Sunday, July 24, 2016

Israel’s Strategy Shift Bears Fruit

Evelyn Gordon , July 22nd 2016

Full article at 

Wednesday’s announcement that Guinea is resuming ties with Israel almost half a century after severing them is a nontrivial piece of good news. Granted, Guinea is a poor and relatively unimportant African country. But it’s 85 percent Muslim, and few Muslim-majority countries have yet been willing to forge open relations with Israel; consequently, its decision could encourage others to follow suit. Guinea was also the first country in Africa to sever relations with Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War. For both those reasons, its renewal of ties underscores the degree to which a new Israeli strategy aimed at improving relations with the non-Western world has begun bearing fruit.
The Guinea announcement comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful trip to Africa earlier this month. Highlights of that trip included announcements by both Kenya and Ethiopia–two of Israel’s closest African allies–that they would push for Israel to receive observer status at the African Union, as well as Tanzania’s announcement that it planned to open an embassy in Israel, 21 years after renewing relations.
Israeli media outlets have also reported that officials from three other Muslim-majority African countries that don’t have relations with Israel–Mali, Chad, and Somalia–recently paid secret visits, indicating that the prospect of other Muslim countries following Guinea’s lead is far from inconceivable. Indeed, just last week, Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold visited Chad for a meeting with its president. This prospect is made more plausible by the warming of Israel’s relations with key Arab states. As several African leaders noted during Netanyahu’s trip, there’s little point in African countries continuing to give Israel the cold shoulder when some of the very Arab countries that originally pushed them to do so now have either overt or covert relations with it.
There are three reasons why Israel ascribes such importance to its warming ties with Africa, and both have more to do with the long term than the short term.
-       The first is the need to diversify its trading partners. Currently, about a third of Israel’s exports go to Europe. But the combination of Europe’s slowing economy and its growing hostility to Israel make this heavy reliance on Europe a potential threat to Israel’s economic future. Africa is the world’s poorest continent, but it’s experiencing rapid economic growth, and many of Israel’s fields of expertise fit well with Africa’s needs, including agricultural technology, water conservation, and counterterrorism. Thus by expanding and improving its diplomatic relations with African countries, Israel hopes to eventually expand its trade relations as well.
-       The second, as Netanyahu said during his Africa trip, is the hope of ending the automatic majority against Israel in international forums. As he readily acknowledged, this could well take decades; long-entrenched voting patterns don’t change overnight. Nevertheless, change is far from impossible: See, for instance, the 2014 Security Council vote on setting a deadline for Palestinian statehood, which was defeated because the Palestinians failed to muster the requisite nine votes. Two of the five crucial abstentions came from Africa (Rwanda and Nigeria).
The improvement  stems partly from Israel’s longstanding policy of proffering aid even to countries it has no relations with, which sometimes bears belated fruit. For instance, Israeli officials said one factor in Guinea’s decision to renew relations was the medical aid Israel gave it during the Ebola crisis two years ago. A salient example from Asia, another continent with which Israel’s ties have recently blossomed, is Singapore. Singapore asked Israel to train its army in the mid-1960s, before the two countries even established relations, and then concealed that fact for decades. But last month, as Elliott Abrams noted, Singapore joined forces with India and Rwanda–the third country in the club of Israel’s closest African allies–to help Israel gain the Non-Aligned votes it needed to win the chairmanship of a key UN committee.
-       The third reason for Israel’s declining isolation, however, is a deliberate decision by successive Netanyahu governments that the country could not afford, either economically or diplomatically, to keep focusing almost exclusively on the West while largely ignoring the rest of the world.
This constituted a major shift in Israel’s strategy, and it stemmed from a simple realization: Relations with Europe are inevitably being frayed by the fact that what the EU seems to want most from Israel is something beyond Israel’s power to provide. Namely, a peace deal with people who have consistently refused every Israeli offer and are currently refusing even to negotiate with it. 
The restoration of relations with Guinea is yet another sign that this strategy is starting to pay off. And that’s very good news for Israel.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Arab States freaking out over claims for return of Jewish property in Arab lands

Elder of Zion blog writes this week, that Arab States are now freaking out over the actions of the Israeli government to obtain the return of Jewish property in Arab lands for the approximately 600,000 Jews who were forced to leave their homes and ultimately settled in Israel.

The local newspaper Haaretz reported last week:
 Israel is working secretly to obtain the return of Jewish property in Arab countries, Social Equality Ministry Director-General Avi Cohen said Wednesday, adding that millions of shekels have been allocated to the process.

Speaking to a Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee hearing on restitution, Cohen said, “There is classified activity in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry in which we will invest millions to restore property belonging to Arab and Iranian Jewry, which will come to fruition within a month to a month-and-half. I cannot elaborate further.” 

Though numbers aren't exact, it is believed that nearly a million Jews resided in Arab countries and in Iran on the eve of the War of Independence in 1948. After Israel was established, around 600,000 of them immigrated to Israel over the next three decades in waves that continued in 1956 and 1967 and after the Iranian revolution in 1979. A State Comptroller report published 2014 blasted the state for neglecting the issue, and put the combined value of the lost assets at “a few billion dollars.”
There has been great interest, and anger, in Arab media about this story.

Al-Ain says that Jewish refugees from Arab countries are a myth, just like the historic Land of Israel and the Jewish people altogether. One of his "proofs" is that UN resolution 181 does not mention Jewish refugees. They meant UN resolution 194, not 181, and it does not mention Arab refugees either - it just talks about "refugees."

Dr. Ahmed Hammad, Professor of Israel Studies at Ain Shams University, described the initiative as "a joke," saying that Israel knows very well that they have no rights to property in Egypt or the Arab states. He says that since the Jews who lived in Egypt were not Israeli citizens then Israel has no rights to claim any compensation on their behalf.

Hammad added that Egyptians can demand compensation from Israel because, he says, the Torah says that Jews "robbed the Egyptians of their gold" during the Exodus from Egypt. (It says no such thing.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is It Safe to Visit Israel?

There is one fiction about Israel that is common even among some very good friends and supporters of Israel. And that is the notion that Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular are dangerous places to visit. In the minds of many, terror is ever-present and the recent stabbings of innocents has only abetted this notion.
An issue that come up when recruiting for trips to Israel is how safe is it to visit there. Spouses and parents worry greatly when their loved ones go to Israel and even my son, Yoni's school almost called off their graduating class Israel trip a few months back. 
During my visit two weeks ago, we had the good fortune of meeting the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. He pointed out that there is a universal method and statistic to judge how safe a city may or may not be. And that is to see how many murders there are per 100,000 residents.
When you do your homework on this issue, you will find that
-        Caracas, Venezuela is the most dangerous city in the world with 120 murders per 100,000 residents.
-        St. Louis tops the US cities with 59;
-        Detroit has 44.
-        London, England with 1.5.
-        And guess where Jerusalem finds itself on this scale? Alongside London with 1.5. So let me ask you, when you hear of someone going to London, do you wish them, "Come back safe"? Do you worry for them?
If you expand your research beyond Mr. Barkat's presentation and look at the overall crime index of cities worldwide you will find that once again
-        Caracas is the worst of the 277 cities studied with an index of 85.9.
-        Detroit comes in at number 12 with an index of 75.75,
-        Miami at 66 with a score of 57.41,
-        London at 120 with a score of 47.24 and
-        War torn Calgary is listed at 212  
-        Jerusalem is way down at number 236 
So as Mr. Barkat related to us, when people regularly wish us a good trip when we visit Israel and "to come back safe", he turns that greeting on its head and when he knows someone visiting the USA with its much higher murder and crime rate, he wishes for them to return safely from the USA to Israel.
People have this false impression of Israel because whenever any act of violence between Palestinians and Israel occurs, it becomes sensational international news. But almost all of the shootings and stabbings in St. Louis, Detroit, Miami or even Calgary are merely local news that never make it beyond their respective newspapers.
Truth be told, I admit that when I was leaving Jaffe Gate after Shabbat at nighttime and passing many Arab young men, I did glance over my shoulder. But at the same time, whenever I drive I-95, I am also glancing over my shoulder to check my blind spot for drivers zipping into the next lane or drivers distracted by texting as they lane-drift like drunks. In fact, last year when my daughter, Tzippy spent the year in Israel and the stabbings were more frequent, people would ask me if I was worried about her. And I always answered the same way, "I am more worried about my son Yoni driving up and down I-95 to school each day than Tzippy walking the streets of Jerusalem."

So if safety is your issue and that is what animates much of your life, then it might be time to pick yourself up and move to Jerusalem – a lively and vibrant city where little children walk the streets alone, thousands hang out late into the night at bars and restaurants, where the Light Rail Train zips within inches of people (including me) along Jaffe Road without incident, barriers or lawsuits, and where violence and crime is at one of the lowest rates in the whole world. Not only will you be safe in Jerusalem, but you get all the great spiritual benefits that go along with being at the place that Jewish tradition calls The Gateway to Heaven and where you can touch and feel God's Presence.

Monday, July 11, 2016

UNESCO Ignores Jewish Connection to Temple Mount

The Muslim dominated UNESCO is now taking steps to remove any connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount. And this is only the start. Little by little all sites around the world relevant to other religions are being targeted by the Muslim communities.
The draft calls for the re-instatement of the "historic status quo" pre 1967, yet how many are aware that during the Jordanian occupation from 1948 -67, Arabs WERE NOT allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.
The draft now before UNESCO includes the following problematic language:
  • The draft ten times refers to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, exclusively using the Islamic term for Temple Mount, without any mention that it is the holiest site in Judaism. This is part of a larger campaign at the UN, and particularly in UNESCO, to Islamize sites historically belonging to other faiths.
  • This year’s proposed draft is even more extreme than the resolution adopted in 2015. The new version three times uses the Islamic term Buraq Plaza while placing the parallel name “Western Wall Plaza” in scare quotes, implying skepticism or disbelief concerning what is the most hallowed site for Jewish worshippers over two millennia, due to the ancient wall’s connection to the Holy Jewish Temple destroyed in 70 CE. Last year’s resolution also sought to diminish the Jewish connection by putting the name Western Wall in parentheses after the Islamic term, yet the new use of quotation marks intensifies the denialism that was famously promoted by Yasser Arafat’s negotiator at Camp David, and which continues in Palestinian Authority statements.
  • Israel, which is referred to throughout as “the Occupying Power” in Jerusalem, is called to restore “the historic Status Quo,” with the new word “historic”—a change from last year’s text—implying a reversal of any changes since 1967.

  • Jerusalem’s light rail, which is used daily by thousands of Arab residents among others, is accused of having a “damaging effect” on the “visual integrity” and “authentic character” of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem—even though the track passes through an existing highway and only facilitates transportation for visitors of all faiths.

Yet Another Story the BBC Won't Report

Hadar Sela July 10th 2016
As has been noted here on numerous occasionsover the past two years the BBC has avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of Hamas’ efforts to build up its infrastructure in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and certainly has not proffered any analysis of how that factor has influenced the surge in terrorism seen over the last ten months.

Concurrently, the BBC’s portrayal of the reasons for restrictions on entry to Israel from the Gaza Strip is often at best superficial and at worst misleading; particularly when its journalists elect to amplify populist notions of “collective punishment” but ignore cases in which entry permits are abused for the purpose of terrorism.

recent announcement from the Israeli security forces highlights both those issues as well as that of Hamas’ deliberate use of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as human shields – a topic which the corporation has similarly failed to adequately address.

“A joint Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Israel Police Southern District and IDF operation resulted in the arrest on June 16 of 65-year-old Faiz Atar from Bet Lahia in Gaza, who had a permit to enter Israel to conduct trade.
The Shin Bet said the suspect hid cash in his shoes for Hamas, and smuggled tens of thousands of euros to terrorist operatives in the West Bank.

As the investigation continued, the domestic intelligence agency gleaned valuable information on Atar’s family in Gaza and their activities on behalf of Hamas, including tunnel digging.

“It emerged that his sons made use of his home to meet with Hamas operatives. The investigation revealed information on tunnel openings, which are partly located underneath civilian structures – including innocent civilian residential buildings and mosques – and rocket launch locations, which are located near civilian structures in a manner that endangers the civilian population in the Strip,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.”

In addition:
“Security forces nabbed a Gazan resident at the Erez Crossing in June with 10,000 euros stuffed in his shoes, intended for Hamas operatives in the West Bank. When the suspect, identified as Jabaliya resident Itallah Sarahan, 37, was questioned, security forces learned that he received a permit to enter Israel for trade purposes two weeks prior to his arrest.

On his first day visiting Israel, a Hamas policeman on the Gazan side of the crossing asked Sarahan if he would smuggle cash to Hamas in the West Bank. Sarahan “expressed his willingness to do so,” the Shin Bet said, leading the Hamas police officer to take him to a meeting with the Islamist regime’s operatives, who paid him for the mission and provided him with special shoes in which the money was hidden.”

The BBC cannot possibly claim to be meeting its remit of enhancing “audiences’ awareness of international issues” as long as it continues to avoid such stories and the broader issues behind them and the omission of that context of course shapes audience views of Israeli counter-terrorism measures. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Questions for Chris Guiness UNWRA

Comment from a  student, Sima Sapir, of the Anbassadors Online course at Haifa University

UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness harshly criticized our decision to demolish the homes of two terrorists who last December stabbed two Israelis to death at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.

A question for Mr. Gunness:
What’s it got to do with you?

Actually another one:
Who asked you? 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Its role is clear. It is meant to help Palestinians find work and if they can’t find work then to assist them with food and medication.

That’s it. It doesn’t have another role. There is nothing in UNRWA’s mandate which justifies intervention in security matters. There is nothing in Chris Guinness’ past which qualifies him to give us advice on how to protect ourselves.

And if we’re already speaking to you Chris, here are another few questions: 

a) Why doesn’t the State of Israel appear on maps in UNRWA schools? 

If you condemn violence, why were you silent when it became clear that an UNRWA building was used as a hiding place for a terror tunnel used to kill three Israeli soldiers? 

Why are the Palestinians the only ones in the world allowed to pass down the status of refugee from one generation to the next? Why can someone be born in Qatar, live in a villa in Paris, hold a Spanish passport and still be considered a Palestinian refugee?

b) Why is it that among the 23,000 UNRWA employees are there so many Hamas people (I didn’t say that Chris - as you know the Secretary General of your organization said so himself)?

c) In actual fact, why is it that only the Palestinians have a refugee agency of their own? What do they deserve that the 21.5 million refugees from Tibet, Darfur, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere don’t? 

d) How is it that since UNRWA was founded, in 1950, the number of refugees has increased from 750,000 to over 5 million (!) without a single Palestinian being expelled? Is UNRWA creating refugees?

e) And a question to the citizens of the United States: 

Do you know that your taxpayer dollars fund over a hundred million dollars a year of this insanity?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Even Peace Activists Not Safe in Ramallah

By Abra Forman 

In a turn of events which doesn’t bode well for their mission of coexistence, a group of nine Jewish Israeli peace activists were evacuated from the de-facto Palestinian capital city of Ramallah on Wednesday night after residents set their car on fire.
The activists belong to the leftist group “Two States, One Homeland” and deliberately entered Ramallah in order to join Palestinian activists in a Ramadan iftar break-fast meal, said the IDF. The visit violated a military order which forbids Israeli citizens from entering West Bank towns located in the Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A.
When locals realized the activists were Israeli, they attacked the group with rocks and firebombs and one of their cars was set ablaze, leading to a hasty extraction of the group.
Eight of the activists left Ramallah through the Qalandia crossing, and the ninth was rescued by Palestinian Security Services. He was detained and questioned before being handed over to Israeli control near the Beit El checkpoint, Ynet reported.
The group’s response was subdued. In a statement, the organization noted, “It appears one of our vehicles was set on fire and was slightly damaged while it was empty.”
The statement went on to defend the Palestinian security forces, saying, “The Palestinian security services quickly took control of the incident and helped us file a complaint.”
Despite media reports, which suggested the activists had made a lucky escape, the group insisted that “at no point did we feel threatened and our Palestinian friends were horrified by the incident.”
The IDF said that the nine are currently under investigation for violating the military order to stay out of Area A.

“Two States, One Homeland” calls for “the establishment of two sovereign states in one, open, land”, with citizens from both states able to live in either one while retaining their nationalities. Under its vision, Jerusalem would be a bi-national capital for both countries, and all holy sites would be jointly managed by “representatives of the different religions”.