Sunday, July 11, 2010

Israel warns Gaza-bound Libyan aid ship

Israel has issued a warning against a Libyan aid ship en route to the Gaza Strip as part of its bid to hinder pro-Palestinian relief efforts.
Tel Aviv says allowing the ship to go ahead with its mission will have serious consequences for "Israel's security," adding that it will stop the Libyan aid vessel from entering the impoverished enclave.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday that the move is "an unnecessary provocation," AFP quoted him as saying.

The Moldova-flagged cargo ship, the Amalthea, organized by the Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association, was scheduled to depart from Greece to break the Israeli siege of Gaza.

The vessel has already set sail from the Greek port of Lavrio and is now moving toward the coastal strip.

Tel Aviv insists that the supplies be transferred to the Gaza Strip through the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Earlier, the Israeli government claimed to have blocked an attempt by Libya to deliver aid to the besieged residents of the Gaza Strip.

The aid ship is carrying 12 crewmembers and 2,000 tons of foodstuffs and medical supplies, including sacks of rice, sugar, corn oil and olive paste.

Efforts by Israel to prevent the aid ship from reaching Gaza comes after Israeli commandos assaulted the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla aid convoy on May 31, killing nine Turkish nationals onboard.

The fatal attack drew global condemnation and raised calls for an international inquiry into the episode.

Israeli academics hit back over bid to pass law that would criminalise them

Backlash over threat to outlaw supporters of boycott movement aimed at ending the continued occupation of the West Bank

Rachel Shabi in Jerusalem and Peter Beaumont

An academic backlash has erupted in Israel over proposed new laws, backed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, to criminalise a handful of Israeli professors who openly support a campaign against the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gained rapid international support since Israeli troops stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in May, killing nine activists. Israeli attention has focused on the small number of activists, particularly in the country's universities, who have openly supported an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

A protest petition has been signed by 500 academics, including two former education ministers, following recent comments by Israel's education minister, Gideon Saar, that the government intends to take action against the boycott's supporters. A proposed bill introduced into the Israeli parliament - the Knesset - would outlaw boycotts and penalise their supporters. Individuals who initiated, encouraged or provided support or information for any boycott or divestment action would be made to pay damages to the companies affected. Foreign nationals involved in boycott activity would be banned from entering Israel for 10 years, and any "foreign state entity" engaged in such activity would be liable to pay damages.

Saar last week described the petition as hysterical and an attempt to silence contrary opinions. While the vast majority of the signatories do not support an academic boycott of Israel, they have joined forces over what they regard as the latest assault on freedom of expression in Israel. The petition states: "We have different and varied opinions about solving the difficult problems facing Israel, but there is one thing we are agreed on - freedom of expression and academic freedom are the very lifeblood of the academic system."

Daniel Gutwein, a history professor at Haifa University who is one of the signatories, described the minister's intervention as an attempt "to make Israeli academia docile, frightened and silent".

Although the BDS campaign - in various forms - has been running for over half a decade, it has become an increasingly fraught issue inside Israel in the past year since a small number of academics publicly declared support for a boycott, including Neve Gordon, author of Israel's Occupation and a former paratrooper who was badly injured while serving with the Israeli Defence Force.

Speaking to the Observer last week, Gordon said that many Israelis saw support for the BDS as "crossing a red line". Adding that he had received recent death threats, he said: "I am worried about what is happening to the space for debate in Israel. I find that there is a proto-fascist mindset developing. One of the slogans you hear a lot now is no citizenship without loyalty. It is an inversion of the republican idea that the state should be loyal to the citizen."

Israeli campaigners believe the Gaza flotilla incident represents a tipping point in raising support for boycotts. Musicians including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron and the Pixies have cancelled shows in Israel. Hollywood actors also snubbed Jerusalem's international film festival and internationally acclaimed writers have supported the BDS movement, which is gaining support in dozens of countries.
"It's a different world to what it was even a month ago," says Kobi Snitz, member of an Israeli BDS group. "Suddenly, all sorts of people are supporting it - people that you wouldn't expect."

What is most interesting, however, has been the impact in Israel itself. Israeli journalist and blogger Noam Sheizaf wrote recently that such actions are now forcing Israelis "to think about the political issues and about their consequences... For a country in a constant state of denial regarding the occupation, this is no small thing." Sheizaf does not promote the boycott, but says: "I will gladly return concert tickets if that is the price for making Israelis understand that the occupation cannot go on."

Adi Oz, culture editor on the Tel Aviv weekly Ha'ir, appeared on Israeli national radio explaining her support for recent boycott activity. "When the Pixies cancelled their concert here I was disappointed," she says. "But I was not critical of the Pixies, I was critical of our government, because they are responsible for Israel's isolation." She adds that, post-flotilla, the cultural boycott is "something that everyone has a stand on - and some people are realising that they are in favour of it, without having thought about it before." There has also been a spate of boycott-related discussion in the financial press. The daily business newspaper Calcalist ran an uncritical profile of the Israeli campaigners behind Who Profits, an online database of Israeli and international companies involved in the occupation of the West Bank.

The project's co-ordinator, Dalit Baum, of the Coalition of Women for Peace, says: "Every day there is an article about this issue in the Israeli media, which creates a discussion about the economy of the occupation and raises the fact that there's a problem."

Data on Balkan Wars Found in Home of Suspect


THE HAGUE - For their latest raid on the Belgrade home of Gen. Ratko Mladic, the police had studied architectural plans and brought a new device provided by a foreign government: a camera capable of looking through wood, bricks, even reinforced concrete.

This time, investigators found a false wall, missed by earlier searches, hiding a cache so rich that it is still resonating in the Balkans and in the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague that wants to prosecute the fugitive Bosnian Serb commander for genocide.

The find - 18 notebooks of General Mladic's wartime military diaries, 120 sound recordings, cellphone cards, computer memory sticks and a pile of documents - provides some of the most compelling evidence yet of the close, top-level coordination of the Bosnian Serb Army and Serbia, a connection both parties always denied.

Although the thousands of pages of notes handwritten in bold Cyrillic script describe no crimes and show no evidence of General Mladic's hand in the infamous Srebrenica massacre, they are expected to have wide repercussions, most immediately on six trials now going on at the tribunal, particularly that of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader and General Mladic's boss.

"It's one of the most important sets of documents we ever received at the tribunal," said Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor. "You very seldom get so much information coming from such a central figure."

The cache was discovered by the Serbian police in February and turned over to the Hague tribunal two months ago. Since then, specialists, including General Mladic's deputy commander, have verified his handwriting, and translators have been working overtime to make the material accessible to prosecutors.

The extraordinary paper trail consists of close to 3,500 pages, recording dates and minutiae about supplies of weapons and fuel, as well as troop orders and strategy discussions during the Balkan wars of 1991 to 1995. It also lists people General Mladic met, including foreign envoys and Slobodan Milosevic, then the Serbian president, and what they discussed. There were also numerous audio recordings, Mr. Brammertz said, of General Mladic's meetings and telephone conversations with military officials and politicians during the war.

Lawyers familiar with portions of the material, not all of which has been translated and parts of which are still under seal, say that some of it will be used in the genocide trial of Mr. Karadzic. Mr. Karadzic requested an immediate break in his trial to review the diaries, but the judges refused.

The diaries' sober, day-by-day accounts have already provoked debate in Serbia and Croatia, where nationalists still deny their governments' wartime role.

Specialists said that the notes and recordings would link Serbia more explicitly to the war. They cite numerous meetings with Mr. Milosevic, who always insisted that the actions of the Bosnian Serb Army and of Serbian rebels in Croatia were spontaneous local events. (Mr. Milosevic died during his war crimes trial in 2006.)

Although the relationships have been widely documented in other trials and a plethora of books on the war, the Mladic diaries provide a firsthand account that connects the dots with the kind of proof lawyers say they need in a criminal trial.

