Saturday, January 05, 2013

Preaching liberalism to the Jordanian street

From Times of Israel, 31 Dec 2012, by

Mudar Zahran, one of the leaders of his country’s burgeoning Dignity Revolution, says ...a post-Hashemite Jordan will have huge implications for the Palestinians, who may be forced to choose — Western-style secular democracy or a government led by the likes of Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal

 Jordanian protesters chant anti-government slogans, and demand from King Abdullah II swift political reforms and to end corruption in the kingdom, in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 21, 2012. In almost two years of protests, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria, Jordanians have demanded greater political say. (photo: AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

To hear Mudar Zahran tell it, change is coming to Jordan, and fast.
“The King is not going to survive, it’s out of the question… I give him until next summer, more or less. And even if I am wrong, I can’t see the King making it to 2014 by any stretch.”

The Britain-based Zahran, aged 39 and a father to three young children, is one of 15 people, in exile or still in Jordan, who together are leading the “Dignity Revolution,” which erupted on the streets of Amman on November 15, 2012. The movement seeks to topple King Abdullah and replace him with democratic leadership, and Zahran firmly believes that his grouping of secular parties — the Jordanian Opposition Coalition (JOC) — speaks for the vast majority of Jordanians, both Palestinians and Bedouin.
...His conviction comes from experience. Zahran has lived abroad for half his life, including in a number of Western democracies. He holds two master’s degrees, has worked as assistant policy coordinator at the American Embassy in Amman and is currently completing a Ph.D. in finance. Highly skilled, very affable and fluently multilingual, one would expect to find him in the upper echelons of Jordanian government or business. But because of his vocal opposition to the King, he says, he has been targeted by Jordan’s notorious intelligence services and was forced to seek asylum in the UK. His family thus lost much of its fortune, and he nearly lost his life.
Mudar Zahran, a leader of Jordan's 'Dignity Revolution,' which seeks to topple King Abdullah and replace him with democratic leadership (photo credit: courtesy)
Mudar Zahran, a leader of Jordan’s ‘Dignity Revolution,’ which seeks to topple King Abdullah and replace him with democratic leadership (photo credit: courtesy)
“The UK saved my life by granting me asylum,” he says. “They saved my children” — two girls and one boy, aged 5, 6 and 7 — “from becoming orphans.”
...I have more reason to hate what my so-called Arab brothers did to me than Israel,” he explains. “In Islam, God supports a non-Muslim state, an infidel state that is just and fair, over a Muslim state that is unfair and treats its people with tyranny. This is what you find in Islamic books. And I assure you, most Palestinians would rather have an Israeli citizenship than Jordanian citizenship — and guess what, most [Bedouins] too! The Bedouins in the south [of Jordan] can’t find food for their children. They are dying of hunger while our king is buying Ferraris every other day.”

Abusing the Palestinian cause?

Zahran repeatedly emphasizes that he is first and foremost a Jordanian but that it is his Palestinian heritage that drives much of his opposition to the King, a ruler he sees as “feeding on the Palestinian cause as a parasite”.
I am a textbook Palestinian… I have seen it all,” he said, presenting his Palestinian bona fides. We’ve had family members who were imprisoned because of terrorist acts, just like any family in the West Bank… I have a cousin who was killed by Israeli forces on my wedding day, and I saw his corpse on Al Jazeera.”
“Of course,” he hastens to add, “Al Jazeera didn’t report that he had been caught in cross fire between Israel and PLO forces.”
Such nuances feature prominently in Zahran’s thinking. He is vehemently opposed to what he sees as the cynical exploitation of the Palestinian cause by Arab leaders, a phenomenon which he blames for his own family’s repeated displacement from the outskirts of Jerusalem.
‘As long as the Palestinians fight with the Israelis, no one will turn around and look at what the Arabs are doing to one another’
“They were listening to Nasser’s Egyptian radio [in 1967] saying that ‘the Jews are butchering everyone and raping the women.’ It was one of the ironies that their relatives who stayed saw none of that. We have never had a single relative killed in the so-called ‘Jewish massacres of the Palestinians.’ It shows it is the Arabs who played the greater role in terrorizing the Palestinians and creating Palestinian misery. Nasser’s Egypt actually gave them instructions to leave… and then gave them the promise that it would be a very short time before they’d be back home.”
He says his family suffered the same ordeal in 1948: being pushed to leave their homes in what would become Israel through what Zahran sees as an ongoing, and baseless fear campaign: “They got fooled twice.”
“There is a huge campaign to terrorize the Palestinians. As long as the Palestinians fight with the Israelis, no one will turn around and look at what the Arabs are doing to one another. Look, no one is really reporting much about Assad bombing Palestinian refugees with Mig 29s but you can read all about the latest car accident in Jerusalem,” he says in a refrain often espoused by Arab liberals and dissidents. “The Palestinian cause is a necessity for the Arab regimes — and one of the regimes that prospered most from this is the Hashemite regime.”

