Friday, October 31, 2008

The Positives and The Negatives

As always, one can find good news and bad news stories on a given subject here in Israel. Speaking to a friend who has just returned from the States where he gave a talk on the achievements of the State of Israel since its birth, he commented that the conflict with the Palestinians is always there beneath the surface.

This week on two consecutive days we have seen the positive side of Jewish Arab cooperation, followed by the negative side.

On the positive side, the number of Arab-Israelis performing national service has quadrupled in the last two years and now exceeds a thousand, according to government statistics. The figure had increased from 230 two years ago to 630 last year before already surpassing more than 1,000 volunteers for the 2008/2009 fiscal year.

More than 80 percent of the Arab participants are women, officials said.
"The young Arabs - male and female - who have joined the national civic service in the last year or two have reached very high levels of satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and a strong sense of helping their own community.

And that has spread by word of mouth from one to another," said Dr. Reuven Gal, head of the Administration for Civilian National Service.

More details on this story can found at

Contrary to this, the Acre riots story is still bubbling under the surface, almost like a volcano waiting to erupt. A group of extreme Acre Arab residents (?)have promised that the clashes have not yet finished. The group calling itself the “Shabab of Old Acre” released a video on the internet to its members promising “to free Acre and the occupied territories”. The video shows masked Arab youngsters in the Jewish neighbourhoods with sub titles reading “I sacrifice myself for an Arab controlled Acre”.

The municipality responded by saying it “hoped that the police would deal with the inciters before they try to implement their plans.

To counter this incitement, a group of Arab and Jewish residents went on a solidarity march through the streets of Jaffa last week. The demonstration aimed to show that Jews and Arabs can live side by side and that Jaffa, like Acre an ethnically mixed city, provides a model of cooperation and coexistence.

"What happened in Acre should not have happened," a local Arab spokesman said. "It is the duty of everyone to respect the religion and customs of the other. Divisions are not solved by violence, but by discussions." What happened in Acre shows the face of extremism, there are still strong bonds of friendship and religious tolerance and many in the city have expressed the view that it is vandals from outside the city who are trying to tear the social fabric apart.

Life is not dull!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Beautiful Wedding But Oh So Sad

My wife and I were invited to the wedding of a young couple whose families lived on the Golan Heights, in the Moshavim Nov and Ramat Magshimim.

The setting for the wedding was idyllic, on a beach, the Blue Beach, situated on the edge of the Sea of Galilee in Tiberius. Following our very hot summer the temperatures were comfortable and the lawns adjacent to the beach were bedecked with tables and chairs for over 350 guests.

The reception for the guests was held on lawns on another part of the site allowing guests to munch tasty tidbits such as chicken wings, salmon, typically Moroccan dishes such as “cuba” or “sigarim” and mingle amongst the guests meeting old friends and meeting new ones.

As we well know, traffic in Israel can be quite horrendous with many slow moving stretches as people leave work and head for home. A number of important guests arrived much later than planned so the wedding ceremony was held up for 45 minutes to allow everyone to arrive.

After the groom had bedecked his bride with the traditional veil, everyone headed for the “
chuppah” (canopy) under which the actual wedding ceremony took place. The “chuppah” was situated down a series of steps on to the small beach in a cove that led to the water’s edge. Here the stark reality of Israel’s water shortage became so apparent and stark. The small cove in which the wedding ceremony took place should theoretically be full of water but the small pier to which small boats would normally be berthed was approx 5 meters above our heads!! So sad!!

In the synagogues around the world, the prayer for rain was introduced into the daily prayers last week and in Haifa those prayers must have been particularly fervent, for within 24 hours there was an immense downpour. It was reported that 3.1/2’ of rain fell in the Carmel Forest in the vicinity of the University. Let’s hope that this is a sign of things to come this winter. My gosh we need it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Iran Premptive Strike??

The following story may appear to be written by a well science fiction writer, but in today’s world it seems that anything goes, especially where Israel is concerned.

