Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Aipac on hamas December 31, 2008
SPECIAL REPORT: HAMAS' ASSAULT ON ISRAELIsrael Responds to Seven Years of Life Under Fire

Hamas Rockets Kill Four, Strike Schools in Beersheba

With Iran's Help, Hamas Upgraded Its Military Might

American Leaders Support Israel's Defensive Actions

Israel Transfers Aid to Gazans Despite Rocket Attacks

AIPAC Urges Support for Israel's Right to Self-Defense

take action!
Urge your member of Congress to support Israel's right to self-defense.

Click here to see a bipartisan list of American leaders who are proud to stand with Israel during this critical time.

Learn more
Click here to see why Israel is forced to defend its citizens from Hamas rockets.

Israel Responds to Seven Years of Life Under FireFor the past seven years, Hamas and other Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist groups have fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. And for seven years, Israel demonstrated extreme restraint in the face of these attacks. Last summer, Israel agreed to an Egyptian-mediated tahdiyeh, or period of calm, which Hamas used to strengthen its rocket arsenal rather than prepare for peace with the Jewish state. When Hamas terminated the tahdiyeh earlier this month and then dramatically increased its attacks, Israel was forced to defend its citizens. "Life in the south under missile barrages had become unbearable," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said over the weekend. "In such a situation we had no alternative but to respond." The overwhelming majority of Palestinians who died from Israeli strikes were Hamas members, according to U.N. data.
Hamas Rockets Kill Four, Strike Schools in BeershebaFour Israelis were killed and dozens more wounded this week as Hamas relentlessly pounded southern Israel with rockets and mortars, The Jerusalem Post reported. For the first time, two rockets landed in the major southern city of Beersheba on Tuesday, striking a kindergarten. Another rocket slammed into an empty Beersheba school on Wednesday. The Iranian-backed terrorist group has fired more than 100 rockets at southern Israel this week, striking homes, farms and factories in the cities of Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod—home to Israel's largest port. Three rockets also hit the city of Yavneh, just 12 miles from Tel Aviv and the northernmost point a Hamas rocket has hit to date. About 500,000 Israelis are now within range of Hamas rockets.
With Iran's Help, Hamas Upgraded Its Military MightHamas has worked tirelessly, with Iranian assistance, to improve its ability to attack Israel, according to analysis in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. In recent years, dozens of Gazans have traveled to training camps run by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. As a result, Hamas has successfully transitioned from a terrorist group to a more organized paramilitary organization. Hamas' rockets have improved dramatically in range and lethality from the new materials smuggled through tunnels under Gaza's border with Egypt. Because Hamas began to bombard Israeli towns with rockets over the past two weeks, Israel decided that it could no longer tolerate the presence of a Hizballah-like paramilitary organization on its southern border and responded with force.
American Leaders Support Israel's Defensive ActionsAmerican leaders from the Bush administration, Congress, and President-elect Barack Obama's staff have voiced strong support for Israel's defensive actions in the Gaza Strip. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe called Hamas "nothing but thugs," while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice added that the United States holds Hamas responsible for the renewal of violence in Gaza. David Axelrod, President-elect Obama's senior advisor, reiterated Obama's statement from his visit to Israel in July. While standing in Sderot, Obama said, "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing." [view video] Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the United States "must continue to stand strongly with its friend and democratic ally." Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Republican whip, called Israel's response "justifiable and understandable." Click here to read more quotes from American leaders.
Israel Transfers Aid to Gazans Despite Rocket AttacksAs Israel targets Hamas terrorists in Gaza, the Jewish state is making every possible effort to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the coastal strip [view video]. An Israeli Foreign Ministry delegation met on Sunday with representatives of international aid organizations in order to ensure the entry into Gaza of critical items such as food and medical supplies. "We will see to the needs of the population in Gaza and will do our utmost to prevent a humanitarian crisis that will impinge upon residents' lives," said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Since last June, Israel has facilitated the transfer of 17,000 truckloads of goods into Gaza, according to Israeli government statistics. Israel also continues to supply some 70 percent of Gaza's electricity.
AIPAC Urges Support for Israel's Right to Self-DefenseIn a press statement, AIPAC urged Congress and the Administration to stand firmly with Israel as it strives to defend itself against a renewed assault by Hamas terrorists. "We applaud the bipartisan coalition of American leaders who have stood up in support of Israel's right to defend its citizens, a clear sign of the strong ties between the United States and Israel," said AIPAC President David Victor, adding that "AIPAC is outraged that the U.N. Security Council failed to recognize Israel's right to self-defense in its statement on Sunday, a right enshrined in the U.N.'s founding charter. Moving forward, we urge the administration to stand with Israel at the United Nations as it acts to defend itself in the face of continued violence from Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. It is important that we never equate Israeli defensive measures with Hamas terrorism."

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


December 31, 2008
Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Allows Humanitarian Aid into Gaza (AFP)
"A convoy of 109 trucks carrying international humanitarian aid was authorized to pass on Tuesday through the Kerem Shalom crossing," an Israeli military spokesman said.
On Monday, Israel allowed more than 80 trucks filled with aid to pass through the same crossing.
Israel will permit additional trucks with humanitarian aid into Gaza on Wednesday, despite the fact that at least 40 rockets were fired at Israel Wednesday morning. (Ha'aretz)
See also Israel: Abundance of Medical Supplies Sent to Gaza - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
Col. Moshe Levi, head of the IDF District Coordination Office in Gaza, said Wednesday that since the start of the IDF operation, unprecedented amounts of medical equipment have been allowed into Gaza, including medicine and blood units.
In addition, ambulances sent from the West Bank and donated from other countries were allowed in.
Levi also accused Palestinian Health Ministry officials of preventing the injured from leaving Gaza to receive medical treatment in Israel.
"Gaza hospitals have not collapsed, and international organizations have not reported a collapse and even point out that the medical equipment sent there is improving the hospitals' efficient activity. Regarding food as well, we have not received official complaints; there are large amounts of food in the Gaza Strip and there is no crisis in this regard," Levi said.
Israeli defense sources said Gazan officials are trying to create a false picture of a humanitarian crisis.

Israeli Security Chief: Hamas Has Been Hit Like Never Before - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Chief Yuval Diskin told the Cabinet Wednesday that the current Israel Air Force offensive in Gaza has caused unprecedented damage to Hamas' infrastructure and personnel. Hamas "has been hit like it has never been hit before," he said.
Diskin said Hamas' ability to govern has been seriously damaged, and that senior Hamas officials are hiding out in Gaza's hospitals, where they have disguised themselves as doctors and nurses."
In addition, "many Hamas officials are hiding in mosques." Dozens of mosques have been turned into weapons warehouses and command centers, he added.
Diskin also said the weapons factories used by Hamas have been wiped out and dozens of tunnels used to smuggle arms have been destroyed.
He said Hamas is currently trying to repair the tunnels, in order to evacuate their leadership to Egypt.

A Fatah Friend Is Supporting the Israeli Air Force - Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic Monthly)
I've been talking to friends of mine, former PA intelligence officials (ejected from power by the Hamas coup), and they tell me that not only are they rooting for the Israelis to decimate Hamas, but that Fatah has actually been assisting the Israelis with targeting information.
One told me that one of his comrades was thrown off a high-rise building in Gaza City last year by Hamas. "Let the Israelis kill them," he said. "They've brought only trouble for my people."
See also Fatah Loyalists: Gaza Operation Is Allah's Revenge for Hamas Actions - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
"Many people blame Hamas for the recent deterioration, but they are afraid to say anything," said A., a resident of Jabalya in Gaza.
"Most Palestinians will not say anything bad about Hamas. They are afraid for their lives....But in private conversations you hear the true criticism against them."

Israel Targets Terror Labs Funded by U.S. Islamic Group - Patrick Poole (Pajamas Media)
Israel Defense Forces aircraft bombed suspected Hamas terror laboratories located at the Hamas-run Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).
The IUG science and technology lab was financed and constructed with the assistance of the Dublin, Ohio-based Arab Student Aid International (ASAI).
The organization's primary benefactor is Prince Turki Ben Abdul Aziz, a former high-ranking Saudi government official and half-brother to King Abdullah.
The IUG has been used for weapons storage, launching rockets, and holding hostages.
See also Fatah: Abducted Israeli Soldier Was Held at Islamic University of Gaza - Ronny Shaked (Ynet News)

Iran Sets Up Court to Try Israelis Over Gaza (Reuters)
Iran has set up a court to try Israelis for the air attacks in Gaza and to try in absentia any people who Tehran says have committed crimes, Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said Tuesday.
Jamshidi called on all Palestinians who have been affected by the Israeli operation in Gaza to file complaints.

Key Links
Media Contacts
Back Issues
Fair Use News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

* Palestinian Rockets Reach Deep into Israel
Palestinians in Gaza fired two rockets at the Israeli city of Beersheba, located 28 miles from Gaza, on Tuesday evening. The mayor of Beersheba told Israel television that one rocket hit an empty kindergarten. (AP)
See also Gaza Rocket Strikes School in Beersheba - Yanir Yagna
A Grad rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza directly struck an empty school in Beersheba on Wednesday morning. After holding emergency consultations with the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command, authorities in Beersheba had decided on Wednesday there would be no school in the city. The army shut down schools on Wednesday in all towns within 30 km. of Gaza. More than 40 rockets struck Israel on Tuesday, striking Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat. One rocket scored a direct hit on a kibbutz dining hall. (Ha'aretz)
See also Israelis Worry about Cover as Rockets Reach Deeper - Ari Rabinovitch
For many residents of southern Israel, the fighting in nearby Gaza is measured in the number of seconds they have to take cover when Hamas rockets rain down. In Ashdod, where a woman was killed by a rocket on Monday, about 40 seconds elapse between the "Code Red" warning and the blast of impact. The city is 22 miles north of Gaza and had been untouched by Hamas rocket fire. The rockets have killed four Israelis since the fighting began Saturday. In Ashkelon, 12 miles from Gaza, the "Code Red" warning gives people about 30 seconds to find shelter. But the impact is perhaps most felt in small Israeli border communities where residents can see Gaza from their backyards. There, they have only a 10-second warning of incoming rockets. (Reuters)
* U.S.: Gaza Cease-Fire Can't Be One-Sided - Matthew Lee
Secretary of State Rice on Tuesday kept up steady U.S. calls for a "durable and sustainable," but not necessarily immediate, cease-fire in Gaza and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants based there. In phone calls with Israeli and Arab leaders, Rice pressed for a durable solution to the fighting that is not used by Hamas to launch more attacks into Israel. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said, "It can't be a cease-fire in which one side uses it to launch periodic attacks." Meanwhile, the State Department announced a new contribution of $85 million to UN relief efforts to assist Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. (AP)
See also Behind Closed Doors, U.S. Seeks Israel Exit Strategy - Paul Richter
While publicly declaring strong support for Israel, the Bush administration is increasingly nervous about the campaign in the Gaza Strip and is urging its ally to settle on a timetable and exit strategy, say foreign diplomats and Middle East experts close to the discussions. U.S. officials are concerned that the campaign could drag on without destroying Hamas, and might even bolster support for the militant group - just as the 2006 Israeli campaign in Lebanon strengthened Hizbullah. (Los Angeles Times)
See also Bush Calls Arab Leaders Over Gaza - Tabassum Zakaria
U.S. President George Bush on Tuesday called Palestinian and Egyptian leaders about the crisis in Hamas-ruled Gaza and emphasized the need for a lasting cease-fire, the White House said. Bush spoke with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and also called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to thank him for "the positive role" that Egypt is playing, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. (Reuters)
* Egypt: Gaza Border to Stay Shut Until Abbas Back in Power
President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday ruled out reopening Egypt's border with Gaza. "We in Egypt are not going to contribute to perpetuating the rift (between Abbas and Hamas) by opening the Rafah crossing in the absence of the Palestinian Authority and EU observers in violation of the 2005 deal," Mubarak said in a televised speech. He added: "We say to our Palestinian brothers: restore your unity. We warned you several times that any refusal to renew the truce would push Israel to attack Gaza." (AFP)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* Olmert: Gaza Offensive to Go On Until Israel's Aims Are Achieved - Amos Harel and Barak Ravid
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday, "The Gaza offensive has begun and will not end...until our goals our reached, we are continuing according to the plan." The government said Tuesday it was prepared to work with France and other governments on increasing aid flows into Gaza. "We want to see convoy after convoy of humanitarian support and we are willing to work closely with all relevant international parties to facilitate that goal," the prime minister's spokesman, Mark Regev, said. "At the same time, it is important to keep up the pressure on Hamas, not give them a respite, time to regroup and reorganize," Regev added. (Ha'aretz)
See also Israel Rejects French Proposal for 48-Hour Gaza Truce - Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, and Avi Issacharoff
Israel on Wednesday rejected a French proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire in Gaza. "That proposal contained no guarantees of any kind that Hamas will stop the rockets and smuggling," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. "There's no such thing as a 'humanitarian cease-fire'," an aide to Prime Minister Olmert said Tuesday. "Gaza is not undergoing a humanitarian crisis. We're constantly supplying it with food and medications, and there's no need for a humanitarian cease-fire."
Israel's terms for a permanent cease-fire include a complete cessation of all rocket and mortar fire from Gaza by all Palestinian organizations; a ban on armed men approaching the border fence with Israel; complete Israeli control over the Gaza border crossings; Egyptian efforts to stop the weapons smuggling into Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula; and a supervisory mechanism to ensure that Hamas is meeting its commitments. (Ha'aretz)
* Ashdod Still Recovering from Shock of Palestinian Rocket Attack - Shelly Paz
Irit Sheetrit, 39, a mother of four from Ashdod who was killed in a Palestinian rocket attack, was buried on Tuesday. "The Jewish people have been hunted forever only because they are Jews, and this is the reason for Irit's death. She is a victim for the sake of the Israeli people, a victim of hatred," said the rabbi who eulogized her. Sheetrit's eldest daughter is a soldier, and the youngest is in fifth grade. Ashdod is Israel's fifth-largest city and is home to 250,000 people. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Despite Rocket Strikes, Israelis Vow to Soldier On - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
* Rocket-Spotting in Sderot - Abe Selig and Diana Gershman
On the top of a hill near Sderot, curious residents looked down across the plain and into Gaza, less than a kilometer away. Black smoke could be seen rising over Beit Hanoun and Jabalya as Israel air force planes and helicopters launched assaults on rocket cells operating below. Suddenly, white trails of smoke could be seen shooting out from inside Beit Hanoun, following freshly fired rockets. "They're firing on Ashkelon!" someone yelled. Then another trail, towards the south. "That one's heading for Netivot!" another voice called out. And then another trail, this time more difficult to make out. "Run! It's heading over here!" another voice cried, and sure enough, the "Color Red" warning began to sound as the small crowd that had gathered, with no shelter in sight, lay on the ground and prayed for the best. (Jerusalem Post)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

* Defeating Hamas for America's Sake - Benny Avni
By routing Hamas in Gaza, Israel can improve its security - and perhaps enhance prospects for eventual peace in the region. But the defeat of a U.S.-certified terrorist group will also be a boon to America's strategic interests. Washington can do itself much good by helping Israel achieve victory, by providing the diplomatic space for Jerusalem to get the job done. Should Israel fall short again, Iran - which also backs Hamas - will carve yet another notch in its gun. Furthermore, Hamas must be defanged before any political progress can be achieved. (New York Post)
* Hizbullah Will Defend Iran - Not Palestinians - David Schenker
Despite Hizbullah's strong rhetorical response, it has still not fired a single rocket into Israel in defense of the Palestinians. Hizbullah's primarily Shiite constituents in southern Lebanon are war weary and have not completely recuperated from the last war. Moreover, Hizbullah and its political allies appear to be well positioned for the spring 2009 Lebanese parliamentary elections, and another war would risk undermining the organization at the polls. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
* Israel, Hamas, and False Moral Equivalence - Alan M. Dershowitz
The firing of rockets at civilians from densely populated civilian areas is the newest tactic in the war between terrorists who love death and democracies that love life. The terrorists have learned how to exploit the morality of democracies against those who do not want to kill civilians, even enemy civilians. The attacks on Israeli citizens have little to do with what Israel does or does not do. They have everything to do with an ideology that despises - and openly seeks to destroy - the Jewish state. (Christian Science Monitor)
* When a Regime Uses Its Citizens as Tools of War - Fania Oz-Salzberger
Imagine your next-door neighbor - with whom you have had a long and bloody feud - pulling out a gun and shooting into your windows from his own living room, which is densely packed with women and children. In fact, he's holding his daughter on his lap as he claims he will not stop till your family is dead. Police are unavailable. What should you do? Finally, as one shot hits your child's bedroom, you decide that enough is enough. You attempt a surgical strike: aim at the shooter's head, try to spare the innocents. This is what Israel is doing. The writer is Professor of Modern Israel Studies at Monash University in Australia and a senior lecturer in law and history at Haifa University. (The Age-Australia)
See also What Would You Do? - Amy Weiss
What would you do if a stalker had been threatening you and your family, you had a restraining order, and in the middle of the night you heard a rustling outside the window. When you confront the person who has invaded your home, do you only hit him a couple of times because you aren't exactly sure if he was going to just scare you or maim you and your family while they were sleeping? You wouldn't stand in the hall and say, "Excuse me, could you please leave immediately before I get really mad?" Rabbi Amy Weiss is the executive director of The Initiative for Jewish Women in Houston. (Houston Chronicle)
* One Effective Way to Stop the Rockets - Moshe Arens
The only effective alternative is for the Israel Defense Forces to take control of the rocket launching sites in the Gaza Strip. In World War II, the Allies understood that the only way to put a stop to the shelling of London by German V2 rockets was for Allied armies to reach the launching sites in Western Europe. Nobody has yet found a way of defeating an enemy without invading their territory. That is how wars have always been won, and if we are going to defeat Hamas and stop the rockets from raining on Israeli civilians, that is what we will have to do. The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times. (Ha'aretz)
See also Air Power Alone Won't Force the Hamas Response that Israel Wants - Jeffrey White
Hamas will attempt to sustain rocket attacks for as long as possible to demonstrate its potency and to create pressure within Israel to end its operation. Hamas will also likely attempt to carry out suicide attacks within Israel and against the border crossing points. Israel does not want to return to the cease-fire conditions, which left much of the political and security initiative with Hamas and allowed it to expand its military capabilities.
Israel's use of air power limits Hamas' ability to respond, but also limits the scope of damage Israel can inflict. It is questionable whether air power alone will force Hamas to respond the way Israel wants, since it could attempt to ride out the attacks until diplomatic pressure forces Israel to end IDF operations. The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Jerusalem Post)
* Fight Fire with a Cease-Fire - David Grossman
After the heavy blow that Israel has dealt to the Gaza Strip, we would do best to halt, turn to the leaders of Hamas and tell them: Until last Saturday, we restrained ourselves in responding to the thousands of Kassam rockets fired at us. Now you know how severe the retaliation can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction that has already taken place, we intend, unilaterally and absolutely, to hold our fire for the next 48 hours. (New York Times)
See also Cease Terror, Not Cease-Fire - Editorial
It is way too premature for Jerusalem to be entertaining thoughts of a cease-fire. It is Hamas that needs an exit strategy to extricate it from a devastating situation of its own making. Let us keep our eyes on the prize. The government has rightly declared the imperative to change the security environment in the south and stop Hamas from attacking our population. No country - not Britain, France, Russia, Turkey or the U.S. - would tolerate missile attacks on its homeland. Neither can Israel. (Jerusalem Post)


Time Once More to Blame the Jews - Wesley Pruden (Washington Times)

* The Israelis finally get enough of the constant rain of rockets on their border towns and villages, fired by Hamas thugs recognized by nearly everybody as international jackals, and strike back to stop it. Guess who the villains are.
* Those thugs have become expert at retail death, killing one or two Jews one day, occasionally three or four on another. Death-by-rocket in Ashkelon and other cities in southern Israel is bad, but, like other urban inconveniences, not something to "overreact" to.
* Because the Hamas terrorists have perfected provocation as an art of war, the blame is attached to Israel by those always eager to "blame it on the Jews," and by a media unable to make distinctions and eager to draw moral equivalence between provocateur and the provoked.
* Much of the world long ago decided that it would no longer be moved by the suffering of the Israelis, nor impressed by their patience in the face of extreme provocation. The Israelis are friends of the Great Satan, after all, and so deserve whatever retail death their enemies can deal. We must give the provocateur a pass.
* The tragedy is that none of this is necessary. The Palestinians could have a two-state solution if they would only take it. But they are determined to win a one-state solution bought at the price of a second Holocaust. This is the reality that Israel's critics in the West willfully refuse to acknowledge. The Jews can expect to be made the villains of the piece - again.

The writer is editor emeritus of the Washington Times.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Psalm 133 Hinai ma Tov

Best New Year resolution-come to synagogue

New York Times explains why going to synagogue should be your main new resolution 2009


Published: December 29, 2008

If I'm serious about keeping my New Year's resolutions in 2009, should I add another one? Should the to-do list include, "Start going to church"?

Does religion increase self-control? Join the discussion.

This is an awkward question for a heathen to contemplate, but I felt obliged to raise it with Michael McCullough after reading his report in the upcoming issue of the Psychological Bulletin. He and a fellow psychologist at the University of Miami, Brian Willoughby, have reviewed eight decades of research and concluded that religious belief and piety promote self-control.

This sounded to me uncomfortably similar to the conclusion of the nuns who taught me in grade school, but Dr. McCullough has no evangelical motives. He confesses to not being much of a devotee himself. "When it comes to religion," he said, "professionally, I'm a fan, but personally, I don't get down on the field much."

His professional interest arose from a desire to understand why religion evolved and why it seems to help so many people. Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier.

These results have been ascribed to the rules imposed on believers and to the social support they receive from fellow worshipers, but these external factors didn't account for all the benefits. In the new paper, the Miami psychologists surveyed the literature to test the proposition that religion gives people internal strength.

"We simply asked if there was good evidence that people who are more religious have more self-control," Dr. McCullough. "For a long time it wasn't cool for social scientists to study religion, but some researchers were quietly chugging along for decades. When you add it all up, it turns out there are remarkably consistent findings that religiosity correlates with higher self-control."

As early as the 1920s, researchers found that students who spent more time in Sunday school did better at laboratory tests measuring their self-discipline. Subsequent studies showed that religiously devout children were rated relatively low in impulsiveness by both parents and teachers, and that religiosity repeatedly correlated with higher self-control among adults. Devout people were found to be more likely than others to wear seat belts, go to the dentist and take vitamins.

But which came first, the religious devotion or the self-control? It takes self-discipline to sit through Sunday school or services at a temple or mosque, so people who start out with low self-control are presumably less likely to keep attending. But even after taking that self-selection bias into account, Dr. McCullough said there is still reason to believe that religion has a strong influence.

"Brain-scan studies have shown that when people pray or meditate, there's a lot of activity in two parts of brain that are important for self-regulation and control of attention and emotion," he said. "The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control."

In a study published by the University of Maryland in 2003, students who were subliminally exposed to religious words (like God, prayer or bible) were slower to recognize words associated with temptations (like drugs or premarital sex). Conversely, when they were primed with the temptation words, they were quicker to recognize the religious words.

"It looks as if people come to associate religion with tamping down these temptations," Dr. McCullough said. "When temptations cross their minds in daily life, they quickly use religion to dispel them from their minds."

In one personality study, strongly religious people were compared with people who subscribed to more general spiritual notions, like the idea that their lives were "directed by a spiritual force greater than any human being" or that they felt "a spiritual connection to other people." The religious people scored relatively high in conscientiousness and self-control, whereas the spiritual people tended to score relatively low.

"Thinking about the oneness of humanity and the unity of nature doesn't seem to be related to self-control," Dr. McCullough said. "The self-control effect seems to come from being engaged in religious institutions and behaviors."

Does this mean that nonbelievers like me should start going to church? Even if you don't believe in a supernatural god, you could try improving your self-control by at least going along with the rituals of organized religion.

But that probably wouldn't work either, Dr. McCullough told me, because personality studies have identified a difference between true believers and others who attend services for extrinsic reasons, like wanting to impress people or make social connections. The intrinsically religious people have higher self-control, but the extrinsically religious do not.

So what's a heathen to do in 2009? Dr. McCullough's advice is to try replicating some of the religious mechanisms that seem to improve self-control, like private meditation or public involvement with an organization that has strong ideals.

Religious people, he said, are self-controlled not simply because they fear God's wrath, but because they've absorbed the ideals of their religion into their own system of values, and have thereby given their personal goals an aura of sacredness. He suggested that nonbelievers try a secular version of that strategy.

"People can have sacred values that aren't religious values," he said. "Self-reliance might be a sacred value to you that's relevant to saving money. Concern for others might be a sacred value that's relevant to taking time to do volunteer work. You can spend time thinking about what values are sacred to you and making New Year's resolutions that are consistent with them."

Of course, it requires some self-control to carry out that exercise - and maybe more effort than it takes to go to church.

"Sacred values come prefabricated for religious believers," Dr. McCullough said. "The belief that God has preferences for how you behave and the goals you set for yourself has to be the granddaddy of all psychological devices for encouraging people to follow through with their goals. That may help to explain why belief in God has been so persistent through the ages.

new video on modeh ani prayer upon awakening

Civilian casualties?

have read how the "world" worries about Palestinian civilian
casualties. The fact is the vast majority of these "innocent" civilians
support the destruction of Israel and the continuation of rocket attacks
against Israeli citizens who live in Israeli towns and even kibbtzim. One
wonders how come the "world" registers strong protests only when Arab
civilians are killed but have been quiet while civilians in Israel have
been killed and wounded for the past several years by Hamas rockets and
kassams? Why the double standard???
It should be noted also that in contrast to Arab terrorists the
Israeli military is doing its best not to harm even the pro-Hamas civilians
in Gaza but targets only those Arabs who engage in terrorism. When Arab
civilians are killed or wounded it is unitentional or what is termed as
collateral damage in military operations against terrorists. Another
difference between us and Arab terror groups is the amazing scene of one
hundred truckloads of food and other humanitarian aid coming from Israel to
the Gaza population even while the rocket shooting goes on and several
Israeli civilians are killed and wounded. I wonder if the world media
even mentions this???

Monday, December 29, 2008

USCJ on Gaza

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism supports Israel in its response to the unremitting violence directed toward its citizens from Gaza.
Although United Synagogue's leaders realize that many Palestinian lives are at risk and grieve for them, and acknowledge with great sadness that some already have been lost, we see no other way for Israel to protect its citizens, who have been the targets of unremitting savage violence directed at them by Hamas. We feel great sadness for the people of Gaza, who have been betrayed by Hamas, which has brought them nothing but violence, starvation, and misery. Israel is doing what it must do -- no civilized country can leave its citizens unprotected. The great irony of this attack coming from Gaza, from which Israel has tried to disengage since 2005, should not be lost on any observer.
We are heartened by the response of the United States, coming both from President George W. Bush's administration and from President-elect Barack Obama. We pray that the violence soon will end and that the people of this battered region finally will find peace.

Flatten hamas

Israel launches air strikes on Gaza Play Video Mideast Video: Israel defends actions Reuters Play Video Mideast Video: Israel prepares for possible Gaza invasion AP AP – Israeli soldiers work on a tank at a staging area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern … GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel's air force obliterated symbols of Hamas power on the third day of its overwhelming assault on Gaza on Monday, striking a house next to the Hamas premier's home, devastating a security compound and flattening a five-story building at a university closely linked to the Islamic group.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why the attack on Gaza

The massive
attack on Gaza.

It has been a long time coming - some would say long =
overdue. There will undoubtedly be criticism of Israel for this attack =
and the hundreds killed in it - unfortunately it may turn out to be that =
some are civilians.That is almost impossible to avoid considering the =
way things are intertwined in Gaza. But we should all remember that for =
years Hamas in Gaza has deliberately - not accidently - targeted Israeli =
civilians. Israel with Oslo and afterwards openned negotiations with =
Palestinians who were willing to accept a two state solution and said =
they would not use violence. Hamas has consistently said it rejects the =
very existence of Israel, is not interested in a two state solution and =
does not want peace - only violence or sometimes a lessening of violence =
when it is good for them. They complain that Israel does not open =
boarders to them but then refuses to stop shelling Israel when we offer =
to open boarders if there will be quiet. I cannot imagine any other =
country that would have permitted this shelling to go on as long as it =
has and not respond. So - let us hope quiet can be restored but let's =
not give in to those who do not see the whole picture - or do not want =
to see it.

From the news

Israel's strike on Gaza had been expected for days, but it was still a surprise when it finally came. Taking advantage of good weather, which is forecast to last at least three days, Israeli planes bombed some 40 Palestinian police stations, posts and other targets early Saturday morning, killing more than 150 people including a number of senior Hamas military leaders. The first strikes came in a coordinated three-minute blitz.
Israeli officials say the strikes were necessary to force an end to the rocket attacks from Gaza, which is ruled by the radical Islamist group Hamas after it split from the Palestinian Authority run by President Mahmoud Abbas out of the West Bank. Palestinian militants in Gaza have long launched Kassam and other rockets at Israeli towns across the border, and in the past six weeks the number of attacks has increased dramatically. After the attack, Israeli officials said the number of Palestinian rocket attacks could now spike to 200 a day. Hamas announced that it had sent a rocket toward Askelon; one man in the Israeli town of Netivot, east of the Gaza strip, was killed. Israel also expects Hamas to launch suicide attacks against Israel. A Hamas leader promised as much Saturday.
But Israel is prepared to ratchet up the pressure still further in the hope that it will force a workable ceasefire. Saturday's attack was authorized two days previously, and though no Israeli ground troops have crossed into Gaza so far, that remains an option according to Israeli officials. Dozens of Israeli air force planes remain in the skies above Gaza. "If they retaliate they will feel it stronger and the number [of casualties] on the Gaza side will rise", a senior Israeli military source told TIME.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire in June. Israel wants the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and is extremely wary of becoming embroiled in a military operation in Gaza with no clear exit strategy. Hamas needed the truce to relieve the catastrophic economic strain imposed by the Israeli siege and to consolidate its control over Gaza. And so, for very different reasons, the two sides found themselves negotiating - not directly, because neither side recognizes the other - but through an Egyptian mediator. But in the past few weeks the ceasefire has all but broken down.
Indeed, even as the Israelis said the operation was continuing, Egypt was among the diplomatic casualties. Cairo had played host to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Dec. 25. She took the opportunity to criticize Hamas for its rocket attacks. The silence of her Egyptian hosts is now being seen by Palestinians as indirect collusion with Israel, damaging Cairo's ability to play mediator. Furthermore, in the contest for primacy between Hamas and Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas, as the "victim" of this episode, emerges as the victor in the eyes of Arabs and Palestinians. Already, elements of Abbas' own Fatah Party, the bulwark of the PA, are campaigning against the security cooperation with Israel and talking about boycotting meetings with the Jewish state.

Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg & Our online programs

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Invade Gaza

JERUSALEM – Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip will pay a "heavy price" if they continue to target Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Thursday, as the Israeli military wrapped up preparations for a possible invasion of the coastal territory.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israel to show restraint in a meeting with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. She brushed aside the appeal, however, and insisted that Israel would respond to protect its citizens.

The talks came a day after Palestinian militants pummeled southern Israel from Gaza with more than 80 rockets and mortars, causing no injuries but generating widespread panic. Israeli Cabinet ministers approved a broad invasion of Gaza, defense officials told The Associated Press.

"We will not accept this situation," Barak warned. "Whoever harms the citizens and soldiers of Israel will pay a heavy price."

He did not elaborate. But defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity because the information was classified, said the Israeli operation would likely begin with surgical airstrikes against rocket launchers and continue with a land invasion. Harsh weather conditions are hampering visibility and complicating air force missions, so the operation won't be launched until the skies clear, they added.

Twelve mortars were fired early Thursday, causing no injuries. One landed at Israel's passenger crossing with Gaza as a group of Christians were going through, en route to the West Bank town of Bethlehem for Christmas Day celebrations, the military said.

Israel has been reluctant to press ahead with a campaign liable to exact heavy casualties on both sides. Gaza militants operate in densely populated civilian areas, and past Israeli incursions have not halted the rocket barrages.

Question on dry bones


I was interested in Ezekiels dry bones story and you were one of the few utube videos I could find on the subject. I found your comments to be enlightening and interesting that you present many perspectives on the subject.

Could you help me on a question? Are there any Jewish commentators in the first century or before that consider the regathering of Judah and the rebuilding of the temple in the book of Ezra to be the fulfillment of Ezekiel s dry bones?

Thank you for any help on this matter, and thank you for your information on you tube.

A:The second half of that chapter 37 is read as seeing the first half of the chaspter isd a metaphor for that discussed in the Talmud Sanhedrin 92b

Question on Gods' name

Q: Hi
I was just wondering, where does the name Yahweh come from? Because as I'm sure you know, the name he gave to Moses at the burning bush was ''I am that (who) I am'' which is, when transliterated, Ehyeh asher ehyeh. So, my question is how do you get Yahweh from Ehyeh asher ehyeh? And also, in the tetragrammaton how did they (I believe it was the Masoretes) get Yahweh?

A: if you take the tetragrammaton without any vowels and try to sound it out, it spells yahweh. Ehyeh twice each has the last 3 letters of yud heh vov heh in the tetragrammaton. Yahweh is not a Jewish or hebrew word or name. We never use it. We say adonai or elohim for yud heh vov heh soince we don't know how to pronounce it and don't try. only the High Priest knew and said it once a year

New Kashrut Conservative symbol

December 22, 2008 ( New York , NY ) – The Hekhsher Tzedek commission has announced the creation of Magen Tzedek, the new ethical certification seal that will be introduced to the kosher food industry in the coming months.

Magen Tzedek, a stylized version of a star of David, is the logo that will appear on the packaging of kosher foods whose producers successfully apply for ethical certification from the Hekhsher Tzedek commission.

The commission was launched in the summer of 2007 as a joint project of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly. The work of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission already has been credited with creating new interest in the ethical aspects of kashrut both within the Conservative movement and beyond it. The Magen Tzedek seal does not replace the hekhsher that certifies that food is halachically kosher but is designed to supplement those seals. Dr. Joe M. Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell University, has been named an advisor for the project. A well-known consultant to the kosher food industry, he will help create the Hekhsher Tzedek commission’s compliance application and procedure.

“Magen Tzedek is a proud product of Conservative Judaism but also a gift for the entire Jewish community,” said Rabbi Michael Siegel, a co-chair of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission. “It is a bold new symbol that signifies kosher food produced with the highest degree of dignity.”

The Magen Tzedek seal will be awarded to kosher food companies based on a number of criteria having to do with such matters as employee health, safety and training; wages and benefits; the company’s environmental impact; corporate transparency, and product development.

The Nathan Cummings Foundation gave a $100,000 grant to the Hekhsher Tzedek commission earlier this month, the second grant the foundation has given the commission. Awarded in a time of economic recession, the Cummings grant is a vote of confidence in the Hekhsher Tzedek commission’s mission to effect positive change within the American Jewish world. According to the commission’s other co-chair, Jerold Jacobs, the funds will be earmarked toward advocacy and education efforts to promote the ethical certification initiative.

“By introducing Magen Tzedek, we are inviting the public to be a part of the conversation about kashrut, justice and Judaism,” Mr. Jacobs said. “Magen Tzedek draws together consumers of kosher food around the communal table to contemplate how to bring tzedek – justice – to the world.”

Rabbi Siegel speculated that even non-Jews or Jews who do not keep kosher might select a product with a Hekhsher Tzedek certification as a way of expressing their commitment to social justice. “In this regard Hekhsher Tzedek assumes an important position in the broad social movement of ethical eating,” he added.

The new Magen Tzedek seal will be introduced at the annual Hazon Food Conference this week, which features Rabbi Morris Allen, creator and founder of the Hekhsher Tzedek initiative. The conference will be held December 25-28 at the Asimolar Conference and Retreat Center in California.

“Our initiative has captured the hearts and minds of American Jews, reflecting deeply-held social and religious values,” Rabbi Allen said. “Magen Tzedek presents people with an opportunity to deepen their observance of kashrut while emphasizing the importance of social responsibility.”

For more information, go to, or

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Miketz parasha youtube videos by me

My Videos on the parasha
Parashat Miketz Genesis 41 10/54 portions jewu 302 Rabbi Jonathan
Forgiveness and the Joseph stories Jewu 298 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

Aipac briefing

Hamas Threatens Suicide Attacks as Rockets Hit Israel

217 Lawmakers Urge Robust Foreign Aid Budget

U.S. Warns Russia Against Selling Missiles to Iran

Israel Applauds U.N. Resolution on Bilateral Peace Talks

Justice Department Links Iranian Bank to Fifth Avenue Building

Young Israelis Save Food to Feed African Refugees

take action!
Affect Israel's future and promote U.S. interests in the Middle East by urging your members of Congress to support critical legislation.

Click here to learn about these important initiatives and to email your elected representatives.

Learn more
Click here for AIPAC analysis of issues affecting the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Hamas Threatens Suicide Attacks as Rockets Hit IsraelAs Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip escalated their rocket attacks against Israeli civilians this week—more than 50 were fired in the past several days—Hamas leaders threatened to resume suicide bombings inside the Jewish state, Agence France Presse reported. "The world must understand that the situation in southern Israel is intolerable for hundreds of thousands of citizens exposed to rocket fire," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. "We cannot remain with our arms crossed. Either the international community intervenes or we will have to act." Israel also filed a formal complaint with the United Nations stressing that Israeli residents will not be held hostage to Hamas terrorists, and Israel, like every other sovereign nation, maintains the right to defend its citizens in accordance with the U.N. charter. Click here for more information on Hamas' termination of its period of calm with Israel.
217 Lawmakers Urge Robust Foreign Aid BudgetMore than 200 members of Congress—51 senators and 166 House members—sent letters to President-elect Barack Obama last week urging him to support a robust international affairs budget for fiscal year 2010. The letters, led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) in the Senate and by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) in the House, reinforce America's commitment "to invest in the strategic tools that are essential to ensuring our national security, building economic prosperity and demonstrating our moral values." The international affairs budget directly funds vital security assistance to Israel and thus plays a critical role in ensuring that America's close ally has the resources to maintain its qualitative military edge and to defend itself against increasing threats.
U.S. Warns Russia Against Selling Missiles to IranU.S. officials on Monday demanded answers from Russia on whether it is selling advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran, a move the U.S. insists could threaten American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported. "We have repeatedly made clear at senior levels of the Russian government that we would strongly oppose the sale of the S-300," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. "As the U.S. government has said before, this is not the time for business as usual with the Iranian government." Although Moscow has sent conflicting reports on the sale of the S-300 missiles, a senior military intelligence official said the United States believes the sale is taking place. Russia has partnered with Iran to develop the country's nuclear program and has prevented the U.N. Security Council from imposing biting sanctions against Tehran for its illicit atomic work.
Israel Applauds U.N. Resolution on Bilateral Peace TalksIsrael welcomed the passage on Tuesday of a U.N. Security Council resolution expressing support for the "ongoing bilateral negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians, The Christian Science Monitor reported. "The Security Council's clear support is a vote of confidence in the process Israel is advancing with the legitimate Palestinian leadership, that has no substitute, and that confirms that with sensible leadership it is possible to harness the international community to support Israel's interests and the interests of advancing genuine peace," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a statement. The resolution, introduced by the United States and Russia, endorsed the Annapolis process and supported the notion that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." It also reaffirmed a commitment to upholding the Quartet conditions on Hamas—recognition of Israel, renunciation of terrorism and acceptance of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The resolution passed by a vote of 14-0, with Libya abstaining.
Justice Department Links Iranian Bank to Fifth Avenue BuildingThe Justice Department announced last week it was seeking to seize part of a large 36-story office tower along New York City's trendy Fifth Avenue, charging that it is co-owned by a front company based offshore and representing Bank Melli—the Iranian national bank sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as a major financier of Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program, The Washington Post reported. "This scheme to use a front company set up by Bank Melli—a known proliferator—to funnel money from the United States to Iran is yet another example of Iran's duplicity," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. According to the report, the Treasury Department also sanctioned the front company, Assa Corp., for providing financial assistance to the Iranian regime. Click here to learn about the importance of sanctions against Iran. Young Israelis Save Food to Feed African RefugeesFour young Israelis have started a group called Fugee Fridays whose mission is to distribute the surplus food from Tel Aviv's Friday Carmel Market—which would otherwise go to waste—to hungry African refugees who fled to Israel on foot to escape persecution, Israel 21c reported. "We knew that while perfectly good food was being thrown away at the vegetable market every Friday, a short distance away the refugees had nothing to eat," said Jesse Fox, the group's founder. "I had written a post for a local blog asking why the Carmel Market throws out so much trash—which is not really trash. Why not use it to feed hungry people? It's a way to merge both green and social activism."

Friday, December 19, 2008

New video on positive affrimations

New video on Maimonides class laws of messiah

New joke video

My 8 videos on Hannukah

My 8 videos on Hannukah

Menorah Hanukah lighting rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg jewu 452
Purim Homintaschen vs. Hannukah Latke debate JewU 3
Jews, Hanukah, and the Christmas dilemma JewU 290
Hanukah message don't let the lights go out JewU 312
Hannukah songs and blessings sung JewU 69
How to play Chanukah dredyl JewU 281
Chanukah miracle needed today jewu 305 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Hannukah The real story JewU 31 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

Thursday, December 18, 2008

JUF E-alert

"Jonathan Ginsburg"
Trouble viewing this page? Click
To receive E-Alert in your inbox (not bulk or junk folder), add to your address book.
E-Alert logo
Forward this to a friend December 18, 2008

In This issue

Chicago, Midwest, and US news

* Madoff scandal rocks Jewish philanthropic world; JUF/JF had no investments with Madoff
* Federation participates in Obama Transition Team meeting with Jewish groups
* Deputy Consul offers the Israeli perspective on Gaza

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

* More Kassams rain on Israel
* Annapolis process for Mideast peace garners strong support

Israel and World news

* Dalia Itzik wins Kadima primaries
* Deadly crash comes as Russian tourism to Israel climbs
* Israel to aid developing countries
* UN human rights investigator--and 9/11 conspiracy theorist--unwelcome in Israel
* Jews of Yemen might relocate in wake of attacks
* Pope Benedict XVI to visit Israel in May
* Film school offers a 'kosher' career choice
* Israel all abuzz over 'Big Brother'

Events and Programs

* TOV's Merry Mitzvot offers opportunities to give back
* Latest episode of 'Sanctuary' available online

Opinion & Analysis

* From the world press

Chicago, Midwest, and US news

The fallout from Bernard Madoff's alleged fraud is rocking individuals, foundations and charities, especially many Jewish non-profits.

Earlier this week David Sherman, chairman, and Steven B. Nasatir, president, assured the JUF/JF board of directors that the institution's investments "have no direct or indirect investment in any Madoff-related account and have not been affected by this alleged fraud. Funds invested in our pooled endowment portfolio by donor-advised funds, other federations, foundations, and organizations in our community also have not been impacted."

Investments in Federation's pooled endowment portfolio are diversified extensively, with more than 100 individual investments in the pool. As a matter of policy, no more than 1.5% of the total portfolio can be invested in any single hedge fund-type investment. Also, any investment in the Jewish Federation pooled endowment portfolio is subjected to an extensive screening process. As a matter of policy, the Federation does not invest in entities that are not audited by a nationally-recognized accounting firm. In addition, before we initiate any type of hedge fund investment, the manager's record is subjected to an exhaustive quantitative screening process--and any results that cannot be quantitatively replicated are considered suspect and will warrant a more in-depth analysis.

Back to top

Amy York, head of the Chicago Jewish Federation's Washington, D.C. Government Affairs office attended a meeting earlier today with senior members of President-elect Obama's transition team. Federation was one of 25 groups -- most of which are national in scope -- invited to participate in the meeting that was expected to focus on domestic and international issues.

In advance of the meeting, JTA reported: "Foreign policy issues expected to be featured on the agenda include containing the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama's position on the Bush administration's late push for Palestinian statehood and whether as president Obama would encourage the Israeli-Syrian peace track. On domestic policy, Jewish officials said they were less likely to focus on Obama's grand proposals of universal health care and public works, and more on emergency measures aimed at addressing the current financial crisis, including gaps in funding for Medicare and Medicaid, the entitlement programs that subsidize health care, respectively, for the elderly and the poor."

Back to top
Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Gershon Kedar was interviewed about the Israeli perspective on the situation in Gaza on Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ, 91.5 FM, Tuesday.
Back to top

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

At least 24 Kassam rockets were fired on southern Israel Wednesday morning. One exploded in the border town of Sderot, wounding two people and damaging a restaurant. Nine rockets hit Israel Tuesday. In response, Israel's army struck two launchers ready to fire Kassams into northern Gaza.

Meanwhile, the truce between Israel and Hamas is scheduled to expire Friday.
Back to top

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have made considerable progress since restarting peace talks at the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis Conference in November 2007, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who urged both sides to redouble their efforts toward a two-state solution and a future Palestinian state.
Back to top

Israel and World news

Knesset speaker -- the big winner in Wednesday's Kadima primaries -- will follow Livni, Mofaz on party's Knesset list. Only 44% of eligible voters cast ballots, marking lower turnout than recent Likud and Labor primaries.
Back to top

Twenty-four Russians and one Israeli died, and more than 30 people were injured, when the charter bus they were riding in crashed on the winding mountain road near Eilat in southern Israel on Tuesday afternoon. The passengers were travel agency representatives from St. Petersburg.
Back to top

Israeli Ambassador to UN Gabriela Shalev signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Program through which Israel will aid developing nations -- mostly in Africa -- to provide knowledge and technological abilities in the fields of agriculture, water, food, health and education.
Back to top

Israeli authorities on Monday expelled Richard Falk, a United Nations investigator of human rights in the Palestinian territories, saying he was unwelcome because of what the government has regarded as his hostile position toward Israel.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Falk's "highly politicized views" legitimize "Hamas terrorism and drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust."
Back to top

President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is planning to relocate Yemen's Jews from the Amran district and the city of Raidah to the capital, Sana, where each Jewish family will receive a plot of land. The news comes on the heels of last Thursday's murder of Moshe Nahari in the northern town of Riydah and the Monday night throwing of two hand-made bombs at a home of a community member.
Back to top

Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Israel in May, stopping en route in Amman, Jordan, an Italian newspaper reported Tuesday. The schedule was also said to include masses in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.
Back to top

The author of the popular Israeli TV series, "Srugim," is a graduate of the Ma'ale School of Film and Television, barely known outside Jerusalem, which puts modern Orthodox Jews in front of and behind the camera. "We're bringing a new visual language to Judaism," says Neta Ariel, Ma'ale's director since 2001.
Back to top
From Internet chat rooms to household dinner tables, the Israeli version of the reality TV show "Big Brother" has all but taken over the national discourse. Critics complain the show is dragging the nation's culture into the sewer and distracting the country from real issues of importance.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Aipac briefing December 17, 2008
Gates: Hizballah's Arsenal Dwarfs Many Nations' Inventories
Hamas Supporters Taunt Israel at Gaza Rally
Rice Says Sanctions Affecting Iran
Iran: 'We are Proud of Supporting Hizballah'
Israeli Court Orders Modification to Barrier Route
Eye Doctors in Israel Restore African Boy's Sight

take action!

Affect Israel's future and promote U.S. interests in the Middle East by urging your members of Congress to support critical legislation.

Gates: Hizballah's Arsenal Dwarfs Many Nations' Inventories
Armed with increasingly sophisticated weapons and technology, the Lebanon-based terrorist army Hizballah and other non-state actors pose a dire threat to the United States and its allies, Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs. "Hizballah's restocked arsenal of rockets and missiles now dwarfs the inventory of many nation-states," Gates wrote, referring to the terrorist army's massive weapons cache. In a recent speech to the Knesset, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak revealed that Hizballah has tripled the size of its arsenal since its 2006 war against Israel and now possesses some 42,000 rockets capable of striking most Israeli population centers. Click here to learn about the threat of Hizballah.

Hamas Supporters Taunt Israel at Gaza Rally
Hamas terrorists brought together hundreds of thousands of supporters at an anniversary rally on Sunday that included a skit of a captive Israeli soldier begging for his freedom, the Associated Press reported. Before some 300,000 followers gathered in Gaza City, the group paraded a Hebrew-speaking actor dressed in an Israeli soldier's uniform—meant to portray Israeli Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was kidnapped in June 2006. "I miss my Mom and Dad," said the man playing the Israeli soldier, kneeling as he spoke. Hamas leaders also bragged about the group's campaign of terror against the Jewish state and pledged to soon stop recognizing the legitimacy of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in a violent coup in June 2007, faces international isolation until it recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Rice Says Sanctions Affecting Iran
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday said that international sanctions have led some Iranian leaders to second-guess their rejection of U.N. Security Council demands that Tehran halt its illicit nuclear activity, the Associated Press reported. "The Iranians are paying real costs for their behavior," Rice said. "It hasn't yet convinced them that they have to change their course, but there are plenty of voices being heard inside that government that are talking about the costs and about whether or not they've made a mistake in getting themselves so deeply isolated." Global financial institutions have cut business dealings with Iran as a way of pressuring the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear work, and the Islamic Republic faces further international pressure as a result of its continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran: 'We are Proud of Supporting Hizballah'
Iran's parliamentary speaker deemed President-elect Barack Obama's comments on Tehran's illicit nuclear activities "cowboy" talk and said his country took pride in its support for Hizballah, Agence France Presse reported. "The new U.S. president has said he wants to pressure Iran since it seeks to produce atomic weapons and because it supports the terrorists like Hamas and Hizballah," Ali Larijani said. "We are proud of supporting Hizballah since they are defending their homeland and you are wrong in calling them terrorists." The State Department consistently lists Iran—the prime backer of Hizballah—as the world's leading state sponsor of global terrorism.
Israeli Court Orders Modification to Barrier Route
The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered that the route of the security fence be redrawn in certain areas in order to lessen the impact on Palestinians living near its path, the Associated Press reported. The ruling specified that "security considerations that will shape the new route must only take into account houses that have already been built, and not plans for future construction" within Israeli settlements. The ruling is not the first time the court has ordered that the fence be altered. In an earlier case, former Israeli Chief Justice Aharon Barak wrote that Israel's democratic nature forced it to balance real security concerns with a commitment to due process and human rights, noting that "a democracy must sometimes fight with one arm tied behind her back." Since Israel began construction on the fence, it has reduced Palestinian suicide bombings by more than 95 percent.
Eye Doctors in Israel Restore African Boy's Sight
A four-year-old boy named Salin found in an abandoned sewage canal in Cameroon has had his sight restored by two Israeli doctors, The Jerusalem Post reported. He was blind in one eye and had only minimal sight in the other because his corneas had turned opaque. Doctors in Cameroon decided to operate only on the blind eye so as not to risk his remaining vision in the other. With no suitable medical facilities for such an operation in Cameroon, the authorities in the poor African country decided to send him to Israel. Using a new technique, the boy's opaque cornea was removed and a new cornea transplanted in its stead. The cornea was donated by the Vision Share cornea bank in the United States and facilitated by Vivienne Notman, its representative in Israel.

New video on my Maimonides class session 1

New video on Parochial education

Adam Sandler hannukah songs

1996 (Chicago):
2002 (Saturday Night Live):

From Richard Baehr

A terrific new issue of In Focus, the policy journal of the Jewish Policy Center, of which I am a visiting fellow. The current issue deals with Israel and the college campus. An unhappy mix.

Matthew Brooks - Letter From the Publisher: Problems on Campus

David Horowitz - A Survey of Challenges on Campus

Cinnamon Stillwell - Rashid Khalidi, Campus Watch & Middle East Studies

Larry Greenfield - The Rise of Campus Anti-Zionism in California

Sarah Stern - The Wahhabi Jihad for Young American Minds

Mitchell Bard - Israel Studies Grows on Campus

Alan Dershowitz - Interview: Making the Case for Israel on Campus

Asaf Romirowsky - The Academy and the Palestinian Refugees

Michael I. Krauss - Challenging the Status Quo in Middle Eastern Studies

Erin O'Connor and Maurice Black - Academic Freedom and Middle East Studies

Patrick Coyle - Campus Conservatives Can Succeed With the Right Strategy

Robert Lewit - Trustees Can Hold Middle East Studies Accountable

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Daily Alert from Conference of Presidentsl

Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at
Subscribe RSS-XML
December 16, 2008

Daily Alert
Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Influence Over Hamas Is Growing - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Iran's influence over Hamas has increased in recent months and Tehran is playing a key role in the terror group's decision-making process regarding whether to extend the cease-fire with Israel that will expire on Friday, Israeli defense officials said Monday.
According to the officials, Egypt - which for years was the main address for dealings with Hamas - has lost its authority over the terror group and is being replaced in part by Iran.
The Gaza issue has been a source of contention between Tehran and Cairo in recent weeks.
See also Iranian Pressure on Hamas to Terminate the Lull with Israel - Amir Buhbut (Maariv-Hebrew)
As the head of the Hamas political bureau announced this week that the cease-fire with Israel will not be renewed, Israel's security establishment says that Tehran is pressuring Hamas to act against Israel and is sending weapons to Gaza.


President Bush Hosts Hanukkah Reception (FOX News)
President George W. Bush hosted a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Monday.
Hanukkah commemorates the Jews' successful rebellion against suppression of their religion under the Syrian-Greek empire in 165 BCE.
Bush compared the Maccabees' victory with the founding of the State of Israel, which he called "another miraculous victory."


Israeli UAVs to Fly in Afghanistan - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
In February, the Israel-made Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will make its debut in Afghanistan as the main surveillance drone for the Canadian Armed Forces, replacing smaller French-built UAVs.
The Heron is capable of remaining in the air for two days straight without refueling and can fly at an altitude of 30,000 feet, making it a difficult target for standard anti-aircraft weapons.


The Failed Muslim States to Come - Spengler (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
The present financial crisis is painful for most of the world but deadly for many Muslim countries.
Iran's President Ahmadinejad controls Iran through a kleptocracy of Central African proportions, dissipating the country's oil windfall into payoffs to an entire class of hangers-on of the Islamic revolution.
Iran's regime cannot reduce subsidies or raise taxes without losing control of the constituencies that brought it to power.
Iran must break down or break out, through a military adventure.


Egyptian Intellectuals Pay Price for Curiosity - Jeffrey Fleishman (Los Angeles Times)
Egypt and Israel made peace in 1979, but most Egyptian artists and intellectuals don't accept it, and those who do are often vilified.
Filmmaker Nadia Kamel's recent documentary about her mother's Jewish roots was attacked as a call to "normalize" relations with Israel.
Opera singer Gaber Beltagui had his membership in the musicians union suspended in 2007 when he sang at the 100th anniversary of a Cairo synagogue.

Key Links
Media Contacts
Back Issues
Fair Use
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

Israel Expels Hostile UN Rights Investigator - Isabel Kershner
Israeli authorities on Monday expelled Richard Falk, a UN investigator of human rights in the Palestinian territories, saying he was unwelcome because of what the government regarded as his hostile position toward Israel. Falk, an American, arrived in Israel on Sunday and was placed on the first available flight back to Geneva, his point of departure. A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Falk had been informed in advance that his entry would be barred.
Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton and the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, has compared Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi atrocities and has called for more serious examination of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks. Falk issued a statement this month describing Israel's embargo on Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, as a crime against humanity, while making only cursory reference to Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilian centers. (New York Times)
See also below Observations: 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Should Leave UN Job - Joel Brinkley (San Francisco Chronicle)
Six Powers and Arabs to Discuss Iran Issue - Louis Charbonneau
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany will hold a rare meeting with Arab diplomats to discuss Iran's nuclear program, top diplomats from Britain and Russia said on Monday. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the point of the meeting on Tuesday is for the six powers to discuss the concerns of Arab states about Tehran's atomic ambitions. "Iran's nuclear weapons program is increasingly recognized as a threat to the whole region of the Middle East," Miliband said. (Reuters)
Congressional Panel Cites "Tipping Point" on Nuclear Proliferation - Walter Pincus
The development of nuclear arsenals by both Iran and North Korea could lead to "a cascade of proliferation," making it more probable that terrorists could get their hands on an atomic weapon, a congressionally chartered commission warned Monday. "It appears that we are at a 'tipping point' in proliferation," the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States said in a report. The bipartisan panel, led by former defense secretaries William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger, added that actions by Tehran and Pyongyang could lead other countries to follow, "and as each nuclear power is added, the probability of a terror group getting a nuclear bomb increases." (Washington Post )
Mideast Quartet Meets to Push for Peace
The Middle East diplomatic Quartet on Monday called on Israelis and Palestinians to step up talks to end their conflict. A Quartet statement said the U.S.-brokered Annapolis process launched a year ago "is irreversible and these negotiations should be intensified in order to put an end to the conflict and to establish as soon as possible the state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel." (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Agreement in Hamas: Cease-Fire to End Friday - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
After expressing contradictory positions on Sunday, Hamas' leadership on Monday adopted a united stance: The cease-fire with Israel, which expires this Friday, will not be extended. (Ha'aretz)
See also Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues - Ilana Curiel
Palestinians in Gaza fired four Kassam rockets at Israel Tuesday morning. (Ynet News)
See also Steep Increase in Palestinian Rocket Fire Despite "Truce" - Hanan Greenberg
In 2007, Palestinians fired over 1,200 rockets and 600 mortar shells at Israel. As 2008 comes to a close, 2,900 rockets have so far been fired at Israel. In November alone, 148 rockets and 85 mortar shells were fired. A senior military official said, "The data from November proves that there is no lull....We cannot accept the terror organizations firing without end whenever they want to." (Ynet News)
See also Gaza Lull Is Dying - Alex Fishman
The Gaza lull is breathing its last breaths. The two sides are approaching a large-scale armed confrontation, according Israel's defense establishment. Gaza is armed to the teeth and has dug a network of underground tunnels extending across dozens of kilometers. (Ynet News)
Israel Releases 227 Palestinian Prisoners in Gesture to Abbas - Tomer Zarchin
Israel on Monday released 227 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. In Ramallah, Abbas greeted each of the prisoners individually with kisses on the cheeks. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert, said: "We hope these releases will be seen as an important confidence-building measure designed to strengthen the trust and the confidence in the negotiations." (Ha'aretz)
See also Prisoner Release a Confidence-Building Measure
Through this latest confidence-building measure, Israel seeks to intensify its continued dialogue with partners who are both committed to negotiations and diplomacy and opposed to terrorism. None of the prisoners have blood on their hands, and all belong to factions that support the PA and its leadership. Israel is sending a message that political achievements can be attained only through negotiations, and that the pursuit of terrorism will achieve nothing. To date, approximately 1,000 prisoners who support the PA and its leadership have been released.
It should not be forgotten that these prisoners have been convicted of participation in terror attacks against Israeli citizens. This policy reflects the priority given by the Israel government to making peace with pragmatic Palestinians. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Obama and the Middle East - Fouad Ajami
President-elect Obama has signaled that the foreign world will not be his primary concern, that the repair of the American economy will trump all other pursuits and temptations. There is a detached tone to Obama's utterances on the Islamic world. If Bush believed he could remake that old and broken and wily region, Obama signals a fatigue with it, an acceptance of its order of power. If Bush believed that he could insert himself into the internal affairs of distant Islamic lands, Obama and his foreign-policy advisers portend a return to realpolitik and to a resigned acceptance of the ways of foreign autocracies.
One thing is sure to go with Bush when he departs: his "diplomacy of freedom." That diplomacy - which propelled the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which drove the Syrians out of Lebanon after they had all but destroyed the sovereignty of that country, and had challenged pro-American allies in Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula - is gone for good. The writer is professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. (Wall Street Journal)
Saudi Columnist: We Need to Get Over Our Obsession with Israel
Saudi columnist Turki Al-Hamad wrote in Asharq Alawsat on Nov. 16: "Israel and Zionism have always been the axis around which the other components of modern Arab political culture revolved, and the measure against which the compass of Arab politics was largely set. This is in addition to the fact that [this axis] has been the primary 'justification' for every failure and disaster in modern Arab life: from the failure of the project of the great Arab renaissance and of the great Arab unity, to a child's death by starvation in Basra [Iraq]."
"Israel should not be our greatest concern, nor should Palestine be our be-all and end-all. For even if Israel disappeared entirely, and we had a new Palestinian state from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea to add to the list of Arab states, the situation would still remain the same....Israel, and behind it the West and America, has not prevented us, and cannot prevent us, from building good schools if we want to, and putting in place forward-looking curricula. Israel will not prevent us, and cannot prevent us, from respecting humans and human rights in our countries, if we really wanted that. Israel will not prevent us, and cannot prevent us, from eradicating illiteracy in our countries or rooting out corruption." (MEMRI)

9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Should Leave UN Job - Joel Brinkley (San Francisco Chronicle)

Last month Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, published an article in a Scottish newspaper entitled, "9/11, More Than Meets the Eye," in which he writes that theories that the Sept. 11 attacks were a conspiracy planned and executed by the Bush administration warrant further investigation.
Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, notes that "People who question whether 9/11 happened are not serious people. No one in the United States or the West could be in positions of authority if they engaged in 9/11 conspiracy talk."
It's a free country; you're entitled to think whatever you like. But this is fringe stuff. The Human Rights Council is already an embarrassment to the UN. Certainly reasonable people can criticize Israel, just as they can find fault with the Palestinians. But the council's pathological obsession with Israel is its defining characteristic, and Falk is its embodiment.
The man whose job now is to help the Islamic states pursue their vendetta against Israel also believes that the U.S. government is capable of unspeakable evil.
The writer is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times

my hanukah videos

My videos on Hannukah -our next Holiday
Menorah Hanukah lighting rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg jewu 452
Hannukah The real story JewU 31 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Jews, Hanukah, and the Christmas dilemma JewU290
Hanukah message don't let the lights go out JewU 312
Hannukah songs and blessings sung JewU 69
How to play Chanukah dredyl JewU281
Chanukah miracle needed today jewu 305 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

video 2 on vayeshev

Video on aprasha vayeshev vayeishev

Friday, December 12, 2008

Daily alert from Presiden't council

Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
December 12, 2008

Support the Daily Alert

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt's Mubarak: "Iran Wants to Devour the Arab World" (Jerusalem Post)
Egyptian President Mubarak told a meeting of the Egyptian ruling party that "the Persians are trying to devour the Arab states," according to a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida on Thursday.


Hamas May Have Gotten Cash Israel Transferred to Gaza - Avi Issacharoff, Jack Khoury and Tal Levy (Ha'aretz)
PA officials in Ramallah have admitted that some of the NIS 100 million in cash transferred to Gaza banks Thursday may have found its way to Hamas.
The transfer was approved to enable the PA to pay salaries to some 70,000 employees in Gaza.
In private conversations, senior PA officials - including PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad - admitted that there is no way to check whether the entire sum really reached the employees.
Some of the banks' branch managers and tellers cooperate with Hamas, they explained, and could easily have diverted some of the money.


Persian Gulf Funds Flowing to Terror Networks - Michael Jacobson and Matthew Levitt (Guardian-UK)
The Persian Gulf remains a major source of funding for al-Qaeda and its affiliates, with millions of dollars being sent from the region to terrorist groups.
Recipients of this largesse include the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), suspected of perpetrating the recent attack in India.
LeT operatives and supporters are particularly active in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. LeT's finance chief, Haji Muhammad Ashraf, has traveled to the Gulf to raise funds for LeT. In 2003, he helped LeT leaders in Saudi Arabia increase fundraising there.
Similarly, the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation was designated as a terrorist-supporting entity in part because its office in Pakistan supported LeT.
The authors are senior fellows at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


Jew Murdered in Yemen - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
Moshe Yaish-Nahari, the brother of a prominent rabbi in Yemen and the father of eight, was shot to death on Thursday in Yemen, Asharq Alawsat reported.
Eyewitnesses said the killer had confronted Nahari at the market in Rida, called out to him "Jew, accept the message of Islam," and then opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.


Arab Islamist Cleric to Palestinians: Slaughter the Jews Like You Did in 1929 (MEMRI)
Sheik Himam Sa'id, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, said on Arabic TV last week:
"People of Hebron - you are now waging a war against the Jews. You are well-versed in this. We saw how, on a day in 1929, you slaughtered the Jews in Hebron. Today, slaughter them on the land of Hebron. Kill them in Palestine. Arise, oh people of Palestine...arise and face the [PA] Preventive Security forces."
"What will you say to the Jordanian government? Expel the Jewish ambassador from Amman. Amman is pure, and the Jewish ambassador must not defile its soil....Stop normalization with the Jews. Stop all imports and exports with the Jews. Our markets are full of Jewish vegetables and Jewish fruits. Traders who bring these fruits and vegetables are traitors, collaborators."


Iran Detains Iranian-Canadian Blogger Who Visited Israel - Anna Johnson (AP)
Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger who made trips to Israel and helped ignite the blog boom in Iran in 2001 by posting simple instructions on how to create sites in Farsi, was arrested on Nov. 1 in Tehran.
Derakhshan traveled to Israel in 2006 and 2007, saying he wanted to break the taboo on contacts with Israel and show Israelis a different face of Iran.


Better Place Unveils Prototype of Electric Car Recharging Station in Israel (Israel21c)
Mobility operator Better Place unveiled the prototype of its electric car recharging station in Israel Sunday. The station was designed in San Francisco and developed in Israel.
Better Place, which was launched by Israeli businessman Shai Agassi, plans to deploy the world's first nationwide network for charging electric vehicles in Israel, followed by networks in Hawaii, Denmark, Australia and California.


Israel to Upgrade Service for Chinese Tourists - Ma Xiaoyan (Xinhua-China)
Israel's tourism authority is taking measures to improve its service to cater to Chinese tourists in the face of a boom of Chinese sightseers.
About 14,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel in 2008, an increase of 40% over 2007, according to Israel's Tourism Ministry.
Israel expects to lure 30,000 Chinese tourists next year, said Pini Shani, director of the ministry's Overseas Department.


For Researchers: Search the Daily Alert Archive
All back issues of Daily Alert since May 2002 are available online and are searchable.
This invaluable Internet resource documents the recent history of Israel and the Middle East.
See also
Insider information on Israel's national security issues - filtered, sifted, and stored for easy retrieval - from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.


Add the Daily Alert Israel News Ticker to Your Website


Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert - and want to share it with friends - please click "Forward" in your email program and enter their address.

Key Links

Sarkozy Won't Shake Hands with Someone Who Says Israel Must Be Wiped Off the Map
Iran summoned France's ambassador to protest about what it said were "inappropriate remarks" by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, state media said on Thursday. Sarkozy, an outspoken critic of Iran since coming to office last year, said on Monday he could not shake hands with Iranian President Ahmadinejad for saying Israel should be "wiped off the map." The French envoy was also summoned in February over what Tehran said was the "unfriendly" position of Paris regarding Iran's nuclear work. (Reuters-Asharq Alawsat-UK)
Belgium Arrests 14 in Anti-Terrorism Sweep - Sebastian Rotella
As European leaders arrived in Brussels for a summit, Belgian police on Thursday arrested 14 suspects allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, including one who police believe was close to launching a suicide attack. In a yearlong investigation, police tracked militants, mainly Belgians and French of North African origin, who traveled to al-Qaeda hide-outs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, fought against Western troops and then returned to Europe. Authorities grew alarmed during the last week when surveillance showed that a key suspect had begun making preparations for a suicide attack. (Los Angeles Times)
UK Lecturers' Union Abandons Attempts to Boycott Israel - Donald MacLeod
The UK lecturers' union has abandoned attempts to boycott Israeli universities after years of international controversy, opponents of the policy said Wednesday. In the face of legal threats, the leadership of the University and College Union has quietly dropped plans to implement a conference motion that instructed members to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions."
In response to this year's motion, a group of 12 members threatened to sue the union, arguing that it amounted to a boycott in all but name and was illegal discrimination contrary to the UCU's own rules. Prof. Michael Yudkin, emeritus professor of biochemistry at Oxford and the group's spokesman, said: "It is clear that the union has backed down, but they don't want to say it in so many words." "We are not talking about freedom of speech but proposals to discriminate unlawfully against a group of individuals." (Guardian-UK)
U.S. General Says Iran Reduces Bomb Supply for Iraqi Insurgents - Al Pessin
Lt.-Gen. Thomas Metz says Iranian officials have apparently reduced the supply of material for high-powered roadside bombs that can penetrate armored vehicles. U.S. officials say the technology, materials and training needed to build such bombs comes from Iranian agents. Pentagon statistics indicate the number of roadside bombs in Iraq has fallen from 1,200 in April to 500 in October. But during the same period, the use of such bombs more than doubled in Afghanistan. (VOA News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Israel Complains to UN over Iranian Incitement - Yitzhak Benhorin
Israel submitted an official letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday, which condemned recent remarks made by Iranian Vice President Esfandyar Rahim Mashaei, who said the destruction of Zionism should become a global goal. Shalev protested "yet another litany of repugnant and appalling statements made by the leadership of the government of Iran. The Iranian leadership continues to incite the destruction of Israel, a fellow Member State of the United Nations."
"Such language is not mere rhetoric," she wrote. "Iran takes active steps to promote its vision of the annihilation of Israel. Iran actively supplies arms, financial resources, and training to Hamas and Hizbullah terrorist organizations - both of which reject Israel's existence and a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians as endorsed by the UN. Iran continues to support other terrorist and destabilizing forces across the wider Middle East and in other areas. Furthermore, Iran continues to defy the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding Iran's nuclear program."
"Iran's language, matched with its actions, represents a danger to the work of the international community and to the principles enshrined in the charter of the United Nations. We therefore expect the United Nations' leadership and Member States to rebuke Iran's poisonous language and dangerous deeds in a clear and vigorous manner." (Ynet News)
Gen. Dayton: New PA Forces Are the Most Capable Ever - David Horovitz
U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, who is overseeing the training in Jordan of the Palestinian Authority's National Security Force for the West Bank, says the new recruits are "the most capable Palestinian security forces that have ever been fielded here." In an interview, Dayton stressed that organizing competent Palestinian security forces "improved law and order in the territories, increased safety and security for the Palestinian people, and improved security for Israel." "Nothing I or my team do here will jeopardize the security interests of the State of Israel. Period. Full stop. We won't do it. It's not what we do as Americans."
Asked whether he could unequivocally state that the new forces would never use their weapons against Israel, he responded: "What I can say is that so far, in their operations since May, there has not been a single incident of Palestinian security force engagement with Israelis. Either Israeli civilians or IDF." "Something new is out there," said Dayton. "It's worth encouraging. And yeah, we can all be skeptical, but let's not stop it. Let's keep it going." (Jerusalem Post)
Hamastan in Gaza - Amira Hass
Gone from Gaza are the flags of every color (including green for Hamas) that once flew everywhere, and the billboards commemorating shaheeds (martyrs) with their weapons. The Hamas government doesn't need external symbols to prove its strength and announce its presence. On Nov. 11, the anniversary of Arafat's death, the police in Gaza worked to conceal any symbols related to the date, the man and the movement - in addition to prohibiting the staging of any memorials. When yellow Fatah flags were hung up, police removed them; high school students who wore checkered kaffiyeh scarves - or any other symbol that alluded to Arafat and Fatah - were asked to remove them and also summoned for police interrogation. Even candles in windows in Arafat's memory were confiscated. The removal of these symbols wasn't only an expression of the government's self-confidence, but of intimidation and coercion as well. (Ha'aretz)
Egyptians Campaign to Block Israeli Visits
Egyptian members of parliament and activists are campaigning to prevent Israeli Jews from flocking to Egypt every year to visit the grave of a famous rabbi. Thousands of Israelis make annual trips to Egypt to celebrate the birthday of Rabbi Ya'akov Abu Ha'seira, a 19th-century Moroccan Jew who was considered a holy man and is buried in Demito, Egypt, north of Cairo.
Locals say they suffer from the tight security measures applied throughout the festivities, and farmers who live in the area around the tomb are being pressured into selling their land so that investors can build a resort to accommodate the annual visitors. The next celebrations are scheduled for Jan. 14, coinciding with the rabbi's Hebrew birthday. Campaigners are hoping to collect a million signatures to have the Egyptian government cancel the festivities. (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Iran's Power at the UN - Claudia Rosett
With Iran racing down the homestretch toward a nuclear bomb, the UN Security Council has spent more than two years expressing "serious concern." In flagrant violation of five Security Council resolutions and a chronic abuser of the UN charter, Iran's despotic, terrorist-backing, nuclear-wannabe regime ought to qualify for expulsion from the UN. At the very least, one might suppose that on UN premises, Iran would be something of a pariah.
But that's not how it works. Iran's government has the UN so well-wired, in so many ways, that it's hard to find an angle Iran is not busy exploiting. That ought to be of serious concern to President-elect Obama, who has promised to give the UN a far bigger role in U.S. policy.
Iran, which pays less than 1/100th of the U.S. contribution to the UN, has wangled itself an astounding array of influential slots, including seats on the governing bodies of at least eight prominent UN agencies. That setup serves both to legitimize the same Iranian regime that is busy violating the UN charter, and gives Iran a say in how billions in UN funds - much of that money supplied by U.S. taxpayers - get spent around the world. (Forbes)
Why Not to Engage Iran (Yet) - Geneive Abdo
With presidential elections six months away, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finds himself under attack from all sides. Sixty Iranian economists wrote a letter recently protesting his failed policies that have led to record-high unemployment. In many ways, Iran's leaders view Obama's election as similar to 2000, when bilateral relations seem poised for a breakthrough. But considering U.S. weakness in the Middle East and Iran's strengthened position in the region, Iranians are more optimistic that this time the U.S. is more motivated to initiate a thaw. If the Obama administration does intend to talk to Iran, however, it might be wise to wait until after the Iranian election in June. Otherwise, all the talk over the coming years is likely to be with Ahmadinejad. The writer is a fellow at the Century Foundation. (Foreign Policy)
The EU and Syria Move Closer - David Schenker
On Dec. 14, the EU is slated to initial an association agreement with Syria, a pact that had been on hold since 2004. The agreement is the latest in a series of cost-free diplomatic gains for Damascus in Europe. Europe was impressed this past May by the announcement of Israeli-Syrian (indirect) negotiations in Turkey. But Damascus has already stated it will not meet Israel's quid pro quo - a strategic reorientation away from Iran toward the West - that would make an agreement possible.
The EU's benign interpretation of Syria's regional activities does not mitigate extremely problematic Syrian behavior regarding Lebanon, WMD, and human rights. In 2006, the EU opened a civil-society awareness center in Damascus headed by Anwar Bunni, a human rights lawyer. The Assad regime shuttered the center just days after it was opened, and Bunni was arrested and sentenced to a lengthy jail term. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Israel's Strategy Against Palestinian Terrorism Pays Off - Ehud Yaari
Even though isolated bombings, shootings or stabbings may still occur, the West Bank has been thoroughly cleansed of active terrorist networks. It has taken six years - since Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 - of systematic effort to reach this result, including nightly raids, usually by small detachments, into Palestinian towns and villages to arrest or kill terrorists, concentrated and focused co-ordination between all branches of the defense establishment and, above all, acquisition of accurate, real-time, pinpointed intelligence. This achievement must be credited to the ability of the Israel Security Agency to crack the terrorist networks by making them transparent and creating an almost intimate closeness to their top operatives.
Of course, sleeper cells may still lie dormant here and there, and there is always the danger that a new network, about which there is no information as yet, is in the process of being set up. However, the production line of suicide bombers, explosive belts and roadside bombs has been totally destroyed. And attempts to manufacture homemade rockets, such as the Kassams in Gaza, have not succeeded anywhere in the West Bank, thanks to the Israeli raids. The final phase of this confrontation, directed against the Islamic Jihad terror network, has been taking place during the past 18 months in the Jenin-Tulkarm sector in the northern West Bank. Fifteen terrorists have been killed and about 150 have been captured. (The Australian)
Exporting the Iranian Revolution to Lebanon
Lebanon is a unique example of Iran's success in exporting the Islamic revolution through Hizbullah. That success is reflected in the establishment of Hizbullah's extensive military infrastructure, with a proven track record of being able to hit Israel's home front, and in the strengthening of Hizbullah's political force on the internal Lebanese scene, to the point of being able to veto decisions made by the Lebanese government.
One must also consider the extensive social and cultural network established by Hizbullah, through which Iran deepens its long-term influence in Lebanon - mostly with the Shi'ite community, the country's largest ethnic group. The ideological activity conducted by Hizbullah is meant to inculcate Lebanese society with the concept of a "society of resistance" - a society entirely devoted to a long-term armed struggle against Israel, with Hizbullah at the forefront. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Human Rights at 60 Aren't What They Used to Be - Joseph Loconte
Sixty years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt, then head of the UN Human Rights Commission, said: "Democracy, freedom, human rights have come to have a definite meaning to the people of the world, which we must not allow to so change that they are made synonymous with suppression and dictatorship." Today, the world's dictators and terrorists are no doubt celebrating the prostitution of human rights - often at the encouragement of UN policies and protocols. More than half of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council fail to uphold basic democratic freedoms in their own countries. Some of the most egregious offenders of human rights - including China, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe - typically evade censure. (Weekly Standard)
Unholy War Culture - Arnaud de Borchgrave
Almost 100,000 young boys are graduated every year from some 12,000 Pakistani madrassas, Koranic schools in which the sole discipline is the Koran, which they have to learn by heart. The curriculum is larded with slogans about the hated American, Indian and Israeli infidels who are out to destroy Islam. Madrassas are free, including one meal a day. Most students leave these religious schools at 16 and are easy prey for recruiters from politico-religious extremist movements. (Washington Times)
Weekend Features

The U.S. Spies on Israel - Dan Williams
The U.S. routinely spies on Israel to try to gather information on its assumed atomic arsenal and secret government deliberations, a new official history of Israel's intelligence services says. According to Masterpiece: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence, American spy agencies use technologies like electronic eavesdropping, and trained staff from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, for "methodical intelligence gathering." The chapter on counter-espionage was written by Barak Ben-Zur, a retired Israeli internal security service officer.
Contacted by Reuters, Ben-Zur described U.S. spying efforts as largely benign, given the closeness of defense ties between Israel and the Bush administration. "At the end of the day, the United States does not want to be surprised," he said. "Even by us." (Reuters)
Israel Developing Armed Robots That Hop Over Obstacles - Mark Rutherford
SWAT and other urban assault teams could soon be deploying packs of all-seeing robots armed with mini-missiles to ferret out bad guys. The EyeDrive unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) uses remote-controlled 360-degree panoramic video technology and a patented Point and Go sensor guidance mode to run down and "instinctively eliminate" human targets at ranges of up to 90 feet, according to the Israel-based company ODF Optronics.
This 5-pound, all-terrain UGV can be tossed - or dropped - from up to 10 feet and is self-righting. The "hopper" feature allows the EyeDrive to hop over 3-foot obstacles. ODF plans to produce an armed version in cooperation with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, another Israeli outfit, that could carry up to 16 miniature rockets. (CNET News)
Mobile Start-Ups Thrive in Israel - Levi Shapiro
Israeli companies have made their country a leader in the mobile media sector. More than 30 multinational companies operate telco-related R&D facilities in Israel. Despite the global recession, 462 Israeli hi-tech companies raised more than $1.75 billion last year - the most in six years. Israel, with a population of only 7 million, ranks second in the world (after the U.S.) in funds raised by technology start-ups, according to the World Economic Forum. According to the Israel Export Institute, Israel has the world's highest proportion of scientists and engineers with postgraduate education: 135 per 10,000, compared to 78 per 10,000 in the U.S. (Fierce Mobile Content)
Israeli Scientists Study How to Destroy Asteroids
Israeli scientists say they are studying how Earth might avoid a collision with an asteroid, as fictionally shown in the 1998 movie "Armageddon." Noah Brosch, director of Tel Aviv University's Wise Observatory, and doctoral student David Polishook said the chances of an asteroid hitting the Earth are very real. Astrophysicists agree the best method for avoiding a catastrophic collision would be to change the path of the asteroid heading toward our planet, said Polishook, but for that to work, scientists need to be able to predict what would happen in such an explosion. Blowing up an asteroid might create many equally dangerous smaller asteroids. (UPI)

Gaza: Still No Red Cross Access to Captured Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit - Pierre Wettach (International Committee of the Red Cross)

Since Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian armed factions on 25 June 2006, the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly asked to be allowed to visit and to convey family messages to him. In November, the ICRC requested that Hamas forward to him thousands of letters and greeting cards from various organizations, individuals and schoolchildren.
Unfortunately, all these requests have been refused. We will continue to do everything we can to obtain information on Gilad Shalit's condition, to gain direct access to him, and to establish contact between him and his family. We would like to meet him in private to make an independent assessment of the conditions he is held in and of his state of health.
As a humanitarian organization, we have limited leverage in these matters. All we can do is to remind those who control the situation of their obligation to act in accordance with the spirit and letter of international humanitarian law. The parties to an armed conflict, be they states or non-state groups, have to uphold the law.
The writer is head of the ICRC's delegation in Israel and the territories.

Gilad Shalit has been in captivity for 901 days.