Saturday, October 06, 2012

Obama: Absolutely Uncertain

From YouTube, 26 Sept 2012, by RightChange:
A new, 18-minute mini-documentary follows the journey of Irina, a 23-year-old liberal, Jewish New Yorker who voted for Obama in 2008.
Yet as her connection to Israel has grown, and she has learned more about the President's policies across the Middle East and towards Israel in particular, Irina has come to realize that "when the chips are down," the President may not "have Israel's back" as he says.
The short film features:
  • Exclusive interviews with leading journalists and politicians in Israel (Bloomberg, London Times, Jerusalem Post, etc.)
  • Mainstream news reports (CNN, MSNBC, ABC, BBC, etc.),
  • Clips from longtime Democratic supporters including: Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The ever-expanding UNRWA gravy train

From The Middle East Quarterly, FALL 2012 • VOLUME XIX: NUMBER 4, pp. 11-25, by Alexander H. Joffe*:

The Palestinian refugee problem lies at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But since the 1960s, the international institution charged with aiding the refugees...(UNRWA), has resisted their resettlement in the Arab host countries.
It has done so by shifting to an educational mission, devising expansive redefinitions of who a refugee is, and expanding its legal mandates to "protect" and represent refugees. As a result, a well-intended international relief effort has been progressively undone by the vagueness of its mandate, which allowed UNRWA to bend to the will of the U.N. General Assembly and be taken over by its own charges and by the bureaucratic imperative of institutional survival.

Reintegration: A Short History

The late Yasser Arafat (right) and South Africa's Nelson Mandela join hands in solidarity. U.N. General Assembly resolution 2649 of November 1970 took "inalienable rights" to another level and specifically named the "peoples of southern Africa and Palestine" as partners in a legitimate struggle for self-determination. UNRWA's activities cannot be viewed in isolation from an institutional environment that has linked the Palestinian issue to decolonization, regardless of its applicability.

The idea of resettlement was implicitly encoded into UNRWA through U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 194 (III) of December 11, 1948...took care to ensure "the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation."

...The formal articulation of repatriation and resettlement notwithstanding, as early as 1951, reintegration was understood in diplomatic circles exclusively as resettlement. Refugees shared that assessment, and, along with Arab host countries, resisted it in a variety of ways, so much so that by the late 1950s, reintegration, resettlement, and rehabilitation had reached a dead end. In the words of the 1957 UNRWA director's report:
in spite of the fact that many are establishing themselves in new lives, the refugees collectively remain opposed to certain types of self-support projects which they consider would mean permanent resettlement and the abandonment of hope of repatriation. They are, in general, supported in this stand by the Arab host Governments. ...

Shift to Education

In his report for 1959, incoming UNRWA director John Davis noted that "the execution of the 'long-term task' of assisting refugees to become self-supporting requires certain conditions which so far have not prevailed." He added:
It is no exaggeration to state that every aspect of life and human endeavour in the Near East is conditioned and complicated by the Palestine refugee problem. Its psychological, political, and social repercussions are of no less significance than its economic and humanitarian aspects. Any solution of the Palestine refugee problem must take these aspects into account.
Davis's remarkable statement ... by placing the refugee crisis at the heart of everything in the Middle East, ...implied that until the refugees themselves were satisfied, their plight would remain at the center of regional affairs. As such, his portentous assertion, an essential part of the Palestinian narrative, was perhaps the first high level official indication of UNRWA's intention to keep the refugees, and itself, at the center of Middle Eastern affairs.
Davis argued that UNRWA's mandate should be extended beyond June 30, 1960, when it was due to expire, calling for a reorientation of the agency's mission and an expanded emphasis on "providing general education, both elementary and secondary … teaching vocational skills, and awarding university scholarships; and … offering small loans and grants to individual refugees who have skills and want to become self-employed." This was a shrewd and successful adaptation and a fateful turning point in UNRWA's relationship with the refugees and the idea of resettlement.
Providing primary, secondary, and vocational training vastly expanded the agency's contact with refugees.
  • In 1950, UNRWA operated sixty-four schools with 41,000 elementary pupils, employing approximately 800 teachers.
  • By 1960, this had expanded to 382 schools, almost 124,000 pupils, and 3,500 teachers. By 1980, over 54 percent of UNRWA's resources were dedicated to education.
  • In 2011-12, across its five fields of operation, UNRWA's education program comprised 699 schools, 19,217 educational staff, and 486,754 enrolled pupils.
Increasing access to education and raising educational levels are inherently unobjectionable, a fact that UNRWA has traded on since the 1950s. More controversial has been the content of that education.
Educational materials used in UNRWA schools come from the host countries but are taught by Palestinian teachers, many of whom are graduates of UNRWA schools. During the 1960s and 1970s, teaching Palestinian nationalism was a specific goal of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Schools, teachers' unions, and youth organizations were targets for the PLO and its competitors such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which completely politicized these spaces. UNRWA and national governments also made funds available for scholarship for higher education, which took place in both Western and Soviet bloc institutions. Indeed, UNRWA's defenders praise the agency's position as a Palestinian national institution and emphasize the role of education.
UNRWA's educational emphasis during the 1970s coincided with the PLO's 1974 adoption of the "phased approach" for Israel's destruction, which included a commitment to the right of return—a euphemism for Israel's demographic subversion—as well as with the creation of the U.N. resolutions and infrastructure to support the "inalienable rights" of the Palestinian people. With the passage of time, textbooks in UNRWA, and later Palestinian Authority (PA) schools, have come under scathing criticism for articulating anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, anti-Western, and anti-peace themes, alongside advocacy of the right of return.
UNRWA's educational turn also had unanticipated and ironic consequences. The Palestinians' educational advantage aided their entry into the professional classes of Arab states, which should have facilitated their reintegration and resettlement. But these educational advantages were mitigated by growing Arab investments in their own educational systems. Rising educational standards in some Arab states, and the PLO's support for Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, also resulted in Palestinian marginalization and mass expulsion. Educated Palestinians returning to the West Bank and Gaza relied yet again on UNRWA's relief services. During and after the years following the Oslo accords, UNRWA and UNRWA-educated Palestinians took the lead in opposing the PLO's negotiations with Israel under the aegis of the "rights-based approach" and preserving the right of return.

Who Is a Refugee?

