Wednesday, March 16, 2016

From Ian:

Why It Doesn’t Matter What Israel Does
Two interesting news items from Israel in the last few days should have gotten more attention. One concerned an Israeli offer to pull back its military operations from two of the largest cities in the West Bank. The other concerned rumors about an expansion of Israel’s governing coalition. While seemingly unrelated, they both reflect the reality of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But the lack of interest in either development either by the Obama administration or its media cheerleaders speaks volumes about the stark contrast between the facts and the obsessions of Israel’s critics.
As we learned last week via Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, President Obama still thinks the obstacle to peace in the Middle East is named Benjamin Netanyahu. After more than seven years of picking fights with and carping about the Israeli prime minister, the president’s resentment about Netanyahu’s belief that he knows more about the conflict with the Palestinians than he does still rankles and he never misses an opportunity to vent it. According to Goldberg, the president believes Netanyahu “could bring about a two-state solution” that would create a lasting peace, but he won’t do it because “he’s too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so.”
This evaluation of Netanyahu is widely shared by the liberal press and was repeated by the New York Times editorial column yesterday. The Times blasted Netanyahu for skipping a meeting with the president and carped about the amount of military aid Israel is being offered by the administration in an attempt to compensate the Jewish state for an Iran nuclear deal that has imperiled the security of America’s sole democratic ally in the region. But the Times was even more interested in rehearsing Obama’s talking points about Netanyahu missing opportunities to create peace.
NY Times: UN Security Council Resolution Is The Best Way To Resolve Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
A non-binding United Nations Security Council resolution on the two-state solution may be the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, opined a New York Times editorial published Monday.
“There are several options, but the best may be a resolution that puts the United Nations Security Council on record supporting the basic principles of a deal covering borders, the future of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, security, and land swaps, but not imposing anything on the two parties,” the editorial said.
The paper condemned what it claimed were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lackluster efforts in the peace process, saying that the Israeli prime minister has “never shown a serious willingness” to progress toward a peace deal, “as is made clear by his expansion of Israeli settlements, which reduce the land available for a Palestinian state.”
It also criticized Abbas as “a weak and aging leader who has given up on peace.”
The editorial claimed that President Barack Obama “may be presiding over the death of the two-state solution.”
Dissecting the New York Times’ Latest Netanyahu-Bashing — Factual Errors and All
Begin with the criticism “that Mr. Netanyahu’s government announced this decision in the media rather than to the White House.” Isn’t there something strange about a newspaper attacking a government for talking to the press? The strong suggestion is that the editors at the Times would prefer that journalists, and the news-consuming public, would have had to wait longer before learning newsworthy information. That the Times here is editorializing in favor of keeping journalists in the dark is evidence of the contorted logic that afflicts the rest of the editorial as well.
The Times calls the Netanyahu leak “not a surprise, considering the disrespect the prime minister has shown Mr. Obama in the past.” There’s no mention of the disrespect that Mr. Obama has shown Mr. Netanyahu, beginning with the president’s failure to stop in Israel during a visit to the Middle East early in his first term. Even PBS and former members of the Obama administration acknowledged that was a mistake.
The next paragraph describes Israel as “the top recipient of American aid.” That is not factually accurate. In recent years, America has poured far more money into attempts to secure and rebuild Iraq ($2 trillion) and Afghanistan ($1 trillion). Military assistance to Israel runs about $30 billion over ten years, a bargain by comparison. Adjusted for inflation, America’s post-World War II assistance to rebuild Europe, about $103 billion in today’s dollars, also is more than what America has spent on Israel over any comparable time span.
Isi Leibler: A time for unity against dangerous new Obama initiatives
I have repeatedly maintained that there is a dire need for a broad unity government during these critical times. MKs Isaac Herzog, Yair Lapid and other opposition politicians provide fuel for our enemies by castigating the government. They would have a tremendous positive global impact were they to act responsibly and alter their approach, making it clear that the nation is united in its refusal to make further concessions that could undermine Israel’s security. Surely leaders of the principal opposition Zionist parties could temporarily maintain the status quo on domestic issues, suspend their parochial personal ambitions and agree to unite and confront our adversaries as a united people.
Besides, political leaders demonstrating a willingness to set aside short-term political advantage in order to promote the national interest would be acting in accordance with the desire of most Israelis and would gain considerable standing and support from the public. In our dysfunctional political system, accountability to the electorate is minimal. But under the present circumstances, public pressure could have an impact.
History will judge harshly those political leaders who, despite a virtual consensus, refuse to act in what is clearly the national interest.
Now is the time for our political leaders to stand up and be counted.

Say hello to ‘Carlo,’ the cheap, lethal go-to gun for terrorists
After the knife, one of the most notable symbols to emerge from six months of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank has been the “Carlo,” otherwise known as the Carl Gustav submachine gun.
The homemade or craft-produced rudimentary automatic weapon has been used in the majority of shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and security personnel. It’s not accurate and it has a limited range, but it’s cheap and more than powerful enough to cause mayhem and death — and it’s nearly impossible to prevent its production.
These improvised guns were used last Wednesday in a shooting attack on a public bus and in the ensuing firefight with police, which left one civilian seriously injured; they were used a day earlier in a drive-by shooting that left two police officers seriously wounded; and they were used to kill 19-year-old Border Police officer Hadar Cohen last month. All of these attacks took place in or near Jerusalem’s Old City.
Over the past few weeks, Israeli security forces have had some success in cracking down on these weapons, locating three small-scale production and storage facilities in the West Bank.
Terror's New Weapon of Choice

IsraellyCool: B’Tselem Member Seen Aiding Violent Rock Throwers
The My Truth organisation has put out an explosive new testimony. In harsh contrast to the anonymous and unverifiable testimonies put out by the sneaky anti-Israel NGO, Breaking the Silence, My Truth always identify the soldier giving testimony.
This one contains an explosive revelation that a person, wearing B’Tselem identification, was actively aiding Arab rock throwers toward a surrounded and besieged group of three IDF soldiers. Those rock throwers succeeded in causing a serious injury to Captain Mordi Arieli.
“On the corner of the roof of the house stands a man, not young, with a protective vest in blue or green, with a big B’Tselem label and he’s recording us and simultaneously pointing in our direction and shouting in Arabic”
My questions for B’Tselem:
- Where is the video shot by this man, has it been released?
- Do you condemn your staff and supporters taking part in attempts to kill IDF soldiers?
Palestinian teen caught in attempt to sneak past checkpoint to carry out attack
Police patrol units prevented a potential stabbing attack after a Palestinian teenager tried to bypass the security checkpoint outside of the Shuafat refugee camp in the West Bank on Wednesday according to Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
A 14-year-old minor from the refugee camp attempted to jump over the security turnstile at the checkpoint to avoid a security check before crossing into Jerusalem, according to police reports.
The security forces at the checkpoint spotted the minor during his attempt to cross and successfully stopped him.
A search of the minor revealed a concealed knife which, according to the initial police interrogation, was intended to be used to carry out a stabbing attack.
'IDF has full operational freedom in Judea and Samaria'

Commenting on the wave of Palestinian terrorism that began six months ago, the chief of staff said that Military Intelligence "warned of potential escalation as far back as early 2015. We made the necessary preparations, and as a result, we have intelligence and operational superiority on the ground and there are no limitations on IDF operations in the field. Nevertheless, I have to stress the fact that there is virtually no way to stop every terrorist planning a stabbing attack."

Eizenkot said that "adhering to strict rules of engagement is the only way to maintain the IDF's high ethical standards without compromising the public's security.

"With 65% of regular troops deployed in Judea and Samaria, we're sparing no effort to ensure the public's safety. The IDF is also gearing for the possibility of further escalation, like a major terrorist attack," he said.
Khaled Abu Toameh: 'PA will never allow IDF to conduct hot pursuits after terrorists into Area A of West Bank'
The Palestinian Authority has not agreed - and won't in the future - to allow the IDF to conduct 'hot pursuits' (after terrorists) into Area A in the West Bank, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported Wednesday.
Quoting an unnamed senior PA security official, the paper said that the PA has been seeking to regain full control over Area A according to a defined and short timetable.
Area A consists mostly of the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank which, according to the Oslo Accords, are supposed to be under the exclusive control of the PA.
Until 2002, the IDF refrained from entering Area A.
IDF aims for more accuracy in its warnings of incoming missiles
The army’s early warning app, iOref, is faster and smarter than the competition’s, according to the director of the IDF Homefront Command’s alerts division.
“There are other apps that claim to warn Israelis if a missile is coming in, or if there is information they need in the event of a civil emergency, but none are as fast and accurate as iOref [oref refers to the homefront], which we developed with a private sector partner,” said Shlomo Maman. “Our notifications come in about four seconds faster than the other leading app, and because of the combined cell and GPS location tech we use, we are able to much more accurately pinpoint where an impact is about to take place.”
This is no meaningless boast.
“When you have fifteen seconds to get to a shelter in advance of an incoming rocket, as the residents of the Gaza border area have, then every second counts,” said Maman. “Our objective is to provide the maximum amount of time available to Israelis so they can prepare properly for an emergency situations.
Strain, But No Rift: Former Diplomats Weigh In on Current US-Israel Relations
“If one would characterize the relationship [between Israel and the United States] over the last couple of years, it would be strain,” Dr. Bernard Firestone, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Hofstra University, said last week at a Yeshiva University panel discussion on the 2016 presidential election.
The panelists — Israel’s former ambassador to the US and former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel Daniel Kurtzer, and former deputy national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Col. Eran Lerman — weighed in on the current status of the US-Israel relationship, with a special focus on tensions between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.
While the general consensus of the panel was that relations between Obama and Netanyahu are strained, “it is not unusual for countries that are ostensibly allies to have differences,” said Firestone, citing former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as having labeled Israel as part of the “problematic political forces” that were opposed to a Mideast peace accord at the time.
Firestone said that despite these past differences, the US-Israel relationship remained unshakeable because both countries share a strategic partnership. Israel was a “bulwark” for America during the Cold War and a “reliable ally” after it, he said.
Obama taps Jewish judge as Supreme Court nominee
President Barack Obama nominated Jewish federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The pick sets up a confrontation with Republicans who say they will refuse to consider his nomination in an election year.
Garland is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices.
Obama announced his choice at a ceremony in the Rose Garden, with Democratic Senate leaders and allies looking on.
He held up Merrick as diligent public servant, highlighting his work leading the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing. He quoted past praise for Garland from Chief Justice John Roberts and Sen. Orrin Hatch. And he said Garland’s talent for bringing together “odd couples” made him a consensus candidate best poised to become an immediate force on the nation’s highest court.
Joe Biden joins Clinton, Trump among AIPAC speakers
US Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the AIPAC annual conference, which already features appearances by top lawmakers and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee announced over the weekend Biden’s address to the March 20-22 conference here.
Biden is perhaps the Obama administration figure closest to Israel and the pro-Israel lobby, and has been the go-to official to calm the waters during the many periods of tension between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump skipping GOP debate to attend AIPAC conference
Republican front-runner Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he would skip the upcoming Republican debate to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.
“I’m doing a major speech in front of a very important group of people that night,” Trump said on the “Fox & Friends” show Wednesday morning.
The pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC has not yet released its schedule of speakers for the upcoming policy conference, but has confirmed that Trump, along with former secretary of state and Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, will the address over 18,000 attendees expected at the conference, which runs March 20-22.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Abbas to French envoy: PA contacting int'l parties about peace conference
The Palestinian leadership has already promoted to international parties the French plan to hold a multilateral conference on the conflict, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told French envoy Pierre Vimont in Ramallah on Tuesday.
Abbas added that the Palestinians are also talking with international parties about the ways to achieve a two state solution on the basis of the Arab Peace initiative of 2002.
Vimont presented the French plan to Palestinian officials, who welcomed the idea of holding an international conference for peace, but said they were not optimistic because Israel is opposed to it.
Abbas, who received Vimont in his office, praised France’s role and continued support for the peace process, according to a PA official.
US accuses Israel of expropriating 2,342 dunams in the Jordan Valley
The United States on Tuesday accused Israel of “expropriating land” in the Jordan Valley after it reclassified as state land 2,342 dunams (578 acres) near the Palestinian city of Jericho.
The property in Area C of the West Bank is located within the boundaries of the Megilot Regional Council and borders both sides of Route 1 as it heads down to the Dead Sea.
Israel’s reclassification of the property does not change existing use, but it does pave the way for Israel to develop the mostly empty desert terrain.
“This decision is, in our view, the latest step in what appears to be an ongoing process of land expropriations, settlement expansions, and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.
UN chief urges Israel to reverse West Bank land appropriation
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel on Tuesday to reverse its decision to appropriate land in the West Bank, describing the move as “an impediment to the two-state solution” in the Middle East.
The appeal came after Israel declared 234 hectares (around 600 acres) of West Bank territory as state land, the biggest reclassification of land since in 2014, according to the settlement watchdog Peace Now.
“Such actions appear to point toward an increase in settlement activities and demonstrate that Israel is continuing to push forward in the consolidation of its control of the West Bank,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Deputy FM reveals Israel's secret ties with Indonesia
Israel has unofficial diplomatic ties with Indonesia, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said, responding Wednesday to a parliamentary question from MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) about Israel denying Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi entry to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel barred Marsudi from visiting her Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Malki in Ramallah and dedicating the first honorary Indonesian consulate in the Palestinian Authority Sunday, because she did not plan to meet with Israeli officials. Tibi asked Hotovely to elaborate on the decision.
Hotovely explained that, though Israel and Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world, do not have formal diplomatic ties, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General in the Asia-Pacific Division Mark Sofer recently visited Jakarta.
At that meeting, Israeli and Indonesian officials came to an understanding that Marsudi would meet with senior Israeli officials in Jerusalem during her visit to the region.
Netanyahu to Ivory Coast President: Israel ‘Ready to Assist in Common Fight Against Terrorism’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Ivory Coast President Alassane Dramane Ouattara on Tuesday and expressed his condolences and the solidarity of the Israeli people following Sunday’s al-Qaida terrorist attack at a seaside resort in the town of Grand-Bassam in which at least 18 people were killed.
A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu told Ouattara that Israel was “ready to assist in the common fight against terrorism.”
Netanyahu also invited Ouattara to visit Israel.
The statement said Ouattara thanked Netanyahu for his condolences, support and willingness to assist in the fight against terrorism.
On Golan Heights, IDF fights to keep Israel safe and out of Syria
The relative quiet on Israel’s border with Syria can be shattered by Hezbollah, the Islamic State or another fringe jihadist group seeking to make a statement about its dedication to the fight against Israel, a senior IDF official warned on Monday.
For almost 40 years the Israeli-Syrian border was one of the country’s quietest, with a United Nations presence, in the form of UNDOF soldiers, helping to keep the peace.
But in the five years since the outbreak of the bloody Syrian civil war, which according to some estimates has claimed the lives of nearly half a million people, that border has become a powder-keg.
Intentional and inadvertent attacks by the larger rebel groups, as well as the potential for small terror cells to take advantage of the lawlessness and mayhem in Syria to carry out attacks against the Jewish state, threaten to plunge Israel’s northern border into a conflict no one would want.
Amnesty International slams IDF’s administrative detention policies
Amnesty International on Tuesday said the IDF’s administrative detention “balloon… is popping over and over” and called on Israel to release Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud al-Fasfas from the special procedure that replaces a full criminal trial under which he is being held.
Amnesty argued that a number of recent instances in which the state has buckled and released detainees under the pressure of their hunger strikes, has exposed “the bankruptcy of the administrative detention tactic.”
It insisted that al-Fasfas, who was detained in October and started a hunger strike on February 20, be released and that, in the future, Palestinians who are arrested be brought to trial under the regular criminal process without the secret evidence and indefinite detention periods that come into play in administrative detention.
Experts: Palestinian Official Presenting “Unprecedented” Challenge to Abbas over Corruption
Najat Abu Bakr’s ordeal began in February when she accused Hussein al-Araj, a PA minister and political ally of Abbas, of skimming $200,000 from a deal he was involved in. The charge was denied by Al-Araj, according to Al-Monitor, and led the PA to start pursuing Abu Bakr.
“The Palestinian Authority leadership, widely recognized as a cesspool for corruption and for stifling criticism against the government, issued an arrest warrant shortly after her accusations,” wrote Schanzer and Rumley. “Abu Bakr then fled to the safety of the parliamentary building to avoid arrest. She has since turned over files documenting purported evidence of Araj’s case and other high-level corruption to the PA’s anti-corruption czar and the Fatah party head in parliament. It is still unclear whether her charges will ever be acknowledged or addressed.”
This isn’t the first time Abu Bakr has accused PA leadership of corruption. In 2013, she accused then-PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, a man with a reputation for fighting corruption, of improperly using funds to pay his security detail. She criticized Fayyad’s successor, Rami Hamdallah, the following year for placing restriction on labor unions. She also accused the PA’s foreign minister of nepotism when he appointed an ambassador who was tainted with allegations of corruption.
Music video celebrates suicide bombings: “Strap on an explosive belt... Turn them into body parts”
Video shows a band preforming in front of a smoking, blown up bus, and shows a reenactment of events leading up to the bus exploding: Terrorists plan the attack, the suicide bomber who carries out the attack prays, waits for the bus and then boards the bus together with other passengers, some of whom are Orthodox Jews. The bomber is seen clutching his stomach before the sound of an explosion is heard.

JPost Editorial: Russia’s withdrawal
From an Israeli perspective, the partial Russian pullout can be seen as positive development. Israel has worked to maintain correct relations and military coordination with Moscow while maintaining its strategic ties with the US. The Russian withdrawal makes this easier.
With Russia pulling its troops and air force out of Syria, Israel will be freer to operate in the airspace of Lebanon when necessary to prevent arms smuggling from Syria to Hezbollah. Until now, Israel had to take care to avoid accidentally striking Russian troops.
Also, with Russia withdrawing some of its troops, Hezbollah might now be forced to pick up some of the slack. The more Hezbollah is involved in the fighting in Syria, the less time it has challenging Israel along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Even the stabilizing of the Assad regime that was accomplished by the Russians is not necessarily bad for Israel. Israel, after all, has no potential allies among the various groups fighting in Syria.
Russia to Leave S-400 Antiaircraft System in Syria
Russian advisers embedded with the Syrian military plan to remain, Russian media reported, citing unnamed sources.
“We will not ease” the fight, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday. “We will intensify it. But for that end we do not need the contingent that is present today.”
The pullout — on the fifth anniversary of the start of peaceful protests in Syria — came after a six-month operation in which Russia whisked Assad from the verge of defeat and made it nearly impossible for him to be deposed by force. But there were growing signs that the Assad regime was pushing to recapture all of the territory it has lost, an effort that could have taken far longer and risked embroiling Russia in a long, costly war.
Instead, Russia is leaving a reduced force at its naval and air bases in Syria, and does not plan to remove its potent S-400 surface-to-air missile system, a senior Russian official said. That means that Russia will continue to control Syrian airspace, a deterrent to nations — such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even the United States — that might contemplate instituting no-fly zones over parts of Syrian territory.
The high-tech antiaircraft system significantly alters the balance of power in Syria and gives Russia a major foothold in the Middle East.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Putin Finishes Quickly, Ready To Withdraw (satire)
Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised most observers Monday with his announcement that he had finished penetrating Syria, and would begin pulling out.
Political figures, diplomats, and commentators scrambled to understand, explain, and adjust to the news, which came after an extended period of Putin holding himself erect while the rest of the world – notably the Obama administration – displayed impotence on Syria. Reactions included praise for the Russian leader’s sober admission that he could not pretend he would accomplish anything more by continuing to pound the anti-Assad rebels, as well as criticism over his selfish forcing his way in, having his forces release their loads, and pulling out.
Syrian President Basher Assad appeared most distraught over the turn of events, but is caught between needing Putin to reverse his in-and- out approach in order to achieve satisfaction with the situation and not wanting to alienate or offend such an important ally by impugning his ability to perform as advertised.
Isis won't be beaten for 15 years thanks to mistakes by the West, military strategist David Kilcullen warns
We are now in a long war, and it will take up to 15 years to defeat Islamic State, a strategic consultant to the US, British and Australian governments tells the Evening Standard today.
David Kilcullen was involved in devising strategy against international terrorist groups following the 9/11 attacks, and has advised allied military commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq is that we tend to reinforce the past — plan the operation that might have worked 24 hours ago, but doesn’t meet the problem we are now facing.”
He says that the allies did not realise that the mistakes they were making in Iraq after the invasion of 2003 allowed the space in which IS could emerge.
This was well under way in 2003, he says in his new book Blood Year, a survey of the fight against IS over the past year: “Saddam, the secular fascist, was preparing a religious-based guerrilla resistance after defeat in 1991.”
One of his commanders, General Izzat al-Douri, the king of clubs in America’s pack of cards of most wanted Iraqis, was charged with this. He is still at large and leads the Naqshbandi Army, a key element of IS forces.
Unanimous Congress Agrees ISIS Committing Genocide Against Christians
In a historic vote, the House unanimously threw its support behind a resolution proclaiming Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities.
GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry forwarded the resolution, which passed 393 to 0 Monday, sending a strong message to Secretary of State John Kerry who is set to make a determination on genocide Thursday.
For Fortenberry, putting aside partisan differences is a rare feat and should not be taken lightly.
“It is my sincere hope that this trans-partisan resolution will further compel the State Department to join the building international consensus in calling the horrific ISIS violence against Christians, Yezidis, and others by its proper name: ‘genocide,'” Fortenberry said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Networks Won’t Call Plight of Middle Eastern Christians ‘Genocide’
It was a rare moment -- a network reporter cluing viewers in on the ongoing atrocities against Christians in the Middle East
“Much like Syria and Iraq the terrorist group has made their presence known in the country [Libya], carrying out several gruesome beheadings including this one last February, allegedly showing militants killing Coptic Christians on a beach near Tripoli,” said CBS News Correspondent John Vigliotti Feb. 19 on This Morning.
CBS along with ABC and NBC would rather not talk about the Islamist murder and persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East and Africa. In fact, their evening news programs have not broached the subject at all in 2016, and the daytime shows have barely mentioned it. They certainly are not comfortable applying the legal term “genocide” to the persecution despite the mountain of evidence that is exactly what is going on.
On the Fifth Anniversary of the Syrian Civil War, a Stateless Refugee Says Thank You
One true friend is worth a thousand relatives. As a Syrian, these past years have taken an enormous personal toll on me. I no longer recognize the person I was back in those optimistic days in early 2011. I no longer expect support or assistance from our “relatives,” those Arab countries who were the first to close their doors to Syrians. I and millions like me were driven from our homes by fellow Syrians and Arabs fighting under the banners of Hezbollah and Iran.
Over the years I have spoken by phone to Syrians in Israeli hospitals and marveled at the world-class cancer treatment and limb-replacement operations given to Syrians unstintingly and a great cost to the Israeli medical system. I have been amazed as one Jewish organization after another in the West has spoken up in defense of Syrian refugees, while countries in the Gulf make excuse after excuse as to why they can’t take in even a few thousand Syrians. Wars and their consequences tend to bring out the worst in individuals and societies, but the Syrian conflict has also been an occasion where extraordinary people have demonstrated acts of astonishing kindness and compassion to refugees who have nothing to give back in return save their gratitude.
One day, the war in Syria will come to an end, as all things come to an end. I know who my own friends were during my darkest hour, and as a Syrian my most earnest hope is that Syrians remember those who stood by us in our most pressing time of need. We may not be able to reciprocate, but at least we can say “thank you.”
All-female Arab crew flies into Saudi no-drive zone
The first all-female Royal Brunei Airline crew recently flew into the company’s history books on a plane that touched down in Saudi Arabia — where they are unable to get behind the wheel of a car.
As part of the independence celebrations for Brunei’s National Day, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081 from Brunei to Jeddah on February 23.
But once they left the cockpit of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the women would have needed to take a backseat to a man if they wanted to get anywhere, because Saudi Arabia prohibits women from driving.

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