Even if the story below reports turns out to be inaccurate, the fact remains that the Iranian government's stated intention - the destruction of Israel and the United States - coupled with its ongoing efforts to manufacture nuclear weapons of mass destruction, make the scenario below very plausible...if not now, sometime in the future.

There seems to have been a news blackout on this story in the West but the Russians see the news differently. It transpires that a Somali hijacked Iranian Ship was a Dirty Bomb Meant for Israel on Yom Kippur

On August 21st, 2008, the MV Iran Deyant, 44,458 dead weight bulk carrier was heading towards the Suez Canal. As it was passing the Horn of Africa, about 80 miles southeast of al-Makalla in Yemen, the ship was surrounded by speedboats filled with members of a gang of Somalian pirates who grab suitable commercial ships and hold them and their cargos and crews for ransom. The captain was defenseless against the 40 pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades blocking his passage. He had little choice other than to turn his ship over to them. What the pirates were not banking on, however, was that this was no ordinary ship.

The MV Iran Deyanat is owned and operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) - a state-owned company run by the Iranian military that was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on September 10, shortly after the ship's hijacking.

According to the U.S. Government <> , the company regularly falsifies shipping documents in order to hide the identity of end users, uses generic terms to describe shipments to avoid the attention of shipping authorities, and employs the use of cover entities to circumvent United Nations sanctions to facilitate weapons proliferation for the Iranian Ministry of Defense. The MV Iran Deyanat departed Nanjing, China, July 28, and, according to its manifest, planned to sail to Rotterdam, where it would offload 42,500 tons of iron ore and "industrial products" purchased by an unidentified " German client". The ship has a crew of 29 men, including a Pakistani captain, an Iranian engineer, 13 other Iranians, 3 Indians, 2 Filipinos, and 10 Eastern Europeans, stated to be Albanians.

The MV Iran Deyanat was brought to Eyl, a sleepy fishing village in northeastern Somalia, and was secured by a larger gang of pirates - 50 onboard and 50 onshore. The Somali pirates attempted to inspect the ship's seven cargo containers but the containers were locked. The crew claimed that they did not have the "access codes" and could not open them.

From the Russians, we learn the real story of the MV Iran Deyanat. She was an enormous floating dirty bomb, intended to detonate after exiting the Suez Canal at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in proximity to the coastal cities of Israel. The entire cargo of radioactive sand, obtained by Iran from China (the latter buys desperately needed oil from the former) and sealed in containers which, when the charges on the ship are set off after the crew took to the boats, will be blasted high into the air where prevailing winds will push the highly dangerous and radioactive cloud ashore.

It should be obvious that when the contents of the ship's locked cargo containers finally descended onto the land, the death toll would be enormous. This ship was nothing more nor less than the long-anticipated Iranian attack on Israel. Not the expected rocket attacks (which could be intercepted by the Israelis) but an even more deadly and unexpected attack by sea. It is very interesting to note that the Israeli government has in the past few weeks, been loudly demanding that the United States establish a naval blockade of Iran.

The reason for this blockade would be to prevent any more Iranian ships with deadly cargos from attacking either Israel or other targets from the sea.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Christians Today, Jews Tomorrow?

What a contrast? We see this week the TOTAL freedom for Christians in Israel. A religion whose adherents are growing in only one country in the world – ISRAEL. Do we see this reported in the world press? Of course not!!

In parallel, another country where exactly the opposite is the case – IRAQ also sees no reporting in the world press. And the United Nations remains silent

a) The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the Norweigan Christian satellite channel Visjon Norge are presenting the 2008 Feast of Tabernacles, live from Jerusalem this week from
Tuesday Oct. 14th to Thursday Oct. 16th between 7.40pm and 11pm Israel Time*
The broadcast will be carried on the network's new English speaking channel Vision Heaven and will feature the Feast's unique brand of world-class music, teaching and dance from the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. Tune in online to participate in this year's feast directly from your desktop.

