Wednesday’s “News in Review” Round-Up

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

Contents:  Weekly Quotes |  Short Takes On Topic Links

 

 


Download a pdf version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf

On Topic Links

 

The Soviet Spring: George F. Will, National Post, Mar. 17, 2014

Three Years of Strife and Cruelty Puts Syria in Free Fall: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Mar. 17, 2014

Obama’s Failed Foreign Policy Just Another Drag on Democrats: John Podhoretz, New York Post, Mar. 18, 2014

Iran’s Fortunes Rising in a Middle East Vacuum: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Mar. 19, 2014

 

 

WEEKLY QUOTES

 

“This ‘referendum’ is illegitimate, it has no legal effect, and we do not recognize its outcome,”—  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who will travel to Ukraine this week, commenting on Sunday’s “so-called referendum” in the breakaway Crimea region. Crimea voted 93 per cent in favour of seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia, according to exit polls. “As a result of Russia’s refusal to seek a path of de-escalation, we are working with our G7 partners and other allies to co-ordinate additional sanctions against those responsible.” The EU and the U.S. have said they could retaliate against Moscow as early as Monday, and Ottawa has said financial sanctions remain on the table. “[Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] reckless and unilateral actions will lead only to Russia’s further economic and political isolation from the international community,” Mr. Harper said. (Globe & Mail, Mar. 16, 2014)

 

“[The U.S. has a short time to find a suitable] coalition, democratic government” to replace the “junta” government in Kiev. —Political analyst Sergei Markov, who is a long-time adviser to Mr. Putin. “If this doesn’t happen, Russia will probably move to protect the Russian-speaking coalition in Donetsk, Lugansk, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaev and Kherson,” Markov said, referring to several cities in Eastern Ukraine. There are fears in Ukraine that Russia will seize on the unrest and move into these regions, which, like Crimea, have a sizable population of ethnic Russians. “There is no sovereign Ukraine. It doesn’t exist. We have a junta in Kiev that was appointed by Washington,” he added. (Globe & Mail, Mar. 16, 2014)

 

“This is a beautiful day that we have waited for a very long time and we thank Putin for it,” —Olga Voloshanovskaya, who took part in the pro-Russian celebrations in Sevastopol, Crimea, following Sunday’s referendum. “We were part of Ukraine for some years but we always remained a Russian city. Nobody made us vote for this. It is just something that we have wanted. After seeing what the fascists did in Kyiv a few weeks ago, we could not stay with Ukraine.” Her husband, Vladimir, provided a history lesson that was on the minds of many Crimeans as they voted on Sunday. “That Crimea became Ukrainian was the mistake of Nikita Khrushchev back in 1954,” he said, referring to the long dead Soviet leader. “He made this gift because of the guilt he felt at how badly Ukraine had been repressed by Moscow. But it was never ratified by CCCP (Soviet Union) or agreed to by the people here.” (Canada.com, Mar. 17, 2014)

 

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.” — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in a statement denouncing Sunday’s poll in Crimea. (Wall Street Journal, Mar. 16, 2014)

 

"We continue to hope that there is a diplomatic solution to be found," —U.S. President Barack Obama, following a White House meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Obama continued: "But the United States and Europe stands united, not only in its message about the Ukrainian sovereignty but also that there will be consequences if, in fact, that sovereignty continues to be violated." (Reuters, Mar. 14, 2014)

 

“What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world. That has emboldened other aggressive actors — from Chinese nationalists to Al Qaeda terrorists and Iranian theocrats. Crimea must be the place where President Obama recognizes this reality and begins to restore the credibility of the United States as a world leader,” — John McCain, Republican senator from Arizona, in a New York Times op-ed. (New York Times, Mar. 14, 2014)

 

“From Putin’s perspective…the United States hardly looks in retreat. To the contrary, the post-Cold War period has brought one long march by America and its allies closer and closer to the border of Russia itself,” Peter Beinart, offering his considered view that NATO expansion is to blame for Russia’s aggression in Crimea.(The Atlantic, Mar. 3, 2014)  

 

“Thus, after the unprovoked invasion and annexation of the territory of a neighbouring democracy by a proto-dictatorship, much of the academic and journalistic world responded, not by condemning the aggressors, but by blaming the victims. While NATO’s allies in eastern Europe sought renewed assurances of its protection — and as Sweden and Finland debated joining — the smart set thousands of miles away in North America was assuring them they had it all wrong: NATO is the problem.”National Post columnist Andrew Coin (Canada.com, Mar. 17, 2014)  

 

“President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton traveled the world in pursuit of their promise to reset relations and to build friendships across the globe. Their failure has been painfully evident: It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office, and now Russia is in Ukraine,” —Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and the 2012 Republican nominee for president, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. (Wall Street Journal, Mar. 17, 2014)

 

“We had thought it would be the United States that would lead the campaign against Iran,” —Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who earlier this year called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “messianic” and “obsessive.” “People know Iran cheats,” he added, but the United States and its other Western allies “engage” Iran, leaving Israel with no choice other than “to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves.” As for the talks with Iran, Ya’alon implied a zero rating for American and Western negotiators. “Unfortunately, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians are better,” according to Ya’alon. (Jewish Press, Mar. 18, 2014)

 

“I very much doubt that a presidential election and another seven-year term for President Bashar al-Assad will put an end to the unbearable suffering of the Syrian people, stop the destruction of the country and re-establish harmony and mutual confidence in the region,” Lakhdar Brahimi, UN Special Envoy to Syria. Syria plans to hold national elections in June or July, its ambassador to the UN said Friday. (New York Times, Mar. 14, 2014) 

 

 “Compassion does not, and should not, suffice,” —Paulo S. Pinheiro, chairman of a panel of investigators who told the UN Human Rights Council that both those fighting for and against the Syrian government are terrorizing the country’s civilian population in defiance of a recent Security Council resolution. Pinheiro added: “We cannot continue to sit for years in these rooms writing reports and making speeches lamenting the blood that is running in Syria’s streets.” But while atrocities are increasing, the international community, apart from providing humanitarian aid, “has done little but bear witness to the plight of those caught in the maelstrom,” according to Pinheiro. Mr. Pinheiro said the Syrian conflict, now entering its fourth year, had hit a new low with the death from starvation of civilians, including children, in the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk. A million Syrian children are cut off from the reach of aid agencies because of fighting or blockades, he added. (New York Times, Mar. 18, 2014)

 

“What is the meaning of Jerusalem for us?” —Ramadan Shalah, the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization, one of the most extreme terror groups in the world, telling religious leaders in Tehran that the Jews show their love for the city more than Muslims do, and quoted in Hebrew from an inspirational Israeli ballad to prove the point. “Learn from the Jews, from that accursed entity [Israel]. They love Jerusalem not just as a military matter, but as a cultural one,” he declared. “They have a song in the Israeli entity that their army sings on June 7, when they conquered the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif [the Temple Mount, in the 1967 Six Day War],” he added, and went on to quote part of the chorus of “Jerusalem of Gold.” “Jerusalem of gold. Jerusalem of bronze. Jerusalem of light,” he chanted, saying each phrase in both Hebrew and Arabic. “Every Israeli child and every accursed Israeli soldier says this song in their heart,” Shalah told the crowd at a clerical conference in the Iranian capital. (Elder of Ziyon, Mar. 17, 2014)

 

SHORT TAKES

 

UKRAINE CRISIS NOT SEEN HURTING IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS (Vienna)— Iran and six world powers sought on Tuesday to make headway toward resolving their decade-old nuclear dispute, with Western officials expressing hope the talks would not be further complicated by the Ukraine crisis. So far, diplomats said, there is little sign that the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War would undermine the quest for a deal over Iran's atomic activity. The March 18-19 meeting between Iran and the P5+1 powers began a day after Washington and the EU imposed sanctions on a number of Russian officials over Moscow's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region. (Yahoo, Mar. 18, 2014)

 

BOMB INJURES ISRAELI SOLDIERS ALONG BORDER WITH SYRIA (Jerusalem)An explosive device detonated along Israel’s border with Syria injured four Israeli soldiers Tuesday, according to the Israeli army. The bomb reportedly went off on the Israeli side of the border when soldiers patrolling the area of the Druze village Majdal Shams got out of an armored vehicle to inspect suspicious movements. Shortly after the incident, Israel’s army retaliated with artillery fire against military targets in Syria. Speaking in parliament Tuesday afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the border with Syria was “filling up with Jihadists and Hezbollah elements,” posing a new challenge for Israel. (Los Angeles Times, Mar. 18, 2014)

