Thursday, September 24, 2020

  • Thursday, September 24, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
Times of Israel reports on a videoconference call bringing together Israeli and Arab journalists and academics to discuss how the media could help bring peace. 

The organizer of the conference was the Arab Council for Regional Integration, which launched last year. Its website says:

The Council seeks to advance a culture of coexistence and integration among all the region’s races and ethnicities, colors and creeds, religions and sects. 

The Middle East and North Africa have been plagued by a legacy of exclusion and rejection of the Other that has spread beyond it through organizations inciting boycotts in economic, cultural, social, artistic, athletic ad other civil series — part of a larger campaign to sow division, schism, hatred, extremism, and exclusion of the Other, particularly Jews and Israelis. 

This destructive legacy must be overcome by growing coexistence and cooperation in order to ensure a better future for present and future generations. 

This is sort of amazing. 

The organization launched last year with a conference in London:

One of the council’s main organizers, Mustafa el-Dessouki, the Egyptian managing editor of an influential Saudi-funded newsmagazine, Majalla, said that as he has wandered the region in recent years he has met many like-minded Arabs “who had kind of been waiting for somebody like me to come along.”

Arab news media and entertainment have long been “programming people toward this hostility” toward Israel and Jews, he said, while political leaders were “intimidating and scaring people into manifesting it.” But many Arabs — even, to his surprise, in Lebanon, a bitter Israeli enemy — “actually want to connect with Israelis,” he added.
The Palestinian response to that conference was predictable:

Husam Zomlot, who leads the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom and did the same in Washington until the Trump administration closed that office, belittled the new council’s members as an “extreme fringe of isolated individuals.” From Tunisia, whose new president has called it treasonous to engage with Israel, he said, to Lebanon, where protesters are waving the Palestinian flag alongside their own, “the sentiment of the vast majority of the Arab world is going in the other direction.”
They keep telling each other that.

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COVID maskJerusalem, September 24 - Months of tension and recriminations over persistent accusations that prominent political figures flout the measures that the Ministry of Health has mandated to curtail the spread of COVID-19 have led to an official resolution today, in which the government formalized the distinction between hoi polloi and policymakers: the former must adhere to all restrictions, whereas the latter may dispense with measures that only the unworthy masses must maintain.

The cabinet voted unanimously Thursday morning to draw formal social and legal lines between the political aristocracy and the plebeians, in a move aimed at silencing months of criticism concerning senior political figures seen socializing, meeting, and conducting business without social distancing and without masks, even as police and Ministry of Health personnel imposed fines on citizens failing to adhere to the same public health guidelines.

"Officials at the level of government minister or deputy minister, Member of Knesset, ministry director-general, police commissioner, senior military officers, and direct family relation to any of the above are exempt from Ministry of Health distancing measures," the cabinet's post-meeting statement read. "We have decided unanimously that we as public officials cannot perform our official duties of exploiting our positions for special treatment and personal gain if we face the restrictions that the Ministry of Health has imposed on the unwashed masses, and have therefore enshrined that exemption into official policy."

Cabinet members expressed hope that the formalization of the different statuses will settle the issue once and for all. "It's really ridiculous that it had to come to this," lamented Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. "In our society, everyone should have grasped long ago that there is a special elite to whom the rules do not apply. It's actually a little shameful to me that we had to make this explicit after all this time."

Opposition figures voiced cautious praise for the move. "My main criticism is this should have happened way back in March, so we could spare ourselves a lot of useless rhetoric in the meantime," stated Opposition leader Yair Lapid. "But at least now we can get back to the main reason we're all here instead of fielding complaints from every little serf out there who saw Joe MK at a wedding without a mask and wants to know why he gets fined if he does the same thing. Well, it's because you're a nobody, that's why. Let's move on, please."

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From Ian:

Amb. Alan Baker: What Was in the Abraham Accords Signed in Washington?
The provisions regarding the prevention of terror (Article 4) and normalization (Article 5) are drafted as intentions to further develop and negotiate future arrangements in these spheres, again, as soon as practicable.

The normalization spheres include finance and investment, civil aviation, visas and consular services, innovation, trade and economic relations, healthcare, science, technology and peaceful uses of outer space, water, energy, maritime arrangements, telecommunications and post, agriculture, legal cooperation, tourism, culture, and sport, and other spheres.

These spheres are detailed in the Annex to the agreement and are similar to the list of civil affairs spheres detailed in the Third Annex to the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement.

Article 6 entails a reciprocal commitment to respect and foster mutual understanding, respect, coexistence, encourage people-to-people programs, interfaith dialogue, prevent incitement, and observe a “culture of peace.”

The concept of a culture of peace is based on universally accepted principles set out in resolutions of the General Assembly. (See above)

Article 9 is important in that the parties represent that there exist no inconsistencies between their obligations in this agreement and their other treaty obligations. This is especially significant in light of the UAE’s relationship with the Arab League and its member states. “An identical provision appears in the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.”

Article 12 regarding registration of the agreement with the UN Secretary General pursuant to article 102 of the UN Charter is a vital, legal provision that enhances the formal nature of the agreement as an international treaty between two independent sovereign states.

Conclusion The instruments signed in Washington represent a significant symbolic and substantive breakthrough in the relationships between Israel and the Arab world. This will undoubtedly be further developed as the relationships strengthen, and mutual confidence and good faith are enhanced.

It is regretted that critics of this development and the documents signed in Washington prefer to allow partisan views and personal antagonism to color their reasoning, rather than to acknowledge this development on its merits.
US lawmakers push bipartisan resolution against PA's 'pay to slay' policy
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) introduced a bipartisan resolution on Monday condemning the murder of three Americans in the Jerusalem Jaffa Road bus bombing in February 1996 and calling for the Palestinian Authority to renounce salary payments to terrorists.

The "Resolution to Stop Rewarding Terrorists" is co-sponsored by Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Rep. Max Rose (D-NY).

The resolution names three Americans killed in the suicide bombing: New Jersey resident Sara Duker and her boyfriend, Connecticut resident Matthew Eisenfeld; and New York City resident Ira Weinstein.

The resolution states that "Hamas has killed more than 400 Israelis and at least 25 United States citizens" and that "the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that 1,360 people have been killed by Palestinian violence and terrorism since September 2000."

It calls out the PA for financially rewarding terrorist "martyrs" and their families.

The measure acknowledges the Taylor Force Act enacted in March 2018, which defunds most US assistance to the PA for said payments.

In a statement, Gottheimer linked the resolution to this week's student body vote at Columbia University on a non-binding BDS referendum on whether they believe that the school should divest its holdings with companies that do business with Israel.

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"Nearly 25 years since the terrorist attack which killed innocent American citizens, including Sara Duker, from my district, the Palestinian Authority continues to reward terrorist perpetrators with generous 'martyr payments.' This brutal practice is indefensible, and should be condemned by all who care about justice and human rights," said Gottheimer.
Gay Palestinian-American man comes out swinging for Donald Trump
Hazem Farraj, a former Muslim and Palestinian-American whose family abandoned him when he became a Christian as a teenager, came out supporting Donald Trump ahead of the November 3 elections.

"As an American citizen, I have hope, because someone like Trump sits in the Oval Office," he claimed in a video shared on Twitter by Richard Grenell, former US ambassador to Germany and former acting US director of national intelligence who was the first openly gay member of a presidential cabinet.

A journalist and reporter for 20 years, Farraj is explaining in the four-minute video how him and his "Muslim friends" are thankful for Trump's leadership, saying that "through his policies for peace in the Middle East, he is allowing freedom to flourish."

"In just three years," he continued, "Trump has completely crushed ISIS, brought home the troops just like he promised, and took out two of the region's most brutal terrorists, ISIS leader [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and Iranian General [Qasem] Soleimani, who was responsible for the death of 600 American troops.

"Donald Trump is the right leader to bring peace to a war-torn Middle East, the only candidate who will create the possibility for change in the Middle East.

"I know terrorists fear [Trump], that's why I support him," he continued.

With all of the original back-and-forth of the arguments over the Abraham Accords, we were treated to an array of claims that the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE--Bahrain is not such a big deal.

Maybe there is something to that. 

After all, consider Obama's disastrous deal with Iran and the role it played in creating the instability and outright fear that generated an incentive for Arab countries to develop ties with Israel. 

Indeed, one of the most unusual moments of my trip was to hear certain Arab security officials effectively compete with one another for who has the better relationship with Israel. In this regard, times have certainly changed. [emphasis added]
And the Democrats have made it clear they intend to re-establish the Iran Deal if Biden becomes president.

Not that peaceful Arab relations with Israel are impossible without distrust of bad US policy. After all, there have been levels of Israel-Arab diplomatic relations before Obama, and they existed without a need for US leaders to intercede.

The difference is that those diplomatic communications were carried out privately, behind the scenes.

In fact, they were successful enough that those private relations were offered as a reason against the Abraham Accords, as argued by Israeli activist Boaz Ha'etzni:
Ha’etzni points out that Israel always had relations with Jordan, since 1948, yet secret relations. And because they were secret, Israel never had to pay a price, until an official peace deal was made in 1994. Thanks to the deal, Israel then had to give away Israeli land [the Island of Peace, or Al-Baqoura] and hand over a huge amount of water each year to Jordan that hurts Israel during the drought years. In addition, since the deal was signed, Jordan has to prove to the Arab world and to its own citizens that peaceful relations with Israel is just a show. Hence, Jordan is one of the worst states in the UN always co-sponsoring and supporting anti-Israel resolutions. [emphasis added]
So what is the benefit of a public and official agreement like the Abraham Accord? 

In addition to the usual economic and military reasons for the accord, a key benefit is not about Arab states improving ties with Israel -- but rather improving ties with the US.

Full and normal relations with Israel raise the UAE and Bahrain to a new category: from “friendly Arab countries that sell us oil” to “best Arab friends of our own best friend, Israel.”

Not only does that strengthen the U.S. insurance policy, it also lines up the pro-Israel lobby in America on the side of the UAE and Bahrain. They’ve always had their own hired lobbyists in Washington, but they never had any grassroots support in America. Now they will.

It’s an upgrade, and it’s become a need-to-have in a time of American retrenchment. It’s also an open-sesame for bigger and better arms deals, and a deterrent against would-be aggressors, above all Iran. [emphasis added]
This is for the long term and goes beyond self-defense against Iran.

Another opinion goes even further in teasing out the US angle.

He says that although many talk about the Iranian context as the main motivation for the alliance created with Israel, and it is certainly possible that there is something to that, "but the Iranian interest is expressed in something much bigger," he says, explaining that the UAE as well as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia desperately want Trump re-elected next November "because if the Democrats return to power it will be a disaster for them. They will strengthen Iran, bring back the nuclear deal, and lift the sanctions. They're willing to give a lot for Trump to win. [emphasis added]
Just the threat of Joe Biden becoming president may have been enough to make peace possible.

If so, Obama and Biden are not the first Democrats to inspire the Arabs to derail their plans for the Middle East. In describing his trip to the Middle East, mentioned above, Satloff writes:
Arabs and Israelis (in that case, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin) came together to thwart President Jimmy Carter's international conference idea by pursuing an initiative on peacemaking on their own. 
At a conference on Sadat and His Legacy, Martin Indyk described the situation like this:
in 1977...the Carter administration was pushing to get the Syrians and Egyptians and everybody else to Geneva for an international conference. For Sadat, such a conference was anathema, because that meant that his policy would be tied to Syrian policy. Further, he believed the Syrians would never go to Geneva, there would never be a conference, and he would not be able to make the peace that he was so keen on making. He took a shortcut to Jerusalem as a way of diverting Washington from its purposes and getting it to back his purposes. [emphasis added]
Of course, like those Democratic presidents, Trump himself was now less intent on changing the region.

The first plan, the long awaited 'Deal of the Century,' was an attempt to obtain the elusive peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

And there is a reason that, despite, multiple plans and attempts, such a plan has remained elusive.

This time, by working with countries with an interest in a peace agreement -- regardless of the degree of enlightened self-interest involved -- there is a real potential for a change in attitude in the region.

And as part of that change lies the potential for changing the attitude of the Palestinian Arabs, and the Palestinian Authority -- now that the PA sees that neither the US nor a united Arab world is going to strongarm Israel for them.

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  • Thursday, September 24, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon

AFP reports:

From scrubbing hate-filled school textbooks to a taboo-defying religious sermon, Saudi Arabia is pushing for another kind of normalisation after declining to establish formal relations with Israel -- co-existence with Jews.

Saudi Arabia has said it will not follow its allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in establishing diplomatic relations without a resolution to the Palestinian issue, even as it cultivates clandestine ties with the Jewish state.

Having Saudi Arabia, an Arab powerhouse and epicentre of Islam, forge a similar deal would be the ultimate diplomatic prize for Israel, but the kingdom is wary that its citizens -- sympathetic to the Palestinian cause -- may not be ready for a full embrace.

Saudi Arabia, however, is pushing to change public perceptions about Jews with a risky outreach to a community that has long been vilified by the kingdom's clerical establishment and media, laying the groundwork for an eventual recognition.

School textbooks, once well-known for denigrating Jews and other non-Muslims as "swines" and "apes", are undergoing revision as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's campaign to combat extremism in education, officials say.

"The Saudi government has also decided to prohibit the disparagement of Jews and Christians in mosques," said Saudi analyst Najah al-Otaibi.

"Anti-Jewish rhetoric was common at Friday prayers of the imams in mosques used to address Muslims around the world."

In a stunning U-turn, a preacher in the holy city of Mecca triggered a social media storm this month when he spoke of Prophet Mohammed's friendly relations with Jews to advocate religious tolerance.

The sermon was by Abdulrahman al-Sudais, the imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque who courted controversy in the past for strongly anti-Semitic views.
It is ironic that explicit Arab antisemitism has been ignored by the mainstream media for decades, but now that Saudi Arabia has decided to combat it the article highlights it as if everyone knows about it. Explicitly anti-Jewish and anti-Christian sermons are staples in the mainstream Arab world but they have been ignored by mainstream media - this is the first time I can recall seeing it acknowledged by a wire service, and even now it is only in the context of getting rid of them. 

This new wave of seeming philosemitism is emerging not only in Saudi Arabia but in Arab media altogether, along with a smaller backlash of more explicitly antisemitic rhetoric as some of the more conservative news sites have based their opposition to the Abraham Accords on antisemitic Quranic sources. The trend is definitely more towards tolerance than intolerance, though.

This is why those who try to downplay the Israel/UAE peace are completely off base. There are stunning changes happening in the Arab world that have been sparked by, but go way beyond, the accords. It affects how Arab countries deal with the West, with multinational corporations, with the Palestinian issue, with Iran and Hezbollah, with their own minorities and foreign workers, as well as the very concept of an honor/shame mentality and its corollaries that have up until now looked down upon win-win solutions. 

The road will be bumpy and there will be some setbacks but things will never go back to the way they were before.

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  • Thursday, September 24, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
For the people who claim that Leila Khaled isn't a terrorist, just listen to - Leila Khaled.

In her autobiography written in 1971 titled "My People Shall Live," she mentions poems she wrote while in Syria after hijacking TWA 840.

I shall return repeatedly to
spread terror in the heart of the enemy.
I shall flag the enemy;
I shall pulverise him.
And why not? 

Be with me, my beloved, remember our martyrs,
remember the stolen lands.
Take all difficulties with steadfast revolutionary


In Damascus we indeed exploded the cockpit of the imperialist plane as an expression of our strategy, which aims at hitting the imperialist interests wherever they may be. The Popular Front will destroy the treasonous enemy-the enemy of humanity, right and justice. Blessed be the arms that carry out deeds and the revolutionary brains that conceive of deeds and plan them. We shall be victorious.
She described her feelings during the hijacking:
It was a momentous second in my life when I put my fingers on the trigger and ordered the enemy to obey my command. All my life I dreamt of carrying arms to aim at the enemy-that vengeful enemy who raped our land and has expropriated our homes without compensation.
The "enemy" here are the innocent passengers going to Israel from Rome.

THE PRINCIPAL FUNCTIONS OF EVERY MEMBER IN THE Popular Front are politically orientated military activities, the spreading of revolutionary propaganda and fund-raising. While these functions are often closely associated, none the less each comrade specialises in the area to which his or her talents are best suited.
No moral distinction between armed terror and the propaganda that the PFLP is so skilled at nowadays, hiding in "human rights" NGOs.

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Vic Rosenthal's weekly column

This morning (Wednesday) Israel’s Health Ministry announced that in the past 24 hours there were 6,861 new cases of Covid-19 detected in 59,169 tests, an 11.5% positive ratio. This ratio has been steadily increasing, which is an indication of the explosive spread of the disease.

This is the worst ever for Israel, which has had the greatest average number of new cases per day per million population in the world for several weeks now. The Health Ministry’s “point man” on Corona, Dr. Ronni Gamzu, predicted that within a week the number of serious cases that require hospitalization will exceed the capacity of the system. When that happens, the system will stretch a bit. One hospital converted a parking garage into a Corona facility in a remarkably short time; the IDF is setting up field hospitals. But if the numbers continue to increase, soon there will be no more flexibility. Doctors will have to decide whom to treat and whom not. People will die who could have been saved.

Last week Israel began a second partial lockdown. Its effect will not be felt for another week, but it’s doubtful – based on the various loopholes left in it for political reasons and a general lack of observance of the rules – that it will be enough to reduce the spread of the disease significantly.

There is a lack of good information available about how to reduce the number of infections, but it seems clear that crowds are bad, crowds indoors are worse, and masks – if properly worn – help, especially if both the infectious person and the one at risk wear them. It also seems that the amount of virus that a person picks up can affect whether they will be infected and how seriously; so the amount of time spent in a dangerous situation is important.

The strategy (as it appears today) of the Health Ministry is to apply restrictions to reduce the daily number of new cases to the point that it will be possible to track the contacts of each infected person, test them, and quarantine anyone who is positive or who has had direct contact with someone who tests positive. That is called “breaking the chain of infection.” But that can only happen if the number of new cases is manageable. Once that is achieved, it should be possible to gradually release the restrictions and return the society to normal without causing a new spike in infections. Estimates of how low it must go vary widely, between 100 and 1000 new cases per day.

The objective in applying restrictions is to restrict those behaviors that facilitate the spread of the virus as much as possible, while doing the smallest possible damage to the economy. And here we run into the problems of politics and attitudes.

Yesterday and today the “Corona Cabinet” – a committee of government ministers from relevant ministries – has been discussing the tightening of restrictions that will be needed. One of the biggest conflicts concerns two activities which involve large crowds, including numerous people without masks who do not observe “social distancing,” and which have zero impact on the economy. It would seem obvious that these would be the first to be restricted.

But the activities we are talking about are the weekly raucous, theatrical, and sometimes obscene demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, and his home in Caesarea; and the coming synagogue services on Yom Kippur.

The Left believes that there is nothing more sacred than the right to demonstrate. An attempt to shut down or even limit the numbers of demonstrators is met with fury on the street and from opposition politicians. It’s claimed that would “destroy democracy.” The Attorney General, who in Israel is more a functionary of the legal establishment and the Supreme Court than of the government, says that the government would have to get the Knesset to pass a special law if it wants to stop demonstrations.

Observant Jewish Israelis, of course, insist that it is unacceptable to forbid Jewish prayer in a Jewish state. And both sides are right, but they are both wrong in their insistence that they get their way in the face of the fact that both demonstrations and packed synagogues are known to effectively spread the virus.

The tracking mechanism of the Internal Security Service (Shabak) that is being used to track exposure and locate people violating quarantine is ineffective in these cases, since both demonstrators – just for that reason – and synagogue-goers leave their cellphones at home.

The government could not stand against the pressure, so it punted and appointed a “professional” committee to come up with limitations on demonstrations and public prayer that would allow both to continue. Unfortunately, these rules will be broken, because a large segment of each group does not respect any rules that come from the government. The police are outnumbered, and even though they can impose fines, have a hard time enforcing rules – and the more complicated they are, the harder it is.

Much of the Haredi educational system is operating, including schools for children and yeshivot and kollelim for adults, despite the closings decreed in “red zones.” Limits on the number of congregants in synagogues were widely broken during Rosh Hashana. Dozens of anti-Bibi and anti-lockdown protestors set up tables in front of the PM’s residence and had a festive meal. Over the weekend, a large group held what was essentially a beach party, allegedly under the rules permitting “demonstrations.”

In the Arab towns on both sides of the Green Line, the problem has been massive weddings, which sometimes go on for several days with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of participants. Mayors of Israeli Arab towns imposed nighttime curfews, which may have helped, although weddings are then sometimes held during the day.

In anything less than a Chinese-style totalitarian system, laws are upheld primarily by the willingness of citizens to obey them, with enforcement only needed for egregious violators. That mechanism is breaking down in Israel. A recent survey showed that 68% did not trust PM Netanyahu to manage the response to the virus, and 41% did not trust Dr. Gamzu. And Israelis tend to ignore people and rules that they don’t respect.

This is literally a question of life and death, both for Israelis and for their economy. A two-or-three week lockdown is bad enough, but two or three months would be intolerable. Either we get a handle on this epidemic, or we will be facing the choice between economic disaster or hundreds of deaths every day (today there were 31). Or if we are indecisive enough, maybe we’ll get both.

What needs to happen is that the government has to make simple rules, stick to them, and enforce them with severe penalties. No demonstrations, period. Close the synagogues, period. No weddings, period. And the people, Arabs and Jews both, need to follow the rules. In a few weeks, we can break the back of the epidemic, and then return to something closer to normalcy.

Continuing to take two steps forward and three steps back as we’ve been doing will only earn us a bunch of funerals – and no economy, either.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

From Ian:

Ex-Nazi Hunter Seeks US Entry Ban on Top Palestinian Official Teaching at Harvard Over Alleged Terror Incitement
A well-known Palestinian official is facing a potential legal challenge to his current role as an academic at Harvard University.

Saeb Erekat — the veteran chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) — was appointed as Fisher Family Fellow at the Future of Diplomacy Project housed at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs for the 2020-21 academic year.

But one former American government official is seeking to hinder Erekat’s activities, arguing that he is an apologist for terrorism and therefore legally ineligible to enter the US.

In a letter to US Attorney General William Barr, Neal Sher — a former director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Department of Justice, which pursues Nazi war criminals — asserted that there was “an overwhelming amount of publicly available evidence” demonstrating that Erekat had both incited terrorism and used his public position to endorse it.

“Specifically, Erekat is the architect and most visible advocate and apologist for the so called ‘Martyrs Fund,’ a diabolical policy of the PLO which handsomely pays terrorists and surviving ‘martyrs’ families, including those of suicide bombers who were killed during their acts of terror,” Sher charged.

Erekat used “his position of prominence to endorse terrorist activity in a way that undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities,” Sher continued. “Accordingly, he is ineligible to enter the U.S. under Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

The Belfer Center’s website includes Erekat’s appearances on virtual Zoom seminars held for Harvard faculty and students.
Jonathan Spyer: I’m banned from the US for ‘association with a terrorist organization’
My work as a journalist and Middle East analyst has in recent years brought me into the company of members and operatives of various organizations designated as terror groups by a number of countries. These contacts have taken place, however, in the regular course of work as a reporter. In no case were my contacts with these organizations indicative of any sympathy of any kind on my part with their aims and goals. Among the organizations in question are Lebanese Hezbollah, Islamic State, Hamas, Kta’ib Hezbollah, the Badr Organization and a few others.

There is a single exception in my case to this normal and unremarkable pattern in which a journalist or researcher maintains contacts with individuals from organizations of public note for the purpose of information gathering.

The single, partial exception is the Kurdish PKK, or Kurdish Workers Party. Those who are familiar with my writing will be aware that I am a supporter of the Kurdish cause, and regard the struggle of the PKK organization against the Turkish regime to belong to the class of justified insurgencies. This does not mean that I think this organization should be above criticism. Indeed, many of its tactics, especially in the earlier phase of its campaign, deserve I think to be strongly criticized. But I believe the Kurdish national cause to be one of the most unambiguously justified political endeavors currently in existence anywhere in the world. I regard the PKK to be one of a number of organizations in different parts of Kurdistan seeking to advance this cause.

In this regard, it is my view that this organization deserves to be removed from the list of terror organizations maintained by both the US and the European Union, on which it is currently included. My convictions in this regard are strengthened by the nature of the current Turkish regime, which is anti-Semitic and anti-western in its political outlook, and brutal and repressive in its behavior. They are also strengthened by my personal witnessing of the actions of the Kurdish YPG organization in north-east Syria in 2014. On that occasion, the swift response and determined efforts of the YPG against Islamic State forces was instrumental in preventing the genocide of a defenseless population.

None of this, of course, means that I was either engaged in activities on behalf of, or in a serious way ‘associated’ with this organization. It only means that my general sympathies with the Kurdish cause are the only possible explanation I can find for the decision to ban me, apparently permanently and without right of appeal, from the USA. My suspicions are that the decision is the result of the activities at some level of agencies of the Turkish government. The current Turkish regime’s harassment of its critics and of the journalistic profession in general are well documented. Its historic alliance with the US, now largely a matter of form rather than content, presumably affords it an attentive ear among those organs of the American state where such decisions are made.
Ilhan Omar: It’s important to understand how antisemitism is experienced
Many people have gaps in their understanding of what antisemitism is and how it works, according to Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been accused of fomenting antisemitism.

Omar, D-Minnesota, offered her perspective on the antisemitism experience in an interview published Sunday in The New York Times Magazine.

“In the process of writing a few of the op-eds I’ve written on the rise of antisemitism in comparison to the rise of Islamophobia, it has been interesting to see the ways in which so many people create a lens through which they see it,” she said. “It is important, when you are not of that community, to understand the different ways that bigotry shows up.”

Omar apologized last year for a tweet in which she said “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to the Israel lobby’s influence on lawmakers. Critics from both parties condemned the tweets as echoing antisemitic stereotypes about Jews, money and power.

In July, the first-term congresswoman came under fire for a campaign mailer that named three donors, all Jewish, to her Democratic primary opponent.

She told The Times Magazine that “there are a lot of preconceived notions about what thoughts and ideologies I have that have no basis in reality” based on her religion, skin color or gender.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice, died on Rosh Hashanah. What gets lost in the sauce, in all the coverage of the more “Jewy” aspects of RBG’s passing, is the fact that it was also Shabbat, since the first day of Rosh Hashanah this year fell on the Jewish Sabbath. It’s understandable that people give more import, emotionally, to Rosh Hashanah, which, after all, is one of what we call the "High Holidays." But the fact is that Shabbat actually takes precedence over Rosh Hashanah, which is why Orthodox Jews don’t blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah when it coincides with the Jewish Sabbath, because it is forbidden to carry items from place to place on Shabbat. None of this stood in the way, however, of several prominent Jews marking RBG’s death by blowing the shofar on Shabbat Rosh Hashanah.

Rabbi Matt Soffer, of Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, North Carolina, heard the news Bader Ginsburg's death on Friday night. “The news brought me to my knees and I wept,” said Soffer, who determined to find a way to commemorate his icon, who according to the JTA, “had come to represent the liberal American feminist spirit for so many.”

From the JTA:

By the time Soffer signed on for services on Saturday morning, he had resolved to address Ginsburg’s death with his community. He did so by revising not the words he had prepared or the prayers he would lead, but by tweaking a core tradition of the High Holidays: the shofar blasts.

Just as the Supreme Court has nine members, one of the shofar blasts, teruah, has nine short notes. Soffer halted after just eight to symbolize the fact that the court has just lost a member who made it complete and, he said, “to honor the speechlessness of our communal grief.”

Actor Mandy Patinkin, who not so long ago made it onto my Comprehensive List of Antisemitic Celebrities, also blew the shofar, this time to underscore RBG’s deathbed wish, dictated to granddaughter Clara Spera: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Thus it was that Patinkin blew the shofar on MSNBC on Shabbat Rosh Hashanah. “And I want her wish to be heard, so I will blow the shofar for her,” said Patinkin with a lot of put-on pomp and circumstance, blowing a pretend tekiyah gedolah as a sort of dog whistle to Jewish Democrats. “And so now her wish will be heard,” announced the BDS-supporting anti-Trump actor, “and let it be heard throughout the land.”

11-year-old Micah Blay was driven by his mom Dana Marlowe from their home in a Maryland suburb (on Shabbat Rosh Hashanah) to blow the shofar for 250 people outside the Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C., which he said was, “definitely like kind of scary.”

From the JTA:

“[We] were literally dipping ceremonial apples into honey” at the start of the Rosh Hashanah holiday “when my phone started blowing up” with messages.

Marlowe tweeted that she was “devastated” to hear of Ginsburg’s passing and decided immediately to make a pilgrimage to the Supreme Court the following day, the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

“It was shock and heartbreak and I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Micah added that the family was “doing the right thing” in deciding to spend one day of Rosh Hashanah in front of the Supreme Court honoring “a great person” like Ginsburg.

The blowing of the shofar at this time of year calls Jews to repentance. What is repentance? It is being sorry for sinning, and having done something contrary to Torah law, resolving not to do it again.

Everyone has their own way of doing things, honoring the people they admire, and making a point about the things they believe. But I wonder if these people realize how insensitive is this act, the act of blowing a shofar on Shabbat, to their coreligionists, those still faithful to Torah precepts upheld for thousands of years. I wonder how “liberal” it can be to cause so great an offense to the sensibilities of the Orthodox who watch on in dismay at the seeming disregard for God’s Torah without the least little care or concern for their beliefs, and the hurt these actions cause.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a giant by any measure. But it does no credit to RBG, no honor to her Jewishness, to expropriate a religious vessel and to use it in an inappropriate way to mark her passing. My hope in writing this here is not to shame anyone, God forbid, but in hopes that the shofar not be abused this way in future.

Gmar Chatima Tova. May you be inscribed for good.

UPDATE: A reader pointed out that the reason we don't blow the shofar on Shabbat is because it is forbidden to carry the item to the synagogue, similar to the reason we don't use the lulav and etrog on Shabbat Sukkot. The text has been updated to reflect this important correction. 

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  • Wednesday, September 23, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
The ripples from the UAE/Israel accords continue to spread in unmistakable yet unpredictable ways.

The latest example comes from Arab news site Akhbar Alaan, with an article and news report about how nice things were in Iraq before they expelled their Jews.

Despite the passage of 72 years since the expulsion of the Jews from Iraq, the neighborhoods they used to live in are still present, and the residents there still remember them and yearn for periods of coexistence.
The Jews in Iraq were not only living side by side with the Muslims, but they also shared with them all aspects of life. Even in the agricultural field, there was a partnership between the Jews and Muslims of Iraq.

Iraqi citizen Nour Shaker Lilo Jaber al-Abidi al-Baghdadi, who witnessed the presence of Jews in the city of Sulaymaniyah, said that the families in the city had very strong ties with the Jewish community, due to the work of these families in agriculture, since since the entry of the Jews to the Diwaniyah, they were proficient in trade, describing their dealings with the community as "Very good."

Iraqis say the Jewish community was peaceful, well-behaved and kind, and Iraqis still remember it.

For his part, Ghaleb Ibrahim Al-Kaabi, head of the Central Council for Heritage, Culture and Arts, said that the peaceful coexistence that existed between families in Diwaniyah and the Jewish community created very good industry, agriculture and trade, indicating that the Jews used to participate with the city’s residents in social and economic events.

The Jews considered themselves part of the social fabric, as they shared their joys and sorrows with Iraqis from other sects

When the Jews were deported, some wanted to sell their homes to the Muslims, but they refused because of the strong social ties between them as the people of one country, as the homes of the Jews remained open by Muslims who refused to accept the displacement of the Jews

Iraqis are pained today when they see the remaining evidence of the lives of Jews, even though the bulk of it was destroyed or robbed by the pro-Iranian militias.

The Jews of Iraq were subjected to forced displacement in 1948, while their Iraqi nationality was revoked after years, and today they are trying to obtain the nationality of their country, which was revoked from them, but they were not welcomed by the Iraqi governments
I don't know how well the Jews in Iraq were accepted by the 1940s - the Farhud was pretty horrific and couldn't have happened if there wasn't a serious strain of antisemitism. The important thing is that Arab media is suddenly interested in normal relations with Jews, and conditioning their readership to accept normalization with Israel. 

I've seen articles like this in Egyptian media over the years, but I have never seen one like this about Iraq.

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From Ian:

Michael Doran: The Emperor’s New Clothes
When President Donald Trump presided over the signing ceremony for the Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain last week on the South Lawn of the White House, his critics cast the event as a real-life enactment of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in which Trump played a minimal role in a meaningless accord involving two tiny Arab nations that had never made war on the Jewish state. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is indeed an apt analogy, but it was Trump’s critics—not the president—who were shown to be naked.

The Abraham Accords are the most significant development in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the last 25 years. Not only have the Palestinians lost their veto over normalization between Israel and other Arab states, but the entire “Resistance Alliance,” led by Iran, has revealed itself as incapable of placing obstacles in the way of Israel’s integration into the Arab state system. True, the UAE and Bahrain are small powers, but behind them looms Saudi Arabia, which is by far the most influential Arab state. Without Riyadh’s tacit support, the celebration on the White House lawn would never have materialized. If Trump wins the election in November, there is a good chance that Riyadh will normalize relations with Israel—to say nothing of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Morocco, and Sudan, who are also waiting in the wings.

To be sure, the Palestinian seat at the next White House party will likely remain empty, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will simmer away for many years to come. But that is true of many dozens of sectarian and nationalistic conflicts around the world, including those in Spain, Belgium, Italy, and Ukraine—to confine the list only to Europe. No one in the world has a plausible solution to the Palestinian question, and the best diplomatic minds have devoted more time and effort on it than any other question on the planet for reasons that are now beginning to recede into history.

Trump’s diplomacy posited that the best way to manage this conflict was not to blow more hot air into a punctured balloon, but to reduce it to its true geostrategic proportions. Thanks to this strategy, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seems likely in time to become the Eastern Mediterranean equivalent to the Western Sahara conflict: an insoluble but localized dilemma with a specific set of local human costs. The debilitating lock that it has placed on American strategic thinking for decades has been broken. In breaking that lock, Trump has created a process to end the Arab-Israeli conflict—which unlike the local Israeli conflict with the Palestinians, had real geostrategic significance.

It is equally notable that Trump’s masterstroke came by breaking the hold of the Washington foreign policy establishment on the Middle East peacemaking business. In denigrating his accomplishment, the leading lights of American foreign policy have also conveniently erased from memory their unblemished record of outrageously bad predictions. What will happen, former Secretary of State John Kerry was asked in a television interview in 2016, if President Trump would make good on his campaign promise to move the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? “You’d have an explosion,” Kerry answered, “an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region.”
INSS: Seventy Years to UNRWA — Time for Structural and Functional Reforms
The year 2020 marks seventy years since UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), which serves Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, began operation. Since its establishment by virtue of the mandate given to it by the UN General Assembly, UNRWA has not succeeded in bringing about the true rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugees and in reducing their number, which has risen from approximately 700,000 on the eve of the State of Israel’s establishment to over 5.5 million refugees in 2020. The impact of the regional upheaval on the Palestinian refugees, the stagnation of the political process between Israel and the Palestinians, the split in the Palestinian arena, the humanitarian distress in the Gaza Strip, the centrality of the refugee issue in the Palestinian narrative, and the American administration’s 2018 decision to stop funding UNRWA pose even more complex challenges for the agency. In light of the understanding of the need for changing the agency’s modes of operation and adapting them to the challenges of the current reality, and given that all attempts and recommendations to significantly reform the agency’s modes of operation over the years having been thwarted, this memorandum discusses UNRWA’s operational concept and functioning and presents four alternative models of operation, along with a methodology for analyzing the different alternatives.

Click here to download the full Memorandum
New Palestinian curriculum shows no improvements, antisemitism remains
The Palestinian Authority's newly released educational curriculum shows no substantive changes for the better, despite assurances earlier this year that egregious examples of antisemitism and hate education would be eliminated.

An analysis by the new curriculum by IMPACT-se, a research and policy institute that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula through UNESCO-derived standards on peace and tolerance, has found that educational textbooks for use in Palestinian schools throughout the West Bank remain openly antisemitic, encourage violence, and promote jihad and martyrdom.

Some 82% of the books remain unchanged from last year, while 152 modifications were found within the remaining 40 books, according to IMPACT-se's analysis. However, 88% of those adjustments either keep the problematic material intact or amplify it.

In one such modification, a reading comprehension exercise on Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who led the Coastal Road Massacre killing 38 Israelis, was replaced by text on Khalil al Sakakini, a notorious antisemite and Nazi sympathizer. Mughrabi meanwhile remains within the book, having been moved to a different section where she is lauded as the "crown of the nation."

In another, math is still being taught to 4th graders through the example of the number of "martyrs" who died in the intifadas, although this figure has been modified downwards from 2,026 to 1,392.
David Singer: PLO and Hamas should let their citizens emigrate
The PLO’s continuing refusal to negotiate with Israel on President Trump’s Peace Plan - whilst also denouncing the peace treaties signed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain with Israel - sees 'West Bank' and Gazan Arabs remaining captive to accepting these disastrous PLO decisions without any rights to vote or emigrate.

These disenfranchised, beleaguered and long-suffering populations have seen the PLO reject proposals for peace flowing from: 1993 Oslo Accords, 2000 Camp David Summit, 2003 Bush Road Map, Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza 2005 2007 Annapolis Conference, 2014 Kerry negotiations and Trump’s 2020 deal of the century – reportedly endorsed by Qatar.

Financial assistance to improve their miserable lives has been lost – including: $750 million annually from direct American aid $360 million per annum in American aid to UNRWA America terminating its payment of 22% of UNESCO’s annual budget following UNESCO’s admission of the “State of Palestine” as a member contrary to American domestic law and in contravention of UNESCO’s own constitution $28.5 billion that would have flown from international donors at the Manama Conference held on 25/26 June 2019 if the Trump Peace Plan was implemented.

The UAE voiced its support for the Manama Conference and what it hoped would be achieved:

“The UAE supports all international efforts aimed at supporting economic progress and increasing opportunities in the region, and alleviating the suffering of people in the region, particularly our brothers in Palestine... It (the Conference) aims to lift the Palestinian people out of misery and to enable them for a stable and prosperous future,"

Hamas and the PLO violently opposed and boycotted the Manama Conference.
  • Wednesday, September 23, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
By Tomer Ilan

Some of Israel’s opponents justify Palestinian terrorism by claiming that “Palestinians have a legal right to armed struggle”.

Supporters of terrorism often cite Resolution 3314 passed by the UNGA in 1974, adopting the Definition of Aggression Article 7:

Nothing in this Definition, and in particular article 3, could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right and referred to in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination: nor the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and to seek and receive support, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration.

Article 3 however refers to a State attacking and occupying the territory of another State, which is not the case in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Moreover, the resolution does not mention armed struggle, certainly not against civilians of the “occupying” state. Moreover, UN General Assembly resolutions are not binding international law, only UN Security Council resolutions are legally binding.

UN GA Resolution 37/43, dated 3 December 1982 went one step further by reaffirming

“the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

Further, Resolution 37/43 mentions

“the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, sovereignty, independence and return to Palestine and the repeated acts of aggression by Israel against the peoples of the region”.

Supporters of Palestinian terrorism,  including some academics, interpret this as proof that international law permits terrorist attacks by Palestinians against Israelis.

For example, Dr Brendan Ciarán Browne, an Assistant Professor Conflict Resolution at Trinity College Dublin who has defended Bahaa Abu Al-Ata, who was responsible for terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians opined that

“any critical legal scholar truly invested in the cause of Palestine must nurture space in their classroom to evaluate the right of colonised peoples to agitate for self-determination, including through armed struggle as outlined in UN resolution 37/43”.

UN has condemned terrorism

UN Security Council Resolution 1566 adopted unanimously on 8 October 2004, condemned terrorism as a serious threat to peace and strengthened anti-terrorism legislation. It reaffirmed that

“terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to peace and security.”

Further it recalls that:

“criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, and calls upon all States to prevent such acts and, if not prevented, to ensure that such acts are punished by penalties consistent with their grave nature”.

“Terrorism” vs. “armed struggle”

There are many arguments about the definition of terrorism as expressed by the cliché “One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter” which suggests that the question of who is a terrorist, depends entirely on the subjective outlook of the definer. Of course, this is over simplistic.

Oxford Dictionaries defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

As UN SC 1566 clarifies, terrorism intends to provoke a state of terror in the general public and to intimidate a population and often does this by deliberately targeting civilians.

According to Prof. Ganor’s definition, the guerrilla fighter's targets are military ones, while the terrorist deliberately targets civilians. By this definition, a terrorist organization can no longer claim to be 'freedom fighters' because they are fighting for national liberation. Even if its declared ultimate goals are legitimate, an organization that deliberately targets civilians is a terrorist organization.

·         Terrorism is prohibited by a legally binding UN SC resolution, while “armed struggle” is permitted by a non-binding UN GA resolution.

·         Attacks against civilians or violence committed to provoke a state of terror in the general public and to intimidate a population are defined as terrorism.

·         The non-binding UN GA resolution permitting “armed struggle” refers to occupation of one State’s territory by another State, which is not the case in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

ClClearly, the UN does not legitimize terrorism.

Attacks Against Security Forces Combating Terrorism are also Terrorism

Once an organization engages in terrorism against civilians, it can no longer pretend it is a legitimate guerrilla organization that engages in armed struggle against occupation and even its attacks against military targets lose legitimacy and become terrorism as well.

As UN SC 1566 states, it is the right and the duty of States to fight against terrorism. Attacks against security forces while they fight against terrorism, are therefore illegitimate.

When an IDF soldier is attacked while in an operation to arrest terrorists, the attackers become terrorists as well. One such case occurred in 2018 when St.-Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky (HYD), a commando in the elite Israeli counterterrorism Duvdevan unit was killed when a Palestinian dropped a marble slab on his head, while his unit was arresting terrorism suspects in Ramallah. Killing a soldier in such circumstances is murder in the context of aiding and abetting terrorism, not legitimate armed struggle as some, even in the Israeli Left, claim.

The Red Cross has confirmed that Article 2(1)(b) of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism means that the killing of non-combatant members of the armed forces or combatants hors de combat can be considered an act of terrorism, provided that it is done with the requisite intent, even if the act occurs during an armed conflict. The killing of military personnel outside the context of an armed conflict also could be considered a terrorist act under this provision, if done with the requisite intent, regardless of the means employed.

Not only is terrorism immoral, it is also specifically prohibited in international law. It is utterly shameful for academics and journalists to support terrorism and falsely claim that it is legally permitted.

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