Fighting The Flesh Trade

How Israel went from zero to hero in the fight against human trafficking

By Rolene Marks

One of the lesser known facts about Israel is that this tiny country is leading the battle against international human trafficking. Many I am sure are wondering, how does Israel even feature in the same sentence as human trafficking? But in addition to the Jewish state’s many achievements, is going from zero – to hero – in the fight against human trafficking.

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In fact, Israel is considered a top tier country in this battle that is becoming more and more prevalent around the world.

Gender based violence and women’s issues like parity, equality and suffrage are on the agendas of many countries. And so is the fight against the trafficking of women and children.

In the past, Israel had an abysmal record when it came to catching the pimps and purveyors of vulnerable men, women and children. In 2001, Israel was considered a Tier 3 country and not responsive to dealing with the issue at all. Women from Africa and Eastern Europe were easily smuggled through the Sinai Peninsula and sold into prostitution or cheap labour. Israel’s rating was so low that the country was on a par with Somalia and the Sudan.

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Leading Up Front. Israel has one of the world’s best track records in the battle against human trafficking.

This changed in 2001. The US State Department toughened its stance on global human trafficking and held back aid on the basis of each country’s record. The US State Department had put Israel on a blacklist because of the country’s dire record. Realising the veracity of this issue, Israel started the process of fighting the flesh trade.

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Women Are Not For Sale !! (Photo: Eyal Nevo)

Israel started the process that would result in the country becoming a leader in the fight against the human trafficking. The first order of business was giving police more jurisdictions over arresting perpetrators. Following this, an administrative body was set up at the Ministry of Justice which changed the way that victims were treated. Victims would no longer be treated as sex workers but as victims who deserve help.

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©iStock.com/AlexLMX

In 2006, the Knesset, spearheaded by the Committee on the Status of Women, passed a law which would see offenders sentenced to 20 years for human trafficking violations.  This was followed up in 2007 with further legislation in a campaign to end forced labour and an increased number in convictions for sex offenders.

What is the status for victims?

Israel started to give victims of human trafficking shelter, legal aid and protection assistance. In fact, it is the rehabilitation of victims that has contributed greatly to Israel’s record as the top tier country. A former head of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women says, “When we formed our committee, I met with a government worker who worked with the trafficked women. It was a step by step process and we started out by going to speak to the women who had been rescued from the Sinai or Egypt and were in shelters or in a prison facility. Their stories were heartbreaking – many, including children and young boys have been sold into slavery and prostitution.  Rape is a common occurrence for these victims. We took the media into these facilities and this really contributed in highlighting and bringing attention to their awful situation. The first law that was legislated was the creation of “no- man’s land”.

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Women And Their Bodies – Changing the perception of women’s health, bodies and sexuality in Israel.

“Pressure was put on the government, judges and the police and as a result, Israel is now a country that leads the global fight against human trafficking,” she continues.

The remarkable strides that Israel has made in the fight against human trafficking has resulted in  US State Department ranking  the country as Tier 1.

In 2019, Israel topped the rankings for the eighth straight year, while Germany, Italy and Denmark lost theirs.

Some of the achievements that Israel has racked up include:

More shelters opened and the construction of a barrier constructed in 2013 between Egypt and Israel, has helped close a primary route for traffickers.

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Preventing The Evil. The barrier between Egypt (Sinai) and Israel preventing women trafficking and drugs/weapon smuggling

In February 2013, Ha’aretz newspaper successfully sued the Tel Aviv District Court to reveal the name of a major sex trafficker who became a police informer.

The success of various government departments working together is also something that can be applied to other socio-economic areas within the state.

The most notable achievement is that Israel is the only country in the world to sponsor a year of rehabilitation for victims that have been trafficked and this is paid for by the government. A comprehensive training programme that includes personnel from the police services, hospitals and health workers who take care of victims has been successfully implemented.

Government and NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) work in partnership and this has helped Israel become a first tier country. Israel has instituted a policy of “safe return” which entails skills training as well as physical and emotional therapy for victims. If a person is unable to return to their country of origin for whatever reason, Israel will grant asylum.

Every year, three awards are given out to individuals from NGO’s, government or industry for excellence in the fight against human trafficking.

The selling of women into prostitution has virtually disappeared and it is illegal to advertise or distribute cards or pamphlets selling sex.

There is still so much to do to combat this international scourge. Israel can share how the successful models and legislation implemented help win the battle for the flesh trade.

Israel has once again proved that although the country is tiny in size, it packs a mighty punch in the fight for justice and rehabilitation of the victims of human trafficking. From zero to hero – Israel has proven a leader in yet another field.

 

Role ‘Model’ – A Must Watch

A voice for Israel’s fight against sex trafficking – Kadi Keikiliani

Few would today believe that fashion model Kadi Keikilani from Hawaai was not too long ago a sex slave who was raped “thousands upon thousands of time”. She reveals her horrifying experience in 2017 to a select committee against human trafficking at the Knesset in Jerusalem. Apart from addressing the Knesset, Kadi, as part of JIJ’s project Not Objects Anymore (NOA), spoke at several public events and high schools. She expressed strong support for Israel’s Bill to Criminalize the Buyers of Sex Services.

