Friday, August 27, 2010

Z-Street sues IRS over anti-Israel bias


The US administration's position is shocking and outrageous.

You should know about it.

That's we are bringing it to your attention.

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Z STREET, a pro-Israel non-profit corporation, filed a lawsuit in federal court today charging that the IRS violated the organization's First Amendment rights.  The suit was filed after Z STREET was told by an IRS official that its application for tax-exempt status has been delayed because an IRS policy requires consideration of whether a group's views on Israel differ from those of the current Administration.

"Not only is it patently un-American but it is also a clear violation of the First Amendment for a government agency to penalize an organization because of its political position on Israel or anything else," said Z STREET president Lori Lowenthal Marcus, a former First Amendment lawyer.   "This situation is the same as if the government denied a driver's license to people because they were Republicans or Democrats. It goes against everything for which our country stands."

Z STREET filed for tax-exempt status in January of this year and, despite having met all of the requirements for grant of this status, the application has been stalled.  An IRS agent told Z STREET's lawyers that the application was delayed because of a Special Israel Policy that requires more intense scrutiny of organizations which have to do with Israel, in part to determine whether they espouse positions on Israel contrary to those of the current Administration.

Z STREET is a Zionist organization that proudly supports Israel's right to refuse to negotiate with, make concessions to, or appease terrorists.  Z STREET's positions on Israel and, in particular, on the Middle East "peace process" differ significantly from those espoused by the Obama administration.  

If Z STREET had tax-exempt status, its donors would be able to deduct contributions from their taxable income. The IRS's refusal to grant tax-exempt status to Z STREET has inhibited the organization's fundraising efforts, and therefore impeded its ability to speak and to educate the public regarding the issues that are the focus and purpose of Z STREET.

The lawsuit, Z STREET v. Shulman, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, was filed today in the United States District Court for the  Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

P.O. Box 182
Merion Station, PA  19096
610.664.1184 phone
610.664.1186 fax

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

u.S. Marines and IDF in joint urban warfare drill

US Marines and IDF Battalion Participate in Joint Urban Warfare Exercise
24 August 2010 18:40
During a training drill at the Mala Urban Warfare Training Center (UWTC), participating soldiers work to overcome language barriers, and mutually appreciate each other through culture differences

Noa Horowitz, "Bamahane"

Under the blazing sun, the sergeant's call is heard in the middle of the desert. At the sound of his call, ten tall soldiers with impressively broad shoulders appear suddenly in their camouflage uniforms and stand in formation. After a short briefing, their commander stands in front of them at a distance of one meter exactly, and yells at the top of his lungs: "Am I clear? Go!"

The so-not-Israeli soldiers arrived in the Holy Land about a month ago, as part of their training in the US Marines. Two weeks ago, they headed south for the highlight of their visit: a conclusion exercise with the trainees of the "Flying Lion" Battalion Commander Course. Under the midday heat in the training facilities of the Ze'elim base, they begin sprinting, and suiting up quickly in military vests, acting as if they were preparing for a bold operation in Afghanistan and not for a training exercise in Israel that would start, at best, in another six hours.

Despite the fact that an all-nighter trek awaits them that evening, followed by another full day of training at the Urban Warfare Training Center (UWTC), oddly, everyone seems to be happy. The Israelis are pleased with the novel American attraction that fell on them so suddenly—these Americans seem very eager and spirited to partake in the Mala UWTC training drill.

We are the champions of charade

It is noon now. A shuttle bus drops off groups of soldiers at the meeting point – a place in the desert that seems completely random, except for the presence of a few hastily assembled black tents and water containers. While the commanders are running an on-and-off training drill, interrupted by the extreme heat, the soldiers prepare equipment for that night's exercise. The American soldiers are repeatedly called on to stand in line or in formation in front of their new commander, and they listen to him, expressionless.

"They are really disciplined", says Corporal Oren Gordan, one of the "Flying Lion" soldiers. "We were talking to them when a commander with the rank of sergeant arrived. They then asked us in a whisper if he was going to be one of our commanding sergeants and got really scared. They also don't use their commander's first name but call him 'Sir'".

Corporal Shay Cohen also noted the polite manners of the American soldiers: "If they bump into your shoulder by accident, they apologize profusely! They seem to apologize for everything!"

Lance Corporal Sean Leonardo reflects for a moment on the cultural differences between the Israeli and American soldiers, trying to understand where these differences come from. "I think it's because your army service is compulsory," he says, "everyone gets drafted, so of course they have to be easier on you because otherwise no one would want to be here."

Corporal Roland Sander believes Israeli soldiers to be disciplined as well. "They told me that in Krav Maga lessons, the discipline is crazy and they have to sit there without moving," he says, "if you sweat, you can't wipe the sweat off. It really reminded me of our basic training, so I think the level of disciplinare is very similar."  

In addition to admiring their discipline and politeness, the Israeli soldiers look longingly at the meals the Americans receive at the base—the Stars and Stripes soldiers receive meals which flew with the soldiers all the way from the United States. The Israelis can't take their eyes off of this food that is packed in sealed silver plastic bags. "They have pasta with tomato sauce inside the bag and tasty crackers, and gum at the bottom", says Corporal Gal Azilay. "They also have warm hamburgers" says Cohen, referring to the wonderful invention the Marines brought with them - a substance that warms itself when it is in contact with water and makes it possible to eat a hot meal in the field. "What, how does it become warm?" asks somebody who stands next to them, amazed. "It is something special, it is steaming, man" says Cohen enthusiastically.
The American soldiers, however, have had a hard time enjoying Israeli food.

"I brought one of them Loof (canned meat), and he looked at me like it was dog food," said Cohen. "But I brought another Marine fried Loof and he actually liked it and ate until it was finished in order to kill time before the beginning of the drill."

The American soldiers are learning Hebrew (the repertoire including: Booba (doll), Mechabel (terrorist), Ma nishma (what's up?)), and soldiers from both armies barter over items (a flashlight for a hat, a pocket knife for a weapon shoulder strap or dog-tag covering). The Marines explain that military equipment with any sort of Hebrew writing on it is of high value, like receiving a souvenir from a foreign country. And how are they able to communicate using the broken English of Israeli soldiers?

"We are champions at charades," the Israeli soldiers explain.

While mingling, the Marines tell the Israelis stories of their tours in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv and how they got to see different sides of the Holy Land.

"From afar, it sounds like the security problems are spread over such a large landscape but when you get to Tel Aviv, everything's put into perspective. In general, Israel is so pretty. Except for this place—it looks like a sandbox. But everywhere else is."

Stop! Don't go

During the total darkness of the desert night, the "Flying Lion" Battalion begins to move towards the training grounds which resemble a Palestinian village. The Marines are currently split into two platoons, which are under the command of Israeli Company Commanders. "It was my decision, as well as the decision of the American Platoon Commander to complicate the training and be able to see if we could successfully work together," said the Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Oren Gil.

After a nine kilometer night voyage by foot, the combat soldiers reach the outskirts of the city just as the sun is rising. They run in groups up a steep incline, crossing the only hurdle separating them from the city and surround one of the neighborhoods in the "city".

In perfect sync, they break into the first houses just as the sky begins to be lit up by fireworks mimicking mortars and bombs. The troops begin to advance in the streets, soon coming in contact with the secret ambush of staged enemy forces. The sounds of shooting rings out throughout the streets, and while the Israeli troops wearing the olive green fatigues drown out the sound of shooting with cries of "Fire! Fire! Fire!," the Americans in their camouflage fatigues do not verbally react to the gunshot sounds.

However, the Marines do not stay quiet for long. During their mock attack on the "terrorists", they let out a string of swears: "Shoot that s----!"  exclaims one of their officers, "Get f------ down, you are visible!" 

The Americans also take their fake injuries seriously. While the Israelis that are "injured" shuffle to the nearby mosque for "medical treatment", the Marines act their injuries out apocalyptically. They fall back dramatically, and wait for at least three other soldiers to drag them through the sand, while continuing to stay in character of being nearly fatally wounded. 

The language barrier quickly raised the body count. An Israeli soldier acting as an enemy takes advantage of this and shouts at his comrades, speaking in biblical Hebrew: "Cantor, for he cannot see, throw a grenade at him." The grenade quickly rolls along a central path, and one of the companies is forced to take cover in a courtyard that connects the two builds. Sadly, the commander running the drill notifies them that they have seven dead in the adjacent building and if they advance they will lose more men.

An IDF liaison officer, who speaks English and acts as a go-between the two armies, passes on the order, but the Israeli Company Commander standing on second floor of a house overlooking the courtyard speculates that he too must update the Platoon Commander of the Marines. "Don't go from this place!" he shouted excitedly in English. The Platoon Commander nods but the Company Commander wants to reinforce his point. "Stop! Don't Go!" The Marine responds to calm him down, "I'm not going anywhere, I know the plan, let me worry about my own men," with a slightly annoyed tone.

After the liaison officer intervenes, the crisis is solved, and the entire force is called to gather behind a protected area. The courtyard empties and a moment before the commander enters the hideout, he mutters something over his radio. "I don't know who the enemy is," he admits, "And I don't know who all these crazy people wandering around here are."

Pretty cool, right?

The present drill is part of a broader cooperation effort between the IDF and the U.S. Army- a cooperation that has been strengthened in recent years. "There's one other country in the world that is our ally, and that is the U.S.A," explains the head of the foreign training branch of the Ground Forces, Lt. Col. Tal Lazros. "All cooperation that has to do with imparting shared knowledge is accepted as a blessing. When the Marines, a widely esteemed unit, request that we assist them in a drill, we are happy to train with them side by side."

"It went great," declares Battalion Commander of "the Flying Lion" towards the end of the drill. "In the end, one of the most important things is to note the synergy and timing between the three companies, and the biggest fear we had was that the Marines wouldn't be able to understand us. So from this perspective, it was a very big success."

The exercise was structured in collaboration with the U.S. Army, and the decision to train in an urban area like the Mala UWTC was always assumed. "Today almost all drills occur in urban environments," explains Lazros. "This is the norm, because this is the main problem facing most armies in the world. Once you were the only country fighting in urban environments and the rest of the world generally did not, but today there are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for example, and there are a lot of lessons we can learn from each other."

The Commander of the Marines in Europe, Brig. Gen Paul Brier, does not hide his enthusiasm about the Mala UWTC. "This facility is excellently built," he said. "We are used to using the facilities in California and it's great to try new facilities. Our techniques are similar, but we are learning new ways to do things."

The Mala training exercise ended with a helicopter evacuation. Four injured are carried on portable stretchers from the mosque where the injured had gathered, into a helicopter that took off after a matter of seconds. After the dust cloud cleared, it was declared that the city has been reclaimed. IDF Units have done this hundreds of times, but for the Americans, it is exciting. "The exercises here are really impressive," comments Sander. "Everything we learned here today opened my eyes. The way you clear houses is different and a lot more logical than the way we do it. Everything you do is completely different from what I'm used to."

"We came to drill and also to learn your style," adds Leonardo. "Marines are thought to be pretty cool, right? But everyone thinks you're more so. And it's true. When we train they say to us: 'Listen to what the Israelis have to say, because this is their reality every day.' And we respect you for that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Christian Zionists may not fund Im Tirzu over university boycott threat


Im Tirtzu loses funding over boycott threat to Ben-Gurion University

U.S. based pro-Israel organization Christians United for Israel: We do not support any calls for divestment from Israel in any way.

By Natasha Mozgovaya

Im Tirtzu, the organization that threatened Ben-Gurion University with a donor boycott because of their "anti-Zionist" bias, has lost at lease one funding source over the highly publicized row.

The spokesman for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a U.S. based pro-Israel organization run by Pastor John Hagee, hinted to Haaretz on Monday that they will no longer give money to Im Tirtzu. The potential funding cutoff will be a big change from the 100,000 dollars that CUFI donated to Im Tirtzu in 2009.

"We of course do not support any calls for divestment from Israel in any way," CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern said. Im Tirtzu sent a threatening letter to Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi last month, saying they would persuade donors in Israel and abroad to stop funding the university if the didn't put an end to the "anti-Zionist" tilt in its politics and government department.

"We do not believe that the political positions of the few professors characterize an entire university. JHM (John Hagee Ministries) therefore is not concerned with our support for Ben-Gurion University," Morgenstern said.

CUFI defines their purpose as to provide "a national association through which every pro-Israel church, para-church organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues."

As a group that tries to stay out of internal Israeli politics, CUFI has been disappointed by Im Tirtzu actions earlier this year, when their campaign against New Israel Fund president, Professor Naomi Chazan, made waves in the media. The organization claimed that the majority of negative references made about the Israel Defense Forces in the Goldstone report, the United Nations commissioned report on Israel's offensive into Gaza, came from New Israel Fund sponsored organizations. The ensuing campaign they launched against NIF included posters of Chazan depicting her with a horn emerging from her forehead and labeling her Naomi Goldstone Chazan.

"Our position on "Im Tirtzu" activities was clear since this story (campaign against the NIF) first broke back in February. "Im Tirtzu" misrepresented their focus," Morgenstern said. "When they told us their mission is strictly Zionist education, we had no prior knowledge of their political actions, and we never seek to involve ourselves in Israel's internal political debates."

The Houston Jewish Federation, which has helped the Texas based CUFI decide which organizations in Israel to fund, has also publicly renounced Im Tirtzu's most recent campaign. In a letter to the liberal "Tikun Olam" blog, Jewish Federation CEO Lee Wunsch wrote: "In light of recent events and in my discussions with Pastor Hagee, he will not continue that funding as we both believe that Im Tirtzu has morphed into a quasi-political organization and neither Pastor Hagee nor the Houston Jewish Federation will fund such groups." 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is Iraq going to be a future battleground??

Iraq and the Middle Eastern Cold War

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

(From American Thinker)

With the official end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, what bodes for Iraq's future in terms of its relations to other nations in the Middle East? One useful way to examine this question is through the lens of what Daniel Pipes describes as the present "Middle Eastern Cold War."

This new Cold War represents the current ideological division in the Middle East between the "revolutionary bloc," led chiefly by Iran, Syria, and more recently Turkey, and the "status-quo bloc," led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. While most Sunni Arab states align themselves with the "status-quo bloc," there are notable exceptions in that Qatar and Oman back the "revolutionary bloc," while Libya simply sits on the sidelines.

The Middle Eastern Cold War has manifested itself in recent years in several ways, including the ongoing tension in Lebanon between Saad Hariri's coalition government and pro-Syrian factions like Hezb'allah, the contest between Fatah and Hamas for the Palestinian leadership, and the conflict in Yemen between Iranian-backed Shi'a Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed central government of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

However, the most recent sign of this Cold War could well lie in Iraq as Saudi Arabia and Iran jostle for influence. With the ongoing political stalemate that has created a power vacuum, it is Saudi Arabia's hope that the current Shi'a Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki does not retain his position in power for fear that he will tilt Iraq towards Iran's regional bloc. Meanwhile, Iran not only wishes for him to remain as prime minister, but also hopes for Maliki's State of Law (SOA) coalition and the Sadrist Iraqi National Alliance (INA) to form the backbone of a new government, whereas the U.S. views a coalition between SOA and Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc as the best option.

Indeed, on repeated occasions, Saudi officials have been open in expressing their dislike for Maliki. For instance, in May, former Saudi intelligence chief Turki Al-Faisal accused Maliki of attempting to "deny the Iraqi people their legitimately elected government," meaning that Allawi should be given the right to form a government. In addition, the Saudi government has made a series of goodwill gestures, including receiving several Iraqi politicians such as Allawi and the president of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani on visits to Riyadh in an attempt to contain Iran's influence in the country. Winning over the latter is viewed as especially important since the Kurdish parties are reported to have extensive economic ties with Iran that date back at least two decades, above all in the smuggling of oil and other refined petroleum products to Iran.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia has been trying to take advantage of recent, tougher sanctions against Iran to expand its influence in Iraq through economic cooperation with the country. For example, in July, a Saudi airline launched the first direct flights to Iraq in almost twenty years, having been suspended in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Furthermore, Saudi food firms like Almarai have become involved in the export of foodstuffs to Iraq via Kuwait and Jordan. Simultaneously, however, Saudi Arabia is concerned that Iraq's aspiring potential to produce some 10-12 million barrels of oil a day could dislodge it from its position as a leader of the OPEC cartel. Hence, cooperation in the field of oil production is nonexistent.

Despite these measures undertaken by Saudi Arabia, Iran and the "revolutionary bloc's" influence on Iraq is all too evident. Iran has repeatedly urged the Shi'a parties in Iraq to put aside their differences and form a ruling Shi'a-led government, fearing that allowing Allawi's Iraqiya bloc to form a government will lead to a resurgence of Sunni minority rule and Baathism. Also noteworthy, besides Kurdish smuggling of petroleum to Iran, are the already close economic ties between the key players of the "revolutionary bloc" and Iraq that will likely grow in the future as Iran, Turkey, and Syria continue to restrict Iraq's water supplies through building dams on the Tigris and Euphrates and diverting water for irrigation projects. This could create future "oil for water" trade schemes. Moreover, there are the Iranian-backed "Special Groups" like the Kataib Hezb'allah that can resort to insurgent-style attacks to quash any efforts by the Sunni Arabs to exert their diminished political influence and tilt Iraq towards the "status-quo bloc."

Thus, it is possible that Iraq will emerge as a sort of theatre of proxy warfare between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the near future. Nevertheless, it is improbable that the struggle will be prolonged, as Iran, the leader of the "revolutionary bloc," and most of the Shi'a population of Iraq share the goal of ensuring Shi'a dominance in the country, such that Iraq, under a Shi'a-led government, will likely become an auxiliary for the "revolutionary bloc." This outcome becomes much more conceivable when one considers that Iran could well have nuclear weapons in the next few years, which will make it much harder for its rivals to contain Iranian influence in Iraq.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is an intern at Middle East Forum.