Saturday, February 20, 2016

From Ian:

Richard Landes: The Shame of Israel: Panic in a Crooked Mirror
Peter Beinart has written many a piece about the growing split between American Jewish youth and Israel, which he sees as the inevitable cost of Israel’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians, on the one hand, and the long-term effects on liberal sentiments of seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying the Palestinian underdog, on the other. This “youth,” according to Beinart has “imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights.” Studies show Jewish youth “resist anything they see as ‘group think’… want an ‘open and frank’ discussion of Israel and its flaws… and desperately want peace.”
To these folks, raised on bedrock values, every effort of Jews to defend Israel by criticizing the Palestinians offends their sense of fairness: blaming the victim is not a winning strategy. Beinart asserts:
For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead. Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral.”
Given a choice between Zionism and liberalism, American Jewish youth choose the latter.
For Beinart, at least, the case is pretty open and shut. Israeli political choices are illiberal, bad, and her politicians act in bad faith. The split between American Jews and Zionists, therefore, is inevitable. Beinart has little sympathy to the plaints from Israel that the neighborhood here does not permit such simplistic naïveté. Not much room in this worldview for Palestinian, Arab, contributions for the endlessness of the conflict, for their poisonous hatreds, for their insane religious violence. Don’t blame the [perceived] victim. Look at your own extremists which, you too have. Israel, says Beinart and a generation of Jewish critics of Israel, should act like a liberal, or lose our affections.
To which the obvious response from here is, “Are you kidding me? Do you know what we’re dealing with here?”
To which the apparent response is, “No. And I’m not listening… Nobody’s hearing nothing.”
Haaretz Op-Ed: Abbas Gains More from Conflict than from Peace
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has many compelling reasons not to achieve statehood, which may explain why peace negotiations have failed, Gadi Taub argued in a Haaretz op-ed Thursday.
Taub was prompted to examine why Abbas doesn’t seem to be taking the steps necessary to “liberate his people from Israeli military control and be free to rebuild their national life” after a Palestinian journalist recently asked him, “What makes you think we will let you leave the territories? Who will protect us?”
Taub pointed out that in order to make a peace deal with Israel, Abbas would have to give up the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. But it would be very difficult for Abbas to do that without losing his credibility “after swearing allegiance to this right so many times, and after immortalizing the refugee problem for three generations with the help of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.”
Additionally, if Abbas thought that peace would lead to improved human rights for Palestinians, independence may not be an easy answer: “the Palestinian Preventive Security force isn’t exactly Amnesty International and it isn’t clear it will abuse those rights any less.”
Abbas might prefer to have Israel protecting his rule in the West Bank from a Hamas takeover (as occurred in Gaza in 2007) rather than being forced to fight his own people to maintain control. Abbas is able to declare “that it will never stop the struggle for liberation from Zionist colonialism” while benefiting from Israeli protection. Absent the Israeli presence in the West Bank, PA leaders would lose both the personal security the links with Israel provide, as well as a rallying point to demonstrate their relevance.
Taub also noted that Abbas’ chief concern with ending the Israeli occupation would be the questionable viability of a Palestinian state. A nascent Palestinian state “with institutions that have not been groomed for nation-building and with a shaky economy that’s dependent on others … would not be a particularly safe bet.” The only buffer between a weak Palestinian state and ISIS would be Jordan, which is currently burdened with a huge refugee population.
Finally, accepting responsibility for his own state would end Israeli occupation and the resulting diplomatic and political problems that result from it. The end of occupation would be “a gift” to Israel that “the PA won’t be too happy to give.”
Douglas Murray - Modern Student Political Activists

State Department Condemns Killing of US Citizen at Israeli Supermarket
The U.S. State Department on Friday condemned Palestinian terrorists’ fatal stabbing of a U.S. citizen north of Jerusalem one day earlier.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack that took place yesterday in the West Bank that resulted in the death of U.S. citizen Tuvya Weisman,” the State Department said, adding, “There is no justification for terrorism. This horrific incident again underscores the need for all sides to reject violence, and urgently take steps to restore calm, reduce tensions, and bring an immediate end to the violence.”
Israel Defense Forces Staff Sgt. Tuvya Yanai Weisman, 21, was stabbed by two Palestinian teenage terrorists on Thursday at the Rami Levy supermarket in the Sha’ar Binyamin area north of Jerusalem. Weisman was buried with military honors at Mt. Herzl on Friday.
2 Israeli Border Police Wounded in Stabbing Attack at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate
A Jerusalem man armed with a knife stabbed two members of the Border Police at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday morning, Israel’s Army Radio reported. One of the officers was lightly wounded, and the other sustained more moderate stab wounds.
A security guard in the area shot and killed the assailant. A woman passerby, a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, was lightly wounded by shrapnel in the incident, according to the report, and was treated on the scene.
The two wounded officers were being treated for stab wounds at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the city. Neither officers’ lives were in danger, the hospital announced.
The assailant was later identified as Mohammed Abu Khalaf, a 20-year-old resident of Jerusalem.
At around the same time, mourners were attending the funeral procession for Staff Sgt. Tuvya Weisman, a US citizen who was killed in a similar stabbing attack on Thursday at a popular supermarket chain in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone in the West Bank. The stabbers in that attack were both Palestinians, aged 14.
Abbas’s Fatah declares would-be attacker a ‘heroic martyr’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement declared that a man killed Friday while trying to attack Israeli troops is “a heroic martyr.”
The attacker, named as 20-year-old Raed Hamed, drove his car at soldiers during riots in the village of Silwad, near Ramallah. The troops opened fire on Hamed and killed him. His body was later returned to the PA.
“During a violent riot in Silwad, northeast of Ramallah, an assailant attempted to ram his vehicle into soldiers,” the army said in a statement Friday. “The soldiers responded to the immediate threat and fired towards the assailant, resulting in his death.”
According to Israel Radio, former PA minister and senior Fatah member Fares Kadouri participated in a farewell ceremony at a West Bank hospital after Hamed’s body was returned. His funeral apparently took place on Saturday morning in Silwad, where he lived.
The BBC's Twisted Logic to Explain Why it Describes Jews as Terrorists But Never Palestinians
There are two aspects to that differing terminology, one of which is the use of the word ‘terrorists’ – a term which is never used by the BBC to describe Palestinian attackers. The second difference is the specification of the suspects’ religion – as noted here last August in relation to a BBC radio report which referred to “Jewish terror attacks.”
1) The BBC's description of Jewish detainees in cases such as the murders of three sleeping members of the Dawabshe family in the arson attack in Duma on July 31 2015 as “suspected terrorists” is of course accurate as such wording appropriately reflects the Israeli government’s own classification. However, the Palestinians who murdered five members of the Fogel family as they too slept in 2011 and the people who murdered the parents of the Henkin family in October 2015 and the people who murdered early morning worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014 and the people who murdered Malachi Rosenfeld in June 2015 (in an attack now mentioned in this report but not reported in English by the BBC at the time) are also terrorists.
The trouble is that the BBC does not use the term terrorists to describe them or the perpetrators of countless other attacks against Israelis to its audiences.
2) We do not of course see the comparable term ‘Muslim terror attacks’ used in BBC coverage: the prevailing term is ‘Islamist’ and recognized terror organisations such as Hamas are euphemistically described as “Palestinian militant Islamist groups.
In response to complaints about this apparent double standard, the BBC replied that the Israeli government itself referred to the "Jewish" perpetrators as "terrorists," even though this justification is an apparent contradiction to BBC editorial guidelines on Language when Reporting Terrorism.
How to make people rethink their view on Israel
Gerald Ostrov, CEO of the Rethink Israel Initiative, on Monday said that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a “disease” and that its symptoms must be dealt with, but also the “core underlying roots”.
“70% or more of Americans don’t know, don’t care and aren’t interested in Israel,” he said at the gathering of the Conference of Presidents in Jerusalem.
The haters, said Ostrov, “are not the ones we should be focusing on” but rather the 70% who are uninterested in Israel.
“We shouldn’t be talking about Hasbara (public diplomacy). We should be talking about Kesher (connection) - how do we engage these people with Israel in ways that are relevant and important to them?” he continued. “We have to get to people’s hearts.”
Rethink Israel focuses on “food, nature, arts, lifestyle, health, innovation - all the things that distinguish Israel from our adversaries,” explained Ostrov, who encouraged the use of social media to get the message across as young people today get most of their information from social media.
So where are the progressives?
While Israeli civilians are been rammed and knifed in the streets of Israel, even within the Green Line, progressive moral equivalence rationalizes terrorism as a desperate plea from a people with no other options, a legitimate form of fighting an “occupation.”
The point here is the progressive hypocrisy that finds fault only with those it considers its ideological enemies.
America is the last refuge for pro-Israel support in the West, and the unchallenged bigotry and hatred for Israel with the goal of destroying the Jewish state needs a loud and vigorous response from not only centrist and conservative Americans, but most importantly from liberal Zionists who are being eclipsed by extreme anti-Israel progressives on college campuses, and within so called “human rights” organizations.
So the question is not where are the progressives, but where are the voices of pro-Israel liberal Zionists? When will far-left progressive voices be challenged, and when will there be a demand for accountability for their selective moralism?
 BDS activist to represent Holocaust survivors at Austrian state event
Hedy Epstein has likened Israel to Nazi Germany and participated in attempts to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip
Austria invited Hedy Epstein, a Jewish pro-Palestinian activist whom the Anti-Defamation League criticized for demonizing Israel, to represent Holocaust survivors at a panel discussion about women during World War II.
In invitations sent out Friday by the office of the president of the Austrian parliament, Epstein, who has likened Israel to Nazi Germany, was described as a peace and human rights activist. She is the only Jewish guest slated to speak at the event, scheduled to take place March 8.
The ADL in 2005 listed statements made by Epstein, who was born in Germany and spent most of World War II in Britain, first among examples of anti-Israel campus activism that “would meet both the United States government’s and [Natan] Sharansky’s definitions of anti-Semitism.” The ADL statement was in response to a lecture given by Epstein in 2004 at Stanford University, in which she compared the Nazi treatment of Jews to Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Report: Anti-Israel campus activists shifting strategies, facing internal divisions
Anti-Israel campus groups in the United States are shifting their tactics, replacing BDS resolutions with “theatrics and disruptive tactics,” according to a report by a Jewish watchdog group.
In its “Fall 2015 Campus Trends” report, released Friday, the Israel on Campus Coalition also reports that anti-Israel groups have invested “significant efforts” in strengthening ties with other activist causes on campus, yet the movement overall has faced “considerable divisions.”
While the number of anti-Israel events has dropped since the previous fall, when Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip “triggered an unusually high number,” more such events are enjoying co-sponsorship from “groups unrelated to Israel, reflecting the impact of coalition-building” among anti-Israel activists, according the report.
Meanwhile, the report found an increase in pro-Israel activities on campus.
“Disruptive tactics” observed in the report include “staging dramatic protests” at pro-Israel events and at campus lectures by Israeli speakers. In some of these incidents, the national Students for Justice in Palestine group filmed protests and then published “altered videos that generated vicious attacks against campus supporters of Israel,” the report said.
According to the report, anti-Israel student activists are divided over the efficacy of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, the Syrian civil war and “other geopolitical issues.”
Did Rockefeller Money Pay For An Expensive Anti-Israel Campaign?
When Israel’s detractors openly promote anti-Israel messages, many often fall into the trap of focusing solely on the particular antics and claims used in the attacks. While the false and discriminatory rhetoric of anti-peace BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) groups should be forcefully refuted, there is often significant funding that enables the campaigns.
The recent phony New York Times stunt demonstrates the importance of following the money trail.
On February 2, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an anti-Israel organization that seeks to “drive a wedge” in the Jewish community over support for the Jewish State, distributed 10,000 copies of a propaganda pamphlet masquerading as The New York Times. Claiming to be a special edition of the paper, the publication featured “articles” praising BDS and blaming Israel for the latest round of Palestinian terrorism over the past four months.
The high production value of the lookalike—described by the Times as “deliberately designed to trade on our name and mislead users”—should direct focus towards those that provided the funds required to make such a stunt possible. Aside from the cost of printing thousands of copies of the multi-page fake, JVP and its partners devoted resources towards launching a faux Times website and Twitter account to accompany the handouts.
UCC Missionary Promotes Hostility Toward Israel For Lent
For most Christians, Lent is a time of introspection, fasting and repentance. But for Rev. Loren McGrail, a pastor in the United Church of Christ working in Jerusalem, the forty days before Easter are an opportunity to use her position at the YWCA in Jerusalem to broadcast anti-Israel propaganda to fellow Christians in the United States.
McGrail, a UCC pastor whose work is supported by Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as well as the Church of Scotland, serves as a communications officer for the YWCA office that operates out of Jerusalem, which is part of a chapter that calls itself “The National YWCA of Palestine.”
This chapter of the YWCA works to promote the welfare of women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (by, for example, educating Palestinians about the evils of honor killings, which are on the rise in Palestinian society).
It also broadcasts anti-Israel propaganda to Western audiences.
The most recent example of this tendency is “Breaking Down the Wall: Lenten Reflections,” a document posted on the website of the YWCA's office on February 9, 2016. This document is comprised of five chapters which can either be used to pray and meditate during the five weeks of Lent or during a particular day of the Holy Week leading up to the Resurrection (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter). Each chapter includes a poem, or reflection, an article on the Arab-Israeli conflict and “Questions for Reflection.”
Harvard Law School Disputes ‘Justice for Palestine’ Account of Controversy Over Donor Funding
A Harvard Law School Dean today denied an anti-Israel student group’s account of a recent funding controversy at the school, The Algemeiner has learned.
Justice For Palestine (JFP) claimed in a letter published Tuesday that a major donor’s recent decision to repurpose previously pledged funds was due to an explicitly stated desire not to back JFP activities. Not so, Dean Martha Minow told The Algemeiner on Thursday, directly rejecting this and other of the group’s claims.
The controversy began last Oct. 20, when JFP sponsored a program called “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack.” To provide refreshments for the attendees, the group drew on funds donated by international corporate law firm Milbank, earmarked to support student activities at Harvard Law School. Per Milbank’s conditions, JFP acknowledged the firm’s support in promotional material for the event.
Palestinians Reject Oscar Awards Swag Bags (satire)
Attempts by director Mike Leigh to encourage Oscar nominees to hand over their gift bags to Palestinians has been met with wide spread disinterest across the region.
Local man Andrew James commented; “Apparently Mr. Leigh is upset that it includes a luxury trip to Israel. I guess I could get worked up about that, but I’m too busy worrying how I’m gonna explain to my wife why I have a bag that includes something called a ‘Vampire Breast Lift’ and a sex toy. And as this was the one meant for Cate Blanchett, it’s not even a sex toy I want to use.”
Israeli travel commentator Yuval Cohen said, “Apparently it’s a government funded trip, so it won’t even be a good one. Two days trolling around the Golan Heights explaining how we can never give this up for security reasons followed by a bus tour of the ‘Holy Land’ really isn’t gonna cut it for most Hollywood stars. Like most normal people all they really want to do is get wasted in Tel Aviv night clubs.”
Palestinian film critic Ahmed al-Masri added, “I think we should all just concentrate on the issues that actually matter at this year’s event. Is someone gonna finally give DiCaprio a f*cking Oscar or what?”
Ted Nugent to Join Pink Floyd Following Anti-Semitic Facebook Post (satire)
Former Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters has announced that he will go on tour with rocker and gun fanatic Ted Nugent, with Waters saying that Nugent’s newfound anti-Semitism more than makes up for his lack of musical talent. Waters’ announcement comes two weeks after Nugent shared an anti-Semitic picture on Facebook, claiming Jews were responsible for gun control in America and suggesting that Jews who favored gun control were “Nazis in disguise.”
“I am pleased to announce that Pink Floyd will be reuniting, with Ted replacing Nick Mason, Richard Wright, Syd Barrett, and David Gilmour,” Waters, now an avid anti-Israel activist, announced in a press release. “While I’m not a fan of Mr. Nugent’s music and could care less about gun control, anyone who compares Jews to Nazis is okay in my book.”
Nugent, who is known more for his criticism of President Obama than his musical career, said he was honored to be joining Waters on tour. He also promised to refrain from saying anything blatantly racist during the tour.
“While I’m not anti-Semitic, Roger has asked that I channel all my bigotry towards the Jews,” Nugent told The Mideast Beast. “I feel like it’s the least I could do for Roger.”
Is Facebook officially recognizing the Palestinian Nakba?
Is Facebook making a political statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by citing the name of an Arab village that existed in modern-day Tel Aviv before 1948?
An Israeli Facebook user wondered the same thing this week when she posted a notice indicating that the social network has appended the name “Al Mas’Udiya” to Tel Aviv whenever she wanted to indicate her location.
Oare Gat’s post went viral quickly, generating nearly 800 likes and hundreds of shares in just two days.
“Without categorizing myself, I’m considered a left-winger, but what is this I see and nobody is commenting on this?” she wrote.
“Facebook, as it usually does, offers us the option of tagging pictures with the location of where they were taken. I see that whenever I want to tag something as Tel Aviv, I also get the option ‘Al Mas-Udiya, Tel Aviv, Israel’.”
“After checking on Google, I realized that Facebook changed its policy and has added ‘Al Mas-Udiya’ to Tel Aviv because that was the name of the Arab village that existed here in the 1930s and 40s,” she wrote.
HR Publishes “Red Lines” E-Book to Empower Media Audiences
HonestReporting is proud to publish its comprehensive guide for empowering news audiences: “Red Lines: The Eight Categories of Media Bias.”
For the first time ever we have brought together detailed knowledge about how news monitoring works, in a way that is understandable and easily usable. Red Lines brings behind the scenes know-how to grassroots communities. By demystifying the ways in which media bias is qualified and quantified, we’re empowering an ever-growing number of news consumers to recognize just how damaging poor news coverage can be, and how powerful their efforts are when they have the tools to respond effectively.
Although HonestReporting focuses primarily on news coverage of Israel, the principles of Red Lines can be applied to all news topics and will be useful to anyone who is passionate about the world we live in.
Red Lines is available for purchase as an e-book for a small fee on Amazon, where you can also see a short preview.
Arab buildings vs Israeli lives: An example of selective media outrage
Here’s the sensational headline which accompanied a Feb 17th article at i100 (The Independent’s BuzzFeed–style website) by Bethan McKernan.
"An Israeli newspaper columnist actually asked whether the country should 'flatten' the whole city of Beirut"
Shocking, isn’t it?!
Well, no, actually.
The Feb. 15th Haaretz op-ed i100 cites, written by Amitai Etzion (an 86-year-old Israeli, who served in the IDF in the late 40s) addresses the challenge presented by a future war with Hezbollah, and how best to neutralize the group’s stockpile of over 100,000 rockets – most of which are hidden within the civilian infrastructure.
Etzion, who’s been living in the US since the 1950s, explores the possibility of using Fuel-Air Explosives (FAE), which reportedly “cause massive explosions and flatten buildings over a large range,” thus destroying most rockets.
However, as even i100 makes clear, such a weapon would only be used after Lebanese civilians had the chance to evacuate the area.
So, whilst i100 found that op-ed, written by someone not associated with the Israeli government, worth publishing, it’s quite telling that neither i100 nor any brand associated with The Independent saw fit to report a threat by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that same week. Based on reports in the Israeli and Lebanese media, Nasrallah boasted that, in a future war with ‘the Zionist entity’, he’d launch a strike on Haifa’s ammonia storage tanks that would kill tens of thousands of Israelis.
Is UK funding Palestinian incitement? MP’s challenge to David Cameron
British taxpayers’ money cannot be used to provide a “blank cheque” to the Palestinian Authority, a Labour MP has said.
Joan Ryan, Labour Friends of Israel chair, said she was “disturbed” that the PA was glorifying terrorists in its schools and that its official television station propagated antisemitism.
She urged David Cameron to launch an independent review of the funding.
Writing to the Prime Minister, Ms Ryan said a cross-party inquiry could determine how the money was being put to use.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DfID) sent £349 million to the Palestinian territories. Around £130m went directly to the PA in a bid to promote wealth-creation, reduce poverty and support its government institutions.
DfID is due to send a further £72m to the territories in 2016 — with £25.5m to the PA — a 15 per cent increase on last year.
Ms Ryan said future funding should be linked “to the immediate cessation of violence”. She wrote: “I do not believe that, for so long as it incites violence against Israel’s citizens, the PA is helping to further Britain’s policy of a two-state solution. Indeed, its actions are making such an outcome far less likely.”
EXCLUSIVE - Ex-Israeli Ambassador: Sidney Blumenthal Email to Hillary a 'Total and Utter Fabrication'
Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, has strongly denied a claim made about him in a recently released email sent to Hillary Clinton by her longtime confidant Sidney Blumenthal.
Blumenthal claimed that Oren stalked the West Wing searching for a former Israeli prime minister who was allegedly visiting the White House behind the Israeli government’s back.
“Total and utter fabrication,” Oren told Breitbart Jerusalem in response to the email in question.
The latest batch of 550 emails released on Saturday by the State Department contains an October 4, 2012 dispatch from Blumenthal passing on to Hillary a third-person claim about Oren that Blumenthal says he heard from his son, Paul, a campaign finance and money-in-politics reporter for the Huffington Post.
The tale was meant to highlight the divisions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud politics and the center-left Labor party. It allegedly involves Oren racing around the West Wing to discover the reason for a purported visit to the White House by Ehud Barak, Israel’s former prime minister and a longtime Labor party leader.
Blumenthal relates that his son had learned from another Huffington Post reporter that Thomas Donilon, Obama’s former National Security Advisor, “heard about Oren’s frantic snooping and raced after him, catching him, and escorted him out.”
Report: Israeli airman Ron Arad was tortured to death in 1988
A Lebanese newspaper claimed Saturday that Israeli navigator Ron Arad, who disappeared when he bailed from his plane over Lebanon in 1986, was tortured to death two years later by a radical Syrian group.
Arad and his pilot Yishai Aviram ejected from their plane over southern Lebanon in October 1986. Aviram was rescued shortly afterwards, but Arad was never found. He is believed by Israel to have been captured by the Shiite Amal movement before being handed over to Iran, and moved from Lebanon to Iran and then back again.
But according to the Daily Star, one of five people recently summoned to a Lebanese military tribunal for suspected contact with Israel told the court that he does know what had happened to the Israeli navigator.
The report stated that one of the defendants, which it identifies only as Moufeed K., claimed that in 1988 he had been an official in the military wing of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party when he was informed that other members of the group had a captive.
USA Today Highlights Terror Tunnels
Writing in USA Today, Shira Rubin (“Israel Fears Tunnel War by Hamas,” Feb. 15, 2016) covers Israeli concerns about Hamas’ tunnel construction.
Rubin notes an Israeli military assessment that Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group which rules the Gaza Strip, is employing 1,000 Gazan diggers to construct a large underground tunnel to sit atop smaller tunnel systems. The purpose of these tunnels is to kidnap and murder Israelis.
Some of the tunnels have electricity and telephone lines, but most do not. The underground passages, Rubin reports, give Hamas “a rare advantage against a vastly superior Israeli military.”
In 2006, the tunnels were used by Hamas to kill two Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers and to kidnap a third, Gilad Shalit. Shalit was held captive for five years before he was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
USA Today quotes Betty Gavri, who lives on Kibbutz Nir Am, where residents can hear Hamas digging underneath them: “This conflict has reached a point where you’re fighting not another army but terrorism, which…makes all public spaces into a battlefield.”
Switzerland to probe alleged offer of diplomatic aid to PLO
Switzerland is looking into whether a former government minister struck a secret deal offering diplomatic assistance to the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1970 in exchange for the Arab group stopping attacks on Swiss targets.
The allegation emerged this year in a book, Swiss Terror Years, which has also raised questions whether a pact between the PLO and Switzerland interfered with an investigation into a bomb attack on a Swissair plane in 1970 that killed 47 people.
No one was ever charged with that bombing.
The foreign ministry said on Friday that a task force including police, justice and military officials would try to answer not only whether neutral Switzerland cut the deal with the PLO in September 1970, but whether the investigation into the Swissair bombing had been thorough.
In his book, Swiss journalist Marcel Gyr wrote that former Foreign Minister Pierre Graber, who died in 2003 at age 94, secretly contacted the PLO after several attacks including the killing of an Israeli airline pilot in 1969 at Zurich airport and a September 1970 incident in which 300 hostages on three jets were forced to land in Jordan.
Erekat backs Marwan Barghouti as next Palestinian president
A top Palestinian official revealed on Saturday that he will support Marwan Barghouti in the next elections for president.
Saeb Erekat, the veteran peace negotiator who recently became secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told a German radio station on Saturday that he intends to back Barghouti, the longtime Fatah leader who is currently serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison for his role in the killing of civilians during the second intifada.
Erekat told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he has no plans to run for the Palestinian Authority presidency, which is currently held by Mahmoud Abbas.
The PLO official said the Palestinians remain committed to a two-state solution, “which is the only option which stands before our people,” though he said that a lack of diplomatic progress towards that goal would compel the Ramallah administration to cease security coordination with Israel.
The issue of Abbas' succession has been widely discussed given the advanced age of the rais.
This Is Not What a “Moderating” Iran Looks Like in the Wake of the Nuclear Deal
For now, Iran’s predicament depressingly resembles the latter years of the tenure of President Mohammed Khatami (a man far more liberal than Rouhani), who saw his attempts to liberalize Iran opposed—and ultimately crushed—by hardliners at every step. But then Khatami had not forced the Supreme Leader to compromise so sharply. The imperative to crush opposition is far stronger now than during the Khatami period.
On February 26, 2016 Iran will hold a round of parliamentary elections, at which point the constellation—and relative power of—political forces inside post-deal Iran will become even clearer. The Guardians Council has already blocked 99 percent of the 3,000 reformist candidates on offer. Since the JCPOA, Iran has not progressed but regressed.
As 2016 dawned Iranian officials were, if anything, even more defiant than in recent months. On January 1 at Friday prayers, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the IRGC’s second-in-command, announced that Iran would expand its missile capabilities. “We don’t have enough space to store our missiles. All our depots and underground facilities are full,” he boasted.
Salami’s statement was pointed and calculated—as everything said at major Friday prayer sermons in Tehran always is. And it was merely the latest rhetorical broadside in what has been the unchanging Iranian message since the JCPOA was unveiled on July 14 last year: The post-deal Islamic Republic is going to be harder to handle. The world had better get used to that.
Leading House Democrat: White House Should Keep Its Promise on New Iran Terror Sanctions
Rep. Ted Deutch (D – Fla.), the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Mideast and North Africa Subcommittee, is seeking to ensure that the administration keeps its pledge to hold Iran responsible for continued terrorism.
Deutch, along with Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D – Mass.), introduced the Zero Tolerance for Terror Act last moth, which would allow Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran if it should engage in terrorism, fund terrorist proxies, or acquire ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The bill has 16 bipartisan co-sponsors. Iran has insisted that it will any new sanctions as a pretext to stop abiding by the nuclear deal. During the congressional debate over whether to approve the deal, the Obama administration insisted that it would still be free to impose non-nuclear sanctions on Iran.
Deutch was asked by the New York Observer on Thursday if he expected the administration to support his bill given its past claims of insisting that it would “hold Iran’s feet to the fire” to ensure compliance with the deal and confront its non-nuclear violations. “I don’t know what the White House’s position will be,” Deutch responded. “They shouldn’t object to it. They’ve said that the Iran deal was never meant to address Iranian terrorism. [This bill] should be consistent with their position.”
Deutch’s bill comes amid a growing perception that the Democrats are weak on national security. A Pew Research poll in December showed that Americans feel that Republicans are better able to address national security issues than Democrats by a margin of 46% to 34%. The same poll found that 62% of Americans are very concerned about Islamic extremism. Rep. Steve Israel (D – N.Y.), former Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, recently observed to Politico that the perception of Democratic weakness on national security was real: “There’s no question that we’ve got to address that issue. There is anxiety about a global threat across the board.”
Doubts Arise Whether White House Will Block Iranian Purchases of Russian Fighter Planes
Although the State Department has said that a proposed arms deal between Russia and Iran would violate a United Nations Security Council ban on weapons transfers to Iran, doubts are emerging whether the Obama administration will actually move to block the deal, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Thursday.
Iran announced earlier this week that it plans to buy $8 billion worth of planes, missiles, helicopters, and other weapons from Moscow.
Critics of the administration’s rapprochement with Iran are skeptical that any action will be taken to stop the sale. “The UN resolution to endorse the flawed Iran nuclear deal actually gives the United States and other members of the Security Council the power to review and legally block arms sales by Russia or other actors to Iran,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told the Free Beacon. “But as Russia and Iran further escalate their use of indiscriminate military force in the Middle East, the administration appears wholly unwilling to use this power.”
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also expressed doubts, saying that if it wanted to the administration “could impose U.S. sanctions on Russian entities involved in these sales. It has done none of these things and likely will not as it continues a disturbing pattern of turning a blind eye to Iranian violations of international and U.S. law.”
‘Islam Can’t Be Modernised’ Says World’s ‘Greatest Arabic Poet’
The writer regarded as the greatest Arabic language poet alive today has said Islam cannot be modernised.
Adunis Asbar, known by his pen name Adonis, is a Syrian-born writer often considered one of the greatest living poets of the Arabic language. He has come under criticism for comments he made recently about Islam before receiving the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize, named after the famous pacifist and author of the classic World War One novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’.
In an interview with Die Welt he talked about one of the most pressing issues in Germany since the migrant crisis began, the idea of being able to integrate migrants from predominately Muslim countries into European societies.
Being raised a Muslim himself and having one of the greatest understandings of the language of the Quran, Adonis said: “You can not reform a religion. If they are reformed, [the original meaning] is separated from it. Therefore, modern Muslims and a modern Islam is already impossible. If there is no separation between religion and state, there will be no democracy especially without equality for women. Then we will keep a theocratic system. So it will end.”
Laying down a heavy critique of the Islamic world, he added: “Arabs have no more creative force. Islam does not contribute to intellectual life, it suggests no discussion. It is no longer thought. It produces no thinking, no art, no science, no vision that could change the world. This repetition is the sign of its end. The Arabs will continue to exist, but they will not make the world better.”
Black Jews You Should Know, Part 3
Welcome back to Black History Month 5776, where I’ll be presenting you with seven Black Jewish figures for each week of February. We’re looking at the racial axis here, not the denominational one, so matrilineal/patrilineal, Orthodox conversion/non-Orthodox conversion, it’s all game. So, without further ado:
Daveed Diggs
If you watched the Grammys this week, you might remember when the cast of Hamilton blew the roof off the building, then walked off with the award for Best Musical Theater album. But what you probably didn’t know is that one of the performers of the Hip-Hopera was Daveed Diggs, a Brown University alum who starred in the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the musical.
Born in 1982 in Oakland, California, Diggs’ parents met at a club where his mom, a “white Jewish lady” was the DJ. His dad is African-American. While Diggs did attend Hebrew school, he “opted out” of becoming a bar mitzvah. After earning his degree in theater, Diggs began acting in plays, as well as writing and performing with the hip-hop group Clipping. He joined Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sketch troupe Freestyle Love Supreme before Manuel tapped him to join the cast of Hamilton. Heavily influenced by Busta Rhymes, Diggs delivers one of the fastest rap solos on record in his Hamilton role of Marquis de Lafayette in the number “Guns and Ships,” clocking 6.3 words per second.
Samuel Willenberg, the last surviving Treblinka prisoner, dies at 93
Samuel Willenberg, the last surviving prisoner of Treblinka — who managed to escape the Nazi death camp in 1943 — has died at the age of 93.
Willenberg was born in 1923 in Częstochowa, in southern Poland, where his father Perec taught at a local Jewish school. His mother Maniefa converted from Christianity to Judaism following her marriage. He was 16 when World War II broke out with the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.
In 1941, Willenberg’s two sisters were arrested in Czestochowa, while his parents used false documents to escape the Nazi purge. At the age of 19, he was rounded up with the Jews during the liquidation of the ghetto in Opatow in southern Poland, and sent to Treblinka.
Acting on the advice of another Jewish prisoner, Willenberg posed as a bricklayer upon his arrival at the extermination camp. He was the only person from his transport not to perish in the gas chambers.
Willenberg took part in the 1943 revolt at Treblinka, becoming one of the few hundred who managed to escape the camp.

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