Israel and Saudi Arabia: a desert mirage or a new alliance?

In the crazy world of Middle East wars, politics and shifting alliances, it is hardly surprising that relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia are warming up from their deep freeze. In fact this is an alliance (“friendship” is too strong a word to use) that has been revving in the background for quite some time, ever since the rise of ISIS and more importantly, the tailwind given to Iran by our “friends” in the Obama administration and their European allies through the JCPOA, aka the Iran nuclear deal.

In the interim there has been some political upheaval in the kingdom, with princes and heirs to the throne being replaced at an eye-watering pace.  The newest heir to the throne is determined to drag the medieval country into the 21st century, by whatever means:

(CNN)Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to inherit the throne from his 81-year-old father, is not a patient man. The 32-year-old is driving a frenetic pace of change in pursuit of three goals: securing his hold on power, transforming Saudi Arabia into a very different country, and pushing back against Iran.

Mohammed Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

In the two years since his father ascended the throne, this favorite son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz has been spectacularly successful at achieving the first item on his agenda. He has become so powerful so fast that observers can hardly believe how brazenly he is dismantling the old sedate system of family consensus, shared privilege and rigid ultraconservatism.
In the process, however, MBS, as the crown prince is known, is making a lot of enemies.
Much of the prince’s agenda is laudable and long overdue. He has no interest in democratic reforms, but he does want to introduce social reforms, and is making some progress on that front. That, too, is making him enemies among the old guard.
He has vowed to improve the status of women, announcing that the ban on women driving will be lifted next year, and limiting the scope of the execrable “guardianship” system, which treats women like children, requiring permission from male guardians for basic activities. He has also restrained the despised religious police. And just last month he called for a return to a “moderate Islam open to the world and all religions,” combating extremism and empowering its citizens.
On the economic front, bin Salman wants to reinvent an economy that became complacent from fantastic oil riches — only to see oil prices crash — and bring it into the 21st century with his ambitious Vision 2030 plan.
But the prince’s revolutionary changes require, above all, making sure he remains in charge, and he is letting nothing stand in his way.

The prince is not bluffing. That became startlingly clear last Sunday, when he unexpectedly ordered the arrest of some of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful men.

Read it all, it makes for a thrilling read, even though this is not fiction but real life with very real and dangerous potential consequences if it fails.

Meanwhile, the latest pronouncements and actions emanating from Saudi Arabia give us pause for a cautious hope, though with each country having an influence on the next, there is always the danger of a domino effect, or maybe we should call it the dangers of unforeseen consequences.

The Saudis called on Hezbollah to disarm, threatening to oust it from Lebanon:

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday called on the Hezbollah terrorist organization to disarm, warning the group that regional efforts were underway to oust them from the Lebanese government.

At a press conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, al-Jubeir denounced Hezbollah as “a tool of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards” and “a first-class terrorist organization used by Iran to destabilize Lebanon and the region.”

Saad Hariri, (former?) PM of Lebanon

“Hezbollah has kidnapped the Lebanese system,” he said.

Al-Jubeir added that “consultations and coordination between peace-loving countries and Lebanon-loving countries are underway to try to find a way that would restore sovereignty to Lebanon and reduce the negative action which Hezbollah is conducting in Lebanon.”

The minister’s remarks came as the kingdom rejected accusations that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh following his shock resignation earlier this month.

In response Hezbollah raised the alert across Lebanon, which further complicates matters for Israel:

The Hezbollah terror group has raised its alert status across Lebanon, fearing threat of attack by Israel and other nations, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported Saturday.

The news came amid a political crisis between Beirut and Saudi Arabia, sparked by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation. Hariri cited Iran and Hezbollah’s meddling in the region as the reason he was stepping down. The November 4 resignation broadcast from the Saudi capital is widely believed to have been engineered by the Gulf kingdom.

The Kuwaiti paper further reported that Hezbollah leaders have instructed a halt to arms shipments sent to the group from Iran through war-torn Syria.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, though it rarely officially confirms such attacks.

In August a former air force chief said Israel carried out dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys destined for the Lebanese terror group over the past five years.

Al-Jubeir warned Friday that there will be no stability in Lebanon unless Hezbollah disarms.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Hariri has thrown Lebanon into turmoil and raised concerns that the country could be dragged into a battle for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Indeed Israel has been watching Syria’s actions carefully and taking defensive action where necessary. On Sunday the IDF fired on Syrian targets fortifying positions near the demilitarized zone Golan heights:

The IDF fired upon Syrian army positions Sunday evening near the Israeli border in the Golan Heights on Sunday, the IDF spokesperson’s office reported.

IDF in a military exercise near the Syrian border

Syrian forces had been working to fortify a military outpost in the buffer zone, in violation of ceasefire agreements, and an IDF tank fired deterring shots in response.

A similar incident occurred on Saturday, when an IDF tank fired a warning shell near Syrian forces after identifying a Syrian army-built outpost in the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel, similarly contrary to ceasefire agreements.

According to the IDF, the outpost was located close to the Druse village of Hader on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights.

Earlier this month, following intense fighting in the village, the IDF said it was willing to provide assistance and prevent the capture of the Druse village by anti-regime forces.

Meanwhile Israel is continuing its humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees. For the first time ever, the IDF permitted Israeli TV Channel 2 News to film the crossing of some refugees, and one Syrian mother of a sick child said “All Syrians want to come to Israel” – a mind-boggling statement considering that Israel and Syria have been deadly enemies since Israel’s establishment and even before:

Extraordinary footage showing Syrian mothers crossing into Israel with their sick children for medical care was broadcast by Israel’s Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) on Sunday after the Israel Defense Force (IDF) permitted the channel to film for the first time operations part of its ongoing policy of providing care for civilians and select combatants injured in the country’s raging civil war.

In interviews accompanying the footage, several Syrian mothers expressed deep gratitude to Israel for providing medical assistance and said that many Syrians living near the border no longer view Israel as the enemy, while another said that “all Syrians” would come to Israel if given the opportunity.

“Israel was thought of as the enemy… Now that you are helping us, most [on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights] are with you. They love Israel. They see the true face… the reality,” one mother said.

Another added that the real enemies are “Islamic State, Hezbollah, Bashar [Assad]. They’re all the same.”

“I wish we could stay here for good,” another interviewee told the reporter. “I’d be the first to cross [if the border were open]” she said, adding that “all of Syria would follow me. All the civilians left in Syria would come.”

Read their heart-breaking stories of abuse, murder, executions and more at the hands of the various Syrian factions and the regime.

Watch the video below:

With this in mind, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman called on the Arab nations to make peace with Israel and confront Iran:

“After Daesh, Iran,” Liberman tweeted on Saturday, referring to the Islamic State by its Arabic name. “[Late Egyptian President] Anwar Sadat was a brave leader, who went against the stream and paved the way for other Arab leaders to recognize the importance of strategic ties with Israel.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman looking through binoculars during a visit to the Israel’s northern border, November 14, 2017. Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

“40 years after his historic visit to Israel, I call on leaders in the region to follow the path of President Sadat, come to Jerusalem and open a new chapter, not just in terms of Israel’s relations with the Arab world, but for the whole region,” Liberman wrote.

Sadat famously flew to Jerusalem ahead of signing the Camp David peace deal with Israel, the first Arab leader to do so. Sadat was later assassinated for his actions.

“The Middle East today needs, more than anything else, a coalition of moderate states against Iran. The coalition against Daesh has finished its work, after Daesh, Iran,” Liberman wrote in remarks that appeared to be directed in part at Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has in recent days stepped up its efforts to counteract Iran and its proxies in Yemen, and the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

All these shifting alliances hold great potential benefit for Israel, especially Saudi Arabia’s turnabout, but Melanie Phillips wonders if it is all too good to be true:

According to the Turkish Anadolu news agency, reported here, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al Sheikh, has issued a quite remarkable religious ruling. Answering a question on TV about the Palestinian Arab riots over Temple Mount last July, he didn’t merely denounce Hamas as a “terror organisation”.

Much more significantly he actually issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, forbidding war against the Jews; and he said that fighting against Israel was inappropriate.

How can this be anything other than highly significant?

With a religious fatwa coming on the heels of a Saudi realignment as well as their internal political upheaval, it is probably good news – we will just have to be patient, to wait and see:

We can all obviously see the politics behind this. Saudi Arabia is in the fight of its life with Iran, to which end it has forged tacit and not-so-tacit alliances with Israel as well as the US. The new, reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not only supported this alliance with Israel but, more remarkably, has said that now is the time for the kingdom to get rid of Wahhabi extremism and revert to “what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions”.

…  the fact that the Prince made such a statement about now getting rid of extremism, in public, followed by this fatwa from the Grand Mufti, in public, surely suggests that the tectonic plates might just be beginning to shift within the heartland of Sunni fundamentalism.

Too good to be true? Just more smoke and mirrors? Of no more significance than a temporary alliance of expediency? Maybe. Nevertheless, a religious statement goes beyond politics. Neither the Prince nor the Grand Mufti needed to open up the religious issue in public at all. Watch this space, eh.

I’m sure the Israeli authorities are proceeding with caution. כבדהו וחשדהו is what they say in Hebrew: Literally: respect him and suspect him. Verify and justify.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Good News Friday

I shall start this week’s Good News Friday with some news from last week.  Last Shabbat we read the Torah portion of Chayeh Sarah, “the life of Sarah”, in which Sarah our Foremother passed away. In Genesis 23:16, we read of Abaraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpela from Ephron Ben Tzohar the Hittite for 400 pieces of silver. Ephron had initially offered the cave for free but Abraham insisted on paying the full price. According to Jewish commentators, he did this so that no one should ever accuse the Jewish people of stealing the Cave – he would be greatly disappointed should he read the news headlines 4,000-odd years later.

Nowadays, to honour the memory of Sarah, every year on Shabbat Chayeh Sarah, thousands of Jews descend upon Hebron to spend Shabbat there and to pray in the Cave of Machpela. Last Shabbat, on the day that this portion was read, no fewer than 35,000 Jews (!!) spent a very happy Shabbat in Hebron:

35,000 Jews spent Shabbat (Sabbath) in Hevron, commemorating the Torah reading this Sabbath which relates how the Patriarch Avraham bought Me’arat Hamachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) from Ephron the Hittite for 400 coins.

35,000 attended Shabbat Hebron at Me’arat HaMachpela

The streets of Kiryat Arba and Hevron filled with tents and portable caravans, and over 3,000 Jews enjoyed Shabbat meals at a tent erected for the purpose by Chabad.

Among the visitors were Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud), Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud), Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home), MKs, rabbis, public figures, and guests from Israel and abroad.

Border Police, Shabak (Israel Security Agency), Israel Police, and the IDF’s Judea Brigade secured the event, ensuring order and protecting the safety of participants.

A tent city at Me’arat Hamachpela for Shabbat Hebron with 35,000 in attendance

Committee of the Jewish Community of Hevron Director Uri Karzan said the number of participants was at an “all-time high.”

“This is a special day for Hevron and Jews around the world,” he said. “In the near future, G-d willing, we will host people in the new buildings which are being planned for the Hezekiyah Quarter.”

In even better news, new construction was announced for the Jewish quarter of Hevron:

In recent days, the Jewish Community of Hevron began “Operation Machpela,” to advance the rebuilding of Hevron’s Jewish neighborhoods.

The plans include thirty new apartments near the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva. These apartments will be built on land which was bought by Chabad approximately 100 years ago, for the purpose of rebuilding Jewish Hevron.

This is truly fantastic news! This surely would make Abraham happy! Kol hakavod to everyone who organized and participated in this wonderful Shabbat. May we continue to enjoy peaceful Shabbatot in our historic cities and sites.

Since we are talking about ancient times, a fascinating discovery was made in the City of David in Jerusalem, in, of all things, a refuse pit!

Fossilized remnants from a 1,100-year-old refuse pit recently discovered near Jerusalem’s Old City provide a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights. According to well-preserved seeds, bones and other refuse, ancient city dwellers feasted on beef, fish and fowl, with sides of veggies and lentils. And for dessert? How about cake, or a fruit salad of figs, grapes and black mulberries.

Fossilised grape seeds found during excavations of the City of David

The fossilized refuse provides physical evidence of the urban diet of the Early Islamic period in Israel. Also on the menu, said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists, were eggs, fish, different possibly medicinal grasses — and the first proof of locally grown eggplant.

“Just like we bake a cake and throw the egg shells into the garbage, that’s exactly the form in which we found the eggs. We have scales and jaws of fish and small rodents,” said archaeologist Oriya Amichay in a press release. (The rodents were presumably not served.)

The refuse pit was uncovered in an IAA excavation, in collaboration with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and funded by the City of David Foundation, on the terraced Second Temple Period Pilgrimage Road in the City of David.

Uniquely, the organic remains were discovered in a fossil-like state: Their organic elements became mineral, preserving their shape and color, in a little-known process which the archaeologists are currently “intensely studying.”

An intact oil lamp from the Abbasid period decorated with grape clusters and birds found in Jerusalem’s City of David excavation, November 2017. (Eliyahu Yannai, courtesy of the City of David)

“The grape seeds look as if they just came out of the grape,” said IAA excavation director Nahshon Szanton in conversation with The Times of Israel on Thursday. While it is too early to know if the researchers will discover any DNA remnants, he said, it would be a great boon to science if they do.

The most surprising remnant of organic material are well-preserved eggplant seeds, the oldest known domestic evidence of the fruit in Israel. Szanton was not aware of a tradition of Jews eating eggplant, nor is there evidence in any literature he is familiar with. (Interestingly, the word for eggplant in Hebrew, hatzil, was adapted from Arabic in the rebirth of Modern Hebrew and has only been in use for the past 100 years.)

Szanton told The Times of Israel that while it is understood that all three monotheistic religions lived in Jerusalem during this time period, “we still don’t know exactly who ate what.” He said that it is possible that after further examination of the animal bones, including cattle, fowl and fish, that will become more clear.

What a truly fascinating find, and when the items are properly analyzed they will shed even more light on the fascinating history of Jerusalem. Kol hakavod to the archeologists and researchers of the IAA who are working on this great project.

And now a leap forward back to the present day, where Daniel Peters, a student at a pre-military academy, produced this beautiful film of Israel, recorded from the bird’s-eye view of a drone:

 

Enjoy the beauty of our country, and with this I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!

Posted in Culture, Arts & Sports, History, Israel news, Judaism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The new antisemitism? Or extreme political correctness?

Linda Sarsour is an extreme leftist, “progressive” American activist with a nasty history of supporting terror and antisemitism cloaked as anti-Zionism.  The latest saga in which she has become involved is her invitation by New York’s New School to speak at a panel on …. you guessed it… antisemitism – along with that other admirer of Israel, Jewish Voice for Peace (which is hardly Jewish, nor promotes peace).

The New School, a Manhattan- based university, is sponsoring the event in cooperation with the Jewish Voice for Peace and Jacobin Magazine, both of which promote causes of the radical Left.

Sarsour is Muslim activist and unrelenting critic of Israel who supports a boycott against the Jewish state. Among numerous other controversial statements, she tweeted in 2012, “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of JVP, is also scheduled to speak at the event, which will be moderated by Amy Goodman, host of the radio program Democracy Now.

The mind boggles. Jason Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, tweeted:

Israellycool explained the Tweet for non-Yanks:

It’s just a shame he used a US-specific reference and spelled ‘Oscar Mayer’ (the American meat and cold cut production company, owned by Kraft Heinz) as ‘Oscar Meyer’

Israellycool describes these anti-Israel “activists” thus:

Because the speakers include Linda Sarsour, who denies beingantisemitic, but boy does she hatethose who support a Jewish homeland.

And Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice For Peace (JVP), who sure love their murderers of Jews.

 

Linda Sarsour is also not the great feminist that she promotes herself as being, as the Tower notes:

In a critique of Linda Sarsour, Julie Lenarz, a senior fellow at The Israel Project, observed this past June in The Tower, “Linda Sarsour is not a feminist. She supports a culture that is forcing millions of women into religious slavery. She is a false apostle selling her regressive views to a blinded liberal audience.”

As for Rebecca Vilkomerson, you can read some of her anti-Israel activity and comments here, and below is  a clip of her speaking at J Street, promoting BDS:

The New School did not seem to see the enormity of the problem, and assured the Jerusalem Post wide-eyed and disingenuously of their good intentions:

The New School responded in writing to The Jerusalem Post, saying the institution “is founded on principles of tolerance, social justice, and free intellectual exchange. These values remain central to our mission today, and we believe that engaging in debate on a range of issues and ideas is critical to our role as an academic institution”.

A representative who spoke on behalf of the school added: “We understand that there are different views on this issue.

For that reason, the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism Program has invited representatives of the magazine Tablet to organize an event to present some of these different views on this important topic; the program has also invited to participate Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League”.

The ADL declined the invitation.

Liel Leibowitz in The Tablet magazine launched a blistering attack on the New School for twisted thinking that led to their invitations:

Founded in 1919 by progressive New York intellectuals, The New School rose to prominence two decades later, when it took in a small band of Jewish intellectuals fleeing the Nazis. Eminences like Hannah Arednt, Leo Strauss, and Erich Fromm all benefited from the institution’s commitment to taking in the victims of the world’s most ancient and persistent hatred and giving them a place to pursue their ideas in peace.

How things change: Later this month, the university will co-sponsor a panel on anti-Semitism that will feature, among others, Linda Sarsour, who opined that “nothing is creepier than Zionism,” praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and believes one cannot support the right of Jews to a homeland of their own and still be a feminist. Alongside Sarsour will be Rebecca Vilkomerson, who heads the odious Jewish Voice for Peace. The group, as an ADL report aptly put it, “uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and to provide the movement with a veneer of legitimacy.” Among JVP’s recent achievements are the enthusiastic support of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian terrorist convicted of a bombing attack on a Jerusalem supermarket that left two young students dead and who was recently deported from the United States after lying about the incident on her immigration forms. The group is also a frequent supporter, despite its allegations to the contrary, of Alison Weir, an activist robustly promoting modern-day blood libels against Jews.

It goes without saying, sadly, that the event—which is co-sponsored by prominent progressive institutions like the radical magazine Jacobin—features not a single actual scholar of anti-Semitism, nor one voice that doesn’t belong comfortably in the deep left.

The New School, scrambling to respond to the widely broadcast negative reactions it received, offered to organize a second panel “to discuss these issues”:

We understand that there are differing views on the issue of anti-Semitism. For that reason, the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism Program has invited representatives of the magazine Tablet to organize an event to present some of these differing views on this important topic; the program has also invited to participate Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

to which Liel Leibowitz at The Tablet angrily responded:

The aforementioned invitation arrived several moments later, to myself and other editors at Tablet, strongly suggesting that it had more to do with stanching the bleeding of a public relations problem that seriously resolving a brutal moral error. Even more insulting and infuriating is the fact that the invitation suggests that the New School sees this as a matter of balancing out two equally legitimate sides, each with its own point of view.

There ought never to be a debate between those who fan the flames of hatred and those who suffer its consequences. The New School of all institutions ought to know this, and it’s a shame that this once revered institution now peddles in the bluntest form of moral relativism rather than speak out against bigotry of all stripes.

My question remains: can the organizers at the New School really be so ignorant and obtuse as to think there is no problem with the panel of speakers at the antisemitism debate? Do they honestly think having another panel to discuss these “controversial issues” will balance out the problem?

Either they are so open-minded their brains fell out. Or they are outright antisemites. I still have not made up my mind.

Posted in Academia, Antisemitism, Incitement, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The UN – here we go again

UN – Useless Nations

It was action replay time at the UN General Assembly last week, as the UN lived down to our expectations and voted to condemn Israel 9 times:

GENEVA, Nov. 10, 2017 – The U.N. General Assembly will condemn Israel nine times today, “part of its annual ritual of enacting 20 Arab-sponsored resolutions singling out the Jewish state, and making no mention of Hamas stabbings, shootings or vehicular attacks against Israelis,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch. Click here for list of 9 resolutions.

By contrast, in this year’s session there will be a total of 6 condemnatory resolutions for the rest of the world combined — with one each on Syria, North Korea, Iran, Crimea, Myanmar, as well as one on the U.S. for its Cuba embargo.

All 193 UN member states participate in the initial committee vote today, and then almost always vote the same way in a second and final vote at the GA plenary in December.

“The U.N.’s assault on Israel today with a torrent of one-sided resolutions is surreal,” said Neuer.

“Even after Syrian president Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people within the past year, the U.N. is about to adopt a resolution — drafted and co-sponsored by Syria — which falsely condemns Israel for ‘repressive measures’ against Syrian citizens on the Golan Heights. It’s obscene,” said Neuer.

“While there will be a total of 20 resolutions against Israel this session, not a single U.N. General Assembly resolution is planned today or this year for gross human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela, China, Cuba, Pakistan or Zimbabwe.”

“At a time when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his state-controlled media incite to the continued stabbing and shooting of Israeli Jews, the U.N.’s response is to reflexively condemn Israel in nine separate resolutions, each of them one-sided, each of them utterly silent on Palestinian abuses.”

The resolution drafted annually by Syria condemns Israel for holding on to the Golan Heights, and demands Israel hand the land and its people to Syria.

Israeli military medics assisting wounded Syrians in April. Credit Dusan Vranic/Associated Press

“It’s astonishing,” said Neuer. “After the Syrian regime has killed its own people by the hundreds of thousands over six years, how can the U.N. call for more people to be subject to Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling, and logically absurd.”

“Today’s resolutions claim to care about Palestinians, yet the U.N. is oblivious to the dozens of Palestinians who have been slaughtered, maimed and expelled by Assad’s forces, and more than 3,000 victims killed since 2011.”

“Today’s farce at the General Assembly underscores a simple fact: the U.N.’s automatic majority has no interest in truly helping Palestinians, nor in protecting anyone’s human rights; the goal of these ritual, one-sided condemnations remains the scapegoating of Israel,” said Neuer.

“The U.N.’s disproportionate assault against the Jewish state undermines the institutional credibility of what is supposed to be an impartial international body. Politicization and selectivity harm its founding mission, eroding the U.N. Charter promise of equal treatment to all nations large and small,” Neuer added.

As a further example of the UN’s extreme insanity, there is a possibility that Iran will chair the next UNESCO Executive Board!

A diplomatic battle is under way to prevent Iran’s election to the post of UNESCO Executive Board chairman to replace Michael Worbs of Germany.

The words of Jeremiah in Eicha (Lamentations) illustrated perfectly at UNESCO

Israel has had a contentious relationship with the 58-member board, which in the past has approved resolutions that some say have ignored Jewish ties to Judaim’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.

US and Israeli efforts to block Iran received a boost on Wednesday when the Philippines was one of 27 countries the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s General Assembly elected to a four-year term on the board, effective immediately. Some of those countries are serving their second four-year terms.

In advance of the November 16 election, the board has been split between choosing Iran or South Korea to head the board, but it is possible that the Asia Pacific group will push the Philippines ambassador as a compromise candidate, a diplomatic source speculated in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post.

But the overall make-up of the board with the new members is seen as more hostile to Israel than the previous one.

Germany and the Netherlands lost seats and Turkey gained one. Jordan joined Egypt on the board, thereby providing additional support to any anti-Israel resolutions regarding Jerusalem in the future.

Whether Iran is elected or not, the result is almost irrelevant given the inherent hostility to Israel built in to the organization. The more important issue is the fact that a terror-supporting and revolution-exporting country, which is destabilising the Middle East and holding the world hostage to its desire to build nuclear weapons, could even be considered for such a symbolic post. In fact Iran should not be allowed to be a member of the UN at all.

Then again if the UN expelled every terror-supporting member state, there would be almost no UN left at all. Quite a comforting thought, all in all.

Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama Hacohen, slammed the organization  as “the Titanic of international organizations”:

UNESCO is “the Titanic of international organizations,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said, accusing it of deliberately falsifying history to persecute the Jewish people.

Carmel Shama Hacohen argues with a Palestinian diplomat at UNESCO

In a scathing speech Friday to UNESCO’s 39th General Conference in Paris, Carmel Shama-Hacohen also slammed the United Arab Emirates for having given a gift to all member states but Israel, urging delegates to give it back in protest.

“UNESCO is the Titanic of international organizations, which was hijacked and led by the Arab Group into crashing the iceberg of politicization, and which has been sinking ever since,” Shama-Hacohen said.

He added: “Sadly, UNESCO has been hijacked and abused as a tool for the persecution of Israel and the Jewish people, while concocting fake facts and fake history, meant to erase our history in Jerusalem and rewrite global history.”

Shama-Hacohen dedicated a significant part of his speech to the UAE’s October 30 snub of Israel, though he did not name the Gulf state by name.

At the opening of the General Conference in Paris, the Emirati delegation had placed a box containing a silver medal on the desk of each foreign delegation in honor of the UAE having sponsored the renovation of the conference hall. No box, however, was placed on Shama-Hacohen’s desk.

“Even the inauguration of this very hall was contaminated with the poison of politicization, as the donor state handed out to all member missions a greeting letter and a medal memorabilia: all member missions, aside from one — Israel,” the Israeli envoy said Friday. “How petty, how primitive, how pathetic.”

The incident made clear once again “that petro-dollars can buy much, but there’s no price tag on wisdom, manners and etiquette. Your wealth might be in money, but in dignity you are poorer than poor,” he added.

“These wrongs are done in full daylight, and all keep quiet: silent accomplices to discrimination in sports: one of the foundations of education and culture, and silent accomplices to the attempts to isolate and ostracize Israel in the inauguration of this hall,” Shama-Hacohen said Friday.

“As for the silver medal, which was handed to you as a gift, I’d return it if I were you, so as not to partake in a despicable act which has no place in a free and enlightened world.”

Kol hakavod to those diplomats who took Hacohen at his word and handed him their medals:

Many foreign diplomats stationed at UNESCO gave him their medals — which bore a portrait of Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the deputy ruler of Dubai and the country’s finance minister of the UAE — in protest of the UAE’s move, the Israeli envoy said.

“My initial instinct was to put it to good use as a doorstop,” he said. “However, after giving it some more thought, I decided to donate them to the Syrian refugees who are wandering the cold streets of Paris. These refugees include infants and children, who escaped the atrocities of the Syrian regime and the chemical attacks of that member of the Arab Group against its own women, children and innocent civilians.”

He added: “If you only invested in them 1% of the efforts you put in here against Israel, their lives would have been better.”

Watch his speech below. If only his English was better pronunciated he would make a much bigger impact. Nevertheless, kol hakavod on an excellent speech:

 

As a palate cleanser listen to UN Ambassador the UN Nikki Haley’s fantastic speech to the Israel-American Council as she blasted the previous Obama administration for its betrayal of Israel at the UN, and pledged staunch American support for Israel:

Nikki Haley is a shining example of what a diplomat should look like. Sadly she is a rare diamond in a pig sty.

Posted in Antisemitism, International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Good News Friday

We definitely need a palate cleanser after the week that was, so here is my latest Good News Friday installment.

All the attempts at delegitimizing and demonizing Israel have obviously been a crashing failure, since Israel welcomed its 3 millionth tourist this year! – a staggering statistic considering Israel’s entire population is 8 million:

Earlier today, Tuesday, Israel’s three millionth tourist this year landed in Israel, a new all-time record for incoming tourism in Israel. Ioana Isac from Romania is accompanied by her partner, Mihai Georgescu, tourist number 3,000,001.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin welcomed the couple in the arrival hall in Ben Gurion airport: “This is a special day and an historic milestone as we break the 3-million-tourist barrier and set a new all-time record. We are set to end the year with an amazing achievement, the likes of which have never been reached since the establishment of the State. I am excited to welcome the 3 millionth tourist today and I am happy with the achievements that we in the Tourism Ministry are seeing, as a result of the huge investment that we are making in marketing Israel around the world and our exceptional collaborations with airlines and the connections that we maintain and strengthen with tour operators. All these are bearing fruit and have added about 17 billion shekels and thousands of jobs to the local economy.”

The minister welcomed Ioana Isac in a festive ceremony at the airport, complete with red carpet, balloons and flowers and presented Ioana with a certificate to mark the occasion. Tourism Minister Levin and Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi accompanied the excited couple to their awaiting limousine, as they set off for a dream holiday experience with several options prepared by the Tourism Ministry.

During their vacation, they will enjoy an upgrade to a pampering hotel suite, a ride in a limousine, a helicopter tour in the skies of Israel, a unique Dead Sea experience, a sunset tour of the Tel Aviv promenade and a private dinner prepared by Israeli chef Nir Tzuk in his home.

It wasn’t only the Tourism Minister who welcomed the lucky couple. The Prime Minister himself made a surprise appearance to welcome them and give them a guided tour. 🙂

Kol hakavod to Minister Yariv Levin and the Tourism Ministry on their success in promoting Israel abroad; kol hakavod to Bibi on his nice PR stunt, and welcome to the Isac couple, and to all the other millions of tourists to Israel. May you have a wonderful, exciting, relaxing and fun stay!

Some visitors of a rather different kind could be seen in Israel’s skies this week: Israel hosted 8 nations in the largest ever Air Force exercise:

Israeli Air Force planes. Photo: Major Ofer/Israeli Air Force.

JNS.org – The Israeli Air Force this week launched the largest and most complex aerial exercise in the Jewish state’s history, involving combat pilots and support crews from the US, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India, Italy and an unidentified eighth country.

The drill, dubbed “Blue Flag,” is a biennial event that was originally launched in 2013. This year’s exercise, the third of its kind, involves more than 1,000 participants.

The IDF stated that the exercise aims to advance “diplomatic cooperation between the countries” as well as to improve participants’ planning, targeting, and coordinated command and control abilities in high-threat theaters.

The military also emphasized that the drill is not connected to any specific ongoing security threat.

The involvement of France, Germany, India and Italy in this year’s exercise is the most significant change to the Blue Flag program since its inception. Since 2015, the drill has included Israel, the US, Greece and Poland.

Ynet provides more details about the Blue Flag exercise:

Close to 100 aircraft and more than a thousand support crew and pilots from seven different air forces will take part in the 11-day drill taking place in IAF’s Ovda Base north of Eilat, while officers and attaches from nearly 40 other countries are expected to attend the exercise which the Israel Air Force has described as aiming to “simulate extreme combat scenarios and coalition flights as realistically as possible.”

Dr. Eran Lerman of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that the exercise shows the importance and quality of the IAF and exposes it to the methods of other air forces, but added that its strategic importance was first and foremost in the symbolic participation of pilots from several countries with whom strategic, diplomatic and security relations are getting stronger and stronger.

Lt. Col. Guy, Head of the IAF’s Training Branch, said that besides the tactical advantage gained by training with hundreds of international aircrew members, aircraft and weapon systems, the IAF will also gain a strategic advantage.

“The IAF has two main goals in the exercise,” he said, “the first is to improve the operational readiness of all air forces involved via a quality mutual training experience, while also creating fertile ground for mutual learning. The second is to show the world that the IAF is an advanced, strong and leading force and improve Israel’s international status as a result.”

ndia, which is participating in a military exercise in Israel exercise for the first time on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit, dispatched a C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft, along with a 45-member contingent, including Garud commandos.

“This is the first time the Indian Air Force is training with the Israeli Air Force in a multilateral exercise setting,” the Indian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “Exercise Blue Flag gives us the opportunity to share and learn best practices with some of the best professionals from other air forces.”

This is excellent news both for Israel and for all the participating countries, as they get to learn and benefit from each other’s experience. May the exercise be successful and may this international cooperation continue to grow.

And on the same theme of “Israel is not isolated”, we were privileged to enjoy several celebrities in recent days.

1980s icon Boy George also gave a great concert to thousands of enthusiastic fans in Tel Aviv, while rebuffing anti-Israel critics who protested his visit to Israel:

Whenever I go to Israel, people always say don’t go there, don’t go there. ‘F–k off, I go where I want!” legendary rocker Boy George told the audience as he and his band Culture Club performed in Tel Aviv, The Algemeiner reported Wednesday.

After more than 30 years, Boy George and his band came back to Israel and spent part of the show dressed in an outfit covered with Jewish stars. In addition to three bandmates, Boy George performed Karma Chameleon, one of the band’s signature hits, with Israeli singing star Dana International.

Over the course of the concert, Boy George referred to attempts by members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) to dissuade him from playing in Israel, saying, that he’d taken “abuse” for his stand, and acknowledged that one band member refused to accompany him to Israel. But, he said, “I love it here and it’s always a pleasure to be here!” He added, “There is such a mad vibe in this country.”

Thank you Boy George for your warm words of support! Welcome to Israel and come back again soon!

He was not the only celebrity who has performed in Israel this year:

The famed English band Radiohead performed in Tel Aviv in July despite a very public campaign headed by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters to discourage them from performing in Israel. In an interview a month earlier, Radiohead’s outspoken lead singer, Thom Yorke had dismissed the calls for the band to boycott Israel as “offensive” and “patronizing in the extreme.”

In another blow to BDS, the legendary American rock band Guns N’ Roses finished their world tour a week earlier in Tel Aviv.

Rod Stewart,Britney SpearsJustin Bieber, and Aerosmith all performed in Israel earlier this year.

Let no one tell you that BDS is successful. It is an utter failure!

Meanwhile, another famous singer has also weighed in with words of support for Israel: Morrissey accused the Israel-haters of being  jealous of Israel:

Singer-songwriter Morrissey – who we already know is pro-Israel from, well, so much he has already done, said and sung about – is not doing that reputation any harm whatsoever.

Pop icon Morrissey has accused those who “rain abuse” on Israel of doing so because they are “jealous” of the country.

In the lyrics of his new song entitled Israel the former Smiths frontman also accuses unnamed enemies of wanting to instil their own “dark sky” on the Jewish state.

The near six-minute long pro-Zionist ballad is the closing track on Morrissey’s new album Low In High School.

Morrissey brings out the Israeli flag in his performance

In typically hard-hitting fashion, the singer, who has regularly performed concerts in Tel Aviv, sings: “In other climes they bitch and wine/Just because you are not like them – Israel, Israel”.

Referencing Israel’s critics, he adds: “And they who reign abuse upon you – they are jealous of you as well”.

Israel is not the only track in which Morrissey deals with Jewish-related themes on the new album.

On a song called The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel, the star pays homage to the theatrical production of the same name based on the diaries of Etty Hillesum, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943.

Morrissey’s positive stance on Israel stretches back over a decade –he once appeared on stage in Tel Aviv draped in an Israeli flag.

What an amazing man! Kol hakavod to Morrissey. As Israellycool says, I can’t wait to hear these songs!

And one more celebrity before we go, American actor Will Smith was spotted in Israel – at the Kotel of all places! Israellycool brings us pictures and posts:

He even got time to pray:

 

We can be proud of our wonderful country that so many celebrities want to visit, even if they have been in Jordan and want to “pop in because they are in the neighbourhood” as Will Smith did.

With these happy thoughts I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Culture, Arts & Sports, Defence and Military, Israel news, support Israel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Combatting antisemitism on the streets of London

One more post about the poisonous atmosphere in Britain where Israel is concerned. While Binyamin Netanyahu was in London for the Balfour centenary celebrations, thousands of ill-wishers took to the streets to protest. What were they protesting? Anything from Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria to Britain’s responsibility for the establishment of the State of Israel via the Balfour Declaration, through to opposing the very existence of Israel.

Several thousand pro-Palestinians marched through the streets of London on Saturday to protest the centenary of the historic Balfour Declaration that helped lead to the creation of the Jewish state and to denounce Israel.

The marchers held signs reading “Free Palestine” and Justice for Palestine,” while they chanted “Free, Free Palestine” and “Occupation no more.” There were several ultra-Orthodox Jews spotted marching in the crowd, presumably from extremist anti-Zionist sects.

Several people in the crowd called for Israel’s destruction, Israel’s Channel 10 reported, with some chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Israeli TV reports said there were some 3,000 marchers, and that two hours after the protests started, several hundred pro-Israel counter-protesters arrived and waved Israeli flags nearby.

The British Jewish pro-Israel activist Richard Millett reports on the smears about the Holocaust  on display at the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) march:

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign cannot kick its smearing-the-Holocaust habit. A banner proclaiming the media is, basically, Jewish-controlled and that Jews are, basically, Nazis (see above) was proudly paraded on the PSC’s anti-Balfour Declaration march through London today. There was no objection to it from any PSC stewards.

“Zionist Media Covers Up Palestinian Holocaust”

Added to that a woman wearing a Palestinian flag kept repeating there were “concentration camps” in Palestinian villages (part 1 below) and repeatedly accused a Jewish man holding a British flag of being “the anti-Christ” (part 2 below):

Smearing the Holocaust is a common theme now at PSC events and anti-Israel events generally.

However, the streets were not left to the antisemites. The Jewish and pro-Israel community organized a counter-march, and at one point it looked like the Israel supporters were leading the parade! The Zionist Federation posted on Facebook:

That moment when Zionists took the lead of the anti-Balfour, anti-Israel march in Oxford Street, London today and headed off hate.
Priceless.

 

David Collier, blogger and researcher into antisemitism and anti-Zionism, also reported on the march, with a focus on the role played by British trade unions in this anti-Israel agitation, what he accurately calls their obsession with Israel:

The PSC Twitter feed absurdly suggested 15,000 marched, yet only 2300-2600 walked passed Hanover Square. There may have been a few hundred waiting at Westminster for the speeches, but my head-count for the march itself is supported by full video evidence. The organisers and police had expected about 10,000, so whichever way the organisers wish to spin this, the turn-out was more than disappointing for them. In the end, they thinned the demonstration into groups like a carnival procession, placing a minute or two between them, to make it look far bigger than it was.

Worse still for the organisers, as the procession approached Harewood Place, a group of pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators entered Oxford Street to take up their place at the front of the march. An effective example of guerilla activism that thoroughly annoyed the anti-Israel crowd. From that point on, the first thing anyone saw of the demonstration, was the waving Israeli flags.

Israeli flags hijack the lead in the Balfour Day protest

At least three of the speakers at the static event at the end of the march, negatively referenced the actions of the pro-Israeli crowd, a good indicator of the ‘annoyance’ the activity created. In total, there were about 70-80 pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators present.

As for the unions, supported as they are by the Labour Party:

The obsession of the unions

At the recent Labour Party conference, in discussions I had with both ‘free Syria’ and ‘free Iran’ groups, it became obvious that Labour party activism is being suffocated by the Palestinian cause. Groups supporting real democratic change in the Middle East are not having their voice heard.  If you stand with the Palestinians, you will find yourself in opposition (or left to ignore) most of the real humanitarian causes in the region. Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah become ‘friends’.

So for a moment, we should forget the several hundred hard-core antisemites that walked the streets of London. We need to ask why it is that those people are being supported by British unions, including  Unite the Union, UNISON, NUT, GMB, ASLEF, RMT, FBU, UCU & CWU.

His following words sum up the entire challenge facing pro-Israel campaigners and activists against antisemitism:

There is a knowledge within this small group of Zionists, that is not possessed by most of British society, and certainly not by most mainstream British Jewish organisations. These people see and face down real anti-Jewish hatred on our streets. They see the extremism in the eyes of the opposition, and they know this is a danger that cannot be ignored. On occasions they communicate with anti-Israel activists present, and become aware of the level of ignorance fueling the hate in some of the opposition. And they witness the absurd marriage between the radical left and Islamist positions in horror. The more they see of it, the more they understand it has to be challenged.

David Collier’s words are a warning and a recommendation for pro-Israel activists to be much more pro-active on the social and mainstream media in order to counteract the floods of hatred that swamp the media.

As a side-event to the Balfour celebrations, Netanyahu was interviewed on the BBC by veteran reporter Andrew Marr. As the Campaign Against Antisemitism notes, Marr appeared to blame Israel for the rising antisemitism in Britain, as well as other snide digs at Israel. But Netanyahu did not lose his cool, and put the interviewer straight.

Mr Marr asked Mr Netanyahu: “Can I ask you about the condition of Jews in this country because I’ve got a lot of Jewish friends and there are a lot of Jewish community leaders who are very worried about your government and they say that particularly the settlements issue has made it much, much harder to defend Israel in this country.” However, Mr Marr then added: “We have always had antisemitism in Britain but it has been quite quiet for a long time and it is back on the rise.”

Mr Netanyahu correctly answered: “Well, you know, I wouldn’t blame Jews for antisemitism any more than I would blame blacks for racial hatred stirred against them, or anti-gay hatred. It’s because of what they are.” Mr Netanyahu appeared to have more to say, but Mr Marr interjected: “There’s a distinction between Jews and policies.” Mr Marr was correct to draw such a distinction, which makes his suggestion that many Jews think that rising antisemitism in Britain has been fuelled by the political positions adopted by the Israeli government so extremely clumsy.

It is disappointing and concerning that an experienced broadcaster like Mr Marr, who was the editor of The Independent and then the BBC’s political editor, should see fit to conflate criticism of Israeli policies, which is not antisemitic, with rising antisemitic crime.

Marr appeared to warm up as Netanyahu mentioned the close intelligence and security ties between Israel and Britain.

Melanie Phillips points out, however, that Netanyahu delivered a master class in how to present Israel’s case:

. Watch how he calmly copes with the usual boiler-plate prejudices about the Palestinians and then makes the points that so badly need to be made to a British audience – such as pointing out that Israel has helped save many British lives. Not a fact that the British often hear.

Watch the video and judge for yourselves:

We can all learn from Binyamin Netanyahu’s cool demeanour and immediate grasp of the facts as well as his ability to eloquently present Israel’s case. We can also learn from the example of the Zionist Federation and the Sussex Friends of Israel who organized the counter-march against the PSC and their cohorts, making an anti-Israel demo look like a pro-Israel rally.  Kol hakavod to all of them who participated, many of whom take part in counter-demonstrations every week around Britain.

Posted in Antisemitism, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments