Friday, April 18, 2008

Mr. Zahar and Mr. Carter

From The Washington Post Editorial Thursday, April 17, 2008:

The former president...embraces Hamas terrorists.

...the "foreign minister" of Hamas, Mahmoud al-Zahar...drips with hatred for Israel, and with praise for former president Jimmy Carter.

...Mr. Carter holding what appears to be a series of meetings with Hamas leaders during a tour of the Middle East. He met one militant in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday and was reportedly planning to meet Mr. Zahar in Cairo today before traveling to Damascus for an appointment with Khaled Meshal, Hamas's top leader.

Mr. Zahar lauds Mr. Carter for the "welcome tonic" of saying that no peace process can succeed "unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions." Yet Mr. Zahar has his own preconditions: Before any peace process can "take even its first tiny step," he says, Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders and evacuate Jerusalem while preparing for the "return of millions of refugees."

In fact, as Mr. Zahar makes clear, Hamas is not at all interested in a negotiated peace with the Jewish state, whose existence it refuses to accept: "Our fight to redress the material crimes of 1948 is scarcely begun..." ....

In that fight, no act of terrorism is out of bounds for the Hamas leader, who endorses the group's recent ambush of Israeli civilians working at a fuel depot that supplies Gaza. The "total war" of which he speaks was initiated and has been sustained by Hamas itself through its deliberate targeting of civilians, such as the residents of the Israeli town of Sderot, who suffer daily rocket attacks.

These facts would hardly need restating were it not for actors such as Mr. Carter, who portray Hamas as rational and reasonable. Hamas is "perfectly willing" for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "to represent them in all direct negotiations with the Israelis, and they also maintain that they will accept any agreement that he brokers with the Israelis" provided a referendum is held on it.... In fact, Mr. Zahar has called Mr. Abbas "a traitor" for negotiating with Israel -- a label that is, in the Palestinian context, an incitement to murder.

Mr. Carter justifies his meetings with familiar arguments about the value of dialogue with enemies. But he misses the point. Contacts between enemies can be useful: Israel is legendary for such negotiations, and even now it is engaged in back-channel bargaining with Hamas through Egypt. But it is one thing to communicate pragmatically, and quite another to publicly and unconditionally grant recognition and political sanction to a leader or a group that advocates terrorism, mass murder or the extinction of another state. That is what Mr. Carter is doing by lending what is left of his prestige to an avowed terrorist such as Khaled Meshal -- or Mahmoud al-Zahar.

A tale of two Cities

A good friend, Kamal, has just sent me this presentation written by a former Lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies at a UK University.

...From the Introduction
We often hear it said that Israel is a ‘fascist, apartheid state’, a cross between Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and South Africa between 1948 and 1994. Is this true? Have the Jews who sought refuge in their ancient homeland really become the Nazis who persecuted them ? Have the longest victims of racism really become racists themselves ? To help you decide, here are some important images....

...From the Conclusion
Today, for the first time in almost 2000 years, the Jews have a state. A refuge from persecution. A tiny strip of land to call their own. We all have a choice: We can join those who want to destroy that state, with all the holy places and believers it protects. We can join forces with religious fanatics, Nazi sympathizers, anti-Semites, preachers of genocide and racists.

Or we can stand up for justice and human rights, and recognize Israel for what it is: an imperfect but progressive democracy that stands head and shoulders above most countries when it comes to human rights and a desire for peace.

The choice is one for all of us to make.

Follow this link to see the full presentation.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jews fleeing Paris suburbs

From JTA, by Devorah Lauter (Published: 12 March 2008):

Charly Hannoun, the president of the Villepinte Jewish community, sits in an empty Beth Hazikaron synagogue.
VILLEPINTE, France (JTA) -- Rabbi David Altabe looks older than his 27 years when he talks about the future of the Jewish community in this working-class suburb of Paris....
....Over a period of just three years, roughly half the Jewish families in Villepinte have left. Some have gone to other suburbs or Paris neighborhoods considered safer for Jews; a few have left the country. Of 300 families three years ago, only 150 remain today, community president Charly Hannoun estimates. The reason, he says, is anti-Semitism.
Now Villepinte’s 40-year-old synagogue, which was torched in 1991 and 2001, is at risk of closing because there are barely enough regulars for a minyan. Jewish community leaders are wondering if Jews have a future here. “It’s a whole history that's being erased,” says Hannoun, who worked with contractors and friends to build the town’s synagogue. “It's the end of the synagogue, and I say that with rage in my heart.”

Villepinte is one stark example of what is happening to many Jewish communities in the immigrant-heavy suburbs of the Seine-Saint-Denis region, north of Paris. Scarred by the surge in anti-Semitism that swept through France between 2000 and 2005, roughly two-thirds of the mostly Sephardic Jews who once lived in these close-knit communities have left town.

Sammy Ghozlan, the president of the Seine-Saint-Denis Council of Jewish Communities, says more than 16,000 Jews have moved out of the suburbs since 2001. Left behind are synagogues weighing whether to close and mostly poor, elderly and religious Jewish families.

Experts say the Jewish flight from the suburbs is changing the demographics of France’s Jewish community and increasing the ghettoization of Jews in the country. All of France is experiencing the problem, says University of Paris sociologist Shmuel Trigano, the author of "The Future of the Jews in France."
"It is a general shift, not a passing crisis," Trigano says. "The Jewish community is becoming a ghetto. It is no longer a community of choice but a community of necessity. In a democracy that shouldn't happen." ...

...."By the next generation there will be practically no more Jews in the northern Paris periphery," says Maurice Robert Fellous, the president of the Jewish community in Noisy-le-Sec, a northern Paris suburb. "In 25 years we'll have to sell our synagogue."

Since 2000, nearly 40 percent of Noisy-le-Sec’s school-aged Jewish families have pulled their children from area public schools and enrolled them in Jewish institutions, Fellous says. He attributes the shift to the area’s general anti-Jewish environment and specific incidents students have encountered, such as being beaten up and subjected to insults and taunts. Many regularly hear the cry "dirty Jew!" This shift to Jewish schools is apparent in many places in France, albeit to a lesser degree than in Noisy-le-Sec. ...

...."They chased us from Algeria and they followed us here," Robert Sebbane, 81, says of the North African Muslims responsible for much of France’s anti-Jewish crime.

In 2000, "we were shocked because we didn't think this would happen here," says Sebbane, who lives in the town of Creteil. Even in Seine-Saint-Denis, which community leaders say is a comparatively safe area, Jewish residents are subject to anti-Semitic taunts and youths regularly spit at synagogues as they walk past. Some religious Jews in France have warned community members not to display their yarmulkes in public.

In Villepinte, Hannoun says families started departing "very rapidly" in 2004, when "the reality of the situation set in." "It was horrible," he says. "You couldn't walk out of synagogue. Families couldn't take it."...
...Hannoun says he is torn between the desire to recruit new Jewish families to the neighborhood to replace those who have left and discouraging potential community members from coming to a place he fears is not good for Jews. "Honestly, I don't know if I want them to come," he says, adding however that he encourages couples who cannot afford housing elsewhere to settle here.
Though he has the financial means to relocate, Hannoun says he will not move so long as he is needed by Jews in Villepinte.

“After us there'll be nothing left,” Hannoun says. “We can't lower our hands while we still have a role to play. It's like being the captain on a sinking ship." ...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

AIJAC campus co-ordinator

From The Australian, by Brendan O'Keefe April 16, 2008:

JOEL Burnie, 23, [is] the first campus co-ordinator [in Australia] to promote Israel and Jewish culture....

...The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council has appointed him inaugural (part-time) student program co-ordinator for universities across the country. It's a joint venture with the US campus movement StandWithUs....

Australian academe was a "rogues' gallery of anti-Zionists", Ted Lapkin, former AIJAC director of policy analysis, wrote in Quadrant magazine in 2006.

...Mr Burnie said: ..."The role involves promotion of Israeli culture and promotion of Israeli speakers that may come out to Australia. It will give students access to these people so they can listen and be educated."

AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein said in a statement that the Burnie appointment represented a "serious effort to increase understanding about the Middle East at Australian universities...It demonstrates that AIJAC and SWU appreciate how important campuses are in shaping public opinion," he said.

SWU president Esther Renzer welcomed Mr Burnie's appointment on, saying: "When Jewish and non-Jewish students are presented with a comprehensive and balanced picture of Israel, they understand that what they might read in the newspapers, or hear on radio, or see on television, is not always true or fair."

Last year Mr Burnie was national president of the Australian Union of Jewish Students....

PA cozying up to USA's enemies

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 16, 2008, by Herb Keinon*:

President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority is snugly in bed with the United States' worst enemies, according to a report presented in Washington on Tuesday by Palestinian Media Watch.

"There is ample evidence that the contacts between the Palestinian Authority and the enemies of the United States have the characteristics of relations between allies who share a common ideological bond," said the report, presented at a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by PMW's director Itamar Marcus and associate director Barbara Crook, days before Abbas goes to Washington for a meeting with US President George W. Bush.

Marcus was invited to the committee by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Elliot Engel (D-NY).

"Hatred of the United States and disdain for its role of world leadership are the essence of this bond," the report reads. "If a Palestinian state were to be established before a qualitative shift in ideology, it is inevitable that the proposed state would join the alliance of enemies of the US and would strengthen those countries in undermining American goals for world peace."

Based on dozens of citations in the Palestinian media going back to 2005, predominantly articles and editorials in the PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the report concludes that Abbas's PA is "allied with many states who see themselves as enemies of the US and whom the US sees as threatening US security and world peace. Significantly, the affinity that is felt for such geographically distant non-Muslim countries - such as North Korea, Cuba, and Chavez's Venezuela - is precisely because these states publicly challenge and express loathing for the US."

The US was depicted by Fatah leaders, their controlled media and the PA education system with "disdain and loathing," the report contends, bringing numerous examples showing PA adoration and support for Saddam Hussein and the insurgency in Iraq, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Hizbullah.....

...Ros-Lehtinen said at the briefing that while Congress wanted to see peace, stability, and security prevail in the Middle East, "that goal remains elusive when Fatah continues to publish maps displaying a so-called State of Palestine that covers not only the West Bank and Gaza, but all of the land that constitutes the present State of Israel."

"My friends, how one nation depicts another people will often define the relations between them," she said.

Ros-Lehtinen said that "given the PA's repeated failure - in both word and deed - to verifiably halt all incendiary rhetoric emanating from its institutions, and to officially and publicly denounce such hate speech, the administration should stop unconditionally funding that body." ...

*Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Syrian armored division masses on Israeli-Lebanese borders

From DEBKAfile, April 14, 2008, 7:52 PM (GMT+02:00):

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Damascus has deployed the 10th armored corps at the Massaneh crossing of Mount Hermon. It links up with the northwestern positions the 14th division took up last month on the Syrian-Israeli border which cuts through the Hermon range.

Syrian troops are now strung along a continuous crescent-shaped line from the central Lebanese mountains through Mt Dov on the western slopes of Mt. Hermon and up to southeastern Lebanon. This deployment, commanding Syria’s Israeli and Lebanese borders, is under the command of the president’s brother, Maher Assad.

...The IDF’s Northern Command officers report that the Syrian army’s buildup opposite Israel has accelerated in April and warn that its units are arrayed for a quick transition to attack mode.
The link-up between Syria’s 10th and 14th divisions on the border running through Mt Hermon should have been a wake-up call for the government in Jerusalem, they say, and elicited counter-moves to show Damascus that Israel is ready to meet every contingency....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Olmert to snub Carter over Hamas visit

From, Apr 11, 2008, by Joshua Mitnick :

TEL AVIV — Former President Jimmy Carter will receive the cold shoulder in Israel next week over his plan to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in the Syrian capital during a tour of the Middle East.

Citing scheduling difficulties, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu turned down requests for meetings from the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. “You draw your own conclusions,” said an Israeli official who declined to be identified. “Israeli officials have expressed outrage at the possibility that he'll meet Mashaal. ... He's the leader of a terrorist organization.”

The meeting could undermine a joint policy by the U.S. and Israel to keep Hamas politically isolated. Mr. Carter would become the most prominent Western figure to meet with Hamas, which is considered by the U.S. and the European Union to be a terrorist organization. Mr. Mashaal is considered a leading Hamas hard-liner who opposes peace talks with Israel or any recognition of the Jewish state.

The U.S. State Department said it advised the former president against meeting with Hamas officials. “U.S. government policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and we don't believe it is in the interest of our policy or in the interest of peace to have such a meeting,” spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “If [Mr. Carter] decides to travel to Syria, we will provide full support befitting a former president of the United States,” Mr. McCormack added. “One thing we will not do, however, is have the Department of State, in any way, engage in any sort of planning related to a meeting with Hamas.” ...

... The meeting with the Hamas leader in Damascus would be the headline event of Mr. Carter's trip to the region starting Sunday, which also will include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the West Bank and Jordan. ...

...To be sure, Mr. Carter won't face a full-on boycott in Israel next week: he has meetings scheduled with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and even such right-wing politicians as parliament member Avigdor Lieberman and Trade Minister Eli Yishai....

... A Carter-Mashaal meeting would be the first public contact in two years between a prominent American figure and Hamas officials. In 2006, the Rev. Jesse Jackson met Mr. Mashaal during a visit to Syria.