August 22, 2010

Netanyahu demands talks focus on security issues before borders: Haaretz

PM on upcoming talks with Palestinians: If we get security ensuring no missiles will fall on Tel Aviv, we will be able to move quickly toward a comprehensive arrangement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to lead the direct negotiations with the Palestinians due to be inaugurated in Washington on September 2. Netanyahu says he plans to focus on security arrangements before addressing final borders.

Speaking behind closed doors, Netanyahu said the success of the talks will hinge on understandings between the leaders. “I will want to reach agreed principles with the Palestinian leadership and there will be no need for many teams [of negotiators] and hundreds of meetings …. If I get the security that will ensure that no missiles will fall on Tel Aviv, it will be possible to move quickly toward a comprehensive arrangement,” he was quoted as saying.
Netanyahu said during his meetings he wants to discuss security issues with the Palestinians first; only then would the two sides focus on borders of a future Palestinian state.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had announced Friday that Israel and the Palestinian Authority would resume direct negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The talks will be inaugurated at a two-day summit in Washington, which will follow an 18-month lull in the negotiations.

In addition to Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, U.S. President Barack Obama has invited to the summit Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and the head of the Quartet, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Obama will hold separate meetings with each of the leaders at the White House on September 1, and will then host a joint dinner. The inauguration ceremony will take place a day later under Clinton’s auspices. The event will probably include speeches by the leaders and initial negotiations about the first round of talks, which are likely to take place shortly after.

Sources close to Netanyahu said on Saturday that most of the negotiations will take place in Israel or the region and not in the United States.

Both Clinton and U.S. special envoy George Mitchell said over the weekend that the negotiations will aim to reach a permanent settlement and the establishment of a Palestinian state in a year. They said the negotiations will focus on all core issues: Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security, settlements and water.

Clinton noted that there will be no preconditions – this is considered a major achievement for Netanyahu, who insisted that the direct talks take place unconditionally.

In her announcement over the weekend, Clinton also did not mention the September 26 expiry of the freeze on settlement construction.

The Quartet’s announcement also made no mention of the construction freeze or building in East Jerusalem. It just referred to its previous statement on the subject, which calls for a construction freeze.

The Quartet issued a statement calling for talks that “lead to a settlement … that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.”

The Americans offered few details at the press conference that followed, but Clinton recognized that there would be obstacles and warned that the enemies of peace would try to foil the talks.

“As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles,” Clinton said.

“But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.”

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the Israelis “have a choice now whether to choose settlements or peace. I hope they choose peace. I hope that Mr. Netanyahu will be our partner in peace … and we can do it.”

The Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, dismissed the direct talks as a U.S. attempt to “fool the Palestinian people.” But U.S. officials said Hamas would have no role in them.

Israeli army’s female recruits denounce treatment of Palestinians: The Observer

Facebook images of an Israeli servicewoman posing with blindfolded Palestinians have caused a storm. Now two former female conscripts have spoken out about their own experiences

Israeli servicewomen train to become army instructors. Some former recruits have spoken out against the military action in the occupied territories. Photograph: IDF/Polaris Images

It was a single word scrawled on a wall at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that unlocked something deep inside Inbar Michelzon, two years after she had completed compulsory military service in the Israeli Defence Force.

The word was “occupation”. “I really felt like someone was speaking the unspoken,” she recalled last week in a Tel Aviv cafe. “It was really shocking to me. There was graffiti saying, ‘end the occupation’. And I felt like, OK, now I can talk about what I saw.”

Michelzon became one of a handful of former Israeli servicewomen who have spoken out about their military experiences, a move that has brought accusations of betrayal and disloyalty. It is impossible to know how representative their testimonies are, but they provide an alternative picture of the “most moral army in the world”, as the IDF describes itself.

Concerns about Israeli army culture were raised last week following the publication on Facebook of photographs of a servicewoman posing alongside blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinians. The images were reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq. But the former soldier, Eden Abergil, said she didn’t understand what was wrong with the pictures, which were described by the IDF as “ugly and callous”.

Israel is unique in enlisting women at the age of 18 into two years of compulsory military service. The experience can be brutalising for the 10% who serve in the occupied territories, as Michelzon did.

“I left the army with a ticking bomb in my belly,” she said. “I felt I saw the backyard of Israel. I saw something that people don’t speak about. It’s almost like I know a dirty secret of a nation and I need to speak out.”

Michelzon, now 29, began her military service in September 2000, just when the second intifada was breaking out. “I joined the army with a very idealistic point of view – I really wanted to serve my country.” She was posted to Erez, the crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, to work in the radio control room.

“There was a lot of tension, a lot of shootings and suicide bombings,” she said. “Little by little you understand the rules of the game. You need to make it hard for the Arabs – that’s the main rule – because they are the enemy.”

She cited a routine example of a Palestinian woman waiting at the crossing. Michelzon called her officer, asking permission to allow the woman through. She was told to make such a request once the woman had been kept waiting for hours. “I felt very alone in the army. I couldn’t talk about the things I felt were misplaced,” she said. “I didn’t have strong views but I felt uncomfortable about the talk, about soldiers hitting Arabs and laughing. I thought everyone else was normal and I was the one who wasn’t. I felt an outsider to the group experience.”

At the end of her service, in June 2002, Michelzon said she felt the need to escape and took off to India. “I went through a breakdown little by little,” she said. It was only when she returned to enrol in university, and two years of therapy, that she began to consider her “duty” to speak out. She also came across Breaking the Silence, an organisation of army veterans who publish testimonies from former soldiers on life in the occupied territories to stimulate debate about the “moral price” of the occupation.

Michelzon gave evidence to the group and two years ago appeared in a documentary, To See If I’m Smiling, about the experiences of young women in the army. The film, she said, was criticised by all sides. The left focused on “the bad things we did and not on the fact that we wanted to start a discussion. We wanted to put up a mirror and tell Israeli society to look itself in the eyes.

“From the right, the reaction was, why are you doing this to your own people? Do you hate your country? But I did it because I love my country. We had to fight to say we want to talk about the political situation.”

The psychological impact of military service on women is undeniable, according to the testimonies of Michelzon and others, particularly those who serve in the occupied territories. “If you want to survive as a woman in the army, you have to be manly,” she said. “There is no room for feeling. It’s like a competition to see who can be tougher. A lot of the time girls are trying to be more aggressive than the guys.”

Her experience is echoed by that of Dana Golan, who served in the West Bank city of Hebron in 2001-02 as one of about 25 women among 300 male soldiers. Like Michelzon, Golan only spoke out after finishing her service. “If I had raised my anxieties, it would have been seen as a weakness,” she said.

Golan, now 27, said the “most shaky moment” of her military service came during a search for weapons in a Palestinian home. The family were awoken at 2am by soldiers who “turned their whole house inside out”. No weapons were found. The small children of the house were terrified, she recalled. “I thought, what would I feel if I was this four-year-old kid? How would I grow up? At that moment it occurred to me that sometimes we’re doing things that just create victims. To be a good occupier, we have to create conflict.”

On a separate occasion she witnessed soldiers stealing from a Palestinian electronics shop. She tried to report it, only to be told “there were things I shouldn’t interfere with”.

She said that she also saw elderly Palestinians being humiliated on the streets, “and I thought these could be my parents or grandparents”.

Israel is discomfited by these testimonies, she said, partly because of the universality of military service. “We grew up believing the IDF is the most moral army in the world. Everyone knows people serving in the army. Now when I say we are doing immoral things, I am talking about your sister or your daughter. People do not want to hear.”

The IDF is proud that 90% of its roles are open equally to men and women. “Serving in a combat unit where you have daily contact with people who might do you harm is not easy – you have to be tough,” said Captain Arye Shalicar, an army spokesman. “It’s not only a female thing, it’s the same for everyone. In the end, a combat unit is a combat unit. Sometimes things happen, not every deed is 100% correct or fair.” The army, he said, has procedures for reporting misdeeds which soldiers are encouraged to follow.

Both Michelzon and Golan have no regrets about speaking out. “For two years I saw people suffering and I didn’t do anything – and that’s really scary,” said Michelzon. “At the end, it felt like the army betrayed me – they used me, I couldn’t recognise myself. What we call protecting our country is destroying lives.”

Fundamentalism into the mainstream: Haaretz

Fundamentalist rabbis have approved murder, attacks on Arabs, illegal land seizures and racist segregation, and have ignored the murder of a prime minister.
By Zvi Bar’el
First, the daily lesson: “A soldier who takes part in the war against us, but does so only because he is forced to by threats, is an absolute villain …. We are referring to any sort of participation in the war: a combat soldier, a support soldier, civilian assistance or any form of encouragement and support.” And: “Even if civilians are tied up or imprisoned and have no choice but to stay and serve as hostages, it is possible to kill them.”

Also: “In discussions on the killing of infants and children … it is reasonable to harm children if it is clear they will grow up to harm us. Under such circumstances they should be the ones targeted.” And finally: “There is no need to discuss the question of who is and is not innocent, just as when we are defending against evil we do not hesitate to strike at limbs that were not actually used in actions against us.”

These are quotes from the book “The King’s Torah” (“Torat Hamelech” ) by rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur; it was published by Hamercaz Hatorani, near Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva. Many important rabbis have supported the two rabbis, and these quotes are part of the reason they are being investigated for suspected incitement and racism. Their refusal to be questioned allegedly was based on the fact that no one should be questioned or tried for his opinion.

In essence, their refusal places the law of the Torah above the law of the state. Rabbi Dov Lior, who backed the book, explained his opposition to their being interrogated as follows: “The harassment of the rabbis because of their halakhic views stands in direct opposition to the principles of freedom of religion and expression that are accepted by the state.” Indeed, is it possible to accuse someone of hating gentiles? In a Jewish state?

Nothing new, so far. Fundamentalist rabbis have approved murder, attacks on Arabs and their property, the illegal takeover of land, racist segregation between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi female pupils, and have ignored (at least ) the murder of a prime minister. After all, the source of authority of those same rabbis, the book of books, is full of hair-raising descriptions of the vengeance exacted by the Children of Israel on the peoples of this land.

As for the humanity of “the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate Me,” killer of the Egyptian firstborn, we can hold a seminar or two. Thumbing their noses at the law of the state is not an invention by Lior or similar rabbis. As far as disrespecting the law is concerned, Lior is an excellent pupil of Rabbi Moshe Levinger. Only naivete or pretending can explain the surprise at the spitting in the face of the police as they try to investigate the rabbis who provided a wall of defense to abomination.

What is new is that these are no longer “hilltop rabbis,” “wild weeds” or “fence hoppers” who are turning their backs on the instructions of great rabbinical figures and the law. They and their supporters are transforming zealous fundamentalism and the shameful “The King’s Torah “into the mainstream.

After all, what were the critics upset about? Not the content of the book some say they oppose (“of course I don’t support it” ), but rather the state’s audacity to undermine the freedom of expression of the source. No religious protest movement stood against the content; no one wrote a text to counter this Jewish Wahhabism. Suddenly, that same community that sanctifies rabbinical hierarchy, the absolute obedience to the rabbis, is shocked by this affront to freedom of expression.

But these fundamentalists, responsible for the training of tens of thousands of yeshiva students who become soldiers, wash their hands when their followers and students carry out the rabbis’ orders. No rabbi has been tried for an illegal act by a civilian or soldier because of his teachings. After all, they are only tutors, and then “permission has been granted.” In “properly functioning” states like Saudi Arabia or Egypt it has long been understood that the responsibility of a religious figure is no less than that of a terrorist. They arrest and imprison, exile or silence in different ways the preachers who raised generations of murderous zealots. Turkey removes from the military anyone who expresses excessive religious fervor.

In Israel, on the other hand, former chief military rabbi Avihai Rontzki initiated a meeting of intelligence soldiers with Rabbi Lior, the backbone of “The King’s Torah.” The following was said about the Israel Defense Forces’ ethics code: “When there is a conflict between orders based on the ethics code and a halakhic instruction, of course one must follow halakha” – Jewish law. It’s not incitement that’s dangerous, but rather its transformation into the accepted and central form of discourse.

US gambles on new Middle East talks with no clear plan: BBC

By Kim Ghattas
The US hopes September’s talks will create a sense of urgency and momentum
Whenever a US administration makes a formal announcement about peace talks in the Middle East, hopes are usually raised – maybe, just maybe, they will actually succeed.

This time, scepticism is at an all-time high and expectations are low, including for the near term, let alone the ambitious goal set out by Hillary Clinton of resolving all key issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict within a year.

The statement by the secretary of state and her special envoy, George Mitchell, was high in aspirations, low on details.

When Mr Mitchell was asked what breakthrough in the indirect “proximity” talks made it possible to finally resume direct negotiations, he referred vaguely to cumulative efforts and the realisation of both parties that a two-state solution was needed.

In other words, there was no real progress in the proximity talks and the thorniest issues remain on the table, untouched.

The discussions apparently did not produce much in terms of the format of the direct talks either.

Mr Mitchell said that the timing and location of the next round of negotiations would be discussed in Washington during the trilateral meetings in early September.

Ghaith al-Omari of the American Task Force in Palestine (ATFP) said he expected no breakthrough in the first few months.

“The greatest chunk of American energy is to be directed to ensure the negotiations don’t collapse, and that neither sides leaks, nor creates a nasty environment,” he explained.

“The administration wants to shelve this in a way, to stabilise the situation until after the mid-terms.”

The US mid-term elections for Congress in November will be a key event for the Democratic Party, and President Barack Obama will want political quiet, including on the foreign policy front.

The direct talks will also help defuse tension when the Israeli government’s moratorium on Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank comes to an end on 26 September.

A senior US official told the BBC that the timing of the early September talks was to have as much distance as possible from that looming, threatening deadline.

Sustainable momentum
So, starting direct talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis is a small step, with more form than substance. But it could become a significant one.

The Obama administration is hoping the September meeting could create a sense of urgency – because of the one-year deadline – but also create momentum.

“Getting into political negotiations is politically costly, but once you’re in it, you can’t just walk out. That’s when withdrawing becomes politically costly,” said Mr al-Omari, a former Palestinian negotiator, of the Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

But to create sustainable momentum, the Obama administration needs a plan, and unless US officials are keeping their cards close to their chest, it looks for now as though they are not sure how to take this forward.

“Left to their own devices, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders visiting Washington in September will not make progress,” cautioned Daniel Levy, from the liberal New America Foundation, and a former Israeli negotiator.

“It was the Obama administration that insisted on the direct-talks format as the way forward, and the ball will now be in their court to produce results,” he added.

What’s with the rabbis?: YNet

Op-ed: Is there correlation between radical rightist positions, chauvinistic, primitive views?
Hanoch Daum
Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Dov Lior believe they are doing the right thing.

One of them published a book ruling that according to Jewish law there is no fundamental reason not to kill gentiles, while the other told students in a class he led at his community that women would do well to stay away from working as lawyers, citing the dictum that “all glorious is the princess within,” or something like that.

Yet every time rabbis are able to voice such primitive statements, one cannot but wonder about the connection between radical political, irresponsible views and chauvinistic, twisted religious edicts.

Somehow, it appears that these rabbis, who also call on their followers to refuse military orders, resist the army, and abuse Palestinians are the very same rabbis whose religious edicts usually ignore the fact that the status of women has changed in the last 1,000 years, and that the days where women were disqualified from serving as witnesses have passed from this world.

One of these days, we need to embark and an in-depth, academic effort to look into the connection between an unbalanced Jewish law attitude that discriminates against women and radical rightist views.
Yet until this issue is properly looked into, we can only thank God that there are other kinds of rabbis in Israel as well.

EDITOR: Do it, and quickly! Otherwise, we will kill the women also…

Barak, like other Israeli leaders, is used to give the US tasks, so it makes sense to allocate them this one. Clinton knows what will happen to her if she does not follow orders…

Barak to Clinton: Stop Lebanese flotilla: Jerusalem Post

Defense minister: Attempt to sail for Gaza a “needless provocation.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke Saturday with world leaders and urged them to take action to stop the planned Lebanese aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip.

Barak spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US National Security Advisor Jim Jones and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

During his conversations, Barak said that Israel would allow the transfer of the supplies these ships are supposed to carry to Gaza after they are unloaded and inspected at the Ashdod Port.

“The attempt to sail the flotilla is an unnecessary provocation,” Barak said.

On Saturday, organizers of one ship said they were considering a new route to Gaza after Cyprus refused to allow the ship entry. Called the Mariam, the ship cannot travel directly to Gaza because Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, forcing the vessel to pass through a third country before heading for the seaside strip.

Organizers said they have contacted authorities in Greece and Turkey since Cyprus refused them entry. The ship will carry aid and women activists, according to organizers.

The IDF in the meantime is gearing up for the possible arrival of the Mariam, in addition to another ship from Lebanon, which could likely arrive sometime next week. The additional Lebanese ship, the Naji al-Ali, was also slated to leave from a Lebanese port with the intent of violating the blockade.

IDF sources said that the navy would intercept the ships as they attempt to enter Gaza and would operate under the assumption that hostile elements could be aboard.

In late May, navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger ship and came under attack by a group of alleged mercenaries. The commandos killed nine passengers.

Last week, Ambassador to the UN Gabriella Shalev sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Kimoon to tell him that two ships planning to depart for Gaza Sunday are “deeply troubling” to Israel and that the international community should use its influence to prevent the vessels from leaving Lebanon.

“Given the ongoing armed conflict between the Hamas terrorist organization and the State of Israel, compounded by the fact that these ships originate from Lebanon that remains in a state of hostility with Israel, Israel reserves its right under international law to use all necessary means to prevent these ships from violating the aforementioned naval blockade,” Friday’s letter read. “Furthermore, it cannot be ruled out that these vessels carry weapons or individuals with violent intentions.”

Shalev, writing to draw Ban’s attention “to a developing matter of serious concern in the Middle East,” said in her letter that individuals connected to Hizbullah had announced that the Mariam would depart from Tripoli on Sunday.

“The stated intention of this vessel is to violate the existing naval blockade of Gaza, and some of its organizers have stated that Lebanese authorities offered their approval of this provocative act,” Shalev wrote.

Shalev highlighted that all humanitarian goods were now entering the Gaza Strip through “appropriate mechanisms that ensure their delivery as well as their civilian nature,” and that the organizers of these flotillas “seek to incite a confrontation and raise tension in our region.

“Such confrontational actions by the organizers of these vessels, as well as those that offer their consent, is deeply troubling and requires the attention of the international community,” the letter read.

At a meeting of the Security Council on July 21, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs B.

Lynn Pascoe said that aid flotillas “are not helpful to resolving the basic economic problems of Gaza and needlessly carry the potential for escalation.”

The point was reiterated by the Secretary-General’s Office on July 23, when it said that established routes for supplies to enter by land (vis Israel or Egypt) were the appropriate way for such supplies to be delivered.

Shalev’s letter called for Lebanon “to demonstrate responsibility and to prevent these boats from departing to the Gaza Strip.

“Such action will prevent any possible escalation,” the letter stated. “Israel further calls upon the international community to exercise its influence in order to prevent these boats from departing and to discourage their nationals from taking part in such action.”

The Secretary-General’s Office had no comment on Shalev’s letter. However, a representative did say that “the secretary-general’s position has consistently been that people wanting to bring aid into Gaza should use the accepted routes. He has called on all parties to avoid any provocative actions.”

Netanyahu says securing peace difficult but possible: BBC

Mr Netanyahu acknowledged Israeli scepticism about what the resumption of talks would achieve
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said reaching agreement with Palestinians will be “difficult but possible”, in his first comments about planned direct talks between the two sides.

But Mr Netanyahu insisted that the negotiations could only be successful if Israel’s interests were protected.

He said Palestinians must accept Israel as the state of the Jewish people and its security must be guaranteed.

The direct talks, the first in 20 months, are to begin in September.

“Achieving a peace agreement between us and the Palestinian Authority is difficult, but possible,” Mr Netanyahu told an Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday.

“We are talking about a peace agreement between Israel and a demilitarised Palestinian state, and this state, if it is established at the end of the process… is meant to end the conflict and not to be a foundation for its continuation by other means.”

“I know there is a lot of doubt after the 17 years which have passed since the start of the Oslo (peace) process,” Mr Netanyahu added. “It’s understandable why such scepticism exists.”

Both Mr Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to Washington for the US-sponsored talks.

They have agreed to place a one-year time limit on the direct negotiations.

But correspondents say prospects of a comprehensive deal are slim, as serious disagreements exist on core issues – including the construction of Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the right of return.

Regional input
US President Barack Obama has also invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend the Washington talks.

Mr Obama will hold meetings with the four leaders on 1 September.

Tony Blair, the special representative of the Middle East Quartet – which comprises the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – has also been invited.

A trilateral meeting at the state department between Mrs Clinton, Mr Abbas and Mr Netanyahu will formally relaunch the direct peace talks the following day.

The announcement that direct talks would resume, made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, comes after months of shuttling by US special envoy George Mitchell between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas.

Mr Abbas broke off talks with the previous Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, in late 2008 and contacts were frozen following Israel’s offensive against the militant Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip in December that year.

Indirect contacts resumed in May in the form of “proximity talks”, overseen by Mr Mitchell.

But Mr Abbas resisted US overtures to resume direct talks, saying he wanted guarantees that a future Palestinian state would be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, and that all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would stop immediately.

New armed forces chief
In a separate development on Sunday, the Israeli ministry of defence named Major General Yoav Galant as the new chief of staff for the country’s armed forces.

As head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command, Maj Gen Galant oversaw the Israeli offensive in Gaza in January 2009.

Maj Gen Galant’s appointment is expected to be formally approved by the government next week.

He will succeed Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, who is stepping down early next year.

Ahmadinejad: Israel is too weak to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities: Haaretz

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Iranian president says the U.S. is not interested in sparking an all-out military confrontation with Iran.
Israel is too weak to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, the French AFP news agency quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as telling the Al-Jazeera network on Sunday, adding that Iran would act decisively against anyone who dared attempt a military strike against it.
Ahmadinejad’s comments came a day after Iranian and Russian engineers began the weeklong operation of loading uranium fuel into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, a major milestone as Tehran forges ahead with its atomic program, despite UN sanctions.

Speaking to the Qatari-based satellite network in an interview translated from Farsi, Ahmadinejad reiterated the warning against a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying he rejected the “possibility of an attack by Israel.”

“Israel is too weak to face up to Iran militarily,” the Iranian president said, adding that Jerusalem did not have “the courage to do it… and I do not think its threat is serious.”

Referring to the possibility of a U.S.-led strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Ahmadinejad claimed “America is not interested in sparking a military confrontation,” but vowed “decisive response” if Washington indeed went ahead with its threats military action.

“There are no logical reasons for the United States to carry out such an act,”   Ahmadinejad told Al-Jazeera.

“Do you believe an army that has been defeated by a small army in Iraq can enter into a war with a large and well trained army like the Iranian army?” he asked, referring to the insurgents in Iraq.

“The friendship of Iran is much better than its hostility,” he said.

The Al-Jazeera interview came hours after a high-ranking officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards told the semi-official Fars news agency that Iran’s reaction to a possible U.S. military strike against its nuclear facilities would target American interests beyond the Middle East.

Speculating on the possibility of a U.S. strike against Iran’s developing nuclear program, Deputy Revolutionary Guards Commander for Political Affairs Brigadier General Yadollah Javani said earlier Sunday that “if Americans make a strategic mistake and choose the military option against the Islamic Republic and our nation’s interests, Iran will not confine its defense to the region.”

“In case of any illogical move, the Islamic Republic’s hands and advocates will be powerfully activated against the interests of the hegemonic system and U.S. bases outside the region,” Javani told Fars.

Earlier this month, Javani had commented on the possibility of a U.S. strike of its nuclear facilities, saying that Iran would “give a crushing response to its enemies.”

Turning his attention to Israel, Javani had that Iran did not believe its enemy was capable of attacking. Nonetheless, he said, Iran would be prepared in case that equation should change. “Iran never ignores its enemies. Hence, we have been increasing our defense and deterrence capabilities.”

EDITOR: An important article

In order to read the whole first part of Ran Greenstein’s article, use the link below. Due to its great length, only the very beginning of the piece could be included here.

Israel/Palestine and the apartheid analogy – critics, apologists and strategic lessons: IOA

By Ran Greenstein – 22 Aug 2010
In the last decade, the notion that the Israeli system of political and military control bears strong resemblance to the apartheid system in South Africa has gained ground. It is invoked regularly by movements and activists opposed to the 1967 occupation and to various other aspects of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Arab people. It is denounced regularly by official Israeli spokespersons and unofficial apologists. The more empirical and theoretical discussion of the nature of the respective regimes and their historical trajectories has become marginalized in the process. Only a few studies pursue such comparison with any analytical rigour.[i]
There are three crucial distinctions we must make in order to address the issue properly and avoid the usual conceptual and political muddle that afflict the debate:
1.    We need to consider which Israel is our topic of concern: Israel as it exists today, with boundaries extending from the Mediterranean to the river Jordan, or Israel as it existed before 1967, along the Green Line? Is it Israel as a state that encompasses all its citizens, within the Green Line and beyond? Israel as it defines itself, or as it is defined by others? And which definition is legitimate according to international law? Are the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 part of the definition or an element external to it? Which boundaries (geographical, political, ideological and moral) are most relevant to our discussion? What are their implications for our understanding of the nature of the regime and its relation to various groups in the population subject to it?
Each definition of the situation carries with it different consequences for the analysis of the apartheid analogy. Perhaps the central question in this respect is the relationship between three components: ‘Israel proper’ (within its pre-1967 boundaries), ‘Greater Israel’ (within the post-1967 boundaries), and ‘Greater Palestine’ (a demographic rather than geographic concept, covering all Arabs who trace their origins to pre-1948 Palestine). While discussion of the relationship between the first two components is common, the third component – and its relevance to the apartheid analogy – is usually ignored.
2.    We need to distinguish between historical apartheid (the specific system that prevailed in South Africa between 1948 and 1994), and the generic notion of apartheid that stands for an oppressive system which allocates political and social rights in a differentiated manner based on people’s origins (including but not restricted to race). To illustrate the point, pointing to different trends in the use made of indigenous labour power in the two countries (exploitation in South Africa, exclusion in Israel/Palestine) serves to distinguish between historical apartheid and the Israeli ethnic-based class society. They are indeed different in this respect. But, it cannot serve to refute the claim that Israel is practicing apartheid in its generic sense of exclusion and discrimination on grounds of origins. That claim has to be tackled in its own terms, independently of our understanding of the specific South African history. This is especially the case as some features of apartheid in South Africa changed during the course of its own historical evolution and thus cannot serve as a benchmark in evaluating other political systems.
3.    We need to distinguish between the extent of similarity of South African laws, structures and practices to their Israeli equivalents, and consequent strategies of political change. Even if we conclude that there is a great degree of structural similarity between the two states it would not tell us much about how we can apply political strategies used successfully in the former case to the latter case. Neither would it tell us much about the direction in which the Israeli system of control is heading. For that we need to undertake a concrete analysis of Israeli/Palestinian societies, their local and international allegiances, bases of support, vulnerabilities, and so on.
What is apartheid?
The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the UN General Assembly in November 1973, regards apartheid as “a crime against humanity” and a violation of international law. Apartheid means “similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa … committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”. A long list of such practices ensues, including “denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person … by the infringement of their freedom or dignity”, and legislative and other measures “calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. In addition, this includes measures “designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof”.[ii]
This is not an exhaustive list – and not all practices must be present simultaneously to qualify as apartheid – but it is based on key elements of historical apartheid. A point that stands out here is the notion of race: if we stick to the common definition of race (indicating biological origins, usually associated with physical appearance, primarily skin colour), we can dismiss the case of applicability to Israel immediately. The definition clearly is not relevant to the relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Both groups are racially diverse and cannot be distinguished on the basis of physical appearance.
Having said that, we must consider that race – just like apartheid – is a term that can apply beyond its conceptual and geographical origins. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1965, applies the term racial discrimination to “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” This does not apply, however, to “distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences made by a State Party to this Convention between citizens and non-citizens”, and it does not affect “the legal provisions of States Parties concerning nationality, citizenship or naturalization”.[iii] These qualifications may exclude some practices common to apartheid South Africa and Israel, revolving around the boundaries of citizenship, but there are no similar loopholes in the 1973 convention on apartheid.
Putting together the two conventions, we end up with a definition of apartheid as a set of policies and practices of legal discrimination, political exclusion, and social marginalization, based on racial, national or ethnic origins. This definition obviously draws on historical apartheid but cannot be reduced to it. The focus of attention should be on the actual practices of the state, and the extent to which they are exclusionary or discriminatory, rather than on the degree of similarity to or difference from the historical case of apartheid South Africa. For example, whether the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is really a ‘Bantustan’ is not an important or interesting question. Whether it practices pseudo-independent rule that disguises the effective control by Israel is the real focus of concern. We should be interested in the substance of the political arrangements rather than in the convenient labels we can stick on them. How this definition, then, applies to Israel in substantive terms is a key theme to be addressed here.
What is Israel? Perspectives from the Left
But first, what (or rather where) is Israel? In a recent book, The Time of the Green Line, Professor Yehouda Shenhav of Tel Aviv University argues against the notion that there is still any meaningful distinction between ‘Israel itself’ (in its pre-1967 boundaries) and the occupied Palestinian territories.[iv] He criticizes what he terms the 1967 Green Line paradigm, for which Israel, a democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, with a minority of Palestinian citizens, is separate from the territories. According to that paradigm, the 1967 occupation is an anomaly that introduced a large number of Palestinian non-citizens into the system. As long as no final decision is made on the future of the territories they remain under temporary occupation. The suspension of democracy and of political rights affecting their residents is a result of the unresolved conflict, but it does not affect the democratic nature of Israel itself. The conflict can be resolved through the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, alongside Israel. This arrangement has become known as the two-state solution: it will restore Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and give Palestinians their own nation-state.
What is the problem with this paradigm? Shenhav identifies four ‘political anomalies’ that make the distinction between democratic pre-1967 Israel and the occupied territories difficult to sustain. These anomalies reflect the interests and concerns of specific groups in the population:
1.    Palestinian refugees who trace the origin of their situation to 1948. For those of them residing in the occupied territories, 1967 was a moment of liberation, in the sense that their ability to move within their homeland was enhanced as a result.
2.    Jewish religious-nationalist settlers, for whom the Green Line is not morally or politically meaningful, and Israel as a Jewish state extends beyond it, all the way to the Jordan River (and possibly beyond it).
3.    The people of the ‘third Israel’, who feel marginalized by the dominant political system, and for whom the occupation has provided substantial benefits. They include settlers driven by socio-economic reasons rather than religious-nationalist motivations: primarily Mizrahim, orthodox Jews, and Russian immigrants.
4.    The 1948 Palestinians, who remained within the State of Israel and became its citizens; for them 1967 represented an opportunity to reunite with their people and the Arab world from which they were forcibly separated when Israel was established.
For all these groups, pre-1967 Israel (regarded nostalgically as a democratic haven by adherents of the Green Line paradigm) was an oppressive social and political space. A return to it would not improve their situation and might even make it worse. Although they come from different religious, political and social backgrounds, they are united in rejecting the notion that the two-state solution would lead to a sustainable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The refugees would not benefit from the reconstitution of a Jewish Israel from which they would remain excluded; the settlers would oppose their removal from what they see as a God-given homeland; the people of ‘third Israel’ would resent being relegated to a position of marginality from which the occupation extricated them; the 1948 Palestinians would be separated again from the Arab world, and be subjected to the same exclusion and oppression from which they suffered before 1967.
And who would benefit from the two-state solution? The answer, Shenhav says, is secular Ashkenazi-Jewish elites, who had been in political and social control before the 1967 war, but have lost their dominant position since then. The rise of new Mizrahi, religious, immigrant and Arab voices has undermined the dominance of those elites. A return to small, ‘enlightened’ pre-1967 Israel, in which their power was unchallenged, would allow them to re-assert their position at the expense of other groups. That is why they are the main advocates for the Green Line paradigm. They have managed to make it the dominant perspective in public discourse, but underlying social and cultural currents have led to its continued decline in policy and practice. Increasing diplomatic support for the two-state solution has gone together with growing blurring of the physical, legal and symbolic boundaries between Israel and the occupied territories. Most residents of the country have never experienced any reality other than that of Greater Israel.
Thus, the rhetorical victory of the paradigm, as expressed in almost unanimous international support for it, and its invocation in all UN resolutions, has disguised its demise in practice. As a result of Israeli settlement activities, which created new realities, the prospect of a viable independent Palestinian state has become more remote than ever. Through massive allocation of state resources, and a consistent policy of expansion, Israel has created a patchwork of disconnected areas in which Palestinians live, criss-crossed by settlement infrastructure. This makes the task of removing hundreds of thousands of settlers, and restoring the integrity of the pre-1967 boundaries, virtually impossible. Separation between Jewish settlers and local residents within the occupied territories is maintained through an elaborate system of laws and military regulations, with settlers legally and politically incorporated into Israel, while Palestinians live as stateless subjects. The crucial distinction now is between citizens and non-citizens within the same territory, rather than between the pre- and post-1967 territories.
A similar argument, but without Shenhav’s sociological focus on marginalized Jewish groups, is provided by Meron Benvenisti, an Israeli analyst who was the first to put forward the thesis that the occupation had become irreversible (back in the mid-1980s). Israeli hold over the territories beyond the Green Line had become permanent for most practical purposes, Benvenisti argues, even if their Palestinian residents remain excluded from citizenship and rights. This means that defining the territories as occupied is misleading, as they have become incorporated into the Israeli system of control. Disguising this reality, by keeping the pretence that the situation is temporary and there is meaningful ‘peace process’ that would result in change, helps maintain the status quo. The paradigm of temporary occupation should be replaced by that of a ‘de facto bi-national regime’, which can describe the “mutual dependence of both societies, as well as the physical, economic, symbolic and cultural ties that cannot be severed without an intolerable cost.” The bi-national situation does not mean parity of power due to “the total dominance of the Jewish-Israeli nation, which controls a Palestinian nation that is fragmented both territorially and socially … only a strategy of permanent rule can explain the vast settlement enterprise and the enormous investment in housing and infrastructure, estimated at US $100 billion.”[v]

From The Horse’s Mouth section: Voice of the Israeli Unhinged

EDITOR: Fight moderation to the death!

As we all know, there is nothing more dangerous than moderation – Israel has been fighting moderates wherever they can find it, even in Israel itself. They have been assassinating moderate Palestinian leaders for decades. So Mr. Rosenfeld, a newcomer to this section, is arguing that the most dangerous are the moderate muslims in the US. Huntington is alive and well, and living in Israel… So far, not much new, but it is always refreshing to have new talent displayed.

The moderate Muslim threat: YNet

Op-ed: NY mosque affair another sign moderate Muslims more dangerous than radicals
Shaul Rosenfeld
Published:     08.18.10
Muslims should build mosques “everywhere,” Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar declared Tuesday as he addressed the plans to build a mosque near ground zero in New York. Most of his Muslim brethren, moderates and radicals alike, likely endorsed this sentiment. After all, when one of the pillars of Islam is its very dissemination, one should not wonder that even the “moderates” view ground zero as a suitable site for a mosque.

The fact that almost all global terror in recent years is carried out in the name of Islamic ideas being recited day and night at the finest mosques (both in the East and West,) and that almost 3,000 people were killed in New York in the name of these notions nine years ago should have elicited at least a hint of understanding for the feelings of the victims’ families on the part of Islamic moderates.

New York Governor David Patterson recently announced that Muslims refused his offer to find an alternate site for the new Islamic center. He may have forgotten for a moment that more than anything, the center and its name (The Cordoba House) are a symbol. Seemingly, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Sharif el-Gamal and their partners could have scored quite a few points in America’s public opinion (which in all polls shows firm objection to the center’s establishment) had they accepted Patterson’s proposal.

After all, these distinguished gentleman fully realize that the various shades of Islam, even without the center, do not enjoy an especially positive image in US public opinion, and that a gesture conceding only the site of the mosque, rather than the principle of building it, was virtually a win-win situation for them. Moreover, their willingness to change the location would have ended almost at once the ongoing media and public debate on the actions of 19 of their Islamic brethren nine years ago and the thousands of their victims.

If, as Rauf and Gamal argue, the center’s main purpose is to encourage tolerance and promote interfaith dialogue, while showing maximal sensitivity to the feelings of others, would it not be natural to show a little more than zero tolerance and consideration for other people’s feelings, instead of dismissing out of hand many families of September 11 victims who ask that the mosque be built somewhere else?

The trap of Islamic rhetoric
An important part of the answer to the above questions has to do with the long-term goals designated by many of Islam’s spiritual and ideological leaders, both in the past and at present, both in the West and East. These objectives prompt many Muslim immigrants in the West (unlike any other immigrant group on earth) to strictly refrain from integrating into their new home and adopt local customs, even when this does not require them to make any religious concession.

In Britain, France, and the US, the separatist and anti-Western voices coming out of the mosques have no parallel among any other immigrant group. Even the economic, educational, and social opportunities and temptations, which are immeasurably greater than what is available at their home countries, only prompt a minority of Muslim immigrants to veer off the path outlined by Imams and integrate into the citizenry of their new country.

Moreover, this separatism is not undertaken for noble aims of course, but rather, mostly in order to gain a cultural, social, religious, and political foothold in their new address. This has always been Islam’s way. We would do well to examine the refusal of mosque planners to compromise on its location, even at the price of boosting the grievances against them among Americans, through this prism.

Yet in order to ensure that their work bears fruit, the senior Imams within the “moderate” Muslim camp excel at uttering words that are pleasantly received in the West. These imams can always put their trust in a variety of enlightened Western intellectuals, as well as some useful idiots, which this time around include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city council members, with the trusted support of Barack Obama (before he embarked on his zigzags.)

And so, we again see a noble, wonderful partnership between “moderate Muslims” committed to doublespeak and Western intellectuals who remain loyal to double standards; meanwhile, naïve souls all around are deeply moved by any “moderate” Islamic statement.

In his recently published book Flight of the Intellectuals, Paul Berman warns that the danger posed to the West by “moderate Muslims” is even greater than that posed by their radical brethren, mostly because too many people are happy to fall into the trap laid by moderate Islamic rhetoric, even when the conciliatory tone disappears the moment the target audiences changes to Muslims.

And so, for example, the Cordoba House is marketed to Westerners as a stronghold of tolerance, moderation, and interfaith dialogue. Yet in Islamic tradition, Cordoba is first and foremost a Christian Spanish city conquered by Muslims in 711, with many of its residents butchered or turned into slaves; a mosque built on the ruins of a church; and memories of the Almohads, the spiritual fathers of contemporary Islamic zealots.

The Almohads razed the town in the 12th Century and killed those who refused to convert to Islam, forcing Jews and Christians to either convert or go into exile. However, Feisal Abdul Rauf reserves this chapter in Cordoba’s history for his Muslims brethren only.

Permalink Print