Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

BDS activist moves in with IDF soldier, Pharrell targeted after singing “Happy”, & Airbnb’s selective boycott

November 26, 2018

 

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaks at an event in San Francisco in February 2018. Under pressure from a well-orchestrated campaign by Human Rights Watch and others, Airbnb announced last week that it will boycott Jewish-owned apartments in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city, and in Judea. Airbnb won’t be boycotting Northern Cyprus, Tibet, Crimea, Western Sahara, and other disputed territories throughout the world.

 

Pharrell Williams gave a speech against anti-Semitism and for Israel, angering anti-Israeli groups, before singing his hit sensation “Happy”

 

CONTENTS

1. Pharrell Williams helps raise $60 million for IDF, angering anti-Israeli groups
2. Gerard Butler’s house burns down in California wildfires, anti-Israel activists celebrate
3. BDS supporter ends up falling in love with IDF soldier, moves to Israel
4. British parliament welcomes Jordanian who welcomed murder of Israeli schoolgirls
5. Anti-Semitic chants followed by rioting among Argentinean football fans
6. FIFA encourages Qatar to share 2022 World Cup with Saudi Arabia, Iran
7. Airbnb won’t be boycotting Northern Cyprus, Tibet, Crimea, Western Sahara
8. “Airbnb’s ban on Israeli settlements is shameful” (The Spectator)
9. “Boycott Airbnb, unless you’re good with anti-Semitism” (Haaretz)
10. “Airbnb’s act of corporate anti-Semitism” (New York Post)

 

PHARRELL WILLIAMS HELPS RAISE $60 MILLION FOR IDF, ANGERING ANTI-ISRAELI GROUPS

[Notes below by Tom Gross]

Anti-Israel groups say they are furious with Pharrell Williams for performing at this month’s gala in Los Angeles to raise money for the well being of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops, including those injured.

Pharrell Williams performed his hit song “Happy” after giving a speech, the Hollywood newspaper Variety reports.

In his speech he also condemned the recent Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Williams said, “What happened in that synagogue was incredibly cruel, it was wrong, and it’s not supposed to be what our nation is. This group of people have been tested over and over and over again … but you guys show an incredible resilience.”

While Pharrell is a supporter of Israel, he does not want to be associated too closely with Donald Trump. The music paper NME reports that his lawyers recently sent Donald Trump a cease and desist letter over the president’s use of “Happy” at rallies.

***

Please see here for Middle East renditions of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” from Tel Aviv, Gaza, Beirut and Tehran:

Video dispatch 22: And on a happier note… Jerusalem. Tel Aviv. Beirut. Gaza. Tehran. Happy.

Those who sung the song in Iran were swiftly arrested and beaten by President Rouhani’s regime:

Happy in Gaza (& arrested for being happy in Tehran) (& Disabled Saudi tweet)

 

GERARD BUTLER’S HOUSE BURNS DOWN IN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES, ANTI-ISRAEL ACTIVISTS CELEBRATE

The IDF Gala dinner was attended by a number of other celebrities in addition to Pharrell Williams.

These included Scottish actor Gerard Butler (who regular visits Israel and says it is one of his favorite countries), Ziggy Marley, Andy Garcia, and Ashton Kutcher, whose wife Mila Kunis says she fled Ukraine where she was born because of severe anti-Semitism there.

After Gerard Butler’s house was destroyed in the California wildfires earlier this month, a host of anti-Israel activists took to twitter to attack him over his support for Israel, some making fun of the fact he had lost his house.

 

BDS SUPPORTER ENDS UP FALLING IN LOVE WITH IDF SOLDIER, MOVES TO ISRAEL

Not all those who travel to Israel in order to campaign against Israeli Jews end up sticking with their prejudices once they visit.

A female BDS (anti-Israel) activist, Jess Balding, has fallen in love with a female Israeli soldier and converted to Judaism, reports Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper. Balding has now moved to Israel and says she now wants to study to be a rabbi.

Her new Israeli partner Roni Sidon made an Israeli TV show about five “super hero lesbians”.

