Christianity Through Jewish Eyes

Home » Levitt Letter » LLX News

Important articles that didn't make the Levitt Letter

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

London’s new Muslim mayor

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

By Shawn Pogatchnik / AP

London's new mayor, Sadiq Khan

London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan

DUBLIN (AP) — Sadiq Khan has a simple, striking message for Londoners: He won’t be merely a Muslim mayor, but a leader for all.

Khan celebrated his landslide election victory Saturday in a multi-denominational ceremony at an Anglican cathedral accompanied by London’s police chief, Christian and Jewish leaders, and stars of stage and screen.

They gave Khan a standing ovation as he pledged to be an approachable Everyman for his city of 8.2 million — including more than a million residents who, like him, happen to be Muslim.

“I’m determined to lead the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen, and to represent every single community and every single part of our city as a mayor for Londoners,” said Khan, the son of Pakistani-born immigrants who became a civil rights lawyer and, in 2005, London’s first Muslim member of Parliament.

“So I wanted to do the signing-in ceremony here, in the very heart of our city, surrounded by Londoners of all backgrounds,” he said in Southwark Cathedral, a few miles (kilometers) north of the state housing project where he grew up in the London district of Tooting.

Khan’s Labour Party candidacy to lead London triumphed in the face of a Conservative campaign seeking to tar him as sympathetic to Islamic extremists. Supporters said Khan’s own message — that a victory for him would show the world how tolerant and open Britain was — carried far more power.

“To have a Muslim mayor seems preferable to me to any alternative regardless of the politics,” said actor Sir Ian McKellen, who greeted Khan at the cathedral gates. “I hope it’s an image that will go round the world as representing a new sort of England that’s at peace with itself regardless of race and so on. That’s the beauty of it.”

Leading Muslim activists in the Conservative Party expressed shame and anger over their own candidate Zac Goldsmith’s attacks on Khan, saying they had recklessly stoked racism and intolerance. The final round of ballot confirming confirmed early Saturday that Khan received 57 percent of votes, Goldsmith 43 percent.

Many criticized Goldsmith’s final published appeal in a right-wing Sunday newspaper warning that London stood “on the brink of a catastrophe” if it elected Khan. The article claimed that Khan and Labour considered terrorists their friends and would handicap police efforts to prevent another attack on London, 11 years after 52 Londoners died in suicide blasts on three subway trains and a bus committed by British-born Muslims. Goldsmith’s appeal was accompanied by a picture of the bomb-ravaged bus.

Mohammed Amin, chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said he had been disgusted by the Goldsmith campaign tactics.

“We were meant to understand that Khan kept bad company with extremist Muslims and could not be trusted with the safety of London. On top of that, leaflets were targeted specifically at London Hindus and Sikhs … seeking to divide Londoners along religious and ethnic lines,” Amin wrote on a Conservative blog. He said the Conservative campaign sought to frighten non-Muslim voters “about Khan, the alleged Muslim extremist.”

Amin said he voted for Goldsmith because he opposes Labour policies, but could not stomach campaigning actively for him — and instead took pride in seeing Londoners vote so strongly for a fellow Muslim of Pakistani background.

Leading Conservatives defended their campaign tactics, even as they expressed surprise at losing a post locked down for the past eight years by the eccentrically popular Conservative, Boris Johnson.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, who previously accused Khan of sharing a platform with a London imam sympathetic to the Islamic State extremist group, repeated those since-discredited claims Saturday and insisted such charges represented “the rough and tumble of politics.”

He also declined, when pressed several times on the matter, to withdraw his campaign claim that London’s security would be jeopardized by Khan.

“Stuff gets said during elections,” Fallon said.

Israel to close Philadelphia consulate

Friday, January 29th, 2016

By Herb Keinon /

Philadelphia skyline (photo credit: REUTERS)

Philadelphia skyline (photo credit: REUTERS)

After a two-year reprieve, Israel’s consulate in Philadelphia is once again on the chopping block, with the Foreign Ministry announcing earlier this month its intention to close five of its 106 representations abroad as a cost-saving measure.

In addition to Philadelphia, the embassies in Belarus and El Salvador, as well as the consulate in Marseilles, are to close their doors. Israel’s roving ambassador to the Caribbean, who is stationed in New York, will also be cut out.

A statement put out by the ministry said that the closings followed a government decision on the matter last year.

As a result, the ministry said, it will allocate the freed-up funds to strengthen existing representations.

The statement said that the ministry will act to prevent the harming of the rights of Israelis and locals employed in the offices marked for closure.

A decision to close the consulate in Philadelphia was canceled two years ago thanks in large part to pressure put on the ministry by the Jewish community there and by local politicians.

The Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the local Jewish community started a campaign to save the consulate, saying that closing it would be a blow to the region and an even greater loss to Israel.

In addition to the embassy in Washington, Israel has consulates in nine US cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

At the time, closing the consulate in Philadelphia was explained as necessary in order to open up Israel’s fourth consulate in China, in Chengdu.

That consulate has since opened, and a former diplomat said that it would send a bad message if a consulate in the US is closed in order to fund a new one in China.

Considering the importance of Israeli-US ties, the source said, Israel should not be reducing its presence in the US.

The official also came out against doing away with the roving ambassador to the Caribbean, saying there are some 20 states in that region, which, although they may not have much economic or military significance, do vote in the UN, and are worth cultivating.

The cost of the ambassador is not that much, he said, saying Israel was shooting itself in the foot by doing away with this position at a time when it is trying to improve voting patterns in the UN.

The source said that if representations needed to be closed, it did make sense to close the embassy in Minsk, since Belarus is not a politically significant state, and it does pretty much what Russian President Vladimir Putin tells it to do. Further, the former diplomat said, economic relations there could be overseen through businessmen traveling there from time to time.

The ex-official also said that there was logic in closing the consulate in Marseilles, since France is a centralized country run out of Paris, and that if the staff in Paris would be augmented, it could effectively deal with other parts of the country. There has been talk of closing the consulate in Marseilles since 2002, but it, too, has always been saved at the last minute, often thanks to figures in the local Jewish community.

“My concern is that the representations will be closed, but the existing ones will not be strengthened,” he said.

Over the last 15 years, Israel has closed offices in various parts of the world while opening others elsewhere. For instance, in 2002 it closed its consulates in Rio de Janeiro and Sydney, while opening a one in 2013 in Bangalore.

Israel closed its embassy in Minsk in 2002, but reopened it two years later, only to now announce its closure again.

Israel’s embassy in New Zealand and Paraguay were also closed in 2002, with the New Zealand embassy opening again in 2010, and Paraguay in 2015.

Jonathan Pollard released from U.S. prison after 30 years

Friday, November 20th, 2015
Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., in 1998.  (Karl DeBlaker / Associated Press)

Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., in 1998. (Karl DeBlaker / Associated Press)

By Timothy M. Phelps /

Jonathan Pollard, the American citizen whose spying for Israel led to a serious rift between the Israeli and U.S. governments and between U.S. and Israeli Jews, was released from prison Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 after serving 30 years of a life sentence.

But even freedom for the former civilian naval intelligence analyst did not put the continuing controversy over Pollard to rest, as his Israeli wife criticized the U.S. government for refusing to allow him to move to Israel — where Pollard is seen as a hero — for at least five years during his parole.

A Justice Department official said parolees require special permission for foreign travel and must demonstrate “a substantial need for such travel.”

According to Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Eliot L. Engel, Pollard is willing to renounce his U.S. citizenship to facilitate his being sent to Israel. The two New York Democrats wrote a letter to Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch asking her to grant permission.

The White House has previously said President Obama has no plans to alter the terms of Pollard’s parole.

Pollard, 61, was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C. His lawyers have said that they have arranged unspecified work for him in the New York area.

Pollard’s release was not opposed by the Justice Department last summer, much to the disappointment of a bipartisan coalition of the country’s national security elite, who have long argued that he had severely damaged U.S. interests.

Pollard’s dramatic arrest by FBI agents in 1985 — after his plea for asylum was rebuffed at the gates of the Israeli Embassy in Washington — triggered a crisis between the two allies. Initially, Israel denied any official connection to Pollard, but it was quickly revealed that the operatives for whom he was working reported to an intelligence advisor to then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

The arrest also revealed an uncomfortable divide in the American and Israeli Jewish communities, which are usually closely bound by religion and shared history. American Jews complained bitterly that the Pollard operation had exposed them to questions about their loyalty to the U.S., while some Israelis responded that their nervousness was proof that life in the Diaspora was untenable.

Pollard said that he acted out of love for Israel, and that the U.S. was not sharing crucial intelligence about Arab countries with its ally.

But prosecutors and U.S. intelligence analysts said that he did it for cash, and that spies for the U.S. in the Soviet Union were discovered and probably killed because of Pollard’s actions.

“It is my belief, and the intelligence community was of the nearly certain belief, that assets [agents working for the U.S. overseas] were compromised,” said Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted Pollard.

DiGenova said Pollard passed the Israelis thousands of documents that had nothing to do with Israel’s enemies, including technical information about U.S. information systems and satellites, photographs, maps, and classified manuals.

