Guest Post – Middle East news you might have missed over the chagim

This is another guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb, who brings us a review of Middle East-related news that you might have missed over the Jewish holiday period.


So, let’s start with some good news (sort of), with David Cameron and most of the Conservatives abstaining in the “Palestine vote”.  You will know by now that the result of that vote was a “victory” for the pro-Palestinian faction. However, note that well over half the MPs failed to vote. More importantly, it should be noted that David Cameron was firm in his commitment that:

“[he] has indicated that a favorable outcome of the vote would not change the country’s foreign policy toward the Palestinians, Reuters reported, citing Cameron’s official spokesperson.

‘I’ve been pretty clear about the government’s position and it won’t be changing’ the spokesman [on his behalf] told reporters ahead of the vote”

We can add the following clip (less than a minute) in which Cameron sends Shana Tova wishes to all! And he seems to mean it (even if he does his final greeting slightly wrong).

However, it soon gets worse again. It was a Labour MP, Graham Mitchell, who tabled the motion on Palestine. which is bad enough, but then we know that quite a number of MPs on the Left of the party are, essentially, anti-Israel (including, it seems, the prospective Labour candidate for this constituency: so that’s me voting for the pro-Israel Liberal-Democratic MP next May). That said, a row has broken out in the Labour Party. A significant number of senior (and probably not so senior) Labour MPs are objecting:

“Several senior party members were pushing back against an order that the whole party support the recognition. MPs objecting to the move argue that recognition of Palestine should only come as part of a wider Middle East peace settlement.

Rather than being subject to compulsory support for the motion, party members should be allowed to choose how to cast their vote, the objectors said.”

Why?

“Emotions were running high, according to Labour party members.

“To say that there is a row going on is putting it very mildly,” one senior Labour party member told The Independent. “People are furious. This is an attempt to rip up 13 years of carefully calibrated policy. It’s total madness and makes the prospect of peace less rather than more likely.”

According to the report, the Labour Friends of Israel has been campaigning to persuade Miliband to rethink how the opposition party handles the vote. If Miliband doesn’t agree, several senior faction members have also threatened to not turn up for the vote.”

In other words, this is not party policy, it never has been, and shouldn’t become policy on the hoof. It is also a warning to Miliband that, should he become PM after the next election and try to force such a policy through, he’ll have a major revolt on his hands. Good to know that the Left isn’t monolithic, as I keep trying to argue. And I heartily endorse the suggestion that this move “makes the prospect of peace less rather than more likely”.

Let me now turn, inevitably, to the less good news. With Israel, sadly, there’s always lots of that. To begin with, there’s this item, which is headed “Bag of Islamic State flags discovered in north“.

Now the irony here is that the discovery was made in an industrial park in Nazareth Illit, which is a Jewish village/town to the north of the New Testament birthplace of Jesus, Nazareth. Suffice it to say that Nazareth Illit is not a politically happy place, with a previous Mayor under investigation for alleged offences. I’ll leave you to read the article to discover that for yourselves. I will add that I wonder if whoever planted those flags did so hoping that no-one would look in a “Jewish” town for such items. How wrong can you be? They’d have been “safer” in Nazareth proper, where the discoverer might have decided to keep their mouth shut for fear of reprisals.

Who knows?

TV crew films near Sderot

To move on to matters related, sort of, and far less happy (at least the flags were found and the authorities are now on the alert). This article comes from The Tablet and brings us to far more sombre matters. It explains why the Gaza War looked different on Israeli TV than it did on CNN:

“Ten days into the war, when Hamas rejected a cease-fire offer and sent terrorists through a tunnel into Israel, the IDF’s ground operation began. Here, too, it is important to note the disparity: The international media sees Israeli soldiers as legitimate military targets, while to Israelis they are quite literally “our boys”—who are sent off at the age of 18 into mandatory military service. In this war Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s close friend lost his son, the grandson of a prominent left-wing politician was severely injured, and every anchor or reporter knew someone who was fighting in Gaza. In Israel there is often only one degree of separation.

Not only were Israelis watching a different war on television, but the pictures they saw were embedded in a different narrative that, in a nutshell, was this: We left the Gaza Strip, dismantled all settlements, completely retreated to the 1967 lines, and the outcome was that Hamas took over Gaza and we got rockets, which at any moment might strike our homes. The world, in contrast, heard the story of Israel bombing innocent civilians in an Israeli-made prison—and saw pictures of the devastation inflicted by our military might.”

On top of this, Israelis are news junkies, and this only gets worse when fighting breaks out. Thus:

“We live in a country whose people don’t agree with each other on anything. And yet one activity—besides bickering—comes close to uniting everyone: watching the news. Israelis want all the information, all the time. This is true even on a normal, calm day, if such a thing truly exists in the Middle East. The combined ratings of the evening news broadcast on the three main networks—Channel 1, Channel 2, and Channel 10—reach 40 percent, meaning four out of 10 people in the country tune in to the evening news…

The war in Gaza turned all three Israeli networks into 24-hour news channels. Television was the main source of information while rockets were flying toward Israel, and no one turned it off. What was once an hourlong evening news program mutated into an ongoing, seemingly endless broadcast. The country’s national pastime became an obsession.

As a matter of fact, the 24-hour news cycle began almost a month before Operation Protective Edge: It all started June 13, after three young Israelis were kidnapped…And when a few days later [after their bodies had been found] Hamas began the barrage of rockets targeting Israel, the national mood and the media platform were equally prepared for war.

During the 50 days of the war in Gaza, Israelis, and the rest of the world were watching two completely different wars. In Israel, the country was under attack and it was all happening on live television: The camera leaped between different cities being targeted—showing the rocket’s trajectory from the Gazan border, the subsequent sirens, and civilians taking shelter in Israel and, often, the rocket’s interception by the Iron Dome anti-missile system several minutes later—moments of deep anxiety, followed by relief, over and over, throughout the day. Israeli networks co-operating with the IDF’s Home Front Command aired banners clearly stating which region was under attack, and in some areas where the sirens weren’t loud enough, this turned out to be life-saving information.”

You don’t need to be an Israeli to be only too aware of this: anyone with family and/or friends in israel hangs on the news when conflict breaks out in the region – and sits at the computer sending emails and hoping not to receive the ones with bad news.

An Israeli vehicle at the scene where two soldiers were wounded in a bomb explosion near the border with Lebanon, October 7, 2014

Still in the general area of conflict, what started off looking like a Lebanese army faux pas turns into something rather more sinister. The original incident (which you might have read about) which appeared to be an attempted incursion by Lebanese army soldiers in the area of Har Dov (Mt. Dov aka the Shebaa Farms – a disputed area on Lebanon/Israel border), repelled with two IDF soldiers and one Lebanese soldier wounded, has become something much more serious. This article now points the finger at Hezbollah. Or, more accurately, Hezbollah points the finger at itself, as follows:

“The ring of explosives detonated alongside an IDF patrol on the border with Lebanon on Tuesday was another in a series of messages from Hezbollah to Israel. It was a brazen attack, carried out inside Israeli territory, the message being that, from now on, every incident in which Israel causes Lebanese injuries will be greeted with a response along the Lebanese or Syrian borders.

As opposed to other recent cross-border attacks, in which the perpetrators didn’t claim responsibility, the message this time was loud and clear: a full admission by Hezbollah. The claim of responsibility also gave a reason for the attack.

“The Group of the Martyr Ali Hassan Haydar detonated an explosive device in the Shebaa Farms,” the Shiite group said in a statement, using the Lebanese name for the Mount Dov region, where the attack took place.

Haydar was a Hezbollah sapper killed on September 5 in Lebanon while attempting to defuse an explosive device attached to an alleged Israel spying apparatus discovered that day. Hezbollah vowed revenge.”

Of course, the problem is that Israel will not be deterred from responding as it deems necessary, as the article continues by noting that:

“the Shiite group [is] trying to lay down new red lines for Israel — red lines that Israel is likely to cross: Israel will almost certainly continue to disrupt the smuggling of game-changing weapons from Syria to Lebanon (indeed, those violate Israel’s own avowed “red line”), “forcing” Hezbollah to respond the next
time it or its allies come under IDF attack.”

“[However,] one doubts whether Hezbollah, which doesn’t have many available fighters, is seeking to escalate the situation to all-out war or even a more limited conflagration. The organization is tied up with a war that has already been raging for three years, fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces.

This week, eight of its fighters were killed in battles in Syria’s Qalamoun region. In all, a third of Hezbollah’s forces are currently in Syria, where they’re battling a plethora of Sunni extremist groups, including the notorious Islamic State.”

Let’s hope so.

I’d like to wind up this review of items you might not have seen with a slightly lighter article, from Petra Marquardt-Bigman’s blog, “The Warped Mirror” (although German by origin, she now lives in Israel, and also has a blog at The Jerusalem Post) The headline is “Shlomo Sand resigns from being an invented Jew (or something like it)“.

Shlomo Sand and his crackpot theories

For those who haven’t heard of him, or in case it has slipped your mind, Shlomo Sand is the “acclaimed” (it says on his personal website) historian who claimed that the Jews are an “invented people” (two of the words in the title of his book). In other words, the Jews didn’t exist as an ethnic group until the Khazars of the Russian steppes decided to convert, wholesale to Judaism.

This dismisses all that compelling DNA evidence tracing Jews, collectively, back to the Middle East, some 3000 years ago, to say nothing of tracing Cohanim (the priestly caste) to one male, also 3000 years ago (i.e., Aaron existed, whatever his name), let alone the tons (literally) of archaeological evidence. And now he wants to become non-Jewish.

Petra notes:

In response to this publication, my very erudite Facebook friend David Sigeti wrote a comment that echoes Shapira’s point quoted above and highlights the important question how Sand’s specious “scholarship” could be so shamelessly promoted by many academics and intellectuals:

“I think that the best short phrase to describe Sand is ‘serial crackpot’. [According to Sand] All the genetic evidence is fabricated and the Ashkenazim are really from Central Asia, Yiddish is a Slavic language in spite of being mutually comprehensible with various dialects of German, the ancient Romans were incapable of transporting large numbers of slaves across the Mediterranean in spite of having fed Italy from Egypt for centuries etc., etc., etc. He is almost certainly the only author in the modern, democratic world to write a book that relies on so many crackpot hypotheses in fields as diverse as genetics, linguistics, and history and to get it taken seriously by other academics and intellectuals.

That this nonsense gets taken seriously may be the most telling example of the confluence between ‘anti-Zionism’ and classical antisemitism. It is almost impossible to imagine anything like Sand’s ideas being taken seriously on any subject other than the Jews

As my mother might have said, he can “gay gezunter haid” (Yiddish), meaning, approximately, “go in good health” – although she, a clever lady, would have been being ironic, and she would have known she being ironic. She might also, or instead, have said that he could “gay in dredd”, or, “go to hell”, without irony.

Read Petra M-B’s article for yourself. It’s a delightful hatchet job. We’re better off without him. Mind you, he still has a post at Tel Aviv Uni. Do any of his erstwhile colleagues actually talk to him?


Anne adds:

Brian, thank you for this review of these news items. I know that I missed some of these myself.

Regarding your last item, Sand makes no sense even within his own parameters. If the Jews are an invented people, as he claims, then how can he resign from them? Either the Jews exist and he wants to “resign”, or they are invented in which case what on earth does that make him? Besides a bigot, a madman, and almost certifiably lunatic.

Furthermore, he makes his wish, or rather his petulant demand, upon the pages of a major UK newspaper with a record of anti-Israel and even antisemitic sentiment, as noted by Richard Millett. If he wants to “resign” from the Jewish people, why did he not write his screed in the Jewish Chronicle?  (Probably because they would have refused…).

In any event, is anyone stopping him from “resigning”? We are only too happy to see the back of him.

Just don’t let the door hit you on the way out Shlomo!

Posted in International relations, Media and journalism, Mideast news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Good News Friday

It’s been a while since I last posted a proper Good News Friday post, so it’s good to get back into the swing of things.

Bedouin residents of Umm Batin turn trash into cooking gas

We’ll start with green energy, or perhaps it should be considered clean-tech: Israel is teaching the Dominican Republic how to turn trash into cooking gas - but the first beneficiaries of the technology are residents of a Beduin village near Beer Sheva:

Beduin residents of Umm Batin, a village just northeast of Beersheba, are transforming their trash into usable cooking gas in their homes, as part of an Environmental Protection Ministry initiative to bring biogas to their community.

About a week ago, Umm Batin residents received HomeBioGas units produced by Ecogas Israel, whose NIS 8,000 apiece price tag was subsidized by the Environment Ministry. Anaerobic digesters within the machines convert kitchen waste and animal manure into usable cooking gas and liquid fertilizer – optimized for off-grid urban and rural families, according to the company.

Installing the HomeBioGas systems is part of a larger, NIS 80 million investment that the ministry has undertaken to provide communities that currently do not have modern waste treatment mechanisms with trash cans and other necessities.

After learning from the Israeli government about the installation of the units in Umm Batin, the Dominican Republic has decided to purchase 50 of these facilities to install in villages in its own island, the ministry said. Following the earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, the phenomenon of deforestation grew in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, due to the need for wood heating.

“The combination of social justice and environmental justice is a global solution fitting for Umm Batin, for the Caribbean and for every place in the world,” Peretz said. “We found a way to generate cooperation with the Beduin population from remote communities who feel that as a result of this, the country cares about them, and therefore, the chances are great that this project will succeed and become a model for the world.”

The whole idea is brilliant! Disposing of waste by recycling it into fuel solves so many problems, and not just for the poor and deprived. This technology could huge amounts of money and solve energy problems even for modern countries. Kol hakavod to Ecogas Israel and the Energy Ministry for solving two problems in one.

Ice bucket challenge raises funds for ALS while Israel invents treatment

Moving from bio-technology to the biomedical field, an Israeli development for the treatment of ALS (for which funds were being raised recently by the famous “Ice Bucket Challenge”) is being fast-tracked by the American FDA:

(JNS.org) Stem cell treatment developed by Israeli company BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics has been designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a “fast-track” treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The treatment, called NurOwn, is currently undergoing mid-stage clinical trials in Jerusalem and in the U.S. on patients with ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The FDA’s designation will speed up patients’ access to the treatment.

“The receipt of fast-track designation from the FDA is an acknowledgement of the unmet medical need in ALS,” BrainStorm Chief Executive Tony Fiorino said Tuesday, according to Reuters. “What is so valuable about fast track designation to a small company like BrainStorm is the opportunity to have increased meetings with and more frequent written communication from the FDA,” he said, adding that few other cellular therapies have received FDA approval.

Hopefully this treatment will help thousands of patients of this dreadful disease. Kol Hakavod to the BrainStorm developers and researchers, and to the FDA for recognizing its potential. Once again, Israeli researchers are at the forefront of their field for the benefit of the whole world.

Another Israeli biomedical advance is still in the preliminary stages but holds enormous potential if successful. Israeli scientists are testing the first targeted multi-drug cancer therapy:

Delivering cancer-fighting drugs directly to malignant cells is the best way to fight the deadly disease, and Israeli scientists are working on a better way to do that — linking multiple drugs to a chemical engine that can drive them exactly where they need to go.

The process, so far proven only on mouse cells, uses tiny molecules called peptides to carry cancer drugs into specific cancer cells. In a study published in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the scientists showed that the treatment can deliver two different drugs at once, killing leukemia cells while leaving healthy cells undamaged.

No targeted cancer therapy on the market can deliver more than one drug at once. The scientists say the experimental treatment also appears to be more targeted than existing types. With these advantages, they say, the treatment could make existing cancer drugs deadlier to cancers while at the same time reducing their side effects.

Clinical trials are at least two years away.

“We are talking about a technology for targeted drug delivery that consists of a special platform and multiple drugs that are linked to the platform,” said Prof. Gary Gellerman, a biochemist, who built the “peptide-drug conjugates” along with Prof. Michael Firer, a biotechnologist at Ariel University, who developed the drugs. “The advantages for patients are that we can direct more of the drugs to where they are supposed to go, with no side effects. For the first time, we can target cancer with multiple drugs at once.”

Prof. Gary Gellerman of Ariel University

So far, the scientists are focusing on leukemia, prostate cancer, and lung cancer, but they say the treatment should work with any type of cancer.

Prof. Michael Firer of Ariel University

Prof. Robert Langer, a biomedical engineer and a leading researcher of cancer drug delivery at the MIT, called the study “very interesting.” He said “a key next step is to see how it works in vivo [in animals] from a safety and efficacy standpoint.”

If the theories are correct and the treatment works, the impact of this research and the treatment cannot be overstated. We wish the scientists and researchers every success.  Kol hakavod to Professors Gellerman and Firer and to Ariel University for their research.

It will also be very interesting to see if the treatment will be boycotted by those who so object to the settlements and boycott Ariel University for being on the wrong side of an imaginary line on a map.

Solar powered wi-fi charging station for cell-phones

Moving now to something much less vital but nevertheless important in everyday life, an Israeli design student has come up with a solar-powered wifi charging station for cell-phones:

Charge Yourself is the final project created by Bezalel Academy of the Arts student Tal Bahar that functions as a shady bench and solar-powered phone charging station in the heart of an urban jungle.

Ensuring that we have enough battery to make it through the day is a modern day worry that Bahar believes causes a lot of unnecessary stress. So why not kill two birds with one stone and create a design that gives our phones and ourselves a much needed break? The bench-like structure that Bahar came up with has three shaded single wooden seats, each with their own charging surface and phone holder. Each charging surface is powered by solar panels on the metal shade overhang and is able to boost the battery of any mobile device (so no more scrounging around for the right charger). In addition, for those who really can’t live an unconnected minute, there is an extendable phone holder that simultaneously charges your phone and allows you to sort through emails or message a friend.

While Bahar’s Charge Yourself sounds like the perfect solution to our modern day woes, many mobile devices are not yet programmed to wirelessly charge, so it may be some time before we can rest and regenerate on our local boulevard. However, Bahar’s idea is a move in the right direction as Starbucks recently moved to install Israeli tech-powered Duracell PowerMat wireless charging stations in some of its US shops. Mostly, Charge Yourself is an important reminder to the work-until-we-drop generation to take a moment to ourselves every so often, and not just to charge our phones.

What a brilliant idea! Kol hakavod to Tal Bahar. I hope his brainwave takes off!

With all these Israeli innovations, which as mentioned above are of enormous import to the whole world, is it possible that the BDS bigots are making any inroads into Israeli international trade relations? This is an especially pertinent question after a week in which both Sweden and Britain voted to recognize a Palestinian state, with all the implied threats of sanctions being imposed on Israel as “punishment”.

Israeli international trade soars

According to the Algemeiner (h/t David) it would seem this is not so. Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger asks “Is Israel ostracised?” – and answers in the negative:

The elitist media outlets in Israel, Western Europe and the U.S. are wrong! Israel is increasingly appreciated and embraced — not ostracized — by the global community.

In defiance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Britain, and despite the recent Gaza war, Israel’s exports to Britain and the Israel-Britain trade balance, surged by 38 percent and 28 percent respectively between January and August 2014 (as compared to the same period in 2013), expanding employment in both countries. In addition, there were 37 Israeli-British mergers, acquisitions and British stock market initial public offerings during the same period.

Israel’s unique achievements in the area of health care were underscored in the Forbes June 2014 list of 10 health tech companies changing the world. Five of them were Israeli. “It’s amazing that Israel — a country of only 8 million people — produces so many leading health technology companies,” David E. Williams, president of the U.S.-based Health Business Group, told the Grapevine. According to Williams, “Israel’s highly educated technical and medical workers are reared in a society that prizes problem-solving and innovation, placing tremendous value on curing illness and saving lives.”

And it’s not only health-care in which Israel is a leader:

Israel bureau chief for the U.S. magazine Defense NewsBarbara Opall-Rome, sheds light on the global added-value of Israel’s defense industries and Israel’s rising weapon exports, which have grown in recent years. The latest conflict in Gaza revealed Israel’s unique advantage, being the world’s largest and most advanced battle testing laboratory, especially in the area of shielding civilians from short-range missiles and defending tank crews against guided missiles.

According to Opall, “over the past five years, Israel has had military sales of around $7 billion annually, and it puts Israel in the top five of the world’s arms-exporting nations. … India is one of Israel’s biggest customers, buying everything from ship and air defense systems to anti-tank missiles and drones.”

After the latest Gaza operation, Bloomberg reported that Shiite Azerbaijan is the leading supplier of oil to Israel and a major buyer of advanced Israeli military systems, despite criticism from its neighbors, Iran and Turkey.

The California-based Entrepreneur magazine suggests that “one country that stands out from the rest when it comes to research and development is Israel. In fact, it ranks second only to Silicon Valley for startups. … The pool of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talent in Israel is huge. There are 140 scientists, technicians and engineers for every 10,000 Israeli employees, compared to 85 per 10,000 in the USA. … Israel is flush with entrepreneurs, second in numbers only to Silicon Valley. The country is filled with people with courage, drive, creativity, boldness and tenacity, who will move mountains to achieve their goals and dreams.”

srael’s educational standing in the world was noted by the recent OECD 2014 Education at a Glance study, published by Yahoo Finance in September: Israel ranks fourth in the world as far as post-high school educated population (46.4 percent of the population), trailing Japan (46.6 percent), Canada (52.6 percent) and Russia (53.5 percent), but ahead of the U.S., Korea, Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Ireland.

The respectable, growing slate of more than 250 high-tech global giants with R&D centers in Israel proves how integrated Israel is in the global economy. These companies include Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Motorola, Computer Associates, Qualcomm, HP, EMC, GE, AT&T, Xerox, Dell, AMD, Marvell, Cisco, GM, Google, Oracle, Paypal, McAfee, Polycom, Telefonica, Ebay, AOL, Yahoo, SanDisk, SAP, Siemens, Philips, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, etc. A recent arrival in Israel is Russian Internet Security giant Kaspersky Labs, which will inaugurate its first Israeli R&D center in Jerusalem.

And the good news looks set to continue into the coming year:

2014 is shaping up to be an Israeli record year for raising capital, with Israeli IPOs on Wall Street surpassing $3.5 billion. Two of the top 10 Wall Street IPOs were Israeli companies — Mobileye ($890 million) and Israel Chemicals ($507 million). Intercontinental Exchange, the global network of exchanges and clearing houses, acquired Israel’s SuperDerivatives for $350 million, as its R&D center. Pulse Secure acquired Israel’s cyber company, Mobile Spaces, for $100 million.

On September 22, despite the war in Gaza and because of Israel’s brain power and cutting edge and game-changing technologies, Intel announced an additional $6 billion investment in its existing Israeli arsenal (four R&D centers and two manufacturing plants), which will develop the next generation of Intel’s chips.

And the obvious conclusion:

And where does that leave the anti-Israel BDS movement, the Gaza conflict and other conventional and terrorist threats? Based on Israel’s track record, they are bumps in the road of unprecedented growth and acceptance.

This is the best news of all, and a great way to start the Jewish new year. May the good news continue to roll in!

Wishing you all a Good Winter (as is traditionally wished at the end of Sukkot) and Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in energy sources, International relations, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Simchat Torah 5775 – Chag Same’ach!

Simchat Torah – Chag Same’ach!

The last and most joyous festival of the Jewish holiday season is almost upon us – Sukkot finishes tonight and Simchat Torah begins.

I shall refer you to last year’s post on Simchat Torah if you would like to know more about the festival – which involves lots of dancing with the Torah scrolls in 7 circuits of the synagogue, giving out sweets to the children, and generally celebrating reading the entire Torah and starting all over again from Bereishit (Genesis).

Dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah

Following the dancing we say Tefilat Geshem (the prayer for rain) – which this year came in rather early, on the first day of Sukkot, and has decided to visit us again today with strong showers this morning!

Rainbow on 1st day Sukkot in Kfar Vradim (north Israel)

Thunderstorm in Haifa

I hope the rain holds off while we walk to and from shul. And then, let the clouds overflow!

I wish those of you celebrating Chag Sameach!

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The British Parliament’s vote to recognize “the Palestinian State”

I’m reluctant to post bad news on erev Chag, but I didn’t get around to this yesterday and I don’t want to ignore the issue.

On Monday the British Parliament took time out from its domestic woes – the NHS not functioning, a shrinking economy, an underclass of unintegrated third-world immigrants… the list goes on – to tackle an “urgent” matter 2,000 miles away: whether to recognize Palestinian State.

And the ayes had it, by 274-12, although these alarming numbers take on a different hue when taken with the fact that nearly all the Conservatives stayed away or abstained, and a large number of Labour MPs absented themselves in order not to have to comply with the ridiculous 3-line whip imposed by Labour leader Ed Milliband.

Despite the vote being downplayed as largely symbolic (which it is), there are several ominous implications, not least of which were the shocking antisemitic statements being pronounced right there in the Mother of Parliaments.

One MP spoke about the power of the “Jewish lobby” in the US, while another insinuated that Israel was to blame for the rise in anti-Semitism around the globe.

The well-known “as-a-Jew” Gerald Kaufman spouted forth in a similar manner:

Later in the proceedings, leading Israel critic Gerald Kaufman, the son of Polish Jews, seemed to blame Israeli actions for a rise in anti-Semitism in the wake of the summer’s fighting in Gaza: “I call on right honorary and honorary members on both sides of the House to give the Palestinians their rights and show the Israelis that they cannot suppress another people all the time. It is not Jewish for the Israelis to do that. They are harming the image of Judaism, and terrible outbreaks of anti-Semitism are taking place. I want to see an end to anti-Semitism, and I want to see a Palestinian state.”

Thankfully there were some – very few – tzaddikim b’Sdom (righteous amongst the evil) who did their best to counter the smears and insinuations:

“We are told that 135 members of the United Nations — many of which have relatively little connection with the Middle East, although some have a great connection — have recognized Palestine as a state,” said Conservative Intelligence Committee chairman Malcolm Rifkind. “That has had no effect. It has received 24 hours of publicity but has had no marginal, massive or significant impact on the course of history. There is a great risk that today we will make ourselves feel important and that our own frustration will lead us to vote for a motion that will not have the desired effect and will perhaps make the problems that need to be addressed in reaching a two-state solution more difficult to deal with,” said Rifkind, a former British foreign secretary who is Jewish.

Labour-Cooperative MP Louise Ellman railed against the idea that Israel is uninterested in peace. “It should be remembered that while peace negotiations were under way following the Oslo negotiations, in one month alone — March 2002 — 80 Israeli civilians were killed and 600 injured in targeted suicide bombings …  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza — a correct, unilateral withdrawal — was followed by rockets, the terror tunnels, and more and more death.”

Another British MP, David Burrowes who is currently visiting Israel called the vote a mistake.

I would refer you to “Abu Yehuda” (formerly Fresno Zionism) who has a good analysis of the Parliament vote.

News item:

The original motion stipulated that “this House believes that the government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”

During the debate it was amended to include the words “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

It should also be noted that the amended resolution doesn’t make any sense. If the action is intended to contribute to a two-state solution, then that implies that a Palestinian state doesn’t yet exist to recognize.

Of course it doesn’t make sense even without the amendment, because ‘Palestine’ has no borders or economy short of the international dole, and its unity government is a sham which does not control much of its population.

The practical significance is that a huge majority in Parliament thinks that the creation of an Arab state in the territories would be a good thing. This seems to be the conventional wisdom everywhere in Europe, despite the clearly horrendous security consequences for Israel.

In fact, as the debate shows, many of the MPs think that supporting a Palestinian state is the moral position to take, even going so far as to cite the Balfour declaration! The irony in this is that Britain acted consistently during the Mandate period and afterwards to subvert the intent of the declaration and the Mandate to provide for a national home for the Jewish people.

In fact, from a moral point of view, Britain ought to be harshly criticized for its actions in shutting the door to escape for millions of future victims of Hitler’s Holocaust before and during the war, as well as cruelly preventing survivors from reaching Palestine until its rule was ended in 1948, not to mention assisting the Arabs in their war against the new state of Israel afterwards. It is remarkably hypocritical today for MPs to claim that morality drives them to continue the cynical anti-Jewish policy they have followed since the 1920s.

There are many similar opinion pieces on this sorry subject. I’m sure you have read many of them. One of the must-reads is Brian of London at Israellycool who discusses the vote, the antisemitism expressed within, and the distorted views of the settlements which cloud the whole view of the Middle East. Brian also mentions Melanie Phillips latest facebook post in which she debunks “a string of falsehoods promulgated by Sir Alan Duncan, David Cameron’s special envoy to Yemen and Oman.” Just a short quote:

Duncan’s tirade presents a picture of Israel that is false and wholly distorted. The core of his spitting hatred is his claim that Israel’s settlements are illegal. There is an authoritative body of legal opinion that shows they are not illegal at all; the illegality trope is merely an anti-Israel canard. But even if they were illegal, this would hardly justify Duncan’s venom and vituperation which seem quite out of control.

Read Brian’s whole post and Melanie Phillips’ too.

Here too are some other relevant tweets which reflect my own opinion on the vote and its implications:

My favourite tweet was the one that brought up the original British vote on the original state of Palestine – the one that gave a Mandate to Britain to grant Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish People:

Here is the Israellycool post mentioned in the tweet: “Breaking: Britain recognizes Palestine”, accompanied by the letter “viewing with favour” a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Britain views with favour a Jewish homeland in Palestine

Those were the days!

Posted in International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Money aplenty for reconstructing Gaza but no money to fight Ebola

John Kerry and Catherine Ashton at the Donor Conference for aid to Gaza

After Israel’s defensive war this summer against Hamas, the world as usual is in a great hurry to help the Palestinians reconstruct the damage to Gaza, and no matter how much Mahmoud Abbas promises to be transparent in the handling of the aid funds (please excuse my hysterical laughter here) it will be no surprise if we discover in the not too distant future that those funds were not used to rebuild homes, hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure but instead to replenish Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s stores of weapons and to import the massive amounts of cement needed to build their terror attack tunnels.

Israel was not invited to the donor conference held yesterday in Cairo, which may or may not have been a good thing. On the one hand Israel could not be asked to contribute to the rebuilding of its enemy, but on the other hand Israel failed to link aid for reconstruction to the disarmament of Hamas.

An Israeli official was quoted by Channel 2 admitting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Hamas give up its arms — endorsed in principle by the US, EU and others at the end of the 50-day conflict — had not prevailed as a condition for overseas funding to rehabilitate Gaza. The funding for reconstruction, the official said, would flow so long as the ceasefire was maintained. Further development of Gaza after such reconstruction, the official said, would be contingent on the demilitarization of the Strip.

Israeli officials noted that a mechanism had been agreed, with UN involvement, to ensure that international funding not be diverted to finance the rebuilding of Hamas’s military capabilities. But sources quoted by Channel 10 expressed concern that such a mechanism would not hold firm, and the same TV report quoted sources in Gaza as saying there was no practical way to control how such money would be spent. The head of the Israeli Air Force’s Air Defense Command told The Times of Israel last week that Hamas has resumed rocket manufacturing in Gaza.

Other officials in Jerusalem variously claimed that Israel was not invited because it was not donating any funds, and that Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had opted to not extend an invitation because Israel’s presence could have prompted other states to stay away.

Ban Ki-Moon spouted his usual distorted view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

“We must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: A restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who later announced in a news conference that he planned to visit Israel, Gaza and the West Bank on Tuesday.

Ban needs an urgent lesson in modern history; he should read up on Israel’s disengagement from Gaza – there is no occupation! – and on the multiple offers of peace and land withdrawals made by Israel, all of which were rejected by the Palestinians who then ignited huge waves of violence each time.  The man is a disgrace.

In that conference the US has pledged $212m in aid, while Hamas-supporting Qatar has pledged $1bn to reconstruct Gaza.  Altogether the donor countries have pledged between $4-5 billion in aid.

International envoys pledged about $5.4 billion in aid for the Gaza Strip at a meeting in Egypt on Sunday, Norway’s foreign minister said.

Half of the pledges will go for reconstruction and the rest as unspecified aid to the Palestinians, he said

Gas-rich Qatar led the way at the donors conference in Cairo with a promise of $1 billion in aid to the coastal enclave.

The Palestinians asked for up to $4 billion in international aid after Gaza suffered heavy damage in its 50-day summer war with Israel.

Note that no one has considered the damage suffered by Israel – through no fault of its own – from that same war.

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait also pledged $200 million each.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced immediate US assistance of $212 million as the conference began.

British International Development Minister Desmond Swayne pledged $32.1 million in early recovery assistance for Gazans affected by the war. The money will cover disposal of un-exploded ordnance, rubble clearing and reconstructive surgery, according to a statement released by the British government.

The statement said that the UK is ready to provide longer term support, but only if the situation changes in Gaza, and the conditions do not invite another conflict.

“Simply relying on international donors to continue to pick up the pieces is not an option,” warned Swayne. “The cycle of conflict and emergency aid is unsustainable. The need for bold political steps from all parties has never been more apparent.

It is mildly gratifying to note that the British are not simply throwing the money at Gaza but are looking for a political solution first and foremost.

Houses of Parliament

Sadly the British are cancelling out this small amount of common sense by the UK Parliament holding a debate tomorrow on whether to recognize “the State of Paletsine”Labour Party MPs are furious at the party leader Ed Milliband’s decision to “whip” the vote (forcing them all to vote in favour), and are threatening to boycott the vote. Even though the vote is only symbolic it will be interesting to see how the votes swing – and how Ed Milliband’s political fortunes swing too in the aftermath of this unnecessary altercation.

This could also be a case of wishing to distract from domestic woes. As Amotz Asa-El pointed out in the Jerusalem Post about a similar vote taken by Sweden:

“Unable to affect the domestic scene, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven fled to a foreign affair where talk is cheap and responsibility is everyone else’s except his.”

Getting back to the funding crisis, the world is only too keen to throw money at the undeserving Palestinian terrorists, whereas desperately needed funds to fight Ebola are still lacking. $1bn have been pledged – curiously an amount identical to that which Qatar has promised to help Gaza – but most of that money has not been actually forthcoming.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that nearly $1 billion will be required to fight Ebola, but less than one-fifth of that amount has actually been funded.

As of Wednesday, roughly $155 million has so far been delivered, with funds coming from countries, global agencies, private companies, individuals and other entities, according to data collected by the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), which records all reported international humanitarian aid.

According to FTS’s most recent data, another $183.5 million has been pledged — meaning the donations have been promised but not yet delivered — and on Tuesday, the Obama Administration committed an additional $500 million. If every dollar pledged so far is delivered, $838 million will have been donated to fight the ongoing Ebola crisis.

Just imagine if the world were to require the Palestinians, and primarily Hamas and its Arab supporters, to act like grown-ups and fund their own reconstruction, just like Israel does, thus freeing up those billions of dollars to fight the ever-growing plague of Ebola.

What? Palestinians helping themselves?? Perish the thought!

Posted in International relations, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

The antisemitism of the intelligentsia, disguised as anti-Zionism

Media BiasA couple of recent articles caught my eye as I noticed a similar strain run through both pieces: the subject of antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism.

Haaretz, of all papers, has an article by Uzi Silber about The Jew Flu (h/t Elise Ronan), “the strange illness of Jewish antisemitism”.  The reason for my surprise at Haaretz’s article is that Haaretz itself is a prime source of anti-Israel material for all those foreign media outlets, diplomats and commentators who love to focus on Israel’s ostensible misdeeds.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

The 1930s Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson asked “Is there another People on Earth so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape, robbery committed by their enemies fill their hearts with admiration and awe?”

This is Jew Flu – the virus of Jewish Anti-Semitism, and its Jewish Anti- and Post-Zionist mutations, afflicting a small but inordinately loud minority of Hebrews.

Its modern symptoms are a rejection of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state and a dismissal of its right to defend itself militarily, while embracing the goals of its nihilistic Arab enemies. Those infected with the virus wildly inflate Israeli sins real or imagined, while excusing or rationalizing Palestinian anti-semitism and outrages against Jews.

What causes Jew Flu? Harvard psychiatrist Kenneth Levin argues for twin culprits: so-called ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, where “population segments under chronic siege commonly embrace the indictments of their besiegers however bigoted and outrageous”, as well as “the psychodynamics of abused children who blame themselves for their situation and believe they could mollify their tormenters if they were ‘good’.”

Suffice it to say that Noam Chomsky, Daniel Boyarin, Joel Kovel, Avrum Burg, Ilan Pappe, Steve Quester, Jacqueline Rose, Tony Judt, Naomi Klein, Michael Neumann, Ben Ehrenreich, (the apparently “outed”) Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and their ilk, spout pronouncements eerily similar to the propaganda routinely ejaculated by representatives of Fatah, Hamas or Hezbollah.

Please note that two famous names are blatantly missing from this miserable list. That’s right – Haaretz’s very own Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, two haters of Israel who would be more at home on the pages of the PLO’s internal screeds than in a national Israeli paper.  The malign influence of these two writers on the foreign media’s anti-Israel bias is hard to overestimate. It’s possible that had the author mentioned those names, Haaretz would never have agreed to publish the article.

Silber continues:

At the same time, a hearty “shout out” is due those who have made it their business to forcefully rebut the Jewish defamers, including Andrea Levin, Edward Alexander, Alan Dershowitz, David Solway and others. Those interested in a quick and free primer on Jew Flu should download Alvin Rosenfeld’s UJA-sponsored brief, “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism”.

The author goes on to give a history of Jewish antisemitism, from its roots in Soviet anti-Zionism through the New Left’s over-identification with the enemy, especially amongst the intelligentsia:

The infection among Israel’s cultural elites intensified through the Lebanon War and the two Intifadas that sandwiched the delusional Oslo era. As author Aharon Meged lamented in 1994, there existed “an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia, and its print and electronic media, with people committed to our annihilation.”

Epitomizing this “moral identification” were the certain prominent Jewish journalists who, according to Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, crucially failed the so-called ‘lynch test’, by exhibiting an inability to ever criticize Palestinian terror, even following the widely televised gruesome execution of two Jews by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah In 2000.

As it turns out, the afflicted regularly engage in at least one of the following -Demonization (comparing Israeli actions to Nazism and referring to Arab refugee camps as Auschwitz);- Double Standards (singling out Israel for human rights abuses while ignoring the blatant human rights violators such as Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestinian Authority, North Korea, Cuba, China, Myanmar etc); and Delegitimization (denying Israel the fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state)

Jew Flu occurs even amongst religious Jews like Avram Burg or admirers of the late Prof. Yishayahu Leibowitz.

Silber then draws his own conclusions based on some interesting research:

David Brooks recently reported in the New York Times on research by a Haifa University team led by Reem Yahya who studied the brains scans of Arabs and Jews while showing them images of hands and feet in painful situations.

Brooks reports that “the two cultures perceived pain differently. The Arabs perceived higher levels of pain over all while the Jews were more sensitive to pain suffered by members of a group other than their own.”

The intriguing research out of Haifa suggests that Jews may very well be inherently altruistic. But while exhibiting more sensitivity to another group’s pain is one thing, embracing the goals of people openly committed to one’s destruction is a form of madness.

So here’s my ultimate theory for the cause of this nefarious virus: Jew Flu is a condition in which being “more sensitive to pain suffered by members of a group other than (one’s) own metastasizes into a malignant emotional and moral identification with people committed to (one’s) annihilation.”

Like any other virus, Jew Flu is contagious but containable. Yet ultimately incurable.

I find the article extremely interesting in an appalled kind of way. If it didn’t concern us, the Jewish nation and Israel, so directly, I’d be fascinated. As it is, it leaves me profoundly depressed despite the brave souls who work so hard to combat “Jew Flu”.

A related article starkly highlights the utter hypocrisy, not to mention the ultra-thin skin, of antisemitic Israel-bashers and boycotters.

Daniel Greenfield in Front Page Magazine tells us of The Amcha Inititative which has been working to identify and list those academics who call for a boycott or blacklist of Israeli academics – and the boycotters are whining at being boycotted!

There’s nothing anti-Israel academics love more than playing the victim. Given a choice between the fountain of youth and the opportunity to whine about how they’re being persecuted for their anti-Semitism, they will always choose the latter.

We dealt with their whining and cries of McCarthyism last month.

The Amcha Initiative put out a list of college faculty who support pro-terrorist boycotts of Israel. Its sources were mostly the boycotters themselves.

Apparently it’s not McCarthyism to boycott Jews. It’s only McCarthyism when Jews boycott back.

Now a bunch of professors have claimed that listing the names of BDS advocates is a blacklist. Either this whole thing is a promotion for the second season of The Blacklist or they think that boycotts should only go one way.

The professors, who include the repulsive Hasia Diner, denounce the denounciations as a threat to academic freedom. Somehow it’s not a threat to academic freedom to engage in BDS boycotts of faculty from the Jewish State.

But when someone says something critical about BDS PhDs, they have to be muzzled right away by the likes of Hasia Diner. That’s not a violation of academic freedom.

But here are Hasia Diner’s views on a BDS boycott of Israel.

“BDS is labeled anti-Semitic. Why is it that somebody can not take a political, moral, ethical stance and say, ‘I think the policies of the Israeli government are reprehensible and the only way to push Israel to change is to boycott their products’? I am not sure why that constitutes anti-Semitism, but they are immediately tarred with that feather. Among other problems, this means it is impossible to have a conversation about Israel or BDS because one is accused of being anti-Semitic.”

Those darn Jews. So if we can demand the destruction of the Jewish State and attacks on Jewish businesses and faculty members as a form of academic freedom… why can’t we have a conversation about BDS supporters without being accused of McCarthyism?

The antisemites, anti-Zionists, BDS bigots and general Jew-haters can certainly dish it out but they’re too pathetic to take it when it’s dished back at them.

Posted in Academia, Antisemitism, Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments