Friday, July 24, 2009

Hamas may get its claws into Gaza reconstruction funds


Increasingly concerned that Hamas will steal money donated for Gaza's rehabilitation, the Defense Ministry distributed a document this week revealing that unions affiliated with the terrorist group have set up joint committees with UN agencies that dispense humanitarian aid.

The document was distributed to the Foreign Ministry, Finance Ministry and the Israeli intelligence community, and was also sent to the United States to warn it that the $900 million it has pledged to help rebuild the Gaza Strip could fall into Hamas hands.

"All humanitarian aid sent into the Gaza Strip today needs to receive Hamas clearance," a senior defense official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "Hamas uses violence against international organizations, including UNRWA, if they do not cooperate."

Hamas recently published an ad in a Palestinian newspaper warning that "whoever does not follow its orders will be forced to leave Gaza."

...So far, Hamas has taken control of millions of dollars transferred monthly by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad ...

Hamas Hippies: Shift From Rockets to Public Relations

From The New York Times, July 24, 2009, by ETHAN BRONNER:

(cartoon from the Cox & Forkum archives)
...Hamas has suspended its use of rockets and shifted focus to winning support at home and abroad through cultural initiatives and public relations.

The aim is to build what leaders here call a “culture of resistance,” the topic of a recent two-day conference. In recent days, a play has been staged, a movie premiered, an art exhibit mounted, a book of poems published and a television series begun, most of it state-sponsored and all focused on the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. There are plans for a documentary competition.

“Armed resistance is still important and legitimate, but we have a new emphasis on cultural resistance,” noted Ayman Taha, a Hamas leader and former fighter. “The current situation required a stoppage of rockets. After the war, the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break.”

...Increasingly, people here are questioning the value of the rockets, not because they hit civilians but because they are seen as relatively ineffective. “What did the rockets do for us? Nothing,” Mona Abdelaziz, a 36-year-old lawyer, said in a typical street interview here.

How long Hamas will hold its fire and whether it will obtain longer-range missiles — which it says it is seeking — remain unclear. But the shift in policy is evident. In June, a total of two rockets were fired from Gaza, according to the Israeli military, one of the lowest monthly tallies since the firing began in 2002...

Anti-Semitic incidents in Britain rise to record high

From Ynet News, 24/7/09:

Some 609 hate crimes registered in Britain in last year, highest number recorded since figures collected...

Britain has seen an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic "hate crimes", with more incidents recorded so far in 2009 than in any previous entire year...there were 609 anti-Semitic incidents ranging from verbal abuse to extreme violence, compared with 276 in the same period last year.

...there had been 77 violent anti-Semitic incidents including two it classified as "extreme violence", an attack which could cause loss of life or grievous bodily harm.

Most incidents took place in London and Manchester, the two biggest Jewish communities in Britain...

UN official: Arms cache that exploded in Lebanon was Hezbollah's

From Ynet News, 23/7/09, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

Security Council discusses Israeli complaints on recent incidents near its northern border; Under-Secretary-General LeRoy says Shiite group responsible for blast at arms cache and subsequent attack on UNIFIL soldiers sent to investigate it

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain LeRoy said Thursday that Hezbollah was responsible for heightened tensions in southern Lebanon.

...Ambassador Alex Wolff, of the US Mission to the UN, said the Shiite group's arms cache constituted a clear violation of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War.

...Earlier this week Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev ...[sent a letter] stating that the explosion at the Hezbollah weapons cache verified that the Shiite group "consistently obstructs the implementation of Resolution 1701 by building new military infrastructure south of the Litani River." ...[and] also mentioned the attack on UNIFIL peacekeepers who attempted to search a suspicious building near the arms cache as an indication that Hezbollah was looking to "obstruct" UNIFIL's mission, also by "using civilians in a violent manner."

Israel is also seeking a similar condemnation of two more incidents that took place over the weekend, namely the infiltration of 15 unarmed Lebanese civilians into Israel and the attack on UN peacekeepers by villagers in Bir el-Salasel.

"Such violations jeopardize the fragile stability along Israel’s northern border and stand in contravention of UN Security Council resolution 1701, in particular paragraph 8 that calls for 'full respect for the Blue Line by both parties'," the letter read.

Economist stifles debate

I posted the following comment to to an online debate of the proposition "This house believes that Barack Obama's America is now an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs" on The Economist (UK).

As you will read below, my comment was removed from their web much for "debate". I invite others who have been similarly silenced (or not) to comment here.

Here, first is my comment:

Dear Sir,
How can one act as an "honest broker" between a murderer and his intended victim.

Surely the murderer must be brought to account?

