Monday, March 31, 2008

Olmert finally admits: We bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor


An Israeli airstrike against Syria last September targeted a nuclear-related facility that was under construction with technical assistance from North Korea, according to Israel's prime minister.

Japanese government sources said over the weekend that the Israeli leader, Ehud Olmert, briefed Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda about the attack during summit talks in Tokyo on Feb. 27.

It is apparently the first time that the intended target had been disclosed to the head of a foreign government.

Previously, Jerusalem had only acknowledged it carried out the Sept. 6, 2007, attack, but stopped short of identifying the type of facility.

Tokyo has shown keen interest in the disclosure as it suggests Pyongyang was providing nuclear technology to Damascus in violation of an agreement made at six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue not to transfer nuclear materials, technology or know-how.

According to the sources, Olmert told Fukuda that the site was a nuclear-related facility that was under construction with know-how and assistance from North Korean technicians dispatched by Pyongyang.

Olmert also said Israel remains concerned about the issue of nuclear proliferation by North Korea and sought greater information sharing with Tokyo through expanded dialogue on the issue.
Japanese government officials expressed differing views on how to interpret Olmert's statement.
"While we cannot confirm the facts, the fact that such an assertion was made at an official occasion such as a summit meeting is significant, making it highly credible," said one high-ranking Foreign Ministry official.
Another Foreign Ministry official pointed out, however, that the Israeli leader "may have only presented facts that were favorable for the Israeli side."

Under a joint statement issued at six-party talks in September 2005, Pyongyang agreed to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs."
North Korea agreed to "provide a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs" and reaffirmed its "commitment not to transfer nuclear materials, technology or know-how" to other countries, under a list of actions for implementation of the joint statement, agreed on during the talks in October.

Washington has since sought clarification from Pyongyang on suspected nuclear proliferation by North Korea to other countries such as Syria. Pyongyang has denied the allegations, leaving the talks stalled. (IHT/Asahi: March 31,2008)

Hamas storms Fatah-affiliated university in Gaza

GAZA, March 31 (RIA Novosti)

Islamist group Hamas has taken control of the Al-Azhar University in Gaza, associated with rival movement Fatah, who were forced out of the Gaza Strip last year by Hamas, a deputy principle said Monday.

A deputy principal at Al-Azhar, one of Gaza's largest universities, told journalists that police took over the university campus early Monday, denying entry to both students and university staff.
The official said he believed the refusal by the university's administration to hold a ceremony commemorating the life of Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual Hamas leader assassinated by Israel in 2004, was behind the take over.

The storming of Al-Azhar University will throw recent moves towards reconciliation and national unity between Fatah and Hamas into turmoil.
The two sides met last week the first time since a military coup last June, when Hamas, considered by many in the West as a terrorist organization, crushed Fatah troops and seized the Palestinian enclave.

Gaza has been in international isolation since, while the West Bank, where moderate Fatah maintains power, has resumed peace talks with Israel and received substantial aid from the West.

Read it also on YNET "Gaza university shut down after Hamas, Fatah supporters scuffle"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Arab States ask Iran to cease the occupation of Abu Musa!

On March 22, 2008, I wrote a long post titled "The non-nuclear case against Iran": the occupation of the UAE's islands of Abu Musa and the two Tunbs.
Once again today, at the Arab summit in Damascus, the Arab States have asked Tehran to end the occupation of the small archipelago in the Persian Gulf.

March 30, 2008, 22:25

Damascus: The Arab Summit wound up here on Sunday with a renewed call to Iran to end its occupation of the UAE islands of Abu Mousa, the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.

The summit, which was presided over by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, also condemned the incessant Iranian attempts to create a fait accompli by way of building settlements on the occupied islands.
"The continued attempts by Iran to build settlements and conduct wargames in the territorial waters, air space, economic zones and coral reefs of the occupied islands, are all acts that constitute a gross violation of the UAE sovereignty and territorial integrity," said a communique issued at the end of the summit.

The summit urged Iran to cease such acts of provocation, saying they amounted to unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

"Moreover, such acts cannot help in building confidence but would rather jeopardise regional stability and security,'' it said.

The summit called on Iran to rethink its current position in favour of a negotiated settlement, either through serious and direct talks or through international arbitration.
In a significant boost to the UAE's right over the occupied islands, the Arab League member-states committed themselves to raising the issue in their respective contacts with Iran.
"The islands of Abu Mousa, the Greater and Lesser Tunbs should be treated as occupied Arab territories," the communique said.

The summit also passed a decision to inform the UN Secretary-General that the issue of the occupied UAE isles be kept on the Security Council's agenda until Iran ends its illegal occupation.
On the Arab-Israeli conflict, the summit renewed its commitment to the Arab peace initiative of 2002, as the basis for a comprehensive settlement on all the tracks, as provided for in the relevant UN resolutions. (Gulf News)

The answer from Iran today is once again full of arrogance and blatant disregard of international law.

Tehran, March 30, IRNA

Three Iranian Islands in the Persian Gulf are inseparable part of Iranian territory, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Sunday.
He strongly refuted statement made by Arab League chief Amr Mousa that he put on the agenda of Summit of Arab Leaders the misunderstanding between Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

Hosseini said such allegations are regarded as interference in Iran's domestic affairs.
Interfering of third parties in a misunderstanding between Iran and UAE which could be resolved through talks is not helpful, he underlined. (IRNA)

Syria ready for US military action

click to zoom

From correspondents in Damascus

March 31, 2008 04:43am

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said overnight Damascus is prepared for all scenarios in its worsening relationship with Washington, including the use of US military force.

"A prudent person must make all his calculations, especially when we have to deal with an administration which knows how to strike but does not know how to withdraw," Mr Muallem said at the end of an Arab summit in Damascus.

He was referring to Iraq where almost 160,000 American troops are stationed five years after invading the country to overthrow president Saddam Hussein. More than 4000 US soldiers have died since.

Mr Muallem was responding to a question over whether Damascus feared "a US strike against Syria or Iran" if US diplomatic efforts fail to isolate Syria.

"We hope that this will not happen. We hope for dialogue and an accord in order to avoid more American destruction to our region, and more deaths to the Americans," he said.

The United States has been trying to isolate Syria, which it accuses of backing the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and radical Palestinian groups.

Half of the leaders of the 22-member Arab League, including the heads of state of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, boycotted the two-day Damascus summit, blaming Syria for Lebanon's protracted political crisis.

Washington, which also accuses Damascus of meddling in Iraq, had urged its allies to think twice before attending the summit, charging that Syria has been blocking Lebanon's presidential election. (Daily Telegraph)

Latest from the Bahrain Society Against Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy

Search engines should consider this sheer, utter, hysteria-mediated nonsense as "spam"!

New drive to reopen Israel boycott office
By NOOR TOORANI-Sunday 30, March, 2008

The Bahrain Society Against Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy is pushing for the re-opening of the Israel Boycott Office in the Gulf State.

It claims that as a result of the office being closed, Israeli produce is now finding its way into the Bahrain market. The group also accused the US military of bringing in Israeli goods to be consumed at its naval base in Bahrain.

However, a spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet would neither confirm nor deny the allegation.
"The US receives goods both directly and indirectly for consumption from a variety of companies throughout the world," he told the GDN.

"Produce activity happens at a variety of levels and is purchased from a variety of vendors and sub-vendors."

The Bahrain Society Against Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy is behind next month's event, which is expected to bring together MPs and young activists to highlight issues relating to the office's closure.
Society secretary-general Abdulla Abdulmalik claimed proper procedures were not followed when the office was shut and accused the Bahrain government of bowing to US pressure.

"We are trying to re-open the office because this office was established under legal rules and regulations," he told the GDN.
"It was closed based on one decision, which was not made by the Bahraini people. I must add that it was the US government's decision.
"Our government did not go through proper channels to close the office, which it did to secure the Free Trade Agreement with the US."
He says the event will explain to the public why the office was closed, while at the same time highlighting atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.

"Arab governments used to denounce the Israeli government and its actions, but now they aren't even doing that," he said. "It's like all the killings and murders are just a routine and we all have to get used to it."

Mr Abdulmalik said closing the boycott office was a dangerous first step on the road to opening diplomatic ties.
"Israeli products won't rush into the country as soon as the office is shut, but closing it is the first step in building Zionist trade and diplomatic relations and soon we'll see Israelis living among us," he added.

"The Bahraini public is trying its best to fight this Zionist cancer, but our weak Arab governments are caving in to America's requests and agreeing to its every demand."
(Gulf Daily News)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gaddafi warns leaders they face the same fate as Saddam

By Duraid Al Baik, Foreign Editor, Published: March 30, 2008

Damascus: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Saturday warned Arab leaders to unite or face death.

Gaddafi, whose speech lasted for more than 30 minutes - the longest at the summit's opening session - pointed at the gathered Arab leaders and told them they faced the same fate as former Iraqi president Saddam Hussain.

"Don't say you are friends of the US. Saddam was a close American ally and he fought on its behalf with Iran. He did nothing wrong to the Americans that deserved such a fate," he said. "Saddam was hanged in front of you and no one dare call for an investigation into his execution.
"A foreign force occupied an Arab country and hanged its president and we stood by and watched," Gaddafi said.

"One day, you will see yourselves in a similar situation and at that time no one should blame [anyone] but himself because we did not work sincerely to build a strong and unified Arab nation. Each one of you hates others. Syria is not on good terms with its neighbours, while Libya has stronger ties with Italy than it has with Tunisia or Egypt," he said.

Gaddafi called for a unification between Arab countries in Asia and the African Union and proposed rich Arab countries invest in Africa.
He told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Palestinians achieved nothing from their meetings with Israelis and there should be a democratic state in the region that combines both Israelis and Palestinians under one authority.

Despite his fierce comments, Gaddafi's speech elicited laughter on several occasions.
Commenting on the speech, Touati Slimani, an Algerian political analyst, said Gaddafi always has the ability to reflect the opinions of ordinary Arab people and was the only leader in the Arab world speaking in a transparent and direct way.

Slimani said even if some Arabs feel that Gaddafi is idealistic or comical, he appeals to many ordinary Arabs.
"Gaddafi bears part of the responsibility for the declining situation. He should work to [increase] hope," Slimani said.
On Saturday, Libya lashed out at the West over the low turnout at the Damascus summit, boycotted by half of the leaders who blame Syria for the crisis in Lebanon.

"There has been US pressure on Arab countries to reduce their participation," Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalgham told reporters.
"And the latest is that [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy is interfering in Arab affairs.
"We as Arabs do not interfere in European summits. It has become a farce and this situation must be remedied by a joint Arab effort," he added.
On Thursday, Sarkozy said he supported the decision by Saudi Arabian and Egyptian leaders to send only low-level delegations. (GulfNews)

Israel, do you want peace? Join the Ummah!

Prince Turki, Saudi Arabia's current National Security Adviser and former Ambassador to America, said it was time for Israel to respond to the Arab League's 2002 offer to integrate into the Middle East. After fully withdrawing to the 1967 borders, after realizing a just two-state solution with the Palestinians—then, he added crucially, Israelis could become Arab Jews of the Middle East.

WASHINGTON 2008-03-29- In 1998, Prince Hassan of Jordan appeared on video at the University of Notre Dame, marking one of the first academic conferences in the field of religion and conflict resolution. As he spoke via teleconference, he quoted at length and with great love from the writings of Moses Maimonides—the world-famous medieval Jewish philosopher who had been a chief conduit between Arab neo-Aristotelian philosophy and the Christian world.

It was already a thrilling moment for me – the conference was the first that I attended as an academic speaker – but Maimonides was part and parcel of my sequestered religious childhood. I went to school for 13 years as a child at a place called Maimonides School, and prayed there on Sundays and Saturdays. For Prince Hassan, a major figure of the Arab world, to be embracing Maimonides felt like an extraordinary inter-cultural and inter-religious gesture. I was so moved that I had to say something to the plenary meeting.

Then I got a shock.

When I shared my feelings of gratitude publicly, someone from the audience of scholars responded quite forcefully, "But he is our Maimonides, one of the great Arab philosophers of history." I think that if I were brought up with more Jewish wounds than I had ('Jewishness' could be defined by how many and how deep your wounds are), I might have taken offense. But I did not, and was instead stunned, intrigued, and amused at the playful re-orientation of identities afoot in the room.

That was one of those life-changing moments for me. In that instant I realized the truth of Gandhi's words when he claimed that, the more fluid and multiple our identities, the easier peace and coexistence can flourish at a very profound level. I noticed later in various texts and articles that Jews from the Middle East, who often originated from Spain/Al-Andalus, were referred to by scholars not only as Sephardim but as Arab Jews.

One decade later, Prince Turki, Saudi Arabia's current National Security Adviser and former Ambassador to America, said it was time for Israel to respond to the Arab League's 2002 offer to integrate into the Middle East. After fully withdrawing to the 1967 borders, after realizing a just two-state solution with the Palestinians—then, he added crucially, Israelis could become Arab Jews of the Middle East.

This went unnoticed by most of the enlightened press, presumably because Al Qaeda was not mentioned and no blood of Arabs or Jews was spilled. But at a deeper level, blood was very involved: this former head of intelligence – from a country from which so much of the extremism of the Middle East had emerged – was now utterly redefining identity, family, tribe and clan in terms of ethical relationships, in terms of peace and justice.

In the pages of The Forward, a centrist Jewish journal, some people reacted to Prince Turki's offer as insulting. They assumed that it was an offer from the majority group of the Middle East for a minority to attain some subsumed and subjugated status. But after working with Prince Turki for years at the World Economic Forum, I saw that he embraced the interfaith moment as a moment of absolute equality. He was suggesting, from within the most conservative religious environment in the Middle East, that "Arab" was an ethical term of belonging and community, not a racial or tribal term. It would be like the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Israel saying that if Palestinians can live in peace with us then they will be our Jewish brothers. I have never heard anyone, no matter how progressive, say this.

Prince Turki went to the heart of the matter, to the question of how the definition of identity can drive us away from hatred, fear, and war, toward the peaceful embrace of the other, or, alternatively, how much identity can stand in the way of all rational negotiation. He has placed a challenge before every Jew and Arab as to who they really are, and who they will be in the future of the Middle East. (Middle East Online)

Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Washington D.C. He can be reached at This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service and can be accessed at GCNews

'Reach out to the Taliban". And Hezbullah. And Hamas...

You don't want to miss out on the weekly truckload of sheer UK nonsense.
Please, read on...

'Reach out to the Taliban': British defence secretary

Sat Mar 29, 2008

LONDON (AFP) - Britain should reach out to elements of the Taliban militia in Afghanistan who can be won over to the side of democracy, Defence Secretary Des Browne said in a newspaper interview published Saturday.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Browne said conflict resolution was about persuading people who believe that violence is the way to achieve their aims to try to fulfil their ambitions through politics instead.

And that meant engaging with individuals or groups, even if their views were disagreeable. He applied the argument to Taliban insurgents -- whom British troops are fighting in southern Afghanistan -- as well as Lebanon's Hezbullah.

Browne said there was currently "no basis of negotiation" with Al-Qaeda, but added: "The Taliban is a collective noun. There are some people who are driven by their own self interest rather than ideology.

"There's no question that we should try to reach them. People have been switched. We have to get people who have previously been on the side of the Taliban to come onto the side of the (Afghan) government."

His comments come after Jonathan Powell, who was former prime minister Tony Blair's top adviser, said in a March 15 interview with The Guardian that Western nations should talk to the likes of the Taliban, Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

Powell argued that opening up channels of communication had proved to be successful in ending three decades of bloody sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics in the British province of Northern Ireland.

But efforts to engage elements of the Taliban saw Kabul expel two senior United Nations and European Union diplomats -- one from Britain and the other from Ireland -- for contacting insurgents in southern Helmand province.

According to a Financial Times report from the Afghan capital on February 4, President Hamid Karzai was furious at the proposal to set up a military training camp for 2,000 Taliban militants who wanted to switch sides. (AFP)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Attorney General questions former Arafat aide over embezzlement allegations

28 / 03 / 2008

Bethlehem – Ma'an - The Palestinian Attorney General Ahmed Al-Mughani announced on Friday that he has met with the former economic adviser to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Khaled Salam, who is currently under investigation for financial irregularities involving money belonging to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Media outlets have recently reported that Salam is planning to invest 600 million US dollars in a construction project in the Jordanian Red Sea resort city of Aqaba.

The Attorney General's is currently investigating whether Salam's money was stolen from the PA as he was formerly charged with managing the PA's investments and financial accounts.

Khalid Salam, also known as Mohammed Rashid, is suspected of having embezzled huge sums of money from the PA following Arafat's death in 2004.

In the Jordanian capital Amman on Thursday Salam presented the Attorney General with documents and contracts related to the project, which he says prove the funds for the project are from his own assets.

The Attorney-General said in an exclusive interview with Ma'an that after studying the documents he found that the project is being financed by a multi-investment shareholder fund called "Joud Four," which is managed by Khalid Salam.

According to the Attorney General, it is expected that the total financial investment for the project over eight years will total 600 million dollars.

Read also YID With LID on this story.

Hezbollah exchanges "favors" with Syria and Iran

Hassan Haidar-Al Hayat

As both regimes arm and finance it, Hezbollah executes their strategy and harmonizes its positions with their current tactics. When one of its senior commanders, with strong ties to Tehran, is assassinated in the heart of Damascus, Hezbollah raises its voice with threats of an open war, and later suddenly switches to appeasement and reassurance when Damascus wishes to keep the Lebanese issue quiet as the date of the Arab Summit, which it is hosting, draws near.

When Damascus considers Lebanon's crisis and presidential vacuum just another bullet-point on the summit's agenda - while it is in practice the dominant issue, which prompted the two most prominent Arab countries to lower their level of representation and prodded Lebanon, a founding member of the Arab League, to boycott the summit in an unprecedented move - its Lebanese ally shifts to a language of "reconciliation" on the internal front and rushes to announce its passionate desire for political settlement, firmly certifying what Syria likes to hear, namely that Israel will soon cease to exist. The evidence supporting this claim consists of statistics and studies which were used by Hezbollah's Secretary-General in his latest speech, two days ago.

But what is the purpose of certifying the "capability to overthrow the Zionist regime"? A clear indication comes from the recent attempts by Syrian, Algerian and Yemeni delegations, during the summit's preliminary meetings, to ratify a motion to withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative, which was sanctioned during the Beirut Summit of 2002, considering that it could not remain "on offer" indefinitely.

Will the initiative be subjected to further attacks during the summit itself? In clearer words, will the coup be completed? That coup which began with Hariri's assassination and the disruption of Lebanon's equilibrium, followed by the July 2006 war and subsequent occupation of Downtown Beirut, and persisted as Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and Iran repeats the same theory of the coming end of Israel every time it seeks to confront Arab political discourse in its own home.

The Lebanese have discovered, in Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's latest speech, that they have unknowingly given him "custody" of the mission of "working to overthrow the Zionist regime." Indeed, he stated in his speech that the majority of them had responded positively to a question to that effect, according to a study by an unknown research institution, whose "conclusive" results clearly show that the Lebanese of all sects have "unanimously" agreed on the validity of such an option and the necessity of pursuing it.

And when Nasrallah considered that this was not a Lebanese mission, what he meant was that he wouldn't do it by himself, but rather in the context of a wider alliance, extending from Tehran to Damascus and Beirut, reaching into Gaza.

Hezbollah has therefore replaced the consent of the actual majority, which came out on February 14th and demanded it to cease its regional outbidding and adhere to Lebanese sovereignty, with that of a paper majority, and accepted "custody" on its behalf without even allowing for a margin of error.

Nasrallah did not fail to support the inclination revealed by his other ally, Nabih Berri, who intends to invite all Lebanese parties to another round of the National Roundtable Dialogue.

What a coincidence that his invitation would come at such a time, when the Lebanese, and the rest of the world, fear the outbreak of a new war, one that would be caused by the promises to avenge the assassination of Imad Mughniyyeh. The panic that such a prospect has caused among the Lebanese inhabitants of the South and the Beqaa has spread rumors of an anticipatory wave of migration. As if it was to remind the Lebanese that when the July war erupted, that very Roundtable Dialogue was in session, and that the next probable war may similarly require internal appeasement and a cover of dialogue. (Dar al-Hayat)

Mashaal to Arab Leaders: Don't Criticize Qassam Fire

28/03/2008 - Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal has called on the leaders of Arab states not to criticize the Qassam rocket fire on occupied territories during the Arab Summit scheduled to begin in Damascus on Saturday.

In a letter sent to the Arab leaders, Mashaal added that his movement "is willing to take a proposal for a truce with Israel seriously, as long as it will be an overall and mutual move."

In the letter published Friday morning by the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat, the Hamas leader defended the Palestinian organizations' use of the rockets, saying that this was a "limited weapon".

“We call on you to stand by the Palestinian people and its legitimate resistance from the political, economic and moral aspects, in order to confront the wild Zionist aggression on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including all of its forms of killing, assassinations, arrests, raids and destruction. We have no other choice but to note that the Gaza missiles and the limited weapons the Palestinian resistance possesses are aimed at defending our people and our land.”

"This weapon is a response to the occupation and aggressiveness. Nevertheless, all the Palestinian resistance factions have expressed their willingness to take the truce issue seriously."
Mashaal went on to express his hope that "the Palestinian people and its legitimate resistance will not be criticized over the events and the escalation which took place…after all the diplomatic efforts, negotiations and attempts to reach an agreement have failed in leading to the end of the occupation, to a cessation in the aggressiveness and to the protection of our children, women and members of our people.

"These people have the right to have the (Muslim) nation, including its leaders and government, stand by it, support it and provide it with the firm standing factors on this land and assist in the resistance and the response to the aggressiveness."

In the letter, Mashaal also called on Arab leaders to launch a swift initiative which will make Israel lift the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, and to broker the dialogue between Hamas and Fatah – based on the Yemeni initiative. (Al-Manar)

Israel courts medical tourists

Professor Jose Cohen

By Crispin Thorold BBC News, Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of the world's great destinations. For generations people have travelled to the city to see the religious sites.

Now the government of Israel is hoping that visitors of a different kind will go to the country.
Israel is marketing itself as a hub for medical tourism.

Long waiting lists and expensive private healthcare have made medical tourism a boom industry. Every year thousands of westerners go to countries like India for quick and cheap treatment.


The Hadassah hospital on the outskirts of Jerusalem is a good example of the facilities and expertise that Israel has on offer.

Among the doctors working there is Professor Jose Cohen, a neurologist who specialises in stroke patients, and came to public attention when he treated the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

"This is a very small country with incredible and amazing medical facilities," says Professor Cohen. "Excellence in medical terms and cheaper treatment. That is what they will get here".

"The treatments that we can provide are much cheaper than the ones that you are going to receive in Europe."

Some patients are already coming from overseas.

Most are from the Jewish diaspora, or even from Arab countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.

Travelling for treatment

In this country with many immigrants, medical staff are often multilingual.
In one private room I met Ifeadi Chucks and his brother.
They had travelled from Lagos in Nigeria, so that Ifeadi could be treated for leukemia.

He spent weeks on the internet researching private healthcare across the world."They were more open to us. They were interested," he said.

"The cost was also OK compared to that of the United Kingdom and the United States."
The Israeli government hopes that there will soon be more western medical tourists in Israel.

Recently the Health and Tourism Ministries brought out a brochure, promoting the country's health system.

It boasted first-rate cancer care, and described Israel as a "land of milk, honey and fertility".
At the moment, few medical tourism websites feature Israel.

India and Singapore are more likely destinations for people seeking healthcare overseas.

'Flurry of interest'

However, Keith Pollard from the British medical tourism website,, says that after little interest in the country in the past, Israeli companies are now promoting the country aggressively.

"Our website has been running for about three years now, and until the last few weeks we've had no interest from hospitals or providers in Israel," says Mr Pollard.

"But in the last five or six weeks we've seen a sudden flurry of interest from hospitals and clinics."

In Israel, the wail of sirens, and the sight of ambulances speeding to hospitals, are often associated with bombings.

There has been less violence in Israel in the past couple of years than there was during the height of the Palestinian uprising, but as recent events in Gaza and Jerusalem show the threat remains - and that could be a problem for the industry.

Some tension

"When we had here the terror attacks on a daily basis, the medical tourism went down to the bottom," said Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the Director-General of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem.

"These days, there is some tension, but it is far away, so for patients who need our support it is not a factor."

Some patients' groups also believe that the government and hospitals should focus resources on the treatment of Israelis, rather than on medical tourists.

The hospitals say that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, arguing that foreigners could bring much needed money to the domestic healthcare system.

The work that Professor Cohen, and others in the country, are doing is ground-breaking.

His hope, as well as that of the Israeli government, is that this combination of facilities and expertise will persuade people to travel here for treatment, whatever the security situation.

'Bias and Hypocrisy' Displayed at UN Rights Council

By Patrick Goodenough International Editor

The United Nations' Human Rights Council has elected onto a panel of special advisors a left-wing Swiss sociologist with a record of sympathizing with the Castro and Mugabe regimes and criticizing the United States and Israel.

And in another move that drew fire, the U.N.'s top rights body also appointed an American academic strongly critical of Israel to a post dealing with Israel's conduct in the territories claimed by the Palestinians.

During its less than two years in existence, the Human Rights Council has itself been criticized -- by Western governments and two U.N. secretary-generals among others -- for focusing disproportionately on Israel, while paying relatively little attention to pressing rights issues elsewhere.

Meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, the council elected Swiss national Jean Ziegler as one of 18 members of an expert "advisory committee" that functions as the body's think tank.

Forty of the council's 47 members voted in favor of Ziegler, who for the past eight years has served as a U.N. "special rapporteur on the right to food." (The U.N. has around 20 such reporter-investigators, each focused on a particular country situation or on a theme such as racism or extreme poverty.)

Advisory committee members serve three-year terms and are eligible for re-election once. According to U.N. documents, requirements for the posts include "recognized competence and experience in the field of human rights; high moral standing; and independence and impartiality."

Among those who urged the Swiss government to rescind its nomination of Ziegler was U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In a letter sent earlier this week, Ros-Lehtinen accused Ziegler of "unyielding support of many of the world's most vicious dictators," and noted that a 2005 comment comparing Israelis to concentration camp guards had brought a reprimand from then U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Others who called on the Swiss government to withdraw the nomination included a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Canadian lawmaker and human rights advocate professor Irwin Cotler, and former Cuban political prisoner Angel De Fana, who now heads a U.S.-based organization focusing on political prisoners in his homeland. [...]

[...] U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO, has been a longstanding critic of Ziegler, noting among other things his support for French author Roger Garaudy, a convert to Islam who has denied the Holocaust.

U.N. Watch monitored Wednesday's proceedings, and the group's executive director, Hillel Neuer, commented afterwards that "even within the benighted U.N. Human Rights council, today was a dark day for human rights."

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Scheurer was quoted by Swiss national radio Wednesday as saying Ziegler had "an excellent knowledge of all economic, social and cultural rights" and "immense independence."

The council, whose current members include China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, has held seven regular and six special sessions, with a large proportion of its deliberations dedicated to Israel.

Last year, it controversially decided to end mandates for special rapporteurs on human rights situations in Cuba as well as Belarus.

This week, China, backed by its allies, succeeded in blocking efforts to have the council debate the recent clampdown on dissent in Tibet where around 140 people have been killed since March 10, according to Tibet's government-in-exile.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly last November, U.S. envoy Robert Hagen criticized the council for what he called a "relentless focus on Israel," the elimination of the mandates relating to Cuba and Belarus, and a "reluctance to address principal violators and violations of human rights."

The U.S. decided against standing for council membership in 2006 and again last year. (CNSNEWS)

Read also "Lettre adressée par J. Ziegler pour défendre sa candidature de membre du Comité consultatif du Conseil des droits de l’homme" (UPJF)

Knesset to decide on Armenian ‘genocide'


The Knesset, Israel's parliament, decided on Wednesday that a parliamentary committee will hold an unprecedented hearing on whether to recognize the World War I era killings of Anatolian Armenians as genocide, the Israeli media reported.

The decision to hold the hearing was proposed by left-wing Meretz Chairman Haim Oron and the government did not oppose the motion, the Israeli daily Haaretz said. The Knesset House Committee will decide whether the issue will be handed over to the Knesset Education Committee or to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The Israeli government has full support for Ankara's stance on the controversial 1915 incidents, Turkish diplomatic sources, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, told Today's Zaman on Thursday, expressing confidence that the Armenian allegations would not be officially recognized by Israel. Armenians claim that up to 1.5 million of their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings during the last years of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey categorically rejects the claims, saying that 300,000 Armenians along with at least as many Turks died in civil strife that emerged when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia. "One should not ignore the fact that a small number of members of the Knesset, only 11 members, were present when on Wednesday, they agreed to take the issue to a committee. There is no change in the Israeli government's stance on this issue," the same sources said. (Today's Zaman)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bush invites Palestinian leader Abbas to White House

Thu, March 27, 2008 -

WASHINGTON — President Bush has invited Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to the White House in an effort to give a kick to Mideast peace talks.

The plan, which envisions talks around the beginning of May, was revealed to reporters on Air Force One by National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, who was accompanying Bush on a flight to Dayton, Ohio.

“Details are still being worked out,” said Johndroe, who added that the talks would be part of a continuing effort “to work with the Palestinians and the Israelis as well as other countries in the region in realizing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”

Vice-president Dick Cheney returned from the region this week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaves on Friday for the region, and Bush is expected to go to the Mideast in May. Johndroe, however, said that Bush’s invitation was not spurred by Cheney’s visit. “This is not the result of one specific meeting,” the spokesman said, “but just part of the continuing process that the president has committed to.”

Bush, who has said he believes a peace agreement can be struck before he leaves office next January, called Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak Thursday morning to express regret over a recent naval shooting incident in Egypt and promised to investigate, Johndroe told reporters.(Source)

Tehran: Mahmoud Tube Is Coming

As part of its vigorous cultural diplomacy in neighboring countries sharing its language, Iran is driving plans for a Persian-language satellite network to broadcast in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. But it's unclear whether the region's viewers will tune in to shows tailored to the tastes of the Iranian leadership's arguably radical brand of Islam.

For years, Tehran has pursued vigorous "cultural diplomacy" in neighboring countries that share its linguistic roots -- namely, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Such efforts were in the spotlight this week after a March 24-25 meeting in Dushanbe of the three countries' foreign ministers. Among other issues, the ministers reportedly prepared a deal on launching a common Persian-language satellite-television network to be run jointly by all three governments.

"The common television network will start broadcasting programs in Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Tajik, and the other languages of the three countries," Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrohkhon Zarifi told a news conference in Dushanbe on March 25. He added that the three countries' presidents would sign the deal on the joint television project when they meet next, possibly as early as August.

Although the headquarters of the television channel would be based in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, some observers have been quick to characterize the new network as merely the latest instrument aimed at spreading Iranian influence in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and other Persian-speaking areas of Central and South Asia.

Courting Tajiks

Tehran has invested in cultural ties in Tajikistan since the impoverished former Soviet republic, whose government is militantly secular, gained independence in 1991. Iran has set up a cultural center in Dushanbe that supports a variety of cultural and educational programs. Since the early 1990s, Tehran has also organized frequent cultural trips to Iran for Tajik writers, journalists, and influential intellectuals.

Journalists who have traveled to Iran in such trips say they have been encouraged by the Iranian Embassy in Dushanbe to write about their journey and impressions. Tajik teachers, university professors, and doctors in recent years have been included on such trips, which are fully paid by the Iranian side.

Many Tajik writers, poets, and scientists have also had their books published in Iran. For example, Muhammadjon Shakuri, a prominent Tajik scientist, travels to Iran almost yearly on trips funded by the government in Tehran. He says he is grateful to Iran because when he fell ill recently he was taken there for two successful operations -- all expenses paid by Iran, of course.

Shakuri says Tajik intellectuals appreciate what he calls Iran's desire to strengthen cultural ties and support people who share the same language. "Many books by contemporary Tajik poets have been published in Iran, in the Arabic/Farsi alphabet," he tells RFE/RL. "Such cooperation is expanding now, and Tajikistan is welcoming it, too."

In addition to its cultural center, Tehran finances "Iranian Rooms," which have been set up in almost every university in Dushanbe. There, students and professors get free Internet access, textbooks, and daily newspapers and magazines.

The cultural center has also taken over a significant part of the Tajik National Library -- a complex long popular among students, professors, and young professionals. In recent years, Iran has also donated thousands of books in Persian, Russian, English, and other languages.

Crowded Field

Rahmatkarim Davlat, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service, says many Tajiks believe that Tehran is pursuing a clear political agenda through its cultural programs. "Iran wants to have its supporters among influential intellectuals, and most importantly among the younger generation of Tajiks," Davlat says.

But Hamza Kamol, the head of the Tajik Cultural Foundation in Dushanbe, notes that Iran is just one of several countries that pursue a cultural agenda in his Central Asian country. "When it comes to cultural diplomacy, Iran has not done anything more than other countries, such as Russia, have been doing in Tajikistan," Kamol says.

Russia's cultural centers and embassy in Dushanbe reportedly provide financial support for Russian publications in Tajikistan, among many other activities, such as organizing Russian film festivals and art exhibitions. Likewise, the French cultural center in Dushanbe offers a library, language courses, and promotes French movies.

Turkey has also set up several Turkish-language schools, which have become popular among children from well-to-do families. By contrast, Iran has set up no such schools in Tajikistan.

Tajik authorities, meanwhile, say they support widening cultural and business ties with Iran. But there are tensions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the secular government in Dushanbe.

In the early 1990s, when supporters of the Tajik Islamic and democratic opposition briefly took control of state-run television, they began rebroadcasting Iranian programs in Tajikistan. But the government, after reasserting control over the station, quickly banned all such broadcasts, which it regarded as too religious.

Tajik authorities also have yet to register the Organization of Persian-speaking Journalists, a group set up by Iranian and Tajik journalists and their financial sponsors in 2007. The group has reportedly applied at least eight times to the Tajik Justice Ministry for official registration. But the ministry has repeatedly refused to give the group any official permission to operate.

Early Reviews

While Tajik, Afghan, and Iranian officials have played up plans for the new Persian-language satellite channel, many Tajik journalists and experts tell RFE/RL that they believe the project will be dead in the water. They say that despite the shared language, there are big differences among peoples in the three countries when it comes to their attitudes about culture.

For example, they say Iran would not allow television presenters and guests to appear without adhering to its strict Islamic dress code. Nor would Iran want to broadcast modern songs and movies where women are not covered head to toe. In Tajikistan, however, modern songs and dances, Western movies, and television series are extremely popular.

That is to say nothing of politics. Adolat Mirzo, a female Tajik journalist, tells RFE/RL that it would be almost impossible for the regional state-run Persian-language television network "to organize even an ordinary political roundtable because the three countries have totally different political lines."

While Iran has poor relations with the West, the government of Afghanistan depends on military and economic support from the United States and European Union.

Tajikistan, while desperate for economic aid from any source, has sought to strike a balance in its relations with Iran, Russia, and Western countries. Tahir Shermuhammadi, an independent Iranian-born analyst based in Germany, tells RFE/RL's Tajik Service that Dushanbe, which gets significant financial support from Washington, "won't jeopardize its relations with the West by getting too close to Iran."

Other Tajik observers say Iran's cultural policies have actually brought about the opposite of what Tehran might have intended.

Before Iran expanded its cultural activities in Tajikistan, many Tajiks had cherished the idea of improving relations with Tehran. After all, Iranian pre-revolutionary literature had been popular in Tajikistan, while Iranian songs and movies -- largely created by Iranians abroad -- had attracted huge audiences.

But then the Islamic Republic of Iran started showing movies and concerts with artists covered head to toe. Coupled with Iranian publishers filling Tajik bookstores with Islamic tomes, many Tajiks said they were "disappointed."

Will the new satellite television network change their minds? It's unlikely, but stay tuned. (RFERL)

Saddam-era torture tools in mobile museum of horror

I was reading "Egyptian MP: Saddam Hussein was a 'real man'" by the excellent Israel Matzav (link), when I came across this article which appeared on Kuwait Times.

BAGHDAD: Gruesome instruments of torture and the personal effects of victims killed by henchmen of dictator Saddam Hussein haunt Iraqis five years after the fall of his brutal regime. The display, currently on show in Baghdad, is due to travel across the country in "tribute to the thousands of martyrs" murdered when Saddam was in power, former political prisoner Amed Naji Al-Badawi said. Badawi is on a committee of Iraqi former political prisoners who set up the exhibition in a makeshift museum of horrors on the banks of the Tigris River, in the Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiyah.

Nooses hang from the ceiling, and a wooden coffin-like box containing a mediaeval-looking torture rack on which prisoners were pinned and stretched takes centre stage. Pictures of hangings and bodies are plastered all over the walls. "These are the horrors of the Saddam regime," said Badawi, a stout man in his 50s who spent five years in the jails of Saddam's feared "mukhabarat" secret service because of his alleged support for the Shiite Dawa party. He was arrested along with 13 members of his family-and seven of his brothers were killed by Saddam's goons. Over the past five years Badawi's committee has helped to locate 106 mass graves and the remains of 1,050 men, women and children killed by members of the ousted regime. The display was set up to mark the 17th anniversary of the start of a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq on March 1, 1991, a day after Saddam's regime agreed to a truce with US-led coalition forces after its defeat in the first Gulf war.

His regime brutally suppressed the uprising, killing thousands of people. The names of dozens of those victims are inscribed on black banners hung in the museum, next to a portrait of Shiite leader Mohammed Sadek Al-Sadr who was killed in 1999. The assassination of the Iraqi Shiite dignitary sparked major riots in Najaf, one of Iraq's holiest cities for Shiite Muslims. In the middle of the room a single doll wrapped in a white shroud represents children killed during the iron-fisted rule of Saddam. It is surrounded with toys and cheap plastic flowers. Mothers and widows who have visited the museum have broken down in tears at the sight of this display, Badawi said. Also on show are cases containing the personal effects of some of Saddam's victims, whose remains or mutilated bodies have been found over the past five years in dozens of mass graves across Iraq. The artifacts include combs, identity cards, a rosary, a sock caked in soil, a fragment of a pair of spectacles and bloodstained clothes. Arrest warrants signed by Saddam himself are also on view.

Among the most horrific objects retrieved by Badawi and his team from the notorious torture rooms of the mukhabarat, and now included in the museum, is a wooden table covered in a worn strip of leather and with a domestic iron placed at one end. "This is an electrocution table," Badawi said. "The naked prisoner was bound to the table with a steel bar strapped to his shoulder" to ensure maximum immobility as his torturers electrocuted him or used the iron to inflict burns, Badawi said. Electric shocks were delivered via electrodes attached to a plastic syringe, the needle of which "was inserted into the urethra of the victim's sexual organ," Badawi added. "The pain was atrocious." Videos of torture sessions are also screened in a basement room. Terrified prisoners can be seen being beaten, having their arms and legs broken and being thrown from rooftops or blown up with explosives. - (KUWAIT TIMES)-AFP

£20 million donation from Israeli magnate Sammy Ofer

£20 million for National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich has received a £20 million donation from Israeli shipping magnate and philanthropist Sammy Ofer. Believed to be the largest single donation by an individual to a cultural project in the UK, it will be put towards the creation of a new wing, costing £35 million at the Word Heritage site.

The new wing, due to be completed in time for the 2012 Olympics, will include an 800 sq m exhibition space plus an open archive centre, new learning spaces, a new south entrance, a restaurant, café and shop. NMM Director Dr Kevin Fewster said it would embody "a strategic new direction for the National Maritime Museum".

Donor Sammy Ofer, after whom the extension is expected to be named, has strong links with Britain and served in the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean during World War II. The international shipping group which he founded operates a significant part of its fleet from London with over 90 vessels flying the Red Ensign. (YBW)

Peter Willis, Classic Boat, 27 March 2008

Israel: Hezbollah dramatically increases rocket range

click to enlarge

Mar. 27 2008-The Associated Press

JERUSALEM -- With Iranian backing, Hezbollah guerrillas have dramatically increased their rocket range and can now threaten most of Israel, senior Israeli defense officials said Thursday.

The Lebanese group has acquired new Iranian rockets with a range of about 185 miles, the officials said. That means the guerrillas can hit anywhere in Israel's heavily populated center and reach as far south as Dimona, where Israel's nuclear reactor is located.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the confidential intelligence assessment to the media.

When Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006, Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets into Israel. The longest-range rockets fired, which Israel said were Iranian-made, hit some 45 miles inside Israel.

Although Israel's air force managed to take out most of the group's long-range rockets, the military failed throughout the war to halt the short-range rocket fire that paralyzed northern Israel and killed 40 Israeli civilians.

After the war, the UN dispatched a peacekeeping force to distance Hezbollah from the border and prevent the group from rearming. But Israel says Hezbollah's Iranian and Syrian patrons have steadily provided the group with large amounts of rockets since then, many of them capable of hitting central Israel. However, it has not revealed the evidence for its claims.

Hezbollah and UN peacekeeping officials were not immediately available for comment.

The defense officials did not say how many of the new rockets Hezbollah has obtained. However, Israelis have said previously that overall, Hezbollah now has many more rockets in its arsenal than the 14,000 it had before the conflict -- likely more than double that number.

In early March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported Israeli claims that Hezbollah's arsenal includes 10,000 long-range rockets and 20,000 short-range rockets in southern Lebanon.

Israel also faces near-daily rocket barrages in the south from Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamic group Hamas. The rockets from Gaza, mainly crude short-range projectiles, have killed 13 Israelis since 2001. Like Hezbollah, Hamas has strong ties to Iran.


Not Another Academic Boycott of Israel!

Thursday 27th March 2008

Here we go again

The University College Union (UCU) is once again set to debate a motion supporting an academic boycott of Israel, even though a similar resolution last year was dropped after being deemed unlawful.

The National Executive voted last Friday to submit the proposal at the UCU annual congress meeting in Manchester in May.

The motion, put forward by Tom Hickey, a Socialist Workers Party activist, and seconded by the Union’s President Linda Newman, claims there is “apparent complicity of the Israeli academy” in Israeli government policies towards the Palestinians, and that UCU should “promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued education links with Israeli academic institutions”.

A similar motion last year sparked a storm of controversy and was slammed by senior politicians, academics and activists both in the UK and overseas. It was ultimately abandoned after the union’s own lawyers deemed it discriminatory. However, the UCU has rejected calls to make the legal advice they received public.

Campaigners from Stop the Boycott (1) are now looking to raise awareness amongst union members of last year’s ruling and offering support to union members who want to challenge the NEC’s decisions through the courts.

Lorna Fitzsimons, Chief Executive of BICOM and Co-chair of Stop the Boycott said: “This is farcical; have the UCU not learnt anything? Their own legal advice said that this was illegal and discriminatory, so much so that they kicked the other motion out. Why they suddenly think that the law has changed I don’t know. What I do know is that the last time we ran a campaign that defeated the boycotters politically with an admission that they would have lost a ballot of all members if it had gone to ordinary UCU members.

“It is stunning that the Union still hasn’t published their own legal advice that was paid for by the Union. In the face of the UCU’s steadfast refusal to now publish their legal advice, we are seeking our own legal advice to do what the union refuses to do which is to empower its own individual members. It is imperative for the future credibility for the UCU itself, as well as all British Academia, that this nonsense is stopped immediately.”

Jeremy Newmark, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and Co-chair of STB, said: “By bringing this motion to Congress, UCU's Executive is once again relying on an unrepresentative, factionally dominated conference to foist a discriminatory boycott policy on their membership.”

Henry Grunwald, President of the Board of Deputies, added, “Last year’s successful campaign to defeat the previous boycott proposal demonstrated that our community is committed and able to deliver an effective and hard-hitting response to boycotts wherever they come from. STB will once again co-ordinate the community’s efforts with those partners inside the UCU to overturn these flawed proposals.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Motions to be debated at UCU Congress will be considered, amended and decided in the coming weeks. Delegates will then have the opportunity to debate those motions, as is their right.” (TotallyJewish)

(1) From Stop the Boycott:
  • At its last meeting on Friday 14th March, The University and College Union (UCU)’s National Executive Committee (NEC) voted to submit a motion to the Union’s annual Congress in May. The motion is an attempt to reintroduce a boycott of Israeli academics.
  • This NEC motion was proposed to the poorly-attended meeting by Tom Hickey, a Socialist Workers Party activist, and was seconded by Linda Newman, UCU’s president.
  • All of this is despite the UCU accepting advice from its own lawyers, under pressure from the Union’s Trustees, that a boycott would be unlawful. This brought to an end 2007’s UCU policy promoting a boycott of Israeli academics, which dominated the Union’s business for eight months.
  • The new motion is similar to the 2007 motion – both call on UCU members to reconsider academic links to Israeli institutions.
  • Stop the Boycott originally supported the call by UCU members to ballot the entire membership on the question of a boycott - the Socialist Workers’ Party, which promoted the 2007 policy, admitted that in a democratic ballot “the boycott would almost certainly be heavily defeated"
Learn more from Stop the Boycott Org.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saudis Prepare for ''Sudden Nuclear Hazards''

On Saturday, it was revealed that the Saudi Shura Council is preparing ''national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts' warnings of possible attacks on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactors.'' (Mathaba)

Last Friday, Dick Cheney was in Saudi Arabia for high-level meetings with the Saudi king and his ministers. On Saturday, it was revealed that the Saudi Shura Council -- the elite group that implements the decisions of the autocratic inner circle -- is preparing "national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts' warnings of possible attacks on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactors," one of the kingdom's leading newspapers said.

The German-based dpa news service relayed the paper's story.

Riyadh (dpa) - The Saudi Shura council will secretly discuss national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts' warnings of possible attacks on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactors, media reports said Saturday. The Saudi-based King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology has prepared a proposal that encapsulates the probabilities of leaking nuclear and radiation hazards in case of any unexpected nuclear attacks in Iran, the Okaz Saudi newspaper said.
The Saudi Shura or consultative council plans to debate the proposal on Sunday. The power plants in the south-western Iranian port of Bushehr were built with German assistance in 1974 and resumed with Russian aid in 1992, after it had been stopped by the Islamic revolution.

Researchers: Peace may increase risk of air terror in Israel

Dion Nissenbaum-March 26, 2008
McClatchy Newspapers

JERUSALEM - Peace agreements, stability and regional prosperity, in an interesting paradox, increase the risk of air terror in Israel, according to new research conducted by Lt. Col. Ron Tuegeman under the supervision of professor Arnon Sofer of the University of Haifa.

The research, which was published by the Reuven Chaikin Chair in Geostrategy at the University of Haifa, the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies and the Israeli National Defense College, reveals that during the past few years, the civil aviation traffic has increased dramatically in Israel's neighboring countries.

This increase includes not only the number of actual flights but also the number of flight paths that pass close to Israel.

According to the researchers, peace agreements and normalization of relations between Israel and her neighbors will require, among other things, opening up Israel's airspace to civilian airliners from these neighboring countries including flights that originate in countries with which Israeli does not have peace agreements.

These flights, they warn, could become the preferred target of terror organizations.

''Israel's airspace is very small. The flight time of an airliner - civil or military - from Beirut to Haifa is about seven minutes, and two minutes from the border crossing at Rosh Hanikra. Crossing the width of the entire country by air takes less than five minutes. Therefore, the task of defending this open space is a big challenge,'' stressed the researchers who point to certain flight routes that were opened in the 1990s over Israel's airspace following peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, that didn't take into account the terror attacks like 9-11.

According to the researchers, the closeness of the worldwide jihad to Israel warrants a complete change in the way Israel thinks about defending against air terror,

''The city of Eilat is an example of the complexity of policy-making following the signing of peace accords. The new flight paths G-183 and ''cross-Israel,'' which opened during a period of positive trends in planning, are now weak points which put the Israeli air defense establishment in a very difficult position.

It seems that today, with the hindsight of the air terror attack on the United States, these lanes of air travel would not have been opened,'' write the researchers, who propose that in any future political settlement, Israel must consider protection of its airspace, knowing that daring air terror with no early intelligence warning is no longer an imaginary scenario. (NewsPress)

Iran to UN: sponsors of illegal resolutions must pay compensation

Today's Chutzpah Award goes to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki!

New York, March 26, IRNA

Iran on Wednesday protested to United Nations Secretary-General over negligence of the international law by the Security Council in passing resolutions against Iran.

In a letter to Ban Ki-moon, Mottaki said that sponsors of such illegal resolutions must pay compensation for the damages such resolutions inflicted on Iran.

IRNA reporter in New York said that Mottaki's letter was delivered to UN secretary general by Iran's Permanent Representative to the UN Mohammad Khazaee on Wednesday.

After receiving the letter, the UN secretary general said "I have always supported constructive cooperation between Iran and IAEA and believe that the issue would be merely resolved through diplomatic and peaceful means."

At the meeting, Khazaee highlighted Iran's peaceful nuclear program along with constructive cooperation with the UN nuclear agency terming UN Security Council measures as 'unjustifiable'.

In the letter, Mottaki has referred to the efforts of some Security Council members who politicized Iran's peaceful nuclear activities.

Mottaki precisely elaborated on clause by clause of the resolution from legal points of views.

On Iran's legitimate rights to take advantage of nuclear energy for civilian purpose, he cited February 22 report of IAEA Director-General Mohamed Elbaradei verifying non-diversion from the civilian path and added that the UN agency put seal of approval on peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities.

It is quite clear that referring Iran to UN Security Council was politically motivated and the recent resolution lacks legal legitimacy which runs counter to UN Charter as well as international rights, underlined the letter.

Mottaki said that the way the Security Council dealt with Iran's nuclear program is blatant violation of international law, norms, and the governing rules and regulations of the IAEA and its Charter.

"Iran reserves the right to go to the International Court of Justice against those who have caused damage to Iran by politicizing Iran's peaceful nuclear program. Iran holds sponsors of the illegal resolutions responsible for all the damages," the Iranian foreign minister said in his letter to the UN chief.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The IFJ Condemns Hamas Persecution of Journalists

American television journalist Barbara Walters interviews Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut, Lebanon, September 22, 1977.


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Hamas leadership in Gaza over the show trial of a newspaper editor as part of a continuing campaign against independent journalists.
The IFJ says the trial of Hafez Barghothi, editor of the daily Al-Hayat Aljadeeda, and continuing ban on distribution of Al Ayyam newspaper in the Gaza Strip and the trial and conviction of its editor Akram Haniyeh and cartoonist Baha Bukhari are violations of journalists’ rights. They are all being targeted because of their work.

This intimidation and political bullying of journalists does great damage to the Palestinian cause,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It undermines efforts of journalists throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip to work together to build a unified media movement in favour of stability and democratic development.”

At the same time the IFJ says that actions by the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, against journalists thought to be Hamas sympathisers has fuelled a “war of words” that may fracture attempts to strengthen the Palestinian journalists’ movement.

“The use of abusive and violent language only weakens the capacity for dialogue,” said White. “Journalists may argue over strategy, but they share common objectives.”

In particular, the IFJ has strongly criticised intemperate attacks on Naim Toubassi, President of the Palestine Journalists’ Syndicate and a member of the IFJ Executive Committee, who recently signed an agreement with the IFJ on plans to renew and relaunch the Syndicate over the coming months.

The IFJ said the invective of Yaser Abu Al-Hein, leader of the Journalists Bloc group in Gaza, earlier this month, directed at Toubassi and PJS board members in Gaza for failing to defend journalists affiliated with Hamas in the West Bank, was provocative, threatening and unacceptable.

“It’s time to end the war of words and for journalists to work together,” said White. “But that will only happen when political players on both sides of the Palestinian divide stop interfering in media.”

The IFJ says the agreement with the PJS opens the door to a vigorous and open debate among journalists that can lead to the creation of a unified movement able to defend all journalists in the region.

“Politicians and armed groups must get out of the way so that journalists can talk among themselves without fear or intimidation,” said White. “Palestine journalists yearn for reform and renewal and the international journalists’ community will support them every step of the way.”
(International Federation of Journalists)

Palestinian moves to Israel for his boyfriend

Jerusalem, March 25 2008

A gay Palestinian man has been reunited with his Israeli partner after Israel granted him permission to move from the occupied West Bank to Tel Aviv, an official said on Tuesday.

"We granted a temporary permit to this Palestinian because his lawyer said his life was in danger in his community because of his sexual tendencies," said Peter Lerner, spokesperson for the Israeli military authorities that administer the West Bank.

The 33-year-old from the northern West Bank town of Jenin had applied to Israel's interior ministry years ago for a permit to rejoin his lover of eight years but this was denied, Israel's mass-selling Yediot Aharonot said.

It is generally very difficult for Palestinians living in the West Bank to obtain permits to travel to Israel.

The daily did not report the names of either man, saying only that the Israeli was a computer engineer in his 40s.

In a letter to Major General Yossef Mishlav, a top official with the military authorities which administer the West Bank, the Palestinian said he had received death threats since his family discovered his relationship.

Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam and Judaism but Israel legalised homosexual behaviour in 1988 and last month recognised the right of same-sex couples to adopt children.

After a lengthy interrogation with Israel's Shin Beth internal security service, the Palestinian was quoted in the paper as saying, "There's nothing wrong with me. All I want is to be with my boyfriend."

Lerner stressed the permit is renewable every month, pending a final ruling by Israel's interior ministry.

"He asked for a long-term residence permit under the family reunification legislation but only the interior ministry can grant that status," the spokesperson said.

Yediot Aharonot quoted the Israeli man as saying the two had hoped for a five-year permit. "I'm suffering from a heart disease and need my partner beside me," he is reported to have said. (IOL)