 

BRITISH PARLIAMENT WELCOMES JORDANIAN WHO PRAISED MURDER OF ISRAELI SCHOOLGIRLS

A Jordanian Member of Parliament who has continued to praise the murder of seven Israeli schoolgirls aged 13 and 14 in 1997, was welcomed in the British House of Commons reports the (London) Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Dima Tahboub, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, attended the “Women MPs of the World Conference”, alongside the Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

Tahboub, who has a PhD from Manchester University, celebrated the murderer’s release from prison last year calling him a “hero”.

Exiled Jordanian liberal pro-democracy dissident Mudar Zahran told the Mail: “By hosting Tahboub, the British Establishment was either knowingly or unknowingly endorsing hatred and terrorism.”

 

ANTI-SEMITIC CHANTS FOLLOWED BY RIOTING AMONG ARGENTINEAN FOOTBALL FANS

Argentinean soccer fans chanted “Kill Jews to make soap” at a game on Thursday between the Buenos Aires teams “All Boys” and “Atlanta”. The Atlanta soccer team was founded more than a century ago in a Jewish neighborhood and is associated with the local Jewish community, even though today it is a local team with no special connection to the Jewish community.

The “All boys” fans also waved Palestinian flags and wore T-shirts with the Iranian flag at the game.

Argentina, one of the world’s great soccer nations, is currently bidding to host the 2030 World Cup. The bid has been marred by controversy following horrific rioting on the streets of Buenos Aires, before the Copa Libertadores final (between Boca Juniors and River Plate) at the weekend, that resulted in players, police and fans being injured and the match being postponed.

Jewish groups have called on the Argentine Football Association to take firm, action against anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and incitement to violence.

 

FIFA ENCOURAGES QATAR TO SHARE 2022 WORLD CUP WITH SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN

The FIFA World soccer president, Gianni Infantino, has again proposed that the 2022 Qatar World Cup be expanded from 32 teams to 48, and said some of the additional matches should then be shared among neighboring countries hostile to the hosts Qatar.

While acknowledging that the chances of it happening are not great, he said he believed football can help heal political hostilities, which led last year to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt enforcing an economic blockade on Qatar.

“Maybe football is a way to build bridges. We have seen as well with the bidding for 2026, the right to organize the World Cup was awarded to three countries [the USA, Canada and Mexico] which I think also don’t have the very best political or diplomatic relationships. But football makes miracles, as we know,” Infantino told The Guardian.

“When it comes to football people talk to each other,” he said.

***

Tom Gross adds:

I wrote an article in The Guardian in 2014 suggesting Qatar move the 2022 World Cup to Gaza, as a method of improving economic conditions in Gaza, giving Gazans pride, and encouraging peace. I suggested that some matches also be played in the West Bank, Israel and Egypt.

Presumably if FIFA now allows Qatar’s neighboring countries, including Iran, to share Qatar’s World Cup, it will insist those countries allow in Israeli players and fans.

 

AIRBNB WON’T BE BOYCOTTING NORTHERN CYPRUS, TIBET, CRIMEA, WESTERN SAHARA…

There is continuing anger in Israel and elsewhere that Airbnb caved in to a well orchestrated campaign funded by European NGOs, the US-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Human Rights Watch, to boycott Jewish-owned homes in Judea and Samaria (which in recent decades has been called the West Bank by many people.)

Last week, Airbnb announced it was “removing listings” in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank.” Airbnb’s boycott will include the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City by the Western Wall.

There are about 200 other disputed regions in the world but Airbnb will not be boycotting any of these others (for example, Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, Chinese-occupied Tibet, Crimea, Moroccan occupied Western Sahara, and so on).

I attach three articles on the subject below.

