* Hillel Halkin on how The New York Times selectively reports the West Bank checkpoint issue
1. Iranian foreign minister: “No such country as Israel”
2. Israel sends ground force into Gaza
3. Iran gives Hizbullah long-range missiles
4. British national arrested for assisting Hamas
5. The confiscated money went to Hamas after all
6. PFLP to join Hamas-led government
7. IDF stops suicide bomber en route to attack in Israel
8. Police search for attacker who stabbed boy in Jerusalem
9. Israeli set to join OECD body of industrialized nations
10. Polish chief rabbi assaulted as pope visits
11. Iraqi athletes killed for wearing tennis shorts
12. Islamist organizations in Kashmir warn women not to use cell phones
13. U.S. pop show victor attracts more votes than any President
14. “Tel Aviv within range of new Hezbollah rocket” (Ha’aretz, May 29, 2006)
15. “Israeli soldiers thwart suicide attack” (Associated Press, May 29, 2006)
16. “The purpose of checkpoints” (By Hillel Halkin, New York Sun, May 30, 2006)
As with past dispatches, I attach the following news items because the so-called mainstream media, from which the vast majority of opinion-formers and policy-makers obtain their news, have barely reported on them, if at all.
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: “NO SUCH COUNTRY AS ISRAEL”
“There is no such country” as Israel, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said yesterday. Mottaki was speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Nonaligned Movement held in the Malaysian city of Putrajaya. The Iranian foreign minister also declared that the United States was too tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan to be able to launch an attack on Iran.
ISRAEL SENDS GROUND FORCE INTO GAZA
In a pre-dawn raid this morning, Israel sent special forces ground troops deep into Gaza for the first time since it unilaterally withdrew from the territory last fall. The target was an Islamic Jihad Qassam rocket crew that was preparing to fire rockets into Israel from what used to be the Israeli settlement of Dugit. Since that time, Dugit has often been used as a base from which to launch rockets at Israeli towns and villages. The Israeli commandos waited for the Palestinian rocket crew to arrive and then tried to prevent them from launching Qassams. Three Jihadists were killed in the fierce gun battle that ensued. There were no injuries to the Israeli force, which left the Strip soon after the clash.
IRAN GIVES HIZBULLAH LONG-RANGE MISSILES
Iran has transferred to the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist group much longer-range rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv and even Beersheba in southern Israel, Israel’s leading defense journalist, Ze’ev Schiff, reports.
Schiff, writing in the daily Ha’aretz, says the new rockets are called the Zelzal-2; its earlier model was called the Zelzal-1. Another Iranian name for the rocket is Nazeat. The weapons have doubled Hizbullah’s effective range, to about 125 miles (200 kilometers), putting all of Israel’s major urban centers within striking distance. The new missiles carry a 1300-pound (600- kilogram) warhead.
The rockets were first seen in a military parade in Teheran on September 2005, the first such event following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Six Shehab-3 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles were also on display. In response to slogans written on the Shehab-3 rockets, calling for “Death to Israel” and “Death to the U.S.,” the military attaches of France, Italy, Greece and Poland, invited to the event, left the VIP platform.
Hizbullah fired a barrage of shorter-range Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel on Sunday. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 demands that all armed militias in Lebanon disarm.
BRITISH NATIONAL ARRESTED FOR ASSISTING HAMAS
The Israeli government announced yesterday that a British national, Iyaz Ali, was arrested in Israel by Israeli police three weeks ago, on May 10, after a tip-off from Israeli intelligence. Ali, who was born in Pakistan, is accused of transferring funds and assistance to Hamas institutions and operatives, in violation of Israeli law.
Ali is an activist in the UK-based Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), which was established in 1984 in the British city of Birmingham, and has a branch in Gaza. It has NGO status in the U.K.
In addition to incriminating files about financial payments to Hamas found on Ali’s computer, also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on the Star of David, photographs of senior German Nazi officials, of Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas’ “military activities.”
