Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East Denounces Methodist Divestment Proposals
FORT WORTH, Texas, April 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Methodist Church, the largest mainstream Protestant denomination in the U.S., is currently meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas where it will be voting on several resolutions for divestment from companies doing business in Israel.
Fair Witness is very concerned that divestment, which in other contexts has been a good and a powerful tool for social justice, is being used here as a weapon to unfairly target the Jewish state and greatly oversimplify the complex Arab/Israeli conflict.
The divestment resolutions that the Methodists are considering reflect a troubling bias on the part of certain factions within the denomination.
They focus on the alleged misdeeds of Israel and on Palestinian suffering, while virtually ignoring Israeli suffering and any culpability that the Palestinians and Arab nations have for the violence and discord in the region. They condemn the Israeli occupation, security barrier and settlements, but turn a blind eye to years of Arab aggression, Palestinian terrorism aimed at Israeli civilians and the recent non-stop Qassam rockets that have terrorized the southern Israeli town of Sderot. The resolutions also fail to acknowledge the Palestinian refusal to accept the Clinton peace parameters that would have ended the occupation in 2000/2001.
Invidious allegations of apartheid leveled by proponents of divestment at the Jewish state distract from factual realities on the ground in Israel/Palestine. Blame for the fact that some Palestinians still live as refugees lies squarely at the feet of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which instead of resettling the Arab refugees after 1948 (as the Jewish refugees at the time were resettled) maintains them to this day in camps on the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The blame is surely shared by the Palestinian leadership for refusing the offer of a Palestinian state at Camp David and Taba.
Israel can be faulted for continuing a policy of settlement expansion.
However, Israeli leaders more than demonstrated their willingness to abandon those settlements in 2000 and 2001 when they accepted the Clinton parameters that would have created a Palestinian state on approximately 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza. Israel demonstrated this willingness again in 2005 when it moved every one of 8,000 Israeli settlers out of Gaza.
The troubling aspects of the Methodist divestment proposals are compounded by the denomination's publication of material that appears to be strongly anti-Israel and perhaps anti-Semitic. In 2007 the Women's Division of the Methodist General Board of Global Ministries published "Israel-Palestine: A Mission Study" which is replete with factual errors, misrepresentations and distortions that serve to portray Israel as the sole villain in the Middle East. The "Mission Study" is filled with inflammatory references such as "religious racism... [as] inherent in some of the traditional writings and interpretations of Rabbinic Judaism..." and the founding of the Jewish state in terms of "original sin." These and similar references found throughout the "Mission Study" seem designed to portray Jews and Israelis in as damning a light as possible.
The "Mission Study" goes so far as to exploit Nazi Holocaust themes in the service of efforts to indict Israel. It employs a pseudo-psychological approach by inventing a "Holocaust consciousness" which it claims infects Israeli society with "attendant rage" and renders Israelis incapable of peacemaking. This attempt to exploit a tragic episode in Jewish collective life is not only un-Christian, it crosses the line of decency.
The Methodist "Mission Study" and the divestment proposals may be symptomatic of a strong bias to the point of antipathy. Instead of passing unbalanced resolutions, United Methodists should commit to taking a long and serious look at their attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people and try to find ways of becoming effective peace makers rather than merely condemning and attacking one side.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Or, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
The Palestinian Authority threatened to boycott President Bush and foreign dignitaries who attend Israel's Independence Day celebrations.
Unnamed aides to Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters Monday that the P.A. president will consider as "temporarily" persona non grata the dozens of top foreign dignitaries who are expected to visit Israel for its 60th birthday bash next month.
Palestinians describe the 1948 founding of Israel to be their nakba, or "catastrophe," though a U.N. partition plan -- violently rejected by the Arabs at the time -- called for a Palestinian state to be created alongside the Jewish state.
Bush is widely expected to use his mid-May visit to push for progress in peace talks between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. It was not immediately clear how the United States would respond to the prospect of its president being boycotted by Abbas' administration in the West Bank.
Monday, April 28, 2008
In her recent letter "Israel not beacon of light in tumultuous region" (April 22, 2008), Eugenia Durland cites a number of Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations to prove her assumption that Israel has been a provocateur in its war of survival with Arab terrorists, and that Israel has received a "free pass" from America to take the actions she feels are necessary. She cites twelve of these peace groups. It is fascinating to me that eleven of the twelve are indigenous Israeli groups, whose organizers and leaders are Israelis who are concerned for peace. Only one of them is a Palestinian peace group.
What lessons can we learn from these numbers? Who cares more about bringing peace to the region? Where are the rest of the Palestinian peace-makers? Which Palestinians is Israel supposed to negotiate with, the few who call for peace, or the overwhelming majority who punctuate their continued refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state with missiles they lob over the border, which kill and wound innocent Israeli families?
We Jews have always been lovers and seekers after peace, and we will never ever change. But if I were the Israeli Prime Minister, I would simply wait until the Palestinians remember that being created in God's Image means that they have an obligation to live in peace with the rest of God's children, and to repair the world in which we live. Not to destroy it.
As our Festival of Passover comes to an end, I pray for the day when we can leave our collective slaveries and join together to create a world of peace based on justice.
Rabbi Mel Glazer
The letter to which it responds:
Israel not beacon of light in tumultuous region
The Gazette's April 18 Our View, "Jimmy Carter's love of bullies," was appalling. The statements about Hamas, the wrongness of engaging in talks with Hamas leadership, and the free pass given Israel to behave in any way it wishes vis a vis Palestinians, are fraught with error and prejudice. I could refute them one by one, based on years of work in the area, but space is too limited.
Instead, I appeal directly to readers, most of whom I expect may have open minds or, if necessary, be willing to educate themselves on the fairness issue. To accomplish that purpose, I suggest readers access the Web sites of the following organizations, read and learn what the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements and much of the Israeli and Palestinian public believe:
Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) and Americans for Peace Now (the American support organization for Shalom Achshav), Rabbis for Human Rights, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions,, Bat Shalom, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Peace Lobby, Jewish Voices Against the Occupation, Not In My Name, Palestine Monitor, Ta'ayush (network of Israeli Jewish and Arab activists), Yesh Gvul ("There's a Limit" - support group for Israeli soldiers who refuse to participate in acts of oppression and occupation.) This is by no means a complete list but provides a start for learning.
Members of these groups in Israel work and talk with members of Hamas, so why not an elder statesman from America? Hamas is a political party, as is Fatah. It's extremist faction is a minority. I do not condone violence of any kind. But knowing first-hand how brutal the 41-year-old Israeli military occupation of Palestinian ancestral land is, I understand from whence comes their rage. The final insult is that each such retaliatory act by a Palestinian is repaid 10 times over in Palestinians lives taken by Israeli military revenge.
"A Simple Re-Action to an Anti-Israel Speech"
Judea Pearl email@example.com
We have been hearing a lot about anti-Israel speeches, intimidation, isolation and a general sense of discomfort that Jewish students encounter on US campuses. Below is a simple action to counter this atmosphere, boost morale and help improve the posture of Jewish students on campus.
Israel will soon be celebrating its 60th birthday and, chances are, there will be some commemoration of this event on your campus.
My suggestion: *Be There,* say a few words from the stage, and let students know that, contrary to much amplified anti-Israel rhetoric from the reckless Left, there are principled and thoughtful faculty who cultivate pro-Israel sentiments, perhaps not as vocal and fashion-driven as their adversaries, yet calmly committed, rational and commonsensical.
The presence of even one faculty member on the stage will go a long way toward diffusing our students' sense of abandonment.
For a student, *you* represent the soul of the university; not the Hillel director, not the Rabbi, certainly not the Israeli Consul, or the musicians on the stage -- but you. It is you, with your lab coat, your stethoscope, a library book under your arm, or a bunch of graded homework in your briefcase, it is you and your professional dedication who mediates to students the norms of responsible society. Your action will mean a lot to students.
Don't wait for an official invitation; the organizers have probably given up on getting faculty to speak on such occasions, or are simply too busy to think of the importance of your presence. Call them up and offer your participation.
Alternatively, if you are somewhat adventurous, surprise them; be there, hop on the stage and say: "I am Professor XYZ from the department of ZXY. I was in the middle of a crucial experiment (or a book review, or meeting or whatever), but I could not resist being here, with you at this celebration, and to tell you what Israel means to me."
It is dignified, personal and honest.
Now imagine 20 professors on the stage, each approaching the microphone and saying: "I am Professor XYZ, I, too, could not sit idle in my cubical. Israel is in my thought today."
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Our 60th Independence Day is right around the corner, and some rabbis and council heads from Judea and Samaria communities are already calling for the release of Jewish security prisoners. After all, the celebrations are a time of forgiveness, and if we free Arab terrorists with blood on their hands, why don't we also free Jewish ones etc.
Even Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Shas joined the calls. After all, our prisoners have families and pregnant wives, and we know from past experience that Jews who are freed do not murder again - and just between us, in light of the events going on at the time, we can certainly understand what they did, even if we don't agree with it, etc.
I apologize for my attempt to ruin the party. After all, how can one speak out against the release of a Jew who already paid his debt to society (some will say he even paid it twice - first when he murdered, and the second time when he sat in prison.) Yet on this not-so-festive occasion, it would be good to clarify one bothersome issue.
Amongst us, within the religious public, we are very angry about murderers who are "one of us," especially when those murderers are being associated with us. After all, he didn't act in our name, and certainly not on our orders. In fact, we explain, he even caused great damage to the settlement enterprise, to National-Religious Judaism, and to the religious public in general. Yet 15 minutes after we completely disassociate ourselves from him, and the prisoner finds himself in jail, feelings of pity awaken within us.
Have some mercy, Jews - because he has a family or suffers from back pains, and especially because we know him, and he's actually a really good guy. So ahead of Passover or Independence Day we start working on their behalf. They may indeed not represent us, but we need to represent them. Every semi-psycho who attempted to kill Arabs is suddenly the entire religious public's problem. Anyone who didn't think for a moment before he proceeded to hurt Arabs suddenly takes up whole days in the schedule of Knesset members and rabbis dealing with his urgent matter. As if he was a Prisoner of Zion.
It's one thing for whole communities to assist the prisoners' families. The families are not at fault after all for the father's display of radical irresponsibility. The support offered to the families is a nice act of solidarity by the religious community, just as it would be in the case of any family facing a difficult situation.
But why, for God's sake, do we need to make an effort to secure the release of serious terrorist-criminals? Only because they're "one of us?" Only because they mere tried or managed to kill Arabs?
After all, we are not talking about helping someone who found himself in a situation where he was forced to shoot, or someone who became mixed up with a leftist and vengeful legal system. Rather, those are people who actively and deliberately initiated an attack on Arabs.
They should be seeking the support of those who they sought out for a permit to do the deed.
We don't work for you
So I'm taking this opportunity to turn to the next religious terrorist. I won't bother to explain to you the "thou shalt not murder" ban. It seems insulting that we even need to discuss such things. I will even not try to convince you of the future damage to be caused to you, your family, to your community, and to the entire nation - I won't even try. I also won't amuse you with the importance of adhering to the law. I may be naÔve, but after the Jewish underground that operated almost 30 years ago, and after a few more acts of violence by our people, I at least expect that the lesson was learned.
Yet if after all those cases, Ami Popper, and Ben Shimol, and Goldstein, and Yigal Amir, you still fail to understand the significance and heavy price of this act - don't be asking for pardons. At least don't expect that rabbis and Knesset members and just regular people on the street who disassociated themselves from you when you were nabbed will make an effort in the future to secure your early release. We don't work for you.
Please pay attention, the next terrorist. If you commit an act of grave violence, and if you are caught, you will not be released for the holidays or for a brit celebration or for a relaxed weekend. Our automatic sense of solidarity with people of your type is going on vacation. The solidarity resources of the National-Religious community are limited, and you're certainly not worth it to have us wasting our empathy on you.
It is better to invest our public and personal energies in a thousands more important goals. And if you decide, after everything that has already happened; to go wild with a gun, don't ask us to arrange a pardon for you. This is your problem.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Charles E Carlson
April 20, 2008
I was recently a guest speaker at a well-planned three day college conference in Arizona where the subject was the Islam, Judaism and Israel / Palestine Conflict. The last day program featured a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim Imam who presented their sides of the story. They were kind to each other, each tried to leave the impression that his religion sought peace was not to blame for the mean and vicious acts by both sides.
My part was to be a 20-minute racehorse presentation on Christian Zionism. It was my chance to explain, if I could, that Christian Zionism is very much a cause of the conflict and that those who follow it have the innocent blood of many Philistines and a lesser number of Jews on their hands.
Alas, technology broke down just as I began, and I was left standing on my feet without props to prove my rather complicated point, nor was there time to improvise in the very fast moving program. So I switched directions and asked the students a direct and simple question and told them they should demand an answer from every speaker:
"Who is the aggressor in the land of the Philistines, the Israelis or the Palestinians."
In order to solve any conflict, an intercessor, judge or parent must establish which warring party is pressing the issue. Which one keeps the war, squabble, hair-pulling match or dogfight alive? There is always an aggressor who does not want it to end. I went on to say it was my observation from being there, that it is the Israelis who are the aggressor and they always have been. Israel justifies every assassination on what it says is Philistine aggression, and it claims to only be retaliating each time.
Gaza is a microcosm of the prisons in which every Philistine exists to a greater or lesser degree. A very few inside the locked down towns and villages of Gaza continue to spray rockets over the walls and fences at their captors. These "Qassams" are unguided and uncontrolled and rarely hit anything. They do not really have targets, only directions of flight. They cannot be aimed, they are simply pointed. In two years, only 11 unlucky Israeli humans have been killed. An unknown few were actually wounded by what both sides agree is several thousands of Qassams.
No accurate figure for the injured are available because Israel's military treats large numbers of persons for "shock" whenever a Qassam lands near someone. Israel photo-ops these events with supposed "shock victims" who seem to be unmarked.
Philistines rockets can reach only one Israeli town, Sederot, built just over the fence from the Northeast corner of the Gaza Strip. Occasionally a super big Qassam reached the near edge of a more distant military town, Askalon. Israel claims the intended targets are innocent civilians.
The Philistines used a "guided" weapon system for several years until about 2005, which I call "Human bombs." I went to Gaza to find out who they targeted and why they did it. I found out quickly by riding a bus full of Israeli soldiers, a sitting target for a bomber. A volunteer courier with an explosive device, is directed hopefully at a military targets. The records over four years show success at about one in three or four. Israel called these messengers "suicide bombers." I use a more respectful name, Human bombs that delivered to their captor-enemy and manually explode it.
Less there be doubt, this author does not believe in suicide because God forbids taking human life. This includes ones own life. However, I do not for a minute believe the intent of the Human bomb is to kill himself, nor do they want to die. He want to kill Israeli soldiers, and giving his own life is his sacrifice.
There is another reason I oppose Human bombs. They end the life of the bravest and most dedicated of those capable of resisting. But my opinion is not important in this matter because it is not my life that is at stake.
I have witnessed chilling Israeli air raids on Gaza, and I can imagine the total desperation of many there. The boy who has seen his father and brothers beaten or killed in the presence of the family; the mother who is unable to feed her children or heat their home, or the dad who cannot provide for or defend his family and sleeps in fear of the nightly barrage that comes with life in Gaza. I cannot place myself in the shoes of the boy who has had his childhood taken away, seen a friend shot to death for throwing rocks, or of the girl who has been robbed of even her hope. I do not accept suicide, but I do not condemn any act of resistance by those who are so oppressed.
Israel lionizes its own mythical human bomber. According to the Hebrew Old Testament book of Judges, Samson became the Israelite hero by knowingly sacrificing his body in order to kill the enemy, including women and children. Recall that Samson was sort of an Israeli Goliath, killing Philistines. He was captured, but managed during his captivity to destroy the temple of the Philistines in Gaza with the royal family, the army, and himself, all inside. Here are Samson's words, according the Hebrew Bible, Judges 16:30:
"Let me die with the Philistines!" He pushed hard and the temple collapsed on the rulers and all the people in it. He killed many more people in his death than he had killed during his life."
The modern day Philistines (the Arabic word for Palestinian) have been championed by rock throwing youths, who starting in the uprising of the 1980s. Many of these died as children, assassinated by angry soldiers. They are modern day, brave-as-David rock throwers and human bombs, who struck back at their captors in desperation. Many more have tried and failed to reach a military target before being killed or captured.
The billion-dollar wall around the West Bank was more than paid for by the USA. The Gaza "canary cage" with 1.5 million living in it is now almost airtight. Human carried bombings have declined since 2004 because it has became nearly impossible to get out of Israel's animal cages, and because the world has allowed Israel to build walls around their prisoners.
Many Philistine youths have been captured trying to bomb Israel. The Philistines put out Sampson's eyes and chained him to a post, according to the Hebrew story. Captured by the Israelis can be worse than what biblical Sampson suffered. We will not go into the Israeli practice of routine torture of their captured, both men and women, but it is well-known.
Qassam rockets are no more than a feeble protest, a signal to the world that something is not well inside those walls from a society in the midst of mass execution. As feeble a protest as they are, Qassams are Israel's latest excuse to proclaim that the Philistines are the aggressor and Israelis are the victims.
Former President Jimmy Carter defied President Bush, the Congress, and the state of Israel in meeting with the leader of Hamas in Damascus, Syria, on April 18, 2008. International pressure from Israel, UK and the USA prevents Hamas from carrying out the Palestinian voters' mandate, and worse yet, allows Israel an excuse to hunt down and systematically assassinate Hamas workers and leaders, usually with American made missiles. No one denies that Hamas is the lawfully elected government of Gaza, as well as the West Bank. The excuse for not recognizing Hamas is always "suicide bombers and Qassam rockets."
Israel would not allow past President Carter into Gaza, and they denied him protection during his visit. But Israel did take time to make a photo of Carter examining the carcasses of exploded Qassam rockets. This photo-op should backfire because the pathetic crudeness of the rockets is revealed in the photo in Haaretz newspaper, and we can finally see what a Qassam is. Mr. Carter is seen looking at lengths of rusty sewer pipes with crudely cut and unmatched welded on tail fins. Israel showed Carter weapons that were incapable of rocket flight. It should make the world feel sorry for the Philistines.
Israel paints all acts of resistance with the same "terrorist" brush. They would never let 80-year-old President Carter inside besieged Gaza to witness what Israel does to its captives because he might tell and many would believe him!
The American media has persuaded most Americans that if Palestinians kill an Israeli it is terrorism, and deserves fierce punishment, even collective punishment. But when Israelis kill dozens of Palestinian civilians, often children, it is viewed as collateral damage. There is no excuse for such supposed ignorance among Christian Zionists; they believe Israel is the victim because they want to believe it, not because it makes sense.
It pains me when Imams or any Muslim apologizes for the Human bombs, or condemns them; to do so, plays into the hands of those who claim the Philistines have always been the aggressors. I am aware of and sympathetic to the pressures put on Muslims in the USA to exemplify peace. This pressure is also largely fanned into flame by the pro-Israel racism of Christian Zionists in the USA. We must all defend the rights of an occupied people to revolt, by whatever extreme means.
Who wants the slaughter to go on, and why…who benefits from its continuance, clearly not those in the gulags. Israel is the only possible aggressor. It benefits from the continued conflict, and it cannot live with other possible conclusions.
The last Rabbi to speak at the students conference, named Rabbi Rosenberg, from Greater Phoenix, made an honest admission to the students in answering a pointed question. He stated in some detail the real reason Israeli Jews cannot share the land in a democracy with the Muslims. Jews, he said, have only one child per family and "Arabs have five, sometimes six children." He said Israel would soon be out-voted if they allowed a democracy in Israel.
Americans are preoccupied with Iraq, and most (with the big exception of Christian Zionists) admit that the USA is the aggressor. For religious reasons Christian Zionists also deny Israel's guilt. But it is time the rest of us admits that occupation of the land of the Philistines continues because Israel's present leaders do not believe they can live in peace with Muslim Arabs. They pretend to seek peace, but they keep the conflict going.
Six years ago, and just a few months after day 911, We Hold These Truths published Smart Bombs vs. Intelligent Bombs. At that time there had been only 54 Palestinian human bombs in the entire 54-year history of the Israeli conflict. The present number is a few over 100, and there were none in the first 50 years of the conflict.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday he failed to achieve any progress in Middle East peace talks with President George W. Bush and he was returning home with little to show for his visit.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the Palestinian leader sounded pessimistic about the prospects of achieving any deal with Israel this year despite a big US push that began five months ago at a summit in Annapolis, Maryland.
"Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved. But we are still conducting direct work to have a solution," Abbas said.
Abbas said the biggest obstacle is Israel's continued expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian-occupied territories.
"We demanded the Americans implement the first phase of the road map that talks about the cessation of settlement expansion," Abbas said, expressing disappointment the US has not exerted more pressure on Israel to stop. "This is the biggest blight that stands as a big rock in the path of negotiations."
Israel is pushing forward with controversial building projects on disputed land in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and is refusing to take down illegal settlement outposts, release Palestinian prisoners, halt military incursions, and dismantle roadblocks that severely disrupt daily life.
Abbas' aides said he also was upset after his lunch Thursday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While discussing what a peace deal would look like, Rice did not mention the Palestinian goal of creating a state based on borders before Israel captured Palestinian land during the 1967 Six-Day War.
"We demanded that they talk about the '67 borders," Abbas told AP, showing a rare flash of anger. "None of them talk about the '67 borders."
Asked whether US officials offered any new proposals, Abbas said no.
"They are exerting efforts. And we are still negotiating," he said, but he noted that no progress had been made on any of the core issues.
"All the files are still open. None of them are concluded. The situation is still as it was," Abbas said, speaking in Arabic.
The main unresolved issues include the final borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem, disputed Israeli settlements and Palestinian refugees.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Bush did not respond directly when Abbas brought up the issue of Palestinian objections to continuing Israeli settlement expansion when the two leaders met Thursday at the White House.
"Bush told him (Abbas) that I'm focusing on the bigger picture," Erekat explained.
Abbas said he was looking for a full Middle East peace framework agreement that would be detailed and includes timetables, while the Israelis have signaled that a "declaration of principles" would be enough of an achievement before Bush leaves office in January 2009.
"We don't want a declaration of principle because we had one," Abbas said, referring to the 1993 peace agreement reached at Oslo between the Palestinians and Israel. "Now we want a normal agreement. And then we can go for the details."
Despite his disappointment, Abbas said he would still meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert regularly in hopes of achieving a deal. But there are no three-way talks scheduled anytime soon with Bush, Abbas and Olmert.
Bush is scheduled to visit Israel in May to help Olmert celebrate the country's 60th anniversary, and then the US president will travel to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to see Abbas separately.
"It will be a bilateral meeting between me and Bush. That is the meeting I was invited for," Abbas said.
Abbas said the one thing he did achieve during his USvisit was to lay out the Palestinian conditions for any peace deal and press his case that he cannot go for any partial agreement because the Palestinian people would not accept it.
"We have made clear our position to the president, to the State Department and to the Congress," Abbas said during the 15-minute interview in his hotel room in Washington. "And now our position is very clear to all of them."
Abbas' moderate and Western-backed government rules the West Bank, the territory that would eventually form the bulk of an independent Palestinian state. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that seized control of Gaza and serves a rival force to Abbas, is not involved in the peace negotiations with Israel.
Abbas has been losing popular support for the peace process due to a lack of any changes on the ground for people whose daily lives have been disrupted by Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks that Israel says are meant to maintain security and stop militant attacks on Israeli citizens.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades operatives disarmed, put on probation, then pardoned as part of amnesty agreement between Israel, PA
Israel agreed to pardon 10 more wanted gunmen from al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah's military wing, as decided during a security meeting between Israeli representatives and Palestinians.
The amnesty was granted to men who refrained from terrorist acts and honored an agreement, which commanded them to disarm and spend a probation period living under harsh conditions in Palestinian prisons. At least 17 of the pardoned men are from Nablus.
Israel has also decided to extend the probation periods of 150 other wanted men, who will have to prove that they are no longer involved in anti-Israel activities.
The amnesty agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority commenced in July of last year, and stated that Israel would grant amnesty to 240 al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades gunmen, who would disarm and enter into a probation period of three months, which Israel could extend as it saw fit, and during which they were to prove that they were no longer involved in terrorist activities.
After the first three months Israel decided to extend the probation period of all of the wanted men for another three months, after which 32 men were pardoned and allowed free.
One month ago 36 more men were pardoned, and since then the Palestinians have expressed satisfaction with the agreement, and said that the wanted men involved in the program were extremely committed to it.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
By Mark G. Sklarz
As I cuddled my newborn granddaughter in the hospital last Sunday, I marveled at the perfect miniature features of this beautiful tiny person, overwhelmed by the love, joy and appreciation universally shared by grandparents of all cultures and heritages. Yet, as my mind wandered, I felt a surge of anxiety over the responsibility owed to this precious and innocent little girl. Will we provide the tools to nurture a n open and receptive mind that will respect and cherish the values and beliefs of others, no matter how different from hers? Will we teach her to embrace human dignity, integrity and social justice and to encourage all people to enjoy the freedom of choice and expression to maximize their potential? Or will we allow preconceived notions and biases to distort our guidance and poison her with unfounded fears and prejudices.?
In a world in which we often control so little, this is a choice which allows all of us to make a difference. There is no vehicle more powerful to engage young minds and to inspire an environment of meaningful dialogue, mutual respect for differences and spiritual health than a vibrant and open educational system that challenges accepted principles.
In contrast, no process can be more destructive to engendering trust or promoting harmony and understanding than to fill a developing mind with prejudice and pernicious stereotypes.
No region of the world has been more volatile or consumed with more passionate hatred and distrust the last 60 years than the Middle East. Within hours after Israel's creation by the United Nations in 1948, it was attacked by neighbors dedicated to her annihilation.
Miraculously, despite being surrounded by a predominantly hostile population of 40 million people, this tiny country survived. Little has changed over six decades, except that the development of Israel's military strength has compelled certain of her neighbors grudgingly to acknowledge her existence. Of course, when the security and survival of a nation depends upon perpetual military vigilance and preparedness, mistakes and abuses occur, and Israel is no exception.
On April 1, a New York Times article reported the content of broadcasts, sermons and educational materials employed by Hamas to indoctrinate children and young people of Gaza. Included in the report was a comment by an Imam that "... Jews are a people who cannot be trusted ...," a portrayal of a children's television program featuring a rabbit who vowed "to get rid of the Jews, God willing, and I will eat them up, God willing," and references to videos promoting participation of young children armed with rifles.
These attitudes are complemented and exacerbated by textbooks used in the Gazan school system, which explicitly disparage and denigrate Jews. Children are being taught that hatred is a virtue and martyrdom is a value greater than life.
It is not acceptable for the world to stand silent and permit such contempt and prejudice to permeate the minds of the next generation.
Attempting to attribute culpability for the current situation is of no value, and roadmaps or other avenues to peace will not succeed if respect for the inherent right of all to celebrate their beliefs and pursue their lives in harmony, peace and security is not a fundamental precept of an educational system.
Israel's population continues to aspire to and treasure the opportunity to live in peace. However, the vicious dedication of powerful fundamentalist factions to Israel's annihilation has not ceased from the moment the Jewish state was created and has compelled Israel to expend much of its valuable and limited resources on conflicts of self-preservation.
Israel does not wish to occupy; rather, it maintains certain strategic positions to ensure the survival of its population.
This is tragic, but does not alter reality. The long-range solution is to teach all children from the age of my infant granddaughter that respect and understanding for the beliefs of all people will build common bonds and encourage all to thrive intellectually, culturally and economically.
Now is the time to guide children to collaborate, to speak candidly but respectfully, and to envision and pursue harmony among historically incompatible cultures. Not an easy task, but difficult challenges rarely are - which is why the reward will be so enriching and everlasting.
Archbishop of Canterbury says Middle East Christians are suffering persecution because of 'American global project'
Christians in the Middle East are facing persecution because of British and American foreign policy, the Archbishop of Canterbury will claim today.
Dr Rowan Williams will say that many Christians have been forced to flee their homes in the Holy Land because of 'appalling pressure' from extremist Islamic groups.
And he will warn that historic communities risk becoming mere 'museum pieces' in the 'theme park' Middle East because of the military policies of the West.
During an appearance in London yesterday, he said there was a risk that the region could become a "monochrome" area dominated by an "unfriendly" form of Islam.
Indigenous Christian groups were increasingly being seen as a 'foreign and aggressive' presence, he added.
The Archbishop will make the comments in a speech at Westminster Cathedral later today.
He will say that historically Christians have played a leading role in social, cultural and intellectual change in the Middle East. But historic communities now risked becoming mere 'museum pieces' in a 'theme park' region as a result of persecution.
In part this was due to an extremist form of Islam filling the void left following the peak of Arab nationalism, the head of the Church of England will claim.
But he also blames the role of Western governments.
Dr Williams will say: 'Indigenous Christian community throughout the region have suffered from being associated with the American global project, and indeed the British global project as part of the American global project.'
He cites a recent visit to Syria in which he met some of the half million refugees who had fled Iraq since 2003.
Dr Williams added: 'The military policies of the West in the last few years have firmly cemented in a great deal of the Middle East the notion that Christianity is a foreign, aggressive and Western presence.
'I regret it is a real tragedy that this ongoing crisis has yet to be the focus of policy declarations, or indeed recognised by some of our Western governments.'
He also calls on Christians around the world to focus on the crisis and said Government needed to pay attention to the worsening situation.
Speaking yesterday, he said: 'There is an urgent need for people in the UK to wake up to the fact that Christians in the Middle East are living through a time of change more dramatic and more costly than anything that has been seen for a thousand years and more.'
He went on to highlight the 'tragic situation' of Christian refugees from Iraq and the 'quiet but numerically huge exodus of Christians' - particularly educated Christians - out of the entire Middle East region.
'The remaining Christian communities are left exposed to violence or extremism in many countries, and the societies they live in are deprived of some of their most creative and resourceful citizens,' he added.
Today the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.Con.Res.322, "recognizing the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel and reaffirming the bonds of close friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel."
In addition, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has reserved time each week through June for Representatives to make statements on the floor of Congress on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary.
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation urges all of its member groups and individual supporters to contact their Representative in Congress and ask him/her not to vote for resolutions or make statements that recognize Israel's 60th anniversary but fail to recognize the historic injustices that Israel has inflicted on the Palestinian people and the injustices that it continues to inflict daily. To send your message today, please click here.
Below is a copy of talking points which the US Campaign faxed to each Representative yesterday.
Talking Points on H. Con. Res. 322 and Israel's 60th Anniversary
On Tuesday, April 22, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote under suspension on H. Con. Res. 322, "recognizing the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel and reaffirming the bonds of close friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel." In addition, Speaker Pelosi has reserved floor time each week through June for Representatives to make statements on Israel's 60th anniversary.
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 250 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law and equality for all, has prepared the following talking points for the consideration of Representatives voting on resolutions and making statements on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary.
* The establishment of the State of Israel was accompanied by the widespread ethnic cleansing and dispossession of indigenous Palestinians from their homes and lands. Israel destroyed at least 418 Palestinian villages and towns and caused to flee or forcibly exiled at least 711,000 Palestinians. Palestinians recall this record of destruction, dispossession, and ethnic cleansing as the Nakba, or "catastrophe", in Arabic.
* To this day, Israel has prevented these Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who now number nearly 4.5 million people, from exercising their right to return despite the fact that this right is guaranteed generally under international humanitarian law and specifically by UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Meanwhile, Israel adopted a law of return which guarantees Israeli citizenship to Jewish people worldwide. By treating people differently based on ethnicity or religion, Israel's differential treatment of Palestinian refugees and Jewish immigrants is one manifestation of its apartheid policies.
* Palestinians who were not ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands in 1948 were given Israeli citizenship but remain subject to discriminatory policies. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship were forced to live under military occupation until 1966. The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel today counts more than 20 Israeli laws that explicitly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel who comprise approximately 20% of Israel's population. Palestinian citizens of Israel are also discriminated against in land use policies and Palestinian communities in Israel receive disproportionately less government funding than Jewish communities. The second-class citizenship of Palestinians in Israel and the discrimination they are subjected to are another manifestation of Israel's apartheid policies.
* Since 1967, Israel has illegally occupied the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Israel's brutal record of collective punishment, torture, killing of civilians, building illegal Israeli settlements, walls, barriers, and checkpoints is well-documented by Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights organizations. The fact that Palestinians are subjected to military laws under perpetual military occupation while Israeli settlers are subjected to civil law and can drive on Israeli-only roads in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is yet another manifestation of Israel's apartheid policies.
Given Israel's 60-year record of ethnic cleansing, dispossession, discrimination, military occupation, and apartheid against Palestinians, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation urges Representatives not to vote for resolutions or make statements that fail to recognize the historic injustices that Israel has inflicted on the Palestinian people and the injustices that it continues to inflict daily. Members of Congress have an obligation to pass resolutions and make statements that accurately reflect the historical record and not unambiguously applaud the anniversary of countries such as Israel with such dismal human rights records.
Don't forget to send your message to your Representative by clicking here.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Jpost.com staff and AP, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 19, 2008
Two IDF soldiers were moderately wounded and 11 others were lightly wounded Saturday morning at the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, when Hamas gunmen initiated a coordinated attack on the Israeli side of the crossing, which included heavy gunfire, mortar shell barrages and two car bombs.
The attack began close to 7 a.m. when two vehicles arrived at the crossing under the cover of heavy fog and one of them detonated near army forces, wounding the 13 soldiers. The second booby-trapped car was spotted by troops after the initial explosion and did not go off, the army said.
Immediately afterwards, an armored car - which may have once belonged to Fatah security forces - arrived at the scene, and its occupants began firing at the soldiers, backed by heavy mortar shell barrages.
Four gunmen, including the driver of the car bomb, were believed to have been killed in the explosion and the exchanges of fire that ensued. Forces then entered Gaza in order to search for remaining members of the cell.
The wounded soldiers were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Meanwhile, another armored vehicle was identified approaching the Kissufim crossing, north of Kerem Shalom. An IDF tank fired at the vehicle and hit it, apparently preventing a second attack.
Throughout the events, residents of Israeli communities in the surrounding area were instructed to remain in their homes due to fears of terrorist infiltration.
A few hours later, a mechanic with Hamas's police force was killed and four people were wounded in an IAF air strike in southern Gaza, Palestinian security and health officials said.
The IDF said a suspicious vehicle was hit between Kerem Shalom and Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt. Witnesses said the target of the strike was a jeep parked near the Rafah crossing.
Defense officials have said the attack was probably the result of months of planning, and its perpeterators probably aimed to kill as many soldiers as possible as well as abduct others. The soldiers' readiness and quick response prevented a much deadlier attack on the eve of Pessah, they said.
"This is an escalation that could be dangerous if we do not stop it," a high-ranking official told Channel 10 News after the attack. "In this case, the incident ended with a relatively low number of casualties, compared to what [Hamas] had planned, but it should raise a red flag over our operations in the area."
He added that the IDF "must investigate how the gunmen managed to gather so much intelligence [in preparation for the attack] without the IDF knowing about it."
In Gaza City, a Hamas leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Hamas would carry out more attacks on crossings to break the nearly yearlong blockade of the territory.
"These operations are the beginning of the explosions that Hamas has warned of," said Abu Zuhri. "If the parties don't intervene quickly to save Gaza and break the siege, what is coming will be greater."
Hamas later released a farewell video of four attackers. The video showed the three vehicles Hamas said were used in the attack. One was an armored personnel carrier, the second resembled an IDF jeep and the third was a small sedan. The video showed the three vehicles driving off into the morning fog. The assailants posed for the camera, smiling and toting rifles.
Hamas also organized two protests by women and children near two other Gaza crossings: the Erez crossing for passengers and the Karni cargo crossing. Near Erez, scores of women and children marched toward the terminal but stopped about a kilometer away. They burned tires and raised Hamas flags, then dispersed.
Palestinian gunmen have recently escalated their attacks on army forces and Israeli civilians on the Gaza border.
On Thursday, army forces foiled an apparent infiltration attempt at the crossing, firing at three Palestinian gunmen who moved into the Palestinian side of the crossing. One of the gunmen was shot and killed, and one injured.
On Wednesday, three soldiers were killed in a Hamas ambush opposite Kibbutz Be'eri. The troops were part of a 12-soldier unit that raided Gaza after two Palestinians were spotted moving toward the security fence to plant a bomb.
One week earlier, two Israeli civilians were killed at the Nahal Oz fuel depot by four terrorists who infiltrated the terminal under cover of mortar fire.
Earlier Saturday, an armed Hamas member was killed in an IAF strike in the Gaza City area, Palestinian security sources said.
Palestinian sources claimed that the man, 22-year-old Aimed Abu-Amar, was killed by a missile fired from an IAF helicopter.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
By Linda Bloom
New York (UMNS)-For more than 75 years, United Methodist Women has sponsored "Schools of Christian Mission" as a means of informing and educating its members.
But complaints have arisen about the geographic study on Israel-Palestine that was used in 2007 and will be used again this year. The complaints call into question the study's depiction of the issues between Israelis and Palestinians.
The purpose of the geographic study, according to Harriett Olson, chief executive of the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, is to provide a context for the mission of the church. The division, which produces the studies, is UMW's administrative arm.
Much of the 223-page mission study focuses on the political history of the region, accompanied by a "personal history" commentary by the author, the Rev. Stephen Goldstein, a Board of Global Ministries executive. Included is a study guide with personal stories of Israelis and Palestinians, study questions and worship materials, written by the Rev. Sandra Olewine, a board missionary.
The other two studies being offered in 2008 are "Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival," and a spiritual growth study titled, "I Believe in Jesus."
Disturbed by study
On Feb. 13, a group called Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East issued a press release announcing it was "deeply disturbed" by the UMW's Israel-Palestine mission study. The group criticized what it believed to be "factual errors, misrepresentations, material omissions and distortions" within the study.
The Rev. Archer Summers, senior pastor, First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, Calif., and a member of the Fair Witness executive committee, called the study a "blatant attempt to portray Jews and Israelis in as damning a light as possible," particularly by stereotyping Jews as aggressive, belligerent, racist and vengeful.
A Feb. 19 statement from the Board of Global Ministries noted that the study considers Israel as a secular state. "The study analyzes political actions and aspirations," the statement said. "It seeks to expand the dialogue regarding this matter by including viewpoints rarely heard in public discourse."
Olson told United Methodist News Service that the Israel-Palestine mission study was not intended as a report of the church or a textbook. Nor does it advocate for divestment from Israel as a political tool, although Fair Witness has tied it to that issue. "It's not about divestment," she said. "The Women's Division has not taken a position on divestment."
Geographic studies for the schools of mission often examine the political and cultural complexities of particular areas. The 2005-2006 study was on India-Pakistan, and the Middle East was a focus in 1958, 1979 and 1992. The next study will be on the Sudan.
"The studies don't attempt to summarize everything that is available," Olson explained. "I think that people who are critical of the church's views (on Israel-Palestine) are similarly critical of the study."
General Conference positions
Through General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, The United Methodist Church has affirmed the role of the United Nations in resolving the Middle East conflict, especially as stated in U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. General Conference, which meets every four years, is the only entity that officially speaks for the entire United Methodist Church.
A current General Conference resolution on "Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land" emphasizes a "just and lasting peace" between Palestinians and Israelis.
"We seek for all people in the region an end to military occupation,
freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law," says the resolution.
The statement also calls for an end to new or expanded Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories,
a withdrawal of Israeli military forces to the 1948 ceasefire line, or Green Line,
and dismantling the part of the wall of separation that is not on the Green Line but on Palestinian land.
"We also urge the Palestinian Authority and all Palestinian religious leaders to continue to publicly condemn violence against Israeli civilians
and to use nonviolent acts of disobedience to resist the occupation and the illegal settlements," the resolution says.
Another resolution on Christian-Jewish relations points to "our responsibility as Christians to oppose anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it occurs."
Claims to the land
United Methodist Bishop Jane Middleton of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Area, who co-taught the Israel-Palestine study last year in the denomination's Central Pennsylvania Conference, pointed out that several major religions are tied to the region.
"It is clear that there are many claims on that land," she explained. "The biblical claim (for Jews) is the one that certainly all persons who care about our sisters and brothers in the Middle East would recognize."
Such a claim is not denied by United Methodists, Middleton said. "The study was clear in recognizing that a two-state solution is the only possibility to bring peace."
The bishop, who has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories several times, noted that the power balance in the region continues to hinder the peace process. "Palestinians have been repressed and oppressed in tragic ways," she said.
"At the same time, we have to recognize the desire for Israelis to live in peace and not be threatened by rockets and suicide bombs."
Ruth Daugherty of Lancaster, Pa., a former Women's Division president, taught the Israel-Palestine study in the regional school of mission and four conference schools of mission in 2007. "In introducing the study, I talked about the complexity of the issues," she said. She noted that understanding the long history of the region is important to seeing "what has occurred politically."
Hope for peace
The hope, she added, is for reconciliation and a peaceful resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. "This is not a study that says what should be done," said Daugherty, who has visited the region four or five times. "It is a study that says this is the situation, a very complex situation."
As an instructor, she expected her students to look at the materials and reach their own conclusions. Daugherty said she "tried to get people to see both Palestinians and Jews as being persons created by God. There is suffering on both sides, and there is a desire by both people to have their own country, their own nation."
United Methodist Women and its predecessors have offered mission studies on an annual basis since 1930, and Middleton said she respects the organization for being in the forefront of educating the denomination on complex issues and how to make a difference in the world.
"I can remember when United Methodist Women introduced studies on China at a time when China was seen as an archenemy of the U.S. and studies on apartheid when apartheid seemed impossible to overcome," she added.
April 15, 2008
Contact: Nitsana Darshan-Leitner 011.972.52.383.7020
For Immediate Release
Residents of Sderot To Israeli Government:
Stop Supplying Gasoline to Hamas!!
The residents of Sderot, represented by Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, have dispatched a series of letters to Israeli government, parliamentary, military and legal officials calling upon Israel to stop supplying petroleum to the Hamas-led Gaza Strip.
The residents allege in their letters that Hamas siphons off more than half of the gasoline supplied from Israel for use in terror related activities including the daily Kassam rocket attacks, the incessant shootings at the farmers in the field, as well as the murderous attack last week on the Nachal Oz gasoline depot in which two Israeli petrol workers supplying the Gaza line were killed.
"Our lives are being physically threatened daily," said Mrs. Nechi Fendel, a mother of seven who moved to Sderot from Staten Island 15 years ago and works as a computer programmer in Nachal Oz. "For eight years now we are living with non-stop rocket attacks, day in and day out. The Hamas fires endlessly at our farmers in the field, at our schools and at our homes and rather than respond and protect us, our government continues to supply the terrorists with the very gas they need to make more missiles and launch them to try and kill our kids - it's a black comedy of the absurd."
The Sderot residents allege that Hamas is siphoning off thousands of liters of Israeli supplied gasoline on the Gaza side of the Nachal Oz depot in order to create an artificial humanitarian crisis and bring world public opinion down on Israel. Israel, on its part, claims that it continues to supply the gasoline to Gaza so it can be used for humanitarian purposes such as hospitals, schools and a variety of critical and emergency services.
"Hamas can get petroleum from Egypt via Rafah or from other sources," said Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner in sending the letters. "It makes no sense for Israel to continue to supply her enemies with fuel. In 2005 Israel "disengaged" from Gaza, with Israeli Jews paying a tremendous price in social and personal suffering as a result, so why are we continuing this charade? Either we are disengaged or not."
If the residents demand to shut down the Nachal Oz depot and stop the supply of gasoline to Hamas is not adhered to, Shurat HaDin, on behalf of the Sderot families, will be filing a petition in Israel's high court of justice requesting that the court compel the government to cease and desist the supply of fuel to Hamas. "The supply of fuel to Hamas in Gaza is as close to aiding and abetting the enemy as one can ever come. We supply them with gasoline, Iran supplies them with training, Syria supplies them with political cover - it's a perfect recipe for continued disaster. How can we complain about Iran and Syria with a straight face if we are aiding Hamas in the same manner " concluded Darshan-Leitner.
Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center is a Jewish human rights institute based in Israel and staffed by some of the country's leading activist attorneys.
Shurat HaDin is dedicated to providing legal representation and resources for the numerous courtroom struggles, which are being waged in the Israeli, American and European courts on behalf of the Jewish State and serves as a central clearinghouse and litigation base for the multifarious legal battles that have been thrust upon Israel's citizens during recent years.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Washington (JTA) -- The Bush administration has taken the groundbreaking step of identifying some virulent criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, as it warns that anti-Jewish attitudes and incidents are on the rise worldwide.
In a new study, the U.S. State Department cites Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute in reporting an increase of serious anti-Semitic incidents, encompassing physical attacks and vandalism, from 406 in 2005 to 593 in 2006.
The new study, "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism," also cites a range of other nongovernmental organizations to show dramatic increases in Latin America, Australasia and Europe, including a 31 percent spike in incidents in Britain from 2005 to 2006 and a 35 percent jump in Argentina during the same period.
The report goes quite far in warning about the intensification of anti-Semitic rhetoric among governments and international elites, and its policy recommendations are unusually strong for State Department reports, which generally refrain from pronounced language.
Its boldest venture is to name some attacks on Israel as anti-Semitism. In addition, the report marks the first time that the U.S. government has made it a policy to apply the label of anti-Semitism to some criticism of Israel.
"Anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon," the report said. "New forms of anti-Semitism have evolved. They often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism. However, the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israelnd Iraq.
Among other examples, it notes cartoons in the Greek and Arab press depicting Israelis as Nazis, as well as statements by Greek and British politicians to that effect. Some examples date as far back as 1991, and the report also includes examples of graffiti without reporting whether it is sanctioned or tolerated by the responsible authorities.
More could have been done to rate how different nations tackle anti-Semitism, said Paul LeGendre, the senior associate for fighting discrimination and hate crimes at Human Rights First, the only major human rights watchdog that deals with hate crimes.
"Ukraine is a country that we're particularly concerned about at the moment," LeGendre said by way of example.
LeGendre said its government has condemned outbreaks of anti-Semitism, but "it doesnareness.
"I hope this keeps it on the radar screen and lets other government know that the U.S. sees this as an important issue that needs to be taken seriously," LeGendre said.
The report, which was sent to Congress last month, culminates four years of research launched in 2004 after U.S. lawmakers passed a bill commissioning such a report. The process was accelerated in 2006 when President Bush named Gregg Rickman the first U.S. special envoy on anti-Semitism.
Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, welcomed the report, as did some members of Congress.
"All too often, legitimate criticism of the State of Israel can veer into naked anti-Semitism characterized by vile hate speech,aust denial as a vehicle for anti-Semitism, focusing particularly on the role Iran's government has taken in its propagation. It also targets the United Nations system, saying the double standards some of its constituent bodies display toward Israel promote a hostile environment for Jews.
"Regardless of the intent, disproportionate criticism of Israel as barbaric and unprincipled, and corresponding discriminatory measures adopted in the U.N. against Israel, have the effect of causing audiences to associate negative attributes with Jews in general, thus fueling anti-Semitism," it says.
The report noted the singling out of Israel for condemnation by the U.N. General Assembly and, in particular, the U.N. Human Rights Council, as well as the tendency to keep Israel out of regional groupings, hampering its efforts to accrue legitimacy. At the same time, it commended the recent increase in General Assembly condemnations of anti-Semitism.
The willingness of the authors of the anti-Semitism report to speak out stands in contrast to the relatively muted tone of the State Department's human rights assessment. Last year's human rights report saw the elimination of rankings such as "poor," "very poor," "improved" or "not improved" that were applied to foreign governments. This year's report is even less venturesome, simply describing reports of abuses as "credible" or "reputable," and relaying the data.
That might be a function of the U.S. government itself facing an increase of allegations of abusive behavior, according to Human Rights First.
"The problem," the organization said in a statement, "is not so much that the reports fail to tell it like it is, but rather that because of the United States' own polices on torture, rendition and detention, the Bush administration is less able to combat human rights abuses abroad."
Israel and Gaza are on the brink of war. A ground assault has left many dead, and the rain of rockets only spreads. Israel is now considering a full-scale invasion of Gaza, which has never worked before. The only answer is a ceasefire deal, already suggested by Hamas and supported by 64% of Israelis and some senior cabinet ministers. With international help, this could make civilians on both sides safer.
Peace itself is at stake in the coming days, as are thousands of lives. But both sides know they are in a battle for global legitimacy, and international opinion matters. We need to raise a massive worldwide outcry for a Gaza ceasefire now - sign the emergency petition below, we will deliver it to senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders and in a billboard campaign:
We call for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to stop the bloodshed and agree to an immediate ceasefire, and for the international community to engage constructively and help broker a fair deal for the safety of civilians on both sides
Courtesy of MEMRI:
April 9, 2008
Clip No. 1738
Palestinian Authority Representative in Lebanon Abbas Zaki Supports Anti-Israeli Attacks and States: We Act According to the Phased Plan. Once We Get Jerusalem, We Will Move On to Drive Israelis Out of All of Palestine
Following are excerpts from an interview with Abbas Zaki, Palestinian Authority representative in Lebanon, which aired on NBN TV on April 9, 2008:
Abbas Zaki: We believe wholeheartedly that the Right of Return is guaranteed by our will, by our weapons, and by our faith.
Interviewer: Do you still believe in weapons, not just in negotiations?
Abbas Zaki: The use of weapons alone will not bring results, and the use of politics without weapons will not bring results. We act on the basis of our extensive experience. We analyze our situation carefully. We know what climate leads to victory and what climate leads to suicide. We talk politics, but our principles are clear. It was our pioneering leader, Yasser Arafat, who persevered with this revolution, when empires collapsed. Our armed struggle has been going on for 43 years, and the political struggle, on all levels, has been going on for 50 years. We harvest U.N. resolutions, and we shame the world so that it doesn't gang up on us, because the world is led by people who have given their brains a vacation - the American administration and the neocons.
Young Palestinian: As I recall, the invasion of 1982 and the destruction of South Lebanon was not just in response to missile attacks, but in response to operations as well. Israel does not use only the missiles as a pretext. It uses any activity of the resistance as a pretext.
Abbas Zaki: The important thing is that in any operation, Israel will pay a price. We don't want cases in which you don't kill even a chicken, but Israel kills 20 of you. I salute any operation that makes Israel pay a heavy price.
The P.L.O. is the sole legitimate representative [of the Palestinian people], and it has not changed its platform even one iota. In light of the weakness of the Arab nation and the lack of values, and in light of the American control over the world, the P.L.O. proceeds through phases, without changing its strategy. Let me tell you, when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine.
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