Friday, February 06, 2009

Hamas Political process

To see how the "democratically elected" Hamas defeats its political opponents, click here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

There may be the will but not necessarily the way

From The Australian, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor February 05, 2009:

BARACK Obama will not bring peace to the Middle East. He will not end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

... Within Israel there is a broad consensus on what a peace agreement would look like. Palestine gets all the land of the West Bank and Gaza except for the large Jewish settlement blocks that are effectively suburbs of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. These house 80 per cent of the Jewish settlers on 5 per cent of the disputed land. The new Palestinian state would get land from Israel proper to make up for this 5 per cent.

But Israel cannot do that deal unless a credible Palestinian leadership can put an end to serious terrorism, especially cross-border rocket launches, and will accept that such a settlement is the end of Palestinian territorial claims, and unless the Arab world recognises Israel and makes peace with it as a Jewish state.

These conditions cannot be met...

.... Hamas knew what the rockets would bring ...why did Hamas want such an Israeli response in the first place?

The answer is to have Israel painted again as the international villain. It also wanted to inflame Islamic opinion. In this it has succeeded. Even in moderate Islamic majority states such as Indonesia and Malaysia, Israel has been demonised in recent weeks.

In the Arab world it is much worse. It is true that the leaders of key Arab nations, such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, fear the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is a branch, and fear Iran, which sponsors Hamas, much more than they hate Israel. Therefore their response to Israel's action was moderate. But this was only possible because there is no democracy in the Arab Middle East. In democratic Turkey the Prime Minister had to engineer a public confrontation with Shimon Peres. A number of the smaller Gulf states have been awash with virulent anti-Israel hatred. This all has something like the effect Hamas wants.

Hamas's goals and motivation are theological and filled with sectarian hatred and anti-Semitism. If you doubt this just google the Hamas charter and read gems such as: "The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: 'The (end of days) will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!"'

Hamas has engaged in countless atrocities against Palestinians it doesn't like. It has murdered many Fatah men, but the media subjects this behaviour to very little scrutiny. Hamas is somehow accepted as just a force of nature, not held morally responsible for its actions.

Even if Hamas has been partly discredited by this conflict, the wider ideology of Islamist jihad, under various brands, has currency in the Palestinian population, and among the Shiites of southern Lebanon.

So Hamas has absolutely no desire to negotiate a peaceful Palestinian state living in neighbourly quiet next to Israel. Hamas, and many Palestinians, have effectively abandoned the two-state solution. They instead have a long-term demographic strategy. In 1950, there were 240,000 Gazans, Now there are 1.5 million. By 2040 there will be three million. Eventually, they believe, they will swamp Israel with sheer numbers. And they will never let Israel be free of responsibility for them, either by an association with Egypt, which is what Israel tried to achieve by its withdrawal in 2005, or by becoming an independent state at peace.

At the other end of the spectrum, I believe many moderate Palestinians don't really want two states either. If you were an Arab East Jerusalemite, would you really want to leave Israel, with its modern economy, world class hospitals etc, to be ruled either by the corrupt kleptomaniacs of Fatah or the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas?

To all this, Obama can bring prestige, goodwill and new energy. It won't be enough. Bill Clinton brought all this to the situation in 2000, with a less Islamised and polarised Palestinian population, and a less bitter Israeli public opinion. Clinton failed. So will Obama.

Instead of a solution, we should look for Israel to manage the situation at the lowest level of violence possible, while encouraging any normalisation that can take place. It's not much, but at least it's possible.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Iraqi woman had 80 women raped then recruited as suicide bombers

From The Australian, February 04, 2009, by Agence France-Presse correspondents in Baghdad:

A WOMAN suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame.

Samira Jassam, 51, was arrested by Iraqi police and confessed to recruiting the women and orchestrating dozens of attacks.

In a video confession, she explained how she had mentally prepared the women for martyrdom operations, passed them on to terrorists who provided explosives, and then took the bombers to their targets.

"We arrested Samira Jassim, known as 'Um al-Mumenin', the mother of the believers, who was responsible for recruiting 80 women'', Major General Qassim Atta said.

"She confessed her responsibility for these actions, and she confirmed that 28 attempts had been made in one of the terrorists' strongholds,'' he said.

... Women are often allowed through military checkpoints without being searched, making it easier for them to hide explosives under their traditional robes.

UN disseminates lies and a willing media swallows them

From The Australian Editorial, February 04, 2009:

Jason Koutsoukis reports in The Sydney Morning Herald on January 8 on an Israeli war crime that once again wasn't...

...[excerpts from the original Sydney Morning Herald article are included]...

...In fact, as Patrick Martin reports in Canada's The Globe and Mail on January 29, 2009, Ging of UNRWA knew all along there was no attack on the school but didn't set the record straight:

...[excerpts from the Globe and Mail expose are then provided - we first posted excerpts here on JIW ]

Iran satellite launch 'cause for global concern'

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 3, 2009, by Staff*:

Iran's successful launch of its first domestically-produced satellite into orbit is "cause for concern not just here in the United States but in Europe, throughout the Middle East and I believe throughout the greater world," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell was quoted as saying on Tuesday. ...Iran poses "a real threat and it is a growing threat..." ....

Also in the report, US State Department spokesman Robert Wood was quoted as saying that the US was "gravely" concerned over the launch.

The 'Omid,' meaning hope in Persian, was sent into orbit on the order of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to mark the Islamic Republic's 30th anniversary, according to Iranian news agencies. 'Omid' was said to have been placed in the orbit by an Iranian-made 'Safir' satellite-carrier.

In Jerusalem, the head of Israel's Space Agency, Zvi Kaplan, said initial reports show that a satellite was launched. "From what I have been investigating it is true," he said.

...Iran has in the past launched satellites using rockets built by other nations, but this was the first announcement of such a launch with an Iranian-made rocket...

*AP contributed to this report.

Why I support Likud

From, by Isi Leibler, February 3, 2009 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

... I am convinced that Likud represents the best available choice to effectively lead the nation during the difficult period facing us....

...The incumbent government parties, Kadima and Labor, are committed to extending the same failed approach that led us into the mire in which we now find ourselves. Both Barak and Livni are assiduously avoiding any discussion about specific policies and concentrating on demonizing their opponents. Neither is willing to clarify their position on ceding territory to the Palestinians or dividing Jerusalem. All we hear are endless meaningless mantras endorsing two independent states living peacefully side by side with one another.

...overall Likud is indisputably fielding the most talented team. contrast to his opponents, Netanyahu does articulate policy guidelines. He undertakes to maintain negotiations with the PA but is adamant that no further territorial concessions will be considered without genuine reciprocity. He pledges to oppose the physical division of Jerusalem. He announced that he would not create new settlements but undertook to act on the premise that the settlement blocs adjacent to Israel are here to stay and must be expanded to cater for natural growth.

Netanyahu displayed commendable restraint and declined to criticize government policy during the Gaza campaign. But he made it clear that unless it comes to terms with our existence, Hamas must be destroyed. He undertook to ensure that deterrence would be effectively applied and is adamant that a Likud government would under no circumstances remain impotent if Israelis continue being targeted by missiles.

Netanyahu's opponents allege that ... Netanyahu would create a disastrous confrontation with the United States. This is nonsense. Netanyahu and Obama have already had harmonious meetings. But it is crucial today for Israel to have a leader who not only understands the American scene but has the capacity to know when to concede as well as when to be strong enough to say no. The capitulation by former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to the demands by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cede control of the Philadelphi corridor during the Sharon era was a prime example of a disaster arising from failure to resist unreasonable American demands.

Beyond security and Finance Minister, his qualifications in this area are not in question.

The other issue is Netanyahu's passionate commitment to reforming the education system and dealing with the disastrous erosion of Zionist and Jewish values in the state educational streams. Being one of the most urbane politicians in Israel, Netanyahu genuinely understands the critical need to raise overall educational standards and harness them to enhance Jewish and Zionist identity. achieve this, Likud must obtain sufficient seats in order to minimize the leverage of one dimensional sectoral parties primarily concerned with promoting their own benefits rather than the national interest. This will be determined by the votes we are about to cast.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


From EYEontheUN, January 29, 2009:

Iranian-led Durban II "anti-racism" negotiations end in total disgrace: Zionism is racism, apartheid Israel and questioning the Holocaust are now on the Durban II negotiating table

Intensive negotiations last week in Geneva have resulted in a new version of the "Draft Outcome Document" for Durban II - released yesterday. Iran - a Vice-Chair of the executive committee for Durban II - played a leading role in the drafting process, speaking more often than any other single state. The result? Now on the negotiating table: Jewish self-determination or Zionism is racism. Israel is guilty of apartheid and the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust is questionable.

Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, commented:
"this 'anti-racism' manifesto is much worse even than its predecessor. Islamic and other rights-abusing states had a field day preparing for Durban II. European states were totally unable to introduce the modifications necessary to protect human rights standards or change the clear intent of the conference."

Here are some of the features now part of negotiations according to the new draft:
the "law of return" - the core of the self-determination of the Jewish people or Zionism - is racist
  • Israel is guilty of crimes against humanity and "a contemporary form of apartheid"
  • Israel's security fence is a "segregation wall"
  • a provision condemning Israel's actions in Gaza
  • while Israel is repeatedly condemned, not one of the other 191 UN states is mentioned
  • a proposal to delete reference to the numbers of Jews murdered in the Holocaust - on the grounds that it is questionable
  • a claim that "religions" - as opposed to individuals - can be "defamed"
  • provisions curtailing free speech - "abuse of freedom of expression"
  • efforts to limit and govern the media by "a code of ethical conduct"
  • creation of a hierarchy of victims, with Muslim minorities on top - "most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia"
  • efforts to trump universal rights and freedoms by references to cultural diversity, "cultural particularities," religious and cultural "identities"
  • undermining counterterrorism activities by alleging they increase racism
  • challenges to any responsibility for the trans-Saharan slave trade and the slave trade in the Indian Ocean
  • introducing "anti-Arabism" as intolerance against a religious minority
  • attempting to introduce laws against "projecting negative, insulting and derogatory images of religions and religious personalities"
  • calls for new laws endangering rights and freedoms, such as, laws on "respect for human rights and reputation, public morals, and incitement to racial and religious hatred and freedom of expression".

The snail's pace of negotiations prompted the drafting committee to add still more preparatory meetings. Meetings now scheduled, in Geneva, are the Intersessional Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group: 16-19 February + 6-9 April 2009, the Preparatory Committee - Third Session: 15-17 April 2009; and Durban II: 20-24 April 2009.

The continued participation of the European Union and Australia in the Durban II forum is legitimizing a global discussion of the veracity of the Holocaust, the legitimacy of a Jewish state, and broad restrictions on freedom of expression - all in the name of "human rights".

President Obama, it is time to announce the United States will stay away from Durban II, together with Canada and Israel.
Follow the link to also read Sections of the Draft Text

No to the Reconstruction of Gaza

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 63, February 2, 2009, by Efraim Inbar*:

The developing international campaign to reconstruct Gaza is strategic folly. It is also unlikely to be effective. And, under current circumstances, it is also immoral.

Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, most of the international community has argued that the best way to prop up the more moderate Palestinian Authority (PA) leader, Mahmoud Abbas, was to ensure economic support for his fiefdom in the West Bank. This, it was said, would make it clear to every Palestinian that Hamas is the “bad guy” unable to bring prosperity. This path would convince Palestinians that it is unwise to support the radical Islamist organization. Under this rationale, the PA has continued to draw unprecedented economic support from the world.

Israel's recent military offensive against Hamas inflicted heavy damage on Gaza. Aside from punishing Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel, the beating was meant to demonstrate to reasonable Palestinians that Hamas attacks on Israel would only bring them havoc and suffering. Theoretically, the results of Operation Cast Lead would seem to complement the international community's efforts to make the lives of the Palestinians under Mahmoud Abbas better then those of the Gazans.

Yet, this rationale seems to evaporate in a mush of sentimentalist manipulation. Instead of using the tough pictures coming out of Gaza to tell Gazans: "We told you all along that Hamas leadership would only make things worse" (just as it has in other places where radical Islamists gain power), Western leaders seem to have foolishly decided that Gaza should speedily be rebuilt!

This, of course, sends the wrong signal. It tells Palestinians that their leadership can make grave, deadly mistakes, and nevertheless gullible Westerners will bail them out. It also signals to Hamas that it can continue shooting at Israel; for if Israel repeats its military action, merciful Westerners again will repair the damage.

There is no way to reconstruct Gaza without strengthening Hamas. The PA has no standing in the Strip anymore. Aid through the UN is less objectionable, but Hamas will benefit from this too. Which leads us back to square one, because Hamastan must not be rebuilt by the world. The reconstruction of Hamastan in Gaza – an Iranian base that threatens Israel and many moderate Arab regimes – makes no strategic sense.

America helped reconstruct Western Europe and Japan after World War II to make sure they would be ruled by friendly democratic regimes. Hamas is authoritarian and anti-Western. It is simply daft to facilitate the continuation of Hamas rule.

Does the enlightened international community really believe that Mahmoud Abbas is interested in the reconstruction of Gaza and consolidation of the Hamas regime? Is this what the Egyptians and the Saudis are after? Is it not clear that they also prefer the fall of Hamas and will be ready to cooperate against Iranian attempts to channel support to Gaza?

Looking at Palestinian economic performance, it is also clear that reconstruction of Gaza is unlikely to be successful. Since the Oslo process started in 1993, the Palestinians received many billions of euros and dollars, scoring the highest per capita aid in the world. Much of it was squandered by corruption and ineptitude. Very little aid filtered down to the people. Like many Third World countries, the Palestinians lack the legal and institutional infrastructure needed for effective dispersal of economic aid. Gaza is behind the West Bank in its development, making it an even less suitable candidate for effective international aid. Nevertheless, the standard of living of the Gazans is still higher than the Egyptians.

From what we know of the fortunes of the humanitarian aid transferred to Gazans in recent years, it is clear that a large proportion of the benefits of the external aid will be siphoned off to the Hamas leadership, followed by Hamas activists; and only what is left will go to the destitute. Those with arms always get the first and best cut from international aid sent to the suffering.

Finally, the morality of pouring money so that Gazans can live better is questionable as long as Hamas does not stop its terrorism against Israel and the smuggling of weapons. Unfortunately, Hamas was popular among the Gazans and continues to be so. Moreover, all polls show staggering support among Gazans for violence against Israelis. What moral justification exists for helping people that support an organization intent on destroying the Jewish state and who are actively engaged in killing innocent Israeli citizens?

The international community must think strategically with regard to Gaza, and not be drawn into sentimental escapades of rebuilding and humanitarian assistance that undercut our paramount strategic goals. It is time for tough love for Gaza.

*Prof. Inbar is director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN's Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees

From The Washington Institute, Policy Focus #91 January 2009:

UNRWA -- is it part of the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict or part of the problem?
The humanitarian aspect of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has cast a fresh spotlight on the presence in Gaza of the nearly sixty-year-old United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), raising important questions about why the UN still operates schools, hospitals, and clinics for "refugees" six decades after the partition of Mandatory Palestine.

UNRWA began providing assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon in May 1950, in the wake of the 1947-1949 Arab-Israeli war. Since then, the organization has survived wars, coups, uprisings, and, in Gaza and the West Bank, even the creation of the first-ever Palestinian governing body -- the Palestinian Authority -- which operates in parallel with, not in place of, UNRWA institutions.

Over the course of its long history, UNRWA has rarely been the subject of comprehensive external evaluation, and virtually nothing has been written on the organization's strategy and operations by a senior staff member with knowledge of how UNRWA actually works.

[A] path-breaking study by James G. Lindsay, UNRWA's former general counsel, offers one of the first insider accounts of the organization. In it, Lindsay analyzes the agency's evolution over the past half century, evaluates recent criticisms of its operations, and recommends bold new policies for the U.S. government -- UNRWA's largest single-country donor -- that will help repair an aid and relief system that has strayed from its original mission.

Click here to download the free report in full.

About The Author
James G. Lindsay, an Aufzien fellow at The Washington Institute focusing on Palestinian refugee issues and UN humanitarian assistance, served with UNRWA from 2000 to 2007. As legal advisor and general counsel for the organization from 2002, he oversaw all UNRWA legal activities, from aid contracts to relations with Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority.

Before his UNRWA service, Mr. Lindsay spent twenty years as an attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, with assignments in the Internal Security, Appellate, and Asset Forfeiture Sections, as well as in the U.S. Attorney's offices in Washington, D.C., and Miami. Between 1985 and 1994, he was seconded to the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, serving as the force counsel for legal and treaty affairs. In 2000, he took early retirement from the Justice Department to join UNRWA in Gaza.

Also see our previous post on this subject.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

IAF strikes 6 targets in central, south Gaza

From Ynet News, 2/1/09, by Reuters:

Military confirms Israeli fighter jets target Hamas security headquarters, smuggling tunnels hours after PM Olmert vowed 'disproportionate' response to rocket, mortar fire that injured three Israelis

...Security sources confirmed the strike, citing that the Israeli Air Force struck six targets in Gaza during the evening hours.

The targets included a Hamas stronghold, and several tunnels on the Philadelphi Route. According to the sources, the fire triggered several explosions, indicating that Hamas as resumed its arms smugglings. No casualties were reported.

One attack was on a security headquarters in a village in central Gaza that residents said had been vacated after Israel telephoned warnings to Palestinians to leave buildings that housed any weapons.

About a dozen rockets and mortar bombs fired from Gaza struck Israel on Sunday. Three Israelis were wounded, including two soldiers and the first Israeli civilian hurt since a Jan. 18 truce ended Israel's 22-day offensive in the coastal enclave. They suffered shrapnel injuries, medics said.

...Israeli leaders have taken a hard line against rocket fire in the run-up to a Feb. 10 national election, which opinion polls predict right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu will win.

"The government's position was from the outset that if there is shooting at the residents of the south, there will be a harsh Israeli response that will be disproportionate," Olmert, who is not a candidate, said at the weekly cabinet meeting.

"We will act according to new rules which will ensure that we will not be drawn into a war of incessant shooting on the southern border, which would deprive the residents of the south of a normal life," he said, without elaborating.

Palestinians in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, not far from the village targeted, received recorded voice messages by telephone warning "everybody who is near any place used for terror or weapon storage facility or tunnels, should evacuate the area immediately."

Similar warnings have preceded Israeli attacks in the past....

...Since the truce, in addition to Sunday's injuries, an Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded when a bomb exploded next to their patrol. Israeli air strikes since Jan. 18 have killed three Palestinians and wounded 10....

...Netanyahu said Israel should make "a decisive and strong" response to the latest rockets. "No matter how strong the blows that Hamas received from Israel, that's not enough," he said.

Israel needs to invade The Hague


While the government and IDF strenuously strove to implement lessons learned from the last war and provide the troops in Gaza with every possible means to shield themselves against enemy fire, they negligently allowed our soldiers' flanks to be exposed to danger from a different quarter.

The international campaign accusing officers of war crimes against Palestinian civilians has steadily been gathering steam over the past decade. The short-sighted reluctance of elected officials and the IDF's legal department to confront the issue head-on has left the government and its senior officers scurrying to develop an effective strategy and play catch up.

Indeed, no sooner had the first F-16 been fueled up and the netting pulled off the first Merkava tank than the
  • United Nations and its backup chorus at
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • Physicians for Human Rights and
  • B'Tselem

began yodeling their malicious assertions that Israel was violating international law; targeting innocent civilians; shelling disproportionably; inflicting collective punishment and utilizing illegal armaments. Our troops couldn't fire a bullet anywhere in the terrorist-controlled enclave without some human rights expert flaming on CNN and the BBC that they had wounded an innocent Palestinian.

A "humanitarian crisis" was announced by the UN within the opening hours of the operation and the canard was repeated daily for the next 21 days. Even before the smoke had cleared in Gaza City, UNRWA and UN Rapporteur Richard Falk had concluded that war crimes had been committed.

IT SHOULD have been obvious to our leaders given their experiences in Lebanon, when similar allegations were loudly being cast and even earlier - during Operation Defensive Shield when Palestinian officials were swearing to the media that 1,500 civilians had been massacred in Jenin - that the IDF had a serious problem. A comprehensive strategy was needed to shield soldiers from criminal prosecutions.

Indeed, a disaster had just narrowly been averted in the UK. On September 10, 2005, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog was disembarking from an El Al flight in London when he was warned at the last moment by the embassy's military attaché that a warrant had been issued by a British magistrate for his arrest for allegedly violating the Geneva Convention in carrying out house demolitions in Gaza. Almog remained on the plane and returned to the country unharmed. Although, British foreign minister Jack Straw eventually apologized for the incident and the warrant was canceled, IDF officers are still wary of visiting the UK.

In another, better publicized affair, in 2001 prosecutors in Belgium filed a war crimes indictment against former prime minister Ariel Sharon and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yaron on allegations they were responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon. An appeals court eventually dismissed the case, stating that no individual could be tried in absentia under Belgium law unless he was found within its territory. While pressure from the government and a diplomatic campaign managed to resolve these two incidents, the results were less than reassuring.

ONE NEED only to look to the US to see what sorts of potential legislative defenses are possible. In 2002, the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) was signed by numerous countries. With American troops being sent into Iraq and Afghanistan, however, there was a growing concern in the US that its forces could be arrested and prosecuted for war crimes by the ICC. Many in the US fiercely opposed the treaty, fearing it would become a vicious tool to obstruct American foreign and military policy. The Senate passed the American Service-Members Protection Act (ASMPA) in response. ASMPA's stated purpose was to "to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials of the United States government against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not party."

ASMPA gave the president far-reaching powers to take action against those who might try to prosecute soldiers, especially the ICC. Most strikingly, ASMPA provides the president with "all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the ICC." Simply stated, the law permits the president to employ military force, if necessary, to free any American soldier arrested on charges of war crimes from the custody of the ICC. It was for this reason that ASMPA has earned the nickname "The Hague Invasion Act."

Furthermore, ASMPA prohibits any American governmental entity or court from cooperating with the ICC and bars the US from transferring any information to the ICC or to countries that are party to the Rome Treaty.

There is no reason that the Knesset to date has not passed similar legislation designed to protect IDF soldiers from criminal prosecutions. If the US, with its tremendous international clout, its massive underwriting of the UN budget and its overwhelming foreign relations capabilities felt the need to pass ASMPA to head off war crimes prosecutions, certainly Israel should have followed its lead and passed its own defensive legislation.

Relying solely upon the Foreign Ministry's competence and timely diplomatic intervention is too risky a strategy to safeguard IDF officers from the threat of an onslaught of post-Gaza indictments. The Knesset must immediately legislate a far-reaching law prohibiting any agency, court or citizen from cooperating or passing information to any war crimes tribunal. It should block access to foreign investigators, including UN special rapporteurs. The government should be empowered to utilize all necessary force to resist any effort to arrest IDF officers accused of war crimes anywhere in the world.

Foreign countries should be made to understand we mean business.

*The author is an attorney and director of Shurat Hadin - Israel Law Center.

Caracas synagogue vandalized

From Ynet News, 31/1/09, by Maya Lecker:

Venezuelan Jews alarmed by increasing anti-Semitism after vandals daub 'Jews get out' on synagogue walls. "We don't want Jews here" and "Jews get out" were the slogans daubed on a Caracas synagogue's walls Saturday.

David Bitan, vice president of the Jewish community in Venezuela, told Ynet that late Friday night a number of assailants broke down the synagogue's door and threw scripture books on the floor, then proceeded to graffiti the hateful slogans on the walls.

"We found the guard on the floor, he had been threatened with a gun," Bitan said. "Until 3 am they destroyed the offices, opened the Ark of the Covenant, and threw the Torah books on the floor." ...The slogans were not against Israel but against the Jews," he said.

Bitan added that the community has been troubled by numerous anti-Semitic acts over recent years, and a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Venezuela, Daniel Ben-Naim, said the incident testified to the increasing hatred of Jews in the country.

"We've never had such an incident. It looks well-planned," he said. "We were afraid something like this would happen. The official press was becoming more and more anti-Israeli and anti-Jews. There are hundreds of anti-Semitic articles, ads, and fliers."

An Israeli residing in Caracas said images from the ravaged synagogue had been displayed in the local media. He said he had seen that another slogan, "Death to the Jews", was also sprayed in the synagogue.

Relations between Israel and Venezuela became strained over the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Caracas severed its diplomatic ties with Israel after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slammed Israel's actions as "inhumane".

On Wednesday the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem announced that it had ordered Venezuelan diplomats in Israel to exit the country by the end of the week. In response, Caracas stated that the country was proud its diplomats had been expelled, and called Israeli leaders criminals.

Account of Israeli attack on UN School doesn't hold up to scrutiny

From Thursday's Globe and Mail (Canada), January 29, 2009, by PATRICK MARTIN:

JABALYA, GAZA STRIP — Most people remember the headlines: Massacre Of Innocents As UN School Is Shelled; Israeli Strike Kills Dozens At UN School.

They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The news shocked the world ...and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.

There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people's minds, was not quite accurate.

Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.

Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.

...The teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. ...The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: "Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead."

...Hazem Balousha, who runs an auto-body shop across the road from the UNRWA school, was down the street, just out of range of the shrapnel, when the three shells hit. He showed a reporter where they landed: one to the right of his shop, one to the left, and one right in front.

"There were only three," he said. "They were all out here on the road."

News of the tragedy travelled fast, with aid workers and medical staff quoted as saying the incident happened at the school, the UNRWA facility where people had sought refuge.

Soon it was presented that people in the school compound had been killed. Before long, there was worldwide outrage.

...John Ging, UNRWA's operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that "no one was killed in the school."
...Mr. Ging blames the Israelis for the confusion over where the victims were killed. ...The Israelis are the ones, he said, who got everyone thinking the deaths occurred inside the school. ..."Look at my statements," he said. "I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation."

Speaking from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the bodies were being brought in that night, an emotional Mr. Ging did say: "Those in the school were all families seeking refuge. ... There's nowhere safe in Gaza."

And in its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: "On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school ..."

The UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited "early reports" that "three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School ..." However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that "Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools ..." including the one at issue.

Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.

"I know no one was killed in the school," Mr. Ging said....