Hamas prepares to attack Israel

jcpa.org

Hamas Prepares for the Next Round of War

Yoni Ben Menachem, February 6, 2017

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 17, No. 4

  • Hamas has never for a moment given up its strategy of destroying Israel. Although the military balance of power is in Israel’s favor, Hamas is constantly improving its capabilities and building its military preparedness for the next round.
  • The key question is who will deliver the preemptive strike in the next conflict. Will Israel surprise Hamas and destroy the tunnels before it can use them, or will Hamas surprise Israel and succeed to move its fighters through the tunnels into Israeli territory?
  • At this moment Hamas has no interest in a military clash with Israel. The movement has indeed rehabilitated the military capabilities targeted in the last war but not the thousands of homes that were destroyed.
  • A serious struggle is being waged over Khaled Mashal’s position as chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau. The military wing of Hamas, supported by Iran, backs Yahye Sinwar, the commander of the military wing, and Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar against the candidates favored by Qatar and Turkey.
  • The quiet on the Gaza border with Israel is temporary and deceptive. Both sides are intensively engaged in drawing lessons from Operation Protective Edge and preparing for the next round of warfare.

The semblance of quiet in the Gaza Strip is misleading. Lately the “drizzle” of rockets launched at Israel by the so-called “rebellious organizations” has declined, apparently because the Hamas security mechanism has carried out a wave of arrests among the Salafi, jihadist, pro-Islamic State organizations. These arrests were aimed at placating Egypt. They do not, however, reflect Hamas’ change of intentions toward Israel.

In the town of Rafah on February 2, 2017, the Hamas military wing held a large military ceremony in which a monument was unveiled in memory of the Tunisian engineer Muhammad al-Zouari, a drone specialist who worked for Hamas. On top of the monument was a model of an Ababil drone.

A monument dedicated to Zouari in Gaza with an Ababil drone on top.

A monument dedicated to Zouari in Gaza with an Ababil drone on top.

Hamas claims that Zouari was assassinated by Israeli Mossad agents near his home in Tunisia because he had made a great technological contribution to the anti-Israeli struggle. Hamas credited him with developing unmanned aircraft as well as a small, remotely-controlled submarine.

Abu Ubaida, spokesman of Hamas’ military wing, praised Zouari’s work for Hamas and disclosed that he had often visited Gaza. What he said regarding Israel during the ceremony is worthy of note: “The Palestinian problem is not merely a geographic problem or an internal political struggle between a people and an occupier; it is instead a problem of the Islamic world and an existential, historical, and cultural struggle.”1

Hamas poster.

Zouari at work. Hamas poster.

Hamas has never for a moment given up its strategy of destroying Israel. Although the military balance of power is in Israel’s favor, Hamas is constantly improving its capabilities and building its military preparedness for the next round. It aims to inflict painful strategic blows on Israel in various ways:  short- and long-range rocket fire, attack tunnels, booby-trapped drones, naval commando forces infiltrated into Israeli territory, and even cyber warfare and hacking into IDF soldiers’ computers and telephones.

In early February 2017, Hamas media outlets extensively quoted Israeli leaked media reports on the failures of Operation Protective Edge, which are expected to be revealed in the Israeli state comptroller’s report. Hamas commentators claimed that these failures reflected the Israeli political echelon’s helplessness and confusion during Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, and said it was actually Hamas that won the campaign.2

Hamas’ psychological warfare is likely to continue after the comptroller’s report is published in full.

Hamas Has Recovered Militarily

Senior Israeli security officials confirmed in late January 2017, that Hamas has fully rehabilitated its military capabilities that were damaged in Operation Protective Edge and has even improved some of them, namely in the areas of rocket and mortar fire and tunnel construction.3

Currently, Hamas has several thousand rockets aimed at Israel and dozens of attack tunnels. These tunnels are intended to infiltrate its gunmen into the Gaza-belt area for murder and kidnapping attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. The Hamas military wing continues to work round the clock on manufacturing rockets and digging tunnels.

This is a race against time. Israel has launched a major project to build a large wall deep in the ground around Gaza. The aim is to counteract the tunnel phenomenon while also developing advanced technological methods for detecting tunnels.

The key question is who will deliver the preemptive strike in the next conflict. Will Israel surprise Hamas and destroy the tunnels before it can use them, or will Hamas surprise Israel and succeed to move its fighters through the tunnels into Israeli territory?

When Will the Next Military Conflict Occur?

A wave of demonstrations swept Gaza on January 9, 2017. Residents were protesting the electricity shortage crisis, and Hamas security forces were forced to fire in the air to block the protestors. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has not been able to solve the electricity shortage.

The residents are suffering through the harsh winter with only three hours of electricity per day.

The anger expressed at the Hamas regime certainly could have led it to deflect the blame toward Israel and instigate a military escalation. Hamas would thereby have sought to divert gazes from its responsibility for Gaza’s dire situation.

The crisis was temporarily averted when Turkey intervened and agreed to send fuel to Gaza, with Qatar providing financial aid for purchasing fuel for Gaza’s power station.

This is a time bomb that, if not finally resolved, could reemerge and explode – in Israel’s face as well.

The electricity crisis is only one aspect of the fragile situation in Gaza with its explosive potential.

The results of a poll published this week in the territories, conducted by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) of Ramallah,4 reveal that 71 percent of Gaza’s residents think their economic situation has deteriorated in 2016 compared to 2015, and 55 percent also see a worsening of their security situation.

At this moment Hamas has no interest in a military clash with Israel. The movement has indeed rehabilitated the military capabilities targeted in the last war but not the thousands of homes that were destroyed, and the rebuilding continues.

Map of Hamas’ tunnel system in 2014.

Map of Hamas’ tunnel system in 2014. (IDF Spokesman)

Meanwhile, the movement’s leadership has been opening a new page with Egypt. The aim is to bring about an easing of the blockade on Gaza with a series of measures, particularly the opening of the Rafah crossing and even its conversion into a commercial crossing.

In early February 2017, a Hamas security delegation is expected in Egypt to discuss new security understandings with the heads of Egyptian intelligence. The understandings pertain to safeguarding Gaza’s border with Egypt and to the war against the Islamic State branch in northern Sinai. If the talks succeed, the blockade on the Egyptian side of Gaza will be eased substantially. This is something Hamas wants very much. The pressure by the Gaza residents will then diminish, and Gaza will have a small, regular opening to the Arab world without having to be dependent on Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

At the same time, the movement’s leadership has been busy with internal elections. The first stage ended with the election of a new Hamas leadership to represent the security prisoners in Israel.

Internal Political Tensions Emerging

Beneath the surface, a serious struggle is being waged over Khaled Mashal’s position as chairman of the Political Bureau.

The military wing of Hamas, which is supported by Iran, backs Yahye Sinwar, in effect the commander of the military wing, and Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar against the candidates favored by Qatar and Turkey, Ismail Haniyeh and Mousa Abu Marzouk.

Al Zahar in the center

Al Zahar (center) during the October 2012 Gaza war.

Recently the tensions between these two camps grew when the Turkish deputy prime minister condemned the truck terror attack by Fadi al-Kanbar at the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem, which killed four IDF soldiers.

The military wing was enraged when the Hamas leadership in Qatar remained silent about Turkey’s condemnation.

This internal tension should not be underestimated. It, too, could lead to a violent eruption between the camps and an escalation against Israel.

Meanwhile, there have also been preliminary contacts through mediators, on a prisoner-exchange deal between Israel and Hamas in which Israelis would be returned, and Hamas security prisoners would be released. Specifically, this would involve returning the bodies of the missing IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, along with Avraham Mengistu of Ashkelon and a Bedouin Israeli, Hisham al-Said, who have been held captive in Gaza since 2014 and 2015 respectively.

In return for the four, Hamas is demanding the release of thousands of terrorists in a deal that, it claims, must be larger than the Shalit deal of 2011.

A military conflict between Hamas and Israel at this time would likely disrupt the talks on a prisoner-exchange deal. With such a deal, Hamas would hope to win glory and sympathy in the Palestinian street.

As noted, the quiet on the Gaza border with Israel is temporary and deceptive. Both sides are intensively engaged in drawing lessons from Operation Protective Edge and preparing for the next round of warfare.

Military logic calls for a surprise move and a preemptive strike by Israel against Hamas’ newly built tunnels and rocket stockpiles. For the time being, though, it appears that Israel’s political echelon wants to continue the status quo.

Hamas’ intentions are very hard to assess. The power struggles within the movement, its relations with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, and the economic situation in Gaza are variable factors that could lead the Hamas leadership to initiate a military move against Israel at any given moment if it serves the leadership’s interests. Hamas is now prepared for such a move from a military standpoint.

The bottom line is that the Israeli political echelon still has not reached a decision on the future of the Gaza Strip.

Does Israel want to oust the Hamas government? Who would rule Gaza in its stead? Does Israel want to reconquer the entire strip and reinstate the military government, or is it seeking a long-term truce that would see the easing of the blockade, the opening of a seaport with Israeli supervision, and the admission of thousands of workers into Israel?

So long as there is no Israeli decision on these matters, the status quo will continue, and Israel will react to Hamas’ moves instead of being the party that initiates moves, with all that this entails from a military standpoint.

* * *

Notes

Posted in Islam, Middle East Report, News Articles | Comments Off on Hamas prepares to attack Israel

Liberated Jewish Territories

besacenter.org

A Truth-Telling Strategy to Advance Israeli-Palestinian Peace

By Dr. Max Singer, January 29, 2017

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 403

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The US is usually thought to be biased in favor of Israel, even after its recent acceptance of UNSC Resolution 2334. But for many years, the US has been a big part of the reason why the diplomatic world accepts a false narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict that harms Israel and makes it harder to achieve peace. Washington should move to a truth-telling strategy to dismantle the structure of false views that slander Israel and stand in the way of peace.

The widely accepted false narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is built on the following premises:

  • Israel stole and now occupies Palestinian territory;
  • there are millions of “Palestinian refugees” who have a “right of return” to Israel;
  • Israel and the Palestinians have equal or comparable claims to Jerusalem;
  • the Palestinian community and its leadership are ready to accept a two-state solution that will end Palestinian efforts to eliminate the Jewish state.

The US has consistently either supported or been unwilling to contradict these premises.

Palestinian leaders have an additional false view on which they insist when they speak in Arabic, and which they often proclaim to international audiences. This view is that the Jewish people did not, in fact, live in and rule parts of Palestine, including Jerusalem, for hundreds of years long before the beginning of Islam. While this false claim is not generally accepted diplomatically, UNESCO recently endorsed the fiction that the ancient Jewish temples were not built on the Temple Mount – a site UNESCO calls “al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif” (Noble Sanctuary).

This Palestinian false history is not challenged by the US or by any other democracy. Had the US utilized an active strategy of telling the truth, the Palestinians would not have been able to continue to use their false picture to resist peace.

Rejecting false premises does not mean rejecting a peace agreement based on a two-state solution. The truth is compatible with a variety of ideas about what should be done in the future. Those who support a two-state solution can also support a strategy of telling the truth, as can those who doubt the feasibility of a two-state solution.

US policy has always been to ignore, and sometimes even to support, the falsity of these diplomatically accepted narratives in order to avoid contradicting the Palestinians and arousing the wrath of the Arab and Muslim nations. This longstanding American willingness to put reality aside to try to encourage negotiations has been unsuccessful thus far, and has become increasingly harmful.

For many years, US policy was to appear “even-handed” even at the expense of truth – that is, to be superficially even-handed between the arsonist and the firefighter, the terrorist and the victim of terror. Washington should switch to an even-handed policy of supporting truth, whether it comes from Palestinians or from Israelis: a policy of rejecting falsehood from both sides.

Of course, many statements are partly true and partly false, and often there are good reasons for different opinions about what is true. But there would be a great improvement in the diplomatic environment if the US took the lead in rejecting the most important and clearly false elements of diplomatic consensus.

A truth-telling strategy does not mean being absurd by always insisting on truth. The realities of human nature, and of politics and international relations, require substantial room for untruth. The US government cannot and should not act like an innocent who expects everyone to always tell the truth, and who views not doing so as evil.

The False Claim That There Is Such a Thing as “Palestinian Territory”

The biggest falsehood the US needs to expose is that there exists “Palestinian territory” that Israel refuses to “give back” because of its expansionist ambitions and purported security needs. It is controversial, rather than a falsehood, to say that justice and peace require Israel to turn over to a Palestinian state essentially all the land it seized in its defensive war in 1967. But there is a big difference between the controversial statement that the West Bank should become Palestinian territory as part of a peace agreement and the false statement that these areas are now, or ever were in the past, Palestinian territory.

The distinction between saying that the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) is Palestinian territory and saying that it should become Palestinian territory is important for both the past and the future. For the past, the statement that the West Bank is Palestinian means that Israel stole land that was not Jewish and should “give it back.” For the future, the distinction determines whether Israeli proposals to provide land for a Palestinian state are returning stolen property or are offers to give up disputed land to which it has serious claims, in order to make a healthy peace with its neighbor. From the Palestinian point of view, it differentiates between an immoral submission to a thief who has more power and a wise compromise with neighbors who have overlapping claims of right.

A US truth-telling strategy would not ignore Palestinian assertions about “Palestinian land,” but would point out that the land in question is disputed. It is not Palestinian territory – despite US acceptance of a UNSC resolution that refers to it as such – because there is no Palestinian territory and never has been. Palestinians have never ruled or been sovereign over any land. This is an indisputable fact, not a question of policy or interpretation.

The West Bank is disputed territory: it is territory for which Israel has historic and legal claims based on League of Nations resolutions endorsed by the US government in the 1920s and confirmed in Article 80 of the UN Charter. The most recent sovereigns before the West Bank came into dispute were the British Mandate from the League of Nations to promote a Jewish national home (1922-48) and the Ottoman Empire (1517-1917).

Individual Palestinians certainly own much land in the disputed area, just as they own land in Israel, in the US, and elsewhere. But ownership of land by individual Palestinians does not make it Palestinian territory, either in Nablus or in New York.

Palestinian national rights to the land do not come from international law, but from a principle that has become widely accepted over the last century: that the people who live in an area should govern it. But this principle is not automatic and self-executing. Implementing it presents difficulties that require exceptions (or else east Boston would have become part of Ireland). Who the majority is in an area depends on how the borders are drawn. For example, Israelis are the great majority of the population of Area C in the West Bank – a Jewish majority that was not created by removing Arabs.

The Falsehoods about “Palestinian Refugees”

The second most important part of a new truth-telling strategy would be to expose how the Arabs have abused what they call the “Palestinian refugees” in order to maintain them as a weapon for destroying Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The politely accepted story in diplomatic circles is that there are nearly 5 million “Palestinian refugees” from 1948, more than a million still living in UNRWA “refugee camps” because Israel refuses to let them return home despite the “right of return” granted them by the UN General Assembly.

The reality is that only some 50,000 of the “Palestinian refugees” are refugees as the world defines the term. The others are descendants of refugees who have died. The Palestinian leadership and the Arab states have prevented these descendants, who never lived in Israel, from settling and living normal lives in any Arab state (except Jordan).

Furthermore, UNGA Resolution 194 did not, in fact or in law, grant the right of return to all refugees, and would have had no authority to do so even if it had tried.

It is widely recognized in private that the Arab insistence on the “right of return” does not come from concern over the wellbeing of the “refugees,” who have not been given any choice about their unfortunate status. The miseries imposed on them for three generations are the result of the Arab world’s decision to prevent their resettlement in the hope that someday, Israel will be forced to take in so many “refugees” that it cannot continue to be both Jewish and democratic.

The false diplomatic story with which the US has been playing along for generations is that the Arab position on the “right of return” is a plausible negotiating position that might prevail in the final stage of peace talks. The issue should not yet be addressed, so the thinking goes, because it is so hard to resolve. The truth, which is widely understood in the diplomatic community although no country will admit it publicly, is that the “refugees” do not have any real legal “right of return,” and Israel cannot allow them to move to its territory if it is to survive. It is well understood that the “right of return” is a weapon to destroy Israel, not a normal negotiating demand that can be compromised.

A truth-telling strategy would declare that peace depends on finally settling the “refugees,” and that it is needless cruelty to keep them in refugee camps and without normal citizens’ rights any longer.

The US should start the process of closing down UNRWA, the UN agency that has made it possible to conceal the truth about Palestinian “refugees.” And it should be made clear to the Palestinians that they will never get international support for the notion of forcing Israel to take in millions of Palestinians.

It should be noted that the Israeli government has favored continued support for UNRWA. This is one of a number of instances where the government of Israel has chosen to appease international opinion rather than use the truth to defy it. It is time for Israel too to move away from such appeasement, which has not worked.

The more sophisticated diplomatic discussion of how peace might be negotiated asserts that the “refugee” issue does not prevent peace, because the Palestinian leadership already understands that no more than a token fraction of refugees will ever be allowed to move to Israel. The “refugees” will have to be satisfied with apologies and compensation – a premise widely acknowledged but never uttered out loud.

Diplomats around the world, particularly in the US, privately understand that Israel cannot and should never be forced to take in millions of “Palestinian refugees.” But no one says so officially, or tells that to the Palestinians. A truth-telling strategy would hold that it is time to say openly what everyone knows to be true.

Telling the truth that there is no “right of return” leaves open the question of compensation for Palestinian refugees from Israel and for Jewish refugees from the Arab countries. This does not have to be an obstacle to peace. It is indisputable that the creation of Israel led to at least as many Jewish refugees from Arab countries as Palestinian refugees from Israel. And the Jewish refugees, who were all resettled without international help (mostly in Israel), were forced to leave behind more assets than did the Palestinian refugees.

False “Even-Handedness” About Jerusalem

A much less important, but highly symbolic, piece of American truth-telling will be moving the US embassy in Israel to the country’s capital, Jerusalem. The US can further increase its truth-telling by allowing the passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem to record the fact that they were born in Israel. At present, Washington is unwilling to allow this truth to appear in American passports.

Because the US has been willing to ignore these truths for so long, there will be great Arab resistance to their being stated in public. The fiercer their protests, the more the Arabs will demonstrate the cost of having avoided truth-telling for so long. In the long run, a recognition that the US has a commitment to the truth will reduce the harm done by violent protests. Conversely, a policy of avoiding the truth in deference to threatened violence will lead to more such violence – or to US subservience to the rioters.

Jerusalem is a good example of the biased “even-handedness” that has long characterized the US stance. Official statements always refer to Jerusalem as sacred to both sides – sometimes adding that it is sacred to Christians as well – and typically imply that a fair solution will require equal treatment for Israel and the Palestinians on Jerusalem. But in reality, there is very little symmetry between the Israeli and Palestinian connections to Jerusalem.

The al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located in Jerusalem, has significance for the religion of Islam (although its origins are controversial) – but it is in no way central. The city of Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran, nor in regular Muslim prayers. On the other hand, Jerusalem is a central feature of the Jewish religion and of daily Jewish prayer and identity. The climax of every Jewish wedding ceremony is when the groom breaks a glass to symbolize the exile from Jerusalem and repeats a quotation from Psalm 137: “If I forget you, o Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”

Jewish and Muslim performance in ruling Jerusalem since 1948 has also been very different. Under Israeli rule over Jerusalem (West Jerusalem for 19 years and the entire city for 50 years), there has been freedom of religion and protection of the holy sites of all religions. During the 19 years of Jordanian rule over East Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed entry even to the Jewish Quarter, and Jewish religious sites were destroyed.

The religion of Islam takes no notice of Jerusalem as a city. Muslims have expressed interest in Jerusalem only when it was ruled by non-Muslims. For over a thousand years of Muslim rule over Jerusalem, it was never made into the capital of any part of the Muslim empire, not even the local district. From 1948 to 1967, when it was ruled by Jordan, Jerusalem was treated as inferior to Amman. By contrast, the city of Jerusalem has always been a major concern of the Jewish religion and of Jewish identity, including throughout the nearly 2,000 years during which it was in the hands of others. Israel cannot survive as a Jewish state without Jerusalem as its capital.

Israeli and Palestinian interests in the future of Jerusalem are not at all symmetrical. Israel needs Jerusalem to continue to be a vibrant working city. The Palestinians, by contrast, would make an important gain in their effort to destroy Israel if they achieved new arrangements for Jerusalem that allowed its health as a city to be undermined by violent conflict.

To follow an even-handed truth-telling strategy about Jerusalem, the US should state that a fair disposition of the city will acknowledge it as the capital of Israel, protect the religious concerns of all religions, and assure that the city’s health will not be jeopardized by internal conflict. The Palestinian interest in having Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian state should be satisfied in a way that is consistent with these three values.

The False Assertion that the Palestinians are Ready to Make Peace with Israel

A US truth-telling strategy would also address the question of whether the Palestinian community and leadership are in fact willing to make peace with Israel. While there cannot be any indisputable truth about such a hypothetical and complex question, there is evidence that can be examined in order to respectfully try to understand the point of view of the Palestinians.

A search for truth would ask why the Palestinian leadership (both intellectual and political) takes such pains to falsely deny the ancient Jewish presence in the land. It must be unpleasant and difficult for informed Palestinians to tell such obvious falsehoods that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (from which Christ could chase the money-changers), or that Jews did not rule the land for centuries before most of them were exiled by the Romans 2,000 years ago. This denial of history is not part of the religion of Islam; it is a recent Palestinian invention. Older Muslim sources explain that the Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount because it was the site of the Jewish Temple. One of the traditional Arab names for the Mount is Bayt al-Maqdis (The Temple).

One plausible explanation why the Palestinian leadership is so insistent on such an extreme denial of reality is that if the Palestinian people knew the truth, they might be more willing to accept Israel on part of the land. This suggests that it might be constructive for the US to remind the Palestinians that according to Islamic tradition, the Temple Mount was built by Jews as the site of the Jewish Temple. A public airing of the fact that there is no doubt that there were ancient Jewish kingdoms in the land a thousand years before Islam might increase the readiness of the Palestinian people to make peace with the Jewish people, who share their connection to the holy land.

Persistent US truth-telling would so undermine the Palestinian leadership’s efforts to deny basic historical truths that they would not be able to continue without embarrassing themselves before their own people. It would show the Palestinians that the US, and presumably other democracies, are not prepared to accept blatant falsehoods as justification to force Israel to accept a Palestinian victory. This would undermine one of the major Palestinian reasons for thinking they might still be able to destroy Israel: their hope that it is not too late to remove Israel from the land completely. That Palestinian hope is the fundamental obstacle to peace.

When Did the Palestinians Have an Internal Dispute about Making Peace with Israel?

If we are to gain a truthful answer to the question whether the Palestinians are now willing to make peace with Israel, we must also ask the following question: If the Palestinian leadership and public are now willing to make peace with Israel, when did they change? And what was the political process that produced the change?

Since before the establishment of Israel, despite the deep desire of many Palestinians for peace, the Palestinian community and its leadership were determined not to accept a Jewish state on any terms and were committed to struggle to destroy it until it was removed from land that had once been Muslim-ruled. Whatever some Palestinians might have thought or said in private or in English, any suggestion of a basis for accepting Israel or of allowing the “refugees” to be settled outside Israel was taboo in Arabic public discourse for many years.

This is a statement of fact, not an accusation. It could be disproved if one could point to Arabic public statements to the effect that it is necessary to end the struggle to destroy Israel, or that a major share of the “refugees” might not be allowed to enter Israel. There is no evidence of such statements. Nor can one find many Palestinian political voices who say such things in Arabic in public. The Palestinian political discourse is available translated into in English on MEMRI.

Before there can be any major change in Palestinian policy, there will have to be a sharp public debate among Palestinians. Certainly there would be strong voices initially rejecting any willingness to give up the war to destroy Israel or to settle the “refugees” outside of Israel. This debate would be visible in public channels, and it would be possible to see which side was eventually forced to retreat.

There has been no such debate. Palestinian discourse still maintains the taboo against suggesting it is necessary or desirable to give up the war against Israel on any terms. Nor is it acceptable to discuss the possibility of some “refugees” not being allowed to move to Israel.

A truth-telling US strategy would not continue to assume that peace can be negotiated with the Palestinians if Israel makes appropriate concessions. Truth-telling is consistent with urging negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but not from the position that the success of those negotiations will depend on what Israel does. A truth-telling strategy would recognize that agreement on peace can only happen after Palestinians have public debates about “refugees” and about accepting Israel.

Why the US Should Move Toward a Truth-Telling Strategy

A large edifice built on falsehood has come to define the diplomatic and policy environment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This structure of unreality has failed to produce useful results. Perhaps, therefore, the new US president, who campaigned on making significant changes to US policy, should adopt a new strategy of truth-telling, which might lead to better results.

International pressure is one of the main weapons with which the Palestinians hope to destroy Israel. They will not give up that goal until it has become clear that there is no way it can succeed. Demonstrating that the world will no longer pretend to believe Palestinian falsehoods might lead more Palestinians to see that they have no chance of eliminating Israel. They might then seek the benefits of peace.

Furthermore, forcing Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s historical and moral claim to the land would provide them with an honorable basis for compromise with Israel. If Israel were a stranger to the land, simply a colonial power taking Arab land by force, as the Palestinians falsely argue, it would be cowardly for them to yield.

When the American and European democracies accept Palestinian falsehoods, it creates a disincentive for the Palestinians and their supporters to face the realities of their situation. But these realities have to be the basis of any resolution of the conflict. A truth-telling strategy would offer a sound long-term foundation on which peace can eventually be built.

Why Israel Should Move Toward a Truth-Telling Strategy

Even with a new administration that has promised to break with the policies of the past, there may not be much chance that the US will depart radically from its policies of the last 50 years. But whether Washington alters past positions or not, Israel should advocate a truth-telling strategy for the US and the other democracies and pursue that strategy itself.

Israel is now imprisoned by an internationally accepted structure of falsehoods. It is tactically wiser for Israel to argue for truth-telling than to continue to appease the international consensus, for example by explaining why settlements are not the obstacle to peace, or that Israeli security requires that Israel occupy what people think of as “Palestinian land.”

Israel needs to go on the diplomatic offensive. Framing its position as an effort to get recognition for the truth is more likely to get its story heard than simply making demands and claims. And criticisms of the Palestinians that Israel needs to make to change the diplomatic consensus will be more effective if they are made as part of a broader strategy of urging democracies to face the truths about the conflict.

It is politically difficult for the US or other countries to take positions that are more “pro-Israel” than the positions of the Israeli government. If Israel would like other states to move toward more truth-telling about the conflict, it needs to stop holding back from presenting its own case out of fear that criticism of the Palestinians and assertions of Israeli rightful claims would seem to conflict with negotiations for peace.

Conclusion

It is notable that the US is thought to be biased in favor of Israel even though it does not stand for the truths essential to Israel’s position. Despite its longstanding alliance with Israel, the US under many presidents has allowed Israel to be forced to operate according to the international structure of falsehood that now dominates Israel’s diplomatic position. This policy should be replaced by a truth-telling strategy.

Briefly, some of the main truths that the US has been denying or ignoring, and that a truth-telling strategy should make prominent in the international discussion, are:

  • Although there are good reasons why there should eventually be “Palestinian territory,” there is not now, and never has been, any such thing. No territory was “taken from” the Palestinians; nor can any territory be “given back” to them. They have always lived in territory ruled by others.
  • West Jerusalem is located in Israel and is the capital of Israel. The Palestinian and Israeli connections to Jerusalem are neither equal nor symmetrical. Jerusalem is demonstrably more important to Israel than it is to the Palestinians.
  • The Jewish people lived in and ruled most of the area of Israel in ancient times. Israelis did not come to the land as European colonialists; they came as a people returning to its homeland. Israel’s rule over the land is not based only on its military strength; it has historical, legal, and moral claims.
  • The Jewish international legal right to settle in the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea was established by the League of Nations’ Mandate in 1922, in recognition of the Jewish People’s millenarian attachment to the Land of Israel. It is not based on Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.
  • The claim of a “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees” is not a humanitarian effort to provide help or justice to those unfortunate individuals, who are not truly refugees. It is an Arab weapon intended to destroy Israel via demographic subversion. And it is not a valid legal claim. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires resettling the “refugees” outside of Israel and ending UNRWA’s mandate. (While this truth is not indisputable, it is the understanding held by independent and informed people, most of whom do not publicly say what they personally believe.)
  • It is not an established truth that the Palestinian leadership and community have decided to give up the goal of destroying Israel and are ready to make a peace that accepts Israel if Israel makes appropriate concessions. The evidence for and against this generally accepted assumption needs to be examined. Much of it indicates that the Palestinian community is not willing to make peace with Israel on any terms.

The US should be more genuinely even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians than it has been in the past. It could advance the cause of peace by telling the truth. It is not even-handed for the US to let one side’s systematic falsehoods dominate the diplomatic discussion, when a truth-telling strategy could make the policy debate more realistic and improve the long-term prospects for peace.

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Dr. Max Singer, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is co-founder of the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

Posted in Education Report, Islam, Judaism, Middle East Report, Monotheistic Religions, News Articles, Opinion, Recent Posts | Comments Off on Liberated Jewish Territories

Science overturns evolution hypothesis

eurekalert.org

Scientists engineer animals with ancient genes to test causes of evolution

Press release, January 13, 2017

University of Chicago Medical Center

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

Credit: Kathleen Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

About the University of Chicago Medicine

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

Visit our research blog at sciencelife.uchospitals.edu and our newsroom at uchospitals.edu/news.

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Posted in Evolutionary Biology, Recent Posts, Science | Comments Off on Science overturns evolution hypothesis

Lies about Israel

 Debunking 11 More False Assumptions Regarding Israel

Amb. Alan Baker, January 10, 2017

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

jcpa.org

No. 608  January 2017

FALSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The very opposite is in fact the case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 * * *

Notes

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UN sides with enemies of Israel

 

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

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

 

Observations:

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

 

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

 

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

    The writer is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School.

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Rooftop greenhouse in Tel Aviv

treehugger.com

Tel Aviv’s rooftop farm grows fresh food for thousands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel supports democracy and diversity

thetower.org

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

Reprinted from The Tower, December, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Banner Photo: Bernard-Henri Lévy

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US had wrong approach to Mideast peace

timesofisrael.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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