Obama strengthens Iran on its nukes and Syria while Israel and Arab nations express concern

Beyond Belief – Topsy-turvy world just in time for Purim

Despite American denials to the contrary (as I wrote last week), the US is indeed keeping Israel out of the loop on its talks with Iran – although the confirmation came via the EU, as Honest Reporting reports:

3. European officials confirmed to the New York Times that the US isn’t exactly keeping Israel fully up-to-date on the Iranian nuclear talks. This despite Washington’s denials to the contrary.

But European officials say that the Israeli reports, while overblown, are not entirely based on fiction. One recalled a recent call from Wendy Sherman, the No. 3 State Department official and lead American negotiator with Iran, saying she had cautioned against telling the Israelis too much because the details could be twisted to undermine a deal

The Times of Israel adds:

In extraordinary admissions that reflect increasingly strained ties between the US and Israel, the White House and State Department said they were not sharing everything from the negotiations with the Israelis and complained that Israeli officials had misrepresented what they had been told in the past.

Meanwhile, senior US officials privately blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself for “changing the dynamic” of previously robust information-sharing by politicizing it.

“The United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States,” Earnest said, when asked whether the US was limiting the amount of information it shared with Israel about the talks.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki went further, confirming that one of the steps the administration takes to ensure that “classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors” is to withhold them from Israel. She also directly blamed Israel for mischaracterizing the talks.

“I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said. “There’s a selective sharing of information.”

This, they said, had led to politically motivated leaks from Israeli officials and made it impossible to continue to share all details of the talks, particularly as Netanyahu has not backed down on his vow to argue against a nuclear deal when he speaks to Congress.

So the Americans are only giving Israel some of the information, and then they complain when Israel is “cherry-picking” the details. Did it not occur to them that if they would only keep Israel fully up to date there would be no need for cherry-picking any details.

The entire spat could be summed up thus: The Americans won’t tell the Israelis what deal they are planning to sign with Iran for fear that Israel will undermine it because they know in their hearts that the deal is in essence a capitulation to Iran; Israel in desperation then publicizes whatever crumbs of information it can get hold of in order to bring it to public attention and prevent this dangerous turn of events. The Americans are furious that Israel has found a way round the unofficial boycott so they twist the report and claim that it is in fact Israel twisting the reports.

Once again, the Obama regime shows that it operates on a level at which high school girls would be embarrassed.

Beyond the petty politicking by the Obama regime against Netanyahu, Obama’s inordinate rush to sign a deal, any deal, with Iran backfiring as its Arab allies are also expressing deep concern about the emerging American deal with Iran. (And I stress that its’ an American deal, not a deal with the p5+1 as it was originally intended):

Arab nations have joined Israel in expressing concern over the emerging details of a US-led international nuclear deal with Iran, indicating in private talks with US officials that they are worried about the apparent terms of the agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Though Arab officials have been careful not to side with Israel in their stated positions, their worries over the possibility of a nuclear-armed Tehran are in fact similar to those of Jerusalem, and their attitudes towards the current state of nuclear talks between Tehran and Western powers are similarly pessimistic, according to the report.

Leaders of Sunni states such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia fear a bad deal with Tehran would allow it, with the removal of sanctions, to become a nuclear threshold state, the WSJ reported. They say it could also lead to a nuclear arms race in the region.

“At this stage, we prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal,” an official from an unnamed Arab nation told the paper.

You would think that such publicly expressed concerns by Arab nations about Obama’s rush to a deal would give him pause. But you would be wrong.

Moreover, Israel’s disagreement with the United States concerns not only Iran’s nuclear program, but more importantly and more immediately threatening, Washington’s weakness is encouraging Iran in its malign role in Syria. Tony Badran writes in the Lebanese NOW website about “the weakness of the wait-and-see approach“:

In addition to all of the other issues, Obama and Netanyahu entertain contradictory views of Iran’s role in region, and Syria stands at the heart of their disagreement. Whereas Obama is comfortable with the rise of Iranian power in Syria, Netanyahu and, to be sure, the Israeli security elite are deeply discomfited by it.

Until now, Israeli policy in Syria has been, as one former official put it, “to wait and see” — to stand back and respond to any breach at the border, but not to intervene directly in the course of the war, even as Israeli activity in Syria has targeted Iranian assets exclusively. For all the talk about the supposedly impeding threat of the Islamic State (ISIS), the January strike against the Iranian convoy and the current Iranian-led drive in southern Syria have emphasized the fact that the strategic and present threat comes, first and foremost, from Iran.

The Iranian determination to push into southern Syria reveals the weakness of the “wait and see” approach. Even if Israel desired to stay out of the Syrian war, the Iranians, seeing a green light from Washington, have ideas of their own. These dynamics are pushing Israel to reconsider its options.

… The White House wants everyone focused on ISIS. Its policy is predicated on cooperating with Iran and accommodating its interests.

