September 26, 2018

Trump Speaks to U.N., Slams Iran for Creating ‘Chaos, Death and Disruption’

U.S. President Donald Trump sips Diet Coke from his wine glass after a toast as he sits beside Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a luncheon for world leaders at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump slammed the Iranian regime for creating “chaos, death and disruption” in his Tuesday speech before the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump began the speech by stating that his “administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” prompting laughter from the assembly.

“I did not expect that reaction,” Trump responded. “That is OK.”

Trump proceeded to tout his administration’s efforts to stand up “for America and the American people, and we are also standing up for the world”:

We are also standing up for our citizens and for peace- loving people everywhere. We believe that when nations respect the rights of their neighbors and defend the interests of their people, they can better work together to secure the blessings of safety, prosperity, and peace. Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, and I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live, work, or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.

On North Korea, Trump highlighted the dismantling of facilities, releasing of hostages and return of the deceased soldiers as progress, but added that sanctions on North Korea would remain until full denuclearization occurs.

Trump eventually turned to Iran:

Iran’s leaders sew chaos, death and disruption. They do not respect their neighbors, borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, they plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond. The Iranian people are rightly outraged that their leaders have embezzled billions of dollars from the treasury, seized valuable portions and looted the religious endowments to line their own pockets and to send their proxies to wage war. Iran’s neighbors have paid a heavy toll for the agenda of aggression and expansion.

Trump added that this was why he decided to exit from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on Iran.

We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons. We cannot allow a regime that chants “Death to America” and threatens Israel with annihilation,” Trumps said. “They cannot possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth, we just cannot do it. We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues and we ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

Trump also touted the Jerusalem embassy move and leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“I spoke before this body last year and warned that the UN’s Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution,” Trump said. “Shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.”

Trump added that the UNHRC had made no effort to reform itself, prompting the United States’ exit from the council until reform occurs.

The president also said that the United States would be holding the U.N. accountable by refusing to “pay more than 25 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.”

Read the full transcript of the speech here.

Bolton Threatens Sanctions Against ICC

National Security Adviser John Bolton discusses "Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats," at a forum hosted by the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies in Washington, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

John Bolton, President Trump’s National Security Adviser, threatened sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday in response to the entity’s potential investigation into the United States for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

At a Federalist Society luncheon, Bolton declared that the court has no jurisdiction over the United States and its allies and called the ICC “illegitimate.”

The International Criminal Court unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests,” Bolton said.

Bolton added, “If the court comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies, we will not sit quietly.”

The ICC called Bolton’s statement “shocking” and said they would be “undeterred” by it.

I think what the U.S. is promoting is a sense of the ‘righteousness’ and being above the law,” ICC representative Amal Nasser told the Chicago Tribune in an email.

Israel recently protested against the ICC for launching an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians; the Palestinian Authority is a member of the ICC despite not being an official state. The United States U.S and Israel are among the countries that do not recognize the ICC as a legitimate body.

U.N. ECOSOC Votes Down Amendment Calling for Hamas to Release Captured Israelis

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) overwhelmingly voted down an amendment to a resolution calling for Hamas to release captured Israelis.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the resolution heavily criticized Israel and called on the Jewish state to stop building settlements and allow unfettered crossings at the Gaza border. No blame was placed upon Hamas for its role in the conflict.

In response, Israel proposed a one-line amendment that advocated for Hamas to release the two Israeli civilians they were holding in captivity, as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon argued that the two Israelis held by Hamas “mentally disabled and in need of immediate medical attention.”

The amendment was voted down 18-5, with 23 abstentions.

Every member of the European Union (EU) abstained from the amendment, prompting Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon to tweet that the EU’s move was “disappointing.”

The EU instead put forward text that called for all bodies being held in the Israel-Palestinian conflict to be released. That text was subsequently approved by ECOSOC.

The resolution passed by a margin of 45 votes in favor and two against, with the only countries voting against it being the United States and Canada.

U.S. ECOSOC Ambassador Kelley Currie slammed the resolution for being “unbalanced” and “unfairly” criticizing Israel

“This document only serves to inflame both sides of the conflict and complicate our shared goal of advancing Israeli and Palestinian peace,” Currie said.

Hamas acknowledged that it was holding the four Israelis in 2016, two years after they captured them. The two Israeli civilians, Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, were captured after climbing the Israel-Gaza fence. Mengistu’s family has described him as “unwell” due to his mental health issues; similarly al-Sayed “has mild psychological issues and has a history of entering Jordan, Egypt and Gaza,” per the Times of Israel.

The two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, were killed in the 2014 Israel-Hamas conflict.

According to U.N. Watch, ECOSOC is the gatekeeper body that decides who goes on the U.N. Human Rights Council Countries with documented human rights violations, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, are represented on ECOSOC.

Haley Slams Arab Countries for Not Helping Palestinian People: ‘Talk Is Cheap’

REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, challenged Arab nations that frequently criticize Israel at the United Nations to help the Palestinian people.

In a July 24 U.N. Security Council session, Haley began her remarks by defending Israel’s strikes against Hamas in Gaza, pointing out that the size of damage caused by Hamas’ incendiary kites and balloons is equivalent to the size of Connecticut.

“While the international media pays very careful attention to every step Israel takes in self-defense, we must not lose sight of very real damage that is being done to Israel from terrorist attacks coming from Gaza,” Haley said.

Haley then noted how various countries – particularly Arab countries – claim to stand with the Palestinian people in their various speeches in the U.N.

“If those words were useful in the schools, the hospitals and the streets of their communities, the Palestinian people would not be facing the desperate conditions we are discussing here today,” Haley said. “Talk is cheap.”

Haley added that such talk only gets “the international community riled up.”

The U.S. ambassador highlighted funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), pointing out that countries like Iran, Algeria and Tunisia haven’t put a single penny into UNRWA. Other countries like Pakistan and Egypt contribute thousands of dollars to UNRWA –– by comparison, the United States gave $364 million the U.S. gave to UNRWA in 2017.

“Words at the United Nations or actions on the streets and in the schools of Palestinian communities: which matters more?” Haley asked. “Judging by the vitriol that is directed toward the United States from the Palestinian representatives – including the one here today – and from some of their allies, one might fairly conclude that our support is unappreciated or unwelcomed.”

Haley added, “We continue to seek out ways to help the Palestinian people, whose plight is of genuine concern to us. But we’re not fools. If we extend a hand in friendship and generosity, we do not expect our hand to be bitten. And as we extend our hand, we expect others to extend their hands as well.”

Haley then asked why Arab countries don’t condemn Hamas for their terrorist activities or seek to reconcile warring Palestinian factions.

“The Palestinian leadership has been allowed to live a false reality for too long because Arab leaders are afraid to tell them the truth,” Haley said. “The United States is telling the truth because we do care about the Palestinian people.”

Her full speech can be seen below:

UN General Assembly Censures Israel’s Actions Against Gaza

United Nations General Assembly hall in New York City.

The United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a draft resolution censuring Israel on Wednesday.

The 193-member body adopted “Protection of the Palestinian Civilian Population,” following heated debate. The resolution, which censured Israel’s recent actions in Gaza, passed with a vote of 120-8, with 45 abstentions, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Prior to the vote, Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told the General Assembly support for the resolution amounted to support for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

“By supporting this resolution, you are a supporting a terrorist organization,” Danon said. “You are empowering Hamas.”

Over the last two months, Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have held weekly demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza border. Israel has responded to the often-violent protests with military force, resulting in the death of more than 120 Palestinians.

Many of the Palestinians who have been killed in the protests are involved with Hamas, a terrorist organization. Hamas has resorted to unconventional tactics in its latest flare-ups with Israel. The organization has flown kites, set ablaze, into Israel, resulting in agricultural damage inside of Israel.

Many of the protests at the Israel-Gaza border coincided with the U.S. relocation of its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last month.

On Wednesday, Danon lambasted the General Assembly for putting forth the resolution, which makes no mention of Hamas.

“I have a simple message for those who support this resolution today: You are the ammunition for Hamas’ guns,” he said. “You are the warheads for Hamas’ missiles.”

Opposed to the resolution’s omission of Hamas, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley proposed an amendment to the resolution, one condemning Hamas. Haley’s amendment garnered a simple majority—62-58, with 42 abstentions—but needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Prior to the vote on the amendment, Algeria’s representative to the U.N. called the amendment irrelevant to the goal of the resolution and called for a no-action motion on the U.S.’s amendment.

Encouraging member states of the General Assembly to support her amendment, Haley called Hamas’ actions against Israel “counterproductive to peace.”

Joanne Adamson, deputy head of the European Union delegation to the United Nations, called on Israel to use more proportional measures when responding to violence at its border.

“Israel must respect the rights to peaceful protests and ensure the use of proportional measures when protecting its legitimate security interests,” Adamson said. “We urge all parties to take immediate steps to deescalate the situation and to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life.”

“We condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel,” Adamson added.

Algeria and Turkey, on behalf of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, put forward the text of the resolution, which condemns Israel’s “excessive use of force” in Gaza.

Letters to the Editor: Honoring Jews, Laying Out the Parameters of Liberalism and the U.N.

Honoring Jews, Not Those Who Would Kill Them

Last week, while the rest of Jewish Los Angeles was memorializing the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, a group of Jews held a memorial in front of the Jewish Federation building to honor the memory of those with the stated goal of murdering the 6 million Jews of Israel — the Palestinians killed in the recent Gaza protests while trying to break down Israel’s security wall to accomplish their goal.

Thank you, David Suissa, for your column “When Truth Comes Marching In” (April 13) and clearly showing the truth — that contrary to what the Palestinians are promoting, the Gaza protests had the sole purpose of breaking down the border wall, murdering Jews and conquering Israel.

Let us never forget the 6 million, and also that, sadly, there are Jews who see nothing wrong with honoring those who try to wipe Israel’s Jews off the earth.

Jason Kay via email

Bravo, kol ha kvod, David Suissa, for “When Truth Comes Marching In.”

However, most of us, whoever we are, don’t listen to facts. We react to myths and media. We only pay heed to facts when pain hits us in the gut — and even then we don’t believe it. Corruption does that to anyone.

Look at your prime example, Gaza.

Linda Hepner via email

David Suissa is right that Israel’s “better” than her Muslim neighbors (“A ‘Better’ Word for Israel,” April 20). Rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, surrounded by enemies, constantly terrorized and fighting for her life, bullied by the U.N., yet still absorbing millions of desperate European and Ethiopian Jewish refugees, and on top of all that, emerging in just 70 years as a cutting-edge, hydro-agricultural, high-tech wunderkind with 12 Nobel Prizes and a super-hip tourist scene to boot — Israel is an unbelievable miracle. And the icing on the cake is that it drives anti-Semites nuts.

Rueben Gordon, Encino


Laying Out Parameters of Liberalism

I was happy and delighted to read Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column (“I Am a Liberal. Are You?” April 20). It boosts my faith in the integrity and honesty of the Journal.

The only thing I would add to it is the following statement:

You are not a liberal

If you reflexively accuse anyone who dares to disagree with you of being a fascist, a racist and an anti-Semite.

I have witnessed some otherwise very intelligent people making these accusations against people whom they know little or nothing about. This kind of behavior is polarizing and degrades our democracy.

Jeffrey P. Lieb, Cheviot Hills

I have always enjoyed reading Karen Lehrman Bloch’s columns, but “I Am a Liberal. Are You?” really blew me away. It was so spot on and expressed so elegantly what so many of us feel but can’t put into words as succinctly. Thank you.

Also, mazel tov to David Suissa for turning the Journal into a top-tier newspaper that Los Angeles can be proud of.

Miriam Fisher via email


Yom HaAzmaut Coverage in the Journal

Israel’s Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut) should have been on your cover, not on page 19 (“Carry a Torch,” April 20)! This was a major failure. Maybe it happened because the editor was in Israel that week. As your columnist Shmuel Rosner put it, “The fifth day of the month of Iyar is your Independence Day. Yes — yours! And by this I mean you, Los Angeles Jews; you, New York Jews; you, Chicago Jews, Sydney Jews, London Jews, Paris Jews.

“Next Year in Jerusalem.”

Bob Kirk, Santa Barbara

Editor’s note: Because HaAzmaut fell on the day the paper came out, April 19, we chose to do a Yom HaAzmaut cover story the week before.


Speaking Truth to U.N.’s Mission

Aaron Bandler’s column is right on target (“We Need a New U.N.,” April 20). He expresses so well what I have thought for many years. And, I am sure, millions of others agree — i.e., the United Nations makes a false pretense to serve the mission for which it was founded.

The U.N. charter called for a commitment to uphold human rights of citizens and outlines a broad set of principles relating to achieving worldwide peace and security. It calls for “higher standards of living,” dealing with “economic, social, health, and related problems,” and calling for “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

Wonderful! But that was in 1945 when it was created with 51 members. Currently, it has 193 member states.

In this regard, what good has the U.N. accomplished?

By way of example, CNN’s Jake Tapper’s analysis of the pertinent data vividly shows that, from 2012-15, the U.N. General Assembly rebuked and condemned the State of Israel almost 86 percent of the time — compared with all other nations combined. Incredible — considering the turmoil and government-controlled killings all over the world. As far as Israel is concerned: The U.N. is guilty of blatant discrimination. As it is today, it unashamedly violates its own charter and raison d’etre.

Should our country be donating annually almost $8 billion of taxpayers’ money to such an organization? (We could easily solve the homelessness problem and affordable housing crisis with that kind of money.)

The headline for Bandler’s column says it so well: “We Need a New U.N.”

George Epstein via email


Mitzi Shore Will Be Missed

Thank you for the wonderful obituary and tribute regarding Mitzi Shore.
The Comedy Store continues to be a platform for fledgling and professional comedians. I know, because my son is one of them. This is an iconic place that supports and encourages the art of stand-up. It deserves the support of the entertainment community.

Although I never met Shore, one night when my son Josh was performing, the staff let me sit in Mitzi’s booth. It was an honor.

I hope The Comedy Store continues for many years as a legacy to Shore and all the performers past, present and future.

Linda Meyrowitz via email


AND FROM FACEBOOK:

Here in Finland and in Sweden, the newspapers cry over how it could go this wrong — “peaceful” Palestinian demonstrators against “cruel” Israeli soldiers. They love to misunderstand what Palestinians really want, which is to take over the Jewish state. They even pretend not to understand what the “Great March of Return” means.

Carita Fogde, Helsinki

A ‘Better’ Word for Israel

There’s something inexplicable about Israel. On the surface, we know it’s one of the most maligned countries on earth. If I told you that the U.N. General Assembly adopted 97 resolutions that singled out a specific country for condemnation from 2012 to 2015, and that 83 of those were against Israel, you might yawn, right? So what else is new?

But as the Journal’s Aaron Bandler mentions in a column this week, CNN’s Jake Tapper wasn’t too jaded to tell his viewers:

“Considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel deserving of 86 percent of the world’s condemnation?”

Of course not, but we already knew that. In any case, the extreme bashing of Israel is not the point of this column — which I happen to be writing from Israel this week. My point is to understand what makes Israel tick, in particular: How does a country function when it’s so hated?

The first thing that comes to mind is “busyness.” Everyone in Israel seems superbusy, whether they’re working, playing,  praying or arguing. It’s like when people go through a difficult time — a divorce, a job loss, etc. — and friends tell them, “It’s important to always stay busy,” because the more one wallows in angst, the worse things get.

I’ve been walking around the streets of Tel Aviv for the past couple of days — the kind of thing I’ve done hundreds of times over the years, in areas throughout the country — and I’ve been struck again by this Israeli busyness. They might have read this morning that some famous singer has canceled a performance under pressure from BDS, but they’re too busy to let it affect their reality. There’s a family to feed, a party to plan, a cause to advance, a film to complete, an argument to win, a country to protect.

I’m sure it annoys many Israelis to live in the most condemned country on earth, but since this is not a problem they can solve, they just move on to other concerns, like their daily lives.

I’m sure it annoys many Israelis to live in the most condemned nation on earth, but since this is not a problem they can solve, they just move on to other concerns, like their daily lives.

But there’s something else. Israelis are busy because they have the freedom to live as they wish. This freedom is a rare commodity in their neighborhood. On the  Freedom House website, a chart from 2013 shows 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Twelve are listed as “not free,” five are listed as “partially free,” and one is listed as “free.” Can you guess which country is free?

Here’s how Freedom House summarized the state of the region:

“The Middle East and North Africa holds some of the worst records of freedom of expression in the world. Many countries in the region lack legal protection for human rights and the rule of law is undermined by a lack of independent judiciaries.

“The 2011 Arab Spring popular protests brought hope for improvements but devastating wars, foreign intervention and instability have since made it an extremely dangerous environment for journalists, civil society and human rights defenders, forcing millions to leave in search of safety.”

Note the absurdity: The one country out of 18 deemed “free” gets 86 percent of the U.N.’s condemnations. Israelis must feel this absurdity. They know they live in a messy, flawed country that is far from perfect, but they also feel the blatant injustice of being singled-out for condemnation more than any other country.

What’s more, they know they live in a free country where they can express themselves anyway they like. Arab Israelis, for example, are free to publicly mourn Israel’s most joyous day of the year, its Day of Independence, as their official Nakba, or catastrophe.

Notwithstanding that freedom, my guess is that most of those Arab-Israelis would not want to leave this “catastrophe” for one of those “partially free” or “not free” Arab countries. In fact, in a poll conducted last year by the Israel Democracy Institute, 66 percent of Arab Israelis said they see Israel’s situation as “good” or “very good,” while 57 percent said their personal situation was “good” or “very good.”

Which brings me to the “B” word: Better.

A society that allows you the freedom to express yourself is better than one that doesn’t. On that level, yes, Israel is better.

“Better” is one of those politically incorrect words you never want to say in polite company. Different, yes, but not better. If you claim, for example, that Country A is better than Country B, someone might get offended and say, “Who gives you the right to judge?”

Well, in the case of Israel, the world does. If groups like the U.N. have enough chutzpah to treat one country, Israel, worse than all others, then Israel can certainly push back with this simple truth: A society that allows you the freedom to express yourself is better than one that doesn’t. On that level, yes, Israel is better.

It’s a tragic irony that this “better” country of the Middle East is also the most reviled. But Israelis are not agonizing over this state of affairs. They’re too busy expressing themselves.

State Department Spokesperson Condemns U.N. for Letting Syria Chair Disarmament Forum

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert condemned the United Nations’ (U.N.) decision to allow Syria to chair the organization’s disarmament forum in May.

In response to U.N. Watch’s question on the matter, Nauert called the U.N. decision an “outrage.”

“That would be an outrage if Syria were to take control of that,” Nauert said. “We have seen these types of things happen at the United Nations before, where suspicious countries, countries that run against everything that an individual committee should stand for, will then head up that committee.”

Nauert added that she didn’t know what United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is going to do in response to this U.N. decision.

Hillel Neuer, the president of U.N. Watch, called out European countries for not speaking out against the U.N. on this matter.

“If UK, France, Germany & others stay silent as Syria assumes presidency of UN’s Conference on Disarmament—the body which produced the treaty against chemical weapons—this will make a mockery of everything they said this week,” Neuer tweeted.

U.N. Watch first reported that Syria would chair the disarmament forum on April 9, a move that Neuer called the equivalent of “putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter.”

“The Assad regime’s documented use of chemical weapons remains the most serious violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the treaty’s twenty-year history,” Neuer said. “We urge the UN to understand that at a time when Syria is gassing its own men, women, and children to death, to see Syria heading the world body that is supposed to protect these victims will simply shock the conscience of humanity.”

The U.N. Watch article noted that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres will likely claim that Syria chairing the forum is due to “an automatic rotation, and that the matter can only be addressed by member states.” But Neuer noted that the U.N. has spoken out against such committee decisions and that’s what they should do here; however he speculated that the U.N. will likely just allow itself to be “exploited” by Syria into allowing them to keep their position as chair of the forum.

“Syria’s use of deadly chemical weapons and its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, in breach of its disarmament obligations, run counter to the objectives and fundamental principles of the Conference on Disarmament itself,” Neuer said. “Syria’s chairmanship will only undermine the integrity of both the disarmament framework and of the United Nations, and no country should support that.”

The news about Syria chairing the disarmament just after Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad reportedly used chemical weapons against his own people in the town of Douma, resulting in at least 40 people dead and hundreds of others wounded. Assad’s chemical weapons attack is the latest of a long line of butchery committed by Assad against his own people.

We Need a New U.N.

Photo from Flickr.

Another week, another Israel bashing session at the United Nations.

Following the Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday that resulted in at least 16 dead, the U.N. Security Council responded by drafting a resolution calling for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to be investigated for the various Palestinian deaths. The resolution was vetoed by the United States, but the fact that the U.N. yet again put the blame on Israel instead of on the terror group Hamas, who are using civilians as human shields in an attempt to wage a war with Israel, is disgraceful.

This is par for the course for the Israel-hating U.N. On March 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel due to the Jewish state’s so-called “occupation” of East Jerusalem. The UNHRC has a bad habit of denouncing Israel at least once a week, the same UNHRC that consists of countries like Venezuela, China and Cuba, which aren’t exactly halcyons of human rights.

Then there are the reported anti-Semitic Facebook posts from United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) teachers, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declaring the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron as belonging to the Palestinians… the list goes on and on.

The statistics prove it too: CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out in December that the U.N. General Assembly adopted 97 resolutions that singled out a specific country from 2012-15. The number that singled out Israel: 83.

“Considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel deserving of 86% of the world’s condemnation?” Tapper said.

I would go a bit further: what does the U.N. do well, exactly?

It certainly doesn’t do well addressing actual human rights abuses, like the ones Tapper cited. Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has admitted that the international body “could have done much more” to stop the Rwanda genocide.

What about Russian and Chinese aggression? The U.N. tribunal’s 2016 ruling that China has no sovereign claim over the entirety of the South China sea has done nothing to stop Beijing from ramping up military exercises in the area. Similarly, the U.N. has done little to curb Vladimir Putin’s intervention into the Crimea.

Reminder: Russia and China wield veto power on the U.N. Security Council, preventing any real action to be taken on Syria, North Korea and Iran.

What about global poverty? A 2012 study conducted by New York University’s William Easterly and Mississippi State University’s Claudia Williamson concluded that the U.N.’s aid practices are toward the bottom among aid agencies worldwide. And as Chelsea Follett of HumanProgress noted, the U.N. is touting top-down, centralized government programs as the source for the decline in global poverty when in actuality it is economic freedom that has caused the dramatic decline in poverty.

The environment? A 2017 New York Times article detailed how the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund was established to help impoverished countries deal with climate changes, yet the money raised by the fund have gone toward questionable private sector projects instead of those countries. And the U.N.’s prized Paris Climate Accords’ impact on the climate would be negligible while harming the U.S. economy.

Peacekeeping? How can the U.N. be trusted in this area when their peacekeepers have been accused of sexually abusing women and girls in various countries and have been cited as the cause of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti?

With all this mind, is the U.N. really worth the nearly $8 billion that the U.S. allocates toward the international body?

The unfortunate truth is that the U.N. is a far cry from the bastion of freedom that the Allied powers intended when they first formed the international body in 1942 to fight the Axis powers. Freedom-loving countries like the U.S. and Israel are the minority in the U.N.; so long as that is the case, no reforms will solve the structurally flawed nature of the incompetent and immoral U.N.

 

This is what I’d love to see on the Global to-do list: Creating a new world body that will do justice to the ideals of the United Nations, an organization that has dishonored its very mission.

Haley Rips U.N. At AIPAC for Their ‘Bullying’ of Israel

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley is pictured on board a helicopter at the Air Force Base in Guatemala City, Guatemala March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tore into the U.N. at American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)’s conference in Washington, D.C. for “bullying” Israel.

Haley explained how she was initially skeptical about taking the position as ambassador to the U.N. since her political experience has mainly been as a governor, but she was sold on the job when she told President Trump that she would be speaking her mind at all times. Trump’s response: “That’s exactly why I want you to do this.”

On her first day on the job, she told Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon the December 2016 resolution that slapped Israel for building settlements in Judea and Samaria “would never happen again” under Haley.

Leading into her experience at the U.N. thus far, Haley explained how at times her family experienced bullying as an Indian immigrant family in South Carolina, leading her to establish an anti-bullying program when she became governor of the state.

“For me it was just so fundamental: you don’t pick on someone just because they look different than you,” Haley said. “You don’t pick on someone just because they think differently than you or because you can.”

Haley added, “This idea has always been with me when I was child, but I didn’t think it would come to play at the United Nations.”

Haley claimed that the U.N. shows constant bias against Israel, citing the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an example.

“UNESCO recently declared one of Judaism’s holiest sites, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, as a Palestinian heritage site in need of protection from Israel,” Haley said. “That was enough. Ten months into this administration, the United States withdrew from UNESCO.”

Haley also reiterated her support for President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“Jerusalem was, is, and will always be the capital of Israel,” Haley said. “This was not something that was created by an American decision; America did not make Jerusalem Israel’s capital. What President Trump did, to his great credit, was recognize a reality that American presidents had denied for too long.”

Haley concluded her speech with poignant words against the U.N.

“Israel must be treated like any other normal country,” Haley said. “We will continue to demand that Israel not be treated like some sort of temporary provisional entity.”

“It cannot be the case that only one country in the world doesn’t get to choose its capital city. It cannot be the case that the U.N. Human Rights Council has a standing agenda item for only one country. It cannot be the case that only one set of refugees throughout the world is counted in a way that causes the number to grow forever. It cannot be the case that in an organization with 193 countries, the United Nations spends half of its time attacking only one country. We will not accept it any longer.”

Her full speech can be seen below:

Washington Free Beacon reporter Alex Griswold tweeted that Haley garnered the most applause at AIPAC:

According to Haaretz, AIPAC attendees viewed her as their “Wonder Woman” and even the next president of the United States.

Abbas Criticizes US and Israel in UN speech; Haley Fires Back

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech at the United Nations on Feb. 20 criticizing the United States and Israel on hampering peace negotiations.

Abbas railed against the Trump administration’s actions on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

“In a dangerous, unprecedented manner, this administration undertook an unlawful decision which was rejected by the international community to remove the issue of Jerusalem off the table without any reason,” Abbas said.

The PA president added, “This administration has not clarified its position. Is it a two-state solution, or the one-state solution?”

Abbas then claimed that the Palestinians have a historical connection to Israeli land.

“We are descendants of the Canaanites that lived in Palestine 5,000 years ago, and have continuously remained there to this day,” Abbas said.

Abbas also went after Israel for being a “permanent settlement colonization.”

“We are working for the occupation, we are employees for the occupation, and we say that Israel must be held to its obligations as an occupying power,” Abbas said.

Abbas advocated for Palestine to have full member status at the U.N. and for a two-state solution mediated by a “multilateral international mechanism.”

Abbas walked out of the room when he was finished speaking, prompting Haley to remark to the PA president, “Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours.”

“The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem,” Haley added. “You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision will not change.”

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon criticized Abbas for inspiring “a culture of hate in Palestinian society.”

“When we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist,” Danon said.

UN Watch Leader Faces a World of Challenges While Defending Israel

Photo courtesy of U.N. Watch

Hillel Neuer considers it a badge of honor that he is a “feared and dreaded” figure at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), as the European newspaper Tribune de Genève once described him.

“There are people who cross the street in Geneva to avoid me,” Neuer said. As executive director of UN Watch, a nonprofit that monitors United Nations activities, Neuer is both watchdog and whistleblower, holding world powers to account when it comes to their human rights records. A lawyer, activist and humanitarian, Neuer spoke with the Journal from Geneva, where he lives and works.

Jewish Journal: As head of UN Watch, you define yourself as “the voice of conscience at the United Nations.” What’s it like to be the guy defending democratic ideals in a room full of non-democratic countries?

Hillel Neuer: It often feels surreal. You ask yourself how bizarre is it that you need to state basic truths in an arena that is often Orwellian, where the worst criminals are often the prosecutors and the judges.

JJ: The U.N. Human Rights Council notoriously singles out Israel for violations even as far worse offenders go unchallenged. Where is this discrimination most evident?

HN: During a given meeting, you’ll have resolutions — maybe one on Iran, one on Myanmar, one on North Korea and then five on Israel. And it’s not just the numbers: When there is a resolution criticizing a country, the practice at the U.N. is to recognize and acknowledge various positive things [a country has done], whether they are justified or not. But when it comes to Israel, even though Israel has done many positive things, none of this ever appears in the resolutions. This is part of an attempt to portray Israel as so evil, nothing good can be said of it.

“I’m the most hated man at the United Nations. I get looks of death from a vast array of people.”

JJ: What is the motive for a non-Arab, non-Islamic country with no history of anti-Semitism to vote against Israel?

HN: The U.N. is a political body and many resolutions and elections are decided by vote trading. ‘You vote for me, I vote for you.’ So the Islamic states number 56 and they will go to some island state and say, ‘We will give you 56 votes for your issues and all you have to do is vote for our resolutions against Israel.’ … It’s realpolitik.

JJ: It sounds like the Arab and Islamic states have outsized power at the U.N.

HN: Since the 1973 war [when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC] imposed an oil embargo, the Arab world has been clear that if you don’t do things they like, your country won’t have oil. Sovereign wealth funds from countries like Qatar have tens of billions of dollars they could invest in your country if you vote the way they want you to. There is also fear of terrorism. Some countries perceive that if they are too friendly to Israel, they will risk making themselves into a target for terrorist groups.

JJ: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has won many fans in the Jewish world for standing up for Israel at the U.N. What difference has she made?

HN: There’s been a moral clarity. She’s been forthright in calling out what she sees as plain bigotry and things that make no sense. Seeing her hand raised to veto [the recent Jerusalem resolution] was a very powerful moment. An iconic picture, I would say.

JJ: Is your credibility ever challenged because you’re Jewish?

HN: I’m the most hated man at the United Nations. I get looks of death from a vast array of people — dictatorships like China, Russia and Cuba because we bring their victims [to testify] very effectively and ambush them. But at the end of day, I don’t walk through life worrying what my handicaps are. We all have them.

JJ: As a human rights organization sworn to defend Israel, how do you address Israel’s offenses against the Palestinians?

HN: Even if I’m aware Israel has blots on its record, I’m going to speak out against human rights abuses in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Venezuela. That’s our role. We’re there to deal with the subjects not being dealt with. Israel has dozens of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] that hold the [government and] IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to account. We fill the void in Geneva.

JJ: What could Israel do to help your work combatting the prejudice against it?

HN: On the day of [Israeli] elections a few years ago, I had given a speech telling the world to look at Israeli democracy in action, explaining that more Arabs than ever had been elected to the Knesset, etc. … And then [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu made that xenophobic statement, ‘Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves,’ which was unhelpful to me. And I told his government that immediately.

Nikki Haley: We Will Be Calling for an Emergency Session Over Iran Protests

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, voiced her support for the protesters in Iran on Tuesday and added that the United States will be calling for a United Nations emergency session on the matter.

Speaking at a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, Haley praised the protesters for standing up to the “oppression of their own government.”

“It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against their government, especially when their government has a long history of murdering its own people who dare to speak the truth,” said Haley, “so we applaud the tremendous courage of the Iranian people.”

Haley pointed out that the Iranian regime has blocked off social media in an attempt to silence their protests, so Haley shared some of the messages from the protesters, which included:

·      “Political prisoners must be freed!”

·      “Let go of Syria, think of us!”

·      “We will die, but we’ll take Iran back!”

Haley called the Iranian regime’s spin that the protests were manufactured by Iran’s enemies “complete nonsense.”

“The demonstrations are completely spontaneous,” said Haley. “They are virtually in every city in Iran. This is the precise picture of a long-oppressed people rising up against their dictators.”

Haley called for the U.N. to “speak out” against the Iranian regime for murdering and jailing numerous protesters.

“In the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session, both here in New York and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva,” said Haley. “We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause.”

Haley’s full speech can be seen below:

The protests in Iran against the mullahs in Tehran have been going for several days and have permeated throughout the country. Around 20 protesters have been murdered by the Iranian regime and over 450 have been arrested. The regime is also shutting down schools in response to the protests.

CNN Anchor Hammers U.N. for Anti-Israel Bias

Photo from Flickr/nrkbeta.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper criticized the United Nations for being biased against Israel in a segment on Thursday, as he blasted various countries for criticizing Israel despite having “questionable records.”

Tapper began his segment by summarizing the U.N.’s vote to condemn the Trump administration’s Jerusalem move by a margin of 128 votes in favor of the condemnation, nine against and 35 abstentions. The anchor proceeded to review the records of some of the countries who voted to condemn the move, starting with Venezuela.

“The U.S. imperils global peace, says the representative of Venezuela, a country in a humanitarian disaster,” said Tapper, “with violence in the streets, an economy in complete collapse, citizens malnourished, dying children being turned away from hospitals, starving families joining street gangs to scrounge for food.”

“On what moral platform does the government of Venezuela stand today?” asked Tapper.

Tapper also noted the irony of Syria and Yemen condemning the U.S. despite the fact that their citizens have been ravished by the civil wars plaguing each country, as well as other countries like Myanmar, North Korea and China condemning the move despite their heinous human rights abuses.

The anchor proceeded to highlight some statistics from U.N. Watch reflecting the U.N.’s bias against Israel.

“The United Nations General Assembly from 2012-2015 has adopted 97 resolutions specifically criticizing an individual country, and of those 97, 83 of them have focused on Israel,” said Tapper. “That is 86%.”

Tapper added, “Certainly Israel is not above criticism, but considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel is deserving of 86% of the world’s condemnation?”

“Or possibly is something else afoot at the United Nations? Something that allows the representative of the Assad government lecture the United States for moving its embassy.”

The full segment can be seen below:

U.N. Denounces Trump’s Jerusalem Move in Vote

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The United Nations voted on a resolution to condemn President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The resolution passed by a margin of 128 in favor and 9 against, with 35 abstentions and 21 countries that didn’t vote at all. The nine countries who voted against the resolution were the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Tongo, Honduras, Guatemala ans Palau. Among those voted in favor of the resolution included Britain, France, Germany and Turkey, and Canada and Mexico were among those that abstained.

Here is the full record of how each country voted:

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the U.N., had some sharp words for the U.N.

“The United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” said Haley. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Haley also pointed out that the U.S. “is by far the single largest contributor to the U.N.” and suggested that their funding to the U.N. could be reduced or withdrawn altogether in light of the vote.

“When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognize and respected,” said Haley. “When a nation is singled out for attack in this organization, that nation is disrespected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the US, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege.”

Haley also criticized the U.N. as being “a hostile place for the state of Israel.”

“It’s a wrong that undermines the credibility of this institution and that, in turn, is harmful for the entire world,” said Haley.

Haley made it clear in her speech that the vote will not deter the U.S. from moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested that the U.S. could reduce funding to countries that voted in favor of the resolution.

“They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” said Trump. “Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticized the vote, blasting the U.N. as “the house of lies.” Netanyahu also thanked Trump, Haley and the countries that voted with Israel.

Journal columnist Ben Shapiro pointed out on Twitter that Thursday’s vote is in line with the U.N.’s record of anti-Israel bias:

 

Netanyahu Thanks Nikki Haley for Vetoing Anti-Israel Resolution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during an event marking "The Appreciation for the Fallen of Israel's Wars and Victims of Terrorism Day" at the Knesset, Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli Prime Minister Benjaim Netanyahu put forward a video thanking Nikki Haley, the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, for vetoing an anti-Israel U.N. resolution.

The resolution, put forward by Egypt, would have rendered President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plan to eventually move the U.S. embassy there as “null and void” and prevented “the establishment of diplomatic missions” in Jerusalem.

But Haley prevented it from going into effect by wielding the U.S.’s veto power, and Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to her.

“On Hanukkah, you spoke like a Maccabi,” Netanyahu said in a video. “You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies.”

When Haley issued the veto, she declared, “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” adding that “it’s scandalous to say we are putting back peace efforts.”

“The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us,” said Haley. “It should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.”

Danny Danon, the Israeli U.N. ambassador, also criticized the resolution.

“While the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah that symbolizes the eternal connection to Jerusalem, there are people who think that they can rewrite history,” said Danon. “It’s time for all countries to recognize that Jerusalem always was and always will be the capital of the Jewish people and the capital of Israel.”

Before the U.S. used its veto power, 14 countries voted in favor of the resolution, including Britain and France.

Can Jerusalem Be Good for All Religions?

In the middle of the euphoria and hysteria that greeted last week’s U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it was a story about stolen apples that caught my eye.

According to Israeli news reports, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) squad commander was suspended after being caught on film stealing apples from a Palestinian fruit stand in Hebron, which had been abandoned in the midst of the “days of rage” violence.

“This behavior is not in line with what is expected from a soldier and commander in the IDF,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The commander was suspended and will face disciplinary action.”

I know, compared to everything that’s going on, a stolen apple or two is hardly worth a story. I can’t imagine any army in the world making a fuss about stolen fruit. But tiny story or not, the apple saga gives us a context to assess the explosive issue of who should control Jerusalem.

There’s no need to belabor the historical and religious context for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. The Conservative movement, in a statement authored by the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Masorti Israel and Masorti Olami, summarized it succinctly: “In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and planning to move the American embassy to a location under uncontested Israeli sovereignty, the U.S. government acknowledges the age-old connection that Israel and the Jewish people maintain with the holy city.”

Let’s also remember that this past June, the U.S. Senate passed a unanimous resolution calling on President Donald Trump to abide by a 1995 law ordering the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. That law, called the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognized Jerusalem as “the spiritual center of Judaism” and was adopted overwhelmingly by the House (374-37) and the Senate (93-5).

The law cites the right of “each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, to designate its own capital,” and notes the irony that the U.S. “maintains its embassy in the functioning capital of every country except in the case of our democratic friend and strategic ally, the State of Israel.”

But it’s an innocuous mention in the Embassy Act that caught my attention: “From 1948-1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan.”

That, for me, is the crucial link missing from this emotional debate: When East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, religious liberty suffered. When it was under Israeli control, religious liberty flourished. You do the math.

As if it weren’t bad enough that Jews were denied access to their holy sites, under Jordanian control, “All but one of the 35 synagogues within the Old City were destroyed,” according to The Jewish Virtual Library. “The revered Jewish graveyard on the Mount of Olives was in complete disarray with tens of thousands of tombstones broken into pieces to be used as building materials … Hundreds of Torah scrolls and thousands of holy books [were] plundered and burned to ashes.”

Jordanian rule was no picnic for Christians and Muslims either. As Dore Gold writes in his book, “The Fight for Jerusalem,” Israeli Muslims “were blocked from visiting the Islamic holy shrines under Jordanian control” while “Israeli Christians did not fare much better; they were permitted to cross over and visit their holy sites once a year, on Christmas.”

All of this was in blatant violation of the 1949 Armistice Agreement, which gave Israelis of all faiths access to their holy sites, and which the United Nations was empowered to oversee.

When East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, religious liberty suffered. When it was under Israeli control, religious liberty flourished. You do the math.

When did the U.N. finally intervene? In 1964, when Israel had the chutzpah to have a Hanukkah festival of lights display atop Mount Scopus, which it legally controlled. Why the U.N. intervention? Because of “Jordanian sensitivities.” You can’t make this stuff up.

So, forgive me if I have little sympathy for the professional hypocrites at the United Nations who are now portraying the confirmation of Israel’s capital city as another urgent crisis for humanity. They might do well to read an August 2015 report from the Washington Institute showing that the majority of Palestinian Arabs living in Israeli-ruled East Jerusalem would prefer to be citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a Palestinian state.

These Arabs are no fools. They know that since Israel took over East Jerusalem in 1967, it has protected all holy sites and created an open city that has become a global destination.

But none of that seems to matter to the critics of the embassy move. Perhaps the silliest criticism I’ve heard is that the announcement was “ill-timed” because it would hurt the “peace process.” That’s like saying a tap on the wrist would hurt a patient in a coma. What peace process? Everything the experts have tried has failed, including the delusional idea that the capital of Israel is an “open” question. It’s not. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, full stop.

Such a cold dose of reality may, in fact, be just what the comatose peace process needs. What it does not need is the continuation of a failed strategy of appeasing corrupt Palestinian leaders who have refused all Israeli peace offers and who hold us hostage to their threats of violence.

Their latest reaction to Trump’s announcement is more evidence of their chronic refusal to accept a Jewish state under any borders. Nothing in the announcement precludes a two-state solution or the sharing of Jerusalem as a capital for two states. But instead of calling for peace talks, they call for violence. If Palestinian leaders cared for their people as much as they care for their personal bank accounts, we would have had peace a long time ago.

So, I’m sure it won’t surprise you that Jerusalem is the subject of our cover story, with an analysis from our political editor in Israel, Shmuel Rosner. It also won’t surprise you that local reactions in the Jewish community have been diverse, as you’ll see in our coverage.

My own take is that if we’re going to put Jerusalem in the hands of a sovereign nation, let it be a nation that respects the dignity of all religions — not to mention the dignity of an apple cart.

Letters to the Editor: U.N. 1947 vote, Roy Moore, PLO and ‘Wonder’

The Miracle of the UN’s 1947 Decision

While I enjoyed David Suissa’s editorial, I would correct one error: The date Nov. 29th is important enough to Israelis that streets are named after that date (“Homeless for 1,900 Years … and Then a U.N. Vote,” Dec. 1).

Louis Richter, Reseda


Where Does Truth Lie in Moore Controversy?

I see Ben Shapiro’s point in equating the sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Al Franken and Judge Roy Moore (“Roy and Al,” Nov. 24).

However, Al Franken was photographed with his victim on that USO Tour — caught in the act, clearly a crime. He has acknowledged that interaction and apologized. Other accusers have come forward, citing a propensity for his behavior.

Roy Moore, who is running in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat, has vehemently denied any veracity to allegations by several accusers, 40 years after they supposedly occurred. His attorney requested to have the only tangible “evidence” — an autographed yearbook — belonging to accuser Beverly Young Nelson, be submitted for independent, forensic examination. The accuser’s attorney, Gloria Allred, has refused.

We have seen this mischief many times before.

Last year’s presidential campaign saw even The New York Times gather several women who had worked with Donald Trump. The slanted point of view of The New York Times was that Trump was a sexual harasser and unqualified for public office. The women, to their credit, immediately said that their comments were misconstrued and manipulated.

The current brouhaha with Moore was propagated by The Washington Post, another “leftist bastion.” After several statewide election campaigns in Alabama, why have these allegations of sexual impropriety against Moore not surfaced before? Why now, when Moore is leading in the race?

Allegations in the mainstream media grab attention, but where is truth?

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles


A Hanukkah Poem

Rock of ages
Mount Sinai’s thunders,
Angels whisper
Masada’s secrets of old.

Of freedom almost lost
In the City of Gold,
A Temple defiled
And Maccabees had restored.

The miracle of oil
A spark in our soul,
Liberty for all creeds
Letters on dreidels spins.

Holocaust’s nightmares
Never again shall repeat,
The promise of a rainbow
The waters that split.

The gathering of exiles
To their promised land,
Where mountains rejoiced
And bright stars tallied twelve once again.

Danny BenTal, Tarzana


How to Change the Mood in America

Another great editor’s note: “Make America Grateful Again” (Nov. 24). While reading it, I felt the uneasiness of David Suissa to “balance polarities.” And he is quite honest in describing the mood of this country. His first sentence is quite correct: “America is in a lousy mood.” I was myself in a worse than lousy mood for the past three years, so I can relate to that. And I know how difficult it is to get out of the “mess.”

I have always considered good journalists to be like the consciousness of the society and to be among its teachers. Yes, good teaching begins with asking questions. And the better teaching begins with asking the right or more important questions. For example: How can one change the mood for the better of a society of 300 million people?

I was born and lived most of my life in a socialist country. If most of my countrymen were grateful for and had faith in our leaders at that time, my country would have not changed toward democracy.

So, I am very grateful to live in a democratic society now.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Plight of the Rohingya Has Many Facets

Stephen D. Smith effectively shines the light on the plight of the innocent Rohingya living in Myanmar. However, he omits historical context which harshly judges the Buddhist government and fails to address its  legitimate  fears (“It’s Time to Speak Up for the Rohingya,” Dec. 1).

In the past millennium, approximately 80 million non-Muslims were killed by Muslim jihadists. Smith quotes the Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin and the 1933 Madrid conference, which tried to legislate against barbarity.

Ironically, Smith mentions the book “The Yellow Spot: The Destruction of the European Jews.” Smith seems unaware that Nazis borrowed the yellow Jewish badge from the Muslim practice adopted in the eighth century called the Pact of Umar, which relegated Jews and Christians to subservient class status beneath Muslims. Hitler heartily approved of the Muslim approach toward Jews.

Perhaps the words of history scholar Andrew Bostom best explain the current religious conflict in Myanmar: “The origins of the Bengali Muslim Jihad in Western Myanmar in the late 19th century through the World War II era, illustrates that it is rooted in Islam’s same tireless institution of expansionist Jihad which eliminated Buddhist civilization in Northern India.”

Richard Friedman, Culver City


PLO Hasn’t Changed Its Spots

The 1993 Oslo Accord recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole representative of the Arabs of Palestine. This terrorist group was supposed to change its spots, but it has not.

In return for ignoring other Arab leaders and factions, it was invited to set up headquarters in Ramallah and to begin a peace process with Israel. It pledged to prepare the population for life alongside Israel and to end violence and enticement to violence. It also pledged not to attack Israel in international forums.

Well, it lied from Day One. It has rejected every peace offer from Israel, even those offered by Barack Obama’a administration. It is apparent the PLO/Fatah has manipulated everyone. It’s time for them to leave the stage. With support of major Arab League players and the United States, the Palestinians can find new leadership. If not, they will remain the world’s major welfare recipients and others will determine their fate.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills


Jews, Christians Share Love of Israel

As the holiday season nears, I’m reminded how grateful I am that tens of millions of American Christians strongly support the State of Israel. It’s a miracle that so many Christians have reversed nearly two millennia of anti-Semitism and joined Jews in our pride and love for Israel.

Because Christian loyalty guarantees continued American support, vital for Israel’s survival, they have become our true brothers and sisters under God, and I welcome them with love and joy.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

Rueben Gordon, Calabasas


AND FROM FACEBOOK …

“‘Wonder’: A Call to Our Better Angels” (Dec. 1)

This is an excellent film. I find it sad and disgraceful that people use this film as the latest way to attack President Donald Trump. Why can’t we just enjoy a good film without someone dragging this nonsense into it?

Jay Lehman

“So many lessons to learn in this beautiful film. Well done.”

Marilyn Sommer

Homeless for 1,900 Years… and Then a U.N. Vote

When I left for Israel recently for a quick one-week trip to visit my son, I didn’t expect I’d be experiencing a cross section of Israeli society. We started in a funky hotel in Tel Aviv, where we were surrounded by hipsters, healing spas and fusion restaurants. Then, instead of spending Shabbat in Jerusalem (as I usually do), we were invited by my cousin, the mayor of Dimona, to spend Shabbat in his little town in the Negev Desert.

If Tel Aviv is SoHo, Dimona is Sinai. This is a desert town that looks like a desert town — humble, simple, hardworking. The majority of residents have Sephardic or Russian roots. Building housing is a top priority — there’s construction everywhere. There’s also plenty of faith: In a town of 40,000, there are about 70 synagogues.

After Dimona, we drove north to the mystical city of Tsfat, where we visited the graves of holy men like Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Tsfat is one of those places where every day feels like Shabbat. But in the midst of its devout enclaves, you’ll also find hip art galleries that celebrate beauty and not just Torah.

At each stop, we tasted a different Israel. We could have visited countless other places throughout the country and experienced similar diversity. This is part of the miracle of Israel — it changes everywhere you go. How could it not? Jews have come from all over the world to populate the Jewish state, joining the indigenous Jews and Arabs and Bedouins who were already here.

Today, more than 100 nationalities are represented in this tiny country. There’s even a group of African-Americans known as the Black Hebrews, who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Many of them live in Dimona, where I got to meet one of their leaders, Prince Immanuel Ben-Yehuda. The prince told me he grew up in Oklahoma, where his parents taught him the Old Testament and to love the land of Israel. (I filmed our interview and will post it on jewishjournal.com.)

The seeds of Arab rejection and animosity were planted from the very beginning.

In one short week, I tasted the multicultural miracle of Israel, a miracle that would never have happened had it not been for another miracle that preceded it 70 years ago — a vote at the United Nations. This seminal event, which is the subject of this week’s cover story by historian Gil Troy, is not without its complications.

On the Saturday night of Nov. 29, 1947, the newly formed United Nations General Assembly gathered in New York at the Queens Museum to vote on Resolution 181, which called for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state. After weeks of endless drama and lobbying for votes, the final tally was 33 member states voting in favor, 13 against and 10 abstaining.

The Jewish state was on its way.

But as you’ll see in our cover story, the drama was only starting. The seeds of Arab rejection and animosity were planted from the very beginning. This rejection was so loud and threatening that the resolution itself expressed concern:

“The [British] Government of Palestine fear that strife in Palestine will be greatly intensified when the Mandate is terminated, and that the international status of the United Nations Commission will mean little or nothing to the Arabs in Palestine, to whom the killing of Jews now transcends all other considerations. Thus, the Commission will be faced with the problem of how to avert certain bloodshed on a very much wider scale than prevails at present ….”

As the historian Troy writes, the resolution was “cursed” by the adamant Arab rejection of a plan that could have brought “70 years of peace.” Instead, it has brought 70 years of conflict that continues to this day. As fate would have it, Nov. 29 also marks International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, observed annually by the United Nations. Just last year, the General Assembly passed six resolutions condemning Israel and supporting the Palestinians.

It’s not a coincidence that the Nov. 29 vote does not rank as high as other dates in Israeli lore, certainly not as high as May 14, 1948, when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion officially declared the State of Israel, or even Nov 2, 1917, when the Balfour Declaration called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

If anything, the proximity of the 1947 vote to the Holocaust has only fed the false narrative that the creation of Israel came only because of that darkest horror, overlooking the 3,500-year Jewish connection to the land.

“The delegitimizing narrative claims Europeans sinned by killing 6 million Jews from 1939 to 1945, then exorcised their guilt by ‘giving’ Palestinian land to the Jews on Nov. 29, 1947,” Troy writes.

For those who cherish the Zionist dream, including the Black Hebrews from Oklahoma, Nov. 29, 1947, was a miracle indeed.

This delegitimizing narrative has fueled the lingering hostility toward the Jewish state, embodied today by the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

And yet, despite all the rejections and wars and condemnations and anti-Israel resolutions and terror attacks and calls for boycotts, here stands Israel — the little country that could, the little country that accepted the Partition Plan, the little country that is still standing, still thriving, still arguing, still creating, still struggling, still innovating, still fighting back, still making do with what it has.

Animosity or not, after 1,900 years of homelessness, the founders of Israel simply could not refuse an offer to return to the land of their ancestors. For those who cherish the Zionist dream, including the Black Hebrews from Oklahoma, Nov. 29, 1947, was a miracle indeed.

Eyewitness to History: Nov. 29, 1947, in Jerusalem

Crowds in Tel Aviv celebrate the U.N.’s vote for partition in 1947. Photo courtesy of the Government Press Office, Jerusalem. Photo by Hans Pinn

When the news broke in Jerusalem of the United Nations’ vote to partition Palestine, it was a Saturday night after sunset. I was 25 and a student at Hebrew University, taking a year off from my rabbinical program at the Jewish Theological Seminary. I was living with my grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, in Kerem Avraham, a highly religious neighborhood.

That night, all of Jerusalem erupted into joy. People ran into the streets, shouting, singing and dancing in a frenzy. Grocery stores opened to hand out free bottles of wine to the celebrators. Cars and trucks roamed the streets, offering rides to anyone who wanted to whoop it up.

The growing crowds all headed toward the Jewish Agency building on King George Street, the unofficial headquarters of the underground Jewish government. Hundreds of people danced the horah and sang Hebrew songs with wild enthusiasm.

Suddenly, Golda Meir stepped onto the balcony overlooking the crowd and asked for silence. She expressed our feeling of joy for the fulfillment of our 2,000-year-old dream of re-creating a Jewish state in Israel. But she warned us that dreams came at a price. The United Nations was not handing us a state. We would have to earn it with our lives. We would have to defend it from our enemies, and many Jewish lives would be lost before the state would be born.

Everyone became very somber as the realization of her message took hold. One could sense a powerful resolve settling in.

And then the singing and dancing resumed.


Joshua Stampfer is rabbi emeritus at Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Ore.

The U.N. Didn’t Create Israel. We Did.

The 1948 signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv. Photo from Wikimedia

Please rise and open your Zionist hymnals. Let us sing praises to three of the most miraculous minutes in Jewish history.

That’s how long it took on Nov. 29, 1947, for delegates of the 2-year-old United Nations to vote — 33-13 with 10 abstaining — to declare a Jewish state. Or, more technically, to partition Palestine for the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states. The United States had delayed the vote on Resolution 181 to allow for some final, frenzied lobbying over the Thanksgiving holiday. In the end, it worked.

Watch the black-and-white footage from 70 years ago this week. Uruguay and Venezuela give the final affirmative votes. The resolution passes! Jews dance the horah near Tel Aviv’s beaches. American Jews sing “Hatikvah” in midtown Manhattan. Italian Jews pray under the Arch of Titus — toasting the end of exile precisely where the Romans celebrated its start 1,900 years earlier.

In Jerusalem that night, a little boy who would grow up to become a great writer, Amos Oz, for the first and only time in his life sees his father cry. His cerebral, birdlike, undemonstrative father describes the anti-Semitic humiliations Poles imposed, then says: “From now on, from the moment we have our own state, you will never be bullied just because you are a Jew.”

So, let’s follow the conventional wisdom. First, praise the United Nations for making Israel a state. Then bless the United States and President Harry Truman for making it happen. Finally, curse the Palestinians for rejecting the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which would have brought peace. And let us say, “Amen.”

Alas, this paint-by-numbers history is misleading. Reality was messier — yet more inspirational.

Zionism rejects a politics of permission slips that assumes that one vote “made us a state.” Beware: the U.N. giveth, the U.N. taketh away. Israel’s legitimacy is rooted in thousands of years of national identity. The Jewish state emerged from innumberable Jewish initiatives over centuries.

Jews are not a depressed, oppressed people, little Oliver Twists, begging for more, thanking Big Daddy U.N. for freeing us. Zionism is the Jewish national liberation movement. We freed ourselves from the grip of anti-Semitism, exile, mass murder and national impotence.

Alas, this paint-by-numbers history is misleading. Reality was messier — yet more inspirational.

Moreover, let’s thank the United States, its president and a broader supporting cast only for helping to make it happen. The Swiss-cheese borders of the Jewish state as partitioned weren’t defendable, making war all but inevitable. Rather than blaming “the Palestinians” as one entity, blame the Palestinian-Arabs’ leaders (Jews were “Palestinians” too back then); the other Arab states; and a systematic, ongoing refusal rooted in historic anti-Semitism and contemporary Arab hostility to acknowledge Jews’ basic national rights.

Historians know that where we begin a story often determines where we end up. Over-celebrating Nov. 29 risks over-emphasizing the short-term 1940s timetable pivoting around the Holocaust and underestimating the power of 3,500 years of Jews being connected to the same land.

The delegitimizing narrative alleges Europeans sinned by killing 6 million Jews from 1939 to 1945, then exorcised their guilt by “giving” Palestinian land to the Jews on Nov. 29, 1947. While acknowledging that one piece of real estate can have multiple historic claims, we affirm it was Jewish land and within our collective rights to develop.

Zionism’s story begins, more accurately, in the Bible, as one of the world’s oldest love stories — a love triangle connecting the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and God. Less theologically, the story of the Jews is about what professor Irwin Cotler, founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, calls “the original aboriginal people.”

For thousands of years, Jews have worshiped the same deity, spoken the same language, developed a common culture and remained tied to the same land. The logic of history, the ethics of modern nationalism and the principles of justice all justify Zionism, the movement of Jewish nationalism identifying Jews as a people with collective rights to establish — and today to perfect — a nation-state in their homeland.

Those claims are as legitimate as — if not older and more morally compelling than — the 192 other national claims behind the states making up the U.N. today. And like all valid nationalist movements, we take control of our own national destiny, saying, “We’re in charge now.”

The U.N.’s approval gave a nice push on the road to statehood. But the desire was already there. The case was already made. The infrastructure was already built. And the moment had already arrived — with or without an international license.

Next, yes, the United States under Truman was a valued ally, but the story of Resolution 181 is more complicated.

In 1947, most Jews viewed their national narrative through four lenses:

  • Counting in millennia, their most sweeping telescopic perspective looked back 3,500 years to Abraham and Sarah, who started the Jewish story by founding a Jewish nation deeply tied to the Land of Israel.
  • Counting in centuries, Jews emphasized 70 C.E. as a traumatic historical turning point when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and hundreds of years of exile and powerlessness began, even though a remnant always remained in the land of Israel.
  • Counting in decades, the modern push to redeem Palestine began in the late 19th century, when Zionism emerged as the Jewish national movement amid other Romantic nationalist movements.
  • Counting year by year, Jews were reeling from a miserable 11-year period when the Arab riots in Palestine from 1936 to 1939 triggered British limits on immigration to Palestine just as Adolf Hitler targeted the Jews. Voices on both sides sought coexistence in Palestine, but Arab extremists, especially the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, rejected compromise. Fueled by a Hitlerite anti-Semitism, tapping Islam’s radicalizing potential, the Mufti boasted: “We do not fear the Jews. … They will eventually crumble into nothing.”

Millions of Jews died because they had nowhere to go. No country wanted an influx of Jews — nor did the British who controlled Palestine, despite its being the national Jewish homeland and an incipient Jewish state thirsting for more immigrants.

From its founding in April 1945, the United Nations followed the dictum “Never Again,” long before it became a popular phrase. With the international community starting to recognize that a Jewish state was the best “Never Again” guarantee, Oxford professor Reginald Coupland’s proposal from 1937 gained popularity. Coupland wondered: “Might it not be a final and peaceful settlement” to “split Palestine into two halves … ?”

Initially, the scientist and Zionist Chaim Weizmann scoffed, “It is cutting the child in two.” When the Peel Commission later that year endorsed Coupland’s idea, Viscount Herbert Samuel, Britain’s first High Commissioner of Palestine, feared two unviable states emerging “entwined in an inimical embrace, like two fighting serpents.”

But Weizmann recognized the critical process occurring. As painful as it would be to accept what David Ben-Gurion called this “half loaf,” the conversation was shifting from whether there should be a Jewish state to what borders it would have.

Over the next decade, the diplomatic struggle intensified. America’s new president since 1945, Harry Truman, endorsed Woodrow Wilson’s promise of “self-determination” for all peoples. Truman respected the Balfour Declaration of 1917 legitimizing a Jewish national homeland. The Nazis’ mass murder of Jews confirmed his sympathy for Jews and their Zionist dreams.

At left, the borders of the 1947 United Nations partition. At right, the borders today. Photos from AIPAC.org

That didn’t mean that Truman wasn’t occasionally sobered by diplomats and generals warning that supporting a Jewish state of a few hundred thousand would alienate hundreds of millions of oil-rich Arabs. Mostly, however, Truman insisted: “I will handle the problem not in the light of oil, but in the light of justice.”

Such sympathy didn’t prevent Truman from bristling when 48,600 telegrams, 790,575 cards  and 81,200 other pieces of Palestine-related mail bombarded the White House, mostly from Jews demanding that the U.S. endorse a Jewish state. One rival heard Truman mutter, “Jesus Christ couldn’t please them when he was here on earth, so how can anyone expect that I would have any luck?” Still, 65 percent of Americans also supported establishing this Jewish state.

Perhaps most surprising was the Soviet Union’s support, reflecting the global consensus. Despite the emerging Cold War, Soviets and Americans cooperated to push U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, carving out a Jewish state and an undefined Arab territory, leaving Jerusalem an international zone.

Soviet Union Premier Joseph Stalin’s U.N. Ambassador Andrei Gromyko admitted: “All the alternative solutions of the Palestinian problem were found to be unworkable and impracticable. … Jews and Arabs do not wish, or are unable, to live together.”

Gromyko gave legitimacy to the Jewish state he would spend the next 40 years delegitimizing as the Soviet minister of foreign affairs. Reflecting the logic that most compelled the two-thirds vote in favor of Jewish statehood, Gromyko said, “The Jewish people have been closely linked with Palestine for a considerable period in history” and “the Jews, as a people, have suffered more than any other people.” Thus, in November 1947, the U.N. consecrated its collective promise to the devastated Jewish people.

The dramatic vote, broadcast on radio, reflected the U.N.’s political power and moral standing at the time. Moshe Shertok (later Sharett), heading the political section of the Jewish Agency, the Palestinian Jews’ government-in-formation, said, “My first feeling is that not only has our cause triumphed at Flushing Meadows [the site of the U.N. vote], but the U.N. has triumphed through our cause. This is the first time that the U.N. and the civilized world have decided to create a new state.”

The widespread dancing in the Jewish streets reflected the Jews’ gratitude at this culmination of a 50-year (and 1,900-year) quest for Jewish statehood. Zionist leader Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver celebrated this “turning point in Jewish history,” saying this “noble decision to re-establish and restore the Jewish people to its rightful place in the family of nations will redound to the everlasting credit of the United Nations.”

Sam Surkis, vice president of the Jewish National Fund Council in Los Angeles, gushed: “It is the greatest thing that has happened to the Jewish people in 1,900 years.”

Some Jews mourned. Menachem Begin, then leader of the Revisionist Zionist underground movement, the Irgun, lamented: “The Homeland has not been liberated, but mutilated.” He vowed: “Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”

History aside, the partition map created an impractical state that was impossible to defend, one deprived of the Jewish capital, Jerusalem. Such borders probably made the military option more appealing to the neighboring Arab dictators, who assumed their armies would crush the Jews.

Here, then, the third proposition becomes more nuanced. Note the Jew-hatred uniting Arab leaders. The Palestinian Arab leadership rejected the compromise, as did most Arabs, who also repudiated the U.N. “Today’s resolution destroys the [U.N.] Charter,” Saudi Arabia’s Emir Faisal al-Saud insisted. Many Arabs called the organization’s move self-destructive. “No,” the U.N. had “not died,” Syria’s Faris al-Khoury said. It was “murdered.”

Contrasting the many examples of Arab-Jewish neighborliness before 1947 with the violence of leaders such as the Grand Mufti, professor Efraim Karsch in “Palestine Betrayed” concludes that neither the U.N. nor the Americans nor the Soviets nor the Jews betrayed the Palestinians. They were betrayed — then as now — by extremist leaders resisting reality, undermining peace, still trying to destroy the one Jewish state established on a small sliver of land to fulfill a 3,500-year-old dream.

So, yes, if there was an international covenant with the Jewish people, it was sealed Nov. 29, 1947, when the U.N. approved the Palestine Partition Plan. Initially, the resulting State of Israel enjoyed its special status as a state the U.N. voted into being. Alas, this bond between the U.N. and Israel did not last.

So, seven decades later, let’s give the U.N. its due, while also toasting our stunning triumph in launching a Jewish state. They say history is written by the winners. All too often in Jewish history, it’s been written by our oppressors. Today, we must not let it be written by the delegitimizers.

On this important anniversary, let’s say, as good nationalists, as proud Jews: “We appreciate others’ assistance but celebrate our achievements on our own terms.”


Gil Troy is the author of “The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s” and the forthcoming book, “The Zionist Ideas,” to be published in spring 2018. He is a Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University in Montreal. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy.

Week of December 1, 2017

Ambassador Danon Hopes to ‘Close the Gap’ at the United Nations

Danny Danon. Photo by Eitan Arom

“You have a public U.N. and you have a private U.N.,” Israel’s United Nations Ambassador, Danny Danon, told a packed audience at Young Israel of North Beverly Hills on Nov 14. “My goal is to close that gap.”

Danon is all too familiar with that gap. In June 2016, he ran for office to head the U.N.’s Legal Committee, which deals with cases such as international terrorism. Election ballots usually are public, but secret ballots can be requested by U.N. members. In this case, the Palestinian representative requested a secret ballot, to avoid Israel influencing fellow ambassadors on how to vote. The tactic backfired.

“That was his mistake,” Danon told the audience. “Many countries told me, if we open [the ballot] and make it public, don’t count on us, yet. But if it’s a secret ballot, 100 percent we support you. You deserve it and it’s about time Israel will chair a committee.”

On that day, Danon became the first Israeli representative to be elected to a U.N. permanent committee, with 109 of 193 votes in his favor. “We broke the glass ceiling,” Danon told The Times of Israel after his victory.

One year and five months after that landmark ballot, Danon was recounting the little victories he and his team have worked to accomplish. Kosher food is now available in the U.N.’s New York cafeteria and, as of 2015, Yom Kippur became an officially recognized holiday. Previously, the U.N. observed 11 official holidays, including the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and Christian holidays such as Good Friday and Christmas. Now, Yom Kippur has been added to the list.

“We got it done,” he told the audience, which broke out in applause.

Kosher food is now available in the U.N.’s cafeteria and Yom Kippur became an officially recognized holiday.

Danon made it clear that he’s aiming a lot higher. “What happened yesterday with the vote on the human rights violations in Syria, it is a sign that we are closing that important gap,” he said, circling back to issues between public versus private U.N. selves. Notably, the vote was not a secret ballot.

In May, Danon was elected as vice president of the 72nd Session of the U.N. General Assembly. As vice president, Danon chairs meetings of the General Assembly, takes part in setting the GA’s agenda, and oversees the rules and decorum during its sessions.

Before representing Israel at the U.N., Danon, who is in Israel’s right-wing Likud Party, was serving as a member of the Knesset, holding positions such as Minister of Science, Technology and Space and Deputy Minister of Defense. In 2014, Danon was fired from his position as Minister of Defense by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he criticized the way the government handled Operation Protective Edge — namely, how Netanyahu accepted a truce with Hamas. Danon published a public response to his firing with the statement: “The prime minister doesn’t accept that there are other views in his party.”

Soon after, Netanyahu appointed Danon as U.N. ambassador. Critics went to town on this decision, dubbing it as the prime minister’s slap at the U.N. and at Danon, an all-in-one appointment. (Netanyahu served in the U.N. from 1984 to 1988.) Haaretz wrote, “The joke goes that in one move, we see how much Netanyahu hates Danon — hence his decision to send him far away and remove him from the cabinet table — and how much he hates the U.N. — because he sent them Danon.”

Still, Danon is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. He ended his lecture at Young Israel with a promise, speaking on behalf of Israel to the international community:  “We shall prevail.”

With America’s blessing, Abbas signals a reconciliation with Hamas

US president Donald Trump with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a welcoming ceremony in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23. Photo by Flash90

The Trump administration is encouraging the Palestinian Authority to assume control of the Gaza Strip and leaving the door open for a role by Hamas in the subsequent Palestinian government.

But if such a move was once seen as a traditional predicate to a two-state solution, top Palestinian leaders are hedging their bets, saying they would not rule out a “one-state” solution in which Palestinians have the same one-person, one-vote rights as Israelis. Israeli leaders have long said that would mean the end of the Jewish state.

Palestinian Authority government officials returned this week to the Gaza Strip, the first en masse visit — by Cabinet and security officials along with top bureaucrats — since Hamas’ bloody ouster of P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement a decade ago.

It was a visit twice blessed by the Trump administration, first through a statement last week by the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and Russia that guides the peace process, and again Monday with a statement from Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top international negotiator.

“The United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza, as noted in the September 28 Quartet statement,” Greenblatt said in a statement he posted on Twitter.

The Quartet statement, while itself also abjuring mention of “two states,” made it clear that it foresaw a single Palestinian entity under P.A. rule. It urged “the parties” — the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — “to take concrete steps to reunite Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority.”

This week’s P.A. visit to Gaza, brokered by Egypt, a key ally to the United States and Israel, is only for several days, but Husam Zomlot, the PLO envoy to Washington and a top Abbas adviser, anticipated a consolidation of the Palestinian Authority presence there.

Zomlot, speaking Monday to reporters here, noted that Hamas dissolved its governing body last week and said the Palestinian Authority expected this week that Hamas would formally hand over governance of the strip. The final stage, he said, would be elections.

“The return of the Palestinian Authority” to Gaza “is a milestone for the Palestinian Authority and of President Trump’s deal of the century,” Zomlot said, using a phrase Abbas used in a meeting with Trump on Sept. 20.

A signal of the White House’s seriousness is the likelihood that Hamas will continue to play a role in governing the strip. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, heeding Israeli concerns, rejected any role for Hamas in Palestinian governance, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly it would be a deal breaker.

Now, however, careful phrasing by U.S. and Palestinian officials strongly suggests that Hamas will not fade into the night. Zomlot called the changes in Gaza “the return of the consensus government,” the joint Hamas-P.A. venture that existed uneasily in 2006-07 and infuriated the administration of George W. Bush.

Greenblatt in his statement nodded to concerns about Hamas, a State Department-designated terrorist group, but in language vague enough to accommodate a Hamas role.

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.

That elides over earlier Israeli demands that not just a Palestinian government, but all of its components, must renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking Wednesday to a Likud party meeting in the West Bank, maintained — at least in part — a tough line on the terms of a reconciliation acceptable to Israel. He said Hamas must be disarmed, but did not count out explicitly keeping Hamas figures within the Palestinian Authority bureaucracy.

“We expect everyone who talks about a peace process to recognize the State of Israel and, of course, to recognize a Jewish state, and we are not prepared to accept bogus reconciliations in which the Palestinian side apparently reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said in Maale Adumim, a settlement of 40,000 located just east of Jerusalem.

“Whoever wants to make such a reconciliation, our understanding is very clear: Recognize the State of Israel, disband the Hamas military arm, sever the connection with Iran, which calls for our destruction, and so on and so forth. Even these very clear things must be clearly stated,” he said.

Without mentioning the two-state goal, Greenblatt’s statement nevertheless called on the Palestinian government to abide by “previous agreements.” These would presumably include the 2003 “road map” that was to have culminated in Palestinian statehood.

Still, Zomlot said the Palestinians wanted more clarity from the Trump administration.

“We cannot travel a journey without knowing a final destination,” he said. Zomlot referred to Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu in February, when the president said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

From the launch of the Oslo process in 1993 until now, Palestinian Authority officials have spoken of a one-state outcome only in pessimistic terms, casting it as a dystopia engendered by a failed process. Last month, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas in a first for a Palestinian leader said that if the two-state option collapses, Palestinians could embrace one state. It would not be a predominantly Jewish state covering Israel and most of the West Bank, an outcome popular among the Israeli right, but a binational state in which West Bank and Gaza Palestinians have full rights as citizens.

Abbas warned in his U.N. address that in the failure of a two-state solution, “neither you nor we will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”

Zomlot expanded on that possibility at his news briefing Monday.

“As long as we mean one man and one woman, one vote, we are fine with this,” he said, adding however that the two-state solution “remains absolutely the best option.”

Zomlot also addressed the Taylor Force Act, legislation named for an American stabbed to death last year by a Palestinian terrorist that would slash funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continued to subsidize the families of Palestinians jailed for or killed attacking Israelis.

Palestinians say the payments mostly go to the families of the wrongfully imprisoned. Zomlot said the Palestinians proposed a tripartite commission, to include the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, that would consider whether to remove some families from the payrolls.

“We have engaged with the administration, we have a trilateral commission,” he said. “We would offer to the United States to be the sole arbitrator and we will accept [the decision]. Guess who rejected it? Israel.”

A senior Trump administration official suggested that Zomlot was overstating the offer.

“We only received a brief general outline about this proposal which did not answer key questions or present a viable solution to the real problem, which is the official policy of paying terrorists and their families,” the official told JTA.

A senior Israeli official told JTA that the offer missed the point — the Palestinians can stop the payments on their own.

“The Palestinians don’t need Israel, the U.S. or anyone else, they just need to do it,” the official said. “Unfortunately they won’t.”

Iran’s president says security for Israel is ‘not possible,’ pleads for nuclear deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the United Nations on Sept. 20. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran delivered to the United Nations an extended plea to preserve the Iran nuclear deal while saying it was “not possible” to guarantee Israel security as long as it “usurped” Palestinian lands.

Rouhani, speaking Wednesday, derided the tough talk about his country delivered a day earlier by President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the launch of this year’s General Assembly in New York. His Twitter feed posted the lines as he spoke.

“Ugly, ignorant words were spoken by the U.S. president against the Iranian nation,” he said. “It’s disgraceful that the Zionist regime not committed to any international instrument or safeguard has the audacity to preach to peaceful nations.”

Trump and Netanyahu in their speeches both cast Iran as a rogue nation and said the 2015 nuclear deal trading sanctions relief for a rollback in Iran’s nuclear program was an “embarrassment.” Trump hinted there would a change in U.S. posture toward the deal, and Netanyahu said it should either be amended or canceled outright.

Rouhani, whose government still fends off criticism from Iranian hardliners opposed to the plan, cast it as a template for international peace deals.

“It belongs to the international community in its entirety and not only one or two countries,” he said of the deal otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “The JCPOA can be a new model for global interactions.” Iran, he said, would “not be the first” to violate the deal.

Rouhani insisted that missile testing was “only for deterrence.” Trump and Netanyahu have said that Iran’s missile advances and its military adventurism are also reasons to re-examine the Iran deal.

The Iranian leader called for peaceful coexistence, but appeared to extend his invitation to everyone but Israel.

“It is not possible for a rogue and racist regime to trample upon the most basic rights of the Palestinians, and be usurpers of this land and enjoy security,” he said.

Rouhani’s predecessors and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have said they regard the entirety of Israel as illegitimate. Rouhani has not made his views clear.

He twice mentioned ancient Iranian gestures of friendship toward the Jews as exemplars of the current regime’s alleged commitment to diversity.

“We are the same people who rescued the Jews from Babylonian servility,” he said, referring to the Jewish communities established in Persia after they wer expelled by the Babylonians from Judea in the sixth century BCE. “Historically backing the oppressed, Iran upholds the right of the Palestinian people as it did those of the Jewish people centuries ago.”

Why Trump’s U.N. speech thrilled Netanyahu — for the moment, anyway

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations on Sept. 19. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The number of times President Donald Trump mentioned Iran or its derivatives in his U.N. speech?

Twelve, and each time to emphasize its threat.

The number of times he mentioned the Palestinians or derivatives? That would be zero.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, paying Trump the rare leader-to-leader gesture of attending his speech and applauding throughout, was clearly pleased.

“In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” Netanyahu tweeted immediately after the 40-minute address on Tuesday. “President Trump spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity.”

Short term, Trump delivered big time on the Netanyahu wish list: He came closer to pledging to kill the Iran nuclear deal reviled by the Israeli leader and did not even mention peace with the Palestinians, which Netanyahu does not believe has traction at this point.

But wait, there’s more. Trump mentioned the word “sovereign” and its derivatives 21 times on Tuesday, the first day of this year’s General Assembly in New York.

Long term, Netanyahu and Israel may not be as enthused by Trump’s dream of a world in which nations make a priority of “sovereign” interests — or as the president put it, repeating a campaign phrase that unsettled many U.S. Jews, “America First.”

Trump’s overarching theme was a retreat from the robust interventionist role that to varying degrees has characterized U.S. foreign policy since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Indeed, that undergirded the U.S.-led effort following World War II and its devastation to establish the United Nations.

“Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity and peace for themselves and for the world,” Trump said. “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government.”

What that means practically is not clear, much like the rest of Trump’s foreign policy nine months into his presidency. But Israel’s security establishment has been wary of an American retreat from world affairs, especially when it comes to its war-torn neighbor Syria and the alliance between Syria’s Assad regime and Iran.

Trump’s emphasis on Syria — the thrust of much of his speech — was the routing of the Islamist terrorist threat embodied there by the Islamic State. Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah share that goal.

Secondarily, Trump said he would intervene when what he called the “criminal” Assad regime uses chemical weapons.

What Trump did not say — and what the Netanyahu government had demanded — was whether he would seek the removal from Syria of Iran and Hezbollah, which launched a war against Israel in 2006 and appears to be building a missile arsenal ahead of another war. (Trump did twice attack Hezbollah as a terrorist organization that threatens Israel.)

More broadly, Israeli Cabinet ministers — especially the defense minister, Avigdor Liberman — repeatedly expressed the concern that the Obama administration diminished the U.S. profile in the Middle East. Israel has long considered a robust U.S. profile in the region as key to its security.

On the Iran deal, Netanyahu could only be pleased at what he heard.

“We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for an eventual nuclear program,” Trump said of the 2015 agreement, which trades sanctions relief for rollbacks in Iran’s nuclear program. Again calling the deal “one of the worst” he had ever encountered, the president said it was “an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Netanyahu said from the same podium several hours later.

He lavished plenty of praise on Trump in his speech. Referring to Trump’s visit earlier this year to the Western Wall, Neyanyahu said, “When the president touched those ancient stones, he touched our hearts forever.”

Netanyahu also said “we will act to prevent Iran” from establishing a permanent base in Syria, developing weapons to be used against Israel from Lebanon and Syria, and establishing a terrorist front against Israel on the Lebanon border.

The Israeli, who had a long meeting with Trump in the days before the General Assembly launched, suggested that his message was congruent with Trump’s.

“Today I will say things that the rulers of Iran and the people of Iran will remember always,” he said in Hebrew in a social media post two hours ahead of his speech. “I think they will also remember what President Trump says.”

The top 10 moments that mattered to Jews in 5777

JTA Collage

This Jewish year was not a quiet one, to say the least. From the tumultuous first eight months of Donald Trump’s presidency, to a wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers, to a neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville that turned violent, to the twin weather catastrophes of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Jews, like so many others, found it hard to take their eyes off the news.

As the year 5777 comes to a close, JTA looks back at some of the moments that had the most significance for Jews, sorted below by date.

Bob Dylan is awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bob Dylan speaking at the 25th anniversary MusiCares Person of the Year Gala at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Feb. 6, 2015. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

In an unexpected move, the Swedish Academy bestowed the iconic Jewish American singer — born Robert Zimmerman — with the highly coveted prize in October. Though Bob Dylan’s fame is indisputable — he wrote some of the most well-known and culturally significant songs of the 1960s — the decision raised eyebrows because the prize has traditionally been given to novelists and poets, not songwriters. Dylan did not seem as enthusiastic as some of his fans: He took two weeks to acknowledge the award and said he was unable to travel to Sweden for the official ceremony, though he traveled there at a later date to accept the award and present the required lecture.

U.N. criticizes Israeli settlement, and the U.S. abstains.

UN Security Council

The Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Dec. 21, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In December, the United Nations sharply condemned Israeli actions in a resolution calling settlements “a flagrant violation of international law” that damage the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Traditionally, the United States has vetoed such resolutions — but in its waning days the Obama administration chose not to follow suit. The move prompted outrage from Israel, centrist and right-leaning Jewish groups and then President-elect Donald Trump, who called the resolution “extremely unfair.” Samantha Power, then the American envoy to the U.N., defended the abstention, saying the resolution was in line with longstanding U.S. opposition to Israeli settlements.

Trump takes office, bringing Ivanka and Jared with him.

President Donald Trump, standing with his wife, Melania, daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, inside of the inaugural parade reviewing stand in front of the White House, Jan. 20, 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Trump took office in January after his unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton in November, pledging in his inaugural address to put “America first.” The use of the slogan — the name of an isolationist and often anti-Semitic movement leading up to World War II — alarmed some Jews, but Trump said the phrase had no connection to the earlier usage. Trump brought with him a cadre of Jewish advisers, including his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner. The couple, both of whom are observant Jews, would take on critical roles in the administration as senior advisers to the president, with Kushner in charge of a thick portfolio that included brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

JCCs in U.S. and Canada targeted with more than 100 bomb threats.

The Gordon JCC in Nashville was targeted multiple times with bomb threats in 2017. (Courtesy of Gordon JCC)

From January to March, Jewish community centers, Jewish schools and other institutions were hit with more than 100 bomb threats. None of the threats, many of which were called in, turned out to be credible, but they forced evacuations and spread fear among local communities. Several Jewish cemeteries were also vandalized, prompting some to blame the rise of the “alt-right” — some say the movement was legitimized following Trump’s election — for the threats. However, neither of the two men arrested for making the threats turned out to be motivated by far-right beliefs. One of the accused, Juan Thompson, was arrested for making bomb threats against eight Jewish institutions in the name of an ex-girlfriend in a revenge plot. The main suspect, however, turned out to be an Israeli-American teenager, Michael Kadar of Ashkelon, who was arrested for making hundreds of threats. Kadar reportedly sold his bomb threat services online and suffers from a brain tumor, according to his lawyer.

Trump shouts down reporters who ask him about a rise in anti-Semitism.

President Donald Trump speaking at a White House news conference, Feb. 16, 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In February, the president shouted at two journalists who asked him about an increase in anti-Jewish sentiments and incidents, and said he “hates” being called an anti-Semite, although neither reporter called him one. After asking for a “friendly” reporter, Trump interrupted a question by a haredi Orthodox journalist — he accused him of lying about his intentions — and claimed to be the “least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life.” Trump’s response drew criticism from Jewish groups, many of which had already criticized him a month earlier for releasing a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that notably did not mention Jews. His defenders said the president’s critics were politically motivated.

On first overseas trip, Trump visits Israel.

President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, left, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (Israel Bardugo)

Trump paid a visit to the Jewish state on his first overseas trip as president in May, which also included stops in Italy and Saudi Arabia. The two-day trip included a stop at Yad Vashem and meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump, accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, also stopped at the Western Wall for a private visit, making him the first sitting U.S. president to visit the holy site and earning him high praise across Israel. A few months after the visit, Trump dispatched a team of top aides, including Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Dina Powell, to visit Israel and other Middle Eastern countries in an attempt to revive peace talks.

Israel freezes pluralistic Western Wall agreement.

Western Wall

Jewish women praying at the women’s section of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, May 16, 2017. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

A June decision by Netanyahu’s Cabinet to put a hold on the creation of an egalitarian section of the Western Wall, a deal passed in 2016, drew the ire of American Jewish leaders. Some leaders, also angered by the advancement of a bill to give the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate complete control of conversions performed in Israel, warned of a growing schism between American Jews and Israel. Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, also joined critics of the decision, saying it “will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult.” In August, the Israeli Supreme Court said the government must either reinstate the agreement or provide an explanation as to why it had put a hold on it.

Chicago Dyke March bans three women for carrying flags with Jewish stars.

Marchers at the 48th annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade in Chicago, June 25, 2017. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images)

In June, a Chicago lesbian march ejected three women for carrying Gay Pride flags with Jewish stars, saying the march was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.” The decision drew heated debate, and the Jewish reporter who first wrote about the incident for a Chicago LGBTQ newspaper said she was removed from her reporting job as a result of the article. The Dyke March controversy — as well as similar debates about the role of Zionists in the feminist movement and whether demonstrators could bring banners with Jewish stars to a Chicago feminist march — illuminated a growing challenge for Zionist Jews who feel unwelcome in liberal spaces.

Neo-Nazis rally in Charlottesville.

Hundreds of white supremacists and far-rightists on the outskirts of Emancipation Park during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists gathered in a Virginia park in August to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The far-right protesters chanted anti-Semitic and racist slogans, including “Jews will not replace us,” and brawled with counterprotesters. One counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was killed when a suspected white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd. Trump waffled on condemning the protest, calling out neo-Nazis and white supremacists in one remark, but blaming both sides for the violence at other times, and saying there were “some very fine people” in both groups. Jewish groups, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the president’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, criticized Trump for his response, saying he was not doing his part to condemn hate.

Hurricane Harvey floods Houston

Rescue workers and volunteers helping residents make their way out of a flooded neighborhood in Houston following Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 29, 2017. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Homes were flooded and lives were turned upside down as Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, forcing mass evacuations across the state. Over 70 percent of the city’s Jews live in areas that experienced high flooding, and synagogues, schools and other Jewish community buildings sustained significant damage. Recovery from the hurricane is expected to take years, but the disaster also served as a point of coming together for the community, as Jewish groups rallied to distribute donations and local Jewish camps offered housing to those with nowhere to go.

Palestinian Authority seeks membership in UN tourism body

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 27. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

A request filed by the Palestinian Authority last year to join the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is slated to come to a vote this week at the body’s summit in Chengdu, China.

In order for the Palestinians to gain acceptance, two-thirds of the UNWTO’s member states need to approve.

[This article originally appeared on themedialine.org]

Speaking to The Media Line, Vice President of the PA Mahmoud Al-Aloul (“Abu Jihad”) confirmed that the Palestinian leadership is being heavily pressured to not proceed with its bid.

“All I can tell you in this regard is that President Mahmoud Abbas will give a speech in China.”

He further revealed that PA is in the process of filing a request to the International Criminal Court to oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements,” among other issues.

In response, Israel has embarked on a diplomatic campaign to block the PA’s request to join the UNWTO. “Palestine is not a state and cannot be accepted as such in the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations,” according to a statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

For his part, Hassan Ka’bia, a Deputy Spokesman at the Ministry told The Media Line “that all attempts by the PA to gain memberships at the UN will ruin the serious Israeli efforts to renew peace talks and will have no effect on the ground.

“At the end of the day,” he concluded, “our allies at the UN, including the U.S., are very strong and supportive of Israel so the Palestinians will not get anything there.”

In this respect, the latest move by the Palestinians to “internationalize” the conflict comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is engaged in a push to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, having sent his top envoys to the region on multiple occasions since his inauguration. Accordingly, the proposed moves by the PA risk derailing the effort.

“We will go to the United Nations anyways as well as the International Criminal Court,” Nabil Sha’ath, a senior Palestinian official, retorted to The Media Line. He said that this was necessary because while the Palestinians had already accepted the principles of the Oslo Accords they are looking for “peace on the ground and not just on paper.”

Sha’ath stated that under ideal circumstances there would be no need for the Palestinians to look to the UN, but that Israel had not held up its end of the bargain.

Ironically, the latest row over the UN comes against the backdrop of the Arab League’s decision to green light a proposal by the PA to form a high-level committee whose purpose is to block Israel’s attempts to be elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

According to the Ma’an news agency, the case against allowing Israel a turn on the Security Council roster will include the familiar charge regarding Israeli building on lands it conquered in the 1967 war that are claimed by the Palestinians for a future state; as well as accusations directed against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of having “introduced more than 20 racist legislations reflecting a systematic policy seeking to deface the historic rights of the Palestinian people.”

There formerly existed a longstanding convention that peace between Israel and the Palestinians could only come about through direct negotiations; however, this changed on September 23, 2011, when Abbas submitted a formal application to join the UN, which was overwhelmingly accepted one month later in a General Assembly vote.

Soon after gaining overall non-member observer state status in the institution, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) became the first affiliated agency to grant full membership to the Palestinians.

But the Palestinians’ momentum was soon stunted, as U.S. President Barack Obama decided to cut off funding to UNESCO, in line with Washington’s belief that the conflict with Israel can only be solved through the direct diplomacy of the peace process. As the Americans provide a huge portion of the UN’s overall budget, other bodies got the message and the Palestinians, despite repeated warnings to further pursue the UN route, have since not been accepted into any other related associations.

That is, until the anticipated UNWTO vote this week.

Perhaps the Palestinian leadership is being driven by an absence in faith in Trump, or maybe the bid to join the UNWTO is simply a method of applying pressure on his administration, which is reportedly in the process of formulating a formal policy on the conflict.

Some analysts believe it could also be meant to send Israel a message; namely, that the status quo will simply no longer suffice.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley lays out case for US leaving Iran deal

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley testifies to the House Appropriations State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee on the budget for the U.N. in Washington, D.C., on June 27. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in a comprehensive speech laid out a possible case for the United States to leave the Iran deal, although she said no decision had been made.

Haley’s argument, made Monday in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, was that the agreement was inextricably bound to other manifestations of Iran’s bad behavior, including its development of missiles, military adventurism and backing for terrorism.

“The deal drew an artificial line between the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and the rest of its lawless behavior,” she said of the 2015 pact, which trades sanctions relief for Iran for a rollback in its nuclear program.

The Obama administration, which negotiated the deal, said that by ending at least for now the threat of a nuclear Iran, the international community could more easily confront Iran for its rogue actions. The deal did not impinge on sanctions on Iran unrelated to its nuclear activities, and President Donald Trump has continued to oppose them like his Oval Office predecessor, Barack Obama.

Haley outlined possible scenarios for leaving the deal, including one that involves essentially deferring a decision to Congress, which under U.S. law oversees Iranian compliance with the deal.

Under U.S. law, she said, “We must consider not just the Iranian regime’s technical violations of the JCPOA,” referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action, the deal’s formal name, but also its violation of U.N. resolutions and Iran’s history of aggression.

“We must consider the regime’s repeated, demonstrated hostility toward the United States,” Haley said. “We must consider its history of deception about its nuclear program. We must consider its ongoing development of ballistic missile technology. And we must consider the day when the terms of the JCPOA sunset. That’s a day when Iran’s military may very well already have the missile technology to send a nuclear warhead to the United States – a technology that North Korea only recently developed. In short, we must consider the whole picture, not simply whether Iran has exceeded the JCPOA’s limit on uranium enrichment.”

A frustration for Trump, who wants to kill the deal, is that U.N. inspectors continue to confirm that Iran is abiding by the deal. Trump’s top security advisers have counseled against quitting the deal, saying that would play into Iran’s efforts to make the United States responsible for any escalation in tensions.

If Trump refuses in October — the next deadline — to certify compliance, she said, “What happens next is significantly in Congress’s hands.”

Trump’s decertification “would signal one or more of the following three messages to Congress,” Haley said. “Either the administration believes Iran is in violation of the deal; or the lifting of sanctions against Iran is not appropriate and proportional to the regime’s behavior; or the lifting of sanctions is not in the U.S. national security interest.”

In those circumstances, she said, “Congress then has 60 days to consider whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran.”

Former Obama administration Iran hands mocked the speech, saying that however Trump frames abandonment of the deal, the U.S. will be blamed.

“No matter how convoluted this gets, the bottom line will be that the U.S. will be blamed for collapse,” Ilan Goldenberg, who worked on Iran and Israel policy for Obama, said on Twitter. “The reality is that if this is the tack Trump takes, he will be killing the deal, but trying to blame others.”

5 Hebron facts the UN needs to know

Hebron on July 7. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

On July 12, I joined hundreds of people from around the world at the Machpelah Cave in Hebron, the sacred resting place of our patriarchs and matriarchs. We came to pray and to strengthen one another, to honor and seek blessings from our ancestors, and to express love and appreciation for the brave Israel Defense Forces soldiers who protect the site.

Six days earlierUNESCO, the United Nations’ (U.N.) world heritage body, sought to erase 3,753 years of history. In a shameless attempt to minimize the Jewish connection to this most ancient and revered Jewish site, it voted (by secret ballot, no less) — as reported by The New York Times — to declare the Machpelah Cave a “Palestinian World Heritage Site.” Jews and non-Jews from around the world, and from across the religious and political spectrum, united in expressing outrage at this latest endeavor to rewrite history. Lately, we’ve come to expect such attempts, as vilifying Israel has become the new “normal” at the United Nations.

To dispel this latest obfuscation of truth, here are five historical points ignored by the U.N. that testify to the connection between the Jewish people and this holy site:

1. As documented in the Torah and classic Jewish texts, Hebron was Abraham’s home for 75 years. He purchased the Machpelah Cave in Hebron as a family burial plot (Genesis 23:1-20) after his wife Sarah died. Thus, Hebron is the first part of the Land of Israel that officially became “Jewish property.” Ultimately, Abraham was buried there himself (Genesis 25:9-10), as were his son Isaac, Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, (Genesis 35:29, 49:31), Isaac’s son Jacob, and Jacob’s wife Leah (Genesis 49:31, 50:13). Hebron was Isaac’s home for most of his life, and Jacob lived in Hebron and inherited the Machpelah Cave.

Later, the Bible recounts how after the Jewish people left Mount Sinai, in order to enter the Land of Israel, Moses sent scouts to investigate the land prior to their entry. According to the Talmud, Caleb, one of the scouts, sensed that the other scouts were planning to dissuade the people from entering the land, so he went to the Machpelah Cave to pray that he not succumb to their scheme. When the scouts returned, only he and Joshua encouraged the people to prepare to enter the land. Subsequently, the city of Hebron was awarded to Caleb.

2. Hebron was King David’s first capital city. Archaeological evidence points to the fact that David was first crowned king in Hebron (875 B.C.E., 2 Samuel 2:1-4) over his own tribe, Judah, and then, seven years later, he was accepted in Hebron as king by the other tribes, as well (in 868 B.C.E., 2 Samuel 5:1-5). After this, he moved his capital to Jerusalem.

Let us urge the United Nations to turn its attention to where its efforts can be truly fruitful to humanity … Delegitimizing Jewish history is not an endeavor worthy of the United Nations.

3.  The Temple’s continual connection to Hebron. In 831 B.C.E., David’s son and successor, King Solomon, built the First Temple in Jerusalem. Every morning, the Temple priests did not begin the daily service until the sun rose and Hebron became visible, in order to link the merit of the patriarchs and matriarchs to the Jewish people’s daily connection to God (Tamid 3:2; Yoma 3a).

4. For millennia, Hebron has been recognized as Judaism’s second-holiest city, after Jerusalem. According to the Zohar, the second-century classic of Jewish mysticism, the cave is called Machpelah (“double”) because it is the connecting point between our physical world and the upper, spiritual worlds, and that when a person dies, his soul enters the afterlife via the Machpelah Cave. For the same reason, the city is called “Hebron” (Chevron, related to chibur), which means “connection.”

5. Jewish settlement in Hebron has been documented and uninterrupted throughout the generations, save for 20 years between 1947 and 1967, when Hebron was under Jordanian rule and Jordan banned Jews from living within its borders. In 1967, when Israel was attacked by the surrounding Arab countries in an unprovoked war, Israel reclaimed its historic heartland, including Hebron.

This year marks 50 years since the city of Hebron and the Machpelah Cave once again became accessible to Jews and to people of all faiths. For the preceding 700 years, beginning with the rule of the Mamluks (1260 C.E.), access to the cave was granted solely to Muslims.

Let us urge the United Nations to turn its attention to where its efforts can be truly fruitful to humanity — by helping to stop the massacre of innocent civilians in Syria; combating ISIS and other terrorist groups; and ending world hunger, disease, war and discrimination. Delegitimizing Jewish history is not an endeavor worthy of the United Nations.


RABBI CHAIM N. CUNIN is director and general editor of Chabad House Publications and associate rabbi at the Beverly Hills Jewish Community, which meets weekly at the Beverly Hills Hotel. This article is adapted from the newly released Kehot Chumash (Chabad House Publications).