Inevitably, they would also serve the trial of General Mladic, if there is one. On the run for more than a decade, he is reported to be in Serbia, moving among different hiding places, protected by loyal followers.

But the diaries offer no details of Srebrenica, according to Frederick Swinnen, an adviser to the prosecutor. Fifteen years ago Sunday, Bosnian Serb troops under General Mladic's command, assisted by Serbian Special Forces, overran a small contingent of United Nations peacekeepers there and seized the Muslim enclave. Over the following days, they deported women and children and executed close to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

Mr. Swinnen said there were succinct entries about meetings just before and after the massacre, including one in Belgrade on July 15, 1995, with Mr. Milosevic and high-level NATO and United Nations officials to "discuss the Srebrenica population." That day, excavators were still digging mass graves in Bosnia.

"We found nothing on the dates of the attack, or on the operation itself," Mr. Swinnen said.

General Mladic, for all his diligent note-taking, appears to have proceeded with caution, at least in the diaries given to the tribunal, which date from June 1991 to November 1996.

"The diaries do not speak about the commission of any crimes, and they do not cover every period of the wars," Mr. Brammertz said. But they do provide valuable confirmation about the chain of command and the movement of troops before killings, he said.

The tribunal has so far released a few dozen pages that may be used as evidence in current trials. These include what prosecutors describe as details of secret deals between Serbs and Croats to divide Bosnia and drive the Muslims out of many areas. General Mladic recorded a meeting on Feb. 3, 1994, also including Mr. Karadzic, in which the Bosnian Croat leader Jadranko Prlic is quoted as saying: "We need to agree on 2-3 things today. Muslims are the common enemy. There are 2-3 ways to keep them down (first, militarily, by breaking their backbone)."

At another planning session, General Mladic notes that Slobodan Praljak, a Croatian leader now on trial for war crimes, says: "If you kill 50,000 Muslims more, you will not achieve anything. Their population will quickly recover. The population should be exchanged."

Mr. Brammertz said he intended to make all the material public eventually.

For all these pages, secrets about General Mladic will undoubtedly remain. According to "Twilight of Impunity," a new book by Judith Armatta, a lawyer and human rights advocate, when Serbia turned over General Mladic's personnel file to the tribunal, after years of requests, his performance assessment was missing for 1995, the year of the Srebrenica massacre.

Serbian officials, from the president on down, continue to pledge that General Mladic will be arrested if they can find him, but many within the government are known to oppose this. General Mladic himself has let it be known he will not be taken alive.

The government has willingly handed over the cache from the Belgrade apartment, which is still occupied by General Mladic's wife. But the spokesman for the office of the war crimes prosecutor in Belgrade declined to answer questions about why it was only recently discovered. Asked for photographs of the secret wall, the spokesman, Bruno Vekaric, said that this and all other documents had "the status of official secret."

Some Balkan publications have said the diaries are fakes, intended to serve unexplained dark purposes.

A senior Western official dismissed such a notion. "We know they are authentic, and we consider them self-proving," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There's so much only Mladic would know; it's very extensive."

Bosnian Serb party lauds genocide suspect Karadzic


BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina - A Bosnian Serb party is honoring its founder, Radovan Karadzic, a day before the mass funeral for 775 victims of the Srebrenica massacre - a crime for which he is standing trial.

Serb Democratic Party leader Mladen Bosic said Saturday at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the party's founding that the party is not ashamed of the past.

Karadzic's wife, Ljiljana, received the decoration on her husband's behalf. He is now standing trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal for genocide in Srebrenica, where his forces executed more than 8,000 civilians in 1995.

On Sunday Bosnia marks the 15th anniversary of the massacre. The 775 victims, found in mass graves and identified through DNA tests, will be laid to rest next to 3,831 victims already buried.

White workforce 'hampering GCHQ anti-terror efforts'

Leaked report says listening centre lacks ethnic-minority staff and is unable to crack codes in intercepted conversations

Anti-terrorism efforts at GCHQ, Britain's secret eavesdropping centre, are being undermined by a failure to recruit enough ethnic minority staff, according to a leaked report.

The review, obtained by the Sunday Times, found that black and Asian intelligence officers complained of a racist culture at the complex, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire.

It also said GCHQ had only a "very small pool" of black and Asian staff among its 5,000 workers, and that all the agency's senior staff were white.

The capability review was authorised by the head of the civil service, Sir Gus O'Donnell, and published in January this year, the Sunday Times reported.

Much of the agency's work involves monitoring calls and emails from terror suspects, but a lack of officers with specialist knowledge of languages such as Urdu and Arabic was found to be harming efforts to spot codes and cultural nuances in intercepted conversations.

The document said: "It is critical to have a diverse staff group who are able to profile and recognise certain behaviour patterns and communications." The report recommends better engagement with ethnic minority communities in order to boost recruitment and improve the image of the organisation, adding: "This is critical to good national security intelligence."

Several dozen ethnic-minority intelligence officers were interviewed for the review. Among the complaints recorded was: "I wasn't born here, and although I have been security cleared I am constantly challenged about my loyalty to Britain by my colleagues."

Another employee said: "The security officers ask questions which are culturally inappropriate, insensitive and offensive."

A third member of staff added they felt that ethnic minority employees had to work harder than white colleagues, "and for less reward".

In a statement, the service said: "GCHQ has long recognised that strict nationality and residency requirements for staff, and the specialist nature of our work, have made it challenging to develop a workforce which represents the diversity of the UK population.

"We have sought to address this through a national recruitment campaign which targeted black and minority ethnic communities as well as measures within the organisation, such as a black and minority ethnic network and a board champion for diversity.

It added: "Our capability review in June 2009 reflected that GCHQ continued to fall short in meeting our targets. GCHQ's board commissioned a review to assist in supporting our commitment to increasing the numbers of black and minority ethnic staff, [and] their progression and contribution.

"We are making a number of improvements to our policies and practices, including: a dedicated diversity officer; relaunch of our black and minority ethnic network with a target to increase membership; co-ordinated community engagement with diverse schools and community projects; review of university diversity data to help us identify universities to target; and internal awareness 
raising such as diversity week.

"GCHQ is regularly recognised as a good employer but we aspire to be the best. We recognise that recruiting a diverse range of people, treating them in a non-discriminatory way and supporting them to achieve their full potential is key to that aspiration."

Intellectuals with blood on their pens

Afghanistan and Iraq show how 'eggheads' are making this century as violent as the last one

Pankaj Mishra

Early this week a former senior official from Scotland Yard accused the Labour government of slavishly following the American neocon view of Islam and terrorism. According to him, the Anglo-American assault on Iraq and Afghanistan and British complicity in torture of suspects at Guantánamo greatly increased the risks of terrorist attacks on the UK, notwithstanding New Labour's strenuous attempts to deny such a causal connection. Reading his impassioned statement of the obvious, you could be forgiven for wondering why he, like many of the great and good at the Chilcot inquiry, hadn't spoken out previously - when it may have mattered.

The "heady poison" of war creates, as the US critic Randolph Bourne once put it, "its own antitoxin of ruin and disillusionment." Wars as misconceived as those in Iraq and Afghanistan - two of the longest in British and US history - are likely to generate many testimonies to folly and ineptitude. Lately in the US, there has been a flurry of confessions, accusations and counter-accusation from both officials who prosecuted the wars, and the intellectuals who cheerled them from the sidelines. The chastened mood, deepened by economic decline, is summed up by the title of a recent bestseller by Peter Beinart, one of the strident liberal "hawks": The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American 


What's remarkable about these long, tormented mea culpas is that they reveal little that the average newspaper reader does not already know. It was no secret that the invasion of Iraq had been conceived as a punitive expedition in the old-fashioned imperial style, in which economic and geopolitical aims were subordinate to the demonstration of firepower, to campaigns of shock and awe. As the US columnist Thomas Friedman, an ever-reliable barometer of official opinion, claimed: "What [Iraqis] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, '... Suck. On. This.'" Nevertheless, men like Beinart concluded that the Bush administration was going to war for precisely the reason he and other intellectuals had insisted it ought to: to vanquish "Islamofascism" (never mind that Saddam Hussein was a secular despot) and 
thereby making the Middle East safe for liberal democracy.

As for Afghanistan, its modern history furnished plenty of cautionary tales against foreign invasions. Enraged by the 9/11 attacks, and seeking a suitably spectacular revenge, the US could be excused for not paying sufficient heed to them. But Britain, which has often fought unwinnable wars in far-off places for the sake of imperial pride, could have predicted that it would face a resilient Afghan adversary. It could draw upon the memory of three Afghan wars, which mostly proved disastrous even though it then did not have to worry about a significant Muslim population at home or such regional impediments as Pakistan and Iran.

Plenty of other historical examples - Napoleon in Spain, the French in Algeria, and the Americans in Vietnam - illustrate that a small but determined band of guerrilla fighters can annul the technical and often numerical superiority of foreign invaders. So what has persuaded Britain to remain embroiled in a hopeless imperial adventure in the early 21st century? After all, most ordinary citizens long turned against it, and their conviction of its futility hardens with every new casualty in Afghanistan. New Labourites weren't the only politicians to be neoconned or to be vulgarly infatuated with US power and wealth - the present education minister was among the busiest retailers of neocon fables. But the incompetence and failure of politicians and officials is not as shocking as the moral truancy of many intellectuals - the professionals paid to preserve and transmit historical and philosophical wisdom, and intelligently to interpret the contemporary world.

Perhaps, "it is a mistake," as Randolph Bourne wrote in his essay War and the Intellectuals, "to suppose that intellectuality makes for suspended judgments. The intellect craves certitude." Certainly, as recent history proves, dogma is hardly the exclusive malady of traditional religions - those that are fashionably blamed for all the evils in the world today. It is central, too, to the secular cults of our own time - progress, technology, military power - that many intellectuals keenly subscribe to.

Writing in the New York Times magazine a few weeks after the invasion of Iraq, the historian Niall Ferguson urged the US to impose capitalism and democracy through military force. Declaring himself as a "fully paid up member of the neoimperialist gang", Ferguson claimed to be fascinated by "the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets."

How risible these fantasies seem today, as America itself, enfeebled by jungle capitalism and feckless wars, looks as though it could benefit from a period of enlightened administration. And yet this me-too Lawrence-of-Arabia-ism was hailed not so long ago as grittily realistic in prestigious periodicals, and given a sympathetic hearing by political leaders, who, too, assumed that Asians and Africans, having recently sent their former European overlords home, were ready to kowtow to a new American master.

Of course the nostalgia for jodhpurs and pith helmets was so well received largely because it expressed itself through the resonantly noble rhetoric of humanitarianism. "I never knew a man," Graham Greene wrote in The Quiet American (1955), "who had better motives for all the trouble he caused." Indeed, Greene's portrait of a self-righteous American blundering through Vietnam holds up well as a general description of many do-gooding eggheads in our own time and the recent past.

Secular intellectuals with a passionately held faith in rational manipulation or simply itching to be in on the action led to the violent remaking of entire societies and cultures in the previous century: the colonisation of Asia and Africa as well as mass social engineering in Russia and China. They had little time for traditional religion, and scorned its old authority, which used to keep man's more Promethean lusts in check. Indeed, they were driven by a new religion: a belief in man's ability to radically reshape his social and natural environment.

Brute force was usually their means; according to the instrumentalist calculation, eggs have to be broken in order to make omelettes. The immense and uniquely ideological violence of the 20th century - what Camus described as the "slaves camps under the flag of freedom, massacres justified by philanthropy" - partly derived from a mode of reasoning that made the vast and unpredictable realm of human affairs appear as amenable to radical mutation as a box of eggs does at breakfast time.

Many such "rational" ideologies now lie in the dustbin of history; but the illusions of omnipotence continue to flourish, and their first eager victims still tend to be intellectuals trying to secure a footnote, if not a whole chapter, for themselves in history. Bookish do-gooders drunk on abstractions may not actually appear to be among the most menacing figures of our time - at least not when compared to bushy-bearded fanatics, moustachioed despots and smooth-shaven elected leaders brimming with conviction. But they, too, have been doing their bit, if quietly, to make the new century as bloody as the previous one.

Afghans protest US killing of civilians

Angry Afghans have taken to the streets of Mazar-e-Sharif to protest against the rising number of civilian casualties at the hands of US-led troops.

Hundreds of protesters chanted slogans against foreign forces and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The demonstration followed the killing of two civilians by US troops on the outskirts of the northern Afghan city on Wednesday.

NATO soldiers also killed one Afghan and arrested nine others in Paktia province.

The Western military alliance had earlier admitted to killing six other civilians in the same province while accepting responsibility for taking the lives of five Afghan soldiers in Ghazni province.

NATO blames the deaths on bad targeting and communication errors.

Civilians have been the main victims of violence in Afghanistan, particularly in the country's troubled southern and eastern provinces.

According to official figures, more than 2,500 civilians were killed in NATO operations last year, undermining support for the presence of US-led forces in the country.

The invasion of Afghanistan was launched with the official objective of curbing militancy and bringing peace and stability to the country. Nine years on, however, Afghanistan remains unstable and civilians continue to pay the price.

Nato admits blame for Afghan deaths

Nato has said it was responsible for accidentally killing six Afghan civilians and wounding several others in eastern Afghanistan, a day after five Afghan soldiers were killed in a botched coalition airstrike.

Officials said the incident on Thursday happened when artillery fire fell short of its target in the Jani Khel district of Paktia province.

A full investigation was under way involving Nato and Afghan forces, they added.

Nato officials "offer sincere condolences to those affected and accept full responsibility for the actions that led to this tragic incident," the coalition said in a statement on Friday.

On Wednesday a Nato airstrike left five Afghan soldiers dead and two others wounded in the Andar district of Ghazni province.

The Afghan soldiers were launching an ambush before dawn against insurgents reportedly on the move when Nato aircraft began firing on them without warning, an Afghan defence ministry official said.
Nato blamed the attack on a communication error.

A coalition statement, also issued on Friday, said a joint investigation determined that the Afghan army unit gave the wrong location to international forces when it reported it would be operating in Ghazni.

The back-to-back incidents come as international troops try to gain the trust of the Afghan people and improve coordination with Afghan security forces in hopes of handing over more responsibility for security to them nearly nine years into the war.

Pakistan explosion death toll hits 65

The death toll from bomb explosions in Pakistan's Mohmand tribal agency has reached 65 after several seriously injured people died in hospital.

Medics said nearly two dozen people died at a hospital in the town of Yakaghund, while over 100 injured victims are still receiving treatment.

There is confusion among the officials about the nature of the Friday attack.

Some authorities say a small bomb went off outside the main gate of the office of the civil administrator in the town.

Others say a large blast followed after a man on a motorbike detonated explosives outside of the office building.

The blast destroyed scores of shops, several houses and parts of a local jail, allowing at least 35 prisoners to escape.

Rescue operations are underway to save those trapped under the rubble.

Authorities have imposed a curfew in the area and launched an investigation into the attack.

The Pakistani military has recently launched a series of operations in an effort to clear the troubled tribal zone of militants.

Militants have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan this year alone.

Killer of Dutch Islam critic has no regrets


The Dutch Islamic extremist who killed film maker and Islam critic Theo van Gogh in 2004 has said he is not sorry about the killing. Popular Rotterdam daily AD is publishing a letter by the convicted murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, in its print edition on Friday.

Bouyeri wrote to an unidentified Muslim group that he has "no regrets about the choices [he] made and the path [he] had chosen to follow. Not for one single second." Most of the letter is religious in nature, with statements like "How, brothers and sisters, could we possibly despair given the blessings we received from Him? We were on the brink of damnation and Allah saved us from a plunge into darkness. He took care of us and cleansed us from the dirt and the unbelief."

The Dutch intelligence agency (AIVD) told AD reporters that they are aware of the letter and are not surprised by its content. "It is in the same style as his earlier letters and does not change our view of him or of his thoughts." The letter surfaced in Belgium and was handed to AD daily.

Mohammed Bouyeri is serving a life sentence for the murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam.

Bosnia marks Srebrenica massacre


Bosnians have marked 15 years since the massacre at Srebrenica, when Bosnian Serbs slaughtered almost 8,000 Muslims in Europe's worst mass killings since the Second World War.

A crowd of about 60,000 people turned out to a ceremony in the village of Potocari, 6km north-west of Srebrenica, on Sunday, as the recently identified remains of 775 victims were laid to rest with the 3,749 already buried there.

At the special ceremony, relatives of the dead and their supporters mingled among the graves looking for the names of their loved ones, while the sounds of weeping and Muslim prayers filled the air.

The massacre occurred when Bosnian Serb troops advanced on Srebrenica, a Muslim enclave supposedly under the protection of United Nations forces.

The town's men and boys fled into the surrounding hills, but were hunted down by the troops, who shot and buried them in mass graves.

They were then dug up and reburied in more than 70 different sites, in an effort to cover up the extent of the killings.

Act of genocide

The massacre has been designated an act of genocide by the UN's war crimes court and the international court of justice. It is remembered as the darkest day in the bloody break-up of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s.

No one represented the UN at the ceremony.

Sunday's memorial was an emotional occasion for Srebrenica, which has struggled to recover from losing two generations of men and boys in the incident.

Hatidza Mehmedovic, 68, attended the ceremony to bury her husband and two sons.

"I waited for them to return alive, I could not believe such a crime could have been committed. Today, my hope dies," she said.

"It was not only my sons, thousands of people were killed. The intent was to make sure that no Muslim would live in this place. I don't wish on any other mother to have to live through this."

Nearly 6,500 victims have been identified, but relatives of those still missing are hopeful that more bodies will be found in the dense woodland surrounding the town.

'Building bridges'

Boris Tadic, Serbia's president and the first dignitary to arrive at the ceremony, said he came in an "act of reconciliation".

Tadic said he hoped "to build bridges of friendship and understanding among nations in the region" by attending the ceremony.

Some of the ceremony's attendees heckled the president.

Dzemaludin Latic, a Muslim political leader who attended the ceremony, told Al Jazeera that "in Bosnia, we have [Serbian] political leaders ... who do not want to apologise for this genocide".

"[But] Mr Tadic sincerely wants reconciliation", Latic said.

Serbia has for years denied the scale of the crime and many Serbs, led by nationalist politicians, believe that allegations of genocide have been exaggerated as part of an international political conspiracy against the country.

But in March, the country's parliament passed a declaration condemning the massacre and apologised to the victims and their families.

General Ratko Mladic, the alleged mastermind of the killings, is still on the run and believed to be hiding in Serbia, where many see him as a heroic figure.

The other alleged architect of the massacre, Radovan Karadzic, was arrested in Belgrade in 2008, and is currently fighting charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The political party that he founded, the Serbian Democratic Party, chose to honour him on Saturday with a medal, saying it was not ashamed of the past.

UN peacekeepers were heavily criticised for allowing the massacre.

The Dutch troops tasked with protecting the town did not have the equipment or mandate to do so and allowed Bosnian Serb soldiers to take Muslim men and boys away after being assured they would not be harmed.

English Defence League's planned march on mosque is 'pointless'


Dudley council criticises far-right group for going ahead with protest at abandoned development The English Defence League's summer of protests to target Muslim communities is to continue with a demonstration against a "super mosque", even though the development is no longer going ahead.

The far-right group will return to Dudley next Saturday to demonstrate against the abandoned mosque and community centre project. The council has branded the protest "pointless" and a "waste of taxpayers' money" as police will be required to ensure safety.

A plea from the council for the organisation to cancel the demonstration came as an EDL protester appeared in court today for putting a pig's head on the wall of Dudley central mosque.

Anne Millward, leader of the council, said: "The EDL's unnecessary visits, which often result in major disruption, violence and public disorder, cost the taxpayer and local communities thousands of pounds.

"We are opposed to this proposed event and call on the organisers to cancel this pointless waste of taxpayers' money."

But a promotional video by the Bristol division of the EDL said: "The Dudley Muslim Association is determined to force this mosque on the people of Dudley … The EDL will keep coming back until it is scrapped."

The previous protest against the mosque cost the council over £150,000, damaged local business revenue and resulted in 12 people being arrested.

A council spokesman said: "Council bosses have made it clear that outside extremists can make no contribution to local decisions and reminded the EDL that the plans for a mosque on Hall Street are not currently being pursued.

"The EDL has opposed the former proposal for a mosque but the council has reiterated the fact that the authority and the Dudley Muslim Association have agreed to pursue an alternative site, making the EDL's visit pointless."

Margot James, the MP for Stourbridge, near Dudley, wrote to the Home Office asking that police powers be extended to enable them to ban all forms of protest on the grounds of public order when they have a case to do so. She says she is keen to maintain freedom of expression but "a loophole that allows the EDL to call their activity a rally not a march, so as to escape a potential ban, should be closed".

The league has demonstrated in Newcastle and Bradford but cancelled a planned protest in Tower Hamlets, London, after one of its leaders, Tommy Robinson, told the East London Advertiser it would be a "suicide mission".

An EDF protester, Kevin Smith, has been given a suspended eight-week prison sentence for putting a pig's head on the wall of Dudley central mosque in the Castle Hill area of the town on 29 May.

Police believe Smith, 52, of Brierley Hill, was on his way to the Newcastle demonstration when the act took place.He was arrested on 2 June and has been found guilty of religiously aggravated intentional harassment at Dudley magistrates court. Muslims regard pigs as unclean.

Smith was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and among the conditions imposed was an order that he stay out of the Castle Hill area.

Muslims account for about 2.5% of the population of Dudley. The council says it is exploring the possibility of developing the existing Dudley central mosque as an alternative to the scrappped Hall Street scheme.

Unite Against Fascism has pledged to hold a counter-demonstration next Saturday after protesting against the EDL in April by holding a multi-faith celebration.

Obama, Netanyahu emphasize strength of U.S.-Israel ties


Washington (CNN) -- Stressing the unbreakable ties between their nations, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Tuesday for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians while agreeing that the international community is strengthening efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The two leaders spoke to reporters after meeting for more than an hour at the White House, twice shaking hands for the cameras as part of an effort to dispel the notion that relations between the United States and Israel have frayed in recent months.

Obama said the bond between the United States and Israel is "unbreakable" and added that his country remains "unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security." Netanyahu chose to paraphrase American humorist Mark Twain by noting that reports of the demise of U.S.-Israeli relations "aren't just premature, they're just flat wrong."

The meeting, their fifth since Netanyahu took office last spring, focused on revitalizing the Middle East peace process as well as discussing other issues, including efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal.

Both Obama and Netanyahu stressed the importance of moving toward direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Presently, Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas aren't talking directly, but communicating through U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who serves as a go-between for negotiations.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that he is ready for direct talks -- a step he has repeatedly endorsed in the past -- and indicated that progress in the peace process is coming.

"The president and I discussed concrete steps that could be done now -- in the coming days, in the coming weeks -- to move the peace process further along in a very robust way," Netanyahu said.

Abbas has refused to meet with Netanyahu until Israel promises to stop building settlements, but said last month after meeting with Obama that direct talks were the goal.

Israel's settlement policy has become a friction point between Israel and the United States, with relations reaching a low point in March when Israel announced plans during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to construct more than 1,000 new houses in East Jerusalem. The announcement outraged the Obama administration and led to the Palestinians' withdrawing from agreed-upon indirect negotiations with Israel.

In a visit later in March to the United States, Netanyahu was presented with a set of concessions that the White House wanted to see Israel make in an effort to restart the negotiations.

Neither government detailed what the exact nature of the concessions were, but sources on both sides said a halt in East Jerusalem construction was among the demands from the Obama administration.

Neither leader mentioned settlements in their comments Tuesday or their responses to questions from reporters. However, Obama commended Israel for easing limits on goods going to Gaza, saying there had been "real progress on the ground" that was happening "more quickly and more effectively than many people anticipated."

The president said the United States wants to "ensure the people of Gaza are able to prosper economically while Israel is able to maintain its legitimate security needs in not allowing missiles and weapons to get to Hamas."

In May, Israel's controversial embargo blocking the flow of goods into Gaza turned deadly when Israeli forces stormed a vessel that was part of a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla, resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.

Aside from Israeli-Palestinian relations, many Israelis worry about Iran's intentions with its nuclear program. Netanyahu noted that recent sanctions adopted by the U.N. Security Council are helping to delegitimize Iran's nuclear program.

The sanctions "have teeth" and "bite," Netanyahu asserted, noting that the United States also has adopted more of its own sanctions against Iran.

"How much do you need to bite is something I cannot answer now, but if other nations adopted similar sanctions, that would increase the effect," he said.

Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank


HAR BRACHA, West Bank — Twice a year, American evangelicals show up at a winery in this Jewish settlement in the hills of ancient Samaria to play a direct role in biblical prophecy, picking grapes and pruning vines. Believing that Christian help for Jewish winemakers here in the occupied West Bank foretells Christ’s second coming, they are recruited by a Tennessee-based charity called HaYovel that invites volunteers “to labor side by side with the people of Israel” and “to share with them a passion for the soon coming jubilee in Yeshua, messiah.”

But during their visit in February the volunteers found themselves in the middle of the fight for land that defines daily life here. When the evangelicals headed into the vineyards, they were pelted with rocks by Palestinians who say the settlers have planted creeping grape vines on their land to claim it as their own. Two volunteers were hurt. In the ensuing scuffle, a settler guard shot a 17-year-old Palestinian shepherd in the leg.

“These people are filled with ideas that this is the Promised Land and their duty is to help the Jews,” said Izdat Said Qadoos of the neighboring Palestinian village. “It is not the Promised Land. It is our land.”

HaYovel is one of many groups in the United States using tax-exempt donations to help Jews establish permanence in the Israeli-occupied territories — effectively obstructing the creation of a Palestinian state, widely seen as a necessary condition for Middle East peace.

The result is a surprising juxtaposition: As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.

A New York Times examination of public records in the United States and Israel identified at least 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. The money goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like, legitimate expenditures under the tax law. But it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.

In some ways, American tax law is more lenient than Israel’s. The outposts receiving tax-deductible donations — distinct from established settlements financed by Israel’s government — are illegal under Israeli law. And a decade ago, Israel ended tax breaks for contributions to groups devoted exclusively to settlement-building in the West Bank.

Now controversy over the settlements is sharpening, and the issue is sure to be high on the agenda when President Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, meet in Washington on Tuesday.

While a succession of American administrations have opposed the settlements here, Mr. Obama has particularly focused on them as obstacles to peace. A two-state solution in the Middle East, he says, is vital to defusing Muslim anger at the West. Under American pressure, Mr. Netanyahu has temporarily frozen new construction to get peace talks going. The freeze and negotiations, in turn, have injected new urgency into the settlers’ cause — and into fund-raising for it.

The use of charities to promote a foreign policy goal is neither new nor unique — Americans also take tax breaks in giving to pro-Palestinian groups. But the donations to the settler movement stand out because of the centrality of the settlement issue in the current talks and the fact that Washington has consistently refused to allow Israel to spend American government aid in the settlements. Tax breaks for the donations remain largely unchallenged, and unexamined by the American government. The Internal Revenue Service declined to discuss donations for West Bank settlements. State Department officials would comment only generally, and on condition of anonymity.

“It’s a problem,” a senior State Department official said, adding, “It’s unhelpful to the efforts that we’re trying to make.”

Daniel C. Kurtzer, the United States ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005, called the issue politically delicate. “It drove us crazy,” he said. But “it was a thing you didn’t talk about in polite company.”

He added that while the private donations could not sustain the settler enterprise on their own, “a couple of hundred million dollars makes a huge difference,” and if carefully focused, “creates a new reality on the ground.”

Most contributions go to large, established settlements close to the boundary with Israel that would very likely be annexed in any peace deal, in exchange for land elsewhere. So those donations produce less concern than money for struggling outposts and isolated settlements inhabited by militant settlers. Even small donations add to their permanence.

For example, when Israeli authorities suspended plans for permanent homes in Maskiot, a tiny settlement near Jordan, in 2007, two American nonprofits — the One Israel Fund and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities —raised tens of thousands of dollars to help erect temporary structures, keeping the community going until officials lifted the building ban.

Israeli security officials express frustration over donations to the illegal or more defiant communities.

“I am not happy about it,” a senior military commander in the West Bank responded when asked about contributions to a radical religious academy whose director has urged soldiers to defy orders to evict settlers. He spoke under normal Israeli military rules of anonymity.

Palestinian officials expressed outrage at the tax breaks.

“Settlements violate international law, and the United States is supposed to be sponsoring a two-state solution, yet it gives deductions for donation to the settlements?” said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. The settlements are a sensitive issue among American Jews themselves. Some major Jewish philanthropies, like the Jewish Federations of North America, generally do not support building activities in the West Bank.

The donors to settlement charities represent a broad mix of Americans — from wealthy people like the hospital magnate Dr. Irving I. Moskowitz and the family behind Haagen-Dazs ice cream to bidders at kosher pizza auctions in Brooklyn and evangelicals at a recent Bible meeting in a Long Island basement. But they are unified in their belief that returning the West Bank — site of the ancient Jewish kingdoms — to full Jewish control is critical to Israeli security and fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

As Kimberly Troup, director of the Christian Friends of Israeli Communities’ American office, said, while her charity’s work is humanitarian, “the more that we build, the more that we support and encourage their right to live in the land, the harder it’s going to be for disengagement, for withdrawal.”

Sorting Out the Facts

Today half a million Israeli Jews live in lands captured during the June 1967 Middle East war. Yet there is a strong international consensus that a Palestinian state should arise in the West Bank and Gaza, where all told some four million Palestinians live.

Ultimately, any agreement will be a compromise, a sorting out of the facts on the ground.

Most Jewish residents of the West Bank live in what amount to suburbs, with neat homes, high rises and highways to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Politically and ideologically, they are indistinguishable from Israel proper. Most will doubtless stay in any peace deal, while those who must move will most likely do so peacefully.

But in the geographically isolated settlements and dozens of illegal outposts, there are settlers who may well violently resist being moved. The prospect of an internal and deeply painful Israeli confrontation looms.

And the resisters will very likely be aided by tax-deductible donations from Americans who believe that far from quelling Muslim anger, as Mr. Obama argues, handing over the West Bank will only encourage militant Islamists bent on destroying Israel.

“We need to influence our congressmen to stop Obama from putting pressure on Israel to self-destruct,” Helen Freedman, a New Yorker who runs a charity called Americans for a Safe Israel, told supporters touring the West Bank this spring.

Israel, too, used to offer its residents tax breaks for donations to settlement building, starting in 1984 under a Likud government. But those donations were ended by the Labor Party, first in 1995 and then, after reversal, again in 2000. The finance minister in both cases, Avraham Shohat, said that while he only vaguely recalled the decision-making process, as a matter of principle he believed in deductions for gifts to education and welfare for the poor, not to settlement building per se.

In theory, the same is true for the United States, where the tax code encourages citizens to support nonprofit groups that may diverge from official policy, as long as their missions are educational, religious or charitable.

The challenge is defining those terms and enforcing them.

There are more than a million registered charities, and many submit sparse or misleading mission summaries in tax filings. Religious groups have no obligation to divulge their finances, meaning settlements may be receiving sums that cannot be traced.

The Times’s review of pro-settler groups suggests that most generally live within the rules of the American tax code. Some, though, risk violating them by using the money for political campaigning and residential property purchases, by failing to file tax returns, by setting up boards of trustees in name only and by improperly funneling donations directly to foreign organizations.

One group that at least skates close to the line is Friends of Zo Artzeinu/Manhigut Yehudit, based in Cedarhurst, N.Y., and co-founded by Shmuel Sackett, a former executive director of the banned Israeli political party Kahane Chai. Records from the group say a portion of the $5.2 million it has collected over the last few years has gone to the Israeli “community facilities” of Manhigut Yehudit, a hard-right faction of Mr. Netanyahu’s governing Likud Party, which Mr. Sackett helps run with the politician Moshe Feiglin.

American tax rules prohibit the use of charitable funds for political purposes at home or abroad. Neither man would answer questions about the nature of the “community facilities.” In an e-mail message, Mr. Sackett said the American charity was not devoted to political activity, but to humanitarian projects and “educating the public about the need for authentic Jewish leadership in Israel.”

Of course, groups in the pro-settler camp are not the only ones benefiting from tax breaks. For example, the Free Gaza Movement, which organized the flotilla seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, says on its Web site that supporters can make tax-deductible donations to it through the American Educational Trust, publisher of an Arab-oriented journal. Israeli civil and human rights groups like Peace Now, which are often accused of having a blatant political agenda, also benefit from tax-deductible donations.

Some pro-settler charities have obscured their true intentions.

Take the Capital Athletic Foundation, run by the disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In its I.R.S. filings, the foundation noted donations totaling more than $140,000 to Kollel Ohel Tiferet, a religious study group in Israel, for “educational and athletic” purposes. In reality, a study group member was using the money to finance a paramilitary operation in the Beitar Illit settlement, according to documents in a Senate investigation of Mr. Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to defrauding clients and bribing public officials.

Mr. Abramoff, documents show, had directed the settler, Shmuel Ben Zvi, an old high school friend, to use the study group as cover after his accountant complained that money for sniper equipment and a jeep “don’t look good” in terms of complying with the foundation’s tax-exempt status.

While the donations by Mr. Abramoff’s charity were elaborately disguised — the group shipped a camouflage sniper suit in a box labeled “Grandmother Tree Costume for the play Pocahontas” — other groups are more open. Amitz Rescue & Security, which has raised money through two Brooklyn nonprofits, trains and equips guard units for settlements. Its Web site encourages donors to “send a tax-deductible check” for night-vision binoculars, bulletproof vehicles and guard dogs.

Other groups urge donors to give to one of several nonprofits that serve as clearinghouses for donations to a wide array of groups in Israel and the West Bank, which, if not done properly, can skirt the intent of American tax rules.

Americans cannot claim deductions for direct donations to foreign charities; tax laws allow deductions for domestic giving on the theory that charities ultimately ease pressure on government spending for social programs.

But the I.R.S. does allow deductions for donations to American nonprofits that support charitable projects abroad, provided the nonprofit is not simply a funnel to another group overseas, according to Bruce R. Hopkins, a lawyer and the author of several books on nonprofit law. Donors can indicate how they would like their money to be used, but the nonprofit must exercise “some measure of independence to deliberate on grant-making,” he said.

A prominent clearinghouse is the Central Fund of Israel, operated from the Marcus Brothers Textiles offices in the Manhattan garment district. Dozens of West Bank groups seem to view the fund as little more than a vehicle for channeling donations back to themselves, instructing their supporters that if they want a tax break, they must direct their contributions there first. The fund’s president, Hadassah Marcus, acknowledged that it received many checks from donors “who want them to go to different programs in Israel,” but, she said, the fund retains ultimate discretion over the money. It also makes its own grants to needy Jewish families and monitors them, she said, adding that the fund, which collected $13 million in 2008, was audited and complies with I.R.S. rules.

“We’re not a funnel. We’re trying to build a land,” she said, adding, “All we’re doing is going back to our home.”

Support From a Preacher

Late one afternoon in March, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. landed in Israel and headed to his Jerusalem hotel to prepare for a weeklong effort to rekindle Middle East peace talks.

Across town, many of the leading Israeli officials on Mr. Biden’s schedule, among them Prime Minister Netanyahu, were in a convention hall listening to the Rev. John Hagee, an influential American preacher whose charities have donated millions to projects in Israel and the territories. Support for the settlements has become a cause of some leading conservative Republicans, like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

“Israel exists because of a covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 3,500 years ago — and that covenant still stands,” Mr. Hagee thundered. “World leaders do not have the authority to tell Israel and the Jewish people what they can and cannot do in the city of Jerusalem.”

The next day, Israeli-American relations plunged after Israel announced plans for 1,600 new apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their future capital.

Israeli officials said Mr. Hagee’s words of encouragement had no effect on government decision making. And the preacher’s aides said he was not trying to influence the peace talks, just defending Israel’s right to make decisions without foreign pressure.

Still, his presence underscored the role of settlement supporters abroad.

Nowhere is that effort more visible, and contentious, than in East Jerusalem, which the Netanyahu government says must remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace deal.

The government supports privately financed archaeological projects that focus on Jewish roots in Arab areas of Jerusalem. The Obama administration and the United Nations have recently criticized a plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes to make room for a history park in a neighborhood where a nonprofit group called El’Ad finances digs and buys up Arab-owned properties.

To raise money, groups like El’Ad seek to bring alive a narrative of Jewish nationalism in living rooms and banquet halls across America.

In May, a crowd of mostly Jewish professionals — who paid $300 a plate to benefit the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim — gathered in a catering hall high above Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens to dine and hear John R. Bolton, United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush, warn of the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.

A few days earlier, the group’s executive vice president, Susan Hikind, had gone on a Jewish radio program in New York to proclaim her group’s resistance to American policy in the Middle East. The Obama administration, she said, did not want donors to attend the banquet because it believed Jerusalem should “be part of some future capital of a Palestinian state.”

“And who’s standing in the way of that?” Ms. Hikind said. “People who support Ateret Cohanim’s work in Jerusalem to ensure that Jerusalem remains united.”

The Jerusalem Reclamation Project of Ateret Cohanim works to transfer ownership of Arab homes to Jewish families in East Jerusalem. Such efforts have generated much controversy; Islamic judicial panels have threatened death to Palestinians who sell property in the occupied territories to Jews, and sales are often conducted using shell companies and intermediaries.

“Land reclamation is actually sort of a bad name — redeeming is probably a better word,” said D. Bernard Hoenig, a New York lawyer on the board of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. “The fact of the matter is, there are Arabs who want to sell their homes, and they have offered our organization the opportunity to buy them.”

Mr. Hoenig said that Ateret Cohanim bought a couple of buildings years ago, but that mostly it helps arrange purchases by other Jewish investors. That is not mentioned, however, on its American affiliate’s tax returns. Rather, they describe its primary charitable purpose as financing “higher educational institutions in Israel,” as well as children’s camps, help for needy families and security for Jews living in East Jerusalem.

Indeed, it does all those things. It houses yeshiva students and teachers in properties it helps acquire and places kindergartens and study institutes into other buildings, all of which helps its activities qualify as educational or religious for tax purposes.

The American affiliate provides roughly 60 percent of Ateret Cohanim’s funding, according to representatives of the group. But Mr. Hoenig said none of the American money went toward the land deals, since they would not qualify for tax-deductible donations.

Still, acquiring property has been an integral part of Ateret Cohanim’s fund-raising appeals.

Archived pages from a Web site registered to the American affiliate — taken down in the last year or so — described in detail how Ateret Cohanim “quietly and discreetly” arranged the acquisition of buildings in Palestinian areas. And it sought donations for “the expected left-wing Arab legal battle,” building costs and “other expenses (organizational, planning, Arab middlemen, etc.)”

An Unyielding Stance

Deep inside the West Bank, in the northern region called Samaria, or Shomron, lie 30 or so settlements and unauthorized outposts, most considered sure candidates for evacuation in any deal for a Palestinian state. In terms of donations, they do not raise anywhere near the sums produced for Jerusalem or close-in settlements. But in many ways they worry security officials and the Palestinians the most, because they are so unyielding.

Out here, the communities have a rougher feel. Some have only a few paved roads, and mobile homes for houses. Residents — men with skullcaps and sidelocks, women with head coverings, and families with many children — often speak in apocalyptic terms about the need for Jews to stay on the land. It may take generations, they say, but God’s promise will be fulfilled.

In November, after the Netanyahu government announced the settlement freeze, Shomron leaders invited reporters to watch them shred the orders.

David Ha’Ivri, the public liaison for the local government, the Shomron Regional Council, has positioned himself as a fierce yet amiable advocate. As a leader of an American-based nonprofit, he also brings a militant legacy to the charitable enterprise.

Mr. Ha’Ivri, formerly David Axelrod, was born in Far Rockaway, Queens, and was a student of the virulently anti-Arab Rabbi Meir David Kahane and a top lieutenant and brother-in-law to the rabbi’s son, Binyamin Kahane. Both Kahanes, who were assassinated 10 years apart, ran organizations banned in Israel for instigating, if not participating in, attacks against Arabs. The United States Treasury Department later added both groups, Kach and Kahane Chai, to its terrorism watch list.

As recently as four years ago, Mr. Ha’Ivri was involved in running The Way of the Torah, a Kahanist newsletter designated as a terrorist organization in the United States. He has had several run-ins with the authorities in Israel over the last two decades, including an arrest for celebrating the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a television interview and a six-month jail term in connection with the desecration of a mosque.

Treasury officials said a group’s presence on the terror list does not necessarily extend to its former leaders, and indeed Mr. Ha’Ivri is not on it.

Mr. Ha’Ivri said he no longer engaged in such activism, adding that, at 43, he had mellowed, even if his core convictions had not. “I’m a little older now, a little more mature,” he said.

A Sunday in late May found him in New York, on a stage in Central Park, speaking at the annual Salute to Israel celebration. “We will not ever, ever give up our land,” Mr. Ha’Ivri said.

He posed for pictures with the Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, and distributed fliers about the “501 c3 I.R.S. tax deductible status” of his charity, Shuva Israel, which has raised more than $2.6 million since 2004 for the Shomron communities.

Although I.R.S. rules require that American charities exhibit “full control of the donated funds and discretion as to their use,” Shuva Israel appears to be dominated by Israeli settlers.

Mr. Ha’Ivri, who lives in the settlement of Kfar Tapuach, was listed as the group’s executive director in its most recent tax filing; Gershon Mesika, the Shomron council’s leader, is the board’s chairman; and Shuva Israel’s accountant is based in the settlement of Tekoa. Its American presence is through a post office box in Austin, Tex., where, according to its tax filings, it has two volunteers who double as board members.

“I’ve never been to the board,” said one of them, Jeff Luftig.

When asked about his dual status as leader of the charity and an official with the council it supports, Mr. Ha’Ivri said he was no longer executive director, though he could not recall who was. He said he was confident the charity was following the law, adding that the money it raises goes strictly toward improving the lives of settlers.

Exacting a Price

If Mr. Ha’Ivri has changed tactics, a new generation has picked up his aggressive approach. These activists also receive American support.

Their campaign has been named “Price Tag”: For every move by Israeli authorities to curtail settlement construction, the price will be an attack on an Arab mosque, vineyard or olive grove.

The results were on display during a recent tour through the Arab village of Hawara, where the wall of a mosque had been desecrated with graffiti of a Jewish star and the first letters of the Prophet Muhammad’s name in Hebrew. In the nearby Palestinian village of Mikhmas, the deputy mayor, Mohamed Damim, said settlers had come in the dark of night and uprooted or cut down hundreds of olive and fig trees.

“The army has done nothing to protect us,” he said. Though the attacks are small by nature, Israeli commanders fear they threaten to scuttle the uneasy peace they and their Palestinian Authority partners have forged in the West Bank.

“It can bring the entire West Bank to light up again in terror and violence,” a senior commander said in an interview.

Israeli law enforcement officials say that in investigating settler violence in the north, they often turn to people connected to the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the Yitzhar settlement. After the arson of a mosque in Yasuf in December, authorities arrested the yeshiva’s head rabbi, Yitzhak Shapira, and several students but released them for lack of evidence. Rabbi Shapira denied involvement. He is known in Israel for his strong views. He was co-author of a book released last year that offered religious justification for killing non-Jews who pose a threat to Jews or, in the case of young children, could in the future.

A plaque inside the recently built yeshiva thanks Dr. Moskowitz, the hospitals entrepreneur, and his wife, Cherna, for their “continuous and generous support.” Another recognizes Benjamin Landa of Brooklyn, a nursing home operator who gave through his foundation, Ohel Harav Yehoshua Boruch. Mr. Landa said he donated to the yeshiva after its old building was destroyed in an Arab ransacking. None of the American donations have been linked to the campaign of attacks.

The Israeli military has activated outstanding permit violations that have set the stage for the yeshiva’s threatened demolition. And officials have barred some of the yeshiva’s students from the West Bank for months on end.

Od Yosef Chai’s director, Itamar Posen, said in an interview that the military was unfairly singling out the yeshiva because “the things that we publish are things that are against their ideas, and they are frightened.” Mr. Ha’Ivri and Mr. Mesika have charged the military with jeopardizing the men’s livelihoods without due process.

A settler legal defense fund, Honenu, with its own American charitable arm, has sought to provide a safety net.

An online appeal for tax-deductible donations to be sent to Honenu’s Queens-based post office read, “If the 3 men can have their families supported it will cause others at the Hilltops to brave military and government threats against them.”

Reached last month, one of the men, Akiva HaCohen, declined to say how much support he had received from American donors; Honenu officials in Israel declined to comment as well.

There is no way to tell from Honenu’s American tax returns; none was available through Guidestar, a service that tracks tax filings by nonprofits. Groups that raise less than $25,000 a year are not required to file. But a review of tax returns filed by other charities showed that one American family foundation gave it $33,000 in a single year, enough to have required filing.

Asked whether it had ever filed a tax return, Aaron Heimowitz, a financial planner in Queens who collects Honenu’s donations there, responded, “I’m not in a position to answer that.”

Opaque Finances

Religious charities are still more opaque; the tax code does not require them to disclose their finances publicly.

Mr. Hagee is one of the few Christian Zionists who advertises his philanthropy in Israel and its territories, at least $58 million as of last year, distributed through a multimedia empire that spins out a stream of books, DVDs and CDs about Israel’s role in biblical prophecy.

Mr. Hagee’s aides say he makes a large majority of his donations within Israel’s 1967 boundaries and seeks to avoid disputed areas. Yet a sports complex in the large settlement of Ariel — whose future is in dispute — bears his name. And a few years ago, according to officials at the yeshiva at Har Bracha, Mr. Hagee donated $250,000 to expand a dormitory.

The yeshiva is the main growth engine of the settlement, attracting students who put down roots. (Some are soldiers, and the head rabbi there has called upon them to refuse orders to evict settlers.) After the yeshiva was started in 1992, “the place just took off,” growing to more than 200 families from 3, said the yeshiva’s spokesman, Yonaton Behar. “The goal,” he added, “is to grow to the point where there is no question of uprooting Har Bracha.”

Various strains of American pro-settlement activity come together in Har Bracha. The Moskowitz family helped pay for the yeshiva’s main building. Nearby, a winery was built with volunteer help from HaYovel ministries, which brings large groups of volunteers to prune and harvest. Mr. Ha’Ivri’s charity promotes the program.

The winery’s owner, Nir Lavi, says his land is state-sanctioned. But officials in the neighboring Palestinian village of Iraq Burin say part of the vineyard was planted on ground taken from their residents in a parcel-by-parcel land grab.

Such disputes are typical for the area, as are the opposing accounts of what happened that February day when HaYovel’s leader, Tommy Waller, and his volunteers say they came under attack and the shepherd was shot.

“They came up screaming, slinging their rock-slings like David going after a giant,” Mr. Waller said. A Har Bracha security guard came to the rescue by shooting in the air, not aiming for the attackers, he added.

But, in an interview, the shepherd, Amid Qadoos, said settlers started the scuffle by throwing rocks at him as he was grazing his sheep on village land a few yards from the vineyard, telling him, “You are not allowed here.” He and his friends then threw rocks in retaliation, he said, prompting the security guard to shoot him in the back of his leg. His father, Aref Qadoos, added, “They want us to go so they can confiscate the land, through planting.”

Though two volunteers were hurt, Mr. Waller said neither he nor his group would be deterred. “People are drawn to our work who believe the Bible is true and desire to participate in the promises of God,” he said. “We believe the restoration of Israel, including Samaria and Judea, is part of that promise.”

In the last year, he said, he brought 130 volunteers here. This coming year, he said, he expects as many as 400.

Settlers now rule 42% of West Bank


An Israeli human rights group has confirmed that Israeli settlers now control over 42 per cent of the West Bank.

B'Tselem released a report showing the extent of Israeli colonisation of the occupied territories as US President Barack Obama and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu headed into a White House meeting on how to revive the long-dormant peace process.

The report, based on official Israeli documents, confirms what activists have known for some time - that settlements have taken over Palestinian lands far beyond their immediate perimeters.

"The extensive geographic-spatial changes that Israel has made in the landscape of the West Bank undermine the negotiations that Israel has conducted for 18 years with the Palestinians and breach its international obligations," B'Tselem said.

Although the actual buildings of the settlements cover just 1 per cent of the West Bank's land area, their jurisdiction and regional councils extend to more than 42 per cent, the group said.

Twenty-one per cent of the land for these settlements was seized from Palestinian landowners, much of it after Israel's Supreme Court outlawed the practice in 1979.

Settlers disputed the figures and said that the report was politically motivated, while Israeli officials made no comment.

Chairman of the settlers council Dani Dayan insisted that settlers controlled just 9.2 per cent of the West Bank, not 42 per cent. About 300,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements and an additional 180,000 live in east Jerusalem.

Israel annexed both territories from Jordan in the 1967 war, along with the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

The international community has earmarked all three areas for a future state of Palestine. Israel's continued construction of housing exclusively for Jewish citizens in east Jerusalem is preventing progress towards a resumption of peace talks.

The Palestinian National Authority has refused to sit down with Mr Netanyahu until he agrees to freeze illegal settlement construction.

Mr Obama has called on Israeli authorities in Jerusalem to halt settlement construction and on the Palestinians to show progress on security and do more to prevent violence against Israel.

What isn't wrong with Sharia law?


To safeguard our rights there must be one law for all and no religious courts The recent global day against the imminent stoning of Sakine Mohammadi-Ashtiani in Iran for adultery is an example of the outrage sparked by the brutality associated with sharia law's penal code.

What of its civil code though – which the Muslim Council of Britain's Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra describes as "small aspects" that concern "marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of children"? According to human rights campaigner Gita Sahgal, "there is active support for sharia laws precisely because it is limited to denying women rights in the family. No hands are being cut off, so there can't be a problem …"

Now a report, Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights, reveals the adverse effect of sharia courts on family law. Under sharia's civil code, a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's. A man can divorce his wife by repudiation, whereas a woman must give justifications, some of which are difficult to prove. Child custody reverts to the father at a preset age; women who remarry lose custody of their children even before then; and sons inherit twice the share of daughters.

There has been much controversy about Muslim arbitration tribunals, which have attracted attention because they operate as tribunals under the Arbitration Act, making their rulings binding in UK law.

But sharia councils, which are charities, are equally harmful since their mediation differs little from arbitration. Sharia councils will frequently ask people to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions. Councils call themselves courts and the presiding imams are judges. There is neither control over the appointment of these judges nor an independent monitoring mechanism. People often do not have access to legal advice and representation. Proceedings are not recorded, nor are there any searchable legal judgements. Nor is there any real right to appeal.

There is also danger to those at risk of domestic violence. In one study, four out of 10 women attending sharia courts were party to civil injunctions against their husbands.

"In this way, these privatised legal processes were ignoring not only state law intervention and due process but providing little protection and safety for the women. Furthermore … husbands used this opportunity to negotiate reconciliation, financial settlements for divorce, and access to children. Settlements which in effect were being discussed under the shadow of law."

An example of the kind of decision that is contrary to UK law and public policy is the custody of children. Under British law, the child's best interest is the court's paramount consideration. In a sharia court the custody of children reverts to the father at a preset age regardless of the circumstances. In divorce proceedings, too, civil law takes into account the merits of the case and divides assets based on the needs and intentions of both parties. Under sharia law, only men have the right to unilateral divorce. If a woman manages to obtain a divorce without her husband's consent, she will lose the sum of money (or dowry) that was agreed to at the time of marriage.

There is an assumption that those who attend sharia courts do so voluntarily and that unfair decisions can be challenged. Since much of sharia law is contrary to British law and public policy, in theory they would be unlikely to be upheld in a British court. In reality, women are often pressured by their families into going to these courts and adhering to unfair decisions and may lack knowledge of their rights under British law. Moreover, refusal to settle a dispute in a sharia court could lead to to threats, intimidation or isolation.

With the rise in the sharia courts' acceptability, discrimination is further institutionalised with some law firms offering clients "conventional" representation alongside sharia law advice.

As long as sharia courts are allowed to make rulings on family law, women will be pressured into accepting decisions which are prejudicial.

The report recommends abolishing the courts by initiating a human rights challenge and amending the Arbitration Act as Canada's Arbitration Act was amended in 2005 to exclude religious arbitration.

The demand for the abolition of sharia courts in Britain, as elsewhere, is not an attack on people's right to religion; it is a defence of human rights, especially since the imposition of sharia courts is a demand of Islamism to restrict citizens' rights.

Rights, justice, inclusion, equality and respect are for people, not for beliefs and parallel legal systems. To safeguard the rights and freedoms of all those living in Britain, there must be one secular law for all and no religious courts.

Moderate Islam 'forced on Australian Muslims'

 Nine MSN

A spokesman for international Islamist group Hizb Ut-Tahrir has said democracy is an illusion and that the government is forcing moderate Islam on Australian Muslims. Uthman Badar told the TODAY show the illusion of secular democracy "short-sold the people".

"I think people have come to see that democracy is more of an illusion in that it secures the interests not of the people but of the economic elite," he said.

"What we're saying is the secular democratic process has short-sold the people and it's better that people go back to the grassroots."

Mr Badar said the government was funding inter-faith dialogues and institutions in Sydney and Melbourne that promote moderate Islam.

"All people should accept that it's not acceptable for a state to tell people this is what you should believe and this is what you should not believe," he said.

"The issue is the government should not be taking sides in saying 'This is the Islam we have chosen for you — it's a secular, apolitical, localised Islam'.

"'If you do anything else, here's the anti-terror laws, we're going to chuck you in jail.'"

More than 500 participants at a Hizb Ut-Tahrir conference in Western Sydney heard on Sunday that Australia was a "god-forsaken country" and that moderate Islam was a "perverted concoction of western governments".

The group is banned in many parts of the Middle East but operates legally in Australia and in 40 other countries.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir supports the establishment of a Islamic state but rejects the use of violence to achieve it.