web analytics
August 21, 2014 / 25 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Council’

How Jerusalem’s Arabs Act Against Their Own Interests

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

As Israelis prepare to cast their ballots in the municipal elections next week, tens of thousands of eligible Arab voters in Jerusalem will once again boycott the democratic process.

In the past few days, the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], Hamas and several other Palestinian organizations have called on the Arab residents of Jerusalem to stay away from the ballot boxes.

These organizations maintain that Arab participation in the municipal election would be interpreted as recognition of Israel’s decision to annex the eastern part of the city in the aftermath of the 1967 Israeli-Arab war.

As such, the vast majority of the Arab residents have since been boycotting the local election, mainly out of fear of being dubbed “traitors” by various Palestinian organizations.

But if anyone stands to lose from the boycott it is the Arabs themselves.

First, the boycott has done nothing to undermine Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Some would even argue that Israeli dominion over the city has never been as strong as it is these days, especially in wake of the Arab residents’ failure to take part in crucial decisions concerning their neighborhoods and villages.

Second, the boycott has severely harmed the interests of the Arab residents, who have been denied the chance to have representatives in the municipal council who would fight for better services and the improvement of their living conditions. The Arabs make up 25-30% of the city’s eligible voters, which means that they could have 7-8 representatives in the 31-seat municipal council. The boycott has denied the Arabs the opportunity to be directly involved in the planning of their neighborhoods.

While it is true that some Arabs boycott the municipal elections for ideological reasons, there is no denying the fact that many are also afraid of being targeted by extremists if they present their candidacy or go to the ballot boxes.

A few Arabs who in the past dared to challenge the boycott have faced death threats. One of them was newspaper publisher Hanna Siniora, who back in 1987 announced his intention to run in the municipal election. Siniora’s car was torched by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a move that forced him to retract his candidacy.

Eleven years later, another Arab, Mussa Alayan, defied the boycott by running at the head of an independent list. He received fewer than 3,000 votes and did not make it to the city council. Alayan could have probably become the first Arab council member had he and his supporters not faced a brutal and violent campaign by Palestinian activists.

Yet while Arab residents are boycotting the election, most of them continue to deal with the same municipality which they are not supposed to recognize. They even continue to pay taxes and fees to the municipality.

The Jerusalem Municipality has more than 1,500 Arab employees, and its various departments continue to provide many services to the Arab neighborhoods and villages in the city. These activities are taking place despite the Arab boycott that has been in effect since 1967.

Arabs who complain about lack of municipal services often seek the help of representatives of left-wing parties in the municipal council, such as Meretz.

Today, many Arabs in Jerusalem are not afraid to declare openly that they prefer to live under Israeli rule, and not under that of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. The problem remains, however, that the overwhelming majority is still afraid of the radicals.

What is needed is a strong Arab leadership that would not hesitate to stand up to the radicals and question their goals. Such a leadership would have to make it clear that there should be a complete separation between the political issues and the day-to-day affairs of Jerusalem’s Arab population.

Until such leaders emerge, the Arabs in Jerusalem will, by boycotting the municipal elections, unfortunately continue to act against their own interests.

Iceland to Get its First Mosque

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

The Reykjavík City Council has approved a building permit for the construction of the first mosque in Iceland.

The mosque will be built in Sogamýri, an upscale district near downtown Reykjavík on a highly desirable plot of land that was granted to Muslims free of charge, courtesy of Icelandic taxpayers.

Members of the city council — which is led by Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr, who identifies himself as an anarchist — say they hope the prime location will make the mosque a prominent landmark in the city.

Critics of the mosque, however, say the project is being financed by donors in the Middle East who are seeking to exert control over — and radicalize — the growing Muslim community in Iceland.

Although reliable statistics do not exist, the Muslim population of Iceland is estimated to be approximately 1,200, or 0.4% of the total Icelandic population of 320,000. Most Muslims in Iceland live in the capital Reykjavík, where they make up about 1% of the total population of 120,000.

The Muslim community in Iceland may be small in comparison to other European countries, but its rate of growth has been exponential: Since 1990, when there were fewer than a dozen Muslims in the country, their number has increased by nearly 10,000%. Much of this growth has been due to immigration, but in recent years native Icelanders have also been converting to Islam in increasing numbers.

