Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pro-Israel in San Diego - Remembering Gilad Shalit

The San Diego Israel Coalition held a rally for Gilad Shalit, in captivity for four years.
Here's a video of NBC TV News coverage - Gilad Shalit Rally in San Diego

It is quite a coup for a brand new organization to get network news coverage for their event. Watch these folks and learn!

In San Diego Jewish News, Tinanarie Bernard reports about the San Diego Israel Coalition :

As I contemplate the efforts of those within Israeli’s borders to advocate for religious freedom for Jews, I know some readers might question the importance of the topic. Certainly in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident that left many of us outraged at an apparently botched effort, rightly commissioned, but imperfectly enacted, it seems that addressing Israel’s global PR problem is as pressing an issue.

Should Israel fix her image abroad before dealing with a lack of pluralism? Will pushing back on a rigid rabbinate — by carving space for Reform, Conservative and other non-Orthodox Jewry, even converts — make a difference in the long-term security of Israel? Or does Israel need to engage the Diaspora in better ways, educating Jews abroad to assist her in her right to defend her citizens?

After learning more about a new organization, the answers to all are a hopeful yes. Two newly formed organizations, one in San Diego, the other in Israel, are lending their might to both of these efforts.

Following the now infamous flotilla incident, a new group has formed in San Diego — the San Diego Israel Coalition — to discuss what individuals can do locally to support Israel. Before the Coalition even formed, the group, eager to support Israel amid local pro-Palestinian rallies, managed to do something small, remarkable and upwardly focused: they, along with Morris Casuto of the Anti-Defamation League, organized a peaceful pro-Israel counter rally. The counter rally drew local press and helped empower the local community to take back the dialogue from an increasingly noisy and hostile media.

“We took the other side by surprise and motivated hundreds of San Diegans that there was a place for them to stand up and show their support for Israel,” said Audrey Jacobs, who, along with Michael Lurie, is organizing the group.

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response, Jacobs and Lurie formed the San Diego Israel Coalition, “a grassroots, passionate, inclusive pro-Israel group focused on powerful and peaceful Israel advocacy in San Diego, working in partnership with all local pro-Israel organizations,” Jacobs said.

By the time this article goes to print, they will have had their first community-wide meeting to mobilize future actions.

“The State of Israel…will ensure complete equality of social and political rights of all its inhabitants irrespective of religion…it will guarantee freedom of religion and conscience.”

Noble words that echo the familiar tenets of America’s promise put forth by our own founding fathers; indeed, constitutionalists have argued that religious tolerance, even freedom from religion, is paramount to a thriving democracy. But as the organizers behind state, there is a gap between what is written on paper and what many Israeli citizens experience on a day-to-day basis.

They further note that a close alliance between religion and politics, even in a Jewish state, has led to the creation of laws that “undermine democracy, human dignity and civil liberties.” points to other complicating factors in the failure to build a pluralistic society. Not only are the ultra-religious less likely to enter the workforce and more likely to require lifetime state aid, but “approximately 25 percent of Jewish boys study in state-funded ultra-Orthodox educational institutions which illegally refuse to incorporate core studies into their curriculum. These schools either do not teach or teach very little civics, mathematics and English. Worse, they often transmit the message that democracy is incompatible with Jewish values.”

That is another reason why the work of the San Diego Israel Coalition is so important. Both efforts are historic; they are necessary to create the global paradigm shift of thinking that, if accomplished, will strengthen both Judaism and Israel. They go beyond just religion and they address a broader purpose, one about which we don’t really have a choice: If we want to be safe, we’ve got to be strong and unified.

For more information on the San Diego Israel Coalition, email Audrey Jacobs at sdisraelcoalition(at)

Way to go!

Ami Isseroff

Mosab Yousef gets some justice

The U.S. government's attempt to deport Mosab Yousef was bizarre, as noted in this letter to the Washington Post. What were they thinking?

Saturday, July 3, 2010; A18

How utterly incomprehensible was the U.S. government's attempt to deport Mosab Hassan Yousef ["Why deport a friend?," op-ed, June 30]. As a Hamas defector, collaborator with Israel and religious apostate, he literally would have been handed a death sentence. On Wednesday, however, the government dropped its opposition to Mr. Yousef's request for asylum, and he is likely to be allowed to stay in this country.

How much more compelling a case for political asylum could there have been? Particularly absurd was the cited rationale for deportation: consorting with terrorists in the course of foiling many proposed attacks.

In the shadow struggle with Islamist radicalism, nothing is more critical than intelligence gathering. There is no surer way to deter the potential informers or defectors who could supply such vital information than the horrible example that Mr. Yousef's deportation would have set. That would have been not just a personal tragedy but a national security blunder of the first order.

Richard D. Wilkins, Syracuse, N.Y.

Saudi Arabia denies Abdullah said that Israel and Iran don't deserve to exist

Published: Jul 3, 2010 00:29 Updated: Jul 3, 2010 00:29
JEDDAH: A Saudi government spokesman denied Thursday what was published by the French Le Figaro newspaper on its website on June 30 quoting Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah that Israel and Iran do not deserve to exist.
"The report is totally untrue," the spokesman said and expressed his astonishment that the newspaper published such false information without verifying it. The spokesman expressed his hope that the newspaper would deny the report so as to ensure its credibility, the Saudi Press Agency said.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Not everyone hates Israel - Even in South Africa

World doesn't hate us
While covering World Cup in South Africa, Ynet reporter surprised to find Israel fans
Izzy Ein Dor Published: 07.01.10, 11:02 / Israel Opinion

SOUTH AFRICA – "Just don't say you're from Israel," several people told me just before I departed for South Africa, to cover the World Cup. At first I listened to them and tried to avoid the issue of nationality. Yet on the second day there, a local guy heard me speaking to a friend in Hebrew and asked whether we're from Israel. "Yes," we replied, and his eyes shone with glee.

"Oh, I love Israel. You're living in a complicated country and nobody understands your situation," he told us, while introducing himself as Hector. As it turned out, Hector's brother is living and working in Israel. "He told me how beautiful it is in your country. I'm still dreaming of coming to Tel Aviv the first chance I get," Hector said.

That same Hector started recounting Israel's story as if he was one of us. He spoke about terror organizations, which sometimes hide under cover of peace groups, told us about the similarities between South Africa and our tiny country, and even displayed astonishing familiarity with our sports teams.

A day later, I arrived at the airport in order to check the prices of a local flight. After discovering that it's quite an expensive deal, I spotted the small sign of a bus company operated by South Africa's Tourism Ministry. This time, I did not hide my Israeli nationality when asked about it by one of the representatives there.

"I'm from Israel, do you know it?" I asked. "Sure, we love Israel. Just like South Africa, in your country you must also suffer from a negative and inaccurate image," the woman replied, and surprised me with her familiarity with my homeland. "Everyone thinks that your country is only about wars and bombs and terror, but I heard that it's not like that." I told her that she's right, and that I too heard scary stories about South Africa, yet all I found so far were genuine, polite, and nice people.

Friends from US and Portugal 

Well, as it turns out, the South Africans who suffered so terribly under the apartheid regime – which some in the world compare to Israel – happen to like us. Later that day, a short while before the US-Ghana game, my friends and I met people from other countries who also feel sympathy for us. The guys from Ghana wanted to find out more information about us, while displaying their familiarity with almost all Israeli soccer teams.

As to the Americans, it was hard not to be impressed by the number of fans who arrived from the US. A sea of people wearing blue and red flooded the street behind the stadium. Chris told us he is with us on the war on terror, Amy said she visited Israel before, and Jonathan happened to be Jewish. All of them apparently like us.

Next, two girls from Portugal wanted to learn some words in Hebrew, and in the German team's training camp the journalists smiled when I said I'm from Israel. Later, an Italian journalist fondly recalled his visit to the Ramat Gan stadium where he covered an Italian team playing in Israel.
To be honest, it appears that we are the only ones who are preoccupied with the question of our legitimacy in the world. Most people do not have a firm view about Israel and they treat us just like they would anyone else.

I don't know why we think the whole world hates us, but if there is one thing I learned in South Africa, it's that our problem is our image. At the end of the day, we need to continue being who we are – smiling, intelligent, and warm, without trying to change. Those who didn't like us before the blockade, or the flotilla, or some battle, will continue to object to us. Yet for most people, Israel is just Israel.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The liberal case for Israel

The liberal case for Israel. A simple and irrefutable message, for those who are willing to listen.



Urban Kibbutz, Tikkun Olam and Zionism

A rather frank discussion of the A - word (Aliyah) issue that is so scary for many Diaspora Jews, and a reminder that Tikkun Olam is not inconsistent with Zionism and Aliya. Urban Kibbutz is one of the many ways in which people do Tikkun Olam in Israel.

Let's hope it flourishes. It is certainly a much more constructive way of corrrecting the ills of Israeli society than attending a BDS rally in California and a more Zionist sort of Tikkun Olam than helping homeless people in Detroit.


Kibbutz Galuyot? I'd rather have Kibbutz Mish'ol

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By Anton Marks
Discussions around the Friday night dinner table are a Jewish institution. The raison d'être of Shabbat is indeed to pause between the previous week and the next, to reflect and search for meaning in our busy lives. It's the quintessential communal meal: sitting around a table with others, valuing congenial conversation and engaging story-telling. Having said all that, it could also be due to more mundane reasons; the abundance of food (How do you get those potatoes to come out so crispy?) or the wine that is known to loosen the tongue.
A few weeks ago I found myself getting worked up during one such conversation. It was a veteran oleh (yours truly, 11 years in the country) talking to a new oleh (an Australian, a matter of weeks) and the topic for discussion: Aliyah. Now, to be fair, in these situations where passion can take over, arguments can become rather polarized. I found myself expressing with fervor, my bewilderment, confusion and even frustration, as to why young, well-educated, socially adept Jews would swap the well-trodden path of career, family and mortgage in Australia for the very same trinity here in Israel.
Now don't get me wrong, I dig the words of the Hebrew prophets, especially the bit about the Kibbutz Galuyot (Ingathering of the Exiles). I believe that the 200 year old modern Jewish question has been answered by Zionism. The rebirth of the Jewish people involves its return to Israel from exile, developing a Jewish culture, renewing the Hebrew language and creating a sovereign Jewish commonwealth.
Is this what the Australian olim are fulfilling? The answer is an unequivocal yes. I know an Australian-Israeli lawyer, a business entrepreneur, another in hi-tech and another who is in town planning. They serve in the army, pay their taxes and generally hold left-leaning political views. But even though the choice to migrate 14,000 kilometers from the 'land of plenty' to the "land of milk and honey' cannot be underestimated, the Prophets of Israel called for more – they called for us to create a 'Light Unto the Nations' no less. " As far as I see it", I explained to our perplexed dinner guest, "you are either part of the problem, or part of trying to find the solution. Just another Israeli citizen who lives here, earns here and votes every couple of years is basically perpetuating Israeli society as is, without significantly changing it for the better."   Now for the killer punch: "What if the new oleh came on aliyah to live in the settlements, diverting government resources towards building Jewish houses over the green line. Not just maintaining the status quo but actually making things worse. What if they used physical violence against Palestinians too?"
So where was this Friday night dinner gathering taking place? I live with other olim in an urban kibbutz of predominantly Israeli-born members. This urban kibbutz, Kibbutz Mish'ol*, is part of a wider movement of communities situated throughout the length and breadth of Israel which recognize that today's pioneering is living and working in the geographical and social periphery of Israeli society. By running after-school clubs for children at risk, providing unique drop-out prevention classes for high school-students and much, much more, we see it as our mission to renew Israeli society as an egalitarian, Zionist and democratic society.
I firmly believe that as individuals, we are as good as impotent in our ability to make anything more than cosmetic changes to the surrounding society. At best we can relieve some of the symptoms of the diseased society, but without the fundamental change needed to transform the roots of the problem. Yet, a federation of movements, made up of communities of like-minded people who possess a cohesive message in the form of a shared vision and a strategy to implement this vision, that choose to work together towards long-term social change, is today flourishing in the spirit of the Prophets of Israel.
*Kibbutz Mish'ol is named after an article by Yosef Chaim Brenner, one of the pioneers of Hebrew literature. Mish'ol means path, and the path of action which began with the pioneers 100 years ago, is continuing to be laid today, by those working day and night to build a more just Israeli society.

PA continues to promote the denial of Israel's existence:

June 29, 2010
Palestinian Media Watch

PA continues to promote the denial of Israel's existence:
PA TV quiz presents world
in which all of Israel is "Palestine"

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

The Palestinian Authority TV's weekly game show between competing Palestinian universities continues to deny Israel's existence through the questions posed to the quiz contestants.

Last week, three different questions and matching answers on The Stars all reflected a world view in which Israel does not exist.

One PA TV quiz answer taught that the length of "Palestine's" coast was 235 km. Gaza's coastline is only 45 km. long and Israel's Mediterranean coastline is approximately 190 km. long. Presenting "Palestine's" coast as 235 km. presents a world in which all of Israel is "Palestine."

Another quiz answer described the Israeli city of Nazareth as a "Palestinian city." A third answer taught that the size of "Palestine" was 27,000 sq. km. - an area that includes all of the State of Israel, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The West Bank and Gaza Strip comprise less than 7,000 sq. km.

PA TV is under the direct control of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's office.

It should also be noted that PA TV displayed the EU logo as background throughout the quiz.

Click to view PA TV quiz show questions and answers

PA TV introduced The Stars TV program in November 2009. The first season was funded by the European Union and the quiz questions all related to Europe, covering such topics as history, geography, personalities, government, culture, arts, and sports. Each program featured competing representatives from two Palestinian Authority universities or colleges. The first competition ended in January 2010, and the last program showed a prize ceremony with the participation of Minister of Welfare Majda Al-Masri; Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Karake; and director of the MAAN news agency, Nasser A-Lahham.

In May 2010, PA TV announced a new season of the program, which is being sponsored by the cell phone company Jawwal. Although the prominent use of the EU logo suggests that this season is also sponsored by the EU, Palestinian Media Watch has been unable to verify whether this is the case.

Following are the transcripts of the three questions denying Israel's existence on the PA TV quiz show The Stars:

TV host: "[True or false:] The Palestinian coast is 335 km long.
Palestine Polytechnic team - your answer was correct.
The answer is 'false.' It's 235 km.
[Note: 235 km is distance from southern Gaza to Israel's northernmost point.]
[True or false:] "The Palestinian city known as 'the Chamomile of Palestine' is Haifa.
The answer is 'false.' [Correct answer is] Nazareth.
[Note: Nazareth is an Israeli city.]
Here is a simple question. The area of Palestine is:
1. 27,000
2. 51,000 sq. km.
3. 81,000 sq. km."
Student: "The answer is 27,000 sq. km."
TV host: "Of course, we should all know the area of Palestine. 27,000 sq. km. That is the correct answer."
[Note: 27,000 sq. km. includes the area of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.]

[PA TV (Fatah), June 25, 2010]

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PMW | King George 59 | Jerusalem | Israel


Monday, June 28, 2010

A Call to the Sane Within Saudi Arabia

A Call to the Sane Within Saudi Arabia


Tarek Heggy

A little over two hundred and fifty years ago an alliance was forged between Mohamed ibn-Saud and Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab, whereby the former agreed to rule according to the doctrine preached by the latter. Mohamed Ibn Abdel Wahab had laid down the broad outlines of his call (I shall not call it a school of jurisprudence, for the man was simply a missionary, not a theologian) by 1798, a year which witnessed the first confrontation with the West in modern times, namely Napoleon's campaign into Egypt. The first years of the fledgling Saudi state (soundly crushed by Ibrahim Pasha in 1818), and the second Saudi state (which came to an end in 1891) were marked by an obdurate rejection of modernity and of all signs of modern civilization, combined with hatred of non-Muslims and indeed of all Muslims who did not follow the same tenets. The Egyptian or Syrian Muslim who saw nothing wrong in singing, for example, was considered by the first and second Saudi states to be no better than an infidel. And when the Brotherhood of Najd fought against King Abdel Aziz for allowing the signs of modern civilization such as radio and the motor-car into the Kingdom, as well as permitting foreigners into the Arabian Peninsula (bearing in mind that this was during the twentieth century), they were simply giving vent to the archaic tenets and beliefs of a system of jurisprudence that had no place in modern times, and could have survived nowhere except in a terrain of this kind whose geographic features imposed its isolation. The ideas of the Wahabi school are typical of a superstructure (thought) born of a specific infrastructure (the geo-political and economic features of the Najd desert), and adherents to this school cannot conceive that no other place on earth would have put up with such beliefs. They are living proof of the truth of Marx's conclusion, derived from the theories of both Feuerbach and Hegel, that there is a definite link between the ideas and beliefs of a community and the infrastructure (geographical and economical) in which it lives.


Long before the Americans used the Islamists during the Cold War to help them defeat the Soviet Empire, Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud used Islamists to consolidate his power. In 1912, he incepted and financed a movement known as the Ikhwan, a forerunner of the Islamists/jihadists deployed by the Americans against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The symbiotic relationship between Abdul Aziz and the Ikhwan ended in 1930 with a ferocious battle between the erstwhile allies when the Saudis, led by King Abdul Aziz, crushed the Ikhwan, led by Faisal al-Dawish. The Ikhwan's religious views were so extreme that they considered any sign of modernity or progress the work of the Devil. As their alliance with Ibn Saud coincided with a period of great scientific advances, they had plenty of abominations to contend with: the telegraph, cars, telephones then radios were all regarded as sinful and anyone who did not resist them as a heretic. Such was the fanaticism of this lunatic fringe that one of its members advanced on the Sultan [Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud] with a pair of scissors and proceeded to shorten Ibn Saud's robes in full view of his entourage, thereby driving home the message that the principles of Wahhabism were stronger than the authority of the Saudis.

Abdul Aziz, first as prince, then sultan then king, used the Ikhwan when he needed them to further expand his suzerainty. For like all those who welcome death as a passport to paradise, they were fearless fighters. The problem was that they were equally fearless in standing up to Abdul Aziz whenever they considered him to have deviated from the true path. During the years of their increasingly uneasy alliance [from 1912 until he succeeded in asserting his dominion over most of the Arabian peninsula in 1925], fierce clashes often broke out between them. For example, they lashed out at him when he stopped riding camels and took to riding cars, publicly berating him when "he left Riyadh in 1925 on the back of a camel and returned in a Cadillac!" This was the last straw for the sultan, who could not countenance any challenge to his authority as the undisputed leader of most of the Arabian Peninsula. The final showdown came in a battle between Abdul Aziz and the Ikhwan . They were routed and their leader, Faisal al-Dawish, was captured and imprisoned, dying in captivity a few years later.

But the question is whether the Saudi state, successful though it may have been when it came to defeating its enemies, has been equally successful in ridding itself of the fanatical ideas propounded by the Ikhwan of Najd. The truth is that the Saudi state, whether in its first, second or third incarnations, has never been free of the pernicious effects of the doctrine preached by the Ikhwan.

Today the Saudi state resists the education of women, frowns on television broadcasts, bans women drivers and considers music and singing sinful. All attest to the continued influence of Ikhwani ideas in the Kingdom, as do the ban on teaching music and philosophy in Saudi schools and the refusal to appoint women to the Shura Council or in cabinet posts. There is also the spate of fatwas inspired by this madness, like the fatwa in which Ibn al-Baz concludes that the earth is not round and the one proscribing the sending of flowers to the sick! To stop the madness, the Saudi establishment must take a firm stand preferably accompanied by a psychological campaign.

Having said that, however, we must in all fairness distinguish between Wahhabism, its Ikhwan offshoot and the Saudi family. The truth is that not one of the nineteen books written by Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab calls for any of the excesses required by the Ikhwan. Also, even though the Saudi family entered into an alliance with the Wahhabis at a certain political stage and with the Ikhwan at another, it does not necessarily share their views.

I believe the House of Saud has reached a watershed in its relationship with both the Wahhabi school and the remnants of the Ikhwan. The House of Saud, which is not ideologically implicated in the ideas of Wahhabism and the Ikhwan, is today called upon to do the following:


•  Stand up to extremist elements in the country like their father did eight decades ago.


•  Remove Wahhabi and Ikhwan zealots from influential positions in the institution of education.


•  Remove Wahhabi and Ikhwan zealots from influential positions in the Ministry of Wakf , [religious endowments] Da'wa [the call to Islam] and Hajj .


•  Abolish the system of state-sponsored religious vigilantes who patrol the streets and mete out instant punishment for any perceived violation of strict Islamic practices, in total contradiction with the concept of the modern state.


•  Reduce the huge budget allocated by the Kingdom to the religious establishment [nearly three billion US dollars] and reallocate it to the fields of education and health.


•  Encourage moderate professors of Islamic jurisprudence to set a timetable for introducing their students to Hanafi, Maliki and Shafite sources in place of the Hanbalite sources now exclusively in use, so that in time the people of Saudi Arabia reach a stage of religious maturity in which they recognize that the doctrine of Wahhabism is not the only, or even the major, model of Islam. 


•  Launch an offensive against the Ikhwani obduracy on such issues as the appointment of women ministers, the inclusion of women in the Shura Council, allowing women to drive, allowing male teachers to teach female students and female teachers to teach male students, in order to promote a climate favourable to enlightenment and progress.


•  Given that hundreds of the Islamic centers established by Saudi Arabia throughout the world have become a breeding ground for fanaticism and extremism and crucibles for violence, blood lust and terrorism, an alternative plan must be laid down to transform them into community service centers rather than allow them to continue disseminating obscurantist ideas that spawn a mentality of violence which has distorted the image of Islam in the eyes of the world over the last few decades.


I firmly believe that unless the descendants of the great King Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud follow the example he set with his stand against the Ikhwan of Najd and their leader, Faisal al-Dawish, eighty years ago, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is headed for a highly detrimental confrontation with advanced societies. I also believe that the collapse of the Saudi regime, whether in favour of the extremists or of the trend calling for the country's partition and division would represent a great strategic danger to all the countries of the Gulf and the Middle East.





ITUC Union Confederation Rejects anti-Israel BDS

World's unions reject boycotts, embrace Israeli-Palestinian cooperation

By ericlee
[From TULIP]

The international trade union movement has just delivered a stinging rebuff to advocates of the campaign to boycott Israel.

At its second world congress which just concluded in Vancouver, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) rejected calls to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targetting the Jewish state.

A vehemently anti-Israel resolution submitted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions never made it to the floor.

And in a stunning blow to pro-Hamas activists in some unions, the Israeli national trade union center Histadrut was honored by the global trade union movement.

Its leader, Ofer Eini, was elevated to the ITUC's 25-member Executive Board as well as its General Council.  Eini was also elected as one of the organization's Vice Presidents.

The ITUC has 312 affiliated organizations in 156 countries and territories representing 176 million workers.

Eini's election followed calls by major unions in the UK and elsewhere for the Histadrut to be boycotted.  Instead, the international trade union movement has embraced the Israeli unions, understanding them — correctly — to be important partners in building peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a resolution adopted by the ITUC congress, the positive role of the Histadrut was made explicit:

"Congress welcomes the landmark agreement between Histadrut and the PGFTU on the rights of Palestinian workers, which was finalised with the assistance of the ITUC in August 2008, and initiatives by Global Union Federations in their sectors to support cooperation in defence of workers' rights. This agreement, and other actions to promote decent work and end discrimination, are crucial to building the basis for just and equitable economic development."

For the future, the ITUC resolution declared:

"Congress commits the ITUC to continue to support the strengthening of cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli trade union movements and calls upon the international community to support Palestinian economic reconstruction and development, including through the ILO Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection."

In addition, the world's trade unions

  • Called for a two-state solution — and "universal recognition of Israel's right to exist, next to an independent viable Palestinian state"
  • Rejected "the extremist policies of Hamas"
  • Condemned the Egyptian "decision to impose heavy restrictions on its border with Gaza"
  • Acknowledged that Israeli's December 2008 attack on Gaza came "in response to rocket attacks"
  • Supported the 2002 "Road Map" for peace proposed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union

The resolution adopted was highly critical of many Israeli policies, calling for an end to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, rejecting the blockade of Gaza and the building of a security fence, and so on.

But what stands out clearly is the commitment by the vast majority of the world's trade unions to a two-state solution and to strengthening Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation.

This is welcome news for Israelis and Palestinians and a blow to the supporters of Hamas who have tried hard to isolate and demonize Israel within the trade union movement.

UNRWA condemns second attack on Gaza Summer Games locations

Will we see any flotillas to rescue the summer games locations? Outraged humanitarians making speeches? Or will the "humanitarians" support the wrecking of the camps by religious fanatics?
Ami Isseroff
Press Release
 Gaza ,  28 June 2010


UNRWA condemns second attack on Summer Games locations

At 0230 on Monday 28 June 2010, a group of approximately 25 armed and masked men attacked and set fire to and destroyed an UNRWA Summer Games recreation facility on the beach in Nuseirat, Gaza. The guards at the facility were physically assaulted and handcuffed but they were not injured. Fortunately no one else was hurt in the incident.

The attack is the second of its kind in a month, following on from an attack on Sunday 23 May 2010 when a group of approximately 30 armed and masked men attacked and set fire to an UNRWA Summer Games recreation facility then under construction on the beach in Gaza city.

UNRWA's Director of Operations in Gaza, John Ging, condemning this second "cowardly and despicable act" said that "the overwhelming success of UNRWA's Summer Games has once again obviously frustrated those that are intolerant of children's happiness." He went on to say that "this is another example of the growing levels of extremism in Gaza and further evidence, if that were needed, of the urgency to change the circumstances on the ground that are generating such extremism." Ging said that UNRWA's response would be simple: "UNRWA will rebuild the camp immediately and will continue with its Summer Games program which is so important for the physical and psychological wellbeing of Gaza's children, so many of whom are stressed and traumatised by their circumstances and experiences." Ging also complimented the emergency services who were quick to respond and ensured that the damage caused by the attack was minimised.

UNRWA's Summer Games, conducted for the fourth year with the full support and involvement of the community, is the largest recreation program for Gaza's children providing a diversified set of activities including sports, swimming, arts and crafts, theatre and drama. The Summer Games commenced on 12 June and will run through 5 August, providing 1,200 summer camps for over 250,00 refugee children across the Gaza Strip.

- Ends -

For more information please contact:

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972-(0)54-216-8295
Office: +972 (0)2-589-0724

Chris Gunness
UNRWA English Spokesperson
Mobile: +972-(0)54-240-2659

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Israel supporter Salehuddin Choudhury's newspaper needs help

Choudhury's pro-Israel Bangladeshi newspaper is in danger of erasure
Seth Mandel
June 25, 2010

Reading the reports on the state of newspapers today, and following the New Media revolution, you couldn't be blamed for thinking advertising and the riddle of the online paywall are the media's most pressing challenges.

Such is life, and worry, in a free country.

In reality, while newspapers are struggling in the West (from 2007-2009, the industry's revenue dropped by 30 percent in the U.S., according to the OECD), journalists elsewhere in the world -- especially in repressive states -- put their lives on the line. It is this combination -- falling revenue and the constant threat of death -- that has pushed Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury's newspaper to the brink.

Choudhury's paper, The Weekly Blitz , is published out of Bangladesh. When it was founded in 2003, advertising revenue wasn't an issue. But as soon as the Blitz started publishing pro-Israel editorials, local businesses in this Muslim country immediately started shunning the paper. Later that year, Choudhury was arrested at the airport heading to a writer's conference in Tel Aviv, tortured for 10 days, and kept in solitary confinement for 17 months at a Dhaka prison.

He is still on trial for sedition, blasphemy, and treason, for which he would be executed if found guilty.

Choudhury speaks eloquently about the fight against radical Islam and the moral imperative of supporting Israel. He is an unabashed Zionist, which many of our readers -- who filled a room in November 2009 to hear him speak -- know well.

In that speech, Choudhury mentioned that the police protection he was finally granted after the intervention of the U.S. Congress -- most notably Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) -- has been removed. As if on cue, six weeks after Choudhury gave that speech in New Brunswick, armed robbers broke into his home. The commotion woke the neighbors, and the men fled.

Such incidents have become routine, unfortunately, though Choudhury refuses to flee Bangladesh or convert out of Islam. "I remain important to the Muslims because I am a Muslim," Choudhury said back in November. "The moment I become an ex-Muslim, it makes no difference. If you want to reform a class, you need to be a member of the club. I am a member of Islam and I demand a reform in Islam... preaching hate is not the Islam that I follow; the Islam I follow is where I can embrace a Jew as a brother."

He has always been frank about his Zionism. "Today, Israel is suffering, tomorrow the world will suffer," he told me when we first met. Israel, he said, "is a land blessed by God. And God will protect his land."

And it goes without saying that bravery has never been a weakness for him. But now he is in the position of needing our help. It can't be easy for him to ask for it, but it should be easy for us to answer the call. A wealthy businessman in Bangladesh recently offered to buy Choudhury's paper for a generous sum, but Choudhury knows the man's intention: to silence one of the few pro-Israel, pro-Western voices in the East. Choudhury declined, choosing principles over money.

"But, now, our very sustainability has become almost impossible," Choudhury wrote in a message to readers. "Each month, we are losing [a] huge amount of money in continuing the print and online edition of this newspaper. For any newspaper, it is absolutely impossible to sustain without any advertisement revenue." He included the email address at which he could be contacted by those willing to help.

Choudhury will get no help whatsoever from his fellow countrymen, who at best ignore him and at worst wish the government would end his troublemaking once and for all. So he needs the West to step up to the plate. Jewish organizations should do what Choudhury's close friend Richard Benkin did when he first heard Choudhury was in danger. Benkin references the one-word response Moses gave God when he was called from the burning bush: Hineni -- here I am.

Advertising revenue would be great, though a grant would be even better. We are blessed with philanthropists aplenty, and Israel has no more courageous defender than Choudhury. This is the first time he has ever made such an appeal. It has been two weeks since Choudhury published that request, and, he told me, "the situation is still unchanged. Weekly Blitz is in the very worst economic constraint."

"Today, I stand before you, the people of Bangladesh and in fact the entire Muslim world as a witness; a witness that Israelis want above all else peace and justice," Choudhury was to say in that speech prepared, but never delivered, to the writer's conference in Tel Aviv. "And those who spread false rumors to the contrary around the world, and especially in Muslim countries, are, frankly, either deluded or dishonest. I also stand before you perhaps as a living contradiction: a Zionist, a defender of Israel, and a devout, practicing Muslim, living in a Muslim country."

Israel needs such fire more than anything; yet this flame is in danger of being snuffed out. "Please pray for us," Choudhury told me this week. We should, and we will. But if all we can do is pray, we haven't done enough.

Seth Mandel is the managing editor of The Jewish State.