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Israel finds more sympathy in Europe

Posted by jagoindia on January 20, 2009

Israel finds more sympathy in Europe
By Robert Marquand
The Christian Science Monitor
January 8, 2009

Concerns about Islamist threat have influenced traditionally pro-Arab
Europe’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Paris – European Union leaders this week flanked Israeli Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni as she told the world’s news media, “We are all
opposed to terrorism.” For many observers in Europe, the moment
underscored a little-noted but ongoing convergence between European
and US-Israeli thinking – despite the tragedy and challenge that Gaza

For decades, Europe was a Middle East counterbalance – generally
sympathetic to Palestinians as the weaker party, critical of an
unqualified US backing of Israel. The Palestine Liberation
Organization had offices in Europe. France’s Navy helped Yasser
Arafat escape Tripoli in 1983. Europe backed the Oslo Accords, and
saw the Palestinian cause as a fight for territory and statehood.

Yet Europe’s traditional position on the Arab dispute has been
quietly changing: It is gravitating closer to a US-Israeli framing of
a war on terror, a “clash of civilizations,” with a subtext of
concern about the rise of Islam – and away from an emphasis on core
grievances of Palestinians, like the ongoing Israeli settlements in
the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and “occupation.”

Causes for the shift are complex and manifold, and in no small way
associated with the rise of Muslim populations in Europe. But since
Sept. 11, the discourse and psychology in Europe has shifted, with
pro-Arab support “diluting and weakening,” as Karim Bitar, with the
International Institute of Strategic Relations in Paris, puts it –
and converging with US-Israeli framing of a fight against terror.
[Editor’s note: The original version misspelled Mr. Bitar’s name.]

“There is convergence on goals [terrorism] between Europe and the US,
and a remnant of divergence on means [military logic],” argues the
French intellectual Dominique Moisi. “The Europeans are less pro-
Islamic Muslims now than before, after 9/11.

“We also see that even American Jews are not entirely at peace with
what Israel is doing. There’s more criticism of Israel than before,
in American opinion; and in Europe there is less support of what the
Arabs are.”

In the Gaza conflict, “European diplomats see a crisis with no exit
point,” says a senior French scholar with extensive Mideast
experience. “They think if the Israelis can put out Hamas and put in
Abbas, that would be wonderful. They don’t see Hamas as Palestinian
nationals, but as Islamic.”

A Euro-American convergence leaves European Union diplomats
supporting Palestinians on “shallower emotional and humanitarian
grounds,” says Mr. Bitar, “helping people survive, hoping economic
improvement is enough, and forgetting the old issues of substance,
and Israeli occupation. The two-state solution is nearly dead.”

Europe itself is not the Europe of decades past, dominated by French
diplomacy, with its Arab ties. There are 27 nations. Eastern and
former Soviet states, like Poland and the Czech Republic, often take
American positions on foreign affairs. As Prague took over the EU
presidency last week, it issued a statement that Israel’s actions in
Gaza were “defensive” – later backing down under French and British

In Scandinavia, traditionally pro-Arab states have found social
tensions with new Muslim populations – the crisis in Denmark over a
cartoon of the prophet Muhammad, for example – and public support for
Arabs is down in polls. In Europe today, nearly all major leaders –
France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s Gordon
Brown, and Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi – are seen as leaning toward
Israel. The lone pro-Arab leader is Spain’s José Luis Rodríguez

“There is a general ‘Arab fatigue’ in Europe,” says Denis Bauchard,
an adviser to the French Institute for International Relations in
Paris. “The Palestine issue continues, the violence continues, the
Palestinians are divided, and it just creates a kind of fatigue.”

“Europe fears an Islamist threat, whether internal or external, and
this has begun to change the overall views on the Israel-Palestine
conflict,” says Aude Signoles, an expert on Palestinian movements at
the University of La Réunion in Madagascar.