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLES

AIRBNB’S BAN ON ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS IS SHAMEFUL

Airbnb’s ban on Israeli settlements is shameful
By Brendan O’Neill
The Spectator
22 November 2018

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/11/airbnbs-ban-on-israeli-settlements-is-shameful

So alongside being the only country that pop stars refuse to play in, and the only country whose academics are boycotted on Western campuses, and the only country whose dancers and violinists cannot perform in cities like London without gangs of people screaming them down, and the only country whose produce is routinely avoided by luvvies and liberals, now Israel is the only country that has been politically punished by holiday app cum conscience of the Twitterati, Airbnb.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/02/jackie-kemp-batsheva-dance-group-shamesful-barracking

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entertainment-arts14765981/bbc-proms-disrupted-by-anti-israeli-protests

Airbnb has taken the extraordinary decision to stop advertising homes for rent in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It is extraordinary because Airbnb still advertises places to stay in Tibet, a place many Tibetans consider to be unjustly dominated by China. And in Crimea, recently annexed by Russia. And in Northern Cyprus, a Turkish-ruled statelet since the mid-1970s, which only Turkey recognises as a legitimate state, and to which Turkey has sent huge numbers of settlers in recent decades. Why are Turkish settlers less offensive to the Western conscience than Jewish ones? Why is it OK to rent a holiday apartment in Turkish-settled Northern Cyprus but not in Israeli-settled parts of the West Bank? Anyone?

What’s more, you can still get Airbnb places in countries which in recent years have executed far worse acts of war and militarism than Israel has. Saudi Arabia, for example, which has plunged Yemen into one of the most barbaric crises of humanity of recent decades: no Airbnb pangs of conscience about doing business in Saudi. And in Turkey, whose recent treatment of Kurds in Syria, and in Turkey itself of course, has been bloody and chilling. But never mind all that — roll up, roll up, get yourself an Airbnb hangout in the state that has repressed and murdered huge numbers of Kurds!

It is only Israeli-claimed territory that is singled out. It is only Jewish settlements that are punished. It is only apartments being offered for rent by Jewish people who believe in the idea of Greater Israel that are delisted. Only those people. But we shouldn’t be surprised. It is always only those people. Israel is always singled out. It is treated by right-on Westerners as being more wicked, more toxic, more evil and more destructive than any other state on Earth. That is why they boycott it, rage about it and take to the streets about it in a way they never do about Turkey, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. They hate Israel more than any other place. The question is: why?

Their attempts to answer this question of why are spectacularly unconvincing. ‘Our governments support Israel, so we have a special responsibility to kick up a fuss about this’, they say. Our governments support the Turks and Saudis too. ‘The Israeli conflict is an old and bloody one and deserves our attention’, they insist. The Turk-Kurd conflict is old and bloody too. ‘Palestinians are asking us to take these kinds of actions against Israel’, they protest. The Kurds would also like some solidarity, only you can’t hear them over the din of your obsessive, myopic loathing of Israel above every other state. Their attempts to explain why — why they loathe Israel so much — only makes the whole thing more mysterious.

And then they wonder why some people think there is a whiff of anti-Semitism to this peculiarly passionate contempt for Israel and for every piece of fruit, piece of art and piece of academic literature it produces. They wonder why some people think the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is an increasingly thin one and that perhaps the special hatred for Israel might have echoes of the older special hatred for Those People.

‘It is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel!’, they say. And they are absolutely right. Every single nation and government should be up for debate, ridicule, protest. But we aren’t talking about straightforward criticism of Israel here. We are talking about the singling out of Israel above all nations for a ceaseless and intense programme of boycotting, protesting and hysterical accusations, primarily that Israel is ‘genocidal’, ‘apartheid’, ‘racist’. Show me the gathering of 100,000 people in London who said those things about Saudi Arabia and then I’ll buy the idea that Israel is just being criticised as all other states are criticised.

It is becoming so clear: hating Israel is now second nature in certain Western political circles and this is unquestionably stoking up prejudice. If you treat the Jewish State as nastier and more insane than any other state, then please do not feign surprise when anti-Jewish sentiment increases. If the Jewish State and Jewish settlers horrify you infinitely more than, say, the Turkish state and Turkish settlers, then please don’t cry crocodile tears over the return of anti-Semitism to Europe and elsewhere. If the militarism of the Jewish State gets you on to the streets but the militarism of the Turkish state doesn’t, then please do not wonder why so many people seem to have a particular problem with Jews and Jewish things these days.

It looks increasingly ridiculous to deny that respectable Westerners’ singling out of the Jewish State for special punishment is stoking racist Westerners’ singling out of the Jewish people for special hatred.

 

“BOYCOTT AIRBNB, UNLESS YOU’RE GOOD WITH ANTI-SEMITISM”

Boycott Airbnb, unless you’re good with anti-Semitism
Even if you fiercely oppose settlements, you should still be able to see that denying Jews rights that you don’t seek to deny to others, is bias. That bias is anti-Semitism
By Jonathan Tobin
Haaretz
November 21, 2018

Are Israel and its supporters making too much of Airbnb’s ban on listings in the West Bank?

The home rental company’s decision to single out the settlements provoked a furious (and ongoing) attack from Israel’s government. Legal action against Airbnb is being threatened and Zionist activists are already urging Jews to boycott the company for what they believe is a decision that not only gives a victory to the BDS movement but reeks of anti-Semitism, and a capitulation to anti-Semitic threats. Some on the right have gone as far as to accuse Airbnb of desiring a “Judenfrei West Bank.”

In response, critics of the settlements within Israel and Diaspora communities are snickering at what strikes them as a disproportionate response.

As David Rosenberg noted in Haaretz, an attempt to boycott Airbnb in retaliation for its ban on settlement listings is likely to hurt Israelis who use the service and might impact tourism to the Jewish state.

Critics of the government response also say that the pushback against anti-settlement measures is nothing more than an attempt to blur the distinction between Israel within its internationally-recognized pre-June 1967 borders and the territories that just about everyone outside of Israel considers to be illegally occupied.

Even more to the point, they consider the argument that BDS activity is anti-Semitic, especially when it is restricted to efforts to isolate the settlements, subordinates the interests of all Jews to those of the settlement lobby.

But the problem with these arguments is that once you accept the principle that those who treat Israel differently from other countries can do so with impunity, you are treading on a dangerous path that ultimately legitimizes even more serious forms of discrimination against the Jewish state and Jews.

Airbnb’s statement on the issue of “listings in disputed regions” says its criteria for banning a region rest on points such as “safety risks for hosts and guests,” whether the existence of listings is “contributing to existing human suffering,” if the “existence of listings in the occupied territory has a direct connection to the larger dispute in the region.”

To give itself a pass on double standards it also makes it clear that each dispute “is unique and must be judged on a case by case situation.”

It is debatable whether West Bank settlements fit all of those criteria, since a stay in a settlement would probably expose a visitor to a lower risk of crime or injury than to those who stay in any major Western city.

However, there is no question that settlements are connected to the conflict even if - contrary to the stance of many of Israel’s critics - they are not the only or main obstacles to peace.

Palestinians believe the settlements cause suffering because ensuring the security of the Jews who live there creates problems for their neighbors. But that argument is undermined when you realize that the hassles for Palestinians are the result of terrorism, rooted in the fact that the presence of Jews in their midst is viewed as an indignity that must not be tolerated and should be resisted by violence.

As Airbnb’s critics, such as Deputy Minister Michael Oren, have pointed out, singling out settlements for a ban when the company doesn’t extend the same policy to other disputed territories employs a double standard that is a clear act of prejudice.

Using the company’s criteria, the only distinction between the settlements and Turkish-occupied Cyprus, Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara or Russian-occupied Crimea is that the only nation Airbnb saw fit to discard from its network is the only Jewish state on the planet.

But it is no compliment to Israel to be compared to those nations, even if Israel insists that the West Bank is disputed territory, rather than belonging to the Palestinians, though no other countries accept that argument.

Yet even if Israelis don’t like that comparison, Airbnb’s actions were prompted by a pressure campaign orchestrated by anti-Zionist groups such as Code Pink and various Palestinian groups that view a Jewish state within any borders as illegitimate.

Even if you oppose settlements, the spectacle of such groups working in coordination with the United Nations Human Rights Council to single out Israel in this fashion, when they ignore other territorial disputes, should remind us that there is more at stake here than the potential impact of settlers’ bank balances.

As with so much else that revolves around BDS activism, it is impossible to separate their activities from the persistent strain of anti-Semitism that seems to motivate those involved.

To deny to Jews rights that you don’t seek to deny to others is bias. And bias against Jews is anti-Semitism. The fact that Airbnb will only prohibit listings posted by Jews and not Arabs in the West Bank gives that argument credence since, in doing so, Airbnb is discarding any notion of neutrality in the conflict.

Noting the double standard is important. That is not because it is the obligation of all Jews to defend settlements, but because once one form of discrimination is legitimized, it isn’t a stretch to see the same standard applied across the board to all of Israel. That is especially true since many of those behind the pressure on Airbnb see no distinction between Tel Aviv and the most remote West Bank settlement.

Whatever its origins, in its current form BDS is indistinguishable from efforts to demonize the Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of the future of the settlements, those companies that succumb to BDS campaigns are granting a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve to a movement whose goal is antithetical to any hope for peace - as well as undermining the struggle against anti-Semitism.

Under those circumstances it is entirely reasonable for Jews and friends of Israel to conclude that using one of Airbnb’s competitors will send it a message that bowing to BDS - even only with respect to settlements - should not be tolerated.

 

AIRBNB’S ACT OF CORPORATE ANTI-SEMITISM

Airbnb’s act of corporate anti-Semitism
By David Harsanyi
New York Post
November 21, 2018

Airbnb says: No Jews allowed. The apartment-sharing service has sided against Israel by banning and delisting the apartments of peaceful Jewish civilians living in Judea and Samaria. And that’s not even the worst part.

Nor is the worst part that Airbnb is helping propel the destructive myth that Jews would abandon their claim to the disputed West Bank if only there were enough international pressure.

No, the worst part is that Airbnb has singled out Jews, and only Jews, as the one group in the world that is worthy of such censure. That’s what makes its boycott a naked act of corporate anti-Semitism.

Airbnb says an entire team “struggled to come up with the right approach.” And the right approach evidently was to bar Jews from listing the apartments and homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Airbnb is only targeting Jews — not the present government of Israel or the “Zionists” or any political entity — who live on disputed land.

“Many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced,” reads an Airbnb blog post that sounds like it was written by some poli-sci freshman who just wrapped up his first Chomsky tome.

The “global community” is a euphemism for a conglomerate of theocrats and authoritarians, who use the Middle East’s sole democratic state as a distraction to deflect from their own transgressions. It also includes various Western Israel obsessives with misleading names like Human Rights Watch.

Bravo, Airbnb! You have now adopted the immoral hypocrisy of that community.

Because, don’t worry, you can still snag a “modern apartment studio” in the city-center of Sevastopol, Ukraine, annexed by Russia. And Airbnb will hook you up with a “Cozy Studio” near Gulshan-Baridhara in “Tibet, China” — formerly known simply as Tibet. Hey, the Turkish have been depopulating Kurdish towns for decades, but Airbnb is there for you.

If you want a place on the Gaza Strip, where the state fires hundreds of rockets at Jewish civilians to cheers of the populace, no problem. I mean, Hamas’ charter might say that there’s “no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad,” but for 55 dollars a night, Airbnb has a solution for the discerning traveler.

The company claims that its decision was evaluated on “whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering.” Yet in countries with stateless minorities and oppressive regimes, a two-bedroom within walking distance of your favorite tourist attraction is almost surely available.

The notion that a glorified rental board believes it can ease human suffering is amusing. Jews will figure out a way to rent their homes. But the ideas Airbnb is helping normalize — namely, those of the anti-Jewish boycott, divest and sanction movement — are serious. Airbnb wants a Judenfrei West Bank. In no other region in the world, and with no other conflict and no other ethnicity, race or faith, would Americans openly accept this kind of prejudice.

It’s a mystery if the crack Airbnb team knows that Jews were forced out of the West Bank when seven Arab armies (and other paramilitary groups) attacked in 1948. It seems unlikely that the firm is aware that hundreds of thousands of Jews were displaced from Muslim nations in the years that followed Israel’s creation. Many of those nations continue to oppress and displace indigenous Christians, and Airbnb continues to do business with them.

Jews would retake the West Bank in 1967, after a number of Arab armies gave it another shot. Since that day, Israel has countless times offered autonomy and nationhood to the people living in vast swaths of that land in exchange for peace. The only reason Jews live in self-contained communities in the West Bank is because Palestinian authorities do nothing to stop the violence aimed at civilians. Actually, Palestinian authorities often spur the violence, not only threatening anyone who sells real estate to Jews but rewarding the families of their murderers with cash.

