Palestine: On eve of Netanyahu visit, illegal settlements at tipping point – Green Left Weekly

In the first ever visit by a serving Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Australia this month as part of an international tour aimed at shoring up Israels reputation abroad.

The visit has actually attracted attention but not the kind Netanyahu would like.

In the wake of a growing corruption scandal around the PM and the recent passage of the so-called regularisation law that retrospectively legalises illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the situation of Palestinian communities across the occupied territories is becoming increasingly desperate.

With increasing rates of demolitions of Palestinian houses, Netanyahus whirlwind international tour seems to be about shoring up both his and Israels reputations in the face of criticism over the contentious law.

Last year featured a record number of housing demolitions across the West Bank, which led to a record number of displaced people of which more than half are minors. In what amounts to a policy of de-Palestinianising previously Palestinian territories, the numbers of demolitions and displacements last year outstripped 2014 and 2015 combined.

The destruction of Palestinian homes and the displacement of Palestinian families across the West Bank have combined with the ever-growing numbers of illegal Israeli settlements to set the stage to complete the de facto annexation of the whole West Bank.

The West Bank is divided into three areas. Area C, for example, is under direct Israeli administrative control and makes up 60% of the West Bank. The practical consequences of Israeli administration of security and land management includes almost total refusal of any Palestinian application for building permits.

Palestinians are effectively prevented from building on about 70% of Area C.

Palestinians in the area also face outright seizures of property for live firing exercises (declaring a closed military zone), encroachment onto their land by the notorious separation barrier (as Israel calls the Apartheid Wall), the declaration of areas as state lands that can only be used by Israelis, and even nature reserves from which Palestinians are forbidden.

Responses around the world to the regularisation bill, passed on February 6, have been muted. No leader or foreign minister has really challenged the tired orthodoxy of the two-state solution.

However, a dramatic exception came on February 15 when Donald Trump used a joint press conference with Netanyahu on February 15 to seemingly imply support for a one-state solution in which Israel would exercise total control over historic Palestine.

Of course, being Trump, the actual meaning of his statement was unclear. One interpretation of Trumps garbled comments was support for officially establishing what increasingly exists on the ground: one state with two very different systems or apartheid, as many observers label it.

For their part, Germany, France and Britain have issued cautious statements about the dangers posed to the two-state solution by the new law and growth of Israeli settlements. European Union representatives came closest to outright condemnation by warning that the law would entrench a single state, but with very different rights and consequences for Israeli versus Palestinian citizens.

Israels own attorney-general has said that he will not defend the bill should it be brought before Israels high court.

Former Australian politicians have queued up to offer modest support to the idea of Palestinian statehood, while neatly sidestepping the issues brought to a head by the regularisation law and growing demolitions and evictions.

Former Labor PM Bob Hawke and Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans have joined calls to recognise the state of Palestine albeit with a view to continuing negotiations for a peaceful, two-state solution.

Another former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr has been the most critical. Carr dared suggest the slew of additional settlements on the West Bank might indicate Israels desire to annex the West Bank and finally torpedo any remaining chance of a negotiated settlement.

Naming settlements as an obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine is a bold move and will most likely be ignored by Israel.

What almost no one outside progressive media is saying even the EU is that the never-ending expansion of settlements are an insurmountable stumbling block to any negotiated solution. Nor is it noted that this is actually what Israel intended all along.

The more Israeli settlements and Palestinian housing demolitions frustrate peace talks, the more time Israel creates for itself to consolidate its hold on stolen Palestinian territories.

While mainstream media is distracted by Netanyahus PR tour, the expansion of Israeli settlements continues unchecked and towns throughout the West Bank are rapidly becoming de-Palestinianised.

[Protests have been called against Netanyahus visit for Melbourne on February 19 and Sydney on February 23. Visit the Australian Friends of Palestine Association website for details.]

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Palestine: On eve of Netanyahu visit, illegal settlements at tipping point – Green Left Weekly

Rouhani: We’ll continue to support ‘Palestine’ – Arutz Sheva

Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday promised to continue to support Palestinian Arabs, calling on other Muslim nations to do so as well.

“The Iranian nation has paid a heavy price for supporting the Palestinian nation and opposition to the Zionist regime’s actions but it will continue its support with resolve and determination,” Rouhani said in a meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) politician Salim al-Zanoun in Tehran on Wednesday, according to the Fars news agency.

“We believe that the Muslim world should resist to restore the rights of the Palestinian nation and it should pay the needed price,” added Rouhani, who expressed confidence that the PA would succeed in fighting to defend its rights.

The meeting between the two came on the sidelines of an annual Iranian conference in support of the Palestinian Intifada.

The Hamas terrorist group has sent a delegation to participate in the conference. According to Iranian, delegations from over 80 countries are in attendance as well.

Rouhanis comments come as Iranian officials have upped their anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Irans spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for the complete liberation of Palestine and slammed the Jewish state as a cancerous tumor.

“This cancerous tumor, since its start, has grown incrementally and its treatment must be incremental too,” he said, while praising violent attacks against Israelis and arguing that they have brought Israels enemies closer to their goal of destroying the Jewish state.

“Multiple intifadas and continuous resistance have succeeded in achieving very important incremental goals, said Khamenei.

A senior Iranian official recently threatened his country would immediately strike Israel if the United States “makes a mistake”, noting that “only 7 minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”

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Rouhani: We’ll continue to support ‘Palestine’ – Arutz Sheva

Near San Francisco, Karaite Jews keep an ancient movement alive … – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

It is a custom among Karaite Jews to pray kneeling on the ground, as seen here in the sanctuary of Congregation Bnai Israel in Daly City, Calif. (Courtesy of Karaite Jews of America)

DALY CITY, Calif. (J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) Show up on a Shabbat morning at Congregation Bnai Israel in this Northern California suburb and, if youre a typical American Jew, you will see plenty thats familiar.

At the front of the sanctuary is an ark, and inside the ark are several Torah scrolls. There is a memorial wall at the back listing the names of the communitys lost loved ones. Near the entrance is a rack of tallitot, or prayer shawls.

But before you come in, you must remove your shoes, as Moses did when he approached the Burning Bush. Examine the rack of tallitot and you will find that the fringes are dyed, knotted and wrapped in an unusual way. In front of the pews is an open space covered in rugs. Some worshippers sit or kneel on the floor; when they bow, they touch their heads to the ground. The prayers follow a unique structure, and the sound is very Middle Eastern.

Bnai Israel is the only Karaite synagogue in North America, serving the Diasporas largest community of Jews carrying on the traditions of a movement that diverged from the rabbinic mainstream as far back as the eighth century C.E. About 800 members live within driving distance of the synagogue.

Karaite Jews differ from Rabbanite Jews, as Karaites call Jews who follow rabbinic tradition, in that they rely on what is written in the Torah and reject practices and interpretations derived from the oral law the Talmud and other rabbinic literature. The two communities coexisted until the 10th century, when the (Rabbanite) sage Saadia Gaon denounced Karaites as apostates and sought to exclude them from the Jewish community. Relationships between the two Jewish communities have varied across time and place, but the initial antagonism has long colored the relationship.

In the Bay Area, where few Rabbanite Jews are aware of Karaite Judaism, the relationship is cordial, though not always close on an institutional level. But on a personal level, many Karaite Jews are involved with the wider Bay Area Jewish community. Many have had bar and bat mitzvahs in Rabbanite synagogues.

Still, Bnai Israels is a small, closely knit community drawn together by the Egyptian ancestry of many of its members as well as their Karaite practice. Like many other small Jewish communities, they are concerned about the future. Who will induct their children and other interested Jews into Karaite traditions?

To ensure that future, the congregation has embarked on a relatively small construction project that will have a large and visible impact on their community: They are renovating their existing 3,500-square-foot prefab building and creating a 1,000-square-foot Karaite Jewish Cultural Center,attached to the synagogue, which will serve as a combination education program, museum and social center.

There is a Karaite Heritage Center in Israel, but this will be the only similar institution in the Diaspora.

For a community this small, a lot is riding on the project.

If this current generation of Karaite Jews in the United States fails, itll be very difficult to kick-start the movement in any organized fashion, said Shawn Lichaa, a pillar of the local Karaite community.

Karaite practice is usually defined byits differences with rabbinic Judaism, whose acceptance ofthe orallaw is considered foundational by Orthodox, Conservativeand Reform Jews, even if Reform Judaism does not consider its rules binding.

Karaite Torah scrolls are stored in the Eastern style, with the scroll enclosed in a hard case. (David A.M. Wilensky)

The rabbinic kosherpractice of not mixing milk and meat, for example, is derived from fairly limited verses in the Bible that one should not cook a young goat in its mothers milk. The rabbinic traditionexpanded the prohibition to prevent the mixing and consumption of any kind of dairy with any kind of meat, including chicken, and created an array of laws about separating cooking utensilsandwaiting between eating meatand dairy.

In the Karaite view of kashrut, one may mix meat and dairy products that come from different animals, and each community and individual has autonomy to decide how strict or lax to be. Karaites also do not accept rabbinic loopholes that ease various Shabbat restrictions. Karaite Jews have embraced some Rabbanite traditions, such as bnai mitzvah, while rejecting others, such as celebrating Hanukkah (which marks events that occurred 1,000 years after those described in the Torah).

Karaites also include a blue strand in their tzitzit, giving their tallitot a distinctive look and informing the name ofA Blue Thread, Lichaas long-running blog on Karaite Judaism.

In the Bnai Israel sanctuary, most women sit off to one side, though there is no mechitza to separate them formally from the men. As each Karaite community is empowered to set its own standards, American mores rubbed off on the community, and some women now prefer to sit in the main area.

Today there are an estimated 30,000 Karaite Jews in Israel, 1,500 in the United States and small communities in places like France, England, Turkey and Russia. But until the mid-20th century, many lived in Arab lands. For centuries, one of the most prominent Karaite communities in the world was in Cairo, where the first Bay Area Karaites came from. Cairo once had a Karaite quarter of about 5,000 people adjacent to the mainstream Jewish quarter. Relations between Karaite and Rabbanite Jews in Cairo were close; the Cairo Genizah, a vast store of Jewish writings discovered in a Rabbanite synagogue in Cairo in the 19th century, included a number of Karaite documents.

In what Karaites sometimes call the second exodus, they left Egypt en masse during the last century afterIsrael became a state in 1948. More left after the 1956 Sinai War. During the 1967 Six-Day War, the remaining Jewish men in Egypt were put in camps, where they were held for over two years; they were the last to leave. Over the years mostly because of relatives already in the Bay Area many of the Egyptian Karaite Jews wound up here.

A rack of prayer shawls at Congregation Bnai Israel shows the unique style of tzitzit used by Karaite Jews. (David A.M. Wilensky)

In 1994, the Bay Area Karaite community bought the Daly City building from an existing Congregation Bnai Israel that was closing. The Karaite congregation adopted the name Bnai Israel because it was already painted on the side of the building.

The cultural center would have been no more than a dream were it not for the fortuitous union, in their 60s, of David Ovadia and Maryellen Himell-Ovadia, who are leading the fundraising and renovation efforts. Ovadia is a Karaite Jew by heritage and a structural engineer by training; Himell-Ovadia is a former member of San Franciscos Congregation Emanu-El and an experienced fundraiser.

