Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Venezuela Becomes Key Link for Iran Policy

by David Bedein

Iran has been using Venezuela to help import and finance weapons denied by the international community.

In an address to the Brookings Institution on Sept. 8, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who has investigated Iran’s financial network and fronts, said Teheran was employing Venezuela’s banking network to evade United Nations Security Council sanctions. He said Venezuela, which was not under international sanctions, was helping Iran procure material and components for Teheran’s nuclear weapons program. Venezuela was reported to have at least 50,000 tons of uranium ore reserves”

“Generally speaking, nobody is focused sufficiently on the threat of the Iran-Venezuela connection,” Mr. Morgenthau said, adding that “in the area of mineral exploration there is speculation that Venezuela could be mining uranium for Iran.”

In return, Caracas has sought Iran’s help to make Venezuela a nuclear power in South America. In 2008, Iran opened a subsidiary of the state-owned Export Development Bank of Iran in Caracas, which months later came under U.S. sanctions. The Iranian bank in Caracas was deemed as having funneled money to Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran and Venezuela are beyond the courting phase,” Morgenthau said. “We know they are creating a cozy financial, political, and military partnership, and that both countries have strong ties to Hezbollah and Hamas. Now is the time for policies and actions in order to ensure that the partnership produces no poisonous fruit.”

Iran and Venezuela have signed a series of cooperation agreements, including in the areas of defense, energy, finance and joint technology development. In April 2008, Venezuela and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding that stipulated full military support and cooperation. Since at least 2006, Iranian military advisers have been embedded with Venezuelan Army and were establishing weapons factories in remote areas of the country. Two years later, Turkey detained an Iranian ship bound for Venezuela that contained laboratory equipment capable of producing explosives.

“The lack of infrastructure [in Venezuela] is offset by what experts believe to be ideal geographic locations for the illicit production of weapons,” Mr. Morgenthau said. “The mysterious manufacturing plants, controlled by Iran, deep in the interior of Venezuela, give even greater concern.”

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Turkey, Syria to Cooperate

by David Bedein

After decades of enmity, Syria and Turkey have launched a strategic cooperation agreement. This month, the two neighbors signed an agreement meant that included cooperation in the defense and military sectors. The accord also saw the removal of restrictions along the border between Syria and Turkey.

“The brotherhood that exists between our people has been lifted to the political level with joint Cabinet meetings to be held between our two governments,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. Officials said the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan regarded Syria as part of Ankara’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy. They said Ankara and Damascus have decided to establish what was termed a high-level strategic cooperation panel.

“Turkey is your second country and the people of Turkey have opened their arms to welcome you without the need for a visa,” Davutoglu said.

At a joint news conference on Sept. 17, Davutoglu and his Syrian counterpart, Walid Mualem, agreed to lift customs on trade between the two countries. They said trucks that shuttle between Syrian and Turkey would be exempt from taxes.

“This is the biggest demonstration of cooperation, solidarity and mutual trust,” Mualem said.

However, Bulent Alireza, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies commented that “the increasingly close relationship with Damascus, combined with the recent strains in the relationship with Tel Aviv, seems certain to raise additional questions about a possible change of direction in Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East.”

In 2009, Syria and Turkey launched its first military exercise. The exercise took place along the border.

The analysts said the Turkish military has not been enthusiastic over cooperation with Syria. Syria has long been seen by the Turkish military as a haven for the Kurdish Workers Party, which has been conducting a long time insurgency operation against the Turkish government.

Some senior Turkish officials said Syria has drafted plans to offer asylum to Kurdish Workers Party operatives. They said the Syrian offer, praised by neighboring Turkey, would demand that the PKK agents renounce violence and surrender their weapons.

“Our fight against the terrorist organization would be affected a great deal if some of these Syrians quit the organization and climb down the mountain,” Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug said.

In a briefing on Sept. 22, Basbug said the PKK contained an estimated 1,500 Syrian fighters, or more than one-third of the total insurgency force. He said Syrian members of the PKK were based in Iraq’s Kandil mountains.

The Syrian offer was announced by President Bashar Assad in mid-September. Assad said Syrian members of PKK could be allowed to return home if they renounce membership in the insurgency group.

“Do not expect that it will be all over soon,” Basbug said. “There are no magical formulas.”

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Archeologists Unearth 2,000-Year-Old Bath

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - An impressive ritual bath (miqve) from the end of the Second Temple period was recently uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the Western Wall tunnels, in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The miqve was discovered inside the western hall of a splendid structure that is located just c. 15 feet from the Western Wall. Parts of the building were discovered in the past and the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently exposing another one of the three halls inside it. It is one of the most magnificent structures from the Second Temple period ever to be uncovered.

The edifice is built of very delicately dressed ashlar stones and the architectural decoration in it is of the highest quality. From an architectural and artistic standpoint there are similarities between this structure and the three magnificent compounds that King Herod built on the Temple Mount, in the Cave of the Patriarchs and at Allonei Mamre, and from which we can conclude the great significance that this building had in the Second Temple period.

In his book The War of the Jews, Josephus Flavius writes there was a government administrative center that was situated at the foot of the Temple. Among the buildings he points out in this region were the council house and the “Xistus”- the ashlar bureau. According to the Talmud it was in this bureau that the Sanhedrin - the Jewish high court at the time of the Second Temple - would convene. It may be that the superb structure the

Israel Antiquities Authority is presently uncovering belonged to one of these two buildings.

According to archaeologist Alexander Onn, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It is interesting to see that in the middle of the first century CE they began making changes in this magnificent structure - at that time it was no longer used as a government administrative building and a large miqve was installed inside its western hall where there were c. 11 steps that descend to the immersion pool. It seems that the city of Jerusalem grew in this period and it became necessary to provide for the increased ritual bathing needs of the pilgrims who came to the Temple in large numbers, especially during the three pilgrimage festivals (Shlosha Regalim). Immersing oneself in the miqve and maintaining ritual purity were an inseparable part of the Jewish way of life in this period, and miqve’ot were absolutely essential, especially in the region of the Temple.”

