Islamists Press Blasphemy Cases in a New Egypt - Ben Hubbard and Mayy El Sheikh (New York Times)
Egypt's prosecutors have been flooded with blasphemy complaints since 2011 as Islamists exercising their new societal clout have pushed for prosecutions and courts have handed down steep fines and prison terms for insulting religion.
This month alone, a Christian teacher in Luxor was fined $14,000 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in class, a writer was given five years in prison for promoting atheism, and a Christian lawyer was sentenced to one year for insulting Islam - in a private conversation.
The campaign is driven at the local level, where religious activists have also forced officials to suspend teachers and professors.
Egyptian Politician: Jews Use Human Blood for Passover Matzos (MEMRI TV)
Khaled Al-Zaafrani, founder of the Egyptian Justice and Progress Party, told Al-Hafez TV on May 12, 2013:
"It is the Jews who have instigated wars in the world. They instigated World War I, as well as World War II."
"It is well known that during the Passover, they make matzos called the 'Blood of Zion.' They take a Christian child, slit his throat and slaughter him. Then they take his blood and make their [matzos]. This is a very important rite for the Jews, which they never forgo."
Motto of Hamas Summer Camps in Gaza: "The Generation of Return" (MEMRI)
Hamas is operating 700 camps in Gaza this summer, attended by approximately 100,000 children and teens. Their motto this year is "Generation of Return."
At the opening ceremony in Gaza,
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared:
"The dawn of return is approaching. This generation will witness the liberation and return....We will...pass the right of return on to this [new] generation. Israel has no future on our Palestinian soil."
A Hamas-affiliated daily stressed: "Return is sure to be realized, and we must use the time for action, martyrdom and jihad."
USA Today Runs BDS Press Release as a Story - Simon Plosker (Honest Reporting)
On June 12, USA Today published a story concerning efforts by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to force Alicia Keys to cancel a concert in Israel.
The article, accusing Israel of "large-scale abuses of Palestinian rights," was copied almost verbatim from a press release put out by the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
EU Audit: Europe Aid to Egypt Had Little Impact on Reform - Reem Abdellatif
(Wall Street Journal)
The 1 billion in aid given to Egypt by the EU over the past seven years has been virtually ineffective in combating the country's endemic corruption and human rights violations, according to an assessment by the EU's Court of Auditors.
"The time has come for a more focused approach which will produce meaningful results and guarantee better value for the European taxpayers' money," said Karel Pinxten, the ECA member responsible for the report.
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- Iran's Rowhani Rules Out Halt to Uranium Enrichment
Hassan Rowhani, Iran's president-elect, on Monday ruled out a halt to Iran's controversial uranium enrichment program. He also said the U.S. must recognize Iran's nuclear rights if it wanted to hold nuclear talks.
See also Russia: Iran Ready to Stop 20-Percent Enrichment - Jim Heintz
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Iran has confirmed that it is ready to halt production of uranium enriched to 20%. "The international community should respond appropriately to the constructive moves by the Iranian side, including step-by-step halting and cancellation of sanctions," Lavrov said.
Any halt in 20% enrichment would not necessarily mean any drawdown in enrichment capabilities; the labs could concentrate on producing more lower-grade enriched uranium. (AP-TIME)
- Israel: Kerry's Efforts Helped Calm the West Bank
Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, who heads the IDF Central Command, said Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts helped calm the situation in the West Bank. "The last couple of months of very intensive American involvement also had some positive influence on the ground," Alon told the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
- A-List Celebration for Israeli President's 90th Birthday - Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner
At a gala in honor of Israeli President Shimon Peres, the world's oldest leader who turns 90 in August, there were former statesmen (Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev), celebrities (Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone), scholars and scions (five Nobel laureates and authors of 1,412 books, all with a collective net worth topping $24 billion, according to organizers), gathered Tuesday at Jerusalem's convention center to fete Mr. Peres, whose public life has paralleled that of the modern State of Israel.
"We, in Britain, have our queen, and you have your Shimon," declared former British prime minister and Middle East envoy Tony Blair. Clinton cracked that Peres was "the last living Israeli who knew King David." A protege of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, after helping establish early Jewish settlements in the heart of the West Bank, Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo accords with the Palestinians.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Israel Won't Accept Less than Total Halt of Iran's Nuclear Enrichment - Barak Ravid
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: "We cannot let Iran ride out the clock through endless talks. Iran must comply with UN Security Council resolutions. We cannot accept anything less than 1) the total cessation of all enrichment of nuclear materials at all levels, 2) the removal from Iran of all enriched nuclear material, 3) the closure of Iran's illicit nuclear facilities. And until Iran meets these demands, pressure must be stepped up and the Iranian nuclear program must be stopped. Period." (Ha'aretz)
See also Text of Netanyahu's Remarks (Prime Minister's Office)
- Fiji Troops Replace Austrian Peacekeepers in Golan
The UN announced Monday that 170 peacekeepers from Fiji will join the Disengagement Observer Force stationed on the Israel-Syria border by the end of the month. They will be replacing Austrian forces who pulled out of the area following an escalation in the fighting in Syria. The Philippines has also announced they will be pulling their forces from the area. (Ynet News)
See also UN Likely to Expand Golan Peacekeeping Force
UN Security Council president Mark Lyall Grant of Britain says the UN is likely to expand its peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights from 913 to 1,250. (AP-ABC News)
- Turkey's Erdogan Welcomes Hamas Leaders - Herb Keinon
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on Tuesday welcomed Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh for meetings in Ankara, the Turkish capital.
- Israeli Perspectives on Syria - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog
Recent developments confirm that nearly 40 years of quiet on the Syria border are about to end. From the Israeli side of the border on the Golan Heights you can see the fighting inside Syria with your own eyes.
I still believe that there are sufficient insurgent forces not connected to jihadists or Islamists, and that weapons should be provided to them. Every day that goes by with the West continuing to be passive helps radicalize the conflict. It empowers Islamists at the expense of non-Islamists, and it highlights the asymmetry between the active role being played by Russia, Hizbullah and Iran in support of Assad, and the passive role being played by the West in countering Assad. I am not advocating military intervention by the West, but I would still support providing weapons to carefully vetted non-Islamist forces.
The fact that Hizbullah is so invested in the war in Syria has some advantages for Israel. Hizbullah is almost totally focused on Syria rather than Israel, they are losing people there, and their involvement triggers a lot of criticism in the Sunni Arab street and in Lebanon itself, where they are under a lot of pressure. Sheikh Qardawi, the spiritual leader of the Sunni world, recently stated publicly that Hizbullah is worse than Jews and Christians. (BICOM)
- A "Pragmatic" Mullah - Bret Stephens
Hassan Rowhani is the man who chaired Iran's National Security Council between 1989 and 2005, meaning he was at the top table when Iran masterminded the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people, and of the Khobar Towers in 1996, killing 19 U.S. airmen. He would also have been intimately familiar with the secret construction of Iran's illicit nuclear facilities in Arak, Natanz and Isfahan, which weren't publicly exposed until 2002.
Now the West is supposed to be grateful that Ahmadinejad's scowling face will be replaced by Rowhani's smiling one - a bad-cop, good-cop routine that Iran has played before.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also And the Winner is... Iran's Nuclear Program - Harold Rhode
In the West, we constantly look for ways not to engage in military conflict; the Iranians are more than willing to offer us those ways. We will almost assuredly give the new president Hassan Rowhani time to "consolidate" his position, thereby granting Iran even more time to develop its nuclear weapons capability.
The eight candidates chosen to run for president all clearly supported Khamanei's continued rule. Since Rowhani spoke "moderately" during the campaign, having him win almost guaranteed that the Iranian people - who came out into the streets after the previous elections were stolen from them - would not this time protest the election results.
Ayatollah Khamenei is today the only decision-maker in Iran. The Iranian president is nothing more than a figurehead. By pinning our hopes on President Rowhani, and parsing his every word, we will find countless ways to give him time to "consolidate his power," as if he really has power, while we will be less demanding of Iran as it races to cross the nuclear threshold. Making Rowhani the president was a brilliant strategic move for Khamenei - not just to pacify the West, by also to pacify the Iranian people.
See also Iran's Election: Victory for the Islamic Republic
The election of Hassan Rowhani may be an even bigger blessing for Khamenei and the conservative establishment who can claim renewed legitimacy over a unified Iran, amid the instability rocking Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The new president is a pragmatist and may herald some shift in domestic politics and in the tone of international negotiations, but he remains very much an establishment figure and proposes no change of course in the substance of the Islamic Republic's regime, nor its foreign policy.
Israel's Security Policy in a Changing Middle East - Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- In the Middle East we witness the strengthening of political
Islam, the entrance of even more radical jihadi elements into the arena, the heightened Shia-Sunni conflict everywhere, and radical Sunni elements in many countries around us.
- At the same time, Israel enjoys today a relatively calm situation security-wise. The
border with Lebanon has been quiet since 2006. The
border with Syria is, generally
speaking, calm. In Gaza we have gone a couple of
weeks with not even one provocation on behalf of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic
Jihad or any other faction. Sinai: again, a relatively calm situation.
Having served in the military, I don't remember such a calm situation for such a long period
- But we have to warn ourselves that what dominates the Middle East is instability. So
far, they are engaged among themselves, fighting each other, but it might be, in the
end, that the weapons are directed toward us. They are well-armed - militias, elements, whether Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad - with rockets and missiles, which are a threat for our security.
- In the current situation, the Egyptian and Israeli defense establishments have
good cooperation for the benefit of our two countries. Sitting in Cairo and looking
around, I believe that the only safe border is the border with us. Neither from Libya
nor Sudan; the Gaza Strip is a problem; even across the Red Sea, Yemen is not
stabilized; so this [the border with Israel] is their only safe border.
- These days, in Sinai, [Egyptian] military forces
are deployed to deal with the terror elements. It is against the military annex of the
peace accord, but we allowed it. [They made a] special request; we responded
positively for a certain period of time. And, of course, we expect the Egyptian
defense forces to deal with this phenomenon of terrorists using
Sinai as no-man's-land, because, in the end, the weapons are directed
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