The Israel-Palestine Conflict

What we can do?

Friedman supports civilian suffering as “education”

Action Alert

New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman endorsed terrorism in a January 14 column defending Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip.

To answer his own question about Israel’s plan–”What is the goal?”–Friedman referred back to the 2006 attacks on Lebanon, which killed about 1,000 Lebanese civilians. To Friedman, this was the “education” of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah:

Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its air force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians–the families and employers of the militants–to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

The “logical” plan, as Friedman explained it, is to punish civilians in the hopes that this will force the political change you prefer. This is precisely the “logic” of terrorists.

According to Friedman, this “education” worked on Hezbollah, and he hopes it will work in the current conflict: “In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to ‘educate’ Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population.” Friedman’s preference is for the terrorism “education.”

This pro-terrorism argument has been made before by Friedman, who advocated the same sort of terror against Serbs, writing (4/6/99) that “people tend to change their minds and adjust their goals as they see the price they are paying mount. Twelve days of surgical bombing was never going to turn Serbia around. Let’s see what 12 weeks of less than surgical bombing does. Give war a chance.”

The New York Times has developed certain rules and guidelines for its opinion columnists over the years–they are not permitted to endorse political candidates, and they are generally expected to refrain from criticizing one another by name in print. Other policies have been made clear in the past–as when liberal columnist Paul Krugman was instructed not to refer to George W. Bush as “lying” during the 2000 campaign (Washington Post, 1/22/03).

Does the Times have a similar standard for columnists who endorse inflicting suffering on civilians? Or does the acceptability of advocating terrorism depend on who is being terrorized?

ACTION: Ask the Times if Thomas Friedman’s column advocating terrorism against civilians in Gaza meets the paper’s standards for its opinion columns.

CONTACT:
New York Times

Public Editor
Clark Hoyt
public@nytimes.com
(212) 556-7652

Editorial Page Editor
Andrew Rosenthal
editorial@nytimes.com

You can post copies of your letters to the New York Times on FAIR’s blog here. Please remember that letters that maintain a civil tone are most effective.

Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can’t reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.


“Peace Now” Israelis

By A.B. Yehoshua

Dear Gideon,

You remember that in recent years I called you occasionally to praise you for your articles and your writing about the wrongs done to the Palestinians in the administered territories, whether by the army or by the settlers. Physical wrongs, land expropriations, acts of abuse, perversions of justice and so on. I told you that it is very difficult to read what you write, because it weighs on our conscience, but that the work you are doing and the voice you are sounding are extremely important. I was also concerned about your physical safety, knowing that you risked your life by visiting such hostile places.

I did not ask you why you did not visit Israeli hospitals in order to tell the painful stories of Israeli citizens who were hurt in terrorist attacks. I accepted your position that there are plenty of other journalists doing this and that you had taken on the crucial mission of telling the story of the afflictions of the other side, our enemies today and our neighbors tomorrow. Accordingly, it is from this position of respect that I find it necessary to respond to your recent articles on the war in which we are engaged today, so that you will be able to preserve the moral validity of your distinctive voice for the future. A few years ago, when the Hatuel family – a mother and her four children, of blessed memory – were killed on the way to one of the settlements in Gush Katif, I believed that this terrible death pained you as it did all of us but that like many of us you said in your heart: Why should these Israelis endanger their children by living provocatively, hopelessly, dangerously and immorally in Gush Katif? By what right do 8,000 Jews expropriate a sizable area in the densely overcrowded Gaza Strip in order to build blossoming villages before the eyes of hundreds of thousands of refugees living in such abysmal conditions? You were angry, as I was, at the parents and at those who sent them. And even though I believe that like all of us you felt the pain of the children who were killed, you did not brand the leaders of Hamas “war criminals” as you did the Israeli leaders, and you did not demand the establishment of an international tribunal to try them.

When I asked you after the disengagement from Gaza, Gideon, explain to me why they are firing missiles at us, you replied that they want us to open the crossings. I asked you whether you truly believe that if they fire missiles the crossings will be opened, or the opposite. And whether you truly believe that it is right and just to open crossings into Israel for those who declare openly and sincerely that they want to destroy our country. I did not get an answer from you. And even though the crossings were in fact opened many times, and were closed in the wake of the missile attacks, regrettably I still did not see you standing firmly behind a moral position which says: Now, people of Gaza, after you expelled the Israeli occupation from your land, and justly so, you must hold your fire.

The doleful thought sometimes crosses my mind that it is not the children of Gaza or of Israel that you are pining for, but only for your own private conscience. Because if you are truly concerned about the death of our children and theirs, you would understand the present war – not in order to uproot Hamas from Gaza but to induce its followers to understand, and regrettably in the only way they understand in the meantime, that they must stop the firing unilaterally, stop hoarding missiles for a bitter and hopeless war to destroy Israel, and above all for the sake of their children in the future, so they will not die in another pointless adventure.

After all, now, for the first time in Palestinian history, after the Ottoman, British, Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli conquests, part of the Palestinians has gained a first and I hope not a last piece of land on which they are to maintain a full and independent government. And if they start building, developing and pursuing social endeavors, even according to Islamic religious law, they will prove to the whole world, and especially to us, that the moment we terminate the occupation they will be ready to live in peace with their surroundings, free to do as they wish, but also responsible for their deeds.

There is something absurd in the comparison you draw about the number of those killed. When you ask how it can be that they killed three of our children and we cause the killing of a hundred and fifty, the inference one can draw is that if they were to kill a hundred of our children (for example, by the Qassam rockets that struck schools and kindergartens in Israel that happened to be empty), we would be justified in also killing a hundred of their children.

In other words, it is not the killing itself that troubles you but the number. On the face of it, one could answer you cynically by saying that when there will be two hundred million Jews in the Middle East it will be permissible to think in moral terms about comparing the number of victims on each side. But that is, of course, a debased argument. After all, you, Gideon, who live among the people, know very well that we are not bent on killing Palestinian children to avenge the killing of our children. All we are trying to do is get their leaders to stop this senseless and wicked aggression, and it is only because of the tragic and deliberate mingling between Hamas fighters and the civilian population that children, too, are unfortunately being killed. The fact is that since the disengagement, Hamas has fired only at civilians. Even in this war, to my astonishment, I see that they are not aiming at the army concentrations along the border but time and again at civilian communities.

Please, preserve the moral authority and concern that you possessed, and your distinctive voice. We will need them again in the future, which promises further ordeals on the road to peace. In the meantime, it would be best for us all – we and the Palestinians and the rest of the world – to follow the simple moral imperative of Kantian philosophy: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

In friendship always,

The writer is an Israeli author. His latest novel, “Friendly Fire,” was published in recent months.


One Turkey Sandwich, please

By News Agencies

Turkey’s prime minister on Friday said Israel should be barred from the United Nations while it ignores the body’s calls to stop fighting in Gaza.

“How is such a country, which does not implement resolutions of the UN
Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of the UN (headquarters)?” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Erdogan spoke before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives in Ankara to discuss the conflict. His comments reflected a growing anger in Turkey, Israel’s closest ally in the Muslim world, over Israel’s Gaza operation.

Erdogan accused Israel of attacking civilians under the pretext of targeting the Islamic militant group of Hamas.

Erdogan has previously defended his outspoken criticism of Israel’s Gaza offensive, saying it did not mean he was anti-Semitic. However, the Turkish prime minister also remarked that the “Jewish-backed media” was falsely suggesting that Hamas uses civilians as human shields in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza entered its 21 day Friday, as the Israel Air Force attacked close to 40 targets in the coastal strip, while rockets fired from Gaza kept pounding southern Israel.

President Abdullah Gul on Friday renewed calls for an immediate cease-fire and also urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to focus on a comprehensive, long-lasting and fair solution once in office.


Nazis congratulate themselves after annihilating Mickey Mouse Club

By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

In a series of blows during the past 24 hours, the most severe since the Israel Defense Forces operation began in the Gaza Strip 20 days ago, Hamas was brought very close to surrender.

It is unlikely that we will see white flags, because the group recognizes that this would have a devastating effect on its image. But the Israeli military pressure has destroyed most of the Palestinian defenses in the heart of Gaza City, a day after the group had to agree in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire a deal it is not very happy with.

At the start of the fighting, there was talk in the IDF of a Hamas division, trained and funded by Iran, ready to confront an invasion of the Gaza Strip. This division evaporated and it is doubtful whether it ever existed.

The situation as of last night was as follows: Said Sayyam and Salah Abu Shreich, two senior Hamas figures, were killed in an air strike in Jabaliya. The home of another Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, is surrounded. Infantry, armor and special forces are operating in the center of the city, very close to the Hamas “security quarter” southwest of the city, where most of the command and control centers of the group are situated.

Even in the center of the city, Hamas gunmen are opting to avoid direct encounters with the IDF. In most cases they are choosing to escape along with thousands of civilians. The Hamas announcement in Cairo two days ago began the countdown toward a cease-fire.

The head of the political-security bureau at the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, delivered a positive message to Egypt regarding Cairo’s cease-fire initiative. Israel’s “kitchen-cabinet” still deliberated late into the night, where the Ehud Barak-Tzipi Livni alliance grew tighter in an effort to block the last minute warlike urge of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to continue the offensive.

The army sensed Hamas’ weakness when units left their defensive positions in the Zeytun neighborhood. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi approved the assault and forces reached the center of the city through the gap. On the way, the IDF killed most of the members of a unit comprising militants trained by Iran.

The latest move has is risks. The IDF is constantly concerned that a single mistake may lead to mass killing of Palestinian civilians, or a surprise attack by Hamas that may affect public opinion in Israel. This nearly happened yesterday when UNRWA facilities were hit.

On Wednesday a commando force suffered six soldiers injured when a wall collapsed on them. Another force had destroyed a tunnel and it caused the collapse nearby.

GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant ordered soldiers not to stay in multi-story buildings, fearing the explosion of booby-trapped devices that could cause many casualties.

Meanwhile it seems that at least the Hamas leadership in Gaza has began to fathom the seriousness of its position. Two Hamas leaders in the Strip, Razi Hamad and Ahmed Yusuf, accused the group’s leadership in Damascus of “bringing a terrible disaster on Gaza.”

The two are considered members of the pragmatic wing of the party, and charged the Damascus-based leadership with making a terrible mistake in ordering Hamas to foil the extension of the cease-fire agreement with Israel in December.

However, in Damascus it is not clear that the message has been received. Ramadan Shalah, head of the Islamic Jihad, told Al Jazeera that the Palestinians will continue their resistance in Gaza and the city will not surrender because “victory is imminent.”

The head of the Hamas politburo, Khaled Meshal, who is central in the decision that led to the events in the Strip, spoke in Damascus last night of a Palestinian “victory in Gaza.”

During the speech, delivered live on Al Jazeera, breaking news announced that Said Sayyam and his brother Iyad had been killed in Gaza.

The latest developments have contributed to optimism in Israel. However, those who are still toying with the idea of bringing down Hamas entirely should weigh what is best: a weakened Hamas or complete anarchy in the Strip, with no one in power to threaten or to make indirect agreements with? Gaza can still deteriorate into another Somalia.


“Kaufman also said that Israel needed to seek real peace and not peace by conquest, which would be impossible…. also accused the Israeli government of “ruthlessly and cynically exploiting the continuing guilt from gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.”

# Jewish UK lawmaker calls on Israel to talk to Hamas, a “deeply nasty organization”
# UK government: “Hamas made a brutal choice to step up attacks” on civilians
# UK PM calls shelling of U.N.’s main aid HQ compound in Gaza “indefensible”
# UK has seen several protests since conflict began, both pro- and anti-Israel

LONDON, England (CNN) — Israeli military action in Gaza is comparable to that of German soldiers during the Holocaust, a Jewish UK lawmaker whose family suffered at the hands of the Nazis has claimed.

Gerald Kaufman, a member of the UK’s ruling Labour Party, also called for an arms embargo on Israel, currently fighting militant Palestinian group Hamas, during the debate in the British parliament Thursday.

“My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed,” said Kaufman, who added that he had friends and family in Israel and had been there “more times than I can count.”

“My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

Kaufman, a senior Labour politician who was raised as an Orthodox Jew, has often opposed Israeli policy throughout his career.

Israel has said it initiated the operation into Gaza — which is controlled by Hamas — to stop rocket fire on its southern cities and towns. Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, have died in the operation in Gaza and from rocket strikes on southern Israel, according to the Israeli military.

More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, including many civilians, Palestinian medics said.

During Thursday’s debate, Kaufman also said that Israel needed to seek real peace and not peace by conquest, which would be impossible.

He also accused the Israeli government of “ruthlessly and cynically exploiting the continuing guilt from gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.”

But Kaufman added that while it is necessary to talk to Hamas, which had been chosen by an electorate, it nevertheless is a “deeply nasty organization.”

Bill Rammell, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said the UK government backed an EU presidency statement calling Israeli action disproportionate. But he also criticized Hamas rocket attacks on Israel during the cease-fire between June and December 2008, adding that the militant group’s “whole ethos is one of violence” and that it had “made a brutal choice to step up attacks against innocent civilians.”

“Nothing, not the restrictions on Gaza nor its frustration with the peace process, justifies what Hamas has done and continues to do,” Rammell said. “In December, I was in Ashkelon near the Gaza border, and I heard the sirens. The fear was palpable: This is daily psychological and actual warfare.”

Rammell added that Hamas has “committed acts of terrorism, it is committed to the obliteration of the state of Israel, and its statement last week that it was legitimate to kill Jewish children anywhere in the world was utterly chilling and beyond any kind of civilised, humanitarian norm.”

The debate came on the day that Saeed Siam, Hamas’ third-ranking leader in the territory, was killed by an Israeli airstrike, the Islamic militant group reported.

The United Nations’ main relief compound in the territory was also hit and set on fire, which U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon blamed on Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed sorrow over the incident but said Israeli forces were responding to militant fire near the complex.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the shelling of the compound as “indefensible,” media agencies reported.

Speaking to Ban during a call, Brown said the UK would increase its calls for a cease-fire and also deliver aid to Gaza once a cease-fire took hold.

Britain has witnessed several demonstrations since the conflict in Gaza began late last month.

Last Saturday, up to 20,000 people gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in London, Metropolitan Police said.

Later, parts of the crowd began pelting officers with sticks, rocks and pieces of metal barriers, police said. A similar protest Sunday was peaceful.

Rallies were also held in London and Manchester last weekend in support of Israeli action against Hamas.


Hebrew University Medical School Announces New “Mengele Chair in Epidermal Studies”

By Richard Norton-Taylor

Gaza doctors detail burns to entire victims’ bodies from chemical that is forbidden to be used as a weapon

…[ video ]…

A doctor shows phosphorous bomb injuries in Gaza. Warning: contains graphic footage of war injuries Link to this video Video showing injuries consistent with the use of white phosporous shells has been filmed inside hospitals treating Palestinian wounded in Gaza City.

Contact with the shell remnants causes severe burns, sometimes burning the skin to the bone, consistent with descriptions by Ahmed Almi, an Egyptian doctor at the al-Nasser hospital in Khan Younis.

Almi said the entire body of one victim was burned within an hour. It was the first time he had seen the effects of what he called a “chemical weapon”.

The Israeli military has denied using white phosphorus during the assault on Gaza, but aid agencies say they have no doubt it has been used.

“It is an absolute certainty,” said Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. He had seen Israeli artillery fire white phosphorous shells at Gaza City, Garlasco said.

The shells burst in the air, billowing white smoke before dropping the phosphorous shell.

Garlasco said each shell contains more than 100 incendiary rounds, which ignite and pump out smoke for about 10 minutes.

Severe respiratory problems can result in anyone exposed to the smoke and burning chemical particles that rain down over an area the size of a football pitch.

According to the International Solidarity Movement, many patients at the hospital near Khan Younis were suffering from serious breathing difficulties after inhaling smoke.

Human Rights Watch compares the use of white phosphorous shells over Gaza to the impact of cluster munitions, which scatter “bomblets” over a wide area. Children may kick and play with a lump of phosphorus, stirring up the embers and producing more fire and smoke.

The use of white phosphorus as a weapon – as opposed to its use as an obscurant and infrared blocking smoke screen – is banned by the UN’s third convention on conventional weapons, which covers the use of incendiary devices. Though Israel is not a signatory to the convention, its military manuals reflect the convention’s restrictions on using white phosphorus.

Israel initially claimed that it was not using white phosphorus. It later explained that shells being loaded for a howitzer, identified from photographs as phosphorous rounds, were empty “quiet” shells used for target marking. However, images of exploding shells and showering burning fragments are now acknowledged by independent observers as having been phosphorus.

At the centre of the controversy is the way white phosphorous air burst shells have been used in heavily built-up urban areas, with an overwhelmingly civilian population.
The M825A1 rounds, which are the kind identified as being fired by Israeli forces, are made primarily for use as a smokescreen in a way that limits their effect as an incendiary weapon, experts say.

Neil Gibson, a technical adviser to Jane’s Missiles and Rockets magazine, said the shells did not produce high-velocity burning fragments like conventional white phosphorous weapons once did.

Instead, he said, they produced a “series of large slower burning wedges which fall from the sky”. The wedges would then ignite spontaneously in the air and fall to the ground, burning for five or 10 minutes, he said.


A war criminal you can believe in

By John M. Miller

Tell Your Senator: Nation’s Top Intelligence Post Must Go to Someone Who Respects Human Rights – Not Admiral Blair!

ETAN Action ALERT

Call your Senators and tell them that you oppose the confirmation of Admiral Dennis Blair as President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence. Call today toll free at 800-828-0498/800-473-6711 and e-mail them via the Senate website ( http://senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm).

Talking Points

* Adm. Blair has a poor human rights record. As head of the Pacific Command, he demonstrated a disregard for crimes against humanity committed against the East Timorese in 1999 and undermined executive and congressional efforts to support human rights in Indonesian-occupied East Timor.

* The Senator should oppose Adm. Blair’s nomination as Director of National Intelligence. The post must go to someone who respects human rights and is committed to justice and accountability.

Please let us know if you acted on this alert and any response you receive. Also contact us with any questions – etan@etan.org.

Write a letter to the editor of you local newspapers. See sample letters at http://www.etan.org/action/2006/29alert.htm#Sample .

Background

The Director of National Intelligence coordinates all U.S. intelligence agencies. The post requires Senate confirmation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command from February 1999 to May 2002, Admiral Dennis Blair was the highest ranking U.S. military official in the region during the period of East Timor’s independence referendum at the end of Indonesia’s violent occupation. During that time he undermined the Clinton administration’s belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit military assistance. Blair’s troubling record on East Timor demonstrates that he puts maintaining a relationship with the worst human rights violators above justice and accountability.

In early April 1999, Blair met in Jakarta with General Wiranto, then the Defense Minister and the commander of Indonesian forces. Dozens of refugees in a Catholic church in Liquica, East Timor, were hacked to death by militia members backed by the Indonesian military (including the notorious Kopassus Special Forces) just two days before in a well-publicized massacre.

Instead of pressuring Wiranto to shut down the militias, Blair promised new military assistance, which the Indonesian military “took as a green light to proceed with the militia operation,” according to Allan Nairn, writing in the Nation magazine. In fact just weeks later on April 17, refugees from the attack in Liquicia were again attacked and killed in the capital Dili. The next day, Blair phoned Wiranto and again failed to tell him to stop the killing and shut the military’s militia proxies down.

According to journalist Nairn, classified cables summarizing the meeting and the call, say that Admiral Blair “told the armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his guest… [Blair] expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide technical assistance to… selected TNI [Indonesian military] personnel on crowd control measures.”

The link between the militia and the military was clear to the U.S. at the time. Princeton University’s Bradley Simpson writes, “According to top secret CIA intelligence summary issued after the [Liquica] massacre…. (and recently declassified by the author through a Freedom of Information Act request), ‘Indonesian military had colluded with pro-Jakarta militia forces in events preceding the attack and were present in some numbers at the time of the killings.’”

The Washington Post’s Dana Priest reported that in the bloody aftermath of East Timor’s independence vote, , “Blair and other U.S. military officials took a forgiving view of the violence surrounding the referendum in East Timor. Given the country’s history, they argued, it could have been worse.”

U.S.-trained Indonesian military officers were among those involved in crimes against humanity in East Timor. “But at no point, Blair acknowledges, did he or his subordinates reach out to the Indonesian contacts trained through IMET or JCET [U.S.-funded military training programs] to try to stop the brewing crisis,” wrote Priest. “It is fairly rare that the personal relations made through an IMET course can come into play in resolving a future crisis,” Blair told Priest.

General Wiranto was indicted in February 2003 by a UN-backed court in East Timor for his command role in the 1999 violence. The attack on the Liquica church is among the crimes against humanity cited in the indictment. He is currently a leading candidate for President of Indonesia in elections to take place next year.

Additional background and links can be found at http://etan.org/news/2009/01blair.htm .

For additional action ideas or to link to this alert – http://www.etan.org/action/2006/29alert.htm

Make a monthly pledge to support ETAN – click here

ETAN welcomes your financial support. Go to http://etan.org/etan/donate.htm to donate.

Thanks.

John M. Miller
fbp@igc.org
National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668
Mobile phone: (917)690-4391
Skype: john.m.miller
Web site: http://www.etan.org


Israeli “soldiers” turn to secret weapons: crocodile flatulence and nude photos of Babs Streisand

By Matthew Wagner

Two soldiers made their way through the winding streets of Gaza City, carefully watching for booby traps. Their objective was to hunt down Hamas terrorists and locate caches of Kassam and Grad rockets and other arms.

As they deliberated whether to turn left or right at an intersection, a woman dressed from head to foot in black appeared from out of nowhere.

“Go this way,” she said, pointing to the right. For some reason, the two soldiers listened to her.

After proceeding for a few seconds, the pair heard a large explosion behind them, in the direction they had almost taken. A rigged house blew up, destroying everything in the vicinity.

The two soldiers asked the woman dressed in black who she was.

“I am the Matriarch Rachel,” she said, referring to the beloved wife of Jacob.

This story, whether true or not, is being circulated in religious circles – via Internet forums, SMS, e-mail and word of mouth – and is fast becoming an urban legend.

There is a tendency among the faithful to introduce metaphysical dimensions to the fighting in Gaza. Two-and-a-half weeks into Operation Cast Lead, religious faith has been integral to many soldiers’ morale.

“We are being swamped with demands, from religious and secular, kibbutzniks and yeshiva students, Sephardim and Ashkenazim,” for the names of soldiers to pray for, said Rabbanit Grossman, director of the Jewish Information Center in the capital’s Mea She’arim neighborhood. The haredi organization has created a special “prayer hotline” for soldiers.

The initiative, backed by the Bostoner rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Horovitz, and Rehovot Chief Rabbi Simcha Hakohen Kook, pairs a soldier involved in the Gaza fighting with a supplicant who prays for that soldier’s health and welfare.

Only soldiers who are interested in the service – or whose family members or friends are interested – are being singled out for this special spiritual protection from Hamas terrorists.

Thousands, Grossman said, have contacted the Jewish Information Center, which has publicized the service via word-of-mouth and e-mail.

People from all walks of the religious community, from the religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva to the anti-Zionist Eda Hahareidit, have volunteered to pray for the soldiers, said Grossman.

“Our prayer-sayers include yeshiva students at the Mir, Kol Torah, Ponevezh and Hebron, residents of Mea She’arim, students at Beit Ya’acov seminaries as well as national-religious yeshiva high schools and ulpanot,” said Grossman, who preferred not to give her first name because “good deeds are best left hidden.”

“Soldiers from all walks of life and from a variety of backgrounds, both religious and secular, have asked that we pray for them,” she said.

“Just the other day an entire battalion of soldiers, just about to enter Gaza, gave us all of their names. They passed the phone from one to the other, secular and religious – not one of them refused.

“People might disagree on politics and ideology, but no one objects to praying,” she said.

According to an IDF rabbi stationed with Golani and Kfir Brigade soldiers near Tze’elim in the Negev, where they are preparing to enter Gaza, there is a tremendous thirst for anything spiritual.

The rabbi, who asked to remain anonymous because the IDF Spokesman had not given him permission to speak to the press, said that more than 1,500 sets of tzitzit, the four-cornered fringe garment religious men wear under their shirts, had been distributed to soldiers “who want the segula [spiritual protection] of being wrapped in a mitzva.

“Tzitzit are a heavenly flak jacket,” the rabbi added.

The money to finance the tzitzit was raised by Radio Kol Hai, a religious radio station.

Many soldiers naturally turn to God in the face of warfare, the rabbi said.

“In Golani, there is a large percentage of Sephardi soldiers who might not wear a kippa all the time, but who have a strong faith in God. At times like this, when they face the dangers of war, that basic religious faith expresses itself.

“Dozens of soldiers here carry Psalms with them into battle as another form of spiritual protection. Some carry two books for a double effect,” he said.

The rabbi said that numerous guest lecturers, rabbis who belong to the IDF’s Jewish Consciousness Division, have visited the soldiers to boost their spirits before the go to battle. The soldiers were very receptive, he said.

Rabbi Aharon Pruss, who heads Chabad outreach activities aimed at IDF soldiers, said a special emphasis is put on encouraging soldiers to don tefillin.

“The rebbe [the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] said before the Six Day War that tefillin provide soldiers with special protection against the nations in times of danger,” said Pruss, who referred to a biblical verse that infers that when a Jew wears tefillin, the nations of the world fear him.

“When our emissaries go to meet the soldiers, there is a tremendous demand to put on tefillin. They line up to do the mitzva, even though they do not put tefillin in normal times.”

He said that another form of spiritual protection is assigning each soldier a letter in a Torah scroll that is in the process of being written, that corresponds to the soldier’s name. Pruss said that this belief is based on a verse from the Book of Daniel.

Grossman said that she has seen first hand how the prayers for the soldiers have helped.

“A soldier from a secular kibbutz who we were praying for was shot in the back the other day,” recounted Grossman. “But the bullet passed right through his body without hitting his backbone. He has already been discharged.

“There is no doubt in my mind that all these prayers are helping our soldiers,” she said. “And, God willing, the merit of being united in prayer despite all our differences will help bring closer the final redemption and the coming of the righteous Messiah, quickly and in our times,” she said.


A little decency, but there’ s no silver lining in this horror

By Matthew Wagner

Qatar and Mauritania have severed economic and political ties with Israel in protest against the war in Gaza, Al Jazeera has learned.

The move announced on Friday followed calls by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, for all Arab nations to cut ties with Israel.

Addressing leaders at an emergency Arab summit in Doha, the Qatari capital, al-Assad declared that the Arab initiative for peace with Israel was now “dead”.

He said Arab countries should cut “all direct and indirect” ties with Israel in protest against its offensive in Gaza.

“Syria has decided that indirect peace negotiations with Israel will be halted,” he said.

His comments were echoed by Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Meshaal also called on Arab leaders to cut all ties with Israel, stressing Hamas would not accept Israeli conditions for a ceasefire.

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries who have signed peace treaties with Israel and have Israeli embassies.

Ceasefire offer

Hamas has proposed a year-long, renewable ceasefire if Israel immediately ends its offensive in Gaza and lifts its crippling blockade of the territory.

Israel wants to ensure that Hamas, and other Palestinian fighters, will not be able to re-arm during any truce.

Speaking from Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said Israel should be barred from the United Nations while it continues to ignore UN demands to end the fighting in Gaza.

“How is such a country, which totally ignores and does not implement resolutions of the UN Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of the UN?” he said.

Erdogan’s comments came hours ahead of Friday’s official visit to Turkey by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general.

The Turkish leader also added his voice to widespread condemnation of Israel’s bombing of a UN compound in Gaza on Thursday.

“The UN building in Gaza was hit while the UN secretary general was in Israel… this is an open challenge to the world, teasing the world,” he said.

Diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire have intensified over recent days with emergency meetings being held in Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait and Egypt.

The UN secretary-general also visited the West Bank on Friday and Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, is flying to the US for talks.

Arab divisions

However, Friday’s emergency Arab summit in Doha, the Qatari capital, has highlighted the divisions within the Arab world, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia declining to attend, preferring instead to send delegates to a meeting of foreign ministers in Kuwait.

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, admitted on Friday that the Arab nation’s reaction to the war on Gaza was “in a very big chaos”.

The Palestinian political factions Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are also at the Doha summit.

Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Doha, said the delegates in Qatar recognise the legitimacy of the Gazan factions, whereas Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Western nations have sidelined them from ceasefire talks.

“You have two camps: The so-called moderate Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, some Gulf monarchies like the UAE, and those who are trying to say that we totally disagree with the US attempt to implement a new Middle East.”

Ahelbarra said the “moderate camp” is uncomfortable with Hamas’s ties with Iran and suspects that the Iranian leadership is using some Arab countries to further its influence in the region.

He said that the latter group believes it has the duty to convey the anti-war feeling of the Arab street and condemn Israel’s actions.

Talks are continuing in Cairo over an Egypt-sponsored truce, with Amos Gilad, the Israeli chief negotiator, telling Egyptian officials Israel wants an open-ended ceasefire.

Israel is demanding that rocket fire from Gaza ceases and that an international force is established to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza.

Livni, due to arrive in Washington DC on Friday, will meet Condoleezza Rice, the outgoing US secretary of state, to discuss a potential US role in stopping weapons being smuggled into Gaza.

Rice said: “The Memorandum of Understanding that Foreign Minister Livni and I will sign should be thought of as one of the elements… to bring about a durable ceasefire.
“Among them is to do something about the weapons smuggling.”

By Friday morning, 1,133 Palestinians had been killed since Israel launched its offensive on December 27.


Courageous Israel

By

As the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has once again flared up following Israel’s ongoing air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip, the IMEU presents a comparison of Israeli and Palestinian military capabilities.

1. The Institute for International Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. http://www.inss.org.il/upload/(FILE?1206270841.pdf

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Source for Israel: Ibid.; Source for the Palestinians: The Associated Press. “Israel approves armored vehicles, rifles, bullets for West Bank security forces.” November 20, 2007. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/11/21/africa/ME-GEN-Israel-Palestinians.php

5. The Institute for International Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. http://www.inss.org.il/upload/(FILE)1206270841.pdf

6. Source for Israel: Ibid.; Source for the Palestinians: Institute for Middle East Understanding. “FAQ on the Gaza Crisis”. June 18, 2007. http://imeu.net/news/article005588.shtml and Finance Office of National Security of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of the Interior

7. Federation of American Scientists. http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/

8. 1993 U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment. http://www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1993/9341/9341.PDF and Jeff Stein. “Debunking the ethno-bomb.” Salon.com. December 2, 1998. http://www.salon.com/news/1998/12/02news.html

9. The Institute for International Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. http://www.inss.org.il/upload/(FILE)1206270841.pdf and Wikipedia. “Jericho (missile).” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jericho_missile

10. Ibid. and Wikipeida. “Israeli Space Agency.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_Space_Agency

11. Ibid. and IMEU “How much and what kind of aid does the US provide to Israel?” http://imeu.net/news/article0063.shtml

12. Source for Israel: Paddy Allen. “The Israeli attacks on Gaza.” The Guardian. December 30, 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2008/dec/30/israel-gaza-attacks; Source for the Palestinians: Palestine Red Crescent Society. “Gaza Situation Updates 1/1/2009.” http://www.palestinercs.org/news_details.aspx?nid=62

13. Paddy Allen. “The Israeli attacks on Gaza.” The Guardian. December 30, 2008.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2008/dec/30/israel-gaza-attacks and Wikipedia. “2008 – 2009 Israel-Gaza conflict.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_2008_Gaza_Strip_airstrikes