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The Day In Israel: Mon Feb 9th, 2009

Click refresh to see new updates during the day.

For other liveblogging see The Muqata.

As expected, the IAF struck some Hamas outposts in south Gaza in (disproportionate) response to yesterday’s firing of rockets at civilians in Israel. There were unconfirmed reports that a Hamashole may have messed up his hair.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:58PM: Tzipi Livni’s first “celebrity” endorsement.

This is reason enough not to vote for her.

9:42PM: Hizbullah’s boy scout army.

9:35PM: This should be good: The Central Elections Committee has decided not to intervene with the National Union’s decision to send right-wing activist Baruch Marzel to serve as a representative  on the party’s behalf at a polling station in (Arab) Umm al-Fahm tomorrow.

9:32PM: Now this is good journalism: A dispatch from the border with Gaza by Michael Totten (a blogger I have had the pleasure of meeting)

8:06PM: Hamas has supposedly returned all of the aid it stole from UNRWA last week. No word on what they did with the aid they stole before last week.

6:33PM: Israeli Arab Ali Zahalka writes on Ynetnews:

The Arab-Israeli leadership is increasing pushing us into anti-Israel radicalism. This extremism climaxed with the “Death to the Jews” chants during Operation Cast Lead. Here is what I have to say to those leaders: Look at what you’ve done.

We did not cry out in the face of rocket attacks on southern residents that went on for years. We did not cry out in the face of the suffering of our brethren, Gaza residents, who have been brutally repressed by Hamas. Yet we cried out, of all things, in the face of an onslaught against the most radical element in the Arab world.

The Arab-Israeli leadership won’t connect, heaven forbid, to the moderate Arab elements such as Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, or Jordan. These are of no interest to it. We saw Azmi Bishara, who left, and we saw where he went to.

I don’t need to explain what Hamas is all about. The Egyptians and Palestinian Authority officials are doing it better than me. They ask Hamas how it can talk about victory when the war against Israel – which it sought and advanced – was managed on the backs and blood of thousands of Palestinians that were killed, wounded, or lost their property, while Hamas’ leadership stayed at fortified bunkers or in Damascus.

So now we can accurately measure the result of this conduct: 18. Why 18? Because this is the number of Knesset seats that the polls predict for Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

Apparently, we got what we deserve. If we, citizens of the State of Israel, which has a Jewish majority, connect to the worst enemies of the State, why are we surprised that this is what we get?

5:54PM: Following from my previous update:

A spokesman for al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said that the organization is uninterested in the outcome of Israel’s elections.

“We are only interested in how to face the enemy in the next round,” he said.

4:55PM: The PA earlier today stated that Hamas have been firing rockets in a bid to sway the Israeli elections to the Right. Which is interesting, because I could have sworn they were firing rockets to kill Jews.

11:53AM: From the Department of Premature Explodation? The IDF has denied killing the Islamic Jihadnik.

11:15AM: Meet Rowan Laxton, fan of pink, and high-ranking British Foreign Office diplomat arrested over an anti-Semitic tirade in a gym (hat tip: Pisa).

A high-ranking diplomat at the Foreign Office has been arrested after allegations that he launched a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade.

Middle East expert Rowan Laxton, 47, was watching TV reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza as he used an exercise bike in a gym.

Stunned staff and gym members allegedly heard him shout: ‘F**king Israelis, f**king Jews’. It is alleged he also said Israeli soldiers should be ‘wiped off the face of the earth’.

His rant reportedly continued even after he was approached by other gym users.

After a complaint was made to police, Mr Laxton was arrested for inciting religious hatred through threatening words and behaviour and bailed until late next month.

The maximum penalty for inciting religious hatred is a seven-year prison term or a fine or both.

Mr Laxton, who is still working normally, is head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office, on a salary of around £70,000.

He is responsible for all the UK’s diplomacy in that area and for briefing Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is Jewish.

Mr Laxton has worked extensively in the Middle East  –  he married a Muslim woman in 2000  –  and has been deputy ambassador to Afghanistan.

The case could not have come at a worse time for the Foreign Office. Next week, Britain is hosting an international summit on combating anti-Semitism, with politicians from 35 countries.

Mr Laxton had gone to the London Business School’s gym in Regent’s Park after work on January 27.

An onlooker said: ‘I was in the gym around 9pm and I heard this guy shouting something about “f**king Israelis”.

‘This bald guy was cycling away on his machine in the middle of the exercise room. When another guy approached him he shouted “f**king Jews, f**king Israelis”.

‘The gym was pretty full and everyone looked totally shocked.

‘ That sort of racist language is totally unacceptable. The gym staff called security and I think the guy was asked to leave.’

Mark Gardner, deputy director of the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitism, said: ‘There were an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza conflict.

‘This alleged case is particularly shocking, given the position held by the civil servant in question.

‘We must not allow an overseas conflict to cause racism here in Britain and especially not among civil servants.

‘The Jewish community will be rightly appalled to hear of these allegations against such a senior figure.

‘We hope that the appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken forthwith, as they would be if these comments had been made against any other section of society.’

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘It is too early to comment in detail on a matter that is currently the subject of police enquiries. But we take extremely seriously any allegation of inappropriate conduct on the part of our staff and continue to follow developments closely.’

When contacted by the Daily Mail, Mr Laxton denied his comments were anti-Jewish but refused to answer when asked if they were anti-Israeli.

The Oxford graduate joined the diplomatic service in 1993 and rose rapidly through the ranks.

He ran the British High Commission in Pakistan for three years before moving to Afghanistan in 2001. He stayed in Kabul for two years, then returned to London. He was appointed head of his section last year.

Mr Laxton is believed to be separated from his wife, a banker who is working in the United Arab Emirates.

The Israel page of the Foreign Office website says: ‘The Government has a shared responsibility to tackle anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism and prejudice’.

Meanwhile, judging by his picture, I would suggest he focus harder on his gym work.

10:55AM: The palestinian we reportedly killed today (10:40AM update) was an Islamic Jihad terrorist. Rest in pieces.

10:48AM: Fascinating story of the Muslim who is becoming a Jew.

Nizar Mahameed, a 30-year-old Haifa resident, arrived at the rabbinical court in the city several months ago and asked to convert to Judaism. He presented to the rabbis with all the documents required to start the process, and was referred to a rabbi to begin conversion lessons.

But the road from being Nizar Mahameed, the son of a prominent Arab Muslim family from Umm al-Fahm, to becoming Nati Peretz, a Shabbat and kashrut observing Jew, was not an easy one.

Nati (Nizar) was born in Haifa’s downtown to the Mahameed clan, which numbers some 6,000 members. The family has produced some of Israel’s most well-known Arab leaders, including former Hadash Knesset Member Hashem Mahameed.

But according to Nati, he never felt like he belonged to the environment which he grew up in. “All my friends are Jewish, I live in a Jewish neighborhood, and I don’t feel any relation to the Arab sector or to Islam,” he explained.

“I celebrate the Jewish holidays and not the Muslim ones. I didn’t fast on the Ramadan but I did fast on Yom Kippur. I built a sukkah on Sukkot and lit a menorah on Hanukkah.

“In spirit, in my heart and soul I am Jewish,” he added.

About a month ago, Nati met a young Jewish woman from the city, Oshrat, and the two immediately fell in love. In the meantime he studies Judaism with a famous local rabbi’s wife. Once he completes his studies, he would be able to go through the conversion procedure.

But his decision to become Jewish has led Nati’s family to regard him as a traitor, and his father proclaimed he was no longer a member of the Mahameed family.

10:40AM: According to palestinian officials, a 22-year-old palestinian has been killed by IDF tank shell fire.

9:15AM: Egyptian newspaper al-Gomhuria has reported that a truce deal between Israel  and Hamas is expected to be signed within the next 48 hours.

5:50AM: Cop that: 11 people – including 7 policemen – have been arrested in connection with last week’s sickening attack on a Caracas synagogue. Perhaps the policemen arrested themselves?

5:43AM: More reports of Hamas torture, this time courtesy of the Jizz.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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