Ever since the British appointed the anti-Semitic Haj Amin al-Husseini asMufti of Jerusalem, in 1921, the Arab leadership has opposed all Jewishimmigration to Palestine. The Mufti engineered the bloody riots against Jewsin 1929 and 1936. He also instituted assassinations and suicide bombings,targeting Arabs who refused to support his violent opposition to the Jews. Thus a rejectionist Arab leadership took hold, violently persecuted Jews, andlaunched a relentless campaign, against the interests of their own people, toobliterate the Jewish national revival ...BEFORE any “occupation” andeven before the establishment of the State of Israel (not as a "resistance"to it).

They flatly rejected the restoration of the Jewish homeland as mandated bythe League of Nations in 1920. Even after Jordan was created from 80% of theBritish Mandate of Palestine, they rejected the still-legally-valid-todayinternational right of Jewish settlement ANYWHERE in western Palestine (theremaining 20%, west of the Jordan River). They also rejected the 1937 PeelCommission proposal to partition western Palestine.

The Mufti later went on to collaborate with Hitler and planned with him to set up a death camp in Cairo modelled on those in Europe. Fortunately theAllies, largely thanks to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs), held the Nazi forces off at Tobruk and turned Rommel back at El-Alemein inNorth Africa, otherwise we would have seen the Jews in Israel also fall victim to the Nazi Death Camp industry at a subsidiary in Cairo.

But for the Arabs' violent attempt to abort the 1947 UN partition of westernPalestine, there would have been no war, no dislocation and no “PalestinianRefugees” (as uniquely defined by UNRWA) in the first place. After the war, the Mufti spent the rest of his life fomenting violence against Israel.

In 1948 he issued a fatwa: "I declare a Holy War, My MuslimBrothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!" And the Arab rejection of Jews (not just Israel, but Jews) continues to thisday. In 1949, Israel offered to return captured land as part of a formal peaceagreement. Arab rulers refused. From 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank and Gaza.

The Islamo-totalitarian Yasir Arafat continued the legacy of his relative, the Islamo-fascist Mufti.

The PLO could have demanded an independent state in theWest Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt, but did not. Had they sought peaceand reconciliation, instead of rejection and global terrorism, a Palestinian state could have been established from the 1960’s. They rejected the offer of Palestinian autonomy in the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations. They scuttled the Oslo process that began in 1993 leadingtoward the creation of a Palestinian state, by violating their commitments.

In 2000, they also rejected the offer at Camp David to create a Palestinian state.

And they rejected an even better offer from caretaker-prime-minister Olmertin 2008.

The fact that now in 2009 they demand that the West Bank be ethnicallycleansed of Jews, just emphasises their century-old rejection of co-existence with Jews.

What is needed here is not trite moral equivalence, but a real "honestbroker" who holds the parties to account for their own actions. ----------

I received the following email from in reference to my comment:

Dear Sir,
The attached comment, posted under the pen name stevelieblich, has been deleted from The comment was removed because it breaks our comments policy...

...We ask that future comments be made in the spirit of good-natured debate. Repeated violation of our comments policy will result in your being blocked from posting comments on

Yours sincerely,

My response follows:

In what way does the comment you deleted contravene your policy?
In what way does that comment contravene the "spirit of good-natured debate"?
The entire comment is a statement of factual history. What offends you?

RegardsSteve Lieblich
Editor, "Jewish Issues Watchdog"

What do you think?? let's have your comment...

Finkelstein and fellow travellers

I'm prompted to post the following excerpts from Monday, April 23, 2007, by Steven Plaut , by the fact that a Jewish-Issues-Watchdog commentator, using the pen name "Mack Dwight" has relied on references to Finkelstein's writings to attack the author of an article posted in this Blog. (See this to read my heavly-edited verisons of Mack Dwight's attempt to defame.)

And now to Finkelstein et al:
...The most notorious example in recent days of corruption of the [academic] promotion process has been the attempt by radical leftist faculty members at DePaul University to obtain tenure for the pseudo-scholar and Holocaust trivializer Norman Finkelstein. The Finkelstein affair is unusual in that the politicization has been exposed so thoroughly in the media and is now so obvious and explicit. In part, this has been thanks to the fact that Finkelstein himself, or his close followers, have published the supposedly classified secret documents related to his promotion on the web.

How can it be that someone like Finkelstein was hired in the first place, especially by an institution with ties to the church and committed to Catholic ethical standards? Ironically, the answer was provided inadvertently by Finkelstein and his followers when they publicized (probably illegally) these key documents related to his tenure bid. These documents show how easy it is for extremists with no scholarly credentials to recruit on their behalf respected academics who share their political agenda.

Finkelstein, the assistant professor in political science at DePaul University best known for his cheerleading the Hizbollah and his endless smearing of Holocaust survivors, has a completely empty record of academic publication. He has never produced a single paper published in a refereed scholarly journal. Instead, he turns out one anti-Semitic book after another, as well as hate screeds for propaganda magazines and web sites. His "books" are published by firms making editorial decisions based on commercial considerations rather than the quality of their scholarship.

Finkelstein's long history of Jew-baiting is by now well known, as is his history of vulgarity and juvenile smear mongering. Finkelstein has proclaimed Holocaust denier David Irving (who insists there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz) a great historian. Finkelstein's personal web site is a collection of bigotries, including death threats and pornographic cartoons, as well as countless smug smears against all Holocaust survivors. Finkelstein's "books" have been dismissed as pseudo-scholarship by nearly every serious historian to review them. He has used his position at DePaul University in Chicago to promote his open celebration of Middle East terrorism. He maintains the most intimate ties with Holocaust Deniers and he is himself considered by the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and many others to be a Holocaust Denier.

It would be hard to find a more illuminating lesson about the dark side of campus hiring and promotion than the Finkelstein affair. [I'd love to see a really thorough analysis of Noam Chomsky's professional appointments - SL] From the classified documents that Finkelstein himself has illicitly (and probably illegally) published about his promotion, anyone can see the obvious political forces at work. Finkelstein was hired in the first place because his crude anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism endeared him to academic radicals generally and to those who dominate the political science department at DePaul in particular. Despite the fact that Finkelstein's antics have served to make DePaul into something of an international laughingstock of higher education, the political science department recommended granting Finkelstein tenure by a vote of 9 to 3. Were Finkelstein pro-Israel, he would not have stood a chance of getting tenure with his existing "academic record."

The syllabi of Finkelstein's courses have appeared on the web and they consist of nothing more than one-sided political indoctrination. Naturally, his courses are popular among his students, who just happen to be the radical and jihadi DePaul students, not driven away by his in-classroom harangues. The politically conscripted tenure committee at DePaul lauded his "teaching popularity" on such a basis. Even more amazingly, it cited Finkelstein's frequent anti-Semitic speeches and racist public incitements, including his famous collaborations with the Hizbollah and with neo-Nazi organizations, as valuable "service to the university."

To achieve their goal, his political science comrades saw to it that only two outside "experts" wrote letters of evaluation for Finkelstein's tenure consideration. These two happen to share Finkelstein’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agendas. The first was John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, whose tract written with Stephen Walt maintaining that the American media and America’s foreign policy is controlled by a Jewish cabal has made him infamous. His assault on Israel and American Jews has made him a propaganda favorite of radical Islamic groups like CAIR, and he makes no secret either of his antipathy for Israel nor his desire to see America weakened and "deterred."

The second academic reference for Finkelstein was provided by Professor Ian Lustick, of the University of Pennsylvania, who has hosted Finkelstein several times at Penn, is a far leftist, anti-America and unabashedly anti-Israel. He earned some notoriety for his expressing regret that America did not lose more soldiers in the campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. Lustick likes to describe America's foreign policy as being under the control of a "cabal" (his word)....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

East Jerusalem is NOT Arab

From Jewish World Review July 22, 2009, by Jeff Jacoby:

...There was a time not so long ago when Jerusalem was anything but an open city. During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion invaded eastern Jerusalem, occupied the Old City, and expelled all its Jews — many from families that had lived in the city for centuries. "As they left," the acclaimed historian Sir Martin Gilbert later wrote in his 1998 book, Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century, "they could see columns of smoke rising from the quarter behind them. The Hadassah welfare station had been set on fire and … the looting and burning of Jewish property was in full swing."

For the next 19 years, eastern Jerusalem was barred to Jews, brutally divided from the western part of the city with barbed-wire and military fortifications. Dozens of Jewish holy places, including synagogues hundreds of years old, were desecrated or destroyed. Gravestones from the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery were uprooted by the Jordanian army and used to pave latrines. Jerusalem's most sacred Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum. It wasn't until 1967, after Jordan was routed in the Six-Day War, that Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli sovereignty and religious freedom restored to all. Israelis have vowed ever since that Jerusalem would never again be divided.

And not only Israelis. US policy, laid out in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognizes Jerusalem as "a united city administered by Israel" and formally declares that "Jerusalem must remain an undivided city." US presidents, Republican and Democratic alike, have agreed. In former President Clinton's words, "Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city, with assured freedom of access and worship for all."

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said much the same thing. To a 2008 candidate questionnaire that asked about "the likely final status Jerusalem," Obama replied: "The United States cannot dictate the terms of a final status agreement… . Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided." In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Council, he repeated the point: "Let me be clear … Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

Palestinian irredentists claim that eastern Jerusalem is historically Arab territory and should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In reality, Jews always lived in eastern Jerusalem — it is the location of the Old City and its famous Jewish Quarter, after all, not to mention Hebrew University, which was founded in 1918. The apartment complex that Obama opposes is going up in what was once Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish neighborhood established in 1891.

Only from 1948 to 1967 — during the Jordanian occupation — was the eastern part of Israel's capital "Arab territory." Palestinians have no more claim to sovereignty there than Russia does in formerly occupied eastern Berlin.

The great obstacle to Middle East peace is not that Jews insist on living among Arabs. It is that Arabs insist that Jews not live among them. If Obama doesn't yet grasp that, he has a lot to learn.

Two-headed snake: one head won't recognize Israel

From Ynet News, 22/7/09, by Ali Waked:

Fatah official: Movement to display commitment to armed struggle in upcoming convention

No recognition of Israel – Rafik al-Natsheh (one head)
Photo: AP

As the Fatah movement prepares for its upcoming leadership convention...scheduled for August 4...senior Fatah official Rafik al-Natsheh said that the group will not be recognizing Israel.

"We will maintain the resistance option in all its forms and we will not recognize Israel," he said. "Not only don't we demand that anyone recognize Israel; we don't recognize Israel ourselves. However, the Palestinian Authority government is required to do it, or else it will not be able to serve the Palestinian people." ...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Response to Obama

Just for the record, I'd like to post the link to the June 5, 2009 Press Release of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) National President Morton A. Klein in response to President Barack Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo the previous day.

The following brief excerpt is even more relevant today:

Obama Gives Biased Speech, Inimical To Israel, Supportive Of False Palestinian/Arab Claims -- Indicating He May Become Most Hostile President To Israel Ever ...
  • ... “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

ZOA: What does this mean? How exactly do settlements stop? Is the President saying that Jews have no right to live in these places? The implication that these communities are illegal is wrong.

Jordan illegally annexed Judea and Samaria in 1948. When Israel captured it in 1967, it belonged to no sovereign entity. Legally, this is unallocated territory under international law. Practically, it is not the cause of conflict: there were no Jews in these territories between 1948 and 1967, but there was no peace during that period as well. We repudiate the proposition that Jews, because they are Jews, may not move to or live in Judea and Samaria, the religious, historical and political heartland of the Jewish people, as it has been from the Bible to the Jewish nation-state 2000 years ago, to the Balfour Declaration to the League of Nations, which reiterated the fact that this is the Jewish homeland.

On what basis is it said that 300,000 Jews cannot live among 2 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria, when 1.2 million Arabs can live among 6 million Jews in Israel proper? Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has a fundamental legitimacy and poses no obstacle to a true peace if Palestinians are ready for one, so the Obama Administration’s insistence on a construction freeze would remain inappropriate even if the prospect of genuine peace negotiations with a truly peaceful Palestinian partner were possible.

In any case, no peace can be built on the notion that the biblical, historical and religious heartland of the Jewish people, or any territory for that matter, must be judenrein. Discussing further Israeli territorial and other concessions should be conditional on Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority arresting terrorists, outlawing terrorist groups, ending the incitement to hatred and murder against Israel in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps and the transforming of Palestinian society into one that opposes terrorism and accepts the legitimacy of Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state.

  • “…many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.”
ZOA: Apparently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the coalition government he heads, the majority of the Israeli electorate that voted heavily for right-of-center parties, and the ZOA, among others, are non-persons, because they oppose or are skeptical of the possibility under current conditions of a peaceful Palestinian state.

Leading figures, like Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon all have opposed the creation of a Palestinian state under current conditions.

With Hamas controlling Gaza and Fatah running Judea and Samaria, a Palestinian state would become surely another terrorist state in the Middle East. This sort of intellectual absolutism that simply removes from the discussion anyone who does not share President Obama’s view bodes ill for new thinking about the region and this conflict....

Israel Responds to Hamas Attacks from Gaza

From Arutz Sheva, 22/7/09, by Hillel Fendel:

Following at least three attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza on Israeli targets in the past several days, the IDF briefly entered Gaza on Tuesday to destroy a building from where attacks were perpetrated.

IDF officials explained afterwards that the building had been used in the past by terrorists to attack Israel, including earlier Tuesday morning.

The three-story building, near Khan Younis and the former site of Gush Katif’s N’vei Dekalim, was knocked down by an army bulldozer, which penetrated some 500 meters over the Gaza-Israel border. The IDF forces also returned fire towards Arab forces that fired at them during the razing. No one was reported hurt on either side.

On Sunday, Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired mortar shells and missiles at IDF soldiers near Kibbutz Nachal Oz, some 20 kilometers to the northeast. No injuries were reported among the Israeli forces, who returned fire and reportedly hit a number of terrorists.

Six days ago, Gaza terrorists fired a Kassam rocket at Israel. The rocket landed uneventfully near Nachal Oz, causing sirens to sound in nearby kibbutzim and communities.

Earlier this week, two arms smugglers were killed in a tunnel collapse between Gaza and Egypt. Over the past two months, between six and ten such terrorists have been killed in five tunnel collapses. In addition, several Hamas terrorists were killed in Gaza in early May when a tunnel connecting Hamas sites collapsed.

