Friday, July 03, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Iran is no better than ISIS

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

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

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

These include but are not limited to 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explosive new Claims Conference scandals revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the cornerstone of Hamas’s strategy.

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Mr. President.