Thursday, July 30, 2015

Is Obama's foreign policy similar to Cold War diplomacy?

Is Obama's foreign policy similar to Cold War diplomacy?

By Jay Bergman
Jay Bergman is a board member of PRIMER-Connecticut.

At his press conference on July 14 defending the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement [JCPOA] with Iran, US President Barack Obama made the obvious and indisputable point that "deals" in international affairs are made between adversaries, not allies. Implied in what he said is that, despite their divergent interests, adversaries sign such deals to advance an interest they share - in the case of the JCPOA, a commitment to peace. To prove his point, the president cited the arms control agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

But any analogy between these agreements and the JCPOA cannot withstand even the most cursory examination.

The agreements the United States signed with the Soviets during the Cold War - the two SALT Treaties in 1972 and 1979, the Vladivostok Accord in 1974 and the INF Treaty in 1987 - were bilateral. They involved two countries, not seven as does the JCPOA (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany plus Iran). As a result, the United States could respond in whatever way it wished in the event these agreements were violated, which they were. In the case of the JCPOA, because it is a multilateral agreement, responding unilaterally is more difficult politically, and less likely to have the intended effect.

No less important in assessing the president's analogy is that the Soviet leaders during the Cold War were not like the mullahs in Iran today. They wanted to live. The mullahs, while perhaps not actively seeking to die, are aware of the advantages of doing so, which include gaining access to the 72 virgins the Koran and the Hadith promise Muslims upon arrival in Jannah, the Muslim equivalent of Heaven. In addition, nuclear war carries with it the likelihood of collective martyrdom, to which the Shi'ite Muslims of Iran in particular aspire. In light of this, the statement in 2001 by then Iranian president Rafsanjani that destroying Israel would be worth the lives of millions of Iranians in any Israeli nuclear counter-attack is readily comprehensible.

Whatever their monstrous crimes, the Soviets had no such eschatological vision animating their actual policies. While Soviet generals such as Marshal A. M. Sokolovskii, chief of the general staff of the Soviet armed forces during World War II and defense minister in the late 1940s, seriously contemplated nuclear war with the United States, they did so not because they wished to die in fulfillment of an ideological imperative, but because they believed the Soviet Union could fight and win such a war: the Soviet population was still predominantly rural, and thus sufficiently dispersed to survive even multiple nuclear strikes by the United States. Similarly, several in the civilian leadership prior to Khrushchev, notably Beria, Malenkov (until 1954) and Stalin himself thought that somehow only capitalist countries could be destroyed by nuclear weapons. However ridiculous, this caused them to believe that in a nuclear war the Soviet Union would not only survive but emerge victorious.

This is very different from seeking nuclear war so that millions will die.

It is essential to remember that the eschatological vision the Iranians embrace does not allow for the peaceful coexistence Soviet leaders from Khrushchev onward declared to be their policy toward the United States and the West. To be sure, "peaceful coexistence" was not always peaceful. While precluding direct military confrontation between the superpowers, it allowed their proxies, such as Israel and its Arab enemies, to fight one another periodically. Nor was it meant to be permanent, or to signify a change in how the Soviets viewed the course of history.

Capitalist countries, including the United States, were destined to collapse.

But for the Iranians, peaceful coexistence, even with the limits the Soviets put on it, is a theological impossibility.

While the mullahs may be capable of using nuclear weapons the way the Soviets used them during the Cold War, namely for the political benefit that accrues from threatening non-nuclear countries with total destruction, their apocalyptic theology would seem to require them, at some point, to attack their enemies with nuclear weapons. The fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, and that Sunni Muslim regimes, in their fear of Iran, will soon acquire them, may actually make the Iranians more likely, rather than less likely, to do this.

In short, the paradoxical logic of nuclear deterrence - the concept of MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction - that kept the nuclear peace for the duration of the Cold War is sadly inapplicable to the Middle East today and for the foreseeable future.

In seeking public support for the JCPOA, President Obama would do well not to invoke misleading historical analogies that demonstrate his ignorance of history. The agreement with Iran must be considered on its own terms, both as a means of serving American interests and of protecting the American people, and for its likely effects on America's allies and America's enemies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

At the same time, one can fairly wonder why an American president so deficient in his knowledge and understanding of history should be given the benefit of the doubt in his predictions of the future.

The author is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and the author of Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov (Cornell University Press, 2009).

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It Caught My Eye

This was sent by Chana Givon after being sent to her by Benny Gluch.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent—Eleanor Roosevelt.

If the Israeli elected leaders and the head of the opposition both oppose the Iran deal, can JStreet support it and still call itself pro-Israel--- Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg View

The Iran deal is in essence giving a fat kid a box of twinkies and then just hoping he doesn’t eat the whole box…but you know they will in the end. Jewnews

In Israel, one of the world’s rowdiest democracies, politicians rarely agree on anything. Which is why their reaction to the nuclear arms deal with Iran is so unique. For the first time in living memory, virtually all Israelis – left, right, religious, secular, Arabs, Jews – are together calling the deal disastrous. Michael Oren, Time

History Always Repeats Itself.
The Nazis planned to exterminate the Jews; Iran has the same plan…and the world is reacting in the same pathetic way.

When you write a column, as did I two weeks ago, headlined “The worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history,” you don’t expect to revisit the issue. We had hit bottom. Or so I thought. Then on Tuesday the final terms of the Iranian nuclear deal were published. I was wrong. Who would have imagined we would be giving up the conventional-arms and ballistic-missile embargoes on Iran? What happened to our insistence on “anytime, anywhere” inspections?  Obama has laid down his legacy and we will have to live with the consequences for decades.
Charles Krauthammer

According to the Carnegie Endowment and the Federation of Scientists, Iran’s nuclear program has been marked by enormous financial costs. Its Bushehr reactor, one of the most expensive in the world, is a hybrid German-Russian reactor that resembles a virtual petri dish of amalgamated equipment and antiquated technology. A great deal of the equipment was sourced covertly at high cost, and a good deal of outright theft may have been hidden in supposed payoffs to intermediaries. The biggest single public expenditure in one of the world’s most corrupt countries may be a secret that the Iranian state felt compelled to keep.
David P Goldman, Asia Times

Omar Sharif, the Hollywood actor, born in Egypt, who died last week, lived between several worlds, from the Middle East to Hollywood, via bridge matches and gambling casinos, to horse racing tracks.  He hated Middle East politics, which got in the way of his close friendships with Jews, and he wasn’t afraid to challenge the antisemites.

