When Jews murder


With the announcement that six Jews were arrested in the murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian, it is difficult to describe the sense of despondence that I (and I presume nearly all Jews) feel. Most Jews have a sense that certain things are truly foreign to our people. Unfortunately, few Jews are surprised upon learning that a Jew has been charged with a white-collar crime. But when it comes to murder — and not just murder, but murder of an innocent teenager, and not just murder of an innocent teenager, but, according to early reports I pray are incorrect, murder of an innocent teenager by burning him alive — the Jewish mind enters a sort of shock.

Maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe the notion that Jews are unlikely to produce such vile human beings is chauvinistic. But I don’t think it’s chauvinism. Certainly, it isn’t chauvinism on my part. I have long lived with disappointment in many Jews — for being so disproportionately involved in radical movements over the last hundred years and for being at the forefront of movements meant to fundamentally transform America, despite it being the best country humans have ever made, let alone the best country in which Jews have ever lived.

However, for Jews, especially Jews who strongly identify as such, to torture and murder a young boy because he was innocent, young and Arab — that’s an attention-getter.

I have always believed that, regarding Israel, the one responsibility of the non-Israeli Jew is to defend Israel. It is, after all, the only country in the world threatened with annihilation. It is both easy and irresponsible to criticize Israel while living in Los Angeles or New York. American Jews who wish to criticize Israel to the outside world should think many times before speaking out or they should make aliyah

I will, however, transgress this lifelong commitment to silence and ask Israelis to do two things:

First, Israelis must examine their society to determine if these Jewish murderers are individual aberrations or represent some dark underside of Israeli life. It is critical for the soul of Israel and the Jewish people to find out. 

Second, it is vital that leaders on the Israeli political and religious right speak out to ensure every right-wing and religious Israeli understands that to commit such an atrocity is to violate everything that Israel and Judaism stand for, as well as to erode one of the two greatest weapons Israel has: its moral high ground. (The other weapon is its military. No matter how close to morally perfect Israel could ever be, without military strength it would die.)

Now, having said all this, it is vital to note that the second request is being fulfilled.

Profound outrage, anguish, embarrassment and condemnation have already been expressed by Israelis across the political and religious spectrum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has labeled the Jewish murderers “terrorists.” That is huge. No term is more morally damning in contemporary Israeli life.

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, one of Israel’s foremost Orthodox rabbis, head of the Elon Moreh yeshiva, said that the murderers of Muhammed Abu Khdeir should be given the death penalty. “Unfortunately, it appears that Jews were involved in this matter,” Levanon said to his students. “Jewish law has no mercy for the perpetrators of crimes like murder, whether of Arab or Jew, whether by Arab or Jew.”

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau announced that only God could avenge the murder of the three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar. “Individuals do not have the right to take revenge for the death of the innocent. Revenge is not a license given to the hot-blooded for ‘action.’ Revenge is a strong, destructive weapon, and if there is such a concept in the world, it does not belong to humans.”

Even the family of Frenkel, one of the murdered Israeli boys, delivered a damning message. “If a young Arab man was murdered for nationalistic reasons, then it is a horrifying and disgusting act.”

Contrast the national revulsion among Israeli Jews to Palestinians’ reactions to the murder of the Jewish boys. As reported by Haaretz, Israel’s most prestigious newspaper and the one most antagonistic to the Netanyahu government and to Israel’s right wing:

Haaretz headline July 2, 2014: “Palestinians react with indifference to murder of teens.”

Among Palestinians, murderers of Jewish children have town squares named in their honor and are considered among the greatest of Muslims. The mother of 33-year-old Amer Abu Aysha, one of the two Palestinian suspects, told the media that if it turns out her son murdered the Jewish boys, “I’ll be proud of him till my final day.”

The moral difference between Israel and its enemies is wider than the Grand Canyon. This point — the most important and, one would think, most obvious lesson to come out of the present crisis — is completely lost on The New York Times, which published an editorial this week asserting a moral equivalence between the two societies — “an atmosphere in which each side dehumanizes the other.”

That many American Jews agree with that moral equivalence is another reason for at least one Jew’s sadness. 

American gets 35 years for aiding Mumbai terrorists


A federal judge in Chicago sentenced an American citizen to 35 years in prison for helping Islamist terrorists kill 160 people in India in 2008.

David Coleman Headley, a 52-year-old U.S. citizen of Pakistani heritage, was sentenced Thursday after an attack victim appealed on behalf of herself and others for a life sentence, the Associated Press reported.

Headley was arrested in October 2009 and agreed to cooperate with U.S. investigators and intelligence officials and to testify against one of his co-conspirators. He had mapped out the targets for attack, although he did not participate in the actual shootings.

Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 to all 12 counts in his indictment. The charges included conspiracy to bomb public places in India, conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India.

The plea saved Headley from a death sentence, but victims had hoped for a life sentence. The 35-year sentence could see Headley freed on good behavior before he is 80.

Among the dead in the coordinated attack on targets across the city were six American citizens, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife, Rivka, the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, who were killed at the local Chabad house.

Among calling for a tough sentence were Kia Scherr, whose husband Alan and daughter, Naomi, 13, were killed. Her message was read by Linda Ragsdale, who was wounded in the attack.

Ragsdale and Alan and Naomi Scherr had been staying at a retreat targeted in the attack.

Human Rights Watch: Palestinian terror groups in Gaza violated rules of war


Palestinian terror groups in Gaza violated the rules of war by targeting civilians during last month's conflict with Israel, Human Rights Watch said.

In a report issued Monday, the New York-based human rights organization said the Palestinian groups in Gaza violated international humanitarian law by firing some 1,500 rockets at Israel between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21.

The rocket attacks, including the first from Gaza to strike the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas, killed three Israeli civilians, wounded at least 38, several seriously, and destroyed civilian property. Rockets that fell short of their intended targets in Israel apparently killed at least two Palestinians in Gaza and wounded others, Human Rights Watch said.

“Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas.”

Under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, civilians and civilian structures may not be subject to deliberate attacks or attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets, Human Rights Watch explains in the report. Anyone who commits serious laws-of-war violations intentionally or recklessly is responsible for war crimes, the organization said.

Human Rights Watch also said that its research in Gaza found that armed groups repeatedly fired rockets from densely populated areas near homes, businesses, and a hotel, placing civilians in the vicinity at grave risk from Israeli counter-fire.

Monday's report comes less than a week after the organization released a report charging that Israeli attacks on media facilities in Gaza, and the killing of two Palestinian cameramen, during the same conflict also violated the laws of war.

Report: Germany was warned a month before ’72 Olympics attack


Germany was warned about a possible terror attack against Israeli athletes one month before the Munich Olympics in 1972, Der Spiegel reported.

The weekly magazine reported Sunday on its website that though solid warnings of an attack plan were received a month before the Games, no action was taken.

The Palestinian terrorists, for example, were able to walk by the apartments of the Israeli athletes without being stopped.

Der Spiegel also reported that German police had prepared possible scenarios for a terror attack at the Games, including one that dealt specifically with a Palestinian attack on the Olympic village, but after the attack the police said there were no written documents of the preparations and German authorities tried to cover up their failures.

The story is based on reports of the post-attack inquiry, minutes from German Cabinet meetings and documents from government bodies obtained by Der Spiegel.

Homs shelled as Syria demands ‘neutral’ U.N. mission


Syria challenged the United Nations chief over the size and scope of a U.N. truce monitoring mission on Wednesday, resisting a larger presence as its army shelled targets in the city of Homs in violation of the ceasefire.

Despite the seven-day-old truce agreement between government and rebel forces, explosions rocked the battered Khalidiyah quarter of Homs as the army resumed what has become a daily barrage of heavy mortar shelling, and plumes of black smoke drifted over the rooftops.

In northern Idlib province, six members of the security forces were killed by a bomb placed by an “armed terrorist group”, state news agency SANA said. It was the second such attack in two days.

While the truce has held in some parts of Syria since President Bashar al-Assad pledged to enforce it last week, in strong opposition areas such as Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deraa, the army has kept up attacks on rebels, using heavy weapons in violation of the pledge by Damascus to pull back.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told a news conference in Beijing that no more than 250 truce monitors were needed, and they should come from what he called “neutral” countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, all of which have been more sympathetic to Assad than the West and the Arab League states.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to present proposals for the next phase of the mission on Wednesday to the Security Council. He says more monitors are needed for credible supervision of the truce in a country the size of Syria in the 13th month of a conflict marked by extreme violence and over 10,000 deaths.

An advance party of a half a dozen U.N. peacekeepers in blue berets, led by Colonel Ahmed Himmiche of Morocco, toured towns near Damascus on Wednesday in two white U.N. Land Cruisers with a Syrian police escort.

In Erbin their convoy was mobbed by anti-government protesters who chanted demands to arm the rebel Free Syrian Army. A banner was plastered on one U.N. car reading: “The butcher continues killings. The observers continue observing, and the people continue with their revolution. We only bow to God.”

With the flashpoint cities in Syria scattered over several hundred kilometers, Ban said he had asked the European Union if it can supply helicopters and planes to make the proposed monitoring mission rapidly and independently mobile, but Moualem said Syria would supply air transport if necessary.

A political source in neighboring Lebanon said Damascus has already refused the use of U.N. helicopters.

The West has shown no desire to intervene militarily or push for the sort of robust peacekeeping mission that might require 50,000 troops or more. Russia and China, Syria’s powerful friends on the Security Council, have made clear they would block a U.N. mandate to use force. They are likely to back Damascus as the terms of the mission are thrashed out later this week.

Assad says Syria is under attack by foreign-backed terrorist and that for their own safety, the unarmed observers would have to coordinate every step of their operation with Syrian security to protect them from “armed gangs”.

