Small signs of improving Arab-Israeli relations (despite today’s suicide attack)

October 26, 2005

* Bird flu alarm results in rare cooperation between Israeli and Syrian officials; Israeli president, Jerusalem mayor join Ramadan festivities

* This dispatch looks at some improving relations between Israelis and Arabs that have been largely overlooked by the mainstream media. (There are, unfortunately, many counter-prevailing trends too, but these are not featured on this dispatch.)

* I send this out despite the vicious Palestinian suicide attack that occurred in the food and vegetable market in Hadera, the coastal city north of Tel Aviv, about two hours ago. At least five Israeli civilians are dead, and at least 20 injured. Israeli police and medics are presently treating the injured, clearing up body parts, and sweeping the area for further explosive devices.

With terrorists still coming through, and the Palestinian Authority having done absolutely nothing to try and stop them, Israel is rejecting the continuing calls of Condoleezza Rice, on behalf of the U.S., and James Wolfensohn, on behalf of the Quartet, that Israel open its borders and allow freedom of movement of goods and people between and through the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

 

CONTENTS

1. Arab appointed Dean of an Israeli University
2. Mahmoud Abbas to address Israeli forum
3. Bird flu alarm results in rare cooperation between Israeli and Syrian officials
4. Israeli foreign ministry hosts Iftar Ramadan banquet for Arab diplomats
5. Jerusalem Mayor Lupoliansky fires Ramadan Ceremonial cannon
6. Israeli Jewish-Arab newspaper launches another issue
7. “Report: Israel, Syria to discuss bird flu” (Ynetnews, Oct. 19, 2005)
8. “Jordanian veterinarians to work in Israeli lab to combat avian flu” (Ha’aretz, Oct. 20, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

ARAB APPOINTED DEAN OF AN ISRAELI UNIVERSITY

Professor Majid Al-Haj has been appointed Dean of Research at the University of Haifa the first Arab citizen to hold such a position at an Israeli university.

Al-Haj, a member of the university’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, will hold the post for three years. He has previously held other senior positions, including acting as the first Arab member of the Israeli Council of Higher Education, on which he served from 1995-2001.

MAHMOUD ABBAS TO ADDRESS ISRAELI FORUM

Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qureia, the President and Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, will attend an International Conference at the Netanya Academic College on the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. They are both expected to address the conference on November 4, 2005.

The address by Abbas will be the first time ever by a Palestinian Authority chairman to an Israeli forum.

Also attending will be Dr. Abdul Salam Al-Majali, who served as the Prime Minister of Jordan during the signing of the Peace Treaty with Israel.

BIRD FLU ALARM BRINGS RARE COOPERATION BETWEEN ISRAELI AND SYRIAN OFFICIALS

It has been revealed that representatives from Israel, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority met a few days ago on Sheikh Hussein Bridge connecting Israel and Jordan, in order to discuss efforts to curb the bird flu epidemic.

The meeting was reported by two Arabic language newspapers, al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Bayan. This conference is extremely unusual since Israeli and Syrian officials (and Israeli and Iraqi) very rarely meet.

The Israeli Agricultural spokeswoman Daphna Yurista denied Israeli officials met with the Iraqi and Syrians. However, it seems that the Jordanians may have passed messages between Israel and other Arab states, while the representatives met on the bridge, after the Syrians and Iraqis did not want to be seen talking directly to Israelis.

Following the meeting Israel’s Veterinary Service and their Jordanian counterparts agreed to collaborate in an Israeli laboratory to combat avian flu. They also agreed to meet again in three weeks to evaluate progress.

Israeli preparations to combat bird flu began in 2003 following the outbreak of the virus in Southeast Asia. Israel says it is now prepared should the virus spread to the Middle East.

The bird flu virus is not present in Israel at this time, according to the head of the chicken branch of the Israeli Agriculture Ministry, Dr. Shimon Pokamonski. However the Health Ministry Director General Avi Yisraeli said a local outbreak of bird flu was “only a matter of time, and likely to happen soon, because of migrating birds that are liable to carry the disease from Turkey, Greece or Romania.”

ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY HOSTS IFTAR RAMADAN BANQUET FOR ARAB DIPLOMATS

Earlier this month, the Israeli Foreign Ministry hosted the Arab diplomatic corps in Israel for the Iftar meal at the end of the daily Ramadan fast. Participants included Egyptian Ambassador Muhamed Assem Ibrahim, Mauritanian Ambassador Ould Teguedi Ahmed, Jordanian Charge d’Affaires Nadif Omr, and their staffs.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Ron Prosor welcomed the guests with the traditional greeting of “Ramadan kareem” and wishes for a good New Year 5766 according to the Hebrew calendar.

Prosor stressed that it is Israel’s desire to improve relations with the Arab countries and peoples of the region, alongside the necessity of a joint struggle against the threat of armed Islamist fundamentalism.

JERUSALEM MAYOR LUPOLIANSKY FIRES RAMADAN CEREMONIAL CANNON

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky (a strictly orthodox Jew) fired the traditional Ramadan ceremonial cannon at the Salah-e-din St. cemetery in Jerusalem earlier this month.

In 1976 Lupoliansky established Yad Sarah, an organization that lends out medical equipment and supplies for the sick, elderly and lonely. Yad Sarah today has 6,000 volunteers working from over 95 branches serving Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze.

Lupoliansky stressed he was mayor of all Jerusalem citizens, including the city’s Muslim minority.

ISRAELI JEWISH-ARAB NEWSPAPER LAUNCHES ANOTHER ISSUE

DU-ET Israel’s Jewish-Arab newspaper has launched another issue. It is the only newspaper written and produced jointly by both Jewish and Arab journalists. The newspaper is printed in both Hebrew and Arabic, and is distributed on a quarterly basis through the national Hebrew and Arabic language press.

The newspaper first appeared in October 2003 and is now into its seventh issue.

DU-ET aims to encourage Jewish-Arab cooperation and dialogue, and to provide a forum for Arab journalists in the Hebrew press.

The latest issue was given out as a supplement in the Israeli newspapers Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv as well as in the Israeli Arab newspapers Kul-al-Arab, As’sennara and Panorama.

Articles in the new issue include “When the groom is Arab and the bride is Russian,” “Jewish-Arab relations in Acre,” “Crossing the Lines: A Haredi journalist meets Druze proponents & opponents of army service,” and “Jews & Arabs in the Emerging Constitution Special session with the Knesset’s Constitution, Law & Justice Committee”. In other features, an Arab journalist interviews IDF soldiers and Palestinians at the checkpoint at Qalqilya, and Jewish and Arab media figures quiz Labor ministers on the party’s relationship with the Arab minority in Israel.

Contributors include Rawia Abu-Ribea, Zoheir Andrawous (Kul-al-Arab), Dr. Assad Ganem, Mouhamad Jabali, Alaa Khehel Victoria Martinov, Eetta Prince-Gibson (The Jerusalem Post), Rubik Rosenthal (Ma’ariv), Yair Sheleg (Ha’aretz), and Dudi Zilbershlag (Bakehila).

The editors claim that readership is almost one million.

I attach two articles with summaries first.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

ISRAEL, SYRIA DISCUSS BIRD FLU

“Report: Israel, Syria to discuss bird flu” (By Roee Nahmias, Ynetnews, October 19, 2005)

... Israeli, Syrian, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Palestinian officials are set to meet Thursday on the Sheikh Hussein bridge connecting Israel and Jordan, in order to discuss efforts to curb a bird flu epidemic.

... Later, Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman Daphna Yurista said Israeli officials will meet with their Jordanian counterparts but not with representatives from other countries such as Syria and Iraq.

“The representatives may be briefed about the preparations of neighboring countries that Jordan maintains contacts with and Israeli doesn’t,” the spokeswoman said

According to the newspaper report, Jordan views the meeting as a “technical coordination session” in order to deal with the disease, and called to avoid politicization of the issue. The Jordanian minister refused to provide further details and said it will be attended by neighboring countries in order to learn about preventive steps that could help curb the spread of the disease...

 

JORDANIAN VETS TO WORK IN ISRAELI LAB TO COMBAT AVIAN FLU

[There is only a summary of this article included in this dispatch because most other parts of the article dealt with bird flu in the Balkans TG]

“Jordanian veterinarians to work in Israeli lab to combat avian flu” (By Amiram Cohen, Yoav Stern and Asaf Oni, Ha’aretz Correspondents and AP, Ha’aretz, October 20, 2005)

Officials from Israel’s Veterinary Service and their Jordanian counterparts agreed Thursday to collaborate at an Israeli laboratory in Beit Dagan in an effort to combat the avian flu...

The meeting was organized at the request of the Jordanians, who want to find out what steps Israel is taking to prepare for a possible outbreak of the virus in the region.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel and Jordan were trying to forge plans for a joint effort against the flu, since it is considered likely to spread to the Middle East in the near future. Israel would also be happy to cooperate with other countries on this issue, he said.

Several Arab newspapers reported Wednesday that Israeli officials would also meet on the issue with counterparts from other Arab states, including Syria and Iraq. Israeli officials denied the reports. They did say, however, that since Jordan was coordinating its moves with Israel and with its Arab neighbors, there would be indirect coordination between Israel and other Arab states. However, they said, there will be no direct contact.

... The main worry is the economic damage that the flu could wreak on Israel’s poultry industry, Dr. Shimon Pokomonsky said. Prof. Manfred Green, head of the Israel Center for Disease Control in the Health Ministry, said that people who rush to purchase the flu medicine Tamiflu to protect themselves against bird flu were “throwing money in the garbage.” Moreover, he said, it is not even clear that Tamiflu is effective against bird flu, and even if it is, widespread usage could enable the virus to develop resistance to the medicine.

Unlike the general public, farmers and veterinary personnel who work directly with infected birds are vulnerable to the disease. Israel has therefore purchased approximately 420,000 doses of flu medicine, at a cost of NIS 44 million, enough to treat about 6 percent of the population.

At the next cabinet meeting, however, the Health Ministry plans to ask for an additional NIS 200 million to buy enough medicine to treat a quarter of the population, as most western European states plan to do...

 



FULL ARTICLE

ISRAEL, SYRIA DISCUSS BIRD FLU

Report: Israel, Syria to discuss bird flu
Representatives of Israel, Syria, Iraq, to meet Thursday, Arabic-language papers report
By Roee Nahmias
Ynetnews
October 19, 2005

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3156659,00.html

Joining forces to confront the danger? Israeli, Syrian, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Palestinian officials are set to meet Thursday on the Sheikh Hussein bridge connecting Israel and Jordan, in order to discuss efforts to curb a bird flu epidemic.

A word of the planned meeting was leaked after Jordan’s agriculture minister met with his country’s parliament speaker and other parliament members, Arabic-language newspapers al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Bayan reported Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry confirmed a meeting on the matter will take place in Jordan on Thursday. The Health Ministry, however, said it was unaware of the meeting.

Later, Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman Daphna Yurista said Israeli officials will meet with their Jordanian counterparts - but not with representatives from other countries such as Syria and Iraq.

“The representatives may be briefed about the preparations of neighboring countries that Jordan maintains contacts with and Israeli doesn’t,” the spokeswoman said

According to the newspaper report, Jordan views the meeting as a “technical coordination session” in order to deal with the disease, and called to avoid politicization of the issue. The Jordanian minister refused to provide further details and said it will be attended by neighboring countries in order to learn about preventive steps that could help curb the spread of the disease.

On Tuesday, European Union foreign ministers characterized the spread of bird flu as a global threat in a session convened several hours after new cases of the disease were discovered in Romani.

The bird flu virus does not exist in Israel for the time being, head of the chicken branch in the Agriculture Ministry, Dr. Shimon Pokamonski, said Saturday, in wake of fears that the deadly virus spread to Israel.

“We are examining all reports in the chicken industry for fear of the disease or any problem,” he said. “Several reports were received over the weekend and we took samples in for laboratory testing. It revealed that there is no reason for concern.”


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.