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The War on Terror Chapter Two

Of Hamas

Last Tuesday, Fatah and Hamas signed a preliminary unity deal with Hamas and 11 other factions in Egypt. This happened one day after Hamas mourned the eradication of Osama Bin Laden. A formal ceremony is held this Wednesday.

Khaled Mashaal, the number one leader of Hamas who has been living in Syria since his exile from Jordan last year, arrived in Egypt on Sunday as Fatah and Hamas for meeting concerning the new unity government.

Islamic Jihad as well as other terrorist organizations were present for the signing; President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, sent a representative for the preliminaries. He is scheduled to arrive for the formal signing ceremony Wednesday.

Mashaal’s deputy, Musa Abu Marzouk, told reporters:

“We won’t recognize the Zionist entity. Our rights are still usurped and it’s illogical for us to recognize the Zionist entity because that would be at the expense of our stolen lands and our people in the refugee camps…Most of the Arab countries don’t recognize Israel, and yet they continue to deal with the international community…”

Osama bin LadenMeanwhile, Hamas are not the only local yokels denouncing America’s execution of Osama bin laden. Israeli MK, Ibrahim Sarsoor, of the Arab party, Ra’am Ta’al, called the assassination a murder.

In a statement to the press he said:

“The mixing of Arab and Muslim blood into election campaigns in the U.S. and Israel is no longer uncommon…Anyone who follows the cycle of blood and elections in American-Israeli culture in the last ten years will see it clearly and without a doubt….I cannot rule out that the murder of Bin Laden was the start of Obama’s election campaign for a second term, especially in view of the fact that the Republican majority in Congress is waiting to pounce on him over his political steps on both foreign and internal affairs…The murder of Sheikh Bin Laden must cause us to pause and consider not only the event itself, but also what stands behind the action, so that we raise the hard questions whose time has come.”

The New York Times reported Hamas’ mourning of Bin Laden; but an Israeli Arab MK? well…

“The Arab nation has taken its first steps toward its second independence through the revolutions against the oppressive regimes…The West in general and the US in particular should learn the lessons as soon as possible. Even if it murders jihad leaders and spills the blood of pure innocents in Arab and Muslim countries, topples regimes and replaces them with ones more loyal to it, the US will not succeed in changing the feelings of hatred of our nation toward it, especially on the Palestinian question.”

Sound like extreme Muslimism? Vitriol, almost? Repeated attempts to block Sarsoor’s, Ra’am Ta’al, party from running in the Knesset have been blocked by the Israeli Supreme Court.

Osama bin Laden’s regime, al Qaeda has networks around Israels’ borders in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. Al Qaeda cells based in the Gaza Strip carried out many armed attacks launched on the Gaza-Israeli border and Jewish civilian locations. For instance, the murder of Italian pro-Palestinian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, on April 14 was an “operation” commanded by an al Qaeda operative from Jordan named, Abdul Rahman al-Briziti.

Counter-terror sources at DebkaFile revealed that Al Qaeda’s units:

“Are ensconced in the southern, central and northeastern sectors of the Gaza Strip: The southern cluster is based in the northern and southern districts of Khan Younis, a town of 220,000 inhabitants 4 kilometers east of the Mediterranean coast and 1.5 kilometers from the Israeli border…A second group more or less controls the town of Deir al Balakh, a town of 150,000 in the central region. A third is embedded in the Zaitun and Nuseyrat districts of Gaza City.”

Debkafile’s counter-terror sources reported that:

“These Al Qaeda operatives have built themselves at least six fortified villas in those three locations. Like the Abbottabad villa-fortress where Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday night by a team of US Seals, the Gaza villas have top security and dominate the surrounding skylines…The success of the American, Israeli and Egyptian agencies in foiling a major terrorist attack in Sinai was played down by Washington and Jerusalem, conduct that deserves an explanation in the new anti-al Qaeda climate.”

Hamas’ de facto head honcho, Ismayil Haniyeh, was the only Muslim leader in the world to “bluntly condemn” the United States for killing Osama bin Laden.

Ismail al-Ashqar, a Hamas lawmaker, described the long-awaited capture and execution as “state terrorism that America carries out against Muslims.”

DebkaFile reported that:

“In private conversations, Hamas leaders confess that they really do regard the United States as the worst and most blood-stained oppressor of Middle East Arabs, aside from Israel. Despite their ideological differences, they genuinely regard Al Qaeda and its fighters as heroic mujahedin and prized allies.”

On Wednesday, May 4, Khaled Meshaal will fly into Cairo from the Hamas headquarters in Damascus to meet Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and concertize a unity pact.

Of Egypt

Meanwhile, Egyptian Finance Minister, Samir Radwan, has been quoted saying the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which in post Mubarak Egypt does not “obligate his country to sell natural gas to the Jewish State.”

In an interview with a local newspaper during a visit to Kuwait last Sunday, Radwan stressed that gasoline prices must be updated and adjusted to the price levels of the global market, regardless of whether the exports go to Jordan, Israel, Syria or Spain.

Of Osama Bin Laden

A Kuwaiti man called Abu Ahmad is reportedly the inadvertent source that led the United States to the al Qaeda mastermind’s hideout Last July.

The DailyBeast reported:

“CIA operatives tracked the man while he was driving a white Suzuki in Pakistan.Eventually, the courier led them right to the sprawling mansion where bin Laden had been hiding. The most recent cache of WikiLeaks files related to Guantanamo Bay turns up Ahmad’s name several times. The Kuwaiti is linked closely to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a key planner of the 9/11 attacks. It’s not clear whether he was at the compound during the raid.”

In 2003, the American government released pictures of Saddam Hussein’s dead sons Uday and Qusay Hussein, however, only after their bodies had been worked on by a mortician. The United States is debating whether to release the photos of a dead Osama bin Laden in order to squash rampant conspiracy theories. The haste with which the corpse was thrown into the sea seems strange to many inquisitive citizens.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: One of Lear’s Daughters “heaves their hearts into their mouths”

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, two months ago, forced out of office by rioters, says he is willing to cooperate with any investigation to prove he did not own property abroad or posses foreign bank accounts. He recalls for me the misunderstood King Lear.

Mubarak said in a recent speech:

“I was hurt very much, and I am still hurting — my family and I — from the unjust campaigns against us and false allegations that aim to smear my reputation, my integrity, my (political) stances and my military history…”

Former President Mubarak, who with his family has been under house arrest at a presidential palace in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since his ouster insists he only possessed a single account in an Egyptian bank and held property only in Egypt. He said he would agree in writing to allow the prosecutor-general to contact other countries to investigate whether he or his wife, Suzanne, owned any accounts or property abroad.

“I agree to authorize the prosecutor-general in writing to allow him to contact, through the Foreign Ministry, all countries in the world to prove to them that I and my wife agree to show any accounts or properties I have possessed starting from my military and political career until now to prove to the people that their former president only owns domestically according to previous financial disclosure.”

Meanwhile, in Egypt:

“Egypt’s security forces shot and killed at least two protesters and wounded dozens before dawn Saturday in an attempt to disperse peaceful demonstrators spending the night in the capital’s iconic Tahrir Square, officials and witnesses said. The crackdown was the most brutal since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11 and since the military started running the country.”

Mona el-Naggar reported in the New York Times:

“And in a page that could have been taken from Mr. Mubarak’s manual, the military also asserted that the protesters had been infiltrated by ‘thugs’ and ‘outlaws.'”

She reported, however:

“The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized political force, which had endorsed the protest on Friday, issued a statement on Saturday under the heading, ‘The Army and the People Are One Hand,’ a popular chant among protesters when they were calling on the military to take their side during the revolution.”

They Shoot, We Build

EMG, the East Mediterranean Gas Company is restarting its gas supply, after it was severed on February 5th, after a terror attack on a pipeline between Suez and El Arish, shortly after the onset of the mutiny in Egypt. This move will renew the natural gas flow to Israel.

Bedouin opposition groups have been staging protests against resuming the flow and the cooperation of Egyptian officials with the Jordanian government to raise the prices. At the cost of $460 million, EMG built the pipeline from the Sinai to Ashkelon in 2008.

Meanwhile, Lebanese demonstrators gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs Square on Sunday to protest the Iranian-led Hezbollah, who has taken over that feeble nation. Apropos, the building of a Palestinian State may be hurried along this way: a “Tahrir Square” in the West Bank, or, or, or, The Gaza Strip. However, the Palestinian people are not seemingly capable of such a high-level of organization and order.

Amidst the push for Democracy in Lebanon and the nebulous nature of Egypt, if there is one person doing justice to democracy in the Middle East it is no other than Israel Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

While reactionary Jewish “price-taggers” are playing vigilante by stoning and igniting Palestinian vehicles, Bibi has the right idea. “Hem Yorim – Anachnu Bonim: They shoot, we build.” He is responding to the murder of the Fogel family by building. 500 new homes are going up in Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Sefer and Gush Etzion.

United Nations special coordinator, Robert Serry, complained about the decision:

“It is not conducive to efforts to renew negotiations and achieve a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Between Survival and Democracy

Hosni Mubarak, Abdullah II, ObamaMubarak was in tight with the West. He was progressive, but progressing toward what? He wanted peace between Palestine and Israel, but no democracy in Egypt. Obama wants more land and more time for the Palestinians, yet he does not demand democracy among the Palestinians whose political chasm often results in the jailing of journalists and citizen bloggers, and even sectarian violence.

Yair Lapid wrote in his column in Yediot Achronot Saturday:

“We’re both good and bad, we love our country and hate it, we think we cannot go on like this but also know there is no other choice.”

He wrote,

“We are both Jewish and democratic, even though it’s unclear what this means. We thank God for choosing us from all nations, but we also remember that he disappeared once, when we most needed him.”

The article continued in a state of uncertainty, bouncing between one extreme and another; symbolic of Israel’s foggy reality, and evocative of, well, democracy.

But if circumstance has not plunged us far enough into a state of uncertainty, the White House has. President George W. Bush influenced us to give up the Gaza Strip, resulting in an impossible situation; the tiny strip of land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan in width, and Lebanon/Syria and Egypt in length, has become a hologram. Turned toward the light you see Palestine; turned away from the light, you see Israel. In between the light and the dark is either the humanitarian and democratic push for peace, the splitting of the land into two countries, living side by side in peace; or a giant puddle of Jewish blood.

With the exit from Gaza in the first decade of the millennium, influenced by a Republican American President, partial to Christian Zionism, the IDF was forced to choose between admittedly disproportionate military operations and blockades, or slow but imminent destruction.

On Friday, President Obama met with Democratic donors in Miami saying:

“When you look at what’s happening around the world what’s happening in the Middle East, it is a manifestation of new technologies, the winds of freedom that are blowing through countries that have not felt those winds in decades, a whole new generation that says I want to be a part of this world. It’s a dangerous time, but it’s also a huge opportunity for us.”

He continued, “All the forces that we see building in Egypt are the forces that should be naturally aligned with us. Should be aligned with Israel.”

But three or four months before Obama told Mubarak to step down, he told Netanyahu to continue the moratorium on West Bank housing; organizing peace talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, under the aegis of none other than Hosni Mubarak. Obama is saying this: Israel should sacrifice land; AND endure more and more terrorism as a result. And a new democracy in Egypt will push Israel even FURTHER left; demanding the sacrifice of MORE land, that is the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem; AND to endure missile and mortar attacks with a smile on her face. This, according to Obama, according to Israel’s left, is what is good for us.

If almost every Arab nation is thrown into a state of turmoil, though, dog-paddling between autocracies, monarchies and god-blessed DEMOCRACY; why should the Jewish democracy in Israel be the one getting pushed around? Now we make two observations: The Obama White House becomes more and more admired by the Arab world; and Israel becomes less and less secure. Time will tell, but for now it seems as if the truth is found somewhere between survival and democracy.

Barbara Streisand DUCK SAUCE and state of affairs

It’s almost the weekend. Actually for Israelis this is the last day of the week. So what did we have this week?
Libya is up in flames, Egypt is under new management, New Zealand had a huge earthquake, we seem to be getting some “love” in the south with the Beer Sheva rocket last night…

Have a little duck sauce and a good weekend…

David Horovitz Wants Democracy

Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, gave a 100 second video monologue on Thursday on the JPost website, emphasizing that “Israel wants to be joined in this region by democracies…” Certainly, when the United States went after Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, the great dream was for democracy throughout the Middle East. However, Israel and the United States that facilitated the surrender of Gaza certainly failed to amplify the great cry for democracy in Egypt, until her citizens decided the time for revolution is now. Where were Obama and the other democracy superheroes when putting Mubarak at the helm of negotiations between Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Netanyahu? And Israel is supposed to listen? To halt construction in its own capitol?

Cairo Tahrir SquareThis is not to call Horovitz a left-slinger, or one who is not an opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood; he is an expert. I was just taken aback by his relaxedness. Visible on the cover of the Herald Tribune, one day, in the midst of chaos in Tahrir Square, when the outcome was still unknown: was a sketching of Hosni Mubarak with a Star of David on his forehead, in the tradition of the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” What could justify such vitriolic art? Because of a peace treaty with Israel? Is peace so bad? What exactly does Egyptian democracy have in mind? Hopefully it won’t threaten the lives of millions of Jewish children!

Pollock number 8When CBS correspondent, Lara Logan, was assaulted by a mob of Egyptians for 20 to 30 minutes, the attackers cried, “Jew! Jew!” Lara Logan is not Jewish. Nor does a political upheaval in the name of democracy justify the thrashing of a foreign journalist.

What is missing is a pattern. The Muslim Middle East, today, is without form, like a Jackson Pollock painting. Beautiful, perhaps. But one cannot pretend they see form or pattern where clearly there is none.

What is more dangerous, the lack of democratically-run governments; or the anti-Jewish leviathan of extreme Islamism? For Obama or Israel to side with “democracy,” means nothing, unless the intention is to create a dangerous bog of extreme Islamism that threatens Jews, which is what a “democracy” run by the Muslim Brotherhood, would be; or, to put it fairly, risking Israel.

The government in Israel is running smoothly. Why not sit back and enjoy this show that is devoid of form and pattern. Like visitors at a modern art museum.

Walk Like an Egyptian

On Saturday, Palestinian women hit the streets of Gaza City to celebrate the ousting of Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, calling the event a “victory of Egyptian youth.”

Egyptian women read Egyptian Today newspaperOf course, when the news of the toppling of Mubarak broke, Hamas leaders were quick to urge Egypt’s new leaders to lift the blockade of Gaza.

Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, urged Cairo to “immediately” open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

One idea:

If indeed Egypt’s coastal blockade of Gaza is now over, why not merge the Gaza Strip and Egypt into one Arab nation.

Meanwhile, the top US military commander will visit Israel and Jordan on Sunday and Monday to reaffirm American support following the Egyptian revolution.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, will begin his trip in Amman, Jordan where he will meet with King Abdullah II and his Jordanian counterpart, Lieutenant General Meshaal Al-Zabn.

Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby said:

“He will discuss security issues of mutual concern and reassure both these key partners of the US military’s commitment to that partnership”.

Once in Israel, Mullen will hold talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres as well as the country’s military leaders.

More From Egypt and Elsewhere

As mayhem continues throughout the Middle East, journalists are in danger, and consequently, so is revelation of truth. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, has been accused by the Committee to Protect Journalists for “an unprecedented and systematic attack” on international reporters.

The committee’s executive director, Joel Simon, said:

“This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism…With this turn of events, Egypt is seeking to create an information vacuum that puts it in the company of the world’s worst oppressors, countries such as Burma, Iran and Cuba…We hold President Mubarak personally responsible for this unprecedented action…and call on the Egyptian government to reverse course immediately.”

Incognito agents have gone so far as to enter hotels and confiscate equipment. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday 101 direct attacks on news facilities and journalists. Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud of the newspaper Al-Ta’awun, was shot and killed by sniper fire while filming demonstrations in central Cairo’s Qasr al-Aini, adjacent to Tahrir Square.

Injured Associated Press photographer Khalil HamraAl-Jazzera, BBC, Al-Arabiya, ABC News, the Washington Post, Fox News, and CNN all said they have staff members who’ve been attacked. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also reported that staffers were detained.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, despite the ongoing Internet black-out said:

“There have been no instructions to hinder the coverage of the media in the Tahrir area…I made clear that they have full freedom to do anything they want.”

Egyptian and American sources told the New York Times that Egyptian Vice President, Omar Suleiman, who nearly escaped an assassination attempt in recent days that took the lives of two of his body guards, met with army leaders to discuss steps to weaken President Hosni Mubarak’s authority and possibly have him removed him from the presidential palace.

The capital of Sudan, Khartoum, is another city where waves of protests became violent. On Saturday morning, 12 journalists were kidnapped.

Along with similar demonstrations in Syria, Turkey, Malaysia and Iraq, hundreds of Jordanian protesters marched toward the Egyptian embassy in Ankara, calling Mubarak a puppet of Israel. Jordan’s main Muslim opposition, however, said it wants to give their new leader an opportunity to carry out the political reforms promised.

Among reforms that the Jordanian population would like to see are financial. According to a wire by the latest WikiLeaks release, more than 80% of the Hashmonean Kingdom’s budget is spent on “bloated” civil service and a military “patronage system” – including supporting U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The Jordanian government told U.S. diplomats that:

In spite of increased calls by opposition groups and non-governmental figures to explain its Afghanistan assistance and end its security cooper with the United States … Mash’al Al Zaben, Chief of Staff for Strategy, stated that Jordan would stay in Afghanistan until the last U.S. soldier came home.”

Jordan’s deficit hit a record $2 billion this year, while inflation rose six percent and unemployment figures hit 12.9 percent.

The WikiLeaks documents also told of Jordan’s military support to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. According to the ambassador:

“Jordan has already made a significant contribution of forces in Afghanistan (ref B), currently numbered at 850 troops, which includes an infantry battalion, a special operations company, and a field hospital…Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will likely make a number of offers for increased participation in Afghanistan. Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will likely make a number of offers for increased participation in Afghanistan…”

Jordan:

Tweeting around the Egyptian Internet gag order:

Muslim Brotherhood:

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Tohu Bohu in the Middle East

Who’s up for a game of Middle East Twister?

Monday night, residents of Gaza shot a volley of powerful mortar shells and Grad rockets at the western Negev. One rocket hit Ofakim and one landed in Netivot, almost hitting a Jewish wedding celebration, where a “Color Red” rocket alert system sounded. Four were treated for shock and one vehicle was damaged.

The Eshkol Regional Council reported a mortar attack originating from Gaza – the shell, thank God, landed in an open area.

protestor holds up Mubarak's face with Star of David painted on his foreheadThis attack on Israel is impressive given the fact that Hamas police were busy trying to prevent their own from demonstrating in solidarity with the Egyptian pandemonium.

Gazan activist, Asma al-Ghoul, said she and a small group of protesters gathered in central Gaza City Tuesday when police stopped their peace demonstration. Police detained and beat some demonstrators. Al-Ghoul was accused by female police of being a “bad Muslim” because she did not cover her hair.

The New York-based Human Rights watch called on Hamas to “stop arbitrarily interfering with peaceful demonstrations about Egypt or anything else.”

Gaza MilitantsThe PA in the West Bank also put the lid on a protest to buttress the chaotic civilian-operation to oust Mubarak. The police out-numbered the Palestinian civilians, 3-to-1. Protesters were shoved and were threatened with clubs. Police, in classic Fatah fashion, prevented journalists from filming or photographing the action.

Mahmoud Abbas canceled local elections in 2009 when it appeared Fatah would lose to independents.

The Palestinian Authority has not actually held elections since 2006; PM Salam Fayyad, however, said he will set the date for a vote next week.

Jordan’s King Abdullah after weeks of opposition protests inspired by regime ouster in Tunisia and turmoil in Egypt, names his former ex-military advisor Marouf Bakhit as new prime minister with orders to carry out ‘true political reforms.

Biden Tell it like it IS:

Desert Thunder: Ding Dong Democracy?

As much-needed rain began to pour down on poor old Israel, rumbling thunder sent vibrations through the desert – right down to old Egypt, on the heels of the Tunisian shakedown, causing many Egyptians to decide suddenly that 30 years of autocratic rule means pull the hose out of old Hosni Mubarak. Chaos ensued. Cries of “Allahu Achbar!” Car windows shattering, rubber bullets firing, car alarms and emergency sirens sounded in the streets throughout the country. The scene was like something out of Watts.

Actually, trouble began exactly one week ago. Hundreds are dead. Thousands gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to commend Mohamed ElBaradei – once head of the U.N. nuclear agency, Egyptian masses want him to lead the transition to democracy.

Muslim Machiavels, the Middle East wide, are trying to keep their cool. Will the desert thunder create a domino effect? Will coup d’état continue to be the great cry in Tunisia? Will many Iranian students test the fascist powers that be? Will Jordan fall like the walls of Jericho? Will democracy be demanded and served once and for all? If this happens will Israel lose her treaty with Egypt and/or Jordan thereby causing peaceful negotiations? Stay tuned!

PM of the JS, Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Saturday evening with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and on Sunday, DM Ehud Barak spoke on the phone with DS Robert Gates.

In a statement, the White House said:

“The president reiterated his focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint, supporting universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association, and speech, and supporting an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people…”

You Don’t Gotta Live In Fear But You Ought’a Read This

On Wednesday, Egyptian security forces uncovered a large cache of missiles and mortar shells in northern Sinai which were bound for Gaza.

The cache was seized near the city of Nahal, on the smuggling route to Gaza. It contained 100 antiaircraft missiles, 40 explosive devices, and 45 rocket-propelled grenades.
Antiaircraft missiles
The officer who was in charge of security in northern Sinai, obtained a tip that the smugglers were storing a large amount of explosives and ammunition leftover from past wars in the region east of Nahal.

Upon receiving the tip, Egypt’s security forces entered the area and located the weapons cache, however no suspects were apprehended. The area was completely combed and the explosives were detonated in a controlled way in central Sinai.

Egypt’s security forces on Wednesday also uncovered three tunnels which connected the Egyptian city of Rafah and the Gaza Strip. In addition, the Egyptian police had confiscated 41 vehicles in Sinai used for smuggling operations into the Gaza Strip. The police found one of the vehicles, with no license plate, during a routine patrol north of the Rafah crossing. The additional 40 vehicles were discovered after the police searched the area.

In related news, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau published a list of travel warnings for the Passover holiday on Sunday; as usual, for this time of year, the Sinai peninsula was high on the list.

“Hezbollah is blaming Israel again and again for the death of Imad Mugniyah and Iran is blaming Israel for the death of the nuclear scientist in Tehran. These accusations increase the threat of terror against Israelis abroad.”

reported the bureau.

Among the areas which the bureau advises against visiting, besides for Sinai, are Chechnya in Russia, Mindanao Island in the Philippines and Cashmere in India. A high level of threat was also reportedly posed in southern Thailand, northern Nigeria and eastern Senegal.

Israelis working with the government in Colombia are advised to conceal their identity, prefer air travel, and to drive only on main roads. Travel warnings are in effect for Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen and the bureau also warns against visiting Djibouti, Algiers, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Togo, Malaysia, the Ivory Coast and Mali. They advise against visiting Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain, Tunisia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and Chad. Libya, Oman, Kenya, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Tajikistan are also on the list.

Restoring Egypt’s Synagogues

Farouk HosnyJust in time for the festival of Pesach, Egypt’s culture minister says that it will shoulder the costs of restoring the country’s synagogue’s.

Farouk Hosny says that his ministry views Jewish sites as much a part of Egypt’s culture as Muslim mosques or Coptic churches and the restorations would not require any foreign funding. This marks a turn in attitude for the Egyptian artist and culture minister.

On Sunday, the 12th century Ben Maimon synagogue, named after Maimonides, was rededicated in a ceremony including half a dozen Egyptian Jewish families who fled the country long ago.

Ben Ezra SynagogueHosny committed his ministry to restoring all 11 synagogues across Egypt, three of which have already undergone renovation. The most visited synagogue is that of Ben Ezra – located in Cairo’s Christian quarter near a number of old churches, was restored some years ago.

“There were some lectures on the Jewish sites in Egypt and the temple. It was nice, emotional and nostalgic,” said Raymond Stock, an American “close” to the Jewish community in Cairo.

The Jewish community of Egypt, which dates back millennia and at its peak in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly. The remainder were driven out decades ago by mob violence and persecution.

Synagogue, CairoEgypt and Israel fought a war every decade from the 1940s to the 1970s until the 1979 peace treaty was signed. None the less, Egyptian vibrations remain deeply unfriendly to Israel, and anti-Semitic stereotypes still appear in the Egyptian media.

Last September, Hosny blamed a conspiracy “cooked up in New York” by the world’s Jews when he lost a bid from becoming the next head of the U.N.’s agency for culture and education.

During this time, Hosny’s candidacy raised an outcry because of a threat which he had made in the Egyptian parliament in 2008 to personally burn any Israeli book he found in the Alexandria Library.

The Fence

Israel is building two giant fences along the country’s southern border with Egypt. The purpose is to stop the growing flood of African asylum seekers and to prevent terrorists from entering into Israel.

Said Bibi, whose brain child are the fences:

“I decided to close Israel’s southern border to infiltrators and terrorists after prolonged discussions…This is a strategic decision to ensure the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel. Israel will remain open to war refugees but we cannot allow thousands of illegal workers to infiltrate into Israel via the southern border and flood our country.”

The fences will cover nearly half of the 150-mile (250-kilometer) border. One section will be near the Red Sea port of Eilat and the other will be in southwest Israel, near the Gaza Strip town of Rafah. The project is expected to cost about $400 million.

The structure will come in addition to a massive fence surrounding the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, as well as the controversial separation barrier that snakes along parts of Israel’s more than 400-mile (680-kilometer) frontier with the West Bank. Egypt has its own fence along Gaza’s southern border, and is actually reinforcing the area with underground metal plates to shut down tunnels used to smuggle goods and weapons into the Gaza Strip.
In early 2007, a Gaza suicide bomber snuck into Eilat through Egypt; one example of the risk which the fence is meant to prevent. The military actually began planning the fence in 2005 after the Gaza disengagement.
The second incentive for building the barrier is the influx of African immigrants. U.N. officials and human rights workers estimate some 17,000 to 19,000 people have poured into Israel through the southern border since 2005, most of them from Eritrea, Sudan and other war-torn African countries.

Palestinian Suez Canal terror cell seized in Egypt

Egyptian security authorities announced the arrest of 25 Palestinians, who they claim have links to the Al Qaeda terror organization and were plotting to bomb American and other ships passing through the Suez Canal. The terror cell planned to fabricate bombs that could be detonated by using cell phones, Egyptian authorities said. The group planned to make car bombs to bomb oil and gas pipe lines running across and alongside the canal; and bombs that could be ferried to the passing vessels in small boats, similar to the way the American destroyer, USS Cole, was severely damaged by Al Qaeda suicide boat bombers in the Gulf of Aden in October, 2000.

USS COLEThe Suez Canal has seen a heavy use of marine traffic lately, despite the frequent attacks by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. Many American naval vessels pass through the canal on their way to and from the Persian Gulf; and with things heating up in Iran, especially following the demonstrations against the results of the June 12th elections there, levels of security alert have been increased by US naval bases in the Persian Gulf.

More recently, Israeli naval vessels have passed through the canal, including at least one submarine capable of firing nuclear tipped missiles; which the Israeli Navy said is to show the Iranians that Israel is watching events going on in Iran very closely.

These and other Palestinians could well be parts of large groups of Palestinians who crossed into Egypt over a year ago when they bombed parts of the security fence between Gaza and Egypt. Although most of the thousands of Palestinians who went on “shopping sprees” in Egypt eventually returned to Gaza, many did not; and they are still hanging out in various parts of the Sinai Peninsula, including along the Red Sea coast; where many Israelis and Egyptians like to go for holiday vacations. For this reason, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is constantly advising Israelis to refrain from vacationing in the Sinai, due to a very real threat of kidnappings and terror attacks.

The 25 detainees told Egyptian authorities that they had received funds for these terror operations from Islamic charities abroad, many of whom are actually fronts for terror organizations like AL Qaeda and Hezbollah.

Obama’s Egyptian Overture

He came with all the fanfare and adulation as a newly crowned Prince of Peace. Only this time, Barack Hussein Obama came to speak in Cairo as the 44th President of the United States of America, and spoke before a packed audience within the opulent Presidential Palace, the former residence of King Faruk, the last Egyptian king. He began his fine toned and eloquent address by saying “Al Salaam Aleikum”, May Peace be Upon You, and told the packed auditorium that he hopes to usher in a new era of relations between his country and the Nation of Islam, of which he said, the country of Egypt and City of Cairo are one of that religion’s finest realms.

Obama in EgyptIn regards to the religion of Islam, Obama told his audience that America is “not at war with Islam”, but will confront violent extremism and their aspiration to “kill as many innocent people as they can”, especially those small groups (such as Al Qaeda) which have gone against the positive dictates of the religion and have committed gross acts of terror, such as 9-11; and who still vow to commit more such acts.

After noting what his country plans to do in regards to the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where American soldiers are still on active duty, Obama reached the part of speech we all had been waiting for , i.e. that part regarding his plans and desires for dealing with the situation involving Israel and the Palestinians. While he did say that his country has a ” very close and historic relationship with the State of Israel”, and mentioned the long persecution of the Jewish People and the horrors of the Holocaust ( “anybody who denies the Holocaust is ignorant and hateful”) he then countered by comparing this with the “suffering of the Palestinians in pursuit of a homeland” and that for more than 60 years they have lived in refugee and displaced person’s camps due to the occupation ( in all of Israel, perhaps?).

And again, he received loud applause when he spoke about “two states for two peoples to live side by side in peace and security” and that “America will not turn her back on a state for the Palestinian People”.

Side by side – peace and security. Many in Israel wonder how this will be accomplished, especially in light of current realities; and in light of Hamas’ (and even Fatah’s ) relations with Israel.

Obama also went on to speak about achieving democracy in the Middle East, saying that “elections alone do not make democracy”. He was obviously referring to the situation in counties like Egypt where the situation is far from being democratic (probably making his host Hosnei Mubarak squirm a bit). He also talked about women’s rights (a topic probably added by his wife Michelle and by his Sec. of State Hillary Clinton), saying that women who are denied an education are denied equality. He said: “I am convinced that our daughters (he has two) can contribute as much as our sons to society” and promised that his country will help Muslim countries to give more opportunities to women” (that must have gone over like a lead balloon to any male listening in countries like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan).

We’re sure Mr. Obama does realize that Israel gives more opportunities to women than any country in the entire region, and that this will always be the case. Perhaps Palestinian women might pick up on this message though, providing their men-folk are willing to let them do so.

He ended his speech by quoting the Golden Rule, which he noted is also found in the Quran: “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In a way, this “rule” has been practiced in this region, although not exactly in a positive framework. And that is where the entire matter may be found; i.e. in how this rule can be more positively applied.

In any respect, people will be analyzing his speech in the weeks and months to come, as well as being on the lookout for any hidden meanings. He did tell the young people of the region (including young Israelis we presume) that “you have the ability to change and reshape this world”.

Let’s all hope that this “changing and reshaping” will be within a positive framework.

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