Saturday, July 02, 2011

Abrams on Obama: He sees Israel as a problem to solve


In an interview with ‘The Jerusalem Post,’ the former top aide to George W. Bush explains his difficulties with the current president’s positions.

Elliott Abrams, one of former US president George Bush’s top Middle East advisers, is not known to mince words. So it was no surprise, really, when at a panel last week at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem he said bluntly that “there is no great love” in President Barack Obama’s heart for Israel.

But as he was sitting on a panel with two strong Obama supporters, former congressman Robert Wexler and former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, this comment did not go unchallenged. Wexler launched into a spirited and sarcastic rebuttal, presenting a checklist of actions Obama has taken that he said proved where the president’s heart was.

These steps included encouraging a security relationship between Israel and the US that is “unprecedented in terms of depth and profound engagement”; cancelling involvement in a Turkish military maneuver when the Turks disinvited Israel; sending the largest contingency of US military ever to dock at Haifa Port; ensuring that the OECD countries voted to let Israel into that prestigious club; lobbying the leaders of Britain, France and Germany not to support the PA’s statehood bid at the UN; overseeing the largest amount of military aid, $3 billion, ever approved for Israel; and pushing through an additional $205 million appropriation for Iron Dome development and purchase.

Sounds, Wexler said, like a whole lotta love to him.

Abrams didn’t really get to reply at the panel, but was able to do so in a later interview with The Jerusalem Post, in which he explained what he meant on this particular issue, and expanded on others.

“Bob was making a campaign speech,” he said of Wexler’s checklist. “I don’t want to be portrayed as saying the president hates Israel and is an enemy of Israel, because that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that we had two consecutive presidents [Bush and Bill Clinton] who had a special consideration for Israel, who viewed Israel as a great ally. I think President Obama views Israel as a problem that needs to be solved.”

Abrams said that this was most evident at the United Nations.

Bush’s attitude, Abrams said, was that the UN “is against Israel, and that it is completely unfair and biased.” The upshot of that during his term was that “if something comes up, you veto it, and you’re done with it. You’ve then done a good deed.”

Indeed, he said, the Bush administration cast nine vetoes blocking anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council over an eight-year span.

The Obama administration, by contrast, “is desperate to avoid vetoes,” he said.

“They don’t like to veto anything at any time. I believe they hoped initially to get through four years without a veto, and they got through two years without a veto.”

Earlier in the year, the US cast a veto against an anti-settlement resolution. But Abrams said that if you looked at US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice’s explanation of the veto, in which she, too, slammed settlement activity, “you see how unhappy she was” at casting it.

Abrams also suggested Wexler was being a bit disingenuous by giving Obama credit for this year’s $3b. military assistance package, saying that package had been negotiated during the Olmert-Bush years. “To give Obama or Netanyahu credit for that is wrong,” he said.

Regarding the security cooperation and Iron Dome assistance, Abrams – who did not contest that US-Israel security cooperation is now at its highest point ever – said there was no question that the president or the defense secretary could, if they wanted to, tone down the military-to-military relationship.

That the president had not interfered, Abrams said, was indeed to Obama’s credit.

And then Abrams added the “but”: Were the president to reduce the level of cooperation, or cancel exercises or high-level meetings between generals, that would become known, “and the rumblings, the unhappiness in the American Jewish community would become greater. So there is politics that would play here,” he said.

As to the additional Iron Dome funding, Abrams said, “First, it is a terrific thing that he did.” Second, he added, it is “very much in the interest of the US that he did it,” since a good, working Iron Dome system is beneficial to the US as well.

“After all, we have missile threats, too,” he said of the system that defends against short-range rockets and artillery shells.

“We are the only country with serious [military] bases all over the world,” he continued. “Missile defense is a very important thing for us – we are very good with long-range missile defense systems developed in the days of USSR, but Israel is at the forefront in the short-range missile defense – systems like Iron Dome.

This is very critical for a country with lots of bases in disputed locations. We have tens of thousands of troops in Korea within range of Korean missiles; we have troops in the Persian Gulf. The Iron Dome is great for the US.”

Abrams, who today is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Washington- based Council on Foreign Relations, had a hand in drafting the 2004 Bush letter to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon stating that the US believed the Palestine refugee problem should be settled in a Palestinian state, rather than Israel, and that it was unrealistic to expect that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would mean a full and complete return to the 1949 armistice lines.

One of the sources of contention between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations since they took power in early 2009 was the status of that letter, with the prime minister wanting to pin Obama down to reaffirm it, and Obama unwilling to do so.

And this, at least for Abrams, signified a “huge” Obama mistake.

“I think the administration from the very beginning has taken the opinion that it was kind of a private letter from Bush to Sharon. But that’s wrong – it was very public, and was endorsed in overwhelming votes in both houses of Congress,” he said.

“Now we are asking Israel to take risks, we are always asking Israel to take risks, and it is reasonable to say, ‘What is the American position?’ If the American position is going to change every couple of years, then there is no American position, and there are no guarantees at all.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, according to Abrams, is very well within his rights to ask Obama how he views the letter.

If Obama’s answer is that the letter has no significance, that it “is just the private promise of a former president,” then Netanyahu could fairly ask why any future Obama promise would be any different, he said.

And the implications of that question are serious, not only for Israel, he went on; “I think it is very damaging to the US as an actor in international politics for a president to say, ‘Whatever my predecessor said, forget about it.’ Particularly, when it is formal, not private, and both houses of Congress endorsed it.”

Also disconcerting, Abrams said, was that certain comments Obama had made recently ran against the grain of the letter.

“First, I don’t think that the president has been as clear as he should have on the Palestinian refugee issue. I think he ought to say clearly that the Palestinian refugee problem will be addressed and solved in Palestine, as the Bush letter put it, rather than Israel. I don’t think there should be any pressure at all to take one single Palestinian.

There wasn’t in the Bush administration, and there shouldn’t be now. That is one big difference,” he said.

“The other big difference is this question of borders and swaps, because the position in the Bush letter was that you guys have to agree on a border, and that we are not going to dictate a border,” he continued.

“But one thing is pretty clear; it is not going to be the 1949 armistice line.”

ABRAMS SAID there was a significant difference between what appeared in the Bush letter and Obama’s comment that negotiations ought to start now on the basis of the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps.

“When Obama says you need to agree on a border, and that it will be based on 1967 lines with agreed swaps, that undermines the Israeli negotiating position. By saying that, you are giving that border greater weight. You are not saying, ‘Hey, look, that was an armistice line from 1949 – it has no legitimacy, you guys have to negotiate a border.’ And then, when Obama added in the comment about mutually agreed swaps, my question is always, ‘Are you telling me Israel has to give up sovereign Green Line territory to keep the Kotel?’ That is ridiculous.”

Abrams said that while it was conceivable that Israel would agree to swaps, and that former prime minister Ehud Olmert had proposed one-to-one swaps for everything, “[it] is the sovereign right of Israel to make any deal it wants. But why should the US be weakening the Israeli negotiating position by even suggesting there have to be swaps for every deviation from the 1949 armistice line? It’s one thing to say there will be swaps for Ariel, another for the Kotel.”

He added that “Bush did Israel a favor by saying there would be no return to the 1949 lines, and I think you have to say that helped Israel, and didn’t help the Palestinians. I think the additional Obama formulation hurt Israel, and helped the Palestinians.”

He dismissed the notion that Sharon was “naïve” in putting so much faith in the Bush letter, and in fact used to wave it as “ideological compensation” for withdrawal from Gaza.

“I don’t think it was naïve. You have a very formal communication, it is not a law, not a treaty, but it was a carefully negotiated document endorsed by both houses of Congress. It was reasonable to expect – it was wrong – but it was reasonable to expect that another president would treat it pretty seriously, and this president has not treated it seriously.”

One element of the letter that Obama did incorporate in his speeches on the Middle East in May was that the US remained committed – as the letter stated – to Israel’s ability to “deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.”

