WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
A selection of this week’s news for April 10, 2009
Russia in unprecedented Israeli drones purchase – reports
MOSCOW- Russia is buying pilotless spy aircraft from Israel in hopes of improving its own unmanned drones after a poor performance in the war against Georgia last August, Russian news agencies quoted a top military official as saying Friday. Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said the military has signed a contract to buy an unspecified number of pilotless drones from an Israeli company he did not identify, state-run RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass reported. “I was in Israel and even operated one,” RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. Russia has never before announced a purchase of military hardware from Israel. Their relations have vastly improved since the Cold War, when Moscow supplied weapons worth billions of dollars to Israel’s Arab foes, but Russia continues to anger the Jewish state by selling arms to other Mideast nations. According to the reports, Popovkin said Russia has no plans to use the Israeli drones in combat. It wants to study the technology in an effort to improve its own seriously flawed fledgling drones, he said. He said Russia had used a drone called the Tipchak toward the end of the war with Georgia over the South Ossetia region, but it had “very many problems,” RIA-Novosti reported. – The Daily Star (Lebanon) April 11, 2009.
Egypt accuses Hezbollah of planning attacks
CAIRO – Egypt’s state prosecutor on Wednesday accused the Lebanese Shiite militant movement Hezbollah of plotting to carry out attacks inside the country and spreading Shiite ideology in mainly Sunni Egypt. “The state prosecutor has received a statement from state security which shows that leaders from the Lebanese Hezbollah have called on its cadres to recruit members to its movement,” according to a statement from the prosecutor obtained by AFP. It charged that the campaign was launched with “the aim of carrying out acts of aggression inside the country,” and that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had appointed members of the group to carry out such actions.. . .Egyptian police have arrested 49 people in connection with the case, the prosecutor said.. . . Montassar el-Zayat, an Egyptian lawyer who has often represented jailed Islamists, told AFP that Lebanese and Palestinians were among those held. . . . “The information that we have is that they are accused of weapons smuggling through tunnels and spreading Hezbollah ideology,” Zayat said.. . .The men are suspected of having rented homes in Suez Canal cities to monitor movements in the canal and of reconnoitering tourist resorts in north and south Sinai. – Asharq Al-Awsat (UK). April 9, 2009.
French comedian to face trial for antisemitism
FRANCE – Dieudonne Mbala Mbala will go on trial for having an actor dressed as a Jewish deportee award a prize to a Holocaust denier during a comedy show. A French comic will go on trial in May on charges of antisemitism after he awarded a prize to a Holocaust denier during a comedy show, prosecutors said Wednesday. Dieudonne sparked outrage when he had an actor dressed as a Jewish deportee present the prize for “unrespectability and insolence” to Robert Faurisson, an academic who has denied the existence of the Holocaust. Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who recently caused an uproar for again calling Nazi gas chambers a “detail of World War II history,” was in the audience during the show on 29 December at one of Paris’ biggest concert halls. The Paris criminal court will begin hearing the case on 5 May, the prosecutor’s office said. The black comedian, whose full name is Dieudonne Mbala Mbala, has over the past years been ordered to pay several fines for inciting hatred. – Expatica.(Europe) April 9, 2009.
Palestinians scrap youth orchestra that played to Israelis
JENIN – Palestinian authorities disbanded a youth orchestra from a West Bank refugee camp after it played for a group of Holocaust survivors in Israel, an official said. Adnan Hindi, of the Jenin camp, called the Holocaust a “political issue” yesterday and accused conductor Wafa Younis of unknowingly dragging the children into a political dispute. He said Younis had been barred from the camp and the flat where she had taught the 13-member Strings of Freedom orchestra had been boarded up. “She exploited the children,” Hindi said. “She will be forbidden from doing any activities We have to protect our children and our community. “The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves,” Hindi said. “We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we’ve lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years.” – Cape Times, (RSA) March 30, 2009
Syria ready for indirect talks with Israel
DAMASCUS – Syria is ready to resume indirect peace talks with the new Israeli government on the basis of a total pullout from the Golan Heights, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said yesterday. He said the four rounds of Turkish-mediated talks held last year had been launched on the basis of three principles, but without preconditions. “A full agreement from Israel to a commitment to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights,” was the main point, Muallem said at a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini. The talks process was suspended when Israel, which seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War, waged a deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip in December. Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a newspaper interview in March that those talks failed because Israel would not make a clear commitment to return all of the Golan up to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Bashar said Israel wanted to keep some disputed land around the Galilee, its main water source. Muallem said Syria is now ready to resume a land-for-peace process “on the same basis as arranged with the government of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert under Turkish mediation.” Arab News (Saudi Arabia), April 9, 2009.
Hamas-Fatah rift leaves Gaza patients stranded
GAZA CITY- The rift between the two main Palestinian movements – Fatah which controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas which controls Gaza – has impeded the availability of health care in Gaza, say officials. “The health ministry in Ramallah [West Bank] has refused contact with the health ministry in Gaza since Hamas took control in June 2007,” said Gaza health ministry spokesperson Hamam Nasman: “Only 24 percent of the medicine and medical supplies allotted to Gaza under the 2008 PA budget were received.” All referrals abroad for medical patients in Gaza were halted after Hamas took control of the PA’s Referral Abroad Department in Gaza on 22 March, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As a result, thousands of patients with serious and complicated conditions have been affected, said sources in the Gaza health ministry. . . Some 1,000 patients, including at least 300 in a critical condition, are registered with the Gaza health ministry to travel abroad via Rafah (on the Gaza-Egypt border) for healthcare. IRIN April 9, 2009
German Saint Pius clerics to pray for conversion of Jews
STUTTGART – Clerics of the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) are to continue their Good Friday practice of praying for the conversion of the Jews, a spokesman for the group said Thursday. SSPX superior Father Franz Schmidberger said the intercession dated back to a Church tradition originating in the fourth century, and was not aimed at provoking or hurting the religious feelings of non-Catholics. Germany’s Central Committee of Catholics (ZdK) has criticized Pope Benedict XVI’s rewording of the Good Friday intercession, which reads, ‘Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.’ The ZdK said these words could be interpreted as a call to convert the Jews. An SSPX statement said the ZdK was ‘far from the Holy Scripture’ in its criticism. Although there was no question of forcibly converting non-Christians, a statement on the society’s website said the possibility of conversion should not be ruled out. – M&C- Europe News, April 9, 2009.
Palestinians ask Canada to cancel Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit
JERUSALEM -A planned Toronto exhibit of ancient Middle Eastern manuscripts is threatening to plunge Canada, along with the Royal Ontario Museum, into the thick of the long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Beginning in June, the ROM will host a six-month exhibit of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls, organized in co-operation with the Israel Antiquities Authority. But top Palestinian officials this week declared the exhibit a violation of international law and called on Canada to cancel the show. In letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and top executives at the ROM, senior Palestinian officials argue the scrolls – widely regarded as among the great archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – were acquired illegally by Israel when the Jewish state annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. “The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from the Palestinian territories,” said Hamdan Taha, director-general of the archaeological department in the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. – The Toronto Star April 9, 2009