Reuters: New iPhones snapped up in Gaza despite high prices (& Chomsky in Gaza)

October 19, 2012

* Former Mossad chief “in critical condition” after undergoing transplant in Belarus
* Russian-made rocket fired from Gaza at Israeli helicopter
* Israeli-linked professors again dominate this year’s Nobel prizes for science
* Noam Chomsky traveled to Gaza yesterday to criticize Israel
* Leading Saudi paper: “One bullet is enough” to kill Bashar Assad

 

The iPhone 5 is popular in Gaza even before it has reached Israel


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CONTENTS

1. Reuters: New iPhones snapped up in Gaza despite high prices
2. iPhone 5: Israel has no capital city
3. Former Mossad chief “in critical condition” after undergoing transplant in Belarus
4. “Gaza amassing anti-aircraft and other sophisticated missiles from Libyan war”
5. Hizbullah’s drone may have overflown Dimona
6. Leading Saudi paper calls for Assad’s assassination: “One bullet is enough!”
7. Human Rights Watch: Assad dropping cluster bombs on his own people
8. Washington Post: “Obama’s catastrophic mishandling of the revolution in Syria”
9. Israel prepares to end army exemption for Ultra-Orthodox Jews
10. Israeli-linked professors again dominate this year’s Nobel prizes for science
11. “How Obama bungled the Syrian revolution” (Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, Oct 14, 2012)
12. “Ultra-Orthodox up in arms as Israel prepares to end army exemption” (Matthew Kalman, The Independent, Oct 17, 2012)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

REUTERS: NEW IPHONES SNAPPED UP IN GAZA DESPITE HIGH PRICES

Apple’s new iPhone 5 is selling well in the Gaza Strip despite selling for twice the price it does in the U.S. It has reached Gaza even before it has gone on sale in Israel, its next-door neighbor and high-tech hub. The iPhone 5 only goes on sale in Israel in December.

The cutting edge smart phones were smuggled into the Palestinian territory from Egypt. Reuters reports that “the phones have been available for a couple of weeks in Gaza and they were on display on Monday in three independent mobile stores in a one-block radius in downtown Gaza City.

Prices ranged from $1,170 for the 16-gigabyte model to $1,480 for 64 gb.

“I ordered 30 and I’ve sold 20 so far,” said one dealer. “We can order as many as we want. But most people are waiting for the price to go down. They’re pretty expensive.”

The iPhone 5, launched last month, sells for $650 for the 16-gigabyte model and $850 for 64-gigabyte version in the United States.

The full Reuters report, as carried in the leading Egyptian daily Al Ahram, is here.

***

Despite press reports from major Western media depicting Gaza as almost universally poor, there is in fact also considerable wealth in Gaza, and it is currently undergoing a real estate boom.

Among past dispatches (with photos) of life in Gaza, please see:

A nice new shopping mall opened today in Gaza: Will the media report on it?
www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001127.html

Fancy restaurants and Olympic-size swim pools: what the media won’t report about Gaza
www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001114.html


***

Jewish-American linguistics professor Noam Chomsky traveled to Gaza yesterday to speak at a conference at Gaza’s Islamic University. Chomsky called for an end to the blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory, without noting the irony that he himself had entered Gaza without impediment from Egypt. This is Chomsky’s first visit to Gaza.

Chomsky, 84, is a professor emeritus at the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, and is known for his vehement criticism of Israel and America.

 

IPHONE 5: ISRAEL HAS NO CAPITAL CITY

There is disappointment and anger among many in Israel that the iPhone 5’s new Apple Maps application does not list Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its built-in World Clock app shows Jerusalem as a city without an associated country.

 

FORMER MOSSAD CHIEF “IN CRITICAL CONDITION” AFTER UNDERGOING TRANSPLANT IN BELARUS

The former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, is in critical, yet stable, condition after undergoing a liver-transplant operation in Belarus, according to an announcement made by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Meir Dagan was secretly operated on a week ago. The procedure itself was apparently successful, but complications set in following the operation, according to israelinfo.ru.

Senior Israeli doctors assisted in the surgery.

Dagan’s family say they are concerned about his safety after the Belarusian ruler made public details of the operation. Dagan has now been moved to an intensive care unit in an undisclosed hospital.

The regulations of Israeli hospitals forbid liver transplant operations for patients over 65 years old. Meir Dagan is 67, which was why the surgery couldn’t be performed in Israel, Prof. Yaakov Lavie of the transplant center at Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer Hospital told Israeli media.

Dagan was to undergo a surgery in India, but the Indian authorities refused to admit him due to his former position as Mossad chief. A number of Western countries also refused to allow Dagan into their countries for an operation, concerned that Iran or one of its proxy terror groups such as Hizbullah would attempt to attack any hospital in which Dagan was housed.

For more on Dagan, please see: www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001155.html

 

ISRAEL: GAZA AMASSING ANTI-AIRCRAFT AND OTHER SOPHISTICATED MISSILES FROM LIBYAN WAR

Yossi Kuperwasser, who directs Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, has said that “significant” numbers of sophisticated weapons from Libya have been smuggled into Gaza since the fall last year of the Gadhafi regime.

Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a shoulder-fired Strela SA-7 surface-to-air missile at an Israeli helicopter last week, but missed. It was the first such launch from Gaza.

Kuperwasser (who is a former head of Israeli military intelligence and is a longtime subscriber to this email list) said on Wednesday that more than 800 rockets and mortar rounds had been fired into southern Israel since the start of the year, with organizations such as Islamic Jihad taking over from Hamas as the main perpetrators of these attacks.

He added that Islamist extremism was flourishing in Gaza, which is home to some 1.6 million people – 44 percent of whom are aged 14 or under, according to the CIA handbook.

 

HIZBULLAH’S DRONE MAY HAVE OVERFLOWN DIMONA

Hizbullah has confirmed that the drone shot down by Israel’s air force last week was sent by them. The drone was shot down only after it managed to over-fly the Jewish state for three hours during which time it broadcast images of secret Israeli military instillations, preparations for next week’s U.S.-Israel military exercises, and possibly the nuclear reactor at Dimona, according to unconfirmed British press reports, citing intelligence sources.

On Tuesday, a senior Iranian military official claimed that the Islamic Republic has sent drones over Israel “dozens of times” that were not detected. Israel denied the Iranian claims.

On Wednesday, Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar pled guilty to attempting to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The plot was organized by high-ranking Iranian officials, according to press reports. The United States has linked the plot to a larger Iranian campaign to assassinate foreign diplomats in at least seven countries including India, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Thailand.

On Thursday, Western diplomats said that Iran is expanding its uranium enrichment capacity at the underground IRGC military base in Fordow, near Qom. Reuters quoted a diplomat at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) saying the pace of Iran’s advancement was “pretty rapid.”

***

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora joined other Lebanese leaders in warning that Hizbullah’s “adventures” could drag Lebanon into a military conflict with Israel.

Siniora told the Beirut Daily Star newspaper that Hizbullah leader Nasrallah did not share his plans with the Lebanese government, and that “Hizbullah hasn’t asked the Lebanese if they are prepared to get engaged in a war against Israel.”

The former prime minister noted that the drone flight was a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that bans non-government groups from maintaining arsenals and fighting forces.

Lebanese president Michel Suleiman similarly criticized Hizbullah for its “reckless action”.

Former prime minister Said Hariri also criticized Hizbullah for its provocations.

 

LEADING SAUDI PAPER CALLS FOR ASSAD’S ASSASSINATION: “ONE BULLET IS ENOUGH!”

Under the heading “One bullet is enough!” a leading Saudi newspaper with strong ties to the Saudi royal family, has called for the assassination of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad

Writing in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Saudi regime, columnist Imad Al-Din Adib said all other solutions to the crisis have failed.

“Classic war, an invasion from the outside, or civil war, are not the solution,” writes Adib. “The practical solution is an operation from within the regime… a bloody solution of one single bullet to end the regime chief who has lost his mind and rejected all forms of political resolution that could spare the lives of the patient Syrian people.”

 

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: ASSAD DROPPING CLUSTER BOMBS ON HIS OWN PEOPLE

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops began dropping cluster bombs on civilian areas last week according to the international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).

According to HRW, Assad’s forces have used cluster bombs in Aleppo, the Damascus suburbs, Homs and Lattakia province, targeting both civilians and fighters. HRW said the cluster bombs – a weapon which is outlawed in many countries – were produced by Russia, but it is not known how they arrived in Syria.

 

WASHINGTON POST: “OBAMA’S CATASTROPHIC MISHANDLING OF THE REVOLUTION IN SYRIA”

Jackson Diehl, the deputy comment editor of the Washington Post, writes:

“Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans are doing their best to portray the assault on the U.S. mission in Libya and its aftermath as a signal foreign policy disaster for Barack Obama. But my bet is that when historians look back on Obama’s mistakes in the last four years, they will focus on something entirely different: his catastrophic mishandling of the revolution in Syria…

“The president’s handling of Syria exemplifies every weakness in his foreign policy – from his excessive faith in “engaging” troublesome foreign leaders to his insistence on multilateralism as an end in itself to his self-defeating caution in asserting American power.

“The result is not a painful but isolated setback, but an emerging strategic disaster: a war in the heart of the Middle East that is steadily spilling over to vital U.S. allies, such as Turkey and Jordan, and to volatile neighbors, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Al-Qaeda is far more active in Syria than it is in Libya – while more liberal and secular forces are turning against the United States because of its failure to help them.

“Obama’s Syria policy began in 2009 with the misguided idea of reaching out to the dictator...”

***

Jackson Diehl’s full article, which is well-worth reading, is attached below. (Diehl is a subscriber to this email list.)

 

ISRAEL PREPARES TO END ARMY EXEMPTION FOR ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWS

The Israeli army will send enlistment notices to 15,000 ultra-Orthodox young men currently attending yeshivas (religious schools) in the coming weeks. It is part of an effort by the Israeli authorities to integrate all citizens into the state’s civil and military institutions.

Existing ultra-orthodox army battalions will be expanded to accommodate the new enlistees, though they will not be formally drafted until January after the Israeli election, scheduled for January 22. Integration efforts are also being made in Israel’s higher education system, where a new program aims to double the number of ultra-orthodox students by 2017.

There is an article from the British newspaper The Independent expanding on this development at the end of this dispatch, written by correspondent Matthew Kalman, a subscriber to this list.

 

ISRAELI-LINKED PROFESSORS AGAIN DOMINATE THIS YEAR’S NOBEL PRIZES FOR SCIENCE

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics has been awarded to Americans Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley for research that helps explain the market processes at work when doctors are assigned to hospitals, students to schools and human organs for transplant to recipients. Both prize-winners have strong academic ties to Israel, considered a world leader in game theory economics.

Roth, 60, is a professor at Harvard, and was a visiting professor of economics at the Technion Institute in Haifa in the 1980s, and then returned to Israel in the mid-1990s as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and then at Tel Aviv University.

He worked in the past with Israeli-American Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize with Israeli Amos Tverski in 2002 for research in behavioral economics.

Shapely, considered one of the fathers of game theory, has worked with Israeli Nobel Prize Laureate Robert Auman in the field.

Another Jewish-American professor, Robert Lefkowitz has won this year’s Nobel prize for chemistry, sharing it with Brian Kobilka.

It is not only Ashkenazi Jews that are winning Nobel prizes, but Sephardi ones too.

A second Jew from an Arab country in the space of five years has won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Serge Haroche, now living in France, but born to a Jewish family in Casablanca, is the third North African Jew to have won a Nobel Prize for Science. Haroche’s father is Sephardi but his mother is an Ashkenazi Jewish teacher, born in Russia who fled the Nazis to reach Morocco, where Haroche was born in 1944.

Haroche was a guest professor on quantum physics at Israel’s Technion last year.

***

Among past related dispatches, please see this one about last year’s Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, Daniel Shechtman of Israel’s Technion institute in Haifa:

* One Israeli’s path from being mocked to winning a Nobel
www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/0011225.html

***

Israel is regularly treated with disdain by many reporters and columnists in the international media. Yet this small state continues to make astonishing contributions to the worlds of art, literature, and particularly to classical music, medicine and science.

Another Israeli, Ada Yonath, won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Two Israelis, Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, won the 2004 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. In the past, Israelis have also won Nobel prizes for economics, literature and peace.

***

I attach two articles below.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

HOW OBAMA BUNGLED THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION

How Obama bungled the Syrian revolution
By Jackson Diehl
Washington Post
October 14, 2012

Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans are doing their best to portray the assault on the U.S. mission in Libya and its aftermath as a signal foreign policy disaster for Barack Obama. But my bet is that when historians look back on Obama’s mistakes in the last four years, they will focus on something entirely different: his catastrophic mishandling of the revolution in Syria.

The deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi were a calamity – but those losses were mainly the result of poor security decisions by mid-level State Department officials, not policy choices by Obama. The president’s handling of Syria, on the other hand, exemplifies every weakness in his foreign policy – from his excessive faith in “engaging” troublesome foreign leaders to his insistence on multilateralism as an end in itself to his self-defeating caution in asserting American power.

The result is not a painful but isolated setback, but an emerging strategic disaster: a war in the heart of the Middle East that is steadily spilling over to vital U.S. allies, such as Turkey and Jordan, and to volatile neighbors, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Al-Qaeda is far more active in Syria than it is in Libya – while more liberal and secular forces are turning against the United States because of its failure to help them. More than 30,000 people – most of them civilians – have been killed, and the toll mounts by the hundreds every day.

Of course, Obama is not solely responsible for this mess. But his serial miscalculations have had the consistent if unintended effect of enabling Syria’s Bashar al-Assad – first to avoid international isolation, then to go on slaughtering his own population with impunity.

Obama’s Syria policy began in 2009 with the misguided idea of reaching out to the dictator. Within a month of his inauguration, Obama reversed the Bush administration’s approach of isolating Assad. He later reopened the U.S. Embassy and dispatched senior envoys, such as George Mitchell.

The problem with this policy was not just the distasteful courting of a rogue regime but the willful disregard of the lessons absorbed by George W. Bush, who also tried reaching out to Assad, only to learn the hard way that he was an irredeemable thug. Yet Obama insisted on reversing Bush’s policy of distancing the United States from strongmen like Assad and Hosni Mubarak – a monumental miscalculation.

When the uprising against Assad began in March of last year, the administration’s first reaction was to predict that he could be induced to coopt it. “Many . . . believe he’s a reformer,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That illusion caused the administration to stand by for months while Assad’s security forces gunned down what were then peaceful pro-democracy marchers; not until August 2011 did Obama say that Assad should “step aside.”

By then Syria was already tipping into civil war. The State Department’s Syria experts recognized the peril: If Assad were not overthrown quickly, they warned in congressional testimony, the country could tip into a devastating sectarian war that would empower jihadists and spread to neighboring countries. But Obama rejected suggestions by several senators that he lead an intervention. Instead he committed a second major error, by adopting a policy of seeking to broker a Syrian solution through the United Nations. “The best thing we can do,” he said last March, “is to unify the international community.”

As countless observers correctly predicted, the subsequent U.N. mission of Kofi Annan was doomed from the beginning. When the White House could no longer deny that reality, it turned to an equally fantastical gambit: Vladi­mir Putin, it argued, could be persuaded to abandon his support of Assad and force him to step down. The nadir of this diplomacy may have been reached on June 30, when Clinton cheerfully predicted that the Kremlin had “decided to get on one horse, and it’s the horse that would back a transition plan” removing Assad.

Needless to say, Putin did no such thing. The war went on; thousands more died. For the past three months, Obama’s policy has become a negative: He is simply opposed to any use of U.S. power. Fixed on his campaign slogan that “the tide of war is receding” in the Middle East, Obama claims that intervention would only make the conflict worse – and then watches as it spreads to NATO ally Turkey and draws in hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters.

No doubt it’s easier for Romney and the Republicans to talk about the death of an ambassador in a terrorist attack than to ask war-weary Americans to think about this. But it is Syria that is Obama’s greatest failure; it will haunt whomever occupies the Oval Office next year.

 

ULTRA-ORTHODOX UP IN ARMS AS ISRAEL PREPARES TO END ARMY EXEMPTION

Ultra-Orthodox up in arms as Israel prepares to end army exemption
By Matthew Kalman
The Independent (London)
October 17 2012

The Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, has announced plans to draft thousands of Ultra-Orthodox students into the army – a move that could set him at loggerheads with the religious parties in the run-up to a general election in January.

Mr Barak is quarantined from the political battle ahead after quitting the Labour Party. His largely fictional Atzmaut faction is unlikely to attract any votes, and he will either join the Likud party or be nominated as Defence Minister irrespective of whether he enters parliament.

Last week, the army began sending out 15,000 call-up notices to Ultra-Orthodox teenagers who until now have been granted exemption from duty because they are studying in rabbinical seminaries – an arrangement that began in the early years of the state with a few hundred selected students but has now mushroomed to include some 55,000 young men.

The issue of Ultra-Orthodox army service was catapulted back on to the political agenda earlier this year after the High Court struck down the so-called Tal Law that allowed mass exemptions for seminary students, branding it illegal. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, lost Kadima from his coalition after failing to enact new legislation.

Mr Barak told a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee in Jerusalem this week that the army had made “massive preparations” to absorb thousands of new Ultra-Orthodox recruits. He said efforts would initially be directed at 16- to 19-year-olds receiving their first call-up notices, while leaving older students alone for now. “Because we’re now in election season, and to facilitate dialogue, I have refrained from setting in stone [directives] regarding those in the interim age bracket,” Mr Barak said.
In order to provide high standards of kosher food, Shabbat observance and gender separation, most Ultra-Orthodox soldiers serve in special units, including the Nachal Haredi, the Netzach Yehuda combat battalion and the Shachar hi-tech training unit.

Brigadier-General Gadi Agmon, of the IDF manpower division, said that the army planned to establish four new battalions for Ultra-Orthodox soldiers, including a so-called “hesder” track that combines seminary study with combat service and home-front units where recruits could serve as firefighters, police officers and medics.

Brig-Gen Agmon said “the entire class of 2013” would be processed, but there would be exceptions for star students – as in music, athletics and other fields – and for those deemed medically or psychologically unfit.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders said they would not allow the mass draft to go forward without a fight. Moshe Gafni, an MP from the United Torah Judaism Party, said the government’s plan could not be imposed by force. “You don’t know what planet you’re living on,” Mr Gafni told the Defence Minister, warning that any attempt to enforce the draft in the seminaries would spark riots.

Hiddush, an NGO that has campaigned for a fair draft, said Mr Barak’s plan was doomed. “Unfortunately there is not the slightest chance that even one yeshiva student will be drafted.”

Meanwhile, Mr Barak denied reports he had met secretly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for peace talks in Jordan last Thursday. According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the two met King Abdullah to discuss Mr Barak’s plan for a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.

The reports sparked furious reactions from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who berated the Palestinian President for reneging on his vow not to talk to Israeli leaders without a complete freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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