Shevat 23, 5773 / Sunday, Feb. 03 ’13
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Sunday, Feb. 03 ’13, Shevat 23, 5773
1. REPORT: REGION’S ARMIES ALL ON HIGH ALERT 2. IRAN: NUCLEAR TALKS TO RESUME IN KAZAKHSTAN 3. NYC MAYORAL CANDIDIATE BLASTS BROOKLYN COLLEGE FOR BDS EVENT 4. ‘ISLAM CURSES ANTI-SEMITISM’ SAYS TURKISH ACTIVIST 5. REPORT: IAF WARPLANES SEEN FLYING THE SKIES OF LEBANON 6. DOZENS SUSPENDED IN ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ HARVARD CHEATING SCANDAL 7. ISRAEL, UNOFFICIALLY: WE STRUCK MISSILES BEFORE THEY LEFT BASE 8. NETANYAHU: ‘NO TO CIVIL WAR’
1. REPORT: REGION’S ARMIES ALL ON HIGH ALERT by David Lev
The armies of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are all on high alert, a report in a Lebanese newspaper said Sunday. The report in A-Diar said that the alerts were due to Israel’s attack on a Syrian missile transport and, according to Syrian claims, an attack on a sensitive Syrian military installation.
The report said that the Syrian army has instructed its units to break up into smaller groups, “similar to what Hizbullah has done in south Lebanon.” The strategy is designed to protect troops in the wake of another possible Israeli attack, the report said.
The report added that Syrian troops had joined Hizbullah terrorists in several areas of south Lebanon. According to the report, the Syrian and Hizbullah forces were stationed very close to the Israeli border, in the area of Har Dov (also known as “Sheba Farms”). The Lebanese and Jordanian armies are also on high alert over the possibility of a clash between Israel and Syria in the area. Unconfirmed Lebanese reports said that Israeli warplanes had been seen over Lebanon earlier Sunday.
Syria has threatened to retaliate against Israel for the attack. Israel has not commented on the attack, and has not officially confirmed its involvement, although Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier Sunday hinted at the possibility that Israel did carry out the attack.
2. IRAN: NUCLEAR TALKS TO RESUME IN KAZAKHSTAN by Rachel Hirshfeld
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday that the latest round of talks with world powers regarding Iran’s nuclear program would be held in Kazakhstan later this month.
“I have good news, I’ve heard yesterday that 5+1 or EU3+3 will be meeting in Kazakhstan on the 25th of February,” Salehi said during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference.
Iran and six world powers — the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — held three rounds of talks last year aimed at resolving the standoff over Iran’s nuclear activities, but all were unsuccessful.
“We have no red line for negotiations, bilateral negotiations when it comes to any subject,” Salehi said on the final day of the 49th Munich Security Conference.
“When it comes to the nuclear issue, yes, we are ready to negotiate,” he said. “But we have to make sure this time — and this I think is very fair of us — to make sure the other side this time comes with an authentic intention — authentic and real intention to resolve the issue.”
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday during a speech at the Munich conference that Washington was open to holding bilateral talks with Tehran.
The United States “would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership,” he said.
Biden said “there has to be an agenda that they are prepared to speak to. We are not just prepared to do it for the exercise.”
Salehi, meanwhile, said Sunday that he takes “these statements with positive consideration.”
“I think this is a step forward. But please, do note, that each time we have come and negotiated it was the other side unfortunately who did not keep to this commitment,” he claimed.
3. NYC MAYORAL CANDIDIATE BLASTS BROOKLYN COLLEGE FOR BDS EVENT by Rachel Hirshfeld
New York City Democratic mayoral candidate William C. Thompson joined in the chorus of opposition directed at the Brooklyn College”s political science department, which is co-sponsoring an event aimed at promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the State of Israel.
The event, which is scheduled to take place February 7 and is being organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, features virulently anti-Israel speakers, including Omar Barghouti, founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Campus Boycott of Israel, and Judith Butler, a professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California”s Berkeley campus and a supporter of the BDS movement.
“You do not have a right, and should not put the name of Brooklyn College on hate,” said Thompson at a news conference with more than a dozen elected officials, students and BDS opponents outside the campus on Thursday. “They should be heard, but not with the official stamp of this college.”
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, prominent law professor Alan Dershowitz and the Anti-Defamation League, among others have all spoken out against the event, demanding that the college revoke its sponsorship.
“New York has always been a city where people from all backgrounds come together. We will not allow it to become a place where communities are driven apart. Taxpayer-funded institutions, like Brooklyn College, should not endorse divisive rhetoric, whether it”s anti-Israel, anti-Arab, or targeting any particular group,” Thompson, a former city comptroller, wrote in a message posted to his website.
“The 1st Amendment right of free speech extends to every single American, including those we may disagree with. However, it doesn”t mean a city college should endorse that speech,” he wrote.
“I call on Brooklyn College to end its support of this anti-Israel forum. As mayor, I will bring together New Yorkers from all backgrounds for constructive dialogue that fosters tolerance and cooperation among all,” Thompson affirmed.
Pro-Israel groups have demanded that the political science department also bring in a pro-Israel speaker, but the department has not responded, president of the Israel Club on campus, Ahuva Kohanteb, told The New York Times. She said, however, that she did not want to mount a public attack on the department because she was a political science major.
“That”s going to put a target on my back,” she said.
According to The Times, Kohanteb”s anxiety reflects what several protesters called the “chilling effect” that the department”s decision would have on Jewish students on campus, who may be inclined to silence their own views for fear of angering their virulently anti-Israel professors.
Toby Sklar, a Jewish junior at Brooklyn College, recalled how one of her political science professors had explained in a lecture that she had voted for the event to promote “an open marketplace of ideas.”
Sklar said that while she would have raised her hand to argue, it was only the second day of class and she did not want to antagonize the professor so early in the term.
“I”m not afraid of arguing,” she told the paper. “But it”s an uncomfortable feeling to be in class with a professor who voted for it.”
4. ‘ISLAM CURSES ANTI-SEMITISM’ SAYS TURKISH ACTIVIST by Hana Levi Julian
A Turkish peace activist says “Islam curses anti-Semitism” and that the “true home” of the Jewish People is in the Holy Land, in a blog post on the website of a Jewish magazine, and posted on the author”s Facebook page.
Aylin Kocaman, a host on A9TV”s “Building Bridges” satellite television show in Turkey, made the statement in an article she wrote on how Islam views genocide of the Jews during World War II.
“From a Muslim perspective” of how Islam views the Holocaust, Kocaman stated bluntly, “Islam curses the Holocaust. There is no racial discrimination or superiority in Islam, as there is not in any other religion.”
A guest blogger for Moment Magazine, she went on to quote a passage from the Koran (49:13) in which the creation of mankind, “from a male and female….into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other,” states that the most honored person is he who is most righteous.
Kocaman went on to write about the Turkish diplomat Behic Erkin, who saved 20,000 Jews from Nazi persecution in 1939 by giving them Turkish identity documents and teaching them to say – in the Turkish language – “I am Turkish, my relatives live in Turkey.” Erkin later saved more Jews from concentration camps as well, she added.
“Jews need to know this: there are still people like them in Turkey,” Kocaman wrote. “Turkish people will always continue to love and protect Jews, despite political crises I am certain are only temporary. Because Turkish people think democratically and are devoted to Islam. And they know perfectly well that Islam curses anti-Semitism.”
She also noted that the Koran calls for Jews to live in the Land of Israel – placing her in direct conflict with numerous, loud Muslim clerics from Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon and Iran.
“Islam curses the idea of sending Jews – or other people – into exile,” she wrote. “Of course Jews can live anywhere they wish, just like all other communities. But their true home is in the Holy Land (Koran, 5:21, 17:104, 10:93, 2:58).
“The mindset that seeks to exile the Jews from the Holy Land, like Hitler exiled them by saying, ‘There is no room for you in Germany,’ conflicts with the Koran. If that mindset says it is acting in the name of Islam, then that is a crime, and a defamation of Islam.”
5. REPORT: IAF WARPLANES SEEN FLYING THE SKIES OF LEBANON by Chana Ya’ar
Lebanese media reported Sunday afternoon that Israeli war planes were spotted in the skies above southern Lebanon.
It appeared the pilots were rehearsing attacks on targets in the region, local sources told media outlets.
Both Syria and Lebanon accused Israel of carrying out air strikes on a convoy last Wednesday that was transporting Russian-made surface-to-air missiles from the Damascus area towards the border with Lebanon.
The two countries also accused Israel of bombing the Jamraya military research center, where chemical weapons were being processed. At least two people died in the attack, and a number of others were wounded. Among the casualties were alleged members of Iran”s elite Revolutionary Guards.
For the first time, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak this weekend obliquely acknowledged that indeed, Israel had carried out the strike, which he referred to as “proof that when we say something, we mean it.”
“We say that we don”t think it [Syria] should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon,” he told top international diplomats and defense officials at a conference Sunday in Germany.
Barak did not bluntly say that Israel had carried out the strike, skirting the issue by saying, “I cannot add anything to what you have read… about what happened in Syria several days ago.
“But I keep telling … that we said, and that is another proof that when we say something we mean it, we say that it should not be allowable to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon and Hizbullah from Syria when [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad falls.”
Barak added that in his view, “Hizbullah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left.” He said the region has not been this unstable since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Assad”s fall could come at any time, Barak added, noting “this will be a major blow to the Iranians and to Hizbullah.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Israel on Sunday of seeking to “destabilize” his country, in a statement released to the government-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
The air strike had “unmasked the true role Israel is playing, in collaboration with foreign enemy forces and their agents on Syrian soil, to destabilize and weaken Syria,” Assad was quoted as saying during a meeting in Damascus with top Iranian officials.
6. DOZENS SUSPENDED IN ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ HARVARD CHEATING SCANDAL by Rachel Hirshfeld
Dozens of students at Harvard University have been suspended and disciplined in one of its largest cheating scandals to date.
About 70 of 279 students in a government class were suspected of cheating on a take-home final exam given last May.
While the university did not note the specific number of students who will be disciplined, administrators said that “nearly half” of the class was suspected and would have their cases reviewed by the Administrative Board.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael Smith wrote in a letter to faculty members and students on Friday that “somewhat more than half” of the cases under investigation ended with students being required “to withdraw from the college for a period of time.”
“Of the remaining cases, roughly half the students received disciplinary probation, while the balance ended in no disciplinary action,” Smith wrote in a campus-wide email.
When the scandal first became public in August, Harvard said that as many as 125 students were suspected of helping sharing information on a final exam.
The university said a large number of undergraduates “may have inappropriately collaborated on answers, or plagiarized classmates’ responses, on the final exam for the course.”
Harvard, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the most exclusive universities in the world, with students paying about $63,000 a year to attend after winning a place in a highly competitive admissions process.
Smith called the scale of the cheating incident “unprecedented” and said reforms were being drawn up to “promote academic integrity and a deeper understanding of it within our community.”
“We all can do better,” he wrote in the email.
7. ISRAEL, UNOFFICIALLY: WE STRUCK MISSILES BEFORE THEY LEFT BASE by Gil Ronen
Israel explained on Friday, unofficially, what happened on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, when its planes allegedly attacked a target in Syria. It also explained why Syria gave a false version of what had happened.
Meanwhile, a video posted on a Syrian pro-Assad Facebook page apparently shows the aftermath of the IAF raid, as shown on Syrian television.[youtube:127516]
According to the unofficial Israeli version presented on the televised newscast, the target was a convoy of SA-17 missiles that was preparing to leave a base at Jamraya, near Damascus, in order to deliver the missiles to Lebanon’s Hizbullah.
The explanation was delivered through Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin, former Head of Military Intelligence, who was the featured guest at Channel 2 Television’s main weekly newscast, which is broadcast Friday evening. Channel 2’s military analyst Ronny Daniel also appeared to be serving as an unofficial mouthpiece for the government in the studio.
The presenter, Danny Kushmaro, noted that due to censorship, the news team could not tell the public what it knows about the strike. Daniel then said that while he cannot quote Israeli sources on the matter, he believes that the true version regarding what happened Tuesday night is the one published by McClatchy News.
McClatchy, in turn, had quoted on Thursday “two Israeli intelligence officials familiar with the air assault,” who told it that the anti-aircraft missiles targeted by the Israeli airstrike “were on a military base outside Damascus and had yet to reach the highway that leads to Lebanon when they were destroyed.”
One of the officials told the news service that “waiting until the missiles had reached the highway, the main link between the Syrian capital and Lebanon”s capital, Beirut, would have made it more difficult for Israeli aircraft to target them without risking civilian casualties.”
Yadlin did not dispute McClatchy’s version of events, as quoted by Daniel, and explained that the strike was not a departure from Israel’s policy of preventive strikes. He noted that the latest of these strikes was the bombing of a Sudanese factory that made Fajr missiles intended for Hamas. Yadlin listed several such actions going back decades, including “Operation Opera,” the 1981 strike on Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak. Yadlin himself was one of the eight F-16 pilots who led that daring raid.
Yadlin also explained why the Syrians announced that Israel had struck the Jamraya base, and not that it had struck the SA-17 convoy. The reason, he explained, was that Syria had promised Russia that the SA-17s, which are an advanced Russian weapons system, would remain in Syria, and not be transferred to Hizbullah. By dispatching the convoy, Syria was about to violate this commitment, and it therefore did not want to admit to the convoy’s existence.
8. NETANYAHU: ‘NO TO CIVIL WAR’
by Gil Ronen
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Saturday night of the danger of a civil war in Israel, in a speech he delivered after receiving the presidential nod to assemble the next coalition. The unusually harsh terminology is in line with the warnings of hareidim against attempts to coerce hareidi men into military service, and could be a signal that Netanyahu intends to include hareidi parties in his coalition.
Netanyahu said that the main national mission is stopping the Iranian nuclear weapons drive.
He added that he would strive to solve the question of hareidi military service, which he said “is tearing the nation apart and leading to a civil war.”
This is almost precisely the same language that Shas spiritual guide Rabbi Ovadia Yosef used at the week’s end, in a plea to President Shimon Peres to use his influence to avoid a coercive solution to the enlistment debate.
He called on all of the Knesset’s factions to join the coalition. “We must be united,” he said.
“This is a great privilege and a great responsibility,” he said. “In the last four years, we have sailed through a global economic crisis and an unprecedented regional upheaval because we established one of the most stable governments in Israel’s history, but the security crises, and general crises, which surround us, have not ended. They have become more intense, and they pose challenges to us, the likes of which we have not faced for many years.”
The Likud coalition negotiation team will begin its talks with other parties on Sunday. The first party expected to be summoned is Yesh Atid, followed by Bayit Yehudi and Kadima.
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