Hamas may be ready to accept interim Palestinian state (& Trump admin to crack down on campus anti-Semitism

September 12, 2018

A villa belonging to one of the more wealthy Palestinians on the West Bank



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach three articles below.

The first was posted yesterday on Hamas’s website, which I monitor sometimes. It is a further indication that Hamas may be about to agree to a long-term ceasefire with Israel.

This is partly the result of Israel’s robust military defense against Hamas’ attacks earlier this year (for which many people criticized Israel) and partly a result of the Trump administration making massive financial donations to the Palestinians much more contingent on their agreeing to enter peace talks with Israel.

On the other hand, Hamas makes clear in its statement that it would only be a ceasefire, and it has not abandoned its aim of destroying Israel.

Nevertheless, such a ceasefire may eventually morph into a much longer-term (hopefully, indefinite) cessation of hostilities.



The second piece, from the New York Times, reports on an important decision by the Trump administration that mirrors the discussion in Britain around the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

However, true to form, the New York Times reporting is very slanted in this news article and does not properly explain the issue.

The Times writes:

The new head of civil rights at the Education Department has reopened a seven-year-old case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, saying the Obama administration, in closing the case, ignored evidence that suggested the school allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students…

The move by Kenneth L. Marcus, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights and a longtime opponent of Palestinian rights causes, signaled a significant policy shift … that targets opponents of Zionism, and it explicitly defines Judaism as not only a religion but also an ethnic origin…

In so doing, the Education Department embraced Judaism as an ethnicity and adopted a hotly contested definition of anti-Semitism that included “denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination” by, for example, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards by requiring of” Israel “a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Tom Gross adds: The New York Times fails to inform its readers that this is the IHRA definition, almost universally accepted around the world (except by some extreme left wing anti-Semites in Britain and by neo-Nazis elsewhere).

Tom Gross writes: Many, if not most Jews in the world regard their identity as ethnic and cultural as much, if not more so, than religious.

The NYT then adds this extraordinarily misleading sentence:

“In effect, Arab-American activists say, the government is declaring the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic.”

A reader (JH) writes: “Arab-American activists say, the government is declaring the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic” and in so doing outing the Palestinian cause for what it is. Until it becomes a cause for mutual recognition and peace it is a racist bigoted movement.


The third below piece is by President Erdoğan of Turkey, writing in the Wall Street Journal about Syria. For once, I generally agree with him.



Hamas new charter is reflective of development
11 September, 2018


Hamas expressed its natural intellectual development over the past 30 years in the Document of Principles and Policies, former Chief of Hamas Political Bureau Khalid Meshal stated.

In a televised interview with Al-Jazeera TV Channel on Monday evening, Meshal confirmed that the Hamas new charter highlighted a specific era; it was composed to reflect the movement’s intellectual and political advancement.

Meshal clarified that the movement did not repudiate its original charter, but rather adhered to its principle, and furthermore, expressed its change with new principles in the new document.

Not like others, Hamas would never alter its core principles, Mesahl added.

Intellectual development

Meshal stressed that political development of Hamas came as a fruit of the movement’s reaction to the status quo ahead of Arab Spring and this was highlighted through the Document of Principles and Policies, exactly as the movement has done at different situations and periods when it had expressed its stances about them.

He emphasized that there is no contradiction in the new charter, but that the points of contentions appeared due to the diverse viewpoints and readings of others is a natural phenomenon.

The Hamas’ leader demonstrated that the new document was not a strategic or tactic change, it is ‘a natural and mature change’ based on balanced principles, rather.

Interim Palestinian state on 67-borders

Meshal confirmed that Hamas had not made any concessions regarding the interim Palestinian state on pre-1967 boundaries, but it put forward this proposal to pave the ground for national consensus, noting that the movement had adopted the option of resistance to restore the Palestinian lands and rights.

If an interim Palestinian state on 67-borders was established, he explained, Hamas would not waive the Palestinians’ claim or the rest of their occupied territories or recognize the Israeli Occupation as a state.

