Everything you need to know about today’s coverage of Israel and the Mideast.
Katsav goes to prison, Assad plays dumb to Barbara Walters, and an American drone crashes in Iran.
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• Former President Moshe Katzav begins serving seven year prison sentence. According to the Jerusalem Post, hewill share a cell with another former government official – Shlomo Benizri of Shas.
• But first, Katsav gave the AP an interview to declare his innocence.
• Attorney-General warns Prime Minister that legislation limiting funding to NGOs may be “unconstitutional” and would turn Israel into a pariah state.
Arab Spring/Arab Winter
• Bashar Assad tells Barbara Walters at ABC News that he may be the President but he “doesn’t own the country” and therefore has no responsibility for the thousands of civilian deaths. Meaanwhile the UN is now calling the violence in Syrian a “civil war.”
• NY Times reports from one of the bloodiest days in Syria since the uprising started nine months ago.•
• Lebanon’s Daily Star reports that Syrian opposition leaders are bitter at Hezbollah for siding with Assad despite the brutal crackdown.
“The Syrian revolutionaries in the streets daily shout slogans against Iran and Hezbollah after the resistance’s mask slipped off when it sided with the Syrian regime and helped it crush its oppressed people,” the head of the Syrian National Council Burhan Ghalioun said in remarks published Monday by Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal.
Reconsidering Syria’s strategy with Iran and putting an end to arms supplies to Hezbollah are among the Syrian opposition’s demands, Ghalioun said.
• NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman says he’s not surprised by the elections in Egypt.
Given the way that the military regimes in the Arab world decimated all independent secular political parties over the last 50 years, there is little chance of any Arab country going from Mubarak to Jefferson without going through some Khomeini.
• Western hackers going by the group name Telecomix are fighting back against clampdowns on Internet access by Arab regime. I wouldn’t bet against them.
When Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s now ousted president, cut off the entire country’s Internet in January, Telecomix set up dial-up connections using two servers in Europe. The members then faxed the dial-up numbers to every Egyptian office, university and coffee shop they could find. In August, after extracting records from unsecured servers, the group discovered that Syria was using equipment made by a Silicon Valley company, Blue Coat Systems, to block certain sites. (The U.S. government is now investigating Blue Coat, which denies selling its products to a country under economic sanctions.) Telecomix has also helped activists in Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain.
Rest of the Roundup
• The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has flagged the PA’s website for a tourism map showing all of Israel as Palestine. The map has been removed, representing a small victory in the fight against Israel’s delegitimization.
• Iran gets access to unmanned CIA drone that malfunctioned. According to the Washington Post, it’s the first case of an American stealth drone ending up in enemy hands.
• Daily Mail wonders if the West has already launched a war on Iran.
• Gerard Henderson gets op-ed space in the Age to warn about the spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East following the turn from Arab Spring to Arab Winter.
Jewish Israelis have reason to be concerned that Iran’s government-inspired anti-Semitism might spread within the Middle East. In late November, a Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo heard protesters pledging to ”kill all Jews”. And it is not only Jews who are threatened by the apparent rise of the Islamists. In Egypt, the Christian Copts are facing persecution, even murder, despite the fact that their history in Egypt predates that of Muslim Egyptians.