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation is mandated to uncover the Jewish people’s past to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The miqve provides further evidence of the deep ties the Jewish people have with Jerusalem and the Temple.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Palestinian Prime Minister Belies Moderate Image

Palestinian Prime Minister Belies Moderate Image

by David Bedein

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayad's plan for a Palestinian State was received with adulation and praise at the United Nations this past week in New York. Indeed, throughout the month of August, 2009, Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad met with more than fifty members of the US Senate and US House of Representatives and made a fine impression on each and every one of them, from both sides of the aisle.

In press conferences held by almost democratic and republican congress people after meeting the American educated Fayad, the consistent impression that they conveyed was that Mr. Fayad represented a "moderate voice of leadership" for a future Palestinian state that could live alongside the state of Israel.

A group of Israeli peace groups received and distributed the English version of a position paper for a future Palestinian state that Mr. Fayad submitted this week to the UN, The EU, The American government and the Russian government

However, Fayad's paper "Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State: Program of the Thirteenth Government - August 2009" would seem to belie Fayad's image as a "moderate voice of leadership" available on the net at HERE.

The preface to Fayad's paper introduces a Palestinian state that will strive for "peace, security and stability in our region on the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital".

Yet Fayad's 38 page position paper reads like a declaration of war, not of peace.

Fayad asserts that "Jerusalem" will be the Palestinian capital of the Palestinian state - not East Jerusalem.

In case anyone was wondering if Fayad had made a typographical error by not mentioning "east" Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, Fayad repeats - ten times - that he means Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem. Fayad leaves nothing to the imagination, and writes that the Palstininian stat will " Protect Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Palestinian state", because Fayad asserts that "Jerusalem is our people's religious, cultural, economic and political center. It is the Flower of Cities and Capital of Capitals. It cannot be anything but the eternal capital of the future Palestinian state. Jerusalem"

Fayad goes on to claim that Jerusalem "is under threat" and that " the occupying authority is implementing a systematic plan to alter the city's landmarks and its geographical and demographic character in order to forcibly create facts on the ground, ultimately separating it from its Palestinian surroundings and eradicating its Arab Palestinian heritage".

Fayad further claims that "Palestinian life in Jerusalem is under daily attack through systematic violations perpetrated by the occupation regime" and that "It is the right and the duty of all Palestinians to protect their land, reject the occupation and defy its measures", adding that the Palestinian state "bears special responsibility for nurturing our people's ability to persevere and protect their homeland".

Fayad ads that the Palstinian government will maintain its "unreserved commitment to defending the Arab character and status of Jerusalem.... The Government will continue to do all that is possible to achieve this goal. The Government will work with all organizations to preserve the landmarks of Jerusalem and its Arab Palestinian heritage, develop the city, and secure its contiguity with its Palestinian surroundings".

Fayad frames Jerusalem as an illegal settlement, postulating that "the occupying authority is pursuing its intensive settlement policy in and around Jerusalem...The occupation regime has shut down our national institutions, neglected the development of Palestinian life, continued to demolish and evacuate Palestinian homes, and restricted access to sacred Christian and Islamic sites"

Fayad goes so far as to present a practical plan to Arabize Jerusalem:

Maintaining Jerusalem as a top priority on the Government's agenda and·" highlighting its predicament in the media. Launching a programs to promote the steadfastness of Jerusalemites, including: Strengthen Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, providing financial support to help them deliver services to citizens".

Fayad reassures his readers that a future Palestinian state would not be satisfied with Jerusalem, the west bank and Gaza as the national home for Palestinians, and says that the Palestinian government will continue to advocate for "Palestinian refugees in accordance with relevant international resolutions, and UN General Assembly Resolution 194 in particular", which mandates that Palestinian refugees and their descendents have a right to return to the homes and villages that Palestinians left during the 1948 war and its aftermath.

Fayad reminds Palestinians that "the refugee issue will remain under the jurisdiction of the PLO, through its Department of Refugees' a manner that does not exempt the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) from its responsibilities"

In the view of Fayad, UNRWA will therefore continue to confine Palestinian refugees a their descendents to the indignity of refugee camps, under the premise and promise of the "right of return".

Meanwhile, Fayad expresses full support for Palestinians who have been convicted of murder and attempted murder, saying that "the state also has an enduring obligation to care and provide for the martyrs, prisoners, orphans and all those harmed in the Palestinian struggle for independence".

Fayad simply cannot understand why Palestinians convicted of capital crimes should be jailed.

Fayad proclaims that "the continued detention of thousands of Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention camps in violation of international law and basic human rights, is of great concern to all Palestinians" and declares that "Securing the freedom of all these heroic prisoners is an utmost Palestinian priority and it is a fundamental duty all Palestinians feel to honor their great sacrifices and end their suffering" and demands the "freedom of all Palestinian detainees and prisoners and will continue to strive to secure their liberty".

Fayad also asserts that the PLO and have signed "all provisions of agreements signed with Israel", yet forgets to mention that the PLO never ratified the signed agreements with Israel.

On October 6, 1993, PLO chairman Arafat could not get a quorum for the PLO executive to ratify the Oslo accords that Arafat had signed with Rabin on the White House lawn.

On April 24, 1996, the Palestinian National Council would not cancel the PLO covenant and has never ratified the PLO covenant, despite the PLO commitment to do so as an integral part of the Oslo accord. The PLO Covenant has yet to be cancelled.

Fayad's view of justice is well articulated in this piece when he states that "All Palestinians are equal before the law".