He added that the Israeli Occupation would not grant the Palestinians their territories or sovereignty unless it is forced to do so, as what happened when the resistence derived it out the Gaza Strip in 2005.

“The new document highlighted the cumulative development of Hamas’ political performance without waiving the national constants,” Meshal added noting that his movement had reacted positively to the status que.

He stated that Hamas would not normalize ties with any side at the expense of its national constants.

Hamas had entered into indirect negotiations with the Israeli Occupation to hammer out a ceasefire agreement and a new ‘prisoner swap deal’ through Arab and foreign mediators, he continued.

Meshal stressed that legitimacy is not granted by the international community or the Israeli Occupation, but through the polls in a clear reference to Hamas’ triumph in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

National Unity

Meshal stressed that taking the Palestinian decisions should be made jointly and this requires achieving the Palestinian unity. The movement had made everything possible to bring about reconciliation, but the PA met these concessions with sanctions on the Gaza Strip.

The PA’s leadership in Ramallah committed a grave mistake when it imposed the sanctions on the beleaguered strip, and they had paved the way for “the deal of the century” by doing so, Meshal concluded.



Education Dept. Reopens Rutgers Case Charging Discrimination Against Jewish Students
By Erica L. Green
The New York Times
Sept. 11, 2018

The new head of civil rights at the Education Department has reopened a seven-year-old case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, saying the Obama administration, in closing the case, ignored evidence that suggested the school allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students.

The move by Kenneth L. Marcus, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights and a longtime opponent of Palestinian rights causes, signaled a significant policy shift on civil rights enforcement — and injected federal authority in the contentious fights over Israel that have divided campuses across the country. It also put the weight of the federal government behind a definition of anti-Semitism that targets opponents of Zionism, and it explicitly defines Judaism as not only a religion but also an ethnic origin.

And it comes after the Trump administration moved the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, moved to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority and announced the closing of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.

In a letter to the Zionist Organization of America, obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Marcus said he would vacate a 2014 decision by the Obama administration and re-examine the conservative Jewish group’s cause not as a case of religious freedom but as possible discrimination against an ethnic group.

In so doing, the Education Department embraced Judaism as an ethnicity and adopted a hotly contested definition of anti-Semitism that included “denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination” by, for example, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards by requiring of” Israel “a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

In effect, Arab-American activists say, the government is declaring the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said that although the Office for Civil Rights does not have jurisdiction over religious discrimination, the office “aggressively enforces” civil rights law, “which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has made clear that O.C.R. will look at the specific facts of each case and make determinations accordingly,” Ms. Hill said. “The facts in this case, many of which were disregarded by the previous administration, are troubling.”

A spokeswoman for Rutgers said the university had not received official notification from the Education Department yet, but “as always, we would certainly cooperate with the Department of Education should they decide to review the decision.” The letter is dated Aug. 27 but received no public notice.

When the initial complaint was filed in April 2011, the school had been trying to address brewing tensions over the B.D.S. movement — which advocates boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel — that was roiling college campuses.

That month, the school hosted Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and after his speech, in which he called for the university to distance itself from Israel, the school issued a statement assuring the college’s Hillel group that it would not, according to published reports.

And when the complaint was filed, a spokesman told the New Jersey Jewish News that the claims in the complaint by the Zionist Organization of America were “contrary to the true values of Rutgers University and are not supported by the facts.”

Mr. Marcus, who was confirmed in June, was tapped to lead the Office for Civil Rights from his job leading the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a nonprofit advocacy organization that Mr. Marcus used to pressure campuses to squelch anti-Israel speech and activities.

The organization advocated revocation of federal funding from Middle East studies programs that are said to have an anti-Israel slant, and it urged colleges and universities to discipline students who are part of the B.D.S. movement.

When Mr. Marcus was nominated, Palestinian and human rights organizations protested his confirmation on the grounds that he would use his position at the Education Department to further his pro-Israel cause, and that first on his list would be pushing to adopt a definition anti-Semitism to target schools for civil rights violations. Middle Eastern studies programs at universities around the country have braced for action from Washington against perceived bias.

“This is exactly what we feared would happen — he has a long track record of pressuring universities and government bodies to trample on free speech,” said Rahul Saksena, senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal, a Palestinian rights group. “You would think that the O.C.R. would have their hands full these days, and instead they’re using their limited resources” to reopen a case “that the Education Department spent years investigating, and had been closed.”

Mr. Marcus conceded that his department did not have the authority to weigh in on religious or political disputes. But he made the case that the Rutgers case is neither.

“An individual’s pro-Israel viewpoint itself — or, for that matter, any viewpoint on the policies of the State of Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or related issues — is not protected by” federal civil rights law, he wrote. However, he added, “discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics — which may include discrimination against Jewish or Muslim students — is.”

Mr. Marcus’s decision took current and former investigators at the Education Department by surprise, as Ms. DeVos has gone to great lengths to limit civil rights enforcement to stringent interpretations of federal law.

But in a previous stint leading the Office for Civil Rights, Mr. Marcus indicated that he was willing to interpret the law more broadly. In 2004, he issued a guidance letter telling schools that the department would include in its enforcement “national origin discrimination, regardless of whether the groups targeted for discrimination also exhibit religious characteristics.”

“Thus, for example, O.C.R. aggressively investigates alleged race or ethnic harassment against Arab Muslim, Sikh and Jewish students,” the letter continued.

The Zionist Organization of America called the reopening of the case a “groundbreaking decision.”

In a statement, the organization’s national president, Morton A. Klein, and Susan B. Tuchman, the director of its Center for Law and Justice, emphasized that Mr. Marcus’s notification that the Education Department had adopted the expansive definition of anti-Semitism was particularly noteworthy.

“It took a leader like Kenneth Marcus to finally decide the ZOA’s appeal and to also make it clear that O.C.R. will finally be using a definition of anti-Semitism that makes sense and that reflects how anti-Semitism is so frequently expressed today, particularly on our college campuses,” they wrote. “Hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine try to convince others that their attacks on Zionism and Israel are legitimate political discourse. But as the State Department definition of anti-Semitism recognizes, these attacks are often a mask for Jew-hatred, plain and simple.”

Mr. Marcus informed ZOA that he would specifically be reviewing one of the three allegations made in its 2011 complaint, which said that a liberal, pro-Palestinian group, Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action, imposed an admissions fee on Jewish and pro-Israeli students who attended an event called “Never Again for Anyone.” The Zionist group said an email proved that an organizer wrote that the group began charging only after it observed “150 Zionists” who “just showed up.”

But according to an account from Palestine Legal, fees were charged for the event only after Rutgers Hillel, a local synagogue, and other Jewish groups sent alerts to mobilize their members to protest the event. The group said that pro-Israel protesters physically assaulted event volunteersand called them “towel heads” and “suicide bombers,” and that a Jewish volunteer was called a “traitor.”

The organizers — who were not students — said they were forced to charge a last-minute fee to cover costs mandated by the university, including an increased price to rent the space and to cover security to manage the protests.

In dismissing the case in 2014, the Education Department determined that the host of the event advertised a $5 to $20 donation, and began charging last-minute fees because the event drew more attendees than anticipated, including many nonstudents.

In their findings letter, department investigators wrote that they had discovered no evidence that Jewish and non-Jewish attendees were selectively charged fees. They said the email that said “150 Zionists” had shown up — which was presented as evidence of the intended discrimination — was heavily redacted, and they could not verify whether that information was credible. The department said it determined from witness statements that all attendees were required to pay for the event if they were not a volunteer. The department also found that Rutgers promptly investigated complaints of bias filed by students.

“Regardless of whether or not it was appropriate to begin charging the admissions fee, O.C.R. did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate that any individuals were treated differently, based on national origin, with respect to imposition of the admissions fee,” the findings letter said.



The World Must Stop Assad
If the Syrian regime attacks Idlib, the result will be a humanitarian and geopolitical disaster.
By Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (president of Turkey)
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 11, 2018

Across Turkey’s southern border, Bashar Assad’s criminal regime has for seven years targeted Syria’s citizens with arbitrary arrests, systematic torture, summary executions, barrel bombs, and chemical and conventional weapons. As a result of the Syrian civil war, which the United Nations Human Rights Council calls “the worst man-made disaster since World War II,” millions of innocent people have become refugees or been internally displaced.

Turkey has gone to extraordinary lengths to alleviate suffering of the Syrian people, hosting some 3.5 million refugees—more than any other country in the world. At the same time we have become the target of terrorist organizations operating next door: the so-called Islamic State and the PKK. Neither the heavy cost of humanitarian efforts nor security concerns have weakened our resolve.

As Turkey faced those challenges, it made diplomatic efforts to find a political solution. We have brought the Syrian opposition to the negotiating table in Geneva and launched the Astana process alongside Russia and Iran. Consequently, Turkey was able to broker cease-fires, create de-escalation zones, and evacuate civilians from areas under regime attack.

Today we find ourselves at a critical juncture again, as the Assad regime, with the help of its allies, prepares to launch a massive offensive against Idlib, which is home to some three million people and one of the few remaining safe havens for internally displaced Syrians. In an attempt to prevent the assault, my government contributed to the creation of a deconfliction zone and set up 12 observation posts to document and report cease-fire violations.

The Assad regime seeks to legitimize its imminent attack on counterterrorism grounds. Make no mistake: No country appreciates the need to combat terrorism better than Turkey, which has suffered severely from terrorist attacks since the Syrian conflict began exporting insecurity throughout the region. But Bashar Assad’s solution is a false one. Innocent people must not be sacrificed in the name of fighting terrorism. This will only create new hotbeds of terrorism and extremism. The rise of ISIS was an outcome—not the cause—of what was happening in Syria. The international community must contain such violence to stop terrorism from taking root.

In Idlib, we face similar challenges. Certain designated terrorist organizations, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, remain active in this area. Yet those fighters account for a fraction of Idlib’s population. In order to eliminate terrorist and extremist elements in Idlib and to bring to justice foreign fighters, a more comprehensive international counterterrorism operation is necessary. Moderate rebels played a key role in Turkey’s fight against terrorists in Northern Syria; their assistance and guidance will be crucial in Idlib as well.

Preventing the assault on Idlib need not set back counterterrorism efforts. Turkey has succeeded in fighting terrorist groups, including ISIS and the PKK, without harming or displacing civilians. In order to restore some level of stability to affected areas, dozens of Turkish servicemen and servicewomen have lost their lives. Turkey’s ability to maintain order in Northern Syria is proof that a responsible approach to counterterrorism can win hearts and minds.

All members of the international community must understand their responsibilities as the assault on Idlib looms. The consequences of inaction are immense. We cannot leave the Syrian people to the mercy of Bashar Assad. The purpose of a regime offensive against Idlib would be indiscriminate attacks to wipe out its opposition—not a genuine or effective campaign against terrorism. A regime assault would also create serious humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond.

It is crucial for the U.S., which has concentrated on chemical attacks, to reject its arbitrary hierarchy of death. Conventional weapons are responsible for far more deaths. But the obligation to stop the next bloodshed is not the West’s alone. Our partners in the Astana process, Russia and Iran, are likewise responsible for stopping this humanitarian disaster.

Idlib is the last exit before the toll. If the international community, including Europe and the U.S., fail to take action now, not only innocent Syrians but the entire world stands to pay the price. Turkey has done everything in its power to stop the bloodshed next door. To ensure that we succeed, the rest of the world must set aside narrow self-interest and throw its weight behind a political solution.


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