Wednesday, May 10, 2006

[imra] Daily digest - Volume: 2 Issue: 1387 (12 messages)

imra Wed May 10 00:28:32 2006 Volume 2 : Issue 1387

In this issue of the imra daily Digest:

MEMRI: Hamas Deputy Marzouk: Non-Recognition
of Israel A Hamas Founding Principle
Days after BESA study exposes
"demographic" red herring
- PM Olmert alludes to it in Herzl Day Knesset Speech
Our World: The IDF's suicide attempt
[alienating religious soldiers]
BACKGROUND INFO: Arrest Of a Senior
Tanzim Operative In The Village Of Halhul
Sinai Travel Warning: leave immediately
Saudi Arabia loosens press shackles,
but religion and politics are still perilous topics
Excerpts: Saudi supports Hamas.
New U.S. political allignments 9 May 2006
The Israeli Democracy Index 2006:
Only 17% Believe Politicians Keep their
Promises after Elections
Israel's Chief Rabbi Gives Kosher
Seal of Approval to Water Buffalo
11 Palestinians Injured in Armed Clashes
between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza City
Two Reports of Palestinian Security
Chaos and Proliferation of Small Arms
COS Halutz forgets isn't politician
- again - publicly attack VMP Peres


Subject: MEMRI: Hamas Deputy Marzouk: Non-Recognition
of Israel A Hamas Founding Principle

Special Dispatch - Palestinian Authority
May 9, 2006
No. 1158

Hamas Deputy Marzouk: Non-Recognition of Israel A Hamas Founding Principle

In an interview posted April 24, 2006 on the Muslim Brotherhood's
English-language website ( ), Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy
head of Hamas's political bureau, reiterates Hamas's commitment to the
resistance, and states that recognizing Israel is not on the movement's

The following are excerpts from the interview.(1)

We Reject the Impractical Peace Initiatives

Ikhwanweb: "There are statements attributed to Mr. Khaled Mesha'al
indicating that Hamas will recognize Israel if it withdraws to the 1967
borders. Your comments?"

Abu Marzouk: "One of Hamas's founding principals is that it does not
recognize Israel. We [participated in] the elections and the people voted
for us based on this platform. Therefore, the question of recognizing Israel
is definitely not on the table unless it withdraws from ALL the Palestinian
lands, not only to the 1967 borders. How can we be expected to recognize an
occupying entity when millions of our people are refugees, and thousands of
others are prisoners!? Why must we recognize them when they do not recognize
us as a sovereign state with full independence?"

Ikhwanweb: "Is there any pressure on Hamas by Arab countries, and especially
Egypt, to recognize Israel?"

Abu Marzouk: "Frankly, they have not asked us to do so. However, they have
asked us to recognize the Arab peace initiatives, which include recognition
of Israel. We, in Hamas, have rejected these impractical initiatives, and
even Israel itself has done the same. Hamas sees these pressures as aiming
to lower the upper limit of the Palestinian demands to the lowest possible

We Will Coordinate With All Factions to Rally the Palestinian People Around
the Resistance as a Strategic Option

Ikhwanweb: "...[Is] Hamas declaring a truce [with Israel]?"

Abu Marzouk: "That is not necessarily true... The political situation
requires certain maneuvers at some levels. The resistance is Hamas's agenda,
and we will coordinate in the upcoming period with all the factions in order
to rally the Palestinian people around the resistance as a strategic option.
We will work to set forth an integrated agenda for resistance, which will
include [action against] the settlements and the segregation wall in order
to establish a sovereign and viable Palestinian state."

Ikhwanweb: "With the Israelis [making] almost daily raids on the
Palestinians, and most of the Palestinian factions responding, the Qassam
Brigades (Hamas's Military arm) have been missing in action. What happened?"

Abu Marzouk: "The Qassam Brigades are present, and its forces are being
developed in a [satisfactory manner]. However, the current political
conditions require a specific environment, and our brothers in the Qassam
Brigades are bound by the same policy and act [according to] the Hamas

Ikhwanweb: "What are the boundaries that govern the relationship between
Hamas and the different Palestinian factions?"

Abu Marzouk: "There is no doubt [that] Hamas has good relations with the
rest of the Palestinian factions. There is always room for all of us in our
big 'Palestinian [Home].' The Hamas government will not allow a rift among
Palestinians, and its policy is to get our internal affairs in order and
unite all the Palestinian factions within the framework of a united
Palestinian people..."

The Current Policy of the Europeans Towards the Palestinian Government Will
Eventually Change

Ikhwanweb: "Some media reports have it that the Norwegian government will
welcome a visit from a Hamas delegate. Do you consider this decision as the
beginning of European openness toward the Hamas government?"

Abu Marzouk: "We are assured that the current policy of the European
governments towards the Palestinian government will eventually change,
because it is simply wrong and irrational. It is unreasonable to punish the
Palestinian people for their democratic choice. We should not forget that
the E.U. has always played a major role in the Palestinian Issue, so it is
not uncommon for them to fulfill their human responsibilities toward the
Palestinian people. Meanwhile, we value and appreciate the Russian
government's role and the position of the new Italian Prime Minister.
Therefore, the welcoming [attitude] of the Norwegian government is an
indication that the siege on the Palestinian people has begun to [let up]."

Ikhwanweb: "What is your assessment of the latest tour by Palestinian
Foreign Minister Dr. [Mahmoud] Al-Zahhar, after witnessing the discouraging
positions taken by some Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan?"

Abu Marzouk: "I believe that this question is better answered by Dr.
Al-Zahhar himself. He informed us that, overall, his tour was very
successful, thank God. He was received very well in all the countries he
visited, and it was an encouraging tour. Rest assured that there is an
[entire] (Muslim and Arab) nation supporting the Palestinian people and
rallying behind its elected government."

The Hamas Government Will Shift the Palestine Issue From the International
Framework to a Framework of National Resistance

Ikhwanweb: "And your comments on the Jordanian government's attitude?"

Abu Marzouk: "We regret the statements made by the Jordanian government
against Hamas. However, what was said about the [arrest] of Hamas [members]
in Jordan is unfounded. It is Hamas policy NOT to [take] its armed struggle
beyond the occupied Palestinian territories. [The fact is] that the
Jordanian government initially wanted to postpone Dr. Al-Zahhar's visit, but
he refused."

Ikhwanweb: "What does the future hold for Hamas, [with] the mounting
international pressure?"

Abu Marzouk: "I believe that the formation of a Hamas government is, in
itself, a major turning point in the history of the Palestinian cause. The
Hamas government will help to transition the Issue of Palestine from its
international framework to a framework of national resistance. The
Palestinian people will stand resolute and support their democratic choice.
I truly believe that Hamas will succeed, God willing, [thanks to] the
steadfastness of the Palestinian people and the support of our Muslim and
Arab nation."

, April 24, 2006.
The interview appeared in English and has been lightly edited for style.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent,
non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle
East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background
information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at


Subject: Days after BESA study exposes
"demographic" red herring
- PM Olmert alludes to it in Herzl Day Knesset Speech

[IMRA: as the recent The Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies
report demonstrates "contrary to popular belief, there has been tremendous
stability in the (Jewish-Arab) demographic balance in the area."

And yet, in a clear reference to try to justify the retreat plan, PM Olmert
asserts "However, the mission is not yet completed. We must ensure that the
State of Israel will continue to be a nation with a solid Jewish majority."]

PM Olmert's 8.5.06 Knesset Speech on Herzl Day
Mr. President and Mrs. Katsav,
Madam Speaker,
Members of Knesset,

The special session of the Knesset is not only dedicated to marking 146
years since the birth of Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl
( -
but is also a discussion about his legacy, and the way in which the
character, institutions and goals of the State of Israel should be shaped in
accordance with Herzl's Zionist vision.

The "Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl Law - to Commemorate His Person and Activities",
which passed in the Knesset only two years ago, is meant to ensure that the
national and political vision and legacy of the State's visionary will be
remembered by the coming generations.

In 1895, Herzl covered the Dreyfus Trial as a journalist. He was profoundly
shaken by the false accusations made against Dreyfus simply because he was
Jewish, and by the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping public opinion in France.
With his sharp senses, he understood that the Jewish people had no hope in
the Diaspora, and that there was no other choice but to establish an
independent Jewish state.

Herzl did not invent Zionism. Zionism, as a dream and as a concept, already
existed. However, Herzl transformed the dream into a political goal, and the
dreamers into a national movement.

Herzl succeeded in captivating the Jewish masses with his vision, thanks to
the fact that the vision he presented was not a messianic vision, abstract
and immaterial. He outlined, in great detail, the image of the Jewish state
which he wished to establish - its cities and villages, its judges and
soldiers, even its railway system. And since he dealt in reality, and not a
dream, he succeeded in changing that reality.

102 years after his death, and 58 years after the establishment of the
nation of which he dreamed, Herzl still has much to contribute to our public
discourse in matters which still excite public opinion in Israel - on issues
relating to law, principles, and regarding the nature and character of the
State of Israel.

Thus, for example, Herzl vehemently criticized the perception that a country
was legal and legitimate only when it was merely a country for all its
citizens: a country for all its citizens, yes - but not just that. Herzl
presented the principle of the emissary, which stated that a political
movement, like the Zionist movement, could take responsibility for
representing an entire people - and act on its behalf and for its benefit -
even if it was not possible to formally assert this mission through
elections. A country for all its citizens, yes, but not just that. A state
for all its citizens, while at the same time the nation of the entire Jewish

Also regarding the ties between religion and the state, and economic and
social topics, Herzl's voice - the enlightened liberal - is relevant, and
should be heeded.

"We are a people - one people", Herzl exhorted the Jews of his generation,
and we should live this way today as well: as one people, connected not only
with the Diaspora of the Jewish people. We must live as one people, united,
here as well, within ourselves. This is Herzl's legacy. However, so is this:
the Jewish state must not be a nation like any nation. It must build within
itself an exemplary society, open, free and pluralistic, a society whose
motto is that of Herzl - "Fellow man, you are my brother!"

This part of Herzl's vision has yet to be realized. It may perhaps sound
utopian, and cynics may ridicule it. However, to follow in Herzl's path
means to set national goals, and approach them decisively, even when these
steps are ridiculed by short-sighted people.

"Not every man considered a madman is proven to be right 30 years later,"
Herzl wrote. "However, in order that his rightness be proven 30 years later,
one must be willing to be thought a madman at the outset."

He understood that what seems impossible to implement today can be realized.
His vision of an independent Jewish state was realized. However, the mission
is not yet completed. We must ensure that the State of Israel will continue
to be a nation with a solid Jewish majority. Without such a majority, the
concept of a Jewish state becomes empty, and no more than a hollow motto.

This willingness, the courage to purse far-reaching political steps,
characterized Herzl. It is the duty of a responsible national leadership,
following in the path of Herzl, in light of his doctrine and vision, to
ensure a Jewish majority, thereby preserving the State of Israel as a Jewish
state, in accordance with the dream of the visionary of the Jewish state,
Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl.


Subject: Our World: The IDF's suicide attempt
[alienating religious soldiers]

Our World: The IDF's suicide attempt
Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 8, 2006

It would seem that the IDF's General Staff has lost its collective mind. On
Independence Day last Wednesday, at the annual ceremony at the President's
House honoring outstanding IDF soldiers, Sergeant Hananel Dayan, upon
receiving his decoration, saluted IDF Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Dan
Halutz, but refused to shake his hand. When asked by President Moshe Katzav
the meaning of his action, Dayan explained "My family was expelled from Gush

Members of the audience at the ceremony had no idea what was happening on
the stage. The incident was over before it began. It would have been easy
for Halutz to shrug the incident off. But he chose not to.

After Dayan descended the stage, he was accosted by Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern,
head of the IDF's Manpower Division who berated him for his action. Stern
demanded an apology. Dayan refused to provide one.

Stern later claimed that the IDF would have shrugged off the incident were
it not for the presence of the media at the ceremony. Yet this claim is
ridiculous. Had the IDF ignored the episode, the media would also have
ignored it. In the "worst case" scenario, a reporter would have asked Halutz
to comment on Dayan's action. Halutz would have said that it is
understandable that those whose families were forced out of their homes in
Gaza during the withdrawal last summer have hard feelings about what
happened. Case closed.

But rather than ignore the minor incident, the IDF went bananas. Stern held
a disciplinary hearing for Dayan on Thursday, even though Dayan had violated
no IDF regulation. Dayan's brigade commander then expelled him from his unit
and barred him from serving in any combat unit. Stern is now considering
revoking Dayan's award for outstanding service.

The IDF's decision to react to Dayan's expression of his personal sentiment
by crushing him with the full weight of the General Staff is indicative of a
serious problem that has repercussions for both Israel's continued national
viability and the IDF's continued capabilities as a fighting force.

Halutz, Stern and their subordinates accuse Dayan of having brought politics
into the army by expressing his personal anger over what the IDF did to his
family last August. It is true that Dayan's grief over the expulsion of his
family is shared today almost exclusively by the Right, but that fact does
not make his expression of his opinion either a crime or an act of
politicization of the IDF. On the other hand, the generals' hysterical
reaction to his refusal to shake Halutz's hand indicates that the
politicization has already occurred.

Today, the national religious sector makes up some 15 percent of the overall
population, yet its sons make up more than 30 percent of combat soldiers in
the IDF. Soldiers from the national religious camp make up a plurality of
cadets in combat officer training courses and a majority of soldiers in most
commando units.

SOME 60 percent of NCOs in combat units graduated from national religious
high schools and last year, 80 percent of company commanders in Golani
infantry brigade were from the national religious camp. National religious
officers are similarly overrepresented - by a ratio of between 2:1 to 4:1 in
all combat units to the level of battalion command in the IDF. During the
course of the Palestinian terror war since September 2000, 30 percent of
soldiers killed in action were from the national religious camp.

The IDF's implementation of the expulsion orders last summer caused a sea
change in the way that Israelis from the national religious camp perceive
the IDF. The brutal police commanded evacuations of protesters at Amona last
February - which left more than 300 demonstrators wounded - only widened the

In an interview with Haaretz last week, Halutz claimed that there has been
no decrease in levels of volunteerism of members of this sector since last
summer. Yet members of the General Staff claim that his statement was
misleading. The decreased motivation and ruined morale is evident today
mainly in reenlistment rates. Company and battalion commanders are
increasingly refusing to reenlist when their contracts end in anticipation
of orders to carry out further withdrawals and expulsions.

RATHER THAN contend with this situation with the necessary self-interested
sensitivity in light of the damage a breach of relations with the religious
Zionist camp will cause to the IDF as a fighting force, Halutz has been
going out of his way in recent months to publicly chastise, insult and
alienate this public. Several months ago, referring to the violence at Amona
and the protests last summer against the expulsions from Gaza, Halutz
described the protesters as "poisoners of wells." On Holocaust Memorial Day
he accused them of belittling the Holocaust for using the slogan "We won't
forget and we won't forgive" regarding the expulsions last summer, although
the same slogan has been used by the Left numerous times in the past. Halutz
has held publicized meetings with members of the extremist Left wing group
Machsom Watch but rudely refused to meet with Col. (res.) Moti Yogev, the
former deputy commander of the Gaza Division who was wounded by police at

Halutz recently appointed Brig. Gen. Tal Russo as his personal emissary to
the national religious sector to try to build bridges between religious
leaders and youth and the IDF. IDF sources claim that Russo's appointment
was the result of successive opinion polls that showed that the national
religious camp despises Halutz. Russo has been going from community to
community talking with rabbis and youths aged 16-18 to convince them to
maintain their motivation to serve. Yet actions like those taken against
Dayan directly undercut Russo's work.

UNFORTUNATELY, a recent report indicates that perhaps Russo's mission is a
mere feint. According to Middle East Newsline, a news service that
specializes in coverage of the IDF, Stern recently revised the IDF's
guidelines for recruitment. In light of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's
intention to expel tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes in Judea
and Samaria, the IDF no longer believes that soldiers from the national
religious camp are trustworthy. So, according to an officer in the Manpower
Division quoted in the report, the IDF will now limit the recruitment of
religious soldiers. The shortfall will be made up by juvenile delinquents
who are currently barred from serving in combat units.

Over the past several months, a significant number of religious youths have
received notices in the mail informing them that their IDF service had been
cancelled just days before they were scheduled to show up at the induction
centers. In most cases, the youths were scheduled to begin infantry basic
training and were caught completely by surprise. When in some cases the
youths pulled strings to reinstate their conscription, they were forced to
undergo lengthy interrogations by Shin Bet officers who grilled them about
their spiritual connections to the Land of Israel and their willingness to
participate in expulsions.

Taken together, the IDF's treatment of Dayan; its new recruitment guidelines
and Halutz's anti-religious rhetoric reveal a dangerous politicization of
the IDF. It seems that today, with Hamas now in charge of the Palestinian
Authority and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz
now in charge of Israel, the IDF views Israelis rather than Arabs as its
principal threat. Halutz and Stern, in criminalizing actions like Dayan's
while minimizing the significance of the Hamas takeover of the Palestinian
Authority are sending a clear signal of where they believe the IDF should be
devoting its energies.

