June 26, 2019

Palestinians Protest Bahrain Summit

A demonstrator throws a tire into a burning garbage bin during a protest against Bahrain's conference about U.S. President Donald Trump's vision for Mideast peace plan, in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near Sidon, South Lebanon June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

Thousands of Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip have been protesting the two-day economic development conference in Bahrain since June 24, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The Bahrain conference is featuring delegations from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf Arab states to discuss on how to foster economic development in the Palestinian territories. The U.S. proposal urges $50 billion in investment to go toward the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.

According to the Post, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) injured 12 Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip, where incendiary balloons were launched toward southern Israel, igniting several fires. Palestinians protesting in Judea and Samaria, held up signs that read, “Palestine is ours and can’t be bought or sold” and “No to the occupation.”

Some Palestinian protesters near the Beit El settlement outside of Ramallah threw rocks and burning tires at IDF soldiers, prompting the soldiers to fire tear gas at them.

Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have made it clear that they are not interested in any proposed deals that come out of the conference.

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, said at the summit that the $50 billion in investment could result in “a bustling commercial and tourist center in Gaza and the West Bank, where international businesses come together and thrive.” However, he acknowledged that such an economic solution goes hand-in-hand with a political solution that satisfies both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“My direct message to the Palestinian people is that despite what those who have let you down in the past say, President Trump and America have not given up on you,” Kushner said.

PA Cabinet Received Massive Pay Raise Amidst Economic Struggles

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed

The Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet received a massive pay raise in 2017 while the West Bank economy languished, according to the Associated Press.

The AP report states that they obtained documents revealing that the cabinet gave itself a 67 percent pay raise in addition to other “lavish payouts and perks” that included providing PA ministers an additional $10,000 to reside in Ramallah, where the PA is located. The PA also inflated the exchange rate so they could increase their earnings when converting their currency to Israeli shekels.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas approved the pay raises and perks, per the AP.

Meanwhile, Palestinians living in the West Bank are mired in a sluggish economy, where unemployment is currently near 20 percent and the average worker earns monthly salaries ranging from around $700 to $1,000. By contrast, PA cabinet officials earned $5,000 and Abbas earned $6,000 a month after the pay raise, according to the AP, sparking a backlash from the Palestinian people on social media. The PA has said they’re going to review the matter.

Back in March, a Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll found that 60 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank believe that Abbas should step down from his position. Abbas was elected as PA president in 2005 as part of a four-year term; elections in the West Bank have not been held since. Additionally, according to the AP, more than 80 percent of Palestinians believe the PA is plagued with corruption.

Journal Editor-In-Chief David Suissa argued in a January 2018 Op-ed that Abbas frequently delegitimizes the Jewish connection to Israel in order to maintain his iron fist over the West Bank.

“Put yourself in Abbas’ shoes,” Suissa wrote. “His people live in misery while, next door, the hated Jewish state thrives. Doubling down on victimhood means he can blame every Palestinian hardship on Israel.”

Suissa proceeded to argue that Abbas is “celebrated around the world” for his narrative that Israel is to blame for Palestinian malaise, allowing Abbas to enrich himself and his cabinet members through “humanitarian” aid without having to make any efforts toward achieving peace.

“There is, of course, one complication in this whole picture — the Palestinian people,” Suissa wrote. “The day they realize they have been lied to for so long by their own leaders is the day those leaders will abandon their villas in Ramallah and hop on their private jets to any country that will take them.”

Primer Gets You in the ‘Know’ About Middle East Peace

Dear Jared,

I know your father-in-law is not much of a reader. But he entrusted you with a historic peace mission that has defeated countless other men and women for nearly a century, and that’s why I think you would find it useful to pick up a copy of “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Everyone Needs to Know” (Oxford University Press). 

You might be tempted to think of it as “Middle East Peace Negotiations for Dummies.”

That’s not to diminish the author’s credentials or achievements. Dov Waxman is professor of political science, international affairs and Israel studies at Northeastern University and director of the school’s Middle East program. His previous books include “Israel’s Palestinians” and “Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel,” which I reviewed here when it was published in 2016.

Waxman’s new book — like all the titles in Oxford’s “What Everyone Needs to Know” series — are what journalists call an “explainer.” Waxman draws on his command of history, diplomacy and politics to untangle what is surely the most challenging quandary in the Middle East since the Gordian knot, and he dispenses his solid expertise in short bursts of clear and highly illuminating prose. 

Each section is titled with a pointed and highly pertinent question: “Who is the conflict between?” “Who was there first?” “Why did many Palestinians become refugees in 1948? Who is to blame?” “What role has the United States played in the peace process?” “Why are the West Bank and Gaza Strip considered ‘occupied territories’?” “Is a two-state solution possible?” “Is a one-state solution possible?” 

Waxman is not an advocate for one or another of the contending points of view that make peace in the Middle East such a vexing problem, and he does not create a sense of panic. Indeed, he takes a measured if sober view of the subject.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the world’s deadliest conflict, nor is it the most destabilizing — the war in Syria has killed vastly more people and wreaked more havoc in a just a few years than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has in decades,” the author observes. “But the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the longest-running conflicts in the world and possibly the most intractable.”

“Dov Waxman bemoans the fact that so many people are willing to reach and hold an opinion on the conflicts in the Middle East with only a shallow understanding of the facts.”

He also bemoans the fact that so many people are willing to reach and hold an opinion on the conflicts in the Middle East with only a shallow understanding of the facts. One reason is that “we all inevitably bring our own personal backgrounds, beliefs, and prejudices to the subject,” as Waxman writes. Then, too, he thinks we rely too much on the media: “The problem with this is not that the media is biased, although it might be, but that it is generally superficial and focused on contemporary events.” 

The whole point of his book, in other words, is to drill deeply into the facts so the reader is equipped to reach a conclusion of his or her own. “[This] book is a primer, not a polemic,” he insists, and he refuses to play “the blame game.” His frame of reference does not exclude the religious texts of Judaism and Islam, but it is not restricted to these scriptures: “Both nationalisms are motivated by secular political aspirations (above all, national self-determination), not theological ones.” His moral stance is inspired by the word of the late Israeli novelist Amos Oz: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tragedy; it is a clash between right and right.”

Jared, that’s exactly why you will soon find out for yourself how hard it is to find a solution that will be acceptable to both sides. To put it another way, a $65 billion gift will not be enough to buy a lasting peace. “The simplest way to explain the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis (more precisely Israeli Jews) is that they both lay claim to the same piece of land,” Waxman writes. “Both sides insist that this land belongs to them, and both claim the right to exercise sovereignty over it.”

Waxman seeks to avoid the shutting down of minds that seems to take place when we start to talk about peace in the Middle East, and he sends signals of his impartiality to readers on both sides. He refers to “the West Bank” rather than “Judea and Samaria,” for example, and yet he also puts “the occupied territories” between quotation marks. Even on this contentious point, however, he insists on confronting his readers with the historical facts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the use of the word “occupation” as “nonsense,” but his predecessor Ariel Sharon declared, “Yes, it is occupation; you might not like the word, but what is happening is occupation.”

The single most important passage in “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” poses the ultimate question: “If neither [a one-state nor a two-state] solution is possible, then how can the conflict be resolved or at least reduced?” Here we find a rare glimmer of hope in what is usually and gloomily described with a fatalistic shrug as an unsolvable problem. Waxman envisions a European Union-style confederation between Israel and Palestine, each one with a “shared capital” in Jerusalem, dual citizenship for Jews who want to live in Palestine and Palestinians who wish to live in Israel, and an open border between the two countries. 

Waxman is a tough-minded observer with his eyes wide open, and he concedes that his ideas are deeply problematic. “While I am convinced that this is all possible, I am not optimistic about any of it occurring in the near future,” he writes. “Sadly, conflict, occupation, and violence look likely to continue, and peace seems a distant, if not disappearing prospect.” Another book in its entirety could be devoted to the peace plan he briefly describes, and I hope he writes it.

Unless you already know the answers to the questions you will find in Waxman’s important book, Jared, don’t leave home without it! 


Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.

Hen Mazzig: Gay, Progressive, Israeli Activist

Hen Mazzig; Photo from YouTube

Hen Mazzig, a progressive, gay Israeli activist came to California to talk to locals about his family history and his identity. 

About 20 people came to hear Mazzig speak at a private residence in Long Beach earlier this month, at an event hosted by the Jewish National Fund of Orange County.

Mazzig told attendees his father’s family and his mother’s family fled Tunisia and Iraq, respectively, in 1951 to seek refuge in Israel. He said his father’s family was forced to work in Nazi labor camps during Germany’s occupation of Tunisia from 1942-43. “The long arm of the Nazis didn’t just stop in Europe,” he said.

Mazzig said his maternal grandmother told him how, in 1941, the Iraqi government initiated the Farhud, or pogrom against Jews from June 1-2 during Shavuot. On the second day, Mazzig’s grandmother, then a teenager, witnessed her disabled friend Dalia being raped by an Iraqi policeman.

“When she told me this story, she was in tears,” Mazzig said, adding that it was at that point his grandmother knew her family had to leave Iraq. But before they fled, Mazzig’s great grandfather was executed by the Iraqi government in Baghdad for being a Zionist.

“The reason I start with those stories is because it’s so important that we continue speaking about it,” Mazzig said. 

Mazzig, 27, then spoke about his own war experiences as a 12-year-old. In 2002, during the Second Intifada, he was about to enter an ice cream shop in Petach Tikvah when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up. 

As a result of that incident, when Mazzig undertook his compulsory Israel Defense Forces (IDF) training at 18, he chose to join the IDF’s humanitarian Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories unit. Mazzig was stationed in the West Bank Palestinian town
of Ramallah from 2008-13. 

Adressing anti-Zionist slurs of “pink washing” (that Israel offers its LGBTQ community rights to cover up its policies against the Palestinians), Mazzig called the accusations “ridiculous” and “shameful.”

Mazzig recounted how in 2009, his best friend, Ilan, came out to him as gay. Concerned Ilan might just be going through a phase, Mazzig spoke with an officer, Adam, to which Adam replied that he believed Mazzig was also gay and had a crush on Ilan.

“Go back home, confess your love to Ilan, come back and tell me you have a boyfriend,” Adam told him. Mazzig eventually confessed his love for Ilan but Ilan turned down Mazzig, saying Mazzig was too fat.

When Mazzig relayed to Adam what had happened, Mazzig called Ilan the love of his life. Adam responded, “Ilan is not the love of your life because the love of your life wouldn’t treat you this way,” a line that Mazzig said stuck with him. 

Mazzig eventually went on to become an openly gay commander in his unit in 2010. “I knew I had the backing of my commanders,” Mazzig said, citing an instance in 2011, when “one of my commanders imprisoned a soldier for a week for using homophobic words toward me. As a gay person, I feel the most safe in Israel than I do anywhere else,” he said.

Adressing anti-Zionist slurs of “pink washing” (that Israel offers its LGBTQ community rights to cover up its policies against the Palestinians), Mazzig called the accusations “ridiculous” and “shameful,” noting that LGBTQ activists fought for the Israeli government to grant them rights.

Nonetheless, Mazzig acknowledged that Israel still has “a long way to go” when it comes to LGBTQ rights, especially in legalizing same-sex marriage. “It’s a struggle and it’s a process,” he said.

Mazzig went on to state that as a progressive, he has noticed that a lot of progressive circles that claim to support social justice “are the ones that are attacking Israel. Criticism of Israel is OK but there’s a fine line between criticism … and denying the country its right to exist,” he said.

Mazzig concluded his speech by stating he hopes that one day when he has children, he can promise them that they won’t have to serve in the IDF because there will be peace in the region, and that the promise will be fulfilled.

ADL, Other Jewish Groups Applaud Airbnb for Changing Its Policy

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other Jewish groups applauded Airbnb for announcing on April 9 that it would be rescinding its policy of de-listing Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria.

As first reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Airbnb’s reversal came as part of a settlement with Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, which represented several American Jews who owned housing properties in Judea and Samaria. The plaintiffs had argued that Airbnb’s policy was in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Airbnb confirmed on their website that they would be ending the policy, stating: “We understand the complexity of the issue that was addressed in our previous policy announcement, and we will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank.” They will instead be donating profits from such listing toward “non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”

Airbnb also said they have “always opposed the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, “We appreciate that Airbnb and [CEO] Brian Chesky listened to us and the wider community, and course-corrected on how they implement their listing policy. We also welcome their clear rejection of BDS and embrace of the Israeli market.”

Greenblatt had sent a letter to Airbnb in November stating that the ADL was “dismayed” by Airbnb’s policy since it “further emboldened” the BDS movement. According to the ADL, Greenblatt recently met with Airbnb prior to the April 9 announcement.

Similarly, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement, “The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which denounced Airbnb’s initial decision to drop Jewish homeowners living on the West Bank as anti-Semitic, is pleased that the company has rescinded its ill-conceived political move. Airbnb can now return to its mandate of bringing people of all backgrounds together around the world, whatever their nationality, race, or religion.”

StandWithUs tweeted, “StandWithUs is proud to have fought back against @Airbnb‘s discrimination with over 8,000 emails sent opposing their anti-Israeli policy. Now, that policy has been reversed.”

Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, similarly tweeted that Airbnb’s reversal is “wonderful news.”

Siamak Kordestani, assistant director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region, told the Journal via email, “We welcome Airbnb’s cancellation of its announced ban on Jewish listings in the West Bank and its explicit rejection of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which targets Israel. Discriminatory boycotts are not a way to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

World Jewish Congress tweeted, “Cooperation is the solution, not boycotting.”

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president Shurat HaDin and one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, said in a statement, “The policy Airbnb announced last November was abject discrimination against Jewish users of the website. The rescinding of Airbnb’s discriminatory policy is, thus, a powerful defeat for the anti-Israel boycott movement.”

“BDS is an anti-Semitic campaign which purports to care about human rights but whose real goal is to completely replace the Jewish State with a Palestinian one,” Darshan-Leitner said. “Other international companies need to learn the lessons from Airbnb’s mistake and understand that boycotting Israel and discriminating against Jews are unlawful acts which will ultimately result in dire legal consequences, public condemnations and embarrassment. No outside party can decide for Israel what its legitimate borders will be or where Jews will be permitted to live. We commend Airbnb for recognizing that it had landed on the wrong side of this issue and changing the policy.”

Israeli Student on Cornell BDS Resolution: Stop ‘Delegitimizing Me and My Country’

Photo from Pixabay.

An Israeli student at Cornell University wrote in the student-run Cornell Daily Sun about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution that is being debated in Cornell’s Student Assembly.

Shir Kidron, a senior at Cornell, explained her April 7 op-ed that in 2009, when she was 12 years old, a rocket from the Gaza Strip struck her home Gedera and killed her dog Rosie.

“The story of my home in Gedera is not unique,” Kidron wrote. “It resonates with tens of thousands of Israelis who have been under a constant threat of rockets from Gaza over the past 18 years. According to the Israeli Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, 40 percent of the children in the Israeli border town of Sderot suffer from PTSD. This is what happens when, at any moment, you could be given only 15 seconds to run for shelter.”

Kidron argued that “the reality is not easy for both sides.”

“On the Israeli side, we live in fear of rocket attacks, suicide bombers and stabbing attacks,” Kidron wrote. “On the Palestinian side, the civilians are living under Hamas rule dealing with poverty and population density while the Palestinians in the West Bank are living with the presence of the Israel Defense Forces. Their society is plagued by a corrupt Palestinian government and relentless terrorist groups.”

Kidron warned that the BDS rhetoric is becoming “more extreme” on Cornell, pointing to a February 20 letter from Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to Cornell President Martha Pollack that accused Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.”

“As an Israeli citizen who has paid the price of violence, and as a Cornell student cognizant of the civil and human rights of the Palestinians, I plead you: Stop this extreme, one-sided and violent attempt at delegitimizing me and my country,” Kidron wrote. “Promote genuine dialogue that will lead to a real improvement in the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. Don’t fall for the shallow rhetoric of the BDS movement, which takes one of the most complex geopolitical mazes in history and forces it into the unfitting settler-colonial narrative.”

The resolution calling on Cornell to “divest from companies participating in the human rights violations in the Israeli occupation of Palestine” was hotly debated during a March 28 public forum at the Student Assembly; the assembly will bring up the resolution again in its upcoming April 11 meeting.

Pollack announced her opposition to the BDS movement on March 1, writing in response to Cornell SJP that BDS “places all of the responsibility for an extraordinarily complex geopolitical situation on just one country and frequently conflates the policies of the Israeli government with the very right of Israel to exist as a nation, which I find particularly troublesome.”

Palestinian Man Shot Dead by Father of Teen He Allegedly Tried to Stab in a Car

Screenshot from Twitter.

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian man was shot and killed by the father of a teenage girl he allegedly tried to stab in a car near a West Bank checkpoint where traffic was at a standstill.

The man was brandishing a knife when he pulled open the passenger door of the vehicle on Route 60 near the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus, on Wednesday morning. The father was driving his daughter to high school. They are residents of the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, according to reports.

The would-be stabber was taken by ambulance to an Israeli hospital, where he was declared dead. He was identified by the Palestinian media as Muhammad Abed al-Fattah, 23, a resident of the northern West Bank district of Salfit.

Deal Reached to Temporarily Reopen Federal Government

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington before his departure for the annual Army-Navy college football game in Philadelphia, U.S., December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

During remarks on Jan. 25 in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump announced a deal had been reached to temporarily reopen the federal government but reiterated the need for a security wall or barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border in order to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S. The short-term budget agreement doesn’t include new funding for the barrier.

“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15 again or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the constitution of the United States to address the emergency. We will have great security.”

His remarks on Jan. 25 followed a 35-day government shutdown resulting from a deadlock between the president’s demand for border wall funding and Democrats’ refusal to include such funding in the budget. Pay could resume as early as this weekend for more than 800,000 federal workers who have gone a month without a paycheck.

As he has done previously when speaking about his desire for a wall at the nation’s southern border, Trump said Israel’s use of a wall at the Israel-West Bank border has been successful in helping Israel maintain security by preventing potentially dangerous people from entering the country.

“Israel built a wall that is 99.9-percent successful,” Trump said on Jan. 25. “They keep criminals out.”

Trump said the responsibility for bolstering security at the U.S.-Mexico border was part of his role as commander in chief.

“My highest priority is the defense of our great country,” he said. “We cannot surrender operational control over the nation’s borders to foreign cartels, [drug] traffickers and smugglers,” he said. “We want future Americans to come to our country legally and through a system based on merit.”

A wall is essential not just for U.S. security but also for ensuring the safety of those attempting to come illegally into the U.S., he said.

“Our plan includes desperately needed humanitarian assistance for those being abused by coyotes, smugglers and the dangerous journey north,” he said. “The requests we have put before Congress are vital to ending the humanitarian and security crisis on our border.”

He said that allowing undocumented immigrants to enter the U.S. has had a negative economic impact, including the “tremendous economic and financial burdens of illegal immigration … on the shoulders of low-income Americans.”

The battle over the government shutdown pitted the president against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The fight between the two led Pelosi to bar Trump from delivering the State of the Union address in the House chamber. It’s not known how the temporary budget agreement will affect that situation.

Pelosi held a joint press conference with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) following Trump’s remarks.

“Disagreement over policy should never be a reason to shut down the government,” Pelosi said. “I am sad it has taken this long [but] I am glad we have come to a conclusion today about how to go forward in the next three weeks.”

 

 

 

What If Arens Had His Way?

Moshe Arens; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Moshe Arens, who died on Jan. 7 at 93, was one of the finest politicians in Israel’s history. He served as foreign minister and several stints as defense minister in the 1980s and ’90s. He discovered and groomed current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (but don’t hold it against him). He was gentle, wise, caring and optimistic. He loved Israel, even though he was not born in Israel. Perhaps he loved it as only someone who was not born in Israel can. We last spoke three or four months ago. The topic was his idea for a book he thought about writing. 

He was a thoughtful man, and his thoughtfulness often led him in directions not in line with a party or a government of which he was a member. As news of his death saddened me, I contemplated some of these instances. While he was still involved in public life, Arens was a member of the polite yet stubborn opposition to some of Israel’s most crucial decisions. Looking back at his actions, one can imagine an alternative history for Israel. A “what if” history. I think he would appreciate such intellectual exercise. 

What if Arens had the upper hand in the late 1970s, when he was part of a small faction opposing the peace agreement with Egypt? He never retracted his opposition to the Camp David Accords. Yes, he would say, peace with Egypt has its many advantages. And yet Arens believed that Israel’s decision to hand back all of Sinai to the Egyptians, to the last mile, was a strategic mistake that still haunts Israel. It was a precedent from which Israel can’t quite release itself. If Egypt got back the territory, why not Syria in the Golan Heights? Why not the 1967 line in the West Bank? Arens believed that Egypt didn’t have many cards at that time — that then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat couldn’t initiate another war if his maximalist demands were not met. He voted no. What if?

More than a decade later, Arens demanded action but was rebuffed by his boss, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. On Jan. 7, when veteran politicians reminisced about their relations with Arens, Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Sephardic-Charedi party Shas, said they were shouting at each other. Arens? Shouting? Apparently, this well-mannered man could do that when the stakes were high. And in the early ’90s, the stakes were high. The United States just launched operation Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and missiles were raining on Israel from the skies. 

“Moshe Arens believed that Israel’s decision to hand back all of Sinai to the Egyptians was a strategic mistake that still haunts Israel.”

But there was a problem: The United States was leading a well-forged coalition of many nations —  including Arab nations — against Iraq. And its leaders — President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State James Baker and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney — wanted Israel to sit out this one, so as not to hand the Arabs a reason or an excuse to abandon the coalition. In other words: Israel was asked to get beaten up by the bully – Iraq – and do nothing. 

This was not an easy request to swallow. Israel is not used to letting its neighbors attack it without paying a price. It is not used to letting others (the coalition) guarantee its security. Arens believed that Israel should act. Last year, a recording of an interview with then-Chief-of-Staff Gen. Dan Shomron was released in which Shomron describes how Arens — then the defense minister — approved a plan of attack. Arens didn’t realized that Shomron merely intended this to be a presentation of what Israel could do, not of what Israel ought do. Arens hurriedly called Cheney to warn that Israel was about to send in the air force. But in the cabinet meeting, the Israel Defense Forces took the the Americans’ side, and Arens, with several other ministers, remained in the minority.

Would the international coalition against Iraq collapse? Arens believed until his last day that Secretary of State James Baker was bluffing, and that the coalition would have survived an Israeli counterattack. Could Israel launch a successful operation against the scud missile launchers in western Iraq? Many military analysts have doubts. Was an Israeli response essential to maintaining its deterrence against Arab belligerents? It’s impossible to know. 

What if? Arens insisted that his positions concerning Egypt and Iraq stand the test of time, but didn’t waste his days rehashing past debates. When he celebrated his 90th birthday, he said that all his dreams came true. As I mourn his passing, I envy his peace of mind.

Former Miss Iraq Stakes Pro-Jewish Position in L.A. and Germany

Photo from Facebook

Beauty pageants are all supposed to be about world peace, unless you’re an Arab national posing with an Israeli in a selfie on social media.

A few months ago, Miss Earth Lebanon was stripped of her title after making a peace sign with Miss Earth Israel, an Israeli Arab. She claimed she didn’t know the contestant was Israeli because she spoke Arabic. In 2015, another Miss Lebanon was stripped of her title for daring to be pictured with the “Zionist enemy” at the Miss Universe pageant. After accusing Miss Israel of photo-bombing, she kept her title.

But since 2017, Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, never backed down after igniting a media firestorm after posing with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, at last year’s Miss Universe pageant with the simple Instagram caption: “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.”

Not only that, the Baghdad-born Idan, today a resident of Los Angeles, has recently doubled down on her rebellion against anti-Israel hate, in Germany of all places, where she was guest speaker at the Israel Congress in Frankfurt in November. She called it her “political coming out.”

“One day, I came across one fact, an ugly one that made feel utterly ashamed,” she told a crowd of several hundred German Israel supporters. “Knowing Iraq was on the wrong side of history during the Second World War, and to be today in Germany discussing how to reach peace that negates ethnic and religious entitlements, I hope that my fellow Iraqis will join me to be on the right side of history this time.” 

That’s a grand vision, given the anti-Israel propaganda among which Iraqis grow up. At the Frankfurt Convention Center, she recalled the anti-Israel and anti-American hate omnipresent in the media and on Baghdad streets. 

“Our everyday news consisted of Palestinian children throwing stones at Israeli soldiers holding weapons in front of them,” she said. “Then we heard 19 more Palestinians were killed as a result of a peaceful, weaponless protest against an unlawful, ruthless occupation.”

Two weeks after her German appearance, Idan was guest of honor at an Israeli consulate event held on Dec. 3 at The Sephardic Temple to remember Jews expelled from Arab lands.

“What is important tonight is honoring those Jews across Arab lands who lost their possessions, their homes and, in some cases, even their lives. All for the sake of preserving their faith, their beliefs and their identity,” she said in her keynote address. 

Speaking with the Journal backstage in Frankfurt (after being inundated with requests for selfies), Idan said that she never learned that Jews once thrived in her hometown before the Nazi-inspired Farhud pogrom of 1941 triggered a Jewish exodus.

“In the beginning, the first time I met Iraqi Jews, I was mystified,” she told the Journal, donning a sleeveless, low-cut black suit. “I was like: What? There were Jews in Iraq? This is the level of ignorance they kept us at and we didn’t even know that there were Jews and they kicked them out. I called my mom and dad: ‘You knew this?’ And they said: ‘Yes. It happened a long time ago.’ ” 

Today, she counts many Jews and Israelis as friends. Last summer, she visited Israel to spend time with Gandelsman and to tour Israel. “Iraqi Jewish restaurant serving bamya [okra]. Yummy!” she enthused on Instagram in June at the Jerusalem shuk. In Los Angeles, when she misses Iraqi home cooking, she opts for Jewish Middle Eastern restaurants. 

“The first time I met Iraqi Jews, I was mystified. I was 

like: What? There were Jews in Iraq?” 

— Sarah Idan

“The taste of the food, whether the fish or the kabob or the turshi [marinated vegetables] — everything tastes like the food that I had in Iraq. If I go to Persian or Lebanese restaurants, they taste a bit differently.”

Her transformation began at age 13 after the United States occupation of Iraq in 2003. 

“For the first time, I saw an American soldier in Baghdad,” she recalled in her Frankfurt speech. “I recited a chapter in the Quran as a prayer before death because I expected only one behavior from the solider: to shoot me. But the soldier came forward. He gave me a flower, and I knew that everything I had been taught was a lie” — including the idea that Israel invaded Arab lands.

The singer subsequently taught herself English via cassette tapes of American pop stars like Christina Aguilera and the band Westlife. She applied for a job with the U.S. Army in Iraq — a ticket to a green card. She moved to Southern California in 2009 and graduated in performing arts from the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Idan dresses like a Hollywood starlet, nothing like the stereotypical Muslim woman. Her name even sounds Jewish-Israeli, but “Sarah,” she said, also is revered in Islam, like Abraham. She was never physically coerced to pray in her home, unlike many of her Baghdadi peers. She considers herself a secular Muslim who understands the faith differently than most coreligionists.

“I wouldn’t say I’m religious but faithful,” she told the Journal. “More spiritual. I believe in God. I pray sometimes.”

And while the United States has given her the freedom to speak her mind, she still faces intimidation. She described getting dirty looks in Arabic strongholds like Glendale; a cosmetician who happened to be Iraqi treated her with suspicion. Death threats actually make her more defiant.

“At least if I die now, people will know what I stand for,” she said.

In Germany, Idan laid out her vision for Middle East peace, in true beauty-queen style, haters be damned.

“I say this to all the Arab countries: [Work] with Israel and Palestine by targeting terrorists who are controlling the West Bank and stopping those who fund them; by opening your doors to aid Palestinians and improve their means of life; by saving Palestinian children from the hands of militias; by providing them education and a chance to experience what a normal life is. Slowly but eventually, we are building a less violent generation.”


Orit Arfa is a journalist and author based in Berlin.

L.A. City Councilman Denounces Airbnb’s Israel Policy

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz appears at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust for a vigil commemorating the refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939. Photo by Jill Brown/Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz has joined the chorus of pro-Israel voices denouncing hospitality company Airbnb for its decision to delist properties located in the West Bank.

In a Dec. 20 letter to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, Koretz said Airbnb’s actions demonstrate “prejudice, ignorance and hypocrisy. Simply put, this is an act of anti-Semitism and sets a double standard.”

“Airbnb, Inc. currently lists properties in Northern Cyprus, Tibet, the Western Saharan region, and other disputed territories where people have been displaced,” the letter continues. “However, Jewish settlements are being singled out for delisting by Airbnb, Inc. The decision made by your company is based on the position of taking one side in a two-sided conflict. There is no reason to ban the Israeli side’s listings and not the others, except on the basis of anti-Semitic sentiment.”

Koretz concludes the letter saying he will be calling on L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer to see what options are available to “curtail or prohibit” Airbnb from operating in Los Angeles until “they have suspended their policy of singling out Jewish settlements.”

Beverly Hills City Council has also denounced Airbnb’s decision.

 

 

Wording of Survey’s Questions Matters

new survey by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland shows that an increasing number of Americans support a one-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories. “When one considers that many Israelis and Palestinians, as well as many Middle East experts, already believe that a two-state solution is no longer possible, especially given the large expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” Telhami writes, “it’s not hard to see why more people would be drawn to a one-state solution.”

Is this new finding important? It is and it isn’t.

It’s important because it shows that Israel fails to communicate its position to American audiences, especially Democratic voters and younger voters (of which 42 percent support a one-state solution).

It’s not important because the one-state solution is still not a viable option, and thus not an option.

Telhami conducts his poll every year, and almost every time, I write critically about it. This is because his polls, conducted under the pretense of being impartial, in fact raise the suspicion that they are an act of advocacy for certain positions.

Take the question of the one-state solution. What it offers is a mirage. “A one-state solution: A single democratic state in which both Jews and Arabs are full and equal citizens, covering all of what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territories.”

Sounds good? It does. In fact, I see no reason why Americans wouldn’t support such solution to a nagging problem. But what would happen if the survey question were reworded to reflect a more plausible outcome: “A one-state solution: An attempt to establish a single state that is likely to result in Jews and Arabs constantly fighting for control and spilling even more blood than today.” Would Americans still support it?

Another choice offered to Americans is this: “Do you favor the Jewishness of Israel more than its democracy” or “Israel’s democracy more than its Jewishness”?

Presented with this false dichotomy, most Americans give the answer you’d expect. They favor democracy (one wonders: should non-Jewish Americans even worry about Israel’s Jewishness?)

Telhami argues (in the publication Foreign Policy) that “What many read as a rising anti-Israeli sentiment among Democrats is mischaracterized; it reflects anger toward Israeli policies and … the values projected by the current Israeli government.”

The semantics Telhami uses here (and he is not alone) are simple: Place the bar for being anti-Israel so high that it becomes almost impossible to reach. That’s convenient, especially for anti-Israel activists.

I know that in left-wing circles it’s becoming popular to argue that being anti-Israel is not akin to being anti-Semitic. But read this question and see if it makes you feel somewhat uneasy: “How much influence do you believe the Israeli government has on American politics and policies?”

The answer, of course, is that the Jews (and by this, we mean the Jews of Israel — not the good Jews of America) might have too much influence. Fifty-five percent of Democrats think they do; 44 percent of young Americans think they do. Would they also say that the governments of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain or China have too much influence on American politics? I bet many of them would — but Telhami didn’t ask.

Americans want fairness, and hence many of them expect their government to “lean toward neither side” when “mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

But how does one measure “leaning?” Here is an example: If the U.S. government says, “We would not tolerate Palestinian suicide bombers killing innocent people in Tel Aviv,” does this count as “leaning” toward Israel, because it’s critical of something that only Palestinians do? Another example: If the U.S. government says, “We believe that Palestinian insistence on a right of return imperils any prospect for a successful peace process,” does this count as “leaning” toward Israel, because an impartial position would be to say, “Let’s compromise on a right of return for half the people”?

In other words, what if the U.S. government doesn’t “lean” toward the Israeli position but rather toward a more reasonable position that tends to be the Israeli position? Would Americans want their government to lean toward an unreasonable position for the sake of being impartial?

Airbnb Disputes Reports They Are Suspending Judea and Samaria Ban

Photo from Flickr.

Airbnb is disputing reports that they are suspending their policy of de-listing Israeli homes in Judea and Samaria.

Various Israeli media outlets had reported that, according to the Israeli tourism ministry, Airbnb was suspending their ban after meeting with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Monday. The company sent a statement to the Journal that read, “The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate.”

“Airbnb expressed its unequivocal rejection of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement and communicated its commitment to develop its business in Israel, enabling more tourists from around the world to enjoy the wonders of the country and its people,” the statement read. “We are here to meet with a variety of stakeholders and as a result of our meetings have an even deeper understanding that this is an incredibly complex and emotional issue.  Airbnb communicated that we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders.”

Haaretz reporter Noa Landau tweeted that she had received a statement from Airbnb in Hebrew saying that they would not be implementing their policy:

An Airbnb spokesperson told the Journal that the Hebrew statement “was released in error” and that the English one was the “correct statement.”

Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, said in a statement, “If Airbnb has reversed their position totally, it will be a recognition that boycotts are discriminatory and anti-peace. It will serve as a red line for companies and they will learn not to believe the vitriolic and misleading rhetoric from BDS lobby groups.”

“Boycotts against Jewish communities are an age-old Antisemitic tool and there was growing criticism by state legislatures, elected officials and by Airbnb customers around the world,” Rothstein added. “Once Airbnb made their egregious announcement singling out Israel for boycott, StandWithUs set up a system that enabled nearly 10,000 people to write letters to the company expressing their outrage.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told the Journal in a phone interview that he was confident that Airbnb will eventually “reverse its discriminatory decision.”

“We will not let up on pressure until they do so,” Boteach said. “They cannot both condemn BDS and engage in it at the same time. The time for discrimination against Jews and Israel is at an end.”

Boteach had put an ad into The Washington Post a week earlier calling Airbnb’s policy anti-Semitic:

Seven Israelis, Including Pregnant Woman, Wounded in Palestinian Terror Attack

Israeli security forces and emergency personnel work at the scene of what an initial report from the Israeli army said was a shooting attack, near the Israeli settlement of Ofra, in the occupied West Bank December 9, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Seven Israelis were wounded in a Palestinian terrorist attack on Sunday night close to the Ofra community in Judea and Samaria.

At around 9:30 p.m., a Palestinian from a moving vehicle opened fire on a crowd of Israelis at a bus stop. Among those shot was Shira Ish-Ran, 21, who was 30 weeks pregnant.

The gunshot wounds forced doctors to perform an emergency Caesarean section; the baby’s condition has deteriorated after being first labeled as “stable.” Ish-Ran’s condition is improving, although she is still in serious condition.

The other wounded individuals, including Ish-Ran’s husband, Amichai, are expected to survive their injuries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack as “monstrous.”

We are all praying for the recovery of the wounded in the terrible terror attack yesterday and support the doctors who are fighting for the baby’s life,” Netanyahu said. “I think it’s useless to expect condemnation from the Palestinian Authority. They only contribute to the incitement.”

U.S. Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tweeted:

Hamas spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou praised the terror attack as “heroic” as a means of “resisting the Zionist occupation and its settlers” in a Facebook post.

“It proves that any attempt to condemn the Palestinian resistance will fail in the face of the desire and valiance of our Palestinian people,” al-Qanou wrote.

The investigation to capture the terrorist remains ongoing.

ADL to Airbnb: ‘We Were Dismayed’ By Decision to Stop Providing Services to Israeli Settlements

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote a letter to Airbnb expressing their dismay at the organization’s decision to stop providing services to Israeli communities in the West Bank.

Greenblatt began the letter by denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic.

Many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination – along with many of the strategies employed in BDS campaigns – are anti-Semitic,” Greenblatt wrote. “Many individuals involved in the starting and running of BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. And, all too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.”

Greenblatt added that this is why they “were dismayed to read about Airbnb’s recent announcement to not list rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

“With this decision, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its supporters will be further emboldened and view it as a victory for their hateful campaign against Israel,” Greenblatt wrote.

Greenblatt noted that Airbnb still provides services to areas in which people have been displaced, such as Northern Cyprus and the Western Sahara, which suggests a “double standard” against Israel.

Greenblatt then asked if Airbnb if they would make similar decisions for other “disputed areas,” what experts they consulted on them matter, how providing services to Israeli communites contributes “to existing human suffering,” and if they would stop providing listings for East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The ADL CEO also took issue with Airbnb’s contention that the communities in the West Bank are the center of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“During the Oslo Peace Process, Israel offered the Palestinians significant land concessions in the West Bank, but the Palestinian team walked away from the deal,” Greenblatt wrote. “Instead of working to promote peace, there are voices in Palestinian society as well as others in the Arab world, who reject Israel’s legitimacy and call for a violent end to Israel itself. Unfortunately, the ‘core of the dispute’ is that too many do not want a Jewish state to exist.”

In a statement sent to the Journal via email, an Airbnb spokesperson said, “Israel is a special place and our over 22,000 hosts are special people who have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests to Israel. We understand that this is a hard and complicated issue, we appreciate everyone’s perspective and we hope to meet with the ADL as soon as possible to discuss this matter.”

The spokesperson added that their guidelines would in fact extend to areas such as the Western Sahara region and that they would still provide listings to Israeli homes in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Diaspora Jews’ Role in Shaping Israel’s Future

When many of us enter our synagogues, we see two flags framing the Aron Kodesh: the flag of the United States and the flag of Israel. 

Looking at the American flag, we may think about how much this country has changed over the past two years and how deeply concerned we are about its direction. Nevertheless, as disheartened as we may feel, we are empowered by the knowledge that we have the right, responsibility and ability to fight for what we believe.

Our thoughts about the Israeli flag are more complicated. Many of us think about how much Israel has changed and how concerned we are about some of its policies, whether they relate to the coercive role of state religion or to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

We know that the Star of David at the center of the Israeli flag is a Jewish star. What Israel does helps define us; what we do helps define Israel. Yet many American Jews still believe we must constrain our words and actions when it comes to the policies that are shaping the very future of the Jewish state.

To be sure, there is a growing recognition of Israel-Diaspora interdependency, as Dennis Ross wrote in The New Republic: “The Israeli government must pay more attention to the sensitivities in the outside Jewish world, particularly when the state declares itself to be the nation-state of the Jewish people. That requires its leaders to see themselves as representing the Jewish communities outside of Israel as well.”

At the same time, Ross continues, “Diaspora Jewry should also acknowledge a basic reality: When it comes to security, it is Israelis who live in a region where threats are commonplace and peace is not. … When it comes to security issues, the Diaspora’s considerations must be secondary to Israel’s.”

Ross’ distinction may be familiar but it is no longer functional. The conventional wisdom, that American Jews can be involved in “who is a Jew” or helping victims of terror, but not in matters related to West Bank settlements or attacks on Israel’s democratic institutions, is outdated.

Indeed, perhaps the most generous American donor to Israeli causes, Sheldon Adelson, doesn’t abide by this distinction. Yes, he supports Israelis who are researching how to cure cancer and strengthening Jewish identity. And, although he is not an Israeli citizen and cannot vote in an Israeli election, Adelson also gives tens of millions of dollars to Israeli institutions that advocate foreign and defense policies reflecting his own perspective on what is best for Israel. Indeed, his funding also enables these same organizations to thwart the efforts of Israelis who think differently.

“We know that the Star of David at the center of the Israeli flag is a Jewish star. What Israel does helps define us; what we do helps define Israel. “

I believe that Adelson, who certainly sees the Jewish star at the center of the Israeli flag, presents us with a challenge: Will those of us who are troubled by policies we believe put the future of a Jewish, democratic state at risk, embrace our right and the responsibility as Jews to support the causes, organizations, and policies that reflect our values and our convictions?

I hope we will. I hope we will assert the right and duty of all American Jews to do the same:

Whether they are bat mitzvah girls denied an aliyah at the Kotel …

or college students who feel isolated on campus — attacked for their support of Israel but ostracized for speaking out against Israeli settlements …

or community leaders concerned about the rise on anti-Semitism …

or pro-Israel activists who, like hundreds of Israeli generals, believe that annexing the West Bank would weaken Israel’s security and eventually jeopardize American support for Israel …

We must do so, for the sake of Israel, for the sake of what we hold dear at home, and for the sake of our children, many of whom are turning away from Israel because they don’t hear us sharing their concerns about the direction the country is heading.

If we believe the Jewish star to be ours, each one of us must live by our values, and thereby help shape the future of the Jewish state.


Jonathan Jacoby is the recipient of this year’s Career Achievement Award from the Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California.

Airbnb to Stop Providing Services to Judea, Samaria

Airbnb announced on Nov. 19 that they will no longer put up listings from Judea and Samaria on their website.

In a statement, the organization wrote that they had previously been operating in the area “as allowed by law.”

After talking to various legal experts, Airbnb decided to “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“This is a controversial issue,” the statement read. “There are many strong views as it relates to lands that have been the subject of historic and intense disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Airbnb has deep respect for those views. Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow.”

Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, told Reuters, “When they [Airbnb] make such a decision, they get involved with politics, which … is going to defeat the actual purpose of the enterprise itself,” pointing out that the company lauds itself for bringing people together.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper called Airbnb’s decision an act of “double standard anti-Semitism.”

“We take note that Airbnb has no problem doing business in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, which names schools and shopping centers in honor of mass murderers who have killed innocent civilians and have a ‘pay to slay’ policy when it comes to killing Jews,” Hier and Cooper said in a statement. “We don’t expect Airbnb to be geo-political experts, but today’s draconian and unjust move, which only empowers extremists and terrorists, merits only one response—taking our community’s business elsewhere.”

Palestinian Terrorist Indicted for Murdering Ari Fuld

Khalil Jabarin, 17, was indicted on Oct. 21  at a West Bank military court for murdering Israeli-American Ari Fuld.

The Times of Israel reports that Jabarin was officially charged with intentionally causing death, as well as other charges. Jabarin has been in custody since Fuld’s murder.

Video footage shows Jabarin stabbing Fuld in the back multiple times outside of a West Bank shopping mall before charging toward a falafel waitress with his knife. Fuld pursued Jabarin and shot at him before collapsing.

Fuld, 45, was known for his pro-Israel activism and left behind his wife and four children. The Journal’s video interview with Fuld can be seen here.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: New-State or Pre-State Solution?

When it comes to the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there’s one simple fact that pretty much everyone agrees with: The attempts at a “two-state solution” have been a stunning failure.

It’s certainly not for lack of trying. Since the famous handshake in 1993 that launched the Oslo Accords, it’s safe to say that no global conflict has taken up more political and diplomatic energy.

It’s astonishing that after the investment of so much energy, the parties are even further apart today than they were 25 years ago.

For many Israelis, this status quo is unacceptable. Last week, I met two activist groups with distinct initiatives for breaking the logjam.

My friend Dan Adler introduced me to the first initiative, called The New State Solution (NSS). I had heard and read about them, and knew that their idea was starting to gain some traction.

The basic premise of the New State Solution is to focus on what’s possible. Since making any kind of deal in the West Bank has proved virtually impossible, why not focus on Gaza first?

“The basic premise of the New State Solution is to focus on what’s possible. Since making any kind of deal in the West Bank has proved virtually impossible, why not focus on Gaza first?”

Their idea is to take advantage of the renewed cooperation between Israel and Egypt to create an expanded Palestinian state in Gaza, using parts of the Sinai that now are controlled by Egypt. Their plan calls for implementing a massive humanitarian and economic build-up in Gaza that would shift the center of gravity of the conflict and create a “win” for all parties.

The co-founders of the initiative, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans Benjamin Anthony and Brigadier General (Ret) Amir Avivi, believe that what the conflict needs, more than anything, is a “paradigm shift.” They know their idea is not perfect and faces challenges (among them: Will Egypt agree to give up land?), but they believe it is the most realistic of many bad options. You can see all the details on their website (newstatesolution.org).

The second group I met is the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), which was founded in 1993 and “works to shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution consistent with Israel’s security.”

Like most American and Israeli Jews, the IPF has not given up on the two-state solution, for the oft-stated reason that staying in the West Bank threatens the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In recent years, the IPF has teamed up with Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), a nonpartisan movement of retired IDF generals and security experts that works to “extricate Israel from the current impasse” as a first step toward an eventual agreement. 

The IPF approach is the reverse of the NSS approach. Instead of avoiding the incredibly difficult problem of extricating Israel from the West Bank, it is doubling down. It believes its comprehensive “security first” approach will manage the security risk and offer an acceptable trade-off.

What has added urgency is talk of “annexation” among current government coalition members. In a recent study, CIS concluded that “as a determined political annexationist minority accelerates moves toward annexation — both creeping and legislated — the ensuing shockwaves threaten to undermine Israel’s security, its Jewish-democratic character, its relations with its neighbors, its relationship with the Diaspora, and the attitude of the international community toward the country.”

All of this reminds me of the most honest and concise description I’ve ever heard of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from my friend Yossi Klein Halevi: “Staying in the West Bank is an existential threat to Israel; leaving the West Bank is an existential threat to Israel.”

Notwithstanding the complexities, these two groups are charging ahead to try to break the status quo. Whether by focusing on Gaza or doubling down on the West Bank, they realize that a dark clock is ticking louder and louder. 

“In the absence of negotiations, is there anything that Israel can do on its own immediately to help preserve its future?”

The fundamental problem in recent years has been an inability to get the parties to the negotiating table and a general sense that any potential deal would be dead on arrival.

Maybe this is why the IPF has been promoting “interim steps” that Israel can take to safeguard the viability of a two-state solution, such as limiting settlement construction in the main settlement blocks and improving the economic and humanitarian situation on the ground.

When I met the representatives from IPF, I glibly suggested that their interim plan would be like a “pre-state solution.” I have no idea whether they will use that term, but the point I was making was this: Many of us are simply exhausted with waiting for the parties to get together and negotiate. As the years go by, the price of waiting keeps getting higher. We can’t wait forever.

So, the question becomes: In the absence of negotiations, is there anything that Israel can do on its own immediately to help preserve its future?

I heard two distinct answers last week. Whether it’s the New-State Solution or the Pre-State Solution, they both said the same thing: We’re tired of waiting.

IDF: Palestinian Terrorist Kills Two Israelis at Workplace

Screenshot from Twitter.

A 23-year-old Palestinian terrorist allegedly murdered two Israelis on Sunday, shooting them both to death and wounding another.

The alleged terrorist, who has been identified by the IDF as Ashraf Na’alowa, worked as an electrician at the Alon Group factory in the Barkan Industrial Zone in the Samaria region, according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. He reportedly took a pair of handcuffs at the factory warehouse and slapped them on the factory’s secretary, 29-year-old Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, and shot her to death with an M16 rifle he had hidden in his bag.

Na’alowa then allegedly shot 35-year-old Ziv Hajbi fatally, who was an accountant at the factory; a third woman was also shot, but she survived with a moderate wound in her upper body.

According to the IDF, Na’alowa is still at large and is believed to be from Shuweika village in the northern West Bank. The IDF raided the village and arrested Na’alowa’s brother and detained his sister. Na’alowa wrote on Facebook on Sunday before the shooting that he was “waiting for [Allah].”

Palestinian Media Watch noted that a Fatah official blamed Israel for being “incapable of protecting anyone that steals the Palestinian land.” Hamas and Islamic Jihad both praised the murders, calling them “heroic” and “natural.”

Yehezekel was laid to rest on Sunday, with hundreds attending her funeral.

“I’m sorry I was not there with you,” Yehezekel’s father said during his eulogy. “Unfortunately I couldn’t make it in time. I promise you that Guy [her husband] and Kai [Yehezekel’s 1-year-old son] will have everything they need. I promise I’ll take care of them the same way I used to take care of you. You can rest in peace.”

Hajbi was laid to rest on Monday, leaving behind his wife Natalie and their three children.

“I’m walking and crying,” Hajbi’s brother Or said in his eulogy. “Words are not coming out. I want to awake from this nightmare so much and can’t do it. I didn’t want to become part of the bereaved.”

State Department Announces More Than $200 Million in Cuts to Palestinians

REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

The State Department announced on August 24 that there are going to be more than $200 million in cuts from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The announcement states that the department reviewed the aid they are giving to Palestinians at the behest of President Trump and concluded that the millions of dollars will instead go to “high-priority projects elsewhere.”

“This decision takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation,” the statement reads.

The Trump administration had initially planned to provide $251 million in funding to the Palestinians in 2018. According to the Washington Free Beacon, the decision to make the cuts came from the administration’s desire to “no longer enable the Palestinian Authority and those in the Hamas terrorist government to use aid dollars in their war against Israel.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s executive committee, called the cuts “cheap political blackmail.”

“There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation,” Ashrawi said. “The U.S. administration has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources; now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “The PLO was responsible for scores of acts of terrorism from its creation, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians.”

BREAKING: Palestinian Terrorist Kills One Israeli, Injures Two Others in Town of Adam [UPDATED]

Screenshot from Twitter.

UPDATE 3: The 31-year-old victim who was in critical condition has died, according to the Times of Israel’s Jacob Magid.

UPDATE 2: Palestinian media has identified the terrorist as 17-year-old Mohamed Tariq Yousef, who before the attack called for “a great revolt” on Facebook against Israel.

Additionally, Israel Hatzolah is still the only Israeli media outlet to report that one of the victims died. Other news outlets are reporting that one of the victims in his 30s is in critical condition and another in his 50s is in serious but stable condition.

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 1: Times of Israel reporter James Magid has more details:

ORIGINAL:

Three Israelis have been stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist in the Adam (Geva Binyamin) community three miles northeast of Jerusalem near the West Bank, according to Israeli media.

The 16-year-old terrorist reportedly broke into an Israeli home and committed the stabbing. One of the victims reportedly died from his stab wounds. Another is in serious condition. The third victim is reportedly only moderately injured.

The terrorist has been shot and killed. Authorities are searching for a possible accomplice. Residents have been urged to remain inside their homes.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement sent to the Journal, “Palestinian Authority and Hamas brainwashing another generation pays off  when a 16 year-old Palestinian attacks an Israeli home leaving one dead and two injured. The U.N.’s refusal to ever condemn Palestinian terrorism makes then complicit in this and the continuing terrorist campaign against Jews.”

More to come.

Follow Aaron Bandler on Twitter. Send tips to aaronb@jewishjournal.com.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: curiosity and other values

Prolific author Joseph Telushkin discusses some of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world, including a need for more curiosity.

“If people are only going to read things that reinforce what they believe… they’re going to end up demonizing the people that disagree with them.” -Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

From left: David Suissa and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Check out this episode!

Dr. Micah Goodman: Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Israeli scholar Micah Goodman weighs in on the world’s most intractable conflict — and his ideas for a solution. He explains it all in his bestselling new book, Catch 67, which uses philosophical insights to tackle the Israel–Palestinian conflict.

“Everyone always talks about solving or not solving the conflict. What about shrinking the conflict?” -Dr. Micah Goodman

 

David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman in the studios

From left: David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman

Check out this episode!

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

Shaul Judelman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Killed in West Bank Shooting

Screenshot from Twitter.

An Israeli rabbi was murdered in a drive-by shooting on nearby the Havat Gilat outpost.

The victim, 35-year-old Rabbi Raziel Shevach, was driving along Route 60 close to his home in the outpost when gunmen fired 22 bullets at his car as they drove by. Shevach was stricken multiple times in his neck and chest, and eventually succumbed to his injuries at Kfar Saba Meir Medical Center.

A friend of Shevach’s, Rabbi Yehoshua Gelbard, told Haaretz, “Rabbi Raziel was a rare combination of a smart student and devoted to God, who was kind to everyone who surrounded him.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the shooting.

“I am expressing my deep sorrow and sending condolences to the family of Raziel Shevach, who was murdered tonight by a despicable terrorist,” said Netanyahu. “Security forces will do everything possible to reach the contemptible murderer and the State of Israel will bring him to justice.”

Indeed, Israeli forces shut down Route 60 and have been searching for the terrorists that murdered Shevach.

Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani blamed the Palestinian Authority for the terror attack due to their policy of paying terrorists. Hamas had nothing but kind words for Shevach’s murderers.

“We bless the heroic Nablus operation which comes as a result of the Zionist occupation’s violations and crimes at the expense of our people in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” the terror organization said in a statement.

Islamic Jihad praised the attack as well.

Shevach leaves behind his wife and six children. His oldest child is 11 years old and his youngest child is eight months old.

News Notes: West Bank Annexation, BDS battle, asylum seekers

1.

In the news: Likud party calls for de-facto annexation of Israeli settlements.

More than three years ago I made the following argument: “It’s not easy to mark the exact moment when a peripheral idea suddenly becomes mainstream. But it’s safe to say that in today’s Israel the worrisome idea of annexing land in the West Bank is no longer marginal or considered as extreme as it once was”. Still, the recent Likud vote in support of annexation does not worry me – at least no more than I was worried three years ago.

Why?

  1. Because it was a political move with no actual consequences.
  2. Because it does not have the support of the more serious leaders of Israel.
  3. Because the word “annexation” means nothing until all other aspects of annexation are clarified.

In other words: saying “annexation” is no more than a simple statement: Israel ought not leave Judea and Samaria. As a statement, it does not startle me. As a plan – it is no plan. Can Israel stay? What will be the price of it? What happens with the Palestinians who live there? Until these question have a clear and reasonable answer, annexation is a childish provocation, not a real threat.

2.

In the news: Organizations that promote a boycott of Israel are no longer welcome there.

There is no reason for BDS activist to come to Israel other than make trouble. There is no reason for Israel not to block the entrance into the country of people whose main motivation is to make trouble. The rest is noise, the rest is political propaganda: “anti-Democratic measure” (it is not, Israeli citizens can still oppose Israeli policies), “the policy of autocracies” (not true – a Democratic has the right to decide not to let certain people in, and most democracies do), “will drive young Jews away from Israel” (tough luck, not everything Israel does is aimed at gaining the approval of young liberal Jews).

The bottom line is simple: you want to harm Israel – don’t expect Israel to accept you with open arms. You want to harm Israel – don’t expect Israel to be sensitive to your hurt feelings.

3.

In the news: Israel offers to pay African migrants to leave, threatens jail.

The debate over how to deal with people who seek asylum in Israel has two main components:

  1. Does Israel have the right to block the entrance, or deport, people it does not want as citizens.
  2. What measures can Israel take to achieve such goal.

That we have trouble having this debate is any sensible way is due to the fact that the two camps having this debate do not believe that the motivation of the other side. There are those believing that the other side – while saying he is for a fair treatment of asylum seekers – truly seeks to rob Israel of its right to keep its entry gate. There are those believing that the other side – while saying he merely wants to keep Israel’s cohesive character – are willing to treat asylum seekers cruelty and inhumanly.

In truth, most Israelis – not activists, politicians, headline grabbers, populists – believe is quite simple: keep Israel cohesive, and don’t open the gates to people disrupting its cohesiveness. But also refrain from being cruel, or racist, or inhuman. To achieve such goal, the main challenge is not one of policy, but rather of mutual trust.

Over 108 People Injured in “Day of Rage” Protests

A Palestinian protester prepares to burn a U.S. flag during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Over 108 people have been injured in what’s known as “Day of Rage” protests in response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to start the process of moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Palestine Red Crescent Society claimed they had treated over 108 people who were injured in various protests throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Here is a snapshot of what the protests have looked like:

Additionally, a man in Beit Jalal drove his car into several other cars, wounding seven people and damaging 22 cars.

Israeli soldiers deployed rubber bullets and tear gas to clamp down on the protests.

More riots are expected to occur on Friday, as Hamas is calling for the “Intifada of Jerusalem and the West Bank’s Freedom” to occur on that day.

Hamas’ call for an intifada comes after three rockets were launched into Israel on Thursday from the Gaza Strip. Israel responded by bombing six Islamic Jihad and Hamas locations. The al-Qaeda affiliate Tawhid al-Jihad is saying that they’re the ones who fired the rockets into Israel.

Despite the violence and threats of further violence, the Trump administration is confident that the violence will subside and that the Palestinian Authority will realize that the only way they can achieve statehood is through a U.S.-facilitated peace deal.

“We know there will be short term pain, but in the long term, this action will help with those conversations,” a White House official told the Jerusalem Post.

Times of Israel Middle East analyst Avi Issachoroff noted that the Palestinian Authority is behind the protests.

“The Palestinian Authority and Fatah are organizing the rallies in the city centers, but a key question is whether the Palestinian security services will stop demonstrators from reaching the potential flashpoints,” wrote Issachoroff. “In light of the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim consensus against US President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem, PA security may receive orders not to step in to block protesters on their way to the checkpoints, except, perhaps, to prevent the use of firearms.”

The violence and threats of further violence is why some people have been critical of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Others argue that the move will eventually cause violence to decline because the Palestinians won’t be able to use violence as a means to extract Jerusalem from the Israelis in future negotiations.

Palestinian Terrorist Injures Two Israelis in West Bank

Screenshot from Twitter.

A Palestinian terrorist injured two people in the West Bank on Friday morning through the use of a vehicle.

The terrorist, who is 17 years old and has yet to be identified publicly, rammed into two Israelis at two different West Bank locations. The terrorist struck the first victim, 70-year-old David Ramati, nearby the Efrat settlement with his car going at 60 miles per hour while having “a big smile on his face.”

The second victim, 35-year-old Even Ezer Holaring, was struck at the Gush Etzion Junction. The terrorist proceeded to exit the vehicle and attempted to stab Israeli soldiers. He was eventually shot by Israeli soldiers and is currently in critical condition.

Ramati is currently hospitalized with a head injury that is not believed to be serious. Holaring is in serious condition with an intracranial hemorrhage.

“His condition is very serious and I am asking everyone to pray for him,” said Holaring’s wife in a video to the hospital.

No Israeli soldiers were harmed in the attack.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the attacks by establishing a checkpoint at the West Bank village of Halhul.

“IDF troops are enforcing breathing closure on Halhul village, from which the terrorist came, in order to prevent additional assailants from leaving the village,” the IDF said in a statement.

The terrorist’s family is being interrogated for more information.

White House explains redirected funds to Palestinians

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Donald Trump at he White House on May 3. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

A White House official confirmed Jewish Insider’s report on Wednesday that the Trump administration had quietly transferred an additional $20 million to Palestinian wastewater programs after the funds were frozen from an Egyptian economic aid package. “The State Department came to us and said they had identified this particular piece of money and these were, if I recall, FY2016 (Fiscal Year) funds that disappear at the end of September,” the White House official told Jewish Insider last week.

[This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

However, the Trump administration source objected to an assertion made by a Congressional aide that the Trump administration was rushing to move the funds to West Bank water programs before the Taylor Force Act could be passed. Last month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Taylor Force Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would cut off all U.S. economic aid that “directly benefits” the P.A. until they cease payments to families of terrorists. “There was a particular window for this so that the money would be used. TFA (Taylor Force Act) would have no impact on this even if they passed it tomorrow. There wasn’t an ‘oh my gosh, let’s get this money before Taylor Force passes,’” the White House official added.

The official said that there were numerous Palestinian projects that the U.S. would like to support. “But when you have terrorists stabbing American citizens in the back and tax paying dollars used to support these people, the President said very clearly to President Abbas in both Washington and Bethlehem in May, this is intolerable to us,” the source emphasized.

On a separate note, the White House official declined to opine regarding an announcement from Hamas last week that the U.S. designated terror group would dissolve the Gaza administrative committee and move towards a unity government. “Our feeling is very much wait and see. There have been lots of attempts at this before,” the White House official noted. “We appreciate the Egyptians (mediation) efforts to try and come to some resolution to do this.”

After Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections, the Islamist party joined with Fatah to form a national unity government in March 2007. The Bush Administration condemned this Palestinian government and refused to provide it with any assistance. This policy lasted until June 2007 when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the unity government following Hamas’ military coup in Gaza. Given the longstanding US policy of boycotting Hamas, any openness by the Trump administration towards the Islamist group playing some sort of internationally recognized political role is considered noteworthy.

Abbas rebuked U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman during his September 20 speech at the U.N. General Assembly for referring to the “alleged occupation” of Palestinian territories. When asked if the White House agrees with Friedman regarding the “alleged occupation” or the State Department that quickly clarified its decades old policy of calling the West Bank “occupied territory,” the White House official responded, “That’s simply not my question to answer. I am going to let David (Friedman) speak to that. It wasn’t my call. My personal views aren’t really relevant. That was his statement so I would refer that to him.”

Despite some reports that the U.S. is planning a regional summit with Israel and Arab Gulf states to accelerate the peace process, the Trump administration official noted that no such meeting is currently in the works.

The White House official declined to elaborate on the timetable when the U.S. plans to present Israelis and Palestinians with its peace plan or if there have been any concrete advancements towards peace during talks with Netanyahu or Abbas.

Asked what options the administration was considering, in light of the President’s unwillingness to exclusively back a two state solution,  the White House official explained, “It goes back to the other question. The President said one state or two states: it’s for the two parties to agree on. It’s not for us to say: here are your options.”

Lavishing praise on Netanyahu’s UN address, the White House source explained, “It was a very strong speech. Obviously, the President appreciated the strong expression of support. It doesn’t make us unhappy to have the Prime Minister of Israel very pleased with President Trump’s speech and perhaps the Venezuelans, Iranians and North Koreans less so. It draws a very clear contrast between the leaders of other countries. I thought the very positive message this year about what Israel offers the world was extremely valuable.”