Palestinians’ Latest Method of Terror: Burning Condoms!


Screenshot from Twitter.

The Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border that have occurred at least once a week since March have featured Palestinians launching fiery kites and balloons laced with explosives as a means to terrorize southern Israel. Now they have found a new weapon: condoms.

Yes, you read that correctly. No, it is not a joke.

On June 21, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shared part a Palestinian video on Twitter that a provided a how-to guide on how to create an explosive condom balloon:

Even though it’s incredibly juvenile, it’s no laughing matter.

According to a June 20 Times of Israel (TOI) report, the use of kites, balloons and condoms as weapons are “dead simple and dirt cheap methods” to cause terror, citing one instance where an explosive balloon emblazoned “I <3 YOU” landed on Israeli highway, forcing that section of the highway to be shut down until the police were able to conduct a controlled detonation of the balloon.

Another instance involved a group of balloons that had an explosive on them landing onto a trampoline in an Eshkol backyard.

Meirav Vidal, who lives in the home where this occurred, told TOI, “Balloons on a trampoline in the backyard — that’s a decorative play area and beckons the most innocent ones, and yet our children have lost their innocence because of this phenomenon.”

In the case of the kites, Israeli farmers have been particularly burdened by them since their fields have been wiped out by the fiery kites.

Israel has responded to these actions of terrors by firing warning shots at the encampments launching them as well as launching strikes against Hamas.

The Globalist Strikes Again – A Poem for Haftarah Chukat by Rick Lupert


In the midst of the troubled centuries
After we arrived in the promised land
Before a king arose to organize us all

We were still figuring out our borders
Using our theological claims to orchestrate
the ongoing holy land-grab.

Our God, the One God is better than
your god, the no-god. I can’t imagine
telling my Van Nuys neighbor

I’ll be taking your house now.
Leave the door unlocked, and try not
to mess up the lawn on your way out.

Wasn’t it enough we were taken out of
slavery? Isn’t freedom enough of a gift?
Why do we need what’s theirs?

And now, thousands of years later
I’m thinking of of Jephthah – The man
with too many h’s in his name.

The man who you don’t want to set loose
in a Palestinian neighborhood, lest he
return with the keys to their homes

and an airspace filled with flying rocks.
Nothing is simple about the details.
Except the one in which we are all

flesh and blood, no matter which side
of the human-drawn lines we are on.
I think of this as I fly over the

vast empty spaces of the world and
watch the news about how people
still can’t get along.

I’m sorry your family didn’t want you
Jephthah. Every little boy deserves
to be nurtured.

The globalist in me prays for
an atlas without country names.
A world without passports.

The primary human interaction
holding hands…everyone given
all they need.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 22 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2018) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

IDF: Killed Palestinian Medic Threw a Smoke Grenade, Declared Herself As a ‘Human Shield’


Much attention has been given to Razan Najjar, the 21-year-old Palestinian medic who was killed by Israeli gunfire on June 1. Israel’s critics have claimed that her death was a war crime. However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are claiming that she was not the “angel” that her defenders make her out to be.

According to a June 7 video released by the IDF, Najjar can be seen throwing a smoke grenade during a riot at the Israel-Gaza border and proclaiming herself as a “human shield.”

“The fact we see her in front of the cameras protecting demonstrators with her body proves how Hamas exploits all classes of Gazan society to its ends and to Iran’s ends,” IDF Arabic Language Spokesperson Avichai Adraee tweeted. “Do medical personnel around the world throw grenades and participate in riots and call themselves human shields?”

Joe Dyke, the Palestinian correspondent for Agence-France Presse (AFP), argued that the IDF took the video out of context, stating that the full quote was her saying that she’s “a human shield and rescuer for the injured on the front lines.”

Regardless, in their examination of the incident the IDF concluded that Najjar’s death was not intentional, claiming that “a small number of bullets were fired during the incident, and that no shots were deliberately or directly aimed toward her.”

The violence at the Israel-Gaza border has been ongoing since March as part of Hamas’ plan to breach the border fence and terrorize Israelis. Protesters have been documented as flying fiery kites into Israeli territory, burning tires and throwing rocks at IDF soldiers. Despite the criticism the IDF has faced, most of the Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire have been Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.

The ‘Blame Game’ Doesn’t Alleviate Palestinian Suffering


A proposal drafted by Kuwait to deploy an international force to protect Palestinians along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip currently is circulating among member-states of the United Nations Security Council. This, after the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted overwhelmingly to establish a commission of inquiry into allegations of possible war crimes committed by the Israeli military during the recent chaos along the frontier, which resulted in the deaths of at least 60 Gazans and injuries to some 2,000. Kuwait also pushed for the Security Council to adopt a statement expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians” and reiterating the call for an independent investigation, although the United States vetoed the move.

In response, Israel’s U.N. ambassador issued a statement decrying the “shameful … attempts to distort reality,” while declaring that Israel’s military “will continue to defend its sovereignty and the security of its citizens against the terror and murderous violence of Hamas.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the UNHRC a “biased body whose goal is to harm Israel and to back terrorism.”

Indeed, many independent observers have agreed with Israel’s supporters regarding what they see as elements of hypocrisy in the international community’s treatment of Israel when viewed against the backdrop of the carnage taking place in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, located south of Damascus, where Syrian regime forces have for weeks been waging a fierce campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). The camp was once home to more than 200,000 Palestinians, yet today only a few thousand remain, many on the brink of starvation. An estimated 4,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed during the Syria civil war, more than the combined death toll in all of Israel’s conflicts with Hamas over the past decade.

Despite this seemingly abject abuse of Palestinian refugees, there are no concerted calls for any probes into the ongoing devastation in Yarmouk, nor is Syrian President Bashar Assad in the crosshairs of the International Criminal Court despite clear evidence that he has perpetrated crimes against humanity by repeatedly using chemical weapons against his own citizens.

In the same vein, ISIS, arguably one of the most insidious terrorist groups of modern times, is virtually being ignored vis-à-vis its Yarmouk travesties in stark contrast to the across-the-board condemnations of the ISIS massacre of Yazidis in Iraq, for example. This apparent “exception” blurs another peculiar reality: namely, the widely drawn distinction between ISIS and Hamas, even though both are incarnations of the same radical Sunni Islamic ideology.

That Kuwait is leading the drive to place Israel in the docket is also paradoxical given that it expelled some 400,000 Palestinians during and after the first Gulf War because of former Palestinian chief Yasser Arafat’s support at the time for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

While it is clear to many that Israel is not without responsibility and that its policies have contributed to Palestinian suffering, many also assert that decades of attributing blame exclusively to the Jewish state for all Palestinian suffering has in no way furthered the Palestinian cause.

“The question is not whether the response from the international community is right or wrong, but if it solves the problem,” according to Maj. Gen. (Res.) Nathan Sharony, president of the Tel Aviv-based Council for Peace and Security, which promotes a sustainable political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “And the only way to do so,” he told The Media Line, “is to elevate the standard of living in Gaza from the absolute minimum to something substantial. Once the people are relieved from the daily trouble they are experiencing they have something to lose and their motivations become different.

For Israelis, the singular focus on the Jewish state’s alleged crimes only reinforces their world-against-us mentality.

“Years have gone by, though, and there has been nothing but military collisions,” Sharony concluded, “so with no water and no electricity the situation in the Strip has become critical and needs to be solved now. This has to be an international effort, but Israel has to show that it means business.”

But a growing number of sources suggest that the UNHRC offers merely symbolic condemnations of Jerusalem, which, predictably, reacts with Pavlovian-like fury, while the U.S. is forced to go it alone and defend its ally by wielding its veto power in the Security Council. In other words, the status quo is effectively propagated, thereby ensuring that the cycle of violence repeats itself, even as other causes of Palestinian suffering are obfuscated.

This includes, for instance, the obvious deleterious impact of Hamas’ iron-fist rule, manifest in the crushing of all internal dissent and the pursuit of an external strategy of unending war, which, taken together, greatly reduces the possibility of improving the humanitarian situation in the enclave and thus the lives of Palestinians. Also overlooked are the millions of Palestinians who continue to languish in refugee camps throughout the Middle East — as opposed to being integrated into their host countries — a reality that has denied them any personal agency, thus leaving them totally vulnerable to assaults such as in Yarmouk.

For Israelis, the singular focus on the Jewish state’s alleged crimes only reinforces their world-against-us mentality, which, in turn, expresses itself through increasingly right-wing governments with more and more members that reject Palestinian statehood outright.

According to Gershon Baskin, an expert on Israeli-Palestinian affairs, “what we are seeing is a lot of the same-old, same-old because there are not many viable options. The international community is trying to figure out how to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza but, given the rivalry between Hamas and the PA [Palestinian Authority] and the fact that many countries do not deal with [the former] as it is considered a terrorist organization, there is only so much that can be done.

“I don’t see any solution coming from the U.S., Europe or, of course, Israel,” he told The Media Line. “One possible initiative could come from the Arab world, such as when countries sent a joint force to Lebanon to end the civil war there.”

Many agree that a change of approach is sorely needed. But as things stand, the headlines about Gaza will, as they have in the past, inevitably be pushed to the back pages. Given historical precedent, Israel will have weathered the storm and be left as it was, if not stronger because of its growing economic and military clout coupled with the diplomatic protection afforded by its alliance with the U.S.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, will have little to show other than additional suffering.

Letters to the Editor: Reviving Judaism, Middle East and Diaspora


Reviving Judaism

For 30-plus years, the Conservative movement has not seriously addressed why younger Jews have left this branch and its philosophy.

As writer Steven Windmueller assesses the situation, one of his ways is to build from the bottom (“Reinventing Liberal Judaism,” May 11). I did this in the Philadelphia area 30 years ago, but the elders did not support it.

In less than nine months, we grew a 30-ish crowd from 10 to 60, including their families.

This is the only way to introduce Judaism to those who resist and to listen to the younger population so that the institution provides for their needs.

Baby boomers must give way to the needs of the millennials or Conservative Judaism will not be viable in the near future (10 years).

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark


Insight Into Torah Portion

I would like to thank the Journal for publishing Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Table for Five commentary in the Journal’s May 11 issue. It provides deep insight into the parsha. However, the rabbi goes much further, enunciating simply and clearly God’s role and rights as the creator of the universe and in consequence, linking core principles of Judaism to these rights. It is, for me, an unforgettable “teaching moment,” beautiful in its simplicity, clarity and importance.

Hopefully, the Journal will provide more of Sacks’ commentaries and insights in the future. Table for Five is one avenue to accomplish this, but I am sure the Journal has others. We need them.

Edward Gomperts, Glendale


Complex Issues in the Mideast

I read the May 4 edition of the Jewish Journal with great interest. As a non-Jew, I was happy to read the Leon Wieseltier view that “the merit of a view owes nothing to the biography of the individual who holds it” (“Should American Jews Criticize Israel?”).

So here goes. I read in Rick Richman’s story (“The Second and Third Israeli Miracles”) that the Palestinian Arabs have rejected six offers of a state. My question is: How many of these offers would have stopped settlement in the West Bank and dismantled the settlements and removed the settlers?

And the other question: Suppose California were occupied by, say, Mexicans. How many Californians would have supported the “offer of a state” that would leave more than half a million Mexican settlers in hilltop strongholds and withheld a slew of powers over the economy, security and policing?

Christopher Ward via email

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Iranian duplicity with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, he was preaching to the converted. This is much ado about nothing, since the P5+1 took Iranian mendacity into strict account when fashioning the inspection regime that is part of the Iran nuclear deal.

The nuclear agreement with Iran that slows its development of atomic weapons is a bad accord for many reasons. President Donald Trump is right to force the issue now. He does not need a primer on Iran and its penchant for lying. The president has decided it is better to scrap the agreement altogether and re-impose sanctions, or try to amend the agreement as our allies prefer.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

I would strongly encourage journalists to emulate the unflinchingly centrist style of Michael Berenbaum’s recent column (“Pity Mahmoud Abbas,” May 11). Most who criticize the Israeli government’s approach to the conflict with Palestinians tend to forget or ignore just how awful and intransigently anti-Semitic the leadership is on the other side. And most who decry the wrongs of Abbas or other Palestinian leaders tend to forget or ignore the suffering of the very people they lead.

If only we could stop being so one-sided in our rhetoric and attitudes, we might lessen the number of people so brainwashed by the “left” that they forsake the need to defend Israel from her truest enemies, or so brainwashed by the “right” that they forsake the need to prevent Israel from emulating said enemies.

Michael Feldman, Los Angeles

I am very confused. It feels like if I support Israel’s existence, then I am supposed to be pro-current administration (i.e., President Donald Trump), which I definitely am not! But if I support peace and freedom for everyone in the Middle East, I am supposed to do that by opposing the “occupation” of the West Bank and by supporting activities and groups that all lead to Hamas — a group defined as working to destroy the Jewish state.

All my left-wing friends support “anti-Zionism,” which translates to pro-Hamas, but they insist that they like Jews and will defend the rights of Jews. My right-wing friends (yes, I have some) support the idea of a Jewish homeland but they support many other things that I find odious.

Strange bedfellows, no? I want to find a place in the middle. I think maybe we should move the homeland to Antarctica but someone will surely accuse us of oppressing the penguins.

Lynne Bronstein, Van Nuys

Notwithstanding his fighting words in a recent mosque sermon that Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami should sit down and shut up. Israel’s air force did serious damage to Iranian military installations in Syria last week in retaliation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard assault, seemingly launched against the advice of Russia and their Syrian hosts, when it fired 20 rockets at Israel.

Sadly, the murderous threats emanating from imams in mosques all over the world, that Israel/America/Jews must be destroyed, have a “blowback” effect in making Muslims who are innocent of such hatred look like extremists. One might hope that the moderates would be able to suppress those imams who preach hatred from their pulpits.

Maybe they’re too afraid, or worse, maybe they don’t want to. It’s difficult to know which, but also easy to feel compelled to defend against vile religious leaders who can’t seem to be shut down by those who wail about Islamophobia.

Desmond Tuck, San Mateo


Less Shouting, More Listening

I read on the Journal website “Pro-Palestinian Protesters Attempt to Shut Down Israeli Speakers and Fail” by Aaron Bandler, and I agree totally with the reporter. I believe that the Palestinians’ chanting was unacceptable. I think it was great of UC Irvine’s Students Supporting Israel to point out that they would show their perspective and not keep silent. Also, they said that they will continue to make the voices of the pro-Israeli students heard. That shows peace, not hate, which is what the world needs.

Eliyaou Eshaghian, Tarzana


Israelis in the Diaspora

This is another in a long line of letters disputing wild, unsourced journalistic estimates of Israelis living in the Diaspora, which Danielle Berrin has repeated as “more than 1 million” (“Wandering Israelis,”  April 13).

The most trusted demographic estimate done by Pew Research in 2010 was 230,000 Jewish emigrants from Israel living in other countries, with the most, 110,000 in the U.S. This aligns with my 1982 published estimates for Israeli emigrants in the U.S. and about my estimate of 25,000 living in and around Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Using Berrin’s source data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics of about 2.2 million flying abroad in a six-month period, and the U.S. nonimmigrant Israeli entry estimates for roughly the same period, fewer than 1 in 10 Israeli tourist flyers eventually landed in the U.S. As we are all learning, visiting or immigrating to the U.S. is a pain.

While the Los Angeles Israeli community has become much more organized, now raising tens of millions of dollars yearly through the Israeli-American Council (IAC), in the 36 years since a realistic estimate of numbers has been published, I have not found any evidence that the number of Israelis has changed substantially from being about 1/20th of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Pini Herman, Beverly Grove

(This letter originally appeared in the April 20 edition.)

Berrin responds: Pini Herman asserts that my column includes “wild, unsourced journalistic estimates” regarding the number of Israelis living in the Diaspora. This is untrue. While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of Israelis living in the Diaspora for a variety of reasons, the upward trend is clear. Estimates from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the prime minister’s office and a Pew Study suggest the number could be as low 300,000 and as high as 1 million. Just last week, Newsweek reported that from 2006 to 2016, more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This is up from 66,000 from the previous decade. For a long time now, rumors of a so-called Israeli “brain drain” have permeated public discourse. In 2011, Foreign Policy ran a story headlined “The Million Missing Israelis.” Last August, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wondered, “Can Israel bring home its million U.S. expats?” Many of these articles examine the ways the Israeli government has tried to stanch the brain drain by enticing the best and brightest Israelis back home, sometimes through ad campaigns or initiatives like the 2011 I-CORE program, a $360 million initiative to lure Israeli scholars back to Israeli universities. According to Newsweek, “Results were so underwhelming that the program was ended after three years.”

None of these facts is wild or unsourced; we ought to pay attention to the trend suggested by even inexact statistics.


CORRECTIONS

A story about the death of Rabbi Aaron Panken (“Remembering Rabbi Aaron Panken,” May 11) mistakenly reported the date of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion New York ordination ceremony as May 7, two days after Panken’s death. The ceremony was held May 6, one day after his death.

An item in the May 11 edition of Movers & Shakers incorrectly identified Tanya Waldman as the co-director of Witness Theater: Voices of History. Her name is Talya Waldman. Also, a photo caption accompanying the May 1 Israel Bonds luncheon mistakenly identified Marlene Kreitenberg as Ruth Low.

A headline on a Q-and-A with Rabba Sara Hurwitz failed to include her honorific (“An Orthodox Woman in the Time of #Metoo,” May 11). The Journal regrets the oversight.

The Second and Third Israeli Miracles


Much of the commentary on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding has focused on the miraculous re-creation of the Jewish state after 1,878 years, on the same land where Jewish kingdoms had existed for centuries, with Jews speaking the same language in 1948 that they spoke in the first century, when the Romans exiled them from their land.

But there was another miracle in 1948. David Ben-Gurion described it in an essay he wrote in 1954, when Israel was six years old, titled “The Eternity of Israel.”

The second miracle, Ben-Gurion wrote, was the extraordinary Jewish unity on May 14, 1948. Zionism had never been a single ideology. The movement included very disparate factions — Labor Zionists, Religious Zionists, Socialist Zionists, Revisionist Zionists, General Zionists, Cultural Zionists — and the conflicts among them had been fierce. But every group signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence after resolving a final, seemingly intractable issue: Some of the Zionists insisted that the document express thanks to God, while others were adamantly opposed, since they thought the Jewish state was solely the result of human effort, in a world where God was either indifferent or did not exist.

Ben-Gurion managed a compromise through the use of a skillful phrase. In its final form, the declaration expressed the signatories’ faith in the “Rock of Israel.” It was a phrase that could be read as a reference to God — or rather as a metaphor for Jewish national strength.

Everyone signed the declaration — including the non-Zionist Jews, from (in Ben-Gurion’s words) “the Communists, who had forever fought against the Zionist enterprise as reactionary, bourgeois, chauvinistic, and counter-revolutionary, to Agudat Yisrael, which had perceived as apostasy any attempt to bring about the redemption of Israel through natural means.” From left to right, every Jewish group joined.

David Ben-Gurion concluded that it was “difficult to assess which of the two [1948] miracles was greater — the miracle of independence or the miracle of unity.”

In his essay, Ben-Gurion concluded that it was “difficult to assess which of the two miracles was greater — the miracle of independence or the miracle of unity.”

As Israel turns 70, unity is not a notable feature of Israeli democracy. The current Knesset includes 17 political parties. The government is a shaky coalition comprised of five of them, holding a bare majority of seats. The prime minister is surrounded by politicians who believe they could do a better job than he can. Josephus, the first-century historian, described Jewish politics at that time as consisting of disputes between religious and secular parties, with numerous Jewish leaders who “competed for supremacy because no prominent person could bear to be subject to his equals.” Two millennia later, not much has changed.

Israeli governments since 1948 have been a coalition of both secular and religious parties, with a constant political battle between opposing leaders, in a country known for its boisterous politics. In his May 15, 2008, address to the Knesset, marking Israel’s 60th anniversary, President George W. Bush noted it was “a rare privilege for the American president to speak to the Knesset,” but that the prime minister “told me there is something even rarer — to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time.”

And that is the third Israel miracle. Along with its fractured politics — interrupted momentarily by the miraculous unity of May 14, 1948 — Israel has produced one of the world’s most vibrant democracies and most dynamic economies, a civilian-based military force that has defended Israel (a state the size of New Jersey) against genocidal wars waged by much larger foes, and a society that respects the rights of women, gays and Arabs (who — men and women alike — have considerably greater civil rights and religious freedom than Arabs in Arab states, and have no less than three Arab parties in the Knesset).

The third Israeli miracle demonstrates that, in fact, a fractious democracy may well be a necessary condition for generating the variety of ideas and leaders that can move a society forward — just as the multiple approaches to Zionism produced remarkable leaders across Zionism’s left (Ben-Gurion), right (Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin) and center (Chaim Weizmann), creating a national movement spanning the Jewish political spectrum.

Israeli-Palestinian peace remains elusive, but surely a significant part of the problem is that the Palestinians lack a political system that could move them in a different direction from the one they have followed, for so long, to their detriment. Today, half of them are ruled by a terrorist dictatorship, and half by an autocratic president still in office 10 years after his term expired. Neither half of the Palestinian polity has a working legislature, much less a variety of political parties, and nowhere is there freedom to debate different approaches without fear.

In the past 80 years, the Palestinian Arabs have rejected no fewer than six offers of a state: in 1937 (the Peel Commission), 1939 (the British White Paper), 1947 (U.N. Resolution 181), 2000 (the Israeli Camp David offer), 2000-01 (the Clinton Parameters) and 2008 (the Israeli offer at the end of the Annapolis Process). Their holdover president regularly states that he will “never” recognize a Jewish state. Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza produced only new rocket wars from its enemies, from new forward positions.

Despite its miraculous success, Israel thus remains under existential threat. Iranian-backed forces have trained more than 100,000 rockets on Israel, from both the north and south, and Iranian proxies advance ever closer to Israel from the east. The Iranian nuclear program is only temporarily restricted, while its missile program proceeds apace. Iran continually makes its final goal unmistakably clear.

The Jewish state requires eternal vigilance. Past miracles are no assurance of future ones: In the words of the Talmud, one should believe in miracles but not depend on them. For the Jewish people, there is never an end of history.

But on its 70th anniversary, we can pause to reflect on the fact that Israel is a living monument to what faith, freedom and democracy can achieve. The Rock of Israel has generated multiple miracles.

Rick Richman is the author of “Racing Against History: The 1940 Campaign for a Jewish Army to Fight Hitler” (Encounter Books, 2018).

‘Pomegranates’ Director Tackles Tough Issues


Hava Kohav Beller. Photo by Dorothea von Haesften.

In the Near East, the pomegranate has a double meaning. It is the fruit symbolizing rebirth, but in Israeli slang, it means a hand grenade.

While wrestling with these conflicting meanings, the film “In the Land of Pomegranates” takes as its theme from a quote by the Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “This inhumane world has to become more humane. But how?”

For two hours, two groups of young men and women, one made up of Palestinians, the other Israelis, wrestle with that question.

They have been brought together in a scenic German town for a program called “Vacation From War,” living under the same roof, going on joint excursions in the lovely countryside, taking a riverboat cruise and arguing earnestly for hours on end.

“I am like a mother and all of them [Jews and Arabs] are my children.”— Hava Kohav Beller

The program started in 2002 and, as one of the organizers put it, “Our goal is not to make participants love each other. If only five people change their attitudes … that’s progress.”

Even this modest goal seems unreachable in the film, although it inadvertently clarifies why decades of peacemaking efforts have proven largely fruitless.

Most of the arguments are on the level of “Hamas is a terrorist organization,” as an Israeli participant charges, to which the Palestinian response is, “We are just trying to get back the land you took from us.”

Between debates and excursions, there are vignettes of victims on both sides. One is of an Israeli news photographer, who rides in a public bus blown up by a suicide bomber. The photographer’s post-traumatic stress leads eventually to the breakup of his marriage.

But the largely pessimistic view is brightened by a couple of episodes that bridge the conflicts. One scene shows Palestinians dancing the dabke and Israelis the horah, with both performances almost identical.

In a truly hopeful segment, a Palestinian woman from Gaza takes her severely ill son to the Wolfson Hospital in Israel, where the boy undergoes a complicated operation for free, while the grateful mother is treated with respect and dignity.

The producer, writer, director and fundraiser of “Pomegranates” is Hava Kohav Beller, whose life story is as interesting as the film itself.

Born in the German city of Frankfurt in 1932, one year before Hitler came to power, her family immigrated to Palestine when she was still an infant and settled in a kibbutz in the northern part of the country.

As an adult, she moved to New York to study music, ballet and modern dance at the Juilliard School.

Eventually, she turned to making documentary films. The first, titled “The Restless Conscience” (1992), dealt with internal German resistance to the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945 and was nominated for an Academy Award.

In her second production, “The Burning Wall” (2002), Beller focused on dissent and opposition to the communist regime that ruled East Germany from 1949 to 1989.

Her latest production is “Pomegranates” and it speaks to Beller’s persistence, as well as the laborious task of raising money for an independent production, that each of the three documentaries has taken 10 years to complete.

Now, at 86, Beller is planning her next film, which she expects to complete when she is 96.

Asked if, as a Jew raised in Israel, she could make an objective documentary about so long and bitter a conflict, Beller answered decisively in the affirmative.

“I am like a mother and all of them [Jews and Arabs] are my children. I hug all of them and I care what happens to them,” she asserted. “We are all humans and we are all responsible for each other.”

Even with such an affirmative outlook, Beller is pessimistic about a near-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

“At this point, I see no ready solution,” she said. “But if the two sides keep talking to each other, maybe someday they will arrive at a way to live with each other.”

“In the Land of Pomegranates” opens March 16 at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills. Beller will participate in Q-and-A sessions with the audience during opening-weekend screenings.

Poll: Pro-Israel Sentiment Near Record Highs Among Americans, But Partisan Gap Widens


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A newly released Gallup poll shows that pro-Israel sentiment among Americans are currently near records high levels, yet there is a widening gap among the two major political parties on the issue.

The poll, conducted from Feb. 1-10, found that 74% of Americans have a favorable view of Israel; the highest level since 79% of Americans felt that way in 1991. Only 21% currently have a favorable view of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the same level in 2000.

Additionally, 64% of Americans said they were sympathetic to Israel over the PA, equaling prior record highs in 1991 and 2013. Only 19% said they were sympathetic to the PA and another 16% said they weren’t sure.

The poll also found that half of Americans believe that the onus needs to be on Palestinians to make peace while only 27% felt that way about Israel.

Among partisan lines, the highest support for Israel registered among Republicans, as 87% said they were more sympathetic toward the Israelis over Palestinians. Fifty-nine percent of Independents and 49% of Democrats answered the same way.

Lydia Saad, who presented and analyzed the polls’ findings at Gallup, noted that while the 49% figure for Democrats was an increase from 42% in 2001, there is a sizable gap between Democrats and Republicans on support for Israel.

“Republicans have consistently shown greater support than Democrats for Israel, partly because of conservative Christians’ beliefs about the biblical significance of Israel,” Saad wrote. “Another key factor in the especially wide gap since 2002 is likely Israel’s strong backing of the United States at the start of the Iraq War in 2003 and the strong support that Republican President George W. Bush showed for the Jewish state.”

While the gap in Gallup poll isn’t quite as stark as the gap in the Jan. 23 Pew Research Center poll, it’s still large and it is growing, as the gap between Republicans and Democrats on sympathy to Israel grew from a 34-point gap in 2017 to a 38-point gap in 2018 in the Gallup poll. Journal columnist Ben Shapiro has written on how the divide stems from Republicans’ embrace of the West and Democrats viewing the West “as the provocative agent.”

“Republicans live in a post-9/11 world; Democrats live in a pre-9/11 world,” Shapiro wrote. “That has dramatic, unfortunate implications for Israel: In a polarized political environment, the historic bipartisan support for the Jewish state is quickly eroding.”

As much as the overall findings of the Gallup poll are encouraging for the pro-Israel community, the widening gap between both the political parties on the matter needs to be kept in mind.

From Seattle to the Settlements: One Man’s Journey Towards Reconciliation


Shaul Judelman

Shaul Judelman experienced what he calls the “peak of [his] anti-Arabism” when in 2008 Shlomo Nativ, a 13-year-old boy from his West Bank community of Bat Ayin, was brutally murdered with an axe to the head by a Palestinian terrorist.

“It was easy to feel the hate then,” Judelman recalled.

But a Talmudical lesson Judelman was grappling with around that time marked a turning point in his life. “A person who harbors anger it’s as if he has transgressed the sin of idol worship,” Jewish sages taught.

“That was a gut check on a personal level,” Judelman said. “Anger has no place in the camp of Israel.”

The epiphany led Judelman, a secular Seattle native turned settler rabbi, to ask himself deep questions about his relationship with his Palestinian neighbors. Does it have to be war until the end of time? And if it’s not us against them, then what? “The root of the conflict is anger and fear,” Judelman explains, “and most of our politics are written out by those emotions.”

The equation was a simple one. If anger plus fear equals hate, the mission is to reduce the two variables. So together with Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian who served two stints in Israeli jails for stone throwing, Judelman founded Roots. Today Roots runs summer camps for Palestinian and Israeli children from 5 – 16 years old, yearlong programs for young adults, workshops – basically, anything that can bring Palestinians and Israelis from the West Bank to encounter each other in a forum other than a checkpoint or roadside clash.

Judelman harbors no illusions about solving the world’s most protracted conflict – “I don’t come to Roots with this leaping sense of, ‘Oh, any moment this conflict will end” – and he blames both the left and the right in Israel for being myopic. The left isn’t able to accept that the Second Intifada buried the two state solution beyond resurrection while the right is stuck on the mantra that there is no partner for peace. While on a political level that might be so, Judelman says, his experience has shown that the same cannot be said for civil society.

He recalls a recent photography workshop he ran during which Palestinian parents were dropping off their kids just as a car-ramming attack was taking place outside. “You see what’s going on out there and what’s going on in here. What’s going on out there is because we, the parents, have failed,” he said.

“It’s about taking responsibility. If I can’t solve the conflict I can at least make sure that the kids in my community are not racist,” he said.

But if there is an opportunity to advance peace, Judelman says, it will happen through the prism of Torah and Zionism. This idea, which may seem so counterintuitive, is one that was espoused by Judelman’s teacher and mentor, the late Rabbi Menachem Froman. Froman met with Palestinian leaders – even with members of the upper echelons of terror group Hamas – and sought to find common dialogue with the other side through a foundation of faith.

Judelman started becoming interested in Judaism when, as a sophomore in college, he spent time on Sde Eliyahu, a religious kibbutz, as part of a semester abroad program in 2000. It was shmittah year – the agriculture sabbatical – and everything that that entailed grabbed him.

“In the Diaspora you live your Judaism on the level of self, family and maybe community,” he said. Yet in Israel Judelman learned that the way the land is treated affects the macro-economics of the entire society. “You ask, ‘is it mine or is it a blessing that I’ve received?” And you apply that in an economic way.” So Judelman stayed and enrolled in a yeshiva in Bat Ayin.

Around that time, the Second Intifada kicked off and the years that ensued became an endless smear of suicide attacks, funerals, condemnations – including a lack thereof – and a seemingly bottomless well of anger. And yet Judelman recalls visiting the U.S. for his graduation and experiencing a profound disconnect from his peers. “How can you explain what it means to be a part of the project of Israel? They thought I was crazy and I felt like I had 10 billion dollars in my pocket.”

Judelman, in his own small way, sought to break the tension. He would frequently travel from his yeshiva to the Mahane Yehuda marketplace in Jerusalem to play the saxophone. His wild man’s peyot would sway to the sultry notes of his sax while elderly vendors would yell at him to shut up. Old Jerusalemite women with heaving shopping carts would pause long enough to drop a shekel into his hat and, if they were lucky, to forget the conflict for one fleeting moment.

Does he ever just feel like giving up over the futility of it all?

“I’m a nose to the grindstone kind of person; what am I going to do complain about it?” he asked wryly.

“Anyway, even within a very broken situation it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.”

Palestinians Changing Laws on ‘Honor Killings’


March is a special month for women. There was International Women’s Day on the 8th and Mother’s Day in the Palestinian territories is on the 21st. This March, in particular, is also special for Palestinian women for another reason: No longer will men receive reduced sentences for “honor killings.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced new rules, to be approved by President Mahmoud Abbas, changing the laws allowing men who murder, assault and rape women in the West Bank to receive significantly reduced sentences.

A total of 18 Palestinian women were killed in “honor killings” in 2016, according to the Palestinian Public Prosecutor’s Office.

For instance, “marry your rapist,” “honor killing” and other antiquated laws, which Palestinians in the West Bank inherited from their former rulers, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, may be nixed.

According to protocol, only Abbas can amend the Palestinian legal code through a presidential decree, as the Palestinian parliament has been defunct since 2007.

The Palestinian Council of Ministers decided to to abolish Article 308 of the Penal Code that allows rapists to avoid punishment if they marry the victim within five years. In addition, government officials decided to amend Article 99 of Penal Code No. 16 of 1960, which grants judges the ability to dramatically reduce sentences if the case has “extenuating circumstances,” including the murder of women on grounds of “family honor.”

“Murdering women is a huge red line regardless of the cause.” — Haifa Al-Agha

“Murdering women is a huge red line regardless of the cause, moment of anger or anything else,” said Haifa Al-Agha, the Palestinian minister of women’s affairs. She explained that modifying Article 99 is extremely important and marks a turning point for women in Palestine, as judges can no longer reduce sentences for murder under any circumstances.

“We closed the door in front of everybody,” Al-Agha asserted, pointing out that for the past eight months, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ministry of Justice and other women’s associations and organizations have been intensively preparing the needed evidence and materials to change the laws.

Al-Agha further revealed that Palestinian women will soon be legally afforded more authority over their children, including the ability to open bank accounts for them, request travel documents and passports on their behalf, and transfer them from one school to another without permission from the father.

“This is the beginning, there will be more changes, but step by step we will fight all of the unfair laws against women in Palestine,” Al-Agha said.

Ali Abu-Diab, the Palestinian minister of justice, points to the establishment of a legal committee to review Palestinian laws that regulate civilian sectors.

“The committee will work to update and edit the laws,” he explained, adding that the committee will act in accordance with the principles of equality and social justice in order to harmonize the Palestinian legal framework with the international treaties and conventions that Palestine is a party to.

“Canceling the mentioned articles will solve a lot of problems within the Palestinian society,” Abu-Diab said, noting that certain laws have enabled men to take advantage of women. “With the latest move, no party can ease the punishment on any murder under the name of honor in Palestine as no one has that authority anymore.”

In 2011, Abbas made changes to the Palestinian legal code with the aim of preventing “honor killings,” but some related laws have remained in place, thereby precluding comprehensive change.

Nevertheless, Amal Al-Jobeh, an employee of the Women’s Center for Legal and Administrative Guidance, confirmed that the cases of violence against women decreased after 2011.

“We started feeling that there is a deterrent from killing women in the West Bank,” she said, adding that murder is incentivized when there is minimal legal recourse available to the victims. “In so many cases, women have been killed for other reasons like inheritance, but murderers took advantage of the law to get away with it.”

Al-Jobeh also stressed that crimes against women are not exclusively a legal issue, but rather have a cultural component. Accordingly, she believes it is crucial to raise awareness of the plight of women in the Palestinian territories.

To this end, a petition has been circulating for the past six months calling on Abbas to do away with the measure that allows judges to use their discretion in murder cases that have “extenuating circumstances.” Initiated by Palestinian women’s rights groups, the petition has garnered more than 12,000 signatures.

Last year, Jordan’s lower house of parliament voted to repeal the so-called “Marry Your Rapist” provision. The move was approved by the Jordanian parliament’s upper house and then signed by King Abdullah II, whose royal committee recommended that it be revoked.

The law still remains in several other countries in the Middle East, however, including Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and Syria.

Palestinian Bitten By Dog While Throwing Stones At IDF Soldiers to Sue Dutch Dog Breeder


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A Palestinian who was bitten by a dog after throwing stones at Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers is now suing the Dutch dog breeder who supplied the dog to the IDF.

According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), 19-year-old Hamze Abu Hashem was bitten by an IDF dog in 2014 as he was throwing stones at IDF soldiers. Abu Hashem is suing the Dutch dog breeding company Four Winds K9 for $13,500 in emotional damage he sustained from being bitten.

“My client bears serious scars that will remain with him for the rest of his life,” Liesbeth Zegveld, Abu Hashem’s Netherlands attorney, told a Dutch newspaper. “He is also deeply traumatized by the attack. He shakes when he hears dogs barking, he is too afraid to sleep and suffers from sleepwalking.”

Zegveld is also hoping for a Dutch court to prevent dogs from being sold to the IDF. Four Winds K9 defended itself by claiming that they’re not liable for what their dogs do once they’re given to the IDF.

The 2014 riot where the bite occurred stemmed from “a pre-approved ambush to catch firebomb throwers,” according to Haaretz. The IDF investigated the incident and concluded “that while the use of dogs in confrontations could be justified, in the case in question, the youth could have been arrested using other means.” Abu Hashem was jailed for three months following the incident for his stone-throwing.

Abu Hashem is not the first Palestinian to be bitten by an Israeli dog; in 2012 during a riot in which Palestinians threw stones at IDF soldiers a German shepherd bit Ahmad Satwi in the hand. The IDF eventually decided to only use dogs for ambushes.

Enjoying Our Trump Card


U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after signing directives to impose tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels before signing it in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can.” —  Julius Caesar

The list of worries never shortens, and an updated version of it will probably include some of the following items: Does Vice President Mike Pence help us or hurt us by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem? Is the two-state solution mediated by the U.S. dead? Are we on the way to a one-state solution?

This evangelical politician — does he want us all to become devout Christians? Is he looking to ignite Armageddon? And what about the rift with Americans Jews — will it not grow even wider as Israel embraces Pence, whom they, the Jews, dislike?

And what happens to Israel if the Democrats take over the House and the Senate next year? Will they take revenge because of Israel’s approval of President Donald Trump (see graphic at right)? And when the embassy moves, will there be violence? And when the deal with Iran is canceled, will Iran rush to get the bomb?

Israel appreciates the Trump administration because it reshuffled the cards of worry.

There is so much to worry about that we can barely enjoy a moment. A vice president of the United States visited Israel this week. He praised Israel for its achievements. He vowed to move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital. And he made another promise: “Today, I have a solemn promise to Israel, to all the Middle East and to the world: The United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. Beyond the nuclear deal, we will also no longer tolerate Iran’s support of terrorism, or its brutal attempts to suppress its own people.”

Oh, you’d say, these are just words, and we heard them before. We heard them from President Barack Obama. Yes, we did. But now we hear these words from a president who already disappointed all cynics and wiseacres by deciding to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Now we hear them from an administration whose main focus in this region is not to criticize Israel but rather to cooperate with it.

Still, we worry. Do they have a plan of what to do the day after they cancel the nuclear agreement? It is a valid worry. Because it doesn’t seem as if they have a plan. Still, we worry. Do they have a plan for advancing a peace deal when the Palestinians will not even talk to them? Also, a valid worry. If they ever had a plan, it is probably no longer practicable. Still, we worry. Is it healthy for Israel in the long run to become the one country in the world that warmly embraces the Trump administration? Again, a valid worry. Trump will not be in the White House forever. And the American public — a majority of which is critical of him — might develop a growing suspicion toward this Trump-adoring little enclave.

We worry for good reasons. And as we do, we neglect to appreciate the fact that things are going in Israel’s direction.

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. The deed is done, the fact was established. The world grumbles, but with the backing of America, it will get used to this new reality. In Washington, the administration no longer goes behind Israel’s back. Yes, Trump will not be there forever, but another three (or seven) years of cooperative relations is a long time. The Palestinians must face a new paradigm. Their current leader, Mahmoud Abbas, once complained that Obama convinced him to “go up a tree” but then “he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump.” With Trump there is no tree and no ladder. There also is no validity to the old Palestinian conviction that time is on their side.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) — an agency whose main achievement is to prolong Palestinian suffering and false hope — was put on notice. Iran — a country whose bad behavior was ignored by the Obama administration, as not to ruin the prospects for “historic agreement” — was also put on notice.

Do you worry about where it all leads? I worry, too. But I still draw some satisfaction from the fact that the Iranians must worry, too, and the Palestinians must worry, and so must the UNRWA hacks and the blame-Israel hacks.

Here is one way to explain why Israel appreciates the Trump administration: It reshuffled the cards of worry.

Eroding Support for Israel: What Can We Do?


Should We Worry?

The facts, before we dive into the many points of data, are quite simple:

  • Americans sympathize with Israel much more than they sympathize with the Palestinians.
  • But behind this fact lurks a partisan divide: Republicans are highly supportive of Israel, Democrats less so.
  • The trend of eroding Democratic support for Israel continues.
  • The trend of declining support of Israel among young Americans also continues.

These are the facts, presented yesterday by the Pew Research Center. Now the questions.

The first of which is: should we worry? This has an easy answer. Of course, we should. Israel needs American support, and the more support the better. Israel also needs stable support, not one that comes and goes when government switches parties. If only one party is highly supportive of Israel, then only when this party is in power Israel can be relatively calm about the support it will get.

What Can We Do?

A second question is more complicated: what can we do about it? For this question, there are several answers available – and it is not surprising that each of them serves a certain political agenda. That is to say: these are answers that mostly utilize the new numbers to advance a cause.

First answer: Israel must change its policies and attitudes. Obviously, it is the answer you hear from people who want Israel to change its policies. For example: end the occupation, and your support in America will get a boost. With this answer there are two problems. One – Israel was not more popular when it was engaged in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Take a look: these are the numbers representing sympathy with Israel since 1990 (borrowed from the Jewish Virtual Library). As you can see, support for Israel is rising even amid recent hurdles in Israeli-Palestinian relations (look at the red trendline). You’d also notice that disengagement from Gaza (2005), or post Oslo Accord years (mid 1990’s) did not necessary translate to more American sympathy.

Of course, there’s another problem with the change-your-policy suggestion. Israelis do not want to change course because they believe that the current course is the one most secure and beneficial. They will only change course if they decide that the current course is no longer the best course, or if they calculate that what they gain by staying on course is less than what they lose in American support. And that is not an easy thing to calculate.

Second answer: Invest more in PR. This is the answer of people who think Israel ought not change its course but want to do something about the worrying trend. These people believe that Israel has a good case, and that with this case minds and hearts can be altered.

The problem with this answer is clear: the case might be strong, but Americans of a certain camp do not buy it – and even many Israelis don’t. In the world of geo-politics, actions speak much louder than PR campaigns. No campaign can compete with the impact of war in Gaza. No campaign can be more effective than a speech by Netanyahu in Congress.

Third answer: There is not much Israel can do. What we see – the alienation of liberals from Israel – is the result of social megatrends that impact many subjects among which Israel is just one. If that’s the case, the conclusion could be: invest in the people with which you have chance (namely, Republican conservatives), and don’t sweat over things you do not control.

What’s the problem with this attitude? Come November 2018, assuming the Democratic Party takes over Congress, the problem will become clear. The party in power will be the one that is less committed to the US bond with Israel.

Should We Panic?

No. The trend is clear, and the new survey is authoritative. But looking at the many surveys done in the last couple of years is a calming exercise. Yes, support for Israel is eroding, but the Palestinians do not gain much. In fact, the trendline is still one of a growing gap between the (higher) support for Israel and the (lower) support for Palestinians.

Take a look (this is based on numbers assembled by Rosner’s Domain):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Admin Cuts Funding to UNRWA


U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the "Conversation with Women of America" meeting event at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that they’re going to cut $65 million from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In a letter to the agency, the administration told the UNRWA they would continue to provide $60 million to the UNRWA, but they would be withholding the remaining $65 million until further notice. The administration also called for the agency to undergo a series of changes. The $60 million to the agency is a drastic reduction from the $355 million that the U.S. provided the UNRWA in 2017.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl denounced the move in a statement, claiming that it put the lives of Palestinians at risk.

“At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future,” said Krähenbühl. “At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At stake is the access of refugees to primary health care, including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. At stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community.”

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon praised the move in a statement.

“Just over the last year alone, UNRWA officials were elected to the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA schools denied the existence of Israel, and terror tunnels were dug under UNRWA facilities,” said Danon. “It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed towards their intended purpose — the welfare of refugees.”

The move comes after President Trump threatened to withhold money from the Palestinians if they refused to engage in peace talks. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas declared in a weekend speech to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that they would not consider any deal forged by the United States and even. Abbas also cursed at Trump, exclaiming, “May your house be demolished!”

According to the Jerusalem Post, there was some debate within the Trump administration how the president should follow through on his threat. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley advocated for Trump to zero out funding to the UNRWA altogether, but ultimately the president sided with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to partially fund the agency. The Israeli government also wanted Trump to partially fund the agency.

Richard Goldberg, senior adviser to the Foundation of Defense Democracies, argued in a New York Post op-ed that the UNRWA only serves “to keep Palestinians as perpetual refugees.”

“In truth, it’s not a refugee agency but a welfare agency, which keeps millions of people in a permanent state of dependency and poverty — all while feeding Palestinians an empty promise that one day they’ll settle in Israel,” wrote Goldberg.

Additionally, U.N. Watch has reported on how UNRWA teachers have a penchant for making anti-Semitic Facebook posts, including “Holocaust-denying videos and pictures celebrating Hitler.”

Settler Opens Her Home to Peace


Caroline Schuhl Schattner

Fourteen years ago, during the Second Intifada, Caroline Schuhl Schattner of Toulouse, France, felt the time had come to realize her Zionist dream. Frustrated with French news media coverage that made Israel out to be the aggressor during the prolonged uprising, she moved to Israel intent on becoming an actor in Israeli history, not a bystander.

Schuhl Schattner enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and joined a combat rescue unit. Today, at the age of 34, with a master’s degree in linguistics, a husband and three children, she lives in Efrat, a largely Modern Orthodox town in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, where she continues to work at making peace.

Every two weeks she hosts informal meetings in her home between Palestinians and Israeli settlers living in and around Gush Etzion, a flashpoint in 2015-16 for what is sometimes known as the “Knife Intifada,” a period when Palestinians regularly stabbed, shot and ran over random Israelis in the streets.

Schuhl Schattner believes that many Palestinians reject such violence, and she is determined to get Israeli Jews to know them, and for them to get to know Israeli Jews.

“I saw that Jews and Arabs live in the region and I see how they see each other — in business, at the shopping center — but they don’t know each other,” Schuhl Schattner said in phone interview from her home in Efrat. “Even though they meet via commerce, Jews have a stereotypical view of Arabs and Arabs have a stereotypical view of Jews. I thought that it’s a shame. We all live here, and we’ll all continue to live here.”

Schuhl Schattner was recently appointed project manager for olim [immigrants] at the Gush Etzion Regional Council. Her work with Palestinians is her personal initiative that she began a year ago.

Recently, she led a joint Israeli-Palestinian olive harvest in the village of Kfar Hussan.

“Most of the Palestinians, they’re people who want to live well — that’s what’s important to them,” she said. “And part of the good and simple life is to live in harmony with the Jews. Many of them don’t have extreme political views. If you succeed in having Jews and Palestinians meet each other, and the Palestinian sees the Jew is not the enemy, he’ll break out of his stereotypical view, and vice versa.”

The joint harvest produced a Facebook friendship between a young Israeli and a Palestinian, who are not allowed by Palestinian law to meet in person. Palestinians must receive permission from Israeli authorities to enter Israeli towns, but the Palestinian Authority can imprison Palestinians who interact socially with Israelis.

“Part of the good and simple life [for most of these Palestinians] is to live in harmony with the Jews.” — Caroline Schuhl Schattner

These days, about 20 to 30 people meet in Schuhl Schattner’s home for coffee, cookies, cake and conversations about topics that are generally taboo at the table: religion and politics. At the meetings, Palestinians often relay their frustrations with living under IDF controls that limit their freedom of movement, while Israelis express their fear of the terrorism and violence that make such security measures necessary. But participants from both groups generally agree that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t have the Palestinians’ best interests at heart — it seeks to thwart attempts at normalization in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and it feeds off conflict.

Schuhl Schattner said some of her friends and neighbors have been skeptical about her efforts, but she remains undeterred, encouraged by the story of one of her Palestinian friends whose brother was released from prison 10 years ago after serving a term for terrorist activity. After the friend introduced his brother to his Jewish friends, the brother’s hatred of Israel and Jews faded.

“I don’t care how much hate you instill in someone’s head,” Schuhl Schattner said. “If you have a good meeting, that’s what stays.”

Poll: 70% of Palestinians Think Abbas Should Step Down


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A new poll has found that the vast majority of Palestinians think that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should resign from his position.

According to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research, 70% of Palestinians want Abbas to step down while only 26% want him to stay on. Of the two Palestinian regions, 64% of Palestinians in the West Bank want Abbas to resign as do 80% in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas.

Abbas’ overall approval rating is at 31% positive and 66% negative. His policies are not viewed in a positive light by the Palestinians, as 61% don’t think they can criticize the Palestinian Authority (PA) “without fear” and 77% view the PA as corrupt. Only 12% view the conditions of the West Bank as “positive.”

The 70% number is an increase from 67% three months, suggesting that Abbas’ electoral prospects in an election following a reconciliation government are dwindling. The poll found that in a three-way race between Abbas, terrorist Marwan Barghouti and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Abbas would get trounced, as 41% would support Barghouti and 36% would support Haniyeh while Abbas would only receive 18% support.

The full poll results can be read here.

The poll numbers have come amidst Abbas facing pressure from Jordan and Egypt to turn down his rhetoric against the United States following President Trump’s Jerusalem move:

Abbas is refusing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence in light of Trump’s move.

Abbas has ruled the West Bank with an iron fist. He was elected as the PA president in January 2005, he has prevented elections from being held since then in order to hold onto power. Abbas’ record includes jailing journalists and political opponents, even going as far as torturing them.

Gaza Rocket Explodes In Sderot


An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in this Israeli Defence Force (IDF) handout image received on November 28, 2017 showing the operationalization of the Iron Dome missile interceptor system firing from navy ship Sa'ar 5-corvette INS Lahav. Courtesy of IDF Spokesperson Unit/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Friday, the third one from Gaza in the past couple of days.

The rocket fell onto a street, causing damage to the road as well as multiple vehicles and houses in the vicinity of the rocket. No one was hurt, although three people were hospitalized for anxiety and shock as a result of the fallen rocket.

Ahfad al-Sahaba-Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, an ISIS affiliate, declared that they were responsible for the rocket, as they were retaliating against Hamas for arresting multiple terrorists in the group.

“Oh you cowardly Jews: You don’t have safety in our land,” the ISIS affiliate taunted.

Prior to the fallen rocket, two rockets had been launched from Gaza into Israel, neither of which made it into the Jewish state. One was shot down by the Iron Dome, the other simply failed to reach its target.

Tawhid al-Jihad, an al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for those two missile strikes; Israel responded with six strikes against Gaza, two targeting Hamas and four targeting Islamic Jihad. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 25 people were injured from Israel’s strikes.

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) said in a statement, “The IDF holds Hamas responsible for the hostile activity perpetuated against Israel from the Gaza Strip.”

The rocket fire from Gaza amidst the “Days of Rage” protests throughout Gaza and the West Bank in response to President Trump announcing that the United States will now recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Hamas specifically called for “Intifada of Jerusalem and the West Bank’s Freedom” and the Palestinian Authority is organizing some of the protests.

Confrontations between the protests and the IDF resulted in two Palestinians being killed and 98 others injured on Friday.

A modest proposal: Short-term camps for Syrian refugees in America


A Syrian refugee child holds a bread at a camp for Syrian refugees near the town of Qab Elias, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Aug. 8. Photo by Jamal Saidi/REUTERS.

What to do about Syrian refugees?

Their ongoing flight from civil war and poverty continues to challenge America socially, economically, and morally. While the United States did not create the conditions for the migration, human beings in distress surely deserve our compassion. But absorbing people who are completely alien to the American lifestyle endangers both our cultural values and our economic well-being.

There is a third way: admit Syrian refugees, but house them in camps rather than set them loose on our streets – where they are already attempting to join American society. Segregated villages for Syrian refugees would solve their short-term problem – finding a place to survive (however uncomfortably) – without creating long-term problems for the United States and our cultural unity. Most importantly, once things return to normal in Syria, these temporary foreign guests (and their descendants) can simply go home.

Wait, that’s offensive to you? You think it would shock the conscience of good people everywhere? Funny, because that’s precisely how the world has treated Palestinian refugees living in Arab countries neighboring Israel over the last 70 years.

During Israel’s 1948 War for Independence, at least 700,000 Arabs were expelled or fled from what became Israel. Most went to refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, which expected them to return to their homes when the fighting ended. But Israel, busy building a Jewish homeland for refugees of their own group, blocked their re-entry. The 1967 Six-Day War produced another 300,000 migrants, and today the total number of Palestinian refugees and their descendants is nearing 5 million.

Life for Palestinian refugees has been hard, in large part because the countries where they’ve lived (except the Kingdom of Jordan) have made no effort to integrate them, and in fact created obstacles to their absorption. Egypt had no interest in absorbing the Arabs living in Gaza in the 1950s, for example, and in fact when poised to regain the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Camp David Accords, Egypt rejected annexing the adjacent Gaza Strip, despite a shared ethnic and religious background with Palestinians. The story has been similar for refugees mired in camps in Lebanon and Syria.

Displaced persons present moral and practical challenges to civilized nations, but that’s nothing new. Since World War II alone the world has unfortunately had to succor refugees hundreds of times – Chinese flooding British Hong Kong in the early 1950s, say, or Hungarians moving to Austria in 1956.

In fact, the United Nations constantly deals with such emergencies through its Refugee Agency, whose mission statement defines its job as “finding solutions that enable refugees to live their lives in dignity and peace.” They specify three strategies: voluntary repatriation, resettlement and integration.

So for decades, the world’s nations have had a simple goal for all the world’s refugees: that they stop being refugees.

Well, that’s been the goal for all the world’s refugees except Palestinians.

You see, Palestinians are the only category of refugees “helped” by a separate agency – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Armed with an annual $1.2 billion budget, UNRWA’s structure prevents Palestinians from thriving in the places where they live. Unlike with other ethnic and national groups, the United Nations treats even the descendants of original displaced persons as permanent refugees, and eschews most steps to integrate them.

The reason is clear: a deliberate Arab-led campaign to embarrass and delegitimize Israel.

Arab leaders have been remarkably blunt about their motivations. In 2004, Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef, told the Los Angeles Times that Palestinians live “in very bad conditions,” but said the official policy is meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity.” After all, he continued, “if every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine,” he said.

Under the status quo, all the Arab elites win. Arab nations escape the upheaval of integrating a poor and alienated subgroup, and Palestinian leaders keep their ideology that the refugees already have a home – the future nation of Palestine to be built on land currently occupied by the Jews.

But the refugees themselves don’t win. Their physical, political, and legal suffering continues. Outside Jordan, they and their children are not citizens of the countries where they live, and they face legal and practical obstacles to progress in areas like employment, education, and health care. Many can’t even own property.

Now, here’s the truly obscene part: some of the Palestinian refugees living in Syria have joined the exodus to Europe, where they are being resettled like everyone else. Think about that: When their suffering was agitprop theater to hurt Israel, they were stateless. But with a non-Zionist antagonist, suddenly they’re on track to becoming French and Dutch.

Migrations and displacements are a regular feature of world history – and Jews have been no exception. From our days weeping by the waters of Babylon to the mass transfer of nearly a million Jews from Arab and Muslim nations soon after Israel’s founding, our people have known dislocation and exile. Absorption of foreigners has placed many countries on trial, as the Syrian crisis is doing today. But nobody’s suffering should be part of an international puppet show designed to jerry-rig an impractical solution to a longstanding morass.

Here’s another modest proposal: Israel’s neighbors can welcome – as equal citizens – the Palestinians who for generations have lived within their borders. Would that be so hard?

David Benkof is a frequent contributor to the Jewish Journal. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.

Trump to meet with US ambassador to Israel over Temple Mount crisis


David Friedman testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Feb. 16, 2017. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Image.

President Donald Trump will meet with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Temple Mount crisis.

The meeting is scheduled for late Monday morning, Haaretz reported. An unnamed White House official told the Israeli newspaper that Friedman was coming to Washington this week “as part of a long-planned trip.”

“In addition to a variety of meetings, he will be meeting with the president, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt tomorrow to discuss the events that transpired in the region over the past two weeks where tensions have recently lowered,” the official told Haaretz.

Friedman reportedly was involved in working to reduce tensions over the increased security measures at the Temple Mount, which ultimately were removed. The metal detectors and other measures were installed after a July 14 attack by three Arab-Israeli men that left two Druze-Israeli police officers dead.

Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy for international relations, also visited Israel last week, also in a bid to help lower the tensions at the Temple Mount.

Both men last week visited the shiva for three members of the Salomon family who were killed by a Palestinian assailant as they sat at their Shabbat table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish celebrating the birth of a baby boy in the family. Friedman also visited the families of the Israel Police officers killed on the Temple Mount.

ZOA calls on Tillerson to quit over State Department saying Palestinian terrorism stems from ‘lack of hope’


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking about Iran and North Korea at the State Department in Washington, D.C., April 19, 2017. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Zionist Organization of America called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to resign over the State Department terrorism report which the ZOA called “bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, Israel-hating (and) error-ridden.”

“This Tillerson State Department Report blames Israel for Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks on innocent Jews and Americans, ignores and whitewashes the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ‘pay to slay’ payments to Arabs to murder Jews, among other travesties,” said a ZOA statement Monday about the report, published last week.

In the report, the State Department listed as “continued drivers of violence” a “lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.”

It also said that Palestinian leaders had addressed incitement.

“The PA has taken significant steps during President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence,” it said. “While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence.”

The ZOA said that the report directly contradicted multiple criticisms of the Palestinian Authority for incitement by President Donald Trump and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

The ZOA statement praised Rep. Pete Roskam, R-Ill., for his letter to the State Department last week seeking changes in the report.

“I strongly you encourage to modify this report to accurately characterize and hold accountable the root causes of Palestinian violence — PA leadership,” Roskam said.

Three Israelis reportedly killed, one wounded in West Bank stabbing attack


Israeli forces patrolling in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, July 20, 2017. (Mamoun Wazwaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Three Israelis reportedly were killed and one wounded in a stabbing attack in a West Bank settlement north of Ramallah.

Two men and a woman reportedly died of their wounds, while a woman in her 60s was seriously injured in the attack in Halamish, according to The Times of Israel. Israeli media reports said the attacker was shot but survived.

Israel TV’s Channel 10 said the assailant, who entered the home of victims, was in his late teens and had posted on Facebook that he was upset by events at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, where Palestinians and Israeli security forces clashed this week over the Israeli government’s decision to keep in place indefinitely metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount.

Eli Bin, the head of Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom, said an off-duty soldier next door heard screams, rushed to the home and shot the attacker through a window, according to ABC News. Bin said the attacker was wounded and evacuated to hospital.

On Friday, three Palestinians reportedly were killed in clashes between rioters and police in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Six Israeli police officers were injured in the rioting, touched off after Israel installed metal detectors at the Temple Mount in response to a July 14 terrorist shooting near the holy site that killed two Israeli police officers. The previous night, some 42 people were wounded in clashes between security forces and Palestinian protesters, who rioted during rallies against the introduction of the metal detectors, Army Radio reported.

The Temple Mount compound contains the Haram al Sharif area that is holy to Muslims.

AIPAC and the meaning of love


How do we show our love for the things we hold dear?

How do we express this love when things get complicated?

Israel is a complicated country. Despite all of its amazing accomplishments in the face of relentless hostility, despite its courage, its resiliency, its vibrant culture, it still manages to attract serious opposition and even anger among many American Jews who claim to love the Jewish state. The key reason for this anger is well-known: Israel’s inability to make peace with the Palestinians.

Over the past 48 hours, I’ve seen two radically different approaches to loving Israel.

The first is the love I felt at the AIPAC Policy Conference, where 18,000 people came to network, listen to speeches, learn more about Israel, present their ideas, lobby Congress, and, essentially, find a safe space to show their love for the Jewish state.

Outside the main conference hall, I saw a whole other approach –demonstrators on the street, many of them angry, protesting AIPAC’s support of Israel.

In an ideal world, I’m sure these demonstrators would like nothing better than to see AIPAC join their protest against Israel. In fact, I’m sure they’d love to see all Jewish organizations follow their approach and bash Israel for failing to make peace with the Palestinians.

For the protestors, this failure is all-consuming. Yes, the conflict is complicated. Yes, the Palestinians have refused several offers in the past to end the occupation. Yes, Israel has made its share of mistakes. Yes, right now, with the region in violent turmoil, it could be disastrous for everybody — including the Palestinians — if Israel abandoned the West Bank and terror groups would walk in and wreak more havoc.

Yes, but.

A failure is still a failure. The bottom line for these anti-AIPAC demonstrators is that Israel has failed to make peace with the Palestinians, and that is simply unacceptable.

My question for the demonstrators, then, is this: Since you claim to be pro-Israel, how else do you show your love for Israel besides protest?

I get the tough love thing. I get that you want Israel to do as you wish, because it would be better for Israel and the Palestinians. I get that you’re tired of waiting. I get all that, and I also get that protest is a great Jewish value and that it’s part of the Jewish tradition.

I’m just curious: Is this your only way of engaging with Israel?

I’m especially interested because, when I love someone who does something I think is wrong, I always make sure to remind them how much I love them, how I value the things they do right, and how I value our relationship. For their own good, I will show some “tough,” but I always show some “love.”

I’ve seen your “tough” on Israel, but where are you hiding the love?

Are you looking for a safe space?

The two-state solution won’t die


An Israeli flag is seen near the minaret of a Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. Nov. 30, 2016. Photo by Ammar Awad/REUTERS.

This opinion tackling the two-state solution is the “pro” argument published in conjunction with Yishai Fleisher’s “con” argument, “Five Alternatives to Designating Separate States.

Seldom has an idea been pronounced dead more often than that of making peace between Israel and the Palestinians through a two-state solution. Politicians, experts, pundits and columnists have lined up to deliver their eulogies, lay it to earth, fill in its grave and recite Kaddish over its remains.  

Except that it still lives.

Even President Trump, who last month said he had no preference between a two-state solution and a so-called one state solution, has apparently reverted to a fairly classic two-state policy. His envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week, was discussing reining in the Israeli settlements, presumably to preserve land for a future Palestinian state.

The reason even skeptics eventually come back to the two-state solution is that it remains the only viable, equitable and reasonable way of ending the seemingly endless conflict. Two peoples, who live side by side in the same land, can either fight over control of every square inch, denying the other side any ownership or control or dignity, or they can decide to share. The two-state solution does not pretend to give either side everything that they want – but it does give them everything that they need.

True, ultra-nationalists, who base Israel’s claim to the West Bank on their interpretation of God’s will, will never accept any solution that involves Israel relinquishing control over Judea and Samaria. Among this small group, various other “solutions” are regularly floated. A good example were the five “alternatives” proposed in a New York Times article last month by Hebron settler Yishai Fleisher (with whom I will debate at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills on the evening of March 30).

The five alternatives all have one thing in common: they do not treat Palestinians as equal to Jews and do not afford them anything close to equal rights. They do nothing to acknowledge Palestinian aspirations to control their own destiny in a state of their own. Fleisher himself recognizes this, stating that all his so-called plans have “potentially repugnant elements.”

The first of these alternatives — allowing Palestinians in the West Bank to become Jordanian citizens, while continuing to live in the West Bank under Israeli rule –would probably destabilize Jordan, a key US and Israeli bulwark against ISIS and al-Qaeda. And the plan itself is preposterous. Imagine if all the African-American residents of Michigan were suddenly told they were henceforth citizens of Canada and not the United States. They could send delegates to Parliament in Ottawa and help determine policies north of the border – but not where they live.

Two of Fleisher’s other so-called alternative solutions are based on Israel’s annexing most of the West Bank, leaving the cities as small Palestinian islands in charge of sewage collection and street lamps but not much else. They would be, in effect, Bantustans – a system attempted unsuccessfully by South Africa during the apartheid era.

The fourth solution suggested by Fleisher would give Palestinians full citizenship in Israel. They would have to swear loyalty to the Jewish state to earn this privilege. While this would not violate their human rights, it would effectively mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, if the Palestinians accepted the conditions. It’s hard to imagine any of the Zionist parties in Israel even pretending to consider this or many Palestinians signing on.

The final alternative in Fleisher’s list is the “voluntary” emigration of some 800,000 Palestinians from the West bank who would be financially “incentivized” to leave for their ancestral lands and rights. Where would they go? Jordan, which is already staggering under the weight of some  1.4 million refugees? Western Europe, where anti-immigrant populist movements are vying for power? Or perhaps Israel could persuade President Trump to accept a few hundred thousand Palestinians in the United States.

All of these false formulas, based on self-deception and fundamental injustice, should persuade us once more that the two-state solution is the only way to end the conflict. The moment the two-state solution really does dies, both peoples condemn themselves to a future of conflict without end, generation after generation – and that is a future too awful to accept.

At the core of this idea are the fundamental principles of peace and justice. With beautiful simplicity and economy, Psalm 34 tells us to “seek peace and pursue it.” With equal terseness, Deuteronomy 16:20 commands us, “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.”

Though current prospects are bleak, I believe that the moment for the two-state solution will come because eventually both sides will realize they have no other choice and that the status quo will become intolerable. The moment may come in five years, it may take longer. But ideas, unlike mortals, have the power to persist for generations, centuries and even millennia when they stand on the fundamental human principles of peace and justice. This is an idea that is too strong to die.

The author is Special Adviser to the President of J Street.

Stop celebrating Muslim decency


Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri. Feb. 21. Photo by Tom Gannam/REUTERS.

Being congratulated for basic civility is no compliment

Since the recent wave of anti-Semitic bomb threats, vandalism, and cemetery desecrations, journalistic and social media have vocally celebrated condemnations, fund-raising, and volunteer efforts by Muslim groups in an attempt to bolster interfaith cooperation and rehabilitate the reputation of the Islamic community precisely when its very welcome in America is being questioned like never before.

But nobody deserves congratulations for basic decency. Condemning bomb threats and making donations to repair damage from bias crimes is something good people of all backgrounds do. Liberal hoopla over proper Muslim responses to anti-Semitism is no more than a religious riff on the soft bigotry of low expectations. When Muslims go to extraordinary lengths to show they embrace their Jewish neighbors – and they sometimes do – public praise is appropriate. But headlines about Islamic press releases condemning cemetery vandalism send the opposite message – that in normal circumstances Muslims are callous and heartless.

Imagine these headlines:

  • Asian Driver Arrives At Work Without Incident
  • Jamaican Musician Passes Drug Test
  • Black Man Marries His Children’s Mother

 

While those headlines aim to challenge nasty stereotypes, they actually reinforce their legitimacy.

News stories about broad community efforts to help besieged Jews that contain a sentence “Even the local Muslim community turned out in force” are entirely appropriate. But special congratulations when Muslims act like, well, people are not compliments.

I know how it feels to have my own group celebrated for simple propriety.

As a Zionist, I am perpetually annoyed by hasbara (roughly, propaganda) that celebrates Israeli actions that are only minimally admirable – like an Israeli soldier who shares her sandwich with a starving Palestinian child or an Tel Aviv hospital that provides an impoverished dying Arab woman with free medical care. Yes, I understand that these examples are intended to debunk the idea that Israelis are not decent (although I have yet to see anti-Israel discourse accusing Israelis of withholding sandwiches from orphans). But the very act of highlighting basic decency legitimizes the slander, which is particularly offensive given the many good Israeli actions that are far from just minimally proper.

The people spotlighting Muslim attempts to repair desecrated cemeteries may think they’re rebutting negative stereotypes. But they aren’t. Sorry to say it, but Americans who fear or hate Muslims don’t do so because they think Muslims tolerate vandalism. They do so because they think Muslims tolerate terrorism. These stories will not dent that perception.

Americans are rightly proud of the way its citizens of many groups came together to help one group among them recover in a time of distress – and Muslims should be part of that celebration. But breathless reports that American Muslims aren’t jackasses after all help nobody – including American Muslims.

David Benkof is a columnist for the Daily Caller, where this essay first appeared. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) and Muckrack.com/DavidBenkof, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Palestinian support for two-state solution drops, poll finds


Israeli soldiers stand guard as Palestinians wait to pass during a protest calling for reopening of a closed street, in the West Bank city of Hebron Feb. 9. Photo by Mussa Qawasma/REUTERS.

A majority of Palestinians do not support a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, a survey found.

The survey released Wednesday found that 44 percent of Palestinians back the two-state solution, a decline from 51 percent who supported this approach in a similar survey from June. The later survey had 59 percent of Israelis supporting two states, down from 55 percent in the earlier poll.

The survey, called Palestinian-Israeli Pulse: A Joint Poll, was released by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah with funding from the European Union.

The poll, which surveyed 1,270 Palestinians and 1,207 Israelis, Jewish and Arab, was conducted in December. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

It also found that just over one-third of Palestinians and a majority of Arab Israelis supported one state as well as a confederation, while 24 percent of Israelis backed one state and 28 percent a confederation.

Nearly identical numbers of Jewish Israelis (58 percent) and Palestinians (57 percent) said they supported a broader regional peace involving the Arab world and Israel.

The survey also found that 86 percent of Palestinians feel Israeli Jews are untrustworthy, while 71 percent of Israeli Jews do not trust Palestinians. In addition, 51 percent of Israeli Jews, 48 percent of Israeli Arabs and 68 percent of Palestinians agreed with this statement: “Nothing can be done that’s good for both sides; whatever is good for one side is bad for the other side.”

In addition, 66 percent of Jewish Israelis fear the Palestinians; among West Bank settlers the number rises to 72 percent. Nearly half of Jewish Israelis also fear their fellow Arab citizens of Israel, and 60 percent of West Bank settlers feel this way.

Some 43 percent of Palestinians said they fear Jewish Israelis in general, and 52 percent fear soldiers and armed settlers. Most Arab Israelis, or 82 percent, do not fear Jewish Israeli.

Jewish groups express dismay as Trump says he can ‘live with’ one-state solution


President Donald Trump, second from right, and wife Melania, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara, left, at the South Portico of the White House, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

Liberal and centrist American Jewish groups expressed dismay following remarks by President Donald Trump that he “can live with” a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking Wednesday at a White House news conference prior to closed-door meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump was asked if he were “backing off” from the two-state solution, a pillar of U.S. policy under at least three former presidents.

“So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump replied, going on to refer to Netanyahu by his nickname. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

The Reform movement called Trump’s response “potentially devastating to the prospects for peace and Israel’s Jewish, democratic future.”

“The question is: can Israelis and Palestinians live with it in a way that allows for a Jewish, democratic State of Israel and realization of the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinians,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “Only a two-state solution can achieve the goals of the Israelis and Palestinians.”

The American Jewish Committee, while welcoming the “spirit of cooperation and friendship expressed at the press conference,” also reaffirmed its support for a two-state solution. Its statement quoted from a policy issued by the AJC National Board of Governors in December reasserting that “a two-state solution is the only realistic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as established through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties themselves.”

Trump’s comment came days after a senior White House official said a two-state solution was not a necessary outcome of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. If formalized, it would represent an official retreat from U.S. policy since 2002, when President George W. Bush said Palestinian statehood was a goal of peace talks. A two-state outcome was also the implied policy of Bush’s predecessor, President Bill Clinton.

Israelis and Palestinians have different conceptions of — and fears about — a “one-state” solution. The pro-Palestinian movement has promoted the idea of a single binational state of Jewish and Palestinian citizens, which many Israelis warn would erase the Jewish majority in Israel. The right wing in Israel has spoken of annexing most or all of the West Bank, but without extending citizenship to the Palestinians living there.

“The only alternative to that [two-state] outcome is one bi-national state and increased violence, with tragic consequences similar to the recent war in Syria,” Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka wrote in an op-ed in USA Today on Tuesday. The authors are principals of the Israeli nonpartisan organization Blue White Future.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, also urged the president to reaffirm a policy that “secures two states for two peoples — a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a democratic, Palestinian state.”

“Today President Trump refused to lend his voice toward this goal. Not only were his remarks shameful, they were short-sighted,” she said in a statement. “A two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians is the only means to ensure Israel’s long-term security and enable Palestinian aspirations for their own state. That is why Presidents from both parties, the vast majorities of the House and Senate, and the American people have consistently supported this objective, and why President Trump must as well.”

In its statement on Wednesday’s meeting, the Republican Jewish Coalition did not mention the president’s remarks on one- or -two-state solutions.

“Today’s meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu is a welcome sign that a new era has arrived for United States-Israel relations,” the RJC said. “It is in the interests of both our nations’ securities that we recognize the fundamental challenges facing the region, and their root causes. Whether it’s preventing a nuclear Iran, or the responsibilities of the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table in order to reach peace, we will only achieve our mutual goals if we stand united in the process. Thankfully, it’s clear that going forward there will be no daylight between the U.S. and our closest ally in the Middle East.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder welcomed the meeting as “extremely positive” and called it “an encouraging sign that the historic alliance between Israel and the United States is back on strong footing.”

Trump says settlements not good for peace, but won’t condemn Israel


President Donald Trump speaking with executives and union representatives from the Harley Davidson company at the White House, Feb. 2, 2017. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Donald Trump said the expansion of Israeli settlements does not help peacemaking efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, but added he did not wish to condemn the Jewish state.

Trump spoke about the peace process during an interview with Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, a Republican donor and close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli daily published an excerpt Friday and promised to publish the interview in full on Sunday. Adelson and his wife dined with Trump at the White House Thursday.

Asked about Israeli settlements, Trump said they “don’t help the process. I can say that. There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”

But when asked whether he would condemn Israel for its settlements activities, he said: “No, I don’t want to condemn Israel. Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I don’t want to be condemning Israel. I understand Israel very well, and I respect Israel a lot, and they have been through a lot.”

In addition to the settlement issue, Trump also addressed the Iran nuclear deal.

“The deal with Iran was a disaster for Israel. Inconceivable that it was made. It was poorly negotiated and executed,” Trump said.

The 2015 agreement reached between Iran and the United States under former President Barack Obama and five other world powers offers Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a partial scaling back of some of its nuclear activities. Israel has opposed the deal, claiming it paved the Islamic Republic’s path to obtaining nuclear weapons. Obama defended it as the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining those capabilities.

Instead of Iran “being thankful” to Obama “for making such a deal, which was so much to their advantage, they felt emboldened even before he left office,” Trump said. “It is too bad a deal like that was made.”

Last week the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and entities from Iran two days after the administration had put Iran “on notice,” as a White House spokesman phrased it, following a ballistic missile test.

Speaking about Netanyahu, Trump said they “have good chemistry” and the prime minister “is a good man.”

“He wants to do the right thing for Israel. He would like peace; I believe that he wants peace and wants to have it badly. I have always liked him,” Trump said.

Asked about his plans on whether to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Trump said Israel should act “reasonably” in the peace process and expressed hopes for a breakthrough. He added that both sides should act reasonably.

Asked again about the embassy specifically, he said he was studying the subject and added it is not an easy decision and has been discussed for many years. Trump also said no one wanted to carry out the decision and that he is thinking about it very seriously.

“I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy, and we will see what happens,” he said.

During the campaign, Trump said he favored moving the embassy, which Congress said in 1995 should be moved, but which has been kept in place by presidential decrees.

Asked whether he believes the Palestinians need to make concessions, Trump replied in the affirmative.

Small majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution


A new poll finds that only a small majority of Palestinians (51 percent) and Israelis (59 percent) support a two-state solution, meaning an independent Palestinian state next to Israel. There is a high level of distrust and fear on both sides and both sides believe there is little chance for an independent Palestinian state.

These were the findings of a joint Israeli-Palestinian poll, published by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) in Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah. The poll, which has a margin of error of three percent in either direction, surveyed 1,270 Palestinians and 1,184 Israelis and was released Monday in Jerusalem.

For many in the region, the results come as no surprise. There have been no substantial Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in years, and a recent wave of violence of Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians have left more than 30 Israelis and 200 Palestinians dead in the past year. Yet the poll’s results can be seen as hopeful or pessimistic depending on your frame of mind.

“I thought the situation would have been much worse,” the Israeli pollster responsible for the survey told The Media Line. “I think we are not yet at the point of no return. We still have a majority believing in the idea (of a two-state solution) and it’s all about leadership. Public opinion is not the main obstacle (to a peace deal).”

Others however, see the glass as half-empty.

“I am worried — it underlines the fact that there is a diminishing level of support on the Israeli side for the mere substance of peace,” Elias Zananiri, a former journalist who is today the Deputy Chair of the PLO’s Committee for the Interaction with Israeli Society, told The Media Line. “The fact that only 48 percent of Israelis want peace is really frightening for me as a Palestinian.”

When it comes to the question of perception of the other, the situation is even more bleak. The survey found that 89 percent of Palestinians feel Israeli Jews are untrustworthy, while 68 percent of Israeli Jews feel the same way about Palestinians. Two-thirds of Israelis say they fear Palestinians, while close to half of Palestinians feel the same way.

The survey was partially funded by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a German political foundation, and the European Union. EU officials said they saw cause for hope in the findings.

We need to continue to articulate our support for the two state solution, and publicly outline what we can do to bring the parties back to the negotiating table,” David Geer, the Deputy EU Representative in Jerusalem said. “There is no room for complacency and a great deal of work needs to be done.”

Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki said he was most surprised by the reactions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement since 2007. Shikaki said Palestinians in Gaza were more in favor of a peaceful solution with Israel than Palestinians in the West Bank.

“It seems a lot of people who liked Hamas do not necessarily buy into Hamas’ policies regarding the issue of the peace process,” Shikaki told The Media Line. “Support for Hamas in Gaza is due to other factors and it doesn’t mean they share Hamas’s value system.”

The survey asked about support for a peace agreement “package” based on issues discussed in previous rounds of negotiations. It suggested a demilitarized Palestinian state, Israel withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines with agreed-upon territorial swaps, a group of 100,000 Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to Israel, West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and an end to all future claims.

Support for this nine-point plan is highest among secular Israeli Jews (56 percent) versus just nine percent for ultra-Orthodox. On the Palestinian side, some 57 percent of voters from the Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas support the plan, compared to 25 percent of Hamas voters.

But adding incentives can change people’s minds. If the agreement includes a wider or regional Arab-Israeli peace, one quarter of Palestinians and Israelis would change their mind and support a deal. In 2002 Saudi Arabia offered the Arab Peace Initiative that would give Israel peace with dozens of  Arab and Muslim states but it did not get off the ground as the second intifada broke out. Some in the region say it is time to revive that initiative.

“Regional peace is a winner,” Shikaki said. “If I have any advice for the next US administration, it is to think regionally.”

UNRWA’S dark agenda


UNRWA was founded under UNGA Resolution 302 in 1949. Set apart from the UNHCR that deals with all the world’s refugees, UNRWA is unique and only deals with Palestine refugees. Its separateness and absurd definition of inherited refugee status is reminiscent of Augustine’s “eternal witness,” whereby Jews were permitted to exist, but only in perpetual impoverishment. UNRWA does not merely permit ongoing refugee status: it demands and encourages it.

In the fourth century, Church founder Augustine coined the term “eternal witness” to proscribe the purpose of Jews. Under this dictum, Jews were cast into a pariah status of rejection, homelessness, loathing and impoverishment. This status developed with European culture, expressed not only in church sermons, but also in the arts and socio-political structures. In 1215, The Fourth Lateran Council decreed that Jews wear distinguishing clothes and badges to be identified as objects of loathing.

While some changes occurred after the Enlightenment including Napoleon’s liberation of Jews, Augustine’s stigma remained. Consequently, about half of German and Austrian Jews converted to be accepted into mainstream society, Heine and Mahler being well known examples. The Hep-Hep riots, the Edgardo Mortara and Dreyfus Affairs as well as the Holocaust, significantly occurred after the Enlightenment.

The arts, maintained the image of the homeless Jew. Writers such as Goethe, in his Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre wrote of a new society in America, that excluded Jews. Wagner’s operas reflected his political beliefs such as the metaphor of the wandering Jew in the Flying Dutchman.  Despite Jewish assimilation, artists such as Manet, Cezanne and Degas publicly supported French popular incitement against Jews while Renoir considered Jews to be “natives of no country.” The theme of “eternal witness” prevailed well after the Holocaust—in the popular Arthur Mee Childrens’ Encyclopaedia, Jews were depicted as having been condemned to wander for having rejected Christ.

In 1904, Pope Pius X advised Herzl that he could not support a Jewish state, “as Jews had not recognised our Lord, therefore we cannot recognise the Jewish people.” He further said that while it was unpleasant to have the Turks in control of Jerusalem, Jewish control was out of the question.

In 1964, Pope Paul Vl, visiting Jerusalem, declined to refer to Israel by name, meet the Chief Rabbi or visit places of Jewish significance.  The following year, he promulgated Nostra Aetate which absolved Jews of collective responsibility for the death of Christ and decried antisemitism. Yet the Vatican only established relations with Israel in 1993. The present Pope, Francis usually refers to Israel as “the Holy Land” rather than by its name which implies sovereignty.

Leon Poliakov referred to Israel as “the Jew among the nations.” The implication was that Israel as a sovereign state, experiences similar pariah status as envisaged by Augustine.

Accordingly, Israel is singled out for multiple condemnations at various UN bodies. Displaying its anti-Jewish bias, UNESCO dejudaizes the Judaism’s holiest places, reassigning Arab names to the Western Wall and other Jewish sites.  The EU, whose constituent states mostly do not vote against such resolutions, also insists on special labelling of Israeli products from the disputed territories, ignoring all other territorial disputes. The ICRC only permits Israeli membership without its Star of David insignia. The list is by no means exhaustive, but illustrates the extent to which “the Jew amongst the nations” has to struggle against isolation.

UNRWA, originally meant as a temporary refugee agency for displaced Arabs in the 1948 war with Israel, is the only refugee agency that specifically has an agenda that differs substantially from the other UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. Whereas UNRWA employs nearly 30,000, to service some 5 million people, uniquely including the descendants of the original 650,000, UNHCR has 8500 employees to service 65 million worldwide and does not include descendants of resettled refugees.

Unlike UNHCR, UNRWA has politicised its role, colluded with Hamas and continues to perpetuate the plight and uncertainty of refugees and their destinies. It has tailored its refugee programs to enhance the misery of these people for its own dubious ends. UN Watch has documented UNRWA staff posting anti-Semitic cartoons while UNRWA school pageants proudly incite and demonise Jews and their state.

Some seventeen centuries after Augustine’s “eternal witness,” contempt and loathing have morphed into many forms including the current concept of UNRWA. The purpose was always to shame the Jew. UNRWA has enthusiastically adopted this role, reinforced by annual  commemorative events such as Nakba (catastrophe) Day that encourages resilience and hope to return to Palestine, rather than resolving the refugee crisis per se. Noteworthy are rejections of offers such as by Canada in 2001,to absorb Palestinian refugees. In other words, UNRWA primarily seeks to replace a UN member state, rather than improve lives.

UNRWA encourages Nakba events in order to label Israel as a nation of guilt, shame and born in sin. Encouraging Palestinians to be resilient and hopeful, instead of fomenting new lives as UNHCR does, Palestinians are openly encouraged to await their “return to Palestine”—a euphemism for Israel’s dissolution.

UNRWA’s role is the “Jew badge” of Israel—a modern manifestation of Augustine’s “eternal witness,” primarily meant to shame and loathe.

Some US lawmakers are reviewing the efficacy of UNRWA which is to be welcomed. Yet UNRWA’s purpose goes beyond refugees and a balance sheet.

The time has come for the US and EU, both committed to fighting antisemitism, yet also UNRWA’s largest donors, to take a sober and honest look as to what exactly they are funding. Denial and rationalisation are no longer defensible.

Ron Jontof-Hutter is a writer and fellow at the Berlin International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism. His satire on political correctness and antisemitism, “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist,” was recently published.

Moral people cannot support the Palestinians


I understand those who yearn for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I do, too.

I understand those who fear a bi-national Jewish-Palestinian state. I do, too.

I understand those who wish Israel never came to rule over millions of Palestinians. I do, too.

But there is something wrong with the moral compass of anyone who sides with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

While every nation has good individuals, as a collective, the Palestinians are among the world’s most morally unimpressive national groups.

• Palestinian immorality was manifest before there was even a distinct Palestinian national identity. The Palestinians’ leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini (1897-1974), was an ally of Hitler who pushed for the annihilation of Jewish people in Europe. As Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote in the Jewish Journal:

“The Grand Mufti will be remembered as one the 20th century’s most virulent Jew haters and a key cheerleader for Hitler’s genocidal Final Solution.  … [He] helped organize a Muslim Waffen SS Battalion, known as the Hanjars, that slaughtered 90 percent of Bosnia’s Jews, and were dispatched to Croatia and Hungary.”

• The next Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, another Jew-hater, responded to Israel’s offers of a Palestinian state with two “intifadas,” a fancy name for what was nothing more than the terror-slaughter of Israelis on buses, in restaurants and at schools.

• Palestinians adore those who murder Jews. According to a Palestinian poll conducted in December 2015, two-thirds of Palestinians support the recent wave of knife attacks on Israeli Jews.

• Every Palestinian who murders Jews is deemed a national hero of the Palestinian people by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and is celebrated among the majority of Palestinians. Squares and schools are named after Palestinians who murder Jews.

• The Palestinians have been the single greatest reason the United Nations has become the moral cesspool it now is. Instead of combating the world’s most horrific evils, the U.N., under relentless pressure from the Palestinians and their Muslim allies, have made Israel almost its sole concern. 

Recently, for example, Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, reported:

“On March 24, 2016, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) wrapped up its annual meeting in New York by condemning only one country for violating women’s rights anywhere on the planet — Israel, for violating the rights of Palestinian women.

“On the same day, the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded its monthlong session in Geneva by condemning Israel five times more than any other of the 192 U.N. member states.”

• The Palestinians living in Gaza voted Hamas into power. Unlike the PA, Hamas makes it clear that its one agenda is to exterminate Israel. Thus every Palestinian murder of a Jew —whether a baby or a 90-year-old or an entire family – is hailed by Hamas. 

• Palestinians routinely engage in libels as wild and toxic as the medieval blood libel. 

Most recently, even The New York Times reported:

“Echoing anti-Semitic claims that led to the mass killings of European Jews in medieval times, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority accused rabbis in Israel of calling on their government to poison the water used by Palestinians. He made the unsubstantiated allegation during a speech to the European Parliament. … ”

Under international pressure, Abbas later retracted the lie. But, of course, the retraction meant nothing. Palestinians probably don’t even know it was retracted. It was done for gullible Westerners. 

And, as the Times further reported:

“Anadolu, the Turkish state-run news agency, repeated the claim on Sunday. It was echoed in the Gulf News, a daily newspaper in Dubai. The Anadolu article said that a Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, whom it called the ‘chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements,’ had issued an ‘advisory opinion in which he allowed Jewish settlers to poison water in Palestinian villages and cities in the West Bank.’ ”

The rabbi, the council of rabbis and the call to poison the water were all made up by the Palestinians.

Palestinians spread lies about Israel on a regular basis. Lying is a Palestinian art form.

• In what many consider the finest history of the 20th century, “Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Nineties,” English historian Paul Johnson wrote this about the African dictator Idi Amin, the cannibal-murderer of hundreds of thousands of his fellow Ugandans:

“Idi Amin’s terror was a Muslim-Arab phenomenon … run by Nubians, Palestinians and Libyans.”

• And, of course, there is the record of Palestinian suicide bombings, the form of mass murder of the innocent that violent Muslims have now spread around the world. The Palestinians did not invent it, but they can look with pride upon a practice that they made popular and respectable.

Despite all this, left-wing Jews and non-Jews speak about the Palestinians as if they are a moral people oppressed by an immoral one. 

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

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