Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Iran says it will send monkey into space (& French teacher pays tribute to mass killer Merah)

March 28, 2012

* British journalists working for Iranian government’s Press TV imprisoned in Libya over Welsh-Hebrew mix-up

* Outrage after French teacher holds a minute’s silence to respect Mohammed Merah, the murderer of Jewish children last week

* Al-Jazeera TV agrees not to broadcast film footage Merah sent them of him killing all 7 of his victims in Toulouse, after the mother of one of the Muslim soldiers he murdered “begs” them not to. Al-Jazeera Paris bureau chief says the footage includes the cries of his victims, including the children, which has been mixed on the video with Koranic verses about the glories of Jihad. Other stations said to have been sent videos by Merah too. French President Nicolas Sarkozy pleads with them not to broadcast them

* Merah visited Israel “on reconnaissance mission” in 2010

* French Muslim tries to set daughter on fire for dating a Jew

Mohammed Merah, the face of a mass murderer


* Class action suit filed against Jimmy Carter for deliberate misrepresentations in anti-Israel book. “He and his publisher knowingly published inaccurate information while promoting a book as factual”

* Shaul Mofaz has been elected the new head of Kadima, the biggest party in the Knesset, after defeating the incumbent Tzipi Livni by a substantial margin

***

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CONTENTS

1. Iran will send monkey into space in early 2012
2. Finally, the media reports properly: Iran helping Assad to put down protests
3. Drones may be manufactured by Syria itself
4. Shimon Peres’s Persian New Year greetings welcomed by Iranians
5. Rights group says Syrian soldiers using women and children as human shields
6. Amnesty International: Iran executed at least one person every day in 2011
7. British journalists were held in Libya over Welsh-Hebrew mix-up
8. Class action suit filed against Jimmy Carter for deliberate misrepresentations in anti-Israel book
9. “A direct connection can be seen between Shalit’s return and the abduction attempts”
10. Hamas: Two million protesters expected to participate in the “Global March to Jerusalem”
11. French teacher holds a minute’s silence to respect Merah
12. Merah visited Israel “on reconnaissance mission” in 2010
13. Dozens of Jewish graves desecrated in France “in solidarity with Merah”
14. French Muslim tries to set daughter on fire for dating a Jew
15. New York killer finally admits his aim was to kill Jews


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

IRAN WILL SEND MONKEY INTO SPACE IN EARLY 2012

This is a report reproduced from the official Iranian “Islamic Republic News Agency”, which is one of the news sources I monitor on a regular basis:

www.irna.ir/News/General/Iran-will-send-monkey-into-space-in-early-2012/80048511

Noshahr, March 22, IRNA – Head of Iranian Space Agency, Hamid Fazeli, said that the Iranian shuttle, Kavoshgar-5 (Explorer-5) carrying monkey to space will be launched into space during March-August 2012.

‘Kavoshgar-5 will carry a biological capsule containing a monkey into space. This is actually a prelude to preparing Iran for sending a human astronaut into space before 2021,’ Fazeli told IRNA in an exclusive interview.

Referring to the fact that the world will witness further success of Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of launching satellites into space, he pointed out that sending Fajr satellite into space which was postponed in 2011 will take place in 2012.

Noting that only three countries have succeeded so far to send human astronaut into space, Fazeli pointed out that India is considering to send human astronaut into space by 2016.

2050**2050

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 80048511

 

FINALLY, THE MEDIA REPORTS PROPERLY: IRAN HELPING ASSAD TO PUT DOWN PROTESTS

I have reported for over a year now, citing Israeli and other intelligence sources, that Iran has been playing a key role in helping the Alawite-led dictatorship in Syria brutally suppress mainly peaceful protests by the Sunni majority in Syria. They are demanding basic rights and freedoms in “Apartheid Syria”.

This week the general Western media, relying on the often notoriously slow-moving European and American intelligence officials, are reporting the same thing.

The Reuters news agency reports this week: “Iran is providing a broad array of assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad to help him suppress anti-government protests, from high-tech surveillance technology to guns and ammunition, U.S. and European security officials say.

“Tehran’s technical assistance to Assad’s security forces includes electronic surveillance systems, technology designed to disrupt efforts by protesters to communicate via social media, and Iranian-made drone aircraft for overhead surveillance, the officials said. They discussed intelligence matters on condition of anonymity.

“Iran has also provided lethal materiel that can be used for riot control, they said.” [i.e. gunning down peaceful protestors -- TG]

“Over the past year, Iran has provided security assistance to Damascus to help shore up Assad, aiding the Syrian regime with lethal assistance – including rifles, ammunition, and other military equipment – to help it put down the opposition,” a US official said.

“Iran has provided Damascus (with) monitoring tools to help the regime suppress the opposition. It has also shared techniques on Internet surveillance and disruption,” the official continued.

The Reuters report continues:

“He added that Iran had also provided Assad’s government with unarmed drones that Damascus is using along with its own technology to monitor opposition forces.”

“Iranian security officials have also traveled to Damascus to advise Assad’s entourage how to counter dissent, the official said. Some Iranian officials have stayed on in Syria to advise Assad’s forces, the U.S. official added.”

“U.S. officials said Iranian efforts to bolster Syria’s surveillance capabilities have been supplemented by deliveries to Syria of Iranian-made unarmed surveillance drone aircraft.”

 

DRONES MAY BE MANUFACTURED BY SYRIA ITSELF

Earlier this month a specialized website, The Aviationist, reported that a drone flying over the city of Homs, the site of recent violent suppression and massacres of Sunni protestors by the Assad regime, had been identified as an Iranian-made “Pahpad” drone. (Pahpad means “remotely piloted aircraft” in Farsi.)

In February another specialized website, Open Source GEOINT, published freeze-frame images from what purported to be an amateur cameraman’s video of a suspected Iranian drone flying over a Damascus suburb.

Last weekend the Iranian Fars news agency announced that Iranian experts had produced what it called a “new type of drone” known as the Shaparak, or “Butterfly,” which it said was “capable of carrying out military and border patrol missions.”

However, Israeli intelligence sources, while maintaining that Iran is playing a key role in helping the Assad regime cling to power (as it has done for over two decades now) add that Syria’s defense industry can now produce drones that are technologically identical to Iranian-produced models and that these domestically produced models are what Syrian security forces appear to have deployed over Damascus.

 

SHIMON PERES’S PERSIAN NEW YEAR GREETINGS WELCOMED BY IRANIANS

Israeli President Shimon Peres’s “special greetings to the Iranian People to mark the Persian New Year” last week, has been welcomed by pro-democracy activists inside Iran, Iranian subscribers to this email list tell me.

One wrote to me: “It has a very passionate message that reached the hearts of Iranians inside Iran. It was much better than Obama’s lame attempts to do the same. Obama pays too much deference to the very Mullahs that make our lives so miserable and that we hate so much.”

President Peres’s greeting was played on Israel Radio’s Persian language service, which is popular in Iran.

Peres began with the traditional Persian greeting Iranian-e gerami, dar harkoja ke hastid, novruzetan piruz bad (“Dear citizens of Iran, wherever you are, a Happy Noruz”).

He then said: “I would like to wish the Iranian people a genuine and happy holiday which will fill their hearts. I wish they will have a true and not seeming holiday in which they can taste freedom, respect and human dignity.”

“I call on the Iranian people. It is still not too late to change the corrupt regime and return to your glorious Persian heritage. The Iranian people have a brilliant heritage of culture and values, not bombs and missiles. Sometimes I ask myself how such a cultured people, with such a glorious history, allows such an extremist, blind and hate-filled group to shame its historic heritage. How could the people allow the regime to sow fear, steal people’s freedom and shake the younger generation that is seeking its way out of dictatorial Iran? Iran, which was once loved by so many countries around the world, is, today, causing the entire world to be against it.”

Peres commented on the poverty in Iran and said, “When a child wakes up in the morning, anywhere in the world and in Iran as well, he must be allowed to have breakfast. The Iranian regime is investing all its money in the nuclear project and is abandoning its people to wallow in poverty and hunger. Enriched uranium cannot feed the hungry in Iran.”

He appealed directly to his listeners and said, “The Iranian people need to raise their voice for an Iranian Iran. The entire world will help the people raise its voice for the restoration of an Iranian Iran that returns to itself and if not – force will lead to a forceful response. It is in the hands of the Iranian people to prevent an external deterioration.”

 

RIGHTS GROUP SAYS SYRIAN SOLDIERS USING WOMEN AND CHILDREN AS HUMAN SHIELDS

Taking a leaf out of the tactics of Hamas, which was until recently headquartered in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s soldiers are using human shields for protection as they fight opposition forces, according to Human Rights Watch.

The rights group said that Syrian troops have been forcing women and children to march in front of them as they entered towns in Idlib province that are controlled by opposition forces.

Human Rights Watch said the practice has been used in army assaults on at least four towns. The claim has been supported by videos posted on YouTube.

Opposition sources within Syria say security forces are “carrying out a large-scale cleansing campaign” in Idlib province and villages near Aleppo, killing anyone who gets in their way, and sometimes killing their entire families too.

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: IRAN EXECUTED AT LEAST ONE PERSON EVERY DAY IN 2011

Iran executed one citizen per day in 2011, according to a report published yesterday by Amnesty International. Among the “crimes” punishable by death in Iran are adultery and homosexuality.

Officially, Tehran executed 360 people last year but Amnesty said that this does not “account for the probable extent of Iran’s use of the death penalty – Amnesty International has had credible reports of substantial numbers of executions not officially acknowledged.”

Amnesty says the real number of executions in Iran were at least double the government figure. Several were juveniles. In numerous cases executions were carried out based on “confessions” extracted from suspects after torture, according to Amnesty.

It is interesting that when Amnesty International releases reports on Israel, the BBC, the world’s biggest broadcasting network, and other Western broadcasters, almost always highlight them -- in the BBC’s case often as their lead world news story. But Amnesty’s reports on Iran and other countries hardly seem to be given the same prominence by the BBC and others.

Amnesty International says the rise in executions in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq last year was large enough to create an overall global increase compared to 2010, even though a growing number of other countries have moved away from using the death penalty.

Their full report is here: www.amnesty.org/en/news/death-penalty-2011-alarming-levels-executions-few-countries-kill-2012-03-27

 

BRITISH JOURNALISTS WERE HELD IN LIBYA OVER WELSH-HEBREW MIX-UP

Two British journalists detained in recent weeks in Libya have revealed they were held because their captors confused a passage of Welsh written on their medical supplies for Hebrew, leading to suspicions they were Israeli.

Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, from Carmarthen, and Nicholas Davies-Jones, from Berkshire, flew back to Britain on Monday night after being held by a militia group for almost a month.

Montgomery-Johnson said they were taken into detention in Tripoli on February 22nd by the Misrata Brigade, and kept in a small cell and treated harshly after discovering the Welsh language writing.

“My father, who’s a nurse, had given me some bandages in case we got into trouble,” he told the BBC. “Some had Welsh written on and they thought this was Hebrew and we were Israeli spies.”

It was an ironic mistake given that they were working for Press TV, the Holocaust-denying state broadcaster for Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran.

Although Welsh is a Celtic language and Hebrew has ancient Asiatic origins, the two languages share idiom and structure, according to Welsh language experts.

 

CLASS ACTION SUIT FILED AGAINST JIMMY CARTER FOR DELIBERATE MISREPRESENTATIONS IN ANTI-ISRAEL BOOK

Claiming that “Perhaps no individual more than former American President Jimmy Carter has sought every possible opportunity to defame the Jewish State and endeavored to challenge its right to exist,” a class action suit has been filed in the U.S. against the former president and the Simon & Schuster publishing company alleging that “Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, contained numerous false and knowingly misleading statements intended to promote the author’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda and to deceive the reading public instead of presenting accurate information as advertised.”

The suit, captioned Unterberg et al. v. Jimmy Carter et.al (11 cv 0720), filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants.

The suit claims that: “The plaintiffs, who hope to have the case certified as a class action, are members of the reading public who purchased Carter’s book expecting that they were buying an accurate and factual record of historic events concerning Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The lawsuit contends that Carter, who holds himself out as a Middle-East expert, and his publisher, intentionally presented untrue and inaccurate information and sought to capitalize on the author’s status as a former President to mislead unsuspecting members of the public.”

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ misrepresentations, all highly critical of Israel, violate New York consumer protection laws, specifically New York General Business Law § 349, which makes it unlawful to engage in deceptive acts in the course of conducting business. While acknowledging Carter’s right to publish his personal views, the plaintiffs assert that the defendants violated the law and, thus, misled those who purchased the book.

This is the first known suit against a former President and a publishing house for violating consumer protection laws by knowingly publishing inaccurate information while promoting a book as factual.

Representing the plaintiffs, attorney David Schoen, Esq. of Montgomery, Alabama, said: “It is, indeed, a sad day for all of us as Americans, when a former President demeans the dignity of his office by intentionally misstating critically important facts concerning events of great historic significance and public interest, simply to advance a personal anti-Israel animus and to foster the agenda of the enemies of Israel who pump so much money into the Center which bears his name.”

***

Tom Gross adds: I have many times pointed out the misstatements of former President Carter.

For example, in this dispatch of 2010:

* Nobel peace-prize winner Jimmy Carter in 2008: Gazans are being “starved to death.”
* Jimmy Carter in 2009: “the people in Gaza are literally starving.”
* Jimmy Carter in 2010: suddenly silent on Gaza after human rights groups, The New York Times and Time magazine all finally admit there is no one even malnourished in Gaza, led alone people starving.

 

“A DIRECT CONNECTION CAN BE SEEN BETWEEN SHALIT’S RETURN AND THE ABDUCTION ATTEMPTS”

The Israeli army has mounted an advertising and information campaign to make off-duty Israeli soldiers even more aware of the danger of abduction. The move follows several foiled attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers since Gilad Shalit was released last year.

A source in IDF intelligence said: “A direct connection can be seen between Shalit’s return and the fresh wave of abduction attempts.”

 

HAMAS: TWO MILLION PROTESTERS EXPECTED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE “GLOBAL MARCH TO JERUSALEM”

This is a report (written at times in poor English) from Hamas’s website concerning the planned so-called Global March to Jerusalem on Friday:

Two million protesters expected to participate in the Global March to Jerusalem
Hamas website 22-03-2012,08:52

www.qassam.ps/news-5499-Two_million_protesters_expected_to_participate_in_the_GMJ.html

AMMAN - The organizing committee of the Global March to Jerusalem expects the participation of more than two million people in the march which will be started from the surrounding countries of Palestine, the Palestinian territories, and some other capitals on March 30, 2012.

“Several international personalities and organizations will join the Global March to Jerusalem that will take place in Jordon and the other surrounding countries except Syria,’ said the GMJ’s chief executive and coordinator Dr Ribhi Haloum in a press conference.

Halloum added that the Prime Minister Awn Al-Khasawneh expressed satisfaction about the march’s preparation as a peaceful and civilized march offering the government’s help to the organizers.

The PM also said that the Israelis are worried about the march and that they phoned him several times to ask about the route the march will take. Another indication of the Israelis taking this march seriously is the formation of a mini-cabinet to deal with it, according to the PM.

For his part, the president of the national preparatory committee for the Global March to Jerusalem Abdullah Obeidat confirmed the Prime Minister Awn Al-Khasawneh’s aid to the preparations efforts adding that this will be an annual activity to stress the necessity to end the occupation and free Jerusalem.

Representatives of the participating delegations will present their speeches in a festival which will be held on the same day with the attendance of about 500 guests from outside the Kingdom.

 

FRENCH TEACHER HOLDS A MINUTE’S SILENCE TO RESPECT MERAH

France’s education minister has called for disciplinary proceedings to be taken against a teacher in the north of France, after she asked her students to observe a minute’s silence for Mohamed Merah, the man who murdered seven people, including three young children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse last week.

Students in the English language teacher’s class in Rouen complained to their principal after she called the killer a “victim.”

Several students refused to take part and left the classroom, though some stayed behind to “try to understand what she was talking about,” Agence France Presse reported.

 

MERAH VISITED ISRAEL “ON RECONNAISSANCE MISSION” IN 2010

France’s Le Monde newspaper reported that Merah, who liberal American and British papers have wrongly described as “poor” despite the fact he owned two expensive cars and a vast array of weaponry, visited Israel two years ago. Le Monde’s report was based on an exclusive by Metula News Agency.

French and Israeli authorities confirmed the report that Merah’s passport had Israeli stamps in it. Israel says he entered over the Allenby Bridge from Jordan. The purpose of his visit is not known, but analysts suspect he was either trying to visit the Palestinian territories or do reconnaissance to plan a terror attack.

Based on the stamps in his passports, Merah also visited Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Afghanistan that year.

***

It is bad enough having to read the kind of nonsensical excuses written on behalf of Merah by editorial writers in left-leaning papers like The New York Times, The Guardian -- and The Financial Times, which didn’t manage to mention Jews or anti-Semitism once in its lead editorial on Merah -- without the center-right (London) Daily Telegraph joining in.

The Daily Telegraph’s Ed West wrote: “Islam is not to blame for the Toulouse killings… It is not religion that turns some young Muslim men in the West violent, but the sense of alienation and frustration that inevitably comes from being a second-generation immigrant.”

Tom Gross comments: If radical Islam has nothing to do with it, there would be “inevitable” terrorist violence from second generation Sikhs, Hindu and Jews in Britain, France and elsewhere.

***

One Jewish schoolboy wounded in Merah’s attack in Toulouse remains in hospital in critical condition. He has been operated on twice. The damage is mainly to his stomach and lungs, the bullet just missed his heart.

 

DOZENS OF JEWISH GRAVES DESECRATED IN FRANCE “IN SOLIDARITY WITH MERAH”

Over 30 Jewish graves were badly vandalized in the southern French city of Nice two days after Merah died in a firefight with French police last week.

According to reports, the vandals tore off 22 Stars of David that were affixed on candle lamps built into the tombstones.

The large cemetery in the eastern part of the city has some 600 graves, mostly non-Jewish, but the damage was only inflicted on Jewish graves, the district’s head of investigations said.

Nice’s Chief Rabbi said he believed the attack was linked to Merah’s deadly shooting spree and subsequent death.

Nice’s Mayor Christian Estrosi said that police patrols around the cemetery were being reinforced following the desecration. “We are at a time when we cannot be off guard against anti-Semitism,” he added.

 

FRENCH MUSLIM TRIES TO SET DAUGHTER ON FIRE FOR DATING A JEW

A French Muslim of Tunisian origin has attempted to set fire to his daughter’s face after she went out on a date with a Jewish boy.

A French media report said that “He attacked her with teargas and poured petrol over her head and face, after which he pulled out a lighter and attempted to set fire to her. But she managed to scream and push him away in the struggle that ensued.”

 

NEW YORK KILLER FINALLY ADMITS HIS AIM WAS TO KILL JEWS

A Lebanese-born man who shot at young Chasidic Jewish children on a bus on the Brooklyn Bridge in March 1995, killing a 16-year-old boy and seriously wounding several others, has admitted that his aim was “to kill Jews”. He previously refused to give a reason.

He is already serving a prison sentence of over 100 years for murder, so the new information will not be used to pursue a further hate crime charge, prosecutors say.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

Omar Sharif Jr. comes out -- twice: “I’m gay and I’m Jewish” (& Mossad role for Bar Refaeli)

March 27, 2012

Omar Sharif Jr, the grandson of the screen icon: “I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?”


* Omar Sharif Jr: “And so I hesitantly confess: I am half Jewish, and I am gay. That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval… I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself.”

* “While to many in Europe and North America mine might seem like trivial admissions, I am afraid this is not so in Egypt. I anticipate that I will be chastised, scorned, and most certainly threatened. From the vaunted class of Egyptian actor and personality, I might just become an Egyptian public enemy. And yet I speak out because I am a patriot.”

* Reminder: Turkish PM Erdogan, proud 2010 winner of the Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights

***

(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.)

 

CONTENTS

1. Omar Sharif Jr: I’m gay and Jewish
2. Gallup: Egyptians want fewer ties to America, closer ties to Turkey and Iran
3. But half of Egyptians want the peace treaty with Israel to continue
4. Jewish groups repelled by use of Hitler in Turkish shampoo ad
5. Reminder: Erdogan, proud 2010 winner of the Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights
6. Israeli-made processor responsible for 40% of Intel’s 2011 global sales
7. Mossad Dubai assassination film role for Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli
8. “Coming Out” (By Omar Sharif Jr., The Advocate, April 2012)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

OMAR SHARIF JR: I’M GAY AND JEWISH

In an article for the April 2012 edition of the gay magazine The Advocate, Omar Sharif Jr., the grandson of the world’s best known Arab film star, Egyptian screen icon Omar Sharif, has revealed that he is not only gay but also that his mother is Jewish.

Omar Sharif is famed for starring in films such as the 1965 classic Doctor Zhivago.

Omar Sharif Jr., who holds a master’s degree in comparative politics and conflict studies from the London School of Economics, three months ago moved from Egypt to Los Angeles. His article from the new edition of The Advocate is posted in full further down this dispatch. In it he discusses the fate of Egypt since President Mubarak was ousted last year. He says:

“I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself. My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being. But I can’t.

“Last January, I left Egypt with a heavy heart. I traveled to America, leaving behind my family, friends, and compatriots who were in the midst of embarking on a heroic journey toward self-determination…

“The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt – a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square – has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths.”

On his own identity, he says: “Will being Egyptian, half Jewish, and gay forever remain mutually exclusive identities? Are they identities to be hidden?”

Omar Sharif Sn., star of the 1965 classic Doctor Zhivago

 

GALLUP: EGYPTIANS WANT FEWER TIES TO AMERICA, CLOSER TIES TO TURKEY AND IRAN

Through his incoherent foreign policy, President Obama appears to be “losing Egypt” according to several leading foreign policy experts.

In an extensive new poll for Gallup, the majority of Egyptians (56%) now see close relations between Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, and the U.S. as “a bad thing”, up sharply from 40% in the previous poll conducted three months earlier.

Slightly more than one-quarter (28%) say having close relations with the U.S. is a good thing. Most Egyptians instead say they prefer closer relations with increasingly Islamist Turkey (60% good, 19% bad) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (41% good 38% bad thing). Neither Turkey, nor Iran are Arab, of course, and Arabs have traditionally been at odds with Turks and Persians.

Gallup chief pollsters Ahmed Younis and Mohamed Younis write: “The surge in Egyptian negativity documented by Gallup surveys coincides with a difficult period in U.S.-Egyptian relations. At about the same time as the survey was conducted, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces closed a series of high-profile American and Egyptian non-governmental organizations (NGOs).”

 

BUT HALF OF EGYPTIANS WANT THE PEACE TREATY WITH ISRAEL TO CONTINUE

Perhaps surprisingly, however, the percentage of Egyptians who view their country’s peace treaty with Israel as a good thing continues to exceed the percentage who say it is a bad thing, according to the Gallup poll.

Nearly half of Egyptians surveyed (48%) said the Israel-Egypt peace treaty is a good thing – consistent with opinion through most of the post-Hosni Mubarak era.

The full Gallup poll data is here

 

JEWISH GROUPS REPELLED BY USE OF HITLER IN TURKISH SHAMPOO AD

In what Jewish groups are saying is an increasing number of anti-Jewish broadcasts in both programs and adverts on Turkish TV and radio, a Turkish company has been promoting Hitler as a “real man” in a shampoo advertisement.

“Here it is, a real man’s shampoo, Biomen,” says the ad, while showing archive footage of Hitler.

About 20,000 Jews still live in Turkey, mainly in Istanbul, a city of about 14 million Muslims. Most are descendants of Sephardim who escaped the Spanish Inquisition and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire some 500 years ago.

In the past, Turkey was justifiably proud of its history as a haven for Jews, in comparison with other European countries, but since Prime Minister Erdogan came to power a decade ago, his government has presided over and encouraged an increasingly anti-Semitic atmosphere.

To the mystification of many foreign policy observers, U.S. President Barack Obama continues to grow even closer to the radical Erdogan government.

 

REMINDER: ERDOGAN, PROUD 2010 WINNER OF THE GADDAFI PRIZE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

For those in the West who may have forgotten who Erdogan is, here is a reminder. This is a November 2010 report from Agence France Presse:

Erdogan will be awarded the Kadhafi Human Rights Prize
Turkish PM to receive Libyan rights award
Fri Nov 26, 2010

news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101126/wl_mideast_afp/turkeylibyadiplomacy

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Libya next week to receive a human rights prize dedicated to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, his office said on Friday.

Erdogan will receive the Kadhafi International Prize for Human Rights on Wednesday at a ceremony in Tripoli, where he would also attend, as a guest, an Africa-EU summit, the statement said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela are among the previous recipients of the prize.

 

ISRAELI-MADE PROCESSOR RESPONSIBLE FOR 40% OF INTEL’S 2011 GLOBAL SALES

Intel, the world’s biggest maker of computer chips, continues to rely increasingly on Israeli engineering for its processors which power many if not most of the world’s computers.

Intel has four research and development centers in Israel, and also manufactures products in plants in the Israeli towns of Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem. It is the largest private sector employer in Israel, and the country’s biggest single exporter of high technology.

The company announced a few days ago that last year its Israeli branch was responsible for an incredible 40 percent of its global sales.

75 different kinds of Ultrabook computer designs now rely on Israeli-produced know-how, as do many smart phones and tablet computers.

Microsoft, Google and other high-tech giants have long had R&D plans in Israel and Apple is now reported to be opening an R&D center in Israel too.

It is not surprising that anti-Israeli activists calling on people to boycott Israel have not had much success.

 

MOSSAD DUBAI ASSASSINATION FILM ROLE FOR BAR REFAELI



The alleged assassination of a top Hamas bomb and rocket smuggler in a Dubai hotel in January 2010 is to be retold on the big screen with the help of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli (pictured above).

The death of Mahmoud al Mabhouh has been widely attributed to the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad.

No one has ever been caught for the assassination. Among past dispatches on this, please see: In global hunt for Dubai “hit men,” the trail goes cold.

***

I attach one article below.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLE

COMING OUT STORY: WE’RE NOT IN CAIRO ANYMORE

Coming Out Story: We’re Not in Cairo Anymore
By Omar Sharif Jr.
The Advocate
April 2012

I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself. My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being.

But I can’t.

Last January, I left Egypt with a heavy heart. I traveled to America, leaving behind my family, friends, and compatriots who were in the midst of embarking on a heroic journey toward self-determination. Despite the sound of gunshots in the streets and the images of Anderson Cooper being struck repeatedly over the head on CNN, I left hopeful that I would return to find a more tolerant and equal society. While I benefited from a life of privilege being Omar Sharif’s grandson, it was always coupled with the onerous guilt that such a position might have been founded upon others’ sweat and tears.

One year since the start of the revolution, I am not as hopeful.

The troubling results of the recent parliamentary elections dealt secularists a particularly devastating blow. The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt – a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square – has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths.

I write this article despite the inherent risks associated because as we stand idle at what we hoped would be the pinnacle of Egyptian modern history, I worry that a fall from the top could be the most devastating. I write, with healthy respect for the dangers that may come, for fear that Egypt’s Arab Spring may be moving us backward, not forward.

And so I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.

That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval. With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?

Will being Egyptian, half Jewish, and gay forever remain mutually exclusive identities? Are they identities to be hidden?

While to many in Europe and North America mine might seem like trivial admissions, I am afraid this is not so in Egypt. I anticipate that I will be chastised, scorned, and most certainly threatened. From the vaunted class of Egyptian actor and personality, I might just become an Egyptian public enemy.

And yet I speak out because I am a patriot.

I am a patriot who remembers a pluralistic Egypt, where despite a lack of choice in the political sphere, society comprised a multitude of beliefs and backgrounds. I remember growing up knowing gay men and women who were quietly accepted by those around them in everyday society. The motto was simple: “Stay quiet, stay safe.” Today, too many are staying quiet as the whole of Egyptian society moves toward this monolithic entity I barely recognize.

Last month I went for an afternoon run outside my home in Cairo. It was hot, and so I removed my T-shirt. I got the strange sense someone was watching. I felt a car begin to slow behind me, and a man began to shout that I could no longer go out in the streets shirtless in the new Egypt. With reticence, I put my T-shirt on and continued to run.

Today, I write.

I write this article because there are many back home without a voice, without a face, and without an outlet. I write this article because I am not unique in Egypt and because many will suffer if a basic respect for fundamental human rights and equality is not embraced by Egypt’s new government. I write this article because as an Egyptian national newly acquainted with a land of freedom, I feel a certain privilege that I can finally express myself openly as well as artistically. I have a voice, and with it comes a responsibility to share it during this time of social and political change, no matter the risks.

I write this article as a litmus test, calling for a reaction. I challenge each of the parties elected to parliament to speak out, on the record, as to where they stand on respect for the rights of all Egyptians, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or political belief. Do religious parties speak of moderation now only to consolidate power? Show us that your true intent is not to gradually eradicate the few civil liberties and safeguards that we currently have protected by convention, if not constitution.

I write this article to understand my own position in the new Egyptian paradigm. To a greater degree, though, I want to know where my newborn sister fits, my Coptic Christian friends, and the entire list of those who seek a basic guarantee of rights affirmed just to know they can live safely in Egypt. I want to know that we are not sliding downward on a slippery slope from secular(ish) society toward Islamic fundamentalist state.

I challenge foreign governments and NGOs present in Egypt today to comment and demand answers on equal and human rights from both the leaders of the revolution and the new government. I urge them to lend the Egyptian people and any future governments the support necessary to protect those at risk and strengthen our laws so that an admission like mine is not a sentence to prison, physical harm, or worse. Lend guidance in formulating a new constitution that protects the lives and liberty of all citizens, reminding them that while I know all too well that Egypt is not ready to adopt or accept equal rights for gays, it should nonetheless be included in the discussion. We learn from the entrenchment of constitutional principles in long-established Western democracies that if a group is excluded from the outset, it could be centuries before the issue is revisited.

I write this article as an open letter to my fellow Egyptian people, mailed from many miles away, commending them on how far they have come in how short a time. We must continue to run toward, not away from, the ideals that started us down this extraordinary path. After all of this, if we pursue a national agenda that does not respect basic human rights, we are no better than the architects of tyranny, contempt, and oppression toppled throughout the Arab Spring.

I want to have a place in the new Egypt.

I write asking for my inclusion.

Media reporting lies about Gaza children deaths in relation to Toulouse murders

March 21, 2012

Miriam Monsonego, aged 7, pulled by the hair and then shot through the head because she was Jewish


* French foreign minister speaks in Hebrew at the end of his remarks at this morning’s funerals

* Some leading French Muslim leaders have condemned the murder of Jewish children

* “Let us be clear. There has not been one single instance, ever, of the Israeli military deliberately targeting Palestinian children in a school in Gaza”

* Update (Wednesday afternoon March 21, 2012): The Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad has condemned the attack on the Jewish school: “It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life”

***

You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. Media reporting lies about Gaza children deaths in relation to Toulouse murders
2. French foreign minister speaks in Hebrew at end of his remarks at this morning’s funerals
3. EU chief Ashton apologizes, after calls for her to resign over her Toulouse shooting remarks
4. UN cancels appearance by Hamas leader in Geneva
5. Palestinian prisoners prevented from going on hunger strike (but not by Israel)
6. Is this the beginning of the end of Egypt’s tourist trade?
7. “Iranian military advisers operating in Palestinian Gaza and Egyptian Sinai”
8. BBC says Iranian government behind coordinated cyber attack
9. Iranian government refuses to allow ceremony for Iranian Oscar winner
10. “The extreme dangers of demonizing the Jewish state” (Editorial, The Commentator, March 21, 2012)
11. “The bogus Iran intelligence debate” (By Bret Stephens, Wall St. Journal, March 20, 2012)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

MEDIA REPORTING LIES ABOUT GAZA CHILDREN DEATHS IN RELATION TO TOULOUSE MURDERS

I was criticized by several commentators for saying over the last two days that my instincts led me to think that the perpetrator of the French Jewish school shootings was more likely an extreme Islamist anti-Semite than a neo-Nazi. (I was also criticized by various people when I said in the initial aftermath after the Norwegian massacres last summer that this sounded like the work of a far-right madman and not that of an Islamist extremist.)

It seemed that the Toulouse murderer had killed French Muslim soldiers precisely as a warning to other Muslims not to “betray” their people and serve in the French armed forces in Afghanistan.

The three part-nature of his attacks over the last week, the cold blooded way in which the young Jewish children were murdered (pulling 7-year-old Miriam Monsonego by the hair around the school yard before then calmly taking out a second gun and executing her) and the fact the murderer filmed the attack – all these pointed to the way al-Qaeda and other extremist internet videos encourage Islamist terrorists to kill Jewish and other infidels, especially Muslim “collaborators”.

French intelligence should be congratulated on pursuing the possibility of an Islamist link and their apprehension this morning of a suspect of Algerian origin in relation to the Toulouse murders (although questions must be asked why, since they have been tracking him since last Thursday’s shooting of the French Muslim soldiers, they didn’t do more to stop him killing Jewish children on Monday).

The suspect, who is currently in a stand-off with police, has admitted having been trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. French intelligence has confirmed he was previously arrested in Afghanistan in 2010.

Many international media have this morning been claiming that the suspect was motivated by “Israel’s killing of children in Gaza earlier this month”.

However, Israel didn’t kill any children in Gaza this month. Israel only hit armed Islamic Jihad adult operatives, most of whom were launching missiles into Israel at the time Israel identified and hit them.

But the same irresponsible Western media reported – wrongly – that Israel had killed Palestinian children in Gaza this month, when it hadn’t. Not for the first time, Western journalists were taken in by Palestinian propagandists in Gaza.

Please see this link for the way the media was duped: www.idfblog.com/2012/03/12/photos-gaza-aerial-strikes-proven-false/

A further Palestinian claim that another Palestinian child (Adham Abu Selmiya) had been killed by an Israeli air strike at a Gaza funeral of an Islamic Jihad leader this month was subsequently acknowledged by his own parents, and other eye witnesses as false; the death was a result of gunfire unleashed at the funeral.

Agence France Presse (AFP) has now admitted that it was misinformed by its Palestinian sources about the reasons for Adham Abu Selmiya’s death and Israel had nothing to do with it. Other Western news outlets have not admitted that – yet again – they unfairly accused Israel of doing something it didn’t do.

In my opinion, highly irresponsible and inflammatory reporting about Jews and Israel in the Western media is one of the causes of recent increased anti-Semitism among many western Muslims and others.

For more, see:

www.tomgrossmedia.com/LeMonde.htm

and: www.tomgrossmedia.com/IlanHalimi.html

Only last month The Guardian in Britain ran a very nasty news report attacking the British government’s decision to help the British Jewish community pay for increased security guards at Jewish schools in Britain.

***

Further down this dispatch, I attach an editorial from this morning by the online British publication The Commentator, which says:

“It is now clear that the killer was motivated by the same kind of lies about Israeli actions in Gaza that have been peddled and therefore legitimized for years by Muslim leaders in France and across Europe.

“Let us be clear. There has not been one single instance, ever, of the Israeli military deliberately targeting Palestinian children in a school in Gaza. Palestinian children have died in the overall conflict of course. But even that indirect responsibility lies with the people who have started all the wars, namely Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas.”

 

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER SPEAKS IN HEBREW AT THE END OF HIS REMARKS AT THIS MORNING’S FUNERALS

The funerals of the four Jewish victims are taking place in Jerusalem as I write. Thousands of Israelis have attended, filing past three small shrouded bodies and one adult-sized one. All four victims were dual French-Israeli citizens. The children were aged 3, 6 and 7 (although some media in the West have avoided giving the ages of the victims).

The mother of Miriam Monsonego, aged 7, has collapsed and is now receiving medical attention.

The widow of the adult victim, Jonathan Sandler, having already lost her husband and two small children, and who is currently pregnant with her third, has said she has decided not to return to France and will stay in Israel.

A closed-door memorial ceremony attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy was held at Charles de Gaulle Airport before the flight departed Paris.

Among those speaking at this morning’s funerals in Jerusalem is French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who accompanied the coffins from France. He told the mourners that “anti-Semitism negates the values of France” and was “intolerable.”

“Attacks on French Jews are not just attacks on the Jewish community, but on millions of French citizens who cannot tolerate such behavior.”

“Your children are being laid to rest in Israel,” he said, “but their memories will be cherished in the land where they were born, in France.”

“May their souls be bound to the souls of the living,” Juppe said, in Hebrew, at the end of his eulogy.

 

EU CHIEF ASHTON APOLOGIZES, AFTER CALLS FOR HER TO RESIGN OVER HER TOULOUSE SHOOTING REMARKS

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Baroness Catherine Ashton yesterday said she “unreservedly” condemned the murders at a French Jewish school on Monday and insisted she drew “no parallel” between the shooting in Toulouse and “the situation in Gaza.”

At an event in Brussels on Monday organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Ashton compared the murders of the children at a French Jewish school earlier that day to the deaths of teenagers in a fatal coach crash in Switzerland the week before, and “what is happening in Gaza.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had said Ashton’s comments were “not appropriate and I hope that she will re-examine and reverse them.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition Kadima leader Tzipi Livni also criticized Ashton for her remarks.

Other Israeli and French political leaders went further calling on Ashton to resign if she refused to “unreservedly condemn” the murders of young French Jewish children.

Yesterday she issued a statement saying: “I condemn unreservedly the terrible murders in Toulouse. I extend my sympathies to the families and friends of the victims, to the people of France and to the Jewish community.”

She is also reported to have called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later to personally apologize for her earlier remarks.

Ashton has long been criticized for her role in the “Middle East Quartet” for painting the Palestinians only as victims and the Israelis exclusively as oppressors, rather than taking a balanced approach.

 

UN CANCELS APPEARANCE BY HAMAS LEADER IN GENEVA

The United Nations canceled an appearance by a Hamas leader at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

Ismail al-Ashqar, a senior Hamas commander who has on several occasions made remarks sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, was barred from entering the Human Rights Council meeting and was asked to leave the UN compound in Geneva, after reports of intensive pressure by some Western governments not to allow “a terrorist leader” to enter.

The Human Rights Council on Monday considered five resolutions criticizing only one country (Israel), including four resolutions submitted by Palestine though no such state exists.

For more on the UN Human Rights Council, please see my article of last week.

 

PALESTINIAN PRISONERS PREVENTED FROM GOING ON HUNGER STRIKE (BUT NOT BY ISRAEL)

Palestinian militants being held by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, who sought to emulate an Islamic Jihad leader held by Israel who recently succeeded in winning his early release by staging a 66-day hunger strike (which won him much sympathy by far Left Israeli groups who then persuaded Western NGOs to turn him into an international cause célèbre) have found that their Palestinian jailers are not as accommodating as the Israelis were.

Palestinian media have reported that four Palestinian Islamist prisoners who tried to go on hunger strike in recent days were severely beaten by their Palestinian jailers and had their beards shaved, before being force-fed.

 

IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF EGYPT’S TOURIST TRADE?

In the latest of a series of such incidents, gunmen kidnapped two Brazilian female tourists travelling through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Sunday.

The gunmen, who are believed to be Bedouin, stopped a bus carrying a group of tourists on their way to St. Catherine’s Monastery and apprehended the two Brazilian women.

Last month, two American women were kidnapped (Egyptian authorities then negotiated their release). And a group of 20 Chinese cement factory workers were also kidnapped last month and later released.

 

“IRANIAN MILITARY ADVISERS OPERATING IN PALESTINIAN GAZA AND EGYPTIAN SINAI”

The Israeli liberal daily Ha’aretz reports that Iranian military advisers are operating in the Gaza Strip and in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, helping to assemble rocket-launching systems used to attack Israeli towns and villages.

The paper reports that the Iranians are helping train and arm the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad group, which has continued to fire rockets over the border even after a ceasefire with Israel was announced last week following four days of fighting.

In recent months Hamas has distanced itself slightly from Iran. It refused to back Iran’s call to support the Syrian government suppress a largely Sunni uprising in Syria and instead has sought to build closer ties with the Turkish government and with several Sunni Gulf states, while Iran increases its links with Islamic Jihad.

 

BBC SAYS IRANIAN GOVERNMENT BEHIND COORDINATED CYBER ATTACK

The outgoing BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said in a speech at Britain’s Royal Television Society that the government of Iran appears to be behind last week’s massive cyber assault on the BBC. Hackers penetrated BBC Persian TV while the BBC’s London office was inundated with automatic phone calls and the company’s satellite feeds into Iran were also jammed.

The BBC says that its Persian TV service is now viewed by six million people in Iran.

 

IRANIAN GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO ALLOW CEREMONY FOR IRANIAN OSCAR WINNER

The Iranian authorities refused to allow a ceremony honoring Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi upon his return home from America. His film, “A Separation,” won the Oscar for best foreign film last month, beating the two other favorites, an Israeli film and a Polish film about the Holocaust (the brilliant “In Darkness”, based on “In the sewers of Lvov”. For more on Lvov and this book, please see here.)

The Iranian authorities are said to be unhappy that “A Separation” included scenes discussing gender inequality and the desire by many Iranians to leave the country.

***

I attach two articles below, both of which were written by subscribers to this list.

-- Tom Gross


THE EXTREME DANGERS OF DEMONIZING THE JEWISH STATE

The school killings in Toulouse were motivated by anti-Zionism showing the extreme dangers of demonising the Jewish state
Editorial
The Commentator (London)
March 21, 2012

Barely had the news broken that the appalling killings at a Jewish school in Toulouse earlier this week had been perpetrated by a French Muslim motivated by anti-Zionism than the head of the Grand Mosque in Paris was out in the media calling for the revelation not to lead to the stigmatisation of French Muslims in general. He’s right of course. It shouldn’t.

Our gripe here is not with what he said, or with him personally, it is with what most Muslim leaders don’t say in such circumstances. For it is now clear that the killer was motivated by the same kind of lies about Israeli actions in Gaza that have been peddled and therefore legitimised for years by Muslim leaders in France and across Europe.

Let us be clear. There has not been one single instance, ever, of the Israeli military deliberately targeting Palestinian children in a school in Gaza. Palestinian children have died in the overall conflict of course. But even that indirect responsibility lies with the people who have started all the wars, namely Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas.

That is the incontrovertible truth of the matter. Yet you’d never know it if you listened to Europe’s Muslim leaders who have whipped up the kind of hysteria against Israel in which the sort of attack that took place on Monday was always likely to take place.

The Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) in 2008, for example, spoke of Israel’s actions in Gaza in terms of “starving an entire population”. That’s not far short of an accusation of attempted genocide. In 2003, to quote one of many such instances from the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain openly described Israeli policy towards the Palestinians as “genocide” and made a thinly veiled comparison with the Holocaust.

It’s not just the Muslim organisations of course. Mainstream media outlets across the continent have added a further layer of legitimacy to this lethal ideology with papers and magazines such as the Guardian and the New Statesman engaged in what is little better than a hate campaign against the Jewish state.

Still another layer of legitimacy has been added by senior politicians. Only this week, EU foreign policy supremo (and national disgrace) Catherine Ashton approvingly referred to a Palestinian child’s description of Gaza as a “prison”. Rather than contribute to the edifice of dishonesty, why didn’t she tell the Palestinian group she was addressing that peace will only come when their parents stop lying to them and inciting hatred of Jews? (She was misquoted on Toulouse, but that’s another matter)

Parliamentarians across Europe have far too often joined in the hate fest. Last week it was the turn of Sigmar Gabriel, leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, who slammed Israel for “apartheid”, one of the anti-Zionist movement’s most common and most dishonest epithets.

No-one will ever know whether the tragedy in Toulouse would not have taken place if the atmosphere were different. But we can say that history teaches that mass demonisation can all too easily lead to the dehumanisation of the group or people or nation that is being demonised. From there it is only one single step to the belief that murder itself can be justified.

Muslim leaders, politicians, and journalists who have participated in the agenda of lies and hatred against Israel should today hang their heads in shame.

 

THE BOGUS IRAN INTELLIGENCE DEBATE

The Bogus Iran Intelligence Debate
Ignore the media leaks. Tehran’s nuke program is hiding in plain sight
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
March 20, 2012

To better understand the debate over the state of Iran’s nuclear bomb building capabilities, it helps to talk to someone who has built a nuclear bomb. Tom Reed served as Secretary of the Air Force and head of the National Reconnaissance Office in the 1970s, but in an earlier life he designed thermonuclear devices at Lawrence Livermore and watched two of them detonate off Christmas Island in 1962.

How hard is it, I asked Mr. Reed when he visited the Journal last week, to build a crude nuclear weapon on the model of the bomb that leveled Hiroshima? “Anyone can build it,” he said flatly, provided they have about 141 lbs. of uranium enriched to an 80% grade. After that, he says, it’s not especially hard to master the technologies of weaponization, provided you’re not doing something fancy like implosion or miniaturization.

Bear that in mind as the New York Times reports that U.S. intelligence agencies are sure, or pretty sure, that Iran “still has not decided to pursue a weapon” – a view the paper says is shared by Israel’s Mossad. The report echoes the conclusion of a 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran put its nuclear-weapons program on the shelf back in 2003.

All this sounds like it matters a whole lot. It doesn’t. You may not be able to divine whether a drinker, holding a bottle of Johnnie Walker in one hand and a glass tinkling with ice in the other, actually intends to pour himself a drink. And perhaps he doesn’t. But the important thing, at least when it comes to intervention, is not to present him with the opportunity in the first place.

That’s what was so misleading about the 2007 NIE, which relegated to a footnote the observation that “by ‘nuclear weapons program’ we mean Iran’s nuclear weapons design and weaponization work. . . . [W]e do not mean Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” What the NIE called “civil work” is, in fact, the central piece in assembling a nuclear device. To have sufficient quantities of enriched uranium is, so to speak, the whiskey of a nuclear-weapons program. By contrast, “weaponization” – the vessel into which you pour and through which you can deliver the enriched uranium cocktail – is merely the glass.

It’s for this reason that Iran has spent the better part of the last several years building a redundant enrichment facility deep underground near the city of Qom. And thanks in part to the regular reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world doesn’t need to rely on spies or shady sources to figure out just how much uranium the Iranians have enriched: At last count, more than five tons to a 5% grade, and more than 100 kilos to 20%.

In other words, having a debate about the quality of our Iran intelligence is mostly an irrelevance: Iran’s real nuclear-weapons program is hiding in plain sight. The serious question policy makers must answer isn’t whether Iran will go for a bomb once it is within a half-step of getting one. It’s whether Iran should be allowed to get within that half-step.

That is the essence of the debate the Obama administration is now having with Israel. The president has stated flatly that he won’t allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Good. But Israelis worry that Mr. Obama will allow them to come too close for comfort (or pre-emption). Israel cannot be reassured by the administration’s apparent decision to make its case through a series of media leaks, all calculated to head off a possible Israeli strike.

On Monday, the Times published the (leaked) results of a “classified war game” in which an Israeli strike on Iran leaves “hundreds of American dead,” perhaps through an attack on a Navy warship. That isn’t exactly the subtlest way of warning Israel that, should they strike Iran, they will do so forewarned that American blood will be on their hands, never mind that it’s the Iranians who would be doing the killing.

Is this outcome likely? Maybe, though it assumes a level of Iranian irrationality – responding to an Israeli attack by bringing the U.S. into the conflict – that top U.S. officials don’t otherwise attribute to Iran’s leaders. But the deeper problem with this leak is that an intelligence product is being used as a political tool. It was the same story with the 2007 NIE, whose purpose was to foreclose the possibility that the Bush administration would attack Iran.

It should come as no surprise that an intelligence community meant to provide decision makers with disinterested analysis has, in practice, policy goals and ideological axes of its own. But that doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous. The real lesson of the Iraq WMD debacle wasn’t that the intelligence was “overhyped,” since the CIA is equally notorious for erring in the opposite direction. It was that intelligence products were treated as authoritative guides to decision making. Spooks, like English children, should be seen, not heard. The problem is that the spooks (like the children) want it the other way around.

How, then, should people think about the Iran state of play? By avoiding the misdirections of “intelligence.” For real intelligence, merely consider that a regime that can take a rock in its right hand to stone a woman to death should not have a nuclear bomb within reach of its left. Even a spook can grasp that.


The most remarkably brave people

March 16, 2012

Hadeel Kouki, and right after Assad’s thugs caught up with her in Egypt where she was assaulted by Syrian embassy staff. They warned her next time would be much worse unless she stopped criticizing Assad

 

During years in prison, Ren Wanding refused to be broken and produced a two-volume attack on the Chinese government painstakingly written on toilet paper


IF THE UN HAD INTEGRITY

Below is a piece of mine that appears today in The National Post, a leading Canadian paper.

The true face of ‘human rights’
By Tom Gross, in Geneva
The National Post
March 16, 2012

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/03/16/tom-gross-the-true-face-of-human-rights-at-the-un/

I have spent the past few days in Geneva with some of the most remarkably brave people one is ever likely to meet. All have suffered horrendously for calling for freedoms in their countries – the kind of freedoms that people elsewhere take for granted.

But none of them were invited to Geneva by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the UN’s most prominent body that is supposed to deal with human rights, which is meeting here in annual session.

This is the organization behind the infamous and now discredited “Goldstone report” on Gaza. This is the organization that in 2009 praised Sri Lanka’s human rights record shortly after that country’s military had killed more than 40,000 Tamil civilians.

On Monday, I sat in on this year’s UNHRC debate, and listened to the Syrian ambassador – with a straight face and with no gasps of disapproval from other delegates – tell the chamber that it was really Israelis who were behind the ongoing violence in Syria. And I heard delegates from Cuba, Syria, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and elsewhere praise the Iranian government’s human rights record. (In fact, in addition to a litany of other abuses, Iran carried out the highest number of executions of any country in the world last year, for such “crimes” as being homosexual, or being a member of the Baha’i faith – though it is true that some other countries’ delegates did condemn Syria and Iran strongly for other matters.) This week, the UNHRC also adopted a report heaping praise on the Qaddafi regime’s human rights record.

The human rights ambassadors engaged in this activity while sitting under the newly painted ceiling art of the council chamber – a remarkably unimpressive piece that the UN says cost $23-million – money that the UN might have used to, say, feed starving children in Africa.

Just outside the entrance to the chamber, two pieces of art, from the time before its renovation, remain. On one, the plaque reads “A statue of Maat, ancient goddess of truth and justice”; it was donated by Egypt’s Mubarak regime. On the other, it says “A statue of Nemesis, Goddess of justice, donated by the Syrian government.”

Just down the road from the UN, another human-rights summit took place the following day – one where actual human rights heroes were present. That summit was organized by UN Watch, and a coalition of 20 other human-rights groups, from Tibet to Uganda.

Among the speakers were Chinese dissidents Ren Wanding, who during more than 10 years in prison produced a two-volume attack on the Chinese government painstakingly written on toilet paper; and Yang Jianli, who was released from jail in 2007, and who in 2010 was asked by the jailed Liu Xiaobo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on his behalf.

Also speaking were Joo-il Kim and Song Ju Kim, who endured a living hell in North Korea before risking their lives to escape. And Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, who survived 20 years in prisons in Castro’s Cuba, where he was severely tortured and had his bones broken on many occasions. He was finally released last year and immediately expelled from Cuba. He has now taken refuge in Spain.

Then there was Zimbabwean activist Jestina Mukoko, who was imprisoned and tortured for calling for democracy in her country. And Burmese activist Zoya Phan, a member of the Karen minority, which has undergone virtual genocide in recent decades. In addition, there were other brave democracy campaigners from Vietnam, Tibet, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Egyptian pro-democracy campaigner Maikel Nabil Sanad, left, with Tom Gross, right

I chaired the final session, which was on the Middle East. Impassioned speeches were given by Maikel Nabil, a young Egyptian veterinary student released seven weeks ago after enduring 302 days in a Cairo prison. For much of this time, he was held in solidarity confinement in a one-meter square space. In other periods, he was packed into a cell with 50 common criminals who were bribed by the guards to beat him. Maikel’s crime? After President Mubarak’s ousting last year, he dared to ask the Egyptian military to cede power too, and wrote blog posts calling for Egyptian society to treat women, gays and Jews with respect. In jail, Maikel went on a hunger strike for 80 days and almost died. But none of this broke him, and on his release on January 24 he waved a “V for victory” sign to waiting supporters.

Also on the panel was Ebrahim Mehtari who, for daring to oppose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 presidential bid in his native Iran, was thrown into prison, raped, tortured, and left for dead on the side of a road. Ebrahim’s life is still at risk, since he is one of the few who speak out about the widespread use of sexual torture in Iranian prisons.

Ebrahim Mehtari: “My torturers deserve pity”

Finally, there was 20-year-old Hadeel Kouki, who had been studying English literature in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Caught trying to bring medical supplies to children injured in one of her government’s barbaric and indiscriminate bombardments of civilians last year, she was imprisoned for eight weeks. During that time, she was subjected to electric shocks and repeatedly raped by prison guards. She asked me to tell the world the name of the guard she says was her chief rapist: Abdul Hakeem Abdullatif.

Upon her release, Hadeel managed to escape across the border to Turkey. She has now been offered political asylum by a Western country. I won’t name that country since Syrian thugs – who see her as a particular threat because she is a Christian standing up against the regime when Syria’s Christian leadership are still backing Assad – sent her messages only last week, warning that “we will catch up with you wherever you are and throw acid all over your beautiful face”.

American and Canadian embassy staff came to UN Watch’s alternative Geneva human rights summit. But where were the other ambassadors? Does the UN care about human rights? Or does it prefer to be in league with the criminals of the world?

(Tom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent of the London Sunday Telegraph.)

 

* If you like, you can comment on the piece above here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.

* There is more on the Geneva summit, and you can watch clips from it, here: www.genevasummit.org

* Thanks to all those who have written about and recommended this article to their readers, including law professor Alan Dershowitz, historian Amanda Foreman, former U.S. presidential speechwriter David Frum at The Daily Beast, and Canadian government minister Jason Kenney.

 

For my article on the 2013 Geneva summit, with further details of the UN’s failure to address human rights issues, please click here:

* The speakers were never meant to live and tell their stories

Barrage of rockets, 93% interception rate (& Support for Netanyahu at all-time high)

March 10, 2012

* As over 135 rockets from Gaza hit Israel, Iron Dome missile defense system saves lives with remarkable accuracy

* New OECD report says Israel is the world’s 2nd most educated country

* Mark Zuckerberg helps Shimon Peres launch his new Facebook page, and laughs when the Israeli president tells him, “We used to be the people of the Book, now we are the people of Facebook”

* Ha’aretz: Israeli support for Netanyahu rises to an all-time high, despite any differences between him and Obama

A wounded Israeli being taken to hospital tonight

***

* There will be no further dispatches in the coming days since I will be travelling for work.

* There is another new dispatch here.

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. Barrage of rockets, 93% interception rate
2. Libyans thank Britain for ridding them of Gaddafi
3. OECD says Israel is the world’s 2nd most educated country
4. President Peres launches his new Facebook page together with Mark Zuckerberg
5. Huffington Post names Tel Aviv a top beach city
6. Support for Netanyahu at all-time high in Israel despite disagreements with Obama
7. Netanyahu’s lighter side


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

BARRAGE OF ROCKETS, 93% INTERCEPTION RATE

While most of the international media has not bothered to report on this, since last night over 135 rockets have been fired at Israel by the Gaza-based terrorist groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Other rockets are continuing to rain down on cities throughout southern Israel as I write.

Although at least two have hit Israeli towns, injuring one Israeli civilian severely, the others have been met with a remarkable success rate by the Israeli-developed cutting-edge Iron Dome system in which Israeli defensive missiles intercept incoming Palestinian attack missiles.

The Iron Dome analyzes the incoming missile’s trajectory and only intercepts missiles and rockets heading to populated areas, disregarding those that are heading towards fields and empty land.

Of the first hundred launched from Gaza in the last 24 hours, 29 of the incoming rockets were heading towards Israeli population centers. 27 of them have been intercepted by the Iron Dome: a success rate of 93%.

Here are some clips of these interceptions filmed by private individuals in Israel and posted on YouTube in recent hours:

The rocket interception is at 0:45 seconds:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNNUmiJ5QvI
www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDpAPlwaqaM

The rocket interception is at 0:19 seconds:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMs6SFS4ECY
www.youtube.com/watch?v=DujSrCiVDPQ

The rocket interception is at: 1:03 minutes:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjOOrXdoMps

The rocket interception is at 2:40 minutes:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuwHW-Nn3jQ

The rocket interception is at 1:35 minutes:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9KZ5KHL4Kk

With rockets continuing to fall on Israel, authorities in Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Netivot, Kiryat Gat, Ofakim, Beer Tuvia, Yavne and Gedera have announced that all schools will be closed tomorrow.

So far the Israeli airforce has managed to identify and kill several Palestinian terrorists as they were launching rockets. No Palestinian civilians have been harmed.

Several Israelis have been taken to medical centers to receive treatment for shock and anxiety.

 

LIBYANS THANK BRITAIN FOR RIDDING THEM OF GADDAFI

For those who haven’t seen it yet, below is a shocking video filmed 12 days ago of an unidentified group of Libyans entering the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Benghazi and shattering headstones of British and allied servicemen who fought in North African desert campaigns against the Nazis during World War II.

The Jewish headstones are treated with particular disrespect.



 

OECD SAYS ISRAEL IS THE WORLD’S 2ND MOST EDUCATED COUNTRY

A new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that Israel is the second most educated country in the world.

The OECD “Education at a Glance” report shows that 45 percent of the Israeli population has a post-secondary education. Israel is known for its technological prowess and high number of high-tech, medical and other breakthroughs.

The OECD listed the 10 most educated countries in the world in the following order:

1. Canada
2. Israel
3. Japan
4. The United States
5. New Zealand
6. South Korea
7. Norway
8. The United Kingdom
9. Australia
10. Finland

 

PRESIDENT PERES LAUNCHES HIS NEW FACEBOOK PAGE TOGETHER WITH MARK ZUCKERBERG

In the U.S. last week, Israeli President Shimon Peres, together with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, launched the President’s new international Facebook page at a festive event at Facebook’s world headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Peres told Zuckerberg that he launched the page in order to connect to new audiences. “When I say new and large audiences, I mean first and foremost citizens of Iran, Syria and the Arab world. I’d be very happy to be their friend and offer them full access to me. Neither the Iranians nor Syrians are enemies of ours, but rather the extremist leadership of these peoples,” Peres said.

Peres told Zuckerberg, “Your success is amazing, especially at your young age. I am grateful for what you’ve done and created. Facebook has broken down barriers between nations and between people. Facebook has given freedom and the opportunity of expression to citizens of the world making connections that to now have seemed impossible.”

Zuckerberg laughed when the President said, “We used to be the people of the Book, now we are the people of Facebook”.

Peres’ Facebook page can be accessed at: www.facebook.com/PresidentPeres

Zuckerberg told Peres that he would accept his invitation to visit Israel and was greatly looking forward to the trip.

 

HUFFINGTON POST NAMES TEL AVIV A TOP BEACH CITY

Tel Aviv’s beachfront has been named one of “The Eight Best Party Beaches” in the world by The Huffington Post.

The other seven on the list are: Ibiza, Spain; Zanzibar, Tanzania; Koh Phangan, Thailand; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Surfer’s Paradise, Australia; Boracay, the Philippines and South Beach, Miami, USA.

As reported previously on this website, in recent months Tel Aviv has also been voted “the world’s best gay city” by the world’s leading gay website, “one of the world’s most creative cities” by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper (the others being London, Sydney, Stockholm and Shanghai) and in 2010, the Lonely Planet named Tel Aviv one of its top three cities for the year.

 

SUPPORT FOR NETANYAHU AT ALL-TIME HIGH IN ISRAEL DESPITE DISAGREEMENTS WITH OBAMA

A new poll conducted by Ha’aretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, indicates that support in Israel for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached an all-time high despite constant media criticism of Netanyahu and his less than perfect relations with President Obama.

According to Ha’aretz, if an election were held today, Netanyahu’s Likud party would gain as many as 37 out of 120 possible parliamentary seats while the parties seen as its natural political partners would swell the next Netanyahu coalition to as many as 74 seats. (At present Likud holds 27 seats.)

 

NETANYAHU’S LIGHTER SIDE

In an attempt to demonstrate his lighter side, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu posted to his official Facebook page a spoof video of his talk at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington this week.

The take-off poked fun at Netanyahu’s comment about Iran’s nuclear program: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck. But this duck is a nuclear duck.”

This spoof has been watched 100,000 times on YouTube since it was created two days ago:



[All notes above by Tom Gross]

On hating the haredim (& not enough empathy with Ethiopian Israelis)


* Why is it that the Israeli media, which hastened to defend the dignity of a Nigerian cleaning woman and described in great detail an Eritrean mother’s longing for her child, refrains from publishing passionate and moving editorials on the plight of the Ethiopian Israeli community?

* Contrary to media hype, Israel is not becoming an ultra-Orthodox theocracy. Rather, the recent violence is a reaction to increasing integration, and a symptom of the haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jewish leadership losing its grip.

* There are an estimated 40-50,000 Africans currently residing in Israel, mainly from war-torn Sudan and Eritrea. With around 2,000 clambering across Israel’s southern border with Egypt each month, the flow of migrants shows little sign of slowing.

 

CONTENTS

1. Israeli elites were quick to support the social justice protests, so why not the Ethiopian ones?
2. A proper legal process is needed to help genuine African asylum seekers to Israel
3. Change is coming to a community defined by its rejection of change
4. “Media double standard harms Ethiopian cause” (By Elad Uzan, Jerusalem Post)
5. “No cosmetic answer to Israel’s African influx” (By Dan Kosky, Times of Israel)
6. “No, Israel isn’t turning into an Iran-style theocracy” (By Gil Troy, New Republic)


This dispatch contains three articles concerning three groups in Israel that are sometimes maligned or not given fair treatment: Israeli Ethiopians, non-Jewish African migrants, and ultra-orthodox Jews.

For those of you who don’t have time to read the articles in full, I have prepared extracts first, followed by the full articles.

-- Tom Gross

 

ARTICLE EXTRACTS

ISRAELI ELITES WERE QUICK TO SUPPORT THE SOCIAL JUSTICE PROTESTS, SO WHY NOT THE ETHIOPIAN ONES?

Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Elad Uzan, a research student and leader of an Ethiopian Israeli youth advocacy group, says:

Why is it that the Israeli media, which hastened to defend the dignity of a Nigerian cleaning woman and described in great detail an Eritrean mother’s longing for her child, refrains from publishing passionate and moving editorials on the plight of the Ethiopian Israeli community? Why is it that when it comes to displaying similar solidarity with tens of thousands of loyal Israeli citizens, their voices suddenly turn silent?

Perhaps the answer to this question lies in the slogan chanted by the crowd at last week’s demonstration: “I stand here to remind those who have forgotten: Ashkenazi Jew, Sephardic Jew, Ethiopian Jew – we are all brothers!” Could it be that the central message of the Ethiopian community – national pride and strong Jewish values – have caused the media to avoid the issue?

To explain this phenomenon one must put it in historical context: Ethiopian Jewish immigration was driven primarily by passionate Zionism. There is concrete evidence of Ethiopian Jewish attempts to make aliya (on foot) to Jerusalem in 1860, well before Herzl’s political Zionism and decades before the First Zionist Congress. Call it “black Zionism.” …

The Ethiopian Israeli community protests out of a genuine demand for Jewish solidarity, as sons and daughters of the Jewish nation, in the nation-state of the Jewish people. Their demands are motivated not only by the international and universal values that are the focus of the Israeli media, but also by national, Jewish values, which the Israeli media often snubs…

This fealty to Jewish values has led them to be perceived as the “enemy” by those who claim to be proponents of the universalist view, which is particularly wary of national values and which has a strong hold on the media.

This doesn’t mean that the Israeli media sees the Ethiopian community as a literal “enemy,” but given the fact that the base demand for equality is rooted in national-Jewish values, the Israeli media simply does not see the Ethiopian community as an ally in promoting the universal perspective….

 

A PROPER LEGAL PROCESS IS NEEDED TO HELP GENUINE AFRICAN ASYLUM SEEKERS TO ISRAEL

Dan Kosky, a political consultant and longtime subscriber to this email list, writes in The Times of Israel:

Last week, the dubious distinction of housing one of the world’s largest detention facilities moved one step closer towards reality for Israel. The National Council for Construction and Planning gave its approval for the construction of a huge detention center in the South, slated to house up to 11,000 African migrants expected to enter the country in the coming months. Prime Minister Netanyahu has boasted that construction of the mega-facility is a decisive action, proving that “this Government, unlike its predecessors, acts.” In reality, though, it is nothing more than an expensive cosmetic quick-fix. Although the detention camp may move the problem of African migration out of sight, it avoids any real solution for a community which keeps on growing.

There are an estimated 40-50,000 Africans currently residing in Israel, mainly from war-torn Sudan and Eritrea. With around 2,000 clambering across Israel’s southern border with Egypt each month, the flow of migrants shows little sign of slowing. Few dispute that this is an untenable situation. Clearly no country, Israel included, is obliged to open its borders and accept all-comers. On the other hand, Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s claim that all Africans in Israel are opportunistic workers, that none deserve asylum and that every “last of the infiltrators return to their countries” is equally ludicrous... Prime Minister Netanyahu has rightly emphasized that refugees fleeing for their lives must be afforded protection in Israel…

Voluntary organizations report that the application procedure is highly inefficient, typically lasting years. For Eritreans and Sudanese, who comprise the bulk of Africans in Israel, the prospect of asylum is made virtually impossible by the fact that they are granted ‘temporary protection’, by virtue of their nationality. This grants them a safeguard against deportation, but no other rights…

The reality is that the brand new shiny detention complex will be nothing more than an expensive facade (at an estimated cost of NIS 250 million to the taxpayer). Far from resolving the issue of African migration, it will merely shift the problem out of public view deep into the desert. Out of public sight, out of the public mind, or so the government likely hopes…

The flawed mindset which currently views the plight of Africans as a zero sum game where all must stay or all must go, must be replaced with a real attempt to identify and afford rights to refugees. A robust system to efficiently process asylum applications is desperately needed, where refuge can be granted to those who require it and economic opportunists rejected…

 

CHANGE IS COMING TO A COMMUNITY DEFINED BY ITS REJECTION OF CHANGE

Professor Gil Troy, a subscriber to this email list, writes in the American magazine The New Republic:

The demonizing of Israel, dismissing the democratic Jewish state as a right-wing, religious, racist project, continues. The latest storyline describes ultra-Orthodox Israelis – known in Hebrew as haredim – as medieval Neanderthals rapidly converting Israel into an Iran-style theocracy. This popular caricature encourages those liberals seeking excuses to stop supporting Israel. The appalling images of bearded, black-hatted zealots spitting on eight-year-olds, forcing women to the back of public buses, and parading their children with yellow stars in protest, are all being read as tea leaves predicting Israel’s imminent degeneration into Haredistan. But what if the opposite is true? Haredi rampages seem more like impotent attempts to build a firewall against modernity than harbingers of conquest.

Change is coming to a community defined by its rejection of change. Haredim are joining Israeli society. Haredi vocational programs are proliferating, as government generosity wanes. Over 3000 haredi soldiers have now served in Israel’s army, including a combat-ready unit. Many haredi women, who increasingly are highly educated and working, are demanding more respect while continuing to maintain gender distinctions. The debate about television and internet usage is intensifying, as modern popular culture seeps into the society, which is not hermetically sealed.

While haredi triumphalists emphasize their high birthrate, the outflow of the last two centuries since the Enlightenment continues. Though statistics are elusive, communal anxiety abounds about the apostates. Most haredim, while denying the hemorrhaging, have close relatives who are no longer haredi. The deserters are numerous enough to have inspired a television drama series: Simanei She’eilah (question marks), which tracks the stories of haredi runaways living in a Tel Aviv halfway house, debuted last year.

The Zaka organization provides the most dramatic – and inspiring – example of haredi engagement with Israeli society. Zaka became famous during the second intifada, dispatching ultra-Orthodox crews who cleaned up the spilled blood and pieces of flesh strewn about after bombings. … A Zaka team in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake worked through the Sabbath, saving lives… Yad Eliezer established soup kitchens and distributed relief supplies during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, while Yad Sarah’s nationwide network assists the disabled, the elderly, and the housebound.

In the popular media, in both Israel and abroad, images of rock-throwing, gender-segregating, yellow-star-wearing extremists obscure these good works – and a more accurate picture…

Haredim – and their leaders – are, of course, partly responsible for the broad anger against them. Many lack civic spirit. Few serve in the army. The separation of women often entails inequality. Their politicians exploit Israel’s fragmented coalition-governing system. A culture of lawlessness has grown in many communities, and their holier-than-thou attitude toward fellow citizens rankles.

Nevertheless, even in Bet Shemesh, the town where the haredi men spat on the eight-year-old schoolgirl, the true story is more complex than headlines suggest. “Haredi residents are furious at the recent developments and resent that they are being blamed for the acts of a tiny minority,” the haredi paper, HaModia reported…

In Bet Shemesh and elsewhere, the fight often pits ultra-Orthodox against modern Orthodox, not necessarily religious versus secular. Rachel Azaria is a young activist who surprised everyone by winning a seat on Jerusalem’s City Council in the last election. She has fought gender segregation on buses and the banning of female images from bus ads, while working to make the Western Wall welcoming to all visitors and not the world’s largest outdoor haredi synagogue. A religious woman, the mother of three young children, Azaria insists she is not anti-haredi, and that many haredim have encouraged her. “I am the address for haredim,” she explains, “because I am willing to get my hands dirty.” She adds: “I want to affirm to the haredim that they are a part of us – we are all here to stay.” …


FULL ARTICLES

MEDIA DOUBLE STANDARD HARMS ETHIOPIAN CAUSE

Media double standard harms Ethiopian cause
By Elad Uzan
The Jerusalem Post
January 25, 2011

Why is it that the Israeli media, which hastened to defend the dignity of a Nigerian cleaning woman and described in great detail an Eritrean mother’s longing for her child, refrains from publishing passionate and moving editorials on the plight of the Ethiopian Israeli community? Why is it that when it comes to displaying similar solidarity with tens of thousands of loyal Israeli citizens, their voices suddenly turn silent?

Perhaps the answer to this question lies in the slogan chanted by the crowd at last week’s demonstration: “I stand here to remind those who have forgotten: Ashkenazi Jew, Sephardic Jew, Ethiopian Jew – we are all brothers!” Could it be that the central message of the Ethiopian community – national pride and strong Jewish values – have caused the media to avoid the issue?

To explain this phenomenon one must put it in historical context: Ethiopian Jewish immigration was driven primarily by passionate Zionism. There is concrete evidence of Ethiopian Jewish attempts to make aliya (on foot) to Jerusalem in 1860, well before Herzl’s political Zionism and decades before the First Zionist Congress. Call it “black Zionism.”

Much time has passed since the days of these pioneers: Ethiopian Jews who immigrated to Israel in recent decades have been victims of many instances of discrimination and racism, mostly from institutions, as reflected in the data analysis published by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry. Other instances of racism, the ones that have reached the mainstream media, have been mainly from neighbors and in work relationships.

Ethiopian Israelis demand justice. They demand equality. They demand that the color of their skin be not an impediment in the workplace or academia. They demand to be judged by their actions and achievements. They do not want housing prices to drop when they move into a neighborhood.

The Ethiopian Israeli community protests out of a genuine demand for Jewish solidarity, as sons and daughters of the Jewish nation, in the nation-state of the Jewish people. Their demands are motivated not only by the international and universal values that are the focus of the Israeli media, but also by national, Jewish values, which the Israeli media often snubs.

Echoes of this worldview could be sensed in newspaper articles critical of Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s initiative to encourage Israeli children to learn about Zionism’s struggles for political independence via stories about Israel’s fallen soldiers, and opposition to his initiative to sponsor school field trips to Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs and the Old City of Jerusalem.

Ethiopian Israelis want integration based on shared values: Judaism, military service and higher education, through which they can express their individual contributions to the Jewish state. This fealty to Jewish values has led them to be perceived as the “enemy” by those who claim to be proponents of the universalist view, which is particularly wary of national values and which has a strong hold on the media.

This doesn’t mean that the Israeli media sees the Ethiopian community as a literal “enemy,” but given the fact that the base demand for equality is rooted in national-Jewish values, the Israeli media simply does not see the Ethiopian community as an ally in promoting the universal perspective.

Another factor which prevents the media from embracing the Ethiopian-Israeli cause is the fact that it has been, at least ostensibly – apolitical. The press (in general) has ceased to see itself as only the “watchdog of democracy,” and considers itself a political actor for all intents and purposes. The key role that the media plays in a democracy, namely bringing the events of the day into the watchful eye of the public, exposing government corruption and irregularities and able interpretation of all these are no longer at the center of the media’s agenda.

Media nowadays is interested in shaping the public agenda, not reporting on it. This can be seen from recent editorials published in major newspapers.

The Ethiopian-Israeli community’s struggle for essential civil equality does not seek to eliminate or replace the current coalition government, nor is it tied to any one political view. Therefore, unlike last summer’s social protest during which the current government was denounced, the media simply sees no reason to give a stage to the Ethiopian-Israeli struggle.

Erasmus of Rotterdam, besides being an early proponent of humanistic education, was the one who claimed that human beings become humane through a process of humanization that includes education and socialization. Recent history teaches us that education may also lead to dehumanization of man; education for the ennoblement of a certain race over another also strips people of their humanity.

But feelings of national pride are appropriate, as long as they do not reject the legitimacy of other ethnic groups and their legitimate ethnic pride and aspirations.

Those of us who believe in both Judaism’s universalist ethic as well as the moral humanism and the values of Zionism (i.e., Jewish National Movement) believe that the contradiction between these streams can and must be resolved. The existence of a healthy, moral Israeli society requires us to implement the ethical, universal teachings of both the Talmudic scholar Hillel the Elder and German philosopher Immanuel Kant: That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. Human beings are sacred in their own right; they must never be used as mere means to an end.

That is a message that the Israeli media would do well to consider.

 

NO COSMETIC ANSWER TO ISRAEL’S AFRICAN INFLUX

No cosmetic answer to Israel’s African influx
By Dan Kosky
The Times of Israel
February 16, 2012

Last week, the dubious distinction of housing one of the world’s largest detention facilities moved one step closer towards reality for Israel. The National Council for Construction and Planning gave its approval for the construction of a huge detention center in the South, slated to house up to 11,000 African migrants expected to enter the country in the coming months. Prime Minister Netanyahu has boasted that construction of the mega-facility is a decisive action, proving that “this Government, unlike its predecessors, acts.” In reality, though, it is nothing more than an expensive cosmetic quick-fix. Although the detention camp may move the problem of African migration out of sight, it avoids any real solution for a community which keeps on growing.

There are an estimated 40-50,000 Africans currently residing in Israel, mainly from war-torn Sudan and Eritrea. With around 2,000 clambering across Israel’s southern border with Egypt each month, the flow of migrants shows little sign of slowing. Few dispute that this is an untenable situation. Clearly no country, Israel included, is obliged to open its borders and accept all-comers. On the other hand, Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s claim that all Africans in Israel are opportunistic workers, that none deserve asylum and that every “last of the infiltrators return to their countries” is equally ludicrous. It ignores the reality of those fleeing terrifying tribal violence in Sudan and Eritreans persecuted because of their religion or refusal to serve in the army. Prime Minister Netanyahu has rightly emphasized that refugees fleeing for their lives must be afforded protection in Israel.

The real problem is that until now, Israel has made an embarrassingly bad job of making the critical distinction between refugees and migrant workers and shows no sign of doing so. Incredibly, since 2008, only 17 Africans have been granted asylum in Israel. This paltry number is not the result of a rigorous process, but rather the consequence of there being little or no process at all. According to Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Law, from roughly 34,000 asylum seekers in Israel, just 3,211 applications were processed during 2008 and 2009, with only 3 requests granted.

Voluntary organizations report that the application procedure is highly inefficient, typically lasting years. For Eritreans and Sudanese, who comprise the bulk of Africans in Israel, the prospect of asylum is made virtually impossible by the fact that they are granted ‘temporary protection’, by virtue of their nationality. This grants them a safeguard against deportation, but no other rights. Crucially, as they are already ‘protected’, they cannot apply for refugee status, leaving them in an anxious state of limbo. Given the almost total absence of officially recognized refugees in Israel, Bibi’s promise to protect them is entirely hollow. It is rendered even more meaningless by recently introduced legislation which allows for detention of up to three years for all those who illegally enter Israel, regardless of their motivation. Under the new law, no distinction is made between refugees and economic migrants, all are to be considered “infiltrators.”

And of course, the “infiltrators” will be housed in the government’s brand new shiny detention center in the desert. Netanyahu would have us believe that the giant facility is part of a coherent plan to tackle a problem that has been avoided until now. According to the Prime Minister’s Bureau, the prospect of detention is designed to stifle the economic incentive to cross the border into Israel. However, in the same breath, we are also told that facilities at the complex will include computer labs, a hair salon, sports areas and kindergartens. Is this really likely to deter those desperate for an alternative to African squalor? The shockingly frequent instances of torture, rape and abuse on the journey to our “promised land” have yet to stem the flow of Africans. It is almost laughable to think that a detention center brimming with amenities will have the desired effect.

The reality is that the detention complex will be nothing more than an expensive facade (at an estimated cost of NIS 250 million to the taxpayer). Far from resolving the issue of African migration, it will merely shift the problem out of public view deep into the desert. Out of public sight, out of the public mind, or so the government likely hopes.

But, as with all cosmetic solutions, it will only succeed in thinly veiling reality. No amount of money spent on costly border fences or detention centers can substitute for a sensible and sophisticated approach to the issue. The flawed mindset which currently views the plight of Africans as a zero sum game where all must stay or all must go, must be replaced with a real attempt to identify and afford rights to refugees. A robust system to efficiently process asylum applications is desperately needed, where refuge can be granted to those who require it and economic opportunists rejected.

Making this clear distinction would help dispel the current cloud of ambiguity under which economic migrants can ride on the coattails of genuine refugees all the way to Tel Aviv. It would be immeasurably more effective than a swanky detention facility in deterring those merely looking for work. In a country founded partly as a safe haven for Jewish refugees, an asylum system which protects the persecuted must be the answer to African migration.

 

NO, ISRAEL ISN’T TURNING INTO AN IRAN-STYLE THEOCRACY

No, Israel isn’t turning into an Iran-style theocracy
By Gil Troy
The New Republic
February 2, 2012

The demonizing of Israel, dismissing the democratic Jewish state as a right-wing, religious, racist project, continues. The latest storyline describes ultra-Orthodox Israelis – known in Hebrew as haredim – as medieval Neanderthals rapidly converting Israel into an Iran-style theocracy. This popular caricature encourages those liberals seeking excuses to stop supporting Israel. The appalling images of bearded, black-hatted zealots spitting on eight-year-olds, forcing women to the back of public buses, and parading their children with yellow stars in protest, are all being read as tea leaves predicting Israel’s imminent degeneration into Haredistan. But what if the opposite is true? Haredi rampages seem more like impotent attempts to build a firewall against modernity than harbingers of conquest.

Change is coming to a community defined by its rejection of change. Haredim are joining Israeli society. Haredi vocational programs are proliferating, as government generosity wanes. Over 3000 haredi soldiers have now served in Israel’s army, including a combat-ready unit. Many haredi women, who increasingly are highly educated and working, are demanding more respect while continuing to maintain gender distinctions. The debate about television and internet usage is intensifying, as modern popular culture seeps into the society, which is not hermetically sealed.

While haredi triumphalists emphasize their high birthrate, the outflow of the last two centuries since the Enlightenment continues. Though statistics are elusive, communal anxiety abounds about the apostates. Most haredim, while denying the hemorrhaging, have close relatives who are no longer haredi. The deserters are numerous enough to have inspired a television drama series: Simanei She’eilah (question marks), which tracks the stories of haredi runaways living in a Tel Aviv halfway house, debuted last year.

The Zaka organization provides the most dramatic – and inspiring – example of haredi engagement with Israeli society. Zaka became famous during the second intifada, dispatching ultra-Orthodox crews who cleaned up the spilled blood and pieces of flesh strewn about after bombings. Their reverence and thoroughness impressed normally hostile secular Israelis. Zaka’s heroism, along with the suicide bombings in haredi neighborhoods, reminded all Israelis of their shared destiny. Today, more than 1500 Zaka volunteers nationwide serve in ambulances and participate in search and rescue operations. A Zaka team in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake worked through the Sabbath, saving lives.

One haredi friend, with two sons who served in the army, warns that articles praising Zaka volunteers and haredi soldiers often tout them as the “good” haredim for doing what haredim usually don’t do. “Note the many good deeds done by haredim doing what they normally do, too,” he urges, emphasizing the community’s charitable spirit and elaborate self-help networks. These spawned two leading social service organizations that serve all Israelis: Yad Eliezer established soup kitchens and distributed relief supplies during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, while Yad Sarah’s nationwide network assists the disabled, the elderly, and the housebound.

In the popular media, in both Israel and abroad, images of rock-throwing, gender-segregating, yellow-star-wearing extremists obscure these good works – and a more accurate picture. Noah Efron, a Bar Ilan University philosopher and historian, has explored the ingrained prejudice and popular revulsion against haredim. “The Jewish fight against ultra-Orthodoxy is part of a long-running struggle about what legitimately counts as Jewish,” Professor Efron says. “The modern forms of Judaism have so won the day that this need to continue fighting the battle seems neurotic.” Nevertheless, emphasizing the bad behavior of haredi Jews – who epitomize the stereotypical Jew – makes modern Jews and non-Jews feel better, less judged, suggesting that “these ostensibly superior Jews are actually inferior,” Efron says. “We continually prove our own probity to ourselves by proving the depravity of those people.”

More broadly, these stories provoke secular Westerners’ condescension toward religious people. Reading many of the American and European blogs about the haredi tensions this winter, Efron has been “stunned” by “the depths of the hatred and the crassness of the arguments. The attacks reflect a toxic mix of old style anti-Semitism and contemporary anti-Zionism, with a new style modern anti-anything-that-is-not-secular-liberal-and-Western added.”

Haredim – and their leaders – are, of course, partly responsible for the broad anger against them. Many lack civic spirit. Few serve in the army. The separation of women often entails inequality. Their politicians exploit Israel’s fragmented coalition-governing system. A culture of lawlessness has grown in many communities, and their holier-than-thou attitude toward fellow citizens rankles.

Nevertheless, even in Bet Shemesh, the town where the haredi men spat on the eight-year-old schoolgirl, the true story is more complex than headlines suggest. “Haredi residents are furious at the recent developments and resent that they are being blamed for the acts of a tiny minority,” the haredi paper, HaModia reported. This doesn’t excuse haredi leaders: In a hierarchical community that grants rabbis so much power, the rabbis must do a better job of restraining the bullies. But as Rabbi Yeshaya Ehrenreich, a member of the Beit Shemesh City Council, told the newspaper, “The haredim who live in the same neighborhoods as these [fringe elements] suffer more than anyone else.”

In Bet Shemesh and elsewhere, the fight often pits ultra-Orthodox against modern Orthodox, not necessarily religious versus secular. Rachel Azaria is a young activist who surprised everyone by winning a seat on Jerusalem’s City Council in the last election. She has fought gender segregation on buses and the banning of female images from bus ads, while working to make the Western Wall welcoming to all visitors and not the world’s largest outdoor haredi synagogue. A religious woman, the mother of three young children, Azaria insists she is not anti-haredi, and that many haredim have encouraged her. “I am the address for haredim,” she explains, “because I am willing to get my hands dirty.” She adds: “I want to affirm to the haredim that they are a part of us – we are all here to stay.”

Statistical projections warning of haredi hordes overwhelming “normal” Israel stoke the media hysteria. But statistical trends are not historical facts. In researching his 2003 book Real Jews: Secular Versus Ultra-Orthodox: The Struggle for Jewish Identity in Israel, Professor Efron traced these Chicken Little statistical warnings to the 1960s. “It has become a staple media trope,” Efron says, “with some predicting the tipping point in 10 years time, others seven, sometimes 15. It should have happened in 1970, then again, and again, but never did.” And while demographers insist that now the threat is real, the steady, underpublicized exit from the community may provide the counter that the million-person Russian immigration provided a decade ago. This attrition accounts for the mirror-image standoff. Haredi and non-haredi Israelis both feel embattled, threatened by the other, and abused by the other’s advantages.

This political dynamic, rooted in the 1990s, persists. Most histories of the haredim in Israel emphasize Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s initial deal to exempt a few Torah scholars from military duty. Two other moments were also critical. The counter-revolution of 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud broke the Labor Party’s 29-year political monopoly, fragmented the Israeli political market, boosting the haredim. During the 1990s, demagogues in the ultra-Orthodox party Shas and the anti-ultra-Orthodox party Shinui both discovered the political benefits of battling each other. The result has been growing polarization – and a feeling among the haredim that they are a despised minority, whose standing is resented and imperiled.

The recent spate of spats may be a good sign. Constructive reform sometimes begins with seemingly destructive clashes. Rachel Azaria and other activists no longer feel alone. They believe Israelis are now addressing this issue, which requires visionary leadership. The experience of the 1990s suggest that demagoguery and demonization will not help. What’s needed is statesmanship with a soft touch, a rarity in Israel’s dyspeptic political culture. The right accommodation with the haredim will balance values that are frequently in tension for Americans too. It is difficult reconciling majority rule with minority rights, freedom of religion with equality for women, group prerogatives with individual autonomy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could secure a second term with a more solid majority if he produced a new civic covenant between haredim and Israeli society. But Netanyahu will have to stop acting like a Chicago alderman and start acting like a national leader. Rather than tending his coalition above all else, he must take risks. He should leverage the generous subsidies the haredim currently enjoy to force the rabbis to control the bullies and accept more responsibilities as Israeli citizens. Needed reforms include teaching a core curriculum of general subjects in schools that receive state funding, limiting the number of army exemptions, and increasing vocational training. In return, Netanyahu should pass legislation guaranteeing haredim a separate school system and particular exemptions, so their every benefit is not perennially in doubt. And Netanyahu must move all Israelis beyond classical Zionism’s monolithic, tanned, bronzed secular “New Jews” finding unity in uniformity; today’s multicultural Israelis should celebrate diversity while sharing common civic commitments.

Just as particular historical forces shaped this haredi moment, a new covenant can foster a healthier relationship. Israelis await such wise governance, in this realm and many others.

What my mother knew about the Assads (& Hamas’ rift with the new Egyptian government)

March 07, 2012

* Hamas criticizes Egypt for blocking oil supplies: Fuel crisis has caused lengthy electricity blackouts

* Fatah activists in Ramallah denounce the visit by Israeli doctors offering help as a form of “normalization” with Israel

* Israel, the “Apartheid State” that minorities keep struggling to get into

* Palestinian journalist Ramzi Abu Hadid: “Does Hanan Ashrawi really care about Palestinians, or is she just being paid by Europeans and Western NGOs to keep bashing the region’s only democratic country, which, though admittedly not perfect, still tries harder than any other to treat all of its people with decency and equality?”

* After the 1973 war, Henry Kissinger visited Assad Sr. 13 times, believing that he could be the most trusted Arab partner of the U.S.

* Tom Gross: The bipartisan Western charm offensive on the Assad family lasted almost 50 years despite their continuous reign of torture and murder throughout this period


A Damascus billboard: Hafez Assad and sons

 

CONTENTS

1. Hamas criticizes Egypt for blocking oil supplies
2. Hatred of Israel trumps treating sick Palestinians
3. “For a while, Syria belonged to my mother”
4. The hypocrisy of Hanan Ashrawi
5. “Hamas blames power crisis on Egypt in rare rift” (Reuters, March 3, 2012)
6. “The Hate Business’ (Khaled Abu Toameh, Stonegate Institute, March 2, 2012)
7. “What my mother knew about the Assads” (Philip Boyes, Wall St Journal, March 6, 2012)
8. “The ‘Apartheid State’ that minorities keep struggling to get into” (Ramzi Abu Hadid, Stonegate Institute, March 1, 2012)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles on a variety of subjects.

Many of you are very busy so I have prepared summaries first for those of you who don’t have time to read the articles in full

 

SUMMARIES

HAMAS CRITICIZES EGYPT FOR BLOCKING OIL SUPPLIES

Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has blamed Egypt for causing a power crisis that has triggered lengthy blackouts, exposing the tensions between Hamas and the new government in Cairo.

The outages in Gaza started in mid-February, leaving households with just six hours of electricity a day.

Crucial fuel supplies that feed Gaza’s sole power plant were unexpectedly cut and Egypt has told Hamas that in future it should import its oil through legal channels – namely the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Hamas is struggling to overcome unprecedented internal divisions over efforts to overcome a deep rift between itself and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party runs the West Bank.

The reconciliation efforts have been partly brokered by Egypt and Cairo may have turned off the fuel taps to put pressure on a highly hesitant Hamas to accept the proposed unity accord.

 

HATRED OF ISRAEL TRUMPS TREATING SICK PALESTINIANS

The fact that thousands of Palestinian patients receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals each year did not stop Palestinians from voicing opposition to a visit by Israeli physicians to Ramallah last week. The physicians visited the Palestine Medical Compound and another clinic to learn about the Palestinians’ medical services in the West Bank.

Their presence in Ramallah drew furious reactions from some Palestinian doctors and nurses. Fatah activists in Ramallah denounced the tour as a form of “normalization” with Israel. They reminded the Palestinian Authority that its leaders had repeatedly urged Palestinians to resist all forms of “normalization” with Israel.

The Palestinian fury over the visit of the Israeli medical team to Ramallah is a sign of increased radicalization among Palestinians. It is also a severe blow to those Israelis and Palestinians who continue to talk about coexistence and peace between the two sides.

Despite receiving billions of dollars in Western aid, the Palestinian Authority has siphoned off the money and not invested enough in improving medical services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past two decades, many Palestinians continue to rely on Israel for proper medical treatment.

Some of the Palestinian’s top leaders, including ministers and the former mufti of Jerusalem, were among tens of thousands of Palestinians who underwent life-saving surgery in Israeli hospitals over the past two decades.

Scores of Palestinian physicians receive training in Israeli hospitals every year and many even seek the assistance of their Israeli colleagues in treating patients who are admitted to Palestinian hospitals.

 

“FOR A WHILE, SYRIA BELONGED TO MY MOTHER”

Philip Boyes (the former speechwriter for Jerzy Buzek, who served as president of the European Parliament from 2010-12) writes (in summary):

… For a while, Syria belonged to my mother, Farida Kuligowska, who studied at Damascus University in the 1970s and later returned as a journalist in the early ‘80s. She was shy, flaxen-haired and fluent in Arabic…

The other day, on the anniversary of my mother’s passing, I was rummaging through a box brimming with tourist knick-knacks and my mother’s photos of people in flared jeans and sequined jackets, when I found a bulky book of newspaper clippings from her time in the Middle East. Stuffed between the yellowed pages were her student letters to her anxious father in Warsaw, scribbled notes for a book, and the articles she wrote later as a roving reporter in and around Syria for Polityka, a Polish weekly.

The letters … paint a vivid picture of Hafez’s Damascus. My mother lived close to what the locals called Hanging Square, the place that had until recently been used to string up supposed traitors and spies…

Why was my mother instinctively skeptical of Assad père? Her inheritance surely had something to do with it. She was born in Cairo to Polish parents. Her mother was a Polish Jew who spent the war wading through Warsaw’s sewers as a partisan. Her father was a pre-war socialist who became Poland’s ambassador to Egypt in 1946.

My grandparents named her Farida – Arabic for “unique” – in honor of Queen Farida, the wife of Egypt’s King Farouk... That Jewishness stayed a family secret for decades, not just to allow my grandfather to function as an envoy in the Arab world but also to shield his wife, a Holocaust survivor and onetime staunch believer in socialism, from subsequent anti-Semitic purges in Poland.

Belief, disillusion and concealment: These were the undercurrents in socialist Poland as they were in socialist Syria… I just wish my mother were around to see Bashar get his just deserts.

 

THE HYPOCRISY OF HANAN ASHRAWI

Jordanian-based Palestinian journalist Ramzi Abu Hadid writes (in summary):

Has Ashrawi, the self-declared human rights advocate, never heard of the thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who try to infiltrate into Israel every morning in search of work and a better life?

Prominent PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi is demanding that the international community declare Israel an “Apartheid State.” Her demand was included in a statement she published in Ramallah this week: she accused Israel of incitement against Arabs and of violating international laws.

How come she never mentions the incitement of Palestinians against Israelis in the Palestinian government-issued textbooks, or in the schools and summer camps named after terrorists, or in the government-controlled TV stations which just last week again glorified terrorists with video celebrations again and again of the tenth anniversary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that over the years has killed dozens of Israelis, including many children?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that in Saudi Arabia there is not only gender apartheid – in which women have virtually no rights and are kept as virtual prisoners, unable to travel without the permission of a male guardian or relative, even if he is a child or retarded or mentally defective – but also that there are separate roads marked for Muslims to drive on and for non-Muslims to drive on? You are not even allowed to bring a Bible into the country. How come those acts are not “Apartheid”?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that here in Jordan the government has been trying to strip thousands of us Palestinians of our Jordanian citizenship – a move Israel never made against its Christians and Muslims…

Does Hanan Ashrawi really care about Palestinians, or is she just being paid by Europeans and Western NGOs to keep bashing the region’s only democratic country, which, though admittedly not perfect, still tries harder than any other to treat all of its people with decency and equality?

[Summaries above by Tom Gross]

 

(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.)

 

FULL ARTICLES

HAMAS BLAMES POWER CRISIS ON EGYPT IN RARE RIFT

Hamas blames power crisis on Egypt in rare rift
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Reuters
March 3, 2012

GAZA (Reuters) - Gaza’s top political leader blamed Egypt on Friday for causing a power crisis that has triggered lengthy blackouts in the Palestinian enclave, laying bare tensions between his Islamist group Hamas and Cairo.

The outages started in mid-February, leaving households with just six hours of electricity a day, provoking widespread criticism within the territory of Hamas, which governs Gaza.

Looking to deflect the anger, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told supporters that Egypt controlled the flow of fuel into Gaza and suggested the authorities in Cairo should have done more to help following the downfall of former president Hosni Mubarak.

“Is it reasonable that Gaza remains without electricity a year after the revolution in Egypt?” Haniyeh said in a weekly address, accusing Cairo of trying to force Gazans to accept their energy supplies via arch foe Israel.

“Is it reasonable that Gaza remains blockaded a year after the dismissal of the tyrant (Mubarak) regime?” he said.

There was no immediate comment from Egypt.

Crucial fuel supplies that feed Gaza’s sole power plant were unexpectedly cut last month and Egypt has told Hamas that in future it should import its oil through legal channels – namely the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Officials have indicated that Egypt was angry that Hamas was smuggling in subsidised fuel intended for the Egyptian people. Haniyeh said he could not agree to shift imports via Kerem Shalom because they would be too costly and vulnerable.

Haniyeh said Egypt wanted Gazans to pay $1 a litre for fuel in future – more than what they paid for smuggled diesel. Hamas used to tax the oil that came in from the tunnels, but goods entering Gaza via Israel is taxed by its rival, the Palestinian Authority (PA), thereby jeopardising Hamas finances.

“There is also a security problem. If someone fired a bullet three kilometers away from Kerem Shalom, the Israelis would close the crossing and prevent the entry of fuel,” Haniyeh said.

Hamas has not renounced violence and militants in the enclave regularly fire missiles at Israel.

The power crisis has come at a bad time for Hamas, which is struggling to overcome unprecedented internal divisions over efforts to overcome a deep rift between itself and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose PA body runs the West Bank.

The reconciliation efforts have been partly brokered by Egypt and some newspaper commentators have suggested that Cairo turned off the fuel taps to put pressure on a highly hesitant Hamas to accept the proposed unity accord.

Without mentioning Egypt by name, Haniyeh appeared to give credence to the speculation. “Some parties want to continue to pressure Gaza, Hamas and the government, believing they can get concessions,” he said, adding: “Neither electricity nor anything else will push Gaza people make any concession.”

With the situation deadlocked, Haniyeh said Gaza might be able to get fuel for free from Algeria or Iran.

 

THE HATE BUSINESS

The Hate Business
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Stonegate Institute
March 2, 2012

The fact that thousands of Palestinian patients receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals each year did not stop Palestinians from voicing opposition to a visit by Israeli physicians to Ramallah last week.

The Israeli physicians arrived in Ramallah as part of a tour that was organized by the Palestinian Authority.

The physicians visited the Palestine Medical Compound and another clinic to learn about the Palestinians’ medical services in the West Bank.

The presence of the physicians in Ramallah drew furious reactions from the workers at the medical compound and many Palestinians, including the Western-backed Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

Some doctors and nurses claimed that the physicians were in fact Israeli army officers. Palestinian media outlets quoted “eyewitnesses” as saying that the army vehicles and soldiers accompanied the Israeli doctors during the tour. Attempts by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to explain that the visitors were not army officers have thus far fall fallen on deaf ears.

Fatah activists in Ramallah denounced the tour as a form of “normalization” with Israel. They reminded the Palestinian Authority that its leaders had repeatedly urged Palestinians to resist all forms of “normalization” with Israel.

The Palestinian fury over the visit of the Israeli medical team to Ramallah is a sign of increased radicalization among Palestinians. It is also a severe blow to those Israelis and Palestinians who continue to talk about coexistence and peace between the two sides.

If anyone stands to lose from boycotting Israeli physicians it is the Palestinians themselves.

Because the Palestinian Authority has not invested enough in improving medical services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past two decades, many Palestinians continue to rely on Israel for proper medical treatment.

Some of the Palestinian’s top leaders, including ministers and the former mufti of Jerusalem, were among tens of thousands of Palestinians who underwent life-saving surgery in Israeli hospitals over the past two decades.

Scores of Palestinian physicians receive training in Israeli hospitals every year and many even seek the assistance of their Israeli colleagues in treating patients who are admitted to Palestinian hospitals. Some Palestinians sold their homes and lands to be able to cover the expenses of being admitted to an Israeli hospital.

But instead of welcoming Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in the medical field, some Palestinians are calling for boycotting those who are trying to save the lives of their own patients.

The Palestinian Minister of Health, Fathi Abu Mughli, is now facing sharp criticism for permitting the Israelis to visit the medical center. Some Palestinians have gone as far as calling on the Palestinian government to bring him to trial for his “crime.”
But to his credit, Abu Mughli has come out in defense of the visit, arguing that he did not advocate a boycott of Israeli physicians and medical services. The minister explained that it would be foolish of Palestinians to boycott Israeli doctors and hospitals at a time when many Palestinian patients are being treated in Israel.

Palestinians who are opposed to “normalization” with Israeli physicians are the victims of years of indoctrination and messages of hate emanating from their leaders and media. And some Palestinians have become so enriched by hatred that it it would not pay for them to stop.

 

WHAT MY MOTHER KNEW ABOUT THE ASSADS

What my mother knew about the Assads
The experience of Eastern Europe teaches that sooner or later a despot’s mask always slips.
By Philip Boyes
The Wall Street Journal (European edition)
March 6, 2012

I often wonder what my mother, who died in 2002, would have made of Syria today: the bloodshed, the butchery, the brutality of Bashar Assad’s regime depicted in grainy cell-phone videos on YouTube. A country torn at the seams.

For a while, Syria belonged to my mother, Farida Kuligowska, who studied at Damascus University in the 1970s and later returned as a journalist in the early ‘80s. She was shy, flaxen-haired and fluent in Arabic.

I like to think she would have seen through Bashar Assad long before these dark days, and balked at his pretense of being a reformer. She certainly had her doubts about Hafez, Bashar’s father, even at a time when he was America’s darling. After the 1973 war, Henry Kissinger visited Assad Sr. 13 times, believing that the cunning peasant-leader could be the most trusted Arab partner of the U.S.

The other day, on the anniversary of my mother’s passing, I was rummaging through a box brimming with tourist knick-knacks and my mother’s photos of people in flared jeans and sequined jackets, when I found a bulky book of newspaper clippings from her time in the Middle East. Stuffed between the yellowed pages were her student letters to her anxious father in Warsaw, scribbled notes for a book, and the articles she wrote later as a roving reporter in and around Syria for Polityka, a Polish weekly.

The letters set her father’s mind to rest – there was a war brewing, after all. But they also paint a vivid picture of Hafez’s Damascus. My mother lived close to what the locals called Hanging Square, the place that had until recently been used to string up supposed traitors and spies. The rents were cheaper there, but even so, Polish students had to share cramped digs to make ends meet. Soldiers in khaki were everywhere, a reminder that before Hafez, Syria had witnessed coup after coup.

In the months after the 1973 war, Damascus was a dark place. The Israelis had hit the main power plant, so all of the lights were kept dimmed. My mother reported that faces would emerge out of the evening gloom as a painterly chiaroscuro. Unlike the bustling capitals of Cairo and Beirut, the streets would empty of cars by 9 p.m.

Yet Hafez Assad’s Damascus retained a sheen of glamour, and enough metropolitan flair to make outsiders believe that Assad was on the way toward making his people richer and happier. My mother wrote home about the fashionable boutiques on Kasar Street, well beyond her shoestring budget. She longed to hang out in the Piccadilly, the place to see and be seen. It had been renamed Cordoba due to a ban on English names, and the city’s murals depicting 18th-century London had been plastered over on the orders of a Baathist official, but it retained its allure as a society hangout.

All of this was part of Hafez Assad’s confidence trickery, the illusion that Baathist dictatorship could have a smiling, youthful face. His 1973 constitution, for instance, guaranteed women’s “equal status in society.” Assad boosted investment in infrastructure, the health sector and education. My mother’s dissertation analyzed these education reforms and was broadly supportive, but soon enough she was no longer giving Assad the benefit of doubt.

And indeed, by 1982 Hafez was massacring tens of thousands of Sunnis in Hama. My mother was back in Poland by then, her country ruled by generals but mercifully massacre-free. Assad’s killings barely made the heavily censored newspapers, but she had known that sooner or later the mask would slip.

Why was my mother instinctively skeptical of Assad père? Her inheritance surely had something to do with it. She was born in Cairo to Polish parents. Her mother was a Polish Jew who spent the war wading through Warsaw’s sewers as a partisan. Her father was a pre-war socialist who became Poland’s ambassador to Egypt in 1946.

My grandparents named her Farida – Arabic for “unique” – in honor of Queen Farida, the wife of Egypt’s King Farouk. Her father asked King Farouk in person for permission to name his daughter after Her Majesty, and made sure that the king did not find out that his wife was Jewish. That Jewishness stayed a family secret for decades, not just to allow my grandfather to function as an envoy in the Arab world but also to shield his wife, a Holocaust survivor and onetime staunch believer in socialism, from subsequent anti-Semitic purges in Poland.

Belief, disillusion and concealment: These were the undercurrents in socialist Poland as they were in socialist Syria. And just as these resentments all at once erupted into cataclysm in Eastern Europe more than two decades ago, they are surfacing spectacularly in Syria today. In the case of the Assads, it’s like father, like son. Bashar – an ophthalmologist trained in the West, his wife hailed by Vogue as “a rose of the desert” – came to power promising a Damascus Spring. Instead he has delivered artillery attacks on civilians.

Only fools take despots at face value. I just wish my mother were around to see Bashar get his just deserts.

 

THE “APARTHEID STATE” THAT MINORITIES KEEP STRUGGLING TO GET INTO

The “Apartheid State” that minorities keep struggling to get into
By Ramzi Abu Hadid
Stonegate Institute
March 1, 2012

Prominent PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi is demanding that the international community declare Israel an “Apartheid State.” Her demand was included in a statement she published in Ramallah this week: she accused Israel of incitement against Arabs and of violating international laws.

How come she never mentions the incitement of Palestinians against Israelis in the Palestinian government-issued textbooks, or in the schools and summer camps named after terrorists, or in the government-controlled TV stations which just last week again glorified terrorists with video celebrations again and again of the tenth anniversary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that over the years has killed dozens of Israelis, including many children?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that in Saudi Arabia there is not only gender apartheid – in which women have virtually no rights and are kept as virtual prisoners, unable to travel without the permission of a male guardian or relative, even if he is a child or retarded or mentally defective – but also that there are separate roads marked for Muslims to drive on and for non-Muslims to drive on? You are not even allowed to bring a Bible into the country. How come those acts are not “Apartheid”?

How come Ashrawi never mentions that here in Jordan the government has been trying to strip thousands of us Palestinians of our Jordanian citizenship – a move Israel never made against its Christians and Muslims.

As an Arab Christian, Ashrawi would have done better if she had chosen to focus on the plight of her fellow Christians in the Palestinian territories, many of whom continue to complain about persecution and harassment from Muslims.

Has Ashrawi, the self-declared human right rights advocate, never heard of thousands of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who try to infiltrate into Israel every morning in search of work and a better life?

Why has it become the dream of many Arab Christians and Muslims to emigrate to the “Apartheid State”? Is it possible that all these people are uninformed? Or do they really know the truth about Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East? In Egypt, Syria, and Iran, for example, government officials put journalists in jail, but Israel is the only country in the region where one small journalist nobody has ever heard of can put a government official in jail.

In the past few decades, many Christian families from Bethlehem and even the Gaza Strip have moved to live in Israel because they feel safer in the “Apartheid State” than they do among their Muslim “brothers”.

Has Ashrawi ever asked herself how come dozens of Christians and Muslims from neighboring Arab countries and Africa try to infiltrate the border into Israel every day, or how come so many of her fellow Christians want to live in the “Apartheid State”?

Is Ashrawi aware of the fact that while Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered in the Arab world and Africa, the Jewish state remains the safest place for them to live? Is she aware that the Christian population in Israel is on the rise while in the Arab and Islamic world it is dwindling – and even faster in places such as Nigeria, Egypt and the Sudan where Muslims are slaughtering Christians?

What has Ashrawi done to promote the rights of women and freedom of speech under Hamas and Fatah?

On the same day that she issued her appeal to the international community, a Palestinian court in the West Bank sentenced a man to only five years in prison for murdering his sister. And on the same day also, Palestinian policemen raided a university campus near Ramallah and threatened peaceful protesters and reporters.

Tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims have put their lives at risk by crossing the border into Israel from Egypt, where border guards often open fire at women and children.

Does Hanan Ashrawi really care about Palestinians, or is she just being paid by Europeans and Western NGOs to keep bashing the region’s only democratic country, which, though admittedly not perfect, still tries harder than any other to treat all of its people with decency and equality?

“He didn’t quite have a full grasp of what the full region looks like”

March 05, 2012


* Israel asks Red Cross to deliver Israeli humanitarian aid to trapped and wounded civilians in neighboring Syria

* Former New York Times Mideast bureau chief speaks to “Occupy AIPAC” as President Obama speaks to AIPAC

***

(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.)

 

CONTENTS

1. U.S. and Israeli leaders meet today on Iran
2. “He didn’t quite have a full grasp of what the full region looks like”
3. Former New York Times Mideast bureau chief speaks to “Occupy AIPAC”
4. Hamas’ military wing publicizes Occupy AIPAC
5. Israel asks Red Cross to deliver Israeli humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians
6. Full transcript of Obama’s AIPAC speech


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

U.S. AND ISRAELI LEADERS MEET TODAY ON IRAN

U.S. President Obama holds talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House today. Despite considerable media speculation about friction between the two governments, there is likely to be a serious set of discussions about planning and tactics to try and prevent Iran building nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech at the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC in Washington in which he tried to persuade his audience that stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear arsenal is as much an American policy as it is an Israeli one.

Many in Israel, however, don’t believe Obama is serious about this issue and will fail to act before Iran’s nuclear program is so well fortified and buried underground that it will become impossible to destroy from the air.

(For more recent background, please see: Weakness invites war (& “The coming attack on Iran”)

Supporters of Israel noted that Obama’s speech yesterday corrected some of the notions they considered offensive in his landmark Cairo speech of June 2009. For example, yesterday Obama referred to Israel as “the historic homeland of the Jewish people.”

Leading candidates to run against Obama on behalf of the Republican Party in the November elections criticized him yesterday. After Obama’s speech, Mitt Romney said at a campaign stop near Atlanta, “If Barack Obama gets re-elected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon, and the world will change if that’s the case.”

Speaking on CNN, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, said of the president’s Iran strategy: “We’re being played for fools. Israel is such a small country; it is so compact that two or three nuclear weapons would be equivalent to a second Holocaust.”

 

“HE DIDN’T QUITE HAVE A FULL GRASP OF WHAT THE FULL REGION LOOKS LIKE”

I attach a full transcript of Obama’s speech below.

For those who prefer to watch it on video, the official White House video is here:

www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2012/03/04/president-obama-2012-aipac-policy-conference

For an alternative view of Obama’s record on Israel, here is a new 30 minute film, titled “Daylight: The story of Obama and Israel”:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wbH5KVPrPo

This film is quite partisan against Obama, but several valid points are made in it.

“He didn’t quite have a full grasp of what the full region looks like,” leading Middle East expert Lee Smith says in the film. “This is not how you treat an ally.”

 

FORMER NEW YORK TIMES MIDEAST BUREAU CHIEF SPEAKS FOR ‘OCCUPY AIPAC’

Former New York Times Jerusalem correspondent Chris Hedges was one of several anti-Israel speakers at the “Occupy AIPAC” conference held this weekend in Washington to coincide with the AIPAC conference.

www.occupyaipac.org/summit/schedule2012/

Occupy AIPAC describes itself as “a coalition effort led by CODEPINK: Women for Peace and endorsed by Occupy Wall Street, Occupy DC, and over 130 organizations.”

***

I wrote the following about Hedges in a piece published in 2003:

www.tomgrossmedia.com/NewYorkTimes.htm

Another former Times correspondent, Chris Hedges (he was the Mideast bureau chief for the Times from 1991-95), is also continuing to make wild accusations against Israel. For instance, he wrote (Harper’s magazine, October 2001) that he has seen children shot in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Sarajevo, and mothers with infants lined up and massacred in Algeria, but that until going to Gaza he had “never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.”

We have only Hedges’s word for this claim, which was furiously rejected by the Israeli army (although Hedges doesn’t mention this in his piece). No other journalist in Gaza – and there are plenty of them – claims to have seen what Hedges does. Nevertheless, Harper’s was so impressed by the quote that they flagged it in very large type on the flap attached to the cover of the magazine, and National Public Radio was so excited that they invited Hedges to repeat his allegations on the air (“Fresh Air,” October 30, 2001). Of course, the Times can’t be held accountable for an article that appeared elsewhere, but one nevertheless has to wonder how balanced the reporters it assigns to the Middle East are.

 

HAMAS’ MILITARY WING PUBLICIZES OCCUPY AIPAC

On their website, here:

www.qassam.ps/news-5442-Occupy_AIPAC_to_Protest_Netanyahus_US_Visit.html

 

ISRAEL ASKS RED CROSS TO DELIVER ISRAELI HUMANITARIAN AID TO SYRIAN CIVILIANS

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced this morning that Israel has contacted the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and asked for their help in transferring Israeli humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians.

Lieberman said “The Jewish State cannot sit by and do nothing while these atrocities are taking place in a neighboring state and people are losing their entire world. Even though Israel cannot intervene in events occurring in a country with which it does not have diplomatic relations, it is nevertheless our moral duty to extend humanitarian aid and inspire the world to put an end to the slaughter.”


FULL TRANSCRIPT OF OBAMA’S AIPAC SPEECH

This is the text of President Barack Obama’s speech in Washington yesterday:

Thank you. Well, good morning, everyone.

Rosy, thank you for your kind words. I have never seen Rosy on the basketball court. I’ll bet it would be a treat. Rosy, you’ve been a dear friend of mine for a long time and a tireless advocate for the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States. And as you complete your term as president, I salute your leadership and your commitment.

I want to thank the board of directors. As always, I’m glad to see my longtime friends in the Chicago delegation. I also want to thank the members of Congress who are with us here today, and who will be speaking to you over the next few days. You’ve worked hard to maintain the partnership between the United States and Israel. And I especially want to thank my close friend and leader of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

I’m glad that my outstanding young ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is in the house. I understand that Dan is perfecting his Hebrew on his new assignment, and I appreciate his constant outreach to the Israeli people. And I’m also pleased that we’re joined by so many Israeli officials, including Ambassador Michael Oren. And tomorrow, I’m very much looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation back to the White House.

Every time I come to AIPAC, I’m especially impressed to see so many young people here. You don’t yet get the front seats - I understand. You have to earn that. But students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging deeply in our democratic debate. You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel. And you have the opportunity - and the responsibility - to make your own mark on the world. And for inspiration, you can look to the man who preceded me on this stage, who’s being honored at this conference - my friend, President Shimon Peres.

Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first world war. But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people. And when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea - toward home.

In his life, he has fought for Israel’s independence, and he has fought for peace and security. As a member of the Haganah and a member of the Knesset, as a minister of defense and foreign affairs, as a prime minister and as president - Shimon helped build the nation that thrives today: the Jewish state of Israel. But beyond these extraordinary achievements, he has also been a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might - not the other way around.

Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, “slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom.” And he has lived those values. He has taught us to ask more of ourselves and to empathize more with our fellow human beings. I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example. And I’m proud to announce that later this spring, I will invite Shimon Peres to the White House to present him with America’s highest civilian honor - the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In many ways, this award is a symbol of the broader ties that bind our nations. The United States and Israel share interests, but we also share those human values that Shimon spoke about: a commitment to human dignity. A belief that freedom is a right that is given to all of God’s children. An experience that shows us that democracy is the one and only form of government that can truly respond to the aspirations of citizens.

America’s Founding Fathers understood this truth, just as Israel’s founding generation did. President Truman put it well, describing his decision to formally recognize Israel only minutes after it declared independence. He said, “I had faith in Israel before it was established. I believe it has a glorious future before it - as not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”

For over six decades, the American people have kept that faith. Yes, we are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share - in security for our communities, prosperity for our people, the new frontiers of science that can light the world. But ultimately it is our common ideals that provide the true foundation for our relationship. That is why America’s commitment to Israel has endured under Democratic and Republican presidents, and congressional leaders of both parties. In the United States, our support for Israel is bipartisan, and that is how it should stay.

AIPAC’s work continually nurtures this bond. And because of AIPAC’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission, you can expect that over the next several days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship. But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as president of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture - at every fork in the road - we have been there for Israel. Every single time.

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that, “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as president. The fact is my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year. We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology - the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge - because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

This isn’t just about numbers on a balance sheet. As a senator, I spoke to Israeli troops on the Lebanese border. I visited with families who’ve known the terror of rocket fire in Sderot. And that’s why, as president, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes and hospitals and schools in that town and in others. Now our assistance is expanding Israel’s defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles. Because no family, no citizen, should live in fear.

And just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we’ve been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism.

When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them. When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. And whenever an effort is made to delegitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now - when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.

Which is why, if during this political season you hear some questions regarding my administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America’s national security is too important. Israel’s security is too important.

Of course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but rather my administration’s ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. So let me say this: I make no apologies for pursuing peace. Israel’s own leaders understand the necessity of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres - each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state. I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interest.

The reality that Israel faces - from shifting demographics, to emerging technologies, to an extremely difficult international environment - demands a resolution of this issue. And I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values - because of our shared belief in self-determination, and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected.

Of course, peace is hard to achieve. There’s a reason why it’s remained elusive for six decades. The upheaval and uncertainty in Israel’s neighborhood makes it that much harder - from the horrific violence raging in Syria, to the transition in Egypt. And the division within the Palestinian leadership makes it harder still - most notably, with Hamas’s continued rejection of Israel’s very right to exist.

But as hard as it may be, we should not and cannot give in to cynicism or despair. The changes taking place in the region make peace more important, not less. And I’ve made it clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met. That’s why we continue to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel, and will continue to support the peace treaty with Egypt. That’s why - just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace - we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist and reject violence and adhere to existing agreements. And that is why my administration has consistently rejected any efforts to short-cut negotiations or impose an agreement on the parties.

As Rosy noted, last year, I stood before you and pledged that, “the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations.” As you know, that pledge has been kept. Last September, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed that any lasting peace must acknowledge the fundamental legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns. I said that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, our friendship with Israel is enduring and that Israel must be recognized. No American president has made such a clear statement about our support for Israel at the United Nations at such a difficult time. People usually give those speeches before audiences like this one - not before the General Assembly.

And I must say, there was not a lot of applause. But it was the right thing to do. And as a result, today there is no doubt - anywhere in the world - that the United States will insist upon Israel’s security and legitimacy. That will be true as we continue our efforts to pursue - in the pursuit of peace. And that will be true when it comes to the issue that is such a focus for all of us today: Iran’s nuclear program - a threat that has the potential to bring together the worst rhetoric about Israel’s destruction with the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand: No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction. And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and all of Israel’s leaders.

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States.

Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the nonproliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

And that is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is what we have done.

When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters. Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to thousands, without facing broad pushback from the world. In the region, Iran was ascendant - increasingly popular and extending its reach. In other words, the Iranian leadership was united and on the move, and the international community was divided about how to go forward.

And so from my very first months in office, we put forward a very clear choice to the Iranian regime: a path that would allow them to rejoin the community of nations if they meet their international obligations, or a path that leads to an escalating series of consequences if they don’t. In fact, our policy of engagement - quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime - allowed us to rally the international community as never before, to expose Iran’s intransigence and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.

Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. Some of you will recall, people predicted that Russia and China wouldn’t join us to move toward pressure. They did. And in 2010 the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly supported a comprehensive sanctions effort. Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime. They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011. Many questioned whether we could hold our coalition together as we moved against Iran’s Central Bank and oil exports. But our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere are joining us. And in 2012, the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions.

That is where we are today, because of our work. Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure. And by the way, the Arab Spring has only increased these trends, as the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is exposed, and its ally, the Assad regime, is crumbling.

Of course, so long as Iran fails to meet its obligations, this problem remains unresolved. The effective implementation of our policy is not enough - we must accomplish our objective. And in that effort, I firmly believe that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy - backed by pressure - to succeed.

The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program. Now, the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists. Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July - thanks to our diplomatic coordination - a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold. Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. They can choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end.

And given their history, there are, of course, no guarantees that the Iranian regime will make the right choice. But both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved diplomatically. After all, the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons. That’s what history tells us.

Moreover, as president and commander in chief, I have a deeply held preference for peace over war. I have sent men and women into harm’s way. I’ve seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who’ve come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don’t make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those moments as the most searing of my presidency. And for this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when the time and circumstances demand it. And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.

We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically. Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States - just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues, the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly; carry a big stick. And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve and that our coordination with Israel will continue.

These are challenging times. But we’ve been through challenging times before, and the United States and Israel have come through them together. Because of our cooperation, citizens in both our countries have benefited from the bonds that bring us together. I’m proud to be one of those people. In the past, I’ve shared in this forum just why those bonds are so personal for me: the stories of a great uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald, to my memories of returning there with Elie Wiesel; from sharing books with President Peres to sharing seders with my young staff in a tradition that started on the campaign trail and continues in the White House; from the countless friends I know in this room to the concept of tikkun olam that has enriched and guided my life.

As Harry Truman understood, Israel’s story is one of hope. We may not agree on every single issue - no two nations do, and our democracies contain a vibrant diversity of views. But we agree on the big things - the things that matter. And together, we are working to build a better world - one where our people can live free from fear; one where peace is founded upon justice; one where our children can know a future that is more hopeful than the present.

There is no shortage of speeches on the friendship between the United States and Israel. But I’m also mindful of the proverb, “A man is judged by his deeds, not his words.” So if you want to know where my heart lies, look no further than what I have done - to stand up for Israel; to secure both of our countries and to see that the rough waters of our time lead to a peaceful and prosperous shore.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the people of Israel. God bless the United States of America.