Or, as Obama said at the annual AIPAC conference, “every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.”

What that line meant, Abrams explained, was that the US “is not going to say, ‘Don’t worry about taking security risks because we are behind you,’ because that is a meaningless guarantee.”

He said this line was important because it was a US commitment to “help Israel defend itself so it won’t get into a situation where it will need American troops or an American airlift.”

“Putting American munitions here, which we started doing in a big way under Bush, is a way of saying the same thing,” he said. “Why are we doing this? So that in an extreme situation there won’t be the need to airlift munitions here, so that Israel will be able to defend itself by itself.”

With the 2012 US presidential election now beginning to loom large, Abrams was asked whether Israel had what to fear from a second Obama term.

“The question is, to what degree is his pressure on Israel constrained by domestic politics and the need to be reelected?” Abrams replied. “If the answer is not at all, then you have nothing to fear. But if the answer is that it is probably constrained a good deal, and that in a second term he would be putting much more pressure on Israel – he would be allowing UN votes condemning Israel that he wouldn’t veto, he would be putting much more pressure on behalf of the Palestinians to get a deal that Israel may not like – then you have to worry about it.”

Abrams said he felt that domestic politics had constrained Obama until now.

“I think that the president, as I said, doesn’t get it fundamentally. There is something missing in his attitude toward Israel that Bush and Clinton had; some kind of fundamental sympathy with the plight of Israel in the world community.

He has an intellectual understanding of this, but he doesn’t seem to have an emotional understanding of this at the deepest level. He seems to view Israel, as I believe, as a problem for the US, one of our many problems around the world, rather than having an emotional attachment to it or viewing it fundamentally as a very valuable ally.”

Israel, Abrams implied, should not be intoxicated by the resounding reception Netanyahu received when he addressed Congress in May, because “fundamentally the foreign policy of the US is under the control of the president.”

Granted, Congress has power of the purse and can “wreck” the president’s foreign policy, but “normally the foreign policy is under the president. And if the president decides that he is going to force Israel into negotiations, and force it to make compromises in those negotiations, despite the views of its prime minister, then he can go pretty far.”•make compromises in those negotiations, despite the views of its prime minister, then he can go pretty far.”

Comment: The Dems just signaled their strategy to win back American Jews-note the "amount of things Obama has done for Israel" and these are meant to translate into how much he supports and likes Israel. Several problems-one of which is Obama did not inititiate all of these acts, he simply signed onto them-check it out; next, note the things Obama has not done to support Israel. His equation of look what I did equals support is skewed-pay qttention conservative Jews!

To Methodist Ministers and other establishment anti-Semites of the Cloth

From: Zionist Organization – Michigan Region Newsletter

June 12, 2010

Dear Reverends,

I attended your peace forum on June 2nd. I’d attended other peace forums, lectures, programs, etc., in the past and found them to be gatherings of Israel bashers.

I appreciated the fact that your program did not descend to the level of hatred and purposeful misinformation about Israel that I found during these other programs, although Israel bashing groups were present. It was good to see that space was given to at least one pro Israel group amongst groups like Friends of Sabeel, Jewish Voice for Peace, and some of the other more questionably Jewish supportive organizations. I also liked the breakout sessions where all voices and views were allowed time to speak, something I’d never experienced at the other “peace” meetings. The problem I found was that some of the information presented was inaccurate. Your main speaker, Sister Martha Larson, complained that Israel rejected the Goldstone report, but never mentioned that Goldstone has now also rejected the report.

She talked about Israeli commandos boarding the Mavi Marmara of the Gaza flotilla, but never mentioned that the commandos carried paint ball guns and were forced to fight for their lives against terrorists who tried to kill them.

She talked about the 70 UN resolutions against Israel, but never discussed the validity or the morality of any of them, or the fact that while Israel is pilloried by the UN, real human rights violators like Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Libya are routinely ignored as they murder thousands of their own citizens and work to destroy the one stable and free society in the Middle East: Israel.

It was also claimed that Gaza is one of the most crowded places on Earth. In reality, it isn’t even in the top ten. According to the United Nations (by way of Wikipedia), the Palestinian territories come at number 20 in population density. If you examine the list, it’s also obvious that crowded doesn’t necessarily mean poor, as some of the most crowded countries on Earth are also the wealthiest.

Then there were the minor absurdities, that Israel destroys mosques and that Jews demand sensitivity from Muslims on the Sabbath. In reality, when Jordan ruled E. Jerusalem, the Jordanians destroyed synagogues.

When Israel forced all Jews from Gaza, Palestinians destroyed the synagogues of Gaza along with greenhouses left by the Israelis that could have produced jobs and a boost to the local Gazan economy.

I found Sister Larson’s claim of the vast power of AIPAC (more than any of the thousands of other lobbies, including Arab and Saudi lobbies?) in influencing Congress highly offensive and reminiscent of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who are convinced we live under ZOG: Zionist Occupied Government.

Also troubling were some of the handouts. The one that bothered me the most was not the most outrageous and libelous showing alleged Israeli torture of Palestinians (without asking what’s happening to Gilad Shalit, who is still being held prisoner in Gaza) but rather the “guide” to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict put out by the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

I’m not going to dissect the entire pamphlet, but only point out one egregious example of its dishonesty in its attempt at demonstrating a false moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians, and putting Israel in the worst possible light, by quoting one sentence regarding Israel’s war of independence: “War erupted and forces from six Arab states intervened.” Correction: War did not “erupt”. Nobody “intervened”.The nascent state of Israel was invaded by six Arab nations. Their aim was a second Jewish genocide.

This little pamphlet is full of misleading statements, false moral equivalence, and outright lies. Another huge error made by one of your speakers (I forgot to write down which one) was the claim that the cradle of the three monotheistic religions was Jerusalem. The cradle of Islam was Saudi Arabia; Mecca and Medina.

What’s never mentioned by speakers at yours or any other of these peace gatherings is the fact that Israel is the only free and democratic state in the Middle East, the only country which allows freedom of religion for believers of all faiths, freedom for women, for gays and lesbians, for open politics. Would these freedoms hold in a Palestinian state? Examine Gaza for the answer.

Also, take a look at the violence in the surrounding Islamic nations (where Christianity is slowly disappearing) and how many hundreds, if not thousands of citizens are being murdered by their own governments, and then explain to me why Israel is THE nation singled out for scrutiny, subjected to BDS, and held to an impossible standard of decency while the previously mentioned nations are held to no standard.

Unfortunately, most of the people attending these events know very little of the reality of the situation in Israel, and so they swallow the misinformation spread by these organizations. It’s the only information they hear.

I would like to make two recommendations for future programs. First, anybody sponsoring these events needs a truer picture of Israel’s history. There is a local chapter of Stand With Us, an organization created to give more factual information on Israel. They can provide booklets and other information for free. Some of their material was available at your program at the Jewish Community Relations table.

There is another group called Our Soldiers Speak, made up of retired IDF soldiers. They are also very informative, and they’re not afraid of tough questions. Israelis are subject to much worse than an angry audience. For your own knowledge, I recommend reading ISRAEL, a History, by Martin Gilbert. It’s lengthy but detailed and Mr. Gilbert doesn’t shy away from showing that Israel was not perfect in the conduct of their wars, like the rest of the world expects them, and only them, to be. It’s a very informative book.

Respectfully, (not my word – jsk)

Harry Onickel

Harry Onickel is one of Metro Detroit’s leading Israel advocates

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman
on July 1, 2011.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Israel allows Gazans to export cherry tomatoes. The PA denies it.

Elder of Ziyon

From YNet:

Palestinian farmers will start exporting cherry tomatoes from the Gaza Strip this week, as part of a government decision from the end of 2010 to expand the Strip's agricultural exports.

