Friday, January 22, 2021

From Ian:

Room where it didn’t happen: US mediators reveal failed Israel-PLO peace talks
Why, after more than a century of bloody conflict, have Israelis and Palestinians failed to reach a peace agreement? Israeli director Dror Moreh goes behind closed doors of the sincere, though largely failed efforts spearheaded by the United States by interviewing a handful of the American negotiators in his new documentary, “The Human Factor,” opening January 22 in the US.

This past November marked the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by right-wing Jewish extremist Yigal Amir. Moreh sees this as a fitting time to reflect on the derailment of the peace process Rabin worked so hard on. He does so from the unique perspective of the Americans who devoted decades of their careers trying to create a more secure and tranquil Middle East.

Moreh, whose work often focuses on geopolitics, is the director of the critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated 2012 “The Gatekeepers.” In it, he conducted unprecedented on-camera interviews with all six former heads of Israel’s secret service — the Shin Bet — who were still living at the time.

In “The Human Factor,” we hear from well-known figures special Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, Ambassador Martin Indyk, Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, State Department analyst Aaron David Miller, special assistant to president Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs Robert Malley, and State Department interpreter and Middle East advisor Gamal Helal. Most of these men have penned books sharing their insights on the peace process, but now they collectively reflect on what went right and wrong.

“The Human Factor” tracks in detail the diplomatic maneuvers carried out by American delegations at the behests of presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton from the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference through to the failed Camp David summit in July 2000.

Haim Ramon: Former minister's autobiography blows through history
Supporters of Israel growing up in the United States in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s saw two young politicians who explained Israel well in American media and were said to have bright futures as Israel’s leaders.

The one on the Right, Benjamin Netanyahu, became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

The one on the Left, Haim Ramon, never fulfilled his potential.

Ramon’s new Hebrew autobiography, Against the Wind, does a good job of explaining why.

The book takes readers through history, with each of 20 chapters representing another fight he led publicly or behind the scenes on issues in which he believed strongly. Each fight was an uphill battle, and whether he won or lost, he made enemies along the way.

In an interview with the Magazine, Ramon said he had no regrets about rubbing people the wrong way and earning those enemies, because it was worth sacrificing his own political future to ensure the future of the country.

“Basically, when I was involved in revolutions, I fought hard for my ideas,” he said. “I didn’t plan for the consequences that would prevent me from becoming prime minister. I did things that people didn’t like, and they never forgave me, even long after I was proven right.”

The title of the book is the same as those of classic songs in both Hebrew and English. The Hebrew song, by Shalom Hanoch, describes feeling like the most isolated person in the world but continuing onward anyway. The English song, by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, describes a man looking back at the independence and naiveté of his youth.
The Tikvah Podcast: Michael Oren on Writing Fiction and Serving Israel
Very few contemporary public figures have had as many successes in as many fields as Michael Oren. A writer-statesman in the model of Thucydides, Oren was Israel’s ambassador to the United States during the Obama years, and was before that a historian of the Jewish state, the author of perhaps the best single book on the Six-Day War. He’s also worked in think tanks, been a professor at Ivy League institutions, and served as an MK in the Israeli parliament. Now, with the recent publication of The Night Archer, a collection of short stories, Oren returns to the genre of fiction, a pursuit that animated his younger years.

This week on the podcast, Oren joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how his varied career fits together—how the writing of fiction relates to the writing of history, how the study of history relates to the practice of diplomacy, how diplomatic service and writing both require the same aptitudes of perception, and how all of this came together in the service of Zionism and the state of Israel.

Newham Council Labour Leadership’s “Endemic Culture” of Antisemitism
London’s Newham council has been plunged into chaos after accusations of an “endemic culture” of anti-Jewish racism in the council’s Labour grouping. Yesterday the group’s chairman, Mushtaq Mughal, was placed under investigation by the Labour Party for a series of social media posts, including sharing a video promoting a group calling for the dismantling of Israel. Despite the investigation, Mughal has not been suspended by Labour, despite calls from Labour Against Antisemitism to do so:
“Councillor Mughal appears to have promoted a series of antisemitic posts via his Facebook account. It is therefore astonishing that presented with this evidence the Labour Party have failed to suspend Cllr Mughal while their investigations take place.”

Newham’s deputy chairman hasn’t seen such lenience from the party, as he was suspended last week for also posting anti-Israel posts on Facebook, including the infamous “Relocate Israel into United States” meme once shared by Naz Shah that saw her quit her post.

The saga doesn’t end there; Newham’s Labour mayor has been slammed by Newham’s only Jewish councillor Joshua Garfield since she came to office in 2018 for her handling of allegations of antisemitism. A report commissioned by the mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, is said to have “absolutely horrified” those who heard about its contents, as it accused “senior members” of the Labour group of an “attempt to hide the ugly stain of antisemitism”. According to the report, antisemitic material had been published routinely on the Newham Labour Facebook Group page “since at least the beginning of 2018″. The administrator of the group? The mayor’s then-deputy John Gray who stepped down at the end of last year…

British Regulator Gives Clean Bill of Health to Islamic Charity Accused of Antisemitism by US State Department
One day after the US State Department severed all links with Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) charity over antisemitism charges against the entity, the main body regulating charities in the United Kingdom has declared itself satisfied with IRW’s response to the controversy.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Charity Commission for England and Wales praised “IRW’s swift action in light of the comments and significant improvements had been made to the recruitment and oversight of trustees and senior staff at the charity.”

The entire board of the UK-based charity stepped down in Aug. 2020 after it emerged that the man drafted in to replace a trustee who made antisemitic comments online had himself posted offensive comments on Facebook.

IRW acknowledged that the posts made by Almoutaz Tayara were “offensive and unacceptable, and in no way reflect the views and core values of the organization.”

The posts included racist and degrading references to Jews as the “descendants of pigs and monkeys” along with fulsome praise for Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization pledged to Israel’s destruction.

According to a report in Third Sector, a UK website reporting on the non-profit sector, IRW is requesting a meeting with officials of the new Biden Administration in the US to review the State Department’s severing of ties — a decision made by then-President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism.
Telegraph removes erroneous reference to the 'State of Palestine'
A Dec. 30th Telegraph film review (“Mayor, review: memorable portrait of a Palestinian figurehead with an impossible amount on his plate”) opened with the following sentence:
Local government is a fraught juggling act in the city of Ramallah, once the headquarters of Yasser Arafat and now de facto capital of what’s officially known as the State of Palestine.

We complained to editors, pointing out that Palestine is our course NOT officially a state. It doesn’t enjoy full UN membership, the UK does not recognize it as a state and – we noted – there are no mainstream British media outlets (including the Guardian) that refer to it as the “State of Palestine”.

It took several weeks, and a few emails, but editors finally upheld our complaint and revised the sentence to remove the claim.
Local government is a fraught juggling act in the city of Ramallah, once the headquarters of Yasser Arafat and now de facto capital of what’s officially known as Palestine.

Though “Palestine” is still problematic, it’s a significant improvement over their factually inaccurate claim that the territory is an official state.
BBC continues multi-platform promotion of political vaccinations campaign
BBC exploitation of the topic of vaccinations against Covid-19 in order to promote a political campaign which claims that Israel has an obligation to provide vaccinations to Palestinians even before it finishes inoculating its own citizens continued this week.

On January 17th viewers watching the BBC News channel saw unnecessary use of the phrase “appears to be” and a context-free reference to “criticism”:

“So how does the UK’s progress on vaccination compare to the rest of the world? Well Israel appears to be leading the way with 25 doses given per 100 people, although it has faced criticism it hasn’t supported inoculation in Palestinian territories.”

On January 19th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ programme heard a report from Tom Bateman (from 31:56 here) which was introduced by presenter Sarah Montague using a statement made at a board meeting the previous day by the head of the World Health Organisation as an excuse to bring up her actual subject matter.

Republican Legislators in New Hampshire Under Fire Over Antisemitic Social Media Postings
The Republican speaker of the New Hampshire legislature is under fire for allegedly shielding two GOP representatives accused of spreading antisemitic propaganda, while harshly disciplining a Democratic representative over a post on social media concerning the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill by militant supporters of former President Donald Trump.

In an oped for the Concord Monitor published on Thursday, Claudia Damon — a Concord resident whose father’s family escaped from Nazi persecution in Germany — charged that Speaker Sherm Packard “either doesn’t know what antisemitism is or he refuses to acknowledge its existence.”

Damon accused Packard of refusing to “hold accountable” the two legislators who shared viciously antisemitic memes on social media.

In the most recent incident, in early January, Deerfield Rep. Jim Spillane shared an image on Facebook of a notorious antisemitic mural that was on display in London before it was removed following a raft of complaints.

The mural — by Los Angeles-based artist Mear One, also known as Kalen Ockerman — showed a group of Jewish bankers playing the board game Monopoly, with their tabletop resting on the bowed naked backs of several workers.

Spillane added the caption: “Truth. Agree.”

The offending mural was one of several scandals around antisemitism to rock the opposition British Labour Party under its former far left leader, Jeremy Corbyn. When the mural was removed from a wall in the East End of London in 2012, Corbyn voiced his backing for the Ockerman’s work in a post on his Facebook page. Corbyn subsequently admitted that he “did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and antisemitic.”
Fifteen Years After Kidnapping, Remembrances Pour in for Murdered French Jew Ilan Halimi
Words of remembrance circulated on social media Wednesday to mark the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old French Jew who was murdered by an antisemitic gang in 2006.

“Ilan Halimi was kidnapped 15 years ago today, then tortured and murdered in one of the most brutal antisemitic attacks in France in recent memory (and there have been many),” tweeted Washington Post columnist James McAuley. “Spare a thought for him today.”

Halimi, who lived in the Paris suburb of Bagneux with his mother and sister, was kidnapped on January 20, 2006. He spent three weeks in captivity as gang members tortured him and tried to extort his relatives for ransom money. Left close to death near a railway track on the city’s outskirts, he perished on his way to the hospital.

Judea Pearl, father of the journalist Daniel Pearl, who in 2002 was murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, shared a eulogy he had written for Halimi shortly after his death, which was published in Le Monde.

“Let there be no silence on your grave, Ilan, no rest, nor learned discussion… until another Zola rises with a [louder] ‘J’accuse,'” Pearl wrote on Twitter, quoting from his 2006 article.

Israeli TV Series ‘Your Honor’ to Be Adapted Into German, After Upcoming French, Italian Versions
An adaptation of the Israeli original television series from yes Studios “Your Honor” (“Kvodo”) is coming to Germany, The Algemeiner has learned.

The new series, titled “EUER EHREN,” will be led by Germany’s SquareOne Productions, in co-production with Austria’s Mona Film, German public broadcaster ARD Degeto and Austrian public broadcaster ORF. It will star German actors Sebastian Koch and Paula Beer, who were co-stars in the Oscar-nominated 2018 drama “Never Look Away.” Filming for the six-episode thriller will take place in Vienna, Innsbruck and other surrounding areas.

“Your Honor” is about a judge who has dedicated his career to fighting organized crime, but is forced to confront his convictions when his teenage son is implicated in a hit-and-run case that injures the son of an arrested crime boss. To save his son from those seeking revenge, the judge sets off a series of lies, deceit and violence.

Koch will play the incorruptible Judge Michael Jacobi in the German adaptation, which will focus on drug trafficking across the Austrian Brenner Pass, the main route across the Alps into central Europe.

“When I first discovered the series in Tel Aviv almost four years ago, I was immediately hooked,” said SquareOne Productions CEO Al Munteanu. “Sebastian Koch was my first call. We boarded this project hand-in-hand and attracted the continuous support of ARD Degeto, ORF, and our production partner Mona Film. I am elated by the high-caliber cast we were able to attract to this premium series, as well as the production teams on both sides of the camera.”
With funding from Chinese backer, 162 Ethiopian immigrants arrive in Israel
Dozens of new immigrants from Ethiopia stepped into the brisk early morning winter air at Ben Gurion airport on Friday to start their new lives as Israeli citizens. Clutching Israeli flags, some passengers knelt to kiss the ground after they descended the stairs from the plane.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane carrying 162 passengers was the sixth flight in Operation Tzur Yisrael, which aims to bring 2,000 Ethiopians from the Falash Mura community waiting in camps to Israel in the coming months.

The planned ceremony to greet the immigrants was scrapped in light of Israel’s coronavirus restrictions.

The flight was funded by Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, which serves as the official fundraising body for Israel. It was financially supported by Peter Wang, a Christian Chinese entrepreneur.

“The fact that dozens of new Olim will celebrate this Shabbat on the land of Israel fills me with feelings of pride and satisfaction,” said Ethiopian-born Absorption and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata in a statement. “Today, a long and taxing journey of waiting to be reunited with their families is over, and I am happy to lead the return of our sons and daughters home to Israel.”

In October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to bring 2,000 members of the community to the country. The proposal earmarked NIS 370 million ($109 million) for the mass immigration, the Prime Minister’s Office said at the time.
Virtual 90th-Birthday Event Honors Marion Wiesel’s Support of Ethiopian Jewry
In celebration of Marion Wiesel’s 90th birthday, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) will hold a star-studded virtual event with a performance by Israeli singer, songwriter and musician Idan Raichel on Jan. 27, at 7 pm Eastern Standard Time.

The celebration, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, will honor her living legacy, including her visionary work alongside her late husband and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel to establish the Beit Tzipora Centers in Israel.

The centers are a key highlight of Marion Wiesel’s more than six decades of social and racial justice work.

After arriving in the United States as a refugee in the early 1950s, Marion joined the NAACP, marching for civil rights and speaking out against discrimination in the segregated South. Four decades later, she became involved in supporting the growing community of Ethiopian refugees in Israel. An ardent Zionist, she wanted to ensure that the Jewish state served as a model of racial equality and equal opportunity.

The Wiesels founded the Beit Tzipora Centers in the mid-1990s in memory of Elie’s sister, Tzipora, who perished in the Holocaust, to support the education of Ethiopian-Israeli children and families, and to provide opportunities for them to participate fully in Israeli society. Now managed by WIZO, the centers offer a range of educational services and enrichment programs for more than 700 children annually.

“We are thrilled that so many friends are coming together to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday and her life’s work fighting intolerance and injustice, and supporting education and equality,” said the couple’s son, Elisha Wiesel. “This event will powerfully convey the life-changing work of the Beit Tzipora Centers and raise funds to ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come. There is no birthday present that could be more meaningful for my mother.”


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