This is a follow-up to my dispatch two days ago:
Tom Gross writes:
This morning it is being reported in the Arabic-language Palestinian media that Sari Nusseibeh resigned yesterday from his position as President of al-Quds University in east Jerusalem.
While reports claim he was planning to resign anyway, the resignation comes a day after the publication on this website of photos and video of another large-scale extremist rally by students on campus last Sunday, which then prompted coverage in newspapers and other media.
As I have repeatedly made clear in my writings, I feel Mr. Nusseibeh should stay and show that he is the moderate that he purports to be, by engendering a spirit of tolerance and moderation among students on campus, rather than allowing military-style parades that encourage violence, and that other students, who simply want to study, find intimidating. Were he to do this, President Nusseibeh could play a significant role in helping create a better future for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
You can see video and photos from Sunday's rally here, as well as links to previous student rallies with Fascist-style salutes.
UPDATE: Additional links
Among news sites that link to or quote from this dispatch, and provide additional information:
Al-Quds U. president resigns three days after Hamas rally (The Times of Israel)
Al-Quds University president resigns after second Hamas rally on campus (The Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian College Chief Resigns After Hamas Rally (The Forward, New York)
Al-Quds U. president resigns shortly after Hamas rally (The Jewish Journal, Los Angeles)
Al-Quds University President Resigns After Pro-Hamas Rally on Campus (The Algemeiner / JNS)
Days After Rally, Palestinian University President Announces Retirement (The Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S.)
UPDATE: And here is a more positive development, a story that will appear in tomorrow's Haaretz, that involves a handful of students from Al-Quds, presumably those who did not participate in Sunday's Hamas rally:
Among news and other websites that linked to or quoted from my previous dispatch, and provide additional information:
Masked protesters march again at Al-Quds University (The Times of Israel)
Hamas Holds Military Rally at Al Quds University (Washington Free Beacon)
New pro-terror rally at Al Quds University (Elder of Ziyon)
'Rockets' At Jerusalem University's Paramilitary Hamas Rally (Israel National News)
Above (top), from last Sunday's student rally Al-Quds University, and (below) from last November's student rally
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This is a follow-up to my dispatches on this subject last November and January:
* Finally, the New York Times covers official Palestinian Authority praise for Hitler (and reproduces my Al-Quds photo)
PHOTOS FROM A HAMAS RALLY AT AL-QUDS UNIVERSITY LAST SUNDAY
[Note by Tom Gross]
The Al-Quds university authorities have consistently misled everyone (and some gullible journalists have repeated their assertions without question) that last November’s Fascist-style rally on the university campus (organized with the full cooperation of the university authorities) was a one off-event, when in fact there were several such rallies last year.
Below, exclusively revealed to a Western audience for the first time, are photos of the Hamas rally held on Al-Quds university campus this past Sunday March 23, 2014.
Palestinian students at the university whom I spoke to yesterday, who say they are sick and tired of the university authorities allowing terrorist groups to hold military parades around campus, tell me the rally lasted for about two hours and involved hundreds of students.
One of those many westerners who helps fund programs at Al-Quds university is George Soros, and I am told by one of his assistants that Soros has looked at my previous dispatches on this subject and has already threatened to cut his funding.
The photos below show Hamas students parading around campus on Sunday (although unlike the Islamic Jihad Rally last November they didn’t give Nazi salutes).
Some of these photos are from Al-Quds students' Facebook pages.
There is also a video of the rally first.
-- Tom Gross
Update (March 27, 2014):
There is a follow-up dispatch here:
الكتلة الاسلامية - العهد والوفاء في جامعة القدس 23 مارس
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UPDATE, March 25, 2014, 11 am EST
Since posting the dispatch on my website earlier today, several media and prominent blogs have linked to it, for example, The Times of Israel is presently using it as their lead story.
Masked protesters march again at Al-Quds University (The Times of Israel)
Hamas Holds Military Rally at Al Quds University (Washington Free Beacon)
New pro-terror rally at Al Quds University (Elder of Ziyon)
'Rockets' At Jerusalem University's Paramilitary Hamas Rally (Israel National News)
UPDATE (May 21, 2014)
There is now an update with two extra videos, from Gaza and Tehran, halfway down this page, together with accompanying notes.
JERUSALEM. TEL AVIV. BEIRUT. HAPPY.
Tom Gross writes (March 23, 2014):
Many of the items in the other dispatch today (“Jewish teacher in Paris has nose broken, swastika drawn on chest; & Iran leader again denies Holocaust”) are very depressing.
Here is something much more upbeat.
Below is a new fun video featuring residents of Jerusalem (including some I know who are subscribers to this list) singing along to the Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy”.
This video is part of a worldwide phenomenon of people producing their own videos of Williams’ song.
It was filmed this month in Jerusalem by Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim, a high school program based in Jerusalem. (Among those featuring in it are Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, and deputy mayor, Rachel Azaria.)
“Our aim is to show that Jerusalem is not just historic and religious, but it’s also modern, exciting, fun – and very happy,” said Ramah’s director Daniel Laufer.
Here is a version of “Happy” produced last week in Tel Aviv by photographer Louis Green and actress Sivan Kretchner, who said that “without a doubt Tel Aviv is the happiest city in the world, no question.”
Here is another version of “Happy Tel Aviv”:
And since there are an increasing number of subscribers to this list from Beirut, here is a version of “Happy Beirut” which a friend who features in it sent me.
Just as is the case with Israel, the Western media stereotypes tend to show only one aspect of Beirut. Here is the more secular side of the city, which is in many ways similar to Tel Aviv.
It is a great video.
UPDATE (April 30, 2014)
HAPPY IN GAZA
Here is a version of Gazans singing along to Pharrell Williams’s hit song Happy:
This is what Gaza looks like, not the propaganda version put out by certain politicized NGOs and journalists trying to peddle the myth that Gaza is some kind of (Israeli) concentration camp.
Gaza is, however, ruled, by the highly authoritarian Hamas Islamist movement, and you can note that no men and women can be seen dancing together in this video.
UPDATE (May 21, 2014)
ARRESTED FOR DANCING TO THE SONG “HAPPY” IN TEHRAN
A group of Iranians who created a tribute to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” were arrested yesterday in Tehran. The video shows three men and three unveiled women dancing to the song on the streets and rooftops of Tehran.
The official ISNA news agency quoted Police chief Hossein Sajedinia as saying that the “vulgar clip” had “harmed public chastity”.
Iran’s state-run TV broadcast a program on Tuesday showing the men and women confessing to the “crime” on camera.
Their video, which was made several weeks ago, having been inspired to do it after seeing versions created by young people in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere, has become a hit on Iranian social media sites.
Williams has protested at the arrests. The singer wrote on his Facebook page yesterday that “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness”.
Some of the Iranian dancers have now been freed on bail but the director of the video clip remains under arrest and is believed to be under interrogation in one of Iran’s harsh detention facilities.
* Please "like" these dispatches on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.
Other dispatches in this video series can be seen here:
* French interior minister, in unusually forthright remarks for a European government minister: Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism
* Iranian Supreme Leader again questions truth of Holocaust, while Peres sends warm holiday greetings to Iranians
* Mossad: 8 missing Iranian Jews were murdered
* Latvia’s Environment Minister sacked after participating in Waffen-SS march last week; white powder mailed to Hungarian Jewish leader; more attacks on Jews in Kiev
This dispatch concerns anti-Semitism, Europe, Iran and Israel.
You can see these and other items that are not in these dispatches if you "like" this page: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.
1. Japanese PM visits Anne Frank House in gesture to Holocaust victims
2. Beyonce and Jay Z visit Anne Frank House; Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Rolling Stones and others set to defy boycotters
3. Jewish teacher in Paris has nose broken, swastika drawn on chest
4. French interior minister: Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism
5. Another orthodox Jew stabbed, in latest attack in Ukraine
6. Latvian government minister fired after attending Waffen-SS veterans’ march
7. White powder mailed to Hungarian Jewish leader
8. Iranian Supreme Leader again questions if Holocaust occurred
9. Mossad: 8 missing Iranian Jews were murdered
10. Peres sends holiday greetings to Iranians: Let’s live in peace
11. Italian Jewish leader denounces bakery’s ban on Roma
12. And on a happier note…
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
JAPANESE PM VISITS ANNE FRANK HOUSE IN GESTURE TO HOLOCAUST VICTIMS
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today visited the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam after he said he was ashamed that anti-Semites in Japan had damaged and defaced over 200 copies of Anne Frank’s diary at public libraries in Japan in recent months.
The Anne Frank House, where the German-born Jewish girl kept a diary of her life in hiding before her whereabouts were disclosed by Dutch Nazi sympathizers, and she was taken to be murdered in a Nazi concentration camp, is now one of Europe’s best-known Holocaust memorials. Over a million people visit it each year.
“On this visit (to the Anne Frank House), we would like to reiterate the lasting and profound friendship between Japan and the Jewish people,” a spokesman for the prime minister said in advance of the visit.
Abe is in the Netherlands for tomorrow’s G7 nuclear security summit with other world leaders.
He is one of the most prominent international politicians to visit the Anne Frank house.
BEYONCE AND JAY Z VISIT ANNE FRANK HOUSE; LADY GAGA, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, ROLLING STONES AND OTHERS SET TO DEFY BOYCOTTERS
Last week, the morning after giving a concert in Amsterdam and prior to going to Antwerp for another concert, American pop star Beyonce and rapper and producer Jay Z visited the Anne Frank House, where according to museum staff they spent more than an hour.
Here are photos of Beyonce writing in the visitors’ book, and at the exhibit:
Beyonce is one a number of pop stars giving concerts in Israel this summer in defiance of intimidatory hate campaigns against them by anti-Israel boycotters in America and Britain.
Others scheduled to defy the boycotters and perform in Israel this summer include Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake (on May 28), Justin Bieber (May 14), Neil Young (July 17) and the Rolling Stones (June 10).
JEWISH TEACHER IN PARIS HAS NOSE BROKEN, SWASTIKA DRAWN ON CHEST
In the latest in a series of vicious anti-Semitic assaults in France, a Jewish teacher was attacked in Paris on Thursday evening by a gang screaming “Death to the Jews” and “Dirty Jew”.
The teacher, who was wearing a Jewish skullcap and was exiting a kosher restaurant on Manin Street in Paris’ 19th arrondissement, near the Gare du Nord train station, was pressed against the wall, and repeatedly punched in the face and chest.
His nose was broken in the assault. “One of the perpetrators opened the victim’s shirt and with a black marker drew a swastika on the man’s bare chest,” Jewish leader Sammy Ghozlan told the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) and other media. It would have been worse had some passersby not screamed at the perpetrators that they were calling the police. The perpetrators then ran off.
The full name of the traumatized victim is being withheld for his own protection.
There were hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks recorded in France last year, resulting in thousands of French Jews emigrating in fear to the relative safety of Israel.
FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER: ANTI-ZIONISM IS THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM
Last Wednesday marked the second anniversary of the murder of four Jews (three of them young children – Arieh Sandler, 6, Gabriel Sandler, 3, and Miriam Monsenego, 8) in Toulouse.
At a memorial on Wednesday to mark the Toulouse attack, the French Interior Minister Manuel Valls called the extreme anti-Zionism appearing in French media and public discourse “an invitation to anti-Semitism.”
Using unusually strong language for a European government minister, Valls added: “Criticism of Israel that is based on anti-Zionism – that’s often anti-Semitism today, this is the refuge of those who do not accept the State of Israel”.
ANOTHER ORTHODOX JEW STABBED, IN LATEST ATTACK IN UKRAINE
The head of the Orthodox Jewish charity Hatzalah Ukraine was beaten and stabbed in Kiev a week ago in an unprovoked attack by youths shouting anti-Semitic slogans.
He managed to make his way to the local synagogue, where police and medics were called.
Ukrainian chief Rabbi Yaakov Bleich said two more Jews were roughed up later that evening. It is not known who carried out the attacks but far right Ukrainian ultranationalists are suspected, and their political leaders are represented by the Fascist Svoboda party, which now holds five senior positions in the new Western-backed Ukrainian government.
In January, there were several stabbings and other attacks on Ukrainian Jews. No one has been apprehended for those attacks.
Days earlier, thousands of Svoboda supporters held a torch-lit parade in downtown Kiev, praising the wartime Ukrainian Fascist leader Stefan Bandera.
In October last year, another Jewish man, Dmitry Flekman, 28, was tortured and beaten by police officers in the city of Lviv (Lvov) in western Ukraine.
LATVIAN GOVERNMENT MINISTER FIRED AFTER ATTENDING WAFFEN-SS VETERANS’ MARCH
Latvia’s Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has sacked a member of her government after he defied her order for government ministers not to attend a pro-Nazi rally in the capital Riga last week.
Latvia’s Environment Minister Einars Cilinskis, of the (pro-Fascist) National Alliance Party, participated in the annual march of Latvian Waffen-SS veterans and their supporters last Sunday, at which swastikas were raised and Nazi salutes given.
The annual parade commemorating Nazi collaborators during World War II has not been banned, however. The Latvian SS, like the Ukrainian SS, fought alongside the Nazis and murdered hundreds of thousands of Latvian and Ukrainian Jews. The two biggest massacres of the second world war (Babi Yar and Rumbula) occurred in those countries.
Cilinskis said a “nation that does not respect its heroes has no future.”
Only a few dozen young Latvians held a counter rally, chanting anti-fascist slogans, as almost 2,000 Latvian Nazis paraded through downtown Riga.
Latvia is a member of the European Union and of NATO.
The history museum marking Fascism and Communism in Riga, which I have visited twice, is full of historical revisionism and downplaying of the Holocaust. Incidentally, the visitors book records an entry by Queen Elizabeth II of England – who (at the advice of successive British governments) has not visited Israel or Yad Vashem during her long reign – saying how glad she was to visit that museum in Riga.
WHITE POWDER MAILED TO HUNGARIAN JEWISH LEADER
An envelope containing white powder sent to a representative of Hungary’s Jewish communities in Budapest last week did not contain any dangerous materials, police have concluded.
Separately, police in Tatabanya, 30 miles west of Budapest, said that swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans were daubed on tombstones in the city’s Jewish cemetery.
This week (on March 24), hundreds of European rabbis are scheduled to convene in Budapest for the biannual conference of the Rabbinical Center of Europe.
They said the choice of Hungary as the host country for the event “is designed to demonstrate to the government there the common concerns of European Jewry regarding the situation of the Hungarian Jewish community.”
Jobbik, a far-right party with a history of anti-Semitism, is the third largest party in Hungary with 43 of the 386 seats in Parliament.
Like Latvia, Hungary is a member of the European Union and of NATO, and like Latvia, has an appalling record of local collaboration in helping to murder most of the country’s Jewish population in World War Two.
IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER AGAIN QUESTIONS IF HOLOCAUST OCCURRED
Just one day after Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a warm video greeting to the Iranian people to mark the occasion of the Persian New Year, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded in one of his major national addresses of the New Year by casting doubt on the reality of the Holocaust.
“The Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it’s uncertain how it has happened,” Khamenei said during his address. Khamenei and other Iranian leaders have repeatedly called the Holocaust a “myth”.
For example, in December 2013, Khamenei issued a statement marking the anniversary of French Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy’s trial for his book that referred to the Holocaust as the “myth of the six million”. Khamenei called Garaudy a brilliant historian and a “French resistance fighter.”
But some senior politicians and media commentators in the West – desperate to convince themselves that the Iranian regime is somehow moderating – are doing their best to ignore these and other provocations. There has been an increase in the number of political prisoners executed in Iran since President Rouhani assumed power last year.
Meanwhile, Iran has once again stepped up its nuclear program and the Israeli defense minister said last week that Israel may now have no choice but to act alone to destroy Iran’s nuclear program since Western powers seemed determined to appease the regime in Teheran.
MOSSAD: 8 MISSING IRANIAN JEWS WERE MURDERED
On Thursday, after a long investigation lasting many years, the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad, said that they had now discovered beyond doubt that the eight Iranian Jews (five of whom were teenagers) who had attempted to flee Iran for Israel in 1994, had been murdered, most probably by the Iranian regime.
A statement released by the Mossad through the Israeli prime minister’s office said the eight Jews “were caught during the escape and murdered.”
Their families in Israel had been clinging to the hope that they had been kidnapped, or held in captivity by a foreign government.
The Mossad statement said that they had “reliable sources”, which they could not reveal for safety and operational reasons.
An inquiry into the fate of three other Iranian Jews, who disappeared in 1997, is ongoing.
The eight murdered Iranian Jews were: Babak Shaoulian-Tehrani, aged 17, of Tehran; Shahin Nik-Khoo, 19, of Tehran; Salari Behzad, 21, of Kermanshah; Farad Ezati-Mahmoudi, 22, of Kermanshah; Homayoun Bala-Zade, 41, of Shiraz; Omid Solouki, 17, of Tehran; Rubin Kohan-Mosleh, 17, of Shiraz; and Ibrahim Kohan-Mosleh, 16, of Shiraz.
The three whose fates remain unknown are: Syrous Ghahremani, 32 at time of disappearance, of Kermanshah; Ibrahim Ghahremani, 61, of Kermanshah; and Nourollah Rabi-Zade, 52, of Shiraz.
In advance of the Mossad announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a senior Sephardi rabbi to the victims’ families in Israel to break the news to them, and comfort them.
PERES SENDS HOLIDAY GREETINGS TO IRANIANS: LET’S LIVE IN PEACE
Israeli President Shimon Peres released a video with holiday greetings in honor of Nowruz, the Persian New Year which began on Thursday night, calling for a joint future of peace and cooperation between Persians and Jews.
Nowruz is a Persian, pre-Islamic holiday that marks the beginning of spring. It is celebrated across central Asia by Persians, Kurds, Azeris, Turkmen and others.
“The Jewish people and the Persian people, the Iranian people have a very long history and we’re going to have a long future,” Peres said. “We are both old cultures, we learn history, we make history and we respect history. We have a heritage of values; we are not just business peoples but two nations that respect culture, that respect human dignity. We call to live in peace and understanding. Let us have a year of science and of peace, without war and threats. Happy Nowruz.”
You can watch Peres’s full video here (in English, with a little Farsi):
In addition, Peres conducted interviews last week with Israel Radio’s Persian-language station, and with Radio Farda, the American government-backed Persian-language station.
In the past, I have acted as a consultant for Radio Farda, and also given interviews to it, which have been picked up by the Iranian regime, for example, here in 2011 by the official government Fars News Agency. (In English here.)
ITALIAN JEWISH LEADER DENOUNCES BAKERY’S BAN ON ROMA
The president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna, has issued a statement on behalf of the organization saying that it “shameful” and “unacceptable” that a Rome bakery last week posted a sign barring entry to Roma (Gypsies), and said the action was reminiscent of Holocaust-era anti-Jewish discrimination.
“Even if this is an isolated incident, we cannot, as Italian Jews, remain silent in face of these racist gestures,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
The sign, reading “Gypsies strictly prohibited from entry,” appeared in the window of a bakery in Rome’s Tuscolano district earlier last week.
AND ON A HAPPIER NOTE…
Many of the items in this dispatch are depressing.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]
“Listen, Listen John Kerry” video popular in the West Bank (There is a link to the video below.)
* Lee Smith: “President Obama met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday at the White House. The question is why? Given Obama’s broader strategic view of the Middle East, why does the Arab-Israeli conflict still matter?”
* “When Obama first came to office he believed that getting a deal between Israel and the Palestinians would get the Gulf Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, on board for the larger project of stopping the Iranian nuclear program. But even before he bungled the peace process during his first term, the Arabs already were on board for Iran and wanted to know what he, as the president of the United States, was doing about it.”
* Abbas defines Jewish history in Jerusalem as a “delusional myth”.
* Dror Eydar: “The insistence upon recognition of a Jewish state isn’t meant for us. We Israelis don’t need recognition from Ramallah. The call to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is intended to block the PLO’s progressive tactic in which each territory it receives serves as the base for the next demand. And not recognition in empty words, but a requirement that this recognition make its way into the Palestinian school studies and media.”
* Chemi Shalev: “President Barack Obama has already shown that he picked up a smattering of Jewish sayings during his Chicago days, so he may possibly remember the term loch in kop, as in ‘I need this like a hole in the head.’ That thought, in one language or another, must have gone through Obama’s mind as he sat down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Monday in the midst of a deteriorating international crisis with Russia and Vladimir Putin.”
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1. Wasting time
2. “Shut up your mouse, Obama” video goes viral across Middle East
3. Video: How “Sacrosanct” are Europe’s borders?
4. “Why Did Obama meet with Abbas in Washington?” (By Lee Smith, Tablet, March 17, 2014)
5. “Obama’s Middle East fallacy” (By Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, March 16, 2014)
6. “Palestinian people’s message to Kerry: Go away!” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, March 17, 2014)
7. “The debate is about our right to exist” (By Dror Eydar, Israel Hayom, March 16, 2014)
8. “Eight crucial questions for Abbas (and One for President Obama)” (By John Ryan, Gatestone Institute, March 15, 2014)
9. “Why Abbas thinks Jewish state is a ‘delusional myth’“ (By Itamar Marcus, Jerusalem Post, March 17, 2014)
10. “Obama’s objective: Avert Israeli-Palestinian meltdown in midst of crisis in Ukraine” (By Chemi Shalev, Ha’aretz, March 18, 2014)
[Note by Tom Gross]
In his remarks to the press in Washington yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that “we don’t have any time to waste”. But that is, of course, exactly what he has been doing. He is in the tenth year of what was meant to be a four-year term and has done virtually nothing to advance peace – indeed quite the opposite, he has encouraged incitement and radicalism in Palestinian society, rather than compromise. The only specific issue he currently seems to care about is seeking the release of the final convicted pre-Oslo killers held by Israel – these ones being Israeli Arabs. He drew attention to the issue in his remarks at the White House yesterday.
Below, I attach seven articles from the last couple of days about Abbas’s visit to Washington. They are not very optimistic, I regret to say, but I feel that the points raised in them should at least be considered by those diplomats and journalists on this list in Europe and North America who believe that all that needs to be done to achieve long-lasting Middle East peace is to pressure Israel. (The authors of four of these articles – Lee Smith, Jackson Diehl, Khaled Abu Toameh and Itamar Marcus – are longtime subscribers to this list. )
The new anti-John Kerry song (referred to by Khaled Abu Toameh) which is being posted in many Palestinian social networks since it was released on Saturday, can be heard and seen here.
“SHUT UP YOUR MOUSE, OBAMA” VIDEO GOES VIRAL ACROSS MIDDLE EAST
Another video which has gained even greater number of hits across the Middle East in recent days, is the remix of a clip of this Egyptian woman – furious with President Obama’s alleged sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – telling the U.S. President in broken English: “Listen your Obama, we are Egyptian women. You are, listen Obama, Shut up your mouse [mouth], shut up your mouse Obama! Sisi, yes…Sisi, yes. Morsi, no… Morsi, no.”
One of the links carrying the remix.
Tom Gross adds: Needless to say, I don’t share this woman’s sentiments or language, but am including it as a matter of interest because in recent days, it has become the most talked about video in the Arab world.
(And as a general point, I would like to remind readers that I don’t necessarily agree with all the points in the articles included in these dispatches. They are sometimes included to fill gaps in coverage by some of the major world media.)
“Muslim Brotherhood students raise Al-Qaeda flag at Al-Azhar University campus” [in Cairo]
VIDEO: HOW “SACROSANCT” ARE EUROPE’S BORDERS?
Here is one other item, in light of the election by the people of Crimea to return to Russia. (Incidentally, the Crimeans that subscribe to this list tell me that everyone they know there did indeed vote on Sunday for reunion with Russia.)
(PS. I am not responsible for the misspelling of “borders” in the URL!)
-- Tom Gross
“THE QUESTION IS WHY?”
Why Did Obama Meet With Abbas in Washington?
The president’s Middle East policy has been about minimizing America’s role
By Lee Smith
March 17, 2014
President Obama met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this morning at the White House. The question is why? Given Obama’s broader strategic view of the Middle East, why does the Arab-Israeli conflict still matter?
Yes, Obama said in his speech last fall to the United Nations General Assembly that Palestinian-Israeli peace is still one of the White House’s two key concerns. It surely matters a lot to Secretary of State John Kerry, who has staked his reputation on being the man who can break the impasse. But the broader issue is that the peace process just doesn’t play the same role in U.S. Middle East policy as it has for four decades. In the context of how the administration is handling its other key diplomatic initiative – Iran – the peace process has entered its mannerist phase, an empty formalism signifying nothing.
From its very beginning in the 1970s, the peace process has more often than not been a song-and-dance routine intended to show America’s Middle East allies that Washington is an honest broker. Sure, it’s close to Israel, but it can also do right by the Palestinians. The less Pollyannaish version, which is Henry Kissinger’s version, is that the peace process shows both Israel and the Arabs who’s boss: America. By backing Israel to the hilt, ensuring that the Arabs will never be able to crush the Zionist usurper, American policymakers illustrated that if Arab oil powers want to win concessions for the Palestinians, then they have to come to Washington on bended knee and ask the Jewish state’s superpower sponsor nicely. This strategy no longer makes sense, at least with the current White House. Obama wants to minimize America’s footprint in the Middle East, not maximize its ability to project power, as the peace process always had up until now.
As I’ve argued before, the peace process is strictly an American affair. Sure, the Europeans are more than willing to invest politically and diplomatically in Arab-Israeli peace, but they’re incapable of giving Jerusalem the security guarantees that made the United States indispensable. The world powers that are willing and able to enforce security promises, like Russia and China, couldn’t care less whether or not Israel makes peace with Mahmoud Abbas. From Putin’s perspective, what’s wrong a permanent occupation? Not much, as he’s demonstrated this week in Ukraine.
Time is running out, Obama recently warned Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. But the reality is that it was Obama who held the ball while the clock was ticking down. When Obama first came to office he believed that getting a deal between Israel and the Palestinians would get the Gulf Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, on board for the larger project of stopping the Iranian nuclear program. But even before he bungled the peace process during his first term, the Arabs already were on board for Iran and wanted to know what he, as the president of the United States, was doing about it.
Quite a lot, as it turns out. The problem was that much of the administration’s diplomacy with Iran was conducted behind the backs of America’s traditional Gulf Arab allies, including the Saudis – and, they believe, largely at their expense. Obama wants to create a geopolitical equilibrium in the region by balancing Saudi Arabia and Iran against each other. The president says he doesn’t believe in “zero-sum endeavors,” but that’s not how the Saudis and other U.S. regional partners see it. From their point of view, they’re getting knocked down a peg or two while Tehran has become Washington’s new best friend. In other words, even if Obama got a great deal for the Palestinians it wouldn’t matter in the least to the Saudis at this point, because as they see it they’re getting screwed big time when it comes to Iran.
So while there’s been plenty of talk the past few years about how Israel only has so much time to preserve its future as a Jewish and democratic state, the big loser here is Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinians themselves. Given all the turmoil sweeping through the region – outright civil war in Syria, sectarian violence from Beirut to Baghdad, and an Iranian regime on the march – it would have been wise to nail down a state before someone winds up pulling it out from underneath them. Maybe that’s why Obama met with him today – a consolation prize for a head of state without a state.
“IS OBAMA RIGHT ABOUT ABBAS?”
Obama’s Middle East fallacy
By Jackson Diehl
March 16, 2014
Two weeks ago President Obama took time off from the crisis in Ukraine to pursue the foreign policy cause that, together with nuclear disarmament, has been closest to his heart: Israeli-Palestinian peace. Having invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, Obama welcomed him by publicly declaring to Bloomberg View’s Jeffrey Goldberg that Israel “could face a bleak future – one of international isolation and demographic disaster – if [Netanyahu] refuses to endorse a U.S. drafted framework agreement for peace,” as Goldberg summed it up.
Fair enough, you might say: An April 29 deadline for obtaining agreement to the framework is getting close, so it’s time for a little presidential arm-twisting. It follows that when Mahmoud Abbas troops into the Oval Office for his meeting on Monday, he should be met with equally dire predictions of Palestinian doom if he fails to accept the framework.
So far, there’s no sign of it: no presidential interviews, no statements by Secretary of State John Kerry, no leaks of potential U.S. punitive measures if Abbas – repeating a long personal and Palestinian history – says no. Therein lies the fallacy that has hamstrung Obama’s Middle East diplomacy for the past five years.
Obama, as he made clear in the Goldberg interview, perceives Abbas as the golden key to Mideast peace – “the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have,” as Goldberg paraphrased it – and Netanyahu as the potential spoiler. “I believe that President Abbas is sincere about his willingness to recognize Israel and its right to exist,” the president said. “You’ve got a partner on the other side who is prepared to negotiate seriously .?.?. for us not to seize this moment I think would be a great mistake.”
But is Obama right about Abbas? Netanyahu, like most Israelis, doesn’t think so – and with some reason. The Palestinian president – who was elected to a four-year term in 2005 and has remained in office for five years after its expiration – turned down President George W. Bush’s request that he sign on to a similar framework in 2008. In 2010, after Obama strong-armed Netanyahu into declaring a moratorium on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, Abbas refused to negotiate for nine of the designated 10 months, then broke off the talks after two meetings.
Abbas agreed to Kerry’s proposal for another nine-month negotiating window last year in exchange for Israel’s release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners, including many convicted of murdering civilians. Abbas hailed them as heroes. Then he embarked on a public campaign to deep-six the two principal provisions Israel has sought in the U.S. framework, both of which have had Washington’s support. One would allow Israeli soldiers to remain along the Palestinian-Jordanian border during an extended transition period; the other would involve Palestinian recognition that Israel is a Jewish state.
The “Jewish state” question is hard for many non-Israelis to understand: Who cares what Arabs call Israel, so long as they accept it? But for Netanyahu and his followers, the question is essential. Arab leaders have never conceded that a non-Arab state can hold a permanent place in the Middle East, they say. Until they do so, there will be no real peace, because Palestinians will keep pressing to weaken and eventually eliminate Israel’s Jewish majority.
Obama and Kerry have endorsed the Jewish-state principle; their hope was to use it to leverage Netanyahu’s acceptance of framework language stipulating that the territory of a Palestinian state would be equal to, if not exactly the same as, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some in the Israeli media are bettingthat Netanyahu most likely would accept that outcome – albeit with many reservations – even at the risk of losing his right-wing governing coalition. After all, the price of saying no, repeatedly underlined by Kerry and Obama, is daunting: more boycotts, more anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations, perhaps even another violent Palestinian uprising.
In short, Netanyahu has resigned himself to the likelihood that the U.S. framework will include provisions he’s not ready to endorse. Abbas has not.”There is no way. We will not accept,” the Palestinian news agency quoted him as saying of the Jewish-state principle on March 7. Two days later, Abbas persuaded the moribund Arab League to adopt a resolution backing him up. He’s said much the same about Israeli troops on the border.
Why does Abbas dare to publicly campaign against the U.S. and Israeli position even before arriving in Washington? Simple: “Abbas believes he can say no to Obama because the U.S. administration will not take any retaliatory measures against the Palestinian Authority,” writes the veteran Israeli-Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. Instead, Abbas expects to sit back if the talks fail, submit petitions to the United Nations and watch the anti-Israel boycotts mushroom, while paying no price of his own.
Perhaps Obama will disabuse him of that notion at their meeting Monday. If not, another “peace process” breakdown is surely coming.
“WE WILL NEVER COMPROMISE”
Palestinian People’s Message to Kerry: Go Away!
By Khaled Abu Toameh
March 17, 2014
Even if Abbas is forced – under U.S. Pressure and threats – to make concessions, the Palestinians will not “relinquish their rights.”
“If you make any concession, the people and I will take to the street and chant against you and demand that you go away.” – Qassem Najjar, Palestinian songwriter.
The Palestinians feel that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is not listening to what they have to say about his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.
That is why they have decided to express their views through a new song that is dedicated to Kerry personally.
A video of the song, by Qassem Najjar, was posted on YouTube and other social media outlets on the eve of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama on the peace process with Israel.
While heaping praise on Abbas, the singer mocks Kerry and accuses him of presenting a “Zionist plan” with the intention of eliminating the Palestinian cause.
Najjar decided to publish his new song after he and other Palestinians were left with the impression that Kerry is not accurately hearing their position regarding his ideas for a “framework agreement” with Israel.
The words of the song, which is entitled, “The Palestinian People’s Message to Kerry,” express the negative attitude that many Palestinians and Arabs have toward his ideas.
But Najjar is also hoping that his song will send a warning to the Palestinian Authority leadership. “My message to the Palestinian Authority leadership is that as long as you are committed to the Palestinian rights, we are with you,” the singer said. “But if you make any concession, the people and I will take to the street to chant against you and demand that you go away.”
The Palestinian Authority has endorsed the anti-Kerry song by allowing many of its news websites to publish it. A senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah explained that the new song is “100% accurate and honestly sums up the whole Palestinian position toward peace.”
Najjar is hoping that the song’s message will reach Kerry and Obama before they meet with Abbas in Washington. He wants Washington to understand that even if Abbas is forced – under U.S. pressure and threats – to make concessions, the Palestinians will not “relinquish their rights.”
The song also reflects growing Palestinian suspicion toward Kerry’s motives and accuses him of seeking to deceive the Palestinians through his ideas. Addressing Kerry, the singer warns the top US diplomat, “Go tell Obama and America that my land is not a piece of cake for you to share.”
Referring to the explosive issue of Palestinian refugees, Najjar sends the following message to Kerry, “We will not compromise the right of return; my homeland flag will be high. Listen John Kerry.”
Noting that the Arabs will not allow Kerry’s plan to pass, the singer goes on to warn Kerry, “in the name of the martyrs, prisoners, homeland and revolution, Jerusalem is our free capital and will always be.”
After repeating Palestinian accusations against Israel over settlements and the “Judaization” of Jerusalem, Najjar cautions Kerry that he must “stop playing games because all your games have been exposed by President Abbas.”
Echoing previous statements by some of Abbas’s advisors, the singer denounces Kerry’s proposed agreement as a “Zionist scheme designed to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
He also denounces as “racist” the demand for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. This too is the official position of the Palestinian Authority and Abbas is once again expected to voice his opposition to this demand during his meeting with Obama. Another theme of the song that also reflects the official stance of the Palestinian Authority is the refusal to accept any Israeli presence in the West Bank after the signing of a peace agreement. In the words of the singer, “We do not accept Jews within our borders.”
It is no coincidence that the song was released on the eve of Abbas’s visit to Washington. Abbas will use it to show Obama and Kerry why he can not make concessions to Israel. He will also use it to scare the Americans and show them how much Palestinians despise Obama and Kerry.
“KERRY SHOULD READ THE PALESTINIAN NATIONAL CHARTER, THE FOUNDING DOCUMENT OF THE ‘MODERATE’ FATAH”
The debate is about our right to exist
By Dror Eydar
March 16, 2014
This is what you found? A murmured response to the question by PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1988, and an additional hum directed toward Haaretz journalists? And after this, they’ll be angry that people talk about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in terms of messianic obsession.
Why should it be necessary to search high and low for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state? Because there is none. One can read the declarations of the Palestinian Authority and its leaders over the past 20 years. Indeed, opposing recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people is more important to the Palestinians than land, since this is the true heart of the conflict, rather than the other territorial nonsense that the Left has been selling for years. It’s not about territory and not about settlements and not about refugee rights, not at all.
The hundred-year-old argument is about the Jewish people’s right to an independent home in the Land of Israel. Not only the Palestinians – no Arab state recognizes our right as Jews to any part of the region. They obscure the issue and talk about “recognizing Israel,” since the desire is to perpetuate the conflict even after a diplomatic treaty is signed, when the false claim will be that the Arab minority in Israel is suffering under “apartheid” and should have autonomy, since they belong to the Palestinian people who have been here since the dawn of creation. The international battle against Israel will continue to dismantle its Jewish identity on the way to making it a state for all its nationalities. There will be no end to the conflict without recognition of a Jewish state. This should be at the top of the Left’s priorities.
Kerry should read the Palestinian National Charter, the founding document of the “moderate” Fatah. It was ratified by the Sixth General Assembly of the Fatah Movement in Bethlehem in August 2009, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was again elected head of the organization. This conference approved a plan that included the principle of “absolute irrevocable opposition to recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ to protect the rights of refugees and the rights of our people [Israeli Arabs] beyond the Green Line.”
Here, Mr. Kerry, is the rationale for the Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state: They will continue to demand that refugees return even after a deal is signed and turn the parts of Israel around the Green Line into a binational state. Abbas and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat both voted in favor of the plan.
And here is a quote from the Palestinian platform that thus far, despite repeated promises, has not been changed: “Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.” The Jews are not a people but a religion, and therefore have no national rights. Clear and simple. Just read it.
The insistence upon recognition of a Jewish state isn’t meant for us. We don’t need recognition from Ramallah. The call to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is intended to block the PLO’s progressive tactic in which each territory it receives serves as the base for the next demand. And not recognition in empty words, but a requirement that this recognition make its way into the Palestinian school studies and media. As of now, the state of Israel doesn’t exist in the PA. So the Israeli insistence on recognition is non-negotiable. Without this, it is better to maintain the status quo. The so-called threat that without a diplomatic deal Israel’s situation will worsen has been made for a hundred years already. Don’t try to scare us. We’ve managed all right so far.
Ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival, the American administration sought to pressure Israel by releasing an aggressive interview President Barack Obama gave to Jeffrey Goldberg. And now, as Abbas is on his way, John Kerry is putting out statements to press Israel – imagine that – into relieving the Palestinians of their responsibility. It’s not only a matter of justice and fair mediation, it’s much more serious. John Kerry’s recent remarks have helped the PLO’s step-by-step approach.
EIGHT CRUCIAL QUESTIONS FOR ABBAS
Eight Crucial Questions for Abbas (and One for President Obama)
By John Ryan
March 15, 2014
There seems to be a double-standard when it comes to how Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority’s erstwhile President, Mahmoud Abbas -- now in the tenth year of his four-year term -- are treated by the Obama White House, as well as by many journalists. While Netanyahu is humiliated, insulted, threatened, and told that he must make “painful concessions” for peace, such as releasing more than 100 terrorists merely to get the Palestinians to come to a negotiating table, Abbas – a facilitator and supporter of these terrorists – is treated with kid gloves, and with Obama virtually begging him to visit.
Here, however, are some questions, starting with the most important, that should be posed to Abbas when he takes a seat in the White House on March 17:
1. Does Israel have a right to exist?
2. Yasser Arafat, the first president of the Palestinian Authority [PA], accepted Israel as a Jewish state, and the homeland of the Jewish people. As the recent UNESCO exhibit documented, Jews have been on Israeli land, and in the disputed areas in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) for 3,500 years, 2,000 years prior to the advent of Islam. You, however, recently said that you do not accept Israel as a Jewish state. Why?
3. Will you stop using the humanitarian aid money given to you by the U.S. and the U.N. for prohibited purposes, such as paying salaries to and glorifying terrorists, and inciting mass hatred against Jews, even among Palestinian children?
4. Why did you not immediately fire Jibril Rajoub, the supposedly “moderate” senior PA official, after he said in May 2013 that if the PA had a nuclear bomb, it would drop it on Israel that very day? news.yahoo.com/moderate-palestinian-leader-swears-had-nuke-d-used-120410701.html
5. Are you prepared to make any concessions to advance the peace process? For example, will you rescind your July 2013 statement that if you get your own state, not a single Jew will be allowed anywhere within it? www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Abbas-wants-not-a-single-Israeli-in-future-Palestinian-state-321470
6. If you strike a deal for peace, how will you ensure that all Palestinian parties, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, uphold it; that the next president of the PA does not say, “Abbas signed that; I did not.”?
7. If and when you get a Palestinian state, will you announce – in Arabic – that this agreement brings an end to the conflict?
8. And will you then formally order the PA to stop glorifying terrorists and calling for the destruction of Israel in the Palestinian media, school textbooks, summer camps, sports stadiums, crossword puzzles and other outlets?
It would be telling to hear how Abbas answers these questions.
It would also be telling to hear how President Barack Obama answers one question: If Abbas refuses to agree to these “painful concessions,” will you stop issuing executive waivers that enable American taxpayer money to still be sent to him, even though you know it is being used for prohibited purposes? (www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS22967.pdf)
ABBAS DEFINED JEWISH HISTORY IN JERUSALEM AS A “DELUSIONAL MYTH”
Why Abbas thinks Jewish state is a ‘delusional myth’
By Itamar Marcus
March 17, 2014
Netanyahu’s demand and the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state are clearly not just a quibble over semantics.
A major obstacle blocking progress toward an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Jerusalem Post reported this week that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thinks Israel’s demand is a mistake. The question is: Why are both sides so concerned about that which is already accepted internationally? As early as 1917, the Balfour Declaration supported the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people.”
In 1922, the League of Nations confirmed the British Mandate to establish “a Jewish national home,” and UN resolution 181 in 1947 recommended the establishment of “a Jewish state.” Since Israel’s founding followed directly upon this international process anticipating a Jewish state, why, so many years later, does Israel demand and the PA refuse to restate the obvious? A recent declaration by Abbas sheds light on why PA recognition is essential for authentic peace and why the PA president refuses to grant it. In a speech in Morocco, Abbas defined Jewish history in Jerusalem as a “delusional myth” (palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=381&fld_id=381&doc_id=10931) and claimed that Israel is trying to invent a Jewish history “by brute force.” (Official PA TV, January 17, 2014).
Abbas has a long tradition of denying Jewish history. In another talk he described Jewish history in Jerusalem as “illusions and legends” and referred to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as the “alleged Temple,” a term the PA uses to deny that it ever existed. (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, August 22, 2012). palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=7284
Abbas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state is not merely his personal vendetta, but, reflects this fundamental element of PA policy to deny Jewish history - especially in Jerusalem.
On numerous occasions when archeological finds with Jewish symbols and Hebrew texts were uncovered that illustrate aspects of Jewish history in Israel, the PA hastened to tell Palestinians that Israel invented the story, distorted it or even planted the finds. When Israeli archeologists last year displayed gold artifacts with Jewish symbols, such as a menorah and a shofar, found 50 meters from the Western Wall in Jerusalem, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei immediately denied its authenticity on official PA TV: “I think all this is a forgery, forgery of the truth. It’s all an attempt to make claims. They did not find anything.” (Official PA TV, September 11, 2013).
What must therefore be understood is that the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not a mere technicality, but part of an overarching policy of denying thousands of years of Jewish history in Israel, and thereby denying Israel’s right to exist. And although in the Oslo Accords in 1993 the PLO recognized the existence of Israel, the PA differentiates between recognizing that Israel exists and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
The PA’s ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq, explained that Israelis who believe the PA recognizes Israel’s right to exist are deluding themselves: “[Israelis] fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist... There are no two Palestinians who disagree over the fact that Israel exists, and recognition of it is restating the obvious. But recognition of its right to exist is something else, different from recognition of its existence.” (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 26, 2011).
Palestinian children are also educated to distinguish between Israel’s existence and right to exist, as an official PA schoolbook teaches: “Palestine’s war [in 1948] ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine... and established the so-called State of Israel.” (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, published by the PA Ministry of Education).
And PA TV teaches 8-year-olds that all of Israel is “occupied land” since 1948 - and this situation is only temporary: “We will never forget that we have land that was occupied in 1948 which will return to us one day.” (Official PA TV, February 23, 2013). palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=8638
Abbas’s denial of Jewish history and refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state are the ideological foundations for the PA teachings that the existence of the State of Israel constitutes a theft by “Zionist gangs” and that Israel’s existence is temporary. This is not PLO rhetoric from the pre-Oslo days. This is current PA education and indoctrination and remains a most severe impediment to a genuine peace process.
Netanyahu’s demand and the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state are clearly not just a quibble over semantics, and Netanyahu’s demand is in fact a minimalist request. Any PA recognition - if it is to impact at all on peace - must include recognition that Israel is the continuation of thousands of years of Jewish history and therefore Israel has a right to exist. Furthermore, in order for these declarations to be more than mere embellishments to yet another insincere agreement, they must be immediately integrated into PA children’s education and public discourse. Without this, Abbas’ recognition of the Jewish state would be like Arafat’s recognition of Israel in 1993: a meaningless ornament to a deceptive peace process that is cited regularly by the PA to create a facade of sincerity.
PA public recognition and education of its citizens to see Israel as a Jewish state with a history and right to exist are absolute necessities if there is ever to be a Palestinian population that accepts Israel as a neighbor and truly seeks peace. For now, while Abbas’ recognition on the diplomatic level would certainly not be enough to affect this change, it is nonetheless a necessary first step in the right direction.
“I NEED THIS LIKE A HOLE IN THE HEAD”
Obama’s objective: Avert Israeli-Palestinian meltdown in midst of crisis in Ukraine
Obama may have once asked for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but now he is probably praying for them to simply leave him in peace.
By Chemi Shalev
March 18, 2014
President Barack Obama has already shown that he picked up a smattering of Jewish sayings during his Chicago days, so he may possibly remember the term loch in kop, as in “I need this like a hole in the head.” That thought, in one language or another, must have gone through Obama’s mind as he sat down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Monday in the midst of a deteriorating international crisis with Russia and Vladimir Putin.
And you, Obama may have thought as he glanced at Secretary of State John Kerry, the instigator of what increasingly seems like yet another quixotic push for peace – you are the one who drilled that hole in the first place.
But even if the achievement of a “framework” for Israeli-Palestinian talks has been transformed virtually overnight from a lofty goal to a nagging nuisance, failure is not an option for Obama. Not now, when another setback may brand him, to borrow another Yinglish term, as a serial schlemiel; not now, when his approval ratings are dipping dangerously below 40%; not now, when the world is skeptical anyway about his ability to deal with the mess in Crimea or with a tough guy like Putin.
Obama’s main objective with Abbas on Monday, therefore, was to kick the proverbial can up the road, and to postpone what some are describing as the inevitable breakdown of Kerry’s efforts, for as long as possible. To achieve this, Obama and the administration are now pursuing a three-staged strategy of admittedly diminishing returns: first, to exert strong and possibly brutal pressure on Abbas to agree to some form of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in the proposed “framework” for negotiations, even if the Palestinians disassociate themselves from it in public; second, to begin to explore the possibility of a much simpler agreement to extend the talks beyond their current April 29 deadline in exchange for some Israeli concession, preferably on settlements; and third, failing that, to make sure at the very least that Israeli carries out the scheduled March 29 prisoner release so that the process doesn’t implode at the height of the Crimean crisis.
Because no one really expects the sanctions announced by Obama at the Press Room at the White House – before he quickly ran off for his meeting with Abbas – to quell the rising tensions in eastern Ukraine. Whether the only thing weaker than the measures announced by Obama is “doing nothing,” as Senator John McCain suggested Monday, or whether they actually constitute a stinging and perhaps even insulting blow to Putin’s trusted inner circle, as others maintained, the Russian leader quickly clarified his reaction by recognizing and trumpeting Crimea’s newfound “independence,” despite Obama’s threats.
According to Russian-born Russia-watcher Julia Ioffe, it won’t end there. Writing in the New Republic on Monday, Ioffe noted that Putin is bound to preempt a Ukraine move to cut off Crimea’s supplies of gas, water and electricity by capturing the installations that supply them in southeastern Ukraine. Such a move – which, according to some reports, is already under way – would further escalate the already deteriorating situation, force Obama to escalate his sanctions and further inflame tensions throughout the European continent, just like the bad old days.
“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” an incredulous Kerry said at the start of the crisis, though Putin seems bent on proving him wrong. Kerry’s sentiment is reminiscent of one expressed 70 years ago by Warren Austin, a U.S. senator from Vermont who was also U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who famously said – or at least is said to have said – “I hope Arabs and Jews will settle their differences in a truly Christian spirit.”
Maybe Obama shared that virtuous hope at the start of his presidency, but after meeting in recent weeks with both Netanyahu and Abbas, and after getting another concentrated dose of their boundless mutual suspicion and distrust, he may have finally shed his Christian wishes for mutual reconciliation. Instead of asking for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Obama may now be praying that they simply leave him in peace.
* Abbas would rather let Syrian Palestinians suffer and die at the hands of the Assad regime, than agree to Israel’s suggestion that some be moved to the West Bank
* Israeli prisoners demand: Let us go fishing and be provided with personal fitness trainers like prisoners in Norway do
* Norwegian Cruise Line: We will not allow Israelis to be treated differently than the rest of mankind
A variety of items are attached below.
You can see these and other items that are not in these dispatches if you "like" this page: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.
1. UN’s Chris Gunness accused of promoting doctored Syria picture
2. Ten days after Russia’s Crimea invasion, U.S. imposes travel sanctions – on Israelis
3. Bad TV sub-titles
4. Norwegian Cruise Line cancels port calls to Tunisia after Jews were barred
5. Israeli prisoners launch newspaper
6. Free Wi-Fi introduced on Palestinian Buses
7. Israel unloads Iranian weapons ship; deafening silence from the West
8. A hug from Michelle Obama
9. Israel passes important electoral reform measures
10. Gulf states express fury and withdraw ambassadors from Qatar
11. No comment
12. “Did the Mossad Blow Up the Malaysian Airlines Jet?”
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
UN’S CHRIS GUNNESS ACCUSED OF PROMOTING DOCTORED SYRIA PICTURE
Chris Gunness, the former BBC correspondent who is now the lead spokesperson for the Jerusalem-based UN agency advocating on behalf of Palestinians, has (according to the New York Times) denied claims that a photo he has been distributing has been touched up.
As the New York Times reports, the “United Nations photograph showing a sea of hungry Palestinians awaiting emergency food amid the detritus of their bomb-ravaged neighborhood near Damascus has been retweeted more than eight million times in the past few weeks, becoming an arresting image of the Syrian civil war.”
The photo has been published in over 1,000 newspapers, including The New York Times and on the front page of The Guardian. Britain’s Daily Mail (which has the most read news website in the world) described it as a “biblical picture of suffering.”
The UN is helping to organize a campaign to display the photo on a giant screen in New York’s Times Square.
Tom Gross adds: Whether or not the present photo has been doctored, it is unsurprising that so many people are quick to disbelieve Chris Gunness, and international news agencies.
There have been many cases of major news agencies putting out distorted or staged photos and film footage, often in the Middle East, and to portray Israel in a negative light. For example, after the 2006 Lebanon War Reuters and AP later admitted their local Lebanese photographers had distorted photos (the photographers were then sacked). Last year, the overall winner of the 2013 World Press Photo, which was from Gaza, was widely accused of being a staged photo. Please see here.
Chris Gunness has on several occasions made sensational claims leading to headlines around the world (such as “UN accuses Israel of herding 110 Palestinians into a house then shelling it, leaving 30 dead”, London Daily Mail, Jan 9 2009) which were later proven to have been mistaken.
Gunness, who previously worked for the BBC for 23 years (holding a number of senior positions) remains close to the BBC’s chief Jerusalem Correspondent Jeremy Bowen. For example, in 2009 in a diary article which Bowen posted on BBC online, he wrote: “I just broke off writing for a couple of minutes to take a call from Chris Gunness, who is the spokesman for Unrwa, the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees. He was ringing to say that Unrwa wanted an investigation into whether Israel has committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Civilians are protected by the laws of war. I have known Chris for years, as he used to be a BBC foreign correspondent. He wanted to make sure that we knew he was using the phrase for the first time. He said that the attack this morning on a UN school in Gaza looked as if it was a war crime.”
The BBC World Service and UNRWA both receive funding by the British government, and they are meant to be impartial.
Tom Gross adds further: Gunness has denied the picture from Syria he is currently promoting, has been touched up. But in any event, Syrians of all ethnicities (including Palestinian Syrians) are certainly suffering greatly and the international community needs to do much, much more to help them.
What has not been reported on sufficiently, in my view, is that Israel last year offered to allow several thousand Palestinian-Syrians to move to the West Bank – but Palestinian Authority President Abbas refused, demanding they should move to Israel proper. In other words, Abbas would rather let these Syrian Palestinians suffer at the hands of the Assad regime, than allow them to live in the West Bank.
TEN DAYS AFTER RUSSIA’S CRIMEA INVASION, U.S. IMPOSES TRAVEL SANCTIONS – ON ISRAELIS
Several commentators (such as Tom Rose) have pointed out that at the same time that the U.S. State Department is relaxing entry requirements to visa applicants from the Arab world (including some people with connections to extreme Islamist groups in countries like Egypt and Syria), and also letting Russian President Putin know that any sanctions against travel to the U.S. placed upon those responsible for Russia’s incursion in Crimea will be limited to a “few dozen” named individuals, it is dramatically increasing its rejection of Israelis seeking tourist visas to visit the US.
Israeli officials say they believe that the unexplained increase that is making it difficult for many Israelis to go on holiday or visit friends and relatives in America, is part of a range of measures the Obama administration has taken to punish and isolate Israel.
Charles Schumer, the Democratic Party Senator for New York, wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week demanding an end to the “State Department policy of categorically denying young Israelis tourist visas that makes it nearly impossible for any young Israeli to visit the U.S.” (www.schumer.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=350492& )
The State Department has confirmed that there has been a 400% increase in the visa refusal rate for Israelis since President Obama came to office, and last year Israel was removed from the State Department’s visa waiver program whereas citizens of dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Qatar (both of which support extreme Islamists in Syria and elsewhere) remain eligible to participate in the U.S. visa waiver program.
BAD TV SUB-TITLES
Earlier this week, Britain’s Channel 4 news described U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as “talking to his Russian counterpart so gay lover of”.
It is amazing this is what the spell check did to the name of Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE CANCELS PORT CALLS TO TUNISIA AFTER JEWS WERE BARRED
The Norwegian Cruise Line company said yesterday it would no longer dock in Tunisia (the supposedly more liberal country at the forefront of the “Arab Spring”) after the Tunisian government last Sunday refused to allow Israeli passport holders and other Jews to disembark from the Norwegian cruise ship, Jade.
In a statement yesterday, the Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO said that the company “will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests” which are “completely unacceptable.” It added it “has cancelled all remaining calls to Tunisia and will not return.”
ISRAELI PRISONERS LAUNCH NEWSPAPER
The first issue of The Prisoner’s Voice has been published at the Ma’asiyahu jail in central Israel.
The paper, written by and for prisoners, complains that Israel’s already very liberal prison system (where both Israeli and Palestinian inmates for example, get funding to do PhDs) is not liberal enough.
An article in the new magazine claims that they should get the same rights as prisoners in Norway, who are allowed to go fishing and receive free sessions with personal fitness trainers. The magazine also includes interviews and profiles of individual prisoners and prison staff, cooking recipes, and relationship advice.
FREE WI-FI INTRODUCED ON PALESTINIAN BUSES
From this week, 80,000 Palestinian commuters in East Jerusalem will enjoy free Wi-Fi on more than 100 buses. Both Israelis and Palestinians are more advanced than most places in the world when it comes to hi-tech and free Wi-Fi. Tel Aviv was the first city in the world to offer free Wi-Fi throughout the city. Over 80 percent of Palestinians in East Jerusalem own iPhones, Samsung Galaxies or other smart phones.
ISRAEL UNLOADS IRANIAN WEAPONS SHIP; DEAFENING SILENCE FROM WEST
This story has been remarkably under-reported in the international media so some readers may not have heard about it:
Israel this week put on display the enormous arsenal of Iranian weapons that were seized from the Klos-C ship which was intercepted by Israel off the coast of Sudan en route to Gaza. There were more than 100 containers on board, and no doubt the hundreds of missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and the hundreds of thousands of bullets and other weapons in them, would have been used to murder Israelis.
Israel’s elite C4I Unit are being credited as the unsung heroes of the exceedingly complicated, months-long mission that led to the dramatic high-seas capture of the Iranian arms cache some 1,500 kilometers from the Israeli coast.
As Israel unloaded the weapons from the ship, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton began a visit to Iran and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded with Ashton to question Iranians about the ship. He called on the international community to deal with the “true policies of Iran, not its propaganda.”
Tom Gross adds: Given the current international negotiations with Iran, an enormous Iranian arms smuggling operation to terror groups ought to have been news regardless of Israel.
Yesterday, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, a commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Iran’s military has its finger on the trigger to destroy Israel as soon as it receives the order to do so. (english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13921220000944 )
Have you heard about this in the Western press? Have you seen Catherine Ashton mention it during her visit to Iran? Have Obama and other leaders condemned this?
(Breaking news: British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is on a visit to Israel, has just told the Knesset: “The interception of the Klos C ship is yet another despicable attempt by the Iranians to smuggle more long-range rockets into Gaza. A vulnerability that has too often seen nearby Palestinian schools being named in honor of suicide bombers.)
Instead Ashton arrived in Tehran to discuss closer cooperation with the regime in future, with her head cloaked in a dark scarf so as not to offend (on the day after international women’s day) the regime, even though millions of ordinary Iranians are pleading with the West to make a stand against the theocratic dictatorship in Tehran.
The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) yesterday said that the construction of the Arak heavy water production plant (that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons) has now made “a nearly 90-percent progress”:
A HUG FROM MICHELLE OBAMA
To mark International Women’s day last weekend, I want to draw attention to an Indian-based charity (“Stop acid attacks”) that I have been supporting for some time. I am glad they are now getting international recognition – including a hug (in the Facebook photo below) from Michelle Obama last week – for their incredible work dealing with this terrible and growing problem.
ISRAEL PASSES IMPORTANT ELECTORAL REFORM MEASURES
In order to provide for better functioning and more stable government, the Israeli Knesset yesterday (after decades of being urged to do) passed a new law raising the minimum threshold from two percent to 3.25 percent of votes needed for a party to gain seats in the Israeli Knesset.
This is still not enough in my view, but at least it will reduce the number of small parties that have traditionally made it very difficult for Israeli governments to function properly and make decisive policies. (In Italy, Austria, Bulgaria and Sweden the threshold is 4%. In Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Iceland, and Poland it is 5%.)
The law will also allow for only a maximum of 19 government ministers and four deputy ministers to the cabinet (still too many in my view, since large governments become unwieldy and expensive). (One recent Israeli government had 32 ministers and eight deputies, all with large staffs and budgets.) Under the new law, a government wishing to appoint more than 19 ministers would have to obtain 70 votes in the Knesset to do so.
The new law will also make it harder for governments to be toppled mid-term. The law changes the “no-confidence” process through which 61 MKs can topple a sitting government through a simple vote in the Knesset. The previous procedure allows no-confidence motions to be presented in the Knesset almost without limit – and indeed, there have been three or four tabled every week by various opposition parties. This is one reason Israel has seen 33 governments in 65 years.
The bill also changes rules for campaign finance to create disincentives for MKs to splinter from their parties once they are elected to the Knesset. Under the new law, a Knesset faction must have at least two MKs to win public campaign funding, so an individual Knesset member may now think twice before going to start his or her own party halfway through a Knesset term when elected to another party.
The opposition Labor party and ultra-Orthodox parties vehemently rejected the bill.
This week the government is also going to attempt to pass the Equal Service Bill to draft ultra-Orthodox Jewish men into national service from 2017, and a Basic Law requiring a national referendum for withdrawal from Israeli sovereign territory in the framework of a peace agreement (i.e. to enable Israel to make land swaps with territory in pre-1967 Israel).
GULF STATES EXPRESS FURY AND WITHDRAW AMBASSADORS FROM QATAR
Three Gulf Arab States (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) have recalled their ambassadors from fellow Sunni gulf state Qatar to express their anger over Qatar’s continuing support for the Moslem Brotherhood. They say they are also angry with the Emir of Qatar’s decision to allow influential Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Qaradawi to appear on the Arabic version of state-funded Al-Jazeera television. (I have several times draws attention in these dispatches to Qaradawi’s anti-Semitic and homophobic conspiracy theories.)
All of the countries are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and this is their most public dispute since the GCC, an alliance of monarchies established to counter growing Iranian influence in the Gulf, was set up in the 1980’s.
Qatar’s cabinet expressed “regret and surprise” at the decision but said it would not bring its own ambassadors home.
A reader writes:
“Muslims have been ethnically cleansed from half of the Central African Republic. Muslims in Burma are being massacred. But there’s almost no reaction in the Muslim world, either by governments or in public opinion. Why not?”
“DID THE MOSSAD BLOW UP THE MALAYSIAN AIRLINES JET?”
I am surprised it took the anti-Semites this long to come up with their latest conspiracy theory:
Did the Mossad Blow Up the Malaysian Airlines Jet?
Elsewhere in conspiracy theories this week:
Some are saying that the Mossad and IDF were really behind the Ukrainian revolution, while Ukrainian ultra-nationalists are saying they hear Putin is now working for Mossad and a “Jewish mafia” is behind the take-over of Crimea.
Meanwhile an Iranian lawmaker blamed the U.S. for the disappearance of Malaysian airliner as an attempt to “sabotage the relationship between Iran and China and South East Asia,” according to a report in the New York Times:
[All notes above by Tom Gross]
[Note by Tom Gross]
This is one of a very occasional series of dispatches not connected to the Middle East.
I attach a beautiful tribute to Jiri Fiedler written by Helen Epstein, published on the opinion pages of today’s New York Times. Jiri and his wife were murdered in Prague recently. I have a met Jiri a few times (I have worked as a consultant for the Prague Jewish museum, where Jiri worked), and the director and senior staff of the museum, who knew Jiri well, are longtime subscribers to this “Middle East dispatch” list.
It is worth reading Helen Epstein’s piece, if you have time, even by those who have not visited the Czech Republic.
(Epstein is also the translator of Heda Margolius-Kovaly’s Under a Cruel Star, a memoir of life under Nazism and Stalinism, which I wrote about in my obituary of Margolius-Kovaly for the Canadian paper, The National Post and The Jerusalem Post: “A shy little bird hidden in my rib cage”.)
(* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.)
Eulogy for a Source
By Helen Epstein
Sunday Opinion Pages
The New York Times
March 9, 2014
“EACH piece of reportage has many authors and it is only thanks to long-established custom that we sign the text with a single name,” wrote the literary journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski. “They arrange contacts, lend us their homes, or quite simply change our lives.”
Jiri Fiedler changed mine. He opened the door to my family history, as he did for hundreds of people who had been cut off from their family pasts by war, dispossession, totalitarianism and emigration. Working mostly alone, unpaid and anonymous for decades under Communism, and later as a researcher at the Jewish Museum in Prague, he documented the history of Jews in the Czech lands and was a prolific and often unacknowledged contributor to reports, books, articles and museum exhibits.
Last week, not long after I received one of his cheerily eccentric emails with attachments about malapropisms in Czech and English, I discovered that he and his wife, Dagmar, had been brutally murdered in their apartment on or about Jan. 31. The news came via an email from someone I’d met on the reportorial road in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands.
Though Jiri and Dagmar Fiedler lived in a panelak, one of the enormous blocks of apartments on the outskirts of Prague, with hundreds of residents around them, their bodies weren’t discovered until two weeks after the murder. At 79 and 75, they were regarded as “old people with a cat,” according to a tabloid story that reported the murder but did not give their names. In that story, the current president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, who once lived in the building, was quoted as saying, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I didn’t do it.” That was all the press coverage I could find.
Murders are still rare in Prague, and the police declared a news blackout while they conducted their investigation. Dagmar and Jiri’s three children, and his brother, sent a discreet notice of death to family friends and colleagues. Most of the people who knew him and his work remained unaware of his death. Jiri had always been reticent, like many in his generation who had grown up under Nazism and spent their adulthood under Communist rule. He was naturally a loner, “individualistic and a little bit mysterious,” according to Arno Parik, one of his colleagues at the Jewish Museum.
I first met Jiri by mail – snail mail – in 1990, a year after the Velvet Revolution, the nonviolent transition from Communist to democratic rule in what was then Czechoslovakia. I was writing a book about three generations of women in my Central European Jewish family and had sent out inquiries to historians of all kinds, to the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv, and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem and to many other places. One day, I received a letter from Prague.
“Because I myself am engaged in researching the history of the now-extinct Jewish community,” my unknown correspondent began, “I know you have written to the director of the Regional Museum in Jihlava, to the National Library and to the Central Archive. I put some things together in my mind and that is why I allow myself to disturb you with this letter.”
I remember wondering whether this self-deprecating formulation was a Czech convention or a particular personality trait.
“I have at home relatively rich files covering the now-extinct Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia. They are mostly documents concerning synagogues, cemeteries and houses, but sometimes you can find in them the names of their owners. Maybe on your next visit you could go to the State Central Archive. I don’t have the time to do it myself. But if you need me, I will be happy to advise you.”
So began our friendship. We met in 1991 at the children’s publishing house where he had worked as a translator and editor for most of his professional life. He was then 56, an elfin man with a pronounced stutter who seemed as modest as the tiny vase of dandelions on his desk. Collecting Judaica was his longtime hobby, he hastened to tell me. It had nothing to do with the rest of his life. He had scrutinized his family tree many times searching for a Jewish ancestor to explain it and found none. “Some people smoke,” he said. “Some people strangle little girls in parks. I bicycle around the country documenting dead Jews.”
I smiled politely. It was not the kind of politically correct remark I’d hear in Cambridge, Mass., where I then lived. Perhaps, given his long and solitary preoccupation with dead Jews, I thought he was pleased to be talking with a live one.
But after that first remark, Jiri Fiedler turned out to be quite shy. I made out that he had been born in the old Moravian city of Olomouc in 1935, that he was 10 when the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia ended, that he had witnessed the retreat of German soldiers and seen concentration camp survivors, who were given temporary housing at his school.
At 15, he came across and grew interested in an old Yiddish newspaper. By himself, working slowly and patiently, he deciphered the Hebrew characters as though they were hieroglyphics and taught himself to read Yiddish. He dated his interest in local history to about the same time. Mistopis, as local history is called in Czech, was one of the few intellectual pursuits that could be safely enjoyed under Communism. He began to ride his bicycle down back roads near his home, photographing and sketching old churches and other ruined buildings, and making lists of historical landmarks.
After completing his doctorate in linguistics, Jiri took a job as a copy editor and by the late 1960s was working for Albatros, a famous publisher of children’s literature in Prague. He translated from Polish and Serbo-Croatian and proofread hundreds of books, but regarded that as his day job.
His passion was mistopis. By the 1970s, his interest widened to include old Jewish cemeteries and synagogues as well as churches. “Those cemeteries,” he told me, “called out to be photographed.” He also began to do rubbings of the inscriptions. The tombstones were so overgrown that he began to carry gardening tools on his bicycle.
A former schoolmate of his worked at the Jewish Museum in Prague, and during the Communist years, Jiri repeatedly tried to gain access to its archive. But the Jewish Museum was closely watched by the secret police during the Communist period and access to state archives was tightly controlled. Academics researching Jews in Renaissance Prague were able to do their work, but applications by individuals researching more recent history were closely tracked and reported.
He continued to amass his maps, postcards, index cards of data on the dead and his photographs alone.
It became an addiction he could not give up. He had deeds and tax records of former Jewish houses and streets; town maps with Jewish houses marked in red (including my father’s hometown and the house my great-grandfather had built); files of correspondence with dozens of local archivists. He knew the locals everywhere he went and by the 1980s had become an international consultant to anyone researching Czech Jews. His Judaica collection filled the shelves and cabinets of one whole room of his four-room apartment and included some 70,000 photographs.
In 1996, after the Jewish Museum was reorganized on post-Communist lines, Jiri was invited to join the staff. He published his one book, “Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia,” and continued to work on the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Settlements in the Czech Republic” a 30-year project that now contains 1,670 entries in electronic form.
He had no Wikipedia page. No one in Prague could locate a résumé or interview or short bio.
Jiri was allergic to personal P.R. Once, when I asked him to raise his hand and be acknowledged at a reception at the American ambassador’s home in Prague, he quipped that I was creating a “cult of personality” around him. In our age of way too much information, Jiri left barely a footprint online.
But just as he had been one of the authors of my reportage, I want to be one of his. Several of the people in Prague who knew him sent me their impressions of him, but none had any firm facts to provide. A neighbor describes an elderly couple who kept to themselves and consulted her only when they had some problem with their cat. Various colleagues have learned that the apartment was not forced open. Nothing seemed to have been stolen. The police have no suspect and no motive.
An announcement posted on the website of the Jewish Museum of Prague is carefully worded. “The circumstances of his death have not yet been fully clarified,” it reads in part. “On account of his work, he earned the animosity of the secret police and aroused the suspicion of others.” And, “At a time when the Jewish cultural heritage of Bohemia and Moravia was treated with utter contempt, he produced a trove of work that can be drawn on by future generations of researchers in the area of Jewish topography.”
Jiri was a man who managed to hold on to his humanity under two of the most brutal periods of totalitarianism in the 20th century. He did so unobtrusively, with grace and a good measure of mischief. His memory is a blessing and an inspiration.
(Helen Epstein is the author of six books of nonfiction. She formerly worked at the Jerusalem Post.)
Tom Gross adds:
In another recent dispatch I mentioned that a documentary about Czech-born Alice Herz-Sommer, aged 110, the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, was finally being released, and had been placed on this year’s Oscar shortlist.
Alice died on February 23, 2014, three days after I sent that dispatch:
That film won the award for best short documentary at the Oscars last Sunday.
You can see a clip from the film together with my piece from 2010, here:
* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.
“DID YOU EVER HEAR ABOUT SYRIA SENDING A FIELD HOSPITAL ANYWHERE?”
[Note by Tom Gross]
I attach the speech given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to AIPAC in Washington earlier this week. I didn’t have time to send it before and some subscribers to this list in Israel and America may have read it already. But for the thousands of other subscribers who live elsewhere, I think it is worth reading since – love him or loathe him – Netanyahu is an indispensable player in the Middle East peace process, and this speech provides some insights into his thinking.
For those of you who don’t have time to read the full speech, I have first extracted a few quotes from it here:
* Benjamin Netanyahu: “Wounded Syrians -- men, women and a lot of children -- come to our border fence bleeding and desperate. Often they’re near death. The Syrians who’ve come to be treated in Israel tell the same story. They say, all these years, Assad lied to us. He told us that Iran was our friend and Israel was our enemy. But Iran [which is supplying the weapons and doing a lot of the fighting for Assad] is killing us, and Israel, Israel is saving us.
* “Did you ever hear about Syria sending a field hospital anywhere? Did you ever hear about Iran sending a humanitarian delegation overseas? No? You missed that memo? You know why? Because the only thing that Iran sends abroad are rockets, terrorists and missiles to murder, maim and menace the innocent.”
* “Iran says it only wants a peaceful nuclear program. So why is it building a heavy water reactor, which has no purpose in a peaceful nuclear program? So why does it continue to build ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads?”
* “I’m often asked whether Israel truly wants diplomacy to succeed, and my answer is, of course we want diplomacy to succeed, because no country has a greater interest in the peaceful elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat. But this threat will not be eliminated by just any agreement, only by an agreement which requires Iran to fully dismantle its military nuclear capability. Greater pressure on Iran will not make war more likely; it will make war less likely -- because the greater the pressure on Iran, the smaller the chance that force will ever have to be used.”
* “Ladies and gentlemen, peace is Israel’s highest aspiration. I’m prepared to make a historic peace with our Palestinian neighbors -- a peace that would end a century of conflict and bloodshed. Peace would be good for us. Peace would be good for the Palestinians and our Arab neighbors. “
* “The combination of Israeli innovation and Gulf entrepreneurship, to take one example, could catapult the entire region forward. I believe that together, we can resolve actually some of the region’s water and energy problems. You know, Israeli has half the rainfall we had 65 years ago. We have 10 times the population. Our GDP per capita has shot up. So we have half the rainfall, 10 times the population, and our water use goes up. And which country in the world doesn’t have water problems? Yep. Israel. Why? Because of technology, of innovation, of systems.”
* “Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state. President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state, and in doing so, you would be telling your people, the Palestinians, that while we might have a territorial dispute, the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute. So recognize the Jewish state. No excuses, no delays, it’s time.”
* “Countries and companies around the world -- Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, Yahoo – [They set up offices and R&D centers in Israel] because they want to benefit from Israel’s unique ingenuity, dynamism and innovation. And I could tell you the BDS boycott movement is not going to stop that any more than the Arab boycott movement could stop Israel from becoming a global technological power.”
* “Now, wait, wait. I don’t want you to get complacent -- because the fact that they’re going to fail doesn’t mean that the BDS movement shouldn’t be vigorously opposed. They should be opposed because they’re bad for peace and because BDS is just plain wrong.”
* “Most people in the BDS movement don’t seek a solution of two states for two peoples. On the contrary, they openly admit that they seek the dissolution of the only state for the Jewish people. They’re not seeking peace, they’re not seeking reconciliation. But some of their gullible fellow travelers actually do believe that BDS advances peace. Well, the opposite is true. BDS sets back peace because it hardens Palestinian positions and it makes mutual compromise less likely.”
* “But the BDS movement is not about legitimate criticism. It’s about making Israel illegitimate. It presents a distorted and twisted picture of Israel to the naive and to the ignorant. In dozens of countries academics are imprisoned for their beliefs. So the universities of which country does BDS want to sanction and boycott? Israel -- the one country in the Middle East where professors can say, write and teach what they want.”
* “Well, you shouldn’t be surprised. Throughout history, people believed the most outrageously absurd things about the Jews, that we were using the blood of children to bake matzos, that we were spreading the plague throughout Europe, that we were plotting to take over the world. Yeah, but you can say how can educated people, how could educated people today believe the nonsense spewed by BDS about Israel? Well, that shouldn’t surprise you either. Some of history’s most influential thinkers and writers -- Voltaire, Dostoyevsky, T.S. Eliot, many, many others -- spread the most preposterous lies about the Jewish people. It’s hard to shed prejudices that have been ingrained in consciousness over millennia. Today the singling out of the Jewish people has turned into the singling out of the Jewish state.”
* “Everyone should know what the letters B-D-S really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty and shame. And those who -- those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, they should be applauded. Scarlett, I have one thing to say to you: Frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn. And I know all of you give a damn, as do decent people everywhere who reject hypocrisy and lies and cherish integrity and truth.”
Netanyahu’s speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference
March 4, 2014
I bring you greetings from Jerusalem, the eternal, undivided capital of Israel and the Jewish people.
I want to thank all of you for working so tirelessly to strengthen the alliance between Israel and America. American support for Israel and for that alliance is at an all-time high. And I can tell you that there is no country on earth that is more pro-American than Israel.
So I want to thank the leaders of AIPAC, the officers of AIPAC, the 14,000 delegates of AIPAC, the members of Congress, the members of the Israeli government -- Tzipi Livni, Limor Livnat, Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Minister Elkin, members of the Knesset -- and our two able ambassadors, the ambassador of Israel to the United States, Ron Dermer -- and the ambassador of the United States to Israel, Dan Shapiro, and our U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor. Everyone, I want to thank you all for safeguarding and nurturing the most precious alliance in the world, the alliance between Israel and the United States of America.
My friends, I’ve come here to draw a clear line.
You know that I like to draw lines -- especially red ones. But the line I want to draw today is the line between life and death, between right and wrong, between the blessings of a brilliant future and the curses of a dark past.
I stood very close to that dividing line two weeks ago. I visited an Israeli army field hospital in the Golan Heights. Now, that field hospital wasn’t set up for Israelis. It was set up for Syrians. Israelis treated nearly a thousand wounded Syrians -- men, women and a lot of children. They come to our border fence bleeding and desperate. Often they’re near death.
And on my visit I met two such Syrians, a shell-shocked father and his badly wounded 5-year-old boy. A few days earlier the man’s wife and baby daughter were blown to bits by Iranian bombs dropped by Assad’s air force. Now the grieving father was holding his little boy in his arms, and Israeli doctors were struggling to save the boy’s life.
I heard from them and from the other patients there what all the Syrians who’ve come to be treated in Israel are saying. They all tell the same story. They say, all these years, Assad lied to us. He told us that Iran was our friend and Israel was our enemy. But Iran is killing us, and Israel, Israel is saving us.
Those Syrians discovered what you’ve always known to be true: In the Middle East, bludgeoned by butchery and barbarism, Israel is humane; Israel is compassionate; Israel is a force for good.
That border, that runs a hundred yards east of that field hospital, is the dividing line between decency and depravity, between compassion and cruelty. On the one side stands Israel, animated by the values we cherish, values that move us to treat sick Palestinians, thousands of them, from Gaza. They come to our hospitals. We treat them despite the fact that terrorists from Gaza hurl thousands of rockets at our cities.
It’s those same values that inspires Israeli medics and rescuers to rush to the victims of natural disasters across the world, to Haiti, to Turkey, to Japan, the Philippines, to many other stricken lands.
Now, on the other side of that moral divide, steeped in blood and savagery, stand the forces of terror -- Iran, Assad, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and many others. Did you ever hear about Syria sending a field hospital anywhere? Did you ever hear about Iran sending a humanitarian delegation overseas? No? You missed that memo? You know why? You know why you haven’t heard anything about that? Because the only thing that Iran sends abroad are rockets, terrorists and missiles to murder, maim and menace the innocent.
And what the -- what the Iranian people -- or rather, what the Iranian regime does abroad is just as -- is similar to what they do to their own people. They execute hundreds of political prisoners, they throw thousands more into their jails, and they repress millions in a brutal theocracy.
If you want to understand the moral divide that separates Israel from its enemies, just listen to Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, Iran’s terror proxy in Lebanon.
He said this. He said: Iran and Hezbollah love death and Israel loves life.
And that’s why, he said, Iran and Hezbollah will win and Israel will lose.
Well, he’s right about the first point. They do glorify death, and we do sanctify life. But he’s dead wrong on the second point. It’s precisely because we love life that Israel shall win.
In the past year Iran’s radical regime has tried to blur this moral divide. It wields out its smiling president and its smooth-talking foreign minister. But if you listen to their words, their soothing words, they don’t square with Iran’s aggressive actions.
Iran says it only wants a peaceful nuclear program. So why is it building a heavy water reactor, which has no purpose in a peaceful nuclear program? Iran says it has nothing to hide. So why does it ban inspectors from its secret military sites? Why doesn’t it divulge its military nuclear secret -- the secrets of its military nuclear activities? They absolutely refuse to say a word about that. Iran says it’s not building nuclear weapons. So why does it continue to build ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads?
See, unlike Scud missiles, that are limited to a range of a few hundred miles, ICBMs can cross vast oceans. And they can strike, right now or very soon, the eastern seaboard of the United States -- Washington -- and very soon after that, everywhere else in the United States, up to L.A.
And the important point to make is this: Iran’s missiles can already reach Israel, so those ICBMs that they’re building, they’re not intended for us. You remember that beer commercial, “this Bud’s for you”? Well, when you see Iran building ICBMs, just remember, America, that Scud’s for you.
Now, it’s not only that -- only the Americans got that joke. It’s not only that Iran doesn’t walk the walk. In the last few weeks, they don’t even bother to talk the talk. Iran’s leaders say they won’t dismantle a single centrifuge, they won’t discuss their ballistic missile program. And guess what tune they’re singing in Tehran? It’s not “God Bless America,” it’s “death to America.” And they chant this as brazenly as ever. Some charm offensive.
And here’s my point. Iran continues to stand unabashedly on the wrong side of the moral divide. And that’s why we must continue to stand unequivocally on the right side of that divide. We must oppose Iran and stand up for what is right.
My friends, yesterday I met with President Obama, with Vice President Biden, with Secretary Kerry and with the leaders of the U.S. Congress. We had very good meetings. I thanked them for their strong support for Israel -- for our security, including in the vital area of missile defense.
I said that the greatest threat to our common security is that of a nuclear-armed Iran. We must prevent Iran from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons. And I want to reiterate that point. Not just to prevent them from having the weapon, but to prevent them from having the capacity to make the weapon. That means we must dismantle Iran’s heavy water reactor and its underground enrichment facilities. We must get rid of Iran’s centrifuges and its stockpiles of enriched uranium and we must insist that Iran fully divulge the military dimensions of its nuclear program.
Now 17 countries around the world have peaceful nuclear energy programs. They’re doing this without spending centrifuges, without enriching uranium, without operating heavy water facilities and without conducting military nuclear research.
You know why Iran insists on doing all these things that the other peaceful countries don’t do? It’s because Iran doesn’t want a peaceful nuclear program, Iran wants a military nuclear program.
I said it here once, I’ll say it here again: If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it?
(Audience members: A duck.)
Well, it ain’t a chicken --- and it’s certainly not a dove. It’s still a nuclear duck. Unfortunately, the leading powers of the world are talking about leaving Iran with the capability to enrich uranium.
I hope they don’t do that because that would be a grave error. It would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power. It would enable Iran to rapidly develop nuclear weapons at a time when the world’s attention is focused elsewhere. And we see, as we speak, that that could happen. In one part of the world today, tomorrow in another part -- maybe North Korea.
So just remember what Rouhani wrote a few years ago. He wrote this in a rare moment of candor. He said: If a country can enrich uranium, even to a low level, it can effectively produce nuclear weapons. Precisely. And leaving Iran as a threshold nuclear power, would deliver a death-blow to nonproliferation. Iran is an outlaw state. It’s violated multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting enrichment.
If we allow this outlaw terrorist state to enrich uranium, how could we seriously demand that any other country not enrich uranium?
My friends, I believe that letting Iran enrich uranium would open up the floodgates. It really would open up a Pandora’s box of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the world. That must not happen. And we will make sure it does not happen.
Because letting the worst terrorist regime on the planet get atomic bombs would endanger everyone, and it certainly would endanger Israel since Iran openly calls for our destruction.
70 years ago, our people, the Jewish people, were left for dead. We came back to life. We will never be brought to the brink of extinction again.
As prime minister as Israel, I will do whatever I must do to defend the Jewish state of Israel.
You know, I’m often -- I’m often asked whether Israel truly wants diplomacy to succeed, and my answer is, of course we want diplomacy to succeed, because no country has a greater interest in the peaceful elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat. But this threat -- this threat will not be eliminated by just any agreement, only by an agreement which requires Iran to fully dismantle its military nuclear capability.
Now you know how you get that agreement with Iran? Not by relieving pressure but by adding pressure. Pressure is what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and only more pressure will get to abandon their nuclear weapons program. Greater pressure on Iran will not make war more likely; it will make war less likely -- because the greater the pressure on Iran, the greater the pressure on Iran and more credible the threat of force on Iran, the smaller the chance that force will ever have to be used.
Ladies and gentlemen, peace is Israel’s highest aspiration. I’m prepared to make a historic peace with our Palestinian neighbors -- a peace that would end a century of conflict and bloodshed. Peace would be good for us. Peace would be good for the Palestinians. But peace would also open up the possibility of establishing formal ties between Israel and leading countries in the Arab world.
Many Arab leaders -- and believe me, this is a fact, not a hypothesis, it’s a fact -- many Arab leaders today already realize that Israel is not their enemy, that peace with the Palestinians would turn our relations with them and with many Arab countries into open and thriving relationships.
The combination of Israeli innovation and Gulf entrepreneurship, to take one example -- I think this combination could catapult the entire region forward. I believe that together, we can resolve actually some of the region’s water and energy problems. You know, Israeli has half the rainfall we had 65 years ago. We have 10 times the population. Our GDP has shot up, thank God -- GDP per capita, up. So we have half the rainfall, 10 times the population, and our water use goes up. And which country in the world doesn’t have water problems? Yep. Israel.
Why? Because of technology, of innovation, of systems. We could make that available to our Arab neighbors throughout the region that is not exactly blessed with water. We could solve the water problems. We could solve the energy problems. We could improve agriculture. We could improve education with e-learning, health with diagnostics on the Internet. All of that is possible. We could better the lives of hundreds of millions. So we all have so much to gain from peace.
That’s why I want to thank the indomitable John Kerry. You know, New York and Tel-Aviv, they’re the cities that never sleep. John Kerry is definitely the secretary of state who never sleeps.
And I’ve got the bags under my eyes to prove it. We’re working together, literally day and night, to seek a durable peace, a peace anchored in solid security arrangements and the mutual recognition of two nation-states.
Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people -- where the civil rights of all citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, are guaranteed. The land of Israel is the place where the identity of the Jewish people was forged.
It was in Hebron that Abraham blocked the cave of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs. It was in Bethel that Jacob dreamed his dreams. It was in Jerusalem that David ruled his kingdom. We never forget that, but it’s time the Palestinians stopped denying history.
Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state. President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state, and in doing so, you would be telling your people, the Palestinians, that while we might have a territorial dispute, the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute.
You would be telling Palestinians to abandon the fantasy of flooding Israel with refugees, or amputating parts of the Negev and the Galilee. In recognizing the Jewish state, you would finally making clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict. So recognize the Jewish state. No excuses, no delays, it’s time.
Now, my friends, it may take years, it may take decades for this formal acceptance of Israel to filter down through all layers of Palestinian society. So if this piece is to be more than a brief interlude between wars, Israel needs long-term security arrangements on the ground to protect the peace and to protect Israel if the peace unravels. You see, those security arrangements would always be important, but they’re even more important and critical today when the entire Middle East is unraveling. Three years ago, our region was a very different place. Can anyone sitting here, anyone listening to us, can anyone tell me and be sure what the Middle East will look like five, 10, 20 years from now? We cannot bet the security of Israel on our fondest hopes.
You know, in the Middle East, that’s usually a losing bet. We should always hope for the best, but in the Middle East we have to be prepared for the worst. And despite the best of hopes, international peacekeeping forces sent to Lebanon, Gaza, Sinai, the Golan Heights, they didn’t prevent those areas from becoming armed strongholds against Israel.
If we reach an agreement, as I hope, with the Palestinians, I don’t delude myself. That peace will most certainly come under attack -- constant attack by Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda and others. And experience has shown that foreign peacekeepers -- foreign peacekeeping forces, well, that they keep the peace only when there is peace.
But when they’re subjected to repeated attacks, those forces eventually go home. So as long as the peace is under assault, the only force that can be relied on to defend the peace and defend Israel is the force defending its own home -- the Israeli Army, the brave soldiers of the IDF.
I’m going to reveal to you a secret. This position may not win me universal praise.
That occasionally happens when I state our positions. But I’m charged with protecting the security of my people, the people of Israel. And I will never gamble with the security of the one and only Jewish state.
So as we work in the coming days, in the coming weeks, to forge a durable peace, I hope that the Palestinian leadership will stand with Israel and the United States on the right side of the moral divide, the side of peace, reconciliation and hope.
My friends, one movement that’s definitely on the wrong side of the moral divide is the movement to boycott Israel, the so-called BDS. That movement will fail.
Let me tell you why. I want to explain to you why.
Beyond our traditional trading partners, countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, where I’ll soon be going to, these countries are flocking to Israel. They’re not coming to Israel; they’re flocking to Israel.
They want Israeli technology to help transform their countries as it has ours. And it’s not just the small countries that are coming to Israel, it’s also the superpowers. You know, the other superpowers: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, Yahoo. They come because they want to benefit from Israel’s unique ingenuity, dynamism and innovation.
And I could tell you the BDS boycott movement is not going to stop that any more than the Arab boycott movement could stop Israel from becoming a global technological power. They are going to fail. And in the knowledge based century, the knowledge based economy, Israel’s best economic day are ahead of it. Mark my words.
Now, wait, wait. I don’t want you to get complacent -- because the fact that they’re going to fail doesn’t mean that the BDS movement shouldn’t be vigorously opposed. They should be opposed because they’re bad for peace and because BDS is just plain wrong.
Most people in the BDS movement don’t seek a solution of two states for two peoples. On the contrary, they openly admit that they seek the dissolution of the only state for the Jewish people. They’re not seeking peace, they’re not seeking reconciliation. But some of their gullible fellow travelers actually do believe that BDS advances peace.
Well, the opposite is true. BDS sets back peace because it hardens Palestinian positions and it makes mutual compromise less likely.
But I think these are all important points, but not the critical important. The critical thing is that BDS is morally wrong. It turns morality on its head. This is the main point. And I can tell you, it’s not that Israel, like all states, is not beyond criticism. We have a boisterous democracy where everyone has an opinion. And believe me, no one in Israel is shy about expressing it -- about anything. In Israel, self-criticism is on steroids.
But the BDS movement is not about legitimate criticism. It’s about making Israel illegitimate. It presents a distorted and twisted picture of Israel to the naive and to the ignorant. BDS is nothing but a farce. Here’s why, listen: In dozens of countries academics are imprisoned for their beliefs. So the universities of which country does BDS want to sanction and boycott? Israel -- the one country in the Middle East where professors can say, write and teach what they want.
Throughout the Middle East, Christians are fleeing for their lives. So which country does BDS want churches to divest from? You got it -- Israel, the one country in the Middle East that protects Christians and protects the right of worship for everyone.
Throughout the Middle East -- throughout the Middle East, journalists are jailed, gays are hanged and women are denied their most basic rights. So which country does BDS want to sanction? Take a guess. Israel -- the only country in the region with a free press, a progressive gays’ rights record and where women have presided over each of the three branches of government.
Now, when you hear this -- and anybody can verify this -- so you have to wonder, how could anyone fall for the BS in BDS? How can they fall for this?
Well, you shouldn’t be surprised. Throughout history, people believed the most outrageously absurd things about the Jews, that we were using the blood of children to bake matzos, that we were spreading the plague throughout Europe, that we were plotting to take over the world. Yeah, but you can say how can educated people, how could educated people today believe the nonsense spewed by BDS about Israel? Well, that shouldn’t surprise you either. Some of history’s most influential thinkers and writers -- Voltaire, Dostoyevsky, T.S. Eliot, many, many others -- spread the most preposterous lies about the Jewish people. It’s hard to shed prejudices that have been ingrained in consciousness over millennia.
And from antiquity to the Middle Ages to modern times, Jews were boycotted, discriminated against and singled out.
Today the singling out of the Jewish people has turned into the singling out of the Jewish state. So you see, attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on Earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti- Semitism. Those who wear -- those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned. The boycotters should be boycotted.
Everyone should know what the letters B-D-S really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty and shame. And those who -- those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, they should be applauded.
Scarlett, I have one thing to say to you: Frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn. And I know all of you give a damn, as do decent people everywhere who reject hypocrisy and lies and cherish integrity and truth.
My friends, on behalf of the people of Israel, I bring you message from Jerusalem, the cradle of our common civilization, the crucible of our shared values. It’s a message from the Bible. (In Hebrew.) I have put before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life so that you and your offspring may live.
Ladies and gentlemen, my friends, never forget -- America and Israel stand for life. We stand together on the right side of the moral divide. We stand together on the right side of history. So stand tall, stand strong, stand proud. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you all. Keep doing a great job. Thank you.