My Letter to the Editor: Palestinian statehood and Israeli historical rights

A Jerusalem Post reader by the name of James Adler is a regular letter writer to the newspaper. Unfortunately Mr. Adler’s view of the Middle East tends to the extreme dovish left, even though he is obviously a Zionist and pro-Israel. The trouble seems to lie with his ignorance of facts, his distorted view of historical events, and his skewed way of putting all the onus on Israel. He therefore draws all the wrong conclusions about anything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His last letter to the JPost was on Friday 20th April, and read thus:

Sir, – With regard to “Despite State Dept. frown, Israel to continue responding to PA unilateral moves” (April 13), it is unclear why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considered out of bounds in going to the United Nations.

The Palestinians should have been launched on their trajectory toward decolonization and statehood way back in 1922, when they were 95 percent of the people on their land. On fundamental talks like these we shouldn’t get into denial about fundamental truths, especially if we want to understand the Palestinians’ central narrative and motives that reflect these truths.

Now it is the Israelis who have a state on 80% of Palestine and occupy the rest of it. They have sent hundreds of thousands of settlers into that remnant and continue to expand settlements even during the negotiations. It is Israel (and its pre-state incarnation) that for nearly a century has had a crucial role in denying the Palestinians’ decolonization.

Why does it now get to decide whether they at last get this decolonization, and only on the small remnant of their original land? The Palestinians are trying for statehood through the UN in exactly the same, “unilateral” way Israel did.

JAMES ADLER
Cambridge, Massachusetts

I could not let these egregious mistakes and mis-statements pass, and I wrote a letter in reply, which was published today, albeit after being edited and shortened. Here’s what the Jerusalem Post published of my letter. The full text that I sent will follow afterwards.

Sir, – Reader James Adler (“Totally in-bounds,” Letters, April 20) wonders why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is out of bounds in going to the United Nations. He forgets or ignores that by going to the UN the Palestinians have violated the terms of the Oslo Accords.

Adler remarks that “the Palestinians should have been launched on their trajectory toward decolonization and statehood way back in 1922,” but there was at the time no such trajectory because they did not consider themselves colonized. He claims “it is the Israelis who have a state on 80% of Palestine and occupy the rest of it,” but if you look at a map of the Jewish homeland as envisaged in the San Remo Convention you will see that by 1947 the Jews possessed only 22%.

Adler claims that Israel tried for statehood unilaterally. On the contrary, it had the backing of the entire Western world and the UN.

It also had built all the necessary infrastructure for statehood. The Palestinians have built only one infrastructure with all their billions in aid: the infrastructure of terror.

ANNE KLAUSNER
Petah Tikva

And here is the full text of the letter that I originally sent, including many links which clarify my meaning and give backing to my arguments:

Dear Sir,

The lack of facts and the distortion of historical events in James Adler’s letter of 20th April are quite breath-taking and demonstrate either an egregious one-sidedness in viewing the Middle East, or an enormous hole in his education.

  •  When Adler remarks that “the Palestinians should have been launched on their trajectory toward decolonization and statehood way back in 1922, when they were 95 percent of the people on their land” he is at the very least being disingenuous if not outright dishonest. In 1922, the only people called Palestinians were the Jewish residents of then-Palestine, the land earmarked for a Jewish homeland by the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Convention of 1920. The other residents were known simply as Arabs, whether Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians or Bedouin. If you had called them Palestinian they would have been highly offended. There was no “trajectory towards decolonization” at that time because they did not consider themselves colonized.
  •  Adler claims that “Now it is the Israelis who have a state on 80% of Palestine and occupy the rest of it”. On the contrary, if you look at a map of the Jewish homeland as it was envisaged in the San Remo Convention you would see that by 1947 the Jews possessed only 22% of what was intended for them. The rest of the land was ripped off by the perfidious British and given to the Hashemites in order to appease their Jew-hatred. This land became Trans-Jordan, later Jordan. After the UN partition plan resolution in 1947, 5 Arab nations invaded Israel and Jordan conquered Judea and Samaria and “East” Jerusalem, expelling all the Jewish residents in an egregious act of ethnic cleansing recognized by no country except for Britain, Pakistan and Iraq. Jordan maintained that territory (which they renamed the West Bank in order to remove any Jewish connection from the territory) Judenrein for 19 years. In 1967 Israel reconquered and liberated that territory from Jordan, Syria and Egypt – NOT from the non-existent Palestinians who did not exist yet as a separate entity.
  •  Adler also does not seem able to explain how land illegally occupied by Arabs for 19 whole years – 19 years out of a history of millennia – makes the territory “holy Palestinian land”, whilst the Jewish historical ties of 3,000 years are utterly ignored. For him, when the Jews are ethnically cleansed from the land they’d better stay ethnically cleansed! They are not afforded any of the rights he would afford any other ethnically cleansed nation.
  • The Palestinians had their chance to settle their own territory in 1947, when resolution 181 was voted upon. But the Palestinians – or Arabs as they were known then – rejected it outright and declared war on Israel. Now that they have lost war after war, and Israel shows no sign of being defeated despite the constant drip-drip of terrorism, delegitimization, boycotts and lawfare – they are making their plea for international help in the same way as the person who claims mercy for killing his parents on the ground that he is now an orphan.
  • Adler claims that Israel tried for statehood unilaterally. On the contrary, Israel had the backing of the entire Western World and the UN when it declared statehood. Israel had also built all the necessary institutions for statehood long before such independence was claimed or granted – and all this in the face of constant war, terror, boycotts and lack of resources, not to mention later absorbing millions of impoverished and traumatised refugees from Europe and the Middle East. The Palestinians have built only one infrastructure with all the millions and billions of foreign aid and petro-dollars: the infrastructure of terror. They also undertook not to stake their claim for statehood at the UN when they signed the Oslo Accords.

They have no right to renege on these now – and if they do, they cannot complain when Israel declares the Oslo Accords null and void too.

Yours sincerely, etc…

I wish the JPost had published my letter in its entirety but I suppose I should be grateful that at least some of it was published. I fear that their editing changed the meaning and intent of my words and might give the wrong impression about Israel’s historical right to the entire Land of Israel according to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the terms of the Mandate as resolved at the San Remo Convention of 1920.  At the very least I hope my letter gave readers some food for thought, even though (in my humble opinion) my unedited letter would have been preferable.

Posted in Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Peace process in pieces

It seems that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is all but over, whether with normalization or without. Mahmoud Abbas’s constant upping of the ante, with ever-increasing demands of Israel, made sure of that.  So now that it’s all over bar the shouting, what next?

Well, first of all, Abbas was threatening to dissolve the PA and the Oslo Accords:

According to Palestinian sources cited by Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday, Abbas and top PA officials are considering the drastic move, which would involve canceling the 1993 Oslo Accords and announcing that the Palestinian Authority is a “government under occupation” without full sovereignty, which would technically move full responsibility for the Palestinians, in the West Bank at least, to Israel.

The threat, which has reportedly been passed on to Israel, would also disband and abolish PA security forces operating in the West Bank, theoretically opening the way for expanded Palestinian unrest against Israeli forces. The move could also prompt a surge in international legal and diplomatic action against Israel.

Unfortunately for the histrionic Abbas, his dramatic pronouncement was greeted with derision by Israel, with Naftali Bennett saying to Abbas: Bring it on:

“If he wants to go, we won’t stop him,” the minister said. “The Jewish people do not negotiate with a gun held against their temple.”

I’m sure most Israelis echo Bennett’s sentiments.

The Elder of Ziyon pours more cold water on Abbas’s threat with a timely reminder of the many times in the past that Abbas has made this exact same threat:

Officials in the Israeli administration have been informed of the dramatic threat, according to Palestinian sources. Dramatic! Unprecedented!

Reporters that don’t know recent history!

December 2012:
If diplomatic stagnation continues after the Israeli election and construction in the settlements doesn’t stop, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will dismantle the PA and return responsibility for the West Bank to the Israeli government, he told Haaretz in an interview on Thursday.

[...]

December 2010:
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to dissolve the Palestinian Authority (PA) if Israel does not stop building settlements on occupied Palestinian land, he told Palestinian television before heading to Turkey and Athens.

[...]

November 2009:
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has threatened to walk out on the struggling peace process between Palestine and Israel.

Read the rest. It goes all the way back to 2007!

Avi Issacharoff in the Times of Israel similarly notes how these threats have become a recurrent ritual:

At least three Palestinian threats have become a recurrent ritual, repeating themselves every few months: (1) the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas from the presidency of the Palestinian Authority; (2) the resignation of top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat from his post (a step he has already taken countless times throughout his illustrious career, and yet there he remains); and (3) the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority.

So first it should be made clear: A scenario in which the Palestinian Authority is dissolved is possible, but its probability is low, very low. The discussion in recent days over the possibility of the PA being dismantled has been held mainly in the Israeli media, with little to no presence in the discourse of the Palestinian media and among PA leaders.

The whole non-story is really quite pathetic.

One of the best articles I’ve read about the non-existent peace process is by Jonathan Spyer at the Gloria Center who writes: The peace process is dead. Let it lie down. Here are some excerpts:

 The failure of this initiative was obvious from the beginning.  To everyone except, apparently, Kerry himself.  This reality lent an element of low farce to the entire proceedings.

 By now, it should really be obvious to any serious observer that there is no chance that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process will produce a comprehensive peace between the two sides.

 There are two core reasons for this.  One of them is of long-standing, the other is a development of the last decade.

 The first reason is because the Fatah movement, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is simply not interested in exchanging its historic goal of reversing the verdict of 1948 for the establishment of a small Palestinian state in the West Bank.

[...]

As to why Fatah cleaves to this position.  On the more superficial level, mainstream Palestinian nationalism considers that the ‘imposition’ of Jewish sovereignty over part of former British Mandate Palestine (not ‘historic Palestine’, an entity that never existed) constitutes a crime of such horror and magnitude that it can never be accepted.

