Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A VIEW FROM THE FRONTLINE


Video of the week: UN hypocristy exposed by US ambassador Nikki Haley- http://tinyurl.com/htnc42x


A year working as a journalist in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, made Hunter Stuart rethink his positions on the conflict.
By Hunter Stuart, The Jerusalem Report magazine Feb. 20, 2017
For the full article go to:  http://tinyurl.com/gmn9wsl
In the summer of 2015, just three days after I moved to Israel for a year-and-a-half stint freelance reporting in the region, I wrote down my feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A friend of mine in New York had mentioned that it would be interesting to see if living in Israel would change the way I felt. My friend probably suspected that things would look differently from the front-row seat, so to speak.

Boy was he right.

Before I moved to Jerusalem, I was very pro-Palestinian. Almost everyone I knew was. I grew up Protestant in a quaint, politically correct New England town; almost everyone around me was liberal. And being liberal in America comes with a pantheon of beliefs: You support pluralism, tolerance and diversity. You support gay rights, access to abortion and gun control.

The belief that Israel is unjustly bullying the Palestinians is an inextricable part of this pantheon. Most progressives in the US view Israel as an aggressor, oppressing the poor noble Arabs who are being so brutally denied their freedom.

“I believe Israel should relinquish control of all of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank,” I wrote on July 11, 2015, from a park near my new apartment in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood. “The occupation is an act of colonialism that only creates suffering, frustration and despair for millions of Palestinians.”

Perhaps predictably, this view didn’t play well among the people I met during my first few weeks in Jerusalem, which, even by Israeli standards, is a conservative city. My wife and I had moved to the Jewish side of town, more or less by chance. As a result, almost everyone we interacted with was Jewish Israeli and very supportive of Israel. I didn’t announce my pro-Palestinian views to them ‒ I was too afraid. But they must have sensed my antipathy (I later learned this is a sixth sense Israelis have).

During my first few weeks in Jerusalem, I found myself constantly getting into arguments about the conflict with my roommates and in social settings. Unlike waspy New England, Israel does not afford the privilege of politely avoiding unpleasant political conversations. Outside of the Tel Aviv bubble, the conflict is omnipresent; it affects almost every aspect of life. Avoiding it simply isn’t an option.

During one such argument, one of my roommates ‒ an easygoing American-Jewish guy in his mid-30s ‒ seemed to be suggesting that all Palestinians were terrorists. I became annoyed and told him it was wrong to call all Palestinians terrorists, that only a small minority supported terrorist attacks. My roommate promptly pulled out his laptop, called up a 2013 Pew Research poll and showed me the screen. I saw that Pew’s researchers had done a survey of thousands of people across the Muslim world, asking them if they supported suicide bombings against civilians in order to “defend Islam from its enemies.” The survey found that 62 percent of Palestinians believed such terrorist acts against civilians were justified in these circumstances. And not only that, the Palestinian territories were the only place in the Muslim world where a majority of citizens supported terrorism; everywhere else it was a minority ‒ from Lebanon and Egypt to Pakistan and Malaysia.

I didn’t let my roommate win the argument early morning hours. But the statistic stuck with me.

Less than a month later, in October 2015, a wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Jewish-Israelis began. Nearly every day, an angry, young Muslim Palestinian was stabbing or trying to run over someone with his car. A lot of the violence was happening in Jerusalem, some of it just steps from where my wife and I had moved into an apartment of our own, and lived and worked and went grocery shopping.

At first, I’ll admit, I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy for Israelis. Actually, I felt hostility. I felt that they were the cause of the violence. I wanted to shake them and say, “Stop occupying the West Bank, stop blockading Gaza, and Palestinians will stop killing you!” It seemed so obvious to me; how could they not realize that all this violence was a natural, if unpleasant, reaction to their government’s actions?

IT WASN’T until the violence became personal that I began to see the Israeli side with greater clarity. As the “Stabbing Intifada” (as it later became known) kicked into full gear, I traveled to the impoverished East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan for a story I was writing.

As soon as I arrived, a Palestinian kid who was perhaps 13 years old pointed at me and shouted “Yehudi!” which means “Jew” in Arabic. Immediately, a large group of his friends who’d been hanging out nearby were running toward me with a terrifying sparkle in their eyes. “Yehudi! Yehudi!” they shouted. I felt my heart start to pound. I shouted at them in Arabic “Ana mish yehudi! Ana mish yehudi!” (“I’m not Jewish, I’m not Jewish!”) over and over. I told them, also in Arabic, that I was an American journalist who “loved Palestine.” They calmed down after that, but the look in their eyes when they first saw me is something I’ll never forget. Later, at a house party in Amman, I met a Palestinian guy who’d grown up in Silwan. “If you were Jewish, they probably would have killed you,” he said.

My attitude began to shift, probably because the violence was, for the first time, affecting me directly.

I found myself worrying that my wife might be stabbed while she was on her way home from work. Every time my phone lit up with news of another attack, if I wasn’t in the same room with her, I immediately sent her a text to see if she was OK.

Then a friend of told us that his friend had been murdered by two Palestinians the month before on a city bus not far from his apartment. I knew the story well ‒ not just from the news, but because I’d interviewed the family of one of the Palestinian guys who’d carried out the attack. In the interview, his family told me how he was a promising young entrepreneur who was pushed over the edge by the daily humiliations wrought by the occupation. I ended up writing a very sympathetic story about the killer for a Jordanian news site called Al Bawaba News.

Writing about the attack with the detached analytical eye of a journalist, I was able to take the perspective that (I was fast learning) most news outlets wanted – that Israel was to blame for Palestinian violence. But when I learned that my friend’s friend was one of the victims, it changed my way of thinking. I felt horrible for having publicly glorified one of the murderers. The man who’d been murdered, Richard Lakin, was originally from New England, like me, and had taught English to Israeli and Palestinian children at a school in Jerusalem. He believed in making peace with the Palestinians and “never missed a peace rally,” according to his son.

By contrast, his killers ‒ who came from a middle-class neighborhood in East Jerusalem and were actually quite well-off relative to most Palestinians ‒ had been paid 20,000 shekels ($5,300 USD) to storm the bus that morning with their cowardly guns. More than a year later, you can still see their faces plastered around East Jerusalem on posters hailing them as martyrs. (One of the attackers, Baha Aliyan, 22, was killed at the scene; the second, Bilal Ranem, 23, was captured alive.)

Being personally affected by the conflict caused me to question how forgiving I’d been of Palestinian violence previously. Liberals, human-rights groups and most of the media, though, continued to blame Israel for being attacked. Ban Ki-moon, for example, who at the time was the head of the United Nations, said in January 2016 ‒ as the streets of my neighborhood were stained with the blood of innocent Israeli civilians ‒ that it was “human nature to react to occupation.” In fact, there is no justification for killing someone, no matter what the political situation may or may not be, and Ban’s statement rankled me.

SIMILARLY, THE way that international NGOs, European leaders and others criticized Israel for its “shoot to kill” policy during this wave of terrorist attacks began to annoy me more and more.

In almost any nation, when the police confront a terrorist in the act of killing people, they shoot him dead and human-rights groups don’t make a peep. This happens in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh; it happens in Germany and England and France and Spain, and it sure as hell happens in the US (see San Bernardino and the Orlando nightclub massacre, the Boston Marathon bombings and others). Did Amnesty International condemn Barack Obama or Abdel Fattah al-Sisi or Angela Merkel or Fran├žois Hollande when their police forces killed a terrorist? Nope. But they made a point of condemning Israel.

What’s more, I started to notice that the media were unusually fixated on highlighting the moral shortcomings of Israel, even as other countries acted in infinitely more abominable ways. If Israel threatened to relocate a collection of Palestinian agricultural tents, as they did in the West Bank village of Sussiya in the summer of 2015, for example, the story made international headlines for weeks. The liberal outrage was endless. Yet, when Egypt’s president used bulldozers and dynamite to demolish an entire neighborhood in the Sinai Peninsula in the name of national security, people scarcely noticed.