By sharing her own story of recovery as a survivor of sex trafficking she has empowered women and youth throughout Israel.

 

 

The Israel Brief- 17-20 February 2020

 

The Israel Brief – 17 February 2020 – EU to recognise Palestinian state? IDF stops Hamas catfishing. Corona virus update.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 18 February 2020 – Israel ban entry for visitors from East Asia due to Corona. Olmert wants his criminal record cleared. Mazel Tov Gilad Shalit!

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 19 February 2020 – Belgian festival told to end anti-Semitic caricatures. Passengers disembark Diamond Princess. War of words between Netanyahu and Gantz?

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 20 February 2020 – Hamas threatens TLV. Irish MP made to apologise for anti-Semitic tweets. Thailand unhappy with Corona ban.

It’s Pronounced Tzade, Dad !

By Gidon Ben Zvi

Imagine finding out at the ripe old age of 46 that there was a letter in the English alphabet that you never knew existed. Would you be left awestruck? Would you be temporarily blinded by this flash of enlightenment? After all, how often does a shiny new nugget about the language you speak, write, sing, read, think and feel in, fall into your lap? You may well come away from such a revelation altogether buoyed.

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I felt my knees buckle; my head swirl, throat turn dry, and a cold sweat break out across my face.

“You look pale,” my wife observed. “What happened?” “Turns out that I’ve been mispronouncing ‘Tzade’ as ‘Tzadik’ for the last 40 years or so,” I lamented.

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To the uninitiated, ‘Tzade’ is the 18th letter of the Hebrew Alphabet. Meanwhile, ‘Tzadik’   is a title in Judaism given to the most righteous among us. This A-list includes Moses and

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Rabbi Saadia Gaon

other characters from the Bible’s cast of thousands. There are also spiritual masters like Rabbi Saadia Gaon, the medieval Jewish philosopher, translator of the Bible into Arabic, commentator, and author of a Hebrew dictionary. There are even 36 hidden Tzadikim. According to Jewish mysticism, every generation produces at least 72 holy men, 36 who live in Israel, and 36 who live outside of Israel. We have no idea who these righteous among us are, except that their good deeds and sterling character keep our world going.

I’m not the only one who confuses ‘Tzade’ with ‘Tzadik’. It’s about as minor an infraction as the comma splice or split infinitive. Difference is that I KNOW about those common English language grammar mistakes, and choose to ignore them as I see fit. But the swapping out of ‘Tzade’ for ‘Tzadik’ was an act of criminal negligence.

Even more humbling was the fact it was my eight-year-old daughter who cottoned onto my hint of illiteracy. She’s in second grade now, and developing a healthy addiction to letters, words, and reading. It was while I was helping her with her homework one evening that my terrible secret, a secret unbeknownst to me, was exposed.

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Getting skunked this way by a language I’ve struggled to make my own since moving back to Israel confirmed my fear that Hebrew will never supersede English as MY language. Sure, I read the daily newspapers, watch the nightly newscasts, and converse in the vernacular when arguing with the bank. But the soundtrack of my life, language of my dreams, and mapping of my thoughts remain stubbornly in English.

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And perhaps this is as it should be. The language we imbibe as children contributes no small measure to the formation of our identities. To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.” My experiences, knowledge, and beliefs are coded in the same language used and mastered by Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. I quite enjoy being linguistically linked to such righteous fellows.

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Yet by raising our children in Israel, my wife and I are ensuring that their unique personalities will be nourished by the letters, grammar, syntax, idioms, Biblical associations and quirks of a language that until about 70 years ago was buried among the ruins of history.

I quite like the idea of being linked by family bonds to the perpetuation of the Hebrew language, and the Jewish people.

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Family Roots. Connected over 3000 years through language,

 

 

About the Author:

image007 (33).jpgGidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer whose work has appeared in
The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, the Algemeiner, American
Thinker, the Jewish Journal, Israel Hayom, and United with Israel. Ben-Zvi
blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind (jsmstateofmind.com).
A former Californian, the writer lives with his wife and four children in Israel.

 

 

Countering Coronavirus

Deadly disease “Made in China” and Israel responds

By David E. Kaplan

Dominating the news theses days is a mysterious virus emanating out of China that has a passenger ship quarantined, flight routes suspended, international conferences cancelled and people panicking – where is it going to strike next?

Most disquieting is the ‘surprise factor’ – that something unknown one day, can be so feared the next. While there have been no reported cases so far in Israel – although three Israeli passengers on the ‘Diamond Princess’ cruise ship docked in Japan have been diagnosed with coronavirus – the first US citizen to be diagnosed with the illness died in Wuhan, China, where the mysterious respiratory ailment began.

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Will Israel’s Protective Gear Prevent The Spread? Seen here, a medical worker attends to a patient in the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP)

As the world grapples with this crisis, and in particular to find an antidote, joining the proverbial cavalry is an Israeli startup, Sonovia Ltd.,that says it may have a solution to help stop the spread of the new deadly coronavirus “through novel technology for an anti-pathogen, anti-bacterial fabric.” It has sent the product over to labs in China for testing, notably the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and a medical lab in Chengdu.

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Stop The Rot. Israel’s Sonovia Ltd. uses nanotechnology to create fabrics that have been shown to be effective against bacterial and fungal infections. The firm’s lab in Ramat Gan.

The co-founder of the Ramat Gan based Sonovia that was founded in 2013, Shay Herscovich, explains:

 “We have identified the methodology to determine the fabric’s ability to eliminate viruses and bacteria. We sent a number of fabrics to China and it would require a few days to colonize the coronavirus on the fabric and evaluate if our technology can destroy it.”

Infusing metal oxides nanoparticles into textiles, Sonovia’s patented technology was developed as protective gear –  to see if the textiles would prove highly effective blocks against bacteria and fungi. Upbeat with the positive results following tests at laboratories at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, the relevant question today is whether Sonovia’s bacteria-fighting fabric can protect against the spread of coronavirus?

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Process In Motion. Sonovia’s machine propels antibacterial nanoparticles onto fabrics at tremendous speed.

According to the company, the technology can be used on masks, protective clothing, hospital bedding and gowns, and other apparel to stop hospital-acquired infections. The enhanced textile “is able to maintain its anti-pathogen activity at up to 100 washes at 75° Celsius (167 Fahrenheit) and 65 washes at 92° Celsius (197 Fahrenheit),” says Sonovia scientist Dr. Jason Migdal.

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Action Stations. Sonovia Chief Technology Officer Liat Goldhammer-Steinberg in the company’s facility in Ramat Gan.

The company, says Migdal, has tested the fabrics against a variety of infections, notably a pilot study in a European hospital that showed that when the textiles were used in protective clothing, there was a significant reduction in infections.

Migdal firmly believes that the same technology could be used to block viruses and potentially stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In a company statement sent out to newsrooms Migdal said “In response to the global concern regarding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) in China, which has since spread to several other countries, we would like to accelerate the development of our technology.”

Now it is in the hands of the Chinese who according to Migdal, will follow a European protocol to test the fabric’s anti-viral activity.

A further advantage of the ‘face masks’ are that they are designed for repeated use and “could be distributed effectively where they are needed most in China,” says Migdal, “as well as being more sustainable to the environment.”

At the time of writing, there were officially 67,192 Coronavirus cases – the vast majority in China –  and 1,527 deaths.

More people have now died from the coronavirus than during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2002-2003.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global emergency and has warned governments to prepare for “domestic outbreak control” if the disease were to spread in their countries.

Last Flight To China

As China grapples with the current outbreak –  over and above the efforts of an Israeli start-up like Sonovia – there are other Israeli non-profit organisations responding to the region’s request for aid by donating sanitary masks, medical supplies, and protective gear.

Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) national emergency network has contributed 2,000 masks and 200 full protection kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in China.

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Next Stop China. A Magen David Adom worker packing protective supplies to send to China, February 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of MDA)

Also, the humanitarian aid organization IsraAID sent a shipment of emergency medical supplies and protective gear to the Chinese Ministry of Health on the last flight from Tel Aviv to mainland China. This project was done with partners Israel-China Chamber of CommerceINNONATION and David Ashkenazi of ICCB Capital.

Yotam Polizer ,the Co-CEO of  IsraAID,  said his organisation “will continue to monitor the situation and may launch a secondary response including Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for humanitarian aid workers and first responders working in the area, focusing on stress relief.”

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From Tel Aviv To Wuhan. IsraAID preparing to send medical supplies to China from Tel Aviv to aid in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus, 2019-nCoV on February 3, 2020

The late Israeli humanitarian, peace activist and founder of the ‘Voice of Peace’ Abie Nathan would be impressed. I recall in an interview with him in the late 1990s when he said, “My aim is that whenever there is a humanitarian crisis in the world, I want an Israel team there among the first  to bring relief.”

Today, Israel has a heightened sense of humanitarian awareness and responsibility with aid teams and private enterprise poised to respond to natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world.

Israel is proud to respond to the call from China.

 

Nano Textile fights against infections during hospitalization by providing a revolutionary solution in the production of antibacterial factories which prevents the spread of bacteria between patients and staff.

 

The Business of Antisemitism

By Rolene Marks

I was asked recently if it would be possible to appear on an international news channel and be a “neutral” commentator on the announcement by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a blacklist of 112 companies doing business “related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which for the UN includes the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. This is an issue that defies neutrality for so many reasons. As Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin said, it recalled one of the darkest periods of our history, a time just before the outbreak of World War II, when Jews were forced to wear yellow stars, denoting us as different – and Jewish owned business boycotted, looted or destroyed.

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It defies all rationale when countries like Sudan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chad, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Libya and others form part of the bloc that sponsored the March 2016 resolution that led to the publishing of the blacklist. After all, these are not countries that enjoy good records on human rights.

There must be many victims of conflict wondering why their cries fall on deaf ears.  The United Nations prove time and again that when it comes to Israel, they have a focus that has become an obsession. Resolution after resolution time and again, single Israel out for opprobrium but gross human rights violations like those in Iran, Venezuela, Syria and many other places barely elicit a response.

 

The publishing of this blacklist also plays right into the hands of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and sanctions) movement whose desired end goal is for Israel to not exist, a desire expressed clearly on their website and in their rhetoric. BDS is anti-normalisation – they are against any discourse and interaction between Israelis and Palestinians.  For many who believe that peace will be built from the interaction between ordinary people and the provision of jobs and opportunities, a campaign like this deals a decisive blow to any efforts towards sustainable peace.

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According to NGO Monitor, an organisation that monitors the often murky activities of non-governmental organisations, many of whom are associated with the BDS movement, not only was this list made in conjunction with pro-BDS and PFLP-linked NGOs, but these companies have done nothing wrong and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords.

These companies help create employment and opportunity for many Palestinians, who stand to lose the most. The decision to create a blacklist of companies not only threatens Palestinian employment opportunities but blocks access to the much needed humanitarian aid and infrastructure that these companies provide. The blacklist also hearkens back to times when Jews were singled out and put on exclusionary lists and today, the growing practice of labelling products manufactured in the West Bank is tantamount to wearing a modern day yellow star. Why is Israel singled out for this treatment but other countries with conflict situations are not?

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(photo credit: REUTERS,JPOST STAFF)

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birenbaum, was a featured speaker. SodaStream is a well-known Israeli brand, sold to PepsiCo for a whopping $3.2billion, faces threats by BDS because their factory was situated in the West Bank.  Birenbaum addressed the discriminatory practice of labelling goods produced in the West Bank by saying “if they want labels, we will give them labels” and promptly displayed the label found on all on SodaStream products.

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SodaStream CEO Daniel Birenbaum addresses a conference the issue of labelling.

Perhaps it would behoove the UN to learn from examples of co-existence and not pander to campaigns that are anti-Semitic and fall into the trap of questioning Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. Blacklists, boycotts and labelling campaigns are harmful to sincere peace building efforts.

The timing of this could not be more bizarre. The release of the blacklist comes against the background of the release of the Trump Peace Plan. Although the Palestinians have roundly refused to even look at the plan, it has been endorsed by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and other Arab countries.

The Arab world is slowly opening up to the realization that recognition of Israel and the potential mutual business potential only bode well for the people of the region – and helps stave off the massive threat posed by Iran, a country not exactly lauded for its record on human rights.

This move by the United Nations Human Rights Council is a dark day for the institution, for Israel and the Palestinians and gives a tailwind to anti-Semites. It is a failure of the power of an agency charged with the mandate of protecting global human rights.

For the United Nations that is fast losing credibility and the regard the institution once held, the publishing of this blacklist, coupled with the obsessive focus on Israel at the expense of other conflicts and human rights issues around the world prove that or this once venerable body, antisemitism is just business as usual.

Shifting Sands

Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump’s Peace Plan Or “You’ll Regret It Later”

By David E. Kaplan

While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lavished praise on Donald Trump’s vision for Middle East peace during the PM’s question time in the House of Commons, far more telling was the ‘Shifting Sands’ responses from Saudi Arabian intellectuals and journalists.

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In 1960, a British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan spoke of a ‘Wind  of Change’ blowing across the continent of Africa. Could it be that in 2020, another such transformative shift  could be blowing across the Middle East, emanating from the Arabian Peninsula –the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed?

While and to be expected, there is no change of the solid Saudi support of the Palestinian people and their quest for statehood, nevertheless, the official Saudi position on U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” was one of support, albeit qualified.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction was clearly revealed in the Riyadh-based, pro-government Saudi daily newspaper, Al-Riyadh  in the January 29, 2020 edition:

the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This, in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.”

This is a marked shift in attitudes from the past and a clear indication to move the process forward.

To  encourage the Palestinians and offer reassurance that they were not being abandoned by the kingdom’s “qualified” support for the plan, the Saudi press reported in Al-Watan that King Salman spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by phone, assuring him of “the Kingdom’s steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

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Over and above the royal position, most illuminating is the support the peace initiative has received from the Saudi media, as well as telling tweets by intellectuals and journalists.

Noting the famous line by famed Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban that “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, a number have been calling on the Palestinians not to miss “this opportunity” and to approach the plan with a positive mindset.

The articles and tweets recall that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one preceding it and that if they reject the ‘Deal of the Century’ now, they may well long for it in the future.

Hereunder are extracts from articles and tweets:

Ibrahim Al-Nahas in the Saudi daily Okaz

Hasten not to reject and examine the plan carefully is the advice to the Palestinians from Political Science lecturer at King Saud University and Saudi Shura Council Member, Ibrahim Al-Nahas.

In an interview with the Saudi daily Okaz, Al-Nahas expressed that “Trump’s Peace Plan,’ or, as media call it, the ‘Deal of the Century,’ is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general.” While this “does not mean that it should be accepted without discussion of its goals and objectives,” he added that “all the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience [with previous proposals]. ……”

He advised that Palestinian decision-making should not be linked “to regional elements [such as Iran, Qatar, or Turkey], as some Palestinian factions and movements do,” and “cease the accusations of treason voiced by some of the Palestinians and Arabs against Arab countries that maintain advanced ties with the U.S.”

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Ahmad Adnan in Okaz

Saudi journalist Ahmad Adnan wrote in his column in the Saudi daily Okaz located in Jeddah.

The PA has made negative statements against the deal. I maintain that at this stage it needs a friend to be honest with it, telling it and advising it: Sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night. The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of [their] mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis.”

After listing a number of examples of these ‘missed opportunities”,

Adnan writes that “In actuality, the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs’ main cause – not because the Arabs have given up on Palestine, but because this matter [i.e., the Palestinian plight] is mirrored in all Arab states, as we have seen in Syria, for example. The Palestinians will hear the merchants of the Palestinian cause creating a great uproar and will discover too late that this uproar is aimed at exploiting them in order to take over and destroy the region.”

Perhaps the merchants of the [Palestinian] cause will manage to torpedo the Deal of the Century, and, as we today bemoan the [missed opportunity of the] Arab peace initiative, we will tomorrow bemoan the Deal of the Century – while the Palestinians, unfortunately, descend towards the fate of the [American] Indians…”

 Khaled Al-Suleiman in Okaz

Concerned that if the Palestinians reject the deal that they will be compelled to relinquish even more, Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote in his column in ‘Okaz:

The history of the Palestinian cause has proven that reality is the greatest enemy of the Palestinians. The price of Palestinian and Arab rejection of every peace plan was [only] more concessions, beginning with the partition plan through the Clinton plan to the Trump plan.

It should be noted that the Palestinian decision-making has always been subject to pressure and control by  Arab regimes that harmed the Palestinians as much as Israel did, if not more.

Today, the Palestinians again find themselves facing a peace plan that gnaws away more of their rights and sets them against options even more bitter than those in the past. But rejecting [the plan] this time does not mean that the [next] will carry a lower price-tag. International reality is now presenting the Palestinian cause  with the worst possible scenario, since it is weak, isolated, and ignored. Therefore, the Palestinians’ options today are more limited, and cannot tolerate unrealistic positions.

“The Palestinians must calmly examine the reality of their struggle with Israel and of their relations with the Arab [regimes], so as to draw up a position that will serve their interests, not the slogans of others. All the Arab regimes that have in the past traded in their cause, and that continue to do so, live within their own independent borders, far from any state of war with Israel. Their support for the Palestinians consists of nothing but hollow slogans and incitement, for which the Palestinians pay with their spirit, blood and money.”

Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm 

Noting that  the Palestinians have missed many opportunities over the years, columnist Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the pro government Arabic daily newspaper Saudi Al-Yawm daily, argues that had they grasped them, they would have been better off today. He therefore counsels they should not be quick to reject the ‘Deal of the Century’:

Who knows how many opportunities [for peace] the Palestinians have had in the past 30 years? Had these opportunities been realized, they could have been today in a better situation as a people and as a country …… Now they face another opportunity that they are rejecting, and that they may  long for in another five or 10 years.”

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Al-Yawm daily

 

Truth On Twitter

“The Day Will Come When The Palestinians Yearn For It” is the message from Saudi intellectuals on Twitter.

Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad tweets:

The Palestinians are making a big mistake by not agreeing to the American peace plan. I mean, what’s the alternative? The Palestinians have missed numerous opportunities because of slogans that led [them] astray and strategies of ‘all-or-nothing.’ The end result was nil: continued occupation, loss of Jerusalem, erosion of large parts of the West Bank, and an internal Palestinian struggle harsher than the conflict with Israel.”

He followed with this further tweet:

Previous opportunities were better than this one, but their answer was always no. This was when the Palestinian issue headed the global agenda. Today, the Palestinian issue has been cast into oblivion, and the Palestinians have no other alternative – unless the chaos of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the powerlessness of the PLO can be considered options.”

And in a subsequent tweet::

Politics is the art of the possible, and what is possible today is the proposed American plan. Should the deal be rejected, the alternative will be the continued erosion of the West Bank territories. Then the Palestinians will say ‘If only we had agreed’ – just like with the previous plans.

