May 25, 2009

The Israelis have now declared awar not just on Palestine, but on memory itself!

Anger over Palestinian Nakba ban proposal:BBC

Israeli campaigners and left-wing lawmakers have condemned moves to ban Israeli Arabs from marking the Nakba – the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation. On Sunday a government panel backed putting the bill, proposed by the party of far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, before the Israeli Knesset. A Labour minister opposed it; Hadash, a mainly Arab party, called it “racist”. Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the 1948 war after Israel declared independence. About 20% of Israel’s population are descended from Arab citizens of British Mandate Palestine who remained on the territory that became Israel.
Strengthening unity
Along with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and around the world, Israeli Arabs mark the yearly Nakba anniversary on 15 May with mourning and commemoration events. Israelis celebrate their Independence Day, marking the creation of their state, at the same time of year, although according to the Hebrew calendar. Under the proposed legislation, people caught marking the Nakba could be jailed for up to three years.
Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, says the bill is “intended to strengthen unity in the state of Israel”. The Hadash MK Hanna Swaid called it “racist and immoral” and “a fierce insult on democratic and political rights”. Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, said it “could impair freedom of expression and freedom of protest and achieve the opposite goal – increasing alienation and strengthening extremists”.
He is a member of the Labour party, which is part of the right-leaning governing coalition, together with Yisrael Beiteinu party and led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Legitimate right
Correspondents say that although there have been unsuccessful attempts to introduce similar bills in the past, the right-wing make-up of the current government gives this one more chance of passing – although it has many hurdles to clear yet.
An Israeli rights organisation, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, (Acri) said the committee’s initial approval of the bill was “a sign of a democracy losing its bearings”.
“Marking the Nakba does not threaten the safety of the State of Israel, but is rather a legitimate and fundamental human right of any person, group or people, expressing grief at the face of a disaster they experienced,” said Acri president Sammi Michael.
Mr Lieberman’s party also wants to introduce a loyalty pledge, which would demand that Israeli-Arabs swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish, Zionist and democratic” state, before they can be issued with their ID papers. Israel Beiteinu spokesman Tal Nahum said the measure would be discussed by the cabinet on Sunday and the first parliamentary vote would be the following Wednesday. Avigdor Lieberman raised concerns during Israeli military operations in Gaza in January and December that some Israeli-Arabs were opening expressing sympathy with Hamas – which controls Gaza and which launches militant attacks on Israel and which, in its charter, is sworn to the state’s destruction.

The Big Questions: “Is Israel Racist”: BBC1

Last Sunday, Selma James and me had to defend this judgement, despite the programme beinga crude setup, and the presenter clearly supportive of Israel. To watch the debate, use the link above.

Israel: ‘No need to finish’ W Bank barrier: BBCwall 4

Israel began building the barrier several years ago
Israel began building the barrier several years ago

The head of Israel’s security service has said there is no security reason for continuing construction of Israel’s barrier through the West Bank.

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told a parliamentary committee that Israel had enough capabilities to prevent attacks from the Palestinian territory.
Since building began years ago, Israel has maintained that it is a security measure to keep out attackers. Palestinians reject this, seeing it as a land grab. The UN has criticised Israel, citing an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice that parts of the barrier built inside Palestinian territory in the West Bank – 90% of the route – are contrary to international law.
Gaza attacks
Meanwhile, Israeli police say a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza has landed in the town of Sderot, causing damage but no casualties.
Several people were treated for shock after the rocket struck the backyard of a house. It was one of very few rockets launched from Gaza in recent weeks.   Israeli security officials have said the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, is trying to maintain a truce so it can re-arm following Israel’s offensive earlier this year. Later, Israeli forces were reported to have bombed an area on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, hours after the Sderot attack. It was apparently targeted at tunnels which Israel says are used to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

