What happens to basic decency during terror attacks coverage?


Let’s talk about decency.

 

Last week was the perfect example of the double-standards that dominate the global media – vowing to battle terror, but only when it’s outside Israel.

 

How can a Muslim extremist butchering innocent civilians be framed as a horrific terror attack when happening in Europe, and as a young teen being chased by police when happening in Israel?

 

To answer this question, we might need to go one step backwards, and ask ourselves how can a terror attack can even be called anything but what it actually is?

 

When terror strikes Israel, something strange happens to the global media. A terrorist becomes “a young teen,” his motive turns from hatred and extremism to “frustration from the ‘occupation’,” and he will never be neutralized and captured by heroic police officers, but “chased and killed by Israeli police.” Almost never will you read about the victims of the attack, because when it comes to Israel, the world turns upside down.

 

This severe issue of double standards was almost undetectable until Islamic terrorism started taking over Europe a few years ago. After years of Palestinian terror in Israel going almost unnoticed globally (as there was always a “justification” in the form of the “Israeli occupation and frustration,) we thought the tragedies that struck Europe would be a wake-up call to the world. These horrific attacks of innocent people outside of stadiums, on the street and in public transportation were supposed to be the tragic circumstances that will unite the world.

 

Sadly, it didn’t happen. The world, Israel included, united with Europe, but terror in Israel is still considered “justified.”

 

With every terror attack, we think “This is it. Now the Western World will unite against terror.” But sadly, Israelophobia gets in the way…


I recently stumbled upon a video of a lecture by journalist and public speaker Dennis Prager, at Oxford University. He was sitting in front of a room full of young men and women and asked the following question: “In the 1930’s was there a debate over the following proposition: that Great Britain is a greater threat to peace than Nazi Germany, or if Nazi Germany is a greater threat to peace than Great Britain?” Then, he said: “Nazi Germany was to Britain what Hamas is to Israel. Whether you agree with the Israeli policy or not – it is irrelevant.”

 

This is where international media lacks decency, and shows double standards and hypocrisy. Terror is terror is terror, no matter where. Justifications can always be found, because at the end of the day, news items are nothing but stories with carefully written plots. But just imagine what will happen if CNN or BBC will report an “armed teenager frustrated with Britain’s immigration policies was shot and killed by police after letting out his rage, resulting in 40 civilians killed.”

 

Can’t even imagine? This is what we see, to our deep sorrow, every time terror strikes us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EU, Terror and the Transparency Bill


On the 7 December 1970, German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt solemnly before the Warsaw Ghetto in contrition. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel faced annihilation, the same Willy Brandt denied German landing rights to US planes carrying emergency supplies to Israel. 

Chancellor Merkel occasionally says that Israel’s “right to exist” is Germany’s raison d’etre.

Like Willy Brandt, Germany appears to be two tongued when it comes to antisemitism. Like the EU,  Germany makes a distinction between antisemitism and objecting to Israel’s policies, which on paper seems to be fair. Thus, giving the Hitler salute and denying the Holocaust are illegal. On the other hand, the annual Iran sponsored Al Quds March through downtown Berlin, calling for the destruction of Israel is legal. Berlin constantly turns a deaf ear to appeals to ban that march.

The JCPOA (Iran Deal) was enthusiastically supported by Germany enabling Iran to fully develop its nuclear program after a decade, whilst currently testing “Death to Israel” marked missiles. However, the same Germany decided that nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes were too risky for Germans. They are to be phased out by 2022.

Germany maintains it has a “special relationship” with Israel while the EU ambassador to Israel explained that Israel is singled out because “you are one of us.”

The EU countries support various NGOs despite being termed “non-government.” Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provides funding to NGOs as part of its foreign aid programs. Recently Prof Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor exposed the doublespeak of Germany yet further. The German government annually pays 4 million Euros to NGOs in Israel, of which 42% goes to organizations that support BDS and worse, like The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee which advocates violent riots in Judea/Samaria. The German Embassy in Tel Aviv does not deny the funding, but blandly states that Germany does not support boycotts of Israel. They donate to “organizations supporting peace.”

Some of the NGOs funded by the EU are Zochrot, Grassroots Jerusalem and Baladna Arab Youth Association, all of which are committed to getting  Palestinian refugees and their third and fourth generation descendants to “return” even though most have never been to Israel.  I have met some of these “refugees” who lead comfortable middle class lives, in Australia. They certainly do not fit the image of a refugee we see on TV. In my recent satire, “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist,” the story depicts one such comfortable refugee who, like his parents, has never been to Israel. Despite these anomalies, the EU generously funds these organizations that are dedicated to Israel’s disappearance as the Jewish State.

The EU therefore supports some organizations dedicated to Israel’s demise, while paying lip service to its “right to exist,” whatever that means. The EU, led by countries such as Germany, also supports labelling people and products from beyond the Green Line or “Auschwitz Lines” as former dovish foreign minister Abba Eban called it. Thus, while officially declining to support BDS, the same EU countries fund NGOs that do—all with a straight face.

Unlike the vicious murder of Hallel Ariel (z”l) and countless others before and after her, the EU, committed to democracy and human rights, has been “deeply concerned” about the recent transparency law passed by the Knesset, even though there is no suggestion these NGOs would be banned from practising their dubious activities. The State Department termed it “chilling,” despite its funds being surreptitiously used to help influence the outcome of Israel’s last election. In the meantime, Europe is reeling with regular terror attacks, for which Europeans cannot find an answer—except to insultingly compare Israel to Putin’s Russia and be “deeply concerned” with their fellow democracy that struggles to maintain some balance in civil rights while upholding its citizens right to life.

Israel remains a vibrant democracy despite the underhand tactics of the EU. As Europe grapples with increasing terror, their exaggerated concern with an ally threatened daily by internal and external terror is misplaced and misguided.

NGO Monitor has shown in great detail the doublespeak of the EU countries which mouth unconvincing platitudes regarding Israel’s “right to exist,” but simultaneously fund many NGOs that promote exactly the opposite.

At the end of the day, it should be remembered that the hidden agendas of many of these NGOs have little to do with “human rights” per se but more to do with providing conditions that would end  the State of Israel, by stressing the Nakba, hope, resilience and the “right of return” of refugees and their descendants.

That is why it is always worth remembering Willy Brandt 1970 and Willy Brandt 1973. It sums up Europe perfectly.

Ron Jontof-Hutter is Fellow at the Berlin International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism. He recently authored of the satire “The trombone man: Tales of a misogynist.”

State terrorism report praises Israel, counts settler attacks as terror


The U.S. State Department’s annual report on terrorism said Hamas and Hezbollah continued to destabilize the Middle East, described Israel as a “resolute” partner in counterterrorism and listed as “terrorist incidents” extremist settler attacks on Palestinians.

“Both Hamas and Hezbollah continued to play destabilizing roles in the Middle East,” said the executive summary of the report for 2011, which was released on Tuesday.

Much of the summary, which highlights what the authors believe to be the report’s most salient points, was devoted to al-Qaida, and it led with the assassination last year by U.S. forces of the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden.

Turning to the Middle East, the summary said Hezbollah’s “robust relationships with the regimes in Iran and Syria, involvement in illicit financial activity, continued engagement in international attack planning, and acquisition of increasingly sophisticated missiles and rockets continued to threaten U.S. interests in the region.”

The report also stated: “Meanwhile, Hamas retained its grip on Gaza, where it continued to stockpile weapons that pose a serious threat to regional stability. Moreover, Hamas and other Gaza-based groups continue to smuggle weapons, material, and people through the Sinai, taking advantage of the vast and largely ungoverned territory.”

The country report on Israel was unusually robust in its praise, for the first time describing Israel as a “resolute counterterrorism partner,” and noting, for instance, Israel’s cooperation with the international community in tracking financing for terrorists.

The country report also unequivocally listed settler attacks on Palestinians as “terrorist incidents,” scrubbing distinctions in previous reports between “settler violence” and terrorism. It listed several arson attacks on mosques that are believed to have been made by settlers.

The report continued to again list Kahane Chai, an extremist settler group, as a designated terrorist group, as well as five Palestinian groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and two affiliates of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The report listed four state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

“Iran was known to use the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and terrorist insurgent groups to implement its foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and support terrorist and militant groups,” it said.

It also noted that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups continued to headquarter in Damascus, adding that Hamas left toward the end of 2011 because of the surging unrest in that country.

In listing American victims of terrorism last year, the report noted that one American was killed in Jerusalem on Sept. 23 and one was injured in Tel Aviv on Aug. 19.

Deadly Bulgaria attack survivors recall chaos, tragedy


Vered Kuza was standing with her daughter, Amit, on an airport shuttle bus at Sarafovo International Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, when she suddenly heard a blast.

“It’s an attack!” Kuza, 54, shouted at Amit, 26. “We need to get out of here!”

She pushed her daughter through the door just as the bus exploded. Kuza was knocked unconscious. Her daughter landed on the ground, debris ripping into her left shoulder, through her chest and down to her liver.

When Vered Kuza regained consciousness, her feet “were swollen to a ridiculous size.” Her daughter was nowhere to be seen.

“Everything was broken,” Kuza told JTA, lying in a hospital bed in a Tel Aviv emergency room on Thursday, her feet wrapped in gauze and plastic and a red No. 2 scrawled on her forehead. “There were body parts around me. I didn’t know what was happening. It was smoking, hellish. It was horrifying.”

Five Israelis died in the attack that Kuza survived. According to Israeli reports, the five deceased are Amir Menashe, 27; Itzik Kolengi, 27; childhood friends Maor Harush, 26, and Elior Priess, 26; and Kochava Shriki, 44. In addition, the bus driver and suicide bomber died in the attack.

Ynet News reported that minutes before the attack, Shriki called her sister and told her that she was pregnant for the first time. Shriki’s husband, Yitzhak, survived and spent hours searching for his wife.

After the bomb exploded, “I walked toward the exit and called to my wife, ‘Come toward the door!’” he told Ynet. “After a few seconds I realized she wasn’t with me. The fog was thick like sand, and I went to look for her but it was impossible to get through.”