* Note: If you are having trouble accessing the live webstream, go to and click on the Web-TV link at the top left-hand side of the page. Evening Celebrations begin each night at 7.40pm (Israel/Central Europe); 6.40pm (UK); 1.40pm (ET)

The highlight of the Feast for most pilgrims will take place on Wednesday with the popular Jerusalem March through the streets of the city. This year's March is part of Israel's official 60th Anniversary celebrations and a large contingent of IDF units will also join the parade.The week-long festival runs through next Sunday, and organizers expect to top 8,000 pilgrims at this year's Feast - a new record for an event.

b) Meanwhile Canon Andrew White of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East in Iraq writes:- Things are now desperate for the Christians in Iraq. We had such high hopes that the situation was improving but now it is worse than ever. All of my relief and emergency money has gone and we have in no way been able to compensate people for the loss they have suffered. I have just finished a conversation with a person in our church. All of their relatives' money and possessions were taken and then their house was totally blown up. Seven of them are now homeless. The demands for help are coming every few minute and we have now run out of funds. People expect me to have solutions and I have none.The services today with both the US congregation and the Iraqis were simply wonderful.

In a press release Andrew writes:- It is with great sadness that we report the growing violence against Christians in Iraq's Northern region of Mosul which includes the dominant Christian area of Nineveh. Whilst violence against Christians has abated in Baghdad, the success of the "Surge" has resulted in terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda moving North.Although Christianity has been in this land since its beginning nearly 2000 years ago, the Christian faith is often associated with the West and thus Iraqi Christians are often wrongly seen as being in relationship with the Coalition forces. In the last few days many Christians have been killed in the Mosul/Nineveh region and several thousand have tried to flee to the Kurdish areas. The Iraqi Government has responded by dramatically increasing the Police presence in the area and we wait to see if this will have any effect on the reduction of violence in the area.In our own Anglican church in Baghdad many people today expressed their grave fear and concern about their relatives in the Nineveh area. Some have been killed and others have had their homes destroyed and all their possessions taken. We are in a very serious situation and the quiet of the past few weeks has now gone.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Media Field Day??

It is somehow inevitable that the events in Acre during the Yom Kippur holiday are going to get the “media’s” treatment with all that that implies.

I would like to start by going back a couple of months to life in Jerusalem. There, three terror attacks occurred within a short space of time and everyone was aware of what happened and the details of the attacks.

Now casting one’s mind forward to Yom Kippur, we find that the streets throughout the country are conspicuous by the absence of vehicles and have been taken over by kids on scooters, bicycles, skateboards, etc. There is a total absence of vehicular traffic.

According to one eyewitness report, a car appeared in the neighbourhood, radio blaring and driving at speed. With the large number of people using the road there was a distinct danger of an accident. But there is another thought, is this yet another terror attack?

These same eyewitnesses contradict the Arab driver's claim that he respected the sanctity of Yom Kippur by driving quietly into the neighborhood on the evening of Yom Kippur. He inexplicably told reporters that his radio was turned off, while Jews in the neighborhood said it was blaring and that he drove at such a high speed that people were afraid he intended to run them over in a repeat of similar terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.

Another eyewitness report, translated from the Hebrew,7340,L-3607155,00.html , said that Arabs carried out a planned attack against their Jewish neighbours on Yom Kippur. The witness, who said he was standing in the main square of the Jewish neighborhood of Acre, a city with many Muslim residents, when a taxi driven by an Arab entered the neighborhood Yom Kippur evening at high speed with music blaring and almost ran down children in the street. Surrounded by angry Jewish residents, he parked his car, cursed them, and entered a building, where he targeted residents with objects pitched from the seventh floor.

Arab leaders have condemned the driver for disregarding the sanctity of the holy day. They have announced that they will be releasing a flier condemning the man's drive through the Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur. However, it appears this is to be in Hebrew and distributed in the Jewish neighborhood. That is, it is designed to placate the Jews and not to advise the Arab community regarding appropriately respectful behavior. The mayor has brushed aside this conciliatory gesture made by the leaders of the Arab community.

