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Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year (and a Shabbat Shalom :) )

Let's hope for a great 2011!

I want to thank the people who generously gave me donations through my new PayPal button on the right, as well as those who managed to donate through the old Google Checkout button in the few hours before Google pulled it. I also want to thank those who viewed the Hasbara 2.0 video I made (also available on the right sidebar), those who bought items from my Printfection and CafePress stores and those who bought their Amazon items through the sidebar item as well.  I really do appreciate it!

See you next year!

Weekend links

Bat Ye'or on Delegitimizing the Jewish State.

Lauren Booth is bankrupt - not only morally, but financially too. (via Israellycool)

WSJ on the Leviathan gas field in Israeli territorial waters and the problems being created by greed.

Wikileaks: US frustrated with Egypt's military (that gets $1.3 billion a year.)

A bit of a conflict of interest by J-Street's leader.

A White House clueless about Syria.

A 16% increase in aliyah this year.

A prominent Saudi sheikh says that Islamic terrorists (against Muslims) are working for the Zionists, Americans, Orientals and Europeans. Of course, he loves terrorists that kill Jews.

(Orientals?)

Latest Latma (12/31/10)

Abbas to celebrate Fatah's first terror attack

Mahmoud Abbas, that so-called moderate leader of the Palestinian Arabs, is set to make a major televised speech tonight to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the start of the "revolution."

What happened 46 years ago?

On January 1, 1965, Fatah attempted its first terror attack, trying to blow up part of Israel's water infrastructure.

Note that this is not the anniversary of the founding of Fatah - which happened in 1957. No, Abbas chooses to commemorate the anniversary of the first Fatah terror attack. That, to him, was the start of the "revolution."

Which indicates exactly how much Abbas values peace as a goal.

Christians flooding out of Iraq

Another day, another attack:
One week after an Islamic extremist group vowed to kill Christians in Iraq, a cluster of 10 bomb attacks rattled Baghdad on Thursday night and sent additional tremors of fear through the country’s already shaken Christian minority.

Two people were killed and 20 wounded, all of them Christians, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The bombs were placed near the homes of at least 14 Christian families around the city, and four bombs were defused before they could explode.

Christians have been flooding out of the country since the siege of Our Lady of Salvation, a Syrian Catholic church, in October that left nearly 60 people dead, including two priests. Many Muslim clerics and worshipers offered support to Christians after the siege. The Islamic State of Iraq, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, and on Dec. 22 it promised more on its Web site.

For some Christians here, the latest attacks represented the last straw.

“We will love Iraq forever, but we have to leave it immediately to survive,” said Noor Isam, 30. “I would ask the government, ‘Where is the promised security for Christians?’ ”

Even before the coordinated assault, Baghdad had come to resemble a battle zone for Christians, who have come increasingly under attack since the American-led invasion in 2003. Before Christmas, several churches fortified their buildings with blast walls and razor wire, and many canceled or curtailed Christmas observances.
For some reason we aren't seeing any extremist Christians bombing mosques. But I thought that all religions spawn extremism equally!

Of course, Christians are also fleeing the Palestinian territories, and Lebanon, and they are harassed in Egypt. But for the life of me I cannot figure out that these instances of persecution have in common. Must be the economy. Or the Zionists.

See also Daled Amos.

Hamas praises press freedoms - as long as the media do Hamas' bidding

Hamas held a ceremony to celebrate journalists in Gaza yesterday, especially those who received international awards this year.

Hamas' prime minister Ismail Haniyeh accused the Israeli media of engaging in psychological warfare against Gazans, presumably for doing some actual reporting.

He said that Hamas does not suppress media freedoms in Gaza, and then he described exactly what their role is by praising the "role of media in the Palestinian liberation struggle against the occupation."

Haniyeh also complimented the Palestinian Arab media on not doing the "occupation's" bidding.

Meanwhile, PCHR noted that Hamas confiscated the camera and mobile phone of a correspondent for the Chinese News Agency just last week.

Wikileaks: State Department is not always so big on free speech

A new Wikileaks cable reproduced by Aftenposten shows that the US was worried about the potential  republication of the Mohammed cartoons on the first anniversary of the cartoon crisis.

While the US diplomats did not pressure the newspaper to desist from running the cartoons, they were clearly worried that it might happen and they - understandably - wanted at least some warning so they could inform US interests worldwide to be on alert for possible violent riots. The Danish government made it very clear that they felt that freedom of the press was a priority and told the US that what would happen if they tried to pressure the newspaper Jyllands-Posten:

In a subsequent conversation with the Ambassador September 26, [Prime Minister Rasmussen´s national security advisor, Bo] Lidegaard confirmed that "Jyllands-Posten" was weighing a second run of the cartoons but indicated that the government did not want to get directly involved in the matter. So sensitive was the issue, Lidegaard told the Ambassador confidentially, that the prime minister´s office had made a conscious decision not to alert the foreign ministry or the intelligence services. (RAO´s sounding of a senior intelligence official days earlier suggested that the service was not paying any attention to the looming anniversary.) Furthermore, Lidegaard explicitly warned against any attempt by us to openly influence the paper´s decision, which, if made public, the prime minister would have to condemn, he said. Lidegaard agreed, however, that no harm would come from a straightforward query from us to "Jyllands-Posten" about their plans.
But the conclusion of the cable has a phrase that indicates that official US policy states that freedom of the press is not as high a priority as it is in Denmark:

This episode illustrates that the Danes have drawn mixed lessons from their experience in the cartoon crisis. These lessons have positive and negative implications for the U.S. On the good side, the Danes have stepped up engagement in promotion of democracy and reform abroad, especially in the Middle East. They now recognize the need to improve integration and outreach to the country´s immigrant communities. Since the cartoon crisis, they have extended troop mandates in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the negative side, though, this popular center-right government has hardened its views on the absolute primacy of free speech. The prime minister appeared willing to let Jyllands-Posten dictate the timing of the next Islam vs. West confrontation without question or open discussion within the government. While this particularly vulnerable moment of the cartoon anniversary may pass without violence, our discussions this past week remind us that the Danish front in what they see as a clash of civilizations could reopen at any time.
Again, I can understand why the State Department would want to have input on events that could have worldwide ramifications, such as a new cartoon crisis. But it is jarring to see a State Department cable say that free speech is considered a "negative."

(h/t Zach via Facebook)

Hamas destroys a building. No one cares.

Azmi Desouki wanted to start a business in Gaza, and since people are always getting married, he decided to build a wedding hall in Khan Younis.

He received all the necessary licenses and completed all the paperwork needed, and built it. The hall was nearly ready to be opened.

Yesterday, according to Palestine Press Agency, Hamas destroyed it.

The reason? None was given, but it is assumed that it was political, as Desouki identifies with Fatah.

However, there are not armies of international journalists, living in comfortable hotels, ready to pounce on Hamas' demolition of buildings of political opponents, especially in an area where it is difficult to get building material to begin with.

No "Imams for Human Rights" putting out press releases, no "Gaza Committee Against Demolitions" demanding justice, nothing.

Apparently, having a totalitarian government that suppresses the press and NGOs pays off in spades.

Florida Arab woman arrested in Rafah with pen-cameras

From Ma'an:
Egyptian authorities on the Rafah crossing said Thursday that officers detained a Palestinian woman with a US passport for failing to explain why she carried six camera-pens with her.

