Monday, March 31, 2014

Are the Boycotters of Israel Violating International Law?

Are the Boycotters of Israel Violating International Law?

By Michael Curtis

The world is now aware of the bias and bigotry of Oxfam International in objecting to Scarlett Johansson’s decision to become a spokesperson for the Israeli company SodaStream because of the company’s factory in an Israeli settlement town.  Oxfam considers Israeli settlements illegal and thus in violation of international law.  In addition to its support of a boycott of trade with Israeli settlements, Oxfam has not adhered to a policy of neutrality in the Middle East.  It has issued statements calling on Israel to end its supposed restrictions – i.e., checkpoints and roadblocks – on free movement of people and goods in the West Bank.

An important question now is whether Oxfam International can claim to come to the Middle East table with its moral righteousness intact.  Certainly its declared neutrality in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians can be challenged by knowledge of the activity of some of its affiliates.  One example of partisan activity is that the Dutch-branch Oxfam Novib and Oxfam GB are reported to have given $500,000 to the Coalition of Women for Peace, which is a fervent advocate of boycott of Israel.

The world may now be aware, through a report of the Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) that Oxfam is itself indirectly involved with terrorist groups that have been declared illegal according to both international law and the laws of the U.S., the U.K., the European Union, and Canada.  As a result, Oxfam, which has deceived itself in believing that it is taking a moral position to boycott trade with Israel, may be liable to criminal and civil prosecution.

The problem for Oxfam relates to its involvement with two Palestinian organizations that have had, and probably still have, close connections with the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).  Oxfam has provided financial and other assistance to those two bodies – the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC) in Gaza and the Union of Health Workers Committees (UHWC).

The UHWC, founded in 1985, provides medical services to poor Palestinians.  The UAWC, founded in 1986, deals with land ownership and agricultural issues in the areas disputed between Israel and the Palestinians.  

No doubt these two groups do render some useful service to Palestinians.  The problem is that they admit they were founded and are staffed to a considerable degree by members of the PFLP, though they now deny any present connection.  Though the degree of interaction between the organizations and the PFLP is not altogether clear, at least publicly, the connections through people are evident.  

Dr. Ahmad Maslamani, who died in 2008, was a member of the Central Council of the PFLP, a so-called “national warrior” (AKA “terrorist”), and was also co-founder and the general director of UHWC.  Bashir al Kheiri (Bashir Khairy), who for a number of years was chairman of the Board of Directors of UAWC, was also the head of the PFLP’s political bureau in Ramallah.  He was involved in the Supersol supermarket bombing in Jerusalem on February 21, 1969.  Jamil Ismail is the vice president of UAWC and is a member of PFLP and the head of its political office in Gaza.  A number of other directors of UAWC, including its treasurer, are known to be members of PFLP.

The role of the PFLP in international terrorism is very familiar.  Founded in 1967 by George Habash, it defined itself as a Marxist-Leninist and Arab nationalist organization.  Its activities for 45 years have been negative, opposing any negotiated settlement with Israel and engaging in spectacular terrorist acts. These have included aircraft-hijacking, suicide-bombings, and assassination.

Among the best-known acts are the following : the murders by individuals recruited by the PFLP at Lod (now Ben Gurion) airport in Israel of 26 people, and another 80 injured on May 30 1972; the collaboration in the hijacking of the Air France plane en route from Paris to Athens in 1976 that landed in Entebbe, Uganda where the hostages were rescued by an Israeli commando raid; the assassination of Israeli Minister for Tourism Rehavam Zeevi on October 21, 2000; and the murder on March 11, 2011 of a family of five, including a three-month-old baby, in the settlement town of Itamar, Israel.  The most notorious figure related to PFLP was the murderer Carlos the Jackal, who joined it in 1970 and organized attacks on Western targets and also on OPEC headquarters in Vienna.  His explanation was that “we kill for a cause, the liberation of Palestine.”

There are two issues: the relation between the two Palestinian organizations and the PFLP and the link of Oxfam with them.  The first involves the problem of distinguishing between the military wing of a terrorist organization, such as the PFLP, and its front organizations that provide social and medical service.  The second is the degree to which Oxfam provides assistance and works closely with the two organizations.

On the first issue, the UHWC and the UAWC are linked with the PFLP in a number of ways, in overlapping leadership, funding, and assets.  

There is no suggestion that Oxfam has committed any improper or immoral action, but its involvement with the two Palestinian groups can be considered illegal on the basis of an important U.S. Supreme Court decision.  The Court in the June 2010 case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project ruled in a 6-3 decision about the prohibition on providing material support to groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations.  The U.S. Patriot Act, section 805, of October 2001 prohibits material support, including expert advice and assistance, for terrorists.

The Court , in similar language to that of the Patriot Act, held that material support included “service” or “expert advice or assistance.”  Any assistance given to the terrorist group could help to make the group appear “legitimate” and would free resources of the group for terrorist activities.  This would include support in the form of intangibles such as human rights training.  The thrust of the Court’s decision is relevant to Oxfam.  It held that material support that is meant to promote peaceable, lawful conduct, which undoubtedly Oxfam intends, can be diverted to advance terrorism in multiple ways.  For terrorist organizations, funds raised for humanitarian activities cannot easily be separated from those used for carrying out terrorist attacks.

The U.S. has designated the PFLP as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” as does the U.K., which is Oxfam’s country of origin.  By providing funds and material to the Palestinian groups, Oxfam can reasonably be faced with charges of violation of international law.  This is on a somewhat more serious level than the carbonated drinks of SodaStream about which Oxfam is so incensed.

Oxfam can justifiably be proud of its help in the relief of hunger in less developed countries.  It can claim to have helped UAWC in aid to Palestinian small-scale farmers and herders, and helped UHWC to improve health services for people in Gaza.  It genuinely believes that it does not work with organizations that use or promote terror.  But by supplying financial aid and other material support to the two Palestinian organizations that have clear links to terrorist organizations, Oxfam is misguided in this belief.  It may now be open to criminal charges for violations of international law for supporters, if indirectly, terrorist groups.  It may also be more careful in labeling settlements as “illegal.”

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.

Erekat’s Palestinian fairy tale....Palestinian negotiator and teller of tall tales

Erekat’s Palestinian fairy tale....Palestinian negotiator and teller of tall tales 

I am the proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho. — Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator

On the contrary, former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker notes:

According to genealogical research of the Bedouin families in Israel, the Erekat family belongs to the extensive Huweitat clan, which originated in the area between the Liya valley, near Taif, in the vicinity of Mecca in the northern Hejaz region, close to the town of Hekl in the Sarawat Mountains, 350 km. from the Jordanian border, and northern Aqaba. Bedouin genealogical literature claims that the Huweitat clan is a Sharifi clan allied with their cousins the Hashemites. The Huweitat clan settled not only in Israel but also in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sinai Peninsula by Ras Seeder.

A branch of this clan settled in geographic Palestine in several waves of immigration that started some 200 years ago, ending during the period of the Arab Revolt and First World War. Apparently, the family to which Erekat belongs settled in Abu Dis near Jerusalem during the last of these waves, which occurred in the early twentieth century, after the Jewish immigration to the area.

Amb. Baker also quotes Dr. Shaul Bartal of the Middle Eastern Studies department of Bar-Ilan University:

The Palestinians are not the farmers who have lived in Palestine for generations, but rather immigrants who only arrived recently. It was only toward the latter stages of the nineteenth century that the country began to blossom thanks to the emergence of a new presence – Zionism – and the amazing results. In 1878, the population of the country numbered 141,000 Muslims who lived here permanently, with at least 25 percent of them considered to be newly arrived immigrants who came mostly from Egypt.

Various studies done over a span of years by Moshe Brawer, Gideon Kressel, and other scholars clearly show that most Arab families who settled in the villages along the coastal plain and the area that would later become the State of Israel originated from Sudan, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan….Other studies show that the waves of immigrants came here in droves from Arab countries during the period of the British Mandate.

Why do I bother (and why did Baker, whose well-documented paper should be read in full)? Not, I think, because being indigenous is of such overriding importance in determining ‘who owns the land’. After all, ‘indigenous’ is a highly relative concept. Yes, the Jews are more indigenous to Judea than the ‘Palestinians’, but probably the descendents of the ancient Philistines (also, incidentally, not the contemporary ‘Palestinians’) have more roots than the Jews in what is today Tel Aviv.

Peoples migrate, assimilate, conquer and get conquered, wax and die out. Legitimacy comes from a combination of factors, of which one is prior possession, but it is not the only one. Modern international law (the UN charter) does not recognize taking land by force; rather, it prefers diplomatic consensus, which is why the Jewish people argue that they legitimately obtained title to the entire land of Israel with the San Remo conference of 1920, and legitimately defended it in 1967. Of course, the reason that the international community chose Palestine for the Jewish homeland was the Jewish people’s historical provenance there.

The Arabs, by inventing their own historical narrative and denying the Jewish one, wish to lay the groundwork to overthrow the just decision that was made by the international community in 1920, before its institutions became corrupted by Arab oil and terrorism as well as postmodern Jew-hatred.

Happily, it is also true that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and today’s Israel is capable of defending itself, as long as it can stay unified — despite some of its intellectuals who appear to have accepted the narrative of their own deadly enemies.

Carter Blames Jews for Obama’s Snubs

Carter Blames Jews for Obama’s Snubs

Jonathan S. Tobin 

Former President Jimmy Carter is back in the news this week publicizing a new book about women’s rights. But, as is often the case with Carter, he drew more interest for comments he made about Israel and its supporters. When asked on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday by Andrea Mitchell why it was that Barack Obama never called upon him for advice, he made it clear that the Jewish state was the reason he has been treated like a pariah:

I—that’s a hard question– for me to answer—you know, with complete candor. I think the problem was that– that in dealing with the issue of peace in– between Israel and Egypt– the Carter Center has taken a very strong and public position of equal treatment between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I think this was a sensitive area in which the president didn’t want to be involved.

When he first came out with his speech in Cairo calling for the end of all settlements and when he later said that the ’67 borders would prevail, he and I were looking at it from the same perspective. But I can understand those sensitivities. And I don’t have any criticism of him.

Lest anyone think this was a slip of the tongue, he repeated the assertion in more stark terms this morning during a fawning interview with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough on the same network’s Morning Joe program:

I think that sometimes an incumbent president doesn’t want to be very friendly with me because it might looked upon as more friendly toward the Palestinians instead of the Israelis. So we try to be balanced. That’s the only issue that separates me from Obama anyway. And I was very proud of him when he made a speech in Cairo and said no more settlements when he said the 67 borders would prevail except for minor modifications. Those things are very compatible with what I believe.

Carter might consider that the reason a successor wouldn’t wish to be burdened with a relationship with him was, at least in part, due to the Georgian’s insufferable personality and chronic self-righteousness. But there may be some truth to his assertion that his stands on the Middle East are at the root of the problem. Far from being an innocent victim of political influence for being “even-handed,” however, his lack of influence is due to the fact that his bias and slanders against the Jewish state have effectively marginalized him.

Carter’s grudge against the pro-Israel community goes back to his defeat for reelection at the hands of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Carter thought he would reap the applause of supporters of the Jewish state because of his role in the Camp David Accords that brokered peace between Israel and Egypt. But Reagan gained a record percentage of the Jewish vote for a Republican due in no small measure to the contrast between his support for Israel and Carter’s open antagonism toward the Israeli government led by Menachem Begin. Once out of office, Carter has spent the years since nursing this grudge and becoming an increasingly bitter opponent of Israel and those who support it. This reached a crescendo in 2007 with the publication of his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The book, a compendium of vicious slurs hurled against the Jewish state, lent the imprimatur of the former president and the Carter Center for Peace to the canard that Israel was imposing apartheid on the Arabs. In Carter’s world, Israelis have always been the obstacles to peace while Palestinian terrorism and refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn is always ignored.

Carter can always count on a sympathetic hearing in the mainstream media (and especially on the show where the daughter of his former National Security Advisor is the co-host) and has carefully cultivated a low-key do-gooder image because of charity projects with which he has associated himself. But his animus against Israel puts him outside the American political mainstream. That is not because supporters of Israel don’t believe in fairness but due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans in both major political parties want no part of Carter’s hostility to the Jewish state. If he has become politically toxic even during the administration of the president whose foreign policy and predilection for picking fights with Israel most resembles his own, it is due to his own intemperate and indefensible views on the Middle East and his not-so-subtle echoes of the anti-Semitic Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis. Obama’s snubs in the wake of Carter’s “apartheid” slurs are simply a matter of political awareness that it wasn’t possible to align oneself with such a discredited figure. That the 39th president would blame the Jews, rather than himself, for this predicament is as vile as it is predictable.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hate Speech Illustrates True Face of BDS

Hate Speech Illustrates True Face of BDS

Jonathan S. Tobin 

The movement to boycott Israel cloaks itself in the language of human rights. But when push comes to shove, the violent and discriminatory nature of their efforts is hard to disguise. That’s the upshot of a series of events taking place at the University of Michigan this month where advocates of BDS—boycott, divestment, and sanctions—against the Jewish state tried and failed to get the student government at the Ann Arbor institution to approve a divestment measure. But what was most remarkable about the process was the manner with which BDS groups protested their failure by seeking to intimidate those who opposed their efforts. As the Washington Free Beacon reports, a series of sit-ins at student government offices and other campus facilities by BDS supporters were marked by anti-Semitic threats directed at Jewish students. This followed previous attempts at intimidation at the school when pro-Palestinian activists placed fake eviction orders on the dorm rooms of pro-Israel students and Jews.

This is not the first time anti-Israel campaigners have behaved in such a manner at a major American university. Yet what is most distressing about these incidents is the lack of outrage expressed by university officials about these events as well as the refusal of the administration to publicly oppose BDS motions. The result is what may well be another instance of the creation of a hostile and discriminatory environment for Jews at the school in blatant violation of federal civil-rights laws and U.S. Department of Education regulations. By acting in this manner, the BDS movement is merely illustrating that it is a thinly disguised hate group rather than a protest on behalf of the oppressed.

As Adam Kredo of the Free Beacon writes, a university spokesman refused to condemn the threats or to express an opinion about the attempts by the BDS activists to intimidate other students. One can only imagine the university’s reaction had a similar controversy taken place involving insults or slurs directed at African Americans or other minorities. Yet, the hurling of words like “kike” and “dirty Jew” at Jewish students as well as other stunts intended to silence opposition to BDS appears not to be regarded as a serious threat to the peace of the school.

The connection between anti-Semitic rhetoric and BDS is not an accident. At its core the movement is an expression of Jew hatred since it seeks to single out for special discrimination the one Jewish state in the world while disregarding every other possible human-rights issue elsewhere. Its purpose is not to redress the complaints of Arab citizens of Israel or the administrated territories under its control but rather to seek the extinction of the Jewish state via the waging of economic warfare. BDS doesn’t seek to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians but rather to aid the efforts of the latter to wipe out their opponents. Its efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state are an inherent expression of bias against Jews. As such, BDS is not so much a debatable proposition but the same sort of hate speech that university officials would have no compunction about banning or punishing if it came from the Ku Klux Klan or other racist groups.

Neither free speech nor academic freedom is at stake in this debate. Opinions about Israel or its policies are fair game. But the University of Michigan—and other schools where such acts are committed—must act against those who have used violent rhetoric and intimidation tactics. It is time for administrators to stop going along with the pretense that BDS is a benign ancestor of the civil-rights movement or even anti-Vietnam War protesters but a vicious source of antagonism toward Jews and their state that cloaks itself in human-rights rhetoric. By condoning the hateful activities of the BDS movement, institutions risk creating a hostile environment for Jews as well as creating safe havens for a discriminatory movement rooted in traditional Jew hatred.

“Shut Up,” BDS Explained: An “Open Forum” at Vassar

“Shut Up,” BDS Explained: An “Open Forum” at Vassar

Jonathan Marks

It will come as no surprise to COMMENTARY readers that the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement undermines the missions of colleges and universities because it wants to use higher education to advance a partisan political agenda. It may come as a surprise, however, that BDS supporters like Philip Weiss now happily concede the point.

Consider his account of an “Open Forum on the Ethics of Student Activism and Protest at Vassar,” held early this month under the auspices of Vassar’s “Committee on Inclusion and Excellence.” The meeting was prompted by an international studies course on water issues in the Jordan River valley, which included a trip to the Middle East. As Weiss acknowledges, the organizers of the trip worked with Palestinian NGOs, intended to put their students in touch with Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians, and included a Palestinian refugee camp on the itinerary. But the trip also entailed cooperation with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, long a boycott target because of its belief that the future of the region depends on cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians, and other stakeholders. The BDS movement demands that supporters refuse “participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions.” Moreover, the trip was “chiefly inside Israel with visits to the occupation,” and the syllabus did not explicitly discuss Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.

So members of Vassar’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine “staged an action against” the on-campus part of the class, which included picketing, urging students to drop the course, and making a lot of noise (the only dispute seems to be whether the noise could be described as “ululating” or not). Jill Schneiderman and Rachel Friedman, two of the course instructors, complained to college officials about the protest; the protesters, most of whom were “people of color,” cried racism; and so the open forum was held.

Weiss is explicit about the character of this “open forum”:

The spirit of that young progressive space was that Israel is a blot on civilization, and boycott is right and necessary. If a student had gotten up and said, I love Israel, he or she would have been mocked and scorned into silence. Or bedevilled by finger-snapping—the percussive weapon of choice among some students, a sound that rises like crickets as students indicate their quiet approval of a statement.

In other words, at least at this Vassar forum, it was not even possible to have a debate about the desirability of BDS because the students who support BDS have no intention of engaging in a debate or even letting their opponents speak without disrupting them. But such “belligerence may be necessary,” Weiss argues, to make sure that the right side wins.

Let’s review to whom the belligerence is directed. Not right-wing Zionists, if there happen to be any at Vassar, but people with impeccable liberal credentials, like, as Weiss notes, Jill Schneiderman, who think that attention should be drawn to Israeli injustice but are wary of describing Israel as a blot on civilization and doubtful that boycott is a wise strategy.

BDS supporters, who usually say they are fighting a “taboo” against discussing Israel on college campuses, rarely concede that they actually think the taboo is against supporting Israel. But that is just what Weiss does: “Norman Finkelstein said some time ago that you can’t be for Israel on college campuses, and I was seeing this before my eyes.” Indeed, the “intellectual labors are done, the activists are moving. The public square will increasingly belong to the warriors of both sides.”

But Weiss is kidding himself if the thinks that a movement that is unpopular even on the left will win by trying to shout its opponents down. Even on our college campuses, which are much less sympathetic to Israel than the general public is, the politics of BDS can shock. Schneiderman was sympathetic enough to Weiss to invite him to the forum. After the forum, she had this to say: “last night I was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel.” She says of Weiss’s reporting on the meeting: “This is only one example of how Phil Weiss uses facts flexibly only when they suit his agenda.”

Some BDS supporters claim to welcome the attention the American Studies Association boycott brought to the BDS movement, even as they try to hide their activities. I bet that publicity is going to hurt in the long term, at least in the United States where, even on college campuses, much less the “public square,” trying to shut up everyone who disagrees with you does not wear well.

Arab Rejectionism from Khartoum to Ramallah

Arab Rejectionism from Khartoum to Ramallah

By Ari Lieberman 

Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel offered to return land acquired during the conflict to her defeated Arab enemies in exchange for peace. On September 1, 1967 the Arab League, convening in Khartoum, Sudan drafted its predictable response to the Israeli overture in the form of the now infamous “Three No’s” proclamation: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it…”

Nothing has changed since then. Arabs still maintain their rejectionist attitudes toward reconciliation with Israel as evidenced by Mahmoud Abbas’ own version of the Arab League’s Khartoum declaration.  A recent report indicated that Abbas rejected Israel’s three core demands that represent red lines for the Jewish state. Abbas refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, refused to abandon the so-called Palestinian “right of return” and refused to commit to an end of conflict or claims. Refusal to meet any one of the three conditions severely undermines prospects for peace. Refusal to accept all three however, all but torpedoes the process.

President Obama has all but chosen to ignore Palestinian rejectionism in favor of heaping criticism on the only democracy in the Mideast, Israel. Obama suffers from an acute case of tunnel vision when it comes to Israel focusing on ancillary matters, like the so-called settlements, instead of focusing attention on the real stumbling blocks to peace, namely, the consistent refusal of the Palestinian Arab leadership to accept any Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. This rejectionism has manifested itself in the anti-Jewish Arab pogroms of 1921-22, 1929 and 1936 as well as the Arab rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, the Arab aggression that precipitated the Six-Day War and the wave of terror unleashed by Yasser Arafat following his sabotage of the Camp David summit in 2000.

The Palestinians have only themselves to blame for their stagnation and sorry state of affairs. Their corrupt and venal leaders care more about accumulating wealth and power than about advancing civil rights for their people. Indeed, the unelected, autocratic “President” Abbas is now in the midst of his 9th year in office when his term should have terminated after four. Freedom of the press and dissent are virtually nonexistent and incitement to violence and anti-Semitism continue unabated.

This is the force of “moderation” that the Obama administration expects Israel to contend with. Israel of course must also contend with Hamas, which unlike Abbas and his Palestinian Authority offers frighteningly honest opinions about how it intends to deal with Jews should it ever get the opportunity. For the Palestinians, whether Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah or Ismail Haniyeh’s Hamas, nothing has changed since the days of the infamous Palestinian leader and Nazi collaborator, Haj Amin al-Husseini. The goal of eradicating Israel and replacing it with yet another dysfunctional Arab state remains the same.

The Obama administration, fixated with Israel’s development of Judea & Samaria and besotted by the idea of making Israel minuscule and indefensible, has chosen to ignore subtle and not so subtle proclamations by senior Palestinian ministers and law makers concerning their pernicious objectives. This flawed and one-sided policy in turn serves only to embolden and harden Palestinian intransigence making compromise and peaceful resolution impossible.

Israel has sacrificed much over the years for the cause of peace and has received nothing but worthless guarantees and groundless criticism in return. Israel, under Prime Minister Netanyahu has wisely adopted the policy of reciprocity. The days of unilateral Israeli territorial concessions are over. No longer will Israel hand over chunks of its ancestral land for vague assurances and worthless promises. It is time for the Obama administration to recognize the Palestinian Authority for what it truly is; an entity that does not seek peaceful relations with its neighbor but rather one that seeks the eradication of an existing democracy in favor of yet another dysfunctional Islamist theocracy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The “Facts” According to Journalists

The “Facts” According to Journalists

Evelyn Gordon 

As Jonathan Tobin noted yesterday, facts are irrelevant to the diehard anti-Israel crowd; nothing will change their views. But since they remain a minority (at least in America), I’m far more worried about the many well-meaning people who do care about the facts, but never hear them, because the journalists they rely on for information can’t be bothered to get their facts straight.

Take, for instance, a New York Times report earlier this month about Islamic Jihad’s barrage of more than 60 rockets at southern Israel and Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes. The online version says, unexceptionably, that “the only reported injury was to an Israeli woman who fell while running for cover.” But the print version of the Times’s international edition–which reaches some 242,000 people–added a shocking comment: The lack of casualties, it asserted, is “a sign that each side wanted to make a forceful showing without risking further escalation.”

Anyone reading that would never know Islamic Jihad shoots rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns (a bona fide war crime); they’d think Gazan terrorists, just like Israelis, carefully aim their fire to avoid civilian casualties. They’d also never know that this indiscriminate rocket fire causes so few casualties only because, as a new study shows, massive civil defense measures–even playground equipment in the border town of Sderot is designed to double as bomb shelters–have reduced Israeli fatalities by a whopping 86 percent. And because people don’t know all this, they are easily persuaded that Israel’s responses to the rocket fire, from airstrikes to the naval blockade of Gaza, are “excessive.”

Or take a Reuters report on Lebanon this month, which asserted as fact that “Israeli forces still hold at least three pockets of occupied territory which are claimed by Lebanon.” This isn’t a quote from a Lebanese official; it’s the Reuters reporter.

Anyone reading that would never know Israel withdrew from every inch of Lebanon in 2000; that this withdrawal was unanimously certified as complete by the UN Security Council; and that only afterward did Hezbollah, backed by its Lebanese puppet government, suddenly lay claim to additional territory to justify its continued war on Israel. They’d think Israel indeed continues to “occupy” Lebanese territory. And anyone who believes this is easily persuaded that Hezbollah is a legitimate political player that seeks only to regain “occupied Lebanese territory,” rather than a viciously anti-Semitic terrorist organization whose goal is Israel’s eradication, and which any civilized country ought to shun.

This steady drip of media falsehoods even permeates stories that ostensibly have nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict–like a New York Times review of Reza Aslan’s biography of Jesus, which casually refers to events in “first-century Palestine.” As the reviewer, a Yale professor of religious studies, certainly ought to know, there was no “Palestine” in Jesus’s day. The Roman province Jesus inhabited was called “Judaea,” a word whose linguistic similarity to “Judaism” is no accident; Judaea was a Jewish commonwealth. Only after the Bar-Kochba revolt more than a century later did the Romans rename it “Palestine,” after the Philistines, in a deliberate effort to obscure Jewish ties to the land.

But anyone reading this review would easily conclude that just like the Palestinians always claim, they–not the Jews–are the Holy Land’s indigenous people: Look, there never was a Jewish state there; “Palestine” existed even back in the first century! And if so, then Israel is indeed a thief who stole the Palestinians’ land.   

All this means that many well-meaning people don’t know even the most basic facts, like the Jews’ historic ties to Israel or the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. And unless pro-Israel activists tell them, they never will–because the media certainly won’t.

Could the Peace Process Be Destroying Israel’s Legitimacy?

Could the Peace Process Be Destroying Israel’s Legitimacy?

Tom Wilson 

In the world of hasbara–Israel advocacy–it is commonly suggested that the best way to make Israel’s case is by emphasizing that Israel wants peace: pointing to Israel’s willingness to negotiate, its withdrawals from territory, its evacuation of settlements, its prisoner releases, the settlement freezes, the moves to help establish and strengthen the Palestinian Authority. It’s true that Israel has done all of these things, but how is Israel’s standing in the world doing? Have peace talks and the surrender of territory done anything to placate those who only ever respond to these moves by calling for still more Israeli concessions? The hard truth is that today, in many circles, Israel’s legitimacy is in a worse place than it’s ever been. Israel negotiates and concedes, yet the movement to boycott and demonize Israel has only grown increasingly strident.

Israel has been locked down in the latest round of negotiations for months now. To make these talks happen Israel was first compelled to consent to the release of 104 convicted Palestinian terrorists. In the past Israel has been forced to freeze Jewish communities in the West Bank and even projects in Jerusalem. In both cases these concessions were to no avail. President Obama and Secretary Kerry regularly threaten Israel that should this current round of allegedly last-chance negotiations fail, Israel will be cast asunder to meet its fate in a cold world of boycotts and diplomatic isolation. Concessions and goodwill from Israel are rarely cause for praise from Western allies, they have simply come to be expected. 

The boycott threat that Obama and Kerry try to use to panic Israel into doing whatever they instruct is really a case in point. Israel doesn’t await a wave of calls for boycotts if these talks fail; it faces them now. If anything, while this past round of Israeli concessions and negotiations have dragged on, the call for the boycott of Israel has only become louder. Across Europe and on American campuses, the campaign for boycotts is becoming frenetic. Oxfam’s attack on Scarlett Johansson and SodaStream made the headlines but there have been many cases that didn’t. In Europe a Dutch pension fund and several Scandinavian banks have already divested from Israel, while on both sides of the Atlantic the student campaign for boycotts has become particularly ugly. As Jonathan Tobin wrote about yesterday, the BDS campaign has even come to propagate racist hate speech. During a boycott vote only last night at King’s College, London, Jewish students were first hectored and reduced to tears, then mocked and taunted by BDS students.

At the very least, the fact that all of this goes on while Israel is in negotiations to try and end its presence in the West Bank should convince us that this has nothing to do with the “occupation.” Omar Barghouti, one of the leading founders of BDS, has been unequivocal in saying that the creation of two states would not end calls for boycotts. Yet if it is true that none of this is about creating a Palestinian state but rather opposing a Jewish one, then where does this leave notions about land for peace? Indeed, it would seem that on this point the boycotters are consistent with the Palestinians’ own refusal to let go of the desire to end Israel, even if it prevents them from getting a state themselves.

In a hard-hitting follow-up piece for Mosaic, Yoav Sorek tells us that since the beginning of the Oslo peace process, when Israel reneged on its pledge to itself not recognize or negotiate with the terrorist PLO, the net result has not only been unprecedented waves of carnage and violence, but the onset of deep self-doubt about Israel’s own national legitimacy. By promoting the idea that the conflict is a territorial one, Israel at once legitimized the PLO and undermined its own legitimacy before the world, as well as to itself. Accepting the land-for-peace equation meant that Israel was now saying it was the problem, not Arab annihilationism toward the Jewish state, but rather its occupation of “Palestinian land.”  

Israel has placed itself in the dock by endorsing land-for-peace. By promoting this idea Israel accepts that its activities over the 1949 armistice lines are illegitimate if not illegal. For the international community, land for peace means that Israel withdraws from territory and gets peace in return. By that logic the absence of peace is on account of the presence of Israelis in occupied land. Israel knows that it can’t hand over territory to those who will only use it to advance warfare against its people. So Israel is forced to say one thing and do another; the debate becomes fixated on whether or not the Palestinians are really a partner for peace and the Israelis just appear dishonest. Nor does Israel get any praise for the withdrawals it makes for, as Evelyn Gordon has argued previously, by denying its claim to the land Israel earns the status of a thief only partially returning what never belonged to her.  

Sorek suggests that asserting to the world Israel’s legal rights in the West Bank is the only viable option left. Once Israel establishes that it has the land by right, only then can it effectively confront Arab rejectionism, which negotiations and land withdrawals actually spur on. It would seem that if Israel cannot tolerate the status quo then it must either unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank or otherwise annex it. But it’s quite possible that further withdrawals might actually damage Israel’s legitimacy more than annexation would.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Blaming Israel Despite the Facts

Blaming Israel Despite the Facts

Jonathan S. Tobin 

The facts are no obstacle for those who are determined to stick to their narrative about Israel not wanting peace. With Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process on the brink of failure, the New Republic’s John Judis has trotted out the familiar themes about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu being the one to blame. Judis goes on at length about Netanyahu’s perfidy but toward the end of the piece, he is forced to let drop an important nugget of information. When asked by Kerry to keep negotiating on the basis of the framework he has crafted to try and give both sides something to work with, Abbas said no. As Judis writes:

Kerry proposed that the two sides agree to the framework with reservations—a tactic that had doomed the Quartet’s framework proposal—but Abbas was not ready to agree to the proposal even with reservations.

Let’s get this straight. Kerry has been lionized by the left for attempting to revive the talks in spite of the fact that the division among the Palestinians (Hamas in Gaza and Abbas’s Fatah in the West Bank) made it unlikely that Abbas could or would say yes to peace terms that he had turned down in 2008 and that his predecessor Yasir Arafat had rejected in 2000 and 2001. But when the secretary put forward a framework that was hardly to Netanyahu’s liking because of its reliance on the 1967 borders, he said yes and Abbas said no even with the proviso that an acceptance would not commit the Palestinian Authority to its terms. And yet even though Abbas’s decision makes a fourth historic no to peace terms from the Palestinians in the last 15 years, Judis still thinks the collapse of the talks is Israel’s fault.

How is that possible? Judis doesn’t even bother defending this preposterous proposition directly since his work is so lazy that he writes as if all his readers will naturally assume that nothing that actually happened leading up to Abbas’s no must as a matter of course be Israel’s fault. But the flimsy case he does build against Israel tells us more about his own well-documented prejudices about the key issue that led to Abbas’s decision—recognition of Israel as a Jewish state—than it does about Netanyahu.

This is, after all, the same author who wrote Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, a book dedicated to the proposition that the problems of the Middle East stem from the decision to create a Jewish state in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine–putting himself on record as believing that Israel should never have been born and that American support for the concept was a mistake imposed upon the nation by Jewish lobbying and political considerations. You would think that someone who studied that period would understand the centrality of the concept of the Jewish state both to the inception and the theoretical conclusion of the conflict. But Judis sticks to the anti-Israel talking points of the day and says this demand—rightly accepted by the United States despite some of Kerry’s later comments—that the Palestinians accept that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people is designed to throw a monkey wrench into the talks.

As Rick Richman noted, Dennis Ross confirms that the Jewish state issue was part of the negotiations during the Clinton administration. How could it have been avoided since the whole point is that its acceptance signifies that the Palestinians are giving up their century-long struggle against Zionism? Judis also brings up settlement construction as a deal breaker but neglects to note that almost all the houses slated for construction are to be built in the settlement blocs and neighborhoods in Jerusalem that will be part of Israel in any agreement. Complaints about them are both disingenuous and distractions from the Palestinian refusal to accept terms that signify an end to the conflict. Abbas told President Obama on his visit to Washington earlier this month that he would not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, give up the “right of return” for the 1948 refugees and their descendants, or accept that any agreement means the end of the conflict. What’s more, even though he won’t keep negotiating, he expects Israel to release more terrorist murderers from its jails (the ransom he exacted from Kerry and Netanyahu as the price for his return to the talks last year) and now also wants the release of Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader serving five life-in-prison sentences for murders of civilians carried out at his behest during the second intifada and a settlement freeze to keep him at the table.

And yet Judis still says, “blame should almost certainly be assigned to Netanyahu and the Israelis.” It’s illogical, but if you enter a discussion of this topic believing Israel has no right to exist in the first place, it’s easy to see why you would think there’s nothing wrong with Palestinian intransigence. The problem is not so much Judis’s specious arguments as the pretense that he actually cares about who is to blame for preventing an outcome—a two-state solution—that he disdains.

Teach Your Children Well

Teach Your Children Well

By Laurie Cardoza Moore 

Following the horrific attacks on 9/11, I began to ask, like most Americans, what happened to our country.  As I researched and talked to experts, the issues of radical Islam and the attacks on America and Israel became extremely personal to me.  In response, I founded Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Christians about their biblical responsibility to stand with and for the people and land of Israel. I established PJTN as a powerful Christian voice for Israel in the media using my years of experience in broadcasting and film. Christians were for the most part silent during the first Holocaust — I believe we cannot be silent again.

Little did I realize I would be fighting anti-Semitism in my very own backyard. For the last twenty-five years, we have resided in Williamson County, TN, a county with a long tradition of being one of the top ten most conservative counties in the U.S; a county in the very center of the Bible belt; a county where Christians should not stand by in silence. I discovered that behind our backs, a liberal school board agenda had taken hold and was indoctrinating our children. Several controversial incidents and troubling educational materials have been cause for great alarm.

Anti-Semitism in a Pearson Published Textbook

In November of 2012, a concerned Williamson County parent contacted PJTN about a controversial human geography textbook (The Cultural Landscape) being used in her son’s high school.  The immediate problem involved a section under the title, “Terrorism by Individuals and Organizations,” that asks students to consider the following question on why terrorism has increased: 

“If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?”

During the same class, an anti-Israel handout and a guest speaker influenced her son to question his faith and the accuracy of the Bible concerning Israel and her rights to her ancient homeland. This led to the concerned parent contacting me. It was also discovered that another student had remarked that “had he not taken the class, he wouldn’t have known about the dangerous Zionist agenda.”

Meetings with the school’s faculty led nowhere, so I filed an official complaint with the school district requesting the textbook’s removal due to the highly objectionable statement. With the help of several parents, nearly a dozen other objectionable passages, descriptions and word choices were also found in the book.  Not only was the textbook anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, but it was replete with anti-Christian, anti-Western and pro-Marxist propaganda as well.

Despite gathering over 1,300 signatures protesting the book, other parents’ outcries, and repeated school board meetings, Williamson County Schools Director, Mike Looney, encouraged the board to vote to continue using the book. Looney defended the use of this textbook because it had been used for several years with no one ever filing a formal complaint. He further stated, “I personally don’t get that anti-Semitic perspective from reading the question in context. I respect other people’s viewpoints and understand they might read it differently.”  He also felt that one passage in a 500-page book could not justify discontinuing its use.

The Nashville Jewish Federation supported PJTN’s leadership on this matter and agreed that the textbook needed to be removed and issued this statement:

“To create moral equivalency between specific acts of terror and legitimate territorial disputes  that are political in nature serves to legitimize wanton and premeditated violence against innocent civilian victims. To further allow distorted, unbalanced and prejudicial content to stand as a form of academic inquiry is a perversion of our educational system and a disservice to all the children who learn in that system.” 

- Mark Freedman

Jewish Federation Executive Director

In October 2013, I took the issue to the Tennessee State Legislature where my advocacy against anti-Semitism is well recognized among the state’s legislators.  In a state that has passed several strong pro-Israel resolutions, legislators shared my concern about the material being presented to students. I testified before the Tennessee Senate Education Committee to address their concerns about this textbook material.  This testimony was instrumental in the Tennessee legislature introducing bills this year related to textbook issues.

The Double Standard in the Williamson County School District

Mr. Looney and other county officials refuse to acknowledge the detrimental effect of textbook and curriculum materials containing subtle and not-so-subtle expressions of anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. Under his leadership, the doctrine of anti-Semitism has permeated into the students and faculty of the school district.

For example, in September 2013, two male students at a Williamson County Middle School stood at the front of my car giving me a “Heil Hitler” salute in response to a “Defend and Protect America and Israel” bumper sticker on my vehicle.   After contacting the school’s principal to make her aware of the incident, it was discovered that the students were from nearby Ravenwood High School.  Despite identification of the students from viewing the school’s security camera tape, no action has been taken to address this incident. To date, my request regarding disciplinary action continues to go unanswered by Ravenwood’s principal.

This is the same high school that in 2009 permitted a Palestinian Arab booth at the school’s Cultural Heritage Fair to distribute venomous anti-Semitic propaganda. The “Arab-Palestinian” booth was displaying anti-Israel hate propaganda that included “doctored” pictures of Israeli soldiers shooting babies and the security fence labeled as an “apartheid wall.”

This year, during the school’s Cultural Heritage Week, Muslim students claimed offense because of a pamphlet that was being distributed by a local Jewish organization at the event.  The pamphlet contained accurate information about the anti-Semitic hatred that is taught to children in U.S. funded Palestinian schools. The double standard and hypocrisy at Ravenwood High School and the school district at-large should outrage students and parents.  

The pamphlet in question was published by “StandWithUs (SWU), an organization that is dedicated to publishing accurate educational information about the Arab – Israeli conflict for use in a high school/university environment.  On a page that describes the problem in the Arab culture under, “Teaching Peace,” it describes the incitement to hatred and violence against Israel and Jews that is pervasive in Arab/Palestinian media, schools, and mosques.  “In fact, it is this incitement that disturbed then Senator Hillary Clinton in 2007, and that continues to disturb peace makers because the incitement leads to violence and has always been an obstacle to peace,” stated Roz Rothstein, President of SWU.

The truth is that this particular pamphlet is entirely educational and appropriate for this event.  It is PJTN’s opinion that in Williamson County and at a school like Ravenwood, where anti-Semitic incidents have occurred and anti-Semitic textbook materials have been found, this educational pamphlet, should be required reading. To provide accurate information about the conflict in the Middle East should be welcomed in the “educational” environment of a high school. Accurate and unbiased resources about the Middle East allow our children to use their critical thinking skills concerning this ongoing conflict. 

Double Standards and Double-Speech

This situation leads me to ask the question: what are we teaching the immigrants that come to Tennessee, especially from the Middle East?  Israel is our only true friend and ally in the Middle East.  We, as a Judeo-Christian nation, share the same values of freedom and faith as our Jewish brethren in Israel.  It is that freedom that allows people of all faiths and nationalities to live without fear of persecution not only in our country, but in our county as well. It is critical that we provide accurate and unbiased textbooks to the immigrants that make Williamson County their home. I fear if we do not, we may find similar horrific justification for terrorist attacks here.

Finally, as a result of this whole issue, a deeper-rooted problem has surfaced.  What does it say about our local leaders when school officials will censor pamphlets with accurate information that Muslims find offensive but refuse to remove inaccurate anti-Semitic/anti-Israel and anti-Western textbooks at the request of Christian and Jewish parents?  

This obvious double standard must not stand unchallenged and must be dealt with at the voting booth.  This growing threat further illustrates how critically important local elections are, especially when those elected leaders will be influencing the future direction of our nation.  With elections quickly approaching, I hope more Williamson County citizens will join me in some crucially needed “spring cleaning” on this school board, which refuses to uphold the values of the citizens of this great county.

Ironically, as a result of the national and international media attention generated by PJTN, Pearson Publishers agreed with the parents and removed the anti-Semitic quote from future editions of the Human Geography textbook. This is certainly a small and important victory, but the battle continues.

To save our country, we must retake it one small county, one small election at a time. As we have slept, the progressive agenda has penetrated every strata of our government and our educational system. It is a long road ahead but we can no longer afford not to walk it.

All Eyes on Abbas

All Eyes on Abbas

Israel's demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize the country as the 'Jewish state' is far from unreasonable.

Dr. Joseph Frager

The headline in the Israel-bashing New York Times read "Jewish State Declaration Is Unyielding Block to a Deal"

How far from the truth is this statement? I maintain it is much more than this "Jewish Identification" problem that is the issue. Unfortunately, the Obama administration likes to boil things down to simple sound bites that fail to get at the root of the problem. It is very hard to negotiate in sound bites - reality is only partially reflected in sound bites.

The media which lives and breathes off of sound bites also likes to overlook how complicated life can be. It is like the old and discredited canard that "settlements are obstacles to peace", when in fact the Arabs attacked Israel in 1967 long before any so-called settlements were built. This fact always gets ignored in the media's eyes - perhaps it is fair to say that the media has jaundiced eyes with cataracts to boot.

The identification of Israel as a Jewish State and the settlements are not the problem. It is Mahmoud Abbas who is the problem and all eyes are now on him. That is not to say that Muhammad Dahlan, who is maneuvering to take over the PA, would be any better. The Palestinians know they have a friend in the White House, which encourages them to made their demands sky high and untenable. They simply do not want Israel to exist. They want it to disappear.

It is not the "Jewish" part they don't like even if Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama think it is - it is the State of Israel they do not like and don't want to acquiesce to. This has been the case since the start of the conflict, and there really has not been any progress on this front by Yasser Arafat or his successor Mahmoud Abbas. Neither one wanted to be or wants to be Anwar Sadat.

There are now a million Jews living in Judea and Samaria. After the Gush Katif nightmare involving 10,000 Jews, Israel is not prepared to expel Jews again. No Prime Minister will be able to do that. He will go down in history as the one who expelled not thousands but hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes. Noone wants to have that as their legacy.

So until Abbas or whomever else comes along and fully and unequivocally declares Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state with secure borders, Kerry and Obama will just have to live out their lives on President Jimmie Carter's peanut farm writing books funded by Gulf money.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How 30,000 Remaining Palestinian Refugees From ’48 Morph Into 5 Million

How 30,000 Remaining Palestinian Refugees From ’48 Morph Into 5 Million

Adam Levick

The Times of Israel reported Sunday that, during his meeting with Barack Obama last Monday, Mahmoud Abbas not only refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but reiterated his refusal to abandon the so-called “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees.”

To understand why Abbas continues playing the “refugee” card, a brief look at how the world’s refugees are treated is necessary.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the UN agency responsible for aiding all the world’s refugees - “all” the world’s refugees, that is, except for the Palestinians. The tens of millions of actual refugees this agency helps receive initial assistance – which often entails helping to resettle them in a new state – and then they are no longer refugees.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – the UN agency which deals exclusively with Arabs of Palestinian descent – ‘Palestinian refugees‘ are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”  And the number of Palestinian refugees from the ’48 war who are still alive – out of the initial 711,000 or so – is estimated to be roughly 30,000. However, due to UNRWA’s expansive definition of who qualifies for “refugee” benefits – which includes the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived in Historic Palestine – more than 5 million Arabs of Palestinian descent are considered “refugees.” This means that 99 percent of their clients are NOT in fact refugees.

Remarkably, under UNRWA’s bizarre rules, even Arabs of Palestinian descent who are citizens of other Arab states – such as Jordan – are still considered “refugees.”

(Additionally, given that there are 30,000 actual Palestinian refugees, and UNRWA has a payroll of 29,000 employees, the ratio of UNRWA employees to actual refugees is nearly 1:1. In contrast, UNHCR, which handles roughly 43 million refugees throughout the world, has a payroll of only 7,685.)

Keep this mind when reading the following passage from Karma Nablusi’s op-ed at ‘Comment is Free’ titled Despite the cruelties heaped on them, Palestinian refugees’ spirit has not broken, from March 21:

The only thing heard nowadays about the majority of the Palestinian people – those made refugees in the Nakba of 1948 – is that they must consider themselves and their fate entirely forfeited. Surrendering their right to return to the place they were expelled from – the most basic right every refugee has under international law – is apparently a given.

However, there is no such “right of return” enshrined in international law – and certainly no such right afforded to descendants of refugees.

When Nablusi, Mahmoud Abbas, and most Palestinian advocates speak of the so-called ‘right of return‘ in international law for 5 million Palestinians, they’re possible referring to an amorphous passage from the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which says ”No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Or, more likely, they’re alluding to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 – a non-binding resolution from December 1948, which reads in part:

This Resolution established a Conciliation Commission for Palestine and instructed it to “take steps to assist the Governments, and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them.” Paragraph 11 deals with the refugees: “The General Assembly … resolves that the [48] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Regardless of the proper interpretation of Resolution 194 regarding the status of the 30,000 remaining refugees from 1948, there appears to be no serious legal argument that would support the inclusion of the descendants of Palestinian refugees, those who were never Israeli citizens or residents – which, again, constitutes 99 percent of the total Palestinian “refugee” population.

Such an expansive definition would, if applied universally, guarantee the right of millions of descendants of Jewish refugees to ‘return’ to the Arab nations from which they were expelled.

Given that UNRWA and the international community refuse to resettle this population into their host countries in the Middle East where most had lived for generations – and because Palestinian leaders won’t allow them into the future state of Palestine - there will likely be no end anytime soon to the ‘refugee crisis.’

As one study projects, if descendants maintain their current status, the number of “refugees” in 2050 will reach 15 million.

If those truly inspired by a desire to reach a two-state deal would honestly grapple with finding a just resolution to the problem of 30,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War, a solution could easily be found.

However, if we fail to challenge the fabricated figure of 5 million, then - even when the last actual Palestinian refugees from ’48 have passed on – Palestinian leaders (and activists provided a forum by sympathetic media groups) will still have an endless supply of ‘refugees’ to use to bludgeon Israel and thus stymie a possible peace agreement – all of which helps to explain the position of the Palestinian President at the White House last week.

Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

Three More Palestinian “No’s” to Peace

Three More Palestinian “No’s” to Peace

Jonathan S. Tobin 

After the visits to Washington by both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas this month, it’s clear that Secretary of State John Kerry’s Middle East peace talks are at an impasse. If one were only listening to the statements coming from President Obama and Kerry, you’d think the obstacle to continued talks was their perennial whipping boy Netanyahu and not Abbas, whom they went out of their way to praise for his supposed commitment to peace. Yet while the Israelis have been prepared to accept Kerry’s framework for continued talks, albeit with misgivings about the direction of the process, it is the Palestinians who are digging in their heels and won’t commit to the framework or to keep talking after April. Demonstrating just how strong he thinks his hand is with the Americans, Abbas delivered three significant “no’s” to Obama last week that call into question both the Palestinians’ intentions as well as the future of the current process:

Abbas “went to the White House and said ‘no’ to Obama,” [Israel’s] Channel 2 news reported, quoting unnamed American and Israeli sources. Specifically, the report said, Abbas rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also refused to abandon the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians and their descendants — a demand that, if implemented, would drastically alter Israel’s demographic balance and which no conceivable Israeli government would accept. And finally, he refused to commit to an “end of conflict,” under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel.

It must be understood that a framework without these three elements is a formula for continue conflict, not peace. Moreover, according to a report in the Arab press, Abbas had some demands of his own before he would agree to keep talking even with a framework that did not include the three points he has rejected. He wants Israel to release the last of the more than 100 terrorist murderers it agreed to free in exchange for his agreement to return to the table last year plus one more: Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader who is currently serving five life-in-prison sentences for five murders in an Israeli jail.

As the Times of Israel notes, the release of Barghouti, who led the terrorist Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade during the second intifada (and was therefore actually responsible for the deaths of hundreds and injury to thousands more Israelis and Palestinians than the mere five civilian deaths for which he was convicted), would be a coup for Abbas and might give him the kind of political breathing room to keep talking. If he were sprung, Barghouti would also be seen as Abbas’s successor since the spilling of so much Jewish blood has enhanced his political stock among Palestinians. If, as is likely, the Israelis refuse, that would allow Abbas to once again blame Netanyahu for obstructing the peace process.

The Barghouti demand may be just window dressing intended to strengthen the always shaky political standing of Abbas as he serves the ninth year of the four-year term as president of the PA to which he was elected in 2005. But the key to understanding his negotiating strategy is his apparent confidence that nothing he does or says will cause the United States to call him out for his intransigence and blatant insincerity.

Indeed, though Kerry attempted to create a framework that was more or less on the terms that the Palestinians have always demanded–an independent state whose borders would be based on the 1967 lines that would include a share of Jerusalem–they have refused to assent to it since it would obligate them to actually end the conflict and recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. Obama’s decision to publicly hammer Netanyahu while praising Abbas seems to have emboldened the Palestinian to think he has carte blanche to up the ante on the Israelis while giving nothing in return. That Kerry and Obama cheerleaders like the left-wing J Street group have endorsed Abbas’s refusal to say those two little words—Jewish state—that would indicate his willingness to envision actual peace only reinforces his reluctance to give an inch.

Israelis are now expected to release the last of the murderers Abbas demanded as a ransom for his presence at the table just as he is abandoning it with the extra insult that the names of the terrorists on the list are actually Israeli citizens rather than residents of the territories. The bottom line is that after issuing three historic “no’s” to Israeli peace offers including statehood in 2000, 2001, and 2008, Abbas has now added three more refusals that add up to yet another instance in which the Palestinians have rejected a compromise that would end the conflict. How many more “no’s” will convince the administration that Abbas hasn’t the courage to challenge the Palestinian political culture of intransigence that he helped create and therefore must be held responsible for the deadlock rather than Netanyahu? Right now, Abbas is betting the number is infinite.

EU, UN Blame Settlements, not Palestinian Violence

EU, UN Blame Settlements, not Palestinian Violence

Tom Wilson 

In recent days both the European Union and the United Nations have issued statements condemning Israel for issuing housing permits to build additional homes in West Bank Jewish communities. Naturally, both statements equated these moves to Israel sabotaging the peace process, a completely dishonest claim that only makes it easier for the Palestinian side to use these moves as the very pretext that they are looking for to flee negotiations. In opposing the building of homes for Jews in communities that under just about any conceivable arrangement would remain part of Israel, these international bodies utterly ignore the most critical threat to peace in the area: the growing levels of Islamist violence in the territories, and the Palestinian Authority’s total neglect of its responsibility to confront this.

Indeed, the same Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), which issued the statement condemning the settlement construction, issued another statement only days earlier criticizing the activities of Israeli security forces operating in the West Bank, calling for investigations of any violations of international law.

In response to the publication of Israeli plans to move ahead with the construction of new housing projects in existing West Bank settlements, the EU’s Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply disappointed by the Israeli plans to expand settlements” and bemoaned how “unilateral action prejudging final status issues threatens the current peace negotiations.” Yet this is simply a misrepresentation of what is actually happening here. The talk of “expanding” settlements gives the sense of more territory being enveloped by Israel. In reality all building in these communities takes place within the existing perimeter boundaries of already established settlements. And the suggestion that creating more homes in these towns in any way prejudges “final status issues” is no less problematic. It has long been understood that the major settlement blocks would be annexed to Israel under any peace agreement.

For those who support the two-state proposal, there is a fundamental question to be answered about why settlements are indeed so problematic for their plan. Two-state plans almost always envisage the settlements either being annexed to Israel or otherwise evacuated. Yet, the need for such arrangements only highlights the fact that just as the Palestinians are refusing to agree to live alongside a Jewish state, they even refuse to live peacefully alongside Jewish neighbors. They have made it very clear that they have absolutely no intention of tolerating a Jewish minority within their state in the same way that Israel has always embraced having an Arab minority within its borders. When Ashton addresses the settlement issue, it seems she does not stop for a moment to ask herself why she is backing the establishment of a Jew-free state.    

Even if EU and UN officials genuinely believe that unilateral actions will hurt prospects for an agreement, where are all their statements giving equal condemnation of Palestinian moves? It would seem that they are deaf to what are now almost daily statements coming from president Abbas, declaring his refusal to sign up to the U.S.-sponsored framework and his intention to end the talks and return to pursuing Palestinian statehood unilaterally.

Given that Palestinian schools and broadcast media (in many instances funded by both the EU and the UN) put out a never-ending stream of incitement against Israel, in direct contravention of agreements that the PA is signed up to, wouldn’t you expect to occasionally hear some protest about this from Ashton or the UN’s special Middle East envoy Robert Serry? Instead, both of these figures pave Abbas’s way to fleeing talks by endorsing his narrative that settlement construction warrants just such a reaction.

These international diplomats live in a topsy-turvy version of reality in which homes for Jews are antithetical to peace, while the proliferation of Islamist terror groups in the West Bank are unworthy of comment. Indeed, in his Bloomberg interview President Obama repeatedly described settlements as “aggressive” so as to create the sense that building homes for Jews is comparable with acts of violence. Meanwhile Obama praised Abbas as having rejected violence. In truth Abbas’s PA continues to glorify and honor terrorism, but it also now seems that Abbas has adopted a parallel policy of inaction that only makes the proliferation of terrorism against Israelis more likely.

The growing threat of terror coming from the West Bank has become ever more apparent in recent months. It appears that, under pressure from a Palestinian public supportive of jihadist groups, the PA security forces have simply stopped policing certain neighborhoods of such radicalized cities as Jenin and Nablus. This has obliged the Israeli military to step up its involvement in these areas and over the weekend the IDF was engaged in a firefight in Jenin as they pursued Hamas operative Hamza Abu al-Hija, having already attempted to arrest him back in December. Despite the fact that these measures were necessitated by PA inaction, the Palestinian Authority actually condemned this incursion by Israel.

On Sunday Israeli border police officers were also injured by Palestinian rioters during a violent flare-up close to the Jewish holy site of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Meanwhile Palestinians assaulted an Israeli man near a Nablus village after PA police dispersed a group of Israelis visiting the site of the former Jewish community of Homesh. These are the kinds of activities that by their very nature break the peace and yet while Robert Serry apparently chooses to remain silent about the activities of terrorist groups, his office has no such qualms about chastising the Israeli security forces that have to try and deal with this threat.

Ashton accuses Israel of “squandering” opportunities for peace. What word, then, would she use to describe Abbas’s policy of presiding over a government that at once promotes and permits this kind of violence?