Six Years without Gilad Shalit

It’s been 6 years since was kidnapped. This is the Shana Tova (New Year) greeting that was mailed out to politicians and government officials by the family as a reminder.

A few days ago the Palestinian Prime Minister made his bid for Statehood and now waiting for an answer from the Council. You would expect that kidnapping and holding a soldier prisoner without basic humanitarian conditions or official communication, would be considered sufficient grounds for immediate disqualification of the bid. But not at the .

Gilad’s family will be spending yet another holiday at their tent outside the government offices in Jerusalem. They count the days (now 1920) since they saw their son. May this be the year Gilad comes home.

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El Al to Join Up With Canadian Airline WestJet

The unique relationship between and Toronto has taken another step forward on September 12, when Canadian Airline WestJet and Israel’s airline announced a joint move where tickets which are purchased on for Toronto, may now be purchased combining connecting flights to one of ’s 30 Canadian destinations, as well as the Caribbean and Florida.

The official signing of the new contract happened in Israel on September 12 before Elyezer Shkedy, President and CEO of El Al; Dinah Kutner, general manager El Al ; and one Gregg Saretsky, president and CEO of WestJet.

Gregg Saretsky travelled all the way to the Jewish Country just to sign this historic agreement. Also in attendance at the ceremony was Paul Hunt the Canadian Ambassador to Israel.

Thus far, El Al already has agreements under a similar structure with a number of including JetBlue, American and Virgin America.

Upon check-in, passengers receive their boarding cards to their final destination, whether WestJet or Tel Aviv destinations as a consequence of the Interline Through Check-In agreement that was established between the airlines.

Gregg Saretsky of WestJet was heard saying:

“We are delighted to partner with El Al Israel Airlines to make travel across our mutual networks easier for our guests as we continue to expand our partnerships…WestJetters are looking forward to welcoming El Al guests aboard our flights.”

Elyezer Shkedy of El Al:

“We are proud to partner with WestJet…This agreement with WestJet provides various options to our Israeli and Canadian customers and is a continuation of the El Al strategy in expanding commercial agreements, both interline and codeshare, with leading carriers around the world.”

Dinah Kutner of El Al Canada said:

“The agreement expands and improves the network of destinations in North America and the Caribbean, especially to destinations in Canada like Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, as well as for WestJet’s routes including Mexico, Hawaii, Cuba and the Dominican Republic all via El Al’s gateway in Toronto…Toronto is a perfect gateway as Israelis do not require entry visas to Canada and that both airlines operate from the same terminal in Toronto (Terminal 3).”

Starting next week, special introductory prices are available combining WestJet and EL AL. EL AL Matmid Frequent Flyers may now receive an additional 20% points for tickets that combine WestJet and EL AL flights from 1-30 November 2011.

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Obama Drops a Bomb on Abbas

Call it strategic Jew-baiting, call it what you will.

President Obama has finally swallowed that pill. He has fallen in line, put interests behind… a two-state solution may now never happen.

Blame it on . Blame it on Abbas. Blame it on Arafat alone, or old Ariel Sharon.

Reactions among the Palestinians to U.S. President Barak Obama’s speech at the last week are beginning to accumulate; and the consensus features some very very ugly responses.

Here is part of a column byAdel Abd al-Rahman, a Palestinian journalist from al-Hayat al-Jadida, a daily:

“The black president’s speech was blacker than the tar thrown at the Palestinians, because his main concern is to guarantee Jewish votes and AIPAC’s financial and propagandist support.
The idea that Jews control American politics is of course not new in Arab political discourse, nor is it uncommon for Arab media outlets to play up the race of senior U.S. officials. The Saudi press, for instance, made much of former Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice’s race in both its texts and cartoons. Nonetheless, it’s still strange that people determined to be accepted as an equal among nations wouldn’t be ashamed of projecting such a vicious worldview through an official media organ.”

MJ Rosenberg of al Jazeera wrote in his column:

“The Palestinian issue is the one issue on which all Muslims are united. Whether Saudi, Iranian, Indonesian, or Afghani, the one issue that brings Muslims together is the belief that the Israeli occupation of the and the blockade of are terrible wrongs, supported by the . Muslims aren’t the only ones who feel this way, as will be demonstrated by the overwhelming vote for the resolution that the and will stand virtually alone in opposing.

The Obama administration should keep that in mind when it decides how it will handle the vote. Promoting the two-state solution, starting with a vote FOR a Palestinian state at the , is not only the moral thing to do – just as it was when the US supported Israel’s statehood at the in 1947 – but it is also the right thing to do from the standpoint of America’s security. For Israel’s sake, for the Palestinians’, and for our own, the President should tell the US ambassador to the to vote ‘yes’.”

Rosenberg is wrong about the blockade on Gaza and the settlements in Judea and Samaria. With Hamas in the picture, the former is here to stay – even if it was Kadema’s fault that Hamas is so powerful – the latter is Abbas’ fault on account of his racism.

NyTimes video about Ariel…

Obama’s speech…

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Oh Boy, it’s a Boycott

A new cultural center was inaugurated in the town of , next to Hebron on Monday night. As predicted, several high-profile actors have refused to perform at the center. The center was built with public funds from three Israeli government ministries, and of course with moneys from private donators. Altogether, there were more than 500 artists signed a petition in recent days calling for a of the center.

Earlier in the month, actor Rami Baruch said he would not perform in his play “Pollard” at the center’s opening.

“I made a decision, understanding that it could lead to financial ramifications and counter-boycotts…Kiryat Arba is where Baruch Goldstein and Kahane came from, and I asked myself what is my place in this whole story.” said Baruch, who plays the lead role in a drama based on the story of Jonathan Pollard, the civilian U.S. Navy analyst who was convicted of spying for . “

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said at the opening ceremony for the cultural center, referring to the Palestinians’ planned statehood bid this week at the .

“The opening of a culture center in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, is our Zionist and political answer. We are here—we are not strangers in our own homeland,”

Theater professionals signed a petition a year ago stating that they would not be performing in a new cultural center in the city of Ariel which was built with more than $10 million in public funds.

In 2010, an op-ed on Ynet read:

We’re back to the Middle Ages, to the darkness of boycotts and ostracism on behalf of those who know better than what’s proper and what isn’t. Their source of authority is their talent, fame, and the limelight. After all, they crowned themselves as “men of letters” and as such they have plenty to say. You better listen to them, or else you would be banished from the space of sanity and from all the goodness offered by this State’s theater district.

They already published a first letter, and now they are issuing another warning. What we have is a theatrical reality here: Artists who boycott those who disagree with them on the political front, and on the other hand a rightist camp that boycotts the artists. All we need now is enthused youngsters on both sides to throw the other side’s texts into the bonfire of enlightenment, and there you have the epitome of progress.

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WikiLeaks Reveals US Requests Al Jazeera Web Content Gets Nixed


A top-secret cable from the embassy in Doha, where the headquarter is, was published recently on . 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 .

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 ; 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.”

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Paid Riots in Egypt, Jewish News Station Launch & Palestinian Statehood on the way

After being evacuated amidst the recent violent protests, four Israeli diplomats and security personnel will be returning to ’s embassy in . The return comes amidst reports by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that the protesters were actually paid to attack the embassy.

The envoys will return to Cairo to a different building and work to retain the Jewish Country’s diplomatic presence in . The ambassadors left almost two weeks ago after Egyptian demonstrators stormed Israel’s embassy in Cairo, necessitating the emergency rescue of its staff by Egyptian commandos.

Egyptian protesters who were recently questioned by Egyptian security reportedly said that they were offered money to cause the riots. The riot and protest participants were bused to the area, then given dinner and envelopes containing money, according to al-Ahram.

and JN1
In other news, Just Journalism, the organization set up three years ago to monitor media coverage of Israel, is closing its doors. A statement announcing the closure on its website this afternoon told supporters: “Despite our extremely modest budget it has become increasingly difficult to financially sustain the operation in the current economic environment”.

Along with daily online briefings, Just Journalism published more detailed reports to expose “skewed” reporting of the Jewish Country.
Its advisory board includes MP Denis MacShane, political commentator Robin Shepherd, think-tank head Douglas Murray and the editor of Standpoint magazine Daniel Johnson.

Meanwhile, Ynet reports that the first-ever Jewish news network will commence broadcasting this week:

Jewish News 1 (JN1) was born as an alternative to the world’s leading news networks – CNN, Fox News and Sky News. But its main goal is to serve as the Jewish version of al-Jazeera, which has won the hearts of tens of millions of Arab viewers over the past 15 years.

According to the Makor Rishon newspaper, the channel will be broadcast via satellite to Europe, North America and the Middle East. In Israel it will be offered by the Yes satellite company.

″ will broadcast news from Israel and the world 24/7. The network has already set up studios in Tel Aviv, Brussels and Kiev, and additional studios will be opened in Washington, Paris and London in the coming months.

The network has 12 correspondents, all foreigners, who are currently deployed in six countries. The casting of reporters to cover the news in Israel, Europe and Russia will be completed in the coming days.

The network will begin its broadcasts in English, but its managers seek to offer news in seven additional languages, including Hebrew, French, Italian, Russian and German.

“We’ll broadcast everything that is newsworthy,” says Alexander Zanzer, the channel’s editor-in-chief in Brussels, where the station is based. “Alongside general news, we’ll offer economic and cultural items, as well as a peek into educational projects. Everything you can see on other global news channels, you’ll be able to see on our channel as well.”

on track…
In other news, Palestinian diplomats are planning to submit their application for statehood to the United Nations Security Council on Friday, even as world leaders are pressuring President to return to negotiations with Israel as an alternative. The quartet of powers involved in brokering —that is the U.N., the European Union, U.S., and Russia—hope to set up a feasible timeline for new negotiations, alongside a pledge supporting Palestinian statehood should the negotiations fail. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said on Sunday, however,“Unfortunately, we didn’t get any solid or even medium-sized [offer] at all. As a result, yes, we are firm in our decision to go to the Security Council.”

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al-Zahar vs. Mashaal: a rocky road for Hamas

The recent conflict between Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in , and Damascus-based political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal demonstrates the animosity within the Hamas leadership in Gaza and .

Al-Zahar demands that Hamas-Gaza be given a more authoritative role in decision-making, while the Hamas leadership abroad contends that the axis of power is better kept outside of Palestine-proper.

Since Israeli’s tragic 2005 Gaza disengagement, Hamas’ victory in the -granted parliamentary elections of 2006, and Hamas’ military takeover of the region in June 2007, the Hamas government has secured notable political and economic power, as evidenced by foreign relations and has imposed taxes on imports from and . The result is a deteriorated dependence of Hamas-Gaza on the Hamas leadership abroad.

Also, the consolidation of the Hamas regime in Gaza, where the central military forces of the al-Qassam Brigades are stationed, gradually has shifted the balance of power inside Hamas. Al-Zahar challenged Mashaal’s authority to lead the movement, arguing that the center of power should be moved from abroad to “inside” Palestine. After the creation of the

in1994, Fatah underwent a similar process.
The current main interest of Mashaal is to promote reconciliation with Fatah in order to pave the way for Hamas to join the and take over the organization, however, such issues such as Hamas’ not backing the Abbas-led bid for statehood at the are prolonging the rift between the geopolitical Palestinian factions.

On May 17th, al-Zahar was asked by the Palestinian daily al-Quds for his reaction to Mashaal’s statement:

“The position of the [Hamas] movement regarding the negotiations and the resistance has not changed. We’re in favor of the way of resistance, and the way of negotiations was and still contradicts the position of the majority of the Palestinian people, who voted for Hamas in the 2006 general elections. Today, there is someone saying that we’re giving Abu Mazen [] the option to hold a new round of negotiations [with Israel]. We did not agree to the negotiations and we did not encourage him [Abbas] to hold negotiations. On the contrary, we embarrassed him day and night on this issue of negotiations. Therefore, what happened on the day in which the reconciliation agreement was signed was not agreed upon [within Hamas], we don’t recognize it and I think that it does not express the position of the movement, whose platform is based on resistance, not negotiations…. ”

…We did not agree to these statements and we were surprised when it was said. The world should know that there was no change in the position of the movement regarding resistance, as it is the only way. We can only negotiate issues within the framework of resistance.”

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Palestinian Statehood Bid

The former Foreign Secretary of , Jack Straw has called on MPs to back the Palestinian bid for unilateral statehood at the .

The British government has not yet confirmed whether it will support the bid if a vote goes ahead. The U.S. will not back the move. Straw wrote to every member of British Parliament urging them to help the Palestinian cause for statehood.

“It is vital that the UK and other European countries have the courage to point the way forward.” He added that the UN, World Bank, the EU and the IMF have all deemed the Palestinians “ready for statehood” and said: “We all understand the fears that Israelis have for their security, but it will not enhance their security to deny the right of self-determination permanently to the Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the U.S. would not admit that homosexuality would not be tolerated in a . Benjamin Weinthal of the Jerusalem Post, points out that the price for being gay in the Hamas-ruled
Strip is the death penalty:

The Hamas-controlled Gaza strip has declared homosexuality punishable by death. Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar has said, “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize ?”

In an April broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV, which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Syrian academic Muhammad Rateb al- Nabulsi said, “Homosexuality involves a filthy place, and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

But aren’t all who are strongly unwelcome in the proposed Palestinian State. Ha’aretz reported:

The future independent Palestinian state will not include a Jewish minority, a top Palestinian official told USA Today on Wednesday, adding that it was in the best interest of both peoples to “be separated.”

Maen Areikat, Ambassador to the United States, made the comment just as the Palestinian Authority, led by President , was preparing to offer up to a vote in the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

The left-wing Israeli daily also reported that Hamas is not backing Abbas’ statehood bid. Further evidence that the PA and Hamas are not altogether reconciled:

The Islamist Hamas movement said Wednesday that President Mahmoud Abbas’ plan to approach the United Nations for recognition of Palestinian statehood was a “tactical” move, part of a negotiations process, and therefore could not be backed. The move was not based on principles and “Hamas and other factions are not part of this step and do not support it,” Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told a workshop in Gaza City.

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Jews Against Obama?

With the first round of GOP primary debates already underway, a lingering question is whether President honored the Jewish vote he had so clearly secured when he won the 2009 presidential race.

Republican Bob Turner’s upset victory last Tuesday in the special election for the mostly Democratic congressional seat in New York’s ninth district is said to be a referendum on Obama’s failed economic policies and relations with .

House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement Tuesday night that voters from New York “delivered a strong warning to the Democrats who control the levers of power in our federal government. It’s time to scrap the failed ‘stimulus’ agenda and the misguided policies on Israel and focus on getting America back to creating jobs again.”

Obama’s campaign is downplaying the suggestion that Jewish voters are turning against the president. Pete Sessions, the National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman however said in a statement that the race demonstrates “voters are losing confidence in a president whose policies assault job-creators and affront Israel.”

Other issues are lingering wars in , Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Libya where a assisted coup on the Qadaffi regime will win control over the region for the al-Qaeda.

Democratic State Assemblyman who lost to Turner, David Weprin, is an Orthodox Jew while Turner is a Catholic who has managed to maintain a stronger pro-Zionist stance than his Jewish opponent.

Ed Koch, former New York Mayor and Jerusalem Post columnist said this summer he was endorsing Turner as a way to “send a message” to Obama on his policies toward Israel.

Executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks said in a statement “without question, Obama’s policies are causing significant numbers of Jewish voters to re-examine their loyalty to the Democratic Party.”

Abe Novick wrote on his blog over at Jerusalem Post:

“From Rick Perry to Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum et al., their backing is clear. During the last decade, especially since President George W. Bush had to confront the reality of terrorism head on, the GOP has worked to position itself as the more supportive party, favorable and in line with Israel and therefore to many Jewish voters. At the same time, for the past several elections, Democrats have taken the for granted. Behind the scenes, JStreet, the leftwing lobbying organization, has been overly influential on the Obama administration and has shaped and influenced its policy vis-à-vis Israel.”

Nonetheless, Abe Novick writes:

1. Prior to yesterday’s win in the Brooklyn-Queens district where Anthony Weiner had been the Democratic Representative to Congress, a Democratic polling firm (Public Policy Polling) found that 54% of all voters in the Weiner district and 68% of Jewish voters, disapproved of Mr. Obama’s position on Israel. Additionally, 37% of all voters and 58% of Jewish voters said Mr. Obama’s Israel position was “very important” in deciding their vote. Yesterday, even in the heavily Democratic district where they have a 3-1 majority, Republican Bob Turner won. Moreover, in a district that is 40% Jewish, Turner is a 70-year-old Catholic who won against David Weprin, a Jewish Democrat. If that’s not a wake-up call, then the Whitehouse needs to install air raid sirens from Israel.

2. In the midst of the upcoming U.N. vote on , the Obama Administration has only recently publicly said they plan to veto it in the Security Council. Why the long wait in making a public statement and elongating the mystery? Meanwhile, he has sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton off in a last minute attempt to beg and cajole the PA not to go through with it. By not understanding that the PA is now one-half Hamas, due to their alliance, he’s dealing with a terrorist organization and one that does not and will not recognize Israel.”

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Three Tales for Thursday

Beyond the Pale

According to a survey taken last month by Ben Gurion University pollsters, 60 percent of Israelis say they would be in favor of seeing troops deployed in both the and . According to the “Israeli Positions on the European Union” survey, 64 percent of Israeli Jews and 63 percent of Israeli Arabs citizens are in favor of seeing peacekeeping forces, (aside from the United Nations) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Back in 2009, 54 percent of Israeli Jews and Arabs supported the idea.

In the poll that was compiled by Sharon Pardo of the Department of Politics and Government, 68 percent of Israelis are in favor of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Roughly 81 percent of Israelis want the Jewish Country to join the European Union (EU). These figures are up from 69 percent in 2009, and 43 percent would like to see have better relations with the EU, this is in comparison with 20 percent who would like to see the Jewish Country get along better with the United Nations and just seven percent with NATO.

Paro says:

“the message is quite clear, Israelis are not for isolationism, they want cooperation…Israelis are really into strengthening and deepening the cooperation between Israel and the EU…Israelis understand the importance of the EU for the future of Israel and they want to strengthen the relations.”

The poll surveyed 1,000 Israelis from all different walks of life in mid-June and had a 3.3 percent margin of error…

to build nuclear war head?

On Monday, the head of the announced their plans to publish new information serving as supporting evidence that Iran could be working on a nuclear warhead.
The comments by International Atomic Energy Agency Chief were the first time he revealed plans to release some of the recent knowledge available to the IAEA that is causing concerns.

A Syrias Situation on the Jewish Country’s Border?

’s Bashar al-Assad has ordered his military chiefs to launch another operation on the Golan Heights.

DebkaFile reports:
Assad’s preparations entail three additional steps:

1. He has filled the vacant position of deputy chief of staff with Gen. Ali Ayub, commander of the 1st Formation made up of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th Divisions, deployed until now on the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon borders with Israel. Its personnel have been left out of Assad’s military campaign against the opposition until now.

2. Those divisions, made up mainly or Sunni conscripts, have begun pulling back from their positions on the Syrian-Israeli border and are heading north. For the first time, therefore, Assad feels he can safely send Sunni troops into battle against protesters and is not afraid to leave his borders undefended against an Israeli attack.

3. The Syrian president holds Erdogan responsible for authorizing the Turkish army and his National Intelligence Organization-MIT to set up a state-of-the-art command center for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood at Jabal al-Zawiya in the Syrian province of Idlib near the border. He believes it is working with a parallel command center on the Turkish side which directs the steps of Syrian protest tacticians against the Assad regime.

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