Saturday, February 24, 2018

From Ian:

Father of Taylor Force, US Business Student and Military Vet Murdered in Palestinian Stabbing Attack: We Are Not Suckers
Stuart Force — the father of the late Taylor Force, the American business student and military veteran who was murdered in a stabbing attack in Israel in 2016 — spoke on Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington, DC, and called on the Senate to approve a pending piece of legislation, named for his son, that would cut off US government funding of the Palestinian Authority if it continues to pay monetary rewards to terrorists and their families.

“The Palestinian Authority leadership tells the world that these payments are simply social welfare payments,” Stuart Force said. “But we aren’t suckers. We know that these are US taxpayer dollars being used to incentivize and fund terror.”

“It has been emotionally distressing to relive the loss of our son over the past two years,” Force told the crowd at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. “But we have come to realize there are so many more good people in the world than there are evil ones. The evil ones seem to get all the attention, online and in the media. The good people of the world deserve better. Passing the Taylor Force Act and stopping the terror funding is a great place to start the process.”

“The House [of Representatives] has passed its version of the act,” Force explained. “The next step is to allocate floor time on the Senate, pass its version, reconcile the two, and send it to President Trump for his signature.”

“This is not a partisan issue, this is an anti-terrorism issue,” Force went on to say. “This is a right versus wrong issue. We look forward to being in the Senate gallery when the act passes with unanimous, bipartisan, support, and we can fist bump, hug, and cry, like we did in the House gallery.”
Bret Stephens: Don’t Count Bibi Out — Yet
If you follow the news from Israel, you might surmise that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as prime minister are numbered. The police recommend that he be charged on multiple counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Fresh charges may yet be brought in additional investigations. A former top aide to Netanyahu agreed this week to serve as a witness against him. Press reports suggest a man clinging to power.

Don’t be so sure. If an election were held tomorrow, Bibi — as Netanyahu is universally known in Israel — and his Likud party would likely win, according to recent polls. Roughly half of Israelis think the prime minister should quit, but that’s down from 60 percent in December. Netanyahu has no intention of resigning, even if the attorney general chooses to indict him. The Likud rank-and-file remain loyal to their leader. His coalition partners may detest him, but for now they see greater political advantage in a wounded prime minister than in a fresh one.

Besides, Bibi has been, for Israelis, a pretty good prime minister. Some indicators:

Economy: Since Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, the economy has grown by nearly 30 percent in constant dollars — nearly twice the growth rate of Germany or the United States. Some 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, a record for the Jewish state. On Monday, Israel announced a $15 billion dollar deal to export natural gas to Egypt from its huge offshore fields.

Diplomacy: Netanyahu’s personal ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are exceptionally close, as they are with Japan’s Shinzo Abe. Israel’s relations with African countries and the Arab world are the best they’ve been in decades; reaction in Riyadh and Cairo to the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem amounted to a shrug. Netanyahu’s 2015 speech to Congress opposing the Iran deal, billed as an affront to the Obama administration, turned out to be an inspiration for Israel’s neighbors. And Netanyahu’s arguments against the deal now prevail in the current White House. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Palestinian ex-terrorist deported from US invited to speak in Amsterdam
Right-wing Dutch lawmakers have protested a far-left group’s invitation of a Palestinian ex-terrorist who was deported from the United States to speak in the Dutch capital.

Machiel de Graaf and Gidi Markuszower of the Party for Freedom expressed opposition to Rasmea Odeh’s planned visit in a query they submitted Thursday to Justice and Security Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus.

“Do you agree that a convicted terrorist and immigration fraudster has nothing to look for in the Netherlands? If not, why not?” the lawmakers wrote, adding: “Are you prepared to deny her entrance? If not, why?”

In the Netherlands, lawmakers use parliamentary queries to draw the media’s attention to issues and direct scrutiny of the actions of the ministers queried, who have up to three weeks to reply.

Odeh was invited to the Netherlands by Anakbayan-Europe, a Filipino communist group, and another fringe left organization called Revolutionary Unity.

Friday, February 23, 2018

From Ian:

Human Rights Groups Refused to Help 52 Arab Victims of Palestinian Authority Torture
A group of 52 Arabs, residents of the Palestinian Authority, who needed costly medical evaluations in order to apply for compensations following a court ruling finding the PA guilty of torturing them, turned to fifteen different human rights organizations for support but were rejected by 13 of them, Israel Hayom reported Friday.

Out of the 15 NGOs, only Physicians for Human Rights and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture offered assisted the applicants. The rest refused to help or ignored the pleas. The Yesh Din organization expressed their “feelings of anger and pain,” but explained that they cannot help because they only “represent victims of violations when they are harmed by Israeli authorities or Israeli citizens.”

Another NGO, Adalah, stated they “only help the Palestinian who are suing the State of Israel.”

Amnesty International said that their organization “does not have the professional tools to address the needs of these refugees.”

Good to know.

