Israel farms the world

‘Tell us how you made Israel’

By SHARON UDASIN \Jerusalem post, October 17, 2016

Surrounded by an inhospitable mix of barren desert and malaria-ridden swampland, the fledgling State of Israel had little food with which to sustain its increasingly hungry inhabitants.

Fast forward a mere six-and-a-half decades, and the Little Country that Could is not only nourishing its own eight million citizens, but is also helping developing countries around the world do the same.

“We are the only country in the world that has come to such a high development stage in such a short period of time; it’s a miracle,” Yakov Poleg, head of the Agriculture Ministry’s CINADCO: The Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation, told The Jerusalem Post, in a recent interview at his Beit Dagan office.

“The beauty is that Israel is willing to share all its development achievements with other nations,” he said.

Israel began its quest to become a key player in the international development sphere in 1957, with the launch of Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV (the Hebrew acronym for Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation). The creation of MASHAV was the result of then-foreign minister Golda Meir’s trip to Africa – a visit that strengthened Israel’s commitment to partnering with emerging nations in the neighboring continent.

“We were a country of refugees. There was a sort of austerity in Israel, but we transformed rather quickly to an OECD country – one of the 35 most developed economies in the world,” Gil Haskel, head of MASHAV, told the Post.

Along with the country’s growth into a modern state, Israeli technological demonstrations and training programs – in the sectors of agriculture, public health, education and women’s empowerment, among others – gradually began to appear around the globe.

In today’s agriculture sector in particular, government programs piloted by MASHAV and its professional arm CINADCO have been implemented all over Asia and Africa, focusing on horticulture, dairy and irrigation.

Countless Israeli private companies that specialize in farming technologies are involved in many of these projects and in their own independent ventures.

Since its establishment, MASHAV has trained some 270,000 participants from 132 countries in its various courses both abroad and in Israel – of which about 70% involve agriculture. While some of the instruction occurs in a traditional classroom setting, the Israeli government agency has gone out into the field, setting up a unique array of fully functioning farms around the world.

“Project-wise, we established from the very beginning demonstration agricultural farms all over Africa,” said Haskel, who served as Israel’s ambassador to East Africa from 2011 to 2014. “It intensified in the beginning of the ’90s when we established relations with new countries.”

Chief among them were India and Vietnam, while relations with Thailand received a significant upgrade, Haskel explained.

India: making up for lost time

Perhaps Israel’s greatest agricultural success story on a government-to-government level is its partnership with India, which has led to hands-on collaborations with farmers all over the subcontinent.

Prior to the establishment of official diplomatic relations in 1992, ties between Jerusalem and New Delhi were far from friendly, following a period that Haskel described as “44 years of lost time.”

“When we established relations with India, we started thinking about how to maximize lost time,” he said.

In 1996, the two countries first discussed establishing a demonstration farm in New Delhi, to exhibit Israel’s agricultural technologies, according to Haskel, who served as deputy ambassador to India from 1994 to 1998.

“As we went on, the Indians came and said, ‘We don’t only want the technologies – we want the entire value chain. Tell us how you made Israel,’” said Haskel. “Then the phrase ‘Center of Excellence’ came into being.”

Haskel was referring to a unique set of holistic farming facilities that do not only showcase Israeli expertise, but also promote “the entire value chain from the R&D to the implementation of the actual technologies.”

Out of this mutual aspiration – and a memorandum of understanding signed in 1996 – grew MASHAV’s largest venture in the world to date, the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project, launched in 2008.

“India specifically is a country that is confronting developing challenges, scarcity of water and food security challenges,” Daniel Carmon, Israel’s ambassador in New Delhi, told the Post.

Stressing that India does not fall into the OECD category of an Official Development Assistance country, Carmon explained that Israel was invited by India to share its technologies in an intergovernmental partnership to build the Centers of Excellence.

The Indo-Israel Agriculture Project is the combined effort of a number of bodies, from both the Israeli and Indian governments. On the Israeli side are MASHAV, CINADCO and the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. On the other side is Indian Agriculture Ministry’s Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture, as well as many Indian state and federal governmental bodies.

“We are cutting, adapting and pasting the Israeli farms to the Indian scene,” said Carmon, who previously served as the head of MASHAV from 2011 to 2014 and ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2010.

The Indo-Israel Agriculture Project has been evolving in three stages, with the first occurring from 2009 to 2012, the second from 2012 to 2015 and the third in 2015-18.

Thus far, the project boasts 26 Centers of Excellence either operating or in the works, with 15 already fully functional, according to Dan Alluf, counselor for international cooperation for the Israeli embassy and MASHAV.

Dan Alluf (left), MASHAV counselor at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, examines the drip irrigation system in an onion field at the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project Vegetable Center of Excellence in the Dharwad district of Karnataka, India, May 2016

Dan Alluf (left), MASHAV counselor at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, examines the drip irrigation system in an onion field at the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project Vegetable Center of Excellence in the Dharwad district of Karnataka, India, May 2016

“We as a state and as a partner of India look together at how we can benefit the local farmer,” Alluf said. “It really is a partnership. I cannot do it alone.”

The 15 active centers and 11 still in planning are located in nine Indian states, where they specialize in a variety of crops, like vegetables, mango, citrus, pomegranate, floriculture, dates and beekeeping.

As part of the third phase of the project, the hope is to see all 26 centers fully operational by the end of 2017, Alluf said. In addition, the Israeli and Indian partners would like to open another 10 to 14 centers in seven new states, he said. Another critical component to the project’s third phase will be the introduction of new technologies and expertise, like water recycling mechanisms and post-harvest management, Alluf added.

The partners meld their strengths particularly well in part due to what Alluf describes as an inherent “connection between Israelis and Indians” – cultures that both tend to be “very direct and hands-on.”

“The Indian partner is actually leading me,” he said. “He is guiding me on what the key crops are and what he would like to see as the scope of activity.”

“We always think, if the farmer would come to the center, would it be relevant for him?” Alluf said. “Can he implement it on his farm?” As the partners build each Center of Excellence, Haskel stressed that “the keyword of every developing project is sustainability.”

The Indian government provides the physical infrastructure, while the Israeli partners contribute the know-how, he explained.

“At the end of the day, the Israeli experts phase out and the project stays in the hands of the recipients, and if the recipients have the ability to maintain it, it will be sustainable,” Haskel said. “Once a partner invests in the infrastructure he has an interest in maintaining the project.”

The Centers of Excellence established to date have been so successful that they have been attracting visitors from both inside and outside the country. Within India, the centers have been particularly popular in the state of Haryana, where the local government announced in January that it would be launching 14 new facilities of its own – focusing on micro-irrigation and operating on the Israeli model.

For those involved in the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project, one long-term vision in mind is to see members of the Israeli and Indian private sectors reproducing the model independently in the future, Carmon explained. The private sector, he stressed, will be an increasingly critical player as cooperative ventures in agricultural development move forward.

Although the Centers of Excellence are generating a buzz outside India, they also continuously draw guests from a variety of neighboring nations.

“The idea is to see if they think that those centers can suit them, with all the differences between India and the other countries,” Carmon said.

Trainees have even come to the Centers of Excellence from countries that typically have no contact whatsoever with Israel, such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Haskel explained.

“This is a multiplying effect of knowledge that MASHAV is very proud to be the initiator of, especially to countries in need that we cannot reach otherwise,” Haskel said. “We try to put aside politics because at the end of the day international development caters to the human end of the value chain.”

Regardless of their countries’ diplomatic relations with Israel, visitors to the Centers of Excellence in India are very much aware of the Israeli contribution to the facilities, Alluf explained.

“We put a lot of effort and resources in branding the centers as Indo-Israel,” he said. “It starts with the flags and signposts and the messages about drip irrigation being developed in Israel.”

By partaking in the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project, Israel is continuing to “build a strong and sound relationship” with India and its people, Carmon stressed.

“We are actually doing things that are important to the leadership, important to the people, important to the farmers,” he said.

“Agricultural and food security and water are not less important to the Indian farmer and Indian citizen than other areas,” Carmon added. “If we can be a partner in this then we strengthen something that is much bigger.”

A model project for Rwanda

Although Israeli-led demonstration farms now exist throughout the world, the all-inclusive Center of Excellence model honed in India is beginning to spark the interest of foreign governments and industry stakeholders.

“Our project is really a model,” Alluf said. “It’s quite overwhelming how many people look into this activity and want either to partner with it or use the model of implementation.”

For the first time ever, MASHAV and CINADCO are now about to replicate this model in another country – in the rolling green hills of Rwanda, in equatorial East Africa. Located about 12 km. west of Kigali, the Rwandan Center of Excellence will serve as a hub for agricultural training, adapting Israeli farming technologies to local needs and increasing fruit and vegetable yields.

The Rwandan center, which is slated to be built by the end of 2016, will gradually become self-sustainable, with the aim of ultimately providing export quality fruits and vegetables, Haskel explained. In addition, the center will serve as a training site for local farmers, agronomists, academics and members of the private sector, he added.

Before work got under way on the facility, Carmon and Alluf said that a delegation from Rwanda came to India to learn from their experience.

“We always have to adapt to the local scene,” Carmon said. “We can never say, ‘this is the model – now you take it, cut and paste it.’ You can never paste it without adapting first. Each scene is different, each country has different kinds of needs.”

One key difference between the Indian Centers of Excellence and the future Rwandan site is that the infrastructure at the Indian facilities is completely funded by the Indian government; whereas, the Rwandan center is entirely a gift from Israel, Haskel explained.

