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Archive for July, 2010

Israeli Finance Ministry explains recent IDF-sourced Hezbollah stories

July 11, 2010 11 comments

Why the sudden spate of Israeli-sourced publications on Hezbollah’s military power?

On Wednesday (July 7 2010) this one, in the Jerusalem Post, elicited a sarcastic Tweet from Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch:

Israel’s shocking discovery of Hezballah presence in….Lebanon. Believe it or not!

This morning (July 11 2010), Maariv provided a mundane (by Israeli standards) explanation from the Finance Ministry:

“it’s interesting how every time the military budget is on the table, they release from the stocks Hezbollah’s missile array and expose sensitive classified material”

—–

[Front-page teaser] The Finance Ministry accuses: “The IDF is using Hezbollah in the battle over the budget”

[Headline] Finance Ministry: Barak most expensive Defense Minister ever

[Sub-headline] The battle for the defense budget goes ad hominem; senior Finance Ministry officials: The IDF is even using Hezbollah to prevent cuts

Ben Caspit, Maariv, July 11 2010 [page 7; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

“Ehud Barak is the most expensive defense minister in Israel’s history”; “The IDF is impertinently disregarding all of the Brodet Commission’s findings, while deceiving the public”; “it’s interesting how every time the military budget is on the table, they release from the stocks Hezbollah’s missile array and expose sensitive classified material,” — these are just some of the harsh statements that were heard over the weekend among senior Finance Ministry officials and directed against the IDF and the security establishment.

A brutal struggle over the Defense Ministry’s budget is expected next week. Finance Ministry officials, headed by the finance minister versus the security establishment headed by the defense minister. A personal dual in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to give the final ruling. The cabinet is expected to vote on the Finance Ministry’s demand that the Defense Ministry’s budget be slashed next year, a cut, the Finance Ministry argues, that will only annul budgetary expansions and not harm the existing budget itself.

In order to promote the cut the Finance Ministry officials are stressing that the Defense Ministry’s budget has increased by dozens of percentage points in recent years. The finance minister himself, Yuval Steinitz, said in recent days that the Defense Ministry’s budget was soaring sky high like an F-16, whereas the other budgets were barely getting off the ground like a Piper plane.

At the core of the dispute are the different interpretations of the Brodet Report. According to Finance Ministry officials, the Defense Ministry has not been abiding by the cuts as required by the report, and has simply disregarded it.

[…]

Another sensitive issue: Finance Ministry sources accuse defense establishment representatives of deliberately “talking to the protocol” and insinuating that whoever approves cuts in the defense budget will be held accountable in the report in the next commission of inquiry. “They threaten us by transparently hinting that there is already a commission of inquiry in the background,” said the Finance Ministry sources, who called the move “unacceptable and unwarranted behavior.”

Read more…

Categories: Hasbara

Haifa Mayor wants to turn Mavi Marmara into “floating hotel” so it can become a “symbol of reconciliation and hope”

July 9, 2010 12 comments

Cruiseship Marmara

Mayor of Haifa Yonah Yahav has a creative idea: to turn the Turkish ship into a floating hotel

Amir Buhbut, Maariv, July 8 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

While Turkey is demanding Israel apologize over the flotilla to Gaza, the mayor of Haifa has an interesting idea: in a letter to the defense minister he asks to turn the Turkish ship Marmara into a floating hotel opposite the shore of Haifa.

After the 13 Israeli commandos took control of the ship and killed nine extremist activists who had tried to kill the soldiers, the ship was brought to Haifa. Since then defense officials are waiting for a decision by the political echelon about the future of the ship.

The Israeli government has not yet decided what to do with the ship, which is presently docking in Haifa under guard, but Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav showed creativity and did not wait for a decision by the political echelon. He recently sent a letter to the defense ministry calling on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to confiscate the Turkish ship and turn it into a tourist attraction.

“If Israel decides to confiscate the Turkish ship, I ask for it to be given to the city of Haifa to turn it into a floating hotel opposite the city’s shore,” Mayor Yahav wrote in his letter.

Yahav added, “I feel that Haifa, a symbol of coexistence and cooperation between all religions, would be the appropriate home for this ship, which will turn into an international symbol of reconciliation and hope.”

Read more…

Categories: Hasbara

[Video] Birthright group visits (Jewish Settlement of) Hebron?!

July 5, 2010 24 comments

The “Hebron” account at WeJew.com (a kind of Jewish YouTube wannabe) has just (July 5 2010) uploaded a video purportedly documenting a visit this month of an Australian Birthright group to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. This site is the stated raison d’être of the extremist Jewish Settlement in the the West Bank city and its cultural center. Watch the video (if it’s been taken down, I’ve embedded a recording of the video playing on WeJew at the bottom of this post): At 01:46, “Daniel”, the apparent trip leader, is interviewed. He seems to know exactly what he’s doing.

What’s the problem?

Well, for starters, in its Safety and Security rules, Birthright makes an explicit commitment to participants, parents and, presumably, insurers:

Our tours do not travel to or through areas of the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem, other than the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

In addition, Birthright has been repeatedly criticized for providing young Jewish-Americans a skewed perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the most scathing criticism has come from within the Jewish-American community. For example, here is a remarkable piece of soul-searching from a Hillel campus organizer:

So what am I doing behind this Birthright table, trying to rally Jews and only Jews to go to Israel with a program whose agenda is to make them rabid, unquestioning supporters of its actions?

Birthright has a response to this kind of criticism, which is particularly interesting in the context of the Hebron visit video:

“The conflict bubbles up,” said Barry Chazan, a professor emeritus of education at Hebrew University and education director for Birthright Israel.

“But it’s not a seminar in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. … The fact that they don’t meet the head of the Palestinian Authority doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing issues of the conflict.”

Indeed.

Hasbarapocalypse — Leaked Frank Luntz memo: Israeli public diplomacy in US on Flotilla failed dismally

July 5, 2010 26 comments

Luntz

The Israel Project (TIP), an American Hasbara outfit, commissioned Republican political consultant Frank Luntz to examine the effectiveness of Israel’s public diplomacy in the US on the Flotilla debacle. TIP gave the memo to the Prime Minister’s Office, where someone promptly leaked it to Chico Menashe, Channel Ten TV News diplomatic affairs correspondent.

Luntz’s findings are grim. Here’s a summary:

  1. 56% of Americans agree with the claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza;
  2. 43% of Americans agree with the claim that people in Gaza are starving;
  3. [Only] 34% of Americans support the Israeli operation against the Flotilla;
  4. [Only] 20% of Americans “felt support” for Israel following announcement of easing of Gaza closure.

Menashe wraps:

The figures are troubling and worrisome. If that is the situation with our great friend the US, it is easy to imagine the situation in other, somewhat less sympathetic countries.

Below is the full translated transcript of the report. An embedded link to the video is appended at bottom.

—–

Frank Luntz analyses Netanyahu’s media performance in the flotilla affair

The figures are troubling and worrisome. If that is the situation with our great friend the US, it is easy to imagine the situation in other, somewhat less sympathetic countries.

Channel Ten TV News, July 1 2010 20:38

Yaacov Eilon (host): Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considered to make an extremely persuasive presentation in the world press. But a professional analysis by a US expert presented yesterday to his senior aides strongly criticizes him. Netanyahu’s messages on the flotilla caused more harm than good. Our political correspondent Chico Menashe has obtained the report.

Chico Menashe: Criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s current PR messages and Israeli PR in general comes from the international elite of media consultants and pollsters and from the mouth of Frank Luntz, considered one of the leading American political consultants, a Republican pollster, a consultant to many governments throughout the world and to dozens of the biggest corporations in the US. He was asked by the Jewish organization The Israel Project to check the opinions of the American public on the messages Israel issued to the world during and after the flotilla events. The result is a harsh document that primarily criticizes the media strategy of the person considered Israel’s number one propagandist in the world, Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Netanyahu: Once again Israel faces hypocrisy and a biased rush to judgment.

Chico Menashe: Every time Israeli speakers begin with accusing the international community, writes Luntz, they lose their audience [emphasis mine]. For example, Netanyahu’s comments after the flotilla about the world hypocrisy were rejected by most of the American participants who listened to them. The findings were presented last night to senior members of Netanyahu’s Bureau. Luntz checked the opinions with focus groups, not a poll. He warns of a dangerous slide in the public opinion of the only country considered pro-Israeli, the U.S. Israel misses simple opportunities to change world public opinion, he writes, and the consequences are significant. The American public increasingly hesitates to accept arguments that support Israeli positions.

Ehud Barak: There is no hunger in Gaza and no humanitarian crisis.

Netanyahu: There’s no shortage of food, there’s no shortage of medicine, there’s no shortage of other goods.

Chico Menashe: Luntz says Israel must immediately stop using the argument that there is no hunger and no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He says this fatally destroys Israel’s credibility in light of the images on the television screens. Israel must admit that there is a problem, he says, to gain the listeners’ sympathy [emphasis mine]. Luntz finds the troubling figure that 56% of participants agree with the claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and no less astonishing is that 43% of participants from the American public agree with the claim that people in Gaza are starving. But even lifting the closure that was supposed to improve Israel’s image missed the opportunity, according to Luntz.

Netanyahu: Yesterday an important decision was made by the security cabinet. Its meaning is clear. On the one hand, allowing civilian goods into Gaza, and on the other hand maintaining the military blockade of Hamas.

Chico Menashe: The statement by Netanyahu’s bureau of lifting the closure missed the opportunity to gain support in international public opinion [emphasis mine]. Only 20% of the Americans polled felt support of Israel following the statement. According to Luntz, this is the summary of the flotilla damage in American public opinion: Only 34% of the American public support the Israeli operation against the flotilla, and he says that is a dangerously low percentage.

Read more…

Categories: Gaza, Hasbara

Israeli Ministry of Justice endorses extremist interpretations of Jewish Law

July 4, 2010 5 comments

Invitation to seminar

On Friday, July 9, the Ministry of Justice and the Jewish Legal Heritage Society will present a two-day seminar on Jewish laws concerning the Land of Israel.  [An invitation in Hebrew can be seen here and a translation is appended at the bottom of this post. H/T Dena Shunra.]

While I am not an expert on Jewish law, even a layman’s superficial examination of the itinerary reveals an extremely problematic agenda for a government. At best, this event serves as an official stamp of approval for the settlement movement; at worst, it provides legitimacy for extremist and hateful views. Here are the discussion topics:

  • The centrality of the Land of Israel in Jewish and general law
  • The commandment of settling the Land of Israel: “And you shall inherit it and you shall reside therein” (Nahmanides)
  • Obligation to take risks to settle the Land of Israel
  • The commandment of redeeming land in the Land of Israel
  • “And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity” (Leviticus 25:23)
  • “Show no mercy unto them” (Deuteronomy 20:16)
  • “Every person has four cubits in the Land of Israel” (Ketubot 111a)
The problematic nature of the topics is underscored by the background of two of the four speakers who will be interpreting them: Rabbi Dov Lior and Professor Nachum Rakover.

Lior

Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, provides the most extreme example.  At the New Jewish Congress in November 2007, Rabbi Lior called for a “return to real Zionism,” explaining that the Jewish People must settle and conquer the Land of Israel and that the latter commandment:

involves military force, with all the associated risks.  For many years we did not have the ability to fulfill this Torah commandment, but now we can – and so we must!  We must not fear the threats of the evil ones, but we must rather persist, and not allow the weakness of our government to become a ‘weeping for generations.’
His positions on Palestinians are extreme, as demonstrated by several statements he has made throughout the years.  For example, in 2008 he ruled that Jews must not employ or rent houses to Arabs.  Moreover, he has embraced violence against civilians publicly:
There is no term in the Halacha that states one must consider innocents during war. Of course we must stop terrorists from shooting, even if the only way to do so includes harming civilians.
And has called on IDF soldiers to refuse to evacuate settlements, since such an act is “illegal according to the laws of the Torah.”  There have been a number of cases in which he was responsible for soldiers’ refusal (Hebrew) to follow orders.

Even more remarkable is Rabbi Lior’s view of Baruch Goldstein’s terrorist attack in Hebron in 1994, when he murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs and injured many more.  When Goldstein’s coffin was brought to Rabbi Lior’s own settlement of Kiryat Arba for burial, Lior delivered a eulogy in which he praised Goldstein, saying that he:

was full of love for fellow human beings. He dedicated himself to helping others.
Most recently, Rabbi Lior endorsed (Hebrew) a book entitled Torat Melech (The King’s Torah), written by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, which explains when it is permissible to kill non-Jews.  The book argues that one may kill non-Jews and their children if their presence is dangerous to the Jewish people and if one is sure that the children will grow up and harm Jews.  Rabbi Lior called the book “very relevant especially in this time.”

Rakover

Another lecturer headlining the event will be former Israeli Deputy Attorney General Professor Nachum Rakover, President of the Jewish Legal Heritage Society.  In an interview with BBC, Rakover posited that — when it comes to Israel — any State law that provides an obstacle to settling the Land of Israel in its entirety should be subverted.  The quote reads:

Our right to the ‘Land of Israel’ is a very important precept, according to the Torah.  There is a Hebrew idiom – the law of the land is the law – but there are laws between man and God which cannot be changed.  This applies to giving up land because the settlement of Jews in the ‘Land of Israel’ is one of the most important precepts of the Torah. The Torah was given for the purpose that Jews will preserve the Torah in the ‘Land of Israel’ in its entirety.
Categories: Jewish Fundamentalism

Yediot: Hebron Brigade commander cancels UK study trip for fear of arrest

July 4, 2010 2 comments

The Brigade commander won’t go

Yossi Yehoshua, Yediot, July 2 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The IDF was forced to cancel the departure of the outgoing Hebron Brigade commander, Col. Udi Ben-Moha, to study in the UK. Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the army feared that Ben Moha would be arrested upon landing due to suspicion of involvement in war crimes in the territories.

Col. Ben Moha began his military service in the Naval Commando. After doing the officers’ course, he went to the Golani Brigade, then he was the deputy commander of the Egoz unit, after that he commanded the Netzarim sector in Gush Katif as the Shimshon Battalion commander, after which he served as the commander of a reservist brigade and formed the Sagi Brigade that operates on the Israel-Egypt border.

Recently Ben-Moha concluded his latest position as the commander of one of the most sensitive sectors in Judea and Samaria: the city of Hebron, where the level of friction between the Palestinians and the settlers is the highest.

As early as a year ago Ben-Moha worked out with his commanders that after leaving the brigade, he would study overseas. At this time the outgoing brigade commander is in the final stages of preparing for his move to London, along with his family.

But in the course of a consultation held recently in the State Attorney’s Office and among top IDF officers, concern was raised that British left wing activists or Palestinian activists were liable to ask the British authorities to issue an arrest warrant against the Israeli officer. It was therefore decided last week not to take the risk and to cancel Ben-Moha’s study trip.

Israel has discerned in recent years a worsening in the attitude to IDF officers in Europe in general, and in the UK in particular. The UK has become very problematic for officers wishing to visit, since British law makes it possible for civilians to submit a criminal complaint against people suspected of war crimes. That is why the IDF considered forbidding officers from stopping in London, even for a short stopover, on their way to another destination.

Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that last week IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu went on a trip to London for PR purposes. Before his trip, the IDF held a situation assessment meeting during which concern was raised that Benayahu might encounter displays of violence during his stay in the British capital. This is because of the fact that the identity of the IDF spokesman, who often interviews because of his job to the foreign media, is known to television viewers world over. After the flotilla affair, it was even decided to place guards at  Benayahu’s home, who lives in a kibbutz in the Sharon region.

[…]

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy, Impunity

Maariv: Ahead of summit, Netanyahu to meet with Obama’s “rivals” — McCain, Lieberman and Specter — in Israel

July 4, 2010 2 comments

Netanyahu to meet with Obama’s rivals in Israel

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv July 4 2010 [page 6; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

[…]

Netanyahu is scheduled to leave for Washington tomorrow, for a meeting with President Obama.  Israeli sources in Washington assess that he does not intend to extend the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria beyond the date that was determined—September, and does not intend to submit maps with borders.  They say that the meeting is expected to deal with launching direct talks with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu will arrive in Washington with a list of all items that are banned from entering Gaza, and are defined as weapons or support materials for warfare.

Before taking off for Washington, Netanyahu will meet in Israel with three US senators, who are among Obama’s bitter rivals, and are considered strong supporters of Israel and opponents of the American pressure being applied to it.  This refers to the Republican presidential candidate who ran against Obama, John McCain, as well as Senators Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter, who took advantage of the Fourth of July vacation to visit Israel and express support for it.

Today, Netanyahu’s advisers — National Security Adviser Uzi Arad and Attorney Yitzhak Molcho — will leave for Cairo and meet with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, as part of the preparations for Netanyahu’s visit to Cairo after his return from Washington.  Netanyahu is expected to update President Mubarak about the results of his meeting with Obama, and discuss with him the peace process and the Iranian nuclear threat.

[…]

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy
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