Syria’s information minister warns of retaliation after air strikes destroyed military targets. – ABCNews·
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has apparently told authorities he and his brother had no direction from overseas. – ABCNews·
Israel prepares for US President Barack Obama’s first visit, as well as introducing the 33rd government coalition – PBSNewsHour
Palestinians are in uproar and demanding answers after a 30-year-old prisoner died while in Israeli detention. According to some, the detainee died as a result of being tortured during interrogation. This incident occurred as Palestinian prisoners went on a hunger strike.
The prisoner, identified as Arafat Jaradat, died from an apparent heart attack. An autopsy is now scheduled with a relative of Jaradat and a Palestinian forensic specialist expected to be present.
Demonstrations are heating up in the West Bank, and some Israeli officials and analysts fear that a Palestinian intifada, or uprising, may be in place. Protesters are demanding for the release of 123 prisoners who have been behind bars since the signing of the Oslo Accords back in 1993.
The demonstrations have resulted in protestors clashing with Israeli soldiers and settlers. Demonstrators demanded justice for the death of Jaradat, who was employed at a gas station and the father to two children ages 4 and 2.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, has released a statement that its members will resort to any means necessary to liberate the prisoners. Hamas has also called for the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and criticized Palestinian leaders for relying on negotiations that have resulted in zero progress.
Jaradat was taken into custody for hurling stones at cars in a West Bank settlement. He was also accused of throwing Molotov cocktails, a claim which he denied. During his trial, he complained to his lawyer of severe neck and back pain as a result of harsh interrogation methods. According to Jaradat’s uncle, interrogators also threatened Jaradat by bringing his children into the discussion and warning that he will never see them again if he does not cooperate.
There is speculation that Jaradat’s death could be the premise for a third intifada. The uprising, should it take place, is expected to be in the form of mass, nonviolent civil disobedience.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would be willing to enter into negotiations with the United Nations if the United States is willing to lighten its stance on his country obtaining nuclear capabilities.
Ahmadinejad made the comments just as Iran is marking the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. It also came just days after the supreme leader Ali Khamenei rejected the possibility of engaging in direct talks with the U.S.
In his address, which was accompanied by “death to America” chants from the audience, the Iranian president said that he will negotiate with the United States directly if they “stop pointing weapons at the Iranian nation.” He also pointed out that talks should be done with fairness and respect without pressure.
Ahmadinejad’s response came just a week after Vice President Joe Biden offered Iran a seat in the negotiation table with the P5+1, which includes the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
Khamenei, who has the final say and authority, chastised the U.S. and accused it of resorting to coercion tactics by threatening military action if Iran refuses to negotiate.
The U.S. currently has sanctions in place, which is aimed at curbing Iran’s uranium enrichment program. The sanctions have caused a severe economic crisis in Iran by limiting oil exports, which is the nation’s main source of revenue.
Ahmadinejad has vehemently denied that his country’s economic crisis is due to the sanctions though Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi admitted that the sanctions have played a role in the economy’s downward spiral.
Western nations have also expressed concerns over Iran’s satellite program, which they fear could be used to develop long-range missiles. Iran regularly announces technological breakthroughs, which includes sending a monkey into space and bringing it back home safely. Such claims cannot be independently verified by the U.S.
Facebook is a social network where anyone can share their views and have it heard by millions in an instant. While free speech is a freedom that everyone enjoys, some people exploit that right to serve their own prejudices.
A Facebook page called “F*ck Israel” has been stirring a lot of controversy. A petition is now swirling around the site and garnering support in an effort to pressure Facebook to close the page.
The petition was started by Michael Mendelson with the support of several Pro-Israel groups and has already collected more than 75,000 likes. According to Mendelson, he has not been in contact with any Facebook officials though he speculates that the petition will need roughly 10 times the number of likes as the “F*ck Israel” page in order for Facebook to act.
The Anti-Defamation League has also stepped in and urged Facebook to step up and remove all offensive comments and remarks on the page.
The “F*ck Israel” page has 36,000 likes so far and has statements that praise Adolf Hitler and also refers to Jews as pigs, apes and baby killers. The page, however, also contains a number of comments that stand behind Israel and boldly denounce the hateful sentiments.
According to Abraham Cooper, a Los Angeles rabbi, there are about two dozen other similar groups on Facebook as well as others on Twitter and Youtube. Most of them are believed to be started by Muslim groups. Most of these pages contain a logo of the Palestinian flag or the Israel flag with a censor mark over it.
Facebook is also home to several pages dedicated to the defamation of Mormons, Muslims, Christians and Hindus. While Facebook has been responsive and have removed pages containing offensive material, the creators of such groups are often allowed to create another page under a different name.
In 1994 the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) established the Jewish Educators Award as a way of acknowledging the work of outstanding educators who work in the field of Jewish education. The Award is presented annually to honor these individuals for the high quality of their work, their professional leadership, their community involvement and support of their schools’ families.
MFF, led by co-founder Lowell Milken believes that a Jewish Day School education will nourish a child’s Jewish identity as it guides the student to develop strong Jewish values and remain faithful to his Jewish heritage. To strengthen the Jewish Day School movement, MFF embarked on a project that would publicly honor some of the talented and dedicated educators who work tirelessly to make Jewish education an exciting and engaging experience for the students. The Award is intended to recognize the contributions that superior Jewish educators make to the Jewish community.
Award recipients include teachers, specialists and administers who work in Jewish Day School network. The Milken Foundation’s Jewish Educator’s Award has been presented to professionals representing almost 40 schools nationwide as a way of recognizing the recipients’ scholarship, creativity and compassion in their work.
In naming Award recipients the Milken Foundation considers the educator’s practices in the classroom as well the individual’s relationship with the school’s families and with the community. Educators are expected to demonstrate originality in their educational methods and leadership skills which influence policies that affect the school’s children, their families and the community.
Four educators are named to receive the Milken Educators Award each year. Nominees must teach in a Board of Jewish Education-affiliated school at the K-12 level. A committee of professional educators and lay community members select each year’s recipients who receive $15,000 each, together with the acknowledgement of the Milken Family Foundation and their own communities.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu may still be in office, but there is no question his right-wing bloc took a hammering in the parliamentary elections. Netanyahu and his conservative Likud Party just barely pulled away with a victory despite news media analysis that his party would win by a landslide.
The Likud Party just barely snagged 31 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Yesh Atid made away with 19 seats, far more than what was predicted. Labor, the dominant party of the left, came in third with 15 seats.
The results clearly demonstrate the polarization among Israeli voters and present an opportunity for the centrist Yesh Atid party to break into the political landscape that has been dominated by Netanyahu’s right-wing faction.
Yesh Atid is led by Yair Lapid, a man who is no stranger to the camera. He is an ex-journalist, published author of seven books, talk show host and even had a brief stint as an amateur boxer. Unlike Netanyahu who emphasized on national security and the threat of Iran, Lapid’s priority was on issues that had a more direct effect on the people. This included issues regarding the rising cost of living, education reform and ending military service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The election campaign focused primarily on the economy and social issues with very little discussion about Iran and foreign affairs. There have also been discussions regarding the occupation of the West Bank, which Netanyahu has been criticized for after ordering the construction of an additional 4,500 settler homes. The election results also mean that Netanyahu may have to compromise when it comes to Palestinian’s demand for statehood. The Yesh Atid party is in favor of a return to negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the West Bank.
The new parliament is now virtually evenly split, which means there will certainly be heated discussions over issues like Iran and Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
In the wake of Aaron Swartz’s death, the focus is now being shifted to the prosecutor, who some say acted over zealously in his pursuit to punish Swartz to the fullest extent for a relatively minor crime.
As it turns out, this is not the first time an Internet activist has taken his own life while being aggressively pursued by the same prosecutor.
Back in 2008, Jonathan James took his own life after his home was raided by authorities on suspicion of his involvement in the TJX Hacker case, which is regarded as one of the biggest identity hacks in history.
James maintained his innocence and left a suicide note saying that he believed the justice system is broken and will prosecute him nonetheless. Like Swartz, James was also faced with prosecutor Stephen Heymann.
According to Swartz’s lawyer, Elliot Peters, Heymann refused to negotiate on the terms of a plea deal and would not settle for anything less than the maximum 30-year jail sentence. Swartz hung himself in his apartment and was discovered by his girlfriend. It is believed that depression combined with the looming trial pushed him to the brink.
Heymann refused to compromise even though JSTOR, the online academic journal database that Swartz hacked into, decided not to move forward with charges against the Internet activist. Peters claims that Heymann intended on using Swartz as a stepping stone to elevate his own career and in order to add cybercrimes prosecution into his portfolio.
In the aftermath of Swartz’s death, Heymann has filed to drop the charges, which is routine practice when the defendant passes away before the trial begins. Petitions are now swirling around the Internet demanding the firing of Heymann. Supporters claim that Heymann acted way too aggressively against Swartz for what was a victimless and non-violent crime.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu pledged that authorities will erect a fence along the Israel-Syria border amid concerns that radical Islamist members have infested the area.
So far, Israel has stayed out of the Syrian conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives, most of them civilian. However, there is rising concern that the continued violence and fighting could soon spill over to Israel.
Among the worries, Netanyahu expressed concerns that Syrian President Bashir Assad may try to lure Israel into the battle as a final act of desperation. Even more troubling is a possible scenario in which Assad is overthrown with Syria being overtaken by Islamist extremists who will ultimately locate and gain access to the county’s cache of chemical arsenal.
Netanyahu’s address came just as Assad made an international plea for reconciliation and condemned the Western nations for providing aid to the rebels, adding that most of them had direct ties to al-Qaida.
At a Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu emphasized a need for a fence along the borders that it shared with Syria. Such a barrier already exists along the border that the country shares with Egypt, which is in place to curb the flow of migrants. The new fence, still in its planning phase, will provide a barrier to prevent access from jihad forces, which have overtook areas once occupied by the Syrian army.
Since the uprising in Syria began in March of 2011, mortar rounds have occasionally landed on Israel’s side of the territory. While the stray fire is believed to be accidental, Israel nevertheless fired retaliatory shots as a stern warning.
So far, no estimates have been given about how long such a project would take to complete. Even the barrier built along the Israel-Egypt border is not yet complete as the border stretches for 125 miles.
The U.S. is still in mourning over the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, following a horrific school shooting that left 26 children and faculty members dead. The shooting sparked a debate over gun control. Some feel that gun restrictions need to be tightened and enforced while others believe that more guns can actually prevent such shootings from taking place.
Some gun advocates believe that the U.S. can benefit by adopting the same security measures taken by schools in Israel. The Jewish state is used to continuous threats and the possibility of a terrorist strike at crowded locations, which includes schools. Schools in Israel are nothing like the ones in the U.S. While the latter may have a few unarmed security guards, Israel schools are fortified with metal detectors, fences and armed private guards. To add to the security, some teachers even have a loaded weapon on them during classroom hours.
Israel’s Academy of Security and Investigation CEO, Oren Shemtov, say that shootings occur in a matter of minutes, and that teachers who are armed may be able to fight back and buy enough time for students to escape and while awaiting the arrival of police.
Shemtov commented on the shooting in Newtown and praised the adult victims as heroes for their actions but also added that their efforts were in vein as they had no means to defend themselves and their students.
Israeli police veteran Dov Zwerling echoed similar sentiments and said that the presence of armed guards may be able to prevent mass shootings. He added that in nearly all mass shooting incidents in the U.S., the shooter takes his own life the moment police arrive. This means that shooters will be deterred if challenged.
Teachers in Israeli schools are permitted to carry a firearm though the number that actually do has decreased over the years mainly due to philosophical objections.
Thousands of protestors consumed the streets and major highways of Fallujah in Iraq as they rally against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government.
The demonstration was the largest of a series of week-long rallies led by the Sunni minority as they band together to put pressure on Maliki and his government, which is led by a Shia majority.
Separate rallies have also taken place in Mosul with protestors accusing the government of unequal treatment and a call for the release of Sunni prisoners. Other locations like Samarra and Tikrit also became a focal point for massive demonstrations with province officials and legislators getting involved and echoing their support.
The protests began after 10 bodyguards belonging to the finance minister – who is one of the few Sunni senior officials in the government – were detained. Protestors are accusing Maliki and his administration of marginalizing the Sunni minority by not equally distributing the power and denying them equal rights and privileges.
The main highway in Ramadi had to be barricaded for the fifth day straight, which brought a halt to transit and the transportation of government supplies.
As the demonstration rages on, Maliki spoke at a conference in Baghdad and warned that continued civil unrest could lead to sectarian conflict and bring the country back into the dark days when people would kill each other over trivial religious differences. He also condemned the protestors in Anbar for blocking the roads and disrupting the lives of ordinary civilians.
Activists say Iraq’s current terrorism laws unfairly target and penalize Sunnis. According to a professor from Baghdad University, if the protests do not quell, the Sunnis may begin to seek their own regional autonomy in Anbar where they are the majority. This was what ultimately happened back in 1991 when the Kurds received anatomy from Saddam with the backing of the U.S.
At a conference in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin harshly criticized the U.S. for its intervention in Libya and cited it as the reason for causing further chaos that ultimately led to the attack in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead.
During the conference, Putin also dismissed notions that Russia was making a mistake and losing influence in the Middle East by deciding not to intervene in Syria. He further added that his nation is only concerned for Syria’s stability and has no concern for the fate of President Assad and his regime.
Putin’s comments came just as human rights investigators sent by the United Nations concluded that what originally began as a fight to oust Assad and his government has evolved into a sectarian battle, which has pitted communities against one another. Fighters from as far as North Africa are getting involved and contributing to the endless blood bath.
Russia has been a long-time ally of Syria and has used its position in the United Nations Security Council to oppose intervention by the U.S. and it allies and has long defended the sovereignty of Assad’ s government. However, Russia’s tone has changed in recent days and acknowledged that Assad remaining in power may not be such a good thing. It has even urged Russians staying in Syria to evacuate the country immediately.
Russia has been a major arms supplier for Syria and even regularly uses Syria’s port of Tartus as a refueling point. Even so, Putin made it clear during the conference that the two nations merely shared a business relationship and nothing beyond that.
Human right investigations reveal that the situation in Syria has gone from bad to worse. Civilians are being driven out of their communities. Staying behind means they are at risk of becoming collateral damage.