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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘east’

Middle East Peace Conference? You’ve Got to be Kidding…

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

“With whom should we make peace? With those that swear never to rest until they push all of us into the sea? With those who cheer the slaughter of our children?…” This clip unveils the thoughts and perceptions of Israeli society that you won’t hear anywhere else.


David Israel

Myths and Madness in the Middle East

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

In the aftermath of UNSC Res. 2334, criticism has come from Right and Left, in America and Israel.  Defenders of the decision by the U.S. to abstain, and the vote in favor by Israel’s other supposed allies in the free world, France, Britain, New Zealand, Spain and Japan, suggest it’s just another statement opposing Israel’s “settlements.” But this goes far beyond disapproval of Israel building Jewish communities in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (the “west bank” of the Jordan River).  As many have argued, the labelling of these communities as having “no legal validity”, in spite of treaties and other instruments of international law (such as the UN Charter, UNSCR 242, and the Oslo Accords), and the inclusion of Jerusalem, has altered the political, legal and even moral framework in which efforts to resolve the conflict can proceed.

In Newsweek earlier this year, Aaron David Miller rightly suggested the new U.S. administration should reject five myths regarding their approach to Middle East issues.  His analysis focuses on methods and tactics, but not on the fundamental misunderstandings which affect – or infect – decision-making.  He says, correctly, that America may not be able to bring about a comprehensive end to strife in the region.  And this is even more true with 2334’s promotion of the territories’ character as “Palestinian,” its denial of any Israeli claim beyond the 1949 armistice lines including the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and its use of legal terminology to force an anti-Israel political agenda.

A few quotes can help us to understand just how unfortunate are the current misconceptions and misrepresentations of the reality in the Middle East.

  • On September 16, 2015, encouraging his people to carry out violent acts of terror against Israeli and other civilians, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said (on TV in Arabic): “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah…the Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet.”
  • On October 14th, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: There has been a massive increase in settlements…and there’s an increase in the violence because there’s this frustration.”
  • And on October 15th President Obama said: “…it’s important for both Prime Minister Netanyahu… and President Abbas… to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence…”

There are three essential myths regarding the conflict in the Middle East, and it is belief in these myths which underlies the failure of so many attempts to achieve peace.   It is madness when a leader who calls for his people to shed their blood and the blood of innocent civilians is called a moderate.  It is madness when leaders of the free world cite frustration as an understandable reason for murder.  And it is madness to ignore the Arabs’ responsibility for the perpetuation of the conflict and to hold Israel primarily answerable for the lack of peace in the region—given that precisely such attitudes and policies clearly lead to more of the same.  Wasn’t it Einstein who said that trying the same thing over and over while expecting different results is a definition of insanity?

Understanding these myths is crucial for any chance of real reconciliation in our region.  Reasonable people can – and do – debate Israel’s policies on virtually all issues.  Yet to be effective, to be relevant, all our arguments must be based on facts, not illusions.  Only policy discussion founded in reality has any potential for success in our efforts to achieve real peace.

The three fundamental myths of the Arab-Israeli conflict are:

  • Myth #1 – Abbas and other “Palestinian” leaders are “moderate” & want peace.
  • Myth #2 – The primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the “settlements
  • Myth #3 – This is a “Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” a territorial (or national) dispute.

Documented history refutes these myths with compelling arguments, categorically. Policy-makers, educators, activists and religious leaders who acknowledge the truths which negate these myths are more likely to successfully encourage moves towards peace in the region. Nothing in this line of reasoning absolves Israel of its obligation to act lawfully and morally—and wisely and strategically—in its pursuit of security and peace, nor ignores Israel’s policy failings and mistakes; nor does this lead inexorably to any policy prescriptions. However, the historical record and accepted (western) legal norms should clarify where the brunt of responsibility lies for the prolongation of this violent regional and international war for over a hundred years.

Myth 1: “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian Arab leaders are ‘moderate’ & want peace.”

The statements above, and the many other celebrations of the murder of innocents and calls for violence, put paid to this myth of moderation swiftly. Moreover, Abbas’ and other leaders have consistently been “immoderate” in their refusal to compromise and even negotiate, and in their rejection of the legitimacy of Jewish national identity and therefore of Israel’s founding, let alone any Jewish connection to the land. Moderates, according to the definition of the word, believe in and pursue compromise, tolerance, coexistence, acceptance and peace. Palestinian Arabs[i] are inculcated from childhood into a culture of hatred full of vitriol which glorifies terrorist murders of innocents as heroic “martyrs” and icons of their national identity, through their education system and media, political and cultural and religious leaders. They are taught in school and TV/radio talk shows that Jews are usurpers of their land, descendants of pigs and apes, murderers and cheaters, and that the Jews and Americans, Christians and the West, are decadent enemies of the Arab Umma (people).

In their pronouncements, cultural and educational policies, politics and actions, Mahmoud Abbas and the other heads of the PLO/PA foment intolerance and hostility. Moderate, the facts prove, these leaders are not. Abbas and the Kings of Saudi Arabia or Jordan and others are (usually) “less extreme” than their fanatical murderous co-religionists in Hamas, ISIS or Iran. But if “moderate” is to have any meaning, it cannot be used to refer to these leaders and regimes. Regularly imprisoning journalists or citizens for posting criticism of the government on Facebook; beating or otherwise punishing women for improper (sic) behavior; outlawing the practice of religions other than Islam; allowing or even encouraging the “honor killing” (sic) of young women, clitorectomies, slavery and hatred of Christians, Jews, America and Israel, are not actions practiced by moderates. Most of this list, except for slavery, is true of Israel’s “moderate” peace partners in Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. Miller’s call, that of Natan Sharansky over a decade ago, for Arab leaders willing to reform their societies is right on target: and it starts with those supposedly “moderate” becoming truly interested in freedom, tolerance, coexistence and peace.

Myth 2: “The primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the ‘settlements.’”

Two historical facts put paid to this absurd contention—whether one supports or opposes Israel’s building of communities and homes in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (the historical and accepted cartographical term for that area, now known also as the ‘West Bank’ of the Jordan River). First, there were of course no “settlements” in those territories in the years they were illegally occupied by Jordan, from Israel’s (re-) establishment in 1948 until Israel took them over following its defensive war in 1967. Yet there was no peace.

Then, when Israel dismantled 21 Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip (and four in northern Samaria), expelling some 11,000 Jewish residents, and there were no more “settlements” in Gaza… there was no peace. Instead, there were rockets, thousands of them, crashing down on Israel’s southern and then central cities. The settlements, clearly, were and are not the primary obstacle to peace—since if they were, peace would have reigned before the first were established in the early 1970’s, and/or after the Gaza community was demolished in 2005.

But these two historical references are really only the beginning in dispelling this second myth. We can dismiss easily the absurd notion, referenced in the quote from John Kerry above, that there has been an “increase in settlements”—let alone a “massive” such buildup. The facts (and they are, indeed facts, any school child can check them online) are that there have been no new settlements—none—for well over a decade. What ‘expansion’ has occurred has involved building new housing inside the boundaries of existing communities (“settlements”). So much for a “massive increase in settlements” as Kerry termed it (or the “millions” of settlements described by Deputy National Security Ben Rhodes as he tried to justify the betrayal of Israel in Resolution 2334). This part of the myth is particularly outrageous as it is so patently false, and as it seems to offer the Palestinians an excuse for their ongoing fabricated grievance—and for their continual resort to violence. As if “frustration” is ever an excuse for violence, on the personal or national level.

An additional historical reference point repudiating the myth of the “settlements” as the primary obstacle to peace between the Palestinian/Arab world, on the one hand, and Jews and Israel on the other, is the significant number of peace proposals and offers made in negotiations by Israel.  Every one of Israel’s conciliatory gestures was simply rejected by the Palestinian or other Arab leadership.  There have been at least six offers of statehood explicitly made by Israel, disregarded or spurned each time anew, on whatever subtext was handy at the time.  Palestinian refusal to even discuss the topic in negotiations demonstrates that those nefarious “settlements” are not the crux of the problem.  Of course this is directly related to the myth of these leaders’ “moderation.”

Finally, a theoretical proof suggests itself, compelling in its logic if far too often not even considered, in a form of western discrimination towards supposedly primitive Arab society.  (The free world doesn’t expect Muslim or Arab or Palestinian culture to afford opportunity for real coexistence, an inexcusably racist stance on the face of it.)  If we imagine for a moment, just for intellectual curiosity, how a truly moderate leader of the Arab world or Palestinians might view real peace between Arab and Jew in the region, we can quickly agree that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria actually pose no obstacle to the sort of reconciliation and long-term neighborly relations inherent in our concept of “peace.”  A small percentage of Jews living among Arabs in a nascent “State of Palestine” would clearly not be an impediment to peace or progress.  Quite the opposite.

France and Germany, after some 800 years of conflict and warfare, finally realized it would be of greater benefit to their people to live in peace; the concept that traditional enemies might put aside their enmity is hardly a new one.  Peace between one-time adversaries is certainly possible, even to the extent of citizens of one nationality residing in the other country.

More locally, and much more relevantly, Israel itself is the best example of the power of this point.  Fully 20% of Israel’s population are minorities—predominantly Arabs, and mostly Muslim.  These Arab Muslims live as full members of Israeli society, with full access to services and education, jobs and recreation, and with no fear for their lives or property.[ii]

Real peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors would by definition allow for some minority of Jews, and/or Christians or others, to similarly live within Palestinian society.  For argument’s sake, let’s say not more than 5% of the population of any “State of Palestine” to be established, in whatever borders, could be Jews or other minorities.  “Poof”—to borrow another asinine quote of Kerry’s—the “settlements” are no longer any sort of obstacle to peace.  If Brits can live all their lives in the south of Spain, but remain loyal and patriotic British subjects; if Americans can live in Canada, for business or personal reasons (or historical or national reasons, for that matter), then Jews can live in Hebron for spiritual or national or historical reasons, as citizens of “Palestine,” if real peace were to be desired by the Arab leaders of such a state.  Or they could live in that Palestinian state as Israeli ex-pats, should they prefer.

Myth 3: “This is a “Palestinian-Israeli conflict”, a territorial or national struggle; agreeing on borders and the establishment of a ‘Palestinian’ state will resolve it.”

This third myth misconstrues Arab and Palestinian attitudes towards Jews and Israel, their refusal to negotiate, and their general extremism.  As has been noted by many experts, including truly moderate Arabs and Palestinians, this is not chiefly a territorial or even a national battle between two rival communities vying for the same land.  It is, sadly and tragically, a religious, ideological, civilizational struggle.

Were that it were just a territorial or even national conflict. My friends Mohammed Dajani and Walid Salem, among others, and I have often agreed we could resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict relatively easily if the only issue on the table was where to draw the borders. But as described by the world’s leading scholars of Arab and Muslim history and society, like Bernard Lewis or Fred Maroun, this is nothing less than a clash of civilizations. It is—as stated explicitly by the Arab leadership repeatedly—a religious/ideological struggle.  The Arab and Muslim world and the Palestinian leadership declare again and again their violent hostility towards Jews (and Christians, and the West), their unabated opposition to any expression of Jewish national identity, and their rejection of any connection between the Jews and their land, not least the establishment of a national home for the Jews, the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel.  So it has been for over the past hundred years or more.  And so it is today.

Lucy Aharish, an Arab-Israeli anchor on Israel Television, made a passionate statement along these lines recently.  Also recently, a supposedly moderate Arab-Israeli student said in a class at an Israeli college, to his Jewish peers, “this is our land; you’ll be gone eventually,” as reported by Professor Daniel Gordis.  This is no “right-wing” conspiracy theory; Israeli leaders of the Left including Professor Shlomo Avineri and Labor Party head Isaac Herzog have explicitly said similar things.

More convincingly, Arab/Muslim/Palestinian leaders echo these themes every time they or their preachers or teachers or media outlets and educational materials constantly repeat the canards of the Jews and Israelis as imperialist or colonialist, racist or apartheid, oppressive or militarist or Nazi-like usurpers.  When Yasser Arafat then, or the head of the Waqf (the Jordanian-appointed body administering the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem) now, declares that there was no Jewish Temple there, and call for Muslim and Arab rioting to protest some sort of Israeli attempt to “Judaize” [sic] the only site on earth holy to Jews, we begin to understand the significance of this third myth.  And we may appreciate the gravity of the depth of ignorance on the part of those members of today’s UN Security Council who, unwittingly perhaps, have fed this beast of denial and rejection by statement that Jerusalem is somehow not connected to the Jewish people—as UNESCO did recently as well.

There is a fierce and deep opposition by most Arab and Muslim leaders to any expression of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.  The denial of even any Jewish connection to the area is part and parcel of the cultural milieu permeating Palestinian, Arab and Muslim societies across the region and the world, leading to the indoctrination of vicious anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes reflected in Pew and other surveys every year.  The settlement shibboleth appears to be a smokescreen to hide the basic bigotry and loathing voiced continually (in Arabic) towards the Jews, Israel, Christians and the West in general—the infidels.  When Palestinian Arab leaders refer to the “Occupation of ‘48” and to towns like Haifa, Tiberius, Yafo, Acre and Lod as “Palestinian,”, the rejection of the Jewish people’s and Israel’s connection to the land and very legitimacy is revealed in all its simplicity and crudity.  And President Obama’s suggestion, in the quote above and of course in Resolution 2334, that there is some equivalence to this hateful rhetoric and actions by Palestinians/Arabs on the Jewish and Israeli side is absurd, and destructive.

As the indigenous people of the region, the return of Jews to Judea makes not only linguistic and religious but historical and national and political and moral sense.  As it did to the international community some hundred years ago, when they gave expression to their understanding of the re-emergence of Jewish national identity in the mandate given to Great Britain by the League of Nations to facilitate the (re-) “establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine” after wresting it in WWI from the oppressive Ottoman Turkish occupation of the land.

Conclusion

All three of the myths are encapsulated in Mahmoud Abbas’ calling, at the podium of the United Nations on September 22, 2016, for Great Britain to “apologize” for issuing the government policy supporting the validity of the Jews’ connection to their ancestral homeland known as the Balfour declaration, incorporated into that Mandate.  The same United Nations which inherited the Mandate(s) and which explicitly, at its founding, insisted that the regimes, rights and privileges of those arrangements continued to be in force as a matter of binding international treaty law, hosted this immoderate leader calling by implication for the dismantling of a UN member state.  This is proof that his and their opposition to Israel has nothing to do with the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and that they are waging an ideological, civilizational struggle to deny the Jews the very self-determination they demand for themselves.

And the UNSC Resolution 2334 last week supports and promotes that struggle, by ignoring or contravening the provisions of the Mandate; of the UN Charter; of the recognition of Israel and the terms of its armistice agreements of 1949 with Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Iraq; of the Road Map; of the Oslo Accords; and of any objective understandings of history and law, let alone politics and morality.

Nothing of the foregoing suggests that Israel has not made mistakes, in action or in policy, or that Israel cannot do more to address legitimate complaints of Arabs in the territories or among Israeli citizenry.  And none of the above necessarily leads to a compulsory conclusion or policy prescription.  One can advocate the withdrawal by Israel from Judea & Samaria, and the establishment of a Palestinian state there, or champion the annexation of those territories by Israel; in both cases dismissal of these myths and acknowledgement of the truth which disproves them is necessary to establish a firm foundation for any policy prescription.  When one rejects these fundamental myths and confronts reality, many additional possibilities suggest themselves, from confederation to regional arrangements and/or territorial swaps to Palestine east of the Jordan River.

Successful resolution our Arab-Israel conflict—which is to say, the Arab war against the Jewish people and nation-state—requires two things.  First, the Arab and Muslim leadership must lead their societies to an acceptance of the legitimacy of the founding and existence of the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel.  And second, the leadership of the free world—starting with American leaders—must reject these myths of Palestinian “moderation”, the notion that “settlements” are the main cause of our conflict, and the idea that it is of a “territorial” nature.

It’s that simple: real moderation, tolerance and co-existence on the part of the Arabs, along with an accurate Western understanding of the historical, legal, political and social factors perpetuating the situation, would make all the difference.  How much longer will we have to wait?

 

{The author can be reached at aryeh.green@gmail.com  Press here for more info about Aryeh}

Aryeh Green

Christians Punish the Defender of Christians in the Middle East

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Whether United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2334 has any lasting effect on the Israel-Palestinian conflict is yet to be seen, but even if it does not, it constitutes a full-frontal attack of the world’s Christians on Israel, the only country in the Middle East where Christians are secure and free to practice their faith without the need to kowtow to terrorists (as in Lebanon) or to dictators (as in Egypt).

An anti-Semitic work of fiction

The UNSC resolution condemns the settlements for “altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”, ignoring that the “demographic composition, character and status” (in other words the lack of Jewish presence) was the result of ethnic cleansing of Jews during and before the Arabs’ war on Israel in 1947-48. Israel is condemned for allowing Jews to build their homes on land traditionally inhabited by Jews, and from which they were forcibly removed while Arabs were allowed to remain in Israel.

The resolution claims that “Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines”, ignoring that Arabs could have chosen to create a Palestinian state on those lines any time between 1948 and 1967 but refused to do so. This also ignores the fact that several offers have been made by Israel after 1967 for a two-state solution based on those lines while the Palestinians have rejected them all. But even if that history did not exist, the presence of Jews should not prevent the creation of a Palestinian state, especially considering that the presence of Arabs did not prevent the creation of a Jewish state.

The resolution piously mentions a host of “diplomatic efforts” and affirms “its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement”, but it makes no mention of the only substantial obstacle to a negotiated two-state solution, which is the Palestinian refusal to negotiate. In doing so, the resolution proves itself to be a mouthpiece for anti-Israel extremists and not a vehicle to “create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution” as it claims.

The resolution is nothing more than hypocritical fiction that ignores history and current reality to allow a few heads of state to pat each other on the back and claim, as France’s François Delattre did, that the resolution is “an important and historic event”. The resolution is historic only in the sense that it enshrines the anti-Semitic belief that an Arab state cannot tolerate the existence of Jews.

Betrayal by Christians

This anti-Semitic resolution passed with the support of several Christian-dominated countries (France, Britain, Russia, Spain, Uruguay, Angola, Ukraine, Venezuela, and New Zealand) while another Christian-dominated country, the United States of America, ensured the resolution’s passage by refusing to use the veto it has traditionally used against such resolutions.

In doing so, the world’s Christians are betraying the only state in the Middle East that protects Christians from extinction. As Huffington Post wrote, “Although Christians have lived in the Middle East – the birthplace of Christianity – for nearly two thousand years, as a result of years of persecution and discrimination, especially in the past 15 years, they now constitute no more than 3-4% of the region’s population, down from 20% a century ago”.

In Lebanon, the only Arab country with a substantial Christian population, according to Huffington Post, “the Christian population has plunged in 100 years from 78% to 34% of the country”. Yet, in Israel, “By contrast, the 160,000 Israeli Christians live as citizens in a democratic First World country with freedom of religion, rule of law and open elections. Christians can move anywhere, even building a number of churches recently in Tel Aviv. The government safeguards the Christian holy places and is lenient on the right of return of Christian refugees. Since 1967 Christian, Islamic and Jewish holy sites are open to pilgrims of all religions. The Christian churches own a significant part of Jerusalem, including the land on which the Knesset sits.”

Members of the UNSC cannot even claim ignorance because Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Israel testified in 2014 at the UN Human Rights Council, stating, “In the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is not only not persecuted, but affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security. It is Israel, the Jewish state. Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe”.

A return to traditional Christian anti-Semitism?

This attack by the world’s Christians on the Jews of Israel is reminiscent of a long tradition of Christian anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. It appeared to be in remission for a while, after the Christian-majority nation of Germany nearly wiped out all Jewish presence in Europe.

Are we seeing a return to traditional Christian anti-Semitism, or are we seeing world leaders who are too cowardly to address the real problems of the Middle East and would rather use demonization of Israel as a distraction? Whatever the reason is, the Christians’ betrayal of the Jews is as short-sighted as it is wrong.

As The Times of Israel reported this Christmas, in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank city of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, the “Christian population is rapidly disappearing”, like in the rest of the Arab Middle East. By betraying the Jews, Christians are not only continuing a long history of anti-Semitism but also undermining their own heritage.

Fred Maroun

How Trump Can Blaze a New Trail in the Middle East

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

There he goes again. Donald Trump hasn’t even been sworn in yet and former President Jimmy Carter is urging President Obama to recognize “Palestine” before he leaves office.

In his recent New York Times op-ed, Carter reiterates his deep animus for Israel by labeling 600,000 Jewish residents of historic Judea and Samaria (aka West Bank) as “colonists.”

Mr. President-elect, forget Jimmy Carter, he long ago made his bed with the likes of Fidel Castro and other tyrants. And it was Carter who has been the chief cheerleader to recognize Hamas as a legitimate “political actor.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t go gently into the night. AFP reported that “In unusually stark terms, Mr. Kerry warned that the building of Israeli settlements was undermining any hope of an agreement to allow two states to live side by side.”

Mr. Trump, you have said you want to apply your unique negotiations skills to the Israel-Palestinian dispute:

Here are a few suggestions:

First: 68 years is enough. Make the move. It’s time to finally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and launch that shovel-ready embassy project with Trump-like speed.

Second: Send a message to the UN. Stop treating our ally Israel as a whipping boy for the Arab and Muslim Blocs’ fanatic anti-Jewish hatred or America will re-evaluate our future in the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and UNWRA.

Mr. President-elect, you know its treacherous record on the Holy Land, its ineffectiveness in stopping the slaughter in Syria, its silence over ethnic cleansing of Christians in Iraq. Yet, it is only Israel — not Syria or Iran — that continuously suffers diplomatic assaults, with Jerusalem recently targeted by 10 UN resolutions in one day.

UNESCO, the UN’s anointed protector of world heritage, caved to Arab pressure and just voted twice to erase Jewish history by recasting Judaism’s holiest sites — held holy also by Christians — as Muslim.

Third: Mr. Trump, tell the French you will veto any Security Council resolution demanding Israel to withdraw to its June 1967 borders. Those lines, dubbed “Auschwitz borders” by the late Foreign Minister Abba Eban, would immediately put 8 million Israeli citizens within range of cross-border suicide bombers and over 100,000 missiles. No nation would ever place its people in such jeopardy. And no Israeli leader will.

Mr. President-elect, you can build a new paradigm for peace by doing something no previous US President has ever done: Deliver some tough love to the Palestinians.

Fourth: Call for an end to Hamas rule in Gaza. The world talks of a two-state solution, but so long as terrorist Hamas rules Gaza, Israel would be forced to accept a three-state solution. For decades now, in word and deed Hamas has been totally committed to a genocidal end to the Jewish state. It cynically places the people of Gaza in harm’s way, intertwining civilian infrastructure with its military/terrorist complex. It steals construction materials earmarked for civilian reconstruction to expand its underground terrorist tunnels to attack Israel. Still, international aid continues to pour in and few protest Hamas’ antisemitic invective and continued calls to “remove all Jews.”

Mr. Trump, you can lead the way in putting an end to this madness. Denounce Hamas’ serial terrorism and criminality. Demand its international enablers stop funding Hamastan. It is time the world heard from the White House that it is Hamas — not “settlements” — that is a real obstacle to peace.

Fifth: Demand from the Palestinian Authority (PA) to start behaving like it wants peace. Mr. President-elect, peace partners don’t name schools honoring the leader of the Black September group that murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

President Abbas should be told there will be no more funding for PA curricula that fail to teach coexistence with Jewish neighbors. In 2016, Palestinian textbooks are rife with anti-Jewish invective, a fact overlooked by an Obama White House memo that gave these books a clean bill of health.

And shouldn’t recipients of America’s and Europe’s largesse hold accountable the adults who gave two eight-year old Palestinians knives, then drove the kids to Nahal Oz and told them to go kill Jews?

Mr. President-elect: All eight-year-olds, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, deserve a peaceful future.

Your leadership can bring real hope to the Holy Land by speaking the truth. Demand that Hamas be removed from ruling Gaza and make clear that there is one main obstacle standing between Palestinians and a peaceful future: Hate.

Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper

Securing a Future for Religious Minorities in the Middle East

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

You have to wonder if the barbarians fighting under the flag of the Islamic State still believe that 72 virgins will be waiting for them in paradise once they become “martyrs.”

I say this not because the leaders and foot soldiers of ISIS have suddenly woken up to the possibility that this belief is based, according to several scholars, on a mistranslation of the relevant verse of the Qu’ran; that would be expecting too much of them. I say this because they have already had a taste of that paradise here on earth, as a result of their campaign of genocide against the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria. One aspect of this horrific slaughter has been the kidnapping of thousands of Yazidi women and girls to serve as sexual slaves to these savages.

A recent report from the U.N. Human Rights Council – a body that spends most of its time condemning Israel for alleged human rights violations – sheds some light on both the scale and the nature of the genocide, which was ignored by the international community for far too long. The campaign against the Yazidis was launched by ISIS over two years ago, in Aug. 2014, when its forces began an assault upon the Yazidi villages in Sinjar, a district in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh. At least 5,000 Yazidis have been killed during the genocide, while 3,200 women and children remain in ISIS captivity. About 70,000, estimated to make up 15 percent of the overall Yazidi population, are reported to have fled Iraq.

The stories related by the U.N. report will be depressingly familiar to anyone who has studied genocide over the last century. Men and boys are either executed or forcibly converted, while women and girls exist solely for the use and pleasure of ISIS terrorists. The manner of the persecution is gruesome. “After we were captured, ISIS forced us to watch them beheading some of our Yazidi men,” said one 16-year-old girl. “They made the men kneel in a line in the street, with their hands tied behind their backs. The ISIS fighters took knives and cut their throats.”

Despite this reign of terror, the Yazidis have not been destroyed as a distinctive group. Before the ISIS attacks began, around 700,000 Yazidis are said to have lived in Iraq, the largest single concentration of the religion’s followers. Kurdish in terms of their ethnicity, the Yazidi faith is described by scholars as syncretic, which means it combines elements of other religions, including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Based on that, it’s worth noting that ISIS isn’t the only Islamist group that regards the Yazidis as infidels. The theology of more mainstream Islamist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, assigns them a similar status.

Presently, the main focus for the Yazidis is the rescue of their women and girls from the clutches of ISIS. Often this is done through ransom payments, involving middlemen who collect huge sums from their families – one recently reunited family paid a total of $34,000 for their two daughters – which are then paid to ISIS. After their release, both girls said they didn’t expect that they would see each other again, describing their captors as “dirty and abusive,” who subjected them to regular beatings.

What this illustrates is the need for greater physical security for the Yazidis, as well as for other religious minorities in the region, if and when ISIS is defeated. Without that concrete measure, continued religious and ethnic conflict in the Middle East will target vulnerable minorities first and foremost.

For that reason, the decision of the Iraqi parliament on Oct. 4 to reject Yazidi and Assyrian Christian appeals for separate provinces should spark concern. “The Iraqi people reject any decision that partitions the Nineveh province. The people of the city determine the destiny of their city in the post-Islamic State (IS) stage,” said Ahmed al-Jabra, a Sunni member of parliament, justifying the vote. Conveniently, for the Sunni Arab population, the vote also means that Yazidis and other minorities, who have been dispossessed from the region, will be reluctant to come back. Viyan Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, has already said that Yazidis will be wary of returning to the Nineveh province without significant changes in its administration.

It was Dakhil who first alerted the world to the slaughter of the Yazidis in 2014, when her emotional plea to the world to save her people went viral on the internet. In a speech earlier this year at the U.N. in Geneva, arranged by the dedicated staff of the U.N. Watch nongovernmental organization, Dakhil declared, “The international community has to support us, to call upon the U.N. Security Council to recognize what is happening to us as genocide, and to refer our case to the International Criminal Court.” And there are signs that process is in motion, with both the U.S. and British governments formally acknowledging that the Yazidis have experienced a genocide in the legal sense of the term.

What is worrying is that measures to protect the Yazidis from future brutalities have been set back by the Iraqi parliament decision. As Jews from Middle Eastern countries know only too well, being a minority in the midst of profound instability in Arab and Muslim societies is not a fate anyone would want. The only way to protect yourself is by exercising some significant degree of self-determination, including the right of self-defense, secured by international guarantee. After all, we Jews were only able to say “Never again” once we secured the means to prevent further persecution, in the form of the state of Israel. The other religious minorities of the Middle East deserve no less.

Ben Cohen

Newcomer Rabbinic Organization Launches Lower East Side Eruv Against Establishment View

Friday, September 30th, 2016

The Downtown Va’ad, an Orthodox rabbinic network established in 2013 as a “unifying platform for Orthodox rabbis to advance the welfare and flourishing of our now surging downtown Jewish community,” on Thursday announced the establishment of an eruv, a legal fiction allowing Jews to carry objects on Shabbat.

“As of today, all of Lower Manhattan has been joined to the larger Manhattan Eruv,” declared the group’s announcement, defying a generation of Orthodox scholars, most notably the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who was the halakhic authority for North America’s Orthodox community until his death in 1986. In the 1950s, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher proposed the establishment of an eruv in Manhattan, but the Lithuanian yeshiva deans, including Rabbis Aharon Kotler and Moshe Feinstein, objected to the idea. The major controversy that ensued was resolved by a statement from Agudas Horabonim (Rabbis’ Association) which quashed the Manhattan eruv for the next fifty years.

The Downtown Va’ad’s press release recalls the process that brought the new Manhattan eruv to life: “In 1999, a new eruv was constructed on the Upper West Side under the advisement and supervision of the Machon L’Hora’ah of Monsey. In 2003, this Eruv was extended to include the Upper East Side community, and then in 2007 — with the assistance of Yeshiva University (Stern College), local congregations, and several individuals and families — the eruv was expanded to include a portion of the downtown community. … Recently, the Manhattan eruv was further extended to include the entire southern portion of Manhattan, specifically the region below 14th Street. This project was initiated by the Downtown Va’ad in conjunction with the Manhattan Eruv leadership. … The extension was facilitated and supervised by the Machon L’Hora’ah and continues to be checked and maintained by them. All halakhic (legal) matters are deferred to the Machon.”

According to the press release, “this eruv development is simply the expansion of the pre-existing eruv; one that most Manhattan rabbis have publicly supported. We understand that the halakhic institution of eruv is complex and we honor and respect all rabbinic and communal perspectives on the matter. We encourage our constituencies to pursue guidance from its own rabbinic authorities and to continue the spirit of mutual respect and dignity that Jewish practice demands and engenders.”

The new initiative is likely to raise an objection from the traditional Orthodox leadership of the Lower East Side community, led by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s sons, Rabbis Dovid and Reuven Feinstein. These legal scholars follow their father’s view that in densely populated Manhattan it is impossible to ever erect a legitimate eruv. Hopefully, the Lower East Side community, which is one of the most benign Jewish communities in America, will weather this storm, especially in light of the fact that we’re entering the Days of Awe.

The simplest possible explanation regarding the halakhic dispute over the eruv goes as follows:

Jewish law recognizes three domains: private domain, where one may carry on Shabbat; public domain, where one may never carry on Shabbat; and an in-between domain nicknamed K’Armelit, meaning “like a widow,” who is not married and not a virgin. A Karmelit domain can be converted into private domain using a symbolic wall and doorway, usually represented by a fishing line attached to poles all around the converted area.

No one disputes that part. What is being contested is the definition of a public domain which cannot be considered a karmelit and therefore cannot ever be converted into a private domain, no matter how much fishing line you’ll tie around it.

The late Rabbi Feinstein followed the view cited in the Shlchan Arukh (OH 345:7), based on a Babylonian scholar cited by Rashi, that since the laws of Shabbat domains are delineated from the configuration of the Israelite’s camp in the wilderness, which was considered an irredeemable public domain, and since there were 600,000 males over the age of 20 in that camp, we should view any area populated by 600,000 people or more as public domain.

Many disagree with this view, because it isn’t mentioned explicitly in the Babylonian or Jerusalem Talmud, nor by Maimonides and other key medieval scholars. Also, does the rule mean there should be 600,000 people moving through the place or living there for it to qualify as public domain, and should they all be males older than 20?

The opposing view, which the new rabbinic group seems to uphold, is based on an explicit Talmudic citation (Shabbat 6a), defining public domain as a main road, 20 feet wide, going through a city from one end to the other, connecting to other cities in either direction. Imagine the cities of antiquity as an aspirin pill, with the line going through the middle. That’s the road, and the fact that it is connected to the wilderness on either end makes it a Mavo Mefulash, a passageway that’s open on both ends. Since Manhattan does not have such a road leading to the wilderness, goes this view, it can be turned into one big private domain via the eruv. Alternatively, if one were to consider the bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan a problem in that context, then each local community, such as the Lower East Side, can erect its own eruv — meaning one cannot carry into neighboring communities on Shabbat, but one is permitted to carry in one’s own neighborhood – see the accompanying image above.

One is reminded of the story of two study partners who have been poring over the Talmud together for years, and one of them invites the other to his son’s wedding and wants to honor him with one of the blessings to the couple under the canopy. His partner says he is, indeed, honored, but, alas, he isn’t Jewish.

– What do you mean you’re not Jewish? We’ve been learning together all these years…

– I’m interested in it intellectually, but it doesn’t make me a Jew.

– Wait a minute, I see you on the street on Shabbat in your suit and tie — you know a goy gets the death penalty for observing Shabbat! (It’s actually the law, look it up)

– I take care of that by always carrying something in my pocket.

– Yes, but we have an eruv!

– Huh! You call this an eruv?

JNi.Media

Newsweek Middle East Editor Goes on Anti-Semitic Twitter Rant

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Tower Magazine website}

An editor of Newsweek Middle East launched into a Twitter tirade invoking several anti-Semitic tropes late last week, including that Jews are greedy and are not descended from biblical Hebrews, and therefore have no historical connection to Israel.

After the magazine was criticized by pro-Israel bloggers last week for creating an inaccurate documentary video about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the magazine’s senior deputy editor, Leila Hatoum, responded harshly, calling her critics “Zionist trolls,” accusing them of worshiping money, and falsely claiming that Jews are not Semites and therefore not native to the Middle East. (The term anti-Semitism was coined by the 19th century German journalist Wilhelm Marr, who opposed Jewish emancipation and sought to popularize a term that would make Jew-hatred sound more scientific.)

The video that Hatoum shared claimed that references to “Palestine” prior to 1948 meant that an Arab Palestinian state used to exist. In fact, the artifacts that the video claimed to have proven its case actually showed that Palestine was under British control, not independent; one document even contained the Hebrew initials for “Land of Israel.”

Hatoum’s Twitter rant was first exposed by Israeli blogger “Aussie Dave,” who had been one of the chief critics of the video Hatoum posted. The blogger subsequently discovered earlier offensive tweets that Hatoum wrote, including an (inaccurate) claim that Adolf Hitler’s mother, girlfriend, and doctor were Jewish.

Hartoum also cited the discredited “Khazar” theory of the origins of today’s Jews to try to prove that modern Jews or Jews who lived in Eastern Europe are not descended from biblical Jews.

In reality, the shared Middle Eastern ancestry of Jewish communities, including those who resided in Europe, has been established by multiple genetic studies. “Historical evidence suggests common origins in the Middle East, followed by migrations leading to the establishment of communities of Jews in Europe, Africa and Asia, in what is termed the Jewish Diaspora,” researchers explained in a 2010 study published by Nature that traced “the origins of most Jewish Diaspora communities to the Levant.” (Notably, the study also revealed “a close relationship between most contemporary Jews and non-Jewish populations from the Levant,” including Palestinians.)

Media watchdog Honest Reporting noted that Newsweek Middle East is editorially independent of Newsweek and is owned by the Dubai-based ARY Digital Network. The watchdog organization wondered if Newsweek would be pleased to have “their brand name being dragged through the mud by the likes of Leila Hatoum and the anti-Israel propaganda being produced on the Newsweek Middle East site.”

The Newsweek video highlighted what Shany Mor referred to in the January 2015 Issue of The Tower Magazine as “the mendacious maps of Palestinian ‘loss,’” which uses historically inaccurate information to argue that an independent Palestine disappeared due to the establishment of the State of Israel.

The series of maps referred to by Newsweek conflate different aspects of land control. One shows inhabited areas, another shows a proposed partition plan, and two more show political control. Mor argued that if one looked at a series of maps showing the history of Palestinian political control, a more accurate picture would emerge:

The categories of political control and international partition plans are quite easy to map out over time. Since the concern of those publicizing the maps above is Palestinian control of land, we can illustrate this with a more honest series of maps showing areas of political control, using the same years as the original—adding one for clarity.

002_Shany_Mor_Political_Control_Map

As seen above, 1946 has exactly zero land under Palestinian Arab control—not autonomous, not sovereign, not anything—as it was all under British authority. We could go further back in time, to the Ottoman era, for example, and the map wouldn’t change in the slightest. 1947 sees no changes to the map, as Palestine was still under British control. Before the war in June 1967, control is divided between three states, and none of them is Palestinian. The 2005 map would be exactly as it is presented in the original series, showing the very first lands ever be ruled by Palestinian Arabs qua Palestinian Arabs. To clarify this a bit more, I have added a map from 1995, showing the withdrawals undertaken during the first two years of the Oslo process, just up to but not including the 1997 Hebron Protocol.

In fact, if we zoomed in a bit more, we would see how the peace process of the 1990s resulted in the first time a Palestinian Arab regime ruled over any piece of land. This occurred in 1994 with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and Jericho. That control steadily expanded over more and more land during the years leading up to the failed final status talks. Much of it was then lost during the second intifada, but eventually regained as violence died down, and the Gaza disengagement even expanded it slightly. All of these Palestinian land gains have taken place in the last 20 years and every square meter of it came not from Turkey or Britain or Jordan or Egypt, but from Israel alone; and nearly all of it through peace negotiations.

After being presented with evidence of the inaccuracy of similar maps that they had posted, both MSNBC and the textbook company McGraw-Hill acknowledged their error. But months after the maps were thoroughly discredited, Newsweek Middle East risked its credibility by publishing them again.

 

Tower Magazine

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/newsweek-middle-east-editor-goes-on-anti-semitic-twitter-rant/2016/09/14/

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