 On a deeper level, this unusual refusal to compromise with reality derives from the movement’s Islamic roots (the very name ‘Fatah’ derives from a Koranic term meaning ‘Islamic conquest), which make it unimaginable that land once possessed by Muslims or Arabs can be accepted as having passed to another sovereignty.  This process is experienced as particularly humiliating when the other sovereignty in question is that of a traditionally despised people, the Jews, rather than some mighty foreign empire.

 Thus far, so obvious.

 The second, newer development, however, deserves closer attention.

 The Israeli-Palestinian peace process also has no chance of success because there is no authoritative Palestinian Arab partner to the talks.  Why not?

 The first and obvious reason for this is because there is no longer a single, authoritative Palestinian national leadership.

[...]

Arafat died in 2004.  In 2007, the Palestinian movement split in two, with control of the Gaza Strip passing to Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 Today, Hamas constitutes the more vigorous and formidable element in Palestinian nationalism. It presides over a small, sovereign Palestinian area.  And of course, it opposes the negotiations and remains openly committed to the goal of destroying Israel.

 There is no prospect of Palestinian re-unification in the foreseeable future (though Fatah spokesmen are forever proclaiming that it is just around the corner).

 But there is a deeper and more historic aspect to this disunity. The division in Palestinian nationalism appears to be a return to the normal state of affairs, in which the Arab population of the area west and east of the Jordan River is divided into a variety of groups, with widely varying interests and agendas.

 Palestinian identity, it turns out, like the neighboring Syrian and Iraqi and Lebanese identities, turns out to be a far more flimsy and contingent thing than its partisans and spokesmen have claimed.

The Israeli Arabs, though they continue to elect nationalist and Islamist representatives to the Knesset, react with horror to the prospect of exchanging their citizenship of the Jewish state for that of a putative Palestinian sovereignty.

 This renders absurd the claim of membership in a broader Palestinian identity made by the elected leaders of these Israeli citizens.

Spyer’s conclusions are depressingly familiar however:

Many Palestinians and the many western supporters of the Palestinian cause are convinced that the gradual international delegitimization of Israel is the key to final strategic victory over the Jewish state and the reversal of the verdict of 1948.  This is an illusion. But it will need to work itself through, like the illusions that preceded it.

 When it has, sadly, it is likely to be replaced by a new illusion. Thus the reckoning with the reality of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty will continue to be avoided, and the Palestinian politics of subsidized fantasy  will continue. 

Until the Palestinians stop being funded by over-generous NGOs and foreign aid agencies, and are thus forced to grow up and face reality, peace will never come to the Middle East.

Posted in Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peace without normalization is not peace

Mahmoud Abbas: Me? Condemn terror? You’ve got to be joking!

After the terrorist attack on Passover eve, when Police Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi was shot dead and his pregnant wife and one of their children injured by a Palestinian terrorist, it was rumoured that Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas had condemned the murder.

But no. Abbas refutes such a malicious lie, and denies condemning the murder:

Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s office wasted no time on Wednesday in denying reports that he condemned the terrorist attack the occurred near Hevron on Monday.

The attack left Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi dead and two others, including his pregnant wife, wounded.

Leftist MKs who met with Abbas on Wednesday as Mizrahi was being buried told Israeli media that Abbas had condemned the murder, as well as “all other terror attacks.” The supposed condemnation was seen by many as a ploy to bolster the PA’s image.

However, something was apparently lost in translation in the meeting between Abbas and the leftist MKs, as Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh recalled Abbas’s statements quite differently.

Rudeineh quoted Abbas as saying “we are against violence and a return to violence,” but not specifically condemning the Hevron attack at all.

What does it say about Palestinian society that their leadership feel obliged to NOT condemn a terrorist murder of Israeli civilians? And if Abbas did indeed condemn the attack, what does it say about his society that he feels the need to deny the condemnation? Is he afraid of being murdered by his compatriots or of being deposed by one of his many rivals?

Prof. Mohammed Dajani visits Auschwitz with 27 Palestinian students

A similar story of Palestinian intransigence is noted when an independently-minded Palestinian Professor Mohammed S. Dajani took 27 Palestinian college students to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Read what happened next:

Professor Mohammed S. Dajani took 27 Palestinian college students to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland a few weeks ago as part of a project designed to teach empathy and tolerance. Upon his return, his university disowned the trip, his fellow Palestinians branded him a traitor and friends advised a quick vacation abroad.

Dajani said he expected criticism. “I believe a trip like this, for an organized group of Palestinian youth going to visit Auschwitz, is not only rare, but a first,” he said. “I thought there would be some complaints, then it would be forgotten.”

But the trip was explosive news to some, perhaps more so because it took place as U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were in danger of collapse, and emotion surrounding the decades-old conflict is high.

Controversy was also heightened by rumors — untrue — that the trip was paid for by Jewish organizations. It was paid for by the German government.

Dajani said that many Palestinians think the Holocaust is used by Jews and Israelis as propaganda to justify the seizure of lands that Palestinians say are theirs and to create sympathy for Israel. Others, he said, think the Holocaust is exaggerated or just one of many massacres that occurred during World War II.

“They said, ‘Why go to Poland? Why not teach our young people about the Nakba?’ ” Dajani said.

[...]One reader said that taking Palestinian students to Auschwitz was not freedom of expression but treason.

Other critics of the trip included newspaper columnists, TV analysts and fellow researchers in the West Bank.

While the Palestinian students were visiting Auschwitz, a parallel group of Jewish Israeli students from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University ventured to Bethlehem to hear Palestinians from the Dheisheh refugee camp tell their story. The responses of both groups of students — Israelis and Palestinians — would then be analyzed.

[...]

A firebrand in the Fatah political movement when he was young, Dajani said he is now a proponent of moderate Islam and moderate politics. He founded a group dedicated to both, called Wasatia, in 2007. His writing and conversation are filled with references to tolerance, reconciliation and dialogue. He supports two states for two peoples and thinks Jerusalem should be shared by Israelis and Palestinians.

“He is a theologian and a pragmatist, and in that regard, he is unique here. He is also extremely brave,” said Matthew Kalman, a commentator at the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz who broke the story of the Auschwitz trip and who has followed Dijani’s career for years.

“He is also a proud Palestinian nationalist,” Kalman said, who regards the Israelis as occupiers. “But he thinks if you want to engage the Israelis, you have to understand where they’re coming from.”

The trip to Auschwitz was part of a trilateral research project called “Heart of Flesh — Not Stone,” named for a passage in the Book of Ezekiel and designed to not only increase empathy but also to study it. Organized by one of the oldest faculties of Protestant theology in Europe, at the Center for Reconciliation Studies at Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany, the trip was paid for by the German Research Foundation, a funding agency.

Some of Dajani’s detractors accused him of trying to brainwash Palestinian youth.

A university student who went on the trip but asked not to be named because of the charged atmosphere said the visit changed him. “You feel the humanity. You feel the sympathy of so many people killed in this place because of their race or religion.”

“Most people said we shouldn’t go,” the student said. “It is a strange thing for a Palestinian to go to a Nazi death camp. But I would recommend the trip.” He said it did not diminish his desire for a Palestinian state.

[...]

Many Palestinians today oppose what they call “normalization,” which they say seeks to paper over the injustice of the Israeli military occupation by encouraging joint projects between Israelis and Palestinians as if they were both equal, the one not subject to the greater power of the other. Such joint efforts, they reason, will only prolong the occupation by providing Israelis with cover.

[...]

In a statement last week, Dajani wrote: “I will go to Ramallah, I will go to the university, I will put my photos of the visit on Facebook, and I do not regret for one second what I did. As a matter of fact, I will do it again if given the opportunity. I will not hide, I will not deny, I will not be silent. I will not remain a bystander even if the victims of suffering I show empathy for are my occupiers. And this is my final statement on this issue.”

One can but admire Professor Dajani’s bravery in going against the mainstream Palestinian opinion.  But contrary to the “bravery” of Western opinion-makers going against mainstream thought, the risk to Dajani is very real and very physical.  Being called a traitor in Palestinian society is almost a virtual death sentence. He is literally putting his life on the line for opposing Palestinian group-think.

And again, as we can see from the Palestinian voices mentioned in the article who speak against normalization with Israel, what kind of society is this that Israel is expected to make peace with?

Well-meaning do-gooders (and plenty of not-so-well-meaning meddlers) constantly prod Israel to talk to the Palestinians and concede huge tangible assets for the sake of a peace piece of paper. They try to encourage Israel by saying that “you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends”. But this is not true. You make peace with your enemies after they have decided to stop being your enemiesafter they have given up attempting to destroy you, and after they accept your right to exist as a free and independent nation, and not while they are still trying to delegitimize you.

These are just two small examples of all that is wrong with the lopsided “peace” negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.  These are besides the preposterous demands made by Abbas for him to agree to continue talking.

Posted in Academia, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Good News Friday

Too much matza, wine and sun have made me lose track of time and I’ve almost left it too late for this week’s Good News Friday edition, so this is going to be a quickie.

An Israeli-developed item which is sure to take everyone’s fancy is  a pocket-sized printer:

Today you carry everything you need in your pocket. The smartphone revolution has made your phone, PC, camera and navigation device so portable – they are always available at your fingertips. However, there’s one product many of us use daily that still requires a lot of space and will never fit in your pocket (unless you have exceptionally large pants) – the printer.

A fresh Israeli Kickstarter campaign aims to change all that with the ZUtA Pocket Printer. The cute teardrop-shaped robot printer can be placed on any page and scurries back-and-forth, printing as it goes along. The campaign has a lofty goal of $400,000, but the project shows great promise.

“We live in a world where people are constantly on the go and are running their chores everywhere,” says Tuvia Elbaum, who is the entrepreneur behind the project. “But there’s one office tool that’s still stuck behind, hasn’t changed in the past decade and isn’t mobile.” The ZUtA (Aramaic for “small”) printer is just 10cm high and 11cms in diameter, which might not fit in your jeans, but definitely makes it much more portable than any standard printer.

What a brilliant idea! And what a cute shape it is too!  :-) .   Kol hakavod to Tuvia Elbaum and all those who backed his Zuta project.  An extra kol hakavod because the developers come from JCT – the Jerusalem College of Technology, aka Machon Lev, where my son-in-law is studying electronics. [Who says nepotism is dead?  ;-)  ].  Watch the printer in action:

Hani Alami

My next item is more of a political development but it is welcome good news just the same (via Brian Goldfarb): A Palestinian entrepreneur who sees Israel as an ally, not a foe. This is not something to be sneezed at in today’s hostile atmosphere.

It’s not too often that you find a prominent Palestinian agreeing with Economics Minister Naftali Bennett — but Ramallah-based entrepreneur Hani Alami is unique in that respect and many others. “There is plenty of blame to go around for the political situation,” Alami told the Times of Israel in an exclusive interview. “There are no men of vision on either side. But economically, there is no reason the two sides cannot cooperate, and in fact that would benefit both the Israelis and Palestinians.”

[...]

While Alami does not care for most of Bennett’s positions, he is in favor of advancing tech and economic cooperation. “On this I do agree with him,” said Alami.

Alami is well-qualified to discuss matters of high-tech cooperation. A self-made mogul, Alami runs Coolnet, a Ramallah-based internet service provider that specializes in bringing service to rural areas where broadband is afraid to venture. The Coolnet site unhesitatingly lists several Israeli partners, including Radwin, Radcom, RadVision and Ceragon. Last September, Alami rushed to rescue Israeli telecom firm Alavarion, a 4G communications company, from bankruptcy with a $10.5 million “care package.” Since then, Alami sold his stake in the company, he revealed, saying that he didn’t think the company would be able to solve its debt issues.

For Alami, partnering with Israeli firms — and with Israelis — is natural. He knows all the top Israeli tech figures, even tech guru Yossi Vardi, and is as at home in Tel Aviv as he is in Ramallah. Alami is most passionate about Jerusalem, especially East Jerusalem, where he says there could be an active entrepreneur scene that would benefit everyone in the city — Israeli or Palestinian, Jewish or Arab.

[...]

“We both see Jerusalem differently, and we have that right — Israelis can see it as their capital and Palestinians can see it as theirs. But that has nothing to do with providing opportunities for all residents. If you say that the city is one unified unit, then providing equal treatment and equal opportunity is an obligation.” Alami said he held a meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and told him exactly that. “If we are one city, help us,” Alami recalls telling Barkat. “If not, let us go our way.” Barkat got the message, Alami added, and a number of programs are being formed, many involving Israeli and multinational companies and support from the municipality.

The better off Palestinians are, the better off Israelis will be, Alami said. “It’s in Israel’s interests to promote economic stability, regardless of the politics.

[...]

Alami realizes that his ideas contrast sharply with those of the radical groups, some of which prefer to see the Palestinians remain in a constant state of “struggle,” rather than build successful lives without an independent Palestinian state. He notes that Fayyad’s reforms and the growing Palestinian middle class have not diminished their drive for self-determination. “Even though things are much better economically than they were, people are no less interested in the politics of the region.”

Many of those radical positions are espoused by foreign groups, some represented by NGOs that operate in the PA. Alami emphasizes the foreignness of those groups. “Their agendas are not always our agendas,” said Alami. “I have even been approached by governments for support of ideas for projects that they apparently feel strongly about, but that, in my judgment, will not benefit Palestinians. I tell them politely but firmly, thanks but no thanks.”

Israel has its own agendas and interests. In the tech field, though, Alami thinks they are closely aligned with the Palestinians’. “I strongly agree with the Israelis who see the region as having a great tech potential,” he said. “The Palestinians need help and Israel has the resources to provide it, and many in Israel have told me that they want to help.”

Many Israeli tech executives already work on projects to raise the level of technology education and entrepreneurship among Palestinians. All of them work “under the radar” in order to prevent bad publicity — or worse — that would ruin the delicate ties that many in the tech industry on both sides, Alami included, have struggled to build. “It’s a matter of time,” he said. “We’ve come a long way since we started and we have a way to go, but the idea of tech cooperation with each other is something we all want and will eventually come to the fore.”

You don’t need to agree with all Alami’s politics and statements in order to agree with the most salient points – that economic and cultural cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, i.e. normalization, would be to the greatest benefit of both sides.

Kol hakavod to Hani Alami. Would that there were many more Palestinians like him.

To conclude this week’s special Pesach edition, here is a photo of yesterday’s Birkat Cohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Kotel, via police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld’s Twitter feed. Look at the amazing sight of the Kotel filled to overflowing with Jewish pilgrims fulfilling the mitzvah of aliya le’regel (pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the Festivals).

Birkat Cohanim, Pesach 5774, 2014

My hubby and I made our own aliya le’regel to Jerusalem yesterday afternoon, and experienced several miracles, all in the form of lack of traffic jams both to Jerusalem and within the city itself. Truly Mashiach-zeit!

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

For in every generation they rise up to destroy us

Two separate acts, committed at opposite ends of the world by two separate people joined by one motivating factor – hatred of Jews and the desire to kill them – threw those words from the Vehi She’amda poem in the Seder service into sharp relief on the eve of Pesach.

The arrest of the Overland Park, Kansas City, shooter

The first heinous act was committed by an American Nazi. There is no other way to truly describe him: a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan with a history of violence and extreme hate towards blacks and Jews, and even a prison sentence behind him. Glen Cross (or Miller, he seems undecided about his own name) took himself to the Jewish community center in Kansas City and opened fire, killing a grandfather and grandson. He then proceeded to a Jewish sheltered housing community and killed a woman there. Ironically, all three victims were people he probably would have preferred to have kept alive, since none of them were actually Jewish.

From the Jerusalem Post report:

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — Sunday’s attack on the Overland Park Jewish Community Center and the Village Shalom retirement community has officially been labeled a hate crime, Overland Park police chief John Douglass told reporters on Monday, less than 24 hours after three people were killed outside those buildings.

On Tuesday, state prosecutors announced that the suspect would be charged with three counts of murder. Police identified him as Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr., 73, from neighboring Missouri.

They said the suspect also goes by the names Frazier Cross, Frazier Glenn Miller and Glenn Miller.

[...]

Michael Kaste, special agent in charge of the Kansas City FBI office, would not comment further on what groups Cross might be affiliated with, but the FBI, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League identified the suspect as a white supremacist and former high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Cross was arrested in 1987 and served a five-year sentence for possession of a hand grenade after becoming notorious for perpetrating hate crimes against African-Americans.

Kaste added that he had been known to the FBI but was not being actively watched for potentially disruptive or violent behavior.

Police confirmed the identity of the victims: Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, a freshman at Blue Valley High School who had come to the JCC to audition for the singing competition “KC Superstar.” Corporon died in or near his car in the parking lot.

Underwood succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

The third victim was identified as Terri LaManno, nee Hastings, 53, of Kansas City, who was visiting her mother at Village Shalom.

None of the victims appeared to have been Jewish. Corporon and Underwood were affiliated with the Methodist Church of the Resurrection in nearby Leawood, Kansas, while LaManno was affiliated with the St. Peter’s Parish Catholic Church in Kansas City.

Jacob Schreiber, CEO of the JCC, which serves the greater Kansas City area, read a short statement in which he said the victims and their families were “dear to us” and that the JCC leadership’s “heartfelt prayers are with them.” Schreiber added that he had been “heartened by the outpouring of support” from the community. “It strengthens us as we move forward from this tragedy,” he said.

Logan Cole, a teenage witness to the crime said:

“It could have been such a different situation,” she explained. “I’ve never felt this unsafe calling myself Jewish, and that’s really hard. That’s something that shouldn’t happen.”

Young Ms. Cole has had a rude awakening in the one country in the world without a solid history of antisemitism. Sadly what she experienced in America is something that is well-known both in Europe and the Middle East.

We send our condolences to the families of the victims and wish refuah shlema to the wounded.

Scene of the terror attack

Scene of the terror attack (Flash 90)

The next act of anti-Jewish terror was committed right here in the heart of the Jewish homeland, just before Pesach began. An Israeli man was shot dead and his pregnant wife injured in a drive-by shooting near Hebron, as the family made its way to the wife’s parents for the Seder.  We later learned that the victim is a senior police officer and was previously a senior IDF officer in the famed Intelligence 8200 Unit:

 

Terrorists opened fire on a family car near Hevron in Judea, murdering the family’s father as he was driving, mere minutes before the Passover holiday began on Monday afternoon.

The man, a police officer in his 40s from the center of the country, was killed instantly by the gunfire. He was from Modi’in, security sources told AFP on condition of anonymity.

His pregnant wife was wounded, and evacuated to the hospital in a condition defined as moderate to critical. Additionally a nine-year-old child was lightly wounded in the gunfire.

Paramedics who rushed to the scene attempted to resuscitate the man, but were forced to pronounce his death at the scene. His wife was wounded by bullets that hit her in the waist.

An IDF helicopter was dispatched to scour the area for the terrorists, and likewise large IDF forces were sent out on the search.

The nearby Arab village of Idhna, located to the west of Hevron, was closed as part of the IDF operation, given that the shooter apparently came from the village.

Israelis in another car say they saw a man in a helmet on the side of the road firing a Kalashnikov assault rifle. IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said it was unclear if the attack was the work of a lone shooter, a shooter with accomplices, or a “local terrorist organization.”

“A great loss to the family and the security forces”

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich arrived Tuesday at the Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem to visit the injured widow of the murdered man.

“I met the widow, she is a very strong woman. I knew her husband, a member of the security forces, we worked closely together,” remarked Aharonovich after the visit.

Regarding the murdered man, Aharonovich noted “he was a very ethical and professional man, this is a great loss to the family, and of course to the security forces.”

Aharonovich hinted that the attack was carried out by a group of terrorists, and not a lone shooter.

“She (the wounded woman) told me that the family was on its way to Kiryat Arba to have the seder meal, and one or more terrorists stood and opened fire,” described the minister.

It was a “murderous terrorist event, the act of a terror organization that attacked,” according to Aharonovich. “She was wounded by several bullets and her husband was apparently murdered on the spot. The children sat in the car in back.”

Baruch Mizrach HY’D

The victim was Baruch Mizrachi, a top police intelligence and crime officer:

The victim of a shooting attack outside Hebron Monday night was named late Tuesday as Baruch Mizrahi, a 47-year-old father of five who filled a variety of senior positions in Israel’s military and police intelligence forces.

Mizrahi, who was gunned down in a terror attack as he was driving with his family to a Passover seder, was a senior officer in the IDF’s intelligence force, and more recently a senior police intelligence and crime officer, Army Radio reported.

On Tuesday night, Mizrahi’s colleagues in the police force mourned his loss, saying he would be missed both as a colleague and as a friend.

“This is a loss for his family first and foremost, and a great personal and professional loss to the force and the department, to the police force and to the state of Israel,” Mizrahi’s commander said.

“Beyond being a first-rate professional, he was a true friend who volunteered for every mission with dedication and faith, and lent a sympathetic ear to those under his command, to his colleagues and to his commanders. His presence could not be missed. Baruch devoted his entire life to his two great loves — his family, and the State of Israel.”

Mizrahi, who served in the military for 25 years, filled a variety of senior roles. In June 2011, he was drafted into the police force, where he served as head of the technology department in the police intelligence force.

His pregnant wife Hadas, 28, was moderately injured in the attack. One of their sons, a 9-year-old who was in a second vehicle, was wounded by shrapnel. He was operated on overnight Monday, and released on Tuesday.

What a tragic loss for the family and for the country as a whole. May Hashem avenge the death of Baruch Mizrachi HY’D and bring comfort to his family and friends.

The IDF meanwhile are scouring the village of Idhna from where the terrorist emerged. Despite the fact that the victim was a senior police officer, it is doubtful he was deliberately targeted because his was not the only car that was shot at:

According to an eyewitness, at around 6:00 p.m. a man dressed in black, wearing a helmet on his head, opened fire with an AK-47 rifle at cars passing by, Channel 10 reported. Two cars were struck but managed to flee, after which the Modi’in family was struck by the gunfire.

Shots were also fired at an IDF position near the Tarqumiyah checkpoint. No injuries were reported in that incident.

Binyamin Netanyahu was absolutely right when he laid the blame squarely at the door of the Palestinians for their anti-Israel incitement. The PA didn’t even offer a pro-forma condemnation of the shooting:

As security forces continued their hunt for the perpetrators of the Passover eve attack that killed senior Israeli police officer Baruch Mizrahi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian Authority for the “reprehensible” attack, blasting it for failing to condemn the fatal shooting.

Speaking on Tuesday evening, the prime minister said the attack was a result of Palestinian incitement against Israel, which continued in the form of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to denounce the killing.

“This reprehensible murder of a man who was traveling with his family to a meal for the Festival of Freedom is the result of the incitement for which the Palestinian Authority is responsible,” Netanyahu said.

The blog This Ongoing War (written by the parents of Malki Roth, killed at the Sbarro terrorist attack in 2001) addresses the international media attention (or lack of it) as well as Palestinian incitement (some emphases are added):

To this hour. relatively little media attention (for example, at the BBC) has been given outside Israel to the killing – coming as it has on the twelfth anniversary of the Park Hotel Seder Night massacre in Netanya - or its impact on terrorism-addicted Palestinian Arab society. Two American newspapers are notable exceptions.

The Los Angeles Times wrote that two of the three major terrorist forces in the Palestinian Arab sphere, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both “praised the attack but did not take responsibility for it“.

And the NY Daily News ["Hamas praises shooting that killed Israeli man, wounded his wife and son"] quotes Ismail Haniyeh, the “prime minister” of the Gaza Strip saying the murder “brought back life to the path of resistance” against Israel. He warned Israelis to expect more of the same from Palestinian Arabs, and particularly in “the West Bank [which] will be the future point of our struggle with the enemy.] We believe him.

As for the third of the major terrorist groups, Fatah, and its nominal head, Mahmoud Abbas (marking the tenth year of his four-year term as ‘democratically’ elected president of the PA), there are reports of anger among Israeli sources at their failure to condemn the assault.

We strongly prefer to ignore that genre of strictly-for-the-Western-media play-acting. Mealy-mouthed, plainly insincere expressions of Arab protest have a long and nasty history. One of Yasser Arafat’s bodyguards, Muhammad Al-Daya, shed a little light on the rules of that pathetic condemnation-of-terror charade just a fortnight ago in an interview with the BBC.

As with the thugs from Hamas and Islamic Jihad when they speak in Arabic on matters pertaining to terror, the terrorists ought to believed.

Palestinians riot on the Temple Mount

That same official Palestinian incitement is what leads the Arabs to believe that the Jews have no historical ties to the Temple Mount and no right to pray there. This inevitably gives rise to riots on the Temple Mount aimed at preventing Jews from exercising their inalienable rights to free worship at Judaism’s holiest site.

However, instead of actively confronting this incitement and terror in a similar manner to the IDF hunting down terrorists, the Israel police prefer a quiet life, and simply close off the site to Jews in order to avoid provoking the ever-seething Arab street.  Unfortunately for them, there are occasions, such as Jewish festivals, when Jewish prayer cannot be prevented. This morning another Arab riot erupted on the Temple Mount and the police had to use force to restore order:

According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the violence began as officers stationed at Mughrabi Gate unlocked the passageway at approximately 7:45 a.m.

“Police units immediately went to the top of the mount and used stun grenades to secure the scene,” he said.”Officers stayed there for an hour to ensure order and visitation continued as scheduled.”Rosenfeld said there were no injuries reported and arrests are expected later in the day.

The violence comes three days after two police officers sustained light injuries upon opening the Temple Mount’s Mughrabi Gate entrance for visitation, when a throng of Palestinians threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at them.

According to police, the violence began shortly before 8 a.m. on Sunday, when two petrol bombs and a barrage of rocks were hurled at the officers without provocation.

“Riot control units were promptly dispersed to the Temple Mount, where non-lethal stun grenades were used to disperse the rioters,” said Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld shortly after the incident.

Rosenfeld said the two officers were treated at an area hospital, and have since been released. At least two arrests were made before the holy site was temporary closed down, he added.

“Security assessments were made following the incident and it was decided to limit visitation to prevent any further disruptions,” said Rosenfeld.

The contested holy site was opened later Sunday afternoon for restrictive visitation to avert more violence, he said.

[...]
Although the Supreme Court upheld Jewish prayer rights there, the court allows police to prevent any form of worship if it believes such activity will incite a “disturbance to public order.”

Just as we are disappointed in the American authorities having turned a blind eye to the violent proclivities of Glen Miller Cross, so too we should be furious at our own police and judicial system for caving in to the incitement and violence of the Palestinians, especially at our holiest site.

To remind you of those word in the headline, here is the paragraph we read at the Seder:

והיא שעמדה לאבותינו ולנו
שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותנו
אלא שבכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותנו
והקדוש ברוך הוא מצילנו מידם

And in English:

And this (G-d’s promise) is what stood by our forefathers and us,
for not only one person stood against us to destroy us;
but in every generation they stand against us to destroy us,
and the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from their hand. 

Here is the song performed by Yaakov Shweky and Yonatan Razel:

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Chag Kasher Vesame’ach – Happy Pesach

The Seder plate, Matza, wine and the Hagaddah

This blog is going on semi-vacation over the next week during the Pesach (Passover) festival until after the chag (it finishes on the night of 21st April).  If you would like to learn more about Pesach, have a look at Aish’s website or Chabad.

Not only has every Jewish housewife (and house-husband) over-exerted themselves with Pesach cleaning; the Kotel too has undergone its annual Pesach cleaning:

As elsewhere in Israel, the people responsible for the Kotel (Western Wall) are getting ready for Passover by doing a general cleaning – in their case, of the notes that have been stuffed into the cracks of the Kotel by the millions who visit it every year.

In a custom that has become universal – with non-Jews, as well as Jews, writing out prayers that are “left” in the wall for G-d to address – the wall is filled with notes of all sizes and shapes, all containing pleas for good health, happy families, and myriad other needs. According to Jewish tradition, a prayer rendered at the Kotel – the wall outside the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount – has a special power.

Kotel-cleaning device for Pesach

To make way for the new notes, the management of the Kotel – which is headed by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Rabbi of the Kotel and the Holy Places in Israel – removes the notes every year before Passover. The notes are then taken to a special site in the Mount of Olives cemetery, where they are stored.

The notes were removed Sunday wth a special device that is capable of picking up the small notes that are stuffed into the crevices of the Kotel.

We’ll be having a full house for Seder with our son + 5 kids, and our daughter and son-in-law. And my parents for lunch the next day as well! Luckily we’ll be able to recover over the rest of the festival, perhaps with some day trips to Jerusalem and other beauty spots. On the other hand we might end up with some more “slavery”, helping our son and his family unpack in their new home. :-)

For your Pesach enjoyment, here is a very funny video by the Israeli religious comedy team Underdoss (doss being the self-denigrating name for religious) about the travails of getting rid of and burning the chametz the day before Pesach.

I would like to wish all my readers, along with all of Klal Yisrael, a chag kasher ve’sameach – a happy and Kosher Passover. May we all merit to celebrate in rebuilt Jerusalem “speedily in our days” as we say in the Seder.

!חג שמח

לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה

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