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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘relations’

Elie Wiesel and Kagame of Rwanda Discuss Genocide & Syria

Monday, September 30th, 2013

There were several important news making items that emerged from our historic discussion on genocide that our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, together with NYU Hillel, staged on Sunday night, 29 September, at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City – the venue that brought Abraham Lincoln to national prominence in 1860 – before 1000 people. The event – introduced by philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt and which I moderated – was historic because it brought together the two biggest names in global genocide remembrance: Prof. Elie Wiesel, the living embodiment of the martyred six million of the holocaust, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the only man alive who can claim to have stopped a genocide when his RPF forces conquered Rwanda in 1994 and ended the slaughter that had taken the lives of nearly one million Tutsis.

As to the discussion of whether President Franklin Roosevelt did enough to stop the murder of Europe’s Jews, Elie Wiesel came down firmly on the side of those who say he failed at this great moral responsibility. He deserves credit for defeating Hitler, Wiesel said, but as a someone who confronted a genocide and did not limit it, he deserves to be severely criticized.

I then turned the question to Kagame, adjusted to the Rwandan genocide. Did he harbor anger toward the United States, a moral and righteous superpower who blew it completely in Rwanda, doing next to nothing to stop the genocide and, arguably, even obstructing the efforts of other nations to assist. No, the President said. We’re way past that. It’s not about anger but our conclusion that we alone can protect ourselves and can never rely on a fickle world for our defense. Rwandans can rely on Rwandans for their defense.

I pointed out to the president that Israel came to the same conclusion about its defense in general, and is now pondering whether it will apply that principle by striking Iran alone, now that President Obama has decided to engage the Iranian president even as he continues to enrich Uranium and fund Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.

I asked Elie Wiesel about Syria. Given the Bible’s commandment ‘not to stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,’ did the United States have a moral obligation to punish Assad for gassing children, even if he surrenders his chemical arsenal? Wiesel was unequivocal. Both the American political, and Jewish communal leadership had failed on Syria. Chemical gas was a trigger point for genocide and mass murder. The fact that Assad had paid no price for gassing children was a tremendous moral failure that had to be corrected, and the Jewish community should have been at the forefront of saying so.

President Kagame echoed that sentiment. Those who use either chemical, or even conventional weapons to slaughter innocent people must be held accountable or nothing will check further aggression and murder. Here were the world’s two leading voices on genocide were being jointly critical of the American government’s decision to commute the military attack on Assad to simply destroying his arsenal. Even if he did so he still had to pay a personal price for mass murder.

My close friend Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had already announced, at a press conference we convened in October of last year, that Rwanda would be opening an embassy in Israel. I turned to the President and said to him that countries like Rwanda can understand Israel’s security situation in ways that few others could. The similarities between the two countries is striking. They are of similar size. They have terrorist enemies on their borders. Israel has Iran-funded Hezbollah and Hamas and Rwanda the FDLR in Eastern Congo. Both are regularly criticized unfairly by the UN. Both have had frictions with France which has at times assumed a curiously negative posture toward both countries. And, of course, both have experienced genocides of staggering proportions.

In light of the unique relationship between the two countries, I asked the President would it not be proper for Rwanda to open its embassy not in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem, becoming one of the first nations to affirm the holy city as Israel’s eternal and undivided capitol? The President was surprised by the question but answered graciously. Rwanda and Israel indeed share similar histories and security challenges. He was very happy that they were increasing their bilateral relations with Rwanda opening an embassy in Israel. It was an important step in an evolving relationship and opening an Embassy in Jerusalem would be too great a leap for now. He and I both smiled at his response, with the President knowing I had put him on the spot and with me knowing that he had artfully dodged my question.

I turned to Professor Wiesel and told him that the full page ads he took out in America’s major publications in March, 2010, mildly rebuking President Obama, with whom he is close, for his pressure on Israel to cease building in parts of Jerusalem were widely credited with reversing the Administration’s policy. Would he be consider taking out similar ads questioning the President’s decision to open diplomatic relations at the highest level of the Iranian leadership without first demanding that Iran cease funding Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, or enriching Uranium? Wiesel said that Iran’s holocaust denial was dangerous and delusional, and that opening diplomatic relations with the Iranians before they had formally renounced their genocidal aspirations against the Jewish state was unacceptable. He would consider the ads.

At last, I asked Professor Wiesel about a subject he and I had discussed many times. Why was it inappropriate to hate those who have committed genocide? Should we not despise the SS who murdered his family, or Hutu genocidaires who hacked children to death with machetes? Wiesel was adamant. Once you start hating, the emotion is internalized and you cannot control its spread and growth. It’s not long before it is directed even at those whom it is inappropriate to hate.

I have been close to Wiesel for 25 years. He is my hero and teacher. But on this one point, I remain unsure, and continue to despise those monsters who would murder a child because of his nationality, religion, or race. Never again must mean just that, Never again.

Chinese-Israeli Cultural Relations Blossoming

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

According to China’s Ambassador to Israel, Gao Yanping, “Culture goes beyond borders. Cultural exchanges constitute an important and dynamic part of China-Israel relations. Now the momentum is set. I am convinced that with our joint efforts the China-Israel cultural cooperation is bound to blossom.” To this end, the efforts of Israeli Barry Swersky are helping Chinese-Israeli cultural ties bud into fruition. In partnership with the Chinese Embassy and the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in China, Swersky is arranging an exhibition in Israel exploring the future of Chinese art through the eyes of young artists. Swersky is also fostering a collaborative relationship between CAFA and Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

Swersky explains, “I have felt that Israeli cultural organizations, whether artists or orchestras, are seeking more ways to go to China. They went to China and started to look for contacts. They have been successful.” He added, “As the cultural organizations become more interested in China, they have found their way into China. People are discovering each other, so there is a greater flow. There are museums in China presenting Israeli artists.”

Since 2008 Swersky has been promoting Chinese-Israeli cultural exchange. Among Swersky’s many projects is a TAO Beijing Dance Company performance with noted Israeli oud player Yair Dalal, joint master classes for gifted young Chinese and Israeli pianists, and construction of sculptures in Haifa and Haifa’s twin city, Shanghai, in a project proposed by Israeli artist Peter Jacob Maltz.

Swersky is not the only Israeli to be active in Israeli-Chinese cultural relations, as Israeli singer David D’Or has developed a solid audience in China and Israel Sinfonietta Be’ersheva has performed there twice. According to Swersky, “Already in May 1993, Israel and China signed a cultural agreement. In 2011, the governments agreed on a program for the years 2011 to 2015, a program which in general terms covers subjects such as culture and art, cultural events, museums and exhibitions, cinema and television, publication and literature.”

“Governments place great emphasis on ‘soft power,’” Swersky explained. “The identification with some elements of culture always helps Israel have a strong image in dance and music. It’s part of a country’s image.”

Eitan Press contributed to this report.

Visit United with Israel.

Iranians Citizens Increasingly Support Peace with Israel

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Contrary to mainstream media reports, momentum for peaceful relations with the State of Israel is building among the Iranian people.

“I think there are many Iranians who live for the day that Iran has diplomatic relations with Israel,” says Mahyar Shams Ahmadi, who was born in Tehran 28 years ago but now lives in Toronto. “In my view, if you just look at relations between Iran and Israel, it is clear that it is in fact the ruling regime in Iran that is preventing diplomatic relations.”

Ahmadi is inspired by the high-tech advances and Western-style democracy that Israeli society has achieved.  “Israel is already serving as a model for Iran, and other countries, on how to treat women and minorities,” he says. “Much like Canada, Israel does not oppress its citizens and allows them to think freely without fear of being persecuted no matter what your religion or beliefs are.”

Ahmadi criticizes Iranian leadership’s view of Israel as “little Satan” to the US’ “big Satan.” He says he is embarrassed and saddened that the present Iranian government remains opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. “Even with a new president, it is evident that Iran’s government hasn’t changed at all, and it is no surprise that Iran still continues to fail to live up to their international obligations,” he said.

Other Iranians are a bit more optimistic. “I think that the prospect of Israeli-Iranian relations will look good within the near future, either through the collapse of the regime, or by reform of Iranian politics,” says Pedram, an Iranian presently living in Stockholm, Sweden. “The Iranian and Jewish people have thousands of years of cultural and historical connection with each other and it cannot be broken just because we have an oppressive regime at the moment. I can with strong confidence say that the overwhelming majority of Iranians, both inside and outside the country, strongly support not only peace with Israel but also better relations in general.”

Recently, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf visited Israel as a guest of honor at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He received an award for his efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Iran and hosted a film screening of his recent film The Gardener, which was the first Iranian film to be filmed in Israel in decades. A number of his other films were also highlighted at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Crowds of Israelis honored him with standing ovations. Makhmalbaf was the first high-profile Iranian artist and former revolutionary to visit the Jewish state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

By defying the BDS Movement and pro-regime forces inside the Islamic Republic, who forced the Iranian Cinema Association to boycott Makhmalbaf’s films, the director risks a prison sentence if he returns to Iran.

Still, Makhmalbaf says he is  “proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel. Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war. We have to get to know each other through art, literature, and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That’s the reason I filmed my latest movie ‘The Gardener’ in Israel.” And, he adds, he hopes that someday soon, Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran.

Remarkably, more than 80 Iranian scholars, opposition group members, and human rights activists openly declared their support of his decision to come to Israel.

Visit United with Israel.

Has Netanyahu’s Apology Opened a Pandora’s Box for Israel?

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu recently called Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayipp Erdogan to apologize for the infamous Turkish flotilla incident that occurred back in May 2010. The reason that Mr. Netanyahu apologized?  His naval commandos, after repeated physical assaults, decided to defend themselves.  What began as Erdogan-instigated aggression against Israel’s legitimate naval blockade against Gaza led the rather conservative Netanyahu to issue an odious apology to Erdogan in a desperate attempt to mend the deluded “Turkish-Israeli alliance” that ceased to exist years ago. Yet the apology may have only opened up a Pandora’s Box for Israel, ominously endangering her security, and showing how Israel’s vigilance has declined over the decades.

In May of 2010, the Islamist IHH – with Turkey’s consent and aid — launched a flotilla to traverse Israeli waters in an attempt to aid the “oppressed Palestinians” living In Hamas-Occupied Gaza. Israel had instituted a blockade against Gaza in 2009 due to illegal weapons being smuggled into the territory.

When the  self-proclaimed “activists” (“aggressors” might be a better term) aboard the Mavi Marmara came close to Israel’s territorial waters, Israel warned them to turn back. After being ignored, Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship. They first used paintball guns to defend themselves from the  well-armed group.  Finally, when that met with violent resistance and attack, the Israelis responded as any normal military under physical assault would. They used live ammunition, and in the ensuing struggle, nine Turkish nationals were killed.

One can know just what the “activists” had in mind, by listening  to them sing the “Khaybar Song” (sometimes spelled “Khaibar”). In Arabic, this witty ditty rhymes like a charm. But when translated, it shows just what Jihadis have in store, not just for Israel in general, but for Jews in particular. In English, this song states: “Khaibar, Khaibar, Oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return!”  If one is not versed in the tragic history of how Muhammad exterminated the Jews of Arabia, read about Khaybar and the atrocities that the Muslim Arabs committed against the defenseless Jews.

After Israel’s defensive actions, Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan went on a veritable verbal tirade.  Erdogan warned that more flotillas would be accompanied by Turkish warships. Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and relations between what has become the neo-Ottoman Empire and Israel deteriorated to its lowest levels since Turkey first recognized Israel in 1949. Erdogan’s saber rattling made it appear that a Turko-Israeli war might break out imminently.

Thus it stood, until Barack Obama deigned to step on the soil of the Holy Land in March. According to sources, it was Obama — creator, author, and master of the “apology tour” to the Muslim world — who pressured Netanyahu to call Erdogan and apologize.  After the Israeli leader issued his mea culpa to Erdogan, the Turkish P.M. first said that he would restore   “full diplomatic relations” with Israel. But as a true Islamic fundamentalist, what he said was not what he meant. Soon, Erdogan stated that re-establishing full relations with Israel “would not take place” and that Israel would have to do more.  Erdogan demanded that compensation be given to the families of the “victims” of the Israelis. This is currently being worked on between Israel and Turkey.

The Turkish delight that Netanyahu presented on a golden platter to Erdogan only fueled Turkey’s sense of invincibility against the dhimmi Yahudi. Not only Erdogan, but Turkey’s press, were ecstatic over Israel’s apologiaBillboards appeared in Istanbul boasting of Israel’s supine behavior. Ironically, Turkey’s opposition secularist party, the CHP issued a statement voicing concern over Israel’s apology, even blaming Obama for it.

For realists, and not fantasists, Netanyahu’s Hebraic version of Obama’s “apology tour” is nothing short of a political and diplomatic disaster. Former Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called the apology in a Jerusalem Post article a “serious mistake.” And despite his tough talk over the years — and being lambasted internationally — this is not the first time that Benjamin Netanyahu has retreated from his nationalist views.

Quite disturbing is the timing of his non sequitur apology.  Only in late February did Erdogan call Zionism a “crime against humanity.” Erdogan even went further by defending  his sinister remarks less than a month later. Indeed, Erdogan could rightly be considered a Jew-hater based on previous remarks dating back to the 1990′s. For Israel, it should be axiomatic that a country with a modicum of pride would have told Erdogan a long time ago to take a dive in the Bosporus.

Perhaps the worst part of this affair is that Netanyahu’s apology can be viewed by her enemies as basically apologizing for Israel’s very existence, and undermining Israel’s military. Many Israeli commandos involved in the incident felt betrayed by Netanyahu’s apology. Bewildering is the fact  that Netanyahu  himself was a commando of Israel’s elite Sayeret Matkal, in which he took part in liberating Israeli hostages from PLO terrorists in the skyjacking of a Sabena plane back in 1972.

It is quite telling and sad that a warrior like Netanyahu can revert to dhimmi status before Erdogan, who has declared himself a “servant of Sharia.” Netanyahu’s apology is akin to a crime victim apologizing to the criminal for attacking him. Indeed, many Israelis believe that it is Erdogan who should be brought up on charges as a result of the Mavi Marmara incident.

Apologizing to Erdogan for the events of May 31, 2010 is as ridiculous as if Israel had apologized for a military operation that occurred on July 4, 1976. On that day, Israeli commandos landed in Idi Amin’s Uganda to free over 100 Israeli hostages taken by Arab and German terrorists. In the firefight, the terrorists and some Ugandan soldiers were killed. Several of the hostages were also killed in the crossfire. Israel lost its leading soldier in “Operation Thunderbolt.” His name was Jonathan Netanyahu, the brother of Benjamin Netanyahu. Can one imagine the uproar in Israel if then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had called and apologized to Amin, as well as offering “compensation” to the Ugandan soldiers killed? It would have been unthinkable. Yet, ironically, Benjamin Netanyahu has practically done this for Erdogan and his Islamist government.

In the near future, Netanyahu’s apology will in all likelihood usher in dire consequences for Israel. Already, Erdogan is planning to visit Gaza. Israel’s transnational Muslim enemies will see these incidents as more signs of weakness on the part of Israel and its will to survive. Israel, always under an international microscope, may very well have opened up a Pandora’s Box with Netanyahu’s apology. Indeed, if one apologizes for defending his right to live, is Israel’s very existence now imperiled more than ever before?

Originally published at the American Thinker.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/has-netanyahus-apology-opened-a-pandoras-box-for-israel/2013/04/05/

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