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Posts Tagged ‘State Dept.’

New ‘Judea and Samaria’ Passport Stamp Drives Arabs and the AP Nuts

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

In what appears to be a recent change of events, the passports of non-Israelis who enter the areas of Judea and Samaria are now being stamped with “Judea & Samaria Only” “visitors permit,” whereas until fairly recently those passports were stamped with “Palestinian Authority Only” stamps.

There has been a hysterical response to this by such anti-Israel activists as Ali Abunimah, the founder and editor of the “Electronic Intifada,” an online media outlet dedicated to attacking Israel, the “Zionist entity.”

It would not be such a big deal if it were only the virulently anti-Israel fringe who read the Electronic Intifada who complained about the change.  But, incredibly, the issue has now been taken up by international media outlets such as the Associated Press who have been badgering the spokesperson for the U.S. State Department about the change.

During the press conference on Tuesday, December 4, the AP’s State Department correspondent Matt Lee repeatedly badgered Deputy State Department Spokesperson Mark C. Toner about the matter.  Lee parroted Abunimah’s over-the-top characterization of the stamp, and demanded to know what the U.S. is going to do about Israel’s “creeping annexation” over what he insisted Toner acknowledge was “occupied territory.”

The reporter compared what he considered to be a lackluster response to the concern expressed by the U.S. when the Chinese government began issuing passports in which maps showed Chinese ownership over disputed maritime territory.  Toner resisted the comparison, but ultimately relented and assured the AP reporter that he would “look into it,” and then “report back.”

The source of the concern, the Electronic Intifada, is so hostile to Israel that it describes the change in Israeli stamp policy in this way:

‘Judea and Samaria’ is the Jewish nationalist name Israel gives to the occupied West Bank to reinforce its bogus claims to the territory and to give them a veneer of historical and religious legitimacy.

The latest change is further proof, if it were needed, that Israel is, without announcing it, implementing a racist one-state solution where there is no such thing as a Palestinian state and even the ‘Palestinian Authority’ has been erased.

Of course, Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron in Hebrew) are the terms which have been used to refer to these areas throughout history.   It has only been since the 1960′s that the term “West Bank” began to be used to refer to that area.

Here is the full exchange at the State Dept. briefing on Tuesday, December 4, 2012:

QUESTION: The Israeli Interior Ministry today announced that they’re also – they approved, or they are about to build 1,600 units. It’s the Ramat Shlomo settlement. It was actually launched during the Vice President’s visit to Jerusalem back in 2010 and you guys stopped it. Today, they – so do you have a comment on that?

Mark C. Toner, Deputy Department Spokesman: Well, you won’t be surprised if – I’d just refer you to our statement yesterday, which is that these kinds of actions are unproductive and don’t help get the parties back to the negotiating table, which is our ultimate goal.

QUESTION: Okay, but this seems to be like a daily event now. We might expect tomorrow there’s going to be another settlement and so on, and you will continue to refer to your statement of the day before yesterday?

MR. TONER: Well, our position – as we said, we made it very clear yesterday in our statement, but our position has not changed, and we continue to convey that to the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: Okay. So you have no intention of, let’s say, following suit with the – with your –

MR. TONER: Said, we see you –

QUESTION: – allies, Australia, and others to call the Israeli ambassador and tell him that in person?

MR. TONER: Well, Said, we’re in almost – well, we are in daily contact with the Israeli Government through our mission in Israel, and we’re going to convey what we’ve – privately as well as what we’ve conveyed publicly.

QUESTION: I have one last question on – if you indulge me – on the West Bank. The Israelis now are stamping visitors’ passports, American visitors and others, when they enter the West Bank as Judea and Samaria. Are you concerned about that? Did you express your concern to the Israelis?

Really Scary Pep Talk on How to Have a Safe Trip Abroad, Courtesy of your State Dept.

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The world is not a safe place, is the bottom line of what our State Dept. wants you to know. But if you insist—heaven knows why—on leaving your safe bedroom and risk setting foot in one of those awful places you hear about in the news, there’s a lot you need to know.

Travelers can become victims of crime and violence, or experience unexpected difficulties, says the special page titled “A Safe Trip Abroad” on the DOS website.

“Happily, most problems can be solved over the phone or with a visit to the Consular Section of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. There are other occasions, however, when U.S. consular officers are called upon to help U.S. citizens who are in foreign hospitals or prisons, or to assist the families of U.S. citizens who have passed away overseas.”

I’ll bet this paragraph alone could convince at least 5 percent of potential U.S. travelers to forget the whole deal, order a pizza and stay indoors with reruns of Battlestar Galactica (first or second version is already up to you). What a fun thing to do on my summer vacation – get a visit from a U.S. consular officer in my prison cell!

But DOS doesn’t want you stuck the whole summer in your mom’s basement, which is why they tell you: “We have prepared the following travel tips to help you avoid serious difficulties during your time abroad. We wish you a safe and wonderful journey!”

Here’s a particularly cheerful tip:

“Have your affairs in order at home. If you leave a current will, insurance documents, and power of attorney with your family or a friend, you can feel secure about traveling and will be prepared for any emergency that may arise while you are away. If you have minor children, consider making guardianship arrangements for them.”

So, like, have a wonderful time on this trip, and also, you’re going to die over there and never come back and your body parts will be divided among the needy and your kids will be raised by your cousin George who used to be a man!

But you haven’t seen scary until you’ve read the section titled “Safety on the Street”:

Don’t use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.

Try not to travel alone at night.

Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.

Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.

Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.

Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices.

Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will: jostle you, ask you for directions or the time, point to something spilled on your clothing, or distract you by creating a disturbance.

Beware of groups of vagrant children who could create a distraction to pick your pocket.

Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.

Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. Try to ask for directions only from individuals in authority.

Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.

Learn a few phrases in the local language or have them handy in written form so that you can signal your need for police or medical help.

Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

If you are confronted, don’t fight back – give up your valuables.

By the way, that last tip is kind of the foundation of American foreign policy everywhere…

Yes, I understand that all these tips actually make sense, and they’re just as useful in downtown Manhattan as they are in Calcutta. Still, I don’t know of any other government that goes into such amazing lengths to school its potential world travelers about the all the dangers lurking out there.

“As much as possible, plan to stay in larger hotels that have more elaborate security.”

Really? Do they realize how much those hotels cost?

Then there’s this one:

“Safety experts recommend booking a room from the second to seventh floors above ground level – high enough to deter easy entry from outside, but low enough for fire equipment to reach.”

And practice jumping to the street from the seventh floor at home, just to be prepared…

Is there really anyone out there who will follow this tip? “When there is a choice of airport or airline, ask your travel agent about comparative safety records.”

I have a really cheap flight for you, but in the airport you’ll be using only every other flight actually reaches its destination. You want the kosher meal?

The part about traveling on trains is pure Hitchcock:

“Well-organized, systematic robbery of passengers on trains along popular tourist routes is a problem. It is more common at night and especially on overnight trains.

“If you see your way being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from behind, move away. This can happen in the corridor of the train or on the platform or station.

“Do not accept food or drink from strangers. Criminals have been known to drug food or drink offered to passengers. Criminals may also spray sleeping gas in train compartments. Where possible, lock your compartment. If it cannot be locked securely, take turns sleeping in shifts with your traveling companions. If that is not possible, stay awake. If you must sleep unprotected, tie down your luggage and secure your valuables to the extent possible.”

Stay awake, for heaven’s sake, stay awake! You’re on vacation! Stay up and make sure no stranger stabs you for your valuables – which, by the way, the advisory suggests you should have left at home in the first place.

I’ll tell you, after reading some of these sections I feel like I’ve already been to Europe, got smacked around by all the crafty robbers over there and now I’m back, a little out of breath and worse for wear:

“Carjackers and thieves operate at gas stations, parking lots, in city traffic and along the highway. Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries to get your attention when you are in or near your car.

“Criminals use ingenious ploys. They may pose as good Samaritans, offering help for tires that they claim are flat or that they have made flat. Or they may flag down a motorist, ask for assistance, and then steal the rescuer’s luggage or car. Usually they work in groups, one person carrying on the pretense while the others rob you.

“Other criminals get your attention with abuse, either trying to drive you off the road, or causing an “accident” by rear-ending you.

“In some urban areas, thieves don’t waste time on ploys, they simply smash car windows at traffic lights, grab your valuables or your car and get away. In cities around the world, “defensive driving” has come to mean more than avoiding auto accidents; it means keeping an eye out for potentially criminal pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders.”

And don’t even get me started on the special travel warnings DOS issues now and then, telling U.S. citizens half the world is full of people itching to kidnap them for ransom—and those are the nice ones.

Maybe the world has changed radically since the time I was 17. When I was 17 the year was 1972, and my girlfriend and I hitchhiked across Europe from early May to late September. We slept in parks, we roamed, we worked here and there when we had to (my hair was down to my belt). We came home unscathed, two white, Jewish, middle class kids. Is it really that much worse out there, or have our DOS officials just figured out an ingenious—though truly elaborate—way of being able to say “I told you so” no matter how crazy your experience abroad should be.

Tell you what, if you’re reading this in your prison cell in Rwanda, then, first, I’m sorry, then, of course, didn’t we tell you not to go? Also, nice to see they give you Internet, and, finally, please, contact your nearest U.S. consulate…

State Dept. Objects to Levy Committee’s Legalizing Outposts

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

In a Monday State Deartment daily press briefing by Patrick Ventrell, director of the press office, the latter was asked by a reporter for his reaction to the Edmond Levy committee report which recommended legalizing most outposts which until now have been either in legal limbo, or on their way to being demolished. (The transcript was redacted for this report)

The reporter asked: “There’s an Israeli Government appointed committee which was asked to look into the legality of the settlements and has come forth with a ruling saying that they believe that essentially these settlements should be authorized, which is the Prime Minister’s position. The Israeli Government hasn’t accepted this ruling yet, but sort of stands ready to be accepted. Do you take any view on this creeping legalization of the settlement process? And is this useful at this point, ahead of Deputy Secretary Burns and the Secretary’s trip to Israel? Is this the kind of thing that you like to see happening?”

Ventrell: “The U.S. position on settlements is clear. Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli Government appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”

Question: “So you would urge the Government of Israel not to accept this panel’s recommendation?”

Ventrell: “My understanding is this is just a panel recommendation at this point.”

Question: “Is that going to be something that Deputy Burns brings up when he’s in Israel?”

Ventrell: “I’m not sure. I can’t read out his meetings in advance.”

Question: “Is it something that you can say that you’re sufficiently concerned about?”

Ventrell: “We’re concerned about it, obviously. The Deputy Secretary will be en route, and let’s see how his meetings go and see if we can report back to you when they’re over.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/state-dept-objects-to-levy-committees-legalizing-outposts/2012/07/10/

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