Monday, July 06, 2015

Israel Should Stop Courting Europe, Turn to Asia

European officials and European civil society often like to think of themselves as the pinnacle of human rights and morality. In reality, Europe has become a moral vacuum and, once again, a breeding ground for casual hate, racism, and anti-Semitism. This has become clear not only through the example of sophisticated elites like former Irish President Mary Robinson, British Labor politician Jeremy Corbyn, or Daniel Bernard, the late French ambassador to the United Kingdom, but also in the increasing European obsession with stable, democratic Israel, while countries surrounding Israel degenerate into anarchy, generate millions of refugees, promote genocide, and incite and sponsor terrorism.

...Israel has long considered itself almost a European country... For too long, however, Israel has if not ignored Asia then put it on the backburner. Sure, there was been sporadic outreach to China, but this was both half-hearted and misguided: When it comes to the Middle East, Beijing is the ultimate realist. Immediate commercial concerns means everything, broader principle mean little if anything.

India—the world’s largest democracy—was largely hostile to the Jewish state for the same reason it was hostile to the United States. Indian nationalist diplomat Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon coined the term ‘non-alignment’ in a 1953 United Nations speech, and the following year Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement. In theory, it sought a third path separate from the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States but in practice it was marked by disproportionate hostility to the West.

Non-alignment, a fondness for socialism, and a suffocating bureaucracy hostile both to direct foreign investment and free market enterprises long restrained India’s economic potential. While India still has a way to go, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to bring India’s economy, political culture, and foreign into the 21st century. He recognizes how much India and Israel have in common. They are both democracies in a region where democracies otherwise have not thrived. And Islamist radicals target them both. In the case of both, land disputes — be they have Jerusalem and its environs in Israel’s case, or the Kashmir in India’s — are only an excuse for a far more murderous agenda.

Earlier this year, Modi announced that he would become the first Indian leader to visit Israel. Among tech-savvy Indians, the twitter hashtag #IndiaWithIsrael is trending. Nor does it seem that Modi’s looming visit will be the end-all and be-all of warming ties. As COMMENTARY readers know, the UN Human Rights Council has long been a cesspool of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias. 

Consider these statistics of cumulative Council condemnations from its founding in 2006 to the present: Israel has been condemned more than 60 times, yet slave-holding Mauritania, blogger-whipping Saudi Arabia, journalist-repressing Turkey, freedom-extinguishing China, migrant worker-killing Qatar, and expansionist Russia have faced no condemnation. Condemning Israel has become a knee-jerk reaction around the world and, for decades, it has been India’s position as well. But on Friday, July 3, India shocked the Council by abstaining on its condemnation of Israeli actions in last year’s Gaza War. Now an abstention isn’t the same as a vote against, but clearly India-Israel relations are on the upswing, or could be if Israeli leaders are willing to work hard to cultivate them.

But India is not alone. The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has long sought to cultivate ties between Israel and other Southeast Asian countries—Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, and even Malaysia. The momentum is promising, as have been the results considering the relatively small scale. If Israel made a concerted effort to cultivate these ties, they might find a much more receptive audience than in past years. Not only would this create a strategic buffer, but it might also correct the narrative that all Muslims embrace the radical, anti-peace positions put forward by more rejectionist Arab states and European and American proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. After all, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country on earth by population, and India the second largest, even though it is not even majority Muslim.

Such diplomacy need not be an either-or scenario, but just as Washington navel-gazes and forgets that the United States and the targets of our interest are not alone in the sandbox, so, too, do Europeans forget that they are not the world’s moral barometer or the doyens of the elite club with which everyone wants favor. 

Not only is Southeast Asia booming as many of its countries largely abandon ruinous socialist practices and authoritarianism, but many now also face the same Islamist terror threat which Israel has been confronting for decades. There is a convergence of interests; let us hope that Israeli officials stop wasting undue energy on the Sisyphean task of pleasing European officials inclined to dislike them and recognize that such efforts might lead to greater results with a new eastern push.

Friday, July 03, 2015

“From the river to the sea, Israel will be free.”

From JPost, 30 June 2015, by DIANE WEBER BEDERMAN:
Ayelet Shaked, nouvelle ministre de la Justice
Ayelet Shaked, Justice Minister

I met Israel’s newly elected Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the offices of the Justice Ministry, a rather nondescript building located in east Jerusalem. I wanted to interview her when I first read about her. She’s a secular Jew and on the Right of the political spectrum. It was written as if this were some anomaly – which made me one, too.

Her views on care for the weakest among us fit in with social justice, too often associated only with the Left. She proposed a bill to assist the 30,000-40,000 people who have so much debt that they will never recover. The bill proposes a onetime wiping of their debt, reminiscent of Jewish law regarding the Shmita year. (For those not familiar with this Jewish term it refers to the seventh year in a seven-year cycle during which land in Israel must lie fallow and debts are canceled). The plan is unique to the Jewish state: the marrying of Jewish law with democracy, something one would not see in any other Western country.

But poverty in Israel will only diminish when Israel no longer has to spend so much on defense of its people and borders. And it isn’t just money. I shared with the minister the sentiment of the grandmothers I had met on this trip – their despondency and exhaustion from all the wars, having watched their husbands, then sons and now their grandsons going off to war.

Shaked brooked no despondency.
“It is not despair. Israel needs to accept that there will be no peace in the near future. The reality is that the Middle East is on fire. It has collapsed. Radical Islam surrounds Israel. But Israel remains a lighthouse of democracy, humanity and the economy in the darkness. In the meantime, Israel must manage the conflict because that is the only option available for now.
In the foreseeable future the status quo is going to remain.”
And then she added, “We must fight without fear and without mercy against our enemies.”
When it comes to defending Israel’s right to exist, Shaked reminds me of a mother bear separated from her cubs. Never get between a mother bear and her babies. It’s not a pretty sight.

Shaked is also cognizant of the problems experienced by Israeli Arabs. I’d spoken to Khaled Abu Toameh, a prominent, well-respected Arab journalist who shared his apprehension about Israeli Arabs who consider themselves loyal citizens of Israel, acknowledge living a better life than Arabs outside Israel, but still feel they’re not being treated equally. He fears if their concerns aren’t met they might pose a threat to the country.

She responded, “Israel is promoting Arab rights, freedoms and education. Naftali Bennett, [the] education minister, is giving more money to Arab local authorities to improve their opportunities because Israel wants all her citizens to do well. They must be able to be part of the working force and the economy. Arab Muslims who do well in Israel hopefully will overcome the call of the extremist groups because they will realize that life is good in Israel for their families.”

She’s also been in touch and works closely with Christian Arab Zionists who are threatened with violence because of their willingness to be part of Israeli society by joining the IDF.

Shaked represents a new generation of Israelis who haven’t experienced one day of peace, one day without all-out war, violent acts of terror on civilians or random rocket fire. While I was in Israel, rockets were fired in Ashkelon and a number of terrorist attacks were thwarted; others were not.

Rarely does a week go by without a report of at least one terrorist attack, one rocket launched. If that’s not enough, this generation of leaders must take on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and Jew-hating events like Israel Apartheid Week, which began in Canada in 2005.

Shaked, who developed “My Israel” to share the stories of Israel before entering politics in 2006, acknowledged that, “In general, Israel did not put enough energy and money into hasbara [public diplomacy]. Israeli governments did not see it as strategic.”

A new unit in the strategic affairs department to counter the BDS movement will be led by Gilad Erdan, information minister and public security minister, with assistance from Naftali Bennett and Shaked. The ministry is preparing to file lawsuits against activists who call for blacklisting the Jewish state. According to Tazpit News Agency, Erdan will have a budget of approximately $26 million.

She made it quite clear that she will not tolerate “haters.” And she has plenty. She must be doing something right to elicit such hate.

Saeb Erekat has called her “a new form of racist,” an extremist on the warpath.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once compared her to Adolf Hitler. Photo- shopped images of Shaked as a Nazi have been posted on social media. She’s been attacked for her looks. (Where are the feminists?) She’s tall and slender and yes, beautiful.

She’s also bright and brawny. Borrowing a metaphor from American football – she is a triple threat.

Canadian Yakov Rabkin, an historian at the Université de Montreal, said her appointment “is a reflection of the public mood in Israel, whether we like it or we don’t. She is very anti-Palestinian. She has violent discourse and all that, but in that, she reflects the public mood.”

I hope she reflects the public mood if that mood reflects the desire of all Israelis to stop justifying the right of Israel to exist when that is asked of no other country; if that mood reflects a state that no longer wants to appease the EU, the UN and the US. I hope she reflects the mood of a new, well-earned pride in Zionism.

And I hope that more countries will come to defend Israel as have my country, Canada, and my prime minister, Stephen Harper.

She told me “Israel sees Canada as one of the best allies of Israel, accepting the country without preconditions. That declaration of friendship gives power and strength to Israel. Prime Minister Harper is one of the only non-hypocritical leaders who stood up for our common values.”

There are those who disparage my prime minister’s words because Canada has a small military, and “talk is cheap.” But we are the only country with the moral courage to stand up and unconditionally defend a sister democracy. We will never know how history would have been recorded if Western leaders had spoken up against the Nazis in the early 1930s.

The minister said history will judge her generation by the steps they take now. Will they be able to let go of dreams which are no longer relevant and at the same time create a new appreciation for Israel in the world? 

I think there’s a change in the wind. A new generation of leaders is making their voices heard. For years we have heard the drum-beat call of the Palestinians: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” From the river to the sea, Palestinians see no place for the Jews. 

I thought I heard a rumbling in the land: “From the river to the sea, Israel will be free.”

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Iran is no better than ISIS

From Jerusalem Online, 22 June 2015, by Rachel Avraham:

Bahais are routinely persecuted in Iran
Bahais are routinely persecuted in Iran Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2

Analysis: The plight of the Bahais in Iran
According to a Bahai human rights activist, 
“What the Iranian regime has been doing with Bahai's is no different from what ISIS is doing in the Middle East. There is no difference at all. People get outraged with ISIS but not with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 
As the international community comes closer to reaching the deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, major regional security and human rights issues have been ignored in the negotiations.  

These include but are not limited to 

  • Iran’s ballistic missile program; 
  • their support for Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, 
  • the Shia militias in Iraq, the Assad regime, and Gaza-based terror organizations; 
  • the atrocities their proxies committed in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, and Kurdistan; 
  • their cooperation with ISIS in Balochistan; 
  • their policy advocating the destruction of Israel; and 
  • the lack of human rights within the Islamic Republic of Iran itself.  
These issues have all been ignored in order to appease the Iranian regime so they will agree to a nuclear deal that is likely to augment Iranian hegemony in the Middle East rather than tame it.

However, out of all of the atrocities committed by the Iranian regime against their own people, the group that has gotten the least amount of publicity since Rouhani came to power is the persecuted Baha'i faith, whom according to the Islamist regime in Iran don’t even have the right to exist as a faith community.   
According to the Baha'i International Community, since 2005, more than 700 Baha'is have been arrested, at least 49 incidents of arson targeting the Baha'is have been reported, and 42 incidents of vandalism within Baha'i cemeteries occurred. 

As we speak, 117 Baha'is are sitting in Iranian prisons merely because of their religious beliefs.  The list of Baha'i political prisoners includes educators who merely sought to provide Baha'i youth with the opportunity to achieve higher levels of education, an act which is against Iranian law.  Since 2007, the Baha'i International Community documented 580 instances of economic persecution against the Baha'is.  In April and May 2015, the Iranian authorities closed down over 35 Baha'i shops in Rafsanjan, Kerman, Sari, and Hamadan in order to pressure the Baha'is not to celebrate their religious holidays.   A UN official stated that the Iranian governments’ persecution of the Baha'is extends to “all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education and security.”   The International Baha'i Community stressed: “The oppression of Iranian Baha'is extends from the cradle to the grave.”

According to Iranian human rights activist Shabnam Assadollahi, “As nuclear talks resume again and get closer to a prolonged deadline, systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran are being overshadowed. Human rights abuses accelerated in Iran under Hassan Rouhani’s so called ‘moderate’ presidency and the situation of Bahais'  has even worsened since Rouhani took office where he has never showed efforts to improve the human rights abuses against the Baha'is and to free the imprisoned Baha'i leaders. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has even issued a fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized Islamic authority) calling on Iranians to avoid any interactions with members of the Baha’i faith, whom he slandered as a ‘deviant and misleading sect (cult).’”

Assadollahi noted that the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran has been going on for a while, as 200 Baha'is were executed during the first 10 years after the Islamic Revolution while hundreds more were tortured and imprisoned, and tens of thousands of others lost access to jobs, education, and other basic rights on account of their religious beliefs: “The persecution of Baha’is in Iran started from the beginning of Islamic Republic in 1979. Iran's constitution only recognizes the religious legitimacy of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, but not the converts from Islam and Iranians from the Baha’i faith. The Bahai's crime is that they are from a faith that has not been recognized by the Islamist regime of Iran's constitution and that the Baha'is will not change their religion despite the pressure by the Islamist regime.”

“The Islamist regime of Iran's systematic persecution of the Baha’is resulted in widespread religiously motivated hate crimes against them,” Assadollahi stressed.  “Iranians from the Baha’i faith are regularly arrested, imprisoned and even executed for practicing their faith. Baha’i's small business are regularly closed down and seized by Iranian regime officials with one objective: ‘to destroy the community’s economic life.’ Baha’i students are not allowed to register and attend university in Iran, and crimes against the Iranian Baha’is are never punished by the Iranian authorities.”

A Baha'i human rights activist that prefers to remain neutral for their own protection told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview: “The plight of the Baha'is has worsened under the Islamist regime. Most of regime leaders now are products of the Hojatieh School of anti-Baha'i doctrine including Mohammad Javed Zarif and many others. The denial of education was started in the past but has become systematic under Hassan Rouhani. Most recently, the closure of Baha'i businesses and shops have intensified. Under Rouhani, preachers have called for expelling of Bahai's from various cities and are like vultures waiting to attack.  Rouhani, Zarif and the entire current regime have not spoken a word about the Baha'i's condition and situation. Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has further encouraged attacks on Baha'is by supporters of his regime.”

While the world speaks about the destruction of archeological treasures, churches, and Jonah’s Tomb by ISIS, not many talk about the destruction of Baha'i holy places by the Iranian regime: “Local leaders, fed with lifelong hatred and unfounded biased prejudices, have attacked Baha'i shrines and holy places, destroying them with impunity. When the Baha'is have no rights, what court can they go to?   What recourse do they have in a country that gives them no values? So when you have no value for the life of someone and their property, and you are told their life and property are worthless, you do what your ignorant instructions are: destroy the homes and properties of the infidels.   What the Iranian regime has been doing with Baha'is is no different from what ISIS is doing in the Middle East.  There is no difference at all. People get outraged with ISIS but not with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

According to the Baha'i human rights activist, Iran draws cartoons mocking Baha'is but protests against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons doing the same for Islam.   They burn Baha'i books, but are outraged if a Quran is burned in the West.   They accuse the Baha'is of being Israeli spies because their spiritual center was moved to Israel due to the persecution the Baha'i faced in Iran and the holiness of the place in their faith, but the Baha'i human rights activist noted that the holiest sites for the Shia Muslims are in Iraq and Saudi Arabia rather than in Iran.    The Baha'i activist noted that Iranian citizens want Muslims living in the West to have equal rights and Iranian newspapers highlight discrimination against Muslims living in the West, but the Iranian regime refuses to grant the Baha'is or any of the other minorities living in Iran including the Sunni Muslims equal rights.

The Baha'i human rights activist was very critical of the upcoming nuclear deal with Iran, stressing that it would give the Iranian regime the ability to further persecute the Baha'is: “Many within the Iranian regime feel that the sanctions are instigated and supported by the Baha'is.   The Baha'is and the Israelis are lumped into one pot when it comes to the hardships faced by the Iranian regime. The regime does not accept their own incompetent management of the country and has cast blame on outside forces such as the Baha'is and Israelis as the scapegoat instead of blaming themselves for the mismanagement of everything in Iran, from the economy to the environment.”

“The removal of sanctions will give the fanatics an excuse to further bring hardships upon the Baha'is as they would feel they have been given free pass to do as they please,” the Baha'i human rights activist stressed.  “They would assume the world is not watching them anymore and are eager to do business with Iran. The lowest on the totem pole in terms of rights and concerns are the helpless Baha'is.”

“The world must let the Iranian regime know that the Baha'is are not forgotten and a magnifying glass is on them when it comes to the affairs and wellbeing of the Baha'is,” the Baha'i human rights activist emphasized.  “The regime feels and is quite confident that once the sanctions are removed, people will be busy with trade and the economy.  Therefore, the Baha'is situation will have no significance or importance for them. Many Iranians seem to be focusing on living and their surrounding family as opposed to their other fellow Iranians. If the focus is off the human rights violations harming the Baha'is, the regime will have a free reign and the immunity to do as they wish.”

Explosive new Claims Conference scandals revealed

From "Candidly Speaking from Jerusalem", 30 June 2015, by Isi Leibler:

It is now almost a decade since I have been urging for drastic reform and change of leadership in the wake of successive scandals relating to the mismanagement of the Claims Conference, the organization entrusted to pursue justice on behalf of the Jewish people for Holocaust victims and survivors.

The lack of oversight enabling senior Claims Conference employees to steal $57 million of restitution funds, the cover-ups, and refusal to accept accountability or enable an independent investigation to review the management were bad enough. There is now informed chatter that the theft of restitution funds significantly exceeds $57 million. It is now believed to have reached the $100 million mark, but the management refuses to disclose the figures to the public or to directors.

On top of this, a new fraud relating to misappropriated funds in Ukraine, also incurred due to lack of adequate oversight, is being investigated. As of now, this also has not been revealed to the public or directors.

If that were not enough, this week, on the eve of the annual board meeting, a dramatic communication – effectively a smoking gun – has been dispatched to Claims Conference directors by its ombudsman, Shmuel Hollander. An extraordinary document, it not only confirms what critics like myself have been saying, but even magnifies the extent of the breaches in governance, lack of transparency, cover-ups, and denial of accountability by the leadership. It confirms that the majority of directors are either unaware of or are ignoring their fiduciary responsibilities and have enabled Conference President Julius Berman and his Executive Vice President, Greg Schneider, to continue operating the organization as though it were their personal fiefdom, failing to prioritize the needs of ailing Holocaust survivors.

Hollander, a highly respected and consummate civil servant, having served as the Israeli government’s Civil Service Commissioner and Secretary of the Government under six prime ministers, not only reaffirms these charges but brings other shocking behavior to light.
He informed the Board of Directors that Berman told him explicitly that his contract as ombudsman would not be renewed because of his critique of the Claims Conference in a July 2013 report, prepared for a select committee, which detailed the mismanagement and lack of adequate financial oversight resulting in the $57 million fraud.

Hollander’s report was commissioned after it emerged that Berman and Schneider had been forewarned in an anonymous letter about the fraud more than 10 years prior to its discovery and that Berman, in his capacity as general counsel, had been charged to investigate the matter, but failed to adequately follow up.

That report stated that the Claims Conference:
Failed in “tailoring its organizational structure to meet the growing range of activities and needs”

  • “Was governed in a manner unacceptable in both public and corporate bodies”
  • Demonstrated “systematic failings and problematic organizational behavior,” and
  • Operated with an “absence of professional control systems ... [that] constituted a key factor in enabling and certainly in facilitating the [$57 million] fraud” which could otherwise “have limited the enormous scope of the fraud.”

His report concluded that the Claims Conference management had failed to address the fraud even when made aware of it. An “enormous hole in the control mechanisms sent out an invitation to the thief” and “even with the writing on the wall, and the organization exposed to warning signs, the matter was not attended to.”

Most worrying, however, was that Hollander found that management failures were not restricted to the multi-million dollar fraud, but should be “reviewed and addressed against a backdrop of systematic failings and problematic organizational behavior,” adding ominously, “only the tip of the iceberg was revealed to us”!....

...These new revelations can no longer leave any room for doubt. They document how Berman and Schneider actively sought to undermine and prevent even internal reviews of the organization and took vindictive punitive steps against Hollander for making adverse findings against them personally.

The time for action to bring an end to this obscene scandal is now or during the forthcoming July annual meeting of the Board of Directors. So long as Berman and Schneider – both of whom have engaged in cover-ups and breached governance on an ongoing basis – remain in office, the organization shall lack any credibility or legitimacy. The ultimate responsibility rests with the board, which has disregarded its fiduciary responsibilities and allowed this scandalous state of affairs to carry on.

If the directors fail to act, they will be exposing not only themselves but the organizations they represent to external scrutiny. Sad as it may be, under such circumstances, perhaps only outside intervention by an external law enforcement body, such as the New York State Attorney General, may save the Claims Conference.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UN Human Rights council has become a tool of Hamas’s murderous strategy

Address of Colonel Richard Kemp to the United Nations Human Rights Council  Debate on report of the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza Conflict Geneva, 29 June 2015 (with the editor's emphasis added):

Mr. President, I fought in combat zones around the world during 30 years’ service in the British Army. I was present as an observer throughout the conflict in Gaza.

Mr.  President, during the 2014 Gaza conflict, Hamas, to its eternal shame, did more to deliberately and systematically inflict death, suffering and destruction on its own civilian population, including its children, than any other terrorist group in history.

Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and weapons in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack these targets, which were a clear and present threat to the lives of Israel’s own civilian population.

While the IDF made efforts, unprecedented in any other army, and exceeding the requirements of the laws of war, to save Palestinian civilian lives, including warning them to leave target zones, Hamas forced them to remain in those areas.

Unable to defeat Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among their own people in order to bring international condemnation against Israel, especially from the United Nations.

This was the cornerstone of Hamas’s strategy.

It was Hamas’s strategy, not illegal Israeli action, as this report shamefully alleges, without a shred of evidence, that was the reason why over 1,000 civilians died in Gaza.

By denying this truth, and by refusing to admit the manifest reality that the conflict in Gaza was caused by Hamas’s war of aggression against Israel, this report faithfully reiterates Hamas’s own false narrative.

This [UN Human Rights] council has for too long allowed itself to become a tool of Hamas’s murderous strategy. By unjustly condemning Israel, by refusing to condemn Hamas’s repeated and unprovoked aggression, this council has consistently validated and encouraged Hamas’s tactics.

I urge all delegates to this council to reject this report. Failure to do so amounts to support of Hamas terrorism and will result in further rounds of violence in Gaza and Israel. The price for that will be paid in the blood of the people of Gaza and Israel.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Palestinian Arabs Against BDS

From Fikra Forum, 25 June 2015, by Bassem Eid*:

Everyone appears to have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As I learned on a recent trip, South Africans especially display an interest in solving the problem, even more, or so it seems to me, than the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. And others far away point to the South African history of apartheid as a warning to Israel about its occupation or alleged discrimination against Palestinians.

Unfortunately, almost all of those so ostensibly dedicated to finding a solution have their own agendas, and these may not be to the advantage of either Palestinians or Israelis.

A prime case in point is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As a Palestinian dedicated to working for peace and reconciliation between my people and our Israeli neighbors, I do not believe that they are helping our cause. On the contrary, they are just creating more hatred, enmity, and polarization.

Recently I was asked to talk at the University of talk was disrupted by students wearing BDS and other radical T-shirts. They interrupted me and did not allow me to continue speaking, and in the end the event had to be abandoned. As a campaigner for peace and human rights activist, I am used to hostile reactions from those who disagree with my standpoint. However, even in my own country, I have never witnessed the kind of raw hatred and sheer unreasoning aggression that confronted me on this occasion.

There is no connection between the tactics and objectives of the BDS movement and the on-the-ground realities of the Middle East. Israelis continue to come to the West Bank to do business, and most Palestinians continue to buy Israeli goods. Indeed, if you ask Palestinians what they want, they'll tell you they want jobs, secure education and health. And the people who are failing them in this regard are their own leaders: Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza. The focus of Palestinian Authority leaders is on enriching themselves and their families, rather than serving the interests of the Palestinians. They are not a generation of leaders that are able to bring about a viable end to the conflict. Indeed, they are not even interested in uplifting their own people. Unfortunately there is no immediate alternative to Abbas, who finds continuous excuses not to hold elections.

As for Hamas in the Gaza strip, it was they who provoked last year’s destructive war with Israel to gain support among their own people. They then cynically used their own population as human shields during the fighting to generate sympathy for their cause when innocent lives were inevitably lost. As in the past, Hamas will inevitably try to use some of the money it receives from international donors to reconstruct the terror tunnels and replenish its missile arsenal. There is no hope in the near future to solve this mess -- except perhaps among the ordinary people of Gaza, who may compel Hamas to hold its fire against Israel.

For the time being, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in any case receiving less international attention than before. Rather, the focus at the moment is on the Islamic State (IS). This is indeed a more urgent threat to the region and beyond. It is most dangerous to Muslims themselves as it challenges the authentic message of Islam.

Many Muslims feel let down by their own leaders and want to take revenge on them. The so-called Islamic State provides the worst extremists among them with the pretext to do this.

The Palestinians are tired of the peace process. Both sides have learnt to manage the conflict, rather than solve it. That is why there is only one way to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and that is for both sides to have sufficient goodwill to negotiate their own peace deal. It cannot be imposed by outside diplomatic or economic pressure.

BDS spokespeople justify calling for boycotts that will result in increased economic hardships for the Palestinians by asserting that Palestinians are willing to suffer such deprivations in order to achieve their freedom. It goes without saying that they themselves live in comfortable circumstances elsewhere in the world and will not suffer any such hardship. It would seem, in fact, that the BDS movement in its determination to oppose Israel is prepared to fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood. As a Palestinian who actually lives in East Jerusalem and hopes to build a better life for his family and his community, this is the kind of “pro-Palestinian activism” we could well do without. For our own sake, we need to reconcile with our Israeli neighbors, not reject and revile them.

*Bassem Eid is a human rights activist, political analyst, and commentator on Palestinian domestic affairs.

Investors defy media's misrepresentation of Israel

The June 15, 2015 issue of the Economist Intelligence Unit praises Israel's economic performance, expecting 
  • a 3.4% growth in 2015 and rising in 2016, 
  • declining unemployment [currently at 5%], 
  • steady inflation (1.3%), 
  • an export surge in 2015, 
  • a narrowing 2015 trade deficit and a 2019 trade surplus, 
  • larger natural gas production/export, 
  • robust private consumption and 
  • expanding current account surplus (3% of GDP in 2014, 5.2% - 2015 and 7.4% -2019).

The London and China-based $3bn private equity fund, XIO, acquired Israel's bio-med company, Lumenis, for $510mn (Globes, June 19, 2015). 

The Chinese investment giant, Fuson Group – which recently acquired Israel's Alma Lazarus for $240mn - is acquiring a controlling interest (52%) in Israel's insurance and investment group, Phoenix, for $470mn (Globes, June 22). 

On June 23, the Economist Intelligence Unit reported that these acquisitions followed in the footsteps of 
  • China's Bright Food acquiring Israel's Tnuva, 
  • the Shanghai International Port Group winning a tender to operate Haifa's new port, 
  • the China Harbor Engineering winning the tender to build Ashdod's new port, and 
  • a joint venture between the China Railway Group and Israel's Solel Boneh winning an $800mn contract to develop the first segment of Tel Aviv's light rail network. 
  • Also, the value of high tech start up financing rounds, involving Chinese investors, tripled to $302mn during 2012-2014 and reached $117mn during the first four month of 2015.

Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, praised Israel's technological initiative and creativity, stating that the Jewish State is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to startups (Bloomberg, June 9). Schmidt participated through is private equity fund, Innovation Endeavors, in a $15mn private placement in Israel's Yotpo. He was joined by Bloomberg Capital, Vintage Investment Partners, etc. (Globes, June 24). The US venture capital fund, Formation 8, joined by Samsung's and Qualcomm's VC funds, invested $10mn in Israel's Mantis Vision (Globes, June 5).

Computer Associates
US giant, Computer Associates' (CA) 12th Israeli acquisition: IdmLogic for $20mn (Globes, June 9). British giant, Johnson Matthey Investments acquired Israel's StePac for $27mn (Globes, June 5).

  • Israel's SolarEdge raised $126mn on Wall Street
  • The total raised by Israeli companies during the first quarter of 2015 was $1.5bn, compared to $3.9bn during all of 2014 (Globes, March 30). 
  • The Silicon Valley Khosla Ventures, Bloomberg Capital and NyCa Investment Partners participated in a $40mn round by Israel's FundBox (The Marker, March 30). 
  • KKR's first investment in Israel: leading a $35mn round by Israel's ClickTale, joined by Europe's Amadeus Capital, Goldrock and Viola Credit (Globes, January 29). 
  • Israel's BioLine raised $25mn on NASDAQ (Globes, March 9). 
  • Fidelity Growth Partners led a $20mn round by Israel's AppsFlyer (Globes, January 21).

Cyber Technology
  • Lockheed-Martin, EMC, IBM, Oracle, eBay and Deutsche Telekom (the latter teamed up with Ben Gurion University) operate in the newly established cyber technology park in Beer Sheba, Israel (Wall Street Journal, June 5). 
  • Israel accounted for 10% ($6bn) of global cyber tech sales in 2014. 
  • Eight cyber Israeli companies were acquired for $700mn in 2014. 
  • The number of Israeli cyber companies doubled during the past five years (i24 News, May 26).

Israel and Italy established joint R&D labs, in Israel, in the areas of neurology, solar, outer space, cyber, water treatment and health sciences (Globes, March 3).

Trade with Britain
Britain's Secretary of State for Business and Innovations, Sajid Javid stated: "The past few years have been a golden era for Anglo-Israel business… expecting bilateral trade, currently valued at $6.9bnm to continue growing…. (Algemeiner, June 9, 2015).”

The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous

From the New York Times, 25 June 2015, by RICHARD KEMP*:

LONDON — As a British officer who had more than his share of fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, it pains me greatly to see words and actions from the United Nations that can only provoke further violence and loss of life. The United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s conflict in Gaza, prepared by Judge Mary McGowan Davis, and published on Monday, will do just that.

The report starts by attributing responsibility for the conflict to Israel’s “protracted occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” as well as the blockade of Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza 10 years ago. In 2007 it imposed a selective blockade only in response to attacks by Hamas and the import of munitions and military matériel from Iran. The conflict last summer, which began with a dramatic escalation in rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, was a continuation of Hamas’s war of aggression.

In an unusual concession, the report suggests that Hamas may have been guilty of war crimes, but it still legitimizes Hamas’s rocket and tunnel attacks and even sympathizes with the geographical challenges in launching rockets at Israeli civilians: “Gaza’s small size and its population density make it particularly difficult for armed groups always to comply” with the requirement not to launch attacks from civilian areas.

There is no such sympathy for Israel. Judge Davis accuses the Israel Defense Forces of “serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” Yet no evidence is put forward to substantiate these accusations. It is as though the drafters of the report believe that any civilian death in war must be illegal.

Referring to cases in which Israeli attacks killed civilians in residential areas, Judge Davis says that in the absence of contrary information available to her commission, there are strong indications that the attacks were disproportionate, and therefore war crimes. But all we get is speculation and the presumption of guilt.

The report is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.

The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: “None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.”

The report acknowledges that Israel took steps to warn of imminent attacks but suggests more should have been done to minimize civilian casualties. Yet it offers no opinion about what additional measures Israel could have taken. It even criticizes Israel for using harmless explosive devices — the “knock on the roof” — as a final warning to evacuate targeted buildings, suggesting that it created confusion. No other country uses roof-knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of I.D.F. warning procedures, including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops, that are known to have saved many Palestinian lives.

Judge Davis suggests that the I.D.F.’s use of air, tank and artillery fire in populated areas may constitute a war crime and recommends further international legal restrictions on their use. Yet these same systems were used extensively by American and British forces in similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are often vital in saving the lives of our own soldiers, and their curtailment would jeopardize military effectiveness while handing an advantage to our enemies.

The I.D.F. is not perfect. In the heat of battle and under stress its commanders and soldiers undoubtedly made mistakes. Weapons malfunctioned, intelligence was sometimes wrong and, as with all armies, it has some bad soldiers. Unnecessary deaths resulted, and these should be investigated and the individuals brought to trial if criminal culpability is suspected.

The reason so many civilians died in Gaza last summer was not Israeli tactics or policy. It was Hamas’s strategy. Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and munitions in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack them and that civilian casualties would result. Unable to inflict existential harm on Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people in order to bring international condemnation and unbearable diplomatic pressure against Israel.

Judge Davis’s report is rife with contradictions. She acknowledges that Israeli military precautions saved lives, yet without foundation accuses “decision makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel” of a policy of deliberately killing civilians. Incredibly, she “regrets” that her commission was unable to verify the use of civilian buildings by “Palestinian armed groups,” yet elsewhere acknowledges Hamas’s widespread use of protected locations, including United Nations schools.

Most worrying, Judge Davis claims to be “fully aware of the need for Israel to address its security concerns” while demanding that it “lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza.” Along with the report’s endorsement of Hamas’s anti-Israel narrative, this dangerous recommendation would undoubtedly lead to further bloodshed in both Israel and Gaza.

*Richard Kemp, a retired British Army colonel, is former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

US Congress slams BDS in trade legislation

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), who has been instrumental in anti-BDS legislation, issued the following statement on 24 June 2015:
Today, Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, released the following statement after House and Senate passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which includes bipartisan language Roskam authored to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. These provisions, which were originally introduced as Roskam’s H.R. 825, the U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, were unanimously adopted into the House and Senate versions of TPA in April.
“Today, for the first time in nearly four decades, Congress sent legislation to the President’s desk to combat efforts to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel. The recent wave of boycotts originating in Europe, including French telecom company Orange’s decision this month to sever ties with Israel, demands a robust response from the United States. This is that response. The bipartisan TPA provisions I authored are simple: if you want free trade with the United States, you can’t boycott Israel. After today, discouraging economic warfare against Israel will be central to our free trade negotiations with the European Union. Congress will not be complicit in the marginalization of our ally Israel by watching these attacks from the sidelines. Instead, we have decided to fight back against the BDS movement and ensure the continued strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

In 9 Years' Existence, UNHRC Condemned Israel More Times Than Rest of World Combined

From a UN Watch Briefing, Vol. 539 |  June 25, 2015:    

Ahead of Debate on Gaza Report, UN Watch Releases Evidence of Systematic Bias at UN's Top Rights Body

GENEVA, June 25, 2015 - In the nine years of its existence, the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more times than the rest of the world combined, revealed UN Watch today, ahead of a new report to be released by the Geneva-based NGO that documents endemic selectivity and politicization at the world body.

The outcome resolution for the latest Gaza report, to be introduced at the UNHRC this week by the Palestinians together with the Arab and Islamic states, will condemn Israel exclusively, and will mark the 62nd resolution targeting Israel since the new and improved Council was created in 2006 -- while the total of all other UNHRC condemnatory resolutions for the rest of the world amounts to 55, with most of the worst violators given a free pass, if not a seat on the council itself.

Sadly, with members like China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Venezuela and Qatar, the UNHRC today may possibly rank as a more corrupt international organization than FIFA.

UN Watch released the following statistics today, and urged Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to again rebuke the Human Rights Council for treating one particular group of human beings, Israelis, out of all proportion:

I. Total UNHRC Condemnations, 2006-2015
Israel: 61
Syria: 15
Myanmar: 12
North Korea: 8
Iran: 5
Belarus: 4
Eritrea: 3
Sri Lanka: 3
Sudan: 2
Libya: 2
Honduras: 1
Afghanistan: 0
Algeria: 0
China: 0
Cuba: 0
Equatorial Guinea: 0
France: 0
Iraq: 0
Lebanon: 0
Russia: 0
Pakistan: 0
Somalia 0
Turkmenistan: 0
UK: 0
USA: 0
Uzbekistan: 0
Venezeula: 0
Vietnam: 0
Yemen: 0
Zimbabwe: 0

Total on Israel: 61
Rest of World Combined: 55

Methodology: includes all resolutions from 2006 to 2015 that singled out specific countries for condemnation under agenda items 4 and 7. Excludes resolutions that also praise the country concerned, or those adopted as matters of "technical cooperation."

II. Country-Specific Agenda Items: Only Against Israel

There is a special agenda item targeting Israel at every regular session of the UNHRC. No other country in the world has its own agenda item -- not Sudan, not Syria, not North Korea. It is under this agenda item No. 7 on Monday, which Western democracies in the last year have mostly boycotted due to its selectivity, that the Schabas-Davis report on Gaza will be formally debated.

III. Special Rapporteurs
The permanent Special Rapporteur on Israel’s alleged violations is the only one at the UNHRC whose mandate examines only one side (Israel’s actions, but not Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Fatah); who in advance presumes the country concerned to be guilty; and which has no expiration.
By contrast, even the HRC mandate on Sudan examines all sides, government and rebels; does not presume violations in advance; and must be renewed each year. The mandate against Israel was the only one inherited in 2006 from the old Commission on Human Rights that was not subjected to the required review, rationalization and improvement (RRI) process.
From 2008 to 2014, this mandate was held by 9/11 conspiracy theorist Richard Falk. He continues to accuse UN Watch of having ruined his life for getting him condemned by Ban Ki-moon and other world figures. On the day Falk was obliged to retire, the Council appointed his wife and colleague Hilal Elver Falk to a separate post at the HRC. 

IV. Emergency Sessions That Condemned Countries, 2006-2015

  • 7 on Israel. Each was initiated by Arab and Islamic states, and was devoid of any condemnation of Hamas terrorism or other Palestinian violations.
  • 4 on Syria. Some of the concluding resolutions included language drafted by Syria's backers.
  • 1 on Central African Republic. Criticized all parties, but failed to name government or other responsible agents.
  • 1 on Libya. At the end of Qaddafi regime.
  • 1 on Cote d’Ivoire
  • 1 on DR Congo
  • 1 on Myanmar
  • 1 on Sudan. Outcome resolution also included praise.
  • 0 on all the rest of the world

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Israel's response to the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry

From the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 June 2015:

Israel is studying the Commission of inquiry Report (COI) from the United Nations' Human Rights Council (UNHRC). However, some initial comments can be made about the COI process in general:

1. It is well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset. Just as Israel seriously considers every complaint, no matter its origin, it will also seriously study this report. We take note of the fact that the authors of the report admitted that they lacked much of the relevant information.

It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound   difference between Israel's moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted.

2. This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate, and initially headed by the grossly biased chairperson, William Shabas. The UNHRC has a singular obsession with Israel, passing more country-specific resolutions against Israel than Syria, Iran, and North Korea combined- in fact, more than against all other countries combined. The commission of inquiry's mandate presumed Israel's guilt from the start and its original chairman, William Shabas, was compelled to resign due to a blatant conflict of interest (paid work for the Palestinians), which he concealed from the United Nations.

3. The COI also lacked the necessary tools and expertise to conduct a professional and serious examination of armed conflict situations.

Israel will consider the report in light of these essential failings. It would encourage all fair-minded observers to do the same.

4. Israel is a democracy committed to the rule of law, forced to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists who commit a double war crime: They indiscriminately target Israeli civilians while deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians, including children, by using them as human shields.

5. In defending itself against attacks, Israel's military acted according to the highest international standards. This was confirmed by a comprehensive examination by Israeli military and legal experts, as well as reports produced by internationally renowned military professionals.

Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the law of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies. Israel will continue to investigate alleged wrongdoings in accordance with international standards and to cooperate with those UN bodies that conduct themselves in an objective, fair and professional manner.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hitler Youth for "Peace in the Middle East"

US and Swiss researchers have conducted a revealing study about the state of German society and especially anti-Semitism in Germany today.

Over a period of ten years they interviewed more than 5,000 Germans who were schooled between 1933 and 1945 in 264 cities and towns across the country. The responses led to two important conclusions: first, that people who were members in the Hitler Youth mostly retained their anti-Semitic prejudices; second, that regions which had previously had a more anti-Semitic climate were more receptive to the Nazi variety.

Researchers see it as confirmation that the most effective way for a totalitarian regime to influence public opinion is to first target the youth at the time of life when identity is formed and ideas can be planted to last.
Despite the horrors of war, the subsequent discovery of atrocities committed, the impressive literary and film productions on the Holocaust, and educational messages distilled by the governments of the postwar period, many Germans retained their prejudice about Jews.
Benjamin Ortmeyer, professor at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, explains that the indoctrination practices of the Hitler Youth and other groups had tragic effects. He cites, for example, members of the Hitler Youth who searched the church records of their villages to find Jewish families who had converted to Christianity in hopes of escaping their fate. This "educational mission" assigned to them by their "educators" resulted in the deportation of Jewish families to concentration camps, making these young people complicit in crimes against humanity.
The indoctrination and regimentation of Palestinian youth is modeled on the same principle. All teaching material is mobilized to produce generations of Palestinian Arabs molded by anti-Semitism. Television programs for children, textbooks, cartoons, sports tournaments, summer camps are all anti-Semitic propaganda machines to which children, even the smallest, are exposed: the Jew as cunning, a thief, murderer of children, poisoner, pervert, lewd, liar and blasphemer. 
To that poisonous cocktail they add the encouragement of Shahada (martyrdom), instilling in children aged five or six the notion that their dream should be to die a martyr by killing Jews. Videos, books, comics documenting these themes exist in the thousands.
This education to hatred, inspired by the indoctrination of the Hitler Youth but does not get the attention it deserves. It is even concealed. Those who speak today of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East with disconcerting naiveté and demand that Israel pay the price, pretend to ignore that the PLO and Hamas are methodically creating anti-Semites and criminals for future generations.
The historical link is not difficult to establish. The late Professor Robert Wistrich, a global specialist on anti-Semitism said: 
"This is a crucial point that is generally neglected: the anti-Semitism of the Nazis was already liked a lot in the 1930s by Arab nationalists and Muslim fundamentalists.
And it is unnecessary to belabor the admiration of Nazism for the man who was the creator and undisputed leader of the Palestinian Arab nationalist movement, the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini, a friend and collaborator of Hitler’s.
Yasser Arafat and the former representative of the PLO in France, Leila Shahid, liked to reminisce about their relationship with al-Husseini.
The minutes of an important meeting which took place in Berlin on November 28, 1941 between Adolf Hitler and the Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini reveal that the Führer "opened his heart" to his guest, saying that "his goal was the extermination of world Jewry." He knew he was preaching to the converted.
It is therefore not surprising that the themes used by the Nazi regime vis-à-vis its youth run through the education system in the Palestinian Arab sphere of the “moderate” Fatah movement, as well as of Hamas. Palestinian Arab children parading in uniform, often girded with fake explosive belts, are a chilling display. And the murderous hate texts they are taught to recite on stage facing cheering crowds are a lasting moral stain on the adults.
But where is the UN in all this? UNICEF? The European Union, which also partially finances these textbooks?
Closing their eyes, they participate in a massive crimes against humanity, one which destroys entire generations by using children as a weapon of war and turning them into hating robots for the rest of their lives.
It is this "education" that the Palestinian Arab leaders give their children that exposes their true intentions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Another island of tranquility in the Middle East

From ME Forum, 14 June 2015, by Gal Luft*:

It may sometimes seem the world is increasingly antagonistic toward Israel, but Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades' visit to Jerusalem this week should remind Israelis that there are still allies to be found, even in the Middle East. One of them lies a mere 200 kilometers from the beaches of Haifa.
For decades, Israel has neglected Cyprus, focusing its efforts on becoming more acceptable to its Arab neighbors, as well as to Turkey, Cyprus' archenemy. But these efforts have stalled in recent years. Relations with Turkey have soured, the peace with Jordan and Egypt is more or less frozen, and the peace process with the Palestinians is nonexistent.

Among all of these, it is Cyprus, Israel's only non-majority-Muslim neighbor, that provides a glimmer of hope. With only 10 percent of Israel's population and 1 percent of Turkey's, the island may seem to be of little strategic importance, but recent geopolitical and economic developments have elevated its value for Israel and vice versa, creating the conditions for a renaissance in Israel-Cyprus relations.
Cyprus is Israel's only non-majority-Muslim neighbor.
An important agenda item of Anastasiades' visit will be energy. Cyprus and Israel share significant natural gas reserves. The same companies that own Israel's Leviathan and Tamar gas fields – Noble Energy, Delek Drilling and Avner Oil & Gas Exploration – also own Aphrodite, a 4.5 trillion cubic feet field that lies off the coast of Cyprus.

Cyprus has already signed a memorandum of understanding to supply gas to Egypt but, like Israel, it has yet to figure out how to turn its gas bonanza into cash. There is room to mesh both countries' efforts to develop their energy resources and collectively embark on a regional energy development plan. But the governments of Israel and Cyprus would be remiss if they focus the dialogue exclusively on gas, as there are other, no less important, strategic opportunities the two countries can advance.

Cyprus is in a unique position to offer Israel a coveted prize: strategic depth. On July 22, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, a Hamas rocket landing near Ben-Gurion Airport led to a four-day shutdown of Israel's outlet to the world. This experience ensures that in the next round of fighting, Israel's airports will be at the top of Hamas' or Hezbollah's target list.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades

Israel should seek an alternative airport – far from the missile range – to enable the flow of passengers and supplies into and out of the country in times of emergency. A mere 40-minute flight or four-hour boat ride away, Cyprus can provide Israel with landing rights on its runways and hence an exit to the world. Such relationships can also extend into agreements to requisition fuel and military equipment should Israeli air force bases be under fire, as well as airspace for training.

Another opportunity has to do with China. The Cyprus-Israel axis can be an important element in China's Maritime Silk Road, an ambitious strategic initiative aimed to connect Asia and Europe via a network of maritime trade corridors, pipelines, sea and air ports and undersea fiber optics lines. Israel is a land bridge connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, while Cyprus, an EU member, is a stepping stone to Europe.

Cyprus, an EU member, is a stepping stone to Europe.
With the help of China, the two countries can create a land and maritime passage from the Red Sea to the gates of Europe, one that also happens to traverse one of the largest discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent history. Such trade corridor – an alternative to the Suez Canal – would be an important piece of China's strategic design, which, if implemented, would be the biggest infrastructure development project in history.

Tapping into China's Silk Road initiative would also make Israel and Cyprus eligible for project financing from the dedicated financial institutions the Chinese have established, like the Silk Road Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, of which Israel is a founding member.
Cyprus needs Israel no less than Israel needs Cyprus. The island's economy is recovering from a financial meltdown, and its main trading partner, Greece, is financially ruined. To be eligible for the next package of international bailout, it is obligated to undergo painful reforms, including the privatization of several of its state-owned enterprises. This provides interesting opportunities for Israeli investors.

Furthermore, with Turkey's defense budget almost the size of the entire Cypriot economy, the people of Cyprus are as anxious about potential Turkish aggression as Israelis are about potential Iranian aggression. Closer strategic relations with a prosperous and militarily powerful Israel will be a shot in the arm for Cyprus.

None of this should be viewed as a ploy against Ankara. To the contrary, with the Erdogan regime weakened after this month's election, Israel should seek to improve its relations with Turkey while Cyprus should strive to continue reunification talks. Both countries should act in unison to include Turkey in their East Mediterranean energy development plan.

Israel is often hailed as an island of tranquility amid the storm raging in the Middle East. There is another island just like this. It's time to explore it.
*Gal Luft, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is co-director of the Washington-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.

The silent exclusion of Israeli academics

Under the protection of secrecy and lack of transparency, a barrier stronger than any boycott is slowly being built in the world of academic journals.

An academic's job includes first and foremost research and teaching. His other tasks are part of the academic routine: Editing academic journals, appraising doctoral students' theses and writing opinions, many opinions. 

He is asked to review professional colleagues from the moment they are admitted into the academic institutions through their promotions, and he mainly has to review the quality of their research. This applies to both Israel and the world. The university is universal.
During the review processes, a close and patronage relationship develops, cliques are created, there are negative biases, preferences and scores to settle. The academia is a living human system. Despite the scores – and perhaps because of them – the academia has set clear rules. A prestigious journal will never publish a poorly written article just because the researcher is associated with the editor – prestige is acquired slowly and with great effort, and one poorly written article can bring it down.

That's the reason why most of the esteemed publications in the world make sure that an article received for consideration will be reviewed anonymously. The person who knows who sent the article is the editorial board secretary. The editorial board decides who will review the article, and the person who is asked to write an opinion on the article and decide whether it should be accepted, rejected or request amendments, does not know who the writer is. The process is clear and does not include transparency.

I was lucky. At the beginning of my academic career, the reviewer of the first article I sent to an international journal asked for my name after writing a positive opinion. Since then, it has become my home journal. He later became the journal's editor. I was asked by him to write review articles on research books.
A review of a book that has already been published makes the secrecy unnecessary – a review article aims to point to the problematic aspects of the reviewed book, and sometimes to oppose its findings. The writer of the review creates rivals, and so there are not many people who are eager to publish a review of a colleague's book. Editors of important journals which only publish a small number of the research articles they receive court the writers of the review articles and gladly accept them.

On the backdrop of the shortage in review articles on books, every review article I have written was gladly received and published – up until two years ago, when I sent the journal a review article. I waited for its publication in the upcoming issue, and then in the next issue – and nothing happened. There was neither a publication nor a rejection letter. I sent the article again, in case there had been an email error, and got no response.

I met the editor in a conference held in the United States a while ago. He used crafty intellectual terms in order to explain the new trends in Middle Eastern research which led to the changes in the publication policy. He didn't say in any way that Israelis were not wanted.
A simple examination of the past two years' issues revealed that the change amounts to not publishing any article by an Israeli researcher. Under the protection of secrecy and lack of transparency, a barrier stronger than any boycott is slowly being built.
*Prof. Ze'ev Zahor is the founder and former president of the Sapir Academic College