“It was a gigantic amount of information and stuff of the highest top-secret code word classification,” DiGenova said. He said that Israel bartered the information to the Soviet Union in return for the release of Soviet Jews to Israel, compromising agents who quickly disappeared.

Pollard got $10,000 and an expensive diamond ring for his girlfriend from his Israeli handler when he started passing on documents, and was given a stipend of $2,500 a month. After his arrest, Pollard said he had intended to return the money to Israel. He allegedly also passed or offered documents to other countries, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Australia.

Israel did not officially acknowledge that Pollard was its spy until 1998, by which time the country’s failure to support him and fight for his release had became a political issue.

Pollard first wife, Anne, was convicted of helping him try to cover up his crime, and spent three years in prison. He divorced her after she was released from prison and, in a secret prison ceremony in 1996, married his second wife, Esther, who moved to Israel and helped orchestrate the campaign for her husband’s release.

Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to make Pollard’s release a condition of agreeing to a peace deal with Palestinians. But President Clinton said his security advisors were hard against such an arrangement.

By then, many leaders of the American Jewish community were also arguing that Pollard had been incarcerated too long. But successive presidents, including Obama, refused to grant him clemency.

When Pollard came up for parole this summer, the Justice Department did not oppose his release, saying he was automatically eligible for “mandatory parole” after serving three decades.

But his former prosecutor argued that Pollard should have remained behind bars. “The Department of Justice decided not to oppose his release,” DiGenova said. “They own it. President Obama owns his release.”

Jonathan Pollard in his first photograph following his release from prison Friday, with wife Esther | Photo credit: Courtesy, Justice for Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard in his first photograph following his release from prison Friday, with wife Esther | Photo credit: Courtesy, Justice for Jonathan Pollard

Israel to Fire on Stone-throwers

Friday, September 25th, 2015

By Daniel Estrin / Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Thursday (9-24-15) approved harsher measures to combat the practice of stone-throwing amid a recent surge in Palestinian violence, widening the rules of engagement for police and vowing to raise minimum penalties for offenders to four years’ imprisonment.

The measures, approved by the Security Cabinet, allow police officers to fire live ammunition when there is an “immediate and concrete danger to police or civilians,” according to a government statement.

The development came as a Palestinian man died on Thursday from his wounds after being shot by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] last week.

According to the measures, officers will also be permitted to fire from .22-caliber Ruger rifles, an American-made firearm that police said uses a smaller bullet and would offer a quicker response against those throwing stones or firebombs or lighting fireworks. The rifle was not allowed previously, the police said.

“We intend to change the norm that has become established here, that the state of Israel allows these deadly and murderous objects to be thrown without response and without being thwarted,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a statement from his office.

In recent months, stone-throwing has become a near daily occurrence in some neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as their capital. But after an Israeli motorist was killed last week when his car crashed after being pelted with stones on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the Israeli government pledged to crack down on the practice.

The Cabinet also decided to advance legislation to impose a minimum penalty of four years’ imprisonment for those throwing rocks, according to the statement.

It said steps would be taken to jail and fine stone-throwing minors aged 14-18 and even their parents, who could also face various fines.

Netanyahu’s government has been pushing for tougher rules of engagement for police and tougher minimum sentences for offenders, though Israel’s attorney general said this week he opposed such changes and insisted the existing regulations were sufficient.

Tensions have been rising in Jerusalem following last week’s deadly rock-throwing incident, along with days of clashes at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site. Since the beginning of last week, Israeli police said that 137 suspects, including 61 minors, were arrested over “public disturbances.”

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the newly approved regulations meant that “police officers have further tools that can be used in life-threatening situations only.”

The main source of tension is the situation at the hilltop compound in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, which is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Calls by a group of religious Jews to visit the site on the eve of the Jewish New Year sparked rumors among Palestinians that Israel was planning to disrupt the delicate status quo governing the site and take it over.

Muslim demonstrators armed with rocks and firecrackers holed up in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and clashed with police for three consecutive days.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the clashes in particularly harsh language, and insisted that none of Jerusalem’s holy sites belonged to Israel. “They are all ours and we will not let them desecrate it with their filthy feet,” he said.

Netanyahu has repeated his insistence that Israel would uphold the status quo and called on Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to “stop the wild incitement.”

“All remarks regarding the intention to harm the Islamic holy places are utter nonsense. It is not we who are changing the status quo,” he said. “It is those who bring firebombs and explosives into the mosques who are changing the status quo.”

Israeli police barred all non-Muslims from entering the holy site Thursday during a major Muslim holiday.

On Thursday, a Palestinian man died from his wounds after being shot by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank last week, the man’s brother said. He said his brother was deaf and unable to speak. Israeli army said it shot at a group of Palestinians hurling a firebomb at a passing car on a road between Jewish settlements, hitting one.

Pastor Saeed Abedini ‘Viciously Beaten’ in Iranian Prison, Told His Only Way Out Is to Deny Jesus Christ

Friday, June 26th, 2015


U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini in this undated photo.

U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini in this undated photo.

American pastor Saeed Abedini has reportedly been “viciously beaten” by fellow prisoners in an unprovoked attack in the Iranian prison where he’s being held. The pastor was punched in the face, leaving his eyes beaten black and blue, but prison guards intervened and prevented further injury.

The American Center for Law and Justice, the law group which represents his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, and the couple’s two children in the U.S., said that the prisoners also demolished a small table that the pastor had used to study and read during the beating that he endured the first week of June.

Abedini was allowed to see a prison doctor, who determined that he does not have any broken bones. The following week, he was able to see a family member who came to visit him and see his injuries firsthand.

“It is heartbreaking to me and my family that Saeed was again beaten in prison. Saeed’s life is continuously threatened not only because he is an American, but also because he is a convert from Islam to Christianity. It’s time to get Saeed home before it is too late,” Naghmeh Abedini said in response to the news.

Back in May, Abedini marked his 35th birthday in prison, where he has spent over two and a half years for his Christian faith. He was arrested in Iran in 2012 while working on an orphanage for children, and later sentenced to eight years in prison.

The pastor has faced a number of beatings while in prison, both from other inmates and guards. The ACLJ and Naghmeh Abedini have expressed concerns that his condition worsens after each beating.

After the beating, Abedini spoke before Congress, pleading for further actions to be taken to help free her husband.

“Over the last three years, I have had to watch my two children, Rebekka (who is 8 years old) and Jacob (who is 7 years old), suffer daily as they have grown up without a father,” Abedini said.

“I am here today as a single mother who is trying to be strong for her children, and as a wife who humbly admits, I need your help. I cannot bear to look at my children’s longing eyes one more time and explain to them why their daddy is still not home.”

She later told The Christian Post that Abedini has been told his prison sentence will be increased unless he denies his Christian faith — something she insists her husband will not do.

“The times they have moved him in and out of solitary [confinement] and the times they have threatened him, they said ‘You will stay here longer than the eight years and your only key to freedom is if you deny your Christian faith and you return to Islam.’ The guards have said that, officials have said that continuously,” Abedini said.

Spontaneous Pro-Israel Rally Erupts in Response to Protesters–video

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

posted by Danielle Avel

Western Media Don’t Report When Hamas Executes 30 Innocent Palestinians In Gaza

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Gaza City execution aftermath

Gaza City execution aftermath

For the various news outlets, and their reporters on the ground in Gaza who are covering the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, life can sometimes be tricky.

Whereas in Israel, the only democracy in the middle east, reporters can report what they want when they want, in Gaza that isn’t the case. Hamas, the fundamental terrorist organisation which runs the Gaza Strip, do so with an iron fist, and that courtesy extends also to foreign reporters.

As a result of this totalitarian situation in Gaza the western media frequently has to report the things that Hamas wants it to report. For example, Hamas uses civilians as human shields as a strategy.

When they get caught in crossfire, or end up as collateral damage due to Hamas positioning them in vulnerable places, Israel gets condemned by the World.

Indeed, the loss of innocent Palestinian life is tragic, but takes on a slightly different essence if you consider the fact that in Palestinian society death and violence are normal, everyday things.

You may be surprised to read that last week 30 Palestinian civilians were brutally executed by Hamas in Gaza city, for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

Of course, western media reporters, from CNN, the BBC and Reuters were too busy looking for schools that the Israeli’s had bombed in their quest for Palestinian blood, and ignored the public Hamas massacre of its own citizens.

The media was too scared to report on the massacre, which wasn’t even hidden from them as it was carried out publicly, as the reporters were afraid of being targeted by Hamas gunmen who patrol the streets and watch carefully what reporters say.

This report from from July 31, as another good illustration, leads with the headline: “Spanish Journalist on Why Hamas Never Photographed in Action: ‘If Ever We Dared Point Our Camera on Them They Would Simply Shoot at Us and Kill Us,’” and offers an insight into what foreign reporters in Gaza often need to put up with.

Gaza execution--a warning to collaborators with Israel

Gaza execution–a warning to collaborators with Israel

To make matters even more absurd, Hamas allowed Palestinian sources to openly report on the massacre of 30 of its own people in cold blood, as a message to other Palestinians not to collaborate with the enemy, Israel.

The execution of 30 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel was reported on by a number of media sources, including i24 News on July 29 as well as Jta.Org and

So how and why could the western media miss such a vital news story, one full of so much blood and gore?

Taking the cynical view, could it be because Israel wasn’t the one doing the killing?

There is no question that something untoward is going on here as a terrorist organisation in Gaza manipulates public opinion through the media, while exploiting and murdering its own citizens and receiving no flack at all for it.

No doubt, when the dust settles, the numbers of civilians killed by Israel in the current round of conflict will also turn out to be far fewer than currently claimed. This having been the case after every Gaza war so far. (Take Jenin as an example.)

The mere fact that the western media has accepted blindly the figures issued by a body controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian heath authority, is a damning indictment of the media bias so often on display.

The media often focuses on the Palestinian civilian casualties without asking, or seemingly caring, what is the cause of them.

Here is an insightful video clip from NDTV [New Delhi TV, India] showing Hamas operatives setting up a rocket launching site next to a hotel in Gaza, proving that Hamas purposely fires from within densely populated civilian areas, essentially endangering their population:

IFD soldier Hadar Goldin killed in battle

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, became the latest flash point in the conflict. U.S. State Department: Israel has a right to defend itself.

Missing Soldier Killed in Battle, Israel Confirms
By Steven Erlanger and Jodi Rudoren /

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said early Sunday morning that an officer thought to have been captured by Palestinian militants during a deadly clash Friday morning, which shattered a planned 72-hour cease-fire, was now considered to have been killed in battle.

The announcement came just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip as long as necessary to stop Hamas attacks, while suggesting a de-escalation of the ground war in Gaza may be near.

Israeli soldiers watching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak on television at a coffee shop near the border with Gaza. / Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Israeli soldiers watching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak on television at a coffee shop near the border with Gaza. / Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

The case of the missing soldier, Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, became the latest flash point in the conflict, prompting a fierce Israeli bombardment and calls from leaders around the world for his release. His disappearance came after Hamas militants ambushed Israeli soldiers near the southern border town of Rafah, at the start of what was supposed to have been a pause in the fighting.

As the death toll mounted Saturday to more than 1,650 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and images of homes, mosques, and schools smashed into rubble filled the media, Mr. Netanyahu was under considerable international pressure, from Washington and Europe, to end the conflict. The United Nations warned of “an unfolding health disaster” in Gaza with little electricity, bad water, and a lack of medical supplies.

At the same time, Mr. Netanyahu was under political pressure at home to deliver on his promises to crush Hamas, particularly with 64 Israeli soldiers dead. He insisted Saturday that Hamas had been severely hurt and he warned that it would pay “an intolerable price” if it continues to fire rockets at Israel.

His former deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, who was fired by Mr. Netanyahu for public criticism of the government, said in a statement Saturday that “the cabinet is gravely mistaken in its decision to withdraw forces from Gaza. This is a step in the wrong direction.”

But Mr. Netanyahu, in a nationally televised speech with his defense minister beside him, insisted that Israel was achieving its goals and could alter its tactics. “We promised to return the quiet to Israel’s citizens, and we will continue to act until that aim is achieved,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed.”

Israel was not ending its operation unilaterally, he said, adding: “We will deploy in the places most convenient to us to reduce friction on IDF soldiers, because we care about them.” There were Israeli television reports on Saturday that some Israel Defense Forces troops were pulling out of Gaza, and Israel informed Palestinians in Beit Lahiya and al-Atatra, in northern Gaza, that it was now safe to return to their homes. Israeli officials have said that the army’s effort to destroy the elaborate tunnel system from Gaza into Israel would be finished in the next day or two.

Israeli officials suggested that the army would leave built-up areas and some forces would redeploy inside Gaza, closer to the border fence, to respond to attacks if necessary. Other units will return to southern Israel.

Hamas, for its part, vowed to continue fighting. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told the news agency Maan that “a unilateral withdrawal or redeployment by Israel in the Strip will be answered by a fitting response by the Hamas military arm.” He said that “the forces of occupation must choose between remaining in Gaza and paying the price or retreating and paying the price or holding negotiations and paying the price.”

Mr. Netanyahu thanked the United States, which along with the United Nations appeared to support Israel’s position that Hamas’s actions violated the cease-fire, and he asked for international help to rebuild Gaza on the condition of its “demilitarization.” Israel appears to be hoping that with the support of Egypt and the international community, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority can control Gaza through a unity government agreed upon with Hamas and take responsibility for security there and for the Rafah crossing to Egypt.

Mr. Netanyahu repeated that his goal was to restore “peace and calm” to Israel and that he intended to do so by whatever means — diplomatically or militarily. “All options are on the table,” he said. But he indicated that Israel would not get caught up again in talk about a negotiated cease-fire with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and would act in its own interests, while seeking support from Mr. Abbas and the international community for what Mr. Netanyahu described vaguely as “a new reality” in Gaza.

Israel has decided not to send a delegation to cease-fire talks hosted by Egypt, at least not now, Israeli officials said. In Washington, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said: “In the end, this particularly bloody chapter will ultimately require a durable solution so that all the fundamental issues, including Israel’s security, can be negotiated, and we will keep working with Israel and other partners to achieve that goal.” She said that Israel had a right to defend itself.

Hours before the military announced that Lieutenant Goldin had died, his parents called on the prime minister and the army not to leave their son behind.

The circumstances surrounding his death remained cloudy. A military spokeswoman declined to say whether Lieutenant Goldin had been killed along with two comrades by a suicide bomb one of the militants exploded, or later by Israel’s assault on the area to hunt for him; she also refused to answer whether his remains had been recovered.

As word spread on Saturday that Israel’s leaders were considering pulling all ground forces from Gaza, Lieutenant Goldin’s family spoke to journalists outside their home in Kfar Saba, a Tel Aviv suburb. “I demand that the state of Israel not leave Gaza until they bring my son back home,” said his mother, Hedva. His sister, Ayelet, 35, added, “If a captive soldier is left in Gaza, it’s a defeat.”

The family said they were convinced that Lieutenant Goldin was alive.

“I hope and believe in human kindness, that the world will do anything to bring Hadar with a smile back home,” his brother Chemi, 32, said in an interview.

When his mother called him on Friday, Chemi said, he knew something terrible had happened, but did not know whether it involved Lieutenant Goldin or his twin, Tzur, who was also fighting in Gaza. Chemi said the twins, who attended kindergarten in Cambridge, England, did not talk much about their military service. In Gaza, the armed wing of Hamas said early Saturday that it was not holding the Israeli officer. The Qassam Brigades suggested in a statement that the officer might have been killed along with his captors in an Israeli assault that followed a suicide-bomb attack by Palestinian militants, who emerged from a tunnel that Israeli troops were trying to destroy near Rafah.

“Until now, we have no idea about the disappearance of the Israeli soldier,” the statement said. Saying the leadership had lost touch with its “troops deployed in the ambush,” the statement added, “Our account is that the soldier could have been kidnapped and killed together with our fighters.”

The Israeli Army continued to pound Rafah in its search for Lieutenant Goldin, striking more than 200 targets across Gaza in the 24 hours since the Rafah confrontation, including what it described as a “research and development” lab for weapons manufacturing at the Islamic University, run by Hamas. Five mosques that the military said concealed weapons or Hamas outposts were also hit, the Israelis said.

Around noon, a barrage of rockets flew into southern Israel.

The Gaza-based health ministry, which had reported 70 people killed in Rafah on Friday, said the casualties had continued there overnight, including seven members of one family who died when their home was bombed.

War Crimes a “double-edged sword”

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

By Karin Laub and John Heilprin / Associated Press

Nearly a month into Israel’s fierce assault on Hamas in Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is facing mounting domestic pressure to seek war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

He has hesitated in the past because such a move would instantly put the Palestinians on a risky collision course with Israel. But with about 1,400 Palestinians killed in Gaza, according to health officials, Abbas has signaled he might move ahead — cautiously.

Palestinian officials said Thursday that Abbas asked all Palestinian political factions, including Hamas and the smaller group Islamic Jihad, to give their written consent to such a move. Different PLO factions signed up in a meeting in the West Bank earlier this week, while Abbas is still waiting for a response from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they said.

In trying to make a case against Israel, Abbas could also expose Hamas, a bitter rival turned potential political partner, to war crimes prosecution because it has fired thousands of rockets from Gaza at Israeli communities over the years.

“This option is a double-edged sword,” Abbas’s Fatah movement wrote on its official Facebook page Thursday, saying he would only move ahead once he has the approval of Hamas.

In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday accused both Israel and Hamas militants of violating the rules of war.

She said Hamas is violating international humanitarian law by “locating rockets within schools and hospitals, or even launching these rockets from densely populated areas.” But she added that this does not absolve Israel from disregarding the same law. Pillay said the Israeli government has defied international law in Gaza by attacking civilian areas such as schools, hospitals, homes, and U.N. facilities.

“None of this appears to me to be accidental,” Pillay said of Israel. “They appear to be defying — deliberate defiance of — obligations that international law imposes on Israel.”

Pillay also took aim at the U.S., Israel’s main ally, for providing financial support for Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-rocket defense system. “No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling,” she said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined comment on Pillay’s allegations and on the Palestinian deliberations concerning the ICC.

Israeli officials have said Israel is acting in self-defense by targeting Hamas’s military arsenal and rocket-launching sites. They have accused Hamas of using Gaza civilians as human shields.

At the United Nations, Israel’s Ambassador Ron Prosor responded to criticism of his country, saying: “I think the international community should be very vocal in standing with Israel fighting terrorism today because if not, you will see it on your doorstep tomorrow.”

After Israel ...

After Israel …

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told reporters “There is no safe place in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas has portrayed its rocket fire on Israel as legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The current round of fighting marks the third Israel-Hamas war in just over five years. In each round, mutual war crimes allegations have been raised, but neither side pursued them further.

After the first war in 2009, Abbas — in an apparent effort not to antagonize the U.S. — helped freeze a U.N. report that called on Israel and Hamas to prosecute any war crimes or face scrutiny by the ICC.

Now, Abbas has more tools at his disposal.

In November 2012, the U.N. General Assembly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state in the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem — lands Israel captured in 1967.

This state remains largely theoretical since Israel retains control of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and of Gaza’s border points. However, the U.N. vote improved Palestinian chances to seek admission to the International Criminal Court since the tribunal only has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory of a state.

The statehood recognition paved the way for the Palestinians to seek membership in dozens of U.N. agencies and international conventions.

Abbas signed a first batch after nine months of U.S-brokered negotiations with Israel ran aground in April, and Palestinian officials said more membership requests would follow, despite opposition by Israel and the U.S.

Gaining membership to the ICC has been considered the Palestinian “doomsday weapon” because it would likely invite major Israeli retaliation.

But widespread anger in the West Bank over the rising casualties in Gaza has increased pressure on Abbas to act.

“People feel that this tool should be used to stop the Israeli crimes,” said former Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib.

“When people in the West Bank see these scenes that are occurring now in Gaza, they feel that they should support their brothers in Gaza, and the first thing that comes to their mind is the issue of the ICC because they think that it is possible and thus they are pushing more and more for it now,” he said.

Independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti said Thursday that leaders of political factions in the West Bank have repeatedly urged Abbas to act. “We have been pressing him for a long time,” he said.

At a meeting Tuesday with political leaders and faction chiefs, Abbas asked participants to sign a declaration of support for such a move, said Barghouti, adding that everyone signed.

The final decision would still be up to Abbas, according to other participants who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters about internal deliberation.

They said Abbas also told them he would not move forward without written consent from Hamas and Islamic Jihad because they could expose themselves to possible war crimes charges.

One of the participants expressed concern that this was a stalling tactic by Abbas, arguing that it was unlikely for Hamas to support such a move.

Hamas officials in Gaza were not available for comment.

Editor’s note: The UN’s requirement that both sides in a conflict be equally armed takes war to a level unknown in all of history. This is not a schoolyard sandbox! Should the police hold fire until fugitive cop killers can re-arm and don protective vests? Should the police also be required to provide those vests, and of the same quality as the police wear? Are financial institutions now required to provide bank robbers with the combinations to their vaults?

Memo to authors Karin Laub and John Heilprin: If you want comments from Hamas leaders, try Qatar, not Gaza.

42 killed when cease-fire meant to last 72 hours ends after 2

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Editor’s Note: Hamas has a lot of Israeli and Gazan suffering to answer for.

By Ibrahim Barzak, The Associated Press
August 1, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip | A Gaza cease-fire quickly unraveled on Friday as violence erupted in and around a southern town in the war-ravaged strip, with at least 40 Palestinians killed in Israeli shelling while the IDF said two soldiers were killed and an infantry officer was feared captured during fighting there.

Israel and Hamas accused each other of breaking the cease-fire, which had been announced by the U.S. and the U.N. and took effect at 8:00 a.m. Friday. The fighting broke out less than two hours later.

The breakdown of the cease-fire and the apparent capture of the Israeli soldier set the stage for a major escalation of the 25-day-old conflict, which has already devastated large swaths of the impoverished coastal area.

The White House condemned the apparent capture of the soldier near the southern Gaza town of Rafah, describing it as an “absolutely outrageous” action by Hamas. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the soldier must be released immediately.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation that Palestinian militants had “unilaterally and grossly” violated the cease-fire and attacked Israeli soldiers after 9 a.m.

“Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens,” Netanyahu told Kerry, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, said Hamas had “yet again thrown away a chance for a humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, by deliberately violating this cease-fire.”

Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’s deputy leader, told Al-Arabiya news channel from Cairo that the movement’s military wing carried out no military operations after 8:00 a.m., when the truce came into force.

If confirmed, the capture of the soldier could dramatically change the trajectory of the conflict. Any cease-fire efforts would likely be put on hold and Israel might instead expand its ground operation. Israel has in the past gone to great lengths to return captured soldiers. In 2011, it traded hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier [Gilad Shalit] who had been captured by Hamas-allied militants in 2006.

Israel had already said it would continue demolishing cross-border tunnels behind its own defensive lines during the cease-fire, and the IDF said its troops were attacked during one such operation.

Gunmen emerged from one or more tunnel openings and opened fire, with at least one of the fighters detonating an explosives vest, Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

He said 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old from the central town of Kfar Saba, was apparently captured during the ensuing mayhem and taken into Gaza through a tunnel, while another two soldiers were killed.

“We suspect that he has been kidnapped,” Lerner said, adding that the attack took place an hour and a half after the cease-fire began.

A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, would not confirm or deny Goldin’s capture, saying that it was being used — along with news that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the area of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip — as a cover for a “massacre” in Rafah that followed the apparent capture.

The Israeli military said the heavy shelling in Rafah was part of operational and intelligence activity designed to locate Goldin.

The shelling sent families fleeing from apartment blocks as pillars of smoke caused by the shelling rose from them. One woman carrying two children rushed toward a parked car. “Quickly, open the car door!” she yelled to a man standing nearby.

Ambulances ferried the wounded to Rafah’s al-Najar hospital, where bloodied bodies on stretchers were carried inside and family members frantically searched for loved ones. Many of the wounded were children, their clothes stained with blood. In one hospital room, four children were treated on a single bed. Others were being examined on the floor.

The shelling killed at least 35 Palestinians and wounded 250 in Rafah, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. He said the death toll could rise as rescue workers search for people buried under the rubble. He did not say whether those killed were civilians or militants.

On July 8, Israel launched an aerial campaign against Gaza aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and later sent in ground troops to target launch sites and tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel.

The war has since killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian officials. Israel says 63 of its soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.

Four brief humanitarian cease-fires had been announced since the conflict began, but each broke within a few hours. The IDF said Gaza militants had fired eight rockets and mortars at Israel since the 8 a.m. start of cease-fire Friday, one of which was intercepted.

The latest cease-fire, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, was intended to be the first step toward a lasting truce, with Egypt inviting Israeli and Palestinian delegations to Cairo for talks.

Despite the collapse of the latest truce, an Egyptian government official said Egypt had not canceled its invitation for Palestinians and Israelis to hold talks in Cairo. “Invites were delivered already to the delegations,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.

Soon after the cease-fire started, Gaza’s residents took advantage of the lull to return to their homes, many of which had been destroyed in the fighting.

In the heavily bombarded Gaza district of Shijaiyah, less than a mile from the Israeli border, residents surveyed the damage.

Bassem Abul Qumbus found his three-story home — in which he had invested tens of thousands of dollars — shattered. Shells had punched a hole in the ceiling of one bedroom and a wall had collapsed into the kitchen.

“The work of all those years is gone,” he said, as he struggled to salvage flour from bags that had been torn apart by shrapnel.

In the southern town of Khan Younis, residents searched for bodies in the rubble of their homes as rescuers and volunteers carried away corpses, some charred, on makeshift stretchers.

Nidal Abu Rjeila found the body of his disabled sister on the ground on the side of the road, her wheelchair flipped upside down. He said her body had been there for five days.

“I tried to reach human rights groups and the Red Cross, but no one was answering me,” he said as he lay down by his sister’s body, overcome by grief.

Israel says it has tried to spare civilians, including by warning people ahead of military strikes, and has said Hamas endangers Gazans by firing rockets from residential areas.

Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since the start of the conflict, extending their reach to major cities but causing very few casualties, in part because Israel’s Iron Dome defense system has intercepted many of the projectiles.

Hamas has vowed to keep fighting until Israel and Egypt lift a blockade of Gaza imposed after the Islamic militant group seized power there in 2007, which has devastated the local economy.

Ahead of the cease-fire, Gaza police reported heavy Israeli tank shelling in the northern and eastern part of the strip, and loud exchange of fire could be heard across Gaza City. Tank shells slammed into the city itself, setting homes and shops ablaze.

Hamas fighters hit an Israeli tank with an anti-tank missile, Gaza police said. The militants then attacked Israeli troops who came to evacuate the tank crew. Clashes continued into the early morning hours, police said.

Zola Levitt Presents
Levitt Letter