Tuesday, March 31, 2009

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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 31, 2009

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Arab Leaders Back Sudanese President Wanted for War Crimes in Darfur (BBC News)
Arab leaders have concluded their annual summit in Qatar by showing their support for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted for war crimes.
The Arab League said it rejected the International Criminal Court's decision to issue a warrant for his arrest.
President Bashir had earlier spoken at the summit, and won strong support from his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.
See also Arab Leaders Embrace Sudan's Indicted President - Liam Stack (Christian Science Monitor)


Hamas Rules Out Abiding by Past PLO Commitments (Maan News-PA)
Senior Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardaweel said Saturday that accepting prior agreements with Israel, such as the Oslo Accords or other signed documents, would be impossible, and refused to do so.


Palestinians Support Armed Attacks Against Israeli Civilians - Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
A Palestinian poll conducted on March 5-7 asked about support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel.
Gaza: Support attacks - 67%, oppose attacks - 32%
West Bank: Support attacks - 47%, oppose attacks - 49%


Hamas Wins Teachers Union Elections for UN Schools in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas won all 11 seats in elections for the teachers union at UNRWA schools in Gaza held Wednesday.
Hamas has controlled the teachers union for the past 16 years.


Why Do Armies Use White Phosphorus? - Juliet Lapidos (Slate)
Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli military of "deliberately or recklessly" using white phosphorus shells over densely populated civilian areas.
White phosphorus is primarily deployed as a smoke screen. It was used by U.S. troops in Iraq during the 2004 battle of Fallujah.
It serves as a particularly efficient masking agent because it works so quickly - bursting into thick, white, billowing clouds in just a fraction of a second.
White phosphorus also impedes the use of infrared tracking systems, like those used to guide some anti-tank missiles.


Natural Gas Signs Found in Another Israeli Drill Site (Reuters)
A U.S.-Israeli exploration group that discovered large amounts of natural gas in Israeli waters earlier this year said on Sunday it found early signs of gas at a new drill site in the Mediterranean Sea.
Earlier this year, Noble Energy said it had found 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas at the Tamar-1 site, 90 km. west of Haifa. The new Dalit-1 site is located 60 km. off the coast of Hadera, south of Haifa.

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Israeli Military Closes Probe into Gaza Misconduct - Howard Schneider
The Israeli military's top lawyer on Monday closed an investigation into alleged misconduct during the recent three-week war in Gaza, concluding that charges made by graduates of a military preparation school were "based on hearsay" and had been "purposely exaggerated." (Washington Post)
See also below Observations - Hearsay: Findings of Military Police Investigation of Soldiers' Comments on Gaza War (Israel Defense Forces)
How Israel Foiled an Arms Convoy Bound for Hamas
Israeli fighter-bombers, backed by unmanned drones, were responsible for a mid-January attack on an Iranian weapons convoy in Sudan transporting rockets and explosives to Hamas militants in Gaza, two highly-placed Israeli security sources revealed. A source denied prior claims that a ship and a second convoy were destroyed. "There was only one raid, and it was a major operation," he said.
F-16 fighter-bombers carried out two runs on the convoy. After the first bombing run, drones mounted with high-resolution cameras found that the convoy had only been partially damaged, so the Israelis ordered a second pass with the F-16s. During the 1,750-mile (2,800 km.) journey to Sudan and back, the Israeli aircraft refueled in midair over the Red Sea.
In early January, at the height of Israel's operation in Gaza, Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad learned that Iran was planning a major delivery of 120 tons of arms and explosives to Gaza, including anti-tank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25 mile range and a 45 kg. warhead. "This was the first time that the Iranians had tried to send Hamas a shipment this big via Sudan - and it is probably the last," a source said. (TIME)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Netanyahu Vows "Every Effort to Reach Viable Peace" - Shahar Ilan
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Monday that his government will make every effort to reach "a viable peace with all of Israel's Arab neighbors." He spoke during a special session marking 30 years since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. "The government that I am about to form will do all in its power to reach peace with our neighbors," Netanyahu said. "Israelis know how to spot genuine peace whenever it is offered." (Ha'aretz)
Cabinet Weighs Linking Hamas Prisoners' Privileges to Those of Kidnapped IDF Soldier - Roni Sofer
The Israel Prison Service on Sunday recommended to the government to cut back on Hamas prisoners' visitation rights, academic studies and means of communication. (Ynet News)
See also Sanctions on Hamas Prisoners? - Alan Baker
Hamas blatantly violates accepted humanitarian norms by holding kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit incommunicado somewhere in Gaza, preventing the International Red Cross or his family from visiting him, and denying such minimal rights as the transfer of letters and parcels. Yet the international community doesn't seem to be too bothered. Israel, on the other hand, grants Hamas detainees the conditions required by international law including Red Cross and family visits and medical supervision, as well as additional freebees such as academic studies and access to radio and television. International recognition of this enormous discrepancy is minimal, if at all. (Jerusalem Post)
IDF Kills 2 Palestinian Terrorists Planting Bomb at Gaza Fence - Hanan Greenberg
IDF soldiers thwarted an attack against Israeli forces Tuesday morning when they prevented a Palestinian attempt to place an explosive device on the Gaza border. (Ynet News)
Iran to Complete Hospital that Israel Started Building in Mauritania - Barak Ravid
There are reports that Iran paid the Mauritania government about $10 million to kick out the Israeli ambassador a few weeks ago. Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, visited Mauritania on Wednesday and stopped at a hospital for cancer research and treatment in the Mauritanian capital known by locals as "the Israeli hospital," where he promised that Iran will "replace" Israel and equip the hospital as needed.
The hospital was initiated in 2000 by the Israeli Ministry of Health, but was stalled at various stages due to hesitation on the part of the Mauritanian government. Several million shekels were spent on the project, which was funded partly by the Israeli government and partly by the American Jewish Committee, and an official inauguration ceremony was to have taken place within the next two months. (Ha'aretz)
See also Iran Behind Freeze in Israel-Mauritania Relations - Freddy Eitan
Nearly ten years after the start of diplomatic relations between Israel and Mauritania, the friendly relationship has changed to one of hostility and has led to the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Iran and Libya stand behind the change. The writer was the first Israeli ambassador to Mauritania. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Distancing America from Israel - Benny Avni
With Benjamin Netanyahu set to be sworn in as Israel's prime minister, Western capitals are in a dither about the irrelevant question of Israel's commitment to the vaunted "two-state solution." The "solution" - based on President George W. Bush's vision of a democratic Palestine living peacefully next door to Israel - has no relevance to the world as it is now: Palestine is further from developing a viable democracy than it was when W. set forth the idea. Questions of Netanyahu's commitment to the idea are just a new club for those in Washington who think that distancing America from Israel will somehow solve U.S. problems with the larger Muslim world.
EU leaders last week announced that Israel's hopes of an upgrade in economic and diplomatic ties with the EU are all but doomed unless the new Jerusalem government declares support for the two-state solution. What makes all this absurd, of course, is that Israel isn't the problem. The outgoing Israeli government was fully committed to Bush's vision. Livni, its foreign minister, endlessly negotiated with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to establish a Palestinian state. But Abbas' hold on power has been failing fast, while the absolutists of Hamas - who won't even pretend to want peace with Israel - are on the rise.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his government has "gone further in the peace negotiations than any previous government." But the Palestinian leadership's "weakness and lack of courage" derailed the negotiations. (New York Post)
A Comprehensive Mideast Peace Is a Fantasy - Zvi Bar'el
This is how the Arab League summit in Doha is looking. Host Qatar is not getting along with Egypt. Jordan is furious with Qatar because Al Jazeera, owned by the emirate's ruling family, reiterated the claim that the late King Hussein was a CIA agent. Egypt and Syria are still not reconciled. Saudi Arabia has embarked on a pan-Arab reconciliation effort, but with limited success. The Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have not reached an agreement. And Iraq is still considered suspicious, in part because it is under Iranian influence.
It's also a scene that should raise thoughts about the concept of the Arab initiative, which passed during the 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut, to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories. The initiative offer depends entirely on across-the-board Arab support. Without it, there is no point. Will Iraq, which follows Iranian dictates, make peace with Israel just because of a peace agreement with the Palestinians? Will Lebanon, whose policy is dictated by Hizbullah, agree to peace with Israel even if a peace agreement is reached with Syria? And what will the Palestinians propose? Peace in Ramallah and war in Gaza? (Ha'aretz)
See also The Arab Peace Initiative: A Primer and Future Prospects - Joshua Teitelbaum (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Hearsay: Findings of Military Police Investigation of Soldiers' Comments on Gaza War (Israel Defense Forces)

The Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, has decided to close the case in which the Criminal Investigation Department of the Military Police investigated statements made by soldiers at the Rabin Military Preparation Center in reference to the Gaza operation, after the investigation found that the crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by facts.
The investigation concluded that the stories told were purposely exaggerated and hyperbolic. For example, one story made the claim that a soldier was allegedly given orders to fire at an elderly woman. However, upon investigation, it was found that the soldier witnessed no such thing, and was only repeating a rumor that he had heard.
A claim made by a different soldier who had supposedly been ordered to open fire at a woman and two children was also determined to be an incident that he had not witnessed.
Brig. Gen. Mendelblit concluded the findings of the investigation: "It is unfortunate that none of the speakers at the conference was careful to be accurate in the depiction of his claims, and even more so that they chose to present various incidents of a severe nature, despite not personally witnessing and knowing much about them. It seems that it will be difficult to evaluate the damage done to the image and morals of the IDF and its soldiers."
The juridical assistant of the Military Advocate General, Maj. Yehoshua Gurtler, said: "Soldiers and commanders should not fear reporting inappropriate events that they have witnessed, but when the reports are not precise and are exaggerated, nothing positive will come of it."


