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Iran Launches 2 Nuke Plants


Iranian First Vice President Parviz Davoodi officially launched a small power station and a water purification and cooling system at its Bushehr nuclear reactor on Tuesday. Russia has been heavily involved in building the reactor, but recently held up construction at the site due to a dispute over Iranian payment for the project.

UK Teachers Avoid Holocaust History


British teachers are steering clear of controversial subject matter, including the Holocaust and the Crusades, "Because they do not want to cause offense to children from certain races or religions," according to an article in the London Times.

"Staff may wish to avoid causing offense or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups within their classes. In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship," concluded the study, carried out by the Historical Association and funded by the Ministry of Education.

The study's delicate wording indicates that its authors, too, wished to avoid causing offense. The study also reported that some teachers - especially in elementary schools - lack the requisite factual background, causing lessons on some emotional or controversial subjects to be "shallow."

A poll published by the London Jewish Chronicle two months ago revealed that ignorance about the Holocaust is widespread in the UK, with 28 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds unaware that the Holocaust took place.

However, only 1 percent of those surveyed thought the Holocaust was a myth. Just 16 percent of those polled thought that denying the Holocaust should be made a criminal offense in Britain.

Diplomatic Momentum Builds in Effort to Resolve Arab-Israeli Dispute

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Diplomatic momentum is building in the Middle East. High-level international and regional initiatives are once again focusing global attention on efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Some Israeli and Palestinian observers say the diplomacy is helpful, but it is now up those who live in Israel and the Palestinian territories to move the process forward.

Diplomats are once again paying attention to the Middle East. Recent visits by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel have put the Arab-Israeli dispute back in the international spotlight.

Also for the first time in years there are regional efforts at conflict resolution - especially by Saudi Arabia which brought the Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah together in negotiations to form a unity government - and then brought Arab heads of state together to revive a 2002 peace plan with Israel.

Now the talk is all about "political horizons" or discussions leading to the creation of a Palestinian state and regional diplomatic recognition for Israel. However, beyond an agreement between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to meet on a regular basis there are few signs that all the diplomatic activity of the past two months is going to lead to a major breakthrough in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Nader Said, who teaches sociology at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah said the three key players who have to push for a settlement are in no position to do so.

"In relation to the Israeli situation, you have a very weak Israeli government," Said said. "The situation is volatile. It is expected that the current [Israeli] government might fall and a new election might take place. Within the United States itself, we have an upcoming election, and in the year of the election no one is willing to put pressure on the Israeli side - which is needed to achieve concessions from Israel. On the Palestinian side you have a great deal of exhaustion. The situation is also precarious between the two main political parties - no one is sure if the unity government will last for a long time."

Being in a weakened political position does not rule out making progress in Middle East peace efforts says Gidi Grinstein, the President of the Reut Institute, a public policy group that advises the Israeli government on strategic issues. Grinstein says peace efforts can get a boost in Israel when the country's leaders are at their weakest.

"There is a weak prime minister but there is also a structural problem here and that is we have a political system that generates short and unstable tenures, fragmented legislatures and fragmented executives," Grinstein said. "The outcome is that every Israeli prime minister has one major political move to make with the Palestinians. The moment he or she begins to embark on that process their coalition breaks down and they basically lose power.

"So prime ministers in Israel have to choose between political stability with immobility with the Palestinians, or making progress with the Palestinians and losing the political stability. This is why Israeli prime ministers go for the political move with the Palestinians usually towards the end of their political tenure, after they have exhausted all their other options."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but would not discuss anything other than "humanitarian issues." Israel has said that it will have nothing to do with the new unity Palestinian government because it is dominated by Hamas. The group refuses to recognize Israel, disarm, or fully accept past peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians - three conditions Israel says are necessary for Israel to sit down and negotiate.

Saudi Arabia: Israel Must Accept Arab Peace Offer Before Talks

By VOA News

Saudi Arabia has said that Israel should first clearly accept the Arab peace initiative before the kingdom would consider talks. A statement from the Saudi cabinet Monday did not directly refer to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's invitation to Arab leaders to attend a Middle East peace conference.

The statement said Israel first must end what it called constant violations and inhuman aggression against the Palestinian people. It also said the Arab leaders made a clear commitment to peace at last week's summit in Riyadh, where they offered a broad land-for-peace plan.

In Paris, visiting Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr said Olmert's proposal skips over necessary steps in the peace process. But in Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that interaction between Israel and potential Arab partners would be positive.

Olmert Sunday invited all Arab leaders to a peace conference, and called Saudi King Abdullah a "very important leader." Last week, the Arab League re-launched a 2002 plan calling for normal relations with Israel in return for Israel's withdrawal to its 1967 borders, establishment of a Palestinian state and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes inside Israel.

Olmert said Israel does not accept all parts of the plan, but that the plan, with some changes, could be a basis for dialogue.

Hamas Boasts Readiness in Gaza; Praises '1948 Arabs'


In separate statements this week, Hamas spokesmen threatened disaster for the Israeli military and praised the steadfastness of Arabs under the "occupation of 1948."

A Hamas terrorist spokesman threatened to "bring hell upon the heads of the enemy" in the event of an Israeli military campaign in the Palestinian Authority-controlled Gaza Strip or an IDF assassination of a PA terrorist leader.

Hamas, which currently controls the PA government, is holding Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit captive. Intelligence sources assume that Shalit is located somewhere in southern Gaza.

A spokesman for the Hamas terrorist organization identified as "Abu Obeida" said Tuesday, "The Zionist threats are not new. They express the extent of the failure and helplessness the Zionist enemy's leadership has reached in its confrontation with Palestinian national unity. Such threats do not frighten us and will not deflect us from the path of jihad and resistance." The Hamas spokesman threatened "a fire that will consume everything."

Abu Obeida claimed that all the PA terrorist organizations are unified, prepared and able to prevent any Israeli military campaign in the Gaza region. "The land of Gaza will become a graveyard for the invaders, who will face new resistance methods that they never knew of before. They will regret the moment they thought of the foolish act of invading the Gaza Strip," he said.

The Hamas spokesman also threatened "a fire that will consume everything" if Israel targets the leadership of the PA Arabs. "It will be a disaster for the Zionist enemy," Abu Obeida boasted.

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas leader outside of PA-controlled Gaza expressed the organization's view of the rest of Israel, including inside the pre-1967 borders. In a speech delivered during a political gathering south of Damascus, Hamas political leader Musa Abu Marzouk praised the Israeli Arabs as steadfast sons of the "Palestinian people in the occupied lands of 1948."

"The uprising in the events of Land Day in 1976 [violent riots by Israeli Arabs against the state - ed.] proved the attachment of the Palestinian people in the occupied lands of 1948 to their national identity and their resistance to the occupation," Abu Marzouk said.

Media Scenes of Israeli-Palestinian Violence Can Foster Negative Stereotypes for Teenagers

By Newswise

U.S. high school students of Arab or Jewish descent tend to develop negative attitudes and stereotypes about each other when they are exposed to TV reports of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a new study by the University of Michigan.

Multiple factors predict teens' negative stereotypes of other groups, including the amount of time they spend with friends who have those beliefs, said co-principal investigator Eric Dubow, an adjunct research scientist at the U-M's Institute for Social Research and a professor at Bowling Green State University. But media exposure to news about the Middle East conflict appears to be one important element.

The study's principal investigator L. Rowell Huesmann, said "Our findings show that American high school students interpret the televised scenes of violence from the Middle East quite differently depending on their own ethnic background and identification. For example, each ethnic group thinks that most of the violence they see on TV is perpetrated by the other ethnic group."

Researchers gathered responses from 229 9th and 12th grade Arab-American and Jewish-American high school students, who were asked about their exposure to newscasts about the Middle East conflict and their attitudes and beliefs about the other ethnic group, as well as their own ethnic identity. Although students indicated that they "often" were exposed to media coverage of the conflict, about half of both groups said they received their news "once a week or less" from television, newspapers, radio and the Internet.

A unique element of the study was the use of two reaction time tasks to assess "unconscious" prejudice on the part of the respondents: In the Implicit Association Test, students pressed a computer key as rapidly as they could when a Jewish name or pleasant word appeared on the monitor and another key if an Arab name or unpleasant word appeared. The pairings then were reversed.

In the Weapons Identification Task, students tried to identify a picture presented on a computer screen for only 50 milliseconds as a gun or a tool. Arab or Jewish names appeared on the monitor just before the picture.

On the first test, Arab-American high school students took longer to react when Jewish names were paired with "good" words than when they were paired with "bad" words. This difference was bigger when the Arab-American had watched more news about the violence in the middle-east. The same was true for Jewish-American high school students when they reacted to pairings of Arab names with good or bad words. These results mean that unconscious prejudice was greater within each group for those who watched more news about the violence in the Middle East.

On the Weapons Identification Task, both groups made more errors of falsely identifying a picture as a gun when the picture was preceded by a typical name from the other ethnic group. This result indicates that each ethnic group has an unconscious stereotype that the other group is "violent." Furthermore, the results show that this stereotype was strongest for Arab-American youth who watched more scenes of violence from the middle-east.

These results were consistent with the answers the teens gave to questions that asked them explicitly about how they felt about the other group, Dubow said. Both groups reported more positive views about their own group compared to the other ethnic group. Additionally, the relation between exposure to media depictions of violence perpetrated by Arabs and self-reported negative stereotypes about Arab-American teens was significant for Jewish-American youth. For Arab-American youth, negative stereotypes against Jewish-American teens were greater when their friends held negative stereotypes toward the other ethnic group.

Additional research is needed to identify the influences of other sources of exposure, such as discussions with parents, teachers and peers, the researchers said.

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