Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said on Sunday night that Israel has been monitoring the situation in Syria for a long time and is worried about the possibility of Syrian chemical weapons coming to Hezbollah’s possession.
“If these weapons fall into the wrong hands, it will be a game changer for us,” Oren stated in an interview with Fox News.
Oren told the interviewer, Chris Wallas:”You can imagine the Hezbollah, with its thousands of missiles, having chemical weapons? It could kill thousands of people.”
The Sunday Times has reported that Israeli special forces are operating in Syria as spotters to track the regime’s stocks of chemical and biological weapons. The cross-border operation is part of a secret war to trail Syria’s non-conventional armaments and sabotage their development.
“For years we’ve known the exact location of Syria’s chemical and biological munitions,” an Israeli source told the Sunday Times, referring to Israel’s spy satellites and drones. “But in the past week we’ve got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations.”
In an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Ray Suarez, Israel Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren explained the explosion of images circulating around the world, allegedly showing dead Gazan children “targeted” by Israeli air strikes.
“They [Hamas] are putting these rockets in schools, in mosques, near hospitals, even in homes. We have pictures of rockets in homes because they not only have a military strategy. They have a media strategy. They want pictures of civilian casualties to make the front page of newspapers around the world,” Oren said.
“We knew that terrorists in Gaza had Iranian-supplied long-range missiles. Our aircraft has managed to neutralize a great number of those missiles. Some of them were located in densely populated areas, in mosques, under schools and playgrounds,” Oren said. ”In one case, one of our pilots targeted one of those long-range missiles and then aborted at the last minute because he saw children playing in the vicinity.”
He added that 4.5 million Israelis, including Arabs – a total of half of Israel’s population – have been threatened by Hamas rocket fire, which has led to Israel’s strengthening of Operation “Amud Anan”, Pillar of Defense.
“And here you see the type of price we pay for trying to avert as much as possible civilian casualties.”
Oren did not address the falsification and disinformation Hamas and its partners have used to attempt to villainize Israel in the eyes of the Arab world and international community. In one instance, the Alqassam Brigades was found to have taken an image of a crying man holding a dead child which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza.
Late last night, November 13, there was a unanimous vote at a California school for divestment from certain companies that do business with Israel. Unanimous, 16 -0.
There are, however, several points militating against an uptick in alarm.
For one thing, the school at which this took place was the University of California at Irvine. Yes, the school that allowed students to repeatedly disrupt Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, in 2010. Eleven of those hooligans were charged and convicted of conspiracy and disrupting a public meeting. Those convictions were obtained despite the efforts of many UCIrvine faculty members, including a large number of Jewish Studies department faculty.
But more importantly, the vote was taken by the UC Irvine Student Government, which, in all likelihood, does not have any investments in the targeted companies, or any other companies, for that matter.
The student government also called on the UC Irvine administration to divest from the named companies, but a student group’s call on its university to take the students’ investment advice is not exactly like money in (or, in this case, out of) the bank.
While the vote was really the equivalent of a small group of children shouting at those acting in loco parentis to take its investment advice, last night’s effort by anti-Israel student leadership at UCI is noteworthy for a small shift in tactic.
Although the Resolution repeatedly compared Israeli activity to Apartheid South Africa, the student government Resolution only sought divestment from those companies it deemed to provide support for the Security Fence, the demolition of “Palestinian” homes, and the building or maintenance of the “illegal Israeli settlements” on “occupied Palestinian territory.” In the past, calls for divestment from Israel typically called for divestment from any company doing business in Israel, which was the South Africa Apartheid divestment model.
The nitty gritty details, that is, that it was a student group that voted to divest its own (non-existent) financial holdings from certain companies – and was not the vote by a university to divest its holdings from companies doing business in Israel – was completely lost on most other media reporting on the vote. Professional Israel haters such as Ali Abunimeh and Noam Chomsky were quick to add their support, as were Muslim Student Associations and other anti-Israel groups across the country. To see the misguided glee, check on twitter #IrvineDivest.
The Resolution, which was introduced by Sabreen Shalabi, and seconded by Shadi Jafari, follows:
Item Number: 16
Legislation Number (B: Bill, R: Resolution): R48-15
Synopsis: Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid
Date of Presentation: November 13, 2012
Divestment from Companies that Profit from ApartheidWHEREAS, it is UC Irvine’s duty to maintain the values of “respect, intellectual curiosity, integrity, commitment, and empathy” which includes the promotion of human rights, equality, and dignity for all people without distinction;WHEREAS, it is the mission of the UCI Foundation to “ensure the appropriate use of all funds” in order to uphold the values of respect, intellectual curiosity, integrity, commitment appreciation, and empathy;WHEREAS, students have a legacy of standing against oppression and injustice at UC Irvine and across the U.S.;WHEREAS, the role of student activists in exposing South Africa’s apartheid system and supporting equality, freedom, and dignity sets an example for us to follow as students of global conscience;WHEREAS, as the example of South Africa shows, it is imperative for students to stand unequivocally against all forms of racism and bigotry globally and on campus, including but not limited to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, patriarchy, and Israel’s system of apartheid;WHEREAS, the occupied Palestinian Territory is controlled militarily by the Israeli government;WHEREAS, certain companies have promoted and been complicit in these ongoing human rights violations systematically committed by the Israeli government, which have been documented by human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International, Addameer, B’tselem, Adalah, Badil, and the Israeli Coalition Against Home Demolitions;WHEREAS, according to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), “the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its associated régime are contrary to international law”;WHEREAS, according to the same ICJ decision, the establishment and expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem is also illegal by international law;
The Weekly Standard is already advancing the speculation that Debbie Wasserman Schultz be let go from her post as DNC chair following her blatant lie regarding Republicans, Israel, and Israel’s ambassador Michael Oren.
In a TV appearance Tuesday night, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was asked about the Michael Oren email. But instead of acknowledging her misstatement, the DNC chair attacked the reporter, Philip Klein, who quoted her.
“I didn’t say he said that,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And unfortunately, that comment was reported by a conservative newspaper. It’s not surprising they would deliberately misquote me. What I always say is that unfortunately the Republicans have made Israel a political football, which is dangerous for Israel. And Ambassador Oren has said that we can’t ever suggest that there is any daylight between the two parties on Israel because there isn’t. And that that’s harmful to Israel. That’s what I said, and that is accurate.”
But Klein fired back. Not only did he state that “Debbie Wasserman Schultz lied on national TV,” and accuse her of smearing the good name of an honest reporter in order to achieve her goals, but posted the audio recording of her statements online, so that readers could judge for themselves whether Schultz made the statement about Oren. The clip was uploaded to Youtube, and posted below.
Israel’s U.S. ambassador Michael Oren denied the claim made by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, that he had told her that what the Republican party was doing was “dangerous for Israel.”
Back in August, Hadassah Magazine interviewed Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and one of their question was: “Why did you call on both parties to refrain from challenging each other over support for Israel?”
“What the Republicans are doing is dangerous,” answered the DNC chair. “They are using Israel as a political football.… Israel’s ambassador [to the United States], Michael Oren, has said this. If there is any perception of daylight between the parties on support for Israel, that strengthens Israel’s enemies. The president rejects what some Republican candidates have been saying, that America should review all its foreign aid commitments from zero, making each country justify the support it receives.”
Then, in a speech at the Democratic Convention yesterday, Debbie Wasserman Schultz declared, “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.”
In an emailed statement, Ambassador Oren stated “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”
According to Philip Klein of the Beltway Confidential, the Florida congresswoman made the charge at a training session for Jewish Democrats, aimed at teaching Jewish Democrats how to convince their fellow Jews to vote for Obama.
As she was wrapping up her remarks, Klein reports, she claimed that, “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.”
It could be that she didn’t actually mean that Oren had told this to her directly – but there’s no doubt that the impression her crew of volunteers walked away with was: Oren told Debbie the Republicans are dangerous to Israel.
He says he never did. She lied, basically using Israel to bash the Republicans.
Ambassador Michael Oren has been on the move lately, visiting college campuses and communities in California, Michigan, Chicago, and Boston.
Israel Campus Beat caught up with him last week at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, after he addressed a crowd of students and community members.
The New Jersey native, who earned degrees from Princeton and Columbia and has served in faculty positions at Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, the Hebrew University, and Tel Aviv University, has served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States in May 2009. As the author of two best-selling books and a former contributing editor of The New Republic and the Shalem Center’s quarterly journal, Azure, Oren has a long history in academics and prose, and a profound ability to connect with his audience.
During a private reception last week at GW’s Elliot School of International Affairs, he offered advice to pro-Israel student activists and advocates.
“You need to know your subject, back and forth,” he said. “There is no substitute for knowing the history and knowing the current affairs.”
There is no substitute for experience, he added, even those that are difficult.
“Getting the stuffing knocked out of you sometimes is a very educational experience and I’ve been through it all,” he said. “Today, I get to a point where it is very, very rare where I will get a question, even a very difficult question that I haven’t received many times before. Being able to have the information at your fingertips is indispensable.”
He stressed the importance of treating every question with respect, noting that there is only one question that he refuses to respect.
“I won’t respect any question that draws a comparison between Israel and the Nazis,” he said. “I won’t respond to that, at least not respectfully.”
Oren demonstrated his knack for staying calm when a dozen George Washington University students left his event, minutes in, carrying signs that said “Oren Supports Colonialism.” Oren stood at the podium and urged those leaving to stay and hear what he had to say.
“I’ve been through that a lot,” he said. “You don’t have to lose your cool.”
The title of Oren’s presentation at GW was “Ultimate Allies: Israel and the United States,” and he discussed the strong connection between the two countries.
“We agree on the end game. We agree on the strategy. Strategy is creation of two states for two peoples, the nation state of the Jewish people called Israel, the nation state of the Palestinian people called Palestine living side by side in mutual security and mutual recognition and peace. Those are our common goals,” he said, explaining that although Israel and the U.S. sometimes disagree on certain tactical subjects, both countries are determined to prevent a nuclear capable Iran.
“Historically, because of the deep roots, because of the democratic connection, because of our great military alliance and growing commercial relationship, I say that Israel is not just an ally of America, not even a great ally of America,” he said. “Israel is America’s ultimate ally.”
A major annual US gay conference will feature Israel and its gay community this year.
The Equality Forum’s four-day event in Philadelphia, ending Sunday, featured Israeli gay performers, activists, and Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. Each year, the conference chooses another country as its theme.
Gaycities.com rated Israel the top Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual travel destination of 2011.
The Washington Post quoted a Republican congressional aide speaking on condition of anonymity as saying that the House Armed Services Committee will propose an increase of $680 million in funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system when it convenes to formulate the 2013 fiscal year’s defense budget.
The $680 million would be in addition to the special budgetary request of $205 million granted in 2011 by the Obama administration and Congress. The aide said the amount was based on the system’s present capabilities, as well as those of Hamas and Hizbollah.
The Republican-controlled panel’s proposal is seen as an election-year challenge to President Obama to reveal the true extent of his dedication to Israel’s security. Although the Pentagon last month said it was planning to ask Congress to provide additional funds for the missile defense system, the panel’s proposal will force the Obama administration to determine and divulge the level of financial support it believes the Iron Dome warrants.
At the time, the Pentagon did not go into specifics and released a statement saying that “[t]he Department of Defense has been in conversations with the Government of Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity.”
The cost of one Iron Dome battery is $50 million, while each missile costs over $60,000. There are currently four operational and actively deployed Iron Dome batteries, three in the south of Israel and one in the central region. Last month, Ambassador to the US Michael Oren wrote an article in which he stated that “at least ten Iron Dome systems will be necessary in order to defend the whole country.”