A Pew Global Attitudes poll in 2006 found that French sympathies were
evenly divided (38 percent) between those sympathizing with the
Palestinians and with Israel, marking a doubling of support for
Israel and a 10 percent gain for Palestinians over the previous two
years. In Germany, 37 percent sympathized with Israel – an increase
of 13 points over 2004 and more than double those who supported the

To be sure, Europe retains deep reservoirs of solidarity with North
Africa. Public opinion here is outraged by the Gaza inferno. There is
widespread condemnation of the Israeli attack, including by French
President Sarkozy. European media have been overwhelmingly
sympathetic to the Gazans, even while being barred from entering the

More fundamentally, says Antoine Sfeir, founder of the Middle East
review “Cahiers de L’Orient,” European leaders understand the
political realities in Israel, the problems of a state attacked by
rockets, and the need to protect citizens. Even if he disagrees with
the framing of the issue, “The Europeans don’t see this as a
Palestinian thing. They see it as a Hamas thing,” he says. “In fact,
this is not about terrorism; it is a war between Israel and
Palestinians that is being called a war on terror.”

Ironically perhaps, Europeans were the most vocal critics of the Bush
administration-coined phrase “war on terror.” It is seen as
overreaching and simplistic while being used to sanction wars like

Yet since Sept. 11, a discourse that advocates a tough confrontation
with Islam has emerged in Europe – based in part on Samuel
Huntington’s “clash of civilization” theory – in such venues as the
French magazine “Brave New World.” Sarkozy has been congenial to
these points.

Authors include former leftists like Pascal Bruckner, André
Glucksmann, Olivier Rolin, and Bernard-Henri Lévy who supported the
war in Iraq and view Islam as a creeping form of totalitarian
ideology moving into Europe. The most recent issue contains an homage
to Mr. Huntington, who died last month.

Bitar argues that “Islamophobia” feeds a popular confusion in Europe
about Muslims. “Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda are all viewed as the same
thing. Europe used to see the Arab conflict as about territory. Now
it is shifting towards the global war on terror, Islam versus the
West, clash theory.”

Mr. Moisi dissents from the Huntington thesis. His recent book “Clash
of Emotion,” describes a West characterized by “fear” and an Arab
world characterized by “humiliation.”

US and European differences on Israel have been deep and numerous.
The US and Israel have religious and theological sensibilities about
the Holy Land; Europeans view the Palestinian issue through a secular
and humanitarian lens.

America, with an influential Jewish population, has seen Israel’s
security and right to defend itself as central. Europe, without as
weighty a lobby, has stressed UN security resolutions, and
international law for Palestinians that have been a counterbalance.
European academics have not been uneasy with the phrase “state-
sponsored terrorism” to describe Israeli violence against
Palestinians; in America the phrase is seen as far-left.

Europeans saw President Clinton as an honest broker in the Mideast;
President Bush has been seen as wholly aligned with Israel.

Large differences still exist between the two continents on the
priority of the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

“In Europe, we see the Palestinian issue as major, one that, if not
solved, will continue the chaos and violence,” says Mr.
Bauchard. “Americans agree with Israel that the real issue is the
existential threat from Iran. The Israelis built a wall and treated
the Palestinians as unimportant.”

European media characterize the photogenic and well-spoken Ms. Livni
as a moderate – though she emerged from the hard-line party of Ariel
Sharon. “The Europeans really fear what will happen if [right-wing
Likud Party chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu wins in February,” says Ms.
Signoles. “So she is called a moderate, because in Europe, the term
right-wing means violent.”

Signoles points out that the main effect of a Europe that adopts an
American position is that the core Palestinian issues regarding the
cessation of settlements, a shared capital of Jerusalem, and the
right of return “may not be emphasized as before.. [T]he Israel-
Palestine issue is an asymmetric problem, and if the international
community does not raise it and balance it, there is little chance
that the rights of the smaller player will be raised.”

Posted in Arabs, Europe, Hamas, Islam, Islamofascism, Israel, Muslims, Palestine, Terrorism, United States of America | 1 Comment »

India envies and admires Israel

Posted by jagoindia on January 15, 2009

India’s Israel Envy

Monday, 12 January 2009

Shashi Tharoor

NEW DELHI – As Israeli planes and tanks exact a heavy toll on Gaza, India’s leaders and strategic thinkers have been watching with an unusual degree of interest – and some empathy.

India’s government has, no surprise, joined the rest of the world in calling for an end to the military action, but its criticism of Israel has been muted. For, as Israel demonstrates anew its determination to end attacks on its civilians by militants based in Hamas-controlled territory, many in India, still smarting from the horrors of the Mumbai attacks in November, have been asking: why can’t we do the same?

For many Indians, the temptation to identify with Israel was strengthened by the terrorists’ seizure of Mumbai’s Jewish Center (the Lubavitcher Chabad house) and the painful awareness that India and Israel share many of the same enemies. India, with its 150-million strong Muslim population, has long been a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and remains staunchly committed to an independent Palestinian state. But the Mumbai attacks confirmed what has become apparent in recent years: the forces of global Islamist terror have added Indians to their target list of reviled “Jews and crusaders.”

Just as Israel has frequently been attacked by rockets fired from across its border with Gaza, India has suffered repeated assaults by killers trained, equipped, financed, and directed by elements based next door in Pakistan. When President George W. Bush’s press secretary equated members of Hamas with the Mumbai killers, her comments were widely circulated in India.

Yet there the parallels end. Israel is a small country living in a permanent state of siege, highly security-conscious and surrounded by forces hostile to it; India is a giant country whose borders are notoriously permeable, an open society known for its lax and easy-going ways.

Whereas many regard Israel’s toughness as its principal characteristic, India’s own citizens view it as a soft state, its underbelly easily penetrated by determined terrorists. Whereas Israel notoriously exacts grim retribution for every attack on its soil, India has endured with numbing stoicism an endless series of bomb blasts, including at least six major assaults in different locations in 2008 alone. Terrorism has taken more lives in India than in any country in the world after Iraq, and yet, unlike Israel, India has seemed unable to do anything about it.

Moreover, whereas Israel’s principal adversary is currently Hamas, India faces a slew of terrorist organizations – Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and more. But, whereas Hamas operates without international recognition from Gaza – its legitimacy questioned even by the Palestinian Authority – India’s tormentors function from Pakistan, a sovereign member of the United Nations. And that makes all the difference.

Hamas is in no position to repay Israel’s air and ground attacks in kind, whereas an Indian attack on Pakistani territory, even one targeting terrorist bases and training camps, would invite swift retaliation from the Pakistani army. Israel can dictate the terms of its military incursion and end it at will, whereas an Indian military action would immediately spark a war with a well-armed neighbor that neither side could win. And, at the end of the day, one chilling fact would prevent India from thinking that it could use Israel’s playbook: the country that condones, if not foments, the terror attacks on India is a nuclear power.

So India has gone to the international community with evidence to prove that the Mumbai attacks were planned in Pakistan and conducted by Pakistani citizens who maintained contact with handlers in Pakistan throughout the operation. While India’s government had briefly hoped that the proof might enable Pakistan’s weak civilian government to rein in the malign elements in its society, the Pakistani authorities’ reaction has been one of denial.

Yet no one doubts that Pakistan’s all-powerful military intelligence has, over the last two decades, created and supported terror organizations as instruments of Pakistani policy in Afghanistan and India. When India’s embassy in Kabul was hit by a suicide bomber last July, American intelligence sources revealed that not only was Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence behind the attack, but that it made little effort to cover its tracks. The ISI knew perfectly well that India would not go to war with Pakistan to avenge the killing of its diplomatic personnel.

The fact is that India knows that war will accomplish nothing. Indeed, it is just what the terrorists want – a cause that would rally all Pakistanis to the flag and provide Pakistan’s army an excuse to abandon the unpopular fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the west for the more familiar terrain of the Indian border in the east. India’s government sees no reason to play into the hands of those who seek that outcome.

Yet, when Indians watch Israel take the fight to the enemy, killing those who launched rockets against it and dismantling many of the sites from which the rockets flew, some cannot resist wishing that they could do something similar in Pakistan. India understands, though, that the collateral damage would be too high, the price in civilian lives unacceptable, and the risks of the conflict spiraling out of control too acute to contemplate such an option. So Indians place their trust in international diplomacy and watch, with ill-disguised wistfulness, as Israel does what they could never permit themselves to do.

Shashi Tharoor, an acclaimed novelist and commentator, is a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Posted in Hamas, India, Islamofascism, Israel, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Pakistan, State, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

US equates Hamas to Mumbai terrorists

Posted by jagoindia on January 13, 2009

US equates Hamas to Mumbai attackers
Monday, January 5, 2009

Equating Hamas militants with the  terrorists who struck Mumbai, the White House today said they were despicable human beings taking recourse to violence in order to achieve political ends.

In a media briefing, dominated by the issue of Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip, the White House spokesperson Dana Perino was asked if there were differences “between Hamas terrorists and the terrorists, who are attacking out from Pakistan against India”.

“Obviously, they’re two different groups,” White House spokesperson, Dana Perino, told reporters when asked if there was any difference between the two.

“But I think at their base level they are despicable, evil human beings who use violence and murder in order to achieve political objectives,” Perino said.

“So, in that regard, they are the same,” she said.

Posted in Hamas, India, Islamofascism, Israel, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Pakistan, State, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

Gaza Invasion: Who are the friends of Israel?

Posted by jagoindia on January 6, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009
Israel not without friends
Barry Rubin

The growth of powerful radical Islamist forces has scared a lot of countries. One could (falsely) romanticise the PLO as a progressive national liberation movement. But Hamas, Hizbullah and their patron, Iran, even Muslim countries would agree, are a harder sell.

It’s easy to be misled by elements of Western media and academia that seem to prefer terrorists and radical Islamists to Israel. The diplomatic balance sheet from Israel’s standpoint is quite good, pretty remarkably good, better than it has been for a very long time.

Of course, I have to add quickly that there are real problems, disagreements, and specific frictions. I’ll come to that in a moment. But first the good news:

Countries with which Israel has great relations: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and also those of the European Union and Nato. Moreover, there is a long list of former Soviet Bloc states which understand the difference between a democratic state defending itself and a bunch of ideologically driven, dictatorship-worshipping terrorists. They include the new EU chair, the Czech Republic, and a dozen others, of which Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania and Poland can stand as examples. And last but not least most of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Countries with which Israel has good relations: China, Russia, and Turkey. See details below.

Non-Muslim, countries with which Israel has bad relations: Colombia, North Korea, Norway, Spain, and Sweden. Perhaps you can come up with a few others. Nominations are open.

This description is accurate and should be acknowledged. Please do so.

Now, on to the small print. Friendly countries often have criticisms, for example, they may urge a ceasefire in the Gaza war or show some pressure regarding settlements. Such diplomatic initiatives may make headlines but really don’t amount to much in real terms. Israel’s vital interests are not threatened by such things.

Friends can disagree; a lot of these actions are publicity stunts or attempts to show the countries in question have ‘balanced’ policies. Regarding what is important —— things like normal relations, trade (including military-related equipment), basic support, sanctions against extremist enemies —— these relationships deliver.

Some of these positive relationships depend on which Government is in power —— obviously in France and Italy —— and that’s part of the point. These Governments were elected and thus reflect public opinion. Obviously, Israel was not an important issue in these choices but the results show large elements of policy-making elites are friendly and public opinion isn’t demanding leaders hostile to that country.

In France, the Government of Mr Francois Sarkozy replaced that of the notably less friendly Jacque Chirac. The relationship with the new President has been a good one. While Mr Sarkozy’s soft policy toward Lebanon and Syria have disappointed me —— not to mention the Lebanese moderates who he has failed to back against the Tehran-Damascus axis —— they are not in sharp conflict with Israeli policies. His recent foray into pushing a poorly conceived ceasefire in Gaza indicate his impulsive interventionism (France must act as a great power), but unquestionably his is the most friendly to Israel Government in France over the last half-century.

With China, Israel has a good bilateral relationship though Chinese policies are often problematic. Beijing’s goals, however, in such activities as its arms’ sales (reportedly Chinese-made rockets sold to Iran and then given to Hamas have been fired at Israel) or its reluctance to support sanctions against Iran, include profit-making, a desperate need for oil, and fear that international pressure might be turned against China some day.

China, like many of the other countries mentioned above, has a much friendlier policy partly due to the breaking of the myth that it was impossible to have good relations with both Israel and the Arab world. In part, this was always untrue; in part, changes in the international system —— the Cold War’s end, the peace process, etc —— made it easier to do. Israel’s technological wealth, its impressive military performance, and its influence with the US, among other factors, also helped fuel such shifts.

In addition, the growth of powerful radical Islamist forces has scared a lot of countries. One could (falsely) romanticise the PLO as a progressive national liberation movement. Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah are a harder sell.

Two other important Israeli relationships are more complex than the rest. Turkey has an Islamist-rooted Government which portrays itself as a Centre-Right party. Many of its instincts are anti-Israel but its performance is not. There are four reasons for this: A policy of friendship with Israel is used to prove the party isn’t Islamist; the party has taken in centrists and conservatives who are pro-Israel; good economic links are mutually beneficial; and, the military —— whose interests cannot be forgotten —— wants a strong alliance. Like other countries, Turkey also knows that cooperation with Israel is necessary for Turkey to play an important diplomatic role in the region. Turkey’s brokering of Israel-Syria negotiations proves it.

Finally, Russia. Again, like Turkey, there are key diplomatic and economic considerations. The Russians benefit from a balanced policy which allows them to maintain good relations with Israel, Syria, and Iran simultaneously. Of course, that is also a problem for Israel, since Moscow sells weapons to Syria, paid for by Iran, which are also passed to Hizbullah. Yet Russia also limits friction by limiting arms sales and supporting some degree of sanctions.

In all these cases, then, Israel’s relations are quite reasonably good. That’s a remarkable balance sheet whose positive elements should not be underestimated.

— The writer is director of the Gloria Center, Jerusalem, and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. He is the author of The Israel-Arab Reader and The Truth About Syria.

Posted in Europe, Hamas, Islam, Islamofascism, Israel, Muslim countries, West | Leave a Comment »

Israel declares all out war against Hamas

Posted by jagoindia on December 29, 2008

If the Arabs would lay down their weapons, there would be peace in the Middle East      If Israel laid down her weapons, Israel would cease to exist

“The (Israeli defence) minister quoted Obama as saying: “had anyone fired rockets against my home while my two daughters were sleeping I would have done everything to stop him and I assume the Israelis would do the same thing.”

Israel declares ‘all-out war’ against Hamas
29 Dec 2008, 1551 hrs IST, AFP

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that Israel was in an “all-out war against Hamas” as the Jewish state continued its
massive bombardment of the Islamist movement’s installations in Gaza.

“We have nothing against Gaza residents, but we are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies,” he said.

“This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed,” he said. “We went to war to deal a heavy blow to Hamas, to change the situation in the south.”

“We will avoid as much as possible hitting civilians while the people of Hamas and other terrorists deliberately hide and operate within the civilian population.”

“We do not want to hit children and women and we will not prevent humanitarian aid” from reaching the besieged enclave, he said.

Barak said that Israel’s massive operation was in self-defence to ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, which has been under Hamas rule since the Islamist movement violently assumed power there in June 2007.

He recalled a conversation with Barack Obama during the US president-elect’s June 2008 visit to the Israeli city of Sderot that is regularly targeted by Gaza militants.

The minister quoted Obama as saying: “had anyone fired rockets against my home while my two daughters were sleeping I would have done everything to stop him and I assume the Israelis would do the same thing.”

“That is what Obama said and that is what we are doing,” Barak said.

Israel unleashed on Saturday a massive bombardment on Hamas targets in Gaza, in a blitz that has killed more than 310 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,400 other, according to medics.

Two Israelis have been killed and some 20 other wounded in retaliatory rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israeli assault targets symbols of Hamas power

By IBRAHIM BARZAK and MATTI FRIEDMAN, Associated Press Writers Ibrahim Barzak And Matti Friedman, Associated Press Writers

Israeli soldiers work on a tank at a staging area near Israel’s border with the AP – Israeli soldiers work on a tank at a staging area near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, in southern …

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel’s air force obliterated symbols of Hamas power on the third day of its overwhelming assault on Gaza on Monday, striking a house next to the Hamas premier’s home, devastating a security compound and flattening a five-story building at a university closely linked to the Islamic group.

The three-day death toll rose to 315, including seven children under the age of 15 who were killed in two separate strikes late Sunday and Monday, medics said. Israel launched the deadliest attack against Palestinians in decades on Saturday in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns.

Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak told Israel’s parliament in a special session that Israel was not fighting the residents of Gaza “but we have a war to the bitter end against Hamas and its branches.”

The strikes appear to have gravely damaged Hamas’ ability to launch rockets but a medium-range rocket fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon killed a man there Monday and wounded several others. It was the second fatality in Israel since the beginning of the offensive and the first person ever to be killed by a rocket in Ashkelon, a city of 120,000.

Seventeen people have been killed in Israel in attacks from Gaza since the beginning of the year, including nine civilians and eight soldiers, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

On Sunday, Hamas missiles struck for the first time near the city of Ashdod, twice as far from Gaza as Ashkelon and only 25 miles from Israel’s heart in Tel Aviv.

At first light Monday, strong winds blew black smoke from the bombed sites in Gaza City over deserted streets. The air hummed with the buzz of pilotless drones and the roar of jets, punctuated by the explosions of new airstrikes.

A Hamas police spokesman, Ehab Ghussein, said 180 members of the Hamas security forces were among the dead. The United Nations agency in charge of Palestinian refugees said at least 51 of the dead were civilians. A rise in civilian casualties could intensify international pressure on Israel to abort the offensive.

Israel’s intense bombings — more than 300 airstrikes since midday Saturday — wreaked unprecedented destruction in Gaza, reducing buildings to rubble. The military said naval vessels also bombarded targets from the sea.

One strike destroyed a five-story building in the women’s wing at Islamic University, one of the most prominent Hamas symbols. Another attack ravaged a compound controlled by Preventive Security, one of the group’s chief security arms, and a third destroyed a house next to the residence of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister.

Like other Hamas leaders, Haniyeh is in hiding.

Late on Sunday, Israeli aircraft attacked a building in the Jebaliya refugee camp next to Gaza City, killing a woman, a toddler and three young teenage girls, Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said.

In the southern town of Rafah, a toddler and his two teenage brothers were killed in an airstrike aimed at a Hamas commander, Hassanain said. In Gaza City, another attack killed a man and his wife.

Shlomo Brom, a former senior Israeli military official, said it was the deadliest force ever used in decades of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

In the most dramatic attacks Sunday, warplanes struck dozens of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, cutting off a lifeline that had supplied Hamas with weapons and Gaza with commercial goods. The influx of goods helped Hamas defy an 18-month blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt and was key to propping up its rule.

Gaza’s nine hospitals were overwhelmed. Hassanain, who keeps a record for the Gaza Health Ministry, said more than 1,400 were wounded over two days of fighting and casualties were now being taken to private clinics and even homes.

Abdel Hafez, a 55-year-old history teacher, waited outside a Gaza City bakery to buy bread, one of the few people visible outdoors. He said he was not a Hamas supporter but believed the strikes would only increase support for the group.

“Each strike, each drop of blood are giving Hamas more fuel to continue,” he said.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s Cabinet approved a call-up of 6,500 reserve soldiers Sunday in apparent preparation for a ground offensive. The final decision to call up more reserves has yet to be made by the defense minister, Ehud Barak, and the Cabinet decision could be a pressure tactic.

Israel has doubled the number of troops on the Gaza border since Saturday and deployed an artillery battery. Several hundred reservists have already been summoned to join their units but no full combat formations have been mobilized so far.

Military experts said Israel would need at least 10,000 soldiers for a full-scale invasion.

Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 after a 38-year military occupation, Israeli forces have repeatedly returned to the territory to hunt militants firing rockets at Israeli towns. But it has shied away from retaking the entire strip for fear of getting bogged down in urban warfare.

The assault has sparked diplomatic fallout.

Syria decided to suspend indirect peace talks with Israel, begun earlier this year. The United Nations Security Council called on both sides to halt the fighting and asked Israel to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza. Israel opened one of Gaza’s border crossings Monday and about 40 trucks had entered with food and medical supplies by mid-day, military spokesman Peter Lerner said.

The prime minister of Turkey, one of the few Muslim countries to have relations with Israel, called the air assault a “crime against humanity” and French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned “the provocations that led to this situation as well as the disproportionate use of force.”

The carnage has inflamed Arab and Muslim public opinion, setting off street protests in Arab communities in Israel and the West Bank, across the Arab world and in some European cities. On Monday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded four Israelis in a West Bank settlement before he was shot and wounded. It was not immediately clear if the attack was directly connected to the events in Gaza.

Associated Press Writer Matti Friedman reported from Jerusalem.

Posted in Hamas, Islam, Islamofascism, Israel, Jews, Palestine, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

US-based Muslim charity Holy Land Foundation convicted of funding terrorism: largest terrorism financing prosecution in American history

Posted by jagoindia on November 26, 2008

US-based Muslim charity convicted of funding terrorism

DALLAS, Texas (AFP) — The leaders of what was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States were found guilty of acting as a front for Palestinian militants in the largest terrorism financing prosecution in American history.

It was a major victory in the White House’s legal “war on terror” and comes after a mistrial was declared last year in the case involving the now defunct Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, charged with funneling 12 million dollars to Hamas.

“Today’s verdicts are important milestones in America’s efforts against financiers of terrorism,” Patrick Rowan, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.

“This prosecution demonstrates our resolve to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts are not used as a mechanism to disguise and enable support for terrorist groups.”

Family members could be heard sobbing in the Dallas courtroom as guilty verdicts were read on all 108 charges of providing material support to terrorists, money laundering and tax fraud.

One woman cried out: “My dad is not a criminal! He’s a human!”

Holy Land was one of several Muslim organizations the Bush administration closed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for allegedly raising money for overseas Islamic extremists.

Muslim charities that remain open have reported significant drops in contributions because of fears of prosecution even as juries deadlocked or rendered acquittals or convictions of lesser charges in two other high-profile terror financing cases in Florida and Chicago.

The United States Justice Department vowed in October 2007 to retry the five former charity organizers in the Holy Land case after jurors could not agree on verdicts on nearly 200 charges and a new jury was seated in mid-September.

Over the past two months, the government has presented largely the same evidence hoping to prove that Holy Land was created in the late 1980s to gather donations from deep-pocketed American Muslims to support the then-newly formed Hamas movement resisting the Israeli occupation.

Hamas — a multi-faceted Islamist political, social and armed movement which now controls the Gaza Strip — was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 1995 and the trial centered over whether Holy Land continued to support the group after this point.

Prosecutors did not accuse the charity of directly financing or being involved in terrorist activity. Instead, they said humanitarian aid was used to promote Hamas and allow it to divert existing funds to militant activities.

Defense attorneys said the charity was a non-political organization which operated legally to get much-needed aid to Palestinians living in squalor under the Israeli occupation and argued that the chief reasons their clients were on trial are family ties.

They left the courthouse without comment.

After reading the verdicts, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis ordered the men detained because of fears they would flee the country before sentencing given their international ties.

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’ political leader in Syria, is the brother of defendant Mufid Abdulqader, a top Holy Land fundraiser whose Palestinian band played at the charity’s events and now faces up to 55 years in jail.

Meshaal’s deputy, Mousa Abu Marzook, is a cousin of defendant Mohammad el-Mezain, a foundation co-founder, and is married to the cousin of defendant Ghassan Elashi, former Holy Land board chairman.

Mezain faces up to 15 years in prison while Elashi, who is already serving six and a half years for export law violations, faces up to life in prison.

The brother of defendant Shukri Abu Baker, Holy Land’s former chief executive officer, is Jamal Issa, former Hamas leader in Sudan and its current head in Yemen. Baker, the former chief executive officer of Holy Land, faces up to life in prison.

A fifth defendant is Abdulrahman Odeh, Holy Land’s New Jersey representative, who faces up to 55 years in jail.

Jurors also found that the defendants owed the government 12.4 million dollars.

Posted in Charity, Hamas, Islamofascism, Terrorism, United States of America | Leave a Comment »