In 1968, he was the captain of the bridge team of the United Arab Emirates at the world championships in France.  I was working at the tournament, and late one morning he cornered me.  “We’re scheduled to play Israel in two days,” he said, “and I’ve just received a cable from Cairo telling me we musn’t play.”  He frowned.  “So how about you and I play a two-handed match?  I can’t ask the other Egyptians to disobey, but the government won’t do anything to me.” The Israelis agreed, and we did it.  That was Omar.
Michael Ledeen, PJ Media

An employee of the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures in Beersheba said an anonymous Israeli robber left two 2,000-year-old Roman sling stones in a bag in the museum courtyard with a typed note saying the stolen artifacts "brought me lots of troubles."  The robber wrote that he stole the artifacts 20 years ago from ancient Gamla in the Golan Heights that was the site of a Roman siege in the first century. The robber ended the note with the message, "Do not steal antiquities!" There was also a map of the site in the bag with an "X'' marked on it, likely marking where the stones were taken.
Israel Hayom

Anat Kadari and Roi Ashkenazi went down the aisles twice on their wedding day. Living close to the corner of Namir Boulevard and Jabotinsky Street in Tel Aviv, only 2.9 km. from their wedding hall, the couple decided to save the money for a limo, and take the bus. When surprised passengers realized this was not a marketing gimmick but a genuine bride and groom walking down the aisle, everyone cheered. Egged had been informed before hand of the couple’s intentions and decorated the bus with balloons. After a 10-minute ride down the main drag, with three stops in between, the delighted couple and their wedding party alighted for a second walk down the aisle.
Chelm-on-the Med.

Israeli bumblebees are being sent to Japan to help make up for a lack of bees caused by the increased use of pesticides in that country’s rice fields. When they arrive in Japan, the bees are sent to greenhouses in farms throughout the country. The Bio Bee firm based at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu mass-produces the bees to fulfill their mission even when the temperature drops, in rain and cloudy weather when bees prefer to huddle up in their warm hives. The pollinating bees have been helping Israeli farmers, who have also been affected by the global decline in the honeybee population. The advantage of these particular bees is that they tend to stay inside the closed greenhouse, rather than flying out to cultivate other people’s fields.

Cardinal O’Connor, for 16 years New York’s Catholic Church’s top cleric, was born to a Jewish mother. The discovery was only made by his sister Mary after his death in 2000 while exploring the family’s roots ahead of a trip to Ireland. While the O’Connors long knew that their mother Dorothy had converted to Catholicism in 1908, they assumed by her Germanic-sounding maiden name, Dorothy Gomple, that she had been a Lutheran. In fact, her given name was Deborah Gumpel and her father was a rabbi and butcher. Cardinal O’Connor was recognized as a friend of Jews. He was involved in the Vatican’s recognition of the State of Israel and the establishment of official diplomatic relations between the two in 1993.
Ginger Adam Otis, NY Daily News and Sheila Lagan, Irish Central

Economic development plans for Israeli Arabs initiated under Ehud Olmert accelerated under Netanyahu. The projects include industrial parks in Arab and Jewish towns; subsidies to help firms hire Arab labor and expanded transportation infrastructure, which allowed Arabs to reach employment sites; a five-year plan to improve Arab education and a special unit in the prime minister’s office to promote economic development in the Arab community.

Female Arab labor participation rates increased substantially: for women 30 to 39 years old, it increased from 24 percent in 2005 to 34 percent in 2010. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has transformed government services in East Jerusalem---- transport, the planning of neighborhoods, schools, and medical facilities. The health quality indices for East Jerusalem are the same as for West Jerusalem. These efforts have led many East Jerusalem Arabs to link themselves to the Israeli state, including a dramatic increase in residents seeking Israeli ID cards. More and more students enrolled in school programs that prepared them for the Israeli matriculation exam.

The number of Arabs employed in government civil service rose from 2,800 workers in 2003 to 5,000 in 2011—an increase of 78% compared to the 12% increase in the number of Jewish workers during the same period. The expansion of high-tech in Nazareth in the last few years and the success at the Technion has reduced the dropout rate of Arab students from 28% to 12%.  

These achievements have been achieved despite Palestinian nationalists trying to discourage cooperation with Israeli ministries. An example is that set by the mayor of the Bedouin village of Hura, Mohammed Alnabari.Under his administration, Hura gained call center jobs, initiated the Women’s Catering Enterprise that produces meals for Bedouin schools, a joint project with a nearby kibbutz to produce high value-added produce and a project with the JNF to raise mixed heads of sheep and goats for organic meat and dairy products. The government has also provided subsidies to firms that hire Bedouin workers in the new industrial park in Rahat and for other employment initiatives.

There has been a dramatic improvement in Arab (including Bedouin) schooling, with a corresponding improvement in test scores. As a result of additional funding, by 2010/11 only 15% of Arab classrooms compared to 11% of Jewish classrooms suffered overcrowding. Occupational and educational advances have led the Israeli Arab public to have more hopeful attitudes.  The share of Israeli Arabs, who were “very satisfied” with their economic conditions, rose from 40% in 2004-5 to 60% in 2010-11.  A plurality of Arab citizens of Israel today rejects being called Palestinians.  

All of these changes suggest that an increasingly upward mobile Israeli Arab populace seeks constructive engagement rather than a confrontational, separatist stance.
Robert Cherry, Mosaic Magazine

A prominent Arab writer started his column with:  Hi there! Any news from Palestine? He went on to describe a “growing fatigue with the whole Palestine issue and noted that the so-called peace process has run into sand. The US is focused on forging an alliance with the mullahs of Tehran; no other major power seems interested in touching the issue. France made some noises about “a new initiative” but quickly thought better of becoming involved in “something no one is interested in.”

The Arab columnist’s concern reflects the current mood in the Middle East. For the first time in decades, Palestine has been shut out of the news in favor of Syria, ISIS, sectarian wars and the aggressiveness of Iran. The foreign press in Israel has moved to cover the sectarian wars in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq; the Palestinian government resigned; Hamas split into at least three factions; and ISIS killers loom over the Sinai Peninsula.

Another reason the Palestine issue has lost much of its luster for many Arabs, as a Jordan-ian businessman said in London: “Today, no Arab feels safe in his country. Ironically, the sole exceptions are Palestinians in the West Bank because they know Israel will defend them if ISIS attacks. Even in Gaza, most people secretly believe that Israel is their ultimate protection against ISIS fighters trying to strike roots in the Sinai.”

Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria have been massacred; the massacre of Christians, Yazidis and Druze by Islamists in Syria and Iraq contrasts with the safety those groups enjoy in Israel. For weeks, Jordan has been bracing itself for an attack by ISIS on Zarqa, a Palestinian-majority city near Syria. Such a move would bring ISIS close to the West Bank, in which case, some Jordanians believe, the Jewish state would stop its spread. “Today, Arabs see that their own house is on fire,” says a Dubai businessman.

A prominent Lebanese commentator and TV personality cites another reason for dwindling interest in the Palestinian issue. “One might call it Palestinitis,” he says. “Arabs realize that there are many other issues that affect their lives, indeed their existence.”

The idea, that it is now Iran and not Israel that poses an existential threat to Arabs, receives almost daily confirmation with outlandish statements by leaders in Tehran. “Iran is trying to create a Persian Crescent as the core of its empire,” claims Lebanon’s Interior Minister. “That now represents the principal threat faced by Arabs.”

Not surprisingly, Iran’s leaders try to keep the Palestine issue on the front burner by casting themselves as the “liberators of Jerusalem.” That was the theme of the “Jerusalem Day” events last week presided over by President Hassan Rouhani. But their show attracted less attention than at any time in the past 30 years. The Khomeinists missed the irony of Israel being the only government in the Middle East, outside Iran itself, to allow such a demonstration.
Amir Taheri, New York Post

Hawks who believe airstrikes are the only option for stopping Iranian nukes should welcome the deal. This is because it sets Washington on a collision course with Tehran. The plan leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear-weapons state. To imagine such a deal working is to imagine the Islamic Republic without its revolutionary faith. So the deal is in effect establishing the necessary conditions for military action when a new president takes office.

No US president would destroy Iranian nuclear sites without first exhausting diplomacy. The efforts by the US to compromise with Tehran are comprehensive. If the next president chooses to strike after the Iranians violates the agreement, however, the newcomer would be on much firmer political ground than if he tried without this accord.

Without a deal the past would probably repeat itself: Sanctions would increase while the Iranians would advance their nuclear capabilities. Without a deal, diplomacy wouldn’t die. Via this meandering diplomatic route, Tehran has gotten the West to accept its nuclear progress. Critics who suggest that a much better agreement is possible with more sanctions assume that economic pain alone can force the mullahs to set aside their faith.

The problem is that the Islamic Republic remains a revolutionary Islamic movement that,  by definition, would never bend to the US’s economic coercion and never gut the nuclear centerpiece of its military planning. This is the revolutionary Islamic state that is ever fearful at home of seditious Western culture and prepared to use terrorism abroad.
Above all, the clerical regime cannot be understood without appreciating the centrality of anti-Americanism to its religious identity.

The Revolutionary Guards are fighting in Syria and Iraq, and Iranian aid flows to the Houthis in Yemen. Wherever the Islamic Republic’s influence grows among Arab Shiites, Sunni-Shiite conflict grows worse. With greater internecine Muslim hostility, the clerical regime inevitably intensifies its anti-US propaganda and actions in an effort to compete with radical Sunnis and their competing claims to lead an anti-Western Muslim world.

Iranian adventurism will eventually provoke a more muscular U.S. response. The odds of Tehran respecting any nuclear deal while it pushes to increase its regional influence—unchecked by Washington—aren’t good. Mr. Obama may think he can snap back sanctions and a united Western front to counter nefarious Iranian nuclear behavior, but the odds aren’t good once European businesses start returning to the Islamic Republic.

 When and if America strikes, it will be because Mr. Obama showed that peaceful means don’t work against the clerics’ nuclear and regional ambitions.
Reuel Marc Gerecht & Mark Dubowitz, Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Iranian leaders are laughing

The Iranian leaders are laughing

By Chana Givon

The Iranian leaders are laughing - because the joke's on us.

The free world will have much to regret with the agreement that has just been revealed;  we will rue the day that such a dangerous deal has been made with the devil.

Teheran is celebrating because as Rouhani has said-  'Iran got all that it wanted'. If that is so it means that we did not get what we needed!

Obama and Kerry have issued statements claiming that Iran's nuclear capability has been limited; anyone who has kept track of the proceedings - the constant adjustment of red lines according to the demands of the ayatollahs - can see that both men are delusional and the reality is that the West will not have a moment's peace of mind now for fear of a sudden nuclear attack; there is no strict monitoring system.  Weapons of mass destruction do not differentiate between political parties or ethnicity.

That twosome - so desperate for a legacy - cannot claim victory; it is nothing less than surrender to a rogue regime that has been supplying weapons to terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah for attacks on Israel.  Now it can freely extend its evil with the billions of dollars that it will receive according to the agreement.

The President has already announced that he will veto any veto of the  plan. The man who promised hope and change has brought chaos and despair - certainly on the international scene where he has sided with terrorists rather than with friends.  There is no calm in countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other nations in the Middle East; they understand Iran and the dangers ahead much better than the American administration that has arrogantly claimed to 'know better'.

Congress is opposed to the deal as it is and many citizens are expressing their outrage. We can only hope that Mr. Obama's Democratic friends on whom he is counting for support will come to their senses and recognize that they will be on the receiving end of the blame - if anyone survives the horror of nuclear confrontation that is being set up now.  One cannot expect neighbors of Iran to sit by without a nuclear race of their own.  Those who are mainly concerned with the American economy and other domestic issues will find that a nuclear attack can wipe out the benefits in a split second. The dangerous deal with Iran is the most important issue today!!!

The script for the future is being written now.  It is time for Americans to stand up and denounce the plot!!  Call the White House and member of Congress and demand that the agreement be thrown out and stringent sanctions be re-imposed immediately on Iran.

in beloved Jerusalem

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ten Ways Israel is Treated Differently

The email containing this excellent op-ed came with the suggestion from David Harris: "If you like the op-ed, I'd encourage you to share it with others and also join the conversation on the Huffington Post and TOI websites." We also suggest, if you aren't already subscribed, to get on the AJC mailing lists so you get David Harris' excellent commentaries directly.

Ten Ways Israel is Treated Differently

By David Harris
June 14, 2015

                  It's appalling to see how Israel is treated by a totally different standard than other countries in the international system. Of course, Israel deserves scrutiny, as does every other nation. But it also merits equal treatment — nothing more, nothing less.

First, Israel is the only UN member state whose very right to exist is under constant challenge.

Notwithstanding the fact that Israel embodies an age-old connection with the Jewish people as repeatedly cited in the most widely read book in the world, the Bible, that it was created based on the 1947 recommendation of the UN, and that it has been a member of the world body since 1949, there's a relentless chorus of nations, institutions, and individuals denying Israel's very political legitimacy.

No one would dare question the right to exist of many other countries whose basis for legitimacy is infinitely more questionable than Israel's, including those that were created by brute force, occupation, or distant mapmakers. Just look around at how many nations fit those categories, including, by the way, quite a few Arab countries. Why, then, is it open hunting season only on Israel? Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that it's the only Jewish-majority country in the world?

Second, Israel is the only UN member state that's been targeted for annihilation by another UN member state.

Think about it. The leadership of Iran, together with Iran-funded proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, has repeatedly called for wiping Israel off the map. Is there any other country facing the threat of genocidal destruction?

Third, Israel is the only nation whose capital city, Jerusalem, is not recognized by other nations.

Imagine the absurdity of this. Foreign diplomats live in Tel Aviv while conducting virtually all their business in Jerusalem. Though no Western nation questions Israel's presence in the city's western half, where the prime minister's office, Knesset (Parliament), and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are located, there are no embassies there.

In fact, look at listings of world cities, including places of birth in passports, and you'll see something striking - Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; Pretoria, South Africa; Lima, Peru; and Jerusalem, sans country - orphaned, if you will.

Fourth, the UN has two agencies dealing with refugees.

One, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), focuses on all the world's refugee populations, save one. The other, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA), handles only the Palestinians.

But the difference goes beyond two structures and two bureaucracies. In fact, they have two different mandates.

UNHCR seeks to resettle refugees; UNRWA does not. When, in 1951, John Blanford, UNRWA's then-director, proposed resettling up to 250,000 refugees in nearby Arab countries, those countries were enraged and refused, leading to his departure. The message got through. No UN official since has pushed for resettlement.

Moreover, the UNRWA and UNHCR definitions of a refugee differ markedly. Whereas the UNHCR targets only those who've actually fled their homelands, the UNRWA definition covers "the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948," without any generational limitations.

Fifth, Israel is the only country that has won all its major wars for survival and self-defense, yet is confronted by defeated adversaries who have insisted on dictating the terms of peace.

In doing so, ironically, they've found support from many countries who, victorious in war themselves, demanded -- and, yes, got -- border adjustments.

Sixth, Israel is the only country in the world with a separate - and permanent - agenda item, #7, at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

No other member state, including serial human-rights violators like North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Sudan, gets its own agenda item. Only the sole liberal democracy in the Middle East is treated in this blatantly biased manner because that's the way it works -- the bad guys circle the wagons to protect one another, and, at the same time, gang up on Israel, creating an automatic majority against it.

Seventh, Israel is the only country condemned by name this year at the World Health Organization annual assembly as a "violator" of health rights.

This canard takes place despite the fact that Israel provides world-class medical assistance to Syrians wounded in the country's civil war and Palestinians living in Hamas-ruled Gaza; has achieved one of the world's highest life expectancy rates for all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike; is among the very first medical responders to humanitarian crises wherever they may occur, from Haiti to Nepal; and is daily advancing the frontiers of medicine for everyone, something that can't be said for too many other nations.

Eighth, Israel is the only country that's the daily target of three UN bodies established and staffed solely for the purpose of advancing the Palestinian cause and bashing Israel -- the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People; and the Division for Palestinian Rights in the UN's Department of Political Affairs.

Ninth, Israel is the only country annually targeted by up to 20 UN General Assembly resolutions and countless measures in other UN bodies, such as the Human Rights Council.

Indeed, astonishingly, each year, Israel is on the receiving end of more such efforts than the other 192 UN member states combined. No one can seriously argue that this is remotely warranted, but it's a reality because in every UN body, except the Security Council where each of the five permanent members has a veto, it's all about majority voting.

When close to two-thirds of the world's nations today belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, and when they elect a country like Iran as its chair, with Venezuela on deck, that just about says it all.

And tenth, Israel is the only country targeted by the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.

Has anyone seen any significant campus activity that takes aim at true human rights offenders, including some in Israel's neighborhood, who behead, forcibly convert, and expel Christians; drop chemically-laced barrel bombs on civilians; deny Palestinians full rights; and use capital punishment, including for minors, with abandon?

Has any student group tried to prevent undergraduates from traveling to any country other than Israel, as was the case with a recent "pledge" circulated at UCLA?

Has anyone seen any flotillas or flytillas organized by European far-left groups that don't involve an anti-Israel angle?

Has anyone seen movements for companies to pull out of any country other than Israel?

Turkey, as but one example, has brazenly and unjustifiably occupied one-third of the island nation of Cyprus for 41 years, deployed an estimated 40,000 Turkish troops there, and transferred countless settlers from Anatolia, yet there's not a peep against Ankara from those who purport to act in the name of "justice" and against "occupation."

Given political realities, tackling any of these instances of egregious double standards and blatant hypocrisy can be a daunting challenge. And, still worse, this list is not complete.

The old advertisement proclaimed that you don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Jewish rye bread. Well, surely, you don't have to be a pro-Israel activist to be troubled by the grotesquely unjust treatment of Israel. All it takes is a capacity for moral outrage that things like this are happening today.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The J Street Challenge Part One: J Street's Donors

This is Part One of a three part series on J Street written by Elinor Weiss and published in Buffalo Jewish Review.

The Buffalo premier showing of the documentary, The J Street Challenge, takes place at the Benderson Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, June 9 at 7 PM.  The documentary will show why some people concerned about J Street, a Jewish organization, view its  “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” claim as deceptive.  This is the first of the series that focuses on the donors of J Street.

Part One

J Street’s Donors

Some say you can judge others by the company they keep.  Is there a saying for organizations and the donors they attract? What if an organization describes itself as pro-Israel but is supported by individuals who are hostile to Israel? These are questions that can be asked about J Street, a progressive left wing Jewish organization that wishes to change the way American Jews view and advocate for the Jewish State.

Several years ago, the Jerusalem Post reported on J Street’s political action committee. The Post reviewed the filings of the Federal Election Commission and found that J Street received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from dozens of Arab, Iranian and Muslim Americans, even leaders of Muslim student groups. J Street tries to hide its support from those that are against a Jewish state, such as George Soros.  According to Pajamas Media “State Department officials, a Palestinian billionaire, and board members of the discredited Human Rights Watch and the Iranian lobby were also listed…”
Let’s examine J Street’s donor, Human Rights Watch, an independent organization, which George Mason law professor David Bernstein describes as being “maniacally anti-Israel.” Human Rights Watch was reported by pro-Israel web sites as employing military expert Marc Garlasco with an obsession for Nazi memorabilia.  As the uproar grew, Human Rights Watch eventually suspended Garlasco.

Professor Bernstein’s article Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia uncovers a systemic problem with the organization. The article describes what happened when the group sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia.  The purpose of the trip was not to criticize Saudi Arabia’s laws that allow for human rights abuses such as mistreatment of women and death to homosexuals. The delegation did not discuss the lack of religious freedom. Instead, Human Rights Watch solicited funds from Saudi Arabia, in exchange for biased reporting of Israel. According to the article there was “a pitch about how money is needed to fight pro-Israel forces…”
Mr. Bernstein noted, “Ms. Whitson, who gave the presentation to potential Saudi donors, is director of HRW’s Middle East and north Africa Division.”  In other words, the money Ms. Whitson personally raises might affect Human Rights Watch research and policy on Israel.

Ironically, Human Rights Watch describes itself on its web site as conducting “objective investigations.” That claim can be viewed with skepticism because, when it comes to Israel,  Human Rights Watch mixes the donor side with the investigative side.  So what does an organization that has placed itself in a compromising position, find in J Street.?

Perhaps it’s J Street’s own conflicted structure that may seem so appealing. The Post article details how J Street’s controversial contributors play key roles in the organization such as the finance committee. Some J Street’s board members also serve on the boards of the Arab American Institute, the National Iranian Council Board, or who have represented Arab countries hostile to Israel such as Saudi Arabia. That’s an unusual board for a Jewish pro-Israel organization.
J Street’s structure leads to questions.  Why would a member of the Iranian lobby be on the board of J Street?  Is there a benefit from J Street’s opposition to sanctions on Iran, a country that has threatened to wipe Israel off the map?  Why does J Street attract those who appear to be against Israel?  These controversial donors have not given so freely to other Jewish groups.
In response to criticisms director Jeremy Ben-Ami replied, “I think it is a terrific thing for Israel for us to be able to expand the tent of people who are willing to be considered pro-Israel and willing to support Israel through J Street.”
Is Ben-Ami being disingenuous? Critics of J Street are not against broadening the tent. In an ideal world, reasonable people should be working together for peace.  Having moderate Muslim groups as donors would be wonderful.  But the controversial donors for J Street are not moderate. Some seek Israel’s demise as a Jewish state. Through words and deeds some have demonstrated the antithesis of what most reasonable people would consider necessary for the promotion of peace in the mid-East.
What conclusions can be drawn about J Street’s policies? Perhaps repeatedly saying “pro-Israel” does not automatically make J Street and its donors pro-Israel. And J Street changing what it means to be “pro-Israel” can undermine Israel’s security.

To find out more about J Street come to the program, “The J Street Challenge,” Tuesday, June 9 at 7 PM at the Benderson JCC.  Meet the producer of the documentary, “The J Street Challenge,” Ilya Feoktisov.  It will be a stimulating event!

The J Street Challenge Part Two: How a J Street Conference can Radicalize College Students

This is Part Two of a three part series on J Street written by Elinor Weiss and published in Buffalo Jewish Review.

The Buffalo premier showing of the documentary, The J Street Challenge, takes place at the Benderson Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, June 9 at 7 PM.  The documentary will show why some people concerned about J Street, a Jewish organization, view its  “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” claim as deceptive.  In Part One, the focus was on the donors of J Street.  This time the focus is how college students can be radicalized by J Street.

Part Two 

How a J Street Conference can Radicalize College Students

J Street appeals to college students who yearn for a simplistic solution to the Mid East conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors.  Recently, Jewish students at the University of Buffalo observed that some who went to the recent J Street National  Conference returned to campus radicalized against Israel.  A member of the local UB J Street Chapter even compared the terrorist group, Hamas, to freedom fighters after listening to speakers at the conference.

It’s puzzling to understand how attending a Jewish conference that brandishes the “pro-Israel motto”  will lead college students to praise a terrorist group dedicated to killing Jews wherever they are.  What’s going on?

For starters, the list of speakers at the conference included people that demonize Israel.  One of the speakers was Saeb Erekat, a chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority.  Erekat has falsely accused Israel of war crimes and committing massacres.  Another speaker, Marcia Freedman, also distorted Israel.  Freedman, a member of the J Street Advisory Board, told attendees that Israel was not a true democracy and that Jews took the land from the Palestinians.  She suggested that Jews live as a protected minority in Israel under an Arab government.  Those who support boycotting and divesting from Israel (BDS) can also get a platform in a J Street conference.  BDS would isolate and weaken Israel economically, academically and socially while doing nothing to promote peace in the mideast.

J Street points to these anti -Israel speakers as promoting a vibrant, open discussion.  Except that it doesn’t.   J Street supporters never hear from those who are critical of J Street’s policies and funding.  These critics probably aren’t allowed to be heard because J Street might have a hard time defending policies that can be perceived as hurting Israel’s security.  For example, J Street made financial contributions to  eleven Congressional candidates who either voted against or refused to vote in favor of increased funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The Iron Dome was essential in saving Israeli lives during Hamas’s assault on the Jewish State last summer. Why would J Street support candidates that have a problem with Israel defending itself against a terrorist group?

If J Street was truly open to a vibrant discussion, as its founder and head of J Street insists, it would allow speakers at its conference who don’t agree with its position on negotiations with Iran.  J Street opposes the military option against Iran if negotiations fail to stop the country from securing nuclear weapons.  What could have been more open than a debate at the J Street conference than how to deter Iran from getting nuclear weapons?  Instead, speakers that disagreed with J Street’s policies on a secure Israel were not on the speakers list.

J Street’s targeting of Jewish college groups presents a dilemma. While some say it’s great to hear controversial views others might wonder whether J Street’s positions on Israel, Iran and its affiliations with groups that demonize Israel make it an appropriate choice for student organizations wishing to foster a strong Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

To find out more about J Street and how it affects American Jews, including college students, come to the J Street Challenge, Tuesday, June 9, at 7 PM at the Benderson JCC.  Meet the producer of The J Street Challenge, Ilya Feoktistov, and watch the documentary.  It will be an interesting evening!

The J Street Challenge Part Three: The Peace Center J Street Connection

This is Part Three of a three part series on J Street written by Elinor Weiss and published in Buffalo Jewish Review.

The Buffalo premier showing of the documentary, The J Street Challenge, takes place at the Benderson Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, June 9 at 7 PM.  

The documentary shows why some people concerned about J Street, a Jewish organization, view its  “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” claim as deceptive.  

The last of the J Street series focuses on the Buffalo J Street connection.

Part 3

The Peace Center J Street Connection

For many years through the efforts of the now defunct Israel/Palestine committee, the Western New York Peace Center sponsored programs that not only disparaged Jews and Israel but also gave solace to those who apologize for terrorism.  This article describes the connection between the Western New York Peace Center and J Street.

Several years ago, along with a few friends, I attended a program that was promoted by the Western New York Peace Center.  A quasi-documentary that distorted the founding of the State of Israel was shown.  The film focused on Palestinians who wanted to return to their homes in cities such as Tel Aviv.  The audience, comprised mostly of young college age students, appeared deeply affected by what they heard and saw.  The students were reassured by one of the program moderators that the following school year students would be even more organized against Israel.

During the question and answer period, Adam Shapiro, one of the producers of the “documentary,” called Congress “occupied territory”, and told the audience that support for Israel would be changing in Washington, DC. Shapiro attributed part of the change due to J Street, a new organization that would be challenging AIPAC, a pro-Israel advocacy organization. It was unsettling to hear J Street being promoted positively during a program hostile towards the Jewish State.

Place this endorsement of J Street against the backdrop of the event. The moderator introduced the program by describing the “Zionist machinery that massacres Palestinian children.” Then there was Adam Shapiro, producer of the film, and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, a group dedicated to preventing Israel from protecting itself from terrorists in Gaza.  Shapiro encouraged those in attendance to boycott Israeli products in grocery stores.  And there was James Holstun, UB Professor and co-chair of the WNY Peace Center of the Israel /Palestinian Committee. One would assume that Holstun is for peaceful solutions to a tragic conflict yet he appeared with a panelist that excuses violence in the region. The UB professor endorsed a “documentary” produced explicitly for Palestinian children that was sure to fill them with hate. The film was infused with propaganda against Israel and Jews.

My friends and I were dismayed by what we saw and heard.  At the time we knew nothing about J Street and what it might mean for the Jewish community and Israel.

Now jump ahead a few years later.  J Street has attracted national attention.  It has strong views on what it thinks Israel needs to do for peace in the region.  These views have attracted supporters, many on the college campuses.  J Street wants to impose its views for peace on Israel.

Some think J Street has taken bold steps.  Others feel that J Street’s policies have made it difficult for Israel to defend itself.  And yet others wonder why those opposed to the Jewish State would donate to an organization that says it is pro-Israel.

What‘s the verdict? Do J Street’s policies undermine Israel’s security?

Come view the documentary, “The J Street Challenge,” Tuesday, June 9 at 7 PM at the Benderson JCC.  Meet Ilya Feoktistov, the producer of the documentary, “The J Street Challenge.”  Decide for yourself whether J Street helps or undermines Israel’s security.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Impact of Islam on the Life of Sister Mariam Baouardy, One of the "Palestinians" Canonized By Pope Francis

Thank you to Julia Lutch for providing this.

One of the newly canonized saints, Sister Mariam Baouardy, daughter of Greek Catholics, was born in 1848 in Galilee and apparently this is enough for her to be designated as a "Palestinian." Her parents died when Mary was only two, and she was raised by a paternal uncle, who moved her to Alexandria, Egypt when she was eight. At age 13, she refused an arranged marriage. As punishment for her disobedience, her uncle hired her out as a domestic servant. A Muslim servant with whom she worked "befriended" her, with an eye to converting her to Islam. On 8 September 1858, Mary convinced him she would never abandon her Christian faith; in response he cut her throat and dumped her in an alley. Mary lived and chose to pursue a religious life.

Read more about Sister Mariam Baouardy at and at

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Open Letter to President Barack Obama

Dear President Obama:

The assessment of American policy you are considering relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict is long overdue.

In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian Arab terror offensive generally referred to as the Second Intifada, President George W. Bush reversed long-standing American opposition to the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state and came out in favor of the establishment of such a state. You have continued this relatively new "two states for two peoples" policy.

The remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near the end of the recent Israeli election campaign helped clarify that this policy has not been working.

Netanyahu stood by his earlier endorsement of "two states for two peoples," but noted certain realities that made it clear the goal of that policy cannot be reached in the next few years because of unfortunate realities, primarily related to the opposition of the Palestinian Arabs and the violent turmoil embroiling the Middle East.

Even the president of the Palestinian Authority has directly, both publicly and to you, asserted his permanent opposition to "two states for two peoples" in his clear statements that he will never recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

Prior to the death of Yasser Arafat, there was hope that his successor would be less extreme and willing to compromise. Whereas Arafat in 2000 and 2001 had rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state on approximately 95 percent of the disputed territories, there was hope his successor would not repeat that "mistake." That hope was quashed in 2008, when Mahmoud Abbas walked away from the negotiating table after being offered even more, the equivalent of 100 percent of the disputed territories.

Since that time, the Israeli leaders have tried hard to lure Abbas back into serious negotiations. At your urging, Prime Minister Netanyahu froze construction of homes in the Jewish communities in the disputed territories for ten months, after being assured by you that there would be reciprocal gestures both by the Palestinian Arabs and some of the Arab states. No such gestures were ever made, and Abbas stayed away from the negotiating table for more than nine of those ten months. Even when he came to the table, he made it clear he would again walk away less than a month later. In this, he was true to his word.

More recently, at your urging, Israel agreed to release 104 terrorist prisoners, including a number of mass murderers, in four stages, just to bring Abbas to the negotiating table. Israel actually released 78 of those terrorists and was prepared to release the last batch if Abbas would just commit to staying at the negotiating table. Instead, Mahmoud Abbas formed a unity government with Hamas, which we correctly recognize as a terror group, and resumed taking steps to unilaterally change the status of the disputed territories. This step was a blatant violation of the Oslo Accords, which commit both sides to refrain from changing the status of those territories pending a negotiated agreement.

During this same period, Mahmoud Abbas himself gave you his infamous three nos, each of which alone would be enough to doom any possibility of a peace agreement. He told you he would never recognize Israel as the Jewish state, thus reiterating his permanent opposition to a "two-state solution." He told you he would not abandon the so-called "right of return," thus continuing his insistence that Israel give up control over its borders and accept the immigration of millions of hostile Palestinian Arabs, few of whom ever lived in Israel. He also told you he would not commit to an "end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," thus making any agreement worthless.

Meanwhile, your administration, like the Bush administration before it, has continually pressured Israel to make concessions while putting little pressure for concessions on the Palestinian Arabs. Israel, under all its leaders, has responded and made enormous, painful concessions, concessions which have led to three primary results: intransigence by the Palestinian Arabs, pressure for more concessions, and deadly terrorism.

Long before the comments Benjamin Netanyahu made during the Israeli election campaign, it should have been clear that a reassessment of America's failing policy was in order. Paying lip service to Israeli interests while ignoring Arab perfidy has not worked. It does not bring peace closer. It only encourages Arab intransigence and terrorism, terrorism which may be directed at Israelis and Jews first, but never stops there.

Your reassessment needs to take this reality into account. As Benjamin Netanyahu noted, there will not be a peace agreement in the foreseeable future, because the Palestinian Arabs are unwilling and there's no reasonable possibility of that changing soon. Trying to force a solution, by pressing Israel into more and more one-sided, unreciprocated concessions, only makes things worse.

It's necessary to plan for the long-term, rather than continue to prematurely force an agreement based on one-sided Israeli concessions. It's necessary to recognize, as Prime Minister Netanyahu does, that there first needs to be a fundamental change in Palestinian Arab society. American policy should be aimed at facilitating that necessary change.

One part of America's policy has been wise, the recognition that any solution must be negotiated directly between the parties. A solution imposed by third parties, even well-meaning third parties, will never work. All the past breakthroughs were made by the parties themselves, such as Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, which amazingly enough was actually opposed at the time by the Carter White House. This important lesson seems to have been lost. It does no good for America to be more eager for a Palestinian state than the Palestinian Arabs themselves.

Pending a fundamental change in Palestinian Arab society and leadership, America's strategy should really be based on the Beatle's song, "Let It Be." Encourage the Palestinian Arabs to build their society, support Israel as it struggles with enemies still committed to its destruction, and do no more harm.


Alan Stein

Netanyahu's Win Is Good for Palestine

This letter was written by Arthur Toporovsky in response to an op-ed "Netanyahu's Win Is Good for Palestine" by Yousef Munayyer.

It is worth noting that while Mr. Munayyer repeatedly describes Israel as having "apartheid policies" and being an "apartheid regime" he does not describe in what way that label is fitting to the situation. Instead, he speaks of it as if it is the truth, and allows his blank-check accusation to do its damage without having to substantiate his claim.  In the same manner he writes of how Israel is "monopolizing West Bank land and natural resources" without explaining what resources he is referring to.  Are there mineral resources that lie under the Israeli settlements and in no other place in the West Bank? Do Israeli settlements encompass the only oil or gas wells in the area, thereby depriving the Palestinian Arabs of those resources?  Surely he cannot mean water, which has been subject of a successful cooperative project between Jordan, the Palestinian Arabs and Israel.  Again, the accusation is left unfounded, and it need only be made in order to do its work.

Instead of land for peace, Mr. Munayyer claims that the Arabs are now seeking rights for peace, but he does not acknowledge the full truth of the matter.  Arabs, he says, are demanding the right to live on their land with  free movement, due process, equal treatment under the law, voting rights and freedom from discrimination.  In reality, Arabs live throughout the West Bank, Gaza and Israel area.  It is the Jews who are prevented from freely living on the land and who are only permitted to live in those areas that were not conquered by Arab forces in 1949.  Freedom of movement in and out of Israel and near the Israeli settlements is and has to be dependent on the Arab rejection of violence against Israelis.  It was the increasing Arab hostility from the West Bank that led to the building of the Israeli security barrier, and it is the failure of the Arab leadership to renounce violence that maintains it.  Notably, while the Arabs demand the right to go into Israel on a regular basis, they do not wish to reciprocate by allowing Israelis into Gaza and the West Bank in the same manner.

Most disingenuous is his claim that Arabs are denied voting rights, especially as he makes this claim after noting that Arabs had indeed voted in Israeli elections.  This claim, promoted by BDS, is based on the conception of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel as being one state under Israeli governance, which therefore requires all peoples within that state to vote.  The reality is that it is not one state, the West Bank and Gaza are slated to be recognized as Palestine, and there is already a Palestinian Arab government of that state.  For Israel to dissolve that government and bring the entire region under Israeli governance would be a true violation of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs.  One could make an argument that the Arabs who are living in the Israeli settlements should be allowed to vote in Israeli elections, but one can just as accurately claim that the Jews living in the West Bank should have been allowed to vote in the Arab elections, which they were not.  As the sovereignty of those areas are disputed, it is appropriate that those people living there vote in the elections of the country they wish to be part of when a final definition of borders is achieved.  Similarly, just as Israel cannot impose its government on the West Bank and Gaza, so too it cannot impose its legal system on the citizens of those areas, and Arabs from those areas who are arrested by the IDF cannot be brought into Israel for trial.  This is what is required by international law.  Ideally, the P.A. government should be arresting those people who commit acts of violence, even if only as a demonstration of respect for the human rights of the Israelis who are living in the disputed areas, but that is not what happens.  What is important to note is that the Arabs living within Israel are subject to the same laws as the other citizens of Israel, and have the same right to due process as any person who might be arrested, and also have the right to work within the system as lawyers and judges.  One might want to ask Mr. Munayyer how many Jewish lawyers or judges are in the Palestinian Arab legal system.

No nation is free from discrimination.  P.M. Netanyahu’s call for right-wing supporters to get out the vote to counter the impact of left-wing parties busing in voters was not wrong in principle, but his including the word “Arab” to describe the demographic group that was being bused in made it insensitive and open to charges of discrimination and “fear-mongering”. Clearly he should have never used that word.  Most certainly he owes a public apology for it, though I can understand that it might not be entirely well received.  Nonetheless, what is important to note is that he was not denouncing the Arab right to vote in any way, even if he was calling for people to come out so as to counteract their increased presence in the voting booth.  Nor does that comment change the fact that 17 Arabs were elected, by a mix of Arabs and Jews, to serve in the Knesset.  The Joint List is not only an Arab party, but with 13 seats it is the third largest party in the Knesset, which gives it the potential for significant power, either as a member of the governing coalition or as opposition.  This is not true in any other Arab nation, where Palestinian Arabs are typically not allowed to vote, much less run for office.  For months, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas has been insisting that Israel has reversed its 47 year commitment to preserve Arab control of the Al Aqsa place, despite assurances from the Israeli government that it has no intention of doing so.  In a series of speeches, Abbas has been referring to Israelis as “cattle” and that the mere presence of Jews has been “defiling” the sanctity of the Muslim holy places, calling all Muslims to protect those places by all means necessary.  Hamas has been telling people to attack Israelis with their knives and cars.  Not only has Fatah not condemned such blatant calls for violence, it has been sending letters of commendation to the families of those who have killed Israelis or died in the attempt.  Where is the condemnation of that fear-mongering and incitement?

Over the course of his tenure as prime minister, Netanyahu has released hundreds of prisoners, including mass murderers, and even froze settlements for 10 months, just to bring the Palestinian Arabs to the negotiation table.  What has been offered in return? The idea of two states, side by side, based on the 1949 Armistice lines, in which Arabs can move freely from one to the other while Jews are denied the right to visit ancient sites such as the thousands year old Mount of Olives cemetery or the Western Wall?   A rejection of every Israeli proposal offered, including some drafted with Pres. Abbas himself?  Attempts to unilaterally have the borders defined by the U.N.?  Why is it impossible for the two states to have both peoples living in both states, with one state under Arab governance and the other under Jewish governance?  Why must East Jerusalem, with the Old City of Jerusalem, be rendered free of Jews instead of being open to both peoples as proposed in  U.N. resolutions?  While Hamas has always rejected Israel’s to exist at all, and much of the Fatah party speaks of the two-state solution as a step towards the goal of one Arab state, why is it that Netanyahu’s comment is seen as the death of the peace process?  Perhaps it does not matter that Netanyahu is once again prime minister, not so long as the Palestinian Arab people continues to dream of a land free of Jewish inhabitants.  Perhaps it is time to begin pressuring the Palestinian Arabs to stop promoting violence against Jews, to let go of the unrealistic claim of 1967 (really 1949) lines as borders, and to fully accept Israel’s right to exist.  Perhaps then we might have peace in the Middle East.  Unfortunately, Mr. Munayyer does not even come close to such considerations.