a different side of Israel

Tag: US

WikiLeaks Reveals US Requests Al Jazeera Web Content Gets Nixed

A top-secret US cable from the US embassy in Doha, Qatar where the Aljazeera headquarter is, was published recently on Wikileaks. The cable revealed that Al Jazeera’s Managing Director Wadah Khanfar agreed to a US government request to delete web content that “disturbed” the US government.

The cable describes the meeting between US government officials with Wadah Khanfar. US government officials raised the question of an Al Jazeera website piece published listed under the heading

“”Special Coverage”, and containing “Live Testimony Concerning Tal Afar”. “The site opens to an image of bloody sheets of paper riddled with bullet holes. Viewers click on the bullet holes to access testimony from ten alleged “eye witnesses” who described recent military operations in Tal Afar.

Khanfar said that in accordance with a promise he made to the US government, he had two images removed (two injured children in hospital beds, and a woman with a serious facial injury.)
US government indicated “that the testimony of a “doctor” in the piece also implied that poison gas had been used on residents of Tal Afar and that the appearance of the piece, in particular the bloody bullet hole icons, came across as “inflammatory and journalistically questionable.”

According to the cable Khanfar said he had told the website staff that in future, when they want to add an item to the “Special Coverage” section of the website, they should send a draft of the idea to his office. The cable notes that The AJ website is located in another building across town. Khanfar added “I don’t say that such things are not going to be repeated on the website, but it is a learning process”. The cable says the meeting with Khanfar took place on 10/19/2005. He asked for fixing “the method of how we receive these reports” as he has had found one of them in the fax machine.

In the cable US officials told Khanfar that despite large decrease in “negative coverage” since February, the month of September showed an increase in such programming. Such problems according to the cables “still remain with double-sourcing in Iraq; identifying sources; use of inflammatory language; a failure to balance of extremist views; and the use of “terrorist” tapes. “Khanfar said there are still some mistakes “which we accept and address” but he maintains that the points are taken out of context noting that during the “AJ broadcasting day, a comment made or position taken by one person may be balanced with a different comment or position later in the same show or later on during the same day.”

As for using “terrorists tapes” Khanfar said “We have always said that we are going to use these tapes and we will continue to use them. The question is how. None of the tapes are used just like that,” the cable wrote: “meaning that they are reviewed for newsworthiness and are edited.”

Muslims in America and Denmark

It is about to be ten years since the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States of America, and some 2.75 million Muslims live in the United States, so what better time to conduct a Pew poll to find out where Muslim Americans stand in terms of quality of life.

Recently, the Pew Research Center conducted telephone interviews with 1,033 Muslim Americans between April and July, surveying their social and political viewpoints, their levels of religious observance and their sentiments about Islamic extremism. On the latter issue, the majority of respondents expressed concern about religious extremism at home and abroad.

The Pew Research Center also conducted a similar poll in 2007, the results from which showed little change in the way Muslims feel they are perceived by the public. Fifty-five percent of respondents from the recent poll said life in the United States was more difficult for them than was before Sept. 11, 2001, while 37% said they felt no difference. Two-thirds of respondents said they believe the quality of life in America is better than in Islamic countries.

Seven out of 10 responders said that they were satisfied with Obama’s performance.

The report read:

“On a variety of measures, Muslims in America are very content with their own lives and with the communities where they live…We’ve seen Muslims move in a different direction than the rest of the country, (with more) believing America is going in the right direction.”

When the 2007 survey was taken, 25% of Muslim Americans said they felt the U.S.-led global war on terror was intended to combat terror and not rooted in ulterior motives, whereas this year’s survey saw that number increase to 43%.

A third of those polled said local Muslim leaders have spoken out against extremism, while seven in 10 believe Muslim communities are cooperating well with law enforcement officials. 81% said that suicide bombings and other violence that used the name of Islam to target civilians was “never justified…” whilst, one percent said it was often justified. Five percent had a “somewhat or very favorable” view of al-Qaida, while 70 percent said they held “very unfavorable views” of al-Qaida.

In other news, a man was killed and two others injured in a shooting outside a Copenhagen mosque following prayers marking the end of Ramadan.

The shooting took place outside the Muslim Culture Institute, in the Danish capital’s western Vesterbro district.

No arrests have been made but police are on the lookout for the perpetrators.

A spokesman for the Muslim institute said the incident took place on a parking lot next to the mosque as hundreds were leaving the 9 a.m. prayer service.

Obama and Cantor Trying to Work Together on Budget Cuts

US President Obama is pushing congress to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to get hip to major Social Security and Medicare changes in exchange for Republican support of fresh tax revenue.

Obama argues that a rare consensus is rearing its ugly head concerning the size and scope of the America’s budget woes and that now is the time for policymakers to implement changes.

golfing with ObamaObama is proposing reductions in Medicare spending and looking to curb the rising cost of Social Security. Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the war on government spending are at odds with a slight diplomatic flip-flop by the prezo.

Instead of $2 trillion in savings, the White House is now seeking a plan to slash more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next ten years. But last week President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Virginian Republican got nowhere during their session to exchange ideas.
At the fifth straight day of talks, Cantor recounted that Obama stormed out of the room, ending the two-hour discussion. He was pissed about Cantor’s insistent push for a short-term resolution.
Obama said, off the record:

“Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people on this…This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political positioning, and protecting their base, than in resolving real problems.”

Cantor told reporters:

“I know why he lost his temper. He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated…”

One Month Since 43rd Anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy Assassination

Last month, June 6th to be exact, marked the anniversary of the assassination of New York Senator and Presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy. It has been 43 years.

43rd Anniversary to Robert F. Kennnedy's AssassinationBobby Kennedy was shot by a 24-year-old Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, three times in the face with a .22-caliber rifle. He died 26 hours later in the hospital. Sirhan said his was a political motivation protesting Senator Kennedy’s support for Israel during the Six-Day War. The same day he passed away, the Los Angeles Times reported the story disclosing the Palestinian’s motives writing:

“When the Jordanian nationalist, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, allegedly shot Kennedy, ostensibly because of the senator’s advocacy of U.S. support for Israel, the crime with which he was charged was in essence another manifestation of the centuries-old hatred between Arab and Jew.”

An original conviction resulting in the death penalty was eventually changed to life imprisonment. Today, Sirhan is confined at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California. He lives in a cell in solitary confinement.

Read some of Senator Kennedy’s British Mandate era reporting from Palestine for the Boston Post.. here.

Why I Left Israel and Why I’m Going Home

This is something that I received from a reader in the US (thanks AG) and its a great article. It was first published in the WSJ. Worth a read.

Why I Left Israel, and Why I’m Going Home

Today Israel turns 60. When I was growing up in Herzilya, people celebrated Israel’s Independence Day by shooting each other with toy guns that covered the victim with fluorescent string. Later, when I was studying Arabic in Jordan, Palestinians I knew mourned the 1948 war as the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”).

Now I live in Virginia, where Israel’s birthday is invisible, and this year I mark it by packing. I’m preparing to move back for my sabbatical, preparing to embrace the double life I’ve been trying to deny since I dodged the draft into the Israeli army 18 years ago.

“Are you excited?” I get asked at least once a week. No, I say, I’m just going home.

I’m going home, and I’m scared. I’m scared not because of Iran’s nuclear capability or Hezbollah’s Katyushas or Hamas’s suicide bombs. These threats are real, but they feel abstract. I’m scared because I’m not sure I can resist absorbing their reverberations, the pent-up aggression that flows like a river through so many daily interactions; the constant noise, the sense that life is a zero-sum game, that the planet is too small for both of us, that your gain is my loss, that listening to your story will erase my own.

When we studied Zionism in high school, I asked my history teacher why Jews have a historical “right” to the land. I could understand saying we had a “connection,” but what do we mean when we speak of a “right”? What does that say about the rights of the people who were here before us?

“If you ask such a question,” he said, “you shouldn’t be here.”

So I left.

I left because I wanted to think my own thoughts, to read Socrates and Rousseau and Kierkegaard and ask the “real” questions of existence. I left and I built another life, not as a Jew, not as an Israeli, but as a human being. I left, and (even after returning briefly to Israel after college to complete my military service) I embraced what I imagined America could give me – an identity that was all about the future, all about possibility.

Being American, I imagined, meant that it didn’t matter what I came from: that I could shed my grandparents’ traumas and my parents’ generation’s sins; that I could claim America’s light without seeing its darkness; that I could take its freedom without its slavery and its Indians.

I was wrong. Slavery is part of my American self just as the Nakba is part of my Israeli self. America has taught me that these truths coexist, and that I can’t be a full human being without acknowledging and honoring what I come from. So I’m going home.

I’m going home not because I have a “right” to a home. Lots of people come from nowhere in particular, perhaps from a suburb their family left when they were teenagers, people with free-floating identities I can’t ever understand. I’m going home because I happen to have one.

I am blessed to have a home that still exists, a home with parents and sisters whom I love more than I’ve let them know. I miss them. I miss my family and I miss my childhood friends. I miss the dust and the sun, the warm salty Mediterranean, watermelon with Bulgarian cheese, droopy Eucalyptus branches and their brittle leaves crackling underfoot.

I miss Hebrew – rough, jagged, unforgiving Hebrew. When I hear it, an invisible film between me and the world dissolves. I come from a place – from streets I remember when they were still unpaved, from the house where I lost my first tooth, from the beachside terrace where my grandmother taught me how to tell time, from the cemetery where we buried her.

I didn’t choose these places, and I didn’t expel anybody. But that doesn’t change the fact that my joy is someone else’s pain. My home is someone else’s home, a home they can’t return to, because of me. I can’t reconcile this, but running from it doesn’t reconcile it either.

One of the Palestinian women I knew in Jordan believed that the Quran predicts the Jewish State will be destroyed and the Palestinians restored to their land. When I told her that in addition to being American I was also Israeli, and that I had served in the army, she was shocked. She liked me, and it took her a few moments to absorb that I could be this terrible thing.

I assured her that I enlisted after dodging the draft only so I could see my family, and that I had no intention of living in Israel again. She thought about it, and finally said something I didn’t fully understand until now, 10 years later. I’m so sad for you, she said, to have to live so far from your family.

She could feel both things at the same time: She could pray for Israel’s destruction and also hope that I might find a way home.

Ms. Motro is an associate professor of law at the University of Richmond.

After Thanksgiving – or Who’s Really the Turkey?

Thanksgiving 2007Since the American holiday of Thanksgiving is a secular one, Israel really doesn’t have anything to compare with it, as all holidays in Israel, save that of Independence Day, are religious ones. There are no shortage of “turkeys” in the Jewish State, however. By that simile, I’m not referring to the stately bird that graced the table of millions of American homes on Thursday, allowing them to more than stuff themselves with an abundance of food and drink while watching an assortment of parades, sporting events, and other holiday activities. Nothing happening in this country can even compare to this American national event which has been in effect since U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed in 1863 that the “forth Thursday in the month of November will be a day of thanksgiving for all the blessings that Almighty God has bestowed upon us”.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Putting all this aside for a moment, I’ll get back to the subject of turkeys, and not the aforementioned bird. The “turkeys” I am referring to are of the human kind and usually of a derogatory nature. If one were to look up this term in a modern, Israeli inspired “New Age” dictionary of the (American) English language, the appropriate definition would refer to a person who is (in Jewish Israeli terms) a bit of a frier or shmuck to put it bluntly. The reason this so pertains to what has been going on in Israel’s governmental leadership recently, particularly does so in regards to a so-called “peace summit” planned to begin in the U.S. State of Maryland on Monday, November 27. Harped for over two months already, this conference is billed as being the one to deal with a great many of the existing problems in the Middle East, especially concerning Israel and her Palestinian “neighbors”, such as they are.

Few people have much faith in what will be the result of this summit which may include some countries not having peaceful (let along diplomatic) relations with Israel. Israel’s leadership, especially the Prime Minister, seem to believe that great things will be accomplished, which brings me back again to the subject of turkeys. For all their rhetoric and supposedly good intentions, both Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni will most likely try to offer some incentives to make the conference end in some kind of success. Another interested party, the United States, is really interested in something good developing from this meeting, no matter what the consequences for Israel may be. But be that as it may, there may be a bunch of turkeys over there as well, as recent political and economic polls have indicated.

After the last few conferences, mostly hosted in Egypt by Egyptian President Husni Mubarak , not much, if anything has resulted from them. This also held true for earlier U.S. conferences including another one in Maryland in the year 2000. There were plenty of “turkeys” at that conference as well, including one, Israel’s present Defense Minister, who is slated to be at this one, in Annapolis.

We all better hope that there won’t be too many “foxes in the hen house” or turkey coupe as this case may be.

A Dim Future for American Jews?

American Jews Future ?
A recent conference held in St Louis Missouri concluded with great concern regarding the future of Jewish education in America, as well the community as a whole. The conference, composed of Jewish educators from all over the U.S.A., came to the conclusion that due to the high price of private Jewish day schools, and lack of direct parental involvement in their children’s Jewish education, it would only be matter of time until this would affect the ability of the Jewish Community as a whole to survive.

The conference, known as the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, and composed of more than 1,200 educators and administrative professionals noted that the high annual costs of day schools, running an average of $15,000 or more, was preventing all but the most affluent from seeking a Jewish education for their children. Scholarship programs for families in middle class income stratum were often not being accepted by many families simply because they felt uncomfortable in receiving them. As far as Hebrew School programs after regular public school hours, it has reached the point where parents only drop their kids off to them “on the way to the gym” or other secular activities. The parents, for the most part, do not even assist their children with their studies, including homework.

The main problem appears in establish a sense of purpose in providing educational goals in both day schools and afternoon Hebrew schools. Hebrew schools were singled out as having a number of problems including intense competition with extracurricular school activities, particularly sports. Many Jewish children who attend public schools, are involved in either school team sports activities afterwards, which require at lest two or hour hours of practice on a daily basis. Jewish community centers also have many non-educational activities in which children participate, with less time available for attending Hebrew School. In many communities, most Hebrew school attendance drops off considerably once a child has reached Bar or Mat Mitzvah age.

The main focus of the conference was to find ways to attract younger people into Jewish education. Current realities indicate an older group of Jewish educators, coupled with a community in which people are having fewer children and at an older age – usually mid to late thirties. In light of this, the conference made efforts to attract younger participants, and to integrate modern technology, including Blogging and ‘virtual’ means of making Jewish education more interesting for students who are well versed in modern technology, as this may be one of the best ways to ensure the survival of Jewish education in the today’s information technology influence world.

The New Fun CIA

With the Russian ex-spy that was recently poisened in the UK and the new James Bond out, this seems like the appropriate time for this. The CIA is recruiting and it’s using some funky new methods. This one is cute, its an online quiz that lets you find out if you are CIA material. I took it…go ahead you know you want to try it 🙂

CIA Quiz

Bad Timing: Olmert’s U.S. Visit & the ‘New Middle East’

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s appearance in Washington on Monday comes amid a new reality that is already being felt in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s triumph by the U.S. Democratic Party. Though planned well before the November 7 mid-term Congressional elections, Olmert should have realized that the atmosphere in the U.S capital will be quite different than the one he experienced last April when he last visited there following his election win in his own country’s elections. This visit also comes on the heels of the July-August Lebanese II war, as well as last week’s IDF killing of a large number of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun, Gaza; already being called by many as a massacre similar to the one which occurred in the southern Lebanese village of Qana (see photo) where dozens of Lebanese refuges were killed in one building.

Olmert faces a different U.S. political reality, with a new Congressional makeup which will undoubtedly be less sympathetic to Israel’s situation with the Palestinians, as well as regarding the entire Middle East. Olmert is most likely interested in receiving more U.S. aid to help repair his country’s northern infrastructure following the damage sustained in last summer’s 34 day conflict in which more than 6,000 Hezbollah launched rockets caused millions of dollars in property damage, completely trashed a promising tourism season, and resulted in the scorching of more than 10,000 square hectares of forest and pastureland, some of which will take generations to recover from. A new congressional reality in January, 2007, will have the task of approving U.S. foreign aid packages to many countries, including Israel. Israel has been the largest recipient of foreign aid, with a sum of 3 billion Dollars being appropriated on an annual basis. A new Democratic Party controlled Congress will not only be scrutinizing these aid packages, but may be less apt to grant Israel the requested sums. The Bush Administration is already being cast as a “more than lame-duck” administration, meaning that Bush will have difficulty passing even the most mundane legislation through Congress.

The future of the U.S. presence in Iraq is already being discussed by new Democratic lawmakers who are saying that the American public want change; and that ‘change’ will more than likely result in an early withdraw of most American forces from not only Iraq, but from Afghanistan as well. The five year War on Terror has simply not produced results that were hoped for, and most Americans feel even less safe than they did following the September 2001 mega terror attacks on the American home front. How American foreign policy will be changed during the next few years is still a matter of speculation, but changes there will surely be; especially with the strong prospects of a Democratic Party President being elected in only two years time.

Mr. Olmert may find the ‘winds of change’ a bit chilly when he arrives in the American Capital; not to mention the U.N. General Assembly, where he is scheduled to give a speech toward a less-than-sympathetic audience. And Israel’s recent Autumn Clouds military operation in Gaza may well turn into cold, winter rains.

Eating Humble Pie: Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary

Following an apparent Democratic Party sweep of both houses of Congress, U.S. President George W. Bush announced yesterday that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has resigned his position as head of America’s defense establishment. In a short speech at the White House, Bush said that he met with Rumsfeld and that “we both agreed that it was time for him to step down as Secretary of Defense.”

Bush as nominated Robert Gates, a former CIA head during Bush’s father’s Presidential Administration, to replace the outgoing Rumsfeld. Gates is a close friend of the Bush family, and is currently President of Texas A & M University. He served as CIA chief from 1991 to 1993. Upon accepting the nomination, Gates said: “the world is fighting terrorism on a world-wide scale. It is no longer a regional issue that many can ignore”. The nomination of Gates, however, is not a ‘shoe-in’ and must now be confirmed by a Senate which is no longer in ‘partisan’ hands. Rumsfeld’s resignation did not come as a surprise to many; and had probably been in the pipeline for some time, awaiting the right opportunity.

It’s still too early to say what changes will be made within the Defense Department. With a less friendly Congress to deal with, it’s certain that the situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be a top priority. Increasing opposition against the military actions and occupation by an American public who want solutions will be the new Congress’s most pressing agenda when it convenes in January, 2007. Incidents such as the Abu Ghiraib prison scandal and many incidents involving the rape and killing of Iraqi civilians by American troops only added to the problems during Rumsfeld’s ‘watch’, with far too many high ranking officers complaining of inadequate equipment and manpower to do the job.

More pressing priorities, such as a nuclear armed Iran and North Korea, now face the incoming Defense Secretary, not to mention the current situation in the Middle East. The Bush Administration in its remaining two years will have to deal with a war on terror involving increasing religious ideology versus Western democracy. America will have to decide whether to conduct a strategic retreat from both Iraq and Afghanistan, letting the peoples of those countries sort out their own problems; or to make an all out effort to achieve military victory on a scale not seen since World War II, which will include a return to military conscription (the draft) as well as possible rationing of fuel and certain commodities on the home front. Fighting a ‘partial war’ just won’t work, as the ultimate stakes are much too high.

Photo; Associated Press

Happened in America?

Happened in AmericaThe grisly story that has shocked Americans the past few days is still something ranging from for completely unbelievable to a tale out of the worst nightmare of horror flicks. Occurring on or about September 15, in the predominantly African American community of East St. Louis Illinois, across the Mississippi River from its larger namesake, St Louis Missouri. Jimella Hall, a 23 year old mother of three, and seven months pregnant to boot, was knocked unconscious and her unborn fetus literally cut from her body by her 24 year old babysitter, Tiffany Hall (pictured above). Jimella’s children, Demond, aged 7, Ivan, aged 2, and baby Jinella , aged 1, were later found stuffed into the mother’s washer and dryer in their E. St. Louis ‘project’ apartment.

Though the subject of an intense search, the children were only found inside these appliances after several days when the smell of their decomposing bodies led police to look inside to find their grisly remains. Later, forensic tests revealed the children had been drowned before being ‘laid to rest’ inside the Whirlpool appliances.

Ms. Hall, who had notified the police that the now dead fetus was her own still-born child, later divulged most of the details of these extremely horrific events. She has two children of her own, now safe in Police custody.

Tunstall ChildrenThe events noted here may come to a shock to many, especially those living outside the United States. Others, especially those involved in social work and related professions, are acutely aware that such occurrences happen all to often; especially to members of this country’s poorer minority elements of society. What has made this series of events so shocking, however, was the manner in which they occurred – especially in regards to a live fetus being cut out of it’s mother’s womb. This only indicates that America is far from being a perfect society, and that in reality, more than a third of all Americans, especially from minority groups, live under the poverty line. Many live in these ‘project condominiums’; often inhabited by single mothers who are living on welfare or near-welfare subsistence levels. These people, often several generations, have little or no hope to improve their circumstances; resulting in their lives being filled with drugs and violence, coupled with living in truly wretched living conditions.

Israel is not immune to problems involving the country’s poor and disadvantaged citizens, and numerous incidents of domestic and family violence are often noted, including the most recent in which a young immigrant father (from the CIS countries) threw his two children from the balcony of their second story apartment. More than 1,200 cases of domestic violence have been reported in Israel so far this year, and from all indications, with the state of the country’s economy following the 34 day Lebanon conflict, the situation is bound to get worse before it gets better, with the weaker elements of society being the ones involved most in these incidents of family-related violence.

As for acts of violence in America, it appears that the so-called “American Dream” is really a nightmare for more than 35 million Americans, making it no wonder that many are being attracted to various cults, and to religious groups which may preach violence as a means to solve problems. The reality of this tragedy means that government officials, both local and national, had better concentrate more on solving their country’s social problems before trying to be the ‘policemen of the world’.

One on One – Taken Literally in America

“Here’s to all the lonely people, who think life has passed them by”, so went the words to a popular American tune that came out during the mid 1980’s. These words are even more relevant in today’s increasingly ‘alone’ society in a country whose life styles and personal freedoms are still the envy of most of the world’s population. Studies carried out by a well known research organization, headed by Dr. Len Smith-Lubin, and conducted on a widely diversified group of Americans between the years of 1985 to today, concluded that more and more Americans not only live alone but have no one they can personally rely on in the event of an emergency – even members of their own families.
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The Fourth of July and Yom Ha’Azmaut – Why Must we Celebrate?

Tomorrow, July 4 2006, marks the 230th anniversary since a group of American patriots sat together in the city of Philadelphia to sign a document that had been drafted as a protest to being ruled by a country located more than three thousand miles ‘across the pond’. That document known as the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed by men who were literally risking their very lives to do so. One of these men, a newspaper publisher and itinerant inventor named Benjamin Franklin, put forth his message so eloquently when he said: “Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or we shall surely hang separately”. In the midst of what is now referred to as the American Revolution, an extremely bloody and painful conflict lasting more than 7 years, the 13 American colonies were finally granted their independence from British rule in 1783. This achievement, and that famous document signed ‘In Congress’ on that hot and muggy July day, became the beginning of what has been the world’s greatest achievement in freedom and democracy.
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