Each recorder, Egyptian officials said, had an eight gigabyte memory, three cameras and high-grade voice recorder. The click-device at the top of each pen act as the on'of switch, officials said.

The woman, a resident of the American state of Florida, was said to have "not given a clear reason" for why she was carrying the pens, and transferred to the public prosecution by Egyptian state security.

One official told Ma'an that he believed the pens could be used for spying, adding that the sites of Gaza militant groups were a prime target for spy operations. The official, who preferred to remain unnamed, would not explain why he believed the woman was involved in a spy operation.
8 GB spy pen cameras, only $39.95 each.

So who hired her? A lot of parties could use such devices in Gaza, from Hamas to the PA to the US and Israel.

Wikileaks: Ahmadinejad gets slapped in the face

From Naharnet:
The chief of the Revolutionary Guard heatedly slapped Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in early 2010, a leaked U.S. cable revealed.

According to the February 2009 diplomatic cable, Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali Jafari held Ahmadinejad responsible for the post-election "mess" in 2009.
It quotes an Iranian watcher in Baku, Azerbaijan, who connected that Ahmadinejad felt that in the aftermath of the post-election street protests "people feel suffocated."

The source said that in a gathering with his national security council, Ahmadinejad "mused that to defuse the situation it may be obligatory to allow more personal and social freedoms, including more freedom of the press."

This provoked a fiery response from Jafari, according to the cable:

"You are wrong! (In fact) it is You who created this mess! And now you say give more autonomy to the press?!," he said.

Jafari, according to the cable, then slapped Ahmadinejad in the face "causing chaos and an immediate call for a smash in the meeting."

It took the intervention of Ayatollah Ahmad Janati to get Jafari and Ahmadinejad back to the table, the report said.
I can't wait for the YouTube video leaked from the Mossad cameras that witnessed this....

Update: Commenter Gerrit points out that the article's timing doesn't make sense. Chances are that the cable was written in February 2010, not 2009. Unfortunately the cable is not available on the Wikileaks site and some newspapers are getting the cables from other sources, making it difficult to check the facts.

(h/t Noah Pollak via Twitter)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Is a Jordanian writer about to be killed? (UPDATED)

 (UPDATEDMudar Zahran is a Jordanian writer of Palestinian descent who has written some articles that have raised the eyebrows of many Arabs.

One of his more controversial articles was this excellent op-ed in the Jerusalem Post from last August.

MANY OTHER Arab countries are no different than Lebanon in their ill-treatment and discrimination against the Palestinians. Why do the media choose to ignore those and focus only on Israel? While the security wall being built by Israel has become a symbol of “apartheid” in the global media, they almost never address the actual walls and separation barriers that have been isolating Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries for decades.

While Palestinians targeted by the IDF are mostly fighters pledging war on Israel, the world swiftly overlooked the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which Lebanese Christian and Shi’ite militiamen butchered thousands of Palestinian women and children. Unsurprisingly, the international media accused Israel of being responsible for the massacre, despite the fact that live testimonies aired by Al-Jazeera satellite television a few years ago show massacre survivors confirming that IDF commanders and soldiers had nothing to do with the killing.

The demonization of Israel by the global media has greatly harmed the Palestinians’ interests for decades and covered up Arab atrocities against them. Furthermore, demonizing Israel has been well-exploited by several Arab dictatorships to direct citizens’ rage against Israel instead of their regimes and also to justify any atrocities they commit in the name of protecting their nations from “the evil Zionists.”

This game has served some of the most notorious Arab dictatorships, and still does today, as any opposition is immediately labelled “a Zionist plot.”
An earlier JPost article more directly attacked his country's discrimination against Palestinian Arabs:
This lack of political and legislative representation of Jordanians of Palestinian heritage has been enforced by decades of systematic exclusion in all aspects of life expanding into their disenfranchisement in education, employment, housing, state benefits and even business potential, all developing into an existing apartheid no different than that formerly adopted in South Africa, except for the official acknowledgement of it.

The well-established apartheid system has created substantial advantages for East Bankers who dominate all senior government and military jobs, along with tight control of security agencies, particularly the influential Jordanian General Intelligence Department, all resulting in tribal Jordanians gaining superiority over their fellow citizens of Palestinian heritage.

The fact that East Bankers have done very well under the current situation provides motive for Jordanian officials to maintain the status quo and work on extending it; especially as the helpless Palestinian majority has no say and very little it can do against such conditions.
That article got Zahran into trouble. From Ammon News (Jordan):
An uproar of criticism against Mudar Zahran's op-ed entitled "Jordan, Dr. Peace and Mr. Apartheid" published in the Israeli "Jerusalem Post" newspaper on Sunday led the writer to contact 'Ammon News' editor-in-chief to relay his "apologies" to the Jordanian people over claims he made in the op-ed describing Jordan as an "apartheid state" in its treatment of Jordanians of Palestinian heritage.

In a letter sent to 'Ammon News,' Zahran relayed his apologies to the Jordanian people and stressed that he will not repeat this 'mistake.'

"I would like to inform you of the following decision: I have decided to announce today, and after my latest article in The Jerusalem Post, that I will not publish any articles or reports in any language related to Jordanian domestic or foreign affairs," he wrote in his letter.
Now, he might be in serious trouble. His new Facebook status is:

Here I am, with the possibility of getting killed by the Jordanians, possibly living my last hours or days, with not many interested people in my case... if I get killed, just please all be informed, it has happened on the orders of King Abdullah II of Jordan and nobody else.
I will be away for some time, if you do not hear from me again guys, please be assured...I was sincere and I cared for all.
Mudar


A screenshot of his Facebook status:

I can't find any details on any threats or arrests, but this is very frightening news coming from Jordan.

(h/t Folderol)

UPDATE: Here is what Mudar wrote on Facebook answering a question:

Ahoovah, following an appreance last week on Aljazeera, in which I said we ARabs can only wish our secuirty agencies can treat us like the Mossad does to the Palestinians, and that the Mossad does not hurt or beat up its own citizens like Arab counterparts do, and that the Jordanian intellogence opressed the Palestinians, threats ame in the form of articles: "Mudar, security agencies know your secrets and even where you have coffee in London" Ammon News, "Mudar, a man gets assasinated from where he thinks is safe, death follows you wherever you go". Al-Maenhah News....keep in mind, countless threats were made on my life including one made to my directly on offical media in Jordan by a Jordanian Intelligence major, calling for my head to be chopped off in the UK.

Winter open thread

Remember my "Autumn open thread" picture?

Well, seasons change:

Southern Sudan does not plan to establish relations with Israel

Last August I linked to an interview in Asharq al-Awsat with the representative of Southern Sudan in the US, saying he saw no reason not to establish diplomatic relations with Israel if the state is established next month in a referendum.

Today's Asharq al-Awsat quotes the minister of information for the possible state as saying, unequivocally, that the state would not establish diplomatic relations with Israel if and when it is established.

Sudan's Christians are concentrated in the south and many are spearheading the efforts for independence.

Does recognition of "Palestine" have any legal meaning?

The recent recognition of "Palestine" as an independent state by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and now Ecuador brings up the question of whether these acts have any legal meaning.

In the nineteenth century, the general viewpoint in the matter was known as the "constitutive theory of statehood," meaning that a state becomes a legal entity due to the fact that it is recognized by other states. There were problems with this definition, for example when only some states recognized another. But it was considered normative.

All that changed in the twentieth century. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (followed by the Badinter Committee in Europe) codified normative international law as saying that statehood is independent of recognition by other states. This is known as the "declarative theory of statehood" and in the Montevideo Convention statehood is defined this way:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

The main sticking point for "Palestine" is the second criterion: a defined territory.

The South American nations - who are signatories to the Montevideo Conventions - are declaring the territory of "Palestine"  to be defined by the Green Line. The problem is that their declaration is based on fiction. For example, the Ecaudor recognition says "a free and independent Palestine with its 1967 boundaries." Before 1967, however, there were no boundaries between the West Bank and Jordan; there was no state of Palestine with any borders by any definition, and the Green Line was not a national boundary between Israel and Jordanian annexed territory. Ecuador might as well have declared that Palestine is on recognized lunar boundaries.

Furthermore, the statement says "This is a recognition that has been legitimized by resolutions 242 and 338 of the Security Council of the United Nations." This is also nonsense. Resolutions 242 and 338 do not mention a word about "Palestine" and do not even imply that such a state would ever exist, let alone legitimizing it.

It appears that these countries' recognition of "Palestine" have little legal bearing on its statehood, and statehood is impossible without a defined territory. They certainly have political value but not much legal meaning.

There might also be an argument as to whether "Palestine" has a government. It has two separate internal administrations that act as governments for their people, but the PA does not have diplomatic relations with other countries. The PA reports to the Palestinian Liberation Organization which handles all diplomatic issues - but it is not a government. Hamas acts more like a government than the PA.

A possible legal ramification of these countries' recognition might be in Article 6 of the Montevideo Conventions:
The recognition of a state merely signifies that the state which recognizes it accepts the personality of the other with all the rights and duties determined by international law. Recognition is unconditional and irrevocable.
It is possible that from the perspective of the recognizing state, "Palestine" would be bound by international law that only applies to states. It is uncertain whether the Palestinian Arab leadership are willing to take on such responsibility at this time.

Again, I am not an international or any other kind of lawyer and all of these are just my interpretations of source materials, with some help from Wikipedia.

UPDATE: After I wrote this I asked an international lawyer to comment, and I was pointed to an interesting legal opinion by Professor Malcolm Shaw that touches on these very issues.

Briefly, Shaw talks about the "defined territory" requirement as much less important than I thought and the government requirement as much more important:

The requirement for a defined territory does not mean that the boundaries of such territory have to be delineated and settled, nor that there be an absence of frontier disputes," but it does necessitate that there be at the minimum a consistent band of territory which is undeniably controlled by the government of the alleged State. This is an indispensable factual necessity. The concept of government as enumerated in the Montevideo Convention may be seen as the requirement for a foundation of effective control. It would seem to necessitate that the undisputed authority of that putative State should exercise a degree of overall control over most of the territory it claims. For this reason at least, therefore, the "State of Palestine" purportedly declared in November 1988 at a conference in Algiers cannot be regarded as a valid State. The Palestinian organisations did not control any part of the territory that was claimed.
He goes on to say that the PA's lack of control over Gaza means that it can only be recognized as a government if "widespread international recognition" deems it so, which seems like Shaw admits that the constitutive theory still holds some sway.

Shaw then goes into much more detail about the PLO/PA split of responsibilities:

There is one further relevant issue in considering the criterion of effective government. There is a clear distinction or division of competences on the Palestinian side between the Palestine Liberation Organisation ("PLO") and the Palestinian Authority. The former constitutes an internationally recognised "national liberation movement" accepted as representing externally the Palestinian people and the party with Israel to the various agreements commencing with the Declaration of Principles,1993.  Under the Interim Agreement, 1995, in addition, it has authority to negotiate and enter into agreements for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority in certain limited circumstances. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, as will be seen in the following paragraphs, exercises within the West Bank and Gaza a number of powers and responsibilities expressly transferred from Israel. The two institutions are not identical. Thus, what might be termed governmental functions are split between the two bodies. This must impact upon any conclusion as to whether the criterion of effective government has in fact been complied with.

Shaw says that "Palestine" does not adhere to requirement (d),  capacity to enter into relations with the other states, due to existing agreements with Israel and its lack of independence within those agreements.

The essential point is that critical functions seen as indispensable to statehood in international law have by agreement between the relevant parties been recognised as matters subject to Israeli control. This includes what is termed the capacity to enter into relations with foreign States in the Montevideo Convention. This competence in the Interim Agreement is clearly reserved to Israel, apart from certain minor areas, as noted in article IX (5) a and b noted above. It also includes the exercise of effective control with regard to external threats. This is emphasised in article XII, which, while providing for the establishment of a Palestinian police force, stipulates that: "Israel shall continue to carry the responsibility for defence against external threats, including the responsibility for protecting the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, and for defence against external threats from the sea and from the air, as well as the responsibility for overall security of Israelis and  settlements, for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order, and will have all the powers to take the steps necessary to meet this responsibility".

Shaw goes further, saying that any declaration of "Palestine" would be inherently illegal because of the violation of existing agreements and

it is also now part of the international consensus that the emergence of a new State must not take place upon the basis of illegality. This may be seen as reflective of the general principle of ex injuria поп oritur jus.
He goes on:
There is one further point in. the context of statehood. It may seem self-evident, but it is nevertheless a key issue, that in order for a new State to be created (and indeed recognised thereafter by the international community), the entity in question must actually assert a claim to statehood. A new State cannot arise implicitly or incidentally by way of circumstances or by way of inference. It may only be established as a concrete and explicit act of will. The US Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law notes that, "[w]hile the traditional definition does not formally require it, an entity is not a State if it does not claim to be a State".' Crawford concludes that, "[sjtatehood is a claim of right. Claims to statehood are not to be inferred from statements or actions short of explicit declaration".
 In the case of the Palestine, not only has no formal claim to statehood been made, but statements have been made continually declaring that the aim of the peace process is to establish a State of Palestine. This goes hand in hand with the explicit nature of the many instruments signed from the Declaration of Principles in 1993 onwards between the relevant parties, and witnessed by leading members of the international community, and indeed with the whole tenor of international documents.
There's lots more there.

This is not a simple issue! Unfortunately, we have seen the international community ignore customary international law in favor of "Palestine" and against Israel before, and I would not be surprised if it happens again.

Freedom of the Press, PA-style

From The Guardian:
An independent West Bank journalist detained for five days by Palestinian security forces after broadcasting a news item relating to frictions within the ruling Fatah party has questioned the extent to which freedom of speech is permitted by the Palestinian Authority.

George Canawati of Radio Bethlehem was held in an office at the city's general intelligence service headquarters over the Muslim holiday of Eid last month, according to an account he has given to the Guardian. He was provided with a mattress to sleep on, and food, but was given no explanation for his continued detention beyond an initial three-hour interrogation.

On 15 November at around 2pm, Radio Bethlehem broadcast a short item saying that Mohamed Dahlan, a senior Fatah figure, had played a recording made on a mobile phone of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to some members of Fatah's central committee. According to Canawati's report, the recording was of Abbas saying he wanted a Palestinian state regardless of whether it was inside or outside the wall – meaning the separation barrier Israel has constructed, much of it on Palestinian land.

Canawati – who has not heard the recording himself – based his report on a source within Fatah's central committee. "I confirmed the news from a credible person and that is enough for me to publish a report," Canawati said. The source was "someone I trust", he added.

...Shortly after Canawati's report was broadcast, he received a visit from the intelligence services. He was told to close down the radio station, and to accompany the official for questioning. "I was told it would be for 10 minutes. It took me five days," he said.

Canawati was questioned about the source of his story. "They treated me really good, they didn't put pressure on me. After three hours they told me to call the radio station to resume broadcasting. I was expecting to be released."

He had given his interrogators all the information they needed, including the name of his source. "I told them exactly what happened, I didn't know why they were keeping me," he said. He was eventually released on 19 November.

"I'm not confident any more that we have freedom of speech. Our prime minister [Salam Fayyad] is always preaching that the sky's the limit for freedom for journalists. From what happened to me, my experience, that is a false slogan. I really believed it until this happened."
It is interesting that the report that got him arrested said that Abbas would be willing to compromise. Besides the obvious issue of the PA clamping down on embarrassing reports, and of a journalist who willingly gives up his sources, the question is whether Abbas really said that statement or if it is part of an internal Fatah smear campaign against him?

The Forward insults me (and many others)

The Forward published an absurd op-ed by Letty Cottin Pogrebin:

From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report — which concluded that during the 2008-2009 Gaza war, Israel (as well as Hamas) may have committed war crimes — Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. But their strategy was complicated from the start by an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them — a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one.
She goes on to cast Goldstone as a modern Jewish tzaddik and his detractors of being guilty of a multitude of Jewish sins.

I responded to the article this way:

I take personal offence to this article.

From the moment that Goldstone's report was released, I - along with other bloggers, prominent writers and others - have spent countless hours writing specific criticisms of the report. I personally wrote at least 25 articles on my blog cross-referencing Goldstone's assertions with reliable information available from other sources, proving Goldstone's pattern of bias and disregard for facts and international law.

I daresay that I read Goldstone's report with much greater care than Letty Cottin Pogrebin did.

To say that I and my fellow critics of Goldstone did not address the contents of the report is simply a lie. To say that we wanted to bury it is ridiculous - I quoted large swaths of the report in my articles. On the contrary, we wanted to highlight the report's lies and bias for the many people - including, sadly, most journalists - who themselves couldn't be bothered to actually read it.

I invite readers to look at the many weighty criticisms of Goldstone available at goldstonereport.org. I would invite Pogrebin to do the same, but it appears that she is guilty of what she accuses us - making false claims without actually reading the content.

Let's reward Syria for just being great guys

From AFP:
President Barack Obama on Wednesday bypassed Congress to name the first US ambassador to Syria in nearly six years, part of his Middle East engagement drive criticized by his Republican opponents.
Obama took the controversial step of forcing through the appointments of Ambassador Robert Ford and five other officials while the Senate -- which normally needs to confirm nominations -- was out of session.

A senior administration official traveling with Obama on vacation in Hawaii justified the recess appointments, which are certain to irritate Republicans after both sides spoke of bipartisanship in the waning days of the last Congress.
Barry Rubin comments:
Speaking of Syria, while the Saudis are so worried about the United States being too soft on Syria and Iran that they are trying to cut their own deal surrendering Lebanon to the Syrians, what does President Barack Obama do? Why, of course, he is in such a hurry to name a U.S. ambassador to Syria that he bypasses Congress and does a recess appointment! Even though he has gotten nothing from Syria after two years of engagement.

What this technique does, of course, is shield the Syrian dictatorship from any criticism by Congress. If this administration had more sense it could have used the harder line from Congress as a rationale to get tougher on Syria. But instead of a "good cop/bad cop" approach we get a Keystone cop approach. (Note below)

The administration has argued that sending a U.S. ambassador to Syria is not a gift to that dictatorship (which is helping to murder Americans in Iraq, sponsoring Hamas and Hizballah, and helping Iran in every possible way) but a necessity to have a channel through which the United States can communicate with Damascus. But since this U.S. government only wants to communicate flattery and concessions it is hardly worthwhile.

Indeed, have no doubt that everyone in the Arabic-speaking world will interpret this as a Syrian victory. That's why this action is also worthy of a Dopes of the Day award.
Or maybe the US is just a fan of Bashir Assad's comedy act.

How to Defame Israel - NPR edition

When it comes down to it, all of the anti-Israel agitators, protesters and complainers use the same method for their smears. It is easy, effective and sometimes even partially truthful.

The method is to simply compare Israel with their idea of perfection, and note where it falls short.

It is insidious, because when it is done well, it is difficult to argue against on a point by point basis, and that tends to make people think that Israel is guilty of horrendous crimes. It is criticism without context, calumnies without comparisons, arguments without considering the alternative.

A classic example is being broadcast today on NPR, on the very real problem of tens of thousands of illegal African immigrants who are sneaking into Israel:

In Israel, No Welcome Mat For African Migrants

Israeli officials have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of African asylum seekers and migrant workers into Israel. With numbers reaching into the tens of thousands, Israeli officials are pressed to find a policy to combat the ever-increasing flow of people.

Israeli construction workers are battling against the blustery wind and sandstorms to build a fence across one stretch of desert.

The $270 million fence will cover 87 miles of Israel's southern border with Egypt. African refugees are smuggled through this area almost daily. They travel thousands of miles and often spend their life savings to try to reach Israel, a country they see as their doorstep to the West.

Israel, however, is far from laying down the welcome mat.

Sigal Rosen is an organizer at the Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group for refugees, in Tel Aviv. She says that though Israel signed the Geneva Convention relating to refugees, it regularly violates it.

"During the last years, Israel is sending a very clear message to all asylum seekers: Beware. We are not interested in your presence here. We will do whatever is in our power to prevent you from being here, even if the price is violating our legal commitments," Rosen says.

...On Nov. 22, the same day that work began on the fence along the Egyptian border, Yishai presented his four-part plan to make Israel a less desirable locale for refugees.

In addition to the fence, Israel is building a detention center that will operate as a yet undefined "open facility" for any would-be refugee who decides to remain in Israel.

The third step in Yishai's plan is to punish any employer who hires African migrants or supports their employment.

The last step is the repatriation of refugees who are already in Israel. Israel took that step for the first time — last week — when it removed 150 southern Sudanese who agreed to leave voluntarily in exchange for some pocket money and a flight home in time to vote in the upcoming referendum on the region's independence.

...At the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Rosen says she knows many more who would consider leaving Israel if they were given a similar deal. Most of them, she says, have become fed up.

"Actually, Israel doesn't have an immigration policy. What we have is a big mess," she says.
Now for some context.

Let's start with the headline: Israel does not roll out the "welcome mat" for African migrants.

Is there any country in the world that actively seeks or welcomes migrants from Africa? Has a single country gone to Israel and said "We would love to take them in?" The idea is absurd, but to NPR, Israel is to be castigated for not openly allowing itself to be overrun with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.

Not all of the migrants are refugees. In fact, there is a process that must be gone through to determine whether they can legally seek asylum. UNHCR in Israel used to do it, but a couple of years ago Israel took over that function partially because UNHCR was getting overwhelmed.

Many of the African migrants are not fleeing persecution and personal danger, but simply seeking a better life in the nearest Western-style state. Which means that they are not "refugees." It gets complicated though because once many of them step foot in Israel they really cannot go back to their own countries. In those cases Israel has a very good reason to discourage them from coming to begin with.

Notice that these African migrants usually pass through Egypt on their way to Israel. That indicates that they are not simply escaping persecution but illegally seeking a better life. (There are also a significant number from West Africa who visit Israel on religious pilgrimages and then never leave.)

Israel really is a tiny nation, While Israel in the past has welcomed small numbers of refugees in need (Vietnamese "boat people" in 1977, Bosnian Muslim refugees in 1993, southern Lebanese Christians in 2000) it simply cannot have the open door policy that NPR seems to demand. Even the US, 450 times the size of Israel, cannot survive with such a policy. It is a matter of national survival.

Moreover, UNHCR credits Israel with great strides in improving its policies on dealing with asylum seekers, creating a program from scratch in only a few years.

The UNHCR itself is concerned not only in resettlement when necessary but in repatriation when possible, meaning that Israel's attempts to send migrants back to their original homes is quite consistent with preferred international standards.

Not only that, but Israel now has a serious crime problem from these illegal African immigrants.*

One doesn't even have to mention the fact that Egyptian policies are to shoot migrants on sight.

All of these facts are easily ascertained and they took me only a few minutes to learn. But NPR's Sheera Frenkel could not be bothered to find out the facts.

The methodology of the report is also very biased. Only one side is humanized; the Israeli policies are presented purely as malicious. You won't find Frenkel interviewing Israeli victims of crimes by Africans, nor Israeli officials who are dedicating their lives to making the lives of the Africans as bearable as possible while keeping within Israeli policies and respecting Israel's citizens, and not even UNHCR officials in Israel. Instead she interviews only two people - an advocate for the illegal migrants and an actual migrant - whose views are hardly unbiased.

In other words, NPR is presenting a hatchet job, solely for the purpose of demonizing Israel.

The methods are familiar, because we have seen countless similar articles from the media that use the same format: find people who are unhappy with some aspect of Israeli society, de-contextualize it while humanizing only one side of the story and making the Israeli side seem cold and heartless, and highlighting where Israel is supposedly falling short to some idealized standards that are literally impossible or that would cause worse human rights problems in themselves.

This is merely one of thousands of examples of how the media slyly and subtly tries to undermine Israel.

(h/t Jim)

*CORRECTION: While the Israeli media had widely reported about crimes committed by the migrants, statistics show this is not true.(h/t Frankie)

Al Aqsa Brigades declares a truce with Israel?

Palestine News Network reports that the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Gaza - the military wing of Fatah - has declared a truce with Israel.

The leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Mekdad Ehab said on Wednesday that the declaration of a truce with the occupation comes unilaterally to ensure the national interest, and in order to avoid giving pretexts for the occupation to wage a new war on the sector [Gaza.]

Other groups were in the meeting as well.

Mahmoud Khalaf, a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that the meeting was intended to close ranks and confront the Israeli threats, adding that the factions had agreed to many of the most important issues to emphasize that the resistance is a natural right to defend the Palestinian people

The meeting was organized by Hamas. Hamas has been keeping all other terror organizations mostly in line, and the recent increase in rockets and Israeli reactions seem to have spooked the group.

This is mostly cosmetic. The Al Aqsa Brigades are close to non-existent in Gaza ever since Hamas took over.  They've shot a few token rockets but if any member shows allegiance to Fatah in Ramallah, Hamas is there to perform some gentle physical persuasion.

It does show that Hamas, for all its rhetoric, is not looking for a war now, and that can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Burqa Woman - the video

From Pakistani comedian Said Haroon, who naturally is getting death threats:


(h/t Solomonia)

Dismantle UNRWA for peace (Commentary)

Michael Bernstam in Commentary writes an important article that lays out the major problems of UNRWA:
UNRWA’s mandate created, in effect, a multigenerational dependency of an entire people—a permanent, supranational refugee welfare state in which simply placing most Palestinians on the international dole has extinguished incentives for work and investment. It has succeeded with a vengeance. It has thwarted economic development, destroyed opportunities for peace in the Middle East, and created, along the way—both metaphorically and literally—a breeding ground for international terrorism. The great-grandchildren of East Prussian refugees do not blow up pizzerias in what used to be Konigsberg and is now the Russian city ­Kaliningrad. But the great-grandchildren of the original UNRWA refugees do blow up pizzerias in Jerusalem.

It is this open-ended refugee status—which necessarily envisions a victorious return to the Israeli part of the former British Mandate Palestine—that puts bread on the table in the rent-free house, together with an array of social services. Only the triumphant return of the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren to the ancestral land will mark the final deliverance in this ideology. Until then, the permanent refugee welfare state means permanent war. It is no longer the epitome of former British prime minister Clement Attlee’s dichotomy of warfare state and welfare state: it is both.

The permanent refugeeism of the UNRWA welfare state generates a particular “right of return” claim—the argument that Palestinians should be given title to the land they occupied before Israel’s independence—that fuels perpetual warfare. To see its pernicious demographic and physical meaning, consider what this claim is not, and then what it is. First, it is not the right of return of actual refugees (as opposed to descendants) that was created by international conventions since 1948 to prevent deportations and to mitigate the conditions of concurrent refugees who fled the ravages of war. Nor is it the right of return of historical ethnic diasporas to their own nation-states that Germany extends to all Germans, Armenia to all Armenians, Greece to all Hellenes, and Israel to all Jews. Nor is it the establishment of new nation-states where there were none, such as the partition of British Mandate Palestine into the Jewish and Arab states or the partition of the British Raj into India and Pakistan. Rather, the claim of the Palestinian right of return is intended for one historical ethnic diaspora of the ­descendants of perennial refugees to repopulate another people’s existing nation-state, Israel.

This is not the right of return to a country; this is the right of return of a country, a reconquest after a lost war. In Europe, a similar claim would apply to the right of the Germans to a return of the Sudetenland from the Czech Republic, Farther Pomerania and Silesia from Poland, and East Prussia from Russia. In Asia, it would mean the right of the Pakistanis to parts of India.

This is not the right of return; this is a claim of the right of retake. In the world of historical ethnic diasporas, the right of return-cum-retake means a Hobbesian war of all against all. More than being detrimental to Israel, it is destructive for the Palestinians because it gives more belligerent groups, such as Hamas, an upper hand and prevents reunification of the two potential Palestinian nation-states. It converts what was meant to be a civil right into a civil war, on top of the war with Israel.
It gets better:
UNRWA has been one of the most inhuman experiments in human history. Since UNRWA creates incentives for war and disincentives for peace, conditions for Palestinian misery and disincentives for economic development, it cannot be reformed and must be removed. The change in the Palestinian incentive structure is necessary for both peace and statehood. Palestinian sovereignty will only be achieved by liberation from UNRWA and, like peace, cannot be truly achieved without this liberation. The first order of business, then, is to dismantle the UNRWA welfare-warfare state.

...The end of UNRWA would automatically nullify the pernicious issue of the right of return-cum-retake. It is unsolvable in the presence of UNRWA, because it implies the repopulation of Israel with millions of perennial paramilitary refugees. But once UNRWA is discarded, the refugee status expires instantaneously or after a transition period, and the right of return becomes a non-issue due to immediate and actually pressing needs.

Though its defenders may claim that criticisms of this agency are ill-intentioned or biased against the Palestinians, the phasing out of UNRWA is not only the Palestinians’ sole hope of finding a viable future. It also fits well with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s hope of creating a viable independent state. Though supporters of the Palestinians and even some friends of Israel have come to believe that UNRWA is indispensable, nation-building from within is the only viable form of nation-building. Instead of perpetuating the dead end that the international welfare state for the Palestinians represents, ending UNRWA’s horrific six-decade reign would instantly create the conditions for an honest, meaningful, and viable peace process to begin in the Middle East.
Read the whole thing - and tweet it.

(h/t Joshuapundit)

Attention Tel Aviv U: Saudi Arabia found your bird

An article in Saudi Arabia's al-Weeam discusses the discovery of a large, injured bird in the Ha'il region of the country.

The bird was not frightened of people, and  it had really, really bad breath making it difficult to approach.

It had an electronic device attached which said "Ariel" and a metal bracelet that says "H1 - Ho5," on the wing it says "x63" and another bracelet says "Israel - Tel Aviv University."

One of the commenters named Mahmoud Nassar, who says that he works in a nature reserve in the north of "Palestine", says that the bird is one of some eagles that TAU has been monitoring since 2008. Others agree that this is likely.

But some other commenters aren't so sure, convinced that it is an Israeli spy bird of some sort.

Israel's Flash Mobs, 2010

Jerusalem, New Year's Day 2010:


Jerusalem, January:


Tel Aviv, January:


Haifa, February:


Tel Aviv, March:


Jerusalem, April:


Haifa, April (Freezing for three minutes flashmob:)


Tel Aviv, April:


May:


Haifa Cinemall, May:


Holon, July:


Tel Aviv, September:


Rishon LeTzion Beach, September:


Tel Aviv, November:


Hadera, November:


Jerusalem, December:


I'm sure I missed a few.

Deputy PM: Iran's nuke program delayed three years

From Reuters:
The United States and its allies have up to three years to curb Iran's nuclear programme, which has been set back by technical difficulties and sanctions, a senior Israeli official said on Wednesday.

Saying Iran remained his government's biggest worry, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon did not mention possible unilateral military strikes by Israel, saying he hoped U.S.-led action against Tehran would be successful.

"I believe that this effort will grow, and will include areas beyond sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime that, effectively, it must choose between continuing to seek nuclear capability and surviving," Yaalon told Israel Radio.

"I don't know if it will happen in 2011 or in 2012, but we are talking in terms of the next three years."

Yaalon, a former armed forces chief, noted Iran's uranium enrichment plan had suffered setbacks. Some analysts have seen signs of foreign sabotage in incidents such as the corruption of Iranian computer networks by a virus.

"These difficulties postpone the timeline, of course. Thus we cannot talk about a 'point of no return'. Iran does not currently have the ability to make a nuclear bomb on its own," Yaalon said.

"I hope it won't succeed at all and that the Western world's effort will ultimately deny Iran a nuclear capability."
This is a bigger delay than anything I had heard before from Stuxnet, at least (there might have been other successful operations that delayed the program further.)

Morning links

Sultan Knish writes "Who's Afraid of Israeli Democracy?", slamming Jeffrey Goldberg for his essay "What if Israel Ceases to Be a Democracy?"

Yochanan Visser in YNet on "Biased Dutch reporting on Arab-Israeli conflict leads to drastic rise in anti-Semitism"

On a related note, we have JPost's 'Norwegians in UNIFIL causing negative view of J'lem' based on a Wikileaks cable.

NGO Monitor goes after NGOs and Goldstone for uncritically believing Palestinian Arab statistics about civilian casualties in the Gaza war, a theme we have written extensively about.

Daphne Anson discusses Israel's new tough line against the London-based "Palestinian Return Center" saying it is a front for Hamas. The PRC denies this, according to Middle East Monitor - which is itself suspect.

US blacks have higher unemployment rates than WB PalArabs

From the Washington Post:
Unemployment for African Americans is projected to reach a 25-year high this year, according to a study released Thursday by an economic think tank, with the national rate soaring to 17.2 percent and the rates in five states exceeding 20 percent.

Better not tell human rights organizations, or else they will start writing a whole lot of reports about how the US is oppressing blacks to cause this high unemployment rate.

After all, they kill countless trees crying over Palestinian Arab unemployment, blaming Israel for it, when the rate for West Bank Palestinian Arabs is actually lower than blacks in the  US.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in the second quarter of 2010 the unemployment rate for everyone aged 15 and above was 15.2%, and for both Gaza and the West Bank together it was 22.9%.

If you don't count the Palestinian Arabs aged 15-17 the unemployment rate would be lower (the rate for 15-19 year olds is 22.6% in the West Bank and 72% in Gaza.)

What would happen if Israel would stop employing West Bank Palestinian Arabs?

13.5% of all West Bank Palestinian Arabs are employed in Israel or "settlements," according to the survey, so that means that the WB unemployment rate would go from 15.2% to 26.6% if Israel would unilaterally disengage altogether from the territory.

Before the Palestinian Arabs started the terror war of 2001, the unemployment rate in the West Bank was under 10%.

So it is obviously not Israeli policies that are keeping Palestinian Arabs from working, but Palestinian Arab actions and policies.

(h/t Zach)

A good question from an unlikely source

"Kaffir" put my Trivia Question post from yesterday on Reddit, and the first commenter asked:

Wow dude, what the hell is your angle, Israel is never going to get a more peaceful Palestinian leader than Abbas. Is that why you don't like him?

And in that single sentence, the commenter encapsulated the entire argument between the left and the right.

Should Abbas be judged on his words and actions, or relative to other Palestinian Arab leaders?

One side, that likes to say that you only make peace with your enemies, see Abbas as, at worst, flawed, but as the best chance for peace. Without him, peace is "doomed."

The other side looks at it in absolute terms, not relative terms. If Israel's most promising "peace partner" shows zero interest in compromise and has no problem publicly celebrating the most disgusting terrorists, why should he be considered a peace partner to begin with?

The question boils down to: what kind of peace can Abbas deliver? If he continues to insist on the "right to return" and on no territorial compromise, then he is not a peace partner by any definition - and he is proving that his interest in a state is less important than in what he calls "principles."

Realization of Palestinian Arab self-determination does not in itself necessarily compromise Israel's security. But Abbas' "principles" are about far more than a state - they are fundamentally opposed to Israel's existence as a Jewish state and to the very idea of Jewish self-determination.  The human rights of Israelis to live in security and for the Jewish nation to practice its own right to self-determination are more important than Abbas' "principles," a point that the world does not understand.

Abbas conflates the right of Palestinian Arab self-determination - which does not necessarily mean statehood, incidentally -  with his "principles" of 1949 armistice lines and "right to return" and, most probably, the right to have an army and invite Iran over for some tea and missiles.

His actions indicate that self-determination is not his goal, but the "principles" are - "principles" that were designed by Arafat to destroy Israel.

In other words, Abbas seems to look at "peace" as a Trojan horse to fulfill the wishes of his predecessors Arafat and the Mufti, not as a means to create a Palestinian Arab state.

Abbas' "peace" is in exact contradiction to real peace. It would result in more bloodshed on both sides than the status quo.

So the question is not whether to consider Abbas a peace partner because there is no more moderate alternative. The question is whether Abbas really is a peace partner to begin with and what his goals are - questions that he answers very explicitly and very often.

Just none of the advocates for "peace" are listening to his answers.

Hamas continues to arrest and beat political opponents

Today, Hamas raided and closed the headquarters of a group called the Democratic Union of Palestine in Rafah, confiscating some of the group's files and arresting and beating its leaders.

Hamas also detained and beat 14 Fatah members.

These sort of events are happening pretty much every day, yet one would have to look long and hard to find any Western so-called "human rights for Gaza" organization mentioning them, let alone condemning them. Nothing from Free Gaza, or Viva Palestina, or IHH, or any of the other groups who so publicly claim to care about the human rights of Gazans.

Which just goes to prove that there is no such thing as a "pro-Palestinian" activist. They are anti-Israel agitators, period. And that is how they should be referred to.

EoZ Hasbara 2.0 video now available

The video of my Hasbara 2.0 lecture at Yeshiva University on December 7 (audio plus slides) is now available.

The lecture enumerates 11 Rules of Hasbara and 14 ways that anyone can be a reporter - i.e., find news that the media misses - in the Internet age. I also discuss how to amplify and publicize the news that the mainstream media misses, with simple methods that anyone can and should do.

I believe that the video can be very helpful to people and groups who are interested in helping Israel's cause, as I discuss the barriers that we face and many specific ideas that could be effective in making our case.

It is hosted on a site called MovieLocker, and the cost is $12 to view it (3 day rental.) The lecture is about 90 minutes long (I didn't include the Hasby Awards) and it is followed by about 30 minutes of videos I've made that hopefully illustrate the principles I spoke about.

The video requires Microsoft Silverlight to view.

The license is for private viewing, for public showings please contact me.

It is best viewed full-screen.

Here is a sample of one of my topics, and of part of the video.


I hope you enjoy it! Please feel free to contact me with questions.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hey, Abbas: Would "Palestine" allow conversions to Christianity?

From Al Masry al-Youm:

In June 2009, an Egyptian court declined a request by [Christian convert Maher] al-Gohary to register his current religion in his identity documents. The verdict said that "conversion from Islam is unacceptable since it contradicts the prevailing order and because society has a Muslim majority," adding that "conversion is at odds with Article 2 of the Constitution which says that Islam is the primary source of legislation."

Islam prohibits conversion to Christianity, even for Muslim coverts originally belonging to the Christian faith.

Al-Gohary’s request to be recognized as a Christian is the second to be turned down. In January 2008, the administrative court dismissed another request by Mohamed Haggay, who later named himself Bishoy.
So the legal reasons given by the Egyptian court to not accept al-Gohary's conversion is because the Egyptian constitution says "Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)."

Now, it just turns out that the constitution of Palestine has virtually identical wording ("The principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.")

So, as the world continues to rush to provide recognition for the state of "Palestine," Mahmoud Abbas should answer a simple question:

Would a Muslim be allowed to convert to Christianity in Palestine?


(To make it even more interesting, change "Christianity" to "Hinduism," which Islam abhors.)

Why Israelis are skeptical (The Australian op-ed)

A pretty good summation of how Israelis think, by Jeremy Sharon in The Australian:

The current Israeli insistence on the deployment of Israeli troops on both the western and eastern borders of any future Palestinian state is regarded as of critical importance to Israel's long-term security. This is seen as one of the inviolable lessons of the Gaza withdrawal and the 2008 Gaza conflict. The other lesson Israel learnt from Operation Cast Lead is that the country can in no way rely on the international community to support its right to self-defence. Having been bombarded with more than 3000 rockets and mortars in 2008 alone, the Israeli government felt it was well within its rights to try to put an end to the intolerable situation in which hundreds of thousands of its citizens found themselves before Cast Lead was initiated.

But the torrent of condemnations, denunciations, diplomatic attacks and media outrage that was directed at Israel for having the temerity to defend its own citizens was unprecedented, even for Israel. This campaign culminated with the publication of the Goldstone report that, were it to be enforced, would essentially prevent the Israeli armed forces from protecting its citizens in the future, should they be attacked by artillery fire from civilian towns and cities, as they were prior to Operation Cast Lead.

In this context, Israel's concern over a withdrawal from the West Bank is quite clear. It is apparent to Israelis that should the urban areas of the West Bank be turned into rocket launching-pads, as happened in Gaza, the international community would not afford Israel the right to self-defence. The Israeli public is therefore much more inclined to forgo the risk of being shelled in their houses in Tel Aviv despite the international opprobrium that accompanies such a choice.

...The lesson Israel has taken from this appalling negligence is obvious; it can rely on no one to protect its citizens and stand up for its right to self-defence other than itself. It is this accumulated sentiment that those who wish to see a Palestinian state established must contend with, because Israelis cannot be expected to trust external forces with their security.
Read the whole thing.

HuffPo op-ed: How a liberal can defend Israel

From David Harris in the Huffington Post:
"I read the things you write about Israel. I hate them. How can you defend that country? What happened to the good liberal boy I knew 30 years ago?"

I replied: "That good liberal boy hasn't changed his view. Israel is a liberal cause, and I am proud to speak up for it."

Yes, I'm proud to speak up for Israel. A recent trip once again reminded me why.

Sometimes, it's the seemingly small things, the things that many may not even notice, or just take for granted, or perhaps deliberately ignore, lest it spoil their airtight thinking.

It's the driving lesson in Jerusalem, with the student behind the wheel a devout Muslim woman, and the teacher an Israeli with a skullcap. To judge from media reports about endless inter-communal conflict, such a scene should be impossible. Yet, it was so mundane that no one, it seemed, other than me gave it a passing glance. It goes without saying that the same woman would not have had the luxury of driving lessons, much less with an Orthodox Jewish teacher, had she been living in Saudi Arabia.

It's the two gay men walking hand-in-hand along the Tel Aviv beachfront. No one looked at them, and no one questioned their right to display their affection. Try repeating the same scene in some neighboring countries.

It's the Friday crowd at a mosque in Jaffa. Muslims are free to enter as they please, to pray, to affirm their faith. The scene is repeated throughout Israel. Meanwhile, Christians in Iraq are targeted for death; Copts in Egypt face daily marginalization; Saudi Arabia bans any public display of Christianity; and Jews have been largely driven out of the Arab Middle East.

It's the central bus station in Tel Aviv. There's a free health clinic set up for the thousands of Africans who have entered Israel, some legally, others illegally. They are from Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere. They are Christians, Muslims, and animists. Clearly, they know something that Israel's detractors, who rant and rave about alleged "racism," don't. They know that, if they're lucky, they can make a new start in Israel. That's why they bypass Arab countries along the way, fearing imprisonment or persecution. And while tiny Israel wonders how many such refugees it can absorb, Israeli medical professionals volunteer their time in the clinic.

It's Save a Child's Heart, another Israeli institution that doesn't make it into the international media all that much, although it deserves a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Here, children in need of advanced cardiac care come, often below the radar. They arrive from Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and other Arab places. They receive world-class treatment. It's free, offered by doctors and nurses who wish to assert their commitment to coexistence. Yet, these very same individuals know that, in many cases, their work will go unacknowledged. The families are fearful of admitting they sought help in Israel, even as, thanks to Israelis, their children have been given a new lease on life.
Read the whole thing.

(h/t Daled Amos)

Egyptians unhappy with Jewish pilgrims

From Al Ahram, Sunday:
Cairo International Airport announced on Sunday it was implementing emergency measures as hundreds of Israelis arrive to mark the annual moulid of Abu Hasira.

A 19th-century Moroccan Jewish rabbi, Abu Hasira's mausoleum is located in the village of Damatiuh, outside the delta city of Damanhour, where he died while travelling to Jerusalem in the 1880s.

Three flights from Tel Aviv arrived in Cairo today carrying 550 Israeli passengers. They were transferred to Abu Hasira's tomb by a secure convey. More Jewish pilgrims are expected to attend the eight day festival.

The moulid and the presence of Israelis have provoked indignation and legal action. Residents of the area are opposed to Israelis celebrating in their midst with some going as far as stating that the tomb should be transferred to Israel.
From Al Masry al-Youm:
Dozens of largely Israeli Jewish pilgrims on Sunday arrived in Egypt to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Abu Hasira, a 19th-century Jewish Rabbi whose mausoleum is located in the village of Damtu in the Nile Delta.

Nearly 60 Jewish pilgrims have arrived and authorities anticipate an additional 280 tourists will arrive on Monday.

Security authorities have tightened measures around the mausoleum. Places of business were closed for the day and some 3000 security officials formed a cordon around the area, home to roughly 30,000 Egyptians.

Meanwhile, the National Association for Change leaders announced the group will hold a seminar at the Gabha Party headquarters in Damanhour to protest the festival. A number of other opposition movements also plan to stage a protest vigil on Thursday in front of Damanhour's municipal court.

The government’s approval of the festival has fomented popular reproach, particularly after the Supreme Administrative Court recently upheld a 2001 lower court decision to ban the annual event.
From The Media Line:
Hebrew signs reading "death to the Jews" greeted Israeli pilgrims who came to the Egyptian Nile Delta village of Damtu to commemorate the annual anniversary of death of a 19th-century rabbi.

Some 550 Israelis arrived Monday at the mausoleum of Rabbi Yaakov Abu-Hasira, a revered Moroccan rabbi, who died in Egypt in 1880 en route to the land of Israel. But 3,000 Egyptian security personnel cordoned the village, closing down local businesses for the day.

Last year, Egyptian President Husni Mubarak allowed Israeli pilgrims to enter Egypt, responding to a personal request by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Pilgrims had been refused entry the previous year, when the anniversary fell immediately after Israel's Cast Lead offensive on the Gaza Strip, and Egyptian security officials agued they couldn’t ensure the safety of Israelis in the country.

But Egyptian opposition parties said the event shouldn’t pass quietly this year either. The local chapter of the Nasserist Party launched a campaign titled "You shall not pass on my land," calling on the government to disallow the presence of "Zionists" in Egypt.

"I welcome Jews from all parts of the world in my home and I will be their servant," Gamal Munib, secretary-general of the Nasserists and coordinator of the campaign, told The Media Line. "But I refuse to welcome Zionists, who killed Egyptian prisoners of war and are killing my brothers in Palestine."

Munib said his party convened an anti-Zionist meeting Monday night, and was organizing a protest vigil on Thursday across from Damanhour's municipal court with the participation of "all national forces.”

The burial site wasn’t identified as Jewish until 1996, when it began being developed, Munib added. The Nasserist Party petitioned the court to declare the area isn’t a historic site, a move that would ban the annual Jewish festivities he said included the drinking of alcohol.
I couldn't find any use of the site in the early part of the century, but I did find a mention in Google News Archive search results in a paywalled Jerusalem Post article from 1989 that has a fragment that says "drove 100 km. to recite psalms at the grave site of Ya'acov Abu Hatzeira," so it was known as a place of pilgrimage from at least as early as then.

It is to Egypt's credit that the government allows these pilgrims to come, and protects them, almost every year.

Some history here.

Israel joins the big leagues!

From Iran's FARS News Agency:
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said on Tuesday that a fate worse than what Hitler experienced is waiting for the US and Britain's warmongering leaders.

"The American, British and Zionist regimes are the three sides of the evil triangle of warmongering and terrorism in the world," Vahidi said, addressing senior military and law enforcement commanders in Iran's Northern province of Alborz today.

He denounced the recent threatening remarks made by the US Defense Secretary and his British counterpart, and said, "The frequent visits paid to the region by the US military officials as well as their warmongering remarks are clear indications of their evil plots for looting the wealth and the riches of the regional nations."

Vahidi further viewed "nations' belief in God, self-belief, insightfulness and resistance" as the main deterrents which can defuse the plots hatched by the aforementioned evil triangle, and said, "If the US and Britain do not seek to revise their policies and if they don't start fundamental changes in their approaches and strategies, a fate worse than those of Hitler's and Saddam's will be waiting for them."
Congratulations to Israel for making it to the big leagues, on par with the US and UK as part of the "evil triangle!"

I think it would be fair, therefore, to raise Israel's profile at the UN to become a permanent member of the Security Council and have veto power over any resolutions. Why shouldn't the triangle be equilateral?

I think that the Evil Triangle of Warmongering deserves a logo:
Um, needs some work.

HRW ignores widespread slavery in Mauritania

Italy's La Repubblica has a report on the phenomenon of widespread slavery in Mauritania.

Members of an anti-slavery NGO group were jailed for protesting the enslavement of two girls, aged 9 and 13.

"White Moors," who are ethnic Arabs, are enslaving nearly 600,000 "Black Moors" in Mauritania. Last month a UN special envoy noted that slavery is still a major problem in the Islamic country. Blacks who are former slaves and others  are living in real apartheid conditions, forced to live in black-only camps with poor services and suffering continued abuse from the Arab-Berber minority rulers.

Don't bother to try to find a single report on this phenomenon at the Human Rights Watch website. They don't even have a country listing for Mauritania, and their last full report on abuses in the country was written in 1994. The UN and the BBC can somehow find out about these practices, but Human Rights Watch is far more preoccupied with a certain country with a Jewish majority. (Amnesty, on the other hand, does a nice job on covering these crimes.)

UPDATE: NGO Monitor wrote about this issue a year ago.

Morning links

Those moderate Palestinian Arabs have yet again reiterated that they want everything and will not accept anything less, even as  a temporary measure.

The Islamo-nazism blog has a lot information about how brutally Arabs are treating Africans trying to get to Israel, The Africans are subjected to torture, rape, and extortion.

Evelyn Gordon at Commentary: Islamists slaughter Christians and Jews are blamed.

Wired has more information on how Stuxnet seems to have targeted Iranian nuke plants. (h/t Israel Matzav)

Iran claims to have caught, and executed, a Mossad spy.

Also at YNet, an important report on how the Islamic Movement in Israel is attempting to claim Waqf ownership of some 17% of Israeli land. It also talks about how they are placing fake gravestones around the country as a land grab.

Turks scream "Death to Israel" at Mavi Marmara ceremony

From NPR:
Thousands of people crowded into a port area on Istanbul's European side Sunday to welcome the aid ship Mavi Marmara, scene of a deadly clash off the Gaza coast in May. Volunteers from the Islamic charity IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) directed the crowd past huge posters of the eight Turks and one Turkish-American who died in the violence.

Chants of "Israel be damned!" rang out from the crowd as the ship was eased into dock. The anti-Israel sentiment threatened to undo tentative diplomatic efforts to restore Turkish-Israeli ties, which plummeted following the May 31 fatalities.

Israel's Channel 10 had a video report from Turkey where the reporter said that the protesters called out "Death to Israel" at the prompting of the speakers. The organizaers gave out buttons saying "Damn Israel" in Turkish, and some even had anti-Israel signs in Hebrew.

(h/t Joel)