Certainly, the stoning of the Arab’s car cannot be condoned in any way. The police were present and should have been allowed to get the driver and his family out of the area.

BUT, BUT – The spread of false rumours that Arabs had been seriously harmed or killed by Jews reached the Old City, and then one has to ask the question, “How is it that so quickly other Arabs drove into the neighborhood at high speed AND in addition, a busload of Arabs arrived and went on a rampage, wielding knives, axes and truncheons and damaging more than 150 stores and cars along a 400 metre stretch of the main street?”

While on the one hand community leaders tried to calm things down, as if to exacerbate the situation further, Knesset member Ahmed Tibi called the riots a "Jewish pogrom," and said the police were handling the "attack against the Arab residents" in a discriminatory manner and another Knesset member Muhammad Barakei echoed Tibi's words, saying that "fascist gangs in Acre carried out a pogrom against Arabs, reminiscent of dark days in human history.

With tensions still high, the city council has for the moment postponed the Acre Theatre festival planned for the Succot holiday. This has infuriated the small shopkeepers, many of them Arab, as they see this resulting in a serious drop in their income. However, the council needs assurances that calm is to be assured.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Do the Press Report or Make the News?

Seems to me the press have given up any pretence of reporting in a fair and balanced way. No, this is not new it has been going on for years, it just seems to be more blatantly obvious with no attempts to defend its “journalism”, this is a word that needs to be redefined in today’s dictionaries.

From Just Journalism in the UK comes a review of how the press reported the visit of Paul McCartney and his performance in Israel. No mention of the 50,000 people who attended a successful concert in a thoroughly peaceful and enjoyable atmosphere. (the motorists had problems with traffic jams but that was expected)

JJ reports that whilst the overwhelmingly positive reception he received was reported, much of the coverage was devoted to objections by Palestinians and Palestinian sympathisers to McCartney's visit and to the fact that he would not be performing in the Palestinian territories.

These themes were most prominent in the television broadcasts, with both ITV and the BBC focusing on the Palestinian perspective. ITV broadcast two items by Julian Manyon about the McCartney visit, on 24 September and the following day. The first report covered the singer's visit to Bethlehem and focused entirely on Palestinian opposition, quoting Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti calling Israel ‘the oppressor'. In both the studio introduction to the report and in a question the journalist put to Paul McCartney, the focus was the accusation by Palestinians that the artist was acting as ‘an accomplice to the occupation'.

BBC Six O'clock News broadcast a report by Wyre Davies on the day of the concert, which also spent more time focusing on Palestinian objections than on Israel's view. The journalist did not interview an Israeli in his report.

The broadsheets reported Palestinian calls for McCartney to boycott Israel, while the tabloids concentrated on the huge security requirements in light of death threats from Islamic hardliners.

Interestingly The Times also reported “rumours” that Israeli right-wingers might also protest against the concert. Their leading article stated that these protests, which were not mentioned in any other paper, and never materialised, - how is that for “making news headlines” ?

While The Guardian led with ‘
McCartney Israel gig sparks controversy', over half the article actually focused on a totally separate story - the release of a report by several aid agencies, which criticised the Quartet for not doing enough to alleviate Palestinian suffering.

And it is not only Britain!! Kenneth Timmerman, President and director of the Middle East Data Project reveals extremely disturbing evidence that foreign nationals from the Muslim world are trying to influence the presidential election through illegal contributions to the Barack Obama campaign.

We're not talking a few dollars here. As Timmerman notes, the Federal Election Commission has compiled a list of questionable foreign contributions totaling nearly $34,000,000! The "mainstream media" has virtually ignored this issue, in spite of the many, many news reports coming out of the Middle East and Muslim world that document the strong support Barack Obama has there. Has investigative reporting gone out of the window totally??

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The True Face of Human Rights in Israel

For several years, the Rapporteur to the UN Commission on Human Rights (now the UN Human Rights Council) and human rights groups have criticized the Israeli government and health care system for denying access to Gazans seeking to receive permits for care in hospitals in Israel, the PA and Jordan.

Yet the data shows that the number of patients receiving permits for referrals to hospitals in Israel - or the PA or Jordan - increased by 45 percent from 4,932 in 2006 to 7,176 in 2007, and continued to increase in the first six months of 2008 These trends occurred despite a decline in entry approval rates, mostly because of security reasons.

The facts are that Israel has provided ever increasing numbers of approvals of permits since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, despite increasing rocket attacks on Israel's civilian population, including mortar and terror attacks directed at the Erez crossing used by patients.

At the same time, there have been at least 20 incidents where Palestinians used medical missions to attempt terror attacks.

A full report can be read at

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Whose Land Is It Really?

Land ownership in Israel and the disputed territories has always been the subject of argument; the deeds of ownership have often been unclear. A friend of mine unearthed the following response to questions leveled during the Peel Royal Commission of Enquiry in 1937 by Sir Laurie Hammond, a member of the Commission to Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, and I think it is most illuminating:

A). How did the Jews Acquire Land?
SIR L. HAMMOND: His Eminence gave us a picture of the Arabs being evicted from their land and villages being wiped out. What I want to know is, did the Government of Palestine, the Administration, acquire the land and then hand it over to the Jews?
MUFTI: In most cases the lands were acquired.
SIR L. HAMMOND: I mean forcibly acquired-compulsory acquisition as land would be acquired for public purposes?
MUFTI: No, it wasn't.
SIR L. HAMMOND: Not taken by compulsory acquisition?

B) How much land was acquired?
SIR L. HAMMOND: Would you give me the figures again for the land. I want to know how much land was held by the Jews before the Occupation.
MUFTI: At the time of the Occupation the Jews held about 100,000 dunams. ….
SIR L. HAMMOND: .. He says that in 1920 at the time of the Occupation, the Jews only held 100,000 dunams, is that so? I asked the figures from the Land Registry, how much land the Jews owned at the time of the Occupation. Would he be surprised to hear that the figure is not 100,000 but 650,000 dunams?
MUFTI: It may be that the difference was due to the fact that many lands were bought by contract which were not registered.
SIR L. HAMMOND: There is a lot of difference between 100,000 and 650,000.
MUFTI: In one case they sold about 400,000 dunams in one lot.
SIR L. HAMMOND: Who? An Arab?
MUFTI: Sarsuk. An Arab of Beyrouth

C) Were Arab Cultivators Evicted ?
SIR L. HAMMOND: His Eminence gave us a picture of the Arabs being evicted from their land and villages being wiped out. What I want to know is, did the Government of Palestine, the Administration, acquire the land and then hand it over to the Jews?
MUFTI: In most cases the lands were acquired. …
SIR L. HAMMOND: But these lands amounting to some 700,000 dunams were actually sold?
MUFTI: Yes, they were sold, but the country was placed in such conditions as would facilitate such purchases.
SIR I HAMMOND: I don't quite understand what you mean by that. They were sold- Who sold them?
MUFTI: Land owners.
MUFTI: In most cases they were Arabs.
SIR L. HAMMOND: Was any compulsion put on them to sell? If so, by whom?
MUFTI: As in other countries, there are people who by force of circumstances, economic forces, sell their land.
SIR L. HAMMOND: Is that all he said?
MUFTI: They were not prevented from selling the land, and mostly the country was in such economic condition as facilitated the sale. If the Government had the interest of these poor people at heart they should have prevented sales and these people would not have been evicted from their land. A large part of these lands belong to absentee landlords who sold the land over the heads of their tenants, who were forcibly evicted. The majority of these landlords were absentees who sold their land over the heads of their tenants. Not Palestinians but Lebanese.