It’s time for the Palestinians to change their behavior so that it serves the interests of their people…”

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Saudi Intellectual Turki Al-Hamad who earlier criticised the Palestinians for forfeiting an important opportunity by boycotting the Bahrain Economic Workshop in 2019. (Watanserb.com, March 10, 2019)

A former columnist for Okaz and the Al-Arabiya website , Saleh Al-Fahid, tweeted:

The Palestinians’ rejection of the Deal of the Century reminds me of their rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan and of all peace plans proposed to them since then. Each time they were offered less, and they pointlessly yearned for the previous plan. I am worried that if they reject the Deal of the Century, the day will come when they yearn for it …”

Another Okaz columnist, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Lahim tweeted criticism of the Palestinian organisations opposing the deal:

Imagine you had a hen that laid golden eggs. Would you relinquish her? Never. You would make an uproar so as to fill your pockets. This is the situation of the Palestinians who trade in the Palestinian cause and reject peace…”

Changing Landscapes

Away from Saudi Arabia, no less illuminating of changing perceptions on Israel was Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim tweeting that “Zionism was the most successful project in the twentieth century.” Despite risking the wrath of his 5.5 million followers for “his kind of praise for the Zionists”, al-Qasim was not deterred.

He tweeted:

Who are the most advanced, developed, democratic and successful … Israel or the Arab regimes?

…..The majority of Arabs, if they want to insult you, they describe you as ‘Zionist,’ knowing that the most successful project in the past century and the present is the Zionist project, while all projects of the Arabs, especially Arab nationalism, have failed. Before you use the word Zionist as an insult you must first reach the shining sole of Zionism.”

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Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim.

A Far Cry

These words reveal changing mindsets.

They represent a far cry from the crazed anti-Israel rhetoric of the 1960s fueling Egyptian strongman, Gamal Abdel Nasser to unite the fractious Arab states behind him leading to the Six Day War. Now, in 2020, that anti-Israel fanaticism has begun to dissipate, and a new somewhat more positive attitude toward the Jewish state has begun to emerge not only among rulers eager for allies in confronting Iran, but also among segments of the Arab populace across the Middle East eager for peace and prosperity.

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Fueling mass hysteria against Israel in the sixties, President Gamal Abdul Nasser is seen here delivering a speech in Aleppo on February 17, 1960

The Israel Brief- 10-13 February 2020

 

The Israel Brief – 10 February 2020 – Netanyahu threatens large scale operation in Gaza. Abbas at the UN. Israel to meet Saudi?

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 11 February 2020 – Palestinian UN flop. Hamas leader fears assassination. Did Likud app leak vital info?

 

 

The Israel Brief – 12 February 2020 – Showdown at UN. Qatar Former PM says there may be a regional non aggression pact. Hamas and Netanyahu trade blows.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 13 February 2020 – UN blacklist. UAE want Israeli investment. Israelis not allowed off Diamond Princess Cruise liner.

 

 

 

 

 

My journey as an Olah (Immigrant)

By Justine Friedman

To make Aliyah in the literal sense of the world is a process of going up. Going up from a place that would assume to be on a “lower level” up to the land of Israel which is therefore assumed to be on a “higher level”. And while this is true for the most part, and I imagine the ultimate result will be one of ascension, this process of going up sometimes feels a lot like a long slide down a snake in a game of snakes and ladders.

I may still be very fresh and green in this process as I have only recently arrived from South Africa in November of 2019, but already I see a trend that I can imagine will continue to emerge no matter how long the period from my actual date of Aliyah.

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Living in the land of Israel still feels quite surreal. I can’t believe I am actually here. I feel that from the time my husband and I decided to start the process towards making this monumentous change in our lives until today, that there was always another force at work ensuring that once we got on board that Aliyah train there was not a single exit stop on the way until we disembarked at Ben Gurion airport.

All olim (immigrants) have their own story to tell and some sound and seem more glamorous than others; but the truth at the end of the day is that we all want to be here and we all miss and mourn the loss of what we have left behind. No matter where in the world you have come from, what we gain has come at the cost of a loss as well.

For me one of my biggest losses was walking away from the private practice I had built up over 17 years in Johannesburg as a dietician. I had just started giving more talks and using coaching in sessions to help my clients with the skills and tools they needed to make lasting lifestyle and behavioural changes. With the ability to work online I am so lucky to still be able to connect and help some of my clients. However, to practice in Israel I need to convert my degree and sit an exam. Imagine after 20 years going back and studying an entire syllabus all over again! So each day, I sit down with my new brand of coffee and my water from my mehadrin water machine and tackle the next chapter of nutrition.

As I slowly settle into a new home, culture, language, grocery store, foods, driving on the opposite side of the road, medical system, the list goes on… my desire for the familiar screams out to me. Having a sense of humour is definitely a priority when countless times I have to remind myself which side of the car to get into if I want to be the driver. The first few times I reached for my seat belt over the wrong shoulder and every time I am in the passenger seat it feels weird that I can’t look up at the rear view mirror and see what is behind me.

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Waze (the GPS navigation app) has become my best friend.  I really don’t know how people made Aliyah before this incredible app existed. A small victory for me is when I am able to get from one point to another without needing to use this super intelligent driving buddy!

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If I can reflect on the last 3 months my highlights have been davening  (praying) at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) , seeing our container drive up to our front door and offloading our possessions from home, receiving my permanent Teudat Zehut (identity card), receiving my Israeli drivers licence and my children finally telling me that they are enjoying being here and that it is starting to feel like home.

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I know I have a long way to go.  A doctor recently told me, after 25 years I will feel settled, but I am so grateful to be where I am with the incredible community of olim (immigrants) around me who make friends feel like family. There is a process to the rungs up this ladder of Aliyah that I need to climb and I will learn to embrace the slides down the snakes as well because in my heart I know that I am finally home.

 

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Justine Friedman (nee Aginsky) made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She achieves this with her own blend of a holistic approach which includes nutrition, skills and tools for improving thoughts and healing emotions and energy healing which includes visualisations, meditation and hypnosis. All consultations that she offers can be done both face to face or online. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.

 

 

Feature Picture – Credit : RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS

 

Delight in Diversity

Israel is a country of minorities and this will show again on stage at 2020 Eurovision

By David E. Kaplan

Following her win in Hakokhav Haba (The Next Star) aired on Israel’s Channel 12 with the  Beyoncé’s mega-hit Halo, 19-year-old Eden Alene will be the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to represent the state of Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest – watched by over 180 million –  when she takes to the stage this May in Rotterdam.

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Hands Up. Victory for Eden Alene, Israel’s 2020 Eurovision representative and winner of the reality show “The Next Star” during the final in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on February 4, 2020. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

There have been other Israeli FIRSTS for minorities in the Eurovision Song Competition. In 2009, singer Mira Awad, an Arab represented Israel together with Jewish singer Achinoam Nini with their entry that had a message – There must be another way.  The lyrics did not reveal what that “other way” should be, but merely representing their country together – on stage – was already indicating their “way”.

Israel won its first Eurovision way back in 1978 with Izhar Cohen, the first entry of an Israeli of Yemenite descent, and in 1998, Dana International, who won the coveted competition with “Diva”. Dana is a transgender singer who identifies as female.

Diversity is ingrained in Israel’s DNA as sometimes frustratingly exposed in Israeli elections where there are 17 parties represented in the Knesset and another 30 parties contesting to join them.

Is it any wonder there were no results in the two elections in 2019 and the Israeli electorate is going back to the polls for a third election soon dreading that there might be a fourth!

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The Face Of Israel. To represent her country at the 2020 Eurovision Song Competition, Eden Alene.

On becoming the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent chosen to represent the country at Eurovision, Eden told Channel 12’s Nadav Bornstein following her victory, that “This is my country, and it is amazing that an Ethiopian will represent the country for the first time.”

Alene was raised in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood by a single mother who immigrated from Ethiopia, and later moved with her family to Kiryat Gat. Said her mother Zehava, “Eden represents pride for all Ethiopians. Everyone is behind her, supporting her and loving her.”

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Mother And Daughter. An emotional Eden Alene hugs her mother Zehava, after she was announced the winner of ‘HaKochav Haba,’ making her Israel’s representative to the 2020 Eurovision (Courtesy HaKochav Haba)

Road To Rotterdam

My poor mother, she had a hard time taking it in. She collapsed in my arms,” Alene said on the Chadshot Haboker (The Morning News) show.

It was all too evident onstage as Eden, surrounded by judges, presenters and other contestants, clutched a small Israeli flag under her arm while she wrapped her other arm around her mother and hugged her tight. Singing again as the winner that will take her to the 2020 Eurovision in Rotterdam, her perfect voice suddenly broke slightly, as she looked into her mother’s eyes.

It has clearly been a long road for this mother and daughter pair.

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Singing Her Heart Out. Eden Alene, winner of the 2020 “The Next Star to Eurovision.” Photo by Shlomi Cohen/FLASH90

On hearing the name Eden over and over again as the present pride of the Ethiopian community in Israel, I thought back to another Ethiopian young woman by the same first name – Eden – who I had interviewed some years ago as a 26 year-old-student at the IDC Disciplinary center Herzliya.

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Making Of A Star. Alene performing at Israel’s 70th Independence Day at Karmiel in 2018.

Eden Senai was one of the many in the mass ‘exodus’ of Ethiopian Jews rescued by Israel from Ethiopia as part of Operation Solomon. She arrived in Israel aged six in 1989 with her mother.

A diminutive child, Eden’s journey ‘out of Africa’ was almost entirely on her mother’s back. She relates a traumatic experience when they were robbed by brigands on route to the Sudan. “They started shooting and threatened to kill us, but my mother pleaded for our lives and somehow, they let us go.” Arriving in the Sudan, they fell under the protection of a rebel militia.

For four months while we waited for the trucks to fetch us, I was separated from my mother and the rest of the Jews. My mother was insistent; she felt that if the camp was attacked, at least I might survive.”

When the trucks finally arrived, “we climbed in and they covered us with straw in case we were stopped and searched. They drove us by night to the plane which brought us to Israel.” Arriving in Israel, “I was diagnosed as suffering with malaria and the doctors thought I had little chance of surviving.”

Eden survived!

The name Eden – in Hebrew עֵדֶן – is derived from the Biblical Garden of Eden, meaning ‘delight’ in the book of Genesis. Like the older Eden who is today in all probability a successful practicing lawyer, Eden Alene  today is a young lady with a future of music before her.  When she takes to the international stage  for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam on May 16, Eden will have turned 20 only 9 nine days earlier!

With “delight”  being in the meaning of her name, Eden has been delighting listeners in public since “she was in nursery school,” says her mother and later, “at an elementary school talent show.” Today, Eden is a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces and is no novice to winning big competitions.  In 2018, she won Israel’s “X-Factor” reality TV show.

And while dikes hold water back in Holland, nothing holds Eden back as she heads for Rotterdam!

 

 

 

 

Feature Picture: Eden Alene (Photo – Ortal Dahan).

Southern Hope

By Gina Raphael

There has been every opportunity for Gaza to become its own version of the “Start-Up Nation” like Israel, with blooming agriculture and beautiful beaches.  

When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, the farmers of the Gush Katif area (approximately 20 communities with almost 10,000 residents) were responsible for 15 percent of Israel’s agricultural exports. With love, they literally made the sand dunes bloom. The opportunity existed to expand upon this richness when Israel left the Gaza Strip. Instead, the Strip has become an area of misery, despair and hatred.

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Some Other Days – Anita Tucker standing in her greenhouse in Gush Katif.

Hamas, which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada and the EU, has run the Gaza strip for more than a decade, beginning shortly after the disengagement. They have misused donations meant for human aid to enrich their leaders, built terror tunnels to infiltrate Israel, used schools and hospitals as cover to shoot missiles, and have sent explosive balloons across the border to Israel to harm children. Hamas denies their people basic human rights including freedom of speech. Children are taught in schools to hate and to kill.

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Only For Distruction – Overview of a tunnel built underground by Hamas militants leading from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel (Ilia Yefimovich—Getty Images)

On an almost weekly basis, Hamas has sent rioters including children to the border with Israel, hoping for them to be shot and provide negative media coverage against Israel.  The cycle of violence and hatred has basically gone unchecked by the public. Gaza has almost two million residents who live under this tyrannical existence. And, Israel on the other side is affected constantly from these attacks.

Where is the outrage against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the region in addition to the funders of this terrorism for over a decade? We continue to hope for real change and a positive outcome for so many.

We can only advocate and bring light to the truth of the horrors of Hamas.  And, we can work to make a difference in Israel. We can find ways to help those in harm’s way and say thank you to those who keep us safe.

This January, I had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Alon Davidi of Sderot who lives with his family and a community of over 28,000 – literally one mile from the border with Gaza. They have been a target of constant barrage of rockets.

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An Officer And A Gentleman – Mayor Alon Davidi with IDF officers (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

I am so honoured to be part of The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), who provide rocket proof day care centers and therapy to those affected by PTSD from the constant attacks in Sderot. Not only is Sderot surviving, under the leadership of Mayor Davidi – they are thriving. They continue to build their community despite attacks of Qassam Rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip.

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Warm Welcome To Special Guests – Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi welcomes a WIZO delegation to his town.

Last month, I also began fulfilling a promise made during the summer of 2019 to an American Soldier serving in the IDF to provide extra assistance to soldiers who face challenges. Unity Warriors, founded by Ben Goldstein, distributes supplies in addition to those provided by the IDF and extra items that are often too expensive for the soldiers to provide for themselves.

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Hope For Peace – The Author with Ben Goldstein , founder of Unity Warriors, on Gaza Border

We decided to bring a gift of high-power flashlights to a battalion of soldiers serving at the Gaza border, a small token to help them see more clearly when they patrol the area at night.

The highlight of my trip was bringing these much needed suppliers of light and thanking these soldiers who fulfill their duty in keeping Israel safe. Day by day they ensure that those of us who live in Israel and in the diaspora will always have a safe haven.

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Viewing Gaza – Author with soldiers viewing Gaza from a border line settlement.

These soldiers face a reality every day at the border that is hard to understand. They do this with grace, dignity and honour amid explosive balloons, missiles, terrorist attacks and civilians looking to flee the misery of Hamas, living in sparse conditions.

I came to thank the soldiers, but they came to thank me. They thanked me for visiting and listening to their stories about their life at the border and their hopes for the future. They inspired me so and gave me a gift of badges of the Israeli flag. Together we got to share our pride of Israel.

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Means It All – Modest tokens that filled the hearts with joy

It was beyond meaningful to walk the border at Gaza and deliver my own prayer for peace for the future.  On the site, I visited “Path to Peace,” a mosaic wall created by thousands who share the same vision. While we stand strong against hatred, we work towards and pray for peace and love.

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Great Hopes – Path to peace in Netiv Ha’Asara

As we literally brought light to the soldiers, we pray for the light of justice to make a difference in Gaza.

 

 

Want to donate to Unity Warriors? Check out the link below:
https://unitywarriors.com/