The Day In Israel: Sunday Aug 1st, 2010

Ashkelon rocket

REUTERS/Amir Cohen

IAF jets have struck two smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza in response to a Qassam which hit the roof of a building in an educational institution located in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, outside of Sderot.

This follows the IAF striking a Hamas-linked terror activity site in northern Gaza, a weapons-manufacturing warehouse in central Gaza, and a weapons-smuggling tunnel in southern Gaza, in response to the grad rocket fired at Israel on Friday morning, which hit the city of Ashkelon (pop. 125,000).

As the IDF Spokesperson blog notes, more than 100 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israeli territory since the beginning of 2010, and over 400 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since the end of operation Cast Lead.

Meanwhile, Ha’aretz refers to this latest violence as “tit-for-tat”, as if there is some kind of equivalency between the initial attack (aimed to kill civilians) and Israel’s response in self defense. I would suggest the only “tit” here is the Ha’aretz reporter.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:25PM: The palestinian police trainee yearbook makes a return after a five-year absence!

7:14PM: In his latest piece, the detestable Robert Fisk admits he can’t possibly compare Israel with Hamas.

Because Israel is so much worse (hat tip: EoZ via CiF Watch).

The death of five Israeli servicemen in a helicopter crash in Romania this week raised scarcely a headline.

There was a Nato-Israeli exercise in progress. Well, that’s OK then. Now imagine the death of five Hamas fighters in a helicopter crash in Romania this week. We’d still be investigating this extraordinary phenomenon. Now mark you, I’m not comparing Israel and Hamas. Israel is the country that justifiably slaughtered more than 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza 19 months ago – more than 300 of them children – while the vicious, blood-sucking and terrorist Hamas killed 13 Israelis (three of them soldiers who actually shot each other by mistake).

Read more if you have the stomach for more of this bile, include accusations Israel helped kill Afghans!

It’s no wonder this poor excuse for a journalist and even poorer excuse for a human being triggered a new verb.

6:42PM: Hamas: The Next Generation

hamas kids

4:28PM: The educational institution hit by the Qassam last night was a children’s hydrotherapy rehabilitation center in the heart of Sderot’s Sapir College.

The silence is deafening.

3:54PM: Mandatory reading of the day: Demonizing Israel is bad for the Palestinians (written by a Jordanian of palestinian heritage).

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the international media have been unhesitant in criticizing the Jewish state on almost everything. This has evolved into a media culture by itself, to the point that many internationally renowned newspapers would have a button labelled “Israel” or “Israeli-Arab conflict” on their Web sites including very little positive content about Israel. Media hostility toward Israel has been mainly focused on its military operations and, in more quiet times, on the living conditions of the Palestinians in Israel.

Amazingly enough, the international media, and particularly the Western ones, pay very little attention to the conditions of the Palestinians living in Arab countries, despite the extreme oppression they have been enduring for decades in most Arab countries.

These Palestinians do not have someone to speak for them in the global media, possibly because a news story about countries other than Israel is less interesting or “sexy” by media standards. This tendency to blame Israel for everything has lead to the development of numerous myths about the situation of the Palestinian there that have provided an excuse to purposely ignore and compromise the human rights of the Palestinian in many Arab countries.

THE EXAMPLES for that are plentiful and sometimes cross the line into tragic comedy. While the world is crying over the Israel-imposed blockade on Gaza, the media, for some unknown reason, choose to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon.

Lebanon, a country with some of the most hostile forces to Israel, has been holing up Palestinians inside camps for almost 30 years. Those camps do not have any foundations of livelihood or even sanitation and the Palestinians living there are not allowed access to basics such as buying cement to enlarge or repair homes for their growing families. Furthermore, it is difficult for them to work legally, and are even restricted from going out of their camps at certain hours. Compare this to the fact that Palestinian laborers were still able to go to work every day in Israel while Hamas was carrying out an average of one suicide bombing per week a few years ago, and until recently launching missiles daily on southern Israel. Not to mention the fact that Israel allows food items and medications into Gaza if handled through the Palestinian Authority.

The Lebanese atrocities toward the Palestinians have been tolerated by the international community, not only by the media. Today, while some Israeli military commanders have to think twice, in fear of legal consequences, before they visit London or Brussels, well-known Lebanese leaders who had directly participated in mass killings of Palestinian civilians, during and after the Lebanese civil war, are becoming world-respected political figures – Nabih Berri, for example, the leader of Amal Shi’ite militia who enforced a multi-year siege on Palestinian camps, cutting water access and food supplies to them. The Palestinians underBerri’s siege were reported to be consuming rats and dogs to survive. Nonetheless, he has been the undisputed speaker of the Lebanese parliament for a long time. He travels frequently to Europe and criticizes Israel for its “crimes against the Palestinians” on every occasion.

MANY OTHER Arab countries are no different than Lebanon in their ill-treatment and discrimination against the Palestinians. Why do the media choose to ignore those and focus only on Israel? While the security wall being built by Israel has become a symbol of “apartheid” in the global media, they almost never address the actual walls and separation barriers that have been isolating Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries for decades.

While Palestinians targeted by the IDF are mostly fighters pledging war on Israel, the world swiftly overlooked the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which Lebanese Christian and Shi’ite militiamen butchered thousands of Palestinian women and children. Unsurprisingly, the international media accused Israel of being responsible for the massacre, despite the fact that live testimonies aired by Al-Jazeera satellite television a few years ago show massacre survivors confirming that IDF commanders and soldiers had nothing to do with the killing.

The demonization of Israel by the global media has greatly harmed the Palestinians’ interests for decades and covered up Arab atrocities against them. Furthermore, demonizing Israel has been well-exploited by several Arab dictatorships to direct citizens’ rage against Israel instead of their regimes and also to justify any atrocities they commit in the name of protecting their nations from “the evil Zionists.”

This game has served some of the most notorious Arab dictatorships, and still does today, as any opposition is immediately labelled “a Zionist plot.”

This model had served Gamal Abdel Nasser in ruling Egypt with an iron fist until he died, and was the main line for Saddam Hussein, who was promoting that “Iraq and Palestine are one identical case” in his last years in power.

The global media must be fair in addressing the Palestinians’ suffering in Arab countries and must stop demonizing Israel. It should start focusing on the broader conditions of the Palestinians in the Middle East region.

There is much to see.

2:52PM: I’ve posted this incredible interactive map on Middle Eastern Strategic Threats designed to show the global range of Iran, Syria, and Lebanon‘s missile capabilities (via JCPA).

11:56AM: Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat claims the PA has submitted a far-reaching peace proposal to the Obama administration that is more generous to Israel than the demands presented by Mahmoud Abbas to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, and will end the conflict with Israel and resolve all palestinian claims.

“I presented Senator George Mitchell with a series of official documents,” Erekat said, referring to the special U.S. envoy to the Middle East. “We gave him maps and papers that clearly state our positions on all the final-status issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security. Thus far we have not received any answer from the Israeli side.”

When asked if the Palestinian positions were similar to those presented during talks with Olmert, Erekat replied: “It’s more than that. I cannot go into details on what exactly was proposed, but Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] offered more in these documents than what he proposed to Olmert in the past. Abu Mazen took bigger steps to reach peace.”

Earlier this year Erekat distributed a document to European diplomats saying the PA had offered Olmert a swap that would let Israel annex 1.9 percent of the West Bank. The document also claimed that the PA had expressed a willingness to accept an Israeli proposal to allow 15,000 Palestinian refugees to return to the country every year over 10 years.

International media outlets reported earlier this year that the PA had agreed to land swaps equaling 2.3 percent, while another report said it had accepted a swap of 3.8 percent. Erekat confirmed to Haaretz that the Palestinians have become more flexible on this issue.

Meanwhile, Erekat has also denied reports that the Obama administration had threatened sanctions against the PA if Abbas did not agree to enter direct talks with Israel over a final-status agreement.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker and a member of the PLO central committee, told the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Washington “applied tremendous pressures on the Palestinian Authority so that it would move to direct talks.”

Ashrawi said the United States threatened to downgrade or even sever ties with Ramallah.

Another Arab language newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported that Obama had sent a special communique to Abbas last month that said Washington would not work to extend the Israeli construction freeze in West Bank settlements if the Palestinian leader continued to oppose direct negotiations. According to the report, Obama made clear to Abbas that the United States would reject any Palestinian efforts to appeal to the Security Council in lieu of direct talks with Israel.

During an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Thursday, Abbas said he had been subject to intense pressure to agree to direct talks. Erekat confirmed that many Arab leaders sought to persuade the Palestinian leader to reconsider his position, but he denied any suggestions that Washington had threatened the PA.

“[The communique] stated that if the Palestinians do not enter direct discussions, reaching a two-state solution will be even more difficult and the Americans’ ability to help in that regard will be even more limited,” Erekat said. “There were no threats.”

I have yet to hear Erekat speak the truth, so treat everything he says with extreme caution.

8:56AM: Israeli President Shimon Peres has gone on the offensive against the English, accusing them of antisemitism.

shimon peres angryShimon Peres said England was “deeply pro-Arab … and anti-Israeli”, adding: “They always worked against us.”

He added: “There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary.”

His remarks, made in an interview on a Jewish website, provoked anger from senior MPs and Jewish leaders who said the 87-year-old president had “got it wrong”.

But other groups backed the former Israeli prime minister and said the number of anti-semitic incidents had risen dramatically in the UK in recent years.

The controversy follows the furore last week over David Cameron’s remark that Gaza was a “prison camp”, as he urged Israel to allow aid and people to move freely in and out of the Palestinian territory.

Mr Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is three years into his seven-year term as president and was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen in 2008, said that England’s attitude towards Jews was Israel’s “next big problem”.

“There are several million Muslim voters, and for many members of parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected,” he said.

“And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment.

“They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 UN partition resolution … They maintained an arms embargo against us in the 1950s … They always worked against us. They think the Arabs are the underdogs.”

By contrast, relations with Germany, France and Italy were “pretty good”, he added.

He made the comments in an interview with the historian Professor Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev published last week in Tablet, a Jewish news website.

The wide-ranging interview covered Mr Peres’ role as one of Israel’s longest-serving political leaders – an MP for 48 years, twice prime minister, and holder of other ministerial posts over the decades. He is firmly on the Israeli Left.

He was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 jointly with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for his part as foreign minister in the peace talks which produced the landmark Oslo Accords.

But following his comments, James Clappison, the Conservative MP for Hertsmere and vice-chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “Mr Peres has got this wrong.

“There are pro- and anti-Israel views in all European countries. Things are certainly no worse, as far as Israel is concerned, in this country than other European countries.”

The MP added that he could “understand the frustration” that people in Israel felt with “certain elements of the British broadcast media” which present an unbalanced view of Israel.

He said: “I can understand Mr Peres’ concerns, but I don’t recognise what he is saying about England.”

Yet in Israel, Mr Peres is far from alone in holding such views, which have gained a wider following, particularly on the Right, since the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over accusations that Mossad sent agents using British passports to assassinate a Hamas commander in Dubai.

Aryeh Eldad, a right-wing member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, accused Britain of working against Israeli interests for decades – ever since it “betrayed” its promises to build a Jewish homeland when it governed Palestine under a League of Nations mandate.

“Both governments from the right and the left prefer Arab interests over Israeli interests,” said Mr Eldad, whose father Israel was a leading figure in the Stern Gang, the most radical of the Jewish terror groups that fought British mandatory rule.

“The other layer is an ongoing, subtle form of anti-semitism. It is not as overt as it was in Germany, it is a quiet, polite form.”

Some leading Jewish commentators in Britain disagreed. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, minister of Maidenhead synagogue and a writer and broadcaster, said: “I am surprised at Peres. It is a sweeping statement that is far too one-sided.

“Britain has supported both Israel and Arab causes at different periods over the last 50 years. There are elements of anti-semitism but it is not endemic to British society.

“The tolerance and pluralism here make Britain one of the best countries in the world in which to live.”

Mr Peres found support, however, from other pro-Israeli groups. Jacob Vince, the director of Christian Friends of Israel, said there was anti-semitism in the UK although many people had a positive view of Israel but were unwilling to express it publicly.

Mr Vince said it was “difficult to see how many MPs would not be influenced by the number of Muslim voters in their constituencies”.

The Government was not treating Arabs as the underdogs but rather was trying to appease them, he said. “The question is how well they understand those with whom they are seeking conciliation.”

Mr Peres is “measured and moderate,” he added.

He said: “His comments have serious connotations and I am sure would not be said lightly.”

One Israeli politician expressed disbelief that the doveish Mr Peres had launched such a broadside against the British.

Benny Begin, a cabinet minister whose father Menachem was prime minister and before that leader of Irgun, the group that killed 91 people in an attack on Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in 1946, said: “Peres? I simply can’t believe he said that.”

I wonder if this means Peres’ will be handing back his honorary knighthood.

6:20AM: ITN News report on Friday night’s IAF strike, which refers to Gaza as “occupied” – which is only true if they are referring to Hamas’ occupation (hat tip: Anon)

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Shimon Peres said England was “deeply pro-Arab … and anti-Israeli”, adding: “They always worked against us.”

He added: “There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary.”

His remarks, made in an interview on a Jewish website, provoked anger from senior MPs and Jewish leaders who said the 87-year-old president had “got it wrong”.

But other groups backed the former Israeli prime minister and said the number of anti-semitic incidents had risen dramatically in the UK in recent years.

The controversy follows the furore last week over David Cameron’s remark that Gaza was a “prison camp”, as he urged Israel to allow aid and people to move freely in and out of the Palestinian territory.

Mr Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is three years into his seven-year term as president and was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen in 2008, said that England’s attitude towards Jews was Israel’s “next big problem”.

“There are several million Muslim voters, and for many members of parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected,” he said.

“And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment.

“They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 UN partition resolution … They maintained an arms embargo against us in the 1950s … They always worked against us. They think the Arabs are the underdogs.”

By contrast, relations with Germany, France and Italy were “pretty good”, he added.

He made the comments in an interview with the historian Professor Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev published last week in Tablet, a Jewish news website.

The wide-ranging interview covered Mr Peres’ role as one of Israel’s longest-serving political leaders – an MP for 48 years, twice prime minister, and holder of other ministerial posts over the decades. He is firmly on the Israeli Left.

He was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 jointly with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for his part as foreign minister in the peace talks which produced the landmark Oslo Accords.

But following his comments, James Clappison, the Conservative MP for Hertsmere and vice-chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “Mr Peres has got this wrong.

“There are pro- and anti-Israel views in all European countries. Things are certainly no worse, as far as Israel is concerned, in this country than other European countries.”

The MP added that he could “understand the frustration” that people in Israel felt with “certain elements of the British broadcast media” which present an unbalanced view of Israel.

He said: “I can understand Mr Peres’ concerns, but I don’t recognise what he is saying about England.”

Yet in Israel, Mr Peres is far from alone in holding such views, which have gained a wider following, particularly on the Right, since the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over accusations that Mossad sent agents using British passports to assassinate a Hamas commander in Dubai.

Aryeh Eldad, a right-wing member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, accused Britain of working against Israeli interests for decades – ever since it “betrayed” its promises to build a Jewish homeland when it governed Palestine under a League of Nations mandate.

“Both governments from the right and the left prefer Arab interests over Israeli interests,” said Mr Eldad, whose father Israel was a leading figure in the Stern Gang, the most radical of the Jewish terror groups that fought British mandatory rule.

“The other layer is an ongoing, subtle form of anti-semitism. It is not as overt as it was in Germany, it is a quiet, polite form.”

Some leading Jewish commentators in Britain disagreed. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, minister of Maidenhead synagogue and a writer and broadcaster, said: “I am surprised at Peres. It is a sweeping statement that is far too one-sided.

“Britain has supported both Israel and Arab causes at different periods over the last 50 years. There are elements of anti-semitism but it is not endemic to British society.

“The tolerance and pluralism here make Britain one of the best countries in the world in which to live.”

Mr Peres found support, however, from other pro-Israeli groups. Jacob Vince, the director of Christian Friends of Israel, said there was anti-semitism in the UK although many people had a positive view of Israel but were unwilling to express it publicly.

Mr Vince said it was “difficult to see how many MPs would not be influenced by the number of Muslim voters in their constituencies”.

The Government was not treating Arabs as the underdogs but rather was trying to appease them, he said. “The question is how well they understand those with whom they are seeking conciliation.”

Mr Peres is “measured and moderate,” he added.

He said: “His comments have serious connotations and I am sure would not be said lightly.”

One Israeli politician expressed disbelief that the doveish Mr Peres had launched such a broadside against the British.

Benny Begin, a cabinet minister whose father Menachem was prime minister and before that leader of Irgun, the group that killed 91 people in an attack on Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in 1946, said: “Peres? I simply can’t believe he said that.”

The latest figures show that the number of anti-semitic incidents in Britain is rising, according to the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity set up in 1984 to monitor such incidents.

The situation in Britain had worsened “significantly” in the past decade, a spokesman said.

In 2009 there were 924 anti-semitic incidents, the highest figure since CST began keeping records in 1984, and 55 per cent higher than the previous record in 2006.

The figures include reports, accepted only when backed by evidence, of physical assaults, verbal abuse and racist graffiti.

The monthly figure has soared from 10-20 incidents in the 1990s to 40-50 now.

Last year nearly half of the 924 anti-semitic race attacks recorded by the CST showed a political motivation, with 66 per cent of those including some reference to Israel and the Middle East.

A 2009 report by the US-based Anti-Defamation League found one in five Britons admitted Israel influences their opinion of British Jews, and the majority of those said that they felt “worse” about Jews than they used to. It found, however, that Britain was less anti-semitic than other European countries.

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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

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