Tuesday, February 24, 2015

India and Israel: A Demonstrative Love Affair

India and Israel have a budding relationship based on security and foreign policy concerns.
By Ronald Meinardus, February 22, 2015

·       -   Narendra Modi has been rightly termed the most pro-Israel prime minister in Indian history.

·      -    India considers Islamist propaganda in the Internet a major security threat. 
·       The new India-Israel dynamic is driven by similar perspectives of external threats - and common enemies. 

·       -    For the Israelis, the Arab states are the archenemies. For the Indians, Pakistan falls into the same category.

·       -   Security and foreign policy considerations are the main driving force of the Indian-Israeli love affair.

·       -   Modi has proven he can win elections without considering the Muslim minority. Does this make him Israel’s man?

In his nearly one year in office, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has moved very methodically about setting new priorities in foreign affairs. That move surprised many observers who had anticipated that Modi would mostly focus on the domestic economy.
The rapprochement with the United States, celebrated during the recent visit of President Obama in New Delhi, was a highlight, as was the improvement in relations with Sri Lanka.
Buddying up with Israel
Now, India’s new government is executing a demonstrative closing of ranks with Israel. Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, just became the first holder of that office to visit India since the inception of diplomatic relations more than two decades ago.
Both sides spoke of it as a historic event. The significance of the visit fits in neatly with Narendra Modi’s broadbased efforts to readjust India’s foreign policy priorities in an evolving international environment. India is in the market for more defense goods and Israel is an important supplier.
The South Indian metropolis of Bengaluru was the first stop for Ya’alon and his entourage, which consisted of numerous Israeli representatives of companies involved in weapons manufacturing. The visitors attended Aero India, the most important arms show in South Asia –- and a marketplace for gigantic deals.
As was to be expected, the keenest buyers were the hosts themselves. India’s government wants to modernize the country’s armed forces and has earmarked no less than $150 billion for new fighter jets, anti-tank missiles, submarines, helicopters and other hardware.
Israel’s expansive and highly successful arms industry would like to secure a major piece of that cake. Chances for that are good. They have become even better with Narendra Modi in power, rightly termed the most pro-Israel prime minister in Indian history.
The end of Russian dominance
Traditionally, it has been Russia – and before that, the Soviet Union – that served as the biggest supplier of military equipment to the Indians. But the days of Russian domination are coming to an end.
Indian officials complain the Russians are not sharing technological know-how. The Israelis are seen as far more generous when it comes to military technology transfer. India is now the largest buyer of military hardware “Made in Israel.” At the same time, Israel is India’s largest customer after Russia.
Unlike its predecessor, the Modi government has given up any effort to conceal the massive defense cooperation with Israel. “We used to have our defense relationship behind the scene,” but they no longer need to do this, Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s defense minister, said in a talk at a political think tank in New Delhi.
This novel transparency in a highly sensitive policy field goes hand in hand with a broad-based upgrading of bilateral relations.
When Narendra Modi met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last September, the two agreed to expand their relations. During that meeting, Netanyahu told Modi “the sky is the limit” for their cooperation.
Only a few weeks later, India’s Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, visited Israel to discuss cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other security issues. India is particularly keen to learn about Israel’s cyber-defense systems as it considers Islamist propaganda in the Internet a major security threat.
Delhi is concerned that Islamist groups are out to radicalize members of the 180 million people strong Muslim minority in India or recruit Indian Muslims for “holy war” in the Middle East.
India and Israel have also expanded their cooperation in other fields, such as agriculture and commerce. The two countries have even embarked on negotiations for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement.
However, all this is of secondary importance. The military relationship is clearly the dominant factor. The new India-Israel dynamic is driven by similar perspectives of external threats – and common enemies.
Domestic politics also plays a crucial role. “The previous Congress-led government kept ties with Israel quiet, partly over concerns it would antagonize Muslim voters the party relied on for support,” explain NC Bipindra and Nataliee Obiko Pearson in a Bloomberg report.

Narendra Modi and his Hindu Nationalist BJP do not need to take into account such domestic considerations. India’s Muslims have never been — and probably never will be — a strategic target group of their electoral campaigns.

Modi has proven on more than one occasion that he is in the position to win elections without considering the Muslim minority. This is good news for Israel.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A boost for Israel-UK tech ties

 February 11, 2015, 

Israel-UK relations received a boost with the announcement this week of two initiatives: the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange partnership, and a new financial technology challenge sponsored by TeXchange, the UK-Israel Tech Exchange program

The BIRAX partnership, a joint initiative of the British Embassy and the British Council in Israel, is a bilateral research program that promotes regenerative medicine research, a biomedical approach to curing and restoring the functions of the human body, often using the body’s own tissues.
Now in its third year, BIRAX will be funding eight projects on stem cell research to develop therapies for diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
“The United Kingdom is proud to be Israel’s partner in science,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron this week, announcing the latest £3.2 million ($4.8 million) of funding for eight joint medical research projects by British and Israeli scientists. “In so many areas our scientists are working together and engaged in some of the most significant projects of our age.”
Funding will be awarded to 11 leading universities in Britain and Israel where the research will take place, including Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Hadassah Hospital, Hebrew University, MIGAL (Galilee Research Institute), the Technion and the Weizmann Institute. Part of the £3.2 million funding for the projects will be provided by four leading UK medical research charities, including the British Heart Foundation, type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK.
Among the projects: Regenerating the liver using a patient’s own stem cells (University of Edinburgh/Hebrew University); using a breath test for diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (University of Cambridge/Technion); regenerating immune cells to treat diabetes (Cardiff University/MIGAL); and using heart cells to restore damaged heart muscle (University of Oxford/Weizmann Institute).
BIRAX, said Cameron, was about “our world-class scientists and foundations collaborating to tackle some of the most challenging health conditions facing the world today, from heart disease to Parkinson’s and diabetes. Their research has the potential to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people.”
Echoing Cameron’s comments, Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel, said that science is right at the heart of the UK-Israel relationship.
“Top British and Israeli scientists are already collaborating to develop cures to some of the most awful diseases. I am delighted that so many medical research powerhouses have now given their support to this collaboration,” he said.
“The new projects we are announcing today have the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.”
Meanwhile, the participants in the third edition of the TeXchange FinTech Challenge, which will see 15 Israeli start-ups travel to London in March to meet investors, potential partners and financial industry executives, were announced this week. The companies have developed solutions for the burning issues in today’s online business environment, including online/mobile banking platforms, cybersecurity and anti- fraud systems, payment solutions and predictive modeling.
TeXchange is an annual program of the UK-Israel Hub, a team at the British Embassy in Israel which promotes technology partnerships between the two countries. Each year, up to 15 innovative Israeli start-ups in a sector with high potential for UK-Israel collaboration are selected to travel to the UK on a targeted business delegation. They are introduced to potential strategic partners, customers and investors, and offered networking opportunities with business leaders, start-ups and government officials in Europe’s financial center and fastest growing tech cluster.
The Israeli start-ups will visit London between March 2-5, and showcase their solutions to senior executives at leading banks and financial institutions. It will also take part in exclusive networking opportunities with UK businesses and technology counterparts. The delegation will be led by Haim Shani, the Hub’s Chairman and General Partner at Israel Growth Partners, and joined by Avi Zeevi, General Partner and co-founder of Carmel Ventures and a veteran fintech entrepreneur and investor.
The past two TeXchange programs have led to numerous business and technology partnerships between British and Israeli companies, such as the one between major British online retailer Shop Direct and Israeli company Cimagine, which uses augmented reality technology to show how objects and products customers see on-line will look in their homes.
The TeXchange FinTech 2015 program is expected to result in similar partnerships, accelerating economic growth for both countries, said Hub spokesperson Avi Cohen.

“There are massive commercial opportunities” for Israeli fintech companies “in Europe’s largest banking centers and particularly in London, a leading global fintech hub, to grow through partnering with the UK’s financial sector,” said Cohen. “The UK-Israel Tech Hub is proud to create the platform for those partnerships.

Rescued from Arab Villages: Six Weddings & a Circumcision

Only recently rescued from abusive relationships while trapped in Arab villages, 7 Jewish women finally find true happiness. 

 Hillel Fendel  1/20/2015

The Yad L'Achim anti-assimilation organization announced that six invitations to Jewish weddings have been received at its offices over the past few weeks – & all from women whom the organization helped rescue from Arab villages.

      In addition, a seventh woman announced that her son – born to an Arab father – will be circumcised in accordance with Jewish tradition – & Yad L'Achim was able to help there as well.

      The organization offers help to women who have become entangled in relationships with Arab men. The general pattern is that the man is kind & caring at first, & becomes hostile & violent after marriage – & the woman often finds herself unable to leave the Arab village to which she had been taken. If she is determined & lucky enough to make contact with Yad L'Achim, the organization often helps, via covert & dangerous means that it does not like to publicize, to extricate her – & her children. The organization then goes further & helps her find her way again in Israeli-Jewish society.

      Yad L'Achim's most recent success occurred just a few days ago, when a 25-year-old woman clandestinely rescued from an Arab village celebrated the ritual circumcision of her new-born son. However, her joy was marred by the absence of her family, which had cut off contact with her when she began her relationship with an Arab. The Yad L'Achim social worker responsible for her case took the initiative, & called the family herself. She explained the situation, including their daughter's suffering, regrets, rescue, longings for her family, & birth – & was successful: The family showed up in full, & the baby's grandfather filled the honored role of Sandak (holding the baby during the brit). Not an eye was left dry.

     In the weeks prior to that, six different women sent invitations to their upcoming weddings to the Yad L'Achim offices. The weddings took place, or will take place, all over Israel, from Haifa in the north to Ashdod in the southwest. The excitement among the organization's workers was palpable - & especially among the social workers who accompany "their" women & help them & their children readjust after their traumatic experiences. In some cases, the social worker was the one to "walk down the aisle" with the bride.

     Hundreds of cases of women who seek "escape" from abusive relationships with non-Jews are reported each year to Yad L'Achim. In most cases, a Muslim man (Arab or Bedouin) is involved, but there are also instances of such relationships with foreign workers or others

Thursday, February 5, 2015

International Seminar for Judges Opens in Haifa

A high-level International Seminar for Judges on “The Critical Role of the Judiciary in Combating Trafficking in Human Beings” was recently inaugurated under the auspices of MASHAV.
Participants in the opening of the International Seminar
for Judges
 The seminar is jointly organized by MASHAV and the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center, in cooperation with: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the Institute of Advanced Judicial Studies, Jerusalem; and the Anti-trafficking Unit at the Israeli Ministry of Justice.

Judges play a central role in combating trafficking in persons. Beyond deciding upon the guilt or innocence of alleged perpetrators and sentencing considerations, judges also make key decisions on the interpretation of trafficking laws and the evidence required establishing the crime. These decisions are critical to the overall success of anti-trafficking efforts.

The opening ceremony of the high-level seminar took place in Haifa (October 27th). Keynote speaker was Ambassador Madina Jarbussynova, Special Representative Coordinator for Trafficking in Human Beings, OSCE. Head of MASHAV Ambassador Gil Haskel addressed the distinguished guests and said that given the transnational nature of the crime, international cooperation is needed to tackle this transgression.
Head of MASHAV Ambassador Gil Haskel during the official opening of  
the International Seminar for Judges, Haifa
 This 4-day international seminar for judges will provide participants with a platform to exchange their experiences and ideas from the different perspectives of countries of origin, destination and transit and to share Israeli and international experts' best practices, programs and methodologies. Furthermore, it is hoped that it will contribute towards establishing a network of judges and/or judicial training officials to nurture cross-border collaboration and exchange of information in the common fight against human trafficking.

Mobile SniffPhone detect cancer on user’s breath

With cancer being a major cause of death in the world today, more and more research is producing potential solutions to this deadly disease.

An innovative early disease detection system that uses the sense of smell is going mobile.
The NaNose breathalyzer technology developed by Professor Hossam Haick of the Technion will soon be installed in a mobile phone – to be called, appropriately, the SniffPhone. A tiny smell-sensitive sensor will be installed onto a phone add-on, and using specially designed software, the phone will be able to “smell” users’ breath to determine if they have cancer, among other serious diseases.

By identifying the special “odor” emitted by cancer cells, the NaNose system can detect the presence of tumors, both benign and malignant, more quickly, efficiently and cheaply than previously possible, said Haick.
“Current cancer diagnosis techniques are ineffective and impractical,” he said. NaNose technology, he said, “could facilitate faster therapeutic intervention, replacing expensive and time-consuming clinical follow-up that would eventually lead to the same intervention.”
According to research done by Haick’s team, the NaNose system has a 90 percent accuracy rate.
The smartphone device is just a vehicle to implement the NaNose technology that can be taken anywhere and used in any circumstances, including in rural areas of the developing world where bringing in sophisticated testing equipment is impossible.
 “The SniffPhone is a winning solution. It will be made tinier and cheaper than disease detection solutions currently, consume little power, and most importantly, it will enable immediate and early diagnosis that is both accurate and non-invasive,” said Haick. “Early diagnosis can save lives, particularly in life-threatening diseases such as cancer.”