Palestinians are newcomers

Who were the 1948 Arab refugees?

Yoram Ettinger, Israel Hayom, June 3, 2016

 Contrary to conventional “wisdom,” most Arabs in British Mandate Palestine — and most of the 320,000 1948 Arab refugees — were migrant workers and descendants of 1831-1947 Muslim immigrants from across the Arab world. At the time, Britain enticed Arab immigration and blocked Jewish immigration.

Thus, between 1880 and 1919, Haifa’s Arab population surged from 6,000 to 80,000, mostly due to migrant workers. The eruption of World War II accelerated the demand for Arab manpower by the British Mandate’s military and its civilian authorities.

Moreover, Arab migrant workers were imported by the Ottoman Empire, and then by the British Mandate, to work on major civilian and military infrastructure projects. Legal and illegal Arab migrants were also attracted by economic growth generated by the Jewish community starting in 1882.

According to a 1937 report by the British Peel Commission (featured in the ground-breaking book “Palestine Betrayed” by Professor Efraim Karsh), “during 1922 through 1931, the increase of Arab population in the mixed-towns of Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem was 86%, 62% and 37% respectively, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7% and a decrease of 2% in Gaza.”

Irrespective of occasional Arab emigration from British Mandate Palestine — due to intra-Arab terrorism, which has been an endemic feature in the Middle East — the substantial wave of Arab immigration between 1831 and 1947 triggered dramatic growth of the Arab populations in Jaffa (17 times), Haifa (12 times) and Ramla (5 times).

According to Joan Peters’ momentous book “From Time Immemorial”: “The 1931 census [documented] at least 23 different languages in use by Muslims plus an additional 28 in use by Christian Arabs — a total of 51 languages. The non-Jews in Palestine listed as their birthplaces at least 24 different countries.”

In 1917, the “Arab” population of Jaffa included at least 25 nationalities, mostly Egyptians, but also Syrians, Yemenites, Persians, Afghanis, Indians and Baluchis. The British Palestine Exploration Fund documented a proliferation of Egyptian neighborhoods in the Jaffa area: Abu Kabir, Sumeil, Sheikh Munis, Salame, Fejja, etc. Hundreds of Egyptian families also settled in the inland, in Arara, Kafr Qasim‎, Tayibe and Qalansawe‎.

The 1831-1840 conquest of the land of Israel by Egypt’s Mohammed Ali was solidified by a flow of Egyptian and Sudanese migrants settling between Gaza in the south, Tulkarem in the center and the Hula Valley in the north. They followed in the footsteps of thousands of Egyptian draft dodgers who fled Egypt before 1831 and settled in Acre.

In 1865, the British traveler H.B. Tristram, in “The Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels in Palestine,” documented Egyptian migrants in the Beit Shean Valley, Acre, Hadera, Netanya and Jaffa.

According to the August 12, 1934 issue of the Syrian daily La Syrie, “30,000-36,000 Syrian migrants, from the Hauran region, entered Palestine during the last few months alone.” The role model of Hamas terrorism, Izzedine al-Qassam, who terrorized Jews in British Mandate Palestine, was Syrian, as was Fawzi al-Qawuqji, the chief Arab terrorist in British Mandate Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s.

Libyan migrants settled in Gedera, south of Tel Aviv. Algerian refugees escaped the French conquest of 1830 and settled in Safed alongside Syrians and Jordanian Bedouin in Tiberias. Circassian refugees, fleeing Russian oppression (1878) and Muslims from Bosnia, Turkmenistan, and Yemen (1908) further diversified the Arab demography west of the Jordan River.

This unusual Arab/Muslim demographic diversity is evidenced by popular Israeli Arab family names, which are a derivative of their countries of origin: Al-Masri (Egypt), Al-Obeidi (Sudan), Al-Lubnani (Lebanon), Halabi (Syria), Al-Mughrabi (Morocco), Al-Djazair (Algeria), Al-Yamani (Yemen), Al-Afghani (Afghanistan), Al-Hindi (India), Al-Hijazi (Saudi Arabia), Al-Baghdadi (Iraq), Bushnak (Bosnia), Khamis (Bahrain), Turki (Turkey), etc.

Aryeh Avneri, a pioneering historian of Arab and Jewish migration, estimated that in 1554 there were 205,000 Muslims, Christians and Jews in Palestine, then 275,000 in 1800 and an unusual surge to 532,000 in 1890, resulting from accelerated Arab immigration.

In fact, Mark Twain wrote in 1869: “Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, Palestine must be the prince. … The hills are barren. … The valleys are unsightly deserts. … Palestine is desolate and unlovely.”

Thus, contrary to the myth of the 1948 Arab refugees — aiming to delegitimize Israel — Arabs have not been in the land of Israel from time immemorial; no Palestinian people was ever robbed of its land; there is no basis for an Arab “claim of return”; and most of the 320,000 Arab refugees — who were created by the 1948 Arab invasion of Israel and their own collaboration with the invasion — were recent immigrants and foreign workers (from neighboring Arab countries) in the land of Israel.

