Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Needed: An Honest Broker

Despite enormous concessions by Israel, bordering on the unbelievable, agreement on ending the Palestinian Arab-Israeli portion of the more general Arab-Israeli conflict (of which it is both a part and a consequence) is further away than ever before. Among the reasons: the Palestinian Arabs still refuse to make any real compromises and Palestinian Arab society has been increasingly radicalized since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

While the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs, starting with Yasser Arafat and now resting with the so-called "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas, the role of the United States has not been helpful. While the U.S. has tried to play the role of an "honest broker" and anti-Israel activists frequently argue that the American government cannot be an honest broker because it is too close to Israel, the reality is that successive American administrations have put virtually no pressure on the Arabs to compromise while constantly pressuring Israel to make unreasonable concessions and "good-will gestures."

These actions by the United States only reinforce the intransigence of the Arabs and their refusal to make peace with Israel, regardless of the terms. This, of course, is the heart of the conflict and the reason it continues.

The United States has also repeatedly backtracked on commitments to Israel, including commitments made in order to get Israel to make one-sided, unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinian Arabs. Recall, for example, the way the Obama administration pressured Israel into a ten-month construction freeze with assurances it would be reciprocated by good-will gestures by the Palestinian Arabs along with various Arab states. No such gestures were ever made, but the United States continues to pressure Israel to strangle the Jewish communities in the disputed territories and even in Jerusalem.

These mistakes have been made both by presidents who were friendly to Israel, such as Reagan, Clinton and the younger Bush, and presidents who were/are not very friendly to Israel, such as Carter, the elder Bush and Obama.

It's instructive to look back at some of the "highlights" since the start of the failed Oslo process.

The start of the Oslo process was a time of hope, but it was unintentionally subverted at the very beginning by President Clinton and then fatally damaged by the aftermath of Camp David.

To put things in context: In the beginning, the United States supported United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In reality, it no longer acts in support of those resolutions. The United States joined Israel in opposing the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state in the disputed territories. It supported the continued free access to united Jerusalem. (This is still the official policy of the United States, enshrined in the law calling for the relocation of the American embassy to Israel's capital, but the administration today acts contrary to that law.)

The original understandings between Israel and the PLO called for the PLO to amend its charter, removing the portions calling for the destruction of Israel, before any documents were actually signed. President Clinton, in his eagerness to get the process going, pressured Israel to participate in the famous signing ceremony on the White House lawn before the PLC charter was amended, with assurances the charter would be amended shortly thereafter.

Two decades later, the charter has yet to be amended.

This has set the pattern. America pressures Israel to make concessions and gestures, with assurances that they will be reciprocated by the Palestinian Arabs. It shouldn't be surprising that the Arabs have always tried to weasel out of their commitments.  With America generally looking the other way, unfortunately they generally have reneged.

At the famous Camp David talks in 2000, the ground rules included the provision that nothing was agreed upon until everything was agreed upon.

In the context of that provision and in the hope of inducing the Palestinian Arabs to finally make peace, Israel proposed making enormous, indeed unprecedented and bizarre concessions, crossing numerous red lines. It considered a division of Jerusalem; it considered giving the Palestinian Arabs sovereignty over Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount; it considered giving the Palestinian Arabs roughly 95 percent of the disputed territory; it considered forcibly removing all Jews from the areas to be given to the Arabs . It even considered the absurd proposition of "swapping" some land within Israel proper in exchange for keeping some of the disputed territory - as if the disputed territory was the property of the Palestinian Arabs.

Arafat, of course, rejected peace and launched his so-called "Al Aksa intifada," murdering thousands of innocent Israeli civilians in bus bombings and other suicide attacks.

However, despite the American guidelines that nothing was agreed upon unless everything was agreed upon, since then the United States has used all the proposed Israeli concessions as a baseline, effectively rewarding the Palestinian Arabs for their refusal to make peace. This has poisoned the "peace process" ever since.

At that time, the United States still officially opposed the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state. That changed in 2002, when in the midst of the Arabs' brutal terror offensive, President Bush announced his support of "two states for two peoples." (This, of course, really meant three states for two peoples, since the Palestinian Arabs already had a state in Jordan, comprising nearly four-fifths of mandatory Palestine.) The real strategic mistake here was this action amounted to an enormous reward for terrorism. Especially so soon after 9/11, it sent precisely the wrong message to terrorists around the world: it demonstrated, loudly and clearly, that terrorism pays!

This flawed policy change was tied in with another, the famous "Road Map for Peace," which was officially launched in conjunction with the "Quartet" in 2003.

This document was deeply flawed. Typically, it called for additional, unfair concessions by Israel, such as a freeze of construction in "settlements" - even in areas everyone knows will be retained by Israel under any conceivable agreement (if one considers the Palestinian Arabs ever agreeing to peace as conceivable) - and allowing the opening of illegal Palestinian Authority offices in Jerusalem, while not calling on the Palestinian Arabs to do anything they had not already agreed to several times over, such as abandoning incitement and terror.

The Road Map did have one saving grace. For the first time, the United States put forth a policy which was step-by-step, where the process would not proceed to the next step until both sides - not just Israel - had adhered to its commitments of the previous step.

Unfortunately, but typically, when the Palestinian Arabs completely ignored their commitments in the very first phase - primarily the ending of incitement and terrorism - the Bush administration rewarded them in 2007 by jumping right past the first two phases and organizing the Annapolis conference to jump start final status negotiations.

In the meantime, in 2005 the Israeli government under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had decided to completely leave Gaza. It even evacuated Jewish communities which were adjacent to Israel proper and which were on land which had been owned by Jews at the time of the War of Independence, when Gaza was occupied by Egypt and the Jews thrown out of their homes.

In the context of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, President Bush wrote a letter to Prime Minister Sharon acknowledging something obvious, that negotiations over any border between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs would have to recognize demographic realities, particularly the existence of significant, primarily Jewish cities in areas beyond the temporary armistice lines in effect between 1948 and 1967.

It was also supposedly understood by all that once Israel completely left Gaza there was not even a scintilla of justification for any attacks on Israelis from Gaza and that Israel would not be inhibited in defending its people from terror attacks launched from Gaza.

The Bush letter and the understandings made the withdrawal from Gaza and the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish communities there less unpalatable.

Unfortunately, the terror attacks from Gaza not only didn't cease when Gaza was free of any Israeli control, but they increased. And whenever Israel did anything to defend its civilian population, the world condemned Israel and even the United States invariably called on Israel to act with "restraint."

The coup de grace came when President Obama entered the White House and declared the United States would not be bound by the Bush letter of understanding!

But President Obama didn't stop there. He also figuratively tore up the armistice agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors along with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 when he called for borders between Israel and a future Palestinian Arab state to be based on the temporary armistice lines with agreed upon "land swaps."

The armistice agreements specified the armistice lines were not to have any political significance; in other words, they were specifically not to be used as a basis for negotiating permanent borders. Thus President Obama was declaring his support of violating those agreements.

The Security Council resolutions called for withdrawals from land captured by Israel in 1967 and the negotiation of secure and recognized borders. The armistice lines, described as "Auschwitz borders" by the dovish Abba Eban, obviously could never be the basis for secure borders. Hence, in calling for borders based on the armistice lines, President Obama is also calling for the violation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

These actions by successive American presidents have a negative impact well beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict. Indeed, they probably harm the United States, the Western world and even the Palestinian Arabs more than they harm Israel.

Although they have made Arab-Israeli peace even less likely and pushed it further into the future, Israel has learned to cope with a lack of its most fervent wish. It has shown the ability to defend itself against each new wave of Arab terror and still thrive.

The rest of the world is not so fortunate.

American policy has sent out the message that terror and intransigence work. It has changed from opposing another, separate Palestinian Arab state to strongly supporting it, while ignoring the desire for independence of numerous other national groups, groups which have not repeatedly turned down the opportunity for independence and have not resorted to terrorism the way the Palestinian Arabs have.

American policy changes have also sent the message that America's word is not its bond, that America can no longer be trusted. Unless this message is reversed, this has the potential for catastrophic consequences in the future.

These policies of appeasing Arab terror and intransigence have perhaps hurt the Palestinian Arabs most of all. They have made it easier for the Palestinian Arabs to continue their fruitless, genocidal quest to destroy Israel rather than, however reluctantly, choosing peace and enabling their children to live normal lives rather than being indoctrinated in the glorification of suicide bombing and martyrdom.

What Should the American Administration Do?

In general, it? needs to start applying most of its pressure to the intransigent party, the Palestinian Arabs. The Israelis have several times offered the Arabs far more than any reasonable settlement calls for. Rather than reacting to Arab rejection by pressuring Israel to make more concessions, the American government should make it clear that the previous offers are off the table and the longer the Arabs reject peace the less support they'll get.

Rather than pressuring Israel to not build, even in communities which everyone knows will remain with Israel, the American government should be encouraging Israeli construction and telling Mahmoud Abbas that he's wasting time and his future state is shrinking.

The American administration should make it clear "land swaps" are off the table and the side need to come up with a reasonable partition of the disputed territory.

President Obama should repeat what he said the night he clinched the Democratic nomination for president, that Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel and he should finally implement the long-stalled Embassy Relocation Act and start building America's embassy to Israel in that nation's capital.

The American mediation role reminds one of Zeno’s Paradox. In Zeno’s Paradox, one argues it is impossible for anyone to leave a room, since before one leaves the room one first must get halfway to the door. But after one gets halfway to the door, one must still first get half of the remaining distance to the door, and so on. The, obviously faulty conclusion, is that one can never get all the way to the door.

America always seems to look at the positions of the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis and urges the parties to meet halfway. The Israelis try to meet halfway, but the Arabs never budge. By now, the Israelis have moved almost all the way to where the Palestinian Arabs started, but rather than moving towards the Israelis the Palestinian Arabs, if anything, have moved backwards.

In general, rather than reacting to Arab intransigence by trying to appease it, America should start over and begin paying attention to what would be a fair solution. It needs to be an honest broker and encourage peacemaking rather than peace-blocking.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


By Ervin Birnbaum
The Chanukka story contains a significant completely overlooked  angle -- namely its crucial relevance to our very own days. In historic perspective we see two "rights" emerging from Chanukka, that become involved in a titanic struggle with each other. In order to appreciate what the two "rights" are, we need to briefly begin the story several decades prior to the Maccabean uprising.
For clarity's sake we go back to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, signaling the collapse of the huge empire. Two of his generals divided the spoils between them. Ptolemy took the posessions south of Israel, focused on Egypt. Seleucus posessed the territory north of Israel, from Syria to the borders of India. As was so common throughout history, the Land of Israel became the battleground between these two powers. By 200 BCE  the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus III, also called the Great, wrested the Land of Israel for good from the Ptolemais in the Battle of Banyas. To the Jews in Israel, settled mainly around Jerusalem, it was of little consequence who was the overlord of the Land. Both empires were deeply Hellenized, under the impact of Greek civilization. Both were at peace with Judea, respecting the difference of its traditions and way of life. Josephus portrays Antiochus as friendly to the Jews, lowering their taxes, and letting them live "according to the law of their forefathers", and even resettling 2,000 Jewish families from Babylon in Judea.
Not long thereafter Antiochus the Great became involved in a conflict with a fledgling Eurepean power, the Romans, in his attempt to regain Alexander the Great's European possessions. The Romans would not allow the spread of Seleucid influence in Europe. In the ensuing Battle of Magnesia between the two superpowers in 192 BCE, Antiochus's 70,000 troops were decisively beaten by a Roman force of 30,000. According to the Alexandrian historian, Appian, Antiochus had to yield his 200 remaining elephants (the "tanks" of those days), most of his ships, an enormous financial indemnity and 20 hostages to the victorious Romans. Among the hostages was his son, who eventually became known as Antiouchus IV of the Maccabees. 
Young Antiouchus in Rome was royally treated. He was allowed to take advantage of all the splendor of the scintillating and dynamic metropolis. The great forum and the magnificent boulevards awakened his unbounded admiration. The gladiatorial combats and the precision drills of the centurions made the young man understand how a Roman force could beat a Seleucid army more than double its size. Taking in that unbounded power, the skill, dedication and vitality of the Roman Legions, coupled with the political and administrative skills of the Roman Senate and its appointed Consuls, the ceremonials of the Vestal Virgins and its luxurious religious festivities, pervaded him with a sense that no power like the Roman power has ever surfaced on our globe.    
Five years after young Antiochus's confinement in his glorious captivity, his father Antiochus the Great died. An elder brother of his was killed. Now came the turn of Antiochus IV to rule. The Romans had released him and offered him royal accompaniment to reach the capitol of the Seleucid Empire, where he ascended the throne.
Antiochus IV returned from Rome with the utter conviction that it is only a matter of time before he will have to face the Romans in battle as his father did. Soon events proved to him that the Romans are taking posession of Ptolemaic Egypt and are treating him, the Seleucid king, as an underling. His experience in Rome taught him that to have any chance of success in face of that monstrous European military super-machine, he must forge his country into a solidly unified front. He was convinced that for this it was supremely important to unite all of his subjects. Such union meant one nationality, one religion, one culture, one loyalty. He had no problem with most of his subject nations. They were idoloters, reveling in the loose morals of the Hellenic civilization that Antiochus enthusiastically embraced and they readily seemed to follow him. Only one nation was radically different: the Jews.
Antiochus IV, also called Epiphanes (the Glorious), was determined.to squeeze the Jews into his phalanx in order to forge a solid wall of resistance against the Romans. He completely reversed his predecessors' lenient policy toward them. The story is well known. He forbade practices of the Jewish tradition on pain of death.Study of the Torah was forbidden. A statue of Zeus ws installed in the Holy Temple. Jews were forced to sacrifice to the multitude of idols placed in the heart of Jewish settlements. Force, oppression, brutality became the order of the day in the obsessive drive of Antiochus to stand up to the might of the Romans with success.  
A picture emerges of Antiochus who did not act  as a bigot, an antisemite, a racist, driven by unreasonable hatreds, but rather a person who had rational aspirations to safeguard his empire -- an aspiration to which he was logically entitled. How than do we react to the moment when Mattathias and his five sons, gathered in Modin, began the Revolt that leads to years of Jewish resistance in order to safeguard the Jewish People, its Tradition and way of life?
What emerges are two "rights" posited one against another. Antiochus has a right to safeguard his empire. The Maccabbees have a right to safeguard the Jewish People.
What makes this a fascinating observation is that on that score the world changed little in 2081 years, from the day the Maccabean Revolt exploded to this day. For today too we see two rights embraced in a struggle on the question of what kind of a policy to adopt vis-a-vis Iran, a dangerous atomic power emerging on the globe. The USA is sick and tired of being the policeman of the world. Since World War II ended, it was involved in major wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, lost soldiers in Lebanon, men in Lybia. The thousands of caskets of its sons that are shipped home from far-away shores do not  fill Americans with pride, but rather with continual questions of despair and disgust of why their young should bleed away in countries they know little about and care about even less. In short, the USA wants no further involvement abroad, even if Iran would be developing atomic weapons. By and large the European nations share this attitude.
Israel, on the other hand, feels threatened in its very existence. Iranian leadership has repeetedly issued statements menacing to Israel, referring to it as the cancer of humanity, as mice, rats and vermin, and calling for its destruction. Such statements must not be taken lightly. In the face of repeated threatening declarations it has become obvious that it is not one person's caprice but rather a national long-range policy that motivates Iran and that posits the idea that the very first atomic instrument produced by them will be unleashed at Israel. Israel is therefore obligated, as an act of self-defense, to do everything in its power to prevent Iran from reaching the capability of producing an atomic weapon.
Centuries back Antiochus Epiphanes wanted to safeguard the peace and security of his empire. Today the USA wishes to guarantee a world that will not claim any further American victims. In order to attain their goal, the Empire of Old and the Empire of Today do not seem to hesitate to sidestep a numerically small people, which happens to be a people shunned, despised and even hated so often in the course of history. Antiochus of old like the USA of today, would be hurt to the quick if accused of bigotry, racism, religious fanaticism, or anti-semitism. 
We are dealing with highly cultured and enlightened individuals who are genuinely convinced that they aim solely for the best interests of their people and of mankind. From their point of view, they may be right, despite Heine's prescient warning that where they burn Synagogues today they will burn Cathedrals tomorrow.
But what should Israel say? Because Antiochus wanted to safeguard his empire should the Jewish People allow itself to be erased, its traditions wiped out? The Maccabbees made their choice. They declared in word and deed: Our prople has a right to live. We shall not stretch our neck out for the butcher's knife. Our first concern is our survival. Despite what bigots say, we were never a burden on mankind. We always contributed more than we received. It is our obligation to sustain ourselves, to perpetuate ourselves, to assure our continuity and to look forward to a glorious tomorrow.
Indeed, what should Israel say today, when the powers that reached an agreement with Iran will extend dire warnings to it in days to come that in case it attacks the atomic facilities of Iran it will be the sole one blamed for unleashing a world-wide atomic conflagration threatening the whole globe?  
The situation should be crystal clear. Israel has an unquestioned right to take all the steps necessary to assure its national survival. In the light of recent history Israel has learned that it cannot rely on other nations, no matter how cultured and civilized these nations are, to come to its rescue. Iranian leaders have recently made solemn promises to Western powers to cut back in its operations leading to further development of an atomic arsenal. Israel sees these as self-serving promises to secure increased economic cooperation, support and lifting of sanctions from the West. To Israel these promises echo the solemn promises  of Hitler made to Neville Chamberlain and Daladier in the Munich Agreement of October 1938. For a scrap of paper carrying the banner of "peace in our time" the Western allies sacrificed the staunchest democracy of the European continent only to be led to a world war that cost mankind 70 million lives and the Jewish People fully one-third of its total number less than a year later. 
 For lack of alternative, should the chips fall Israel will have no other recourse but to stand up for itself even if it stands alone. Like the glorious Maccabbees so this generation of Jews, will fight for its right to assure its continuity. In the glow of our Chanukka lights we will identify with our precursors who recognized that if there are two rights it is our undisputed obligation to fight for our right.  
Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum, founder and director of first Russian Outreach program in Israel, "Shearim Netanya," was Professor of International Relations and History at City University of New York. He is also Rabbi Emeritus at Bet Israel Masorti Congregation in Netanya.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Responding to the Methodist Church Survey on BDS

The Methodist Church in the United Kingdom, one of the leaders in the hateful, anti-Israel, pro-terrorism BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement passed a motion requesting "the production of a briefing on the arguments for and against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement."

They have put a survey up on the web, at http://www.methodist.org.uk/bdsbriefing. Although they will certainly do their best to ignore any responses urging them to act responsibly, many people who are not anti-Israel are filling out the survey. Please join them.

The following are the questions and responses by Beryl Ratzer, a fellow resident of Netanya (although, unlike me, she lives there all year), a licensed Israeli tour guide (she's excellent; if you're looking for a guide while you're in Israel, you won't find a better one) and the author of "A Historical Tour of the Holy Land."

Beryl also periodically sends out very interesting emails and is in the midst of a series she calls "Points to Ponder," which are also available on her web site, http://www.ratzer.com. The fifth in the series contains her answers to the survey. We include it below with Beryl's permission.

To my family, friends and readers, Shalom

'Points to Ponder' 5 is a bit longer than usual because it includes my answers to all 14 questions raised by the Methodist church concerning their plans to decree a boycott of Israel. http://www.methodist.org.uk/bdsbriefing

In no way can this be seen as an attack on the theology of the Methodist church although I must confess that, based on my knowledge and understanding of Christianity, not only from my studies but also from guiding groups of all denominations and listening to the words of their pastors, priests, vicars, rectors and reverends, I do have a problem with 'replacement theology'.

Here then are the questions and my answers. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends and colleagues. If you no longer wish to receive 'Points to Ponder' do not hesitate to ask to be removed from my mailing list.

1.  What do you understand to be the motivation/inspiration behind the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel?

As the Methodist Church has not called for a boycott of China for its occupation of Tibet or of Turkey for its occupation of Northern Cyrus, to name but two of many, many occupations world-wide, I have no doubt in my mind that the motivation for this particular call is motivated and inspired purely and only by  anti-Semitism.

Not to acknowledge this is hypocrisy/dishonest/denial. You choose.

2.  In your view, what would be the essential elements of any peace agreement in Israel/Palestine?

Every peace agreement ever signed has been the result of negotiations between the two sides to the conflict without interference from any power, state, church or person not directly involved in the conflict.

Over the last twenty five years Israel has shown a genuine desire for an agreement with the Palestinians and made innumerable gestures and concessions to further reaching such an agreement.

From the Oslo Accords in 1993; Oslo II in 1195; the Wye Agreement in 1998; Camp David in 2000; the Geneva Accord in 2003 through to the disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria in 2005, every single one has been broken by the Palestinians.

And worse still, in each successive one the Palestinians, egged on by the Scandinavians and EU and UK supporters, have introduced new demands and conditions not mentioned in the previous one.

Please, don't take my word for it. Take the time to check out each of the afore-mentioned agreements and compare them.

Essential in any agreement will have to be Palestinian acceptance of a fact which the Palestinians are denying, with the support of replacement theology Christians. That Israel has an unbroken history in this land which goes back three millennia.

Another essential is that the Palestinians change their school curriculum and, instead of praising terrorism and encouraging children to aspire to becoming 'shahids', suicide bombers, they condemn all acts of terrorism and teach towards peace with Israel, just as in Israeli schools there are numerous outreach programs in which Israeli and Palestinian children can meet.

Israeli children sing songs of peace. Palestinian children sing songs of martyrdom and conquest.

Once again, don't just take my word for it. Check out some of the PA TV programs for children.

3.  Do you support a boycott of products produced within Israeli settlements?

I do not support the idea of an organised boycott anywhere as I believe it to counter the very basic idea of freedom to have an open society which can freely exchange ideas and viewpoints and as invariably innocent people are often affected.

In that same framework of an open society as long as there is no organised boycott and all products are on the shelves everyone is free to purchase whatever he chooses.

4.  Do you support the call for a wider consumer boycott of all Israeli products?

As I wrote in the previous question, I do not support boycotts anywhere or at any time.

In point of fact, neither does the Methodist Church or else it would be boycotting China, Turkey and goodness knows how many other cruel and inhumane countries throughout Asia and Africa in particular for their mistreatment of women and of children. Not to mention of course a boycott of Egypt for its massacre of Christian Copts.

5.  If you answer 'Yes' to Question 4, what changes would you need to see to be content to end your boycott?

Although I answered NO to question 4 I must say that quite honestly I do not see that the Methodist Church has any standing in demanding any changes from Israel, or for that matter, from any other country.

6.  What are the arguments against a consumer boycott of all Israeli products?  What are the risks?

Although not a member of the Methodist Church I believe Church members should vote against a boycott of Israeli products in order to make it clear to all and sundry that the call for boycott is not a cover for blatant anti-Semitism in the Methodist Church and its theology.

Should the Church include in its call for a boycott such places as China for its occupation of Tibet, Turkey for its occupation of Northern Cyprus, Saudi Arabia for its mistreatment of women, Iran for its death sentences, Egypt for its massacre of Christian Copts, to name but a few addresses, then at least it would appear that human rights and not anti-Semitism is the clarion call.

But until then, calling to boycott only Israel reeks of anti-Semitism. But then, perhaps I am missing the point and the Methodist Church is in fact anti-Semitic.

7.  If you do not support the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, could you ever see yourself supporting such a call in the future?  Under what circumstances?

Once again, I do not believe in an organised BDS doctrine anywhere against anyone. As for the individual, one has complete freedom of choice to buy or not buy whatever one chooses.

8.  What message does the call for a consumer boycott of Israel communicate to the general public?  (please specify whether you are answering with reference to the public in the UK, in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or elsewhere)

In general the call to boycott Israeli products will be met with approval by all those supporting the Palestinian claims that Israel is a modern apartheid Nazi state committing a modern holocaust on the Palestinians (which is of course all totally incorrect), whether they be in the UK, Israel or anywhere else.

However, that small minority of thinking people which examines the false premises in greater depth cannot but question the Methodist Church for its desire to boycott only Israel.

9.  Do you support an academic boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning

An academic boycott of Israeli universities and colleges is the very antitheses of the idea of freedom to have an open society which can freely exchange ideas and viewpoints.

Apart from the ideological contradiction, those who boycott Israel's academia and consequently the inventions and innovations originating in them will be cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

What a loss to be unable to have a miniature camera invented in Israel painlessly examine ones intestines, to be unable to use the innovative medications coming from Israel, to be unable to use the tiny computer chips manufactured in Israel in one's computer.  The list is endless.

Or is the boycott to be selective? Don't boycott all that is vital???

10.  Do you support a cultural boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.

If culture, as the Oxford dictionary defines it, is 'intellectual development' how does one develop culturally by a blanket boycott of a culture that has existed for three thousand years and has influenced innumerable other cultures throughout the world?

Closing oneself to any other culture is bigoted, racist, discriminatory and stultifying. There are probably a lot more words I could add.

11.  Under what circumstances, if any, should the Methodist Church divest from companies operating in Israel?

Divestment is the Church's free choice but it shouldn't  have to be backed by an ideology or theology.

Generally one invests money where there are good returns. If the investment is bad, divest. If not, why divest?

12.  Should the UK government or European Union impose trade or other restrictions on economic relationships with Israel or alternatively limited restrictions on economic engagement with settlements?  If so what form should such sanctions take?

As I don't believe in such restrictions and as neither the UK or EU or any other such country or group of counties are applying any sanctions against China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Egypt, for reasons which I have already given, I fail to understand why sanctions should be imposed on Israel.

13.  What actions other than BDS might members of the Methodist Church take to encourage a political process that could deliver a just and sustainable resolution in Israel and Palestine?

So far all the actions taken by the Methodist Church have merely resulted in more intransigency and heightened demands on the part of the Palestinians, as explained in my earlier responses.

As the Methodist Church has absolutely no standing in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians the church should, in plain English, butt out.

14.  Is there any further theological or other comment that you would like to make in relation to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or are there papers or other resources that you would highlight?

Methodist theology is Methodist theology and not mine to criticize but perhaps it is the reason for the shrinking membership in your church.

It is a pity that the one-sided perspective to the Palestinian-Israeli problem has prevented your members from getting a deeper insight into that problem by delving into the many papers and resources available. Should you require some suggestions I will be only too happy to send them to you.

To intelligently form an opinion one needs to investigate all aspects of a problem. Sadly the Methodist Church has not done that.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Yom Kippur-2013

gs don morris, Ph.D.

It is after 3:30 in the afternoon here in Israel. The day of heat and humidity is moving towards sundown and the populace expects some relief from such weather soon as darkness arrives. However, today’s sundown is the most special one as Yom Kippur begins near 6:25 pm depending where you live in the country.

The most unique experience for Jew and non-Jew alike should be experienced by everyone-please come to us next year and encounter something special. Allow me to share what I have witnessed each of the last 15 Yom Kippurs.

At this hour the country is beginning its shut down. Israeli TV has gone “black” and programming resumes tomorrow evening. All forms of public transportation have stopped, e.g., busses, trains, sheruts.  Well not every sherut. I just saw one go by on the highway by the sea.

 You actually can feel the shut down, it is becoming very quiet and we still have 3 hours of sunshine remaining. In many homes about the country families are readying for prayers, many are eating one last meal to get them through the coming 25 hour fast. This is holiest of days for religious Jews-everywhere.

Some may ask, why is this so, what is the meaning of this coming day. Here is a very brief explanation-from Judaism 101:

Significance: Day of Atonement
Observances: Fasting, Prayer and Repentance
Length: 25 Hours
Greeting: Have an easy fast
Liturgy additions: Annulment of vows; lengthy confession of sins
...In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work ... For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the L-RD. -Leviticus 16:29-30
Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri. The holiday is instituted at Leviticus 23:26 et seq.

The name "Yom Kippur" means "Day of Atonement," and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past year. In Days of Awe, I mentioned the "books" in which G-d inscribes all of our names. On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed. This day is, essentially, your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.

I said it would be brief! As sundown arrives, the country is shut down-tight-no public or private transportation of any kind. All stores, theaters, cafes, shops hours ago stopped working. This is voluntary, the shutdown is not due to war, loss of power, or injunction -Israelis of all persuasion, religious and secular alike, Arabs, Jew and non-Jews honor this special occasion. In the electric and hazardous Middle East, Israel, surrounded by its enemies, takes 25 hours off-successfully. Well except back in 1973…

Serenity is descending upon us as I continue to write-stressors are being “washed away” replaced with a gentle quiet, in both one’s mind and spirit. Inner reflection has begun-questions are raised, thoughts are often frenetic in the beginning as one searches his/her soul-when and where appropriate forgiveness is asked-the process has begun.

Soon the darkness arrives, secular Israelis go outside by foot,  bicycle, skateboard, rollers of all kinds onto the busy streets, roads and freeways where not but a few hours ago thousands of vehicles once traveled. For seculars this is typically an evening of staying outside all night long, wandering, gathering, visiting with known and soon to be known new friends.

Our borders are closed and protected by our marvelous IDF. They stand the duty these next many hours so all of us may decide how to be. We thank you all.

Please come next year-be with us-you will not regret it. I wish for all of you “an easy fast”.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Attacks perpetrated by the released Palestinian prisoners

This information was provided by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which points out the Palestinian prisoners released were not political prisoners but rather perpetrators of violent, heinous crimes against Israelis.

The fact that Israel released these murderous terrorists with only the slimmest of hopes the action would help bring about a peace agreement shows Israel's deep yearning for peace; the fact that Mahmoud Abbas, the so-called "moderate" leader of the Palestinian Authority insisted on their release just to sit at the table shows he hasn't the slightest interest in peace.

The following are the specific murderous crimes perpetrated by these individuals:

Fayez Khur: Aged 51, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On May 10, 1983, he murdered Menahem Dadon in the Gaza Strip, and was involved in the murder of Salomon Abukasis in the Gaza Strip on February 14, 1983. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Salah Mugdad: Aged 47, a Fatah operative from Kfar Bracha in Samaria in the West Bank. On June 14, 1993, he murdered Israel Tenenbaum, a guard at the Sirens Hotel in Netanya. Sentenced to life imprisonment, which was then commuted to a 32-year sentence.

Samir Na’neesh: Aged 46, a Fatah operative from Nablus in the West Bank. On February 14, 1989 he murdered a soldier, Binyamin Meisner, by throwing a building block at him in the Kasbah in Nablus. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Yusef Irshaid: Aged 45, a Fatah operative from Jenin in the West Bank. On June 15, 1992, he took part in the murder of a Druze Israeli citizen, Mufid Cana’an. In the years 1991-92 he took part in the murder of three Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel. He also planned a car bomb attack in Afula and made attempts to kidnap a soldier. Sentenced to five life imprisonments.

Mustafa al-Haj: Aged 45, a Fatah operative from Brukin in the West Bank. On June 17, 1989, he stabbed Steven Frederick Rosenfeld to death with a knife close to Ariel. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Salameh Musleh: Aged 44, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On May 20, 1991, he took part in the murder of Reuven David in Petach Tikva, when he and his accomplice beat him to death. Sentenced to life imprisonment, which was then commuted to a 30-year sentence.

Atiyeh abu Musa: Aged 42, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On March 29, 1993, he murdered Isaac Rotenberg with an axe on a building site in Bat Yam. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Salah Mukled: Aged 40, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On March 29, 1993, he stabbed Yeshayahu Deutsch to death with a knife in the hothouses of Kfar Yam. In that same year, he also carried out shooting attacks. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mohemed Sawalha: Aged 40, a Fatah operative from the village of Azmut in West Bank. On December 2, 1990, he took part in a stabbing on a bus in Ramat Gan, in which Baruch Heisler was murdered and three other passengers were injured. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Atef Sha’ath: Aged 49, a Popular Front operative from the Gaza Strip. He collaborated in the murder of Simcha Levy on March 12, 1993. Sentenced to 29 years imprisonment.

Yusef Abed al-Al: Aged 42, a Popular Front operative from the Gaza Strip. On April 18, 1993, he took part in the murder of Ian Feinberg in the Gaza Strip. On July 3, 1993, he murdered a Palestinian who was suspected of collaboration. Sentenced to 22 years imprisonment.

Midhat Barbakh: Aged 38, a Popular Front and Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On January 21, 1994, he stabbed his employer, Moshe Beker, a citrus grower from Rishon Letzion, killing him. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ali Rai: Aged 56, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On January 21, 1994, he murdered Morris Eizenstat in Kfar Saba. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mohamed Nashbat: Aged 52, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On September 20, 1990, he took part in the stoning and lynch of a soldier, Amnon Pomerantz, in al Burej in the Gaza Strip. Sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

Samir Murtaji: Aged 42, a Hamas operative from the Gaza Strip. In the years 1993-94, he murdered four Palestinians who were suspected of collaboration. He was also involved in kidnapping other Palestinians suspected of collaboration. Sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Hosni Sawalha: Aged 39, a Fatah operative from Azmut, a village in the West Bank. He took part in a stabbing on a bus in Ramat Gan on December 2, 1990, in which Baruch Heisler was murdered and three other passengers were injured. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Faraj Rimahi: Aged 48, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. Murdered Avraham Kinsler on June 6, 1992 and planned to murder more Israeli citizens. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ala Eddin Abu Sitteh: Aged 43, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On December 31, 1993, he took part in the murder of Haim Weizman and David Dadi in Ramle. After stabbing them both to death with knives, the murderers desecrated their victims’ bodies. Sentenced to two life imprisonments.

Ayman Abu Sitteh: Aged 42, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On December 31, 1993, he took part in the murder of Haim Weizman and David Dadi in Ramle. After stabbing them both to death with knives, the murderers desecrated their victims’ bodies. Sentenced to two life imprisonments.

Esmat Mansour: Aged 36, a Democratic Front operative from Deir Jarir, a village in the West Bank. On October 29, 1993, he aided the terrorist cell that murdered Haim Mizrahi in a chicken farm in Beit El. He led the murderers to a hiding place behind the chicken coops, brought rope to tie up the victim and helped them load the dead body into the trunk of the car. Sentenced to 22 years imprisonment.

Khaled Asakreh: Aged 41, a Fatah operative from Rafida, a village in the West Bank. On April 29, 1991, he murdered Annie Ley, a French tourist in Bethlehem. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

Nihad Jundiyeh: Aged 40, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On July 14 1989, he took part in the murder of Zalman Shlein in Gan Yavne. During questioning, he admitted to planning two more attacks that were not carried out: a stabbing in Gan Yavne and forcing a bus off a cliff. Sentenced to 25.5 years imprisonment.

Mohamed Hamdiyeh: Aged 41, a Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip. On July 14, 1989 he took part in the murder of Zalman Shlein in Gan Yavne. Sentenced to 25.5 years imprisonment.

Jamil Abed al-Nabi: Aged 50, a Hamas operative from the Hebron area in the West Bank. He was involved in planning and carrying out the shooting in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron that occurred on October 25, 1992. In the attack, an IDF soldier, Shmuel Gersh, was killed and another soldier wounded. Sentenced to 21 years imprisonment.

Taher Zaboud: an Islamic Jihad operative from Silat al Harithiya, a village in the West Bank. He took part in a shooting that occurred on September 22, 1992 near the settlement Gadish. He was also involved in an unsuccessful attempt to murder a police officer in Umm al-Fahm. Sentenced to 21 years imprisonment.
Borhan Sabiah: Aged 42, a Fatah operative from Rai, a village in the West Bank. He was convicted of murdering six suspected collaborators. Sentenced to six life imprisonments.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Peace Negotiations FAQ

These informative FAQs were provided by Mercaz, the Zionist arm of the Conservative movement in the United States. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the positions of PRIMER. The FAQs are posted here with the permission of Mercaz.

Table of Contents

1.       Given the turmoil in the Middle East, why are talks resuming now?

2.       We know the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians are wide, what should we expect?

3.       Are the Israelis and Palestinians entering the talks bona fide?

4.       Do the Israeli people want peace? Does Prime Minister Netanyahu want peace? Is the mood right in the Israeli government for a peace agreement? Why do some Israeli politicians, including members of the coalition, speak out against peace?

5.       Do Palestinian people want peace? Does Abbas and the Palestinian leadership want peace? Is the mood right in the Palestinian Authority for a peace agreement?

6.       How do you negotiate a state into existence that is divided between two warring factions – Fatah and Hamas, which is heavily influenced by Iran?

7.       What will be the American role in the talks?

8.       What is the role of Europe in negotiations?

9.       What is the role of the Arab League and the Arab world in negotiations?

10.   Why does Israel continue building settlements against international pressure and while the Palestinians insist on their cessation? Will Israel disengage from settlements?

11.   Why is Israel refusing the Palestinian claim of return for refugees?

12.   What will the borders of a future Israeli state look like? Will it be based on 1967 lines with land swaps?

13.   What is the future of Jerusalem—will it be split, will it serve as the capitals of both nations? Should there be an international presence in Jerusalem?

14.   Why is the one-state solution not viable?

15.   Why is there a timeframe for negotiations? What if the talks fail?

16.   What can the public do to help peace negotiations?

Given the turmoil in the Middle East, why are talks resuming now?

Peace is ingrained among Israel’s founding principles and bringing an end to the conflict between us and the Palestinians has been a paramount goal of Israel’s since its inception. Thus, we are committed to pursuing peace until it is achieved. Peace is the only way we can secure Israel as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people. Ending the conflict is not only for our generation, but for improving the lives of our children and all future generations.

Israelis and Palestinians are certainly influenced by the instability in the Middle East. Arab-Palestinians are part of the Arab world and its clear the events across the region are influencing them. While this turmoil must be taken into account, and will influence the process, it cannot serve as an excuse to not have peace talks. Israel is not determining the future of the countries surrounding us. What we can determine, and where we can act, is on the peace process. We need to seize the opportunities when they arise.

We know the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians are wide, what should we expect?

Israel and Israelis are yearning and wishing for peace. We believe peace will improve the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, and will further strengthen the security of the state of Israel. We believe sharing the land will allow us to preserve Israel as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people. Therefore, we determined to work hard and use any opportunity that we have to engage with our Palestinian neighbors to reach an historic peace agreement based on the principle of two states for two peoples – Israel the nation-state and homeland for the Jewish people and an Arab Palestinian state as the homeland for the Palestinian people.

Starting negotiations is not a goal in itself. We expect serious and intensive direct negotiations between trusted parties, without media exposure or spin. We expect both sides will not quit the table because of disagreements, rather, we expect they will seek creative solutions in order to bring an end to the conflict with an end to all claims. We expect each side will build public opinion in his own constituency to support the talks--a peace based on two states for two peoples--and the idea that there will be achievements and there will be compromises.

At the end of negotiations, we expect a peace that means no more Palestinian suicide bombers who get public squares named after them and no more missiles fired at our school buses.  We expect a peace that allows Israel to be able to invest in ourselves, building a better society for our children, and creating a prosperous future

Are the Israelis and Palestinians entering the talks bona fide?

On the day before negotiations began, it's remarkable to compare the actions of each people's leader. For Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners who have murdered men, women and children. The prisoners were not political criminals, they were persons who committed horrendous acts of violence. This was a very controversial move among the Israeli people, but Prime Minister Netanyahu was preparing his people for the risks they would need to take for peace. On the other side, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stood up at a press conference in Cairo and said that he will not compromise an inch of land. We wish he would begin preparing the Arab world for the need to compromise. It's crucial for these negotiations to succeed.

Do the Israeli people want peace? Does Prime Minister Netanyahu want peace? Is the mood right in the Israeli government for a peace agreement? Why do some Israeli politicians, including members of the coalition, speak out against peace?

Yes, polls show Israelis want peace. For Israel and Israelis, peace means no more Palestinian suicide bombers who get public squares named after them and no more missiles fired at our school buses.  Peace also means being able to invest in ourselves, building a better society for our children, and creating a prosperous future.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly showed his commitment to peace in both his words and his actions. At Bar-Ilan in 2009, the Prime Minister envisioned a peace of two free peoples living side by side. In 2010, the Prime Minister froze settlements for 10 months—a move that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "unprecedented". At the 2011 UN General Assembly, he offered to start negotiations immediately with President Abbas in New York. In a joint press conference with President Obama this year in Jerusalem, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to peace based on two states for two peoples. For these talks, the Prime Minister agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, criminals, who have committed horrendous crimes, murder among them, against innocent Israelis and tourists. If someone doubts his commitment, the only way to test him is at the negotiating table.

People will always look for excuses why the time is not right. We have long called for negotiations for an end to the conflict, and the opportunity is here today as the Palestinians have finally agreed to return to the table. The time for peace is now and we will not miss this opportunity. In addition to the support of his coalition and forces in the opposition, Prime Minister Netanyahu is ready to lead an internal Israeli discourse to highlight the importance of reaching peace with our neighbors anchored in the security of the land and people of Israel

Israel is a proud and vibrant democracy, and, just as in America, there are diverging opinions that are permitted and even encouraged in a democracy. Most Israelis and Israeli politicians support peace. The diverging opinions often heard or read are not against peace, but about specific policies related to peace.

Do Palestinian people want peace? Does Abbas and the Palestinian leadership want peace? Is the mood right in the Palestinian Authority for a peace agreement?

Israelis may understandably be wary or concerned about the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to peace. For years, Palestinian leadership has glorified terrorism, naming streets and squares after suicide bombers and convicted murders. For years, Palestinian leadership has ignored Israeli calls to return to the negotiating table. However, we believe there are enough Palestinians who believe peace is possible.

The heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a struggle between two national movements that have claim to the same land. The only possible resolution should adhere to the principle that we need to share and we need to recognize one another. By sitting at the negotiating table to discuss all standing issues and with a willingness to be creative and to compromise, we can put an end to the conflict with an end to all claims.

What is needed now is leadership from the Palestinians with a clear commitment to talk until we have ‘white smoke’. We expect the Palestinians to stay at the table even when negotiations they become tough and to begin leading an internal discourse preparing the Palestinian people for the gains and compromises that will come from peace.

Timing is not strictly about current mood, It’s about the responsibility of leadership to do what is best for their people. What’s needed now is Palestinian leadership determined to convey to its people the importance of negotiations and peace; to convey there will be achievements and there will be compromises. The commitment by Israeli and Palestinian should be for our children and the future generations who will have a better life than ours.

How do you negotiate a state into existence that is divided between two warring factions – Fatah and Hamas, which is heavily influenced by Iran?

It is our responsibility to promote an agreement with those who are ready to be part of an historic peace. Hamas, which controls about 40 percent of the Palestinian population, cannot be a partner to the peace process until it adheres to the Quartet principles: recognizing Israel, upholding all previous agreements and renouncing violence.

However, we cannot allow radical forces, like Hamas, to take the vision of peace hostage, and therefore Hamas-controlled Gaza will force us to pay attention to the security parameters that will secure Israelis, the land of Israel and the agreement.

What will be the American role in the talks?

Israel greatly appreciate Secretary Kerry’s leadership to resume the direct talks for peace for a two-state solution. In negotiations, the United States will serve to maximize the ability of the sides to dialogue and to compromise, with the goal of achieving two states, living side by side in peace and security. Only the United States has the needed trust and power from the parties to facilitate an historic peace agreement.

As agreed on by the parties, the United States will work continuously with both parties as a facilitator throughout the nine month time frame on all of the final status issues, all of the core issues, and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation. The parties agreed that negotiations will remain confidential and the U.S. will be the sole party to speak, if necessary, on the status of negotiations.

What is the role of Europe in negotiations?

We hope countries in Europe, the European Union and the rest of the world, will support the process through backing the Kerry initiative and creating a positive atmosphere for the talks. We need Europe to be very careful and cautious in its actions that may be unconstructive and increase distrust between the parties.

What is the role of the Arab League and the Arab world in negotiations?

We hope the Arab League and Arab countries will lend their support for negotiations and create a positive atmosphere that will encourage the Palestinians to solve the conflict through direct negotiations. We hope the Arab League supports the right of the Palestinians to negotiate what is right for them. We hope they will not create additional obstacles to peace by pressuring the Palestinians on final status issues or creating extra conditions that will make it more difficult for the Palestinians to negotiate. We also hope the Arab League will push confidence building measures from their end that will improve relations with Israel and Israelis. The Arab world should welcome any agreement that is reached by the parties.

Why does Israel continue building settlements against international pressure and while the Palestinians insist on their cessation? Will Israel disengage from settlements?

The future of the settlements will be an issue that will be negotiated, along with all other core issues. We can't strip settlements of their meaning. Settlements are communities in our historic, biblical homeland.

In the past, Israel has proven its capability to reach agreements on borders to remove Israeli towns and communities in Sinai, Gaza and northern Samaria. Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated publicly, to the U.S. Congress, that in any realistic peace arrangement, some settlements will be beyond Israel's borders. The issue of settlements will be discussed around the negotiating table and changes will be part of an agreement that will end the conflict and end the claims.

If we thought that by just freezing settlements we'd have peace or be genuinely closer to peace, that would be one thing. Unfortunately we know that not to be the case. When Prime Minister Netanyahu froze settlements for ten months—a move that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "unprecedented"—President Abbas refused to even negotiate until the last two weeks of the freeze, and only then he demanded an additional freeze. Settlements are certainly an issue, but they are one of many issues that must be determined face to face at the negotiating table.

Why is Israel refusing the Palestinian claim of return for refugees?

There is a critical asymmetry between Israelis and Palestinians regarding our vision for an end to the conflict. Although an historic claim to all of the land exists for Israel as well, eretzh Israel ha’shlema, polls indicate that the majority of Israelis have long supported a future of two sovereign states for two peoples. The majority of Palestinians, on the other hand, remain committed to the claim of return – or the end of the sovereign state of Israel. Palestinian political and religious leadership speak on this platform and children are educated on this platform.

The issue of refugees will be discussed around the negotiating table, along with all other core issues. At its heart, the Palestinian claim of return is a disguise for not accepting Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. The claim of return would force Israel to absorb all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, nearly 4.7 million, who want to live in it, thus creating a bi-national state

The issue of refugees is a social, economic and humanitarian problem that needs to be addressed in negotiations, but not within the borders of Israel--not when it threatens Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Israel can contribute to the solution, but it won’t include accepting the Palestinians narrative. We will not have peace until we share a vision of two-states for two peoples, including a final end to all claims.

[PRIMER comment: There are only a relative handful of actual Arab refugees, the youngest of whom are now 65 years old with no memory of ever living in Israel. Almost all those referred to as refugees are actually descendants of refugees. Many of them are back in the lands from which their ancestors came before migrating to Judea, Samaria or Gaza.]

What will the borders of a future Israeli state look like? Will it be based on 1967 lines with land swaps?

The issue of borders will be determined in direct negotiations, along with all other core issues. Israel accepts the principles of President Obama in which the borders of Israel and a future Arab-Palestinian state will be based on security needs and the new demographic realities on the ground. Provisions must be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.

What is the future of Jerusalem—will it be split, will it serve as the capitals of both nations? Should there be an international presence in Jerusalem?

The issue of Jerusalem will be discussed at the negotiating table, along with all other core issues. Jerusalem is the heart and soul of the Jewish, religious and national identities of Israel. It was the historic capital of the Jewish people and Israel’s position is that Jerusalem will not be divided and Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel. Only a democratic Israel has been committed to the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city--Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Having said that, we are aware of the religious ties and we understand the Palestinians have their own positions. Everything can and should be brought to the negotiating table, and, as Prime Minister Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress, we believe with creativity and with good will, a solution can be found.

Why is the one-state solution not viable?

Just this week in Cairo, President Abbas asserted that there will not be “a single Israeli” in a future Arab-Palestinian state. Unlike Abbas, Israel accepts the rights of minorities to live in Israel as fully equal citizens, and we will protect those rights. However, we want to prevent the creation of a bi-national state. Israelis want to be the nation state of the Jewish people with a democratic government, and the only way to ensure that is through the creation of two states for two peoples – Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and an Arab Palestinian state as the homeland for the Palestinian people – each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

Why is there a timeframe for negotiations? What if the talks fail?

A time frame of nine months has been proposed by the parties. The time frame highlights how important and urgent it is for the parties to negotiate.

The time is here for peace, and Israel is determined and committed to pursue peace through negotiations. Israel is focused on how we can make negotiations work. We cannot look at the possibility of unsuccessful talks. Israeli and Palestinian leadership have the responsibility to make these negotiations work for their people.

There is also a responsibility of world leaders and within international public discourse to create a positive atmosphere for talks that will guide their success. Leaders and the community should encourage the sides to work towards a realistic and workable political agreement, and give up fantasy solutions.

We have an expectation from the community to make clear to President Abbas that quitting negotiations is not an option and that he must not shy away from compromise. Abbas must further understand there will be achievements and there will be compromises, and he must convey this to his people

We understand the difficulties, and we understand we may need additional time to negotiate. We look to the talks to create a positive momentum to a necessary process to reach a peace based on two states for two peoples

What can the public do to help peace negotiations?

The public has an important role to join in the discourse surrounding the peace talks. We hope world leaders, governments and publics will create a positive atmosphere for talks that will guide their success. Leaders and the community should encourage the sides to work towards a realistic and workable political agreement, and give up fantasy solutions. We have an expectation from the community to make clear to President Abbas that quitting negotiations is not an option and that he must not shy away from compromise. Abbas must further understand there will be achievements and there will be compromises, and he must convey this to his people

Governments around the world, especially in Europe and within the Arab world, should continue to lend their support for negotiations. They should be careful and cautious in their actions that may be unconstructive and increase distrust between the parties. Finally, they should welcome any agreement that is reached by the parties.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Op-Ed: Helen Thomas - The Ugly Truth

One doesn't speak ill of the dead, but perhaps there are exceptional circumstances.
By Rabbi David Nesenoff
Posted with the permission of the author.
While serving for decades as a pulpit rabbi, I had the opportunity to hear eulogies offered by family and friends. It is quite curious to see how we speak of the dead. And so it is in the case of Helen Thomas.
As the person who video interviewed Helen Thomas on the White House lawn in May 2010, the famous video that went viral, capturing Helen Thomas saying that the Jews should leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland, I watched with interest the memorializing of her passing. After all, three years ago, when she delivered her scathing words to me on the White House lawn on Jewish Heritage Day, she was thrown out of her job; the White House press corps banished her, the Nines Agency dropped their representation, her coauthor quit her and numerous speaking engagements were cancelled.
Soon after, the White House removed the plaque bearing her name from her front row seat in the briefing room; her name was removed from the tolerance award at her alma mater Wayne State University and her name was erased from the Society of Professional Journalists’ award as well. President Obama, himself, on camera, said that her words were “indefensible.”
Helen Thomas went on further to tell Playboy Magazine that the Zionists own “Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street.” Two congressmen, Republican Steve Chabot and Democrat Elliot Engel, even threatened to cancel all funding to the Palestinian Authority specifically because of its award to Helen Thomas.
Certainly one should be able to talk about Israel, disagree and offer various opinions on the White House lawn or any front lawn. But the classic dictionary definition of a bigot and racist is “Blacks go back to Africa” and “Jews go back to Germany.”
Helen Thomas managed 60 years of hiding behind her anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian veil until it was finally removed. And the naked anti-Jewish truth stood before us. Everyone saw it, knew it and threw her out.
But upon Helen Thomas’ death, TV show host Mika Brzezinski announced on MSNBC that Helen Thomas was her “role model.” CBS News decided to just change history and say that Helen Thomas said that the Jews should go back to “Europe.” CBS erased the word “Germany.”
President Obama lauded Helen Thomas as a “true pioneer,” ignoring her vile anti-Jewish words that had her thrown out of his house. Newspaper obituaries trivialized her bigotry, characterizing it as a small controversy stemming from her feistiness, and newscasters’ dimples’ grinned, “Oh that Helen, ha-ha.”
While every news source and the U.S. Justice Department scour information resources and beg, steal and borrow to find a nuance of a glimpse of evidence that George Zimmerman is a racist, Helen Thomas is on video blaring and blazing words that threw her out of polite society.
Yet upon her passing, the truth, facts, videos, quotes, and evidence of Helen Thomas being a blatant proud anti-Semite are all buried even before Helen is. Her original apology is sometimes included, but without mention of her continued post apology anti-Jewish words that have been documented. All the media are very quick to throw stones at Rolling Stone magazine’s cover of bombing suspect Tsarnaev, while they themselves air brush and glorify the life of a banished, video proven, anti-Semite Helen Thomas.
Whatever Helen Thomas may have accomplished for females in journalism and women’s rights, she erased by denying Jewish rights and human rights. And last I checked, women are part of humanity and they should be concerned about her denigrating words as well. She is the antithesis of a role model. If you are blessed to have the front row center seat, you should shine the light on the truth, the whole truth, and not take advantage and use it as a bully pulpit. And more recently she spouted disgusting lies about non-existent Israeli atrocities that I wouldn’t even dignify to repeat.
The world is a scary place and those informing us need to pay attention and report with truth. They can start by telling the truth about one of their own. Being a proven banished video documented anti-Semite should not be a small footnote in someone’s obituary. It is ultimately part and parcel of one’s legacy and it infected the world.
I found out the news that Helen Thomas died when I received an email from someone who wrote: “Happy now Kike?” He called me a “nasty filthy and smelly Jew …one of the ones Hitler missed.” I assume Helen Thomas was also his role model.
(David Nesenoff is a rabbi, film maker and author of David’s Harp. He is the publisher of RabbiLIVE.com and speaks worldwide on topics including anti-Semitism, Israel, media and the Middle East.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Points to Consider About the Resumption of Negotiations

There have been many articles published about the announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry that - after five years of refusal - the Palestinian Authority has supposedly agreed to resume final status negotiations with Israel. The following points are worth considering, whether or not any negotiations ever resume.

  • The articles are ambiguous and conflicting regarding whether either side made any "concessions" to get the talks restarted. However, the facts that the Palestinian Arabs have been resisting talks (the major result of which, if successful, would be the establishment of another state for them and the content of which would primarily be the extent of Israeli concessions) and the conditions they have been demanding (more on those among the other points) are very telling about the differences between the parties (Israel, for whom peace is the major goal, and the Palestinian Arabs, for whom peace is a bitter pill).
  • Mahmoud Abbas is the leader not only of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), but of the Fatah and PLO terror groups, both of which continue to call for the elimination of Israel in their charters. (Despite all the hoopla in 1996, the PLO charter was never actually changed.) His term as "president" of the Palestinian Authority actually ended in January, 2009, as he was elected to a four-year term on January 9, 2005.
  • Abbas has shown no interest in negotiating a peace agreement. He failed to even respond to an Israeli offer in 2008 to give him the equivalent of all the disputed territory, including parts of Jerusalem, and since then has refused to negotiate at all. (Technically, there was a three week period a few years ago during which he pretended to negotiate but announced even before he started that he'd end the negotiations after three weeks.)
  • Abbas has no ability to implement an agreement, even if he had the interest in negotiating one. He has no authority over Gaza and limited power even in the West Bank.
  • Regardless of whether Israel is making any concessions relating to the release of prisoners, the Arab demands for their release shows a lack of interest in peace. Those prisoners were not Boy Scouts; they are all terrorists, many of whom are mass murderers of innocent civilians. Someone who wanted to live in peace would also want them to remain where they belong - incarcerated; instead, the Palestinian Authority glorifies and honors those terrorists. (Much information about that glorification may be found on the Palestinian Media Watch website <http://www.palwatch.org.>)
  • Every time Israel releases prisoners, some of them return to terrorism and try to murder innocent Israelis. The fact that Israel would even consider releasing prisoners just to get the Palestinian Arabs to the bargaining table is a testament to how much they desire peace; they have repeated released prisoners knowing it would lead to the death of Israelis in the hope - so far baseless - that it might bring the possibility of peace closer.
  • The seminal United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 calls for "secure and recognized boundaries," something the armistice lines in effect in 1967 could never be. The armistice agreements in 1949 also specifically stated those armistice lines were to have no political significance. Hence, any insistence on turning those armistice lines into borders constitutes and insistence on the violation of the armistice agreements and the Security Council resolution.
  • References to those armistice lines as "borders" is simply incorrect.
  • The areas that would have been allocated to an Arab state in Palestine had the Arabs joined the Zionists in accepting the United Nations Partition Plan did not include any parts of Jerusalem. During the period Jordan occupied portions of Jerusalem (1948-1967), Jews were barred from their holy sites in the Old City. Since then, there has been relatively free access for all, with the primary exception of Jews being barred from praying on the Temple Mount and largely prevented from even entering the Temple Mount since the late 1980s.
  • Some have suggested implementation in Jerusalem of the principle of giving the primarily Arab areas to the Arabs and the primarily Jewish areas to Israel. This would make Jerusalem ungovernable and a security nightmare. It would also probably be opposed by the Arabs living in Jerusalem, if they felt free to vote without fear of reprisal, since so many of them are afraid of coming under the fist of the Palestinian Authority. However, that principle would make sense in the disputed territories. Rather than "land swaps," which are in principle violations of the armistice agreements and the Security Council resolutions, if the Arabs really were interested in a peaceful resolution they would agree to the primarily Jewish areas of the disputed territories staying with Israel while they would get the primarily Arab areas and dividing up the remainder of the disputed territory in a manner that would make the border reasonable.
  • Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly insisted he would make no concessions on any of the core issues. ("I can't allow myself to make even one concession." September 7, 2010) He has also acknowledged that there would have been a peace agreement long ago had he been willing to be reasonable. ("If we showed flexibility on these issues the peace agreement would have been signed a long time ago." October 15, 2010)

– Alan Stein

Monday, July 15, 2013

Irresponsible Narratives and the Lives they Impact

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

I find it interesting how people determine narratives around issues, people, situations and circumstances. Everyone does it; many create their positions driven by highly motivated agendas. Others create their narratives based upon minimal information and still others assume the publicly shared position shared by a psychologically important person in their lives. Many people simply adopt the most convenient and non-threatening narrative available-you see even this allows one to believe he/she is being socially responsible. 

Ah, but there are flaws with each of these approaches and what goes wanting is the truth, authentic justice and courage of one’s own convictions. Multiply this by a population and one can better understand why a society and/or a culture collapse over time.

Let us examine the concept of narrative development. Common to all of the preceding descriptions are that words alone are used to create narratives. Furthermore, the selected words are derived from a person’s personal choice of the words available to each one of us-it is a conscious and deliberate choice, well at least for those who are “paying attention” and not simply “going along with the crowd”. Now, this gets us back to the idea of motivation does it not? By this I mean to suggest that one identifies the words available to describe any situation and chooses only those words that support one’s intentional narrative-has this not been your experience? If no, the remainder of this piece will not make any sense and you might be better off to stop reading now-no offense neither taken nor implied!

Let us only focus on narrative development and not co-op the discussion but confusing it with narrative promotion or narrative adoption.  These are two additional concepts to possibly be developed later.

The concept of narrative development is really quite simple. Identify the words available to describe any situation and then use only those that support your version of the story you will tell, i.e., narrative. We were taught this way back when, let us use elementary or junior high school as one scenario. Did you know anyone who began a “story” about the new oddball kid that was derogatory, mean-spirited and factually inaccurate? Later you found out that this “kid’ was a genius simply possessing social behaviors and physical mannerisms “different” from yours. Yet, the narrative persisted for many years even when it was known to those perpetuating the narrative that this “kid” was not the weirdo the narrative proclaimed. Yet, even with this truth known, the narrative persisted! 

Many tell me that this is “old news”, they know this and obviously practice it daily-all sides of situations do this, the logic that seems to be implied is then it is ok to do it also-still scratching my head each time I state this point.

You see what has become socially acceptable in today’s world is “anything or most anything” is permitted in narrative development particularly if one’s intentions are noble, fall on the side of those who are disadvantaged/oppressed and operate out of good feelings for those having less than you. Yes, if one has “good intentions” and appeals directly to the feelings of others when presenting one’s narrative than it is OK/permissible/right/correct/morally acceptable (pick a descriptor or make up one of your own) to with hold the known complete situation descriptors. Said any other way, it is possible to manipulate the narrative away from the truth, that even when the facts are presented, those who have consumed and assumed the narrative must discount the information. 

 Why?  Simple, self-preservation with regards to one’s publicly shared position. It takes a person of immense character, one who is willing to step back from an assumed narrative, seek complete information and ask what is my intention with regards to continued use of a tarnished position? Every step of the way it is useful to understand that we, as humans, have a choice to make with respect to the words we adopt, the words we believe and it is our free will that drives our selections and choices-including ignoring other details and facts that are indeed contrary to one’s existing narrative.

It is based upon this conclusion that I find it disconcerting what is going on in the USA today particularly within the circle of politics and social situations and circumstances. It is not that I am stunned by the “creative” narratives coming from all sides, I am not na├»ve nor unfamiliar with the political process. I am disappointed with people who accept the narratives as truth, as gospel, even in the face of credible information that clearly disputes and disrupts the narrative in play.

The recent classic case is the Zimmerman trial and outcome. You see, the moment I even dare mention this people have “hunkered down” in their staid positions. Let us examine the fall out after the verdict was presented. Through-out this entire ordeal the News Media offered their narrative-notice the choice in the words used and those same words appeared on FB, Twitter and other social media sites: “a police “wannabee”, racially profiled, vigilante, gun-toting, carrying skittles, unarmed teenager/child, wearing a hoodie, and so many more descriptors of the person killed by a gun carried by a man. Clearly one side attempted to create a narrative based upon the perceived emotional state of its constituency. The victim was presented as a young teen, even heard older child used, who was on his way to buy Skittles-well you know the story, I need not repeat it all. This description was used to tug at people’s heartstrings, as well as to demonize the shooter. Of course until late in the trial you did not hear about the other descriptors such as drug user, school suspension, truancy, alleged involvement in a minor robbery-nor did you hear about the shooter’s brush with the law. 

To this writer it seems that appealing to the most basic of human’s motivation system, his/her feelings and using it as not only the “hook” but the ongoing tool to control other peoples’ thoughts and beliefs has reached a pinnacle today. We all know about feelings, they can and do fluctuate across time. The power of feelings has been well documented. We have all been the recipient of decisions made and/or actions taken based solely on our “feelings state”. Did you ever opt for the hot fudge sundae (you felt compelled to eat one) only later in the evening to suffer gastric distress? Have you known someone who “needed to have” that car even though he/she could not afford it but rationalized the purchase because it satisfied a feeling? How about the high school student who felt like writing insulting and hurtful words about another person on Face book for all to read? Today we call this bullying but the writer was only operating on his/her feelings!

We all understand my point regarding feelings and their power in managing our own as well as other’s behavior. For one side to only use feeling statements to create what I call feelings based narratives is immature at best, certainly it can be hurtful, incorrect, and misleading beyond the pale at worst. 

It does not speak well of where our society and/or culture is today in America when political groups, leaders and individuals who know better are part of an ongoing strategy to only create feelings-based narratives for purposes of intentionally distorting the facts about any one, any situation, circumstance or event. Furthermore, I am more than disappointed with people I know who otherwise operate their lives with integrity find themselves echoing this narrative form. It is especially disheartening when I know that they know better but choose to sustain their social status by refusing to critical think. This my friends is how a society crumbles.