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Helena Cobban writes that Egypt's role as a powerbroker in the region has been bolstered:

Mubarak's government owes its newly strengthened role in regional politics to the fact that it is one of the few powers able and inclined to deal with both Israel and a Hamas movement that proved once again during the recent war that it cannot be eliminated from the scene. (Turkey also plays this mediating role, but it has less backing from the U.S. for its efforts.)

Some of the analysts and former officials interviewed here said that Egypt could well become even more important to the U.S. plans for the region after the victory of Israel's rightwing parties in the Feb. 10 election. "If the U.S. wants an ally in the region that talks to all sides and is strongly committed to a two-state outcome between Israel and Palestine, they will find that here, but not in Israel," one former minister said.

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The analysis concludes that Egypt has developed a strong middle class and has thus moved away from its pan-Arabic Nasserist roots and thus arguments that Egypt should look after its own interests have prevailed. For instance, after a ton of demonstrations in favor of Hamas early, these demonstrations have dwindled.

Anne Frank helper turns 100:

Miep Gies, who has devoted her life to commemorating the Holocaust and the Frank family, has asked not to be disturbed on her 100th birthday.

In a brief email exchange with Associated Press this week, she also requested that she should not be remembered as a heroine or as someone who did something exceptional. "This is very unfair. So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work," she wrote.

She said she would like the world to dwell instead on the many "unnamed heroes" who helped a small percentage of Dutch Jews to escape deportment and death in the Nazi camps. "I would like to name one, my husband Jan," she wrote. "He was a resistance man who said nothing but did a lot. During the war he refused to say anything about his work, only that he might not come back one night. People like him existed in thousands but were never heard."

On 4 August, 1944, after the Frank family were arrested, it was Ms Gies and another of the trusted "helpers" who gathered Anne Frank’s papers and notebooks. It was Ms Gies who locked the diary in a safe and handed it to Anne’s father, Otto, in September 1945, on the day that he discovered that his daughter had died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp six months earlier. Mr Frank published the diary in Dutch in 1947 and in English in 1952, first as the The Diary of a Young Girl and then as the The Diary of Anne Frank.
In an internet interview in 1997 with schoolchildren all over the world, Ms Gies remembered the frail, noisy, friendly, inquisitive teenage girl she had tried to rescue. "Anne ? was the one asking me questions all the time, particularly about what was going on in the world outside the hiding-place ... I was 20 years older than she was, but it was like talking to a much older person than a teenager." Ms Gies told her young questioners of her "tremendous disappointment" that her "friends" should have been arrested "so close to the end of the war" when the Allies were "less than 250 miles from Amsterdam". In another interview, in 2000, Ms Gies said that she was sometimes asked how she would respond to people who denied that the Nazi genocide had occurred. She said: "My response is that on 4 August, 1944, at nine o’clock in the morning, I did meet a healthy and strong 15-year-old girl, Anne Frank. The next thing I saw was her name in a German list of people on a cattle train to Auschwitz."
US Prefers Unity Government:
The U.S. official position is that it looks forward to "working with any government," but in back-channel messages the Obama administration has made it clear it would like to see a unity government in Jerusalem over a narrow right-wing government which would in all likelihood result in a freeze in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Aides to Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Friday that Washington officials did indeed relay the message while associates of Kadima chief Tzipi Livni denied receiving such a message.

Officially, the State Department said the coalitional line-up is an internal Israeli matter with which Washington does not involve itself.

The European Union's foreign policy chief says a new unity government of Israel's Kadima and Likud political parties would help Mideast peace talks.

The question is, what smaller parties would put Israel over the 60-vote threshold? The problem is that without Avigdor Lieberman, and given the fact that Labour wants to remain in opposition, coming up with a "unity government" will be problematic.

The Climate of Fear in Venezuela:

But another episode, the break-in and desecration of a Sephardic synagogue on Jan. 31, intensified the uncertainty among Jews here. Officials are also putting pressure on Jewish leaders to retract criticism of Mr. Chávez regarding the attack and to accept the government’s explanation of it as a simple robbery by corrupt members of the intelligence and municipal police forces.

“The atmosphere of intimidation is terrifying,” said Rabbi Pynchas Brener, 77, a prominent Ashkenazi leader and an outspoken critic of Mr. Chávez’s government. “We do not know when this pressure will start to ease up.”

The government’s handling of the episode has also sown confusion. Mr. Chávez has denounced the attack and other forms of anti-Semitism and proclaimed his friendship with Venezuela’s Jews. But he has also asserted that unidentified opponents of his attacked the synagogue to cause disarray before a referendum this Sunday to decide whether Mr. Chávez can run for re-election indefinitely.

Amnesty charges of Hamas human rights abuses corroborated by PCHR, Guardian:
"People are afraid to live normal lives, to express their opinions freely," Alami said. "There is no freedom of speech, of movement, of travelling or having real healthcare. Hamas is raising George Bush's policy: those not with us are against us." One of his colleagues was forced to leave Gaza after receiving threats from Hamas.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said Hamas had tightened its restrictions on civil society groups, ordering them to inform the Hamas authorities before receiving or distributing aid and obtain Hamas approval before starting new construction or development work.

Alami, who secured a rare permit to leave Gaza a week ago with his family to live in the West Bank, said there were frequently differences between orders given by local Hamas commanders on the ground and the more senior leadership within the movement. Other small extremist movements were also beginning to return to force again – one prominent cafe in Gaza City was bombed last week.

He said many Palestinians no longer felt affiliated to any political group, either Hamas or Fatah, its West Bank-based rival. "Politicians and the media think that there is a simple division between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah ... The majority of the Palestinian people today are with none of them."

The One Voice Movement is a grassroots group of 640,000 Israelis and Palestinians who are working towards a collective solution between the two entities.

Also picked up by CNN, who notes that some people were shot while lying in their hospital beds.

Also picked up by the BBC, who notes that some victims are too afraid to come forward.

UN Security Council Calls for Greater Humanitarian Access to Gaza:

The United Nations Security Council again voiced deep concern today about the humanitarian situation in Gaza following Israel’s military offensive against Hamas and stressed “the importance and urgency that more needs to be done.” In remarks to the media after consultations within the 15-member body, Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu, Council President for February, said there was “a convergence of views” on the importance of full implementation of its January resolution which, among other issues, called for unimpeded provision throughout Gaza of food, fuel and medical treatment.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN top officials have repeatedly called on Israel to fully open crossings into Gaza for humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials nearly four weeks after the end of its offensive, which killed 1,300 Palestinians, injured some 5,300 others, and reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

Israel, which launched its operation with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups, has restricted access to the Strip both in response to attacks and for other security reasons.

The US agreed with this call. This supports my previous argument that there is a growing divergence between US interests and Israeli interests. While Obama continues to strongly support Israel, as outlined in his AIPAC speech last year, it is clear that with this resolution, Israel can no longer count on the kind of blind support that the Bush administration gave. In fact, it has been proposed that Israel launched their military offensive when they did because they knew that they could count on the blind support of the Bush administration.

Brian Van Slyke, SJP Activist, on the New Hampshire Israel boycott:

I think the lessons that we learned is that you’ve got to go at this from every angle. You’ve got to do community organizing, you’ve got to get students represented in high decision making positions, you’ve got to educate the community, you’ve got to organize rallies and protests, and exhaust every avenue for non-violent action. On top of that, a successful group has to be patient but also self-critical. There’s going to be a lot of resistance and a lot of people smearing you, but you have to be ready for that mentally. There’s folks trying to discredit us now, but our audience knows the truth, and we know that this is a part of a larger movement. This is bigger than Hampshire.

The great challenges and obstacles come from many problems that student groups face: the fact that at the end of every year you disband and when you come back you have to pick up from where you left off. People are also going to criticize everything you say and do when working to end the occupation, and reaching your desired goal is going to look pretty much impossible. It’s not easy. It’s draining, tense, and monumental. But, as Hampshire students have now proven, it is possible.

I think this specific campaign was successful because Hampshire has its legacy of being the first college to divest from Apartheid South Africa. That is something that this college and community treasures deeply (although, ironically enough, the administration attempted to depoliticize that back in the 1970s as well). We knew that Hampshire students faced the same kind of name calling and opposition then, but that they overcame and helped spark a movement. We had to live up to our history.

More students speak out:

Dershowitz Fires Back:

Dershowitz, a Harvard University law professor and well known supporter of Israel, threatened to unleash a campaign against the college, and issue a call for donors to withhold contributions, unless Hampshire resolves any ambiguities and clearly states that it rejects student efforts to divest from the Jewish state. “What they have to do is make it impossible for the students to plausibly be able to declare victory,” said Dershowitz, whose son went to Hampshire.

“They want me on their side, they want the anti-Israel students on their side, they want everybody on their side. But unfortunately the divestment campaign is a zero-sum game. Both sides can’t win, and Hampshire let the anti-Israel students win and they will pay a heavy price for that. Unless they withdraw it, they withdraw it and they make it clear they have rejected these efforts to divest from Israel.”

Dershowitz said of Hampshire, “They found an easy way out. ‘Yeah, we’ll divest from the six companies but we’re also going to divest from 200 others’.... Not a single Fortune 500 company would pass muster under Hampshire policies.”

“I think it’s a very simple story ... a cowardly college administration that doesn’t want to say no to anybody, wants to talk out of both sides of its mouth to me and out of another side of its mouth to anti-Israel students,” he said. “They were looking for an excuse to be able to divest from those six companies but to do it in a broader way, but they were under-inclusive. They didn’t look at the rest of the portfolio.”

Dershowitz made an angry phone call to Hampshire College students right after the boycott was announced.

The main question I have is, why does he feel so threatened?

University of Rochester students have followed suit, organizing a sit-in:

On February 6th, we took direct action for peace and in solidarity with the Palestinians  by peacefully occupying a building at the University of Rochester.   Beginning at 3:00pm, UR-SDS claimed and occupied the adjacent atrium and auditorium of Goergen Hall (the Biomedical Engineering Building) and declared them a liberated community space—an autonomous zone democratically run by the occupiers until our demands were met.  The action was organized by University Rochester Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS) but U of R post-docs, faculty members, and staff also occupied along with numerous community members. We came to raise awareness about the dire situation in Palestine and the United States role in the conflict.   In addition, we were there to occupy this space until our demands of the administration for divestment, humanitarian aid, educational aid, and scholarships for Palestinian students were met.  Also, (let me clarify) despite what the administration said, we did not "reserve" the auditorium and the online calendar still says that it remains unreserved at that time.

SDS at UR organized an occupation of Goergen Atrium and Auditorium on campus in solidarity with Gaza. Beforehand, they had presented the administration with an official letter demanding that UR divest from corporations that profit from Israel's occupation of Palestine, and to provide direct aid to the people of Gaza. This wasn't an occupation like the illegal sit-down strikes of 1930's because the campus administration allowed SDS to reserve the building in the interest of "peaceful dialogue". They also provided the Dean of Student Affairs for negotiation of the demands.

As the day went on, the Dean informed the organizers that UR students would be punished if not out of the building by midnight. So we decided to call for as many campus and community members to mobilize around that time as possible to put as much pressure on the Dean as possible to deliver on our demands.

The Dean agreed to negotiate at 10pm and we had maybe 75 people in the building for support. Through the negotiations, the Dean agreed to the following plan of action: that the administration organize a public forum with UR investors, SDS and the community on the university's investment policy and its investment in Israel; that UR commit resources and provide any needed information for a campus-wide fund drive for Palestine; that UR work to assess needs in Gaza and donate surplus supplies to universities, such as computers and books; and that UR commit to reaching out to Palestinians with international student scholarships.

Feb 6th was a day of education, debate and mobilization. It was a concrete show of solidarity with the people of Gaza and protest against Israel's occupation. It was a concrete demonstration of real democratic decision-making and flexibility.

Daniel Levy -- The Israeli political system is broken:
The structure of the Israeli system has, for instance, been definitively exposed as broken. It endemically produces dysfunctional governments by way of fragile, fractured, and survival-obsessed coalitions. Again, the largest single faction in the Knesset will constitute less than a quarter of the members of parliament. The system seems designed to avoid making hard choices given the permanent preponderance of either hybrid governing coalitions or reliance on small niche parties, or both. That is exacerbated by the way in which Israel’s relationship with its principal sponsor and ally, the United States, plays out. America’s coddling and often irresponsible indulgence of specific Israeli policies that work against America’s own national interest and often contribute to undermining Israel itself further exacerbate this tendency toward decision avoidance. Not surprisingly then, Israel is abuzz right now with discussion of the need for electoral reform and reevaluating governance system.

Israelis also witnessed during this election the stunning paucity of any meaningful public policy debate. One could search far and wide for a meaningful plan on the economy, on health care, on education policy, let alone realistic or detailed proposals regarding the security and regional challenges Israel faces. There is a degree of illiteracy clouding the election debate in Israel and surrounding the Israeli media coverage of issues that would be difficult for Americans to comprehend and indeed, Israel’s voters deserve better.

But the real clarifying moment in this election was a swing to the right that has at least made the Jewish part of the Israeli conversation into something resembling a family argument within the Likud household. What happened in this election is that the breakdown between the blocs went from being 70-50 in favor of the center-left to 65-55 for the right, ultra-right, and religious-right (although even these numbers are a little misleading, as the ten or so members of non-Zionist and ostensibly Arab parties are not considered to be potential coalition allies by the Zionist center-left). In simplified terms, there was a 15 seat swing from center-left to right which can be largely explained as eight seats lost by Labor and Meretz along with all seven seats of the imploded Pensioners party having mostly gone to Kadima, while about an equivalent number migrated from Kadima to Likud.

Mustafa Barghouti on Palestinian protests:
It appears that there is a belief propagating that non-violent resistance is nonexistent among the Palestinians. That's a false belief. Palestinians and Israelis weekly and sometimes daily peacefully resist the injustice. They organize protests, chant slogans, embark on marches -- the works. The Israeli response is habitually violent. Admittedly, a Palestinian flag raised by a protester is threatening to an Israeli, but it won't make him bleed. Live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, rubber bullets, etc., do make Palestinian and Israeli resisters bleed, however, and sometimes die. In addition to the violence which meets the peaceful protests, no widespread support -- moral, material, or otherwise -- is mustered for the nonviolent resistance, as was for other such movements in the U.S.A, India, and South Africa. The absence of such support -- even when evidence of the historical injustice is readily available in overwhelming quantity, and, with the advent of the Internet and the resulting interconnected model of communication and dissemination, accessible with unprecedented ease -- in Israel and America (where it matters most), Europe, and elsewhere is crippling. When the media manage some attention for a dead Palestinian, and pressure for an investigation by the IDF, the latter puts together a measly inquiry that many times finds no wrongdoing and justifies the death by military necessity, standard operating procedure for occupying powers, as is shown by the abundant use of the euphemism "collateral damage" and this recent example in Afghanistan, where US forces justified the death by airstrike of 90 Afghan civilians ("harrowing" video included). Next time the UN calls for an investigation by the IDF, know that Israeli investigations are a sham, as HRW found in a 2005 report called "Promoting Impunity":
The recent investigations and prosecutions cited earlier notwithstanding, Human Rights Watch has found that Israeli military's investigative practices and procedures are not impartial, thorough, or timely. The military rarely has brought wrongdoers to justice, and existing practices have exerted little deterrent effect.
This is the reality of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israel. So, when they smugly ask, where is the Palestinian Gandhi?, tell them his body lay cold in an olive orchard somewhere.
Writer Amos Oz -- Gaza offensive way out of proportion:
Do many people feel that way? "I'm not sure. Israelis were genuinely infuriated, as was I, about the harassment and bombardment and rocket attacks on Israeli towns and villages for years and years by Hamas from Gaza. And the public mood was 'Let's teach them a lesson'. Trouble is, this so-called lesson" - which Oz supported - "went completely out of proportion. There is no comparison between the suffering and devastation and death that Gaza inflicted on Israel for eight years, and the suffering, devastation and death Israel inflicted on Gaza in 20 days. No proportion at all." He is appalled by the numbers - "300 dead children. Hundreds of innocent civilians. Thousands of homes demolished" - and while he would like to think that bombing UN structures was accidental, he is also appalled by reports that white phosphorus may have been used, and Dime bombs: "There is no justification. No way this could be justified. If this is true, it's a war crime and it should be treated as a war crime."

Some have suggested that the two-state solution is now dead, but for all his anger, Oz refuses to go that far. "It is the only possible solution. There is no other possible solution. And I would say more than that. Down below, the majority of Israeli Jews and the majority of Palestinian Arabs know that at the end of the day there will be two states. Are they happy about it? No they are not. Will they be dancing in the streets in Israel and in Palestine when the two-state solution is implemented? No they will not. But they know it."

Oz fought in the 1967 war, then in the Yom Kippur war in 1973, and both gave him a "gut hatred of war and fighting" - but not, he clarifies, any shame for having done it. "I am not a pacifist in terms of turning the other cheek. There is a difference between myself and some of the peace people in Europe: whereas they think that the ultimate evil in the world is war, I think the ultimate evil in the world is aggression, and aggression sometimes must be repelled by force. I will never forget the words of a relative of mine, who spent the years of the Holocaust in Theresienstadt concentration camp. Although she was a peace activist, she said to me, 'You know, we were liberated from the concentration camp not by peace demonstrators carrying placards, but by American soldiers carrying submachine guns.'"

Twenty years ago, Oz wrote an essay in which he asked: "What is one justified in dying for and what is it permissible to kill for?" "If I am not mistaken," he says, when I put it to him again, "my answer was life itself, and freedom. And nothing else. Not holy places, not national interests, not resources. But life and freedom." Never popular with the increasingly powerful Israeli right and disenchanted with Labour ("bankrupt ... it made itself available for any coalition at all, including potentially a Netanyahu coalition"), Oz is also not of what he calls the "radical left". He gave self-defence as his reason for supporting Israel's initial bombing of Lebanon in 2006 (although, when Israel expanded its operations, he held a press conference with Grossman and AB Yehoshua to demand a ceasefire). Self-defence is why he argued for the Gaza offensive, even though friends such as Grossman disagreed. Commentators further to the left than Oz argue that blaming Hamas for the war, as he has done, ignores the economic blockade and siege of Gaza, and underplays the sharp increase in Jewish settlement of the West Bank that accompanied the Gaza pullout of 2005.

This last is not entirely fair, because Oz considered that expansion "atrocious. I think all those settlements, or most of those settlements, will have to go", to fit his vision of an Israel within pre-1967 borders; and because he has never been silent on the matter of settlement and occupation. A couple of months after the 1967 war, he wrote a letter to the newspaper Davar calling for the government to begin immediate negotiations about the West Bank and Gaza, because "even unavoidable occupation is corrupting occupation". As a result of his views, often trenchantly expressed (in 1994, he described extremist Jewish settlers as "Hezbollah in a skullcap"), he has been called a traitor, been assaulted and received death threats.

Israel says free Shalit or no deal:
Israel will not agree to a truce in Gaza unless an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants is freed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said.

Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants in 2006.

There have been reports that Egypt was close to brokering a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

Here's the problem -- Is Israel implying that the life of one of its soldiers is more important than many Palestinians? The problem with Olmert's whole line of reasoning is that we don't hear about the lives of the Palestinians who have been captured -- just Shalit's.

Turkey says Israeli election results "paint very dark picture:"

"Unfortunately we have seen that the [Israeli] people have voted for these [rightist] parties and that makes me a bit sad," Erdogan said of the Israeli election result. "Unfortunately the election has painted a very dark picture."

"With the cease-fire the embargo should be lifted. The Palestinian people should be freed from an open-air prison they are living in right now, this is against human rights," he said.

In a phone call expected soon with U.S. President Barack Obama, Erdogan said he would urge him to take a different approach to the Middle East than the Bush administration.

"I am expecting President Obama to be the voice of the voiceless and the protector of the unprotected," he said.

Erdogan again defended his criticism of Israeli authorities.

"We have to distinguish between two things - the Israeli people and the Israeli government. I say the same to my people. I see anti-Semitism as a crime against humanity," Erdogan said.

"I have also said that while anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity, Islamophobia is also a crime against humanity. I have said that the Jewish people should take part in fighting this kind of prejudice," he said.

The pissing match between Erdogan and Olmert continues.
Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 07:31 AM PST.

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