Murder most foul

In the unlikely case that you missed the news from Israel over the past few days, there have been two cases of extreme violence in Israel committed by Israelis (as opposed to the usual multiple cases of Arab violence, of which there were dozens of attacks over Shabbat) which have led to enormous turmoil and self-criticism, as well as the usual finger-pointing, in Israeli society

The Gay Pride Parade Attack

In the first instance, Yishai Schlissel, an Orthodox Jewish man attacked the gay pride parade which took place in Jerusalem on Thursday. He stabbed 6 people, injuring one girl very seriously and another 5 people moderately.  See the shocking photo below.

Yishai Schlissel caught on camera as he stabs 6 people at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade

Schlissel was arrested on the spot and it turns out he has done this before! 10 years ago he stabbed a participant in the gay pride event in Jerusalem and was only released from his long prison sentence 3 weeks ago. This is a “fashla” (screw-up) of the police in a massive way. Schlissel should either have not been released for another 3 weeks, or he should have had an electronic tracker attached to him, or an injunction should have been issued against him keeping him out of Jerusalem for at least a few months.

Israeli Chief Rabbi Lau visits injured victim from the Gay Pride parade

Contrary to the usual denials or bluster from the Orthodox establishment it is gratifying to note that despite the target of the attack being the gay pride event (which is considered completely treif by most Orthodox Jews) the Rabbinate, including the Chief Rabbis of Israel, all condemned the attack and went to visit the injured victims.

I hope that in future these events will be able to take place peacefully and in safety, and despite the controversy surrounding them, Israel will continue to be a tolerant beacon in this violent corner of the world.

Arson and murder in Duma

A much more serious attack took place during the night following this attack. Unknown infiltrators entered the Palestinian town of Duma and set fire to two houses. One house was empty but the other house contained the Dawabshe family who were asleep at the time. The Dawabshes woke up when the fire started, but despite the efforts of the parents, their baby Ali, only 18 months old, was killed and the parents and other children severely burned.

When the emergency services arrived they found Hebrew graffiti scrawled on the walls of the house saying “Nekama” – “Revenge”, “Yechi Hamelech Hamashiach” – “long live the King Messiah” and a Magen David.  Immediate suspicion of course has fallen on Jewish terrorists, and the finger of suspicion has been pointing ever since at “settlers”.

Graffiti of a Magen David and the word “Nekama” – Revenge on the Dawabshe’s house in Duma

This attack is so sickening on so many levels that I barely have words to express what I feel.

The thought that Jews could do such a thing, that Jews could stoop to the level of the lowest of the Palestinian terrorists, that Israelis could think that anything could be gained from burning Palestinian houses, whether they knew they were occupied or not, is beyond comprehension.

The thought that Jews could think that murder is permitted in any context at all staggers me. “Thou shalt not murder” says G-d in the 10 Commandments that we read in shul just yesterday.

I can’t help hoping and praying that the perpetrators are not Jews after all, but the sickening feeling just won’t leave me.

The only compensating thought that abides within me is that even though we have murderers and perverts in our midst, what separates us from our violent neighbours is how we treat them and how we react to them.

Condemnation of the attacks have come from across the Israeli spectrum, from Left to Right, from the Prime Minister on down. You can be sure that when the perpetrators are caught, whether they are Jewish or Muslim, Israeli or Palestinian, settlers or Tel Avivians, they will receive the full force of the law, they will be duly punished, and they will be spat out of decent society. This as opposed to the Palestinians who not only tolerate but glorify their murderers, and name schools, public squares and children’s summer camps after them.

Reactions

In reaction to this latest extreme violence, anti-violence rallies, aka peace rallies, took place on Saturday night.

Unfortunately there was hardly any room given for the right-wing to speak or defend their side which certainly did not alleviate tensions. Exacerbating this was the cancellation by the Tel Aviv rally’s organizers of Naftali Bennett’s invitation to address the Tel Aviv rally. What is the point of not listening to the other side? Why listen only to your own echo? How will that bring about peace to a riven society? Not to mention the lack of peace rallies by the Palestinians:

The social media and political reactions have not been backwards in coming forwards with their analyses, finger-pointing, blame-casting, and general commentary.

Here are some Twitter reactions that reflect my own opinion:

But Israelis cannot help but notice and resent the double standards applied to Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism as opposed to the wide broadcast of the murder of little Ali Dawabshe:

Rachel Molschky has a long list of Jewish victims of Arab terrorism which barely made the news overseas.

Some good reading on this subject:

Prof. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection: In memory of Ali Dawabshe and Hadas Fogel:

While the perpetrators have not been captured as of this writing, the Israeli government and IDF are calling it an act of “Jewish terrorism.” The word “revenge” was spray painted on the wall in Hebrew. Ali’s father Saad and mother Riham, and 4-year-old brother Ahmad, are in the hospital in very serious condition with life-threatening burns.

The attack was condemned by all facets of Israeli society including the Prime Minister and political leaders, as well as Jewish organizations around the world. There is a lot of soul searching going on.

Aussie Dave at Israellycool: Thou shalt not murder:

There is no way it is G-d’s will to have His name desecrated in commission of crimes going against one of His Ten Commandments.

There are no ifs and buts about it. These are deplorable, evil acts and we need to speak out promptly and clearly against them, just like we do against palestinian terrorism.

And yes, I do consider them also to be terrorism, rather than simply “hate crimes.” True, these are not the acts of terror organizations, but rather individuals. However, this is not a prerequisite for terrorism, which can be defined as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

This is not to say there is an equivalence between the respective societies. For a start, these acts are being roundly condemned by almost all of Israeli society – including (importantly) religious leaders. As Israeli Chief Rabbi Lau said yesterday, “The Torah forbids any act of violence… It is clear to all that this is not the way of the Torah and of Judaism.”

Another difference: our Prime Minister has condemned them. Unequivocally. For instance, this was his reaction to the murder of the palestinian child:

And not just the Prime Minister. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum have denounced them. For example:

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett said the attack was not “a ‘hate crime’ or a ‘price tag’ — it’s murder.

“Terror is terror is terror,” Bennett added. “The torching of the house in Duma and the murder of the baby is a shocking terror attack that is unfathomable.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman condemned the “heinous act,” and urged the security forces to do their utmost to track down the killers.

Compare the palestinian response to the Har Nof terror attack last year:

Another thing: these Jewish terrorists will not have any streets named after them.

Every society has sickness and evil within it. The true litmus test of a society is how prevalent & institutionalized it is, and how the society as a whole deals with it.

And Abu Yehuda writes an Open Letter to President Abbas who was so self-righteous in his condemnation of the Duma murder:

We’re human too. We have our criminals, our assassins, and even our terrorists. Of course we don’t treat them as heroes. We don’t broadcast incitement on our radio and television stations. Rabbis don’t exhort their congregations every Shabbat to go out and kill Arabs. We don’t hand out sweets when a murder is committed.

Our security forces will surely catch the perpetrators and our society will spit them out. They will be punished, perhaps even more severely than Arab terrorists. Terrorism is terrorism.

Good luck with the UN. I’m sure they will be happy to set up your commission of inquiry, something they’ve never done after any of the hundreds of incidents of murderous Arab terrorism.

Conclusion:

First of all I send my sincere condolences to the Dawabshe family on their terrible loss of their baby son. I also wish the surviving family refuah shlema, a speedy recovery from their horrific injuries. Similarly I send refuah shlema wishes to all the injured victims from the gay pride parade.

Most importantly, we need to confront the extremists and the poison that they spread amongst us. We need to be courageous in standing up to them and withstand the quailing in our heart at the thought of washing our dirty linen in public.

But we also need to stop wallowing in how bad and evil we are, for this can paralyse us and prevent us from taking positive pro-active steps to work towards mending our society. We need to  accept that evil exists everywhere, and be thankful that we are not like our neighbours who glorify the evil and reward the murderers.

Posted in Israel news | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Good News Friday 

Following a weeks of ups and downs it’s a relief to arrive at Friday and read some good news for a change. So here is this week’s Good News Friday installment.

The opening ceremony of the 2015 European Maccabi Games in Berlin

We’ll start off with the European “Jewish Olympics” – the European Maccabi Games.  This year, for the first time since WWII, the European Maccabi Games are taking place in Berlin of all places. The best and most historically ironic part is that they will be taking place at the very stadium which was built by Hitler for the Olympic Games in 1936 from which Jews were banned.

BERLIN — Over 2,300 Jewish athletes from 36 countries marched Tuesday in the opening ceremony of the 2015 European Maccabi Games in Berlin, in a poignant first since the Second World War.

The launch of the games, often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics,” took place at the Waldbüche, an amphitheater constructed for the 1936 Olympic Games and originally named the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne — the Dietrich Eckart Stage — after Adolf Hitler’s mentor and the founder of the Nazi Party, Dietrich Eckart.

But the tone struck by Germany of 2015 was radically different.

Tuesday’s opening festivities followed a memorial ceremony for the victims of Nazi Germany at the Olympiastadion complex next door. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told athletes, their families and dignitaries from Germany and abroad that “for much too long… real victims (of Nazi Germany) were forgotten,” and that in the years leading up to the 2015 games “this has finally changed.”

“Today Jewish life is once against flourishing in Germany,” he said, with the main stadium of the 1936 Olympic Games, from which Jews were banned, in the background. Germany was determined to “fight anti-Semitism with the utmost resolve” and give it “zero tolerance,” he vowed.

Pointing to Germany’s shift, he paid respects to Jewish female high jumper Gretel Bergmann, who, despite setting a national record, was banned from competing in the 1936 games because she was Jewish. “Hitler robbed her of Olympic victory,” Maas said, “but now there’s a street named after her in Berlin.”

While this week’s competition is officially titled the European Maccabi Games, participants hail from around the globe, representing 36 countries on six continents. They will be competing in 19 sports, from bridge to water polo. The largest delegation by far is the home team, with nearly 400 German Jewish athletes competing.

Members of the Israel’s Maccabi team team at Berlin’s so-called “Maifeld,” where the Nazis once held mass rallies, on July 28, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ)

Berlin Police matched the number of athletes in attendance, standing guard at virtually every corner in the amphitheater for Tuesday’s opening event. After the whole assembly of athletes from around the world marched into the stadium — the German one entering last — police officers stood solemnly at attention as the German national anthem played.

Sadly, in a sign of the times, security has had to be at the maximum, but at least the Germans are taking it seriously:

In light of a rise in neo-Nazi threats, Berlin Police have ramped up security around the competition’s venues, including the Olympiastadion complex and an east Berlin hotel complex where Maccabi Games functions are hosted. Private security guards round out the police presence.

German newspaper Zeit Online also reported Monday that the potential threat of Islamist attacks has prompted organizers to caution athletes against wearing Jewish head coverings in “sensitive areas” of the capital.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the “historical and political significance” of holding the games in Berlin which, she said in a statement, “not only strengthen the identity and sense of belonging within the Jewish community, but also offer opportunities for encounters and dialogue between Jews and non-Jews alike.”

On Monday, more than 500 athletes from 24 countries visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin, part of the Nazis’ machinery of death that claimed six million Jewish lives.

They met Holocaust survivors at the camp, which was built while the Olympics were held nearby, and attended a memorial service led by a rabbi.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said earlier that “the fact that Jewish athletes have decided, 70 years after the Holocaust, on Berlin as the venue for their games is anything but a given.

“We are proud and grateful for this vote of confidence.”

The games also coincide with the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between Israel and Germany.

“It is an improbable success story that was only possible because Israel has offered us the hand of reconciliation, and because Germany has faced up to its responsibility for the Holocaust,” said Steinmeier.

It’s true that this reads as an improbable success story, but as our own roots trip to Germany testified, the German nation is probably doing more than any other European nation to atone for its past criems and to try to make amends with the Jewish people and Israel. For that we have much to be grateful for.

Brian Goldfarb added in a note:

During my time with Maccabi GB, now some 20 years or more in the past (and not counting my preceding years as Chair of the management committee of Leicester Maccabi), the possibility of holding these games in Germany came up once or twice…and were rejected, without any serious discussion, every time. “Can you imagine”, younger, mainland of Europe Maccabi leaders would say, “the reaction to this?” They meant from among emigre Jews and survivors of the Shoah. Those of us from the UK had, perforce, to bow to this: we (and our parents) had been lucky: the Nazis never got across the Channel.

Now, nearly all of that preceding generation have gone, and there is a new generation in Germany, typified by Angela Merkel and her attitude of outreach.

Times change, and sometimes for the better.

Indeed. Kol hakavod to the German leadership and the organizers of the Maccabi Games for this enterprise. We also wish the best of luck to all the athletes!

From one kind of champion to another, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder and head of Shurat Hadin, the Israel Law Center, which fights back against anti-Israel political moves, boycotts and NGOs using the force of law and lawfare, has been nominated as one of the Top 10 Living Jewish Women Role models:

Nitsana is a fearless fighter for Israel on the legal battlefield and has had some very important victories. It is hard to think of a more deserving recipient. Mazal tov Nitsana! May you continue to go from strength to strength, defending Israel as much as any soldier on the battlefield.

Prof. Gal Yadid

Moving now to the field of technology, an Israeli researcher can erase the memory of addiction:

The white powder that’s sniffed, smoked or injected is so highly addictive, because users develop tolerance quickly, causing them to gradually increase the amounts they consume. This and other factors make cocaine addictions one of the most difficult drugs to recover from, with drastically high relapse rates.

One Israeli researcher hopes he can combat this rate of relapse by overhauling the way we do drug rehabilitation. According to Bar Ilan University Prof. Gal Yadid, drug addiction is not the reward disease that it was once believed to be, but rather a learning and memory disease that is more like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than anything else. This distinction made it clear that in order to curb addiction, something had to be dramatically changed in the brain. That’s where Yadid’s alternative method to traditional rehabilitation, called “the Incubation of Craving”, comes into play.

By identifying the changes made to our DNA during withdrawal from drugs, namely cocaine, Yadid is able to reprogram the genes responsible for triggering the addict’s strongest cravings to ensure that they won’t return. The method has undergone successful trials in rats addicted to cocaine, and if Yadid is able to show similar results in humans, traditional rehab centers and “replacement” drugs could be a thing of the past.

“Eternal Sunside” of the addicted mind

In what sounds like something out of the science-fiction movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, Yadid claims that he is able to “erase” the memory of drug addiction, thereby preventing relapse. Before jumping to any rash conclusions about what “erasing” memories may mean, we should clarify the scientific backstory.

“The beauty of acute, robust and targeted treatment is that you don’t change all of the genes in the brain; you only change the genes that have undergone the most dramatic epigenetic changes. Those genes are reset immediately when they meet the drug at a very specific time and according to a particular cue so that we are reprogramming the genes at the height of the craving,” says Yadid of the method, which has yet to be examined in human subjects. Though Yadid claims that this method could potentially “erase” the memory of addiction for up to 15 years, it is still uncertain how long the brain will retain the effects of the demethylating drugs. He will present the results of his study for examination by his colleagues at the annual Society for Neuroscience Conference this year.

Could rehabilitation be as simple as taking a daily supplement?

If the idea of altering genes in your brain scares you (you’re not alone in that boat), Yadid has a more “natural” way to help wean addicts off drugs. He discovered that a common, over-the-counter supplement used mostly for its anti-aging benefits called DHEA could dramatically decrease the likelihood of relapse.

Read the whole thing. It is fascinating and slightly futuristic, but if it works the benefits would be countless and of huge benefit to all society: from addicts to their families to law enforcement to the medical field. Kol hakavod to Prof. Yadid on his research and let’s hope it achieves the desired result. (On a personal note: Prof Yadid taught our son in Bar Ilan University).

A priest inspects the damage caused to the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, which was set on fire on June 18, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Last month a shameful act of arson seriously damaged the Church of the Loaves and Fishes on the Kinneret, and what made the act even worse that it apparently was carried out by Jews. There is simply no excuse for such religious violence on purely moral grounds, let alone on political grounds considering that the Christians in Israel are an honourable and peaceful community.

Therefore it was extremely heartening to read that a group of Orthodox Rabbis are raising funds to renovate the torched church:

A crowdfunding campaign by a group of Orthodox rabbis and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein raised over NIS 50,000 ($13,000) to fix the damage to a landmark church in northern Israel that was torched last month by Jewish vandals.

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, was set on fire June 18. Anti-Christian graffiti in Hebrew was scrawled on the church wall in an attack that drew condemnation from across Israel’s political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Several Jewish suspects were arrested earlier this month in connection with the case.

“Condemnation is not enough; after a while it loses its credibility,” said Elijah Interfaith Institute Director Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, who is spearheading the effort. “When Jews reach into their pockets to support a cause, one knows they are serious.”

The project received the endorsement of 17 leading Orthodox rabbis, including Rabbi David Stav, Nahum Rabinovitch of Ma’ale Adumim, Shlomo Riskin of Efrat and former Jewish Home party leader Daniel Hershkowitz.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein meets with a group of Orthodox rabbis at his office following the torching of the Tabgha church, June 25, 2015. (Yuli Edelstein Facebook page)

As of Monday, the campaign raised some NIS 56,000 ($14,838), topping its target of NIS 50,000 ($13,000) with two days to go.

The church, which is believed by Christians to be the site of Jesus’s miracle of multiplying two fish and five loaves to feed 5,000 people, was set on fire June 18. Two people who were in the building — a 19-year-old tourist and a 79-year-old employee — suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation. No significant damage was inflicted to the church itself, as the fire raged mainly on the roof. Some damage was caused to a book-storage room, offices, and an event hall.

Kol hakavod to these Rabbis who have put their well-known names and reputations to work to restore harmony between the religious communities. May they continue to serve as a shining example of what religious tolerance should look like.

And on this hopeful note I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Culture, Arts & Sports, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Slice of Israeli life, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Iran deal – emerging details make it worse than ever

The more the Iran deal is discussed in the media, and as news emerged from the debate in the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, the more we realize that there is so much about this miserable deal that we were not informed of in advance.

For example, the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey was ignored:

The Obama administration ignored advice from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey regarding details of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey

That’s according to Dempsey, who appeared before a congressional committee on Wednesday, and said his military advice to the administration was that the U.S. should not relieve sanctions on Iran under any circumstances.

“Just to be clear, when you came before the committee then you said under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran on those issues,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) asked the chairman. “So was it your military recommendation that we not agree to lifting of those sanctions?”

“Yes,” Dempsey responded. “And I used the phrase ‘as long as possible.’ And then that was the point at which the negotiation continued. But, yes, that was my military advice.”

Even worse, it emerged that there are secret side-deals between Iran and the IAEA of which Obama was aware but about which he did not inform Congress! Senator Tom Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo discovered these side-deals by accident:

President Obama promised that his nuclear deal with Iran would not be “based on trust” but rather “unprecedented verification.” Now it turns out Obama’s verification regime is based on trust after all — trust in two secret side agreements negotiated exclusively between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that apparently no one (including the Obama administration) has seen.

Worse, Obama didn’t even reveal the existence of these secret side deals to Congress when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. The agreements were uncovered, completely by chance, by two members of Congress — Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — who were in Vienna meeting with the U.N.-releated agency.

Senator Tom Cotton

In an interview, Pompeo told me that he and Cotton were meeting with the deputy director of the IAEA and the agency’s two top Iran negotiators just days after the nuclear accord was announced, when they asked how the agency will carry out verification at the Iranian military complex at Parchin. IAEA officials told them, quite casually, that the details were all covered in agreements negotiated between the IAEA and the Iranian government. It was the first they had heard of the side deals.

Pompeo says they asked whether they could see those agreements. He says IAEA officials replied, “ ‘Oh no, of course not, no, you’re not going to get to see those.’ And so everybody on our side of the table asked, ‘Has Secretary Kerry seen these?’ ‘No, Secretary Kerry hasn’t seen them. No American is ever going to get to see them.’ ”

“We need to see these documents in order to evaluate whether or not verification is ample to make such a big concession to the Iranians,” Pompeo says. “No member of Congress should be asked to vote on an agreement of this historic importance absent knowing what the terms of the verification process are.”

In fact, the Obama administration’s failure to transmit these side deals to Congress is a violation of the law. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which Obama signed into law, explicitly states that the president must transmit the nuclear agreement along with “all related materials and annexes.” That clearly covers any side agreements covering the verification of Iran’s compliance.

It remains to be seen whether the revelation of the secret side deals will make it impossible for Democrats to vote in favor of the Iran agreement. How, Pompeo asks, can they explain to their constituents that they voted for a nuclear deal with Iran without knowing how it will be verified?

“My mission in the next 45 days is to convince 45 House Democrats to override the veto,” Pompeo says. “It’s a long climb, but this is important.”

The Administration also dodged responding to claims that Iran would be permitted to self-inspect its nuclear sites:

The Obama administration ducked concerns Thursday raised by senators in a public hearing that Iran would be responsible for collecting its own soil samples to turn over to the International Atomic Energy Agency for inspection of suspected nuclear sites.

Satellite image of Iran’s Parchin nuclear facility

Officials would neither confirm or deny the claims, made twice during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, which heard testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

The disclosure, first by Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) and pressed further by Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), involved a claim that Iran would be responsible for collecting its own soil samples at a key military site suspected of being used for nuclear-related tests.

“Is it true that the Iranians are going to be able to take the samples [at Parchin] as Senator Risch said? Because chain of custody means nothing [if] at the very beginning what you [are] going to get is chosen and derived by the perpetrator,” Menendez said.

“As you know, that is a classified component of this. It’s supposed to be discussed in a classified session,” Kerry responded, adding that Moniz could brief Menendez about the issue.

“It’s part of a confidential agreement between the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and Iran as to how they do that,” Kerry continued, apparently defending the terms of the Iran-IAEA agreement. “The IAEA has said that they are satisfied that they will be able to do this in a way that does not compromise their needs and that adequately gets the answers they need.

“I’m not confirming how it’s happening,” he quickly added. “I’m saying that we are confident that the IAEA has the ability to get the answers that they need.”

Kerry’s comments indicated that issues such as chain of custody for soil samples and other elements of the inspections regime under the new deal are set by the so-called “side deals” reached between Iran and the IAEA.

After the existence of the “side deals” was revealed earlier this week, the State Department assured lawmakers that they would be briefed on their contents in closed-door sessions. One such session was held Wednesday, and it is possible that the soil sample clause came up during those discussions.

Veteran comedian Jackie Mason sees the situation more clearly than the US Administration:

As for Administration claims that 99% of the world want this nuclear deal, the statistics say otherwise:

Rallies against the deal have been sprouting up across America:

Similar rallies organized by StandWithUS with over 700 protestors each have occurred in Toronto and San Diego. The California protests coincided with the Jewish observance of Tisha B’Av. Regarded as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av marks the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

12,000 at New York rally opposing the nuclear deal

Earlier in the week the first organized Stop Iran Rally Coalition protest took place in New York City.

More than 12,000 people called for Congress to reject the agreement with Iran at an overflow rally in Times Square held during the evening rush hour on Wednesday, July 22. Originally planned for two hours, the rally actually took three hours in order to accommodate the long list of political, military, and community speakers.

The Administration in its desperation has even gone as far as fabricating Israeli support for the deal when the exact opposite is the truth.

Even the head of the Democratic National Council won’t commit to supporting the Iran deal

One piece of gossipy news might go further than all the analyses of the motives of Obama and Kerry to rush to finalize this deal. The website of former Rep. Allen West reveals a very interesting family connection of John Kerry:

You not might be aware that in 2009, the daughter of Secretary of State John Kerry, Dr. Vanessa Bradford Kerry, John Kerry’s younger daughter by his first wife, married an Iranian-American physician named Dr. Brian (Behrooz) Vala Nahed, an Iranian-American physician.

Gee, do you think Secretary Kerry should have recused himself from the negotiations with Iran at the very outset because of his long-standing relationship to his Iranian counter-part, Mohammad Javad Zarif? Let me explain.

Zarif is the current minister of foreign affairs in the Rouhani administration and has held various significant diplomatic and cabinet posts since the 1990s. He was Kerry’s chief counterpart in the nuclear deal negotiations.

Secretary Kerry and Zarif first met over a decade ago at a dinner party hosted by George Soros at his Manhattan penthouse. What a surprise. I have to say, connecting the dots gets more and more frightening.

But it gets even worse. Guess who was the best man at the 2009 wedding between Kerry’s daughter Vanessa and Behrouz Vala Nahed? Javad Zarif’s son.

Does this bother anyone at all?

Apparently not in the Administration. Nor this:

This is the grim reality we face:

We must all join together to oppose this terrible deal and get it cancelled.

Posted in Defence and Military, Iran, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Some good news from the ICC!

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Chief Prosecutor

Yes, you read the headline correctly. Just over a week ago I posted about the ICC’s illegal and anti-Israel move to reopen the case against Israel’s alleged war crimes committed during the Mavi Marmara fiasco.

We had a hint that things would not necessarily go the ICC’s way when Bensouda told the Times of Israel that the ICC “might not reopen the Mavi Marmara case”.

Some Israeli legal analysts said that this ruling leaves Bensouda no choice but to launch investigations not only into the flotilla case but also into Israel’s alleged crimes against Palestinians.

The judges’ decision “has wider implications for preliminary examinations by the prosecutor on Israeli-Palestinian issues,” Tel Aviv University’s international law expert Aeyal Gross wrote in Haaretz. “The decision will make it difficult for her not to investigate alleged war crimes by both sides in last summer’s Gaza war… Also, the decision might accelerate her launching of an investigation into construction in the settlements as well.”

But Bensouda — who in 2011 said that her Muslim faith “definitely” helped her in her job as prosecutor, since Islam is a religion of peace that provides her with “inner strength” and a “sense of justice” — insisted that she will be guided exclusively by the facts and what the law says about them.

The prosecutor’s office “will execute its mandate independently and impartially, based solely on the law,” Bensouda declared. Her office is currently conducting a preliminary examination into alleged Israeli offenses in the West Bank and Gaza and will in “due course” decide how to proceed, she said.

I must admit that when I read that Bensouda said her Muslim faith would guide her, my heart sank. But I apologize for doubting her motives.

And now, quite astonishingly, and against all the expectations of Israel supporters, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has rejected the order to reopen her investigation of the Mavi Marmara incident:

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda rejected an order for her to reconsider the decision to close her initial probe of the case and reopen the investigation into the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens aboard a Gaza blockade-busting ship in 2010.

In response, the Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement, signaling approval of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s decision to appeal the order by a three-judge panel to reconsider her closing of the investigation.

“The ICC never had any business to deal with this event to begin with,” an Israeli official said. “Israel acted out of self-defense according to international law.”

There was no official word from the ICC, but a document shared on Twitter and signed by Bensouda, calling for the probe to be closed, seemed to confirm the report.

Bensouda was asked earlier in July to reconsider her decision last year to close the probe, despite saying there was a possibility that war crimes were committed.

Comoros, under whose flag the Mavi Marmara was sailing, appealed Bensouda’s decision earlier this month, leading a pretrial chamber of three judges to state last Thursday that Bensouda “committed material errors” in her assessment of the case’s gravity.

Consequently, the judges ordered Bensouda to reconsider “as soon as possible” her decision not to proceed with a full investigation.

I wonder whether the judges’ accusation that she committed material errors in her original investigation put her back up and helped in her decision to reject their demand.

Whatever the reason I congratulate Fatou Bensouda on her wise decision. Let’s hope she will be a harbinger of better times to come for Israel in her fight against lawfare.

Posted in Lawfare and Delegitimization, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Kerry’s Jew-baiting, threatens Israel, dangles Pollard as bait

US Secretary of State John Kerry last week engaged in a disgraceful piece of Jew-baiting when he expressed “concern” – which was in fact a not-so-veiled threat – that Israel could be blamed if Congress rejects the Iran deal”:

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Friday that should Congress vote against the Iranian nuclear deal signed last week in Vienna, Israel could find itself more isolated in the international arena and “more blamed.”

“I fear that what could happen is that, if Congress were to overturn it, our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated. And more blamed. And we would lose Europe and China and Russia with respect to whatever military action we might have to take. Because we will have turned our backs on a very legitimate program that allows us to put their program to the test over the next few years,” Kerry told an audience at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York.

Not only was this a threat, it folded within it the charge of dual loyalty for Congress members who might vote against the deal; and also implied that most sinister of plots – the Jewish control or influence of Congress. Isn’t it amazing how much Jew-hatred can be expressed in two short paragraphs? As Kay Wilson remarked:

Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren roundly rejected and condemned Kerry’s words:

Israel’s former ambassador to the United States Michael Oren hit back sharply at US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday evening, warning that his earlier comments suggesting Israel could be blamed if Congress rejects the agreement with Iran on its nuclear activity would not deter Israel.

“If American legislators reject the nuclear deal, they will do so exclusively on the basis of US interests. The threat of the secretary of state who, in the past, warned that Israel was in danger of becoming an apartheid state, cannot deter us from fulfilling our national duty to oppose this dangerous deal,” Oren, now a member of the centrist Kulanu party, said in a statement Friday.

Oren wasn’t the only Israeli politician to condemn Kerry’s words, as another Israeli official said that Kerry’s intimidation will not silence Israel on the Iran deal:

An Israeli official told The New York Times on Saturday that Israel will not capitulate to American pressure and will continue to criticize the nuclear deal that was reached earlier this month between Iran and six world powers. The remarks were made in response to comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who suggested over the weekend that if the deal was rejected by Congress, Israel would be blamed.

The Israeli official, who opted to remain unnamed citing “diplomatic sensitivities,” was quoted as saying, “We reject the threats directed at Israel in recent days.

“The U.S. Congress will make its decision based on American interests, which include consideration of U.S. allies. The regrettable attempt to intimidate Israel will not prevent us from voicing our concerns about this deal, which poses direct threats to Israel’s security.”

Kerry is evidently trying to “sell” the Iran deal to Jewish organizations but after “frank” talks with Kerry (read: contentious) the Jewish leaders still felt that their concerns had not been resolved.  However, typically for American Jewish politics, the leaders are less liberal than their own constituents:

A poll by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal released Thursday, however, showed American Jews are far likelier than non-Jews to back the deal.

According to the survey, 49 percent of American Jews support the deal and 31 percent oppose it. Among all Americans, 28 percent support the deal and 24 percent oppose it.

This might have prompted Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky to call on US Jews to stand up to the White House over the Iran deal:

“Those of us who believe that the nuclear agreement just signed between world powers and Iran is dangerously misguided are now compelled to criticize Israel’s best friend and ally, the government of the United States,” Sharansky said.

Sharansky acknowledged that standing up against the White House in support of “what we think is right” for both Jews and the world, puts American Jewry at odds with the “power best able to protect us and promote stability.” Nevertheless, he said Jews must even risk giving the impression “that we somehow prefer war” rather than join those who believe “peace is on the horizon.”

The human rights activist noted that the U.S. Jewish community similarly stood up to the White House 40 years ago in a historic move that helped secure freedom for Soviet Jews at the time.

Sharansky called on Jews once again to actively oppose the White House like they did 40 years ago.

“Today, an American president has once again sought to achieve stability by removing sanctions against a brutal dictatorship without demanding that the latter change its behavior,” he said. “Of course, we are reluctant to criticize our ally and to so vigorously oppose an agreement that purports to promote peace. But we know that we are again at a historic crossroads, and that the United States can either appease a criminal regime… or stand firm in demanding change in its behavior.”

“A critical question is,” he concluded, “who, if anyone, will have the vision and courage to be the next Sens. Jackson and Javits.”

Pollard is dangled as bait:

Against this background we were suddenly greeted with the strangely-timed announcement that Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard might be released this November.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is preparing to release Jonathan Pollard, a US Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing US officials.

Demonstrators in Jerusalem last year call for release of Jonathan Pollard (Photo credit: EPA)

The release would end a decades-long fight between Israel and the United States over Pollard, 60, who was convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced in 1987 to life in prison.

The Journal said some US officials hope the move will smooth relations with Israel following the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes.

Some US officials are pushing for Pollard’s release in a matter of weeks, while others expect it could take months, possibly until his parole consideration date in November, the Journal reported.

But are the Americans are playing with our minds? Or is this just a matter of bureaucratic hurdles? Or a bit of both? US officials deny the reports of Pollard’s release:

U.S. officials on Friday denied a Wall Street Journal report that the Obama administration was considering early release for Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel.

The Justice Department said Pollard must serve his full 30-year sentence. It stressed that he has long been eligible for consideration for parole in November but insisted that the administration has no say in how that process unfolds.

The timing of the announcement leaves a bad taste in the mouth since it appears that Pollard’s release could be a quid pro quo for Israel agreeing to the Iran deal. In other words, Pollard would be kept as a hostage and “if you continue objecting to the deal, Pollard won’t be released”.

Israeli officials strongly objected to any linkage and asserted that Pollard should be released without any linkage or political considerations:

On Saturday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) told Channel 2, “Pollard is supposed to be released after serving his sentence. There is no [Israeli] political or diplomatic involvement in this matter. It’s an American legal process. The parole board must approve his release from jail after 30 years.”

Kulanu MK Michael Oren, who during his stint as Israeli ambassador to the U.S. visited Pollard in prison, said, “While we will be delighted that Jonathan Pollard will be a free man again, this will not change in any way our position on the [Iran] nuclear issue. The Pollard case is about justice and clemency and the nuclear deal about security and survival.”

Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset’s Pollard lobby, told Channel 10, “The notion that the release of Pollard is some sort of compensation for the nuclear deal with Iran is demeaning and insulting. This is a man who has served 30 years in American prison, and he must be released.”

Dr. Haim Shine in Israel Hayom correctly asserts that it is a moral duty to free Pollard and that any linkage to the Iran deal (which appears to be evident despite all the denials) should be rejected:

merica’s intransigence on the Pollard issue has been incomprehensible. Over the decades, numerous senior U.S. officials vetoed the release of Pollard and even threatened to quit were he to be set free. Heads of U.S. intelligence bodies exerted tremendous pressure on presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, to prevent Pollard’s release. Despite their goodwill toward Israel, neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush were able to stand up to the steamroller of pressure applied on them to keep Pollard in prison.

The impression created by the Pollard story has been that his lengthy imprisonment was intended to deter dual loyalty among American Jews. Given the nuclear deal recently reached between world powers and Iran, it is important, ironically, to remember that Pollard gave Israel information that helped it deal with the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. So, in my view, it makes sense that Pollard’s potential upcoming release is being tied to the Iran deal.

Make no mistake, the release of Pollard at this time is not a gesture to Israel. Pollard is nearing the end of a long and torturous three-decade punishment. If the Americans truly want to placate Israel, they should think about how to change the ridiculous deal with Iran and ensure the future security of Israel and Western civilization as a whole.

The only thing that shocks and surprises me is how the US Administration can misjudge Israel so much, and how much they misunderstand us by trying to play us for a fool when their behaviour is so transparent.

Posted in International relations, Iran | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Good News for after the fast

Tisha B’Av is over and normal programming will soon be resumed. But just to give us a little break between the sadness of the last couple of days and the diplomatic and political troubles that are in store for us, here are some good news items.

Since one of the causes of the destruction of the Second Temple was held to be baseless hatred amongst the Jews, it is heartening to learn that today Jews are uniting around Torah:

Former Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman spoke to Arutz Sheva on Thursday as he participated in an event ahead of the Tisha B’Av fast day of national mourning at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem.

The event, initiated by the Jewish People Policy Institute, included representatives of Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish streams in Israel for a session of joint Jewish learning.

Lipman noted that the destruction of the Second Temple – which Tisha B’Av mourns together with the destruction of the First Temple and several other national tragedies – took place due to “polarization and a lack of unity among the Jewish people.”

“Here we had a learning session with Jews from all backgrounds teaching Torah, symbolizing that we can unite together, we can put aside things that we disagree about, we can unite around Torah,” said Lipman.

He expressed his hopes that this form of unity can happen throughout the Jewish world, “and in that merit we’ll have the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.”

A wonderful column by Jonathan Rosenblum in the Jerusalem Post this weekend expressed a similar call for unity:

The current situation also contains hints as to what we must do so that we do not find ourselves asking, like our Sages after the Destruction: “For what was the Land lost?” A nuclear- armed adversary helps to clarify one aspect of our situation: We are all in this together. An Iranian nuclear bomb would make no distinctions between religiously observant and secular, Sephardi and Ashkenazi.

We are being shown that enhancing Jewish unity – so that it is freely chosen, not forced on us from Above – is the imperative of the hour.

In several places the Midrash and Talmud point out that the armies of the wicked King Ahab were successful because there was peace and love between the Jewish soldiers, and they did not speak negatively about one another.

About 20 years ago, Rabbi David Geffen started an organization called Common Denominator to bring the full spectrum of Israeli Jews together by working on common projects. Before he started, he went to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, then the greatest living halachic decisor, and asked him whether just lowering tensions between Jews would be a worthy endeavor, even if it had no impact on any participant’s religious observance.

Elyashiv told him that it would.

Over a period of three years, Geffen also brought about 25,000 secular Jews to visit families in Mea She’arim. When he heard about that aspect of the project, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, a major American rosh yeshiva, had tears in his eyes, as he told Geffen, “If you can just teach haredim to love secular Jews as they are, without any connection to kiruv [outreach work], you will accomplish more than all the kiruv groups and might even bring the Messiah.”

Weinberg’s point was that one Jew can influence another Jew positively only if the latter feels that the first genuinely loves him and seeks his good and is not just motivated by a desire that everyone be religious like him.

The key to building that love is to focus on our fellow Jews’ virtues and not spend our time taking their spiritual temperature. Most of us have at least some sense of our many failings.

Yet when we look in the mirror, we tend to place more emphasis on our good points. Loving our fellow Jews as ourselves means defining them by their virtues, just as we do with respect to ourselves.

Rabbi Rosenblum goes on to tell the terrible story of Miriam Peretz who lost 2 sons in Israel’s wars, and yet she has retained her complete faith in G-d and has become a motivational speaker. Rosenblum draws the very appropriate conclusions about the importance of unity amongst the different streams of Judaism:

I cannot fathom how Mrs. Peretz had the strength to read that letter, and even to turn it to a source of optimism to an audience of young women starting National Service. But she did. And with her words she shook me from any complacent assumption that only among the great tzaddikim of my haredi community is such intense faith to be found.

May we all make the effort to get to know one another better, to be alert to the admirable qualities to be found in our fellow Jews, and through the increased love and unity between us merit not only protection from those who seek to wipe us out but also to see the Temple rebuilt and Tisha Be’av transformed from a day of mourning to one of rejoicing.

May his words and the efforts of all these righteous people bring the Redemption to Am Yisrael.

Earliest scrolls of Megillat Eicha (Book of Lamentations) from Qumran

Still on the subject of Tisha B’Av, the earliest Echah (Lamentations) scrolls ever discovered were displayed in the Israel Museum this week:

The Qumran edition of the Book of Lamentations (Eicha) will be on display for a four-day period, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced this week, in a special exhibit in honor of Tisha B’Av on Sunday.

The writing on the scrolls dates from 30 BCE – 70 CE and has never been presented to the public until now. The scrolls will be on display in the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem until Sunday night.

The exhibition conditions (climate and light) have been specially adapted to allow the presentation to the public while also preserving the fragile document. The exhibit is also under heavy security during its duration to prevent any tampering.

The Qumran scrolls are part of the “on the Rivers of Babylon” exhibit, the world’s first specifically focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile. It reveals for the first time original documents from the time of the Babylonian exile, as well as highlighting the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This collection has been on display since the month of Av began some eight days ago.

The exhibit also includes the ‘Al-Yahud’ collection: a collection of dozens of clay tablets confirmed to have stemmed from the Jewish community in Babylon which chronicles the life of the exiles from Judea and in the land of Babylon for the first generations after the exile.

‘Al-Yahud’ reveals a wealth of crucial information about this little-known period, and the tablets are currently undergoing extensive research from a team of experts from Israel, the US, and Germany. Research on the tablets is ongoing and constantly expanding; experts say that it has opened an entirely new discipline in the field of Jewish Studies and Assyriology.

“The Qumran Eicha is the earliest scroll of Lamentations, and will be displayed for three days near a rare collection of items from the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish community in Babylon during the dates for which it is relevant – during the nine days before Tisha B’av and two days before Tisha B’av itself.”

These finds are amazing both for their historical and cultural impact but more importantly, they go to prove the Jews’ unbroken connection to the Land of Israel – a connection which is repeatedly undermined by those who hate us and try to deny our history.

Two very happy fathers, twin brothers, with their baby girls

And now for some really good and happy news. In an amazing coincidence – or more likely by Heavenly assistance – a pair of Israeli twins married to twins gave birth minutes apart!

The four, identical brothers married to identical sisters, gave birth to baby girls 20 minutes apart at the city’s Laniado Hospital.

While the newborn cousins aren’t twins, they share quite a bit with their mothers, who were also born twenty minutes apart.

Brothers Niv and Ran Cohen, who assumed a religious lifestyle after joining the Hasidic Breslov sect two years ago, told the news website Walla that their wives’ pregnancies were not coordinated.

The Cohens were mentored by the recently deceased Rabbi Eliezer Shlomo Schick, who introduced the brothers to their wives.

“We always knew the match was heaven sent, but this week we got confirmation,” said Niv, who was married four days after his brother.

The mother of the wives said she’s gotten plenty of exercise over the last several days. “I’ve spent the whole week running in between the two delivery rooms,” she said.

According to the ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar HaShabat, many in Israel’s Breslov hasidic community see the births as miraculous and a sign from God.

The Cohen brothers agree. “We see the Almighty as having bestowed this upon us by virtue of the rabbi,” Niv said, according to Kikar HaShabat.

“Its the best feeling in the world,” he added.

I can imagine!  :-)

A hearty mazal tov to all 4 twins and the very proud (but tired) grandparents!

The best of Israeli fruit and veg

One last good news item for today: Israel’s year-round growing season gives it an edge on competitors:

Israel’s year-round growing season has pushed it past competitors in some of the U.K.’s biggest food markets, the British Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.

Gordon Bickel, the head of Israel’s largest agricultural produce exporter Carmel Agrexco, said Israelis’ ease with European languages (many emigrated from European countries to the Jewish state), the high quality of its fruits and vegetables, and the good weather have given it an edge over many British and Spanish competitors in huge grocery chains like Tesco.

Trade between the U.K. and Israel is at an all time high, at about $7.9 billion. One in seven British National Health Service prescriptions are filled using Israeli-made drugs, the Mail reported.

The biggest U.K. exports include vehicles, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. The two also trade heavily in defense, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying “Israel’s technology is protecting British and Nato troops in Afghanistan.”

The U.K. is Israel’s largest trading partner, after the U.S., according to the report.

That is excellent news! Let BDS eat that!

Wishing everyone a good week and let’s hope for more good news.

Posted in History, Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments