PA rewards terror

How Israel Misread Palestinian Intentions

Evan Gottesman

Last weekend’s brief and bloody spat between Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Israel obscured another simmering crisis in Israeli-Palestinian relations: the Palestinian Authority’s continued refusal of partial tax transfers from Israel, which has been wielding the revenues as a means to punish the PA for its practice of martyr payments. The ongoing standoff illustrates increasing brinkmanship on the part of the PA, already unpopular with its public. It also lays bare how gravely Benjamin Netanyahu and his political allies have misjudged Palestinian motives, both on the PA side and with Hamas in Gaza.

A week ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon scrambled to find a way to get the PA to accept tax revenues, which Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf pursuant to the 1994 Paris Protocol. Now the issue at hand is the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund, and the Israeli government has legislated itself into a corner. Last summer, the Knesset passed a law requiring Israel to deduct from tax revenues an amount equal to PA stipends for Palestinian “martyrs,” prisoners, and their families. A partial transfer would have been consistent with Israeli law and the right-wing government’s political objectives. But the PA has simply returned the money.

Setting aside for a moment that withholding Palestinian tax revenues violates Israel’s obligations under the Paris Protocol, it is also worth noting that in these situations Israel tends to be the party that gets burned. In 2015, for instance, Palestinian tax revenues were withheld after the PA moved to join the International Criminal Court. After a month in which 18,000 PA civil servants received only partial paychecks, Israel released the frozen funds in order to avert lasting damage to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians still joined the ICC.

The overriding Israeli logic about the Palestinian Authority long maintained that the Fatah-led regime can be dragged to the edge of the cliff and held there until it acquiesces to certain demands. The PA is so corrupt and authoritarian that a sense of self-preservation would always supersede whatever ideology the West Bank Palestinian leadership subscribed to. This line of thinking informed previous decisions by Israel to withhold tax revenues over other items like Palestinian membership in international institutions. The Israelis have always hoped that in such situations, the PA could be brought to heel, Israeli objectives fulfilled, and the benefits of the PA’s existence preserved — namely the highly successful security coordination between the IDF and Palestinian paramilitaries. But what the PA is doing now is certainly sticking to its principles, however odious those principles may be.

The United States, having surrendered much of its influence with the Palestinians after completely slashing aid to the West Bank and Gaza, was a non-factor in the past week’s events. The European Union, for its part, fumbled in formulating a solution, suggesting the PA dole out payments to prisoners and families based on their socio-economic status rather than the severity of the crimes they are jailed for (as the Martyrs Fund currently operates). The Palestinian Authority also rejected this proposal, which represents a serious misreading of Palestinian motivations. They are not simply welfare checks; rewarding armed resistance is exactly the point. This is widely popular in Palestinian society and is one of the few things the PA can put before their homegrown detractors as concrete evidence that they are not just collaborators with the occupation.

There are a two conceivable ways out of this crisis, but each of them represents a loss for Israel. If the Palestinian Authority continues to resist tax transfers, its actions will have serious repercussions across the West Bank, where the PA is the largest employer. Economic woes beget unrest, and some in the Israeli government think they are looking at the PA’s imminent collapse (creating a vacuum that is sure to be filled by Hamas and other extremists). While Israeli officials have expressed similar fears before, the ongoing dispute is more protracted than previous episodes. On the flip side, if Netanyahu caves, he will contravene a law his own government passed and once again demonstrate that Israel is operating unenforceable red lines on Palestinian conduct.

This brings us back to Gaza, where Netanyahu has conceded his strategy is to shore up Hamas in order to keep the PA-ruled West Bank areas and the Strip separate polities and forestall progress toward a two-state solution (which would require a politically unified Palestinian entity). Yet this strategy requires de facto propping up a terror organization at the expense of the internationally recognised West Bank Palestinian leadership. I am not suggesting uprooting Hamas through military means, but it bears repeating that the group only practices pragmatism in the short-run in service of a fanatical long-term agenda that includes the elimination of the State of Israel. Hamas appears to have extracted a number of benefits from the ceasefire following the latest round of fighting, including an infusion of Qatari cash temporarily delayed the previous weekend. Israelis may disagree with PA methods, such as attempts to join international organisations, but such campaigns are decidedly nonviolent. Hamas, by contrast, accrues favours through massive border demonstrations and rocket attacks that claim civilian lives and place much of south-central Israel in a state of siege. Israel has official relations with the West Bank Palestinian government and its security arrangements with the PA are overseen by a three-star American general. Israel’s ties with Hamas are, by contrast, conducted covertly through Egyptian mediators. The Israeli government may not like the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, but the events of the last seven days should serve as a stark reminder that one is a far less bad option than the other.

This article was previously published in Israel Policy Exchange of the Israel Policy Forum on 6 May 2019. Israel Policy Exchange is a collaborative blog dedicated to Israeli politics and society, the regional politics of the Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and the two-state solution, and issues affecting the American Jewish community.

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We must remember the Holocaust

Jewish Survival after the Holocaust

  By Ron Jager 

This week, as Israel will be commemorating the most pivotal event in the history of the world during the last millennium; the Holocaust, and the annihilation of the Six million Jews who perished during this dark period, one cannot escape the sense of “deja vu” as we witness these days Jews being shot in Synagogues, bullied and physically attacked as they walk the streets of major American and European cities ; to the daily demarcation and defacing of Jewish stores, Jewish cemeteries, and Jewish institutions. This “new normal” are familiar if not identical to acts during the years of the Holocaust and reminiscent of how the world stood silently by as Jews were singled out, as has been the case throughout the generations.

Seven decades after the end of World War II, most American Jews say remembering the Holocaust is essential to what being Jewish means to them, personally. In a Pew Research Poll “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” in response to the question “What’s Essential to Being Jewish?” the No. 1 “essential” was “remembering the Holocaust.” Seventy-three percent of respondents listed the Holocaust as the primary essential of Jewish identity as opposed to, for example, “Leading an Ethical and Moral Life” (69 percent), “Caring about Israel” (43 percent) and “Observing Jewish law” (19 percent). In other words, most American Jews, living in an incredibly tolerant, open, and accepting society in which they are free to practice their faith, still identify with something that did not happen to them nor did it happen in the country in which they live (and in many cases, did not happen to any members of their family).

Yet despite this overwhelming admission by American Jews, and despite the daily Anti-Semitic events occurring throughout America, more and more voices can be heard stating that it’s time for Jews to get over the Holocaust and suggest that now is the time for Jews to move on and stop making the Holocaust the most pivotal event in Jewish history. These same voices have even suggested that Jews should stop obsessing over the Holocaust. Some Jewish academicians have taken this one step further and are claiming that the modern tradition of commemorating the Holocaust, an event founded on the oppression and persecution of Jews, is actually inhibiting the emergence of a new type of Jew that trusts the world enough to view themselves as an integral part of an open society. They advocate the normalization of the Holocaust and too viewing it in its proper perspective and suggest that the Holocaust is unnecessarily singled out as if it’s more special than other historical events. They claim that although the Holocaust was on a much greater scale and horrifically well-organized, it was far from the first incident of a dominant power killing those deemed “inferior” on trumped up charges, and essentially not that different from what’s going on in recent years in the Middle East.

For many of these liberal Jewish academicians, mankind has been perpetrating horrible atrocities on other human beings for centuries. They seem genuinely puzzled as to why Holocaust denial is even considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Surely, as far as they are concerned, this is an overreaction. Do we arrest those that believe and express the opinion that the world is flat?  Why should denial of a historical event even be considered a crime, something detrimental to society?

Historical events, as earth-shattering and history-ending as they seem at the time, eventually fade from the forefront of public consciousness and become memory. When Holocaust survivors will no longer be around, and when there is no more opportunity to let children and educators hear firsthand testimony of the Holocaust, will the Holocaust be just another event studied in world history classes? With all of the effort that has gone into recording testimonies of the Holocaust be enough to preserve historical memory in terms of the magnitude and uniqueness of the Holocaust?

There are few historical events that have undergone greater scrutiny and preservation. Perhaps we can even acknowledge that we’ve done enough to ensure that the Holocaust can never be forgotten. In a moral world, in a world that differentiates between good and evil, right and wrong, this kind of preservation of historical memory would probably suffice. However, today in the age of globalization in which everything is viewed through the prism of cultural relativism, facts and evidence are not enough, the enemies of the Jews and of Israel not only claim that the Jews exaggerate and that the Holocaust was made up so as to justify the establishment of the State of Israel, but they take this one step further and falsely claim that Israel itself is implementing a Holocaust on the Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria.

Sadly yet not surprising, many Jews are not immune from the politically correct trivialization of the Holocaust and acceptance of universalism as the intellectual context of interpreting world events. Yet, Jewish identity that ignores or belittles or moves beyond the systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish race seventy-five years ago cannot possibly fathom the significance and importance of the establishment of the State of Israel. The Jewish people made a conscience effort to rebuild out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Those that regard the Holocaust as just another unfortunate event cannot be depended on to understand that for modern Israel, in order to deal with existential threats, Israel must do whatever is necessary to ensure that “never again” will not remain an empty slogan.

Those that depict the Holocaust as just another historical event should be reminded of what the Holocaust was all about. In Daniel Mendelsohn’s recent The Lost, A Search for Six of Six Million, he describes in detail the core horror of Nazi action in collaboration with locals in Bolechow, Poland, September 1942:

                The story of Mrs. Grynberg was a horrible episode. The Ukrainians and Germans, who had broken into her house, found her giving birth. The weeping entreaties of bystanders didn’t help and she was taken from her home in a nightshirt and dragged into the square in front of the town hall. There, she was dragged onto a dumpster in the yard of the town hall with a crowd of Ukrainians present, who cracked jokes and jeered and watched the pain of childbirth as she gave birth to a child. The child was immediately torn from her arms along with its umbilical cord and thrown – It was trampled by the crowd and she was stood on her feet as blood poured out of her. She stood that way for a few hours by the wall of the town hall, afterwards she went with all the others to the train station where they loaded her into a carriage in a train to Belzec.

In every generation, the Jewish people have had to deal with the threat of annihilation. In ancient Egypt, it seemed that the Jews would be gone. In ancient Persia, it looked like Haman would have his way and annihilate the Jewish nation. Yet, all of those so-called great and powerful empires have disappeared never to return and against all odds, we, the Jewish nation are still around. Not just surviving, but thriving not only in Israel but throughout the Jewish world.

The enormity of the Holocaust, however, with the majority of European Jewry being systematically murdered, is a singular event that defies comparison in the last millennium. In retrospect, the Holocaust compels Jews to confront their own Jewishness. After such unspeakable events such as the one described above, every Jew must look inside themselves and consider: Hitler tried to exterminate my people and the world stood by in silence. Will I, through apathy and indifference, become a partner to Hitler? Or will my life convey a testimony to the glory of the Jewish people and its resurrection from the ashes? That is the real reason that it’s not the time for Jews to “get over and move beyond” the Holocaust nor agree to rebrand the Holocaust as just another sad episode in world history.

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

To contact:

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History of Evolution theory

Evolution of The Theory of Evolution

Kashyap Vyas

“I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially to the extent to which it has been applied, will be one of the greatest jokes in the history books of the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious a hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity it has.”

These popular words were said by Malcolm Muggeridge. Little did the English journalist know that Darwin’s theory of evolution would go on to gain more than just a little “credibility” with time.

The predominant basis of the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin is that all species are related in some way and they tend to change over a period of time gradually. This theory encompasses the widely accepted and well-established scientific view in the 21st century that life on Earth has changed organically with time.


What Is the History of The Theory of Evolution?

Every February 12, we celebrate Darwin’s Day. Why? It is the date on which he was born and also because he is considered to be the father of the theory of evolution in addition to being the “pater” of biology.

For this reason, throughout the world, thousands of institutions and individuals do something to celebrate the incredible work of this naturalist hundreds of years ago. For that reason, today, let us understand the theory of evolution with this easy guide!

Charles Darwin Portrait
Source: Jan Vilimek/Wikimedia Commons

The theory of evolution is how a corpus is known, i.e., a set of scientific knowledge and evidence that explains the phenomenon of biological evolution. This explains that all living beings do not simply appear out of thin air and that they have an origin and they change little by little over time.

Occasionally, these changes cause two different species to emerge from the same living being or ancestor. These two species, in this context, are sufficiently different so that they can be separately recognized without any kind of doubts.

The gradual changes in these living beings are known as evolution because the living being changes towards becoming something different.

Evolution is mediated by something usually called “natural selection,” although this term is very vague. A correct term is a selective pressure.

This explains that all living beings come from somewhere and keep on changing with time. This term is understood as a factor that “influences” these changes in one direction.

For example, the dryness of a desert will pressure all species to have a greater resistance to dehydration while the less adapted ones will die and will be lost in history. Evolutionary changes, as we can already deduce, are usually adaptive, which implies that it is all about the survival of the fittest.

The fittest adapt to the changes while the others wither away. The theory of evolution is not simple and has grown enormously during the history of biology.

Today, this subject is so large and extensive that specific sections of it are studied at length. In addition to that, some specialists are dedicated exclusively to understanding the very specific parts of Darwin’s theory.

When Did the Theory of Evolution Appear?

The origin of the theory of evolution has a specific date, and it is the publication of the book “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin himself. Although in reality, the idea of evolution and several related concepts can be traced to much earlier times, the truth is that the controversial publication of his book provoked a reaction that has no equal.

To this day, this book clearly establishes the bases around which the basic “axioms” of biology revolve. And that happened on November 24, 1859.

In it, Darwin explained his hypothesis (demonstrated widely later) of how species of living beings evolve and how natural selection (and selective pressure) push that change.

Where Was the Theory of Evolution Created?

Although “The Origin of Species” was published in England, the truth is that the emergence of the theory of evolution was developed much earlier. Historians place this moment in Darwin’s voyages aboard the “Beagle,” a British explorer brig.

On his second mission, a young Darwin was added to the crew, whose education and interest in geology and nature, as well as some family issues, opened the door to his passage. During his trips around the world (literally), which lasted five years, Darwin acted as a naturalist (the classic concept of biology), collecting all kinds of information for the English empire and the crew.

Thus, during the crossing, he came across several islands and their species. The modifications and characteristics of these, as well as their geological knowledge and the influence of several acquaintances, instilled in his minds the idea of evolution in living beings.

Especially striking is the case of the finches of the Galapagos Islands in his book. However, it took several decades to mature the idea that, finally, and not without many dilemmas and some tragedy, resulted in “The Origin of Species,” the germ of the theory of evolution.

Who Proposed the Theory of Evolution?

Well, it is obvious, at this point, that the father of the theory of evolution was Charles Darwin. This is what we have seen so far.


But the theory is not only due to him and much less the current state of it. Skipping to some classics, it would be unforgivable not to name Alfred Russel Wallace, a naturalist, and geographer, as well as an explorer very similar in spirit to Darwin.

His more modest position than Charles probably put him a few steps behind the father of the theory of evolution. However, Wallace himself reached conclusions similar to those of Darwin even before he did.

It was actually a letter from him that ended up putting the ideas in the head of the most famous naturalist in history.

Final Words

Regardless of who came up with the theory of evolution, it cannot be argued that today this mere notion all those years ago has turned into something that has massive credibility.


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BDS is vile

GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw: BDS supporters operate in ‘fantasy world’ |

By Jackson Richman

(April 3, 2019 / JNS) Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw defeated Democrat Todd Litton in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District in the 2018 midterm elections to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ted Poe.

He was catapulted into the spotlight by “Saturday Night Live” actor Pete Davidson, who made fun of the patch that Crenshaw wears over his right eye, which was lost after the Navy SEAL was injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2012 during his third of five tours overseas (Davidson offered an apology to Crenshaw, who accepted it and even took some zingers at him, along with conveying a unifying message for the audience).

Along with five then-incoming freshmen members of Congress, Crenshaw participated on a trip to Israel in December organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s American Israel Education Fund to learn about the U.S.-Israel relationship.

JNS talked with Crenshaw in person. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: What’s your overall stance on the U.S.-Israel relationship since being there in December?

A: I’m supportive. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. We need to support the U.S.-Israel relationship. It’s important for Israel, our allies, but also for the U.S. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Q: How’s it mutually beneficial?

A: Conflict in the Middle East never stays contained in the Middle East. The world is a small place, and so U.S. leadership abroad has always been an important part of maintaining the liberal global order that has been underwritten by the United States since World War II. With that in mind, we should always be looking for strong allies that share our values. The Jewish state clearly shares our values, so we should support it for moral reasons, and we should support it for strategic reasons.

Q: Having served abroad, were you able to see Israel’s threats firsthand?

A: My deployments in the Middle East gave me an insight into the human element there, gave me a more realistic understanding of what Israelis are dealing within the context of Middle Eastern politics and how different that is from Western civilization. A lot of people who are skeptical of Israel and the United States, who are forming a BDS movement, are operating in a fantasy world where they actually don’t understand what the Middle East is all about.

Being in Israel, you get a much more direct look at what they’re dealing with. You’re in a country whose population is close to that in my county. That’s pretty significant especially when you’re surrounded by your enemies. It’s hard for many Americans to imagine what that might be like; you really have to go there to understand that. You have Hamas fully in control of the Gaza Strip—well-armed, raining down rockets on Israeli civilians indiscriminately. You have Hezbollah to the north—digging tunnels to the Lebanese border, trying to infiltrate Israel for no other purpose than to kill Israelis. You have ISIS in Syria. There’s a long history of Israel’s Arab neighbors attempting to invade and end the Jewish state, so, for good reason, we should be worried about Israel’s security. And Iran, a powerful country that seeks to destroy Israel—and says as much and funds proxies both with Hamas and Hezbollah in order to meet those ends.

Q: What is your reaction to the president’s modified announcement most U.S. troops will withdraw from Syria? 

A: I appreciate the modified announcement. I worked with the White House on that, as have a lot of members of Congress. I do appreciate the president is a guy who is willing to listen. It’s not the perfect outcome; I would’ve preferred the status quo. But it’s definitely better than the original withdrawal. Those troops can still serve an important purpose, even drawing down to that amount because they serve as a deterrent in many ways. It’s much easier to bolster a small presence quickly.

Q: Does the U.S. military need to combat Iranian forces in Syria, including Hezbollah? Do we need a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force?

A: I’m always open to restructuring a new AUMF. The last AUMF was passed in 2001. We now have different threats that the current AUMF may not include, so I’m open to renegotiating that. It needs to represent our current national security means.

Q: What’s your reaction to some of the anti-Israel verbiage coming from Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib? 

A: It represents a growing movement on the left that is deeply anti-Israel and I believe closely connected with anti-Semitism more generally. It’s hard to deny that at this point. I find it extremely troubling that Democrats couldn’t unequivocally condemn it. [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi said she doesn’t “understand” words. That’s an absurd statement. Of course, she understands what she’s saying. She’s been trying to tell us all of this for years actually. She’s not confused. She knows exactly what she believes and she states it. And she shouldn’t be on the Foreign Affairs Committee as a result.

Q: Should Omar be removed from her other committee assignments?

A: I stop short there, no. Foreign Affairs Committee, in particular, because that deals with foreign affairs; it deals with our relationship with Israel. In the end, I do respect a fellow member of Congress’s free speech. The reason we called for her to be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee is because when party leadership assigns you to a committee, it is an indication that we agree with your stances on that committee.

For example, a Republican wouldn’t be placed on the Ways and Means Committee if that Republican always wanted to raise taxes. They don’t agree with our platform, so they would not put them on that committee.

By putting her on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Democratic leadership is indicating they agree with her stance against Israel.

Q: How is that different than Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa), who was eventually removed from all of his committee assignments? 

A: It’s different because we hold our people accountable, and they don’t.

Q: What was your reaction to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates announcing they’d boycott this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, even though they weren’t invited by the organization?

A: The fact that they felt the need to make the statement was troubling. They could’ve just stayed silent on it; they weren’t going to go anyway and nobody would’ve faulted them for it. But they felt the need to make a statement about which, again, is troubling. It indicates they are catering to a far-left base. In this case, it was They wanted to signal to this base that they’re with them, and that they do engage in this anti-Israel rhetoric. They’re going to learn quickly that they can’t have it both ways.

I’ve always welcomed nuance in every issue, but it’s very clear the direction the Democratic Party is going when you have a good portion of the leading presidential candidates unequivocally stating they’re not going to AIPAC and participate there.

Q: You opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What’s your stance on the waivers some countries received over importing Iranian oil?

A: I think we should look at each waiver pretty carefully.

Q: What was your reaction to the United States relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

A: Supportive, unequivocally. It’s the right thing to do. Every president said they would do that, and they didn’t. They didn’t have a good reason as to why not, and I’m really happy to see our president actually be bold and keep the promises he made.

Q: What was your reaction to America recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights?

A: Supportive, unequivocally. What we’re supporting is a reality we all knew existed, and we needed to just say it. We need to go further and put it in a statute to support the president’s decision on this. There is no reason to ever even consider the notion of Syria having the Golan Heights. It is a military high ground that historically was used to bomb Israeli civilians. There’s no reason to think that, especially given the current Syria regime, supported by Iran, there’s no reason to consider ceding that over.

Q: What’s your stance on American taxpayer funding for the Palestinian Authority even for humanitarian purposes?

A: I agree with the president that we need to make a strong stand on this and say that if you’re giving payments to Palestinian terrorists for committing terrorism, that money shouldn’t be coming from the United States taxpayer. We need to be continuing to pressure the Palestinian Authority to avoid that kind of what is really a moral crisis. I support the president’s decision to scale that back considerably.

Q: What are your thoughts on America supporting Lebanese Armed Forces, who have worked with Hezbollah?

A: The American relationship with Lebanon is important. It’s important because if we leave there, that gets completely taken over by Hezbollah. I would caution everyone to be purist on the American relationship with Lebanon. Israel needs the United States inside Lebanon. It’s extremely important for Israeli security because there is a real fear that Hezbollah continues to gain even more influence in the Lebanese, and that’s the last thing we want to see.

Q: What’s your reaction to the anti-BDS component of the Senate bill that would also strengthen the U.S. relationship with Israel and Jordan, in addition to enacting fresh sanctions against Syria, citing free speech concerns?

A: Those are nonsensical concerns. BDS movements are not about free speech; they are a concerted effort to destroy a nation’s economy. That’s not free speech. That’s vile. That’s contempt for the Jewish state. To say it’s free speech is a really wrong talking point. It wreaks of desperation.

Q: How do you feel about the latest waves of anti-Semitism at home and abroad?

A: We always have to be looking for ways to combat it. A lot of that is through education—through exposing people to what Israel has dealt with, exposing people to those arguments and the realities of those situations because it’s something we have to stomp out. In the modern world, anti-Semitism doesn’t have a place.

Q: Is there anything else our readers should know about you?

A: I personally got to see the magic of Israel and the real sense of the Jewish people there. It really does change you. It’s really such an experience, and I can’t wait to go back.

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Real barrier to mideast peace

Cultural obstacles are the real barriers to Israeli-Palestinian peace

“The attacks on civilians, breaking their arms, and beating them, constitute humiliation, disgrace, and injustice,” Nasser Al-Laham, the editor-in-chief of the Palestinian Authority’s Maan News Agency, said about Palestinian rule in the territories.

“Prison cells? Torture? Burn marks?” he asked. “What have we adopted from the Arab countries apart from their garbage?… Is this the kind of homeland we want — a homeland in which I can no longer trust my neighbor? A homeland in which my fellow citizen comes and, in front of my wife, drags me by my feet or by my hair and tramples me underfoot?…  You’re doing this under the pretext of fighting Israel? You’re lying!”

Al-Laham’s outrage, which he voiced in a recent TV interview, puts the lie to the well-entrenched narrative that borders, settlements, and Jerusalem explain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Peek below the surface and you will find the cultural obstacles, and the distrust they engender, that really drive the conflict — and that will require nothing short of a Palestinian cultural revolution to erase.

Based on the events of recent days, here are four huge cultural obstacles that prevent progress toward peace:

First, the obstacle of Palestinian rule.

In Gaza, activists launched the “Want to Live” campaign in March to protest rising prices, high unemployment, and new taxes imposed by Hamas, the Jew-hating terrorist group that seized control of the Strip in a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and today runs it with an iron fist.

In response, Hamas cracked down harshly. Its security forces have beaten women and children with clubs, breaking their arms and legs; raided homes; seized journalists’ equipment; and jailed activists and officials from Fatah, the Palestinian Authority’s governing party, which Hamas blames for the protests.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, has condemned the Hamas crackdown, with President Mahmoud Abbas denouncing the “dogs” who sent a Fatah official to the hospital for a beating that required 18 stiches to his head. The Palestinian Authority, however, rules the West Bank in similar dictatorial fashion, brooking no opposition.

Palestinian leaders will need to respect the rights of their own people before we can hope that, at some point, they’ll respect the rights of Israelis to live in peace — which leads to the next obstacle.

Second, the obstacle of Hamas-Fatah conflict.

The two factions are fighting one another with the “only weapon” they have at their disposal to assure their popularity among Palestinians: their continuing efforts to “kill Jews,” as Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch’s director, wrote last week.

As Hamas launched rocket attacks that prompted Israel’s retaliatory bombing of military targets in Gaza, Hamas sought to strengthen itself politically and weaken Fatah by pretending that the latter had condemned its activities.

Hamas falsely accused the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s Security Forces of calling Hamas’ action “criminal” and falsely accused the Palestinian Authority’s Police Commissioner of seeking to track down whoever carried out the “spiteful operation” that left an Israeli father of 12 and a soldier dead.

Palestinian factions that compete over who’s more committed to killing Israelis won’t be making peace with Israel any time soon — which leads to the next obstacle.

Third, the obstacle of martyrdom.

“This young man,” Senior Fatah official Mahmoud Al-Aloul said of Omar Abu Laila, who gunned down two Israelis in the West Bank last month and was then killed by Israeli forces, “exercised the choice of the people, this choice that represents all of you that are fighting and all the youth of Palestine.”

It was a sentiment expressed widely by Palestinian officials and writers. Fatah’s Facebook page called the terrorist a “martyr hero;” Fatah Revolutionary Council member Muwaffaq Matar called him “the most current, quality role model… of Palestinian heroism;” and Palestinian politician Bassam Abu Sharif praised him as a “noble jihad fighter… who solved the problem… who blazed the trail…”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority continues to pay prisoners and the families of “martyrs” who tried to kill Israelis, to meet with prisoners and their families, and to hold events to honor prisoners and “martyrs.”

A Palestinian leadership that turns killers into martyrs won’t be making peace with the country of those they want to kill — which leads to the next obstacle.

Fourth, the obstacle of Israeli rejection.

Not surprisingly, decades of terrorism, Jew-hating, and martyrdom by the Palestinian leadership and people who — let’s not forget — have rejected multiple Israeli officers of a state to call their own have understandably taken their toll on a weary Israeli public.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported in late March that 42 percent of Israelis support some form of West Bank annexation, something that used to be a fringe idea, as compared to 34 percent that still hold out hope for a two-state solution.

So, here’s an idea: Let’s escape the comfort of our irrelevant debates over settlements, borders, and Jerusalem and, for a change, grapple with the cultural obstacles that represent the true barriers to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Lawrence J. Haas, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, is the author of, most recently, “Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World“.

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No more Palestinian refugees

The writer is a PhD candidate at the War Studies Department of King’s College London and the program manager of the Argov Fellows program in leadership and diplomacy at IDC Herzliya.

This Time Kushner is Right

Ending Palestinian refugee status is good for Israel, good for the Palestinians and good for the refugees.

BY AVI JAGER  AUGUST 6, 2018 21:41

Recent reports quoting Palestinian officials indicate that US peace envoys seek to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. UNRWA is a UN refugee agency exclusively responsible for Palestinian “refugees” worldwide. A few months after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order to “take it off the negotiation table,” it seems that US peace envoys led by Jared Kushner are moving toward taking another core issue off the negotiation table: Palestinian refugees.

This time US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law is right: ending Palestinian refugee status will take a seemingly insurmountable issue off the negotiation table, allow for better treatment of the Palestinian refugees and promote the creation and stability of a future Palestinian state.

There are two refugee agencies in the United Nations. The first, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), established in 1950, is responsible for all the refugees in the world, which are estimated at 70 million. The second, UNRWA, established in 1949, is dedicated exclusively to supporting Palestinian refugees, which are estimated at seven million. UNRWA provides, among other things, “education, health care, relief and social services” to residents of Palestinian refugee camps spread across the Middle East. An additional responsibility of UNRWA is to keep track of the number of Palestinian refugees as well as their whereabouts.

The case of the Palestinian refugees is the only case in modern history where the status of refugee is automatically inherited, regardless of whether the Palestinians are still living in refugee camps or were granted national citizenship by another country.
Therefore, while the number of post-WWII refugees plummeted from 60 million to less than five million by 2018, the number of Palestinian refugees grew tenfold, from 700,000 in the 1950s to more than seven million in 2018.

While the great majority of the non-Palestinian refugees from the post-WWII period died from natural causes, were granted citizenship or both, Palestinian refugees transferred the refugee status to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who as of now, are poised to pass it on as well.

With no foreseeable ending to the automatically inherited refugee status, the number of Palestinian refugees will continue to rise, and is expected to exceed 10 million by 2030. As the issue of Palestinian refugees constitutes a main reason that past negotiations failed, forcing it off the negotiation table could possibly contribute to the success of future negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. More importantly, it will benefit all parties involved.

Israel, for security reasons, cannot allow the “return” of seven million Palestinian refugees into the Palestinian Territories, nor into a future Palestinian state. Under no circumstances will Israel welcome a hostile and at times belligerent people into strategic areas that determine the overall security of the country and its society. In addition, in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israel had to absorb approximately 700,000 Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Arab countries. These refugees were granted citizenship immediately upon their arrival and today they are an integral part of the Israeli society.

The Jewish refugees and their descendants, as well as large parts of Israeli society, are not likely to support any Israeli government, much less an international organization, which recognizes the suffering of the Palestinian refugees while ignoring theirs.

Surprisingly enough, the Palestinian leadership would secretly prefer for Kushner’s efforts to succeed, but they cannot express this, as they will lose the little legitimacy they still have. The emotional connection between the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians living in refugee camps across the Middle East has long been dissolved.

The precarious response of the Palestinian leadership when Syrian President Bashar Assad besieged, starved and butchered the residents of the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk reveals how little the Palestinian leadership cares for other Palestinians in the Middle East. Practically speaking, the Palestinian leadership knows that a newborn state with a population of four million people cannot possibly absorb seven million others from all across the Middle East. Forcing the topic off the negotiation table will finally allow the Palestinian negotiating team to abandon that demand and focus on more practical matters.

Palestinian refugees have long been neglected, abused and discriminated against by Arab countries. Other than Jordan, no other country in the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, has granted citizenship to the Palestinian refugees in their territories. In Lebanon, Palestinians are still denied access to major social and occupational institutions and are prohibited from working as doctors, lawyers or engineers. In Syria, Palestinians are attacked by both Shi’ite and Sunni militias, with no one to protect them. In Egypt, Palestinians suffer from travel restrictions and they are denied basic government services.

The source of the discrimination against Palestinians living in Arab countries is the misconception that they are living there only temporarily and will soon move to Israel or Palestine. Ending the refugee status will force the host countries to recognize that these residents living in their territories are not going anywhere and should be treated as if they were equal citizens.

The biggest misconception about a negotiable solution for the issue of the Palestinian refugees is that the solution would involve either compensation or a return of the refugees to Israel or a future Palestine. In fact, the real options are either to agree upon compensation or keep futilely negotiating a Palestinian state for another 50 years. Under no circumstances will Israel allow the flow of millions of Palestinian refugees to a future Palestine, much less to Israel, and under no circumstances will the Palestinian negotiating teams waive the right of the refugees to return (even though they secretly despise the idea).

Since the Israelis and Palestinians have already agreed on the other two core issues that come up in every negotiation – security arrangements and borders – ending Palestinian refugee status will dramatically increase the likelihood of successful negotiations in the future. As all parties will benefit from ending Palestinian refugee status, it seems that this time, the son-in-law got it right, and Kushner’s initiative should be taken seriously.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the War Studies Department of King’s College London and the program manager of the Argov Fellows program in leadership and diplomacy at IDC Herzliya.

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Israel was always Jewish State


There’s Nothing Wrong with a Jewish State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet
meeting at his office in Jerusalem, July 15, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Israel’s new law changes almost nothing. As before, charges of ‘apartheid’ are off base.

Considering the enormous fuss it created within Israel and abroad, you’d have thought the law passed this week by Israel’s Knesset fundamentally changed the nature of the state. But although some of the country’s critics as well as Israelis and Jews who oppose the decision to enact a “nation state” law are acting as if it has created earth-shaking change, that isn’t the case.

The law changes virtually nothing about life in Israel because Israel has, from the moment it was born, been a Jewish state. Indeed, when David Ben-Gurion, the country’s first prime minister, read the country’s Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948, he said that those assembled to ratify the document “hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.”

The problem is that, 70 years after its founding, the fundamental principles that led to Israel’s creation are still controversial among those who oppose its existence. Even some Israelis and Diaspora Jews opposed the passage of the law, not so much because they disagreed with anything in it but because they fear that articulating these principles in this fashion will further alienate Palestinians, the Arab minority inside Israel, the international community, and even young Jews in the United States who are wavering in their support for Israel.

Those critics are probably right that the law will put some more wind in the sails of anti-Zionists who continue to spread the smear that Israel is an “apartheid state.” But the problem with this argument is that the charges made against Israel as a racist state were already being spread before this bill was signed into law. Those who have a problem with an avowedly Jewish state didn’t need this law to be against Israel’s existence.

Regardless of whether the law needed to be passed now or, as is the case, its enactment had more to do with the internal politics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right governing coalition, the charges of racism or apartheid are still false. Unlike every other nation in the region, Israel remains a democracy, in which all of its citizens have equal rights under the law. These include voting rights and representation in the country’s parliament, the Knesset. Many Arabs and minorities serve in government, particularly in judicial and diplomatic posts.

The idea of a country that is the patrimony of an ethno-religious community strikes some in the West as inherently racist. But Israel is hardly alone in seeing in seeing itself as a nation whose primary purpose is to allow one people to express their national identity.

While the country’s founding document and other basic laws guarantee equal rights for all, the purpose for which Israel was created was to give expression to the right of the Jews to self-determination in their ancient homeland. In that sense, Jews have group rights in Israel while non-Jewish minorities for the most part have only individual rights.

As in other countries where large national minority communities exist, that creates difficulties —  in this case, for the 20 percent of the country that is not Jewish. Like all other countries, including democracies, Israel isn’t perfect. But the tension that stems from this situation has been exacerbated by, more than anything else, the fact that their Arab and Muslim neighbors have been seeking to destroy Israel since the day of its birth. In seven decades, Israel has grown from being an impoverished Third World state struggling to house Holocaust survivors and those Jews who were forced to flee their homes in the Arab world. Israel is now a regional superpower with a “start-up nation” First World economy. Nonetheless, it has been at war every day of its existence.

The constitutions of many other countries make clear that they exist as vehicles for a national idea in this same manner. Spain is one such example. Spanish nationality is given priority over that of ethnic minorities such as the Basques or the Catalans. The same is true of the Baltic states, all of which have substantial Russian minorities who must accept that Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian language and culture are the keystones of national identity. Israel is no more an apartheid state than any of those countries.

There is nothing inherently repulsive about, or redolent of apartheid in, a law that establishes national symbols: a flag with a blue Star of David, and a national anthem, “Hatikva,” which speaks of the 2,000-year-old “hope” of the Jews to “to be a free people” in “the land of Zion and Jerusalem.” Nor is it apartheid to use the Hebrew calendar or to state the nation’s interest in ensuring the safety of Jews throughout the world.

Or at least there is nothing offensive unless you happen to think the Jews deserve to be denied basic rights of settlement, sovereignty, and self-defense in their own country — rights that no one would think of denying to anyone else. That is why such anti-Zionist bias is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism.

Nor is the law’s recognition of the right to Jewish settlement a barrier to peace, since the purpose of Zionism has always been to defend the right of Jews to resettle their ancient homeland, to enable the “ingathering of the exiles” mentioned in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. That right was also in the terms of the League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine, in which Britain’s obligation to encourage “close settlement” of the country by Jews was clearly specified.

The desire of so many to deny Israel the right to express its Jewish identity is exactly why a majority of the Knesset felt it necessary to remind the world that their country is and will always remain the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The State of Israel in fact already treated all these items as both custom and law before the recent bill was passed. But they remain points of contention because the country’s foes — including a BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement dedicated to its destruction — continue to argue against the existence of a Jewish state. That opposition against its existence was the point of the “marches of return” staged by Hamas in Gaza this past spring.

Israel could have gotten along very well without a Jewish-state law and remained every bit as Jewish as it will be now. The internal political wrangling of Netanyahu’s coalition notwithstanding, the reason why so many Israelis believed that such a law was necessary has more to do with the refusal of the Palestinians and so many of their foreign enablers to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter how its borders were drawn as a condition of peace.

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Media thrives on blaming Israel

The ugly trade in Palestinian pain

Israel and Palestine

The ugly trade in Palestinian pain

Western liberals bear some responsibility for the violence in Gaza.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is unique among modern wars.  No, not because Israel is an unnaturally wicked state, as its many critics across the West, and in the Middle East of course, would have us believe. And not because this conflict has been a long one. Or because it is a sometimes asymmetrical one, pitting a well-armed state against protesters armed with catapults and attitude. Many wars have been long and imbalanced.

No, this war is different because of who shapes it. Who impacts on it. Who contributes to it, usually unwittingly. This war is unique because very often its distant observers, those who watch and comment and hand-wring from afar, play a role in intensifying it and making it bloodier than it already is – without even realising they are doing so.

This should be the central lesson of the terrible events at the Gaza-Israel border last week: that much of what happens in the Israel-Palestine conflict is now largely a performance, a piece of bloody theatre, staged for the benefit of outsiders, especially for myopically anti-Israel Western activists and observers.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Hamas pushes Gaza’s people into harm’s way because it knows their suffering will strike a chord across the West. Because it knows images of their hardship will be shared widely, wept over, and held up as proof of the allegedly uniquely barbarous nature of the Jewish State. Hamas knows there is a hunger among the West’s so-called progressives for evidence of Palestinian pain, and by extension of Israeli evil, and it is more than willing to feed this hunger.

The clashes at the Gaza border, in which more than 60 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured, cannot be viewed in isolation from Western liberals’ peculiar and disproportionate obsession with Israel. It now seems undeniable that this was no instinctive, grassroots protest, but rather one that was carefully orchestrated by Hamas. As a New York Times reporter described it, after midday prayers clerics and leaders of Hamas ‘urged thousands of worshippers to join the protests’. And Hamas’s urging was littered with false claims. It told people ‘the fence had already been breached’ and Palestinians were ‘flooding into Israel’. This was a lie. A Washington Post reporter details how Hamas’s leaders told people to keep attacking the border fence because ‘Israeli soldiers [are] fleeing their positions’. In truth, as Hamas knew only too well, the IDF was reinforcing its positions.

Israel had made clear, including in an airdrop of leaflets, that anyone who sought to dismantle the fence in Gaza, the de facto border between this part of Palestine and Israel, risked coming to harm. And still Hamas encouraged the protesters to strike at the fence. Still it sought to swell the angry ranks by pleading with people to go from their mosques to the border. Why would it do this? Why would the governing party of a territory knowingly put that territory’s citizens into serious danger?

This is the rub. This is the central question. And the answer is a disturbing one: Hamas does this because it knows it will benefit politically and morally if Palestinians suffer. It knows there is a market for stories of Palestinian pain, and it is happy to flood that market.

Writing in the New York Times last week, Matti Friedman, a former AP desk editor in Jerusalem, touched upon this trade in Palestinian horror. He said that during his years reporting from the Middle East he even developed a certain respect for Hamas’s ‘keen ability to tell a story’. Hamas’s great insight was to recognise that the vast majority of the Western media wanted ‘a simple story about villains and victims’, says Friedman. Most Western reporters and commentators weren’t interested in nuance and certainly not in any reading of events that might seek to understand the Israeli position. No, they wanted stories of ‘dead human beings’, made dead by ‘unwarranted Israeli slaughter’, says Friedman.

That is, they want a morality tale, in which all complexity is chased out in favour of providing readers with a binary story of good guys and bad guys, and providing themselves with the moral kick of feeling like the exposers of simplistic terrible horrors – all executed by Israel, of course. Friedman says ‘the willingness of reporters to cooperate with that script’ gave Hamas ‘the incentive to keep using it’. In other words, Western observers’ receptiveness to stories of villains and victims encouraged Hamas to keep providing such stories. And also, logically, to create situations in which such stories might actually, physically unfold: tense protests, for example, featuring heavily armed Israelis on one side – the villains – and Palestinians on the other: the victims.

What we are witnessing is the development of an almost symbiotic relationship between Westerners’ need for stories of Israeli evil and Hamas’s ‘keen’ desire to tell and possibly even assist in the creation of such stories. A key dynamic here is the growth of Western leftists’ myopic loathing for Israel. Israel has become the state it is positively fashionable to hate. It is boycotted by the right-on in a way no other nation is, including nations with worse track records of militarism (like the US) or which are more repressive than Israel (like China). Its military actions are protested against more passionately than any other state’s military actions. So Turkey killed hundreds of Kurdish people in Syria in recent months, and people in London and Paris and Washington did not take to the streets to complain. But as soon as Israel gets embroiled in conflict, out came the protesters, fuming, burning the Israeli flag.

Hating Israel has become a kind of negative moral framework through which many in the West now advertise their virtue. Being anti-Israel has become the baseline requirement for membership of the dinner-party circle. It’s one of the key ways liberals and progressives demonstrate their decency. This is why they must clog up their Twitterfeeds with images of Palestinian suffering and hashtags condemning Israel. This is why they must take to the streets over Israel in a way they never do over Turkish or Saudi militarism. This is why they will refuse to buy Israeli fruit or watch Israeli plays or movies. Because that’s how you show you are a clean, moral person: by being Israel-free, and Israel-hating.

And in order to sustain this simplistic moral framework, this framework through which many Westerners now make sense of their own morality and political outlook, proof of Palestinian suffering is frequently required. And in steps Hamas to provide it. On one side, Western moralists almost addicted to stories of Israeli nastiness, and on the other their dealers: Hamas.

Westerners’ obsession with this conflict, and with an infantile reading of it as evil vs innocence, has helped to warp the conflict itself. It has twisted its dynamic, helped to deepen it, and created a situation where Palestinian leaders know there is one surefire way to garner international sympathy for themselves and hatred for Israel: let Palestinians go into harm’s way.

Virtue-signalling on domestic issues might be irritating – in the international realm it becomes positively dangerous. The Western progressives currently crying ‘Why must Palestinians die like this?’ should take a look in the mirror every now and then, because this is the terrible truth: they are partly dying for your moral and political gratification.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Find him on Instagram: @burntoakboy


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