Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt's opposition leader fronts for Muslim Brotherhood


Muslim Brotherhood Backs ElBaradei Role -Margaret Coker & Summer Said

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has agreed to back the secular opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei [pictured], 68, as lead spokesman for the country's opposition groups in reform negotiations, suggesting the movement may be positioning itself as a significant political actor in future Egyptian politics.
(Wall Street Journal)


ElBaradei Doesn't Like America -Michael Ledeen

Mohammed ElBaradei is one of the last men I would choose for leading Egypt to a "peaceful transition" to greater democracy. He doesn't like America and he's in cahoots with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
(Pajamas Media)


Israel: Curb Criticism of Egypt's Mubarak -Barak Ravid

Israel called on the U.S. and a number of European countries to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak. "Jordan and Saudi Arabia see how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications," one senior Israeli official said. 
(Ha'aretz)


If the Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over -Yaakov Katz

If the Muslim Brotherhood grabs the reins in Egypt, Israel will face an enemy with one of the largest and strongest militaries around, built on some of the most advanced American-made platforms. At the moment, assessments in Israeli intelligence circles are that Mubarak will survive.
(Jerusalem Post)


Beware Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood -Leslie H. Gelb

The Muslim Brotherhood supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast.

Above all, the Muslim Brotherhood would endanger counterterrorism efforts in the region and worldwide.
(Daily Beast)


How the Israeli Press is Interpreting Obama's Policy on Egypt -Dore Gold

Precisely when the Egyptian government had its back to the wall with the worst protests in recent history, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs threatened the embattled President Mubarak with a cut in U.S. foreign aid. What kind of signal did the White House press secretary's threat about cutting aid send to King Abdullah of Jordan or to President Saleh of Yemen, as well as to other allies in the Persian Gulf? Did it mean that as soon as an Arab leader gets into trouble, he starts to get disowned?
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jews barred from event by Muslim Group at Rutgers University


Muslim student group at Rutgers University bars Jews from entering their event.
In this video Rutgers students can be heard chanting "free and open to the public."


Jewish Rutgers University students waive their student ID cards seeking entrance to anti-Zionist event

Rutgers bars Jewish students from open campus event

Rutgers University campus police barred some 400 Jewish students and supporters, including Holocaust survivors, from attending a public gathering at the school, according to online reports.

The student-sponsored event was announced as an open invitation event, however the sponsoring organizations of "Never Again for Anyone," according to the reports, asked campus police to bar students wearing kippas from the event. The organizers eventually limited the attendance to supporters only.

"We wanted to protest this event because as the children and grandchildren of victims of the Holocaust we believed it to be absolutely absurd to compare Israeli act of self defense to the viscous, systematic murder of millions of Jews, Catholics, Gays, Gypsies, Russians and others," Jewish student Aaron Marcus was quoted as saying by an online report.
[Jerusalem Post]


Rutgers bars Jews from anti-Zionist gathering -Alyssa Farah

Rutgers University campus police tonight barred some 400 Jewish students and their supporters, including some Holocaust survivors, from attending what was billed as an anti-Zionist gathering at the state school tonight.

The student-sponsored event was announced with an open invitation campus-wide, and Rutgers policy is for all student activities to be open to the public.

However, when the sponsoring organizations of "Never Again for Anyone" saw they were outnumbered by Jewish students and their supporters by about 4-to-1, they asked campus police to bar students wearing kippas – and eventually limited attendance to known supporters of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Americans for Muslims in Palestine and the Middle East Children's Alliance.

Pleas to university officials from the Jewish students and their supporters for access to the event went unheeded. "They started charging money as soon as they saw Zionists outside," said Rabbi Akiva Weiss.

Rutgers campus police said they could not provide a statement as to why the public event would turn away 400 members of the public. One officer said they were called in late and weren't really sure what was going on.

When the Jewish students, led by Aaron Marcus, were denied entry, they gathered in the lobby and sang songs in Hebrew.
[World Net Daily]
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UPDATE

Pro-Israeli supporters clash with anti-Zionists at New Brunswick event
-Steve Strunsky

The Middle East conflict ignited passions at Douglass College over the weekend after a group of Israel supporters turned out for an event critical of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

The "Never Again for Anyone" program [was] sponsored by American Muslims for Palestine and the Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. 

Tensions rose on the Douglass campus after several hundred supporters of Israel — both students and non-students who were encouraged to attend by Rutgers Hillel, a campus Jewish group — arrived at the event expecting to attend for free, only to be told of a mandatory charge of $5.

Critics of the tour said the charge was a calculated attempt by the organizers to exclude the Israeli supporters.  "They knew that every single person that showed up would not donate a penny to get in," said Liran Kapaono, a Rutgers senior.

The event had been billed as free on Facebook and the tour’s own website.

Sara Kershnar, a coordinator of the Jewish Anti-Zionist Network said organizers decided to impose the $5 mandatory charge after Rutgers classified the event as one not sponsored by students, and charged $1,200 to rent Trayes Hall inside the Douglass Campus Center. 

Andrew Getraer, executive director of Rutgers Hillel, disputed Kershnar’s explanation of the admission charge, saying it was still voluntary the night of the event.  "When they saw the pro-Israel supporters, they pulled the free sign down," said Getraer, adding that Hillel will look into whether any policy was violated and present its findings to the university. 

In a statement last night, Rutgers said that "contrary to published reports, Rutgers University Police did not bar anyone who paid the fee."
[The Star-Ledger]
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"Living on a Volcano:" Reflections on Arab Unrest


"We're Living on a Volcano," Israeli Security Experts Warn -Yaakov Lappin

Israeli security experts are casting an uneasy eye at the civil unrest spreading through the region as Yemen joined the list of Arab states experiencing unprecedented demonstrations, and Egypt braced for more civil unrest. "We need to understand that we are living on a volcano," said Maj.-Gen. Ya'acov Amidror, former head of the IDF's Research and Assessment Directorate. "We are on thick ice, but even that melts eventually."

Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser, and a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said, "There's a reasonable chance that if a revolution takes place in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would rise to power. That would be bad not just for Israel but for all democracies." The true struggle in Egypt was not between "Mubarak and pro-democracy elements, but between Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood," Eiland said.

Shlomo Brom, director of the program on Israel-Palestinian relations at the INSS, said, "We can't forget that in Iran, at the end of the 1970s, the uprising against the shah was led by [pro-democracy] youths who took to the streets – but this was taken over by Islamists in the end."
(Jerusalem Post)


With Muslim Brotherhood Set to Join Egypt Protests, Religion’s Role May Grow
-Souad Mekhennet & Nicholas Kulish

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest organized opposition group in Egypt, announced that it would take part in demonstrations, lending new strength to the protests.
(New York Times)


Egypt’s Leader Uses Old Tricks to Defy New Demands  -Mona El-Naggar & Michael Slackman

[T]he Egyptian government has responded to the unrest primarily as a security issue, largely ignoring, or dismissing, the core demands of those who have taken to the street. The Egyptian leadership, long accustomed to an apolitical and largely apathetic public, remains convinced that Egypt is going through the sort of convulsion it has experienced - and survived - before.
(New York Times)




Egyptian Protesters Feel World Has Passed Them By -Griff Witte

Every one of the tens of thousands of Egyptians who joined the unexpectedly massive demonstrations that have rattled Egyptian authorities and continue to threaten the 30-year rule of the once invincible President Hosni Mubarak had personal reasons for doing so. But for many it came down to a pervasive sense that the world has passed Egypt by, that money and power have become hopelessly entrenched in the hands of the few and that if the country is ever going to change, it has to do it now.

The protesters in Egypt have been largely middle class - lawyers, doctors, university students and professors. They have something to lose if this nation of 80 million descends into anarchy, but they also say they may not have much left if Egypt does not shift course.
(Washington Post)


Obama Administration Could Still Get It Right on Egypt -Jackson Diehl

The Obama administration's embrace of Mubarak, even as the strongman refused to allow the emergence of a moderate, middle-class-based, pro-democracy opposition, has helped bring the U.S.' most important Arab ally to the brink of revolution. The Obama administration assumed that the damage done to relations by George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" was a mistake that needed to be repaired. In fact, Bush's pushing for political liberalization was widely viewed, in Egypt and in the region, as the saving grace of an otherwise bad administration.

On Tuesday, when - disastrously - Secretary of State Clinton called Mubarak's government "stable" and claimed it was responding to "the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," hours later, riot police attacked the thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Rightly or wrongly, Egyptian opposition activists now say, Clinton and the U.S. are being blamed in popular opinion for that crackdown.

Egyptian opposition leader Saad Eddin Ibrahim told me that Mubarak should step down and be replaced by a transitional government, headed by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei and including representatives of all pro-democracy forces. That government could then spend six months to a year rewriting the constitution, allowing political parties to freely organize and preparing for genuinely democratic elections. Given time to establish themselves, secular forces backed by Egypt's growing middle class are likely to rise to the top in those elections - not the Islamists that Mubarak portrays as the only alternative. U.S. support for a peaceful transition from Mubarak's government to a new democracy could be decisive.
(Washington Post)

 
What Are the Protests in Egypt Really About? -Lee Smith

For all the excitement surrounding the demonstrations, it’s worth remembering that the nominally docile Egyptian masses take to the streets with some regularity. More to the point, it is an unfortunate fact of modern Egyptian history that its people are often susceptible to ideological politics. For instance, Nasser led the country to disaster and yet, compared to Sadat the peacemaker or Mubarak the stolid pharaoh who has kept the country stable, if static, it is Nasser who owns the affections of the Egyptian masses.
(Weekly Standard)


Arab Paper: Israel Is Now Dependent on Egyptian Protesters -Abd Al-Bari Atwan

The fire of protest has begun to lick at the edges of the moderate Arab regimes, one after the other, in a way that threatens these dictatorships, known for aligning themselves with America's foreign policy. Three countries are facing profound change that could topple their regimes, namely, Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon. Each meets a strategic need of the U.S.: Egypt provides security for Israel, leads the Arab plans for normalization with Israel, and combats all forms of political and Islamic extremism that oppose its regime. Yemen is considered to be the cornerstone of America's war on al-Qaeda. Lebanon is considered to be the spearhead of the resistance camp and of Iran's geopolitical and military aspirations.

The state of stability and well-being that Israel has enjoyed for the past 30 years is now dependent upon the Egyptian protesters. Israel is surrounded: a "democratic" intifada armed with 40,000 missiles and with a martyrdom-seeking leadership [i.e., Hizbullah], a popular revolution with a 7,000-year history [i.e., the protesters in Egypt], a Palestinian Authority that has lost its authority, and a Jordanian government that is on the brink of collapse.
(Al-Quds Al-Arabi-UK-MEMRI)

 
Mubarak Will Have to Pay a Significant Price -Zvi Mazel

The mass demonstrations in Egypt were born in Tunisia. That display of people power unleashed years of pent-up resentment against the Mubarak regime. Even in Syria, the mighty Assad is worried now. His civil servants got an unexpected raise, and Facebook was shut down. In Jordan, protests have been taking place for weeks.

Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of young protesters, with no leaders in sight, demonstrated in 15 cities in the last few days. They stood their ground and even used force against the police and the security forces. They called for the removal of the president and his family. And for the first time in history, portraits of the leader displayed in the streets were torn down. Until now, no one could criticize Mubarak. If this has changed, then everything has changed.

The Mubarak regime is based on a huge ruling party present in every village and every city, and on a disciplined army and security forces whose allegiance is not in doubt. They will do their utmost - which is considerable - to stop the protests.

But Mubarak will have to pay a price: He may need to take economic measures to alleviate some of the poverty, perhaps put an end to the emergency laws and organize credible, free democratic presidential elections. If he manages to weather this crisis, he and his regime will emerge weakened.
(Jerusalem Post)
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Obama supports violent protests against ally Egypt, but still resists supporting non-violent Iranian Green Movement







As Arabs Protest, Obama Administration Offers Support -Scott Wilson and Joby Warrick

The Obama administration is openly supporting the anti-government demonstrations shaking the Arab Middle East, a stance that is far less tempered than the one the president has taken during past unrest in the region.

As demonstrations in Tunis, Cairo and Beirut have unfolded in recent days, President Obama and his senior envoys to the region have thrown U.S. support clearly behind the protesters, speaking daily in favor of free speech and assembly even when the protests target longtime U.S. allies such as Egypt.
(Washington Post)
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Understanding JazeeraLeaks


The Selling of the "Palestine Papers"  - Jackson Diehl

Anyone familiar with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the last decade will find nothing surprising about the supposed revelations in the "Palestine Papers."

What's sensational about the leaked documents is the way they are being marketed and how Palestinians are reacting to them. According to Al Jazeera, the negotiating positions on Jerusalem and refugees are shocking betrayals of the Palestinian cause. For Britain's Guardian [newspaper], they demonstrate the intransigence and the perfidy of Israel and the United States - for supposedly failing to embrace such far-reaching concessions.

These are gross distortions. The reported Palestinian compromise positions have been widely (if quietly) accepted by Arab governments. Israel, for its part, responded with far-reaching compromises of its own: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a Palestinian state with sovereignty over Jerusalem and all but 6% of the West Bank. It was Abbas, not Olmert, who refused to go forward during those 2008 talks.

The leak of the documents seems motivated by a desire to bury the already moribund peace process. "Al Jazeera is trying to destroy Abbas, and the Guardian wants to get Netanyahu," an Israeli official observes.

For years the Palestinians have systematically failed to prepare their public opinion for the concessions that will have to be part of any two-state settlement. In fact, Abbas and his Palestinian team are currently refusing to negotiate with Netanyahu in part because he has refused to freeze construction in east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods - the same neighborhoods that the Palestinians have agreed that Israel will keep.
(Washington Post)
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VideoBite: Jerusalem Unveiled



Video of  Jerusalem's latest discovery

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Continental Shift: Iran now shares a border with Israel



Najib Miqati, Hezbullah's chosen candidate, ascends in Lebanon, signalling a new era with Iran firmly in charge of Lebanon.  The coup should serve as a stark warning to those who minimize the expansionist threat of Iran.
 
Hezbollah Chooses Lebanon’s Next Prime Minister -Anthony Shadid

A prime minister chosen by Hezbollah and its allies won enough support to form Lebanon’s government, unleashing angry protests, realigning politics and culminating the generation-long ascent of the Shiite Muslim movement from shadowy militant group to the country’s pre-eminent political and military force.

Hezbollah’s success served as a stark measure of the shifting constellation of power in this part of the Middle East, where the influence of the United States and its Arab allies — Egypt and Saudi Arabia — is seen by politicians and diplomats as receding, while Iran and Syria have become more assertive.

[T]he symbolism of Hezbollah’s choosing Lebanon’s prime minister was vast, potentially serving as the beginning of a new era for a combustible country whose conflicts have long entangled the United States, Iran and Syria. A practical impact may be the realignment of Lebanon away from the United States, which treated the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri as an ally.

Israel, with which Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006, has warned of the implications of the new cabinet. In a radio interview, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom described it as effectively “an Iranian government on Israel’s northern border.”
[New York Times]
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Iran Changes the Balance of Power in Lebanon  -Michael Segall

In practice, the Lebanese-Israeli border is in fact Israel's border with Iran.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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Reflections on JazeeraLeaks


-Barak Ravid & Natasha Mozgovaya

Given the secret acceptance by Palestinian negotiators of Israel's annexation of nearly all of the Jewish neighborhoods built in east Jerusalem, as described in the leaked Palestine Papers, "the Palestinian demand over the last year and a half to freeze construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem is ridiculous, since it is clear that they had already conceded the aforementioned neighborhoods in negotiations during [Israeli Prime Minister] Olmert's tenure," associates of Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
(Ha'aretz)


PA Says PLO Employees Leaked Documents -Khaled Abu Toameh

The PA suspects that employees working for the PLO Negotiations Department leaked secret documents to Al-Jazeera "in return for large sums," a PA security source said.
(Jerusalem Post)


Al-Jazeera Seeking to Bring Down PA -Khaled Abu Toameh

Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down. They have been found guilty of ceding control over most of east Jerusalem to Israel, relinquishing the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, and coordinating security with Israeli authorities. Some PA officials claimed that Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, set out to "politically liquidate" Abbas and help Hamas extend its control to the West Bank.

Al-Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests. The damage to the PA's image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.
(Jerusalem Post)


Leaks Don't Show Shocking Concessions -Edmund Sanders

Despite the spin by Al-Jazeera and critics of the PA, the documents released don't show Palestinian negotiators giving away the store. To the contrary, they're depicted as taking a surprisingly hard-line stance against giving up massive West Bank settlements such as Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev, Har Homa and Ariel, which most experts have long presumed would be retained by Israel with little fuss.
(Los Angeles Times)


What Palestinian Concessions? -David Frum

Where are the big Palestinian concessions contained in the documents? The documents demand Palestinian sovereignty over almost all of historic Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. They demand Palestinian control of lands equal in territory to the 1967 lands.
(CNN)


Huge Gap Between Public and Private Palestinian Stance  -Herb Keinon

Rather than saying loudly and proudly that the publication of the documents shows a willingness to give up on maximalist Palestinian demands, the PA reaction was the complete opposite. It was to deny everything, and to say that the PA would not give in an inch. The documents show again the huge gap between what Arab leaders say in public and what they say in private.

The PA had the chance to say in public what it apparently said in private: that it was not cleaving to the last grain of sand. But it failed the test - something that doesn't bode well for the future.
(Jerusalem Post)


NastyLeaks -Robert M. Danin

The Palestine Papers are a direct attack on the leadership of the PLO, its negotiators, and the very idea of negotiating peace with Israel. Al Jazeera played along, insinuating that the documents show that the Palestinian leadership is willing to capitulate to Israeli desires.

Palestinian leaders have done a lamentable job of preparing their public for the types of concessions necessary for an enduring Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Accordingly, the leakers seem to have intended to sabotage the peace process by revealing the far-reaching compromises that were under discussion.

The release of the Palestine Papers has put the PLO leadership on the defensive. It will now seek to demonstrate its nationalist resolve by staking out very tough conditions to return to the negotiating table.
(Foreign Policy)
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Monday, January 24, 2011

JazeeraLeaks Expose Palestinians: Settlements are a Non-Issue


The Palestinian Papers Revealed -Seumas Milne & Ian Black

Confidential documents reveal that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel's annexation of most Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records has been obtained by Al-Jazeera and provides an extraordinary and vivid insight into the 20-year peace process. Many of the 1,600 leaked documents were drawn up by PA officials and lawyers working for the British-funded PLO negotiations support unit and include extensive verbatim transcripts of private meetings.
(Guardian-UK)


Leaked: Palestinian Leadership Accepts Israeli Settlements -Robin Shepherd

The uncompromising message that comes out of the revelations on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations is that the Palestinian leadership itself has long accepted that the vast majority of Israeli settlements can be considered legitimate and would become part of Israel under any reasonable peace agreement. This shows that the so-called 1967 "borders" - the gold standard for practically every anti-Israeli polemic around - are irrelevant to the prospects of a lasting peace.

Privately and morally, senior Palestinians can see that there is nothing illegitimate or even especially problematic about most of the "settlements."
(Robin Shepherd)


Palestine Papers -Noah Pollak

The papers show that one of the only areas on which the sides had come close to an agreement was the acceptability of land swaps as a solution to the settlements controversy. Today, at Obama's behest, the Palestinians insist on a complete settlement freeze before they'll even talk - including in areas that just two years ago they had agreed were already de facto Israeli. Thus did Obama turn back the clock on one of the only points of relative consensus and progress between the two sides.
(Commentary)
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Canadians cave to Iran


Film Showing Cancelled in Canada after Iranian Request
-Robert Sibley, Kristy Nease & Sneh Duggal

Threatening e-mails and phone calls resulted in the cancellation of a film that exposes Iran's efforts to build nuclear weapons and promote terrorism.

The threats followed a formal complaint last weekend from the Iranian Embassy, seeking to stop the showing of the film "Iranium" at Library and Archives Canada. "Iranium," produced by filmmaker Raphael Shore, is a 60-minute documentary that examines the policies of the Iranian regime, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its support of terrorist groups.

Fred Litwin, president of the Free Thinking Film Society, said, "It's simply astounding that in the capital of Canada we can't show a film that offends the Iranians.... It's as if the mullahs can enforce their cultural values on Canadians."
(Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
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UPDATE:

Canada Vows to Screen Documentary Iranium

Canadian Minister of Heritage James Moore has vowed that a screening of the documentary film Iranium will soon take place at the National Archives following the cancelation of the film's showing earlier this week.

The National Archives buckled to pressure and canceled the event as threats of protest grew. The building was ultimately shutdown when two suspicious packages were found.

In response, the Canadian government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent a diplomatic note to Iran following the incident reiterating that Canada is a free country and that freedom of expression is a core value that will not be compromised.

"It has been a principle of the Iranian government to stifle free speech inside Iran. I am glad that the regime will not get away with attempts to do the same in North America," said Alex Traiman, Director of Iranium. 
[PR Newswire]
[Hat Tip: Joe S]

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Implications of Tunesia

A Tunesian protest poster

Turmoil in Tunisia -Daniel Pipes

Tunisian Islamists had a minimal role in overthrowing Mr. Ben Ali but they will surely scramble to exploit the opportunity that has opened to them. Indeed, the leader of Tunisia's main Islamist organization, Ennahda, has announced his first return to the country since 1989. Does Interim President Fouad Mebazaa, 77, have the savvy or political credibility to maintain power? Will the military keep the old guard in power? Do moderate forces have the cohesion and vision to deflect an Islamist surge?

The greatest worry concerns the possible domino effect on other Arabic-speaking countries. This fast, seemingly easy, and relatively bloodless coup d'├ętat could inspire globally Islamists to sweep away their own tyrants. All four North African littoral states – Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt – fit this description, as do Syria, Jordan and Yemen to the east. That Mr. Ben Ali took refuge in Saudi Arabia implicates that country too. Pakistan could also fit the template. In contrast to the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, which required a charismatic leader, millions on the street, and a full year's worth of effort, events in Tunisia unfolded quickly and in a more generic, reproducible way.
[Washington Times]
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Monday, January 17, 2011

In a country most can't place on the map, the first successful Arab popular uprising



Tunisia - Arab World's First Popular Uprising -Zvi Mazel

Tunisia was not a country made of revolutionary material. [The] government was stable and the economy prosperous. The country had expelled leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, the West had seen in Ben Ali a bulwark against radical Islam. What no one wanted to see was that Ben Ali ruled with an iron fist and suffered neither legitimate opposition nor criticism. Corruption was rampant and the Ben Ali family, and that of his second wife Laila, were the principal beneficiaries.

Suddenly the world was looking at a successful popular Arab revolution. There had been revolutions in the Arab world since it became independent of foreign colonial powers, but they were all military coups. What happened in Tunisia was different. It was started by the people, not the leaders, and their spontaneous protest appears to have been an authentic popular uprising. Arab countries are worried. Royal and presidential palaces are wondering whether this revolution will be the harbinger of more.
(Jerusalem Post)


A Sudden Tear in the Fabric of the Arab World -Doug Saunders

The violent events that reached a climax in Tunis aren't just the first full-fledged popular revolution the world has seen in some time - they're a sudden tear in the fabric of the Arab world, an irreparable rupture in the slick logic that has held two dozen countries in half-development limbo for generations. To most outside observers, the Tunisian uprising seemed to appear from nowhere.

The people - and these were clearly ordinary citizens, not bearded Islamists or foreign-funded elites - won the day.
(Globe and Mail-Canada)


Does Tunisia Mark a New Phase in Arab Politics? -Barry Rubin

In Tunisia, a popular uprising fueled by unemployment, economic suffering and long-term discontent has overthrown the dictator, but not necessarily the dictatorship. Is this going to spread? Does it mark some new phase in Arab politics? Probably not.

Tunisia is a very distinctive country. It has been the most Europeanized state in the Arab world, with the lowest proportional support for Islamism among its population. In Tunisia, the opponents' lack of leadership and organization is likely to mean that the same elite and the army will remain in control of the country.
(Jerusalem Post)
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VideoBite: Martin Luther King: Christian Zionist


As the video above illustrates, Dr. Martin Luther King, of blessed memory, was a Christian Zioinist and a strong supporter of Israel

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NYTimes reveals sophisticated worm attack on Iran and credits President Bush with Stuxnet origins


Israel Tests Called Crucial in Nuke Delay -William Broad, John Markoff & David E. Sanger

Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say [Israel's] Dimona [facility] tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

The biggest single factor in putting time on the nuclear clock appears to be Stuxnet, the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever deployed.

The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.

The attacks were not fully successful: Some parts of Iran’s operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults.

Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it. 

But Israeli officials grin widely when asked about its effects. Mr. Obama’s chief strategist for combating weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, sidestepped a Stuxnet question at a recent conference about Iran, but added with a smile: “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.”

The project’s political origins can be found in the last months of the Bush administration. In January 2009, The New York Times reported that Mr. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran’s major enrichment center. President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy.

[T]he worm only kicked into gear when it detected the presence of a specific configuration of controllers, running a set of processes that appear to exist only in a centrifuge plant. “The attackers took great care to make sure that only their designated targets were hit,” he said. “It was a marksman’s job.”
[New York Times] 


Israel Has Already Struck -Yossi Melman

The intelligence operation achieved a significant delay in Iran's nuclear program without any casualties.
(Ha'aretz)
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Clinton publicly calls Arabs to task


Clinton: Corruption Is Corroding Arab Economies -Mark Landler

At a regional development conference in Qatar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that corruption was corroding Arab economies and making life impossible for foreigners who ran businesses in Arab countries.

"Trying to get a permit," she said, "you have to pass money through so many different hands. Trying to open up, you have to pay people off. Trying to stay open, you have to pay people off. Trying to export your goods, you have to pay people off. So by the time you pay everybody off, it's not a very profitable venture."
(New York Times)


Clinton Issues Stark Warning to Arab Leaders on Reforms

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a stark warning to Arab leaders that they will face growing unrest, extremism and even rebellion unless they address depleting oil and water reserves and enact real economic and political reform.
 
Clinton said the Arab world's economic and political space must be opened up for youth, women and minorities. Without that, respect for human rights, improved business climates and an end to pervasive corruption, she said young people will increasingly turn to radicalism and violence that will bleed outside the region, threatening not only Middle Eastern stability but the rest of the world.
(AP-USA Today)


Assisted Suicide -Lee Smith

The reason the Arab countries do not lead the world in any field is not because they are any more violent or stupid or lazy than anyone else; rather, it is because the culture is set against the very principles of reason that make success possible.

It is no mystery why Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah must come to New York for medical treatment - even though his country is more than wealthy enough to build first-rate medical facilities. The culture of the kingdom rewards students for memorizing the Quran, not for scientific explorations.
(Tablet) 
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Israel's Humanitarian Efforts Continue in Africa



Israel Upgrades Kenya's Medical Abilities -Ryan Jones

Israel provided a major boost to the Kenyan medical system when a team of Israeli aid workers built the first full emergency room in Kisumu, the country's third largest city.

A team of 10 Israeli engineers built the state-of-the-art facility and equipped it with the best medical equipment, all free of charge, in a project undertaken by MASHAV, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Agency for International Development Cooperation.

[T]he Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that it will use the new facility as a base from which to train local Kenyans in emergency medicine.

MASHAV also intends to repeat the Kenyan project in Uganda and Tanzania in the coming years.
(Israel Today)*

White House admits confusion



White House Seeks New Ideas about Mideast Peace -Laura Rozen

With U.S. Middle East peace efforts at an impasse, the Obama administration has sought new ideas from outside experts on how to advance the peace process.

The solicitation of ideas comes as the administration's peace efforts are "utterly stuck," said one adviser.
(Politico)
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hezbollah's Dramatic Powerplay: Iran backed coup and/or Smokescreen


Prime Minister Saad Hariri [right] with his murdered father Rafik Hariri [left] during better times

Lacking Leverage, U.S. Grasps for a Solution in Lebanon -Mark Landler & Robert Worth

As Lebanon's government collapsed after a walkout by Hizbullah ministers, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both threw their support behind Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, as well as reaffirming the work of the international tribunal that is investigating the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

But critics say the [US] administration's engagement in Lebanon has been episodic...
(New York Times)


Hizbullah's Latest Suicide Mission -Thanassis Cambanis

Hizbullah cannot afford the blow to its popular legitimacy that would occur if it is pinned with the Hariri killing. The group's power depends on the unconditional backing of its roughly 1 million supporters. Its constituents are the only audience that matters to Hizbullah, which styles itself as sole protector of Arab dignity...

These supporters will be hard-pressed to understand, much less forgive, their party if it is proved to have killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a leader who was loved by the nation's Sunni Muslims and also respected by Christians, Druze and even many Shiites, who form Hizbullah's core support. That is why Hizbullah denies any role in the assassination.

Leaked evidence based on cellphone records has placed a Hizbullah team at the scene of the assassination. If it is proved to have taken part in the Hariri hit and assassination campaigns against other moderate Lebanese figures, Hizbullah will look to many like just another power-drunk militant movement.
(New York Times)


Lebanon Turmoil Unlikely to Descend into Clash -Yaakov Lappin

"More and more, Hizbullah is the owner and real ruler of Lebanon," Ilan Mizrahi former deputy head of the Mossad, and former head of Israel's National Security Council, said.
(Jerusalem Post)


UPDATE:

Iran Retains the Initiative in the Mideast  -Jackson Diehl

Hizbullah's move vividly demonstrated that the Iranian side retains the initiative. Because Hamas and Hizbullah are the two strongest military forces in the Levant other than Israel, they have the capacity to provoke, to disrupt and to start an armed conflict at any time of their - or Tehran's - choosing.
(Washington Post)
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Muslim hero speaks out

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the first mainstream Pakistan leader to defend Christians

Bhutto goes against the grain in Pakistan -Issam Ahmed

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari [pictured], the son of slain former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has called those who celebrated the murder of a liberal politician who sought changes to the country's blasphemy laws "the real blasphemers."

His fiery remarks, which were made at the Pakistani High Commission in London, mark the toughest stance yet taken by the leadership of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in response to the assassination of Salman Taseer last week.

Mr. Taseer, the governor of Punjab, had personally campaigned for the release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman awaiting the death penalty on charges of insulting the prophet Muhammad, and had called the blasphemy law a "black law."
[Christian Science Monitor]
[Hat tip: Meir S]
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VideoBite: Melanie Phillips stings Israel's PR


This video features Melanie Phillips calling Israel out on its poor public relatons.  This can hardly be called a soundbite, but it's length is justified.

VideoBite: Gaza Tourism



A tongue-in-cheek Gaza tourism video paints a different picture of life in the Gaza Strip

"Truth has no traction" in Muslim societies


Muslims and Truth -Benny Morris [pictured]

In the wake of the New Year's Day bombing outside the church in Alexandria, Egypt, in which 23 Coptic Christians were murdered, Lebanon's Grand Mufti, immediately announced: "This assault...is not an individual internal Egyptian act, but a criminal act with Zionist...fingerprints." A spokesman for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Munim Abu al Fattouh Abdel, said: It could not have been Egyptians. Perhaps it was the Mossad. Iranian TV put it: "It goes without saying that no Muslim...will ever commit such an inhuman act." 

This raises a serious question. What are the bounds of credulity in the mendacity-ridden Muslim societies of the Middle East? Is there no limit to what the infidel can be accused of - and to the expectation that the charge will stick? Which raises the still more profound question: What are the long-term prospects for peaceful cohabitation on planet Earth between us in the West and these Muslim societies in which truth has absolutely no traction or importance, where the masses believe that the CIA or the Mossad knocked down the Twin Towers on 9/11?
(National Interest)
*

UPDATE:

Assisted Suicide -Lee Smith

The Arabic word taqqiya is frequently used to denote the kind of dissimulation practiced by Muslims in the Middle East. The concept is a useful reminder that this is a part of the world where saying the wrong thing to the wrong person can be costly. Yet Westerners are very sensitive to the idea that some cultures do not value truth-telling in the same way that we do. So we pretend that Arab societies respect the truth as much as we do.
(Tablet)
Note: "dissimulation" means to disguise
*

Poignant cartoon


A cartoon worth a thousand words
[Dry Bones]*

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nazi home in Jerusalem called "landmark"

Haj Amin al-Husseini meeting with a good friend

The demolition of al-Husseini's home

Toppled Palestinian "Landmark" Symbolized Hate -Jonathan S. Tobin

The New York Times reported that new housing in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem involved the destruction of what it claimed was a Palestinian "landmark." The building in question was a large home built in the 1930s for one of the most notorious figures in 20th-century history: Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, who inspired bloody pogroms against the Jews.

After the outbreak of World War II, he joined forces with the Nazis, meeting with Hitler and then spending the war making Arabic propaganda broadcasts for the Axis and successfully recruiting Muslims to serve in a special SS brigade. He was promised that, in the event of a German victory, he would be made the puppet ruler of what is now Israel, where he would assist the Nazis in the massacre of the several hundred thousand Jews who lived there.

That a home connected to Husseini or any other Nazi would be considered a landmark whose demolition inspired statements of sadness from Palestinian leaders speaks volumes about the nature of Palestinian politics.
(Commentary)
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Pro-Israel Blog-Off


Friday, January 07, 2011

Stuxnet Virus: The most important and under-reported story of 2010


Stuxnet for the Nobel Peace Prize -Charley J. Levine

•Stuxnet, perhaps the most sophisticated, complex worm virus ever designed, invaded the computer control systems of Iran's atomic facilities. Washington's Institute for Science and International Security concluded that Stuxnet infected as many as 30,000 institutional computers involved in the project and outright broke 1,000 Iranian IR-1 centrifuges at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility.

•World security experts opined that Stuxnet was "amazing" and "groundbreaking," even a "prime example of clandestine digital warfare." If the malwarfare were not enough, an assault on Iran's atomic scientists was also an integral part of the campaign. As recently as Nov. 29, quantum physicist Majid Shahriari was eliminated in Tehran - causing the next 5,000 people engaged in weaponizing Iran to perhaps think twice about their career paths. 

•A key lesson has clearly been learned: Attack effectively and keep quiet. The temporary derailment of Iran's atomic program is the greatest news story not reported on in 2010. The West can sleep just a little better tonight as a result, comforted by the amazing results secured by a smart and civic-minded Lone Ranger who might be considered for the next Nobel Peace Prize. But nobody for sure knows who that quiet masked man was. Or what he did. Or why he did it.
(Washington Times)
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Mossad: Iran's Nuclear Program Has Been Set Back Several Years -Yossi Melman

Meir Dagan, who retired from his post as Mossad chief after eight years, does not believe Iran will have nuclear capability before 2015.

He told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that a series of failures had set its nuclear weapons program back by several years.
(Ha'aretz)
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VideoBite: Sufis Under the Thumb of Jihad



A must see video on Sufis under attack by Jihadis in Pakistan...a stark reminder that the most frequent victims of terror are Muslims
[New York Times]



Tehran's despots have increased their repression against Iran's Sufis.
(Weekly Standard)
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VideoBite: Rare Film of Jerusalem 1918



Haunting video of daily life in Jerusalem at the end of the Ottoman era
[film by Jacob Gross]

The "Invention of Peace"


The Invention of "Peace" in the Middle East -Fiamma Nirenstein

With the Palestinians, the idea that we like to convey is that of a world in which Fatah, in opposition to Hamas, is amenable to achieving peace through a partition plan that would enable "two states for two peoples." But this is far from reality. PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared that there would be no room in a Palestinian state for even a single Israeli, and his chief negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat, said there would be an inevitable "return" of 7,000,000 refugees - or their grandchildren and great-grandchildren - inside the borders of Israel.

There is also the declared Palestinian lack of willingness to negotiate land-swaps or to recognize the existence of a Jewish state. All this is in keeping with the most dramatic rejection of peace: the culture of hate and terrorism which the TV, the press and the Palestinian schools disseminate. The "study" on the Palestinian Authority website declaring that there has never been any trace of Jews in Jerusalem; or the invention of a Palestinian Jesus at a time when the concept of "Palestinians" did not even exist - all this should remind us that a peaceful end of conflict with Israel might not be a priority.
(Hudson Institute-New York)
*

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Iran brings Biblical story (and anti-Semitism) to life


Iran Cooks Up Invented Massacre -Meir Javedanfar

On Dec. 10, 250 Basij students from Abu Ali Sina University in the Iranian city of Hamedan threatened to tear down the mausoleum at the graves of the historical Jewish figures [Queen] Esther [pictured] and Mordechai. 

The graves of Jewish figures in Iran (which also include Daniel) have always been considered holy and respected by Jews and Muslims alike.

The narrative being promoted by the Iranian regime is that Mordechai was a murderer because - after the king's vizier, Haman, plotted to kill all the Jews of Persia - he ordered the massacre of more than 70,000 Iranians. This is being called an "Iranian holocaust." These days one can hear about the fabricated and highly anti-Jewish "Iranian holocaust" from Iranian politicians. The international community must condemn the Iranian government's anti-Semitic narratives and statements, and demand that they cease.
(Guardian-UK) 
*

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Obama Treats Abbas with Kid Gloves

Kid gloves

Why Isn't Obama Pressuring the Palestinians? -Steven J. Rosen

[T]he Obama administration is raising no public objection to the Palestinians' stance. For the first time since the Oslo peace process started 18 years ago, Palestinian leaders are openly refusing to negotiate with the government of Israel.

It has not expressed one word of criticism of Abbas, nor used anything resembling the pressure tactics Obama has so freely used against the Israeli side. In fact, Obama did quite the opposite on Oct. 7, when he issued a special waiver of Section 7040(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act to transfer additional funds directly to the Palestinian Authority, just as it was announcing its refusal to negotiate.
The writer served for 23 years as foreign policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
(Foreign Policy)
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Israel Resurrects Extinct Animals



Deer, Oryx Return to Galilee and Negev -Zafrir Rinat

The wild oryx [pictured above], fallow deer and roe deer became extinct in this region. Yet a practical plan by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has been successfully implemented and such animals have returned to the Galilee and Negev.

The Parks Authority raised these animals in facilities on the Carmel and in the Arava, and returned them gradually to nature over two decades.
(Ha'aretz)
*

Women's Equality...Gaza Style


This video is somewhat shocking but shouldn't be
Note: If you cannot view the embedded video please go to this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czxHK9egT7I



With faces covered and guns loaded, Palestinian women militants are training among the sand dunes of Gaza with shouts of "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - followed by intense target practice.

One veiled woman tells me: "I am trained and ready to be a suicide bomber against Israeli soldiers."
(CNN)
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Arab Paranoia: birds spying on us



Saudi Arabia: Israeli-tagged vulture is a Mossad spy

A vulture tagged by scientists at Tel Aviv University has strayed into Saudi Arabian territory, where it was promptly arrested on suspicion of being a Mossad spy, Israeli and Saudi media reported.

The bird was found in a rural area of the country wearing a transmitter and a leg bracelet bearing the words "Tel Aviv University", according to the reports, which surfaced first in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv.

Although these tags indicate that the bird was part of a long-term research project into migration patterns, residents and local reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper that the matter seemed to be a "Zionist plot."

The accusations went viral, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the "Zionists" had trained these birds for espionage.

Last month [in another incident t]he Sinai regional governor suggested that a shark that killed and maimed tourists on its Red Sea port [in Egypt], may have been intentionally released by Israeli agents in order to sabotage the country's tourist industry.
[Ha'aretz]
[Hat tip: DavidG]
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Monday, January 03, 2011

Obama Gives Something for Nothing

New US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford

U.S. Appoints Ambassador to Syria -Charles Krauthammer

Syria is a regime that has been arming Hizbullah to the teeth, tens of thousands of rockets, violating every provision of the truce that was declared after the second Israel-Lebanon war, ally of Iran, essentially an enemy of the United States, undermining all our activities and infiltrating itself into Lebanon out of which it had been kicked in 2005. All of this is happening and what does the administration do? It sends an ambassador in return for absolutely nothing.
(Fox News)


A White House Clueless on Syria -Michael Young

A WikiLeaks cable, dated Feb. 2009, recounted a meeting with the French diplomatic troubleshooter and former ambassador to Syria Jean-Claude Cousseran, who "urged that Washington should 'get something tangible'" from the Syrian regime. He cautioned that the Syrians were masters of avoiding any real concessions and were adept at showering visitors with wonderful atmospherics and delightful conversations before sending them away empty handed."

This was very sound counsel, which Obama has basically ignored by dispatching Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford to Damascus for nothing tangible.

Obama should have sent Ford to Syria in exchange for a solid concession from Assad - perhaps Syrian acceptance of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, which Damascus has refused to sanction; or maybe Syrian consent to the return of direct negotiations with Israel.

It made no sense for Obama to throw away a card he should have made Syria pay for. The writer is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut.
(NOW Lebanon)
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UPDATE

Obama and the Syrian Trap -Matthew R.J. Brodsky

With the Palestinian-Israeli peace process returning to a deep freze, the Obama administration is eyeing an opportunity to make headway with Syria. To that end, President Obama confirmed the new U.S. ambassador to Syria and reports have surfaced of a recent back channel opened between the White House and Syrian officials in Damascus.

Yet the reality is that Syria will simply pocket concessions, while preserving the very status quo that Washington seeks to alter.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating the string of assassinations in 2005, including that of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, is set to hand down indictments in a matter of weeks. Hizbullah will likely be held responsible, with the support and orders coming from Syrian President Assad's inner circle.

By engaging with Syria now, the U.S. not only ensures that Damascus will not be held to account, but it rewards their rogue behavior and emboldens America’s enemies.
(Ynet News)
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Slaughter of Coptic Christians




Egyptian Christians march in protest in Cairo, Egypt, Jan 2nd, the day after the attack

Church Bombing in Egypt Kills 21 -Borzou Daragahi & Amro Hassan

A devastating New Year's Day terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt that killed 21 people was the latest in a wave of violence against Christian communities in the Muslim world, some of which date back to antiquity.

Most Middle Eastern countries outside the Arabian Peninsula have sizable Christian communities, including the Maronites in Lebanon, Armenians in Iran, and the Orthodox in Syria. But their numbers have shrunk over the last century, experts say. Christians now account for less than 5% of the Middle East's population, down from 20%.
(Los Angeles Times)
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The Plight of the Copts -Editorial

Copts make up about 10% of Egypt’s 80 million populace. In September, Al-Jazeera TV broadcast a two-hour program called "Without Limits" that accused the Coptic Church of hiding Israeli weapons and ammunition in monasteries and churches, purportedly in preparation for a war "against the Muslims" that would lead to the creation of an autonomous Coptic state.

The only evidence mustered to support these claims was an incident in mid-August in which the son of a priest in Port Said was falsely accused of smuggling weapons from Israel. The contraband turned out to be Chinese-made fireworks.

In state schools, textbooks represent Egypt as an exclusively Muslim state and include anti-Christian texts. In the summer of 2008, the Egyptian doctors syndicate, which has increasingly been taken over by Muslim Brotherhood activists, banned all organ transplants between Muslims and Copts.
(Jerusalem Post)
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UPDATE:

The Plight of the Middle East's Christians -Jeffrey Goldberg

I've been struck by the lackadaisical coverage of the terrible attack on New Year's Day on a Coptic church in Egypt, in which 21 Christians were killed and 79 people were injured. The Salafist war on Christians in the Middle East is intensifying rapidly, with profound consequences not only for Christians in the lands of their faith's earliest history, but for the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities in the greater Middle East.

One way to think about the Muslim Arab Middle East is as a place historically intolerant of the rights of non-Arab Muslim minorities: The blacks of Sudan, who are trying to break free of Khartoum's hold; the Kurds in Iraq and Syria; Christians in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq; and the Jews of Israel, among others. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal even to build a church.
(Atlantic Monthly)
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