Friday, October 31, 2008

Christians take up arms to defend themselves

Iraqi Christians pray in Baghdad; note empty pews

Iraqi Christians Forming Militias

Members of the Christian community in northern Iraq are setting up ad hoc militias to secure their neighborhoods, rights advocates said.

A campaign targeting the Christian community in Iraq erupted in September. Christians have received death threats through pamphlets, letters, e-mails and text messages from a group calling itself "al-Mujahadin."

With Baghdad struggling to contain the situation, several Christian neighborhoods have established their own security forces, setting up various checkpoints throughout the city, he said.

Mass Hamas wedding

Hamas Recruits Army of Husbands -Taghreed El-Khodary

Hamas leaders have turned to matchmaking, bringing together single fighters and widows, and providing dowries and wedding parties for the many who cannot afford such trappings of matrimony.

"Marriage is the same as jihad," or holy war, said Muhammad Yousef, one recently married member of the Qassam Brigades. "With marriage, you are producing another generation that believes in resistance."

The night before the mass wedding party, Yousef said, his wife shared with him her ultimate wish: to carry out a joint suicide attack against Israel.
(New York Times)

Israeli hero: Uri Gil, fighter pilot

Oldest Active Fighter Pilot Retires

Uri Gil is a Guinness World Record holder. At 61 he’s the oldest active fighter pilot [in the world] and he’s waged battle in the skies for decades.

Uri was flying over the Suez Canal in 1973 when a missile whizzed past him: "If I'd broken a fraction of a second later, I wouldn't be here today." Over his 41 years of service Uri downed many enemy planes and he can't hide the pride he feels: "I'm the only pilot who downed planes in all the wars."

Yet Uri never gloated: "I was never happy afterwards. I like to show the enemy some respect." Just before his last flight, he takes his granddaughter to see his F16 fighter plane: "This plane's on call. If enemies come to our borders, then someone has to make sure these planes don't enter the country."
(Journeyman Pictures-Documentary DVD)

Jerusalem thrills tourists

Flashes of History in Jerusalem: Outdoor Display Traces City's Past
-Linda Gradstein

A new outdoor sound and light show called "The Night Spectacular" at the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem's Old City offers a virtual-reality experience that shouldn't be missed. Most of the 45-minute show is vignettes from different time periods presented with blazing colors and dramatic soundtracks.

There's no screen and no need for one. The dramatic computer-generated scenes from 20 projectors cover the Old City's walls, towers and turrets, surrounding you with images that can make you gasp.
(Washington Post)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bible comes to life in Israel?

Oldest Hebrew writing found near Jerusalem -Associated Press

An archaeologist digging at a hilltop south of Jerusalem believes a ceramic shard found in the ruins of an ancient town bears the oldest Hebrew inscription ever discovered, a find that could provide an important glimpse into the culture and language of the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.

The five lines of faded characters written 3,000 years ago, and the ruins of the fortified settlement where they were found, are indications that a powerful Israelite kingdom existed at the time of King David, says Yossi Garfinkel, the Hebrew University archaeologist in charge of the new dig.

The site [pictured above] overlooks the Elah Valley, said to be the scene of the slingshot showdown between David and the Philistine giant Goliath, and lies near the ruins of Goliath's hometown in the Philistine metropolis of Gath.

Garfinkel believes building fortifications like those at Hirbet Qeiyafa could not have been a local initiative: The walls would have required moving 200,000 tons of stone, a task too big for the 500 or so people who lived there. Instead, it would have required an organized kingdom like the one the Bible says David ruled.

[I]f Garfinkel's claim is borne out, it would bolster the case for the Bible's accuracy by indicating the Israelites could record events as they happened, transmitting the history that was later written down in the Bible several hundred years later.
[Jerusalem Post]

First-Temple Water Tunnel Found in Jerusalem -Etgar Lefkovits

A water tunnel dating back to the First Temple era has been uncovered in the ancient City of David, Israeli archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said. The tunnel was discovered under an immense stone structure built in the 10th century BCE that has previously been identified by Mazar as the palace of King David.

The tunnel's characteristics, date, and location, Mazar said, testify with "high probability" that the water tunnel is the one called "tsinor" in the story of King David's conquest of Jerusalem (Samuel II, 5:6-8; Chronicles I, 11:4-6).
(Jerusalem Post)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Inspirational Palestinian TV: Killing Jews a "most splendid blessing"

"Annihilation of Jews Is the Most Splendid Blessing"

Palestinian cleric Muhsen Abu 'Ita told Al-Aqsa TV: "The annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine. This will be followed by a greater blessing, Allah be praised, with the establishment of a Caliphate."

"Israel Tram": Innovative Public Relations move

Successful PR for Israel in Austria -Roi Mendel

The Austrian Public Relations Association has [s]elected Israeli Ambassador Dan Ashbel as their man of the year.

A project headed by Ashbel that gained much success was the "Israel" tram [picture above] - a cable car that runs through Vienna while giving the passengers a taste of Israel's culture. Passengers enjoy Israeli foods, music and movies on the tram.
(Ynet News)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reflections on US Syria raid

Hitting Syria, Five Years Late -Editorial

After five years and six months during which Syria has been an active accomplice to the insurgency in Iraq, the U.S. has finally struck back. We wonder how differently the war in Iraq might have gone had the U.S. conducted this kind of raid as often as necessary in 2003 and 2004, or if it had put Assad on notice that his survival in power was at risk if he continued to support the insurgency.

Our guess is that the war would have been shorter and far less bloody for American and Iraqi troops.

There's a lesson in this for the next president. The Syrians interpreted diplomatic accommodation in the face of their anti-American acts as a sign of weakness to exploit.
(Wall Street Journal)

U.S.: Syria Raid Killed Terrorist Leader -Jonathan S. Landay & Nancy A. Youssef

A CIA-led raid on a compound in eastern Syria killed an Al-Qaeda in Iraq commander who oversaw the smuggling into Iraq of foreign fighters whose attacks claimed thousands of Iraqi and American lives, three U.S. officials said.

The body of Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih was flown out of Syria on a U.S. helicopter at the end of the operation Sunday.

"This was a significant blow to the foreign fighter pipeline between Syria and Iraq," said a U.S. official.
(McClatchy-Miami Herald)

Syria Plays the Victim When Its Own Border Is Breached -Editorial

The logic of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad seems to be that his regime can sponsor murders, arms trafficking, infiltrations and suicide bombings in neighboring countries while expecting to be shielded from any retaliation in kind by the diplomatic scruples of democracies.

If Sunday's raid serves only to put Assad on notice that the U.S. is no longer prepared to respect the sovereignty of a criminal regime, it will have been worthwhile.

Damascus should not be allowed to reap the diplomatic and economic rewards of a rapprochement while continuing to plant car bombs, transport illegal weapons and harbor terrorists.

Israel has let Assad know that it is prepared to respond to his terrorism with strikes against legitimate military targets. Now the U.S. has sent the same message.
(Washington Post)


Syria Sentences 12 for Political Crimes

A Syrian court sentenced 12 dissidents to 2 1/2 years each in prison for political crimes after they had called for democratic reforms. The 11 men and a woman were arrested after holding a meeting to revive a movement calling for freedom of expression and a democratic constitution in Syria. The charges included "weakening national morale."

Syria Comes Down on Dissidents - Stephen Starr

The 12 Syrian dissidents were held behind a cage in a court room packed with family members and well-wishers. After the sentences were read out, several of the detained shouted cries of defiance and locked hands together. About a dozen diplomats from various embassies, including Canadian and Dutch representatives, attended the proceedings.

Several Internet cafes dotted around Damascus have recently seen new regulations posted whereby every computer user must provide an identity card before being assigned a computer. The computer number and time spent on the Internet is then recorded.
(Asia Times-Hong Kong)

Hamas 'cements' it's future: prepares for confrontation

Hamas Building Underground City in Gaza -Amir Rappaport

There are few high-rise building sites in Gaza these days, but the demand for cement is huge. Copying Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas is building enormous underground installations - ammunition bunkers, tunnels, and command posts.

Responding to intelligence reports, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai has reduced the flow of cement from Israel to Gaza and is weighing a total halt.

Security officials say Hamas is building tunnels beneath the centers of major cities to enable freedom of movement for its forces should the IDF enter. In addition, outside the cities, Hamas is constructing tunnels beneath the major entry roads into Gaza, to be filled with explosives and then detonated beneath IDF convoys. The underground construction also includes hundreds of Kassam and Katyusha rocket launching positions that are protected from air attack.

Monday, October 27, 2008

US military sends message to Assad

A Warning Syria's President Assad Must Heed -James Hider

[A] U.S. airborne raid into Syrian territory marks the culmination of years of frustration with Damascus' reluctance to police its own border with Iraq, the main point of entry for foreign jihadists.

The Sukkariyeh Farm, which U.S. forces raided, is just over the border from the Iraqi city of al-Qaim, which, since 2003, has been a key funneling point for jihadists entering Iraq.

Syria is a linchpin in the region, providing a link between Tehran and the Lebanese militia organisation Hezbollah. While it is a secular regime, Syria has allowed extreme Islamist groups to operate from its territory, using them both as an internal political pressure valve and to tie down US forces inside Iraq.

A raid into sovereign territory would have needed high-level U.S. clearance and may have been intended as a warning to Syria that it is not inviolate and must choose carefully whom it supports.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Iran arrests American student

Iran Imprisons American Student

Esha Momeni [pictured above], an American university student in Iran to visit family and research women's rights, has been arrested and held for more than a week in Evin prison, the Tehran facility notorious for holding political prisoners.

Dozens of supporters of the Change for Equality campaign, launched by Iranian women activists in September 2006, have been arrested in Iran. The campaign is seeking to collect a million signatures in support of changing laws that deny women in Iran equal rights.
(Associated Press)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

McFarlane: Reagan blew it

From Beirut to 9/11 -Robert C. McFarlane [pictured above]

Twenty-five years ago, Iranian-trained Hizbullah terrorists bombed the United States Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 241 Americans who were part of a multinational peacekeeping force (a simultaneous attack on the French base killed 58 paratroopers). The attack was planned over several months at Hizbullah's training camp in the Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon.

Once American intelligence confirmed who was responsible and where the attack had been planned, President Reagan approved a joint French-American air assault on the camp - only to have the mission aborted just before launching by the secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger.

Four months later, all the marines were withdrawn, capping one of the most tragic and costly policy defeats in the brief modern history of American counterterrorism operations.

One could draw several conclusions from this episode. To me the most telling was the one reached by Middle Eastern terrorists, that the United States had neither the will nor the means to respond effectively to a terrorist attack, a conclusion seemingly borne out by our fecklessness toward terrorist attacks in the 1990s:

*in 1993 on the World Trade Center
*on Air Force troops at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996
*on our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998
*on the destroyer Cole in 2000.
The writer was U.S. national security adviser from 1983 to 1985.
(New York Times)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The New Israeli Spy?

Spy Pigeons and Secret Squirrels in Iran -Dion Nissenbaum

Iran says its security services have arrested two suspected "spy pigeons" near its well-guarded Nantaz nuclear site.

One of the pigeons had a black-coated metal ring and invisible strings, security officials said. Just last year, Iran arrested 14 squirrels for spying.

"The squirrels were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services," Iran's state-sponsored news agency reported.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Preventing nuclear Iran

New Approaches to Halt Iran's Nuclear Program -Bennett Ramberg

The West cannot buy the mullahs off. The time has come to explore another approach, one that challenges the values that sustain Iran's atomic ambitions. For the mullahs, one value dominates - preservation of the theocratic regime.

In this view a nuclear Iran provides security, international influence, and prestige while buttressing popular support. Iran's values, however, can become the West's sword.

[Nuclear capacity] will make the regime less secure. Iran will become an American and Israeli nuclear bulls-eye in this era of preemption. Reinforce this point with a U.S./NATO security guarantee to Israel: A nuclear attack on the Jewish state will result in Iran's extinction.
(Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians distort history

Self-Induced Nakba -Philip Carl Salzman

Palestinians and their partisans explain their unfortunate situation as a result of Western imperialism and colonialism. Yet there is a certain inconsistency in the Arab and Muslim narrative about imperialism and colonialism.

About the period of the 7th to the 18th centuries, when the Arab Muslim Empire spread by the sword from Arabia across all of the Middle East and North Africa to Morocco in the west, to Sicily, Portugal, Spain, and France in the north, and to Central Asia and India in the East, followed by Ottoman conquests in Europe, the narrative of imperialism and colonialism is triumphalist. Endless slaughter, forced conversion, slavery, and wholesale expropriation of property were all good, because God chose Muslims as his True Followers and, as such, they have a right - no, a duty - to dominate.

The Arabs in 1948 refused compromise with inferiors; they refused to divide and share, rejecting a UN settlement. Instead, they strove for complete victory, as their ancestors had. However, the Jews they faced did not cower; against the odds, and with little outside help, they fought and won.

The "Nakba" [catastrophe] was self-induced by the Arabs. They demanded all or nothing, and got nothing.
(History News Network/Sandbox)

Israel refuge Palestinians

Gay Palestinian Fears for Life, Seeks Refuge in Israel -Aviad Glickman

A 33-year-old gay Palestinian man petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice, asking for permanent residency in Israel so that he may continue to live with his partner as he has done for nine years.

The man, a resident of the West Bank village of Tamon, claimed to fear for his life, since his family refuses to accept his sexual orientation and may try to harm him.
(Ynet News)

Distorting reality

Things in Israel Aren't What They Seem -Oakland Ross

The "separation barrier" that now divides a good deal of Israel from much of the West Bank is almost invariably presented in newspapers or on TV as an ugly, forbidding series of tall concrete slabs.

There is just one problem with this picture. It isn't accurate, or not very. True, the portion of the barrier that snakes through Jerusalem does take the form of a concrete wall [to deter sniper shootings], but those portions represent only about 3% of the still unfinished barricade. The rest consists of an electronically monitored chain-link fence.

Welcome to the Middle East, where few features of the geopolitical landscape ever turn out to be exactly the way they tend to be perceived from abroad. Take the whole notion of physical separation between Israelis and Palestinians. It is surprising just how much commingling of the two sides does go on.
(Toronto Star)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Understanding Americas love of Israel

Common Interests Unite U.S., Israel -Frida Ghitis

Almost all major American politicians profess strong and unbreakable support for the State of Israel.

In 1819, then ex-President John Adams wrote, ''I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation.'' President Theodore Roosevelt supported Israel three decades before its founding when he wrote, ''It seems to me entirely proper to start a Zionist state around Jerusalem.''

According to foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Mead, American politicians support Israel because the American people - not just the Jews - support Israel. It's as simple as that. And it has been that way since long before the founding of modern Israel in 1948.

[A]lthough Jews make up less than 2% of the [US] population, pollsters show popular support for Israel has remained overwhelming.

Those who think ''Jewish money'' plays the key role forget that few countries have more money than oil-rich Arab nations that also lobby heavily in Washington. But they don't enjoy the passionate and widespread backing that Israel has throughout the U.S. and across the political spectrum.
(Miami Herald)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jihadists keep calls under the radar

Internet Phone Calls Crippling Fight Against Terrorism -Sean O'Neill & Richard Ford

The huge growth in Internet telephone traffic is jeopardizing the capability of police to investigate crime, senior sources have told The Times.

As more and more phone calls are routed over the web - using software such as Skype - police are losing the ability to track who has called whom, from where, and for how long. Unlike phone companies, which retain call data for billing purposes, Internet call companies have no reason to keep the material.

Hamas: God damns America

America's economic turmoil: 'divine punishment'

The current economic turmoil in the US is "divine punishment," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh [pictured above] said.

During a sermon before Muslim prayers at a Gaza City mosque, Haniyeh said God was chastising America for its support of the Israeli-led blockade imposed on Gaza.
[Associated Press/Jerusalem Post]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Calling on Arab leaders: Declare Israel is not the enemy

When Will the Arab World Tell Its People "Israel Is Not the Enemy"?
-Barry Rubin

Even in countries with genuinely moderate governments, no official or state-controlled newspaper (and very few intellectuals) dare say: Israel is not an enemy; America is a friend; the true struggle is to raise living standards and promote freedom.

What does it matter if Arab notables speak soothingly at diplomatic parties or in Western media interviews while millions at home are inundated by a very different message? [T]his kind of talk has kept the suckers in line for 60 years now.
(Jerusalem Post)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Targeting Christians

Hanged for Being a Christian in Iran -Alasdair Palmer

A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favor of an "Islamic Penal Code" which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith.

Hossein Soodmand was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy, the "crime" of abandoning one's religion. He had converted from Islam to Christianity. [H]e was hanged by the Iranian authorities for that decision.

His son, Ramtin, also a Christian, was arrested on August 21. It is feared he may become one of the first to be killed under Iran's new law.

Christians Targeted in Iraq -Atul Aneja

Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are fleeing after facing attacks that apparently have been masterminded by al-Qaeda.

According to [the]provincial governor, around 1,000 Christian families have fled Mosul after gunmen blew up three Christian homes in Mosul.
(The Hindu-India)

Saudis reintroduce crucifixion

Executions Surging in Saudi Arabia

Amnesty International says executions are surging in Saudi Arabia...

[The] report - "Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia" - says there were 158 recorded executions in 2007 and the figure between January and August 2008 stood at 71. There were at least 1,695 executions between 1985 and May 2008.

[C]onfessions are extracted through torture, ranging from cigarette burns, to electric shocks, nail-pulling, beatings and threats to family members.

Saudi officials routinely defend [public] beheadings [pictured above] as a quick and clean form of execution sanctioned by the Islamic faith.

In some cases, execution is followed by crucifixion.
(BBC News)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Israel needs checkpoints

Alert IDF Soldier at Checkpoint Prevents Terror Attack

The IDF nabbed three Palestinians carrying nine pipe bombs at a checkpoint west of Nablus, averting a planned terror attack.

When a female soldier at the checkpoint asked a Palestinian to open his bag, he refused. The soldier insisted, prompting the Palestinian to remove a shirt and pants from the bag before closing it again. However, then the soldier opened the bag herself, and found three pipe bombs inside it. At that point, the suspect's two friends were also searched and were found to carry three pipe bombs in each of their bags.
(Ynet News)

Slow justice for Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit

Israel Pursuing Kidnappers of Gilad Shalit -Ronen Solomon & Arik Weiss

"People are disappearing from the streets of Gaza," a former senior officer in the PA Preventive Security Services who fled recently from Gaza said this week.

According to Palestinian sources, Muhawash al-Kadi, one of the senior Hamas leaders involved in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, was driving in the evening with his family to his home in Rafiah. After the car reached the city cemetery, the street was blocked by a Peugeot with its hood up. As al-Kadi turned into a side street, an old man seemed to fall in the street and al-Kadi stopped to help him. At this point, IDF soldiers dressed in Hamas uniforms sprayed something in al-Kadi's face while other soldiers removed the family members from al-Kadi's car. Taking al-Kadi, both cars sped toward the Dahaniya airport where two helicopters flew them to Israel.

A month after the event, the PA Interior Ministry announced the arrest of collaborators who helped Israel in capturing al-Kadi. Israel currently holds at least two Palestinians connected to the kidnapping. Publication of details on additional arrests has not been permitted.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama & McCain need to chill about Israel

Candidates Need to Stop Talking about Israel -Shmuel Rosner

The presidential candidates are constantly asked about Israel by an American media that is sometimes obsessed with that country. But the constant mentions of Israel in every election cycle do little to serve Israel's interest.

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as important as it might be, will not be a strategic life-changing event for the U.S.

Advisers to both candidates have recognized that.

Why Iran denies the Holocaust

Iran's Motivation for Ridiculing the Holocaust -Richard L. Cravatts

[Some] Muslims want the occurrence of the Holocaust to be proven false to eliminate the cataclysmic social and political event that led the world to accept and endorse the creation of the Jewish state.

It is also politically expedient to position the Palestinians as the ultimate victims among victimized peoples, and this is much easier without the inexpressible evil of the Holocaust as core element of Israel's tragic heritage.
(History News Network)

Islam's one-eyed women

Saudi Cleric: Veil for Women Should Reveal Only One Eye

Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan, a Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia, has called on women to wear a full veil that reveals only one eye. He told the Muslim satellite channel al-Majd that showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive.
(BBC News)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What the next US president should do

America's Interests in the Middle East -Martin Kramer

How much attention should be devoted to Israel and the Palestinians? Once upon a time, it was thought that Israel versus Arabs was the source of all instability in the Middle East. For the last 35 years there have been no state-to-state wars involving Israel. Fostering an Israeli-Palestinian deal would be a good deed, but its contribution to our overall interests would be marginal.

My advice for the next president: Show interest, but don't waste time.
(Middle East Strategy at Harvard)

Iran rising

Female morality police in Iran deal exclusively with 'crimes' committed by women

How to Deal with Iran -Shoshana Bryen

Real power in Iran is in the hands of the clerics who formulated Iran's broad, well-thought-out and very serious religious and political worldview. It is Shi'ite in design. Their program is not born of imagined slights or misdeeds by a particular U.S. president, and a new president will not reverse it. They don't want to be our friends; they want us not to be in their way.

The nuclear quest began with the shah, was adopted by the Islamic Revolution and has proceeded through "reformist" and "reactionary" Iranian presidents. Ahmadinejad is nastier, but no more important than the others. Nuclear capability is a tactical goal in the strategic quest for regional hegemony and expansion of Shi'ite Islam.

Inside Iran, the clerical police are the guardians of "public morality." They are the ones who hang homosexuals and stone adulterers. They arrest and "disappear" student leaders, ban books, monitor phone calls, break up demonstrations and persecute the Bahai.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gates: ideology trumps all for Iran

Trying to Be Friends with Iran -Barry Rubin

In response to a casual question, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates dropped a historical bombshell, an offhand remark telling more about how the Middle East works than 100 books.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: "I have been involved in the search for the elusive Iranian moderate for 30 years." Gates then revealed that Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, met top officials of the new Islamist regime in November 1979 to pledge U.S. friendship to the government controlled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Brzezinski's position was: "We will accept your revolution....We will recognize your government. We will sell you all the weapons that we had contracted to sell the shah....We can work together in the future." The Iranians demanded the U.S. turn over to them the fugitive shah, whom they would have executed. Brzezinski refused. Three days later Iran seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Washington did everything possible to negotiate, conciliate and build confidence. We'll do almost anything you want, Carter and Brzezinski offered, just be our friend. Far from persuading Khomeini that the U.S. was a real threat, the U.S. government made itself appear a pitiful, helpless giant, convincing Tehran - as Khomeini himself put it - that America couldn't do a damn thing. So why should we expect such a tactic would work today?

How long does it take to get the message: This is an ideological revolution with huge ambitions to which America is inevitably a barrier. Appeasement, talks, apologies, confidence-building measures won't convince Tehran that America is its friend, only that it's an enemy so weak as to make aggression seem inevitably successful.

Gates noted: "Every administration since then has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed....The reality is the Iranian leadership has been consistently unyielding over a very long period of time in response to repeated overtures from the United States about having a different and better kind of relationship."
(Jerusalem Post)

Smelling the flowers in Israel

Israelis Enhance Scent of Flowers

Israeli scientists said they have discovered a way to genetically enhance the scent of flowers, a development that could also be used to breed extra-tasty fruits and vegetables. Alexander Vainstein, the head of a team of scientists at Hebrew University, said his team used a patented process to enhance the scents of some flowers by a factor of 10 and caused them to give off their fragrance day and night.

Israel is one of the world's leading exporters of cut flowers, with an industry worth an estimated 200 million dollars a year.

Hamas rising: ready to move on West Bank?

Hamas: Abbas' illigitimate rule -Ibrahim Barzak

Hamas will cease to recognize Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian president after Jan. 8 and replace him with one of its own leaders, according to a resolution approved by the Islamic movement's legislators.

If Hamas does withdraw recognition from Abbas, it would sever another link between the two sides and also undermine Abbas' legitimacy in the eyes of many Palestinians.
[Associated Press]

Monday, October 06, 2008

Israel sends strong signal to neighbors

Israeli General Warns Hizbullah -Josef Federman

Israel will use "disproportionate force" if Hizbullah or Syria attack Israel, Major General Gadi Eizenkot (pictured below/right) [said].

"What happened in the Dahiya quarter in Beirut [Hizbullah’s operational and residential center] in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired upon. We will apply disproportionate force upon it and cause great damage and destruction there," he said. "From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases." Eizenkot stressed that this is "not a recommendation," but a plan approved at the highest levels.

Disproportionate Force: Israel's Concept of Response -Col. Gabriel Siboni

With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force...[which] must be aimed at decision-makers and the power elite.

In Syria, punishment should clearly be aimed at the Syrian military, the Syrian regime, and the Syrian state structure. In Lebanon, attacks should both aim at Hizbullah's military capabilities and target economic interests and the centers of civilian power. The closer the relationship between Hizbullah and the Lebanese government, the more the elements of the Lebanese state infrastructure should be targeted.

Such a response will create a lasting memory among Syrian and Lebanese decision-makers, thereby increasing Israeli deterrence and reducing the likelihood of hostilities against Israel for an extended period.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Nuclear Waltz" & the growth of Iranian arrogance

Iran's Nuclear Waltz -Editorial

The [United Nations] Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to abide by the previous three resolutions to suspend its enrichment program.

: "Stop - or we'll do nothing."
(Wall Street Journal)

More Anti-Semitic Attacks from Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Ahmadinejad said on the Iranian News Channel:

"The Zionists are crooks. A small handful of Zionists, with a very intricate organization, have taken over the power centers of the world."

"Their Jewishness is a great lie. They have no religion whatsoever. They are a handful of lying, power-greedy people who have no religion, who only want to take over all countries." "[T]he strong arm of the peoples will wipe these germs of corruption off the face of the Earth."

Iran Out to Stay Nuclear Course -Aamer Madhani

Expressing confidence his country is facing a diminished military threat, Iran's top diplomat said that Tehran remains committed to its nuclear development program despite international pressure to abandon its uranium enrichment.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki contended that the danger of an Israeli airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities is waning as the U.S. finds itself mired in an economic crisis and Israel is roiled by its own domestic political troubles.
(Chicago Tribune)

Understanding Syria

Why Syria Will Keep Provoking Israel -Robert Baer

Why has Syria had an uninterrupted record of attaching itself to radical causes and countries like Iran?

Syria is ruled by a besieged and insecure minority, the Alawites. About 12% of Syria's population, the Alawites are looked at by extremist Sunni Muslims as heretics. In the late '70s and early '80s, Sunni extremists came close to getting their way. During a 1982 Muslim Brotherhood insurrection in Hama, Hafez al-Assad felt compelled to flatten it in order to stay in power.

By joining Iran in the so-called "Islamic resistance" against Israel, Assad associated the Alawites with a cause larger than themselves. Since the Alawites cannot settle with Tel Aviv and survive the wrath of the Muslim Brotherhood, it remains reliant on its alliance with Tehran. The Alawites will risk war with Israel if they believe their survival requires it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The price of talk

Talk Isn't Cheap with Iran -Michael Oren & Seth Robinson

What would be the objective of U.S.-Iranian talks - to moderate Iranian behavior and renew Iranian-American relations or, more broadly, to recognize a new strategic order in the Middle East?

[A]ny American offer to dialogue with Iran is liable to be interpreted as a sign of American weakness, and not only in Tehran. Public opinion throughout the area will conclude that America has at last surrendered to the reality of Iranian rule. The damage to America's regional, if not global, influence may prove irreversible.

Furthermore, dialoguing with Iran presents the even graver danger that Iran will use it as camouflage to complete its nuclear ambitions.
(Wall Street Journal)