White House briefing for Jewish-American leadership outlines strategy for Israeli-Palestinian talks
Aug 27, 2010

Adam Horowitz

The following article appears on the front page today’s Yediot Ahronoth, and was translated by Didi Remez on his blog Coteret.

Agreement now, peace later

Shimon Shiffer, Yediot, August 27 2010 [front-page]

The Obama administration intends to present Israel and the Palestinians with a new outline for ending the conflict. Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the Americans will pressure the sides to sign a framework agreement for a final status arrangement within a year — but the agreement would be only implemented within a number of years, apparently up to ten years at the most. The US administration intends to invest all possible efforts to ensure that the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which will be officially launched next Thursday, will end in an agreement and not in a crisis, as happened in the previous rounds of negotiations. Barack Obama, whose standing in the polls is at a low, very much wants to score a first success in the Middle Eastern arena — in light of the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For this purpose, the US president intends to become personally involved this time: Director of the Middle East department at the National Security Council Dan Shapiro told leaders of Jewish organizations in the US that Obama intends to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the course of the coming year. The US president wishes to take advantage of his visit to persuade both peoples to support painful compromises for peace.

A few days ago, the leaders of Jewish organizations in the US held a conference call with three of the most senior figures who set the administration’s Middle East policy. The most senior of the three, Dennis Ross, has been a partner to all the talks between Israel and the Palestinians since the Oslo Accords. Ross is currently considered Obama’s number one expert on Middle East affairs. Alongside Ross, the participants of the conference call included Dan Shapiro and David Hale, deputy of special envoy George Mitchell.

Yedioth Ahronoth has obtained the summary of the minutes of the conference call, which were prepared by the White House. The document provides a fascinating glimpse into the administration’s plans for the coming period. According to the American plan, the negotiating teams of Israel and the PA will conduct intensive talks with the aim of reaching a framework agreement on a final status arrangement within a year. The intensive talks will be held in isolated locations, so that the teams will be able to quietly discuss the core issues of the final status agreement: The future of Jerusalem, borders, settlements and refugees. Binyamin Netanyahu and Abu Mazen will be called upon to meet frequently in order to resolve problems and move forward the stages of negotiations.At points in which the negotiations meet an impasse, senior administration officials will intervene in the talks and will present bridging proposals to the sides. In addition, the US will try to persuade the moderate Arab states to make gestures towards Israel and influence the Palestinians to compromise.

At the end of the intensive year, the framework agreement for ending the conflict is supposed to be signed. From that moment onward, the agreement will be implemented gradually over a number of years.

“Many people will try to sabotage the talks. Our challenge will be to ensure their success,” Ross assessed. “What can be learned from the mistakes that caused the previous attempts to resolve the conflict to fail,” the Jewish leaders asked. “I have learned that a situation must not be accepted in which the sides speak one way inside the room and another way outside the room,” Ross replied. In other words: The administration will not look kindly upon a situation in which the senior Israeli and Palestinian figures cast muck at each other outside the conference rooms. “Is Netanyahu capable of reaching an agreement that will receive political support in Israel?” the Jewish leaders asked. Hale replied that Netanyahu had assured [the administration] that he was capable of doing so. “We consider him a strong partner who is committed to the process,” Hale said.

Senior political sources in Israel, however, reveal that Netanyahu has not yet prepared any firm position for the direct talks. The government is still not in agreement on the outline for the final status arrangement — not to mention the issue of the construction freeze. “Bibi will escape from Washington by the skin of his teeth,” a senior source in Jerusalem assessed. Minister Dan Meridor, with Netanyahu’s knowledge, is trying to persuade Ross and Shapiro to consent to the outline he proposed for the end of the freeze period on September 26: The construction freeze would only continue in the isolated settlements, but construction would be renewed in settlement blocs that are expected to remain under Israeli sovereignty. As of now, only one minister from the forum of seven supports this idea: Ehud Barak.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman believes that the Americans should be told that construction within the settlement blocs would continue without restrictions, whereas in the isolated settlements construction will be renewed according to the natural growth of the residents. The Palestinians, for their part, have already clarified their demands for the start of the talks: Establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. At the start of the talks, they will demand that Israel withdraw from territory in the northern Dead Sea as a gesture for the continuation of the negotiations. The PA is expected to consent to a land swap with Israel: In exchange for giving up 3.9% of the area of the West Bank in which the settlement blocs are located, the Palestinians expect to receive land in the Negev.

Anti-Defamation League condemns the very ‘anti-Muslim sentiment’ it contributes to
Aug 27, 2010

Alex Kane

A month after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the “nation’s premier civil rights” agency (in their words), came out against building an Islamic community center blocks away from Ground Zero because “building [it] in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain,” the group is now condemning the anti-Muslim stabbing that occurred in New York City Aug. 25.

The ADL statement condemned the attack “in the strongest terms,” saying that the incident was “especially disturbing” because it occurred “amid an atmosphere of elevated anti-Muslim sentiment surrounding the Ground Zero controversy.”

When the ADL came out against the proposed Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, it took pains to say that the group “categorically reject[s] appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion.” But no matter the ADL’s intent, their statement against the Muslim center contributed to the very same “elevated anti-Muslim sentiment” that is no doubt connected to the stabbing of Ahmed Sharif, a New York City taxi driver. The ADL should look in the mirror before it begins to lecture others on anti-Muslim sentiment.

It’s true that the ADL statement against the Park51 project was mild compared to the hateful rhetoric coming from the likes of Pamela Geller, Newt Gingrich and Rick Lazio. However, the ADL’s statement can only be read as holding the whole of Islam and Muslims as somehow responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001. The only reason why the proposed center would “offend” the sensitivities of the victims of 9/11 is if the ADL concludes that Islam attacked the United States on that day.

It is the height of hypocrisy for the ADL to condemn the stabbing of Sharif and the general hate of Muslims engulfing the United States without looking at their statement against Park51 again and realizing that they have played a central role in legitimizing that anti-Muslim sentiment. Their gentile opposition to the project has emboldened the hate-mongers on the right that are aiming to shut this project, and proposals to build mosques around the country, down.

This article originally appeared on Alex Kane’s blog.

It’s not about religion
Aug 27, 2010 

Gregory Harms

Gregory Harms is author of Straight Power Concepts in the Middle East: U.S. Foreign Policy, Israel and World History.

Since the September 11 attacks, the topic of Islam, and in particular Muslim extremism, has come front and center in the news coverage and public discourse. This focus has in some cases spun off into strange and disturbing areas. One example in the news is the “Ground Zero mosque,” which is neither a mosque nor located at Ground Zero. Another are reports on a recent Pew Research poll indicating 18 percent of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim.[1] Yet the point in both stories is not the inaccuracies. The point is that these perceptions are construed as being negative; the mosque’s “location” and Obama’s “religion” are a source of indignation. In other words, anything associated with Islam existing at Ground Zero or in the White House is, to some, unacceptable. More succinctly put, anything associated with Islam is unacceptable.

This fear and hatred, while irrational, is unsurprising. The American conception of the Middle East and Islam was impoverished to begin with. And the actions of al-Qaida on 9/11 did not improve matters. Moreover, after almost a decade of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, with thousands of US military personnel dead and tens of thousands wounded (physically and mentally), the public’s negative view of the Middle East has been compounded.

But the cases of fear and hatred only happen to be directed at Islam. The issue is certainly not theological, that is, Islamophobia is not based on specific disagreements with the religious tenets of Islam. Instead, the contention is with whatever is common among those who live in the Middle East. They happen to be Arabs, and they happen to be Muslim. And therefore, in instances of intolerance, those are the objects of animosity.

There is also the opposing scenario. The Middle East is a place where religion plays a central role in people’s lives; no different than, say, Christianity does among many Americans. However, the Middle East has borne the burden of external, Western intervention in its affairs for the past century, which has had an effect. No different than anyone anywhere on Earth, when groups suffer oppression, they find solace and strength in what binds them communally. Most of the Middle East is ethnically Arab and religiously Islamic, two distinctions setting the region apart from the uninvited Christian West. For most Arabs, being Muslim is a source of identity, a point of cultural pride, and a guiding tradition. For those who participate in terrorism, on the other hand, it is a battle cry and an excuse for indiscriminate killing.

Both groups have a relationship with Islam — one sincere, one tenuous. However, if the former group were represented by a swimming pool, the latter would amount to a teaspoon. Yet many Americans view the Middle East as being a mess (not unjustifiably), as being violent (likewise), and that these realities are a function of what is contained in the Quran. This is where things go awry. The answer to the question, How much does religion play a role in Middle Eastern instability is: Basically zero.

In the United States, the Middle East has always been, at minimum, something of a peculiarity. As it exists in the American imagination, the region and its inhabitants are characterized by a gallery of reductionistic images.

One such image is the cartoon-like portrayals in the spirit of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, referencing the Abbasid dynasty (758-1250) during the Arab Empire. Another caricature is the wealthy Arabian prince, with his traditional headdress and flowing dishdasha, driving a Rolls-Royce and dealing in Saudi crude. Another is the now all too familiar evocation of the terrorist. In other words, the Arab/Muslim Middle East has been defined by preconceptions — of decadence, violence, wealth, and religious fervor. (See American television and movies for the last fifty years, which have reflected and reinforced this fact.)

Of course, instances of these three stereotypes do exist. The Abbasids were a real dynasty during the height of the Caliphate. The Middle East is in fact bursting with oil, and some around the Persian Gulf have achieved opulence beyond comprehension. And terrorists do exist and do kill innocent people. However, it should be pointed out that the first group existed over 750 years ago and the caliphs and sultans portrayed (questionably) in Walt Disney films represent a very small group of people. The second group is also very small, as is the third. Nevertheless, this distorted view is a fixture of Western culture, one that we have inherited over the centuries and grown up with since birth. This observation is not new and has been thoroughly investigated in what is now a sizable scholarly literature existing under the rubric “orientalism,” a mode of critique established by the late scholar Edward Said.

As mentioned, US involvement in the region has exacerbated our worst impressions of it. After 9/11 Americans were encouraged to ask, Why do they hate us? This question was initially posed by George W. Bush’s national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, Richard Clarke, and promptly made its way into the president’s speeches and the mainstream commentary.[2] The “they” in the question meant the terrorists specifically, but the pronoun quickly generalized to mean the Middle East.

Prior to World War II, US relations with the Middle East had been quite limited. It was Great Britain and France that had established imperial domination throughout the region, dividing after World War I what had been the Ottoman Empire into Western-style nation-states. Conversely, the Arabs’ sense of the United States was rather favorable, as its was not involved in their manipulation. As observed by historian Rashid Khalidi, 

From the nineteenth century until at least the middle of the twentieth, the United States was in fact viewed quite positively in the Middle East as a non- or anti-colonial power, as having no imperialistic designs on the region, and as engaged primarily in benevolent activities there such as education and health care. Beyond this, the United States was often seen as a beacon of hope for those aspiring to democracy and freedom from foreign control.[3]

It was after WWII that London and Paris lost their primacy in the Middle East, and were replaced with American dominance. Though US entry took place in the context of a much overstated Cold War contest with the Soviet Union, the real business at hand was petroleum, not communism. As noted by Franklin Roosevelt’s State Department economic adviser, “In all the surveys of the [foreign oil] situation … the pencil came to an awed pause at one point and place — the Middle East.”[4]

Over the course of the post-1945 period, Washington has supported dictators and autocrats (e.g., Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia), overthrown popular, progressive leaders (e.g., Iran in 1953), sought to suppress independence (e.g., Palestine), and physically invaded countries that did not threaten the United States (e.g., Iraq). The goal has been to insure consistency. By stifling secular democratic inclinations — which are alive and well throughout the Middle Eastern populations — Washington has fostered greater “cooperation” (the principal criterion for being deemed a “moderate” by DC) in its pursuit of managing the region’s vast natural resources.

But over a century of experiencing external ascendency over its development, certain patterns in the Middle East have come into view. Especially in light of Israel’s position amidst its neighbors, existing as an adjunct to American power, organizations that likely would never have existed — Hamas, Hizballah, and others — have emerged as a response to Tel Aviv’s militancy. (Similarly, it is difficult to envision the IRA’s formation without Britain’s hand in Ireland.) In addition to organizations that have been involved in terrorism, a more socially conservative trend in the various societies has also taken place. Style of dress, attitudes, and tolerance have changed in part for the sterner. A friend in the Palestinian West Bank told me a few years ago, “You didn’t see that sort of thing as much, fifteen or twenty years ago,” as he pointed out a woman wearing a black chador with the full-face veil. 

These regional currents tend to be couched in terms of religiosity. Suicide bombers invoke the name of God; women are veiled in the context of Quranic stricture. But the stimulus that is catalyzing this behavior is largely external, driven purely by economic and political objectives in Washington, and has little to do with spirituality. Furthermore, the number of people this behavior describes is a minority. Much of the Arab world instead longs for a more secular, democratic system of governance, a reality that is adeptly examined in Juan Cole’s book Engaging the Muslim World. 

On the American side we see what we are shown. And what we are shown is what makes compelling television. At the networks and cable news outlets, the Middle East is strictly associated with weapons, explosions, anger, men wearing scarves over their faces, and individuals talking nonsense about suicide bombers receiving virgins upon arrival in heaven. The reportage implies that the Middle East just happens to be that way, and that the United States and Western Europe simply have to do their best in dealing with it.

The reigning paradigm in American mass journalism is encapsulated in noted political scientist Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” hypothesis. This postulation suggests that conflict between civilizations rather than ideologies (e.g., communism versus capitalism) will become the primary global form of confrontation. In his renowned 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, Huntington states, “the efforts of the West to promote its values of democracy and liberalism as universal values, to maintain its military predominance and to advance its economic interests engender countering responses from other civilizations.”[5]

Put another way, the West (read the US) will have to keep its guard up (“maintain military superiority in East and Southwest Asia”) and look sharp as it demurely looks out for its own enlightened interests and tries to help others. But despite best intentions, there will be “countering responses” to be dealt with. What the CIA calls “blowback,” Huntington (quoting historian Bernard Lewis) chalks up as “an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage.” Naturally, power is partial to retaining both viewpoints, depending on the occasion: Those at Langley provide the unvarnished reality; those in the Ivory Tower furnish the acquittal.

The “ancient rival” reasoning dovetails neatly with the orientalist assumptions mentioned above, and general dismissal of the Middle East as hopeless. In turn it allows the news reportage to make sense, because the same amount of history is disregarded in both: most of it. This thinking is also quite attractive — as is the coverage and commentary — to the foreign policy establishment and planners, for self-evident reasons.

Current Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak — a former prime minister and the most highly decorated soldier in the country’s history — stated in a 1998 television interview, “If I were a young Palestinian, it is possible I would join a terrorist organization.”[6] What Barak revealed was his understanding of the situation the Palestinians are forced to live in, and the responses such circumstances can inspire. What is at work is political, military, and financial power. The byproducts are indignity, anger, and resentment. Because what is desired is freedom from coercion. It’s not about religion. 


1. “Growing number in America believe Obama a Muslim – poll,” BBC News, August 19, 2010.

2. Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terrorism (New York: Free Press, 2004), 31, 33. See Fareed Zakaria, “The politics of rage: Why do they hate us?” Newsweek, October 15, 2001. Zakaria’s essay is a model example of the mainstream commentary that de-emphasizes US implication — the thoughtful, “centrist” variety.

3. Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004), 30-1.

4. Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power (New York: Free Press, 1991), 396.

5. Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, 72, no. 3 (summer 1993): 29, 49.

6. “Interview with Ehud Barak” [with Paula Zahn], CNN, June 25, 2003,

Israeli troops fire on nonviolent anti-wall protest in Al Ma’sara, injuring five,
Aug 27, 2010 


and other news from Today in Palestine

Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

US former official arrives in Israel to discuss settlements

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Former US envoy to the Middle East Denis Ross arrived in Israel on Thursday evening on an unannounced visit, Israeli sources said.  Ross is one of the most senior US officials specializing in the Middle East and occupied a diplomatic post in the US administration of former President George Bush in addition to his post as special envoy to the region in the former US administration of Bill Clinton.

Israel govt mulls alternatives to settlement freeze (AFP)

AFP – Israel’s premier and his top ministers are mulling alternatives to the settlement freeze Palestinians are seeking as the two sides prepare to launch a new round of talks next week, media reported on Thursday.*

“A silk purse from a sow’s ear”: Israel finds a creative solution for a West Bank land confiscation problem

As always happens when the diplomatic process resumes, the air is filled with talk of economic and infrastructure projects. For the principals, the buzz helps in creating an “atmosphere of progress.” The bureaucrats and businessmen behind the leaks are usually angling for a share of the funding that could accompany a breakthrough. The rush for headlines is uncoordinated, and occasionally provides a glimpse of the motivation actually driving policy. From the lead story of this morning’s Israel Hayom [full translation at bottom of post].

PCBS: PA issues 1,741 building permits for West Bank
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Building permits for structures in “Area A” of the West Bank have risen by 30 percent, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said Thursday.  The most recent report on building permits, covering the second quarter of 2010, counted the total number of new permits as 1,741, 60 percent of which were for new buildings, 17 percent for additions for licensed buildings, four percent for additions that already existed, 15 percent for already existing buildings and two percent were listed as ‘other’.

Heavy police presence in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Jerusalem officials estimated some 2,000 Israeli troops were stationed on the perimeter of the Old City on Friday, the third of Ramadan.  Checkpoints in the south and central West Bank were again overwhelmed as tens of thousands lined up waiting to access the holy city, as soldiers and border guards continue to permit only women over 40 and men over 50, as well as special permit holders including some women over 35 and men over 45.

Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment
Five Injured During The Weekly Protest In Al Ma’sara Near Bethlehem
Bethlehem – PNN – Five civilians were reported injured on Friday by Israeli military fire when troops attacked the weekly anti wall protested organized in the village of Al Ma’sara near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.  Israeli and international supporters joined the villagers after the midday prayers and headed towards lands the army is planning to take over to construct the wall.  This week protest was in commemoration of Abu Ali Mustafa – general secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – who was killed by the Israeli military nine years ago.

Medics, journalists detained in Ni’lin: Organizers
NIL’IN, Ramallah (Ma’an) — Witnesses and demonstrators in the West Bank village of Ni’lin said five Red Crescent medics were detained during a protest against the separation wall on Friday.  The Popular Struggle Organization committee issued a series of brief statements via Twitter, saying an Israeli camerawoman and a Palestinian cameraman were also arrested.

Amnesty International: Palestinian anti-wall protester convicted by Israeli military court

Abdallah Abu Rahma, head of the “Popular Committee Against the Wall” in the West Bank village of Bil’in, now faces imprisonment for exercising his right to freedom of expression.  Amnesty International has condemned the conviction by an Israeli military court of a Palestinian non-violent political activist who has been detained since last December because of his involvement in protesting against the fence/wall which the Israeli authorities have been building largely on Palestinian land.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah: know the facts and act now for the freedom of a nonviolent freedom fighter

The West Bank village of Bil’in has become a symbol of the wider popular resistance movement in Palestine. Abdallah Abu Rahmah, head of Bi’in’s Popular Committee, is one of many key organizers of peaceful resistance that Israel has used legal means to persecute. He was convicted on Tuesday of two out of four charges in an Israeli military court and faces up to ten years in jail. The facts of his case – and what you can do to help put pressure on Israel – are set out below.

Interview with Ilan Shalif (Anarchists Against the Wall)

Alasbarricadas interviews Shalif Ilan, a veteran Israeli anarchist activist. We discuss in this interview his views on the situation in Palestine-Israel, following the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, and the latest developments in those lands. The situation there is very interesting for anarchist action, since, as Ilan himself said:

My interrogation at the U.S. border, Stefan Christoff

“Can you tell me what you think about the war in Iraq?” questioned the young American man in uniform. In response my words outlined my opposition to the 2003 U.S.-lead invasion and the ongoing military occupation under the Obama administration, a common view in Montreal, where over 200,000 people demonstrated on the streets in the winter months prior to the U.S. invasion, some of the largest anti-war demonstrations in North America.  “Do you have family in the Middle East?” he inquired, offering one of the few surprising questions in the interrogation. In follow-up, a barrage of detailed questions focusing on the family names and geographical origins of my mother, my father and all my grandparents were presented.  A similarly absurd line of questioning was outlined at Israeli border in 2003 during my attempt to travel Palestine to work with the International Solidarity Movement, to participate in non-violent campaign of direct action against the Israeli military occupation, a border crossing effort that was unsuccessful. After hours of questions, Israeli military officials dragged me into a military bus, deported me to Jordan and barred me from travelling to Israel for a decade.

Israel’s Arab Helpers
PCHR Condemns Attack by GIS Members on Staff of al-Haq in Ramallah

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the attack launched on Wednesday, 25 August 2010, by members of the General Intelligence Service (GIS) on staff members of ‘al-Haq’ organization in Ramallah, while documenting GIS’s attempts to stop an assembly organized by Palestinian political factions and civil society organizations in protest a decision by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to participate in direct negotiations with Israel. PCHR calls upon the government in Ramallah to respect public freedoms and to ensure respect for the work of human rights organizations and to provide protection for their personnel.

Israel delays delivery of 50 armored vehicles to PA

MOSCOW (Ma’an) — Fifty armored vehicles from Russia set to be delivered to the Palestinian Authority have been held up in Jordan by Israeli border officials, the Palestinian ambassador to Russia said Thursday.  Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Ambassador Fayed Mustafa said the delay was a result of “procedures carried out by Israel in a clear attempt to delay the delivery.”

For Once, Hope in the Middle East, MARTIN INDYK

Today, the Palestinian Authority is policing its West Bank territory to prevent violent attacks on Israelis and to prove its reliability as a negotiating partner.

The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian/Restriction of Movement/Human Rights/Racism
Gov’t won’t increase electricity to Gaza

Vice premier Shalom refuses Blair’s request to increase output.  Israel has balked at a request to boost the amount of electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip on the grounds that it does not want to cooperate with the Hamas government there. Quartet representative Tony Blair made the request on Monday at a meeting with Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, Blair’s spokesman confirmed to The Media Line.

Palestinian rights watchdog accuses Hamas of preparing to close it

GAZA, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) — A Palestinian national human rights watchdog on Thursday accused Islamic Hamas movement of trying to block its activities in the Gaza Strip.  The accusation came after Hamas lawmakers approved a law and said it aims at regulating the work of the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.  Officials from the ICHR said that the law targets the commission, which has been operating since the creation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and is a prelude to restricting its work before shutting it.

Jerusalem settlers assault 9 year old, parents say

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — A nine-year-old boy said he was beaten by Israelis affiliated with the Atarot Kohanim settler group in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday evening.  Anas Sa’ad Ash-Shaloudi said he was on his way to his uncle’s house for the fast-breaking iftar meal at sunset, and was assaulted by five men standing outside his uncle’s home.  “They hit me on my head and I fell on the ground. They took off my shoes and started beating me on my back. I yelled for help,” Anas told Ma’an.

Settler guards, Silwan youth clash overnight

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — A second night of clashes was reported in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan overnight, ending early Friday morning as worshipers began the journey to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The clash was reportedly sparked when teenage residents threw stones at guards outside settler homes in the neighborhood.  Violence was centered on Ein Silwan Street, adjacent to Wad Hilwa, where fierce clashes erupted on Wednesday following a settler attempt to gain access to a local mosque.  Cars were burned and several trees destroyed during the earlier clash.

Islamist movement says 5 members detained in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hizb Ut-Tahrir, an international pan-Islamist party seeking the re-establishment of an Islamic caliphate, said security forces arrested five of its affiliates in Gaza City on Wednesday.  All but one detainee were still being held Thursday, a statement by the group said.  The movement denounced what it described as an “oppressive and irresponsible act” and called on the government to stop harassing party affiliates.

Senior Hamas figure questioned before Jerusalem prayer

Palestinian sources say Sheikh Hamed al-Bitawi arrested on his way to al-Aqsa Mosque; police say he was detained, released after interrogation.,7340,L-3944727,00.html

Prisoners affairs minister says detainees on talks agenda

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — The Ramallah-based Prisoners Affairs Ministry held a Ramadan iftar dinner at the home of Jerusalem’s oldest detainee Thursday evening.  The fast-breaking meal was held at sunset at the house of Foad Al-Razem, who is serving a 30-year sentence in an Israeli prison.  Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe broke his fast with the family, and sent his support to all Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails. He assured prisoners that the ministry would take care of their relatives, particularly during Ramadan.

Political/Flotilla Developments
Palestinian Resistance Factions Demand Abbas Resign

27/08/2010 A day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged Israel to take advantage of “this historic opportunity” to achieve peace via the imminent direct negotiations, Hamas and 10 other Palestinian resistance groups on Thursday demanded that he resign because of his “failure to resist heavy American and Israeli pressure” to abandon his preconditions for the talks.  The resignation call was issued following a meeting of the groups’ heads in Damascus.  Izzat Risheq, a Hamas representative who attended the meeting, said participants agreed that Abbas “was no longer trustworthy to look after the interests of the Palestinian people and should therefore quit all his positions.”  Speaking during a meal he held to mark the breaking of Wednesday’s Ramadan fast, Abbas declared that the Palestinians were entering the direct talks on September 2 of their own volition and with the hope of achieving peace with their neighbors.

Fatah official criticizes Palestinian acceptance of negotiations

RAMALLAH, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) — An official from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party on Thursday criticized the Palestinian acceptance to resume direct peace talks with Israel since the internal situation was worse.  “The Palestinian situation is very bad and dangerous,” Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah central committee, told Voice of Palestine radio.  Before going to negotiations, Zaki said, the Palestinian unity should be restored, referring to Islamic Hamas movement’s 2007 violent takeover of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent political separation between Gaza and the West Bank.

Haniyeh: No negotiator can give up Jerusalem

KHAN YOUNIS (Ma’an) — “No negotiator who would give up Jerusalem has a national mandate,” Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told guests at an iftar dinner on Thursday evening.  The fast-breaking meal was organized by the Ar-Rahma Charitable Society in Khan Younis, honoring the families of Palestinian men and women in prison, those killed by Israeli forces and families with special needs children.

Netanyahu proposes bi-weekly meetings with Abbas during direct peace talks

Netanyahu: Serious negotiations in the Middle East mean only direct, quiet and consecutive talks between the two leaders on the key issues.

Lieberman: Palestinians will disrupt negotiations

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he does not expect peace talks to be successful, during a discussion Wednesday over the expansion of a temporary settlement construction freeze.  Lieberman told Israel’s Army Radio, “I think there’s room to lower expectations and get real,” adding that there is “no magic recipe” to secure a permanent peace agreement within a year, Reuters reported.

Israel begins forming negotiations team for direct peace talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with advisers to select members of Israel’s delegation for direct peace talks with PA in Washington; lawyer Yitzhak Molcho to head team.

US wants agreement now, peace later

White House document reveals American preparations for Israeli-Palestinian talks: President Obama to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah, call for painful concessions; permanent agreement to be signed within one year, implemented within 10 years.,7340,L-3944645,00.html

Sarkozy: Israel-Palestinian peace deal can be signed within a year

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians can be reached within one year, one week after direct talks between the two were announced. “I assure you, a peace agreement, where everybody is aware of the conditions, can be signed within a year,” he said.

Other News
Israel working to thwart Russia arms deal with Syria

Netanyahu asks Putin to stop deal involving sale of advanced P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles; Israel considers this weaponry dangerous to its navy vessels in Mediterranean Sea.

Israel Orders Massive Military Fuel Stocks

Three weeks ago the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) published a notice, as it is legally required to do, announcing that Israel has ordered massive quantities of various fuels suitable for military use, and in the case of the order for JP-8 jet fuel, suitable only for military use.

Leaked CIA memo cites U.S. Jews among exporters of terrorism

Wikileaks releases a CIA memo titled ‘What if Foreigners See the United States as an Exporter of Terrorism?’ in which American Jews in Israel was one of four groups mentioned.

Soldiers photographed with bound Palestinians released

Military Court releases soldiers suspected of abusing detainee to open arrest on base. Prosecution expected to file indictment next week.,7340,L-3944549,00.html

Officials discuss PA ban on mosque loudspeakers

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A delegation from Nablus was received in Ramallah on Wednesday to address the recent decision of the Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs to stop Quran readings from loudspeakers in the West Bank.  The decision, which caused an outcry from many religious officials, and from Hamas leaders in Gaza, saw the Palestinian Authority on the defensive, earlier in the week.

1200 pilgrims to leave Gaza for Mecca

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Gaza’s Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs said 1,200 pilgrims will leave the Strip on Friday for Mecca.  Taleb Abu Sha’ara said a total of 3,000 pilgrims were scheduled to perform the pilgramage, known as Umrah, adding that 1,800 have already left the coastal enclave.  The minister thanked the Egyptian authorities for facilitating the pilgrims’ travel via the Rafah crossing on Egypt’s border.

Zionist Parallel Universe
Edelstein: Palestinians should halt building as well

If the Palestinians demand the continuation of the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria beyond the 10-month moratorium, Israel should insist that the freeze be reciprocated, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday.  Edelstein, a Neveh Daniel resident who is the only Likud minister who lives in the West Bank, intends to tell Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Sunday’s Likud ministerial meeting that he should demand a Palestinian construction freeze in his negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that are set to begin in Washington next week.

“Anti-Zionists” scare volunteer soldier, Jesse Bacon

I subscribe to the American Jewish Committee’s newsletter, and it’s an itneresting window into their psychology. As readers of this blog know, involving oneself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict invariably provokes strong reaction. My perception is that you are at much greater risk of your job if you are seen as “taking the side” of Palestinians, say if you are a respected journalist.

New book: Arab lobby rules America

New book by Mideast expert Mitchell Bard claims Arab lobby, headed by Saudis, ‘has unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on merits of their arguments’.  Comment by As`ad Abukhalil:  “But the notion that the Saudi lobby is more powerful than the Israeli lobby is ludicrous.  In fact, the Saudi Lobby now serves as a mere arm of the Israeli lobby.  Just notice that the mega arms sale worth $60 billion to Saudi Arabia stirred not one whisper from from the Israeli lobby–which has to approve by US law all arms sales to Arab and Islamic countries.”,7340,L-3944579,00.html

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest
Kowtowing to the Israeli Right, Amjad Atallah

After almost one year of intense pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by the Obama Administration, direct talks between Israel’s right-wing government and the PLO are set to resume next week. Israel insisted and received guarantees that there would be no guarantees. The talks will include all final status issues but have no agenda. The Palestinians did get a one-year timeframe, but with no word on what happens if that timeframe is not met. Not surprisingly, there is little excitement or optimism among Israelis or Palestinians.

Why Americans should oppose Zionism

More and more people are starting to pay attention to Israel’s crimes and indignities. In so doing, more and more people are questioning the origin and meaning of Zionism — that is, the very idea of a legally ethnocentric Israel. Steven Salaita comments.

The ADL has lost its way under Abe Foxman

The Anti-Defamation League’s methods of fighting anti-Semitism are not only outdated, but often counterproductive and have certainly devalued the currency of their accusations.

Monique Wilson and the sad-eyed lady of the occupied land

My Name is Rachel Corrie — edited by British actor and director Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, taken from the writings of Corrie herself — is all about a woman, a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who left her middle-class American life to encounter death in the Gaza Strip, as well her musings on the slings and arrows (bullets, to be more precise) of outrageous conflict in the Middle East. A brief history: Shortly after Rachel’s death, several of her e-mails home from Gaza were published in a number of publications, including The Guardian. Rickman was so moved by Rachel’s writings (“It’s like jumping into someone’s soul.”) that he approached the Royal Court Theater about a prospective play. The Corrie family sent 184 pages consisting of Rachel’s letters, e-mails and journals. Viner from The Guardian was brought in to shape the material into a play. Under the direction of Rickman, and featuring the actress Megan Dodds, My Name is Rachel Corrie opened at the Royal Court Theater to much acclaim and controversy.

Gilbert Achcar’s book on Arabs and the Holocaust, Miriyam Aouragh

Gilbert Achcar is a Lebanese Professor based at SOAS (University of London) and writer of numerous books on geopolitical power relations and imperialism in the Arab world. His new book is a reasoned intervention that at once disputes anti-Arab racism and develops a strong set of arguments against the notion ‘Arab anti-Semitism’. It brings together sources from English, French and Arabic archives and engages with contemporary debates. Doing so, he both deepens and broadens the important contributions on this theme by Philip Matar and Joseph Massad. This book will undoubtedly become a basic reference both to activists and academics working on the Middle East. With more than 70 pages of notes and literary references, Achcar engages in an almost breathless historical and empirical untwisting of the massive body of counter-truths stemming from polemic writings in academia, such as Harkabi’s constantly recycled classic Arab Attitudes to Israel and in popular media, detritus from the pro-Israel watchdog MEMRI. The book is at its most relevant where it steps outside the ‘academic discourse’ and engages with Arab social movements.

Wednesday: 20 Iraqis Killed, 25 Wounded

Violence tapered off a day after a massive series of attacks against Iraqi security personnel. At least 20 Iraqis were killed and 25 more were wounded in the latest incident, several of which again targeted security and other government personnel. Separately, Kuwait and Iraq are finalizing a deal that will allow the two countries to share in profits from the border oilfields that triggered an Iraqi invasion in August of 1990 and subsequent Gulf War.

Son of prominent Iraqi tribal leader assassinated

Gunmen killed the son of a prominent tribal leader in Iraq in a pre-dawn attack Thursday as fresh blasts targeted more police stations, security sources said.

Marine’s defense to seek dismissal of Haditha case (AP)

AP – Lawyers for a Marine sergeant whose squad killed 24 Iraqis say they will present a motion asking for his case to be dismissed because the Marine Corps retired his military attorney.*

US leaves behind murky picture in Iraq (AFP)

AFP – US combat troops pulling out of Iraq can claim the ouster of a brutal dictator as a clear success but otherwise leave behind unresolved questions about democracy, terror and neighboring Iran’s power.*

Baghdad to get ‘facelift’ before Arab summit

The Baghdad Municipality or Amanat al-Asima is racing against time to upgrade some of Baghdad’s run-down cities and neighborhoods before next year’s Arab summit.  The Iraqi government has expressed a willingness to host Arab leaders in Baghdad and the authorities are trying to give the violent city a new ‘facelift’.  Baghdad has been the scene of massive car bomb attacks recently which have killed and wounded hundreds of Iraqis.  Many of its streets are dotted with cement blocks and checkpoints and certain streets and neighborhoods are no-go areas.  But Saber al-Aysawi, Baghdad’s mayor, claims conditions will be different by the time Arab leaders flock to Baghdad.\2010-08-27\kurd.htm

Iraq Body Count takes on Chilcot

One of the most respected organisations to emerge from the Iraq war has launched a bitter attack on the Chilcot Inquiry today, branding it “flawed” and “derisory”.  Iraq Body Count (IBC), which earned a reputation for its cautious but reliable methodology in assessing the level of civilian casualties during the conflict, criticised the Inquiry for paying such little attention to the war’s effect on ordinary Iraqis.$21383308.htm

Rebranding Iraq, Ramzy Baroud

The soldiers of the US 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hollered as they made their way into Kuwait. ‘We won,’ they claimed. ‘It’s over.’  But what exactly did they win?  And is the war really over?  It seems we are once again walking into the same trap, the same nonsensical assumptions of wars won, missions accomplished, troops withdrawn, and jolly soldiers carrying cardboard signs of heart-warming messages like “Lindsay & Austin … Dad’s coming home.”  While much of the media is focused on the logistics of the misleading withdrawal of the “last combat brigade” from Iraq on August 19 – some accentuating the fact that the withdrawal is happening two weeks ahead of the August 31 deadline – most of us are guilty of forgetting Iraq and its people. When the economy began to take center stage, we completely dropped the war off our list of grievances.

Speech of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday August 24, 2010

The speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday August 24, 2010 during an Iftar banquet organized by the Women’s body in the Islamic Resistance Support Organization at Al Kawthar School.
Jumblatt: State Remains Final Shelter for Protecting Unity, Resistance

26/08/2010 The head of the Democratic Gathering MP Walid Jumblatt noted Thursday that, regardless if the Borj Abi Haidar clash was an individual incident or not, “the state remains the final shelter for protecting national unity and the Resistance … based on the equation of the people, army, and Resistance.”  He said in a statement that a commitment should be made towards this equation as a general principle, “which means carrying out a serious investigation in the recent unrest on the basis of affirming peace and stability and preventing security disorder.”  “Regional and international developments confirm that the conflict with Israel is still long, and is still in its early stages, which demands diligence in order to thwart Israel’s attempts at creating internal strife in Lebanon,” Jumblatt added.

Israeli plane violates Lebanon airspace

An Israeli reconnaissance plane has violated Lebanon’s airspace in breach of the country’s sovereignty, according to the Lebanese army.

‘IDF can destroy Lebanon army within 4 hours’

Lebanese paper says US envoy’s advisor threatened Lebanese army chief with Israeli contingency plan following deadly border skirmish.,7340,L-3944714,00.html

Report: France willing to arm Lebanon with 100 missiles

Official French source tells al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that Israel’s protest had no effect on Paris; helicopter missiles deal yet to be signed due to Lebanese misgivings.,7340,L-3944658,00.html
Israel, US Trying to Halt a French-Lebanese Arms Deal

27/08/2010 Israel and the US are attempting to prevent a French-Lebanese arms deal that could lead to increased Israeli casualties in any future confrontation, Channel 10 cited from a Friday report by Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat.  According to the report, French Defense Minister Herve Moran sent a letter to his Lebanese counterpart Elias Murr offering to sell Lebanon 100 HOT anti-tank missiles to be armed on the Gazelle helicopters already in use by Lebanese Armed Forces.  A French source quoted by the paper blamed a delay in the delivery of the HOT missiles due to “confusion” in the Lebanese defense establishment.

Lebanon issues arrest warrant against colonel for spying

BEIRUT, August 26 (Xinhua) — A Lebanese military investigative judge issued an arrest warrant against an Army Colonel on charges of spying for Israeli Intelligence, reported the country’s state- run National News Agency (NNA) on Thursday.  Colonel Antoine Abou Jaoude was charged of meeting with Israeli officers abroad from 2006 until his arrest in 2009. He allegedly provided confidential security information about the Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, said Judge Sakr Sakr, government commissioner at the Lebanese Military Court.

Bulldozer driver survives cluster bomb blast in south

BEIRUT: The driver of a bulldozer survived the explosion of two cluster bombs in the southern village of Yohmor al-Shqif, the state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported on Thursday. The vehicle was sweeping a road when the bombs – believed to be dropped by the Israeli Army during Israel’s summer 2006 war against Lebanon – detonated.

Lebanon’s law on Palestinian workers does not go far enough, Ahmed Moor

Extending access to work and economic rights to Palestinians would give refugees back their dignity and benefit Lebanon.

As Iran sanctions threaten, Iran sees new friend in Cambodia

Leaders from Iran and Cambodia met this month in their most senior exchange to date. Some say it is a sign that Iran sanctions are pushing Tehran to develop new trade partners.

Obama Resists Pressure for Red Line on Iran’s Nuclear Capability

President Barack Obama’s refusal in a White House briefing earlier this month to announce a “red line” in regard to the Iran nuclear program represented another in a series of rebuffs of pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates for statement that the United States will not accept its existing stocks of low enriched uranium. The Obama rebuff climaxed a months-long internal debate between Obama and Gates over the “breakout capability” issue which surfaced in the news media last April.


Obama Iraq speech to signal shift to Afghan focus (AP)

AP – With his Oval Office speech Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will signal a shift in America’s focus from the Iraq War to the war in Afghanistan, his spokesman said Thursday.*
Army: Soldiers plotted to kill Afghan civilians

But eventually, Gibbs formed what one called a “kill team” to randomly execute Afghan civilians while on patrol, the documents said. No motive was discussed.

US-led troops killed in dispute over veil

A media report says that an Afghan soldier killed two US-led soldiers in a shoot-out when they tried to remove an Afghan woman’s veil by force.

You Can’t Buy an Afghan Politician; You Can Only Rent One, Stephen M. Walt

Sounds like a plan to me. I don’t mean to be flip (well, maybe I do), but how much more evidence of the fundamental contradictions bedeviling our war effort do we need? We say corruption is endemic and is making the Karzai government unpopular, yet our own CIA is busily buying off Afghan politicians. We say our real goal is to defeat or destroy al Qaeda, yet we are spending billions on anti-corruption efforts and “nation-building.” We pour millions of dollars into a very poor country, which then flows into the pockets of Afghan politicians and back out into private bank accounts in Dubai and elsewhere. We add more troops in order to quell violence, but that makes us look like foreign occupiers and leads to additional civilians casualties, no matter how careful we try to be. And we never seem to have a serious discussion of the actual stakes in Afghanistan, the costs of an open-ended effort, the definition of “success,” or the likelihood that we will achieve it.

Yemen rejects U.S. role in fighting al-Qaida

SANAA, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) — Yemeni government reaffirmed on Thursday that combating terrorism in the country remains the responsibility of its security services alone, responding to the report that the United States may step up air raids on the regional al-Qaida wing in Yemen, the state media reported.  The response came following the Washington Post’s report that U.S. officials said al-Qaida in Yemen was the most urgent threat in the region and vowed to step up attacks on the group, according to the official Saba news agency.

CIA wants to cover up US war crimes in Yemen

A missile strike on December 17 in Yemen last year that killed 41 people including 21 children and 14 women was most likely the result of a US cruise missile strike — an opening shot in a US military campaign that began without notice and has never been officially confirmed.

U.S. Weighs Expanded Attacks in Yemen

Such a move would give the Central Intelligence Agency a far larger role in what has until now been mainly a secret U.S. military campaign against militant targets in Yemen and across the Horn of Africa. It would likely be modeled after the CIA’s covert drone campaign in Pakistan.

An Exciting New Muslim Country To Drone Attack, Glenn Greenwald

There is anti-Americanism and radicalism in Yemen; therefore, to solve that problem, we’re going to bomb them more with flying killer robots, because nothing helps reduce anti-American sentiments like slaughtering civilians and dropping cluster bombs from the sky.

U.S. and Other World News

Obama’s US Assassination Program?

That’s right. No arrest. No Miranda rights. No due process. No trial. Just a bullet.

Empire – The US between two wars

The US stands at a historic crossroads, redeploying its combat troops out of Iraq and surging them in Afghanistan. But are they really leaving Iraq – or just rebranding the occupation? Why is Iraqi Lieutenant General Zibari requesting a decade-long US military presence?

Saudi Arabia employers ‘hammer nails’ into Sri Lankan maid

A Sri Lankan woman working as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia says she has been severely abused for complaining about being overworked. Ariyawathi’s Saudi employers reportedly hammered 24 nails into her hands, legs and forehead, which had to be removed later with surgery. Sri Lanka’s government says it will report the incident to Saudi authorities. Al Jazeera’s Laura Kyle reports on a case that rights organisations say is all too common in the country. [August 27, 2010]

Saudi Royal Backs Imam and Fox News, ROBERT MACKEY

In an awkward moment on Fox News this week, a pundit suggested that a Saudi stakeholder in the channel’s parent company “funds radical madrasas all over the world.”

Egypt electricity cuts worsen Ramadan suffering

CAIRO: Since Muslims began their daily dawn-to-dusk fast for the holy month of Ramadan two weeks ago, Egypt has been hit by its worst power outages in decades.  The cuts at the height of summer, with daily temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, along with rising food prices and water shortages, have had Egyptians fuming, sweating and cursing during a month in which their sacrifices are supposed to bring them closer to God.  Nearly every day newspapers run photographs of families huddled in near darkness around candles or oil lamps. And Egyptians are venting their frustration out on the government, adding to a list of grievances over what critics argue is its rampant disregard for anything other than catering to the elite and holding on to power.

Syrian soaps confront taboos

Syrian soaps have become popular across the region in recent years due to their realistic plots which have also caused controversy.

Eating less meat is more Islamic | Joseph Mayton

The Qu’ran reminds us animals and birds are ‘communities like you’. So why do so many Muslims break their fast with meat?  For most of the billion-plus Muslims who sit down each evening to break their Ramadan fast, meat will be on the menu. Lots of it. But how Islamic is eating meat?  Not very, according to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, who argues that historically Muslims ate so little meat they were almost vegetarian. “Meat is not a necessity in sharia, and in the old days most Muslims used to eat meat – if they were wealthy, like middle class – once a week on Friday. If they were poor – on the Eids.”

Islam in America
California mosque vandalized, Ground Zero mentioned

The signs read “No Temple for the God of terrorism at Ground Zero. ANB,” “Wake up America, the Enemy is here. ANB” and “American Nationalist Brotherhood.”

Fox host: Cabbie stabbing ‘nothing to do with anti-Muslim sentiment’

One Fox News host may be in denial about the effects of rampant Islamophobia over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” While reporting on the stabbing of a Muslim New York City cab driver, Alisyn Camerota maintained anti-Islamic rhetoric had nothing to do with the crime.

EXCLUSIVE…Zeitoun: How a Hero in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina Was Arrested, Labeled a Terrorist and Imprisoned

Today a personal story of a national tragedy. Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Abdelrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-born New Orleans building contractor, stayed in the city while his wife and children left to Baton Rouge. He paddled the flooded streets in his canoe and helped rescue many of his stranded neighbors. Days later, armed police and National Guardsmen arrested him and accused him of being a terrorist. He was held for nearly a month, most of which he was not allowed to call his wife, Kathy. Today, in a rare broadcast interview. Abdelrahman and Kathy Zeitoun join us to tell their story, along with the man who chronicles it in the book, Zeitoun Dave Eggers.

Looking at Islamic Center Debate, World Sees U.S.

For more than two decades, Abdelhamid Shaari has been lobbying a succession of governments in Milan for permission to build a mosque for his congregants — any mosque at all, in any location.  For now, he leads Friday Prayer in a stadium normally used for rock concerts. When sites were proposed for mosques in Padua and Bologna, Italy, a few years ago, opponents from the anti-immigrant Northern League paraded pigs around them. The projects were canceled.  In that light, the furor over the precise location of Park51, the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan, looks to Mr. Shaari like something to aspire to. “At least in America,” Mr. Shaari said, “there’s a debate.”…..

Is Islamophobia sweeping the US?

I wish Jewish journalists would emulate Aslan and Zakaria in being transparent about their religious identity

Aug 27, 2010

Philip Weiss

One of the interesting things about the debate about the Islamic center near Ground Zero is that American Muslim journalists have offered confessions about their identity in taking a stand in favor of the mosque/center. I have heard Reza Aslan and Fareed Zakaria speak openly about their degree of Muslim orthodoxy– low in both cases. Zakaria said that he drinks alcohol. Aslan said something about his secularization.

These confessions are helpful and admirable. They help listeners (both situations were broadcast interviews) make an assessment of the merit of his ideas based upon their own life choices, for the journalists are explaining how they’ve responded to the strong dictates of authority in their lives. I think, I’d be like that if I were a Muslim.

I wish that more Jewish journalists would do this when they are talking about Zionism.

Even Peter Beinart’s landmark piece attacking the Jewish leadership on Israel said nothing about his own degree of religiosity/his own Jewish identity. Well Beinart is an orthodox Jew. I learned that from some other journalist. It would be helpful to readers to know just how religious a person is in assessing his or her views on a fundamentally religious/political issue, the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. I can’t remember Gershom Gorenberg offering this confession, at least since his first book on Jerusalem. I can’t remember David Frum or Richard Perle or Douglas Feith offering it when they were pushing the Iraq war or talking about Palestinian terror. I can’t remember Paul Berman ever saying a word about his religious identification, even as he trashes Muslims as terrorists.

Elliott Abrams certainly offered his confession of Jewish identity, in a book of 1997 on the subject, but he only did it because he didn’t imagine being back in politics when he wrote the book. David Brooks recently offered a confession about his Jewish identity, that he gets “gooey-eyed” whenever he goes to Israel. But that was about it.

I can’t remember a time when Richard Cohen, the pro-Israel columnist for the Washington Post, explained his degree of Jewish identification.

Tony Judt, by comparison, openly described his degree of Jewish identification, when he was criticizing the Jewish state. We knew that he was intermarried, we knew about his own falling out with Zionism. He understood that Jewish identity confronting multicultural modernity was a significant part of the problem here– as Muslim identity confronting modernity is a part of the problem on the other side.

I venture that one reason the Muslim journalists make these confessions is that they lack power in the political equation (the mosque debate) and they are trying to win people to their side. They feel like outsiders. By contrast, Peter Beinart and David Frum don’t lack power. And the powerful tend to be more assumptive. They don’t interrogate themselves. They say, Well we are all for Israel; everyone in the establishment is for Israel! (And Doug Feith, who lost much of his ancestors in the Holocaust, surely fears that a confession of his Jewish identification would welcome anti-Semitic attack, but I don’t buy this as an excsue).

Fareed Zakaria and Reza Aslan are role models here. In discussing a religious subject, they have put their religious cards on the table. I wish Jewish journalists who advocate for Israel would practice that move.

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