Boston bomb suspect identified, no arrest


BREAKING NEWS — UPDATES HERE

[UPDATE: 12 p.m.] “Contrary to widespread reporting, there have been no arrests made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack,” the FBI said in a statement.  “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate.  Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

[UPDATE: 11:43 a.m.] Boston Police, U.S. attorney in Boston say no arrest made in investigation of Boston Marathon bombing.

[11:29 a.m.] There have been no arrests made yet in the bombings at the Boston Marathon that left three people dead and scores injured, U.S. government and law enforcement sources said on Wednesday.

One of the sources said there was no one in custody either.

[11:00 am] Authorities have arrested a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings based on security video that showed a man depositing a bag at the scene before the blasts, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. and Boston law enforcement sources.

A U.S. law enforcement source told Reuters that a suspect had been identified and that a formal announcement would be made later in the day.

The developments are the biggest publicly-disclosed breaks since Monday's blast at the marathon finish line killed three people and injured 176 others. Investigators were searching through thousands of pieces of evidence from cell phone pictures to shrapnel shards pulled from victims' legs.

Based on shards of metal, fabric, wires and a battery recovered at the scene, the focus turned to whoever may have made bombs in pressure cooker pots and taken them in heavy black nylon bags to the finish line of the world-famous race watched by crowds of spectators.

A stretch of Boston's Boylston Street almost a mile long and blocks around it remained closed as investigators searched for clues in the worst attack on U.S. soil since the hijacked plane strikes of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cities across the United States were on edge after Monday's blasts in Boston. Adding to the nervousness was the announcement that mail containing a suspicious substance addressed to a lawmaker and to President Barack Obama. The FBI said, however, that agents had found no link the attack in Boston.

The blasts at the finish line of Monday's race injured 176 people and killed three: an 8-year old boy, Martin Richard, a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell and a Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese citizen.

Boston University identified the student as Lu Lingzi.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Whether it's homegrown, or foreign, we just don't know yet. And so I'm not going to contribute to any speculation on that,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who until January was Massachusetts' senior senator. “It's just hard to believe that a Patriots' Day holiday, which is normally such time of festivities, turned into bloody mayhem.”

FBI ASKS WITNESSES FOR PHOTOS

The FBI was leading the investigation and asking witnesses to submit any photos of the blast site — which was crowded with tens of thousands of spectators, race staff and volunteers and runners. Many of them have turned in thousands of images, authorities said.

“Probably one of the best ways to get a lead is to go through those images and track down people coming and going with backpacks,” said Randy Law, an associate professor of history at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and author of “Terrorism: A History.”

“It's the needle in the haystack but when you have the resources that the local and federal authorities have, they can go through what I'm sure will be thousands and thousands of photos and hours of videos. You can find something occasionally,” Law said.

The head of trauma surgery at Boston Medical Center, which was still treating 19 victims on Wednesday, said his hospital was collecting the shards of metal, plastic, wood and concrete they had pulled from the injured to save for law enforcement inspectors. Other hospitals were doing the same.

“We've taken on large quantities of pieces,” Dr. Peter Burke of Boston Medical Center told reporters “We send them to the pathologists and they are available to the police.”

NYLON FRAGMENTS, BALL BEARINGS AND NAILS

Bomb scene pictures produced by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force and released on Tuesday show the remains of an explosive device including twisted pieces of a metal container, wires, a battery and what appears to be a small circuit board.

One picture shows a few inches of charred wire attached to a small box, and another depicts a half-inch (1.3 cm) nail and a zipper head stained with blood. Another shows a Tenergy-brand battery attached to black and red wires through a broken plastic cap. Several photos show a twisted metal lid with bolts.

The nickel metal hydride battery typically is used by remote-controlled car enthusiasts, said Benjamin Mull, a vice president at Tenergy Corp. The batteries, made in Shenzhen, China, are sold on the internet and in hundreds of outlets.

People at the company “were shocked and appalled” when they learned their battery had been used in the blast, he said.

Security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs similar to the ones used in Boston can be found on the Internet and are relatively primitive.

Pressure cookers had also been discovered in numerous foiled attack plots in both the U.S. and overseas in recent years, including the failed Times Square bombing attempt on May 1, 2010, the officials said. Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington, Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Terril Yue Jones in Beijing; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool

At least 7 Israelis reported killed, dozens injured in Bulgarian terror attack


” title=”@rosnersdomain” target=”_blank”>@rosnersdomain

[11:35 a.m., Haaretz] According to Bulgaria’s interior minister, five people were killed in the attack and 33 were wounded, 3 of whom are in critical condition.

“We are currently preparing a list with the names of the people on the flight, in order to identify the victims,” he said.

For more, visit ” title=”Haaretz.com” target=”_blank”>Haaretz.com.

[9:00 a.m., Reuters]: Three people were killed and over 20 injured by an explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists outside the airport of the coastal city of Burgas on Wednesday, Bulgarian authorities said.

The mayor of the city, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, said the bus was carrying Israeli tourists, but police could not immediately confirm their nationality. Police said several other buses at the site had been damaged.

“Initial information showed three people have died, there are injured,” a spokeswoman for the interior ministry said.

An Israeli witness said in an interview with Israeli army radio that the explosion was probably caused by a suicide bomber at the entrance of the bus.

Bulgarian police said it was investigating and could not say at this point what caused the explosion.

Bulgarian national radio said many people were injured in the blast. Burgas airport was closed after the incident and flights were redirected to the airport of Varna, police said.

Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria, a popular holiday destination for Israeli tourists, was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants who could infiltrate via nearby Turkey.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Ralph Boulton; Editing by Louise Ireland

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.

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.

The CNN-NPR-NY Times Middle East Conspiracy


Have you noticed that when people complain about bias in the media, it’s always bias against their own point of view and never bias in favor of their side?

When press accounts confirm your interpretation of events, they’re fair, accurate and objective. When the upshot of a news story is that your team is the bad guys and the other team is the good guys, it’s obvious that the reporter or paper or network or corporation is in the tank for the other side. And when articles and broadcasts balance ammo for your side with ammo for the other side, they’re guilty of the fallacy of false equivalence, which turns righteous battles between right and wrong into vapid he-said/she-said standoffs.

Nowhere is this more true than in coverage of the Middle East.

Supporters of Israel are furious that when pictures of Palestinian casualties are shown, the causes and context of the war are left out—Hamas’ rocket attacks on southern Israel, which precipitated the attack on Gaza; its cynical use of civilians as human shields, which is a war crime; its intention to destroy Israel and Jewry, which amounts to genocide—all get scandalously short shrift from the press.

Supporters of Hamas are just as enraged about the inhumane living conditions in Gaza, which Israel has blockaded; the Israeli refusal to allow the international press into the battle zone; what they believe is the original sin of Zionism, the displacement of Arabs, and that when Israel is portrayed as a victim, the suffering of the Palestinian people is conveniently omitted.

And what if you’re not a partisan of either side, but think of yourself instead as an independent advocate for human rights and peace? Then not only will you bring down on yourself the opprobrium of both sides for failing to take a stand at a moment that demands a choice, you will also find in the prevailing media narrative no hook to hang your conciliatory analysis on, no peg for your empyrean perspective, no patience for your it’s-all-so-complicated heartsickness.

Any news story can be successfully picked apart from any vantage point. Why does the Los Angeles Times disparage the Israeli point of view as ““>anonymous mitigating hearsay about a Hamas sniper? Why aren’t the networks airing the “>Israeli scholar’s assertion that Palestinian casualties aren’t excessive because “so far well over three-quarters have been armed gunmen, and that is a percentage which is very rarely attained in urban warfare”?

In fact, two reasons make it really hard to conclude (but not to claim) that a mainstream media outlet is biased—on the Middle East or on anything else. And a third reason makes the whole enterprise of watchdogging the press somewhat quixotic.

One is the sheer quantity of content. The stories and pictures you saw may be plenty to convince you, say, that the Associated Press is unfair to Israel, but the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” The only way to determine anything defensible about bias in reporting is to analyze a scientific sample—to examine a slice of stories that’s large enough to be representative of all stories and to choose that slice randomly, without knowing what’s going to be in it.

Some people may feel that they watch CNN so much or read The New York Times so regularly that they have plenty of data to base conclusions on. Not so. That’s why pollsters are paid big bucks: The methods they use to construct the universe of people they survey are even more important than the questions they ask them.

Second is the difficulty of coming up with an objective measure of bias. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. If you can show me a journalistic scoring system that Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky can agree on, then I’d like to show you how to earn 12 percent a year in a very special investment fund.

But even if you had a scientific sample; even if you devised a neutral litmus test for bias, the strange truth is that media spin probably matters a lot less than we assume.

Yes, public opinion is an important element of public policy. Nations care what people think about them. But the audience for cable news is astonishingly small, maybe 2 million people on a good day; the daily readership of a prestige newspaper is hardly more than that, and the only way that public radio can claim north of 20 million listeners is to count all the people who listened to any of its programs during a week.

Sure, the Internet has surged as a source of news, but its audience is fragmented into niches. If you want to get really depressed, chew on this: For decades, Americans have said that their number one source for news is local television news. Not only is that audience scattered among a thousand stations in a couple of hundred media markets, the amount of attention those stations give to international news is a tiny fraction of the airtime they give to celebrities, freak accidents and crime.

There’s no question that some elite media set the agenda for much of the rest of the press. And some nonnews programming, like talk radio hotheads, get demonstrably big listenerships. But it’s next to impossible to prove a cause-and-effect relation between these bloviators and public opinion, and the same is true of the impact of the mainstream press on public attitudes and beliefs. In the end, why Americans think what they do about Israel and Hamas is as much a mystery as how they decide who to vote for or what toothpaste to buy.

I get just as steamed as anyone else when I see a Middle East news story that I think is wildly unfair. I’m just unwilling to ascribe it to a conspiracy or to think it matters as much as the frustration and fury I feel.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School. His column appears here weekly. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

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


ALTTEXT
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

Gaza outcomes


If you’re like me, you don’t like to see dead children.

The initial images from Israel’s retaliatory strikes against the Hamas government in Gaza aren’t pretty. One that keeps reappearing is of a terrified, bleeding Palestinian girl, maybe 7 years old, clutching her father’s arm as they rush from a bombed-out building. Yes, the guy might be a Hamas operative for all I know. But I doubt she is. There’s another picture that keeps cropping up — the bodies of three small Palestinian boys, killed in an Israeli air strike Monday morning, wrapped in funeral shrouds and laid out on a dirty floor.

You could say I don’t have the stomach for war — you’d be right. As of press time on Monday, 350 Palestinians have been killed, some 60 of them civilians, many of those children. Two Israelis were killed by Hamas rocket attacks on Monday as well. I am not a fan of the inevitable innocent blood and guts that Israel’s far superior military force will necessarily spill in its fight to stop Hamas from shooting rockets into Israel whenever it wants. And yet, of course, I deeply believe Israel has the right, the obligation, to stop Hamas from its capricious acts of terror. I was in Sderot and southern Israel earlier this year, and I spoke with many residents, including many children, about what it’s like to live amid a near-constant rain of rockets and missiles.

“We want peace, but the missiles won’t stop,” a 12-year-old boy named Stav told me. Two years ago a Qassam rocket fell on his house. It was only sheer luck that his photo did not end up on the Internet as well. “They just send more and more. We can’t play in the fields, because if there’s a warning siren, there’s no place to run.”

One of my strongest memories from my trip is of a shadowy smudge on a sidewalk at Sapir College, near Sderot. A student was standing there when a Kassam struck. All that was left was that darkened spot. What moved me in my talks with young people around Sderot was how little anger they felt toward Palestinians in general.

“I don’t hate them,” a 16-year-old named Tal told me last June. The kibbutz where she lives is just two kilometers from Gaza City. When she looks out her window each morning, she sees the minarets. Two days before I spoke with her, a missile had landed outside her front door. “I hear about the people who live there, and I don’t have a reason to hate them. But trust me, it’s hard.”

No people in any nation on earth can abide such terror. Since Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has fired 6,300 rockets into Israel, killing 10 people and wounding 780. Many people, especially around Sderot, say Israel waited far too long to do what it began doing over the weekend. Maybe so. The undeniable fact is the missiles would have only gotten worse and the attacks deadlier.

On the other hand, it is hard to be optimistic that Israel’s retaliation, for all its justification, will succeed in the various aims its boosters have claimed for it. Will it topple Hamas, as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asserts? Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert didn’t promise that in his pre-battle declaration. Hamas is deeply entrenched, democratically elected (by the way, thank you President George W. Bush, for pushing for those elections), heavily funded via Iran and thuggishly powerful (where was the world’s condemnation when Hamas killed more than 50 Palestinians in 2007 while fighting Fatah in the streets of Gaza?).

Will the offensive stop the rocket attacks, as Olmert promised it would on the eve of this campaign? Well, the prime minister attempted the same strategy in Lebanon in 2006, and since then Hezbollah has only built up its arsenal.

Will the war somehow bring peace, as Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi predict, writing in The Wall Street Journal? Their argument is that until Hamas is deterred from firing rockets from territory Israel once occupied, no Israeli will support further territorial compromise. That makes sense, but raises the question of whether a generation of Gazans battered by occupation and war will be in the mood to make peace; whether their true masters in Iran and Syria will allow them; and whether Israel will be able to defeat Hamas any more than it was able to defeat its last archrival, Fatah, or its current one, Hezbollah?

Will the war, as analyst Felice Friedson writes in these pages, herald a new alignment of Middle East power that allies Israel with its former enemies Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Iran-supported Hamas and Hezbollah? That has already happened — but the thing about strange bedfellows is they are … strange. That Israel might align itself with some of the most dictatorial and anti-democratic regimes in the Middle East is hardly cheery news.

No, the best that could come of this very bloody reality is a stretch of quiet for the deserving residents of Israel’s south. Unlike Hamas, I don’t like to see dead children — no matter their race, creed or nationality.

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!


Eight members of the Levi family adjust to rockets in Ashkelon


ASHKELON, Israel (JTA) — Another rocket warning siren wails and eight members of the Levi family, including a grandmother and a newborn baby, quickly cram into the small bedroom made of reinforced concrete that serves as the family’s bomb shelter.

“Come on, come on! Get in!” they shout. Just before the heavy metal door slams shut, the family dog, Pick, quickly is whisked inside.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, they listen as the sound of the siren’s wail trails off, replaced by the thud of the rocket landing. Returning to the television news a few minutes later, they see it has landed a few blocks away at a local soccer stadium.

Earlier in the day, another rocket landed much closer — just across the street.

The Grad-type missile hit a construction site, killing Hani el Mahdi, a 27-year old construction worker from a Bedouin town in the Negev, and injured several other workers at the scene, some of them seriously.

“After hearing the boom this morning I’m just not myself,” said Geula Levi, 50, whose house quickly filled up with family members. “I’ve been trying to make lunch but I simply can’t seem to get anything together.”

Since the fighting began over the weekend, two of Levi’s adult children have moved back in, one of them bringing his wife and their 2-month-old daughter. The baby never leaves the reinforced room. Her mother, Vered, ventures out only to get food from the kitchen.

About 60 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Monday. Many landed in Ashkelon, about 10 miles north of the Gaza Strip. Some reached as far as Ashdod, some 20 miles from Gaza, killing one woman as she bolted her car to take cover at a bus stop.

This week marks the first time these two major coastal cities have been subject to ongoing rocket barrages from Gaza. Ashkelon, home to some 120,000 people, had been targeted before, but hit only rarely. Ashdod had been considered out of range of Gaza’s rocket fire, but Hamas’ newly imported missiles — thought to be smuggled into the strip from Egypt during the six-month cease-fire that officially ended Dec. 19 — have increased the range of Gaza’s rockets.

Geula Levi said she was fully supportive of the army’s operation in Gaza, which by late Monday had killed 350 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them Hamas militiamen, according to reports.

“They learned their lessons from the Second Lebanon War so I think this time things will be conducted more intelligently,” she said of Israel’s military leaders.

“We’d rather suffer with the missiles now than become like Kiryat Shemona, which suffered for years,” said her eldest son, Avichai, 27.

Outside, the sound of Israeli artillery being fired into Gaza echoed in the streets, which were quiet and mostly empty. Staring out into the eerie emptiness were campaign posters for the upcoming election, including a billboard with a photograph of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni next to the words, “The courage to say the truth.”

Livni’s party, along with those of her main rivals, canceled campaign events scheduled for this week.

At the entrance to Ashkelon, one of those rivals, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the architect of the Israeli strike on Gaza, had his own image up on a billboard with the slogan “Looking truth in the face.”

For the people of Ashkelon, who are living their leaders’ “truths,” there was stoicism mixed with fear.

“It is miserable but it will go on for a while,” said Capt. David Biton, the police commander who oversees the southern district that includes half a million people and stretches from Ashdod to Sderot — all now within range of Gaza’s rockets.

Galit Ben-Asher Yonah, 37, said it was “the shock of my life” to discover that her home in Gan Yavne, a bedroom community near Ashdod, now has come under attack.

Gan Yavne was hit for the first time Sunday, and two more rockets fell Monday. It is the farthest point north that the rockets have reached to date.

Yonah, originally from Los Angeles, is the mother of two young daughters and a newborn son. She says she will be keeping all her children at home for the next few days.

“Never in my life did I think I would have to explain to my 5-year-old that we have to go to the basement because a bomb was falling,” she said. “And there she was guiding me, telling me to cover my head with my hands and stay away from the window as she was taught in nursery school.”

Tal, her 5-year-old, also brought down a snack of bananas and cookies for them after the first rocket fell, telling her in a serious but calm voice that they might be sitting in the basement, which is reinforced against rockets, for a while.

In nearby Nitzan, where many of the families who were evicted three years ago from the Gush Katif settlement bloc in Gaza live in temporary homes, there are no protective rooms to which to flee.

“We left the Kasssam rockets to get Katyushas instead,” said Yuval Nefesh, 41, referring to the longer-range Katyusha rockets now striking Israel from Gaza. Before, Palestinians relied almost exclusively on the Kassam, a crude rocket with a range of 10 miles and poor accuracy.

He shrugs when asked how the people are coping. “We pray,” he said.

Nefesh is still in touch with some of the Palestinians from Gaza he met while living there, and he said he has been talking to them by phone since the Israeli air assault began.

Outside, the Elikum Shwarma and Kebab restaurant was one of the few bustling businesses in Ashkelon on Monday. Delivery people were busy ferrying orders to the thousands of people staying indoors.

Avi Zarad, working the cash register, tried to maintain a cheerful atmosphere.

“We can’t send out a message of being stressed out,” he said. A few minutes later a siren sounded and, with no shelter to run to, the customers continued eating calmly.

The soccer stadium where a rocket fell an hour earlier is just across the road.

“We are getting used to it, but it’s a horrible reality,” said Kinneret Cohen, a restaurant worker preparing salads in the kitchen. “We just breathe deeply knowing we have to give the army time to do its work.”

For India’s Jews, sense of security is shattered


MUMBAI, India (JTA) – The Colaba neighborhood that surrounds the modern apartment block where terrorists last week murdered a Chabad-Lubavitch couple and four other Jews has begun to return to normal.

The maze of dusty alleyways that surround the now infamous building, Nariman House, is bustling. Shoppers have returned to the market around the corner, where Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg used to buy chickens for kosher slaughter. On nearby apartment blocks, residents are repairing windows shattered by the Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackgunshots and grenade blasts that took the lives of Holtzberg, his wife, Rivkah, and the others.

But for Mumbai’s ancient Jewish community, nothing will ever be the same.

“This is the first time when a Jew has been targeted in India because he is a Jew,” said Jonathon Solomon, a Mumbai lawyer and the president of the Indian Jewish Federation. “The tradition of the last thousand years has been breached.”

Jews are believed to have lived in India since the time of King Solomon, and throughout its ancient history the community has experienced virtually no anti-Semitism — a source of pride to India’s Jews and non-Jews alike.

“This is one of the few countries where Jews never faced discrimination and persecution,” said Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, who heads the Jewish community in New Delhi.

Mumbai’s Jewish associations run particularly deep. The construction of many of the city’s best-known monuments and civic institutions were funded by the so-called “Baghdadi Jews” – actually a collection of families from Syria and Iran as well as from the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra – who arrived in then-British Bombay as shipping barons and manufacturing tycoons in the late 18th century.

The city is also the heart of the Bene Israel community, a group of ethnically Indian Jews who claim to be descended from seven families shipwrecked on the southern Indian coast while fleeing persecution in the Galilee during the second century B.C.E.

In 1947, at the time of India’s Independence, it was estimated that about 25,000 Jews lived in India. Fewer than 5,000 remain today, the majority of them in Mumbai and its suburbs. But Solomon said that perhaps five times that many Indians have at least one Jewish parent.

Since the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks that laid siege to the city and left at least 170 dead altogether, a sense of sadness, shock and fear pervades the community, said Antony Korenstein, the India country director for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The JDC provides social, cultural and educational services to local Jews.

“This attack has really shaken us up,” said one local Jewish educator, who in a sign of the newfound insecurity among the city’s Jews would only speak on the condition of anonymity because he feared he might be targeted in the future if his name appeared in the media.

“If with such ease they could finish off the whole Chabad House – the property and the people – now we have to have a fresh look at our own security,” the educator said.

Solomon said that Jewish leaders here are considering whether they would have to restrict access to synagogues and community centers to authorized visitors – a precaution common throughout much of the world but never done here.

“Jewish institutions in India are soft targets,” he said. “After being used to living fearless for so long, we are going through a phase where we are debating with ourselves about being careful and whether we need to change our mode of existence.”

Many of Mumbai’s old Jewish synagogues are in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. Historically, relations between Muslims and Jews in Mumbai have been cordial.

“The Jewish community has always been very close to the Muslims,” Korenstein said. “In this kind of society, with its hundreds of religions, the two great monotheist faiths living together, they find an affinity.”

Solomon Sopher, the chairman and managing trustee of the Sir Jacob Sassoon and Allied Trusts, agreed. He pointed out that 98 percent of the student body at the E.E.E. Sassoon High School in the Mumbai neighborhood of Byculla is Muslim, even though it was founded as a Jewish school and is run by a Jewish trust.

But Sopher worries that another international jihadi group will wish to target India’s Jews. The one alleged terrorist in Indian custody – he was part of the overall attack, but not the seizure of the Chabad House – has told interrogators that all the attackers were Pakistani and confessed to being a member of Pakistani-based militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to the Mumbai police.

“It is an outside hand and not something from within,” Sopher said.

Others are less certain. Among some Mumbai Jews, fears are growing about radicalization among the large local Muslim population.

“We have had of late this imported brand of hatred coming from west Asia which is really changing the Muslim population here,” said the local Jewish educator. “We see changes in them, and though there are moderates and good Muslims, there are some who speak against us.”

In the streets surrounding the Chabad House, Hindus and Muslims, Jains and Parsis all mix easily. This part of Mumbai has never experienced the communal violence that at times has wracked other parts of the city, according to residents.

Holtzberg and the other Lubavitchers staying at the Chabad center were a visible presence in the neighborhood, with their black garb and hats, said Kailash Sonawane, who lives across the street from the Nariman House. But Sonawane and other residents said the Chabad Jews kept to themselves, almost never speaking to local residents. Local residents were often shooed away from the Nariman House gate by the Chabad House residents, Sonawane and others said.

The Holtzbergs’ nanny would take their 2-year old son, Moshe, to play in the street outside the Nariman building, but she would never let anyone else play with or touch the boy, said Kalpana Sonawane, Kailash’s sister.

Still, they never had any concerns about the Jews living in their midst, the residents said. Following the attacks, however, the local residents said they were unhappy that Chabad-Lubavitch has declared its intention to rebuild another Chabad House on the same site.

They fear the new building could become a target again, endangering their lives. Terrorists firing from Nariman House during the siege shot and killed at least three Indians on the surrounding streets.

There seemed to be some separation, too, between Chabad and most of the local Jews, several in the community said. The community here has often been fragmented. The Orthodox Baghdadi Jews tended to look down upon the less observant and darker complected Bene Israel.

As the city’s Jewish population dwindled, however, these distinctions became less important. The Lubavitchers, however, remained unkown even to most other Mumbai Jews.

“Rabbi Holtzberg’s work was with visiting Israelis, businesspeople and tourists,” Korenstein said. In addition, the Chabad House is located in Colaba, at the southern tip of Mumbai’s long peninsula, whereas most Mumbai Jews live farther north.

But Holtzberg did provide kosher meat for the Orthodox among the Indian Jews and ran a Torah study class for local youth. He also led Shabbat services at the Keneseth Eliyahu synagogue, a turquoise-painted colonial-era temple that has become a popular tourist attraction for Jewish and non-Jewish visitors to the city.

Sopher said the attacks had already brought the community together as never before. He said the leadership of the various synagogues and community centers have met to figure out their response to the attacks and ways to enhance security.

But for now, the mourning continued. About 100 people gathered Monday at Keneseth Eliyahu to mourn the Jewish deaths.

Rivkah Holtzberg’s father, Shimon Rosenberg, memorialized his daughter and son-in-law, and thanked his grandson Moshe’s caregiver, Sandra Samuel, who escaped with the 2-year-old in the early hours of the siege.

“With great resourcefulness Sandra saved the life of my grandson,” Rosenberg said, according to reports. “Had she not he surely would have been murdered.”

During the ceremony, Moshe cried out for his mother.

Mark Sofer, the Israeli ambassador to India, spoke to the victims’ relatives and Mumbai Jews.

“The State of Israel will not sit quietly while Israelis and Jews are massacred just because they are Jews,” he said. “We will continue to work with India and with other countries in the world in order to prevent this kind of event from happening in the future.”

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.

 

Copycat bulldozer rampage in Jerusalem injures 28


JERUSALEM (JTA)—In an imitation of an attack nearly three weeks ago, an Arab construction worker rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem on a bulldozer, crushing cars and hitting a bus before being shot dead by Israeli border police.

At least 16 people were injured in the attack early Tuesday afternoon, including a 9-month-old baby and his mother. One of the injured remains in serious condition at Shaare Tzedek Hospital, reports say.

The driver was identified in news reports as Ghasan Abu-Tir, 22, of eastern Jerusalem. He held an Israeli identification card.

His relative, Palestinian Authority Parliament member Muhammad Abu-Tir, is jailed in Israel, Ynet reported.

The attack in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood was similar to a July 2 attack when a bulldozer driver from eastern Jerusalem killed three Israelis before being shot dead by an off-duty soldier.

While that assailant was assumed to have had political motives, Israeli authorities never established clear links to Palestinian terrorist groups.

Israeli police sealed off routes leaving Jerusalem following Tuesday’s attack in an attempt to catch two suspected accomplices who were seen leaving the scene.

The attack, at the corner of Keren Hayesod and King David streets in the heart of Jerusalem, took place within sight of the luxury King David Hotel, which will host U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) during the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority set to begin Tuesday evening.

The bulldozer driver, who according to witnesses wore a large white skullcap common to religious Muslims, chased the No. 13 bus while raising the shovel of his front-end loader, the driver of the bus told the Ha’aretz newspaper.

“I was driving on the main road when the [bulldozer] hit me in the rear, on the right-hand side,” driver Avi Levi told Ha’aretz. “After I passed him he turned round, made a U-turn and rammed the windows twice with the shovel. The third time he aimed for my head, he came up to my window and I swerved to the right, otherwise I would have gone to meet my maker.”

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski told Israel’s Channel 10 that the two bulldozer attacks could affect the future hiring of Arabs from eastern Jerusalem.

“We should reconsider the employment of these people,” he said.

Lupolianski, who was near the area of the attack and rushed to the scene, added that “tools of construction become opportunities for attacks.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, which took place while he was meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in the president’s residence located a few miles from the scene. It was the first meeting in the residence with a P.A. president.

Obama at a news conference in Jordan condemned the attack.

“Today’s bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long,” Obama said in Amman. “I strongly condemn this attack and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security.”

Iraq Attack


I don’t want to give away any secrets here, but guess what? America may be planning a surprise attack on Iraq — in fact, even as you read this, the "secret" war plans might have gone into effect.

Whether the bid to unseat Saddam Hussein and dismantle his suspected nuclear weapons arsenal is a good idea for America largely depends on the effectiveness of the campaign. The last one went well, yes? The war to end all wars. On one hand, we had relatively few casualties (less than 150), but on the other, we’re back to square one, except for the fact that since he survived the Persian Gulf War 10 years ago, Saddam doesn’t seem to be afraid of America. Perhaps he’s just posturing, maybe he’s insane — or both?

"The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs, to die in disgraceful failure, taking their schemes back with them, or digging their own graves, after they bring death to themselves on every Arab or Muslim soil against which they perpetrate aggression, including Iraq, the land of jihad and the banner," Saddam told the Iraqi people in an Aug. 8 speech marking the 14th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war.

But just because the man is bellicose, doesn’t mean America has to attack. And just because the father did a poor job, doesn’t mean the son shouldn’t try to put things right. (Maybe someone should remind W. of the biblical verse: "The sins of the father should not be visited upon the son.") But there has to be better reasons than a competitive father-son relationship and a love of all things military in order to go to war.

Of course, there are reasons to attack. Iraq may be building a cache of nuclear/biological weapons so powerful that this might be our last chance to attack. The evidence is not clear. It is also unclear whether an attack at this time would be good for America. Would it detract from the War on Terror (or is it the War on Terror)? Do other world powers support it? Could Americans suffer another war, with many more casualties on both sides?

Questions like these are being debated now in Washington and international circles, in this surrealistically public debate over the pros and cons of war on Iraq.

But, we have to ask the usual questions:

Is it good for the Jews?

Is it good for Israel?

"Why should it be a Jewish or Israeli issue?" Morris Amitay, a pro-Israel activist and former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "We should stay patriotic as the next guy, but not be out front."

The reasons that the Jewish community is staying relatively quiet (for Jews, anyway) are manifold (see story p. 28).

"If the Jewish community has been quiet, it may reflect the fact that there is no particular Jewish angle to a policy matter with national and global implications," said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

Who are they kidding? Clearly a war on Iraq has a Jewish angle and it is an Israeli issue. No. 1, Hussein might be supplying biological weapons to Palestinian terror networks, so that they might injure Israeli and American targets. That’s what the Times of London reported last week, based on government documents passed on to Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior officials. No. 2, the elimination of Iraq would lift a great burden off of Israel. And, No. 2a, it could help Israel with the Palestinians, because of the financial aid Saddam gives to Palestinian terrorist groups and the families of suicide bombers.

Israel, of course, could benefit from the end of the Iraqi threat, but let me remind you what it was like the last time America attacked.

While the Americans were sitting on their couch watching the birth of CNN and a new war-time coverage — Didn’t it sort of feel like color war or celebrity boxing? Removed and adrenaline-inducing at the same time — Israelis were running in and out of their cheder atum, their sealed rooms, struggling with their gas masks, quarantines and defenselessness.

They were defensively crippled, in possession of the capability to retaliate, but refraining because America wanted to handle it on its own.

Now it wouldn’t be any better. In fact it could be much, much worse.

Much in the way that America distances Israel in order to gain allies in its war on terror, America probably wouldn’t want Israel to defend itself again. But Israeli officials have stressed that they will indeed retaliate if targeted.

And although Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that Iraq is the greatest threat facing Israel, one has to wonder if he’s just hoping to take the focus off his own military operations.

That hope could backfire if the White House, seeking international support, links Iraq to progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In addition to the military considerations, I’m not sure the morally depleted Israeli community could handle being attacked from Iraq as well.

Back in 1991, Israelis ran to sealed rooms and then returned to normal life after the safe siren sounded. But now, after two years of the Al-Aksa Intifada, where Israelis just barely feel safe in their own homes, having to dodge Iraqi Scud missiles may not be the best thing, to say the least.

The United States may be justified in attacking Iraq. And that attack might benefit Israel in the long-run. But in the short-term, it might not.

And that’s what Jewish leaders are not willing to say. What’s good for America is not always what’s good for Israel.

So which do you choose?

World Briefs


Amnesty Blasts Suicide Attacks

A report by Amnesty International calls Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians “crimes against humanity.” None of the Israeli military’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip justify Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, the report added.

Land Bill Stand Reversed

Israel’s Cabinet retracted its support for a bill that could bar Israeli Arabs from owning homes on state-owned land. The Cabinet voted 22-2 Sunday to refer the bill for review by a governmental committee on constitutional affairs. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended the decision, saying it could harm Arab-Jewish relations. Last week, the Cabinet created a furor when it voted to back the bill.

Yeshiva Bill Sparks Threat

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers threatened to bolt the Israeli government over a bill granting draft exemptions for yeshiva students. The lawmakers took issue with a provision in the bill requiring yeshiva students to serve 12 days a year in the Civil Guard. Meanwhile, the secular Shinui and Meretz parties threatened to submit no-confidence motions in the government, charging that the bill institutionalizes draft-dodging.

Deri Released on Parole

Aryeh Deri, the former leader of Israel’s Orthodox Shas Party was freed Monday after serving two years of a three-year sentence for accepting bribes and misappropriating state funds. Deri said upon his release that he would fight to clear his name. When granting him early release, a parole board ruled that he cannot enter politics for one year.

Toronto Murder Suspect Arrested

Toronto police arrested Christopher Steven McBride, the prime suspect in the murder of a Chasidic man, late Monday night following a raid on an apartment in the city’s West End. Police soon began to interrogate the prisoner, who is a slight 20-year-old with a shaved head and tattoos.

According to police, David Rosenzweig — a father of six who was wearing a kippah — was approached from behind by two men and a woman early Sunday morning. After one of the men stabbed him in the back, all three assailants fled the scene. While not ruling out that the attack was a hate crime, police said Monday there is no concrete evidence that Rosenzweig was murdered because of his religion.

Bedouin Judge Sworn in

Israel’s first Bedouin judge was sworn in. Nasser Abbed-Taheh, 39, was one of 35 new judges who were sworn in Monday at a ceremony at the president’s residence in Jerusalem.

Paris Exhibit Vandalized

An exhibition in Paris about children who were deported in 1942 by the Nazis was vandalized by a 55-year-old woman. Christiane Castillon, who had no prior police record and is not believed to belong to any extremist organization, explained the July 7 incident by saying that “people make too many allowances for Jews where the Holocaust is concerned.”

Seeds of Peace Founder Dies at 59

John Wallach, the founder of Seeds of Peace, died July 10 of lung cancer at 59. In 1993, Wallach proposed to then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres that the group be created to bring Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian youths together on neutral soil in the United States. Each summer since then, hundreds of Israeli and Arab teenagers have gathered in the woods of Maine in an effort to increase mutual understanding.

Shabbat Law Vetoed in Brazil

A law that would have recognized Saturday as a day of rest was vetoed by the governor of a Brazilian state. The bill would have given official recognition to the beliefs of some 12,000 Jews who live in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Following the governor’s veto, a movement has been launched in an effort to reverse that decision.

ADL Provides Workplace Guide

The Anti-Defamation League released a guide detailing U.S. laws on accommodating religious observance in the workplace. “Religious Accommodation in the Workplace” offers employees and employers general information on relevant federal laws. It is available at www.adl.org.

Briefs by Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

World Briefs


U.S.: Syria willing to stop terror

Syria reportedly said it will look into ways to shut down terrorist organizations operating out of Damascus. American officials informed Israel of the new Syrian position after Jerusalem raised the problem of terror in Syria and Lebanon during strategic talks with the United States two weeks ago, Ha’aretz reported. Some U.S. officials reportedly are becoming more receptive to Israel’s request that the United States put Lebanon on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. These sources believe the threat of being added to the list could persuade Lebanon to take a tougher line with Hezbollah.

Rare attack on Israel-Jordan border

An Israeli minister said it’s unlikely the border with Jordan will become a trouble spot, despite a terrorist attack there Tuesday. An Israeli soldier was killed in the ambush, which began when two gunmen armed with hunting rifles fired on an Israeli patrol near the border fence, wounding two soldiers. When other troops came to investigate, the gunmen fired on and threw grenades at them, killing reserve Sgt. Michael Sitbon and wounding two others. The attackers, believed to be Palestinians, were killed when Israeli helicopter gunships gave pursuit. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. Israel praised the close security cooperation with Jordanian forces on their side of the border during the incident, which occurred just inside Israeli territory.

Terror Cells Uncovered

Israel uncovered three Palestinian cells responsible for shooting attacks in the West Bank. The Shin Bet revealed Wednesday that arrests of at least 17 members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had been made in villages between Nablus and Kalkilya. The suspects admitted to three shooting attacks on Israeli cars and attempting to plant a roadside bomb. There were no injuries in any of the incidents.

Bush Issues Terrorism Update

President Bush issued an update on the first 100 days of the war on terrorism. In the report, released Dec. 20 by the White House, Bush discusses freezing the finances of terrorist groups accused of attacking Israel and of American charities accused of funneling money to those organizations. The report does not stipulate new actions that will be taken to combat terrorism in the Middle East.

Poll: Palestinians Support Peace

A majority of Palestinians support a cease-fire and return to

negotiations with Israel. Sixty percent of those surveyed in a new Palestinian public opinion poll support Yasser Arafat’s call for a cease-fire in the conflict with Israel. While 71 percent support a return to negotiations with Israel, only 21 percent believe the armed attacks against Israel would stop and negotiations resume soon. And 61 percent believe the current intifada helped achieve Palestinian political aims. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted the survey Dec. 19-24.

Funeral Firm Accused

The largest funeral company in the United States was accused of desecrating remains in several Jewish cemeteries in Florida.

Several families have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Houston-based Service Corporation International, alleging that its staff broke open burial vaults and dumped the contents in the woods, crushed vaults to make room for others and dug up and reburied remains in locations other than the plots purchased.

Florida’s attorney general is investigating the company and issued a subpoena for all its burial records. SCI owns numerous Jewish funeral homes and cemeteries throughout the United States.

‘The Greatest’ Takes a Hit

Muhammad Ali is coming under attack for making ethnic jokes last week. The Anti-Defamation League said the former boxing great had disappointed them with the jokes. One joke insulted Jews, while the other insulted Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and African Americans. The jokes came before Ali, who is Muslim, was asked to make a public service announcement explaining American policy to Muslims in the Middle East.

S.F. Attack Under Investigation

An Orthodox Jew in a liberal San Francisco suburb says he was punched on his way to Shabbat services. Jason “Yakov” Ashworth says a man dressed like a black Muslim attacked him on a recent Friday afternoon in Berkeley. Police are investigating the incident. Ashworth is a kosher overseer in for the Va’ad Hakashrus of Northern California.

Ex-Iranian Leader: Nuke Israel

The former president of Iran is calling on the Muslim world to develop nuclear weapons to annihilate Israel.

At a Dec. 14 lecture at Tehran University, Ali Hashem Rafsanjani said that if “the world of Islam” obtains nuclear weapons, it should use them against Israel, whose second-strike capability is not enough to destroy the entire Muslim world.

“Nothing will remain after one atom bomb is dropped on Israel, while a similar attack would only hurt Islam,” Rafsanjani said.

Still one of the most powerful leaders in Iran, Rafsanjani described the founding of Israel as “the worst event in all of history.”

Afghans to Welcome Israeli Aid

Afghanistan’s deputy president said her country would welcome Israeli humanitarian aid. But Sima Samar said she would prefer that the aid come from nongovernmental agencies. Samar, the only woman in Afghanistan’s new government, said her country likely would consider diplomatic relations with Israel if Israel and the Palestinians come to a peace agreement.

Jerusalem Post Gets New Editor

The Jerusalem Post newspaper named a new editor. Bret Stephens, an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal Europe, will become the new editor of Israel’s largest English-language daily. The current editor of the Post, Jeff Barak, will become deputy editor of the Jewish Chronicle in London.

Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency

What You Can Do


GIVE

In times of tragedy and disaster, blood supplies oftenrun critically low. Giving blood is an incredible mitzvah, and one which costsyou only time. Call 1-800-GIVELIFE (1-800-448 3543); if the number is busy, theRed Cross requests that you please keep calling so that you can schedule anappointment at your local blood donation center. You can also try Cedars-SinaiMedical Center (blood donations). — (310) 423-5346.

Undoubtedly, much financial help will be required toassist the individuals, families and institutions affected by the recentattacks. We will provide information about where monetary donations can bedirected as soon as such information is available. Check www.jewishjournal.comfor updates.

The Victims of Terror Fund set up by The JewishFederation of Greater Los Angeles will provide financial support for crisiscounseling and other needs to victims of recent terrorist attacks in the UnitedStates.

Donations made payable to:

The Jewish Federation
Victims of Terror Fund
6505 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1000,
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 761-8207
www.jewishla.org

BE SAFE

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

provides security guidelines for Jewish institutions, which are especially relevant during the High Holy Day season. http://uscj.org/item104_681.html

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

For emergency assistance or information, call:
The Jewish Federation (City Office)
(323) 761-8000
The Jewish Federation (Valley Office)
(818) 464-3200
Jewish Family Services (City Office)
(323) 761-8800
Jewish Family Services (Valley Office)
(818) 464-3333
Board of Rabbis of Southern California
(323) 761-8600

PRAY

Individually, or with your family or community, reciteprayers.

It is customary in Jewish tradition to recite Psalms inresponse to tragedy or in a time of fear and concern. Choose Psalms that aremeaningful to you, or try Psalm 23.

Bring your community together: organize a prayer vigil,reciting Psalms and other readings, and a sharing of thoughts and feelings.

JewzNewz.com contributed to this report.