Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Banned by Israel From Leading Fact-finding Mission to Gaza

Last update - 01:42 12/12/2006

Israeli official 'not sorry' Tutu's probe into Beit Hanun strike canceled

By Haaretz Staff and Agencies

Israeli diplomatic sources said Monday night they were not sorry that the United Nations' fact-finding mission to investigate Israeli-Palestinian violence in Beit Hanun was canceled.

The mission, headed by Nobel laureate and former Cape Town archbishop Desmond Tutu, came to investigate the killing of 19 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanun at the beginning of November.

The sources said that the six-member delegation was "one-sided and cynical."

Earlier, Tutu said Israel refused to let him enter the Gaza Strip and was also preventing his entrance to Israel. "We find the lack of cooperation by the Israeli government very distressing," Tutu told reporters.

The sources said Israel wanted the mission members to enter as tourists, probably because a tourist status would not oblige Israel to recognize the mission's work. The UN, however, insisted they come as diplomats, that is, as representatives of the UN. The sources said negotiations were still in progress.

The mission was due to set out for the Middle East at the end of last week and report its findings by mid-month to the UN Human Rights Council.

Tutu said Monday that he has been trying to obtain an entrance permit both to Israel and the Gaza Strip for 10 days and that the delay may make the investigation impossible.

"We canceled important commitments to make ourselves available for this task," Tutu said, adding that he had left the bedside of his wife, who was in a hospital.

Christine Chinkin, a law professor at the London School of Economics, said she and other members of the team had hoped to meet with Israeli authorities and therefore decided against entering Gaza through Egypt.

"That would be one-sided. It would not give us the full picture. It would also look as though we were going in the back door," she said. "It was in no way at all a one-sided mission."

Olmert: Iran seeking to develop nuclear bomb, 'like America, France and Israel'

By Yossi Verter, Haaretz Staff and Agencies

Israel's policy of ambiguity over its nuclear capabilities appears to have taken another step toward clarity following a statement made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview on the German news channel N24. Olmert said that Israel should not be compared to Iran "when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia."

Olmert, who began an official visit to Germany yesterday said that "we have never threatened any nation with annihilation. Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

It is not clear whether this was a slip of the tongue on the part of Olmert or an intended statement.

Olmert's comments raised a storm among political figures in Israel.

Meretz chairman, MK Yossi Beilin said that "the fantastic statement of the Prime Minister on the nuclear issue reflects the carelessness
... and raises serious doubts whether this is a person worthy of serving as prime minister."

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) called on Olmert to resign following "a series of problematic slips of the tongue in matters of defense."

According to Steinitz, "the terrible statement made in Germany undermines 50 years of Israel's policy of ambiguity, and joins the irresponsible slips of the tongue such as the announcement regarding the fate of the abducted soldiers in Lebanon. A prime minister who is unable to control his statements on sensitive matters of security, must quit."

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said that if Olmert's statements reflect an intentional change in policy then he must release "an clear announcement to the free world, that if you do not stop Iran, we will stop it at any cost."

Olmert's spokesman, Miri Eisen, who accompanied the prime minister on a trip to Germany yesterday, said he did not mean to say that Israel possessed or aspired to acquire nuclear weapons.

"No he wasn't saying anything like that," she said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Olmert had meant to categorize the four nations as democracies to set them apart from Iran, and was not referring to their potential nuclear capabilities or aspirations.

Olmert's comments come a week after the incoming U.S. secretary of defense, Robert Gates, shocked observers when he said that Israel possessed nuclear arms, before a Congressional confirmation panel.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Olmert in his hotel in Berlin, last night for a meeting that was described as "private."

A private meeting room was set up at the InterContinental, where Olmert and his aides are staying, for the meeting. The two leaders at first met in private and were then joined by aides.

The meeting between the two was not on the official schedule of the visit, and aides were quick to point out that it reflected the warm and special ties between the two leaders.

Prior to his departure for Germany yesterday, Olmert said that Germany should curtail its commercial ties with Iran and that the interests of private businessmen in Germany should not influence German policy regarding Iran.

Germany will assume the rotating European Union presidency on January 1, 2007, and aides to Olmert say that his close ties with Merkel will avail Israel of a friendly interlocutor in matters having to do with the Palestinians.

Olmert and Merkel will meet officially today at the Chancellery in Berlin. Prior to the meeting, Olmert will address a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Holocaust at Grunewald Station's Platform 17 in Berlin.

Olmert will also meet the German President, Horst Kohler, today and tomorrow will leave Germany for Italy where he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Romano Prodi and the Pope, Benedict XVI.

Last update - 05:58 13/12/2006

Arab media play up ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews at Iran conference

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

The photographs of ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews attending the Holocaust conference in Tehran this week were given pride of place in the Arab media.

The television cameras loved the "Jewish, not Zionist" sign worn by one of them, with the Israeli flag crossed out.

Many of the media outlets, however, broadcast the message of these ultra-Orthodox Jews, which is that the Holocaust did indeed take place but does not justify the commission of crimes against the Palestinians, as a British rabbi, Aharon Cohen, said at the conference.

The secret of the conference's success lies in the confusion and blurring it has managed to create in Arab, Muslim and world public opinion between the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Nazir Majali, Israel affairs commentator for Al-sharq Al-awsat, a daily published in Lebanon, told Haaretz on Tuesday that Iran has exploited the hate for Israel in the Arab world to prove its status as a regional power.

"They did a dangerous thing," Majali said. "They are using the built-in hatred for Israel because of the occupation of the Palestinians in order to deny the Holocaust. As an Arab and a Muslim, I am ashamed."

Majali asserts that the Arabs attending the conference do not represent the Arab intelligentsia. "They are the Neturei Karta [anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews] of the Arab world. They should not be treated as being representative."

Some Arab media outlets are treating the conference with skepticism.

Al Jazeera broadcast a report by the network's Tehran correspondent. Its Israeli bureau was not asked to provide Israeli responses to the gathering.

The [U.S.-sponsored Arabic television station] Al-Hura took care to present Israeli reactions. The popular Arabic Web site Elaph reported Tuesday that "there was a good connection" between Hitler and the Jews.

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