Science overturns evolution hypothesis

eurekalert.org

Scientists engineer animals with ancient genes to test causes of evolution

Press release, January 13, 2017

University of Chicago Medical Center

IMAGE
IMAGE: A transgenic fruit fly engineered to carry the alcohol dehydrogenase gene as it existed about 4 million years ago. Thousands of these ‘ancestralized’ flies were bred and studied for their… view more

Credit: Kathleen Gordon

Scientists at the University of Chicago have created the first genetically modified animals containing reconstructed ancient genes, which they used to test the evolutionary effects of genetic changes that happened in the deep past on the animals’ biology and fitness.

The research, published early online in Nature Ecology & Evolution on Jan. 13, is a major step forward for efforts to study the genetic basis of adaptation and evolution. The specific findings, involving the fruit fly’s ability to break down alcohol in rotting fruit, overturn a widely-held hypothesis about the molecular causes of one of evolutionary biology’s classic cases of adaptation.

“One of the major goals of modern evolutionary biology is to identify the genes that caused species to adapt to new environments, but it’s been hard to do that directly, because we’ve had no way to test the effects of ancient genes on animal biology,” said Mo Siddiq, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, one of the study’s lead scientists.

“We realized we could overcome this problem by combining two recently developed methods–statistical reconstruction of ancient gene sequences and engineering of transgenic animals,” he said.

Until recently, most studies of molecular adaptation have analyzed gene sequences to identify “signatures of selection”–patterns suggesting that a gene changed so quickly during its evolution that selection is likely to have been the cause.  The evidence from this approach is only circumstantial, however, because genes can evolve quickly for many reasons, such as chance, fluctuations in population size, or selection for functions unrelated to the environmental conditions to which the organism is thought to have adapted.

Siddiq and his advisor, Joe Thornton, PhD, professor of ecology and evolution and human genetics at the University of Chicago, wanted to directly test the effects of a gene’s evolution on adaptation. Thornton has pioneered methods for reconstructing ancestral genes–statistically determining their sequences from large databases of present-day sequences, then synthesizing them and experimentally studying their molecular properties in the laboratory. This strategy has yielded major insights into the mechanisms by which biochemical functions evolve.

Thornton and Siddiq reasoned that by combining ancestral gene reconstruction with techniques for engineering transgenic animals, they could study how genetic changes that occurred in the deep past affected whole organisms-their development, physiology, and even their fitness.

“This strategy of engineering ‘ancestralized animals’ could be applied to many evolutionary questions,” Thornton said. “For the first test case, we chose a classic example of adaptation-how fruit flies evolved the ability to survive the high alcohol concentrations found in rotting fruit. We found that the accepted wisdom about the molecular causes of the flies’ evolution is simply wrong.”

The fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster is one of the most studied organisms in genetics and evolution.  In the wild, D. melanogaster lives in alcohol-rich rotting fruit, tolerating far higher alcohol concentrations than its closest relatives, which live on other food sources. Twenty-five years ago at the University of Chicago, biologists Martin Kreitman and John McDonald invented a new statistical method for finding signatures of selection, which remains to this day one of the most widely used methods in molecular evolution. They demonstrated it on the alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh) gene–the gene for the enzyme that breaks down alcohol inside cells–from this group of flies.  Adh had a strong signature of selection, and it was already known that D. melanogaster flies break down alcohol faster than their relatives. So, the idea that the Adh enzyme was the cause of the fruit fly’s adaptation to ethanol became the first accepted case of a specific gene that mediated adaptive evolution of a species.

Siddiq and Thornton realized that this hypothesis could be tested directly using the new technologies.  Siddiq first inferred the sequences of ancient Adh genes from just before and just after D. melanogaster evolved its ethanol tolerance, some two to four million years ago. He synthesized these genes biochemically, expressed them, and used biochemical methods to measure their ability to break down alcohol in a test tube. The results were surprising: the genetic changes that occurred during the evolution of D. melanogaster had no detectable effect on the protein’s function.

Working with collaborators David Loehlin at the University of Wisconsin and Kristi Montooth at the University of Nebraska, Siddiq then created and characterized transgenic flies containing the reconstructed ancestral forms of Adh. They bred thousands of these “ancestralized” flies, tested how quickly they could break down alcohol, and how well the larvae and adult flies survived when raised on food with high alcohol content.  Surprisingly, the transgenic flies carrying the more recent Adh were no better at metabolizing alcohol than flies carrying the more ancient form of Adh.  Even more strikingly, they were no better able to grow or survive on increasing alcohol concentrations. Thus, none of the predictions of the classic version of the story were fulfilled. There is no doubt that D. melanogaster did adapt to high-alcohol food sources during its evolution, but not because of changes in the Adh enzyme.

“The Adh story was accepted because the ecology, physiology, and the statistical signature of selection all pointed in the same direction. But three lines of circumstantial evidence don’t make an airtight case,” Thornton said. “That’s why we wanted to test the hypothesis directly, now that we finally have the means to do so.”

Siddiq and Thornton hope that the strategy of making ancestralized transgenics will become the gold standard in the field to decisively determine the historical changes in genes to their changes on organisms’ biology and fitness.

For his part, Kreitman, who is still a professor of ecology and evolution at UChicago, has been supportive of the new research, helping advise Siddiq on the project and sharing his vast knowledge about molecular evolution and Drosophila genetics.

“From the beginning, Marty was excited about our experiments, and he was just as supportive when our results overturned well-known conclusions based on his past work,” Siddiq said. “I think that’s extremely inspiring.”

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The study, “Experimental test and refutation of a classic case of molecular adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster,” was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Life Sciences Research Foundation.

About the University of Chicago Medicine

The University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences is one of the nation’s leading academic medical institutions. It comprises the Pritzker School of Medicine, a top 10 medical school in the nation; the University of Chicago Biomedical Sciences Division; and the University of Chicago Medical Center, which recently opened the Center for Care and Discovery, a $700 million specialty medical facility. Twelve Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine have been affiliated with the University of Chicago Medicine.

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Lies about Israel

 Debunking 11 More False Assumptions Regarding Israel

Amb. Alan Baker, January 10, 2017

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

jcpa.org

No. 608  January 2017

FALSE

Further to the recent publication of “Ten False Assumptions Regarding Israel,” which addressed many of the widely-held and universally-disseminated false and mistaken assumptions regarding Israel, a number of additional false assumptions – some even more willful and malicious – are addressed.

1. “Israel is committing genocide, mass murder and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian People” – a false and malicious blood-libel.

  • This dangerous, cynical and dishonest allegation has become one of the “big lies” disseminated on campuses and within the international human rights community.

    Its proponents include individuals and organizations that purport to advocate constitutional and human rights, but in fact indulge in the most acute form of legal acrobatics and distortion of facts.

    They selectively and maliciously misinterpret and twist legal principles, statements, and writings in order to malign Israel and call into question its very legitimacy and basis for its existence.

  • The proponents of this blood libel cynically manipulate and reverse historical fact by accusing Israel of entertaining an “incipiently genocidal mentality towards Arab society,”1 and of committing out of revenge, the very acts perpetrated against the Jewish people.
  • The term “genocide” was coined in 1944 by the Jewish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, whose entire family was exterminated by the Nazis in Poland for being Jews.2
  • Contrary to these false accusations:
    • Israel has never advocated, devised or entertained any plan, design or campaign, systematic or otherwise, to undermine or destroy the Palestinian people, or to act out of revenge or despair.
    • Israel, the Jewish people, and Zionist movement have never entertained and are prevented both constitutionally and morally from maintaining or implementing any military, political, religious, economic or cultural campaign, or policy intended to destroy the national, ethnical, racial, and religious structure of the Palestinian people.
    • Israel has never sought to prejudice the essential foundations of life of the Palestinian people, or even to question its right to exist as a people.
    • Israel has not indulged in mass-murder.
    • Israel does not engage in ethnic cleansing, which runs solidly against the moral, religious, and ethical codes of the Jewish people.
  • In its 1948, Declaration of Independence, Israel committed itself to ensuring “freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel and complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex.”3
  • Israel undertook to guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture. It committed itself to be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Despite the offer of peace, good neighborliness, cooperation, and mutual help in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East, the neighboring Arab states initiated a war in 1948, the declared aim of which was to annihilate the new state of Israel.
  • It was not Israel that initiated this conflict, but Israel was obliged to defend its existence, its integrity and its population. Casualties and displacement of persons during the conflict, as regrettable as they were, were not part of any design or intent to destroy the Palestinian people, but the results of armed conflict.
  • By the same token, the hostilities of 1967 were the specific result of attempts to strangle Israel militarily and economically. Israel’s resulting entry into the West Bank and Gaza areas was not motivated by any design to destroy or remove the Palestinian residents of the areas or to undermine their rights as a people.
    • Attempts to justify a claim of genocide by accusing Israel of “repeated military assaults on Gaza,” as if Israel’s actions were gratuitous and contrived, are no less absurd. They deliberately and manipulatively ignore the thousands of rockets, attack-tunnels and other forms of terror emanating from Gaza and directed against Israel’s civilian population by an internationally acknowledged terror organization.
    • It was not Israel but Hamas that murdered Palestinian children who were digging tunnels for Hamas in Gaza,4 and who executed Palestinian residents of Gaza for “morality crimes” and for “collaboration with Israel.”5
  • Clearly, no serious, bona fide and self-respecting human rights expert or organization could interpret Israel’s acting in self-defense as an act of genocide aimed at destroying a people.
  • In a similar context:
    • It was not Israel that massacred 15,000 Palestinian residents living in refugee camps in Jordan during the nine-day “Black September” Civil War between Jordan and the PLO in 1970.6
    • It was not Israel that expelled 400,000 Palestinians in 1991 from Kuwait in retaliation for the PLO’s support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. 7
    • It was not Israel that caused the displacement of 390,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.8
    • It was not Israel that laid siege to the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus between 2013-2014 in which 18,000 civilians were trapped, with scarce food, water, and medical supplies, leading to instances in which Palestinian residents starved to death.9
  • From the regional demographic standpoint, since Israel’s entry into the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria and into Gaza in 1967, the Palestinian Arab population has increased from 954,898 to 4,654,421. This indicates an increase of 387 percent.10

    In this context, Palestinian life expectancy in the West Bank and Gaza has climbed from 68.5 in 1990 to 72.9 in 2014.

    One may ask how such statistics could serve as any logical basis, or be considered compatible with the patently false, flawed and manipulative allegation of a purported Israeli genocide of the Palestinian People.

2. “The Jews are not a people and have no rights in the Middle East” – False and Misguided

  • This curious claim would appear to be in total denial of the history of civilization, from pre-Biblical and historic times and up to present day.
  • The very existence of the Jews as an indigenous people, as well as its roots, whether in their historic homeland in the “Holy Land” or throughout the various Jewish diasporas and exiles, are borne out in pre-Bible historic narratives as well as in Biblical scriptures including the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Gospels and the Muslim Koran. This is all backed-up by readily available and duly documented and exhibited archeological proof in museums throughout the world.
  • Judaism, the Hebrew language, and the Jewish People originated some 3,000 years ago in the area of the “Holy Land.” Christianity grew out of Judaism, and the early Christian existence there was an integral part of the Jewish settlement there. The presence of the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, and their destruction (in 587 BCE and 70 CE), were acknowledged by Greek, Persian and Roman pagan and Christian authors, travelers and historians, as well as in Koranic references.
  • The right to reestablish a national home for the Jewish People was acknowledged in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. It was given international legal recognition in the 1920 San Remo Declaration by the Supreme Council of Principle Allied Powers. It was subsequently reaffirmed by the League of Nations in 1922 as part of the British Mandate for Palestine, the opening paragraphs of which gave recognition to “the historical connection of the Jewish people within Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”11
  • In addition to their historic and legal rights, the Jews, as one of the oldest indigenous and aboriginal peoples still in existence, have indigenous rights that are recognized by the international community.

3. “The establishment of Israel was a catastrophe for the Palestinians” – False

  • The perception of the creation of the State of Israel as a “catastrophe’ (Nakba) reflects a constant and on-going Palestinian narrative rejecting the creation of a national state for the Jewish people in any part of Mandatory Palestine.

    This absolutist narrative sees uncompromising struggle against Israel as the common national aim of the Palestinians, the very heart of the dispute.

  • However, despite this, the establishment of the state of Israel was nevertheless effected following a recommendation of the international community in the 1947 UN General Assembly partition resolution, to establish two independent states in Mandatory Palestine – a Jewish and an Arab one. This reflected the acceptance by international community of the fundamental rights of the Jewish and Arab populations to govern themselves in their own independent sovereign entities.
  • The State of Israel was not established in place of, nor as an alternative entity to a Palestinian state. It was not established in denial of the existence of the Arab residents of Mandatory Palestine. It was intended to exist together with an Arab state in the area of Mandatory Palestine.
  • Rather than accepting this plan and thereby giving up their absolutist aim to create one Arab state in all the territory of Mandatory Palestine, the Arabs of Palestine, together with neighboring Arab states members of the Arab League, at the violent urgings of the Mufti of Jerusalem and Muslim Brotherhood, rejected the partition plan and went to war against the Jewish state. This despite some elements within the Palestinian Arab community who were prepared to live in peace with the Jews.
  • Despite the fact that the partition plan did not fully realize the hopes of the Jewish population of Mandatory Palestine, they nevertheless chose to accept it in the hope that is would indeed serve as a basis for peaceful coexistence between the Arab and Jewish communities in Mandatory Palestine.
  • It is widely acknowledged that the refusal by the Arab community and the neighboring Arab states, to accept the partition plan, and their subsequent failure to forcibly eliminate the Jewish state, and the sad consequences of such failure including the emergence of the refugee problem, were entirely their own doing. It was not the result of any action, inaction or injustice by Israel. It was the result of short-sighted and unfortunate misjudgment and a lack of clear, rational leadership among the Arab communities.
  • The creation and subsequent acceptance of Israel by the international community were considered by them to be a disastrous blow and a severe mistake. Hence the use of the term “catastrophe” (Nakba) to symbolize the Palestinian refugee issue.

    Nakba day has become an annual day of mourning, violent demonstrations and virulent incitement and propaganda in the attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Israel.

  • Presenting Israel’s creation as a “catastrophe,” rather than the misjudgment, misguided policies, and decisions by the Arab leaders, represents Israel’s detractors’ attempt to falsify and overturn the historic narrative from one of inherent denial of the right of existence of a Jewish state through aggression and rejectionism, to one of victimhood and denial of rights.
  • It is also indicative of the fact that the Arabs’ original 1948 rejection and denial of the right of existence of the state of Israel has not changed and remains the central aim of their narrative.

    Through well-orchestrated international brain-washing and incitement, the Palestinian leadership seeks to further this false and fictitious narrative, which is perceived by many to replace the true facts of the events of 1948.

  • This attempt to undermine the very legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state is particularly evident in recent calls by Palestinian leaders for the revocation of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, and their manipulation of international organizations.
  • Those subscribing to this false narrative, rather than relying on true historical fact, are in fact being manipulated into becoming party to this deception.

4. “Israel prevents the supply of water to the Palestinian population” – False

  • The false allegation by Palestinian leaders that Israel is waging a water war in order to starve the Palestinian population, to prevent them from leading a dignified life as a form of collective punishment, has been willingly taken-up and amplified by international media.
  • Additional false allegations include leaving thousands of Palestinians without access to safe drinking water during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting, which can take place in the summer, at a time when temperatures can exceed 35C. However, the opposite is the case. In order to accommodate Palestinian daytime fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the water supply was increased during night-time.
  • These accusations were recently repeated in a report issued by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) claiming:

    Palestinians are prohibited from maintaining or digging water wells, while Israel has been extracting much more water than the level stipulated by the 1993 Oslo Accords and confiscating 82 per cent of Palestinian groundwater. The Palestinians are left with no choice but to import their own water from Israel to cover 50 per cent of their consumption.”12

  • The very opposite is in fact the case.

    Israel undertook in the Oslo Accords to increase the water supply to the Palestinians population in Judea and Samaria by 20 percent. In practice, over the last 15 years, the water supply increased by about 50 percent, most of which was designated for domestic consumption.13

  • World-wide global trends for water consumption indicate a general decrease in per-capita consumption over time due to population growth and deterioration of water resources. The opposite is the case with the Palestinian water usage, as a result of their increased access to water since 1967. In 1967, only 10 percent of Palestinian households were connected to water infrastructure, today, this figure has risen to 95 percent.

    In fact, access by Palestinians to running water is better than by residents of Amman and Damascus.14

  • The net per-capita domestic water consumption of the Palestinians is higher than the ‘minimum human need estimate’ given by the World Health Organization – 100 liters per day per capita. This quantity is much above the 50 liters per day per capita minimum to sustain life.
  • In contravention of their commitments in the Oslo Accords, and ignoring the resultant dangers of deterioration and salinization of the water quality, the Palestinians unlawfully extract water by drilling and operating unauthorized private wells. These are connected by the Palestinian Authority to the electrical network. In addition, water-theft occurs through unlicensed connections by Palestinian villages to Israel’s water system in order to irrigate fields.
  • Due to mismanagement, faulty maintenance, the Palestinians have not succeeded in independently increasing their water supply.
  • Since hardly any Palestinian farmers install water meters on their wells and about half of the houses in the Palestinian towns and villages have no meters, their governing authorities cannot monitor usage. Thus most Palestinians do not pay for their water consumption and there is no monetary incentive to conserve water.15

5. “Israel violates its obligations in the Oslo Accords” – False

  • Israel considers the Oslo Accords16 to be the major component in maintaining peaceful relations with the Palestinians. To this end Israel has implemented its obligations pursuant to the accords in good faith, irrespective of continuing obstructionism on the part of the Palestinian leadership:
    • Israel redeployed its forces from areas A and B as required in the security annex to the Interim Agreement, and transferred powers and responsibilities in over 40 spheres of civil administration to the PA, as set out in the civilian affairs annex to the Interim Agreement.
    • Despite ongoing threats by the Palestinian leadership to suspend the security cooperation and coordination in mutual security matters agreed to in the security annex, Israel has consistently maintained close security cooperation with the security authorities of the Palestinian Authority, including the provision of weapons for the use of the Palestinian police.
    • Israel regularly transfers funds, taxes and import duties to the Palestinian Authority in the context of its obligations pursuant to the annex on economic relations, irrespective of the huge debts owed by the Palestinian Authority to Israeli bodies for provision by Israel of electricity and to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment.
    • While Israel has attempted to maintain and conduct ongoing daily relations, at the professional level, with the various Palestinian administrative authorities, in order to enable continued implementation of various provisions of the agreements that require reciprocal coordination and cooperation, the Palestinian leadership has refused to permit such cooperation and has obstructed any such ongoing relations.
    • Regrettably the Palestinians refuse to implement the annex on Israeli-Palestinian cooperation programs, including the “People-to-People” Program, initiated by Norway as a program to enhance dialogue and relations at the grass-roots levels.
  • The long list of fundamental breaches by the Palestinians of some of their most central and basic obligations have frustrated and continue to jeopardize any further implementation of the Oslo Accords, or return to negotiations.
  • Such fundamental breaches include:
    • Active support, encouragement and financing of terror and violence against Israel and its population, and the maintenance of terror infrastructure despite obligations to dismantle it;17
    • Wholesale acquisition, manufacture and provision of illegal weaponry for purposes of terror;18
    • Daily hate indoctrination and incitement to violence and terror, from the highest levels of Palestinian leadership and governance, through the Palestinian media and education system and down to elementary schools and kindergartens. This is in clear violation of the Palestinian obligation to foster mutual understanding and tolerance.19
    • Attempts to unilaterally alter the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip outside the negotiating process, through unilateral initiatives in the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies and other international bodies, including the false representation of the Palestinian Authority as a state, accession to international conventions and conduct of foreign relations in clear contravention of the accords;20
    • Initiation, organization and support, internally and internationally, of economic and cultural boycotts and sanctions against Israel.21
  • Israel has consistently expressed its readiness to resume and complete negotiations in accordance with the Oslo Accords, without any preconditions, on those core issues agreed-upon by both parties to be permanent status negotiating issues. These include borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, security arrangements, relations and cooperation with other neighbors and other issues of common interest.
  • Regrettably the Palestinian leadership has imposed preconditions to any return to negotiations. Such preconditions, pertaining to the very issues on the negotiating table, in effect obviate any possibility of genuine and bona fide negotiation.
  • This calls into question their bona fides as a viable and serious partner for negotiation.

6. “Israel is denying the ‘right of return’ to millions of Palestinian refugees” – False.

  • There exists no “right of return” for refugees in international law or practice, and no international treaty or binding resolution by any international body imposes any such obligation on Israel.
  • Similarly, none of the agreements and documents agreed upon between Israel and Egypt, the Palestinians and Jordan grants the refugees a right of return.
  • The only specific, non-binding reference to “return” of Palestinian refugees appears in article 11 of UN General Assembly resolution 194(III) of December 11, 1948 where the UN recommended that refugees “wishing to return to their homes and to live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earlies practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.” 22

    This resolution, which was rejected by the Arab states, established no right and no obligation.

  • Security Council Resolution 237 of 4 June 1967 regarding “facilitation of the return of those inhabitants who have fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities,”23 does not speak of a “right” of return and, like most Security Council resolutions, it is in the nature of a recommendation.
  • Throughout the peace process, Israel has acknowledged the need to solve the refugee issue through negotiation. In this context:
  • Israel accepted the UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967) which “affirmed the necessity for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem,”
  • In the 1978 Egypt-Israel Camp David Agreement (Framework for Peace in the Middle East) Israel and Egypt agreed to establish “procedures for a prompt, just and permanent implementation of the resolution of the refugee problem.” They also established a “continuing committee” of representatives of Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians to agree on the modalities of admission of persons displaced from the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.
  • Israel actively participated in the Multilateral Working Group on Refugees established by the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference and headed by Canada.
  • Israel and the Palestinians agreed in the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements of 1993 (Oslo I) that the modalities of admission of displaced persons should be decided by agreement in a “continuing committee,” and the issue of refugees should be one of the major negotiating issues on the permanent status negotiating table.
  • Similar provisions were agreed in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
  • Jordan and Israel agreed, in the 1994 peace treaty between them, on the need to solve the refugee problem both in the framework of the multilateral working group established after the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, and in conjunction with the permanent status negotiations. The Treaty also refers to UN and other agreed international economic programs concerning refugees and displaced persons.
  • In the same context, Israel has consistently maintained that the issue of Jewish refugees and displaced persons from Arab states constitutes an inherent component of any negotiation on refugees.

7. “BDS is a progressive, non-violent movement in the best tradition of peaceful activism” – False and Deceptive

  • The publicly stated goal of the BDS campaign is to delegitimize and isolate Israel internationally. Its tactic is to portray Israel as the new illegitimate apartheid South Africa, with the strategic objective of causing Israel’s destruction through comprehensive political and economic warfare.
  • BDS leaders and activists characterize their activities as a complementary strategy to the policy of terror and political violence that Hamas, other Palestinian groups, and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations have long embraced as part of their avowed effort to dismantle Israel as a sovereign state.
  • This is readily evident in the statements of the BDS leadership, including:
    • BDS leader Omar Barghouti “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.24
    • Ahmed Moor, BDS student leader and activist, “BDS is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is the final showdown.25
    • As’ad Abu Khalil, BDS activist, California State University “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”26
  • The common chant used by BDS supporters, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” belies any claim that BDS is limited to a political and economic agenda as a means of pressuring Israel to withdraw from the territories.

    To the contrary, it reveals BDS true intentions to “liberate” both the disputed territories and pre-‘67 Israel from the Jews. This parallels the stated goal of Hamas (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood), Hizbullah, Fatah, PLO groups, other radical Arab and Islamic organizations, which is to destroy the nation-state of the Jewish people.

    This has been described by Michael Gove, former British Minister of Justice and Education as a “resurgent, mutating, lethal virus of anti-Semitism” reminiscent of Nazi boycotts of Jews on the eve of the Holocaust.27

  • A basic aim of the BDS campaign is to advocate internationally the delegitimization of Israel and to promote persistent struggle against the existence of a nation-state for the Jewish people in Israel. This is based on a Palestinian narrative that denies both the existence of the Jewish people as a sovereign nation, as well as the historic relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Israel/Palestine.28 This narrative presents the Palestinians as innocent victims of vicious Western and Israeli colonialism.
  • The BDS movement has exercised tactical sophistication in camouflaging its radical linkages and extremist ends in a language of peace, justice, and human rights that appeal to well-meaning Western progressive organizations, groups and individuals who generally support human-rights agendas.

    In this manner the BDS movement is manipulating and abusing the bona-fides of peace-loving and concerned people by misleading them into believing that it is a genuine social movement propelled by non-violent resistance and economic boycott, seeking to advance a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • While economic boycott of Israel is not a new phenomenon and has been used by the Arab League since the establishment of Israel in 1948, its reincarnation in the form of the BDS campaign is significant. In addition to the Muslim terror groups sponsoring and supporting it, it includes new but equally radical actors, including far-left Christian, and even Jewish and Israeli groups and individuals.

    As part of its effort towards globalization and mainstreaming, it has also penetrated Western mainstream professional groups, trade unions, leading academic institutions, and even the world of cultural and entertainment icons.

  • Rather than advancing prospects for peace and normal relations between the Palestinians and Israel, the BDS campaign is inciting towards, and advancing a policy of total boycott of and anti-normalization with Israel. This serves to enhance polarization and hostility to Israel both in the Gaza and West Bank, as well as in the international sphere.
  • This is clearly the antithesis of any positive and constructive movement towards a peaceful solution and bon-voisinage (good neighborly relations) between the peoples of the area. In fact, it prejudices prospects for any future Palestinian political and economic independence and positive trade and security relationship with Israel. Its consequences include:
    • Encouraging radicalization of the Palestinian public discourse, particularly among Palestinian youth, and undermining agreed-upon areas of security and other forms of cooperation.
    • Distancing and alienating the Israeli public from considering further concessions to reach a peace agreement.
    • Harming the employment security and social benefits to families, and even causing the termination of more than 1000 Palestinian employees and managers, and their families, working in Israeli companies operating in those West Bank Industrial zones agreed upon and established pursuant to the Oslo Accords.
    • Distancing Israeli and foreign investors from investing in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The BDS campaign has had little effect on Israel’s GDP, and in fact, several countries have taken steps to outlaw the BDS tactics, acknowledging that the path to peace and reconciliation is paved through mutual political social, economic and cultural engagement and normalization. In this context, Palestinian workers and managers, who have lost their employment because of BDS pressure, have begun to publicly oppose the BDS campaign.

    At the same time, South African black intellectuals who suffered under the apartheid regime have similarly emerged as opponents of the global BDS campaign.

  • A similar sentiment has recently been enunciated by Jordanian Parliament member Abed Almaala:29

    BDS is a reckless act of hatred that threatens the ‎security and stability of not only Israel, but also my country, Jordan, and the ‎entire Middle East.

    BDS is a threat to us all – a threat to America as much as it is a threat to ‎Israel, Jordan and our Palestinian brothers.

    BDS is not only hateful and shameful, but also strengthens Arab dictators who hypocritically criticize Israel for alleged human rights violations when they, themselves, are the world’s top ‎human rights violators.

8. “Israel is undermining the ‘two state solution’”- False and Misleading.

  • Successive Israeli leaders have reiterated Israel’s principled support for the vision of “two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security,” as the outcome of the negotiation process. This vision, initially foreseen by former Israel Prime Minister Barak in 2000, was enunciated by President George W. Bush in 2002 and is almost universally acknowledged by the international community.

    To accuse Israel of undermining or torpedoing the two-state solution would appear to be ingenuous, unrealistic and even gratuitous.

  • Logically, a two-state vision cannot be imposed by one-sided and politically generated UN resolutions, by an international conference or any other form of third-party intervention.

    It can only be realized through active and bona-fide negotiation and agreement between the parties on such basic, reciprocal issues as bilateral borders, mutual recognition, essential security issues and bilateral economic, commercial and political relationships between them.

  • The Palestinian imposition of preconditions to any return to negotiations, prejudging the substantive issues to be negotiated, and their maintenance of an “all or nothing” negotiating strategy are incompatible with any logical, bona-fide negotiating process. Such strategy has consistently undermined efforts to resume negotiations.
  • The Palestinian Authority’s support for and open incitement and encouragement of acts of terror against Israel, their attempts to undermine the very legitimacy of Israel and to initiate judicial proceedings against Israel’s leadership, all demonstrate a clear determination against achieving a negotiated two-state solution or any form of peaceful, neighborly relationship.
  • A viable two-state solution envisages a unified Palestinian leadership. Regrettably this has not materialized. Rather than utilizing Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to advance the two-state solution, the Palestinian leadership quickly lost power and control to the Hamas terror organization which established its own independent terror regime in Gaza.
  • This Hamas regime, identified with the Moslem Brotherhood and in ongoing conflict with the Palestinian Authority, rejects any possibility of political dialogue with Israel, and has launched three major terror campaigns against Israel, in 2009, 2012, and 2014.
  • Failure of the Palestinian Authority to secure a viable governing administration in Gaza, together with the designs of Hamas to extend its control of other Palestinian cities of the West Bank, does not inspire confidence that the Palestinian leadership would be capable of honoring and maintaining security or other agreements with Israel.
  • The lack of a unified and agreed-upon Palestinian governance structure, massive, widely-acknowledged corruption, internal violence, and intense radicalization in schools, mosques and media in the West Bank and Gaza, further prejudice chances of progressing toward a two state solution.
  • Acceptance by the Palestinian leadership of concessions by Israel, while at the same time consistently refusing offers to reach an agreed-upon “end to the conflict” and to negotiate a final status, do not advance the chances of a two state solution.
  • Rejection and prevention by the Palestinian leadership, of viable neighborly relationships at the people-to-people level, and support of boycotts and divestment initiatives all run against any concept of bon-voisinage (good neighborly relations) between the two peoples.

9. “Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip is illegal” – False.

  • It is widely acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority’s control in Gaza was usurped by the Hamas, an internationally regarded terror organization, sponsored and supplied with arms by Iran. Hamas and other terror groups such as the Islamic Jihad have turned the area into a base for mounting terror attacks against Israel.

    To this end Hamas produces, smuggles into the area and stockpiles missiles, guns, and ammunition for use against Israel and its civilian population. It periodically directs such missiles randomly at Israeli civilian targets, in violation of all accepted norms of international humanitarian law.

  • In light of this acknowledged situation of armed conflict, Israel has the prerogative to institute a naval and land blockade with a view to prevent the introduction of weapons and materials that could serve the belligerent purposes of Hamas. The institution of such a blockade is well established in international law and practice.
  • A naval blockade in such a situation once instituted and maintained in accordance with the rules of international law with the appropriate public notification as to the area of sea that it covers effective enforcement, impartiality and consideration of humanitarian needs of the population, is fully in accordance with accepted international law and practice.
  • In accordance with the findings of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 2010 Flotilla Incident:

    The fundamental principle of the freedom of navigation on the high seas is subject to only certain limited exceptions under international law. Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”30

  • Despite the ongoing, declared hostile intentions of the Hamas administration in Gaza, and its renewed construction of tunnels and manufacture of rockets for use against Israel, Israel maintains an ongoing civilian policy enabling the transfer of commodities via the different overland crossings, civilian entry to and from the Gaza Strip with emphasis on the evacuation of Palestinian patients for medical treatment in Israel, the promotion of projects by international community, and coordination of operations and aid in agriculture, transportation, trade and industry. Pursuant to the recent agreement between Israel and Turkey, increased amounts of aid from Turkey are passing into the Gaza Strip.

10. Israel is conducting extrajudicial murders and is randomly and cold-bloodedly executing Palestinians – False and Malicious

  • In light of the clear video footage showing random knife attacks against Israelis by incited Palestinians passing through check-points and in other locations, it is incredulous to see how the Palestinian and Arab League leaders and spokesmen have the gall to manufacture a blatantly false narrative, boldly and openly accusing Israel of randomly executing these people in cold-blood.
  • It is no less incredulous to see the extent to which these lies are so readily accepted by the international media, by leading Western and Arab political personalities and even by various foreign and Israeli academics, who rush to accuse Israel’s police who are defending themselves against these knifings, of carrying out “indiscriminate,” “barbaric” or “extrajudicial” executions.
  • By allowing themselves to be influenced by such false and manipulative lies and by accepting and propagating them, the international media and some leading western political personalities are in fact giving encouragement and license to the Palestinian leadership to continue its incitement to such violence by individuals. The Palestinian leadership instigating this incitement knows that it will be viewed sympathetically in the West and that Israel will be condemned for defending against such attacks.
  • Claims by Palestinian leaders considered by the international community to be “moderate,” justifying such terrorist knifings and citing “lack of hope” or “desperation” by the perpetrators of such terror, cannot be considered acceptable by any moral standard.
  • Even the UN General Assembly annually resolves, “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”31

11. “Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip including the indiscriminate murder of children” – False

  • Almost inevitably, whenever Israel is obliged to defend its population and territorial integrity from unbridled and indiscriminate terror emanating from beyond its borders, whether from Hamas in the Gaza Strip or from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel is accused of exercising “disproportionate force” and of committing war crimes.
  • Such accusations are gratuitous and inherently false. They ignore the unique and unprecedented nature of the terrorism unleashed against Israel, the tactics and strategy of which deliberately abuse and violate accepted civilized and humanitarian norms, and the realities of combat in the Gaza Strip.
  • The allegations against Israel knowingly manipulate casualty statistics in order to establish false and disproportionate equivalences between Israel, a sovereign country bound by international humanitarian norms, and terror groups that knowingly and deliberately abuse such norms.
  • They ignore the fact that the terror groups deliberately, as a matter of military tactic, take advantage of, and rely on the humanitarian limitations that Israel, as a member of the international community, imposes on its forces in seeking to avoid civilian casualties. Such tactics include:
    • Cruelly forcing civilians, including children to serve as human shields and denying them access to shelter;
    • the deliberate use of private homes, schools, medical facilities and religious locations for storage and operation of rockets and other ammunition, as access-points to operational tunnels and as headquarters for terror activity;
    • willful and indiscriminate targeting of populated civilian centers, public facilities, schools and religious locations within Israel;
    • a declared aim of kidnapping Israeli citizens for purposes of hostage-taking,
  • The use of civilian facilities and the forced use of human shields are a deliberate tactic and widely used strategy in the arsenal of these terror groups. They rely on the likelihood that any military and defensive retaliation by Israel would likely endanger and harm those innocent civilians and thereby generate the accusations levelled against Israel.
  • The Hamas terror organization has proudly admitted that its fighters are instructed to use human shields in order to purposely suffer civilian deaths and thereby increase international pressure and blame on Israel. 32

    Former Hamas interior minister Fathi Hamad boasted in 2008 that Hamas fighters “formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahedeen in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine.”33

  • Such tactics and strategy are widely known and acknowledged throughout the international community. Leading political personalities in the U.S. and Europe, as well as the various international and local organizations and bodies purporting to uphold compliance with humanitarian norms are fully aware of the serious humanitarian dilemmas and challenges faced by Israel in attempting to defend itself against such terrorism, while at the same time minimizing civilian casualties.
  • Leading military experts, after reviewing Israel’s military actions, have commented on the fact that “Israel had gone to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and prevent civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict.”34(Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff).

    Similarly, the British military expert Col. Richard Kemp has testified to the fact that Israel’s forces “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”35

  • In the absence of clear and accepted international criteria for dealing with unbridled abuse of humanitarian norms by terror organizations, those making allegations against Israel choose rather to ignore and overlook the dilemmas and challenges faced by Israel in defending itself against such terror.
  • Humanitarian norms are an inherent part of the legal obligations on Israel’s military. Israel’s judicial and military authorities are obligated to investigate accusations of abuse of humanitarian norms, and where relevant to taking the appropriate juridical measures.

 * * *

Notes

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UN sides with enemies of Israel

 

  • UN says Jews have no rights to lands that were taken from them.

  • Reprinted from Daily Alert , December 26, 2016
  • Video: UN Resolution Contravenes the Oslo Agreement and Empowers Israel’s Enemies – Amb. Alan Baker “The U.S. abstention on this recent resolution in the Security Council is irresponsible to the point of being scandalous, because this resolution reaffirms the fact that the territories occupied by Israel and east Jerusalem are Palestinian. Now this runs directly against American policy and against the obligations according to the Oslo Accords, that issues of Jerusalem, issues of borders, and issues of the final status of the territories are to be negotiated.”     “The resolution repeats a lot of previous resolutions, a lot of previous determinations regarding the validity of settlements, regarding the status of the territories. But there are one or two paragraphs in here that seem to be direct quotes from [Vice President] Joe Biden, from [Secretary of State] John Kerry, from [President] Barack Obama, whether it refers to the 1967 lines or refers to the one-state solution or refers to the non-sustainability of the present situation – these are direct quotes from these people. So it shows that they have had direct involvement in actually drafting this resolution.”     “Why would the Palestinians want to negotiate with Israel on these things if they’ve got a Security Council resolution that basically determines that east Jerusalem and all the territories belong to them? Why should they go and negotiate – and compromise, because negotiating includes compromising? Why should they do this when they know that they can run to the international community and get whatever they want?”     Amb. Alan Baker, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • We Are Not Occupiers in Our Own Land – Nadav Shragai
    As Simon the Hasmonean put it some 2,200 years ago: “We have not taken foreign territory or any alien property, but have occupied our ancestral heritage, for some time unjustly wrested from us by our enemies; now that we have a favorable opportunity, we are merely recovering our ancestral heritage” (Maccabees 1, 15:33-34).
    Our friends must finally hear that the historical, religious, legal and emotional links the nation of Israel has to Hebron, Beit El, Shiloh, and Jerusalem are no less than that of the Palestinians. They must hear that we are not occupiers in our own land, and that we are connected to it with bonds of love, the Bible, heritage and nature; that the settlements in Judea and Samaria, as elsewhere in the Land of Israel, are the realization of justice and natural rights. The writer, a journalist and commentator at Ha’aretz and Israel Hayom, has documented the dispute over Jerusalem for thirty years. (Israel Hayom)
  • Defective Law and Moral Incoherence in the UN Security Council Resolution – Dr. Richard L. Cravatts
    Professor emeritus Jerold Auerbach of Wellesley College has written that “Israeli settlement throughout the West Bank is explicitly protected by international agreements dating from the World War I era, subsequently reaffirmed after World War II, and never revoked since….The [Mandate for Palestine] recognized ‘the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine’ and ‘the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.’…This was not framed as a gift to the Jewish people; rather, based on recognition of historical rights reaching back into antiquity, it was their entitlement.”
    Legal scholar Eugene V. Rostow, one of the authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242 written after the 1967 war to outline peace negotiations, said, “The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors.” Moreover, Rostow contended, “The Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there.”
    The settlement debate is part of the decades-old narrative created by the Palestinians and their Western enablers to write a false historical account that legitimizes Palestinian claims while air-brushing away Jewish history. The writer is immediate Past-President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). (Times of Israel)

 

Observations:

UN Resolution Applies to Historically Jewish Areas in Jerusalem – Alan Dershowitz (The Hill)

 

  • The media reported that the UN resolution was only about the expansion of new settlements. But the text of the resolution itself goes well beyond new building and applies equally to historically Jewish areas that were unlawfully taken by Jordanian military action during Israel’s War of Independence and liberated by Israel in a war started by Jordan in 1967.
  • The text of the Security Council Resolution means that Israel’s decision to build a plaza for prayer at the Western Wall – Judaism’s holiest site – constitutes a “flagrant violation of international law.” If it does, then why did President Obama pray there and leave a note asking for peace?
  • Under this resolution, the access roads that opened up Hebrew University to Jewish and Arab students and the Hadassah Hospital to Jewish and Arab patients are illegal, as are all the rebuilt synagogues – destroyed by Jordan – in the ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Is it really now U.S. policy to condemn Israel for liberating these historically Jewish areas in Jerusalem?

 

  • This resolution declares the status quo – the reality on the ground that acknowledges Israel’s legitimate claims to its most sacred and historical Jewish areas – to be a flagrant violation of international law.

    The writer is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School.

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Rooftop greenhouse in Tel Aviv

treehugger.com

Tel Aviv’s rooftop farm grows fresh food for thousands

Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair) Living / Green Food December 19, 2016 Share on Facebook
Reprinted from  Tree Hugger

Located above the Dizengoff shopping center, this urban farm uses hydroponics to grow vegetables rapidly and organically.

The Dizengoff Center is a vast shopping mall in central Tel Aviv, Israel. Built in the 1970s, the towering concrete structure doesn’t look like much, but when you step inside, a wonderful sight will meet your eyes.

There is a vegetable stand just inside the door, built of wood and packed with bags of fresh, wet leafy greens and herbs. It is an anomaly in the midst of fast-fashion outlets and food courts, better suited for a traditional farmers’ market, but this humble little vegetable stand has become a great success. It relies on the honor system, trusting shoppers to leave the correct change and take what they want. (Eighty percent of shoppers do so.) The vegetables sell out so quickly that the stand has to be restocked four times daily.

Dizengoff vegetable stand© K Martinko — The vegetable stand inside the shopping centre’s entrance

What makes these vegetables really special, though, is that they’re grown on the roof of the Dizengoff shopping center. As part of a project called ‘Green in the City,’ or Yarok Bair in Hebrew, an urban rooftop farm has been established over the past year. It comprises two commercial greenhouses, totaling 750 square meters (over 8,000 square feet) of growing space, as well as an educational area where citizens can learn urban farming techniques and cooking skills relevant to the vegetables they grow. The organization sells hydroponics units for home use and teaches people how to use them.

hydroponics box© K Martinko — A small hydroponics box sold for personal use

Dizengoff garden 2© Shani Sadicario — A view of the rooftop garden’s education center

The rooftop farm produces 10,000 heads of lettuce per month year-round, and grows 17 different varieties of greens and herbs; there is even a banana tree. The farm uses a variety of hydroponics systems – some vertical, some horizontal – that grow food two times faster than in soil. The system does not require regular cleaning, since the sun does not access the water beneath the plastic covers that hold the plants, and the constant flow of oxygen prevents rot.

Dizengoff garden© Shani Sadicario — The roots hang into the oxygenated water.

The vegetables are grown without pesticides, although they do not qualify for official organic certification because of a line in Israeli agricultural laws that states that organic food must be grown in soil.

The founder of Green in the City, Lavi Kushelevich, is a passionate advocate for reclaiming one’s food system. He believes that this rooftop farm – only one of 15 urban farming initiatives that he’s currently overseeing in Israel – can help urban Millennials to get excited about growing their own food, without having to move to the rural farms, or kibbutzim, that attracted previous generations.

I visited on a rainy December morning, along with a group of fellow environmental writers. Lavi took us on a tour of the rooftop, pointing out other interesting sustainability initiatives started by the Dizengoff Center. These include a tree-planting program, where children from Tel Aviv come on the national holiday of Tu BishVat to plant seedlings. Later, the young trees are planted around the city and the Dizengoff Center receives carbon credits for its efforts.

Dizengoff center apartments© Shani Sadicario — The Dizengoff Center’s private apartments soar beyond the rooftop garden.

There are beehives, too, though the honey is left undisturbed, and a bat cave in the lower levels of the basement. Birds’ nests are placed on the rooftop to encourage avian visitors.

It’s really amazing to see how a shopping center – such a symbol of modern consumerism – has been converted into a farm, creating access to fresh food for thousands of urban residents. The leafy greenhouses, a refreshing counterpoint to the shops below, are proof that nutritious ingredients can be accessible to all, even in the most unexpected places. All it takes is some innovative thinking, and Israel certainly has plenty of that.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Education, Middle East Report, News Articles, Recent Posts, Science and Technology | Comments Off on Rooftop greenhouse in Tel Aviv

Israel supports democracy and diversity

thetower.org

‘The Genius of Judaism’: An Interview with Bernard-Henri Lévy

Reprinted from The Tower, December, 2016

In your new book, The Genius of Judaism, you demonstrate the depth of your Jewish identity. How has that identity guided you in your writing and advocacy on behalf of those nations and communities, particularly in the Middle East, suffering from war, religious persecution and ethnic cleansing?

My relationship to Judaism is the most important thread of my life as a committed intellectual. When I report about the most forgotten wars, as I did a few years ago in Africa and elsewhere, when I commit myself, as I do these very days with the battle for Mosul, when I commit myself, as I did 25 years ago, with the people of Sarajevo besieged by the Serbs – when I do all of that, I am faithful to this obligation, this duty, of going to the other and embracing his otherness, which is at the heart of the Jewish identity as I conceive it in my book.

How do you see Israel’s regional position today, given the tumult around it?

In the turmoil of our time, in the earthquakes which are shaking the whole area, Israel appears more than ever as a pole of stability and of democracy. I always feel, and I say this in my book, it’s a model of democracy not only for the Middle East but for the world!

Look at how we French deal with terrorism. I saw how you Americans dealt after September 11, 2001, with a state of emergency. And I compare our two attitudes – American and French – with the attitude of Israel, which is in a state of emergency not just for two years, or fifteen years, but since the very day of its birth, 69 years ago. Israel, frankly, has an exemplary attitude, which is to deal with emergencies without giving up on democratic values.

I don’t see any other example in modern history of a country that has had to face a constant state of war, a constant state of emergency, having in its own space a very strong minority who might be tempted to take the path of the adversary, and yet sticks so firmly to its principles. Never forget that you have in Israel a number of Arab parliamentarians, which we in France don’t have. Don’t forget that the Arabic language is an official language of Israel. And don’t forget that even in the moment when you have some Arab cities inside Israel demonstrating against Israeli policy, as during the Gaza war, there was never any step towards what might be called a state of exception – depriving this part or that part of society of its democratic and civil rights. It never happened. This is a fact.

Another thing. See the debate in Europe about multi-ethnicity, about minorities. Even in America, this debate about minorities and civil rights was a huge deal in the sixties and apparently the battle is not completely over, as you see with the Black Lives Matter movement. Well, see this problem of multi-ethnicity in Israel! The Hebrew State can really be considered as model of dealing with this matter of multi-ethnicity. Because, at the end of the day, what is Israel? Israel is people coming from the west, from the east, from the south. People coming from Europe, people coming from Russia, people coming from the Arab world. People of every different possible ethnicity. And all of them made so quickly, nearly overnight, a nation! I don’t see any other examples of that. So Israel has a very peculiar place in the world.

Is that one reason why Israel is demonized? How much of the assault on Israel is down to, as you put it, its “peculiar place in the world”?

Let’s talk about those who go in the streets in Europe demonstrating for the memory of 2,000 or 3,000 Palestinian dead, during the war in Gaza – which I completely understand. What I don’t understand is that I never saw them in the same streets when Bashar al-Assad kills not 2,000 or 3,000 but 300,000 or 400,000 of his own citizens. I never saw them in the streets when a Muslim leader in Sudan killed, in South Sudan, 400,000 or 500,000 people. And same for the victims of Saddam Hussein. And same for the Palestinians killed, tortured, by other Palestinians. So it’s more than strange that those who cannot accept Israel waging a defensive war don’t feel upset or uncomfortable when an Arab leader kills one hundred times more Arab women and men.

This is the situation of today. There are some people in the West, and in America also, who care about lives only when Jews and Israel are involved in the story. If that’s not the case, then they don’t give a damn, they don’t demonstrate, they don’t care. What name do you give to that? Each one of us can choose. But for me, this way of saying that the victim is interesting only if she had to deal with the Jews, this is anti-Semitism.

What is your view of the emerging Shi’a crescent in the Middle East – Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, with some Russian involvement as well?

I think it is a real concern. I’ve seen that very closely in the last few months, on the ground in Kurdistan. The Kurds, who are the best friends in the area of the democratic values and of the Western world, they have to fight on two frontlines. The first one is the Sunni ISIS, and the second one, it’s completely clear, is the Shi’a axis going from Tehran to Baghdad through Damascus and through the Hezbollah militia fighting in Syria. So for a democrat today, for someone attached to human rights and Western values, there are two dangers: ISIS under the Sunni flag, and the Shi’a totalitarians under the Iranian leadership.

How does the nuclear deal negotiated with the Iranians in 2015 influence these dangers?

My view of the deal is that, after having let the Iranians go so far in the process, there was no longer a good solution. There were only solutions a little less worse than the others. The agreement which Kerry and Obama, with the support of President Hollande, reached was the less bad, considering the situation, considering the level of danger which we were facing, considering how close the Iranians were to breakout. The agreement made by Obama was, I would not say the best, but the least bad. That’s why, without enthusiasm, without illusions, without naïveté, I supported it. At least it delays the threat. And also, it bets on the positive momentum of Iranian civil society, the virtuous contamination of democratic values. So it’s a bet. But in front of this bet, what was there? Hell. So it was hell or a bet. I prefer a bet.

It’s striking that many of the countries that have profoundly impacted your experience and thinking – Bosnia, Bangladesh, Kurdistan – are all Muslim countries that have rejected the path of Islamism. What is it that’s different about those societies?

The most important political and ideological battle of our time is inside Islam, between Islamism and democracy. If there is a clash of civilizations, it is inside the Muslim world, between the democratic civilization and the fanatical non-civilization. This is the question of today. For all of us – Americans, Europeans, people all over the world and, of course, inside the Muslim world – this battle inside Islam, between Islam and Islam, is absolutely crucial. Therefore, for the last 20, 30, 40 years, I try to deal with that. I am looking for the light in the darkness. I am looking for the sparks of democracy, for the sparks of human rights, in a world that has also a strong inclination towards fanaticism – I mean by that the Muslim world.

One of the common points of all my commitments you just quoted is to stand at the side of those who, inside the Muslim world, fight for democracy, fight for tolerance, fight for the values of civilization. They might be the minority, they might be very lonely, but they are the salt of the earth. And as a man and as a Jew, I feel the duty to extend them my hand.

When I was 20 years old, I stood with the first President of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I remember as if it were today the day when he decided to name the young ladies who had been raped by Pakistani soldiers [during the 1971 Bangladesh independence war] and who gave birth to babies, he decided to name them not cursed women, but “Daughters of the Nation,” as if to give them back their dignity.

I remember the Muslims of Sarajevo, under the bombs. Abandoned by the Western world. And refusing the help of some of the most fanatical Muslim states in the world, in spite of the fact that they needed help, they preferred to endanger themselves then to lose their dignity and identity.

And I see today the Kurds, the peshmerga. I just returned from Mosul, I saw in all the cities of the Nineveh Plain, how the Muslim peshmerga protect the Christians, how they protect the Yazidis, how they protect the traces and the remnants of the Jewish presence in that region. Again, it’s an example of enlightened Islam, an Islam of the light.

So these are three examples. In one, I was 20, the other one I was 40, today I am 68. All of my life, I have been struck by these moments of light, these moments of enlightenment, in this world of Islam which is fighting against intolerance and obscurity. I’ve always felt that, as an intellectual, my duty is to support that. All my life I stood for that. It is not the only commitment of my life. I have other commitments, of course. For my own country, France. For Israel. For human rights in general. But this fight against the third fascism of our modernity, this fight for democratic Islam and against jihadism, is more than crucial.

***

Bernard-Henri Lévy’s new book, The Genius of Judaism, will be published on January 10, 2017 by Random House. Tickets are now available for his January 11 discussion with Charlie Rose, “Why Judaism Matters,” at the 92nd St Y in New York City.

Banner Photo: Bernard-Henri Lévy

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US had wrong approach to Mideast peace

timesofisrael.com

Wrong from the start: Why John Kerry failed to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace

By David Horovitz, Times of Israel, December 6, 2016

Watching John Kerry deliver his indictment of Israel’s settlement enterprise at the Saban Forum in Washington, DC, on Sunday, my strongest feeling was one of sorrow — sorrow for him, but mainly for us, at the wasted time and the wrongheaded approach that doomed the indefatigable, well-intentioned secretary of state’s approach to peacemaking.

Kerry calculated that he has spent 130 hours in formal discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his near four years as secretary of state, and visited Israel a staggering 40-plus times.

And yet for all that time and effort, as his valedictory jeremiad again made plain, he never internalized why he was unable to clear the obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. And in the one key area where Sunday’s presentation showed a belated appreciation of where he had gone wrong, clarity has arrived long after the damage was done.

The first, foundational mistake was to believe, like a long line of global statespeople before him, that he could succeed where others had failed in trying to strong-arm the two sides into an accord on a rapid timetable, when it is tragically and undeniably obvious that the deadline-based approach cannot work.

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Saban Forum in Washington, DC on December, 4, 2016. (Ralph Aswang, via JTA)

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Saban Forum in Washington, DC on December, 4, 2016. (Ralph Aswang, via JTA)

Many, perhaps most, Israelis recognize an imperative to separate from the Palestinians in order to maintain a state that is both Jewish and democratic. But In today’s treacherous Middle East, they need more persuasion than ever that relinquishing territory will bring guaranteed tranquility, rather than escalated terrorism and new efforts to paralyze, and ultimately destroy, the country.

The lesson that Kerry refused to learn, but that his successors would be wise to, is that you cannot broker peace when the people on one side of the negotiating table do not so much as acknowledge the right of the people on the other side to be there

While Kerry and President Barack Obama assured Israelis they could afford to take the risk of territorial compromise, we have watched countries all around us descend into chaos, and seen every unsavory terror group you can name, and some you can’t, gain footholds in the neighborhood — from Syria, to Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza and Egypt. We have watched Iran grow emboldened and richer, thanks to a lousy accord that did not fully dismantle its rogue nuclear program. We saw Hezbollah fill the vacuum when we left southern Lebanon. We watched Hamas take over when we left Gaza, and we have since endured rocket fire and intermittent conflict as the reward for our withdrawal, even as we have been battered internationally for fighting back. We have witnessed Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank Palestinian hierarchy encourage hostility to Israel, lie about our plans for the Temple Mount, and rewrite the previous Muslim narrative that acknowledged the historicity of Jerusalem’s Jewish temples in favor of a revisionist creed that denies all Jewish connection to the holy city and thus delegitimates Israel’s very presence.

The lesson that Kerry refused to learn, but that his successors would be wise to, is that you cannot broker peace when the people on one side of the negotiating table do not so much as acknowledge the right of the people on the other side to be there. Or to put it more constructively, if you want to create a climate in which an accommodation might one day be possible, you have to work bottom up as well as top down, and promote education — via social media, spiritual leadership, schools and political leadership — that provides an honest narrative, encourages moderation, and marginalizes extremism. More succinctly still, when the Palestinians’ schools start teaching the Jews’ holy land history as well as their own, you might legitimately feel the beginnings of optimism about peacemaking.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) seen with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 7, 2013. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) seen with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 7, 2013. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Kerry, and his president, compounded that foundational error by continually underestimating Israel’s security concerns. At its narrowest point, Israel is nine miles wide. It is extremely strong and — thanks in no small part to the Obama administration — it maintains its qualitative military edge. But assuring Israel that it can dare to relinquish substantial parts of the West Bank by talking up sophisticated fencing in the Jordan Valley, or detailing provisions by which Israeli troops can be rapidly deployed to West Bank trouble spots at times of crisis, is inadequate. Over the decades, we have endured conventional war, a strategic onslaught of suicide bombings, car-rammings, stabbings and rocket attacks. And the only reason we’re not in the midst of a far more crippling terror war right now is that Israel’s security forces maintain freedom of movement throughout the West Bank. They have thus been able to prevent the reconstruction of the network of terrorism — the bomb factories and the training facilities that enabled Hamas and Fatah cells to terrorize Israel on a daily basis a decade and a half ago, after we had left the major West Bank cities under the Oslo accords.

This is not to say that Israel can never compromise its military freedom of access. But it certainly can’t, and won’t, until that previous necessity is met, and the Palestinians have credibly turned toward genuine coexistence.

Self-complicating his impossible mission still further, Kerry served in an administration that did not radiate the strength and purpose that Israel needs from its key ally in order to contemplate territorial concessions.

The Obama administration allowed Hosni Mubarak to fall in Egypt, and has not strongly backed the current Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, in his efforts to resist another descent into Muslim extremism and to encourage Islam’s clerical authorities to speak out against the death-cultists. The US administration stayed away when protesters attempted to oust the ayatollahs of Iran, and it entrenched their oppressive regime with the nuclear deal. It failed to intervene effectively in Syria, even after President Bashar Assad crossed Obama’s own red line and started gassing the Syrian people — and thus signaled to the pitiable people of Syria that nobody was going to save them, prompted millions more to flee, intensified Europe’s refugee crisis, and in turn boosted the outraged European right.

As the US administration held back, others moved to fill the vacuum — including Iran and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. For the confidence to make peace, Israel needs to see a strong, committed America in the Middle East, working to uphold the freedoms it emblemizes, partnering Israel in the battle against Islamic extremism. Not an America hesitant or absent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US Secretary of State John Kerry speak to the press during a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 24, 2015. (AFP/Pool/Atef Safadi)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US Secretary of State John Kerry speak to the press during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, November 24, 2015. (AFP/Pool/Atef Safadi)

To judge by Kerry’s bitter summation on Sunday, all those fundamental errors still seem to have gone unrecognized. Where he did appear to have just possibly internalized a major misstep, however, was when it comes to the settlement enterprise. For the first time that I can remember, the secretary publicly highlighted what he said were the 90,000 Jews who now live in settlements on the far side of the security barrier that Israel built to stop the suicide-bomber onslaught in the early years of this century. Twenty thousand of them, he said, had moved there since President Obama took office. He called that barrier an Israeli “security line,” publicly implying, to my mind at least, a greater sympathy for those Israelis living to the west of that line, in the settlement blocs and in Jerusalem’s post-1967 neighborhoods.

The failure to draw a distinction between new housing in, say, Jerusalem’s Gilo and in an isolated settlement outpost deep inside the West Bank, has been a hallmark of the Obama administration. Every new planned home over the pre-1967 lines — whether in an area Israel would never contemplate relinquishing, or in an area Israel cannot anticipate retaining if it ever wishes to separate from the Palestinians — was routinely castigated by the administration as a crime of equal gravity, discrediting the criticism in the eyes of the Israeli mainstream, and by extension discrediting the administration too. The focus should always have been on the outlying settlements, on the building that entangles Israel self-defeatingly deeper among the Palestinians, on helping save the Jewish state from its short-sighted Greater Israel ideologues.

In today’s Middle East, in the dangerous climate in which it fell to Kerry to attempt diplomacy, brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians was always going to be a long-term mission, rather than a quick fix. Kerry never accepted this, and therefore never actually began that mission. But even where he and the president rightly recognized and stressed the imperative to keep the eventual option of a two-state solution open, his administration undermined that goal by failing to distinguish between settlements in areas that Israel would need to relinquish and those in areas Israel will seek to maintain. Ironically, coming as Israel advances untenable legislation seeking to retroactively “legalize” dozens of outposts on the far side of that “security line,” realization might now have dawned upon Kerry, many years too late.

Posted in Middle East Report, Opinion, Recent Posts | Comments Off on US had wrong approach to Mideast peace

Israel leads in clean technology

huffingtonpost.com

Israel’s Burgeoning Sustainable Innovation | The Huffington Post

Follow Momo Mahadav on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CSRIsrael
December 1, 2016

From the world’s most environmentally recycled paper to cutting-edge water shortage solutions, sustainable healthcare, energy conservation and the green construction and infrastructure of the future, Israel continues to make strides in sustainable innovation, living up to its status as the world’s top innovator in the field of clean technologies by the Global Cleantech 100 Index.

Israel has a wealth of experience and expertise in fields like advanced agriculture, water technologies, drip irrigation, renewable energy and high-tech, but it is also a tiny country, with limited resources. So how has it emerged as a leader in sustainable innovation?

First and foremost, Israel’s surge within environmental innovation stemmed from a need; a need for a solution to problems like drinking water shortages or agricultural solutions in the Negev desert. It was out of this necessity to innovate that Israel has pioneered its way to the forefront of environmental sustainability.

Take Mekorot for example, the national water company of Israel and the country’s top agency for water management. In the face of one of Israel’s most significant environmental and security challenges, the organization now provides a steady flow of clean water to a rapidly growing population despite the region’s limited freshwater resources, amid climate and difficult geopolitical realities. The problem of drinking water shortages in Israel has in fact been solved and the organization is even working with companies in Southern California, India, Cyprus and Uganda to spread its desalination practices to similar climates to help them recycle water most effectively.

Or take Netafim, an Israeli pioneer of drip and micro-irrigation products for agriculture, greenhouse, landscape and mining applications. From its roots as a kibbutz company experimenting with ways to save water to its current status as a worldwide innovator in drip irrigation technology. Simply put, there was a need within Israel to innovate locally. Now we see them going global and it’s working because it is an issue many countries are dealing with.

Secondly, Israel is a small country. Counterproductive you might think, but in fact this proved to be a key component in Israel’s ability to operate efficiently, tying up the necessary knots together quickly. Size and accessibility make these companies flourish. Networks are very much beginning to materialize because of this. International perspectives and investors come and visit to learn more and look for the solutions here with us. The scale and size of Israel makes it much easier to connect all the dots.

Finally, there’s passion. This might seem strange to allude to, but similar to the necessity of producing such innovation, also comes a greater purpose in what Israeli innovators are striving towards. I recall watching a field manager at work during a visit to Mekorot. You could see in his eyes this deep sense of value and purpose to what he was doing – you don’t usually find this type of attitude at Government-owned companies. There’s an inherent passion within Israelis to create and participate in something that will not only affect the greater good around the world but also be able to see the extent of the value personally.

Israeli innovation continues to establish links with companies in developing countries themselves, but is still only at the beginning of this process. Indeed, the country has garnered a reputation for itself in recent years as the “Start-up Nation”. However, this is an identity born out of innovation in the fields of information and communications technology (ICT), defense and cyberspace. Such networks have yet to be established and collectively focused within the sustainability context.

For Israel to really reach its potential we have to invest more within sustainable innovation. We need to encourage our youth to study the industries and provide ample opportunity for them take an interest in the likes of agriculture and science, rather than seeing ICT as the only path. I remember when I was at school myself and agricultural studies were taken off the curriculum as it wasn’t viewed as attractive enough. Thanks to organizations such as Adama, one of the world’s leading crop protection companies based in southern Israel, strategic connections between the professional industry and community involvement is starting to taking place. Working with the local authorities and the Ministry of Education, the company has instigated change through multi-sector cooperation and has addressed the promotion of pupils toward personal and research excellence in the fields of science and agricultural studies. This will boost Israel’s sustainability industry from a bottom-up approach, providing the field with qualified professionals who understand the intricacies and technological implications. There needs to be more scaling up, increased collaboration between companies and across sectors. Only then will we see Israel providing sustainable solutions in developing markets around the world and making the impact it does in fields such as defense.

This week, Israel’s CSR standards-setting organization, Maala hosted its first-ever Israeli CSR Experience Conference, gathering leaders from Israel’s business community and key international opinion formers in the sustainability and CSR community. We took great pride in showcasing the innovation Israel continues to produce and hope to bring the industry together as one multidisciplinary force to continue growing and instigating change globally.

Posted in Air & Water, Alternative Energy, Health Sciences, Judaism, Monotheistic Religions, Recent Posts, Science and Technology | Comments Off on Israel leads in clean technology

PTSD for Jewish liberals

The Day the Music Died for Jewish American Liberals

Ron Jager www.ronjager.com

November 29, 2016

The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer. Prior to retiring in 2005, served as the Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psycho education programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Today Ron is a strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria To contact: medconf@netvision.net.il

For most American Jewish liberals, November 8 was not only a watershed election, but a day in which the music died. They have been left speechless and silent, unwilling to fathom the implications. These liberal Jews have become disoriented and unsure about what to do and what to say; they seem to be suffering from a bad case of PTSD (Post Trump Stress Disorder). For many of these liberal Jews, they are slowly waking up to a new reality of losing their political clout, being left out of the multiple loops of power and access to the White House; they have been demoted to the rank of irrelevancy.

Betting on the wrong horse is always a wrenching experience. Over the past 8 years liberal Jews supported and abetted a President and a Democratic Party that was overtly anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. During this period, Islamic terror attacks have spread throughout America; anti-Semitism has blossomed in America’s Universities and campuses poisoning the minds of America’s future political and business leaders. Real anti-Semitism, not the made-up anti-Semitism associated with the emerging Trump administration. In recent years, Jews have been attacked and vilified at levels never seen before in recent history. All this didn’t matter; the Democratic Party was a sure bet as far as they were concerned.

Jewish liberals became drunk with Jewish power. In a wide variety of domestic spheres: immigration and refugee policy, civil rights and affirmative action, abortion rights, church-state separation issues, Jewish liberals became major players helping to make the rules and call the shots on matters from health care to zoning. It was during these 8 years that Jewish liberals felt free to preach and moralize to us Israelis publicly about how Israel conducts itself nationally and internationally. Many Jewish liberals freely accused Israel of being non-democratic verging on Apartheid, they demanded of Israel to agree to political concessions that clearly endangered Israel’s national security; they funded and lead many of the organizations that spread the poisonous message of Jew hatred by the BDS movement. It is easy to see why a Jewish liberal never saw it coming, actually believing that the invented narrative of BlackLivesMatter/Transgenderism/ObamaCare/Unrestricted Immigration are all actually good for America. Donald Trumps’ election might very well signal the beginning of an era in which Jewish liberals refrain from preaching and moralizing to us as if they have a monopoly on social justice and truth.

This interesting parallel of how Jewish liberals have distanced themselves from mainstream America and Israel equally is also the key to undoing the trauma of the election. For starters, despite years of dismissive rhetoric and holding Israel to a double standard, never demanding a similar standard from Israel’s enemies has also spilled over to Jewish liberals’ attitude and support for movements and policies that have been rejected by the majority of the American public. Now that the liberal ideology in America has lost its grip on the White House, with right wing governments being voted in throughout the Western World, with the continuing re-election of a right wing government being repeatedly led to electoral victory by Benjamin Netanyahu, now is time for Jewish liberals to take one step back and question many of their givens.

For many years Jewish liberals have blamed Israel for the daylight between themselves and the State of Israel. It never occurs to them to question their own values and behaviors such as their decision not to engage with organized Jewish communal life, or belong to a synagogue, or never visit Israel let alone marry out of the Jewish religion being reasons that might explain less attachment or the lack of any special feelings towards the Israel and the Jewish nation. A similar blind spot surfaces when Jewish liberals deny the election results and embrace leftist progressive movements in the United States. The delegitmization of the results of Democratic elections, the arrogant use of arguments about “saving” America from itself, and about organizing “sane liberal forces” to fight the “darkness” that is creeping into America’s “soul” are all essentially two sides of the same liberal coin.

Jews rise or fall together. For Jewish liberals, the quickest path to overcoming their collective PTSD as a result of the election of Donald Trump might very well be defined by their attitude and affiliation to the State of Israel. With the Democratic Party moving left and expected to be led by a known anti-Semite and supporter of the Hamas terror group, maybe this is the needed signal to question if the Democratic liberal path is still the path needed to be taken by Jewish liberals in America.

So, rather than engaging in rhetoric that gave American Jews an excuse to distance themselves from Israel, now is time to embrace Israel and reaffirm their affiliation and sense of belonging to the Jewish nation. Likewise, embracing America, the Democratic process, and American exceptionalism is just one step away.

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Posted in Judaism, Middle East, Monotheistic Religions, Opinion, Recent Posts | Comments Off on PTSD for Jewish liberals