The IDF General Staff's decision to attack religious Zionists is perhaps the
most disturbing development in Israel's recent past. Israel is in the middle
of a war -- a war it has given its enemies every reason to believe they are
winning. The result of Halutz and Stern's goading of the national religious
camp is already being felt as its members make increasingly unrestrained
statements regarding their unwillingness to fight for the country. If the
current trend is not quickly reversed, not only will the IDF itself degrade
its fighting capabilities by rejecting its best soldiers and recruits. It
will be transformed into a force charged not with defending Israel against
its enemies, but with defending the government against its political


Subject: BACKGROUND INFO: Arrest Of a Senior
Tanzim Operative In The Village Of Halhul

May 8st, 2006
Attributed to "security sources" [Provided by IDF SPOKESPERSON]

Arrest of a Senior Tanzim operative, involved in the murder of an Israeli
civilian and the killings of three soldiers and Israeli police officer, in
the village of Halhul

In a joint Border Police and ISA activity earlier today, May 8th 2006,
security forces arrested Nazer Ibrahim Hasin Abayat, a wanted senior Tanzim
operative in the village of Halhul, located north of Hebron. Abayat was
armed at the time of his arrest with a handgun and ammunition clip.

Abayat, 33, resident of the city of Bethlehem, has been wanted by security
forces since 2000 for his involvement in numerous shooting attacks carried
out in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Gilo and Har Homa and in the Bethlehem
Abayat, one of the top wanted Tanzim operatives in Bethlehem, had also been
dealing in weaponry and had maintained close contact with senior wanted

Abayat was involved in numerous attacks, these include:

The killing of IDF soldier Sgt. Max Hazan on October 2nd 2000 in a sniper
shooting attack near the village of Beit Sahur, east of Bethlehem.

Killing of two IDF soldiers, Lt. David Cohen and Sgt. Shlomo Adashina, in
the area of Al-Hader, west of Bethlehem, on November 1st 2000. Four
additional soldiers were injured in the shooting attack.

Murder of Israeli civilian Avi Boaz on January 15th, 2002 in the village of
Beit Jala, northwest of Bethlehem.

The killing of Israeli Police officer Moshe Dayaan on March 2nd 2002. Dayaan
was ambushed and shot to death by Abayat and his cell while driving his
motorbike near the Marsaba Monastery located east of Bethlehem.

Two additional wanted Palestinians were arrested in the arrest activity.


Subject: Sinai Travel Warning: leave immediately

Sinai Travel Warning
(Communicated by the National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Division)
Tuesday, 09 May, 2006

A concrete threat has developed in recent days regarding the abduction of
Israeli citizens from the Sinai beaches; therefore, the National Security
Council Counter-Terrorism Division
( )
recommends that all Israelis in Sinai leave immediately.


Subject: Saudi Arabia loosens press shackles,
but religion and politics are still perilous topics

Committee to Protect Journalists
An independent, non-profit organization dedicated
to protecting press freedom worldwide

Princes, Clerics and Censors
Saudi Arabia loosens press shackles, but religion and politics are still
perilous topics
By Joel Campagna

Posted May 9, 2006

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia

Ahmed Faheed, a 33-year-old newspaper editor, wears faded jeans, a wrinkled
T-shirt, and an ever-ringing cell phone. But more than his gear is out of
place in a downtown cafe in Saudi Arabia's austere capital city. Tucked
under his arm are issues of his tabloid daily Shams, where splashed across
the front page is an eye-catching color photo of a young, unveiled woman
proudly showing off a tongue ring. The accompanying story warns of the
health risks for Saudi youths who get their bodies pierced secretly and
without professional supervision.

Since its launch in mid-2005, the paper has pushed the boundaries of social
and cultural news coverage in the Arab world's most religiously conservative
society. Owned in part by Prince Turki bin Khaled, Shams has targeted Saudi
Arabia's 18-32 demographic and, despite a modest daily circulation of
40,000, the newspaper has been a hit. "We actually like Shams," said the
country's information minister, Iyad Madani. "It was the only one that woke
up to the notion that we have a young population."

Shams also woke up the country's hard-line religious conservatives and, by
February, it had apparently gone too far. The government temporarily shut
the newspaper after it reproduced one of the controversial cartoons of the
Prophet Muhammad that caused outrage across the Muslim world since first
appearing in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. Madani told CPJ that he
suspended the paper for two weeks for violating sacred religious strictures.

Faheed tells a more complicated story. Shams, he said, decided to run the
cartoons only after the country's highest religious authority, Sheikh Abdel
Aziz al-Sheikh, declared it permissible if the intent was to highlight the
offense against Islam. Faheed pointed out that it wasn't until 20 days after
the cartoons ran in Shams that the Information Ministry, whose own censors
had cleared the issue for distribution, moved to halt publication of the

What happened in the three weeks between the time the paper hit the
newsstands and its closure illustrates the backdoor politicking that often
dictates what can and cannot be said in the Saudi press. According to
Faheed, whose account was verified by other sources, hard-line clerics and
religious figures protested Shams' liberal approach and urged authorities to
take action. A compromise worked out through the Information Ministry
allowed the paper to reopen if it dismissed its 32-year-old editor-in-chief,
Batal al-Qaws. He was fired in late February.

Such are the opaque and sometimes contradictory forces that obstruct press
freedom in Saudi Arabia. Today, Saudi papers publish news and opinions that
would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, even as government and
religious officials employ an array of behind-the-scenes controls to curtail
enterprising coverage that offends the government or important religious

Following the seismic events of September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked
the United States, and May 12, 2003, when suicide bombers struck Riyadh and
killed more than two dozen people, the country's bottled-up media
demonstrated periods of boldness and addressed once-taboo topics such as
crime, unemployment, women's rights-and, most significant, religious
militancy. Today, Saudi columnists publish probing articles about religious
extremists' use of summer camps to indoctrinate Saudi youth, while
commentators argue that women should have the right to drive cars. The
government has allowed at least one new daily publication to appear on
newsstands, and newly licensed dailies are said to be on the way.
Applications for visas and long-term accreditation for foreign journalists,
once exercises in futility, are being granted to international news

But progress has been uneven and limited, and the margin of freedom is one
that "is given and taken away," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a liberal academic
whose columns for the Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat of London were abruptly
banned by the government after he questioned official reform efforts.
Independent writers point to a web of formal and informal restrictions that
prevent them from covering central social and political issues of the day.

Three forces are at work in suppressing news coverage, an investigation by
the Committee to Protect Journalists has found.

. Government officials dismiss editors, suspend or blacklist dissident
writers, order news blackouts on controversial topics, and admonish
independent columnists over their writings to deter undesirable criticism or
to appease religious constituencies.

. The country's conservative religious establishment acts as a powerful
lobbying force against enterprising coverage of social, cultural, and
religious matters. The multilayered religious sector includes official
clerics, religious scholars, the religious police, radical revivalist
preachers, and their followers.

. Compliant government-approved editors squelch controversial news,
acquiesce to official pressures to tone down coverage, and silence critical

Independent reporting on politics remains nearly absent from the Saudi
press, CPJ's analysis found. While newspapers occasionally criticize the
performance of low-level government ministries or public institutions,
critical coverage of the royal family, friendly foreign governments, rampant
corruption, regional divisions, and oil revenue allocations remain
off-limits. Debate over major foreign policy positions and the concerns of
the country's disenfranchised Shiite minority are also considered banned

The fiercest press freedom battles, however, are being fought over coverage
of religious issues. The most enterprising Saudi journalists have sought to
challenge what they see as the monopolization of Saudi society by hard-line
members of the religious establishment who promote extreme positions. Their
coverage remains heavily circumscribed because of enormous pressure brought
by religious clerics, preachers, activists, and their allies in the

At the heart of this tension is the generations-old alliance between the
ruling Al-Saud family and followers of the 18th-century cleric Muhammad Ibn
Abdel Wahab, whose strict teachings form the basis of the country's official
Wahhabi doctrine. The modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded in 1932,
continues a political bargain forged centuries ago: The Al-Saud wield
political power, guarantee security, and uphold the country's Islamic
character while the Wahhabi clergy provide spiritual authority and lend
legitimacy to the Al-Saud's rule. In practice, this give-and-take has meant
ever-shifting margins of freedom for the press. Even when the government is
inclined to allow greater press criticism, it has been quick to accommodate
the concerns of religious constituencies.

So today Saudis take their frankest discussions about religion and politics
to non-Saudi publications or other venues. The candid debates that Saudis
have in their homes, in discussion groups known as diwaniyas, in coffee
shops, on satellite television, or on the Internet are far better indicators
of the nation's discourse than what is typically found in mainstream

In compiling this report, CPJ interviewed more than 80 reporters, writers,
editors, and intellectuals in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Dammam, and Qatif and
met with officials from the information and interior ministries during two
fact-finding missions, in July 2005 and in February of this year. Many
reform-minded Saudi journalists believe far more can be done to reflect
frank discourse and diverse voices in the national media. They argue that
press reforms are in the country's long-term interest-as a way to confront
serious domestic issues such as poverty and corruption and as a means to
marginalize violent religious extremism.

Although newspapers are privately owned, the state exerts tremendous
influence over what is reported. The government approves the appointments of
editors-in-chief, a process that journalists say is done behind closed doors
with the oversight of Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, the powerful interior
minister. In practice, though not by law, newspapers require the financial
or political backing of a member of the royal family. Unlike in other parts
of the region, "opposition journalism" simply doesn't exist in Saudi Arabia.
While some columnists have criticized low-level ministers, news coverage is
typically devoid of anything reflecting negatively on the royal family,
high-ranking officials, and the country's religious clerics and

Top editors and most journalists view themselves as defenders of the ruling
Al-Saud family, and government officials ensure allegiance by applying
behind-the-scenes pressure-issuing directions on sensitive stories, banning
coverage of certain topics, and taking punitive actions against journalists.
Over the past decade, CPJ research shows, dozens of editors, writers,
academics, and other media critics have been suspended, dismissed from their
jobs, or banned from appearing in the Saudi press. The actions came by
government order, the intervention of religious leaders, or at the
initiative of editors. Other journalists have faced detention, questioning
by security authorities, and travel bans.

Despite the daunting restrictions, Saudi Arabia's media environment has
markedly improved since the 1990s. Citing the influence of satellite
television and the Internet, journalists say the media have undergone a
gradual liberalization since the 1990-91 Gulf War, when the Saudi press
notoriously failed to report Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. But the
most significant changes occurred after September 11, 2001. Responding to
international critics who linked Saudi terrorism to the lack of basic
liberties in the kingdom, the government loosened the shackles on the
domestic press, and newspapers began to address social problems and
religious extremism.

Another watershed came in March 2002, when a fire broke out at a girls'
school in the holy city of Mecca, killing 15 students. When allegations
surfaced that the feared religious police, or mutawaeen, had slowed rescue
operations because girls inside the burning building were not wearing the
requisite black body covering, newspapers made an unprecedented show of
defiance. The mutawaeen, who use the formal title of the Committee for
Propagating Virtue and Preventing Vice, were said to be "preventing life and
propagating death" in the daily Okaz. The leading daily Al-Riyadh commented
that the fire reflected prejudicial attitudes toward women. The government
eventually removed the cleric in charge of girls' education and transferred
oversight to the Education Ministry.

At about the same time, other writers were testing the limits of what could
be published. The poet Abdel Mohsen Mosallam stunned colleagues when he
wrote a verse for the daily Al-Madina that accused the country's
cleric-controlled judiciary of corruption. "Your beards are smeared with
blood. You indulge a thousand tyrants and only the tyrant do you obey," the
poem read in part. It accused judges of caring "for nothing but their bank
accounts and their status with the rulers."

The coverage proved too much for authorities and, in the ensuing weeks,
newspapers were told to drop the Mecca blaze story. Mosallam's editor was
dismissed, reportedly at the order of the interior minister; Mosallam
himself was detained and banned from writing in the Saudi press. Other
editors were sacked in the following months, including Qenan al-Ghamdi, the
brash editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Watan, who was dismissed after a
report described poor living conditions for Interior Ministry soldiers
deployed to Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Critical news coverage rebounded a year later when suicide bombers struck
several western installations in Riyadh on May 12, 2003, killing more than
two dozen people and pointing to an internal terrorist threat. The incident
triggered an unprecedented debate in newspapers about the roots of

Al-Watan columnist Adel al-Toraifi witnessed the change overnight. A day
before the bombings, al-Toraifi's editor had spiked a prescient column
warning of the threat from religious fanatics who operate openly in the
kingdom. Headlined "To Prevent a Saudi Manhattan," it discussed the looming
terrorist threat in Saudi Arabia and said that religious sheikhs were
inflaming tensions and promoting extreme interpretations of Islam. The
article ended up running prominently on Al-Watan's opinion page two days
after the bombings. "My editor knew it could be published and that I would
not be punished for it," al-Toraifi said.

In the following months, al-Toraifi and other Saudi writers served up daring
columns on extremism that obliquely criticized the government for tolerating
Islamist fanatics. Newspapers examined how extremists exploited the
education system to indoctrinate youths. Commentators scrutinized Wahhabi
restrictions on women and what they called hard-liners' intolerance of other
religions' beliefs.

"It grew to the point where I wrote that the religious establishment
continues to be an obstacle to the war on terrorism," al-Toraifi said.

The boldest commentary appeared in Al-Watan, at the time a relatively new
paper partly owned by liberal Saudi Prince Bandar bin Khaled. "Those who
committed yesterday's crime, which will have a painful impact on the
peaceful nature of our nation, are not only the suicide terrorists, but also
everyone who instigated or justified the attacks ... even everyone who kept
silent on this direction, which is deviating from our religion and nature,"
the newspaper's newly appointed editor-in-chief, Jamal Khashoggi, wrote the
day after the bombings. Al-Watan also published provocative cartoons
depicting Saudi clerics condoning terrorist acts. Its most explosive column,
appearing just days after the May bombings, traced the violence to
14th-century Muslim cleric Ibn Taymiyya, whose puritanical teachings provide
a foundation for the Wahhabi doctrine. The column said extremists had used
the teachings to justify violent attacks.

The expanding freedom was again short-lived, and some editors and writers
were sacked under government pressure. Al-Watan's Khashoggi was the most
notable casualty; he was forced to step down on the order of then-Crown
Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz. Interior Minster Nayef rebuked editors for
articles criticizing Wahhabism, and, over the course of several months,
government agents warned editors and writers to steer clear of religious
taboos, the religious establishment, and reforms being discussed by
intellectuals. The arrest in March 2004 of three prominent political
reformers further dampened the zeal of journalists to challenge the status

Coverage gradually receded and the press has yet to recover, leaving many
liberal writers disillusioned and dubious of the government's commitment to
media reform. Some journalists believe that the government, threatened by
al-Qaeda after May 2003, used the press to weaken hard-line religious
elements during this period-only to retighten controls once it gained the
upper hand against terrorists.

Hussein Shobokshi, a former columnist for the daily Okaz, imagines a country
where the government is accountable to the public, citizens can vote in
elections, and women can drive cars. When Shobokshi put these visions into a
July 2003 column, he triggered a huge public response that included
complaints from what he called "tribal and religious groups." He was quickly
blacklisted from the Saudi press for the next year and his newly launched
talk show on the Saudi-owned satellite broadcaster Al-Arabiya was cancelled.
His editor told Shobokshi that he was banned, but the editor didn't say why
or by whom.

"The ban was so ugly I could not write anywhere," Shobokshi said in an
interview in the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah. "It taught me how things are
run in this country." The case is emblematic of the behind-the-scenes
pressures facing outspoken Saudi journalists. Shobokshi's ban was never
announced, and there was no documentation that the journalist ever saw.
Although many bans are imposed by fax from the Ministry of Information,
journalists said, others are handled with simple phone calls from religious
or political officials.

In meetings with CPJ in February, Information Minister Madani and his
deputy, Saleh Namlah, acknowledged the government's practice of banning
writers. Madani confirmed at least one existing ban, on the poet Mosallam,
but did not provide details. Namlah said bans are imposed when citizens
complain to the king or high-ranking officials, and that such actions are
intended to preserve the country's traditional, conservative society.

"My main intent and concern is for journalists not to upset the conservative
fabric," Namlah said. "If children fight with each other, you say go to your
room. To the writer you say please do not write. It's a way of calming
things." Namlah said he was not aware of any journalist who was permanently

It's been almost three years, though, since Wajeha al-Howeidar has written
for a Saudi newspaper. Al-Howeidar, a former teacher who develops education
curricula at Saudi Arabia's state-run oil company Saudi Aramco, began
writing opinion pieces several years ago, but in 2003 Saudi newspapers
abruptly stopped publishing her articles. "I learned while I was on
vacation. Friends said, 'We heard you were banned,'" al-Howeidar recalled
during an interview at Aramco's sprawling complex in Dhahran, in the country's
oil-rich eastern province. Al-Howeider said editors at Al-Watan and Arab
News told her they received faxes from the Information Ministry instructing
them to stop publishing her work.

Al-Howeidar had tackled women's rights, sex discrimination in Saudi society,
and social ills, topics that likely offended traditional sensibilities. The
ban was triggered, though, by a May 2003 piece that described the case of an
abused Saudi teen who took photos of his bruises with the intention of
eventually suing his father. His father had gone unpunished, she wrote.

"When someone decides this person should stop writing, they don't inform
them," she said. "I always heard [about the ban] from other people and the
Ministry of Information acted as if they didn't know about it." The
Information Ministry, according to al-Howeidar, approached her last summer
and offered to lift the ban if she traveled abroad as a goodwill ambassador
and spoke about advances in women's rights in Saudi Arabia. She refused.
When asked about al-Howeidar's case, Madani and Namlah said they understood
that it was al-Howeidar's decision to stop writing. Madani said no deal was
offered to the writer.

Over the years, dozens of writers have been subjected to bans ranging from a
few days to indefinite periods. Saudi theologian Hassan Malaki, for example,
has been permanently blacklisted for questioning Wahhabism.