New leaders face old problems in Mid-East: BBC

When you are dealing with a conflict that has gone on for a very long time, it is wise not to infer too much from a single meeting between two men who are new to their jobs. But new leaders usually have a better chance of changing things than they do after they have been bruised and battered by a few years in office, so it does not do to be too cynical either. Before the meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israel’s new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu there were predictions of a rift between them. There are precedents. When Mr Netanyahu was prime minister between 1996 and 1999, he had a difficult relationship with President Bill Clinton. But if that is going to happen with President Obama, it is probably too early, and the rest of us are not likely to hear about it for a while. Two leaders anyway do not have to be best buddies to run an alliance. Do not forget that there are important links between the United States and Israel that are about as immutable as anything else in international affairs.
Ever since President Harry Truman gave Palestine’s Jews vital diplomatic help when they were creating the state of Israel in 1947-48, the relationship has become closer and closer. At the moment Messrs Obama and Netanyahu are agreed that they do not want Iran to get nuclear weapons. That has been apparent for some time. Iran denies they are developing a weapon, but its arguments are not winning many of the sceptics over. The Israeli government does not have much faith in the Obama administration’s plan to talk Iran out of enriching uranium.
But it can hardly tell the president not to try.
Mr Netanyahu would have liked a tough deadline to be built into any talks, when they start properly. Instead President Obama promised to view the way they are going at the end of the year. It is a deadline of sorts. But does it just give the Iranians a warning that by December they need to have found a way to play for more time? On the Palestinian front, President Obama reiterated his belief that the best chance of peace lies with the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He emphasised Israeli as well as Palestinian obligations.
For example, he said that Israel was right not to tolerate its citizens being rocketed from Gaza.

Time for US to stop fueling the conflict: The Electronic Intifada

Josh Reubner, 25 May 2009
In pledging to trim ineffective spending, US President Obama declared that “there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.”
By asking earlier this month for $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel in his FY2010 budget request, it would seem that on this important policy issue President Obama’s commitment is more rhetorical than substantive. Since 1949, according to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has provided to Israel more than $100 billion in military and economic assistance. In 2007, the US and Israel signed an agreement for $30 billion in additional military aid through FY2018.
Yet the provision of US weapons to Israel at taxpayer expense has done nothing to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to achieving a just and lasting peace. Rather, these weapons have had the exact opposite effect, as documented recently by Amnesty International, which pointed to US weapons as a prime factor “fueling” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, during the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 innocent Palestinian civilians, including more than 1,000 children. During its December 2008-January 2009 war on the occupied Gaza Strip alone, Israel killed nearly 1,200 non-combatants.
On average, for each day that President Bush sat in the Oval Office, Israel killed one Palestinian civilian, often with US weapons. Before Congress appropriates any additional military aid to Israel, it should insist upon President Obama providing a comprehensive and transparent review of the effects US weapons transfers to Israel have on Palestinian civilians. The Arms Export Control Act limits the use of US weapons given to a foreign country to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense.”
If, after reviewing the impact of Israel’s misuse of US weapons, the President and Congress cannot find the political will to sanction Israel for its violations of the Arms Export Control Act and prohibit future arms transfers as is required by law, then there are still steps that the US government should take to ensure that any future transfers are not used to commit human rights abuses but instead to promote US policy goals. For example, previous US loan guarantees to Israel have stipulated that funds cannot be used to support Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Conditioning US military aid to Israel in the same way would prevent these weapons from being used to kill innocent Palestinian civilians.

Power struggle killing patients: The Electronic Intifada

Mel Frykberg,  23 May 2009
GAZA CITY (IPS) – The lives of hundreds of critically ill Gazans continue to be jeopardized by the power struggle between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, and political blackmail by Israel. Mohammed Zibdeh, 12, who has cancer of the brain is waiting in Gaza City for a permit to travel to Israel for advanced treatment. He is dependent on a ventilator connected to his throat for survival. Last year Mohammed was able to secure a permit to travel to an Israeli hospital where he received chemotherapy for his brain tumor, causing the tumor to shrink significantly. However, a power struggle between Fatah and Hamas over the issuance of exit permits for patients, and Israel’s reluctance to issue visas for Gazans on the basis of alleged security concerns, means Mohammed has to now wait for a new permit to return to the Israeli hospital.
“I’m worried for my son’s life,” says his father Riyad, who fears the tumor is once again growing to its original size. He has reason to worry. Eight seriously ill Gazans lost their lives from late March to late April after they were unable to secure the necessary documentation to leave the Gaza Strip for urgently needed medical treatment abroad. The situation was temporarily alleviated over the weekend when Egypt opened its borders and allowed hundreds of Gazans to enter Egypt. But the border was shut soon thereafter, bringing the situation back to square one. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated in a recently released report that only 90 patients crossed the Erez crossing into Israel during April. This compares with 325 in March and 258 in February.
These figures, however, fall far short of the many hundreds who apply monthly to leave Gaza for medical treatment. Patients requiring advanced medical treatment for cancer and kidney diseases are some of the many Gazans unable to obtain treatment in the coastal territory. Gaza’s dilapidated medical system, and a critical shortage of equipment due to Israel’s embargo on the strip, has forced many to seek travel to neighboring Arab countries, Israel and further abroad for treatment.

Israel destroying Gaza’s farmlands: The Electronic Intifada

Eva Bartlett, 22 May 2009

A Gazan farmer holds crops destroyed by Israeli troops
A Gazan farmer holds crops destroyed by Israeli troops

On the morning of 4 May 2009, Israeli troops set fire to Palestinian crops along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that 200,000 square meters of crops were destroyed, including wheat and barley ready for harvest, as well as vegetables, olive and pomegranate trees. Local farmers report that the blaze carried over a four-kilometer stretch on the Palestinian side of the eastern border land. Ibrahim Hassan Safadi, 49, from one of the farming families whose crops were destroyed by the blaze, said that the fires were smoldering until early evening, despite efforts by the fire brigades to extinguish them. Safadi says he was present when Israeli soldiers fired small bombs into his field, which soon after caught ablaze. He explained that “The Israeli soldiers fired from their jeeps, causing a fire to break out on the land. They burned the wheat, burned the pomegranate trees … The fire spread across the valley. We called the fire brigades. They came to the area and put out the fire. But in some places the fire started again.” According to Safadi, he lost 30,000 square meters to the blaze, including 300 pomegranate trees, 150 olive trees, and wheat.
In the border areas it has long since become nearly impossible to work on the land due to almost daily shooting from the Israeli soldiers. The crops that were burned on 4 May were dried and ready to harvest, meaning that they were extremely flammable. “It took only three minutes for the fire to destroy 65,000 square meters,” said Nahed Jaber Abu Said, whose farmland lies a few kilometers down the road from Safadi. He added that “It was nearly 9am. I was here when the Israeli jeeps came. An Israeli soldier at the fence shot an explosive into our field of wheat. It went up in flames immediately.”  Safadi said that the arson attack was the third major time his farm has suffered from an Israeli attack. In previous attacks over the last decade, he explained, Israeli soldiers bulldozed his land, razing his lemon, olive and clementine trees as well as demolishing greenhouses. “We’ve suffered great losses. The Israeli soldiers have destroyed so much of our land, trees and equipment. They’ve cost us a lot of money,” he said, citing cumulative losses of $330,000 since 2000 when the heightened invasions began. In the last attack, Safadi said that $130,000 worth of crops, trees and irrigation piping was destroyed.

A family lost in white phosphorous shelling: The Electronic Intifada

Eman Mohammed writing from , Live from Palestine, 25 May 2009

 Umm Muhammad's eldest son, Muhammad, holds a picture of his family. Everyone in the picture was killed except for him, Umm Muhammad and two younger brothers, Ahmad and Ali.
Umm Muhammad's eldest son, Muhammad, holds a picture of his family. Everyone in the picture was killed except for him, Umm Muhammad and two younger brothers, Ahmad and Ali.

The Abu Halima family’s agony began when the family was taking shelter from Israeli missiles in the foyer of their two-floor home in the Jabaliya area of the northern Gaza Strip on 11 January when two white phosphorous bombs struck. The father of the family, Saad Ala Abu Halima was instantly killed along with his three sons, Abed Raheem (14), Zaid (10) and Hamza (8), along with his only daughter, one-year-old Shahed. Saad’s wife, Umm Muhammad, and her 20-year-old daughter-in-law, Ghada, were left with severe burns — unable to run away or call for help. Meanwhile, Ghada’s two-year-old daughter Farah and Umm Muhammad’s youngest son, four-year-old Ali, were injured and watched their family members perish in horror.
By the time Ghada’s husband reached the house, his brother Ahmad and some relatives had only minutes ago rushed into the house, carrying away the dead sons and their father on a cart, seeking for an ambulance help. Ahmad (Umm Muhammad’s son) said: “By the time we heard the blast, my relatives and I took my father and brothers on a cart, thinking we could save their lives. I didn’t know that they all were dead by the time we arrived! We were looking for an ambulance but an Israeli tank appeared in front of us; the Israeli soldier who got out of it ordered us to leave the bodies and run for our lives … while running away I looked back to see him pouring down sand on them.” He added after a brief pause, “I went back home to see my niece Farah, Ali, my mother and my sister-in-law Ghada all burnt and being carried to the hospital by the neighbors. It still doesn’t seem real to me; every morning I wish that I could give anything away to get my family back. Still, God knows better than I do.” Umm Muhammad comforted Ali, saying, “They took my baby Shahed but I still have Farah and Ali; maybe it’s just how it was meant to be.”
“I’ve lived my life, I don’t mind paying the tax of war but why should this little girl should suffer; this what I don’t understand! We managed to live in the house after the accident but the black walls keep on reminding us of it every minute of our lives, or what is left of it for that matter,” Umm Muhammad added.

‘Israel will face terror, missiles in future war’: Ha’aretz

Israel is likely to face simultaneous missile strikes and terror attacks across the country in the event of a war breaking out, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Monday. Vilnai made the comments during a session of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in which he said the Home Front Command would simulate defending against such an assault as part of a large-scale drill to be held next week.
“This isn’t an imaginary situation. This isn’t detached from reality and if there is a war, it’s very likely that this is what will happen,” said the deputy minister. The Israel Defense Forces drill, codenamed “Turning Point 3, has been billed as the largest exercise ever in Israel’s history.
IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Ze’ev Zuk-Rom, the National Emergency Authority chief, also participated in the briefing. He said the drill will be based on lessons learned in different exercises held over the last two years, including ones learned during the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza. “In every future confrontation with one enemy or more the home front will suffer the brunt of the offense. The better prepared Israel is, the smaller the number of casualties and the lesser the damage to vital national infrastructure will be.” committee chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi said at the end of the meeting.

Muslim nations at Damascus conference: Resistance is not terrorism: Ha’aretz

“Terrorism is a dangerous global phenomenon, but this does not mean that we should allow it to be used to confuse issues and describe resistance as terrorism,” said a statement issued Monday at the end of the three-day meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Muslim countries meeting in the Syrian capital criticized Israel on but said they were open to better ties with the Jewish state if it took steps towards a “just and comprehensive” Middle East peace deal. “We must not reward Israel for its crimes,” said the statement. “It should be affirmed that any progress on ties must be linked to how much the Israeli position represents a commitment to a just and comprehensive peace that guarantees the restoration of rights and occupied land,” the statement said. U.S. President Barack Obama is due to address the Muslim world on June 4 from Cairo, a seat of Islamic learning and one of only two Arab countries to have signed a formal peace treaty with Israel. The other is Jordan whose monarch, King Abdallah, said that Obama was forming a Middle East peace plan that could involve normalisation of ties between Israel and the whole Muslim world.


After having talks with the platforms promoting the boycott of Israel and with representatives of Catalan institutions and gathering as much information as possible about the events taking place on 24-25 May at Acre, Israel in which La Carrau has been invited to participate, we feel that we should make the following public statement:


First of all we would like to make very clear our total respect for the people of Israel and their different ethnic groups and cultures. We would also like to point out that we did not intend to take part for profit; we were invited to go, not hired. Our reward, rather than economic, was to be the chance to visit some wonderful places and get a close look at ways of life that are very different from our own, due not only to their cultural characteristics but also to the obvious incongruities of a problem that is still unresolved: the imbalance of cultures and religions.
Having said this, the reasons that finally led us to take our decision were:
– That in spite of the efforts we have made to contact different people, entities and media organisations, we have not been able to determine the exact nature of the events in which we are invited to take part.
–  That we understand and agree with the arguments given by the network of platforms for the cultural boycott of Israel, as long as this boycott is not aimed at personal initiatives and only affects events orchestrated by the institutions of the Israeli state.
– That we do not wish to have anything to do with an event that could be used as propaganda by the official institutions of the state of Israel, and this seems especially likely when the promoter is the town council of Acre, which is extremely right wing and xenophobic in character.

Cheney: Support for Israel Feeds Terrorism: ICH

By Ray McGovern
May 23, 2009 “”Information Clearing House” — – If we hear in the coming days that former vice president Dick Cheney has fired one of his speechwriters – or perhaps grounded Lynne or Liz – it will be clear why. Oozing out of the sleazy speech he gave Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute was an inadvertent truth regarding the Israeli albatross hanging around the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

I watched the speech, but had missed the gaffe until I went carefully through the written text before a radio interview Thursday evening. It amounts to a major faux pas, though I’ll give you odds that the usual-suspect pundits of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) will not touch it, because it raises troubling questions about the close U.S. relationship with Israel. I wanted my 10-year-old grandson to learn a nice word to describe the arguments in the former vice president’s speech, so he has now learned “disingenuous.” Today we’ll study “superficial,” for that is the right adjective to assign to both Cheney and President Barack Obama as they addressed the threat of “terrorism,” the threat always guaranteed to resonate among Americans – much like the threat of communism did, not too many decades back. To burnish his anti-terrorist credentials, Obama pledged to do whatever is necessary to protect the United States and warned that al-Qaeda is “actively plotting to attack us again.”
What continues to be missing in the rhetoric of both Obama and Cheney is any discussion of al-Qaeda’s actual capability to perpetrate, in Cheney’s words, “a 9/11 with nuclear weapons” or some other scary thought designed to make Americans hand over their liberties for some dubious promise of safety. Equally important – and equally missing – there is never any sensible examination of the motives that might be driving what Cheney called this “same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers [who] are still there.”
There are a number of reasons why al-Qaeda and other terrorist movements wish to attack us, but this question never gets a complete – or honest – answer, certainly not from the FCM or from the mouths of politicians like Cheney and Obama.
Why They Hate Us
Cheney’s explanation of a motive mostly reprised George W. Bush’s old “the terrorists hate our freedoms” canard. Cheney said the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world – for liberty, for human rights, for the rational, peaceful resolution of differences,” an odd set of qualities for Cheney to cite given his roles in violating constitutional rights, torturing captives, and spreading falsehoods to justify invading Iraq.
But that’s also where Cheney slipped up. You didn’t notice? Well, Cheney couldn’t resist expanding on the complaints of the terrorists:
“They have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion … our belief in equal rights for women … our support for Israel … these are the true sources of resentment….”
“Our support for Israel.” Cheney got that part right. My radio interview Thursday was with an FCM station, and I thought I would make an extra effort to be “fair and balanced.” So I noted that, to his credit, Cheney – advertently or inadvertently – did articulate one of the (usually unspoken) key reasons “why they hate us.” I was immediately jumped on, figuratively, not only by the interviewee representing “the other side,” but also by the not-so-fair-and-balanced moderator. My interlocutors did not seem all that hospitable to facts, but I thought I owed them a try at adducing some anyway.

In the next report you can see how consent is manufactured: Israel “is furious…”! Is it? This is the case of confusing (by design) the regime with the country and its people, like a French monarch used to do centuries ago…

Israel furious over Russia FM’s meeting with Hamas leader: Ha’aretz

Senior officials in the Foreign Ministry were furious on Sunday over the news that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus. Lavrov said on Saturday that Russia believes in the need to maintain contacts with Hamas despite a cooling of ties between the two sides. Officials in Jerusalem said one of the reasons for their displeasure stems from the fact that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is due in Moscow next week for his first visit, which is aimed at beginning talks on upgrading strategic relations between the two countries. Foreign Ministry officials held meetings early Sunday morning in an effort to formulate a diplomatic response to the Lavrov-Meshal meeting. In all likelihood, Israel will issue an official condemnation.
“We are certain that this is needed,” Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying after meeting Meshal in the Syrian capital, where he lives in exile. Lavrov’s comments following his meeting with Meshal aroused further antagonism in Jerusalem.
Diplomats in Damascus said new Middle East peace moves by U.S. President Barack Obama may have helped spur the meeting between Lavrov and Meshaal after tension between Hamas and Russia over the last few months.

Canada minister blasts ‘dangerous’ leftist-Islamist anti-Semitism: Ha’aretz

A “new anti-Semitism” that emanates from an alliance of Western leftists and Islamic extremists is more dangerous than the “old European” form of Jew-hatred, Canada’s minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism said as he wound up a four-day trip to Israel Sunday. “The existential threat faced by Israel on a daily basis is ultimately a threat to the broader Western civilization,” said Jason Kenney, explaining the staunchly pro-Israel positions of his government, led by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “It’s a threat that comes from profoundly undemocratic forces that don’t have the same conception of human dignity or freedom, and which abuse Israel as a kind of representative of the broader West and Western liberal-democratic values,” said Kenney. “I also very acutely understand the nature of the new anti-Semitism, and I think it’s even more dangerous than the old European anti-Semitism.”  Kenney said many anti-Israel attacks come from adherents of a form of anti-Semitism that who appear to view a Jewish homeland as illegitimate.
“Israel is not perfect, obviously,” Kenney said. “Israelis should be the first to admit that. But we acknowledge that so much of the criticism Israel faces is motivated by a dangerous form of anti-Semitism that tries to hide behind anti-Zionism and is represented by a coalition of the far left in the West with extreme currents of jihadi Islam that seek the destruction of the Jewish nation. They seem to believe that the Jewish people are the only people in the world that don’t have a right to a homeland.”
The 40-year-old, who earlier this month was elected Canada’s “Best Overall MP” by fellow parliamentarians, prides himself on being responsible for his country’s decision to shun the United Nations-sponsored Durban II conference on racism, based on fears it would be misused as a platform for unfair criticism of Israel. Canada was the first country to announce its boycott of the meet, even ahead of Israel.

A new worry for Israel- not only does it have to fight North Korea, Iran, and the whole Muslim and Arab world, but now it is facing anihalation by conversion… You have to read this to believe it…

Shas min.: Reform conversions will prompt influx of Palestinians to Israel: Ha’aretz

The religious parties in the Knesset are demanding that the government amend the law to make the Chief Rabbinate the only body authorized to deal with matters of conversion in Israel. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, warned that if non-Orthodox conversion is recognized in Israel, “there are hundreds of foreign workers and Palestinians who will take advantage of the Reform conversion in order to gain Israeli citizenship.” Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who heads conversions in Israel, along with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, held an emergency meeting at their office on Sunday, attended by the religious ministers and MKs, in order to formulate a response to last week’s Supreme Court ruling affecting conversion. In its decision, the Supreme Court ordered the state to fund conversion centers that are being run by the Reform movement in Israel.
Amar warned that the Supreme Court ruling is part of a broader effort by the court to undermine the power of the Chief Rabbinate and of Jewish orthodoxy in Israel.  “The next step of the Supreme Court will be to recognize Reform conversions,” Amar said. Currently the state does not recognize reform or conservative conversions, unless these are started with studies in recognized Reform and Conservative centers out of the country and given a final test and seal of approval from the Orthodox Rabbinate here. At the meeting, Shas ministers Yishai, Ariel Atias and Yaakov Margi were in attendance, as was Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, MKs of United Torah Judaism and MK Uri Orbach of Habayit Hayehudi. Minister of Religious Affairs Margi said that “the Supreme Court is forcing all those who preserve the Jewish halakha and Jewish identity into maintaining genealogical registers, which is causing friction within the nation.”

Arab League chief: Israeli objections to Russia-Hamas talks ‘nonsense’: Ha’aretz

Arab League leader Amr Moussa on Monday said he supports Russia’s initiative to hold talks with Islamic militant group Hamas, despite strong objections by Israel. Moussa called Israeli objections to the meetings “nonsense.” Moussa told the Associated Press that “the time has changed. Many people are sick and tired of the policies of isolation and exclusion.” He was speaking on the sidelines of a financial conference in Athens.
Russia’s Mideast peace partners, including the United States, insist that Hamas must recognize Israel and stop violence before it can join any international talks. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with the top Hamas political leader in Syria on Saturday, while Moscow has invited Hamas leaders for talks.

Lieberman withholds condemnation
A week before Avigdor Lieberman’s first diplomatic visit to Moscow as Israel’s foreign minister, a controversy has erupted over the Lavrov-Meshal meeting. Lieberman shelved a statement condemning the meeting which the Israeli Foreign Ministry had drafted, in deference to the Russians, but then relented and released a weaker response expressing “deep disappointment” that the meeting took place.
The Russian foreign minister arrived in the Syrian capital on Saturday to participate in a meeting of foreign ministers sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The meeting with Meshal came following a cooling of relations between Hamas and Russia, including Russian support of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The Israeli foreign ministry was miffed over the Lavrov-Meshal meeting, especially when it was followed by a statement by Lavrov indicating that Russia would continue its contacts with Hamas despite international criticism. Sunday morning, after discussions at the foreign ministry, the foreign ministry decided to release a statement of condemnation. Because of the sensitivity of the matter with Lieberman’s scheduled June 1 visit to the Russian capital, the statement was sent to Lieberman for his personal approval.
After shelving the statement, Lieberman’s office noted that this was “not the Russian foreign minister’s first get-together with Meshal and it was nothing to get all excited about.” After the Prime Minister’s Office subsequently condemned the meeting in Damascus, Lieberman pulled an about-face and issued a new response. “The Foreign Minister,” the new statement read, “expresses deep disappointment over the meeting and believes that any meeting with Hamas makes a peace agreement more remote and legitimizes terrorism.”