Saturday, May 29, 2010

Facebook blocked in Bangladesh

by Blitz Desk
May 30, 2010

Weekly Blitz
Facebook blocked in Bangladesh
At the demand of radical Islamists, the ruling government in Bangladesh has blocked extremely popular social networking site Facebook for indefinite period for publishing cartoon of the prophet of Islam.
Millions of potential users of Facebook in Bangladesh experienced this blocking from Saturday early morning. Approximately 1 million people use internet facilities in Bangladesh.
Officials of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission [BTRC] confirmed government's decision in blocking the Facebook site.
The source further claimed that, the site was blocked by the Bangladesh government for publishing a satiric cartoon of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia. A team of Rapid Action Battalion [RAB] arrested a youth named Robin for uploading this cartoon in Facebook.
Last year, Bangladesh government blocked popular site YouTube for publishing a conversation tape of the Prime Minister and several officers of Bangladesh Army right after the massacre inside Bangladesh Riffles Headquarters on February 25 [2009].
Earlier on Friday, a number of radical Islamist groups staged several demonstrations in front of the National Mosque in Dhaka [Bangladesh] demanding immediate blocking of this site. It is understood that, Bangladesh government has taken this decision of blocking Facebook to appease the Islamists.
For past several years, Islamist groups are becoming active in Bangladesh, as they hold significant number of seats in the Parliament, thus mostly becoming coalition partners of the governments. A number of Islamist parties have welcomed government's decision of blocking Facebook.
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Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz
PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006
Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007

Friday, May 28, 2010

Halabja, Iraq - Twenty-two years ago, in this dusty town hard up against the mountainous border with Iran, Saddam Hussein's military used chemical weapons to murder 5,000 Kurdish men, women and children.

The Halabja massacre was only the most infamous atrocity of Operation Anfal, a name Sadam took from a sura of the Koran that details permissible conduct against enemies of Islam. Of course, most Kurds are Muslims. But they are not Arabs. Kurds have had their own distinctive culture and language since long before armies from Arabia embarked on the first jihads -- wars of Islamic conquest -- in the 7th century.

The goal of Operation Anfal was genocide. At least 150,000 Kurds were slaughtered, many having first been herded into concentration camps where mass executions were conducted. More than a million Kurds were driven from their homes.

Kurds have not forgotten that, in 1991, Americans established a "no-fly zone" over Iraq's Switzerland-sized Kurdish region, to provide them some protection from Saddam's predations. They regard America's 2003 military intervention in Iraq as their liberation. Iraqi Kurds now enjoy substantial self-rule. Kurds living as minorities in Syria, Iran and Turkey do not.

Six months after the collapse of Saddam's regime, the Kurds erected a memorial on the edge of Halabja. It includes haunting photos; those of mothers clutching babies to their breasts as they died in the streets are perhaps the most heart-wrenching. A sign, in fractured English, gets its point across nonetheless: "Live and victory for all nations. Death for all kinds of racism."

One result of this experience: Kurds see Americans as their allies and friends. "We appreciate the sacrifices Americans have made to liberate Iraq and bring the possibility of freedom," Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Regional Government, tells me and other members of a delegation of journalists and think tank analysts.

Many Kurds also have empathy for -- and even feel an affinity with -- Israelis and Jews. Unusual as this is within the "Muslim world," it makes sense when you think about it: Like Kurds, Jews are an ancient Middle Eastern people. Like Kurds, Jews have been targeted for genocide. Like Kurds, Israelis face an uncertain future among neighbors who range from merely hostile to openly exterminationist.

At a university in the Kurdish capital of Erbil, students meeting with our delegation express admiration for Israelis' courage - somewhat to the chagrin of their American professor.

A Kurdish driver, discovering that he and I both speak Russian, launches into a lively conversation that begins with praise for America. He soon tells me there is one other country he'd like to visit: Israel. Why? Because Israelis, like Kurds, have been persecuted yet have managed to survive, achieve and prosper.

A Kurdish journalist says that Iran's Islamist rulers cannot be trusted, noting that they recently executed 5 Kurds "because they were Kurds." He adds that Iran "supports Hezbollah. And we know what Hezbollah does to Israel."

Publicly, Kurdish officials state that Iraq ought to have peaceful relations with all its neighbors - without exception. Some go further: "We have no problems with Israel," explains Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Department of Foreign Relations. "They have not harmed us. We can't be hating them because Arabs hate them. We think it is in the interest of Iraq to have relations with Israel. And the day after the Israelis open an embassy in Baghdad, we will invite them to open a consulate here."

He notes that Israel is one of the few functioning democracies in the region and that Kurds, too, are attempting to build durable democratic institutions both in their homeland and in the rest of Iraq. Kurdistan, Bakir adds, is sometimes called "the second Israel."

Historically, Jews are not strangers in this land. They settled here as early as the eighth century B.C. In pre-Islamic times, some Kurdish royalty is believed to have converted to Judaism. Even today, such prominent families as the Barzanis have Jewish members.

Of course, Jews once lived throughout the broader Middle East, from Morocco to Afghanistan. However, after World War II and the founding of the state of Israel, Arab governments turned on their Jewish minorities. As recently as the 1940s, Jews constituted as much as a third of Baghdad's population. By the early 1950s, almost all had been expelled, their properties confiscated. The Iraqi government forced Kurdish Jews into exile as well. Many went to Israel where they harbored an understandable resentment toward Iraqi Arabs - but not toward Iraqi Kurds. In the 1960s and 70s, Israelis provided assistance to Kurdish rebels.

Kurds today appear to grasp this equation: If there is no place for Jews in the Middle East, there is not likely to be a place for Kurds either. The ongoing religious and ethnic cleansing of the "Muslim world" may be the biggest story journalists are not telling, political leaders are not highlighting and human right activists are not protesting.

Ancient Middle Eastern Christian communities - e.g. Copts, Maronites, Chaldeans -- are under assault, virtually powerless, their numbers shrinking in Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Pakistan and elsewhere. Somewhat more attention - though little meaningful action - has focused on the plight of the Darfurians of Sudan and the Baha'i of Iran.

Kurds say that, in their land, they are committed to tolerance - and they use the word not in the literal sense of abiding those who are distasteful, but in the American sense of respecting minority rights and valuing diversity.

This is not a common perspective in the modern "Muslim world." But Kurdistan is unique in many ways. Here it is recalled that Saddam Hussein not only had Weapons of Mass Destruction -- he used them. Here the arrival of Americans troops did cause people to dance in the streets. Here, it is possible to imagine Middle Eastern Muslims, Jews and Christians living in peace, improbable as that has come to seem.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Author Polakow-Suransky: Israel is not an apartheid state

Interview with Sasha Polakow-Suransky, source for Guardian report on Israel and South Africa

Just Journalism

The Guardian's front-page story, 'Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons', by Chris McGreal, was triggered by uncovered documents revealed in 'The Unspoken  Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa',a newly published book by Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a senior editor at the New York-based Foreign Affairs magazine. In his book, Polakow-Suransky claims that the extent to which Israel traded with apartheid South Africa was much greater than had previously been assumed. Drawing on declassified documents from the South African archives, he argues that in 1975, Israeli defence minister Shimon Peres 'formally offered to sell South Africa some of the nuclear-capable Jericho missiles in its arsenal' via Peres' counterpart in Johannesburg, P.W. Botha.  The supposed codename of this project was 'Chalet'.

Peres, now president of Israel, has vigorously
denied these allegations, saying that they have 'no basis in reality.' Additionally, historian Avner Cohen, author of 'Israel and the Bomb', has responded to The Guardian story saying that the 'headline, sub-headline, and lede of Chris McGreal's story are erroneous and misleading' because the documents uncovered by Mr Polakow-Suransky only show that South Africa was probing Israel about the purchase of nuclear weapons, and that the probe ultimately went nowhere. Cohen writes, in a letter posted on The Guardian's website, that any such sale would have to have been authorized by Israel's then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and 'I believe that both Rabin and Shalheveth Freier, the head of the nuclear program, would have opposed the sale of nuclear weapons, technology, or even components — not just to South Africa, but to anyone. And note that this was 1975, when nonproliferation norms had yet to take shape fully.' [Cohen gave a similar argument in this Independent article.] Polakow-Suransky has elsewhere been asked about the validity of the inferences he's drawn from the 35-year-old documents.

Following Just Journalism's
analysis of The Guardian's editorial framing of the McGreal article, our executive director Michael Weiss spoke to Sasha Polakow-Suransky to address The Guardian's coverage, as well as his own view about the moral and ideological analogies between the Jewish state and apartheid South Africa.

Michael Weiss: What do you think of The Guardian's coverage of your book, as well as its editorial framing of the story?

Sasha Polakow-Suransky: I don't think this is the most explosive or damning revelation in my book, to be frank. I wouldn't have picked this for the front-page of a major world newspaper. There are other historical occurrences that I found to be more revealing and interesting. For instance, the ongoing missile cooperation on a latter-day version of [the 'Chalet' missile  project] in the late 1980s, when dozens of Israelis were in South Africa helping to build the nuclear arsenal. They were working on a Jericho-based missile system and the Israelis were providing all of the rocketry expertise. Another big story, which I discuss in the book, was the Israeli purchase of South African uranium with all the safeguards lifted.

MW: In The Unspoken Alliance, you write that the turning point for Israel's willingness to ally with rogue regimes was the Six-Day War [in 1967] and Israel's increased alienation on the world stage. Arab oil wealth was used to pressure other African nations to sever their ties with Israel, France stopped arming it, the USSR turned against it, and the only real ally left was the United States. There was also the rise of a right-wing faction in Israel, you argue, that mistook the struggle against the African National Congress as tantamount to the struggle against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Yet despite these forbidding circumstances, you still write that men like Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres 'saw Israeli security as paramount and they were willing to make moral compromises in order to ensure it. It was precisely this worldview that would drive the alliance with South Africa.' 'Moral compromises' suggests that they knew better and felt queasy about their dealings with a racist state. Is that accurate ?

SPS: I think that quote encapsulates it, yes.

I believe that there are several different types of categories of Israeli government officials throughout this period. This is a crude division but, I think, a revealing one. Basically, I'd put in the first group Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion and Abba Eban - the founding fathers and mothers of the nation who were not just  queasy but outright opposed and viciously critical of apartheid. These people spoke out against it, they allied with black African states. They represented the moral vision of Israeli policy.

Then you have the second category: the Labour party category, which consisted of staunch realists. Shimon Peres has had a technocratic vision to secure the state no matter what. Security was his top priority. This new breed of Labour politicians were willing to make moral compromises that the previous generation wasn't willing to make. It was strict realpolitik. Look at the country in the wake of the Second World War. The arms industry was a bright spot of the global economy. South African needed weapons. So Israel and South Africa got in bed together.

I'm harsh toward Peres in my book because of his sanctimony. He blended the rhetoric of the first group with an incredibly shameless support and engagement with South Africa behind the scenes. Peres comes across as a sanctimonious hypocrite.

[Israeli prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin made a few statements when [South African prime minister John] Vorster visited Israel in 1976. Moshe Dayan never quite went as public. They generally denounced apartheid and supported the alliance behind the scenes.

Finally, there's a third group. These are the Israelis who came up in the Revisionist Zionist tradition, high level security types that included Ariel Sharon, Raful Eitan, Eliayahu Lenkin.. All of them made pretty blunt statements of support for South Africa on anti-Communist grounds, on the grounds that 'one man, one vote' would be the end of the white South Africans.  They didn't have many reservations expressing support on those grounds.

So yes, I think it's fair to say that in certain circles there was an ideological affinity. The correspondence between leading Israelis and their South African counterparts during this period bears this out. Sharon and Eitan were writing letters to their counterparts and saying we face a common threat and common enemy. The PLO and the ANC are one and the same. There was a real sense of a common lot and a common purpose.

A pure realist explanation that one would be encouraged to give to this relationship doesn't quite cover it. What I do in the book is to try and trace the element on the Israeli right and the military establishment -- strains of the Revisionist movement and people who went beyond Vladimir Jabotinsky -- that has a lot in common with the basic tenets of Afrikaner nationalist thought.

Of course, there were latter-day Golda Meirs who fought against this alliance in the late 1980's and tried to revive the old Labour tradition, like Yossi Beilin.

Anyone who reads the book carefully should see that these typologies exist.

MW: Gary Younge in his
comment piece uses your book and The Guardian expose to indict critics of Richard Goldstone who have pointed out that as a judge in apartheid South Africa he was responsible for ordering the death sentences of several black men. Is this a non sequitur or do you see your book as having any bearing on the Goldstone Report or the chorus of commentary that has arisen from it?

SPS: Actually, I made that argument myself originally in [US magazine]
Foreign Policy and then in the Huffington Post. The Goldstone Report has many flaws but it can be attacked on its own merits without resorting to character assassination, so once I saw what was coming from [current Israeli speaker of the Knesset] Reuven Rivlin and [current Israeli deputy foreign affairs minister] Danny Yaalon about Goldstone's past, I was inclined to remind them of Israel's own. You have to also keep in mind Goldstone's involvement in the transitional period and that he was appointed to the Constitutional court by Nelson Mandela. If you're to do any kind of moral accounting, Israel comes out worse. I see these attacks on Goldstone's record as a distraction. Focus on the report.

MW: There are many in the UK who'd argue that Israel is in effect running an apartheid state at present. What makes you disagree with this assessment? You disclaim the analogy in the introduction to The Unspoken Alliance.

SPS: The tipping point for me is a minority governing over a majority. That's the core definition of political apartheid. The little apartheid, or the petty apartheid -- separate benches, beaches and so on -- is not as important. It is offensive but not as distasteful and unjust as a minority governing over a disenfranchised majority.  That is what Israel should be afraid of. I'm viciously critical of the response to Jimmy Carter's book ['Palestine: Peace not apartheid', published in 2006] in the epilogue to mine. While I'm no fan of the book, the reaction was a revival of all of the 1980's denialism that surrounded the relationship between Israel and South Africa. Rather than substantively engaging the apartheid analogy crowd, they just started crying anti-Semitism.

There are people who'll look at this book and use it for that agenda. I knew that would happen all along. I'm very careful with how I present the information, and I think that the argument stands on its own merits. Anyone who wants to make an 'Israel is an apartheid state today' argument is going to have a hard time citing my work. I endorse the two state solution and argue that, while Israel may one day become analogous to South Africa, it isn't yet.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gaza 'Militants' Torch UN Children's Summer Camp

Behold the immorality: A similar UNWRA-organised children's camp last year

What brave soldiers of Allah they must be. The religion of sexual insecurity strikes again:

Masked gunmen attacked a U.N.-run summer camp for children on Sunday after militants in the Gaza Strip accused the United Nations of promoting immorality in the religiously conservative enclave controlled by Hamas Islamists.

About 20 men, some carrying assault rifles, tore up large plastic tents and burned storage facilities at the site, where tens of thousands of children are due to attend camp sessions, said Ibrahim Elewa, a private guard who was on duty when they struck.

Two days earlier, a previously unknown militant group, "The Free of the Homeland", issued a statement criticising the camp's organiser, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for, "teaching schoolgirls fitness, dancing and immorality".

Fundamentalist Muslims, or Salafis, whose agenda of global or holy war against the West is against Hamas's nationalist goals, have stepped up attacks in the Gaza Strip over the past several months, targeting Hamas security men and offices.

"No doubt in my mind that it is vandalism linked to a certain degree of extremism. It is an attack on the happiness of children," John Ging, UNRWA's director of operations in Gaza, told reporters at the damaged camp.

Taher al-Nono, spokesman for Gaza's Hamas government, condemned the attack "by a group of gunmen" and pledged authorities "will track down the perpetrators".

Hip-Hop Concert
Last month, Hamas made its own move against what it viewed as immoral conduct, sending police to break up the Gaza Strip's first major hip-hop concert. It said organisers failed to get a permit.

Ging pledged the summer camp, in which boys and girls will be separated in accordance with traditions and values in the religiously conservative territory, would be held as planned.

"The good news for children is and the good news for their parents is UNRWA will not be intimidated by such attacks," Ging said, adding that Gaza's youngsters "deserve to have a smile on their faces".

Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah movement in fighting in 2007.

The Gaza Strip is under an Israeli-led blockade and the West shuns Hamas over its refusal to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

Although we remain convinced that the UNWRA effort in Gaza has been successfully infiltrated and undermined by the Islamist extremists of Hamas, there is little doubt that the intention behind the summer camp was well-meaning; offering kids a break from the day-today life what has to be one of the world's worst places to grow up – regardless of the viewpoint from which one approaches it.

Once again Muslim men with guns, motivated by the sexual insecurity and mysogynistic exhortations of Islam, use their perverted idea of 'immorality' as the flimsiest justification for ruining what little enjoyment might be had by children growing up in an environment run by similarly-motivated Muslim men with guns.

Pity the children of Islam – particularly the girls – and shame on the Islamist men that hate (and fear) them.

[Source: Reuters AlertNet]

Jewish World Review April 20, 2010 / 6 Iyar 5770

Why this rabbi didn't vote for Obama — and why I made the correct decision

By Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg

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Share and bookmark this article | I must begin by telling you that I was uncomfortable writing this sermon. I wondered whether it was too harsh or not harsh enough. I asked myself if I should be delivering it or if I should have delivered it two years ago. So I'll leave it to you to decide.

This week Israel celebrates the 62nd anniversary of its rebirth … the greatest event in modern Jewish history. You know by now how much Israel means to me. From my perspective, an Israel comes along once every 2000 years so it is to be cherished, protected and loved. In two weeks I will make my annual visit to that beautiful country, taking along my entire family, which means that for my oldest granddaughter — who is 7 years old — this will be her fourth visit but for my youngest granddaughter it will be her first. We are all excited for her! Israel is at the very heart of my family's existence.

It was with this feeling uppermost in my mind that I chose not to vote for Barack Obama for President. Although I felt he offered a measure of hope for our country, and although I felt the election of a black man as President of the United States would be one of the most positive and remarkable events to take place during my lifetime, and although I agreed with many parts of his domestic policies … it was his foreign policy views that concerned me and proved decisive. I have a much more hawkish view than he does on foreign policy. I have always considered myself what is called a "Jackson Democrat" and I was genuinely concerned about Obama's perspective on Israel. My feeling was based on something he had said and something he didn't say.

What he said was said in February of 2008 in a meeting with a hundred Cleveland Jewish leaders. Here are his words: "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says: unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, that you are anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we're not going to make progress … because of the pressure that Israel is under, I think the U.S. pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective or concerned about opening up that conversation."

What he said was not so terrible and I have to tell you that I respected him for having said it. He was very honest about his feelings. What he was basically saying was that he does not agree with the policies of a Likud government and that American Jews should be more prepared to debate those policies. Now, Mr. Obama is entitled to his opinion. It is just not my opinion! Does that make him an anti-Semite? Absolutely not! We have got to stop that kind of foolish talk. There are many Israeli Jews who agree with what he said … there are many American Jews who agree with what he said! But I'm not one of them! And knowing that after years of Hezbollah and Hamas and suicide bombings and kidnappings and rocket attacks, a majority of Israeli voters don't agree with his perspective, it seemed obvious to me that if he were elected President, there would be a clash between his policies and Israel's policies. Sad to say, I was right.

But as events have unfolded, even sadder to say unfortunately I think I was right in my concern about what Mr. Obama had not said. For 20 years he went to a church whose minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, spoke in terms that were both critical of America and of Israel. And Mr. Obama had never raised his voice in protest. He not only should have, he could have! Let me tell you about a man who, in similar circumstances, did! His name is Abraham Foxman, and he is the head of the Anti-Defamation League. Mr. Foxman was a member of a prominent synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey but he found himself in a similar position. And he left his synagogue.

In his words, "I tried to have my rabbi change his views. I went to fellow congregants to see if they could have an impact on him. Only at a point in time where that didn't happen I resigned." And he went on to say, "It was a wrenching decision, this was a synagogue where my son was Bar Mitzvahed, this was a synagogue where every happy event and every sad event I celebrated … this was my religious home." But he got up and left!

And when Rev. Wright's words came out into the open, I asked myself: why didn't Mr. Obama do the same? And it wasn't just a matter of Rev. Wright's words and it wasn't just a matter of Mr. Obama's close relationship with him … it was a matter of the whole church being enveloped with a "liberation theology" with it's Bulletin reprinting pro-Hamas articles. Wouldn't all this have had an effect on Mr. Obama's thinking? I asked myself.

James Tisch, the Manhattan billionaire and Chief Executive of Loews Corp. and long time activist in Jewish causes and philanthropies, thinks it did! In light of everything that has now been unfolding, Mr. Tisch recently said, "I think the President comes to this from Jeremiah Wright's church and there is no doubt in my mind that in Jeremiah Wright's church the Palestinians were portrayed as freedom fighters and not as terrorists." In light of Mr. Obama finding the time to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, but not Israel … in light of his refusing to take a picture with Prime Minister Netanyahu after their recent meeting … in light of so much emphasis being placed on the settlements … in light of the recent resurrection of Zbignew Brezinski … in light of new talk about an imposed settlement … in light of all this and more, I have to agree with Mr. Tisch.

I don't like what is happening, but that, in and of itself, is nothing new. There have always been conflicts between the United States and Israel. In 1956 the Eisenhower administration forced Israel to withdraw from captured territories despite Egypt's belligerency. In 1967 President Johnson warned Israel not to go to war and became the first American administration to condemn Israel's settlement activities. The Nixon administration tried to impose the Rogers Plan, forcing Israel back to the 1949 Armistice lines. Jimmy Carter … well, Jimmy Carter was, is and will always be Jimmy Carter. Ronald Regan was a friend but he was a friend who withheld weapons from Israel in punishment for its attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor. I could go on and on … there have always been conflicts; there have always been disagreements.

And one has to expect that! America is a global superpower … Israel is a country of seven million people. America's view is of the woods and Israel's is just one of the trees! So, disagreements are to be expected amongst friends. But the disagreements that are now taking place between America and Israel are different than the disagreements in the past. They are different on two levels.

First, for the first time that I can think of, Israel is being accused of being the one that is the hindrance to peace. That's never happened before! Despite all the disagreements between Israel and the United States, it was always understood that after all is said and done, it is the Arabs and Palestinians who have resisted making peace. The Ford and the first Bush administration refused to negotiate with the PLO. Bill Clinton clearly stated that it was the Palestinians fault that Camp David fell apart. Bush the Second refused to even talk to Yassir Arafat, saying he was an impediment to peace. Now? Now Mr. Obama goes to Cairo and says the first step toward making peace possible is freezing the Israeli settlements. He asks nothing tangible from the Palestinians. The Palestinians refuse to even negotiate, but its Israel's fault! And then when the clash erupts over the Jerusalem housing, Secretary of State Clinton and the others insist that Israel has to do certain things to show it is committed to making peace. Mr. Obama calls on Israel to take "bold steps" for peace but again, nothing tangible is asked from the Palestinians! Israel should show that it is committed to making peace? Israel should take "bold steps?"


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What was Camp David, which the Palestinians rejected? What was the Gaza withdrawal, which the Palestinians responded to with rocket attacks? What were the Olmert concessions to Abbas, which only led to the Palestinians refusing to negotiate? What was Mr. Netanyahu's accepting a two-state solution and a partial freeze of settlements? And what was the removal of most of the check-points in the West Bank? And what were the "bold steps" the Palestinians took besides refusing to even indirectly negotiate, refusing to compromise on the right of return, refusing to accept a demilitarized state, refusing to accept Israel as a Jewish state, refusing to recognize any Jewish historic claims to Jerusalem … All they really seem to have agreed to do is to name more of their streets and squares after terrorists and suicide bombers. And Israel should show that it is committed to peace? Sen. John Kerry goes to Damascus and proclaims that Syria is committed to the peace process. Really? But with Israel there's a question?

I don't like what's happening. This has never happened before! And to make matters worse, Israel is not only now being blamed for hindering peace with the Palestinians, talk has started to boil to the surface that Israel is to be blamed for the death of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a libel … this is a blood libel! We've heard these accusations before, but they always came from the extreme fringes; from the Pat Buchanans and others of his ilk. Now the talk is becoming more mainstream. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, was quoted as saying that Israel's stubbornness makes the U.S. appear impotent. In a statement later denied, Vice President Biden was quoted as telling Prime Minister Netanyahu, "What you are doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan." U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus sends a statement to the Pentagon with a stark warning: "America's relationship with Israel is important but not as important as the lives of American soldiers."

A member of the administration is quoted as accusing Dennis Ross of having a dual loyalty. And we're told that it's all "misunderstood" or "misquoted" … it "doesn't mean anything." Well, I could read you quotes from the Palestinian Chronicle and from the Jordan Times and from the Middle East Online, Beirut's Daily Star and many other pro-Palestinian papers that have taken these words very seriously and are emboldened by them.

In fact, I don't have to quote from Arab sources, let me just read you the headline of a recent editorial in USA Today: "Our view on the Middle East: Israeli Settlement Push Hurts U.S. Interests, Peace Process" … with the editorial including these frightening words: " … if Americans whose own family member's lives are at risk every day in Iraq and Afghanistan come to believe that Israel's action needlessly increase that risk, support would be jeopardized." Those words are true, you know. You know why our country has supported Israel these last 62 years? It's not because of Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives; it is because of the American people. Every survey shows an overwhelming majority of American people supporting Israel, even during oil embargos, and that support is there because there is something about the American people that are able to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, terrorists from innocent civilians and democracy from tyranny. The only thing that could change the feelings of Americans would be if our country's service men and women were dying because of Israel. And a mood is emanating from Washington that could lead people to believe just that! What else is one to make of Mr. Obama's statement this week that the Middle East conflict was "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure." What a horrible thing to say! The truth is, the Middle East conflict is affecting the blood and treasure of Israeli boys — not Americans. No American blood has been shed for Israel but plenty of Jewish blood has been! A real friend would not say this is Israel's fault.

I know that some of my words are going to bother some of you, but please understand if I didn't say them it would bother me even more! The fact of the matter is, this administration has from day one made improved relations with the Muslim world a primary goal, going as far as to ban the use of words like "Jihad" and "Islamic terrorism." It is unfortunate that to date, America's outreach of a friendly hand has not been reciprocated, which leads some to blame it all on Israel. If Israel would only give up what it is entitled to, the women of Al Qaeda would take off their burqas and join the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Taliban would sing Hava Negilah around the campfire, Hezbollah and Hamas would join Hadassah and the Shiites and Sunis in the Middle East would say: after 1400 years of killing each other, let's co-sponsor a Kiddush at Beth Tfiloh! It's just little Israel that is standing in the way of all this!

Well, let me tell you: it has been pointed out that the Jews have always been in the way! Look in the Bible … every time Babylonia or Syria wanted to invade Egypt, little Judea was in the middle. The Jews developed a unique set of rituals and beliefs; they couldn't offer sacrifices to the images of Roman emperors, they wouldn't work on the Sabbath and so to the Greeks and the Romans, they stood in the way of world domination. And then came another religion whose followers proclaimed that it was the fulfillment of the one the Jews practiced, but the Jews refused to go along. And so our people were portrayed as being the devil who were to be eternally dammed. And then came Islam … Mohammed was eager to win over the Jews. After all, he was a monotheist … why couldn't the Jews go along? And if they had, Mohammed would have a solid base from which to operate. But the Jews refused to go along. And so we were portrayed as being monkeys. In modern Europe, the Jews were in the way of middle-class Frenchmen and Germans who were seeking their jobs. The Communists found them in the way because Jews didn't fit into simple class categories. Eventually, Hitler came along and decided to once and for all eliminate this universal inconvenience. It didn't happen then and it's not going to happen now!

Meir Dagan is the head of Israel's Mossad. Under his directorship the Mossad, in recent years, has rebuilt its reputation for lethal and successful operations. What motivates Mr. Dagan may become obvious to a visitor to his office in Tel Aviv, where on the wall there is a picture of an old Jew standing on the edge of a trench … an SS officer is aiming his rifle at the old man's head. "This old Jew was my grandfather," Dagan tells visitors. The picture reflects his philosophy for Israel's survival. In his words, "We should be strong, use our brain and defend ourselves so that the Holocaust will never be repeated."

I don't fear that the Holocaust will be repeated. This is not 1938 all over again. But in some ways, it is 1948 all over again, when there were leaders in the upper most echelons of the American government including the Secretary of State, who urged the President not to recognize Israel, saying that such recognition would stand in the way of Arab friendship with our country. President Truman didn't listen to them. Instead, he listened to the words of his advisor, Clark Clifford, who told him, "In an area as unstable as the Middle East, where there is not now and never has been any tradition of democratic government, it is important for the long range security of our country — and indeed the world — that a nation committed to the democratic system be established there; one on which we can rely. The new Jewish state can be such a place." That's just what the new Jewish state has been for the past 62 years.

Sure, not every Israeli soldier acts like a saint, and not every Israeli policy is an act of genius. There is certainly room for criticism but that should not blind anyone to the fact that despite all the provocations and incitements, despite Palestinians using their children as human shields and their wives as suicide bombers, despite acts of barbarism and terrorism … despite all this there is no country on earth more desirous of peace, more willing to compromise for peace than the people of Israel. And this too I know: that as American Jews we should take Meir Dagan's words to heart: "We should be strong and use our brains …" And one thing more. We dare not despair. We dare not lose hope.

Barack Obama entitled his book "The Audacity of Hope" — a title he got from Rev. Wright. The truth of the matter is the history of the Jewish people could be entitled, "The Audacity of Hope," as expressed in Israel's national anthem, the Hatikvah, meaning "the hope."

Its author, Naphtali Herz Imber, once said, "Kings, Earls, Cardinals will all pass away … but I and Hatikvah will remain forever."

He was right! The hope remains forever …" to be a free people in our land, in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.

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Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg is Senior Rabbi of Baltimore's Beth Tfiloh Congregation. Comment by clicking here.

We've come a long way, Bibi

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