Currently there are two main Muslim groups in Iceland: the Muslim Association of Iceland, which has around 500 members, and the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland, which has some 300 followers. The former group is run by Salmann Tamimi, a Palestinian immigrant who considers himself to be the voice of moderate Islam in Iceland; the latter group is run by Ahmad Seddeq, a firebrand preacher from Pakistan whose activities are allegedly being financed by Saudi Arabia.

Although both groups pertain to Sunni Islam, they have been openly fighting with each other for many years over who should be the rightful representative of Islam in Iceland.

In 2000, Tamimi — whose group meets at a make-shift mosque on the third floor of an office building in downtown Reykjavík — submitted an application to obtain a free plot of land from city authorities to build the first purpose-built mosque in Iceland.

Not to be outdone, Seddeq — whose group meets at a make-shift mosque in an old concert hall near the Reykjavík airport — submitted his own application for free land to build a competing mosque.

City officials responded by saying there should be only one mosque and that it should be shared by both groups. “Obviously we won’t be allocating two lots for mosques at this point and we find it natural for them to cooperate on the construction of one mosque,” Páll Hjaltason, the chairman of Reykjavík City’s Urban Planning Council, told the newspaper Fréttabladid.

Seddeq said he was open to the idea of sharing one plot of land, but Tamimi, who submitted his application first, would have none of it. Instead, Tamimi lashed out at Seddeq, accusing him of extremism, fanaticism and oppression in the name of Islam.

“Our application is completely different from theirs,” Salmann said in an interview with the newspaper Fréttabladid. “This is like asking the national church to be with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Tamimi sought to undermine Seddeq’s group by accusing it of being financed by Saudi Arabia. At one point, Tamimi called the police to report members of Seddeq’s group, accusing them of misunderstanding the peaceful nature of Islam, and saying that he feared that Muslim extremists were attempting to gain a foothold in Iceland.

Tamimi also sought to assure the Reykjavík City Council that — unlike Seddeq — his mosque project would not be financed by foreigners and thus would not be promoting extremism.

“If we are going to have a mosque, it must be done according to local considerations,” Tamimi said in October 2010. “As soon as you lose sight of the source of funding you lose control of what happens subsequently. The experience of other countries teaches that it is wise to reject large foreign investments in religion. Such investors are much more likely to import their own countries’ traditions and not adapt to the traditions in their host country.”

In the end, city officials sided with Tamimi, whose mosque project was formally approved on September 19. After more than a decade of bickering, construction of Reykjavík’s first mosque is expected to begin in early 2014.

The cost of building the 800 square meter (8,600 square foot) mosque — which will include a prayer hall, community center and library, as well as a nine-meter (30 foot) minaret — is expected to exceed 400 million Icelandic Krona (€2.5 million; $3.3 million).

But now that the Reykjavík mosque project has been given the go-ahead, Tamimi’s group has changed its tune and now admits that foreign donors will be paying for the mosque’s construction costs after all.

During a newspaper interview on September 19 — conducted just a few hours after the mosque project was approved — Sverrir Agnarsson, a convert to Islam who is chairman of Tamimi’s group, the Muslim Association of Iceland, was asked how the mosque would be financed.

“We have received numerous promises,” Agnarsson said. “We are mostly seeking funding from individual foreigners. We have a right to get support from the collective funds of Muslims [the Ummah, or the worldwide community of Muslims]. We are doing all of this in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice to guarantee that all the money coming to us is received legally, and is not associated with any terrorist organizations,” he added.

The idea that foreigners are financing the spread of Islam in Reykjavík does not sit well with many Icelanders.

One of the most vocal opponents of the mosque project has been the former mayor of Reykjavík, Ólafur F. Magnússon. In an article he wrote for the newspaper Morgunbladid, Magnússon laid out his position:

It is a matter of grave concern that it seems to be no problem for Muslims in Iceland to finance such a mosque here in Iceland with money from ‘Muslim/Islamic promotion organizations’ abroad. They could receive financial help from organizations that want to increase Islamic influence in Iceland as well as in other countries. This can be dangerous for our national culture and safety.

Magnússon also said why he thought it was wrong for foreign organizations to be financing the construction of mosques in Iceland:

Islam is a religion with the goal to eliminate all other religions and to expand all over the world, the West, the Nordic countries…and now even Iceland. The experience in the Nordic countries shows that Muslims are not adapting to society. This has become a huge problem, in Malmö [Sweden] for example. The other day, a mosque was to be built on Trondheim [Norway], but the Norwegian authorities canceled the project because some Saudi Arabian organization was to finance the whole thing.

Although he is not opposed to the mosque per se, Magnússon believes it is outrageous for the city to give Muslims a building site at no cost at a great location in the center of Reykjavík. He also asks why political movements and feminist groups in Iceland are so tolerant towards a religion that he says degrades women.

Part of the answer may be found in the political make-up of the Reykjavík City Council, which is led by the upstart Best Party, a so-called joke party that was propelled into office in 2010 as a backlash against establishment parties in the wake of Iceland’s banking collapse in 2008.

The Best Party — a semi-serious far left party that is home to anarchists, atheists, surrealists, punks and poets — is being led by Jón Gnarr, a stand-up comedian whose stated political aim is thoroughly to upset the established order in Reykjavík. Critics say the new mosque represents a big step toward achieving Gnarr’s objective.

Ex Powell Aide: US Can Attack without UN Mandate

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The 15-nation UN security council is not, traditionally, a place where decision are made based on morality and ethics. The august body has been split on the civil war in Syria since ir began, in 2011, with Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s ally and chief arms dealer, and China, eager for the Syrian oil, vetoing three resolutions condemning Assad and urging punitive measures to make him stop.

It is virtually certain that the same UN council will reject a call for moving troops against Assad’s army, even if the Syrian president is caught splashing anti-American graffiti with a spray can of sarin on the walls of Damascus.

“The experts in Syria have the mandate to determine if chemical weapons were used, and if so, which ones, but not who unleashed this attack” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that point for reporters in Moscow on Monday.

But the U.S. has intervened in at least one conflict in the recent past without security council support—when President Clinton threw the Airforce into the Kosovo War in 1999, some suggesting in order to divert attention from his troubles with a pesky special prosecutor.

U.S. and European officials have been referring to the Kosovo bombing campaign, which pressured Serb President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo. The beleaguered Clinton ignored the security council to avoid letting the Russians cast a veto, and got his backing from NATO, or, in other words, from himself.

It’s been done, and it can be done again, is the message in Washington this week.

Richard Haas

Richard Haas

Richard Haas, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations who served in the GW Bush administration, rejected the Russian argument that a Western attack on Syria would require UN approval, Reuters reported.

“The UN Security Council is not the sole or unique custodian about what is legal and what is legitimate, and, as many have pointed out, it was bypassed at the time of Kosovo,” Haas told reporters in a conference call, possibly while loading bullets into his personal firearm.

“To say only the UN Security Council can make something legitimate seems to me to be a position that cannot be supported because it would allow in this case a country like Russia to be the arbiter of international law and, more broadly, international relations,” said Haas, who probably recalls the time, in 2003, when he was a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell under President GW Bush, and his boss offered a shamefully deceitful presentation to the security council regarding the grounds for launching another war.

Will President Barack Obama want to associate himself with the unilateral strategies of both his predecessors? Barack the multilateralist, champion of the Arab Spring – resorting to hiring the services of an adviser straight out of the GW war room? Incidentally, Haas has had second thoughts on the invasion of Iraq, and in an interview with the Huff Post he said it was a wrong war and a war of choice.

Nevertheless, it looks like you can take the foreign policy expert out of the GW White House, but you can’t extract the GW White House out of expert:

Legitimacy for a strike on Syria, Haas said, could come from a “coalition of the willing” (when have we heard that one before?) of individual countries supporting retaliation against Assad, to demonstrate that the use of weapons of mass destruction (wait, that one is familiar, too!) will not be tolerated.

A furious Russia could launch the general assembly in an attempt to humiliate the U.S. and force it to abandon its attack on Syria, should Obama opt to strike.

Israel could only benefit from an American attack: for one thing, it is sure to wipe out the Syrian WMD reserves (which, unlike Saddam’s Iraq, the Syrians do possess, and then some); and then, once the U.S. is mired in international condemnations – it might go easy on the Netanyahu government when it issues a permit—as comedian Jacky mason put it so aptly—to add a toilet to some settlement.

Stay tuned…

Ariel University Approved

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

After years of dispute and roadblocks from within the Israeli academic system, on Tuesday the Ariel University Center was officially granted University status by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria. The Ariel University Center is now one of Israel’s eight universities. As a result it can now begin to officially receive money from the government like other Israeli universities.

More About Ulpana Hill

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Those who read my book, Where There Are No Men, already know that no real struggle can be conducted by the Yesha Council. We understood that the hard way when we established the Zo Artzeinu movement, and we have since explained how we reached this conclusion in detail.

Nevertheless, during the Expulsion from Gush Katif, I abstained from publicly voicing my opinion on the Yesha Council. I hoped that perhaps I was mistaken, and in the face of the approaching struggle I did not want to create conflict. We did all that we could to organize a parallel struggle against the Expulsion – without entering into conflict with the Yesha Council. The organizers of our struggle, who established the Bayit Haleumi movement, sat in jail for many long months and were the object of contempt and castigation at the hands of Yesha establishment leaders.

The end of the Yesha Council’s “great struggle” against the Expulsion was the Kfar Maimon farce and the channeling of the young people’s anti-Expulsion energies into sobbing in the Gush Katif synagogues. Since then I have a guilty conscience over the fact that I, who had written a book on this very topic, didn’t warn everyone of the end that was already determined at the beginning of the struggle.

Approximately a month ago, we held marathon meetings with government ministers to convince them to vote in favor of the Regulation Law. After a few meetings, I began to once again smell the same old smell. I understood that the deals were all being struck in a different place – not inside the political system and not in the grassroots struggle. Once again, shadowy leaders were making deals behind the backs of the public.

I decided to publicize my view, doing so in two separate sector-based columns and in our weekly update. Apparently, the things I wrote touched upon the most sensitive nerves in the Yesha Council, which embarked on a campaign to restore its legitimacy. The sector’s media filled up with adoring articles about the Yesha Council, petitions supporting each other, mutual praise gatherings and, of course, a scathing attack on me and distortion of my words.

From the attacks it is clear that what bothers the Yesha establishment more than my opinion on the Ulpana Hill controversy is the fact that I am in the race for the Likud chairmanship. On the surface, there is no connection between the two and it is not clear why they are lumped together. If there is a political strategy that has aided the settlements from within the Likud, it is the fact that, as mentioned, I am running for the Likud chairmanship. This in turn has fostered mass registration for the Likud in Judea and Samaria, and has given the settlers political power inside the party. Without this move, it is questionable if the settlers would have received such generous proposals in exchange for a quiet evacuation.

In truth, though, those who cannot create an alternative always remain captive to the current leadership and will necessarily conduct themselves in the manner about which I warned. They are fighting for their positions as the arms-bearers of the existing leadership. Manhigut Yehudit is their downfall. It is inherently opposed to their very essence. When they lose the public’s confidence, they strike out at me – justifiably so.

The more faith-based leadership consciousness grows, the more the Yesha Council becomes extraneous. That is why they have opposed me, working tirelessly for Prime Minister Netanyahu in the previous and past elections for Likud head. They conducted an expensive campaign that encouraged Likud voters to stay home and not vote.

I do not retract what I wrote in my columns about the Yesha Council. My arguments were precise and it is important that they are in writing. But I would like to issue a clarification: On a personal level, I have absolutely nothing against those people currently attacking me. I value their dedication, I do not want to take away from their many merits, and I am friendly with some of them. The debate between us is on matters of essence, and those people who, even after Gush Katif and Kfar Maimon, still want to cling to the same methods and the same leaders have every right to do so.

I have no intention of getting sucked into a sectoral political debate. From the moment that the fate of Ulpana Hill was determined, I see no reason to continue to deal with the subject.

Getting Serious About Get-Refusal

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

It’s human nature to hide our heads in the sand. That may be because we are mostly optimistic. We believe everything will be all right even when we know we are taking a chance.

On the flip side, it’s emotionally very difficult to admit we have a problem. We are worried about how others will regard us. Moreover, addressing a problem entails gathering strength to go about solving it. It’s so much easier to hide our heads in the sand.

About ten years ago, at a rabbinic convention in Israel, I was introduced to a well-known American Orthodox rabbi as a to’enet rabbanit – rabbinical court advocate. The rav politely asked me what I do. I briefly explained how I work with dayanim in Israeli batei din on cases of Get-refusal they have difficulty resolving. I stressed my focus on prenuptial agreements to prevent the agunah problem from arising in the first place, through the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel.

“Oh, I know all about prenups” the rabbi replied. “My daughter just got married but I didn’t tell her to sign one. We don’t need these things.”

This rav, one of the most effective leaders in the American Orthodox world, did not recognize the very real agunah problem in his community. In fact, I have received cries for help (even though I am in Israel) from women who belong to every manner of Orthodox community in the U.S., from chassidishe and haredi to Modern Orthodox and everything in between.

Truth be told, it is difficult for a rav to admit publicly to a problem of Get-refusal in his community when no one is admitting it in the other communities. It is more comforting to imagine that should an agunah case arise, the community will take care of it. However, individuals who begin to tread the path of a me’agen are becoming more and more resistant to communal pressure or even rabbinic influence.

By recognizing the potential for the problem and arranging the signing of prenuptial agreements for its prevention, communal and rabbinic influence can be restored. The problem needs to be prevented from taking root in each individual case before it is too late.

Nevertheless, the practice is to hope for the best, rationalizing the agunah problem with statistics. “What,” we think, “are the chances of this happening to me or to my daughter?”

And yet our communities have overcome deep-seated reluctance in order to deal with other widespread problems. To cut down on the number of cases of genetic disease afflicting the Orthodox community, for example, practical yet dignified solutions were found. The community needed to find a way to assist individuals on a communal level and so now many Orthodox educational institutions routinely bring professionals into twelfth-grade classes to administer blood tests.

In this manner, the individual understands the implicit stamp of approval by the rabbanim and the fear of “what will others think?” is erased, since all are working toward the prevention of the problem.

Similarly, the leadership of each of the various Orthodox communities can make practical arrangements for prenup education with every educational institution – high school, yeshiva gedolah, seminary or college.

A service should be provided whereby every student, man or woman, who becomes engaged is called in. The school’s rabbi or counselor can present the couple with a halachic prenuptial agreement together with an explanation, and arrange for notarization services in the school’s office. In this manner the community will quickly understand that all are expected to sign a prenuptial agreement. It will become “automatic” – one of the things you have to arrange before you get married.

Even those who marry later, while no longer under the aegis of educational institutions, will remember to sign a prenuptial agreement since it will have become a standard part of the shidduch process.

Twenty-one rabbanim of one of Americas’ Orthodox communities – roshei yeshiva of Yeshiva University – recently signed a (second) kol koreh calling on all rabbis and the Orthodox community to promote the standard use of a halachic prenuptial agreement. They were spurred to do so by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. There are those who may feel YU or ORA is not their derech, but that does not relieve them of the responsibility to address the agunah problem in their own communities.

A Curious Gambit

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

We were struck by a petition drive launched by the National Jewish Democratic Council demanding that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican Party reject contributions from billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson.

The NJDC claims Mr. Adelson’s money is tainted, based on unproven allegations in a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled former employee as well as other claims that Mr. Adelson was personally aware of and condoned unsavory conduct in several of his companies. Coming at a time when the media are reporting problems with President Obama’s reelection fund-raising efforts and, in contrast, a flourishing money drive by Mr. Romney, we can’t help but detect a sense of panic. This is especially so since Mr. Adelson has announced plans for huge infusions in contributions to Republican coffers in the run-up to the November election. But the outcry over Mr. Adelson may end up being a Pandora’s Box for the president.

As noted, the NJDC campaign invokes unproven charges against Mr. Adelson. Yet major Democratic contributor George Soros was convicted in 2002 by a French court of insider trading and fined some 2.2 million Euros. No similar calls have been made to reject or return his contributions. The NJDC effort is also likely to resurrect the controversy over President Obama’s refusal to return a million-dollar contribution from comedian Bill Maher following his outrageous derogatory public references to Sarah Palin and other prominent Republican women.

And then there are the very public embraces of the racial arsonist Al Sharpton by the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder. That’s the Reverend Al Sharpton of Tawana Brawley, Crown Heights and Freddie’s Fashion Mart fame. Most recently, Mr. Sharpton stretched to find a racial dimension to the congressional vote holding Mr. Holder in contempt for failure to turn over requested documents:

As I marched this past Sunday with tens of thousands in New York in opposition to the abhorrent practice of stop & frisk, I couldn’t help but think of our attorney general. Tattered down and publicly humiliated, AG Holder has been mishandled just like the young Black and Latino men (and women) who are demonized on our streets everyday….

From the president on down, Democrats have ignored these notorious actions, which are matters of public knowledge. If Mr. Adelson is a fitting target for rebuke, why not those from the Democratic side? And a word or two about the NJDC’s reliance on mere allegations might also be in order.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/a-curious-gambit/2012/07/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: