Prepared for the Conference of Presidents
October 19, 2018
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The U.S. on Thursday downgraded the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by placing it under the authority of the U.S. Embassy to Israel. The consulate had for years served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. The move was immediately denounced by the Palestinians and hailed by Israel.
The step means that the Jerusalem consulate will no longer have a separate channel to Washington to report on Palestinian affairs and will no longer be run by a consul general with authorities tantamount to those of an ambassador. For decades, the Jerusalem consulate has operated differently than almost every other U.S. consulate around the world.
Michael Oren, Israel's deputy minister for public diplomacy and a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, said: "A great day for Israel, Jerusalem, and the United States." The announcement "ends the last vestige of American support for the city's division. Israel is deeply grateful." (AP-U.S. News)
See also U.S. to Merge U.S. Embassy Jerusalem and U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced Thursday: "Following the May 14 opening of the U.S. Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, we plan to achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness by merging U.S. Embassy Jerusalem and U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem into a single diplomatic mission....We will continue to conduct a full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem....We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with the Palestinian people and, we hope in the future, with the Palestinian leadership." (State Department)
The U.S. on Thursday offered a $5 million reward to find Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Khalid Batarfi. In a video released in January after Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Batarfi called the move "a declaration of a new Jewish-Crusader war" and called on Muslims to "rise and attack the Jews and the Americans everywhere." (AFP-France 24)
Addressing the UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East on Thursday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon presented an official Palestinian Authority textbook that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had authorized for the current school year. "This textbook lists a number of so-called heroes - like Dalal Mughrabi - the terrorist responsible for a massacre that killed 38 people. This is Abbas' culture of hate - right in front of you. This is the reason Palestinian schoolchildren learn that it is better to kill a Jew than keep a job."
Abbas "preaches tolerance in English and terror in Arabic....He has led his people down a path of self-destruction and misery, stealing their chance at a good life. He is the obstacle to peace. If you hope to see a better future between Israelis and Palestinians, you will join us in indicting Abbas."
"In this year's budget, Abbas has allocated $355 million toward the pay-to-slay policy [paying salaries to terrorists and their families]. That's 7% of the total PA budget. Nearly half of every dollar [the international community] gives to the Palestinian people to build roads and schools is put in the pocket of those who murder Jews." (Algemeiner)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel's Security Cabinet decided Thursday to change its handling of the rampant violence at the Gaza border fence. Nevertheless, the political echelon still views reaching a ceasefire agreement with the mediation of Egypt and UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov as an option. The Cabinet instructed the IDF to gradually intensify the response to breaching attempts along the security fence and to the launching of incendiary balloons.
Security Cabinet minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday, "The rules of the game are about to change [against Hamas in Gaza]. We won't accept violence on the Gaza border fence and the continuation of the kite terrorism." (Ynet News)
See also Israel Seeks Wider Buffer Zone along Gaza Border - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state to release Lara Alqasem from Ben-Gurion Airport so she can attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Alqasem has admitted that she supported BDS until 2017, but has said that she then left the movement and that her desire to spend a year abroad at Hebrew University shows a clear break with her past. Justice Uzi Vogelman stated that there should be a higher standard of evidence for revoking a visa that has already been granted, as occurred in Alqasem's case, than for denying a visa to begin with. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israel Supreme Court: State Has the Authority to Bar BDS Activists - Alexander Fulbright
Lara Alqasem was let into Israel Thursday after the Supreme Court ruled she could not be barred. Justice Neal Hendel ruled that while the state has the authority to bar BDS activists from the country, the law was not applicable in Alqasem's case. "In this case, preventing the entry of the plaintiff does not advance the purpose of the law....The fight against boycotts is fitting and vital, as are the actions taken by the State of Israel on the matter. However, the concrete action before us clearly deviates from the range of reasonableness and cannot be accepted." (Times of Israel)
See also The System Works: The Alqasem Saga Showed Just How Democratic Israel Really Is - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested a Palestinian-American citizen on suspicion of involvement in a real estate transaction with Jews in eastern Jerusalem. U.S. officials said they were aware of the arrest and expressed concern that he would be treated fairly. They said the State Department was in touch with the PA regarding the arrest. (Jerusalem Post)
Miss Earth Lebanon, Salwa Akar, has been stripped of her title after posing for a photo with Miss Earth Israel, Israeli-Arab contestant Dana Zreik, Egypt's Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
No one has been made privy to the long-awaited U.S. plan for peace in the Middle East. This has not prevented the Palestinians from rejecting the plan on the pretext that it is aimed at "liquidating" the Palestinian cause and national rights. The Palestinians are not even prepared to wait until the U.S. actually presents a plan. The massive anti-U.S. campaign that Palestinian leaders have been waging for the past few months in the media and every available platform has made it impossible, if not dangerous, for any Palestinian leader to do business with the Trump administration.
Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza hate each other so much that they are accusing each other of "collaborating with the enemies," America and Israel. Meanwhile, it is the Palestinians who continue to pay the price for the vicious strife between their "leaders" - in both the West Bank and Gaza. (Gatestone Institute)
Amid the constant clashes at the Israel-Gaza border is the Palestinian "Tire Unit," made up of young men whose tactics include delivering tires to the border to light on fire, removal of barbed wire at the security fence, and throwing rocks, firebombs, and grenades. At first glance, the unit appears to be made up of ordinary Palestinians, but a detailed look into their members revealed a structured command made up of militants belonging to various factions. Their leader is Mustafa Mousa Zaqout, who heads the Abd Al-Qader Husseini Brigades, a militant group in Gaza affiliated with Fatah. (GroundBrief)
For the past seven months, Hamas has organized riots at the border with Israel. Many among the international press have accepted the Hamas rendering of these gatherings as "peaceful," even though photos and video clearly show an overwhelmingly young, male crowd, many of whom are armed with firebombs, knives and grenades, who aspire to overrun the Israeli border, murder and maim civilians, and then liberate all of Palestine from Israeli rule. There is nothing peaceful about these gatherings.
Compounding the immediate dangers posed by the riots is Hamas' launching of arson weapons that have incinerated Israeli farmland and nature preserves.
Curiously, there never seem to be riots in Gaza protesting the diversion of tens of millions of dollars of aid intended for civilian use to the advanced military infrastructure developed by Hamas, as well as weapon production and acquisition.
Last week, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the riots at the Gaza border will continue until the "siege on Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and all the lands of Palestine is lifted." There is zero ambiguity here. Hamas leaders are pledging the destruction of all of Israel, even within the 1967 borders. The writer is a former Canadian ambassador to Israel. (National Post-Canada)
When it comes to Saudi Arabia and the Jamal Khashoggi affair, everyone needs to take a deep breath. That's an almost impossible task given the heinousness of the crime and the Saudi regime's feckless efforts to dodge responsibility for it. An alliance that withstood the melting heat of the 9/11 attacks, carried out by a team of mostly Saudi terrorists, now appears on the verge of collapse over the fate of an op-ed columnist.
Before endorsing calls to scrap the Saudi-American relationship, keep in mind the following: First, the Saudis can be terrible friends. But they are friends in a region full of enemies. What Riyadh did to Khashoggi was awful and appalling. The Saudis do lots of other awful and appalling things, too. Beheadings. Judicial amputation. Outright bans on the practice of religions other than Islam.
Even so, Saudi Arabia isn't a sworn, systemic enemy of the U.S. Their state is not founded on the mantra of "Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to Britain" (that would be the Islamic Republic of Iran, Riyadh's archenemy).
Second, destabilizing Saudi Arabia would be an enormous folly. Tightening the diplomatic screws on the Saudi regime could have deeply unsettling effects. As the outcome of the Arab Spring taught Western elites, don't flirt with a destabilizing rupture with Riyadh unless you are prepared to countenance an Islamist takeover and/or further Iranian encroachments. (Commentary)
It doesn't really matter what views Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi held. Opinions quite simply never justify murder. Yet there is a widespread misperception that Khashoggi was some kind of liberal dissident.
As the New York Times noted, Khashoggi joined the Muslim Brotherhood as a young man, and he "remained conversant in its conservative, Islamist and often anti-Western rhetoric." Khashoggi told Al Jazeera Arabic a year ago he "deplored the [Saudi] authorities' decision to allow some in the Saudi news media to express support for Israel against the Palestinians." For Khashoggi, the "struggle against Israel" was a critical part of the Islamist agenda he embraced.
Khashoggi's intense hatred for Israel is clearly reflected in his Al Hayat columns. Israel's "existence is outside the context of history and logic...it came into being by force, it will live by force and it will die by force," he wrote. He praised Hamas for accomplishing the "miracle" of procuring rockets and explosives, and was full of admiration that "the huge network of tunnels that extends for miles under Gaza and the borders with Israel and Egypt were used brilliantly to inflict unprecedented losses on the enemy." (Ha'aretz)
A report in the Spanish newspaper ABC reveals that between 2008 and 2012, 173 individuals from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran registered as Venezuelan citizens to facilitate their participation in drug trafficking. In 2015, Misael Lopez Soto, an adviser to the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq, said that employees of the embassy sell visas, passports, identity cards, and Venezuelan birth certificates to people from Syria, the PA, Iraq, and Pakistan who pay between $5,000 and $15,000.
According to the Brazilian magazine Veja, sources declared in 2015 that Ghazi Nasr al Din, who served as Charge d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, maintained a network for manufacturing and distribution of authentic Venezuelan passports that were provided to hide the true identities of terrorists. (Panam Post)
Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, has described the U.S. as a "threat to the entire world." But his daughter, Fatemeh Ardeshir-Larijani, is safe in Ohio where she recently completed the first year of her residency in internal medicine. She is one of several children of Iranian leaders who attend America's universities.
For all their denunciations of America, Iran's rulers implicitly recognize that America offers the freedom, prosperity and opportunity their own country so desperately lacks. The writer is a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
The friendly relations between Israel and Central Asian countries go back to WWII when the then-Soviet republics including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan hosted an estimated two million refugees from the Nazi German invasion of the USSR - more than half of them Jews. Vadim Altskan, senior project director of the International Archival Programs at the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that his family fled from the Ukraine to Kazakhstan and worked with locals in agriculture from 1941 to 1944. "This is a story of Jewish-Muslim coexistence," he explained.
Today, the moderate, mostly secular Muslim Central Asian states are concerned about radical Islamic forces and cooperate with Israel in the security arena to keep extremist groups from gaining a foothold. The shared history of Jewish refugees in Central Asian countries aides in the effort by these countries to improve relations with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
On a per capita basis, there are more hate incidents reported against Jews than any other group in Canada. A total of 1,752 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2017, a 1.4% increase compared to 2016, according to B'nai Brith Canada. There are still far too many individuals and groups in Canada that seek to foment hatred against this one community of approximately 400,000 Canadians.
Today's anti-Semitism often takes on the pretense of contemporary discourse around Israel. It is not anti-Semitic to question Israel's policies. However, it is anti-Semitic to hold the world's only Jewish majority state to a different standard than all other nations. Supporting Israel is not only legitimate but reflective of Canadian values.
Anthony Housefather is the member of Parliament for Mount Royal and chairman of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice. Michael Levitt is the member of Parliament for York Centre and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee. (Canadian Jewish News)
According to a study by the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps Mental Health Department, reported cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among Israeli soldiers are among the lowest in militaries worldwide. For example, following the 2006 Second Lebanon War, 1.5% of Israeli soldiers were diagnosed with PTSD. In contrast, a U.S. Army Medical Corps study done at the same time found that about 8% of U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan had been diagnosed with PTSD. PTSD diagnoses in other militaries ranged from 2% to 17% of troops who participated in combat.
What makes IDF soldiers different? It is Israel itself that is different. Unlike in the U.S., there is no person in Israel who is untouched by terrorism or war; soldiers are an integral part of Israeli society. The IDF is a citizens' army, consisting of our fathers, brothers, husbands, friends, sisters and daughters. Almost every household has a soldier. Israelis have developed an attitude of "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." This is the mindset of resilience.
While Americans might honor or respect their soldiers, Israelis love their soldiers passionately. To Israelis, soldiers are our boys, our girls, our family. You let them sleep on your shoulder if they fall asleep next to you on the bus. It doesn't matter if you never saw them before and don't know their name. The minute they put on the uniform they belong to you and you belong to them. You do for someone else's son or daughter exactly what you would hope someone would do for yours. (JNS)
Michael Jacobs, 66, a resident of Amsterdam, has been going out five times a week over the past two years to defend Israel at BDS demonstrations. "I stand in front of the anti-Israel demonstrators with the Israeli flag to show them that we will not give up and will not surrender to their lies and pressure to give up our land," Jacobs declares. "I'm on duty, and I feel like a soldier defending the human morality that is missing in the Netherlands and defending the State of Israel....I am ready to fight because my grandparents were murdered for being Jewish."
"In the Netherlands, it is commonplace that they refuse to see the Jewish people as a nation. They think we stole the land from the Arabs. People really believe it because they have been saying it on the daily news for 30 years now. They are brainwashing the Dutch people. I see myself as a regular Jew doing tikkun olam (bettering the world). I am proud to be a Jew, I am proud of the flag, I am proud of the Israeli and Jewish tradition....Israel is the land of the Jews and that is why I wave the Israeli flag." (Ynet News)
Dutch resistance fighter Walraven van Hall save hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust while inflicting painful damage on the Nazi war machine before his execution by German soldiers in 1945. Van Hall's bravery is recalled in "The Resistance Banker," which won the Netherlands' national award for best film in 2018. Van Hall and his brother, Gijsbert, were members of a prominent banking family who for three years bankrolled the Dutch resistance, supplying it with the equivalent of $500 million and helping to make it one of Europe's fiercest and most effective resistance groups .
Van Hall and his brother stole the equivalent of $250 million from Nazi-controlled coffers and borrowed an additional $250 million from other bankers to carry out attacks, smuggle Allied pilots to safety, and provide financial support to at least 8,000 Jews in hiding during World War II. The Germans had no idea who van Hall was to the bitter end. He was shot along with several other suspected resistance fighters in retaliation for a Nazi officer's assassination. Gijsbert van Hall, the elder brother, later became mayor of Amsterdam. Israel recognized Walraven van Hall in 1978 as a Righteous Among the Nations - a non-Jew who risked his life to save Jews during the Holocaust. (JTA)
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok apologized this week to the family of diplomat Jan Zwartendijk who saved Jews during the Holocaust but after the war was rebuked for his actions. In 1940, Zwartendijk issued 1,200-1,400 forged documents to Jews in the city of Kovno, Lithuania, where he was the Dutch consul, to enable them to enter the Dutch colony of Curacao. In 1997, Yad Vashem recognized him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
A new book called The Righteous (De Rechtvaardigen) by Jan Brokken claims that after the war the Dutch Foreign Ministry denounced Zwartendijk for having "broken the rules." (Ha'aretz)
Last Friday I came to Nagoya, Japan, at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honor of the memory of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara. In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to run the consulate and was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland. Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees, but the foreign ministry refused and told him to make no further inquiries. Sugihara decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.
In a 1977 interview, Sugihara spoke about his actions as natural: "We had thousands of people hanging around the windows of our residence. There was no other way." After the ceremony in Nagoya, I spoke with his son Nobuki, who told me his father was "a very simple man. He was kind, loved reading, gardening and most of all children. He never thought what he did was notable or unusual."
Most of the world saw throngs of desperate foreigners. Sugihara saw human beings and he knew he could save them through prosaic but essential action: "A lot of it was handwriting work," he said. Day and night he wrote visas. He issued as many visas in a day as would normally be issued in a month. At least 6,000 visas were issued for people to travel through Japan to other destinations, and in many cases entire families traveled on a single visa. It has been estimated that over 40,000 people are alive today because of this one man. The writer is the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. (New York Times)
75 years ago, in the middle of the night on 28 September 1943, a Dutch Nazi and a German soldier, with guns in hand, broke down our front door in The Hague in Holland. I was nearly 4 years old. My father, mother, brother, and I were pushed down the stairs and herded into an army truck surrounded by Dutch policemen, with our neighbors silently looking on. 107,000 Dutch Jews were transported via Westerbork to Nazi concentration camps. Only 5,000 survived the Holocaust and 102,000 were murdered, including 64 of my immediate family.
The four of us were held prisoners in Bergen-Belsen for 434 days. I had my 5th birthday in Bergen-Belsen and was one of the very youngest to survive. My father's job was to take a horse and cart around the camp and pick up the dead bodies lying around in the dirt and the dead from the barracks. The major advantage of this job was that he was able to steal food meant for the horses, such as a carrot or potato.
Every morning at 5:00 a.m., rain, hail, snow or shine, the prisoners, including children over four years old (which included me), had to go on roll call. This became particularly bad during the extreme winter of 1944/45. The roll call could take hours, especially if a prisoner was missing or if there was a miscount. As is well known, Anne Frank and her sister Margot died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.
According to Red Cross records, they have no other record of a family of four - father, mother and two sons - going into a concentration camp and coming out alive, as a family of four. (Times of Israel)
There Is a Path for Gaza - Jason Greenblatt (Jerusalem Post)
The writer is U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations.