The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Tit-for-tat, Blockade-for-blockade

An Israel-bound flight was delayed for about two hours at Athens International Airport Wednesday after protesters against the blockade of Gaza blocked check-in counters, airport officials said.

Members of a Communist-backed labor union said they blocked five El Al airline counters for two hours to protest the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the Jewish state’s oppressive policies.

“This was an action taken in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their effort to establish a Palestinian state,” union spokesman Giorgos Pontikos told the AP. He said police were present at the protest but did not intervene.

An El Al spokesman said in response to the incident that airline “considers flight safety and the safety of its passengers as its foremost values and will not compromise those in any way,” saying that “at no time were the passengers in danger.”

Wednesday’s protest occurred as a Libya-chartered ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip was due to sail to an Egyptian port to avoid challenging an Israeli naval blockade of the Palestinian territory.

Athens airport officials said El Al flight 542 to Tel Aviv departed from Athens two hours after the scheduled time, at 12:30 (0930GMT) after the protest ended without incident.

How Israel liberates Arab women, of their rights

Washington – The Knesset voted Tuesday to revoke diplomatic privileges from Palestinian-Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi over her participation in the May 31 flotilla, Haaretz reported.

With a 34-16 vote in favor of the measure, Zoabi loses three main privileges afforded all members of the Knesset. Most importantly, Zoabi will be barred from leaving the country, which supporters of the measure say will prevent her from fleeing charges that might be brought against her over her actions.

Zoabi denounced the vote, accusing her fellow lawmakers of acting purely out of vengeance. “It’s not surprising that a country that strips the fundamental rights of its Arab citizens would revoke the privileges of a Knesset member who loyally represents her electorate.”

Zoabi represents the predominantly Palestinian Balad party and was the first woman representative for her party.

Zoabi continued her condemnation, saying the vote represented a dangerous precedent for Israel’s Palestinian citizens. She also accused Israeli legislators of implementing racist laws against the country’s minority Palestinian population.

“In a civilized country, the people who incite against and threaten [me] would be punished and have sanctions imposed against them,” Zoabi said in the report. “When you threaten the Arab MKs and the Arabs’ protectors, you threaten democracy and co-existence between Jews and Arabs.”

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), chairman of the committee that voted to rescind Zoabi’s privileges, defamed Zoabi for her actions. “You have no place in the Israeli Knesset, you are unworthy of holding an Israeli ID and you embarrass the citizens of Israel, the Knesset, the Arab population and your family,” Levin said.

Another lawmaker, MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu), confronted Zoabi following the decision. One of the privileges now denied Zoabi is her diplomatic passport. Mocking her for this, Michaeli handed Zoabi a fake Iranian passport with her photo in it. “In every civilized country, a member of parliament who crosses the red line and identifies with the enemy and arming the enemy with weapons of mass destruction aimed at destroying his country’s national foundations will not find in his pocket a diplomatic passport of the country he aims to destroy,” Michaeli said. She went on to call Zoabi loyal to Iran and Iran President Ahmadinejad.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) interrupted Michaeli and Levin to stop the attacks. Rivlin has opposed the move to revoke Zoabi’s privileges from the beginning, insisting instead that any decisions should be left to the Attorney General, who has not yet made any ruling as to the illegality of Zoabi’s actions. Rivlin moved to hush the Knesset’s jeering. “I believe that everyone should have the right to speak their minds,” said Rivlin, “even if what they say hurts me.”

The Balad party has condemned the move as “racist and anti-democratic.”

Zoabi closed her remarks to her critics with an appeal to democracy. “You have no freedom of choice with regards to the rules of democracy,” Zoabi said. “There are fixed rules that do not change at whim. You do not need to protect democracy, but to protect me for democracy’s sake.”

An interview with ElBaradei worth reading

‘This Is an Historical Moment for Egypt’

By Erich Follath and Dieter Bednarz

In a SPIEGEL interview, Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mohamed ElBaradei, 68, discusses the urge for change in his home country, possible cooperation with Islamists in the next election and the prospects of driving autocratic Hosni Mubarak out of office.

SPIEGEL: Mr. ElBaradei, some six months ago, you announced in an interview with us that you wanted to retreat from public life. After 12 years as the chief of the United Nations nuclear weapons inspectors in Vienna, you only wanted to give lectures. Now you are challenging President Hosni Mubarak. What happened?

ElBaradei: The decisive moment was my return to Cairo in February. I really only wanted to visit my country again and spend a few weeks at my house here near the pyramids. But then, 1,500 people were standing there at the airport. It was a cross-section of our society: students, business people, workers and surprisingly many women, including Egyptian women with head scarves and veiled faces. Some called out: "This country must be changed, please help us make that happen!" Others held signs reading: "ElBaradei for President!" It electrified me.

SPIEGEL: And that’s why you changed plans? According to the constitution, you can’t even become a candidate for the presidency without your own party.

