Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christians flee from the birthplace of Jesus

Palestinian police stand guard atop Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity

In Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians Are Suffering -Daniel Schwammenthal

Yussuf Khoury, 23, a Palestinian Christian from Gaza, fled his birthplace just two years ago. He wasn't running away from Israelis, but from his Palestinian brethren.

"Muslims tied to Hamas tried to take me twice," says Khoury, and he didn't want to find out what they'd do to him if they ever kidnapped him.

In 2007, one year after the Hamas takeover, the owner of Gaza's only Christian bookstore was abducted and murdered. Christian shops and schools have been firebombed. Little wonder that most of Khoury's Christian friends have also left Gaza.

Khoury, now a student at Bethlehem Bible College in the West Bank, tells me that Muslims often stand in front of the gate of the college and read from the Quran to intimidate Christian students. Other Muslims like to roll out their prayer rugs right in Manger Square.
(Wall Street Journal)

Bethlehem's Exodus: Christians Flee Muslim Pressure -Benny Avni

Bethlehem is fast losing its last few year-round Christian residents as rising Islamism pushes non-Muslims away.

There are frequent attacks on Christian cemeteries and churches; Christian-owned businesses are often defaced - and government jobs have grown scarce for non-Muslims.
(New York Post)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On covering women: 'social habit, not Islam'

Curb on Veil in Egypt Backed by Islamic Clerics -Dina Zayed

Egypt's three most prominent religious leaders have backed a government ban on the niqab, or full face veil, in dormitories and examinations, saying it had no basis in Islam.

"Al-Azhar is not against the niqab but against its misuse," the government-run al-Akhbar newspaper cited Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar University, as saying.

He said it was a social habit that had no roots in sharia (Islamic law). More than 13 religious scholars have found that the face veil has no substantial roots in Islam, but rather can be considered a "form of extremism," the official MENA news agency cited Tantawi as saying.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Palestinian Authority banishes Christmas Choir

Choir caught in disharmony -Tim Franks

The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge [pictured above], will be singing Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Israel Camerata Orchestra this week.

But the choir will not be able to perform in East Jerusalem or Bethlehem in the West Bank after a protest by the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Palestinian Authority against the choir's tour of Israel.
(BBC News)

The cost of Gilad Shalit

Officials Warn Against Release of Terrorists -Yaakov Katz

As Israel's leaders discussed a proposed prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, senior defense officials said that a mass release of security prisoners to the West Bank would give Hamas a substantial boost and create major operational challenges and danger for the State of Israel.

A report published last year by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reported that out of the more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel since 1985, over 50% have returned to the path of terror. "In the terror acts committed by these freed terrorists, hundreds of Israelis were murdered, and thousands were wounded," the report said.

For example, those freed in the Tannenbaum deal (in 2004) have since been responsible for the murder of at least of 35 Israelis.
(Jerusalem Post)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Turning Darkness into Light: Chanukah in Sderot

Jewish Town Makes Menorah of Terror Rockets -Aaron Klein

Residents of the rocket-battered Israeli town of Sderot next to Gaza have every day this week lit a Hanukkah menorah [pictured above] fashioned out of Palestinian Kassam rockets that had been shot at their town.
(Photo courtesy of David Cohen)

Friedman calls for "parallel surge" among Muslims -Thomas L. Friedman

A parallel surge is needed by Arab and Muslim political and religious leaders against those who promote violent jihadism and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West.

What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most "legitimacy" in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public. Secular Arab leaders wink at these groups.

[P]lease tell me, how are we supposed to help build something decent and self-sustaining in Afghanistan and Pakistan when jihadists murder other Muslims by the dozens and no one really calls them out?

Arabs and Muslims aspire to, are able to, and must be challenged to take responsibility for their world. If we want a peaceful, tolerant region more than they do, they will hold our coats while we fight, and they will hold their tongues against their worst extremists. They will lose, and we will lose.
(New York Times)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New York Times blames Israel

Abbas Says No But Everyone Blames Netanyahu -Jonathan Tobin

The decision of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze building homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank has earned him little credit.

Abbas, whose term in office will be extended without holding an election because his Fatah party knows it might lose to Hamas, has been telegraphing his lack of interest in talks all year.

Given the fact that the Palestinian public still won't accept any deal with Israel no matter where the borders are set, it's not likely that this will change.

Thus the conceit of Ethan Bronner's latest "Mideast Memo" in the New York Times, which ponders the sincerity of Netanyahu's desire for peace.

[T]he frustrating aspect isn't so much the condescension toward Netanyahu, but rather the way the peace process is framed - to put the entire onus on Israel to make concessions, while virtually ignoring the Palestinians complete refusal to accept the concept of peace with a Jewish state.

[T]he political culture of the Palestinians makes peace an impossibility even for their allegedly moderate leader.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

US should consider Iran strike

Why Iran Can't Be Contained -Danielle Pletka

Iran is proceeding with an aggressive nuclear weapons program, and much of the Obama administration has come to terms with that reality.

Official Washington has resigned itself to pursuing a containment policy that will [only] limit Iran's ability to proliferate, [after it has become] a nuclear power.

Privately, Obama administration officials confess that they believe Israeli action will preempt our policy debate, as Israel's tolerance for an Iranian nuke is significantly lower than our own.

But subcontracting American national security to Israel is an appalling notion, and we cannot assume that an Israeli action would not provoke a wider regional conflict into which the U.S. would be drawn.
(Washington Post)
[Bruce's Note: Alternatively, a strike by the United States may limit such a post-attack scenario.}

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hamas digs up Christian graves: world silent

Hamas Disinters Christians in Gaza -Matthew Wagner

Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world, and in 2009 more than 165,000 Christians will have been killed because of their faith, most of them in Muslim countries, according to a human rights group visiting Israel.

"Hamas digs up the bodies of Christians from Christian burial sites in the Gaza Strip claiming that they pollute the earth," said Rev. Majed El Shafie, 32, an Egyptian-born Christian and President of One Free World International, who heads a delegation of human rights activists visiting Israel for a conference on persecuted minorities.

El Shafie said that some 200-300 million Christians are being persecuted in the world, 80% of whom lived in Muslim countries.
(Jerusalem Post)

Iran clamps down

Iran's New Crackdown on Women -Dana Goldstein

As part of an intensified crackdown against Iranian civil-rights activists in recent weeks, at least 11 feminist leaders have been summoned to court, threatened over the phone, or banned from traveling, according to the One Million Signatures Campaign, a national effort by Iranian feminists to collect 1 million signatures on a petition demanding an end to discrimination against women.

Last month, Iranian state television ran a documentary attacking the women's rights movement, and female TV announcers were barred from wearing makeup on air.
(Daily Beast)

Iran's smoking gun

Iran's Nuclear Trigger Exposed -Catherine Philp

Confidential intelligence documents show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb. The notes, from Iran's most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component that triggers an explosion.

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: "Is this the smoking gun? That's the question people should be asking. It looks like the smoking gun. This is smoking uranium."
[Note: a short video from SkyNews accompanies the full article; if you watch it, note the reporter's discomfort when she's asked about the "smoking gun" label...contrast that with Mr. Fitzpatrick's bolder assertion above]

Only Harsh Sanctions Can Halt Iran -Ephraim Kam

There is a chance that the Americans will mobilize international support - including that of Russia and China - for the imposition of a new round of sanctions against Iran, but the prospects are that they will not be very far reaching, and in such circumstances Iran sees no need to give in, as long as it attains its strategic goal: achieving nuclear weapons capability.

If Iran is to be stopped, two conditions need to be met: Much harsher sanctions must be imposed, and the Iranians must believe they truly face the threat of a military operation if they do not suspend their nuclear program. At present, neither of these conditions sufficiently exists.


Washington: Tough Sanctions Against Iran Needed Urgently
-Tim Reid, Giles Whittell & Catherine Philp

Revelations that Iran has been working secretly on a trigger for a nuclear bomb urgently underscore the case for tough new sanctions against Tehran, the Obama administration said...

The Mullahs Could Have the Bomb Any Day Now - Editorial

A smoking-gun document has emerged that indicates Iran is closer than ever to developing a nuclear weapon.

There is no peaceful use for the neutron initiator. It is not a "dual-use" technology; it only sets off bombs.
(Washington Times)

What to Expect from a Nuclear Iran -William S. Cohen

It should now be patently clear that the effort to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons has failed.

Iran's possession of a nuclear bomb would likely start a nuclear cascade across the Middle East, as nations threatened by Iran, question U.S. security guarantees and seek their own deterrent capability. Within a decade, we could see Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and others seeking nuclear weapons to protect against Iranian aggression.

Furthermore, Tehran might share nuclear materials with radical extremists who would not hesitate to use them against the U.S., Israel and other allies.
(Washington Times)


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is the US walking away from the Arab-Israeli conflict?

Disappointed U.S. Scales Back Diplomacy -Herb Keinon

The U.S. is scaling back its intensive involvement in the diplomatic process. Middle East envoy George Mitchell has not been to the region in over a month and is not expected back until January.

The feeling in Jerusalem is that Washington believed that Netanyahu's moratorium would move the process along a bit, and when the Palestinians failed to respond positively to the move, the U.S. decided to sit back.
(Jerusalem Post)

Why Won't the Palestinians Make Peace? -Barry Rubin

Right now the Palestinian Authority is refusing to negotiate at all, nominally because Israel is building a few apartments in Jerusalem. So what? That should be an incentive to negotiate faster so that the construction doesn't go on and on, becoming even more irreversible.

Why, if the Palestinians are suffering so much, won't they make peace?

The answer: The Palestinian leadership wants total victory and Israel's elimination. It is willing to go on letting its people suffer for a century in pursuit of that goal.
(Jerusalem Post)

Obama's finest moment: Is he posturing for an Iran strike?

We Cannot Stand By as Nations Arm for Nuclear War
-President Barack Obama

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, President Obama said:

"There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

"I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

"I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it."

"It is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war."
(White House)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cancer Passport: Palestinians Flee to Israel

Palestinians Fake Cancer to Flee Gaza -Diaa Hadid

Several thousand Palestinians have succeeded in fleeing Gaza this year using bribes and fake medical reports.

Of more than 7,000 Gazans who crossed into Israel this year to seek medical treatment, some 500 haven't returned, said Col. Moshe Levi, an Israeli defense official.

One healthy 30-year-old woman, said she was desperate to leave Gaza after being harassed by Hamas officials. She bribed a Gaza doctor to certify she had "whatever cancer could only be treated in Israel."

The doctor then paid off a physician serving on a Palestinian committee that certifies medical reports for Israeli military officials. She eventually succeeded in reaching the West Bank.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Palestinian Authority crushes childrens peace orchestra

Wanted: A Palestinian Peace Movement -Khaled Abu Toameh

When the Strings of Freedom Orchestra returned home to the refugee camp of Jenin in the northern West Bank, the musical director, Wafa Yunis, was fired and her studio apartment in the camp was sealed.

The Palestinian Authority, whose leaders have been talking to Israel for more than fifteen years, accused Yunis of "exploiting the children for the purpose of normalizing ties with Israel."

Those who are passionate about the Israeli-Arab conflict should start [by] encourag[ing] the emergence of a serious peace camp in the West Bank and Gaza.
(Hudson Institute New York)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Is Iran losing influence?

Ali Ansari, an academic,
believes Iran is losing vital political chips

Iran Loses Clout in Arab World -Scott Peterson

Six months after Iran's contested presidential election, a new narrative is arising around the Arab world in which Iran is no longer a political demigod.

Beset in recent months by the bloody spectacle of regime enforcers stamping out pro-democracy protests, and by dozens of deaths, torture, and allegations of rape in secret prisons, Iran is losing influence among some of its friends in the region.

Many analysts believe the autocratic crackdowns in Iran may mark the end of a years-long arc of expanding Iranian and Shiite prominence across a wide swath of the Arab world.

"I think we have seen the peak of the Islamic Republic's power in its current configuration," says Ali Ansari [pictured above], director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Iran's influence has "slipped very badly," he said.
(Christian Science Monitor)

Another Israel Bashing Book

The Latest Word in Israel-Bashing -Benny Morris

"New historian" Avi Shlaim earns Israel-bashing brownie points for his newest book, Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations.

This collection of academic essays and reviews are mostly an extended exercise in anti-Zionism, nothing more.

Nowhere in his book does Shlaim say a word about the Jewish people's three-thousand-year-old connection to the Land of Israel.

Nor does he mention that the Arabs, who had no connection to Palestine, conquered the land in the seventh century from the Byzantine Empire and settled in it, forcibly converting it into an "Arab" land.
(New Republic)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Are Israeli settlements illegal?

Olive trees on a hill overlooking the settlement town of Har Homa, south of Jerusalem

The Illegal Settlements Myth -David M. Phillips

The conviction that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal is now so commonly accepted, it hardly seems as though the matter is even open for discussion. But it is.

Indeed, the analysis underlying the conclusion that the settlements violate international law depends entirely on an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is "Arab" land. Followed to its logical conclusion, this narrative precludes the legitimacy of Israel itself.

For several hundred years leading up to World War I, all of Israel, Jordan, and the putative state of Palestine were merely provinces of the Ottoman Empire. After British-led Allied troops routed the Turks from the country in 1917-18, the League of Nations empowered Britain to facilitate the creation of a "Jewish National Home" under a mandate while respecting the rights of the native Arab population.

Following World War II, the League of Nations' successor, the UN, voted in November 1947 to partition the land into Arab and Jewish states. [F]ive Arab countries invaded the fledgling Jewish state. Those Jewish communities in the West Bank that had existed prior to the Arab invasion were demolished, as was the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Eugene Rostow [pictured at right], former dean of Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs in 1967 during the Six-Day War, argued that the West Bank should be considered "unallocated territory," and that Israel had the status of a "claimant to the territory."

To Rostow, "Jews have a right to settle in it under the Mandate," a right he declared to be "unchallengeable as a matter of law." In accord with these views, Israel has historically characterized the West Bank as "disputed territory."

All legally authorized Israeli settlements have been constructed either on lands that Israel characterizes as state-owned or "public" or, in a small minority of cases, on land purchased by Jews from Arabs after 1967.

Palestinian economy thriving

Independent Palestine - with Israeli Assistance -Tom Gross

Nablus [pictured above], the West Bank's largest city, is bursting with energy, life, and signs of prosperity in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.

The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant.

We had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services were allowed to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank, and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah explained to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the Israel Defense Force to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.

The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance.
(Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Iran's defiant posture: can Obama & the West put teeth into Iran policy?

Iran Announces Ten New Uranium Plants -Thomas Erdbrink

Iran's government will build ten new sites to enrich uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, a dramatic expansion of the country's nuclear program.

The announcement comes just days after a censure of Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency over the Islamic republic's refusal to stop enriching uranium, a key demand of Western powers.
(Washington Post)

UN Censure May Start Confrontational Phase -Glenn Kessler & Joby Warrick

The resounding censure of Iran by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency signals the start of a potentially more confrontational phase in the Obama administration's dealings with Iran...
(Washington Post)

The Arabs Have Stopped Applauding -Fouad Ajami

In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth. He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will.

[T]he Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not "unclenched their fist," nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.

Obama's election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism.
(Wall Street Journal)

Iran's Adventurism -Editorial

The plan to build ten new plants is a new declaration of recalcitrance. Coming from a leader who believes in a literal and imminent apocalypse and who gleefully anticipates the extinction of the Jewish state, it is chilling.

Iran May Be Planning Decoy Sites -Ali Akbar Dareini

Iran's announcement of plans to build ten more uranium enrichment facilities is largely bluster, analysts said.

Nonetheless, the...announcement is of major concern because it could signal an intention to put up numerous decoy sites to deceive the outside world, while building a few secret military enrichment sites [for] use in weapons production, nuclear expert David Albright said. "