Now, unless you’re a Canaanite, your claim to live in the West Bank is a complex one. It’s unlikely the team at Airbnb is going to unfurl the problem in any coherent way. So it’s probably best to stay out of it. Because you might end up looking like world-class hypocrites. Or worse, a bunch of anti-Semites.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

What other country in the world would put up with this?

November 13, 2018

 

Many Israelis have an app on their phone that warns them of impending rocket attack, giving them a few seconds to try and take cover.

Above is an example from this morning.

Rockets are flying into southern Israel almost every minute, as the Hamas terror organization, using in part diverted European and Qatari aid money, continues to build an arsenal of rockets to try and indiscriminately kill and maim Israelis.

 

 

RECORD NUMBER OF HAMAS ROCKET ATTACKS IN A SINGLE DAY

[Note by Tom Gross]

Yesterday at least 20 Israelis were injured in the largest ever number of rocket attacks in a single day by the Hamas terror organization. And yet there has been very little reporting of this in the international media, and even where there has been coverage it has often been inaccurate. (Serious reporting will only start when Israel finally starts to defend itself, in order to then portray Hamas as the victims.)

Over 400 rockets have been fired into Israel in the last 24 hours. Houses, buses and shops have been hit in many locations in southern Israel. One man was killed by a rocket that partially destroyed an apartment building. An Israeli 19-year-old is in critical condition. Other Israeli children were injured as rockets slammed into homes. An elderly woman was also seriously injured. One dog in Israel died of injuries from a Hamas rocket. Prime Minister Netanyahu is being criticized in Israel for his weak response.

Israeli casualties have not been far higher, thanks to the technologically amazing Iron Dome system shooting down many incoming rockets and people sheltering in underground bomb shelters. Schools in southern Israel are closed today as children are being told to stay in bomb shelters.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Four Israeli ministers visit Gulf states in a single week - and without headscarves (& ‘Mossad’ Bolsonaro sons)

November 10, 2018

 

This image of Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s sons, Eduardo and Carlos, sporting IDF and Mossad t-shirts on their visit to Israel, has gone viral.

Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro is strongly pro-Israel, and one of his promises during his recent election campaign was to move Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of several policies that has sparked anger on the Israeli and American Jewish far left.

Haaretz newspaper has been running a campaign against Bolsonaro, even including a massive banner headline “Hitler in Brasilia”, while the New York Times ran a top-of-the-page comment piece claiming “Swastikas have been painted on walls all over the city” [Sao Paulo].

I checked with two different trusted Brazilian Jewish friends of mine who live in Sao Paulo whether any of this might be true, and they wrote that this scaremongering was “nonsense” and that “Bolsonaro is genuine philo-Semite” and “his first foreign policy objective is to realign Brazil’s relations with Japan, Chile, Israel, and the US – at the expense of Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, and the Palestinian Authority”.

Tom Gross adds: Brazil is the most important country in South America, and the eighth largest economy in the world. The previous left-wing government of Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached on corruption charges, was very anti-Israel, even taking the rare step of refusing to approve Israel’s choice as ambassador, Danny Dayan, who instead became Israel’s Consul General in New York.

 

ISRAEL PROPOSES ‘PEACE RAILWAY’ AT CONFERENCE IN OMAN

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow up to the recent dispatch:
Netanyahu returns from secret, but official, trip to Oman (October 26, 2018)

***

On Wednesday, Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz became the fourth Likud party official in the space of a week, to receive a warm welcome in a Gulf Arab state with which Israel officially has no relations.

At the urging of the Trump administration and the Saudis, Katz was invited to a conference in Muscat attended by officials from across the Arab world, where he presented Israeli proposals for a new railway to link the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf states.

Katz said the “Tracks of Peace” rail project is “based on two central ideas: Israel as a land bridge and Jordan as a regional transportation hub”.

Katz said the project “is beyond political and ideological disagreements,” and would add tens of billions of dollars to regional trade.

Dozens of senior officials attended Katz’s speech, including transport ministers and ministry director generals from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Qatar, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, and Yemen.

The project envisages goods being shipped to the Middle East via Israel’s Mediterranean seaports. The goods would be transported via rail from Israel, through the West Bank, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and on to the Persian Gulf. The Netanyahu government has suggested that a large modern inland port be built in Jordan to handle regional trade, contributing significantly to the Jordanian economy.

Katz said the project would also help the Palestinian economy as well as other Arab economies and allow Sunni Gulf states to bypass security threats from Iran in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab.

Donald Trump’s Special Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said the US administration believed the proposal was a good idea.

 

ANTI-NETANYAHU MEDIA BEGIN TO TAKE NOTICE

The mainstream American media, which generally dislikes Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Likud party, has long argued – wrongly in my view, as I have written many times – that peace with the Palestinians can only come first rather than be arrived at as a result of a wider Arab-Israeli peace.

However, several previously hostile commentators have begun to notice that the leadership of almost the entire Arab world has long agreed with Netanyahu’s point of view, and that the refusal, year after year, of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel, let alone accept repeated offers of an independent Palestinian state, should not hold up their own relations with Israel.

Writing in The Atlantic last week, former Clinton Middle East advisor Aaron David Miller, noted that:

“Netanyahu and his right-wing government are reversing the notion that only peace with the Palestinians can ensure Israel’s acceptance into an angry and hostile Arab world.”

 

 

Note that Gulf Arab leaders seemed to have no problem with Miri Regev not wearing a headscarf (photo above, although they did blur out her legs from official photographs). And likewise the Israeli prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu was welcomed and shook hands with the Sultan of Oman without wearing a head covering (photo below).

By contrast, left-liberal European and American female politicians have often been overly deferential to Gulf Arab male leaders, thereby greatly disappointing Arab feminists and liberal reformers.

 

 

NO HEADSCARVES

Last week, Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev – one of the Israeli government’s most vocal hardliners, whose positions are to the right of Netanyahu – became the first senior Israeli official to visit Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, at the invitation of the country’s political and religious leadership.

She also attended the International Judo Federation’s Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi where Israeli athletes won two gold medals and the Israeli national anthem (HaTikva) was played and the Israeli flag raised.

Also notable about her visit is that her hosts did not mind that she didn’t wear a headscarf, and therefore she became just about the first prominent visiting female politician not to do so (in contrast to female European politicians, Hillary Clinton, and others, who donned head scarves) when visiting the Gulf.

The Israeli prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu was also permitted to shake hands with the Sultan of Oman on her recent visit there without wearing a head covering.

On Tuesday, another Likud minister, Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, spoke at a telecommunications conference in the UAE, and an Israeli gymnastics team competed in Qatar.

 

MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR ENEMIES

Tom Gross adds:

Having been one of the few non-government outsiders to regularly attend various semi-secretive gatherings between senior Arab and Israeli political and military figures over the years, I have long observed that the Arab officials in attendance, including those from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, have always preferred to deal with politicians from the Israeli right than those left-wing Israeli attendees who spent most of the time berating and criticizing their own country.

Western friends of mine, who tend to be left-wing, have disbelieved me when I say that almost without exception, the Arab attendees like and respect Donald Trump and disliked Obama. But that has indeed been the case.

The Arab leaders in attendance have wanted to know where they stand with American and Israeli politicians and seemed to prefer dealing with those who are clear about and stand up for their own national identity and interests (whatever that may in fact mean).

Those saying negative things about Trump at such meetings have been the handful of European government officials in attendance.

None of this means that a warm peace is necessarily about to break out between Israel and the Arab world – only that there is a better chance of it happening when enemies (i.e. hardliners on both sides) speak to each with mutual respect.

There is also a chance that the Palestinian Authority will in effect be forced by the Arab world (and the current US administration) to stop rejecting Israeli offers for independent Palestinian statehood in which the Palestinians, like the Israelis, have to make concessions.

The Palestinian leadership may be cajoled into accepting the forthcoming Trump peace plan by the leaders of the Arab world, in a way that they would never be by European governments who are not prepared to reduce funding to the PA, however much that funding is squandered through corruption, or used to finance terrorism.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia