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April 20, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Leader Says Hamas Against Any Peace with Israel (AP)
    A senior Hamas leader says that if his militant group came to power in a future Palestinian state, it would not abide by any previous Palestinian peace deals with Israel.
    Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' number two figure, says any potential deal, even if ratified in a Palestinian referendum, would be considered only as a temporary truce agreement.
    Abu Marzouk's remarks underline Hamas' stance that it considers the Palestinians to be at war with Israel.

Alawites for Assad - Leon Goldsmith (Foreign Affairs)
    Since the 1982 slaughter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, the Alawites have consolidated their control of the country.
    According to the Syria scholar Radwan Ziadeh, they comprise the vast majority of Syria's roughly 700,000 security and intelligence personnel and military officer core.
    The Alawites' loyalty to Assad today is hardly assured. Despite popular notions of a rich, privileged Alawite class dominating Syria, the country's current regime provides little tangible benefit to most Alawite citizens.
    Since the provision of basic services by the first Assad in the 1970s and 1980s, most Alawite villages - with the exception of Qardaha, the home of Assad's tribe, the Kalbiyya - have developed little. Donkeys remain a common form of transport and motor vehicles are scarce.
    Some Alawites are explicitly breaking ranks. According to Monzer Makhouz, an Alawite member of the opposition Syrian National Council, Alawites are joining protests in the coastal cities of the Alawite territory.
    And in recent weeks, evidence has emerged of defections of Alawite soldiers and intelligence officers, seemingly from less privileged Alawite tribes.

Google Street View Images of Israel Go Online - Sam Ser (Times of Israel)
    Google Maps Street View images of Israel are available online.
    The 3D mapping project began with car- and tricycle-mounted cameras snapping photos from the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa - offering a panoramic look at Israel's three largest cities.
    To protect both national security and citizens' privacy, Google agreed to skip sensitive facilities and blur peoples' faces.

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Free Israeli Cataract Clinics Treat 1,000 Ethiopians - Rivka Borochov (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    When the seven-person crew from the Israeli volunteer organization Eye from Zion arrived in a remote region in Ethiopia in February to provide free cataract surgery, they were expecting several dozen patients. 1,400 showed up.
    The organization has performed the 20-minute procedure on thousands of people in Asian and African countries.
    After an initial 170 operations in the regions of Debark and Gondar, Eye from Zion founder Nati Marcus planned to return with another team of four eye doctors, a couple of nurses and a technician over the course of the year to finish the job for those on the waiting list.
    No one at Eye from Zion receives any money for their services.

Israeli Defense Firm to Add 100 Jobs in Maryland (Baltimore Sun)
    ELTA North America, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., has opened a location in Maple Lawn in Howard County, Md., where it plans to create 100 new jobs, the state Department of Business and Economic Development said Wednesday.
    Most of ELTA's employees are scientists, engineers, programmers and technicians who develop products for the armed services.

Woman from Cyprus Saved at Hadassah (Cyprus Mail)
    A 30-year-old pregnant woman from Cyprus was flown to the Hadassah University Medical Center where a 48-hour surgery saved her life, the Israeli hospital said on April 11.
    After her local physician was unable to locate the fetus, Hadassah's obstetricians determined that the fetus was not in the woman's uterus, nor in her Fallopian tube.
    Instead, they discovered the fetus under a kidney, next to a large blood vessel, only the second recorded case of such an ectopic pregnancy.

New Israeli Technology to Recycle Cellulose in Sludge - Karin Kloosterman (Green Prophet)
    Refael Aharon, the CEO and founder of Applied Clean Tech, says his company has refined the process of turning the cellulose in sludge - toilet paper, fecal matter and washing machine lint - into new paper.
    The finished product has no odor and poses no biological hazard. "It's a real recycled paper," Aharon says.
    The company is already using its cellulose-based raw material in envelopes.

U.S.-Israel 3-D Printer-Makers Merge, Form $1.4B Company - Nataleeya Boss (Twin Cities Business)
    Eden Prairie, Minn.-based 3-D printer manufacturer Stratasys, Inc., will soon merge with Objet, Ltd., a Rehovot, Israel-based company that also makes 3-D printers, the companies said Monday. The equity value of the combined company will total approximately $1.4 billion.

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Video: The Auschwitz Album (Yad Vashem-Israel Hayom)
    "The Auschwitz Album" is the only surviving visual evidence of the process of mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
    The 193 photos were taken in May or June 1944 and depict the processing of a trainload of Hungarian Jews, most of whom were about to be murdered.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Western Leaders Threaten Syria after UN Warns of Failing Ceasefire - Richard Spencer and Damien McElroy
    Western leaders issued the threat of international intervention to set up “humanitarian corridors” in Syria on Thursday after the UN warned that President Assad's regime was failing to honor the terms of a ceasefire. As foreign ministers gathered in Paris to discuss the crisis, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, compared the situation in Syria to that in Libya before the fall of Gaddafi and said the time had come to set up safe corridors for the provision of aid and to allow refugees to escape the fighting.
        Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, told the Security Council that the situation on the ground in Syria was "highly precarious" and that attacks were on the rise, including the "shelling of civilian areas," and he warned of "grave abuses by government forces."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iran Stonewalling Efforts to Inspect Parchin Site - Fredrik Dahl
    Just days after negotiations in Istanbul, Iran says it is ready to resume talks with the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, but still appears to be stonewalling a request for access to a key military site, Western diplomats said on Thursday. The IAEA's most pressing demand is that its inspectors be allowed to visit the Parchin military site southeast of Tehran, where nuclear-relevant research may have taken place.
        Iran must come clean "regarding clandestine work directly related to nuclear weaponization," including opening up sites such as Parchin to inspections, said Alireza Nader, a senior analyst at RAND Corporation. (Reuters)
  • U.S., Israeli Defense Chiefs Meet at the Pentagon
    U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hosted Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak Thursday in their second Pentagon meeting in as many months as concern grows over Syrian unrest and Iran's nuclear ambitions. The closed-door conversation focused on the "U.S.-Israel defense relationship and mutual regional security defense interests," the Pentagon said in a statement. At the end of their meeting, Panetta and Barak marked Holocaust Memorial Day by lighting candles in remembrance of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. (AFP)
  • Thousands of Youth Gather at Auschwitz to Remember Holocaust Victims
    An estimated 10,000 youth from Israel, the U.S. and other countries took part in the March of the Living on Thursday, marching between Auschwitz and Birkenau, the two parts of Nazi Germany's most notorious death complex, to honor the millions killed in the Holocaust. The participants were joined by a handful of Holocaust survivors and American military veterans who helped liberate several other death camps at the end of World War II. Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops in January 1945. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Barak: Talks Bought Iran 5 Weeks for Nuke Work - Yoni Dayan
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with CNN's Kristiana Amanpour on Thursday: "I am realistic enough to not be so optimistic about talks with Iran. The Iranians have a history of deceiving the world, sometimes through steps like this. So we are a little bit skeptical." "It is clear that the Iranians are focused on reaching nuclear capability, and they are ready to defy and deceive the whole world." "The sanctions are quite effective, but are far away from working."
        He added that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei had probably not yet given the order to start actually building a nuclear bomb, but said this was because they feared this would lead to a military strike.
        Barak said that if Iran were to stop enriching uranium past 20%, move their 20% enriched uranium to a friendly country, decommission their installation in Qom, and agree to IAEA conditions, Israel would be satisfied. "This should be the threshold," he said.
        "I don't want to drag the United States into anything," he added, saying that there is no difference in Israeli and U.S. intelligence assessments of Iran. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Barghouti Gave Orders to Palestinian Terror Groups - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti had confessed to giving instructions and money to Fatah terrorist groups that murdered Israeli citizens, according to Israel Security Agency records of his interrogation in April-May of 2002 which were revealed during judicial proceedings. Barghouti, sometimes spoken of as a successor to Mahmoud Abbas, is serving five consecutive life sentences and an additional 40 years for his part in terror attacks.
        Barghouti confessed to transferring funds, some that arrived from Arafat's office, to leaders of the terror groups. In some incidents he funded the purchase of weapons and in others he received reports on the terror attacks. In one incident - the shooting attack in which an Israeli citizen was killed near Givat Ze'ev - Barghouti confessed that he ordered the attack as revenge for the killing of a senior Fatah official.
        Barghouti said during his investigation that he chose to take part in the terror attacks against Israelis, among other things, to bolster his reputation in the West Bank. He said his decision was to give him priority over other leaders, who "didn't dirty their hands." He said, "A state should be established and part of the process is bloodshed."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also From the Barghouti Interrogation Transcripts - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
  • "80 Years Ago a Radical Militant Movement Denigrated the Jewish People as a Cancer to Be Cut Out" - Amb. Michael Oren
    Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke at the U.S. Capitol Thursday to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day: "Human history is rife with atrocities, massacres, and wars, but nothing can be equated with the enormity of the Holocaust. It is profoundly, unbearably, unique....Imagine if one-third of the Jewish people had not been annihilated. Imagine the doctors, the researchers, and the artists. Imagine the grandchildren and great-grandchildren flourishing throughout the world today. That is what we mean when we pledge 'Never Again.'"
        "Eighty years ago, the world was scarcely in the mood for confrontation. People were weary from the devastating losses of a recent war. Economies were in crisis. Unemployment was high, foreclosures commonplace."
        "Meanwhile, a radical militant movement dreamt of regional and global domination. Headed by a Supreme Leader, the movement burnt books and crushed its democratic opponents. It amassed vast arsenals of advanced weaponry and invaded neighboring countries....The movement denigrated the Jewish people as a cancer that had to be cut out. Today, too, there is such a radical regime - in Iran."
        "We must never equate the Holocaust with any other event but we also must never let it recur."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Nuclear Issue Puts Focus on Ayatollah's Remarks - James Risen
    As negotiations over Iran's nuclear program begin, efforts to divine where Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, really stands on the nuclear issue have taken on critical importance. The ayatollah was reported to have issued a fatwa, an Islamic edict, against Iranian acquisition of a nuclear bomb. But last year he said it was a mistake for Libya's Moammar Gaddafi to have given up his nuclear weapons program.
        Some analysts say Khamenei's denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions is part of a Shiite historical concept called "taqiyya," or lying to protect the Shiite community. Dennis B. Ross, who stepped down last fall after coordinating Iran policy for the White House, said, "This is someone who has consistently said if you make concessions, you only whet the appetite of the arrogant powers....He is committed to the nuclear program, but he is also someone who is obviously centered on preserving the system that he has created."  (New York Times)
  • What Nuclear Fatwa? - Dore Gold
    When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the talks with Iran, she explained that she heard a report from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told him that, under Islam, weapons of mass destruction are religiously prohibited. Clinton explained: "We will be meeting with the Iranians to discuss how you translate what is a stated belief into a plan of action."
        This religious argument is not new. In fact, on August 10, 2005, the Iranian government sent an official letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna stating that "Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam."
        At the IAEA, Pierre Goldschmidt, who was its former deputy director general, wanted to see if this fatwa even existed. He actually asked for a copy of the exact text of the nuclear fatwa in 2005. but the Iranians never came forth with anything in writing.
        Yet the IAEA disclosed in November 2011 that activities "relevant to the the development of a nuclear explosive device" took place. Thus, whether the famous nuclear fatwa existed or not, what is clear is that Iran persisted to develop an atomic bomb despite the supposed religious declarations ascribed to Khamenei. (Israel Hayom)

  • Other Issues

  • European Anti-Semitism: It's Not Just France - Walter Russell Mead
    It's easy and comforting to dismiss the recent wave of anti-Semitic hate crimes sweeping France as a continental outlier - an exception to the rule of European tolerance. It's also wrong. Take Malmo, Sweden, for example, a city whose mayor has taken to blaming Jews for their own persecution.
        If a gang of white American thugs attacked African-Americans, and defended their action on the ground that they were protesting Robert Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe, the world would laugh at their foolishness even as it condemned their bigotry. This isn't quite how it works when goons around the world attack Jews and Jewish buildings and defend themselves by saying that they are angered by things the Israeli government has done.
        Efforts are made to "understand" the perpetrators even as their actions are condemned. Somehow these events are seen as justifying, even requiring tough diplomatic measures against Israel - rather than demanding aggressive programs of civic education aimed at confronting the psychology of hate. (American Interest)
  • The New Arab Oz - Aaron David Miller
    In little more than a year, a powerful tsunami of rebellion and revolt has washed away much of what was familiar to America in the Middle East. Once upon a time there were those authoritarian presidents and kings on whom America depended to help protect its interests. In exchange for their cooperation in matters of war, peace, oil, and security, the U.S. supported them and looked past their human rights abuses.
        America's traditional friends are either gone, trying to get by, or increasingly unhappy with Washington's policies. The oil-for-security bargain that cemented the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been weakened, and the recent brouhaha over the NGOs and military aid to Egypt heralds troubled days ahead. The Palestinians, who have no strategy themselves to gain a state, have all but given up on the possibility that Barack Obama has one.
        The Arabs still want America's security assistance and military hardware. And the Iranian bogeyman guarantees that the Gulf states still want and need American protection. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. (Foreign Policy)
  • Is Jerusalem in Israel? - James Morrison
    The issue of Jerusalem has dogged U.S. presidents since 1995, when Congress approved the Jerusalem Embassy Act, requiring the U.S. to relocate the embassy to the Israeli capital. However, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have invoked a waiver that allows a president to postpone moving the embassy for national security reasons.
        The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), faulted all three presidents for evading the issue. "The Obama administration has followed in the flawed footsteps of its predecessors by refusing to fully implement U.S. law and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem," she said.
        The issue reached the Supreme Court last month, when the parents of a 9-year-old boy born in Jerusalem challenged the State Department for refusing to recognize his birthplace as being within Israel. The court, in an 8-1 decision, ruled that the State Department was ignoring a 2002 law that allows U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birthplace on their passports. (Washington Times)
  • Israel and the Struggle Over the International Laws of War. - Jennifer Rubin
    Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and holder of a PhD in political science and a J.D. from Yale, is out with a new book, Israel and the Struggle Over the International Laws of War. He explained: Israel's bitter experience with the Goldstone Report and, in the end, better experience with the Gaza flotilla controversy - both of which concerned Israel's operations against Hamas, which is the ruling authority in Gaza and which is sworn to Israel's destruction - involved the attempt by influential actors on the international stage to criminalize Israel's inherent right of self-defense. All liberal democracies must combat this abuse and corruption of the international laws of war.
        The international laws of war seek to balance the legitimate claims of military necessity and humanitarian responsibility. Liberal democracies such as Israel and the U.S., which are engaged in a long struggle against transnational terrorism and depend on their armed forces on a daily basis to defend their ways of life, have a special interest in the struggle over the international laws of war. That's in no small measure because soldiers and officers imbued with the principles of freedom and equality justly take pride in honoring laws of war rightly understood. (Washington Post)
  • "Israelism": Hassan Barari and Why He Gives Me Hope - Ed Rettig
    Dr. Hassan Barari, a Jordanian-born professor of political science at the University of Nebraska, is committed to "peaceful coexistence and historical reconciliation between the Arabs and the Israelis." His new book, Israelism, addresses "the underdevelopment of Israeli studies in the Arab world." Barari divides Arab academic work on Israel into three overarching "hegemonic discourses" - Marxist, pan-Arabist, and Islamist. He shows how scholars in each sector fail to account for Israeli resilience, not to mention success, because they set out to make a case rather than to investigate a subject. He also points to the connection between shallow analysis by scholars and bad decision-making in the Arab world. The writer is director of the American Jewish Committee's Jerusalem Office. (Times of Israel)
  • Happy 64th Birthday, Israel! - David Harris
    Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only UN member-state whose right to exist is regularly challenged, whose elimination from the world map is the aim of at least one other UN member-state, Iran, and whose population centers are deemed fair game by Hamas-controlled Gaza and Hizbullah-dominated Lebanon.
        No other country is the target of such non-stop, well-funded, and highly-organized campaigns to discredit, delegitimize, and demonize a sovereign state. And no other country has its right to self-defense challenged as Israel does, even though it does no more than any other nation would do if confronted by periodic terrorist assaults and deadly missile and rocket attacks.
        I have enormous admiration for Israel - for its resolve, resilience, courage, and ingenuity. Israel has not flinched. It refuses to cave. It keeps confounding its foes. The writer is executive director of the American Jewish Committee. (Huffington Post)

  • Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day

  • Holocaust Day Torchlighters - 2012 (Yad Vashem)
    Each year six torches are lit in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. On Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2012, these were the torchlighters:
    • Bat-Sheva Dagan was born in 1925 in Lodz, Poland. After the war broke out, her parents and older sister were murdered in Treblinka, while her sister Sabina was shot and killed while trying to leave the ghetto. Bat-Sheva fled to Germany where she used false documents to work as a maid for a Nazi family until her ruse was discovered and she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Bat-Sheva is a pioneer in the field of Holocaust teaching for young children.
    • Eliezer Lev-Zion was born in 1927 in Berlin, Germany. His father, Nathan, was a journalist, and his mother, Franscheska, a doctor who managed a Jewish orphanage. A month after the Nazis came to power, his father was arrested and disappeared and his mother fled with him to France. He joined the Jewish underground and was sent by Father Alexandre Glasberg, head of a refugee organization, to smuggle children out of a French detention camp. Father Glasberg would hand children to Eliezer over the barbed wire, and he would take them on his bicycle to a hiding place. In this way, he helped save 36 children.
    • Artemis Miron was born in 1928 in Ioannina, Greece. After the Germans entered Greece her father and grandfather were shot to death, and she was sent with her mother and brother to Auschwitz. Artemis volunteers at Yad Vashem translating testimonies from Greek to Hebrew, and has completed 1,838 Pages of Testimony in memory of the Jews of Ioannina murdered during the Holocaust.
    • Anatoly Rubin was born in 1928 in Minsk, Belarus. After the German invasion, he and his family were imprisoned in the Minsk ghetto. During an aktion in November 1941, the family was rounded up, but Anatoly managed to sneak out from the rows of people marching towards the mass graves. Anatoly was imprisoned in 1946 for 18 months during the Stalinist persecution of Jews. In 1958, he was falsely accused of conspiring to assassinate Khrushchev and of spreading "anti-Soviet propaganda." At his trial, he delivered a defiant speech declaring his dream to go to Israel. He served six years in prison. He finally immigrated to Israel in 1969.
    • Chasia Vardi was born in 1932 in Poland. After all of the town's Jews were rounded up, Chasia fled with her mother and grandmother. During the day, Chasia begged for food in nearby villages, and at night she slept in the forest. In November 1942, the Germans captured 11 people from Chasia's group, including Chasia, her mother, and two cousins. They were taken to a ditch and shot. Miraculously, Chasia survived. In April 1946, Chasia immigrated to Israel, joined Kibbutz Gan Shemuel as part of a youth group which was trained under the auspices of the Palmach, and then took part in the establishment of Kibbutz Nir Yitzchak.
    • Yehuda Widawski was born in 1919 in Poland. By 1936, Yehuda was managing a textile business in Lodz employing 38 Jewish seamstresses. In August 1944, the Lodz ghetto was liquidated and the Widawskis were deported to Auschwitz. Only he, a brother and an uncle survived. In 1978, Yehuda traveled to Lodz and, together with a friend, set about restoring the Jewish cemetery. So far, 7,000 graves have been renovated.
  • Teachers from Rural U.S. on Educational Journey to Poland and Israel - Corinne Lestch
    17 teachers from schools across the U.S. are still processing an emotionally powerful trip to Poland and Israel to deepen their understanding of the Holocaust, and bring back their experiences to the classroom. "We're using the Holocaust as a lens to teach social justice, and we wanted to concentrate on teachers who have very little access to resources or survivors," said Sondra Perl, an English professor who helped create the Holocaust Educators Network at Lehman College.
        "They're addressing local issues in their own home states around injustice, tolerance, bullying, racism. Most of them are not Jewish." "Poland broke my heart, and Israel blew my mind," Perl recalled a teacher from Idaho saying. (New York Daily News)

Assessing Abbas' Strategy - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed an agreement in Cairo with the Islamic Hamas movement, ruler of Gaza, that promised parliamentary and presidential elections within a year - i.e., by now. Needless to say, no Palestinian elections are on the horizon.
  • Abbas published in the New York Times his intention to take the Palestinian case to the UN, where he would seek full membership from the Security Council or General Assembly, and last September duly launched his campaign. But neither the Security Council nor the General Assembly ever voted on the Palestinian case. In the Security Council, it turned out that the Palestinians lacked the votes to win even a simple majority.
  • Last fall, Palestinians were urged to turn out for mass pro-statehood demonstrations. Abbas' aides made no secret of their hopes that a new popular intifada would erupt, a Palestinian version of the Arab Spring that, combined with the UN votes, would bring unprecedented pressure on Israel. Only nothing happened. There were a couple of West Bank demonstrations but no intifada.
  • Abbas has repeatedly backed away from serious diplomacy, citing as an excuse Israeli settlement construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank - something that did not stop him from participating in negotiations with previous Israeli governments. Not for the first time, Mahmoud Abbas succeeded only in delaying Palestinian statehood - and weakening his own cause.
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