The first stage will see some 50 tons of tomatoes sent to Europe through Israel. According to estimates, the exports will yield Gaza's farmers some €150,000 (about $206,500). The Palestinian farmers will deliver the tomatoes through the Kerem Shalom crossing to Israeli agricultural export company Agrexco, which markets the produce in Europe. The money is transferred to agricultural cooperatives, which will hand it over to the Palestinian farmers.

The Agrexco company stresses that it has lists of the growers and ensures that the money reaches them.

As part of the exports, which began in November 2010, the Strip's farmers export strawberries, carnations and peppers. Meanwhile, the pepper exports have been halted due to technical problems.

So far, Gaza's farmers have exported some 367 tons of strawberries worth €1.8 million ($2.5 million), about 5.3 million carnations worth €850,000 ($1.17 million) and 6 tons of peppers.

The agricultural activity in the Strip is conducted with the help of the Dutch government, as part of a special project training farmers and providing them with infrastructure through a Palestinian agricultural company.

But the PA is saying that this is not true. From their official WAFA news agency:

Abdel Karim Ashur, head of Agricultural Relief Committee in Gaza Strip, denied news Wednesday about an Israeli permit to export vegetables and specifically tomatoes from the Gaza Strip to European markets.

However, Israeli media claimed that Israel allowed the export of tomatoes from Gaza into European markets through Karm Abu Salem crossing.

Ashur told WAFA that Israeli authorities allowed on Tuesday and for the first time the export of only two tons of cherry tomatoes, almost at the end of the tomato season, pointing out that Palestinian farmers agreed to that only to maintain their presence in European markets.

Ashur added that this permit is not a gift from Israel but is a result of pressure on Israel, by Dutch companies cooperating with Palestinian companies, to allow export of cherries, pepper and tomatoes.

Israel is still refusing to allow the export of tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables to European markets and even West Bank markets which offer better prices than Europe, according to Ashur.

He added these measures restrict economic development in Palestine and specially that of the agricultural sector.

Ummm...the photos seem to show otherwise:

Coral is the brand name of Palestinian Arab produce marketed by Agrexco to Europe.

And as I have shown recently, BDSers want the boycott of Israeli products to include Palestinian Arab produce as well!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fayyad: UN's 'PA State' Symbolic Only

Chana Ya'ar

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad admitted Tuesday that United Nations recognition of a PA state would basically change nothing.

Such recognition, he said, would not change the fact of Israeli “occupation,” he said in an interview this week with the Associated Press, making such a victory symbolic and nothing more.

“It is not going to be a dramatic result,” Fayyad said. Little will actually change, even if the PA is recognized in the U.N. General Assembly as a new Arab country, he explained. “Unless Israel is part of that consensus, it won't – because to me, it is about ending Israeli occupation.” Fayyad has recently been striving to lower expectations on the Palestinian Authority street in anticipation of the September 20 vote. He and others are becoming increasingly concerned with what may follow the vote.

It is unlikely the U.N. Security Council will approve membership of the PA as a new Arab country in the international body. If, as expected, the U.S. vetoes such a move, the PA would hope to persuade America to reverse its position following recognition by the U.N. General Assembly, pointing out the powerful numbers and the broad range of international support for its cause.

Years of incitement against Israel, and repeated exhortations and promises by PA leaders, have built up the expectations of grassroots Arabs on the PA street. Such a disappointment may result in the kind of frustration that could lead to a massive 'Arab Spring'-type revolt or ignite a region-wide war.

Fayyad The Man to Blame
Ironically, it was Fayyad himself who first called for creation of a PA state in a speech delivered two years ago at the Al Quds University in Jerusalem.

By August 2009, he had already set into motion plans for the infrastructure and economy for the new country he envisioned in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. The plans called for an international airport in the Jordan Valley, foreign investors and stronger armed forces. Now, two years later, two out of the three points have been accomplished with generous support from the United States and the European Union.

By December 2010, Fayyad again confirmed to reporters that he remained fixed on the August 2011 deadling for declaring the PA as an independent sovereign entity if no final status agreement with Israel had been reached.

Britain's Long, Sad Journey of Jew Hatred

David Lev

Slogans like “Zionism is Nazism” and “Israelis are fascists” are most likely to be shouted by far-left radicals, of the type that perform the “weekly hajj” to throw stones and bricks at IDF soldiers at Bil'in. But they didn't invent those slogans – and neither did anyone else on the left, says Professor Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University.

“Those slogans – and that world view – was the stock in trade of the British elites, who spread stories about Zionism being totalitarian and Nazi during the 1930s and 40s.”

It's just one aspect of a long and rich history of Jew-hatred in Britain, says Wistrich, considered one of the world's leading experts on anti-Semitism, who is a frequent contributor to INN.

Britain, he says, has historically been one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Western Europe; not quite Germany, but far worse than France, for example. “Certainly today Britain is at the forefront of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” he says. “For example, it's where the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement against Israel was first developed, and has been the most successful.” The headlines – British labor unions and universities banning Israeli products and academics, the British government's obsession with arresting IDF officers for “war crimes,” - are well known to Israelis.

Britain is also the world's fountain of disinformation and lies about Israel and Jews, says Wistrich, with the British media - “the quality press, like the Independent and Guardian, the BBC and other media outlets, the churches, etc. - spreading the worst caricatures and falsehoods about Israelis, how they treat Arabs, and the like.”

Wistrich, himself born in England – “this gives me greater insight into the nuances and meanings of press reports and attitudes,” he says – presented this history at a recent symposium hosted by Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA), titled “From Blood Libel to Boycott: The Changing Face of British anti-Semitism,” an historic evaluation of British anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism over the years.

And there is indeed much history to evaluate. Britain is not usually thought of as anti-Semitic country; it hasn't had a long history of pogroms, for example, although there was persecution and murder and York was the scene of a particularly cruel pogrom in the MIddle Ages. Although Jews were forbidden from living in the country for hundreds of years, it's very striking that Britain has had such an extensive history of anti-Semitism.

Britain was where the blood libel – which persisted in Europe for centuries and has had a revival in the Muslim world today (there was even one in upstate New York in 1928) was invented, Wistrich says. “William of Norwich was allegedly crucified by the Jews, to duplicate the crucifixion of Jesus. This was the first time in European history that such a charge was made, and it quickly spread throughout England, and then to France.”

Britain was also responsible for the first expulsion of Jews, in 1290, another “innovation” that was later copied by other European countries. And although Jews were not allowed to return for at least 350 years, British literature – from Chaucer to Shakespeare, who may never have met a Jew – was rife with Jew-hatred. “Most people see Britain as the birthplace of tolerance and democracy, which it may have been – but not for the Jews,” Wistrich says.

In modern times, British attempts to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel are well known. Although the British government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the “Arabists” in the Foreign Office – who were the vast majority and set British foreign policy – very quickly worked to drop their obligations of setting up a Jewish state in mandatory Palestine. They had no problem lopping off three quarters of the Mandate to establish the Arab mandatory state, Transjordan.

And as the Nazis closed in on European Jewry, British officials went out of their way to prevent Jews from escaping to the one place where they had a chance of survival – the Jewish communities of the Land of Israel.

The attitude of the British elites, both in the Land of Israel and in London, is striking. “There are many communications between Colonial Office officials in London and Mandatory officials in Palestine discussing the evils of Zionism and Zionists,” says Wistrich. “The Zionists were accused of being Nazi-like, mistreating Arabs and considering themselves to be the 'master race' of Palestine; the youth movements were compared to Nazi Youth; and the Jews were seen to be at the heart of a cabal that sought to take over the world.”

Among the worst offenders was John Bagot Glubb, known as Pasha Glubb, who took command of Jordan's Arab Legion during Israel's War of Independence. Glubb's hatred for Israel and Jews extended to his advocacy of the theory that modern Jewry is descended from the Khazars – another “gem” that was also embraced by British elites, and eventually the Arabs, as well.

Many Israelis attribute Britain's anti-Israel stances today to the large number of Muslims in the country – and the fear among ordinary Britons of what could happen to them if they don't toe the “Muslim line.”

But that influence is a bit overblown, Wistrich says. “Most demographers believe that there are between 2.5 million and 3 million Muslims in Britain – a substantial number, but less than the 6 million in France, whose official institutions and elites are far less hostile to Jews and Israel.”

No, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is something the British themselves have to take responsibility for. “Since 1945 – and especially since 1967 – Israel can do no right in the eyes of England,” Wistrich says. “Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism may not be official British government policy anymore, but among the elites and those with the most influence in society, it's all too common.”


Arlene Kushner

It's a constant battle, and one we must continue to fight with vigor. Here, a couple of examples:

Six Democrats in the House of Representatives have written a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging her to "do everything in [her] power" to "ensure the safety of all American citizens on board 'The Audacity of Hope (a ship that will participate in the Flotilla, carrying 36 Americans and flying the US flag).'"

Cute, no? The letter was initiated by Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, not exactly a friend of Israel.

The implication here is that innocent people on board, who have no intention of provoking violence, are at risk from the IDF. Such, of course, is not the case at all. The letter stated that the organizers of the ship "are fully committed to international law." And that is not true either, for international law gives us the right to maintain the naval blockade on Gaza.

From this it was a hop, skip and jump to the statement of someone involved with the Flotilla, that, "We hope Secretary Clinton heeds this request from Congress (sic) and speaks out against threats from the Israeli authorities to attack us in our effort to break the illegal blockage of the Gaza Strip."


I'll come back to the Flotilla in a moment, but first a look at another attempt at delegitimization:

A few years ago, a bridge near the women's side of the Kotel that led from the Western Wall Plaza up to the Mughrabi Gate into the Temple Mount collapsed in harsh weather. This gate is the one used for entry to the Mount by non-Muslim visitors, and by our security forces.

In 2007, there were fights over construction of a new permanent bridge, with (fallacious) charges leveled that the construction would destroy archeological ruins. The plans, which were controversial, were discontinued. At present, there is temporary wooden bridge in use.

Plans to finally do a permanent renovation were in place by this spring, with approval having been cleared with all appropriate authorities -- the Jerusalem municipality, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, etc.


Among those with whom it was cleared was Jordan, which has considerable influence within the Wakf, the Islamic trust that administers day to day affairs on the Mount. It had been agreed mutually between Israel and Jordan that the temporary bridge was not secure and had to come down; it was scheduled to be torn down last week.

But Jordan then turned around and participated with Egypt, Iraq, and Bahrain in filing a complaint against Israel with UNESCO, with regard to the renovations.

Make no mistake about this: The issue is not really the nature of the bridge itself, but the fact that Israel is acting as sovereign authority in the matter. A spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Minister spoke about UNESCO's "deep concern" regarding, among other things, the "failure of the Israeli side to provide the World Heritage Center [with] information..."

And so, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee -- the committee that has determined that Kever Rachel, Rachel's Tomb, is a mosque -- has unanimously censured Israel and called on her to cease all plans to renovate the bridge.

Israel has observer status at UNESCO, and our ambassador there, Nimrod Barkan asked to address the committee, but was blocked by Egypt. Another piece of the delegitimization.

Barkan said Israel is "shocked" and "furious" with Jordan for its role in these proceedings.

The committee also called for a UNESCO mission to visit the site and make sure that the project was halted. But Israel said, nothing doing.

While there is a delay, fervently do I hope it is very temporary, and that we will proceed with construction of that bridge.


Back to the Flotilla:

Israel, having garnered considerable intelligence on the plans for the Flotilla, has learned that it is likely that terrorists will be planted among the participants on the various ships. This presents a different scenario from
what happened last time, when all of the other ships were peaceful and only participants on the Mavi Marmara -- which included a significant number of terrorists from the Turkish IHH -- responded with violence. In fact, while there is no ship coming out of Turkey this time and the IHH ostensibly is not involved, it seems to be the case that members of the IHH will be among those terrorists scattered among the other participants.

(For the record: While most of the far left participants are severely deluded with regard to the situation in Gaza, they are not likely to be violent. Blithely ignoring all information about Hamas activities, they actually imagine that they are participating in a noble effort to help a people that is suffering because of Israel.)

There are intelligence reports of intentions to try to kill Israeli soldiers boarding the ships. This has been confirmed by Minister of Security Affairs Moshe Ya'alon. The most serious report indicates plans to do lethal damage to IDF troops via use of sulfur, which is flammable.

That the IDF has this knowledge now means it has -- please G-d! -- the time and ability to prepare.

According to latest reports, foreign journalists will be permitted aboard the Israeli ships that will contend with the Flotilla, thus affording them an opportunity to see for themselves and report first-hand. Hi tech equipment on the Israeli ships will allow almost instantaneous transmission of pictures and news reports by these various journalists.

Looks like we're doing it right this time, praise be!


The PA is seeking support from the Arab League for its bid for statehood via the UN. But PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, in a statement to AP today, has thrown cold water on the whole venture.

It would be “something in the nature of a declarative victory,” he declared, but unless Israel is part of the consensus, it won't change facts on the ground.

"It is not going to be a dramatic result,” he said, “and I do not believe it will be right to continue, for there to be preoccupation about something dramatic happening.”

He's quite right. Talk of statehood achieved via the UN will raise expectations within the population. Almost invariably, when there are unreasonably heightened expectations among the Palestinian Arabs that are then dashed against the rock of reality, increased violence ensues.


But Abbas may yet be stopped in his tracks:

The Senate today unanimously approved a bill that may have serious repercussions for the PA. The bill, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, received the approval of all 89 Senators present. It stipulated that the Senate opposes "any attempt to establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between leaders in Israel and the Palestinians."

And it "urges the President to consider suspending assistance to the Palestinian Authority pending a review of the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas...United States law precludes assistance to a Palestinian Authority that shares power with Hamas unless that Authority and all its ministers publicly accept the right of Israel to exist and all prior agreements and understandings with the Governments of the United States and Israel."

A similar version of the bill will soon come before the House, where it is anticipated that it will pass without problems.


Commented a "senior Israeli source":

"Without the American money there's no Palestine. The Palestinians know it, and therefore they're at odds over what would be the right move for them."

The PA's response -- "We cannot sacrifice freedom for financial aid" -- is a bit disingenuous coming from the political entity that receives more aid per capita than any other group, and which forever has its collective hand out.


At the same time, according to a newspaper in UAE, Jordan intends to vote against a Palestinian state in the General Assembly in September.

"Jordan's top national interests will be in danger if the Palestinian Authority declares statehood unilaterally – especially in everything related to the issue of refugees, water, Jerusalem, and the borders," a top Jordan official was quoted as saying.

Abdullah perceives quite well that if the PA takes the unilateral step, Israel will then move unilaterally as well. Certainly Abdullah fears any move that would tend towards Jordan as the Palestinian state. And so this is the explanation given.

But it's also the fact that there has been a cooling of the relationship between the PA and Jordan (with Jordan reportedly now preparing to cancel identification papers for Palestinian Arab leaders). And the Jordanian monarch has hardly been an advocate of a Palestinian state at his border, with the specter looming of a Hamas takeover in time.

It's often tough to comprehend where Abdullah, who is feeling very squeezed, is coming from, and which side he'll stand with on any particular issue.

King Abdullah of Jordan

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Implications of Raised Expectations in Palestine

Khaled Abu Toameh

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has officially decided to go to the United Nations in September to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.

But how can Abbas go to the UN in New York when he cannot even go back to his home in the Gaza Strip, which has been seized by Hamas?

How can he go to the UN when he cannot visit the Gaza Strip, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians live?

How can Abbas go to the UN when he cannot even visit a refugee camp in the West Bank, Lebanon or Syria? Even if the UN votes in favor of a Palestinian state in September, how does Abbas plan to implement the decision on the ground? Can he really convince Hamas and Palestinian refugees to accept the two-state solution and abandon the "right of return" to Israel proper?

Hamas, which represents many Palestinians, has made it clear that it would never recognize Israel's right to exist or accept the two-state solution. Hamas will, of course, reject any UN resolution calling for the establishment of a state "only" within the pre-1967 lines.

Hamas's goal is to replace Israel with an Islamic state that may allow some Jews to live under its jurisdiction as a minority. Hamas wants all the land, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. That is why any resolution adopted by the UN would not bring everlasting and comprehensive peace to the Middle East.

Most refugees, for their part, will also oppose any UN resolution that does not call for their return to their original homes and villages inside Israel. For them, recognition of a state along the pre-1967 lines would mean depriving them of their right to return to their original homes and villages. Already now, many refugees are expressing concern over the September statehood bid.

Abbas has failed to consult with all Palestinian factions and representatives of his people about his controversial statehood bid. It is highly likely that he doesn't want to do so because he is afraid that he would not enjoy the backing of a majority of his people for such a move.

True, Abbas has secured the support of Fatah and the PLO for his statehood initiative, but who said that these two bodies are representative and have a mandate to make such important decisions? The two groups are dominated by Abbas loyalists who receive funding from the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

It is obvious by now that the September initiative would not advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. On the contrary, it would further complicate matters for both Israel and the Palestinians, plunging the region into another vicious cycle of bloodshed and violence.

Abbas has raised the expectations of many Palestinians to a dangerous level, as many are now expecting to wake up in September to see a new state where they live in peace and security. But when that does not happen, and the Palestinians realize they have been once again sold false promises, they could turn to violence not only against Israel, but also against their leaders in the West Bank.

The Authentic Palestine Freedom Flotilla

Ruth King

No! I do not mean the motley crew of terrorist enablers, terrorists and assorted curs and knaves that is taking to the briny to defame Israel and bring “humanitarian” aid to the denizen of Gaza. Never mind those immoral misfits who forgot how the residents of Gaza trashed and looted and destroyed the farms, greenhouses, state of the art farming tools and implements, organic fertilizers and even seeds in the lush gardens of Gush Katif which provided 70% of Israel’s produce and $120,000,000 in exports of foods and flowers.

I speak of a real Palestine freedom flotilla….that fleet of ancient and ramshackle ships and the valiant volunteer crews that transported the wretched survivors of the Holocaust to Palestine in defiance of the perverse British blockade between 1946 and 1948. Britain’s notorious White Paper of 1939 which effectively cut off Jewish immigration to Palestine on the eve of the Holocaust was a death sentence for millions of European Jews trapped in Europe. After World War 11, British perfidy persisted and the 1939 White Paper remained the basis of British policy. Its cruel provisions kept wretched survivors of the Holocaust trapped and homeless in displaced persons’ camps in hostile European nations or behind barbed wire in detention camps in Cyprus.

There were more than 140 voyages by about 70 ships. Over half were stopped by British navy patrols and sent to internment camps is Cyprus, or Atlit detention camp and some to Mauritius. A wonderful book by the author Natacha Appanah titled “The Last Brother” details the travails of the refugees in Mauritius.

One of the groups of rescue ships was named “Alya Bet.” Its earlier history is marred by tragedy. In the 1930s a group calling themselves by the same name attempted to rescue Jews from Europe but their efforts were hopeless. However, after the war the goal of taking survivors to Palestine became urgent and the movement for transferring refugees coalesced.

With breathtaking speed, Christians, Jews and philanthropists working together purchased ten ships which were fitted and manned by American and Canadian volunteer seamen. Many demobilized servicemen and merchant marine officers and oilers including many Christians volunteered, and many had no naval experience, but their mission was to rescue all Europe’s Jewish refugees who wanted to go to blockaded Palestine.

All but two of the ships were almost decrepit…four from pro World War 1, but among them they carried 60,000 refugees.

The ships from Canada and the United States were the following:

1 The Josiah Wedgewood (originally the Beauhamois), a Canadian corvette.
2 The Hagana (originally the Norsyd), also a Canadian corvette.
3 The Haim Arlosoroff (originally the Ulua), a coast guard cutter from the 1920s.
4 The Ben Hecht (originally the Abril) had been a private yacht, a smuggler’s boat and a coast guard vessel.
5 The Hatikva (originally the Tradewinds 1908) a coast guard cutter.
6 The Exodus 1947 (originally the President Warfield), a Chesapeake Bay excursion ferry.
7 The Geula (originally the Paducah, )a coast guard training vessel.
8 The Jewish State (originally the Northland), a coast guard icebreaker.
9 The Kibbutz Galuyot (originally the Pan York), a cargo vessel.
10 The Atzmaut (originally the Pan Crescent), also a cargo vessel.
These were the passengers of Alyah Bet.

When these ships reached the Palestine coast they were apprehended, boarded, and often rammed by the Royal Navy. Passengers were herded and transported to squalid prison camps on Cyprus formerly used to house German prisoners of war! The 4,530 passengers of the Exodus were threatened with return to Germany. An American volunteer William Bernstein was clubbed to death on the Exodus 1947 by the British boarding party.

British gunboat apprehends a refugee ship.

The British Navy was ordered to attack in case of any resistance. They used tear gas, clubs and firearms against refugees who occasionally fought back with sticks and eating cutlery.

Each ship had a heroic tale of its own. The USS Cythera (Pk31) was purchased from the United States Coast Guard, anchored in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal where Yitzhak Ben- Ami managed refurbishing and repair and became the S.S. Ben Hecht. Ben Ami was my friend and a hero and leader of the American League for a Free Palestine. His wicked son is Jeremy Ben Ami the treasonous brat who runs J Street.

The Ben Hecht in Brooklyn Harbor.

Elliot Roosevelt, the son of FDR who was an experienced yachtsman volunteered to serve as captain of the Ben Hecht, but his mother persuaded him to withdraw the offer.

Signing up to volunteer on the Ben Hecht.

Yitzhak Ben Ami was also involved in the purchase of the Altalena as he detailed in his memoir “Years of Wrath, Years of Glory.” The controversial history of the Altalena and its destruction by Issraeli forces is best told by Professor Jerold Auerbach in his new book Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena.

The Chaim Arlossorof’s passengers put up heavy resistance but the ship was rammed and intercepted and beached with dozens wounded.

These were not the only ships that rescued Jewish refugees. There were many more. The Dalin (August 1945), the Hanna Szenes (December 1945) and the Shabbetai Lozinski (March 1947) went aground near Ashdod and on shore groups gathered and rescued all the passengers.

The Latrun captured by the HMS Chivalrous.(October 1946), the Knesset Yisrael Captured by 4 destroyers & others. Much resistance, 2 killed. All passengers taken to camps. (November 1946), Theodor Herzl (April 1947) Captured after several casualties and 2 killed.

The Rafiah — Athina S. left Yugoslavia in November of 1946 but was wrecked and sank on December 1946. Eight refugees including three children perished. Survivors were transferred to a British minesweeper and taken to Cyprus.

Amiram Shochet — Ile de la Rose from Naples arrived undetected in August 1946 and discharged 183 fortunate passengers.

In March 1946 the British Army prevailed on the Italian authorities to prevent the departure from La Spezia harbor of the 1,014 refugees on board the Dov Hos and the Eliyahu Golomb; the immigrants reacted by declaring a hunger strike which aroused world public opinion and compelled Britain to permit the boats to reach Palestine.

One of the last clandestine immigration operations was a convoy of two large ships named “The Pans”, the Pan York and Pan Crescent, transporting more than 15,000 Jews, the majority from Romania, which left Bulgaria at the end of 1947 despite British and U.S. attempts to prevent their setting sail. The passengers were interned in the Cyprus detention camps.

These are only a handful of the ships involved in the Palestine Freedom Flotilla. The crews and passengers encountered mechanical difficulties, breakdowns, gales, turbulence, illness, cruel and humiliating treatment by the British government and incarceration in nearly unbearable circumstances. They persevered, and when Israel's independence from England was declared the jails of Cyprus and Mauritius were opened and they sailed as free men, women and children to their home in Israel.

Ships continued to bring refugees to Israel, but the operations were no longer clandestine or met with violence and gunfire.

Honorable and gallant men embarked on an epic rescue for a noble cause. Their memory is a blessing.

The Gaza flotilla is a grotesque charade.

The best site with the most information and photos and details on the ships and their passengers during this heroic chapter is Paul Silverstone of the Alyah Bet Project :

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The real battle for Israel

Op-ed: Monday’s riots in Jerusalem may be harbinger of inevitable secular-religious clash

Yigal Walt
Published: 06.28.11, 00:01 /
Israel Opinion

In recent months we are increasingly hearing it in living room conversations, talks between friends and workplace discussions. What was once only whispered is now being uttered more openly and vehemently: The greatest threat faced by Israel today is not external, but rather, domestic; the wars of the Jews may be more dangerous than any battle waged by our enemies. Monday’s riots in Jerusalem following Rabbi Dov Lior’s arrest were a wakeup call for those still clinging to comforting slogans of Jewish unity. The State of Israel at this time is home to distinct population groups that are drawing further apart. The gap will soon become unbridgeable; some say we are already there.

Receive Ynetnews updates directly to your desktop

Rabbi Lior's arrest sparks protest / Ynet reporters
(Video) Police arrest six demonstrators blocking Route 1 in protest against Rabbi Lior's arrest. Some activists set tires on fire. Meanwhile, rabbi suspected of incitement released from custody after two-hour interrogation
Full Story

The hundreds of religious rightist protestors who blocked the entrance to Jerusalem, burned tires in the capital’s streets and raided the Supreme Court, made their views clear: The Torah, as they interpret it, takes precedence over law and order. Israeli courts have sent a former president to jail and are currently hearing a case against our former prime minister, but a rabbi is above the law, we are now told.

Secular Israelis would not imagine the possibility of staging riots in the capital because of an “unjust arrest.” At most, they would launch a Facebook protest against the rising prices of cottage cheese. But some of the Jews living in this country, and an increasingly sizeable group at that, are committed to other rules. The fact that on Monday they were being led by Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari is even more frightening.

Rioters in Jerusalem were chanting “Torah has been arrested,” implying that a human being, Rabbi Lior, symbolizes the essence of Judaism. For a religion that throughout history sanctified traditions, ideas and God, rather than people, this is a tragedy. Just look at Moses, arguably the greatest figure in Jewish history, an imperfect, stuttering man who was not glorified despite leading the Jews from slavery to freedom. We do not worship Moses, yet today some of us have taken to worshipping rabbis.

Intolerance and fanaticism

Indeed, the Jewish religion that for so long symbolized wisdom and humanism is increasingly sinking into darkness, crude intolerance and boorish fanaticism. One illustration of this is modesty becoming a focal point of Jewish belief here, as if one dress code or another is what Judaism is all about. Religious youth groups that were once mixed are now gender segregated. Religious soldiers walk out of performances as not to hear a woman singing. In some neighborhoods, women are confined to one side of the road. Segregated buses have become the norm. The list goes on and on.

The last time Israel’s secular public felt threatened we saw a secularist party, Shinui, sweeping 15 Knesset seats, becoming Israel’s third-largest party and keeping Shas out of the government. Times have changed since then, Shinui is long gone, but the sentiments that led to its rise are again brewing under the surface. This time, the outbreak of frustration and anger may be much worse; this time, both sides may be more reckless than ever.

It is still too early to tell where Israel is headed, but a secular-religious clash - the kind we had not yet seen in this country - may gradually become inevitable. If Monday’s events in Jerusalem are any indication, we may indeed be in for a very hot summer. May God grant us the wisdom to change course before it’s too late. .

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Seeing a Direction"

Arlene Kushner

For purely personal reasons of the best kind (another blessing: the bar mitzvah reception of my second grandson), I must at least try to make this post short. But it seemed to me that a post was very much in order.

Abbas has apparently decided on his direction (although, who knows?):

After a joint meeting of the PLO executive committee and the Fatah central committee, he has declared that the PA will be seeking recognition of Palestinian Arab statehood from the UN in September.


Following this announcement there were the usual garbled statements from PA leaders regarding the way in which this move will enhance peace, and how negotiations would still be possible.

Never mind... There is no need to panic about this turn of events. Not at all. You might find enlightening a briefing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs -- --by Linda Menuhin Abdul Aziz on "How Arab Media View a Declaration of Palestinian Statehood." (all emphasis added)

"...Unlike the vibrant debate in Israel over the Palestinian plan to seek support for statehood in September in the UN General Assembly, the Arab media is occupied with the wave of changes sweeping Arab countries, leaving little room for discussion of the projected Palestinian plan.

"Some commentators believe Abbas' plan is a dream and that, in order to save face, it is better not to push the plan all the way to the end since this step will not create a Palestinian state on the ground, due to the opposition of Israel and the U.S. Others believe that Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to use the declaration as a tactic to reshuffle the cards and achieve better terms.

"The Arab media predicts that a declaration of statehood by the Palestinians would not result in any immediate changes on the ground. Any Palestinian state would lack sovereignty and authority, with borders dictated by certain facts on the ground - the security fence, the settlements, and Israeli control of Jerusalem, as well as continued economic dependence on Israel.

"The Oslo II Agreement of 1995 established that neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza. In order to avoid Israel's accusation of breaching the Oslo agreements, Palestinians are advised to shake off their commitment to the Oslo agreements, under the pretext that Israel did not live up to all its commitments."


The Flotilla is coming. Expected later this week, with ships first doing a rendezvous from different points in order to approach Gaza together. Some of the steam (forgive the pun) has been taken out of the venture by the fact that the Turkish IHH ship is not participating. But as it is, 10 ships carrying people from Greece, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Canada and the US are expected to be involved; additionally there may be a ship leaving from Jordan and carrying Palestinian Arabs.

The ship from the US is called -- outrageously and significantly -- "The Audacity of Hope" and will carry some very self-deluded Americans. Among them will be writer Alice Walker, and one Samuel Hart, a former US ambassador to Ecuador. The State Department has warned against the participation of American citizens, saying, that the Gaza coast is "dangerous and volatile" and warning that "Delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration."


Yesterday the Security Cabinet reviewed and approved the navy's plans for stopping the ships. Preparations are extensive, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has given the order to prevent any ship from reaching Gaza. All possible care will be taken to avoid loss of life, but action that may be required to stop the ships is sanctioned.

Make no mistake about the determination of Israel in this regard. The maritime blockade is totally legal according to international law. Any claims that the people of Gaza are starving is nonsense, as unlimited humanitarian goods are being permitted by Israel to enter the land crossings into Gaza. This is a political ploy intended to give support to Hamas.


With regard to the situation in Gaza, please see this, by Ethan Bronner of the NY Times:

"Two luxury hotels are opening in Gaza this month. Thousands of new cars are plying the roads. A second shopping mall will open next month. Hundreds of homes and two dozen schools are about to go up. As pro-Palestinian activists prepare to set sail aboard a flotilla to Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave is experiencing its first real period of economic growth since the siege they are protesting began in 2007. 'The siege on goods is now 60 to 70% over,' said Jamal El-Khoudary, chairman of the board of the Islamic University, who has led Gaza's Popular Committee Against the Siege.

"Gaza has never been among the world's poorest places. There is near universal literacy, relatively low infant mortality, and health conditions remain better than in much of the developing world. Hundreds of BMWs, pickup trucks and other vehicles have arrived in recent months from Libya, while dozens of white Kia Sportage models are widely thought to have come from the same looted dealership in Benghazi."


