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Today’s Top Stories
UPDATE: After going to press, I learned that The Sunday Times acting editor Martin Ivens issued a statement regretting the offense caused. I updated the situation more fully: Sunday Times in Damage Control.
1. Backing down somewhat, Sunday Times cartoonist Gerald Scarfe told the Jewish Chronicle he “regrets the timing” of his cartoon:
Mr Scarfe, in a message to the JC denying permission to reproduce the cartoon, said that he had not been aware it was Holocaust Memorial Day.
But a spokesman for the paper dug in his heels about the imagery, telling Algemeiner:
“This is a typically robust cartoon by Gerald Scarfe,” said a spokesperson for The Sunday Times, adding, “The Sunday Times firmly believes that it is not anti-Semitic. It is aimed squarely at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people.”
The spokesperson said that appearance of the offending cartoon on Holocaust Memorial Day which is commemorated Sunday was coincidental, “It appears today because Mr Netanyahu won the Israeli election last week,” said the statement.
By the way, HonestReporting’s response to the cartoon was quoted by the JTA, Jewish Chronicle and Algemeiner. Download the graphic below, or share the Flickr link to let the Times know it crossed the line. And see the story behind this graphic.
2. What’s preoccupying Jerusalem today? Hezbollah is setting up camps in Syria near chemical weapons sites. Israel’s national security chief is in Moscow pressing the Kremlin to take measures on the ground to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Concerned about chemical weapons, the IDF deployed Iron Dome batteries to northern areas of the country.
3. Here’s a whitewash waiting to happen: A joint Iran-Argentina “truth commission” will investigate the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community headquarters. One of the suspects, Ahmad Vahidi, is now Iran’s defense minister. From AP:
This process, which needs legislative approval in both nations, provides a legal framework with due process rights for the accused that could be a model for conflict resolution, Fernandez said, and it puts the dispute firmly in the hands of legal experts overseen by independent arbitrators.
Jewish groups, however, made clear their discomfort at Argentina’s efforts to improve relations with Iran despite the unresolved bombing case.
Israel gave the truth commission a thumbs-down.
Israel and the Palestinians
• It’s official: Israel will boycott the UN Human Rights Council’s “Universal Periodic Review,” a regular assessment of human rights in all UN member states.
Israel’s review is scheduled for Jan. 29, to be overseen by Venezuela(!?), Siera Leone, and the Maldives. The Times of Israel writes:
But on Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor ended all speculation: “We are under an ongoing policy of suspension of all our contacts with the Human Rights Council in Geneva and all its branches,” he told The Times of Israel, “after their sequence of systematically anti-Israel moves, which have come to contradict the mission statement of the organizations and sheer common sense.”
• Hamas has agreed to release journalists arrested in recent days. The players in Gaza are treating this as a political issue in the context of national unity, not as a matter of free speech and free media. According to Maan News:
As part of the 2011 deal, Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah-led government in the West Bank agreed to stop media harassment and politically-motivated arrests.
The committee of public freedoms held a meeting in Gaza City Monday morning for the first time in around a year . . .
The committee had decided to suspend its work because none of its recommendations were implemented, especially those related to political detainees and public freedoms, he said.
On a related note, a Palestinian media organization is calling for Fatah and Hamas to end bans on their rivals’ newspapers. Maan News also writes:
Center director Moussa Rimawi noted that the split between the Gaza and West Bank governments since 2007 has increased abuse of journalists, self-censorship, and a general decline in media freedoms.
Further in that vein, Palestinian institutions in the PA’s Bethlehem district are now banned from having any direct contact with Israel. Details at the Jerusalem Post.
• A USA Today staff-ed engages in some historical revisionism.
Then Arafat was sidelined after he backed Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War. Palestinian moderates filled the gap, giving Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and U.S. diplomats the opening they needed to achieve a peace agreement. It got to the brink of success, only to be derailed by Rabin’s assassination and a cowardly retreat by Arafat.
Yasser Arafat — who remained in firm control of the PLO –was Israel’s address for peacemaking, not the Palestinian moderates who are today an endangered species. What derailed Oslo wasn’t Arafat’s “cowardly retreat,” but his intention all along to launch an intifada.