Israel’s Eternal and Undivided Capital

This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel here:

Those of us in the Zionist camp have for many years declared the mantra, “Jerusalem is and will remain Israel’s eternal and undivided capital.”

We declare it to be “eternal” because Jews have been the only cohesive community with a consistent presence here for the past 3,000 years and we hope to continue dwelling here indefinitely. We declare it to be “our capital” because it has been the primary seat of Jewish government, though intermittent, since the defeat of the Jebusites by King David in 995 B.C. until David Ben-Gurion established the first Knesset here in 1949 A.D., and it has never been the capital of any other people. We use the term “undivided” because East Jerusalem was liberated from Jordanian control as a result of the Six Day War in 1967, thus reuniting all Jerusalem under Israeli governance, and it is our hope, prayer and intention that it will remain united forever.

All three of the above terms have been under incessant attack for more than one hundred years. Though we contend that Jerusalem has been ours “eternally”, Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem vehemently insist that Jesus the Jew was actually the first Palestinian martyr to die in occupied Jerusalem and vast numbers of Christians around the world are accepting and believing this narrative. The claim that Jerusalem is “our capital” falls on deaf ears internationally, except for US Republican presidential candidates, who declare every four years that they will relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, once elected, this promise is soon abandoned. In fact, the exact opposite trend was completed in 2006 when the embassies of Costa Rica and El Salvador were the last to relocate to Tel Aviv. Finally, we declare that Jerusalem is “undivided”, while every day we ourselves divide the city into first-class (Jewish) citizens and second-class (Arab) citizens.

Perhaps the main reason that our mantra has been ineffective is that those of us who declare it do not really believe or act upon it. Any person, who has driven from West Jerusalem into East Jerusalem, will confirm that it feels like driving from Switzerland into Swaziland. One literally travels from a first world country into a third world country in a heartbeat. Through our negligence, we have missed a golden opportunity to be a light to the nations, starting in our own backyard. Our neglect of investment in the infrastructure of East Jerusalem compared to West Jerusalem is an embarrassing failure of the Zionist movement. From roads, to sidewalks, to landscaping, to water and gas infrastructure, to public parks, and public schools, the Municipality of Jerusalem has grossly discriminated against East Jerusalem. It will take an estimated half a billion dollars of investment in the infrastructure of East Jerusalem to bring it up to the West Jerusalem standard.

The good news is that the Israeli rule of law and civil rights system actually works. While many of our leaders have been holding S.O.S. meetings over the past few months to discuss the growing movement to declare Israel as an apartheid state and boycott it, our court systems have under the radar been proving this declaration to be absolute nonsense.

Two very significant decisions made by Israeli courts in the past three months shine a ray of hope into the dark situation of a divided Jerusalem. On November 1, 2015, the District Court in Jerusalem determined in Monir Zugair vs. Municipality of Jerusalem (A.P. 27276-07-15) that the Municipality has discriminated against the residents of East Jerusalem and must within six months implement a plan to invest in repairing, cleaning, spraying, lighting and draining the streets of East Jerusalem in order to raise them to the level of cleanliness and functionality of West Jerusalem.

Following this trend, on December 31, 2015, the District Court in Jerusalem determined in Tzchor-Tzedek, Chofesh, Chinuch and Revacha vs. Municipality of Jerusalem (A.P. 66197-03-15) that the Municipality of Jerusalem must create a policy, in a reasonable amount of time, to determine how it will create the same proportionate number of public playgrounds in its East Jerusalem neighborhoods as those that exist in West Jerusalem. The court accepted the claim that East Jerusalem residents enjoy one playground on average for every 30,000 residents, while West Jerusalem residents have one playground on average for every 600 to 1,400 residents, depending on the neighborhood. The court confirmed that this is, in effect, blatant illegal discrimination and must be remedied by the municipality. Click here to see what I mean.

I applaud the Israeli legal system and the courage of Justice David Mintz and Justice Nave Ben-Or of the Jerusalem District Court, who made the above respective decisions and upheld Israel’s rule of law in the midst of very turbulent political times. These are the types of decisions that make me proud to be an Israeli. We have proven once again that there is at least one properly functioning democracy in the Middle East.

Is Jerusalem in actuality a divided city? Yes. Will it take many years and massive resources to implement the above decisions? Absolutely. Even if we succeed in uniting a very divided city, will we still face significant challenges convincing the world that Jerusalem is “our eternal capital”? Unfortunately, yes. Nevertheless, it is never too late to make progress, and I for one, am happy to see some light at the end of this tunnel.

Genocide in 2016? Time to take action

We would be wise to consider the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes as we view the greatest challenges facing Western civilization in 2016, “when the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11).

Theoretically, the United Nations Security Council and NATO are the collaborative forums where our leaders meet in order to collectively prevent acts of genocide, similar to those experienced in the last century. These institutions, irrespective of the noble intentions of their founders, have proven themselves to be completely impotent in the face of genocidal evil. They failed to prevent genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda. They failed to prevent genocide in Syria.

Today, as I write these lines, another horrific genocide is taking place in the Middle East, where Shi’ites, Yazidis and Christians are being abducted, raped and slaughtered by ISIS. The question that should be nagging at our collective conscience is, “where is the United Nations and NATO?” Indeed, they have so far failed to even define the current massacre as “genocide”, a necessary first step in confronting this evil.

 

Syrian refugees arrive in Lesbos, Greece, after crossing from Turkey, on September 10, 2015. (AP/Petros Giannakouris, File, via Times of Israel)

Because of the inaction of Western nations, their gates are currently being flooded with hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees. Over the course of 2016, these hundreds of thousands will become millions. It would behoove our leaders to take note of the fact that when evil is not dealt with, it becomes everyone’s problem. It is interesting to note that virtually none of the refugees fleeing genocide are running into the loving arms of their Islamic dictatorship neighbors. Shariya law has failed terribly to advance the peace, freedom, economic prosperity and general well-being of those living under its jurisdiction. By opening their doors to these impoverished, downtrodden refugees, and sharing with them from the abundance of their resources, American and European democracies are taking the moral highroad.

The main challenge facing these Western governments will be how to import Muslims without importing elements of Shariya law. Red lines will have to be drawn, particularly with regard to women’s rights and the strict criminalization of domestic violence. In order to ensure that these refugees do not end up destroying the very freedoms, which they claim to seek, they must be informed in the clearest terms that not everything embodied in Shariya law will be tolerated in our societies.

Opportunistic aggressors will inevitably fill the vacuum created by the inaction of international agencies. Vladimir Putin has not entered the Syrian theatre because of Russia’s sincere concern for human rights. However successful he may be in achieving the immediate goal of neutralizing ISIS, we should not be blind to his longer-term goal of expanding Russia’s footprint in the Middle East. It would appear that Putin honored Netanyahu by notifying him in advance of his intention to enter the fray. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain Netanyahu’s sudden trip to the Kremlin a few weeks prior to Russia’s first air strikes in Syria. If I were in the American administration, I might be somewhat perturbed by the apparent friendly collaboration between Netanyahu and Putin. However, I think that some American soul-searching would be more appropriate than anger towards Netanyahu. When the leaders of our closest allies in the West turn a cold shoulder to Israel, it makes sense for Israel to look for new friends in the East.

We can only hope and pray that the members of the United Nations Security Council and NATO will learn from the results of their inaction in 2015, and take the initiative in 2016 to define the deeds of ISIS as genocide and deal with them accordingly. The blood of innocent victims cries out from the soil of the Middle East. To borrow from the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Good Morning America

I would like to applaud the decision of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, made this past weekend, to freeze 370 million dollars earmarked by the State Department as a donation to the Palestinian Authority “until such time” as the Palestinian Authority proves that it is “fighting terror and incitement to violence”. This decision is important for several reasons.

First, this decision should be celebrated by all American taxpayers, who are concerned with the prospect of the US economy digging its way out of trillions of dollars of debt. Unlike the financial support provided to Israel, much of which is used to buy military technology and equipment from the US market, thus achieving two goals at once — supporting Israel’s security and creating more jobs in the US economy, the monies donated to the Palestinian Authority have actually created less stability in the region and have not helped US economic interests in any way. In fact, the Palestinian Authority has publicly and proudly used between 70 million and 100 million dollars of these donations each year to payterrorists with blood on their hands, who are sitting in Israeli prisons just for trying to kill Jews. Does no-one else see how ridiculous this is? One hand pays to strengthen Israel’s security, while the other hand pays Israel’s enemies to carry out violent attacks against her.

Apparently many in the US House of Representatives have finally awakened to this absurdity and the counter-productivity, both economic and strategic, of the Palestinian Authority’s use of these funds.

Secondly, the idea of actually monitoring funds donated by the international community to the Palestinian Authority and leveraging such funds to advance peace, stability, and economic prosperity is quite novel. Very little of the 31 billion dollars donated by Western nations over the past twenty-one years, since the signing of the Oslo Accords, has been monitored, let alone accounted for to assure it was used to achieve the goals for which it was earmarked.

A simple calculation, taking into account historic inflation rates, will show that 15 times more money has been donated to the Palestinian Authority per capita, than all of the funds donated to Europe after World War II under the Marshall plan for the complete reconstruction of the European economy. With all of the money contributed to the Palestinian Authority, the post-World War II European economy could have been reconstructed fifteen times. Why then is the average Palestinian still living in abject poverty and, unlike their post-World War II European counterparts, still devoid of new job opportunities, modernized industry, and improved civil infrastructure? For the answer to that question, we may want to ask the Palestinian leaders, Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, who together with their predecessor Yasser Arafat, have a combined personal net worth exceeding 6.5 billion dollars.

Properly monitored and leveraged donations have the potential to greatly improve the lives of the Palestinian people. The past unmonitored and unleveraged donations have succeeded only to wreak havoc for both the Palestinians and their Israeli neighbors.

Lastly, the whole idea behind financially supporting the Palestinian Authority following the Oslo Accords was to help it establish a healthy foundation upon which a new Palestinian State could eventually be established. That idea has been proven to be entirely impossible to implement. Very few in Israel or in the Palestinian territories actually still believe that two-states for two-peoples has the slightest chance of ever being realized. This is primarily because no Palestinian leader can agree to the establishment of a state smaller than Israel, less militarized than Israel and with 450,000 Jewish settlers living in it, and no Israeli leader can agree to a large, fully-armed Palestinian state, and none will ever have the consensus to remove all of the settlers from their homes within it. Therefore the idea behind the payments to the Palestinian Authority has died, but the money supporting the idea continues to flow in.

Apparently, international leaders are trying hard to catch up with Middle Eastern realities, but most have not yet done so. Hence, this decision by the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee is a major step in that direction. We can only hope that the next step will be to actually start working on and investing in a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Continuing to advocate for an impossible solution only creates frustration, friction and lack of hope on both sides of the conflict. The recent outbreak of violence has reaffirmed what psychology has known for years: hope is extremely important. Since simply maintaining the Oslo Accord’s illusory and impossible dream creates hopelessness and despair, why not work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on alternative solutions to the two-states for two peoples solution?

Many other nations with similar ethnic, religious and national conflicts have found effective solutions other than complete separation, such as the creation of federations, cantons, autonomies and national unions. There must be a way to do this, while maintaining the integrity and character of Israel as a Jewish state and the only homeland for the Jewish people, and at the same time granting the Palestinians the level of freedom and dignity they deserve.

Don’t cancel your trip to Israel

Many people have asked me about the current wave of violence between Jews and Muslims in Israel. Why is it taking place? Is it the beginning of a new intifada (uprising)? Could it have been avoided? Does it create a risk for tourists visiting Israel

First of all, it certainly could have been avoided. These attacks are not random, spontaneous acts of frustrated people. They are the result of many years of systematic Palestinian education in UNRWA schools, funded by the US and the EU, through which a whole generation of Palestinians have been taught that the very existence of the state of Israel in Dar al Islam (house of Islam) is illegitimate, and the only way to destroy it is by concerted violent jihad (holy war).

There is a constant explosive mixture of radical Islamic indoctrination fermenting under the surface and held back only by the security squads of Mahmoud Abbas. All that it takes for the explosion to be ignited is a green light, a “head-nod”, from President Abbas and his dictatorial regime.

The West should take this into account, stop funding incitement to violence and start pre-conditioning its massive funding on serious Palestinian education system reforms.

Each intifada always has more to do with inner Palestinian politics than the Israeli-Arab conflict. When Hamas is losing popularity in the streets, it starts firing missiles at Israel. When the PLO loses popularity, it unleashes an intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Unfortunately, killing Jews is an easy way to gain political capital in the Palestinian street; it may be easy but it comes with a terrible price. Before the first intifada, a Palestinian from Gaza could easily travel to work at a bank or hospital in Beer Sheva and an Arab from the West Bank could freely drive with his family to a beach in Tel-Aviv on any weekend. With each wave of Palestinian violence, the movement, the commerce and the livelihood of Palestinians has been decreased significantly. Intifada always backfires.

Over the past few months, Mahmoud Abbas has been portrayed in the regional media as old, ineffective and illegitimate. The most widespread dialogue has been conjecture as to “who will replace Abbas?” As a very timely, carefully contemplated response, Abbas traveled to the UN a few weeks ago, stood before the world, and declared that the Palestinians “cannot continue to be bound” by their political and security agreements with Israel. Most of the world did not understand what was novel about this declaration. The Palestinian street, however, understood quite well: the limitations have been lifted. You are free to release your fomenting rage without fear of retribution from the PLO security forces.

Following the Abbas UN declaration, attacks on Israeli citizens ensued, mutual acts of violence followed, and Abbas has yet to publicly condemn any of it. His silence is deafening. Several of Abbas’s government leaders have actually vocally supported the civil unrest. PLO Executive Committee Member, Mahmoud Ismail, declared that killing Israelis is a “national duty” and PLO Central Committee Member, Jamal Muhasim, stated that killing Israel settlers is “legitimate and legal”.

In light of this, we should applaud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s explicit condemnation of recent Jewish retributive attacks on Muslims and his call for the Israeli Police to crack down on all acts of violence from both communities.

This recent escalation could come and go quickly like rain clouds which blow over the horizon, but it could also develop into a longer term drawn-out intifada. It is too early to say. What we know is: when it is all over, many will try to ascertain which side “won” in this conflict. Such calculations are asinine. When human life is lost, nobody wins. The destruction of any life, Israeli or Palestinian, is the destruction of a whole world. In order to support Israel, we should not harm Palestinians and in order to support Palestinians, we should not harm Israel. We should advocate for the improvement and protection of life and livelihood for both peoples on both sides of the conflict. As mentioned above, I believe this starts with education reform.

For those who may be planning to travel to Israel in the near future, I would not change my travel plans. These are very targeted criminal acts being carried out against specific Israeli Jews and Muslim Arabs, in specific geographic locations. None of the attacks have been directed against tourists. Tourism is equally important to the economies of the Jews and the Muslims. Furthermore, the international media tends to exaggerate the tensions. Regardless of current events, Israel continues to be safer and have a lower crime rate on average than the safest major city in the United States.

I look forward to seeing you in our beautiful city.

Netanyahu, Gatekeeper of Israel’s Democracy

The appointment of Ayelet Shaked to the office of the Minister of Justice is a significant development. Months before her appointment, the Jewish Home Party and Shaked in particular strongly disparaged judicial activism and criticized Israel’s Supreme Court justices for imposing their sovereignty over the Knesset by invalidating some of its laws. In the discussions leading up to the formation of the coalition government, the Jewish Home Party demanded that the coalition guidelines include a clause that intentionally weakens the Supreme Court’s power to censure the Knesset, and expressed a desire to resubmit for ratification laws that were previously rejected by the Supreme Court.

For this reason, many people in the justice system have expressed concern that Shaked will emasculate and weaken the Supreme Court. This concern is based on recent statements by Shaked, such as: “My world view and that of many more Knesset members from various parties is that there is currently an imbalance between legislative and the judicial power and that there is a superiority of judicial power over the legislative and executive branches.”

This perception is contrary to the Likud’s historical approach. Legendary Likud leader, Menachem Begin, always bowed his head before the Supreme Court and declared that it is necessary to recognize “the superiority of the justice system.” I remember his famous statement: “There are judges in Jerusalem.” His successor, current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also expressed support for the independence of judicial power at the induction ceremony of the new president of the Supreme Court. “A democracy that wants to survive must be strong within and strong from the outside. Therefore, we must continually reinforce the power of the country’s democratic authorities, notably the judiciary power, which must be strong and independent.”

Netanyahu is right. The Israeli justice system has been — and is – highly respected among lawyers around the world. Israeli Courts have been successful at balancing the preservation of the Jewish character of the State and its democratic values and human rights. The Court also manages to strike a balance between political interests of the legislature and the public interest. All its judges have been able to do this without undermining the Jewishness of the State of Israel.

The Supreme Court’s rulings over the years have touched fundamental principles, such as basic human rights, for instance: HCJ (High Court of Justice) 6055/95 Sagi Zemach versus the Minister of Defense, which invalidated a law that allowed a soldier to be detained for 96 hours; HCJ 2605/05 The Academic Center for Law and Business versus the Minister of Finance, which ruled against the construction of a private prison because of the violation of human rights and the principle of equality;HCJ 4124/00 Ornan Yekutiel versus the Minister for Religious Affairs, which rejected the practice of “kollel“ students receiving income support from the State, due to harm to the principle of equality, freedom of occupation, and more.

At the same time, a long series of rulings strengthened the position of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist State. For example: Elections Appeal 1/65Jacob Yardor versus the chairman of the Central Elections Committee;HCJ ruling 58/68 Shalit versus the Minister of the Interior and official listing of Haifa; HCJ 606/78 Suleiman Tawfiq versus the Defense Minister; HCJ 2072/12 The Women’s Coalition for Peace versus the Knesset, etc.

Undermining the Supreme Court will also create an opening for strong criticism of the prime minister, who is already forced to deal with the continuous international censure of Israel. The last thing Netanyahu needs now is additional condemnation from within. Shaked’s appointment was forced upon the Prime Minister as part of coalition negotiations. The demand to weaken the Supreme Court was also imposed on him. Shaked fills the office of Justice Minister, but Netanyahu can and must prevent harm to the justice system.

Prime Minister Netanyahu must declare unequivocally that he will not allow a change of the status quo and will not undermine the Supreme Court. Correspondently, he must also prevent, by all possible means, the advancement of laws that would damage the status of the Court. Only Netanyahu’s firm stand against pressures from the Jewish Home Party will maintain the independence of the Supreme Court, and thus sustain this essential element of Israel’s democracy.

What Abbas and I were Doing in Switzerland

The architects of the universally esteemed Geneva Human Right Conventions are willing to support financially, without conditions, a terrorist organization.  Believe it or not, this is the truth.

A couple of weeks ago, I returned to Israel from a trip to Switzerland. While there, I met with members of Parliament responsible for the flow of available funds to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. At the very moment I sought to convince members of Parliament against continuing with past funding practices, just a few feet across the hall from us sat Mahmoud Abbas. The express purpose of his visit was to solicit still more financial aid for the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas will get everything that he asked for.  How can I be so certain? Sadly, my confidence comes from the very people with whom I sat. They told me with explicit clarity: “We always support third-world countries, especially those experiencing human rights violations.” Obviously, I have encountered this now-familiar approach on other occasions. Even so, I can never get used to the shock I experience from such a response. After taking a deep breath, I explained to the respected Swiss parliamentarians sitting before me the gulf between hope and reality. They imagine that the Swiss francs which flow like a mighty river into the depths of the Palestinian Authority will quench the intense thirst of Palestinians for educational, cultural and medical improvements. Instead, their gifts will be held tightly within the grasp of the one who received them. Money which has been taken generously from the resources of Switzerland’s heavenly mountains and valleys will feed the corruption and abuse of Palestinian leaders towards their people.  It seemed as though my words fell on deaf ears. Then, just before I left the meeting room, something unexpected happened. One of those same parliamentarians remarked to me, casually, that I should not give up my efforts. His ‘door’, at least, would remain open. He implied there was a chance, though slender, that my words might yet reshape the group’s perceptions. This was all the encouragement I needed.  I left the offices of Parliament reassured and determined to advance this quest for justice with redoubled energy. For obvious reasons, I cannot state here what I intend to do to prevent the PA, if possible, from receiving more funds from the Swiss government. The Palestinian Authority’s intelligence network analyzes our public scripts, even as we check theirs. Our chances of success are not high, but the effort remains worthy. Every Swiss citizen, along with all Europeans, should condemn this entire fund-raising and distribution apparatus as wholly unacceptable. Europe pours its wealth into a Palestinian ‘Authority’ that has freely signed a wide range of human rights conventions, while profoundly breaching the vast majority of them. Still unsatisfied, the PA violates, repeatedly, common moral principles with which all countries or organizations should comply, whether or not they have entered, formally, into mutual commitments.  What are these moral principles about which I write?

