Friday, July 27, 2007

The Arab League in Israel?

"Wednesday's visit was the first by Arab League representatives to promote their peace plan," remarked an article in al-Jazeera.

The author was referring to a trip by the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers to the Jewish State, where they met with the Israeli Prime Minister, foreign and defense ministers, and president. The purpose of the trip was to promote the Arab League's Saudi Peace Initiative for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mark Regev, Israel's foreign ministry spokesman, agreed with al-Jazeera over the nature of the visit: “This is the first time that a delegation is coming here under the auspices of the Arab League.’’

But Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, vigorously denied that the foreign ministers represented his organization: "They are not acting under the banner of the Arab League. They represent two Arab countries that for certain circumstances entered into peace accords and official diplomatic relations."

So what's the fuss about? Why would Moussa offer such a fervent repudiation of any connection between the ministers' mission and the Arab League?

The answer, it seems to me, is that old animosities die hard. Though the League was created in 1945, in 1944 representatives from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon gathered to discuss the future institution. The result was the Alexandria Protocol, which spelled out the goals of the Arab League.

One of those goals was to end Jewish immigration into what was then British Mandate Palestine. Later, shortly after the Arab League was finalized, the League passed a resolution that stated, "Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries" and that all Arab "institutions, organizations, merchants, commission agents and individuals" must "refuse to deal in, distribute, or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods."

Since then--when the leaders of Arab League member states weren't calling for the Jews to be thrown in the sea, or denouncing Israel at the U.N., or supporting groups that kill Israeli civilians--the League has tried to ignore Israel. Pretend it doesn't exist, that it is not part of the region.

But lately there have been forces in the Middle East that can't be ignored: the rise of both al-Qaeda and Iran. Though Saudi Arabia once thought it could contain al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization has perpetrated attacks throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi territory. And Iran--whose Persian, Shi'ite version of Islam is an anathema to most Arab countries--has grown increasingly bellicose.

In order to counter these forces, and ease internal tensions, Saudi Arabia came up with a plan that was approved by the Arab League in 2002 and reaffirmed in 2006. The Saudi Peace Initiative calls for full Arab recognition of Israel in return for 1) Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem; 2) the creation of a Palestinian State; and 3) a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with U.N. Resolution 194 (which the Arab public takes to mean that Palestinians should be allowed to resettle in Israel).

The Arab League expects Israel to carry out its obligations before gaining diplomatic recognition from the Arab states. So even though the League has certified the Initiative and authorized the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers to speak to Israel in order to promote it, the Arab League bristles at any suggestion that it is dealing with the "Zionist regime."

If it truly envisions peace between Israel and its neighbors, the Arab League must end these petty denials. This way, Israel and the international community will know that the League desires a friendly, safe, and prosperous future more than it dwells on past hostilities.

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Fatah General calls Hamas 'Bloodthirsty'

In an article in the Jerusalem Post, a general from Palestinian Authority President Abbas' Fatah party recounted the last days of Hamas' bloody takeover of Gaza. Here are some excerpts:

"We were surrounded by hundreds of Hamas gunmen in our bases and offices in the security zone near the Gaza City beach. I had about 35 men with me and we were planning to fight to the end...

"I knew that I was wanted by Hamas and that's why I decided to fight to the end. I knew that Hamas was going to kill me anyway and that I had nothing to lose. On Thursday night [June 14], hours before Hamas completed its coup, I managed to fire dozens of rocket-propelled grenades at them. I inflicted heavy damages on them. I taught them a lesson that they will never forget.

"But when I finally realized that Hamas's forces were advancing toward our security zone, I decided to leave the area. At around 2 a.m. on Friday morning I ran away toward the Egyptian security delegation's offices on the 10th floor of a tower near my base. I covered my face with a keffiyeh and threw my rifle away.

"Shortly after I entered the Egyptians' office, about 30 Hamas gunmen stormed the area and detained me. They did not care about the fact that this was an office belonging to the Egyptian security forces. They dragged me down to the street, where most buildings and houses were on fire.

"As we stood there, I asked the Hamas people: 'Why don't you execute me and dump my body in the flames?' Actually I begged them to execute me because I knew I was going to be tortured. Before they put me in a jeep, I saw the Hamas gunmen execute several people right in front of me. They were shooting all the detainees. I was sure that one of them was going to shoot me in the head. But they later blindfolded me and took me to a place where I was held for about 12 hours.

"In this place, there were a number of senior security commanders who had also been captured by Hamas. We were all told that we were going to be executed immediately after our interrogation. They asked us many questions and kept us locked in small rooms. We had no idea where we were being held. Some of us were beaten severely."

The general, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was eventually released due to the intervention of a Fatah official close to the Hamas leadership. He was then allowed to escape Gaza and enter the West Bank. Asked if he would return to the Gaza Strip, the general replied:

"If I go back, Hamas will kill me immediately. I'm wanted by them. My wife and children are still there and Hamas has burned my house. I don't know what's going to happen now, but I'm not optimistic. These Hamas people are murderers and bloodthirsty. They are using religion as an excuse to commit crimes even against their own people."

Though the general showed great disdain for Hamas and its bloody coup, he also admitted admiration for their strategy:
"Everything was carefully planned. They were closing in on us from all directions. You could see that they were operating according to a good plan.

"They managed to isolate Khan Yunis from the rest of the Gaza Strip. Then they isolated Rafah and other cities. They even divided Gaza City into separate zones and kept moving ahead."

We will have to see whether Abbas' Fatah forces can similarly execute such strategy against Hamas operatives in the West Bank, while reigning in corruption and random violence perpetrated by militias linked to his own party. So far, things are actually looking promising. More on this later.


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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turkey Supports Israel

"We see Israel as our number one county that we trust, it plays a very important role in our considerations." These words were spoken not by a U.S. official, but by a representative from a Muslim country: Turkey.

In an interview with an Israeli publication, Turkish Ambassador to Israel Namik Tan spoke glowingly of the relationship between the countries. "We will do our best to help our friends in Israel. We will continue to be a real example of democracy in this troubled region, together with Israel."

His comments come as some in the West, including Israelis, have been concerned that the reelection of a religious-oriented party in the Turkish parliament could move the country away from its Western orientation. The Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials "AKP") promotes the legalization of public displays of religion, such as allowing women to wear head-scarves in Turkish public buildings. That practice is currently outlawed as part of strict secular reforms put in place by modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk.

But the AKP has also been seen as pro-business, opening up the economy and overseeing annual GDP growth of 7%. Further, the AKP has vigorously enacted reforms that will allow a hoped for accession into the European Union.

Concerning questions that Israelis might not be welcome in Turkey after the recent election, Ambassador Tan responded, "Turkey will continue to be a popular destination for Israeli tourists of course, we are honored to host them in our country."

Concerning Iran, Tan stated that military intervention would not bring desired results, but that Turkey is against Iran getting nuclear weapons, and calls on the country to cooperate with the international community.

Tan also said that his country will continue attempts at facilitating talks between Israel and Syria. At this point, Syria has stated that it only wants to talk with Israel if the U.S. is involved, while Israel has stated that it only wants to talk to Syria one-on-one. Turkey would be an excellent compromise.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 7/22/07

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
PALESTINIAN Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently made good on his pledge to crack down on Hamas in the West Bank. On Sunday his security services arrested 22 rival Hamas operatives in a 24-hour campaign against the terrorist group. This comes as members of terrorist groups associated with Abbas' Fatah party have pledged to end their attacks on Israel and turned in their weapons in return for being removed from Israel's wanted list. The question remains as to how many individuals have made that pledge, and whether Abbas is willing and able to enforce an end to attacks on Israel from his own party.

IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Damascus this past week with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Assad and Ahmadinejad reportedly struck a deal where Iran would fund for Syria $1 billion worth of advance weapons--including fighter jets, tanks, and missiles--and aid in Syrian nuclear and chemical weapons research. In return, Assad reportedly promised not to seek peace with Israel. Iran has denied the deal.

EXIT Polls in Turkey's parliamentary elections show the religious-oriented Justice and Development Party [which goes by its Turkish initials "AKP"] won in a landslide against strictly secular parties. Preliminary polls give AKP 51.6%, while left-leaning Republican People's Party ["CHP"] won 15.2% and far-right National Action Party ["MHP"] won 13.7%.

The AKP is more accurately compared to the religious right in the U.S. rather than other "Islamist parties" such as Hamas in the Palestinian territories or Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is considered pro-business, and has overseen annual GDP growth of 7%. It also has worked to conform Turkish laws to fit European Union standards. But it wishes to permit more public expressions of religion in Turkey, such as allowing women to wear head-coverings in public universities or allowing politicians to publicly proclaim their faith. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, imposed a strict separation of Mosque and State.

In recent months there has been tension between the current AKP government and the military, which considers itself the guardian of Turkish secularism. The military has initiated four coups since the 1960's; the latest occurred in 1997 when Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan was pressured to step down due to his militant Islamist views. The AKP has much milder views than Erbakan, but the military has accused the party of undermining Turkey's secular character.

In Turkish elections, voters select parties rather than candidates. The party with the most votes wins the most seats in the 550 member parliament. A party must receive at least 10% of the vote to gain seats. If a party takes more than 50% of the seats, they form the government; if no party receives an absolute majority of the seats, several parties may form a coalition government.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Peres: Its a Hoax. Israel has no Nukes!

