Israel demolishes homes after Jerusalem terror attacks …

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Jerusalem (CNN) — The home of Ghassan Abu Jamal has a beautiful view of Jabel Mukaber. It looks over a small valley with olive trees and grazing sheep.

It also stinks here, the distinctive raw sewage smell of what’s known locally as “skunk water,” sprayed by Israeli police as a riot-control measure. And when you walk down the road to the Abu Jamal family’s East Jerusalem home, you tread on the metal remains of tear gas canisters.

On Tuesday Ghassan Abu Jamal and his cousin Uday walked into a synagogue in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Armed with meat cleavers, they attacked the worshipers inside, hacking at them with the knives. They killed four rabbis and a police officer before they were shot dead at the scene.

Today Ghassan and Uday stare out at mourners from posters and flyers on the walls of the family home. Here they are considered “shaheed,” or martyrs, of Israel’s occupation.

His 70-year old father, Mohamed, was recovering from a heart operation when he saw the news of the synagogue attack on television. He immediately collapsed.

“I never thought my son would do something like this,” he tells us.

He sits with us at the mourners’ tent erected near the family home. His eyes are red from crying and he can’t stand for long stretches.

We ask Mohamed what he believes triggered the gruesome attack.

“Maybe it was everything,” he says. “We want peace. We want coexistence. But we don’t accept being pushed into a corner and treated like slaves.”

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Israel demolishes homes after Jerusalem terror attacks …

Israeli cabinet moves to define Israel as Jewish state

In a move likely to further inflame tensions with Israel’s Arab citizens, the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a bill to legally define the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The decision, which set off a stormy debate that could bring down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brittle coalition government, followed weeks of deadly Arab-Jewish violence and was denounced by critics as damaging to the country’s democratic character and poorly timed at such a combustible moment.

It now heads toward a full parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

Israel has always defined itself as the “Jewish state” a term that was contained in the country’s declaration of independence in 1948. The new law seeks to codify that status as a “Basic Law,” Israel’s de facto constitution.

While many critics derided the measure as unnecessary, Netanyahu told his Cabinet the bill is a response to Israel’s Arab critics both inside and outside Israel who question the country’s right to exist.

Netanyahu has long demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland as a condition of any peace deal. Both the Palestinians and their Arab Israeli brethren say such acceptance would harm the rights of Israel’s more than 1.5 million Arab citizens.

The bill calls not only for recognizing Israel’s Jewish character but for institutionalizing Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and dropping Arabic as an official language.

Netanyahu insisted that Israel would be both Jewish and democratic.

“There are those who would like the democratic to prevail over the Jewish and there are those who would like the Jewish to prevail over the democratic,” he said. “And in the principles of the law that I will submit today both of these values are equal and both must be considered to the same degree.”

Israel is in the midst of its worst sustained bout of violence in nearly a decade. Eleven Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks over the past month, including five people who were killed with guns and meat cleavers in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue last week.

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Israeli cabinet moves to define Israel as Jewish state

Israel approves law that makes country a Jewish state

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photograph: Jim Hollander/Reuters

The Israeli cabinet has endorsed a controversial Bill enshrining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, despite criticism by Israels Arab minority who fear the measure will leave them as second-class citizens.

A divided cabinet voted 14-6 in favour of the Bill yesterday after a session that ministers described as a shouting match.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly banged on the table and said it cannot be that Arabs can live in Jewish towns, but Jews cant live in Arab towns. A country within a country is developing.

He said the law was needed because Palestinians refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and Israeli Arabs were seeking autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev.

Israel is a Jewish democratic state. There are those who want democracy to take precedence over Judaism, and those who want Judaism to take precedence over democracy. In the law that I am bringing, both principles are equal and must be given equal consideration.

Centrist ministers voted against and have threatened to do so again on Wednesday, when the Bill is due to be presented to the Knesset parliament for a preliminary vote.

The divisions have further strained Mr Netanyahus coalition and he may be forced to dismiss ministers who vote against the Bill, which could lead to early elections.

Two versions of the Bill were approved by ministers yesterday and a Knesset committee will merge the two after the Knesset passes the first reading. Both reinforce Israels national anthem and state symbols, use of the Hebrew calendar and the law of return, which grants any Jew the automatic right to emigrate to Israel.

Arab Knesset members described the Bill as racist, noting that one version would leave Hebrew as Israels only official language.

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Israel approves law that makes country a Jewish state

Israel's response to the Jerusalem synagogue attack

To the editor: I was touched by the words in the article today on Rabbi Kalman Levine, who died in the synagogue attack last week in Jerusalem. Levine exhorted people to increase the force of good in the world as a means of defeating the forces of evil. (“Victim of Jerusalem synagogue attack ‘a real man of God,’” Nov. 19)

On the front page of the same issue of The Times, a photo showed the demolished home of a Palestinian man who killed two Israelis in a previous attack. A separate photo inside the paper showed a boy walking through what was left of his home. (“Israeli demolition of Palestinian home follows synagogue attack,” Nov. 19)

Israel is right to suggest, as it has in the past, that these demolitions may serve to radicalize those left behind so why is it now going forward with the demolitions after the latest Palestinian attack?

Why not heed Rabbi Levine’s wishes for people not to respond to violence with more violence?

Cecelia Kennelly-Waeschle, Beverly Hills

..

To the editor: Are readers supposed to feel empathy for the Palestinian killers’ families and other enablers of their despicable butchering of innocent Jews when Israel demolishes their homes? Or is this more of the “disproportionate response” criticism of Israel for trying to stop attacks on its innocent civilians?

What’s next, the United Nations condemning Israel’s home demolition as a war crime?

Alan Segal, San Diego

..

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Israel's response to the Jerusalem synagogue attack

Israel approves 'Jewish state law' as tensions run high

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at his weekly cabinet meeting. Photo: Jim Hollander

Jerusalem: Israel’s government has endorsed a proposal to put in law the country’s status as the national homeland of the Jewish people, drawing fire from critics who said it weakened democracy.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said the cabinet had backed a draft law recognising Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.

Mr Netanyahu also announced a separate initiative to strip Arabs of their residency and welfare rights if they or their relatives take part in unrest.

A Palestinian woman sits inside her home following an arson attack in Khirbet Abu Falah, north-east of Ramallah. The family blamed the attack on Jewish settlers. Critics fear Israel’s new ‘Jewish state law’ will lead to discrimination against Arabs. Photo: Majdi Mohammed

Following a stormy meeting, the cabinet voted 14 to six in favour of the national homeland proposal, with ministers from the two centrist parties HaTnuah, led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid voting against it.

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The proposal would mean Israel would no longer be defined in its Basic Laws as “Jewish and democratic” but instead as “the national homeland of the Jewish people”.

Critics, who include the government’s top legal adviser, say the proposed change to the laws that act as Israel’s effective constitution could institutionalise discrimination against its 1.7 million Arab citizens.

By giving preeminence to the ‘Jewish’ character of Israel over its democratic nature, the law in its current format is anti-democratic, they say.

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Israel approves 'Jewish state law' as tensions run high

Netanyahu warns of 'grave mistake' if France recognises Palestine

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday (Nov 23) that France’s parliament would be making a “grave mistake” if it recognises a Palestinian state in a vote on Dec 2.

“Do they have nothing better to do at a time of beheadings across the Middle East, including that of a French citizen?” he told reporters in Jerusalem, referring to hiker HerveGourdel who was executed by his militant captors in Algeria in September. “Recognition of a Palestinian state by France would be a grave mistake,” Netanyahu said.

“The State of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, the only state that we have, and the Palestinians demanding a state do not want to recognise the right to have a state for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu told members of Israel’s growing Jewish community from France.

His comments came just hours after his cabinet voted 14-6 in favour of a controversial proposal to anchor in law Israel’s status as “the national homeland of the Jewish people”.

France’s plans for a non-binding but highly symbolic vote follows similar resolutions passed by the British and Spanish parliaments, and an official decision to recognise Palestine by the Swedish government. Sweden’s move infuriated Israel which responded by recalling its ambassador to Stockholm.

A draft of the proposal in France “invites the French government to use the recognition of the state of Palestine as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict”.

European leaders have shown signs of mounting impatience with Israel over its continued settlement-building on Palestinian land. Criticism has become more focused in the wake of this summer’s 50-day offensive by the Israeli army in Gaza that killed about 2,200 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.

The French parliamentary vote follows a similar resolution to “recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution” approved by British lawmakers on Oct 13. Israel warned that the British resolution, which passed with a huge majority but is also non-binding, risked undermining peace prospects.

Sweden went further by announcing on Oct 30 that it officially recognised the Palestinian state, a move heavily criticised by Israel and the United States.

The Palestinian Authority estimates that 135 countries have now recognised Palestine as a state, although the number is disputed and several recognitions by what are now European Union member states date back to the Soviet era.

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Netanyahu warns of 'grave mistake' if France recognises Palestine

Palestine president raps Israel policies

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned Israels policies toward his nation, saying he plans to ask the UN to set a deadline for Israel to end the occupation.

In a Friday speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said Palestinians are being shut down from all directions and forbidden from using around 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, but they will stay in their country forever.

Warning against the eruption of a religious war in the occupied territories, he called on Israelis not to come close to our holy sites, just as we dont come near your synagogues.

“There is a political struggle between us, so lets talk politics. Dont turn it into a religious struggle, because once struggles like that start, they dont end,” Abbas said, adding, “The Jews know very well that we seek peace and not war.”

He also condemned the killings of civilians, pointing out that Palestinians are opposed to the death of innocent people on either side.

Palestinian authorities have repeatedly announced that they would turn to the UN Security Council with a resolution, setting a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.

Abbas has even threatened to cut ties with Israel if the UN initiative fails.

In recent months, Israeli troops have escalated their raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islams third-holiest site.

DB/BB/HRB

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Palestine president raps Israel policies

Monkey Cage: The politics of Israels security officers

By Brent E. Sasley November 21 at 3:52 PM

In the beginning of November, 106 former Israeli security officials published a letter as an advertisement in an Israeli newspaper calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take advantage of Israels success in the summers Gaza warand make a serious effort at peace on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. The letter did not refer to a peace process with the Palestinians; in fact, it specifically noted these negotiations have consistently failed. Only a political-regional approach and an arrangement with the moderate Arab states has a chance of bringing about an agreement with the Palestinians, stability, security and economic prosperity, the officials argued.

The letter is important and must be understood in the context of Israels distinctive framework of civil-military relations, so different from other Western democracies. In most countries it is not considered normal for serving or former intelligence, defense and law enforcement officers to publicly criticize the head of government and provide unsolicited advice on matters of war and peace; and when they do, there are severe consequences for them. For instance, a clash between President Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal over policy in Afghanistan resulted in the latters dismissal.

But in Israel such critiques are considered normal. The consequence is that policymaking civilian decision-making is not just the purview of the government, but of a larger community of individuals and groups associated with military and security agencies. The letters importance, then, lies not in the public nature of its critique, but in its substance.

Certainly the letter highlights disagreements between Netanyahu and the security establishment that stretch back to his previous term, particularly over Iran. But the issue is much bigger than Netanyahu or Iran, and it gets to the critical issue of the balance of power between civilians and military or security officials in a democracy. In Israels case, the specific historical development of the country and the role of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and security agencies in the creation and development of the state have tipped the balance more toward the latter. Yet definitions of democracy, at least as promoted in the west, include far more civilian oversight than seems to exist in the Israeli case.

In addition to the security needs of Israel after its establishment in 1948, the military was used as an agent of nation-building (which excluded the haredim ultra-Orthodox and the Arab minority). The IDF founded agricultural settlements around the country, in isolated places and near the borders, to serve as first lines of defense against Israels enemies. The process of defending the country was tied to the Zionist enterprise settling and working the land and redeeming the Jewish people through manual labor. The military absorbed tens of thousands of new immigrants and inculcated them with emerging Israeli values, norms and practices including teaching them the new national language, Hebrew.

More broadly the IDF was held up as the embodiment of collectivism and self-sacrifice for the good of the nation, as well as the repository of centuries of Jewish collective memories. The early Zionist effort to create a new Jew, distinct from the old Jews of Europe who suffered persecution and murder, made the military a paragon of Jewish power, self-defense and strength in the face of the weakness that marked Jews everywhere else who let themselves be oppressed and, worst of all, be led like lambs to the slaughter in the Holocaust.

The expansion of state capacity led to the creation or building up of other security and intelligence agencies, and they, too, were incorporated into this process of development. As Israel aged, and the threat environment remained the same, these security agencies came to assume a prominent role in the foreign policy decision-making process. Their expertise was presumed to be almost all that was necessary for the government to decide on foreign and security policy, not just on decisions involving the use of force, but on diplomatic and political issues, as well.

And they came to play a prominent role in domestic policy, including in budget debates. The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza further facilitated their place at the decision-making table, as the IDF was used to administer the captured territories and, during the First Intifada from 1987 to 1993, to engage in riot control.

Finally, the ease with which defense officials moved from their security jobs into politics meant that they brought with them their expertise, connections, authority and emphasis on security frameworks for resolving problems. It is no coincidence that most defense ministers have been former high-ranking military officers, or that Israelis indicate they prefer as prime minister someone with experience in defense. Levi Eshkol was prime minister during the 1967 crisis leading to the war that year. He was widely criticized for appearing hesitant and bumbling at a time when many Israelis feared their country would be destroyed; many Israelis called for him to be replaced by one or more IDF commanders, including former chief of staff-turned-politician Moshe Dayan. Similarly, when Labor leader Amir Peretz became defense minister in 2006, he was widely mocked for not having the extensive military experience his three immediate predecessors all high-ranking generals had.

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Monkey Cage: The politics of Israels security officers

Tensions grow between Israel's Jewish majority and Arab minority

Tensions gripping Israel after this weeks attack on a Jerusalem synagogue took on distinct ethnic overtones Thursday when a mayor in southern Israel said he was banning Arab workers from construction projects at local day-care centers.

The mayor of Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, swiftly came under criticism from other Israeli officials over the ban, which he said had come in response to demands by parents and was not intended as a permanent measure. The workers in question were building reinforced concrete safe rooms to protect the preschoolers and their teachers against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Shimonoi also ordered armed guards placed near dozens of other construction sites employing Arabs.

Arab citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of the population, responded to the news with a mixture of resignation and indignation. Why stop at kindergartens? Arab Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi asked sarcastically. Maybe all of Israel should just be Arab-free?

While recent clashes have involved mainly Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where Arabs are in the majority, the friction has spilled over into Israeli cities and towns that have predominantly Arab populations.

Earlier this month, the fatal police shooting of a young Arab man who had battered a police vehicle triggered days of rioting around the northern town of Kfar Kana. Protests were galvanized by a video that appeared to show the man backing away as he was shot.

The Kfar Kana episode crystallized feelings of resentment on the part of many Israeli Arabs, who say they are often treated as second-class citizens, facing systematic discrimination in jobs, housing and education. Arab sensibilities also have been rankled by efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus government on behalf of a bill that would designate Israel as the nation-state of the Jews.

No Arab citizen of Israel has been implicated as a perpetrator in a recent wave of attacks that have killed 11 people in the past month, including five who died in Tuesdays assault on a synagogue in the devoutly religious neighborhood of Har Nof in West Jerusalem.

But even before the synagogue carnage, a series of lone-wolf assaults by assailants wielding knives or using cars as weapons had left many Israeli Jews feeling fearful for their personal safety. In some quarters that has led to blanket mistrust of all Arabs, whether they are citizens of Israel or not.

Authorities were investigating whether the two assailants in Har Nof, who were killed by police at the scene, had worked in a store in the neighborhood, and thus had knowledge of prayer times, and the fact that the synagogue was virtually unguarded. The attackers were Arab residents of East Jerusalem, most of whom do not have Israeli citizenship but are able to move and work freely in the city.

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Tensions grow between Israel's Jewish majority and Arab minority

Why Judaism needs journalism

Image via Shutterstock.com

Theres a tendency in the Jewish world to look for big solutions to big problems. One of those problems is the disheartening fact that most Jews today are simply not that interested in Judaism.

This problem isnt made up its real. We live in a world where the options are so abundant that Judaism is seen as a choice, not an obligation. This is radically different from the world I grew up in, where every Jew in the Jewish neighborhoods of Casablanca would go to synagogue on Shabbat and follow the major rituals. Judaism wasnt a choice it was a way of life.

Here in America, in the land where we overdose on choices, Judaism has to compete for peoples time, and, more often than not, it loses. Why would someone go to a prayer house on Saturday mornings when they can take a beautiful hike in the canyon or have coffee with an old friend or go to a gym or yoga class? If the great American question is, What will make me happiest? is it that surprising that Judaism so often loses?

In response to this crisis of competition, the organized Jewish community invested enormous resources in recent years to try to get more Jews to choose Judaism. What most of the initiatives have in common is that they want you to go to Judaism go to a class, a program, a concert, a synagogue, a camp, a school or on a trip.

The most ambitious and talked-about solution in this go-to arsenal has been Jewish education. If youre ever in a meeting with Jewish professionals and you want to see everyone nod feverishly in unison, just say, The most important thing is Jewish education!

Of course, theres one little problem with this solution: Its not realistic. If so many Jews have trouble committing a few hours of their precious time to a synagogue or Jewish event, how much more so with a decision as big as enrolling in a day school?

Which brings me to what I believe is the most nimble, diverse and powerful connector in the Jewish world today: Jewish journalism. When I say journalism, Im thinking especially of the unique, weekly experience of going through a rich and vibrant community newspaper. Why do I believe this is so powerful?

Well, for one thing, its incredibly convenient. A newspaper doesnt ask you to go out of your way. You might notice it at a local caf or deli or shul or supermarket, or on a friends coffee table, or at your doorstep if you get it at home, and all youre asked to do is pick it up. Thats a lot easier than shlepping to some Jewish event and looking for parking.

But, more importantly, once the paper is in your hands, you are empowered and in control. No one tells you what to do or read or believe. Its Judaism on your terms. You get to choose whatever youre in the mood for whether its news, opinion, religion, culture, arts, spirituality, humor, history, tikkun olam, community stories, poetry, Israel, Torah or whatever else helps define your Jewish identity. At its best, journalism also puts up a mirror to our community that keeps us honest and encourages progress.

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Why Judaism needs journalism

Defiant worshipers reopen Jerusalem synagogue following terror attack

JERUSALEM, Nov. 20 (UPI) — A day after a deadly attack at a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of West Jerusalem, defiant worshipers returned to reopen the religious facility.

Morning prayers were held Wednesday morning with a security guard standing watch at the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue.

Knesset Member Dov Lipman attended the service “to send a message that Am Yisrael Chai [The people of Israel live] and that the terrorists accomplished nothing by their horrific murders.”

Lipman said he was “inspired by the intensity” at Wednesday’s prayers, which were held at the same time as Tuesday’s morning attack.

Five people, including three Israelis with dual American citizenship, were killed when two Palestinian men stormed the synagogue, armed with a gun, knives and axes. Police shot and killed both assailants.

“We don’t feel revenge is something we need to do,” resident David Hershcovitz explained to CNN.

But Hershcovitz admitted “It’s a huge shock that in a synagogue … slaughterers come in with slaughter tools like butchers.”

Tuesday’s attack was the latest episode of violence amid rising tensions in the city. In the past month, Jerusalem has been the site of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis over access to the Temple Mount holy site, also known as Al Haram Al Sharif, and two attacks by Palestinians who drove their vehicles into pedestrian crowds.

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Defiant worshipers reopen Jerusalem synagogue following terror attack

The Status Quo Myth

The Temple Mount. File photo

With tensions still high in Jerusalem and throughout the rest of Israel, the latest buzzword that is being bounced around in the regional and international media is “status quo”. More specifically, Israel is accused by the Arabs and their supporters of trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount while senior government officials in Washington praise Israel for easing restrictions to Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount in order to preserve the status quo.

Similarly, within Israel itself various Jewish MKs criticize other Jewish MKs who insist on ascending the Temple Mount with charges that they’re aggravating an already tense situation with the Arabs while the chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel goes even further and blames Jews who ascend the Temple Mount with provoking Arab terror and causing Jewish blood to flow (a charge which is akin to blaming the raped rather than the rapist).

In such a situation, how could anyone question the validity of the claim that Israel is trying to change the status quo, for if everyone talks about it, it must be true?

Nevertheless and with all due respect to the purveyors of disinformation, the truth is there is no clearly defined existing state or condition, otherwise known as a status quo, between the Jewish and Arab populations in Israel. In fact, one can argue that the very opposite is true and that the state of affairs between the two groups is not static but rather has been changing for years. Still further and contrary to the current claim, this ongoing shift in relations has been mainly to the detriment of the Jews, and not the Arabs.

Already for years the Arabs in many parts of the country have become increasingly brazen in their disrespect for any semblance of Israeli sovereignty. Although it’s certainly not every Israeli Arab, overall there’s a clear trend in the direction of growing radicalization and mounting anti-Israel sentiment amongst the Arab population of Israel.

Moreover, when one looks at the total bedlam engulfing the region ever since the beginning of the Arab Spring – the uprising, so we were told, which was to usher in a new era of peace and democracy in the region – the trend in Israel should not come as a surprise.

I personally witnessed this on a visit to a kibbutz in the normally tranquil Jezreel Valley two summers ago when our night-time barbecue was interrupted by the menacing sound of gunshots emanating from the nearby Arab village. When I asked one of the members of the kibbutz if this was something new, the young man, who for more than two hours was on the phone pleading with the police and regional security officers to get involved, explained that this insanity had been going on for more than three years and that despite the periodic direct hit of a bullet on a kibbutz home nothing was being done since the police were afraid to enter the Arab village.

He then explained, as did members of a nearby kibbutz the following day, that in addition to the occasional Arab attack, Arab thefts in the region were out of control and that nothing was being done to stop it.

This is just one small example, far from the Temple Mount, of what has been taking place in Israel in recent years. Once again, this is not to suggest that each and every Israeli Arab is becoming increasingly radicalized and aggressively hostile to Israeli sovereignty. There are plenty of Arabs in Israel that are not this way. Nevertheless, like their Arab brethren in other parts of the Middle East, they are practically irrelevant when it comes to halting the frightening changes that are taking place.

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The Status Quo Myth

Building a penthouse only Mark Zuckerberg can afford

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Building a penthouse only Mark Zuckerberg can afford