The Day In Israel: Thursday Aug 19th, 2010

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday released the Israeli and Palestinian investigations responding to the Goldstone report.

richard goldstoneIsrael reported it had launched over 150 investigations into misconduct and law violations, opened 47 criminal investigations, and initiated criminal prosecutions of four soldiers in separate incidents, while Hamas “appeared to have done nothing at all to investigate the alleged violations,” according to the UN Human Rights Council (should read ‘Human Rights Watch’ – ed), which also slammed the Israeli investigation for falling short of being “thorough and impartial.”

The Palestinian Authority submitted the Palestinian report, which did not appear to include any input from Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

The UN chief introduced the 247-page report with brief observations that made no comment on the submissions by Israel or the Palestinians, which were requested by the General Assembly. He said it was important to respect international human rights and humanitarian law and expressed hope that “steps will be taken wherever there are credible allegations of violations.”

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Both sides rejected the charges when the Goldstone report was issued, and their positions remained unchanged in the newly released reports.

Human Rights Watch called on governments and the UN to maintain pressure on Israel and Hamas to conduct thorough and impartial investigations, and to provide justice to the victims of abuses.

“Israeli investigations still fall far short of being thorough and impartial, while Hamas appears to have done nothing at all to investigate alleged violations,” the rights group’s program director Iain Levine said in a statement. “We regret that the secretary-general merely passed on the reports he received from Israel and the Palestinian side instead of making the failings of these investigations clear.”

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban was asked by the General Assembly to solicit investigation reports from both sides but was not requested “to express his views on the responses received.”

The Israeli military submitted its report on July 21 and said it has made “numerous changes to its operational procedures and policies in order to further enhance the protection of civilians from the hazards of battle and the protection of private property during military operations.”

The report said Israel has launched more than 150 investigations in allegations of misconduct or violations of international law during the Gaza conflict. It said the military has opened 47 criminal investigations and initiated criminal prosecutions of four soldiers in separate incidents.

The Palestinian report was submitted by the Independent Investigation Commission established by the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank but lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007.

It said “the numbers and the facts speak for themselves” and accused Israel of acting with impunity, disregarding international law, and justifying “its indiscriminate, disproportionate and collective punishment measures against the Palestinian people, as if no limitations applied to Israel.”

The Palestinian commission said that since Hamas took over Gaza “legal institutions are being undermined and this has resulted in a high number of violations of international human rights law, negatively impacting the situation of human rights in Gaza.” But the commission emphasized “that there is no moral equivalency” between Israel’s violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the Gaza conflict “and the situation concerning observance and respect for human rights in Gaza by Hamas.”

Are Human Rights Watch surprised that a known terror organization would not investigate its human rights violations?

As for investigations “falling far short of being thorough and impartial,” I think that would far better describe the Goldstone report itself.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:22PM: If you are supporting this society, you seriously need your head examined.

palestinian terrorist
A Palestinian militant stands guard during the funeral of Abdulrahman Awad, leader of militant group Fatah al-Islam, in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near the port city of Sidon in south Lebanon August 19, 2010. Lebanese security forces killed Awad last Saturday in a shootout in the eastern town of Chtaura near the border with Syria, security sources said. Picture taken through a window. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

7:12PM: Sorry, but this is indefensible.

Mind you, the palestinians are always saying far worse, and all we hear from the media are crickets chirping.

4:32PM: Congratulations to Professor Elon Lindenstrauss from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Einstein Institute of Mathematics, who has been awarded the prestigious Fields Medal for 2010.

“The feeling is a little odd, I’m not used to speaking to journalists. No doubt, speaking before the cameras is an interesting experience,” Lindenstrauss told Ynet after his achievement was announced.

The medal, dubbed “mathematics’ Nobel Prize,” is the world’s most important math prize. It is awarded once every four years to researchers aged 40 years or under.

Lindenstrauss will receive the prize along with three other mathematicians at the International Mathematical Union congress in India. The prize will be awarded by Indian President Pratibha Patil.

“I’ve known about the award for six months, but I was told to keep it a secret so I did,” Lindenstrauss told Ynet. “However, in Israel it’s very hard to keep a secret, and for a while now I’ve been receiving well-wishes.”

Lindenstrauss said that wining the prize is a “great responsibility” and added that he was surprised to win it.

“It’s an exceptional feeling. I know many brilliant, exceptional mathematicians…it’s very surprising to be chosen out of all these brilliant minds,” he said. “I received the award for a series of projects, some of them undertaken with partners. One of the joys here is the ability join forces with other mathematicians; this is one of the things I love most about this field.”

Distinguished military career

The prize is named after John Charles Fields, a mathematician and philosopher at Toronto University. Fields donated the prize and drew up the criteria which differentiate it from the Nobel: The winner must prove significant mathematical achievements and show potential for the future.

Prof. Alex Lubotzky, Lindenstrauss’ colleague from the Einstein Institute, said the Israeli winner he had been awarded the prize for work that uses probabilistic and dynamic systems for solving problems in number theory.

“There is a broad Israeli component in Lindenstrauss’ mathematics, and his work uses methods developed by Israeli researchers from the Hebrew University,” Lubotzky said.

Lindenstrauss (40), a Jerusalem resident, is a graduate of the Air Force’s elite Talpiot program, holds the rank of major (res.) and was even awarded the highly-regarded Israel Defense Prize. He has a math and physics undergraduate degree and a masters and doctorate in mathematics from the Hebrew University. After receiving his doctorate, he became a member of Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study and in 2008 received a professorship at the Hebrew University.

His father is Yoram Lindenstrauss, professor emeritus at the Einstein Institute. His uncle is Israel’s State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

This is not the first time Lindenstrauss has been awarded prestigious prizes. He won the Haim Nessyahu Prize in Mathematics for his doctoral research, the Salem Prize for young mathematicians in 2004, the European Mathematical Union prize in 2004, the Erdos Prize of the Israel Mathematical Union for 2009, and the Fermat Prize for Mathematics of the Toulouse Mathematics Institute.

“Israel is a mathematical power, but till now no Israeli researcher had won this prize,” said Hebrew University President Professor  Menachem Ben-Sasson. “The 40 year age limitation is certainly an obstacle for young researchers who are compelled to start their academic lives relatively late because of army service. However, Lindenstrauss proves that the talented among the world’s scientists can cope even with this obstacle.”

12:45PM: Meet a wonderful person being treated like dirt for supporting Israel.

10:28AM: Feelgood story of the day: Meet the Israeli American Football team, consisting of Israelis and palestinians.

Did I mention the Israelis are residents of Judea i.e. commonly referred to as “settlers”?

judean rebels
Photo: Mindy McKinny

Amotz from Psagot passes the ball to Ramzi from Beit Hanina, who in turn passes it to Oria from Neve Daniel. Oria scores a touchdown and runs to hug with Ayoub and Moussa. A hopeful vision if a new Middle East? Not really. This is the day-to-day reality in the Judean Rebels football team, one of nine teams in the Israeli league.

Most of its players reside outside the Green Line in Jewish communities such as Psagot and Efrat as well as Arab neighborhoods like Beit Hanina and Shuafat.

Four Arabs played for the team this season: Cameron, Ramzi, Ayoub and Moussa who grew up in Colorado and Miami. When their grandfather fell ill three years ago, the four arrived in Israel with their families. In looking for a football team they never imagined they would end up with the Judean Rebels.

“I was walking in Jerusalem one evening,” Shlomo Barya Schachter, the team’s captain and coach relates. “Suddenly, I saw a group of thugs. I asked whether they were into football, and they said: ‘Sure, but you should know that we’re Arabs. We were told it would create tension with the fans and other teammates.’ I told them we didn’t care, so long as they agree to leave politics outside the field.”

The four showed up at training and immediately fit in. “This team represents the real Judea and Samaria. No one cares where you’re from,” Moussa says enthusiastically.

Last season, the team finished fourth in the league. Their fans are mostly comprised from Gush Etzion residents as well as a group of Breslov Hassidic followers who follow the team wherever it goes, armed with a sign which reads “Revolution.”

“We talk about politics sometimes, issues such as settlements and terrorist attacks, but never in an argument and always as part of a respectful debate. I don’t mind them living in settlements so long as they don’t mind me being from Beit Hanina. After all, a good person is a good person,” Moussa says.

Some of the players, including Moussa are applying for football scholarships overseas. The team has sent videos of their games to various universities on his behalf.

Problems arise

A month ago, coach Schachter invited the players to a special practice at the Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem. A problem arose: The four Arab players had moved to the eastern side of the separation fence over the summer and have applied for a Palestinian ID card. This means they need security forces’ approval to attend practice sessions or games and have thus been rejected.

Consequently, the four failed to attend the opening practice and the following sessions.

“I have a major problem on my hands,” Schachter says. “Where in all of Judea and Samaria will I find a player like Ayoub? Football may be popular here, but they were excellent defense players, especially brothers Moussa and Ayoub Elayyan.”

Meanwhile, the team is getting ready for the new season without the four. Still they hope Cameron, Ramzi, Ayoub and Moussa will return. “We have players from many places,” player Amotz Eyal says. “But playing with them was different. We welcome anyone. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, just give it your 100% on the field.”

Besides the obvious human interest factor, this is my feelgood story of the day because it is bound to send those who demonize residents of Judea and Samaria into a tizzy.

People who have not lived in these areas do not understand that in many cases, the Jewish and palestinian residents get along fine. And this was an even more widespread phenomenon before the palestinian leadership launched their wars against us, especially after Oslo. For instance, in 1993 I was living in Efrat, and it was well known that the founder and Rabbi of Efrat was on very good terms with the muftis of the neighboring villages. There were also palestinians working freely within Efrat, and I recall striking up conversation with them regularly. Of course, things changed, especially after this.

Meanwhile, still on the subject of the demonization of the so-called “settlers”, here is an important site with videos of some residents of Judea and Samaria providing their points of view.

8:20AM: Here’s hoping..

Could the State of Israel be sitting on an oil reserve that can provide energy, cash flow, and international political influence? This is the question that everyone is waiting to be answered in the engineering report ordered by Givot Olam Oil, overseeing the drilling at the Megged 5 site, next to Rosh Ha’Ayin.

The final report will be submitted on September 5. However, a preliminary report was already issued to Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on the oil reserves on the site. “The amount of oil in place in Rosh Ha’Ayin plot is estimated at 1.525 billion barrels of oil.” In previous reports, the quantity was appraised at only a few hundred barrels of oil a day.

The total oil reserves in the world (as of 2006) is 1.3 trillion barrels, but most of this is concentrated in the territory of less than 15 countries. The oil reserves located in countries not considered powerhouses in the field totals about 133 billion barrels, making the estimated amount of oil in Megged 5 quite significant. In Qatar, for instance, the oil reserves are about 15 billion barrels.

Yet it is still too early to view the report as bearing real economic (or political) tidings. The 1.5 billion barrel figure refers to the oil in place, and not to the amount of recoverable oil in the reserve. The amount of oil that can be successfully extracted will be made known only in the final report submitted in September.

According to Givot Olam’s reports from May 2009, the amount of recoverable oil in the reserve is likely 10-20%.

“This is a joyful and heart-warming discovery,” said Chairman of Israel Institute of Petroleum & Energy Amir Makov said to Ynet on Tuesday. “However, this discovery does not indicate the extraction capability, and the company will have to perform additional tests and drillings until we know what this means both in terms of the company’s commercial potential and in terms of the national potential.”

7:38AM: Photo of the Day:

Itay Shechter
Hapoel Tel Aviv's Eran Zahavi (L) and Itay Shechter celebrate after Shechter scored a goal during their Champions League qualifying soccer match in Salzburg August 18, 2010. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

Background:

A dream night for Hapoel got better early in the second half as the home offside trap was beaten by Itay Schecter who bore down on goal, cracked in a third, and then produced a red Jewish skullcap in a particularly religious goal celebration.

Well donning a skullcap (kippa) sure as hell seems more subdued than taking off your shirt.

I’m just surprised no-one has done it until now.

7:20AM: Israel’s Foreign Ministry is set to launch a NIS 60 to 70 million PR campaign to target leading social media figures.

The campaign will focus on hosting figures the ministry has identified as having significant influence on public opinion. The first step in that effort was seen in ministry involvement in coordinating Arianna Huffington’s visit to Israel. She is the co-founder of the prominent Huffington Post political blog.

The ministry says it will work to cover the visits of many other opinion makers next year. The focus will be on people involved in lifestyle issues, culture and art, as well as leaders of specific population segments such as the gay community.

It’s a shame that budget could not also cover remunerating some local bloggers. </hint>

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