A Cafe Cordover Satire

Newly inaugurated Israeli President Shimon Peres had a surprise announcement for the world: Israel has no nuclear weapons. "You know, I was playing a practical joke on Yitzy [Yitzhak Rabin, then Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces]. It was the swinging '60's, and we all were doing crazy stuff, if you know what I mean. I was high on the Purple Haze, and I said to Yitzy, 'Guess what, we have nukes!' And he almost crapped himself. But then I told him I was kidding, and he dared me to play the prank on Levi [then Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol]."

Apparently Eshkol did not find the joke so amusing. He ordered the Shin Bet [Israel's internal security service, akin to the FBI] to perform an "atomic wedgie" on Peres. But Eshkol decided to incorporate Peres' practical joke into Israel's defense policy.

Peres, who in the 1960's was Israel's Deputy Defense Minister and considered the founder of the Jewish State's nuclear program and policy, was candid about Israel's sleight of hand.

"I called it 'nuclear ambiguity,'" explained Peres. "It meant that Israel would neither confirm nor deny that we had nuclear weapons. I never thought that anyone would take that to mean that we actually had nukes, but they did! Boy, does everybody have egg on their face!"

Current Israeli Defense Minister, and former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak was not pleased at Peres' announcement. "Shimon can't keep his big mouth shut! I swear, I told him about a great porno I rented last week, and he blabbed it all over the Knesset [Israeli Parliament]. It was a great one, too, with a horse and a midget. I told him in confidence, but, no! He can't keep a secret. Wait, is this on record?"

Some Arab leaders appreciated the hoax. "Oh, those Jews are so funny!" exclaimed Libyan chief Muammar Gaddafi. "It's amazing that throughout their history they've been persecuted, but the Jews have been able to keep their sense of humor. I've always loved Jerry Seinfeld. And that Jon Stewart! He's so irreverent!"

Other Arab leaders were not amused. "I always knew that the Zionist regime was filled with dirty liars," said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "First they said that 2,000 years ago there were Jews in Palestine. Then they claimed that Albert Einstein was one of them. I mean, what's next? That the Mossad [Israeli intelligence service, akin to the CIA] was not responsible for 9/11? Come on!"

U.S. President George W. Bush was unavailable for comment, as he was in the middle of a colonoscopy. But Vice President Richard Cheney, who assumed presidential responsibilities during Bush's operation, immediately proclaimed Peres a member of the Axis of Evil. And then he bombed Iran.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 7/15/07

A Summary of Interesting Stories throughout the Middle East

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
THE Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Jordan have postponed their trip to Israel until July 25th. The ministers had planned to visit Israel this past week to discuss the Saudi Peace Initiative, which envisions full Arab recognition of Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem; the implementation of a Palestinian Right to Return; and the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel has accepted the Saudi initiative with reservations: 1) it will not grant a Right of Return to Israel itself, as that would lead to the demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish State (though it supports a Right of Return to a future Palestinian State in the West Bank & Gaza); and 2) all of Jerusalem is Israel's eternal and undivided capital.

The postponement of the trip comes as Israel and the Arab League publicly voice their disagreement over the nature of the delegation. The Arab League had appointed Egypt and Jordan to discuss the Saudi Peace Initiative with Israel. Egypt and Jordan then announced that their Foreign Ministers would visit Israel to discuss the plan. Israel subsequently heralded the ministers' trip as the first time that the Arab League would send an official mission to the Jewish State. But the Secretary General of the Arab League balked at that description, stating that the ministers were only representing the governments of Egypt and Jordan. He further remarked, "The Arab League has no relation with Israel."

PALESTINIAN Authority ("PA") Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of a care-taker government. Fayyad had been serving as leader of an emergency government since Abbas dismissed Hamas ministers following their bloody coup in Gaza. Hamas spokesmen have deemed Fayyad's government "illegal" because, according to the PA constitution, the government must be confirmed by the PA parliament. The parliament, however, has been paralyzed due to Hamas' refusal to stand down in Gaza, Israel's imprisonment of half of Hamas members of parliament, and Abbas' refusal to allow his Fatah party to meet with members of Hamas.

ELDER statesman Shimon Peres has been sworn in as Israel's ninth president. Shimon Peres has been associated with each stage of Israel's history: he has served in almost every ministry since the founding of the state, including as prime minister; he was the architect of Israel's nuclear program and policy; and he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for his work in attempting to bring peace between Israel and its neighbors. Though the presidency is largely ceremonial (somewhat akin to the monarchy in Britain), Peres is an internationally respected figure and will bring much-needed positive attention to the Jewish State.

REPRESENTATIVES from 14 Lebanese parties have met in France in an attempt to ease political deadlock within the Arab state. Included in the meeting are delegates from Hezbollah, an organization that many Western and Arab countries view as perpetuating terrorism and instability.

Following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shi'ite organization briefly had a wide following among Lebanese for its perceived victory over Israel. But it has since been widely criticized for starting the conflict when it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Hundreds of Lebanese citizens died, and there were millions of dollars worth of damage because Hezbollah based its military operations in civilian areas.

Furthermore, Hezbollah is criticized for attempting to block the international tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; for walking out of the Lebanese government and helping to block the convening of sessions of parliament; and for holding the interests of Syria and Iran above those of Lebanon.

AN Iranian article claiming that the Arab Kingdom of Bahrain is Iranian territory has caused fury around the Arab world (Click here for a regional map of Bahrain). Hossein Shariatmadari, a close confidant of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, wrote that "public demand in Bahrain is the reunification of this province with its motherland, the Islamic Iran." The foreign minister of Iran has since traveled to Bahrain in order to quell tensions.

Historically there has been friction between Iran, a Farsi-speaking majority Shi'ite state, and Bahrain, an Arabic-speaking Sunni-led country. In the 1970's Iran laid claim to Bahrain, but the then British protectorate instead voted for independence. In recent times, Arab states of the Persian Gulf and throughout the Mideast have looked at Iran's growing influence and nuclear program with suspicion.

Citizens of Bahrain have gathered in front of the Iranian embassy in protest. Furthermore Egypt, the most populous Arab state, has railed against Shariatmadari's statements. So has the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Bahrain is a member along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Major Palestinian Terrorist Organizations

Below you will find a short description for the major Palestinian terrorist organizations

al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

Affiliation: Fatah; Popular Resistance Committee

Ideology: secular/nationalist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza

Brief History: First appeared in 2000, at the beginning of the Second (a.k.a. al-Aqsa) Intifada (uprising). Named after the al-Aqsa Mosque (a.k.a. the Dome of the Rock), which stands at an area that Jews call the Temple Mount (where the First and Second Temples existed in ancient Judea). Formed in reaction to then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visiting the Temple Mount. Reportedly received payments from former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Is closely connected to Palestinian Authority ("PA") security services, and members likely still receive payments from current PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his government.

Terrorist Incidents:

  • Jan. 2002 suicide bombing by female in Jerusalem that killed 1 and wounded 40
  • Mar. 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem cafe that killed 11 and wounded over 50
  • Nov. 2002 shooting at Israeli Kibbutz that killed 2 children, 3 adults, and wounded 7
  • Jan. 2003 suicide bombings in Tel Aviv that killed 23, wounded over 100
  • Jan. 2004 suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem that killed 11 and wounded 30
  • Mar. 2004 suicide bombing in Ashdod that killed 11
  • 78 separate rocket attacks between Apr. 2005 and Mar. 2007

Army of Islam

Affiliation: Popular Resistance Committee; influence by al-Qaeda

Ideology: Islamist

Base of Operations/Leadership: Gaza Strip

Brief History: First appeared in 2006. Leadership comes from the Dagmoush clan, a family in the Gaza Strip known for extortion, smuggling, and arms-dealing. Has variously coordinate and clashed with armed groups from Fatah and Hamas. Has demanded the release of leaders of al-Qaeda in return for freeing hostages.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • June 2006 kidnapping of Israeli Defense Forces Cpl. Gilad Shalit, killing 2 others
  • Mar. 2007 kidnapping of BBC Reporter Alan Johnston

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)

Ideology: Secular/Marxist-Leninist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip; Damascus, Syria

Brief History: The DFLP split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ("PFLP") in 1969 over leadership dispute. Emphasizes international Marxism over Palestinian nationalism. Rejected the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel, though has since accepted them.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • 1974 guerrilla attack of school in Ma'alot killing 27 (mostly children), wounding 134
  • 1977 bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
  • 1984 grenade attack in Jerusalem, wounding 21
  • 1985 bus attack near Hebron
  • 1988 gasoline bombing of the car of then-Industry and Trade Minister Ariel Sharon
  • Nov. 2006, fired 3 rockets in Israel, no casualties
Iz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

Affiliation: Hamas; Palestinian Resistance Committee

Ideology: Islamist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip

Brief History: Established in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and as a major player in the First Intifada (uprising). Is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and replacing it with an Islamic state. It's political wing, Hamas, initially refused to be part of the Palestinian Authority ("PA") because the PA was created after the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel. Major player in the Second (Al-Aqsa) Intifada. Decided to participate in 2006 PA parliamentary elections, where it received a majority and formed a new government. Formed unity government with Fatah in early 2007 in attempt to end international boycott of PA. Ousted Fatah from Gaza Strip in June 2007 in violent military coup.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • Since 1993, various suicide bombings, rocket attacks, and small arms fire that have killed over 500.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

Affiliation: Hezbollah; Iranian Revolutionary Guards

Ideology: Islamist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip; Damascus, Syria; Lebanon

Brief History: Formed in late 1970's as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Believed the Brotherhood had become to moderate. Seeks the destruction of Israel and the replacement with a Mideast pan-Islamic empire. Even though it is a Sunni group, receives funding from Iran (a Shi'a country). Frequently coordinates attacks with Hamas.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • Since 1988, various shooting, suicide bombings, firebombings, rocket/missile attacks
  • Between May 2005 and Feb. 2007, responsible for 18 dead and 186 wounded
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

Ideology: Secular/Nationalist/Marxist-Leninist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank; Gaza Strip; Damascus, Syria

Brief History: Established in 1967 in response to failure of Arab countries to destroy Israel in Six Day War. Seeks to destroy Israel and replace it with Marxist-Leninist Arab state. Rejects the 1993 Oslo Accords and Palestinian Authority. Has received funding from Syria, Iran, and Libya. Pioneered airplane hijacking.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • 1968, hijacked El Al airplane.
  • 1972, shooting at Lod International Airport, killing at least 24
  • 1976, hijacked Air France Airplane, landing it in Entebbe, Uganda. In famous raid, IDF freed 100 hostages, though 3 died
  • 2001, shot dead Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi
  • Between 2004 and 2005, responsible for at least 3 deaths and 30 wounded from rocket attacks and suicide bombings


Affiliation: Fatah

Ideology: Secular/Nationalist

Base of Operations/Leadership: West Bank

Brief History: Founded in 1995 in opposition to Islamist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Also, wanted to ensure that those who had stayed in the West Bank and Gaza after 1967 war maintained a voice in Fatah. Until 1993, Fatah leadership (i.e. Arafat and his associates) was based in Tunisia, and once they came back to the PA had not allowed the younger generation to gain positions of power. Tanzim sought to rectify this. Lead by Marwan Barghouti, who has been in an Israeli prison since 2002 for multiple murder convictions. Barghouti has negotiated several ceasefires between Palestinian factions and Israel, and considered a future contender for Chairman of the PA. There has been speculation that Israel may free Barghouti in order to boost PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.

Terrorist Incidents:
  • Between 2000 and 2002, various shootings, stabbings, bombings, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks resulting in at least 26 dead and 100 wounded.


1976: Israelis Rescue Entebbe Hostages in (available at

Council on Foreign Relations (available at

Demands issued on Johnston tape
in (May 9, 2007) (available at

Yaakov Katz, Vilna'i: Let DFLP leader visit Ramallah in Jerusalem Post Online (July 13, 2007) (available at

Yaakov Katz, Sneh: Exchange Barghouti for Schalit in Jerusalem Post Online (July 10, 2007) (available at

Elise Labbot, Militants issue Israel hostage demands in (June 26, 2006) (available at

Paul Martin and Martin Fletcher, The moment of greatest danger in Times Online (June 18, 2007) (available at

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base (available at

Aaron D. Pina, Palestinian Factions, Congressional Research Services Report RS 21235 (June 8, 2005) (available at

Profile: DFLP in (Feb. 4, 2002) (available at

Statement of Indictment: Marwan bin Khatib Barghouti in Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Aug. 14, 2002) (available at

Weapon Survey (available at

World Incidents Tracking System (available at

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

Once in each generation there is a man that strives for greatness. Herein lies the story of such a man, though his vision has yet to be realized. This is the tale of Jeffrey Herman Cordover.

In a small village called the Bronx of New York, Jeffrey was born to his parents Bernice and Abraham. Bernice wanted her son to grow big and strong and wise, and tried feeding him everything to help in his development. But Jeffrey was a finnicky eater, and all of Bernice's efforts seem to come in vain.

Bernice attempted to feed Jeffrey fruit, but he refused. Bernice tried vegetables, but Jeffrey would not eat one bite. Next she tried fish. This only enraged Jeffrey, who threw the fish out the window and angrily bellowed, "Fish, fish, tuchas kish!" (roughly translated as "no, I will not eat this fish").

Then an idea came to Bernice. You see, Jeffrey had always loved to learn about farm animals. Whenever Bernice told of her parents' life on the farm in the Old Country, his eyes would grow wide and his mind would fill with wonder. His curiosity was especially piqued when Bernice spoke of chickens and their magnificent creation: the egg.

So Bernice fed Jeffrey eggs, and he eagerly consumed them. He was happy, but Jeffrey was not satisfied. He vowed that one day he would have a farm of his own, and on that farm chickens would roam, and those chickens would lay the most fresh and glorious eggs, and Jeffrey would have fresh and glorious eggs to eat each and everyday.

As time passed by, Jeffrey grew big and strong and wise, just as his mother had wanted. He soon met a beautiful maiden name Judith Zelda Ollinger, and though she thought his dream odd, she grew dearly in love with Jeffrey. And they married.

But Jeffrey could not yet afford to finance his dream, and he now had a wife to think about. So he worked in whatever job he could find in the small village called the Bronx of New York. He endeavored as a bagboy at the local grocerie store. He made wire coat hangers in a factory. He worked as salesman of women's undergarments. But none of these jobs could earn him enough money to care for Judith and save for his dream.

So he and Judith packed their bags and moved to the faraway village of Boston. Jeffrey worked in several jobs, but was not satisfied at any of them. But he was satisfied with two bundles of joy that he and Judith begot: Marc and Marcy.

When Jeffrey got totally fed up with his job prospects, he shouted at his boss: "Gay cackin affin yamin!" (rough translation: I wish not to work here any more). To pursue his dreams and take care of his family, Jeffrey and the Cordover clan moved to the village of Miami.

At first he once again could only find a job selling women's undergarments. But then an opportunity of a lifetime came along. His brother, Howard, started an international goat emporium, and asked Jeffrey to join him. Though there were no chickens or eggs involved, Jeffrey jumped at the opportunity to work with beloved farm animals.

In time, Jeffrey took over the international goat emporium. Soon after, he and Judith produced a third child, and named him Adam. All were content. Well, maybe not all. Jeffrey had yet to realize his vision.

Twenty years passed by, all of the children were out of the house, and Jeffrey and Judith had earned enough savings to retire. Jeffrey intended to live the good life.

He and Judith scoured all over the country to find the best chicken-egg producing conditions. They finally settled on a plot of land in Weaverville, North Carolina. Once their house was built, all that was left was to erect a chicken coup and buy some chickens.

But alas, just as Jeffrey laid the coup cornerstone, he received some bad news: His plot of land was in an N.C.Z. And, as everyone knows, "N.C.Z." stands for "No Chicken Zone."

Though he briefly flirted with the idea of building a pond, getting some ducks, and feeding off their eggs, Judith vetoed that idea. Such a plan would have required the ducks to stay in their bathtub during the winter, and Judith would have none of that.

Jeffrey then did the only thing he could do: lobby the Weaverville Citizen's Council. Unfortunately, the Council has yet to take up the matter.

So you would think with all of these years passed by and still no fresh eggs, Jeffrey would feel dejected. Quite the opposite is true. As Jeffrey will tell you, "Ven der petzel shtait, de sechel gait" (rough translation: "One day, I will have fresh eggs").

To this day, if you enter the town of Weaverville, you will see Jeffrey Cordover. He is the one on the big orange tractor, keeping his land ready for the day he will be allowed to build his chicken coup.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Al-Qaeda Issues Ultimatum to Iran

According to an article in al-Jazeera, al-Qaeda in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran if the country continued to support Iraq's Shi'a community.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq (which is affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq) stated in an audio tape:

We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two-month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shia government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you.
He further warned Arab countries from doing business with Iran.

The audio tape has not been independently verified. Moreover, the U.S. military previously stated that they killed al-Baghdadi in May. But a scenario of al-Qaeda attacking Iran is by no means far-fetched.

Most historians, at least in the U.S., credit the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for leading to the creation of al-Qaeda. They claim that Muslims were called to jihad against the "atheist invader," and the U.S. supported these fighters with money and arms.

This may be part of the story of how al-Qaeda was created, but it is not the complete story. The year 1979 also saw the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to Vali Nasr in his book "The Shia Revival," this event was one of the principal steps in the spread of al-Qaeda ideology. But not in the way most Americans might think.

Iran is a predominantly Shi'ite country. They have beliefs that conflict with Sunni interpretations of Islam. For example, they believe that the successors to their Prophet Muhammed should have been members of Muhammed's family, rather than learned individuals chosen by a group of scholars (as was the case). The Shi'a also believe that one day the Twelfth Imam, a descendant of Muhammed and a messiah-like figure, will bring about the end of times. Most Sunnis do not believe in the Twelfth Imam. In addition, the Shi'a build shrines to revered figures in their history, whereas many Sunnis consider such acts a form of idolatry.

Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the new Islamic Republic of Iran, promised to spread the ideology and influence of Shi'a Islam. He succeeded in many places including Iraq, countries around the Persian Gulf, and Lebanon (where his crowning success was the development of Hezbollah).

In response, Saudi Arabia greatly increased it funding for madrasahs, or schools. These institutions promoted Wahabism, an extreme form of Islam that has no tolerance for anyone perceived to defame Sunni traditions. Shi'ites from the beginning were a target of Wahabi wrath.

To counter the rise of Iran and its proxies, Saudi Arabia fully supported the spread of Wahabi militarism. And Wahabi ideology forms the backbone of al-Qaeda.

Since the U.S. intervention, many in the Shi'a community in Iraq, led by individuals such as Muqtada al-Sadr and backed by Iran, have fought against Sunni groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq. Iran has further supported the Iraqi government, which some view as anti-Sunni. So it would not be surprising if in the near future we see al-Qaeda declare an all out war against Iran.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 7/8/07

A Summary of Interesting Stories throughout the Middle East

Israel & the Palestinian Territories
FOR the first time, representatives of the Arab League will make an official visit to Israel this coming Thursday. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan--appointed by the Arab League to promote the Saudi Peace Initiative--will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Saudi Initiative calls for Israel to withdraw from all lands it captured in the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem, and implement a Palestinian right to return in exchange for full Arab recognition of Israel. PM Olmert has welcomed the plan, though has reservations on a pull back from East Jerusalem (which is part of Israel's capital) and resettlement of Palestinians in Israel proper.

The Arab League has traditionally been hostile to Israel, so this visit will indeed be a historic occasion. Upon its creation in 1945, the organization resolved to boycott all Jewish products originating from what was then British Mandate Palestine. The Arab League expanded the boycott when Israel gained independence in 1948. To this day, most Arab League member states continue to boycott products and services from Israel, and some states refuse to do business with any company that engages with Israel.

ISLAMIC Jihad and Hamas claimed responsibility for firing several Kassam rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The rockets caused no casualties, though a university building sustained damages.

PALESTINIAN lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of Palestinian Authority ("PA") President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to appoint a new government without parliament's approval. Abbas tapped former World Bank official Salam Fayyad to head the government after firing Hamas representatives because of the violent coup staged in Gaza.

The Palestinian lawyers, who helped draft the constitution which was implemented in 2002, claim that Abbas was permitted to fire the Hamas lawmakers from the cabinet, but could not appoint a new government. The lawyers further stated that Abbas could not suspend parts of the constitution. Representative of Abbas responded that the PA is in a state of emergency, and thus Abbas' word is law.

EGYPTIAN authorities seized over a ton of explosives in the Sinai Peninsula, in an area approximately 100 km from the Gaza border. Palestinian militants often use the Gaza border to smuggle in weapons and explosives for internecine fighting and to commit terrorist acts against Israel.

LEBANESE soldiers raided an apartment in Tripoli and seized members and weapons from an al-Qaeda inspired terrorist group. Fatah al-Islam (not to be confused with the mainstream Palestinian group Fatah) has for over a month been in armed battle with Lebanese forces. The group has used Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as bases, though members from countries throughout the Arab world have been found. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has vowed to arrest or kill members of Fatah al-Islam, which has claimed responsibility for several bombings around Lebanon. Some suspect that the group is being directed by Syria, and its purpose is to destabilize Siniora's anti-Syrian government.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Thank You to the Sudaks

I would like to publicly thank Rabbi Bentzi & Mrs. Rochie Sudak of the American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, DC, for hosting me at their home for Shabbat [sabbath] dinner. I learned about topics ranging from the origins of the name "Cohen," to the nest-building habits of birds in Africa, to the pros and cons of publicly-financed education, to the theological fallacies of the Neturei Karta (a small Jewish sect known for it's anti-Zionist protests that recently sent representatives to a Holocaust-denial conference in Iran).

It was a wonderful experience: the atmosphere was warm and inviting, the food fantastic, and I met a lot great people.

For more information on the American Friends of Lubavitch, please go to

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Academic Paper- The Status of Women in the Middle East

The Status of Women in the Middle East: A Comparison of Islamic and Pre-Islamic Times

Click the link above to read a paper I wrote last year. This one is short (6 pages including title page and footnotes).

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hamas and the Army of Islam

Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter captured by a little known terrorist group called the "Army of Islam" four months ago, was finally freed yesterday. Upon his release, Johnston stated that his captors were "just cruising along" under the Fatah security regime, but there was a palpable fear once Hamas' Gaza military coup. Johnston said, "If Hamas didn't come in and put the heat on, I'm pretty sure I'd still be there."

Here is a summary of the events leading up to his release:

On June 15th, after Hamas conquered the Gaza Strip, its leaders announced that one of its priorities was the release of Johnston.

On June 24th, the Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam in Arabic) released the following video of Alan Johnston, which shows him in a suicide vest. Johnston pleads for his life, and warns that if Hamas or any other entity attempted to free him by force, the Army of Islam would detonate him.

On July 2nd, Hamas seized several members of the Army of Islam including Khattab al-Maqdisi, the spokesman of the group. Hamas accused al-Maqdisi of opening fire on Hamas security forces.

On July 3rd, hundreds of Hamas gunmen gathered around the area where Johnston was held. Hamas snipers took positions on nearby rooftops and placed vehicles in the road to block off exits.

Early on July 4th, Hamas and the Army of Islam struck a deal and Johnston was released.

The details of the bargain to free Johnston are not clear, but one thing is for certain: the Army of Islam will not be immediately disarmed. A Hamas spokesman stated that the group may keep its weapons if it uses them "to be part of the resistance." In the parlance of Hamas,
that means attacking Israel.

But the main reason that Hamas cited the release of Johnston as a top priority was to gain international legitimacy. As I stated in a previous post, the release of Johnston was one of the steps Hamas must take in order to achieve legitimacy. But it must also maintain order. The Army of Islam is an al-Qaida inspired criminal organization lead by a powerful Gaza clan that has frequently clashed with Hamas, Fatah, and others. Hamas will not be able to preserve the peace if the Army of Islam is allowed to retain arms.

Furthermore, the mere suggestion of a tolerance for al-Qaida will drive off any international good will that Hamas received from securing the release of Johnston. When the Army of Islam kidnapped the BBC reporter, the group demanded that Britain exchange him for detained terror suspect Abu Qatada al-Filistini. The British accuse al-Filistini of mentoring 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui as well as attempted "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid. In addition, sermons from al-Filistini were found among the possessions of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.

But even if the Army of Islam had no connections to al-Qaida and only aimed its weapons at Israel, Israel's responses to terrorist attacks would disrupt Hamas' attempts to establish order. Just as Islamic Jihad's incessant rocket fire into Israeli towns will prevent the residents of Gaza from living in peace, so will Israeli Defense Force reactions to attacks from the Army of Islam.

Hamas is making a deadly mistake in allowing the Army of Islam to retain its arms. Such a decision can only lead to further instability in--and international isolation of--the Gaza Strip.

Update 4/28/09
I am now an attorney at Richard J. Mockler, P.A. Visit us on the web at

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Academic Paper- Impact of U.S. Policy on the Arab League Boycott of Israel

Impact of U.S. Policy on the Arab League Boycott of Israel

Click the link above to view a paper I wrote on, well, the impact of U.S. policy on the Arab League boycott of Israel. Even if you're not interested in the analysis, it has a detailed history of the boycott.

Update 4/28/09
I am now an attorney at Richard J. Mockler, P.A. Visit us on the web at

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Weekend News Wrapup- 7/1/07

A Summary of Interesting Stories throughout the Middle East

Israel & the Palestinian Territories
ISRAEL has transferred $118 million to the new Palestinian government. These custom duties have been collected by Israel on behalf the Palestinian Authority ["PA"] under a 1990 agreement. Following the 2006 Palestinian election where Hamas won the majority of parliament seats & formed the government, Israel has refused to transfer the funds for fear that they may be used for terrorist attacks. But now that Hamas is no longer part of the official Palestinian government, Israel has agreed to release the funds in installments.

FORMER Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak--who is currently the defense minister, head of the Labor party, and prospective candidate for the prime ministership--has announced that he will pull Labor out of the government if current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not resign by September or October. The Winograd committee, set up to review Israel's performance against Hezbollah in the 2006, is expected to come out with its final report at that time. The preliminary report that was released earlier this year pinned much of the blame on Olmert for poorly planning, executing, and reviewing war strategies. If Barak pulls Labor out of the government, Olmert will either have to find new coalition partners to maintain a majority in the Knesset [parliament], or call new elections, in which case his Kadima party will likely lose many--if not most--of its Knesset seats.

HAMAS stated Saturday that it would attack international peace-keeping forces if they enter the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which defeated PA President Mahmoud Abbas' security & militia forces in a bloody coup three weeks ago, now has effective control over all of the Gaza Strip. The organization's recent statements were in reaction to Abbas' proposal that international forces enter Gaza to ensure a stable environment for elections and reunification with the West Bank.

EGYPT has stated that it will resume efforts to negotiate a deal between Israel and Hamas that would lead to the release of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Hamas and other terrorist groups kidnapped Shalit in a cross-border raid a year ago. Egypt, which has served as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, ended all efforts when Hamas took over Gaza three weeks ago. Hamas has demanded the release of hundred of Palestinians in Israeli jails, many of whom have been convicted of murdering civilians in terrorist attacks.

LEBANESE soldiers killed four Palestinians and wounded 30 during a protest demonstration, in response to Palestinian throwing stones at the soldiers. The Palestinians demanded to return to their homes in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, where many have lived since Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence. The Palestinians had fled the camp when Islamist extremists used the area as a base to carry out terrorist bombings, which led to the Lebanese army laying siege to the camp a month and a half ago. Since there are still terrorists believed to be holed up in Nahr al-Bared, the Lebanese army has refused to let civilians back in.

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez reiterated his support for Iran's nuclear program as he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday. Iran is widely believed to be working on a nuclear weapons' program, though officials have insisted that the technology is only for peaceful civilian purposes. Fear of what Iran might do with a nuclear weapon was intensified last year when Ahmadinejad promised to wipe Israel off the map. Chavez appeared in Tehran, described Ahmadinejad as his "ideological brother" and promised to help Iran in its fight against international "imperialism."

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