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Jerusalem is united

Jerusalem Day: A personal recollection

By MICHELLE MAZEL \ June6, 2016

It happened almost half a century ago – 49 years ago to be precise – and one tends to forget the days of terror that preceded the reunification of the city.

Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had enforced a blockade on the Straits of Tiran on the Red Sea, effectively cutting off Israeli vessels’ access to Asia and to Africa; he had also ordered the UN peacekeeping force to leave the Sinai Peninsula where it had been posted since the 1956 Suez war. On June 5, 1967, the beginning of the Six Day War, the government of Israel had been at pains to inform King Hussein of Jordan that the war was only directed at Egypt. Therefore, no efforts had been made to prepare the capital for an attack. The sudden Jordanian artillery barrage took everyone by surprise.

Like most Jerusalemites, I had gone to work as usual. The first salvos found me at the Government Print House then located in Baka. Nobody knew what to do. While some of the employees chose to remain in the building, others decided to make a break for it. Though my two-year-old daughter was with a caretaker, I was afraid she would be scared and I joined them. A courageous colleague drove me part of the way and I started walking. It was very hot, there was a pervasive smell of gunpowder and the streets were deserted. The sound of big guns was heard intermittently.

I made it home just as the neighbors were getting organized to take refuge in what passed for a bomb shelter – a small room on the ground floor with reinforced walls and a steel door which was usually used to store junk. It had been hastily cleared but offered no facilities whatsoever, not even water. There was no proper ventilation and we had to leave the door partially open most of the time. Seven families lived in the building and there were small children so there was barely room for mattresses. Of course the men had all been drafted.

We settled down for the night with no expectation of being able to sleep. The hills of Jerusalem reverberated with artillery fire. Kol Israel radio was sending encouraging messages but refraining from giving any information. However, at the time Egyptian radio had special broadcasts in Hebrew, and boasted of a string of successes. It provided us with some unlikely comic relief, as when it was said that while Israelis were suffering, their prime minister was ensconced in a luxury hotel “with his much younger wife.” But as the hours went by, it was getting more and more difficult to joke. Any minute we expected Egyptian planes to bomb the city. Around two or three in the morning Kol Israel suddenly announced that the Egyptian air force had been completely eliminated. The relief was indescribable and we managed to get some sleep.

Meanwhile reinforcements had been pouring into Jerusalem and were soon routing the Jordanians. On June 7, barely two days after the beginning of the war, a joyful yell was heard all over the world: “Har habayit beyadenu” – the Temple Mount is in our hands.

The war was over for Jerusalem, but it was not before June 11 that a global cease-fire was reached. The Israeli government then took a momentous decision and the walls between eastern and western Jerusalem went down. An incredible event followed. Tens of thousands of Israelis walked to what had hitherto been forbidden territory, while tens of thousands of Arabs were going the other way, eager to discover the new city. They mingled, stopping sometimes to exchange a few words with the new neighbors. An endless flow of men, women and children filled the streets of the reunited city. It is safe to say that they all shared the same feeling of unreality. There was not the slightest incident to mar this extraordinary day where we all thought that a new beginning was bringing hope to all.

It did not quite happen that way. Yet it is worth remembering that had King Hussein believed Rabin instead of Nasser, Jordan would still be ruling the West Bank and east Jerusalem… there would have been neither settlements nor settlers.

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Diplomacy won’t work

Why U.S. diplomacy can’t fix the Middle East

By Aaron David Miller,June 3, 2016
Aaron David Miller is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. He served in the State Department from 1978 to 2003.

Israel wanted no part in it. And neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were scheduled to attend. Yet Secretary of State John Kerry remained optimistic ahead of Friday’s sure-to-go-nowhere Middle East peace conference in Paris. “What we are seeking to do,” he said, “is encourage the parties to be able to see a way forward so they understand peace is a possibility.”

I recognize that sentiment: wanting to remain upbeat, even while knowing that the odds are long. For much of my 24-year career as a State Department Middle East analyst, negotiator and adviser, I held out hope that a conflict-ending peace agreement was possible. I had faith in negotiations as a talking cure and thought the United States could arrange a comprehensive solution. I believed in the power of U.S. diplomacy.

But by the time I left government in 2003, I was a disillusioned diplomat and peace processor with serious doubts about what the United States could accomplish in the Middle East. I realize now that, like Kerry, I was tilting at windmills. U.S.-brokered peace in the Middle East is a quixotic quest. And the more we try and fail, the less credibility and leverage we have in the region.

Looking back now, the high point of my optimism was probably in 1991, the year we orchestrated another, more productive Middle East peace conference in Madrid. I remember that on one of nine trips that led to the conference, a large fly boarded the plane with us at Andrews Air Force Base and buzzed annoyingly around the staff compartment. I was vainly trying to swat it when Secretary of State James Baker walked by to brief the press in the rear of the aircraft. Hours later, while drafting talking points, I felt a presence over my shoulder and turned just as Baker’s large hand dropped the fly onto my yellow legal pad.

That kind of sums up how I thought about our diplomacy back then: With good timing and assertive American leadership (something short of fly-crushing brute force), we could solve festering problems once and for all. My memos at the time had a yes-we-can edge.

The moment seemed ripe for a Middle East breakthrough facilitated by the United States. Our influence in the region was at an all-time high. The U.S. military had just pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and the Israelis and Arabs were off-balance — in the case of Jordan, Syria and the Palestinians, they were looking for ways to ingratiate themselves into America’s good graces. We were respected, admired and feared in the region to a degree we haven’t been since.

Baker, meanwhile, was probably the best U.S. negotiator to tackle the Middle East since Henry Kissinger brokered three disengagement agreements in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. I watched Baker cajole, pressure and threaten to walk out on both Israel’s Yitzhak Shamir and Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, and I saw him huddle with Palestinians like a football coach to encourage them to attend the peace conference. It helped that he had the full backing of President George H.W. Bush — his close friend who cared about Mideast peace and was making good on a pledge to Saudi Arabia that he’d take on the ­Arab-Israeli issue after the Persian Gulf War.

The Madrid conference produced the first direct bilateral negotiations and peace process success between Israelis and Arabs — Syrians, Jordanians and Palestinians — since the Egyptian-Israeli agreement 12 years earlier. I reveled in our achievement and marveled at what U.S. diplomacy could accomplish when it was tough, tenacious and strategic.

My mistake was in believing that Madrid, which really produced only a procedural breakthrough, would necessarily create a foundation for progress on the substantive issues. I thought if we just kept the process going, if we were committed and creative, we would somehow find our way to agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians on Jerusalem, borders and refugees, along with agreement between the Israelis and the Syrians on the Golan Heights. But we never got there. Process can’t substitute for substance.

I maintained my misplaced optimism into the Clinton administration. Sitting with my family on the South Lawn of the White House in September 1993, watching President Bill Clinton preside over the historic handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, I believed, in what had to be one of the most stunning misjudgments of my career, that the peace process had become irreversible.

The Israelis and the Palestinians, without U.S. involvement, had reached an agreement on mutual recognition and a declaration of principles that was supposed to get them toward talks on the big issues. I really thought they had taken ownership of their negotiations and would dedicate themselves to making the Oslo Accords stick.

Through the crises of the next seven years of the Oslo process — Palestinian terrorist attacks, Israeli settlement activity, the assassination of Rabin by an Israeli extremist opposed to Oslo — I kept the faith that the almighty peace process ultimately would succeed. I convinced myself that with added urgency from the United States, the confidence-building, interim measures laid out in the Oslo agreement could be made to work and pave the way for negotiations on the core issues. Early in 1997, literally down on my hands and knees in the West Bank city of Hebron measuring the width of a street that figured prominently in the negotiations, I felt both small and ennobled. This was important, and I’d do anything to keep the process alive.

My commitment, and the illusions that sustained it, would take me all the way to the ill-advised, ill-timed and ill-prepared July 2000 Camp David summit: a last-ditch effort to save the Oslo process. During a briefing a week before, Clinton went around the room asking everyone to gauge the prospects of the summit. And everyone, from the national security adviser to the secretary of state, said more or less the same thing: There was a chance; Ehud Barak and Arafat would make decisions only in the heat of a summit; the president owed it to the cause and to himself to pursue peace before the end of his term. The assessment we all should have given him was that there would be no conflict-ending accord or even a framework agreement, because neither Barak nor Arafat were ready to pay the price, and the president was unlikely to bridge the gaps. But I brushed aside my doubts and echoed the others. Part of me was concerned about pissing off everyone else in the room. The invitations to Arafat and Barak had already been issued, so the briefing really was a formality. But part of me still wanted to believe that we could make peace.

The president thought that if he could just get the Israelis and the Palestinians in the room, he could somehow get them to an agreement, building on what Barak was prepared to offer and using the famous Clinton powers of persuasion. But we had no strategy, we coordinated too closely with the Israelis, and we had no Arab buy-in on issues such as Jerusalem nor any sign that the Palestinians would move off their core demands. We didn’t run the summit; the summit ran us.

When I think back about that fateful period, I shudder. With the best of intentions, in eight months, we planned three presidential negotiations (two on the Syrian track and one on the Palestinian) and failed at all three.

What I should have realized all along was that strong U.S. mediation can’t make up for weak leadership of the parties to a negotiation. We can’t talk them into getting control over their political constituencies. And we can’t expect that our enthusiasm will persuade them to invest in solutions, take necessary risks or recognize that a negotiated settlement is in their interest (and not just ours).

In March 2002, during the height of the second intifada, President George W. Bush’s Middle East envoy, Anthony Zinni, and I were sent to negotiate a cease-fire between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But that was either the Bush administration’s idea of a cruel joke or just a throwaway talking point before the final break with the PLO leader.

That week, a Palestinian suicide bomber had blown himself up at a Passover seder in Netanya, killing 30 Israelis and wounding 140. Israeli forces responded with Operation Defensive Shield, entering the West Bank and imposing closures on most major Palestinian cities and towns.

I’ll never forget the scene in Arafat’s compound. The place reeked of foul air, body odor and too few working toilets. The only light, in what had been in better days a reasonably well-lit conference room, came from candles and a bit of sun that managed to peek through windows that were almost completely blacked out for fear of Israeli snipers. And there in the gloom sat a self-satisfied Arafat, his black machine gun ominously displayed on the table, holding forth about how he’d be rather be martyred than surrender to Israel’s diktats.

There was no longer any way for me to rationalize the importance of process without direction, negotiations without substance or even the use of the word “peace.” Our overinflated optimism at Camp David had had real costs. After raising expectations we couldn’t deliver on, we blamed Arafat for the summit’s failure, and that made it easier for him, in the wake of Sharon’s provocative visit to the sacred Temple Mount, to acquiesce to and encourage the violence that would become the second intifada.

U.S. diplomacy can be effective when we have partners willing to make decisions, when all parties feel an urgency to make those decisions and when gaps separating the parties can actually be bridged. The Iran nuclear agreement, while greatly flawed, is a case in point. It succeeded because it was not a transformational but a transactional arrangement, a highly detailed arms-control accord of arguably limited duration and scope that both the United States and Iran wanted for their own reasons.

But when it comes to matters that cut to the core of people’s identities — such as Jerusalem or Palestinian refugees, or the social engineering required to end Syria’s civil war — or creating an outcome in Iraq or Libya that produces stability and good governance, the United States doesn’t have the horses to pull the wagon. The inconvenient reality is that we will never have a greater stake in this region, or more power to remedy its ills, than those who live there.

I haven’t given up hope for smart and well-timed U.S. diplomacy. But I’ve abandoned my illusions of just how much America is able and willing to do to repair a badly broken, cruel and unforgiving Middle East.

As the fix-it people, Americans have a hard time accepting that we can’t sort out conflicts when those directly involved aren’t willing or able to do so. But sometimes, it makes more sense for our diplomats and negotiators to stay home rather than look weak and ineffective while searching for solutions to problems they simply cannot resolve.

Twitter: @aarondmiller2


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Palestinians must negotiate

Perception as deterrence – Israel’s new Defense Minister

By Ron Jager, May 29, 2016

For the majority of the past eight years, President Obama and State Department “experts” have been treating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the central generator of political upheaval ravaging the Middle East without realizing just how marginal the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs has become or understanding that as far as the Sunni Arab nations of the Middle East are concerned, a Palestinian State would be just another failed Arab nation in perpetual conflict with its own people and with her neighbors.

As far as the Palestinian Authority (PA) that resides in Ramallah is concerned, the lack of legitimacy in the eyes of its own people is only superseded by widespread and institutionalized corruption of its leaders, sustained by international funding from the United States and the European Union. Having rejected over the years any possibility of a negotiated settlement, the PA leadership have proven without a doubt that they have no intentions of reaching any agreement.. The only goal of the Palestinian Arab leadership has been to gain the territories and use them for the next attack aimed at minimizing and weakening Israel. Apart from that, there is nothing: No democracy, no economy, no law and no future for the Palestinian Arabs other than being in a perpetual cycle of meaningless and unsuccessful conflict with Israel. Israel will continue to move ahead and forge alliances with Sunni Arab neighbors and the Palestinian Arabs will wallow in their misery as they continue to deny reality and believe in their own made-up propaganda narrative.

The unprecedented political changes having taken place in the Middle East in recent years – mainly due to Obama’s irresponsible and failed strategic policy decisions – have resulted in new emerging alliances between Israel and her neighbors. Despite the challenges that Iran continues to pose to Israel and the potential of Iran’s leaders who might use the conflict with Israel as a means of rallying political support in the ongoing war with the Sunni Arab nations, the threat of renewed conventional conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors has been downgraded while more realistic scenarios envision a greater focus on economic cooperation and regional stability.

Although it is far too early to predict the success of the new political alliances and strategic order that will eventually emerge from the changes in the Arab world, the inherent asymmetry of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs will maintain this conflict on low burner for the foreseeable future with sporadic eruptions of terror and limited missile attacks similar to what that the Israeli population has had to endure in recent years.

The recent news that Avigdor Lieberman, a former Israeli Foreign Minister and head of the small right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, will replace Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon as the new Israeli defense minister has been greeted by the Israeli media and their elitist opinion makers with dismay and stupefaction. In Tel-Aviv, a city known for its progressive and leftist inclination, many muttered that the municipality should start opening up the air raid shelters as Lieberman’s appointment hit the airwaves. The appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Defense Minister has thrown the Palestinian Arab leadership and Israeli Arab politicians into a frenzy, making the reaction of Israel’s leftist elite seem mild.

Lieberman, a politician feared and despised by the Israeli left, is being demonized and delegitimized before his appointment goes into effect. Claiming that Israel is adopting characteristics of a fascist regime and calling for boycott of Israel; stating that “the Israeli government is sending a message to the world that Israel prefers extremism, dedication to the “occupation” and “settlements over peace” and encouraging blatant racism, are only a fraction of the derogatory and slanderous accusations against a veteran politician who has been democratically elected.

The potential appointment of Avigdor Lieberman to the position of Defense Minister may very well herald a new and more effective deterrence against the Palestinian Arab desire to get up in the morning and murder a Jew. The Palestinian Arab perception of Lieberman is as a person who believes in the sanctification of power, ruthlessness, violence, and who has murderous potential might very well be exactly the change that causes the Palestinians to adopt a more realistic assessment of what a negotiated settlement will look like.

This is the dilemma, and this is their choice. They can continue to deny reality, taking their chances with a Defense Minister who is perceived as having no problems with employing a strict crackdown wherever Palestinian terror erupts, who has no qualms at enforcing strict rules of engagement and making it crystal clear that Israel’s strategy is based on the adage of our Sages, “If someone rises to kill you, kill him first.” Or, they can begin to negotiate seriously and honestly to achieve a sustainable peace agreement with Israel. The perception of Avigdor Lieberman by the Palestinian Arabs can very well facilitate this change.

As Israel’s strategic deterrence and capabilities have been proven to be highly effective in recent years with land, sea, and air strategic capabilities becoming literally impenetrable, the main task facing Israel’s Defense Minister will be primarily in the Palestinian Arab theater. The Middle East, a region highly susceptible culturally to base reactions on the perception of the enemy, may very well bring the Palestinian Arab leadership to fold their cards and start the arduous and unavoidable process of negotiating with Israel.

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UN Human Rights gone astray

Has the UN Human Rights Council become Frankenstein?

By HILLEL NEUER \Jerusalem Post, May 19, 2016

Seventy years ago this week, in the aftermath of the Nazi atrocities, Eleanor Roosevelt and French legal philosopher René Cassin assembled for the first meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The founders had a dream: to reaffirm the principle of human dignity, and to guarantee fundamental freedoms for all.

Over time, in contrast to the commission’s breathtaking surroundings on the shores of Lake Geneva, things turned ugly. Dictatorships hijacked the world body. In 2003, they elected the murderous regime of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi as chair.

This final straw prompted UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to call for scrapping the commission, which he said was plagued with “politicization”, “selectivity” and a “credibility deficit” – all of which “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.”

At Annan’s initiative, the UN in June 2006 replaced it with the Human Rights Council, promising a reformed body of members committed to human rights, which would address the world’s most severe abuses.

Ahead of the council’s celebration next month of its 10th anniversary, we ask: Is the new body living up to the promises of reform? Consider its record in responding to gross violations. Over 50 sessions, only 14 of 193 countries have been condemned – less than what even the discredited commission accomplished.

The majority of abusers enjoy impunity. In China, 1.3 billion people are denied freedoms of speech, assembly and religion.

Tibetans are tortured. The council’s response? Silence.

On the contrary, in violation of the criteria guaranteed in the council’s 2006 charter, China was elected as a member.

In Russia, dissidents are harassed, arrested, even assassinated.

Vladimir Putin’s regime wages bloody wars, invading Ukraine and swallowing Crimea. The council’s response? Silence. On the contrary: Russia, too, was elected a member.

In Saudi Arabia, women are subjugated, and beheadings are at an all-time high. The council’s response? Silence. A recent attempt to investigate Saudi Arabia’s carpet bombing of Yemeni civilians was quashed. On the contrary: Saudi Arabia, too, was elected a member.

And faced with reports of torture in Algeria, forced child labor in Congo, attacks on dissidents in Cuba, abuse of foreign workers in Qatar, incommunicado detentions in the United Arab Emirates, the imprisonment of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and other democracy leaders in Venezuela, and arbitrary arrests in Vietnam, what has the council done, over its 10 years, to protect these victims? Absolutely nothing. On the contrary: The UN elected every single one of these abusers as a council member. With 62 percent non-democracies, the council’s 2016 membership is the worst ever.

Defenders cite the council’s new Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which purports to examine every country. Yet those doing the examining are their peers. China praises Saudi Arabia for respecting religious freedom, and the next day Saudi Arabia praises China for respecting minority rights.

By contrast, consider where the 47-nation body is active.

The council’s pathological obsession with demonizing Israelis, and denying their human rights, has never been worse.

It has adopted 67 resolutions condemning Israel – six more than for the rest of the world combined.

The texts on Israel are uniquely suffused with the suppression of any countervailing facts that might provide balance.

Because if something is to be portrayed as evil, which is the sole purpose of the council’s special agenda item targeting Israel, nothing good can ever be said of it.

Its commissions of inquiry like that which produced the Goldstone Report in 2009, excoriating Israel while exonerating Hamas, initiated an era whereby a terrorist group has come to rely on the council as an effective international tool to achieve its deadly goals.

Hamas is given an incentive by the UN to fire attacks at Israeli civilians while placing its own civilian population in harm’s way.

And just now, the council instituted – without any legal basis – a UN blacklist of Israeli companies doing business across the Green Line. By implementing the anti-Israel boycott campaign, the world body seeks to strangle the economic life of Israeli citizens.

Finally, consider the experts appointed by the council. A number do important work. But far too many are wolves in sheep’s clothing, picked by dictatorships to do their bidding in the name of human rights.

• In 2008, they appointed Richard Falk, who promotes the 9/11 conspiracy theory and backs Hamas.

• In 2013, they reelected Jean Ziegler, co-founder of the Muammar Gaddafi Human Rights Prize, an award given to Hugo Chavez, Louis Farrakhan and Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

• In 2015, the council made Idriss Jazairy a UN human rights expert – even though in his former post as Algeria’s ambassador, he was the one who led the aggressive campaign of non-democracies to muzzle UN rights experts.

Who selects this rogues’ gallery? Last year, the head of the council panel that shortlists candidates was the representative of Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Hassan Trad.

We are actually about to mark a third anniversary. Next month, Geneva will celebrate 200 years since Mary Shelley and her husband, the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, joined Lord Byron and a few others at Villa Diodati, nestled in the beautiful hills of Cologny, just above Lake Geneva.

In that cold and dark June of 1816, amid storms of thunder and lightning, they exchanged ghost stories. Mary Shelley then had a nightmare, which she famously published: the story of an idealistic student who tried to create life, only to be horrified by the result – the story of Frankenstein.

When I walk past Villa Diodati, gazing across Lake Geneva to see the majestic UN building that houses the council, I cannot help but wonder: If Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin were alive today, and beheld a body that grotesquely legitimizes murderers, dictators and anti-Semites, would they not be revolted by what has become of their creation? Would they not conclude that today’s UN Human Rights Council has become Frankenstein’s monster, and their dream become a nightmare?

This column is based on testimony to the US Congress this week by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva.


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Palestinians should teach kindness

The Anti-Israel Poisoning Starts Young

As long as Palestinian leaders nurture a culture of hate, encouraging school children to go out and kill, more violence is inevitable. By encouraging hatred, they distance all of us from the love and belief in peaceful coexistence for which my father stood.

Micah Lakin Avni

My father, Richard Lakin, a 76-year-old retired elementary-school principal from Connecticut, was on a bus in Jerusalem last October when two young Palestinian men boarded and began shooting and stabbing passengers indiscriminately. Two passengers were killed that awful day and 16 injured, including my father. Despite the efforts of first responders and the nurses and doctors at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, my father died two weeks later. He had been shot in the head and stabbed multiple times in the head, face, chest and stomach.

Over the past seven months I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what would cause two educated Palestinian men in their early 20s to board a public bus and butcher a group of innocent civilians, many of them senior citizens. I’m sorry to report that the Palestinian reaction to the attack has led me to believe that the “peace process” is more one-sided than ever.

My father grew up a fighter for civil rights in America. He took those values with him in 1984 when he emigrated to Jerusalem, where he taught English to Arabs and Jews. He was a kind, gentle-hearted man who dedicated his life to education and promoting peaceful coexistence.

Yet Palestinian newspapers praised Baha Alyan, one of the terrorists who murdered my father, as a “martyr and intellectual.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has met with the families of the attackers and praised them as “martyrs.” A Palestinian scout leader said Baha Alyan, who was shot and killed by a security guard before he could kill more innocent passengers, was “an example for every scout.”

Muhammad Alyan, the father of Baha Alyan, has been invited to speak at Palestinian schools and universities about his son the “martyr.” He recently spoke to children at Jabel Mukaber Elementary School in East Jerusalem, about a half a mile from where my father lived. Tragically, many Palestinian children, perhaps most, are still taught to honor terrorists and fight for the destruction of Israel.

All of this would break my father’s heart. In 2007 he published a book called “Teaching as an Act of Love” summarizing his life’s work and educational philosophy. The message of his book is that every child is a miracle that should be nurtured with love. After Baha Alyan’s father visited Jabel Mukaber Elementary School, I asked school officials if I could come and share my father’s message of peace and coexistence. My offer was rejected.

As long as Palestinian leaders nurture a culture of hate, encouraging school children to go out and kill, more violence is inevitable. By encouraging hatred, they distance all of us from the love and belief in peaceful coexistence for which my father stood.

My father’s book begins with a quote from William Penn: “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

My father lived by those words. If only his murderers had as well.

Mr. Avni is the CEO of Peninsula Group Ltd., a publicly traded Israeli commercial finance institution.

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Israel is 68

What a place, Israel at 68

By ROBERT SARNER \ Jeerusalem Post, May 12, 2016

In the mid-1980s, the Paris magazine I was editing published an article titled “50 Reasons to Love the French.” The writer, originally from Philadelphia, had lived in France for 30 years. His piece was a response to the dubious standing of the French in the eyes of many people that continues to this day.

This week, in the spirit of fairness, as it celebrates the 68th anniversary of its hard-fought independence, it’s worth celebrating the unlikely success story of this embattled little country, amid all its imperfections.

Show me another country on the planet that, within such a relatively short time and against such daunting odds, has achieved what Israel has since its inception in 1948. So, in honor of its 68th birthday, here are 68 reasons to respect, if not love, the world’s one and only Jewish country.

1. Israel’s Save A Heart organization performs life-saving heart operations for children from around the globe (including many Palestinians) free of charge.

2. With its freedom of worship, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the number of Christians is increasing.

3. Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees today than it had 50 years ago.

4. Israeli banknotes have braille on them for the sight-impaired.

5. Israel has more museums per capita than any other country, including the world’s only underwater museum.

6. Israel has its own day-long festival of love, called Tu Be’av 7. Relative to its population, Israel has absorbed more immigrants than any other country, with newcomers from over 100 countries.

8. Voice-mail technology was developed in Israel.

9. The IDF is a leader in saving people trapped by natural and man-made disasters.

On short notice, its search and rescue unit has operated in many countries (including Mexico, Kenya, India, Turkey and the US) following earthquakes, train wrecks, collapsed buildings and terrorist attacks.

10. Israel is home to the world’s only theater company comprised entirely of deaf and blind actors.

11. Life expectancy in Israel is among the highest in the world at 82 years.

12. Coffee and cafés are so good in Israel that it’s the only country where Starbucks failed to break into the local market.

13. On a per capita basis, Israel tops the list of countries when it comes to the annual production of scientific papers.

14. The long-running TV show Eretz Nehederet (“It’s a Wonderful Country”) features Israeli humor and satire at its best, with a no-holds barred view of current affairs and public figures. Skewering sacred cows, it’s hugely popular.

15. Israel has won more Nobel Prizes than all other Middle East countries combined.

16. Israel regularly offers free medical care to Syrians wounded in the Syrian civil war.

At physical risk to its own personnel, the IDF has rescued over 2,000 people (including many fighters who are sworn enemies of Israel) on its northeastern border and transferred them to Israeli hospitals.

17. Israel is the only country that revived an ancient, unspoken language, Hebrew, to be its national tongue.

18. One of the holiest sites and international centers of the Baha’i faith is located in Haifa in northern Israel.

19. In a region where homosexuals are persecuted, Israel is the only country where gays live freely with full civil rights and without fear.

20. In Israeli hospitals, Jewish and Arab doctors work together, treating patients of all faiths who share the same rooms.

21. Over 90 percent of Israeli homes use solar power to heat their water.

22. On Yom Kippur, almost the entire country shuts down for 24 hours. All stores, cafés, restaurants and other places of entertainment close. Traffic is halted, and children take over the streets on their bicycles.

23. The Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind assists all citizens, regardless of race or creed, with 24/7 canine accompaniment, at no cost, to help the sight-impaired gain independence, mobility and self-worth.

24. First launched in Israel in 2011, busstop mini-libraries, offering books free of charge, have inspired similar initiatives in other countries.

25. Israel has the highest proportion of water used for irrigation that comes from recycled wastewater.

26. Two professors at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University created the first cherry tomatoes.

27. UNESCO declared Tel Aviv a heritage site for its 4,000 surviving Bauhaus buildings, erected in the 1930s and ‘40s.

28. Beersheba has the largest number of chess grandmasters per capita of any city in the world.

29. In 2012, Israel became the first country to prohibit the use of underweight models in fashion shows.

30. Security measures (many of them unseen) at Ben Gurion Airport are the best in the world.

31. Such is the strength of family values in Israel that Friday night dinners with extended family are near-sacred and a welcome weekly fixture.

32. An Israeli start-up invented a nontouch, radiation-free device, Babysense, that prevents crib death by monitoring a baby’s breathing and movement during sleep.

33. Israel’s unofficial national sport is a popular paddle ball beach game called matkot. It’s played by men and women of all ages and fitness levels. There are no winners or losers, just two people trying to sustain a rally.

34. Israel has the world’s highest per capita rate of university degrees.

35. Bob Dylan’s official 2013 video for his iconic 1965 song “Like A Rolling Stone” was hailed as revolutionary. The interactive clip, which allows viewers to switch through 16 channels on a virtual TV, is the work of a Tel Aviv start-up called Interlude.

36. Israel developed the technology that allowed for the original cell phone.

37. The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is the world’s oldest continuously used cemetery.

38. There’s no capital punishment, even for terrorists who carry out premeditated mass murder of unarmed civilians.

39. Israel has more orchestras per capita than any other country.

40. Two Israelis at Tel Aviv University invented an “anti-date rape straw” which detects the two most common date rape drugs and alerts intended victims.

41. Israel’s most recent victory in the Eurovision song contest was by a transgender pop star.

42. Israel has taken great risks – often in covert, dangerous operations – to rescue Jews in distress around the world, such as in Yemen, Ethiopia and Iraq.

43. Despite a high cost of living, there are relatively few beggars and homeless individuals on Israeli streets.

44. Israel’s dairy cows are unrivaled in their annual production of milk.

45. An Israeli company developed the first ingestible video camera, that helps doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders.

46. Israel places such a high value on the lives of its citizens it goes to extraordinary lengths to win their freedom. It has engaged in wildly lopsided deals, exchanging up to 1,500 Palestinian security prisoners (many of them mass murderers) for a few soldiers and to retrieve the bodies of others.

47. Many popular US TV shows originated in Israel. Homeland, In Treatment and Rising Star, among others, were based on Israeli programs.

48. Salim Joubran, an Israeli-Arab judge, became a permanent member of the country’s Supreme Court in 2004. He was the first Arab to chair the Central Elections Committee.

49. Israel has more in-vitro fertilization per capita than any other country, and it’s free.

50. Numerous studies show Israel as one of the best countries in which to raise children.

51. Israelis are famous for being argumentative and yelling at each other in disputes but relatively few throw punches or threaten to sue.

52. There’s only one significant freshwater lake in Israel, known abroad as the Sea of Galilee and locally as Lake Kinneret. It’s the world’s lowest freshwater lake and provides most of the country’s drinking water.

53. Israeli engineers invented a new form of drip irrigation that minimizes the amount of water needed to grow crops.

54. Given its tiny size and small population, Israel sometimes feels like one big family. A collective spirit reigns, like in few other places.

55. A Jerusalem high-tech company specializing in artificial vision has invented a tiny camera to help drivers navigate more safely. The device, called Mobile Eye, is being built into most new cars around the world.

56. The Weizmann Institute has developed treatment that offers new hope for prostate cancer patients in 2016. Targeting tumors without damaging a man’s genitalia, urinary tract or quality of life, the treatment has so far proven effective.

57. You can’t escape the news in Israel.

Everyone talks about it and bus drivers play the radio for all to hear, including the hourly newscasts.

58. A device developed in Israel is providing people suffering from glaucoma with relief and an effective alternative to traditional surgery.

59. Every year, Israelis, wherever they are, stand for two minutes in silence in memory of Holocaust victims as sirens wail on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Likewise on Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars Israelis stand for two minutes to honor the country’s fallen soldiers.

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Antisemitism in camouflage

Taking down BDS

 Reuven Rivlin, March 28, 2016, YNet news

 President Rivlin argues that while criticism of Israel is fair, when it comes under the guise of BDS and used as a camouflage for anti-Semitism, it crosses a line. Israel must stand together in order to overcome the BDS threat.

Since its establishment in this hostile region, Israel has had to heal with geo-political isolation.

In order to compensate for this isolation, throughout the generations, Israel’s leadership signed a number of strategic alliances with Western powers. These alliances not only guaranteed Israel’s military supremacy, but also ensured the free flow of Israeli culture, trade, and science to the most advanced countries in the world. These friendships and alliances with the West are a large part of the reason that Israel is as strong, prosperous, and advanced as it is today.

Yet there are those who look at these strong alliances, and yearn – for one reason or another – to isolate Israel and to weaken its standing internationally. The BDS movement includes many factions and parts, some of which have nothing to do with one another. I’m sorry to say that some parts of BDS even include factions which are connected to enemies of the State of Israel, and who work in order to eradicate Israel as a Jewish state. Some of them are even worse, and hide their anti-Semitism by calling their actions “criticism of Israeli policy.” Yet it’s important to clarify – not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism, and not all international pressure on Israel is a boycott. Criticism comes of concern and even the necessity to keep Israel strong. When friendly countries criticize us, I quite often find this criticism to be unjustified, but as a man who loves the Land of Israel, I don’t think that everyone who criticizes Israel – for instance on the matter of Judaea and Samaria – is causing de-legitimization to Israel.
Anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are the complete opposite of criticism – they use criticism in order to reject the right of the State of Israel to exist and to reject the Jewish people’s right have their own state. I’m sorry to say that not even the West is immune to these positions. History proves that the dark and ugly scourge of anti-Semitism can spring up anywhere, even in the enlightened strongholds of Europe.

The BDS movement, as a movement which rejects Israel’s existence, has on multiple occasions spread modern-day blood libels. It doesn’t advance peace, but hatred. It is our responsibility to take apart this organization. The subject of boycott has always been a central issue in my work – as Speaker of the Knesset, and, of course, as President. I hear with concern about the damage, both visible and hidden, from academics, settlement leaders, athletes, and industrialists. At the same time, I sit and I stress to all the leaders and intellectuals I meet how dangerous the boycott is. I also stress and clarify – we are a nation familiar with debates and argumenets, a nation in which dealing with controversy and criticism is a central part of its existence. But boycott, by its very definition, is not part of debate – it silences debate. Don’t let boycotts – as I always tell world leaders – change the lively and open discussion. Boycotts, violence, and incitement only deepen divides, and don’t bring us any closer to a solution. When BDS takes over, criticism turns into camouflage for the de-legitimization of the existence of the State of Israel. We are putting our full effort into this fight.

BDS isn’t a threat which only exists at this moment, and its damage to the Israeli economy and Israeli security is still marginal. Nevertheless, we will not allow BDS to erode and denigrate the Israeli brand or the internal values of our society. Once we understand how to prove this to ourselves – while staying consistent with our values and identity – we will be able to prove this to the entire world, and BDS will no longer exist.

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