Anyone who is not a Palestinian is therefore not equal

Fayad declares that the Palestinian State will be an Islamic state and "Promote awareness and understanding of the Islamic religion and culture and disseminate the concept of tolerance in the religion through developing and implementing programs of Shari'a education as derived from the science of the Holy Qur'an and Prophet's heritage".

In sum, Fayad concludes with a demand for a Palestinian state in the next two years, along the parameters that he has outlined, with an Palestinian state that will have all of Jerusalem as its capital, in an Islamic Sharia state that will campaign for all convicts to be freed, for all refugees to return to the homes and villages that they left in 1948.

A voice of moderation?

It would be interesting to know if the peace groups that distributed Fayad's working paper ever bothered to read it.

View the Original Link: Palestinian Prime Minister Belies Moderate Image

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Egypt's Hosni Loses UNESCO Secretary General Post

by David Bedein

Egyptian Culture Minister Hosni Farouk reacts as he returns for a hearing following a break at the UNESCO headquarters on Sept. 17 in Paris. Mr. Hosni, who is campaigning to be the next head of the U.N. office that promotes cultural diversity, outraged many Jews with his comments in April 2008 vowing to burn any Israeli books found in Egypt's famed Library of Alexandria. (Jacques Brinon/Associated Press)

Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, who was a candidate for secretary general of UNESCO, lost the sought-after post to former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Irina Bokova. Heavy lobbying against Mr. Hosni continued until the last moment.

Mr. Hosni earned the enmity of Jews around the world when he recently promised to burn Hebrew books and boasted that he would be the last Egyptian to visit Israel.

Mr. Hosni forbid Egyptian artists to display their works in Tel Aviv and supported the denunciation of journalists who visited Israel and returned to Cairo with the conclusion that “the monster is not so terrible.”

In addition, Hosni opposed translation of Hebrew literature in Egypt, and refused to open to the Jews the records of the Jewish communities in Egypt, for fear that they would lead to property lawsuits. More than 100,000 Jews were expelled from Egypt during the 1948, 1956 and 1967 wars, without being able to sell their property and without being able to take most possessions with them, while Egyptian Jewish assets in Egyptian banks have been frozen.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Hamas Continues Rocket Strikes on Israel

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Israeli Military sources that the Hamas regime in Gaza continues to aid terrorists who launch missile, mortar and rocket attacks Israel.

“Hamas wants to show that it is a major player and that it can torpedo any agreement,” an Israeli military source said.

The Hamas regime has launched 261 aerial attacks on southern Israel since the January 18 cease fire

The fact that no one has been killed in these attacks has resulted in nearly no press coverage of the fact that Israel’s southern region remains on high alert.

On Monday, Hamas fired several times into Israel. The Israeli military responded with air force strikes on three suspected Palestinian weapons tunnels in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, which borders Egypt.

In addition, Hamas has been targeting Israeli military deployment along the Gaza security fence

On Tuesday, Israeli tanks fired at two Palestinians who were planting bombs along the security fence around the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-aligned Popular Resistance Committee and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took credit for the attempt to plant the bombs, identifying the two dead Palestinian combatants as Mahmoud Nazir and Abdul Al Silawai. The statement said Nazir and Al Silawai were responsible for firing three rockets into Israel on Aug. 24.”The soldiers on the scene fired tank shells and mortar fire, and identified hitting the suspects,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, European nationals in Israel have filed suit against the EU for relaying hundreds of millions of euros to the Gaza Strip. The 15 plaintiffs said the Hamas and Palestinian militia attacks on their homes in Israel’s Negev Desert violated the European Treaty, which obligated the protection of EU nationals regardless of their residence.

“The European Union gives hundreds of millions of euros every year to aid groups in Gaza,” Mordechai Tzivin, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said. “This money cannot be allowed to target European citizens.”

Tzivin said the EU must reply to the eight-page suit by 14 Britons and an Italian national, submitted in August 2009. He said that unless the European Commission accedes to the demands of the plaintiffs the suit would be filed in the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg.

In 2008, the EU relayed 55.6 million euro in aid to the Gaza Strip. EU states have pledged separately more than 41 million euro in additional funds to Gaza.

The European plaintiffs live near the Gaza Strip and their communities have come under missile fire over the last five years.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Denigration of Israel in the Public Domain: Yom Kippur and the American Jewish Media

The principle of Freedom of the Press assures every media outlet the right to publish freely in the public domain. Yet on Yom Kippur, we couch that freedom with a restraint on "Hotzaat Shem HaRa" - denigration in the public domain

In 2008, Tikkun magazine, a fellow member of the American Jewish Press Association, won the American Jewish Press Association ‘s Simon Rockower Award for “Excellence in Special Sections or Supplements” for its “Israel at 60” issue.

Yom Kippur provides an opportunity for AJPA to reconsider such an award to a special issue of a magazine which was dedicated to promoting "Hotzaat Shem HaRa" and the denigration of Israel.

That issue contains vile diatribes against Israel as a human-rights-violating oppressor of the Palestinian people, a “shanda fur de goyim” (a disgrace among the nations), and an idolatrous worshipper of power instead of trust in YHVH (the God of healing and transformation, the God that calls for a world based on love and generosity and promises to throw the Jews out of their land if they do not embody this different and very anti-”realistic” perspective that is the whole point of being Jewish).” In that issue, Tikkun editor Michael Lerner described the founding of Israel by writing that “...Jews were determined to be as ruthless towards others as others had been towards us. Yet, there were alternatives. We could have remained a minority in an Arab country and hoped for the goodness of the Arab people to prevail...We could have reached a growing Palestinian nationalist movement and tried to create a bi-national state. We could have rejected20the Histadrut's "Jewish only" policy of membership...” Lerner added that “starting in the 1980s, it was the Jews who rejected reasonable offers for peace...” and that “the kind of Zionism that has emerged in Israel is fundamentally incompatible with the highest values of the Jewish tradition, and must be rejected...”

This is reminiscent of an interview with Dr. Mubarak Awad, head of a Palestinian “Center for the Study of Non-Violence” which Tikkun magazine commissioned our agency to conduct, on January 8, 1988.

Dr. Awad, whose office was decorated with pictures of Dr, Martin Luther King and Dr Mahatma Ghandi, said in the taped interview for Tikkun that he favored a coalition of violent and nonviolent organizations that would advocate the Palestinian cause. When Dr Awad was asked how his approach differed from the pure approach of non-violence advocated by King and Ghandi, Awad responded that he was "more pragmatic than they were." However, Tikkun Michael Lerner deleted these questions in the March 1988 published interview, explaining later that "this is not the Awad we know.”

In terms of current Tikkun Denigration activities, the Tikkun invitation to Alice Walker to speak for them on Yom Kippur speaks for itself.

Walker remains one of those who refer to Israel’s war with Gaza in terms of Israel’s “war crimes”.

It will be most instructive to observe the reaction of the American Jewish Press Association to Lerner’s latest act of denigration of Israel in the public domain.

The second Yom Kippur matter with AJPA concerns allegations of a former president of the American Jewish Press Association, Marc Klein, who engaged in a serious Hotzaat Shem HaRa against my work.

During this past year, I requested news interviews with J Street through J St9 9s representative - Steve Rabinowitz of Rabinowitz Dorf - asking for the opportunity to raise journalistic questions of the organizers of J Street concerning J Street's continued description of the PLO/Fatah/Abbas/The PA as a “moderate” entity..

However, Rabinowitz refused to allow me to ask questions to J Street organizers.

Incredibly, Marc Klein supported the idea that Rabinowitz would not have to answer questions from a journalist.

Klein justified the idea by attacking me as a right wing ideologue who is not really a journalist.

In other words, AJPA defines Michael Lerner as a journalist, but not David Bedein.

It is doubtful whether Klein bothered to peruse 909 bylined articles in the Philadelphia Bulletin , 2006-2009, which have been published over the past three years to see for himself whether the title “journalist” was appropriate or not..

With the advent of Yom Kippur, it would behoove Klein to express regret for engaging in Hotzaat Shem HaRa against me, and to admit that he while he may not like my questions, that he does recognize me as a colleague and professional journalist.

I have worked diligently in the world of journalism since launching a news agency at Beit Agron on Dec.1, 1987, a web magazine on Feb 1 1997 and assuming the chairmanship of an academic research center on August 1, 2005.

During these 22 years, I have applied my MSW and social work ethics to my work, and to stick to the facts, no matter whose toes are stepped on.

As a student of Saul Alinsky, whom I learned with at the Free University in Madison forty years ago, the principle of focusing on moral principles while carrying out a professional role remains of primary concern.

Contrary to how Klein has stereotyped my work, the passion of my background is in the peace movement, both in the United States and in Israel. From 1970 to the present, I was involved in Jewish-Arab dialogue groups, with organizations that advocate the protection of Jewish and Arab civil liberties, and with groups that seek a solution to the continuing indignity of Arab refugee camps.

When the PLO betrayed the principles pf the peace movement, the responsible thing do was to blow the whistle on the PLO, unlike many colleagues from the peace movement and from the world of social work who prefer to look the other way and to give the benefit of the doubt to the PLO, which continues to endorse the liberation of all of Palestine - albeit in stages - and the return of refugees and their descendants to homes from 1948 which no longer exist..

Israel Resource works on issues that most reporters prefer to ignore: the PLO suppression of civil liberties and human rights, the PLO persecution of Christians, the PLO media celebrations of those who murder Jews, the new PLO textbooks which inculcate the idea that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth. (

Israel Resource made enemies in the Jewish media by exposing Arafat before others did so, by hiring Palestinian journalists to record Arafat’s message in Arabic to his own people, while most of the media ignored Arafat’s clear message in Arabic.

Our Palestinian TV crew was the only TV media outlet that covered the Palestinian National Council meeting in April 1996 which would not change the PLO covenant to destroy Israel, which contradicted the lie promulgated at the time that the PLO had changed its covenant. (

Today, it is understood that Arafat was not a man of peace.

However, that was not always the case.

Our agency that exposed the fact that the UJC, in October 1999, intended to bestow the Isaiah Award for Peace on Yassir Arafat, Steve Rosenberg, then the editor of the Jewish Advocate in Boston, checked our story and received confirmation from the UJC and from Arafat’s office that the UJC indeed planned to grant the Isaiah Award for Peace to Arafat.

Thanks to that revelation, the UJC was forced to cancel that honor to the terror chieftan.

UJC never thanked our agency for saving them from that disgrace.

Imagine if Arafat’s obituary five years later would have mentioned an honor granted to Arafat by the American Jewish establishment?.

Instead, the UJC hired Kroll Associates to investigate the sources of our story, and issued memos to Jewish Federations to beware of our agency.

Yes, there is a price to be paid for being ahead of your time.

Today, with Yom Kippur on the horizon, the American Jewish media copes with paid professionals associated with the New Israel Fund, the Americans for Peace Now and Rabinowitz Dorf/J Street, all of whom are members in good standing of the American Jewish Press Association, all of whom promote the idea that the PLO/Fatah wants peace, along with the notion that Jewish communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines stand n the way of peace. They promote the idea that anyone who reports the PLO’s Arabic language message should be dismissed as “right wing” and not be listened to.

Arafat’s protégé, Abbas, in negotiation with Hamas to run a joint dictatorship over the Palestinian people, remains in control.

While Abbas's voice is softer than Arafat. his message remains the same.

Jewish media who cover suppression of Palestinian human rights could easily focus on Palestinian refugees and their descendants who are confined by the UN to the squalor of UNRWA refugee camps, funded by the Western nations, under the premise and promise of the right of return to villages from 1948 that no longer exist.

However, such concerns do not fit the agenda of those who denegrate the state Israel and such concerns do not fit the agenda of those who hold Israel responsible for confining Palestinian Arabs to refugee camps for an entire generation.

Yom Kippur is designed to bring about an inner change which will produce new ways of thinking and considering the challenges of life.

That should apply to the Jewish media and its coverage of the PLO.

Our agency asks, once again, that the June 2010 annual meeting of the American Jewish Press Association conduct a session on the Arabic language message of the PLO and its Palestinian Authority to their own people. If the PLO will convey a message of peace and reconciliation in the Arabic language by then, that will be discussed. Indeed, The Obama Administration is now addressing itself to the issue of virulent Palestinian incitement, unlike the Clinton and Bush administrations which ignored the issue.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: UN Report Outrages Israel

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Officials in Jerusalem are mobilizing for battle in an attempt to undermine the standing of the UN report on "Israel's crimes in Gaza," with the hope that it will not come before the UN Security Council or the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Despite a certain criticism of Hamas, the report deals mainly with "proof of significant violations of international human rights law that Israel committed in the Gaza war, and possibly crimes against humanity as well." Experts in Israel who examined the work of the commission and followed the recorded testimonies published on the UN web site, say that the commission members chose not to make things difficult for the witnesses.

"I listened closely to the testimonies, but also to the questions of the commission members," explained Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "the commission members didn't try to confront them with other information that they held. They were asked questions that were irrelevant to clarifying the facts of whether war crimes were committed or not."

For example, Dahoah-Halevi relates, in the case of the attack on the mosque in the town Beit Lahiya, the commission members asked many questions on the prayer arrangements, but did not ask even a single question on the presence of armed men or weapons at the site. The Goldstone report admits that it identified "reluctance" by the witnesses to deliver information on the activity of terrorist elements within armed [sic] areas. The report states that it is unable to determine the reason for this "reluctance," but notes that it could not discount the possibility that "the interviewees' reluctance may have stemmed from a fear of reprisals."

The commission approached the Hamas government and requested details on the activity of the organization's activity in populated sites from which rockets were fired. The response of the Hamas government, however, was: We have no data. However, the report determines that the fire constitutes "a deliberate attack against the civilian population.

These actions would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity." This sparked great anger on the part of Hamas.

"Resistance is a legitimate right that is anchored in international law," said Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Israeli President Shimon Peres also rallied yesterday for the Israeli attack against the report.

"The Goldstone report makes a mockery of history, and fails to distinguish between aggressor and defender," the president said, attaacking the author of the report. "He would not have written this if his children lived in Sderot and experienced the terror of the rockets there." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, "the report is a drumhead court martial, the outcome of which was known in advance, and it makes it difficult for democratic countries to fight terror."

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who is currently in New York, has already initiated talks with senior members of the US administration and Congress on the report, and is expected to meet with US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, with the aim of recruiting her to the battle against having the report reach the UN Security Council.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Invite Creates Egyptian Objections

by David Bedein

Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Shalom Cohen is in the eye of a political storm that is currently raging in Cairo following a rare work visit that he paid to Al-Ahram's offices. Top executives in the Egyptian media establishment are demanding that 
Cohen's host at that meeting, the editor of the magazine Democracy, be 
brought up on disciplinary charges for advocating normalization with Israel.

Cohen went at noon on Monday to Al-Ahram's offices for a meeting that 
had been scheduled with the prominent journalist Hala Mustafa.

The building, which is on Al-Galaa Street in central Cairo, houses 
both the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies as well as 
a the editorial offices of a number of publications that are issued 
under the aegis of Al-Ahram. One of those publications is the monthly Democracy, which is edited by Mustafa, a peace-supporting 

Ambassador Cohen is currently trying to organize a seminar to be attended by Egyptian and Israeli expert to address the question on Egyptian-Israeli trade.

Cohen wanted to discuss this matter with the president of the board 
of directors of the Al-Ahram Center, Dr. Abdel Monem Said, in hope of 
enlisting him to the project. That request was denied. He then decided to meet with Hala Mustafa. He never imagined that this would spark a 
storm over the question of normalization with Israel. 

The two met for approximately one hour in Mustafa's offices. The fact 
of the meeting was made public and created an uproar. Opponents of peace 
in Cairo accused Mustafa of collaboration with the Israelis, and asked 
how it was conceivable that Cohen had been permitted to enter the building at all.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Ancient temple Street Discovered Beneath Jerusalem

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - A section of a stepped street paved in stone slabs, going south in the direction of the Shiloach Pool was discovered in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Shiloach Pool Excavation at the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

Courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

The excavations are being conducted in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, funded by the Elad Foundation, under the auspices of Prof. Ronny Reich of Haifa University and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The existence of this road has been known about for over one hundred years, since it was first discovered between 1894 and 1897 by Prof. Frederick J. Bliss and Archibald C. Dickey of the British Palestine Exploration Fund, and then covered and filled in at the end of their excavation.

Other sections of this same road, to the north, have been excavated and covered over in the past, including during the excavations of Jones in 1937 and Kathleen Kenyon from 1961 to 1967.

The section of the stepped street was discovered 400 feet south of the Temple Mount. The road represents the central thoroughfare of Jerusalem that ascended from the northwest corner of the Second Temple Shiloach Pool to the north.

"In the Second Temple Period, pilgrims would begin the ascent to the Temple from here," said Prof. Ronny Reich. "This is the southernmost tip of the road, of which a section has already been discovered along the western face of the Temple Mount."

The current excavation has been concentrated in a very narrow strip in the western sections of the road. Essentially, the excavation work removed the earth that had been filled in by previous excavators over the sections they already discovered. The section of road was built in the Second Temple style, which comprises alternating wide and narrow steps. Further work must be done to clarify what the relationship was between the current excavated section and the section of the road and the drainage channels that were discovered nearby two years ago.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Venezuela, Iran to Cooperate, Trade

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced his country's preparedness to export 20,000 barrels of gasoline to Iran as soon as October.

Speaking in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud

Ahmadinejad here in Tehran on Sunday, Chavez reiterated that the two countries have signed an agreement in this regard.

Chavez's remarks came as the US tries to put energy sanctions on Iran and cut off the country's fuel supplies in a bid to force Tehran to halt its peaceful nuclear program.

To force Tehran to halt its nuclear activities, the US Senate has approved a bill to put pressure on companies selling gasoline to Iran.

According to the bill, companies that continue to sell gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran will be banned from receiving US Energy Department contracts to deliver crude to the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Despite lying on large oil reserves, Iran only produces 60 percent of its domestic gasoline demand and imports the remaining 40 percent.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Saudis Said to Increase Help to Al Qaeda

by David Bedein

In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, left, meets Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, at the Red Sea city of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia on Aug. 28. A recent report by the institute for Gulf Affairs shows that the Saudi royal family may be increasing its aid to the terrorist organization al-Qaida. (Associated Press)

JERUSALEM - Exactly eight years after al-Qaida terrorists dispatched 18 Saudis to crash American commercial airlines into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the The Institute for Gulf Affairs has published a study that accuses the Saudi royal family of increasing aid to al-Qaida terror

The study asserts that the Saudi royal family has encouraged young Saudis to fight Islamic wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. “The Saudi government has been contributing to the increase in terrorist activities in the years since 9/11 [Sept. 11, 2001],” the report, titled “The Saudi Terror Problem on the Rise Since September 11,” said. The report, citing open sources, said that up to 60 percent of foreign Islamist fighters in Iraq were Saudi nationals. The percentage was said to reflect Saudi policy to destabilize Iraq, dominated by the Shi'ite community.

“The main reason for the high number of Saudi suicide bombers and terrorists in Iraq is the Saudi official policy that supports instability in Iraq,” the report said. “In addition to Saudi officials, major Saudi clerics are part of the recruitment and funding of the insurgency in Iraq. Wahabi clerics, both working for the government or those with close ties with the Saudi ruling family, play a leading role in sustaining the flow of hundreds of Saudi suicide bombers to Iraq and in sending millions of dollars to support them.”

The report also says that Saudi Arabia has dispatched fighters to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the war against NATO. The report cited support by leading Saudi clerics for Taliban as well as fundraising for the Afghan rebel movement in Saudi Arabia.

“Privately obtained reports by the Gulf Institute confirm that members of the Afghan and Pakistani expatriate community in Saudi Arabia are raising funds for the Taliban inside the kingdom,” the report said. “Meetings frequently take place in the central and western regions of Saudi Arabia on farms outside Riyad and other cities. Al Qaida and Taliban recruitment networks in Saudi Arabia remain intact, as indicated by the arrival of dozens of new Saudi fighters who join the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“In addition to receiving fresh supplies of Saudi fighters, al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan receive millions of dollars in funds from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar,” the report added. “Saudi Arabia has not merely contributed fighters, it has also contributed financing to the Taliban.”

The institute study concludes that Saudi Arabia has failed to crack down on al-Qaida and Taliban recruitment and fundraising networks despite Riyad's alliance with the United States. Washington, which approved more than $10 billion in arms deals with Riyad in 2008, has been the leading weapons supplier to Saudi Arabia.

“The United States also failed to persuade or pressure the Saudi government to deal with the root causes of terrorism and extremism,” the report said. “Instead, the U.S. gave the Saudi ruling family unconditional support, including training hundreds of its security forces by U.S. trainers, and providing state-of-the-art technology, which is used to silence political and democratic opponents.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Baghdad Cannot Destroy Al-Aqeda

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - A report submitted the week for the U.S. Defense Department has determined that Al Qaida in Iraq would resist any offensive by Baghdad over the next few years.

The report by the Rand Corp. asserted that Iraq, even with U.S. help, would fail to eliminate the Al Qaida (AQI) terror network.

"Eradicating AQI may exceed ISF capabilities, even with U.S. help, but the AQI threat is more likely to grow weaker rather than stronger," the report said.

Titled, "Withdrawing from Iraq: Alternative Schedules, Associated Risks, and Mitigating Strategies," the report provided a bleak picture of Iraq's capability to destroy the Al Qaida terror network. Rand said Al Qaida would remain viable in Iraq despite a decline in financing and recruitment.

"AQI is hampered by a lack of popular support, by restricted movement, and by a dearth of financing," the report said. "It is now largely confined to Mosul, the Tigris River Valley, and Diyala province. One of its principal causes, and a source of recruiting and fund-raising -- the U.S. occupation -- is ending."

The report was released in late July 2009 amid a resurgence of Al Qaida in Iraq's largest province, Anbar. Al Qaida, after a lull of nearly two years, was said to have renewed operations in such Sunni cities as Faluja and Samara.

Rand said AQI has been hampered by the sharp drop in the flow of foreign volunteers to Iraq. As a result, the report said Al Qaida has been increasingly relying on Iraqi women for suicide and other operations.

Syria has been deemed as the way station for at least 90 percent of Al Qaida volunteers to Iraq. The report said Syria has hosted a range of Sunni insurgency groups exiled from Iraq and seeking to destabilize the Baghdad government.

A U.S. combat troop withdrawal was expected to renew the ethnic war in Iraq, another report said.

The Institute of National Security Studies asserted that the 130,000 American troops have largely succeeded in preventing civil war in Iraq. In a report by U.S. Air Force Maj. Clint ZumBrunnen, the institute warned that any reconciliation effort by Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds must be backed by American force.

"The correlation between fragile stability in Iraq and the presence of U.S. combat forces is difficult to ignore, even if it is true that US forces do not control the country," said the report by Zum Brunnen, a U.S. Air Force scholar.

The report dismissed U.S. claims of a military victory in the insurgency war in Iraq. Instead, ZumBrunnen asserted that the Sunni insurgency in Iraq abated when the United States provided massive financing to Sunni tribes in central and western Iraq.

"Any precipitous withdrawal of US combat power will greatly reduce U.S. leverage in Iraq and risk a return to the sectarian strife of 2006 simply because few of Iraq's serious internal conflicts have been resolved," the report said.

President Obama has pledged to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by August 2010, leaving an estimated 50,000 advisers and support personnel.

But the report warned that Sunnis and Kurds, the biggest supporters of a U.S. military presence, would harden their positions toward the dominate Shi'ite community once the Americans begin to withdraw. For its part, the Shi'ite community has been split by a power struggle led by the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army, commanded by Moqtada Sadr.

Meanwhile, ZumBrunnen said, the United States has been led into a potential war in northern Iraq regarding the authority and size of the autonomous Kurdish region. The focus of the confrontation has been the oil-rich area of Kirkuk.

"Both sides are now edgier because there is less certainty that the U.S. will intervene to prevent one side or the other from exploiting an advantage," the report said. "And since any grand bargain between Arabs and Kurds mediated by the United Nations will likely require a powerful military force for enforcement, knowledge that U.S. forces will withdraw completely by 2011 lessens the chance for a nonviolent solution to the dispute.

Accordingly, both the [Kurdish] peshmerga and the ISF [Iraqi security forces] continue to prepare for eventual conflict."

The report said the United States must now focus on helping determine control over Iraq's crude oil reserves, deemed the most explosive of ethnic disputes. Since October 2008, no progress has been reported in talks between the government and major ethnic groups.

"This is where the additional role U.S. combat forces fill in Iraq comes into play," the report said. "Not only are these forces the guardians of a tense peace; they are also the instrument of power that lends credibility to other U.S. levers at the negotiating table.

Degrading their capability before any long term agreement exists on an issue so vital to Iraq's future weakens U.S. ability to shepherd all sides into a compromise, and more ominously, invites a return to the sectarianism of 2006 and 2007."

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Calls at the UN to Bring Israel to Trial

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Tension is mounting in Israel as it awaits the publication of the Goldstone Commission’s report, which inquired into allegations directed against Israel relating to Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The report is set to be published in the next few days.

The commission, headed by a South African judge, was established by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and is largely regarded as anti-Israel. Israel has refused to cooperate with the commission and argues that it has predicated much of its findings on false and biased information that it obtained from Hamas. There is concern that the findings will be quite harsh and serve as a basis for litigation against Israel for “war crimes”.

UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navanethen Pillay, the South African judge, who hosted the anti-Israel Durban 2 conference last April, has already made clear her hope that the UN will ask The Hague to begin proceedings against Israel.

Pillay’s position is based on the Darfur precedent, since Israel has not ratified the international court’s charter and is not a member of it. The UN Security Council is authorized to order the start of litigation against countries that are not members of the court, and in the case of Darfur, the council did indeed instruct the court to start procedures against senior Sudanese officials for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. She said she hoped that the UN Security Council would respond in kind if the Goldstone Commission found possible war crimes.

Meanwhile the current president of the UN Human Rights Council rejected the demand of the “UN Watch” that British jurist Christine Chinkin be disqualified from the Goldstone Commission. The group argued that statements and articles by Chinkin in which she accused Israel of war crimes even before the commission had begun its work, which indicated that she held a predetermined bias.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Tensions Mount on Israel's Northern Border

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - Israel's military has determined that Hezbollah is expanding its presence along the Lebanese border with the Jewish state.

Israeli military sources said thar Israeli reconnaissance units have been detecting Hezbollah
positions in Lebanese villages near the Israeli border. The
operatives, dressed in civilian clothes, have been renting houses or stores
for the storage of equipment and housing of fighters.

"Hezbollah has intensified its deployment along the Israeli border," a
military source said. "What was secret a year ago is a lot less secret

These Hezbollah actions have been deemed a violation of the United Nations
Security Council-arranged ceasefire that ended the Lebanon war in 2006.
Under the council resolution, Hezbollah was banned from maintaining a
presence south of Lebanon's Litani River.

Hezbollah weapons were said to include air defense systems, such as
the SA-8 and SA-18. The sources said Hezbollah has also stockpiled rockets
with a range of more than 200 kilometers.

Two Hezbollah guerrillas prepare Katyusha rockets at their base near the Chebaa Farms area on the Lebanese-Israeli border in south Lebanon during a tour for the media organized by Hezbollah in this May 22, 2001 file photo. Israel's military has determined that Hezbollah is expanding its presence along the Lebanese border with the Jewish state. The UN Security Council called a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. (Mahmoud Tawil/Associated Press)

Over the last year, the sources said, Hezbollah has been smuggling
rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and other weapons into
villages near the Israeli border. They said Hezbollah, which deployed both
fulltime and reserve units, began operations in Shi'ite villages and moved
to Christian and Sunni communities.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Hezbollah has accumulated more
 than 40,000 missiles and rockets. Barak said he expected Hezbollah to use
these weapons in any conflict with Israel.

"If there is a conflict on our northern border, we will use all
 necessary force," Barak said.

Meanwhile, the Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Hezbollah efforts in Sunni villages have been quietly discouraged by the government in Beirut. In mid-August, residents of Marwahin fought
 Hezbollah operatives who tried to bring weapons into the village, about two
 kilometers from the Israeli border community of Zirit.

The Israel Army, which closely monitors the border with ground and air
surveillance, photographed a gun battle between Hezbollah and Sunni
villagers. Lebanese Army troops were summoned and stopped the fighting.
In the Israel Army video, released on Aug. 25, Marwahin residents were
seen attacking Hezbollah operatives, who fled to an unmarked vehicle. Lebanese
soldiers blocked the Sunni residents from reaching the Hezbollah sport
utility vehicle.

Israeli Military sources said the clash was a rare demonstration of opposition
by Lebanese to the Hezbollah deployment near the Israeli border. They said
in most cases Hezbollah efforts to purchase or rent homes in border villages 
did not encounter resistance.

"It is clear that Hezbollah wants to return the Israeli-Lebanese border 
to the same state that existed on the eve of the [2006] war," the source
said. "The difference is we are more aware of their activities."

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Government to Begin PR Tours

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Israeli government ministers Moshe Yaalon, Yossi Peled, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin are to leave for the United States with the goal of drumming up support for Israel.

The ministers will leave one at a time, between September 6 and October 18.

Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and the former Israeli consul general in New York, Alon Pinkas, who currently serves as the Foreign Ministry "roaming consul," will also join the tour.

The emissaries will address university students, public leaders and public opinion formers, including senators, Members of Congress, administration officials, governors, mayors, journalists, members of influential organizations and Jewish communities, church leaders and other community leaders. The lectures will be given in Washington, New York, Chicago, Boston and Atlanta, among other locations.

Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who conceived the idea of sending the delegation, said, "polls that were recently conducted in the United States prove once again that the American public perceives Israel as an important ally, and that Israel's standing in American public opinion is solid.”

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel-Sweden Crisis Continues

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - The crisis between Israel and Sweden continues.

The Director of the National Security Council Staff in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, Dr. Uzi Arad, cancelled his working visit to Stockholm for this weekend. Dr. Arad was supposed to meet with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt before the cancellation. The visit was cancelled as a protest against the continuing refusal of the Swedish government to condemn a fabricated story that appeared in the Swedish popular newspaper Aftonbladet that Israeli soldiers sell Palestinian body parts after killing Palestinians. The Swedish ambassador to Israel, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, condemned the article only to have the Swedish government overrule the condemnation.

Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Dr. Arad was supposed to fly to Stockholm from Berlin following Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Germany. According to the original plan, Arad was to leave the entourage in order to meet with Bildt and return to Israel on Friday. The visit was planned two months ago, before the crisis developed. Arad was also supposed to meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit who is staying in Stockholm.

During his visit to Germany, Arad telephoned Bildt and told him that, due to the circumstances, he was canceling his trip to Sweden. The two men have known each other for many years and the crisis between the countries has disturbed their friendship.

"Israel is disappointed over the fact that neither the prime minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, nor the foreign minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, has been brave enough to condemn the loathsome article," high-ranking diplomatic officials said.

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The Philadelphia Bulletin: 3,700-Year-Old Fortification Excavated in Jerusalem

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - A huge fortification more than 3,700 years old, which is ascribed to the Canaanites (Middle Bronze Age 2), was uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting in the “Walls Around Jerusalem" National Park in the City of David with funding provided by the 'Ir David' Foundation.

This image made available by Israel's Antiquities Authority Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009 shows part of a a 3,700-year-old fortification wall discovered in Jerusalem’sCity of David, part of the earliest fortification construction on such a large scale ever found in Jerusalem. (IAA/Associated Press)

“This is the most massive wall that has ever been uncovered in the City of David and it rises to a height of 26 feet,” said Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, director of the excavation. “We are dealing with a gigantic fortification from the standpoint of the structure’s dimensions, the thickness of its walls and the size of the stones that were incorporated in its construction. The walls appear to be a protected, well-fortified passage that descends to the spring tower from some sort of fortress that stood at the top of the hill. The construction of a protected passage such as this is a plausible solution that explains the innate contradiction of the situation whereby the spring - which is a source of life from the standpoint of the fortress’ inhabitants in time of emergency - is located in the weakest and most vulnerable place in the area. The construction of a protected passage, even though it involves tremendous effort, is a solution for which there are several parallels in antiquity, albeit from periods that are later than the remains described here. A small section of the fortification was discovered in 1909 and it has been ascertained in the present excavations that it was part of an enormous wall. This is the first time that such massive construction that predates the Herodian period has been discovered in Jerusalem.”

During this period Jerusalem and the fields around it were an independent political entity with self-rule, similar to its neighbors Shechem to the north and Jericho to the east. Massive walls resembling the one that was just exposed in Jerusalem are known from Canaanite Hebron (Tel Rumeida), Shechem (Tel Balata) and Gezer.

“Even though it would seem we are dealing with impressive fortifications, the walls were after all primarily used to defend against marauding desert nomads who wanted to rob the city, ” said Professor Reich. “These are the earliest fortifications in the region and they bear witness to the fact that from this point on the settlement had became an urban entity with a ruler who had the capability and resources to build such a structure. A small settlement would have been unsuccessful in organizing such construction.”

The known section of the fortification is 18 feet long; however, it is thought the fortification is much longer because it continues west.

“The new discovery shows that the picture regarding Jerusalem’s eastern defenses and the ancient water system in the Middle Bronze Age 2 is still far from clear,” said Professor Reich. “Despite the fact that so many have excavated on this hill, there is a very good chance that extremely large and well-preserved architectural elements are still hidden in it and waiting to be uncovered.”

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