Thursday, November 16, 2017

Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem

From JCPA, Vol. 17, No. 29, November 9, 2017, by Amb. Dore Gold:

Summary of a presentation by Amb. Dore Gold to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Nov. 8:

  • President Donald Trump has made a commitment to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and I believe he will stand by what he has said. The U.S. will evaluate the timing and circumstances for executing that decision in accordance with its interests.
  • The embassy question is a subset of a much more important issue: the need for Western recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The denial of recognition helps fuel the dangerous fantasy that Israel is impermanent and illegitimate - that the presence of the Jews is an imposition because the land is not their homeland.
  • The main international interest in Jerusalem concerns the protection of the holy sites and assuring complete freedom of access to them. The State of Israel and the people of Israel assumed responsibility for protecting Jerusalem's holy sites in 1967, when Jerusalem was re-united after the Six-Day War.
  • For etched into the collective consciousness of all of us is what happened to Jerusalem when we were absent. It is clear that only a free and democratic Israel will protect the holy sites of all the great faiths in Jerusalem. To the extent that the U.S. reinforces Israel's standing in Jerusalem, it is reinforcing the position of the only international actor that will protect Jerusalem's holy sites.
  • After the PLO launched the Second Intifada in 2000, Palestinian security services assaulted Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem. In 2002, armed Palestinians forcibly entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem - one of the holiest sites for Christianity - seized the Christian clergy as hostages and looted church valuables. Another repeated target for attack was Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, which the Palestinian side undertook to protect in the Oslo II Agreement. The site was repeatedly ransacked and torched. Indeed, aggression against holy sites has become a hallmark of many jihadi groups across the Middle East.
  • The question of the location of the U.S. Embassy is really a question of whether the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's permanent capital - sending a signal to the world that efforts to delegitimize Israel and to rewrite the history of other religions will fail. By recognizing Jerusalem and moving its embassy, the U.S. would help promote peace and security in the region.

 Follow this link to read the full presentation.

Terror Links of Students for Justice in Palestine

From Algemeiner, 13 Nov 2017, by Shiri Moshe:

Members of the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine hold a ‘die-in’ on campus. 
Photo: NYU SJP / Facebook.

The anti-Zionist campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) seeks “to isolate, demonize, and ultimately destroy” Israel with the help of terror-linked financial and ideological supporters, according to a new report by a Jerusalem-based think tank.

Authored by Dan Diker and Jamie Berk of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the report cautioned against viewing SJP “as a pro-Palestinian equivalent to pro-Israel student groups,” noting that it rejects cooperation with organizations that support Jewish self-determination, incites against Jewish students and rejects Israel’s existence in any borders.

The report highlighted multiple instances of American Jewish students being targeted for “anti-Semitic vandalism, verbal attacks, and outright violence” by SJP members, and pointed to studies conducted by the Brandeis University and the watchdog group AMCHA Initiative, which “found a correlation between the presence of SJP and a rise in campus anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

In one of several examples provided, the report pointed to Professor M. Shahid Alam, Northeastern University’s SJP faculty advisor, who in 2012 told students that they should be proud to be called antisemites. “Wear that as a sign of distinction,” Alam said in filmed remarks. “This proves that I’m working for the right side, for the just cause.”

Jewish students also complained of being “spat on, harassed, and assaulted on campus by SJP protestors” at Stanford, Cornell and Loyola University in Chicago. “In 2014, a man tabling for SJP at Temple University punched a student in the face and called him a ‘kike’ and ‘baby-killer’ for asking to discuss Israel,” the report noted. “In 2010, a Jewish student holding a sign saying ‘Israel Wants Peace’ was rammed with a shopping cart by an SJP activist during University of California, Berkeley’s Israel Apartheid Week.”

SJP’s ultimate goal of “eliminating the Jewish nation-state” is routinely made clear by the organization, according to the report, from its backing of resolutions endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign — whose leaders publicly call for Israel’s destruction — to one of its favored chants, “From the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean], Palestine will be free.”

SJP members and chapters have expressed support for terrorist organizations that seek to advance this objective, going so far as to invite convicted terrorists to address students on campus. In 2013, SJP at American University organized a Skype conference with Khader Adnan Mohammed Musa — a spokesperson for Palestinian Islamic Jihad who previously called for suicide bombings. “Who among you is the next suicide bomber? Who among you will carry the next explosive belt?” Adnan asked in 2007. “Who among you will have his body parts blown all over?”

SJP chapters “at Bowdoin College, Tufts University, Union Theological Seminary, Ryerson University, and Columbia University have expressed solidarity with Adnan on social media,” the report observed.

Multiple SJP branches have also sympathized with convicted terrorists belonging to the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas. Abdullah al-Barghouti — a Hamas bombmaker who helped murder 66 people and wound 500 others in multiple terrorist attacks — was called an “innocent” Palestinian prisoner by University of Alabama – Birmingham’s SJP chapter in 2012, along with two Islamic Jihad members.

SJP’s reported ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations extend beyond glorifying individual members.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, said in congressional testimony last year that American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) — whose leadership includes individuals who worked for organizations with links to Hamas — was “arguably the most important sponsor and organizer” for SJP.

Schanzer explained that “at least seven individuals who work for or on behalf of AMP have worked for or on behalf of organizations previously shut down or held civilly liable in the United States for providing financial support to Hamas: the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), and KindHearts.”

The report — which noted that “AMP leaders and supporters have been implicated for fundraising for Hamas” — emphasized that the group spearheaded efforts to unite SJP campus branches under a national organization in 2010.

The report called on university trustees, donors, alumni and administrators concerned by SJP’s activities to urge university administrations to “demand that their campus communities and state governments unmask, expose, investigate, prosecute, and sanction SJP in order to reign in extremist terror-supporting and anti-Semitic actions on U.S. campuses.”

It also pointed to legislation outlawing state support of entities that back boycotts of Israel, and claimed that the existence of SJP chapters at public universities in these states was illegal.

“Exposing the intensifying activity of Students for Justice in Palestine at over nearly 200 American campuses is necessary to neutralize SJP’s support for terror and political warfare against Israel,” it concluded.

SJP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jewish-Arab demographics in Israel

From  "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative", November 11, 2017, by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger: 

In 2017, Israel is the only advanced economy and Western democracy endowed with a relatively high fertility rate, which facilitates further economic growth with no reliance on migrant labor.  Moreover, Israel's thriving demography provides for bolstered national security (larger classes of recruits) and a more confident foreign policy.

In contrast to conventional demographic wisdom, Israel is not facing a potential Arab demographic time bomb. In fact, the Jewish State benefits from a robust Jewish demographic tailwind.

At the outset of 2017, for the first time - and in defiance of projections made by Israel's demographic establishment since the early 1940s - Israel's Jewish fertility rate (3.16 births per woman) exceeds Israel's Arab rate of fertility (3.11).  Actually, in 2017, Israel's fertility rate is higher than most Arab countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia – 2.1 births per woman, Kuwait – 2.4, Syria – 2.5, Morocco – 2.1, etc.).

The Westernization of the Arab fertility rate has also been in effect in Judea and Samaria: from 5 births per Arab woman in 2000 to about 3 in 2016; from a median age of 17 in 2000 to 21 in 2017.

The substantial, systematic Westernization of Arab fertility – from 9.5 births per woman in 1960 to 3.11 in 2016 – has been a derivative of the accelerated integration of Israeli Arabs into modernity, in general, and the enhanced status of Israel's Arab women, in particular.

For example – as it is among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, whose fertility rate is similar - almost all Israeli Arab girls complete high school, and are increasingly enrolling in colleges and universities, improving their status within their own communities. This process has expanded their use of contraceptives, delaying wedding-age and reproduction, which used to start at the age of 15-16, to the age of 20 year old and older.

In addition, Arab women are increasingly integrated into Israel's employment market, becoming more career and social-oriented, which terminates their reproductive process at the age of 45, rather than 50-55 as it used to be.  Furthermore, an intensified urbanization process has shifted an increasing number of Israeli Arabs from self-reliant agricultural to urban jobs, and from private rural homes to urban apartments, which has reduced the need for - and the convenience of raising– many children.

At the same time, since 1995, there has been an unprecedented rise in the rate of Jewish fertility - especially in the secular sector - resulting from a relatively-high level optimism, patriotism, attachment to national roots and collective/communal responsibility.

From 80,400 Jewish births in 1995, the number surged to 139,400 in 2016, while the annual number of Arab births remained stable at around 41,000. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the 73% rise in the number of Jewish births took place despite the mild decline of ultra-orthodox fertility (due to expanded integration into the employment market, higher learning and the military) and the stabilized modern-orthodox fertility, but due to the rising fertility of the secular Jewish sector.

The unprecedented tailwind behind Israel's burgeoning Jewish demography is documented by the proportion of Jewish births in the country: 77% of total births in 2016, compared with 69% in 1995. Also, in 2016, there were 3.2 Jewish births per Arab birth, compared to 2.2 births in 1995. 

Moreover, while Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) persists in higher numbers than forecasted by Israel's demographic establishment (26,000 in 2016), it has a dramatically higher potential, which obliges Israel to reintroduce the pro-active Aliyah policy – in France, throughout Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, etc. – as it was prior to the Aliyah of one million Jews from the former USSR during the 1990s.

Simultaneously, an annual Arab net-emigration has been documented, persistently, from Judea and Samaria (about 20,000, annually, in recent years), while the annual net-number of Israeli emigrants (staying abroad for over a year) – total departures minus total returnees – has decreased substantially: from 14,200 in 1990 to 8,200 in 2015.   At the same time, the population of Israel almost doubled from 4.5MN in 1990 to 8.4MN in 2015.

In 2017, the total number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria is 1.8MN, not 3MN as claimed by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The latter includes in its count over 400,000 Palestinians who have been away for over a year; over 300,000 Jerusalem Arabs, who are doubly-counted (by Israel and by the Palestinian Authority); and 100,000 Palestinians who married Israeli Arabs and received Israeli ID cards, who are also doubly-counted.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority claims zero net-migration, ignoring the annual net-emigration (from Judea & Samaria) of 20,000 Arabs in recent years, and the systematic net-emigration since 1950, which has been on the rise since the year 2000. A September 7, 2006 World Bank study documented a 32% inflated number of births claimed by the Palestinian Authority.

In March 1898, the leading Jewish demographer and historian, Simon Dubnov, ridiculed the Zionist vision, claiming that by 1998 there will be no more than 500,000 Jews in the Land of Israel….

In October 1944, the founder of Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, Prof. Roberto Bachi, contended that under the best-case-scenario, in 2001, there will be 2.3MN Jews in the Land of Israel, a 34% minority…. 2017, in defiance of demographic conventional "wisdom," there are 6.8MN Jews in the Land of Israel (including Judea and Samaria), a 66% majority, benefitting from a robust demographic tailwind.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Truth About the New Israel Fund

From MiDA, 23 Oct 2017, by Erez Tadmor (Translated from Hebrew):

In a flattering interview, the CEO of the New Israel Fund attempted to purify the name of the organization. For those who forgot, here’s a reminder of the NIF’s exploits.

The most criticized organization. Miki Gitzin CEO NIF (Wikipedia)

Last Shabbat, the CEO of the New Israel Fund (NIF), Mickey Gitzin, was interviewed by the Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper. Four pages of prime location in the weekend supplement were allotted by the paper’s editor to journalist Nevo Ziv in order to try to rehabilitate the public standing of the NIF. The determined writer did not even try to hide or mask his flattery with questions that would make things difficult for Gitzin. Instead, Ziv presented his readers with four pages of flattery and softball questions.

... The nature of the interview was determined by an editorial decision with a clear significance – in the current confrontation between the Israeli public and the NIF, Yediot Ahronot chose the Fund.

The NIF is not just any moderate left wing organization, Zionist and focused on its pet issues. It is not the left of Yesh Atid, the Labor party or even Peace Now which engages in dialogue with Israeli society. They are far more left than that, somewhere in the ideological area code between Meretz and the Joint Arab List. This is not the Zionist left of Ben Gurion, Katzenelson, Rabin, Peres, Herzog or Tzipi Livni. This is the radical left of B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, Yesh Din and Mossawa. Excuses and qualifications regarding a variety of opinions and being sure to include a multitude of voices are irrelevant in this case.

... We begin with the good news that appears at the beginning of the interview. The author writes that when he asks people what the NIF is, the answers range from “I don’t know” to “Terrorist supporters.” I personally prefer a less aggressive description of the Fund besides “terrorist supporters,” but the NIF does heavily fund organizations like B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Adalah and has earned the disgust directed at them by a large majority of the Israeli public.

Next, Ziv lobbed this softball to the Fund’s director. “How did they do this to you?” How did they turn the Fund into the most reviled organization in Israel? Gitzin’s answer expresses the lack of ability of the left to engage in a dialogue with Israeli society. He accuses everyone except for the Fund itself.
“The NIF has created the Israeli society that Bibi Netanyahu goes around the world and brags about,” boasted Gitzin while he tried to claim every project or positive process that has occurred in Israel in the last few decades in the name of the Fund.

An overwhelming majority of Israelis who know the NIF see the organization as an enemy and as anti-Israeli, but Gitzin does not even begin to reconsider his position.

The same self admiration with no self awareness came up again when Gitzin described the Fund’s response to an Im Tirtzu campaign that revealed NIF actions. “The Fund was in a vulnerable position. Everyone who works there believes that they get up in the morning to do only good. They were not prepared from a media perspective to deal with the campaign of demonization.” The then president of the NIF, Naomi Chazan, together with the former CEO Rachel Liel apparently thought that they could fund B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence and Israelis would wipe the spit from their face convinced that it was fairy dust and invite the Fund to receive the Israel prize.

The truth is that that you can understand them. If Zev Sternhell, Yeshayahu Leibowitz and Igael Tumarkin won the prize, why deprive Naomi Chazan?

But the days when the heads of the Fund would spit in the well and afterwards divide prizes amongst themselves are finished. Democracy works in two directions, if freedom of expression allows for the NIF’s organizations to produce endless amounts of reports and campaigns that defame Israel; it also allows Im Tirtzu to buy billboards revealing the connection of the Fund’s organizations to the Goldstone Report.

And now for some hard facts. Between the years 2005 and 2016 the NIF transferred 

  • 2.8 million dollars to B’Tselem, 
  • 1.4 million dollars to Breaking the Silence, 
  • almost 3 million dollars to Adalah, 
  • 2.1 million to Mossawa, 
  • 665 thousand dollars to Yesh Din,
  •  854 thousand to Machsom Watch and 
  • almost 600 thousand shekels to the Coalition of Women for Peace.

In the last few years, those organizations published hundreds of articles that revealed their consistent extreme and anti-Israeli agenda. The list of pearls produced by the Fund’s organizations is infinite. 

As an example, here are some from B’Tselem, one of the organizations most supported by the Fund. Exactly a year ago, the head of B’Tselem Hagai El-Ad flew to the UN Security Council and “pleaded” in front of the council members to act against Israel. The same Hagai El-Ad, whose organization receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the NIF every year, refused to define Hamas as a terror organization during an interview.

Lieutenant Colonel (Res.). Yonatan Dahuh-Halevi revealed a large list of distortions and inaccuracies in B’Tselem’s reports. Among other things, Halevi revealed cases in which B’Tselem classified terrorists as uninvolved civilians who were killed by IDF fire. B’Tselem even struggled to define Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin as a terrorist and he moved again and again between different categories, until in 2011 his definition settled on this innocent wording – “Ahmad Isma’il Yassin – 68 year-old resident of Gaza city, killed on 22.03.2004 in Gaza city, by gunfire, from a helicopter. He was a target for assassination.” According to a document exposed on WikiLeaks, in January 2010, the former director of B’Tselem, Jessica Montell, met with the Assistant Secretary of State and told him that: “Its goal is to bring Israel into a situation that its leadership will consider twice before deciding to embark on another military operation.”

With such a list of achievements, it is no wonder that when people were asked by Yediot’s writer as to their impressions of the NIF, the answer amounted to “terrorist supporters.”

The support given by the NIF to B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, and Yesh Din is only the tip of the iceberg of the Fund’s massive support for radical left-wing organizations who work to defame the State of Israel. Similar donations were made to a long list of other radical leftist and left-wing organizations such as

  • Bimkom, 
  • The Center for the Defense of the Individual, 
  • Physicians for Human Rights, 
  • Mada al-Carmel, 
  • Rabbis for Human Rights, 
  • Israel Social TV, as well as 
  • to many organizations that do not deal with the defamation of Israel, but are working to change its character and identity, against the will of the vast majority of Israeli citizens. 
For example, the fund transferred 223,000 dollars to ASSAF (an aid organization for refugees and asylum seekers) and a million dollars to the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

A clear example of the gap between the well known names and positive framing of the NIF’s organizations and their actual actions is the Association for Civil Rights, an organization that received huge grants that added up to no less than 11 million dollars between the years 2005 and 2016. A large majority of Israeli society would be horrified by the Association’s activity. Among other things, the Association is working to prevent Israel from revoking the residency of the terrorists Subhi Abu Khalifa and Shuruk Dweiyat who tried to stab Israeli civilians. The Association is also working to restore the terrorists’ entitlement to academic studies after they were recently cancelled.

The organization called the “Association for Civil Rights in Israel” actually works to protect the privileges of Palestinian security prisoners, who are not citizens, and who wanted to murder Israeli citizens whose rights the Association is supposed to protect according to its name. Replace the word Association with the word Center, the word Civil with word Defense and the word Rights with the word Individual and you have a new radical laundering by the name Center for the Defense of the Individual. According to an Im Tirtzu report, in the last two years, the Center represented 48 terrorists and their families who were responsible for the murder of no fewer than 51 Israelis. From 2005-2016 the NIF transferred 1.1 million dollars to the Center.

Gitzin can continue to boast that the Fund is responsible for all the good things that Netanyahu brags about to the world.

In reality, the organizations that the Fund supports are involved with or are connected to almost every abominable and outrageous action by the extreme left. Here’s an example just from the last few days. Last week we discovered that extreme leftist activist Dror Etkes published a clear aerial photograph of the home of Avichai Shorshan, the founder of ‘My Truth’, to which he added negative accusations against Shorshan in Hebrew and Arabic. Etkes added a close-up picture of the entrance to Shorshan’s home where he lives with his wife and two children. A few hours later, Shorshan began to receive death threats, and the police decided to declare his house a “threatened site” at threat level 6. Etkes, for those who were wondering, is a former activist in Yesh Din and the founder of Kerem Navot, which was founded in 2012 and won a grant from the NIF of $40,000 last year.

If we put aside the large number of manipulations by Gitzin in order to discredit his political opponents or glorify the NIF’s activities, he mainly makes a rather cumbersome attempt to launder the Fund’s support of dozens of radical leftist organizations by taking ownership of social action in the extra-parliamentary arena. It is even possible to expand on Gitzin’s arrogance in allowing himself to erase countless charitable organizations that are not connected to the NIF or to the left and to note the fact that even among those who benefit from the NIF’s welfare activities, there are those who feel disgusted in the face of the anti-Israeli agenda promoted by the NIF’s organizations. But that’s not the point

The attempt to launder the abominations of B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence through social projects is reminiscent of drug traffickers who come to court with a big kippa on their heads, proud of the contribution they made to the neighborhood pensioners’ club. Just as that method does not work for those criminals, it will not work for the New Israel Fund. The Israeli public will condemn and despise Hagai Elad, Yuli Novak and Dror Etkes, and rightly so. The Israeli public will see that the financing of this anti-Israeli hate industry is a distorted and sickening phenomenon operated by self-hating Jews.

The realization will not just happen here. The dramatic shift in the standing of the New Israel Fund is also occurring abroad. In 2010, the NIF invested 2.5 million dollars in fundraising from a yearly budget of 37 million dollars. In 2016, the NIF has already been forced to spend 4 million dollars in fundraising from a budget of 26 million dollars. Despite the 60% increase in the fundraising budget, the NIF’s budget decreased by 30%.

The true face of the NIF has been revealed in Israel and among American Jews. The NIF is still a huge organization with a huge budget, but it is much more vulnerable than we thought. If Mickey Gitzin is the best thing that the Fund can enlist in order to try to stop the erosion, than we can be optimistic. We made it through Pharaoh, we’ll make it through the NIF.

Friday, October 27, 2017


From Melanie Phillips, 22 Oct 2017:


Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to attend next month’s dinner in London to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration confirms what many have long suspected.

His antipathy to Israel goes way beyond hostility to Israeli “settlements” or any romantic attachment to the Palestinian cause. He does not support the existence of Israel at all.

How else to explain his refusal to attend a dinner to celebrate the event which kick-started the (agonising) process that eventually resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel?

And if he thus opposes the self-determination of the Jewish people in their own ancestral homeland, how can he be anything other than hostile to Judaism itself? For Judaism comprises three inseparable elements: the people, the religion and the land. Judaism is, simply and indivisibly, the mission of the Jewish people to form a nation of priests within the land of Israel.

Of course, neither Corbyn and his hard-left cabal, nor the so-called soft-left whose views about Israel may be less extreme but are no less problematic, have any insight into their own bigotry because they have virtually no understanding of what Judaism means (and that goes for many Jews on the left too, who equally deploy the spurious mantra that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism as their get-out-of-jail-free card).

But hey, some folk are very happy with Corbyn’s Balfour dinner snub; there are reports that the JC story about it has been tweeted by Hamas.

Many British Jews are now shuddering at the possibility of a Corbyn-led Labour government. They are heartbroken and aghast at what has happened to the country that for the half-century following the liberation of Belsen they believed offered them not just physical but psychological safety.

Some, like Angela Epstein in this article, are now talking of emigrating should Corbyn come to power.

She describes how her children’s Jewish schools in Manchester were encircled by fences, CCTV cameras and security guards.

“Elsewhere, every Jewish building now has a guard permanently stationed at the door. In 21st-century Britain — the place of our birth and our home.

“Most Jewish people I know have endured cat-calling as they leave synagogues, schools or other Jewish centres. There have been countless Saturday mornings when, as I walk to synagogue, a car screeches past with the occupants shouting something indeterminate from the window. Friends have had eggs thrown at them.

“My son was subjected to a blistering verbal attack when he recently wore his Jewish skullcap on the London Underground.Little wonder that in a YouGov poll earlier this year for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, almost a third of British Jews said they had considered leaving the country, while one in six said they feel unwelcome here.”

This cultural poison has been swelling for years. The Labour party hasn’t created it but is merely its most visible expression – and as a result is legitimising its further increase. Epstein observes:
“As the Labour Party continues to reveal its toxic underbelly, for many British Jews the question of uprooting our families and leaving Britain is a matter of when, not if… If history has taught us Jews anything, it’s knowing when it’s time to pack.”
Actually, it’s hard to know that. The difficulties and risks of remaining have to outweigh the difficulties and risks of uprooting; and people find themselves at very different points along that sliding scale. But for sure, the drumbeat of alarm among many committed British Jews is growing louder by the day.

Israel’s Image is Improving in Greece

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 625, October 24, 2017, by George N. Tzogopoulos:

Israeli and Greek navies on joint drill near island of Piraeus, May 2017, photo by Staff Sgt. Ori Shifrin, IDF Spokesperson's unit, via Flickr CC
Israel’s image in the Greek media has been negative for decades. However, the rapprochement between Athens and Jerusalem and improvement in their political and economic relations since 2010 have affected Greek journalists. While sympathy for the Palestinians has not completely faded, Israel is no longer represented exclusively as a villain. It is now often portrayed as a useful partner. While anti-Semitism remains a problem in Greece, this new media attitude could lead to its decline over the long term.

Generally speaking, there has long been a consensus among Greek journalists on who is to be blamed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the failure to achieve peace: Israel. The Jewish state has been consistently portrayed as the aggressor and the Palestinians as innocent victims. The Greek coverage of the Mavi Marmara incident in June 2010 illustrates this phenomenon. “Mourning and ire for the Israeli Ressalto” was the headline used by Eleftherotypia, a leftist publication (now closed down for economic reasons). The center-left paper TA NEA was equally critical, opting for the headline: “World outcry: Goliath crushed David”. The “World outcry” phrase was also used by the conservative newspaper Hi Kathimerini.

Greek sympathy for the Palestinian cause is rooted in the proximity of the Arab world and the support of most Arabs on the Cyprus Question. Anti-Semitism has also played a role. But there is another reason why Israel was constantly blamed by the Greek media, at least before 2010. It served as a useful scapegoat for all the problems in the Middle East, if not all the problems in the world. This made it easy for journalists to avoid time-consuming, in-depth research on international affairs. Jerusalem’s close cooperation with Ankara only fueled the negative perception of Israel among the Greek media.

The turning point came in the late summer of 2010. The media tend to follow the prevailing political agenda, and the rehabilitation of Israel’s image was no exception. When Jerusalem decided to look for new allies in the Eastern Mediterranean following the setback in its relations with Ankara, it turned to Athens. In August 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Greece, opening a new chapter in a relationship that had been marked for decades by misunderstandings and suspicion.

George Papandreou, the Greek premier at the time, saw Israel as a critical ally in an era of economic austerity and uncertainty over Greece’s potential default and exit from the Eurozone. The Greek media followed Papandreou’s lead. The headline of TA NEA was characteristic: “From flirting to marriage: Greece and Israel are opening perspectives for golden cooperation.” Eleftherotypia talked about “Changing balances creating a ‘new axis’ in the region,” and Hi Kathimerini wrote about a “closer collaboration” between the two countries. From late 2010 onwards, covering Israel has been a job not only for foreign editors but also for diplomatic correspondents.

In the aftermath of the Netanyahu-Papandreou Athens meeting, most Greek journalists began to grasp that Israel is no longer an unknown, distant neighbor. Above all, it is a partner. This strategic partnership yields positives for Greece in terms of security and energy affairs, and also has a tangibly positive effect on the Greek economy. While 207,711 Israeli tourists came to Greece in 2012, expected arrivals from Israel are expected to be 530,712 in 2017. Thessaloniki (among others) is a city Israeli citizens are keen to visit due to its historic Jewish past and its mayor Yannis Boutaris, who is very friendly towards Israel.

Also, economic opportunities quickly became apparent. As a “start-up” nation, Israel attracted the attention of Greek entrepreneurs. The Embassy of Israel in Athens organizes events and competitions, the winners of which have the opportunity to participate in the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival. Israel’s communications strategy on Facebook and Twitter also helps Greek journalists and ordinary citizens gain easy access to information about the country.

Moreover, the racist behavior of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and its position that Israel is Greece’s “eternal enemy,” have (to an extent) associated anti-Israel voices in Greece with political extremists. The attack of a far-left terror group against the Israeli embassy in Athens in December 2014 reinforced this perception and drove some new sympathy for Israel. At the time, most Greek journalists expressed serious concern about safety and security in Greece as well as about the international implications of the event. To Ethnos, a center-left newspaper, said the attack was an international stigma for Greece as it was “the first against an Israeli Embassy for twelve years at the world level.” (For its part, Proto Thema, a weekly tabloid, reported on the involvement of Mossad in the investigation, indirectly implying that Greek authorities would not necessarily be able to locate the suspects.)

Even when covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Greek journalists are no longer exhibiting the automatic pro-Palestinian bias of previous years. Operation Protective Edge in 2014 did not generate the usual aggressively anti-Israel press coverage. Eleftherotypia used the word “invasion” but attached no great significance to it on its front page. TA NEA did not mention it on the front page at all, and Hi Kathimerini opted for the more neutral phrase “Israeli bombardments in Gaza.”

After 2015, an additional barrier tarnishing Israel’s image in Greece was removed. A leftist government, Syriza, came to power, bringing with it a new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. Though he had participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the past, his tune changed when he assumed his new position. In contrast to his pre-election stance, Tsipras treats Israel as an ally, and his foreign policy is reflected in media coverage on both left and right. The Journalists’ Newspaper, for example, which replaced Eleftherotypia, praised the Trilateral Thessaloniki Meeting of June 2017 for accelerating the construction of an East Med pipeline.

Broadly speaking, Greek journalists are now more mature about Israel. In the aftermath of the “Arab Spring,” even the most pro-Palestinian journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict acknowledge Jerusalem’s contribution to regional stability. Also, official visits to Israeli cities have left participants impressed by the country, and this is penetrating into their work. Other Greek media representatives have turned their attention entirely to blaming Germany for the Greek drama, and see no need to construct other “enemies.” Still others are affected by rising Islamophobia, rather than anti-Semitism, as terror attacks plotted by ISIS continue to strike Europe.

The improving image of Israel in Greece could theoretically go hand in hand with a reduction in anti-Semitism. In 2014, the Greek parliament voted in favor of a new anti-racism law that made Holocaust denial, inter alia, a criminal act. Numbers cannot confirm this, though, as some stereotypes grounded in the thinking of older generations have deep roots. Greece has not experienced endemic violence against members of Jewish institutions, but the authorities are nevertheless in search of measures to eradicate anti-Semitism. When Speaker of the Greek Parliament Nikos Voutsis visited Israel last January, he signed a declaration to combat anti-Semitism. Politicians such as the vice president of the conservative New Democracy party, Adonis Georgiadis, have decided to publicly apologize for their anti-Semitic pasts. Those who sympathize with racist points of view find themselves politically isolated.

This process will take time, of course, because it is principally related to school education. But the change in coverage of Israel by Greek journalists is a good omen.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Fall of Kirkuk: Made in Iran

From The American Interest, October 2017, by JONATHAN SPYER:

Tehran’s strategizing pays off again, as several of its clients strike a deal that undermines Kurdish hopes of independence.

Iraqi forces took Kirkuk city from the Kurds this week with hardly a shot fired. ...It is a remarkable setback for the Kurds, who just a few weeks ago held an independence referendum. The loss of Kirkuk especially, given the city’s vast oil resources, lessens the likelihood that an independent state will emerge from the Kurdish Regional Government area in northern Iraq.

Now the Iraqi forces are rolling into other areas conquered by the Kurdish Regional Government in the course of the war against ISIS... Kurdish forces are withdrawing ... Yezidi civilians ...are again uncertain of their fates as they wait for the arrival of Iraqi forces.

The capture of Kirkuk recalls other swift and decisive assertions of control that the Middle East has witnessed in recent years. Perhaps the closest parallel might be the Hezbollah takeover of west Beirut in May-June 2008. Then, too, a pro-Western element (the March 14 movement) sought to assert its sovereignty and independent decision-making capabilities. It had many friends in the West who overestimated its strength and capacity to resist pressure. And in the Lebanese case as well, a sudden, forceful move by an Iranian client swiftly (and, it seems, permanently) reset the balance of power, demonstrating to the pro-Western element that it was subordinate and that further resistance would be fruitless.

There is, of course, a further reason to note the similarity between Kirkuk in October 2017 and Beirut in 2008. Namely that in both cases, the faction that drove its point home through the judicious use of political maneuvering and the sudden application of force was a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

In Lebanon, the client was Hezbollah...
In Iraq, the equivalent force is the PMU (Popular Mobilization Units) or Hashd al-Shaabi. ...

The PMU’s forces now consist of about120,000 fighters in total. And while dozens of militias are associated with it, a handful of larger formations form its central pillars. The three most important groups are all pro-Iranian and directly connected to the Revolutionary Guards. These are

  • Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis; 
  • Asaib Ahl al-Haq, headed by Qais al-Khazali; and 
  • the Badr Organization, commanded by Hadi al-Ameri. 
All three of these leaders are closely linked to Qods Force Commander General Qassem Suleimani. They are, as one region-based diplomat put it, “Iran’s proconsuls” in Iraq.

Al-Ameri, al-Muhandis, and Suleimani himself were all present in Kirkuk on October 15 and16, laying the groundwork for the takeover of the city. Badr and Ahl al-Haq fighters also played a prominent role in the incursion into the city.

However, they were not the only Iran-linked element in Kirkuk. The Kurdish retreat appears to have been the product of a deal between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish party that dominates in Kirkuk, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. According to eyewitness reports, the PUK’s peshmerga forces abandoned their positions, rendering a coherent defense of the city impossible.

The PUK-Iran relationship dates back 25 years, to the days when both were engaged against the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad. Due to this alliance, the PUK only reluctantly supported the Kurdish independence referendum of September 25. Indeed, the fractured nature of Kurdish politics, the absence of a single, united military force, and the differing international alliances and orientations of the two main parties in the KRG—namely the Kurdish Democratic Party of President Masoud Barzani and the PUK—have long constituted a central vulnerability of the Kurdish system in northern Iraq. We appear to have witnessed a masterful exploitation of this vulnerability, a sudden and decisive turning of the screw.

Details have emerged in the Kurdish media of a supposed agreement reached between Bafel Talabani, eldest son of former PUK leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and Hadi al-Ameri of the PMU. (Some sources claim that it was al-Muhandis, not al-Ameri, who represented the PMU.) The deal would establish a new authority in the Halabja-Sulaymaniyah-Kirkuk area, to be jointly administered by the Iraqi government and the “Kurds” (or rather, the PUK) for an undefined period. The federal government would manage the oil wells of Kirkuk and other strategic locations in the city, while also overseeing the public-sector payroll.

The establishment of such a client or puppet authority would put paid to any hopes for Kurdish self-determination in the near future. The deal was intended to split Iraqi Kurdish politics in two, and make impossible any further moves toward secession. The latter cause is vehemently opposed by Iran, which wants to control Iraq from Baghdad and maintain its unfettered access to the Levant and the Mediterranean Sea.

This deal was only feasible because of smart investments that Iran made in the politics of both Iraqi Shi‘a Arabs and Iraqi Kurds during previous decades, plus the judicious mixing of political and military force, an art in which the Iranians excel. Indeed, Iran’s influence in Iraq, both political and military, goes beyond the PMU and the PUK. The Federal Police, another of the forces involved in the march on Kirkuk, is controlled by the Interior Ministry. The Interior Minister, meanwhile, is one Qasim al-Araji—a representative of the Badr Organization, Hadi-Al Ameri’s group, which sits in the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.  And of course, Abadi’s own party, Dawa, is a Shi‘a Islamist outfit with strong ties to Iran.

So the long-developed, mostly unseen influence that Iran exerts on both Iraqi and Kurdish political and military life is powerful indeed. All we are seeing this week is its abrupt activation.

As Andrew Bernard noted in a TAI article earlier this week, President Trump’s response on the clashes was to assert that the United States was “not taking sides, but we don’t like the fact that they’re clashing.” This is in effect to accede to the Iranian ascendancy in Iran, given the discrepancy in power between the sides and the deep Iranian and IRGC involvement with Baghdad. Such a stance does not, to put it mildly, tally with the President’s condemnation in his speech this past week of Iran’s “continuing aggression in the Middle East.” It remains to be seen if anything of real consequence in policy terms will emerge from the President’s stated views.  For the moment, at least, the gap between word and deed seems glaring.

Meanwhile, the advance of the Shi‘a militias and their Iraqi allies is continuing. The demoralized KRG has abandoned positions further west. In Sinjar, Khanaqin, Makhmur, Gwer and other sites on the Ninawah Plain, the Iraqis are pushing forward. The intention appears to be to take back the entirety of the Plain, where the peshmerga of the ruling KDP, not the PUK, were dominant. Yet they too have so far retreated without resistance. It is not clear at present how far the PMU and the Iraqis intend to go, or at what point the peshmerga will make a stand.

It is a black day for the Kurds, from every point of view. The fall of Kirkuk confirms the extent to which Iraq today is an Iranian-controlled satrapy. And it vividly demonstrates the currently unrivaled efficacy of the Iranian methods of revolutionary and political warfare, as practiced by IRGC throughout the Arab world.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Russia emerging as new player in Middle East balance of power

From Asia Times, 16 October 2017, by David P. Goldman:

Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on October 12, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Maxim Shemetov
Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on October 12, 2017. 
Photo: Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

Moscow's sale of a better defense system to the Saudis than to its "ally" Iran is consistent with the pattern of its attempts to influence outcomes in the region...

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's King Salman attend a welcoming ceremony ahead of their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow on October 5, 2017. Photo: Sputnik via Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's King Salman attend a welcoming ceremony ahead of their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow on October 5, 2017. 
Photo: Sputnik via Reuters

Not only the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also Russia’s Cold War adversary Turkey will buy the far more advanced S-400, a “game-changer,” as former Pentagon official Stephen Bryen described it in an October 13 analysis for Asia Times. The S-400 is highly effective against the sort of cruise and ballistic missiles that Iran will be able to field during the next several years.

...On Ocotber 12, Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bodanov offered to mediate between Iran and the Saudi Arabia, but talk is cheap. Installation of top-of-the-line weapons systems is not. The United States belatedly offered the Saudis its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system, probably as a rushed response to the Russian offer. In Dr. Bryen’s analysis, the S-400 is simply a better system, and gives the Saudis an important edge in any prospective conflict with Iran.

Factoring Israeli security concerns
Another Russian attempt to influence the balance of power is evident in Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s October 15 visit to Jerusalem, the first since Shoigu took office in 2012. The ceasefire plans now in place in Syria allow Iranian forces to range within 5 kilometers of the Golan Heights, the great escarpment overlooking northern Israel that Israeli took in the 1967 War.

With the help of Russian air power, Iranian Revolutionary Guards units supported by Hezbollah, as well as Pakistani and Afghan Shi’ite mercenaries, have become the dominant power in Syria, changing the regional power balance to Israel’s disadvantage. Israel reportedly demanded a buffer zone for Iranian forces of at least 60 kilometers from its border last summer, and Russia refused. Washington also signed on to the Syrian ceasefire, leaving Israel the odd man out.

Israel is now threatening to attack preemptively. Elliott Abrams, an official in the administration of George W. Bush, wrote last week:
“Israel has struck sites in Syria one hundred times in the last five years, bombing when it saw an Iranian effort to move high-tech materiel to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last month Israel bombed the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs were said to be produced. Now, there are reports (such as this column by the top Israeli military analyst, Alex Fishman, in the newspaper Yediot Achronot) that Iran is planning to build a military airfield near Damascus, where the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) could build up their presence and operate. And that Iran and the Assad regime are negotiating over giving Iran its own naval pier in the port of Tartus. And that Iran may actually deploy a division of soldiers in Syria.”

FILE PHOTO - Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during the International Institute for Counter Terrorism's 17th annual conference in Herzliya, Israel September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Files
Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman. 
Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned last week: 
“If once we spoke about the Lebanese front — there is no longer such a front. There is the northern front. In any development there may be, it will be one front, Syria and Lebanon together, Hezbollah, the Assad regime and all the Assad regime supporters.”
The Israeli government has warned Lebanon that any attacks on Israel by Hezbollah — which reportedly has an arsenal of more than 100,000 ballistic missiles —would elicit a devastating counterattack against Lebanon’s infrastructure. Israeli preemptive action against a Hezbollah missile shower would occasion enormous collateral damage, because the missiles are mainly emplaced in civilian areas.

Israeli media observe that high-level consultations between Russia and Israel have been frequent, but almost always conducted on Russian soil – for example, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s August meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi. The Russian defense minister’s trip to Israel is a nod to Israeli security concerns.

Russia intervened in Syria primarily because the country’s civil war had turned into a Petri dish for jihadists from the Russian Caucasus to Southeast Asia. America’s longstanding support for Sunni jihadists had the unintended consequence of strengthening al-Qaeda and its offshoot Islamic State, as Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn famously warned. And the Sunni jihad threatened to spread to Russia’s own Muslim population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni. Backing the Shi’ites was the Kremlin’s obvious course of action. Moscow has achieved its objectives in Syria: the Assad regime is stabilized, the Sunni jihad is dwindling and Russia’s other perquisites in Syria, for example its naval port facility at Tartus, are secure. Evidently Russia now wants to take some risk off the table on the other side.

Diplomatic revolution of sorts
The fact that Russia wants to manage the balance of power, to be sure, does not mean that it will succeed in doing so. Iran is not a Russian puppet but an aspiring pocket empire with a will of its own and an apocalyptic sense of its own future. Russian air cover allowed Iran a bridgehead to the Mediterranean through Syria that it could not have imagined five years ago, and Iran will be reluctant to lose the opportunity to establish a Shi’ite corridor from Persia through Lebanon.

Moscow may not be in a position to forestall an Israeli-Iranian war...

The Americans, like the British before them, did poorly at balance-of-power politics in the Middle East, and there is nothing to indicate that the Russians will do any better. 

Nonetheless, the shift in Russia’s position from regional spoiler to would-be balancer of conflicting interests constitutes a diplomatic revolution of sorts. 

...We may be watching the first manifestations of a post-American Middle East.

How about THIS two-state solution?

From Ynet News, 5 April 2017, by Moshe Dann:

Promoting Jordan as the Arab Palestinian state is consistent with international law and would resolve the problem of national self-determination both for Arabs living in Judea and Samaria and for those in Israel.

The problem with “the two-state solution” —creating a sovereign independent Palestinian state west of the Jordan River—is that a Palestinian state already exists east of the Jordan River; it’s called Jordan. Its population is predominantly “Palestinian” and it is located in the eastern part of what was once called “Palestine.” Demographically and geographically, therefore, Jordan is a Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah. A two-state solution—Israel and Jordan—is in the national interests of both countries
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

The Oslo Accords, however, removed the “Jordanian option” from the range of possible alternatives. Instead, Yasser Arafat, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) were installed as the rulers of what was intended to be another Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. The “peace plan” failed not only because of Palestinian terrorism, but also because of the opposition to Israel’s existence. Moreover, the PA—which includes Hamas and other Arab terrorist organizations—and the PLO never intended it to work. Their goal is to destroy Israel.

Although Arafat signed the Oslo Accords on behalf of the PLO, and the PLO was obligated to remove the clauses in the Palestinian National Covenant which call for the destruction of Israel, it never did. Although an ad hoc form of the PLO's Palestinian National Council (PNC) met in April 1996 and approved amending the Covenant in principle, it did not change the Covenant; it merely gave a PNC committee authority to do so or to draw up a completely new charter. Nor did they specify which particular articles would be changed or how that would be done. By leaving the Covenant intact, the PLO sends a clear message that it has not renounced violence nor accepted Israel's right to exist.

Moreover, since the PA did not sign the Oslo Accords, it is not bound by them. It is accountable, if at all, only to the PLO, which Mahmoud Abbas heads as well.

Rather than understand why the Oslo accords and what became known as “the two-state-solution” failed, and reconsider alternatives, its architects, planners and supporters cling to their fantasies. Coaxing and bribing Palestinians to make a deal always fails because that would mean ending the conflict and accepting Israel—a betrayal of what Palestinianism is all about.

Establishing a second Palestinian state, or third if one includes Hamastan in the Gaza Strip, would lead to destabilization and increase the chances for violence between competing entities, gangs and militias which could spill over into Israel. Jordan might seek to expel its “Palestinian” citizens to the new state, and a power struggle would ensue over which state represents the Palestinians, and what constitutes the territorial basis for “Palestinian national identity.” With Islamist forces waiting to take advantage of any power vacuum, the area would plunge into a Somalia-like chaos.

'Their goal is to destroy Israel' (Photo: Reuters)
'Their goal is to destroy Israel' (Photo: Reuters)

Rather than abandon the idea of achieving Palestinian self-determination by establishing another failed state, the problem can be resolved by changing one word: “The” to “a.” Recognizing that Jordan fulfills the definition of a Palestinian state would defuse the toxic demand for another Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank of Jordan”).

A "two state solution" approach accepts the idea of "two states for two peoples" based on the reality of an already existing sovereign state on territory designated as "Palestinian," where the majority of its inhabitants are "Palestinian." Arabs in Israel and PA-controlled areas who consider themselves "Palestinian" and seek national self-determination can affiliate with a Palestinian-Jordanian state, and move there if they wish. Those who prefer to stay in Israel will be allowed to do so with full civil but not national rights—as is now the case.

Promoting Jordan as the Arab Palestinian state is consistent with international law and the British Mandate which created Jordan in 1922 as part of a “two-state solution.” It would resolve the problem of national self-determination both for Arabs living in Judea and Samaria and for those in Israel.

This plan does not require anyone to move or border changes. Jordan recognized the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, the Dead Sea and Arava as the international boundary in its peace treaty with Israel. The PA can continue to function as a political entity on condition that all incitement and terrorist activity cease.

Recognizing Jordan as a Palestinian state while maintaining its status as a monarchy reflects the national identity of a majority of its population. Highly popular Queen Rania is considered a Palestinian (via her parents). Palestinians are a growing segment of Jordan’s political life and its parliament. Jordan is viable with a relatively stable economic and political structure. It has vast areas of unused land but lacks people and water.

In order for Jordan to absorb large numbers of people and flourish, it needs water which would allow it to extend its population centers eastwards. Utilizing abundant water sources in Turkey, eastern Jordan could become an oasis, providing agricultural products, enabling business and industrial centers, and creating regional stability and economic development.

The possibility that Jordan could become an economic trade center was recently given gravity when Israel’s minister of transportation proposed a rail link between Haifa and Jordan that would link European markets with Jordan and from there to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. The recently rebuilt rail line between Haifa and Beit Shean is the beginning of this plan.

Non-Israeli Arabs who wish to remain under Israeli sovereignty as permanent residents could apply for Israeli citizenship; or they could choose to remain as citizens in PA administrated areas; or they could continue as Jordanian citizens living in Israel. The choice should be theirs.

Arabs living in UNRWA-administered towns in Lebanon and Syria should be given the opportunity to become citizens in their host countries; they should be absorbed into the countries where they exist or allowed to emigrate. International aid programs should be operated only by countries.

Let there be no misunderstanding: I oppose Palestinianism and a Palestinian state anywhere, because its only purpose—according to the PLO and Hamas Charters—is the eradication of Israel. Preaching hatred and fomenting terrorism in their schools and their media, it glorifies jihadism and promotes “martyrdom.” Why support that?

I do not suggest or intend in any way the overthrow of the current Jordanian government. Jordan is a strategic partner and hopefully will continue to be. The Jordanians, however, have a responsibility towards Arab Palestinians and should not expect Israel to bear the burden of providing them with a national homeland.

A two-state solution—Israel and Jordan—is in the national interests of both countries. It will bring peace and prosperity and ensure the security and stability of the region. A Jordanian-Israeli confederation will replace failure and despair with opportunity and hope; it will inspire creativity and cooperation—the only raison d’etre of nation-states.

"Students for Justice in Palestine" - UNMASKED

From JPost, 12 October 2017, by Dan Diker:

Studies by Brandeis University and the AMCHA initiative have revealed a direct correlation between BDS activities and a marked rise in antisemitic acts on campuses with large Jewish populations.

A pro-Palestinian rally in New York City
A pro-Palestinian rally in New York City . (photo credit:REUTERS)

What do Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have in common? 

These terrorist groups have all been lionized and glorified by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the campus arm of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Many on university campuses misunderstand SJP.

The group describes itself as a grassroots student organization that supports “Palestinian freedom and equality” in advocating for Palestinian statehood. This is a false and misleading characterization.

SJP is more accurately an international network of some 200 student chapters that actively seek the dismantlement of the Jewish state. They have launched often violent antisemitic assaults against Jewish and Israel-friendly students and have demonstrably expressed support for Palestinian terrorists and Islamic jihadist groups.

The organization’s chapters have defied official university warnings and sanctions and have transformed leading campuses in the United States and Europe into fortresses of fear, intimidation and retribution. Exposing and thwarting Students for Justice in Palestine is essential to restoring universities as a safe environment for the peaceful and respectful exchange of ideas.

SJP’s proprietary notion of “justice” simply means ridding the world of the Jewish state. Its exclusive use of the term “Palestine” signals its rejection of Israel.

The group’s expressions of support for Palestinian terrorists is no secret.

The SJP chapter at the University of Chicago plastered posters conveying solidarity with convicted Palestinian teen terrorist Ahmed Manasara, who went on a stabbing spree before his capture and treatment in an Israeli hospital. SJP supporters, taking the lead from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, initially protested Manasara’s “murder” by Israel.

Temple University SJP protested the 2017 deportation from the US of convicted PFLP terrorist Rasmea Odeh, whose 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing murdered two students. University of Chicago’s SJP erected a memorial to Palestinian terrorists such as Fadi Aloun, who wrote “martyrdom or victory” on his Facebook page before stabbing a 15-year-old in Jerusalem in 2015.

NYC Students for Palestine uploaded on social media an address by convicted PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled, who was quoted as telling her SJP hosts that “Zionist is terrorism.”

Khaled’s incitement is typical of the SJP, which regularly parrots Fatah and Hamas’s declaration that “resistance is not terrorism.” The widely known chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which calls for the elimination of Israel, has become an SJP standard.

A 2017 SJP demonstration in Times Square in New York City featured oversized banners declaring Palestinian “resistance until victory” – an expression of support for Palestinian terrorism until Israel is terminated as a Jewish state.

While Facebook and Twitter accounts of SJP chapters have shown its leaders wearing Hezbollah shirts with the Iranian regime’s terrorist proxy’s logo, SJP’s roots to terrorist groups actually run deeper. Students for Justice in Palestine is an outgrowth of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), whose leaders were associated with Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and more indirectly with Palestinian Jihad, as revealed in congressional testimony by former US Treasury financing analyst Johnathan Schanzer in 2016.

AMP comprises several organizations that were implicated by the US government for financing the Islamic terrorist group Hamas between 2001 and 2011.

SJP co-founder and Palestinian ex-pat Prof. Hatem Bazian also chairs the terrorism-supporting AMP.

Bazian has cited Hamas’s mother organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim World Leaguealigned Muslim Student Association which he headed at the University of California at Berkeley as his inspirations for founding SJP. The organization’s UC Berkley chapter has been referred to as a “Hamas front on campus.”

SJP’s support for Palestinian and Islamist terrorism has characterized its extremist behavior on scores of US campuses, including Princeton, Stanford, Georgetown, NYU, and the University of Pennsylvania. Students, particularly Jewish and Israel-friendly ones, have reported acts of physical violence, threats and intimidation by SJP members.

Research studies by Brandeis University and the AMCHA initiative have revealed a direct correlation between BDS activities and a marked rise in antisemitic acts on campuses with large Jewish populations. The research also revealed a correlation between the presence of SJP and a rise in campus antisemitism.

According to AMCHA, in the first nine months of 2017 there were more than 100 incidents of swastikas being daubed on campus property as well as other expressions favoring Jewish genocide. In one egregious example from 2014, SJP of Florida International University co-sponsored a rally in which protesters chanted “Khaybar, Khaybar, Oh Jew, Muhammad’s army will return” – a reference to the massacre of Jews in northern Saudi Arabia by the invading Muslims in 628 CE.

Jewish students have also reported being terrorized physically, being assaulted and spat upon by SJP members at Stanford, Loyola and Cornell universities.

It appears that SJP and its supporters are proud of its record of antisemitism. Northeastern University’s SJP faculty adviser, Prof. M. Shaid Alam – who has written that 9/11 was an Islamist insurgency against foreign occupation of Muslim lands – reportedly told SJP members to be proud to be called antisemites and to wear the title “as a badge of honor.”

SJP’s support for terrorist groups, its promotion and identification with terrorists and its alarmingly antisemitic behavior appears to be modeled after terrorism- supporting states like the Islamic Republic of Iran and jihadist groups such as Hamas, the PFLP, and Islamic Jihad. These groups demonize Israel and use antisemitic imagery and rhetoric as ideological and psychological pretexts for launching terrorist attacks against the Jewish state. While SJP is not formally a terrorist organization, its expressions of support, ideological sympathies and financial and other affiliations with radical, extremist and terrorist groups is worrying and must end.

The SJP problem is proliferating, with chapters on some 120 campuses, most of them active. The secretive and decentralized operations of its factions makes it difficult to monitor. SJP claims active chapters on some 190 campuses across the US.

SJP poses a direct challenge to university administrations across the United states and Europe, but also to alumni, major donors, and trustees. If universities are to retain their academic integrity and realize their promise to be a safe environment for the peaceful and respectful exchange of ideas, SJP can no longer be countenanced.

University regulations and the US Constitution were established to protect free speech. It is precisely that freedom that Students for Justice in Palestine has hijacked and holds hostage in service of imposing a hate-filled, antisemitic and often violent, extremist campus agenda that publicly and proudly seeks the elimination of the Jewish state while silencing, coercing, and threatening those who disagree.

Germans Know Antisemitism When They See It

From Algemeiner, 10 October, by Mitchell Bard:

A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: FOA / Facebook.

One of the outrageous aspects of campus politics — and, to a lesser extent, off-campus politics — is the effort by Israel’s detractors to tell Jews what constitutes antisemitism. This is remarkable, especially when you consider how women or gays or African Americans would react to people telling them that they don’t have the right to define sexism, homophobia or racism.

Equally shameful is the response of university officials and civil libertarians — who would never defend other forms of bigotry, but bend over backwards to suggest antisemitic attacks on Israel, and BDS advocacy, are acceptable forms of expression, or protected by academic freedom.

Germans do not have the same blinders. They know what antisemitism is, and what can follow from allowing it to go unchecked. It is, therefore, not surprising that opposition to BDS is so strong in Germany.

In February, for example, politicians from the Christian Democratic Union Party call BDS antisemitic. In August, Munich adopted anti-BDS legislation, and Frankfurt banned BDS activity. A month later, Berlin’s mayor vowed to block the use of city venues and funds by groups or event organizers that support BDS. Just this week, the Green Party in the southern German state of Bavaria passed a resolution rejecting BDS because it is “anti-Semitic, hostile to Israel, reactionary and anti-enlightenment.”

Students in Germany, unlike their peers in America, also have a clear understanding of BDS, which led Leipzig University to adopt an anti-BDS bill. For Germans, the boycott of Israel is distressingly familiar. As the student parliament at Goethe University in Frankfurt observed in this succinct and searing indictment of the movement:

The call by the BDS campaign to boycott products from the parts designated “occupied territories” of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights stands clearly in the tradition of the national socialist Jewish boycott and the slogan “Don’t buy from Jews!”

That’s right — Germans are calling BDS advocates Nazis. They’re saying that celebrities, professors, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other BDS proponents are like the stormtroopers that vandalized Jewish businesses and enforced a boycott against them — for the sole reason that they were owned by Jews.

True as the comparison may be, Jews could never get away with it. This is one instance, however, where Roger Waters and the rest of his ilk cannot blame the Jews for trying to silence them. Informed, intelligent, non-Jewish German students have called you out for what you are: antisemites.

The German students get it, but too many Americans do not. One explanation is political correctness. Students, particularly self-described progressives, do not like labels — except racist, sexist, homophobe, Islamophobe, etc. Many gullibly accept that Palestinian suffering is all the fault of the Jews, and can be ameliorated by punishing Israel. Students, professors and officials also swallow the sophistry of Israel’s detractors when these inheritors of Nazi ideology deny that their views are antisemitic.

American students are also famously ignorant of history. They have little or no knowledge of the Middle East, so it is easy for them to be bamboozled by emotional pleas and distorted, if not entirely fictional, narratives about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Germans, like most European students, are more knowledgeable about the world beyond their campus. They may not have any greater expertise on Middle East issues, but they do have a historical perspective.

Germans obviously have a unique reason to be cognizant of the dangers of promoting Jew-hatred. For most American students, the Holocaust is as relevant to their lives as the Peloponnesian War. For Germans, it may be part of their family history.

Germans also see the alarming rise in Europe of far-right political parties that espouse antisemitism. Americans, however, pay little or no attention to trends abroad, and are mostly unaware of the lunatic fringe in the United States, except when they crawl out from under their rocks, as they did in Charlottesville. On campus, however, the extremists promoting BDS are allowed to run loose, spewing anti-Israel venom and promoting an agenda that seeks the destruction of the homeland of the Jews.

The good news is that BDS is a marginal movement in the United States that has failed miserably. Like any purveyors of sleaze, however, they pollute the environment. They should not be allowed to turn the campuses into ideological toxic waste dumps.

American Jewish students need to take a cue from their German peers and stop being afraid to call the BDS advocates what they are — antisemites. It is also incumbent upon universities to treat them with the same derision and intolerance as they do other bigots.

The Iranian Threat to Israel

From FP, 28 September 2017, by Jonathan Spyer:

Israel Is Going to War in Syria to Fight Iran

Israeli officials believe that Iran is winning its bid for dominance in the Middle East, and they are mobilizing to counter the regional realignment that threatens to follow. 

The focus of Israel’s military and diplomatic campaign is Syria. Israeli jets have struck Hezbollah and Syrian regime facilities and convoys dozens of times during Syria’s civil war, with the goal of preventing the transfer of weapons systems from Iran to Hezbollah. 

In an apparent broadening of the scope of this air campaign, on Sept. 7 Israeli jets struck a Syrian weapons facility near Masyaf responsible for the production of chemical weapons and the storing of surface-to-surface missiles.

The strike came after a round of diplomacy in which Israeli officials concluded that their concerns regarding the developing situation in Syria were not being addressed with sufficient seriousness in either the United States or Russia.

A senior delegation led by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen visited Washington in late August, reportedly to express Israel’s dissatisfaction with the emerging U.S.-Russian understanding on Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to raise similar concerns with Moscow.

In both cases, the Israelis were disappointed with the response. Their overriding concern in Syria is the free reign that all the major players there seem willing to afford Iran and its various proxies in the country. And as long as nobody else addresses that concern in satisfactory, Israel is determined to continue addressing it on its own.

Iranian forces now maintain a presence close to or adjoining the Israeli-controlled portion of the Golan Heights and the Quneitra Crossing that separates it from the Syrian-controlled portion of the territory. Israel has throughout the Syrian war noted a desire on the part of the Iranians and their Hezbollah clients to establish this area as a second line of active confrontation against the Jewish state, in addition to south Lebanon.

“Syria,” of course, hardly exists today. The regime is in the hands of its Iranian and Russian masters, and half of the country remains outside its control. But the Iran-led bloc and its clearly stated intention to eventually destroy Israel certainly do exist, and the de facto buffer against them may be disappearing. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah recently declared “victory” in the Syrian war, adding that what remained was “scattered battles.

With the prospect of pro-Iranian forces reaching Bukamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border, this opens up the possibility of the much-reported Iranian “land corridor” stretching uninterrupted from Iran itself to a few kilometers from the Israeli-controlled Golan.

Earlier this month, Israel shot down an Iranian drone over the Golan Heights. It was the latest evidence of Iran’s activities on the border. Syrian opposition reports have noted an Iranian presence in Tal Al-Sha’ar area, Tal Al-Ahmar, and Division 90 headquarters, all in the vicinity of the border. Pro-Iran forces, meanwhile, are open in their ambitions. Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iraqi Shiite force supported by Iran, has formed a “Golan Liberation” unit and declared itself “ready to take action to liberate the Golan.” Senior figures from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij have been photographed in areas close to the border.

Israel has so far thwarted these ambitions in two ways. First, it has launched attacks to frustrate and interdict attempts to build a paramilitary infrastructure in the area. Most famously, the killing of Jihad Mughniyeh, son of Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh, in a targeted strike at Mazraat Amal in the Quneitra area in January 2015 was part of this effort. Five other Hezbollah members and a general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Allahdadi, were also killed in the strike.

Second, Israel has developed pragmatic working relations with the local rebel groups who at the moment still control the greater part of the border, such as the Fursan al-Joulan group. This cooperation focuses on treating wounded fighters and civilians, and providing humanitarian aid and financial assistance. There has also probably been assistance in the field of intelligence, though no evidence has yet emerged of direct provision of weapons or direct engagement of Israeli forces on the rebels’ behalf.

On July 9, a ceasefire agreement directly brokered by the United States and Russia for southwest Syria was announced. It posits the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Syria’s southwest, in the area of the Quneitra and Daraa provinces. The details of the de-escalation zone are still being negotiated. But Israel has been deeply concerned that it could seriously complicate the de facto Israeli safeguards in place against Iranian infiltration of the border. If the fighting ends, physical resistance to encroachment will become more complicated and sponsorship of rebels potentially no longer relevant. As of now, Russian attempts to assure Israel that the terms of the ceasefire adequately address its concerns in this regard have evidently failed to persuade. The latest media reports on the negotiations for the zone suggest that the United States has reached an agreement with Moscow that pro-Iranian militias will be kept 25 miles from the border.

But the issue goes beyond arrangements at the southwestern edge of Syria. Israel is concerned by Iran’s overarching regional ambitions. Recent comments by Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, that a future war with Israel might involve additional pro-Iranian militia forces to the Lebanese groups have been well noted in Jerusalem. Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz recently told a security conference in Herzliya, as reported by Reuters, that in a future war between Israel and Hezbollah the latter may be able to make use of an Iranian naval port, bases for Iran’s air and ground forces, and “tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen being brought in from various countries.”

A recent report in the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi described Iranian plans to thin out the Sunni Arab population between Damascus and the border with Lebanon, expelling Sunni residents and replacing them with pro-government Shiites from elsewhere in the country or outside it. Israeli strategic culture tends to emphasize addressing immediate threats, but these potential demographic developments are also being watched closely in Jerusalem.

This all forms a larger picture in which Israel sees a major shift underway in the regional balance of power, to the benefit of the Iran-led regional bloc.

Anyone who has received briefings from senior Israeli security officials in recent years has become familiar with a conception of the region as divided into four broad blocs: 

  1. Iran and its (mainly Shiite) allies; 
  2. a loose group of countries opposed to Iran that includes the Arab autocracies of the Gulf (excluding Qatar), along with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel itself; 
  3. an alliance of conservative Sunni Islamist forces, such as Turkey, Qatar, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sunni Arab rebels in Syria; and 
  4. finally the regional networks of Sunni Salafi jihadism, most notably the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

There are problems with this picture, and it contains simplifications. Most notably, the line between the conservative Sunni Islamists and the Salafis has always been blurred. There is an additional blurred line, in which authoritarian rulers such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have some sympathy for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nevertheless, the picture was a serviceable one, adhering to many of the clear realities of the Middle East over the last decade and a half.

But the tectonic plates of this picture are now shifting, most notably to the clear detriment of the two camps associated with Sunni political Islam. 

The period of Arab unrest in 2010, during which Islamist and Salafi forces seemed briefly ascendant, is now a spent force — its beneficiaries in retreat and in some cases eclipsed by Sunni autocrats and pro-Iranian forces. Hamas is seeking to rebuild its relations with Iran. Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi languishes in jail. Islamists in Tunisia are a minority element in the government, and Qatar is under attack from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because of its stances in recent years. And the Syrian Sunni Arab rebels, once the great cause of this group, are now stranded — fighting for survival and without hope of victory against the Assad regime. The Salafis, too, are in eclipse, at least as political contenders.

Looked at from Israel, this process is a mixed bag. Sunni Islamists are hostile to Israel, of course, and for the most part, their failure to assemble a lasting power bloc is welcomed in Jerusalem. Senior Israeli security officials describe, for example, Sisi’s 2013 coup deposing the Muslim Brotherhood as a species of “miracle.” In Syria, however, the insurgent efforts of the Sunni Islamists had at least the benefit of distracting the attentions of the more formidable enemy — the Iran-led regional bloc. For five years, Israel was largely able to sit by while Sunni and Shiite political Islam were in a death’s embrace just north and east of the border. Russian and Iranian intervention, however, appears to have tipped the balance against the Sunni rebels, threatening to bring the long chapter of active civil war in Syria to a close.

From an Israeli point of view, we are back to the pre-2010 Middle East, when Israel and pro-western Sunni powers understood they were in a direct face-off with the Iranians and their allies. But in 2017, there is the additional complicating factor of a direct Russian physical presence in the Levant, in alliance or at least in cooperation with Israel’s enemies.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which remains exclusively focused on the war against the Islamic State, has done little to assuage Israeli concerns. Trump and those around him, of course, share the Israeli assessment regarding the challenge of Iranian regional ambitions. The impression, however, is that the administration may well not be sufficiently focused or concerned to actually take measures necessary to halt the Iranian advance — both military and political — in Syria, Iraq, or Lebanon.

Where does this leave Israel?

First, Israel’s diplomatic avenues to the international power brokers in Syria remain open. 

  • When it comes to Washington, Israel’s task is to locate or induce a more coherent American strategy to counter advance of the Iranians in the Levant. 
  • Its goal when it comes to Moscow is to ensure sufficient leeway from Putin, who has no ideological animus against Israel and no special sympathy for Tehran, so that Israel can take the measures it deems necessary to halt or deter the Iranians and their proxies.

Second, Israel will continue to rely on its military defenses, which remain without peer in the region. And as shown in Masyaf, they can be employed to halt and deter provocative actions by the Iran-led bloc where necessary. 

Nevertheless, as seen from Jerusalem, the shifting regional tectonic plates are producing a new situation in which the Iran-led alliance is once again directly facing Israel, consequently raising the possibility of direct confrontation. Masyaf was not the first shot in the fight between Israel and its proxies in the Levant — and it is unlikely to be the last.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Palestinian nationalism" is bogus

From INN, 13 Oct, by Dr Martin Sherman:

...both Jordanian and Palestinian [leaders] admit that a separate “Palestinian national identity” is no more than a contrived construct to undermine Jewish claims to sovereignty over the Land of Israel.

Thus, in 1987, while still claiming all of Judea-Samaria as part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, King Hussein declared “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.” Clearly, this necessarily implies that, had there been no Jewish national claims, no Palestinian national claims would have been raised. Accordingly, we are compelled to conclude that the “Palestinian national personality” is devoid of any independent existence, and merely a fictional derivative, fabricated to counteract Jewish territorial claims.

Significantly, precisely this position was expressed ten years earlier by PLO executive council member, Zuhir Muhsein, in an oft-cited, but never rebuffed, 1977 interview: “[It is] just for political reasons [that]we carefully underwrite our Palestinian identity. Because it is of national interest for the Arabs to advocate the existence of Palestinians to balance Zionism. Yes, the existence of "a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel and for Arab unity.”

Indeed, even in their “National Covenant” the Palestinian-Arabs not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but that they are merely a temporary instrumental ruse to further a wider pan-Arab cause. 

In it (Article 12), they declare: “The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation... [H]owever, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity...”

So again, we are compelled to ask: What other nation declares that its national identity is merely a temporary ploy to be “safeguarded” and “developed” for the “present stage” alone? ....