Kuza was one of 33 Israelis injured in the attack to be flown back to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday afternoon and sent to hospitals throughout the country, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Her daughter was one of three Israelis who were too seriously injured to make the trip and remained hospitalized in Bulgaria.

The head of the IDF Medical Corps, Itzik Kreis, said that the injured passengers who arrived in Israel “got very good medical care in Bulgaria” and “were less seriously hurt than we expected.”

The IDF Medical Corps landed in Bulgaria on Wednesday night to tend to the victims and bring them back to Israel. Kreis said that the injuries the corps saw were similar to those suffered by bus bombing victims in Israel.

A plane carrying 70 Israeli tourists in Bulgaria scheduled to fly home on Wednesday night was delayed, but arrived on Thursday.

Seven people died in the attack, which occurred Wednesday at about 5 p.m. The dead included five Israelis, the bus driver and the suicide bomber. Names of those killed were scheduled to be announced on Thursday night after their bodies arrived in Israel.

An airport security camera at the Sarafovo airport in Burgas revealed that the bomber was a Caucasian man with long hair and a backpack who had been wandering around the area for about an hour. He reportedly was carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly accused Iran of sponsoring the attack. In a statement on Thursday, Netanyahu called on “the world’s leading powers” to recognize “that Iran is the country that stands behind this terror campaign.  Iran must be exposed by the international community as the premiere terrorist-supporting state that it is.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had information that the attack was the joint work of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Iran has denied the allegations.

Soon after the attack, Amit Kuza was taken by paramedics to a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Her mother “sat on the side of the road,” unattended for two hours because she was deemed to be in stable condition, she said.

“I had no one to talk to,” Vered Kuza said. “I didn’t even have a glass of water. They don’t know English. It was primitive.”

Bulgarian officials told Kuza that her daughter was in Sofia and in a stable condition. But Kuza was not able to speak to her daughter until Thursday morning. Amit and the two others who had remained in Bulgaria were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday evening.

When news of the attack reached Israel, Arik Kuza, Vered’s husband, called the Foreign Ministry to find out if his wife and daughter were alive.

“I called 50 times,” he said, standing at Vered’s bedside. “They put me on hold and I heard music. I waited for hours.”

Lying in her hospital bed, she spoke in a calm and even tone. With her daughter scheduled to arrive in a few hours, she said she felt lucky to be alive.

Palestinian terror cells uncovered


Israel’s Shin Bet security service said it discovered several Palestinian terror cells operating in the Hebron area.

One of the cells is affiliated with Hamas and another planned to kidnap Jews living in the Kiryat Arba area, according to the Shin Bet. Another cell detonated an explosive near an Israeli car using a cell phone.

Earlier this week, the Shin Bet announced that it had arrested nine Palestinians from the Ramallah area for attempting to kidnap an Israeli woman and her young daughter after surrounding the car in which they were riding.

Israeli troops foil Gaza terror attack


Israeli troops foiled a terror attack along the Gaza border.

The military on Tuesday discovered and defused a powerful bomb planted next to the security fence, the IDF announced Tuesday evening.

The bomb was meant to attack soldiers patrolling near the security fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF, which said in a statement that the bomb was planted at the end of last week, using the cover of heavy fog.

“This incident proves, yet again, that terror organizations, headed by Hamas, use the area adjacent to the security fence in order to carry out terror attacks against Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers,” the IDF spokesman said. “IDF soldiers’ alertness prevented a terror attack aimed at them.”

Gaza rocket injures foreign worker in Israel


Rockets fired from Gaza on southern Israel over the weekend injured a foreign worker.

Two rockets fired at southern Israel on Saturday night landed near Ashkelon. A foreign worker from Thailand suffered shrapnel wounds in the attack.

A rocket from Gaza had landed in the same area on Friday night. Following that strike, the Israeli Air Force a night later attacked an Islamic Jihad terrorist cell in southern Gaza preparing to launch a rocket into Israel, according to reports. The Israeli strike killed one of the cell members, Palestinian sources told reporters.

Rockets from Gaza shatter short-lived calm


A rocket fired from Gaza landed in Ashkelon was the first since a barrage of rocket fire on southern Israel ended.

Two mortars landed Monday afternoon in the western Negev shortly after the Kassam attack stopped at midnight.

“There is no cease-fire, no negotiations and the IDF continues its operations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud Party lawmakers before the start of the opening meeting of the winter Knesset session. “Anytime someone disrupts the peace in the South, our response will be severe, just as it was on Saturday, and I’m telling you, even more severe.”

The latest attacks follow a weekend in which at least 39 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza at Israel. The barrage, for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, appeared to be sparked by an Israeli airstrike Saturday that thwarted an attempt by a terrorist cell preparing to fire long-range rockets from southern Gaza into Israel. The Israeli military reported that it was the same terrorist cell that was responsible for rockets fired on Israel last week

Several long-range Grad missiles hit in and near cities throughout southern Israel, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne and Beersheba. A school and a private home were damaged in the attacks, and several cars were burned. Some 200,000 children stayed home from school, and several colleges and Ben-Gurion University did not open for the start of the new academic year on Sunday as scheduled.

An Ashkelon resident and father of four, Moshe Ami, 56, died from injuries sustained when he was hit by shrapnel Saturday as he ran to a shelter from his car. He died in the hospital from stomach wounds several hours after the attack.

At least 10 Islamic Jihad terrorists have been killed in the Israeli strikes.

Third suspect arrested in mosque arson


A third suspect has been arrested in the arson attack on a mosque in an Israeli-Arab town.

The suspect, reported to be a 17-year-old resident of Gush Etzion, was arrested Sunday in connection with the Oct. 2 attack on a mosque in the Upper Galilee Bedouin town of Tuba Zanghariya.

Two other suspects arrested shortly after the attack, both minors who studied at a West Bank yeshiva, were released a week ago due to lack of evidence directly linking them to the attack.

The third suspect allegedly also was involved in the arson of a West Bank mosque near Hebron in October 2010. He was ordered held until Thursday during a hearing Sunday in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.

A gag order on the case remains in place.

Noam Shalit faces terrorist victims’ families outside courtroom


Noam Shalit faced a bevy of protesters opposing the release of his son Gilat as he arrived at the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem to urge the court to allow the prisoner exchange.

Shalit was met with heckles from members of the families of those killed by some of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners due to be released in exchange for his son. Shalit was at the court in order to oppose the petitions.

“Nobody knows what the impact of any delay or any change, even the smallest, in the terms would be,” he wrote in a letter addressed to the court.

Yossi Zur, who lost a son in a 2003 suicide bombing in Haifa, told Shalit, “You shouldn’t have come to this discussion,” according to Ynet. Zur told reporters that Shalit’s attendance was like “stabbing someone in the back and twisting the knife.”

“From our experience with past deals, and sadly we have a lot of experience, we know how many Israelis will be killed as a result of the release of these terrorists,” Zur told Channel 10 television. “I am here to protect my children who are still alive.”

Schvuel Schijveschuurder, who lost his parents and three siblings in a 2001 bombing in Jerusalem, and who last week vandalized the Yitzhak Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv, yelled at Shalit, “Hang a black flag over your home in Mitzpe Hila, this is a day of mourning.”

Schijveschuurder is among the petitioners asking the court to cancel the exchange deal. Gilad Shalit is expected to be released Tuesday; the release of Palestinian prisoners will begin the same day.

Ze’ev Rapp, whose daughter was murdered in Bat Yam, shook Shalit’s hand and told him that the protesters had nothing against him or his son. Rapp added that he is considering returning his family’s identity cards and reserve force certificates in protest of the exchange.

“I am not against Shalit’s return, I am against the release of my daughter’s murderer,” he said. “I have a written commitment from three prime ministers who promised me that he won’t be released. If this is the country I live in, I’ll draw my conclusions.”

Ynet reported that Shalit listened to the demonstrators but did not respond.

Israeli air strike kills chiefs of Gaza’s PRC group


An Israeli air strike killed the leader of an armed Palestinian faction, a top lieutenant and three other members in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday, the group said, hours after Israel blamed gunmen from the territory for cross-border attacks.

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a faction that often operates independently from Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers, identified their dead leader as Kamal al-Nairab and said their military chief, Immad Hammad, had also been killed.

A sixth fatality in the attack on Rafah town was a nine-year-old boy who had been in the same house as the militants, local Palestinians said.

Hours earlier, gunmen killed seven people in a triple attack in southern Israel. Israel said the gunmen had come from Gaza through neighboring Egypt, a charge denied by Hamas.

“The Israeli military is already taking action against the head of the Committees in Gaza,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters at the site of the gun attacks.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Crispian Balmer

Obama relays condolences to Netanyahu, pledges support


President Obama conveyed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his condolences over recent terrorist attacks and reaffirmed “unwavering” commitment to Israel’s security.

“President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today to convey his condolences over the terrorist attack in Jerusalem yesterday, which killed one person and wounded many others, and to express his concern about the recent rocket and mortar attacks against Israel from Gaza,” a White House statement said on Thursday. “The President reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

The statement said Netanyahu “appreciated” the call and that the leaders “agreed to remain in close touch on a range of regional security issues.”

Israel has been seeking American reassurances in the wake of a wave of uprisings in the Arab world.

Robert Gates, the defense secretary, on Thursday met with Ehud Barak, his Israeli counterpart, and said advancing peace talks with the Palestinians was more critical than ever because of regional turmoil.

“The Israelis have a very deep strategic interest in getting out in front of the wave of populism that’s sweeping the region,” Reuters quoted a senior U.S. defense official as saying.

Jerusalem bomb casualty was British tourist


The lone casualty in the bombing at a bus stop in central Jerusalem was a British woman studying at Hebrew University.

Mary Jean Gardner, 59, had been in Israel since January, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Wednesday’s attack a “callous and disgusting act of terrorism directed against innocent civilians which I condemn unreservedly.” Hague also expressed Britain’s “unwavering support for the people of Israel in the face of such horrific acts.”

More than three dozen people were injured in the bombing. Among them was an American teenager spending a post-high school year in Israel.

Leah Green of Cleveland suffered burns and shrapnel wounds, the Cleveland Jewish News reported, when the explosion threw her in the air and her leg caught on fire.

The bomb had been left in a bag near the bus stop on a major Jerusalem thoroughfare across from the International Convention Center. Two buses in front of the stop had their windows blown out.

Israeli Air Force strikes Gaza targets in response to rocket fire on south


The Israeli Air Force struck targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Thursday, a day after Palestinian militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortars across the border.

Hamas, which controls the Strip, said the Israeli airstrike targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza.

An Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed the air strike, saying that it was in response to the rockets fired at southern Israel.

A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, Gaza witnesses said. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Netanyahu: Israel will react firmly to recent Palestinian violence [VIDEO]


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel will react firmly, responsibly and wisely to a recent wave of Palestinian violence.

“The government, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Israeli public has an iron will to defend the country and its citizens,” Netanyahu said before boarding a flight to Russia.

“Israel will act firmly, responsibly and wisely to preserve the quiet and security that prevailed here over the past two years,” he assured.

Netanyahu issued his statement just hours after a bomb killed a 59-year-old woman at a crowded bus stop in Jerusalem. Earlier Wednesday, southern Israel was bombarded by Palestinian rockets and mortar fire.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

New violence suggests end of calm between Israel and militant Palestinians


Violence between Israel and militant Palestinians rose sharply this week with a bombing in central Jerusalem and a dramatic increase in rocket attacks on southern Israel.

In a terrorist attack on Wednesday afternoon, a bomb planted near a telephone pole exploded near Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, Binyanei Ha’uma, killing a 59-year-old woman and injuring more than two dozen people.

Earlier, rocket attacks from Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday struck the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashdod, injuring one man.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces struck targets in the Gaza Strip, including what the Israeli Air Force described as the rocket launcher from which a Grad rocket was fired at Ashdod on Tuesday night. In one of the Israeli air raids, four members of Islamic Jihad traveling in a car were killed. In another, four Palestinian civilians were killed in an area from which mortar shells had just been fired.

The killing of civilians prompted a statement of regret from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also said that “It is regrettable that Hamas continues to intentionally rain down dozens of rockets on Israeli civilians even as it uses civilians as human shields.”

The sudden escalation in attacks, coming with Israel still reeling from the March 11 attack in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Itamar in which five family members were stabbed to death, raises fresh questions about the sustainability of the calm that has prevailed between Israel and militant Palestinians since the end of the Gaza war in January 2009.

Since the cease-fire that ended that war, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, rocket fire on southern Israel has been sporadic and mostly carried out by groups other than Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. But the mortar and rocket attacks in recent weeks, which have included the use of more sophisticated, longer-range missiles known as Grads, have been the work of Hamas—a sign that the shaky cease-fire between the Palestinian terrorist group and Israel may be falling apart.

“I see the escalation is already here in a number of fronts—in the South and also in Jerusalem,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai said at the scene of Wednesday’s explosion in Jerusalem, according to The Jerusalem Post.

In the South, Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom threatened a new operation in the Gaza Strip.

“The period of restraint is over; we must do everything we can to strike out against those who wish to hurt the innocent,” Shalom said on a visit to the site in Beersheba struck Wednesday by two long-range Grad rockets. “I hope it won’t come to another Operation Cast Lead, but if there is no other choice we will launch another operation.”

As of late Wednesday afternoon, no one had taken responsibility for the bombing in Jerusalem, the first major bombing in Israel’s capital city since 2004. More recent deadly terrorist attacks involved gunmen, as in the case of the Mercaz Harav attack in March 2008 that left eight yeshiva students dead, or Palestinians commandeering bulldozers or cars and using them as weapons.

Following Wednesday’s attack, Netanyahu said he would delay a planned trip to Moscow.

Police said the bomb was left in a bag in a telephone booth next to a busy bus stop along a main artery in central Jerusalem about a block from the city’s central bus terminal. The blast blew out the windows of two buses picking up passengers.

JTA Managing Editor Uriel Heilman reported from New York. Israel correspondent Marcy Oster reported from Jerusalem.

Death, fear and fighting take toll on both sides of Gaza border


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Damage to a home in Sderot from a Qassam rocket. Photo by The Media Line

The body, wrapped only in a flag, is lowered into the ground as family members throw themselves toward the grave, screaming in anguish. At that moment, their world has ended.

For the hundreds standing around them, vengeance is the only path worth treading.

It doesn’t matter whether you are now imagining the victim as a Palestinian or an Israeli — the scene is identical.

Residents of the Gaza Strip and southern Israel alike will tell you that in years gone by, they built up close working relationships and, in some cases, real friendships. Yet throughout the last 40 years there has always been an unease between the two, which all too often has spilled over into bloodshed.

Ever since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s, Hamas has been a dominant force in Gaza, and when in 2006 the Islamist movement claimed victory in the Palestinian parliamentary election, it was clear that soon it would gain de facto control of the narrow coastal enclave. A year later, Hamas took over the running of Gaza from Fatah in what Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas described as “a bloody coup.”

Complete Gaza CoverageIt has left some Gaza-based Fatah officials smarting, angry and even prepared to blame Hamas rather than Israel for the current violence.

“We were protective of the people and made sure that the Palestinian cause was on the right path until we got the world on our side,” said Ibrahim Abu A-Naja, a member of Fatah’s Executive Committee.

However, the overriding view in Gaza is that Israel is directly to blame for the new reality on the ground, in addition to the troubles already besetting Gazans.

Similarly in Israel, the residents of the towns and villages that have been under rocket fire for eight years accuse Hamas and the smaller armed organizations in Gaza of being responsible for the violence and bloodshed.

“For years we’ve been suffering like this,” said Victoria, a 20-something resident of the Israeli town Sderot, which has faced the brunt of Hamas’ missiles. “I want the Israel Defense Forces to do exactly what it’s doing now and not to stop in the middle.”

That is the overriding view in southern Israel. Many people say the government was right to launch its Gaza operation against Hamas, and if there is collateral damage — the euphemism for civilian casualties — so be it.

“Yesterday the rocket blew out my window and just missed the propane tanks, and the last time it blew two doors off their hinges, and they were blown together like a sandwich,” said Yair Madmon, a man in his late 50s who said he served in the Israeli army as a reservist until he was 48.

Like many who live in Sderot, Madmon said he will never leave.

However, that is not the case for everyone. Since the missiles began raining in, people have fled the town. It means businesses are in decline, leaving the local economy in ruins.

The middle-age mustached owner of the local lottery franchise in Sderot, who asks not to be named, said he works on a percentage basis — his income dependent on the number of tickets sold. He said fewer people than ever come his way, and he spends much of his day running for shelter in the nearby supermarket. The strain on his family, both financial and mental, is enormous.

“My wife’s worried about me, and I am about her,” he said, while handing a white and pink lottery ticket to his solitary customer. “We panic when one of us doesn’t answer the phone or if the line’s engaged or if it’s out of order.”

ALTTEXTLooking for interviewees in the public areas of Sderot is not as easy as it used to be. The residents are wary of what they see as an apathetic, biased media and, more importantly, they are scared to stand in the streets for fear of what may fall from the sky as they relate their stories.

A woman runs by, having returned her supermarket cart, and smiles apologetically, calling out, “I would talk to you, but it’s too dangerous here; I need to be home.”

Indeed, the conversation with the customer at the lottery booth is rudely interrupted by a stern female voice, broadcast via a hidden loudspeaker, warning all residents to take cover. The few people in the public square run for shelter in the local supermarket. They have 15 seconds before the rockets hits.

That rocket was fired from just a handful of miles away in Gaza.

“Leave it, it’s mine,” is a normal cry from a Gazan who has spent his day in a line in front of a bakery, waiting to purchase a package of bread. There has been a lack of flour since the first day of the Israeli military operation.

That aerial attack at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 27, came like a bolt out of the blue for Palestinians and for Hamas in particular. Some 150 Hamas security personnel were killed in just three minutes. Since then, Gazans have awakened every day to the sound of explosions and the sight of smoke plumes peppering the sky. Many residents use the same word to describe their life over the last weeks: “Hell.”

Empty streets, closed stores, pale faces, police officers sleeping on Gaza’s roads, cameramen passing in their cars — those have been the dominant scenes in Gaza. Those, along with the ambulances racing from destroyed buildings to overcrowded hospitals.

“It’s a war crime. Many innocent civilians have been killed, particularly kids and women,” said Momen, a Gaza resident. “Besides, the humanitarian situation gets more difficult and totally inhumane because of lack of flour and gasoline.”

The shortages are not only in basic foodstuffs and the power supply but also in room in Gaza’s morgues. As a result, hospital employees are gathering bodies in the open air. The identification process has taken on a grizzly nature, with family members having to walk along the rows of bodies to see if any are their loved ones. Many of the bodies are mangled beyond recognition.

Basel Faraj, a trainee in a local media production company, was wounded while covering the first airstrikes in Gaza.

“He’s critically wounded, but we can’t transfer him to anywhere; I’m losing my son,” his mother cried. “As I passed by another bed in the intensive-care unit I found another victim struggling to survive, despite the lack of oxygen and medicine.”

A car arrives at Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest. Someone rushes in screaming: “He’s alive. Save him. Please save him.”

It is a man carrying a young adult. The wounded man is dying. He is a cameraman with Hamas’ Al-Aq’sa TV. It appears unlikely the ill-equipped ambulances and dirty conditions in the hospital will help in his failing fight for survival.

Five journalists were wounded on the first day of the military operation. Two of them were working with Al-Aq’sa TV.

The decision makers at the local level are at a loss. In Gaza there is little advice they can offer and no comfort. People cannot flee the situation. Many want to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing into Egypt, but for the vast majority of the time, Cairo insists the border remain closed.

Hamas’ leadership has gone to ground in bunkers, tunnels and elsewhere, meaning there is no one to whom the public can turn for help.

In Israel, there are more options available to the population, but local politicians are still unsure how to advise their electorate.

“I’m not the general manager of the lives of the people here,” Sderot Mayor David Bouskila said from his underground logistics bunker. “I don’t know what to tell the people — to be here and suffer or to go elsewhere.”

In Israel, at least, the radio and TV channels are constantly broadcasting warning messages as to where the rockets are headed and offering phone numbers of psychological services available to residents of the south. National radio is calling on those living in northern Israel to offer home hospitality to all who desire. Many southerners take advantage of this support and are relocating to spare bedrooms up and down the country.

Schools, synagogues and offices are collecting foodstuffs, which are distributed to those still in the south. While fewer rockets are being fired from Gaza now that the Israeli ground offensive is in full swing, their range has increased, with Grad rockets capable of traveling some 25 miles being launched from Gaza.

In previous years, the name Sderot became synonymous with the Qassam rockets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but now the coastal cities Ashkelon and Ashdod can be added to the list, as well as the capital of the south Beer Sheva, Netivot, Qiryat Malachi and a host of other towns and villages.

While the damage is far less significant on the Israeli side of the border, the number of Israelis now within range of the rockets is reaching a par with that for the Palestinians. Schools are closed throughout the south. City and regional councils have unlocked bomb shelters that have been closed for years to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

While Israel has had to get used to daily rocket attacks over the last eight years, the international community is now firmly focused on Israel’s strikes against Hamas, with many ambassadors to the United Nations speaking of Jerusalem’s “disproportionate use of force.”

As has been the case in recent decades, Israel’s main detractor on the international scene is the Muslim bloc, as represented by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is arguably the strongest grouping in the United Nations.

In the days leading up to the Israeli strike and immediately following, Egypt proved to be the key exception by blaming Hamas for all the ills that have befallen the civilian population of Gaza.

The Islamist movement handed Israel an opportunity “on a golden plate” to attack, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit told reporters. Palestinian Authority leader Abbas made similar remarks as he toured regional capitals on the day the warfare commenced.

Israel’s key ally is the United States, with other “old friends” attempting to prevent comprehensive condemnation of Jerusalem’s actions. Among them: the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, which crucially has just taken over the presidency of the European Union from France. Prague is stressing the Israeli action is “defensive” rather than “offensive.”

ALTTEXTYet, most in the international community see things differently. While criticizing Hamas’ rocket firing, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon roundly condemned Israel: “While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza. The suffering caused to civilian populations as a result of the large-scale violence and destruction that have taken place over the past few days has saddened me profoundly.”

In Muslim capitals and elsewhere, the rhetoric has been far stronger than that adopted by U.N. diplomats.

“Muslims of the world should stay united against world arrogance, the criminal Zionists in particular … to line up against [the] wicked party with more solidarity than ever,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was quoted as saying by IRNA, Tehran’s official news agency. The comment was published as Said Jalili, Iran’s security chief, was in Beirut for talks with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, among others.

In Malaysia, Israel’s actions were described as “tantamount to genocide” by Abd Al-Rahim Bakri, the country’s deputy foreign minister,.

However, Israel maintains that during its aerial bombardment of Gaza it was doing its utmost to ensure civilians were not caught up in the airstrikes and only Hamas members and other combatants were targeted.

“We’re using very high-precision weaponry,” said Maj. Avital Leibovich, a senior IDF spokeswoman.

The Israeli message to the world has remained the same throughout the campaign: Hamas has brought the warfare upon itself and ordinary Gazans. It goes back to the time Israel withdrew all its civilians and military personnel from Gaza three years ago.

“We hoped the Palestinians would do something good with their lives,” Leibovich said. “We wanted a better future for them, and for a while it worked.”

She pointed to the successful exports of millions of dollars worth of flowers and fruits from Gaza in the first months following the Israeli pullback.

“But then Hamas was elected and changed the priorities,” the spokeswoman continued. “It invested a lot of money in building headquarters, recruiting troops, training them, digging hundreds of tunnels, buying weapons and explosives. That money did not go to the Palestinians themselves.”

A similar message came from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak when he explained why Israel had moved to a land invasion of Gaza on Jan. 3: “I have said all along that our military activities will widen and deepen as much as needed. Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activities against Israel and Israelis from Gaza and to bring about a significant change in the situation in southern Israel.

“We have carefully weighed all our options,” he said. “We are not war hungry, but we shall not, I repeat — we shall not allow a situation in which our towns, villages and civilians are constantly targeted by Hamas. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined.”

Hamas, too, has repeatedly made a single point whenever it has been given the chance.

“We first declared a truce between the Palestinian parties and the occupation [Israel] to protect the Palestinians from the daily attacking, daily killing and assassinations, but the calm failed to put an end to their tragedy,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

As a result, he added, Hamas had little choice other than to refuse to extend the truce. The mood in Gaza made it clear the people did not want the unilaterally declared truce to continue any longer.

Hamas also has international media coverage on its side. The Palestinian Ramattan production company has set up video cameras on Gaza rooftops and is transmitting a live feed to any TV channels that want to broadcast the pictures. Indeed, on Arabic satellite TV, dozens of stations are choosing to show the pictures, which are interspersed with graphic scenes from Gaza hospitals, propagandist videos and one-sided studio discussions.

Similarly, the visual footage coming out of Gaza is being lapped up by the international media, given that it is far more graphic than pictures of Israelis sitting in their bomb shelters.

Those scenes are also bringing about a degree of renewed unity between Hamas and Fatah, its bitter Palestinian rival faction. Politicians from the two sides held their first publicized joint meeting in months with the outbreak of Gaza hostilities.

“Israel used the Palestinian division and the truce to prepare itself well in order to attack Gaza. Now Israel doesn’t differentiate between Hamas and Fatah. We’re also targeted in Gaza,” said senior Fatah official Faisal Abu Shahla, who chose to remain in Gaza rather than flee to the West Bank when Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007.

Comments like these and others from Palestinians, Israelis and world leaders will soon be forgotten, but the vivid images from Gaza and southern Israel will be remembered for years to come: Palestinian and Israeli civilians alike weeping uncontrollably in the face of a fate they cannot control.

The following is a collection of quotations gathered both in Gaza and southern Israel in the last week — and they are remarkably similar:

“It was on Friday; my mother was preparing the food when the shrapnel hit her in the foot.”

“I hope the attacks will stop, and we can live in peace, and we can live a normal life like anyone — to go to school, to go to work in peace and to be able to sleep well.”

“I’m so scared to stay alone in my house.”

“It’s calm at this minute, but it wasn’t hours ago. We heard explosions. They attacked children. Not fighters. Children.”

“People are angry about this. Why didn’t the world say anything and take positive steps?”

The two people are divided by an enormous chasm, by fences, ditches, armed forces and a deep-set paranoia about the intentions of the other. Yet the two have far more in common than perhaps they are ready to admit as the rockets and shells still pound away.

Israelis and Palestinians are united in their fear of the power of weaponry in the hands of the enemy. Both sit in their homes wondering if the next explosive projectile is heading for them. They are making the same visits to hospitals to visit the victims of warfare.

And both are as one as they pay the ultimate price — burying their dead.

Images: Gaza bread line, funeral in Israel

How we fight


Am I dreaming?

Did Israel actually trick our terrorist enemy into complacency before catching it off guard? Did we use the six-month cease-fire with Hamas to beef up our intelligence and plan a blitzkrieg counterattack in response to the incessant bombing of Israeli civilians?

Did we really put those delusional peace talks on hold and say enough is enough, now it’s time to defend ourselves? Did we also launch a PR and diplomatic offensive with the international community to defend our actions?

Excuse me, but this is not the weak-looking and tentative Israel I’ve come to know over the past few years.

Complete Gaza CoverageEver since Israel evacuated all civilians and army personnel from Gaza in the summer of 2005, Hamas has fired some 6,300 bombs targeted directly at Israeli civilians, killing 10 and injuring 700. While these bombs were falling, Israel fought a dumb and sloppy war in Lebanon that only emboldened our enemies; chose a policy of restraint despite the thousands of Hamas bombs; and desperately pursued unrealistic peace talks with a splintered Palestinian people and a terror-sponsoring state (Syria).

In the process, Israel lost much of its power of deterrence, which is a diplomatic way of saying: Our enemies stopped fearing us. This deterrence was crucial to Israel’s ability to survive for 60 years in a neighborhood with 300 million hostile neighbors. The situation got so bad that a few days before Israel’s Gaza offensive, Hamas was mocking Israel’s weakness, demanding that Israel reopen the crossings into Gaza and offering, well, more bombs and the continued imprisonment of Gilad Shalit.

Even the eminently reasonable and peace-loving Barack Obama seemed to be giving the Israelis a lesson when, during a summer visit to Sderot, he said: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same.”

Apparently, Israel has decided to follow Obama’s advice, which might not be so bad.

As Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi argued in The Wall Street Journal this week, giving Israel full leeway to counterattack against Hamas is a good thing for the peace process, because Israelis will never agree to further land concessions if they feel they can’t defend themselves against terrorist aggression.

Of course, if Israel does not heed Obama’s message and fails to “do everything” it can to stop the terror on its doorstep, we can expect even less willingness from Israelis to take risks for peace.

In other words, in Israel today, the best way to fight for peace is to fight against terror.

As it turns out, a day before Israel launched its anti-terror offensive, I was sitting in the New York apartment of one of the Jewish people’s toughest and most relentless terror fighters.

She is a diminutive woman in her 50s named Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and author of “Narco-Terrorism” and “Funding Evil, Updated: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It,” among other books.

Ehrenfeld’s obsession is money. If we can figure out where and how the terrorists get their funding, she says, we can suffocate their efforts.

She has spent the last few years of her life trying to expose “the most vital and venomous sources of terrorists’ financial power” — including state sponsorship, government corruption and the illegal drug trade. “Funding Evil,” which has a foreword by former CIA Director James Woolsey, is a highly detailed exposé of the labyrinth of terrorist financing, with a special focus on a major culprit, Saudi Arabia.

Since the book came out four years ago, she has had death threats and, most recently, has been the target of a lawsuit launched in a British court by a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, who denied the charges made in the book of his connection to terror financing.

Ever the fighter, Ehrenfeld turned the tables on Mahfouz by countersuing and got a bill passed in New York State called “Rachel’s Law,” which protects American authors published in America from getting sued in foreign courts for libel. She is now fighting to get the bill passed in Congress.

She says she gets little support from the Jewish community, because many of her findings are “politically incorrect,” as they involve American allies like Saudi Arabia, with whom America does a lot of business. But out of her tiny, orchid-filled apartment in midtown Manhattan, she will continue, she says, her one-woman campaign to expose the money trail of global terrorism.

“It’s an outrage that all the information is out there, and we are acting as if these people [the Saudis] are our best friends,” she said.

So, yes, there’s more than one way to fight terror. For the Ehrenfelds of the world, we must follow the money and get it out of the terrorists’ hands. For those on the front lines, we must make clear to our terrorist neighbors that while we do long for peace, that won’t stop us from doing whatever it takes to defend our people.

I also experienced on my long weekend in New York yet another way that Jews fight terror. It was an evening event at a synagogue on the Lower East Side billed as “our most powerful response to the Mumbai massacre.”

What was it? It was 200 Jews beating their drums at a Chanukah party sponsored by my friend, Rabbi Simon Jacobson of the Meaningful Life Center.

Late into the chilly Manhattan night, these Jewish hipsters followed the beat of a professional percussion band, led by an exuberant conductor named Aviva Nash, who urged the ecstatic crowd to just let it rip as if the whole world were watching.

There was no talk of deterrence or money trails at this Chanukah party. There was just a noisy reminder of how some of us fight, and what, in the end, we’re all fighting for.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Gaza campaign shows cautious regional unity


There are no coincidences in the Middle East. Not between the Israelis and the Palestinians, not between Fatah and Hamas and certainly not between the international community and Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

What there are, this time around, are startling confluences in planning and policy that have driven a wedge in Arab unity, while providing unprecedented illustrations of cooperation between Israel and some of its neighbors. Operation Cast Lead, as the Israelis call it, foreshadows far more than another temporary period of relative quiet along a border.

At work is a fascinating scenario in which Israel “does the deed” — toppling Hamas — which arguably benefits the Palestinians, Egyptians, Saudis and other Arab states as much as it does Israel. Jordan faces a special dynamic. But there’s more: In doing so, are the Israelis in effect clearing the way for an agreement with the Palestinians (road map for peace plan) and with the entire Arab world (Arab — nee Saudi — initiative)?

For months there has been speculation as to who will invade Gaza: Could Mahmoud Abbas and his American-trained cadre of fighters do the job, or must it be the Israelis who clearly wanted to avoid taking the plunge and risking the ever-present quagmire?

As Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit admonished Hamas at a Cairo news conference after the Israeli campaign began, it could not fire 300 rockets into Israel between the Dec. 19 end of the “calm agreement” and the Dec. 27 response without forcing Israel’s hand. Israeli military planners, meanwhile, never doubted the Hamas obstinacy and certain course to conflict.

It was a lesson about which Jerusalem and Cairo were very much in synch. Egypt went to the well twice and came up empty: in its attempt to negotiate a rapprochement among Palestinian factions and in its attempt to negotiate an extension to the Israel-Hamas “calm agreement.”

With a presumed good measure of prodding from the White House and vigorous nodding from the U.S. administration-elect, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took the decision not to allow U.S. largesse to crumble at the self-defeating hands of Hamas.

Once he took the plunge, Mubarak never vacillated, showing courage in feeding Hamas the disinformation that flushed its leadership out of hiding in time for the first Israeli assault, fighting back the surge of Gazans trying to enter Egypt and allowing Al-Gheit to cast the blame for the Israeli onslaught on Hamas itself — courage helped along by a fear of the Muslim Brotherhood and the allure of continuing American aid.

Abbas, meanwhile, emerges as the primary beneficiary of this extraordinary convergence of interests. Gingerly testing the waters from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and from Cairo — anywhere but Ramallah — he provided an important piece to the puzzle. When Saudi King Abdullah phoned President Bush to demand that Israel be reined-in, Abbas himself was still in the city, the two leaders having just met. No coincidence here, either. Clearly the Americans, Saudis and Palestinians were all on the same page as the Egyptians and Israelis.

And Iran? Not much in the way of sabre-rattling this time around. Tehran fights Israel through proxies: the Syrians, Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and Hamas down south.

Syria continues to weigh the long-term benefits of patching up things with Washington; Hamas is being left with little but rhetoric, and some military wonks believe Hassan Nasrallah is savvy enough to realize he bit the bullet in 2006 and should not be quick to bite the apple again. Accordingly, it is noteworthy that Nasrallah inveighed against Cairo, not Jerusalem, when Operation Cast Lead began.

In all, while remaining mindful that not without reason generations of peacemaking in the Middle East has failed miserably and that courses chartered through the region are rarely completed, the participants appear to have put on an impressive demonstration of coordinated international gamesmanship that, in its first stage, was carried out with precision planning and cooperation that extended across ancient fault lines.

Whether the planners will achieve their respective goals in subsequent stages will depend on their ability to remain focused on the benefits of their cooperation and eschew impulses to push beyond agreed limits.

Felice Friedson is president and CEO of The Media Line News Agency, a U.S. organization specializing in Middle East coverage, and founder of the Mideast Press Club. She can be reached at editor@themedialine.org.

Hold your fire! Cease fire! Fire!


Anti-Semitism in Pakistan — hate on a sliding scale




This is the second of two parts on Pakistan and terror. Previously: Pakistan Reaction: Something dark is growing in our own backyard



Right in the middle of Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, stands one of the most recognized symbols of Judaism: the Star of David. It adorns, in relief, Merewether Tower, one of the city’s best-known landmarks, a 112-foot-tall clock tower built by Sir Evans James in 1892. Today, a busy transit intersection has developed around the tower, which hundreds of thousands of Muslims pass each day Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackon their way to work.

Nadeem Ahmed, a broker at the Karachi Stock Exchange located just across the street, points to some old graffiti at the base of the tower that reads “Israel na manzoor” (Israel is not acceptable).

“These marks show the anger of some fanatics for the brutality of Israelis against the Muslims of Palestine and Lebanon,” he says. “Frankly speaking, I’m neither happy nor sad about the Jews who were killed in Mumbai.”

Ahmed’s apathy falls right in the middle of the spectrum of Pakistani attitudes toward Jews. At one end are the virulently anti-Semitic beliefs held by people such as the members of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Army of the Pure, a banned terrorist outfit operating in Kashmir. The LeT is suspected of being behind the attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai and the murder of the five Jews, including Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah.

At the other end of the spectrum are Pakistanis such as Maria (not her real name), a Shia who converted to Judaism, married a Jewish professor whom she met during her studies in the United States and with whom she has two children.

Unfortunately, tragedies such as what took place in Mumbai last month, in New York in 2001 and in London in 2005, as well as the 2002 murder in Karachi of Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Daniel Pearl, throw the spotlight on only one end of the spectrum in Pakistan and give the worst impression of Muslims. The other end lies in the dark — the many other variations of how Pakistani Muslims perceive Jews are left out of the picture.

ALTTEXTMerewether Tower

Analysis: Mumbai attacks mean new challenges for Israel


ALTTEXTChabad men mourn near the bodies of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife Rivkah, 28. Photo by Brian Hendler/JTA

Israel may consider beefing up security at hundreds of Israeli and Jewish institutions around the world in the wake of the terrorist attack at the Chabad center in Mumbai, experts say.

The attacks on 10 sites in the Indian city, which killed nearly 200 people, could lead to a shift in the way Israel views global terrorism and the way to combat it.

Besides tightening security around the institutions — Israeli representatives and businesspeople abroad may be advised to concentrate their offices in a single, well-protected compound — experts say there will have to be more training of counterterrorism forces, restructuring of intelligence gathering and enhanced global cooperation in training special forces and sharing intelligence.

The Indian special forces who responded to the Mumbai attacks were criticized as being slow to respond, inadequately prepared for such an attack and lacking key equipment.

Israeli experts long have predicted a mega-terror attack involving local, Western and Israeli targets, including symbols of government and economic power. Experts believe Mumbai will become the new model for international terrorist networks, such as Global Jihad or al-Qaeda.

As the Mumbai case showed, even in cases in which Israel ostensibly is not the focus of the conflict or attack, Israeli and Jewish institutions are likely to be targeted.

The lone surviving Mumbai terrorist, 21-year-old Azam Amir Kasab, reportedly told investigators that he and his comrades were given specific instructions to kill Israelis.

” alt=”Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attack” title=”Click here for complete Mumbai Chabad coverage” vspace = 4 hspace = 4 border = 0 align = ‘left’>Weeks before the attack, reports said, members of the terrorist squad spent time at the Chabad center to gather intelligence. If true, this shows that the attack on Israelis and Jews was part of the overall planning of a highly sophisticated, multitarget operation.

It has enormous implications for security at Israeli and Jewish institutions worldwide, but equally so for intelligence gathering.

At the behest of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the former head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dan Meridor, produced a classified report in 2006 on Israel’s defense and intelligence needs in an age of potential high-tech megaterror. His recommendations, which remain secret, apparently were largely ignored; Mossad chief Meir Dagan preferred to focus the agency’s intelligence-gathering effort almost exclusively on Iran’s nuclear program.

Counterterrorism experts now are calling for revising this approach.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the bombings in subsequent years in Bali, London and Madrid all involved the Global Jihad’s modus operandi of hitting several targets simultaneously.

Israeli experts see even greater sophistication in the Mumbai attacks. More targets were involved, the targets were selected carefully to shut down a big city and the nature of the attack required a huge military effort to bring it to an end. The possibility of Hezbollah, Hamas or Global Jihad attempting something similar in Israel is a worst-case scenario that Israeli security specialists must consider.

What was new about Mumbai was the sheer size of the targets taken over by the terrorists. Indeed, the Mumbai attacks may serve as a game-changer in the way counterterrorist forces prepare for attacks.

Going room to room and floor to floor in a multistory, modern building to flush out terrorists who could be anywhere and to save hostages requires highly coordinated action by much larger special forces than currently exist in Israel — or for that matter, anywhere else. For Israel, it means training more special forces at home and possibly helping train others abroad. It also means heightened surveillance at potential target sites to spot suspicious people, guests or customers trying to gather intelligence and prepare for an attack.

Israeli experts note that the attackers in Mumbai were highly skilled in the use of weapons and explosives, had detailed intelligence on their targets and used sophisticated navigation devices. In other words, they performed like soldiers in a regular army.

Like soldiers, they likely spent time at terrorist camps undergoing training. An effective preemptive counterterrorist measure could be to hit terrorist training camps in places such as Lebanon or Pakistan, Israeli experts say.

While acknowledging the difficulty of fighting terrorists at as many as 10 sites, Israeli experts have been very critical of the way Indian security and special forces operated.

They point to three stages of failure: the lack of any prior intelligence on the planned terrorist operation, the failure to intercept the terrorists as they infiltrated the Indian coast and the slowness of the counterterrorism operation on the ground.

The experts were particularly critical of the drawn-out operation at Nariman House, the building that houses the Chabad center. Unlike the large hotels, the experts say, there was no reason to take 12 hours to liberate the much smaller Chabad house. For the hostages to have had any chance of survival, the counterterrorist operation needed to take place in minutes, not hours.

Others in Israel slammed the critics, noting that Israel, with its long history of fighting terrorism, has had its fair share of failures, too.

For its part, the Israeli government has studiously avoided any official criticism of the Indian effort. Diplomats, fearing possible strains on the close ties between Israel and India, urged Israeli critics to tread more carefully.

Israeli-Indian military, intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation is extremely close. Over the past several years, India has purchased an estimated $8 billion worth of military equipment from Israel, including the Green Pines radar system employed by Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile batteries. India’s defense-related purchases from Israel amount to some $1.5 billion annually.

Just three weeks ago, Indian Defense Secretary Vijay Singh visited Israel to discuss the purchase of state-of-the-art Phalcon early-warning planes, missiles, helicopters and maintenance equipment for unmanned aircraft. The visit also focused on counterterrorism, with high-level intelligence exchanges on the war against global terrorism.

After Mumbai, the already deep cooperation between the two countries on counterterrorism almost certainly will be enhanced. India will want to share Israeli expertise, and Israel will be desperately keen to provide it. Both sides recognize that fighting global terrorism will take a huge international collaborative effort.

Should we ‘roll the dice’ on untested Obama?


The pretentiously messianic Sen. Barack Obama would be comical, except many people vote apparently not for president but for debate team captain. While partisans argue unconditionally for Obama or Sen. John McCain, both candidates are, as in any election, flawed. It isincreasingly unlikely the imperfect McCain will win, but he should. And he still could.

There has been a liquidity crisis, which means the dysfunctional credit markets collapsed temporarily, not forever. When people lack confidence in economic calculation, the economy paralyzes. Meanwhile, the Iraq War has improved, so General Obama’s opposition to the surge is discredited, another reason he neatly changes the subject.

Stocks were sold as if the world is coming to an end. The media encouraged fear of an economic Armageddon, consequently, a political panic ensued. The schizophrenic McCain campaign — Obama is wonderful, no, risky — has been slow to adapt. People do not understand what has caused the economic mess. They want change. This inescapable synergy tilts toward Obama, who is mindlessly applauded when he boasts he was for change first, as if he defined a profile in courage.

The common misconception fed by the infatuated media is: Wholesale deregulation by the Bush administration is the culprit. In reality, most Democrats and some Republicans share a long history of irresponsibility. The machinations are largely creatures nurtured in government test tubes, broken, the virus highly contagious. History is thus: Government intervention, per Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, actually exacerbates instability.

Without the collusion, if not the encouragement of the feds, these mortgages would not have been given to poor credit risks — unknown income, no down payment. But the federal government, via its quasi-governmental agencies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, subsidized the loans, assumed the risk. Fannie and Freddie should never have been created. President Bill Clinton expanded their charter.

A few years later, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said we should not ” fix something that wasn’t broke.” She praised “the outstanding leadership” of Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, who subsequently left in disgrace but with $90 million of bonuses after an accounting scandal.

Obama is the largest recipient ever of campaign money from Fannie/Freddie, which generously supported mainly Democratic Fannie and Freddie defenders like Senate Finance Committee chair Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and his House Financial Affairs Committee counterpart, Barney Frank. Frank resisted reform: “I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.”

Do we now similarly “roll the dice” on the untested Obama? We do not know much about Obama. He portrays his community organizing as altruistic. In fact, he parlayed those community contacts into a political base.

Ambition is not bad. Own up to it. More to the point, Obama affiliated with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church not because of its spirituality but because of its politics.

I cannot say Obama hates America or Jews, but Wright, in my opinion, hates both. That someone as bright and curious as Obama could attend Wright’s church for so many years, where his sermons were available on tape, and not know what Wright was/is about is implausible.

Obama used Wright and his church for political volunteers, voter registration and turnout then this year opportunistically discarded him. Obama succeeded as a go-along, get-along Chicago machine politician, not as an anti-establishment reformist.

Voters confuse Obama stagecraft with vision. He is articulate and confident but also glib and cocky. This is not a humble man who knows what he doesn’t know. This is someone who earlier this year dismissed Iran as a threat because it, unlike the former Soviet Union, is “a small country.”

The Soviets, precisely as a major power, acted rationally; the doctrine of mutually assured destruction deterred nuclear war. Iran has no such inhibitions, professor Obama: Such small rogue nations are temperamentally capable of a nuclear first strike.

Readers of this newspaper are interested in Israel. We know McCain is absolutely solid. Obama is, at best, evolving. For example, immediately after his American Israel Public Affairs Committee speech endorsing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Obama abruptly reversed himself.

If Israel were under attack and its prime minister called the White House at the proverbial 3 a.m., who would you want at the other end of the line? If you’re for Obama for other reasons, that’s fine. But don’t say it’s because of his position on Israel.

Many voters see Obama as an agent of change, when he, in fact, is an ideologue — most left voting record in the Senate. In a centrist nation, the favored Obama is much, much farther to the left than the struggling McCain is somewhat to the right.

On the economy, maverick McCain would be more likely to take on the establishment. McCain had warned more than two years ago, “American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system and the economy as a whole.” As even the liberal Washington Post editorialized, Obama was AWOL.

Obama had an undistinguished record as a part-time member of the Illinois Senate, where he often voted simply “present.” Then in his brief two years in the U.S. Senate, he has never taken on his party’s leadership. Unlike McCain, Obama does win the congeniality award not because he worked in a bipartisan way but because he never made waves.

The unqualified Obama communicates well; the qualified McCain communicates poorly, and communicating is a qualification. But when the American economy requires seismic change to compete in the global economy, who will adapt? McCain — long pro-change record — or Obama — short anti-change record?

Who would be more likely to embrace a Smoot-Hawley Tariff associated with the Great Depression — protectionist Obama or free-trader McCain? An economic corollary: If you think education reform is essential, do you want McCain, who champions innovation and supports school choice, or Obama, who is beholden to the teachers union and opposes school choice?

Obama has not run anything, met a payroll or served in the military. No Obama legislation or even bipartisanship. Admittedly contentious, McCain has challenged his party’s leadership, even worked collaboratively with opposing Democrats who, until recently, praised him.

For the economy, the present cure could be worse than the disease, unless down the line we get the government out of the banking business. McCain can do that. He believes in limited government, low taxation, economic opportunity and growth.

Obviously, we can’t bet the farm on Obama.

Arnold Steinberg is a political strategist and analyst.

Arab attacker strikes in Jerusalem; dozen injured, terrorist killed


JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Arab assailant plowed a vehicle into a crowd of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem before being shot dead.

Two soldiers were moderately injured and more than a dozen others suffered slight injuries. The driver was killed by a soldier at the scene.

The soldiers, who were on a tour of the Old City, were struck at a crowded intersection near the Jaffa Gate by an Arab from eastern Jerusalem driving a black BMW, according to reports.

The attack marked the third time in recent months that an Arab from eastern Jerusalem has used a vehicle to perpetrate an attack in Jerusalem. In the other two cases, one of which resulted in the deaths of Israeli civilians, the assailants used construction vehicles.

Here’s the AP report:

JERUSALEM (AP)—A driver plowed a BMW into a group of soldiers at a busy intersection near Jerusalem’s Old City late Monday, injuring 13 of them before he was shot to death, Israeli police and the rescue service said.

Jerusalem police commander Ilan Franco said a soldier in the group killed the driver.

The driver was not immediately identified, but Franco said he was a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem who apparently acted alone. Israel TV said the car was registered to a resident of Jabel Mukaber, an Arab village inside the city limits.

It was the third incident in Jerusalem in which vehicles apparently have been used as weapons in recent months. In July, two Palestinians living in Jerusalem carried out separate attacks using heavy construction machinery that killed three people and injured several others. Both attackers were fatally shot by police and soldiers.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak released a statement demanding a speedup of procedures to allow the destruction of homes of Palestinian attackers ‘‘to contribute to deterring potential terrorists.’’ Several years ago, an Israeli Supreme Court justice ruled that destroying houses does not deter attackers and the practice was halted.

Ambulances and police units raced to the scene Monday night after the crash about 11 p.m. and quickly carried away the injured.

Police said two of the 13 injured were in serious condition while the others suffered light wounds. Doctors at the hospitals said all were conscious and were being treated.

Israel Radio said the soldiers, from the Artillery Corps, were on a tour of Jerusalem ahead of the Jewish New Year holiday next week.

An Israel Radio reporter described a large group of Jews, most of them ultra-Orthodox, chasing an Arab into the nearby Old City after the incident.

Police said the car rammed into the soldiers waiting at the intersection. Witnesses said the car ended up on the sidewalk near the intersection, which lies along the line between the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem.

Since Israel captured the Arab section of the city in 1967, there are no barriers between the two sides.

Palestinians demand the Arab portion as the capital of the independent state they want to create.

Israel united the city under its rule weeks after the 1967 war, but in recent years some officials have shown a willingness to cede Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians. However, sharing the city and its holy sites remains one of the toughest issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

 

Flag Day


What a weird week.

The presidential race, instead of focusing on the best energy policy, the best Mideast policy, the best health care policy, wasall about moose and pigs and pitbulls. The financial companies that once defined stability have teetered or collapsed. The stock market is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a hurricane ate our Gulf Coast refineries and, by the way, is anybody noticing that Pakistan is imploding?

Meanwhile, over at the Israeli Consulate, they’re planning a massive, pull-out-the-stops effort to … raise the Israeli flag?

That’s right. On Sunday, Sept. 28, thousands of people are expected to rally outside the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard to watch as the blue and white national flag is raised permanently in front of the building.

You would think there are more important things to focus on right now. To be honest, when Consul General Jacob Dayan first told me his idea, that was my gut reaction — which I kept to myself. The world is going nuts, and that’s what you want us to do — raise a flag?

But I’ve let the idea percolate; I’ve turned it over in my head, and sure enough, I’ve changed my mind. It’s the perfect thing to do. It’s brilliant.

Neither Dayan nor the building’s owner, Jamison Services, will discuss why until now no Israeli flag has been allowed to stand in front of the otherwise nondescript office tower at 6380 Wilshire Blvd.

But let’s hazard a wild guess: security.

Building owners and Israeli ambassadors themselves regularly cite concerns over protests and terrorism as the primary reasons so few Israeli diplomatic stations display their country’s flag.

It’s not an unreasonable concern. From 1969 to the present there have been at least 30 attacks on Israeli embassies, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The ministry actually lists and details the attacks on its Web sites, which could not have made Dayan’s job convincing his landlord any easier). The most recent one occurred this past February, when a group calling itself “al Qaeda in the Magreb” fired shots at the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania, wounding three local residents.

It’s a fact of life: Israel’s blue and white is a red flag for the fanatics. Wave it, and they are likely to charge.

Sometimes, the reaction is horrific, as at the El Al ticket counter several years ago, when a man opened fire by the flag. Sometimes, it is boringly predictable, as at those Hezbollah rallies in Lebanon, where they actually have to make their own Israeli flag just to destroy it. Sometimes, it is pathetic: In the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem last spring, a 50-year-old Orthodox Israeli man waving his flag on Israel’s Independence Day was set upon and beaten by members of the anti-Zionist Naturei Karta Jewish sect.

Given these reactions, it’s only wise and natural to be cautious, to fear the fanatics and abide by their rule: Don’t you dare display your flag.

And now, Dayan is offering his response: tough.

In his book, “A Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky offers up a test to determine whether a society is truly free and democratic. He calls it his Town Square test:

“If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”

I suspect the default reflex of Jews is to rest inside a fear society. Centuries of persecution have conditioned us to cut our losses and accept a base level of fear and intimidation, so long as our families and livelihoods are not immediately threatened. Our mental public square has always been inhabited by thugs: We have grown comfortable with them.

The establishment of the State of Israel was supposed to have freed us from the physical ghettos in which Jews found themselves and from these psychic ones, as well. A free people in a free land could not be bullied, need not live in fear.

The physical and psychic shackles cracked in 1948, when the Israeli flag was first raised over the independent, sovereign Jewish state, and they broke in 1967, when the country swept to victory in the Six-Day War and the flag flew over a united Jerusalem.

But that was then. Now, with terror at our doorsteps and Israel still in peril, most of us are content to lay low. It turns out we are less butterfly than hermit crab. Survival teaches us that rather than float free, better to run from shell to shell.

But if we let our city fail the Town Square test, we delude ourselves in thinking we can forever be safe off the square, in our synagogues, at our schools. Whether we fly the flag or not, those who would do us harm will find us anyway.

In the Age of Google, there is no way to hide. We can be better or worse targets, but we are still targets.

The vast majority of us want to live in a world where disagreements don’t demand violence. We don’t want the crazy few determining how we live our lives, demonstrate our loyalties, express our identity. We want a thousand flags to fly (including, yes, the Palestinian one). We want to be free.

That’s why I love Dayan’s vision. He saw reality and raised it — hell, he went all in. Once he received approval to fly the flag, he could have just quietly run it up one morning and left it at that. But no: He has arranged to close off Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. He has invited schools, synagogues and churches to come out and show their support. There will be a stage, speeches (short, he promises), dignitaries and performance by a recording artist Macy Gray.

The Israeli flag is going up on Wilshire Boulevard; attention will be paid, and I, for one, will be there.

Freshman Israeli filmmaker earns three Emmy nods


Arranging a telephone interview with Israeli documentary filmmaker Hilla Medalia requires the scheduling dexterity of a flight attendant: She is constantly en route to someplace else — making movies, promoting various projects and generally wheeling and dealing. And the sense is that it’s not about to get any easier. Medalia’s debut work, “To Die in Jerusalem,” has garnered three Emmy nominations — best documentary, best score and outstanding achievement in investigative journalism.

The Emmys will air live from the Nokia Theatre on Sept. 21 on ABC.

“This is the stuff of dreams,” the filmmaker exclaimed. “To be nominated for an Emmy is one of the highest accolades in my industry.”

Medilia’s film, which earned her a Peabody Award and first place at the International Human Rights Film Festival in Paris, tells the story of two women: one the mother of a Palestinian suicide bomber and the other the mother of a young Israeli girl killed in the same attack.

For Medalia, the attention means more people will see her films, which is the main point.

“For me, the power of film is in the amount of people that can potentially watch what you produce,” she said. “It’s when I understood this that I decided that my role as a filmmaker was to focus on projects that have a social conscience.”

Medalia’s journey to becoming a filmmaker began courtesy of her athletic prowess. During the course of a fairly typical Israeli childhood, she became a teen track star. A subsequent stint in the Israel Defense Forces, with the special status of “athlete of excellence,” was a springboard to an athletic scholarship to study film at the University of Southern Illinois.

“University was great because I was in the middle of nowhere, which meant there was nothing to do but study and train,” Medalia said. “The freedom you have is wonderful; if you want to shoot something, you just take a camera and shoot.”

Her master’s submission, “Daughters of Abraham,” earned her a prestigious Angelus Student Film Festival award and would later become the basis of the Emmy-nominated “To Die in Jerusalem.”

After finishing school, Medalia moved to New York to learn the ropes. Her journey up the filmmaking ladder included the rookie tasks of carrying lights and being an assistant director on a horror film. But Medalia’s biggest break came with working with fellow Israeli filmmaker Danny Menkin on his award-winning film, “39 Pounds of Love.”

“It was a great way to learn the business inside out, because I was involved in so many aspects,” she said. “In the end, I helped raise finance and distribute the finished product, so it also schooled me in the business end of the industry.”

The involvement in and subsequent successful theatrical release of Menkin’s film gave Medalia the confidence to begin work on “To Die in Jerusalem.” She raised the bulk of the funding on her own and traveled repeatedly to Tel Aviv over a period of two years to complete the film. At the rough-cut stage, Medalia achieved every documentary filmmaker’s dream: a pre-sale to HBO.

The journey since has launched Medalia’s career. She has traveled tirelessly with the film to numerous festivals and screenings, from Hong Kong to Cape Town and Edinburgh.

“It’s been an incredible experience professionally,” she said. “I’ve met so many people in the industry, learned so much.”

The results are more than evident: Medalia currently has two projects in the works.

The first, “After the Storm,” focuses on a group of teens in post-Katrina New Orleans who stage a musical in a resurrected community center. The film focuses on the lives of the kids, their schools, homes, struggles and hopes as they attempt to make sense of New Orleans after the disaster. For Medalia, the process has been incredibly moving.

“On one hand, it’s been very difficult because of the conditions there, even though we shot two years after the hurricane,” she explained. “But in another sense, it is very inspiring to see that despite everything that has happened, they are moving forward. It’s a very special place.”

Rosie O’Donnell was impressed enough by Medalia and her venture that she joined the project as executive producer.

Medalia’s other work in progress is a joint project with Israeli producer Itai Horstock, which tells the story of returned soldier-musician Kobi Vitman, who battles Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and ultimately deals with it through writing and staging a rock opera on the subject.

“It talks about things we prefer not to address: namely, the effect of war on society and on soldiers,” she said.

Medalia sees a commonality in all her projects.

“I like personal stories, not just stories about people,” the filmmaker explained. “It’s much more appealing for me than doing things from a historical or purely narrative angle.”

Given all the recognition, it would seem that Medalia is on to something.


The trailer

Kassams land near mayor of Sderot’s house; Interfaith fellowship group denies missionary ties


Qassam Lands Near Sderot Mayor’s Home

A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in a residential neighborhood of Sderot.

The rocket landed Sunday not far from the home of Mayor Eli Moyal, Ynet reported, and started a fire that was extinguished quickly by firefighters. No injuries were reported.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered all Israel-Gaza border crossings closed Monday in response to the attack.

An Egyptian-mediated cease-fire between Israel and the terrorist Hamas-run Gaza Strip has been breached by rocket attacks more than 36 times in the past three months.

“Everything is all right at home,” Moyal told Ynet. “The problem here is not a personal one but a political one. People are under the impression that there is a cease-fire, but a few dozen rockets have been fired at Israel since the truce went into effect.

“During the months of the cease-fire the Palestinian groups have armed themselves with thousands of more rockets.”

Eckstein Denies Group’s Money Used to Missionize

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein denied a report suggesting that some money raised by his interfaith group was used to missionize Jews.

The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported Monday that Eckstein’s organization, the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, gave $10,000 in 2007 to an evangelical group in Jerusalem that proselytizes Israeli Jews. It also reported that the fellowship sent money to a Protestant group in Massachusetts that Ma’ariv called “a controversial Christian cult.”

Eckstein, the fellowship’s founder and president who has raised tens of millions of dollars for Israel from American evangelicals, insisted the story misrepresented the facts. He said the report was simply a continuation of a smear campaign against him and the information was fed to the newspaper by a source with an axe to grind.

Eckstein said the fellowship used the Jerusalem group, King of Kings, to pass $10,000 to a church in Bethlehem to help provide humanitarian aid to local Christians before Christmas.

“We were informed last year about the dwindling Christian community in Bethlehem, which has been persecuted by the radical Muslims there to the point that most of them have left. And the Protestant church there and the people there needed funds for basic needs — food, clothing, medicine, heating fuel,” he said. “We didn’t hesitate to respond with a modest gift — at least for us. The only place that could deliver that was this group, King of Kings.”

As to the gift to the Massachusetts group, the Community of Christ in Orleans, Eckstein said it was a $750 donation by the fellowship to the group’s choir after canceling on an event there.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Paul McCartney is ‘shocked but not intimidated’ by jihadi threats re Israel concert [VIDEO]


LONDON (JTA)—Suicide bombers will target Paul McCartney unless he cancels his concert in Tel Aviv, a Muslim cleric said.

Omar Bakri said the ex-Beatle’s decision to perform in Israel “is creating more enemies than friends,” London’s Sunday Express reported.

“If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there,” Bakri said. “The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Bakri made the comments on his weekly Internet broadcast from his home-in-exile in Lebanon after being banned from returning to Britain, according to the Express.

McCartney is scheduled to perform for thousands of Israelis in Hayarkon Park on Sept. 25 as part of a world tour.

Several pro-Palestinian and political groups have asked McCartney to cancel his show, but he has refused.



From The Express . . .

SIR PAUL: TERROR TARGET
Sunday September 14,2008
Dennis Rice
SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

In an interview with Israeli media yesterday he said: “I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

Sir Paul, 65, should have gone to Israel with the Beatles in 1965 but they were barred by the Jewish nation’s government over fears they would corrupt young people.

Yesterday a number of websites described him as an infidel and suggested he was going to Israel only because of the reported £2.3m fee for the one-off concert.

A message posted on one website said: “Shame on you Paul McCartney for day trippin’ to apartheid Israel” and vowed never to buy his music again.

Bakri, who made his weekly internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, where he has lived in exile since being banned from returning to Britain, said Sir Paul was “making more enemies than friends”.

Syrian-born Bakri, 48, went on: “I heard today that the pop star Paul McCartney is playing as a part of the celebrations.

“If you speak about the holocaust and its authenticity never being proved historically in the way the Jewish community portray it, people will arrest you. People will you say you should not speak like this. Yet they go and celebrate the anniversary of 60 years of what?

“Instead of supporting the people of Palestine in their suffering, McCartney is celebrating the atrocities of the occupiers. The one who is under occupation is supposed to be getting the help.

“And so I believe for Paul McCartney, what he is doing really is creating more enemies than friends.”

Explaining his comments, Bakri told the Sunday Express: “Our enemy’s friend is our enemy.

“Thus Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call ‘sacrifice’ operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression.

“If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Lawyer Anjem Choudary, who last week chaired a meeting in London at which extremists claimed the next 9/11-style atrocity would be in Britain, said Sir Paul had allowed himself to become a propaganda tool for Israel.

He added: “Muslims have every right to be angry at Paul McCartney. How would the world react if he wanted to have a
concert in occupied Kashmir?

“They would not allow it to happen but because it is Israel he can play. A country which, as the celebration indicates did not exist 60 years ago, only exists thanks to stealing and occupying another country’s lands.” Yesterday the comments drew condemnation from Palestinian sources and outsiders.

Omar Barghouti, of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as “deplorable”.

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former Shadow Security Minister, said: “One could dismiss Bakri as a ranting extremist but history has shown that he has an ability to twist minds, so his comments should not be underestimated.

“If Sir Paul McCartney wants to play at the 60th anniversary then it is the worst form of illiberalism for Omar Bakri to restrict the artist’s freedom in this way.”

A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on the threat, saying: “Paul’s Friendship First concert is about his music. Paul’s is a message of peace.”

Tickets for the concert range from £70 to £230.

Last night Sir Paul performed his first concert in the Ukraine, playing to tens of thousands in the capital Kiev.

Fan video welcomes Sir Paul to Israel

 

 

Democratic platform sticks close to Jewish positions


DENVER (JTA) — When it comes to the Middle East and Sen. Barack Obama’s Democratic Party platform, things are staying pretty much the same — which, in this case, is the kind of change pro-Israel activists can believe in.

The platform committee appears to have heeded recommendations by the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) advising the party not to veer too far from previous platforms when it comes to the Mideast.

“The Middle East planks of previous platforms have been carefully crafted and have served us well as a party and a country,” Ira Forman, the NJDC’s executive director, advised the committee in July. “We urge the platform committee to stick closely to the 2004 platform language.”

It was advice that hews to the overall strategy of the campaign to elect the Illinois senator as president: Reassure Americans that this young, relatively unknown quantity will bring “change we can believe in” — but not too much of it.

The strategy is informing this week’s convention in Denver, with former military officers and party elders — chief among them former President Bill Clinton — lining up to vouch for Obama’s foreign policy credentials.

Notably, the preamble to the platform’s foreign policy section emphasizes security and defense. Five of its seven points focus on building up the military and combating terrorism.

When it comes to Israel, the platform hews closely to traditional language.

“Our starting point must always be our special relationship with Israel, grounded in shared interests and shared values, and a clear, strong, fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy,” the platform says in an unusually long passage titled, “Stand With Allies and Pursue Democracy in the Middle East.”

“That commitment, which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense, is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region — a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al-Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah,” it says.

The rest of the passage repeats talking points that would not be out of place on an American Israel Public Affairs Committee prep sheet: a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, no return to the pre-1967 Six-Day War lines and no “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.

The intensification of concerns that Iran is nearing nuclear weapons capability post-dates the 2004 platform, but here, too, the Democratic Party platform sticks closely to the pro-Israel lobby’s line.

The platform emphasizes Obama’s preference for tough diplomacy: “We will present Iran with a clear choice: If you abandon your nuclear weapons program, support for terror and threats to Israel, you will receive meaningful incentives; so long as you refuse, the United States and the international community will further ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions inside and outside the U.N. Security Council, and sustained action to isolate the Iranian regime.”

Even as it plays up the possibilities of sanctions, the platform also includes the magic words: “keeping all options on the table” — continuing the Bush administration’s implicit threat of military action should Iran get to the nuclear brink.

The sharpest foreign policy departure from the Bush administration and from the position of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is in Obama’s pledge to end the war in Iraq — an area where polls have shown that the vast majority of American Jews agree with Democrats.

On domestic issues, the platform also stays close to positions favored by the Jewish community, a predominately moderate to liberal demographic. It advocates abortion rights, environmental protections, energy independence, expanded health care and poverty relief.

In one area, however, the platform diverges from traditional liberal orthodoxies on church-state separation: Obama advocates keeping Bush’s faith-based initiatives, albeit with First Amendment protections.

“We will empower grass-roots faith-based and community groups to help meet challenges like poverty, ex-offender reentry, and illiteracy,” it says. “At the same time, we can ensure that these partnerships do not endanger First Amendment protections — because there is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution. We will ensure that public funds are not used to proselytize or discriminate.”

Report from Beijing: Security, it’s not just for airports anymore


BEIJING (JTA)—Security checks no longer just for airports in Beijing

Olympic security is no easy task. It’s not just about the sports venues — attention must be paid to the entire city’s infrastructure, hot spots and transportation systems.

One of the transitions that I think Beijing residents have done with few complaints is adjust to bag x-ray security checks at the entrance of every subway station. This measure was added at the end of June as part of a three-month campaign to secure the city for the Olympics and Paralympics, yet even now, there are still a few stray stations where a guard manually looks in your bag for lack of a scanning machine.

Want to ride the subway? Let’s see what you’re packing.

This is the kind of treatment one might be used to in Israel, but not in freewheeling China.

When I ate at Dini’s kosher restaurant two nights before the Opening Ceremony, I was greeted by a 20-year-old Chinese guard in a reflective security vest with the Hebrew word “Bitachon” (security) on the front and a scanner wand in hand. My Israeli security check flashbacks returned — although I never spoke in Mandarin to the guys who checked my bag at the entrance to Jerusalem bars.

I don’t think China has quite reached the “chefetz chashud,” or suspicious object, level of alertness that one might find in Israel (and lately in the United States as well), where seeing an abandoned bag or anything out of the ordinary would merit a call to the authorities.

Maybe they are more vigilant out in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where Muslim separatist sentiment is strong and there have been both thwarted and actualized attacks in recent months. This story shows how the Chinese decided to rely on a low-tech approach to sounding the alarm – with a whistle.

All jokes about whistles aside, many Chinese people I have talked to in Beijing have insisted how Chinese terrorists, usually referring to Xinjiang or sometimes Tibetans, are “really fierce.” I wonder whether this is based on fear-mongering by the domestic media or not. On the one hand, 16 officers were killed and another 16 were injured in the western capital Kashgar this week when two men rammed a dump truck and hurled explosives at a group of jogging policemen. But of course, this kind of incident is used to crack down on individual freedoms and the rights of the press, who are not being afforded all the openness that was promised for the duration of the Olympics as evidenced by the recent beating of two Japanese journalists suffered while covering the most recent Xinjiang incident

The Israeli Embassy will have an event on Monday, Aug. 18 to commemorate the most fatal breach of Olympic security, the 1972 Munich Games where 11 Israeli athletes were killed after a terrorist infiltration of their Olympic Village accommodations. This tragedy was commemorated even earlier this year in Beijing, at the Chabad Purim party, which was Olympics-themed but included several placards and handouts about the athletes who died in ‘72.

With such a sobering legacy of Israeli Olympic participation, you would think that security would be more intense for the Jewish state’s athletes as compared to other delegations in the village. Yet Ephraim Zinger, the secretary-general of the Israeli Olympic Committee and chief of misson, says the Israelis are on the list of countries with the most sensitive security issues, but “we aren’t the only ones, and we aren’t at the top of the list either.”