Ovadia came to the Bay Area from Egypt at age 13 in 1963.

During that time, a lot of my other uncles and everybody else was feeling the pressure and everything that was going on in Egypt, he said.

While others in his community have feared for its future, Ovadias faith never wavered.

I never doubted that this is going to continue, he said. This is making sure that there is going to be a tradition kept alive. We will live for a thousand years and more.

Himell-Ovadia sees herself as part of a bridge between the Karaite and mainstream Jewish communities of the Bay Area a bridge that she hopes will grow.

This is not just about improving or facilitating things within the Karaite community, but to build bridges to the larger world and to make this a welcoming place for others who want to come and learn about this unique culture within the branches of the Jewish family tree, she said.

With groundbreaking set for the end of this month, the Bnai Israel community has already raised $1.1 million of its $1.2 million goal. The cultural center campaign is an approved grantee of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federations donor-advised funds, though it only accounts for a small percentage of the money raised. In about six weeks, the congregation will move out of its building and be hosted by other congregations until the High Holidays, when it expects to be back home again.

A Blue Thread blogger Lichaa, 37, is also the creator of the Karaite Press. Launched in February 2016 with the publication of a 12th-century Karaite commentary on the Book of Esther, the Karaite Press aims to make great historical Karaite writings many of them written in Arabic and until now locked up in manuscript form available to the global Karaite community and the public at large.

Lichaa, a San Francisco native and the son of Karaite parents from Cairo, grew up in Foster City, where he attended Hebrew school at Peninsula Sinai Congregation.

In Cairo, members of the Karaite community lived close together. But, Lichaa said, When we came to the U.S. we didnt have proximity, a central place where a critical mass lived where we could do education with our own teachers. The easiest thing to do was join local synagogues.

Today, the Daly City congregation offers some education programs, but none specifically for kids.

We do train them in prayers, one on one. I do some of that, Lichaa said.

A recent bar mitzvah at Bnai Israel was a major affair, drawing a crowd of 150 to the small sanctuary.

The new center will offer a range of programs, everything from cooking classes, history classes, to arts, he said. I see a Tuesday night open house where were open to the community. People can drop by, there will be food and beverages. And maybe Thursday nights well have a specific learning opportunity.

Lichaa is working to make sure all of the classes will be live-streamed, making the learning available to a wide audience.

The center also will include a rotating exhibit of Karaite Torah scrolls, art, manuscripts and the like.

Lichaa views himself as Jewish first and Karaite second.

I made an active decision that my preferred form of Judaism is Karaite Judaism, he said. If youre an Orthodox Jew, I understand why you follow the rabbinic tradition. But for everyone else, I wonder why Karaite Judaism cant be one of the menu options.

Read more here:
Near San Francisco, Karaite Jews keep an ancient movement alive … – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Undercover investigation: Embracing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial – Arutz Sheva

I have just concluded an in-depth investigation into anti-Semitism inside The Palestine Solidarity Campaign that has spanned months but drew on several years of underlying research. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign(PSC)claims to be the biggest organisation in the UK dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights. The PSCpatronsinclude: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Pat Gaffney, Rev Garth, Ken Loach, Dr Ilan Pappe, Hilary & Steven Rose, Alexi Sayle, Baroness Tonge of Kew, and Betty Hunter. It partners with many of the largest unions in the UK.

The result of this research is an eighty-page report, that focuses on seventeen separate PSC branches across England and Wales, and culminated with an in-depth case study of a mass demonstration in London. The full report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

In truth, I stopped the detailed analysis at seventeen branches simply because I was inundated with material. Although not mentioned in the report, I also found qualifying material at the PSC branches in Brighton, Faversham, Camden, Haringey, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Liverpool, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth & Portsmouth. As the researched progressed, finding more of the anti-Semitism at every branch became an exercise in pointing out the obvious. The question became to how to find a way to measure and quantify it.

If the worst I found was an activist suggesting Israel should be destroyed, is committing genocide and Zionists are all Nazis, that activist *would not* have made the grade for this research. Let that fact sink in. When I refer to anti-Semitism within this study, I avoided *all references to the conflict*. We all know the trick is to deflect accusations of anti-Semitism with a false cry about criticism of Israeli policy. I set out to avoid this. I was only interested in those pushing conspiracy theory, holocaust denial or classic anti-Semitic tropes. The argument that anti-Semitism is about gitimate criticism of Israel simply has no weight against this research. The bar for anti-Semitism that was used is unnaturally high. As an example, if the worst I found was an activist suggesting Israel should be destroyed, is committing genocide and Zionists are all Nazis, that activist *would not*have made the grade for this research. Let that fact sink in.

The anti-Semitism referred to here is *ONLY* hard core anti-Semitism. Examples include: USA controlled by Zionists; Jews responsible for 9/11; the Paris Bataclan massacre was a false flag to increase support for Israel; Ashkenazi Jews are fake; Zionist Jews support ISIS; Jewish Zionists stir up fake anti-Semitism; many varieties of Holocaust Denial; Israel harvests organs from the dead; Israel harvests organs from the living; Mossad wanted to assassinate Obama; the BBC is the Zionist Broadcasting Corporation, Zionist tentacles controlling Parliament; Mossad did 7/7/2005 in London; Kristallnacht instigated by Communist and Freemason Jews to promote War against Germany; Babylonian Talmud advocates sex with child age three; Goyim bloodshed ritual by the Talmudic worshipers [sic] of Moloch, the children holocaust bloodthirsty monster..

It is not hard to find pictures of the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, next to a PSC activist. They metnot once, but at least twice. Once inside a PSC event, the other at a Palestine Return Centre gathering. The man seen in photos standing next to Corbyn posts a constant stream of 9/11 truth, holocaust revisionism and other such vile messages. In UK anti-Israel activism he is a star, he was the central figure (if he is not still running) PSC Reading, is an admin for a major secret online anti-Israel group and just last month, attended the PSC AGM. The thing is, everyone knows about him, including the PSC. PSC have known about him for years. When the PSC permit those like Tony to continue to associate with the organisation, the PSC spit in the face of all Jews and insult all those who seek to fight anti-Semitism.

This a quote from an article Tony Gratrex posted, one of the scores of suchposts:

“The Zionists militarist mindset is evidently motivated by the ethnocentric myths of Jewish victimhood. World-conquering Neocon-Zionist belligerence is driven in large part by the religious adherence to the official propaganda of the victors of World War II. Elite Jews played an important role in bringing about the Second World War as the final phase of their plan to establish the state of Israel. The First World War accomplished several things for the Zionists: it freed up Palestine from Ottoman control (the Ottomans previously rejected Zionist offers to purchase Palestine), it fractured the big empires of Europe who could then be manipulated into future conflicts, and lastly it delivered Russia to the Bolsheviks, a majority of whom were Jewish chauvinists hell-bent on the subjugation of that Christian Empire. With Russia now in the hands of Jewish communist extremists and Palestine falling under British dominion, the Zionist plan for Israel was well on its way.”

But the research is full of such articles. Having successfully found anti-Semitic posts in abundance, I attempted to quantify anti-Semitism (how much of the activity is driven by anti-Semitism). I focused on a single mass demonstration in London, the anti-Netanyahu demo on 6th February. I was honestly shocked by the findings. Fifteen out of the thirty six accessible social media accounts identified, carried Jewish conspiracy style posts. They suggest that the more likely someone is to pick up a Palestinian flag and call for people to boycott the Jewish state, the more likely it is that anti-Semitism is involved. By the time someone is engaged with publicly protesting against Israel outside Downing Street, there is a good chance he is anti-Semitic.

There were many sickening moments during the research and it was emotionally draining to continue with this task day after day, week after week. To clarify, the correlation between activity and Jewish conspiracy was evident throughout the research, it was only at the demo was I able to quantify it. I had already seen numerous examples of people on the street, calling for the boycott of Israel, who believed in global conspiracy theory.

Watch this video post by a BDS action group:

That is Kajsa Anckarstrm. These are some of her posts:

Another of her posts called Charlie Hebdo a Zionist false flag, and the top left post came immediately after the Paris terror attacks onNovember 13th. Now look at the video again. We have someone displaying deeply anti-Semitic attitudes, entering a shop and trying to persuade people to boycott products from the Jewish state. It looks and is horrific.

PSC will no doubt try to distance themselves from the activists in the report. But in some cases it is the Chair of the branch, in others it is someone on the stall in the high street. On too many occasions it is someone clearly connected to the PSC. What they should do is apologise. Apologise to Jews, apologise to their partners, and apologise to some members who have innocently aligned themselves to an organisation riddled with such anti-Semitic hatred.

Tabash Abu Shaimis on the street (far left) here protesting against Israel.

He made many unacceptable posts, but this is a quote from one of the articles he linked to:

It does a disservice to the Palestinians and non-Palestinian victims of Israeli foreign policy to try to divorce the Palestine Question from the broader manifestations of the locus of power which James Petras has referred to as the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC). This ZPC operates at both a global and local level as was indicated on 9/11. As Naomi Klein accurately wrote in the Guardian [the] Likudisation of the world [is] the real legacy of 9/11.

Tapash appears to have been on the PSC stall at the Labour party conference. One inevitably has to conclude thatanti-Semitic conspiracy theory is welcome at the top table of the movement.

Given the research found rabid antisemites, with a long history of Jew hatred, welcomed wherever they go within the PSC family, including into the HQ at the AGM, the PSC clearly only pay lip service to fighting racism within their ranks. They play a game which visibly laughs in the face of anti-Semitism, relying on a tiny minority of Jewish supporters to provide cover for blatant and rabid global conspiracy theory, holocaust denial and other anti-Semitic ideologies.

These findings should have repercussions as it brings into question all support that this group receives. The NUT alliance, the War on Want alliance, the other trade union alliances, the cooperation with elements of the Labour party, all these groups should rethink their policy towards activism that is clearly connected to rabid Jew hatred. The TUC is allied with the PSC, how is this acceptable?

All venues that host these groups and all Patrons of the PSC should surely sever their links. Jeremy Corbyn is a Patron. How is an association with a group that accommodates Holocaust revisionists and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists acceptable to The Leader of the Opposition?

What does this message say about BDS activists? The report shines light on people who apparently subscribe to dark anti-Semitic ideology shouting out in public about boycotting Jewish goods. This is not 1930s Germany; there is no reason to accept such behaviour, regardless of the cause it attempts to hide behind. Download the report. Read it. Digest it. Act on it.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT AT170222_palestine_solidarity_campaign_report

David Collier blogs at Beyond the Great Divide: The Truth Matters.Born in the UK, he spent19 years in Israel between 1987 and 2006, that is between the first Intifada and the 2006 Lebanon war. While in Israel, he started his own business, working on tourism related projects with both Israelis and Palestinians as well as providing services to NGOs. He writes: “As someone who fought Pan- Arabists, pro-Palestinians, staunch Zionists, antisemites and anti-Zionists alike, I found myself a man without many friends.”

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Undercover investigation: Embracing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial – Arutz Sheva

New Orleans JCC bomb threat follows wave of anti-Semitism in US –

“The reported bomb threat at JCC deemed non-credible, is clear. FBI is investigating,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote on Twitter. “Be clear, anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in NOLA.”

While the bombs themselves are “hoaxes,” the threats and waves of anti-Semitism across the U.S., as theJewish Community Center Association of North America has said, are very real. In a letter toDepartment of Homeland Security Director John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey. Florida U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and New York U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley along withdozens of members of Congress and Jewish-led groups demanded swift federal action.

“Federal law enforcement agencies must do everything within their power to punish those responsible for the threats that have already taken place, to prevent future threats from occurring, and to ensure these threats are never converted into action,” Murphy said.”These phone calls have a severe economic, as well as emotional, impact.” According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in 2016, there was”one anti-Semitic assault reported in this country every week, and at least two anti-Jewish incidents on average every single day.” The ADL’s Task Force on Harassment and Journalism counted from August 2015 to July 2016 nearly 3 million anti-Semitic tweets.

Over the last month, 53 centers in 26 states and one center in Canada received 68 calls, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center counted 11 bomb threats on Feb. 20.

The administration of President Donald Trump delayed responding to the attacks and sidestepped questions about it during a Feb. 16 press conference. Trump cut off a question from Jake Turx, a reporter for Ami Magazine and the first Hasidic Jewish member of the White House press corps, who asked Trump how he plans to address the”uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government plans to take care of it.” Trump responded to the question as a personal attack.

“Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life,” Trump responded. “Number two: racism. I am the least racist person … I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question.”

Another reporter later asked the same question; Trump suggested his opponents were responsible.

Finally, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Trump called the threats “horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”By then there had already been dozens of threats delivered to JCCs around the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom.

Jewish Voice for Peace New Orleans (JVP), which helped organize a week of actions and presented a list of demands to city and state officials in the wake of Trump’s immigration order, said the administration is “flirting with anti-Semitism at the highest levels” in failing to name targets of the Nazi Holocaust and for defecting questions about anti-semitism in the U.S. by echoing Trump’s support for Israel.

“The Trump administration is proving, yet again, that it is quite possible to be anti-Semitic and support the Israeli government,” JVP’s statement reads. “It bears repeating, once again, that not all Jews support the Israeli government, and that Israel does not represent all Jews. …It is also of note the executive order targeting Muslims and refugees was signed on International Holocaust Memorial day. In doing so, the administration reminds us that fights against anti-semitism, racism and Islamophobia must go hand in hand.”

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New Orleans JCC bomb threat follows wave of anti-Semitism in US –

Israel does not cause antisemitism – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Lord Arthur James Balfour and the text of the Balfour Declaration. (photo credit:WIKIMEDIA)

In a recent letter to The New York Times, the current Earl of Balfour, Roderick Balfour, argued that it is Israels fault that there is growing antisemitism around the world.

Balfour, who is a descendant of Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary who wrote the Balfour Declaration a hundred years ago, wrote the following: The increasing inability of Israel to address [the condition of Palestinians], coupled with the expansion into Arab territory of the Jewish settlements, are major factors in growing antisemitism around the world.

He argued further that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu owes it to the millions of Jews around the world who suffer antisemitism, to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

This well-intentioned but benighted view is particularly ironic in light of the fact that the Balfour Declaration had, as one of its purposes, to end antisemitism around the world by creating a homeland for the Jewish people. But now the scion of Lord Balfour is arguing that it is Israel that is causing antisemitism.

Roderick Balfours views are simply wrong both as a matter of fact and as a matter of morality. Anyone who hates Jews around the world because they disagree with the policy of Israel would be ready to hate Jews on the basis of any pretext.

Modern-day antisemites, unlike their forbearers, need to find excuses for their hatred, and anti-Zionism has become the excuse du jour.

To prove the point, let us consider other countries: Has there been growing anti-Chinese feelings around the world as the result of Chinas occupation of Tibet? Is there growing hatred of Americans of Turkish background because of Turkeys unwillingness to end the conflict in Cypress? Do Europeans of Russian background suffer bigotry because of Russias invasion of Crimea? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no.

If Jews are the only group that suffers because of controversial policies by Israel, then the onus lies on the antisemites rather than on the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Moreover, Benjamin Netanyahus responsibility is to the safety and security of Israelis. Even if it were true that antisemitism is increasing as the result of Israeli policies, no Israeli policy should ever be decided based on the reaction of bigots around the world.

Antisemitism, the oldest of bigotries, will persist as long as it is seen to be justified by apologists like Roderick Balfour. Thought Balfour does not explicitly justify antisemitism, the entire thrust of his letter is that Jew-hatred is at least understandable in light of Israels policies.

Balfour doesnt say a word about the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to accept Israels repeated offers of statehood to the Palestinians. From 1938 through 2008, the Palestinians have been offered and repeatedly rejected agreements that would have given them statehood. Even today, the Palestinian leadership refuses to accept Netanyahus offer to sit down and negotiate a final-status agreement without any preconditions.

Nor does Balfour mention Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorists groups that constantly threaten Israel, along with Irans publicly declared determination to destroy the state that Lord Balfour helped to create. Its all Israels fault, according to Balfour, and the resulting increase in antisemitism is Israels fault as well.

Roderick Balfour ends his letter by essentially joining the boycott movement against Israel. He has declared his unwillingness to participate in the Centenary Celebration of the Balfour Declaration, until and unless Israel takes unilateral action to end the conflict. So be it.

I am confident that the author of the Balfour Declaration would have willing participated in this celebration, recognizing that no country in history has ever contributed more to the world in terms of medical, technological, environmental and other innovations in so short a period of time (69 years) than has Israel. Nor has any country, faced with comparable threats, ever been more generous in its offers of peace, more committed to the Rule of Law, or more protective of civilians who are used as human shields by those who attack its civilians.

So let the Celebration of the Balfour Declaration go forward without the participation of Roderick Balfour. Let Israel continue to offer a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians.

And let the Palestinians finally come to the bargaining table, and recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in the way that the Balfour Declaration intended.

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Israel does not cause antisemitism – Jerusalem Post Israel News

DNC Chair Candidate Stumbles When Pressed On Anti-Semitism [VIDEO] – Daily Caller


At CNNs Wednesday evening Democratic Leadership Debate, Minnesota Representative and DNC Chair hopeful Keith Ellison was asked to account for allegations of past anti-Semitism.

The Sunni Muslim Democratic congressman has long been dogged about hisassociation with groups like the Nation of Islam and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He has also come under fire for statements and writings regarding the State of Israel and American support for the Jewish state, going so far as to publish a paper as a law student titled Zionism: Imperialism, White Supremacy or Both?


Congressman Ellison, on Tuesday, you criticized President Trump on Twitter for not speaking out sooner on anti-Semitism. You have critics in your own party who say that is the right message but you may not be the right messenger because youre dogged by your own questions about potential anti-Semitism, debate moderator Chris Cuomo pressed.

Ellison denied the validity of the issue. Well, these are false allegations, he said, going on to cite examples of supporter in the Jewish community. These are smears and were fighting back every day.

Ellison was quick to turn the attention back to current events. Right now you have Jewish cemeteries defaced and desecrated. Right now you have Jewish institutions getting bomb threats. We have to stand with the Jewish community right here, right now, four square. And thats what the Democratic party is all about, he said.

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DNC Chair Candidate Stumbles When Pressed On Anti-Semitism [VIDEO] – Daily Caller

Government launches Palestine National Policy Agenda for 2017 2022 – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

Government launches Palestine National Policy Agenda for 2017 2022

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (third from left) and his guests at the launch of the National Policy Agenda in Ramallah. WAFA photo by Maan Khalifa.

RAMALLAH, February 22, 2017 (WAFA) The Palestinian government launched Wednesday the Palestine National Policy Agenda (NPA) for 2017 2022, which Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said puts the Palestinian citizen first.

Speaking at the launch event held in Ramallah in the presence of Palestinian and international guests, including United Nations Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov and European Union representative in Jerusalem Ralph Tarraf, Hamdallah said the NPAs Putting Citizens First, is a program to develop the people and achieve freedom and progress.

The purpose of the NPA is to provide basic quality services to all our people, regardless of where they live, and to strengthen their steadfastness, particularly in Area C (of the West Bank), East Jerusalem, the capital of the independent State of Palestine, and in the Gaza Strip, he said.

The agenda is based on three tracks: The road to independence, reforms and improving quality of services, and sustainable development, said Hamdallah.

The prime minister said that even though international donor aid has dropped by 70 per cent, his government was nevertheless able to overcome this hurdle, as witnessed in reports by international organizations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He said if Israel allows the Palestinian to benefit from Area C, which makes 60 per cent of the area of the West Bank and is under Israeli military control, investment in this area would bring in $3.5 billion a year to the Palestinians, as confirmed by World Bank reports.

He urged the international community to help the Palestinians get rid of Israeli control over Area C.

Speaking at the same event, UN Special Coordinator Mladenov congratulated the Palestinian government for finalizing an ambitious policy agenda for Palestine that articulates a strong, clear vision for the Palestinian people.

He said the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2018-2022, currently being developed, will be aligned with the NPA and support the strategic priorities of statehood, governance reform, as well as economic and social development.

I applaud the Government of Palestine for aligning the NPA with global imperatives including the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda and for ‘putting citizens first. This is smart governance, he said.

The NPA is expected to strengthen institutions, improve governance and develop a sustainable economy.

This is a step in the right direction that tangibly demonstrates the Palestinian commitment to advancing the two-state solution, said the UN official.


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Government launches Palestine National Policy Agenda for 2017 2022 – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

Memoir helps map Palestine’s struggle – Green Left Weekly

Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir By Salman Abu Sitta American University in Cairo Press 2016

Given the centrality of memory and history to the modern Palestinian identity, it is fitting that the number of memoirs and diaries being published by Palestinians seems to be rising.

In recent years, two subgenres of Palestinian autobiography and memoir have emerged. First are accounts by diarists who witnessed World War I and British Mandate rule in Palestine, and experienced the Nakba the mass displacement of Palestinians during the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 as adults.

Second are memoirs of those who were children or young adults when the Nakba occurred. These are often written with a more explicit purpose memoirs of lives as exiles and refugees fighting for Palestinian rights, rather than diaries kept for personal use.

These common themes are also found in Mapping My Return, including the trauma of war and refugee life, lives of constant struggle (with Israel, but also often with Yasser Arafat) and fierce love for their homeland.

Abu Sittas autobiography, however, gives a unique insight not only into refugee life and Palestinian politics throughout the decades, but into how he, as a Bedouin Palestinian from the southern Naqab desert within the Israeli state, experienced the Nakba and its aftermath.

His life story is rooted in the vast, fertile plains of the south-western Naqab, and the bayt al-shaer (literally house of hair or tent) in which his mother lived. The familys fields were plowed by camel, and many of the men and women who came to work on the harvest were from Egypts Sinai peninsula.

Rather than flee north into Lebanon or east towards Jordan, his escape from the Zionist forces who destroyed his childhood home was to Khan Younis near the border between Gaza and Egypt, ultimately attending school and university in Cairo.

As the son of a paramount chief of the Tarabin Bedouin, whose influence stretched from Cairo to Bir al-Saba, Abu Sitta frankly admits that his tale is not one of the most tragic, painful or traumatic fates of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians made refugees.

His elite background and family connections cushioned him from the grinding poverty that hundreds of thousands of refugees in Gaza faced.

But the trauma of the night-time attack on his fathers home in the village of al-Main during the Nakba, the destruction and theft of its fields and the sight of Israeli massacres in Gaza started off his lifes mission to try to put a face to this invisible enemy.

Although Abu Sitta forged a career as an acclaimed engineer, he also became a historian of Palestine. He meticulously documented the villages, shrines, homesteads and traditions that Israeli laws, bulldozers and museums have sought to eradicate or appropriate.

Abu Sittas childhood reminiscences evoke a time when Palestine was undergoing rapid change. His grandfathers and uncles lived in constant tension with the Ottoman Empire, sometimes going into hiding in Jordan. Even so, they fought on the Ottoman side in World War I, against British forces invading Palestine from the south.

Abu Sittas father had to adapt to change under the British Mandate. He opened the areas first school in 1920 some of the students, already regarded as men at 16, arrived to class wearing swords and introduced new plant strains.

The contradictions in Palestinian life at this time are encapsulated in Abu Sittas observations on the education he received. He writes: The British Mandate saw fit to impose Roman history and Latin on the Arab students curricula at the expense of Arab and Palestinian history.

Despite this, Abu Sitta notes: But perhaps it was not so strange. After all, Palestine had more and longer-running cultural, political and commercial links with Rome (and Greece) than England.

The story of Abu Sittas community highlights Gazas historical connections to Egypt. Family members supported the 187982 Urabi rebellion, in which Egyptian officers tried to declare independence but were defeated by a British invasion.

Despite the value attached by Western culture to written tales, Abu Sitta asserts that they just made him more confident that, in the end, it is those storytellers at the shigg [a place where men met to drink coffee] who are the real source of our history.

As an adult, Abu Sitta became a successful engineer and urban planner, working and teaching around the world.

These later sections of his memoir highlight the diversity and often the anguish of refugee existence, and lift the message of the book beyond that of one mans story.

This is a highly readable book, much recommended to anyone with an interest in Palestinian history. More than that, it is a significant piece of documentation, recounting events and ways of life that have largely been forgotten or erased.

As the generations who directly experienced the Nakba are slowly lost, writings of this kind will only become more important.

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada. Sarah Irving is author of Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian liberation and co-editor of A Bird is not a Stone.]

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Memoir helps map Palestine’s struggle – Green Left Weekly

Baptist Leaders ‘Strengthen Connection to Israel’ on Bridge-Building Mission – Breaking Israel News

Fourteen U.S. Baptist leaders returned from Israel this week after learning about the Jewish state beyond the headlines and building Christian-Jewish bridges, in a mission, Feb. 13-20, organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship).

The Baptist leaders toured Christian and Jewish holy sites including the Western (Wailing) Wall and Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Masada, Caesarea, Muhraka (Horn of Carmel) and Meggido. The group also made a special visit to Israels Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

Visiting the Holy Land of Israel is a great privilege. We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about the Jewish homeland and our Christian heritage and to strengthen our connection to the Israeli people and most importantly, to G-d, said Rev. Samuel Tolbert, a trip leader and president of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA).

The Baptist leaders were the most recent major Christian group to visit Israel with The Fellowship. In the summer of 2015, The Fellowship hosted 21 top ministers of the Detroit-based Pentecostal group the Church of God In Christ, while in in Jan. 2016, it brought 22 top clergy of the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), the movement of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to Israel. In May of last year, 26 leaders of the NBCA the second-largest African-American Baptist group also visited Israel with The Fellowship, and last Sept. The Fellowship brought 22 leaders from the Bahamas-based Global United Fellowship (GUF) to Israel.

We were honored to host these outstanding Baptist leaders in Israel, said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship. By experiencing the spiritual power of the Holy Land, they deepened their own faith while strengthening the profound historic bonds between the Christian and Jewish people.

The Fellowship was formed in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. Today The Fellowship is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel and Jewish needs around the world.

Participants in this months mission included Tolbert, Rev. Derick Brennan of Philadelphia; Rev. Dr. Jason Coker of Jackson, Mich.; Rev. Earlene Coleman of McKeesport, Pa.; Rev. Gary Dollar of Glen Carbon, Ill.; Dr. Brian Ford of Columbia, Mo.; Dr. Jim Hill of Kirkwood, Mo.; Rev. Forestal Lawton, of Kansas City, Mo.; Rev. Steven T. Mack, of Camden, N.J.; Dr. Harry Rowland of Decatur, Ga.; Rev. Doyle Sager of Jefferson City, Mo.; Rev. Napoleon Smith of Albuquerque, N.M.; Rev. Julian K. Woods of Lake Charles, La.; and Rev. James E. Victor, of Arlington, Va.

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Baptist Leaders ‘Strengthen Connection to Israel’ on Bridge-Building Mission – Breaking Israel News

Trump condemns anti-Semitism but can’t stop questions …

But scores of people still took issue with how long the statement took. It left many wondering just why he delayed taking a seemingly obvious moral course for a president in the face of bomb threats at 48 JCCs in 26 states in January and rising fears of widening nationwide anti-Semitism after additional incidents this month.

Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a CNN senior political commentator, said he was “befuddled” over why Trump had not spoken out before.

“This is a President who to me is very much a mensch,” Santorum told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, using the Yiddish term for a person of decency and integrity. He also noted Trump’s support for Israel and his three Jewish grandchildren.

Trump’s missing voice on the issue effectively created a vacuum that allowed critics to lay fresh charges of bigotry against him and had even his defenders wondering why the President seemed unwilling to address the issue.

Trump had several opportunities in news conferences last week to speak out against threats that are causing deep anxiety within Jewish communities and failed to do so. Moreover, he brusquely shut down an Orthodox Jewish journalist on the issue in one of the most jarring encounters of his presidency.

That confrontation, the new spate of threats against JCCs, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis and growing political pressure for Trump to speak out — including from his defeated presidential rival Hillary Clinton — help explain the timing of his remarks.

It was fast becoming politically damaging for Trump not to adopt a stern, public line against the incidents.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said Tuesday during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The President said that his tour was “a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”

Trump won kudos for his remarks.

“What he said just recently is what I would hope the President of the United States would do,” Democratic Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin said on CNN on Tuesday. But he added, “He was slow to getting to this issue.”

Indeed, Trump’s clear words were also a reminder of what had been missing — and are unlikely to satisfy Trump’s opponents. Particularly after his missteps exacerbated their concerns about his true interest in stamping out anti-Semitism.

For one thing, Trump’s extreme sensitivity to criticism has led him to equate questions about racial and religious prejudice in general as a suggestion that he might somehow be personally guilty of such sins, obscuring the larger issue and the depth of his opposition to expressions of prejudice.

When Jake Turx of Brooklyn-based Ami magazine asked Trump last week about the rise in anti-Semitic acts, the President immediately jumped to the conclusion he was being accused of bigotry, despite the fact the reporter took steps to assure him that was not the case.

“Quiet, quiet, quiet,” Trump said as the reporter tried to explain his question.

“I hate the charge, I find it repulsive,” Trump said.

The exchange was a fresh indication of how the President tends to personalize many issues, ranging from Russia or questions about the legitimacy of his election win and see them as a reflection of his own reputation.

It’s not as if he needed to wait for his visit to the museum to make his feelings clear. No president in modern times has kept up such a torrent of condemnation on the long list of people, events and issues that irk him, often on Twitter but also in frequent photo ops with journalists.

So his failure to speak out forcefully about anti-Semitism had perplexed Washington.

Trump critics suggested that the delay was in keeping with what they see as the President’s consistent failure to condemn bigotry, especially among extremist groups attracted by his campaign rhetoric. He was hit with criticism last year for not promptly repudiating key Ku Klux Klan figure David Duke, though Trump did later do so.

More recently, Trump critics pointed to the administration’s immigration ban on the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries that was stayed by a federal court as evidence of prejudice in the West Wing.

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect said Trump’s statement was merely “a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.”

“His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record,” said Steven Goldstein, the center’s executive director.

The anti-Semitism controversy also appears to reflect the growing pains of a new administration and the struggles evident in Trump’s transition from rabble-rousing candidate to president.

Trump and his team — many of whom are outsiders in his own image — lack deep governing experience, and already seem to betray a bunker mentality that hurts their ability to navigate fast-growing political challenges.

“He took way too long” to respond, said former Democratic congressman Steve Israel, now a CNN commentator, who stressed he was not accusing Trump of anti-Semitism but wanted him to speak out more prominently against it.

“The President not only has the bully pulpit, he has the moral high ground,” Israel said, and cast doubt on the political savvy of the White House. “This is an administration that seems to be good about denying itself its own lay-ups. This should have been said earlier. It should have been easy.”

Israel and others called on Trump to take real steps to reinforce his remarks.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to establish a special task force to apprehend those behind the bomb threats and for Trump to “outline his administration’s plan to combat surging anti-Semitism.”

At the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer did not offer specifics about what Trump would do policy-wise. But he promised the President would “speak very, very forcefully against those who are seeking to do hate or to tear people down.”

He also complained about those continuing to criticize the President on this front.

“It’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this, that it’s never good enough. Today I think was an unbelievably forceful comment by the President … but I think that he’s been very clear previous to this that he wants to be someone that brings this country together and not divides people,” Spicer said.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

Trump condemns anti-Semitism but can’t stop questions …

Netanyahu lauds Trump for taking ‘strong stand against antisemitism’ – Jerusalem Post Israel News

PM Netanyahu and President Trump. (photo credit:AVI OHAYON – GPO)

SYDNEY — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday commended US President Donald Trump for taking “a strong stand against antisemitism.”

Netanyahu, who started a five day-visit to Australia on Wednesday, made the remarks to loud applause in a packed synagogue in Sydney regarding comments Trump made the day before about a resurgence of antisemitism in the US.

“The antisemitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible, and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.

Netanyahu, during his speech that extolled the tremendous relations between Israel and Australia, received equally fervent applause when he said that the Golan will never go back to Syria, it will always remain a part of Israel.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Australia rolled out a warm, red-carpet, 21-gun-salute welcome Netanyahu, the first ever sitting prime minister to visit this country whose friendship toward Israel and the Zionist cause dates back a century.

Using words like miracle and envy of the world to describe Israel, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull greeted Netanyahu and his wife Sara on the lush lawns of Admiralty House in Sydney, the residence of Australia’s Governor-General.

With the beautiful backdrop of the harbor and the iconic Sydney Opera House in sight, an honor guard greeted Netanyahu and Turnbull and played the Israeli anthem Hatikva twice.

The warmth of Turnbull’s reception was not relegated to the ceremonious welcome, as the Australian prime minister also penned an op-ed in Wednesdays edition of The Australian under the headline, Israeli PM visit cements a warm, old friendship.

An excerpt from the strongly pro-Israel piece appeared as well on the papers front page, titled Turnbull blasts UN over vote on Israel.

My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimize the Jewish state, he wrote.

Turnbull echoed these sentiments during the two public appearances he had with Netanyahu in the first eight hours of his arrival — at a press conference following an initial 90-minute meeting, and at a large event with some 400 Israeli and Australian business people.

At the press conference Turnbull reiterated Australia’s long-standing support for a two-state solution, but said that it must come as a result of direct negotiations. At the same time, the prime minister said Israel cannot be expected to put its security at risk, and that the first duty of any prime minister — both himself and Netanyahu included — is the security of his people.

Speaking about a possible resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Netanyahu said that Israel wants the Palestinians to have all the power to govern themselves, but not the military of physical power to threaten it. The question of a Palestinian state, he said, repeating his statement from last week’s visit to Washington, was not over labels, but rather over substance.

The premier added that a Palestinian state must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that Israel must retain final security control over the territory west of the Jordan River.

Both Netanyahu and Turnbull were each asked what could have been perceived as embarrassing questions: Netanyahu was asked about his relationship with Australian billionaire Packer whose name has been tied to one of the affairs for which he is under investigation, and Turnbull was asked about the now famously difficult first telephone conversation he had with Trump.

Netanyahu said that he was not at all concerned about the investigation into his relationship with Packer, and he repeated in English the Hebrew mantra he has been using since the affairs first broke: I think nothing will come of it because there is nothing there, except friendship, which is a good thing.

Regarding the phone call with Trump, Turnbull chuckled when asked whether Netanyahu might help repair the relationship between the US and Australia after that call.

You really shouldnt believe everything you read in the newspapers, he said of the infamous call, about which it was reported that Trump allegedly hung up on Turnbull.

That is absolutely not true, he said, adding that the call was courteous, frank and forthright, and ended with Turnbull thanking Trump for his commitment to the arrangements [regarding taking in refugees} that had been entered into by his predecessor.”

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Netanyahu lauds Trump for taking ‘strong stand against antisemitism’ – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Could Trump’s radical approach bring peace to Israel and Palestine? – The Guardian

A broken watch is right twice a day. Occasionally, so is Donald Trump. In his press conference with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he was correct to say that the two-state solution used to be the easier route to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He was also correct to say that it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to decide whether they want to live in peace in two states or in one.

Trumps affirmation that there is no alternative to peace was a dramatic, if largely unrecognised, repudiation of Netanyahus policy. Netanyahu, with broad support within his coalition government, rejects peace, while paying lip service to it, in favour of managing the conflict by militarily mowing the lawn every few years in Gaza and Lebanon and by means of settlement, undercover raids, and mass imprisonment in the West Bank.

Avoiding a direct clash with Netanyahu, Trump nevertheless made his rejection of that policy clear. He would be happy, he said, to support a one-state or a two-state solution, whichever was agreed to by both Israelis and Palestinians. By this simple statement, the White House excluded the option of managing the conflict, while transforming the one-state solution some arrangement by which Palestinians and Israelis can participate equally to rule themselves within one political arena from a nightmare or utopian vision into a framework that is no less imaginable, and no less deserving of consideration, than a framework featuring two separate arenas.

Of course neither version of a peace agreement will be forthcoming any time soon. With 10% of Israels Jewish population living in the West Bank, the two-state idea has been a dead solution walking for at least a decade. The idea of negotiations to establish one democratic state from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean is just as far-fetched. Accordingly, the only reasonable course for those committed to both peace and democracy in Palestine/Israel is to push the parties towards thinking about their predicament in radically new ways. The words spoken by Trump on Wednesday were an important step in that direction.

Granting more depth of thinking to the presidents remarks than may be warranted, they can be seen to reflect recognition that obsessive pursuit of the impossible dream of a negotiated two-state solution has only given the whip hand to Israelis and Arabs who reject both peace and democracy. Under the cover of prolonged and hopeless negotiations to trade land for peace, Israels government has entrenched its control over the West Bank, deepened its enforcement of an apartheid-like system of domination over the nearly three million Palestinians in the West Bank, while brutalising and immiserating nearly two million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, as the wave of terror attacks against Israelis and the recent elections within Hamas have indicated, the phony peace process does nothing for Palestinians but deepen their despair and yearning for revenge.

By advancing more than one image of what peace could look like, the president has broken new ground. Whether Jared Kushner or anyone else in his administration can foster productive moves toward peace is an open question. I do not believe it. Nevertheless, by signalling his rejection of the peace process as it has been conducted under the last three US presidents a time-consuming merry-go-round of endless movement with no progress the US has for the first time in decades helped to move Israelis and Palestinians towards thinking creatively about the future.

Indeed, at least one leading Israeli politician will take heart from Trumps comments. Israels president and head of state Reuven Rivlin recently denounced recent Israeli legislation to take portions of the West Bank without permitting Palestinians to become Israelis. Instead he issued a dramatic call for outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank, including the granting of full and equal citizenship to all its Palestinian inhabitants. That is precisely what Israel did after the 1948 war, when it annexed the Arab areas it occupied that were to have been part of the Palestinian state called for by the United Nations. By virtue of that act of annexation, all Arabs in those formerly occupied areas (though not those that had been expelled and barred from returning to them) automatically became Israeli citizens.

In one stroke, annexation of the West Bank would create a political arena of immense potential. It would not generate many warm and fuzzy feelings, but it would transform politics from a zero-sum struggle between Israeli Jews and Palestinians to a more complicated and potentially more productive competition among different Palestinian and Jewish groups searching, within and across the boundaries of their national communities, for political allies and power.

The mixed governments that would arise from a citizenry comprised of Jews and Arabs divided into religious, ideological, regional and economic factions would face enormous challenges not least what to do about Gaza. But with the likely enthusiastic support of the international community, new ways forward would also become available.

It is much too soon to speak of such a move as a solution. But it is the right time to imagine trading the festering problems Israelis and Palestinians have been facing for a better set of problems associated with learning to live with one another as equals. Trump is likely not the man for this job, but it is only by thinking seriously about how to honour both democratic principles and the equal legitimacy of both Jewish and Palestinian aspirations, that Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders can inject new life and new hope into a land long stalked by death and bereft of hope.

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Could Trump’s radical approach bring peace to Israel and Palestine? – The Guardian

Dublin College Apologizes After Protesters Cancel Speech By Israel Ambassador – Forward

(JTA) A college in Dublin said it regrets the cancellation of an appearance by the Israeli ambassador to Ireland following pro-Palestinian protests.

The question and answer session with Amb. Zeev Boker and the Society for International Affairs, or SOFIA, on the campus of Trinity College in Dublin had been scheduled for Monday night.

The event was cancelled after about 40 pro-Palestinian students carrying Palestinian flags and protest signs occupied the venue. Police and university security employees were unable to remove the protesters, leading to cancellation of the event.

The university regards what happened as an unacceptable attack on free speech, said the statement issued Tuesday by Trinity College. The ambassador has been a regular and welcome visitor to Trinity since his appointment. He had dinner in the university earlier in the same evening and attended another event in Trinity last week, the statement also said.

Trinity Provost Patrick Prendergast told the Israeli news website Ynet that he looked forward to welcoming Boker to campus again, under better circumstances. This was most unfortunate and represents the antithesis of what Trinity stands for. Universities should be able to facilitate the exchange of ideas. The protesters have violated that fundamental belief, he told Ynet.

Israels Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called on the college to take the appropriate measures to deal with the instigators of last nights protest, and also said that we expect the Irish authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure freedom of speech for Israels ambassador, the Times of Israel reported.

The ministry also told the news website that it was horrified by the vicious action of a group of protesters. It said the protesters chanted genocidal slogans calling for Israels destruction, while barring access to the lecture venue.

Meanwhile, BritainsUniversity of Central Lancashire cancelled an event which was due to take placeas part of Israel Apartheid Week later this year, saying itcontravened the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the government and was unlawful.

The panel discussion was titled Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine and was organized by the universitys Friends of Palestine group to lookat the boycott of Israel.

The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances new definition of what constitutes antisemitism.We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests, a university spokesman told the London-based Jewiosh Chronicle.

He added: In this instance our procedures determined that the proposed event would not be lawful and therefore it will not proceed as planned.

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Dublin College Apologizes After Protesters Cancel Speech By Israel Ambassador – Forward

Watch: Israel’s Iron Dome defense system gets an upgrade – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Israel took a step a closer to defending itself against missile onslaughts from the Gaza Strip with a series of complex but successful experiments for the Iron Dome missile defense system on Wednesday.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defense, the Israel Missile Defense Organization which is responsible for the development of Israels multi-layered defense system, in conjunction with Rafael, the main contractor of the Iron Dome system, carried out a number of experiments as part of the on-going development process of the system.

The experiments focused on the use of the “Tamir” interceptor, which is made of parts produced in both the United States and Israel, as part of an agreement signed in 2014 between the two counties.

In the agreement, the manufacturing of the Iron Dome was moved to the United States, who helped to fund the interceptors production.

Rayethon, the American company producing the parts, alongside the Ministry of Defense and the US Missie Defense Agency (MDA), were all apart of producing the improved Iron Dome.

Israel continuously improves the technology behind the countrys anti-missile systems, and the last upgrade to the Iron Dome was in 2015 in order “to expand and improve the performance capabilities of the system in the face of an unprecedented range of threats,”

During the second Lebanese war in 2006, large Israeli cities were struck by missiles for the first time. In response, Former Minister of Defense Amir Peretz decided to develop the Iron Dome, despite opposition from army brass. After a lengthy development process, and with the financial help of the United States, Iron Dome went into service in April 2011, its first battery placed near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. It made its first interception, of a grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip just days later.

The Iron Dome has been used during two military operations against Hamas, and is able to calculate when rockets will land in open areas, choosing not to intercept them, or towards civilian centers. Since its first deployment, it has intercepted roughly 85 percent of projectiles fired towards Israeli civilian centers.

The Rafael-built system carries 24 pounds of explosives and can intercept an incoming projectile from four to 70 kilometers away, changing the face of battle between Israel and her enemies. The system is able to calculate when rockets will land in open areas, and does not intercept them.

Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. which produces the radar system for the Iron Dome system through its ELTA division, has reported sales of it to various armies around the world.

Presently, Israel is working on two more missile defense systems – Davids sling and Arrow 3.

In January, the Israel Air Force officially took delivery of the first Arrow-3 interceptor. Produced by IAI, the Arrow 3 will form the uppermost layer of Israels multilayered defense system along with the Arrow 2, Davids Sling and Iron Dome system. Later in January, Israels Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency successfully completed a series of intercept tests of the Davids Sling Weapon System, also developed by Rafael.

Together the systems will provide Israel will a protective umbrella able to counter threats posed by both short and mid-range missiles used by terror groups in Gaza and Hezbollah as well as the threat posed by more sophisticated long-range Iranian ballistic missiles.

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Watch: Israel’s Iron Dome defense system gets an upgrade – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Between Israel and Palestine: reflections on a House of Commons debate – Open Democracy

A checkpoint in Hebron – image, Adam Ramsay

On 9 February 2017, the House of Commons debated the following motion:

That this House reaffirms its support for the negotiation of a lasting peace between two sovereign states of Israel and Palestine, both of which must be viable and contiguous within secure and internationally recognised borders; calls on the Government to take an active role in facilitating a resumption of international talks to achieve this; welcomes UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted on 23 December 2016; and further calls on the government of Israel immediately to halt the planning and construction of residential settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which is both contrary to international law and undermines the prospects for the contiguity and viability of the state of Palestine.

The motion was a model of clarity and the MPs who sponsored the debate were extremely well prepared and persuasive. On the surface this was a debate in which a predictable range of diverse views was expressed. Impassioned and well informed speeches were made about the dire effects of settlement expansion on the lives of Palestinians as well as its damage to the viability and contiguity of any future Palestinian state. On the opposing side, Israels status as a British ally was emphasised and its conduct justified in terms of the threat that Palestinian violence poses to the Jewish state.

However, a close look at the Hansard text reveals more clearly the limitations of the debate, its repeated refrains and its omissions. While MPs congratulated themselves on not being straitjacketed by polarised views, they rarely sought to transcend the narrow terms of the debate itself. While being restrained in language use can clearly be helpful, what was remarkable in a debate as important as this was how constrained was the language employed to advance the various arguments. All the participants, whatever their positions, seemed to be trapped within a similarly narrow discursive frame.

Here are a few examples.

Perhaps most remarkably, there was unanimous consensus, that, as stated in the motion, two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, constitute the only possible solution. Not one MP challenged this assumption although several friends of Israel complained that the motion concentrated on the actions of one party only, the Israelis. No-one argued that one state with equal rights for all its citizens could be a just solution. It was taken for granted that Israel must continue to be a state with a Jewish majority. Even though many MPs acknowledged that the window of opportunity for two states is fast diminishing, if not already gone, none took this argument to the next logical stage what alternatives might there be? It is surely unusual that a debate with, at one level, such disparities of opinion about the situation and its protagonists, would have such a narrow consensus about the desired outcome. Despite all the evidence that the Israeli government has no interest whatsoever in working towards a two- state solution, everyone who spoke seemed bent on deluding themselves that it is still achievable.

The proposition that Israel has been a colonial settler state since its inception rather than only since 1967 failed to get a mention. The blander word settlements was always employed rather than the word colonies meaning that, with one or two exceptions, even the Israeli apologists in the chamber could assert their opposition to settlement expansion. Settlers were thus depicted as somehow an aberration rather than an integral part of the overall Zionist project, even though the current Israeli government now proclaims this position quite openly. Even then many MPs were eager to point out that settlement building was not the only, nor even the main obstacle to peace; Palestinian violence and obduracy were frequently cited as being equal contributory factors. This only highlights another extraordinary absence: any attention to the power imbalance.

The asymmetry of power was mentioned by only one MP, thus leaving open and largely unchallenged the contention that this is somehow a conflict which, as many MPs enthusiastically argued, can only be solved by direct negotiations between the two sides. The Palestinians, the weaker side, were criticised for internationalising the conflict presumably by having finally achieved a few meagre victories in the form of a handful of parliamentary votes to recognise a Palestinian state and finally a UN resolution which did not attract the US veto. The occlusion of power, the failure to define the situation clearly in terms of colonial oppression, meant that for many MPs, criticism of Israel, the dominant power, always had to be balanced by condemning Palestinian violence despite the fact that resistance to occupation is allowed under international law.

Although Security Council Resolution 2334, endorsed by the majority of MPs, clearly highlights the illegality of Israels actions under international law, the precise question of how Israel should therefore be held to account was barely debated. While several MPs stated that the UK needed to do more than make representations to Israel the most that was proposed (and that by only two MPs) was that the government should not collude with illegality through any financial dealings with settlements or through the import of settlement goods to the UK and that it should prohibit dealings with charities involved in illegal settlement projects.

Equally squeamish were MPs few references to Israel as an apartheid state. Of the four MPs who used the word, two referred to petty apartheid, and the boldest described a form of or a creeping culture of apartheid.

There were ten references to the Balfour Declaration, the one hundredth anniversary of which falls this year. This declaration supported national rights for the Jews who in 1917 constituted 10 per cent of the population of Palestine while denying them to the Arabs who constituted 90 per cent. Of the ten MPs, some were laudatory, some described the responsibility it continued to place on Britain, and two referred in particular to the failure to implement the second half of the declaration which states that nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Only one referred, in this context, to the rights of Palestinian refugees. Not one MP, however, challenged the colonial premises of the Declaration itself, nor Britains culpability in unleashing colonisation-by-proxy in Palestine.

It is important to point out that referring to these lacunae in the debate does not mean criticising individual MPs. Many interventions were powerfully argued and impressively well informed, made by people who had visited the region and studied it closely. Several MPs demonstrated their detailed knowledge of the effects of military occupation and settler violence on the lives of individual Palestinians and their communities. The question is rather, given these MPs level of knowledge, strong sense of justice and solidarity for the oppressed, given the wide range of strong opinions they must represent, why did the debate so rarely move beyond the narrow parameters and assumptions of the motion itself?

Here the role of self-censorship needs to be raised. Participants, knowingly or unknowingly, participated in what Ilan Papp calls the hegemonic discourse on Palestine commonly employed by the powers that be.(Narrating Gaza in Gaza as Metaphor edited by Helga Tawil-Souri and Dina Matar) Language use clearly influences both thought and action which is why politicians and governments alike are so keen to shape it. Papp highlights the difference between using words like occupation versus colonisation or peace process versus decolonisation or Israeli democracy versus Israeli Apartheid. Changes in language use, he argues, create the freedom to narrate Israel/Palestine in less constrained and more emancipatory ways, thus redefining the space of thought.

What might lead our representatives to be so cautious in their language? First, the UK governments complicity with Israel has been repeatedly demonstrated in all its bilateral dealings, its failure to condemn Israeli atrocities, and its reluctance to hold Israel to account for its breaches of international law. UN resolution 2334, drafted with British help, at last offered an opportunity for MPs to assert themselves forcefully in opposition to the Prime Ministers shameful retreat from the momentum of international opinion. The status of this resolution has thus assumed a particular significance; the need to protect it may have organised MPs to stick closely to its premises. In this they were successful since the motion was passed without a vote.

Second, parliamentarians who support Palestine have in the past year been subjected to relentless attacks if they voice any opinions which are disapproved of by Israel. Even putting forward this motion would have attracted criticism. The Israeli government and its London embassy does its utmost to control the debate on Palestine, its terminology and its representation in the media. These bullying tactics are well known, if often unspoken for fear of further retribution and they have had powerful effects in silencing dissent. The UK government, even if it had wished to take an alternative position, has fallen compliantly into line by, among other things, condemning and trying to render illegal the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, by its recent adoption of a definition of antisemitism which includes over-sweeping condemnation of Israel, and by its declared intention to celebrate the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Third, we have to look at those organisations within parliament itself which work tirelessly to control the terms of the debate, most notably the Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel. Although there is a parallel organisation in Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, it has been unable to exert as much influence and there is none within the Conservative Party in which CFI boasts an 80% membership of all Tory MPs, including many cabinet ministers.

It is within the Labour party, however, following its election of the first party leader to unequivocally support Palestinian rights, that the most relentless pressure has been exercised. The use of accusations of anti- Semitism to silence supporters of Palestinian rights has been discussed elsewhere. Its effect on stifling criticism of Israel, and the licence it gives Israeli apologists to claim that arguing for anything other than a two-state solution or supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement means demonising and delegitimising the worlds only Jewish State has been profound.

We saw the results of such pressure in the debate of 9 February. It is a supreme irony that the person who has now driven a coach and horses through the two-state orthodoxy is one Donald Trump and we can be sure that, whatever he had in mind, it was not emancipation for Palestinians.

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Between Israel and Palestine: reflections on a House of Commons debate – Open Democracy

Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker – USA TODAY

The Israeli soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of wounded Palestinian, 21-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in a knife attack, has been sentenced to 18 months in military prison. USA TODAY

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother at the start of his sentencing hearing in a Israel military court in Tel Aviv, Feb. 21, 2017.(Photo: JIM HOLLANDER / POOL, EPA)

A military court sentenced an Israeli soldier to 18 months in prison Tuesday for fatally shooting a Palestinian attacker as he lay wounded in a street in the occupied West Bank.

Elor Azaria, 21, was convicted last month ofthe manslaughter of Abdel Fatah al-Sharifin Hebron in March2016. Sharif was incapacitated and did not pose animmediate danger, the Jaffa Military Courtheard previously.Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, another attacker, was also killed.

A video that emerged of Azaria shooting Sharifafter he tried to stab another soldier went viral.An autopsy found Sharif died from a gunshot to the head, Haaretz reported.

The Tel Aviv courtalso demoted Azaria from sergeant to private in the sentencing, the Jerusalem Post reported. Prosecutors had asked for a3 to 5 year sentence.

Azarias lawyers said they will appeal and asked for the start of the sentence to be delayed until the papers are submitted, according tothe Post.

The court ruled that Azaria, a combat medic,would begin hissentence on March 5, the Times of Israel reported. Following the sentencing, Azaria’sfamily and friendssang the Israelinational anthem and called him a hero.”

Trump and Netanyahu waver on support for two-state solution in Middle East

Israel-Palestinian peace: One-state, two-state solutions explained

The court case deeply divided Israel, where military service is compulsory.Hundreds of protesters assembledoutside thecourt in the hopes thatAzaria would walk free.

Nadav Weisman, the chief prosecutor,said in a statement:We know this was a hard day for the accused, but justice needed to be done and justice was done.”

This sentence is a joke, and it shows how much discrimination Israeli courts practice against Palestinians, said Issa Karaka, the Palestinian government minister for prisoners, according to the Associated Press.

Yisrael Katz, the minister of transportation, called forAzaria to be pardoned, joiningcalls by politicians includingPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.The court said its piece, the legal process is done. Now is the time for clemency, to return Elor to his home,” Katz saidin a Facebook post.

Sari Bashi, Israel/Palestine advocacydirector at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the prison term.

“Pardoning Israeli soldier Azaria would only encourage impunity for unlawfully taking the life of another person,” she tweeted.

“Azaria’s prison term-important message about reining in excessive force. But Israeli officials should also repudiate shoot-to-kill rhetoric,” she added.

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Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker – USA TODAY

New Holocaust Museum exhibit details notorious Nazi’s capture and trial – Chicago Tribune

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center’s new exhibition, “Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” takes visitors chronologically through the operation that led to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann’s capture, trial and execution.

The exhibition opened Sunday but the museum held a news media preview event three days before that.

“Operation Finale” is scheduled to run through June 18 with a series of related programming slated at various times, museum officials said.

“It was essential for (Israeli Prime Minister David) Ben-Gurion that the youth of Israel heard the story of the Holocaust, and it was through this trial that they learned about the Holocaust,” Arielle Weininger, the museum’s chief curator of collections and exhibitions, said at the Feb. 16 media preview.

The exhibit showcases how Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, apprehended Eichmann and then smuggled the war criminal out of Argentina and to Jerusalem where he would come before the court.

The filmed trial of the infamous Nazi Eichmann showed him protected in a bullet-proof glass booth as witnesses testified to the barbarous crimes for which he was found guilty.

The lead-up to his capture in Argentina is the stuff of riveting espionage and spy stories, museum officials said, but there is a much greater significance to it too.

“Much of the world learned about the Holocaust this way,” said museum CEO Susan Abrams. “It was brought into their living room through radio and television.”

“Operation Finale” grew out of the discovery of some of the original pre-digital artifacts used in the covert operation, said former Mossad agent Avner Avraham, exhibit curator. Among them are hand-forged documents, printed case files, a surveillance camera and photos to verify Eichmann’s identity and goggles Eichmann was forced to wear so he never knew his destination.

The exhibition takes visitors through the nuances of the operation and the team that targeted Eichmann.

Exhibit artifacts, films and panels tell of how Eichmann remained hidden in captivity in Argentina longer than the Mossad agents had intended.

A chilling highlight of “Operation Finale” is the recreation of the trial in Jerusalem using archival footage projected on three screens.

Eichmann’s response to the trial is seen straight ahead through the actual glass booth where he sat in court more than 55 years ago. On the right screen are prosecutors making their case against him, on the left the often anguished response of those witnessing the trial.

“Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann” is a co-production of the Mossad-Israeli Secret Intelligence Service; Beit Hatfutsot The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv; and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland, Ohio, museum officials announced.


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New Holocaust Museum exhibit details notorious Nazi’s capture and trial – Chicago Tribune

Jewish History is Under Siege in the Middle East and These Volunteers Are Risking Their Lives to Protect It – Newsweek

On a sunny morning in February 2016, Sami Solmaz, a Kurdish filmmaker from Turkey, took a ride with Kurdish forces from the Iraqi town of Sinjar to the front lines. He spent the day filming gun battles between Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State militant group for a documentary he was making on ISIS attacks against religious minorities. That afternoon, as he was heading back to town, he heard a soldiers voice crackle over his drivers radio: Be careful! ISIS is firing chlorine bombs into Sinjar.

The militant group had been launching homemade rockets filled with chemicals toward Sinjar since Kurdish forces pushed them out of the town in late 2015. Earlier in February, a chemical attack in Sinjar had left Kurdish fighters sick, and Solmaz knew it was best to stay away. The only problem: His drivers car was in town, and so they decided to hurry back and retrieve it. We were only there 10 minutes, but you could smell [the gas], he tells Newsweek.

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On his way out of Sinjar, Solmazs face began to swell and his throat started to burn as he drove toward the Iraqi city of Duhok, where he fell into a deep sleep at his sisters apartment and awoke more than 20 hours later. When he was feeling better, he emailed Jason Guberman, the director of Digital Heritage Mapping, a nonprofit hed been helping in New York, to apologize for slipping out of touch.

Guberman was relying on Solmaz, an atheist from a Muslim family, to document Jewish heritage sitesfrom synagogues and cemeteries to ruins of schools, houses and community centers Jews once used in the Middle East and North Africa. For years, his staff and a rotating cast of about a dozen interns and volunteers have been racing to create digital records of Jewish sites. The projects name is Diarna, which means our home in Judeo-Arabic. As wars in the region destroy these sites, Gubermans team is running out of time.

In his office near Manhattans Union Square, Guberman has created a situation room that has been stripped of cubicles and lined with marked-up maps of Yemen, Iraq, and the Syrian cities ofAleppo and Damascus. This enables the team to prioritize the most at-risk areas and dispatch researchers, like Solmaz, into the field when moments of peace create opportunities. To create realistic renderings of the sites, Diarna has recruited a network of volunteer photographers and paid researchers through social media and word of mouth in countries like Yemen, Syria and Iran. Most live and work in the region and can access dangerous areas more easily than Americans or non-Muslims.

Read more:How the new monument men are outsmarting ISIS

Back in New York, his staff uses SketchUp, a 3-D modeling tool, to transform photographs from the field into digital models of the ancient buildings and plot them, according to their coordinates, on Google Earth. They also look for people familiar with the siteslike former congregants of synagogues, or the architects who renovated themwho can recall details about their appearance. Their recollections about anythingfrom whether the flooring was made of tile, wood or carpet to whether the buildings were lit with stained glass, skylights or chandeliershelp Diarna researchers create more accurate 3-D images and descriptions of the sites. Diarna often shares the witnesses raw recorded testimonies to bring online exhibits to life. Unlike other organizations doing similar kinds of work, Diarna makes its 3-D models publicly accessible.

When Diarna launched, Guberman estimated his team would identify between 500 and 1,000 sites to plot on Google Earth; the number has now surpassed 1,600.

Solmaz, who was in Iraq to collect footage for his film about ISIS, offered to visit abandoned Jewish villages for Guberman. The two had met in the summer of 2014 at the Center for Jewish History in New YorkSolmaz was there to inquire about using the buildings archives to research a documentary about Kurdish Jews, which he would be filming in Syria and Iraq. He wound up in Diarnas office, where he and Guberman chatted about his interest in Jewish culture. Solmaz had grown up in Turkeys southeast, and his grandparents had told him stories about the minorities who no longer lived thereJews, Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. By the time Solmaz was born in 1963, Ottoman and Turkish authorities had massacred or deported most of them in campaigns to Turkify the nation in its violent early days, a part of his countrys history that he thought about often in his work as a war correspondent and independent filmmaker.

An Israeli youth lies on an Israeli flag during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira in the southern Israeli town of Netivot in January 2015. Thousands of Jews mostly of Moroccan origin came to pray over the respected Kabbalist rabbi. Oded Balilty/AP

As Guberman listened, he realized he might be able to recruit Solmaz to help Diarna. But doing so would be dangerous. Syrias civil war was in its third year, and ISIS was taking over major cities and towns in Iraq. Guberman worried that Solmaz could be captured, kidnapped or killed, especially if ISISor the Syrian regimediscovered his links to an American nonprofit with a Jewish cause. We actually tried to discourage him, says Guberman, but he wanted to go. The two men agreed to stay in touch.

What had started as a chance meeting in a quiet museum would soon become a vital partnershipspanning oceans and war zonesto preserve ancient history before it vanishes.

A month after their first meeting, Solmaz returned to Gubermans office with a file of photographs. The images showed the ruins of a Jewish village in the mountains separating Iraq from Turkey, near the headquarters of the Kurdistan Workers Party; the insurgent group is at war with Turkey and the target of frequent Turkish bombing campaigns. Guberman hadnt told him to go there because hed assumed it was too dangerous. Jason was shocked, Solmaz recalled. He said, How were you able to get this?

Over the next two and a half years, Solmaz planned multiple trips to Iraq, northern Syria, Turkey, Israel and Greece, always allaying Gubermans concerns about safety. Jason, I can go there, I am Kurdish, hed tell him. Or Im a war correspondent, dont worry.

The arrangement has been mutually beneficial. Solmaz hikes mountains, cajoles locals and travels to war zones to find the endangered sites Diarna wants to preserve on the internet. In return, Diarna pays him for photographs, videos and reports, which Solmaz often finds useful for his projects.

A Diarna expedition photo shows the exterior of the Tomb of Nahum in Alqosh, Iraq. Diarna

When Diarna launched in 2008, most Jewish synagogues, schools and cemeteries in the Middle East and North Africa had been out of use for decades, and many had fallen into disrepair. Most of the estimated 1 million Jews who lived between Morocco and the Arabian Sea abandoned their homelands to escape anti-Semitic violence in the 1950s and 60s. Now wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, along with the emergence of ISIS, which has been attacking ancient sites with pickaxes and dynamite, pose a real threat to preserving the Middle Easts ancient history.

As destroying sacred sites has become increasingly common in the Middle East, analysts, countries and even some militants have come to see the costs of destroying them. In September, an Islamist militant became the first person convicted of a war crime for destroying cultural and religious sites in Mali. At his trial at the Hague in the Netherlands, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, who was sentenced to nine years in prison, urged other combatants to refrain from destroying cultural sites, saying such acts are not going to lead to any good for humanity.

Experts on ancient cultures say there is universal value in preserving sacred heritage sights of any religion. All cultures and societies have sacred sites, and these sacred sites are related to concepts of who we are, where we came from and where we are going, says Richard Leventhal, the director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvanias Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ISISs methodical destruction of holy sites serves a very important purpose for the group. ISIS is not just trying to wipe people off the face of the earth by killing them, says Leventhal, they are also destroying their history.

Under pressure from multiple enemies on multiple fronts, ISIS has been losing territory in Syria and Iraq. Their retreat is slowly revealing the extent of their destruction. The group has targeted religious sites from all faiths within the land it occupied. During the organizations 2014 and 2015 rampage against symbols of idolatry, according to its corruptedversion of Islam, the militants blew up the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul. The mosque was one of several sites said to house Jonahs tomb, an important monument for Muslims, Christians and Jews. It seemingly should have been protected because it was inside a Sunni mosque, but they blew it up anyway, Guberman says. So at that point we knew that no site is safe.

But Jews have an unusually deep level of experience with violent enemies doing all they can to wipe out their history. Guberman did not want what happened in World War II in Europethe Nazis destroying hundreds of synagogues to happen in the Middle East. Without physical evidence of Jewish culture, the worlds understanding of Jewish communities in the Arab world will disappear with the death of the last generation who can remember them.

Guberman sees a special significance in his work for the worlds Jews whose heritage begins in Iraq. I mean, this is where all Jewish history comes from, he says. According to Jewish tradition, all Jews trace their lineage to Abraham, the father of monotheism who was born in the Babylonian city of Ur, now in present-day Iraq. Religious scholars say that Abraham and his descendants began to disperse across the Middle East in the 19th century B.C. Population estimates show that the majority of the worlds Jews remained in the region through the Middle Ages. As recently as the early 1900s, nearly 1 million of the worlds estimated 15 million Jews were still living across the Middle East and North Africa, some in Jewish communities with roots in antiquity.

But Israels founding in 1948 led to violence from Muslim mobs and discriminatory policies implemented by local governments aimed at Jews in the Arab world, prompting almost all of them to leave. Most initially went to Israel, which spearheaded their mass emigration through a series of famous missions like the 1949 Magic Carpet airlift that spirited 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel, and a subsequent operation that nearly emptied Iraq of its Jewish population. The Jews left; their ancient synagogues remained.

In 2008, when Guberman was finishing his degree in political science at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and wondering what to do next, only about 5,000 Jews remained in North Africa and the Middle East, outside of Israel. Without a Jewish community left to care for them, hundreds of sacred sites were converted into mosques, housing and other structures, or ignored as their roofs caved in and engravings faded.

A Diarna expedition photo shows a child’s grave in a Jewish cemetery in Tangier, Morocco, in 2011. Joshua Shamsi for Diarna Geo-Museum

Guberman considered applying to law school, but he changed his mind after speaking to a friend who had recently returned from a trip to Morocco. His wife is part Moroccan-Jewishand they had just had a daughter. He was very concerned about how his daughter was going to connect with her Moroccan-Jewish heritage when she grew upbecause so much history had already disappeared, Guberman says.

His friends concern piqued his interest. Guberman had always been drawn to Mizrahi (or Eastern) Jewish history and he was surprised by how little attention it received compared with that of Jews in Europejust a paragraph, he recalls, in a college textbook. Guberman and a small group of friends decided to devote themselves to its preservation.

Gubermans Bubbie offered free food and internet to her grandson and his colleagues in Connecticut when they started. The group soon secured enough funding from Karin Douglas, a philanthropist and fellow Sacred Heart graduate, to move out of Bubbies house and launch Digital Heritage Mapping, which would fuel the Diarna project. By late 2008, Gubermans small team was beginning to make renderings of sites in the precarious physical world to preserve forever on the internet. Guberman and his small team of researchers used Google Earth to map the ruins of Jewish villages that had dotted northern Iraq from antiquity through the early 20th century; an 800-year-old cemetery outside of Marrakesh, Morocco, nearly lost to a development project became a virtual exhibit online; Diarnas website published photographs of the tomb of Judeo-Moroccan mystic Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera in the Nile Delta, before Egypts government banned an annual pilgrimage to the site in 2014 over tensions between locals and Jewish visitors.

Jason Guberman gives a lecture showing a 3-D rendering from the Diarna Geo Museum. Tracy Deer-Mirek/Diarna

Many places were still off limits when Diarna started its project, some three years before the Arab Spring uprisings toppled dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Many of those autocrats clung to anti-Semitic policies. Libya under Muammar el-Qadda was particularly difficult to access for researchers working for a Jewish nonprofit. Qaddafi was notoriously anti-Semiticcanceling all debts owed to Jews, among other thingsand Diarnas efforts to recruit local researchers failed. Libyans were too nervous to be associated with a Jewish organization, Guberman explained.

But when the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2010, Diarna saw a unique opening.

When fighting erupted in Libya, for example, reporters descended on the country, including one familiar with Diarnas work. She contacted Guberman, offering to help him. Her only condition was anonymity.

In May 2011, Guberman sent her a map of the Hara Kabira, the old Jewish quarter in Tripoli, to help her locate the Dar Bishi synagogue, the most beautiful in the city when it opened in 1928. After Qaddafi took power in the late 1960s, the government seized and shuttered all Jewish property in Libya. Guberman hoped the reporter could find a way to survey it without raising the suspicion of the government, which was keeping an eye on foreign journalists in the city. Somehow, she slipped out of her hotel and made it there. She entered the crumbling structure through a hole in the back wall and took pictures of its gutted, columned interior, strewn with trash and vandalized by graffiti. She sent the photos to Guberman when she was safely out of the country.

The interior of the abandoned Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli, Libya on September 28, 2011. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty

Guberman was cautiously optimistic that the rebels who ousted Qaddafi in 2011 might make it easier to access Jewish sites. A Libyan Jew named David Gerbi tested those expectations a few months later by returning to Tripoli from exile in Italy to restore the Dar Bishi synagogue. From New York, Guberman closely followed the news of Gerbis dramatic entrance to the holy site as the Libyan used a sledgehammer.

Guberman wondered how locals would react. He soon found out. A group of protesters opposed to the synagogues restoration gathered in central Tripoli with signs denouncing Zionism and some declaring there is no place for Jews in Libya. Fearing for his safety, Gerbi abandoned his project and returned to Italy, signaling to Guberman that the obstacles he faced researching Jewish sites under Qaddafi would likely remain. As he puts it: We realized that probably nothing good is going to come of doing work in Libya.

Gubermans team published a 3-D model of the once-stately structure on Google Earth, using photographs and coordinates the female reporter had taken. They also used her photographs to make a video tour of the model.

The latter may turn out to be among the only proof the site ever existed.

As governments collapsed across the region, threats to buildings multiplied. One of the higher-profile Jewish heritage sites lost to the fighting in Syria was the centuries-old Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in a suburb of Damascus. The synagogue is named for the prophet Elijah, whose appearance, Jews believe, will herald the coming of the Messiah. According to local tradition, Elijah anointed his successor on the site where the synagogue was built. Still well maintained when the war in Syria began, it appeared in photos published by The Daily Beast in 2014 as piles of rubbleits fine carpets, chandeliers and library of religious texts apparently gone.

Eddie Ashkenazie, a Diarna researcher from Brooklyn with roots in Syria, has been closely following the destruction. He felt a new determination in his work after watching aerial footage shot in the ancient Syrian city of Homs in 2015 that showed block after block of bombed-out buildings.

Ashkenazie has been scouting out Brooklyn synagogues with Syrian congregants whose memories of Jewish sites might still be fresh. I tell them what I do, and they’re like, Oh, bring us your pictures tomorrow, bring us your maps, he says. Just yesterday, after prayer services a group of men helped me [locate] synagogues in Damascus. After the meeting, he returned to his office and added the synagogues to Diarnas expanding database of sites.

A small number of Jews still live in Damascus, Syrias capital, some of whom have helped Diarna document sites. But the material hasnt yet been published due to concerns of drawing unwanted attention to the shrinking community and their lesser-known sacred sites. Wherever there is a community, Guberman says, their lives take precedence over our documentary mission.

Over the past few years, the last Jews in Syriaand much of the wider regionhave left. In 2015, in a controversial operation, Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana smuggled Aleppos remaining Jewish residents to Israel through Turkey. In 2016, the Jewish Agency for Israel airlifted a family that made up 19 of Yemens roughly 85 Jews to Israel. Tunisian Jews have migrated recently too, as attacks have made the country less safe. When the last people leave, Guberman said, it is just a matter of time before the sites will be repurposed or destroyed.

On a recent stopover in his native Turkey, Solmaz clicked through images on his computer, each one illustrating the precariousness of Jewish heritage in Iraq. In a stone synagogue in Gondik, a small village in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, hay covered the floors to feed the livestock who now occupy it. In another picture, taken in Kirkuk, fresh bullet holes marked the walls of a Muslim familys home whose central feature revealed its Jewish pastan elaborate niche built into the wall for a Torah.

Solmaz plans to return to Iraq once Kurdish and Iraqi forces push ISIS out of Mosul, another city that was once home to thousands of Jews. More recently Mosul was home to tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities who fled their homes ahead of ISISs advance. For his own work, Solmaz will document the damage the jihadis have caused to the citys non-Muslims and the architecture they left behind. For Diarna, he will look much further back in time, for evidence of a small Jewish community that endured for centuries in Mosul before fleeing persecution in the early 20th century.

To understand the present, Solmaz says, you have to know your past.

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Jewish History is Under Siege in the Middle East and These Volunteers Are Risking Their Lives to Protect It – Newsweek

The hypocrisy of Jewish liberals regarding antisemitism – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Last weeks editorial (Trump in denial over rising American antisemitism, The Jerusalem Post, February 19) blasted US President Donald Trump for not answering questions regarding antisemitism in America. It claimed that Trumps campaign Was perceived as a dog whistle for the so-called alt-right and its fellow traveling, dyed-in-the-wool antisemites, raised the fact that Trump omitted specific mention of the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and implied that he is paving the way for the growth of antisemitism in America.

It is trivial, however, to establish that the rise of antisemitism in the US is not attributable to Trump. He has been in office for less than a month now, and even if we factor in his campaign the fact is that antisemitism in the US has been on the rise for many years.

Interestingly, almost by-the-way the editorial gives us a different cause for the rise of antisemitism, without even noticing it:

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was one of many who were appalled by the presidents response. He told the Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism on Friday that over the past few years, we have seen the growth of ugly campaigns on our college campuses, efforts that seek to delegitimize Israel and to reduce the Jewish state into some kind of taboo. This virus has spread and made some of greatest universities hostile to Jewish students and those who support them.

So here is Greenblatt saying young Jews are not safe to express their views on campus, that there is hostility toward Jewish students at US universities and this is going on for years. What could have caused this hostility? Is it the alt-right? Is it neo-Nazis protesting against the Jews and Israel? Is it Brietbart or Steve Bannon calling out for the boycott of Jews and their goods? Who is intimidating Jews on US campuses?

The answer is clear: the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and its Muslim counterparts have raised antisemitism in the US to levels we have not seen since 1930 (ADLs stats).

BDS shuts down debate, boycotts Jewish goods and services in Israel and is responsible for academic boycotts against Jewish academics living in Israel and Israelis abroad.

In the beginning some people were fooled into thinking BDS was a human rights organization promoting peace in the Middle East, but it quickly became apparent to all that this movement is blatantly antisemitic and has poisoned millennials all over the US.

President of the World Jewish Congress Ron S. Lauder wrote a piece in the Post about BDS (BDS is the modern form of antisemitism, March 28, 2016) in which he states clearly: What is BDS? BDS is nothing more than a dangerous new strain of an age-old disease. And that disease is antisemitism

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the UK, said: Anti-Semitism is a virus that survives by mutating. In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, Israel. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.

The writing was on the wall: demonization of the State of Israel by antisemitic movements masquerading as anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian groups would give rise to a hydra endangering Jews all over the world.

But the greatest hypocrisy is that it is the Jewish movements that sided with BDS in the beginning and were warned about their affiliation with pro-Palestinian anti-Israel movements that are now crying about the supposed increase in antisemitism under Trump.

J street claims not to be affiliated with BDS, but at the same time it promotes boycotting specific Jews: It is critical to maintain the distinction between boycott and divestment efforts which work against the interests of Israel, and initiatives which are limited to opposing the occupation (J Street website).

There are no halfway measures in the eyes of antisemites. They do not differentiate. Once the anti-Semitic beast is out of the box it does not stop at any red line.

The same J Street is crying about the rise of antisemitism in the US and attributing it to Trump. The hypocrisy is overwhelming.

The Reform Movement, too, is in bed with the anti-settlement movement. Although it opposes BDS entirely and is a strong ally of Israel, what the Reform Movement doesnt understand is that in dealing with antisemitism there is no room for error. Criticizing Israel and the Jews that live in Judea and Samaria will add fuel to the racist fire lit by BDS.

Reform Movement President Rabbi Rick Jacobs sums up his view on the subject: Many Jewish students on campus believe, as do we, that their love for Israel not only justifies rebutting BDS, but requires them to challenge troubling Israeli policies that fail to live up to the Jewish traditions highest ideals, and which alienate many who otherwise would more assertively support Israel.

Now let us ask this: when an old-fashioned antisemite sees the condemnation of Jews that arises from the BDS movement, whether out of hate of Israel or, in the case of the Reform Movement, love of Israel, do you think he cares about the distinction? The result is the same: more fuel on the antisemitic fire.

The same Reform Movement is wondering why there has been a rise of antisemitism on campuses; it has the chutzpah to attribute it to Trump and the alt-right, writes a letter banning the appointment of David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel. The antisemites are having a field day. Dear Reform Movement: stop complaining about the rise in antisemitism you have helped prepare this dish, now you have to eat it.

And to the alt-left Jewish movements: dont be surprised about a rise in antisemitism. If you go to bed with dogs you wake up with fleas.

The first response of the alt-left to this article will be how dare you blame the victim, but in their hearts they understand that they have to recalculate their course. The majority of Americans love Israel as the natural homeland of the Jewish people. It has always been a bipartisan notion hardwired into the character of the great nation of America. The alt-left should stop inciting, sanctioning and targeting Jews of any sort in Israel because it will always come back to haunt Jews in their own country.

Therefore the proper response for the president of the United States is that there is zero tolerance for BDS and other movements on university campuses that single out Jews and their sovereign Jewish state. Any action against the Jews in their homeland will be considered antisemitic and will be dealt harshly, including alt-left Jewish movements that incite boycotts and sanctions. Israel and Jews living there will always be supported by both sides of the aisle.

The author is an educator, writer and political commentator who has served as spiritual leader and educator in Israel, Russia, South Africa and Hong Kong. Today he works to educate toward a better future between secular and religious Jews in Israel. He is currently the spiritual leader of the Kfar Shmaryahu community.


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The hypocrisy of Jewish liberals regarding antisemitism – Jerusalem Post Israel News