Bans are just one method of control. Authorities also provide guidelines to
editors on how to cover sensitive stories, when to impose news blackouts,
and what to censor. In November, the government ordered editors not to cover
the case of Muhammad al-Harbi, a high school chemistry teacher from Qassim
who was viciously harassed by Islamist colleagues who objected to his
encouragement of critical religious interpretation. Al-Harbi, targeted with
blasphemy charges, was sentenced to 40 months in prison and 750 lashes
before being pardoned by King Abdullah. Madani acknowledged halting the
coverage to avoid creating "divisions" in Saudi society.

As often as not, journalists said, the Information Ministry acts at the
behest of more powerful political and religious figures. They said the
Interior Ministry is the leading force in restricting the press, even though
the agency's spokesman, Lt. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, said it had no official
role. "It is not the Ministry of Interior who makes a decision to ban a
journalist," he told CPJ in Riyadh. But the ministry is seen as allied with
hard-line religious forces and is widely believed to be behind many bans on
journalists. Its security forces, known as the mubahith, monitor press
coverage and keep tabs on writers in every major city, journalists said. The
Interior Ministry has been particularly active over the past three years,
with agents persuading a number of journalists to sign confidential ta'ahuds,
or written pledges, to refrain from certain criticisms or from writing at
all, several journalists told CPJ.

Mansour al-Nogaidan, a 35-year-old former religious extremist-turned-critic
who writes for Al-Riyadh, said he was summoned to a five-star hotel in
Riyadh for questioning by intelligence agents after he wrote an opinion
piece for The New York Times. The November 2003 article stated that the
country was "bogged down by deep-rooted Islamic extremism in most schools
and mosques, which have become breeding grounds for terrorists," and that
terrorism will persist "as long as it is endemic to our educational and
religious institutions." Agents phoned him within days with the terse
message that his writings had "offended the state." He was detained for five
days by the mubahith, and editors at Al-Riyadh wouldn't publish his columns
for several months.

The relationship between the Al-Saud and the country's clergy is built on
trade-offs and political balancing. But over the last three decades, Saudi
authorities have ceded increasing influence to the religious establishment
as a way to placate hard-line Islamists. Today, the most daring Saudi
journalism is not about politics or the royal family but about the growing
strength of conservative Wahhabi practices, which commentators say repress
women, breed religious intolerance, and encourage terrorism.

CPJ research shows that conservative clerics and Islamist activists have
countered such criticism by relentlessly attacking the media in sermons and
on the Internet, and by persistently pressuring news managers. When press
coverage strays too far, they are aggressive in pressuring editors or
enlisting the government to crack down.

As one cleric sees it, the press is pushing unwelcome views on Saudi society
and should not be allowed to cross well-defined legal and religious lines.
"Liberal journalists in this country are spreading the illusion that they
are persecuted," prominent cleric Saad al-Buraik told CPJ. Some newspapers
are exerting "a kind of tyranny" of their own, he said, by promoting views
at odds with the constitution, the Quran, and Islamic customs.

"Everybody needs to keep in mind that there is a line between what the
constitution and the religious authorities say on one hand, and issues
subject to rational debate on the other," al-Buraik said. "This line should
not be crossed."

Journalists point to excesses by hard-liners intent on guarding such lines.
During a book fair in Riyadh in February, Islamists disrupted a panel on
censorship that included leading pro-government editor Turki al-Sudeiri,
whose newspaper Al-Riyadh has published critiques of religious extremists.
Also on the panel were former Information Minister Muhammad Abdo Yamani, and
other writers critical of religious hard-liners. Men from the audience
shouted down the panelists, accused them of being un-Islamic, and urged that
they be tried in religious courts for their liberal policies. The activists
surrounded the panelists and roughed up at least one journalist.

"It's like McCarthyism in the 1950s," said Khashoggi, the former Al-Watan
editor, likening the climate to the anti-communist campaign by U.S. Sen.
Joseph McCarthy and the blacklisting of U.S. writers.

Sultan al-Qahtani, a Riyadh-based editor for the popular, Saudi-owned news
Web site Elaph, said Saudi religious clerics have denounced Elaph by name at
Friday prayers, and religious conservatives have condemned him in e-mails.
"We're asking for more of an opening in society. We're asking for women's
rights, a greater margin for freedom of the press. The religious people are
trying to go back to centuries past," he said. "And this angers them very

In December, Saudi Web censors blocked access to Elaph in the kingdom after
the site printed (accidentally, according to Qahtani) an e-mailed comment
that referred to sexual relations of the Prophet Muhammad. "But this was not
the only reason they came after Elaph," Qahtani said. "Many of the religious
men are raising complaints to the king and the Information Ministry about

In some cases, writers have received online death threats, most anonymous
and posted on Islamist Web sites.

"I get phone calls, insults, and bad language," said Hamzah Muzeini, a
professor of linguistics at King Saud University who has gotten several
death threats for his criticism of religious hard-liners. "They don't attack
issues; they attack you personally. This makes people think twice or three
times before they write. They are so harsh and unprincipled and can use
harsh language against you and your family."

Muzeini's writings infuriated extremists so much that in 2005 they initiated
an extraordinary legal case against the journalist in an Islamic sharia
court, which has no formal jurisdiction over press matters and where severe
penalties include flogging. The suit was filed by an Islamist professor
named Abdullah Barak, who accused Muzeini of defamation after the two
exchanged a series of remarks in Saudi newspapers. The argument started when
Muzeini wrote a piece in Al-Watan decrying the presence in Saudi
universities of hard-line Islamists who ban music, dance, and the teaching
of female students by male professors.

Muzeini was eventually convicted and sentenced to 100 lashes and two months
in prison. When he defiantly told the judge that his decision would never
stand, the judge promptly doubled the sentence. Sources told CPJ that an
incensed Abdullah, who had issued an earlier directive to halt the
prosecution, nullified the verdict against Muzeini and quashed several other
similar prosecutions.

Abdullah's intervention was very important, journalists said, but the Saudi
government doesn't typically intercede on behalf of journalists against the
religious establishment. While recognizing the government's need to strike a
balance between religious conservatives and liberals, journalists blamed the
Interior Ministry and other officials for giving in to the protests of
religious leaders too easily.

"The government caters to the desires of the religious establishment," says
Elaph's Qahtani. "The government needs to use its influence to counter the
religious establishment through education and other societal institutions.
... For centuries the religious establishment has been the sole voice on
these issues."

While Saudi Arabia's government and religious establishment shoulder much
blame for press restrictions, trouble also lies within the profession. "The
editors are part of the problem," said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, a former
Al-Watan columnist who is now editor of Forbes Arabia in Dubai. "They have
established a school of journalism that doesn't permit criticism."

Saudi writers paint an unflattering picture of the country's chief editors
as government loyalists who have held their job for many years, and who have
little interest in jeopardizing their privileged positions by challenging
authority. Top editors are quick to suspend critical writers and to spike
contentious columns.

In highlighting the failure of the main dailies to live up to their
potential, many journalists draw comparisons to new Saudi media such as
Al-Watan, London-based Saudi-owned dailies Al-Hayat and Al-Sharq al-Awsat,
and the online news site Elaph. By emphasizing youth and in-depth reporting,
each has pushed the boundaries of what is permissible.

Even government officials criticize the lack of zeal of the mainstream
press. "Some editors have been in their jobs for too long, but we cannot do
anything about it," said Madani, the information minister. "If it were up to
me I would change them tomorrow. I think these papers need young blood."

In meetings with CPJ, leading editors were deferential to government
officials and quick to downplay restrictions. Nearly all painted a positive
picture of the country's media environment, despite some conflicts with the
religious establishment. "There have been many changes in the press," said
al-Sudeiri, the Al-Riyadh editor. "Before it used to be difficult to write
about religious groups, but now we write about them."

But al-Sudeiri emphasized that the press must respect the country's
conservative social fabric. He cautioned against "absolute" freedom and said
that maintaining national security and unity was the main responsibility of
the press. "Journalism in the kingdom touches many aspects that are
important to citizens, but we have to handle it in a way that will benefit
the best interests of the citizens and institutions," he said.

Al-Sudeiri heads the Saudi Journalists' Association, which was formed in
February 2003 with government approval. Composed of the kingdom's leading
editors, it has been almost entirely inactive; in meetings with CPJ, the
group's directors proudly declared that they had not received a single
complaint from a Saudi journalist. Asked whether the association would
advocate for colleagues banned by the government, al-Sudeiri said such
matters should be handled by the Labor Ministry.

Most rank-and-file journalists had little idea of the association's agenda
and were pessimistic it would ever be a force for change. Even Madani was
unsparing in criticizing the association's leaders. "As far as we are
concerned, they have done nothing," he said. "We are waiting for them to
move, to register a presence, to do anything!"

Beyond editors-in-chief, Saudi journalists said the media suffer from a lack
of professionalism and an inability to attract well-trained people who see
journalism as a full-time career. Line editors are often expatriates from
Egypt, Lebanon, or the Subcontinent who may not grasp the importance of a
local story-but can be as ruthless at spiking stories as Saudi editors, say
some writers. The absence of professional training and journalism schools,
coupled with a culture of self-censorship, has fostered apathy among many
young journalists.

As the world's leading oil producer with 25 percent of known petroleum
reserves and as a frontline state in the battle against al-Qaeda, Saudi
Arabia will remain at the center of international attention for some time.
Analysts fear that the country-confronted by unemployment, economic
inequities, the threat of terrorism, corruption, and the presence of
religious militancy-faces political upheaval unless it allows its citizens a
greater say in how the country is governed.

Abdullah, the de facto ruler for the last 10 years who formally assumed the
throne after an ailing King Fahd bin Abdel Aziz died last year, has spoken
of the need for "gradual" political and social reform. In the last year,
Saudi Arabia has undertaken small steps to open its political system, such
as holding the country's first municipal elections.

The long road to reform is fraught with challenge. Members of the ruling
al-Saud family have different views on the need for change. And religious
conservatives, at least in recent decades, have held the upper hand over
liberal reformists. Already in 2006, the government has sent mixed signals.
Some once-banned columnists reappeared in print, even as the government shut
down two Internet news sites and arrested Shams writer Rabah al-Quwai' for
"denigrating Islamic beliefs."

Reform-minded journalists say change must be quicker, more substantive, and
permanent. Real progress, they say, requires empowering the media to serve
as a platform for free and open debate on critical issues facing Saudi
Arabia. "Our country today faces internal and external challenges that we
need to overcome or there will be a new wave of violence," Saudi writer
Muhammad Mahfouz said during a diwaniya in the eastern city of Qatif. "The
first door of reform is an open press."

Recommendations to the Saudi government

CPJ calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to implement the following
recommendations aimed at bringing the country's practices in line with
international standards:

. State publicly that the Saudi government has a duty under internationally
recognized norms of free expression to ensure media freedom and pluralism,
including the dissemination of diverse views and opinions critical of
prevailing state policies.

. Encourage journalists to carry out independent reporting-including
critical news coverage of the royal family, government, and religious
establishment-by issuing an explicit guarantee that authorities will not
penalize them, directly or indirectly, for such professional activities.

. Cease all official interference in the daily operation of newspapers. Halt
the imposition of bans against critical journalists. Stop the intimidation
and detention of journalists for their writing.

. Encourage independence and diversity in the local press. End the practice
of approving the appointments of editors-in-chief. Ease the process of
obtaining newspaper licenses for all citizens, regardless of whether they
have backing from the royal family or the government.

. Take immediate steps to privatize broadcast media with the intention of
fostering independent news and opinion on Saudi television and radio,
including views that are critical of the government and its policies.

. Halt the censoring of news Web sites.

Because of the unique role played by Saudi editors-in-chief, CPJ calls on
these top editors to implement the following recommendations:

. Encourage journalists and writers to conduct enterprise news reporting and
opinion writing, including reports critical of the government.

. Halt disciplinary actions, job dismissals, and other sanctions levied
against journalists for critical work.

CPJ urges the Saudi Journalists Association to implement these steps:

. Establish a permanent committee that actively reports and publicizes press
freedom violations in the Saudi media. Violations should include cases of
journalists arrested, dismissed from their jobs, or otherwise prevented from
carrying out their professional duties due to their published work.

. Create a mechanism by which journalists can file complaints with the
committee, have the association take action on their behalf, and have the
association actively defend their interests and rights.
Joel Campagna is senior program coordinator responsible for the Middle East
and North Africa at the Committee to Protect Journalists.


Subject: Excerpts: Saudi supports Hamas.
New U.S. political allignments 9 May 2006

Excerpts: Saudi supports Hamas. New U.S. political allignments 9 May 2006

+++THE DAILY STAR (Lebanon) 9 May '06:"No, Saudi Arabia does not consider
Hamas a terrorist group" By Anwar Majid Eshki, chairman Middle East Center
Strategic and Legal Studies.
"Saudi Arabia has never looked upon Hamas as a terrorist movement"
"The inevitable end-product is a sovereign Palestinian state with East
Jerusalem as its capital"
... It is easier to attain leadership in a democratic atmosphere, regardless
of the balance of power between the parties to the conflict.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has persisted for more than half a century.
... The conflict has taken forms varying from dialogue to violence. The
Israeli side has suffered from the confrontation, recognized the hard
reality on the ground and realized that not all its ambitions can be
realized. ... . They have replaced their prior, geographic objectives with
economic ones, in other words running the Israeli economy instead of
dominating the land.
The Palestinians initially demanded as their right the liberation of the
entire land, with the support of all Arabs. International realities
eventually forced them to acknowledge the Israeli right of ownership. This
led to PLO submission and compliance.
... Hamas was perceived as representing, in power and practice, the
Palestinian people, and carried out violent operations with its blessing,
while the autocratic Arafat was perceived as the catalyst behind the
Palestinian rejection of any solution put forward by Israel. Arafat's death,
the return to the democratic system and public support moved Hamas, with its
tough stance, into the leadership position in the Palestinian Authority.
This was shocking for Israel, which believed it had already made concessions
and compromises to secure recognition during negotiations.
The Likud Party heading the government in Israel came to accept that matters
would not be resolved merely by being tough or extreme. This led to the
emergence of Kadima, the new joint party, with its readiness to accept some
sort of a sovereign Palestinian state.
Though Hamas has from the beginning been considered a terrorist movement in
the eyes of the United States, Israel and some other countries, it has not
been seen this way by the Arabs or Saudis. By winning at the ballot box
with the approval of international observers, Hamas upheld the rights of the
electorate. It seized the initiative and formed a government, leaving world
leaders perplexed.
Saudi Arabia has never looked upon Hamas as a terrorist movement.
blames the Israelis ... The Israelis are in fact behind all the violent
responses of Hamas.
The U.S. and Israel have pressured Hamas to recognize Israel. But Hamas does
not pay attention to either enemy pressure or advice from friends who
understand its needs. Hamas leaders believe that recognizing the Israeli
entity is a political trump card for negotiations, one that must only be
bargained away in return for an honorable price for the Palestinian people.
...The worst that can be imagined is that Israel and the U.S. gamble on
internal conflict among Palestinians. That is not going to happen;
Palestinians trust neither the Israelis nor the Americans, and as we have
seen, pressure merely hardens their stance. ... The Saudi standpoint is
clear and direct ... The inevitable end-product is a sovereign Palestinian
state with East Jerusalem as its capital. ... .

... .
Anwar Majid Eshki is chairman of the Middle East Center for Strategic and
Legal Studies, president of the Al-Haramain Center for Research and
Endowment Studies, and an adviser to the Special Committee of the Saudi
Council of Ministers. This commentary first appeared at, an online newsletter.

+++JORDAN TIMES 9 May '06:"New alliances for a new century" by Donald H.
Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense"
" the U.S. in this new century is undergiung a significant alteration in
its military arrangements and partnerships around the globe"
"there has been a rethinking of the structure and role of our traditional
military alliances"
" 'long war"against violence, extremism and other threats that may emerge
in an uncertain new century"
In 1970, I travelled to Egypt as part of a delegation representing the
United States at the funeral of ,,, Nasser. Back then, Egypt was closely
aligned with the Soviet Union. When we arrived in Cairo, it seemed that
everywhere one looked there was evidence of the Soviet presence - Soviet
tanks, missiles and troops.
During the visit, we were scheduled to meet with Anwar Sadat. No one in our
delegation was sure what to expect, given the uneasy relations between our
two countries at the time. To our surprise, Sadat told us that he, in fact,
had respect for the US. The reason? As a young military officer, he had
visited our country and had had an excellent experience.
And, indeed, within two years of taking power, Sadat expelled the Soviets
from Egypt and began to build a friendship with the US that, despite
challenges and periodic differences, has proven important and valuable ever
I mention the importance of these military-to-military relationships because
the US in this new century is undergoing a significant transformation of its
military arrangements and partnerships around the globe - necessary
adjustments based on the new realities, and new threats, that have emerged
since the end of the cold war.
It is important to note that since 2001, the US has probably done more
things, with more nations, in more constructive ways, and in more parts of
the world, than at any other time in its history.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President George W.
Bush helped fashion and lead the largest coalition in history - 80-plus
nations - to fight the global war on terror. Furthermore, roughly 60 nations
are currently cooperating in the Proliferation Security Initiative to
prevent dangerous weapons and materials from being transported to terrorists
or outlaw regimes.
There has been a rethinking of the structure and role of our traditional
military alliances, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which
is setting up a new NATO Response Force and has moved outside Europe for the
first time with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
The focus of attention today is on Iraq and Afghanistan. But in future
decades, priorities will change. And much of what we may be called on to do
in the future will likely be determined by choices made by others.
Consider Russia, a nation with vast natural resources, an educated
population, and a rich heritage of scientific and cultural achievements.
Like Americans and others around the world, they are threatened by violent
extremism. Russia is a partner with the US on some security issues, and our
overall relationship is the best it has been in decades. But in other ways
Russia has been unhelpful - using energy resources as a political weapon,
for example, and in their resistance to positive political changes in
neighbouring countries.
The same holds true for China. The Chinese people are educated and talented,
and their country has great potential, with high economic growth rates and
an industrious workforce. Nonetheless, some aspects of Chinese behaviour
remain unsettling and complicate our relationship. Last year, a US
Department of Defence report noted that China's defence expenditures appear
to be much higher than acknowledged by the Chinese government. Coupled with
a notable lack of transparency, this understandably concerns China's
In addition to the choices that these and other countries make, America's
own choices will be an important factor determining what kind of future it
faces. From time to time, US public sentiment has opposed playing an active
role in the world and fulfilling our commitments to allies - and, indeed, to
the cause of freedom. In the early 1970s, as US ambassador to NATO, I
remember having to fly back from Europe to testify against legislation in
our Congress that would have pulled US troops out of Western Europe and
NATO, just as the Soviet Union was in the midst of a huge military build-up.
Today, nations that were members of the Soviet Union's Warsaw Pact, as well
as some of the former Soviet Republics - countries that we used to call
"captive nations" - are valued members of NATO and represent some of our
most stalwart allies in the war on terror.
This did not happen by accident or by chance. Looking forward, I am
convinced that if we have the wisdom, courage, and strength to adjust
long-standing strategic arrangements, embrace new partners, and, above all,
persevere in the face of adversity and difficulty, we will see a similar
victory in this "long war" against violence extremism and the other threats
that may emerge in an uncertain new century.
The writer is US Secretary of Defence. Council on Foreign Relations and
Project Syndicate, 2006.

Sue Lerner - Associate - IMRA


Subject: The Israeli Democracy Index 2006:
Only 17% Believe Politicians Keep their
Promises after Elections

[IMRA: Israel Democracy Institute President Prof. Arye Carmon explained in a
live interview the morning of 12 December 2005 on Israel Radio that the 2003
elections "did not reflect the will of the people" because the Likud won a
landslide victory on a platform opposed to unilateral withdrawal.

Prof. Carmon was not asked what alternative to elections the Israel
Democracy Institute proposed.

Carmon went on to explain that he had no problem with Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon's actions now - including forming a party whose composition he alone
determined - because what matters is the policy he is going to implement.

It would appear that, unfortunately, Prof. Carmon's concept of democracy is
that the public has the democratic right to endorse the policies he supports
at the ballot box. And if the public votes the wrong way - all bets are

Thus, ironically, the head of the Israel Democracy Institute himself has
supported the very actions that have resulted in the Israel Democracy
Institute poll finding that only 17% of the Israeli public believes that
politicians keep their promises after elections.]

Press Release - Israel Democracy Institute

The Israeli Democracy Index 2006: Only 17% of the Israeli Public Believes
that Politicians Keep their Promises after Elections

The Israeli Democracy Index 2006 published by the Israel Democracy Institute
(IDI) delineates the gap between public interest in politics and the level
of trust the public has in politicians and political parties. Only 22% of
the public trusts political parties. The Democracy Index is produced under
the Guttman Center, under the supervision of IDI Senior Fellow Professor
Asher Arian, and is presented to the President at an annual conference. This
year's Index focuses on the changing status of Israeli political parties:
disintegration or re-evaluation?

Main Findings

The gap between interest in politics and levels of participation and the
ability to influence policy: Israelis are interested in politics, speak
about it, and have more knowledge about politics than in the past. 73% of
those surveyed show interest in politics. 82% stay updated on a daily basis
or several times a week through television, radio, and newspapers. 67% speak
to their friends and family members about political matters. These figures
are higher than in 35 other Western democracies. Subsequently, it seems odd
that the relationship between voters and their representatives can be seen
as apathetic and distant from politics and political activity. Only 27%
believe that they can influence government policy, and only 17% agree that
politicians keep their promises after they are elected.

- The public's trust in politics: the level of trust Israeli citizens have
in politicians has significantly decreased in the past few years. Only 17%
of those surveyed agree or absolutely agree that elected politicians try to
achieve what they had promised prior to being elected. 25% agree or
absolutely agree that Knesset members care about what the general public
thinks (21% are not sure). Only 22% of the public trust political parties,
less than they trust any public institution in Israel (33% trust the
Knesset, 44% trust the media, 68% trust the Supreme Court, and 79% trust the

- Political corruption: 62% of the respondents are certain that there is
much political corruption in Israel, and about half of those surveyed think
that in order for candidates to reach a high political position in Israel,
they must be corrupt. Only 10% maintain that those running the country look
out for the public's best interest.

- Political corruption from a comparative perspective: Israel is ranked 20th
out of 36 democracies (the lower the number, the lower the political
corruption). This year, Transparency International's ratings were
considered, in which Israel received 6.3 out of 10 (as of October 2005).
Finland and New Zealand share first place, with the least amount of
political corruption, while Argentina and India are at the low end of the
scale, with the highest levels of political corruption. Israel is placed
between Estonia and Taiwan. It is interesting to see how Israel has gone
down on the scale since 2003, when it came in 14th place, and 2004, when it
was placed 17th, to the 20th place late in 2005. Only three years ago
Germany shared the 14th place with Israel, yet is now placed 12th. This
downward trend is worrisome for the State of Israel.

- Political involvement: Only 6% of those surveyed are members of a
political party. In contrast, 51% feel closer to a specific party. In
addition, 61% agree that strong leaders are more useful to the country than
any law or debate.

- Ideological vagueness between the large parties: 56% are not at all
certain that they will vote for the same party in the next elections. 36%
are certain that the differences between the large parties are small or
non-existent where issues of foreign affairs and national security are
concerned. This is a significant rise since 1992 when only 13% thought that
there are no differences between them.

- Trust in government institutions: there had been a steep decline in the
amount of trust the public has in the police force (66% in 2004, 57% in
2005, and 44% in 2006). It is important to note that this survey was taken
early in February 2006, when the police force was in the middle of a
political storm during the evacuation of Amona.

- The disengagement plan: 82% of those surveyed are certain that there is no
justification for using violence to achieve political goals. Conversely,
there has been a decrease in the firm opposition to refusing military orders
due to personal ethics or ideology, more specifically - refusing to obey
orders to evacuate settlers. A mere 58% are against such a refusal, as
opposed to 70% that opposed it last year.

- The strength of and support for democracy: 85% are certain that democracy
is the desirable regime for Israel (a rise of 5%), while 77% maintain that
democracy is the best form of government in general.

- Social and ideological rifts: respondents to the survey were asked about
their views concerning the relationships between different groups in the
population. 26% point to good relationships between religious and secular
Jews, and only 14% hold that relations between Jews and Arabs are good. 29%
think that a Jewish majority is required on decisions that determine the
Israel's fate, while 62% support the demand that the government encourage
Arab emigration from the country.

- Lowered satisfaction rates: Israeli citizens are less satisfied with
Israel's overall situation. 40% of those surveyed are certain that Israel's
overall situation is not good, and 74% assess that the way that the
government dealt with problems is inadequate.

- On an optimistic note: 86% are proud to be Israeli; 90% want to live in
Israel in the long run, and 69% consider themselves a part of the State of
Israel and its problems.

This Index, along with the low voter turnout for the last election,
emphasizes the fact that Israeli citizens feel apathy towards the political
party system. Old struggles between parties are seen as irrelevant, and few
citizens maintain strong feelings of identification with any given party.
Now more than ever, Israelis are very interested in politics, speak about
politics, and stay informed, yet their level of political involvement has
decreased. The source of this problem ranges from the low level of feeling
that one has the ability to influence public policy, to worrying rates of
political corruptness, and low levels of satisfaction from the government
and the country's leaders. All of these factors have apparently brought
about a decrease in the voter turnout in the 2006 elections. The
repercussions of these disconcerting trends on the legitimacy of the
government and of democratic rule should raise serious concern not only
among anyone who is involved in politics, but among us all.


Subject: Israel's Chief Rabbi Gives Kosher
Seal of Approval to Water Buffalo

[IMRA: Dr. Ari Zivotofsky told Israel Radio in a live interview broadcast
today that they are also studying if the yak is kosher, noting that many
Israelis find themselves traveling in areas that yak milk is available and
want to know if the milk is kosher. Zivotofsky said that they are in need
of some yak heads for their study.]

May 9, 2006

CONTACT: Elana Oberlander, Office of the Spokesman
Tel. (03) 531-8121

Israel's Chief Rabbi Gives Kosher Seal of Approval to Water Buffalo
Chief Rabbi's Ruling Aided by Bar-Ilan University Researchers
Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky

Ramat Gan -- Thanks to the initiative of two Bar-Ilan University researchers
and Shmulik Friedman, Director of Grazing Land in Israel in the Ministry of
Agriculture, Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi - Shlomo Amar - is granting a
kosher seal of approval to the Asian water buffalo.

Dr. Zohar Amar, of Bar-Ilan University's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land
of Israel Studies and Archaeology and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky (Interdisciplinary
Brain Sciences) -- experts in the kashrut of exotic birds, animals and
grasshoppers -- presented Halachic, anatomic and historic evidence regarding
the slaughter of water buffalo in Jewish communities to Chief Rabbi Amar.
The two also presented him with testimony gathered from ritual slaughterers
who slaughtered water buffalo in the past in Jerusalem, Petach Tikva, Bnei
Brak and the Galilee. The Chief Rabbi then met with the research team, which
included dentist Dr. Ari Greenspan and representatives of the Ministry of
Agriculture in the Hula Nature Reserve, where he saw firsthand the herd of
water buffalo raised there and examined the dental structure of scattered
skulls from deceased water buffalo.

This week Rabbi Amar again visited one of the two sites where the water
buffalo are raised in Israel - Moshav Bitzaron (near Ashdod) -- and declared
that he will grant kashrut following his summary of all the data presented
to him. This seal of approval will enable water buffalo breeders to market
the animal's kosher meat and kosher milk under the official authorization of
the Chief Rabbinate.

Approximately two years ago, beef breeders applied for permission to breed
the animal, Bubalus bubalis (Asian water buffalo, which is known by its
Arabic name Jamus), for the purpose of marketing the beef for consumption.
According to data from the British Mandate period, 5,000 of these buffalo
were raised in Israel until the establishment of the Jewish state, and today
a small number remain in the Hula Nature Reserve. In Israel, water buffalo
have not been slaughtered over the past half century and the Chief Rabbinate
has not awarded kashrut approval.

Water buffalo meat is sought after by certain populations and has market
potential within Israel and abroad. Authentic mozzarella cheese is produced
from water buffalo milk, which is also noted for its medicinal uses.

The researchers are hopeful that collaboration in the future between
scientific researchers and the Chief Rabbi will lead to the kashrut approval
of additional animals and birds.


Subject: 11 Palestinians Injured in Armed Clashes
between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza City

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Security Chaos and Proliferation of Small Arms
Clashes between Armed Groups and Security Forces
Field Update
9 May 2006

11 Palestinians Injured in Armed Clashes between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza

Eleven Palestinians were injured, including three Hamas and Fatah activists,
during armed clashes between the supporters of both parties in the Tuffah
Quarter of Gaza City. Eight of the injured were civilians, including five

PCHR's initial investigation indicates that at approximately 02:00 on
Tuesday, 9 May 2006, armed clashes erupted between members of Fatah and
Hamas in the Tuffah Quarter of Gaza City. Automatic weapons were used in
the clashes, which continued until the morning. Eleven Palestinians were
wounded, including three members of both parties. The other eight injured
persons were Tuffah residents, including five children. They were taken to
Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for treatment.

The clashes erupted after kidnappings had been carried out by both sides.
Accusations made by both parties also stirred up tensions. Hamas accused
Fatah of firing at a member of the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades near Shawwa
Square in Tuffah and of firing at a number of Hamas members' houses in the
Tuffah and Daraj Quarters. Fatah accused Hamas of the unjustified
kidnapping of one of its members in the area. After leaders of both parties
intervened, the captives on both sides were released.

The clashes in Gaza City came hours after the Higher Supervisory Committee
of Palestinian Factions, which includes the majority of national and Islamic
parties including Fatah and Hamas, issued a statement banning the use of
violence in internal disputes. The Committee formed a commission of inquiry
into the Fatah-Hamas clashes in Khan Yunis on 8 May 2006, which led to the
death of three Palestinians and the injury of eleven others.

PCHR strongly condemns these clashes, and:
1. calls on both sides to demonstrate calm and self-restraint.
Both sides should engage in dialogue in order to resolve the crisis and
ensure that it is not repeated in the future;
2. calls upon all national and Islamic parties to intervene in
order to ensure that the crisis does not escalate;
3. calls upon the Palestinian National Authority, represented by
the Attorney-General, to investigate these attacks and to bring the
perpetrators to justice; and
4. points to the escalating internal violence and misuse of
weapons by armed groups and individuals, which is causing the current state
of security chaos in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to deteriorate

Public Document
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8
2824776 - 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip.
E-mail:, Webpage
If you got this forwarded and you want to subscribe, send mail to
and write "subscribe" in the subject line.


Subject: Two Reports of Palestinian Security
Chaos and Proliferation of Small Arms

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

#1 Security Chaos and Proliferation of Small Arms
Attacking Public Institutions and Officials

Field Update
9 May 2006

Preventive Security Members Assault a Member of the Palestinian Legislative
Council and Haniya's Political Advisor

Members of the Preventive Security Apparatus prevented a member of the
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the political advisor of Prime
Minister Ismail Haniya from passing through a street located near the
Preventive Security headquarters in Gaza City. They fired at the PLC
member's vehicle, and detained him and Haniya's advisor in the headquarters
for some time.

PCHR's initial investigation indicates that at approximately 11:00 on
Tuesday, 9 May 2006, members of the Preventive Security fired at the car of
the Hamas PLC member Sayyed Abu Musameh, as he and Dr. Ahmad Yousef,
political advisor to the Prime Minister, attempted to pass through the
street adjacent to the Preventive Security headquarters in Gaza City.
Members of the Preventive Security approached the two vehicles, and took Abu
Musameh and Yousef inside the headquarters. They were held there for a
while before being released.

It is noted that members of the Preventive Security keep the section of road
adjacent to their headquarters closed and prevent cars from passing through.
Three weeks ago, Preventive Security members prevented Prime Minister Ismail
Haniya from passing through the roadblock on the street, forcing his party
to take a dirt side road.

PCHR strongly condemns the assault on PLC member Abu Musameh and Advisor
Yousef. The Centre calls upon the Palestinian National Authority,
represented by the Attorney-General, to investigate these attacks and to
bring the perpetrators to justice.

#2 Security Chaos and Proliferation of Small Arms
Attacking Public Institutions and Officials

Field Update
9 May 2006

2 Explosive Charges Detonated near the Houses of a Lawyer in Beit Hanoun and
a Security Officer in Beit Lahya

In two incidents which took place over the past two days, unidentified
assailants detonated two explosive charges near the house of a lawyer in
Beit Hanoun and a Preventive Security officer in Beit Lahya. No injuries
were reported.

PCHR's initial investigation indicates that at approximately 04:00 on
Tuesday, 9 May 2006, unidentified assailants detonated an explosive charge
near the house of Khaled Mohammad Hammad, 41, a captain in the Preventive
Security Apparatus. The house door was damaged in the explosion but no
injuries were reported.

And at approximately 03:00 on Monday, 8 May 2006, unidentified assailants
detonated an explosive charge near the office of the lawyer Eyad Yousef
Ashour, 31, in central Beit Hanoun. The door of the office, located on the
first floor of Ashour's house, was damaged but no injuries were reported.

It is noted that according to police investigations, the explosives used in
the attack were plastic explosives, and both incidents took place around the
same time, at approximately 03:00 in the morning.

In similar events last week, two explosive charges were detonated near the
homes of Preventive Security officers in Jabalia refugee camp. One
explosive was detonated near the house of Shadi Sobhi Mas'ood (28) on 3 May.
The other was detonated near the house of Ra'ed Mohammad Naser (33) on 4 May
2006. No injuries were reported in these two incidents. The motives behind
the attacks remain unclear.

PCHR strongly condemns these attacks, which point to the continued security
chaos in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Centre calls upon the
Palestinian National Authority, represented by the Attorney-General, to
investigate these attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Public Document
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8
2824776 - 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip.
E-mail:, Webpage
If you got this forwarded and you want to subscribe, send mail to
and write "subscribe" in the subject line.


Subject: COS Halutz forgets isn't politician
- again - publicly attack VMP Peres

COS Halutz forgets isn't politician - again - publicly attack VMP Peres

Halutz condemns Peres' remarks on Iran Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 9, 2006

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz on Tuesday condemned Vice Premier
Shimon Peres for the latter's statements on Monday, which implied that
Israel could attack Iran.

"Israel shouldn't lead the front against Teheran, because the problem
affects everyone in the West," Army Radio reported Halutz as saying.

IMRA: This is the second time this week.

In an unprecedented display of a lack of respect for civilian authority, IDF
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz publicly ridiculed Minister Shaul Mofaz in the
speech he made at the ceremony held 7 May marking the transfer of the
Ministry of Defense from Shaul Mofaz to Amir Peretz. Mofaz served as
minister of defense in the previous administration and will now serve as
minister of transportation.

During the course of the speech, Halutz looked towards Mofaz and remarked
that the defense community was larger and more complex than the
Transportation Ministry.

Halutz went on to say "I was just kidding - I just wanted to see if you were

Mofaz replied in what was interpreted as a joking tone that he would "settle
accounts with him."

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730


Subject: IMRA Subscription Info

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End of [imra] Daily digest - Volume: 2 Issue: 1387 (12 messages)

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