Countering the Assad regime’s use of rape as a weapon

June 22, 2011 | Or Avi Guy

As numbers of Syrian casualties and refugees increase, the heart breaking individual traumas are often obscured or forgotten – personal stories like those of women who have been raped by pro-regime forces, and therefore, face possible death due to the local tradition of honour killing. But in a hopeful story appearing in the press, it is being reported that after four sisters were allegedly raped by Assad supporters, local men have decided to marry them and offer them protection.

UN Tribunal Judge - Bashar Al-Assad ordered murder of Rafiq Hariri

UN Tribunal Judge – Bashar Al-Assad ordered murder of Rafiq Hariri

June 22, 2011 | Tzvi Fleischer

A new revelation has just added to the intense scrutiny already aimed at the repressive Assad regime in Syria in the wake of its bloody efforts to suppress a popular revolt over the past 3 months.

Detlev Mehlis, a German judge who previously headed a UN enquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has gone farther than even before in fingering the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, as directly responsible for the murder.

Speaking on German radio:

Detlev Mehlis said Syrian President Bashar Assad “ordered Hariri killed” because he feared the premier was cooperating with France and the US in order to overturn the Syrian regime and disarm Hezbollah.

Iran involved in crushing demonstrations in Syria

June 22, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

Haaretz is reporting that they have information from a senior Israeli source that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Al-Quds force troops are operating throughout Syria to suppress anti-regime demonstrations and that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also helped organise the violent demonstrations attempting to breach the Israeli border on “Nakba” and “Naksa” Day, that is, May 15 and June 6.

The forgotten struggle in Libya?

The forgotten struggle in Libya?

June 21, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Associated Press writers Matti Friedman, Aron Heller and Michelle Faul have given this bleak reminder of the once proud Jewish community of Libya, who were driven-out over several decades and currently live in exile as a diaspora – mostly in Israel.

The article outlines the current feelings of the Libyan Jewish communities:

Bublil-Waldman, who heads an organization of Jews from Arab countries in San Francisco, said she was still angry and hurt by the memory of her family’s expulsion from Libya. Those feelings remained strong, she said, and at this point she “would be afraid to go.” Navit Barel, a 34-year-old Israeli of Libyan descent, said the upheaval made her want to visit the country where her parents were born. Her mother and father, now deceased, both grew up near the Dar al-Bishi synagogue. “I feel like it brought back my yearning to talk to my father,” she said.

The Curious Case of The Dog in The Rabbinical Court

The Curious Case of The Dog in The Rabbinical Court

June 21, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Israeli newspaper Maariv published a report over the weekend alleging that a group of rabbis in Jerusalem had made a bizarre ruling to stone to death a dog that they believed was a reincarnated rabbi. The story was picked-up by Ynet, the English-language website for Israeli tabloid Yediot Ahoronot, and subsequently made it into the world’s media, including the News Ltd tabloids in Australia.

A JERUSALEM rabbinical court has condemned to death by stoning a dog it suspects is the reincarnation of a secular lawyer who insulted the court’s judges 20 years ago. …Clearly still offended, one of the judges sentenced the animal to death by stoning by local children. The canine target, however, managed to escape.

If this sounds a little far-fetched to be true, that’s because it is. As observed here, a simple story involving a dog that was safely removed from a rabbinical council by the municipal dogcatcher became “sexed-up” somewhere in the Israeli secular press. It also seems like the fact-checking department had a day off at a lot of normally reputable publications.

Media Week – BDS Q&A

June 20, 2011 | Jamie Hyams

BDS Q & A

The issue of Marrickville Council’s support for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel was raised on the ABC TV discussion program “Q & A” (6/6). Greens Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon reaffirmed her support for the campaign, accusing Israel of apartheid. Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said calling Israel apartheid is “an extreme link that doesn’t really serve the arguments well.” Comedian Sandy Gutman, better known as Austen Tayshus, said, “It’s just antisemitic. That’s all it is.” Asked if he supported the boycott, Fairfax journalist Paul McGeough certainly seemed to do so, saying, “Well, I think it’s a very clear way to get the debate about the Middle East going in western communities. It’s fantastic in Washington at the moment where you get BDS campaigns outside Joe the Trader and various other shops, in particular about a brand of hummus that comes from Israel… Because it’s part of a campaign against Israel to make Israel respond on the two state solution.” Despite his being a foreign correspondent, it seems to have escaped McGeough’s notice that Israel has been responding on the two-state solution since 1993.

Info Sources on the Syrian Revolution

Info Sources on the Syrian Revolution

June 20, 2011 | Tzvi Fleischer

With the Syrian revolution still continuing, leading to much bloodshed, and potentially huge implications across the Middle East, it is very hard for outsiders to gauge what is actually happening on a day-to-day basis. The country is essentially closed to the media, so reporting is limited and the dramatic footage on the nightly news which featured in Tunisia and Egypt is simply not available, even though events are clearly much more bloody and horrifying. 

We therefore recommend the following two sources as daily clearing-houses for news about the Syrian revolution…

Welcome to Fresh AIR, AIJAC’s new blog

June 17, 2011

“Fresh AIR” is devoted to bringing you all the news, analysis, commentary and media criticism AIJAC has always supplied via the Australia/Israel Review (AIR) and the “Updates from AIJAC” email service in a much more up-to-the-minute and timely fashion. Our aim is to supply readers with the very freshest up-to-date reporting and interpretation as events happen – especially with respect to the Middle East, terrorism, racism, multiculturalism, and other public policy issues of special interest to the Australian Jewish community.

Turkey's Election outcome/Lebanon's Hezbollah-dominated government

Turkey’s Election outcome/Lebanon’s Hezbollah-dominated government

June 16, 2011

This Update focuses on the outcome of the Turkish election on Sunday, while also offering expert comments on the new Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese cabinet.

First up is Soner Cagaptay, an analyst focussing on Turkey at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Cagaptay highlights some of the problems with the past 8 years of rule in Turkey by the Islamist-leaning AKP party of PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially its legal persecution of journalists and media outlets critical of the government, and other illiberal means to suppress political opposition. But he is optimistic that the failure of the ruling party to gain enough seats to change the constitution or pass major legislation unassisted may mean it will compromise with the reformed and increasingly liberal opposition CHP party.

The return of Gaza flotillas/NGOs and Israel

The return of Gaza flotillas/NGOs and Israel

June 6, 2011

This Update deals with the proposed additional flotilla to Gaza being organised – probably for later this month – by the same people who organised the Mavi Marmara flotilla last year. It further includes some material on the way various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), often with support from Western governments, are making a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace more difficult, including by prompting efforts like these flotillas.

First up is British columnist Melanie Phillips, who points out that the latest flotilla effort is more nakedly than ever a propaganda stunt to attempt to make Israel look bad, with no conceivable humanitarian purpose, despite the claims of the organisers. She notes that it comes at about the same time that Gaza is about to open its second shopping mall. She also discusses a plan by flotilla organisers to attempt to organise masses of protesters flying into Ben Gurion airport to disrupt traffic and create a propaganda stunt.

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