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October 9, 2009

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 9, 2009 By Adam Dickter Jewish Week NEW YORK--Imagine getting a phone call from an advancing army warning you to get out of the area. Or getting a "knock on the roof," in the form of a dummy bomb dropped from a military plane, warning you that the terrorist hiding in your build- ing has been targeted, and the next bomb will be real. That's the side of the war against Humus the Israel Defense Forces wants more people to see in the wake of the Goldstone Report by the U.N. Human Rights Com- mission. The report alleges that both sides committed war crimes against civilians during their fierce conflict at the end of 2008. "We have made thousands of phone calls for terrorists to evacuate houses, and dropped thousands of leaflets," said Avital Leibovich, the IDF's spokeswoman, who was trav- eling in the U.S.iast week courtesy of the Israel Project to discuss the success of Operation Cast Lead, the op- eration that targeted Humus forces in Gaza to end attacks on southern Israel. "The steps we took to prevent civilian casualties were enormous." While some critics said those warned by Israel had no place to which they could evacuate, Leibovich notes that the area once occupied by Gush Katif settlements in northern Gaza, such as Nit- zanim, remains a completely unused area where civilians could have waited out the violence. Leibovich, a lieutenant colonel, stopped by The Jewish Week's office last Thursday, fully armed with facts and fig- ures, maps and charts. While Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of the Goldstone report and generally won't dignify it by responding directly to its allegations, Leibovich did say that inves- tigations into the conduct of Israel's soldiers is ongoing. "There are some investiga- tions, but the source is not Goldstone," she said, noting that a handful of troops have already gone to jail for conduct during the operation. To those who argue against the mobilization in the first place, Leibovich pointed out that were on average 60 to 80 rocket or mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza per month before the operation, a number that has now dipped into the single digits. There were two Kassam attacks in June, the same number in July, seven in August and five in September. "The result speaks for itself," said Leibovich. That number doesn't count the rockets that never made it into Israel. About one- quarter of rockets fired end up landing inside Gaza. While the rockets have been quieter, there has been a recent surge of shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers at the border or at civilian work- ers maintaining surveillance equipment. There have also been improvised explosive devices planted in the path ofpatrolvehicles. Smuggling weapons through some 350 tunnels in a 9-mile zone at the bordercontinues, despite Israel having blown up hun- dreds of the secret passages last year. "They are working 24-7 to build the tunnels," says Leibovotch. "They have the manpower. Of 1.5 mil- lion Palestinians in Gaza, 50 percent are 15 and under." Humus is known to be stocking up on Grad mis- siles, more powerful and reliable than Kassams, that are capable of hitting targets twice as far away, as far as Yavneh, which is 35 minutes from Tel Aviv. And so, the eight-month lull in fighting between Is- rael and Humus can only be viewed as a resupply period for Humus. "Since we are not in Gaza we can't give direct numbers on [how many smuggling tunnels are be- ing used], "said Leibovitch. "But our information is they are returning to operational capacity." She displayed a militant map seized by Israeli forces in a small village in northern Gaza that detailed hidden munitions, anti:tank explo- sives and mines and even a sniper station ina mosque, all in a heavily populated civilian area.~ "They turned a residen- tial neighborhood into a military base," said Leibo- vich, noting that militants frequently open fire on soldiers to draw them into such situations. In response, the IDF has constructed a mock-up Arab village in which to train troops in close-quarters combat. There is ample evidence, she said, of Humus routinely us- ing civilian shields, and she has taken to posting it on YouTube to make the case. In the final analysis, Israel determined through thor- ough background checks that more than 60 percent of casualties during the Gazawar, or 707 people, were Humus members, while the remaining 245 were civilians or people whose identity can't be verified. Leibovich spoke much more optimistically about the situation in the West Bank, where hundreds of Palestinian police are being deployed after training by U. S. Army Gen. Keith Dayton in Jordan. They are now the law in Nablus, Jenin, Beth- lehem and Jericho. That, plus the construction of the security barrier around Jewish settlements and the border with Israel, has greatly increased security. "Since 2006 there has not been a suicide bomber infiltrating Israel from the West Bank," she said (although there have been bombers from East Jerusalem). She said there were signs of increasing economic ties between Palestinians and Israelis--the mayors of Nab- lus and Gilboa are planning a joint industrial zone--and unemployment has been dropped even as construc- tion, the number of Israel work permits granted and tourism rates have soared. "Almost one million people visited Bethlehem last year, more than all of Israel," said Leibovich. "I think that's an incredible number." Adam Dickter is associate editor of the New York Jew- ish Week, from which this column is reprinted with permission. He blogs on contemporary Jewish life at By Eric Fingerhut JTA A new survey shows that a majority of American Jews would support a U.S. military strike on Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons--a significant in- crease from a year ago. Fifty-six percent of Ameri- can Jews would support the "United States taking mili- tary action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons," accord- ing to the American Jewish Committee's 2009 Annual Survey of Jewish Opinion. That's an increase of 14 percentage points from the AJC survey taken in the fall of 2008. In addition, 66 percent of those surveyed said they would back an Israeli strike on Iran. The survey of 800 self- identifying Jewish respon- dents, interviewed between Aug. 30 and Sept. 17, comes as a wide swath of Jewish organizations are rallying support in the Jewish com- munity and elsewhere for increased economic and dip- lomatic pressure on Iran--in particular tough sanctions targeting Iran's importation and production of refined petroleum. With a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, the poll would ap- pear to undercut the claims of some who charge that Jew- ish organizations are out of step with the Jewish public in pushing for pressure on Iran. The AJC's executive direc- tor, David Harris, speculated that there were two possible reasons for the shift in opin- ion on Iran. More American Jews may now be "aware of the seriousness and growing nature of the threat," he said, or they might have "more confidence" in the Obama administration to handle a confrontation with Iran than they did with the Bush ad- ministration--which many believed had not properly handled the Iraq war. The 21-question sur- vey did not ask specifcally about opinion on Iranian sanctions; Harris said time and budgetary contraints prevented the organization from using all the questions it would have liked to ask. In addition to the Iran results, Harris said the other interesting part of the poll was that, "despite the at- tempts by some ideologically motivated groups" to place all Jews solidly in liberal or conservative camps, "this survey reinforces what we have found--American Jews are very close to the center." An assortment of results bear that out, at least on some issues. For instance, 49 percent of those surveyed favor the establishment of a Palestinian state, with 41 percent opposed. Sixty percent favor the dis- Monday-Friday mantlement of some or all of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, compared to 37 percent who say none; on the other hand, 58 percent say Israel should not be "willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction," with just 37 percent in favor. American Jews are ex- tremely skeptical of Arab intentions in the Middle East. Asked whether they agreed or disagreed that "the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel," 75 percent said yes and just 19 percent said no. But that is down from 82 percent who agreed two years ago, the last time the AJC asked the question. Hadar Susskind, the direc- tor of policy and strategy at J Street--a Jewish lobbying group that is one of the few Jewish organizations that does not support sanc- tions on Iran right now and has backed the Obama administration's call for a halt to new settlement construction--argued that the numbers demonstrate J Street's argument that there is a "diversity" of opinion in the Jewish community. With a significant minor- ity supporting a settlement freeze and opposing a mili- tary strike on Iran, the poll shows there is no "mythical one opinion" on controver- sial matters, Susskind said. But the national direc- tor of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said the results bolster the argument that the establish- ment groups with a more centrist line on foreign af- fairs represent the "more constant view" of the Jewish community. American Jews feel similarly to Israelis on the prospects of peace, he said--that while "the Arabs haven't really changed their attitudes," it's still worth- while to try for peace. Of particular note, Fox- man said, were results that show Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a 59 percent approval rating for his handling of U.S.- Israel relations. President Obama was slightly lower at 54 percent, with 32 percent who disapprove. Results on most questions do not differ significantly due to age, with a spread generally within 5-10 points on most questions when bro- ken down into demographic groups of under 40, 40-59, and 60-plus. "We ourselves were struck by that finding," said Harris, noting discussion in the Jew- ish community that younger Jews may be more liberal than older Jews. Instead, religious denomi- nation was the true variable, particularly on evaluations of President Obama. Just 14 percent of Ortho- dox respondents said they approved of the Obama administration's handling of U.S.-Israel relations, com- pared to 54 and 59 percent for Conservative and Reform Jews, respectively. And 13 percent said they approved of the president's handling of the Iran nuclear issue, with 44 percent of Conservative Jews and 54 percent of Re- form Jews feeling positively about the president. On a potential strike against Iran, however, there is general agreement among denomi- nations in favor, ranging from 61 percent of Orthodox to 53 percent of Reform. The Orthodox Union's director of public affairs, Nathan Diament, said the numbers were not a surprise. "Surveys over the years, including AJC's, have consis- tently shown that American Orthodox Jews are those with the closest affinity to Israel," Diament said. "Thus, if surveys in Israel have shown that Israelis' attitudes regarding President Obama's policies toward Israel are very critical, it is sensible that" American Orthodox Jews "echo the same effect." Matt Brooks, the Repub- lican Jewish Coalition's executive director, said that the 54 percent approval for Obama on the handling of U.S.-Israel relations com- pared to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received last November demonstrates that there are real problems for Obama in the Jewish community. He noted that some Democrats have been critical of the Obamaadmin- istration's public calls for a settlement freeze. But the CEO of the Na- tional Jewish Democratic Council, Ira Forman, said it was notable that Obama was still above 50 percent approval on the issue, despite the continuous carping from many that the president is treating Israel badly. The numbers demonstrate that the argument of Obama be- ing unfriendly to Israel "is not convincing," he said, also noting that 81 percent said that relations between Israel and the United States are very or somewhat positive. There was one question on which there was almost complete unanimity in the poll. Asked whether the Palestinians should be re- quired to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement, 94 percent said yes.