaker Rejects Invitation to Visit Israel (Jerusalem Post)
A month and a half after Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin invited him to Israel, Turkey's Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek officially turned down the invitation, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported Wednesday.
Video: Lock and Load - The Work of an IDF Weapons Instructor (Israel Defense Forces)
Behind every good soldier is in an exceptional
Cpl. Daniella Stepanoe, an IDF weapons instructor, talks about training soldiers
and shows off her skills.
German Foundation Ends Funding for Palestinian Nakba NGO - Uri Blau (Ha'aretz)
A German foundation that helps victims of the Nazis has discontinued funding an Israeli NGO, Zochrot, which strives to raise awareness of the Palestinian Nakba among Jews in Israel.
"Remembrance, Responsibility and Future," known by its German acronym, EVZ, also asked the Israeli organization to remove any mention of it in its publications.
"EVZ supports educational projects but does not support organizations that also have a political agenda," one of the German foundation's directors, Gunter Saathoff, told Ha'aretz.
Study Shows Anti-Semitism Still Flourishing throughout Germany - Ofer Aderet (Ha'aretz)
About 20% of Germans have a "latent" hatred for Jews, according to a new study published by an independent committee of experts appointed by the German parliament.
At a very young age, German schoolchildren are already using the word "Jew" as an insult, the report found, and "Jew" is commonly heard as a curse word in the playground.
In local soccer leagues throughout Germany, anti-Semitic jeers aimed at Jewish teams are common, including "Jews to the gas," "Bring back Auschwitz" and "Burn the synagogues."
However, the report noted that anti-Semitism is much worse in many other European countries, including Poland, Hungary and Portugal.
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- Israel Senses Bluffing in Iran's Threats of Retaliation - Ethan Bronner
Israeli intelligence estimates, backed by academic studies, have cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events like a regional conflagration, widespread acts of terrorism and sky-high oil prices. The estimates, which have been largely adopted by the country's most senior officials, conclude that the threat of Iranian retaliation is partly bluff.
Conversations with top Israeli security officials suggested: since Israel has been demanding the new sanctions, including an oil embargo and seizure of Iran's Central Bank assets, it will give the sanctions some months to work; the sanctions are viewed here as probably insufficient; a military attack remains a very real option; and post-attack situations are considered less perilous than one in which Iran has nuclear weapons.
(New York Times)
- U.S.: "Premature" to Use Military Force Against Iran - Yochi J. Dreazen and Kevin Baron
The current U.S.-led push to force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions through steadily increasing economic and diplomatic pressure is beginning to show results and it would be "premature" to resort to military force, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview on Thursday. Dempsey said he'd delivered a similar message to Israel's top leadership during a visit there last week.
Israeli leaders see an Iranian nuclear weapon as a direct threat to their survival, and believe Iran may be just months away from having enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb. Dempsey said he and the Israelis each argued their positions "aggressively," but conceded that the two close allies simply see the threat - and potentially how soon to act against it - very differently.
"We have to acknowledge that they...see that threat differently than we do. It's existential to them," he said. "My intervention with them was not to try to persuade them to my thinking or allow them to persuade me to theirs, but rather to acknowledge the complexity and commit to seeking creative solutions, not simple solutions."
"We are determined to prevent them [Iran] from acquiring that weapon, but that doesn't mean dropping bombs necessarily," he said. "I personally believe that we should be in the business of deterring as the first priority." (National Journal)
- Free Syrian Army Units in Damascus Suburbs - Michael Weiss
The new focal point for the revolution in Syria is Damascus itself. Rebels, composed of both army defectors and armed civilians, claim to be operating openly in Harasta, Hamowriya, Su'ban, Madaya and Ghouta, kidnapping regime personnel and taking the fight directly to Assad's army divisions and intelligence bureaus.
I spoke via Skype to an anti-regime activist from Midan who said: "A few days ago, security forces started attacking the demonstrators and shooting them. Suddenly several Free Syrian Army (FSA) units appeared and started shooting back." "The FSA ranks are increasing as there are defectors daily. We believe the regime could last for two more months. Damascus suburbs are filled with the FSA units which control many areas."
The writer is Communications Director of the Henry Jackson Society.
See also Free Syrian Army in Douma
With the help of local activists, BBC News Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen managed to get into Douma, 15 minutes drive from the center of Damascus.
He discovered that the center of the town is in the hands of the Free Syrian Army.
See also Outside Syria's Capital, Suburbs Look Like War Zone - Mariam Karouny
When Arab League observers headed to the suburbs of Damascus Thursday, Syrian security refused to accompany them to most areas because they are no longer in control there. At the police hospital in Harasta, the staff said most of rural Damascus was not controlled by the government forces and gunmen were kidnapping and killing those affiliated with the government in those areas.
See also Dozens Killed in Syrian City of Homs (AP-Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Presents the Palestinians with Its Stance on Borders - Barak Ravid
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, presented chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday with Israel's position on borders for a future Palestinian state, but did not give Erekat a document on the matter. Molcho's presentation included a series of basic principles, including that in any permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, most of the Israelis who live in the West Bank will remain in Israeli territory.
- Hamas Wants a "Branch" in Jordan - Taylor Luck
Jordan's King Abdullah will receive Hamas chief Khaled Mishaal next week in the first official visit by the Hamas leader in over a decade.
According to a senior Hamas official, Mishaal is expected to request permission for a "permanent presence" in Jordan.
Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Rakan Majali stressed that the reopening of Hamas' political office is "not on the current agenda."
Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh has previously indicated that the government would consider allowing the relocation of Hamas leaders and their families to the kingdom provided that they forego any "political activity" on Jordanian soil. Hamas second-in-command Mousa Abu Marzouq has criticized this proposal, stressing that political activity is a core part of the movement's mission to "protect the rights of Palestinians." (Jordan Times)
- Hamas in Deep Trouble - Guy Bechor
Hamas' alliance with Iran has come to an end. This pact was unnatural to begin with, with a Sunni organization endorsing a non-Arab Shiite state. When Hamas refused Iran's orders to support the fading Bashar Assad, Tehran shut its door to the group. What's worse, the flow of money used by Hamas to pay some 50,000 officials and troops in Gaza has ended. Hamas was also forced to leave Damascus, the capital of its external leadership.
Until recently it appeared that the Islamic parties of the "Arab Spring" would embrace Hamas. We certainly saw lip service, but every Arab state is currently contending with deep domestic problems that dwarf Hamas' problems. (Ynet News)
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
- Europe Honors International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Danna Harman
As countries across Europe prepare for International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, Jan. 27, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, speaking at EU headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, said, "I feel that I have a very specific responsibility because what was decided at the so-called Wannsee Conference - the extermination of the Jewish people - was done in the name of the German people." "The German people of today is not guilty [of the Holocaust], but responsible for keeping the memory alive," he said. "For me, this means that whoever is representing the German nation has one important duty - to take into account our responsibility for the Jews in the world."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement: "France is determined to fulfill the duty to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and to pass this knowledge on to new generations in France and throughout the world."
British Labor Party leader and opposition head Ed Miliband, who has spoken publicly of his parents' escape from the Nazis, wrote in the Holocaust Educational Trust's Book of Commitment in the House of Commons: "Speak up, speak out is an essential message for us all as we remember the Holocaust. It reminds us that we must never forget the terrible genocide perpetrated against Jews. We owe it to all those who perished to remember and speak up against anti-Semitism. We must speak out against injustice and bigotry wherever we find it."
The German magazine Stern reported Thursday that one in five young Germans has no idea that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp.
- Survivor: "It Was Racism Carried to the Extreme"
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, 84, was the main speaker at Tuesday's Holocaust Memorial Day hosted by London Mayor Boris Johnson.
She was sent to Auschwitz after her work forging documents for prisoners of war was discovered. A talented cellist who became a professional musician in Britain after the war, she escaped the gas chambers because the camp's orchestra needed a cellist. She was then in Bergen-Belsen, which was liberated on April 15, 1945.
She said Auschwitz "has become a symbol of the abject depravity to which humans can sink. No one of us was meant to survive that - some of us did but it was pure luck."
Mrs. Lasker-Wallfisch noted: "We must be careful about what makes this different from all other genocides.
This was just simply premeditated mass murder of the innocent, who were brought from all over for this. It was racism carried to the extreme." (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
- Can There Be a Second Holocaust? - Robert S. Wistrich
In recent years, the Holocaust has been subject to an increasingly sickening blend of ruthless politicization and deliberate distortion. In contemporary Europe, Holocaust guilt is used more often than not to promote the Palestinian cause rather than to recognize the necessity of having a Jewish state. Arab and Islamist propaganda hammers away at the grotesque libel that Israeli policies towards the Palestinians are worse than those of the Nazis. Efforts to elevate the Palestinian Nakba to equal status with the Shoah are only the latest in a long line of such gross distortions.
The writer is the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- Planning Genocide in Plain Sight - Lawrence Kadish
When a group of high-ranking Nazi bureaucrats sat down 70 years ago (Jan. 20, 1942) at Wannsee, they didn't plot the death of 6 million Jews; they aimed at 11 million. While history records that a staggering 6 million Jews would ultimately be destroyed as a result, one of the more chilling documents retrieved from the massive archives of the Nazi regime is a simple list of all European nations with Jewish populations as small as 200. The genocidal census was designed to anticipate the organizational structure required to retrieve and ship those 11 million Jews to the Nazi murder factories, regardless of how distant they were from Auschwitz or Treblinka.
Much the way the Nazis assigned their strategic national assets to the destruction of a people, the rulers of Iran are focusing their considerable national resources on creating and fielding nuclear weapons, while publicly embracing a foreign policy that calls for literally wiping Israel off the map.
On this 70th anniversary of Wannsee, let us contemplate how a disbelieving world can stand idly by as evil regimes coolly harness their bureaucracies to methodically achieve horrendous goals.
History consistently reminds us that, more often than not, our enemies tell us exactly what they mean to do before they do it.
- Two Remembrance Days - Gil Shefler
The UN designated Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005.
Israel, however, observes Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 26th of Nissan, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, according to the Jewish calendar. Its selection reflects the Jewish state's preference to emphasize Jewish resistance to the Nazis.
- Turkish State TV Airs Holocaust Documentary
Turkey has marked international Holocaust Remembrance Day by airing French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah."
The filmmaker said this is the first time the film was broadcast on state television in a Muslim country.
- Egypt's Revolt and the American Model - Ed Husain
Despite the fashionable tendency among U.S. political elites to talk down American standing in the Middle East, America remains hugely attractive across the Middle East. The Arab revolutionaries did not look to China or Russia for a model of government. They looked to four-year presidential terms, inspired directly by American democracy.
At bookshops across Egypt I find bestselling guidebooks on how to pass entrance tests for American universities. Across the Arab world, satellite dishes face west. Hollywood films, McDonald's, Starbucks, jeans, baseball caps, Facebook and Twitter are the widespread norm.
Even those Egyptians who shout anti-American claptrap - the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafi cousins - crave meetings and photo-ops with visiting American politicians, such as Sen. John Kerry recently. They seek an American stamp of approval that bestows legitimacy, modernity, and association with global power.
In the many meetings I have had with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Middle Eastern Islamists over the past year, they show animosity toward the U.S. only with regard to Israel. There is no stamina for war with Israel, but this generation of Arabs won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in Peril - Samuel Segev
Egypt inaugurated on Monday its newly elected and Muslim-dominated parliament that will redefine the role of Islam in Egypt's Second Republic.
The U.S. did not expect that the young liberals who started the revolution and forced the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak would be decimated in the parliamentary elections.
They won only seven seats in the 498-member parliament. Nor did Washington expect that the Muslim Brotherhood and the more extremist Salafist movement would practically dominate the new parliament, together winning 67% of the vote.
Since the elections, and even before, Muslim Brotherhood leaders have repeatedly said that their Islamic-oriented government will honor the 1979 Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
The sad truth, however, is that this peace treaty has become meaningless. Muslim Brotherhood leaders are repeatedly hinting that Israel should understand that things in Egypt have changed.
What concerns Israel most is the likely dangers emanating from Egypt's lack of control of the Sinai desert.
Now that the Muslim Brotherhood controls Egyptian politics, Israeli officials do not expect a formal repudiation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, but the new Egyptian regime has other options, and not all of them are reassuring. (Winnipeg Free Press-Canada)
- Memoirs of a Former Sister of the Muslim Brotherhood - Noha El-Hennawy
As the Muslim Brotherhood strives to project the image of a moderate and democratic political organization,
The Memoirs of a Former Sister: My Story with the Muslim Brotherhood, by former member Intissar Abdel Moneim, has appeared. In it she describes how women are socialized to accept male dominance within the organization - and the household.
"One of the areas where the Brothers have exploited the idea of blind obedience and submission is polygamy," she writes. "When the [first] wife complains, a session is held for her where other sisters would remind her of the importance of obedience, patience and submission to God's will and to [the husband]'s will." The writings of Hassan al-Banna, the group's late founder, sought to limit women to "catering to their husbands' desires and to reproduction," she writes.
This outlook justifies why no woman is admitted into the group's highest bodies - the Shura Council and the Guidance Bureau. By the same critical token, the author bashes the Brotherhood's internal dynamics, arguing that it is based on nepotism rather than merit.
(Egypt Independent-Al-Masry Al-Youm)
See also In Egypt's New Parliament, Women Will Be Scarce - Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
In Egypt's recent parliamentary elections, there will be only about eight women out of the 508 seats - or fewer than 2%. The women who ran on party lists were placed far down on those lists, meaning they had virtually no chance of getting into office. And that was true of all parties, Islamist as well as liberal.
- Ignoring Ahmadinejad's Calls for Jewish Genocide Is a Grave Mistake - Evelyn Gordon
The Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad never misses an opportunity to call for "wiping Israel off the map." Since there's no way to eradicate Israel without also slaughtering a large number of its 7.8 million inhabitants, that is a blatant call for mass murder. But as Prof. Shlomo Avineri pointed out this month, even more troubling is the silence of world Jewry on this issue - a stark contrast to its activism over, say, Soviet Jews.
