Newsletter : 12fx0704.txt
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Iran Claims it Successfully Test Fired Missile That Could Reach Israel
Iran said on Tuesday it had successfully tested medium-range missiles capable of
hitting Israel as a response to threats of attack, the latest move in a war of nerves with
Israel said it could attack Iran if diplomacy failed to secure a halt to its disputed
nuclear energy program. The United States also has military force as a possible option but
has repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new economic sanctions are
implemented against Iran.
The Islamic Republic announced the "Great Prophet 7" missile exercise on Sunday after a
European embargo against Iranian crude oil purchases took full effect following another
fruitless round of big power talks with Tehran.
Iran's official English-language Press TV said the Shahab 3 missile with a range of
1,300 km (800 miles) - able to reach Israel - was tested along with the shorter-range
Shahab 1 and 2. "The main aim of this drill is to demonstrate the Iranian nation's
political resolve to defend vital values and national interests," Revolutionary Guards
Deputy Commander Hossein Salami was quoted by Press TV as saying, adding that the tests
were in response to Iran's enemies who talk of a "military option being on the table." On
Sunday, Iran threatened to wipe Israel "off the face of the earth" if the Jewish state
Analysts have challenged some of Iran's military assertions, saying it often
exaggerates its capabilities.
Senior researcher Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute said Iran's missiles were still relatively inaccurate and of limited use in
conventional warfare. With conventional warheads, "their only utility is as a tool of
terror and no more than that", he said by telephone. He added, however, that they could be
suitable for carrying nuclear warheads, especially the larger ones.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in a 2010 report that all
Tehran's ballistic missiles were "inherently capable of a nuclear payload," if Iran was
able to make a small enough bomb.
Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons
capability. The world's No. 5 oil exporter maintains that it is enriching uranium only to
generate more energy for a rapidly growing population.
Iran has previously threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than a
third of the world's seaborne oil trade passes, in response to increasingly harsh
sanctions by the United States and its allies intended to force it to curb its nuclear
Fars said dozens of missiles involved in this week's exercises had been aimed at
simulated air bases, and that Iranian-built unmanned drones would be tested on
Tests Suggest Arafat was Poisoned
A Swiss laboratory that tested late PLO leader Yasir Arafat's clothing and body fluids
found high doses of radioactive Polonium-210. The research released Tuesday suggests
Arafat was poisoned with polonium in 2004. Francois Bochud, head of the Institute of
Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne, told Al-Jazeera, "The conclusion was that
we did find some significant polonium that was present in these samples."
Arafat died on November 11, 2004, following several weeks of treatment for
deteriorating health. He had been airlifted to France from his besieged headquarters in
Ramallah. At the time of his death at the age of 75, Palestinian Authority officials
charged he had been poisoned by longtime foe Israel, but an inconclusive PA investigation
in 2005 ruled out cancer, AIDS or poisoning.
However, French officials are restricted by privacy laws and have refused to reveal the
precise cause of death or the nature of his condition, fuelling a host of rumors and
theories as to the cause of his illness. To confirm the theory that he was poisoned by
polonium it would be necessary to exhume and analyze Arafat's remains, Bochud said.
"If (Suha Arafat) really wants to know what happened to her husband (we need) to find a
sample - I mean, an exhumation... should provide us with a sample that should have a very
high quantity of polonium if he was poisoned," he said.
However, Bochud said an analysis of Arafat's belongings indicated he was poisoned. "I
can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported
polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,"
said Bochud. The study of Arafat's medical file and belongings was carried out at the
University Hospital Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is considered one of the best
forensic pathology labs in the world.
Polonium is a highly radioactive element used, among other things, to power spacecraft.
Animal studies have found similar symptoms, which lingered for weeks - depending on the
dosage until the subject died. "The primary radiation target
gastrointestinal tract," said an American study conducted in 1991, "activating the
`vomiting centre' in the brainstem."
The lab's results were reported in millibecquerels (mBq), a scientific unit used to
measure radioactivity. Polonium-210, the isotope found on Arafat's belongings, has a
half-life of 138 days, meaning that half of the substance decays roughly every
four-and-a-half months, when naturally occurring polonium only registers a few
millibecquerels, usually fewer than 10, at a time.
But Arafat's personal effects, particularly those with bodily fluids on them,
registered much higher levels of the element. His toothbrushes had polonium levels of
54mBq; the urine stain on his underwear, 180mBq. Further tests, conducted over a
three-month period from March until June, concluded that most of that polonium
between 60 and 80 percent, depending on the sample was "unsupported," meaning that
it did not come from natural sources.
However, even though the tests indicate Arafat was in all likelihood poisoned, they do
nothing to suggest who may have been behind it.
Netanyahu on U.S. Independence Day: There's Reason for Hope
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu released on Tuesday a special message to President
Barack Obama and to the citizens of the United States, in honor of the Fourth of July
holiday. His speech was taped and sent to the annual July 4 celebration at the home of the
United States Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro.
"As Israel's Prime Minister, I appreciate deeply all that America has done for Israel,
and as the leader of one of the world's most vibrant democracies, I appreciate all the
great sacrifices that America has made in order to advance liberty and democracy
throughout the world," said Netanyahu.
Speaking about the transformations in the Middle East, Netanyahu said, "All those who
value freedom should remember that to be a real democracy, it is not enough to have a
government that represents the majority of the people. Real democracy also means having a
government that respects the rights of each and every individual in it. Real democracy is
not merely about holding popular elections. It is about what happens between elections. It
means ensuring that no one is above the law. It means protecting free speech, freedom of
the press, freedom of religion. It means upholding the rights of women, minorities, gays,
"By ensuring both popular sovereignty and individual rights, the nations of the region
can join America and Israel in being genuine democracies." He said that "In the near term,
I think we'll all agree, there's ample reason for skepticism
But in the long term, in
the long term I believe there's reason for hope. Because with the spread of information
technology, it will become increasingly difficult to keep young minds closed, cloistered
in darkness. Ultimately, the power of freedom is bound to prevail.
"Ultimately, people throughout the Middle East will enjoy the rights that we in free
societies too often take for granted." He concluded by saying, "On behalf of the people of
Israel, let me wish President Obama and all the American people a Happy Independence
U.S. Presbyterian Church Committee Votes in Favor of Israel Divestment Resolution
Following a lengthy and heated debate, Committee 15 of the 220th General Assembly of
the Presbyterian Church in the United States voted in favor of a motion calling for
divestment from three companies that do business with Israel.
Whether or not the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel is
gaining traction is one of the hottest questions being asked among the most politically
active members of the Jewish community as many people take the issue to heart.
Israel supporters claim that the numbers of participants in the annual "Israel
apartheid" week have not grown significantly, and that the American Methodist and
Presbyterian Churches, despite regularly raising the topic of divesting from companies
that "profit from Israeli occupation," generally end up voting against it. The discourse
is shifting and not in Israel's favor.
In 2008, the United Methodist Church rejected an Israel divestment resolution. On May
2, the UMC general conference did it again, rejecting a resolution calling for divestment
from three companies doing business with Israel (although the conference did adopt a
measure recommending a boycott of products made in Israeli settlement).
This week, the topic was raised again in Pittsburgh, at the general assembly of the
Presbyterian Church. Last time, the resolution didn't even pass the committee level, let
alone the general vote.
This time, something different happened. Committee 15 voted in favor of a motion
calling for divestment from Motorola, for providing surveillance equipment for Israeli
settlements, Caterpillar, for providing bulldozers used for demolishing Palestinian
houses, and Hewlett-Packard, for selling hardware used by Israel in its naval blockade of
Gaza. The motion also called for the church to increase investments in companies promoting
peaceful pursuits. The final vote is expected at the general assembly later this week.
But during Monday evening's debate, there were also concerns expressed over the
possible impact of the decision on the relations with the Jewish community - and other
sectors of the American Christian community.
Weeks before the general assembly opened on June 30, the proposal drew sharp criticism
and warnings from Jewish American organizations, with the exception of those on the far
left, such as the Jewish Voice for Peace. Over 1,300 rabbis and over 12,000 American Jews
signed letters to delegates of the biennial Presbyterian Church General Assembly, calling
them to reject the "counterproductive" resolution.
In response, the Anti-Defamation League warned of the negative effect on the Jewish and
American Christian relations. The American Jewish Committee called the resolutions
generally put to votes every two years at the Presbyterian Church gatherings "an
unfortunate tradition" meant to vilify Israel and adopt positions of "non-representative"
Some members of the general assembly committee that discussed the motion in Pittsburgh
said they do not understand why the resolution is interpreted as a threat - they insisted
it's a moral issue, certainly not an anti-Semitic one, to stop pouring resources "into
hurting people in another country. There's violence happening here. Someone is profiting
from it. And we need to not be a part of that," said one of the committee members.
It's not that Israel is running short of supporters among the American Christian
community; in about two weeks, Christians United for Israel, a large Evangelical
pro-Israel organization, will run its annual gathering in Washington DC. It's likely that
the Presbyterian divestment motion will draw quite a bit of criticism there.
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