The White House has made no secret of its opposition to any targeting of the Assad regime. President Obama even sent a letter to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reassuring him that America and its coalition allies would not touch Assad. What’s more, Israel sees that Obama has recognized Iranian spheres of influence in the region. And since the Iranian plan to set up a military presence on the Golan has been brought to light, there’s not been even a statement by the US administration declaring Tehran’s actions unacceptable.

The fact is, US policy in Syria runs counter to Israel’s national security interests.

Perhaps nothing drives this home more than the comments of an unnamed senior US military official earlier this week. The official revealed that as the administration deliberates equipping some Syrian rebels to help in the campaign against ISIS, it is worried that any move by those rebels against Assad would result in Iran’s Iraqi assets targeting US soldiers in that country. “You cross a red line in Syria, you start to infringe on what Iran sees as its long-term interest and those Shia militias could turn in the other direction,” the official said.

This remarkable respect for Iranian interests in Syria leads to very disturbing questions. Do principles that apply to the Syrian rebels also extend to Israel? Would Netanyahu be wrong to assume that Obama would consider any Israeli action that crosses Iran’s red lines in Syria as a reckless endangerment of US soldiers? After all, the White House has made clear that it regards Israeli support for congressional sanctions on Iran as an effort to goad the US into war with Iran. Would it be a stretch, then, for Israel to assume that Obama would similarly regard any Israeli military action against Iran, Hezbollah, or Assad in Syria?

While the White House now sees Iran as a de facto partner against ISIS, Israel continues to see Iran as an existential threat. In order to deter Iran, Israel may well decide to go after Assad. That will also mean going against Washington, which stands on the opposite side in Syria. This is the reality now dawning on Israel. When Netanyahu speaks before Congress on 3 March, he will be protesting much more than just a misguided American attitude toward the Iranian nuclear program.

It is startling and unsettling that what is so clear to Israel, to Arab nations and to a Lebanese journalist is so hard for the President of the United States to countenance.

Truly, in the spirit of the topsy-turvy world of Purim, as expressed by the Dry Bones cartoon which I posted at the top, we live in an upside-down world.

Posted in International relations, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Good News Friday

This week’s Good News Friday is going to start with a slightly bittersweet item for which I beg your forgiveness, particularly as it’s Rosh Chodesh Adar when we are supposed to increase our joy. (Adar is the month in which Purim falls, and is always considered a “merry” month).

Earlier this week Uri Orbach z”l, the well-loved and popular Minister for Senior Citizens, journalist and children’s author, passed away long before his time.  Orbach was an ingenious innovator in his field, always coming up with a clever slogan, a witty poem or a popular event. One of his most brilliant innovations was called “Tuesdays in braces” (or suspenders for you Americans). Shlishi beShleikes (שלישי בשלייקס in Hebrew).  He successfully campaigned to make Tuesdays a special day discounts and assorted benefits for senior citizens at cultural events, shops, entertainment etc.

In his younger days Uri Orbach studied at Kiryat Shmona yeshiva (where incidentally my son-in-law was also a student). In Orbach’s memory, Kiryat Shmona made Rosh Chodesh Adar into “yeshiva in braces” day – Yeshiva be’Shleikes.  Read about it on their Facebook page here (h/t Hadassah):

A rough translation:

Today, Rosh Chodesh Adar, we in the yeshiva held a day of joint studies and sharing experiences with the grandfathers and grandmothers of the 2nd year yeshiva students, who are enlisting into the IDF in March.

We decided to dedicate this day to the memory of our Uri, the Honourable Minister for Senior Citizens, the person who invented the idea of “Tuesdays in Braces”.

During the day there were lessons in his memory and also joint study sessions.

Uri Orbach z”l in braces, ready for Tuesdays

Among the photos you can find an illustration by Shai Cherka who was Uri’s study partner, in honour of this day which expresses “in the deepest and most real way the world of “braces” and you can also find a photo of Uri getting into the role of “braces”.

What a beautiful idea of the yeshiva! Kol hakavod to the Rabbis, teachers and students who came up with this wonderful event. I hope it becomes a yearly event in Uri Orbach’s memory.

Since we’re talking about the merry month of Adar, what better item to discuss than wine? Another Israeli winery, this time the Gvaot Boutique Winery, has won the Gold Medal from the International organization of Vine and Wine for two of its wines. Here’s their facebook post in English and Hebrew.

Kol hakavod to Gvaot Winery on their amazing win – and on their marvellous wines for which, I have been assured by people who know (i.e. certain members of my family :-) …) that it is a well-deserved win. As an added bonus this win is a kick in the teeth for the BDS bigots.

Coral to be turned into bone grafts

Turning now to the world of bio-medicine, an Israeli company has invented a way to turn coral into bone grafts:

Far from the ocean, deep in Israel’s Negev Desert, man-made coral reefs are being grown inside large aquariums to be turned into bone grafts.

One company, OkCoral, has been growing coral for over six years in the Negev, and now another Israeli company, CoreBone, is manufacturing bone grafts (bone replacements) from coral grown in the desert – for use in orthopedic and dental procedures.

In 2008, Assaf Shaham, the CEO of OkCoral, started growing coral in his controlled-environment farm near Eilat for aquarium enthusiasts. But three years ago, when he partnered with Ohad Schwartz, the CEO and co-founder of another Israeli company called CoreBone, he realized that he’d been targeting the wrong market. According to Schwartz, the bone grafting market is a $4.5 billion market and the best bone graft substance is made out of, you guessed it, coral.

The main problem with using coral as a bone graft is that they are not bioactive. They don’t have the ability to induce biological activities and ‘communicate’ with the cells of the body,” Schwartz, former vice president of Israeli water-filtering company Tami4, tells NoCamels. He further explains that the effect of bioactivity is attracting new bone cells and creating new bone ingrowth.

So, when Schwartz and his partner, Prof. Itzhak Binderman, the former head of the dental department and hard tissue laboratory at the Sourasky Medical Center, founded CoreBone in 2011, they started developing a coral-based, bioactive bone graft. Bioengineering expert Binderman began combining bioactive substances with the coral’s usual diet, so when they are made into bone grafts they contain the qualities of a biological bone graft without the risk of contracting diseases.

Read the rest of the fascinating article.  Kol hakavod to Shaham, Schwartz and Binderman for their research, initiative and their practical application, all for the good of patients everywhere. (And kudos to Shaham for the clever name of his company!) Once again we see Israeli science and research at the top of their fields.

To conclude today’s post, I just want to make note of our crazy weather. Once again it’s been snowing in Jerusalem, the north, Gush Etzion – and even in Dimona in the Negev Desert (as reported by our intrepid reporter, aka my daughter). It has been causing chaos on the roads, schools are closed but Israelis are happy. Except for us down on the coast where it’s been raining, raining, raining and raining.  Did I mention it’s been raining? :-p   We’ve also had huge thunderstorms and hailstorms, and I challenge anyone to say we have a water shortage now!

Here is the Kotel covered in snow:

Snow-covered Kotel

And here is a Moroccan snowman, complete with Tarbush. :-)

Dimona Snowman

Dimona Snowman

And one final one, of my doggy nephew, i.e. my brother’s dog Chika, enjoying herself  outside Jerusalem:

Chika in the snow

Chika in the snow

Enjoy the pictures.  Keep warm everyone!

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!

Posted in Israel news, Judaism, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Antisemitism updates

Here is another update from the antisemitism front which has unfortunately not gone away. In fact they don’t like even dead Jews as Hundreds of Jewish graves were vandalised in France:

France’s interior minister said Sunday several hundred tombs have been defaced at a Jewish cemetery in east of the country, in what he called “a despicable act”.

“The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share,” said Bernard Cazeneuve without giving further details of the incident in the town of Sarre-Union.

French President Francois Hollande views desecrated Jewish graveyard along with Jewish leaders

It is somewhat gratifying to note that the French authorities are taking this seriously as President Francois Hollande sought to reassure French Jews:

“I know some are asking if they can live in peace in their country, and ask who will protect them against those who wish them harm,” Hollande said at the ceremony in Sarres-Union in the eastern Alsace region.

“One more time, I want to give the Republic’s response – that it will protect you with all its force.”

He was speaking at a Jewish cemetery where some 300 tombs and graves were defaced and damaged last week.

“You get the impression that an army has passed through here,” said the chief rabbi of Strasbourg, Rene Gutman, as he visited the cemetery.

Five boys aged 15 to 17 have been taken into custody over the incident.

Prosecutors say there is no indication yet that they were specifically targeting the Jewish community, with one boy reportedly claiming they were unaware the cemetery was for Jews.

In a similar incident, Jewish graves vandalised in Germany over the weekend:

A Jewish cemetery in the northern German city of Oldenburg was desecrated over the weekend, the Oldenburger Online newspaper reported on Monday.

Police are investigating the incident which left swastikas splattered on the cemetery’s entrance, a wall as well as on two parked cars.

This is not the first time the burial ground was targeted in such a fashion. Right-wing extremists have vandalized the site a number of times. In a prior case, one man was successfully charged in a court of law, sentenced to two years’ probation for shooting paint-balls at a number of Jewish gravestones.

Here is the news (not) from 1942: Lithuanians fascists marched under the swastika:

Approximately 500 ultra nationalists, some bearing Nazi swastikas, marched through a Lithuanian city that during the Holocaust saw the region’s most effective massacre of Jews.

Monday’s march through Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city 60 miles from the capital of Vilnius, was the eighth annual event organized by the Lithuanian Nationalist Youth Union on Feb. 16 – one of their Baltic state’s two independence days.

As the marchers assembled at a local park, they were confronted by 20-odd protesters from the local Jewish community and anti-fascist groups who shadowed the marchers in a silent counter-demonstration.

“This march is particularly offensive because it is taking place where locals and Nazis murdered more than 10,000 Jews in one day,” said Dovid Katz, a U.S.-born Jewish scholar of Yiddish who settled in Vilnius 16 years ago and has led protests against the veneration of Nazis in the Baltic States.

Katz, editor of the website DefendingHistory.com, was referring to the Kaunas massacre in October 1941, in which more Jews were killed in a single day than any other killing spree against Jews in the Baltic region.

Tomas Skorupsis, an organizer of the march from the youth movement, said the event was not anti-Semitic. Repeating a popular view in far-right circles in the Baltic nations, he added: “There are many Lithuanians who find it hard to forgive Jews who, during Communism, killed nationalist freedom fighters. But I think we should leave it in the past and look ahead.”

Riiight. So it’s not an antisemitic march but they “find it hard to forgive Jews”. I’m not sure if they’re trying to kid themselves or us.

And in news (not) from 1936: British Fascists plan a march to protest “Jewification” (!!) of Stamford Hill, a neighbourhood with a large ultra-Orthodox population in North London:

Organisers claim to be fighting against what they call the “Jewification” of the UK, and a civilian security group run by volunteers from the Hasidic Jewish community in London.

A ‘Liberate Stamford Hill’ Facebook event calls on nationalists to assemble on Clapton Common in Stamford Hill on 22 March, home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in Europe.

Members are rallying against the Shomrim security group, named after the Hebrew term for ‘guards’.  The organisation operates with the help of 80 volunteers, and focuses on London boroughs including Golders Green, Hendon and Barnet.

Its members, who receive training from the Metropolitan Police, wear uniforms complete with knife-proof vests and look out for anti-Semitic hate crimes, as well as general trouble in the neighbourhood.

Jewish “Shomrim” – community security guards in London

… The event has been organised by right-wing activist Joshua Bonehill-Paine, the self-styled “future of nationalism” …

In a post on his website entitled “An Urgent Appeal: The Jewification of Great Britain”, he attacks the Shomrim and claims “white people” in Stamford Hill are the target of abuse.

He writes: “It’s utter disbelief that the Jews of Stamford Hill have set up their own police force which enforces their own talmudic law on the streets of a White British city.”

This man sounds seriously off his meds – and his rocker. He need hospitalization, not jail. Thankfully it looks like the turnout – if it is allowed to go ahead – is likely to be pathetic:

Over 59 people have said they are attending the protest on Facebook.

But anti-fascist groups in London pledged to join together with Stamford Hill residents, community groups and other anti-fascist organisations to stop the event from taking place.

Here is something rather different. NRG in English (I didn’t know they had English-language articles) brings us journalist Zvika Klein’s shocking report of his experience from 10 hours of walking around in Paris identifiably dressed as a Jew:

PARIS – “Go f*** from the front and the back,” “Viva Palestine,” “Hey you, with the kippa, what are you doing here?” these were only a few of the remarks sent my way as I was walking through the streets of Paris wearing a tzitzit and a kippa.

Walking into a public housing neighborhood, we came across a little boy and his hijab-clad mother, who were clearly shocked to see us. “What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?” the boy asked.Walking by a school in one of Paris’ neighborhoods, a boy shouted “Viva Palestine” at me. Moments later, passing by a group of teens, one of the girls remarked, “Look at that – it’s the first time I’ve ever seen such a thing.”

They made it clear to us that we had better get out of there, and we took their advice. “A few more minutes and this would have been a lynching,” the bodyguard told me as we were getting into the car. “Leave this area right now.”

Is this what life is like for Paris’ Jews? Is this what a Jew goes through, day in and day out, while walking to work or using public transportation? The majority of French Jews do not flaunt their religion, as the Jewish community leaders have urged them to wear hats as they walk to and from work, or go bareheaded. But what about nighttime? Well, Jews prefers to stay inside in the evening. It is safer at home.

Here is a video of the day’s walk, compressed into 1½ minutes:

I commend Zvika Klein on his bravery and initiative although I have great concerns for his personal safety.

Back to your common-or-garden antisemitism disguised as anti-Israelism, hundreds of British “artists” – the usual suspects – signed a letter published in the Guardian (how predictable) calling for a boycott of Israel.

The letter, part of a project dubbed ‘Artists for Palestine,’ was signed by 100 of the more well-known artists on the list, including Roger Waters, Peter Kosminsky, and Jeremy McGovern.

“Along with more than 600 other fellow artists, we are announcing today that we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel,” the artist said in a letter. “We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government.”

“Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too,” it continues. “Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers.”

The artists also quoted the ‘apartheid’ misnomer.

“Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of “Brand Israel”. During South African apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to “play Sun City,” they said.

“Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.”

Brendan O’Neill slams them for their hypocrisy in an excellent rebuttal (h/t Debi Z):

A quick glance at the list of 700 Israel-boycotters reveals numerous people who have built their careers on cash from the coffers of the Iraqi-killing, Afghanistan-repressing British government. There’s Ken Loach, recipient of monies from the government-backed UK Film Council, here chiming in with all the others to say he will ‘accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding from any institutions linked to its government’. So, Ken, why are you happy to accept money from institutions linked to a government that has killed way more people in the Middle East than Israel has?

There’s Mike Leigh, who’s also been funded by the UK Film Council, and who threw a massive hissy fit in 2010 when the Film Council was wound down in its current form and reorganised. Ladies and gentlemen, the principled film-directing doyen of decent Hampsteadites, who makes angry public statements over two things: his implacable, principled refusal to take blood money from the Israeli killing machine and his fury at having his bloody money from the British killing machine taken away from him! What a guy!

Film director Peter Kosminsky is here, too, blathering on about not doing any work with Israeli government-linked institutions, yet he’s happy to sit on the Board of Directors of the British Film Institute which has been subsidised by… you guessed it: the government that bombed the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

… why is it bad to have anything to do with institutions linked to the Israeli government because of that whole Gaza thing but fine and dandy to take money from institutions linked to the British government despite the Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya thing? Are Israel’s wars somehow worse than Britain’s? Is being killed by a solider from the Jewish State somehow worse than being killed by a soldier of the British state? Is Israel more evil than Britain? Is Israel’s money bloodier than British money?

Of course O’Neill’s questions unanswerable by the BDS bigots. Bravo to Mr. O’Neill for once again exposing the boycotters’ hypocrisy.

I shall give the last word on this sorry subject (via Honest Reporting) to journalist and Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson in the Wall St. Journal (click via Google News).: “We can no longer stay silent on Anti-Semitism“:

 To call out anti-Semitism, unless blood has been spilt, is a hazardous enterprise in Britain. It draws the accusation of hypersensitivity. It attracts the opprobrium of other Jews who view themselves as less hysterical, and who consider it crying wolf or an attempt to silence fair criticism of Israel. And it plays to fears that lie buried deep in the British-Jewish psyche that to complain is to be ungrateful and, worse, that its only effect will be to call attention to a minority that has thrived by cultivating near-invisibility. “Keep shtum” was my father’s advice to me when I was growing up in Manchester in the 1950s. Don’t go in fear, but don’t be too conspicuous either.

I mean those attacks upon the very legitimacy and founding principles of Israel; that rhetoric of blame that inculpates the Israeli government and army at every turn, now accusing them of massacre, now of genocide, comparing them to the Nazis, and Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto; that assumption of willful sadism, of wallowing in slaughter, no matter that there is no evidence to support the charge or a motive to explain it; and those sinister little acts of wondering—just wondering: it’s all right to wonder isn’t it?—whether, say, the Israeli Defense Force only went to help the relief effort in Haiti in order to traffic in the organs of the dead. That implicit invocation, in other words, of the ancient figure of the Jew as malign being, pitiless adversary and, of course, child-killer.

It was courageous of France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls to point to fanatic anti-Zionism with its panoply of bans and boycotts, distortions and defamations, as contributory, in its passing on of the bacilli of blame, to the lethal attacks on Jews in Paris last month. […] Could the frightening nexus of classical European anti-Semitism and Muslim Jew-hating be dissolved at last by reason? Or must a Jew in Britain still keep shtum?

It’s not only the Jews in Britain. It’s the Jews in France, Germany, Denmark, all over Europe, who on the one hand are trying to stand up bravely to antisemitism and on the other hand are trying to keep a low profile, frantically shushing Prime Minister Netanyahu when he provides the solution to all of them: come home to Israel.

Posted in Antisemitism, Boycotts and BDS, Culture, Arts & Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Baruch Dayan Emet. Adele Biton, injured in stoning attack 2 years ago, has passed away.

Adele Biton z”l and her mother in a recent photo

In dreadful, heart-breaking news, we have just heard that Adele Biton, the little girl who was so critically injured in a stoning attack on her mother’s car almost exactly 2 years ago, has died of pneumonia.

Adelle Biton, the four-year-old terror victim who two years ago miraculously survived a rock attack which left her with severe neurological damage, passed away on Tuesday after her condition deteriorated rapidly from a bout of pneumonia.

She was admitted earlier this week to Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petah Tikva for treatment, and on Tuesday it was revealed that she had been put in intensive care.

“With great sorrow we report the death of Adelle Biton who despite the efforts of the doctors passed away roughly an hour ago,” stated the hospital on Tuesday. “Our condolences to the family.”

“Two years ago we had a great miracle here, and that is what I long for,” Adele’s mother Adva told Arutz Sheva earlier on Tuesday afternoon. “Adele is here, and she is fighting.”

Adele Biton z”l before being injured in the terrorist stoning attack

Adelle was critically wounded in March 2013, when the family car was attacked outside of Ariel in Samaria by Arab terrorists, who hurled rocks at the vehicle and caused it to veer off the road and crash headfirst into a truck.

The fist-sized rock struck Adelle directly in the head, leaving the two-year-old baby critically wounded and in mortal danger. Doctors said her recovery from the blow was nothing short of miraculous.

Adelle had been in and out of the hospital since in a grueling rehabilitation period.

I wonder how likely it is that Adele’s terrible injury led to her contracting pneumonia and her subsequent inability to overcome it. If there is any kind of provable link then the murderers should have their jail time lengthened to life without parole, without release in “prisoner exchanges” and without any benefits.

There are no words to comfort parents who lose a child. May the family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may they know no more sorrow.

ברוך דיין אמת. יהי זכרה ברוך.

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

Baruch Dayan Emet. Uri Orbach z”l

Uri Orbach votes in the Jewish Home primary on November 13, 2012

Uri Orbach, the politician, journalist, children’s author, humorist and so much more, passed away yesterday at much too young an age (54). He will be sorely missed not only within his own religious Zionist circles but across the Israeli political spectrum and Israeli society in general.

There have been so many moving eulogies and appreciations of Orbach’s life. Here is a small selection:

Jerusalem Post: Uri Orbach will be remembered for his wit and ideals:

A bespectacled man of slight build with a thick mustache and crocheted kippa, Orbach never looked like he could pack as hard a punch as he did whenever he took the podium, but words were both his weapon and his plaything.

He had an unparalleled ability to string them together in a way that was simultaneously entertaining and effective.

Before Orbach entered politics, running on the Bayit Yehudi-New NRP list in 2009, he was best known as a humorist, radio host, columnist and author of books for children and adults, whose talent for word play and wit was unmatched.

Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett posted a video of a 1994 political TV program on Facebook Sunday night, in which everyone participating praised then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin for shaking PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s hand, and Orbach was the only one to say – managing, as he did in the Knesset, to be both witty and serious at the same time – that just because his fellow members of the press were throwing a victory party, and just because Rabin shook his hand, Arafat didn’t turn from a murderer into a statesman.

Orbach wrote the 90s political slogans-turned-ubiquitous- bumper-stickers; “The Nation is With the Golan” and “Hebron From Time Immemorial,” to oppose territorial concessions.

Yet of all the puns and digs at the Left he made over the past decades, perhaps the most influential phrase turned by Orbach was “Send the Best to the Press,” a take on the well-known Hebrew phrase “Send the Best to the Air Force.”

When Orbach moved from the religious press to the general one, most famously co-hosting Army Radio’s The Last Word and writing a column for Yediot Aharonot, his was one of the few crocheted kippot seen on members of the mainstream media, strongly representing the Right’s cause.

Orbach encouraged his fellow religious-Zionists to follow in his footsteps and let their voices be heard. By the time he died, religious-Zionists played central and visible roles in just about every media outlet in Israel.

Orbach did not only plant a seed that grew into fruits of religious- Zionist influence in the media. Though Bennett is the charismatic face of that group’s political renaissance, Orbach was its catalyst.

Not only religious-Zionists were touched by Orbach’s wit and innovativeness. As senior citizens minister, he took an underfunded portfolio and turned it into a positive influence on senior citizens’ lives, fighting for their rights and encouraging those who can to get out of the house and volunteer their vast experience to help others. He used his never-ending creativity to invent “Tuesday in Suspenders,” a day on which senior citizens received discounts on entertainment.

Weeks ago, when Orbach entered the hospital, MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) wrote a Facebook post about their long friendship, saying they got along well both as journalists and as politicians despite their ideological differences.

“He is one of the funniest people I know,” she added, sharing a text message Orbach sent her before the Labor primary wishing her “big success in a small party.”

Ynet have reproduced Orbach’s final column in Yediot Aharonot before he left journalism for politics.

Arutz Sheva reported on the eulogies of Knesset MKs and ministers: There was no one who didn’t love Uri:

Earlier Monday, Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett eulogized Orbach on social media.

“My older brother has departed,” he wrote. “Uri, a man of laughter and seriousness, of wisdom and uprightness, of courage and vision. Uri knew how to chisel an ideological path with insistence and charm, industriously but with a wink, with unending self-consciousness and unfading personal charm. Uri knew how to make children happy with his books, make their parents laugh with his witticisms, and bring their elderly parents an honorable old age.”

“He raised generations of young people in the media and showed them that their dream is possible. Generations of religious and secular people learned from him that the connection between them is possible,” Bennett continued.

“He was a man who loved the land and loved people without limits. He loved the People of Israel and they loved him back so much in return. In the cynical, cold world there was no one as beloved as Uri. I will miss him very much.”

“I have lost a real friend today, a friend in times of difficulty and joy, a person to consult with and a person to laugh with. I have lost a friend without whom I would not be here today. I convey my condolences to his wife Michal and the four children. We will continue in Uri’s path, and it will be much more difficult and sad without him.”

Even leftist MKs expressed mourning over Orbach’s passing.

“My friend Uri Orbach died and it’s sad and painful,” Labor MK Shelly Yechimovich wrote on her Facebook page Monday. “It is outrageous and unjust that the course of his life – the best of all, the most sensible and honest of all, the funniest of all – has been severed so young.”

“We were born in the same year, same month, same day, and at the same time,” she continued. “The relationship between us, even though we belong to two opposing political camps, was extraordinarily close despite political differences.”

She said that “complex issues which had sparked a debate, Orbach knew how to spice them up with humor, and broke through barriers and opened the door to a more pleasant and respectful discourse.”

“His entry into the world of politics has been a model for other journalists,” she added. “His love for Israel was manifested in his political interests, and he spoke clearly and fluently about them, about his desire to build a stronger and better society, a more tolerant one.”

The sweetest eulogy was written by Haviv Rettig Gur in the Times of Israel:

“I invited Uri to my wedding,” recalled a Knesset employee who asked not to be named. “He told me he couldn’t make it because his son’s wedding was the day before.”

The employee worked as an aide for a competing party to Orbach’s Jewish Home, so it was unlikely the popular lawmaker and well-known former journalist could glean any political benefit from attending the wedding.

But it was that very fact that vexed him. “He was so worried I would think he was just giving me an excuse not to come,” the aide recalled, “that he brought me an invitation to his son’s wedding as proof of where he’d been.”

It was an incident the Knesset aide never forgot, and is of a type with the memories that surfaced in conversations and Facebook posts after news of Orbach’s death became public on Monday afternoon. That kindness and sympathetic instinct did not diminish as Orbach’s acclaim as a journalist grew or, in his last years, as his political standing won him a seat at the cabinet table.

Many also recalled his honesty.

There was little doubt on Monday that his religiosity formed an important part of the personality so admired by his friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

One non-religious Knesset aide recalled Monday that Orbach used to chastise secularist politicians who voted to cut the generous child benefits the state offered to large, primarily ultra-Orthodox families.

“He used to ask, ‘Why are you cutting subsidies to religious families?’” the aide recalled. “‘Where do you think secular Israelis come from? There will be fewer of you, not them,’ he would say.”

His was a sense of humor that cut through the raw emotions such sectoral clashes over public funds often generated in the Knesset. “He could tell the secular public that they depended on the religious, but in a way that also told the religious their own kids were joining the secular public,” the aide said.

Channel 2 anchor Sivan Rahav-Meir posted to Facebook a page from the children’s book “I promise,” penned by Orbach. On the page was a poem: “We reach Heaven / after 120 years / the poor / and the rich alike. / There they don’t ask / if you bought houses / and streets, / there the main thing / is that you collected good deeds.”

The Israeli political class was stung by the loss on Monday not of a cabinet minister, but of a man who would go out of his way to avoid offending a junior aide in a competing party, an ex-journalist who didn’t believe in “off the record,” a polemicist and advocate who brought to the most fraught issues on the national agenda the sincerity and guilelessness of the children’s books he authored.

Amongst his many other talents, Orbach also founded the children’s magazines Otiyot and Sukariyot of which my children, and now my grandchildren are avid readers. His beautiful, gently humorous and witty children’s books entertained my children, and now my grandchildren too and are a fixture on the bookshelves of thousands of religious families.

Israel, the Jewish People and the world are a poorer sadder place without Ori Orbach z”l. May he rest in peace and may his memory be for a blessing. May his family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

יהי זכרו ברוך

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Obama’s revenge

We’ve come to know and not love Obama’s petulant thin-skinned persona who cannot take criticism from allies, or even disagreement on policy. Several times over the past years Israel has experienced the sharp edge of his or the Administration’s tongue, but two reports in recent days are quite stunning.

The first, via Elder of Ziyon, is that the US just declassified solely the portion concerning Israel of a 1987 report on allies’ nuclear capability.

From Courthouse News Service:

In the midst of controversy over the Israeli prime minister’s plans to address Congress next month, a researcher has won the release of a decades-old Defense Department report detailing the U.S. government’s extensive help to Israel in that nation’s development of a nuclear bomb.

The 1987 report, “Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations,” compares the key Israeli facilities developing nuclear weapons to Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the principal U.S. laboratories that developed the bomb for the United States.

Only 129 of the 386 pages were released, with anything not having to do with Israel (specifically, the programs of France, Italy, West Germany and “Other NATO Countries”) still censored. The person who requested the report under the Freedom of Information Act agreed to that redaction, because his one and only purpose was to attack Israel.

It is curious that the report was released so soon before the controversial Netanyahu visit to Congress, something that is noted in the Courthouse News article as well.

It’s not only curious. It is damned suspicious and positively outrageous. I hope that Israel will be protesting officially at this breach of trust by the US.

Another report, subsequently denied by the Administration was that the US has stopped updating Israel on the nuclear talks with Iran:

The White House and State Department denied that it had stopped updating Israel on progress in talks with Iran over its contested nuclear program, as had been reported earlier by Channel 2.

According to the TV report on Sunday, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice has cut off contact with Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen on the talks. It also quoted chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman as saying that she will no longer keep Israel informed of the attack. The channel characterized the move as revenge for Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next month, which has raised the ire of the Obama administration.

But the US swiftly rebutted the claims, with the White House terming the report “patently false.”

…“And Secretary Kerry continues his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu about this issue, as has always been the case,” the State Department said.

Earlier, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel that the report was false.

The question that arises though is where did this report originate from? Was it from Channel 2 TV whose agenda is not particularly pro-Netanyahu, especially towards the upcoming elections?  Were they hoping ot discredit Bibi by such a report? On the other hand would an established TV channel just make up such a report out of whole cloth?

Or was the story true, but when it broke in the media the Administration was embarrassed enough to deny it?

I doubt the full truth will come out, but the sad thing is that the story could possibly have been true. That is the character of Obama and his Administration and that is the nature of the rickety US-Israel relationship at present.

On a related matter, former Defence Secretary Leon Panetta stated that he was “afraid of Netanyahu’s speech”.  He explained this rather startling admission thus:

Panetta told CNN, “I’m afraid what is going to happen here with what Netanyahu will do, is to make this partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans and that makes it a very dangerous trap.”

Panetta said the real focus should be on unity, not on fighting. “We need to get back to presidents and Congresses who can work together to try to confront the challenges we face,” he said.

If it’s unity that he’s worried about, and he’s right to be concerned because the divisiveness si giving the Iranians a huge morale boost, then he ought to address his concerns to the Administration, and in particular to Obama who made Netanyahu’s speech a partisan issue in the first place.

The divisiveness and partisanship is evident not on Capitol Hill but within the American Jewish community too, where many members are adamantly objecting to Netanyahu’s speech on the grounds that it will undermine the President, the deal with Iran, and/or interfere in American politics. Gabriel Eichler in the Algemeiner answers these concerns with a timely reminder of the apathy and acquiescence of American Jewish leaders during the Holocaust at a time when speaking out might have saved millions:

Jewish apathy, acquiesce, and outright collaboration that immeasurably assisted Hitler’s Nazi regime in carrying out its “Final Solution.”

Let’s look at historical facts first: on August 28, 1942, American Reform Rabbi Stephen Wise received an alarming cable from London.

…Rabbi Wise was the most well-known leader of the American Jewish community during the years of World War II, and he also officiated as president of both the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.

His shameful failure of “leadership” ended up to be a criminally disgraceful disaster when it came to making any rescue efforts on behalf of Europe’s Jews – including my entire murdered family – during the Holocaust.

On October 6, 1943, a delegation of American Orthodox rabbis arrived in Washington hoping for a personal audience with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They planned to present to the President irrefutable proof that the Nazis were conducting a wholesale annihilation of unimaginable scale of European Jews.

The rabbis understood that this was a decisive moment – the very last chance to stop the Holocaust before the last of European Jewry was extinguished.

Wise who – like a good political lackey – called President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ‘Boss’ and ‘Chief,’ advised the President not to meet with the 400 pleading Orthodox rabbis who marched on Washington.

So accordingly, the President did not make himself available to hear the pleas.

Which brings me to a recent public statement I read in a New York Jewish newspaper – a statement, that was attributed to the current leader of Reform Jewry in the US.

In the Jewish Daily Forward, a certain American Reform leader reportedly pronounced that it would be “ill-advised” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress, because it would take place two weeks before Israeli elections and also because the appearance had been organized without the knowledge of the White House.

On one hand, it could be seen as just one of many opinions expressed on Netanyahu’s stated intention of giving a dire warning to Congress regarding the dangers of a nuclear Iran. But since this is eerily similar to another Reform leader – Stephen Wise’s horrific mishandling of a truly existential threat to the Jewish people – the stunning coincidence simply cannot be ignored.

Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot be expected to sit back and leave the future of his people in the hands of a murderous, radical – and soon to be nuclear-capable – Islamic Republic, nor to the whims of naïve dilettantes in Washington who are looking for a “legacy” or to curry favor with the Administration.

Am Yisroel Chai!

The people of Israel will live only if we look after our own interests without kowtowing to well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning friends who think they know better than us how to protect us – or how to save us from ourselves.

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