STILL NO PULLBACK

The rebel Free Syrian Army fighting to topple Assad says it will stop shooting if he keeps his pledge to U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan to withdraw tanks, heavy weapons and troops from urban areas, which critics say he clearly has not done since the truce took effect a week ago.

Apart from the shelling of targets in Homs, the city at the heart of the revolt, troops have swept towns and villages in raids to arrest suspected opponents of Assad. Activists say scores of people have been killed since the ceasefire officially came into force last Thursday.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that four law enforcement members and a civilian were killed on Tuesday when “an armed terrorist group threw a bomb at a bus” in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city after the capital, Damascus.

It said terrorists were attacking and killing loyalist troops in their homes and kidnapping judges.

Internet video showed what anti-Assad activists said was renewed shelling of Homs shortly after dawn on Wednesday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group opposed to Assad, reported explosions and heavy gunfire in the southern city of Deraa early on Wednesday. It confirmed the five killed by a bomb in Aleppo.

ADVANCE PARTY

Ban said on Tuesday that the ceasefire was being “generally observed”, though there was still violence. He said the 250 observers Assad will accept would be “not enough, considering the current situation and the vastness of the country”.

Annan delivered a status report to Arab League ministers, who called on Assad to let the U.N. observers do their job.

“We fully support Mr Annan and his six-point plan, but sadly, the killing still goes on,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabr al-Thani told reporters after the meeting. “We are fearful that the regime is playing for time. We expressed this to Mr Annan.”

Equipment for the mission, including vehicles, is already being transported to Syria via Beirut from a U.N. logistics base in Brindisi, Italy.

Diplomats say Annan’s main aim is to get a U.N. mission on the ground backed by Syria’s supporters Russia and China, even if it is not big enough at first to do the job.

TIME TO ARM THE REBELS?

The mission must have Syrian consent, and Moualem said “this commitment does not cancel out the right to self defense and appropriate response against any attack on government forces, infrastructure, civilians and private or state property”.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia say it is time to arm the Free Syrian Army with weapons to combat Syria’s powerful, Russian-armed forces, but other Arab League states say this would tip the crisis into all-out civil war, threatening the wider region.

Russia is also critical of Western and Arab states backing the Syrian opposition-in-exile in the “Friends of Syria” group.

France said it would host a foreign ministers meeting of the group on Thursday in Paris, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to discuss the fragile ceasefire.

Western sanctions have halved Syria’s foreign reserves and should be stepped up to force Damascus to comply with the U.N.-backed peace plan, France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told officials from 57 countries meeting in Paris.

Additional reporting by Ayat Basma and Mariam Karouny in Beirut; Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Will Waterman

With rocket fire continuing, southern Israeli schools are closed


Schools were closed in southern Israel again as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip continued to strike despite a cease-fire.

The cities of Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi and Gan Yavne canceled classes for Thursday after several rockets targeted Beersheba the day before. Schoolchildren in Netivot were sent home Thursday after a rocket landed next to a school that morning while it was in session.

At least half a dozen rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel by mid-afternoon Thursday. Two rockets fired at Beersheba were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Islamic Jihad has denied responsibility for Thursday’s rocket fire, according to Haaretz. The military believes small, radical factions are firing the rockets.

Early Thursday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said it struck a rocket-launching site and what it called a “terror tunnel” in Gaza. “The targeting of these sites is in direct response to the rockets fired at Israel,” including rockets fired Wednesday night against Beersheba, an IDF statement said.

“Hamas uses other terror organizations to carry out terror attacks against the State of Israel and will bear the consequences of these actions in any future operation embarked upon by the IDF in order to eliminate the terror threat and restore the relative calm to the area,” the statement added.

Terrorist groups in Gaza began launching a barrage of rockets at Israel on March 9 after Israel assassinated Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. The IDF believed Kaisi was planning a terrorist strike in Israel.

Since the violence began, more than 200 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip. Tens of rockets have hit Israel since an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire was announced at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Netanyahu pledges decisive response as rockets slam southern Israel


As southern Israel was barraged by rockets for a fourth straight day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was hitting back “strongly and decisively,” and its Iron Dome anti-missile defense system was intercepting many of the rockets coming from the Gaza Strip.

“The IDF is continuing to—strongly and decisively—attack the terrorists in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said Monday at the Knesset. “Whoever intends to harm our citizens, we will strike at him.”

Israel has responded to the barrage of missiles with more than 30 attacks on rocket-launching sites and weapons facilities. At least 20 Palestinians, including two civilians, have been killed since the recent violence began. Several dozen Palestinian civilians, including several children, reportedly have been wounded in the strikes.

More than 200 rockets have been fired at Israel since Israel assassinated a terrorist leader from the Popular Resistance Committee. Israel’s military said the PRC leader, Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi, was planning an attack on Israel through the Sinai.

At least eight Israelis have been injured, two seriously, in the attacks by the PRC and Islamic Jihad. Hamas, which rules Gaza, has not launched missiles in the latest round of attacks.

At least two dozen rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Monday. The Iron Dome system intercepted at least eight fired at Beersheba and five at Ashdod.

One rocket fired Monday struck an empty kindergarten building, a day after a rocket landed in a school courtyard. One rocket Monday struck Gadera, located 24 miles south of Tel Aviv.

Also Monday, rockets fired from Gaza struck the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza, which has remained open throughout the hostilities. The crossing was closed for about half an hour before operations were continued. A truck and a van on their way to deliver goods to Gaza were hit, according to a statement by Israel’s coordinator of government activities in the territories.

“Despite the continuous barrage of mortars and artillery shells from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the IDF and COGAT continue to honor Israel’s commitments to transfer goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing to the people of Gaza in an efficient and secure manner,” the statement said.

Schools were closed for a second day on Monday in cities and towns located up to 25 miles from the Gaza border, affecting about 200,000 children. Classes at colleges and universities in the area also were closed.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that he is “very concerned” by the new round of violence, saying that civilians on both sides are paying a heavy price.

Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel remains on alert against an attack from Sinai. The prime minister commended the security and intelligence services in the airstrike that killed Kaisi and another member of the Popular Resistance Committee.

“We have exacted from them a very high price,” he said. “Naturally we will act as necessary.”

Netanyahu praised the Iron Dome missile defense system, which according to the IDF has intercepted 90 percent of its targets.

“We will do everything in our power to expand the deployment of this system” in the months and years ahead, he said.

Netanyahu also lauded the residents of the southern Israeli communities for their resilience in the face of the rocket barrage. He met Sunday with with 30 municipal leaders from the area and received their staunch backing.

“In the end, the strongest force at our disposal is the fortitude of the residents, of the council heads, of Israelis and of the government,” he said.

On Sunday afternoon, a rocket that landed in a residential neighborhood of Beersheba damaged 15 homes; another rocket that landed near a Beersheba school caused damage to the structure. Pieces of a rocket intercepted by Iron Dome also hit a car and a water pipe in the city, according to Ynet.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned by the renewed violence in southern Israel,” U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in a statement issued Saturday. “We condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel in recent days, which has dramatically and dangerously escalated in the past day. We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these cowardly acts.

“We regret the loss of life and injuries, and we call on both sides to make every effort to restore calm,” the statement concluded.

Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency Sunday that Egypt was working to halt the escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel. He said his country was in contact with both sides in an attempt to stop the violence in order to “to avoid undesirable developments.”

Othman called Israel’s offensive “unjustifiable and a breach to the truce sponsored by Egypt.”

The Popular Resistance Committees promised revenge for Kaisi’s assassination.

“All options are open before the fighters to respond to this despicable crime,” said Abu Attiya, a PRC spokesman. “The assassination of our chief will not end our resistance.”

It is believed that the short-range rockets are being launched by the Popular Resistance Committee, according to the IDF, while the long-range and midrange rockets are being launched by Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaina said that “Israel’s escalation creates a negative atmosphere and increases the tension, which leads to the increase in violence in the region,” according to CNN.

The IDF issued a statement saying that it holds “Hamas responsible for the recent incidents since the terror organization currently has jurisdiction in the area [Gaza].” The statement said that “The Hamas movement, although not the one performing the launchings, is not doing anything to prevent it either.”

Israel on alert for attack as Netanyahu vows to strike Gaza terrorists


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel remains on alert against an attack from Sinai despite killing the terrorist leader that was planning an attack from there—an assassination that has led to a barrage of rockets raining down on southern Israel from Gaza by terrorist groups.

Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday that the Israeli military’s targeted killing two days earlier of Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi, the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committee terrorist organization, disrupted the organizing of the attack. Rocket attacks from Gaza by the PRC and Islamic Jihad have continued into Sunday.

The prime minister commended the security and intelligence services in the airstrike that killed Kaisi and another member of the Popular Resistance Committee. The Israel Defense Forces said the two were planning a terror attack that was to take place from Sinai in the coming days.

“We have exacted from them a very high price,” he said. “Naturally we will act as necessary.”

More than 130 rockets have rained down on southern Israel since the killings, injuring eight Israeli civilians, including one severely, according to the IDF. At least 17 Palestinians, including a 14-year-old, have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Netanyahu praised the Iron Dome missile defense system, which according to the IDF has intercepted 90 percent of its targets, including 28 out of 31 long-range Grad rockets targeting major Israeli cities such as Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

“We will do everything in our power to expand the deployment of this system” in the months and years ahead, he said.

Netanyahu also lauded the residents of the southern Israeli communities for their resilience in the face of the rocket barrage.

“In the end, the strongest force at our disposal is the fortitude of the residents, of the council heads, of Israelis and of the government,” he said. “We are taking the necessary defensive and aggressive measures, and I have no doubt that with this combination, along with the necessary fortitude, we will overcome these terrorist threats around us.”

Netanyahu delivered a similar message Saturday night in a meeting with the mayors of southern Israeli communities. He vowed to continue hitting Palestinian forces in Gaza responsible for the barrage of rocket attacks.

The IDF Home Front Command ordered schools closed Sunday in cities and towns located up to 25 miles from the Gaza border, affecting about 200,000 children. Classes at colleges and universities in the area also were closed.

Since the violence began, the IDF as of Sunday afternoon had struck 21 targets in Gaza, including 13 airstrikes to halt rocket-launching attempts and eight attacks against weapons factories and storage sites.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned by the renewed violence in southern Israel,” U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in a statement issued Saturday. “We condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel in recent days, which has dramatically and dangerously escalated in the past day. We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these cowardly acts.”

“We regret the loss of life and injuries, and we call on both sides to make every effort to restore calm,” the statement concluded.

Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency Sunday that Egypt was working to halt the escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel. He said his country was in contact with both sides in an attempt to stop the violence in order to “to avoid undesirable developments.”

Othman called Israel’s offensive “unjustifiable and a breach to the truce sponsored by Egypt.”

The Popular Resistance Committees promised revenge for Kaisi’s assassination.

“All options are open before the fighters to respond to this despicable crime,” said Abu Attiya, a PRC spokesman. “The assassination of our chief will not end our resistance.”

It is believed that the short-range rockets are being launched by the Popular Resistance Committee, according to the IDF, while the long-range and midrange rockets are being launched by Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaina said that “Israel’s escalation creates a negative atmosphere and increases the tension, which leads to the increase in violence in the region,” according to CNN.

The IDF issued a statement saying it holds “Hamas responsible for the recent incidents since the terror organization currently has jurisdiction in the area [Gaza].”

The statement said that “The Hamas movement, although not the one performing the launchings, is not doing anything to prevent it either.”

West Bank mosque set alight following outpost razing


A mosque in the West Bank was set alight hours after Israeli soldiers demolished two structures in an illegal outpost.

The interior of a mosque in a village near Ramallah was torched after being soaked with gasoline on Thursday morning. The words “war” and “Mitzpe Yitzhar,” the outpost that was razed early Thursday morning, were painted on the mosque. The attack comes a day after an historic unused mosque in Jerusalem was set on fire, damaging its exterior, and Palestinian vehicles were torched in the West Bank. Right-wing extremists have been blamed for the attacks.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the mosque attack a declaration of war by the settlers against the Palestinian people. He placed responsibility for the attack on the Israeli government and called on the international community to get involved.

The attack came hours after hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police dismantled two buildings, one residential, in the illegal West Bank outpost of Mitzpe Yitzhar, in which five families live.

There was little resistance since the area around the outpost was declared a closed military zone, preventing dozens of right-wing activists from entering the site.

On Tuesday night, settlers and right-wing activists vandalized a West Bank Israel Defense Forces base, injuring an officer, and threw stones at Palestinian cars after IDF forces in the area mobilized in that settlers thought was an effort to raze a West Bank outpost.

Meanwhile, on Thursday five people arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of involvement in price tag attacks against Palestinian property were ordered held for another 24 hours by the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court. Their arrest led to clashes between right-wing activists and police in Jerusalem.

Also on Thursday during a meeting with settlement leaders and rabbis, Israeli President Shimon Peres criticized the attacks against Palestinians and the IDF.

“There is no room for criminality, violation of the law and riotousness. It’s horrible to see our sons and daughters enter IDF bases and nearly kill an officer,” he reportedly said. He called the settlers actions “adding fuel to the fire” in the Middle East.

IDF: Gaza strike killed terrorist planning attack on Egypt border


An Israeli air strike on a car killed two militants and wounded two other men on a crowded Gaza street Thursday, the Israeli army and local medical officials said.

The men were identified as Essam Al-Batsh and Sobhi Al-Batsh, relatives initially identified as brothers.

Hundreds of Palestinians crowded around the charred remains of the car, which was hit in the bright afternoon sunshine on a main urban thoroughfare.

Video footage taken minutes after the strike showed the passenger compartment of the car wrecked and on fire with little damage to the immediate surrounding area.

A Hamas spokesman described the attack as a crime and accused Israel of ratcheting up violence in the area.

“We hold the government of the Zionist occupation (Israel) fully responsible for this crime and for the new escalation,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. Hamas gave no other details.

In Tel Aviv, an Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed an air strike had been carried out. She said the two men killed in the incident had been planning an attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers along Israel’s border with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

“(They) were affiliated with a terrorist squad that intended to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers via the western border,” an army statement said.

Hamas, an Islamist group hostile to Israel, has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, while President Mahmoud Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank.

The army statement said that Essam had been involved in planning a suicide bombing in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat in 2007 in which three Israeli civilians were killed, and a number of other attacks, some of which had been stopped.

Essam was a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Abbas’s Fatah movement, group officials said. The Islamist group Hamas said Sobhi was affiliated with its own armed wing.

Violence between Israel and Gaza militants has abated slightly recently, although Wednesday Israeli troops killed one Islamic Jihad gunman and wounded another in a rare cross-border incursion, witnesses and hospital officials said.

Islamic Jihad is at times allied with Gaza’s Hamas rulers but the group has chafed at recent efforts by the more powerful faction to impose de facto truces across the coastal territory.

Hamas and Israel carried out an Egyptian- and German-brokered prisoner swap in mid-October that stirred expectations of a possible broader accommodation, although the governing Islamist movement spurns permanent peace with the Jewish state.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem Editing by Maria Golovnina

Israel rushes airliner defenses as Libya leaks SAMs


Israel has accelerated the installation of anti-missile defenses on its airliners, a security official said on Friday, seeing an enhanced risk of attack by militants using looted Libyan arms.

Jets flown by El Al and two other Israeli carriers are being equipped with a locally made system known as C-Music that uses a laser to “blind” heat-seeking missiles, the official said, giving a 2013 target for fitting most of the fleet.

As a stop-gap, Israel is adapting air force counter-measures for use aboard civilian planes, said the official, who declined to elaborate on the technologies involved, or to be identified.

“We have long been aware of the threat and were ahead of the rest of the world in preparing for it. Libya has meant government orders to step things up even further,” the official said, citing intelligence assessments that chaos during the North African nation’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi allowed trafficking of Libyan shoulder-fired missiles to Palestinians and al Qaeda-linked groups in the Egyptian Sinai.

Israel began deploying another system, “Flight Guard,” on El Al after al Qaeda tried to shoot down a planeload of Israeli tourists in Kenya in 2002. Flight Guard’s use of diversionary flares set off safety concerns abroad and the Israelis turned to C-Music, manufactured by Elbit Systems Ltd..

According to the Israeli official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is covering the $1 million to $1.5 million that it costs to fit C-Music to each plane.

The bathtub-sized pods, built into the planes’ bodies, increase drag in flight, meaning “a few million (dollars) a year” in extra fuel expenses, the official said, adding that this, too, would be borne by the government.

Israel’s main international gateway, Ben-Gurion Airport, is 10 km (6 miles) from the West Bank where, along with the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip, Palestinians want a state.

The Israeli official said he had no information indicating the presence of anti-aircraft missiles in the West Bank—unlike in Gaza, which has seen an influx of smuggled weaponry from Egypt since Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers in 2005.

The official said Netanyahu had, in closed-door discussions, described C-Music as a way to help reassure the Israeli public about security should the government one day give disputed land to the Palestinians under a peace agreement.

Asked for confirmation, Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, quoted him as saying that “in any possible peace deal there have to be effective security arrangements that can deal with a range of security threats, including shoulder-fired missiles.”

Israel also wants to protect traffic to its small airport in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, which abuts Jordan and Egypt, where Islamist militants have operated in the past. Armed infiltrators killed eight Israelis on the Egyptian border on August 18.

Editing by Alistair Lyon

Barak: Israel will not release terrorists’ bodies


Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would not release the remains of 84 Palestinian terrorists to the Palestinian Authority, despite confirmation by the PA and the Israeli military.

A decision by Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to consider transferring the bodies to the Palestinian Authority as a goodwill gesture to PA President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly was misinterpreted by the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Defense Forces as final approval of the deal, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Israeli government reportedly compiled a list of terrorists whose bodies would be handed over to the PA that included terrorists responsible for the deaths of Israelis, such as Hanadi Jadarat, a woman who blew up herself and 21 others in a Haifa restaurant in 2003.

Barak said Tuesday that 10 terrorists formerly from Gaza would be removed from the list, since the bodies could be used in negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein a-Sheikh told the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency on July 4 that Israel planned to transfer the bodies, and the IDF confirmed the news.

Netanyahu: Israel to toughen conditions of Palestinian prisoners


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that he plans on toughening the conditions of Palestinian security prisoners in Israel’s prisons.

“I have decided to change Israel’s treatment of terrorists sitting in prison,” Netanyahu said during the closing statements at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. “We will give them all that they deserve according to international law but nothing beyond that.”

Netanyahu said that he is required to respect Israeli law, international law, and international trust but nothing beyond that, so Israel is taking a series of steps to change prisoners’ conditions.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Israel, Gaza terrorists enter cease-fire


Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza reportedly agreed to a cease-fire.

The agreement came late Sunday night and was followed by a Kassam rocket fired on Ashkelon and ten mortar shells that hit southern Israel. Israel did not respond to the rockets, showing that the cease-fire was holding, according to reports.

The agreement came hours after government ministers ordered the army “to continue to act against those responsible for terrorism.”

The cease-fire came after a weekend in which more than 120 rockets were fired at Israel, including one that struck a school bus seriously injuring a teen, and in which Israeli retaliatory strikes on terrorism sites killed 19 Gaza Palestinians.

“We will judge the other side over the next few days. The extent to which Hamas controls the other militant groups will affect the way we choose to act,” a senior Israeli official told Reuters.

A senior Palestinian source quoted in the international Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Aswat said that Egypt is working to seal the current unwritten cease-fire and asked the United Nations envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry to help in negotiations

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday decried the ceasefire, telling Israel Radio that “Hamas is fighting a war of attrition against us. We won’t come to terms with a situation in which they decide when there’s quiet and when the area heats up.”

He accused Hamas of taking advantage of the recent months of relative quiet to smuggle in more and farther-reaching rockets.

Israeli military strikes on Gaza began April 7 after Hamas fired an anti-tank rocket at a school bus, critically injuring a teenage boy and the bus driver.

Israel attacks Hamas terror squad, killing 3


Israel’s Air Force attacked what it said was a terror squad planning to kidnap Israelis over the Passover holiday, killing three.

The Israeli military stuck the men riding in a car in southern Gaza early Saturday morning.

The IDF said in a statement that the three men killed in the attack, a joint operation of the army and the Shin Bet security service, were members of a squad of terrorists intending to “execute kidnappings during the upcoming Passover holiday in the Sinai Peninsula and in Israel.”

Hamas issued a statement saying the killed men were members of their organization. The organization said it would take revenge for the strike.

Israel’s Counter-Terror Bureau later on Saturday called on Israelis to leave the Sinai Peninsula immediately, saying that Israeli intelligence agencies had concrete information of plans by terrorists to kidnap or attack Israelis vacationing there over the Passover holiday.

“Hamas continues to operate in every way possible in order to harm Israeli civilians,” the IDF statement said. “The IDF will respond with strength and determination to any attempt to use terror against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli embassies threatened, may close


Four Israeli embassies may be closed after receiving serious threats.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that security at the embassies, which it did not identify, had increased to the maximum level. Security at all Israeli embassies has been increased as well, according to reports.

The ministry said in Tuesday’s statement that “a number of irregular incidents targeting Israeli destinations were recorded in the past few days.”

“At this point we estimate that a threat exists against the locations and it is being dealt with,” said the statement. “The relevant Israeli authorities are in contact with the relevant authorities in the countries in question.”

The threats coincide with the third anniversary of the death of Hezbollah senior official Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus by a car bomb that the terrorist organization blames on Israel. Hezbollah has vowed to avenge his death.

Also out of concern following threats of revenge kidnappings, Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau issued a warning late last week to Israeli travelers urging them to avoid certain destinations, including Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania and Venezuela.

Rockets launched into southern Israel


Gaza Strip terrorists launched rockets into Israel.

There were at least two barrages of Kassam rockets before dawn on Friday, Israeli media reported, and the firing of a longer range Grad missile.

No injuries or damage were reported.

Kassams have a range of about 10 kilometers and have reached Israeli towns like Sderot. Grads have a longer range of up to 25 kilometers.

The launchings come after a number of Israeli raids targeting al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists, themselves at war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

The al-Qaeda affiliates had warned of retaliatory attacks against Israel.

Moroccan police arrest would-be terrorists


Moroccan security police arrested 11 men who reportedly planned to carry out terrorist attacks at Jewish and tourist sites in the country.

The four Palestinians and seven Moroccans, reportedly a cell of Islamic Jihad, were arrested Monday, according to the Berlin-based International Institute for Education and Research on Anti-Semitism, which cited the Moroccan newspaper Al Ahdath Al Maghrebia.

Targets reportedly included tourist sites, as well as Jewish and pro-Israel activists.

Early last month, an e-mail with photos of Jewish NGO activists circulated among Islamists in Morocco, according to the institute.

A blacklist of “Zionists” also was circulated last week at a preparation meeting for an Islamist conference scheduled for Friday called the National Observatory against Normalization (with Israel). The list included at least one government employee, journalists, NGO activists, artists and politicians, the institute reported.

Go ahead, make my High Holy Day


From NYPost.com:

It’s high noon for the high holidays.

Fearing jihadists will attack synagogues during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a group of badass rabbis has developed a program to turn your average shul-goer into a lean, mean fighting machine.

The group, which calls itself the International Security Coalition of Clergy, was founded by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz, who boasts a black belt in karate, teaches martial arts and was an NYPD cop for nine years.

Read the full story at NYPost.com.

U.S., Other Democracies Should Shun Durban II


The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, otherwise known as the Durban Conference, was a parley hijacked by radicals betraying the real purpose of the event — the confrontation of racial discrimination worldwide.

The April 2009 Durban II conference promises to top that fiasco, despite the Obama administration’s decision to attempt to influence the process.

In the end, it will be a Holocaust-denying, anti-Israel hatefest. The United States, the Europeans and all other democratic nations should boycott this cynical effort to incite racist hatred and religious bigotry. If the United States chooses to attend this fraudulent conference, we will legitimize and sanction the bigotry and racism practiced by the world’s most intolerant, anti-democratic nations.

Indeed, it is these nations and their long and hostile records that cause the most concern. Let’s look at a few of them.

If you had to choose a responsible chair for the beginning Conference Preparatory Committee, a safe bet would be to pass over Libya. Yet as the upside-down logic of Durban II goes, the Libyan representative was elected by his peers, along with vice chairmen from human rights-abusing nations such as Iran and Cuba.

Libya’s twisted worldview, if there were any doubts, was on exhibit last April, when Ibrahim Dabbashi, its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, appeared before the Security Council and brazenly compared Israeli actions in Gaza at the time to the Nazis’ systematic killing during the Holocaust.

This is what happens when terrorist countries are elevated to the stature of democratic states. What stunts will they try to pull at Durban II?

Last year, Iran added its peculiar brand of democratic practices to the Durban II process when it protested the credentials registration of the Canadian Council on Israel and Jewish Advocacy in a preparatory meeting on the conference. As Hershell Ezrin, the council’s chief executive officer, told the Canadian Jewish News last May, “The whole process had become so discriminatory to us, we felt that no matter how many times we answered their questions and responded to shorter and shorter deadlines, we were asked the same questions over and over again.”

With Iran proudly serving as the center of Holocaust denial today, we can only imagine what it has up its sleeve for this conference.

Syria objected recently to language in conference program documents citing the number of Jewish deaths during the Holocaust, saying it didn’t want to engage in a statistical debate. Iran also objected to Holocaust references, complaining that banning denial was a restriction on freedom of expression.

Yet these countries and their allies have been staunch defenders of the insertion of blasphemy legislation in numerous other U.N. forums, a policy that violates freedom of expression through the suppression of any criticism of Islam or its leaders.

The Human Rights Council, the successor to the Human Rights Commission, also has been active in the planning of the conference at the request of the U.N. General Assembly. Yet the council, like its predecessor, has become irrevocably tarred with anti-Semitism and bias against Israel.

As the State Department’s March 2008 Report on Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism explained about these two organizations, “For many years before its abolition, the Commission on Human Rights had a separate agenda item focusing solely on alleged violations of Israel — namely, Item 8, ‘Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.’

This allowed multiple resolutions against Israel, while no other country could have more than one resolution run against it each year. No other country besides Israel had an agenda item exclusively scrutinizing it. This tradition has been continued by the new U.N. Human Rights Council.”

The report said later that “several important countries, including established democracies, follow a policy of voting ‘on principle’ against all resolutions that criticize a specific country regardless of the merits — unless that country is Israel, in which case they consistently vote in favor of critical resolutions.”

The timing of the Durban II conference is equally disturbing, as it will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from April 20 to 24, overlapping Israel’s annual observance of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 21. How ironic it will be that a conference organized by the United Nations, which gave birth to Israel in 1948 out of the ashes of the Holocaust, promises to repeat its shameful performance of 2001 by again allowing the unbridled eliminationist hatred, condemnation and slander of Israel.

In encouraging this conference to reconvene and worse, leaving it in the hands of the likes of Iran, Libya and other terrorist states, the United Nations again dishonors itself by allowing these tyrants a platform to impose their racial and religious bigotry on the world. How can the United States possibly be a part of this insanity? If we join this charade, we extend this dishonor through our presence, sullying ourselves in the process.

We must do the only honorable deed and boycott Durban II, denying the world’s terrorists and bigots the privilege of our legitimizing presence among them.

Gregg J. Rickman served as the first U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism from 2006 to 2009.

 

VIDEO: Israeli Olympic athletes remembered


YouTube member JewishFan writes of his video:

Remembering the massacre, and the brutality and tactics of the Arab terrorists, is important and relevant: There are millions of radical Muslims today who, if they had the chance, would kill all the Jews and even be willing to blow themselves up to do it.

It reminds us that Israel cannot let its guard down for one moment nor can we, as Jews. There are murderers out there wanting to kill us; in fact, plotting to kill us even as this is being written.

Photo montages, vintage news footage, music (Enya.)

No simple answer on return of Israeli POWs


In the summer of 2006, two Israeli soldiers — Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser — were abducted by Hezbollah. Israel reacted by launching a war against this Lebanon-based
terrorist organization. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared then that one of the main war aims was to return the two soldiers back home.

The war ended, and almost two years have passed, and the two soldiers are still in enemy hands. A third soldier, Gilad Shalit, was abducted by Hamas in Gaza about the same time. He is alive; his family has just received a brief letter from him.

Hamas is demanding that Israel free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for his release. As for Regev and Goldwasser, we are not sure. The jeep they had been driving was hit so badly, almost burned down in the attack, and the scenes of the charred remains of the vehicle left little hope that the two soldiers had survived. Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, in the most cynical and vicious way, refused to give any hint about their fate.

On Sunday, the Israeli government decided to release Arab prisoners for the two soldiers, but the heated controversy is still going on.

Isn’t this a heavy price? Shouldn’t we condition that Arab prisoners be exchanged only for living POWs? And isn’t all this but an incentive for future blackmailing?

Let’s borrow a page from the history book.

Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great, was one of the greatest military commanders of the pre-Napoleonic era. In 1757, during the Seven Years War, he wrote a secret memorandum to his minister of interior on the eve of a decisive battle: “In the contingency that I become a prisoner of war, I forbid to make even the slightest concession to the enemy, and order to ignore anything I should write from captivity. If such unhappy event occurs, I want to sacrifice myself for my country. My brother will take the reins of power, and he and all his ministers will pay with their heads if they pay any ransom for me.”

Recently, several Israel Defense Forces officers in the reserves did the same. Upon being called to active duty, they sent a letter to the minister of defense and the chief of staff of the Israeli army stating that if they fall in enemy hands, they don’t want the government to pay any price for their release. Furthermore, they demanded that in case they become POWs, the government shouldn’t listen to their pleas, because obviously, they would be the result of their captors’ pressure.

All this is about living POWs. But what about dead ones? How far should a government go in order to bring a dead soldier to burial?

When it comes to Israel, the answer is never simple. According to Jewish religious law and tradition, burying the dead is a very sacred commandment. Furthermore, until a dead POW is buried, he is considered missing in action, leaving families in endless, agonizing doubt. If he was married, according to Jewish law, his wife is considered aguna (‘ ‘anchored”in marriage) and can’t remarry.

This is why in the case of Capt. Ron Arad, a jet fighter navigator who became POW in 1986 in Lebanon and has since disappeared, Israel went to great lengths to gain any shred of information about him. At one point, it was suspected that he was killed and buried anonymously in the Jewish cemetery in Damascus.

Ideas were floated to send an elite unit there with a helicopter to find out. Yet when Batya Arad, the mother of the missing navigator, heard about it, she adamantly refused: “I don’t want any soldier to risk his life for a dead body.”

So the debate rages on, touching sore nerves, with no clear-cut answers. It was Geula Cohen, who was a fighter in the prestate, anti-British underground Lehi (Stern Gang), who summed up the dilemma.

“If my son, Tzahi [Knesset member Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Foreign Relations and Security Committee] were taken POW,”she said in one of the controversies over prisoner exchanges, “I would have fought like a lioness that the government should pay any price for his release.”

Then, with the same breath, she added: “And at the same time, I would have expected the government to firmly reject my demands.”

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem.

Israel cabinet to vote on Hezbollah swap, Canada downplays reports of Hezbollah sleepers


Cabinet to Vote on Hezbollah Swap

Ehud Olmert will ask his Cabinet on Sunday to approve a prisoner swap with Hezbollah.

Karnit Goldwasser, whose husband, Ehud, and fellow Israeli soldier Eldad Regev were abducted by the Lebanese militia in a July 2006 border raid, said Tuesday following a meeting with the prime minister that a deal for their return was in place.

She said Olmert told her that his Cabinet would vote on the deal at its weekly session Sunday. Goldwasser, who offered no details on the deal, said she hopes it will be approved.

Security sources said Israel would release five jailed Lebanese terrorists and repatriate the bodies of some 10 slain infiltrators in exchange for the soldiers, whose condition is not known.

Israel Names Its First Female U.N. Envoy

A former associate law professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem was named Israel’s first female U.N. ambassador.

Gabriella Shalev will replace Dan Gillerman, who is expected to wrap up his tenure in the coming weeks, Ynet reported.

Shalev, the rector at Ono Academic College, is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on contract law.

The appointment comes after a reported battle between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who favored former New York Consul-General Alon Pinkas.

Canada Downplays Reports of Hezbollah Sleepers

Canadian Jewish officials are downplaying news reports that Hezbollah operatives are training near Toronto and plan to attack.

The American ABC News leaked details last week of an ongoing international intelligence investigation with allegations that up to 20 “sleeper cell” suspects from Hezbollah were activated, including a “weapons expert” spotted at a firing range south of Toronto.

Officials told ABC that suspected Hezbollah operatives have conducted surveillance recently on the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa and on several synagogues in Toronto.

Bernie Farber, the CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said there has been “chatter” since the assassination of a Hezbollah leader in February, but that authorities said there is nothing to lead them to believe the reports are true.

“Our belief is that our federal authorities have things in hand,” Farber told the Toronto Star. “They’ve known about this alleged threat for a while, they’ve investigated it, and they’ve told me categorically that while the chatter is out there, and it has been for a while, there is nothing to lead them to believe that there’s anything imminent or that in fact the chatter is real.”

Farber added, though, that it is always better to be on the safe side, “so we will ensure that our community institutions are alerted.”

Atomic Energy Team Begins Syria Inspections

The United Nations nuclear watchdog began an investigation into an alleged Syrian reactor bombed by Israel.

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flew out to Damascus on Sunday for 72 hours of talks and inspections.

The experts are to visit al-Kibar, a remote site in northern Syria, which Israeli warplanes destroyed last September and the United States has described as a North Korean-designed reactor.

Syria has denied having a secret nuclear facility but, in a move widely perceived as aimed at covering up evidence, bulldozed over al-Kibar soon after the Israeli attack.

Damascus admitted the IAEA inspectors after months of prevarication. There have been calls abroad for several other suspect sites in Syria to be inspected, but the IAEA is for now only being granted access to al-Kibar.

Second Plot to Kill Ahmadinejad Alleged

A plot to assassinate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month in Italy failed, an Iranian daily reported.

An adviser to the Iranian president told the Etemad-e Melli daily newspaper of a plot to assassinate Ahmadinejad during a three-day U.N. food crisis summit in Rome on June 3, according to Reuters.

The report published Tuesday comes just days after Ahmadinejad accused the United States of a plot to kill him during a March visit to Iraq. Iranian state radio said the president changed his schedule at the last minute to foil the plot.

Audit: Israel’s Holocaust Survivors Cheated

Holocaust survivors in Israel have received less than two-thirds of the German reparations allotted to them, an audit found.

A report issued Sunday by a commission of inquiry under retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner found that of the Holocaust reparations paid to Israel under a 1952 deal with Germany, only about 62 percent found their way to survivors living in the Jewish state.

On average, each survivor was underpaid by an aggregate $400,000 to $700,000, the Dorner Commission concluded. It urged the state to make compensation available to entitled recipients who are still alive.

The commission was established following revelations last year that many Holocaust survivors in Israel are destitute because of shortfalls in the welfare payouts they receive from the state.

Bronze Chanukiah Stolen in Rio

A bronze chanukiah sculpture was stolen from a major square in Rio de Janeiro.

The 6 1/2-foot-tall chanukiah, which weighs 440 pounds, adorned the beachfront square, Zozimo Barroso do Amaral, in the Brazilian city’s wealthiest neighborhood of Leblon.

Created by the artist Ruthnac, the Jewish symbol had been donated by the Beit Lubavitch Synagogue and a Jewish-owned construction company in 2002.

Police suspect the theft took place one night last week and are investigating.

Orthodox Imposter Gets Year in Jail

A man who impersonated an ultra-Orthodox Jew for years was given a prison sentence for using a stolen identity.

Ted Riley Floyd caused a stir earlier this year when it was discovered that he had lived as Nathaniel James Levi with his wife and children in the Orthodox enclave of Lakewood, N.J. While in Wichita, Kan., in March 2002, Floyd applied for a passport with the name and Social Security number of Levi, a deceased U.S. Navy veteran.

Floyd, 28, was sentenced Monday to a year and a day in prison followed by three years of probation, the Wichita Eagle reported. Floyd, a former resident of Kansas City, also is barred from using any name but his own or from legally changing his name without permission from his probation officer.

Friends of the family say Floyd’s wife will remain in Lakewood, where she has undergone an Orthodox conversion.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Hamas celebrates one year in office


The promise of ‘Peace in our Time’


The Iraq Study Group on the face of it seems to be a well-meaning enough document put together buy a well-meaning enough group of elder statespersons.

One of the Study
Group’s co-chairs, Lee Hamilton, is a good, decent and principled man. The other co-chair is James Baker, who is to diplomacy what J.R. Ewing was to oil.

Regardless of what you think or don’t think of the war in Iraq, you will delude yourself if you believe that it is not a major battle in the ongoing war pitting Islamo-terrorism against us. You will delude yourself at your peril. Do not believe me, listen to the terrorists themselves. As soon as the Iraq Study Group’s report was out, out came the response of Abu Ayman, a senior leader of Islamic Jihad, “The report proves this is the era of Islam and of Jihad. It is not just a simple victory it is a great one…. It is a sign to all those that keep saying that America, Israel and the West in general cannot be defeated on the ground, so let us negotiate with them … the next step would be a total defeat on their [American] land.”

What is the strategy suggested by the report, which so encourages Abu Ayman and his like-minded Jihadis? There are three big ideas: Withdraw combat troops by 2008, engage Iran and Syria and include the Israel-Palestinian/Israel–Syria conflict into the mix.

Withdrawing combat troops by 2008 means quite simply that by 2008 you intend to stop fighting. Clerk typists are not going to engage in combat.

Recommendation 10, the issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council and its five permanent members (i.e., The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) plus Germany.”

“Recommendation 11: Diplomatic efforts within the support group should seek to persuade Iran that it should take specific steps to improve the situation in Iraq.”

This then is the Jim Baker back-room deal. By committing the United States to assigning the issue of Iran’s nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council, we are virtually guaranteeing that no action will be taken to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon! That is, as Daddy Bush liked to say, the quid pro quo. Iran gets a nuclear weapon in return for buying us just enough stability in Iraq to pull out and thus stick the next administration — which would either be a Democrat or John McCain — with the consequences.

But, like the famed Ginsu knife set commercial, that’s not all! What else do you get if you’re one of the first two state sponsors of terror to call the 1-800 number? Well, if you’re Iran and Syria you get Lebanon and the Golan Heights!

Recommendation 13: “There must be a renewed and sustained commitment from the United States on a comprehensive peace plan on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.”

Now that’s interesting. What do Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria and Israel and the Palestinians have to do with Shias killing Sunis in Baghdad? The tip-off is including Lebanon in these conversations. Lebanon is not at war with Israel, and Israel is not at war with Lebanon. Hezbollah, Iran and Syria’s terrorist army proxy, dragged Israel and Lebanon both into a war which neither one wanted as a way of changing the West’s conversation away from the topics of Iran’s nuclear aspirations and Syria’s assassination of Lebanon’s president!

The only reason for including Lebanon in the conversation at all is to signal to Iran and Syria that it will be offered up for grabs to them on a silver platter as well. It will be done under the guise of encouraging a more representative government in Lebanon, a truer Democracy that recognizes Hezbollah’s legitimate rights and interests.

But that’s not all! No! If you’re amongst the first two callers not only do you get the Ginsu knife set, Shia domination from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, and the government of Lebanon; if you’re Syria you get the Golan Heights! And again, all you have to do is buy just enough time to give W a fig leaf, and then you can stick it to the next Democrat or John McCain.

The first page of the letter from the co-chairs, at the very beginning of the report, states “Our political leaders must build a bipartisan approach to bring a responsible conclusion to what is now a lengthy and costly war … the aim of our report is to move our country toward such a consensus.”

The tone is remarkably similar to another report presented to another body of legislators “Therefore … we should quickly reach a conclusion so that this painful and difficult operation … might be carried out at the earliest possible moment and concluded as soon as was consistent with orderly procedure, in order that we might avoid the possibility of something that might have rendered all our attempts at peaceful solution useless … every one of the modifications is a step in the right direction.”

That last bit of rhetoric was Neville Chamberlain as he sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler in order to bring about peace in our time. When you think of it, from his perspective, he may have been cutting a better deal than the present one. He only sold out one country. The Baker report sells out four: Lebanon, Israel, Iraq … and the United States.

Dan Gordon is the writer of such films as “The Hurricane” and “Murder in the First.” In addition, he is the author of numerous articles on the Middle East conflict and served as a captain (Res.) in the IDF during the recent Israel-Hezbollah war.

Book Review: Tools to fight terror: big dreams, good friends


“Prisoners: A Muslim & a Jew Across the Middle East Divide,” by Jeff Goldberg (Knopf, $25).

The full title of Jeffrey Goldberg’s new book, “Prisoners: A Muslim & a Jew Across the Middle East Divide,” immediately conjures up notions of a Pinteresque power struggle between two people. Yet “Prisoners” is far from the tale of sadomasochism and role reversal of Pinter plays like “The Night Porter” or screenplays like “The Servant.” Goldberg was a military policeman at Ketziot, an Israeli prison, where he and Rafiq, one of the inmates, developed a friendship that never truly revolved around power dynamics. Their relationship began because Goldberg recognized a “stillness” and a shared sense of irony in Rafiq.

Despite the tragedy of the Middle East and the moral dilemmas facing Goldberg as an Israeli soldier at a prison, Goldberg lightens the memoir with that irony and, at times, belly-chortling humor. For instance, in the wake of the massacre of two Israeli reservists, Goldberg describes being held captive by a terrorist cell in Gaza, where he defends his usage of the word “lynching” by saying to his captors, “Well, that was Ramallah…. What do you expect?”

He then writes, “Jokes at the expense of the West Bank usually go over well in Gaza. Not this one, however.”

Goldberg, who will appear in a public conversation with author and essayist Jack Miles on Oct. 18 at the Skirball Cultural Center, finds that, unlike American Jews, Israelis seem to lack a sense of humor.

That is not his only criticism of both Israelis and Palestinians.

After a bus explosion that killed three Jewish children, he says to a follower of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’ founder, that the Sheik’s “preternaturally calm” statement that Israel “was created in defiance of God’s will” is “pathetic.” He also admits to being disillusioned by the kibbutzniks at Mishmar Ha Emek (where I must disclose I met the author many years ago), when they tell him not to clean three feet of coagulated hatchling droppings and blood in the chicken coop. They are saving that job for Arabs.

Goldberg has spent the past 15 years writing primarily about terrorists, yet in an interview from his home in Washington, D.C., where he is a correspondent for The New Yorker, Goldberg dismissed the notion that his work is so dangerous:

“The murder of Danny Pearl is the tragic, horrible exception, not the rule. All terrorists believe they’re doing something good and useful. Most of these groups are happy to explain themselves to people.”

In spite of his obvious courage, Goldberg writes in the book, “I am not brave, in the fuller meaning of the word.”

He says that, as a military policeman, “I should have done more to try to change things I didn’t like,” instead of being a “get-along, go-along kind of guy.”

Yet, more than once, he defied his fellow soldiers, as well as his commanding officer, whom he remembers as one of the dumbest Jews he ever met, by allowing the prisoners to shower in the kitchen and by restraining a guard from beating a helpless inmate.

Goldberg recently won the Anti-Defamation League’s Daniel Pearl Award and goes so far as to suggest that being Jewish has benefited him in his dealings with terrorists.

“I’ve always found it to my advantage. I use my Jewishness as a tool.”

He adds, “There’s an attraction-repulsion quality to these encounters.

Anti-Semites spend most of their time thinking about Jews; they spend more time thinking about Jews than Jews do.”

Goldberg’s interest in Zionism may have been sparked as a boy in the Long Island town of Malverne, where he was subjected to games of “Jew Penny.” Catholic boys, primarily Irish ones, would throw pennies at him and force him to pick them up.

If he didn’t stoop to retrieve the coins, they would throw nickels and dimes at him. Either way, he would be beaten. Goldberg felt that fighting wasn’t in his wiring, and he never actually defended himself until an African American friend told him to hit one Irish boy back. Even though his tormentor left him alone afterward, the wounds remained.

In “Prisoners,” he characterizes his upbringing this way: “I didn’t like the dog’s life of the Diaspora. We were a whipped and boneless people.”

By the end of the book, though, Goldberg, who immigrated to Israel in the late 1980s, has returned to America, a country he praises.

“If America had not taken in my ancestors three generations ago, we wouldn’t exist,” he says, pointing out, “Nothing makes you more patriotic as an American than spending three weeks in Pakistan. America with all its flaws is still a wonderful idea.”

Likewise, he found that though Israel may not be a utopia, its prisons, which he says “were not nice places, especially in the first uprising,” are far more humane than those in the rest of the world. At a time when prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have been tortured and denied habeas corpus, Goldberg argues that the prisons in the West Bank and Gaza “became worse for Palestinians when Palestinians were running them than when the Israelis were running them.”

He states without hesitation that the “baroque cruelty” and “sexually charged sadism” of Abu Ghraib did not and could not happen in Israeli prisons.

While Goldberg works on a book on Judah Maccabee for Schocken and Nextbook’s “Jewish Encounters” series, he remains hopeful about the Middle East. He bookends “Prisoners” with references to the story of Isaac and Ishmael, both sons of Abraham, who join hands in burying their father. As Goldberg writes, “This might be the single-most hopeful image in all the Bible, a palliative against the despair that has seeped into all of us.”

Jeffrey Goldberg will appear in a conversation with Jack Miles at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, on Wed., Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call (866) 468-3399.

Lebanon War: Mission Accomplished


Contrary to what is now the accepted wisdom in the media, Hezbollah, in its recent offensive against Israel, neither badly bloodied the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) nor fought it
to a standstill.

In fact, the opposite is the case.

By any legitimate measure, the IDF handed a resounding military defeat to Hezbollah, and while Israel’s soldiers did not cure the cancer that is Hezbollah, they did send it into remission.

From a military perspective, there can be absolutely no doubt as to the results of Hezbollah and Iran’s offensive against Israel. It was a defeat. Every part of their war plan, except the manipulation of the media, failed.

Hezbollah expected and planned for a massive charge of Israeli armor into Southern Lebanon. The amounts and types of anti-tank weapons they acquired and had operationally deployed in their forward positions, as well as their secondary and tertiary bands of fortresses and strongholds through southern Lebanon, attest to this fact. They intended to do in mountainous terrain what Egypt had so effectively done in the Sinai Desert in the Yom Kippur War.

In that war, Sinai indeed became a graveyard for Israeli armor. Egypt destroyed hundreds of Israeli tanks. Whole brigades were decimated in single battles by the Egyptians’ highly effective anti-tank missile ambushes. In that war, almost 3,000 Israeli soldiers were killed. That was Hezbollah’s plan. It was a good one. And it failed.

Just prior to the cease-fire, Israel suffered 29 tanks hit. Of those, 25 were back in service within 24 hours. Israel suffered 117 soldiers killed in four weeks of combat. As painful as those individual losses were to their families and to the Israeli collective psyche, which views all its soldiers as their biological sons and daughters, those numbers in fact represent the fewest casualties suffered by Israel in any of its major conflicts.

In 1948, Israel suffered 6,000 killed. In 1967, in what was regarded as its most decisive victory, Israel lost almost 700 killed in six days. In 1973, Israel lost 2,700 killed, and in the first week of the first war in Lebanon, Israel suffered 176 soldiers killed.

Why then the impression of massive Israeli casualties in clear contrast to the actual numbers of those killed? It is because the Israeli army is a citizen’s army. It is made up of everyone’s child, everyone’s brother or sister, aunt or uncle. The nation, as a whole, mourned the loss of its children quite literally, as if they were the sons and daughters of each and every family.

Were I, as an Israeli officer in the military spokesperson’s unit, to have made a statement to the Israeli press about the actual lightness of Israel’s casualties, I would, at the least, have been relieved of duties, if not also of rank.

Indeed, members of my unit volunteered to a man to go into Lebanon under fire to help retrieve the bodies of four fallen soldiers and make sure that reporters (who by that time were reported to be simply driving into Lebanon) could not broadcast pictures before the families were notified. We provided an additional covering force, as well, against Hezbollah, while medics and a rabbi safeguarded the sanctity of the remains of four kids, younger than my 22-year-old son. We did so not only not under orders but in violation of orders, because we were all of us fathers, as well as soldiers, and these were not only our comrades in arms but our sons. We were there to bring them home.

That is the emotion. But the numbers are different. They are the lightest casualties suffered by the IDF in all of its wars.

Military historians will spend years deciphering why exactly this was so. Was Israel’s government and its general staff, by its refusal to commit large numbers of forces for the first three weeks of combat, in fact making a highly intelligent strategic choice? Possibly.

Possibly it was dumb luck or divine intervention. Either way it meant three things:

  1. Hezbollah’s ambush never happened, because Israel didn’t take the bait. Instead, it used air power and then a series of probing raids, primarily by infantry, to methodically, slowly identify and root out the enemy positions.

  2. It meant that those small numbers of troops deployed into Lebanon in the first weeks of fighting had to do more with less than perhaps any other Israeli fighters in any other war. Certainly in other wars, there were many individual battles in which so much was expected of and accomplished by so few. But no war comes to mind in which so few soldiers were deployed across an entire front.

    They performed brilliantly and with uncommon courage in the face of withering fire from heavily fortified and prepared positions. These were draft-age soldiers: 18- and nineteen-year-olds, commanded on the platoon and company levels by 20-somethings, none of whom had ever faced anything remotely like the combat against Hezbollah’s terrorist army. In spite of what many see as the logistical and command failures of their superiors, they performed brilliantly and achieved their objectives.

  3. When the vast bulk of Israel’s force was finally deployed, made up primarily of its reservists, these soldiers achieved in 48 hours what many believe they should have been given weeks to accomplish. Despite logistical failures, some times fighting without food or water, Israel’s soldiers, regular army and reserves alike, handed Hezbollah a decisive military defeat.

All of Hezbollah’s Siegfried Line-like system of fortresses and strongholds, their network of command and control bunkers along Israel’s northern border were destroyed, abandoned or under the control of the IDF by the end of the hostilities. Hezbollah’s miniterrorist state within a state south of the Litani had been dismantled.

Its terrorist capital within a capital in Beirut, its command and control center and infrastructure were in ruins. In the end, it sought and accepted a cease-fire resolution in the United Nations that provided the framework for Israel to achieve all of its stated war aims. This last point is of no minor consequence both in terms of what Israel achieved and failed to achieve in the counteroffensive it waged against Hezbollah.

I can speak to this subject with some degree of expertise, since I was one of the people tasked with putting into a simple declarative sentence what the IDF’s mission was as handed down to it by Israel’s democratically elected political leaders. The sentence defining the IDF’s mission read as follows:

A Different War


I went to bed on June 25 believing that Islamo-facism was our country’s most immediate threat. I woke up on June 26 to find out that no, it was The New York Times. That’s the day President Bush publicly criticized newspapers that exposed a secret U.S. government program that monitors international banking transactions. He called the disclosures a “disgraceful” act that could only help terrorists.

But it is his comments that strike me as not just a shame, but somewhat of a sham.

The president singled out The New York Times, though the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal published similar reports. Bush’s comments amplified attacks on The Times from Vice President Dick Cheney and administration supporters in the media.

Republicans in Congress joined the charge last Thursday, when the House voted along party lines to condemn news organizations for revealing the tracking program.

The Internet devoured the controversy. One blogger said it was time to take seriously the idea that the Sept. 11 attackers should have aimed for The Times headquarters in New York.

A cynic would say the administration picked a fight with The Times because, well, there’s a war it knew it could win, a diversion from the fact that we’re losing a bigger war.

The administration could charge The Times with endangering lives and America’s security, without ever having to prove that, as a result of The Times’ report, lives are in danger or America is at greater risk.

Prior to publication, The Times weighed this speculative risk against the public interest in government transparency and oversight. It can’t have been an easy choice. Newspapers are perfectly capable of being overzealous in their rush to reveal. “The difference between a stripper and a newspaper is that the former never pretends to be performing a public service by exposure,” the jouralist I.F. Stone once said.

But in this case the burden of proof was on the administration. Engaging in warrantless wire-tapping and establishing military tribunals that a conservative Supreme Court found unconstitutional last month does not engender trust.

The Times’ editors no doubt also took into account the fact that reports on financial tracking had appeared numerous times before, beginning with the president’s 2001 announcement that his administration would do everything in its power to disrupt the source of terrorist funding.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind details these steps in his recent book on the war on terror, “The One Percent Doctrine.”

In fact, Suskind writes, the initial success of the money-tracking led terrorist networks to abandon international money transfer by late 2003. “The al-Qaeda playbook,” he writes, “employed by what was left of the network, started to stress the necessity of using couriers to carry cash.” The Bush administration’s use of financial intelligence was “the most successful, coordinated area in the entire government in the ‘war on terror,'” in the words of a former CIA official Suskind quotes. But Al Qaeda — and Suskind — had it figured out long before The New York Times.

It seems a debate on press freedom and responsibility would, at the very least, be a welcome break from the weeks of speechifying over gay marriage and flag burning. But my fear is that this debate too is not part of the real war, but of the culture wars. Call me paranoid, but when the conservative base goes after The New York Times, I sense the attack is wrapped up with notions of “Jewish” and “liberalism.”

And some of my best friends are Jewish and liberal. (First they came for Howard Stern, then The New York Times, then –quick, call Jon Stewart).

I’m not alone in this thinking. “Many members of the president’s base consider ‘New York’ to be a nifty code word for ‘Jewish,'” Jon Carroll wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.

George Bush has demonstrated over and over his concern for and appreciation of the Jewish community, but — when it’s time to rally the base — he knows which buttons to push.

And that’s too bad. Because even if we American Jews put aside our self-interest as a minority in protecting the civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights, we have an existential interest in the war on terrorists who have pledged to target us, in particular. And I’m afraid this brouhaha shows that the White House’s eye is drifting from the ball.

How badly?

Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for American Progress convened a panel of 100 of America’s top foreign policy experts. They were Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative and neoconservative. Nearly 80 percent worked in the U.S. government, a third in the military and 17 percent in the intelligence services. The magazine polled them on where America stood in its war on terror, and 86 percent said the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans.

Asked whether they agreed with the president that the United States is winning the war on terror, 84 percent said no, and 13 said yes. Of conservative respondents, 71 percent said no. (The results of the entire poll are in the magazine’s July/August issue and at www.foreignpolicy.com.)

The experts were also asked what America’s priorities should be in the war on terror.

They listed seven top items.

Guess what No. 1 was? Guess what 82 percent of conservative and liberal foreign policy experts agreed was the best way to win the war on terror? That’s right: “Reduce America’s use of foreign oil.”

Funny, shutting down The New York Times didn’t even make the list.

 

Camps Spotlight Double Standard


Armed gunmen roamed freely in U.N. refugee camps. They stockpiled weapons, recruited refugees and launched cross-border attacks.

In response, opposing forces attacked the camps, aiming for the gunmen — but sometimes cutting down civilians in the process.

The international community was troubled both by the instability fomented and the thought of the beleaguered refugees — exploited within the camps, denied a truly safe haven, then caught in the crossfire.

So the United Nations took action.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan produced a pair of landmark reports singling out the militarization of refugee camps as a cause of conflict and insecurity. He called for the “separation of armed elements from refugee populations” to maintain the camps’ civilian character. And he outlined several steps to police the camps.

The U.N. Security Council followed suit in 1998 with Resolution 1208, defending the sanctity of refugee camps and criminalizing their militarization.

What was the source of this international concern — the Palestinian camps in Gaza and the West Bank? No, it was Africa in the mid-1990s, when civil wars in Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia and elsewhere unleashed torrents of refugees across the continent.

To defenders of Israel, the scenario described above sounds familiar. They question why the world body has never applied Resolution 1208 to the 27 U.N. refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which were a prime source of attacks during the violent Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000.

Security Council resolutions carry the weight of international law — and Resolution 1208 makes note of the fact that it should be universally applied.

The question of the Palestinian exception to 1208 is more than theoretical. Despite moves toward reform in other areas, the U.N. General Assembly is unlikely to make any changes to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides relief and social services to the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, an appeal to the Security Council to apply Resolution 1208 may be a viable option if, as some predict, the intifada is renewed and terrorists again use UNRWA camps to plan and launch attacks against Israel.

Annan underscored the universality of Resolution 1208 in March 2001, when reports of similar abuses emerged from refugee camps in West Timor.

“Not separating combatants from civilians allows armed groups to take control of a camp and its population, politicizing their situation and gradually establishing a military culture within the camp,” Annan wrote. “The impact on the safety and security of both the refugees and the neighboring local population is severe. Entire camp populations can be held hostage by militias that operate freely in the camps, spread terror, press-gang civilians, including children, into serving their forces.”

Yet Annan hasn’t voiced similar outrage regarding Palestinian militancy in UNRWA camps.

For example, on Oct. 6, 2002, Palestinians in the Khan Yunis camp in Gaza launched a mortar attack on a Jewish settlement. The next day, Israel fired a missile from a helicopter gunship, killing 14 people, among them accused militants and civilians.

On Oct. 8, Annan issued a statement deploring Israel’s “military attack in civilian areas” and the Jewish state’s “reckless disregard” for civilian life. However, he ignored the fact that the original mortar attack was launched from among civilians, settling for a bland “appeal to both sides to halt all violent and provocative acts.”

One Jewish group lodged a protest with the U.N. chief. Harry Reicher, at the time the U.N. representative for Agudath Israel World Organization, wrote Annan to contrast his outspokenness on West Timor with his “silence” on “the continuing strategy pursued by the leadership of the Palestinians of locating terrorists, as well as caches of their arms, in heavily populated civilian areas” and the “use of civilian men, women and children as human shields.”

UNRWA says it acknowledges Israel’s security needs and right to self-defense, but that civilian well-being should take priority.

An UNRWA defender agreed.

“Of course there are people trying to use these places, but having armed people inside the camps doesn’t legitimize Israel’s attacks on civilians,” said Raji Sourani, director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

Yet critics say that if UNRWA really is concerned about civilians, it should speak out against any action that endangers them — including Palestinian attacks launched from among civilians that provoke Israeli retaliation.

What could be more guaranteed to encourage the Palestinian use of refugees as human shields “than the certain knowledge that, if Palestinian civilians are tragically killed, it is Israel that will be blamed by the United Nations?” asked Reicher, a professor of international law at the University of Pennsylvania.

The militarization of UNRWA camps is not a recent revelation. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan accused UNRWA of allowing its Lebanese camps to become armed bastions of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Forced to investigate when Reagan threatened to withhold U.S. funding for the organization, UNRWA admitted that several camps indeed had been militarized.

While the Security Council hasn’t enforced 1208 in the Palestinian territories, it has applied pressure on terrorist Palestinian refugees elsewhere.

Resolution 1559, passed in September 2004, demanded that “foreign forces” — an allusion to Syria — withdraw from Lebanon. Syria finally did end its 29-year occupation last April, two months after being implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Resolution 1559 also calls for the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” — a reference to the pro-Syrian Hezbollah militia and to Palestinian terrorist groups in UNRWA’s 12 Lebanese camps. That part of 1559 has not been implemented.

After rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel in late December, Resolution 1559 once again gained the United Nation’s attention.

Al Qaeda claimed credit for the attack, reportedly its first on Israel. But some suggested it was carried out by Palestinian terrorists only loosely connected to Osama bin Laden’s global terrorist network.

The next day, Annan called on the Lebanese government “to extend its control over all its territory, to exert its monopoly on the use of force and to put an end to all such attacks.”

Still, from Israel’s perspective, militancy in UNRWA’s Lebanese camps is far less immediate a threat than militancy in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Some Palestinian supporters argue that Resolution 1208 shouldn’t apply to the West Bank — or, before Israel’s withdrawal last summer, to the Gaza Strip — because Palestinians there are engaged in “legitimate resistance to occupation.”

Israel’s defenders, though, say it’s a clear case of double standard.

“Here the U.N. has adopted clear criteria for how refugee camps are supposed to be maintained and consistently fails to apply its own law when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Dore Gold, Israel’s former U.N. ambassador and current president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “One of the most compelling arguments for demonstrating how Israel is systematically denied the same rights and privileges given to other member states is the story of Resolution 1208.”

Resolution 1208 clearly should apply to UNRWA, said Astrid Van Genderen Stort, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which handles the world’s other 19.2 million refugees.

“The Israelis may say UNRWA is not protecting the camps well enough or that we can do a better security job, but I don’t think UNRWA would ever say 1208 doesn’t apply,” Van Genderen Stort said. “If UNRWA people knew there were terrorists firing weapons from the camps, they should remove these people from the camps. But I can’t speak for UNRWA; I’m not on the ground.”

In an interview, UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd acknowledged that Resolution 1208 officially applies to UNRWA camps but added that “it requires action to be taken by the authorities where the camps are located, not by the humanitarian agencies.”

“We don’t run camps; that is the responsibility of the sovereign governments and authorities wherever the camps are based,” she said. “It’s like asking, ‘What has Bethesda Hospital done to combat street gangs in Washington, D.C.?’ We do send situation reports to the U.N.’s security department and the office of the secretary-general. These are simple, straightforward factual accounts of clashes and other incidents.”

Yet a line needs to be drawn somewhere, Van Genderen Stort said.

“For me, a refugee camp is a place where people in need of protection or assistance can find it,” she said. “A refugee camp shouldn’t be a battleground or a place where criminals are hiding.”

If the intifada resumes and U.N. camps again become terrorist staging grounds, some pro-Israel activists say they’d revive a push for the Security Council to apply Resolution 1208 to UNRWA’s turf.

“I hope the U.N. will use the same standards to ensure the humanitarian nature of refugee camps in the Palestinian territories as they’ve mandated for the rest of the world,” said Felice Gaer, a human rights expert for the American Jewish Committee. “Exceptionalism for Palestinian refugee camps would be just another way of revealing the U.N. has often used a double standard when it comes to the Middle East conflict.”

If Resolution 1208 were applied, UNRWA would be obliged to report violations to the U.N. secretary-general, who would be obliged to deliver the information to the Security Council. Observers say it’s not inconceivable that, with their actions placed under the microscope, terrorists might be flushed from the camps, cut off from a prime source of recruits and denied a sanctuary from which to plan and launch attacks.

Given the political realities at the United Nations, that may be a pipe dream. But if nothing else, critics say, even the negative publicity might strike a symbolic blow.

 

Inaction Heroes


You want to see a scary movie? Not creepy, jump-out-of-your-seat scary like “Saw” or “Final Destination” but melt-your-face, make-you-almost-cry scary?

Then wait until Court TV screens, “On Native Soil.”

The one-hour documentary tells the story of the 9/11 Commission, the government’s nonpartisan inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks. It tracks the lives of a handful of victims and survivors and the way they or their loved ones battled a recalcitrant Bush administration to create a national commission of inquiry.

I watched this documentary the same week a Republican commission called the government’s response to Katrina “an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare.” This just after President Bush offered details of a thwarted terrorist attack on downtown Los Angeles.

But I’ll get back to Los Angeles in a second.

First, the documentary: “On Native Ground” is no Michael Moore trip down know-it-all lane. In fact, the film was financed in part by Jeff Hays, a Salt Lake City investor who also did “FahrenHYPE 9/11,” a takedown of Moore’s anti-Bush film.

The deliberate, cool and nonpartisan nature of the film makes it all the more effective. Director Linda Ellman weaves archival footage around a handful of stories: a decorated New York Fire Department veteran whose firefighter son never returned from Tower 2; an elderly couple whose son, daughter-in-law and 4-year-old granddaughter were on one of the doomed planes; a mother whose son worked at a high-power firm in one of the towers; two bankers who helped rescue each other from the towers’ toxic smoke.

As wounded as these people were by Sept. 11, they were livid that their government refused to launch a thorough investigation into how such an attack could occur. They took their protest to the capital. A former senior Bush aide admits on camera telling his colleagues that they would never win against the families’ bottomless grief.

In recounting the commission’s discoveries, Ellman served her facts up straight: Immigration officials allowed terrorists to enter, despite visa applications that were partially or incompletely filled out. The Federal Aviation Administration was unable to monitor flights or activate emergency procedures — one former employee called FAA leaders “traitorous.” Rescue workers didn’t have the technical capability to communicate with one another. And our own National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice, chose to discount an intelligence briefing report headlined, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack in the United States.”

The documentary will air on Court TV this summer, as the five-year anniversary of the attacks nears. Court TV — evidently now trying to awaken a public it has anesthetized with a decade of O.J., Michael Jackson and Robert Blake — will bookend the film by a report card on how the government has implemented the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. The short answer, the film’s producer David Lewine told me, is “not well.”

Which brings us to Los Angeles Last week, Bush revealed how the government had thwarted a terrorist plot to fly planes into the downtown’s U.S. Bank Tower, Los Angeles’ tallest building. A cynic would say there wasn’t all that much new in the president’s announcement — just a few new details of a plot first laid bare two years ago — and that it was timed to deflect criticism of the warrantless wiretapping the Bush administration has conducted in its fight against terror.

But one outcome of the speech was to prompt L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to point out that the president has never responded to his requests for a face-to-face meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss L.A. disaster and terror preparedness.

Frankly, that scares me. Watching “On Native Ground,” you realize how direct is the link between planning, cooperation and communication and the ability to save lives. A certain hurricane in New Orleans drove that point home.

“The lesson of Katrina is you don’t want elected leaders getting to know each other for the first time during a disaster,” City Councilman Jack Weiss told me. “In a crisis, Antonio Villaraigosa will be the decisionmaker in Los Angeles.”

At the very least, he will coordinate that role with Sheriff Lee Baca.

As Villaraigosa helpfully pointed out in a press conference, L.A. is the second-largest city in the United States, and in times like these, the president and the city’s mayor need to touch base.

“I think there is benefit” to a Bush-Villaraigosa meeting, Republican activist and local attorney Sheldon Sloan told me. “We have the harbor and the airport.”

A man who knows a bit about how Washington works put it in stronger terms. “What message are you sending through the rest of your federal agencies?” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles). “You’re basically saying the mayor of Los Angeles isn’t worth the government’s time.”

The president has met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley several times.

Bush has some major financial and political backers in Los Angeles who also happen to be Jewish. They must know that government agencies have identified several Jewish institutions in the L.A. area at special risk for terror attacks. So our stake in this is perhaps even more urgent than for other Angelenos. This is the time for these important Republican donors to pick up the phone and use their influence to urge a meeting between our mayor and our president.

The lesson of “On Native Ground” and Katrina is clear: You don’t just get the government you deserve, you get the government you demand.