Thursday, September 24, 2015

From Ian:

The BDS Movement’s Very Bad Month
The one saving grace about anti-Semites is that, contrary to Barack Obama’s famous claim, they generally are irrational and, therefore, they often overreach. The anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement has been doing exactly that recently. In the past month alone, it has suffered three resounding and damaging failures.
The first, of course, was its “success” in pressuring a Spanish reggae festival to disinvite American Jewish singer Matisyahu unless he issued a statement backing a Palestinian state. Matisyahu, to his credit, didn’t merely refuse; he also made sure the world knew why he wouldn’t be appearing as scheduled. The subsequent public outcry not only made the festival hurriedly backtrack and reinstate Matisyahu in his original slot, but also exposed the truth of the BDS movement’s anti-Semitism, which it has long tried to hide. After all, Matisyahu isn’t Israeli; he was asked to issue that statement, alone of all the artists at the festival, simply because he was Jewish.
Next came last week’s decision to boycott Israel by the mighty municipality of Reykjavik (population about 120,000). Having naively expected applause for this display of moral indignation, the municipality was stunned to be met instead by an outpouring of condemnation, including from Iceland’s own prime minister, and quickly reversed course. But the damage, as Haaretz journalist Asher Schechter lamented, was already done: Reykjavik had provided further proof that the BDS movement, contrary to the widespread belief that it merely targets “the occupation,” is simply anti-Israel.
Then there’s my personal favorite, which occurred this week: the BDS protest against a Pharrell Williams concert in South Africa. When I first read about the planned protest, I couldn’t believe BDS was serious. A black American singer goes to South Africa to perform for black South Africans, and BDS wants to ruin the audience’s fun? Just because Williams’ corporate sponsor is a Jewish-owned retailer (Woolworths) that already boycotts produce from “the occupied territories”? But BDS evidently couldn’t see how bad this looked. It rashly promised some 40,000 demonstrators, “the largest protest event in South African history against any musician or artist.” And it wound up with a measly 500, as many South Africans suddenly discovered that BDS might not be their best guide to international morality. (h/t messy57)
Israel is an insignificant country
I woke up this morning and I suddenly realized that Israel was an insignificant country.
Watching the heart-breaking images of the Syrian refugees in Europe, it dawned on me that Israel had absolutely nothing to do with it. In terms of cause and effect, it had no role whatsoever in creating the problem. Indeed, Israel had no responsibility for the civil war taking place in Syria.
If Israel had not existed, the civil war in Syria and the consequent refugee problem besetting Europe at present would have occurred anyway.
Glancing more widely into the region, I then became aware that in terms of cause and effect, Israel was not the motive of the cruel and destabilizing events that have occurred in the Middle East in the last four years.
I became despondent as I realized that the emergence of the Islamic State had nothing to do with Israel; that if Israel had not existed, al-Qaida and the Islamic State would nevertheless have emerged and wreaked havoc in the region.
Further, I then understood that the civil war in Libya, prior and subsequent to Muammar Gaddafi’s fall, would have taken place no matter what Israel did or said.
Turning eastward, I saw the light as I realized that the evolution of the political landscape in Egypt would not have changed a bit if Israel had not existed. (h/t L_King)
Time to Dismantle the UN Human Rights Council
Like it or not, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a big flop. It does not care a fig for what it is supposed to do: promote and protect human rights in general, and freedom of association, assembly, expression, belief and religion, sexual preference and women's rights and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities in particular.
The past record of the UNHRC shows it has overlooked rights violations in a large part of the world in general and the Middle East in particular. The UNHRC has notoriously been obsessed with inventing rights violations by Israel, the Middle East's only democracy, where women and minorities -- the most oppressed sections in most of the nations in the world -- enjoy equality in law and practice both. Since March 2006, when the UN General Assembly brought the UNHRC into existence, it has condemned Israel 61 times, compared to just 55 condemnations of all other nations in the world combined.
How many times has the UNHRC condemned states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, which oppress their own citizens -- women and minorities in particular -- and inspire many states to follow them?
What makes the UNHRC ignore such rights violations? The answer is simple: most of the member states of the Council are themselves the worst violators of the rights of their own citizens, and they are trying to save each other through a conspiracy of corruption.



Time to delegitimize the UN
It was recently publicized that Saudi Arabia has been elected to chair the U.N. Human Rights Council panel in charge of appointing independent experts. According to the U.N. Watch independent monitoring group, Saudi Arabia was chosen to head the Consultative Group, a five-member group of ambassadors that has the power to select applicants from around the world for more than 77 positions dealing with human rights mandates. These include positions such as the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women and experts for working groups on the issues of discrimination against women and the rights of migrants and religious minorities.
One does not quite know whether to laugh or cry at the appointment of one of the worst human rights offenders in the world to head the selection of such experts. Indeed, Michael Moller, director-general of the United Nations Office at Geneva, does look a little bit uneasy in the photo taken of him, as he shakes the hand of the Saudi ambassador to Geneva, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, at his appointment. It must have been difficult for this Danish-born diplomat, hailing from a Scandinavian country so intensely committed to the pursuit of justice and human rights, to hide a grimace. After all, he was appointing the ambassador of a country where public beheadings are not the actions of criminals or terrorist organization like Islamic State, but a regular working feature of the legal system, which is modeled according to Shariah law. Perhaps the thought of petrodollars made the handshake easier.
Saudi Arabia was first elected to the Human Rights Council in 2013, without any protests from the U.S. and the European Union.
The appointment of Saudi Arabia to head this important U.N. Human Rights Council panel displays, once more, how deeply corrupt and truly meaningless the U.N. system and the U.N. Human Rights Council in particular are in practice. What does it say about the Human Rights Council that it appoints a country that regularly beheads dozens of its own citizens, as well as several of the 9 million foreign workers who constitute over half the workforce and frequently work in slave-like conditions for their Saudi Arabian masters?
Anger after Saudi Arabia 'chosen to head key UN human rights panel'
The United Nations is coming under fire for handing Saudi Arabia a key human rights role even though the Kingdom has “arguably the worst record in the world” on freedoms for women, minorities and dissidents.
Critics, including the wife of imprisoned pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi – sentenced to 1000 lashes for blogging about free speech – say that the appointment is “scandalous” and means that “oil trumps human rights”.
Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who is leading an international campaign to free her husband, said on Facebook that handing the role to Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was effectively “a green light to start flogging [him] again”.
UN Watch, an independent campaigning NGO, has discovered that Mr Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, has been elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council.
Saudi Arabia pledged $1 million to UNHRC before winning seat
Saudi Arabia pledged $1 million to the UN human rights office before it won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in November 2013, paving the way for its chairmanship — just announced by the UN last week on September 17th — of the influential UNHRC committee that interiews and shortlists candidates to become UN human rights investigators.
JPost Editorial: Chilling boycott
Icelanders know nothing of our troubles, but feel sanctimoniously authorized to impose sanctions against us. Their claim is that we oppress Palestinians – but that’s a transparent trumped-up pretext where malevolent slander expunges the truth. Doubtless, few in the Icelandic capital can even pretend to back their bias with solid facts rather than rank propaganda.
Theirs is a pretentious pose born of ambition to impress themselves and others with their professed righteousness. It speaks volumes that a far-flung mini-country like Iceland would feel impelled to gang up on the Jewish state in concert with European powers – those driven by realpolitik cynicism and subliminal needs to ostensibly clean up their blood-stained history of persecution and genocide.
Hate spreads to where we wouldn’t expect it to sink roots and all for the sake of basking in the supposed aura of enlightenment.
Of course, in real terms the joke was on the Reykjavik city councilors, who may have been unaware of the fact that there are negligible Israeli exports to their distant jurisdiction, much less exports from the so-called occupied territories.
Icelanders likely are blissfully oblivious to such basics, to say nothing about more intellectually challenging aspects of our enduring Israeli endeavors to keep ourselves alive in a vast sea teeming with primal hate. Like Iceland, we too are an island – but of a very different sort.
Controversial speaker canceled at Pitt security symposium
Last spring, when organizers were booking speakers for the inaugural National Security Symposium today at the University of Pittsburgh, the first name on the list was Norman Finkelstein, a Jewish-American academic, son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israeli policy.
“I was the very first outside speaker invited,” said Mr. Finkelstein, a prolific and controversial author with a doctorate from Princeton University who was banned from visiting Israel in 2008 over trips to Lebanon and meetings with Hezbollah operatives, which resulted in several published articles, the Haaretz newspaper reported at the time.
However, Mr. Finkelstein was informed last week that his invitation to speak had been revoked.
According to a statement by Kenyon R. Bonner, Pitt’s interim vice provost and dean of students, the decision was “made independently by the student organizing committee that had invited him to speak at their event,” not the university administration.
“The University of Pittsburgh respects its students’ right to speak, write or print freely on any subject and to sponsor speakers of their choice, in accordance with the guarantees of our federal and state constitutions,” Mr. Bonner said.
In an interview, Mr. Finkelstein said he was told by Luke Peterson, a visiting professor at Pitt who is moderating the symposium, that the university had refused to sign off on his contract because of concerns over his views.
Chicago News Station Apologizes for Displaying Nazi Yellow Star During Yom Kippur Segment
A local television network in Chicago, WGN, used a stock image of the yellow Star of David — the patch the Nazis forced the Jews to wear on their clothing during the Holocaust — as the graphic accompanying a story about the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur this week.
The symbol was used during the Holocaust as a way to distinguish and dehumanize Jews.
Viewers were quick to react, with one Chicago lawyer tweeting, “Holy crap, @WGNNews, this is your stock photo for a Jewish holiday?? Nobody thought that’s a bad choice of photo?”
The station was also quick to apologize, tweeting less than 30 minutes later, “We are truly sorry for inadvertently using an offensive image in our story. We apologize and deeply regret the error.”
While some viewers were unsatisfied with the apology, others blamed the education system for failing to teach “young people” about the Holocaust and its symbols.
One viewer was not satisfied with the station’s response, tweeting, “I think you owe more than an apology for the Yom Kippur ‘mistake’ last night. You owe an explanation. How and why did it happen.” Another viewer said, “I think web kids truly have no
Sissi frees 2 Al-Jazeera journalists
The wife of a pardoned Canadian journalist for Al-Jazeera English said Wednesday he and his colleague have been released from prison.
Marwa Omara, wife of Mohamed Fahmy, told The Associated Press that her husband and his colleague, Egyptian national Baher Mohammed, were freed on Wednesday following a pardon from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The two journalists were arrested in December 2013, and the long-running case has been widely condemned by rights groups and international organizations.
They were among a group of 100 people pardoned by el-Sissi on the eve of the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The pardon also comes a day before the Egyptian leader is to travel to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Anti-Semitic 9/11 truther resigns from Greek government
A junior minister in the new Greek government stepped down less than 24 hours after being appointed as outrage erupted Wednesday over anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks attributed to him in the past.
Dimitris Kammenos, a lawmaker from the nationalist Independent Greeks party who had been named junior infrastructure minister, sparked uproar earlier this year by comparing the EU to Auschwitz.
He is also accused of peddling an anti-Semitic conspiracy theories claiming that 2,500 Jews employed in New York’s World Trade Center “skipped work” on the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Kammenos had been one of five members of the right-wing party named to the government by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which was also the junior party in his last administration.
French Artist Forced to Cover Up Anti-Semitic Graffiti
British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor has covered anti-Semitic graffiti on a controversial sculpture that was vandalized in France with gold leaf - but only just.
Dabs of white paint could still be seen Wednesday at the edges of the gold leaf placed on the massive, funnel-like sculpture at the Palace of Versailles, which has been dubbed the "queen's vagina" for its sexual overtones.
In an interview with the artnet website, Kapoor said the choice to leave bits of the graffiti visible was deliberate.
"I have to transform it. Unraveling, finding an answer to a crime of hate and turn it into something else."
The 60-meter (200-foot) long, 10-meter high structure, officially called "Dirty Corner", was first vandalized in June and then cleaned.
Then two weeks ago it was covered in white paint with phrases such as "SS blood sacrifice" and "the second rape of the nation by deviant Jewish activism".
Kapoor, 61, wanted the graffiti to remain to bear witness to hatred, and France's culture ministry said it was his choice.
Dachau building shelters refugees, homeless
An annex of the former Nazi concentration camp Dachau has been turned into a shelter for the homeless, including refugees, the mayor of the southern German town and a resident at the center said Tuesday.
The town — host to the camp which bears the chilling inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Will Set You Free) on its gate — has turned a building in the camp’s former herb garden into a shelter.
It houses “about 50 people… who have lost their homes”, Mayor Florian Hartmann said in a statement, without specifying whether these included any recent refugees.
Hartmann said his town had suffered from a severe housing shortage for some time, and authorities had to find ways of housing the homeless.
The building “serves as accommodation for people who cannot afford housing on the (open) market,” he stressed.
“These are the weakest members of society. This building has been burdened by history but can now take on a useful social role.”
NDP candidate Alex Johnstone 'didn't know what Auschwitz was'
A Hamilton school trustee running in the federal election for the New Democrats has apologized for making a crude reference related to Auschwitz, reportedly saying she had no idea that it was a notorious Nazi death camp.
In a Facebook note, Alex Johnstone conceded she should not have made her remarks.
"Attention was recently drawn to a comment I posted on social media seven years ago," Johnstone said. "While never intending any malice, this comment was clearly inappropriate. I would like to offer my unreserved apology."
The controversial remarks surfaced via the satirical web-based publication The True North Times which said it had been delving into Johnstone to get a better feel for how the "NDP candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas" speaks when the cameras aren't rolling.
The publication turned up a Facebook posting from April 2008 featuring a friend's photograph of part of the electrified fence and its curved, concrete supports at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
"Ahhh, the infamous Pollish (sic), phallic, hydro posts," Johnstone commented underneath. "Of course you took pictures of this! It expresses how the curve is normal, natural, and healthy right!"
In an interview with the Hamilton Spectator, she claimed ignorance. "Well, I didn't know what Auschwitz was, or I didn't up until today," she told the newspaper late Tuesday.
New Organization Aims to Help Jews Bolster Their Self-Defense
A new self-defense organization has been founded in the Jewish community Sadly, this type of group is necessary during the times of turbulence that Jews are facing worldwide.
Called “The Legion,” it is the brainchild of the creators of the activist organization Fuel for Truth, and it s aim is to provide self-defense and counter-terrorism training to New Yorkers.
At a recent presentation I attended, the charismatic and enthusiastic founder of Fuel for Truth and The Legion, Jon Loew, explained the need for this new group: “Many members of the Jewish community are feeling physically vulnerable for the first time in their lives, and we are responding to that. We are teaching Jews basic self-defense training.”
Since its founding in 2001, Fuel for Truth has been highly regarded for its achievements in the Israel-advocacy space, educating young Americans on what has been happening in the Middle East.
Last week’s first public event for The Legion drew more than 200 people. It opened with a rousing speech by Master Sergeant Terry Schappert (U.S. Army Special Forces), a Green Beret and host of several popular TV shows about military training. Schappert (who isn’t Jewish) stated clearly: “My fellow Christians don’t believe you will stand up and protect yourselves. Prove them wrong.”
Exclusive: Israel accepted to G8 panel on social investment
Israel on Tuesday was accepted as a full member of the Global Steering Group on Impact Investments, a part of the Social Investments task force of the G8.
The task force, which Prime Minister David Cameron established while leading the G8 forum of leading industrial countries in 2013, was first limited to just the G8 member countries, but has since added Australia and, this week, Mexico, Brazil, India, Portugal and Israel.
Impact Investing refers to the use of financial tools and products to further social causes, such as advancing health objectives or reducing homelessness, while also generating some level of financial return.
“I’m very proud of Israel’s acceptance as member of the steering committee,” said Sir Ronald Cohen, the Egyptian-born British businessman and political figure who heads the task force.
As first reported in The Jerusalem Post, Israel made its first appearance before the G8 in December 2013, when a group called Social Finance Israel presented its outline for a diabetes prevention program using Social Impact Bonds. The idea was that investors who buy the bonds would sponsor a program to prevent diabetes, and if the program worked, they would get a higher payoff from the state.
Israel Courts African-American Evangelicals, Despite Some Hurdles
Bishop Edwin Bass first set foot in the Holy Land last month, though he'd sung songs and preached stories of Zion much of his life. Head of the Church of God in Christ's Urban Initiatives program, which helps the church's 12,000 congregations across the U.S. deal with social problems, he called his weeklong sojourn one of the most moving experiences of his life.
"Just to have come and walked in the city of Jerusalem, to put the pieces together and understand the history of it, it's been a great experience."
Bass was part of a 20-member delegation representing the 6.5 million-member Pentecostal church. The visit was paid for by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a charity supporting dozens of social projects in Israel and the Jewish diaspora, as well as Israel's tourism ministry. It was part of a new outreach effort to African-American churches by the interfaith group, which has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Toronto and Seoul.
Fellowship founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein welcomed the visitors to a center in Tel Aviv that assists migrants seeking asylum in Israel, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea.
A New Book Details, Pays Tribute to IDF’s Druze Soldiers
Forty-two years after the Yom Kippur War, a new book tells the story of the members of Israel’s Druze community who fought with the IDF during Israel’s wars, including the Yom Kippur War, Walla reported on Tuesday.
Druze — Brave Fighter, Proud Israeli, by Eitan Kfir and Dani Dor, which just hit the stores in Israel, is an account of the serious military contribution of Israel’s Druze to the defense of the Jewish state since its establishment — including the fact that 405 Druze soldiers have been killed in combat so far.
Israeli Druze are subject to the same compulsory military service as their Jewish counterparts. Until recently, they have served primarily in the IDF’s elite Gdud Herev (Sword Battalion), comprised exclusively of Druze.
The growing trend among young Druze to join other elite units left Herev understaffed, which led to its disbandment this summer, and to the integration of Druze soldiers into the rest of the army.
According to IDF statistics, 83% of Druze boys serve in the army, the highest percentage among all Israeli communities, including Jews.
Meet the Last Jews of Cairo
The last Jews of Cairo sit on wooden pews. Under the domed ceiling of the Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in downtown Cairo, the seven mostly elderly women gather on Sept. 13 for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. One attends the service in a wheelchair.
It is a humid Cairo evening in early September and clothes cling to bodies. The women fan their faces with paper programs. The Muslim call to prayer drifts in through the windows, along with the sound of gridlocked traffic. From the ceiling hung a huge chandelier in the shape of the star of David.
Joining the women are a handful of expatriate Jews, foreign diplomats and non-Jewish friends. The women are all that is left—the last men of the Cairo Jewish community died out or left the country by the 1990s. The community has lacked a rabbi for decades, so a pair of young American volunteers lead the service in a mixture of Arabic, English, and Hebrew.
Magda Haroun, the leader of the Cairo Jewish community, says this could be the last time the Jews of Cairo have an organized service for Rosh Hashanah. “I don’t know if next year we’ll have members of the community, I mean. It doesn’t make sense to be present if you don’t have members,” she says. Aside from Haroun, who is 63, all the remaining Jews of Cairo are women over the age of 80. Four members of the community have died since 2013, she says. Another three remain in Alexandria.
Israelis enjoy dramatic increase in air quality over Yom Kippur
As traffic rolled to a stop for the duration of Yom Kippur, so too did levels of nitrogen oxides – contaminants prominent in vehicular emissions.
Similar to each year, as child bicylcists and pedestrians take over the country's major arteries, Israel's urban centers experienced much more breathable air for the duration of the holiday. The dramatic improvement is indicative of transportation's role as the major source of pollution in cities, the Environmental Protection Ministry said on Wednesday night.
In the Gush Dan region, nitrogen oxide levels decreased to about 50 times lower than those prior to Yom Kippur – from 139 parts per billion to just 2.8 parts per billion, according to the ministry. Jerusalem's nitrogen oxide levels plunged to about 64 times lower than pre-holiday values – from 179 parts billion also to 2.8 parts per billion – while those in Haifa fell to about 82 times lower – from 229 parts per billion to 2.8 parts per billion as well, the ministry said.
Tiny stone seal from King David era found in Temple Mount fill
A rare stone seal believed to date from the 10th century BCE was recently found in rubble removed from the Temple Mount, archaeologists announced.
The artifact was found some time in the past half year by a 10-year-old Russian boy who volunteered for a day at the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which sorts through rubble that was excavated from the contested holy site during the construction of the Marwani mosque in the late 1990s. Only recently, however, was the seal deciphered, the group said.
The seal, carved from brown limestone, features two crudely engraved animals, one atop the other, “perhaps representing a predator and its prey,” Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the co-founder and director of the project, said in a statement Thursday.
While later stone seals with inscriptions have been found in Jerusalem, Barkay said in a phone call with The Times of Israel that it was unique inasmuch as it was the first of its type and from that period found in Jerusalem.


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