Similar to the centers in India, however, the aim is to make the Rwandan site profitable, according to Poleg, the head of the Agriculture Ministry’s CINADCO.

“We want the project to be successful. We know it will influence other countries,” Poleg said. “After finishing the construction phase, we will send experts and make sure that local farmers and experts will come to this center and be involved in the training activities.”

Critical to the Rwandan center’s success will be the development of the entire value chain, which includes not only production but also post-harvest treatment and packaging, Haskel explained. The hope is that the facility will be self-sustainable within four to five years and exporting products within four, he said.

Until the center is functioning independently, however, MASHAV representative Boaz Medina will be on the ground full-time. Medina is striving to make an impact on Rwanda’s agricultural future, by administrating the center and visiting farmers at their homes, but his immediate goals are also humble.

“I’m not shooting for the stars and saying that we will change the way that people will do agriculture in Rwanda. That would be way too big,” Medina said.

“What we are trying to do is to try to demonstrate to them, to present to them, what the technologies are.”

Africa: food for the future

While Rwanda will be the first African nation to become home to an official Israeli Center of Excellence, it is by no means the first place on the continent to benefit from Israeli agricultural development projects.

“Africa is very much on the focus of the prime minister and the Israeli government, so we are looking at intensifying the activities there,” Haskel said.

With the global population set to increase by three billion by the year 2050, governments around the world will be under “tremendous pressure” to produce food in a more efficient manner with limited resources, less water and degraded lands, Poleg explained.

“Countries are looking into alternatives, and for the people of Africa I think it will be very important to learn from Israel how to better produce food, grow agricultural products – fruits, vegetables, milk, protein – and produce more with less,” he said. “This is something that Israel is doing very well – producing more with less.”

In addition to Rwanda, other African nations where Israeli agricultural projects are already at work include Ethiopia, Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal, as well as smaller projects in Malawi and Burkina Faso.

In Ethiopia, MASHAV and USAID are jointly running a horticultural development project with the country’s Agriculture Ministry, focusing on avocados and mangoes.

The program recently led to Ethiopia’s first export of an avocado harvest, Poleg added.

One challenge faced by MASHAV’s long-term representative in Ethiopia is the lack of enthusiasm among local extension services to share knowledge with other rural farmers, according to Poleg. To ensure that some transfer of information does occur, the representative developed a “mobile nursery,” through which he is able to travel directly to farms and demonstrate beneficial skills, Poleg explained.

Just south of Ethiopia in Kenya, MASHAV and the German International Development Corporation (GIZ) have also been particularly active. Adjacent to the highly polluted Lake Victoria, which had been rich with tilapia, the partners have built fishponds so that locals can raise the fish they used to catch.

The launch of an Israeli agricultural field in Kenya, April 2016

The launch of an Israeli agricultural field in Kenya, April 2016

Another program in Kenya is the Galana Kulalu Food Security Project, for which MASHAV and CINADCO are collaborating with the private Israeli firm Green Arava Ltd., to exhibit modern irrigation practices and cultivate maize. While Green Arava is running operations at the site, the Israeli government is overseeing capacity building and training – bringing course participants to learn in Israel and beginning to construct a nearby demonstration farm, Poleg explained.

Shifting westward to Central Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, Israel is also active in Cameroon – administering an agricultural training program. The program is the result of a three-year agreement signed in January 2016 with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Cameroon’s Youth Agro-pastoral Entrepreneurship Promotion Program, to give young people the ability to improve their food security through profitable initiatives, according to information from MASHAV.

Through this program, which has already begun operating, Israel will be sending experts to academic institutions in Cameroon to help “train the new generation of farmers and entrepreneurs,” Poleg said.

While there, the experts will also provide guidance on initiating demonstration farms, he added.

“For the first time, we are not only showing and demonstrating our technology and our knowledge but also working with the government to enhance capacity in the most meaningful way – by sending an expert to teach and be part of their curriculum,” Poleg said.

Further along the Gulf of Guinea, in West Africa, Israel is cementing its presence in Ghana’s agricultural sector.

There, Israel has a variety of projects, including a citrus and beekeeping training program with the German and Ghanaian Food and Agriculture Ministries.

Also in West Africa, Israel has partnered with Italy in Senegal to introduce drip irrigation to local farmers. The project is able to extend its influence by establishing three demonstration farms – of which two are already operating well – within reach of 70 villages, Poleg explained.

The Israeli-Italian venture, dubbed the Techno-Agriculture Innovation for Poverty Alleviation – Support Program to the National Agricultural Investment Plan in Senegal (TIPA-PAPSEN), is based on MASHAV’s original TIPA program that began operating in 2006. TIPA involves implementing “low-pressure drip-irrigation, a mix of vegetables and tree crops, and a management package that leads to optimization of the production system,” according to MASHAV.

“This project also brings the communities together,” Poleg said. “The project forced them to work together.”

Through the program, the 70 villages have to think about how to share their water resources, and a great emphasis is placed on gender equality and empowerment of women, he added.

Moving forward with agricultural development partnerships, much of Israel’s focus will remain on Africa – particularly on West Africa, a region of the continent in which the Jewish state has been less involved until now.

This region of 15 countries – officially called the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – includes Ghana, Burkina Faso and Senegal, where agricultural projects are under way. Yet ECOWAS also contains countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations: Mali and Niger.

In December, however, Israel will be hosting a conference for the agriculture ministers of ECOWAS countries.

“This will be the first time that agriculture ministers from West Africa will come to Israel to get a first sight of Israeli development achievements in agriculture,” Poleg said. “Agriculture is a major economic development tool, a major economic development area in Africa.”

Developing new terrain

While Africa might dominate the focus of Israel’s next steps in agricultural development cooperation, other parts of the world, particularly Asia and South America, also remain attractive regions.

In South America, Israel already has an agreement with the government of Panama for a horticulture project, Haskel said.

Asia continues to provide an attractive space for agricultural collaborations, with existing projects thriving in a number of countries (in addition to India), including China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Projects are also in the pipeline for Myanmar and Nepal, according to Haskel.

Danny Zohar Zonshine, Israeli ambassador to Myanmar, said that a few short MASHAV courses have already taken place in the country where he serves, on subjects like irrigation, vegetable cultivation and beekeeping.

Agriculture study programs in Israel are also popular among Burmese students, attracting about 200 to 250 annually, he explained.

In addition, Zonshine said he recently accompanied a Burmese delegation to visit the Israeli dairy demonstration farm in Vietnam. The goal of the trip, he explained, was “to show them the Israeli way of doing things,” hoping that they would adopt some of the technology and management tools exhibited there.

While Israeli and Burmese officials are still in the phase of trying to determine what a government-to-government program might look like, Zonshine said that Myanmar has proposed a meeting for the stakeholders to discuss the possibilities. In Zonshine’s mind, a good option might involve a demonstration center for Israeli technology in irrigation or seeds, though such a facility could also be run by the private sector, he said.

“Myanmar is now moving forward,” Zonshine added.

“The opportunities are here. It’s an interesting and challenging place but might be rewarding.”

Another country in the region that recently demonstrated interest in Israeli agriculture expertise is the tiny, landlocked Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, a country sandwiched between India and China in the Eastern Himalayas.

In an early September interview with the Post, Agriculture and Forests Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji of Bhutan – a country with which Israel has no diplomatic relations – expressed his eagerness to further agricultural cooperation with Israel during a first-ever visit to the Jewish state. Dorji, who was in Israel to witness the graduation of Bhutanese students from an agriculture apprenticeship program, discussed potential collaborations in citrus cultivation, dairy farming and irrigation.

“We have been sending students [to Israel] for the last four years,” he said at the time, noting that the program is a key “part of connection building” with Israel. “Some of them have started their own business, and some are able to share their know-how.”

Education in Israel

While Israeli agricultural technology has become an increasingly common presence in rural villages across Asia and Africa, the exchange of know-how is not limited to on-the-ground demonstration facilities. Each year, thousands of foreign students make the trip to Israel for three-week or 11-month programs in a variety of fields – ultimately bringing their experience back home.

About 2,000 to 2,500 postgraduates come to study annually from about 100 developing countries, with full scholarships for three-week training programs at MASHAV facilities in Kibbutz Shfayim and Ramat Rahel, as well as the organization’s Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center, Haskel explained.

In addition, programs sponsored by private companies bring about 3,500 people for 11-month programs annually, Haskel said. One of the biggest such courses is the AgroStudies apprenticeship program, which has educated about 7,000 students from 20 countries in the past 11 years, the firm’s CEO, Yaron Tamir, told the Post.

One of the newest tools that MASHAV is providing to graduates of its government-funded programs is follow- up support once they return to their home countries, Haskel said. These former students can apply for grants of up to $10,000, for projects based on the knowledge that they acquired in Israel.

Already, Haskel said, MASHAV is getting applications for such grants from all over the developing world.

“The idea is to have these projects as home-grown, grassroots local projects,” he added.

Gains for Israel: Sharing the entrepreneurial spirit

As Israel continues to sow seeds of agricultural development and forge lasting partnerships with governments – and their farmers – in Asia, Africa and across the globe, the project recipients are not the only ones to benefit from these ventures.

“The promise lies in the people themselves,” Poleg said. “Maybe we came to a country that is so difficult to develop and to succeed in because God wanted to show us that the promise lies in you.”

“We are trying to share with them the way to development, to share the entrepreneurial spirit, to show them how to be successful in a world of limited resources, to show them that challenges can also be opportunities in this regard,” he added.

In doing so, Israel also has the opportunity to strengthen its bilateral relations with the receiving countries, in areas like the economy, defense, regional cooperation and the fight against terrorism, Haskel explained.

“We need these countries in international forums,” he said. “On top of all that is the commitment of Israel as an OECD country to develop the economy, to assist the least-developed countries in the world. There is something that runs deep in the Jewish values of tikkun olam [repairing the world].”

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Arabs who love Israel

Facebook page provides welcome space for Israeli Arabs who support Israel

 Tzvi Lev, Ynet News, September 9, 2016

When Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan blamed Facebook in July for the recent wave of terror attacks, he was likely not referring to the “Arabs and Right-Wingers Tweeting,” Facebook page, which serves as a forum for Israeli Arabs who love and support Israel but who often pay a heavy price for it.

A post on the page displays a picture of two Israeli-Arab soldiers in uniform and lauds them for their efforts to protect Israel. Another presents a video documenting a platoon of sweaty IDF troops struggling to push a tractor up a steep hill. “When a Palestinian tractor broke down, IDF reserve soldiers were the first to help. Together with the Palestinian farmers, they got the tractor up and running,” read the accompanying caption. “Sometimes IDF soldiers perform great acts of heroism; sometimes all it takes is a small act of kindness.” The posts, that received thousands of “likes,” are typical for the page, which was launched by an Israeli Arab together with a Orthodox Jew who are attempting to foster coexistence by providing a forum for Arabs who love Israel to express themselves. “We want to unite Arabs who love the country and who are Zionist, but who feel like they do not have a welcome place in their communities,” said Michal Julian, 37, a Jewish resident of Jerusalem who co-founded the page with Abdallah Abdel Rahman, 27, from Abu Ghosh.

Acre resident Mahdi Satri, a frequent contributor to the 'Arabs and Right-Wingers Tweeting' Facebook group (Photo courtesy of Mahdi Satri via Facebook) (Photo courtesy of Mahdi Satri)

Acre resident Mahdi Satri, a frequent contributor to the ‘Arabs and Right-Wingers Tweeting’ Facebook group (Photo courtesy of Mahdi Satri via Facebook)

“Israeli-Arab Knesset members are constantly inciting against the state, and many Israelis think that they are the true representatives of the Arab sector, which isn’t true,” continued Julian. “We have a group of Israeli-Arabs here who truly love their country and we want to show that they are not alone.” “Arabs and Right-Wingers Tweeting” was launched in 2014, after Julian and Abdel Rahman met while battling anti-Israel incitement on a Facebook page popular with Israeli Arabs during Operation Protective Edge. She said that one of the administrators reached out to her and suggested creating a Facebook forum for pro-Israel Arabs, rather than arguing on that page. “I decided that if there are Arabs who define themselves as Zionists, then we should (support them by) opening a Facebook page and showing the world the truth,” recalled Julian. “We started small, but more and more people joined us, and here we are today, with thousands of followers.” The page aims to be the voice of a sector whose existence is unknown to many Israelis—right-wing Israeli Arabs, who proudly support Israel and oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. The founders also hope the project will show a different face of the Arab community to Israelis in addition to acting as a force for Israel advocacy, or hasbara. The page regularly features displays of coexistence between Arabs and Jews. One Arab man named Khaled received 100 “likes” after exclaiming “forever my Israel, I have no other country” in response to a post showcasing Arab children distributing candy to IDF soldiers. He was lavished with praise from both Arabs and Jews alike, with statements like “I would love to shake your hand” and “Khaled, people like you bring light to the world.”

One supporter and frequent contributor to the page, 45-year-old Sara Zoabi of Nazareth Illit, says she is an unabashed supporter of the Jewish state. She stunned Israelis when she introduced herself on the MasterChef cooking show as “Arab, Muslim, Israeli, and proud Zionist.”

“This page is a necessary step and can further encourage this phenomenon of Arab Zionists expressing themselves,” Zoabi contended. “The page is successful and will continue to be successful and it has a bright future.” The memebrs of “Arabs and Right-Wingers Tweeting” are no strangers to the consequences that can befall an Israeli Arab openly supporting Israel. Julian has received frantic calls from Israeli Arabs who begged him to remove their posts after they had received death threats. “Abdel Rahman could not deal with the emotional pressure,” lamented Julian. “They wrote many things about him on pages frequented by Arabs. He was called a traitor and lived in constant fear.” Nevertheless, Zoabi believes that many Israeli Arabs secretly support Israel, but are afraid to come out and say so openly. “It is a problem that many people do not have the courage to come out and say so,” Zoabi claimed. “I myself have paid a very steep price with curses hurled at me and having been forced to move apartments because of my feelings about Israel.” Zoabi’s own son Muhammad had to leave the country in 2014 due to blowback he received following his condemnation of the abduction and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel. “It is not easy,” Zoabi admitted. “But I have to do what I think is right and I am prepared to pay any price for it.”

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Oslo Accord was Disaster

The Oslo Disaster

By September 4, 2016

Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 123

Prof. Efraim Karsh, the incoming director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, skewers the Oslo diplomatic process as “the starkest strategic blunder in Israel’s history” and as “one of the worst calamities ever to have afflicted Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Twenty three years after its euphoric launch on the White House lawn,” Karsh writes in this comprehensive study, “the Oslo ‘peace process’ has substantially worsened the position of both parties and made the prospects for peace and reconciliation ever more remote.”

“The process has led to establishment of an ineradicable terror entity on Israel’s doorstep, deepened Israel’s internal cleavages, destabilized its political system, and weakened its international standing.”

“It has been a disaster for West Bank and Gaza Palestinians too. It has brought about subjugation to corrupt and repressive PLO and Hamas regimes. These regimes have reversed the hesitant advent of civil society in these territories, shattered their socioeconomic wellbeing, and made the prospects for peace and reconciliation with Israel ever more remote.”

“This abject failure is a direct result of the Palestinian leadership’s perception of the process as a pathway not to a two-state solution – meaning Israel alongside a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – but to the subversion of the State of Israel. They view Oslo not as a path to nation-building and state creation, but to the formation of a repressive terror entity that perpetuates conflict with Israel, while keeping its hapless constituents in constant and bewildered awe as Palestinian leaders line their pockets from the proceeds of this misery.”

Karsh details at length how the Oslo process has weakened Israel’s national security in several key respects.

On the strategic and military levels, it allowed the PLO to achieve in one fell swoop its strategic vision of transforming the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into terror hotbeds that would disrupt Israel’s way of life (to use Yasser Arafat’s words). Continue reading

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Origin of life is mystery

Greenland Fossils, Earth’s Oldest, Pose an Evolutionary Dilemma

David Klinghoffer

September 1, 2016 4:50 PM | Permalink

Greenland Fossils.jpg

The origin of cellular life, with all that implies by way of mind-bogglingly sophisticated biological information in action, now seems to have occurred as early in earth’s history as it could have done — 3.7 billion years ago. Just right off the bat it happens, “immediately,” as one paleontologist puts it in amazement: genetic code, proteins, photosynthesis, the works.

It’s reported in Nature (“Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures“). From the New York Times:

Geologists have discovered in Greenland evidence for ancient life in rocks that are 3.7 billion years old. The find, if confirmed, would make these fossils the oldest on Earth and may change scientific understanding of the origins of life.

Experts are likely to debate whether the structures described in the new report were formed biologically or through natural processes. If biological, the great age of the fossils complicates the task of reconstructing the evolution of life from the chemicals naturally present on the early Earth. It leaves comparatively little time for evolution to have occurred and puts the process close to a time when Earth was being bombarded by destructive asteroids. [Emphasis added.]

The microbial mats from the Isua Greenstone Belt involved creatures already “fairly evolved.”

Several different species of microbes are involved in stromatolite creation. The Isua structures, if indeed stromatolites, would represent fairly evolved organisms.

Here’s the problem:

If life on Earth did not begin until after the Late Heavy Bombardment, then it had a mere 100 million years in which to evolve to the quite advanced stage seen in the new fossils.

If so, Dr. [Abigail] Allwood wrote, then “life is not a fussy, reluctant and unlikely thing.” It will emerge whenever there’s an opportunity.

But the argument that life seems to have evolved very early and quickly, so therefore is inherently likely, can be turned around, Dr. [Gerald] Joyce said. “You could ask why, if life were such a probable event, we don’t have evidence of multiple origins,” he said.

In fact, with trivial variations, there is only one genetic code for all known forms of life, pointing to a single origin.

If some unguided chemical and biological evolutionary model must be assumed as explaining the origins of life, then something is wrong. Life springs up easily. It must, “whenever there’s an opportunity.” If so, it should have happened repeatedly on earth — why not? — leaving evidence in the form of multiple genetic codes. But there is no such evidence.

It should also have happened elsewhere in the cosmos, perhaps in our own Solar System, like on Mars. Not just the most simple life, either, but something “fairly evolved.” Why not intelligent, too? But there’s no evidence of any of that either.

For evolutionists, it’s a dilemma without an apparent solution. For advocates of intelligent design, it can be taken in stride. Whether the origin of life, of complex animals, or of homo sapiens with our gift of speech, wonderful things have a funny way of “slipping suddenly into being,” in Michael Denton’s phrase.

Remember, this is all apart from the devilish difficulties for theories of unguided origins raised by Meyer in Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt. Innovations don’t “evolve.” They spring into existence, we find again and again, with an alarming abruptness. As if by design.

Photo credit: Yuri Amelin via Science Daily.

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No State for Palestinian Arabs

The End of Palestinian Nationalism

Liel Leibovitz

With the Israelis murdered this week by Palestinian terrorists—13-year-old Hallel Ariel, stabbed in her sleep, or Michael Mark, father of 10, shot in his car with his wife and children by his side—it’s also time to bury the bloated corpse of the Palestinian national movement. A cause that had once attracted the sympathies of just and compassionate people everywhere is increasingly devolving into a call heard only by the wild and the deranged.

How did that happen? Like all questions of its scope, this one, too, contains multitudes. You could argue pragmatism and say that it was Israel’s fault, that the Jewish state’s stringent policies and its penchant for settlements drove the fragile Palestinians to despair. You could argue essentialism and say that it will always be in the Arabs’ nature to hate the Jews. There’s no shortage of good stories to tell, and all likely contain some dusting of the truth. But none explain 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah taking a smiling selfie and then leaving his luxurious two-story house in Bani Naim, ambling over to Ariel’s home in Kiryat Arba, watching her as she slept peacefully in her bed, exhausted from a dance recital the evening before, and slaughtering her with a kitchen knife. None explain Tarayrah’s mother and sister hailing the murderer as a hero who has made them proud. This is not nationalism. It is madness.

And yet, don’t expect the arbiters of global rectitude to pay much attention. The world, moved both by moral rightness and political necessity, has gotten used to holding two opposing narratives about the Palestinian national movement in its head at the same time. The first of these—some versions of which are inclusive of Israeli rights and aspirations, and some of which are entirely hostile to the existence of Israel itself—is about the right of the Palestinian people to their own state. The second is about the wrongs committed by both Palestinians and Israelis, and which tend in the minds of most reasonable people who are not deeply staked in the tangled history of the conflict to drown each other out: Oppression leads to terror attacks which lead to more oppression.

This clash between narrative A (the Palestinians deserve a state) and narrative B (bad deeds on both sides make a Palestinian state more and more unlikely) is frequently referred to by Western reporters and diplomats, usually with a schoolmarmish clicking of the tongue, as the “cycle of violence.” If only both sides could get along, the common wisdom among the global elites still runs, it would be easy enough to find some sort of solution, and the world would be at least a moderately better place.

But what if both narratives of rights and wrongs are in fact inseparable? That’s what the leaders of the BDS movement believe. In their view, the deeds of the occupation they decry are hardly an accident, because all of the land of Mandate Palestine properly belongs—by transcendent right, if not by international law and treaty—to the Arabs of Palestine. Compromise with Zionism is a compromise with inherent oppression and injustice, which by its very nature will only inflame further conflict. The only morally right, and politically stable long-term solution, therefore, is to eliminate the Zionist State of Israel, once and for all, even if both Zionists and devotees of international law might read the historical record and the facts on the ground very differently. The great virtue of the BDS position is that it replaces contradictions with clarity: Zionism is occupation, always and forever, plain and simple.

It is worth considering whether the leaders of the BDS movement have stumbled on something profound about the conflict, a premise that people in the West who oppose the elimination of the State of Israel might also want to consider. Maybe it isn’t true that both sides are right. Maybe the easy nostrum that both national movements have justice on their side and that both sides do bad things is a false appeal to complexity of the kind that comforts people who would really rather not deal with hard real-world questions of right versus wrong. Maybe the failure of decades of painstaking but fruitless efforts by the most sophisticated diplomats and map-makers and negotiators on the planet, backed by unending rivers of cash, is telling us something important: that there isn’t room for two full-fledged national movements in the same tiny sliver of land, even if, in a perfect world, it would be better if there was. What if what you see on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is what you get? Then what?

It is in fact impossible to separate the Zionist dream of creating a Jewish nation-state in the Biblical land of Israel from the abridgment of the national aspirations of those Arabs who were previously living in that land under the Turks, or who were drawn there in growing numbers in the early 20th century by the economic activity of Jewish colonists. In that sense, while Zionism doesn’t have to—and should never—imply that non-Jewish citizens of Israel do not have absolutely the same rights as Jewish citizens to live, work, think, and speak freely, the BDS movement is certainly right that Zionism absolutely does imply the abrogation of the national dream of the Palestinian people to enjoy the whole of historical Palestine as their national homeland. It is perfectly fine for some Palestinians to see that abrogation as a burning injustice, and to reject Zionism as a cruel, unjust imposition on their own experience, just as Zionists are free to celebrate the return of the Jewish people to its historic homeland, and wish that all the Arabs would pack up and leave. Whether settled in courtrooms or on battlefields, it is an argument that, really, only one side can win.

By the same token, it is also time to see the Palestinian national movement as a unified whole, rather than picking and choosing among its parts in order to construct a Western-friendly creature that can then be positioned as a likely partner for negotiations that—for reasons that should now seem obvious to every thinking person—go absolutely nowhere, because they are premised on a fantasy of a thing that doesn’t actually exist. Is there actually any meaningful difference in the aspirations of the leaders of Hamas and the leaders of Fatah, both of whom compete to incite and lionize the unending stream of zombie-like killers who murder Jews wherever they can find them, whether in settlements or on the beaches of Haifa and Tel Aviv? These killers, and the leaders who incentivize them, are not something separate from the Palestinian national movement. They are, as the wall posters and the television broadcasts in their honor claim, the front-line soldiers of the movement, and its purest representatives.

And that’s the real catastrophe facing the Palestinian people these days. There are plenty of other nations created by colonists on occupied land—America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Latin America come immediately to mind, even if none of the Europeans who forged new nations in those places had even the slightest historical connection to the lands they seized. And there are some examples of national movements pushing off their oppressors and winning back their ancestral homelands. There are, however, no examples of nations, even failed ones, created by death cults. And a death cult is just what the Palestinian national movement has now become.

To understand how that is possible, we’ve few better guides than Leo Strauss. Lecturing in 1941, the philosopher was tasked with trying to explain what the hell had happened in his native Germany, and how so many seemingly normal people slid past reasonable reservations about logical geopolitical considerations and into the Hitlerian dance of death. The answer Strauss gives is chilling: The young Nazis weren’t so much ardent anti-Semites or staunch nationalists as they were nihilists repulsed by seeing their closed society threatened by the promise of progress and change. “Their Yes,” Strauss wrote as his subjects were still very much on the rise, “was inarticulate—they were unable to say more than: No! This No proved however sufficient as the preface to action, to the action of destruction.”

The Palestinian genius for nay-saying is well-documented, but what’s at play here is something new, something that transcends the dull boundaries of international negotiations and seeps into the hearts and minds of the young. Once the essential No that has guided Palestinian policy for decades has been turned inward, it could find no other outlet but destruction and no better target than the Jews next door. Anti-Semitism has something to do with fanning this derangement, but it is not its essence; neither are pure yearnings for an independent Palestinian homeland. The revolt we’re seeing now is more profound, more ontological in nature: It’s the revolt of an educated and relatively well-off generation—note how many of the stabbers have come, like Tarayrah, from comfortable and stable families—that looks for meaning and honor and sacrifice and can find it nowhere in the vastly compromised world outside, succumbing instead to the all-consuming fire of utter annihilation. We’ve seen this tide rise before under similar circumstances, and we’ll see it rise again.

It’s easy to argue that Tarayrah and his fellow pogromists are merely youth pushed into murder by the constant torrent of incitement prevalent in every corner of Palestinian culture; this is true, but it eerily assumes, like the looniest moralists do when they argue that violent video games or gangster rap will inevitably lead to shootouts in the streets of suburban Connecticut, that adolescents are spongy creatures incapable of doing much more than soaking violence and spurting out violence in kind. It’s even easier to continue to blame that mythical horned beast, the Occupation, as if there was no other reason for young Palestinians to feel hopeless—like, say, the fact that their own government is one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt—and as if hopelessness necessarily translated into taking knives to the throats of slumbering children. If we abandon these simplicities, and acknowledge instead that what bedevils Palestinian society is a much more wicked problem, we’re left to make some uneasy decisions of our own.

First, we should realize that we must approach a death cult differently than we would a healthy national movement. The latter calls out for compromise. It rewards negotiations, and it reassures its foes by offering indications, real and symbolic, that future reconciliation is likely and at hand. This is why we often forgive it its missteps, and are willing to look away even when it occasionally unleashes bloody hell, as even the most well-tempered and responsible national movements sometimes do. The former, however, has no appetite for anything but destruction, and measures its triumphs with the crude arithmetic of body counts and death tolls. It cannot be reasoned with. It can only be forcefully stopped. Until it is, any attempt to pretend that Palestinian nationalism is still viable is simply grotesque.

This should come as little surprise to any serious student of national movements throughout history. Reread Herder’s remark that, in a certain sense, every form of human perfection is first and foremost national in spirit, and reflect again on the Treaty of Westphalia, which sliced Europe into nation-states erected on the basis of self-determination and committed to diplomatic congress as a means of resolving disputes. Then go forth and observe the myriad national movements that failed miserably to live up to this new spirit of creative nationalism. Ask the Moravians or the Transnistrians about their efforts at self-determination, and that’s just one small corner in Europe. The world is thick with failed national movements that, for one reason or another, saw their dreams disintegrate into violence, or irrelevance, or both. Sadly, the Palestinians now join them. This will have many implications, for Palestinians and Israelis alike, but if history is any guide, the only way to counter a No is with an equal or greater Yes, a spirit that meets death by loudly and enthusiastically affirming life.


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Israel is best for Arabs

Best Place for Arabs in the Middle East

Bradley Martin, American Spectator
June 29, 2016, 5:00 am

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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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