Monday, January 31, 2011

From Israel: Convoluted and Painful Process

Arlene Kushner
Arlene from Israel
31 January '11

The issues are anything but simple, and resolution of the situation in Egypt will not happen overnight, or in a week or a month. I do not intend to focus exclusively on this situation. And yet... it is so important, and so fraught with major consequences, that we must continue to keep a very watchful eye.


At present there is a sort of holding pattern, or stalemate. Mubarak is refusing to step down. He has appointed a new cabinet and instructed the new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, to "allow wider participation" of political parties, and to address unemployment concerns.

These orders touch upon two key issues.

Financial difficulties being endured by the Egyptian people have a great deal to do with what brought tens of thousands into the street. (Anxiety about the subsidization of bread -- a staple in Egypt --because of Egyptian fiscal policies that have brought higher prices may have figured into this.)

Wider participation of political parties is meant to signal the very beginning of governmental reform; what actually happens in this regard remains to be seen.

The "new" cabinet has seen some people replaced, but still consists of many familiar faces.


In the meantime, the protests are still going on in the street, with tanks roaming about and helicopters overhead. Protesters insist they are not stopping until Mubarak leaves.

The expectation in many quarters is that Mubarak will resign shortly and make way for his vice president, Suleiman -- who certainly has the experience and capacity to take control.

Zvi Mazel, who served as ambassador to Egypt, has written:

"The people are no longer clamoring for food and work, they want him gone, and it is doubtful that they will settle for less. Even if Mubarak manages to hold on, it will be as a diminished president..." (Thanks here to Lily S.)

What seems most clearly the case is that if there is to be stable reform in Egypt -- that moves even tentatively in the direction of democracy -- it must be done via a moderating and reformulated version of the current regime, and not via a takeover by the street.

If Mubarak is to finish his term, writes Mazel, "he will have to implement political and economic reforms, including significant salary raises and increased subsidies, though it is not clear where the money will be coming for. The emergency laws which granted him extraordinary powers will have to be scraped, together with the special clauses introduced in the constitution to limit the possibility for an independent to be candidate for the presidency."


There is much talk about who the leaders of the protest movement are and which ideologies they represent. Young people -- educated and often radicalized -- are seriously invested in the rebellion. But what becomes more and more evident is how deeply involved is the Muslim Brotherhood, even though it has not moved to officially assume leadership.

As Shmuel Even, writing for the Institute for National Security Studies, put it:

"The outcome of the riots may not necessarily be connected to what or who ignited them, rather to whatever power structure is created and those who succeed in leveraging it for their own benefit."

The Brotherhood has announced official backing for El-Baradei, who first demanded Mubarak's ouster, and now has the Brotherhood's blessing to negotiate a "unity government."


Down the road, it goes without saying, the Egyptian military, and the leader it supports, will have considerable effect on what happens.


The Right to Self-Defense

26 Sh'vat 5771
31 January '11

Three years ago, the soldiers David Rubin HY"D and Achikam Amichai HY"D were murdered by Arabs while hiking in Nachal Telem in the Har Hebron region. Their friends swore to honor their memories by continuing to hike everywhere in the Land of Israel.

For three years now, there have been weekly ‘David and Achikam hikes’ throughout Judea and Samaria, among springs and caves, streams and breathtaking views.

The hikes are organized by responsible and cautious guides, who have led thousands of hikers from all parts of the country: Ashdod, Rishon Letzion, Bat Yam, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya, and more.

Last Friday, the 23rd of Shvat 5771 (Jan. 28, 2011), the group hiked to Biblical Tel Gedor in Gush Etzion. On the way back, Arabs from a nearby village saw them and began shooting guns and throwing stones. The size of the group – in the dozens – and its make-up – which included people in their ‘70s, made a quick evacuation difficult and while descending the Tel, defensive measures were required.

When army and police forces arrived, they arrested the hikers who were carrying weapons. Those hikers were imprisoned and charged with homicide before it was even established that any Arab had been killed, before a dead body was even produced, and before even one Arab was interrogated.

On Wednesday, the 28th of Shvat, February 2nd, there will be a court hearing in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. We are asking the public to be there at 9:30 a.m. to demand that the Jewish State allow Jews the right to defend themselves and to demand that those detained be freed immediately.

Why is it that when Jews are murdered, our government officials decry the terrorists, but that when Jews save themselves from being murdered, the victims are treated as murderers? When David and Achikam were murdered, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said “[they] fought bravely”. Why is it that now the victims of last week's hike are being treated as killers?

Do Jews in present-day Israel have the right to remain alive by defending themselves against murderous attackers without being charged with homicide?

Human Rights in Yesha- Honenu- Matteh Yehudi Leumi (Mi"L)- Vaad Mityashvei Shomron- Vaad Mityashvei Binyamin- Judea Action Committee- Chomesh Techilla- Manhigut Yehudit- Matte Tsafon- Nachala- Hamateh Lehatsalat Ha'Am veHaarets- Erets Israel Shelanu-Halamish- Neemanei Erets-Virashtem Ota- Women for Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green)

For details Yehudit Katsover 050-7161818 Nadia Matar 050-5500834

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Palileaks and The Guardian’s Agenda Journalism

Simon Plosker
Honest Reporting
31 January '11

Thousands of Palestinian documents, allegedly offering a behind the scenes look at the Palestinian Authority’s stance on peace negotiations with Israel, have been leaked to Al-Jazeera and The Guardian. As the world’s attention turns towards Egypt, the “Palileaks” story has taken something of a haitus offering us a chance to draw breath and examine some of the media issues that have emerged so far.

The Guardian’s Worldview Challenged

The Palestinian documents, if they are to be believed, paint a picture that the Palestinian leadership was prepared to accept the permanence and legitimacy of a large number of Israeli settlements as well as Jewish neighborhoods in eastern parts of Jerusalem. This would seemingly undermine the notion adopted by large swathes of the media (and many international politicians and non-governmental organizations) that settlements represent the biggest “obstacle to peace”.

For The Guardian, the paper has been shown up to be “more Palestinian than the Palestinians”, consistently adopting a more uncompromising approach than the Palestinian leadership, putting its editorial line more in step with that of Hamas. As Robin Shepherd notes:

In one of its most resentful leader columns for years, the Guardian was nothing short of apoplectic: not so much with Israel, but with a Palestinian leadership which has effectively blown the credibility of the Guardian’s very own mantras on the MidEast straight out of the water. The Palestinian leadership, the paper declaimed, had been shown to be “weak” and “craven”. Their concessions amounted to “surrender of land Palestinians have lived on for centuries”. And, in words that look alarmingly close to the position adopted by Hamas, “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.” This is sheer spite.

The Palestinian leadership accepts what any reasonable person has been able to accept for decades. The Guardian then slams them as surrender monkeys. The Guardian newspaper is more hardline against Israel than the Palestinian leadership itself.

(Read full "Palileaks and The Guardian’s Agenda Journalism")

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Amnesty International: Israel is Criminal by Definition

Yaacov Lozowick
Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations
31 January '11

I've been wondering for months if Amnesty International would ever repent for the way it blasted Israel when our police arrested Ameer Makhuol last year. (Here, here, here and here). I even e-mailed them a couple of times, and tweeted. There was of course never any response, nor was one ever expected.

Yesterday, following Makhoul's conviction, Amnesty International finally revisited the story:

"Ameer Makhoul's jailing is a very disturbing development and we will be studying the details of the sentencing as soon as we can," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

"Ameer Makhoul is well known for his human rights activism on behalf of Palestinians in Israel and those living under Israeli occupation. We fear that this may be the underlying reason for his imprisonment."

Translated into English: we haven't read the court's decision, but we know it's wrong, and we know it was handed down because Makhoul is a human rights activist who stands up for Palestinians.

Since the court's decision is in Hebrew, there's no reason to expect anyone at AI will ever read it.

Many years ago, when I was a wee lad at university, I was profoundly and lastingly impressed by the writings of Carl Popper. One of the things I learned from him was about how rational inquiry always needs to ask itself not only what might constitute proof, but what would constitute disproof. In other words, what set of facts might force the inquirer to admit that his thesis is wrong, or at least needs to be modified. If the AI folks and I were still sophomoric students bandying around ideas for the intellectual stimulation, I'd ask them what set of hypothetical facts could possible dampen their conviction that Israel is evil, and is the kind of place that sends innocent men to long jail terms out of mere spite.

Since we're not, I'll postulate that they're driven, among other motivations, by simple old hatred of the Jews, and invite them to submit facts that would disprove this. In any case, they're clearly not in the business of carefully reporting reality. And they are in the business of discrediting the noble idea of human rights.

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Marc Prowisor
Yesha Views
30 January '11

The world watches Egypt closely, Israel is watching even more so. The main concern is who will take power. The number one possibility at this point is the Moslem Brotherhood. Now that nice bunch of guys definitely has an agenda for this neck of the woods. First on their list is ending the Peace Treaty with Israel. This of course includes many sub-categories that do not ease the tensions, not only with the Israeli government, but also many Arab rulers and peoples.

We are seeing demonstrations in Jordan, starting out as Pro-Opposition for Egypt, but also including support for a new Arab state in Israel (or instead of Israel) and rights for the “Palestinian” people of Jordan, who BTW, make up over 70% of that country.

Nice peaceful Lebanon in the North with its new Hezbollah puppet in government seems to be bustin’ at the seams, with the possibility of reeling backward into a civil war once again.

All over the world, Arabs and other protestors are coming out into the street backing the Egyptian protestors, holding signs to oust Mubarak, and bring about reform. Reform? That is one word that may be debated.

And coming back to Israel, some of the Arabs of Israel are getting excited once again that Saladin (Salah al Din) will rise again from somewhere, eventually to cleanse the Jews from all of Israel.

I am concerned that the present US administration is showing such support for this uprising. Mubarak was never a friend to Israel, but he sure was not a friend to Islamic extremists. In fact none of the Arab leaders are a friend of Israel, but they are definitely not interested in loosing power to Extremist Islamic parties.

Now, every analyst or Mid East supposed expert in the world (as long as they live outside the Mid East, in safety) realizes that when an Arab dictator falls, the next step is not democracy. In fact it is usually a slide into extremism, that is, unless the US will station forces defending the “new” government.

There is indeed a domino effect and the question is where will the blocks fall?

Obama Loses the Middle East

Daniel Greenfield
Sultan Knish
30 January '11

It's no coincidence that major revolutions against Western backed governments have occurred under weak American presidents. The Iranian revolution against the Shah happened on Jimmy Carter's watch. The current violence in Tunisia and Egypt is taking place under Obama. And the timing is quite interesting. Revolts which coincided with a new opposition congress almost suggest that they were scheduled for a time when Obama would be at his politically weakest.

Additionally the 2010 defeats would have indicated to the Iranian regime that they might only have a 2 year window in which to act before Obama is replaced by an unknown, but probably more conservative politician. A "Now or Never" moment. The Iranian Revolution might never have happened under Reagan. But Carter's weakness, left wing politics and contempt for the very notion of defending American interests made it possible. Similarly despite attempts by some Bush advisers to take credit for Tunisia and Egypt, it is unlikely that they would have taken place on Bush's watch. Not because the Bush administration was so omnipotent, but because it had regional credibility. The general perception was that the Bush Administration was on alert and supportive of allies. That is not at all the regional perception of the Obama Administration which doesn't seem to know what an ally is.

Obama's mistreatment of the UK, Israel and Honduras, the alienation of Karzai and continuing humiliation at the hands of China and Russia through diplomatic insults, showed weakness and stupidity. The Iranian takeover of the region is premised on that incompetence. Lebanon was a test. The next step was Tunisia. Then Egypt.

Iran has three major obstacles to regional dominance. Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Of these three, Egypt with its radicalized population, great poverty and limited influence in Washington D.C. was the most vulnerable. Any overthrow of Mubarak will move the Muslim Brotherhood closer to taking power. But for Iran the priority is to take Egypt out of the game. Whatever happens in Egypt, it will weaken the country. And what weakens Egypt, only strengthens Iran.

(Read full "Obama Loses the Middle East")

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Conspiracy Theories, Anti-Semitism and the Parable of the Shark

Alexander Joffe
Hudson New York
January 31, 2011 at 4:00 am

After a series of attacks in Egypt, one of which killed a German tourist, the Egyptian Governor of South Sinai, Muhammad Abdel Fadil Shousha, suggested, "What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to be confirmed." Other explanations, such as overfishing forcing sharks into new waters, and dumping animal carcasses from freighters, have also been proposed; but Israeli sharks were the most extensively discussed, not least of all by Western observers. Red Sea sharks are now, for their crimes, being hunted and killed.

Most observers dismissed the shark accusation as merely the latest in a seemingly endless stream of conspiracy theories that flow from, and appear to animate, the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Far deadlier than the shark attacks was the New Year's bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria -- resulting in a stream of accusations from Islamists that Israel, the United States and others were responsible. As Lebanon's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani put it: "This not an individual internal Egyptian act, but a criminal act with Zionist... finger prints that want to sow hatred among Muslims and Coptic Christians." Apparently, neither animals nor humans can escape the machinations of the Jews.

In the Arab and Muslim worlds, "facts" are well known: no Jews were killed on 9/11; Israelis distributed aphrodisiac chewing gum to sexually overstimulate Arab youth in Gaza; Pepsi stands for "Pay Every Penny to Save Israel," and that the stripes on the Israeli flag stand for the Nile and the Euphrates. Although the popularity of the Elders of the Protocols of Zion and Mein Kampf in the marketplaces of Damascus and Aleppo is further evidence, simply to dismiss this as "conspiracy theories" is to miss their true role in Arab and Muslim societies.

The more things change, the more they stay the same
30 January '11

When the unrest — the revolutionary activity, really — in the Arab world began, some of us thought: well, at least this will put and end to the crazy ‘linkage theory’ — the idea that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is somehow the root of all the troubles of the Mideast.

Do you remember the Iraq Study Group Report of 2006? It sounds quaint now, but here is some of what it recommended:

Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked. In addition to supporting stability in Iraq, a comprehensive diplomatic offensive—the New Diplomatic Offensive—should address these key regional issues. By doing so, it would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote U.S. values and interests, and improve America’s global image…

The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. — Iraq Study Group report, pp. 44-54

Hard to believe, today, that anybody could still believe that when they can see both reformers and Islamists struggling to overthrow dictatorial conservative regimes (not that the reformers are likely to win, or that the Islamists won’t also be dictatorial). Well, believe. The obsession with Israel is so strong that the obsessed will manage to twist reality to whatever degree necessary. Here is ‘Mideast expert’ Robert Malley, interviewed on NPR yesterday:

Mr. ROBERT MALLEY (Program Director for Middle East and North Africa, International Crisis Group): I think what we’re seeing in Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen and elsewhere is not just protest about living conditions, about poverty, about…

[NPR host Guy] RAZ: Regimes.

Mr. MALLEY: …about regimes. It’s also the symptom of a sense of powerlessness, of impotence, of humiliation, lack of dignity that the Arabs have felt now for a long time. But in particular over the last period where you’ve seen the war in Iraq, we have seen the dismantlement of the Palestine Authority during the Second Uprising Intifada. You now see the humiliation, the Palestinians are not able to get anything from Israel. — NPR

To which my response has to be: “huh?”

You might also think that the nefarious ‘Israel Lobby’ can take a rest as well. But M. J. Rosenberg blames it for keeping Mubarak in power:

Few would argue that the imminent collapse of the Mubarak regime (and other Middle East dictatorships) derives from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neither Egyptians nor Tunisians are risking and losing their lives for Palestinians. They are doing it for themselves. They want freedom.

But the hatred for America that the revolutionaries feel stems in large part from our support for the occupation and the regional dictators who help enable it. And that support stems entirely from the lobby’s power to intimidate policymakers. — TPM CafĂ©

It’s true that the average Egyptian cares little about ‘The Occupation’. He just plain hates Israel, Jews and the US, thanks to the antisemitic Egyptian media, which have been waging war on them since the days of Nasser and which were encouraged to continue to do so by the Mubarak regime. You’d think that if Mubarak was kept in power by the Lobby, it would have found a way to get him to end the incitement, wouldn’t you.

As a matter of fact, most likely the only thing the reformers, ‘moderates’, Islamists, and everybody else in the Arab world can agree on is that Israel is the Devil and needs to be destroyed. A good argument can be made that as a matter of fact, it’s this attitude that prevents peace between Israel and the Arab states and Palestinian Arabs.

And it’s not been very helpful to the Arab in the street either, who finds his regime using the conflict with Israel as an excuse for repressive measures against opponents, especially reform-minded ones, and for funneling money into military buildups instead of improving the general welfare. Of course then the regime turns around and blames Israel for everything from high prices to inadequate electrical service.

Here’s a bright spot: the Mubarak regime has weakened the Egyptian military by appointing political cronies to all the high positions. Despite the American weapons, you still need competence to fight a war, and you won’t find much of that in Egypt today.

Oh well, the new Arab regimes may turn out to be greater or lesser threats than the old ones (my money is on ‘greater’, I’m sorry to say). But some things never change. It’s almost comforting in this time of upheaval that they’ll still continue to hate us as before, and that their spokespeople in the West will continue to invert reality and twist the truth to come up with the same old conclusions.

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Prominent 'Israeli-Arab' sentenced for spying for Hezbullah

Israel Matzav
30 January '11

A prominent 'Israeli Arab,' who admitted to spying for Hezbullah, has been sentenced to nine years in jail.

He admitted to the charges against him, and speaking outside the court continued to accuse the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) of singling out Arab-Israeli public figures. Makhoul vowed to continue his public activism after he completes his sentence.

(Read full "Prominent 'Israeli-Arab' sentenced for spying for Hezbullah")

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A New Middle East

A joint Joe-Jameel post
The Muqata
30 January '11

Here at the Muqata, we've haven't hid our disgust at the state of dictatorships that permeate the Arab world such as in Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

We haven't hid our hopes that the Arab people would rise up and replace these tyrannies with true democracies.

We've called for the overthrow of these dictatorial states when we wrote,

"we share in your dream of breaking free from the shackles of your little dictator and his occupation government".

We've demanded freedom (and freedom of speech) for Egyptian bloggers imprisoned by the Egyptian regime.

We helped publicize the Egyptian government's crimes against Humanity.

But in the same vein we wrote a serious analysis when we raised the question as to which would be better, a dictatorship that won't attack Israel, or another Islamic state that will?

Years ago we were already discussing what would happen after Mubarak exits the stage.

The less practical Islamists are poised for a takeover of Egypt.

What happens when the dictators who love Jihad and are aligned with Iran replace the dictators who first love personal comforts, prestige and lining their own pockets?

(Read full "A New Middle East")

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Abbas makes contradictory statements: No to violence, yes to war against Israel

Itamar Marcus/Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Palestinian Media Watch
30 January '11

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in recent days has made contradictory statements concerning violence and war against Israel. To the English speaking audience Abbas said he would never turn to violence; in Arabic he said he would join Arab states in a war against Israel:

Abbas to Western audience:

"'I am committed to peace, but not forever,' Mr. Abbas said. 'I don't mean I will turn to violence - never. In my life, I will never do it. But I cannot stay in my office forever doing nothing.'"

Abbas to Arab audience: 

"I have said more than once that if the Arabs want war - we are with them."

Abbas made the statement against violence in an interview with Bernard Avishai writing for the New York Times Magazine. The statement was intended for an international audience and reported in the New York Times on January 27, 2011.

Abbas made the second statement not ruling out war in a meeting with Egyptian and other Arab journalists. This statement was meant for an Arab audience and reported in the official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on January 24, 2011.

Abbas stressed that he is against violence now because the Palestinians are unable and because the international community opposes it. He did not denounce violence as a tool:

"We do not wish to turn to armed struggle, because our [lack of] capabilities and the international atmosphere do not allow for it."

PA leaders' depicting non-violence against Israel as a necessary current strategy was exemplified recently during the 2010 peace talks. PA leaders repeatedly used apologetic language when explaining the rationale behind the non-violence to Palestinians. 

U.S. Policy in the Middle East: Moderates Cry; Radicals Laugh

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
30 January '11

In the United States, the sending of a U.S. ambassador to Syria is presented as a normal act, not a concession. That's not the way it is being seen in Syria. In the United States, the issuing of statements favoring Lebanese sovereignty is seen as an effective policy. That's not the way it is seen in Syria and Lebanon.

Or as an unidentified, but presumably Syrian, official put it:

"Obama went out of his way to send [a new ambassador]. He will be expecting something in return. Lebanon is an obvious area but the Syrians realize that the United States does not have much more to pressure them with," another diplomat said.

"Syrian political commentator [i.e., lackey of the dictatorship] Ayman Abdel Nour said Damascus was not averse to compromise if it felt the United States was lessening support for an international tribunal on the Hariri killing, which Syria views as a tool in the hands of its foes.

"`The United States is keeping the tribunal card close to its chest. But Syria is stronger on the ground in Lebanon,'" Abdel Nour said. He dismissed the possibility of Washington resuming a policy of internationally isolating Syria because Damascus has built ties with countries such as its northern neighbor Turkey."

In other words, Syria is strong; America is weak; Syria can do as it pleases with no additional cost. If the United States drops support for the international tribunal finding Syrian and Hizballah terrorism in Lebanon, Syria will then...not give anything back.

This is the gap between Washington--and America in general--which believes Obama is doing a terrific job in the Middle East, and the actual Middle East where the moderates are crying and the radicals are laughing.

And don't forget:

Hizballah seizes power in Lebanon, U.S. policy has no effective response.

U.S. policy helps Hamas entrench itself in the Gaza Strip (by providing indirect aid and pressing Israel to reduce sanctions).

In Egypt, the emphasis of U.S. policy is to press the regime into potentially fatal concessions.

Plus more. The radicals know what they are talking about.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eye On Zion Goes to Boston College

Eye on Zion
30 January '11

Yishai’s ‘Eye On Zion’ lecture was the perfect inaugural event for the newly founded Student Coalition for Israel at Boston College to hold! Yishai is down-to-earth, entertaining, engaging, and is very well versed in both the historical and biblical accounts of the people of Israel. He was open to questions, and really made an effort to address people in the audience from all perspectives and backgrounds with the highest level of sincerity and respect.

When I, along with a close group of religiously and politically diverse undergrad students came together to create this new organization on campus, we had many goals in mind. We aimed to promote knowledge of and appreciation for Israel and Israeli culture, to support the Jewish nation's right to exist as a sovereign power in its historic homeland, and to promote a fair and accurate portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Our ultimate goal was to foster a mutual understanding of the conflict on our campus, which, if embodied by everyone in the world, would lead to a peaceful and dignified coexistence for the peoples of the region.

Yishai’s ‘Eye On Zion’ lecture really touched upon all three of our major purposes on campus and inspired me not only to uncover more about the land from which my ancestors spawned, but also about my own capabilities and the direction in which my life is going.

Everyone in the audience learned a lot that day, whether or not they agreed with what Yishai was saying, and everyone who heard him agreed that his message was clear, vital, and holy. The Student Coalition for Israel at Boston College is truly appreciative for the chance to have seen Yishai speak in person, and won’t hesitate to host him again when he’s in the New England area.


Mikhail Dubov
Co-Founder and Co-President
Student Coalition for Israel at Boston College

Click here for event dates of the continuing "Eye on Zion" Speaking Tour

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Rooting for a roof!

David Wilder
Shevat 25, 5771
January 30, 2011

I know it may seem difficult to fathom, but there are certain elements of life in Hebron that have nothing to do with politics. At least, they shouldn’t.

For example, Tel Hebron. This site was called, by a preeminent archeologist, the second most important archeological site in Israel, after Jerusalem. Excavations in the middle 1960s, during the Jordanian occupation, revealed on the southern tip of the tel, ancient walls over 4,000 years old. Dr. Avi Ofer, during middle 1980s, discovered a shard dating to the pre-Abraham era, with a list of animals written on it. During the latest dig, in the late 1990s, archeologist Emmanuel Eisenberg uncovered 2,700 year old ‘lemelech’ (‘to the King’) seals, with the word Hebron, in ancient Hebrew, inscribed on them. This, in addition to a house constructed during the days of King Hezekiah, and two walls, one of which was built during the days of Abraham and Sarah.

Such a site, anywhere else in the world, would be classified as a national treasure, and related to appropriately. In other words, the government would invest funds to beautify the area and insure its well-being, while encouraging tens and hundreds of thousands of people to visit each year.

Imagine bringing a third-grader to ‘the house where Abraham lived,’ or to the burial place of Ruth the Moabite. (This place, at the height of the tel, is traditionally also the tomb of Jesse, King David’s father.) What could be more impressive than standing on 4,000 year old stairs, leading to the gates of the city of Hebron, with a foreign diplomat, explaining to him that ‘this is not only the roots of Judaism, it is also the roots of all of monotheism.’

I have declared this to thousands of people touring this wondrous area, and never cease to be amazed at my own words. And also at the expression of the faces of those I’m speaking to. Jaws literally drop.

But it’s the truth, and the truth has to be told. The real question is, does anyone listen? I’ve taken countless journalists to this site, yet almost none of them have seen fit to include such a precious parcel of history in their articles. History is not political, but such an expose just might be taken the wrong way, proving the fact that Hebron really does have Jewish roots.

So, ignored it is. Even by our own. Our own journalists, politicians, and anyone else of any importance.

And what about Ma’arat HaMachpela, the tombs of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs? It took a bit of ‘pushing and shoving’ until the Prime Minister was convinced that this site is really of national importance and should be included on the list of national heritage sites.

However, Netanyahu isn’t the only one who was persuaded to relate seriously to Machpela. According to recently received statistics, last year over 700,000 people visited the so-called ‘Jewish side’ of this holy monument. That is quite a lot of company. The number continues to climb and it won’t be long before we pass the one million mark.

But what do people see when they arrive at Machpela. Climbing the stairs and entering this massive 2,000 year old structure, visitors find themselves standing under a canvas awning in the building’s mains courtyard. Not a roof, rather a tarpaulin. This covering, a poor attempt to protect visitors and worshipers from the elements, hasn’t been cleaned in years. A filthy, water-creased tent-like structure adorns the second holiest place to the Jewish people in all the world.

In one word, this can be described as disgusting. An additional word is disgraceful. Is this the wys to commemorate our nation’s founders: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah?

For about a decade Hebron community leaders have been trying to convince the ‘powers that be’ to remove the awning and replace it with a high-quality roof, as would be befitting of such a national monument. To no avail. Despite hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, of all races and religions, a roof is too political. A potato much too hot to touch.

A few weeks ago, when finally on Shabbat, thank G-d, rain began to fall, water dripped down from the canvas covering onto a Torah scroll. The Torah reading was stopped and the scroll immediately moved. Last night, as a result of heavy winds and rain, the roof finally caved in, falling to the ground, leaving a gaping hole, and a great view of the sky above. And rain falling on worshiper’s heads.

Isn’t it time to stop playing politics with our national treasures and bring an end to such humiliation?! This solution is not to replace the old canvas with a new one. The time has finally come to take the giant step and authorize a real roof atop Ma’arat HaMachpela.

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From Israel: Exceedingly Worrisome Situation

Arlene Kushner
Arlene from Israel
30 January '11

I write with the assumption that (almost) everyone reading this will have been following the news regarding Egypt, at least at a minimal level. And I write, as well, aware that within hours after I send this out, the news may have shifted. In fact, my best efforts to get this straight notwithstanding, it's close to impossible to get a handle on the shifting details.

It's clear to everyone following these events that they have less than nothing to do with Palestinian Arabs or a "two state solution." Egyptians are most decidedly not rioting in the streets because there is no Palestinian state. This should (unfortunately, it won't) put to rest once and for all the fallacious idea that what happens between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is at the heart of what goes on elsewhere in the Arab/Muslim world.


The uprising that started on Tuesday and has escalated for days since -- with rioting in the streets, more than 60 dead and over 2,000 injured, refusal to obey curfews, and more -- has been directed against the repressions of the Hosni Mubarak regime of almost 30 years. Those repressions -- as well as wide-spread corruption, economic problems, and failure to enact promised reforms -- are very real. Most hated are the police, whose vehicles and stations have been attacked and torched.

Chaos has been exacerbated by prison break-outs at first in four different sites, with thousands of prisoners, including terrorists and political prisoners from the Muslim Brotherhood, going free after clashing with guards and starting fires. They have gone on a rampage of looting, with marauding gangs releasing even more prisoners.


The army has replaced the police now in Cairo, a teeming city of 18 million, with tanks stationed everywhere. This morning there was uneasy quiet in the streets of the city. But this, I believe, had as much to do with the need of demonstrators to rush home and protect their families and properties from the escaped prisoners as it did the actions of the army. There were stories of householders standing off looters with razors and broken bottles.

Now thousands have returned to central Cairo, with more soldiers and tanks being brought in, and reports of helicopters overhead. Jets have been heard overhead as well.

Egyptian Internet was shut down the other day, and apparently Al-Jazeera has now been cut off as well.


Mubarak, who earlier was reportedly in hiding in Sharm El-Sheikh, has since visited military headquarters. He has fired his government, promised real reforms, and perhaps most significantly, appointed intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to fill the post of vice president -- a post that had been empty.

Suleiman, 74, has been serving since 1993 as the head of the General Intelligence Directorate. Egyptian journalist Issandr Amrani, cited in today's JPost, describes the Directorate as an organization that "combines the intelligence-gathering elements of the CIA, the counterterrorism role of the FBI, the protections duties of the Secret Service, and the high-level diplomacy of the State Department."

In other words, Suleiman is one very powerful man, and has proved himself adept at handling terrorists and controlling Islamist elements in Egypt. Additionally he has frequently served as a diplomatic envoy and is savvy with regard to Israeli issues. He is considered corruption-free. While he is said to be considerably more popular than Mubarak, there are elements among the protesters who reject him because of his association with the old regime.

Hamas Is the Muslim Brotherhood

Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review Online
January 29, 2011 4:54 P.M.

Nina, Hamas’s overt intervention in Egypt is an alarming development, although a predictable one. It is worth pointing out that Hamas is not merely colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood. That, of course, will not be what you hear from our foreign-policy experts, such as Obama adviser Bruce Riedel, who are busily sculpting their narrative about how the Brotherhood — the font on modern jihadist terror — has renounced violence and is really nothing for us to be very concerned about. But the stubborn fact is that Hamas is the most prominent of the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branches, whose operations long predated Hamas and brought Hamas (a/k/a, the Islamic Resistance Movement) into being.

Don’t take my word for it (although I covered the topic in some detail in The Grand Jihad). Don’t even take the word of the Justice Department, which amply demonstrated during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing prosecution that the Muslim Brotherhood’s top project in the U.S. has been to drum up support for Hamas. Look, instead, at some relevant sections of Hamas’s 1988 charter (“The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement”), announcing the terrorist organization’s existence:

From the Introduction: This is the Charter of the Islamic Resistance (Hamas) which will reveal its face, unveil its identity, state its position, clarify its purpose, discuss its hopes, call for support to its cause and reinforcement, and for joining its ranks. For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails. Thus we shall perceive them approaching in the horizon, and this will be known before long: “Allah has decreed: Lo! I very shall conquer, I and my messenger, lo! Allah is strong, almighty.”


Article Two: The Link between Hamas and the Association of Muslim Brothers. The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a world organization, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era. It is characterized by a profound understanding, by precise notions and by a complete comprehensiveness of all concepts of Islam in all domains of life: views and beliefs, politics and economics, education and society, jurisprudence and rule, indoctrination and teaching, the arts and publications, the hidden and the evident, and all the other domains of life.


Article Seven: The Universality of Hamas:…. Hamas is one of the links in the Chain of Jihad in the confrontation with the Zionist invasion. It links up with the setting out of the Martyr Izz a-din al-Qassam and his brothers in the Muslim Brotherhood who fought the Holy War in 1936; it further relates to another link of the Palestinian Jihad and the Jihad and efforts of the Muslim Brothers during the 1948 War, and to the Jihad operations of the Muslim Brothers in 1968 and thereafter. But even if the links have become distant from each other, and even if the obstacles erected by those who revolve in the Zionist orbit, aiming at obstructing the road before the Jihad fighters, have rendered the pursuance of Jihad impossible; nevertheless, the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree. [This is taken directly from authoritative hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim.]

Article Eight: The Slogan of the Hamas: Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief.

Note that Hamas’s slogan is indistinguishable from the Brotherhood’s: “Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu-akbar!”

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UN Watch Testifies Before U.S. Congress on "The State of Human Rights at the U.N."

UN Watch
25 January '11

“The State of Human Rights at the United Nations”

Testimony of Hillel Neuer
Executive Director, UN Watch, Geneva

Delivered Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives
United States Congress

Briefing on The United Nations:
Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action

January 25, 2011

Room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.


Distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to address urgent problems at the United Nations. It is an honor for me to participate in this discussion and present the views of UN Watch.

The urgent problem that I wish to address is the state of human rights at the United Nations.

As you know, the primary U.N. body in this area is the 47-nation Human Rights Council, which was created in 2006 to replace the Commission on Human Rights and redress its shortcomings. Under its founding resolution, the council was required to review its work and functioning after five years. With this review now underway at the U.N., our own discussion here is particularly timely.

Let us consider, then: How has the council performed in its first five years?


Let us measure the council’s performance by the yardstick of the U.N.’s own standards. These were set forth in 2005 by then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In calling to scrap the old commission, he identified its core failings:

- Countries had sought membership “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.”

- The commission was undermined by the “politicization of its sessions” and the “selectivity of its work.”

- The commission suffered from “declining professionalism” and a “credibility deficit”— which “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.”[1]

Today, we ask: Has the council remedied these fatal flaws?

Looking ahead, the U.N. General Assembly made clear its expectations for the new council. Resolution 60/251 of 2006 promised that the new council would elect members committed to human rights. Serious violators would have their membership suspended. The council would address the world’s most severe abuses, including by urgent sessions that could be easily convened. The council’s work would be objective, impartial and non-selective.

Five years later, where do we stand?


The majority of the council members—57 percent—fail to meet basic democracy standards as measured by Freedom House. These include the governments of Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. The newest elected member is Col. Qaddafi’s Libyan dictatorship.

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said this: “Imagine a jury that includes murderers and rapists, or a police force run in large part by suspected murderers and rapists who are determined to stymie investigation of their crimes.” That was said in 2001 about the old commission, but it applies even more today.

Turning A Blind Eye to Victims

Apart from a handful of exceptions, such as resolutions on Burma and North Korea that were inherited from the old commission, the council has systematically turned a blind eye to the world’s worst human rights violations. The council has failed the victims who are most in need of international attention.

Impunity for Worst of the Worst

- There have been no resolutions for victims in China, despite gross, systematic and state-wide repression, the unjust imprisonment of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, the massacre of Uighurs, and the killing of Tibetans;

- None for Cuba, where peaceful civic activists are beaten or languish in prison;

- None for Iran, even as it massacred its own citizens while the council was in session, and even as the regime continues to subject democracy activists to torture, rape and execution;

- None for Saudi Arabia, where women are subjugated;

- None for Zimbabwe, despite ongoing brutality by the Mugabe regime;

- And the list goes on. In total, beyond the impunity for the worst of the worst, approximately 180 out of 192 U.N. member states have never been condemned by the council once for any human rights violations.

What is most troubling is that no resolutions have even been proposed regarding these gross violators. For this the democratic minority cannot blame others. We urge the U.S., the European Union and other democracies to hold the worst abusers to account. Even if resolutions on the above countries would be defeated, their very introduction would generate diplomatic commotion and media attention, thereby accomplishing the desired goal of turning an international spotlight on abuses.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism was supposed to be the council’s saving grace. In theory, that every country is reviewed— even if it is only once every four years, over three hours—is a positive development. In practice, however, most of the reviews have failed to be meaningful, effective, or noteworthy. During one session in 2009, Libya used the UPR to praised Cuba for “promoting freedom of thought and expression,” while China praised Saudi Arabia for its record on women’s rights. For the most part, UPR has amounted to a mutual praise society.

Rather than the new council heralding increased country-specific action for victims, we have witnessed regression. The country mandates offer one example.

Disappearing Country Mandates

While the council inherited several investigative mandates on problem countries, it has steadily eliminated them. Shortly after it was created, the council removed from its watch list the situations of Cuba, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Belarus—a country where the dictator recently conducted a fraudulent election followed by a brutal crackdown on political opponents and human rights activists. The council has failed to add a single new country mandate.

Thematic Mandates

The addition of thematic mandates on freedom of assembly and discrimination against women are welcome. In light of past experience, however, their success will depend on ensuring that appropriate experts are appointed. At the same time, several existing thematic mandates have been distorted by the council. For example, in 2008 the council overturned protection of freedom of expression by a revised mandate, sponsored by Islamic states with Cuban support, that now polices “the abuse” of this freedom in regard to criticism of religion. Likewise, the expert on racism is often tasked with reporting only on incidents of Islamophobia. Other thematic experts are routinely intimidated by the council majority.

Obama's Legacy of Hope and Change in the Mid East

By Michael Widlanski
30 January 2011

Too often Western leaders and journalists simply do not know the difference between hamas and humus

President Barack Obama promised that his election meant not only "hope and change" for America but for the world, especially the Middle East. President Obama criticized America's past actions while touting his own Islamic connections—from his Arabic-sounding middle name to his youth in Indonesia.

After two years in office, a look at the record shows Obama has kept his promise about "change," but not necessarily about "hope."

• President Obama's first foreign trip was a journey to Turkey, where he saluted the extremist Islamist regime, and less than a year later, that regime has used the cover of "democracy" to impose its Islamist policies locally. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan leads a viciously anti-Semitic campaign against Israel, using a so-called "human rights flotilla" that was really a terror operation in support of the Hamas terror regime in Gaza.

• In a dramatic speech before thousands at Cairo University, Obama attested that America was one of the largest Islamic countries, expecting his statements would produce "moderation" in the Islamic sphere. Less than a year later, Obama and his top advisors appear clueless and impotent, as Islamic militants seem poised to seize power from the regime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarrak (over issues ranging from corruption to high food prices). Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are urging "restraint" (the favorite theme of the US State Department) the same way Jimmy Carter urged restraint on the Shah of Iran in the face of Ayatollah Khomeini. We know how that ended. The Obama-Clinton public statements actually seem to be a disavowal of Murbarak who is far from perfect exemplar of democracy. Still, Mubarak, for all his faults, is a better friend to the US than Muhammad Baradei, the UN-foisted opportunist who helped cover up proliferation of WMD by despots on his way to winning a Nobel peace prize.

• Obama, Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden pushed a militant anti-Israel negotiating stance, including demands for no Israeli construction in Jerusalem, and surprisingly (for Obama et al), the Palestinian Authority stiffened its own demands and refused to talk to Israel directly—thus reversing 20 years of direct talks.

• Obama "engaged" the Iranian revolutionary regime, and the Iranians responded by speeding up their construction of nuclear weapons, while simultaneously brutally repressing real democratic protests over a pathetically rigged election.

• President Obama violated all tradition to send an ambassador to Syria, using a congressional recess to sneak through the appointment that would never have passed. And this has helped produce change. Under George W. Bush, Syria and its Iranian-funded Hizballah terror militia ally were forced to pull back from Lebanon. Under the engaging and smiling policies of President Barack Obama, Lebanon is falling once again into the hands of Hizballah, Syria and Iran. What will Obama do: recall America's ambassador from Syria or re-engage the killer regime in Iran?

"Islam has always been a part of America's story," Obama declared in his Cairo speech, but less than two years later, it seems that it will be radical Islam that will remain a central part of Obama's personal story and his administration's legacy.

Obama and Clinton are missing the real story in Egypt, which has some similarity to the story of Iran in 1978 and 1979: a pro-American authoritarian regime has invited protest because of personal and economic weakness combined with charges of corruption. The ailing octogenarian Mubarak (who has been in and out of hospitals) resembles the ailing Shah. Neither man would have been my choice as a contestant for American Idol, but the question was and is—who is the alternative? The ayatollahs of Iran have certainly been worse than the Shah in every respect, and they established the worst terror-supporting government in the world (even more than North Korea). Of course, the ayatollahs were not the only ones protesting the Shah, but they knew how to exploit the general unrest—and calls for democracy—in order to come to power. Once in power, they epitomized Professor Bernard Lewis's adroit description of the Islamist desire for democracy: "one man, one vote, one time only."

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and its kindred groups al-gema'at al-Islamiyya and Takfir Wa-Higra as well as Egyptian Islamic Jihad are the kinds of organizations that spawned the groups that attacked the World Trade Center in 1993 and September 11, 2001. We should remember that every time Obama and Hillary Clinton rushed to scold Mubarak for trying to hold on to power, while they were strangely silent when the ayatollahs used far more abusive power against a non-Islamic democratic protest.

Obama-Clinton have also been very reticent about some of the mob behavior in Egypt, such as the looting of museums and stores. Why not urge a little restraint on the mobs, too?

Both the Sunni Islamists of Egypt and the Shiite Islamists of Iran pray on the gullibility of Western diplomats and pundits who usually cannot connect the dots in Arabic or any other Semitic language. In Semitic languages, the dots serve as vowels, and when you cannot read the dots, you cannot connect them or read the situation.

That is why Barack, Hillary and Jimmy see H-M-S and they read humus, and they take a big bite. Afterwards, when they discover they have hamas in their mouths: and they have bitten off more than they can chew.

Too often Western leaders and journalists simply do not know the difference between hamas and humus.

Like Muhammad Baradei and Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama has won a Nobel Peace Prize, but we should be asking ourselves how much is this award-winning performance going to cost us.


Dr. Michael Widlanski, who has studied and worked in several Arab countries, teaches Arab politics and communication at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post, serving as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem. He is currently completing a book on Arab-Islamic terror.

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