Of passports and citizenship

But what angers Zahran most is the Hashemite monarchy’s perceived cultivation of artificial divisions between Jordan’s Palestinian majority and its Bedouin minority by systematically depriving the Palestinians of their rights, a policy he referred to as “Apartheid.”
...“all of these names — Jordanian, Palestinian, a Qatari, etc. — are bogus names; they never existed,” he says. “We were all Arabs and proudly so… The Hashemite regime, like all Arab regimes, works on our divisions to make us hate one another, creating bogus animosities between us. In order to make us hate each other for the last 40 years and therefore stay in power, the Jordanians of Palestinian origin were deprived of education and government jobs; no more than 10 percent of the ministers in Jordanian government can be Palestinian.”
The Mandate for Palestine -- "Territory Known as Trans-Jordan" (photo: Public Domain)
The Mandate for Palestine — “Territory Known as Trans-Jordan” (photo: Public Domain)
One egregious method of turning Jordanians of Bedouin origin and the Palestinian majority against one another, he claims, has been the arbitrary stripping of Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship by King Abdullah II.
“It’s a witch hunt to create a sense of fear within the Palestinian majority… the king is playing politics with his people’s basic rights. We have children who were pulled out of school and told ‘go home! You’re not Jordanian, you are Palestinian,’ because the government removed the father’s passport. So someone who was born in Jordan, who’s never seen the West Bank or Gaza, who has never set foot anywhere else, who has always had a Jordanian passport, and also Palestinians born in the West Bank under Jordanian rule — they are being deprived of their citizenship by a regime that has occupied part of the British mandate over Palestine,” he underlines, a reference to the territory of Jordan. “This is a tragedy.”
Zahran is incensed that the media have not reported on this phenomenon more broadly, saying that “If Israel wanted to withdraw 40-50,000 passports from Israeli Arabs this would be a United Nations issue but, again, when Arabs hurt other Arabs it’s okay… It’s a massacre of human rights that is going on in Jordan, and yet some speak of giving the King a Nobel Prize!”
‘Why are we opening our hospitals to our Libyan brothers in Jordan, opening our universities to our Saudi brothers, our job market to our Egyptian brothers — 340,000 working in Jordan — and denying a tourist visa to a Palestinian in the West Bank who already holds a Jordanian passport?! That’s unfair… a passport that doesn’t allow you to enter your own country!’
The confiscation of Palestinians’ passports by the regime is a hot button issue for Zahran, he says, because, when founded, Jordan was intended to serve as a Palestinian state.
“It was the choice of the Hashemites to turn what was supposed to be a Jewish state under the legally binding Balfour Declaration [covering what is today Israel, the West Bank and Jordan] into two states… The Hashemites convinced the Jews to accept that 78% of the British Mandate [over Palestine] — that’s Jordan today – would be taken to establish a Palestinian homeland instead… to draw a line in the sand and call this part [i.e., Jordan], the Arab homeland. The Hashemites are still refusing to honor this.”
What’s worse, the ruling Hashemites “insisted that the West Bank become a part of the Hashemite kingdom as well [starting in 1948]. Then, when they retreated and ran away wearing women’s clothes in 1967, they came back and told us suddenly: ‘You from the West Bank are now not Jordanians any longer, you are Palestinian.’”
Zahran’s interpretation of the Jordanian regime’s message to its newly minted Palestinians after Israel captured the West Bank? “You can live here as a subhuman who pays taxes and gets nothing in return.”
He believes that the exclusion and precarious situation of Jordan’s Palestinians, who are pushed to look to Israel for redress, is a “huge” part of what is fueling hatred and animosity toward Israel.
“Most Palestinians in the West Bank hold [only] Jordanian passports, except for a few thousand… Even [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas has a Jordanian passport, as does his family and most senior officials in the PA,” he says. “Why are we opening our hospitals to our Libyan brothers in Jordan, opening our universities to our Saudi brothers, our job market to our Egyptian brothers – 340,000 of them work in Jordan — and denying a tourist visa to a Palestinian in the West Bank who already holds a Jordanian passport?! That’s unfair… a passport that doesn’t allow you to enter your own country!”
Zahran therefore believes that a democratic Jordan that embraces its Palestinian majority will help to solve the conflict with Israel.
“The West-Bankers can call themselves Jordanians as much as I can call myself Palestinian,” he says. “They can have a state or not, attach it to Jordan or not, but once we get rid of the Hashemite regime we can have a huge change of circumstances.”

Of moderates and Islamists

Zahran believes the popular image of the Jordanian monarchy as a moderate bulwark amid a rising tide of Islamism in the Middle East is deceptive. The King, rather than fight Islamists, actually props them up in order to make himself appear as a crucial moderate, he claims — “like a man who trains vicious Rottweilers and then says ‘I’m keeping them at bay.’”
According to Zahran, this unspoken alliance between the Islamists and Abdullah runs deep.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has been pampered by the regime,” he claims. “They own private hospitals, schools, private businesses, even parts of government institutions — they are very rich. We don’t have money.”
Zahran sees the coming contest over Jordan as one between well-funded but unpopular Islamists and secular forces that, while representing the public, lack resources.
“The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood said on November 20 that he examined the Brotherhood’s options and they don’t want to see the regime fall. What that means is that if [the Hashemites] fall, he doesn’t think the Muslim Brotherhood can win.” In fact, because of Jordan’s proximity to Iraq and Syria, both historically secular states that have influenced the Kingdom, Zahran believes that the Muslim Brotherhood commands the support of no more than one in eight Jordanians.
Jordan's King Abdullah II sits with his wife, Queen Rania, at a celebration commemorating the early 20th century's Arab revolution, Amman, June 10, 2002 (photo: AP/Royal Palace, Yousef Allan)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II sits with his wife, Queen Rania, at a celebration commemorating the early 20th century’s Arab revolution, Amman, June 10, 2002 (photo: AP/Royal Palace, Yousef Allan)
And this secularism is reflected in the JOC’s platform. “The secular Jordanian Opposition Coalition understands fully that if we want support from the West, the price is to maintain peaceful relations in the area, to maintain peace treaties and to not compromise Israel’s security, and” — he adds significantly — “we want that for our own good.
“But this doesn’t mean it will be easy. The media does not report about the secular opposition running the whole revolution coalition. They just report on the Muslim Brotherhood. We secular forces don’t have the money or support that we need.”
Indeed, Zahran is adamant that the West must empower those parties in Jordan that share Western values and objectives, and that it must do so before it is too late. “There are two options before you: a secular force that is dominant but poor and ignored by the media, and which will respect the peace treaty with Israel and take a forceful stand against terrorism… or the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s either or. The world has to choose.”
And then, citing Iranian meddling in Jordan, he issues a dramatic warning: “If the king of Jordan falls, unless someone helps the seculars, [Hamas kingpin] Khaled Mashaal, a citizen of Jordan, is very eligible to become the next president of Jordan.”
In his opinion, the West has at most 100 days to four months to strengthen the secular forces, “or Jordan will end up like Egypt.”