Partly, this may be due to a widespread sentiment that words matter less than deeds - which explains why Jewish groups have been active in trying to persuade Western governments to take stronger steps against Iran's nuclear program. But beyond that, Jews worldwide should be concerned with the desensitization effect: By consistently advocating genocide without eliciting any serious condemnatory response, Ahmadinejad is gradually turning "kill the Jews" into acceptable public discourse.
- Understanding the BDS Movement - Avishai D. Don
Next weekend, the University of Pennsylvania will host the second national BDS conference, an event that will advocate for the "growing global campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) the State of Israel."
But the BDS movement hides its ultimate goal of dismantling the Jewish state behind its public rhetoric. Although some members of the movement might actually support the Jewish state's continued existence, the Palestinian BDS National Committee - the "reference and guiding force for the global BDS movement" - cannot do so under any circumstances.
If you support the BDS movement, you are supporting an organization that is actively working to undermine the Jewish state. Utilizing the vocabulary of international norms, the movement actually systematically attempts to undermine the international consensus that recognizes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. And if you support this right - regardless of your politics and your feelings towards the current Israeli government - then there is only one moral option. Boycott the BDS movement. (Harvard Crimson)
- The Big Lie Returns - Ben Cohen
Claims of anti-Semitism are so often disputed, scorned, and denied outright. Unlike blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, or any other religious or ethnic group, Jews alone are now told by their enemies who does and who does not hate them. It is being determined that Jews, in contrast to nearly every other minority group, sit squarely on the wrong side of the oppressor/oppressed dynamic and thereby make any Jewish complaints about bigotry inherently suspect.
This leads to a conclusion with a distinctly postmodern twist: Those who truly suffer from anti-Semitism today are not Jews, but those who are accused of being anti-Semitic.
Since the Holocaust, Jewish communities have mistakenly concluded that the relative absence of anti-Semitism reflects a greater awareness that anti-Semitism, as understood and experienced by Jews themselves, is a grave social ill. There is no basis to think that anymore. As long as the adversaries and enemies of the Jews control the meaning of the term "anti-Semitism," Jews will remain vulnerable to that most sacred of anti-Semitic calumnies: that they alone are the authors of their own misfortune.
- Israel's Technion Contributes to U.S. Soldiers' Rehabilitation - Sheri Shefa
Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology professor emeritus Shlomo Maital, speaking in Toronto last week, highlighted the work of Technion electrical engineering graduate Amit Goffer, who was involved in an accident that left him unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair.
Instead of being resigned to his fate, "He asked, 'How can you take people who cannot move their legs and put them on their feet and enable them to walk?'," Maital said.
Goffer designed a prototype he called an exoskeleton, a mechanical device that a person wears on his legs.
"When a person leans forward, the computer senses that and moves the leg, and then the other leg."
The technology is called ReWalk, and it enables people with lower-limb disabilities to stand, walk, and even climb stairs.
"The device is being used now in veterans hospitals in the U.S. to help soldiers who've been wounded and crippled by war to walk. And you can imagine what that feels like for a 21-year-old ex-Marine who is in a wheelchair, to be able to stand up and walk," he said.
(Canadian Jewish News)
- Israeli Scientists: Tracking Microclimates Could Help Feed the World - Rinat Harash and Ari Rabinovitch
Scientists in Israel have developed a way of using satellite images to help farmers detect small-scale changes in climate and improve their harvests.
The new system divides fields into smaller microclimates that guide farmers on the best way to work each individual plot.
It tells them when it is best to plant seeds, when to spray pesticides and even which crop is most suitable for each square-kilometer field, said Uri Dayan, a climatologist from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The method was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in September. Itamar Lensky, who heads the remote sensing laboratory at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said their system uses real-time thermal images made available from NASA and then analyzes the surface temperature of each plot at a fine scale.
Answering Iran - Richard N. Haass (Project Syndicate)
- We know quite a bit about Iran's nuclear program, and what we know is not encouraging. Iran is reported to be enriching uranium at two sites - some of it to levels of 20%, far beyond what is required for civilian purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency also reports that Iran is carrying out research to develop designs for nuclear warheads. In short, Iranian officials' claims that their nuclear program is aimed solely at power generation or medical research lacks all plausibility.
- There are significant drawbacks to acquiescing to a nuclear-armed Iran. Given its use of subversion and terrorism against its adversaries, a nuclear-armed Iran might be even more assertive. It might also transfer nuclear-related material, technology, or weapons to allies (Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, for example) or radical organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas.
- Nor can it be assumed that Iran's radical leadership would always act rationally, or that proliferation would stop with the Islamic Republic. If Iran develops its nuclear weapons, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt would be tempted to purchase or develop nuclear weapons of their own. A Middle East with multiple fingers on multiple triggers is as good a definition of a nightmare as there is.
The writer, formerly Director of Policy Planning in the U.S. State Department, is President of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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