The Day In Israel: Mon Oct 25th, 2010

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal has blasted Israel and his country’s ally, the US, for supporting her.

Turki Al-FaisalPrince Turki al-Faisal, a leading figure in Saudi Arabia’s royal family, called Israel “a drain on the United States, and not an asset” Friday while accusing the Obama administration of a blatant pro-Israel bias in its Middle East policy.

“Within the makeup of this administration, ladies and gentleman, there are officials who rationalize, excuse, and condone Israeli intransigence while seeking to put more pressure on the Palestinians to concede even more,” Mr. Al Faisal said, in a speech to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. “These same officials believe that the Palestinian problem is not the root cause of Arab and Muslim antagonism to the United States. It is these officials who propose that the Netanyahu government should be rewarded for its intransigence rather than sanctioned.”

Mr. Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and U.S. ambassador, was referring to a widely reported American offer of diplomatic and security guarantees to Israel in exchange for a two-month extension of its 10-month settlement moratorium, which expired on Sept. 26, causing Palestinians to suspend their participation in freshly launched U.S.-sponsored direct peace talks.

“Saudi Arabia,” he said, “agreed with other Arab states to give peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine a chance — more than once — under the United-States-negotiated partial colony freeze. The United States failed to stick to its assurances and, to add insult to injury, offered the Netanyahu government more money, arms, protection from U.N. sanction, and, shamefully, the stationing of Israeli troops on Palestinian territory — as if this territory were part of the United States’ sovereign lands. And this was to get him to extend the partial freeze for a few more days. Now that the Netanyahu government has rejected that offer, we are waiting to see what else the United States will offer.”

Meanwhile, one person’s drain is another person’s sewer.

Prince Turki al- Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the US, criticism the Obama Administration’s “favoritism” towards Israel, which he dubbed America’s “sewer” in the Middle East.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:18PM: Media bias of the day.

7:55PM: Only a few days after being visited by Jimmy Carter and his fellow Elders of Moron – who advocated they be included in the peace process – Hamas has once again made clear its goals.

Hamas is on its way to liberate Haifa and Acre together with other armies, Hamas’s Minister of Interior, Fathi Hammad, declared on Monday.

4:50PM: Lisa Pamieri-Billig of the Jerusalem Post on the Vatican’s recent Middle East synod.

The coming together at the Vatican of over 200 bishops from Muslim countries for a two-week synod on the Middle East that ended Sunday is bound to leave its mark.

Arab Christians view Israel and dialogue with Judaism in more radical terms than does the Roman Curia.

Although the pope, Vatican officials and spokesmen attempted to close the door to politics (Benedict XVI defined the synod’s character as “pastoral”), obviously they managed to slip back in.

The difficulties and dangers encountered by Christian minorities living under Islamic law and above all, the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, occupied major space on the sidelines through press conferences and panel discussions organized within and outside the Vatican.

The absence of human rights and liberties, and the persecution and murder of Christians in Muslim countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, and the exodus of over 2 million Iraqi Christian refugees, now reduced to poverty and economic slavery in countries like Lebanon, were amply discussed and identified as the major causes for the Christian exodus from the region.

However, in the final message and list of proposals, as well as in the pope’s message itself, there remain only generic allusions to these grievances. References are made to “the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media.”

Gone is the repeated call, in synod discussions, for a separation between religion and state, “a secular state” and “civic society.” Evidently caution and fear of reprisals on Christian minorities prevailed.

While during the synod, discussions on the Israeli “occupation” were mostly conducted after hours in private halls or with journalists looking for news, the synod’s final documents give ample space to one-sided condemnations of that “occupation.”

Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s director for interreligious affairs, who delivered a keynote speech on October 13 as the synod’s special Jewish guest, had this to say: “I regret that the bishops in their closing statement do not have the courage to confront the most serious challenges confronting Christians in the Middle East. Even if the State of Israel didn’t exist, the depleting of the Christian presence would not be any different. To make the Palestinian- Israeli conflict the No.1 issue is disingenuous.”

Certain ambiguities and contradictions arose that will be resolved only with time, after Benedict’s examination of the synod’s recommendations and his official conclusions.

Comments at Saturday’s Vatican press conference by US Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros (who headed the Message Commission) drew worldwide headlines, diverting attention from the strongly positive proposals for interreligious dialogue as a means to contain extremisms.

Interpreting Section VII of the Synod Message – the Appeal to the International Community – which espouses the “two-state solution,” advises taking “the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories” and defines as “unacceptable” the “recourse to biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices,” Bustros added that the recognition of Jews as God’s “chosen people” to be granted “the promised Land” was nullified by Christ’s coming.

Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy, told The Jerusalem Post he found these words “outrageous and bizarre.”

He pointed out that they contradict Point 8 of the Synod Message, which reads, “We believe in the promises of God and his covenant given to Abraham and to you.

We believe that the Word of God is eternal.”

“This is a regression to the successionist theology we thought had been permanently shelved – the theology that preached that Judaism had been replaced by Christianity,” he said.

Lewy also found “problematic phrasing” in the Appeal to the International Community, which expresses hopes for “an independent and sovereign homeland” for “the Palestinian people” and “peace and security” for “the State of Israel within their internationally recognized borders.”

“At first glance there might appear to be no problems,” said the ambassador, “but coupled with Archbishop Butros’s rejection of defining Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ and his expectations that ‘all Palestinian refugees will eventually return,’ plus the lack of any reference to ‘the Jewish people’ in the Appeal, it follows that since Israel is a democracy and there is no inherent Jewish right to the state, demographic changes with the return of Palestinian refugees will win the day.”

The Synod Message and a list of 44 propositions – many connected to bolstering Christian life and unity in the region – will be sifted and edited by Benedict and appear as a papal document at a future date.

Some proposals have already been accepted, such as the addition of Arabic to the Vatican’s official languages.

A de facto innovation is the creation of a Hebrewlanguage website that functioned throughout the synod under the direction of Hana Bendcowsky, program director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, hired by the Vatican for the occasion. The growth of a Hebrew-speaking Christian population in Israel, mainly due to immigration, spurred this decision.

On Sunday, Benedict announced plans for a synod in 2012 on “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” a sign of the Catholic Church’s steady concern with loss of followers everywhere.

I have to admit to not really caring what the Vatican has to say on pretty much anything, but especially issues of morality.

3:55PM: Caption screw-up of the day: courtesy of daylife.

[click image to enlarge]

edl protest

1:20PM: Meet the pro-Israel Egyptian who refuses to serve in the Egyptian army.

Maikel Nabil Sanad is perhaps the most unusual Egyptian you’ve heard of recently. He is 25 years old, a veterinarian, graduate of a university in Asyut, and now officially a conscientious objector to military service in the Egyptian army.

“The army told me its final decision was that I must present myself for an officers’ course on October 22 in Fayid and start obligatory service of three years,” he wrote on his blog last week. “I thought about this a lot and decided to refuse to serve in the Egyptian army, and accept the results, whatever they would be, even though I knew the results would be hard because I am the first young Egyptian to refuse to serve for pacifist reasons.”

Sanad also explained his decision: “I am a pacifist, I am against bearing arms and participating in military and paramilitary organizations. Recruitment goes against my conscience. I don’t want to act against my conscience, whatever the price. I also am not willing to be a pawn on the chessboard of an arms race, struggles and bloodbaths in the region. I don’t want to point a weapon at a young Israeli, recruited into obligatory service, defending his state’s right to exist. I think obligatory service is a form of slavery and I have worked for years for my freedom.”

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This is certainly unusual case of an unusual young man, and when one speaks with him his unusual thinking is also evident – certainly to Israeli ears.

“Though they haven’t contacted me directly, they managed to get the message to me that I should sign up, but I decided against it,” he said to Ynet. “I thought about it a lot and decided this because I am a pacifist and believe in peace.”

Sanad says he is not a lone voice. “I lead a political movement called ‘No to Obligatory Service.’ Some 20 or 30 activists work on the ground but our Facebook group has some 3,000 members. And what’s more, I was happy to learn that our ideas took wing in the Arab world, and a similar group with similar ideas has been set up in Syria. I am trying to spread the ideas as much as I can.”

As the conversation progresses, it becomes clear that these are not the only strange ideas Sanad has. “I am pro-Israel,” he says. “I don’t want to take part in anti-Semitic operations or those that negate Israel’s right to exist in the region. I see Israel as a liberal, modern state with a religious character. I have friends in Israel and I think Israelis have a right to defend themselves.”

The young Egyptian doesn’t even hesitate to say the Palestinians are to blame for the conflict with Israel. “If the Palestinians had a democratic leadership, everything would be solved,” he says. “Take the war on Gaza for example (Operation Cast Lead) two years ago. Hamas started it. They refused to hold elections in Gaza and took control of the regime. They planned a dictatorial and fundamentalist regime. They refused to speak to Israel, fired rockets at it and caused it to defend itself.”

He says the IDF response to the rockets was “normal” compared to any nation in the world. “I don’t see what the difference is between that and Turkey’s response against the Kurds in northern Iraq. It’s exactly the same.”

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He explains his attitude to Israel thus: “From a young age I read a lot about the Israeli-Arab conflict. I understood the Arab media hid facts that support Israel. I tried to contact Israeli activists and started asking them questions, such as, ‘Is it true that Israel is a militaristic state?’ or, ‘Is it true that Israel wants to expand and reach the Nile? That’s how I learned. I understood a lot about the state, society and its laws. Many Arabs living in Israel told me how they are really treated and how much they prefer living in Israel above any Arab state. I also read about Israeli pacifist organizations.”

Despite his love for Israel, he has not had a chance to visit because Egypt forbids his exit from the country. “I am forbidden from leaving for the next three years because of the military service I am supposed to do, and I imagine this prohibition will be extended,” he says, but also notes that “the Israeli nation must know there are many Egyptians who support it, that we love Israel and support its right to exist. The picture painted by the media that all Egyptians hate Israel is false. This picture is not correct, and I want to make that clear to you.”

10:48AM: France’s Le Figaro newspaper has alleged that the Mossad was behind the explosion at Iran’s Imam Ali military base on October 12.

According to Le Figaro the blast was the latest in the Mossad’s effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear efforts. The paper also links it to other incidents, such as the recent cyber attack which paralyzed Iranian computers, technical sabotage, and various claimed scientist abductions.

The French newspaper said the blast proved to be a serious blow to Iran’s ability to defend its sensitive security installations, further weakening its ability to defend its nuclear facilities in case of an attack.

6:08AM: Israel is on the verge of disaster.

Is Israel’s national food about to become very expensive? Hummus manufacturers are warning that a legume shortage is leading to a shortage in hummus, which will likely lead to a price hike.

The crisis reached the legume sector because of the drought, fires caused by dry heat waves and weather damage in Israel and around the world.

6:02AM: Seen this man before?

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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