Of Israel and the Palestinians

“I’ve been the subject of apartheid by the Jordanian regime, I’ve been the subject of discrimination and persecution at universities, even when applying for my kids’ birth certificates,” Zahran says, “and I realize that Jews deserve a place they can call home.”
It’s not that Zahran is a Zionist — he isn’t — but he sees Israel as having consistently offered a hand for peace. He mentions, by way of example, that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s own brother-in-law was treated in an Israeli hospital while Hamas rockets were raining down on Israeli cities. And he sees all talk of destroying Israel as counterproductive fantasy.
In fact, where Zahran is critical of Israel, it is for bringing about violence through what he perceives as misguided efforts to manufacture peace. “We had Israelis coming up with crazy solutions that destroyed the whole situation, and Oslo is one of them,” he says. “An unfeasible, imaginary solution that came from dreamers who said, ‘All we have to do is give up, just get rid of the West Bank and we will have peace and quiet.’ That was unrealistic.”
Similarly, Zahran does not believe that Israel should be negotiating with the PLO or Hamas, parties whose charters, he says, both call for the destruction of Israel.
What about the possibility of a confederation of Jordan and the West Bank, an idea that was recently floated by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas?
“I think good borders make good friends — the borders will be along the outskirts of the West Bank cities or on the Jordan river — as long as there is a responsible government in Jordan that realizes why, historically, Jordan, was created [i.e, to be a Palestinian Arab state], then everything will be fine.
‘The King wants access to the West. He likes to shop and is an avid gambler’
“So if we come to prove we are an independent state that is peaceful and doesn’t ‘turn the demographic time bomb on Israel,’ as the King wants, if we show that we are also responsible [in practice] beyond intentions, that we can have good fiscal policy, that we can make our people prosperous… I am sure the Palestinians in the West Bank will welcome us back … [And] we would absolutely welcome a joint confederation between us and [the West Bank Palestinians] if it keeps the area secure.”
Asked whether his vision of a democratic Jordan open to the idea of a confederation with the West Bank would not simply render Jordan a Palestinian state, he says: “I am not so concerned as the world is with the name… Jordan will stay Jordan. But there is a proverb: If it acts like a duck, walks like a duck…”
Zahran does expect blood to be spilled in the fight against the Hashemites. “They are already killing people.” But he expects nowhere near the slaughter happening in Syria, where over 45,000 people have been killed by Bashir Assad’s forces.
“The King wants access to the West. He likes to shop and is an avid gambler,” Zahran says, adding that the US, through its military aid, effectively controls Jordan’s military. He therefore doesn’t expect any armed conflict to last more than three months. But “we are ready for confrontation,” he asserts.
Zahran says his his family is still paying the price for his activism. He speaks about threats on his life and the disappearance of his family’s fortune. He mentions a young, unknown blogger who was stabbed and smeared as a prostitute in the Jordanian press for her online criticism of the regime. He has personally been attacked in a prominent Jordanian daily by an official of Al Quds university, a man with close ties to the Jordanian government, and says he has had his personal arguments with his wife, in London, recounted to him word for word by people close to the Jordanian government. “I am under close surveillance,” he says, and claims he has it on good authority that his murder is being considered in the corridors of Jordanian power.
“If I am killed it will be by a direct order from the King,” he says with dry, pensive certainty. “We Palestinians are known to be stubborn in fighting for what we want. So many Palestinians have died fighting the wrong enemy. If I am killed, I will be happy to have died for the right cause.
“And I have no fear. God is my savior.”

Muslims Against Hamas

From FrontPage, 4 January 2013 , by :

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Hisham, the founder of Muslims Against Hamas. He is a Palestinian born in Jabaliya, in the Gaza Strip. He is protecting his full name for obvious reasons. Visit his “Muslims Against Hamas” page on Facebook here.
...Hisham: The mechanism by which Hamas terrorizes the citizens of Gaza is relatively simple. It is based on the creation of external and internal enemies rarely real and most often fictitious. Repression of opponents, executions, torture are the most used means by the militants to keep the population under pressure.
In fact, the presence of a dangerous enemy keeps alive the fear of people who accept Hamas as a necessary evil and they do not rebel. However, many of the people of Gaza do not know that Hamas uses their fear with cynicism. Interrogations and trials of the enemies are very often false and designed for the intended purposes.
FP: How did you manage to escape? Why did you decide to escape?
Hisham: I must say that I was lucky in my case. A relative of mine worked in the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. I started working with him and when I decided to escape he helped me a lot. I had made arrangements with an Egyptian family friend who helped me to enter into Egypt. Then it was all quite easy.
I decided to escape to study and go to college with peace of mind. At first I wasn’t even thinking about starting my battle against Hamas, but when you see things from another point of view, everything changes...
...FP: Why did you decide to denounce Hamas?
Hisham: I decided to denounce Hamas recently. I was surfing the internet when I came across a video of Mosab Yousef. Mosab is the son of one of the founders of Hamas, Hassan Yousef, who had the courage to rebel and to denounce the crimes of the organization. I was impressed by him so I became interested in his cause. I recommend everyone to read his book “Son of Hamas.” Thanks to him, I realized that I, in my small way, could do something to try to change the disastrous situation in Gaza.
FP: What is your goal?
Hisham: Since I live out of the reality of Gaza, I began to perceive a great misinformation and a lack of a deep understanding of the events regarding the Palestinian problem. The media are only interested in the conflict between Israel and Palestine; they ignore issues such as Hamas and Palestinian internal struggles. So, my main goal is to bring to light the problem of “Hamas” to stimulate the interest of the public.
FP: Are you a Muslim? How do you view Hamas in an Islamic context and Islamic Law in general?
Hisham: Lately, my relationship with Islam is very confrontational, nevertheless I am certainly a Muslim. The main problem for us young Muslims in Gaza is to have lived the religion according to the dictates of Hamas. We all know that there are different approaches to Islamic tradition. I’m talking about Shi’ism, Sunnism, Wahhabism. The difference lies in the various interpretations of the Koran. Starting from these facts, we can understand how it is possible that an organization like Hamas could justify his crimes through the religion. They can do this by simply applying their interpretation of the ancient texts.
FP: If you had the power to replace Hamas with a style of government you supported, what kind of government would you choose for the Palestinians to live under?
Hisham: I wish there was a democratic government, of course. I wish there was a state capable of guaranteeing equal rights to citizens and able to protect them. A government that knows how to be a guide for the population and that can make the right choices. Certainly, not the one that tortures civilians and exploits its power for mad purposes. I hope with all my heart that I could see such a miracle before Hamas leads all the inhabitants of Gaza to martyrdom at the outbreak of the next war.
FP: Why do you think the mainstream media and international community ignores the crimes and viciousness of Hamas?
Hisham: Honestly, I have no idea. And this is what scares me the most. I do not want to think that there are persecutors more important and more terrible than others. Maybe some people think that being silent in front of Hamas crimes may help the Palestinians to gain independence. There is nothing more wrong than this. Independence will begin only with the collapse of Hamas.
FP: When you say you wish for a “democratic government,” do you therefore oppose an Islamic state/Shariah law for Palestinians? Or do you think that democracy and Shariah are compatible and that HAMAS has just implemented it in a bad way?
Hisham: I’m not a naive person. Sharia and democracy are two opposite concepts. Sharia law should not be the law of the state, simply because it is not democratic and it does not guarantee equality to citizens. There are many reasons why no one should be forced to follow Islamic law. One of these is that, as I said before, there are various interpretations of the ancient texts. Therefore, there can be no Islamic law that fits with all the different traditions. A democratic law would ensure respect for the opinions and peaceful coexistence.
FP: Do you support a Palestinian state that also accepts Israel’s right to exist and that does not engage in terror against it for the goal of exterminating it?
Hisham: At this point we all should have realized that there can be only one solution: peace. I cannot deny the merit of Israel that guarantees the rights of the Arabs inside the country. This shows that coexistence is possible.
Nevertheless this is a futuristic topic. My idea is that the internal Palestinian issues must be resolved as a matter of urgency as they are the direct cause of all the others.
FP: Thank you Hisham, for joining Frontpage Interview.
...check out Hisham’s Facebook page here.

US Diplomatic theatre on Syria

From Commentary, 31 Dec 2012, by Tony Badran:
Washington’s recent diplomatic kabuki theater distracts from the main issue—America’s Syria policy remains strategically adrift.

Israeli Research Succeeds In Isolating Cancer ‘Stem Cells’

From NoCamels, 3 Jan 2013:
One of the more recent breakthroughs in cancer research has been the understanding that not all cancerous cells have the same reproductive capability. In fact, some cells are designed to “fuel” the disease. These cells are called cancer stem-cells, and a new research done at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel has succeeded in isolating them – and destroying them....
Follow the link to the full article...

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Syria and Hezbollah won’t join the fight if Israel strikes Iran

From The Times of Israel, 3 Jan 2013:

The ability of Tehran’s proxies to forcefully respond to an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities has dropped significantly...

Hezbollah leader sheik Hassan Nasrallah, left, speaks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, upon their arrival for a dinner in Damascus, Syria, February 25, 2010 (photo credit: AP/SANA)
Hezbollah leader sheik Hassan Nasrallah, left, speaks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, upon their arrival for a dinner in Damascus, Syria, February 25, 2010 (photo credit: AP/SANA)
The deterioration of the regime in Syria and the subsequent weakening of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon has hurt their ability to join in any conflict, the Hebrew-language daily Maariv reported on Thursday.
The predictions, based on a Foreign Ministry paper that was presented to Israeli diplomats at a Jerusalem conference this week, say that in the event of a military conflict between Israel and Iran, the Syrian army wouldn’t spring to the aid of its traditional ally and patron, for fear of losing its highly tenuous grip on power.
Hezbollah, in an extension of the same domino effect, would also stay out of the fray, so as not to risk its military and political dominance in Lebanon in an uncertain geopolitical landscape where its main backer, Syrian President Bashar Assad, is incapable of providing support.
...“Iran’s ability to harm Israel, in response to an attack from us, has diminished dramatically,” a senior official was quoted as saying. “The Iranian response will be far more minor than what could have been expected if the northern front still existed.”

Over the past two years, the civil war has decimated the Syrian army, and severed Hezbollah from vital supply lines that once extended overland from Iran via Syria, providing the Shiite group with a constant flow of missiles and other arms, the report said.
Concurrently, Hezbollah has become a major part of Lebanon’s political establishment — much more so than during the 2006 Second Lebanon War — which makes it vulnerable and lends greater credence to the Israeli policy that holds the country’s government responsible for the decisions of the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
Thus, the report said, in the event of a Hezbollah attack, Israel would likely invade Lebanon with massive ground forces, in an attempt to eradicate, once and for all, the threat on its northern frontier.

Australian Muslim scholars meet Hamas leader

From J-Wire, January3, 2013 by J-Wire Staff:
A delegation of Australian Muslim scholars has visited Gaza and met with Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh…a visit which may be subject to a government investigation.
The delegation was led by Australian Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed who is considered a ‘moderate’ and who reportedly said,
“I am pleased to stand on the land of jihad to learn from its sons and I have the honour to be among the people of Gaza where the weakness always becomes strength, the few becomes many and the humiliation turns into pride”.
...A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr told J-Wire:
“It is unlawful to offer financial support for Hamas, which Australia considers a terrorist entity. There are also additional prohibitions on interaction with the Hamas Brigade which is a proscribed terrorist organisation.
It is not unlawful to travel to Gaza as a private citizen but the Australian Government strongly advises against it.
It is the responsibility of every Australian to abide by the restrictions on interacting with Hamas. Allegations that any Australian had breached the restrictions on dealings with Hamas would be subject to examination by government agencies.”
Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Foreign Minister told J-Wire:
“If reports about the Mufti’s comments and conduct in Gaza are accurate, this is an extremely disturbing development.
It is important that all community and religious leaders support non-violent resolution of the tensions between Israel and the Palestinian people.
The Mufti’s reported comments appear to be supportive of the approach that Hamas has taken, which has involved thousands of rockets fired into Israel in an attempt to terrorise and kill civilians.
The Mufti must immediately withdraw these remarks, condemn the attacks on Israel by Hamas and other extremist groups, recognise Israel’s right to exist and call for a peaceful negotiated resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.”
Executive Director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council Dr Colin Rubenstein told J-Wire:
“If the Arabic media reports accurately reflect the tone and intent of their visit, the recent  Australian Muslim delegation to meet HAMAS in Gaza led by Australian Mufti Dr. Ibrahim Abu Muhammad, is a cause for serious concern.
It is incumbent upon responsible Australian leaders and officials to stress to the  delegation members that religious or community leaders offering open support for HAMAS profoundly contradicts the core values of Australian  multiculturalism, such as tolerance, non-violence, mutual respect and the rule of law.
HAMAS is a  terrorist organization, subject to Australian financial sanctions, which is engaged in terrorism and war crimes, is rife with extreme antisemitism, and is dedicated, in word and deed, to the violent destruction of a friendly State.  It is incomprehensible that any one with pretensions of moral authority would  hold up HAMAS-led Gaza as a model from which Australians can learn.
Australian leaders should also inquire of the delegation whether they conveyed to Gaza’s rulers the commitment of the Australian government and people to Israel’s right to live in peace and security and to a negotiated two-state outcome. Further, the delegation must be asked whether they made clear to HAMAS the necessity to emulate  Australian rejection of antisemitism and  all other forms of intolerance and terrorism, and if not, why not."
Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim added:
“Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed has said that the purpose of his mission is to learn from Gaza about how to defend his rights.  There is nothing he can learn from Gaza and its Hamas rulers that can possibly have any legitimate application in Australia.  His visit and his comments undermine Australia’s efforts to build a peaceful, inclusive and democratic multicultural society.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Newcomer to Israeli politics: Yair Shamir

Son of former PM Yitzhak Shamir moves to public sector after serving as chairman of El Al and Israel Aerospace Industries.

From Times of Israel, 31 Oct 2012, by Raphael Ahren:

...Shamir was speaking in English to participants of the “Conference on the Future of the Jewish People,” organized by the Jewish People Policy Institute, a think tank affiliated with the Jewish Agency. Shamir passionately laid out, in his view, the problems facing Israel today, but made no effort to show he has any faith in the capacity of the country’s political system to address them.
“I am going into politics; I’m not going to be a politician. I am going to continue my mission and if I see that this is not the right platform, I am going to another one, and I don’t care about what’s this or that,” he said.
A former executive at Israel Aerospace Industries and El Al, Shamir will be slotted into second place on Yisrael Beytenu’s Knesset list, ahead of senior party members such as veteran MK and current Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau. As Avigdor Liberman’s No. 2 man, Shamir is guaranteed a Knesset seat and has good chances of receiving a ministerial portfolio if the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu partnership wins the elections.
Shamir’s primary political interests focus on socioeconomic issues, especially housing and food prices.
“The most important challenges are internal and those should be our focus. The challenges ahead are to focus on reducing the cost of living,” he wrote on his Facebook profile Wednesday. “We need to deregulate the cost of housing and dairy products and decrease government control.”
Asked by a conference participant about his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Shamir said,
“I think we have much more important issues to deal with than the Palestinians, and that is dealing with ourselves
Shamir lamented Israel’s spiritual situation, suggesting that the government focus on fixing that before anything else.
“How many Israelis can speak articulately [about] why a Jewish state is needed? How many Israeli religious citizens can speak meaningfully about the significance of democracy? How many of its scholar citizens can say something profound about what is Jewish about the Jewish state? Conclusion: [Our ] Jewish, our spiritual existence is in danger. We are losing the battle for the soul of Israel.”

While Israel’s physical existence is today more or less secured, the real danger to Israel is the erosion of Jewish and Zionist values, he said at the conference.
“Zionism is in decay,” he said. “Zionism is attacked on a daily basis, obviously from the outside world but unfortunately also from the inside. And what is more worrying is the inside.”
From The Shalem Center web site:

Yair Shamir, Chairman of the Board

Yair Shamir, Chairman of the Board, is considered one of Israel’s leading businessmen. He is currently Chairman and Managing Partner of Catalyst Investments, and, from 2005-20011, was Chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries. Many observers credit Shamir’s leadership with IAI’s dramatic turnaround in profit earnings. In January 2012, Mr. Shamir became Chairman of the Israel National Roads Company (INRC), Israel’s leading road network authority responsible for design, development, and operation of interurban roads in Israel.
 Previously, Mr. Shamir served as Chairman of El Al Israel Airlines, whose privatization process he oversaw, as well as CEO of VCON Telecommunications Ltd., Executive Vice President of the Challenge Fund-Etgar L.P., Executive Vice President and General Manager of Scitex Corporation, Ltd., a leading worldwide developer, manufacturer, and marketer of interactive computerized systems for the graphic design, printing, and publishing markets, and CEO of Elite Food Industries, one of Israel’s leading food-products manufacturers. He holds a B.Sc. in electrical engineering from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
 The son of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Mr. Shamir also boasts a decorated military career, having served as a pilot, engineer, and commander in the Israel Air Force. After attaining the rank of colonel, he served, as head of the electronics department, in the IAF’s highest professional electronics position. An active member of the board of IDC Herzliya in its founding stage, Mr. Shamir also sits on the Board of Governors of the Technion and the Board of Directors of Ben-Gurion University.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

'Israel searching for remains of Eli Cohen in Syria'


Israel reportedly engaged in secret negotiations with Syrian rebels in order to secure remains of executed Israeli spy, and to lay groundwork for possible Israeli-American operation in Syria.

The Pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi on Monday published a story on its website claiming that Israel is having secret contacts with the Syrian rebels in order to search for the remains of executed Israeli spy Eli Cohen as well as to secure the Golan Heights.
Eli Cohen is known as one of Israel's greatest spies, who infiltrated the highest levels of the Syrian government in the 1960s and was publicly hanged in Damascus in 1965.
Cohen was sent to Syria disguised as Kamel Amin Thaabet, a Syrian who decided to return to his homeland after spending many years in Argentina.
Upon his arrival to Damascus in 1962, Cohen - disguised as Thaabet - quickly rose to prominence as a tour operator and businessman, gaining the friendship and trust of many officials in the Syrian elite. Throughout the next four years, he would regularly correspond with his handlers in Israel, passing information that contributed to the IDF's victory in the Six-Day War.
In 1965, Cohen was caught in the act of transmitting information to Israel. He was tried and found guilty of espionage, and hanged publicly in May of that year.
According to Al Quds Al Arabi, Israel, with the cooperation of Jordan, also is laying the groundwork for a possible Israeli-American operation in Syria.
The paper writes,

"The Jordanian tribal front warned that there exists secret contacts between Israel and dissident commanders from the Syrian army, with support from some Jordanian circles." The story went on to mention that the Arab tribes "facilitated the exit of dissident Syrian commanders to the occupied territories."
The Jordanians were aware of meetings that took place between the dissident commanders and the Israeli officials in Jordan that were meant "to prepare for an American-Zionist plan in Syria in order to protect the borders of the occupied Golan."

In Egypt you won't know the facts until you've seen the fiction

I hope that I don’t get arrested for this one but I can't stay quiet about the political scene in my Egypt.
When President Morsi was appointed on June 30th, 2012 I stayed quiet and started to observe. In a sense of fairness the opposition parties and all the political activists of Egypt agreed to give president Morsi a 100 days chance to work on the promises he gave during the elections. Morsi promised that during his first 100 days as president would work on 64 specific problems such as fuel, traffic etc.
I believe that any presidential candidate should decide who will be the head of his government and who will serve in the key positions. This new government should be announced once he gets elected and becomes the president. However, Morsi took 25 days to announce the new prime minister and the new government. This made me wonder what took him all this time?
The most logical conclusion I could think of is that he was turned down by others who refused to work with him. The PM position must be filled by an economist who can handle the fragile economy and gain foreign investors` support; but we were shocked when he appointed Hesham Qandil as the head of the new government. Qandil was the minister of water resources and irrigation- he has never been a member in any party and has never been active in politics. I can't deny that he was very good in his field but I don’t believe that his experiences in politics and economics make him a candidate at all. Choosing Qandil supports my idea that the elite candidates refused the job, add to this that most of the other key positions were filled by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. You can all read about the consequences in this news link of the Guardian.
Then on the eve of the 100 days which happened to be the 39th anniversary of the October war, Morsi entered a packed Cairo Stadium in an open vehicle, saluting the crowd marked by the unmistakable presence and cheers of the Muslim Brotherhood members and with the equal absence of all the leading military figures from the October 6 War itself.
Then the big shocking scene was the presence of Islamists at the ceremony whose names were closely associated with the assassination of President Sadat on 6 October 1981. It is understandable that they have done their term in prison for their crime and that they should be allowed to live a normal life, but it is also extremely insensitive to have them seated in the first row of guests at a celebration that it is directly related to Sadat.
During the 2 hours speech Morsi didn’t reference Sadat and it was not just Sadat who was overlooked during the celebration. All other key figures related to the military victory were equally overlooked too. The speech was about Morsi's presidency, specifically the first 100 days, rather than about the anniversary of the 6 October War. Morsi said that 70% of his promises were achieved - according to Morsi's rating of his own performance he is a B+ to A president.
According to the MorsiMeter website which was created to monitor and track down the 1st 100 days of work, the President achieved only 10 promises out of the 65 he gave. I know I am weak in math but I don’t think that these 10 promises makes 70%. There is a detailed analysis in the MorsiMeter website for those who are interested.
I can understand the obstacles and the set backs in trying to achieve these promises but what disappointed me the most and made me realize that the Muslim Brotherhood is no better than Mubarak`s regime is how president Morsi underestimated the intelligence of the Egyptian people by staging this show and gave us inaccurate figures of his so called achievements.
It is very clear to me now that the Muslim Brotherhood is creating a dictatorship that will set back my Egypt for years to come until the people get enough of it and then a brand new Revolution against the Brotherhood dictatorship will take place.

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Monday, December 31, 2012

“1967 Borders” Never Existed

From JCPA, Vol. 10, No. 17, 21 Dec 2012, by Alan Baker:
  • The Palestinian leadership is fixated on ... a unilaterally declared Palestinian state within the “1967 borders.” ...
  • But such borders do not exist and have no basis in history, law, or fact. The only line that ever existed was the 1949 armistice demarcation line, based on the ceasefire lines of the Israeli and Arab armies pending agreement on permanent peace. The 1949 armistice agreements specifically stated that such lines have no political or legal significance and do not prejudice future negotiations on boundaries.
  • UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 acknowledged the need for negotiation of secure and recognized boundaries. Prominent jurists and UN delegates...acknowledged that the previous lines cannot be considered as international boundaries.
  • The series of agreements between the PLO and Israel (1993-1999) reaffirm the intention and commitment of the parties to negotiate permanent borders. During all phases of negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, there was never any determination as to a border based on the 1967 lines.
  • The PLO leadership solemnly undertook that all issues of permanent status would be resolved only through negotiations between the parties. The 2003 “Road Map” further reiterated the need for negotiations on final borders.
...There are no provisions in any of the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians that require withdrawal to the “1967 borders.” There were never any geographic imperatives that sanctify the 1967 lines. Clearly, there could be no legal or political logic to enshrining as an international boundary an inadvertent and coincidental set of ceasefire lines that existed for less than 19 years
While the above is fully evident to the Palestinian leaders who are actively and daily advancing this policy – principally the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the head of the Negotiations Department of the Authority, Sa’eb Erekat, both of whom were themselves actively involved in all the stages of negotiation – they nevertheless continue with their fixation to present the concept of the “1967 borders” as an accepted international term-of-art and as an Israeli commitment...
Follow this link to read the entire article, including a summary of the background to the 1967 lines as described in the international documentation.

The Vatican Violates its 1993 Agreement with Israel

From J-Wire, December 28, 2012 by David Singer*:

Diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican are set to considerably cool following the Pope granting a private audience to Mahmoud Abbas on 17 December...
Pope Benedict welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican on Dec. 17, 2012.
(Photo: AP, Claudio Peri)

Their meeting came at a time of growing political crisis engendered by the passage of the UN General Assembly resolution on 29 November that reaffirmed
“the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967″
The Pope seemingly overlooked any discussion of the implications of this integral part of the resolution that also recognised the State of Palestine as a non-member observer state in the General Assembly – a view confirmed by the following communique issued by the Vatican
“The cordial discussions made reference to the recent Resolution approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations by which Palestine was recognised as a Non-member Observer State of the aforementioned Organisation. It is hoped that this initiative will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming the negotiations between the Parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both.”
The Pope was apparently unaware that the only matter left to be negotiated between the parties as a result of “this initiative ” was the timing of the eviction of 600,000 Jews currently living in this ” State of Palestine” as defined by the General Assembly.
Abbas had made this racist view very clear on 28 July 2010 when Wafa – the official Palestinian news agency – reported the following remark by Abbas in Cairo:
“I’m willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the agreement, such as Nato forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the Nato forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land.”
Could the Pope have failed to understand that the Resolution also left no room for negotiating the boundaries of this ”State of Palestine” – that the General Assembly had preemptively determined that it should comprise 100% of the territory won from Jordan by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War?
Would cordial discussions have occurred had the Pope taken the opportunity to urge Abbas to recognise Israel as the Jewish National Home and offer Palestinian citizenship to those Jews who did not want to leave their current homes?
Resumption of negotiations by “the Parties in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both” in such circumstances is a pure pipe dream.
The Abbas audience was a papal faux pas for several reasons.
Firstly - the Pope should not have blessed the audience with overt political significance by accepting from Abbas the gift of a mosaic of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem bearing the inscription that it was presented to him by “the President of the State of Palestine” – a farcical nomenclature that had only been sanctioned that very day by the Chief of Protocol at the UN – Yeocheol Yoon.
Secondly – the Pope was clearly violating clause 11(2) of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement Between The Holy See And The State Of Israel which provides:
“The Holy See, while maintaining in every case the right to exercise its moral and spiritual teaching-office, deems it opportune to recall that owing to its own character, it is solemnly committed to remaining a stranger to all merely temporal conflicts, which principle applies specifically to disputed territories and unsettled borders.”
Remaining a stranger to this temporal conflict would have allowed the Pope to escape any criticism as a result of this inappropriate audience.
Thirdly – Article 2.2 of the Fundamental Agreement further avers:
“The Holy See takes this occasion to reiterate its condemnation of hatred, persecution and all other manifestations of antisemitism directed against the Jewish people and individual Jews anywhere, at any time and by anyone”
Failing to condemn the “President of the State of Palestine” during the audience for his known manifestations of anti-semitism makes a mockery of the Fundamental Agreement.
Fourthly – The Pope’s political foray no doubt inspired his own appointed nominee as the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land – the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal – to also make a political statement in his annual pre-Christmas homily.

Archbishop Twal told his followers at his headquarters in Jerusalem’s Old City that this year’s festivities were doubly joyful, celebrating:
“the birth of Christ our Lord and the birth of the state of Palestine. The path (to statehood) remains long, and will require a united effort,”
Archbishop Twal – who was born in Jordan – had told Vatican Radio on 21 June 2008:
“The majority of our priests, nuns, schools families are in Jordan. We need a link to Jordan…,”
That link will certainly not come from the State of Palestine designated by the UN General Assembly – since its realisation is simply not going to eventuate.
Archbishop Twal also told in an interview on 22 June 2008:
“If you want to touch Jews, Muslims, Christians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Cypriots, Europeans all together ..then you have to consider every comma”
The Archbishop would have done well to have remembered this sage advice before uttering his Christmas Eve message – understanding that what he said would not touch at least 600000 Jews – but cause them immeasurable hurt.
Indeed those who are playing charades with the newly crowned President of the State of Palestine are engaging in a world of make believe – where the words and commas in the Mandate for Palestine, the Montevideo Convention, Article 80 of the United Nations Charter, Security Council Resolution 242, the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap – are apparently no longer worth the paper they are written on.
One can now add the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel to these discarded international agreements.
This does not bode well for any possible peaceful resolution of the long running conflict between Jews and Arabs.
The last Pope to bear Pope Benedict’s name – Benedict XV – enthusiastically endorsed the Jews’ right to reconstitute their national home in what was then Palestine when he told Zionist leader Nahum Sokolov at an audience in 1917 :
“Nineteen hundred years ago Rome destroyed your homeland and when you seek to rebuild it, you seek a path which leads via Rome…Yes this is the will of Divine Providence, this is what the Almighty desires.”
Violating Vatican vows this time round is certainly not going to entice Israel to beat a path to Rome as it continues to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in its ancient, biblical and internationally sanctioned homeland
*David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network

Sunday, December 30, 2012

In response to legitimate questions, the NIF started a campaign of slander and lies

From an article, 27 Dec 2012, about the the New Israel Fund and its financed organizations' delegitimization of Israel and the IDF, by Ronen Shoval, Chairman and Founder of Im Tirtzu, translated by Eytan Meyersdorf, Im Tirtzu at Bar Ilan:

Every time someone dares to criticize the New Israel Fund (NIF), he presented as an extreme right-wing radical, liar, enemy of human rights, democracy, and free speech. This is exactly the way that the NIF responded to an open letter that Jewish American newspapers published. The letter presented clear facts:
The NIF finances organizations that accuse Israel of war crimes in the operation “Pillar of Defense.”
The letter asked the simple question:
Does the NIF agree with these false accusations? If not, what does the NIF intend to do to ensure that these organizations stop their campaign of delegitimizing IDF soldiers?
In response to these legitimate questions, the NIF started a campaign of slander and lies.

Just like the NIF's previous refusal to take responsibility when its financed organizations provided false testimonies to the Goldstone Report (92 percent of the Israeli sources accusing Israel of war crimes in the report came from organizations financed by the NIF), so too now the NIF is refusing to take responsibility when organizations that rely on their financial aid accuse IDF soldiers and Israel of war crimes.
Within this framework, it is worth mentioning some of the NIF's dealings. It gives millions of dollars to Adalah, an anti-Zionist Arab movement that aims to turn the State Israel into a country of “all its nationalities,” meaning, it aims for the elimination of the State of Israel. Until recently, the NIF supported organizations that promoted the boycott of Israel, and today, it finances organizations that file lawsuits against IDF soldiers and Israeli officials in Israel and throughout the world. It highlights itself as an organization that finances “human rights,” but instead of dealing with human rights, it deals with the accusation of Israel and its soldiers as war criminals.
After the operation “Pillar of Defense,” we hoped to see the NIF learn lessons from the past. We were wrong. The organizations that are supported by the NIF are again involved in the delegitimization of Israel.

Adalah contacted the attorney general of Israel to open a criminal investigation on the suspicion of war crimes, and claimed that operation “Pillar of Defense” was a “serious violation of laws of war amounting to war crimes.”
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel was not satisfied with contacting the attorney general, rather went further and turned to the United Nations and demanded to convene the Human Rights Council. It even accused Israel of “producing a culture of systematic violation of human rights.” B'tselem, Gisha, television networks, and other organizations that receive thousands of dollars from the NIF, joined the “party” as well...

...Instead of slandering and silencing...NIF should take responsibility for its actions and take a historical step back to the Zionist camp long as it continues to act against Israel and the IDF – there will be someone to criticize it.

*Orginial Hebrew article.