Friday, April 12, 2019

From Ian:

Attempting to Restart the Peace Process Will Do More Harm Than Good
For some time, reports have circulated that the White House plans to unveil its proposal for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) not long after the Israeli elections, meaning that its release might be imminent. Robert Satloff argues that the plan, developed under the direction of the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, should never see the light of day:

[The current] situation, in which Israel and the PA have strained political ties but effective security cooperation, has proved surprisingly resilient. Few love the status quo, but it is not so objectionable that either Netanyahu or Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has walked away from it. It may not have brought a final peace deal, but it has sustained the PA as a reasonably well-functioning governing entity—by regional standards—and protected the West Bank from becoming a platform for rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel. . . .

That surprisingly sustainable house of cards may finally come crumbling down if Abbas rejects the Kushner plan, which he has already given every indication of doing. . . .

[Furthermore, Kushner] likely assumes that key Arab states—led by Saudi Arabia—are poised to bless his plan, giving it vital backing that will compel Abbas not to reject it out of hand. But there are two problems with this assumption. First, the Saudis are unlikely to offer even a tepid endorsement of the peace plan without similar backing from Israel’s Arab peace partners, Egypt and Jordan, . . . both [of which] have shown spine in recent years in resisting Saudi pressure to take steps they view as contrary to their national interests, and endorsing a plan that earns a Palestinian rejection would almost certainly be a bridge too far. . . .

Finally, in addition to triggering a negative spiral in U.S.-Israel, Israel-Palestinian, and U.S.-Saudi ties, moving forward with the Kushner plan would distract from the president’s signature achievement in the Middle East: the unexpectedly effective impact of the so-called maximum-pressure campaign on Iran. . . . The Trump administration should not give Iran and its local Islamist allies a political victory by issuing a Middle East peace plan that is likely to earn swift rejection by the Palestinians and strong criticism even from longtime U.S. allies.
Daniel Pipes: Anticipating Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’
Ending the Palestinian claim to a “right of return” is Israel’s other illusory benefit. Just recall the farcical 1990s non-change of the PLO charter to drop its call for Israel’s destruction to anticipate the hollow theatrics ahead.

Second, despite the Palestinians gaining real and irreversible benefits (money, territory, legitimacy), they with certainty will continue their century-old pattern of rejecting Israel through campaigns of delegitimization and violence, as has been the case since the first Palestinian-Israeli agreement in 1993. That’s because Shimon Peres’ discredited “New Middle East” idea — that enriching and rewarding Palestinians makes them peaceable — underlies the reported Trump plan. Long experience, however, shows that these benefits make them more inclined to eliminate the Jewish state. In brief, the PA will pocket “Palestine” and intensify its anti-Zionism.

Third, should Israelis complain to Trump about that delegitimization and violence, he will likely respond with annoyance: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is now “off the table” and they should move on. Should they persist, his predictable rage will damage not just Israel but also the anti-Iran campaign and anti-Islamist efforts in general.

In short, the reported plan repeats the great miscalculation of traditional Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy by asking too little of Arabs and too much of Israelis. I predict that it will fail, just as did those of Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama.

Therefore, Americans concerned about Israel, Iran, and Islamism need to prepare for the imminent unveiling of what could be a problematic plan. Yes, so far, Trump has been “the most pro-Israel president ever,” but as the Bible reminds us, “put not your trust in princes.”
Nine Jewish groups ask Trump to restrain Netanyahu on West Bank annexation
Nine Jewish groups, including five associated with the Reform and Conservative movements, wrote to US President Donald Trump asking him to preserve the two-state solution in the face of a pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex West Bank territory.

The letter is unusual, if not unprecedented, in mainstream Jewish groups pleading with a US president to take steps to restrain an Israeli prime minister.

“We believe that it will lead to greater conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, severely undermine, if not entirely eradicate, the successful security coordination between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and galvanize efforts such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that are intended to isolate and delegitimize Israel,” said the letter released early Friday to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It will create intense divisions in the United States and make unwavering support for Israel and its security far more difficult to maintain.”

The warning that annexing territory would “create intense divisions” in the United States was significant coming from the leadership of the two largest religious streams in the United States, with a combined membership that would constitute an overwhelming majority of synagogue-going Jewish Americans.


Four Jewish Democrats warn Israel not to annex West Bank territory
Four Jewish Democrats in the US House of Representatives known for their ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee warned Israel not to annex West Bank territory, days after Benjamin Netanyahu’s election-eve pledge to do just that.

The statement by Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Ted Deutch, D-Fla. and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., did not name the Israeli prime minister, but alluded to his pledge on the eve of elections that he would extend Israeli law to all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, even those in remote areas, that would diminish the prospects of a contiguous Palestinian state. Netanyahu won the elections.

The statement signaled a warning from the party’s most pro-Israel wing that retreating from the two-state solution would be catastrophic for efforts to maintain close ties between Democrats and Israel. There is an emerging argument among Democrats on whether to become more sharply critical of Israel under Netanyahu.

“As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a US-Israel relationship rooted in our shared values, and the two-state solution, we are greatly concerned by the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank,” said the statement released early Friday.



Palestinians Preventing Peace Regardless of Who Won the Israeli Election
Many in the media and policy circles are fretting about the effect Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection will have on the peace process. But few are examining the true impediment to peace: the Palestine Authority.

A recent Washington Post article took the approach that a Netanyahu victory “clouds prospects” for the success of the Trump administration’s yet-to-revealed peace plan. Though the article refers to the Palestinians, it doesn’t mention the Palestinian Authority, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, or Hamas.

One thing that many commentators haven’t noticed is that the positions of Netanyahu and his closest rival, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, are probably not that far apart on issues of peace with the Palestinians. Gantz, in an interview with columnist Bret Stephens of The New York Times, did not speak of a two-state solution, but rather said that “eventually, Palestinians should have some kind of independency.”

After the Israeli experiences of the past 25 years, such caution is prudent.

For example, Israel pulled its troops out of southern Lebanon in 2000. In subsequent years, Hezbollah built an extensive terror infrastructure there and amassed a huge rocket arsenal. Hezbollah then triggered a war with Israel in 2006.

In 2005, Israel disengaged from Gaza, removing all civilians and military personnel. In 2007, Hamas launched a coup against the PA and took effective control of Gaza. They used it to build a terror infrastructure and arsenal to threaten southern Israel.

Anyone running to lead Israel has to ask themselves if the country could afford a repeat of what happened in Lebanon and Gaza happening in the West Bank. Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, surely knows the risks involved to Israel in Palestinian statehood. Peace should not be a suicide pact.
Palestinians are saying farewell to peace
The next Israeli government will apparently be made up of right-wing-parties, and people in the West Bank are expecting an even more hardline coalition when it comes to Palestinians and their rights.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement on Wednesday that the results of Tuesday’s Israeli vote confirmed the persistence of what she called Israel’s “racism” and “extremism.”

Ashrawi said that policies during previous governments headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were based on hate speech and aimed at causing Israeli citizens to trust the Palestinians even less, and thus mold their choice of representatives.

She stressed that the election results thwarted any prospects for peace, and clearly showed that Israelis reject the idea of establishing a Palestinian state, and supporting additional settlement activity in the West Bank, something she termed “a continuation of challenging international laws and norms, and the will of the international community.”
A Poorly Attended Arab League Summit
Of the 22 members of the Arab League, only 13 came to the yearly meeting of the organization in Tunis on March 30. Conspicuous by their absence were Sudanese President Omar el Bashir and Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, both facing unrest at home. However, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi were there to give some luster to an otherwise dull reunion dwarfed by conflicts in the Arab world.

In principle, all Arab states are members of the Arab League, created in 1945 by the British with a view to perpetuating their control of these states and their influence in the region under the guise of helping them develop their economies.

Today Great Britain’s influence has waned. Arab countries did not find their way to democracy and the Middle East descended into military regimes and fratricide wars. There was no attempt to tackle problems or to establish a desperately needed economic collaboration. The much-touted union never coalesced and was further disrupted by the 2011 Arab Spring, which fizzled into civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen and a military regime in Egypt.

Yearly Heads of States summits became less and less relevant, a mere occasion for discreet exchanges of views with occasional flare-ups, such as Saudi king Abdallah and Libyan president Muhammar Khadafi trading insults in 2009. Each summit ended in a joint declaration on current issues, usually carefully crafted compromises offending no one and lacking operative decisions.

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty on the Golan, published a scant few days before the summit, shows what little regard he has for the meeting of Arab heads of state.
Khaled Abu Toameh: What Happens to Palestinians Who Demand a Better Life?
Mohammed Safi is reported to have lost his eyesight while being held in a Hamas prison. His crime: participation in demonstrations calling for an end to the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip and protesting new taxes imposed by the Hamas rulers.

"The interrogator hit him in the head from behind three times and told him: 'This is so you won't be able to see at all.'" — Ahmed Safi, Mohammed Safi's brother.

Safi simply sought to communicate that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living under a brutal Islamist regime that has offered them nothing but terror -- directed towards Israel and towards themselves. He wanted the world to know that Palestinian leaders deflect the heat on the Palestinian street towards Israel.

Safi chose to speak truth to power and place the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza squarely where it belongs: at the feet of Hamas. He paid dearly for that choice. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders can now claim another "achievement" in their jihad against Israel: they managed to transform a clear-headed and courageous young man into a blind and disabled one.
Editor's Note: The magician strikes again
This was supposed to be the election that Benjamin Netanyahu was going to lose – three criminal investigations; a decision of intent to indict him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust; and three former IDF chiefs of staff who joined together with the sole purpose of taking him down.

But even all of that could not defeat Netanyahu. He refused to be beaten.

There were those in Israel who referred to him on Wednesday as a magician. Considering the challenges he overcame and the final preelection polls last Friday, he might well deserve the title. While some of those polls showed Likud behind Blue and White by one or two seats, others showed the gap at four. But Netanyahu managed to pull ahead, and in the final days before the vote his Likud party climbed five or six seats.

Many political analysts dismissed his final “gevalt, I am going to lose” campaign as Netanyahu just crying wolf, like he did on the eve of the last election in 2015. They claimed it wouldn’t work. But it did – and better than he could have imagined. Netanyahu managed to tie with Blue and White by sucking just enough votes from the satellite right-wing parties, but to let them keep enough so they would get into the Knesset and he could then form a coalition.

The added prize was the news that his three nemeses – Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Moshe Feiglin – would not make it into the Knesset. Not only did he manage to siphon votes, he did it mostly from the two parties he couldn’t stand.

That is the positive outcome of the election.
Political Affairs: The wizard of Balfour Street
Likudniks have experience being dehumanized by rivals, going back decades, but also in the last election, when Labor supporter and artist Yair Garbuz mocked them as superstitious and religious fanatics days before the vote. The Likud gave activists “I am a proud bot” T-shirts, as Netanyahu emphasized that the elites and the media just can’t accept that there are people who think differently than they do, but that he knows his support is real.

After that, the campaign moved into what has become known as the “gevalt” stage, named after the Yiddish exclamation of distress. In the last election, Netanyahu said “right-wing government is in danger,” and voters moved to the Likud. This time, he brought out the exact same message, even though media commentators, and even Likud officials at the Drive-In before the polls closed, thought it wouldn’t work as well a second time.

But Netanyahu really went all out with his woeful cries. He brought out his American pollster John McLaughlin to explain that low turnout was expected among right-wing voters, and that meant the Likud would fall behind Blue and White. The day before the vote and on Election Day itself, Netanyahu made videos every few hours to talk about how worried he was. He went to the beach to tell people to stop relaxing and go vote. In the hours before the polls closed, he called voters, while his efforts were broadcast live on his Facebook page.

And with that, the votes shifted. Between the final polls on Thursday and Friday and the actual vote, the Likud got five to seven more seats than expected (official results were not yet available as this was written) and the other right-wing parties – haredim exempted – shrunk.

Netanyahu went from “oy gevalt” to an “incomprehensible” victory in a matter of hours, and soon he’ll be Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. The wizard’s magic is as strong as ever.
Why Netanyahu Keeps Winning
Netanyahu has often questioned conventional wisdom and, ultimately, been proven right. He warned that withdrawing from Gaza would backfire, and his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are now mainstream—not because Israel has become more right-wing, but because Israelis see the Palestinian leadership repeatedly spit on, if not try to cut off or blow up, their government's outstretched hand. The Israeli premier has also been persistent in calling the world's attention to Iran's destructive behavior, recognizing the threat long ago. He has stood up to American presidents when necessary (Barack Obama) and embraced others who have helped Israel (Donald Trump). Whether they like Netanyahu or not, most Israelis recognize his successful record on security matters.

Netanyahu has also been remarkably successful at bolstering Israel's diplomatic status. Too often observers in the West think of Israel as an increasingly isolated country, but the exact opposite is true. It seems every week Netanyahu is renewing diplomatic ties with a country in Africa or strengthening such ties in Asia or Latin America. And, of course, Israel's relationships with the Arab Gulf countries have grown stronger.

Meanwhile, Israel's economy has boomed during Netanyahu's tenure. The Jewish state has become a cyber super-power, using its high-tech industry to gain an astonishing level of investment for such a small country.

In the election this week, Blue and White did not offer any real alternative to Netanyahu. They simply made their campaign a referendum on the incumbent, banking on Israelis growing tired of his baggage. The problem is that Blue and White's leaders did not offer Israelis any sort of vision for their country's future. And many of their views concerning foreign policy, national security, and even Jerusalem are actually the same as Netanyahu's. So why would Israelis risk upending a good situation for an uncertain alternative, especially when the price for bad decisions is so high?

As Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, said of Netanyahu: "Our economy is excellent, our foreign relations were never better, and we're secure … we know him, the world knows him—even our enemies know him." Netanyahu is a source of stability, a known quantity. Other countries often look to the next big thing in an election, and Israelis may like to do that, but they know the cost of such a gamble could be catastrophic.
Diplomatic Affairs: Netanyahu and the world
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the elections but lost The New York Times.

But both he and the country could be excused for shrugging and saying, “So what?”

The opinion section of Wednesday morning’s New York Times website featured four pieces – the paper’s lead editorial and op-ed pieces by Thomas Friedman, Roger Cohen and Shmuel Rosner – dealing with Tuesday’s elections. With the exception of Rosner – who explained Netanyahu’s security appeal to an Israeli public that might dislike him personally, but appreciates his security strategy and vision – they tore him to shreds.

No surprise there, of course; they detest Netanyahu. There was the usual pontification and hand-wringing about the type of country Israel was becoming, amply sprinkled with quotes from Bernard Avishai, Ari Shavit and Haaretz editors to support that point of view.

There was the usual diatribe about Netanyahu’s disinterest in peace and the slippery slope to apartheid Israel. And, of course, there was not any mention of any responsibility borne by the unrelenting and mind-numbing Palestinian terrorism for the fact that Israel has not voted in a prime minister from the Left since Ehud Barak in 1999.

Since the onset of the Second Intifada in September 2000, a date that historians will look back upon as a watershed moment in Israeli history, the Left has not won an election in this country. Why?
After Much Electoral Fanfare, Israelis Once Again Come Home To Bibi Netanyahu
Netanyahu is also simply not the trigger-happy warmonger that so many falsely depict him as being. Contrary to the pugnacity that so much of the global Left and establishment-aligned media ascribe to him, Netanyahu's security-oriented actions in office are notable for their prudence and self-restraint. It is Netanyahu who, following the harrowing capitulation to fundamentalist jihadist evil that was President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal, decided to wait (at least) until the 2016 U.S. presidential election before taking military action against the Tehran mullocracy — which he properly viewed (and still views) as an existential threat to the Jewish state. It is Netanyahu who continues to "mow the lawn" in Gaza and refuses to countenance some hawks' preferred solution of initiating a comprehensive land invasion to utterly extirpate and eviscerate the Sunni jihadist group that governs there. It is Netanyahu who has frustrated some Eretz Yisrael-inspired supporters of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria with his slow pace of building "settlements" there. And it is Netanyahu who has generally shunned any involvement in Syria that is more intrusive than the occasional bombing of an Iranian hard asset or a Hezbollah materiel shipment.

But it is also Netanyahu who, admirable prudence and occasionally excessive restraint aside, demonstrates an intuitive understanding of the threats that Israel — and, by extension, all of the West — ultimately faces. Netanyahu famously sparred with the pro-Palestinian Obama, but, as Quin Hillyer put it in 2015, Netanyahu "spent far more of his formative years on the American mainland than Obama did, … took enemy fire at the age when Obama was openly pushing Marxist theory, and … earned and practiced free enterprise at the same age when Obama was practicing and teaching Alinskyism." He is a hardened man — his character forever shaped and his fortitude forever calcified by the tragedy that befell his dear older brother Yoni in Entebbe. He intuitively grasps the nature of genocidal, irredentist sharia supremacism in a way that perhaps no other Western leader can — and he is hardly shy in sounding the alarm, when need be. He is, to borrow from American Sniper, a true "sheepdog."
Tom Gross: Netanyahu Heads for Record Fifth Term
As I argued last week, Netanyahu knows this may be his last term, and geostrategic conditions lend themselves to peace initiatives – especially since much of the Arab world is already quietly establishing ties with Israel. (A few days ago even Hamas-supporting Qatar played the Israeli national anthem and raised its flag when an Israeli gymnast won gold – which would have been unthinkable a year ago.)

Despite his hardline pre-election rhetoric, I believe Netanyahu will accept the forthcoming Trump peace plan, which, even if it leans towards Israel, will still require significant Israeli concessions.

I have followed Netanyahu’s career closely ever since I first met him as a teenager before he entered politics – the publisher George Weidenfeld, myself, and my father had a lengthy breakfast in New York when Netanyahu was a diplomat at Israel’s UN mission there in the 1980s. And I know some of Netanyahu’s key advisors today.

So contrary to the views of many, I think Netanyahu may try to form a broader coalition with Gantz as his defence minister or deputy PM. He will then be in a much stronger position domestically to swallow concessions that Israel will be asked to make under Trump’s plan, without relying only on hard right coalition partners.

And what of the Palestinians? The highly intransigent Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (now in his 15th year of a four year term) has been refusing even to speak about peace for over a decade and has turned down all previous peace plans.

But a new poll released yesterday evening by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (a Palestinian-run organization with a good track record in polling) revealed that 87 per cent of Palestinians want Abbas to call elections, 89 per cent want him out of office, and only 6 per cent support the even more intransigent Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. So Abbas – if he wants to stay on as leader – may have little choice but to accept the Trump plan, and improve the lot of his people even if it doesn’t deliver everything he wants.
Netanyahu’s Victory Irks European Mainstream Media
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent re-election has irked the European mainstream media. Many leading European media outlets decried the Israeli leader’s “right-wing” policies that mobilized Israeli voters ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau described Netanyahu’s victory using anti-Semitic terminology with the headline: “The Eternal Netanyahu,” a reference to the 1940 anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda film, The Eternal Jew.

“Benjamin Netanyahu will remain Israel’s Prime Minister,” the Frankfurter Rundschau complained, “This isn’t going to end well. His right-wing coalition could annex West Bank.”

Explaining its hostility towards Israeli Prime Minister the newspaper wrote:
One must expect that Trump’s ominous ‘peace plan’ will be highly accommodating towards the Israelis and drain the economic aid going to the Palestinians. European protests won’t help much in that case.

German state broadcaster ARD wasn’t far behind. “The reelection of Netanyahu mainly rests on the right-wing base united by angst. He fomented a lot fear,” ARD’s Israel correspondent Tim Assman wrote. “Israeli society is indeed divided and politicians like Netanyahu have actively contributed to this.”

“As Israel’s right wing triumphs, Palestine loses,” was the headline in Germany’s state-run DW News. “Trump announced he would reveal a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East shortly after the elections,” DW’s chief Arabic correspondent Rainer Sollich wrote. “[Palestinians] hardly have any say over their own future, and when it comes to many Arab states, they cannot really count on any real support,” he claimed.

“Netanyahu-led Right engaged in populist and identity [politics],” France’s Le Monde accused.

“Netanyahu’s victory means life is about to get worse for Palestinians,” British newspaper The Guardian whined. The tone got even darker, with one Guardian commentator lamenting that “there is no more able sorcerer when it comes to playing on the prejudices and fears of his base.”
German paper compares Netanyahu to Nazi film 'The Eternal Jew'
The lead article Thursday on the opinion page of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the 1940 Nazi antisemitic movie The Eternal Jew.

The article was titled in the paper “The Eternal Netanyahu” in a word play in connection with director Fritz Hippler’s antisemitic pseudo-documentary, based on the medieval legend of the wandering Jew, that served as a cinematographic justification for the Holocaust.

The anti-Netanyahu headline lit up German Twitter, with accusations of antisemitism directed at the left-leaning paper that is read by many social democrat voters.

“Unbelievable,” wrote Ulf Poschardt, the editor-in-chief of the daily Die Welt on Twitter, with a hashtag next to antisemitism.

Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels organized the production of the film The Eternal Jew, widely-considered to be the most violent anti-Jewish film ever made.

Filipp Piatov a journalist with Germany’s top-selling daily Bild, asked on Twitter: “What’s going on in a German editorial office that plays the title of its editorial with antisemitic Nazi language?”


Elan Carr Officially Sworn in as US Antisemitism Envoy
Elan Carr was sworn in on Thursday as the US special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo administered the oath of office to Carr, who placed one hand over a Hebrew Bible, or Tanach, that was held by his wife, Dahlia. The secretary remarked that the Iraq War veteran and attorney was chosen for “fierceness and vigor that he’ll bring to combating antisemitism,” according to a source at the event, which was closed to the press.

Despite criticism, the Trump administration has made fighting antisemitism and BDS a priority. This comes amid a rise in antisemitic and anti-Israel vitriol and attacks nationwide, including the Oct. 27, 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as rhetoric being used by House Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

“No administration has been more passionate about protecting the Jewish people and has shown more love for the Jewish people and the State of Israel than that of Secretary Pompeo and President Trump,” said Carr, according to a source at the ceremony.
20 religious groups call on Congress to ‘stop weaponizing anti-Semitism’
Twenty faith groups — many of them Jewish — called on members of Congress to “stop weaponizing anti-Semitism” and said the issue should not be used to attack politicians from the other side of the aisle.

In a letter sent Thursday, the organizations said they were concerned “about the use of anti-Semitism for partisan purposes as well as the use of Holocaust and Nazi comparisons to disparage political opponents.” The signers included groups representing the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox denominations.

The letter directly referred to an incident last month when Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alaska), quoted from Hitler’s 1925 book “Mein Kampf” on the House floor, comparing present-day Democrats with members of the Nazi Party.

“We welcome bipartisan efforts aimed at combating anti-Semitism,” the letter says. “However, much of the recent rhetoric and political maneuvering on the issue seems cynically focused on showing that one party cares more about anti-Jewish bigotry than the other.”

Organized by the Interfaith Alliance, the letter also was signed by a number of Jewish groups including Hadassah, HIAS and J Street. The Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Washington National Cathedral also signed.
Australia opens Trade and Defense Office in Jerusalem
Australia opened a new Trade and Defense Office in Jerusalem on Friday.

The Australian government formally recognized west Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2018, committing to open an office in the city within the coming months.

Mark Leibler, national chairman of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), welcomed the move.

“AIJAC is very pleased to acknowledge that the government has fulfilled their promise to open this office so quickly. Building on the Australian government’s welcome and principled recognition of the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and has been since 1949, this office should both give that recognition concrete form and help further develop the already extensive and mutually beneficial trade ties between Israeli and Australia,” he said.

The office is located on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem.

In December, Israel tepidly welcomed, and the Palestinians and Arab League vehemently condemned, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that Canberra now recognized west Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Melissa Parke quits as Labor's Curtin 'star candidate' over Israel remarks
Labor's star candidate for Julie Bishop's seat of Curtin quit on Friday night after the party entered into crisis talks over remarks she made about the Israel and Palestine conflict.

It is understood Melissa Parke withdrew her candidacy after reports she told a group of pro-Palestinian activists last month that Australia should recognise a Palestinian state and that Israel's settlements were akin to China's island building activity in the South China Sea.

In the speech she also took aim at Israel's influence in Australian politics and said there was no doubt Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, while illegal under international law, were "a reaction to and a consequence of decades of brutal occupation".

Ms Parke made unverified claims about incidents of cruelty she said had been perpetrated by Israelis at checkpoints.
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"One case I remember vividly, a pregnant refugee woman was ordered at a checkpoint in Gaza to drink a bottle of bleach," she said.

"It burnt out all her throat and insides. Fortunately her baby was saved.

"Another refugee was forced to put her baby through the X-ray machine."

Despite claiming she supported current Labor policy on Israel and Palestine earlier this week, on Friday night Ms Parke said she would quit the race so her views wouldn't be a distraction.
ICC Rejects Request for Investigation Into U.S. ‘War Crimes’ in Afghanistan
The International Criminal Court rejected petitions for it to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the United States in Afghanistan, the BBC reports.

ICC judges notified the media in a press release that because of Afghanistan's regional instability and the unwillingness of local investigators to cooperate, such an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice."

This update comes just a week after the United States revoked entry visas to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who had been examining on the court's behalf the possibility of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by the United States. This reversal is thought to be a response to that revocation, according to the BBC.

The ICC has been investigating abuses and war crimes committed in conflicted Middle Eastern regions for more than a decade. It began its formal examination into Afghanistan in November 2017.

According to the press release, although judges believe there is "a reasonable basis" to suspect that crimes occurred, right now the political and social state of Afghanistan "make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited."








MEMRI: Lebanese Actress Nidal Al-Ashkar: No Freedom Of Speech In The Arab World; Change Would Require Real Transformative Revolutions
Lebanese actress Nidal Al-Ashkbar said in a March 28, 2019 interview on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.) that theater is not an intrinsic part of education and culture in Lebanon in the Arab world because there is no freedom of speech or openness in the region, such that actors cannot criticize anyone or talk about religion or sex. She said that it is impossible for there to be theater in the Arab world unless real, transformative revolutions bring about democratic rule.

"The Obstacle Is That There Is No Freedom, Free Speech Frightens Them... There Is No Openness In The Arab World – It Is Closed And It Is Shutting Down Even More"

Nidal Al-Ashkar: "There is no theater in the Arab world in its entirety. Not even in Lebanon. There are shows, but the theater has not become an intrinsic part of the education and of the social and human culture in Lebanon and the Arab world. It cannot become..."

Interviewer: "What's the obstacle?"
Nidal Al-Ashkar: "The obstacle is that there is no freedom. Free speech frightens them. They are afraid of free people, so they don't like actors. Besides, there is no openness in the Arab world. It is closed and it is shutting down even more."
[...]
Theater "Will Continue To Be Impossible Until There Are Real And Transformative Revolutions In The Arab World And A Human Democratic Rule Emerges, Until The People Really Take Part In Their Government"

"It is impossible for there to be theater in the Arab world."

Interviewer: "As long as freedoms are the way they are..."
Nidal Al-Ashkar: "It will continue to be impossible until there are real and transformative revolutions in the Arab world and a human democratic rule emerges.
Nasrallah on Hizbullah's Financial Woes: Man Offered to Sell Family's Kidneys, Donate Proceeds
Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in an April 10, 2019 address that aired on Al-Manar TV (Lebanon) that it is "normal" for people to offer their land, their gold, their homes, and their money to the resistance, and he gave the example of a man who offered to sell his house and his son's house in order to donate the money to Hizbullah. Nasrallah said that this was commonplace during the Second Lebanon War. He said, however, that he was surprised when a man recently contacted him saying that he does not have any property or money, but that the moment the resistance faces a financial crisis, he would be ready to sell his kidney, his son's kidney, and his wife's kidney and donate the money to the resistance.


Egypt Withdraws From US-Led Anti-Iran Security Initiative – Sources
Egypt has pulled out of the US effort to forge an “Arab NATO” with key Arab allies, according to four sources familiar with the decision, in a blow to the Trump administration’s strategy to contain Iranian power.

Egypt conveyed its decision to the United States and other participants in the proposed Middle East Security Alliance, or MESA, ahead of a meeting held Sunday in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, one source said.

Cairo did not send a delegation to the meeting, the latest gathering held to advance the US-led effort to bind Sunni Muslim Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to counter Shi’ite Iran, the source said.

Egypt withdrew because it doubted the seriousness of the initiative, had yet to see a formal blueprint laying it out, and because of the danger that the plan would increase tensions with Iran, said an Arab source who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Uncertainty about whether US President Donald Trump will win a second term next year and whether a successor may ditch the initiative also contributed to the Egyptian decision, the Arab source said.

“It’s not moving well,” a Saudi source said of the initiative.
Chanting ‘death to Israel,’ Iranians rally against US blacklisting of Guard
Iranians rallied on Friday against the US’s decision to designate the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization.

Thousands of worshippers came out of mosques after prayers and burned flags of both the US and Israel while also chanting traditional anti-US and anti-Israel slogans at such rallies of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

State media said similar demonstrations took place in other Iranian cities and towns on Friday.

The US government this week designated the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group to increase pressure on Iran, isolate it further and prompt authorities to divert some of the financial resources Tehran uses to fund militant activity in the Middle East and beyond.

Iran responded by designating all US forces as terrorist and labeling the US a “supporter of terrorism.”
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Iran's Rogue Gang of Criminals
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, (IRGC) provides terrorist organizations with weapons, training, and technologies while conducting illicit business activities across the globe to finance terrorism. If YOU are doing business with the IRGC, YOU are bankrolling terrorism.




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