 

TURKISH PROTESTER, POLICE OFFICER DIE IN DAY OF CLASHES (Istanbul) A protester in Istanbul died from a head injury and a police officer suffered a fatal heart attack during Turkey's worst day of civil unrest since anti-government protests swept the nation last summer. Riot police clashed with demonstrators in several Turkish cities last Wednesday as mourners buried a teenager, wounded in the protests last June, whose death this week after nine months in a coma sparked a fresh wave of disturbances. A defiant Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, already battling a damaging corruption scandal weeks ahead of elections, cast the latest unrest as part of a plot against the state. (Reuters, Mar. 12, 2014)

 

ATTACKS ON CHRISTIAN VILLAGES IN NIGERIA LEAVE 100 DEAD (Kano) Gunmen attacked three Christian villages and killed more than 100 civilians in central Nigeria, government officials said Sunday. Police confirmed the raids by Muslim Fulani herdsman late on Friday on the villages of Ugwar Sankwai, Ungwan Gata and Chenshyi, in Kaduna state, but declined to give a death toll. Hundreds of thatched-roof huts were also set on fire. Thousands have been killed in recent years in competition for land and water between the Muslim herdsmen and Christian farmers across Nigeria’s Middle Belt. The unrest is not linked to the insurgency in northeast Nigeria by the al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law in the country. (Washington Times, Mar. 16, 2014)

 

EGYPT CRACKDOWN BRINGS MOST ARRESTS IN DECADES (Cairo) Egypt’s crackdown on Islamists has jailed 16,000 people over the past eight months in the country’s biggest round-up in nearly two decades, according to previously unreleased figures from security officials. Rights activists say reports of abuses in prisons are mounting, with prisoners describing systematic beatings and miserable conditions for dozens packed into tiny cells. The Egyptian government has not released official numbers for those arrested in the sweeps since the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July. But four senior officials — two from the Interior Ministry and two from the military — gave a count of 16,000, including about 3,000 top- or mid-level members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. (Washington Post, Mar. 17, 2014)

 

BID TO LEGALIZE CHILD MARRIAGE ANGERS MANY IRAQIS (Baghdad) A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could let girls as young as 9 get married and would require wives to submit to sex at the whim of their husbands. The proposed new measure is based on the principles of a Shiite school of religious law founded by Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shiite imam. The bill would make the father the only parent with the right to accept or refuse the marriage proposal. Also under the proposed measure, a husband could have sex with his wife regardless of her consent. The bill would also prevent women from leaving the house without their husband’s permission, would restrict women’s rights in matters of parental custody after divorce and make it easier for men to take multiple wives. (Montreal Gazette, Mar. 15, 2014)

 

GAZA 2-YEAR-OLD DIES FROM HAMAS ROCKET ASSEMBLY ACCIDENT (Gaza) — A two-year-old Gazan, Mohammed al-Hamadin, died on Monday from injuries suffered last week when a rocket exploded during assembly in his home in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. The blast also killed his father, 26, and three other members of Hamas’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades. The rocket explosion also injured five other people in the house. Last week, Palestine Today said that the bodies of the “martyrs” were “cut to shreds” by the explosion. On Friday, a 62-year-old woman was reported to have died from a similar accidental rocket explosion, also in Beit Hanoun. Blogger Elder of Ziyon noted these accidental deaths were no longer being recorded by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which “used to keep track of the people killed in ‘work accidents’, ‘internal explosions’ and the like. (Algemeiner, Mar. 17, 2014)

 

WHO KILLED ARAFAT? ABBAS SUGGESTS IT WAS RIVAL DAHLAN (Ramallah) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused one of his main rivals, Mohammed Dahlan, of involvement in six murders, hinting that he might also be behind the death of former leader Yasser Arafat. Dahlan, who lives in exile in the Gulf, denied the allegations of his arch foe Abbas, their bitter row now playing out publicly across the Palestinian media and on social media. Once a prominent official in Abbas's Western-backed Fatah movement, Dahlan was ousted from the group in 2011 following accusations of corruption. (Jerusalem Post, Mar. 13, 2014)

 

MAROIS DEFENDS PQ CANDIDATE ACCUSED OF ANTI-SEMITIC BELIEFS (Montreal)The Parti Québécois is under fire for the second time in a week over a candidate with controversial views on the province’s religious minorities. Louise Mailloux, a prominent Quebec feminist and philosopher, said this week she stands by her belief that circumcision and baptism are similar to rape and that kosher and halal certification is a tax that goes toward funding religious wars and lining the pockets of religious leaders. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs called on the PQ to debunk the “urban legend of the kosher tax,” saying Mailloux is echoing a conspiracy created by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups. PQ Leader Pauline Marois instead endorsed her candidate, saying she’s a respected academic who has thought long and hard about these issues, and that her separatist Parti Québécois is not antisemitic. (Globe & Mail, Mar. 14, 2014)

 

JEWISH CEMETERY IN HUNGARY VANDALIZED WITH ANTI-SEMITIC SLURS (Budapest) Unidentified vandals desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Hungary last week spray-painting swastikas and various anti-Semitic slurs on tombstones. Residents of the Jewish community in Tatabanya discovered the offensive slogans on Friday, which included “stinking jews,” “HoloLie” and “There was no Holocaust but there will be!”. “There is a very strong wave of antisemitism in Hungary,” said Zohar Meir, one of the leaders of the annual March of the Living in Hungary, “Based on past experience, these waves are getting stronger as the economic situation becomes more difficult and all the anger is taken out on the Jews,” he added. In July 2012, vandals desecrated 57 Jewish graves some 200 miles southwest of Budapest in Kaposvr. (Algemeiner, Mar. 16, 2014)

 

AUSCHWITZ STAMPS USED BY NAZIS FOR TATTOOING DISCOVERED IN POLAND (Warsaw) —  Metal stamps with embedded needles that the SS once used to tattoo inmates at the notorious Nazi death camp at Auschwitz have been discovered in Poland. The find has been hailed by the Auschwitz museum, which now stands on the site of the camp, as one "of the most significant in years" as it was thought no original tattooing equipment survived the war. SS soldiers used the small stamps, consisting of a two, two threes and a six or a nine, to tattoo inmates as they were processed on their arrival at the camp in German-occupied Poland. Some prisoners got the tattoo on the chest but most were tattooed on their arms, and the numbers became a hallmark of Auschwitz's inhumanity. (Telegraph, Mar. 12, 2014)

 

ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY TO BUILD LARGEST ARCHEOLOGY LIBRARY IN MIDEAST (Jerusalem)The Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that it would construct the Middle East’s largest archeological library in Jerusalem. The adjacent Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel National Archeological Archives is to contain the authority’s archive as well as maps, permits, plans and publications of excavations from the British Mandate period through today, serving researchers and the public. The 35,000-square-meter campus, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, is scheduled to be completed in April 2016. (Jerusalem Post, Mar. 19, 2014)

 

OLDEST KNOWN MASKS IN THE WORLD ON DISPLAY IN ISRAEL (Jerusalem)A new display in Jerusalem is showcasing the oldest-known masks in the world, believed to have originated 9,000 years ago. The 11 masks are made of stones and were discovered in the Judean desert near Jerusalem. Experts believe the masks were meant to look like skulls, with each displaying a unique personality via emotional expressions of shock or grinning. “When you go back to objects that are this old, that are so much before the theology that becomes Judaism, Christianity and then Islam, to feel that there is a kind of a connection, that this is all part of a continuous story, is something that is pretty thrilling,” said Israel Museum director James Snyder. (Jewish Press, Mar. 13, 2014)

 

NETANYAHU, YA'ALON EULOGIZE DECORATED WAR HERO HAR-ZION (Jerusalem)Meir Har-Zion, the decorated IDF veteran whose commando exploits made him the personification of the Israeli military ethos, was laid to rest on Sunday near his home in the northern Jordan Valley settlement of Kochav Hayarden. He was 80. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon were among the dignitaries to eulogize him. Har-Zion was one of the best-known members of the short-lived Unit 101 force of the early 1950s. As chief of staff, Moshe Dayan once called him “the finest of our commando soldiers, the greatest Jewish warrior since Bar-Kochba.” (Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2014)

 

On Topic Links

 

The Soviet Spring: George F. Will, National Post, Mar. 17, 2014 While Vladimir Putin, Stalin’s spawn, ponders what to do with what remains of Ukraine, remember: Nine years before the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, at which the Nazis embarked on industrialized genocide, Stalin deliberately inflicted genocidal starvation on Ukraine.

Obama’s Failed Foreign Policy Just Another Drag on Democrats: John Podhoretz, New York Post, Mar. 18, 2014What could Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea possibly have to do with the upcoming midterm elections in the United States? Indirectly, a very great deal. But only indirectly.

Iran’s Fortunes Rising in a Middle East Vacuum: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Mar. 19, 2014 U.S. policy is increasingly impelling states in the Middle East to alter their framework of alliances. They view the United States as less and less reliable, and are seeking an alternate power instead. Possibilities include Russia, China, or – closer to home – Iran.

Three Years of Strife and Cruelty Puts Syria in Free Fall: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Mar. 17, 2014Day after day, the Syrian civil war has ground down a cultural and political center of the Middle East, turning it into a stage for disaster and cruelty on a nearly incomprehensible scale.

 

Rob Coles, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research/L'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme,   www.isranet.org Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284. mailto:ber@isranet.org

 

 

 

 

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Media-ocrity of the Week

For those who don’t know the word, treif is Yiddish for ‘not kosher,’ and these nostrils have been detecting a whiff of something distinctly un-kosher at the New York Times lately. For the past several weeks at least, the Gray Lady has run an inordinate number of feature and general interest articles…about the Jewish community.… As noted by studies done by such organizations as CAMERA and HonestReporting…[the Times] has long been heavily biased against Israel.… So, what are we to make of this recent spate of Jew-centered copy, this kissing up to the Jewish community?… The answer, my friends, lies, I suspect, in circulation numbers. I have heard and read of too many Jews cancelling the Times due to its anti-Israel biases.… Could it be that the sudden solicitousness is an attempt to woo back Jewish readers? If wooing back Jews is their goal, it isn’t working.…”—Excerpts from an American Thinker article, entitled Smelling ‘Treif’ at the New York Times, suggesting that the recent reversal of the Times’ anti-Israel bias is the result of a markedly declining Jewish readership. (American Thinker, April 26.)  

 

 

Weekly Quotes

In 1938, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany met in Munich to decide the fate of Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was not invited. The three conferees agreed to strip the targeted nation of the Sudetenland…and transfer that territory to German control. This deprived the victim state not simply of land but of those areas—mountainous, fortifiable—necessary for Czechoslovakia to defend itself. Today, the same three nations are doing the same vis-a-vis Israel. They are discarding UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed unanimously in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and since then the cornerstone for all Middle East negotiations. They are ignoring the language of the resolution and the explicit declarations of its authors that Israel should not be forced to return to the pre-1967 armistice lines; that those lines left defense of the country too precarious and should be replaced by ‘secure and recognized boundaries.…’ In the wake of the 1938 Munich agreement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared, of course, that the parties had achieved ‘peace in our time.’ But Britain and France also offered solemn promises that, should Germany unexpectedly violate the agreement and move against what remained of Czechoslovakia, they would come to the rump nation’s defense. Less than six months after Munich, Hitler conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia. Britain and France did nothing.”—Excerpts from Kenneth Levin’s article, entitled The Munich Three Find Their Target: Israel, describing the parallels between Britain, France, and Germany’s unilateral decision in 1938 to strip Czechoslovakia of its Sudetenland and transfer it to German control, and the three countries’ present consideration to force Israel to withdraw to the “1967 borders” as part of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians. (FrontPage Blog, April 27.)

 

We’ll have to take care of our interests. We’ll have to take protect ourselves. If such a thing happens, I’m going to suggest to my government to extend out sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and over the highly-populated blocs we have in Judea and Samaria, just to start with.”—Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Dr. Uzi Landau, warning that in the event of a unilateral United Nations declaration of a Palestinian state, he will call upon the Israeli government to annex the Jordan Valley and large, Jewish population blocs in the West Bank. Ideas about annexing parts of the West Bank have been gaining traction in the Knesset in recent weeks as the Palestinian Authority continues threatening to declare a state unilaterally in September.Discussing the possibility of annexing Israeli settlements Likud MK Danny Danon affirmed that “A Palestinian declaration of statehood would officially bury the Oslo Accords, which state that final borders will be decided via negotiations and that unilateral actions constitute violation of the accords. The Palestinians declaring a state would free us of all the diplomatic, security, and economic commitments we made in the Oslo Accords.”(Jerusalem Post, April 26.)

 

Washington’s stance on political change in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries has done little to alter overall views of the U.S. Nearly eight-in-ten Egyptians have an unfavorable opinion of the U.S.… Most continue to express negative views about President Obama, with more than six-in-ten saying they do not have confidence in him to do the right thing with regard to world affairs.… Egyptian views on relations with Israel are starker: A majority says the 1979 peace treaty that made Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel should be annulled.”—Excerpts from a Pew Research Center poll, entitled U.S. Wins No Friends, End of Treaty With Israel Sought, describing Egyptians’ unfavorable views towards (Pew Research Center, April 25.)

 

It is worth seeing at least a few seconds [of the video] to get a flavor of what is going on in Syria. What makes it truly wrenching is that the people are shouting ‘Salmiyeh,’ which…is Arabic for ‘peaceful.…’ But of course Bashar Assad’s goons don’t care about that. Imagine the kind of monsters who open fire on peaceful demonstrators. Given that the U.S. launched a military intervention in Libya to prevent such slaughter from occurring in Benghazi, what, I wonder, will we do about these atrocities in Syria where more than a hundred people have been killed this weekend alone? No one is advocating military intervention, but why aren’t we leading an international push to sanction the Assad regime, to freeze its assets, and to bring war crimes charges against its leaders? Why, at the very least, aren’t we recalling our ambassador from Damascus? How can President Obama champion the rights of Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans—and turn his back on the people of Syria who are in open revolt against one of the region’s most anti-American dictators? Perhaps if the president watches this video clip, he will be spurred into action.”—Excerpts from Max Boot’s Contentions article, describing a YouTube video which shows peaceful Syrian demonstrators being shot down by security forces loyal to president Bashar Asaad, and criticizing the Obama administration’s hypocritical Syria policy.

 

There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If you go to the supermarket, there are products. There are restaurants and a nice beach.”—Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip, contrasting her present work in Gaza, in which there is no humanitarian crisis, with her previous experiences in impoverished Congo and Columbia. Discussing the Red Cross’ ongoing failure to obtain visitation rights to captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, Redmatn affirmed that “When a person’s freedom is taken away, he deserves at least contact with his family. We will continue to ask but we do not have the capability to force anything on Hamas.… Hamas is afraid of the IDF’s advanced technological capabilities and believes that allowing contact will lead to the location of Gilad.” (Independent Media Review and Analysis, April 20.)

 

Egypt will never allow that the relations between Tehran and Cairo and also its internal affairs come under the influence or pressure of a foreign side. Egypt will open a new chapter in its relations with all the world countries, including Iran, based on mutual interests and will never be restricted to the limitations imposed by the former regime.”—Egyptian Government Spokesman Ahmed Al Saman, confirming that Egypt is planning to resume relations with Iran, and stressing that no external sources can pressure Cairo into changing the decision. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, April 25.)

 

Instead of marching as a contingent in the parade this year, QuAIA will focus its Pride Week activities on hosting a community event to raise awareness of Israeli apartheid.”—Excerpt from a statement released by the Toronto chapter of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA.), confirming the anti-Israel group’s decision not to partake in this year’s Toronto Gay Pride Parade, yet reinforcing its commitment to “pressure the Israeli government to comply with international law through the campaign for boycotts, divestments and sanctions.” The statement comes after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford announced that his administration would slash more than $100,000 in city funds for Toronto Gay Pride Week events if the QuAIA was involved. “Taxpayers dollars should not go toward funding hate speech,” Ford said. “If they don’t march in the parade, they get their money. If they do march, they won’t get their money. That’s what [city] council [has] agreed to.” (Jerusalem Post, April 26.)

 

In Libya, the problem is accentuated by the fact that it’s anybody’s guess who will be running the country after Colonel Qaddafi is gone. Thus the huge resistance in the Pentagon to giving any kind of lethal weaponry to the rebels, at least until someone can figure out who they are.… So far, the United States is providing uniforms and canteens to the rebels, [U.S. Secretary of Defense] Mr. Gates said last week, adding with a knowing smile, ‘I’m not worried about our canteen technology falling into the wrong hands.’”—Excerpts from David E. Sanger’s NY Times editorial, entitled Letting Others Lead in Libya, attributing U.S. president Barack Obama’s “lack of commitment” to the war in Libya to the administration’s unfamiliarity with Libyan rebel forces, and its failure to outline a strategic goal prior to “half-heartedly” entering the conflict.” (NY Times, April 23.)

 

The continued existence of Lebanese…militias undermines the rights of every Lebanese citizen to live without fear of physical harm and the consolidation of Lebanon as a democratic state and the stability of the country and the region. It is also incompatible with the objective of strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence.”—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his annual report on Lebanon, denouncing Hezbollah’s ongoing refusal to denounce terrorism itself, and reinforcing the need to implement Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for “the disbanding and disarming” of all non-state factions in Lebanon. Hezbollah has repeatedly refused to turn over its arms, claiming they are used for “defensive purposes against Israel.” (Jerusalem Post, April 22.)

Short Takes

FATAH AND HAMAS REACH DEAL TO END SCHISM—(Jerusalem) According to Egyptian and Palestinian officials, Fatah and Hamas have reached understandings to end the years-long internal Palestinian division. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that delegations led by Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah and Moussa Abu Marzouk of Hamas agreed in Cairo on issues including the formation of a temporary unity government, and the holding of Palestinian elections. Relations between Fatah and Hamas ruptured in 2007 when Hamas seized full control of Gaza. (NY Times, April 27.)

 

PLO DENOUNCES US CONGRESS BILL ON GOLDSTONE REPORT—(Ramallah) The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has denounced the unanimous passing of a U.S. Congress bill, which calls on the United Nations to cancel the Goldstone Report. The bill was introduced days after Judge Richard Goldstone admitted that Israel had not deliberately targeted civilians during Operation Cast Lead. The Congressional bill also calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to make changes to the current structure of the Human Rights Council, to neutralize the body’s blatant anti-Israel bias. The PLO is arguing that the bill legitimizes the killing of Palestinian civilians. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, April 19.)

 

HUNDREDS RALLY OUTSIDE ISRAELI CONSULATE IN ALEXANDRIA—(Jerusalem) Hundreds of Egyptians have staged a rally in front of the Israeli consulate in Alexandria, demanding that the Israeli ambassador be expelled. According to Arab newspapers, the “democracy-seeking” protestors burned Israeli flags, and handed out fliers calling for third intifada to be held on May 15. Demonstrators also held signs reading “Gaza, my only love”, and  “Millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem”. According to Revolution Youth Coalition member Muhammad Wafani, the “activists” came together to denounce the “racist” removal of a Facebook page supporting the Palestinian intifada. (Ynet News, April 15.)

 

EGYPTIAN PANEL LIFTS DEATH TOLL IN PROTESTS—(Cairo) According to an Egyptian fact-finding committee, 846 Egyptians were killed during the 18 days of protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February. In its report, the committee of judges, legal experts and human-rights activists leveled ultimate responsibility for the killings on Mr. Mubarak and his deputies in Egypt’s Ministry of Interior. The committee serves only in an advisory capacity and does not have legal authority to make arrests. (Wall Street Journal, April 20.)

 

IRAN DISCOVERS 2ND CYBER ATTACK—(Tehran) According to Iran’s commander of civil defense, the country has been targeted by a second computer virus. Gholamreza Jalali told the semi-official Mehr news agency that the new virus, called “Stars”, was being investigated by experts, but did not specify the target of Stars or its intended impact. Last year, Iran revealed that its computers becameinfected by the Stuxnet worm, which is widely believed to have slowed its nuclear progress. Jalali is urging Tehran to take action against the enemies waging cyber war on Iran. (Reuters, April 25.)

 

US: ASSAD NO LONGER POTENTIAL PEACE PARTNER FOR ISRAEL—(Washington) After two years of pushing Israel to reach an agreement with Syria, a top U.S. State Department official has confirmed that the Obama administration no longer considers Syrian President Bashar Assad as a potential peace partner. Jacob Sullivan, director of policy planning at the State Department, also indicated that the U.S. is considering imposing sanctions on Syrian leaders to halt the government’s bloody crackdown on protestors, which has reportedly killed more than four hundred people. Despite ongoing attacks on civilians by government forces, Sullivan said that the U.S. would not withdraw its newly installed Ambassador to Syria, and stressed the importance of continuing to “engage” with Syria. (Jerusalem Post, April 27.)

 

HEZBOLLAH TERROR ATTACK ON ISRAELIS ABROAD ‘IS IMMINENT’—(Jerusalem) According to Israeli security sources, Hezbollah is planning a terrorist attack against Israelis abroad within days, to avenge the 2008 assassination of its field commander, Imad Mughniyeh. Hezbollah has repeatedly vowed revenge since Mughniyeh was killed, and has reportedly attempted to carry out attacks in Azerbaijan, Thailand, Sinai and Turkey. In February, the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau warned against traveling to these locations, in addition to Georgia, Armenia, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania and Venezuela. The latest warning of an imminent attack did not include mention of potential locations. (Jerusalem Post, April 21.)

 

IRAQ TROOP TALKS FALTER—(Washington) According to reports, senior U.S. and Iraqi military officials are negotiating the possibility of keeping some 10,000 American troops in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. forces at year’s end. Top U.S. military officials believe that leaving a sizeable force in Iraq could bolster stability in the country, and U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel have voiced the concern that a total U.S. pull out could allow Iran to extend its regional influence. The troop discussions have faltered in recent weeks due to Iraqi worries that a continued U.S. military presence could fuel sectarian tension and lead to protests similar to those sweeping other Arab countries. (Wall Street Journal, April 22.)

 

U.S. SENDS DRONES TO LIBYA, BATTLE RAGES FOR MISRATA—(Misrata) The United States has started using armed drones against Muammar Gaddafi’s troops in Libya, amidst an intensifying battle for the city Misrata, the rebels’ last major bastion in the West of the country. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed that Gaddafi’s forces were carrying out “vicious attacks” on Misrata and might have used cluster bombs against civilians; hundreds are believed to have died during the city’s siege. Rebel fighters, who have voiced frustration with an international military operation they view as too cautious, welcomed the deployment of U.S. unmanned aircraft. The U.S. plans to maintain two patrols of armed Predators above Libya at any given time. (Reuters, April 21.)

 

DONOR STATES TO PA CONDEMN PROVOCATIVE FLOTILLAS TO GAZA—(Jerusalem) The donor states to the Palestinian Authority have condemned all attempts to send uncoordinated aid flotillas to Gaza, and has called on the international community to use land terminals to the Strip to avoid provoking Israel. The statement comes amidst increasing concern in Israel regarding plans to send another large flotilla to Gaza in late May, to mark one year since the IDF raided the Turkish Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the death of nine people. The conference statement also praised Israel for easing the process of allowing goods into Gaza. (Haaretz, April 17.)

 

CORFU JEWS MOURN LOSS OF TORAH SCROLLS IN WAKE OF ATTACK—(Jerusalem) Arsonists have broken into Corfu’s lone synagogue, and set fire to prayer books and Torah scrolls, some of which were hundreds of years old. “It’s very difficult for us,” said Rabbi Shlomo Naftali, an Israeli rabbi who was flown to Greece to conduct Passover ceremonies. “We stood around the books and cried.” Most members of the Jewish community of Corfu, whose history dates back to antiquity, were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Today, there are fewer than 100 Jews left on the Greek island. (Jerusalem Post, April 20.)

 

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT TO REQUIRE KOSHER MEAT LABELING—(New York) A European Parliament committee has approved a bill that would require meat that was not stunned before slaughter to be labeled as such. The amendment to the new European Union food labeling bill passed by a vote of 34 to 28. Animals being slaughtered for kosher consumption cannot be pre-stunned, which goes against the laws of shechita, or kosher slaughter. The organization Shechita UK claims that the price of kosher meat could skyrocket because the non-kosher market, which purchases 70 percent of kosher meat, might stop buying it because of the labeling. The food information bill will come before the entire European Parliament for a second reading and vote in July.  (JTA, April 24.)

 

WOMAN MAKES ALIYA AT AGE 100—(Jerusalem) At the sprightly age of 100, Judith Brodkin is the oldest person ever to immigrate to Israel. Brodkin turned 100 last September, a full five years beyond the next oldest immigrant, 95-year-old Zelda Weiner, who made aliya last July. Asked whether she was proud to be an Israeli citizen after all these years, she remarked “Absolutely. I did it because I wanted to do it. That’s it.” (Jerusalem Post, April 21.)