ElBaradei: I have traveled through the cities and through the villages. I was shaken by the backwardness of my country, deeply moved by the people’s palpable desire for change, overpowered by the sympathy and enthusiasm I was met with. And then it was the regime itself that gave me no other choice than to become politically active. With the help of the state-controlled media, they launched an unprecedented smear campaign against me, denounced me as a foreign agent.

SPIEGEL: You know what happens to challengers of Mubarak. The last man to contest Mubarak for the presidency landed in jail.

ElBaradei: I was in Alexandria a short time ago with Ayman Nour at a protest event dedicated to the victims of the regime’s torture. I’m privileged in that I can rely somewhat on the fact that my international recognition protects me. Of course my wife and my children are afraid of violent attempts against me. But my family know that I have no choice: We live in a special time of awakening. This is an historical moment for Egypt …

SPIEGEL: … in which many see you as a kind of messiah.

ElBaradei: I neither can nor want to be a savior. This mentality of sitting back and waiting for a savior is exactly what I am fighting against. The people have to effectuate change themselves and they have to dedicate themselves to it — that is the only way to achieve decisive progress. And that is exactly what is happening these days, with a breathtaking mobilization in completely new ways.

SPIEGEL: How so?

ElBaradei: Volunteers from all over the country, from every level of society are joining us. They ask: What can I do? There are already a good 15,000 supporters who are fanning out in the cities and villages to inform people about the "National Movement for Reform." Many are joining us in our signature-gathering campaign and are saying with their names and passport numbers: We have had enough, we want change! And because our state of emergency laws prevent more than five people from assembling for a demonstration, we are creating a virtual town hall through the media.

SPIEGEL: You’ve become a blogger?

ElBaradei: A short time ago, I didn’t even know what Twitter and Facebook were. Now I use the new media and we have almost 30,000 permanent users on our website and two Facebook groups with 250,000 users each. Things are starting to move in my country.

SPIEGEL: Why is this only starting now?

ElBaradei: The country has been governed under state of emergency laws for the past 30 years. The security services are omnipotent, the police act arbitrarily. This has created a culture of fear. Should a figure be needed to represent this awakening, I will do everything I can to be a catalyst for this change.

SPIEGEL: For a long time though, as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and as the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2005, you were something for the regime to be proud of.

ElBaradei: Oh yes. Just four years ago, President Mubarak awarded me this country’s highest medal and gushingly praised me as an outstanding son of Egypt to the point that it was embarrassing for me. Since I have become actively involved in the Egyptian political opposition, the state authorities have, in a subtle way controlled my public exposure, such as appearances on television. Some of my supporters were detained, and hoteliers who offered me a meeting room were pressured to cancel the booking.

SPIEGEL: Many Egyptians refer to Mubarak as the "Pharaoh" because he has been ruling the country from his palace for almost 30 years now. How do you see him?

ElBaradei: Mubarak is a one-man show without checks and balances, with no real contact with the people, who has allowed Egypt to become a police state. The regent of a country that has fallen deeply, and dramatically lost stature and forfeited influence.

SPIEGEL: Iran and Turkey appear to dominate in the Middle East. Has Egypt now been relegated to playing second fiddle?

ElBaradei: Cairo was once the undisputed cultural and economic center of this region. Today close to one-third of the 80 million Egyptians are illiterate, more than one out of every five people is forced to survive on less than $1 a day. But, according to Transparency International, we have a leading position in the list of the world’s most corrupt states. Egypt is even on a list of countries threatened to become failed states — that just shows how far things have gone with us.

SPIEGEL: That is a Herculean task for the next president.

ElBaradei: Yes, because foreign policy and domestic policy can no longer be separated. A state that wants to have international clout, must have a lively and open civil society — only then will it be attractive elsewhere.

SPIEGEL: Nonetheless, the West still sees Mubarak as a partner. Despite his deficits when it comes to democracy, he is seen as a guarantee for a certain amount of stability. No other country outside of Israel receives as much American aid.

ElBaradei: You are touching on a dilemma for the West: Mubarak has convinced the United States and Europe that they only have a choice between two options — either they accept this authoritarian regime, or Egypt will fall into the hands of the likes of bin Laden’s al-Qaida. Of course that is not exactly true. Mubarak uses the specter of Islamist terror to prevent a third way: the country’s democratization. But Washington needs to know that the support of a repressive leadership only creates the appearance of stability. In truth, it promotes the radicalization of the people.

‘A Double Standard Is Being Applied’

SPIEGEL: Many Egyptians say that the West has allied itself too closely with Mubarak, while others say that Mubarak has become a lackey of Western powers. Who is right?

ElBaradei: Take a look at our roll in the Gaza conflict. The Gaza Strip is the world’s largest prison. And it is one with two prison guards — on the one side, Israel seals the area off, and on the other side we have closed our border. Egypt’s government has invoked security reasons for doing so — they fear the Hamas, whose radical positions I do not share, but who came to power in a legitimate election.

SPIEGEL: What would you do differently in the Gaza conflict?

ElBaradei: We must do all that we can to relieve the suffering of the people there. Open the borders, end the blockade! And for the long term, not half-heartedly as is now the case on our side …

SPIEGEL: … and as the Israelis are now planning, at least when it comes to deliveries of food items.

ElBaradei: I don’t see a danger to our national security through a permanent opening. But I do see a major problem with us continuing to be accomplices to those who humiliate the Palestinian people.

SPIEGEL: Do you still believe in a Palestinian state, that can co-exist with Israel?

ElBaradei: That is the only solution. But for that to happen, a government must come to power in Israel that respects the 1967 borders. That accepts that repression is no solution.

SPIEGEL: And the Palastinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist and make sure that no further rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Both sides still have some work to do before the conditions are met for further negotiations.

ElBaradei: Exactly. But the people in the Middle East have the impression that a double standard is being applied, and that things are only ever demanded of the Palestinians. Such behavior stirs up resentment in the people of Egypt.

SPIEGEL: How can you, on the one hand, satisfy the Arab street and, on the other, cooperate with the West and negotiate with Israel?

ElBaradei: Turkey is a member of NATO and partner of the West and Israel. And yet Prime Minister Erdogan has no qualms about supporting an aid flotilla for Gaza that was supposed to breach Israel’s sea blockade. The people of the Arab world are celebrating him. Erdogan’s photo can be seen everywhere.

SPIEGEL: Political populism doesn’t help any country — just look at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

ElBaradei: I agree. But the so-called moderate regimes in the Middle East have not fulfilled their promises. The people were betrayed by their rulers. And the Arab League, once co-founded by Egypt, with its headquarters in Cairo, long ago became irrelevant through its wavering. What is left of it is a joke. That is why Ahmadinejad, with his radical positions, is so celebrated by the masses …

SPIEGEL: … and feared by leaders in the Middle East. He is strongly suspected of trying to build nuclear weapons. You know better than anyone how great the threat is. Your inspectors collected the evidence against Teheran. The CIA now says that Iran could build a bomb within the next two years.

ElBaradei: The Iran situation is multifaceted. Tehran is working on technologies that make the construction of a bomb possible and it is on the path to becoming a virtual nuclear power. But I do not believe that the Iranians are actually producing nuclear weapons.

SPIEGEL: But simply having control over the nuclear fuel cycle puts Iran in a more powerful position and puts neighboring states under pressure.

ElBaradei: That is a status issue that is overrated by the West. It is a matter of prestige. The Iranians are showing the Arab world that technologically, they have caught up with the world’s leading nations.

SPIEGEL: It has been alleged that Saudi Arabia and Egypt also have plans to develop nuclear weapons. Is that all misinformation?

ElBaradei: I think it is nonsense. Of course I am very much in favor of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, without Iranian, but also without Israeli, atomic weapons. But in general, the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran is overestimated, some even play it up intentionally. In the competition for regional influence, it is not military hardware that is decisive, but soft power. It is a competition centered on who has the better ideas, the more functional institutions, the more modern society. In Egypt, in any case, the people do not identify with the state.

‘I Am Afraid of Violence Breaking Out’

SPIEGEL: How do you plan to lead the people of your country out of this frustration?

ElBaradei: For those who have to wonder where their next meal is coming from, "democracy" remains a meaningless buzzword. First and foremost, standards of living must be improved. Egyptians suffer under cronyism and corruption. They are aware that competence and achievement are not rewarded. The gap between the rich and the poor becomes wider each day. People long for freedom and dignity, and that can only be achieved if the term "democracy" is filled with life.

SPIEGEL: How do you mean that?

ElBaradei: The president can no longer be allowed to be omnipotent. It must become possible to vote him and his government out of office when they fail. We need an independent justice system and a free press. Egyptian citizens must be allowed to elect their representatives in an atmosphere that is free of state pressure, irrespective of religion and gender. Why not have a woman as head of government? Why not a Coptic Christian?

SPIEGEL: And you want to advance this progressive program with the help of the Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood?

ElBaradei: It is true that I have spoken with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and that we discussed the struggle against Mubarak.

SPIEGEL: There is talk of a "strategic partnership."

ElBaradei: I speak with all representatives of the opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood is not allowed to form a party, but their individual candidates take up 20 percent of the seats in parliament. They enjoy respect because they are socially active. They have been portrayed as allies of bin Laden, which is complete nonsense. One doesn’t have to agree with their conservative-religious ideas, but they are a part of our society. They have every right to participate in the development of this society if they pursue their path in a democratic manner, free of violence.

SPIEGEL: But that is exactly what observers have their doubts about. And they believe that the Islamists are using you to get into power.

ElBaradei: That won’t happen. I take the Muslim Brotherhood at their word. Egypt is a country shaped by Islam. I will only avail myself as an agent for democratic change.

SPIEGEL: Are democracy and Islam really compatible?

ElBaradei: In one sura in the Koran, it says that a ruler must consult his people, only then can he rule justly. One can start there. At the end of the day, Islam, like any religion, is what you make out of it.

SPIEGEL: In October, there are parliamentary elections in Egypt …

ElBaradei: … and they should absolutely be monitored by international election observers, as should the presidential elections next year.