  • Arbitrary arrests and imprisonment occur routinely in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The internal conflict between Fatah and Hamas alone has brought hundreds of complaints about abuse and political arrests before international human rights committees. Those caught in this cruel net have included journalists, teachers, university professors, students, clergy and others.
  • Torture and cruel punishment await many Palestinians, especially if they are suspected of collaborating with Israel. Not only are they refused the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in court, but they suffer arrest, undergo severe torture and are, often, executed according to the government’s arbitrary decision without benefit of trial. Hamas goes even further, serving as a patron and sponsor to the torture of civilians outside the Gaza Strip and, even, beyond the region.
  • The violation of the Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Presshas become so commonplace at civilian demonstrations that intimidation by punching and beating journalists, as well as breaking their equipment, scarcely draws due attention. Human rights activists, alongside non-partisan Palestinian journalists, face abuse, harassment, and violence. Increasingly, they are prevented from going abroad. Even the murder of innocent people, during peaceful demonstrations, by the Palestinian Authority can no longer be considered a rare exception. Remarkable, the situation is much the worse in the Gaza Strip.
  • The violation of the Freedom of Religion and Minority Rights arises from portions of Sharia law that impose explicit inequalities between Muslims and non-Muslims. Christians specifically, are regarded as second-class citizens under Sharia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, evidence has surfaced of crimes against Christians in the West Bank that were either sanctioned or overlooked by the PA. The still-more-extreme religious crisis in Gaza has been marked by the destruction of churches, shops and holy Christian books. In a particularly shocking incident, a Christian shop owner, the husband and father of small children, was kidnapped and murdered brutally, with his body discovered the next morning. Some now foresee the near-total disappearance from Gaza, by emigration, of two millennia of Christian presence.
  • Formal and informal discrimination against women of all agescharacterizes both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So-called ‘honor killings’ may be carried out by perpetrators, without undue anxiety, for reasons ranging from extra- marital sex, the desire to divorce, declining to marry a man, immodest dress or, for that matter, virtually any issue deemed shameful by the victim’s family. While individuals commit these crimes, not the government, Palestinian case law enables these murders to receive a light sentence or, often, none at all. Women living in the West Bank and Gaza express many other concerns: severe sexual violence experienced by women from their own family, their legal inability to receive familial inheritances and, as a common thread across all these abuses, the discounting of a woman’s sworn testimony by comparison to that of any man. Against this shared backdrop, women living in the West Bank do enjoy greater freedom, relatively, than women living in the Gaza Strip.
  • Children’s rights violations include their forced recruitment by Palestinian armed groups for use as propaganda props in their ideological struggle against Israel. Doing so threatens the inherent, universal right to life accorded these children, as proclaimed by human rights activists in the United Nations and the world.
  • Direct and indirect financing of terrorism by the PA has been underwritten, if unintentionally, by the European Union and the United States. This major, non-stop pipeline of assistance has rarely been used to build infrastructure or raise the standard of living of Palestinian residents. To the contrary, audits reveal how funds have been transferred, instead, to underwrite terrorism. This has gone as far as providing enormous familial compensation to Palestinian prisoners serving just sentences in Israeli prisons. That single category amounts, currently, to roughly 6% of the total Palestinian Authority budget. State-controlled PA media have recast prisoners convicted of heinous crimes into heroic national figures whose deeds should be treasured forever by Palestinians. In parallel, the educational establishment trains up the terrorists of tomorrow, not only by hateful curricular content in textbooks, but at summer camps where teen-aged students are certified with the ‘skills’ needed to carry out terrorist acts against Israel.

For some readers, the scale, scope and detail of Palestinian human rights abuses will come as an unexpected revelation. Others to whom this is ‘old news’ may be tempted to adopt the shield of a worldly-wise cynicism or resort to the counter-charge that, after all, Israel does the same, does she not?

No, Israel does not. Few nations do.

The attested behavior of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas towards their own peoples can only be matched by a handful of the world’s other worst human rights abusers. Since no one has refuted the simple truth of these abuses by Palestinian leaders against their own population, because to do so would be impossible, why, then does Switzerland continue to rain money upon Mahmoud Abbas?

Even after factoring numerous historical and political variables into this complex situation, I cannot answer such a question. It is for that reason I admitted earlier, without embarrassment, to my own shock at the response of these sincere, convinced Swiss Parliamentarians to the incontrovertible evidence I have shared with you here.

To those EU officials whose ‘doors remain open’, I say with respect and encouragement – the European Union’s legal code assigns to you, explicitly, the right and the capability to withhold or halt, altogether, funding awarded to any country that fails to respect international human rights covenants and the rule of law.

Since non-stop funding of the Palestinian Authority has become essential to sustain its very existence, both the EU and the U.S. should condition any further funding commitments, without delay, on the demonstrable commitment of the Palestinian Authority to verifiably implemented human rights reforms. After all, even the United States has placed ironclad restrictions on their aid to the region. Should Hamas become a true governmental partner of the PA, international aid must stop unless-and-until Hamas recognizes the legitimate existence of the State of Israel.

I hope, sincerely, that when I sit again with you who bear crucial responsibility for the affairs of Switzerland, both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples will be dwelling under happier and more just circumstances. Your courageous decisions on behalf of simple, crucial truths can be a difference-maker for authentic peace and coexistence in the Middle East.

A Billion Reasons to Continue the Conflict

Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas can surely agree on two issues. First, neither wants to see a Palestinian state established. Second, both must repeat, at every international diplomatic forum, that the establishment of a Palestinian state is exactly what they want.

When Netanyahu says he favors establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, his intention is clear— such a state cannot feasibly exist. No Palestinian leader could possibly accept a smaller, less well-armed and, so, less powerful state than the state of Israel. On the other hand, Abbas’s inability to prevail upon the UN Security Council by pleading the Jordanian version of peace was predictable. This ‘failure’ paved the way for him to file a motion for recognition at the International Criminal Court.

If these facts describe the case, shall we consider again the rhetorical question— why does Abbas not really want a Palestinian State? This question comes with 31 billion ready-made answers.

From the Oslo Accords until today, the Palestinians have received over $31 billion in donations from the international community. These funds were designed, of course, to help Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, build a sound infrastructure for the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, Palestinian leaders have done anything and everything with that money with the sole exception of using it to assist the Palestinian people. In fact, Abbas’s personal and family fortune is estimated, currently, at between half a billion to one billion dollars. Does this make sense to anyone?

Everyone knows the Palestinian leaders are stealing money outright. Yet, amazingly, all parties still contribute, literally, to this situation. Why is this happening? The Palestinians have convinced the world they are victims of a European colonialism that has been carried out by the State of Israel. Blame Europe; blame the UN; blame the US and, of course, above all, proclaim that Israel deserves blame.

All parties are blamed except the one with direct responsibility to manage the budgets created by the financial aid given to the Palestinians. The truth is plain— Palestinian leaders are the guilty party.

Ignoring the Signposts

Recently, I took a “tour of signposts” in and around Jericho. Dozens of roadside signs stand near dozens of empty and neglected fields. Each is decorated with festive lettering in English and Arabic.  A typical one reads, “Thank you to the citizens of the United States, Japan and Germany, as well as to the Ministry of Construction and Housing of the Palestinian Authority.  An agricultural and technological enterprise will be built here. Budget: $50 million. Estimated date of conclusion – 2009″.  Sign after sign appears. Empty field after empty field appear as well.

Palestinian leaders erect a new sign, cut a new ribbon and celebrate with a new ceremony. Then, the new money disappears. Remarkably, all of this takes place, repeatedly and openly, for everyone to see, yet no one is ashamed.

Then again, imagine what might happen if Abbas invested this money in infrastructure for road construction and the development of modern, job-creating industries, instead of transferring the money into his own pocket or for paying salaries to Hamas.

Crashing Abbas’ Party

Imagine again, if you can, that honest policies were put in place, accompanied by real and sincere negotiations with Israel that issued in the signing of a peace agreement. Once such a Palestinian state landed on its feet, her people would stand a good chance of making their rapid escape from poverty, while sharing still better future prospects.

Ah, but should that happen, the flow of foreign financial aid will dry up, bringing the private celebrations and parties of Abbas, his family and their associates to a final end. This result is simply unimaginable.

I know— from personal friendships with Arabs in East Jerusalem— that quite a few speak behind the scenes, in whispers, of their hopes for a “Palestinian Spring”. They do not propose by this a ‘spring of opposition’ against the Jewish state, but rather against corrupt Palestinian leadership. Until this authentic, internal opposition emerges into public view and succeeds, both diplomatic sides will replay their games of “make believe” and we may be certain that no Palestinian partner with a sincere desire to resolve the conflict will come forward.

Destined to Live Together

The West has not learned from the mistakes it made in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. When you remove dictators before building a proper democratic infrastructure, a vacuum is created, which is inevitably filled by radicals. The only thing preventing Judea and Samaria from becoming Gaza is the Jewish Settlements. Unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state is like signing a death warrant of Palestinians in the West Bank.

These are not my words, but rather statements, which were made by a Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem, who for the sake of protecting her life, we will call “Mary”. Mary appeared in several Palestinian human rights academic symposiums last week in Paris universities, which were initiated by my organization, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice. Mary, who fled from Bethlehem to London and received political asylum a few years ago, told the story of the execution of her Christian uncle in Bethlehem, who was summarily executed for refusing to continue making “protection payments” to PLO militants in the West Bank. Mary was forced to flee from Bethlehem after receiving death threats for daring to publicly criticize the Palestinian Authority after the murder of her uncle.

She also explained, with a heavy heart, that within the past month, another 250 Christian families received visas to the USA and are in the process of abandoning their homes in Bethlehem to find more freedom overseas. The Christian population in Bethlehem has decreased from approximately 80% in 1948 to around 9% today. Hence, the West Bank is becoming more Islamic and more radical.

Who Cares about Human Rights?

Most of the participants in our symposium were the future journalists and politicians of France; students who are studying communications, journalism and political science. Mary’s remarks were not received with overwhelming empathy by the future thought leaders of France. There were some, who even vehemently argued that Mary does not have the right to represent the Palestinians, and that she does not really understand what the Palestinians need. Indeed, in their opinions, the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the immediate establishment of a Jew-free Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

I have to admit that I choked up a bit, even though I usually keep my emotional cool under such circumstances. I felt as though the human rights of Palestinians are no longer an issue driving the public agenda, but rather anti-Semitic sentiments, which demand the establishment of “Judenrein” as quickly as possible in the heartland of Israel.

Who Wants a Palestinian State?

We presented in France findings, based on research conducted by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, that the vast majority of Palestinians living in the disputed territories, who do not receive a salary from the Palestinian Authority, would prefer to be citizens of Israel, rather than the proposed state of Palestine. The Palestinian people no longer believe in two states for two peoples. Over the past twenty years, the Palestinian Authority received approximately 26 billion dollars from the international community to build the infrastructure of a future state. Tragically, it decided to invest these precious resources on other goals, particularly the personal enrichment of corrupt leaders, as well as military armament for the destruction of Israel. Most of the Israeli public already understands, after the latest war in Gaza removed all doubt, that the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank will mean a bombardment of rockets and terror tunnels in the center of the country.

So why do leaders in the international community continue to march down a dead-end street? Why is nation after nation in Europe deciding to unilaterally recognize a fictitious state, a state without proper administration, borders, an independent economy and many other necessary requirements of statehood? I believe that the main answer to these questions is that the government of Israel ceased some time ago to put forth any other creative solutions, and the lack of solutions creates a lack of hope. No one wants to reach that point.

There is Hope

President Reuven Rivlin has recently presented a refreshing perspective on these issues. It appears as though President Rivlin is one of the few Israeli politicians, who understands that the best way to extinguish the fires of intifada is to warmly embrace our Arab citizens. Yes, embracing, rather than threatening and renouncing. The President has proven that it is possible to revive the spirit of Jabotinsky; of leaders who once believed that one could be a staunch Zionist and still honor the human rights of our non-Jewish residents.

I wonder what would happen if the government of Israel took a courageous step and offered permanent residency to all Arabs living in the disputed territories. We have already learned that only 10% of those in East Jerusalem, who received permanent residency in 1967, have gone on to request citizenship. Surprisingly, even if the vast majority of Arabs living in the West Bank would request citizenship, it would not create a demographic disaster. There are currently 6 million Jews and 3 million Arabs living in Israel, Judea and Samaria. A step like this would create a proper social and administrative framework for Palestinians in the West Bank. In addition, it could breathe new life into the peace process, create hope at the international level, show the willingness of Israel to uphold human rights and prevent the catastrophe that Mary, and many more like her, are warning us is already underway.

In the words of President Rivlin, “We, the sons of Abraham, must live with the understanding that we have not been doomed to live together, but have rather been destined to live together”.

Hamas’ Sinai Torture Camps

“They hang us upside down on a ramp and hit our feet with a baton …[t]hey electrocute and torture us day and night. We are not fed. They don’t give us food or water. There are many diseases; many of us have already succumbed…They tie us and melt plastic and drip it on our backs…They burn us and electrocute us every single day.”
— Sinai Refugee

Hamas’ Industry of Death and Torture in the Sinai

In a crisis the United Nations has deemed to be “one of the most underreported in the world,” the Sinai Peninsula, in a span of just a few years, has turned into a global hub of torture, human trafficking, and nearly indescribable crimes.

This sparsely populated and traditionally lawless desert region, dividing Asia from Africa, is providing local tribesmen a chance to build a thriving business in illegally trafficking African migrants. While more and more individuals are displaced from their homelands, unscrupulous “entrepreneurs” have taken advantage of this new window of opportunity to profit off the helpless. Commonly, the refugees are kidnapped and then brutally abused until their family members agree to pay a hefty ransom. It is a highly profitable trade with criminal enterprises encompassing a far-stretched network of regional operatives from Sudan to the West Bank, and has so far taken in revenue of an estimated 600 million dollars, earning around 20,000 dollars for each kidnapped refugee.

Most of the Sinai refugees are collateral damage from Africa’s many tribal conflicts, many from Sudan, Eritrea, or Ethiopia. Some, but not all, are brought to Sinai against their will. Some wish to reach Israel. According to a sample of 297 refugees taken by Dr. Mirjam van Reisen of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, 87% of the hostages are Christian by faith. The rest are Muslim and are often given preferential treatment from the abductors in the form of lower ransoms, less severe torture, and small special favors.

Since Israel’s newly built barrier along its border with Sinai, refugees have been deterred from migrating to Israel, thus drying up the traffickers’ supply of migrants to capture. Because these potential migrants now know about the fence and therefore don’t take the trip, traffickers have taken to abducting Africans directly from their home countries and bringing them to Sinai.

Extortion is key to the Sinai-based smuggling industry. The smugglers wish to procure the largest sum possible for each abductee and are willing to go to extreme lengths secure ransoms. In the event a victim’s family doesn’t pay up, the kidnappers are not averse to brutal alternatives, such as harvesting and selling the victim’s organs for a profit.

Furthermore, a number of Israeli court indictments have implicated the Gaza based terror group Hamas in providing middleman and money laundering services to the Bedouin traffickers. According to some estimates, Hamas has profited by up to 64 million dollars by smuggling this ransom cash through its tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Sinai.

First Steps

The trafficking business usually takes place somewhere in Eastern Africa, where the migrants are kidnapped and sold to Bedouin traffickers. Often, the traffickers pose as guides and lure them with promises to take them to Israel or another developed country. Sometimes, these guides or a wayward border official will hand them to the traffickers for a payoff. Once the migrants are in the traffickers’ hands, they are powerless.

Those “picked up” in Africa report being transferred into Sinai by car, under constant guard, and being placed in close quarters in Bedouin abodes near the Israeli border. Some are abducted after reaching Sinai on their own. From this point stems the most harrowing stories of torture, degrading treatment, and abuse.

A Cycle of Death

In December 2011, Sinai-based Bedouin tribesmen kidnapped two female African refugees known as P.H. and K.T. The two, who are from Eritrea, were held in chains for over a month with about 40 other kidnapping victims while being starved and denied basic amenities. During this time the kidnappers beat the victims repeatedly with sticks and electrical prods. After being raped by one of the kidnappers, P.H. found herself threatened with death if she and K.T. did not each independently procure a ransom of $40,000.

As shocking as their stories may be, they are unfortunately not unique. According to one former hostage: “The kidnappers’ objective is to keep us barely alive so we will not try to escape or give them trouble, while at the same time torturing us so we are forced to pay…[t]he kidnappers have this policy of torturing the healthy and taking care of the afflicted, because, from what we understand, they don’t care if we are alive or dead…[t]hey don’t want us dying before they can get the money.”

Psychological manipulation is a premier tactic. In a method designed to terrify families into paying the ransom faster, telephone calls are arranged between captives and their families during loud torture sessions when the extent of their pain is highly audible. One man reports listening over the phone as his sister’s hand was amputated. Family members are given a deadline to procure the funds, which leads to desperate door-to-door vigils and other desperate attempts to scour for funds.

All the while the migrants don’t know if they will be saved or left to die, and in many cases expect never to see freedom. As one refugee recounts to Dr. Van Reisen:   “It is impossible to expect people to pay up for us, even if they are very close relatives. Unless you have left some money with someone and instructed them to pay if something happens, it is hard to ask people for everything they have. I have seen lots of people abuse trust and ask for money from their relatives, saying that they are kidnapped…so it is acceptable that some people might not take this at face value.”

Ultimately, the mortality rate of those trafficked hovers around fifty percent. If the ransom cannot be secured by the deadline, they are killed shortly after.

Across the Border

Even once the full extortion payment has been made to the traffickers’ Israeli associates, the question remains as to how to transfer the funds into Sinai. The Israel-Sinai barrier and Israeli Border Control prevent direct movement out of Israel. Thus, in order to move the cash, the smugglers often cooperate with another regional power – Hamas – the Gazan-based terror group.

Israeli court records describe a complicated network built to smuggle the funds out of Israel and into the hands of the traffickers. Once the family members pay up, the ransom funds move to the hands of Hamas operatives in the West Bank towns of Jenin and Nablus. From there, the funds flow into the Gaza Strip to Abu Jamil, a Hamas operative who pockets a tax and smuggles the funds. Jamil helps move the funds through Hamas’ network of underground tunnels running under the border between Gaza and Sinai, with the tunnels reaching within a few kilometers of the very buildings in which the abductees are held.

Perils of Freedom

If and when a victim is finally released, even ransoms, however hefty, cannot assure safety. Upon their release, these victims all too often die in the desert, or are tragically kidnapped by the next gang. As one refugee who made it to Israel says:   “I did not think I would make it out alive. My captors simply took me to the fenced side of the border and told me to run. You have a fifty-fifty chance of being shot or making it.”

Upon reaching safety, refugees are tasked with coping with the horrifying reality they lived through. Many of the refugees in Israel live without access to social and welfare services in the impoverished neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. As one refugee describes the migrant experience:   “In the Sinai everyone wants to die. We were happy when people died. We were happy for them. Only now, In Israel, have I started mourning and begun to understand death, as only now we can live.”

In March 2014, 24, a Germany-led twenty-four delegation committee of the United Nations submitted a petition to the UN Security Council calling to end abuse and human trafficking in Sinai and for the implementation of mechanisms to help the abused refugees deal with their traumatic experiences and has called for mechanisms to help the abused refugees deal with their experiences. Within Israel alone reside some 5,000- 7,000 Sinai refugees, many of whose lives may be improving slowly. But until something gives in the Sinai, things are still, strictly speaking, business as usual.

Sources: UNODC. Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Rep. New York: United Nations, 2013. Print.

Estephanos, Meron, and Conny Reijken. Refugees Between Life and Death. Rep. Comp. Miriam Van Reisen. Brussels: n.p., 2012. Print.

State of Israel vs. Yusuf bin Khalid al-Qrinawi, 2012

State of Israel vs. Victor Siboni, 2012

State of Israel vs. Yakov Grad, 2012

With thanks to JIJ Interns Batel Tegegn and Ethan Kempner for their research and editing contributions.

Israel – the Land of the Free

On a recent return flight from the USA, a friendly Haredi man sat next to me. It turns out that he and his father are respected rabbis with a well-known yeshiva in Jerusalem. When he mentioned his name and the name of the yeshiva, after realizing that I was supposed to recognize both of them, I felt embarrassed by my ignorance. Here were two Jerusalem residents, sitting next to each other, returning to the same nation and the same city, but anyone watching from the side would have thought that we lived on different planets.

We dressed quite differently, cut our hair differently and shaved differently. Although both of us spoke on our cell phones before takeoff, I spoke Hebrew and he spoke some hybrid English-Yiddish dialect from Brooklyn. I ate the food, which was generously provided to us by El-Al, and he didn’t touch it. He brought his own container of hot cooked food in a large paper bag. During takeoff, I read a daily newspaper and he read Psalms. I am sure that in the last elections we voted for different parties, with different agendas. The level of diversity in Israel is astounding.

With all of our internal challenges, somehow we have succeeded over the past 66 years to build a stable society, a society in which there is almost unlimited freedom of expression for both individuals and unique communities, alike. Exactly for that reason, I am proud to be an Israeli.

With all of our internal challenges, somehow we have succeeded over the past 66 years to build a stable society, a society in which there is almost unlimited freedom of expression for both individuals and unique communities, alike. Exactly for that reason, I am proud to be an Israeli.

Palestinian suppression

This same basic right of freedom of expression does not exist in any other nation in the Middle East, and certainly not in the Palestinian Authority. The last conference that I initiated and oversaw in Sweden regarding human rights in the Middle East featured Christy Anastas, a young Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem, who described to the crowd the terrible persecution of Christians in the West Bank by the Muslim leadership. With a tremendous amount of courage, she even went as far as to say that the security fence, which causes suffering to the residents of Bethlehem, exists because of Arafat’s intifada, rather than institutionalized Israeli racism.

Within exactly three days after we uploaded Christy’s lecture to YouTube, both Christy and her family in Bethlehem received severe death threats, both by private individuals and people presenting themselves as security officers of the Abbas government. Christy, who has received political asylum in Great Britain because of clear and present danger to her life, subsequently uploaded an additional video-clip in which she pleads with Saeb Erekat to protect her security and that of her family in Bethlehem.

There is not one iota of freedom of expression in the Palestinian Authority. When Arafat came to power after the Oslo Accords, he quickly expropriated by force the TV channels, the radio and the written newspapers. Palestinian journalists, who were unwilling to print Fatah propaganda, were arrested, tortured and some were executed, after their offices were burned to the ground. Mahmoud Abbas has not changed the policy of suppression, and the Hamas in Gaza have further exacerbated this situation. For these reasons, we hear about more and more Palestinians who admit that they would prefer to remain under Israeli sovereignty, rather than to become citizens of an Islamic dictatorship.

A distinct religious culture, in a “state for all of its citizens”

I sensed that both my Haredi neighbor on my flight and I would agree that living as citizens in Israel is not bad at all. When I asked him what he thought about inducting Haredi soldiers into the IDF, he claimed that our military victories were not achieved only by the bravery of our soldiers, but also and perhaps primarily because of the prayers and observance of the commandments by the Haredi community. “You do your part, and we do ours,” he claimed. In other words, we both love our country and each of us wants to take some credit with building it, protecting it and ensuring its existence.

I agreed with him that we did not win our wars because of a well-regimented army. Those of us who have served in the IDF, including active duty and 20 years of reserve duty, in my case, know how disorganized the IDF can be. On the other hand, I could not agree with him that all of the credit goes to the prayers and faithful observance of the Haredim. I think that anyone who studies in a yeshiva can attest to the fact that not all of the students there are distinguished tzadikim. My flight neighbor even admitted that he does not know anyone who keeps all 613 commandments.

The obvious conclusion is that both of us need a bit more humility and modesty. Somehow, against all odds, and although we apparently do not deserve it, the Jewish people have succeeded in creating an amazing state – a state in which every person can express his belonging or lack of belonging to any community, religion or political movement in complete freedom and without fear of governmental persecution, not only in a private conversation on a plane, but also in public, on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and even on television and in newspapers.

I hope that one day the nations around us will obtain a democratic leadership like ours. It is possible to maintain a government with a distinct religious culture, while also creating a “state for all of its citizens.”

It’s a fact. We did it.

The Cost of John Kerry's naivety

This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel here.

John Kerry has been heavily criticized recently; however, I am not a critic of his motives. I do not think that he is an anti-Semite. When he says that Israel must reach a settlement with the Palestinians or we will have difficulty coping with the boycotts of the international community, I do not think that his intent is to harm Israel or justify the BDS campaign against us, a campaign certainly initiated and promoted by anti-Semites. In my opinion, he is making statements out of ignorance and naivety, his most distinctive traits in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is no doubt that John Kerry’s statements, as well as the way he is currently brokering the peace talks, are harming Israel’s vital interests. Even though Israel does not have a peace-loving partner on the other side of the table, Kerry is presenting an image of the Israeli government as being unwilling to make concessions for peace. Nevertheless, it would be misguided to direct our anger towards Kerry, as if he actually understands what he is doing. His motives are not sophisticated, they are simply ignorant.

The negotiations with the Palestinians will fail once again, and the results of such failure will likely be catastrophic. An economic boycott towards us will not be the highest price that we will pay. Presuming that history always repeats itself, blood will be spilled once again in our streets when the failure of the talks ignites a new intifada. If and when this happens, G-d forbid, everybody will be looking for someone to blame.

The opposition parties will blame the government and try to replace it. Some of the coalition parties will blame Tzippi Livni and try to replace her. Binyamin Netanyahu will blame the Palestinians. The Palestinians will blame the occupation, and John Kerry will become a persona non grata in the Middle East. He will be remembered in the annals of history as one of the worst Secretaries of State who ever served the United States of America. One individual who understands the encroaching blame game is Mahmoud Abbas, who wrote an article last weekend in the New York Times, in which, he presents himself as a dove with an olive branch in its beak.

Avoiding the Blame-Game

None of the aforementioned individuals is the primary party responsible for the oncoming disaster. I place the complete responsibility on the person who created this terrible situation: President Barak Obama. The very fact that he has succeeded to avoid the blame-gaming currently raging in the media, proves the extent to which he is the most sophisticated politician in the mix. He sent John Kerry to do his dirty work, work which he avoids like the plague, thereby procuring an exemption for himself from journalistic criticism. Much can be said about Barak Obama, but unlike Kerry, he is not naïve.

President Obama carefully chose an unsuccessful politician and sent him as a lamb to the slaughter, purportedly to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, John Kerry did not succeed in winning an election against George Bush Jr., who was seeking his second term in office. Does Obama actually think that a politician, who lost an election to one of the least popular presiding Presidents in the history of the United States, will succeed in solving the most ancient and complicated conflict in the world? This leaves only two possibilities: either Obama wants to destroy the political future of John Kerry in the way that King David sent Uriah the Hittite to the front of the battle lines against the Philistines, or Obama is paying back Binyamin Netanyahu, because he knows that Kerry will embarrass Bibi with ridiculous proposals. It is likely that both possibilities crossed his mind.

Whatever his motives may be, when President Obama sent John Kerry into the thick of the battle, a strange situation was created. By doing this, he made it possible for the other leaders in the picture to also send inferior representatives to the negotiationing table. John Kerry, who failed in his election race against Bush, finds himself facing Tzippi Livni, who failed in her election race against Shaul Mufaz, who is facing the negotiation team of Mahmoud Abbas, who failed in his election race against Ismail Haniyah. Due to Obama’s ingenious maneuver, those ultimately responsible for the realities on the ground are enjoying an exemption from public censure, while their frustrated envoys will find themselves responsible for a catastrophe of historic proportions.

Obama, Netanyahu and Haniyah will be able to wash their hands, put all of the blame on their political rivals, and avoid responsibility for the results of negotiations, which were doomed to fail from the outset. Here is the place to note that Obama’s actions speak louder than his words. Although the President has consistently declared from every stage and podium that he is a faithful friend of Israel, we can deduce with certainty from his actions that Israel does not have a friend in the White House today.

 

Sensible solutions require courageous leaders

Have you ever thought about the Dead Sea as a symbol of the leadership of Israel? This unique body of water is sitting openly before the whole world, in the center of our country, and simply disappearing slowly but surely before our eyes. The level of water in the Dead Sea is decreasing by more than a meter per year. The phenomenon of the erosion of the Dead Sea creates sinkholes, which are a clear and present danger to human lives. This trend also threatens to destroy the few tourist and residential enterprises that have been developed through blood, sweat and tears along the Sea’s coast.

The solution to the disappearance of the Dead Sea is clear to everybody. In fact, it has been sitting on the desks of Israeli decision makers for more than a century. Theodor Herzl presented the solution in a straightforward and accurate manner in his book “Altneuland” in 1902. There he described a sea to sea water conduit, a large pipe, which brings water from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea utilizing gravitational force created by the topographical difference in sea levels, and using the force of water flow to create hydro-electric energy on the way. Shimon Peres promoted this idea in the seventies and eighties, and a significant amount of public funds were invested in research and scientific feasibility studies regarding the project’s implementation.

The problem is that the correct solution to the Dead Sea crisis requires audacity and courage, primarily because it will affect a body of water that is located on our border with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. If we do not take unilateral action, but rather wait for a consensus with Jordan and the Palestinian leadership, the Dead Sea is likely to completely vanish in the meantime.

When the desire to reach an agreement at all costs outweighs the desire to reach a logical solution, aberrations are created. The project, which received the consent of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and was recently presented to us by Minister Silvan Shalom, is the result of such an aberration. Minister Shalom’s project is a nice idea that might help solve Jordan’s water shortage problem to some extent. However, one thing is clear to any intelligent bystander: the project will not solve the Dead Sea crisis. Furthermore, contrary to the Med-Dead water conduit project, which, through the use of gravity and topography, creates “green” energy, his project requires large pumps to thrust water over the mountains between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, requiring substantial energy output in the process. Hence, this project, which is beautiful on paper, will remain on paper. No entity will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a project which will consume a huge amount of energy without solving the Dead Sea problem.

This situation illustrates that the level of bravery and courage of the Zionist movement is decreasing concurrently with the level of Dead Sea water.

This is further illustrated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, like the Dead Sea crisis, has simple and clear solutions. Again, similar to the Med-Dead water project, the solution requires bold unilateral action, and the desire to reach an agreement at any cost creates totally illogical aberrations. The establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is a solution that everybody is speaking about and nobody actually believes can be practically implemented.

 The Advantages of Recognizing Gaza as a Palestinian State

It may be difficult to admit, but an independent Palestinian State with clear geographic delineations, inhabited exclusively by Palestinians, already exists. I am obviously referring to the Gaza Strip. If the government of Israel would courageously declare today that it recognizes the Hamas government in Gaza as a Palestinian state, a few problems would be immediately solved.

First, following such recognition, the Hamas state would be subject to international laws that apply to nation states. As a state, it will be possible to bring it to justice in international forums for its promotion of terrorism. As long as Gaza remains a non-state player, its government is not accountable to any formal international legal framework.

Second, following the recognition of the Gaza Strip as a Palestinian state, the road will be paved for Israel to annex all of the territories in Judea and Samaria, without the risk of creating a demographic “time-bomb”. Indeed, if today we were to grant citizenship to all Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, they would become no more than 30% within the Jewish State. Would this create a major shift in political realities? Yes. Would it create an additional burden on our welfare system, which is already barely surviving? Yes. Would the Haredi community need to actually work in order to support themselves (as difficult as that may be)? Probably. However, in so doing, we would put an end to the claims of “occupation” without removing one Jew from his or her home, and without endangering the Jewish majority of the state of Israel.

The essence of the Zionist movement is the decision to take our future into our own hands, and not to remain subject to the whims of the international community. Those who established our nation were visionaries who marked their targets and directly attacked them. If we want everything they built here not only to survive, but to flourish and thrive – we will need the same level of audacity and courage.

So let them boycott

This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel here. 

If you have read recent headlines, you may believe that Israel’s current situation is catastrophic. Something must be done. We cannot continue to settle the territories. If the State of Israel does not proceed to remove the settlements, and to recognize an independent Palestinian State, our very existence as a Jewish-Democratic state will be threatened.

But is this really the case?

In my opinion, the Israeli media coverage of the boycott by the American Studies Association of Israeli academic institutions is nothing less that hysterical. For those who have not yet heard, I will quote here the wording of the boycott: “the resolution is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom, and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians”.

There is no question that it is desirable to enhance, to the extent that it depends on us, the academic freedom of Palestinian lecturers, researchers and students. Likewise, most of us would agree that we should press forward with the peace negotiations. Indeed, engaging in dialogue with our counterparts is essential.

A Small Number of Professors

Nevertheless, before we reach drastic conclusions regarding this new academic boycott, it is important to put all of the facts on the table. It is important to note that the American Studies Association is an organization with a membership of approximately 5,000 American professors. At first glance, these may appear to be impressive numbers, but it should be pointed out that there are some 1.8 million professors in the US. Hence, we are dealing with the decision of an organization which represents roughly 0.28% of American professors. If we further analyze this percentage, we see that 66% of the association’s members supported the boycott. In other words, only 0.185% of professors in America called this week for an academic boycott of Israel.

An imminent threat? A state of emergency? Not really. Actually, an opposition of 0.185% to any issue regarding Israeli policy, is not bad at all.

We can add to these statistics the fact that a much more significant organization, the American Association of University Professors, which consists of approximately 48,000 professors (2.67% of all American professors), is implicitly against the academic boycott of Israel. In the words of representatives of this organization, “an academic boycott of Israel violates the academic ideal of free exchange of ideas”.

The above findings can be summarized by stating that 0.185% of American professors support an academic boycott of Israel, whereas 2.67% of American professors reject such a notion. The clearest conclusion that can be reached by these numbers is that they present no clear conclusion, whatsoever. We still do not know what 97% of professors in the US think about an academic boycott of Israel.

As difficult as it is to admit, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict probably does not frequently cross the minds of the vast majority of academic lecturers in the US.

Another important fact, which evaded the newspaper headlines regarding the recent boycott, is that not one of the 4,495 institutions of higher education in the US has ever declared a boycott of Israel. The recent declaration of boycott came from a group of professors, who work in thousands of different institutions. Their views do not necessarily represent the presiding opinions of the institutions themselves. Hence, this is a very small group of professors expressing nothing more than their personal opinions.

Academic Debate is a Must

I am not claiming that Israeli public relations on campuses overseas are in a good situation or that we should be indifferent to the opinions of international academics. Most Israelis studying in academic institutions overseas have experienced embarrassing situations of toxic anti-Israeli sentiment. I believe that we need to act to change this reality, and I am personally committed to do so. However, if there is one thing that I have learned from years of Israeli advocacy around the world, it is that it is actually possible to change peoples’ opinions. The most useful tool that I know and have successfully employed to do so, is open, honest academic debate.

An example of academic debate, which effectively changed peoples’ opinions, I saw with my own eyes at Oxford University in England. Over a year ago, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, an organization which I lead, started getting involved at Oxford, after a declaration was made boycotting Israeli professors there. In August 2012, we held a lecture series entitled “Answering Tough Questions”. Six months after the event, in February 2012, the Oxford Student Union voted with a crushing majority to reject the BDS campaign, which calls for boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel.

I learned that it is not only possible but imperative that we act to improve the image of Israel within international academic venues. Nevertheless, for the sake of intellectual integrity, let’s not exaggerate the importance of a decision of an insignificant and powerless organization. I think that if it were not for the Israeli media, no one in the world would be aware of the existence of the American Studies Association or its decisions; with the exception of its own membership.

What Happened to the Arab Spring?

Egyptian women today live in unimaginable misery. Please consider the following two statistics carefully: 99.3% of women in Egypt have been sexually harassed. 91%, which amounts to 27.2 million women, have undergone female circumcision during their adolescent years. This is according to a report published last week by the Thomson-Reuters Foundation, a report that ranked Arab countries in the world (22 countries) by their treatment of women. The world was surprised, as were we, to learn  that of all the Arab countries in the world, Egypt was the country awarded the shameful distinction of being the “worst country to live in as a woman”. The numbers indicated by the report are shocking and the inhumanity they represent is incomprehensible.

 Two clear conclusions emerge from this new report.

 First of all, the more control a fundamental Islamic religious regime has over a country, the worse the quality of life is in that country for women. In support of this conclusion, it is sufficient to note that according to the laws of Sha’ariya, a woman is considered the property of her husband and is entirely subject to his authority. If a wife does not obey her husband, he is permitted to punish her with a beating. Even the courts in Jordan, a country considered modern and sympathetic in its treatment of women, turn a deaf ear to the petitions of women in regard to violence between husband and wife.

 The second conclusion is that the uprising, referred to as “The Arab Spring”, was a beginning, not an end. It represents the birth pangs of an important process. At the end of this process, I believe that we will see more moderate and fair Arab regimes in the region. It will take time, but it will happen. It will be driven, in large part by shifting demographics. According to the UN’s data, more than 70% of the citizens of the Middle East are under the age of 30. This large segment of the population is connected to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They are a generation of young people, who are hungry and thirsty for information and education, who compare their standard of living with that of modern Western society, and they are losing patience with the brain washing tactics of their extreme dictators.

 The Critical Mass of Discontent is Growing

 These same young people constitute a critical mass, who will not allow the wars of their fathers to destroy the futures of their children. Thus, they will continue to expose corruption, to challenge the violent suppression of individual rights, and to fight for the dignity and freedom of all men, including those of neighboring countries. They yearn to build a future of peace and prosperity, and no one can stop them.

 Anyone who has recently visited Ramallah and looked beneath the surface, understands that there are hundreds of thousands of young people in the Palestinian Authority, who are not at all interested in the “resistance.” They prefer to surf the web, absorb information and linger on social networks. This phenomenon is also affecting Israeli Arab citizens and, as a result, is positively influencing their attitude toward the Jewish State. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of young Arab Christians seeking to contribute to the country through full service in the IDF. In the words of a Christian Arab priest, Father Gabriel Nadaf, “it’s only natural that a country that keeps us safe is worthy of our volunteer service for its defense.” Well said.

 So, in light of these sweeping demographic changes and consequent exposure to information, why do we continue to see such oppression, particularly of women, in Egypt?

 Change is Just a Matter of Time

 The answer is that the majority of these young people have not yet reached the age of 18, thus, they are not yet old enough to vote. And so, as we witnessed a year ago, there still lacked the small number of votes necessary to thwart the Muslim Brotherhood’s grasp of power. However, within 10 years, at the most, this generation will be able to tip the balance in elections and to lead revolutions in a completely different way. The Egyptian army may very well need to continue to function as a “guardian regime” until these young people reach the age that allows them to vote. Although it is not an ideal situation, as it is not a proper democracy, we all know that it is obviously a lesser evil than political control by a radical Islamic party. Women in Egypt know this best of all, as they bear the scars of Morsi’s regime on their flesh.

 It is an empirical fact that democracies do not go to war with other democracies. In the coming years, the further the “Arab Spring” progresses and the more it bears fruit, the lower the chances will be that Israel will be required to defend herself from the aggression of her neighbors.

 This has a direct bearing on our negotiations with the Palestinians. Despite the pressure currently being exerted on our government by our American friends, there is no need to rush. We need not make any more far-reaching concessions today to meet the demands of extreme leaders, who will probably not be there tomorrow.  We should patiently wait for the coming generation of Middle-Eastern leaders, who we hope, will be true partners in peace.

 The Palestinian people are not stupid. They see that while Ismail Haniyeh curses, swears and threatens Israel, he is also sending his beloved granddaughter to experts in Israeli hospitals for urgent medical treatment. The distance between the words spoken by these extreme leaders and their actions in practice, is exactly the space in which the young generations’ faith in such leaders slips away.

Open Letter to Hamas Spokeswoman

Ms. Israa Al-Mudallal

Spokeswoman, Hamas Organization

Gaza

RE: Open Letter Regarding Women’s Rights in Gaza

 Dear Ms. Al-Mudallal,

Please allow me to congratulate you on your appointment to the new position of spokeswomen to the foreign press. This is certainly an impressive achievement which I am sure that you deserve.

 As someone who has promised to “work on changing the media discourse, painting a different picture of Palestine and Gaza”, I would love to hear your opinion on the status of women’s rights in the Gaza Strip, and according to Hamas policy in general.

 As I am sure that you are aware, since Hamas came to power in Gaza, women have been banned from dancing or smoking in public, walking alone on the beach, riding with men on motorcycles, and even getting a haircut from a male hairdresser. Are these rules justified in your eyes?

 What do you think, for instance, about the directives of Hamas leaders, which make women cover themselves with an “abaiya” (a cloak which conceals the curves of their bodies) and a hijab (a head covering) in schools and institutes of higher education, such as Al-Aksa University? Furthermore, do you support the law, which segregates boys and girls, starting from seventh grade in Gaza?

 Similarly, what is your opinion of modesty operations by Hamas policemen in Gaza over the past few months, in which women are detained in the street if their dress is considered to be immodest or their haircuts too modern?

 I would also love to hear your thoughts regarding Article 18 of the Penal Code (1936) applicable in Gaza, whereby judges are expected to mitigate the sentence of a man who murders his daughter, wife, mother, sister or other family member in order to preserve “family honor”. Is this a worthy law in your eyes?

 What, in your opinion, is the primary source of the high unemployment rate of women in Gaza, which sometimes reaches 35%? Do you think that your appointment as the Spokeswoman of Hamas signifies progress towards equal job opportunities in Gaza?

 I would be grateful if you could also address the issue of inheritance. We know that according to empirical data, approximately 88% of women in Gaza are prohibited from sharing in the inheritance with their brothers, upon the death of their parents.

 Finally, what do you think about the induction of young women into the ranks of Hamas suicide bombers?

 If you would be so kind as to address the above questions without blaming the “Israeli occupation”, I would greatly appreciate it. Indeed, it is hard for me to believe that the Jewish citizens of Israel are in any way responsible for discrimination against women under the Hamas administration in Gaza.

 Sincerely Yours,

Calev Myers

Human Rights Activist

Released Terrorists Get the Last Laugh

This article originally appeared online here.

On Tuesday of next week the government of Israel will, once again, release Palestinian prisoners.Since the release of the terrorists in the Shalit deal (October 2011), according to the GSS’s assessment, a significant number of those released have returned to terror activities both in Judea and Samaria, as well as the Gaza Strip.

 

It turns out, for some reason that sitting in an Israeli prison cell does not convince terrorists to abandon their radical Islamic ideologies and to be transformed into peace activists. According to the released terrorist, Iman Alshrauna, who was released in the Shalit deal, he is continuing to act for the liberation of “all West Bank territories, the Temple Mount… and all of Palestine from the river to the sea”, as well as “all Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israel”. (Lebanon Almiadin Channel, 27 May 2013)

Notwithstanding the serious harm done to the security of Israeli citizens, the premature release of Palestinian prisoners impairs the separation of powers, a principle that is indispensable to proper democratic governance. The executive branch actually becomes all-powerful when its leaders decide to release prisoners from sentences cast by the judicial branch, based upon laws created by the legislative branch. This is a breech in the democratic protective dike, which must be taken seriously.

Furthermore, an absurd breech of the principle of equality before the law has also been created. Criminals who are driven by “nationalistic” motives enjoy preferable treatment over those driven by other motives, because the latter will never be released in political transactions.

It is Impossible to Legitimize a Corrupt Government

 So the obvious question is, “What have we gained?” What have Israeli citizens received in consideration for sacrificing our security and the proper functioning of our democracy? Some analysts assert that this move is essential in order to build legitimacy for Abu-Mazen before he signs a peace agreement. In other words, without securing some kind of achievement in advance, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority lacks the mandate to negotiate with Israel in the name of the Palestinian people.

 Will the release of prisoners actually rehabilitate the trust of the Palestinian people in Abu-Mazen and his government? I highly doubt it. Hamas rose to power in the last Palestinian elections, replacing Abu-Mazen’s party, the  PLO, for two reasons: a protest vote and an ideological vote.

 One vote protested the rampant corruption in the PLO government; a government of leaders who enrich themselves personally with the massive international aid flowing into the territories, while the average Palestinian is living in miserable conditions. The EU report, which was published last week, exposes the fact that over the past four years approximately three billion dollars “evaporated” into thin air in the Palestinian Authority. I doubt that the release of prisoners will transform Abu-Mazen into a less corrupt person, or restore the monies stolen from the Palestinian people.

 The ideological vote was placed by people who sincerely believe in the Hamas charter, which calls for the conquest of the whole land of Israel by violent jihad. This is the only legitimate form of “resistance” according to their religious values and world-view. Neither the release of prisoners, nor any other act of Abu-Mazen, will ever induce them to change their minds.

 Thus, we have harmed our own security and undermined our democratic system, with absolutely nothing to show for it in the pursuit of peace with the Palestinians.

 America’s Double Standard

 What deeply troubles me, however, is the fact that the demand to release prisoners comes from no other source than our faithful ally, the government of the United States of America. This is astonishing hypocrisy. According to American law and practice, a state never releases security prisoners, certainly not in the framework of political transactions. To verify this statement, just ask Jonathan Pollard.

 Meanwhile, the released terrorists are laughing all the way to their renewed terror activities.

The Problem in Iran is Not Nuclear Weapons. It’s the Government.

President Obama is not just endangering Israel’s security. His reconciliatory behavior towards Iran compromises first and foremost the human rights of the Iranian people, and hundreds of millions of other citizens throughout the Middle East who are suffering under the oppression of fanatical Islamic regimes.

It was especially difficult for me to hear President Obama state from behind the UN podium last week that he believes once the Iranian nuclear program crisis is solved, it will be a huge step forward on a long road toward new relations; relations built of “common interests and mutual respect”.

Common interests and mutual respect? Really? One could understand from Obama’s statements that as soon as we get rid of the Iranian nuclear threat (he apparently forgot who we are dealing with), we can return to business as usual and grant Iran full rights as an upstanding member of the international community. What about the policy of ethnic cleansing of Iranian minorities, particularly the Bahai community? What about the systematic use of torture, including brutal sexual violence toward men and women in governmental custody? What about the dizzying rate of executions of Iranian citizens, including children, and the suppression and prevention of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion? Will these suddenly disappear together with the Iranian nuclear threat?

I am reminded of the warning given to us by the prophet Isaiah, which echoes throughout the ages, and is so relevant to current events. It’s as if he was a journalist covering this week’s UN General Assembly meeting: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

The True Nature of the Empire of Evil

 Obama did mention in his speech the violent oppression being carried out by the Syrian government in a call to prevent the further use of chemical weapons. However, in a similar manner to his remarks regarding Iran, he avoided mentioning the need to prevent the indiscriminate killing of hundreds of thousands of Assad’s own citizens by conventional weapons. The message understood between the lines is: “as long as you do not use chemical weapons, you are welcome to continue slaughtering the Syrian people by any other means”.

The primary problem is not the type of weapons, but rather the type of government possessing the weapons. The simplest way to ascertain the suitability of a government is to look at the way it treats citizens living under its administration. There is not the slightest common ground between democratic regimes, which place the welfare and quality of life of their citizens at the top of their agendas, and Islamic regimes, which are motivated by lust for power, fed by radical religious ideologies, and indifferently trample human rights.

Proceeding Rohani’s rise to the presidency of Iran, it was the nation with the highest per capita number of executions in the world. Since his election, the rate of executions has accelerated. Rohani may be able to stand behind the UN podium and present a humanistic speech, but his actions speak louder than his words. According to conservative estimates, approximately one hundred Iranians were executed in just his first month in office. Today we need a strong leader in the West, who will stand up and say, “If Rohani wants normalization of relations with Iran, then let him begin with some housecleaning.

This week, the international community and the US President, as its spokesman, missed a historic opportunity to call evil evil, darkness darkness and bitterness bitterness. Had he done so, Barak Obama could have brought courage and hope to all of those in our region, who are crying out for freedom, human rights and the overturning of oppressive dictatorships.

In an interview with The Weekly Standard, which was published in the month of June, 2004, Natan Sharansky was asked about the significance of President Ronald Reagan’s speech, during which he referred to the Soviet regime an “evil empire”; a speech delivered while Sharansky was imprisoned in the gulag as a prisoner of Zion. “I have to laugh… There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man, who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day… President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union”.

For the thousands and thousands of political prisoners suffering at this very moment in Iranian and Syrian prisons, this week, which could have been “bright” and “glorious”, became disappointing and sad. Barack Obama turned out the light at the end of the tunnel for them.

Obama’s Muslim Brothers

The only thing that is surprising about President Obama’s reaction to the events in Egypt, is the fact that anyone is actually surprised. From the day that he was first elected, Obama has made a conscientious effort to prove to the world one clear fact: he sees the Muslim Brotherhood, in essence, as a coalition of his brothers.

You are probably thinking – “just another conspiracy theory from the right-wing camp”. Not exactly. Before you close this article, and move on to a different article that supports your current political views, allow me to present you with a few simple questions:

 Why did Obama choose to grant his first television interview, as a newly elected President, to the “Al-Arabia” news channel? Why did Obama travel, immediately following his election, to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt (“coincidentally” by-passing the USA’s ally, Israel)?

 Why did Obama choose to give his Cairo speech at the Islamic university “Al-Azhar”, an institute whose faculty publicly calls for the killing of non-Muslim populations, including Jews? And why, against the explicit entreaty of Housni Mubarak, did Obama invite representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood to be present at his speech? Let us momentarily set aside the question as to why Obama, in his speech, outrageously compared the suffering of the Palestinian people to the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust.

 Why, immediately after the beginning of the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, did Obama call for the resignation of Housni Mubarak, when it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood would rise to power? Was Obama unaware of the fact that under Sadat and Mubarak, Egypt was the strategic ally of the USA in the Middle East; an ally which preserved peace and regional stability for some four decades?

 Why did Obama ignore three petitions from members of Congress to cease the economic support of Morsi’s government, regardless of the anti-democratic changes Morsi made to Egypt’s constitution?

 His Best Friend, Erdogan

 Why is Obama so supportive of Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister, a devoted Islamist who has imprisoned most of Turkey’s highest military echelon as well as journalists who advocated for democracy? Why did Obama demand that Binyamin Netanyahu apologize to Turkey for the IDF’s behavior during the Flotilla incident? Furthermore, why does Obama refer to Erdogan as his “closest friend in the Middle East”?

 Unfortunately, the list goes on.

 Why does Obama support the rebel factions in Syria, which are militias under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood?

 Why has Obama failed to support the democratic grassroots movement in Iran, while pressuring Israel not to take preemptive military actions in Iran for the prevention of nuclear armament?

 On that note, why does Obama incessantly condemn Israeli settlements, while avoiding publicly demanding that the Palestinians carry out reforms in their education system; a system which denies the existence of Israel, encourages terrorist activities, celebrates the murder of Jews and advances violent hatred? Furthermore, why is Obama pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, while failing to condemn the unity agreement between the PLO and Hamas?

 Does anyone else see a pattern here? Is it really conceivable that political analysts are struggling to understand why Obama suspended his support of the Egyptian military, immediately after the Muslim Brotherhood government was toppled and Morsi was arrested?

 There are only two ways to cope with the questions presented above. We can either bury our heads in the sand and hope that we are dealing with a series of bizarre coincidences. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that the President of the United States would stand against democratic, liberal values and support the Islamic conquest of the world. Or we can come to grips with the fact that Obama’s fallback position is always, in all circumstances, support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 We may or may not want to deal with the reality of this matter, but we cannot deny the facts. President Obama is a friend of the Muslim brotherhood, notwithstanding the fact that they slaughter Christians and non-consenting Muslims, suppress the rights of woman and children, quash personal freedoms and democracy, and oppose the progress of humanity. How long can we bury our heads in the sand?

 Truly, we should not be surprised.

The Zada Case – a Call for Arab Accountability

In August 2005, an Israeli soldier named Natan Eden Zada embarked on a bus driving in the direction of the Arab village of Shfara’am. He then proceeded to open fire on the passengers with an automatic weapon. Four innocent Arab citizens were murdered in cold blood, and another twenty people were injured. After Zada was neutralized by other passengers on the bus, an angry mob stormed the bus and killed Zada. Policemen, who were called to the scene, were injured by the rioters as they attempted to calm the situation.

Yesterday, District Court Judges in Haifa acquitted seven Arab citizens, who were involved in the mob that attacked Zada, from indictments of attempted murder, and convicted most of the defendants with charges of assaulting law enforcement officers, preventing law enforcement officers from carrying out their duties, and hazardous rioting. Two of the defendants were convicted of assault and battery and four of them were convicted of attempted manslaughter.

Hundreds of people, including several Members of Knesset, demonstrated outside of the Courthouse during the sentencing session, calling for all of those indicted in the case to be acquitted from all criminal liability.

MK Hanin Zoabi stated before the sentences were read: “this is political persecution of the Palestinian people. Instead of the state protecting the Palestinians from murderers, the state is sending a clear message to everybody that it is forbidden to harm anyone who plans to murder Arabs”. MK Machmud Barake exceeded even Zoabi’s claims by stating: “They cannot be guilty. The guilt belongs with the settlements and the radical right, and the government is an incubator for them, cultivating their legitimacy. We will not be satisfied with anything less than acquitting the victims, who are standing in a political, admonitory trial. We will not accept the formula of being killed, being buried, and being tried. This is a political trial. Those who trained Zada gave him support and guidance to come to Shfara’am and murder. They are the guilty parties. Any result other than acquittals, will be appalling”.

The essence of true leadership 

According to any moral standard, Zada’s acts were loathsome and despicable. No rational person can think otherwise. However, political leaders like Zoabi and Barake, who exploit such a tragic event to de-legitimize the Israeli legal system, are not doing the people they represent any favors.

From a legal perspective, there is no question that this is a complicated case, and we can expect the court’s ruling to be studied by law faculties for many years to come. I will not endeavor to analyze the judges’ decision, and will be happy to leave that task to criminal law experts. That being said, it appears that the judges carried out their responsibilities in a professional manner.

It is difficult to ignore the fact that the court’s ruling regarding the riot and murder in the North, and the ensuing public protest, came down within two weeks after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the USA, the young white/Hispanic man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American youth. George Zimmerman claimed, during his trial, that he shot him because he “felt threatened” and that his life was in jeopardy. Though it was never proven in court, many felt that Zimmerman profiled Martin as being dangerous due to the color of his skin. Zimmerman’s trial awakened deep racial tensions in the USA, and thousands took to the streets to protest his acquittal.

A few days after Zimmerman’s verdict was published, I had a conversation with Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, an African American friend, who serves as the President of an African American college in the southern state of Arkansas. I asked Dr. Hill about his opinion on the Trayvon Martin case, and he answered: “the only reason that Trayvon’s story reached the headlines is the fact that Zimmerman happened to be non-Black. Hundreds of Black youths kill each other every day in our urban centers, and none of us says a word. We all go on with our daily agendas, as if nothing happened. Before we go to the streets to demonstrate against the courts in Florida, we should do some personal soul searching regarding the standard of behavior we expect within our own communities”.

That is the response of a man who deserves to be a leader. He has demonstrated the ability to transcend the trauma of a tragic and painful incident, in order to pacify current unrest, and to call for societal reforms that address the root of the problem. He has refused to cynically exploit the situation to advance the de-legitimization of the entire system.

If Zoabi, Barake and their associates were interested in justifying their leadership positions, their message under such circumstances should have been: “Notwithstanding the deep fury that we feel over this heinous murder, any act of violence against policemen is unacceptable. The Israeli police are charged with protecting the lives of Arab and Jewish citizens. We have an interest, as Israeli Arabs, in allowing the police to properly carry out their duties. We will not be able to complain that they are not duly enforcing the law against those who carry out honor killings, for instance, if they must fear for their lives when entering Arab villages in order to restore the public peace”.

 It is a shame, Ms. Zoabi and Mr. Barake that you did not miss another opportunity, to miss another opportunity to lead.

Palestinians should protest

This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel. 

If I was a Palestinian currently residing in the disputed territories, I would take to the streets in protest against the recent decision of the European Union to desist from funding Israeli entities located beyond the Green Line. The gravest danger ensuing from this decision is that it is apt to escalate into a general boycott of any products produced from the territories, like we witnessed recently in South Africa.

Who will be the primary victim of such a scenario? The Palestinians, themselves. Indeed, all of the Israeli factories located beyond the Green Line, without exception, employ Palestinian workers. These Israeli businesses provide 70,000 jobs for the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria. Who will provide their future employment, the European Union?

The Europeans made a poor decision, which fails to take the real needs of the Palestinians into account. That fact becomes all the more evident upon consideration of what they have chosen to continue funding beyond the Green Line.

The European Union will continue to fund, for instance, the UNRWA schools, which encourage Palestinian youth to carry out a bloody jihad against the Jewish people, and hold elaborate ceremonies to honor the lives of suicide bombers.

The Europeans will continue to fund the PLO government of Abu Mazen, an administration, which harshly abuses the human rights of the Palestinian people via forced suppression of the media, arbitrary arrests, torture, and executions without trial.

They will also continue to fund Abu Mazen’s salary, which according to Palestinian sources is 1,000,000 Euros per month. While the majority of Palestinians live in abject poverty, Abu Mazen’s net worth is estimated to be in excess of 100,000,000 Euros. It is interesting to note that his salary is about 110 times higher than the average salary of a Member of the European Parliament.

Classic Arguments No Longer Work against Classic Anti-Semitism

Without a doubt, this recent decision stems from classic European anti-Semitism, the type of anti-Semitism that ignores the facts on the ground and seeks every opportunity to assault the legitimacy of the Jewish people and the existence of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel. That is exactly what our Israeli diplomats will declare in the next few days through every available media outlet. The problem is that this message has lost its broadcasting value.

The European collective memory is short, and unfortunately most Europeans are fed up with hearing about the tragedies of the Holocaust. The new generation of European leaders does not see itself as responsible for the failures of its parents and grandparents in the past century, nor does it view those failures as relevant to current political realities. So what can be done? How can we improve the diplomatic status of the State of Israel and fight its increasing de-legitimization?

It’s Time to Embrace the Human Rights Discourse

In my opinion, we need to stop quarreling about the rights of the Jewish people and begin a new public discourse, based entirely on the human rights of the Palestinians. There is no doubt that the Palestinian Authority is advancing an agenda, which is diametrically opposed to the values upon which the European Union was established, values of personal freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Hence, the Palestinian Authority is the primary abuser of human rights in the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Certainly any intelligent person understands, especially after the recent upheaval in Egypt, that the establishment of another radical Islamic regime in the region will not result in peace. To the extent that the Palestinian Authority, in its current form and function, receives more legitimacy, the quality of life in the Palestinian street will deteriorate.

If the European Union is sincerely interested in the welfare of the Palestinian people, it should precondition its financial aid to their government on genuine steps toward implementing human rights reforms. I said these exact words when I was given the opportunity to speak before the European Parliament last November. What was promised to the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, as a response to this challenge, was an “examination of the issue by the Budgetary Commission of the European Union”. I continue to hope and believe that they will honor this commitment.

The State of Israel and the Palestinian people have a common interest: a proper Palestinian democracy. If the benchmark for recognition of a Palestinian State were based on the proof of its ability to maintain proper governance, an administration that protects individual freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and human rights, the future of the Middle East would look different and far better. A dream? Not in my view.

I call upon our politicians to adopt this discourse and this concept. I am convinced that if they choose not to, we will continue to read daily reports about decisions of this or that Union; decisions, which will continue to slowly but surely erode the security, and socio-economic condition of both the State of Israel and the Palestinian people.