Monday, March 30, 2009

Daily alert

Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at www.dailyalert.org
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March 30, 2009


In-Depth Issues:

New Israeli Government to Be Sworn In Tuesday - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's new government will be sworn in on Tuesday afternoon.
Israel's 32nd government will include ministers from the Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor, Shas and Habayit Hayehudi parties.


Daily Alert Needs Your SupportDaily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy.
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Hizbullah Uses Mexican Drug Routes into U.S. - Sara A. Carter (Washington Times)
Hizbullah is using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins do to smuggle drugs and people into the U.S., reaping money to finance its operations and threatening U.S. national security, counterterrorism officials say.
A senior U.S. defense official warned that al-Qaeda also could use trafficking routes to infiltrate operatives into the U.S.


Syria to Receive Russian MiG 31E Warplanes - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Syria will take receipt of advanced MiG 31E fighter jets in the near future, the outgoing head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency Lt.-Gen. Michael D. Maples told the Senate earlier this month.


Hamas to Change Strategy and Expand Arsenal after Gaza Lessons - Mohammed Najib (Jane's)
Hamas will adopt new fighting and training techniques and emphasize its anti-armor capabilities following a review of its failures during the three-week conflict in Gaza, a senior Hamas official said.
Some 50 field commanders will also be removed from their roles for their poor performance, the official said.
However, conclusions drawn from an internal Hamas investigation show an organization unbowed by its defeat, with plans for new logistical supply lines and a modern satellite communications network.
The report also stresses a need to rebuild the morale and motivation of the front-line fighters so that they do not show the same "weakness and fear [when confronted] by a real war."


U.S. Judge Orders Iran to Pay $25M for Hamas Killing - Nedra Pickler (AP/Washington Post)
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina on Friday ordered Iran to pay $25 million plus interest to the family of Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman, a U.S. citizen who was kidnapped and executed by Hamas in 1994.

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Israel Disputes Accounts of Gaza Abuses - Ethan Bronner
Israel is pushing back against accusations of civilian abuse in its Gaza war, asserting that an overwhelming majority of its soldiers acted honorably and that the account of a killing of a woman and her two children appears to be an urban myth spread by troops who did not witness it. Officers are stepping forward, offering numerous accounts of having held their fire out of concern for civilians, helping Palestinians in need and punishing improper soldier behavior.
Israeli commanders say they confronted armed women in Gaza and Hamas gunmen dressed as women and in other guises, like doctors. "We had a woman run at us with a grenade in one hand and the Koran in the other," said Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister. (New York Times)
See also below Commentary: The Blood Libel Is Alive and Well over Gaza - Barry Rubin (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Three Israeli Airstrikes in Sudan Against Iranian Weapons for Hamas - Luis Martinez
Israel has conducted three military strikes against targets in Sudan since January in an effort to prevent Iranian weapons shipments from reaching Hamas in Gaza, a U.S. official said. Sudanese officials reported two airstrikes in the desert of eastern Sudan and the sinking of a ship in the Red Sea carrying weapons. (ABC News)
See also Report: U.S. Warned Sudan Ahead of Attack on Gaza Convoy
The U.S. warned the Sudanese government that weapons were being smuggled into Gaza through its territory ahead of a recent attack on a Gaza-bound arms convoy, the pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Monday. (Ha'aretz)
U.S. Defense Secretary Gates Prefers Sanctions to Diplomacy for Iran
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that Iran was more likely to heed sanctions than diplomacy in U.S. efforts to dismantle its nuclear drive. "I think frankly from my perspective the opportunity for success is probably more in economic sanctions in both places (Iran and North Korea) than it is in diplomacy," he said. "Perhaps if there is enough economic pressure placed on Iran, diplomacy can provide them an open door through which they can walk if they choose to change their policies....And so I think the two go hand in hand, but I think what gets them to the table is economic sanctions." (AFP)
Prince Naif Seen Next in Line for Saudi Throne - Abeer Allam
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, 84, on Friday appointed his half-brother Prince Naif, 74, as the new second deputy prime minister, signaling that he would be next in line for the throne after the ailing Crown Prince Sultan. Naif has been the kingdom's interior minister for more than 30 years. Crown Prince Sultan, the first deputy prime minister, remains in a New York hospital after surgery. (Financial Times-UK)
Syria Tells U.S. It Will Maintain Tight Relations with Iran - O. Winter
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's political and media advisor Buthaina Sha'ban said improved relations with the U.S. would not be at the expense of Syria's relations with Iran, and added, "It is time to stop telling Syria and Iran to sever their relations with Hizbullah, Hamas, and the other resistance organizations," Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London) reported on March 19. Knowledgeable sources in Damascus said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allem told visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman that Syria is determined to maintain its tight relations with Iran, and that it is the West that had to change its policy towards Syria, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported on March 12. (MEMRI)
See also Ahmadinejad, Assad Believe Balance of Power Turning Against Israel
The top leaders of Syria and Iran believe that the regional balance of power is tilting in favor of the Muslim nations at Israel's expense. In a telephone conversation, the Iranian and Syrian presidents said Israel and its allies are getting "weaker" and instead the tide is turning in favor of regional Muslim nations, the Iranian Presidential Office said on Friday. According to Mehr News Agency, President Ahmadinejad said, "the enemies of regional peace are losing ground, but the formidable alliance of friendly countries like Iran and Syria is getting more powerful." Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad also insisted that regional developments "are turning in favor of Muslim countries and to the detriment of the Zionist regime and its allies." (KUNA-Kuwait)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

70 Tons of Explosives Smuggled into Gaza Since IDF Operation - Barak Ravid
Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin told the Cabinet on Sunday that since the end of Israel's Gaza operation in January, 45 tons of raw materials for the production of weapons have been smuggled into Gaza, along with 22 tons of standard explosives, as well as dozens of rockets, mortar shells, and anti-aircraft missiles. "Organizations other than Hamas are pursuing plans to kidnap [Israeli] soldiers and to carry out terror attacks from Sinai into Israel as well as in the West Bank," he added. (Ha'aretz)
See also Drop in Gaza Rocket Attacks - Roni Sofer
Diskin told the Cabinet: "There is indeed a drop in rockets; only one rocket from a small organization was fired in recent days. There are two reasons for this: Hamas is not interested in an escalation or another confrontation with Israel, and as a result, Hamas is carrying out arrests before attacks....Hamas has also signed an agreement with Islamic Jihad to abstain from such attacks in the near future." (Ynet News)
PA Disbands West Bank Youth Orchestra - Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian authorities disbanded a youth orchestra from Jenin in the West Bank after it played for a group of Holocaust survivors in Israel. Local official Adnan Hindi on Sunday called the Holocaust a "political issue" and accused conductor Wafa Younis, an Israeli Arab woman who helped organize the event, of dragging the children into a political dispute. The concert was held last week at the Holocaust Survivors' Center in Holon as part of "Good Deeds Day," an annual event. Ramzi Fayad, a spokesman for various political factions in Jenin, also condemned the participation of the teenagers in the Holocaust event, saying all the groups were strongly opposed to any form of normalization with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

The Blood Libel Is Alive and Well over Gaza - Barry Rubin
A group of young Israeli soldiers met to evaluate their experiences in the Gaza war to see what could be learned from them. The next thing you know, there is a global news story about Israel committing war crimes. Given the eagerness to find Israel evil and guilty, it falls into the category of a "blood libel," the historic allegation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood for matzo.
The charges of war crimes and murder rest almost entirely on two stories. First, a Palestinian mother and daughter were shot by a sniper. An Israeli television station interviewed the soldier who had told this story and he stated that he had simply heard it as a rumor. In the second story, an officer told soldiers to shoot an old woman in the belief she might be a suicide bomber - and an argument broke out over whether to do it. It is not even clear that the woman was shot. And it highlights the caution and humanitarian standards of the Israeli army: enlisted men argued with an officer over obeying an order that soldiers in most armies would have obeyed without hesitation.
Much of the media has not learned from earlier experiences of being tricked by deliberately concocted stories about Israeli atrocities, like the Muhammad al-Dura affair in which charges that Israeli forces murdered a little boy in Gaza at the start of the Second Intifada were shown to be false. The fact remains that there is not a single documented case of any Israeli soldier violating international law or committing a war crime in Gaza - or Lebanon in 2006. And it isn't as if a lot of people haven't tried to find or manufacture such an event. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Building Up Jerusalem's Economy - Robert Weisman
Jerusalem's new mayor, Nir Barkat, is turning to Harvard Business School for advice on American-style economic development. During a briefing at the business school on Thursday, Barkat said the ideas of Harvard business professor Michael E. Porter on competitive advantage form the backbone of his push to revitalize Jerusalem. "We have a 3,000-year-old brand," Barkat noted. "The whole concept is focusing on areas where we have competitive advantage," Barkat said. Jerusalem is following Porter's playbook by building its economy on three existing areas of strength: culture and tourism, healthcare and life sciences, and outsourced medical and financial services.
Barkat noted that he favors a united Jerusalem. "I have no doubt in my mind that our model would work much better in a united city," he said. "Both ideologically and practically, you will not see a split city that really works." (Boston Globe)
See also Jerusalem Mayor Asks U.S. Aid in Rebuilding - Eli Lake
Jerusalem's mayor is asking Americans to invest in upgrading his city in a plan he says also will benefit the capital's 270,000 Palestinian Arabs. (Washington Times)

Examining the Conduct of IDF Operations in Gaza - Jeffrey White (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Charges against Israel's conduct during the war in Gaza give the impression of an unrestrained campaign against an undefended population. Analysis of the conduct of operations, however, paints a different picture. Ground operations were narrowly focused in the north; central and southern Gaza saw no significant - if any - ground combat. Even where ground forces were employed, fighting was not sustained, as reflected in the very low Israeli combat causalities. No attempt was made to penetrate with ground forces deeply into populated areas.
The IDF took active measures to reduce civilian casualties, including the extensive use of leaflets and phone messages warning Palestinians to leave the area or to avoid potential targets. Civilian warnings also included Israeli Air Force "knocking" actions - shots fired to alert building inhabitants of an imminent attack.
IDF measures to protect its soldiers undoubtedly translated into damage to civilian property - tactics that included breaking through walls of structures to avoid exposure to fire. These measures were taken in response to Hamas' preparation of the battlefield with mines and explosive devices, as well as to Hamas' employment of snipers and antitank weapons. In effect, Hamas had already prepared the civilian environment for military purposes. The Gaza operation was not conducted with the aim of killing civilians and damaging their property, although Palestinian civilians were killed and property destroyed as a consequence of military operations.
The criticism leveled against the IDF raises a broader issue: to what standard should the armed forces of states be held when they are in conflict with nonstate actors operating from within a civilian population. Certainly, these standards should be high, but they cannot be so high as to prevent states from acting in legitimate self-defense.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

debunking the supposed abuse


log Name: Yid With Lid (View Blog homepage)
Headline: Ha'aretz Ignored Evidence That Disputed Their Gaza Abuse Claims
Category: Politics
Posted at: 06:56 AM - 24 Mar 2009
Last week Ha'aretz reported supposed wide-spread IDF abuse of citizens in Gaza. This information was gleefully reproduced in the NY times. Of course they could only find two examples and those two examples where rumors that were passed along. And the source of one of the rumors is an ultra-leftist who was once jailed for refusing to guard settlers at a religious ceremony. It certainly seems as if Ha'aretz was too anxious to spread a blood libel, than to investigate the facts.

Out of the two incidents that Ha'aretz reported, one even Ha’aretz made clear was an accidental killing, when two women misunderstood the evacuation route the Israeli soldiers had given them and walked into a sniper’s gunsights as a result. Moreover, the soldier who reported this to Ha'aretz this admitted he wasn’t even in Gaza at the time, he was just spreading a rumor he herd.

The second charge is based on an incident in which an elderly woman came close to an IDF unit, an officer ordered that they shoot her because she was approaching the line and might have been a suicide bomber. In the report the soldier says ‘from the description of what happened’ it seems as if Ha'aretz is once again using rumor instead of news.

If Ha'aretz did its Job there was much real information disputing its report that the paper could have used. The Report below from CAMERA presents the facts that Ha'aretz was too lazy (or too biased) to share with its readers:

CAMERA:Questions Raised about Charges of “Wanton Killing” in Gaza by Alex Safian, PhD

Less than a month after Israel concluded operations in Gaza, some of the soldiers who served there met at the pre-military academy they had attended to discuss their experiences in the fighting. As the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has reported, the head of the academy, Danny Zamir, arranged the gathering, and at the outset he condemned the Israeli operation for setting “new limits for the army’s ethical code and that of the State of Israel” and for sowing “massive destruction among civilians.”

Later in the discussion Zamir went further, stating:

I think it would be important for parents to sit here and hear this discussion. I think it would be an instructive discussion, and also very dismaying and depressing. You are describing an army with very low value norms, that's the truth.

Since, as Ha’aretz put it, Zamir “does not hide his political opinions,” it seems likely that his former students at the left-leaning Kibbutz-affiliated school knew what Zamir wanted to hear at the meeting, and that only a self-selected group attended. In any event, some of the attendees certainly did not disappoint Zamir, who had been imprisoned by the IDF in 1990 for refusing to serve in the West Bank. They recounted tales of “murder in cold blood,” including seemingly eyewitness accounts of a sniper shooting a woman and two of her children merely because they made a wrong turn, and another sniper killing an old woman.

Zamir wrote an article about the discussion for the academy’s newsletter, which he then provided to the Israeli newspapers Ha’aretz and Maariv, triggering in Ha’aretz alone multiple stories extremely critical of the Israeli army’s alleged conduct (here, here, here, here and here), as well as numerous stories in the foreign press, such as the New York Times, which put its initial report on page one above the fold (here and here). Both the Ha’aretz and the New York Times reports ignored detailed testimony by soldiers of exemplary conduct by the IDF, such as soldiers leaving an envelope of cash for the Palestinian homeowner whose house they had occupied.

While the Israeli government has promised a full and even a criminal investigation, serious doubts have already been raised about some of the charges.

For example, on Israel’s Channel 2, defense correspondent Roni Daniel reported that the soldier who supposedly witnessed the sniper shoot a mother and two of her children has now admitted to his brigade commander that he didn’t see any such thing:

I didn’t see it myself. There were stories like this. I wasn’t in that house and everything I said was only on the basis of hearsay. At the assembly it was a friendly talk, and I related to it as such.

Daniel raised similar questions about the killing of the old woman by a sniper, and concluded that “The credibility of these two stories is very doubtful.”

In the wake of Daniel’s broadcast, even Ha’aretz reported that the soldier recounting the tale of a mother and children being killed had been called in by his brigade commander, at which time he admitted he was relying solely on “rumors” within his unit:

By the afternoon, the army could report that the investigation into the testimony regarding the shooting of a mother and two children had reached preliminary conclusions. Givati brigade commander Ilan Malkha summoned the squad leader who recounted the story, who admitted he had relied solely on rumors in the company.

Counter Evidence Ignored

Ha’aretz, the New York Times, and most other outlets covering this controversy have ignored detailed statements by other soldiers of the strict rules of engagement that they followed, and of their acts of kindness towards Palestinians. (The Times devoted all of one sentence to a soldier who said that Israeli soldiers put their own lives at risk to avoid harming Palestinians. And the lone sentence was buried towards the end of the article.)

The Israeli newspaper Yediot recounted some of these in reaction to the Ha’aretz stories:

"I don’t believe there were soldiers who were looking to kill (Palestinians) for no reason," said 21-year-old Givati Brigade soldier Assaf Danziger, who was lightly injured three days before the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead.

"What happened there was not enjoyable to anyone; we wanted it to end as soon as possible and tried to avoid contact with innocent civilians," he said.

According to Danziger, soldiers were given specific orders to open fire only at armed terrorists or people who posed a threat. "There were no incidents of vandalism at any of the buildings we occupied. We did only what was justified and acted out of necessity. No one shot at civilians. People walked by us freely," he recounted.

In the same article Yediot also quoted other soldiers:

A Paratroopers Brigade soldier who also participated in the war called the claims "nonsense". Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said "It is true that in war morality can be interpreted in many different ways, and there are always a few idiots who act inappropriately, but most of the soldiers represented Israel honorably and with a high degree of morality.

"For instance, on three separate occasions my company commander checked soldiers' bags for stolen goods. Those who stole the smallest things, like candy, were severely punished," he said.

"We were forbidden from sleeping in Palestinians' beds even when we had no alternate accommodations, and we didn’t touch any of their food even after we hadn't had enough to eat for two days."

"During one incident, we were informed that a female suicide bomber was heading in our direction, but even when women approached us and crossed a certain point we made do with firing in the air, or near the women," the soldier recalled. "Even when we came across deserted stores, we didn’t even think of taking anything. One soldier took a can of food, but he immediately returned it after everyone yelled at him."

Major (res.) Idan Zuaretz of Givati said "in every war there is a small percentage of problematic soldiers, but we must look at it from a broad perspective and not focus on isolated incidents."

Zuaretz, a company commander, also questioned the integrity of the soldiers who made the controversial claims, saying "if this was such a burning issue for them, why have they remained silent until now? On an ethical and moral level, they were obligated to stop what they claimed had occurred and not wait two months to be heard at some esoteric debate."

According to the officer, the IDF went to great lengths and employed the most advanced technology to avoid harming civilian population.

"I've seen a few things in my time, but even I was blown away by the level of professionalism displayed by the army," Zuaretz said. "I personally gave my soldiers an order on the day we withdrew from Gaza to leave all of our goodies in the last house we occupied. Some reservists even left an envelope full of money to one Palestinian family."

Another soldier who had fought in Gaza, Yishai Goldflam, circulated an open letter to the Palestinian family whose home his unit had temporarily occupied during the fighting. His letter, titled “I am the soldier who slept in your home,” was published in Maariv, and then translated and published in Canada’s National Post. Goldflam too spoke of the care he and his fellow soldiers had taken to minimize damage to the home:

I spent many days in your home. You and your family's presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife's perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children's toys and their English-language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and laid them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth.

I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me -- us -- and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places. I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home...

It’s unfortunate that New York Times and Haaretz readers are fed constant doses of the anti-Israel story-of-the-day, while the papers ignore the stories of typical Israeli soldiers like Yishai Goldflam. Times editors (and their counterparts at Haaretz) should explain why Danny Zamir is fit to print, and Yishai Goldflam is not fit to print.

Through such tendentious choices is news made rather than reported.

Daily alert

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March 27, 2009
Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Sudan Strike Targeted Weapons Capable of Hitting Tel Aviv - Amos Harel, Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
Alluding to foreign media reports of an Israel Air Force strike in Sudan in January, Prime Minister Olmert said Thursday, "We operate everywhere we can hit terrorist infrastructure - in nearby places, in places further away, anywhere we can strike them in a way that increases deterrence."
Israeli officials declined to confirm or deny Israel's involvement in the air strike in Sudan.
Any Israeli decision to attack such a distant target would likely have been based on the belief that Iran could deliver arms into Gaza, possibly including 70-km.-range Fajr rockets which could strike Tel Aviv.

Daily Alert of March 26 included an excerpt entitled, "Prominent U.S. Political Cartoonist Compares Israel to Nazis," based on an AP story. The excerpt mistakenly identified cartoonist Pat Oliphant as the author of a cartoon that critics said likened a violent chimpanzee to President Obama.
The author of that cartoon was Sean Delonas, not Oliphant.

Egypt Puts Troops on Sudan Border to Halt Gaza Smuggling - Amos Harel, Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
Egypt has been sending forces to its border with Sudan in an effort to prevent smuggling into Gaza.
"The Egyptians are patrolling the border and inspecting it," a senior Israeli intelligence source said. "They weren't doing that until now. They started doing it because of the increased international pressure to act against the smuggling. But so far, the results are only partial."
The source said the Iranians have established smuggling networks via the Persian Gulf, Aden and east Africa, with an emphasis on Sudan.

Israel Would Prefer Japan's Amano to Head IAEA - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
As Mohamed ElBaradei completes his term as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, government sources in Jerusalem seem to prefer the Japanese candidate, Yukiya Amano, rather than South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty.
Sources said that while Amano and Minty have equivalent technical expertise for the job, South Africa's relationship with Iran is very problematic from an Israeli perspective.
For instance, in 2006, when the IAEA finally decided to report Iran to the UN Security Council, South Africa was one of five countries that abstained.

Officers Charged in Venezuela Synagogue Attack (AP/New York Times)
Venezuelan prosecutors have charged eight police officers and three other people in connection with a break-in and vandalism in January at Caracas's largest synagogue, prosecutors said Thursday.

Israel to Provide India Air Defense System (Times of India)
In its biggest defense deal with India, Israel will provide an air defense system for $1.4 billion.
Under the deal signed on Feb. 27, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will develop and manufacture seaborne and shore-based systems against missile attack on India.
IAI has also undertaken to procure military or aviation products and services from India, and will invest in defense companies in India up to an amount equal to 30% of the contract.

The Jews in Poland Today - Interview with Rabbi Michael Schudrich by Manfred Gerstenfeld (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
The Polish Jewish community is growing and the average age is declining.
General Polish interest in Jews and Israel is intensifying. More and more small non-Jewish groups want to "do something Jewish." A number are involved in cleaning up unattended Jewish cemeteries.
About 1,300 of the 1,400 remaining Jewish cemeteries are still unattended.
New York-born Rabbi Michael Schudrich began working in Poland in 1990 and has been Chief Rabbi of Poland since 2004.

Israel to Share Farming Technology with Kenya - Ally Jamah (Standard-Kenya)
Israeli Ambassador Joseph Keidar on Tuesday invited Kenyan Agriculture Minister William Ruto to attend the 17th International Agriculture Exhibition in Israel in May.
"We have answers to most of the problems that Kenya faces in agriculture and water and we are ready to share it," said the ambassador.

Useful Reference:

Virtual Tours of Israel (Israel Ministry of Tourism)
Visitors from all over the world can now enjoy ten virtual tours of Israel via a multimedia experience that includes 100 videos, 130 panoramic views, and tens of photographs on the Ministry of Tourism website.
In 2008, 3.5 million visitors accessed the Ministry of Tourism website.

For Researchers: Search the Daily Alert Archive
All back issues of Daily Alert since May 2002 are available online and are searchable.
This invaluable Internet resource documents the recent history of Israel and the Middle East.
See also israelresearch.org
Insider information on Israel's national security issues - filtered, sifted, and stored for easy retrieval - from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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* U.S. Officials Confirm Israel Struck in Sudan - Michael R. Gordon and Jeffrey Gettleman
American officials said Israeli planes bombed a convoy of trucks in Sudan in January believed to be carrying arms to Gaza during the weeks it was fighting a war with Hamas there. Two American officials who are privy to classified intelligence assessments said Iran had been involved in the effort to smuggle weapons to Gaza and that an operative with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had gone to Sudan to coordinate the effort. One American military official said the strike was one of a series of Israeli attacks against arms shipments bound for Gaza. (New York Times)
See also Report: Second Airstrike Hit Iranian Ship at Sea
A new report by Sudanese sources cited an additional strike on a ship possibly making its way to Sudan from Iran. "There were indeed two strikes in Sudan, in January and February," Sudan's deputy transportation minister told Israel's Channel 10 television on Thursday. "The second strike was against a ship at sea and it was completely destroyed," another Sudanese official said. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israel, U.S. Agreed to Address Arms Shipments in East Africa - Patrick Martin
A senior Israeli official said Tuesday, "what we learned from Lebanon and from Gaza is that there is a need to prevent forces such as Hamas or Hizbullah from rearming....Is it possible to be more pro-active in intercepting weapons before they arrive at the frontier? That's why we signed an MOU with Secretary of State Rice to intercept weapons shipments." The memorandum of understanding, signed Jan. 16 in Washington, calls for the U.S. and its partners to work together to address the problem of the supply of arms to Hamas and other militant forces in Gaza. It lists the areas where such arms shipments may occur as "the Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Eastern Africa." Sudan is an Eastern African country.
Former Israeli Air Force commander Avihu Bin Nun described to Israel's Army Radio the enormous difficulty in carrying out such an operation: "The planes had to pass over areas that have defenses against missiles and against other air forces; this had to be done at night, the target had to be hit precisely and not something else. This is quite an operation. And you also don't have years to prepare for this kind of operation." (Globe and Mail-Canada)
* New IDF Figures: 700 Hamas Terrorists Killed in Gaza Operation
The Israeli military said Thursday that the "vast majority" of Palestinians killed in the recent Gaza conflict were "terror operatives" and the number of people killed was less than Palestinian sources reported. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office claimed their figures contained the names of 1,166 Palestinians killed in the conflict, with 709 of them "identified as Hamas terror operatives, among them several from various other terror organizations." There were also 162 names who "have not yet been attributed to any organization." "Furthermore, it has come to our understanding that 295 uninvolved Palestinians were killed during the operation, 89 of them under the age of 16, and 49 of them were women." "The Hamas terror organization placed the primary fighting scene at the heart of civilian neighborhoods as it booby-trapped homes, fired from schools and used civilians as human shields," the IDF said.
The IDF released the findings to counter "false information originating from various Palestinian sources, and in order to remove any doubt regarding the number of Palestinians killed." The numbers differ sharply from those reported by Palestinian sources. The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza put the death toll at over 1,300, with the majority made up of non-combatants. Asked about the discrepancies, an Israeli military official suggested that naturally occurring deaths in Gaza had been included in the Palestinian death toll numbers. (CNN)
See also Majority of Palestinians Killed in Gaza Operation Were Terror Operatives (Israel Defense Forces)
* UN Body Votes to Curb Criticism of Islam - Frank Jordans
The 47-nation UN Human Rights Council approved a proposal by Muslim nations Thursday urging passage of laws around the world to protect religion from criticism. The proposal put forward by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic countries received the support of 23 nations. Eleven nations opposed the resolution, including Canada, all European Union countries, Switzerland, Ukraine and Chile, while 13 countries abstained. Muslim nations have argued that religions, in particular Islam, must be shielded from criticism in the media and other areas of public life. They cited cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an example of unacceptable free speech.
"It is individuals who have rights and not religions," Canadian diplomat Terry Cormier said. India abstained in protest at the fact that Islam was the only religion specifically named as deserving protection. (AP)
* Obama Commemorates 30th Anniversary of Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
President Obama released the following statement Thursday: "Today marks the anniversary of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, signed thirty years ago at the White House. As we commemorate this historic event, we recall that peace is always possible even in the face of seemingly intractable conflicts. The success of Prime Minister Begin, President Sadat, and President Carter, begun at Camp David, demonstrated that progress results from sustained efforts at communication and cooperation. While much work remains, we honor the courage and foresight of these leaders, who stood together in unity to change the course of our shared history. Today, as we seek to expand the circle of peace among Arabs and Israelis, we take inspiration from what Israel and Egypt achieved three decades ago, knowing that the destination is worthy of the struggle." (White House)
* Israel's Netanyahu Doesn't Expect U.S. Pressure - Jeffrey Heller
Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he did not expect to come under pressure from the U.S. over the Middle East peace strategy of his new government. "I think you are talking about something that I doubt existed for any length of time in the past and which I am convinced does not exist today," Netanyahu told reporters. He served as Israel's prime minister from 1996 to 1999. Netanyahu played down any notion of friction with Obama, saying the U.S. and Israel shared mutual interests and values, and ties between the two allies were especially strong. (Reuters)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* Netanyahu to Back 25 Economic Initiatives in the West Bank - Barak Ravid and Amos Harel
Israel's next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to form an administrative body to promote economic peace with the Palestinians. The department will work with the Quartet's special envoy to the region, Tony Blair, and the Palestinian Authority, in order to advance some 25 economic initiatives in the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)
* Sudan Has Become a Playground for Terror Groups - Zvi Bar'el
Iran has been strengthening its ties with Sudan ever since President Omar Hassan al-Bashir took power in 1989. Iranian Defense Minister Mustafa Muhammad Najar visited Sudan this month and signed a series of military cooperation agreements. Iran's army will now train Sudanese military cadets and Iran will provide Sudan with advanced weapons. Arab sources report that Sudan allows Hizbullah to operate in its territory and purchase arms for its own use and for Hamas. Since some areas of Sudan are not under the central government's control, international terror organizations see it as a convenient playground. Cairo is also watching the increasingly close relationship between Iran and Sudan with alarm, seeing it as a threat. (Ha'aretz)
* Israeli Official: Egypt Our Ally Against Iran, Hamas - Yael Levy
At a ceremony marking 30 years of Israel's peace agreement with Egypt, Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, said Thursday, "Hamastan is viewed by the Egyptians as a substantial threat to its national security." Gilad also said Egypt was Israel's "partner" in the struggle against Iran's nuclear program, adding that President Hosni Mubarak has made it clear that Cairo would not accept a nuclear Iran. (Ynet News)
* Soldiers Tell of Assisting Palestinians in Gaza - Yaakov Lappin
Israeli soldiers have described the humane measures taken by the army to assist Palestinian civilians during Israel's Gaza operation. Nina Klevipsky, 24, who served as a supervisor in a Home Front Command medical control room, helped coordinate several airlifts of wounded Palestinian civilians to Israeli hospitals during the operation. She added that she viewed with skepticism the recent allegations of the targeting of civilians by IDF soldiers. On Wednesday, an IDF source said the claims had been found to be categorically untrue by official army investigations which would soon be released to the public.
"I did not believe a word of these accounts. I know the soldiers who go in. I know how they operate, what values they received at home and in the army. There is no way such orders could have gone out," Klevispsky said. "I have full faith in the army. I do a month of reserves every year. If for a second I thought these were the procedures, I would not show up to serve. I serve in a moral army - my job is to save lives, not harm them," she added. Amir Golan, a 25-year-old medic who entered Gaza with his reserve Givati unit during the incursion, said there was never any hostility towards Palestinian civilians among members of his unit. "I think the general spirit was that we were there to protect our homes from rocket fire," he said. (Jerusalem Post)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

* With Isolation Over, Syria Is Happy to Talk - Robert F. Worth
Today, Syria seems to be coming in from the cold. A flurry of diplomatic openings with the West and Arab neighbors has raised hopes of a chastened and newly flexible Syrian leadership that could help stabilize the region, but Syria has its own priorities. Saudi Arabia and the other major Sunni Arab nations once hoped to push Syria away from Iran through isolation, and now - like President Obama - they appear to be trying sweeter tactics. For the Syrians, the turnabout is proof that their ties with Iran are in fact useful, and accord them an indispensable role as a regional broker.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries "have great stakes in maintaining good relations between Syria and Iran, because at difficult times they will find Syria helping them," said Faisal Mekdad, Syria's vice minister of foreign affairs. For the moment, the Syrian leadership is not feeling any real pressure to detach itself from Iran. In fact, a number of Syrian analysts have suggested that after emerging intact from the deep freeze of the Bush years, Syria has more power to dictate the terms of its new relationship with Washington. (New York Times)
* West Turns Blind Eye to Saudi Arabia, a Friend It Dare Not Offend - Catherine Philp
Saudi billions fund the promotion of extreme forms of Islam around the world. Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabism, the austere interpretation of Islam that it has pioneered and the faith espoused by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda followers. An estimated $90 billion of Saudi money has gone to build mosques and madrassas, distribute religious literature and fund Islam across the world, with a portion of it, according to terrorism experts, directly or indirectly funding the violent expression of those beliefs.
Jonathan Evans, the director-general of M15, said last year that the Saudi government's multimillion-dollar donations to British universities had led to a "dangerous increase in the spread of extremism in leading university campuses." Saudi Arabia, in the words of a former diplomat there, "gets away with things other countries could not" because of the West's dependence on it - for oil, for arms contracts, for intelligence, for military bases, and for being a firm friend in an often unfriendly neighborhood." (Times-UK)
* Iran's Promising Presidential Contender - Alireza Nader
Iran's presidential race just got more interesting, with former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi throwing his hat in the ring and former President Mohammad Khatami withdrawing his. This development poses the most significant challenge yet to current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and a potential opportunity to alter the relationship between Iran and the West. Mousavi, who believes that Iran is in "poor shape," is perceived by many of the Iranian elite to possess the revolutionary and ideological credentials to run against Islamist fundamentalists such as Ahmadinejad. At the same time, he is associated with Iranian reformists, who believe that Iran must enact major domestic and foreign policy changes to escape its economic crisis and international isolation.
Mousavi was an important part of the revolutionary movement that overthrew the Shah in 1979. Widely viewed as a capable technocrat, he served as prime minister from 1981 to 1989, when the post was abolished. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is wary of Mousavi, who served as prime minister during Khamenei's presidency in the 1980s. The two were often at odds over economic, social and religious policies. The writer is an analyst at the RAND Corporation. (Japan Times)
* The Palestinian Cause is Being Hijacked - Michael Young
The speculation over who killed Kamal Medhat, the no. 2 leader of the PLO in Lebanon who died near Sidon on Monday in a roadside bomb blast, will continue for some time. Fatah retains much support among the Palestinians in Lebanon, and it's not the murder of Kamal Medhat that will reverse this. However, if Fatah's leadership comes under more attack and is unable to distribute money and services in the way it has managed to in the past year, the balance may slowly shift away.
Next week's Doha Arab summit will determine whether the so-called moderate Arab states have any valid rejoinder to the very plain Syrian and Iranian efforts to hijack the Palestinian cause. It's no secret that Hamas leaders would like to take control of the PLO away from Fatah, just as it's no secret that Syria tried during the Gaza war to persuade other Arab states to distance themselves from the 2002 Arab peace plan. With Hamas these days largely doing Syrian and Iranian bidding, the Syrians are in a position to strengthen their bargaining hand by manipulating Palestinian affairs. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
* Gaza and Darfur: Some People Matter More than Others - Savo Heleta
The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has created fury, especially in the Muslim world, with large demonstrations in a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa. One has to wonder why the Darfur conflict has never received similar attention. Over the past six years about 200,000 civilians in Darfur have died from fighting, starvation and disease. The UN estimates that more than 2 million Darfurians, out of a population of about 6 million, are living in refugee camps. Yet to this day, not one Arab or Muslim leader has publicly criticized Sudan's actions in Darfur, even though both sides in Darfur are Muslim and Darfurians - both Arabs and Africans - are Sudan's most devout Muslims.
Ahmed Hussein Adam, spokesman of the Justice and Equality Movement, currently the most powerful Darfur rebel movement, says it is shameful that many seem to "consider the blood of the people of Darfur less important than the blood of the people of Gaza." Abdel Wahid al-Nur, leader of one faction of the Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, thinks that "if the Arab and Islamic countries mobilized 10% of what they did for Gaza," they could have stopped the suffering of millions in Darfur a long time ago. (Sudan Tribune)
* What the Koran Says about the Land of Israel - Simon Rocker
The foundation text of Islam, the Koran, recognizes the special link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Cairo-trained British imam Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Al-Husseini says, "You will find very clearly that the traditional commentators from the eighth and ninth century onwards have uniformly interpreted the Koran to say explicitly that Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) has been given by God to the Jewish people as a perpetual covenant. There is no Islamic counterclaim to the land anywhere in the traditional corpus of commentary."
One classic commentator of the Koran, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838-923), describes the verse in the Koran (5:21), "O my people! Enter the Holy Land which God has decreed for you," as "a narrative from God...concerning the saying of Moses...to his community from among the children of Israel and his order to them according to the order of God to him, ordering them to enter the Holy Land." "No fundamentalist, no matter how hard they try, can overrule the existing tradition to say there is, in fact, an Islamic counterclaim to Eretz Yisrael," Dr. Al-Husseini says. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)


UNRWA Has Backed U.S. Foes for Years, Time to Cut Off Funds - Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, John A. Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mike Pence, Thaddeus McCotter (Washington Times)

* For six decades, the United States has voluntarily contributed billions of dollars to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was created strictly to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees.
* In return for our generous investment, UNRWA subverts our laws, aids violent Islamist extremists, propagandizes against our ally Israel and in favor of Hamas, and works with banks targeted by the United States for money laundering and terrorist financing.
* As our nation faces growing economic challenges, Congress must cut off funding to UNRWA and use our foreign aid to advance, rather than undermine, American interests and values.
* This spending spree must not continue. The United States must withhold all contributions through and to UNRWA until that agency meets a number of conditions to comply with U.S. law and its humanitarian mandate. We have had enough.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida is the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. John A. Boehner of Ohio is the House Republican leader. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia is the House Republican whip. Mike Pence of Indiana is chairman of the House Republican Conference. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan is chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Birthright impact

eport: Communities must do more to attract Birthright alums

By Sue Fishkoff · March 23, 2009

* Photos

Chart shows how many times young adult alumni of Birthright Israel trips in four U.S. cities attended Jewish programs since their return. (JTA Staff)

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Chart shows how many times young adult alumni of Birthright Israel trips in four U.S. cities attended Jewish programs since their return. (JTA Staff)

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* Read the full study

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) -- Nearly 160,000 young Jews from North America have taken part in Taglit-Birthright Israel, a 10-day free Israel trip aimed at revving up their Jewish identities.

Of those no longer in college, only half have attended any Jewish event since their return.

That’s one of the findings of “Tourists, Travelers and Citizens,” a new report by the Cohen Center of Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. The report is based on interviews and online surveys of 1,534 Birthright alumni in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto, the four largest Jewish communities in North America.

“It means we have a lot of work to do,” says Daniel Brenner, executive director of Birthright Israel NEXT, a national organization that tries to steer alumni toward greater Jewish involvement in their home communities.

The Birthright program was instituted in 2000 by mega-philanthropists concerned about what they perceived as the younger generation’s lack of Jewish involvement. Numerous formal and informal evaluations show participants’ connection to Israel and the Jewish community are enhanced by their trip, but that does not translate into ongoing Jewish involvement, according to the new report.

“Years after their trip, Taglit alumni continue to look more like ‘tourists’ than ‘citizens’ in the Jewish community world,” the report’s authors write. “Although they value their Jewish identities, most have only limited participation in Jewish communal life.”

The report shows that 44 percent of Birthright alumni who are no longer in college have not attended any Jewish program since their return from Israel. A further 39 percent have attended just one or two programs. Only 4 percent have taken part in more than four programs.

Toronto shows the greatest success at keeping this population somewhat engaged, with 63 percent of returnees participating in at least one Jewish event. Report co-author Fern Chertok attributes that to the close-knit nature of Toronto’s Jewish community, which keeps Birthright returnees apprised of a well-planned schedule of Jewish programs.

In New York, where 43 percent of returnees have not attended any Jewish program since their Israel trip, researchers found an array of Jewish offerings but little effort to communicate that information to Birthright alumni. Asked whether they had even heard of a dozen Jewish organizations offering programs for their age, the largest number -- 67 percent -- said they knew of the JCC Manhattan and the Y's at 92nd Street and 14th Street, but just 20 percent had attended events there. Other Jewish programs showed even less participation and were lesser known.

Los Angeles showed the greatest number of completely disengaged alumni, with 53 percent saying they had attended no Jewish programs since Israel. San Francisco had higher numbers of alumni taking part in one to four activities -- 43 percent and 10 percent, respectively -- but just 1 percent who said they attended five or more.

Both California cities are hampered by a lack of good programs, say the report’s authors. Those that exist, particularly "Friday Night Live in L.A." and the "Bay Area Tribe" and "Late Shabbat" in San Francisco, are high profile and do draw crowds.

The alumni surveyed in all four cities said they would like to be more involved than they were in Jewish life. Most preferred small gatherings to large, anonymous “meat market” Jewish events.

“They’re happy to eat free food and drink free beer at those big events, but they don’t feel it meets their needs to find Jewish community,” Chertok reports.

Respondents also said they were interested in learning more about Judaism and Jewish culture and history, including Hebrew, but were wary of outreach groups with a perceived “religious” agenda. They also wanted a network of friends to share those experiences as a way of re-creating the camaraderie they felt on their Israel trips.

“Birthright shows people that being part of a group, a Jewish group, is a meaningful experience,” report co-author Leonard Saxe says. “They come back hungry for that, and most communities don’t provide them with a set of those experiences.”

Birthright NEXT, which has chapters in New York and, as of last year, San Francisco, is taking those tips to heart, Brenner says.

Last fall, the organization launched NEXT Shabbat, which encourages Birthright alumni to host Shabbat meals in their homes. It’s a peer-driven project, Brenner says: Invitees RSVP online, Birthright NEXT provides resources and recipes on its Web site, and it picks up the tab after hosts submit feedback, which often includes posting photos.

So far, Brenner reports, 2,000 such Shabbat dinners have been held in the past six months. The average age of participants is 25, and 65 percent of the hosts said they had never invited people to a Shabbat meal before. In 2009, Brenner projects 70,000 young participants.

“We need to make drastic changes in New York,” he acknowledges. “There are so many alumni here, and just 5 percent say they participate ‘a lot.’ ”

NEXT Shabbat seems to appeal to New Yorkers, he says: About 28 percent of Birthright participants come from the New York area, which also provides about 28 percent of those taking part in NEXT Shabbat meals.

Brenner points out that many young Jews sign up for Birthright just because it’s a free trip.

“They have no intention of doing anything afterwards,” he says. “But if we can meet their real needs, I have no doubt we can help the majority build Jewish community.”

Sue Fishkoff writes about Jewish identity for JTA and is the author of the 2003 book "The Rebbe's Army."

More articles by this author »

Daily alert

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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Subscribe RSS-XML
March 24, 2009

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Switching to U.S. Pistachios - Michael Doyle (Modesto Bee)
While Israel maintains a trade embargo on Iran, there is evidence that low-cost Iranian pistachios were finding their way into Israel via Turkey.
After repeated complaints by U.S. officials, earlier this year Israel raised its tariff on non-U.S. pistachios to 23%, effectively rendering tariff-free U.S. pistachios a better buy in Israel, a country that leads the world in per-capita pistachio consumption.


Yemen Court Hands Down Death Sentence in Israel Spy Case (Reuters)
A Yemeni court sentenced an Islamist to death and handed down jail sentences against two others on Monday after convicting them of seeking to work for Israeli intelligence services.
Bassam al-Haidari and two others were charged with emailing the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and offering to work for the intelligence service of the Jewish state.


Canada Bars British Lawmaker over Hamas Support (AFP)
British lawmaker George Galloway has been blocked from visiting Canada because of his support of Hamas, which is banned there, the Canadian immigration minister's office said.
"We're going to uphold the law, not give special treatment to a street-corner Cromwell who brags about giving 'financial support' to Hamas, a terrorist organization banned in Canada," said Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.


Land of Opportunity (Economist-UK)
Israel is home to 4,000 high-tech companies and more than 100 venture-capital funds. Innovations developed in the country include the Pentium chip (Intel), voicemail (Comverse), instant messaging (Mirabilis, Ubique), firewalls (Checkpoint) and the "video pill," which allows doctors to study your insides without the need for invasive surgery.
Almost 70 Israeli companies are traded on NASDAQ. Israel has the world's highest ratio of PhDs per capita, the highest ratio of engineers and scientists and some of the world's best research universities.
Israel's main qualification for entrepreneurialism is its status as an embattled Jewish state in a sea of Arab hostility.
The Israeli army not only works hard to keep the country at the cutting edge of technology, it also trains young Israelis in the virtues of teamwork and improvisation.
It is strikingly common for young Israelis to start businesses with friends that they met in the army. Add to that a high tolerance of risk, born of a long history and an ever-present danger of attack, and you have the makings of an entrepreneurial firecracker.

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PA Government Urges Europe to Shun Hamas
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki warned European leaders during talks in Brussels on Monday against easing a boycott of Hamas Islamists. Malki said European overtures could undermine Palestinian unity talks by giving Hamas the impression that "the international community, and especially the European Union, is ready to change its position towards Hamas," whether the group agrees to abide by interim peace agreements signed with Israel or not. (Reuters)
U.S.: UN Expert "Biased" on Israel's Gaza Offensive
The U.S. Monday said UN expert Richard Falk was "biased" in calling for an investigation of Israel's January offensive in Gaza on grounds it could be construed as a war crime. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, "We've expressed our concern many times about the special rapporteur's views on dealing with that question....We've found the rapporteur's views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We've made that very clear." (AFP)
See also Israel Slams UN Rights Report on Gaza
Israel on Tuesday slammed a report by a UN human rights investigator which said its three-week war in Gaza was possibly a war crime. "Unfortunately this is a further example of the very one-sided, unbalanced and unfair attitude of the (UN) Human Rights Council," government spokesman Mark Regev said. "This sort of report does the service of human rights no good whatsoever," he said. "It's a politicization of human rights." (AFP)
Hizbullah Spends Millions to Rebuild Stronghold - Rita Daou
In Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold, a mammoth reconstruction drive is underway to rebuild 241 of the 282 buildings destroyed in the 2006 war. Project director Hassan Jechi said $400 million has been allocated to the effort. Jechi and Hizbullah are evasive when it comes to revealing where they are getting the funds to carry out this massive project, amid wide speculation that Iran is Hizbullah's main financial backer. (AFP)
PLO Official Killed in Lebanon Bomb Attack - Borzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei
Kamal Medhat, the no. 2 leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, and three of his associates were killed near Sidon on Monday in a roadside bomb blast. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Chief of Staff Discusses Claims Against IDF - Dikla Schneider and Arnon Ben-Dror
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi spoke Monday about the publication of allegations regarding hitting civilians during the Gaza operation. "The IDF is one of the world's most moral armies, and if there are isolated incidents, they will be investigated and dealt with," he said. "We operated in a very complex atmosphere that is also inhabited by civilians, and we took every possible measure to minimize harm to civilians. We scattered leaflets over the Gaza Strip, warned civilians to stay clear of areas that were to be attacked by making use of the Arabic press, and called hundreds of thousands of households. But in an environment like this, some harm to civilians is unavoidable." (Israel Defense Forces)
Protesters Block Visits to Hamas Prisoners - Roee Mandel
After a special ministerial committee proposed sanctions against Hamas security prisoners held in Israel, in hopes of advancing a deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, dozens of people protested outside the Sharon Prison on Monday and blocked the entrance of visitors. Yoel Marshak of the Kibbutz Movement said, "We are here to...block visitation to their prisoners, as long as they are not allowing anyone to see Gilad Shalit."
The joint protest of the World Likud, Beitar Movement and Kibbutz Movement displayed a unified front in the demand to have the conditions of security prisoners changed to match those under which Shalit is held. "With Gilad Shalit held for 1,000 days now without anyone knowing where he is, we cannot have Palestinian prisoners enjoying visitation, watching television, and reading the newspapers," said Marshak. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Obama Message to Iran Shows U.S. Strategy Shift - Gerald F. Seib
President Barack Obama's video message to Iran marking the Persian New Year last week spoke volumes about the strategy that lies behind his pledge to reach out to Tehran. When the Bush administration reached out to Iran, it sought consciously to go around its leaders and speak directly to the Iranian people, hoping to drive a wedge between the two. Obama's message began: "I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Because the president was talking to Iran's leaders, he was effectively saying the U.S. recognizes their legitimacy and isn't overtly seeking a regime change.
The long search for Iranian "moderates" has proved so futile that the administration is prepared to deal with what it gets, not what it wishes it had. The message was designed to give the Iranians what they always complain they don't get: respect. Twice Obama referred to Iran by the title its leaders use, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The deeper question is whether outreach has any real chance to make a difference. Privately, senior administration officials harbor real doubts. (Wall Street Journal)
U.S. Can't Ignore Iran's Genocidal Incitement - Irwin Cotler
The enduring lesson of the Holocaust and that of the genocides that followed is that they occurred not simply because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement to hatred. As international tribunals have recognized, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers; it began with words. Ahmadinejad's Iran is increasingly resorting to incendiary and demonizing language, including metaphors reminiscent of Nazi and Rwandan provocation. As minister of justice in Canada and involved in the prosecution of Rwandan incitement, I believe the precursors of provocation in Iran are more threatening than were those in Rwanda.
President Barack Obama has made the important connection between Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran as an inciter of hate and genocide against Israel, and Iran as an illegally developing nuclear power. As a state party to the Genocide Convention, the U.S. has not only the option but the obligation to take action to prevent genocide. A careful review of the evidence recently led a group of over 40 eminent international jurists, including former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, to conclude that Iran should be held to account for its hateful incitement to genocide, as prohibited under international law.
Diplomacy targeted solely at Iran's nuclear threat mistakenly ignores the terrifying and vilifying context in which that threat operates and, inadvertently, sanitizes the provocation to genocide. When Obama engages Iran directly, it is crucial that the illegal incitement to genocide so pervasive in Ahmadinejad's Iran not be swept under the rug. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

The Arab Peace Initiative: A Primer and Future Prospects - Joshua Teitelbaum (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia was under intense scrutiny since fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers had proved to be Saudis. In February 2002, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia gave an interview to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in which he proposed to Israel "full withdrawal from all the occupied territories" for "full normalization of relations."
In a flash, Abdullah had transformed the discourse: Instead of focusing on Saudi involvement in terrorism, the Western press was now talking about Saudi peacemaking. However, by the time the Abdullah trial balloon reached the Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002, the initiative had been modified and its terms hardened.
"Full normalization" became "normal relations" (which still marks significant progress over the Arab League formulation in Khartoum of 1967: "no peace, no recognition, no negotiations"). It called for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories to the lines of June 4, 1967, in contradiction of UN Resolution 242, and which would bring Syria to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It also enshrined a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel.
Several aspects of the Arab Peace Initiative represent significant and positive developments in the official, collective Arab view of the future of Israel in the Middle East. However, Israel should refrain from accepting the initiative as a basis for peace negotiations because it contains seriously objectionable elements. Israel should also reject the "all or nothing" approach of the Saudis and the Arab League. Peacemaking is the process of negotiation, not diktat.
Peace would be best served by Israel going on the diplomatic offensive and presenting an initiative of its own, emphasizing the positive aspects of the initiative, and including an invitation to Arab leaders to a meeting in Israel to discuss the initiative in its entirety.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Daily alert

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March 23, 2009

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UN: Israel Leads the World in Use of Recycled Water - Zafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
A UN report presented at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul on Sunday commended Israel for leading the world in the use of recycled water and desalinated water.
Israel recycles nearly 70% of its sewage.


Man Arrested in Bomb Threat Against Chicago Jewish School - Robert Mitchum (Chicago Tribune)
Mohammed Alkaramla, 24, a Jordanian national, was arrested Friday on a charge he mailed a bomb threat to Chicago's Ida Crown Jewish Academy in late December, after forensic investigators found his fingerprint on the letter's envelope.
Agents also found the text of the threat letter on his laptop computer.
Alkaramla was under investigation in the vandalism of several Chicago-area synagogues and Jewish schools in January.


Report: India Buys Israeli Spy Satellite (AFP)
India has bought a spy satellite from Israel with day-and-night viewing capability to boost surveillance capabilities in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the NDTV news channel in New Delhi reported Friday.
The satellite will be launched by India in the next few weeks.
While India's existing satellites get blinded at night and in the monsoon season, the new satellite can see through clouds and carry out day-and-night all-weather imaging.


UK Taxes "Funding Terror" - Marcus Dysch (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
British taxpayers are funding anti-Israel and extremist teaching in the Palestinian territories.
The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) said millions of pounds had been spent on PA-funded TV broadcasts, school textbooks and newspaper articles discouraging a two-state solution.
The report, Palestinian Hate Education since Annapolis, concludes that money from the Department for International Development, which totaled almost £100 million in the 2007/08 financial year, is being used directly to promote hatred of Israel and the West.
Matthew Sinclair, TPA research director, said: "British taxpayers' money must not support propaganda that incites violence in the Middle East. The government needs to accept that donations create responsibilities."
Read the report: Palestinian Hate Education since Annapolis (TaxPayers' Alliance-UK)


New Status in Africa Empowers an Ever-Eccentric Qaddafi - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
Forty years after he seized power in Libya, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has achieved the international status he always craved when he was selected last month as chairman of the African Union.
But Qaddafi remains the same eccentric revolutionary as always, blaming Israel for the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan and defending Somali pirates for fighting "greedy Western nations."

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Iran Rejects Obama's Hand of Friendship - Tim Shipman and Colin Freeman
Speaking a day after U.S. President Barack Obama broadcast a message inviting the Iranian people to a "new beginning," the country's supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dismissed it as a "slogan." The cleric delivered his response during a speech in the city of Masshad, as tens of thousands of his followers chanted "death to America." Obama had invited Iran to "take its rightful place in the community of nations." (Telegraph-UK)
See also Iran's Response Shows Thinking of Its Leadership - Brian Murphy
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's response to President Obama was more than just a dismissive slap at the outreach. It was a broad lesson in the mind-set of Iran's all-powerful theocracy. Khamenei set the bar impossibly high - demanding an overhaul of U.S. foreign policy, including giving up "unconditional support" for Israel and halting claims that Iran is seeking nuclear arms. "Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials?" Khamenei said. "He (Obama) insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day." (AP/Washington Post)
Hamas Leader Welcomes Obama's "New Language"
U.S. President Barack Obama is using a "new language" in relations with the Middle East, the Islamist group's leader Khaled Meshaal told the Italian daily La Repubblica in an interview published on Sunday. "A new language towards the region is coming from President Obama. The challenge for everybody is for this to be the prelude for a genuine change in U.S. and European policies. Regarding an official opening towards Hamas, it's a matter of time," Meshaal said. (Reuters)
Mayor's Vision of a Unified Jerusalem - Ethan Bronner
Nir Barkat, elected three months ago as mayor of Jerusalem, is a self-made high-tech millionaire who refuses a salary from the city. Barkat will explain his ideas for Jerusalem during an eight-day tour of half a dozen U.S. cities, starting in Florida on Monday. For him, Jerusalem is Israel's eternal and indivisible capital. All religions must be free to worship in it, but it must never be divided. When asked his view of dividing the city so that it can serve as the capital of both Israel and a future state of Palestine, he says, "Like in business, sometimes there is one clear, simple solution to a big problem that seems obvious to everyone and is absolutely wrong." (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Police Dismantle Terrorist Bomb at Haifa Shopping Mall - Hagai Einav
A vehicle wired with explosives and parked outside the Lev HaMifratz shopping mall in Haifa was neutralized by security forces on Saturday evening, preventing a deadly attack. The bombs were found after a partial explosion occurred. Officers estimated the explosives at nearly 100 pounds. Police Chief Lt.-Cmdr. Roni Atiya noted: "This is an outdoor parking lot and not one of the mall's underground or multi-story parking lots, so this is a car that didn't go through a security check." (Ynet News)
Israel Allows Jailed Hamas Leaders to Meet on Prisoner Swap
Israeli prison officials allowed Hamas leaders jailed at separate prisons to meet and discuss a potential prisoner swap for captured soldier Gilad Shalit on Sunday. (Ma'an News-PA)
UK Backtracks on Preventing War Crimes Charges Against Visiting IDF Officers - Anshel Pfeffer
London will not push through changes in legislation that permits the arrest on war crimes charges of Israel Defense Forces officers visiting Britain, as previously promised, Jerusalem has learned. In an unofficial message to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Britain said that as a result of the decline in Israel's public image following the Gaza operation, the government believes it will be unable to pass the legislation. British law permits private citizens to press charges against foreigners on war crimes charges. "The British did make such a promise and we continue to expect that they will find a way to fulfill it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Saturday. (Ha'aretz)
See also Video: The Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Palestinian Poisoning Attack Mastermind Sent to Jail - Efrat Weiss
Eihab Abu Rial, 22, of Nablus in the West Bank, who planned to carry out a poisoning attack at the Grill Express restaurant in Ramat Gan where he worked as a cook, was sentenced Friday by the Samaria Military Court to six years in prison. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Durban II: New Strategy Needed - Gerald Steinberg
Faced with a growing number of countries declaring they would not participate in another anti-Semitic conference, the organizers of the UN's controversial Durban Review Conference scheduled for April 21 in Geneva suddenly changed the text. The hate language, attacks on Israel, and attempts to restrict free speech and give Islam a preferred status were removed. Should governments now agree to participate on the basis of the revised document? Or is this a diplomatic sleight of hand - a temporary change in language used to bring an end to the revolt of the democratic delegations?
When the conference begins, Libya and Iran, with the support of Egypt, Syria, Cuba, and the rest, are expected to use their majority to restore terms like "apartheid" and Israeli "genocide." Western leaders who are inclined to declare victory and participate in the conference must first insure that, at the first sign of restoring the hate-filled language, they will all walk out together, including every member of the European Union. The writer is the executive director of NGO Monitor and chairs the political science department at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)
Iran Has Started a Mideast Arms Race - Amir Taheri
The Middle East may be on the verge of a nuclear arms race triggered by the inability of the West to stop Iran's quest for a bomb. Since Tehran's nuclear ambitions hit the headlines five years ago, 25 countries - 10 of them in the greater Middle East - have announced plans to build nuclear power plants for the first time. Tehran is playing an active part in proliferation. Syria and Sudan have shown interest in its nuclear technology, setting up joint scientific committees with Iran. Tehran is also setting up joint programs with anti-U.S. regimes in Latin America, notably Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, bringing proliferation to America's backyard.
In 2006 and 2007 the Islamic Republic initialed agreements with China to build 20 nuclear-power stations in Iran. The first of these stations is already under construction at Dar-Khuwayn. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Iran's Axis of Nuclear Evil - John Bolton
It is impossible to ignore Iran's active efforts to expand, improve and conceal its nuclear weapons program in Syria. (Wall Street Journal)
Saudi-Iranian Relations Since the Fall of Saddam
Containment of Iran by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states is unrealistic, given the tradition of bilateral dialogue between individual Gulf states and Iran. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has shown a tendency to accommodate and engage Iran when it perceives ambiguity and confusion in U.S. policy. The Saudi overture to Iran in the wake of the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which was viewed in Riyadh as a downgrading of the Iranian threat, is a good example of this dynamic at work. A U.S. paradigm that views Saudi Arabia as a confrontational proxy against Iran does not reflect regional reality. (RAND Corporation)

Message to the Iranian People from the President of Israel (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Last week Israeli President Shimon Peres broadcast a special message to the Iranian people marking the holiday of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year:

The people of Israel have historical memories from the period in which Iran contributed to the world Cyrus' ancient Bill of Rights, and to the Jewish people, our right to return to our land from the Babylonian exile in order to establish the Temple in Jerusalem. Iran and its people therefore have a special place in our heritage.
Our relations with the Iranian people have also known good times in the modern period. We shared our experience in agriculture, industry, and scientific and medical development, and we cultivated the best possible relations.
To our great sadness, relations between our countries are at their lowest point. This derives from the leaders of your country, who threaten us with their intention to destroy us. I ask myself how a noble people like you can be caught up in a blind hatred like this, how you chose a leader who scorns the people who were murdered by the Nazis, and who wants to destroy and kill another country.
I am sure that the day is not far when we will return to good neighborly relations, and effective cooperation will blossom once again, in every arena, for the benefit of our people and our shared futures. We remember Cyrus the Great, who is noted in the Bible as the liberating king, and we remember that our people lived in Iran for many generations, sharing in the building of the land and contributing to its welfare and culture.
On the occasion of the new year, I turn to the noble Iranian people in the name of the ancient Jewish people, and I wish that they will return to reclaim their rightful place among the enlightened nations of the world.