SPIEGEL: The whole of Egypt is now wondering: Are you going to run for president?

ElBaradei: At my age?

SPIEGEL: On election day you will be 69, and Mubarak will already be 83. One can’t really speak of a youth movement unless Mubarak sends his son, the banker Gamal Mubarak, into the race.

ElBaradei: I have met Gamal a number of times. I cannot say that I find him disagreeable. Nothing, however, indicates that he would be an improvement over his father.

SPIEGEL: In other words, you are throwing your hat into the ring.

ElBaradei: It would require a change in the laws governing political parties and electoral rolls. Fair access to the media has to be guaranteed. And, of course, I would have to be allowed to register my movement as a party. We would have to collect money in order to stage campaign appearances. But let me be clear: If the conditions are fulfilled and if the people really demand that I run, then I won’t leave them in the lurch.

SPIEGEL: Otherwise the "historic moment" will just elapse?

ElBaradei: No. One doesn’t necessarily have to be in office to be an agent of change. In one of my Internet contributions, I wrote that we will overcome our fears, that civil society will take action and we will tear down walls, just like the Germans.

SPIEGEL: Were you not allowed to stand for election, what would you recommend voters to do?

ElBaradei: Should the rules not be changed, should there be no chance of a fair campaign, then I will call for a boycott.

SPIEGEL: And would you also call for the Egyptian people to demonstrate — even though that could end in a bloodbath?

ElBaradei: I am indeed concerned that the regime will gamble away the opportunity for a peaceful transition. I am afraid of violence breaking out. For exactly that reason, I have not yet called for mass demonstrations or for civil disobedience. The regime should know: One can arrest many demonstrators, but one cannot arrest an entire people.

SPIEGEL: In your opinion, which is more difficult: Preventing Iran from making a nuclear bomb or bringing democracy to Egypt?

ElBaradei: Both are difficult. Both are possible.

SPIEGEL: Will we be seeing you in the presidential palace in Cairo, come the autumn of 2011?

ElBaradei: As André Malraux once said, that which is least expected is normally what ends up happening.

SPIEGEL: Mr. ElBaradei, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Dieter Bednarz and Erich Follath

“Viewers of the Channel 10 news last Friday were amazed to see a scene that seemed to belong to the world of sick imagination: To shorten the route to the Cave of the Patriarchs for the Jews of Hebron, the windows of Arabs’ homes that the worshipers pass were sealed off. You had to rub your eyes to believe how the colonial power allows itself to make life so unbearable for the natives. Not only were their windows sealed, but access to their homes was made especially difficult – just for the convenience of the occupiers.”

From the Second Lebanon War to the Gaza flotilla – and this period includes Operation Cast Lead – Israel’s failures have been much greater than its successes. Against this backdrop, Israel’s moral crisis is getting deeper all the time.

By Zeev Sternhell

Among the regimes in the Western world, Israel stands out with certain characteristics that generally do not indicate a strong democratic system. Its parliament is paralyzed, the opposition is nonexistent, and contempt for the law is becoming more pronounced. This not only refers to the unrest caused by the ultra-Orthodox, but also to something much more dangerous, the unrest caused by the settlers. The “respectable” right has chosen leaders of the most dangerous kind, like Moshe Ya’alon, who erases the line between Likud’s level-headed elements and the extremist “Feiglins” and far-right National Union party. In the not-too-distant future, they will replace Likud’s current leadership, which itself is much less restrained than the veteran Revisionists.

Moreover, the political leadership and the ruling elites, including the military elite, evince a worrisome lack of talent. From the Second Lebanon War to the Gaza flotilla – and this period includes Operation Cast Lead – Israel’s failures have been much greater than its successes. Against this backdrop, Israel’s moral crisis is getting deeper all the time. Israeli society is disintegrating into layers and blocs that have totally different worldviews and historical visions. More and more, these hostile blocs lack a mutual national objective.

The moral and intellectual disintegration also contributes to the gradual loss of social solidarity and mutual responsibility. Notwithstanding the vital struggle TheMarker is conducting against the tycoons and the enslavement to big business, this is not a comprehensive economic alternative for reducing inequality. The alienation between the sections of society that differ over the country’s political future is increasing, no less than the alienation between social strata and population sectors whose ways of life are as different as east from west.

All these phenomena must be dealt with, first on the political level. Therefore, for change to be possible, a political engine is necessary. Regrettably, this type of machine no longer exists here. Led by Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, the Labor Party betrayed its role; it is heading toward liquidating itself. Peres’ desertion in the 2006 elections to Kadima was merely a symptom of the illness, but on that occasion, the depth of the degeneration was revealed.

Have there been many instances in the democratic world over the past 50 years where a party leader deserted his party for a rival merely because he was defeated in the primaries on the eve of an election? Peres the deserter, who became president, and Dalia Itzik the deserter, who was Knesset speaker until the last elections, taught the average Israeli not only that politics is a realm to avoid if you want to save your soul, but that political life is nothing but a web of fraud – without ideology, principles and truth.

Peres’ heir, Barak, is contributing to this feeling; he is relinquishing what remains of his party’s right to exist. We can thank Barak for the huge disgrace of Operation Cast Lead, which scraped off another layer of the old Israeli identity. And we are indebted to him for the humiliation we suffered in the Gaza flotilla incident. In addition, Barak is a supporter of neoliberalism and privatization, is opposed to raising the minimum wage and, by his very membership in the government, supports religious instruction in secular schools. If that is so, who needs him or his party?

It is worth mentioning that Barak, by virtue of his position as defense minister, is also the West Bank’s military governor. Viewers of the Channel 10 news last Friday were amazed to see a scene that seemed to belong to the world of sick imagination: To shorten the route to the Cave of the Patriarchs for the Jews of Hebron, the windows of Arabs’ homes that the worshipers pass were sealed off. You had to rub your eyes to believe how the colonial power allows itself to make life so unbearable for the natives. Not only were their windows sealed, but access to their homes was made especially difficult – just for the convenience of the occupiers.

It was not the worshipers who sealed the houses but the army that stands at attention to serve them, and the army’s chief commander is the leader of the Labor Party. Many people will refrain from supporting the Labor Party in the next elections, but it is doubtful whether this will scare Barak. Like Peres in his day, he too will not retire. Rather, it is reasonable to expect that he will continue in the same profession – only from the opposite side of the street.

However unrepresentative, it still deserves mention

Left-wing activists protest weekly alongside Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah over settlers’ takeover of locals’ homes.

Some 300 left-wing activists clashed with police on Friday during the weekly protest at the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Ten activists were detained and held for questioning over blocking roadways and failing to comply with police instructions.

Every weekend, Israeli protesters demonstrate alongside the Arab locals against settler activity in the Arab neighborhood. The demonstrators decry the settlers’ takeover of several homes in the area.

Participating in Friday’s protest were renowned Israeli author David Grossman and former Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On.

The clash erupted when demonstrators tried to make their way to the contested homes in the neighborhood.

Gal-On and Grossman said that they were pushed aggressively by police officers. Gal-On said that “it was one of the more violent events. We wanted to enter the neighborhood, but the police brutality was unprecedented.”

“They pushed, and I too got hit,” Gal-On went on to say. “They just kicked the young people who were lying on the ground.”

Gal-On added that former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair pleaded with the police to calm the situation, but they were uncooperative.

Some six weeks ago, several hundred Hebrew University students and lecturers marched from the Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem to Sheikh Jarrah in protest over the settlers’ takeover of local residents’ homes. The protest march included such prominent professors as Ze’ev Sternhell, Yaron Ezrahi, Ariel Hirschfeld and others.

The protesters carried signs calling for and end to settlements in East Jerusalem. “Democracy stops at Sheikh Jarrah,” some signs said, while others read “stop ethnic cleansing.”

Hitler calls on top German minds to find out why Auschwitz is getting bad press

Image of Israel in International TV news

Zurich 9 July, 2010. Barack Obama’s meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington took place at a time when both the US president and Israel are suffering from poor media images. Media Tenor’s long term study of international news shows that the television news flow out of Israel is extremely critical. The exception to this rule is the US TV market, although even in the US Israeli news is still negative in 40% of all stories. The study into a longer term media image of Israel indicates that the Gaza fleet incident merely exacerbated an already very negative media image. For Obama, the visit of Netanyahu was a crucial chance to reverse the media hostility he has faced in the wake of the BP oil spill – if he can be perceived to have achieved something.

A study by Zurich based media research institute, Media Tenor International, shows that Israel’s most favorable media market is the US even though 40% of all reports in US TV news present Israeli protagonists in a negative light. The picture outside the US media market is worse. European, Middle Eastern and South African media markets average close to 60% negativity for news out of Israel. China’s CCTV is an interesting case, in that it also has a high level of negativity, but a focus on social protagonists meant that 20% or reports on Israeli protagonists were positive for the Chinese.

Media Tenor CEO and founder Roland Schatz highlights the significance of the weak media reputation and the significance of its role on public opinion. “Media image and reputation go hand in hand – Obama and other stakeholders in a Mid-East peace process will be aware that Israel has limited popular support internationally” says Schatz, “They will have to tread the fine line between short term success at alleviating international frustration, and securing real results.” < br>
A key result in Media Tenor’s study is that the Gaza fleet incident did not significantly change Israel’s media image. Israel has suffered from an extremely negative media reputation in African, European and, to a lesser extent, US media since the late 90’s. As such, the incident only saw the level of negativity jump a little. As Schatz points out, “In many ways the world has come to expect negative news out of Israel. Important elements of Israeli society – excellence in the IT field, excellence in farming and medicine – simply do not reach Joe Average through the media. The result is that an event like the Gaza fleet incident simply satisfies expectations. Unfortunately, the expectation of bad news is one thing that Israel and its neighboring Arab states have in common.”

For President Obama, the expectations are also high as the Israeli leader lands in Washington. Obama’s international media rating has declined in the wake of the BP oil spill, and progress in the middle east will be essential to returning the President to the “Yes we can” image which served him so well during the 2008 election and the post health care phase. “Obama needs political victories in this phase of his presidency and the moving the peace process forward would be a sign that he truly is able to get things done” says Schatz.

This analysis is based on, 140,173 stories in 40 news shows from 11 markets. Media Tenor has evaluated more than 500 000 news stories in international TV news.

Download results here.

Media Tenor / InnoVatio Verlag
Zuzana Beluska

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fax: +41-43-25519-29

But what about the Holocaust?

Human rights organizations say patients prevented from leaving Gaza for important medical procedures ‘against ethical codes.’ Government’s coordinator in territories: Report biased; we’ve approved more than 9,000 cases a year

Muhammad Abu Mustafa, a 52-year-old Gaza resident, suffers from a spinal disc herniation, which results in pain along his arm and numbness. Israel refuses to let him leave the Strip for a medical procedure in Jerusalem. His case is one of the examples included in a report authored by several organizations, which are accusing Israel of preventing medical treatment.

“He has 10 children and his life has turned into hell. He can’t sleep at night and all the pain killers he received no longer help,” his brother-in-law, Abed Rabbo Abu Mustafa, told Ynet.

Abu Mustafa was directed to the St. Joseph Hospital in east Jerusalem, and was turned down with the claim that his condition was not life-threatening.

According to an opinion written by Dr. Nachshon Shazar, an orthopedics specialist who examined the case, Abu Mustafa’s situation “could sometimes lead to a sudden deterioration which may lead to paralysis.”

The coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories said in response that the request was denied after it was revealed that such treatment is available in the Strip.

“We don’t have this treatment in Gaza and his condition is only getting worse,” the brother-in-law insisted. “It’s true that it’s not a life-saving procedure, but it’s also true that if he won’t receive immediate care he will become paralyzed. Muhammad was never turned down for security reasons. We have no explanation for the decision not to let him in.”

The Adalah organization, Physicians for Human Rights and Palestinian human rights group al-Mizan, published a joint statement accusing Israel of “implementing a consistent policy of distinguishing between life-threatening medical cases and other medical cases, as a basis for preventing patients from leaving the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.”

According to Adalah and the Gaza-based al-Mizan group, restricting the treatment for people who are not in a life-threatening condition is against medical ethical rules and international law. The organizations said they reached this conclusion based on an analysis of the cases in which Israel turned down appeals from Gazan patients to leave the Strip for medical treatment.

Expert: Considerations political

Data compiled by the organizations point to a high correlation between the level of risk and the authorities’ tendency to accept the request. The organizations said they had received 40 complaints from Gaza patients who had been turned down over the past few days.

“Even medical cases which are not life-threatening and which were rejected by Israel may still be medically urgent and lead to the loss of vital organs, loss of sight, disability, and etcetera.

“Making a distinction between a life-threatening and a non-life threatening medical condition contradicts medical ethics, according to which any patient or injured person must be given access to the best medical care available for them, regardless of the treatment’s urgency or the severity of the medical condition.

“This distinction contradicts the rules of humanitarian law and the international human rights law which recognize the right to life, the right to the integrity of one’s body and the right to human dignity, which are recognized as basic rights in Israel law as well.”

Dr. Harel Arzi, an orthopedic surgeon and a volunteer in Physicians for Human Rights, believes the distinction is “only semantic”, adding that Israel’s considerations are not only medical but also political.

The coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories said in response, “The report is biased and was written without giving Israel the right to respond. In 2009, the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories and the Coordination and Liaison Authority in Gaza coordinated the departure of more than 9,000 Palestinian patients and their escorts from Gaza to receive military treatment in Israel.

“We regret the organization’s decision to publish these reports in a consistent and biased manner without cooperating and coordinating with Israeli elements.”

Will someone please tell me why he doesn’t just move to Israel and run for the Knesset on the CRJL (Certified Russian-Jewish Lunatics) slate?

Today, modern Israel faces some of the toughest challenges it has encountered in its 62-year history. Chief among them is Iran’s threat to the Jewish state’s very existence. But — especially in the past several months — there has been progress in defending against, deterring and preventing Iran from fulfilling that evil objective.

On the continuing threat side, Iran-funded and directed Hezbollah and Hamas still have more than 50,000 rockets on Israel’s borders and continue to seek even more sophisticated weaponry to position against Israel, as evidenced by the recent transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah by Syria and Iran.

But the most terrifying and real threat to Israel is the possibility that Iran’s deranged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will succeed in acquiring a nuclear weapon and use it to realize his long-stated objective of wiping Israel off the map.

All of this underscores the importance of what has now been achieved: the strongest military and intelligence alliance between the U.S. and Israel in recent history.

There is no question that the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem is not perfect — but when has it ever been? (See Ariel Sharon’s 2001 comment that “Israel will not be Czechoslovakia” and Ari Fleischer’s rebuke that President George W. Bush “believes that these remarks are unacceptable.”)

However, concerning military and intelligence cooperation — where the rubber meets the road, where issues speaking to Israel’s very existence hang in the balance — the U.S.-Israel relationship has never been stronger. I feel comfortable making this statement as a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, which appropriate all spending for the U.S. military and all foreign aid, respectively. My position on these subcommittees affords me the opportunity to be in regular contact with the highest levels of all U.S. and Israeli diplomatic, military and intelligence agencies. The weekly and sometimes daily classified and unclassified briefings I receive inform my views about the true status of U.S.-Israel relations.

America’s boycott of Durban II, the 2009 United Nations conference against racism, and its dismissal of the U.N.’s Goldstone Report on the conflict in the Gaza Strip as “unbalanced, one-sided, and basically unacceptable,” along with our support of an Israeli-run investigation of the recent Gaza flotilla incident have helped shield Israel on the international stage. And over the past 18 months, America’s own improved international standing has helped secure a broad international consensus to confront Israel’s, the Middle East’s and the world’s greatest threat: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Israel’s qualitative military edge, which eroded under previous U.S. administrations, has been restored and improved, with more help on the way. The Obama administration’s outreach to Russia has resulted in an agreement that Russia will not deliver its S-300 anti-aircraft system to Iran, a game-changer in Iran’s balance of power with Israel.

Also, months of aggressive U.S.-led negotiations in the U.N. have yielded a new sanctions regime against Iran that will allow for even greater sanctions against Iran’s financial, military and energy sectors from the Europeans, the United States and other nations.

There is more. Last month, President Barack Obama allocated an additional $205 million to permit Israel to position additional short-range Iron Dome anti-missile batteries throughout the Jewish state. This is on top of the more than $3 billion in military aid that Israel will already receive from the U.S. this year, plus more than $200 million in additional money for the U.S.-Israel joint missile defense systems, including the long-range Arrow systems and the medium-range David’s Sling. In allocating these additional funds, President Obama is building on my efforts to enhance U.S. support and cooperation for Israel’s missile defense system against Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

Not only that, but there is an unprecedented high level of U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation. A powerful demonstration of the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship was demonstrated in October of 2009, with Operation Juniper Cobra, in Herzliya, Israel. At that time 1,400 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen were sent to Israel with 10 U.S. warships, bringing the highest U.S. military and intelligence command officers with them to coordinate with their Israeli counterparts to conduct live-fire testing of practically every missile defense capability in the U.S. and Israeli arsenal.

The Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have declared that a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable and that they will work to prevent it. In fact, last Wednesday, Uzi Arad, Prime Minster Netanyahu’s national security adviser, acknowledged that “the United States is determined to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear. There is determination there. There is activism.” Both countries also hold that a policy of containment is not an option.

In that regard, there have been recent public reports that Saudi Arabia will let Israel overfly a portion of its territory, should Israel feel it necessary to undertake military action against Iran. This follows in the footsteps of Egypt, which has allowed Israeli submarines and missile ships, as well as U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups, through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea. These vessels have the capability of launching cruise missiles armed with both nuclear and non-nuclear warheads. And several months ago, the U.S. delivered advanced anti-missile batteries to four Persian Gulf states, operated by American crews.

Ahmadinejad should now clearly understand that Israel’s new relationships with the U.S., Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni nations in the region, and Israel’s more effective and comprehensive missile defenses will make it difficult, if not impossible, to exercise his sick and deranged calculus whereby Iran would be willing to trade the lives of a million Iranians for even a few thousand Israelis. If he acts and takes that gamble without effect, he will pay a terrible one-sided price.

While it would thus require a suicidal Iranian leader to consider attacking Israel, unfortunately, President Ahmadinejad may be such a leader.

And so, clearly, there still remains a long way to go before the Jewish state’s security is assured. We therefore must continue our vigilance in keeping Israel’s security at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. But genuine progress has occurred in recent months. It is important not to be overlooked, ignored or underestimated.

Rep. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.) serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.

Definitely worth watching; take the time

These thugs really need to be stopped

An Arab-Israeli research group is taking the International Development Research Centre to court, alleging the Canadian Crown corporation cut off funding to the group under pressure from the Israeli government.

Mada al-Carmel, a 10-year-old social research centre based in Haifa, conducts research into Israel’s Arab minority. Two years ago, Mada received a pair of three-year grants from the IDRC to study the marginalization of women in Arab-Israeli society and the low level of political participation by Arab Israelis.

In March, the IDRC terminated the grants, worth almost $800,000, in their second year. The decision means a loss of 40 per cent of Mada’s income and a serious blow to the organization’s reputation and credibility.

There was no indication of poor performance by Mada. Indeed, a March 3 letter from the IDRC states: “We wish to emphasize that this termination is … by no means a reflection on the quality of the work being done by your institution.”

Nadim Rouhana, Mada’s founding director and a professor at Tufts University in Boston, alleges that parties close to the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu pressed the Canadian government and the IDRC to end support for Mada.

As a Canadian Crown corporation, the IDRC is funded by the federal government but is managed at arm’s length in order to avoid any appearance of political interference.

IDRC president David Malone, a distinguished former Canadian diplomat, denies that outside pressure or government interference played a role in the decision to terminate Mada’s grants.

“It was a management decision,” Mr. Malone said. “Strictly internal.”

The decision has led to a legal application by Mada al-Carmel against the IDRC to have the termination quashed for lack of cause. The case is being heard in Federal Court in Ottawa.

In a sworn affidavit, Mr. Malone states that the IDRC’s mandate is to fund research in developing nations and that Israel, as a high-income country, is not considered a developing state. Therefore, he stated, he felt duty-bound to kill the contracts.

He acknowledges that the Mada grants were “first brought to my attention as the result of an inquiry by NGO Monitor, an Israeli advocacy group,” in late January.

Shortly afterward, IDRC management received a communication from the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, also inquiring about Mada.

Mr. Malone launched an internal inquiry to determine what, if anything, NGO Monitor had written about Mada.

NGO Monitor has carried out numerous campaigns aimed at discrediting international organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the New Israel Fund (a predominantly Jewish group) and Israeli organizations such as B’tselem, a human rights group, that have criticized Israeli government policies.

It was NGO Monitor that last year informed critics of Rights and Democracy, another federally funded arm’s length organization, as well as the Canadian church group KAIROS, about the groups’ support for parties and forums critical of Israel. Subsequently, KAIROS lost a $7-million grant from the Canadian International Development Agency. During a period of turmoil that saw several board members and staff resign, Rights and Democracy ended its support for three organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

All this has been part of a wider Israeli crackdown on NGOs. Diplomats and aid officials in Israel have recently complained about what one diplomat called an “all-out assault on legitimate human rights groups,” being promoted by the Netanyahu government.

Israel is highly sensitive to non-governmental organizations – often funded by foreign governments – telling Israelis how to run their country.

The IDRC learned that NGO Monitor had reported scathingly about a poster it claimed Mada had produced. The poster depicts an Israeli soldier with his hand in front of a Palestinian woman’s chest and the provocative caption: “The occupation penetrates her life everyday.”

“Mada al-Carmel publishes crude posters with images of an Israeli soldier touching the breasts of an Arab woman,” wrote NGO Monitor’s president, Gerald Steinberg.

The poster, however, clearly does not depict the soldier touching the woman’s breasts.

Furthermore, Mada didn’t publish the poster. Another organization did. But NGO Monitor persisted in its criticism.

“Even if Mada is not responsible for the poster itself, it still is part of a whole network of organizations that accuse Israel of sexually abusing Arab women, and that’s false,” Mr. Steinberg said.

“No one [here] has accused Israel of sexually abusing Arab women,” insisted Dr. Rouhana. The event the poster advertised, he insists, pointed out how the minority role of Arabs in Israel adds to the marginalization of Arab-Israeli women.

This is not the first time NGO Monitor has been criticized for overzealous attacks on organizations critical of Israeli policy.

Yossi Alpher, a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, recently wrote: “It [NGO Monitor] seems dead set on eliminating human rights monitoring of Israel entirely and smearing anyone who supports this vital activity.”

Following the IDRC’s investigation, Mr. Malone wrote to Mr. Cannon that he planned to continue Mada’s grants. A month later, however, Mr. Malone changed his mind.

It was revealed in court in mid-June that, two weeks before Mada got the pink slip, Mr. Malone met with the Israeli ambassador at the Israeli embassy in Ottawa.

When asked by Mada’s lawyer if that meeting had anything to do with his decision to terminate Mada’s contracts, Mr. Malone was prevented from answering by a lawyer for the Attorney-General of Canada, who warned he must not reveal the contents of any such embassy meeting as it relates to Canada’s national security and international relations.

Mr. Malone cautions people from leaping to conclusions. “It remains tempting, clearly, to construct a conspiracy theory out of something I was not allowed to testify to by government policy,” said Mr. Malone, who pointed out that he had earlier testified under oath that he received “no direction, directly or indirectly … from any other party external to IDRC.”

“David Malone’s not the bad guy in this; he’s a victim,” an IDRC insider said. “I think he genuinely believed that unless he ended Mada’s funding, the government would find a way to end IDRC’s arm’s length independence from government.”

Mr. Steinberg denies that was ever his goal. “We didn’t consciously go after Mada, and we certainly didn’t lobby the Canadian government to end Mada’s funding.”

“We simply made an inquiry, and the fact that it apparently triggered an investigation and a decision to end Mada’s funding is an internal Canadian matter.”

“You have to appreciate the atmosphere in Ottawa when all this was happening,” says Audrey Macklin, a professor of administrative law at the University of Toronto. “Everyone was abuzz about Rights and Democracy,” she said, “and they already had seen funding taken from other aid organizations.”

“I can believe that Malone acted out of fear of losing the organization’s independence,” she said. “But when you make decisions out of such fear, you’ve already lost your independence.”