The Day In Israel: Thurs Aug 6th, 2009

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American Middle East envoy George Mitchell to Israel: Commit to a one-year “settlement” freeze

French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Israel: Free palestinian terrorist involved in plot to assassinate Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Aussie Dave to Mitchell and Sarkozy: Kiss my tuchus.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

7:42PM: A US delegation of Republican congressmen visiting Israel have expressed their solidarity with us, and criticized the Obama administration.

The Obama administration’s policy on Israel is misguided, puts too much emphasis on the issue of settlements, and ignores the bigger threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, a US delegation of Republican congressmen visiting Israel said Thursday.

Led by minority whip Eric Cantor from Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, the delegation of 25 Republicans said their week-long mission to Israel is designed to show solidarity with the Jewish state and promote Mideast peace. A group of Democratic congressmen are expected to visit next week.

Cantor said that instead of focusing on issues such as Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, Obama should concentrate on “the primary issue of import … and that is the existential threat that Iran poses not only to the state of Israel but to the United States.”

The congressman said he was “concerned about what the White House has been signaling of late.”

Cantor and others also expressed support for Israel’s handling of the eviction of two Arab families from a house in east Jerusalem earlier this week, a move criticized by the European Union and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I don’t think we, in America, would want another country telling us how to implement and execute our laws,” Cantor said.

6:00PM: Some kick-ass IDF technologies for your viewing pleasure.

3:40PM: NGO Monitor has reviewed the HRW report (see 1:15PM update), and issued the following press release in response.

NGO Monitor: 6 Questions on HRW’s Gaza Rockets Report

(Jerusalem) – Jerusalem based research organization NGO Monitor has reviewed .Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report (“Rockets From Gaza”) on Hamas’ rocket fire on Israel’s civilian population.

While the report clearly finds Hamas guilty of war crimes and acknowledges “the psychological toll of years of rocket attacks” on Israelis, a number of questions need to be addressed:

  1. Why did it take HRW 6 months to issue a report that covers no new ground and largely repeats the International Crisis Group’s report of April 2009? In the interval, HRW issued two publications condemning Israel. NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis of HRW’s report on Israel’s use of drones can be found here.
  2. Why does HRW perpetuate the “balance” between terrorist groups and their targets?  (“Whether it is Hamas’ claims of the ‘right to resist occupation’ or Israel’s of the right ‘to combat terror’, the reasons for engaging in armed conflict do not permit a party to ignore its legal obligations in the way it conducts hostilities.”)
  3. Why did HRW fail to condemn Hamas for extensive use of human shields?  What is the basis for the claim that Hamas “did not…force civilians to remain in areas in close proximity to rocket launching sites”?
  4. Why is Israel absurdly blamed for Hamas’ rocket fire from populated areas?  According to HRW, Hamas “redeployed from more open and outlying regions – many of which were…controlled by Israeli ground forces…into densely populated urban areas”.  In other words, Israel’s operation against the rocket fire is blamed for the Hamas violations of the laws of war.  And numerous rocket attacks from these same urban areas – long before the IDF operation – is not mentioned.
  5. Why is there no effort to uncover details of weapons smuggling into Gaza, and no mention of Iran? When HRW published speculative allegations on Israel’s use of drones and white phosphorous, they emphasized US military assistance.
  6. Why does HRW continue to falsify the history in order to attack Israel? This report blames Israel for the end of the ceasefire — “These attacks virtually stopped…but resumed after Israeli forces killed six Palestinian fighters…on November 4, 2008”.  This version ignores the fact that Israel was responding to tunnels being completed and suggestions of another kidnapping attempt.

NGO Monitor’s President Prof Gerald Steinberg suggested some answers: “While containing no new information, this report might have had an impact if HRW published it six months ago. The fact that it is only now on their agenda exposes their biased priorities. The timing might indicate HRW’s effort to use this report to divert attention from the Saudi fundraising controversy, and as a fig leaf to cover the disproportionate focus on Israel.

On the substance, HRW failed to indict Hamas for turning the entire Gaza population into one massive human shield, and ‘researchers’ need to explain why they did not investigate the sources of the ‘smuggled’ rockets or to mention Iran. In contrast, when condemning Israel on a very thin factual foundation, HRW officials consistently criticize the American security relationship and arms transfers”.

So I’m not the only one who sees the Saudi fundraising controversy connection.

2:52PM: The Fatah Congress has concluded that Israel killed Yasser Arafat.

The Fatah Congress on Thursday unanimously concluded that Israel was behind the death of former PA President Yasser Arafat. The congress decided to set up a Palestinian inquiry commission to probe the matter.

The members of the commission will be appointed at a later date, but Arafat’s nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa is expected to head to commission.

The congress also called for an international commission to investigate the circumstances of Arafat’s death.

I guess it is theoretically possible. For instance, we could have killed him in one of the following ways:

  • Introduced him to the “Hyena” from whom he contracted AIDS
  • Placed an aphrodisiac in his food or drink that made him amorous, leading to one of his homosexual encounters from which he contracted AIDS

Bring on the international commission to investigate his death. I’m going to enjoy it.

1:15PM: I wonder if this is in response to Israel’s recent accusation that Human Rights Watch has been using its criticism of Israeli conduct to solicit funds from Saudi Arabia.

Either way, it’s a flying pig moment.

Hamas committed war crimes against Israel by besieging it with rockets during the three-week war in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on Thursday.

The 31-page report focusing on Operation Cast Lead, spotlights Hamas after Human Rights Watch and similar groups repeatedly accused Israel of committing war crimes.

“Hamas forces violated the laws of war both by firing rockets deliberately and indiscriminately at Israeli cities and by launching them from populated areas and endangering Gazan civilians,” HRW program director Iain Levine said.
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“Hamas rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians are unlawful and unjustifiable and amount to war crimes,” he said.

“As the governing authority in Gaza, Hamas should publicly renounce rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centres and punish those responsible, including members of its own armed wing,” Levine said.

According to the report, Hamas both fired rockets and allowed militants to do the same, in attacks that killed three Israeli civilians.

You can read the entire report here. HRW has also posted a video on the subject here, posted below for your convenience.

8:48AM: UNRWA claims it is “reaching out to Israeli audiences.”

But before you get the wrong idea, this does not mean they are going to stop supporting Hamas or make an effort to be fair and objective.

Quite the opposite.

“UNRWA is reaching out to Israeli audiences,” a statement from the UN Relief and Works Agency said Wednesday, noting that the first activity will be a photo exhibition highlighting the Israeli bombing of the UNRWA warehouse in Gaza during the country’s war on the area over the winter.

“As part of UNRWA’s ongoing efforts to create meaningful dialogue with the Hebrew-speaking public, the Agency has organized a three-day cultural event at the Laz Theatre in Acre,” the agency said. The event will take place in Acre on 11 August.

The event will include a photo exhibition of UNRWA’s human development and the screening of an award-winning UNRWA film. The event will culminate in the multi-media theatre performance “Building Understanding: Epitaph for a Warehouse”. The performance documents the dramatic last day of the Agency’s main warehouse in Gaza, which was destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s latest war on the Gaza Strip, and according to the agency, “features rarely seen footage and eyewitness accounts.”

6:08AM: AP rule of caption writing #175: When Arab civilians and Jewish civilians are involved in an altercation, refer to the Muslims as “residents” and the Jews as “extremists.”

AP

Israeli border police officers listen to a Muslim man after scuffles broke out between Jewish extremists and Muslim residents next to the house where a Palestinian family was evicted from on Sunday, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009. The Unites States and European Union have criticized Israel for allowing two Palestinian families to be evicted by police in east Jerusalem and replaced by Jewish settlers. (AP Photo/Alex Kolomoisky) ** ISRAEL OUT **

I wonder if those last words ** ISRAEL OUT ** are some convention for ending the caption or a Freudian slip on the part of the caption writer.

5:58AM: Across 3. Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade & Labour who prefers to do crossword puzzles rather than tend to Knesset matters, and then acts surprised when he’s sprung.

5:52AM: At the Fatah conference, some delegates demanded a probe in to Arafat’s death.

Which is ironic, since in all likelihood, it was Arafat being probed that led to his death to begin with.

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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