Unfortunately for Israel, videos on social media that show US-funded Jewish soldiers shooting tear gas at rioting Arab Muslims is Hollywood-level entertainment and fits perfectly with the liberal narrative that Muslims are oppressed and Jewish Israel is a bully.

I admire the liberal desire to support the underdog. They want to be on the right side of history, and their intentions are good. The problem is that their beliefs often don’t square with reality.
* * *

THERE’S AN old saying that goes, “If you want to change someone’s mind, first make them your friend.” The friends I made in Israel forever changed my mind about the country and about the Jewish need for a homeland. But I also spent a lot of time traveling in the Palestinian territories getting to know Palestinians. I spent close to six weeks visiting Nablus and Ramallah and Hebron, and even the Gaza Strip. I met some incredible people in these places; I saw generosity and hospitality unlike anywhere else I’ve ever traveled to. I’ll be friends with some of them for the rest of my life. But almost without fail, their views of the conflict and of Israel and of Jewish people in general was extremely disappointing.

First of all, even the kindest, most educated, upper-class Palestinians reject 100 percent of Israel ‒ not just the occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They simply will not be content with a two-state solution ‒ what they want is to return to their ancestral homes in Ramle and Jaffa and Haifa and other places in 1948 Israel, within the Green Line. And they want the Israelis who live there now to leave. They almost never speak of coexistence; they speak of expulsion, of taking back “their” land.

The other thing is that a large percentage of Palestinians, even among the educated upper class, believe that most Islamic terrorism is actually engineered by Western governments to make Muslims look bad. I know this sounds absurd. It’s a conspiracy theory that’s comical until you hear it repeated again and again as I did. I can hardly count how many Palestinians told me the stabbing attacks in Israel in 2015 and 2016 were fake or that the CIA had created ISIS.

For example, after the November 2015 ISIS shootings in Paris that killed 150 people, a colleague of mine ‒ an educated 27-year-old Lebanese-Palestinian journalist ‒ casually remarked that those massacres were “probably” perpetrated by the Mossad. Though she was a journalist like me and ought to have been committed to searching out the truth no matter how unpleasant, this woman was unwilling to admit that Muslims would commit such a horrific attack, and all too willing ‒ in defiance of all the facts ‒ to blame it on Israeli spies.

USUALLY WHEN I travel, I try to listen to people without imposing my own opinion. To me that’s what traveling is all about ‒ keeping your mouth shut and learning other perspectives. But after 3-4 weeks of traveling in Palestine, I grew tired of these conspiracy theories.

“Arabs need to take responsibility for certain things,” I finally shouted at a friend I’d made in Nablus the third or fourth time he tried to deflect blame from Muslims for Islamic terrorism. “Not everything is America’s fault.” My friend seemed surprised by my vehemence and let the subject drop ‒ obviously I’d reached my saturation point with this nonsense.

I know a lot of Jewish-Israelis who are willing to share the land with Muslim Palestinians, but for some reason finding a Palestinian who feels the same way was near impossible. Countless Palestinians told me they didn’t have a problem with Jewish people, only with Zionists. They seemed to forget that Jews have been living in Israel for thousands of years, along with Muslims, Christians, Druse, atheists, agnostics and others, more often than not, in harmony. Instead, the vast majority believe that Jews only arrived in Israel in the 20th century and, therefore, don’t belong here.

I’m back in the US now, living on the north side of Chicago in a liberal enclave where most people ‒ including Jews ‒ tend to support the Palestinians’ bid for statehood, which is gaining steam every year in international forums such as the UN.

Personally, I’m no longer convinced it’s such a good idea. If the Palestinians are given their own state in the West Bank, who’s to say they wouldn’t elect Hamas, an Islamist group committed to Israel’s destruction? That’s exactly what happened in Gaza in democratic elections in 2006. Fortunately, Gaza is somewhat isolated, and its geographic isolation ‒ plus the Israeli and Egyptian-imposed blockade ‒ limit the damage the group can do. But having them in control of the West Bank and half of Jerusalem is something Israel obviously doesn’t want. It would be suicide. And no country can be expected to consent to its own destruction.

So, now, I don’t know what to think. I’m squarely in the center of one of the most polarized issues in the world. I guess, at least, I can say that, no matter how socially unacceptable it was, I was willing to change my mind. If only more people would do the same.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

BDS: A threat to the entire Middle East

Video of the week - BDS: The Attempt to Strangle Israel - http://tinyurl.com/haxpnhr

 Article by Abed Almaala - Israel Hayom 15th Feb 2017

As a Jordanian politician, I feel obligated to speak out against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its effect on the Middle East and the world.

I represent the point of view and interests of the Jordanian people.By doing so, I have freedom that many others may not. My views onBDS are unbiased and balanced because I am not an Israeli and nobody could accuse me of being anti-Arab.

Let me be clear: BDS is a reckless act of hatred that threatens thesecurity and stability of not only Israel, but also my country, Jordan, and the entire Middle East.

BDS seeks to attack and isolate Israel. But what is Israel's importance to Jordan, and to the world? Why should anyone care if Israel is hurt?

This is what the president of the Jordanian opposition, Mudar Zahran, wrote last year in Israel Hayom:"If the day were to come when Israel falls, Jordan, Egypt and many others would fall, too, andWesterners would be begging Iran for oil.
"We can hate Israel as much as we like, but we must realize that without it, we toowould be gone.‏"‏

Israel is at the front of the war against terror in our region,and if Israel is hurt, we all will suffer, and Jordan will suffer the most.

Therefore, BDS is a threat to us all -- a threat to America as much as it is a threat to Israel, Jordan and our Palestinian brothers.

BDS claims to target Israel because Israel oppresses the Palestinians. If so, why does BDS never target Jordan's government, which oppresses and destroys the lives of the majority of Jordanians of Palestinian origins, and where many of my own people, the Bedouin Jordanians, go hungry?

Why does BDS never boycott Lebanon, where Palestinians are banned from workingas taxi drivers? Why does it not boycott Syria, where President Bashar Assad has killed thousands of Palestinians in Yarmouk camp?

BDS, admit it: You are racists and anti-Semites.
Your activities are a threat to Jordan, and it is my mission as Jordan's shadow commerce secretary to enhance, expand, strengthen and promote tradebetween my country and Israel.

But BDS is not alone. It could not survive without support, bothfinancial and political, and we in the Jordanian opposition have information that BDS receives support of various kinds from Arab dictators.

From day one, Arab rulers have been telling us that Israeli is the enemy, and that weshould forget about our own hungry children and our ruthless governments and focus exclusively on hating and killing Jews.

BDS promotes the very same bankrupt concepts.
I say, BDS: Shame on you.

Shame on you for attacking the only country that offers jobs to my Palestinian brothers.

Shame on you for attacking the country that provides free health care for Palestinian cancer patients.

Shame on you for selling your souls to Arab regimes.

As a Muslim, I know that since my Prophet Muhammad was welcomed in Medinaby the Arabs and the Jews, he traded with and even signed a mutual defense agreement with the Jews.

And as a Jordanian and a member of Jordan's opposition, it is time we stoppedtalking about peace and began living peace through economic prosperity; this is our promise and our mission.

BDS is not only hateful and shameful, but also strengthens Arab dictators who hypocritically criticize Israel for alleged human rights violations when they, themselves, are the world's top human rights violators.

A man is known by the company he keeps; if the biggest supporters of BDS are Arab and Muslim dictators,what does this say about BDS?

We Arabs have boycotted Israel for 70 years. Where has it gotten us? We arelight-years behind Israel in technology and the economy. We will stop this in Jordan and begin learning from our Israel friends.

This dream is not new. It was the dream of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whosaw economic prosperity as the road to peace. That is why I was honored to organize a memorial event for him in the U.S. Congress when he was killed, more than 20 years ago.