Hamas Continues: Right of Return, '67 Borders, Israel Not Legitimate
Together with its renewed violence, Hamas continues to refuse any and all compromise with Israel. In an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shuruk on Tuesday, senior Hamas leader Izat Al-Rishak said that only after a Palestinian state is established in all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem, and only after the millions of descendants of Arabs who left Israel in 1948 are permitted to enter Israel, and without recognition of Israel as a legitimate state, will Hamas deign to agree to a long-term ceasefire with Israel.

Al-Rishak said Hamas is interested in working with all international elements and “instill within them that Hamas [and not Fatah] is the correct address in the Palestinian arena.”

Hamas appears to be scoring some successes to this end in Western Europe. “Hamas is an important player in the Middle East conflict and cannot be ignored,” said Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey on Sunday. After Swiss diplomats hosted Hamas representatives in Geneva two weeks ago, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, “Switzerland is not placing itself with those who support the moderate forces.”

In addition, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has spoken of "engaging with moderates" within Hamas, while pro-Hamas positions in Britain are almost commonplace.

"Settlement" in East Jerusalem

From Daniel Pipes Blog: some background to the construction of 20 apartments and an underground garage in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shimon Hatzadik, which caused the State Department to promptly summon Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren on July 17 and instruct him to halt the building project:

Zionists founded the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood in 1891 by purchasing the land from Arabs, then, due to Arab riots and Jordanian conquest, abandoned the area.

Amin al-Husseini, Jerusalem's pro-Nazi mufti, put up a building in the 1930s that later served as the Shepherd Hotel (not to be confused with the renowned Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo). After 1967, the Israelis designated the land "absentee property."

Irving Moskowitz, an American businessman, bought the land in 1985 and rented the building to the border police until 2002. His company, C and M Properties, won final permission two weeks ago to renovate the hotel and build apartments on the land...

...From May 27, when the Obama administration began its attack on Israeli "settlements," it has displayed an unexpected naiveté...

...It then displayed rank incompetence by picking a fight on an issue where an Israeli consensus exists – not over a remote "outpost" but a Jerusalem quarter boasting a Zionist pedigree back to 1891.

...also, from THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 22, 2008, by Leah Abramowitz:

...In 1891 two Jewish neighborhoods were established on the property - Nahalat Shimon and Shimon Hatzadik. They were abandoned during the riots of the 1920s and destroyed during the War of Independence. Today the area is home to a handful of Jewish families, interspersed among dozens of Arab families.

Across from the Tomb of Shimon Hatzadik is a cave where the Ramban is allegedly buried. A few meters to the north is another cave, where 23 former heads of the Sanhedrin are buried....

Jerusalem: an open, undivided city

From PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting, 19/07/2009 [my emphasis added]:

I read the newspaper headlines today about the construction of a neighborhood in Jerusalem and I would like to re-emphasize that the united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. Our sovereignty over it is cannot be challenged; this means – inter alia – that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city.

This has been the policy of all Israeli governments and I would like to say that it is indeed being implemented because in recent years hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods and in the western part of the city have been purchased by – or rented to – Arab residents and we did not interfere. This says that there is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city.

This is the policy of an open city, an undivided city that has no separation according to religion or national affiliation. We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem. I can only describe to myself what would happen if someone would propose that Jews could not live in certain neighborhoods in New York, London, Paris or Rome. There would certainly be a major international outcry. Accordingly, we cannot agree to such a decree in Jerusalem. This has been the policy of Israeli governments over the years and it is also the policy of our Government."...

US sanctions on Israel 'premature'

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 21, 2009, by Herb Keinon:

It is "premature" to talk about placing financial sanctions on Israel to get it to stop building beyond the green line, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Tuesday night.

..."What we're trying to do," he said, "is to create an environment which makes it conducive for talks to go forward."

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell was working hard on this, Wood said. "And what we all need to do in the international community is support this effort, and that means Americans, that means Arabs and Israelis, [must] do what they can to kind of foster a climate in which the two sides can come together and negotiate their differences peacefully so that we can get to that two-state solution."

Senior White House adviser Dennis Ross will join an already crowded list of top US officials travelling to Israel next week, a step interpreted positively in Jerusalem as an attempt by the Obama administration to engage more constructively with Jerusalem.

...Ross will come in the same week as Mitchell, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James Jones, who will be coming with some 10 members of his staff.

Asked about the sudden surge in high-level US visitors, one senior Israeli diplomatic official said, "It's about time. It's much better that the two countries discuss the issues between them face-to-face, and not through the media."

US President Barack Obama has come under some criticism recently for ignoring Israel while trying to court the Arab world. These high-level visits, another senior Israeli official said, underscore the importance Washington continues to attribute to its relations with Jerusalem.

...On the brink of this flood of top US officials, one senior Israeli source noted with satisfaction that the US administration's response to Netanyahu's pledge to continue building in east Jerusalem despite American opposition was relatively low-key...

Losing faith

From USA Today, 21/7/09, by Susan Page:

...a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds...[that] ...At six months in office, Obama's 55% approval rating puts him 10th among the 12 post-World War II presidents at this point in their tenures. When he took office, he ranked seventh....

...Obama "might make the policies more popular by being associated with him," says historian H.W. Brands of the University of Texas-Austin. "But it's almost equally possible that it will make him less popular by linking him with those policies."

Follow this link to see how each president since the 1940s has fared in the approval poll and compare how approval ratings evolved for each president.

Russia, France join US call to halt East Jerusalem construction

From » International » Jul 21, 2009:

One day after the United States demanded that Israel stop building projects in east Jerusalem, Russia joined the call, urging the Jewish state to immediately halt construction in the area, and saying that a failure to do so would be a violation of the road map peace agreement.

...France also summoned the Israeli ambassador in Paris to demand a halt to the building in east Jerusalem, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was quoted by the news agency as saying on Tuesday...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jordan revokes citizenship of Palestinian Arabs

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jul. 20, 2009, by Khaled Abu Toameh:

Jordanian authorities have started revoking the citizenship of thousands of Palestinian[ Arab]s living in Jordan to avoid a situation in which they would be "resettled" permanently in the kingdom, Jordanian and Palestinian officials revealed on Monday. The new measure has increased tensions between Jordanians and Palestinian[ Arab]s, who make up around 70 percent of the kingdom's population.

..."Many Palestinian[ Arab]s living in Jordan are convinced that the Jordanian authorities are trying to squeeze them out," said Ismail Jaber, a West Bank lawyer who has been living in the kingdom for nearly 20 years. "There is growing discontent and uncertainty among Palestinian[ Arab]s here."

...The Jordanians have justified the latest measure by arguing that it's aimed at avoiding a situation in which the Palestinians would ever be prevented from returning to their original homes inside Israel. ..."Our goal is to prevent Israel from emptying the Palestinian territories of their original inhabitants," [Jordan's Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi] explained, confirming that the kingdom had begun revoking the citizenship of Palestinians. "We should be thanked for taking this measure," he said. "We are fulfilling our national duty because Israel wants to expel the Palestinians from their homeland."

Kadi said that, despite the new policy, Palestinians would be permitted to retain their status as residents of the kingdom by holding "yellow ID cards" that are issued to those who have families and homes in the West Bank. He said that Palestinians working for the Palestinian Authority or the PLO were among those who have had their Jordanian passports taken from them, in addition to anyone who did not serve in the Jordanian army.

...A PA official in Ramallah expressed deep concern over Jordan's latest move and said that it would only worsen the conditions of Palestinians living in the kingdom. The official said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas raised the issue with King Abdullah II on a number of occasions, but the Jordanians have refused to retract.

...Kadi claimed that the kingdom was seeking, through the new measure, to thwart an Israeli "plot" to transfer more Palestinians to Jordan with the hope of replacing it with a Palestinian state.

"We insist that Jordan is not Palestine, just as Palestine is not Jordan," he stressed. "We will continue to help the Palestinians hold on to their Palestinian identity by pursuing the implementation of the 1988 disengagement plan from the West Bank."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Obama's real agenda: his self-defined political ambitions

From, Jul 19, 2009, by ANNE BAYEFSKY:

President Barack Obama last Monday met for the first time with leaders of selected Jewish organizations and leaks from the meeting now make one thing very clear. The only free country in the Middle East no longer has a friend in the leader of the free world. Obama is the most hostile sitting American President in the history of the state of Israel.

This was the very first meeting with Jewish community’s leaders. Earlier requests for an audience with major Jewish organizations had reportedly been ignored. Six months after taking office the President finally got around to issuing an invitation – to stop the bleeding. Increasing numbers of Jews – even among the overwhelming number who voted for Obama – have been voicing serious concern about his real agenda.

The meeting, however, did not showcase the President’s trademark engagement and dialogue routine. Instead, he decided to cherry pick his Jewish audience to include pro-Obama newcomers with little support in the mainstream Jewish world, such as J Street, while blackballing the Zionist Organization of America. ... This leaves the President willing to engage Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but not ZOA President Mort Klein.

...there is no papering over the distressing reality that emerged. The President told his listeners that he preferred putting daylight between the United States and Israel. His reported justification: “there was no light between the U.S. and Israeli positions for the last eight years, and no progress was made.”

Evidently ...Palestinians are more likely to end terrorism, incitement to violence and rampant antisemitism if the United States applies more pressure on their victims.

Even if Obama doesn’t get it, Mahmoud Abbas does. He is now refusing to negotiate anything with the new Israeli government until President Obama’s settlement conditions are met.

...The President promoted his strategy of putting hard public “pressure” on Israel as a means to build more credibility with Arab states.

...Reports also quote the President as claiming Israel has yet to “engage in serious self-reflection.” Considering Israel is a democratic country forced to send its children into the armed forces for two to three years and its men into reserve duty for another twenty-five, that isn’t the audacity of hope. It’s just plain audacity.

There is no doubt that the pressure on Israel from the Obama administration is going to get a lot worse, as the President told the group “there is a narrow window of opportunity for advancing the peace process.” Everyone understood the threat. The narrow window is Obama’s self-defined political ambitions bearing no relationship to the realities of the Middle East – or the welfare of either Israel or the United States.

PLO & PA Politics Fragments Further

From GLORIA, July 15, 2009, by Barry Rubin*:

Reality keeps impinging on the four main illusions regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the ideas that:
  • peace is possible in the not-distant future;
  • that there’s a Palestinian negotiating partner which wants a two-state solution;
  • that there’s a serious Palestinian negotiating partner capable of reaching and implementing an agreement; and
  • that the failure to end the conflict is due to Israel.

Now we may be at the start of another Palestinian implosion, this time in Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the PLO, the less-important but still existing Palestinian political umbrella group.

The latest development is a very public feud between Fatah leader and long-time PLO “foreign minister” Farouq Qaddumi, and PLO and PA head Mahmoud Abbas. With the word “moderate” endlessly—and exaggeratedly—applied to Fatah, it is easy to forget that the group’s perennial most popular leader is Qaddumi, a man who opposed and still openly opposes the Oslo agreement and a two-state solution.

Given this opposition, Qaddumi, unlike many other Fatah leaders, long refused to move to Gaza or the West Bank. It should be stressed, however, that Qaddumi could probably—if a conflict broke out—muster more support in the organization than the bureaucratic and uncharismatic Abbas. Indeed, the only real asset Abbas has is the Western aid which subsidizes the PA and, indirectly, Fatah and the PLO.

Qaddumi has now accused Abbas of murdering former PLO, PA, and Fatah leader Yasir Arafat, in partnership with Israel no less!...

...Why this feud between the two top non-Islamist Palestinian leaders?

1. Western observers think peace processes are one-way streets but fail to understand that the closer successful negotiations might appear, the more determined are extremists to wreck it. In other words—it isn’t really paradoxical—even the potential prospect of diplomatic progress raised the level of violence and conflict. In this case, the new feud is in part a response to U.S. efforts to heat up the process by those who want to ensure the conflict doesn't end.

2. Abbas is perceived as becoming too close to America and there's fear of the PA and Fatah becoming U.S. satellites. A key factor here is U.S. training of Palestinian security forces. Fatah isn’t a movement so much as it is a militia; the PA is not so much a government as it is an assembly of gunmen. If the United States seems to gain influence over the security forces, militants believe it could get control of the movement. Many in the movement want to sabotage this effort....

3. Qaddumi has always been Syria’s man. Syria keeps insisting that it is the key to stabilizing Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Arab-Israeli peace, contacts with Iran, and just about everything else. The Syrians want to assert its own influence over the movement and ensure the United States doesn’t get too much. (And since Syria also sponsors Hamas one can see what that would lead.)

4. Finally but most significantly, the battle to be the next PLO leader has just begun. Abbas is not in good health. Will he really last more than a year? Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a Western-backed bureaucrat with no base of his own. Qaddumi is too old. There is no leading candidate, or even candidates, for the top job. But within the next year they will emerge. Each one will have a faction behind him. And don’t forget that each of these candidates will also be thinking about whether he wants to fight Hamas or get its backing in the battle for leadership.

In August, Fatah is supposed to hold a general congress, but these meetings are often postponed. Internal elections have been repeatedly postponed. Indeed, the reelection of the PA’s leader has also been postponed, in part due to the fact that the PA can’t control elections in the Gaza Strip and cannot be entirely sure it would defeat Hamas on the West Bank.

Palestinian politics, in short, are in a gigantic mess. They aren’t going to get better for a long time and might get worse. The PA and Fatah could descend into anarchy, or an even more radical leadership could emerge, putting its priority on an alliance with Hamas.

...And these are the leaders and the group and the regime that U.S. and European policy depend on to make the tough compromises needed for peace with Israel? These are the shaky leaders and unstable organizations which much of the world is rushing to give control over a state?

To paraphrase what they say in the movies' legal declaimers: Any coincidence between the dominant Western analyses and actual Palestinian politics is purely coincidental.
*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Israel backs East Jerusalem housing construction despite U.S. opposition

From the LA Times, July 19, 2009, by Jeffrey Fleishman and Batsheva Sobelman:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Jews have the right to build in an area annexed after the Six-Day War in 1967.....Calling Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem indisputable, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today rejected U.S. demands to stop plans to build 20 Jewish-owned apartments in the eastern part of the city...

The decision to allow new housing on land annexed by Israel after the 1967 war probably will further agitate relations with the Obama administration, which has been pressuring Netanyahu to halt the expansion of settlements in hopes of reviving the Middle East peace process and enticing Arab nations to normalize relations with Jewish state.

The sensitivity concerning the project, proposed by a Jewish American millionaire, was highlighted over the weekend when Israeli officials said the country's ambassador to Washington, Michael B. Oren, was summoned to the State Department. But Netanyahu, referring to news reports about the U.S. opposition to the plan, was unwavering, saying that a united Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and that there would be no limits on Jewish construction.

While refusing to rule out natural growth in existing settlements, Israel has pledged not to build new settlements and not to confiscate more land. But Israel doesn't consider projects in East Jerusalem to be settlements, but rather legitimate expansions in a section of the city it captured in the Six-Day War.

"We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase [homes] anywhere in Jerusalem," Netanyahu told reporters at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting. "I can only imagine what would happen if someone would propose that Jews could not live in certain neighborhoods of New York, London, Paris or Rome. There would certainly be a major international outcry. We cannot accept such a decree in Jerusalem."

... Ophir Akunis, a Likud party member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, said, "All countries in the world must understand that on the issue of Jerusalem, we will not receive dictates."

The project in East Jerusalem is funded by U.S. businessman Irving Moskowitz, who has backed a number of housing projects in the city. It calls for building 20 apartments on land that includes the old Shepherd's Hotel, which was originally constructed in the 1930s for the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Husseini. After the Six-Day War, the hotel became a courthouse under the Israeli Ministry of Justice. It has been empty for about 15 years. The Jerusalem Planning Committee, which approved Moskowitz's project, said copies of the proposal were given to the U.S. and British consulates.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in statement, "According to the High Court of Israel, Jews, Muslims and Christians alike can purchase land in all parts of the city of Jerusalem."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fissures at the top of Iran

From, Jul 18th 2009 by AFP:

A former president’s speech shows the widening splits between Iran’s rulers

TEHRAN University was packed on Friday July 17th to hear Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president, give his first sermon since Iran’s disputed presidential election in June. Mr Rafsanjani has emerged as perhaps the most powerful supporter of Mir Hosein Mousavi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s main opponent, and a leading critic of the embattled ruling establishment.

Many came to hear him speak. Thousands more protesters gathered in the streets outside, chanting “Allah-u Akbar” and “death to the dictator”. They had come to show their support for Mr Mousavi who, along with Mehdi Karroubi, another defeated candidate, was also in attendance. Video footage, apparently showing the crowds outside the university, wearing the green that has become the symbol of Mr Mousavi’s campaign, was quickly posted on the internet. Members of the baseej, the thuggish Islamic militia, whose members have supported Mr Ahmadinejad with their voices and their batons, were out in force too. The police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

...Mr Rafsanjani held back from criticising by name Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, or Mr Ahmadinejad.

...Mr Rafsanjani did, however, cast further doubts on the election results and went on to describe the situation in Iran as a crisis. He echoed Mr Mousavi’s appeals for the release of those protesters who have been arrested and called for the media to be allowed to operate freely. He warned that people had lost their faith in the regime and argued that the government had to regain the trust and consent of the people. He signed off by stressing that all Iranians are part of the same family and must remain friends and allies.

Mr Rafsanjani avoided sounding too confrontational but there was enough in his speech to worry Mr Khamenei and Mr Ahmadinejad. Unlike Mr Khamenei’s speech at Friday prayers a month ago, Mr Rafsanjani’s address was not broadcast on state television though it did go out on radio. That it was not shown on television (as Friday prayers usually are) suggests that the government is still nervous about the aftermath of the contentious election. Opposition rallies have largely died down since July 9th but on Friday protesters turned out in their thousands despite warnings from the authorities not to use the occasion as “an arena for undesirable scenes”. This reinforces the depth of anger felt by Iranians about the election and all that has followed.

Mr Ahmadinejad was notably absent at the Friday prayers. He was meant to be in Egypt this week for a meeting of the non-aligned movement but sent his foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, in his place. His decision not to attend suggests that he is still anxious about Iran’s unstable politics.

The fissures at the top of the Islamic regime show no signs of healing. With more senior clerical figures coming out in support of Mr Mousavi, the ruling elite is looking increasingly divided between the clerics and the military. The criticism from clerics is particularly galling for Mr Khamenei who has always felt insecure about his religious credentials. The Revolutionary Guard has stuck by Mr Khamenei and Mr Ahmadinejad so far.

This month has seen the execution of 13 or 14 members of Jundullah, a Sunni group, in south-east Iran and of 20 people accused of drug trafficking. The executions are a reminder of the power the regime is prepared to wield against its enemies. The authorities may well be hoping to create an atmosphere fear in the Islamic republic that will dissuade Iranians from protesting any more about the elections. So far, it does not seem to be working.