Ali, 36, was released yesterday (Monday), with police restrictions placed on his movements within Israel. He will be deported from Israel in the coming days and will be barred from returning.
THE CONFISCATED MONEY WENT TO HAMAS AFTER ALL
Some 640,000 Euros confiscated from a Hamas official at the Rafah crossing earlier this month has been given to Hamas after all. Some of it will pay for a militia manned by Izaddin Al-Kassam terrorists.
The cash, the equivalent of $820,000, was discovered in the baggage of the Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, as he made his way into Gaza from Egypt. European Union inspectors confiscated the money, which was over 400 times more than the amount permitted to be imported without declaration.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had ordered the money transferred to the prosecution offices of the PA, and demanded an investigation into the Hamas spokesman and his activities.
However, Abu Zuhri announced to the Palestinian Information Center, thought to be the main media outlet for Hamas, that the money went to “the correct party.” It is thought that Abu Zuhri’s reference to the “correct party” is a reference to Hamas operatives.
PFLP TO JOIN HAMAS-LED GOVERNMENT
Representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of the most extreme Palestinian terrorist groups, announced on Sunday that they had agreed to join the Hamas-led government. They also said they would be willing to participate in the new Hamas security force.
IDF STOPS SUICIDE BOMBER EN ROUTE TO ATTACK IN ISRAEL
Israeli security forces intercepted a suicide-bombing attempt on Sunday morning. Military sources said the two Palestinians were a suicide bomber and his driver who were on their way to carry out an attack in Israel. Their bag was found to contain a belt packed with explosives, which was then safely detonated by IDF explosives experts. (For more on this, please see the articles below, from the Associated Press, and the excellent commentary by Hillel Halkin criticizing The New York Times’s coverage of the checkpoint issue.)
POLICE SEARCH FOR ATTACKER WHO STABBED BOY IN JERUSALEM
Israeli police are continuing their search for the Arab man who stabbed a 14-year old Jewish boy in the back in Jerusalem on Saturday night. It was the second stabbing in two days. On Friday, a Palestinian stepped out of his car to ask an Israeli man for water and stabbed him in the neck when he turned his back.
ISRAEL SET TO JOIN OECD BODY OF INDUSTRIALIZED NATIONS
Israel expects to become a full member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the prestigious world body of 30 industrialized countries. Over the last 10 years of negotiations, Israel faced a number of hurdles. Some member states objected to the Jewish State’s inclusion because of its conflict with the Palestinians.
Efforts to join the OECD were launched in 1996 under then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Full membership will automatically improve Israel’s credit rating, widen Israel’s exposure to international bidders and lure foreign investors. Israel will also benefit from exchanging information and data in the economic and social fields with leading industrialized nations.
Member states will vote on the expansion of the body from 30 to 40 members, with Russia, India, Brazil, China and Chile also expected to now become full members.
The Israeli economy grew at a record 6.6% in the first quarter of 2006 – far above early forecasts and the growth rate for all of 2005, which was 5.2%. The standard of living has risen by 9% in the last year. These positive trends are thought to be the direct result of the pro-market policies implemented by the previous Likud-led government under the finance ministry of Benjamin Netanyahu.
POLISH CHIEF RABBI ASSAULTED AS POPE VISITS
As an update to the previous dispatch about the pope’s trip to Poland, Matthias Goering Goes Kosher (& Film shows suffering of Jews Britain sent to Outback) (May 24, 2006), the pope’s visit to Auschwitz was reported very prominently in media throughout Europe yesterday, with it being the lead story in several papers in France, Spain, Italy and elsewhere.
However, most papers failed to report on the anti-Semitic attack on Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, in central Warsaw on Saturday, a day before Pope Benedict XVI visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
Schudrich, who became chief rabbi of Warsaw in 2000 and of all of Poland in 2004, was attacked on the street by a man shouting “Poland is for Poles.” The assailant hit the rabbi and then sprayed him with what was believed to be pepper gas.
Both Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and President Lech Kaczynski called Schudrich following the incident and strongly condemned the attack. Presidential undersecretary of state Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka said Poland would not tolerate anti-Semitism.
Schudrich, 50, an American, oversees the small remaining Jewish community in Poland. Schudrich linked the attack to what he said was a rise of intolerance connected to a new governing coalition that includes the League of Polish Families, a small extreme right-wing party with ideological ties to a prewar anti-Semitic party.
IRAQI ATHLETES KILLED FOR WEARING TENNIS SHORTS
An Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were shot dead on Thursday in Baghdad because they were wearing shorts, Manham Kubba, secretary-general of the Iraqi Tennis Union, said Saturday, reporting the latest in a series of recent attacks attributed to Islamic extremists.
The triple-murder came only days after Islamic terrorists warned against dressing in shorts. Leaflets were distributed warning people in the mostly Sunni neighborhoods of Saidiyah and Ghazaliyah not to wear shorts “because it violates the principals of Islam,” police said
It was the second incident involving athletes in just over a week. Fifteen members of Iraq’s Olympic tae-kwan-doe team remain missing after being kidnapped west of Baghdad on May 17. A $100,000 ransom has been demanded.
ISLAMIST ORGANIZATIONS IN KASHMIR WARN WOMEN NOT TO USE CELL PHONES
Islamist organizations in Kashmir have issued pamphlets urging women to refrain from carrying mobile (cell) phones and warned them to stay away from public parks, according to the London-based, Saudi-owned daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.
The statement issued by the Islamic Jihad movement in Kashmir stated, “This is a warning to young women not to use mobile phones and stay away from public parks, and for fathers to look after their daughters. This is our final warning.”
Al-Sharq al-Awsat notes that another organization based in Kashmir, Badr, had issued a similar threat two weeks ago. The paper also adds that women carrying mobile phones have been violently attacked by Muslim extremists on Kashmiri streets in recent weeks.
The article in Arabic can be read at:
U.S. POP SHOW VICTOR ATTRACTS MORE VOTES THAN ANY PRESIDENT
As another indication of increasing apathy about politics in the U.S. and elsewhere, Taylor Hicks last week won American Idol, the most popular talent contest in America, if not the world, with a record 63.4 million votes. The host of American Idol, Ryan Seacrest, announced with excitement that the figure was “more than any president in the history of our country has received.”
Hicks is a prematurely gray, chubby-faced 29-year-old singer from Alabama whose husky-voiced soul numbers and quirky dance moves won him an army of fans, according to media reports.
“It is getting to the point where the series has become a conduit for displaced political passion,” wrote Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times. “It is an arena where young people feel that their vote counts.”
-- Tom Gross
IRAN HAS EQUIPPED HIZBULLAH WITH ROCKETS CAPABLE OF HITTING TEL-AVIV
Tel Aviv within range of new Hezbollah rocket
By Zeev Schiff
May 29, 2006
Iran has equipped the Lebanese-based radical Islamic group Hezbollah with long-range rockets capable of hitting targets up to 200 kilometers away, putting all of Israel’s major urban centers within striking distance.
The solid-fuel rockets lack an independent guidance system and their accuracy is questionable but they can still cause considerable damage.
According to intelligence estimates, the rockets are meant to strike non-specific areas, such as towns and cities, and carry a warhead estimated to weigh 600 kilograms. This latest development doubles the range of weapons previously in Hezbollah’s arsenal.
In this latest transfer of military technology, Iran is seeking to improve its strategic options against Israel rather than better Hezbollah’s capabilities. Equipping a Lebanese group considered by the west to be a terrorist organization with such rockets also poses a danger to Lebanon.
The government of Lebanon has been pressured in the past by Hezbollah to disregard the United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, which demands that all armed militias in the country disarm. Hezbollah maintains that it is not a militia and is therefore not obliged to disarm, but the Security Council has not accepted this argument.
The rockets delivered to the Hezbollah have appeared under different names. One is Zelzal-2, and its earlier model is the Zelzal-1. Another Iranian name for the rocket is Nazeat.
The rocket was first seen in a military parade in Tehran in September 2005, the first such event following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Six Shehab-3 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles were also on display.
In response to slogans written on the Shehab-3 rockets, calling for “Death to Israel” and “Death to the U.S.,” the military attaches of France, Italy, Greece and Poland, invited to the event, left the VIP platform.
Earlier supplies of rockets to the Hezbollah from Iran via Syria, involved Katyusha rockets with a range of 12-22 kilometers.
These rockets were used on occasion in attacks against Israel.
At later dates the Iranians supplied the Fajr-3 rockets, capable of reaching targets 45 kilometers away. The Hezbollah has never used these weapons.
The Syrians also provided the Hezbollah with rockets of their own make, believed to be of 220mm caliber, whose range is several dozen kilometers.
Iran later provided Hezbollah with Fajr-5 rockets with a range of 75 kilometers; it is capable of striking the Haifa bay and its strategic industrial installations.
The latest Iranian delivery is of rockets whose estimated capability is 200 kilometers (the Zelzal-1 rocket had a range of 150 kilometers). The rocket is 8.3 meters long and is 61mm in diameter. At launch, it weighs about 3.5 tons.
Because the rocket is propelled by solid-fuel, it can be easily moved.
International defense journals have reported that the Iranian rockets have been stored by the Hezbollah in special bunkers in a number of locations in the Bekaa near Lebanon’s border with Syria.
SOLDIERS FOUND A BOMB WEIGHING 15 POUNDS WITH NAILS AND PIECES OF SMALL METAL
Israeli soldiers thwart suicide attack
By Amy Teibel
The Associated Press
May 29, 2006
Israeli soldiers, acting on intelligence reports, prevented two Palestinian militants on Monday from carrying out a suicide bombing inside Israel, the military said. The militants were spotted carrying a suspicious bag near the West Bank city of Nablus and tried to flee, said Lt. Col. Arik Chen, a battalion commander in the Nablus region.
They threw away the bag, then led troops on a three-hour foot chase, until they were cornered and gave themselves up, he said. The men surrendered only after troops fired in the air.
Inside the bag, soldiers found a bomb weighing 15 pounds, packed with nails and pieces of small metal, which heighten the deadly effect, Chen said. Sappers later blew it up.
Security forces had been tipped off late Sunday that militants in the Nablus area were planning an attack inside Israel, and deployed a large number of soldiers around the West Bank town, a militant stronghold, Chen said.
The militants were taken into custody, and in initial questioning, they admitted they planned to blow themselves up in Israel, but did not say where, the army said. They belonged to a cell of activists from the Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine militant groups, the military said.
In other news, Israeli soldiers killed an armed Palestinian near the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, the military said.
Soldiers identified three men near the fence, and fired at them, suspecting they intended to carry out an attack, the military said. At least one of the men was hit, and was later evacuated by Palestinian rescue services, it said.
The Popular Resistance Committees, a small Palestinian militant group, identified the man as Abdel Moati Shukri, a group member.
“THE NEW YORK TIMES OWES ITS READERS MORE”
The purpose of checkpoints
By Hillel Halkin
The New York Sun
May 30, 2006
“... The Zaatara checkpoint, where I was waiting, is one of dozens inside the occupied Palestinian territories, restricting the movement of people and goods... I looked at the two young soldiers arrogantly manning the checkpoint, with dozens of people awaiting a sign from them...
“ [A soldier] shouted at a woman holding a crying baby. He ordered her to dump her bag’s contents on the ground... While we waited in a long queue under searing heat, Israeli settlers in air-conditioned vehicles bypassed the checkpoint in their special lane.
“Israel says these measures are vital to stop suicide bombers from flooding into Israeli cities to terrorize the civilian population. But I can’t imagine a suicide bomber standing in a long line deep inside the West Bank, waiting for soldiers to check his ID and car. Determined people can always travel through the hills, avoiding the checkposts.”
– Fareed Tamallah, identified as a Palestinian “peace activist,” writing in a May 25, 2006, New York Times Op-ed.
“This morning, IDF forces arrested a suicide bomber and an aide who were apparently on their way to a terrorist strike within Israel. The two were caught at a surprise checkpoint put up near Nablus...
“Yesterday, as a result of intelligence passed [to the army] by the General Security Service, many checkpoints were put up in the Nablus area. This morning a battalion of the Haruv Brigade spotted the bomber and his aide north of Nablus. The two threw a bag with the bomb in it out the window of their car and tried unsuccessfully to escape. The bag, in which there was a powerful explosive charge, was exploded by sappers of the security forces.”
– MSN Internet news, May 29, 2006
I can assure you that the above news item did not appear in today’s May 30 Times. Why should The Times have published it? It was an incident, after all, in which no one was killed or even wounded. Dozens of Israeli lives may have been saved because of it, but surely one can’t expect The Times to run a story every time a life isn’t lost.
But one can expect even The Times to refrain from publishing blatant anti-Israel idiocy, not only in its own news and feature articles, but in its op-eds that are written by others, too.
Presumably, The Times has one or more op-ed editors. What exactly went through such an editor’s mind when he read Fareed Taamallah’s statement that, “I can’t imagine a suicide bomber standing in a long line deep inside the West Bank, waiting for soldiers to check his ID and car.” Was the editor fast asleep? Why didn’t he or she get on the phone to Mr. Taamallah at once and say:
“Listen, this sentence of yours is absurd. Of course a suicide bomber would be unlikely to stand in a long line deep inside the West Bank waiting to be checked by Israeli soldiers. That’s one reason the checkpoints are there. If they weren’t, what would keep suicide bombers from driving merrily along main highways instead of having to seek out arduous (and, because of Israel’s security fence, increasingly impossible) alternatives? Do me a favor and rewrite those words, please.”
In fact, Mr. Taamallah’s entire op-ed is absurd. Take the poor woman with the baby, the contents of whose bag were dumped on the ground. One sympathizes with her. There should have been a table to dump them on, and one hopes the Israeli army will acquire some for its checkpoints.
But just suppose for a moment that a nice soldier – a most non-arrogant soldier – had felt sorry for the woman and waved her on without emptying her bag. And suppose it soon became known that at Checkpoint X there are nice Israeli soldiers who do such things. How long does Mr. Taamallah – how long does The New York Times – think it would take before a suicide bomber approached such a woman and persuaded her to stick his bomb in her bag? Would our bomber mind “standing in a long line deep inside the West Bank” then?
Indeed, Palestinian women have been caught at checkpoints with bombs in their bags and clothing, just as have Palestinian schoolchildren. The next time Mr. Taamallah sees a schoolchild with tears in its eyes because a checkpoint has made it late for school, he might think of that.
And because the woman with the baby and the child on its way to school are checked thoroughly at checkpoints, and because this takes a long time, and long lines of cars back up on major roads that have good visibility, a suicide bomber who spots such a line ahead of him has plenty of time to turn around and try a back way. And it is precisely when he does that he can be caught at a surprise checkpoint like the one near Nablus yesterday, when coming around a bend in a narrow road he suddenly runs into a barrier that is seen by him when it is already too late.
The checkpoints are a major source of frustration and indignity to the West Bank’s Palestinians and it is understandable that they are resented and hated. It is even understandable that Fareed Taamallah – who, “peace activist” that he may or may not be, clearly doesn’t lose any sleep at night over dead Israelis – should seek to denounce them in a less than honest manner. But The Times owes its readers more. The purpose of the checkpoints is to save Israeli lives, not to embitter Palestinian ones, even if they end up doing both. Surely that’s part of all the news that’s fit to print.