Let us make his memory live through action. Let us turn the lost hopes into a beautiful reality, and disappointment into happiness. And let us all put BDS where it belongs, in the dust bin of history.

Someday soon, Jordan will be free and we will build a new system that will work closely with Israel, through partnership, not competition, and through true cooperation rather than just a cold peace.

And we will turn Jordan into a model for Arab countries to follow through cooperation with our Israeli brothers and sisters and the blessings of our American friends.

Am Yisrael Chai. Am Yarden Chai.

Abed Almaala is a member of the Jordanian Opposition Coalition.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Israel’s Tech Firms Do Business in Saudi Arabia


Thanks for your patience, we’re back in action.
Video of the week: Israeli technology is everywhere - https://tinyurl.com/hyg55rg           
By Jonathan Ferziger and Peter Waldman. BloombergBusinessWeek 2-2-2017
For the full article go to: http://tinyurl.com/zzdexvp
Over the course of 30 years working in Israeli intelligence, Shmuel Bar immersed himself in the hermeneutics of terrorism. Using techniques of literary analysis more familiar to Koranic scholars and Bible critics, he came to recognize the distinctive language and religious phrases that suicide bombers used in their farewell videos. “Victory is with the patient” appeared frequently in the martyrdom declarations of Hamas recruits. Al-Qaeda adherents favored the call “God, count them, kill them, and don’t leave any of them.”
Bar, a tousle-haired 62-year-old with a wry sensibility, emerged from government service in 2003 amid the proliferation of global terrorism, and in the rising sense of doom he saw a business opportunity. He founded a company called IntuView, a miner of data in the deep, dark web—a sort of Israeli version of Palantir, the Silicon Valley security contractor. Tapping engineering talent in Israel’s startup hub of Herzliya, he adapted his analyst’s ear for language to custom algorithms capable of sifting through unending streams of social media messages for terrorist threats. He sold his services to police, border, and intelligence agencies across Europe and the U.S.
Then, two years ago, an e-mail arrived out of the blue. Someone from the upper echelons of power in Saudi Arabia, Bar says, invited him to discuss a potential project via Skype. The Saudis had heard about his technology and wanted his help identifying potential terrorists. There was one catch: Bar would have to set up a pass-through company overseas to hide IntuView’s Israeli identity. Not a problem, he said, and he went to work ferreting out Saudi jihadis with a software program called IntuScan, which can process 4 million Facebook and Twitter posts a day. Later, the job expanded to include public-opinion research on the Saudi royal family.
“It’s not as if I went looking for this,” Bar says, still bemused by the unexpected turn in a life spent confronting Israel’s enemies. “They came to me.”
“If it’s a country which is not hostile to Israel that we can help, we’ll do it”
Bar says he meets freely these days with Saudis and other Gulf Arabs at overseas conferences and private events. Trade and collaboration in technology and intelligence are flourishing between Israel and a host of Arab states, even if the people and companies involved rarely talk about it publicly. When a London think tank recently disinvited Bar from speaking on a panel, explaining that a senior Saudi official was also coming and it wasn’t possible to have them appear together, Bar told the organizers that he and the Saudi gentleman had in fact been planning to have lunch together at a Moroccan restaurant nearby before walking over to the event together. “They were out-Saudi-ing the Saudis,” he says.
Peace hasn’t come to the Middle East. This isn’t beating swords into plowshares but a logical coalescence of interests based on shared fears: of an Iranian bomb, jihadi terror, popular insurgency, and an American retreat from the region. IntuView has Israeli export licenses and the full support of its government to help any country facing threats from Iran and militant Islamic groups. “If it’s a country which is not hostile to Israel that we can help, we’ll do it,” Bar says. Only Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq are off-limits.
The Saudis and other oil-rich Arab states are only too happy to pay for the help. “The Arab boycott?” Bar says. “It doesn’t exist.”

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

PA. ALLOCATIONS TO TERRORISTS AND THEIR FAMILIES

As we’re relocating next week, I’m enforced to take a short break until we’ll be connected again.

Video Of The Week -Ami Horowitz debunks Kerry’s West Bank claims http://tinyurl.com/jbbgs8q                    

By Sander Gerber, Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Jan. 18th 2017

For the full article go to: http://tinyurl.com/hszcy65

When Israel revealed in 2016 that it had arrested the Palestinian director of the “World Vision” aid organization in Gaza and later a prominent official of the UN Development Program (UNDP) in Gaza for diverting international assistance for humanitarian and civilian purposes to support Hamas terror activities, much of the world was upset. Yet at the same time, the Palestinian Authority (PA) officially, publicly, and proudly supports terror using international funding.

The PA pays directly and, as of 2014, partly through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), about 1.1 billion shekels (around $300 million) every year as salaries to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails, continuing after they are released, and to the families of dead terrorists and other Palestinians who died fighting against Zionism.

These “incentives to terror” salaries appear clearly in the PA budget. They amount to seven percent of the Palestinian budget and more than 20 percent of the annual foreign aid to the PA. (See appendices for PA legislation and budget, and prisoner and martyrs payment schedules.)

It may seem strange, but the international and Israeli reactions to these payments have been minimal until recently, and the aid and the payments keep flowing without significant interruption.

The purpose of this study is to examine the ideological and political background for the payment of these salaries that constitutes blatant support for terrorism in contradiction to the Palestinian commitments in the Oslo agreements. It discusses the attitude of Israel and the international donor community towards the payments and the legal aspects of this phenomenon. Finally, the study presents recommended actions for dealing with it.


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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Five young victims, Hamas hand out sweeties

Video of the week - The video that Obama and the U.N. want removed from YouTube - http://tinyurl.com/zq6leb7

Tom Gross and Sacha Dratwa contributed to this article.
Moshe Aharon, the driver of the bus, told Army Radio that “a group of soldiers was standing with their bags near the bus. I had just let them off. The truck drove into the group of soldiers, ran over them and kept going. The soldiers shot at the driver. He reversed and ran over them again.”
Leah Schreiber, one of the guides for the group of soldiers, told reporters that the driver had reversed and run over the bodies again.
“I was explaining about the view of Jerusalem. I saw soldiers shouting and screaming. Some of the soldiers started shooting. It took some time to kill [the driver] so he was able to reverse. The whole thing took maybe a minute and a half,” Schreiber said.

At first, it was not clear if this was an accident or a deliberate attack, but Schreiber said she “understood it was a terror attack when they started shooting at him.”
A number of victims were trapped under the truck after the incident, according to a Magen David Adom paramedic on the scene.
According to the Ben Zvi Institute, which led the trip for the army, the soldiers were cadets from the IDF’s officer’s training course, but from non-combat units.

The driver of the truck was identified as Fadi al-Qanbar, a resident of the capital’s Jabel Mukaber neighborhood, according to Arab media. The truck, with Israeli license plates, came from the direction of that neighborhood, which is adjacent to the promenade.
He was in his late 20s, married with four children, and had served time in Israeli jail, Channel 2 said. He bought the truck last year.
One seriously injured soldier was sent to Shaare Zedek hospital. She was unconscious and doctors were attempting to stabilize her condition, a spokesperson for the hospital said.

The scene of a truck ramming attack in Jerusalem in January 8, 2017
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Hamas terror group praised the attack as “heroic.”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem lauded the attack on his Facebook page, saying, “These operations demonstrate that all attempts to bypass the resistance or to thwart it will fail every time.”
Palestinian assailants have used vehicle rammings as a method for terror attacks for years, and the method seemed to have been adopted by European jihadists in recent months, including in an attack in Berlin last month that left 12 dead, including an Israeli woman.


Hamas, a group previously praised by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, British Labour Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, British peer Baroness Jenny Tonge and others, hands out sweets to motorists in Gaza after the attack yesterday in celebration of the murder of Israelis.

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