Friday, September 30, 2016

Double Standards for Aleppo and Gaza

Make no mistake, the carnage taking place in Aleppo right now is a disgrace to the international community.
The Syrian government and Russian-backed forces are reportedly using chemical weapons, barrel bombs and increasingly powerful explosives to target innocent men, women and children. While rebel fighters have undoubtedly embedded themselves in the city in fortified positions, it appears that the civilian population is bearing the brunt of the conflict.
While there has been some condemnation from the UN, where are the protests on the streets of European capitals and where is the media frenzy about this disgrace? 
Had Israel been involved, or had the IDF aimed one solitary munition at Aleppo, I think the response would be much different.
The international community’s condemnation of the Assad regime and Putin’s Russia is nothing compared to the vitriol leveled against Israel for its far more restrained (and completely justified) 2014 operation against Hamas in Gaza.
Unfortunately for the 250,000 residents of Aleppo, the city is not being attacked by the IDF. There are no leaflets being dropped warning civilians to evacuate areas in the line of fire. There is no “roof knocking” — where non-explosive devices are dropped on the roofs of targeted buildings to give civilians time to flee. And judging by the number of civilian casualties and the extent of the destruction in Syria, there is very little to no concern for the well-being of innocent civilians.
Aleppo is a testament to the double standards at play when it comes to the treatment of Israel’s military operations. There is, however, a caveat. The IDF should be held to higher standards than the militaries of both Syria and Russia.
And that is why The Sunday Times of London caught my eye recently. One story was headlined “Putin’s gigantic firebombs torch Aleppo.” Next to it was an article entitled, “RAF drone crew divert missile to save ‘civilian’ seconds from death.”

The dissonance between the two stories is striking. On one side, we have the alleged deployment by Russia of a weapon “capable of blasting a massive ball of flame across wide areas of Aleppo.” On the other, the release of a video by Britain’s Royal Air Force showing a drone missile aimed at ISIS terrorists being diverted at the last minute to avoid killing a civilian.
One side was indiscriminately firebombing, while the other was deliberately acting to prevent civilian casualties.
The RAF evidently felt that its tale was a positive story, which showed that its drone squadrons act both ethically and in accordance with international law. Why is this news? Israel released many videos from incidents where missiles targeting Hamas terrorists were diverted due to the presence of Palestinian civilians. So why then were Israel’s identical efforts not deemed newsworthy?
Granted, the Sunday Times is a British newspaper covering the British military, but the UK press has never been shy about devoting many column inches to Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli efforts to minimize civilian casualties go unreported or even ignored by the press, and Israel instead finds itself regularly judged in the court of public opinion, which is led by a lazy or hostile media.
So Israel is subjected not only to a different standard than the deplorable militaries of Syria and Russia, but even to a different standard than other Western militaries.
If and when the Syrian conflict comes to an end, will anyone be held to account for what certainly appear, at face value, to be genuine war crimes? Will there be a UN investigation and a Goldstone-style report? Will the International Criminal Court issue indictments? Given Russian involvement and the lack of American global power projection, it is unlikely that anyone will be held to account.
The next time open conflict between Israel and Hamas breaks out, will the parameters of judgment have changed as a result of the carnage in Aleppo and other parts of Syria? Or will Israel continue to be held to a standard of behavior unlike any other military in the world?
The likelihood is that nothing will have changed when it comes to how Israel is treated, and we will be left to conclude that, ultimately, the world will be outraged by Israel defending itself and its citizens irrespective of how ethically it behaves.
Simon Plosker is Managing Editor of HonestReporting

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Israeli Leftist to J Street - STOP

Arguments  rage between those who are considered "right wing" and those who are considered “left wing”. There is never an agreement or understanding of the others point of view with such entrenched positions.

It comes as a welcome relief therefore, when a self confessed “leftist” meets other "leftists" overseas and realizes the damage they are potentially causing Israel with their “liberal” policies.

Below is the report of one such Israeli who is defined as “leftist” when there was a meeting with a representative of J Street

by Hen Mazzig, Sept. 20, 2016

Last year I traveled to campuses across North America to share my experiences as an officer in the IDF – a role which entailed helping Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza with humanitarian aid. My experiences as a speaker were overwhelmingly positive as I was able to find common ground with many young people of diverse backgrounds and political viewpoints, but there were some unfortunate exceptions.
During one of my speaking events, a student raised her hand to ask a question. The young woman wanted to know what I thought about J-Street and other “left-wing” Jewish groups which criticize Israel, given that I myself am a leftist Israeli.
Assuming she was seeking an honest answer, I told her the truth; “I am very uneasy about their work…” I started, but she interrupted: “Well, I’m the head of the J Street club on my campus and what you don’t understand is that we see Israel as our younger sister. We want our younger sister to be better — we love her and care about her.”
Disappointed by her lack of interest in dialogue, and offended by her analogy, I replied: “So according to you, if I love my younger sister, I need to go around the United States and tell everyone how bad she is? How she doesn’t know what’s good for her? How we must collectively pressure her? And if I truly love my sister, I should tell my parents to cut her off financially? I should publicize her every mistake and defame her on every platform I can? Or if I really care, should I instead work together with her?”
Unfortunately, this verbal exchange is symptomatic of a greater illness among some who identify with the American Jewish left, and this illness has at its core the delusion that Israel is American Jewry’s younger sister. While the woman who asked me that question would like to believe that Israelis don’t know what’s best for their future, it is actually people like her who do not fully comprehend the problems that Israel faces.
As an Israeli who has aligned myself for years with Zionist-left parties like Meretz and supported every peace process, I am extremely upset with groups like J Street for perpetrating a faux-progressive approach to the Middle East that mimics the paternalism of 20th century imperialists. They feel that they are entitled to tell us, Israelis, what to do. When we think differently, they will arrogantly dismiss us as people who do not know what is best for our own welfare. Why is it that we, the people who have suffered through wars, served in the military, supported peace agreements, and protested on the streets to effect change – why on earth would we be seen as less capable than those living across the world in the relative safety and comfort of America?
This patronizing approach of some self-proclaimed “progressive” Jewish groups is truly astonishing. They claim that they are “pro-Israel,” yet they consistently echo the opinions of pro-BDS pundits, and regurgitate talking points based on anything but progressive values. Is that pro-Israel or progressive? Just read the statements on their website and social media platforms.
The most recent and prominent example of this twisted reality has surfaced in the debate surrounding the Iran Nuclear Deal. The vast majority of Israelis, from left to right, agree that this is a non-partisan issue: the world should not be giving $150 billion (10 times the size of Israel’s defense budget) to the world’s worst violator of human rights, the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism – a regime which leads chants at government rallies of “Death to America! Death to England! Death to Israel!”.
Yet J Street ferociously promotes the deal, in opposition to numerous Democratic members of Congress and Israel’s Zionist Camp (whom J Street regularly invites to speak at their conferences). When faced with this dissonance, J Street attempts to justify its position by pointing to a minority of Israeli security officials who have criticized Israel’s policy on the issue. But most of these officials also agree that the deal itself is deeply flawed. J Street is manipulative even in the way it portrays Israelis who supposedly support J Street’s views.
Like all Israelis, I am the product of a miracle. A miracle happened to my family in 1951 when they were in the middle of a life-changing crisis; they were expelled from Arab countries (North Africa and Iraq) because they were Jews. The miracle was that for the first time in 2000 years, there was a Jewish state to take them home. This is the same miracle that is happening today to French Jews escaping antisemitism – and it is the same miracle that will save many other Jews in the future. It should be clear that Israel is not only here to serve American Jews. I was in the army for five years defending Israel and working side by side with Palestinians. Today I speak up in the public arena because I want to see a better future for Israel and its neighbors. Every day I breathe this country. I feel this country in every bone of my body and with every fiber of my soul.
My message to J Street is this: if you are truly pro-Israel, stop patronizing us. Stop lecturing us, publicly defaming us, and using a foreign government to pressure our democratically elected government from thousands of miles away. If you love us and want to support us – then listen to our voices and speak to us as equals. And every once in a while, since you profess to be “pro-Israel,” perhaps you can say something nice about my country.

J Street, if you continue on this disingenuous, anti-democratic path, I assure you that you will fail. But don’t worry, we will be here to welcome you home when you do — After all, that’s what sisters are for.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

BDS Beaten Yet Again

In so many facets of life, the BDS campaigners are being seen as anti-Semitic and working for the destruction of Israel.

We are now reading with increasing frequency how the ravings of the bigoted bullies is working against their objectives. Whether it the increasing number of countries establishing ties with Israel (so much for isolation) or, in what has been called a dramatic blow to international efforts to boycott Israel, a major bloc of parties in the European Parliament formally approved the Likud as a regional member over the weekend at a conference in Prague, see story here, BDS is losing.

BDS activists cleverly treat Israeli goods that are manufactured in Judea and Samaria as the issue at hand because people can be convinced that Judea and Samaria is really “Palestinian land.”

BDS should be fought against – they are on the wrong side of history.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Up to 400 Israeli Civilians Could be Killed in Future Conflict

With a Home Front exercise tomorrow throughout the country, the level of awareness of civilians how to protect themselves is  a first priority. The article below details the exercise be planned to try and save as many lives as possible 

Barney Breen-Portnoy   SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

In a future all-out multi-front war, Israel might be struck by as many as 230,000 missiles and rockets, with at least 10,000 evading Israel’s aerial defense network and hitting populated areas, IDF officials told Israeli media outlets on Thursday ahead of a nationwide emergency readiness exercise next week.
Up to 400 Israeli civilians could be killed in such a scenario, military officials predicted.
Israeli border communities in the north and south will bear the brunt of any future aerial assault on the Jewish state. The IDF estimates that 95% of projectiles fired at Israel will be short-range rockets (capable of reaching nearly 30 miles into Israel) carrying 10-kilogram explosive warheads.
Also, central Israel — including Tel Aviv — will not be out of harm’s way, particularly if the war involves Hezbollah. As reported by The Algemeiner, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan said in June that in Israel’s next war with the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization, dozens of missiles could strike the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

During the 34-day Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah peppered northern Israel with thousands of rockets, and 44 Israeli civilians were killed. But central Israel remained untouched. However, due to upgrades in Hezbollah’s arsenal over the past decade, the IDF believes that would likely not be the case in a future conflict with the group.
Meanwhile, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Friday that the IDF has plans to evacuate communities within 2.5 miles of the Gaza border during a future conflict with terror group Hamas. According to the report, only emergency response teams of 20-30 people would be left behind in each community.

During Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza border faced heavy barrages of mortar fire which took the lives of several civilians — including four-year-old Daniel Tragerman in Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

As part of next week’s four-day Home Front Command drill, air raid sirens will be sounded across Israel 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Interesting Christian Visitors

Our good friends in Gilo, Jerusalem, Norman & Lola are always receiving visitors from many different backgrounds, Below is their report of a typical few days in their lives.

The people that grace our tea table are more interesting than the food, however, and over the last few months we have enjoyed the company of a delightful variety of Christian visitors. Canon Andrew White and his Christian Arab driver/assistant, Hanna are regulars, Andrew, who used to be known as The Vicar of Bagdhad can sadly, no longer minister to his flock at St George’s Church there or the tiny remaining Jewish community with whom he used to spend Friday evenings, because of the terrible situation in Iraq but their loss is our gain as he now spends more time in Jerusalem.  He can always be relied upon to bring delightful and interesting visitors with him and a few months ago we found ourselves hosting a friend of his who is a Bishop.  We suddenly realized as they came through the front-door that we had no idea of the correct way to address him.  “You can call me Bishop Michael, was his reply to our query.” He proved to be an interesting and delightful guest.  

Earlier this month, Canon Andrew brought two delightful young women to visit us, both devout Christians, one British, the other from America, who are in Israel volunteering with the Shevet Achim organization which arranges heart operations for children from poor, Middle Eastern countries.  Their descriptions of the work being done and their part in it was fascinating and heartwarming.   

Last week, our guests were four young people, also Christians, from an organisation called Generation to Generation, here touring and learning about Israel.  The group of 16 comprised exceptional young people from the U.K. U.S.A., Japan Germany, South Africa and Brazil.  We had visited them at their hotel earlier in the week with Canon White, for a question and answer session and regretted that we did not have room to entertain all of them.  “Invite the three who ask the best questions,’ suggested Canon Andrew, in the end it became four as the questions came thick and fast and were all thoughtful and intelligent.  

The first question was the all-time winner, “Why did you make Aliya?”  More complex than it might seem and not always the easiest one to answer.


Many of our visitors become close friends, staying in contact and sharing their family news and photographs with us and returning for further visits.  Among these are Cedric and Barbara from Hampshire and Barbara’s friend from schooldays, Gina, an Anglican nun who originally visited us some years ago for Friday dinner through a contact in the U.K. Council of Christians and Jews.  They returned for a Shabbat tea recently and we had the opportunity to get to know more about them.  

Cedric is now retired from the Civil Service having been awarded an O.B.E. for his services, Barbara is a retired teacher who now does a very responsible and skilled volunteer job, repairing hearing-aids and working with the hearing-impaired through the N.H.S. while Gina has recently retired as the Church of England Chaplain at Wormwood Scrubbs Prison where she was twice attacked and injured by prisoners. She is now very much involved in teaching and counselling work in her church and parish.  One afternoon was just not enough time to ask all the questions we wanted to ask and to enjoy the company of these three special people who we are now privileged to call our friends.


If we may end with a bit of name-dropping, we have even entertained the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, although he hadn’t reached his present exalted office at the time, but was, like our friend Andrew White who sent him and his group of young people to visit us, a Canon at Coventry Cathedral.  We had no problem with how to address him because as he came through the door he said in his down-to-earth and friendly manner, “I’m Justin.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

'We Misled You': How the Saudis Are Coming Clean on Funding Extremism

On his latest trip, a former senior U.S. official finds a new attitude in Riyadh. But will it stick?

By Zalmay Khalilzad  September 14, 2016  POLITICO MAGAZINE

On my most recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I was greeted with a startling confession. In the past, when we raised the issue of funding Islamic extremists with the Saudis, all we got were denials. This time, in the course of meetings with King Salman, Crown Prince Nayef, Deputy Crown Mohammad Bin Salman and several ministers, one top Saudi official admitted to me, “We misled you.” He explained that Saudi support for Islamic extremism started in the early 1960s as a counter to Nasserism—the socialist political ideology that came out of the thinking of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser— which threatened Saudi Arabia and led to war between the two countries along the Yemen border. This tactic allowed them to successfully contain Nasserism, and the Saudis concluded that Islamism could be a powerful tool with broader utility.

Under their new and unprecedented policy of honesty, the Saudi leadership also explained to me that their support for extremism was a way of resisting the Soviet Union, often in cooperation with the United States, in places like Afghanistan in the 1980s. In this application too, they argued, it proved successful. Later it was deployed against Iranian-supported Shiite movements in the geopolitical competition between the two countries.

But over time, the Saudis say, their support for extremism turned on them, metastasizing into a serious threat to the Kingdom and to the West. They had created a monster that had begun to devour them. “We did not own up to it after 9/11 because we feared you would abandon or treat us as the enemy,” the Saudi senior official conceded. “And we were in denial.”

Why this new frankness? First, it’s fair to ask how far the new policy really goes. Clearly, there are some questions about whether some extremist Sunni groups, such as al-­Nusra in Syria, are still getting Saudi money. But as the Saudis described it to me, this new approach to grappling with their past is part of the leadership’s effort to make a new future for their country, including a broad-based economic reform program.

In their current thinking, the Saudis see Islamic extremism as one of the two major threats facing the kingdom—the other threat being Iran. On Iran, there is continuity. I remember when King Abdullah asked me to pass on to President George W. Bush in 2006 that he needed to cut the “serpent’s head” and attack Iran and overthrow the regime. The new leadership, like their predecessors, blames Iran for regional instability and the many conflicts going on.

The new Saudi leadership, in other words, appears to be downgrading ideology in favor of modernization. In fact, one senior Saudi official explicitly said that the Kingdom was pursuing a “revolution under the cover of modernization”—meaning that modernization was now the driver of Saudi policy.

Can it succeed, when so little has changed politically in a country still run autocratically by the House of Saud? The biggest unknowns are the temptations of the past—whether the Saudi leadership is united behind the new program and whether those who benefited from the old order will attempt to derail the reform agenda and thus destabilize the country. The opposition could come from the powerful religious establishment, which might oppose the opening of entertainment centers, the reform of religious institutions, even limited coeducation and increased female participation in the workforce.

There have been many reform programs announced before in Saudi Arabia, only to fade into insignificance. Also, modernization undermines two pillars of Saudi political legitimacy, the endorsement of the Wahhabi clerical establishment and the traditionalism that undergirds any monarchical government. As modernization creates economic uncertainty for those benefiting from the present inefficient order, the result could be political turmoil. And it is an open question as to whether the Saudi people have been sufficiently prepared at all relevant levels in terms of education and skills to compete in the world economy, as they will need to do in a modernized economy.

If not, social tensions and unrest may arise among those who are not prepared to compete.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

At the U.N., Only Israel Is an ‘Occupying Power’

New research  conducted shows that the U.N.’s focus on Israel not only undermines the organization’s legitimacy regarding the Jewish state. It also has apparently made the U.N. blind to the world’s many situations of occupation and settlements.

The research shows that the U.N. uses an entirely different rhetoric and set of legal concepts when dealing with Israel compared with situations of occupation or settlements world-wide. For example, Israel is referred to as the “Occupying Power” 530 times in General Assembly resolutions. Yet in seven major instances of past or present prolonged military occupation—Indonesia in East Timor, Turkey in northern Cyprus, Russia in areas of Georgia, Morocco in Western Sahara, Vietnam in Cambodia, Armenia in areas of Azerbaijan, and Russia in Ukraine’s Crimea—the number is zero. The U.N. has not called any of these countries an “Occupying Power.” Not even once.

It gets worse. Since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times, while the territories mentioned above are referred to as “occupied” a mere 16 times combined. The term appears in 90% of resolutions dealing with Israel, and only in 14% of the much smaller number of resolutions dealing with the all the other situations, a difference that vastly surpasses the threshold of statistical significance. Similarly, Security Council resolutions refer to the disputed territories in the Israeli-Arab conflict as “occupied” 31 times, but only a total of five times in reference to all seven other conflicts combined.

General Assembly resolutions employ the term “grave” to describe Israel’s actions 513 times, as opposed to 14 total for all the other conflicts, which involve the full gamut of human-rights abuses, including allegations of ethnic cleansing and torture. Verbs such as “condemn” and “deplore” are sprinkled into Israel-related resolutions tens more times than they are in resolutions about other conflicts, setting a unique tone of disdain.

Israel has been reminded by resolutions against it of the country’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions about 500 times since 1967—as opposed to two times for the other situations.

In particular, the resolutions refer to Article 49(6), which states that the “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” This is the provision that the entire legal case against Israel settlements is based upon. Yet no U.N. body has ever invoked Article 49(6) in relation to any of the occupations mentioned above.

This even though, as Eugene Kontorovich shows in a new research article, “Unsettled: A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories,” all these situations have seen settlement activity, typically on a scale that eclipses Israel’s. However, the U.N. has only used the legally loaded word “settlements” to describe Israeli civilian communities (256 times by the GA and 17 by the Security Council). Neither body has ever used that word in relation to any other country with settlers in occupied territory.

The findings don’t merely quantify the U.N.’s double standard. The evidence shows that the organization’s claim to represent the interest of international justice is hollow, because the U.N. has no interest in battling injustice unless Israel is the country accused.

At a time of serious global crises—from a disintegrating Middle East to a land war and belligerent occupation in Europe—the leaders of the free world cannot afford to tempt the U.N. into indulging its obsessions. Especially when the apparent consequence of such scapegoating is that the organization ignores other situations and people in desperate need of attention.

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, heads the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a think tank where Ms. Grunseid is a researcher.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Women's Day, Arab Style

I believe we take for granted, the rights of women here in Israel. They are in all walks of life professionally, socially, in government, in the judiciary and so on.

We are use to reading about the oppression of woment in Arab countries, so it came as a pleasant surprise to read an artcle in the United arab emirates paper Al-Ithad the article below.

May we see this initiative expand to other countries in our region

Al-Itihad, UAE, August 29

This week marks a unique celebration in our country: the Emirati Women’s Day. This holiday is unique not only in the region, but also in the entire world, setting an example of how other countries should celebrate the role played by women in their society.

Emirati women enjoy rights equal to those of men, and have equal opportunities for personal and professional development and growth. They serve in all public positions that exist in our country – from the Supreme Court, through the armed forces, to trade and businesses. Women have even created and launched a new ministry in our country, the Ministry of Happiness and Tolerance, which works to promote greater tolerance and respect among our people each and every day.

Moreover, the empowerment of our women is not merely limited to government positions. In private businesses, in education, in arts, and in entertainment, women pave the way for the rest of the country. In this regard, we cannot forget Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi – the Mother of all Sheikhs – a pioneer of women’s rights, who founded numerous women’s organizations and launched national campaigns for girls’ education.

To illustrate how long we have come in our 45 years of existence, it is enough to look at the recent graduating class of the National Service. Just days ago, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed attended the graduation ceremony of the new officers. Among the graduates were both his daughter and his granddaughter, setting an example for women throughout our country.

Emirati women can do anything they want, and they are truly celebrated and praised. Today, two thirds of government workers are women. Two thirds of university graduates are women. One third of cabinet members are women. Hence, it comes as no surprise that we devote a day each year to the celebration not only of our fathers and families, but also of our courageous and pioneering women.