Good News Friday

After all the excitement from across the sea in Britain, it’s good to be able to unwind with a Good News Friday post.

My first item emanates from Israel’s biotech industry: Israel is exporting 500 million bee to Russia to help them improve their agriculture market. The Jerusalem Post has more in “To Russia with Bugs“:

Some 500 million little critters from Israel’s Bio-bee company will head to Russia, it was announced on Sunday.

Illustrative photo of pollinating bees

Aiming to cut dependence on foreign agriculture imports as much as possible, Russia has been investing heavily in providing farmers with financial incentives for building greenhouses as well as using chemical-free pest prevention methods.

The country has banned the import of many European Union fruits, vegetables and even flowers, ever since violent conflict broke out between Russia and Ukraine, garnering sanctions from the EU.

Bio-bee stepped in when the Russian government called with its $1 million order.

This particular order of Bio-bee insects from Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, near Beit She’an, included several types of predatory mites. Among them is the Phytoseiulus persimilis mite and the Amblyseius swirskii mite, which are intended to be a “natural pesticide” for crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and roses.

In addition, an order of Bombus terrestris – commonly known as bumblebees – will be sent to improve crop yields.

The bumblebees will also be part of a cherry pollination experiment taking place in Crimean orchards. If it proves successful, the company said it could pave the way for better cherry growing in Israel.

Good for Bio-Bee that they can benefit from the difficult relations between Russia and Europe, and of course kol hakavod to them for breeding these useful bees. Maybe this will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship!

Turning to a completely different subject, this week the Israeli gymnastics team made history, winning the Gold Medal at the European Championships, held (for a change) in Holon, Israel. Watch this stunning exercise (and apologies for the foreign-language commentary):

A huge Mazal Tov and Kol hakavod to the gymnasts who really outdid themselves, and earned themselves a rightful place at the forthcoming Olympics. I wish them continued success!

And to conclude, despite my earlier post recommending we ignore BDS, here is a great pro-active project to counter the boycott threat: An anti-BDS gift box that comes straight to your door!

Omri Akunis is tired of hearing about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns against Israel, and the start-up he leads aims to counteract the movement.

“In recent years we witness ostracism by movements and countries which result in boycotting products manufactured in Israel,” Akunis said.

His solution? A gift box of Israeli products to be delivered right to your door.

Akunis co-founded the company iBox, which offers a blue-andwhite, made-in-Israel surprise box to its customers.

“It’s a surprise box,” explains Mai Hermann Akunis – another co-founder and Omri’s wife, “you get things that you don’t know but that are something you would need.”

In 2014, a trend of “surprise box” or “subscription box” companies began popping up, offering customers an unusual deal: For a subscription fee, they would receive a box each month with surprise contents. A health surprise box, for example, might arrive with different healthy snack foods every few weeks, or a “Barkbox” could surprise with different doggy toys.

The customers never know exactly what they’ll get, but are generally promised that its contents will be more valuable than the subscription fee, fit into the appropriate theme, and let them try out new products.

For Omri, the iBox seemed a perfect next step.

“I wanted to take Israeli products, put them in a box, and simply send them to people who support Israel,” he added.

The company will target subscribers in North America, and each month send them a box of Israeli products that touch on five senses: hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting and seeing. In a promotional video a box is shown that includes in it Israeli products such as a bottle of wine and a photo calendar.

“The idea kind of rolled around from what started as the BDS and a way to fight it,” said Mai.

The company has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and is hoping to raise $60,000 to kick off their first round of boxes.

Watch the video here:

What a brilliant idea! I’m sure the customers will love their gift boxes, and I am positive the idea will take off in a big way. Kol hakavod to Omri Akunis on his initiative, a positive, pro-active way of supporting Israel.

And with these pleasant thoughts in mind I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Culture, Arts & Sports, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brexit Indeed! They’re out!

After a nail-biting sleepless night, the results are in – and Britain is out! By a slim majority of 52-48% the British public voted to leave the EU. Following this result, David Cameron announced his resignation, to take place in October.

A tearful Mr Cameron – his wife by his side – said the country needed “fresh leadership” and is now understood to be meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

David Cameron announces his resignation outside 10 Downing Street

The PM campaigned to remain in the EU but the public rejected his arguments and chose to leave the EU by 51.9% to 48.1%.

Speaking outside Downing Street, the PM said he would aim to have a new leader in place by the Conservative party conference in October.

“This is not a decision I’ve taken lightly but I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.”

Mr Cameron said he had fought the “only way I know how … head, heart and soul” to stay in the EU but that voters had chosen a different path.

With tears in his eyes, his voice cracking, the PM said: “I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in the future to help this great country succeed.”

It is heartening to see the Great British stiff upper lip in play, together with their concept of fair play:

The PM also used his speech to congratulate Leave campaigners – who included Boris Johnson and his friend Michael Gove – for their “spirited and passionate case”.

Leave campaigners Justice Minister Michael Gove and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson

Speaking after the resignation, both men paid tribute to the PM and said they were sorry he was stepping down.

They were also among more than 80 Tory MPs who had earlier signed a letter saying the Prime Minister had a “mandate and a duty” to stay on whatever the result.

It is indeed a shame that Cameron is resigning. From what I have seen, he has been an excellent PM, representing Britain well in all international forums. He has steered Britain carefully through the upheavals of mass immigration, threats of terrorism as well as this European imbroglio. For all the disagreements between Israel and the UK I believe Cameron was a friend of Israel.

So what happens now? The Telegraph attempts to explain what comes next?

Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, meets the Conference of Presidents at around 8.30am, to agree a common position from MEPs. They are expected to demand that Article 50 is triggered immediately, to prevent months of uncertainty.

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, has said it is ready to intervene to steady the markets. Central bankers from Japan to Switzerland have also offered to step in to provide additional liquidity – a measure not seen since the financial crisis.

By contrast, the official Out campaign has said there is no need to trigger Article 50 until informal negotiations have taken place – potentially lasting years.

Also on the agenda is a discussion of the migration crisis, including tentative proposals for “compacts” to speedily deport migrants back to Africa and the current deployment of naval craft off Libya to intercept smugglers. Britain has a major role in this – a British warship is deployed in the EU’s naval operation and a second has been promised – but the crisis takes a back seat.

Triggering Article 50, formally notifying the intension to withdraw, starts a two-year clock running. After that, the Treaties that govern membership no longer apply to Britain.  The terms of exit will be negotiated between Britain’s 27 counterparts, and each will have a veto over the conditions.

It will also be subject to ratification in national parliaments, meaning, for example, that Belgian MPs could stymie the entire process.

Two vast negotiating teams will be created, far larger than those seen in the British renegotiation. The EU side is likely to be headed by one of the current Commissioners.

Untying Britain from the old membership is the easy bit. Harder would be agreeing a new trading relationship, establishing what tariffs and other barriers to entry are permitted, and agreeing on obligations such as free movement. Such a process, EU leaders claim, could take another five years.

A “new” Britain will have to be created without the umbrella of the EU:

One option will be to simply recreate EU laws as British statute. But Civil Service insiders expect a new Brexit government to opt for something much more radical, and to use the opportunity of “throwing off the shackles” to re-regulate Britain.

It means that the Government would have to do three acts simultaneous: negotiate a new deal with Brussels, win a series of major bilateral trade deals around the world, and revise its own governance as EU law recedes.

Running the show would be an effective “Ministry for Brexit”, under a senior minister.

Hundreds of Treasury lawyers and experts would have to be hired for areas – such as health and safety, financial services and employment – where Britain had lost competence to Brussels. Meanwhile, a Trade Ministry will be required, with hundreds of new negotiators, to establish new deals around the world.

For further reading, have a look through these items from the Times of Israel:

Stocks and oil were in free fall after the results became known.

The British vote has energized right-wing Europeans like the French and Dutch who also want to leave.

Nevertheless, the stunned EU vows to remain united.

With global markets in turmoil, Tusk — who had earlier warned that a Leave vote could “end Western political civilization” — said it was “a historic moment but for sure not a moment for hysterical reactions.”

Although the EU had recently gone through “the most difficult” years in its 60-year history, it was worth remembering that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he said.

But the biggest fear in capitals across the Continent was of contagion, with immediate calls by far-right leaders in France and the Netherlands for their countries to hold their own votes on EU membership.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said the British result was a “victory for freedom” and there should be referendums across Europe, while Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders said “the Dutch people deserve a referendum as well.”

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he was speaking to Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel to avoid a “chain reaction” of euroskeptic success across Europe.

As for the rest of us, we’re just going to have to hold on tight and be ready for a bumpy ride. No one has much idea of the implications of this vote. Never a dull moment.

Posted in International relations | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Brexit – is it good for the Jews or bad?

Britain votes whether to Leave or Remain in the EU

Voting in the referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union or break away (i.e. “Brexit”) is well under way in Britain as I write these words, though the results won’t be known until much later tonight or tomorrow morning. Floods. thunderstorms and huge queues (the two great nemeses of the British public) are hampering voting, adding to the excitement.

What are the pros and cons for each side of the debate? That’s not a question with one clear-cut answer. It very much depends on whom you ask. Here are some articles to help you decide, or at least to understand the points at stake. And I add some delightful cartoons from the Telegraph’s cartoonist Matt who pokes such gentle but pointed fun at the whole thing.

For a general overview, here’s the Times of Israel on Brexit:

A record 46.5 million voters were registered to decide Britain’s future in the 28-nation European Union, which was born out of a determination to unite in lasting peace after the carnage of two world wars.

Voters in Britain are deciding Thursday whether the country should remain in the European Union — a historic vote that has exposed deep divisions over issues of sovereignty and national identity.

The heated campaign has seen the nation take stock of its place in the modern world, even as it questions the direction it wanted to take in the future.

“Leave” campaigners claim that only a British exit can restore power to Parliament and control immigration. The “remain” campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron argues that Britain is safer and richer inside the 28-nation EU.

Financial markets have been volatile ahead of the vote, with opinion polls suggesting a tight race. The pound has surged over the week amid market optimism that uncertainty over the vote would end with a vote to stay. The pound briefly hit $1.48 in overnight trading, the highest level since the beginning of the year.

Opinion polls have consistently shown an almost equal split amongst the British population on whether to Leave or Remain, while the Europeans are already sulking in advance:

EU leaders have warned Britons that there would be no turning back from a vote to quit.

“Out is out,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday, dismissing any talk of a post-vote renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms.

French President Francois Hollande warned an exit would be “irreversible.”

A British withdrawal from the EU would trigger a lengthy exit negotiation, leading to the loss of unfettered access to its partners in the EU’s single market and forcing the country to strike its own trade accords across the world.

In Europe, the referendum has raised concerns of a domino effect of exit votes that would imperil the integrity of the bloc, already buffeted by the eurozone and migration crises.

Though many voters fret over the financial consequences of a Brexit, others relish the prospect of taking back power from Brussels and reining in high levels of immigration.

For those of us (including myself) who can’t decide which way to vote (and for us foreigners, which way we’d like the Brits to vote), here are some articles to help you – or maybe confuse you further!

Harry’s Place recommends you look at the people who back each side of the debate, and make your decision based on that, in a letter addressed to the “Dear Undecided Voter“:

Consider the two key figures in the campaign, David Cameron and Boris Johnson. It’s down to you to judge the merits of their respective positions, but also ask why. For the Prime Minister, the decision to include an EU referendum in his party’s manifesto was to try and stem the electoral bleed to UKIP. For Boris Johnson, well, it’s all about Boris Johnson. How about other leading politicians? Jeremy Corbyn’s platform combines criticisms of the EU with a support for Remain. Why? Some has to do with party management (Labour is overwhelmingly pro-Remain while Jeremy is EU-critical), but there is also the view that the EU guarantees certain minimum protections the labour movement have fought for since its inception.

The writer admits that he’s a socialist and is pro-Remain:

I’m thinking about what it could mean for my brother who works for a large multinational with substantial plant based here. I’m thinking about my parents and what change could mean for them as they get older. I’m concerned about my friends who work at other universities, my friends from overseas who are terrified by the stirring up of the passions – to put it in an understated way – and I’m worried about the not insubstantial pot of money my city has managed to access from the EU in lieu of government funding.

In the Tory Telegraph meanwhile, the Leave campaign is more popular, as Fraser Nelson writes of his sadness at voting to leave “An undemocratic and decaying institution”:

When the eurozone imploded, I thought reform was inevitable – and that David Cameron’s renegotiation would be a triumph.

The EU would choose reform, I thought, as a means to survival. I was wrong. The Prime Minister’s 30 sleepless hours at that Brussels summit simply underlined the futility of the task.

If the EU was interested in discussion and reform, it probably wouldn’t conduct summits after a long dinners. Cameron had to force the issue with a referendum threat, and asked for sensible reforms.

They were rejected, and he was humiliated. And with the failure of his renegotiation, the option of a reformed Europe – the one I’ve supported for years – has been taken off the table.

The ever-sensible Tim Marshall explains both sides of the vote and talks about The Day After the 23rd:

IN?

The global financial markets may still be a little jittery but should calm down as the overwhelming reaction in that world will be one of relief. In the short term the slight dip in inward investment to the UK should end. There will also be a collective sigh of relief in capitals from Washington to Warsaw, but not in Moscow.

However…. The EU still may not survive in its current state.

OUT?

The global financial markets are likely to be extremely volatile for at the least several days as confusion reigns amid much scratching of heads as to exactly what the ramifications will be. Eventually, when they realize the sky has not collapsed, there will be some settling down, but the voyage into the unknown will continue to affect the markets. Both sides are guessing how badly the UK and EU economies would be affected by Brexit and, depending on which is right, the effects will either be severe, or, minimal.

Leaving the EU would take up to 2 years during which time the UK would still be officially a full EU member, bound by its laws, albeit being simultaneously semidetached from the club. At the end of the process the deal thrashed out would be put to the European and British parliaments for approval.

The UK would try and negotiate a trade deal with the EU something which could take much longer than two years. There are various models including one which would mean the British could still benefit from the single market, but would remain bound by some EU laws including those on the free movement of peoples. Other models include a free trade deal trying to remove regulatory barriers and protectionist policies. This would be very complicated although its likely several European states would push the EU to accelerate the deal in order to facilitate efficient trading with the world’s 5th largest economy.

The thorny issue of immigration would also have to be sorted out within two years. If London did not allow EU citizens complete freedom to live and work in the UK Brussels would retaliate in kind.

SHAKEN ALL ABOUT?

The above is why our politicians tells us this is an epoch making vote. Whatever the result the effects, other than on the financial markets and on politician’s careers, will not become clear for months, possibly years. But they will be of great consequence.

And how can we talk about politics anywhere without asking “Is it good for the Jews”? Again, the answer is not clear-cut. The Times of Israel reports that British Jews are viewing the vote with trepidation:

A Jewish Chronicle poll conducted in May showed that 49 percent of British Jews wanted to remain in Europe. Just over a third of those balloted (34%) backed Brexit, but 17% said at the time that they had not yet made up their minds. Age made a great difference to responses, as younger voters — who have, of course, never known a Britain not in the EU — were keener to remain, while older people, many of whom may have taken part in the 1975 decision to join the European Union, were more supportive of leaving.

…Jews in Britain have traditionally been nervous of appearing to speak with one voice on UK politics. But when the campaign really got underway in February this year, many Jews were horrified to see their nemesis, the vituperatively anti-Israel politician George Galloway, join UKIP’s Nigel Farage on stage to back the Brexit argument.

Privately, many Jews felt that a campaign backed by both men was something from which they wanted to distance themselves as far as possible. This has continued to be the case despite the involvement of some “Jew-friendly” politicians in the Leave camp such as the outgoing mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove.

For Jews there are three big questions regarding Europe: the attitude to Israel, and the future of shechita (ritual slaughter) and circumcision. Britain’s membership of the EU has allowed this country’s Jewish community to take a leading role in defending all three positions. Though there are 27 member states of the EU, only Britain, France and Germany have significant Jewish populations and the expertise to deal with these challenges. European Jews would feel a cold wind on many fronts without the support of their British cousins.

And British Jews, in the last several months, have had even more reason to wonder about the impact of Brexit, as thousands of French Jews, fleeing anti-Semitism, have made their homes in London. The French Jews are boosting once moribund UK synagogues and giving a new tone to Jewish education — some Jewish primary schools now have near 60% French Jewish children. And what would happen to French Jews in the UK if Britain votes to leave?

The European project has brought post-war peace to the continent and relative peace of mind to its Jews. British Jews, buffeted by depression at the anti-Semitic convulsions in the opposition Labour Party, and with a naturally “conservative” with a small “c” bent, are perhaps more likely to stick with what they know and vote to stay in.

However, in Israel, an advocacy group that is allied with the West Bank settler movement is urging British-Israelis to vote in favor of leaving the European Union in Britain’s referendum this week.

Regavim says the European Union is biased against Israel and says voters should oppose the 28-nation bloc and try to weaken it by encouraging Britain to leave. (The EU considers settlements to be illegal.)

Regavim claims that European aid money to the Palestinians has reached terrorists, and that the EU is funding illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank. It also alleges an EU rule labeling settlement exports to Europe is anti-Semitic, and that the EU funds hostile anti-Israel groups.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for news of the results. If we hear too close to Shabbat I will post about it after Shabbat.

Good luck Britain!

Posted in International relations | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Combatting BDS – Should we fight it or ignore it?

5a8d2-bdsfailsteinBDS is never far from the headlines, more often than not in the shape of #BDSFails (attempts at boycotts that were spectacular flops). For example in recent weeks we have seen the second-largest German bank, Commerzbank, shut down an anti-Israel BDS account  (via Reality) after Israeli Security Minister Gilad Erdan remarked that banks face”potential legal, reputational and ethical consequences.” And that’s not all:

In February, the Post reported that the French bank BNP Paribas shut the account of the BDS Campaign in Germany that was held by the bank’s subsidiary DAB in Munich.

The Post’s investigative series on BDS accounts in Europe has led to the closure of six accounts of pro-BDS organizations. The network of BDS accounts occasionally overlaps with the shadowy world of Palestinian and Iranian terrorism and unfettered movement in the EU.

Last week, the Austrian bank Bawag shut down the account of the Austria-Arab Culture Center, which had hosted convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, who participated in the 1969 hijacking of a TWA jet. A year later, she hijacked EL AL flight 219. Khaled was in Europe as part of a speaking tour.

It’s not only banks that have joined the anti-BDS fight. US States have joined in the battle too:

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order last week punishing companies in the state that engage in BDS activity. For Cuomo to sanction the companies, they are required to have business with the state government.

“It’s very simple. If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you,” Cuomo said at the time.

Similarly, many academic institutions, both in the US and the UK, have rejected boycott calls despite the triumphant racket that the BDS bigots raise.

Israel’s economy has also not been negatively affected by BDS, and Israel is not isolated either diplomatically or culturally. Read through my recent “Good News Friday” posts to get an idea of how many international music stars have appeared in sold-out concerts here. And just this week (via Reality) the renowned actress Helen Mirren heaped praise on Israel and rejected calls to boycott Israel as she hosted the Genesis Prize ceremony.

So who is affected by BDS? Well, first and foremost BDS actually has an adverse effect on the Palestinians – the reverse of what the boycotters claim they want.

95db9-bds1

It has also greatly impacted on Jewish communities in the Diaspora, as Legal Insurrection reports:

The goal of BDS is to get a hold of the microphone at a church’s national assembly or a student government’s legislative body and spout anti-Israel propaganda into the assembly hall and make life difficult for Jews in American society. BDS is not merely an assault on Israel’s economy and reputation, but an attack on the Jewish Diaspora, which has historically been an important part of the pro-Israel community in the U.S.

If Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the United States can’t finish his talk at UC Irvine, then what chance does an average Jew have in being treated fairly in a classroom at this school?

BDS activism has done more than poison the atmosphere on college campuses. BDS is also factor that has set an increasing number of Democrats against Israel. And that was the point.

One major negative effect that BDS has had on Israel is to make the country “poisonous”  internationally. Despite the fact that the boycotters wish to cause economic damage, they are very happy if they only manage to bring about a psychological association between Israel and trouble.  Thus a theatre might think twice about putting on an Israeli play if they know they are going to be picketed and suffer demonstrations outside the door. Or a company might reconsider ordering Israeli products if they can expect boycott calls (even if ineffective) or other harassment of its workers.

So what can or should be done to combat BDS?

Recently two historic conferences were held on this subject, marking the (very overdue) start of the battle against BDS:

At the United Nations this week, a large group of Israel-supporters convened to “Build Bridges, Not Boycotts” at an “International Summit” sponsored by the Israeli Consulate — and a dozen major organizations — whose purpose was to help train “Ambassadors Against BDS.”

On May 25-26, the newly launched Academic Engagement Network (AEN) held its first national conference. Organized by Advisory Council Chair Mark Yudof and Executive Director Kenneth Waltzer, the conference brought together some 100 or so academics to strategize about dealing with the crowning issue of our day on college campuses: the increasing hostility to Israel and Jews, as both fueled and epitomized by multiplying campaigns to boycott and divest from the Jewish state.

However, since we are Jews, we would be surprised if there were not dissenting opinions regarding this battle. Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, wrote two op-eds, one in the Jerusalem Post and one in the Times of Israel, decrying the New York State anti-BDS law, saying it tramples free speech and will backfire.

Quoting from the JPost:

I don’t support BDS either. But the more the Jewish community yells about BDS, the more we malign and attack BDS leaders, and the more we try to deflect attention to better news from Israel, the more we prove the stereotype that the pro-Israel community has little regard for Palestinians.

There is no doubt that the BDS movement tolerates too much anti-Semitism, provides cover for anti-Semites gleeful about Israel’s every misstep and legitimizes those who call for wiping Israel off the map. But most of the students and other activists who have joined the BDS movement do not come to it through hatred of Israel or Jews, but rather through horror at the very real human rights violations suffered by Palestinians living under military occupation. Such activists are looking for nonviolent means of protest, only to find that Jewish establishment leaders reject every such strategy and tactic, from BDS to the UN to the International Criminal Court.

Now, with the precedent set by Governor Cuomo, these activists may even come to find their rights to free speech limited and will likely blame the Jewish community.

Jacobs gives much too much credit to those who join the BDS movement. They are not so much aghast at “the occupation” but rather they join in because they seek a thrill; the youngsters especially love the “radical chic” idea of “non-violent resistance”. The good of the Palestinians is not nearly as important as “sticking it” to the Israelis.

She continues with the tired old trope of “the military occupation” and the settlements being the root of all evil, and if only it would end, BDS would come to an end. This of course ignores the statements of the BDS founders themselves, as we are shown “In their own words” at the BDS Cookbook:

“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.”
Ronnie Kasrils

“[Israel] was Palestine, and there is no reason why it should not be renamed Palestine.”
Omar Barghouti, Founder, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

f5817-bdsflyer6

[click to enlarge]

So what should be done? Enact laws? Or comply with the demands of the boycotters and end the “occupation and settlements” if not commit national suicide?

Interestingly there is a third way, and that is to stop talking about it and stop fighting it altogether! Ari Soffer, editor of Arutz Sheva explains that we should deny BDS the oxygen of publicity, for that is what they thrive on: (emphases are mine):

Among the more predictable speeches and one-liners, there were several important truths expressed. In particular, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a pre-recorded message, correctly noted that the BDS movement will never succeed in its declared goal of enacting a global boycott of Israel. Even within Europe, the hub of much anti-Israel agitation, Israeli trade figures are rising. The odd B-list celebrity’s cancelled tour, or a boycott of an Israeli cosmetics store in London, isn’t going to bring the Jewish state to its knees. (Shortly after publication of this column, a Bloomberg report illustrated just how massively the BDS campaign is failing.)

And they know that. At most, those behind the BDS campaign see a genuine global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel as a far-off, very long-term goal, certainly not realizable at this time, if ever. Their main and immediate objective is in fact far simpler, and aimed closer to home: Create a brand, rally the troops behind it, and set about dismantling and shouting down all organized opposition in the grassroots arena – be it on campus, on the streets, or in the halls of power.

In that, they have been far more successful. Indeed, their brand is so powerful that even pro-Israel groups use it, coming up with new “anti-BDS” campaigns and initiatives almost every other day it seems. We are being played like the proverbial fiddle. By perpetually “fighting BDS” we further energize its brand, puff up the egos of a mostly pathetic array of extremist activists by screaming about how dangerous they are, while simultaneously succeeding only in accentuating the sense of fear and intimidation felt by “our own”.

Soffer has not only identified the problem, but he has come up with a simple and practical solution:

Create our own brand.

Or rather, recreate it. Because really, the formula for winning over the hearts and minds of the public – on university campuses, in the media, on the streets and in the halls of power – has been lying in our laps this whole time: Zionism.

No, not “pro-Israelism”. Not beaches, diversity, high-tech and liberal democracy. All of these are lovely things, and promoting “brand Israel” as an aside won’t do any harm at all. But none of that can ever replace our most powerful conceptual weapon: the Jewish story.

Imagine: An indigenous nation – one of the oldest still around today – ethnically-cleansed, scattered, oppressed, murdered, forcibly assimilated, brought to the very edge of annihilation, returning to its ancestral homeland after 2,000 years, against all the odds. And then, when confronted by the forces of imperialism, the tiny, beleaguered people which defies history fought and defeated scores of far mightier armies. They outlasted the Ottomans, defeated the mighty British Empire, and smashed the (first British- then later Soviet-led) Arab armies whose openly stated goal was to exterminate us and re-install the “pax-Arabia” (mostly in the service of their masters in London or Moscow).

Today, free and independent in our land, regressive forces from both the East and the West continue to buffet our liberated homeland, all as we continue to slowly and painstakingly rebuild Hebrew civilization in Eretz Yisrael, and shake off the legacies of two millennia of slavery, exile and oppression.

Read the rest of Soffer’s article. He is not a head-in-the-clouds dreamer. He recognizes that there are times when BDS must be tackled head-on and cannot be ignored. But we should stop holding conferences and making “sky is falling!” pronouncements. We should pay heed to his concluding words:

And we must certainly stop defining all of our actions by the other side’s terms. Every “anti-BDS” conference, every social media meme screaming “Is THIS an apartheid state?!”, is simply pouring fuel on the fire and further perpetuating those very myths.

Instead, we must embrace the narrative of Zionism, wholly and without any ifs or buts, and confront “BDS” and every other hateful acronym armed with our own, far more potent, independent narrative.

I think he makes some very good points. However I wonder if any of us have the strength of character to do as he recommends. I certainly hope so.

Posted in Antisemitism, Boycotts and BDS, Incitement, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Slandering Israel – who cares about the inconvenient truth?

Last week the UK’s Independent ran an extremely nasty hit-piece on Israel, claiming that Israel deliberately cut off water supplies to a Palestinian town during Ramadan, purely for the sheer sadistic pleasure in it.  The Israellycool blog was all over the story almost immediately:

Leaving aside the fact that during Ramadan, adult Muslims are not supposed to be drinking during the day anyway, the headline is mendacious. It states as fact something that is in all likelihood yet another blood libel – something you only learn a few paragraphs from the end.

A spokesperson for the Israeli government told The Indepedent there is “no truth” in the claims, and said the shortages were down to faulty water lines.

They said: “Several hours ago, COGAT’s Civil Administration team have repaired a burst pipe line, which disrupted the water supply to the villages of Marda, Biddya, Jamma’in, Salfit and Tapuach. The water flow has been regulated and is currently up and running.

“Given the failure to develop infrastructures as a result of the unwillingness on behalf of the Palestinians to convene the Joint Water Committee (JWC), there are problems in the water supply.”

UK Media Watch reports that when the journalist, Peter Yeung, was challenged on the veracity of his article, he came out with the following scandalous “dog ate my homework” excuse:

Yeung’s claim, that the story he wrote “was never reported as fact“, is astonishing. Of course, anyone can make an allegation.  It’s the responsibility of professional journalists (and their editors) to determine if allegations have merit, not merely to parrot baseless charges and malevolent smears.

In fact, the exact opposite of Yeung’s baseless smear is the actual reality. UK Media Watch writes in a follow-up piece that COGAT actually increased the Palestinians’ water allocation during Ramadan!

We’ve been in touch with COGAT, who told us that, in order to accommodate Palestinians during Ramadan, when Muslims can’t drink water during the day, “the water supply has been increased during night-time in order to meet the needs of the residents”.

COGAT additionally noted to us that, beginning at the start of Ramadan, on June 6-7,  “the water supply to Hebron and Bethlehem [was] expanded [by] 5,000 cubic meters per day in order to meet the needs of the residents“.

So, to clarify, in summer months, the consumption of water naturally increases.

The water carrier can’t keep up with this increased consumption, so residents (both Muslims AND Jews) experience a shortage.  Quite simply, the demand exceeds supply.

However, to make up for this shortage and, most importantly, to address the changing water needs of Palestinian Muslims during the holiday of Ramadan, Israel INCREASED the amount of available water to the Hebron and Bethlehem communities, and INCREASED the amount of available water during the night, the time when religious Muslims will need it the most.

So, the Indy’s charge that Israel malevolently “cut off water” to Palestinian Muslims during the month of Ramadan is pretty much the opposite of the truth.

The water-deprivation libel had barely faded from the headlines when another was dreamed up in its place in the Arab media: that Israel was poisoning the Palestinian water supply:

Now we see a new water blood libel doing the rounds in the Arab media: A report concerning a prominent Rabbi who has issued a religious decree “allowing Israeli settlers in the West Bank to poison Palestinian water sources in Palestinian towns.”

Here is one such report.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has denounced a religious decree made by a prominent Jewish rabbi allowing Israeli settlers in the West Bank to poison Palestinian water sources in Palestinian towns in occupied West Bank. The PLO described the decree as “an order to kill”.

This call is not the first of its kind. Price tag Jewish groups have waged dozens of attacks against Palestinians, uprooting their trees, burning their houses and destroying their places of worship.

Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements, has issued an ‘advisory opinion’ in which he allowed Jewish settlers to poison water in Palestinian villages and cities in the West Bank.

Israeli organisation “Breaking the Silence”, stated that the call for poisoning Palestinian water aims to push the Palestinians to leave and pave the way for Israeli Jewish settlers to take over their lands.

Once again, the intrepid Israellycool blog rips the story to shreds:

The source seems to be the Turkish Anadolu Agency (not correct – see update below)

This story is entirely invented, and represents a pernicious blood libel against Israel and the Jewish people. Here’s how I know this.

Rabbi Shlomo Mlma Does Not Exist

I have never heard of him, nor has anyone else in the know. “Mlma” – with its missing vowel – does not even sound like a valid name!

Not only that, but a few of the stories – like the above – have this photo of this so-called Rabbi.

This is MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler.

The Council of Rabbis in The West Bank Settlements Does Not Exist

There is nothing called the Council of Rabbis in The West Bank Settlements. No Jews living in Judea and Samaria would refer to them as the “West Bank Settlements”! The closest thing is the Council of Rabbis in Judea and Samaria, whose CEO is Yishai Babad. When contacted, he denied knowledge of any Rabbi of that name or such a decree.

These blood libels serve to cause irreparable damage to Israel and the Jewish people. It is important to ensure the truth is disseminated as quickly as possible, before this damage is done.

Aussie Dave is exactly right when he calls out the blood libels as an enormous danger to the Jewish people. UK Media Watch cites a different example on the same theme when calling out Robert Fisk’s description of Avigdor Liberman as “bloodthirsty“.

The blood-libel motif originated in the twelfth century in England and alleged that Jews needed Christian blood for their Passover service. In today’s Arab world – and in some far-left anti-Israel circles – this staple image of unbridled hatred has mutated into Israel’s alleged quest for Palestinian blood.

The changing nature of antisemitism – whereby racists used to attack Jews qua Jews, but now attack Israel as ‘the Jew write large’ – resulted in the inclusion of such modern day libels into the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism.

Nevertheless the onslaught against Israel in some sections of the British media continues, this time with an outrageous attempt in the Observer to tie Israel to an extreme right-wing group which might have a connection to the murderer of MP Jo Cox:

Yet, Mark Townsend, home affairs editor for the Observer (sister site of the Guardian), in an article published on June 18th (Why has the far right made West Yorkshire a home?), somehow managed to tie Israel into the story.

israelThe reference to EDL’s (English Defence League) supposed support for Israel is completely inappropriate in the context of the article, as the far-right group’s alleged position on that particular issue is not even minimally central to their mission. Nor is the information in any way helpful in contextualizing the extremist views of Jo Cox’s suspected murderer.

My two favourite blogs then joined together in outing another outrageous lie by the notorious Israel-hater Richard Silverstein. UK Media Watch adds in the above article:

Interestingly, as revealed by Israellycool, on the very day Townsend published his article in the Observer on Mair and his association with the “pro-Israel” EDL, disgraced anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein touched on the same theme – suggesting, without proof, that the suspected murderer may have had affection for Israel.

As Aussie Dave points out:

Note how Silverstein admits he has no proof of the killer’s affection for Israel, yet still tries to make the connection. What he does not mention in his post is the killer’s disdain for Jews, something he was clearly aware of from the tweet he received and acknowledged above. Alas, mentioning that destroys his thesis.

Silverstein’s pathological hatred of Israel is already well-known, but publishing a post in which he tries to suggest a neo-Nazi may have murdered someone for opposing Israel shows just how far gone he really is.

We have all heard the description of antisemitism as a virus, one that mutates with each generation into a new sub-species, but always with the same Jew-hatred at its core. In these above cases we have seen the virus mutate in front of our eyes. It couldn’t make the water-deprivation libel stick, so they came up with the well-poisoning – an old, classic Jew-hating trope from the Middle Ages and further back. And finally they turned themselves inside out by accusing Jew-haters of being supporters fo Israel.

I wish they’d make their minds up. If a Jew-hater supports Israel, does that make themselves pro-Israel hasbarists? The mind boggles.

Posted in Antisemitism, Incitement, Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The truth about the Palestinian narrative

It’s always good to be reminded about the origin of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In this short video you will learn that the Palestinian narrative was created only in 1964 and is all based on an outrageous lie, a perversion of history and a distortion of the truth.

Watch and learn.

Posted in History, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments