Monday, July 06, 2015

From Ian:

Michael Oren’s Assault on the Liberal Narrative on Israel
The last six years of Israeli-American relations have been characterized by both a deepening security partnership and—at the same time—acrimonious, occasionally personal, and often public disagreements on political issues.
A prevailing orthodoxy has emerged to explain this, one that creates very little dissonance for Americans whose views are basically liberal and not explicitly anti-Israel. The orthodoxy holds that the tensions between Washington and Jerusalem are the fault of an Israeli government that prioritizes settlements over peace and interferes in domestic American politics in an attempt to sabotage a diplomatic opening with Iran. The explanation for this is found in Israel’s “increasing rightward shift” and the personality of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is an orthodoxy championed by the likes of New Yorker editor David Remnick and assumed implicitly by The New York Times.
This orthodoxy is easy for American liberals to accept, particularly the bulk of American Jewish liberals. It also has a veneer of credibility, as Israel’s government has at times appeared to prefer policies that privilege the settlement enterprise over Israel’s more pressing security needs. At other times, its prime minister has publicly acted in ways that make him seem a bit too close to some of President Obama’s nuttier domestic opponents.
But this is not the entire story or even most of it, and the memoirs of Michael Oren, who was Israel’s ambassador to Washington during the crucial years of 2009-2013, will force a complete rethink of the orthodox narrative.

There is no room for surprise anymore as this administration moves forward with its opening to Iran and its risky gamble on the Iranian nuclear program. Pro-Obama, pro-Israel liberals have lived in a dissonance-free zone as long as they embraced the prevailing orthodoxy of Netanyahu’s malfeasance. Oren’s book does not in any way exonerate Netanyahu from responsibility for allowing the settlement issue to limit Israel’s policy options or from misunderstanding a changing American domestic political landscape. But no serious reader from the camp that Oren is trying to address can close this book and still be free of that dissonance.
If that dissonance sparks a more robust and honest conversation about U.S.-Israel relations, and in particular about the problems of the last six years, this book will have made an enormous contribution. If it is mistakenly received as an anti-Obama Right-wing screed, embraced by the President’s conservative foes and caricatured and dismissed by everyone else, we will all be poorer for it.
JPost Editorial: Targeting Petrenko
Even before it was announced that Russian-born Kirill Petrenko was appointed to take over in 2018 from Sir Simon Rattle as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Petrenko’s Jewishness became a hot issue in Germany.
The notion that Europe has not rid itself of its ancient hate generates reactions of indignant scorn. The corollary suggestion that European anti-Semitism is not only rearing its ugly head again but actually grows by leaps and bounds is met with near-hysterical righteous resentment.
This is nowhere more so than in Germany – smug and intolerant of reminders of its past. Apart from scant obligatory lip-service from its leaders, the German mainstream is “fed up” with Jewish annoyances. From its point of view, the slate is wiped clean and Germans have no cause to be apologetic in any sense.
No one in the German political hierarchy much bothers anymore to remonstrate against pro-Arab demonstrators who shout “Jews to the gas” (as in an Essen rally last summer, replete with Nazi salutes). This is either blamed on Muslims (who presumably are not bound by the same codes as the rest of society) or on ruffians who are painted as the unrepresentative dregs of society.
But those who chose to target Petrenko’s Jewishness come from the urbane cultural elite, from the refined ranks of those who presumably know better. The Petrenko case exposed the nasty dark underside that belies the spic-and span German façade.
That is particular cause for concern, unsurprising though it is to anyone who follows the changes in German attitudes both to Jews in general and to the Jewish state in particular. The two go together and are indeed inseparable.
The perception of Israel is tinged with precisely the same bigotry as evinced toward individual Jews such as Petrenko.
Orim Shimshon: The Gay Muslim Zionist Experiment
I decided to go to the gay parade with an agenda. Since the mainstream media spreads lies about Israel and hardly mentions the persecution of minorities in the Islamic world particularly gays, I seized the opportunity to take the chance and go with a sign that read “I’m a gay Muslim. Remember two things. Islamic world = no gay rights. Israel = 100% gay rights.” Needless to say, I was a little nervous about the presence of the police. However the highlight was the wonderful response I got from most by passersby and attendees – with the exception of few hypocritical anti-Israel bigots who took issues with my Israeli flag.
The Gay Muslim Zionist Experiment

Who Censored the Six-Day War?
On January 26 of this year, the New York Times ran a prominent article by its Jerusalem correspondent Jodi Rudoren about a new Israeli documentary then premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. According to Rudoren’s lengthy report, the film, Censored Voices, was an attention-grabbing exposé about the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Six-Day War, as told in conversations with soldiers conducted immediately after the war itself.
Censored Voices is likely to make as big a splash as The Gatekeepers, the 2012 documentary featuring six former heads of Israel’s secret-service agency—if not a bigger splash. And for the same reason: it stars Israelis indicting their own country for falling short of high standards in the conduct of war. And the film encourages the conclusion that the allegations about misconduct must be true, because the Israeli authorities censored the original interviews—in fact, they consigned fully 70 percent of them to oblivion.
Viewers, beware.

In fact, as I have shown, the claim detracts from the credibility of the film. The voices in Censored Voices weren’t censored, they were heavily redacted, and by the very man, Avraham Shapira, whom Mor Loushy warmly embraced on the stage at the Tel Aviv premiere. “If those voices had been published in 1967,” Loushy told the New York Times, “maybe our reality here would be different.” That’s an open question. But she has deliberately deflected her complaint onto the wrong party.
Behind this deception lurks the really interesting back story of Soldiers’ Talk. Muki Tzur, another of the book’s editors, has recalled that in 1967, “the country still had the aspect of an underground society that kept its secrets, believing in the value of self-censorship.” Once upon a time, Israel’s intellectual elites, even on the left, still felt enough public responsibility to restrain themselves. Now their successors are busy elves in a cottage industry catering to the world’s critics of Israel—doubters, defamers, delegitimizers. It’s not only that they broadcast unsubstantiated claims and strip away all context. They also go on to spew bogus accusations of “silencing” and “censoring”—to create the impression that the state of Israel is engaged in the massive cover-up of crimes.
Censored Voices, beginning with its title, fabricates such an accusation right out of the gate. Its theatrical rollout in the United States will qualify it to be considered for an Oscar nomination in the documentary feature category.
Audiences, on guard. Academy, beware.
Report: Netanyahu Phoned Indian PM Modi the Night Before India Abstained From UN Vote
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a phone call from his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, the night before India abstained from voting at the U.N. Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution condemning alleged Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip, Indian media reported this weekend.
According to The Hindu, diplomatic sources confirmed that Netanyahu had called his Indian counterpart on Thursday to persuade Modi to reject the U.N. resolution, which passed by a large majority of 41 votes in favor on Friday.
India was one of five countries to abstain from the vote — the others were Ethiopia, Kenya, Macedonia and Paraguay. The U.S. was the only country to vote no.
Netanyahu apparently spoke to Modi about anti-Israel bias at the UNHRC, which has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world’s countries combined. He explained to Modi that the 33-page U.N. report equated Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip such as Hamas.
According to Indian media, the abstention marked the first time Asia’s largest democracy voted against a pro-Palestinian resolution at the U.N. — the resolution was written by the Palestinians and Arab states and ignored the alleged Hamas war crimes indicated in the report.
The Middle East Studies Mess: Causes and Consequences
Pundits and politicians whose introduction to the Middle East comes from Middle Eastern studies programs in Australian or United States universities might be surprised by the current shape of the region. After all, after preaching for decades that Israel and perhaps the United States were at the root of regional problems, it now is evident that Israel is the only truly stable oasis in the greater Middle East and North Africa.
To understand how narrow and polemical academic conventional wisdom about the region has become, look no further than Australian National University Professor Amin Saikal. Throughout his career, he has at times appeared to internalise regional conspiracy theories.
In a 2004 Sydney Morning-Herald op-ed, for example, Saikal embraced the fringe, antisemitic conspiracy theory that a small cabal of neoconservatives hijacked American policy. While he was unreservedly critical of the US-led invasion of Iraq, his real animus appeared to be American support for Israel in its existential struggle against rejectionist Arab states and terrorist groups like Hamas, whose charter openly endorses genocide.
He was not alone. In the aftermath of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, the (now late) Macquarie University professor Andrew Vincent was unapologetic in his and the Australian academic community's pro-Hezbollah orientation. He also whitewashed al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents as merely "local opposition." Cultural equivalence and moral inversion became academic manna for a generation of Macquarie students.
Today, Vincent is memorialised in an annual lecture bearing his name. Fittingly, it has become a celebration of conspiracy, hate, and self-flagellation. In 2011, for example, former Australian diplomat Ross Burns gave the address and lamented "the Leon Uris narrative" of Israel's founding and the failure of Australia to advocate fully for the Palestinian perspective. Indeed, even against the backdrop of Arab Spring protests toppling dictators across the region, Burns saved his real animus for Israel, the region's only democracy and an issue irrelevant to the street battles playing out in Arab capitals from Tripoli to Manama. Syrian refugees seeking medical treatment inside Israel would be hard-pressed to see Israel, rather than dictators like Bashar al-Assad, as the region's original sin.
An Open Letter to Human Rights Groups: You Can Stop Innocent Deaths in Lebanon
To all those institutions who claim to defend Human Rights:
There is a mass slaughter about to erupt in southern Lebanon, and you can stop it. In recent weeks, Hezbollah has moved its arsenal of advanced weapons, including Burkan rockets with half-ton warheads, ballistic missiles, supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, and other state-of-the-art arms, from their former hiding places into villages and homes.
The reason for this transfer is clear – they plan to use the people of southern Lebanon as human shields in a future war with Israel. This tactic, this war crime, is spreading across the Middle East. Have you asked yourselves why this is happening now?
In last year’s war with Hamas, Israel introduced its new Iron Dome system to intercept incoming Hamas rockets and protect its own civilians. The Iron Dome also allowed Israel to pinpoint the location of incoming rockets so that Israeli retaliations would limit civilian casualties in Gaza. And when Israel did attack, it issued thousands upon thousands of warnings, urging Gazan civilians to leave targeted areas.
While Israel went above and beyond to save lives, Hamas took the opposite approach: it celebrated martyrdom, actively sought it, frequently proclaimed, “we desire death like you desire life,” and went to great lengths to maximize civilian death on both sides. Hamas intentionally fired into population centers, and also martyred its own people by firing from hospitals and schools. Noted political commentator David P. Goldman explained that this was perhaps the first time in recorded history in which one side deliberately sacrificed its own people to gain sympathy. That strategy worked. Hamas wagered that you and the mainstream media would never call them on it, and you didn’t, and that was precisely why it worked.
US Expert: Hamas, not Israel, Killed Boys on Beach in Gaza War
One of the incidents most widely disseminated as "proof" of Israeli war crimes during its defensive Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last year was the deaths of four Arab youths on a Gaza beachfront used exclusively by Hamas terrorists. Foreign journalists reported as fact that Israeli war planes had bombed a beachfront, killing four youths – and the incident was highlighted in the recent UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry.
The Commission's report blamed Israel for failing "to take all feasible measures to avoid or at least minimize incidental harm to civilians," questioned the "urgency" of the attack in the first place, and blamed Israel for prematurely closing its investigation into the incident after having found no fault in IDF actions.
At the time, Israel's "defense" was that incidents of this nature were to be attributed to the Hamas practice of "acting from places where the maximum civilians would be harmed," in the words of a National Security Studies Institute researcher cited in the report.
However, it now appears that Israel need not take any approach to defend its actions - as the children on the beach were apparently killed not by its forces, but by Hamas itself.
The evidence for such has been gathered by a US-based weapons expert named Thomas Wictor. After conducting a forensic analysis of what happened on the day, pieced together using Hamas propaganda footage, film from various international TV networks, and photographs, Wictor has concluded that the boys killed on the beach were murdered by Hamas in a “Pallywood-style” propaganda stunt.
The evidence may or may not give pause to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has been planning to present the incident to the International Criminal Court as evidence of alleged Israeli “war crimes.”
UK officials didn’t probe suicide bomber’s Israel visit, lawmaker says
Officials probing a terrorist thought to have been behind a wave of suicide bombings in London in 2005 did not look into a trip he took to Israel in 2003, just weeks before a pair of British suicide bombers targeted a popular Tel Aviv bar, British media reported Monday.
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz MP said he intends to ask Home Secretary Theresa May to explain why that part of Mohammed Sidique Khan’s past was ignored and will look into whether further steps should be taken, according to a Sky News report.
Khan and three others struck London 10 years ago — on July 7, 2005 — killing 48 people and injuring over 700. Khan, considered the leader of the group, blew himself up on a London underground train, killing seven people.
Investigators found Khan had visited Israel for one day in 2003, crossing into the Jewish state from Jordan as part of a trip to the region that included a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Two weeks later UK citizens Asif Hanif from Hounslow and Omar Sharif from Derby became Britain’s first suicide bombers when they launched a coordinated attack on the popular Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv, April 30, 2003.
Pro-Palestinian Activists Only Respect the U.N. When It Suits Them
Nor is the Gaza blockade the worst example. Far more egregious is the way pro-Palestinian activists – and indeed, every country in the world except Israel – simply ignores U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, despite it being hands-down the most frequently cited resolution relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
That resolution was deliberately worded to allow Israel to retain some of the territory it captured in 1967. This isn’t mere speculation; the American and British ambassadors to the U.N. at the time, who drafted the resolution, both said explicitly that this was the purpose of its wording. And as legal expert Eugene Kontorovich noted in a terrific analysis in December, the same conclusion emerges from a comparison of 242 to 18 other U.N. resolutions demanding territorial withdrawals. He discovered that 242’s demand for a withdrawal from unspecified “territories,” rather than from “the territories” or “all the territories” or “the whole territory” or to the status quo ante, is unique. And this reinforces the conclusion that the drafters indeed intended to allow Israel to retain some of the territory rather than ceding it all.
Yet today, both America and Britain – along with the entire rest of the world – simply ignore this resolution and insist that Israel must retreat to the pre-1967 lines.
To be clear, I would have no problem with ignoring the U.N. altogether; it’s an organization dominated by dictators that no self-respecting democracy should legitimize, so a principled refusal to honor any of its decisions would be eminently understandable. I’d also have no problem with a position rooted in genuine international law, which is that U.N. decisions are binding and enforceable only when adopted by the U.N. Security Council under Chapter VII. That’s what’s actually written in the U.N. Charter, and what U.N. member states agreed to when they signed the charter, and therefore, no state ever made a legal commitment to obey any other U.N. decision.
But pro-Palestinian activists selectively treat U.N. decisions that favor their cause as “binding international law” while simply ignoring decisions that don’t favor their cause. And that position makes a travesty of the most fundamental principle of any kind of law: that it must apply equally to all parties in all cases, regardless of whether it helps or hurts a particular cause.
Thus, anyone who claims to support international law should be the first to denounce this abuse of U.N. decisions. And the fact that so many self-proclaimed advocates of international law instead lend tacit support to this travesty is precisely why no self-respecting person should accept their interpretation of anything.
Rowan Dean: Wall up against Waters’ stance on Israel
I’ve decided to boycott Pink Floyd.
I will sanction The Dark Side of the Moon and divest myself of The Wall . It’s all part of my Boycott Divest and Sanction (BDS) Roger Waters campaign.
Which is heartbreaking, because I love Pink Floyd.
And I’ll really miss them.
But all my Floyd CDs have to go.
My campaign is in protest against the fact that Waters is chief spokesman of the hideously anti-Semitic Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
This is the same sinister campaign beloved of the Greens who make it their business to intimidate Jewish businesses (such as Max Brenner chocolate shops) and even a Jewish theatre, on the pretence of supporting the Palestinian “struggle”.
The same mob who savaged Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson for doing ads for SodaStream, an Israeli company which used to have a factory in the West Bank but was forced to close it, at the cost of thousands of Palestinian jobs.
Why all this Christian anti-Israel Hatred?
The dramatic situation has been perfectly described by Rabbi Haïm Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France, who called for a reaction of fraternal solidarity in the face of hatred against Christians, and established a comparison with the destruction of Eastern Jewry:
“Where are the Jewish communities which once lived in Aleppo, Beirut, Alexandria, Cairo and Tripoli? Where are the schools of Nehardea and Pumbedita in Iraq? And where is the flourishing Judaism of Esfahan and Tehran? In our memory alone. Expelled, killed, decimated, persecuted and exiled, Eastern Christians are now personally experiencing the same experiences of the Jews who once lived in those places”.
Christianity is dying in Syria and Iraq. Christian churches are demolished, Christian crosses are burned and replaced with flags of the Islamic State, Christian houses are destroyed, entire Christian communities are displaced, Christian children are massacred, and everything is done in plain sight. Islamists proclaim on a daily basis that they will not stop until Christianity is wiped off the face of the earth.
So are the world Christian bodies denouncing the Islamic forces for the ethnic cleansing, genocide and historic demographic-religious revolution their brethen is suffering? No. Christians these days are busy targeting the Israeli Jews.
Britain's Political Extremists
In the wake of Britain's general election, candidates with ties to anti-Semitic extremists and terror groups are standing for important political positions.
In May, George Galloway declared that he was vying to become Mayor of London. Those concerned with Galloway's work with the Syrian and Iranian regimes expressed dismay at the news.
Now, a month later, the Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn is running for leadership of Britain's Labour Party, with the support of George Galloway.
In 2010, Britain's media watchdog, OFCOM, censured Galloway and Corbyn, after Corbyn appeared on Galloway's television program -- broadcast by the Iranian regime's channel, Press TV. OFCOM ruled that Galloway's description of Israel as a "terrorist gangster...miscreant, law breaking, rogue, war launching, occupying state," and Corbyn's call for economic sanctions against the world's only Jewish state, "did not show due impartiality."
Galloway has long been able to rely on Corbyn for support in the House of Commons. In 2013, Galloway tabled a motion to commemorate the death of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, which was seconded by Corbyn.
Corbyn's views, however, amount to far more than mere anti-Israel hysteria and a fondness for South American dictators.
How academic efforts to boycott Israel harm our students
In March 2014, I and my co-teacher stood with 27 Vassar College students at the sparkling Auja Spring in the parched West Bank of the Palestinian territories. We listened attentively as environmental educators from the Auja Eco Center and a Palestinian graduate student from Al-Quds University explained the Auja village’s dependency on this sole water source. Sadly, this learning experience almost didn’t happen. My colleague and I were nearly prevented from embarking on the trip by opposition from a surprising source: the faculty and students of our own academic institution.
I am a tenured geology professor at Vassar , an elite liberal-arts school . I research, teach and write about the complex and intimate connections between land and water resources and social justice. For the study trip I led to Israel and the Palestinian territories, I created a syllabus designed to explore difficult issues and engage diverse perspectives that was vetted by Vassar’s faculty and administration. I have successfully led numerous similar trips to locations such as the Appalachian Mountains and the Mojave Desert. My modest goals for such trips are to impart knowledge and share experiences with my students that can be realized only by traveling to the regions we are examining. In studying arid regions without seeing the situation with their own eyes, it is difficult for students from places where water is relatively abundant to think about solutions to the problems that occur when local residents must share a meager supply.
Several months before my trip, the American Studies Association voted to support an academic boycott of Israel, a position that several faculty members at my college also held. Apparently, my course and the study trip associated with it were subject to the boycott, and the trip became a flash point for the boycott, divestment and sanctions — BDS, for short — debate on campus. Protesters bearing anti-Israel signs stood chanting outside my classroom; students were pressured by their peers to drop the course. My integrity was attacked in a standing-room-only forum at Vassar’s campus center led by pro-BDS faculty members. The stress affected my health, and my faith in longtime colleagues and the college administration was shaken. If not for the support of my family and reluctance to yield to such tactics, I very well might have backed out of the trip. And I and my students would have missed out on an educational opportunity of a lifetime.
Don’t Lose any Sleep Over United Church of Christ Divestment
Although one cannot deny that this turn of events is a victory for the movement to boycott Israel, I doubt it is a significant one. First, as Jonathan Rynhold has explained in his recent The Arab-Israeli Conflict in American Political Culture, hostility toward Israel is a great mainline Protestant tradition. Henry Van Dusen, no fringe figure he, was more provocative than but not unrepresentative of elite mainline opinion when he described Israel’s actions in the Six Day Way as “the most violent, ruthless (and successful) aggression since Hitler’s blitzkrieg across Western Europe in the summer of 1940, aiming not at victory but at annihilation.”
Second, as the reference to mainline “elite” opinion is meant to suggest, there is no reason to think that the actions of the delegates, any more than the divestment actions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) last year, represent the opinion of mainline rank and file. An April 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of white mainline Protestants sympathized with Israel more than the Palestinians, compared to just 11 percent who sympathized more with the Palestinians. That is not much different from the U.S. average. Similarly, although the delegates at the Synod plainly think that even the Obama administration is not hostile enough to Israel, the poll finds that a plurality of white mainline Protestants (42 percent) think the Obama administration’s level of support is right. Twenty-four percent think President Obama supports the Palestinians too much and only 7 percent think he supports Israel too much. Again, this is hardly different from all Americans polled. A February 2015 poll, also conducted by Pew, found that 43 percent of white mainline Protestants held a favorable view of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared to 24 percent who held an unfavorable opinion. That’s slightly better than Netanyahu fared with the U.S. adult population overall. In short, mainline leadership appears far, indeed, from mainline non-elites on Israel.
Third and finally, the UCC is small and getting smaller, presently accounting for four-tenths of one percent of the adult U.S. population. Between 2000 and 2010, the UCC lost over 300,000 members, an astronomical loss for a group that, in fall 2014, put its membership at less than a million. Of those who remain, 67% are 50 or over.
No one should be losing any sleep over this.
Hey @UnitedChurch – BDS duped you, and here’s the proof (#OurKairosMoment)
The United Church of Christ recently passed a resolution adopting part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) platform.
The resolution purported to demand divestment from the “occupation,” but in fact a late amendment broadened it substantially to include virtually every Israeli company, as I explained in my prior analysis. (Another resolution, declaring Israeli guilty of the Crime of Apartheid, had a split vote short of the 2/3 needed for passage.)
Throughout the committee-level and annual meeting debate and presentations about divestment, aligning UCC with BDS was repeatedly stressed as part of a peaceful process of ending the conflict.
The anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace played a central role in Jew-washing the nature of the BDS movement, allowing BDS supporters at UCC to say – hey, look, there are Jews who support what we are doing.
If UCC’s delegates and leadership thought aligning UCC with BDS was a move towards peace, it was severely duped. Here’s a perfect example of how BDS is against peaceful reconciliation.
The United Nations and the fall
Like most Israelis, I believe the casualties, on both sides, were the result of Hamas aggression and could have been prevented had Hamas not launched some 5,000 rockets on Israel or had abided by cease-fire agreements.
Dropping all pretense of impartiality, a joint delegation of the International Federation of Journalists and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, composed of IFJ President Jim Boumelha, PJS President Abdalnasser Najjar and Vice President Naser Abubaker, took part in the debate on the report in Geneva.
The IFJ and PJS joint statement claimed that Palestinian journalists and media premises were deliberately targeted by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge, resulting, according to their figures, in the deaths of 19 journalists and “over 350 injured.”
The accusations were the last straw for Haim Shibi, a board member (as am I) of the Jerusalem Association of Journalists, who wrote an op-ed asking, rhetorically, whether Boumelha had contacted Israeli journalists or officials before taking the side of Hamas and accepting its casualty figures.
Boumelha, who has refused the JAJ’s offers to set up a hotline and other moves to professionally assist the Palestinian media, is also behind the effort to oust Israel from the IFJ (using the pretext of an argument over owed membership fees). “Now, alongside the Palestinians, the Mediterranean branch of the IFJ includes such luminaries of human rights – and press freedom in particular – as Iran, Iraq and Yemen. Israel’s out,” wrote Shibi, adding that as long as Boumelha heads the organization, that’s not a bad thing. (On a positive note, Shibi points out that at a recent meeting of the European Federation of Journalists that he attended a motion condemning Israel was rejected.) I DON’T want to give too much credit to the “flotilla” that set sail from Sweden to save Gaza. Among the passengers was former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, who obviously has a lot of spare time and very strange priorities if his primary concern today is what’s going on in Gaza.
BBC’s Knell exploits royal christening for political messaging
Among the articles appearing in the ‘Magazine’ section of the BBC News website as well as in the ‘Features’ section of the site’s Middle East page on July 4th was one written by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell which ostensibly tells readers about the source of the water to be used at the baptism of Princess Charlotte.
Unsurprisingly, Knell uses the opportunity presented by the upcoming royal christening to promote some decidedly partisan political messaging in her piece titled “The special water flown in for Princess Charlotte“, once again calling the BBC’s impartiality into question.
Readers are told that:
“Nowadays nearly half-a-million annual visitors, mostly Christian pilgrims, flock to rival baptism sites on opposite banks of the river a few miles north of the Dead Sea – one side is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the other in Jordan.”
And, in an insert sub-headed “Naming the site”:
“Qasr al-Yahud, from the Arabic “Castle of the Jews” is the official name used by the Israeli authorities for the baptism site they run in the occupied West Bank near Jericho. This is the traditional site where Jesus’s baptism is said to have taken place and the most popular spot for pilgrims.
Palestinians traditionally call the same baptism site on their occupied land in the Jordan Valley, al-Maghtas.”

Qasr al Yahud is situated in the Jordan Rift Valley and, under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed willingly by the recognized representatives of the Palestinian people, it is located in Area C. Like the rest of the places in what is currently defined as Area C, its permanent status has yet to be determined in final status negotiations.
Who Knows How to Correct? Al Jazeera or The Jerusalem Post?
On Friday, an article in a second Middle Eastern media outlet falsely claimed that a Saudi prince launched an unprecedented peace-making initiative vis-à-vis Israel including plans for a groundbreaking visit to the Jewish state.
When editors learned this was a hoax, did they publish a retraction and apologize, as had the first media outlet? No. Instead, without notifying readers of any change, editors replaced the original article with a different article headlined: "False online rumors suggest Saudi prince to visit Israel."
The replacement article began:
In an apparent hoax, unsubstantiated reports claimed Thursday that Saudi Arabian prince and wealthy media tycoon Talal Bin Waleed was planning a seven-day-trip to the Jewish State.
At no point did the media outlet in question acknowledge that it itself was one of the purveyors of the hoax. Furthermore, within a few hours, editors today ultimately pulled that article as well, so that those who return to that url receive an error message.
When is a mass arrest of Palestinians not news in the UK? When they’re arrested by the PA
Yet, all four publications have thus far failed to report on a mass roundup of Hamas members in the West Bank launched by Palestinian Authority security forces since Thursday. The arrests have been reported by other major news sites, including the The New York Times.
According to Times of Israel journalist Avi Issacharoff, PA forces “have arrested 240 Palestinians, searched more than 800 locations and raided ten Hamas-run institutions”. Those arrested by the PA have included Muslim clerics, former prisoners and members of Hamas’s student body at al-Najah National University in Nablus.
Associated Press reported that the latest PA roundup of suspected Hamas members late Thursday night represented “the biggest mass arrest in one night since 2007″.
The arrests have reportedly been motivated by recent terror attacks in the West Bank, as well as the increasing realization by PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the large Hamas infrastructure in Nablus and other cities threatens his rule.
Additionally, “human rights” groups who were quick to label the Israeli operation in the West Bank last year a form of “collective punishment” have thus far been silent on the large-scale security operation by the PA.
A joint press release by Israeli, Palestinian and international NGO’s on June 22, 2014, called on the IDF to “refrain from collectively punishing the civilian Palestinian population”, a military operation it claimed was causing “disproportionate harm to the basic rights of Palestinians”.
Will ex-BBC Gunness tell the Frontline Club how he got a BBC article rewritten?
On July 29th the Frontline Club in London will hold the event described below.
So who is scheduled to be on that “panel of journalists”? At the moment it appears to consist of two people.
Readers considering attending the event and seeking advance insight into what they might hear from the generously portrayed Mr [Max] Blumenthal can find information collated by our colleagues at UK Media Watch here and at CAMERA here. A particularly useful research paper on Blumenthal’s book ‘Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel’ by Petra Marquardt-Bigman can be found here.
Those participating in the event might of course take the opportunity to ask Chris Gunness about his apparent role in instigating the politically motivated rewrite of the August 8th 2014 BBC article titled “Caution needed with Gaza casualty figures“. Licence fee payers in the audience and further afield would, after all, probably be very interested to learn about the potential for outside influence on BBC editorial decisions.
When the BBC proclaimed imminent peace in the Middle East
An article which appeared in the print version of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot on June 30th opens with the following anecdote:
“In June 1999 the heads of the BBC invited Guy Spiegelman, one of the journalists at its Israel office, for a talk. ‘We are making cuts in personnel’ they told Spiegelman, who quickly understood the hint. Before going on his way, he asked his British editors about the reasoning behind staff cuts in one of the most vibrant news areas in the world. The answer surprised even him: the peace which would soon dawn between Israel and the Palestinians following Ehud Barak’s election as prime minister. ‘It was a little weird, but I assumed they knew what they were talking about’ he says.” [translation BBC Watch]
As events later proved, they obviously did not…
California Rabbi Calls on Amazon to Cease Selling Books on Holocaust Denial
A Sacramento rabbi has called on Amazon to ban the sale of books promoting Holocaust denial, CBS Sacramento reported on Friday.
“Blatant anti-Semitism,” said Sacramento Rabbi Mendy Cohen, according to the report. “To deny the Holocaust is another mask of blatant anti-Semitism.”
Among the books for sale to Amazon customers are titles such as Did Six Million Die? The Truth at Last and The Myth of the Extermination of the Jews. The latter title is only available for Amazon’s Kindle device.
The company joined Sears, Walmart and other major American retailers in banning items with the Confederate flag last week, supporting efforts nationwide following the deadly church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina last month that left nine worshipers dead.
But Amazon has come under fire by Jewish groups for continuing to sell items with Nazi symbols and Holocaust denial. Additionally, Hamas pendants and flags remain available on the retail site.
Jews Are Fleeing Russia Because Of Putin
Just a year ago, Russian journalist Vladimir Yakovlev was one of Moscow's most influential media figures.
Today, he lives a quiet life in Tel Aviv and has swapped his Russian passport for an Israeli one.
Yakovlev, the founder of the respected Kommersant publishing house and the Snob magazine, belongs to a new wave of disillusioned Russian Jews deserting their country for the relative stability of Israel.
"The big problem with Russia, and the main reason why I left, is the fact that our value system was destroyed," he says. "Life in Russia has turned into Russian roulette. Every morning you turn the roulette wheel, you never know what is going to happen to you."
Spooked by Russia's actions in Ukraine and by the increasingly stringent punishments for anyone deemed critical of the Kremlin, Russians of Jewish descent have been fleeing in droves over the past 18 months.
Spanish law 'welcomes' back descendants of expelled Jews
Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala, on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, met with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and President Reuven Rivlin, and made time to talk with Israel Hayom about the Spanish parliament's historic move in passing a bill allowing descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 to obtain Spanish citizenship.
"Spain has been a pluralistic, open and democratic country for over 40 years," Catala said. "But it also acknowledges its worse periods, and there is no doubt that one of those was the unjust expulsion of the Jews at the end of the 15th century. It was a great loss in terms of people, history, culture and economics. This law opens the door to all the descendants of those who were expelled."
Paris to Build 'European Center for Judaism'
The city of Paris, capital of anti-Semitism-plagued France, will construct an $11 million "European Center for Judaism" by the year 2017. So announced Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Joel Mergui, President of the Jewish Consistoire. The Consistoire is the body responsible for providing French Jewry with religious services.
"I wouldn’t want us to leave for the summer vacation and close this especially tragic year for France and for the Jewish community without being able to provide a note of hope,” Mergui announced, according to a report by European Jewish Press.
The new European Center for Judaism will be built in the 17th district of the French capital, where a large Jewish community has developed in recent years. Intended to serve as both an academic center and a cultural institution, the Center will have a synagogue, conference halls, exposition space and offices.
Is this the radical new alternative to Botox?
A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University and Harvard Medical School has devised a noninvasive technique that harnesses pulsed electric fields to stimulate new skin tissue.
The novel technique, utilizing microsecond-pulsed, high-voltage, non-thermal electric fields, produces rejuvenated skin without scars and may revolutionize the treatment of aging skin and degenerative skin diseases.
“Pulsed electrical field technology has many advantages, which have already proved effective — for example, in food preservation, tumor removal and wound disinfection,” said bioengineering expert Alexander Golberg, who led the study on behalf of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Studies.
“Our new application may jumpstart the secretion of new collagen and capillaries in problematic skin areas,” Golberg continued. “Considering that, in the modern era of aging populations and climate change, degenerative skin diseases affect one in three adults over the age of 60, this has the potential to be a healthcare game-changer.”
Better than Botox
It is estimated that Americans spend some $10 billion a year on products and surgery to rejuvenate aging skin, but most solutions are temporary. Botulinum toxins, such as Botox, smooth lines and wrinkles when injected, but do not provide a permanent answer to sagging skin. Moreover, the toxin carries many risks, some neurological.
RideWith carpooling pilot tests market in Israel
No more crowd-surfing on Facebook asking your friends and their friends for a ride to or from work: Waze navigation app is launching a carpooling pilot program that will connect commuters to a ride going their way.
The Google-owned Israel-based mapping company has chosen Israel to test its new project. According to Haaretz, Google “chose to launch the ridesharing pilot in Tel Aviv because of the widespread use of Waze in Israel.”
“We’re conducting a small, private beta test in the greater Tel Aviv area for a carpool concept, but we have nothing further to announce at this time,” Waze told Reuters.
According to reports, the new program will match riders and drivers going the same way. Riders will pay a small fee for the drive to and from work.
Tel Aviv hosts hottest wearable tech and IoT conference
Over 30 Israeli and international wearable tech and IoT startups are participating in a contest at Israel’s first major global IoT conference — the Wearable Tech & IoT Israel in Tel Aviv.
The July 8th Gizworld-organized event will focus on how wearables are evolving and becoming an integral part of day-to-day life.
The speakers’ lineup includes Myriam Joire, Tech Advisor, Former Chief Evangelist at Pebble, and Senior Mobile Editor at Engadget; Julien Blin, Managing Director, Gizworld; Daniel Brusilovsky, Digital Initiatives Lead, Golden State Warriors (NBA); as well as other pioneers, thinkers and investors from entertainment, health, sports, fashion and IoT.
The event will also have panels on robotics, AR/VR, connected cars, and smart cities.
Among the companies taking part in the startup contest: Israel’s Engie connected car device tracking app, sensor fitness band Angel Sensor, PERLIS health monitoring system for the elderly, smart toy maker Seebo GoVivoGo‘s bracelet to keep kids active via gamification platform and Pulse Play tracking app for tennis players, among many others. International companies taking part in the contest include South Africa’s Polymorph software developer for mobile and wearables; ‘Meet & Explore’ app WatchMe88 from Singapore; and UK smart watch for kids, HereO.
Top economic aide: With right policies, Israel avoided Greece’s fate
Is there a lesson for Israel in the Greek tragedy playing out in Athens? There is, according to outgoing National Economic Council Chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel.
“Long-term fiscal credibility is a critical component for any economy,” Kandel told ministers at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Over the past decade especially, he said, Israel has been a model of fiscal stability, as it has cut its public sector, reduced debt, and — most importantly — encouraged foreign investments.
Many of those foreign investors have been the multinational corporations that have helped make Israel a world tech center. Currently, about 300 large international corporations have R&D centers in Israel, pumping billions of dollars a year into the country’s economy.
One company alone — Intel — is responsible for no less than approximately 30,000 jobs, according to numbers from the company, which have been confirmed by government statistics agencies.
At the meeting, Kandel outlined the progress Israel has made over the past 30 years, and especially the last decade. In 1985, inflation was running at over 500% a year, and Israel was mired in debt. By cutting the public sector, devaluating the shekel, and opening up the economy to foreign investors, policymakers laid the foundation for Israel’s current prosperity — which is evident, according to Kandel, when comparing the Greek and Israeli economies in recent years.
According to World Bank data, GDP per capita in 2004 was higher in Greece — $25,837 — than it was in Israel, at $21,796. However, the Greek GDP per capita has not grown in the past decade, while Israel’s GDP per capita has risen by approximately 50% to $32,691 (in 2015 dollars).
Pat Condell: How to insult a "progressive" (h/t Cliff)
[A great bit about Israel and BDS at 3:15]

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