And see this, by Kevin Meyers in the Iris Independent:

"What is it about Israel that prompts such a widespread departure from common sense, reason and moral reality? As another insane flotilla prepares to butt across the Mediterranean bringing 'aid' to the 'beleaguered' people of Gaza, does it never occur to all the hysterical anti-Israeli activists in Ireland that this is like worrying about the steaks being burnt on the barbecue, as a forest fire sweeps towards your back garden?

"According to Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the International Red Cross in Gaza, there is in fact no humanitarian crisis there at all. But by God there is one in Syria, where possibly thousands have died in the past month. However, I notice that none of the Irish do-gooders are sending an aid-ship to Latakia. (emphasis added)

"Israel, just about the only country in the entire region where Arabs are not rising up against their rulers, is also the only country that the Irish chattering classes unite in condemning."


Humanitarian cargo -- such as there may be, as delivering humanitarian goods is not the real purpose of the Flotilla -- can be unloaded either in the port of Ashdod or at El Arish, Egypt. (The fact that Egyptian officials consented to the participation at El Arish seems to me a good sign.) The cargo will then be brought to Gaza.

With regard to ships that don't cooperate, they will be towed into the Ashdod port and their passengers arrested. Cargo will be searched and then genuine humanitarian supplies brought to Gaza.


Tamar Fogel, the 12-year old girl from Itamar who lost her parents and three siblings in a terrorist attack three months ago, has paid a condolence call to Jonathan Pollard, who has just finished sitting shiva for his father, whom he was not permitted by Obama to see.

I confess: I am in awe of this girl, who seems to have strength beyond what is comprehensible. May the Almighty bless her with healing and with a life of purpose and love.


I end here by sharing (with thanks to Judith N.) an excellent video of an interview of Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which he makes the case for Israel as only he can do. Share this broadly, please:

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

The IDF’s Lawfully Enforced Naval Blockade on the Gaza Strip


The Israel Navy is steadfast in its commitment to lawfully enforce the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, regardless of provocative attempts by international organizations to delegitimize Israel and its right to defend Israeli civilians from Hamas rocket attacks.

Below are a few commonly raised questions on the legality of Israel’s naval blockade.

Why did Israel impose a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip?

According to international law, it is lawful for Israel to impose a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip because it is currently in a state of armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas, the ruling entity of the Gaza Strip (see the law of blockade for more information). The terrorist organization Hamas is designated as a terrorist entity by the US, UK, EU and state of Israel. Since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007, the terrorist organization Hamas has launched thousands of rockets into major Israeli population centers, populated by one million Israeli civilians. During the last decade, Hamas has orchestrated a long series of suicide bombings, killing hundreds of Israeli civilians. The terrorist organization Hamas continues to smuggle rockets into Gaza via the sea and underground tunnels.

What perimeters would turn the naval blockade into an unlawful act?

The naval blockade on the Gaza Strip will remain lawful so long as Israel does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states. According to international law, Israel must also continue to publicize the blockade’s existence to both belligerents and neutral states.

What are the restrictions of a naval blockade?

According to international law, if a lawfully imposed naval blockade is in effect, neither civilian nor enemy vessels may enter the blockaded area. Therefore, according to international law, if a vessel violates or attempts to violate a naval blockade, a state may intercept it in international waters.

A vessel leaving a port with the intention of breaking a naval blockade, regardless of the cargo it carries, is considered to be a violator of international maritime law, according to The US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations.

Are organizers of the 2011 Gaza flotilla violating international law?

Given that the 2011 Gaza flotilla organizers issued written and oral statements indicating their intention to violate the lawfully enforced naval blockade on the Gaza Strip—according to international law—Israel may take enforcement measures once the flotilla leaves its port.

What steps is Israel taking in order to prevent a confrontation with flotilla passengers?

Once the 2011 Gaza flotilla enters international waters, Israel Navy personnel will relay explicit warnings to the ship captains by reaffirming Israel’s right to enforce the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. If the flotilla persists in breaking international law, the Israel Navy will attempt to peacefully take control of the ships participating in the flotilla.

If needed, international law permits the use of force when boarding a ship that is attempting to break a naval blockade. Therefore, Israeli soldiers will respond in self-defense if attacked by passengers aboard the vessels.

Why must Israel enforce the blockade in international waters?

International law permits Israel to enforce the naval blockade 12 nautical miles beyond Israel’s coast, a zone where Israel can operate in order to defend its borders or uphold its laws (see U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea).

How does Israel assist the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip?

While Israel lawfully enforces the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, it ensures that approximately 250 to 280 truckloads enter Gaza Sunday through Thursday, delivering approximately 6,000 of tons of goods and materials through the Kerem Shalom land crossing. Due to a deficit in orders from the Gaza Strip, the crossings capacity for truckloads is never maximized by Palestinian officials.

What are international assessments of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip?

According to an April 2011 World Bank report, “education and health in…Gaza are highly developed, comparing favorably to the performance of countries in the region as well as globally.” In addition, Palestinians have experienced a recent reduction in unemployment.

Regarding the legality of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, please refer to the Israeli Military Advocate General‘s website.

Senator urges probe of Delta-Saudi airline discrimination


Following special agreement with Saudi Arabian Airways, Delta might have to comply with discriminatory rules that exclude Jewish passengers.

WASHINGTON – A US senator has called for an investigation into whether Delta Air Lines is discriminating against Jewish passengers under an agreement it recently entered into with Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk wrote to J. Randolph Babbit, an administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration, on Friday and urged him to “determine whether Delta Air Lines violated US law or regulation and to ensure no US citizen is denied their right to fly solely on the basis of their religion.” Kirk was referring to news reports alleging that as a result of the Atlanta-based Delta expanding its SkyTeam network of member airlines to include Saudi Arabian Airlines, on flights bound for Saudi Arabia Delta itself would comply with Saudi requirements regarding who can arrive in the country, which could lead to the exclusion of Jews. The SkyTeam expansion was announced in January and is set to begin in 2012.

The allegation seems to rest on the need for US passengers to possess a Saudi visa to board a flight destined to the Gulf state, and Saudi Arabia is widely believed to not grant visas to most Jews, as well as to people of any faith who have Israeli stamps in their passports.

It is common practice for airlines in the same alliance to codeshare on flights and frequent flier miles between companies.

Critics of the move by Delta charge this makes the American airline even more complicit in the Saudi carrier’s practices.

But Trebor Banstetter, a Delta spokesman, e-mailed The Jerusalem Post a statement saying that in the case of Saudi Arabian Airlines, “Delta does not operate service to Saudi Arabia and does not codeshare with any airline that serves that country. Delta does not intend to codeshare or share reciprocal benefits, such as frequent flier benefits.”

He continued, “Delta’s only agreement with Saudi Arabian Airlines is a standard industry interline agreement, which allows passengers to book tickets on multiple carriers, similar to the standard interline agreements American Airlines, US Airways and Alaska Airlines have with Saudi Arabian Airlines.”

Banstetter did not respond to requests seeking further clarification, but he did stress in his statement as well as in a post to the Delta blog that “Delta Air Lines does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion or gender.”

The Delta-Saudi Airlines agreement has sparked outrage not only on Capitol Hill but among many Jews and non-Jews who resent Delta’s relationship with the stateowned airline, given the intolerance inherent in the country’s rules for visitors, both Jewish and Christian.

One respondent to Banstetter’s blog post was not satisfied with his explanations.

“I am not a Jew, and I don’t often carry a Bible with me when I travel, but it is pretty offensive to me still that you skirted around the issue this way,” the customer wrote.

“Despite the fact that your airline does not ‘discriminate’ in the truest sense of the word, partnering with an airline that so overtly does makes you just as guilty of it.”

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment over its visa policy and whether Jews and visitors with Israeli passport stamps are barred from entering the country. Saudi Arabian Airlines officials could not be reached for clarification over who they allow to board their flights.

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, however, told the Post he has visited Saudi Arabia on numerous occasions despite specifying that he is Jewish on visa forms and having Israeli stamps in his passport. He spoke to the Post by phone while on a visit to Jerusalem Friday.

He said that despite his experiences, “it’s not really clear” what the Saudi policies are, and “most people believe with an Israeli stamp in your passport you can’t get it.”

He said the situation had improved over past years, where there was a more blanket policy against visitors with Israeli stamps, but that Saudi Arabia should be clearer about its policy and that work remained to be done.

“The reaction is based on the history and common practice,” he said, adding that Delta needs to examine these practices as well if it will be working with the airline.

“We understand that Delta, as any airline, is required to comply with the visa requirements of the destination country,” Foxman wrote in a letter to Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “However, Saudi Arabia’s past practice of banning travelers with an ‘Israel’ stamp in their passport from gaining entry into the country runs contrary to the spirit and intent of Delta’s nondiscrimination policy.”

He also said, “We expect Delta, and any other American airline which flies to Riyadh or partners with an airline that flies there to ensure that its passengers – whatever their faith – not be discriminated against, and that no American airline in any way enable, or facilitate this discrimination, whatever the regulations of Saudi Arabia.”

The ADL plans to reach out to other major US airlines with similar arrangements with Saudi carriers in the coming days.

Critics of Delta’s decision argued that while the visa policy is not one determined by the airline, the choice to enter into an agreement with a Saudi company was entirely Delta’s.

“The issue here is one of principle. Delta isn’t being forced to include Saudi Arabian Airlines into its SkyTeam Alliance,” Detroitbased Rabbi Jason Miller wrote on his blog. “In fact, Delta could stand on principle and refuse to include Saudi Arabian Airlines based on its discriminatory policy.”

A spokesman at the Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, said the question of discrimination is not in the hands of the airline but Saudi regulators, and therefore inquiries such as Kirk’s should be directed to the State Department.

“This does not seem to be an issue with what the airline is doing, but with the Saudi government,” the spokesman told the Post.

Delta strongly denied that it was discriminating against Jews, saying it was required to follow “all applicable laws governing entry into every country we serve.”

“Delta does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion or gender,” Delta spokesman Trebor Barnstetter wrote in an email to Fox News.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Amnesty is NOT asking for Gilad's Release

"As you were - Amnesty is NOT calling for Shalit's release. Neither - disgustingly is so-called "Rabbis for Human Rights". All they are calling for is for him to have access to his family and to the Red Cross." Jonathan Hoffman
June 26, 2011

An article in the JC by Anshel Pfeffer strongly suggests suggests that Amnesty is calling for Gilad Shalit's release.

Amnesty International are planning a public campaign for the fifth anniversary of Gilad Shalit's captivity this weekend. His cousin Hemda Garelick met Amnesty officials in London to discuss details. Members will now be asked to write solidarity letters to parents Noam and Aviva Shalit and collect letters for Shalit himself, which they will ask Hamas authorities to deliver. Amnesty's Deborah Hyams said: "We will raise Gilad's continuing incommunicado detention again during meetings with the Hamas authorities, when we next visit Gaza in three to four months." The Zionist Federation's director of public affairs Stefan Kerner said: "Amnesty have had bad press but this shows they are not as partisan as people might think."

As you were - Amnesty is NOT calling for Shalit's release. Neither - disgustingly is so-called "Rabbis for Human Rights". All they are calling for is for him to have access to his family and to the Red Cross.

Shame on Amnesty International! Shame on Rabbis for Human Rights

Hamas authorities in Gaza must immediately end the cruel and inhuman treatment of Gilad Shalit. Until he is released, they must enable him to communicate with his family and should grant him access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Amnesty International
B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights
Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights
Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Rabbis for Human Rights
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel
Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights

And shame on inaccurate reporting in the JC

Idea of Flotilla for Hamas Begins to Sink

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Israel has threatened sanctions against journalists taking part in the pro-Hamas flotilla, which already has been whittled down following American pressure.

The Government Press Office said Sunday that any journalist on one of the ships scheduled to sail Tuesday for Israel will be barred from entering the country for 10 years.

GPO director Oren Helman wrote the foreign journalists that he flotilla is "a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas." He continued, "I would like to make it clear to you and to the media that you represent, that participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for 10 years, to the impounding of their equipment and to additional sanctions.”

It was not clear if Israel would take away the credentials of Amira Hass, the Haaretz journalist who once lived in Gaza, now is based near Ramallah and whose articles routinely castigate Israel. Police arrested her two years ago after she sailed to Gaza on a pro-terrorist boat and last year she was arrested again "for violating the law which forbids residence in an enemy state."

She wrote Sunday, “There are about 50 of us, men and women, due to sail on the Tahrir, whose name is a reference to the Cairo square where protests earlier this year led to the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime. Several hundred other activists, from about 20 countries, and several dozen journalists are currently preparing to set sail for Gaza.”

Her hopes for a large flotilla, if any, seem to be dwindling. Greece has postponed permission for a ship to sail following a complaint last week challenging the safety of the ship that is to sail from its ports. Cyprus already has banned the planned sailings to Hamas-controlled Gaza, and Turkey effectively blocked the Mavi Marmara ship from sailing from it ports through bureaucratic delays.

The United States has strongly condemned the flotilla effort that is being staged to challenge Israel’s maritime blockade against Hamas. The United Nations has stated there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and all goods and merchandise can be sent to Gaza overland through Egyptian and Israel crossings.

Israel has imposed the blockade to stop the smuggling of weapons, primarily from Iran and Syria, into Gaza. Hass downplayed the reason Sunday, writing, “The new flotilla has been organized by a coalition of organizations, all of which refuse to accept the Israeli argument that the Gaza Strip is no longer besieged and that if there is a siege, it is only because of the arms Hamas has been smuggling into the territory [emphasis added].”

The Netanyahu government launched a strong diplomatic offensive several weeks ago to try to prevent any chance of a repeat of last year’s clash with Turkish-based terror activists aboard the Mavi Marmara. The terror activists brutally assaulted Navy commandos as they reached the deck after rappeling down ropes from a hovering helicopter.

Nine of the terrorists were killed before the commandos were able to take control of the Mavi Marmara. It later was discovered that the boat was not carrying any humanitarian aid, and Israel confiscated videos that proved that the IHH-terror linked activists were planning for an armed confrontation.

Tel Aviv buses 'go religious'

Transportation reform to prevent buses from traveling before Shabbat ends, Ynet learns

Yoav Zitun
Published: 06.26.11, 00:13 / Israel News

Religious status quo undermined: The new transportation reform in central Israel, to go into effect July 1, will mean that buses that up until now were allowed to travel shortly before the Shabbat ends will no longer be able to do so.

The change, which was not mentioned in the Transportation Ministry announcements ahead of the change, will mean that at least four major routes will only resume their operations shortly after the Shabbat ends instead of a few hours before. Bus company representatives who were sent to bus stops throughout central Israel to inform passengers about the upcoming modifications also did not mention the Shabbat change.

Under the new scheme, some buses that previously started operating at roughly 6:30 PM will now be operating only starting at roughly 8:30 PM.

A similar initiative was rejected by the Knesset's Finance Committee some three years ago. At the time, Knesset Member Ran Cohen (Meretz) told Ynet that most people who use buses in the early evening hours Saturday require transportation for "super-humanitarian objectives."

"These are soldiers who need to return early from their weekend break, citizens traveling to see their relatives, and young people going to work in the evening," he said. "They do not do it in order to provoke anyone or deliberately, so this would be an outrageous, anti-social and anti-humane measure."

The religious status quo is a sensitive issue in Israel, with officials generally taking great care not to undermine traditions that have been adhered to for long years. Only recently, the Knesset rejected a proposal to allow regular bus traffic on Shabbat, with MK's citing the status quo as one of the reasons for rejecting the change.

The Transportation Ministry and the Dan Bus Company did not respond to a Ynet inquiry regarding the change. In the framework of the reform, some 70 bus routes will be cancelled, to be replaced by roughly 50 new routes.