One significant means of UNRWA's permanent institutionalization and resistance to resettlement has been the expansion of its client base through redefinitions of who is a refugee.
The agency's founding resolution 302 (IV) used the term refugee without offering any definition. But the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees that established the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began to set parameters for the Palestine Arab refugees and for UNRWA: "This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection and assistance."
The politics behind this decision were a result of pressure from both Western and Arab states. France, for example, had moved to exclude the Palestinian refugees from the UNHCR mandate on the grounds that a number of U.N. organizations were already active in that arena. Arab delegates supported the exclusion, arguing that a universal definition of refugees would "submerge in the general mass of refugees of certain groups which were the particular concern of the General Assembly and the right of which to repatriation had been recognized by General Assembly resolutions."
Without a formal definition set by a supervisory body, UNRWA established its own series of operational definitions for refugees. In 1950, the following definition was offered:
For working purposes, the Agency has decided that a refugee is a needy person, who, as a result of the war in Palestine, has lost his home and his means of livelihood. … In some circumstances, a family may have lost part or all of its land from which its living was secured, but it may still have a house to live in. Others may have lived on one side of the boundary but worked in what is now Israel most of the year. Others, such as Bedouins, normally moved from one area of the country to another, and some escaped with part or all of their goods but cannot return to the area where they formerly resided the greater part of the time.
In 1954 a temporal qualification was introduced:
The definition of a person eligible for relief, as used by the Agency for some years, is one whose normal residence was Palestine for a minimum period of two years preceding the outbreak of the conflict in 1948 and who, as a result of this conflict, has lost both his home and means of livelihood.
The 1955 report of the UNRWA commissioner-general introduced an informal rationale for including other claimants, namely Palestine Arabs who were not displaced in 1948 but who lost some or all of their livelihoods:
There is only a difference of degree between, on the one hand, the situation of the man whose home was on the Jordan side of the demarcation line but whose land is now cut off in Israel, or who worked in what is now Israel[i] Jerusalem, or who sold his produce in the coastal towns or exported it through Palestinian ports, and, on the other hand, the situation of the man who has lost his home as well as his means of livelihood. All of these have lost, in varying degrees, a place in which to work and a way of life. They have that in common. Yet in some cases, the family which continues to reside in its former home, but whose nearby fields are no longer in its possession, may be in a more serious plight. The very proximity of its former possessions—the situation in which the original inhabitants must watch newcomers till their former fields and harvest crops from their former groves—increases the tensions and the psychological strain.
This decision followed up on observations made since 1948 regarding the impoverished state of those claimants. It also acknowledged the difficulty of both distinguishing them from true refugees as well as the moral and practical difficulties in refusing aid. Incorporating border villages into UNRWA's purview expanded its economic role in Gaza and Jordan and articulated a sociopsychological or therapeutic element that would become an important part of UNRWA's mission in the coming decades.
Throughout the 1950s, efforts were made to rectify refugee roles. Fraud, duplicate enrollments, non-counting of deaths, and the holding of ration cards by merchants were all well-known by UNRWA and the Western governments from 1949 onward, but little was or could be done. Riots by refugees, threats by merchants, and lack of cooperation from host countries, who were economically dependent on UNRWA, undermined efforts to reduce refugee rolls. Threats to reduce U.S. contributions to UNRWA amounted to little.
In 1965, the definition was again revised:
Recently a new problem of eligibility has arisen with the appearance of a third generation of refugees (i.e., the children of persons who were themselves born after 14 May 1948). On a literal interpretation of the definition of eligibility as it now stands, there may be some doubt whether these persons are eligible for UNRWA assistance. Under the proposals set out … they would clearly be eligible … subject to their being in need, and this would apply to subsequent generations also.
This new, expansive definition, which extended UNRWA's services to a third generation of refugees, was apparently offered as part of a deal between UNRWA director Laurence Michelmore and the Arab states, in exchange for new refugee surveys that mollified Western pressures.
The 1967 Six-Day War and the influx of more refugees into the UNRWA system from the West Bank offered the opportunity to establish a new baseline, and by 1971, the refugee definition had been expanded again with specifications regarding the inheritability of refugee status:
A Palestine refugee, by UNRWA's working definition, is a person whose normal residence was Palestine for a minimum of two years preceding the conflict in 1948 and who, as a result of this conflict, lost both his home and means of livelihood and took refuge, in 1948, in one of the countries where UNRWA provides relief. Refugees within this definition or the children or grandchildren of such refugees are eligible for agency assistance if they are (a) registered with UNRWA, (b) living in the area of UNRWA's operations, and (c) in need.
By 1994, this operational definition had been further extended:
Under UNRWA's operational definition, Palestine refugees are people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.
This version is still operative today. There are no qualifications regarding a refugee having been displaced to a country where UNRWA operates or whether they have obtained another nationality. Nor does UNRWA require individual applicants to have either endured all three criteria (residence, loss of homes, and loss of livelihood), or provide documentation of these statuses. UNRWA requires only a self-declaration from applicants. The mandate is effectively global and the agency views itself as the "global advocate for the protection and care of Palestine refugees." This generates a total client base of almost 5 million.

Mandates and the Question of Protections

Concurrent with the expansion of the definition of a Palestine refugee has been the vast expansion of UNRWA's mandate from the original, concise role of "direct relief and works programmes" to the ambitious endeavor
to contribute to the human development of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Syrian Arab Republic until a durable and just solution is found to the refugee issue. … The Agency's vision is for every Palestine refugee to enjoy the best possible standards of human development, including attaining his or her full potential individually and as a family and community member; being an active and productive participant in socioeconomic and cultural life; and feeling assured that his or her rights are being defended, protected, and preserved.
The agency's imperative to maintain this standard of living indefinitely for an ever-expanding client base is perhaps the single greatest self-imposed impediment to resettlement.
Another form of mission creep has been the use of international law to expand organizational mandates to such fields as "education, health and relief, and social services, microfinance, infrastructure and camp improvement, and emergency assistance including food aid." Moreover, by the early 1980s, UNRWA's mandate had expanded to include protection of the refugees' legal and human rights. In December 1982, for example, U.N. Secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar asked UNRWA to consider "measures to guarantee the safety and security and the legal and human rights of the Palestinian refugees in the [Israeli] occupied territories."
Six years later he explicitly articulated these guarantees:
(a) "Protection" can mean physical protection, i.e., the provision of armed forces to deter, and if necessary fight, any threats to the safety of the protected persons;
(b) "Protection" can mean legal protection, i.e., intervention with the security and judicial authorities, as well as the political instances, of the occupying Power, by an outside agency, in order to ensure just treatment of an individual or group of individuals;
(c) "Protection" can also take a less well-defined form, called in this report "general assistance," in which an outside agency intervenes with the authorities of the occupying Power to help individuals or groups of individuals to resist violations of their rights (e.g., land confiscations) and to cope with the day-to-day difficulties of life under occupation, such as security restrictions, curfews, harassment, bureaucratic difficulties and so on;
(d) Finally, there is the somewhat intangible "protection" afforded by outside agencies, including especially the international media, whose mere presence and readiness to publish what they observe may have a beneficial effect for all concerned; in this report this type of protection is called "protection by publicity."
UNRWA's protection mandate was amplified in 2007 by the General Assembly, which stated that it was aware "of the valuable work done by the Agency in providing protection to the Palestinian people, in particular Palestine refugees." This was further extended in 2008 with a General Assembly direction to UNRWA regarding the rights of women and children. Likewise, in 2007, the General Assembly approved the commissioner-general's report that included the assertion that "UNRWA is a global advocate for the protection and care of Palestine refugees," and the organization established a senior protection policy advisor position. The influential 2008 "Morris report," compiled by a retired UNHCR staff member, also recommended that it use the U.N.'s human rights system to expand UNRWA's protection for refugees and that the agency's operations support officers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip act as "roving international protection officers."
The scope of protections is potentially limitless as illustrated by the demand that the refugees be given a voice in the quest for "a just and durable solution" and be protected from the use of "disproportionate force" during this process. Indeed, the "Morris report" recommended that the commissioner-general "should engage with those drawing up negotiating papers and proposing positions and policies in order to ensure to the extent possible that these take proper account of the rights and interests of the refugees and of UNRWA's experience and knowledge." That is: UNRWA should be directly involved in the political process as representative of the Palestinian refugees, their rights, interests and desires, in direct competition with other Palestinian entities—hardly an inducement to resettlement....


UNRWA's ever-expanding mandates, operations and responsibilities, rhetoric, and institutional culture all work against resettlement. ...This ...represents another impediment to ...peace as a whole.
*Alex Joffe is a Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a New York-based writer on history and international affairs. His website is

Hamas' switch from Iran's camp to Egypt's is complete

From NYTimes, 2 Oct 2012, by ANNE BARNARD and HANIA MOURTADA:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — State television in Syria issued a withering attack late Monday on a longtime ally, the leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Khaled Meshal, addressing him as if he were an ungrateful child, saying he was having a “romantic emotional crisis” over the Syrian uprising and accusing him of selling out “resistance for power.”
Turncoat: Khaled Meshal, Hamas leader, in 2009.
Photo: Mumtaz Al-Baloua for The New York Times
The attack was an editorial delivered by a newscaster in alternately stern and mocking tones, who reminded Mr. Meshal that he was “orphaned” by Arab countries who would not take him in when he fled Jordan in 1999. She implied that he must have sold out to Israel, saying that was the only explanation for the willingness of Qatar, his new host, to accept him.
Damascus seemed to be striking back after Mr. Meshal appeared at a congress of the party of Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and after Mr. Erdogan and Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, pointedly declared their shared priorities of opposing Mr. Assad and supporting the Palestinians — a blow to Mr. Assad’s longstanding and domestically compelling persona as the champion of Palestinian resistance against Israel.
...Damascus is most likely particularly furious that Mr. Meshal has taken up residence in Qatar, one of the countries, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States, that it accuses of bankrolling the insurgency.
Syria, Iran, the Lebanese militant group and political party Hezbollah, and Hamas long considered themselves an “axis of resistance,” in contrast to Arab countries — notably Egypt — that pursued a more accommodationist policy with Israel and the United States. But relations in the axis have teetered as some of Syria’s Palestinians have joined the uprising and as some Hamas officials find it impossible not to sympathize with fellow Sunni Muslims in Syria, who form the bulk of the anti-Assad movement and have borne the brunt of Mr. Assad’s brutal crackdown.
A Palestinian resident of Damascus who opposes the government said that as he listened to the broadcast, he felt as if Mr. Assad and his inner circle were speaking to him directly — and revealing the fear behind the presidential facade.
“They freaked out,” the resident, who declined to be publicly identified because of personal safety concerns, said in an interview conducted over Skype. “All the legitimacy they have is based on the resistance — as if when you are the resistance you can kill your own people — and they are losing this.”
But Hezbollah remains a steadfast ally, although it has denied allegations by domestic opponents and the United States that it has aided in Syria’s crackdown. On Tuesday, Hezbollah’s Web site reported that a senior commander in the group, Ali Hussein Nassif, had died carrying out “jihadist duties.” A Lebanese security official told The A.P. that Mr. Nassif had died in Syria. It was unclear whether he had been fighting alongside Syrian forces.
...Nearly 300,000 Syrians have sought sanctuary in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and the United Nations refugee agency has called the outflow a major humanitarian problem that could destabilize the region.
On Tuesday, in a speech to Syria’s Parliament, the country’s prime minister, Wael al-Halki... acknowledged that there were more than 600,000 internally displaced people (the United Nations counts more than double that), blaming “terrorists” for the crisis.
The newscaster who delivered the rebuke to Mr. Meshal also castigated Egypt and Turkey for what she said was their complicity in the Palestinians’ plight...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

March of the living descendents of the Nazis

From Israel Channel 10, 1 Sept 2012 (published with English subtitles 11 Sept 2012):

Killed by their neighbors

Photo by Beile Delechky from pre-war Kavarsk
It took more than six decades, but a unique collection of blood-chilling survivor testimonies about Lithuanian collaboration in the Holocaust is finally available to the public.

Expulsion and Extermination
Holocaust Testimonials from Provincial Lithuania, by
David Bankier. Yad Vashem, 232 pages, $58
From a review by Efraim Zuroff:
The Kuniuchowsky collection of testimonies of Holocaust survivors from the provincial towns and villages of Lithuania is extremely valuable.
Leyb Kuniuchowsky, an Alytus-born engineer who had survived the Kovno Ghetto, had made a determined effort to record the names of all the numerous Lithuanians who had participated in the murders, making his collection a resource of potentially unique significance in the efforts to bring these Nazi war criminals to justice.
It was only in 1989 that Dov Levin of Jerusalem, the leading expert on the Holocaust in the Baltics, finally convinced Kuniuchowsky to donate his archives to Yad Vashem. And it is only now, another 20 years afterward, that parts of this unique resource have finally been published, edited by the late David Bankier, the former head of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, with the assistance of Holocaust researcher Ben-Tsiyon Klibansky.
In Lithuania, the government has systematically tried to minimize or hide the unusually extensive participation of local Nazi collaborators in the annihilation of the country’s Jews. More than 96 percent of them were killed in the Holocaust, with almost all the murders carried out locally, in the vicinity of the Jews’ residences, with the majority of the participants Lithuanians. This collection clearly unmasks distortions of the historical narrative of the Shoah by chronicling the numerically dominant role played by Lithuanians in the mass murders, many of which were carried out without any German or Austrian participation at all, and by naming and identifying almost 1,300 local perpetrators.
In Bankier’s words, the value of these testimonies is that “they identify those who humiliated, abused and tortured [the Jews], pillaged their belongings, ejected them from their homes and, in the end, massacred their families.”
In order to maximize the value of the testimonies, the book begins with an introduction about Leyb Kuniuchowsky and his collection, and then provides a concise summary of the annals of provincial Lithuanian Jewry from the country’s independence after World War I until the destruction of these communities during the Holocaust. It is followed by a more in-depth treatment of the various stages of persecution and murder of the provincial Jews, using excerpts from the testimonies to illustrate the trials and tribulations suffered by the Jewish inhabitants of the more than 200 Lithuanian towns and villages that had Jewish communities.
Starting with the initial days of the German occupation, the book recounts in vivid detail the imposition of forced labor, the plunder of Jewish property, the process of ghettoization and concentration, and ultimately the mass annihilation of Lithuania’s Jews, with additional chapters devoted to the role of the local non-Jewish population, focusing on the local Nazi collaborators who did the actual killing.
In these chapters, the unique historical  significance of these testimonies becomes readily apparent, as they provide critical dimensions in vivid detail of the tragic fate of approximately half of Lithuanian Jewry, elements that are missing from the pertinent official German and Lithuanian documentation.
While the latter give us important information about the administrative implementation of the Final Solution, they hide or ignore highly significant aspects of the murders, which are critical to our ability to construct an accurate narrative of the Holocaust in Lithuania, where the proportion of Jewish citizens killed among communities that had more than 1,000 Jews was the highest in Europe.

In this regard, the most pertinent of the themes that emerge from the witness testimonies is, first and foremost, the extent to which it was primarily Lithuanian volunteers who carried out the murders. In every single provincial Jewish community, local collaborators were at least the majority, if not the only ones, doing the killing.
Thus, for example, in places like Lazdijai, Telsiai, Eisiskes, Joniskis, Dubingiai, Babtai, Varena and Vandziogala, there were no Germans present at all, and in Onuskis, Vilkaviskis and Virbalis, the only Germans at the murder sites were photographing the crimes.

A second theme that is evident in almost every testimony is the incredible cruelty displayed by the Lithuanian Nazi collaborators.
In many cases, the preliminary stages of the Final Solution were accompanied by the brutal raping of Jewish women, including girls as young as 13 and 14 years old, and the public humiliation and torture of rabbis, as well as other Jews.
It was also fairly common for Jewish infants to be murdered by having their heads smashed against stones or trees or being thrown alive into mass graves, since “the little ones were not worth a bullet,” as a Lithuanian “partisan” in Kudirkos-Naumiestis explained to an eyewitness.

A third theme is the nationalist context of the murders, which were viewed by many of the participants as acts of patriotism.
Thus in Merkine, for example, a witness described the celebration staged by the murderers: “Their faces glowing, they sang happily and loudly the Lithuanian national anthem and other nationalist songs.”
A similar scene took place in Zarasai, where a Polish witness related that the killers not only sang “Lithuanian national songs,” but were very “happy and satisfied.”
These testimonies are reminiscent of the notorious murder of several dozen Jewish men in Lietukis Garage in Kaunas in late June of 1941, after which the large assembled crowd joined in singing the Lithuanian national anthem.
It was this ultra-nationalism which undoubtedly fueled many of the acts of extreme cruelty by Lithuanians toward their Jewish neighbors, whom many Lithuanians erroneously perceived as communists.

A fourth – and extremely important – theme is that all strata of Lithuanian society voluntarily participated in the persecution and murder of the Jews.
This is a fact that has systematically been hidden or ignored in Lithuania, where local participation in Holocaust crimes is usually attributed solely or primarily to “hooligans” or criminal elements.
The sad truth that emerges clearly from these testimonies, however, is that participation in the mass murder of the Jews encompassed all strata of Lithuanian society, from the clergy and intelligentsia, including doctors and teachers, to the most marginal groups.
Thus in Dubingiai, it was a young priest named Zrinys who led the partisans and organized the murders, and in Kuniuchowsky’s own town, as he himself noted, “Lithuanians of every social group and class participated in arresting, tormenting, bullying, robbing and eventually shooting the Jews of Alytus and those of the surrounding townlets in Alytus county.” These elements complement the previously available documentation, which describes the murders from the perspective of the perpetrators and fails to fully acknowledge the extent of local complicity in, and responsibility for, the murders, as well as their more grotesquely cruel and bestial manifestations, all of which make the Kuniuchowsky collection a veritable treasure and indispensable resource for the study of the Holocaust in Lithuania.

When Egypt came for the Jews, the Christians said nothing....

From the Times of Israel, 28 Sept 2012, by MAIKEL NABIL:

After the Egyptian military took power in the country 1952, it started its campaign against Egyptian Jews, launching its propaganda against Jews in all the state-owned media. It freed all the terrorists who had committed violence against Jews before the coup, and jailed liberals and seculars instead. It encouraged aggression toward the Egyptian Jewish minority, which led to new terrorist attacks against Jewish individuals and properties in Egypt.

Between 1954 and 1956, 80,000 Egyptian Jews were expelled from Egypt, but not before they were robbed of their property. After that, Egypt revoked their citizenship, forbidding them from returning to their homeland. Of course, before they left, Egyptian authorities forced them to sign papers saying that they had been treated fairly and were leaving of their own will. There are currently around 300 Jews living in Egypt, isolated in an environment that is hostile to them.

The Christian minority in Egypt (known as Copts) reacted in a very selfish way at the time, choosing not to interfere in the crisis so as to avoid any harm. They thought that if they took the side of the dictatorship, they would be safe. Obviously, it didn’t work.

After the Egyptian military expelled Jews and outlawed Bahais and Shias, they started their campaign against Christians. The Egyptian regime has maintained since that time a very fundamental understanding of Islam, and forced it through the media and the education system. Violent attacks against Christians became increasingly frequent, and most of the time no one was prosecuted.

The Egyptian regime created an uncomfortable situation for Christians in order to force them to leave the country. And the evidence shows that it worked. Some 4 million Egyptian Christians have emigrated from Egypt over the last 60 years, representing one-third of the entire Coptic population, and comprising nearly 75% of Egyptians living abroad.

But Egyptian authorities are not satisfied with that. After Mohammed Morsi acceded to power, he decided to speed up this process. The Egyptian regime used the film “Innocence of Muslims” to start a huge propaganda campaign against Egyptian Christians. And of course, Christians in Egypt are becoming increasingly isolated under this propaganda. Violence against Christians occurs every day, and the state usually takes the side of the Muslim murderers.

It isn’t inconceivable that as a way of protecting this operation, the Egyptian state sponsored the attacks on foreign embassies. A group of poor thugs were paid and led to the American Embassy in Cairo to attack it, while they didn’t know where they were, or why they were there. Similar attacks occurred in other countries in which the Egyptian Intelligence has power. Not a single attack on a foreign embassy occurred outside the sphere of Egyptian influence. But Western countries cared more about their own interests in Muslim countries, and as usual surrendered to the racist blackmail of the Egyptian regime.

The Egyptian state is also excessively using the laws forbidding criticism of Islam. At least five Christians are now imprisoned in Egypt under the accusation of “insulting Islam.” ...

The aim of the Egyptian regime in using this charge against Christians and atheists from Christian background is to create a status of panic and intimidation among Christians and to make them leave Egypt. Obviously, it’s working. Tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians are leaving their homeland every month, and Western countries are opening their doors to them in the knowledge that they could soon face genocide in their country....

Abbas comes to the UN to shoot himself in the foot

From Israel Hayom, 29 Sept 2012, by Dore Gold*:

PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has again declared his intention [seek] U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly this past week.
...Saeb Erekat, the PA’s chief negotiator issued a statement that the Palestinians were ...requesting that the U.N. General Assembly upgrade their status from a “non-state observer” to a “non-member observer state.” Unlike U.N. membership this can be achieved through a simple majority of the 193 members of the General Assembly. A second part of this initiative, according to Erekat, is to set the territorial outlines of a future Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.

...the Palestinians themselves will likely pay the price for this capricious action ... especially if the U.S. Congress blocks all U.S. aid as a result.

Legally, the upgrade of the Palestinian observer mission at the U.N. to a mission representing “a non-member observer state” does not create a Palestinian state in any case. New states, like Kosovo or South Sudan, are established when their national leaders declare their independence, their new status is formally recognized bilaterally by other states, and then they seek U.N. membership. Becoming a “non-member observer state” involves a technical change of status that even the experts in the legal department of the U.N. can barely explain. The translation of this highly technical diplomatic term into Arabic in the Palestinian press will undoubtedly underwhelm everyone who hears about it for it will not leave the population of the West Bank with the sense that any real change in their status was achieved. Undoubtedly, Hamas will make this very point, as it mocks Abbas over what exactly he accomplished.

Last year, on May 16, 2011, Abbas wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which he tried to explain why he was seeking U.N. membership. Revealingly he admitted that he was seeking “internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not as a political one.” He wrote that he hoped to take Israel to international courts. The Palestinians started this process in Jan. 2009, when the PA Minister of Justice submitted a declaration to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Moreno Ocampo, recognizing its jurisdiction in “the territory of Palestine.” The PA Justice Minister did not explain what the boundaries of this area were.

The PA declaration was issued in accordance with a procedure reserved only for states that seek the involvement of the ICC on an ad hoc basis, thereby requiring the prosecutor to decide whether the PA qualified as a state. After three years of considering the Palestinian declaration, this past April, Ocampo decided that he did not have the authority to decide whether the PA was a state and that the decision would rest with the U.N. secretary-general, who would need to consult with international bodies, like the U.N. General Assembly.

Undoubtedly, the Palestinians are hoping that their upgrade at the General Assembly could be used to grant the Palestinian Authority the standing with the ICC that it has sought. But it would be a mistake for them to assume that this standing would be automatically conferred. Would the secretary-general go along with this? Last week, Ban Ki-Moon said that the “aspiration of the Palestinian people to join the United Nations … has been long overdue.” But he added that “these processes should come out as a result of negotiated settlements of the Middle East peace process.” Moreover, Palestinian initiatives at the ICC would be a double-edged sword. Since the PA is seeking that its standing as a state include the territory of the Gaza Strip, it would assume legal responsibility for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas, which are war crimes.

Finally, Palestinian officials are hoping that a U.N. General Assembly upgrade of the status of their observer mission can be used to help predetermine the pre-1967 line as the international border of a future Palestinian state. Abbas and his advisers have apparently been disturbed by the Israeli characterization of the West Bank as “disputed territory,” where Israel also has legitimate territorial claims and not just the Palestinians. As a result, they would seek to include a reference to the pre-1967 line as part of any upgrade resolution in the General Assembly and make it sacrosanct.

On this point, the Palestinians might succeed in influencing a majority of U.N. members, including many European states, but not the U.S. or Israel — and not the Israeli public, which understands more than ever that a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 line would threaten Israel’s security, given the rise of Islamist regimes in the region and the chaos spreading in the Arab world.

Moreover, the pre-1967 line was never an international border and is formally known, in fact, as the 1949 armistice line. Just before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, it was the Jordanian ambassador to the U.N. who declared before the Security Council that the 1949 Armistice Agreements “did not fix boundaries.” On this basis, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, adopted after the Six-Day War, did not demand that Israel fully withdraw to the pre-war armistice line and instead called on the parties to establish new borders that would be “secure and recognized.”

Over the years, Resolution 242 became the cornerstone of the entire Arab-Israeli peace process and served as the basis of all Arab-Israeli peace treaties. On Sept. 1, 1975, the U.S. provided written assurances to Israel that it would oppose any initiative to change Resolutions 242 and 338 in ways which are incompatible with their original purpose. Yet Palestinian advocates of an upgrade at the U.N. this fall are hoping that a General Assembly resolution they wish to propose can undermine and even neutralize a well-established resolution of the Security Council.

In short, the proposals being considered by the Palestinians for upgrading the status of their U.N. mission are of dubious value. The technical change in status they hope to gain will not be understood beyond the walls of the U.N. and hence provide minimal political gain for the Palestinian leadership with their street. A resolution of this sort will not automatically place the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the jurisdiction of international courts as the advisers of Abbas are hoping. Nor can its language on borders replace Resolution 242. It is a strategy that will ultimately backfire for it will remind key players in the international community that the Palestinian Authority does not want a negotiated peace with Israel, leading the U.S. and even the EU to question why they should continue to invest in it at all.

*Dore Gold is an author and an Israeli statesman who has served in various diplomatic positions under several Israeli governments. He is the current President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He also served as an advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term in office. At Columbia University, Dr. Gold earned his BA and MA in Political Science, and then a PhD in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies.