Good News Friday

Continuing the good news from my previous post, it’s time for another dose of positive good news in today’s Good News Friday installment.

Sara Zoabi, Israeli Master Chef contestant and proud Zionist

Our first item for this week is from Israel’s Master Chef TV program, of all places. One of the contestants was a most remarkable woman – Sara Zouabi – and the mother of an equally remarkable young man – Mohammad Zoabi.  What was unusual abotu Sara Zouabi was not only her excellent cooking skills, but her amazing and courageous announcement that she is a proud Zionist:

Sarah Zoabi introduced herself to viewers as an “Arab, Muslim, Israeli, proud Zionist” from the northern city of Nazareth. When one of the show’s judges asked her to elaborate on her nationality and beliefs, she said, “I believe in the right of the Jewish people to have their own country, which is the state of Israel, the holy land.”

“I’m sure that the people who hear me will say: ‘what, have you lost your mind? How can you say you are a Zionist?’ I want to say to all the Arab [citizens] of Israel to wake up,” she continued. “We live in paradise. Compared to other countries, to Arab countries – we live in paradise.”

The contestant also elaborated on her loyalty to Israel, saying she doesn’t have “another state” or “another flag” with which she identifies. She added, “With all due respect to [the Arab] nation, this doesn’t imply treason. I never harmed anyone.”

Praising the Jewish state, she said there is no other country where she could receive the same freedoms as in Israel. She asserted that 100 percent of Israeli Arabs would prefer living in Israel over Palestinian rule, if given the choice.

“No one will agree. That’s what I believe,” she said. “It will cost me, I know that. Same way it cost my son. I’m the mother of the Arab boy, Muhammad Zoabi, who’s life was threatened and who faced death threats over his opinions.”

Indeed, you can read about the serious security problems faced by Mohammad in my links above. The fact that they are relatives of the notorious and treasonous MK Hanin Zoabi only makes their courage stand out more and highlight Hanin’s treachery.

Watch the video of this wonderful woman simply and clearly stating her love of Israel.

The words Kol hakavod are not quite appropriate and nowhere near strong enough praise for Sara Zoabi, who has passed on her strong principles to her son. May they both stay safe and continue to be proud spokesmen and goodwill ambassadors for Israel.

While we’re on the subject of pro-Israel activism, here is another great supporter of Israel – the British MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Steven Woolfe, from the UKIP party:

 

Kol hakavod to Mr. Woolf. Would that all British MPs and all European politicians were as strongly supportive of Israel as him. May Mr. Woolf continue with great success in his work in the European Parliament, and may he have a positive influence on all the political and diplomatic activity going on there.

Yum! My favourite! :-)

Some more excellent news coming out of the UK (at least for some people) – my favourite sandwich filling Marmite is kosher again! (h/t Henry):

Imports of the kosher Marmite produced in South Africa were halted by manufacturer Unilever in 2014 leaving lovers of the yeast extract spread with bare shelves.

However after months of talks with the Kashrut division of the London Beth Din Unilever have agreed to produce a brand new 70g jar on a separate production line.

The existing Marmite products are produced on a production line that also carries non-kosher products, so could not be heschered.

Production on the new kosher version starts next week and the jars are set to be in kosher shops from the end of next week.

Unilever said it is looking at introducing other jar sizes in the future.

Golders Green resident Simon Kalman, who got in touch with the JC when he realised he could not longer buy the South African imported Marmite, said: “It’s seriously good news for those who like Marmite.

“I hope it is going to be widely available and not outrageously expensive.”

Before you all drool with delight or groan in disgust at the thought of Marmite on your kitchen shelves once more, may I remind you of a very important role that Marmite played in almost bringing peace to the Middle East!

I kid you not.  

The story dates back to 1999:

EDWARD DE BONO, the guru of creative thinking, has been called in by the Foreign Office to help sort out the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ever willing to help, he has conjured up a solution straight from a jar – Marmite.

The celebrated master of lateral thinking is promoting supplies of the yeast extract spread as the means to resolve the region’s seemingly intractable problems.

The logic, briefly, is this. A lack of zinc makes men irritable and belligerent. You get zinc in yeast, which is fine for your average lover of Mother’s Pride. But in the Middle East, the bread is unleavened. Ergo, the great man says, Marmite is the answer to easing the way to peace.

He was confident his zinc theory would be proved if only hospitals in the Middle East would co-operate in tests. But he conceded they probably would not.

How successful he has been will become apparent only with the publication of next year’s Marmite sales figures.

First of all there’s a flaw in De Bono’s theory. The only unleavened bread eaten in the Middle East is by Jews on Pesach, and only for 7 days. Nevertheless, who knows what might have happened if Marmite had remained kosher?  Both Jews and Muslims could have eaten it to their hearts’ content and peace would have broken out. Unfortunately it was not to be.

But now the good news has arrived – what are the odds that a Marmite-flavoured Middle East peace treaty will emerge? Any moment now… :-D

From the ridiculous to the sublime, Israeli gymnasts won gold, silver and bronze medals in international competitions this month.

The Israeli rhythmic gymnastics team won the silver medal in Baku, Azerbaijan, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won a personal bronze medal:

The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event.

Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling.

Kol hakavod to all the gymnasts and their trainers! You have done yourselves and your country proud!

Israeli Paralympic rower Moran Samuel shows off her gold medal

Meanwhile in Italy, Moran Samuel, the Israeli paralympic athlete, won the gold medal in rowing at the 2015 World Rowing Cup in Italy:

Samuel made history by not only shattering her own personal record, but she also broke the Israeli record while defeating the reigning world champion, Norwegian rower Birgit Skarstein.

The Israeli rower crossed the finish line with a time of 5:15.77.

Samuel has been guided by her Italian coach, Paula Grizati. She has also trained extensively at The Daniel Rowing Center in Tel Aviv.

“Moran gives it all she has during training,” Grizati said. “She displays professionalism, and she has made consistent and impressive progress. She deserved to win.”

Kol hakavod to Moran Samuel on her very impressive win. May she go from strength to strength in all her future competitions.

I’ll finish this week’s post with one more BDS Fail. An Israeli Irish Dance academy, the Carey Academy, will be holding an Irish Dance festival (or Feis), and Irish dancers are being urged to boycott the festival. The Irish Carey Academy rejected the boycott call, anf following this, there appeared a most amazing and heart-warming anti-boycott opinion column in the Irish Independent (h/t Reality):

All cultures, we are told, are equal. But some are less equal than others.

Thus, it’s perfectly acceptable to sneer at America, and it is positively de rigeur to libel Israel as a genocidal, Nazi, apartheid state that is, as Vincent Browne disgracefully claimed, a ‘cancer’ in the Middle East.

The ongoing BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement has been loud and shrill in their calls for a complete boycott of individual Israelis, regardless of their own political affiliation.

The latest example of this racist profiling comes with the news that Israel’s first Irish dancing festival is now the latest target of the BDS bullies.

An Irish dancing school, the Carey Academy, was hoping to hold the feis in Tel Aviv in August, but it was instantly trolled by the usual worthies who were quick to accuse them of “being on the wrong side of history. Don’t shame our name.”

Israel is not, by any standard, an ‘apartheid’ state, no matter how many times this slur is repeated. Israeli Arabs sit in the Knesset, hold high office, and proudly represent the country in sports, science and medicine.

The campaigners know that when it comes to informing people who don’t really care one way or the other, using such inflammatory devices as “apartheid” provides a shortcut for people who don’t have the time or the inclination to actually educate themselves on the issue.

To the eternal credit of the Carey School, it didn’t immediately buckle in the face of such unsolicited harassment.

Instead, it issued a rebuttal which stated: Running a feis in Israel does not mean we support or are involved with the Israeli government or any extremist groups,” while one of the judges of the contest asked: “Once we go down that road, where do we stop?”

That’s a good question, but one that provides its own answer – these campaigns will end only when Israel ceases to exist.

Where are all these heroic ‘human rights’ activists when it comes to the actual abuses in China, Cuba, Sudan, Russia or any of the dozens of other countries that are run like virtual prison camps?

Where are all the human rights activists when Hamas openly declares its intention to kill every Jew?

More pertinently, where are the protests against Egypt, which also has a border and which treats the Palestinians abominably?

The Middle East is burning. The countries bordering Israel are succumbing to civil war, genocidal extremism and primitive savagery.

Meanwhile, there is one country in the area where it is safe to be a woman, or be gay, where it is safe to be a dissenter.

Let’s be clear, Israel is the only beacon of 21st-century civilisation in a region where medieval savagery holds sway.

And yet, bafflingly, that is the country we choose to demonise.

Kol hakavod to Ian O’Doherty for his brave column (yes, in today’s atmosphere when it is so fashionable to be anti-Israel it takes quite an amount of courage to publish a contrary opinion). Let’s hope he gives the boycotting bullies something to think about.

Maybe we should feed them all Marmite… ;-)

And on that inspiring and tasty note, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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

BDS fails of the month

How to boycott Israel properly

How to boycott Israel properly

Despite the noise and publicity generated by the BDS anti-Israel and antisemitic boycott campaign, it’s important to keep in mind that in fact the boycott movement has made little to no headway in isolating Israel or damaging its economy.

Following is a joint post by Brian Goldfarb and myself on BDS Fails.

Brian writes:

Anne noted, in her posting headed “The future’s bright, the future’s not Orange in Israel”, about half-way down, the BDS vote at the NUS Executive meeting.

Denis MacEoin, a Senior Researcher at The Gatestone Institute (and at The Middle East Forum), a scholar of Islamic studies and Arabic with a PhD from Cambridge in Middle Eastern Studies, has published an article in The Gatestone Institute in which he goes to town on the Executive of the NUS.

Having started, more in sorrow than in anger, by noting that none of the supporters of Israel that he knows wish harm to the Palestinians; indeed, they wish whole-heartedly for a just and peaceful solution to the desires of both peoples for self rule. Then he lets rip at the UK students:

We believe sincerely that boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israel will not bring peace so long as the Palestinian leaderships in Gaza and the West Bank insist that they intend to destroy Israel and take control of its entire territory.

[The NUS Executive’s] latest resolution to boycott Israel is in defiance of historical, geographical, political and legal fact. Your motions are built on a pastiche of lies, misunderstandings, and distortions of reality. That worries me. It worries me because I expect today’s university students to be as earnest in their pursuit of truth and fact as I was trained to be when I was in their position. It is not your fault. You study the sciences or philosophy or literature or European history, and you do not have historical, political, or sociological training to equip you to comment or write motions on the situation in the Middle East.

(For entirely personal reasons, I love the references to the social sciences.)

If you think that this is harsh, it gets worse (or better, depending on your perspective), because he effectively accuses them of acting out of ignorance. They have no first-hand knowledge of the subject on which they pontificate. Thus, he says

If you cannot read Arabic or another Islamic language, if you have never studied Islamic history, doctrine, scripture or civilization, if you know little of the modern history of the Middle East from the collapse of the Ottoman empire until today, if you rely entirely on propaganda put out by pro-Palestinian activists, if you refuse to listen to or take on board the views of scholars and others from the Israeli point of view, you are in denial of all the best values of objective enquiry of the academy. I do not meddle in physics, medicine, Chinese affairs, or Latin American politics because I have no expert knowledge of any of them. Ignorance is not a substitute for informed understanding. (emphasis added)


You all know that an essay that uses sources from one side only will be failed. However forceful the argument, if it gives no space to the views of those with whom the writer disagrees, it will — and should be — rejected. No doubt, one-sidedness works well as a foundation for political success, not least in the use of propaganda. But it is an insult to the values of academic life.

Note what MacEoin is not telling the NUS Executive: he is not expecting them to tour the Middle East to learn for themselves (although the pro-BDS members would get a very interesting education should they visit Israel); he is telling them to listen to both sides of the argument from those who have expert knowledge. This is what they are supposed to be doing in their studies, after all. For example, I would love them to meet the female guide to the Knesset who took our group round the building: the young woman, wearing a very smart tailored trouser suit, highly educated, and a Muslim: a Muslim citizen of Israel.

All this comes in the first 6 paragraphs of his article, essay, rather. There are a further 11 paragraphs and I urge you to read them all. It’s powerful stuff.

Turning elsewhere, how’s this for an opening sentence:

Hamas has found new allies: the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

f5817-bdsflyer6Is this powerful enough and startling enough to stop one short? Why would Hamas need partners like these, when they already roam the streets of western cities chanting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”. If you don’t find that chilling, you should. Especially when you learn that the author is the very well informed Khaled Abu Toameh, who writes in The Gatestone Institute:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have expressed deep satisfaction with the work of the BDS activists around the world. Hamas is convinced that the anti-Israel campaign will ultimately pave the way for the elimination of Israel.

For Hamas, this is not just about boycotting or imposing sanctions against Israel. Rather, it is about delegitimizing and isolating Israel, and turning it into a rogue state that has no right to exist.

In other words, the useful idiots of the BDS will do Hamas’ work for it.

Of course, Toameh doesn’t leave it there; Having devoted another couple of paragraphs to this thesis, developing what he takes to be Hamas’ take on the BDS movement, he makes a highly pertinent point:

 Now that most of the Arab countries — including Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — have turned their backs on Hamas, the Islamist movement considers the BDS movement its natural partner in the fight against Israel. The leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip are rubbing their hands with satisfaction as they follow the anti-Israel activities of BDS supporters on university campuses in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain.

Hamas views these BDS activities as an extension of the campaign to destroy Israel that the Islamist movement has been waging since its founding in 1988. While Hamas has been unable to send its representatives to speak to students and professors at the university campuses, BDS supporters seem to be doing the job on its behalf.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that Hamas has just suffered a significant military defeat and is in no position to seriously confront the IDF any time soon, whatever the rhetoric of its leaders. Given that the Israeli economy has grown to be, according to far from impartial sources, the 8th largest in the world (which I find hard to believe, given the size of the country in population terms), this makes a successful confrontation even less likely. Hamas has to find comfort where it can, or else it would have to shut up shop (a consummation devoutly to be wished).

While Toameh goes on for a while developing this thesis, he is building up to a refutation, as anyone who regularly comes across his writing would expect. Thus, he ends his article as follows

Until now, the BDS movement has failed to offer the Palestinians anything good. It wants Palestinian workers to boycott Israeli companies, but has not been able to offer them an alternative source of income. If BDS supporters really care about Palestinians, why don’t they go to the Gaza Strip and try to promote the rights of women living under Hamas rule? Why don’t they come to the Palestinian territories and try to promote reforms, democracy and freedom of speech under the PA and Hamas?

At the end of the day, BDS seems to be more about hating Israel than helping the Palestinians. And BDS seems to be more about promoting Hamas’s agenda than advancing the cause of peace in this part of the world.

So, as usual, the likes of Hamas are just whistling in the wind.

Actually, it’s not just Hamas whistling in the wind. According to this Times of Israel article:

A Swedish supermarket chain has reversed a decision to boycott Israeli products following a counter-campaign by activists in the Scandinavian country.

In line with many of these boycott efforts (see the website Divest This) the vote was taken when:

only 22 of the organization’s 16,000 members were present, Swedish Radio reported.

And this was because

The stores imposed a boycott of settlement goods four years ago, but were urged by a pro-Palestinian petition to extend that embargo to all Israeli imports.

which went unnoticed until a local paper reported on the matter, when the backlash began.

Despite all their chest-beating, the BDS movement has suffered a further series of reverses. Thus, the New York State Assembly has passed a near unanimous Resolution condemning BDS, and this is expected to be followed by a Bill to outlaw anti-Israel boycotts in New York State. In turn, New York will thus join  Illinois and South Carolina, among others, in this endeavour.

Two more pieces of anti-boycott news will further hearten us: In the article Israel and the World Bank sign a water tech deal  is the news that:

Israel signed a deal this week with the World Bank to provide water-technology knowledge and expertise for use in the developing world. Under the deal, Israel has committed $500,000 to the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice to enhance water knowledge in developing countries facing complex water security challenges.

The deal will also see Israeli water experts travel to countries to present technologies and techniques to prevent water waste and to reclaim resources. Delegations from abroad will also come to Israel to observe first-hand Israeli innovations in areas such as desalination, water filtration and sanitation, drip irrigation and more.

This is because

“Israel has had to manage water services while operating under extreme conditions of scarcity, and has done so very impressively,” said Jennifer Sara, director for water at the World Bank. “Its innovative practices are globally recognized — both from technological and institutional perspectives — and will undoubtedly carry lessons for many of the World Bank Group’s clients facing water-security challenges.”

So think on that, University of Johannesburg academics, who voted to leave a partnership with the Ben Gurion U. (and Jordan) on this very area of water technology.

Still on the international stage Israel signs an agreement with the UN Space organization:

Israel has signed a cooperation agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to develop protocols and systems to use satellite technology for life-saving activities on Earth and beyond.Among the projects will be the use of satellites to take photos of areas where natural and other disasters take place, and the distribution of photos to rescue agencies for use in locating and identifying survivors. In the future, Israel may contribute to deep space missions.

The agreement …  was, said Minister of Science, Technology and Space Danny Danon, “a small step into the UN agency, and a big step for Israel.”

Danon can’t resist a final swipe at the BDS supporters around the world (and who can blame him), when he is quoted, at the end of the article, saying:

 “As international groups continue to boycott Israeli researchers and their work,” said the minister, “we will continue to enhance our work in all areas of science, proudly displaying Israel’s name throughout the world.”

Just as interesting, and just as likely to bring a bitter taste to the mouths of the supporters of BDS, including the Palestine Solidarity Committee, who appear incapable of distinguishing between attacking Israel and offering no tangible support to the Palestinians that might result in a viable two-state solution, is the news that Israel-UK trade is ushering in a golden era:

British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid…self-described as a “proud British-born Muslim,”

said to a business conference that

 the U.K. and Israel had entered a “golden era” for trade.

“The past few years have been a golden era for Anglo-Israeli business,”

Furthermore, if that wasn’t enough,

“Over the past 67 years, Israel has made business bloom in the barren desert,” said Javid. “What really excites me are the possibilities for the years that lie ahead.”

…  told the audience of about 250 people that he has traveled to Israel extensively, “both for business and with family.”

“Over the years I’ve taken a great interest in [Israel’s] affairs. Because the values that have made Israel such a success are values that matter a great deal to me. I share Israel’s love for freedom and democracy. I admire its tenacious determination when the odds are stacked against it,” he said.

Not what BDS, PSC, etc, want to hear from Muslims, even if they are Conservative Cabinet Ministers.

Finally, in all this talk of how, at the very least, the BDS movement is failing to have a serious effect at the level that really matters – the national and supra-national – comes this final item: The University of Missouri has decided, as a result of extensive representations made to it, that it needed to

cancel […] a class on Zionism that was to be taught in the fall by biology professor and anti-Israel ideologue, George Smith.

This was because, as the representations noted,

Professor Smith was not academically qualified to teach a course on Zionism.  A biologist, he has no expertise about the Middle East or any related field in the social sciences.  However, he does have extremist political views against Zionism and the state of Israel.  His op eds and statements are anti-Israel polemics which distort facts, deny counter evidence, eliminate context, garble history,  demonize Israel, and cite writers known for their animosity to the very existence of a Jewish state.

In addition, a bad flaw in an academic supposedly committed to the advancement of knowledge, usually via research and dialogue as to the meaning of findings acquired through that research

Professor Smith also has demonstrated little tolerance for opposing views.  When former Israeli soldiers spoke about their personal experiences at MU this past April as part of a StandWithUs speaking tour,  Professor Smith heckled them and hurled false accusations about the IDF.


Anne writes:

Thank you Brian for those important and heartening items on the failures of BDS, and especially for the good news about the cancellation of a course on Zionism to be given by an anti-Zionist. The mind boggles!

In addition to the above, here are some more BDS fails in recent weeks.

Former President Shimon Peres (center-left) at a panel with three Israeli Nobel Prize winners

Nobel winners flock to Israel:  (via a comment of Brian’s):

… despite the growing strength of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement on college campuses, the Nobel winners, all of whom have prestigious positions at universities around the world – as well as hundreds of students, professors, and other guests – have accepted invitations to two events surrounding the Nobel laureates, Foreign Ministry officials said.

The World Science Conference Israel (WSCI) was originally set for August of last year, but with Israel otherwise engaged in Operation Protective Edge, sponsors – including Hebrew University, the Science Ministry and the Foreign Ministry – postponed the event. Now set for August 15-20, the event will see more than 20 Nobel laureates discuss their contributions to science and give Israeli students the opportunity to meet some of the top minds in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics.

While in Israel, the Nobel laureates will also take in another conference, this one to be held in Tel Aviv. The Nobel Conference for Science & Technology will feature discussions with the prizewinners, as well as business and government officials, students, and others on the future of science and technology, their impact on society in the coming years, and other relevant topics. Among the sessions: The Revolution of Personalized Medicine, Innovation at Start-Ups, Brain-Tech Research, The Frontiers of Fundamental Physics.

Some other important visitors will also be arriving as, in a huge show of support, heads of 100 German companies come to Israel:

While many in Europe are calling for a boycott of Israel, a delegation of 100 German industry leaders is preparing for a trip to Israel to meet with top businesspeople in an extraordinary show of support for the Jewish state, marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Some of the companies to be represented in the group that arrives in 10 days’ time are SAP SE, BMW, Bosch, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Telekom, Merck & Co., Inc., Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa.

Five years ago, Israel and Germany signed an agreement to fund joint projects in the fields of biotechnology, water and environmental technology, and security and defense technology. Now, efforts are being made to connect mid- and smaller-sized companies.

Still on the subject of trade, China and Israel are entering into Free Trade Association:

This March, Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced that China would kick off negotiations on a proposed FTA with Israel this year.
The ministry’s spokesman Shen Danyang said Israel is one of China’s major economic and trade partners in the Middle East and along the route of China-proposed “belt and road” initiative.

According to data by the Chinese customs, bilateral trade volumes stood at 10.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2014.  That makes China Israel’s second largest trade partner and the largest in Asia.

Indian President Narendra Modi

And since we’re talking about the Far East, an Indian columnist writes that Israel is India’s most trusted ally in the Middle East:

 “Israel is India’s most trusted ally in West Asia and one dare say among the three or four closest friends India has anywhere in the world,” wrote Ashok Malik, in light of a recent announcement by the Indian External Affairs Ministry that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would become the first Indian premier to visit the Jewish state.

“It is not merely a key defense equipment supplier, but is willing to make serious investments in manufacture of military hardware in India, a prospect that has the potential to revolutionise India’s economy,” he wrote.

Additionally, Israel has helped India develop its agrotechnology, from dairy production to drip irrigation and horticulture across several Indian states. India and Israel share the Indo-Israel Agricultural Cooperation Project, which entered into its third phase this year, and Israeli experts in a variety of fields continue to work across Indian states, such as water-saving techniques in mostly arid Rajasthan.

Some critics of Modi’s visit to Israel argue that it must occur within the larger context of an outreach to the Arab-Muslim Middle East as well, with stops in the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan, among others.

But Malik suggested that the Israel trip be considered a “standalone,” saying it would be “clumsy and discourteous to link a Modi visit to Israel to one to Muslim/Arab countries as well.”

Connecting international relations with trade and security, 11 Israeli companies are to exhibit at the Paris air show:

With ISIS leading the trend, the Israeli defense companies are strutting on the catwalk with quite a bit of that insouciance reserved for experts in the field, presenting solutions for the threat of the weirdoes executing people in orange jumpsuits. One of these solutions, incidentally, is to launch suicide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at them to blow them up.

Even if US policy on how to act against ISIS is tentative, timid, and unimaginative, It is clear that the world has already realized that the future battlefield will be far from the one portrayed in fantasy films with their robots, superheroes, and spaceships destroying the enemy with powerful lasers. That will probably happen sometime, but meanwhile the reality is tougher, requiring combat against armed, determined, hotheaded, and violent semi-military forces dug into densely populated urban areas and using civilians as human shields, a situation very reminiscent of what faces a certain small and constantly challenged Middle Eastern country.

11 Israeli companies will state exhibitions at the Paris Air Show this year, and it is clear that a considerable part of what they have developed precisely matches the needs of the future fighters against ISIS and the like: from Elbit Systems Ltd.’s (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) breakthrough protection system for passenger airliners, executive jets, and military aircraft threatened by shoulder-held missiles that can be launched by an individual terrorist capable of causing a catastrophe to loitering munitions – a euphemism for a deadly weapon combining the navigational and maneuvering capabilities of an airplane with those of a missile capable of blowing up a defined target with exemplary accuracy, even if that target is in the middle of a residential neighborhood. In such cases, the Israeli developers guarantee keeping collateral damage to a minimum, in other words minimizing the chances of innocent people being killed.

What about the international boycott and provocations advocated by BDS, and its threat to leave Israeli goods unbought on the shelves? Don’t make us laugh. When a customer from one of the world’s countries needs a weapon whose capabilities have already been tested on the battlefield, it will prefer to buy it from those with the most experience.

In other words, economics and self-preservation trump all.

Sorry BDS. You lose.

Posted in Academia, Boycotts and BDS, International relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Michael Oren’s bombshell: US-Israel alliance in tatters due to problematic Obama relationship

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren

Israel’s former Ambassador to the United States, the renowned historian and academic Prof. Michael Oren, has been making a huge splash in the media in the last few days after he published several columns about the US-Israel relationship in advance of the publication of his new book on the same subject entitled “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide“.

Since Oren has a well-deserved reputation of being a moderate, thoughtful academic, and centre to centre-left politically, the fact that he slams US President Barack Obama for ruining the US-Israel relationship as well as for his incompetence in managing world affairs, has caused something of a sensation.

We’ll start with David Horovitz’s take on the scandal in his column: Michael Oren sees Israel-US alliance in tatters and Israel on its own:

The US-born former diplomat, who is now a Knesset member for the Kulanu party, notes in his foreword that the Hebrew term for “ally” is ben brit — literally “the son of the covenant.” And what he documents is actually the breaching of a covenant, the collapse of an alliance — an accumulated arc of abandonment by the Obama administration, and most especially the president himself, of Israel.

It’s a charge, unsurprisingly, that the administration has rushed to deny, and, rather more surprisingly, that Oren’s own party chief Moshe Kahlon has hurried to dissociate Kulanu from.

Oren’s style is not excitable or melodramatic. In fact, he writes in generally understated tone, with the measured sense of perspective you’d expect from a best-selling historian. So when he notes, as he does near the very end of the book, that last summer’s Israel-Hamas war left “aspects of the US-Israeli alliance in tatters,” you take him seriously, and you worry.

And when you read that Washington worked relentlessly to quash any military option for Israel, most especially in 2012 — arguably the last moment at which Israel could have intervened effectively to thwart Iran’s drive to the bomb (though Oren does not confirm this) — you sense that he has exposed the emptiness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s endless assertions that Israel will stand alone if necessary to stop a nuclear Iran. And you register, with all its grim repercussions, the realpolitik of a broken relationship with our key defender — the rupture that now leaves Israel vulnerable to an increasingly bold Islamist regime that avowedly seeks our annihilation.

It’s a really worrying book. You’re documenting — you’re describing it; you’re the ambassador — a presidency that is so wrong and so increasingly problematic on Israel. You talk about an America that wants to pull out of the Middle East. I think the worst criticism is the line about the administration negotiating with Iran in secret on an issue of existential importance to Israel… (Oren writes in the book: “Most disturbing for me personally was the realization that our closest ally had entreated with our deadliest enemy on an existential issue without so much as informing us.”)For seven months behind our back.

Again, the book is called “Ally,” but it’s not the documentation of an alliance. It’s the documentation of the failure of an alliance.

It’s a cri de coeur, that’s what it is, for an alliance that should be in a much better place than it is.

Michael Oren goes on to describe to Horovitz some of the daily events taking place in the Knesset: a discussion in the constitutional committee about whether the State of Israel should give grants, advantages, to industries within the Gaza envelope area; a discussion with Arab MKs about an Arab Book Week which currently does not exist; and then a caucus meeting with various political parties on educating young Israelis about transgenderism.

Oren continues (emphases are mine):

Now all of this is happening about a two hour drive from ISIS. Think about it. There were two extraordinary things: One, this is happening a two-hour drive from ISIS. And two, I’m probably the only person in the room who thinks this is extraordinary. I’m sure I’m the only one who is thinking, “holy s**t, this is happening here!”

Why do I bring this up in this conversation? Anybody who would want to in any way endanger this little pearl of democracy, with all of its craziness, to me is being reckless and unappreciative of what we have here. There’s a tremendous lack of appreciation for what we’ve accomplished here. That doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. We make huge mistakes. But as irreplaceable as the United States is for Israel as the ultimate ally, we are an ultimate ally for the United States. You’re not going to find anything (else) like this here. There’s a lot of talk in this book about being on the right side of history. History’s going the other way. There is no Iraq. There is no Syria anymore. And this alliance is crucial for Middle East stability, and through Middle East stability is crucial to the world. I deeply believe that.

Don’t get me wrong. You can have disagreements. The Obama administration was problematic because of its world view: Unprecedented support for the Palestinians. Reconciling with what Obama calls the Muslim world; even the choice of the term is interesting. And outreach, reconciling with Iran. From the get-go. You see that right from the beginning. He comes into office going after Iran.

But (the administration) is also problematic because the White House jettisoned the two core principles of the alliance, which were “no surprises” and “no daylight.” Obama said it: I’m putting daylight. And proceeds to put daylight, public daylight. And then surprises. I was told that with previous administrations — I’m certainly going back to Clinton — we were always given advance copies of major policy speeches. The Cairo speech (that Obama delivered in 2009) was twice as long as the First Inaugural Address. It touched on issues that were vital to our security. We never had any preview.

How endangered are we on Iran because of the Obama administration? You say nobody should want to endanger this pearl. But that’s what’s happened, isn’t it?

It has happened.

The good news is that America is not just the administration, as you know. America is America. America is the Congress. My biggest fear is not the Obama administration. I am deeply concerned about the future of the Democratic Party, with the progressive wing in the background…

Oren ties the Iran imbroglio to Obama’s inaction on Syria:

The bottom line is that the day that Obama didn’t act against the Syrians (for their use of chemical weapons in 2013, and thus failed) to maintain the Syrian “red line,” was the day that the debate (over whether Obama was serious about his military option on Iran) stopped here. Did you notice that? Just stopped. Dead. And everyone went quiet. An eerie quiet. Everyone understood at that point that that was not an option, that we’re on our own.

To me that’s a refreshing Zionist moment. We realize we’re on our own..

There’s much much more at the link. Do go and read it all. I don’t think it can be stressed strongly enough, considering Oren’s moderation and academic and diplomatic neutrality, how shocking Oren’s book is, as well as this interview. It’s as if the man has done a complete about-turn in character. I commend him for his courage in “coming out” so publicly.

President Barack Obama and former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the White House

Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon writes about An inside look at how Obama killed the US-Israel relationship:

Obama stacked his administration with senior officials hostile to Israel and pursued a policy of “daylight” with Jewish state, Oren recounts.

“The first thing Obama will do in office is pick a fight with Israel,” Oren recalls a confidant as telling him in the early days of the administration.

Below are a series of passages that reveal in detail how the U.S.-Israel alliance hit historic lows under the Obama administration.

1. ‘I know how to deal with people who oppose me’

… “Face-to-face, I later heard, Obama had demanded that Netanyahu cease all building not only in the territories but also in the disputed areas of Jerusalem,” Oren writes. “‘Not a single brick,’” the president purportedly said. ‘I know how to deal with people who oppose me.’”

2. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Commanders Never Trusted Obama

…These commanders “scoffed at what they regarded as Obama’s inexperience with the Middle East, where magnanimity is often seen as weakness. They cringed at his tendency to equate America’s moral foibles with the honor killings, human trafficking, and the suppression of women, foreign workers, and indigenous minorities rampant in many Muslim countries,” Oren writes.

3. The Anti-Israel State Department

… “Discord indeed mired my initial meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg,” Oren writes.

“Under the administration’s policy, a Jew could only build his home in certain Jerusalem neighborhoods but an Arab could build anywhere—even illegally—without limit. ‘In America,’ I said, ‘that’s called discrimination.’”

4. Congressional Democrats Scold Oren

… Oren recalls taking a call from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), who “railed at me so furiously [about Israeli criticism of Obama] that I literally had to hold the phone form my ear.”

7. White House Orders Senior Officials to Criticize Israel

In addition to privately embracing the anti-Israel fringe group J Street, the Obama administration sent top officials to speak at its first national conference in Washington, D.C.

Oren, who refused to participate in the event, reveals that Obama administration officials had direct orders to criticize Israel publicly.

Again, there is much more at the link which I recommend you read, though by now, after suffering through these past 6 years of Obama’s presidency, none of it is hardly new. Again, the shocker is that Oren has related these stories so publicly and so outspokenly in such an undiplomatic fashion.

Shockingly, Michael Oren thinks that the US-Israel relationship has soured to the extent that he thinks the US might not veto Palestinian state vote:

Former Israeli envoy to Washington, Michael Oren, said the United States is “likely” not to veto an expected United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Oren’s remarks were made at the New York launch of his new book Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide on Thursday evening.

Responding to a question from the audience about Israel’s public diplomacy on the Palestinian issue, Oren brought up the expected upcoming move at the U.N. and stated emphatically that “the United States is likely not to cast a veto.”

Oren did offer some solutions to the lawfare facing Israel at the UN, though we might not necessarily agree with his prescription:

To preempt the U.N. threat, Oren suggested that Israel publicly declare three positions. Firstly, the Jewish state should announce that while “we realize there is no Palestinian partner,” nevertheless, “we are always going to be at the table.” Secondly, he said Israel should reaffirm that “we still subscribe to the Bar Ilan formula of two states even though it’s probably not realizable for the foreseeable future.” Thirdly, it should be declared that Israel will only build in settlements likely to remain part of Israel in a peace deal, namely the large blocs in Jerusalem’s suburbs.

Oren also indicated that Abbas in some ways presents a greater threat to Israel than the Gaza-based terror group Hamas.

“The irony of the thing is that Hamas presents a tactical threat to Israel with its rockets, it’s Mahmoud Abbas with the attempt to sanction and boycott us which is the strategic threat,” Oren said. “Any Israeli security official will tell you just what I’m telling you now, he’s the threat, we can preempt the threat by saying to the world [these] three things.”

In a third op-ed in the media this week, Oren reached intot he world of psychology to explain Obama’s behaviour, relating how – and why – Obama opened his heart to the Muslim world:

In an op-ed published Friday, Kulanu Knesset member and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren speculates that President Barack Obama’s relentless outreach to the Muslim world may stem from the fact that he was abandoned by the two Muslim father figures in his life and therefore seeks acceptance by their co-religionists.

In the article, in Foreign Policy Magazine, Oren also posits that the world may look back on Obama’s approach to Middle East issues as naive and hard to credit.

In the Foreign Policy article Friday, Oren writes that “Obama’s attitudes toward Islam clearly stem from his personal interactions with Muslims. These were described in depth in his candid memoir, ‘Dreams from My Father,’ published 13 years before his election as president. Obama wrote passionately of the Kenyan villages where, after many years of dislocation, he felt most at home and of his childhood experiences in Indonesia. I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.”

Oren’s book and his columns have certainly touched a nerve in Washington as well as in the media, as the Algemeiner reports in its story: Michael Oren’s book lifts a veil on US-Israel relationship:

The main attraction of the book, of course, is its account of the Obama administration’s Middle East policies, and Oren’s candor has already gotten him into trouble. Dan Shapiro, the current U.S. ambassador in Israel, who makes several appearances in Oren’s memoir, this week told Israel’s Army Radio that “Ally” is “an imaginary account of what happened,” going on to belittle Oren for having, as a mere ambassador, a “limited point of view into ongoing efforts. What he wrote does not reflect the truth.”

This is a serious charge, and it remains to be seen if Shapiro will attempt to substantiate it. In the meantime, it should be pointed out that what makes “Ally” such a fascinating read is that it provides, from Oren’s perspective, a detailed sense of the bitter atmosphere in both Washington and Jerusalem that underlay diplomatic efforts on the issues we are all intimately familiar with, from the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program to the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Unlike other diplomats, Oren didn’t wait 20 years to publish his story—most of the key individuals in his book, most obviously President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are still in power, and the bilateral tensions which Oren agonizingly explains haven’t been lessened since his departure from Israel’s Washington embassy. Diplomats aren’t supposed to be this transparent, which is why Oren will be regarded in many circles as a man who broke “omerta,” the code of silence which ensures that us ordinary mortals are kept in the dark about what our leaders are saying in private.

Most interestingly, within Israel there were two contrasting reactions from the government:

Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly refused US Ambassador Dan Shapiro’s demand that he disavow Oren

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an American request to publicly distance himself from the criticism aimed at the White House by former ambassador Michael Oren, according to an Israeli newspaper.

The op-ed has drawn unhappy reactions from the US, including an angry phone call from US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to Netanyahu, asking the prime minister to renounce Oren’s ideas in a public statement, according to a report in Haaretz Thursday.

Netanyahu refused Shapiro’s request and said he had no intention of publicly addressing the piece, an anonymous source told the newspaper.

The prime minister said Oren was no longer a public official but a politician belonging to another party and therefore he saw no reason he should intervene, Israel’s Army Radio reported, citing a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

Sadly, and a bit surprisingly, Kulanu’s chief Moshe Kahlon, rushed to distance himself and the party from Oren’s views:

Kahlon, in response, sent a letter to Shapiro emphasizing that they were Oren’s personal views and did not reflect the party line of Kulanu.

Oren, according to Kahlon’s letter, wrote his book before he joined the party. Kahlon, who serves an finance minister, said he had summoned Oren and made clear his appreciation for the US’s commitment to Israel.

Even more unexpectedly, firebrand Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely chided Oren for his critique of Obama:

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that Oren “does not represent the State of Israel in matters relating to our relationship with the United States, only himself.”

“The United States is a true friend of Israel and every attempt to harm the relationship between the two countries by resorting to personal attacks will not succeed,” Hotovely added.

I’m glad that Hotovely knows how to act in a statesmanlike way, but this was possibly one of those times when we would have liked to hear how she really feels. :-)

Posted in International relations, Israel news, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The UNHRC publishes its Schabas Charade

UN - Useless Nations

UN – Useless Nations

When William Schabas resigned from the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into “Israel’s war crimes” (OK, that wasn’t the exact title of the commission of inquiry but it might as well have been, because that was their aim and that is the result of their prejudged judgement), we all breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that this biased anti-Israel “investigator” (who didn’t bother investigating Israel’s side of the story) was gone and forgotten.

Not so. The commission of inquiry in his name continued, and in the most unsurprising fashion has produced yet another anti-Israel screed for the discredited UN Human Rights Wrongs  Commission which will be presented to the UNHRC for discussion next week:

Both Israelis and Palestinians may have committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war, a United Nations Human Rights Council commission of inquiry said in a highly anticipated 200-page report it published in Geneva on Monday.

“The commission was able to gather substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups,” the report said.

“In some cases, these violations may amount to war crimes,” it said.

The report called for individual IDF soldiers, as well as top decision makers in Israel’s military and political echelons, to be held accountable if they violated international law.

With respect to extrajudicial executions of alleged “collaborators” by Palestinian armed groups, the report said such actions amount to a war crime.

The Palestinian Authority is expected to make use of this report when it submits a war crimes complaint against Israel to the International Criminal Court, possibly as early as this week.

The report called on both sides “to cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened.”

I note the sly way in which the inquiry concludes that there may have been war crimes (by either side).  By using such vague terminology they have thrown enough mud to stick, while at the same time they can claim plausible deniability if at the end of it all one or other of the sides is found not guilty  – and you can probably bet your bottom dollar that Israel will be found guilty one way or another. As has been pointed out time and again, whenever Israel is in the dock, it’s “sentence first, verdict later”, in true Alice in Wonderland fashion.

It is also disgusting how Israel, a law-abiding robust democracy with minority rights and rule of law, is placed on an equal level with a murderous, misogynistic, antisemitic terror organization.

Israel’s initial reaction, from the Foreign Ministry, called the inquiry one-sided and politically-motivated.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmuel Nachshon responded Monday to the UNHRC report on the 2014 Gaza conflict, saying, “It is well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset. Just as Israel  seriously considered every complaint, no matter its origin.”

“It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge  and the terror organizations it confronted,” he said.

(Edited to add): Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu similar stated on his Facebook page:

Honest Reporting has a great deal of information about the report including these tweets:

This ABC report notes Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the inquiry but also mentions the UN’s casual dismissal of Israel’s attempts to preserve enemy life:

Although Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation, the report noted Israeli claims that it took unprecedented measures to avoid civilian casualties. Israel ordered residents to evacuate through leaflets, phone calls, radio broadcasts and warning strikes with unarmed shells ahead of live airstrikes. It has also noted that Hamas repeatedly rejected cease-fire offers, prolonging the fighting and raising the death toll.

But the U.N. commission said that in many incidents, Israel “may not have done everything feasible to avoid or limit civilian casualties.”

The report also investigated three Israeli ground operations, and found that Israel used heavy weapons like artillery and tank shells in densely populated areas, tactics that “may not be in conformity with international humanitarian law.”

As I mentioned last week, a team of international military experts who investigated the Gaza war concluded that Israel not only had not committed any war crimes, but had gone way beyond the call of duty in protecting enemy civilians.

The indefatigable UN Watch has undertaken its own investigation of the UN’s methods of inquiry and informs us thus:

The formal debate will take place on Monday, June 29th, but no one knows precisely when the much-discussed report of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict will be made available online.

Ahead of its release, three significant competing documents have just been published, posing a serious challenge to the UN commission, whose members lack any background or expertise on the laws or conduct of war:

The Israeli foreign ministry released a277-page report that details with photo and other evidence how Hamas used schools, hospitals and UN facilities as launching points from which to fire rockets at Israel, turning their own population into human shields and targets.

• A mission by global military leaders has found that Israel went out of its way to minimize civilian casualties and observe international law during last summer’s crackdown in Gaza, even to the point of costing the lives of its own soldiers. The preliminary findings by the international military experts, publicized by UN Watch on Friday, had been submitted in May to the UN inquiry.

• UN Watch and NGO Monitor have just published a new book that documents missing dimensions in UN and other partisan investigations of the Gaza conflict. Written by a group of experts, the book reveals how rockets and missiles are produced and imported by Gaza terrorist organizations, the financing of Hamas in violation of international law, and Hamas’ abuse of international humanitarian aid.

Honest Reporting has also told us to beware of 3 important media angles in regards to the Schabas Commission:

1. The Halo Effect

The halo effect refers to the ability of our impression of people, institutions, or brands to influence our feelings and thoughts about their character. This applies to reporters too, who report what they hear from respectable personalities, government officials, or international organizations without question or independent verification. Will reporters paint the UNHRC and its investigators as apolitical and unbiased?

2. Disproportionate Force

More Palestinians died during the war than Israelis, a point reinforced by a steady stream of context-free daily infographics. But does that mean the IDF fought disproportionately?

Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, explained in an interview what proportionality means on the battlefield, why people are misled by the abused term and draw faulty conclusions about it:

Many do not understand it is not illegal to kill civilians in war as long as that is not the purpose of your actions, hence the appalling term “collateral damage”.

And as retired Australian Major-General Jim Molan pointed out in The Australian (click via Google News):

Many do not understand it is not illegal to kill civilians in war as long as that is not the purpose of your actions, hence the appalling term “collateral damage”.

3. Moral Equivalence

Hamas and Israel fought a war with each other. Both sides had domestic and international audiences to account for, both sides had spokespeople making their cases in the media, and both sides had dead to bury and wounds to lick. But that’s where superficial parallels end.

The war began with the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, escalated under barrages of rockets, and continued despite repeated cease fire offers to Hamas.

The IDF fought to protect Israeli citizens while Hamas fought to make martyrs of Palestinian citizens. Hamas placed its rocket launchers, weapons dumps, sniper nests, tunnel entrances, and command centers in and around schools, hospitals, mosques and UN facilities, while the IDF warned civilians ahead of attacks, called off airstrikes due to the presence of women and children, setting what some experts in the laws of warfare said are “an unreasonable precedent for other democratic countries” in wartime.

One year after Operation Protective Edge, Israel released its official report on the war. There are no signs of any parallel Palestinian inquiry.

There’s no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

Unfortunately, those who want to besmirch Israel and blacken its name, and who wish to see it undermined and even destroyed by demonization and delegitimization, will disregard all the above protests, caveats, reports, and even expert opinion.

They don’t want to be confused with facts. Leave them alone with their prejudices.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Will Israel help the Syrian Druze?

The Druze citizens of Israel are brave, loyal citizens who also volunteer in large numbers for service in the IDF, with many reaching high levels of command. They live mostly in the Galilee and on the Golan Heights. In the Galilee they are considered full Israeli citizens, but on the Golan they still consider themselves Syrian citizens. Lately of course, the term “Syrian citizen” has been emptied of all meaning as Syria turns in on itself, devouring itself with the active participation of President Bashar Assad killing his own citizens by the hundreds of thousands, causing millions to flee.

Israeli Druze watch battles across the border in Syria. (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

The Israeli Druze community is now justifiably extremely worried about their Syrian brethren just over the border on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights as Syrian rebels surrounded a Druze village on the border last week. These rebels are not only anti-Assad (which would make them the “good guys”) but are rather affiliated with Jihadist groups.

After fierce clashes with pro-government forces, rebels, including Islamist fighters, surrounded the village of Hader on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

“Hader is now totally surrounded by rebels, who just took a strategic hilltop north of the village,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The village lies along the ceasefire line with the Israeli-occupied Golan to the west, and by the border with Damascus province to the northeast.

He said the rebels had received reinforcements from elsewhere in Quneitra province, which covers much of the Golan.

“The regime has not sent reinforcements yet, but the Druze villagers are standing with the government,” Abdel Rahman said.

Fighting around Hader, which began Tuesday, has left at least 10 rebels and 14 pro-regime fighters dead so far, he added. 

The encirclement of Hader comes amid rising fears in Syria’s Druze community.

Last week, 20 Druze villagers were killed in an altercation with members of Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front in Idlib province in the northwest.

Shortly after the deaths, rebel forces in southern Syria briefly overran a government air base in majority-Druze Sweida province, in their first such advance in the government-controlled region.

While the rebels were eventually expelled from the air base, fighting has continued nearby.

The Druze are followers of a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam, and made up around three percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million.

As mentioned above, counter-intuitively, the Syrian Druze are allied with the Assad regime. However that is more likely to do with expedience than ideology – generally the Druze are loyal to the ruling regime in their host country:

The community has been somewhat divided during the war, with some members fighting on the government side and others expressing sympathy for the opposition.

Thousands of Druze men have evaded military service in the Syrian army’s dwindling ranks and have mostly taken up arms only in defense of their own areas.

In Sweida, Druze have formed a local militia to protect themselves from the rebels, residents say.

Smoke rises from the scene of fighting in Syria near the Israeli border on the Golan Heights (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

Israel has been trying to stay out of the Syrian conflict altogether, but the Druze battle looks like it might be drawing us in against our will.  In this respect Israel has sent a message to the jihadist Nusra Front – the “rebels” in the previous story – to cease their attacks on the Syrian Druze:

Concerns for Syria’s 700,000 Druse has risen in recent days amid the Nusra Front’s advances near Hader and the advancement of Islamic State in the region known as Mount Druse, 60 km. from the Jordanian border and 50 km. from Israel’s Golan Heights.

The Druse community in Hader and in Israel is concerned over the development because the Nusra Front has sought to control Hader for some time in order to gain control of the entire Golan Heights. The al-Qaida-linked fighters number several hundred men as well as dozens of tanks that they have seized. Five Druse have been injured in the fighting, and they have been offered the chance to come to Israel for treatment, but they refused because they fear the response of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Amid the threat to Syria’s Druse community, the IDF began setting up a field hospital on the border, but they have frozen the process, as the situation has calmed. The IDF has sent messages to the Nusra Front through the Free Syrian Army, warning the Islamist group not to harm Syria’s Druse.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office stated that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon held a situation assessment about the plight of the Syrian Druse and spoke with the OC Nothern Command Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi who reported to them that the siutation is currently calm. The defense minister ordered continued surveillance of the events and instructed the IDF to take steps to maintain the quiet.

Likud MK Ayoub Kara, who himself is a Druse, plans to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to allow Israeli Druse to cross the border to Hader in order to provide humanitarian aid. Entering Syria without permission is illegal for Israelis and Druse who do so can be charged with entering an enemy state, or aiding the enemy.

Israeli Druze near the border with Syria. (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

Dr. Mordechai Kedar,a renowned Middle East expert, is of the very firm opinion that Israel absolutely must help the Druze. First he explains the background of the relationship and the moral reasons why Israel must come to the aid of the Druze, even those over the border:

It is rare for a country to have to rethink its strategic roadmap. Nevertheless, Israel may be approaching the point in time when it will have to reboot and restart its geo-strategic thinking, if that has not yet been done. In fact, that point in time is staring us in the face and we simply must think out of the box to see and address it, before a head-on collision shatters that very same box without our having plans prepared for a changing reality.

The catalysts that brought Israel to realize that there is a turning point are the Syrian Druze. Israel must, and I repeat, must, do everything and even beyond everything, to help the Druze minority in Syria survive as it faces the Islamist forces who intend to destroy it.  Whether it is Islamic state or Jabhat al Nusra who are preparing the “Final Solution” for the Druze in Syria is of no matter. When Islamic State overcomes Jabhat al Nusra, any understanding Israel has made with this organization will vaporize exactly like the ones Israel signed with the Syrian regime.

There are about 700,000 Druze in Syria, concentrated in three main areas: the Mountain of the Druze (Druze Mountain) in southern Syria adjoining the Jordanian border, the Khader enclave on the southeastern slopes of the Hermon east of Majdal Shams, and the Aleppo-Idlib region in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. No one expects Israel to reach northern Syria to help the Druze who live there, but many of those who live in Southern Syria – on Druze Mountain and in the Khader enclave – expect Israel to do something to prevent the ISIS butcher knives from reaching their necks.

Their brothers in Israel are citizens with equal rights and duties, serving in the IDF – in combat units for the most part. The proportion of Druze who volunteer for combat units is greater than that of Jewish youth. The silence of the military cemeteries in Druze villages shouts the oath of loyalty they have sworn, the pact of blood that this wonderful group has made with the Jewish people in its resurrected homeland. And they are the brothers, cousins and in-laws of the Druze in Syria.

The Druze in Israel say to themselves quite simply: “if the residents of Druze Mountain were Jews, the State of Israel would do everything to protect and rescue them. If there is a pact of blood between the Jews and the Druze, then it is being tested now on Druze Mountain and the Khader enclave.”  Their reasoning is also simple: The pact of blood cannot be one-sided, where the Druze go out to battle, are killed and wounded for the Jewish State. Either it is a two way pact, in which the state goes out to save the Druze who are under a clear and present threat, the most immediate and severe ever, or it is no pact at all.

Israel must view Druze Mountain as vital territory to all intents and purposes, and in the same vein, view those living on it as blood brothers. There were times when Israel did not come to the aid of those who had helped it (the Southern Lebanese Army – Tzadal – for example), but now, Israel must take every step necessary to prove to the Druze that it stands faithful to them no less than it is to Jews, in Israel and everywhere else. This is a moral stand with civilian, political and security implications.

There are people in Israel who say “Why get involved in saving the Druze in Syria, when they were loyal subjects of Assad for years, both Hafez and Bashar, and even acted against us more than once.The Druze in the Golan Heights refused Israeli citizenship so they never became Israelis.” My answer: The Druze in the Golan were afraid, after the 1967 war, that Israel would return them along with the Golan one of these days. And then they would find themselves in the torture chambers of the Syrian secret service, so in order to protect themselves from those torture chambers they remained loyal to Syria. Who can blame them?

Israel can take several steps, all or some of them, depending on developments on the ground:

Kedar goes on to list the practical steps that Israel can take, including forming small fighting forces of Druze soldiers for cross-border attacks, setting up field hospitals, providing arms and civilian aid. I’m not sure the IDF would agree with all his recommendations.

He then doubles down on his insistence that Israel set up a “minority pact” to protect all the minorities of the region who are facing the lethal threat from Jihadist forces:

The Druze are not the last of these problems, because in Syria, Iraq and every other place the Jihadists have conquered, each minority lives in fear of being the next on line. This is a perfectly justified fear, and encompasses the Druze, Yazidi, Christians, Alawites, Zoroastrians, Bahais, Sabians, Mandeans – all of them non-Muslim, but also the Shiites, the Hezbollah and their people, all of them living in fear of the Sunni Jihadists as well.

Israel must work to establish the “Middle East Minorities Pact” which will place all these minorities under one umbrella, even if they once fought each other, as the Shiite Hezbollah and Jews do.  The logic behind this is the fact that they are all facing the same enemy and must work together to defeat it. If they don’t, they will weaken themselves by constant infighting and bring about their own end.

Kedar admits that this proposal might sound delusional, and he even thinks that Iran wouldn’t interfere with such a pact.

He is the expert, not me, but I would like to hear a second opinion about such a proposal. However his demand for Israeli intervention to save the Syrian Druze sounds justified. I just wonder how it will eventually be carried out in practice.

Posted in Defence and Military, Israel news, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Terror strikes again

Danny Gonen HY’D, murdered by a Palestinian terrorist at the Ein Buvin spring

On Friday afternoon a Palestinian terrorist opened fire in cold blood and at point blank range shot dead Danny Gonen HY’D, a 25-year old Israeli hiker, and wounded his friend.

The man who was killed in Friday’s shooting attack near the town of Dolev in the Binyamin region has been named as 25-year-old Danny Gonen from the city of Lod.

Gonen’s friend was wounded in the attack and is hospitalized at the Tel Hashomer Hospital in light to moderate condition.

Gonen’s uncle, speaking to the Walla! news website on Friday, said that Danny and his friend had been shot during a hike in the area, something they had done often.

“Danny was visiting the area with a friend, as he always did. He liked to hike everywhere in Israel,” said the uncle.

According to investigators, the two victims were finishing a trip to a nearby spring and had begun leaving when a Palestinian Arab standing at the side of the road waved them down, apparently asking for help.

As soon as the Israelis’ car pulled up he asked them for water, and then shot them at point-blank range and fled the scene.

Danny Yogev was an electrical engineering student who loved to hike around Israel. He was laid to rest last night in his hometown of Lod:

About one thousand people were attendance when Gonen was laid to rest, among them a friend of his who was wounded in the attack.

In her eulogy, his mother, Devora Gonen, praised her son’s integrity and his love of the land.

“Danny, my dear, beloved son,” she said. “I cannot believe that we’re standing here now and talking about you in the past tense. You were a source of immense pride for me, a pillar to your brother and sisters. You were a devoted son to me, and when I needed it, a friend too. And you supported me in everything. You lived your life as a free Jew in your country. You loved the land and you loved the truth. The truth was your banner and you lived by it.”

Gonen, 25, was an electrical engineering student and the eldest of five siblings.

Guess who claimed responsibility for the attack:

The Islamist terror group Hamas on Friday praised the killing as “heroic,” and spokesman Husam Badran said Saturday that “We bless whoever did it.” A group calling itself the “Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha Squad,” named for the two terrorists who killed three Israeli teenagers last summer, claimed responsibility for the attack, and said it was affiliated with the armed wing of Hamas.

Some reports suggested that Gonen and his friend had cut short their visit to the spring because a Palestinian man there aroused their suspicions, and that security officials were checking whether that man may have telephoned the gunman to tell him about the two Israelis.

The Ein Buvin spring is in an area of the West Bank where prior coordination with the security forces is required for Israelis to visit.

The politicians had to have their word:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the incident proved that Israelis are under constant threat.

“We mustn’t let the relative calm mislead us. Efforts to hurt us (Israelis) are underway at all times, and we will continue to fight them using all the means available to us,” he said.

President Reuven Rivlin condemned the attack, which he said was “another step in the quiet and serious escalation in acts of terrorism we have witnessed in recent months,” and called on Palestinian and Arab-Israeli leaders to do the same.

The area did not calm down completely afterwards:

On Saturday night, a Palestinian woman was lightly injured after stones were thrown at her car near the site of the shooting, medical and security sources said.

Palestinians said Saturday’s incident could have been an act of revenge by settlers for Gonen’s death, although the stones could also have been thrown by Palestinians mistaking the woman’s vehicle for an Israeli one.

It is my opinion that it is much more likely that this was a case of mistaken identity by the Palestinians (see the next item). I also highly resent the implied accusation that it was “settlers” (how I hate that term) who threw the stones in revenge. Danny Gonen was not a resident of the Binyamin region. He lived near Tel Aviv, and the all the terrorists cared about was whether he was a Jew or not – not if he was Israeli or any other nationality.

May Hashem comfort the family amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Arabs and police clash near Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate) in Jerusalem

The President’s and PM’s statements that this attack was part of an escalation in terror attacks were correct . Last night, while the funeral was ongoing, a Palestinian stabbed a Jew walking near Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate). When the police arrived the Arabs rioted. (Note: it’s very rarely the Jews who riot despite their being the primary victims):

A terrorist stabbed one person near Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem Saturday night, and other terrorists threw a firebomb at a bus near Nevi Yaakov in northern Jerusalem and a pipe bomb at Rachel’s Tomb.

Police clashed with rioters after the stabbing, according to Israel News Feed. Arabs hurled rocks at cars, wounding at least one person, and police carried out one arrest as of midnight Saturday.

The condition of the stabbing victim is not known, but he is believed not to have suffered serous wounds.

There are no known injuries in the firebombing of the bus and from the pipe bomb that was thrown towards Jews visting Rachel’s Tomb (Kever Rachel) near Bethlehem.

Referring back to the earlier attack and my assertion that it is more likely that Palestinians are responsible for the stone-throwing attacks:

In Judea and Samaria, Palestinian Authority terrorists hurled rocks at passing Jewish motorists near Dolev and in the same region where one or more terrorists murdered Daniel Gonen and wounded a companion while they were hiking.

The terror attacks continue today with some breaking news that has just reached us

The Times of Israel reports: Border Policeman has been critically wounded by a Palestinian, again near Jerusalem’s Shaar Shechem:

A Palestinian man stabbed and seriously injured an Israeli Border Police officer Sunday outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, police said. An officer on the scene shot and killed the suspected assailant.

An Israel Police spokesperson said a Palestinian suspect stabbed the officer, who then shot the suspected assailant.

The suspect was identified as an 18-year-old Palestinian man from the West Bank, but not immediately named, Israel Radio reported. He was seriously injured and sent to Hadassah Hospital.

The officer suffered serious injuries and was taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital after receiving treatment on site. The man was reportedly on life support.

Police said they closed off the area after the incident and deployed large numbers of reinforcements across the city.

Jerusalem police chief Chico Edry told reporters on the scene after the incident that in instances were officers are attacked, their assailants must be shot dead at the scene immediately.

“The officer acted heroically, the attacked needs to be killed at the scene of the incident,” he said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said after arriving at the Damascus Gate that life in Jerusalem must continue as normal. “I call on all residents of the State of Israel to continue visiting Jerusalem and strengthen it,” he said.

Maybe strengthening Jerusalem does not entail PM Netanyahu easing restrictions for Palestinian worshippers who want to visit the Al Aqsa Mosque for Ramadan. Mahmoud Abbas cynically told his subjects not to accede to the Israeli offer for fear of making Israel look good and helping our economy.

Sometimes we really ought to listen to what the Chief Terrorist says and take him at his word.

Wishing Refuah shlema – a speedy recovery – to all those injured in these terror attacks.

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