* Fatah, which is primarily funded by Western governments, disbands Palestinian children’s orchestra after it plays for 30 elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors. Fatah thugs yesterday made threats on the life of the Arab-Israeli woman who conducted the concert
* The New Yorker reports that Jimmy Carter is advising Barack Obama on Israel policy
1. Concert for Holocaust survivors is condemned by Fatah
2. Abbas has never properly repudiated his Holocaust denial
3. Israel swears in huge government
4. Netanyahu: Iranian nuclear threat is the number one issue
5. Livni criticized by Israeli foreign ministry staff
6. Palestinian PM stays on despite resignation
7. Seymour Hersh claims Carter is advising Obama on Israel issue
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
CONCERT FOR HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IS CONDEMNED BY FATAH
Palestinian authorities on Sunday disbanded a youth orchestra from the West Bank town of Jenin after it performed in Israel for a group of Holocaust survivors. This came after The Jerusalem Post and The New York Times reported on the concert, which took place last Wednesday at a center for Jewish Holocaust survivors in the working class Israeli town of Holon, south of Tel Aviv.
The ensemble was made up of 13 children between the ages of 11 and 17 from Jenin. Jenin was previously a hotbed of Palestinian terrorist activity (see “Jeningrad”) but following patient work by the Bush administration and Israeli officials in recent years, it is now a relatively tranquil and prosperous town. (One of the terrorist leaders in Jenin in 2002 had even officially changed his name to Hitler.)
Costs of the hour-long concert, and the Palestinian orchestra’s instruments, were paid for by the American-Israeli billionairess Shari Arison, co-owner of the Carnival Cruise line company, and by the Mormon University of Jerusalem.
Fatah activists in Jenin also banned the orchestra’s director, Wafa Younis, an Israeli Arab woman, from the town, saying that performing at The Holon Holocaust Survivors’ Center was “unacceptable”.
“It was a shock and a surprise to the children and their relatives,” a Fatah leader told The New York Times, adding that Ms. Younis had told the young musicians’ families only that the trip to Holon was “an opportunity for artistic self-expression.”
Younis’s life was threatened by Fatah activists after she attempted to enter Jenin yesterday, The Associated Press and other media reported last night.
ABBAS HAS NEVER PROPERLY REPUDIATED HIS HOLOCAUST DENIAL
Fatah is headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Amazingly, many Western journalists can barely write his name without inserting the word “moderate’ before it. At the same time they almost never report that Abbas, widely known in the Middle East by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen, has written an entire book denying the Holocaust, based on his PhD which he completed in Moscow in 1983. (For more detail, please see this dispatch.)
Leaflets distributed in Fatah-controlled Jenin at the weekend also attacked the Holon concert event and accused the organizers of telling the children about the “so-called Holocaust”.
Ms. Younis, from central Israel, has been traveling to Jenin every week for several years to teach music to children. “They want to destroy this group,” she said. “It’s a shame, it’s a tragedy. What did these poor, elderly people do wrong? What did these children do wrong?”
She said the orchestra, called “Strings of Freedom,” had come “to put love and warmth into people’s hearts.”
Though several residents of Holon have been murdered by suicide bombers from Jenin in recent years, the Palestinian orchestra was warmly welcomed in the town. One would hope that Western governments, which are about to give billions more dollars of taxpayers’ money to the Palestinian Authority, would let its leadership know that banning the orchestra is not conducive towards trying to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict peacefully.
ISRAEL SWEARS IN HUGE GOVERNMENT
Binyamin Netanyahu was last night sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister, ten years after he last held the job. The government he oversees will not be the trimmed-down, economically responsible government he wanted to form. Because Kadima leader Tzipi Livni refused to join, Netanyahu has had to cobble together a coalition of many smaller parties, of right and left and of secular and orthodox Jews, making the desperately needed reform of Israel’s electoral system almost impossible to implement.
Netanyahu’s government is reported to contain 30 cabinet ministers as well as six or more deputy ministers. (Several ministers have no portfolios, but merely have the right to vote on cabinet decisions.)
There is fury within Livni’s own Kadima party at her refusal to accept Netanyahu’s offer to form a stable centrist government of only three of four larger parties. For her part, Livni’s first comment as head of the opposition was to call the Netanyahu government “ugly.”
In its editorial yesterday, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv observed that, “The nation wanted the center, and the nation received the center. The paradox is that the most centrist party, Kadima, refused to join the government.”
NETANYAHU: IRANIAN NUCLEAR THREAT IS THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE
Netanyahu has said his top priority as prime minister is to stop the threat of Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. “Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence,” he said the day President Shimon Peres selected him to form Israel’s next government.
He also promised to remain a “partner in peace” with the Palestinians. “I think that the Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, for security, for the rapid development of the Palestinian economy,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said that while continuing talks with moderate Palestinians, he would seek “to weave an economic peace alongside the political process” that “gives a stake in peace for the moderate elements in the Palestinian society.”
The plan will include creating “thousands of jobs and the development of infrastructure” and the removal of Israeli roadblocks across the West Bank in order to allow Palestinian movement “without impeding Israeli society.”
Since the Likud party was founded in 1973, its leadership has made security a priority in its negotiations with the Palestinians and Israel’s neighboring Arab countries, he said. The Likud party was responsible for signing Israel’s first peace treaty with an Arab country, Egypt.
LIVNI CRITICIZED BY ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY STAFF
Stinging criticism of Tzipi Livni’s performance as Israel’s foreign minister that has been whispered in the Foreign Ministry’s corridors for the last three years, burst into the open at a parting ceremony for her on Monday.
Yaakov Livneh, the head of the diplomatic employees’ committee, made a speech at the ceremony, saying Livni had been “derelict on the job.”
Another senior official said that during Operation Cast Lead (to stop rocket fire from Gaza in January) Livni did not meet even once with the ministry’s senior staff, and “showed no appreciation for the work of the ministry’s employees.”
Livni responded that “I have learned during my three years in the Foreign Ministry that behind every whining workers’ committee are dedicated workers.”
PALESTINIAN PM STAYS ON DESPITE RESIGNATION
The resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad was due to become effective at midnight last night, but Fayad now says he’ll stay in the job for the time being.
Fayad, who holds a doctorate from the University of Texas, and previously served as an official of the World Bank and before that worked at the International Monetary Fund, is among the more pragmatic, moderate Palestinian leaders.
SEYMOUR HERSH SAYS CARTER IS ADVISING OBAMA ON ISRAEL ISSUE
In an in-depth article in the April 6, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, prominent investigative reporter Seymour Hersh claims that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is advising President Barack Obama on matters concerning the Middle East. Hersh reports that Carter has met with Obama several times and that the administration was aware of Carter’s trip to Syria in December 2008.
Carter has a track record of hostility to Israel in recent years and last year became the first ever former president whom a sitting Israeli prime minister (Ehud Olmert) refused to meet.
For example, Carter said Israel had “no legal or moral” right to retaliate against Hizbullah forces in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006. He has called on the United States to recognize and give monetary support to Hamas, even without Hamas committing itself not to attack Israeli civilians. When Hamas won the election in Gaza in 2006, Carter told CNN’s Larry King in an interview that Hamas would become a nonviolent government. (Since then Hamas has murdered hundreds of moderate Palestinians and Israelis.)
As I outlined at the time on this website, in June 2007 Carter spoke out on behalf of Hamas against the more secular Fatah party at the very time that Hamas thugs were throwing Fatah members to their deaths from Gaza rooftops.
CARTER’S SUPPORTERS ABANDON HIM
In 2007, fourteen members of an advisory group to the Jimmy Carter Center (all of whom were Democrats) resigned over concerns that Carter’s book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” did not represent “the Jimmy Carter we came to respect and support.”
That year, saying he was so shocked by the tone of Carter’s remarks about Israel, Neil Sher, a veteran of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigation, revealed that in 1987 he received a letter from Carter asking him to show “special consideration” to a man proven to have murdered Jews in the Mauthausen death camp in Austria.
Sher decided to go public about Carter’s intervention at that time, he said, because it “always bothered him… here was Jimmy Carter jumping in on behalf of someone who did not deserve in any way, shape or form special consideration. And the things he has now said about the Jewish lobby really exposes where his heart really lies.”