Last August, Judge Moshe Drori of the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the murder, abduction, imprisonment, torture and rape of 52 Arabs who are citizens of Israel or the PA. The verdict on these cases—dating back to the years 1995-2002—described torture that included electric shocks; castration; prolonged hanging by the legs with the prisoner’s head down; pouring boiling plastic on prisoners’ bodies; pulling teeth and nails; sleep deprivation and food deprivation; as well as murder and rape of family members.
Amnesty report claims Israel ‘kills,’ ‘tortures’ Palestinian children
The recent Amnesty International Report on the state of human rights in 159 countries and territories during 2017 claims Israel is “killing” and “torturing” Palestinian children with impunity.

Its critique of Israel is more extensive and critical than those of known bastions of human rights violations, including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

“June marked 50 years since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories and the start of the 11th year of its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, subjecting approximately 2 million inhabitants to collective punishment and a growing humanitarian crisis,” the report begins.

“Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians, including children... Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, remained pervasive and was committed with impunity,” it continues.

In its “Unlawful Killings” section, the document claims Israeli soldiers, police and security guards killed at least 75 Palestinians, later noting that “some of those killed were shot while attacking Israelis or suspected of intending an attack.”

“Many, including children, were shot and unlawfully killed while posing no immediate threat to life,” the reports states.

The “Excessive Use of Force” section claims that Israeli forces killed at least 20 Palestinians and wounded thousands while being attacked during riots.

“Many protesters threw rocks or other projectiles, but were posing no threat to the lives of well-protected Israeli soldiers when they were shot,” it states.
Ellison on Farrakhan Meeting: ‘There’s No Relationship,’ I’m a ‘Fierce Opponent of Anti-Semitism’ (not satire)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) said Thursday he had no relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, saying he had always been a "fierce opponent of anti-Semitism."

Ellison, the vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee and a Muslim, attended a private dinner in 2013 with Farrakhan, an outspoken racist and anti-Semite who espouses conspiracy theories about Jews and whites, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

CNN host Wolf Blitzer recapped the saga, pointing out Ellison said in 2016 that his relationship with Farrakhan ended long ago.

"What exactly is your relationship with Farrakhan?" Blitzer asked.

"No relationship," Ellison said. "My political opponents keep pushing this out there in order to try to smear and distract from the key issues, but there's no relationship, Wolf. I have a clear record. I have always fought for equal rights for all people. I will continue to do so. I have always denounced and been a fierce opponent of anti-Semitism, from whatever source. I'll continue to do so."

  • Friday, February 23, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon

From AP:
Two Trump administration officials say the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will open in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence.

The officials say Congress is being notified of the impending move on Friday. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.

The officials weren't authorized to discuss the plan publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A ribbon-cutting is being planned for mid-May, they said. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948.

A May opening would mark a significant acceleration. Vice President Mike Pence had said previously the embassy would open by the end of 2019, and Tillerson had said it could take years.

Initially, the embassy will consist of just a few offices inside an existing U.S. facility in Jerusalem. Opening a full-fledged embassy will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of the new embassy.
Israel's Independence Day this year comes out (according to the Hebrew calendar and adjustments to avoid Sabbath violations) on April 19, not May 14.

But "Nakba Day" is celebrated every year on May 15th.

I guess if the Palestinians are going to act upset at the fact of Israel's existence on Nakba Day, they might as well add another reason and be upset at the fact that Jerusalem is Israel's capital as well.

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From Ian:

US ‘to move embassy to Jerusalem on May 14’ — day of independence declaration
The US is planning to officially move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 — the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, as well as Washington’s recognition of the Jewish state — Channel 10 and Hadashot news reported Friday.

According to Hadashot the embassy will officially announce the plans later in the day. The report was confirmed to Channel 10 by high-ranking Israeli officials.

The Times of Israel has not confirmed the report.

US officials had previously said the move could take many more months, and perhaps years.

Earlier Friday four US officials told The Associated Press that the Trump administration was considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of the new embassy.

Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said. The discussions are occurring as the new embassy clears its final bureaucratic hurdles.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended weeks of delay by signing off on a security plan for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, according to the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and demanded anonymity.

Sheldon Adelson offers to help pay for US Jerusalem embassy — report
The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of a new US embassy in Jerusalem, four US officials told The Associated Press.

Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said. The discussions are occurring as the new embassy clears its final bureaucratic hurdles. On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended weeks of delay by signing off on a security plan for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, according to the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and demanded anonymity.

In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but potentially from other donors in the evangelical and American Jewish communities, too. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost — expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and what the administration is able to raise.

Under any circumstance, letting private citizens cover the costs of an official government building would mark a significant departure from historical US practice. In the Jerusalem case, it would add yet another layer of controversy to Trump’s politically charged decision to move the embassy, given Adelson’s longstanding affiliation with right-wing Israeli politics.
Hotovely: '10 more countries in talks to move embassies to Jerusalem'
Israel is currently holding talks with 10 different nations over the possible relocation of their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely revealed Thursday.

Following President Donald Trump’s December 6th announcement that he had ordered the US State Department to begin work transferring the US mission to Israel from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital, just one other country, Guatemala, followed suit.

Later that month, however, Hotovely hinted that other countries may also be interested in transferring their embassies.

On Thursday, Hotovely told American Jewish leaders that Israel is currently engaged in talks with 10 different countries regarding the relocation of their embassies.

Speaking with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, currently visiting Israel as part of their annual leadership mission to Israel, Hotovely briefed leaders on the progress made towards securing the embassy relocations.

"We are in a dialogue with over ten countries to transfer their embassies to our capital, Jerusalem," said Hotovely.

"We want to see at least another 10 countries that will transfer their embassies to Jerusalem after the US in the coming years."

Latest in the never-ending series....

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  • Friday, February 23, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon

A tweet from Amnesty USA's pro-Palestinian account:

Over the past year, all of the problems in Gaza came from the infighting between the PA and Hamas. And Amnesty knows it. In the "Palestine" section of its latest annual report, it dispassionately mentions some of what has happened in 2017:

The Palestinian government based in Ramallah imposed several punitive measures against Gaza in a bid to pressure the Hamas administration to give up control of Gaza. These measures impeded the civilian population’s access to medical care, essential services including water and electricity, and education. This contributed to violations of the rights to health, an adequate standard of living, and education.

In May, the West Bank authorities informed Israel that they would cover only 70% of the monthly cost of Israeli electricity supplies to Gaza due to Hamas’ failure to reimburse them. As a result, access to electricity in Gaza was reduced from an average of eight hours per day to between two to four hours per day.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in March the West Bank authorities suspended the payments for transfers of people in need of medical treatment outside Gaza, delaying the referrals of some 1,400 patients. NGOs reported that procedural delays resulted in the deaths of several patients, including babies. The UN reported delays in the transfer of essential medicines and medical supplies to hospitals in Gaza, affecting patients’ long-term health.
But when Amnesty's report discusses Israel and Gaza, the language is much stronger in placing blame:

Israel’s illegal air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip entered its 11th year, continuing the long-standing restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and from the area, collectively punishing Gaza’s entire population. Combined with Egypt’s almost total closure of the Rafah border crossing, and the West Bank authorities’ punitive measures, Israel’s blockade triggered a humanitarian crisis with electricity cuts reducing access to electricity from an average of eight hours per day down to as little as two to four hours, affecting clean water and sanitation and diminishing health service access, and rendering Gaza increasingly “unlivable” according to the UN. ... Many patients with life-threatening illnesses were unable to access treatment outside Gaza due to Israeli restrictions and delays by West Bank authorities in processing referrals.
Amnesty downplays any Arab responsibility for the Gaza crisis and chooses to only castigate Israel with words like "illegal" and "collective punishment" and "humanitarian crisis" and making Gaza "unlivable." (There is nothing illegal in Israel's enforcing a national border with Gaza, nor with its naval blockade, as even the UN admits. But Amnesty flatly labels Israeli actions to protect its borders "illegal" twice in this document.)

Israel doesn't restrict fuel shipments. The PA does.

Israel doesn't restrict medicines in Gaza. The PA does.

Israel doesn't restrict electricity. The PA does.

Israel doesn't restrict patients getting medical care without specific security reasons. The PA does.

But Amnesty doesn't use any language against the PA that indicates any moral issues with its actions. Only Israel.

Which is what the tweet shows quite convincingly.

Amnesty isn't attacking and singling out Israel out of ignorance. It is doing it out of deep seated hate.

Incidentally, its Israel section of its report is longer than its entry on Syria. Because Amnesty's priorities are quite obvious.

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  • Friday, February 23, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon
Dervish protest on February 19th that turned violent

This report from Iranian mouthpiece PressTV needs to be read between the lines:

Iranian mourners have held a funeral ceremony for the police forces who lost their lives in a recent wave of attacks by members of a Dervish cult in northern Tehran.

The attacks took place overnight on Monday during an unauthorized gathering by the so-called Gonabadi Dervishes near a police station, during which they engaged in clashes with ordinary people and police forces, according to officials.

During the clashes, an attacker ploughed a bus through a group of policemen, killing three of them.

Two members of the Basij volunteer force also lost their lives in separate car-ramming and stabbing attacks at the site. A funeral ceremony was also held for the pair on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Thursday funeral, the Iranian interior minister said the deadly riots in northern Tehran were yet another plot designed by enemies to put pressure on Iran.

“Over the past months, we have witnessed a host of pressure tactics in various areas...which are indicative of hostilities by the US and the Zionist regime,” Rahmani Fazli said, adding, “We are well aware of their plots.”

The Iranian police chief also addressed the crowd of mourners, vowing that law enforcement forces will give a firm response to any group seeking to disrupt public order and security.

“We do not at allow any cult, group or political movement to endanger security, and we will decisively deal with them,” Ashtari added.

More than 300 people, among them the drivers of the bus and the car as well as the main elements behind the incident, had been arrested.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Dervish cult strongly condemned the attacks, calling for the perpetrators of acts of violence to be brought to justice.
The Gonabadi Dervishes are a Sufi group which has been persecuted by Iran for decades, but there is hardly any information about this. A good description of their persecutions comes from, of all places, Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board, as help to determine if this group can be considered potential political refugees:

Radio Free Europe gives a synopsis:
The Nematollahi Gonabadi order is Iran's largest Sufi order, with members across the country, including in major cities like Tehran and Isfahan. Like most Iranians, they are followers of Shi'a Islam. They pray five times a day and fast during the month of Ramadan. Their rituals include reading spiritual poetry.

The Gonabadi dervishes view Sufism as a way of life through which one can find God. They strongly oppose the use of drugs and preach tolerance. Perhaps more crucially in the current context, they believe that religion and politics should be separated.

Their leader or "pole" is 90-year-old Paris-educated lawyer Nurali Tabandeh, who defended several political prisoners before and after the 1979 revolution. Dervishes have said that Tabandeh's safety is their "red line."

In recent weeks, dozens of dervishes have staged a sit-in outside Tabandeh's residence in northern Tehran to protect him. They say they became concerned after at least one occasion in which plainclothes agents, believed to be affiliated with security organs, swarmed his street, with clashes ensuing.

Iran's clerical establishment has long opposed any group that it regards as a threat to its monopoly on religion.

Dervishes say their growing popularity is the reason behind the state pressure they face. They claim to have between 2 million and 5 million members in Iran and abroad. They say their tight-knit community also concerns Iranian authorities.

Some conservative clerics have called the Sufis a danger to Islam. Ayatollah Hossein Nuri Hamedani, a high-ranking cleric in Qom, said in 2006 that by not engaging in politics, Sufis weaken Islam. Hard-liners have also accused the dervishes of being used by foreign powers to create discord within Iranian society.

In 2007, a letter was published by a group describing themselves as seminarians of Qom in which the signatories warned of the "dangers" of Sufism and called on authorities to deal with it "more firmly." They added that the "Hizbullah nation of Iran" is ready to cooperate and assist officials.

Amnesty International says the persecution of dervishes increased after an October 2010 speech by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who denounced "newly created circles of false mysticism."

Sufis, who believe one can reach a direct union with God, and Orthodox Muslims have long been at odds in Iran. The tensions have worsened since the creation of the Islamic republic as state tolerance for Sufis has decreased.

What Kind Of Pressure Have They Faced?

Dervishes have complained of state pressure and harassment for years.

Some of their houses of worship have been destroyed in past years, while hundreds of members have been detained and more than a dozen have been sentenced to prison terms, lashes, or internal exile.

In 2006, a Sufi house of worship was destroyed in Qom and 1,000 dervishes were detained following clashes that reportedly left 100 injured. Authorities claimed the Sufis had illegally turned a presidential building into a center of worship and had refused to vacate it.
There is a systematic oppression and demonization of a Muslim group in Iran that has millions of members - and the media essentially ignores it.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

From Ian:

Sohrab Ahmari: The New Old European Obsession Some things never change.
Does Europe still want its Jews, and can the Jews still find belonging in Europe? Ask the likes of Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, and they will answer firmly and decisively in the affirmative. Yet their assurances ring hollow amid a resurgence of Europe’s old and unhealthy obsession with Jews.

The latest signs came this month from Brussels and Warsaw, which nicely illustrated both the geographic span of Europe’s Jewish obsession and the diverse forms it can take depending on the political context.

Start with Brussels and the European Parliament. The EU legislative body is hosting a conference on February 28 on Israeli settlements–a perennial Brussels bugbear, despite the fact that a few Jewish communities in the West Bank are far from the region’s most pressing issue. Among the speakers is the Qatari-born Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti. The invitation to Barghouti came courtesy of Ana Gomes, a Portuguese member from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the second-largest bloc in the European Parliament.

As European Jewish leaders noted in a letter to Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, Barghouti advocates a total economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel and denies the Jewish state’s right to exist. Barghouti says he opposes a “binational” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the ground that such a solution “makes two problematic assumptions: that Jews are a nation, and that such a nation has a right to exist as such in Palestine.” Barghouti, in other words, isn’t just another critic of the settlements but a bigot, who would invite Europeans to isolate the Jewish people and their state.

Economic boycotts of Jews have a long and odious history in Europe, but they are now getting a replay at the European Parliament under the respectable guise of high-minded Israel critique.
Cape Town May Dry Up Because of an Aversion to Israel
Even more confounding, the South Africans turned to Iran for help. In April 2016, when there was still enough time for a smart plan to make a difference, South Africa’s water minister visited Tehran. She brought home a memorandum of understanding in which Iran agreed to help develop South Africa’s water infrastructure.

Unlike Israel, Iran is not known for its water-management expertise. Anger over water shortages was a feature of the recent Iranian protests. Even before the South African visit, a former Iranian agriculture minister predicted that as many as 50 million Iranians—around two-thirds of the population—would need to be uprooted because of growing water scarcity.

As in South Africa, Iran’s water shortages can’t be blamed only on the weather. Water infrastructure projects in Iran are controlled by the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which diverts water to favored ethnic and political groups. In Tehran largely untreated sewage is discharged into nearby waterways, a waste of water that creates health hazards. Years of regime-encouraged overpumping of groundwater has left agricultural districts without water for crops.

Two months after the South African water minister’s Iran trip, Israel brought a team of water professionals to Cape Town. Neither the mayor, also strongly hostile to Israel, nor any senior municipal official would see them.

If the South Africans are snubbing the Israelis out of solidarity with the Palestinians, they might want to consider this: The Palestinian Authority has worked with Israel on a range of water projects since 1995. Israel offers training for Palestinians in wastewater management, infrastructure and security. Israel also provides the Palestinian Authority with more than half the water for domestic consumption by Palestinians in the West Bank. And it pipes more than 2.5 billion gallons of water into Hamas-controlled Gaza each year.

Why does South Africa feel compelled to be so anti-Israel? The question has no rational answer.
150 years ago, the UK’s first and only Jewish leader changed politics forever
Many British Jews, as the Jewish Chronicle put it, recognized that the Turks were the “real protectors of the Jews in the East” and were understandably wary of Russia’s threats to intervene.

But Disraeli’s actions were not, as his critics suggested, the result of his “Jew feelings” or a reflection of an “Oriental indifference to cruelty” but a realpolitik calculation, strongly shared by Queen Victoria, that Russian expansionism posed a danger to British interests.

Even Disraeli’s eventual triumph — at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 he thwarted Russian designs on the Balkans — did not satisfy Gladstone, who continued to charge that Britain’s Jews had proved themselves “opponents of effectual relief to Christians.”

Watching Disraeli in Berlin, Bismarck proved more complimentary: “Der alte Jude, das ist der Mann [the old Jew, he is the man],” he remarked.

“One Nation” conservatism has gone through many iterations since Disraeli’s day. It is, though, a testament to the longevity of its appeal that, the morning after he was reelected in 2015, David Cameron pledged to lead a “one nation” government.

Perhaps more remarkable still, both Cameon’s defeated opponent – the Labour leader, Ed Miliband – and his successor in Downing Street, Theresa May, have both attempted to don the “one nation” mantle.

Disraeli’s conservatism was deeply held. The purpose of the Tory party, he believed, was “to maintain the institutions of the country” — the monarchy, the Church of England, the aristocracy. But that belief also necessitated knowing when it is best to reform in order to preserve.

It is this philosophy of governing that has been perhaps Disraeli’s greatest legacy to the Conservative party and which has allowed it to become the most electorally successful political party in the world.

  • Thursday, February 22, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon

Jerusalem Post reports:
Soldiers in the IDF’s Unit 8200 played a large role in thwarting a major Islamic State terrorist attack this past summer, which aimed to bring down a civilian airliner headed from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, the army has revealed.

In cooperation with Israel’s intelligence community, soldiers provided exclusive intelligence that they had gathered on an attack that was being planned. The intelligence led to the arrest of the suspects, who were in a very advanced stage in executing the plot, the army said.

“The thwarting of the attack led to the saving of the lives of dozens of innocent people and demonstrated that Unit 8200 is a player in the intelligence war against Islamic State,” the army said. Regarded as Israel’s equivalent of the National Security Agency in the US, the soldiers of one of the IDF’s most prestigious units, Unit 8200, intercept and collect digital communication and intelligence on Israel’s enemies.

Spread across the country, these online soldiers of Unit 8200 are on the front line of Israel’s cyberwars 24/7, 365 days a year, to identify possible threats and effectively neutralize them.

“About half of Unit 8200 is engaged in operational activity beyond Israel’s borders,” a senior officer in Unit 8200 told military reporters on Tuesday, referring to the interception and analysis of signal intelligence gathered by troops. “Because of our abilities, we are very attractive to foreign countries,” he added.

The ISIS-inspired attack against an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi was thwarted, according to Australian officials, in July. Four men were arrested in Sydney suburbs for planning two separate attacks, including one where a bomb, which was to be carried onboard the plane by an unwitting “mule,” would be detonated while in the air.
This was widely reported in mainstream media as well. It was also reported in plenty Arabic language news sites in the PA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

But as of Thursday morning, I cannot find any mention in any English language UAE media, even though it was an Emirates plane that was saved.

Just a reminder of what an unfree press looks like.

It is also an indicator that the story is true - because there is no denial from the Arab state whose citizens were saved.

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 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

I was talking with a friend yesterday. He is very well-informed and concerned about Israel and the Jewish people, and the prospects for our survival. But he does not live in Israel, so he asked me “what about the legal problems facing the Prime Minister? Would he provoke an international crisis to distract attention from them?”

Well, what about them? It’s something I generally avoid talking about, probably for the same reason that I avoid talking about the US President. I just don’t want to hear, yet again, the talking points of both sides. But since this blog can be a one-way conversation – I can choose to ignore comments if I wish – I am going to say a few words about Mr. Netanyahu.

Let me get this out of the way: I voted for him in 2015 and I would vote for him again if an election were held today. Of course he has his flaws, but I think I join many Israelis who do not see among the potential candidates to lead the nation one that could better ensure our security. And that is the issue, light years ahead of the price of apartments and his wife’s taste in champagne.

Not that I think that all of his policies are optimal. I would like a Prime Minister who pushed harder to settle Jews in all of the Land of Israel (my friend and I also talked a lot about this), because I think that – after dealing with the Iranian threat – is the single most important thing we can do to ensure the survival of the Jewish people.

I would like a Prime Minister who is a little less obsequious toward the US, and who does more to reduce our dependence on it (although Netanyahu has made some very significant accomplishments in improving our relationship with other nations, like India, China, Russia, and some Eastern European and African countries).

Personally, he is arrogant, he holds his cards very close to his vest, does not delegate authority well, and tries too hard to prevent potential rivals from gaining strength. Sometimes he makes enemies out of those who should be allies, because he’s threatened by their potential as possible challengers.

In order to understand the PM’s legal troubles it’s necessary to understand something about the social and political ocean that he swims in. Netanyahu represents the continuation of Menachem Begin’s revolt against the domination of Israeli politics, culture and economy by the Ashkenazi socialist Left. But Israel is a democratic country and not a fascist dictatorship, so the revolution (some might say unfortunately) did not include a purge of the old guard in politics, the legal system, academics, culture and – definitely not least – the media.

The disasters wrought by the Oslo accords and the resulting Second Intifada (some call it the “Oslo war”) and the withdrawal from Gaza sealed the demise of the Left as a political bloc. The Left keeps trying, but Israelis haven’t forgotten what was done to them in the name of ‘peace’, and won’t vote for them. But even though polls show that the right-wing parties are much more likely to come out on top in an election, the media and other unelected elites are strongly in the camp of the left. And their attitude toward PM Netanyahu is much like that of the Democrats in America toward Donald Trump: they hate him passionately.

There are at present at least four police investigations that to some extent relate to the PM and, naturally, his wife, who is also a prime target for his enemies. He is accused of 1) providing favors in return for cigars, champagne and other presents, of 2) making a deal with the publisher of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper to receive favorable coverage in return for acting to suppress the circulation of Yediot’s competitor, the free Israel Hayom newspaper, of 3) being somehow connected to a kickback scheme in connection with the purchase of submarines from a German company, and of 4) providing favors to the management and important shareholders of telecommunications company Bezeq in return for favorable coverage on a Bezeq-owned news website). Sara Netanyahu is accused of using public funds for her private benefit.

Overall, some of this is invented, much of it is exaggerated, some is probably true, some is politics as usual, and most comes from informants that the police have put the squeeze on. The police have recommended to the Attorney General that the PM be indicted on charges related to 1) and 2) above, and that his wife be indicted for her actions as well. In my opinion, even if the worst accusations are true, none of them move the needle for corruption by a head of state by world standards. Nevertheless, the law is the law. It is up to the Attorney General to decide whether to indict Netanyahu or drop the charges.

What is outrageous here – and Netanyahu is perfectly right in calling this out – is the behavior of the police and news media (did I mention that the media, especially the broadcast media, are almost 100% on the side of Netanyahu’s political foes?).

The investigations have been going on for at least a year, with Netanyahu or his wife being interrogated by the police multiple times for hours at a time. Every time he or one of numerous others is questioned, including those who have agreed to be state’s witnesses in order to avoid possible prosecution themselves (among them his main political rival Yair Lapid), the nightly “Hadashot” newscast that most Israelis watch leads with a story based on unsourced leaks from the police and other parties involved in the cases against Netanyahu. Newspapers echo the accusations the following day. It’s hard to imagine a clearer case of the media appointing itself judge, jury and executioner.

Note that most of this took place before the investigations were complete and the police had transmitted their recommendations to the Attorney General, who of course has not yet decided whether to indict the PM (there have been weekly demonstrations calling for him to do so led by Netanyahu’s opponents in front of the Attorney General’s home, and demonstrators even entered a synagogue where the AG was saying kaddish for his mother). 

Netanyahu  likes to say that his opponents, unable to beat him at the ballot box, are trying to force him out undemocratically. It’s hard to disagree with this assessment. He is not required by law to resign even if he is indicted and possibly not even if he is convicted of a crime, but practically speaking, an indictment would put him in hot water with his own coalition. It could also bring about a constitutional crisis between the government and the Supreme Court.

One can understand why the Americans require a process of impeachment to remove a sitting president. There is an overwhelmingly political aspect to the prosecution of a head of state which cannot be ignored; the American system makes it explicit, while the Israeli system tries to shut its eyes to it. There was an attempt to pass a law that exempts a sitting PM from prosecution for certain kinds of crimes, but it didn’t get off the ground. A law did pass that will prevent the police from making public their recommendations to the Attorney General, but it will not apply retroactively to Netanyahu’s cases.

As I said, Netanyahu has his flaws; but his claim to have dedicated his career and his life to the security of the state of Israel is indisputable. So when my friend asked me if I thought Netanyahu would provoke a crisis in order to draw attention from his legal issues, my answer was “absolutely not.” Although his enemies like to attribute every imaginable moral defect to him, there isn’t the slightest doubt that he puts the state and the Jewish people ahead of his personal interests.

I think a plurality of Israelis agree. A new poll, taken immediately after the latest “revelations” of possible misconduct in the Bezeq affair shows the Likud winning 34 seats in the Knesset, as opposed to the 30 that it holds today.

Hashem and history will ultimately pass a final judgment on Benjamin Netanyahu, regardless of what the temporal courts here decide. I believe that judgment will be that he was one of our greatest Prime Ministers. 

Despite everything.

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From Ian:

John Podhoretz: A New Realism: America & Israel in the Trump Era
Of all the surprises of the Trump era, none is more notable than the pronounced shift toward Israel. Such a shift was not predictable from Donald Trump’s conduct on the campaign trail; as he sought the Republican nomination, Trump distinguished himself by his refusal to express unqualified support for Israel and his airy conviction that his business experience gave him unique insight into how to strike “a real-estate deal” to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In addition, his isolationist talk alarmed Israel’s friends in the United States and elsewhere if for no other reason than that isolationism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism often go hand in hand in hand.
But shift he did. In the 14 months since his inauguration, the new president has announced that the United States accepts Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and has declared his intention to build a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, first mandated by U.S. law in 1996. He has installed one of his Orthodox Jewish lawyers as the U.S. ambassador and another as his key envoy on Israeli–Palestinian issues. America’s ambassador to the United Nations has not only spoken out on Israel’s behalf forcefully and repeatedly; Nikki Haley has also led the way in cutting the U.S. stipend to the refugee relief agency that is an effective front for the Palestinian terror state in Gaza. And, as Meir Y. Soloveichik and Michael Medved both detail elsewhere in this issue, his vice president traveled to Israel in January and delivered the most pro-Zionist speech any major American politician has ever given.

Part of this shift can also be seen in what Trump has not done. He has not signaled, in interviews or in policy formulations, that the United States views Israeli actions in and around Gaza and the West Bank as injurious to a future peace. And his administration has not complained about Israeli actions taken in self-defense in Lebanon and Syria but has, instead, supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

This marks a breathtaking contrast with the tone and spirit of the relationship between the two countries during the previous administration. The eight Obama years were characterized by what can only be called a gut hostility rooted in the president’s own ideological distaste for the Jewish state.
Benny Morris: The Father of the ‘Special Relationship’
Quite a few celebrities, such as Leonard Bernstein and Edward G. Robinson, passed through Israel/Palestine in 1948 and 1949, especially during the lengthy truces between the bouts of combat in that first Arab–Israeli war. Many of them met with James McDonald, who was President Harry Truman’s first “Special Representative” in Israel and then, from February 1949 until the end of 1950, America’s ambassador. Among the visitors was Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian-born journalist and novelist, who had already lived in and reported from Palestine in the late 1920s and again in 1945. For years, Koestler had identified with the Revisionist Movement (the progenitor of today’s Likud), before growing disillusioned (as was his wont with most things he touched). On September 20, 1948, he arrived on McDonald’s doorstep for “tea and sherry.”
In the fourth volume, just published, of his diary—Envoy to the Promised Land, the Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald 1948–1951—McDonald characterized the meeting as “delightful and civilized.”1 Koestler avowed that his “chief interest in this country is its intellectual future,” by which he meant its cultural-ideological-political evolution. “He sees three possibilities,” McDonald wrote. “A) Levantinism; b) Clericalism; c) Westernization.” McDonald explained: “By [Levantinism], he means the kind of superficial culture such as is prevalent…in the Arab states with a shallow but non-understanding knowledge of the West. Under [clericalism], he would lump the various possibilities arising from undue rabbinic influence.…[Westernization] is self-explanatory.” Koestler, he said, doubted that would happen. The sabras, native-born Palestinian Jews, had a “limited provincial outlook,” in Koestler’s view, and lacked “knowledge of the West” or “interest in Western Europe.”

In his quiet way, McDonald sprang to the defense, arguing that Israel was “a pioneer country in which it was natural for a generation or two or three [that] the emphasis would be on material development and perhaps rather crude nationalism rather than on culture.” This had been the case with “pioneer America and pioneer South Africa.” Koestler “seemed inclined to agree.” Somewhat contradictorily, McDonald then added that Israel was sui generis, and that all comparisons were unreasonable. What neither he nor Koestler could have foreseen was that Israel would develop simultaneously in all three directions, as it has done in the past seven decades.
Evelyn Gordon: Do Arabs Back Israel in a Clash with Iran?
What Al Jazeera’s informal poll shows is that this argument is simply false. It’s not just in Arab capitals that Iran is now more widely loathed and feared than Israel, but also on the Arab street, to the point that Arabs are even willing to openly back Israel in a clash with Iran. If Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians were still their top concern, they would instead be rooting for Iran against Israel–just as most of the Arab world did back in 2006 when Israel fought a month-long war with Iran’s wholly-owned Lebanese subsidiary, Hezbollah.

This sea change in Arab attitudes has serious foreign policy implications for anyone who calls himself a realist. As John Podhoretz correctly argued in COMMENTARY’s March issue, the realist view that Israel was the source of most Mideast problems could always more properly have been termed “fantasist”; most of the Arab world’s ills have nothing to do with Israel. But realists did have one unassailable fact on their side: When you stack Israel up against the Arab world, the latter has both the numbers and the oil. Consequently, it was at least tenable to argue–as long as you ignore all the other considerations Podhoretz cites–that America’s interests were better served by siding with the Arabs against Israel.

Today, the Arab world still has the numbers and the oil, but it’s siding with Israel against Iran. So for any realist who holds that America should align itself with Arab concerns because numbers and oil are crucial considerations, the top priority now shouldn’t be another fruitless Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but reining in Iran’s malignant behavior. To its credit, that is something the Trump Administration is trying to do by threatening to scrap the nuclear deal unless the four Israeli-Saudi-American concerns cited above are addressed.

As for all the self-proclaimed realists who remain fixated on Israel despite the change in Arab attitudes that has destroyed their main argument, perhaps it’s time to drop the “realist” label. The more accurate term for people who see Jews as the root of all evil under any and all circumstances is “anti-Semite.”

1. Our health care is pretty good

Israelis like to complain, it’s a kind of national sport. The truth is that our health care is pretty good.
At the same time, there is a bizarre dichotomy between cutting edge medicine and the overly complicated bureaucracy of socialized medicine. In hospitals that may have leaky ceilings and be in need of a paint job and new lightbulbs, you can find, in other wings of the hospital, laboratories in which groundbreaking experiments are taking place in partnership with the most innovative medical/biology/technology startups in the world. The things that are being worked on are nothing less than breathtaking.

There are pros and cons to everything – while everyone can get treatment, sometimes wait times are too long and not all illnesses are covered in the government mandate.

When seriously sick in Israel, it is necessary to have an advocate, a friend or a family member, who can navigate the process with or instead of the patient as dealing with the bureaucracy is sometimes enough to make a healthy person exhausted. In addition, as medical staff (particularly hospital staff) is overworked and underpaid, sometimes they need the help of an insistent relative to draw attention to what the patient needs.
There is an enormous debate about the balance between socialized medicine and private medicine in Israel. The doctors who have private practices are, more often than not, the same doctors who work in the public system so the private medicine does not provide better care, only faster treatment. 

2. "Apartheid"

Health is a great equalizer. In Israeli hospitals religious Jews and religious Muslims are treated side by side. The medical staff consists of Israelis of all backgrounds: Sabra Israelis, new immigrants from Russia, America, South America and Argentina, Ethiopian Jews, Arab Muslims, Arab Christians… the entire spectrum of the Israeli population can be found in patients and caregivers.

There is no differentiation in types of treatment, quality of treatment or what is provided to the patient. The idea that there could be a differentiation is seen as abhorrent, inappropriate and simply ridiculous.

In the surgical department of one of Haifa’s hospitals the Chief Surgeon is an Arab. He is world-renowned for his skill in laparoscopic surgery. Doctors from all over the world come to Haifa to learn from him. His second in command is a Jew. Most of the surgeons on staff are Arabs. The man in charge of making sure all the equipment in the surgeries operate perfectly – including the laparoscopic equipment and the anesthetics – is an Arab.

Apartheid much?

3.  We built that

As you walk down the halls of the hospital, something stands out. Plaques on the walls, dedicating rooms, areas and equipment to the memory of departed Jews.

The tiny State of Israel has minimal resources but the Nation of Israel, Am Yisrael, around the world, has enormous resources. We have much of what we have because Jews invested in Israel, in the people of Israel. They did it to honor the memory of their loved ones but at the same time they pass on the legacy of life for their people - literally.

We are one family and we need each other. It is important to remember this. Everything we have came from hard work and sacrifice. Nothing came easy. We are all part of this amazing enterprise called Israel, together we make it the wonderful place that it is. We are Israel. We built this.

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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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