The Day In Israel: Thursday May 27th, 2010

netanyahu obamaI wonder if they’ll also sing kumbaya.

Next week’s meeting in Washington between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama will be “hugs and kisses,” long on form and short on content, Israeli officials said on Wednesday, shortly after White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel extended an invitation to Netanyahu.

And still on the subject of emotional moments:

Emanuel, in the country to celebrate the bar mitzvas of his son and nephew, delivered the invitation during a meeting with the prime minister in his office in Jerusalem.

Obama “has asked me to extend an invitation to you to come visit him at the White House for a work meeting to discuss both our shared security interests as well as our close cooperation in seeking peace between Israel and its neighbors,” Emanuel told Netanyahu.

He made sure to mention his warm feelings for the country and its people during a visit, which he described as “heartfelt.”

“On a personal matter, on behalf of the Emanuel family, I want to say that this trip has been wonderful… most importantly for me to show my children, given so much, as you know, of my childhood was here, to show them the country [and] expose them to the history in a very intimate way,” he said.

He added that Israelis had been “exceptionally warm and genuine in their affection to both all the family in general, but particularly to Zach [his son] on his bar mitzva in wishing him a mazal tov.”

The two men even joked about Zach’s dislike for his homework.

Forget the kid. Emanuel seems to dislike doing his homework – on the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.

But it’s no joke.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)?

11:40PM: Hebrew University has filed a lawsuit against General Motors over a magazine advertisement containing this (topless) likeness of Albert Einstein.

11:30PM: During a night raid to capture some palestinian terrorists in Bil’in, Israeli forces encounter a stark raving mad Irishman moonbat!

[language warning]

11:06PM: Cyprus has announced it will not allow vessels participating in the flotilla to Gaza  to gather in its territorial waters, a move Israel has called “an ethical deed and a voice of reason.”

4:35PM: Kudos to Honest Reporting for this.

4:20PM: Eeeeeediot!

4:08PM: Former South African President of South Africa, FW de Klerk, has dismissed reports that Israel offered to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa as “simply ludicrous.”

The news Web site IOL quoted the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as saying that he had “never been informed of any such developments” as those reported in the Guardian’s report earlier this week.

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De Klerk flatly denied the story, saying, “I have no reason to question the information that was consistently conveyed to me by the relevant authorities that South Africa developed nuclear weapons on its own.”

2:38PM: Must read article of the day: Fancy restaurants and Olympic-size pools: What the media won’t report about Gaza

In recent days, the international media, particularly in Europe and the Mideast, has been full of stories about “activist boats sailing to Gaza carrying desperately-needed humanitarian aid and building materials.”

The BBC World Service even led its world news broadcasts with this story at one point over the weekend. (The BBC yesterday boasted that its global news audience has now risen to 220 million persons a week, making it by far the biggest news broadcaster in the world.)

Indeed the BBC and other prominent Western media regularly lead their viewers and readers astray with accounts of a non-existent “mass humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.

What they won’t tell you about are the fancy new restaurants and swimming pools of Gaza, or about the wind surfing competitions on Gaza beaches, or the Strip’s crowded shops and markets. Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live a middle class (and in some cases an upper class) lifestyle that western journalists refuse to report on because it doesn’t fit with the simplistic story they were sent to write.

Here, courtesy of the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, is a report on Gaza’s new Olympic-sized swimming pool . (Most Israeli towns don’t have Olympic-size swimming pools. One wonders how an area that claims to be starved of water and building materials and depends on humanitarian aid builds an Olympic size swimming pool and creates a luxury lifestyle for some while others are forced to live in abject poverty as political pawn refugees?)

If you pop into the Roots Club in Gaza, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook, you can “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”.

The restaurant’s website in Arabic gives a window into middle class dining and the lifestyle of Hamas officials in Gaza. And here it is in English, for all the journalists, UN types and NGO staff who regularly frequent this and other nice Gaza restaurants (but don’t tell their readers about them).

And here is a promotional video of the club restaurant . In case anyone doubts the authenticity of this video, I just called the club in Gaza City and had a nice chat with the manager who proudly confirmed business is booming and many Palestinians and international guests are dining there.

In a piece for The Wall Street Journal last year, I documented the “after effects” of a previous “emergency Gaza boat flotilla,” when the arrivals were seen afterwards purchasing souvenirs in well-stocked shops. (You can also scroll down here for more pictures of Gaza’s “impoverished” shops.)

But the mainstream liberal international media won’t report on any of this. Playing the manipulative game of the BBC is easy: if we had their vast taxpayer funded resources, we too could produce reports about parts of London, Manchester and Glasgow and make it look as though there is a humanitarian catastrophe throughout the UK. We could produce the same effect by selectively filming seedy parts of Paris and Rome and New York and Los Angeles too.

Of course there is poverty in Gaza. There is poverty in parts of Israel too. (When was the last time a foreign journalist based in Israel left the pampered lounge bars and restaurants of the King David and American Colony hotels in Jerusalem and went to check out the slum-like areas of southern Tel Aviv? Or the hard-hit Negev towns of Netivot or Rahat?)

But the way that many prominent Western news media are deliberately misleading global audiences and systematically creating the false impression that people are somehow starving in Gaza, and that it is all Israel’s fault, can only serve to increase hatred for the Jewish state – which one suspects was the goal of many of the editors and reporters involved in the first place.

2:28PM: What more proof do you need that the flotilla of fools is not really interested in human rights?

A group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators sailing toward Gaza with humanitarian supplies on Thursday refused a request by abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s father to bring a package and letter to his son.

Shalit had proposed to the activists that he would try to convince the government to allow them to accomplish their mission, if they would agree to his request.

12:10PM: Israeli Arab Ameer Makhoul, whose “cause” has been championed by the likes of anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein, has been charged with serious espionage.

About a month and-a-half after his arrest, it was cleared for publication that prominent Arab-Israeli political activist Ameer Makhoul, 42, has been charged with agreeing to spy for Hezbollah.

On Thursday, following a lengthy investigation conducted by the Shin Bet and Israel Police, an indictment was filed against Makhoul, the head of Ittijah (the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations) – an umbrella group for Arab NGOs in Israel. He was charged with serious espionage, assisting an enemy at a time of war and maintaining contact with an enemy agent.

The other suspect in the case, Omar Abdo (40) of Kfar Kana, an activist for the Balad Arab political party, was charged with maintaining contact with an enemy agent and transferring information that could be used by the enemy.

According to the indictment, Makhoul relayed strategic intelligence to his Hezbollah handlers on at least 10 different occasions via a specially-designed computer encryption system.

The investigation revealed that Makhoul, who is also an author and the brother of a former Knesset member, confessed during a police interrogation in 2008 that he met with a Hezbollah operative in Denmark and agreed to begin collecting what was described as “strategic intelligence” on Israeli security services.

Makhoul allegedly relayed details and the exact location on two Shin Bet facilities, including the security arrangements surrounding them, in northern Israel. He also provided the Shiite group with details about the Rafael defense industry facility as well as a Mossad office located in northern Israel.

The Arab-Israeli activist was also asked by Hizbullah to gather information on the security surrounding the convoys of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. However, a senior security official said he did not succeed.

He also relayed through coded messages the names and details of Israelis he claimed were potential Hezbollah recruits.

The indictment also detailed how a Hezbollah operative installed encryption system on Makhoul’s personal computer.

According to the indictment, Makhoul also disclosed the landing sites of rockets fired by Hezbollah towards Haifa during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and also tried, unsuccessfully, to find out the home address of the head of the Shin Bet.

Makhoul told Hezbollah that Israel’s home front was vulnerable, and also relayed information on the Nachshonim army base.

The prosecution asked the court to extend Mahoul’s remand until the conclusion of the legal proceedings against him. Judge Ron Shapira ruled that Makhoul will remain in custody at least until the next hearing in his case in four weeks’ time.

Prior to Thursday’s hearing at the Haifa District Court, Makhoul met his wife for the first time since his arrest. “The Shin Bet controls the Israeli justice system,” he said, “I deny all of the allegations.”

Of course, none of this matters to Silverstein, who refuses to believe it and maintains he was tortured (http://ht.ly/1Qx4Q).

As the Israeli “justice” system prepares to indict Ameer Makhoul for imaginary grave crimes against the State, Amnesty International has adopted him as a prisoner of conscience and demanded his unconditional release.  Ynet and Palestine Note confirm accounts of the abusive conditions under which he has been detained and interrogated by his Shin Bet inquisitors:

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As we’ve reported here, the extent of his “crimes” as known thus far (despite a Shin Bet gag order which we’re gladly violating), he met with a Jordanian environmental activist, Hassan Jaja. Now comes word from Israeli media (not an exactly reliable source on such national security matters) that he also met with “Lebanese militia sources.”  All of which should be taken with a grain of salt as Hassan Jaja, an Amman landscape designer and nurseryman, is one of the alleged “Hezbollah agents” with whom Makhoul met.

So far, not much from Silverstein’s Free Makhoul Said Facebook group, except a link to this press release denying the allegations.

10:24AM: The IDF has made known its plans to stop the flotilla of fools from entering Gaza.

The IDF on Wednesday announced its plan of action vis-a-vis the “break the siege” flotilla making its way to the Gaza Strip. The convoy, organized by activists from around the world, is slated to arrive to the Gaza shores during the upcoming weekend.

According to its plan, the IDF will alert the participating ships, within different ranges, and urge them to turn around. If the vessels continue to advance – its passengers will be detained by the navy and returned to their countries in accordance with the Ministry of Interior.

The IDF also decided it will transfer the humanitarian supplies carried on the ships to the Gaza Strip, after they undergo a security check.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all. Another interesting idea (courtesy of Richard Landes) is to let in the flotilla on the understanding that Israelis can land land with them and take pictures of Gaza for all the world to see, including the the ceremonies with Hamas.

7:45AM: Someone shut this guy up.

Arabian Business, a Dubai-based magazine, recently ranked Gen. Tamim as No. 2 in their “Power 100” list of most influential Arabs, behind Saudi billionaire Prince Waleed bin Talal.

“The new generation of police officers in the Arab world look up to him as an example to be followed,” says Lebanon’s Police Chief Brig. Gen. Ashraf Rifi.

The killing has been the highest-profile case in Gen. Tamim’s 40-year career, and caps a spate of prominent cases, including the murder of a Lebanese pop star and the assassination of a former Chechen warlord, both of which yielded convictions.

Gen. Tamim says he hopes the world will view his officers’ work as a message that Dubai won’t tolerate being a battleground for governments, political groups or criminal gangs.

“We have the expertise and the means to unveil any crime that occurs in Dubai,” he says.

Gen. Tamim also hasn’t shied away from speaking his mind on other matters. During the height of Dubai’s financial crisis late last year, he accused the press of exaggerating the problems. More recently, he has cast the blame on some executives leading Dubai’s corporate entities. In the interview, he dismissed them as “midgets in the eyes of the people,” but declined to identify them by name.

Gen. Tamim, 59 years old, joined the Dubai police forces in 1970, after graduating from a police academy in Jordan. He took over the force in 1980, and established a tough reputation, cracking down on drugs and—more recently—drunk and reckless driving and financial malfeasance.

While Gen. Tamim’s police work in Dubai has won kudos, the judicial system in the United Arab Emirates hasn’t always won praise. The U.S. State Department has criticized the country’s detention practices and said its judiciary isn’t sufficiently independent. The U.A.E. defends its legal system and rights record.

Dubai officials haven’t yet been able to apprehend the suspects in the Hamas killing. Dubai police say they fled Dubai shortly after the killing using fake passports, making their eventual capture a challenge. Still, Gen. Tamim says he’s satisfied with his investigation. “We have better experience and expertise than the Mossad,” he says.

He isn’t even a pimple on the Mossad’s tuchus.

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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