A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a protest against Jewish settlements in al-Mughayyir village near the West Bank city of Ramallah March 24. Photo by Mohamad Torokman/REUTERS.

Israeli troops kill Palestinian teen suspected of hurling firebombs


Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager they said was hurling firebombs at Israelis.

Three other teens were critically injured in the incident Thursday night in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian news agency Maan.

An Israeli army spokesman told Maan that “three suspects exited a vehicle adjacent to the community of Beit El, where the suspects threw firebombs at the community. In response to the threat, Israeli forces in the area fired towards the suspects, and several hits were confirmed. The suspects then fled the scene.”

Israeli troops dispersed a riot near Beit El after the incident by dozens of Palestinians who protested the shooting, hurling objects at the troops.

Palestinian sources identified the person killed as Muhammad Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Hattab, 17, who reportedly was shot in the chest and shoulder.

The four teens, all residents of the al-Jalazun camp, were transported to a Ramallah hospital, where al-Hattab was pronounced dead, according to the Maan report.

Elor Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, Aug. 30, 2016. Photo courtesy of Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Israeli soldier who shot downed Palestinian terrorist sentenced to 18 months in prison


An Israeli soldier who shot a downed Palestinian terrorist was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Elor Azaria, 20, who was convicted of manslaughter last month in an Israeli military court, was sentenced Tuesday by a panel of three judges at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv. Azaria also was demoted one rank, to private from sergeant, and was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

Military prosecutors had asked for a sentence of three to five years.

Azaria’s attorney said he will appeal the sentence, and also is appealing the verdict. He will request that Azaria be free until the end of the appeals. Prosecutors have called for Azaria to enter prison as early as Sunday.

About 100 people demonstrated outside of the IDF headquarters, called the Kiriya, during the sentencing. Among their chants: “The people of Israel do not abandon soldiers” and “We’ve come to take Elor.” The soldier’s father, Charlie, thanked the protesters and urged them to remain calm.

“All of the soldiers here are our sons. So I request everyone show restraint,” he said.

In their sentencing decision, the judges stressed that the severity of the incident was mitigated by the fact that it took place in an active combat situation. This was a key component of the defense’s case.

The judges also found, however, that Azaria’s actions did “harm to societal values” and said that Azaria violated the Israeli army’s rules of engagement and values. They also criticized the army for not taking better care of the soldier’s family and the defense minister for his interference in the case.

Azaria, a medic in the elite Kfir Brigade, came on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack on soldiers in Hebron in the West Bank on March 24, 2016.

One assailant was killed, and Abdel Fattah al-Sharif was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head in a shooting that was captured on video by a local resident for the Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem. Azaria was arrested the same day and indicted nearly a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots by Azaria killed Sharif.

Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.

The case has been controversial in Israel, with some on the political right calling for solidarity with Azaria and others, including military leaders, suggesting such calls reflect a national crisis of ethics.

Following the announcement of the verdict, several right-wing lawmakers called for Azaria to be pardoned.

“Israel’s security demands he be pardoned,” Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett said in a statement. “Elor was sent to protect Israelis at the height of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. He cannot go to jail or we will all pay the price.”

Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, however: “Sending Elor Azaria to prison for his crime sends an important message about reigning in excessive use of force. But senior Israeli officials should also repudiate the shoot-to-kill rhetoric that too many of them have promoted, even when there is no imminent threat of death. Pardoning Azaria or reducing his punishment would only encourage impunity for unlawfully taking the life of another person.”

Why didn’t Obama punish Palestinian incitement?


As I reflected on the horrific news from Jerusalem of the latest Palestinian terror attack against Jews, I thought about President Obama’s recent decision to not veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which branded Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem—including the Western Wall–as “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Let’s accept that the president has the right to punish an ally for not honoring his demands. Israel, in fact, did not honor Obama’s draconian demand nearly eight years ago to freeze every inch of construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. So, it’s perfectly OK to look at this resolution as the consequence of not obeying an important ally.

Obama can talk all day long about his admiration for Israel, but he surely must know that a resolution that turns the Jewish state into an outlaw state, and that makes no distinction between an illegal outpost and the Western Wall, is harmful to Israel and is fodder for Israel’s enemies.

What makes Obama’s action especially nasty and unjust, however, is that he could never bring himself to similarly punish Palestinian terrorism and incitement to violence.

Punish Jews for building too many homes in disputed territory? Absolutely. Punish Palestinians for inciting their people to murder Jews? Absolutely not.

Palestinian incitement is not just the glorifying of terrorism and teaching of Jew-hatred throughout Palestinian society—we’ve almost become used to that. A more insidious strain of incitement is the denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem, which is dramatized in violent statements such as these: “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure. Every martyr will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God.”

Those are not the words of a bloodthirsty terrorist from Hamas or Hezbollah– they are those of the “moderate” Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Evidently, for our peace “partner” Abbas, murdering Jews in Jerusalem is a big mitzvah.

Does Abbas shake in his boots when he encourages such murder against Jews? Is he afraid that Obama will punish him? Of course not. Yes, Obama has uttered the obligatory statements against Palestinian terrorism and Palestinian incitement. But real consequences to put teeth behind the condemnations? That’s reserved for Israel.

Obama easily could have threatened to punish Palestinian leaders if they did not dismantle their infrastructure of Jew-hatred. He could have pushed for sanctions against Palestinian incitement both in the Security Council and the U.S. Congress. He could have introduced a U.N. resolution that reaffirmed the Jewish people’s deep and ancient connection to Jerusalem and exposed Palestinian lies. He did none of that.

Instead, he came after Israel, first with an extreme demand that characterized “settlements” as anything from an illegal outpost to the Western Wall, and, second, by allowing a Security Council resolution that officially enshrined Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as “Occupied Palestinian territory.”

Now, ask yourself: If you’re a Jew-hating Palestinian who hears that the leader of the free world believes the Jewish Quarter belongs to Palestinians, wouldn’t you be encouraged to attack Jews in those areas, especially if your own leader has promised you a special place in paradise for dropping Jewish blood in the holy city?

Of course Obama never meant to encourage violence against Jews in “occupied” Jerusalem. Still, it’s hard to argue that the resolution he allowed to pass won’t make such violence more likely.

Obama’s great sin is not that he gave Israel a hard time, but that he failed to do the same with the Palestinians. When he had a chance to make his defining statement on the conflict, he didn’t demand that Palestinians accept Israel’s offer to negotiate without preconditions, nor did he punish Palestinian leaders for promoting Jew-hatred and inciting their people by denying any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

No, when he came to his moment of truth at the end of his term, Obama chose to follow Israel’s enemies at the United Nations and punish the Jewish state.

By doing so, he will only end up punishing himself. Israel will survive Obama’s betrayal at the U.N. just as it has survived for so long in the world’s most hostile neighborhood.

It is Obama’s legacy with the pro-Israel community that may not survive. When you give Israel’s enemies more justification to attack Jews, you shouldn’t be surprised if many of those Jews end up turning against you.

Trump adviser endorses Netanyahu claim of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Palestinians


An adviser to Donald Trump and his presidential campaign backed up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinian demand for a removal of settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

“The prime minister of Israel correctly observes that the Palestinian demand to remove all Jews from their ancestral homeland in Judea and Samaria is nothing short of an attempt at ethnic cleansing,” David Friedman, a longtime lawyer to the Republican presidential nominee and an adviser on Israel to his campaign, ” target=”_blank”>described as “inappropriate” Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinian opposition to settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

“We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.

In the video posted last week to Facebook, Netanyahu likens residents of the settlements to Arabs born in Israel.

Israel says Arab citizen illegally crosses into Gaza Strip


An Israeli from the country's Bedouin Arab minority illegally crossed into Gaza on Tuesday, Israel's military said, an incident that may affect a proposed prisoner swap with the Palestinian enclave's Hamas authorities.

Hamas says it is holding two Israeli soldiers whom the army declared dead after they were lost in action in the 2014 Gaza war. The Islamist militant group also says it has two Israeli civilians who previously walked into the fenced-off enclave.

The man who entered Gaza on Tuesday was not authorized to do so and was believed to be inside Palestinian territory, a military spokeswoman said. She declined to say how she knew he is a Bedouin Arab citizen, or to elaborate on the incident.

“This matter is under investigation,” the spokeswoman said.

Palestinian authorities did not immediately comment, but witnesses in the Gaza Strip reportedIsraeli spotter aircraft overhead.

Israeli officials previously said they sought to recover the two soldiers' remains and the two civilians held by Hamas, signaling willingness to repeat past amnesties of jailed Palestinians in a trade. Hamas has conditioned any discussion of the four on a preliminary release of detainees byIsrael.

Relatives of the two Israeli civilians who previously entered Gaza, one of whom is Jewish and the other a Bedouin, have described them as suffering from psychological problems.

Palestinian teen bystander killed by Israeli soldiers responding to rock-throwing attack


Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian teenager and wounded several others whom they wrongly thought were involved in a rock-throwing attack, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The military said it was investigating the incident, which happened early Tuesday morning outside Jerusalem.

Palestinian news agency Maan identified the killed teen as Mahmoud Badran, 15, from the nearby village of Beit Ur al-Tahta. Four others were injured, Maan reported.

The soldiers were responding to the rock-throwing attack. An Israeli man and two foreign tourists were injured when rocks hit their car traveling near Jerusalem on Route 443, one of the main arteries between the capital and Tel Aviv. Several cars were damaged in the attack.

The army initially said those shot by soldiers were involved in the attack, but later said none of them were.

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry called the incident an “execution.”

The courage to respond


Since the soaring violence returned to the streets in October, dozens of Israelis have been killed in random acts of violence while more than 170 Palestinians have died – most while in the act of inflicting grave harm and even death to people they don’t know. It’s all about the blood.

Periods like this have been upon us before. We even number them: First Intifada; Second Intifada. Then we debate: are 200 acts of violence enough to give it a number – the Third Intifada. Yet, the one constant that remains in each set of violent acts, whether suicide-bombings or this macabre stabbing fetish that demonizes young people and takes its toll in youthful deaths – is the courage of first responders.

To my brave colleagues who arrive at the scene to pandemonium and confusion; that we are stepping in line to become the terrorists’ most promising target is by necessity pushed from our minds. Abstract arguments and debates aside, the first responders treat anyone inflicted with physical wounds, victims and terrorists alike. However, don’t think for a moment it’s an easy choice, or that we don’t agonize over the innocent and are repulsed by destroyers of life.

Like other first responders, my parents brought me up to respect and celebrate life; to embrace    the hearts of others – not stab them. The recent reality of responding to the scene of a call only to find a teenager lying dead and learning that he – or she – was the assailant – is a horror surpassed only by the thought of young children witnessing the brutal murder of a parent, an image will never be erased.

In the past decade, I’ve responded to thousands of emergency calls including terror attacks. Each time I arrive on the scene my heart pounds with adrenaline and anticipation at what will be the challenge. We are prepared to do the utmost to save the life of anyone who can still be saved – even if it means risking your own life – this is more than a given: it’s a part of the job and it’s expected.

But what is not expected and rarely understood beyond the circle of first responders and emergency medical personnel is what we feel when the last ambulance has departed the scene and reality replaces the rush. Somehow peeling off the blood-stained gloves fails to remove the true stain that remains on our hearts.

The incessant emotional highs and lows take an unfair toll on those who respond day-after day. I recall how the surreal nature of what we do was driven home on October 3, arguably the start of the “knife Intifada,” when on Saturday afternoon two men were stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City and I participated in efforts to resuscitate each of them. Tragically, both died. A mere few hours later I was escaping to the amazing sounds of the great Bon Jovi, singing in Tel Aviv. It was not only a macabre juxtaposition, but for me it represented the melding of horror and heart-break with the need to carry on; perhaps too confusing for anyone but a first responder to comprehend.

Being involved in international operations for United Hatzalah (and America’s United Rescue), I’m often asked about Israel’s seemingly endless innovation and leadership in life saving. I answer that while it’s no great honor to achieve out of necessity, it is nevertheless an endless source of pride that our first responders can be called into service all too frequently to arrive at scenes all too horrific to comprehend  without losing their sense of perspective and dedication to saving lives. Any lives.

As a medic I constantly pray that the most recent victim is the last: but deep down I know that me and my fellow first responders will likely fail to finish our next meal. It’s a horrible feeling to wish that next call is a person in distress and not a terror attack, but we are nevertheless ready to respond. We can never allow the fear of not responding to enter our minds because once that happens, the enemy has won. The next call will inevitably come and when it does, we’ll reach for the keys and rush out the door – without thinking twice.

Not responding is not an option. Giving up on humanity is for the terrorists, not for the first responder.


Gavriel Friedson, Deputy Director of International Operations for United Rescue (Israel’s United Hatzalah), has been responding to emergency calls for twelve years. He holds a Masters of Public Health in Emergency and Disaster Management from Tel Aviv University.

Palestinian hunger striker rejects Israeli offer of May 1 release


A Palestinian journalist on the 75th day of a hunger strike has rejected Israel’s offer to release him by May 1.

Muhammad al-Qiq, 33, said he will not accept an offer unless it ends his detention immediately and allows him to be treated in a Palestinian hospital, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported Sunday.

Qiq, who lost his ability to speak due to the strike and only communicates in writing, said he will continue the strike until “martyrdom or freedom,” according to Maan. He is protesting being held by Israel in administrative detention since Nov. 24.

The offer comes days after Israel’s Supreme Court suspended Qiq’s detention due to his failing health from the hunger strike. Under the Supreme Court order, Qiq would not be allowed to leave the hospital without permission and his family would be allowed to visit. The order did not cancel, just suspended, his detention.

Under administrative detention, a prisoner can be held for six months without being charged or tried. The order can be renewed indefinitely.

On Saturday, Maan quoted a doctor at HaEmek Medical Center in Afula as saying Qiq was in danger of imminent death.

“Each minute marks serious threat to his life because it is probable that his inner organs will stop operating at any moment, leading to immediate death,” the doctor said, according to Maan.

Doctors at the hospital have refused to force-feed Qiq, despite a law passed in July that allows hospital to do so.

Qiq has been jailed by Israel before, including a month in 2003 and 13 months in 2004, the French news agency AFP reported. In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 months on charges linked to his activities on the student council at the West Bank’s Birzeit University, according to AFP.

Palestinians attack Israeli soldiers, civilians with knives – one killed


Three Palestinians attacked Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and civilians in the Tel Aviv suburbs with knives on Monday and one of them was shot dead,Israeli authorities said. 

Now in its second month, the worst spate of violence since the 2014 Gaza war has been caused by tensions over Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews, and by deadlocked talks with Israel on Palestinian statehood.

The Israeli military said troops approached two Palestinians at a petrol station near a checkpoint inside the West Bank boundary. One of them tried to stab a soldier and was shot dead, the army said. Palestinian officials said he was 16 years old. 

The second Palestinian was arrested, the Israeli army said.

Later, a 19-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Hebron stabbed three people in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion before being overpowered and arrested, Israeli police said. They said two of those stabbed, one an 80-year-old woman, were in serious condition. The third was slightly hurt.

In Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, another West Bank Palestinian in his 20s stabbed a 70-year-old man, seriously wounding him, and was shot and wounded by police, Israeli authorities said. 

At least 67 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since Oct. 1. Forty of them were armed mainly with knives, while others were shot during violent protests, Israel says. An Israeli air strike in retaliation for a cross-border rocket attack also killed a Gaza woman and her daughter.

Eleven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and shootings by Palestinians.

A growing number of visits by religious Jews to al-Aqsa plaza – Islam's holiest site outside Saudi Arabia and revered in Judaism as the location of two destroyed biblical temples – have stirred Palestinian allegations that Israel is violating a long-running agreement banning non-Muslim prayer there.

Israel has accused Palestinian officials of inciting the violence by spreading the allegations, which it says are false.

Berkeley students chant for intifada [video]


A video of UC Berkeley students chanting in support of an intifada “just hours…after the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus” was shared on the Facebook page of pro-Israel group StandWithUs on Wednesday.

“Shocking: right now on the campus of UC Berkeley, students participate in a ‘day of action’ and explicitly chant ‘we support the intifada,’ just hours after this ‘intifada’ resulted in the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus,” according to the Facebook page of StandWithUs, which combats anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.

“Where is their moral compass!?” the StandWithUs Facebook page adds, in reference to the UC Berkeley students depicted in the video, which you can view below.

Deadly incidents, many of them stabbings, have been taking place on an almost daily basis in Israel this past month, prompting observers to predict that an intifada—a Palestinian uprising—is imminent. If an intifada were to occur, it would be the third intifada since Israel’s founding in 1948. 

 

 

 

Shocking: right now on the campus of UC Berkeley, students participate in a “day of action” and explicitly chant “we support the intifada,” just hours after this “intifada” resulted in the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus. Days ago, this “intifada” led to the stabbing of a 13-year-old Israeli child in the streets of Jerusalem…and last week, the murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin in front of 4 of their children. Where is their moral compass!?#StopIncitement

Posted by StandWithUs on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Palestinian kills two in Jerusalem, then shot dead: police


A Palestinian man stabbed and killed two people in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday before police shot him dead, officers said, amid an uptick in violence in the city and occupied West Bank.

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad issued a statement claiming the attacker as one of its members.

“The terrorist approached a group of Jews, whipped out a knife and began stabbing,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

One woman was in a critical condition after the assault and a toddler was lightly injured, police added.

Violence has risen in East Jerusalem and West Bank in recent weeks. Though not at the levels of previous Palestinian uprisings or “Intifadas”, it has raised Israeli fears of a greater escalation.

Israeli police and Palestinians have clashed frequently at East Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site, and at other parts of the city.

“According to what I see, the third Intifada has started,” the man police identified as the knife attacker posted on his Facebook page on Friday, citing the tension at al-Aqsa.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to convene an emergency meeting with security officials on Sunday, his office said, and a security cabinet meeting on Monday.

“We are deep inside a wave of terror and incitement,” Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told Channel Two's Meet the Press show.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, lands Israel captured in a 1967 Middle East war, for a future state. Peace talks collapsed in 2014.

On Thursday an Israeli couple was shot dead while their four children were in the car in a suspected Palestinian drive-by attack near a West Bank Jewish settlement.

On Saturday Israeli soldiers carried out a raid in the Palestinian city Nablus, arresting seven people and wounded eight more, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. The military said significant progress toward catching the assailants has been made.

Settler leaders on Friday erected a protest tent outside Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, demanding tighter security measures in the West Bank.

Katz said the government would consider cancelling work permits for Palestinian laborers in Israel and restoring military roadblocks that had been removed in recent years in the West Bank if the violence continued.

Thursday's shooting happened not far from a Palestinian village where two months ago suspected Israeli arsonists set fire to a home, killing a toddler and his parents.

(Additional reporting by Ammar Awad and by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Writing by Maayan Lubell)

Palestinian detainee ends 65-day hunger-strike


Palestinian detainee Mohammed Allan ended his 65-day hunger strike against his detention without trial on Wednesday after the Israeli Supreme Court suspended his arrest warrant, his lawyer said.

Allan has sustained brain damage as result of his hunger strike and is hospitalized in Israel in critical condition. The court said that in his current condition he poses no threat and therefore suspended his arrest warrant.

The 31-year-old Islamic Jihad activist's case was being monitored closely by opposing sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had looked likely to boil over into new violence if Allan were to have died as result of his strike.

“The story is over, administrative detention is cancelled and therefore there is no strike,” Allan's lawyer, Jameel Khatib, told Reuters.

The Israeli government saw his hunger strike as a powerful challenge against “administrative detention”, a practice that has drawn criticism from Palestinians and human rights groups but which Israel calls necessary for its national security.

It fears his release would only encourage some 370 other Palestinian detainees held without charge to refuse food.

The court said Allan was to stay at the Israeli hospital where he was being treated.

Before Wednesday's court session got under way, Allan's lawyers said that in return for an end to the strike, Israel had pledged not to renew his six-month detention period, meaning he would go free on Nov. 3.

The hospital said Allan's condition had deteriorated since he was brought out of sedation on Tuesday. His attorneys said he did not respond to the proposal.

In court, a government lawyer said Israel was prepared to free Allan immediately if a scan carried out while court was in session showed that he had suffered irreversible brain damage and subsequently no longer posed a security threat.

But the scan results were not conclusive. Barzilai hospital chief Chezy Levy told reporters it showed some brain damage and it was not yet clear whether it was “completely reversible”. He said it was possible Allan would recover.

On Tuesday Allan instructed medical staff to halt intravenous treatment, but then agreed vitamins could be administered in the run-up to the court hearing.

Allan's case was originally seen as a possible test of Israel's new force-feeding law, which the country's medical association has condemned as a violation of ethics and international conventions. But doctors have said that option is no longer viable due to his grave condition.

Last week supporters of Allan clashed with Israeli right-wingers near the hospital. Israel has long been concerned that hunger strikes by Palestinians in its jails could end in deaths and trigger waves of protests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Former hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner again detained, released


A Palestinian imprisoned in Israel who was released after a 55-day hunger strike was detained in Jerusalem.

Khader Adnan was detained on Monday in Jerusalem’s Old City for several hours before being released. The detention came a day after he was released from an Israeli prison, where he had been held for a year.

Adnan had attempted to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, but was prevented from entering because of Israeli restrictions.

“Khader Adnan was arrested because he had no right to be in the Old City of Jerusalem where free access is allowed to West Bank Palestinians only aged 50 and above, and he is just 37,” Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the French news agency AFP.

Palestinian males aged 12 to 30 were denied entry into Jerusalem to mark the Laylat al-Qader, a special ceremony for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, while men 30 to 50 required Israeli permits.

Adnan ended his hunger strike late last month after the Israel Prison Service agreed to release him from administrative detention, where he had been held for a year without charge or trial. He was rearrested nearly a year ago for “activities that threaten regional security.”

In 2012, Adnan was released in exchange for ending a 66-day hunger strike to protest his administrative detention.

A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to six months. The detention can be renewed indefinitely.

Home of Har Nof synagogue terrorist sealed


The home of one of the Palestinian terrorists who murdered four rabbis and a policeman in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue was sealed by the Israeli military.

The eastern Jerusalem home of Uday Abu Jamal, 22, who was killed by police during the November 18, 2014 attack, was cemented shut on Wednesday. It is not known where his family was at the time of the action. The home of Ghassan Abu Jamal, 28, who also was killed during the attack, also located in the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood remains unsealed. The two men were cousins.

The government issued demolition orders for the home in the days following the attack by the cousins with meat cleavers and a pistol on the Bnei Torah Kehilat Yaakov synagogue, but the country’s Supreme Court held up the action after the families appealed the order.

Israel’s Interior Ministry also revoked the residency permit of the wife of Ghassan Abu Jamal, a West Bank Palestinian who was allowed to live in Israel under the Family Reunification Law.

“The terrorists and those who send them will continue to pay a heavy price. Terrorism has a price, including to the lone attacker. We will also apprehend the murderers who perpetrated the recent attacks in which Malachi Rosenfeld and Danny Gonen were murdered,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night.

Israeli defense minister sees no peace with Palestinians in his lifetime


Israel's defense minister said on Tuesday he did not believe a stable peace agreement could be reached with the Palestinians in his lifetime – one of the bleakest assessments from a top-level cabinet member since talks collapsed last year.

Moshe Yaalon, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest allies, accused the Palestinians of having “slammed the door” on efforts to keep discussions going, and said they had rejected peace-for-land deals for at least 15 years.

His comments, in a speech to a strategic conference, were dismissed by a Palestine Liberation Organization official who told Reuters that Netanyahu's administration bore the blame for the impasse.

Peace negotiations broke off in April 2014, with disputes raging over Israeli settlement building in land Palestinians seek for a state and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's unity deal with Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza and do not recognize Israel's right to exist.

“As for the possibility of reaching an agreement … there is someone who says he doesn't see one during his term,” Yaalon said, referring to remarks U.S. President Barack Obama made in an Israeli television interview last week.

“I don't see a stable agreement during my lifetime, and I intend to live a bit longer,” Yaalon told the Herzliya Conference, held annually near Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu was due to address the forum later in the day.

Palestine Liberation Organization official Wasel Abu Youssef told Reuters past and present Israeli governments had “closed the political horizon” by demanding to retain major settlement blocs and rejecting a right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Youssef said Netanyahu's administration bore responsibility for the current impasse through its settlement activities, refusal to release jailed Palestinians and demand Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

On the eve of his March 17 election to a fourth term, Netanyahu drew international criticism by saying there would be no Palestinian state if he remained Israel's leader.

He said withdrawal from territory by Israel would embolden hardline Islamist guerrillas arrayed on its borders.

Netanyahu has since sought to row back, insisting he remained committed to a “two-state solution” in which Palestinians would establish a demilitarized country and recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.

In his television interview, Obama said Netanyahu's position “has so many caveats, so many conditions that it is not realistic to think that those conditions would be met at any time in the near future”.

Israeli man killed after Palestinian drives car into Jerusalem bus stop


A Palestinian man from eastern Jerusalem drove his car into two Israelis waiting at a bus stop, killing one and critically injuring the other.

Police are investigating whether the late Wednesday night incident in the French Hill neighborhood, near the border of eastern and western Jerusalem, was a terror attack.

Shalom Sharki, 25, an Israeli civilian from Jerusalem, died Thursday morning of his injuries. An Israeli woman, 20, was in critical condition and on a respirator.

Sharki is the son of Rabbi Uri Sharki, a community rabbi in Jerusalem, and the brother of Yair Sharki, a reporter for Channel 2 in Israel.

The driver, 37, was treated at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital and was to be turned over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning. He reportedly is married with no children and has no criminal record.

The incident was initially treated as an accident, but police later decided to investigate the driver, according to reports. Police said the driver “swerved from his lane and hit two civilians standing at the station,” Ynet reported.

There have been several terror attacks in recent months in which cars were used to ram into pedestrians in Jerusalem in recent months. In one such incident in October, two people were killed, including a 3-month-old girl.

At least 12 injured, four critically, in stabbing spree on Tel Aviv bus


At least 12 people were wounded, some seriously, when a Palestinian man stabbed passengers and the driver on a Tel Aviv bus.

Four victims, including the driver, remained in serious condition following the Wednesday morning attack on the No. 40 bus. Initial reports said 12 to 21 people were injured.

The assailant was shot in the leg by a commander in the Israel Prison Service who was at the scene of the attack and apprehended by police. Video of the attack was later posted on YouTube.

Police identified the assailant as Hamza Muhammed Hasan Matrouk, 23, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem who had entered Israel illegally, according to media reports.

The attack was the first in Tel Aviv since a soldier was killed in a stabbing attack at a train station in November.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Prison Service members who stopped Wednesday’s attacker and drew a link between the incident and recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium.

“The attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement spread by the Palestinian Authority toward the Jews and their state,” Netanyahu said. “The same terror tries to harm us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere.”

According to Israeli reports, the attacker boarded the bus at approximately 7:15 a.m. and began stabbing passengers soon afterward. The driver, Herzl Biton, 55, sprayed the assailant with pepper spray as he was being stabbed, slowing him down and aiding the Prison Service employees in stopping him as he fled the scene.

“We identified in the area of the Maariv Bridge a large gathering, and people crying for help. After an initial assessment, we understood it was a terrorist incident,” said Prison Service Commander Benny Botershvili, who shot the attacker, according to the Times of Israel. “I and a team of three Nachshon fighters identified the terrorist and chased after him. We shot toward his legs, the terrorist collapsed and fell, we handcuffed him and waited for the police to arrive.”

Liel Suissa, an eighth-grader on his way to school, told the Israeli daily Israel Hayom that he broke a bus window to escape the attack after the stabbing began. He said the assailant continued chasing after people as they escaped the bus.

“Suddenly the terrorist came and began stabbing people,” Suissa said, according to Israel Hayom. “We all went to the back, and most of the people piled onto me. I sat in the bus and heard people screaming. He turned around in the bus and suddenly went to the driver and stabbed him.”

Tel Aviv Police Commander Bentzi Sau called the attack a “nationalist incident” and praised Biton’s “excellent reaction” to the stabbing. He said the police are investigating whether the attacker had any accomplices.

Hamas officials praised the attack as “heroic and courageous,” according to Israeli reports. Hamas said it was a “natural reaction of sons of the Palestinian nation to the crimes of the cruel Zionist occupier.”

Palestinian home attacked with firebomb


A Palestinian home near Hebron was set alight by a firebomb in what is believed to be a price tag attack.

The Molotov cocktail was thrown through the living room window of the house at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday, while the home’s 10 residents were sleeping. Most of the living room was destroyed by the fire.

The father of the family told Ynet that two masked men threw the firebomb. The Hebrew word for revenge was spray painted on the outside of the house.

“Price tag” refers to the strategy adopted by extremist settlers and their supporters to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

The attack comes days after a Jewish home is eastern Jerusalem was firebombed, and a week after a firebomb thrown by two Palestinian teens in the northern West Bank severely injured an 11-year-old Israeli girl.

Later on Wednesday, Palestinians and West Bank residents clashed after the Palestinians arrived to plough fields near the settlement of Nokdim located in Gush Etzion. The Palestinians had not coordinated the visit with the appropriate government authorities, according to the settlers.

Can Israelis protect themselves from a new wave of low-tech terror?


Just after dawn on Nov. 18, a pair of Palestinian cousins from East Jerusalem went ” target=”_blank”>three American and one British — as well as a Druze traffic officer who tried to intervene.

“I was in shock — I didn’t understand what they were doing,” said Simha Anteby, 30, a Venezuelan immigrant who lives across the street from the synagogue and watched police kill the shooters as they ran from the building. “Never before has Hamas entered the shul. This is our calmest time, when we’re standing wrapped in tefillin. We’re completely vulnerable.

“They took advantage,” she said.

The Har Nof synagogue massacre, above all other recent acts of terror, has shattered the Israeli public’s sense of security in its most intimate settings. And it is forcing Israelis, who have secured their skies with the Iron Dome and their borders with fences and separation barriers, to attempt to figure out how to defend themselves against their next-door neighbors.

Regular worshipers at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in West Jerusalem inspect bullet holes left by Palestinian shooters in a Nov. 18 rampage. Photos by Simone Wilson

This was the sixth fatal attack against Israelis within one month. There were also two car-as-weapon assaults ” target=”_blank”>attempted assassination of religious activist Yehuda Glick; and two stabbings on the same day, at a ” target=”_blank”>Tel Aviv train station.

A trend has emerged: Palestinian assailants, most with Jerusalem residency cards and, therefore, freedom of movement around Israel, are launching lone-wolf attacks with easy-to-find weapons.

Israeli social media analyst Orit Perlov, a research fellow for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said that trend has turned into a wildly effective, almost ISIS-like online campaign called “Ida’as, Ita’an, Itbah” (Arabic for “run over, stab, slaughter”).

“It creates a bigger effect than before,” Perlov said. “I’m sitting in Tel Aviv, I don’t leave my house, and I’m getting those pictures in a second. It doesn’t mean we have less security today, but we feel more insecurity. … I don’t need to physically be there to be terrorized.”

Most of the attacks before Har Nof seemed to be spur-of-the-moment decisions, impossible to predict or prevent.

“This is quite clearly a popular [movement] that is going from bottom up,” said Udi Dekel, a former negotiator in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and managing director of the INSS. “It’s the popular, kind of copycat nature of terrorism that people are getting excited about. … They can decide one morning to go out and [release] what’s been cooking in their souls for a week or two.”

When the attacks began, Israeli police erected concrete blocks at rail stations, deployed more than 1,000 extra officers around the city, set up dozens of vehicle checkpoints, and launched a new fleet of helicopters and surveillance balloons overhead.

Still, early on Nov. 18, the Abu Jamal cousins drove to the Har Nof synagogue with a car full of weapons and entered with ease.

“They didn’t have to break in,” said Dr. Joyce Morel, a first responder. “It was time for prayers — it was open. Anybody could just walk in.”

In response, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich implemented sweeping changes. He boxed in all Palestinian neighborhoods with concrete barricades, requiring anyone entering or exiting to pass through a checkpoint. He ordered all synagogues to hire private guards and enlisted four reserve border police companies for public patrol. 

The residents of Har Nof in West Jerusalem, many of them English-speaking immigrants, gathered for a special service on Nov. 20 in memory of four synagogue members killed two days before.

Perhaps most controversially, Aharonovich eased restrictions for former cops or soldiers — and anyone living in a high-risk neighborhood — to acquire a gun license.

“The decision comes from a need to improve the feeling of safety among the population in light of the recent terror attacks,” Aharonovich said.

Jonathan Fine, a senior researcher at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC), lives in a mixed Arab-Jewish sector of Jerusalem called French Hill. He said he doesn’t leave the house anymore without a gun.

“On the intelligence and tactical levels, it’s almost impossible to predict an independent attack,” he said. “Therefore, the only response on the ground will be from those who happen to be there. Police, pedestrians, or … your humble servant jogging with a pistol in his pouch.”

Yoram Schweitzer, INSS’ resident expert on terrorism, stressed that Israel can’t “put a guard in every synagogue and every kindergarten, because you have a zillion installations. This is not a solution.” In an INSS roundtable on the state of the conflict, Schweitzer and his colleagues advised that in order for calm to be restored, knee-jerk security measures would not be enough without a real political effort to move forward in the pursuit of Palestinian independence.

“We have to fight against the terror and dismantle the terror infrastructure … but it’s not enough,” Dekel said. “You have to all the time strive and go forward in the direction that you believe would be better for us and for the Palestinians.”

An insecure nation

Multiple Jerusalemites told the Journal that the synagogue massacre, more than other attacks, has left them with a feeling of total insecurity.

Kalman S., an Orthodox father-to-be and West Jerusalem resident who was afraid to give his full name, said he had always considered Har Nof off-limits to the enemy. “Americans come all the way to Israel to live in this beautiful place,” he said. “Until now, it was the area that was more safe than the rest of Jerusalem. Then, all of a sudden, these guys are barbarically killed.

“Now,” he said, “I’m crossing the street with my wife, nine months’ pregnant, and I’m looking over my shoulder to make sure there’s no Arab guy to stab me.”

More than 12 hours after the attack, small clusters of Har Nof residents still lingered near the front steps to the shul, their faces dark and disbelieving. Charedi men in black coats and hats inspected bullet holes in synagogue windows and car doors, now marked with police tape. Women pulled their cardigans tighter to shield themselves from the cold.

“We know that if we go to the center, to the Western Wall, they can hurt us,” Avraham Kleiger, 25, told the Journal. “But, here we thought we were safe. We thought the synagogue was the red line.”

Young women from Har Nof hide their tears behind their prayer books during an emotional Nov. 20 service at the Kehilat Bnei Torah shul.

In the agonizing hours that followed the Nov. 18 attack, Har Nof residents would learn which of their seasoned Torah scholars hadn’t made it through morning prayers alive: Aryeh Kupinsky. Kalman Levine. Avraham Goldberg. Moshe Twersky.

Twersky comes from a famous Chasidic family with a strong presence on America’s East Coast that is a household name among the Jerusalem Orthodox. His friends and family knew him as a strict scholar with a warm smile, devoted wholeheartedly to serving God. Twersky’s niece, Rebecca Rosenblatt, currently studying abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said in a hushed interview outside the family shivah that she had never once heard her Orthodox uncle discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Uncle Moshe respected everyone,” she said. “The only one he ever sought recognition from was God.”

Israeli security and social-media analyst Perlov said this attack on religious Jews wrapped in tefillin comes amid a shift in iconography driving the Palestinian resistance. Whereas propaganda cartoons used to mainly show uniformed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) under attack, she said, many of the victims are now depicted as caricatures of Orthodox Jews.

IDC counterterrorism expert Fine said the synagogue massacre was a clear sign that Palestinian attackers are taking clues from radical Islam. “They used butcher knives,” he said of the assailants. “If you get into Sharia law, you’ll see very specific rulings on killing the enemy with a knife.”

Some analysts believe the Har Nof synagogue may have been a random pick, born of convenience, but there’s a good possibility the Abu Jamal cousins chose their venue carefully. East Jerusalem residents who knew Ghassan and Uday told the Journal that the Kehilat Bnei Torah shul was the same one frequented by the family of the man convicted of brutally murdering young East Jerusalem boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July. (Various Israeli and Palestinian media reports provided evidence toward the same claim.) And Ghassan, they said, had been close friends with Yousef Ramouni, the Palestinian bus driver Dust and lightning

A short drive from Har Nof, at the mouth to Jerusalem, a few hundred Israelis gathered beneath the Bridge of Strings on the night of the synagogue massacre to voice their pain — and their anger at Israeli officials for not preventing the attack with a greater show of strength.

Israeli activist Itamar Ben Gvir rallies a crowd near the entrance to Jerusalem on Nov. 18, calling for Israel to expel all Arabs from the country.

The rally soon devolved into a rowdy mob led by members of the extreme anti-Arab group Lehava. They taunted riot police, chanted “Death to the Arabs!” and attempted to chase down suspected Palestinians and “lefties” walking by. Slogans like “No Arabs = no attacks” and “There is no coexistence with cancer” were scrawled on homemade signs. Wartime-level racial tensions had returned to Jerusalem.

Said one young protester: “The government needs to fight stronger against this enemy. We need to go and blow up their house — right now. It’s taking too long.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the same idea. That night, under pressure to take decisive action and to console an insecure nation, he said in a media statement:

“We will not tolerate this reality; we will fight terrorism, and we will defeat it. We will restore law, order and security to the streets of Jerusalem. This evening, I ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre and the hastening of the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the earlier attacks.”

The next night, a demolition team made up of IDF Combat Engineering Corps soldiers, Israeli police and border cops A young relative of terror suspect Abdel Rahman Al Shaludi stands in the rubble of their family home. The building was partially demolished by Israeli forces on Nov. 19 as punishment for Al Shaludi’s deadly October attack at a Jerusalem light rail station.

The family building didn’t crumble entirely. However, 21-year-old Abdel Rahman’s apartment — where he lived with his mother, father and five brothers and sisters — has been gutted, rendered unlivable, by an IDF explosive. And the building’s other seven units are now in various states of destruction — some with holes in their walls, some with their belongings ransacked and furniture shredded. A car parked on the street below was destroyed by falling objects. “They peed on the bed of the children, and on the schoolbooks of my niece, on the first floor,” Enas claimed.

Her son, now a community shahid (martyr) with his face on fliers and banners all over Silwan, allegedly had rammed his car into a Jerusalem light rail station on Oct. 22. The crash killed a 3-month-old baby girl and an Ecuadorian immigrant, and sent Jerusalem into a new era of tension and violence some are calling the Third Intifada.

“I don’t like to see innocent people dying. I don’t like to see anyone die — Jew or Palestinian,” she said. “But violence will create more violence. Action will create more action. The situation will only become worse. The only solution is to end the occupation and to keep the settlers out of Al-Aqsa mosque.”

‘An extraordinary step’

The Al Shaludi home demolition was the first in a lineup of at least six punitive demolitions that as of press time Nov. 24 was expected in the coming days.

Back in July, the IDF demolished two family homes in the West Bank belonging to Palestinian men suspected of carrying out the infamous kidnap-murder of three Jewish boys. At that time, officials were hesitant to confirm the demolition to the press. The practice was then somewhat taboo: It had been discontinued in 2005 after the IDF declared it ineffective and had only been approved in two exceptional cases since.

But with the 4 a.m. explosion in Silwan last week, this tactic, whose effectiveness is often debated, re-entered the mainstream.

In a video interview with CNN, the prime minister’s spokesman, Mark Regev, explained the revival. “It is an extraordinary step, one of the tools in our tool box,” Regev said. “A Palestinian terrorist, any terrorist, may not care about themselves. But maybe they care about their immediate loved ones and where they live. I’ve been in security discussions, and our experts believe this policy could save lives.”

Jabel Mukabbir, the East Jerusalem hometown of the Abu Jamal synagogue attackers, will be hit hardest by the demolitions. Their two family homes — plus that of Mohammed Naif Ja’abis, who flipped over a Jerusalem bus with his tractor on Aug. 4, killing one — are on the IDF’s list.

Theirs is a tight-knit neighborhood that cascades down a hill just south of Jerusalem’s Old City, spilling over the political fault line that separates East Jerusalem from the West Bank. It’s also a hotbed for anti-Israel activity: In 2008, another Jabel Mukabbir resident shot up a yeshiva in West Jerusalem; eight boys died in the attack.

On the afternoon of Nov. 21 in Jabel Mukabbir, hundreds of residents had gathered to support the Abu Jamal family at a mourning tent for Ghassan and Uday. Their mothers were holed up in a neighbor’s home, too distraught to speak to the press. They’d just gotten word that Israel might not return their sons’ bodies for burial — and a 48-hour demolition notice posted on their family homes Nov. 20 was set to expire the next afternoon.

“When you build this house, your soul is gone when you finish,” said Kamal Awisat, 51, a cousin of the synagogue attackers. “It’s not easy for Palestinians to build in Jerusalem because Israel doesn’t give us new permits. So every time your children have children, you cut a new apartment into the house.”

The two stone buildings set for demolition, home to around 20 members of the Abu Jamal family, are situated about 50 meters apart, surrounded by olive trees and connected by a dirt path. One is said to be around 200 years old.

By last Friday, families had removed their furniture from the home and were bracing for an explosion in the night.

Uday’s younger brother, who didn’t want to give his name for fear the Israeli police would arrest him, said that if the IDF demolished his home, he would sleep in the rubble — right where Uday’s room used to be. “I will be like him some day, inshallah (God willing),” said the 10-year-old, a red checkered keffiyeh draped over his shoulders.

“You see? Instead of making calm, they are making more fire,” said Awisat. “How would you feel if this was your house? They will make 500 youth ready to do more than what [Ghassan and Uday] did.”

Waiting for Demolition

Next door, in the more low-key, upscale East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor, there’s another IDF demolition slated for the home of Mutaz Hijazi — the man suspected of the near-fatal shooting of Israeli-American activist Yehuda Glick, a lead campaigner for Jewish prayer rights at the contested Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Hijazi‘s father Ibrahim, 67, welcomed a nonstop rotation of journalists into his house on Friday afternoon. He walked from room to room, showing them the space where he‘d raised his children. The furniture had been dragged out, but traces of life remained: In the living room, a child had painted stripes of glitter on the wall. In an adjacent bedroom, deflated red and yellow balloons were still tacked to the ceiling. An embroidered “Welcome” sign and a photo of his dead son Mutaz hung near the front door.

Waiting for the IDF to arrive, Ibrahim said, was almost more painful than the demolition itself. “He’s already gone,” said Ibrahim of his son. “What they‘re doing now is just to show how much hate they have for our people.”

The renowned Israeli professor and doctor Shimon Glick, father of the man Hijazi allegedly shot, said he sees the demolitions mostly as a means of attempting to calm the Israeli people.

“No one knows whether this is effective” in preventing future terror attacks, he said. “Everyone has an opinion. They like to think they know, but no one knows for sure.”

Personally, Glick said, “It gives me no satisfaction to know that these people will have their house blown up. But when something this horrible happens, people demand a response. The government has to do something.”

The U.S. has urged Israeli authorities to avoid punitive home demolitions. “We’ve made it clear that all sides have to work together to lower tensions,” U.S. State Department Jeff Rathke said at a recent press conference. “And we believe that punitive home demolitions are counterproductive in an already tense situation. This is a practice I would remind that the Israeli government itself discontinued in the past, recognizing its effects.”

Various Israeli security experts stressed to the Journal that the country’s long-term security depends on a delicate balance of initially cracking down on radicals — to deter future attacks — while not pushing other Palestinians to the breaking point, and keeping hope alive for the future.

“When you have a gloomy option of peace negotiations, naturally the radicals have the upper hand — they incite and violence grows,” Fine said.

‘They knew the neighborhood’

The initial crackdown phase is in full effect in Jerusalem. Over the past few days, the Israel of a decade ago — in which one couldn’t walk a block without being watched or patted down by a man in uniform — has come back to life. More than usual, the streets are full of vigilantes: Plainclothes men in kippot walk around slung with rifles. On a recent Friday, one young man on the Jerusalem light rail, fresh out of the army, said he was carrying a gun to show Palestinians that “Jerusalem is ours.” Two others peeled past the central bus station in black helmets and Israeli flag capes, whooping into the wind. Central bus station security guards looked like they’d just woken up from two years of vacation, and spent a good 30 seconds rifling through each passenger’s bag.

Some Jerusalemites told the Journal that there’s not much they can do besides stay alert — or hide. “There are fewer people in the streets,” said Kalman S. “We stay home when we can.” 

Others are taking a stand. A controversial new campaign has urged Jewish business owners to fire their Palestinian employees.

According to police, the Tel Aviv stabbing suspect had been working illegally in Israel before he lashed out. One of the Abu Jamal cousins, too, is said to have worked at a grocery store a few blocks from the Har Nof synagogue. (Residents of Har Nof each named a different store when questioned by the Journal, and storeowners all denied the synagogue attacker had worked in their businesses.)

“They knew the neighborhood. If they didn’t work here, this wouldn’t happen,” said 17-year-old Har Nof resident Yakov Wilshinky. “The Arabs don’t want us alive in this country. You don’t know which one will come and kill you.”

Wilshinky and his friends — one of whom held up a flier reading “Don’t hire Arabs!!!” — said they had been making the rounds to local businesses. “We’re going to the managers of all the grocery stores and telling them to fire their Arab workers,” said Dudu Asulin. He said his own boss, at a nearby supermarket, had sent all the Arabs home that day and told them, “Don’t come back to work.”

Despite warnings from the Prime Minister’s Office — “We should not generalize an entire population because a small minority of it is violent and belligerent,” Netanyahu said — the “don’t hire Arabs” movement quickly spread beyond Har Nof. A reception hall chain in Bnei Brak reportedly fired more than a dozen Arab dishwashers after the synagogue attack. And the mayor of Ashkelon, a large Israeli city near Gaza, made international headlines when he banned Arab workers from construction sites near schools. (He later retracted his decision.)

Protesters at the Lehava rally said there was no alternative. “Every Arab you see, you get scared,” said Avi Mann. “If an Arab wakes up in the morning and he’s angry, he could take a knife and kill Jews.”

A 22-year-old Palestinian woman living in Jabel Mukabbir and working at an Israeli hospital would only give her initials — R.A. — in an interview with the Journal, for fear her hospital superiors would see the article and fire her.

R.A. also volunteers for a Palestinian emergency response team, where she’s been treating young Jabel Mukabbir protesters wounded in clashes with police ahead of the slated home demolitions. “We couldn’t just let them come in,” she said of Israeli forces. “All of the people of this village stopped them from entering. We are very close here; every home is our home. We can’t give up that easily.”

Of the motives driving recent terror attacks, she said: “Things escalated over a few months. It started on Ramadan, when they stopped us from going to the [Al-Aqsa] mosque. Then Abu Khdeir was killed, and then Gaza — it built up, bit by bit. And they just suppressed it. They didn’t let people express their feelings.

“These bad things that happen don’t come from nowhere,” she said. “It’s a reaction. We don’t all wake up every morning and want to kill.”

Palestinian driver killed attempting to run West Bank checkpoint


A Palestinian driver was killed as he tried to run over Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint.

Another Palestinian in the minivan and an Israeli civilian also were injured in the Tuesday afternoon incident.

The driver was seriously wounded when an Israeli soldier opened fire as the vehicle attempted to overrun the Eyal checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Kalkilya. He later died of his wounds.

The minivan had Israeli license plates and held several Palestinian passengers without documentation reportedly attempting to enter Israel illegally, according to The Jerusalem Post. They were arrested and taken for questioning.

Why Israel must negotiate with Hamas


The following article appeared in the Italian and Israeli press, and is offered here for the first time in English.  Its author is the distinguished Novelist, Alef Bet Yehoshua, well known as well for his advocacy of peace initiatives and his argument that Israel constitutes a kind of special Jewish sovereignty that (some feel) diminishes the importance of Diaspora.    William Cutter, Prof. Emeritus at Hebrew Union College, is the translator, and is not representing his personal views on any subjects related to Mr. Yehoshua’s arguments.   

——

When Israel was established officially in 1948, The Jordanians bombarded Jerusalem and isolated it even as they killed hundreds of its residents.  The soldiers of the Arab Legion conquered Gush Etzion and murdered killed many Israelis—even in cold blood. Yet, throughout all the months of that cruel and difficult war, no one called (thought of calling) the Jordanians “terrorists”.  They were the enemy, pure and simple the “enemy.  And in the very midst of such awful bloodshed, ongoing talks were held between the official Israeli and Jordanian delegations.  These cease fire talks—brokered by the United Nations –led eventually to fragile agreements to cease hostilities in 1949.    

The Syrians—up until the War of 1967—bombarded the settlements in the northern Gallilee, killing or wounding many of its residents, but no one described the Syrians as “terrorists”; they were rather termed “the enemy.”  This situation was not about providing gas or electricity, and in fact they actually did meet from time to time for face to face meetings about armistice or cease fire. 

Until the Six Day War terrorist divisions commonly came across the Egyptian border and spread death among Israeli settlements that were situated on that border which were open to Egypt as an enemy, not as a terrorist nation.

And in spite of the fact that such countries announced openly their intention to destroy Israel, Israel’s Prime Minister managed to open every session of his Parliament (K’nesset) by turning to Egypt and Syria with a plea to calm hostilities and make peace agreements.

What accounts for the fact that, after the retreat of Israel from the Gaza Strip, the departure from Israeli settlements and the transfer of authority to Hamas, we continue to characterize Gaza as a terrorist state rather than as an “enemy’ in the full sense of that word?  Is it that the expression “a regime of terror” is a stronger expression than “enemy”?  Or, perhaps the word “terror” signifies that we reckon deep down that the territory of Gaza is a part of Israel, which we tried unsuccessfully to settle, wishing to return.  In that case, its inhabitants wouldn’t be considered “enemies” but Arab s of the Land of Israel in which bands of terrorists operate?  Do we have the obligations towards the welfare of Gazans in a way in which we did not have to attend to the welfare of the Syrians or Egyptians in previous wars—so that, while we DO continue to supply electricity and food and oil (and this is my main point) we don’t agree even to enter into negotiations with the leadership of Gaza in the way in which we once negotiated with the Jordanians, the Syrians or the Egyptians.

Is it possible that all of the confusion and complexity here derives from the concern that cease fire meetings with Hamas or consideration of future essential steps towards establishing stable arrangements of cease fire are likely to weaken Abu Maizen?

Yet the continued killing in Gaza is weakening even more the person who regards himself as the leader of the Palestinian people.  And even if we grant this is the reason for our concern, the question remains:  Why, when a short time ago the Palestinians united, we didn’t exploit the opportunity to talk with Hamas, the partner in that coalition, and grant thereby a legitimacy to the polity that was governing Gaza? 

In my own view, Hamas’s frustration grows from the lack of a meaningful legitimization in Israel’s eyes and in the eyes of most of the world.  It is this frustration that leads them to such destructive desperation.  And that is why it is necessary to grant them status as a legitimate enemy before we can come to any agreement or, alternatively, to a frontal war and all that would entail.  That is how we functioned previously with Arab nations.  As long as we label Hamas as a terrorist gang that dominates innocent citizens it is not only that we cannot reach a satisfactory cease-fire in the South with appropriate military consequences, but (and this is the main point) we will not be able to enter into open negotiations with the Gaza government in three significant aspects: 

1.      International supervision regarding the removal of missiles and the prohibition on importing them by land sea or air;

2.     Opening up the borders to Israel so that workers may come to Israel for employment;

3.     The eventual and desirable opening of secure passage between Gaza and the West Bank.

There will be skeptics among us who will argue that Hamas may not choose to sit with us for such open negotiations.  What about them?

Then we must propose meetings within the framework of the united Palestinian government.  And should they reject that possibility, then our war will become a legitimate war in every sense of the word, fought according to the general rules of warfare.

But let us not forget: The Palestinians in Gaza are our permanent neighbors and we are theirs.  We will never halt the bloody destruction with talk of terror except through negotiation or a war against a legitimate enemy from whom we have no claims other than the claims that he stop the attacks. 

Pro-Israel rally at Federal Building to begin at 4 p.m.


A pro-Israel rally at the Wilshire Federal Building, located on Wilshire and Sepulveda Boulevards, on Sunday, kicks off at 4 p.m. Click here for more information. Organizations 30 Years After; Stand With Us; and Israeli American Council; and others are sponsoring the event, and if previous, similar rallies are any indication, hundreds, if not thousands, of people will show up to express their support. 

There's a lot happening in Israel at the moment. This past week, Israel and the Gaza have exchanged rocket fire, amidst upheaval over the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and a group of young Israelis' subsequent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen.

Rioting in the streets, coupled with the razing of homes in the West Bank as Israel searched for the murderers, contributed to the escalation of violence between the two warring sides. For the past several days, Gaza ruling party Hamas has been launching rockets into Israel.

Israel, for its part, has responded to Hamas' actions with Operation Protective Edge, a military bombarding of aerial strikes against Gaza.

The worst has yet to come, apparently. Israeli leaders have said the deployment of ground troops into Gaza, a coastal enclave ruled by Hamas that Israel has a naval blockade over, might go down. Various media outlets, citing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israel leaders, have said Operation Protective Edge could last a long time.

Israel has mobilized thousands of Israel Defense Forces reserve troops in the event it is deemed necessary to pursue a ground option.

Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel, who spoke to the Journal last Wednesday, said goals of Operation Protective Edge, which began on July 7, include securing Israel.

Some worry the embattled regions are on the verge of a Third Intifada.

More than 100 Palestinians have lost their lives as a result of this latest round of violence.

Israelis are faring better. This is due to the Iron Dome, a counter-defense system that has prevented Hamas rockets from hitting their targets in Israel.

Life in Israel has been disrupted by the violence, with bomb shelters becoming temporary homes for Israelis within firing distance from Gaza.

The Los Angeles community has been paying attention. On July 8, dueling rallies took place outside the Los Angeles Israeli consulate's headquarter. More than 300 people turned up at the anti-Israel event. 

The Federal Building is often the site of choice for these pro-Israel actions, like in 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense. More than 1,000 people showed up for the pro-Israel rally. 

An Israel-Hamas ceasefire resulted from the 2012 conflict, a similar deadly episode between Israel and Gaza. It is unclear if one will come any time soon. In the meantime, the United States has offered to help the two sides return to normalcy, if such a word can describe the two sides' relationship, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has also called for an end to the fighting.

Rallies at LA Israel consulate show strong feelings about renewed Israel-Gaza violence


Dueling rallies on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 7, outside the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles showed strong feelings about renewed Israel-Gaza violence.

On the south side of the street at  11766 Wilshire Blvd., protestors held Palestinian flags, which flapped in a reporter’s face as the people waving them chanted slogans, infusing strong emotion into a demonstration critical of Israel held outside the Israeli consulate’s office in West Los Angeles. 

Chants alternated between being anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian.

“Netanyahu you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide” went one chant. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” went another during the rally, which, according to a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) official estimate, drew approximately 300 people.

The rally began at 4 p.m. and ended around 7 p.m.

The event turned the sidewalk on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, near Barrington Avenue, into a scene of controlled chaos. The sound of car horns filled the air. Pro-Palestinians sang their chants into microphones. Many of them students, the crowd pushed up against the curb, their bodies pressed up against large pro-Palestinian banners, as buses and other cars drove by.

Across the street, a somewhat more subdued gathering of supporters of Israel drew about 100 people, according to an LAPD estimate.

The rallies took place even as rockets flew between Israel and the Gaza Strip, an escalation of violence in the wake of the recent abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers – and the subsequent revenge killing by Israelis of a Palestinian teenager.

The Holocaust, the Mideast, cons and Americana


Scattered amid this year’s more traditional holiday fare are some ambitious, profound and illuminating films that should intrigue the discriminating audience.

Among these is “The Last of the Unjust,” a rabbi accused of collaborating with the Nazis, from noted French-Jewish filmmaker Claude Lanzmann. When the director was gathering material for his acclaimed work “Shoah” in 1975, he spent several days shooting interviews with Benjamin Murmelstein, a Viennese rabbi who became the third, last and only one to survive as chief of the Jewish Council of Elders at the concentration camp/ghetto in Czechoslovakia known as Theresienstadt. The camp was promoted as a model community for Jews and used for propaganda by the Nazis, when, in reality, conditions were harsh, many inmates died of disease or were killed, and numerous others were transported to death camps in the east.

The Murmelstein footage didn’t appear in “Shoah,” but Lanzmann said he always knew he would use the material at some point. “I was the heir of something so important that I had not the right to keep it for myself alone. 

“The issue of the Jewish councils had never been comprehensively addressed before, not by me, not by anybody. It did not fit in ‘Shoah,’ ” he said. “It was now the moment to deal with it.”   

The Nazis set up Jewish councils in camps like Theresienstadt to administer basic services, carry out orders from the Germans and communicate or mediate between the Germans and the prisoners. The council chiefs frequently had to implement brutal orders, such as to choose who would be transported, or for rationing food. Many of Murmelstein’s decisions were deeply resented, and he was accused of being a collaborator. After the camp was liberated, he was tried by Czech authorities and imprisoned for 18 months before being found innocent of all charges.  

Lanzmann explained that Murmelstein referred to himself as “the last of the unjust,” giving this film its title, a take on André Schwarz-Bart’s masterful novel, “The Last of the Just.” 

“I have to make it clear,” the director noted, “genuine collaborators — meaning people who shared Nazi ideology — did not exist amongst Jews, and Murmelstein was certainly the absolute opposite of a collaborator. Yet, Benjamin Murmelstein survived the war.

“In the film,” Lanzmann continued, “he recalls that the first question he was asked in prison after the war, was: ‘Why did you survive?’ Frightening question. People couldn’t understand why all of the others were dead and Murmelstein was alive. If you don’t dig deeper, it is easy to draw a conclusion: He must have been a collaborator then; he must have been a traitor. 

“Murmelstein managed to bring an answer during our meeting. He survived because he understood that his survival — and the survival of all the ‘inhabitants’ of the ghetto — and the survival of the ghetto were completely linked. Therefore, he worked hard to keep the ghetto working, to keep it exposable and useful for the Nazis. When some saw there a deliberate action to hide what Theresienstadt really was from the Western countries, he explains that this was a way to hamper the Nazis from exterminating the whole ghetto. If the ghetto were to be useless, it would have been destroyed! Like so many others.

“Besides,” Lanzmann said, “his whole situation that he described in the film — ‘between the hammer and the anvil, between the Jews and the Nazis’ — was unbearable and made him take tough decisions that were un-understandable for the Jews at that time.”

Lanzmann said his film also explores more universal issues, beyond Murmelstein. 

“The aim of ‘The Last of the Unjust’ is summarized by that sentence of the writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, quoted by Murmelstein: ‘If, in 50 years, it is said that all the Jews from the ghettos were saints, there won’t be (a) greater lie,’ and Murmelstein adds, ‘They were all martyrs, but not all martyrs are saints.’ 

“This is what I try to explain in this film. I try to expose the complexity of the human soul. This film is an invitation to think.”

“The Last of the Unjust” opens for an Oscar-qualifying run Dec. 13 and goes into wide release in early 2014.

Moving from the Holocaust to the Mideast, we have the documentary “It’s Better to Jump,” in which Palestinian residents of Akka, the walled seaport in northern Israel that is home to Muslims, Jews, Christians and Baha’i, voice their complaints about Israel’s influence on their culture and their economic conditions. They cite gentrification, through which Israelis pay inflated prices for properties so that the poor inhabitants leave, and they charge that the process is a concerted effort to replace the Palestinians with Jewish occupants in order to change the demography. The interviewees express their fear that the ancient city will become a tourist town. They also decry what they perceive as discrimination in education and employment against the Arabs and in favor of the Jews.  

The film’s title refers to a rite of passage that has young people stand on top of a 40-foot wall, which has endured for centuries, and jump into the treacherous waters at the bottom. The children describe the experience as one of exhilaration and liberation.

Patrick Alexander Stewart, his Palestinian wife, Mouna Stewart, and Gina Angelone served as the movie’s directors/producers.

“It’s Better to Jump” opens Dec. 6.

A complex domestic situation involving Middle Easterners in Paris is the subject of Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s (“A Separation”) latest effort, “The Past.”

The story focuses on Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who returns to Paris after four years in his native Tehran to help his French wife, Marie (Bérénice Bejo — “The Artist”), complete their divorce proceedings. Marie wants to marry her lover, Samir (Tahar Rahim), whose child she is carrying, but their relationship causes intense friction between Marie and her teenage daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet). The girl has learned that Samir’s wife is in a coma after a suicide attempt and believes Samir’s affair with her mother was the cause. Although Ahmad is not her father, Lucie relates to him as a father figure, and he tries his best to broker a peace between his soon-to-be ex-wife and his stepdaughter. His attempts lead to the revelation of a secret from the past, hence the title. Meanwhile, Samir is torn between guilt over his wife’s condition, uncertainty about whether she will live or die, and his desire for Marie.

Rather than dealing with cultural conflicts, the film focuses on personal dilemmas that could occur in any culture. “One of my guidelines was not to define my characters by their nationality or their flag,” Farhadi states in the press notes. “Their behavior is determined by the situation they are experiencing.  In a crisis situation, differences tend to disappear.”

“The Past” opens Dec. 20.

We now travel to America, where two of the upcoming films depict Jewish con men.

In “American Hustle,” scam artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is compelled to aid FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) in a sting aimed at uncovering political corruption. The story is inspired by the Abscam sting operation of the late 1970s and early ’80s, in which undercover FBI operatives offered bribes to politicians, resulting in the convictions of U.S. Sen. Harrison A. Williams and six congressmen, among other public officials, on charges of bribery and conspiracy. To help run Abscam, the FBI hired swindler Melvin Weinberg, on whom the character of Rosenfeld is based.

During a “Good Morning America” interview in July, director David O. Russell talked about what audiences can expect from his film.

“They can expect a wild world of amazing characters, people with their passions and their arts, that was inspired by this wild event that happened back then. You’ve got con artists — Christian Bale playing a con artist from the Bronx, Amy Adams his partner in crime — so good, they get so good at what they do as con artists that the government asks them to work for them.”

He added, “And you’ve got the economy, like today, in a tough place, people very eager, if not desperate, to make something happen.” 

“American Hustle” opens Dec. 13.

The other swindler-themed movie is Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street, adapted from the memoir of the same title by Jordan Belfort, a notorious trader who became hugely successful by marketing penny stocks through his brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, during the 1990s. In a Wall Street Journal article, Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Belfort, is quoted as saying the film portrays “the real epitome of American greed.”

The film also marks DiCaprio’s fifth with Scorsese, who, in the same article, characterizes Belfort as a man bent on “making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. He enters this world, masters it brilliantly, has a great time and spins out of control. Jordan was a guy who got around every obstacle and every regulation and then, because of drugs and the sheer addiction to wealth and what it brings, couldn’t bring himself to stop. Jordan risks a lot, but he does it because that’s part of the enjoyment — he’s so brilliant that he always tests the limits. ‘I got away with this, so how about trying to get away with that?’ And then he got caught.”

In 2003, Belfort was convicted of money laundering and securities fraud and was sentenced to four years in federal prison but served only 22 months. He was also ordered to pay $110 million in restitution to people he defrauded, but, according to the New York Daily News, Belfort so far has forked over only $11.6 million, and Brooklyn federal prosecutors are asking the court to hold him in default. The article also cites  Belfort’s response: “An irate Belfort — who plans a 2014 motivational speaking world tour to teach people how to ‘not just create wealth, but to use it for the greater good’ — called the U.S. attorney’s accusations ‘all lies … a complete fabrication.’

“ ‘When I saw the deadbeat accusation, I almost started crying,’ said Belfort, his eyes welling with tears. ‘I can’t believe something like this is happening in America.’ ”

“The Wolf of Wall Street” opens Dec. 25.

A very different American tale is told in a new movie from the Coen brothers. “Inside Llewyn Davis” re-creates the folk music scene in Greenwich Village during the late 1950s and early ’60s, an era that coincided with the beat generation and just predated the more commercially successful figures of the genre such as Bob Dylan or Peter, Paul and Mary.

The fictional character of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a struggling folk singer trying to make it as a solo act after his partner commits suicide. Essentially homeless, he crashes on friends’ couches and scrounges from anyone who will give him a handout, all the while trying to practice his art with uncompromising authenticity. But his singlemindedness makes him his own worst enemy as he alienates friends and strangers, sabotaging the few opportunities that come his way.

In the Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl wrote, “While often funny and alive with winning performances, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ finds the brothers in a dark mood, exploring the near-inevitable disappointment that faces artists too sincere to compromise — disappointments that the Coens, to their credit, have made a career out of dodging. The result is their most affecting film since the masterful ‘A Serious Man.’ ”

“Inside Llewyn Davis” opens in limited release Dec. 6 and in wider release Dec. 20.

The story of Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) battle to acquire the rights to film his daughters’ favorite book, “Mary Poppins,” from author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is told in “Saving Mr. Banks.” Travers was actually the pen name used by Helen Goff.

The film goes back and forth in time between the novelist’s youth (Annie Rose) in early 20th century Australia and  the year 1961, when Disney invites her to his studio, hoping he will finally get permission to film her novel after four decades of being rebuffed by the writer. She accepts his invitation because, by this time, sales of her book have dwindled, along with her finances.

Disney presents her with creative storyboards and upbeat songs by the gifted Sherman Brothers (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak), sons of Russian-Jewish immigrants, who scored more films than any other musical team.

But despite Disney’s efforts, Travers is still unyielding. She relents only after he is able to relate to her on a deeper level and address the pain over her relationship with her father (Colin Farrell), depicted as a loving, but irresponsible parent, given to drink and to tall tales, who served as the inspiration for the character of Mr. Banks, the father of the family that hires Mary Poppins as a nanny. 

In the production notes, director John Lee Hancock explains what turns the tide for the relationship:

“He needs to find out more about her, who she is, and what her relationship with her father was, and that becomes the key. He realizes that they have a somewhat shared past in their relationships with their fathers. He must convince her that the idea of turning something dark or even tragic into something that has a message that lives on and saves you from that dark past is the stuff of storytellers. And that’s what they have in common.”

“Saving Mr. Banks” opens in select cities Dec. 13 and goes into wide release Dec. 20.

Finally, there is Ben Stiller’s remake of the 1947 hit film, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which was based on a James Thurber short story about an inveterate daydreamer. Stiller directs and stars in the new version, taking on the role originally played by Danny Kaye.

The updated Walter Mitty is the photo editor of a magazine who escapes his humdrum existence by fantasizing about heroic deeds and steamy romances. But when his job and that of his secret crush are threatened, he is forced to action in the real world. Underlying the humor are issues arising from the explosion of new, often impersonal technologies that render many people’s way of life outmoded and irrelevant.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is scheduled for a Dec. 25 release. 

Al-Quds University president denounces extremist rally


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

A Nov. 5 rally at the West Bank-based Al-Quds University that featured demonstrators from the Islamic Jihad flashing Nazi-like salutes resulted in Brandeis University recalling its faculty from a joint program. Divisions racked the Palestinian university’s student body and faculty following the demonstration and word that the Boston-based school was suspending its presence at Al-Quds.

International pressure mounted on Al-Quds University President Dr. Sari Nusseibeh to respond to Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence’s demand to condemn what was being called a “radical” behavior at the rally. Nusseibeh told The Media Line that, “We don’t believe in oppressing freedom of opinion, but respecting it. I said clearly about what happens in this rally that such manifestations are harmful to the university. The university will not allow the breaching of respect.”

As for the demand from Boston, Nusseibeh said, “I’m not answerable to Brandeis or anyone else for that matter.”

Fadi Shawahin, the head of the university’s student council, explained that such gestures are often used to signify an oath by members of political organizations and that was what was being seen on Nov. 5.

“One of the ways an oath is done is by putting the hand to the heart; others by raising one finger; and the Islamic Jihad’s oath is done by pointing the full hand to the sky,” Shawahin said. He claimed that some media outlets portrayed the gesture as if it were a Nazi salute and Nazi-style demonstration being permitted on the campus. “This is clear propaganda to put pressure on the Palestinian leadership,” he charged.

The lack of an immediate response from the university administration inflamed reactions from both Brandeis and the Jewish community.

In his statement to The Media Line, Nusseibeh said, “I’m not here as president of the university under occupation and I’m not required to offer a condemnation. I’m required to educate people. I stated very clearly that I am against fascism and Nazism.”

Shawahin said that the student council approved of a proposed activity by the Islamic Jihad student-bloc at the university that was presented as an event to welcome new students. As part of their presentation, “Fifteen members of the party participated in a play that ended with a march on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the late Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Al-Shiqaqi, and to welcome the university’s new students,” he explained. Shiqaqi was killed by Israel in 1995.

Participants dressed in military garb and carried fake assault rifles while performing the Nazi-style salute before a gathered crowd of about 200 people. Israeli flags were laid on the ground and walked on, while a large poster with photos of Palestinian suicide bombers was erected in the square. Some people were also reported to have dressed up as dead Israelis.

“I do not honor suicide bombers. I do not know for a fact that this was the case because I was not there,” Nusseibeh said. “What I did find unacceptable was the picture of the people of the arms extended upwards wearing military uniforms. This is not acceptable on a university campus. Any manifestation of this must be told in a clear way that it is unacceptable. I made this very clear to my students, all 3,000 of them, in Arabic — not in English or Japanese.”

In a statement released on Nov. 11, Brandeis University expressed concern about the event and demanded an investigation by Al-Quds. President Lawrence then reached out to his counterpart requesting that Nusseibeh condemn the rally in both Arabic and English.

“The response that we received was unsatisfactory,” said Ellen de Graffenreid, senior Vice President of Communications at Brandeis University, citing the lack of a condemnation as the primary reason for Brandeis’ decision to remove their faculty.

“I’m very sorry that these pressures made President Lawrence take the action that he did,” Nusseibeh said. “Our mission and his should be to fight extremism and to bring about a peaceful future. I’m happy anytime they decide to go back on the decision. I welcome it anytime.”

A statement issued by Al-Quds elaborated on the relationship with Brandeis, calling it “a partnership promoting peace and human values and is mutually beneficial by bringing minds together to think of the power of education and use it against the extremist influences that exist out there.”

Social media was awash with outrage on both sides of the conflict. A Jerusalem member of the movement that advocates anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) posted, “Brandeis University endorses academic boycott…of Palestinians. Do they have an issue w/ Israeli racism on campus?”  Pro-Israel NGO Monitor said that it was “glad to see @BrandeisU did the right thing in the face of appalling intolerance and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Al-Quds University has 18,000 students spread across three West Bank campuses. The collaboration with Brandeis began in 1998, but more recently budget issues reduced the program to only a faculty exchange between the two universities. Bard College in New York, which also operates an exchange program with Al-Quds University, did not enter the controversy.

“The majority of staff and students were disappointed by the disturbances of the rally and that they were against the event,” an Al-Quds professor who requested to remain anonymous told The Media Line. “Some people are extremists and are destroying everything, all the efforts we have put into the university investing in people to respect each other. The extremists help the extreme. We do not agree with honoring suicide bombers. We are in the middle.”

Islamic Jihad has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. It has carried out dozens of attacks against Israeli citizens since its foundation in the 1970s.

Al-Quds University has set up an investigative committee to determine who participated in the event and in particular, whether the participants included members of the university’s faculty or student body. Dr. Nusseibeh told The Media Line that he is waiting for the report and will act as the case will warrant.

Diana Atallah contributed reporting from Ramallah.

Palestinian kills Israeli soldier on bus


An 18-year-old Israeli soldier was stabbed to death on a bus in northern Israel by a Palestinian teenager.

Police are calling the Wednesday morning incident in Afula a terrorist attack.

The soldier was stabbed several times in the neck on a bus traveling from Nazareth to Tel Aviv. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he reportedly died during surgery.

Police said the assailant, a 16-year-old male from Jenin, did not have a permit to work or reside in Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

Haaretz reported that the stabber’s brothers are known to Israeli security officials and have been connected to terrorist activity.  The attacker’s uncles are in prison in Israel, Army Radio reported.

The attack comes a day before the one-year anniversary of Pillar of Defense, an Israeli operation in Gaza launched to stop rocket strikes on southern Israel.

Last month, a Palestinian on a bus near Jerusalem threatened riders with a knife before cutting off a sidelock of a passenger and fleeing.

Grappling with troubled peace process, Kerry urges Israeli settlement limits


Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israel on Wednesday to limit settlement building in the West Bank to help push peace talks with the Palestinians back on track.

Faced with grim Israeli and Palestinian assessments of progress in the talks, Kerry also appeared to slap down Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warmly endorsed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's commitment to seeking a two-state solution.

Friction over the talks has risen this past week on the back of Israeli plans, announced in tandem with its release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, for some 3,500 new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Let me emphasize at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider them… to be illegitimate,” Kerry, reaffirming long-standing U.S. policy, said after discussions with Abbas.

Speaking to reporters in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Kerry said it would be better if settlement building was “limited as much as possible in an effort to help create a climate for these talks to be able to proceed effectively”.

Palestinians have warned of a brewing crisis if Israel continues to assert that they had effectively agreed to turn a blind eye to the settlement campaign, in exchange for the progressive release of 104 long-serving inmates.

Kerry dismissed Israeli suggestions there had been an understanding with the Palestinians about settlement expansion and stated “unequivocally” his belief that Abbas was “100 percent committed” to peace talks.

“I want to make it extremely clear that at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree as a matter of going back to the talks, that they somehow condone or accept the settlements,” he said.

In Jerusalem earlier, Netanyahu had said the U.S.-brokered negotiations had failed to make any real progress.

Speaking to reporters with a stone-faced Kerry at his side, Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of creating “artificial crises” and of trying to “run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace”.

Hours later, Kerry said Abbas “wants to try peace and he understands it requires compromise by all the parties”.

The chief U.S. diplomat, citing “difficulties” in the peace process, had said earlier in Jerusalem that the United States was convinced that Netanyahu was also determined to pursue an end to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“As in any negotiation there will be moments of up and moments of down, and it goes back and forth,” Kerry said.

Kerry, whose shuttle diplomacy helped to revive the talks last July after a three-year break, has set a nine-month schedule for an agreement, despite widespread skepticism.

PALESTINIAN FRUSTRATION

Few details have emerged from the negotiations, held at unannounced times and at secret locations in line with pledges to keep a lid on leaks.

But Palestinian officials have been airing frustration over a lack of movement on core issues such as the borders of a Palestinian state, security arrangements, the future of Israeli settlements and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Abbas, in a speech on Monday, said that despite all the meetings nothing had changed on the ground.

Netanyahu said he hoped Kerry's visit would “help steer (the negotiations) back to a place where we could achieve the historical peace that we seek”.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians seek for a state along with the Hamas Islamist-run Gaza Strip, are considered illegal by most countries.

Israel cites historical and biblical links to the land, where more than 500,000 Israelis now live alongside 2.5 million Palestinians.

In another development, Netanyahu said former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would return to the cabinet after his acquittal in a corruption trial on Wednesday.

The right-wing powerbroker is a hardliner on Palestinian peace talks, which he has said have no chance of succeeding.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any deal reached by Abbas, a rival of the Islamist group, “would not be binding on our people”.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Angus MacSwan

Release of Palestinian prisoners no threat, says former Shin Bet head


Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, says he’s not concerned, from a security perspective, about Israel’s scheduled Oct. 30 release of 26 Palestinian prisoners who had been involved in terror attacks.

In an Oct. 27 interview with the Journal in Beverly Hills, Ayalon did not endorse the release but said, “It does not present any danger.”

“Most of them are sitting in our jails more than 30 years,” he said. “They are not part of the present terror infrastructure.”

Israel agreed to the release as a pre-condition to participating in American-brokered negotiations with the Palestinians. More than 100 terrorists will be released in four groups over the planned nine-month duration of the talks.

Ayalon, who was also a commander in Israel’s navy and is a former Knesset member for the Labor Party, was in Los Angeles to raise awareness for the University of Haifa as part of the American Society of the University of Haifa’s inaugural gala at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on Oct. 27. He serves as chairman of the executive committee at the university.

He and Amos Shapira — former CEO of El Al and Cellcom and president of the university — sat down with the Journal on Sunday afternoon to discuss current events in Israel and their efforts at Haifa University.

Regarding possible upcoming negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the trim, fit Ayalon said he’s neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

 “I’m realistic,” Ayalon said, sternly and directly. “I don’t believe — and I hope I’m wrong — that negotiations will bring us any result.”

[Related: 

Palestinian who planned Tel Aviv bus bombing killed in shootout


A Palestinian terrorist who Israel said was behind a 2012 bus bombing in Tel Aviv was killed in a shootout with Israeli security officials trying to arrest him.

Mohamed Aatzi, 28, was killed Tuesday morning during an exchange of gunfire in the West Bank Palestinian town of Bil’in during a joint operation of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Security Agency, or Shabak.

Aatzi was among the planners of the Nov. 21 bus attack during Operation Pillar of Defense that wounded 29 passengers, according to a statement released by the IDF and Shabak.

He had been involved in activities of the Islamic Palestinian Jihad terror organization. Aatzi had been in hiding since the bombing and reportedly was planning another attack against Israeli civilians or army forces.

Two Palestinian men alleged to be Aatzi’s assistants, who have been jailed in the past for their involvement with the Islamic Palestinian Jihad, were arrested by security forces on Monday night and held for questioning.

“The outcome of this operation emphasizes that terror does not pay,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. “Terrorists must know that there is no eluding the extensive intelligence and operational capabilities of the IDF, we will continue to seek out those that attempt to undermine and defy our way of life.”

Abbas meets pope, invites him to visit Holy Land


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday invited Pope Francis to visit the Holy Land, matching an invitation from Israel.

The pontiff, who has made many appeals for peace in the Middle East since his election in March, has already told Israel he will visit and is widely expected to make the trip next year.

“I invited him to the Holy Land,” Abbas said after a 30-minute private audience with the pope in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, their first meeting.

After the private part of the meeting, the pope gave Abbas a pen, telling him “surely, you have a lot of things you have to sign”.

Abbas responded: “I hope to sign a peace treaty with Israel with this pen.”

Both of Francis's two immediate predecessors, Benedict and John Paul, visited Holy Land sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Most Christian Holy Land sites are in Israel but Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is in the West Bank, in the Palestinian territories.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been buried, is in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as part of their future state.

Abbas and Francis discussed the civil war in Syria and the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the Vatican said in a statement.

Using the same language it used when Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Francis in April, the Vatican urged both sides to make “courageous and determined” decisions to move closer to peace, with the help of the international community.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began a new round of talks on Monday, picking up the tempo of their meetings at the request of the United States.

The two sides resumed direct peace negotiations in late July after three years of stalemate and have conducted a series of discussions far from the gaze of the media over recent weeks, without any outward hint of the slightest breakthrough. 

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Heavens