Thank You, EU

By Irwin Blank

I have a message for the EU, a little bit of Israeli history that I believe is quite appropriate right now after their action to boycott all Israeli businesses, products and services that are located in Yehudah and Shomron.

You know, the history of boycotting the Jewish people isn’t new, but I will not dwell on the distant past, I will take you to April 1, 1933. On that day, the Nazi Party (NSDAP) that had seized control of the German nation, decided to launch a mass boycott of all Jewish businesses, professionals like doctors and dentists, and educated men and women who taught at Germany’s universities and colleges. This was the primary and first governmental anti-Semitic act of the new government-and what did it achieve?

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Boycott Jews. At the windows of Jewish shops, posters are issued by National Socialists with the request “Germans, resist, do not buy from Jews” April 1933 (photo credit: GEORG PAHL / GERMAN FEDERAL ARCHIVES / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Well, firstly it brought Albert Einstein to the United States and it laid the groundwork for the most massive pre-statehood immigration of Jews into the homeland. In 1935, 61,834 Jews from Germany and Central Europe, fleeing for their lives, made the trek to the former British Mandate and what did they bring with them other than the meager belongings that they were permitted to carry on their persons. Let’s see, they brought the talent that would create the now, Israel Philharmonic, the boycott brought dozens of doctors, dentists, lawyers, and university lecturers to what had been, for the most part, a tiny agrarian, socialist economy that had not been able to attract this caliber of person, and it laid the foundations for a burgeoning middle class that would build hundreds of factories, create the groundwork for huge industrial enterprises and give renewal and revival to dozens of established and soon to be established, vibrant communal settlements all over the country.

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Topsy-Turvy. Back in the 1930s when Jews were Palestinians they were boycotted by Arabs.

But why stop there? In 1936, the Arab Higher Committee (the organization of anti-Jewish terrorists of its day) called a general strike all over the mandate that closed shops and factories and ports and impoverished the local Arab community by threatening to murder any Arab that dared to go to work or open his shop or harvest and sell his produce. So, what was the Jewish answer to this boycott? Well, we brought thousands of Greek Jews from Thessaloniki (Salonica) and other Greek ports where the Jews were the dockworkers, the stevedores, the longshoremen, and WE answered the Arab strike with the creation of the port of Tel Aviv, which had no port previously. We built a Jewish owned shipping industry and built what is today the Israel Shipyards – one of the largest shipbuilding and repair facilities in the eastern Mediterranean. We expanded and built new Jewish owned and operated businesses and our farms grew to take up the slack and maintain the market that the Arab boycott had shuttered.

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Israeli Sea’lutions. Since 1959, Israel Shipyards Ltd has been providing seaworthy solutions for the Naval and commercial marine markets.

With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Arab League opened the Office for the Boycott of Israel in Damascus, where it is still located today. The member states of the Arab League  threatened to seize any business and boycott any individual that dared to do invest or build in the Jewish state. They also refrained from opening their markets to Israeli goods and refused our ships docking privileges in their ports. So, what did we do? WE created an Israeli shipping line, the ZIM line, to carry our goods all over the world. WE built the port of Eilat to bypass the Suez Canal and deal with the new nations of Africa and Asia. WE improvised, adapted and overcame by building an economy whose products and services would be demanded by the civilized world and this brought us investment, venture capital and billions in outright donations that has created an economic powerhouse in a nation so small, so lacking in natural resources, that today, Israel’s shekel is among the strongest currencies traded anywhere in the world. International corporations that have brought their major R&D centers here, like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Systems, where entrepreneurs from all over the world have invested billions of dollars in Israeli companies, as has Warren Buffet, who made his first ever, international investment to the tune of $4 BILLION in an Israeli company in the Western Galilee that makes, among other items, the blades for jet engines and razors. Israel has more businesses listed on NASDAQ than Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea combined, and more startups than America’s Silicon Valley which is represented in EVERY Israeli city. Personally, I don’t believe that Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe or the Disney Corporation were really upset that their films could not be shown in Beirut, Damascus, Ammann or Cairo. Even, “Cleopatra,” could  not be shown in the Arab world because its star Elizabeth Taylor was a Jew.

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Intel in Kiryat Gat, Israel.

But, let’s get to the present, shall we? Over 25,000 “Palestinian” Arabs work in Yehudah and Shomron, all of them receive the same pay as their Israeli equivalents in the same industry, they all get National Insurance benefits, health care and, most importantly, they get paid regularly. I know this for a fact as I see the Arabs who work for my town, line up at the local branch of Bank Le’umi and collect their wages on the 5th of every month. These workers support their families and the EU is threatening the livelihoods of the very folks it wants to grant independence too? How can they ever be independent if by your boycott you force the places where they work  to re-locate within the “Green Line”?

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Microsoft’s campus in Haifa, Israel.

Will your anti-Semitic boycott make us leave our land? Will this act of pernicious Jew hatred weaken our resolve? History teaches us otherwise. More Jews will come to Yehudah and Shomron, build new factories and new farms and new communities. Israeli exports are ever increasing, if not to the creeping decrepitude that is so obvious in a dying, Islamicized Europe, devoid of courage and full of cowardice and prejudice, but to the growing economic powerhouses of India, China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea-Israel’s economic future and success is in the East, in the Pacific Rim and all over a sleeping giant continent called Africa.

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Showing The Way. In hospitals, schools and businesses, Israeli Arabs, Jews and Palestinians are working side by side to forge a better future. Seen here is Siham Sheble Masarwa, an Israeli Arab and head technician of Hadassah Ein Kerem’s catheterisation lab, teaching Jewish Israeli students. (Photograph: Kate Shuttleworth/The Guardian)

Your boycotts have strengthened us, your hatred has united us and your utter contempt for truth and your obeisance to hypocrisy and cowardice has made you contemptible and beyond rescue.

And, to top it all off (to use a gas station phrase) maybe Moses made the correct turn after all, for we have found natural gas deposits that are in the trillions of cubic meters, and, dare I say the word, OIL! Sure, it’s shale, but with all your technological universities and research centers being urged to cut their ties with us, I guess we’ll just have to put our Jewish heads together and solve the problem ourselves, in typical Israeli fashion-after all, you have always forced us too. Thanks again.

 

 

image001 (11).pngIrwin Blank was born in NYC in 1952 and has a BA in Political Science from Colombia University NY. He was part of the Speakers’ Bureau American Zionist Youth Foundation and editor of the Zionost Organization of America. He made Aliyah in July 2008 and lives in Maaleh Adumim.

I, You, Them, Us

By  Martine Alperstein

US President Trump released his concept for a proposed peace between Israel and their Palestinian neighbours. While many countries, including several Arab states firmly endorse the plan, the Palestinian camp has roundly rejected it. Israeli citizen, Martine Alperstein shares her frustrations.

I am tired. So very tired. I am disappointed, disillusioned and exasperated.

And I am not the only one.

I am not the only one who is struggling to see the light at the end of this very long, very painful and very uneven, disjointed, dangerous tunnel. How many more lives need to be lost? How many more tears need to be shed?

My tears, your tears, their tears, our tears.

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Yet another proposed peace plan that is never going to be put on the table because only one party is sitting at the table. Yet another ridiculous notion from the UN who can’t be bothered to take a close look at who they are actually hurting. Another day of rage. Another fleet of treacherous balloons.

Another retaliation by the IDF.

All I want is quiet.

Peace. Quiet. Calm. Safe.

I just want to feel safe. I want to know my children are safe. I want to know my parents are safe. I want to know that my siblings, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my acquaintances, my neighbours, my fellow humans are safe – and blessed with peace, quiet, calm.

I want. You want. They want. We want.

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Peace Proposal. Proposals are on the table – lets sit down and talk.

If you ask the average person on the street, on both sides of the line, on both sides of the border, what they want…. the answer will be the same. The Israeli Jew, the Israeli Arab, the Palestinian Arab will all tell you the same thing. They just want to live their lives peacefully, provide for their families, be happy and be good people.

I am crying. You are crying. They are crying. We are crying.

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(Photo credit: Flash 90/Nati Sadot)

What is the solution? What is the next step? What is the way forward? How can we remedy this for once and for all?  What can we do to ensure my children and grandchildren, and your children and grandchildren, their children and grandchildren, our children and grandchildren, have a different experience in this part of the world?

 

I am an ardent Zionist. I am Israeli by choice. Not by birth, not by circumstance, not because it is an easier or a more comfortable life. I am Israeli because I fully, wholeheartedly and passionately believe in the right of the Land of Israel and the Jewish State. I gave up a very comfortable and affluent life. I gave up being surrounded by my family who I miss and adore. I gave up being at so many family celebrations. I gave up a huge amount because I believe that this is my true place and that this is my true country. Every step I take is an echo of my forefathers and mothers. Everywhere I look is the view of my ancestors. Every mark that has been made was the touch of G-d.

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Despair To Hope. Young visitors from around the world to the “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall that divides the Gaza Strip and Israel. Adjacent to the homes of Moshav Netiv HaAsara, the creation is seen from both sides of the grey security wall and transforms the place’s atmosphere from despair to hope.

And yet, I would be willing to share and be willing to give up a part of my beautiful country with so much history, so much heritage, so much meaning…….  for peace. For guaranteed peace.

But Gush Katif answered that question for me. Brutally. After the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel has faced barrage after barrage of rockets and mortars, killing any chance for peace.  We are still paying the price. Every. Single. Day.

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* Promoting Peace. “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall

So, what is next?

Where to from here?

What will make the difference?

How can we bring about change?

And the voice & words of Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder running through my head, on repeat…

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony

Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

We all know that people are the same wherever you go

There is good and bad in ev’ryone

We learn to live, when we learn to give

Each other what we need to survive, together alive’

We need to find a solution for me, for you, for us and for them. We need to learn from the words from Paul and Stevie.

 

 

  • “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall:

Visitors are invited to take an active part in the creation of the peace wall by writing a personal wish on the back of a colorful mosaic piece and gluing it onto the security wall. The mosaic pieces are made by hand-work in the Path to Peace workshop. Among the colorful and optimistic pieces are different designs such as flower and butterflies and mosaic pieces with the word Peace in different languages.

 

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

President’s Peace Plan

A Time To Discuss And Negotiate Rather Than Reject

By Allan Wolman

Claiming that the world rejects the Trump peace plan is indeed misleading but in line with the type of biased journalism of those determined to contribute to the vilification of the Jewish State; lying seems to come naturally to some journo’s and commentators given what they claim about the support or rather lack thereof for this latest peace plan.

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Pursuing Peace. President Trump unveils his Mideast peace plan with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, but regrettably with no Palestinian representative in attendance at the White House on Jan. 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger / Getty Image)

Apart from Israel, the following countries have so far demonstrated support for the US Administration’s plan are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, I.K., India, Oman, Italy, Brazil, Poland, Australia, Austria, Egypt, Columbia, Morocco, Denmark, Japan and Czech Republic.

Publicly playing support were the ambassadors from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates who attended the unveiling of the President’s plan frequently referred to as the “Deal of the Century.” Their attendance was seen as a warming of ties between the Arab world and Israel.

However, no surprise that Palestine, Turkey, Venezuela and Iran are openly against it.

Whilst I am no supporter of the US president and in fact thought that the press conference at the unveiling of the peace initiative was contrived and somewhat embarrassing – not withstanding my personal view – this “deal” is certainly a refreshing beginning to negotiations that could result in a real and lasting peace settlement. Of course, that would depend on the Palestinian leadership agreeing to sit down to discuss and negotiate, as many of her brethren across the Middle East have urged.

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Game-Changer Not Playing Games. Kushner tells Egyptian TV Peace Plan aims to block settlements expansion.

As US envoy Jared Kushner told the Egyptian MBC Masr network in an interview, “If the Palestinians don’t like where the line is drawn, they should come and tell us where they want to draw it.” Further expressing to the Egyptian anchor Amr Adib, Kushner continued that “If the leaders of the Palestinians want to do what is best for their people, I think they will read the plan. They should come to the table, sit with the Israelis and say: ‘Look, We appreciate the gesture you have made. There are some major compromises [in the plan] you have never made before. These are the four or five or six things that we would like you to consider changing. And if you do this, you have a deal.’ That is how people who are ready to have a state make deals,” Kushner said.

However, in line with Palestinian intractability, the plan was rejected even before unveiled!

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OutRAGEious. Palestinians protest as smoke rises from burning tires before the announcement by US President Donald Trump of his Middle East peace plan [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

The knee jerk reaction from that leadership optimizes the stubborn and corrupt leadership of the Palestinians where the masses have certainly not reacted as violently as expected and in fact the ‘silent majority’ have indeed shown a certain willingness to see where the proposals could lead to. Of course organizations like the BDS, Media Review Network, UNHRC and the Arab League vented their rejection without considering the people most affected by this plan, especially the future wellbeing of the Palestinian people, who too frequently are a political tool of the political agendas of others.

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Antisemitism as a counter action to a Peace plan BDS South Africa posts antisemitic cartoon in response to peace plan

All their efforts are channeled at the destruction of Israel and the Palestinians are simply a convenient platform to achieve this aim. In an ideal world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have been resolved, peace secured and the Jew haters – disguised as anti-Zionists – would have had to dig even more deep to come up with other initiatives to further their cause.

American law professor and civil libertarian, Alan Dershowitz, recently asked an audience to consider where were the concerned liberals during the Cambodian, Rwandan, Darfur and Congolese genocides and where are they today with the unfolding genocides in Myanmar, Yemeni and Syria in full view of the world? The simple answer: These liberal folks including the UNHCR, ICC, BDS and others are all too busy castigating Israel than being bothered with the genocide of millions of people. Indeed, many millions of people mercilessly slaughtered and not one single country or human rights bodies not only did / do nothing about such vile acts but hardly voiced any objections in world forums to such carnage. No, the most important item on their agendas was malicious defamation of the only democracy in the Middle East.

Isn’t that more important than a few million people including women and children being slaughtered?

This must raise questions as to the morality of such people who would level their focus at denigrating a country whose human rights record, democratic institution’s, an independent judiciary, a free press and gender equality is not only without equal in the region but can stand head and shoulders with any free country in world. Yet all these attributes fade into oblivion in the face of rubbishing Israel at every and any opportunity.

Where is the ANC so quick to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel but at the same time have visions of being a peacemaker? Rich indeed given the ongoing hostility that they perpetuate against Israel and digest the fake news and lies being bandied about by those driven by hate. Not surprising given the ANC degeneration into racial ideology having abandoned the vision of racial equality and unity of Nelson Mandela.

The real tragedy is the timing of the “peace deal” debate coming hard on the heels of the two international gatherings one in Jerusalem on World Holocaust Remembrance Day and the other at the site of the infamous Auschwitz death camp commemorating the liberation of that camp. At both events the rise of anti-Semitism took centre stage with world leaders together with Holocaust survivors highlighting this scourge and warning just how today’s hatred could so easily become a repetition of past genocides.

Will world leaders sit up and listen and more importantly will they do anything to counteract this plague?

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Parading Hatred. Despicable display of modern antisemitism when a parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags in March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)

Events in Belgium last year where caricatures of Jews formed part of a carnival float procession through the main streets elicited hardly any censure form officialdom in that country, with some mielie-mouthed explanation of freedom of speech and expression.

Is that the way countries are going to combat ant-Semitic expression?

 

 

About the author:

Birds of a feather4Allan Wolman is a recent immigrant to Israel from South Africa. Matriculating from Parktown Boys high School in Johannesburg, in 1967, he joined 1200 young South Africans to volunteer to work on agricultural settlements in Israel during the Six Day War. After spending year in Israel, he returned to South Africa where he met and married Jocelyn Lipschitz. The couple have three sons. Allan ran one of the oldest travel agencies in Johannesburg – Rosebank Travel which he still runs together with his son in Johannesburg.

 

*Feature Picture: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Mixed Messages From HRH

By LA, California correspondent Regina Raphael

Charles, The Prince of Wales, addressed world leaders on the 75thanniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Israel on January 23rd 2019. I was most moved by the words of HRH that we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence.”

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PRINCE VISITS ISRAEL AND THIS TIME IT’S “OFFICIAL. HRH Prince Charles speaks during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on Jan. 23, 2020. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Given this strong and powerful message, I was surprised and disappointed with his words spoken and message conveyed during visit with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, the very next day in Bethlehem.

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Improving Ties. Prince Charles (L) shakes hands with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the presidential residence in Jerusalem, ahead of a meeting of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020. (AFP)

The “falsehoods” that he called out the day prior are the ones that emanate from the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas is currently in the 15th year of a 4-year elected term. He serves unchecked as a dictator without any accountability. He terrorizes his own people with limited freedom of speech and arrests those that associate with Jews or sells property to them.

Under his leadership, Christians now make up less than 2 percent of the population in Bethlehem once a dominant Christian community. The Christians are subjected to discrimination and suffer great difficulty living in Bethlehem.

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Prince And The PA President. The Prince of Wales meets President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. (Photo: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire)

Mr. Abbas has operated unfettered with mismanagement of monies provided. Billions of dollars in aid from the US, EU and several other donor countries has flowed to Mr. Abbas. A lack of accountability and transparency from the Palestinian Authority has deprived Palestinians of a significant part of the funds.

Only after a public outcry of money wasted has the recently built  $13mn Presidential Palace – that included helipads, guest quarters and administrative offices  4,700 square metres (50590.38 sq./feet) – been decided to be used “a national library” instead, according to the Palestinian Minister of Culture,  Ihab Bseiso.

A $13mn library with helipads?

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The House That Abbas Built. Following criticism of the newly constructed opulent $13 million President Mahmoud Abbas’ presidential palace near Ramallah, it was declared in August 2017 it would house a national library. This decision was understood in light of mounting public anger on the Palestinian street in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following revelations of corruption and substantial salary increases of public officials to buy loyalty. (Ameen Rammal/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Beyond corruption, Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have used these funds to encourage violence. It is estimated in 2019 that $149.7 MM went for annual payments to security prisoners, terrorist “martyrs” and their families, encouraging people to kill Jews.

Instead of visiting with Mr. Abbas, I wished he had visited the sights of those killed by Mr. Abbas’ pay for slay program. I was in the region while he was there and made my commitment to bear witness where Ari Fuld (father of four), Dvir Sorek (an 18-year-old Yeshiva student) and teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Gilad  Shaar and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped at a bus stop and then brutally murdered. I saw young lives taken away simply because they were Jews. Those who murdered them, solely because they were Jews, were paid approximately three times the amount they would have made working a regular job. The ramifications of this ‘Pay to Slay’ program are monumental. I can only imagine what his HRH might do if this program were to take hold in Britain.

When he visited Bethlehem, he spoke there that “It breaks my heart… that we should continue to see so much suffering and division. No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face.” The suffering is due to the choices made by the Palestinian Authority but does not accurately describe the vibrancy that does exist in many areas.

I also saw those who have made great success in their lives.  I visited towns with Muslims that had thriving industry, large homes and luxury cars.  I saw people that have chosen to focus on success not terror.

I had the honor to hear from Daniel Birnbaum whose company, SodaStream, embodies cooperation across Arabs, Jews & Bedouins to great success. While driven out of this area by those who choose to Boycott, Divest & Sanction Israel, SodaSteam relocated to Rahat and provides a model of coexistence between Jews, Arabs & Bedouins. This is only one example of co-existence.

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SodaStream’s Assembly Line In The Bedouin City Of  Rahat. Forced to close down by the Palestinian Authority that was providing jobs to Palestinians on the West Bank, the $1.5 billion maker of home carbonation devices moved the bulk of its manufacturing to Israel’s largest Bedouin city – Rahat. (RACHEL PAPO FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK)

At a time when anti-Semitic activity is at an all-time high, HRH’s failure to call out Mr. Abbas on his dishonesty and incitement of violence, ignites the flame that encourages hatred. His words do not bring peace but dehumanize and minimize the lives of those brutally murdered.

At every opportunity, including the most recent by President Trump, Mr. Abbas has turned down plans to aid his people and create his own “Start Up Nation.” Mr. Abbas does not seek peace; he acts as a despot and seeks the destruction of the State of Israel.

We praise the Royal family and your Princess Alice’s commitment to Jewish people at a most difficult time. However, at this juncture we must stand strong against hatred and stand firm on values of inherent democracy and decency.

 

 

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The author & Mr. Goldstein in Hebron.

Regina Raphael is a business owner in Los Angeles, CA and committed Zionist. Ms. Raphael works closely with Ben Goldstein, a reserve IDF officer and advocate for the State of Israel. The article shares moments from their visit together in late January 2020. Mr. Goldstein lives in the Region.

 

Healing Bodies to Healing Relations

Nurses From Gaza Train In Israel

By David E. Kaplan

In the first week of January 2020, five nurses from the Gaza Strip, joined eleven fellow Palestinians from the West Bank who arrived in Israel for four days of intense but innovative medical training.

It was conducted by Israeli physicians through a collaboration between Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR) and the Medical Simulation Center (MSR) at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

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Top Training. Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, the hospital training the Palestinian nurses is one of the finest hospitals in the Middle East, treating over 1,500,000 patients annually from around the world.

The training programme proved a revelation to all sixteen participants, particularly to those from Gaza.  “It’s different than I thought,”  Akram Abu Salah, a nurse from the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post. “The people are very nice. You have Jews and Palestinians working together. It minimizes the gaps between us.”

Clearly, there is no substitute for direct contact as Salah reveals.  “I could not imagine how this country would be or how it works.”

While there has been collaboration between MSR and PHR for a number of years training Palestinian physicians and ambulance drivers, this was the first time that training was extended to nurses.

The sixteen participating nurses learned new practices in the field of primary medicine, focusing on skills they might require in emergency situations such as how to  stop bleeding, intubation  – the placement of a flexible plastic tube into the trachea to maintain an open airway – and chest drains. A special session was held on advanced cardiovascular life support.

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Training To Save Lives. Palestinians, Farid Mustafa from Nablus (left) and Akram Abu Salah from Gaza train on a high-tech mannequin at Sheba Medical Center in central Israel. (photo credit: Marc Sellem)

This ‘life-saving’ training would end each day at 5.00pm whereafter in the evenings, the Palestinians engaged in social activities with their Israeli counterparts.

Four out of five of the Gazan participants had never been outside of the Gaza Strip, so the trip had been quite an experience.

All were amazed by the size of Sheba and the sophisticated training available through MSR.

The 2,400-square-meter Medical Simulation Center was founded in 2001  to lead a nationwide effort to introduce new standards and innovative approaches in health care training and patient-safety education for the benefit of the people of Israel. A press release on the center describes the facility “as a virtual hospital” that “encompasses the whole spectrum of medical simulation modalities – from role-playing actors for communication and clinical-skills training to cutting-edge, computer-driven, full-body mannequins that enable team training for challenging and high risk clinical conditions.”

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Medical Simulation Center (MSR) at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

 

It was “action stations” – close to real live situations. Teamwork is essential. One of the participants carefully placed an oxygen mask on the $100,000 blonde-haired dummy while another started to perform CPR as a third set a pulse oximeter around the dummy’s finger.

Communicating in English to each other, the Palestinian nurses continued to attempt to resuscitate the mannequin, as their Israeli instructor observed them. Minutes later, the “patient” woke up from ‘its’ cardiac arrest – ‘its’ condition stabilized.

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MSR – Simulation of Emergency Department Sheba.

Exposure to this kind of intense and innovative simulated training is invaluable.

Amitai Ziv, the founder and director of the Center for Medical Simulation, said that the courses at the facility aim to allow the health professionals to learn in a safe atmosphere.

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Visionary. Amitai Ziv, the founder and head of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation.

With a third most common cause of death worldwide being medical errors – estimates show 250,000-400,000 people die annually in American hospitals because of them – Ziv, a former pilot in the Israeli Air Force, explains:

The message embedded in the programs here is let us err and reflect on our errors in a safe environment.”

Working Together

“I am very happy for the chance to attend this advanced trauma course. In Gaza, we have plenty of problems, and there is so much we can learn from Israel,” said Abu Salah.

He was clear that the  Gazan Ministry of Healthwants to me to absorb this experience in Israel and bring it back to Gaza.”

Salah reveals that hospitals in Gaza are often understaffed and lack basic necessities and medications, including chemotherapy drugs.

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No Fuel, No Services. An employee of the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza at the Beit Hanun hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, after it stopped its services on January 29, 2018, when it ran out of fuel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

However, because of the fluid security situation, it is quite a complicated mission bringing the participants from Gaza into Israel. It takes persistence and perseverance.

Despite advanced application and pre-approval, the Gazan nurses were nevertheless delayed entry for a day for reasons of security.

Abu Salah only received the call at 11 p.m. from the Gazan Ministry of Health the night before he was granted entry and told, “tomorrow, you will travel to Israel.”

He was sleeping when he received the call, “but I packed my bag and prepared to go,” he told local media. “My wife knows I am here, but my extended family does not know. I can only tell them when I get back.”

While Salah said in Israel his visit was supported by the Hamas-run health ministry, he admitted to being unsure how he would be received upon his return and uncertain of the  questions he might be asked by Hamas officials.

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Heartwarming. Together with Israeli instructors, a group of Palestinian nurses from the West Bank and Gaza Strip huddle around a high-tech mannequin that for the sake of the exercise has gone into a cardiac arrest

Going To Gaza

However, its not only Palestinian medical professionals coming to Israel but Israelis professionals traveling to Gaza.

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Professor Raphael Walden. Deputy Director of the Sheba Medical Center, in charge of Risk Management, Quality Assurance and Medical Education and recipient of France’s  “Officier de la legion d’Honneur”.

Israeli president for Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Prof. Rafi Walden, reveals how nearly every month he helps arrange missions of Israeli doctors to Gaza to perform advanced surgery and provide training to Gaza physicians by Israeli experts in the realms of gastroenterology, oncology and more.

It’s appalling,” Walden said of the situation in Gaza. “Just terrible conditions. The main hospital in Gaza has empty shelves; they are missing critical medications. There was a time they did not have the liquid needed to clean the skin before surgery. Everything is missing. It is a real humanitarian disaster there.”

Walden believes that despite the challenges, PHR is creating “a microcosm of goodwill and understanding in this crazy situation of conflict. Beside the medical aspect of the work, another aspect no less important is the opportunity to meet with people and establish common ground. It’s a peace building activity – and a little light and the end of the tunnel.” 

Physicians for Human Rights Israel covered the costs of the programme as well as the attendees’ expenses including hotel rooms, transportation and meals. Ran Goldstein, the executive director of the organization, said the total cost was approximately NIS 90,000 ($26,000).

Ziv explains that while the courses for the Palestinian health participants aims to substantially upgrade their standards of professionalism, there is also the invaluable benefit of building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians.

Since Israelis and Palestinians often meet on the killing and battle front, we strongly believe it is important that they meet on the health and education front,” he said, adding that he holds that “professional relationships among human beings can bring about trust and friendliness.”

One 42-year-old nurse from Nablus, Farid Mustafa, said that medicine is a field that transcends political and national divides.

It does not matter who you are — an Israeli or Palestinian, Jew or Muslim, local or foreigner,” he said. “In health, we see and treat everyone as a human being. We take this approach in our interactions with sick persons and our colleagues here and elsewhere.”

Supporting his sentiment, Farid recounted an incident when he had personally provided first aid to Israelis involved in a car crash near Ramallah in the West Bank two years earlier.

I saw that two vehicles had collided. I pulled over to the side of the road and helped them,” he said. “When I did that, the identity of the injured persons made no difference to me. All I saw were people in need of aid.”

So too for Ayman Ibrahaim Amaya, a 43-year-old nurse from Qalqilya , who said he hoped he would be able to return to the Center for Medical Simulation in the future.

This is my first time doing a training in Israel and it has been very beneficial,” he said. “So I wish that it will not be the last.”

Future lives depend that “it will not be the last.”

With the goodwill of people on either side of the divide, it will not be.

לבריאות  and  صحة جيدة (“To health!” in Hebrew and Arabic)

 

Winds of Change

Warming ties between the Arab world and Israel

By Rolene Marks

If someone has said to me a few years ago that the Arab world would start opening up to the State of Israel, I would have thought that they are losing their minds. But an amazing new phenomenon is taking shape in the Middle East. The frosty relations between Israel and Arab countries are starting to thaw and warm up significantly over the last couple of years and this has been demonstrated by a series of overtures from Arab countries towards Israel.

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The Israeli and Bahraini flags (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

It is no secret that one of the key issues that has influenced the warming of ties between Israel and Arab states is the threat to the region posed by Iran. The hegemonic regime poses a massive threat to Gulf States who have aligned themselves more with the USA and has created a corridor via Syria and proxies in the north with Hezbollah, and South with Hamas to further encroach on Israeli territory.

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Change Of Climate. Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, during a UN climate conference in the city, in late June, 2019. (Courtesy Katz’s office)

One positive side effect of the Iranian threat is the realization that the tiny state of Israel is more of a potential friend or at least ally, than enemy. There is growing concern that relations between Israel and various Arab states have been somewhat covert but there have been rumours circulating that the Jewish State may be close to signing non-aggression pacts with several of these countries.

Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan but formal bilateral relations with other Arab countries would contribute greatly to stability and economic growth in the region. In fact, Israel will be exporting natural gas from the lucrative Leviathan gas field to Egypt within the next few weeks. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz calls the permit a “historic landmark” for Israel. He says it’s the most significant economic cooperation project between the countries since they signed a peace deal in 1979.

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“Time Are A’Changin”. The same Arab world that once laid on Israel an energy siege is now buying gas from the Jewish state with Egypt and Jordan the first customers from the Leviathan gas rig off the coast of Israel.

In 2019, the Trump Administration revealed part of its much anticipated peace plan with the “Peace to prosperity” proposal that shared how the administration, with the backing of Arab states, intends to build Palestinian civilian and cultural infrastructure that would lead to job creation and lead to the foundations of a future state. This plan was presented in Manama, the capital of Bahrain and while Israel did not send an official delegation, representatives from the business sector were present – and warmly welcomed! Palestinian businessmen, who despite the invitation to participate in the conference being spurned by the leadership, attended and were promptly arrested by the Palestinian Authority for daring to engage the US administration and Israel on possible commercial solutions. Also significant, was the invitation to six Israeli media outlets to cover the event.

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Friendly Exchange. Posted on Twitter, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019 during a groundbreaking public meeting.

Since the Manama confab, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, and his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, met in the United States and in October 2019, an Israeli official, Dana Benvenisti-Gabay, attended the “Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security” in Manama. In December 2019, Jerusalem chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, visited Bahrain for an interfaith event. There is hope that this has helped create the climate for future official ties.

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Open Door Policy. Jared Kushner concludes the 2019 Manama Conference in Bahrain assuring that the doors remain open to the 50 billion dollar plan to revive the stagnant economy of the Palestinian people.

Bahrain is not the only state that is welcoming Israeli visitors. The United Arab Emirates is preparing for Expo 2020, where countries will showcase the best of their offerings for six months and Israel will be included.

UAE Tourism Minister announced that not only would Israeli passport holders be welcome at the event, a phenomenon that was previously unheard of, but that he hoped citizens from the Jewish state would continue to visit long after its conclusion. The real Chanukah miracle was a tweet from the UAE Embassy in London sending warm wishes to Jewish friends celebrating Chanukah.

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And if Twitter is the platform where friendships are revealed, then this one between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Emirati Foreign Minister sure says a lot:

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It is not just the Emiratis or Bahrainis that are showing Israel some love. Recently, 7 bloggers from Saudi Arabia visited Israel and the results have been quite extraordinary. The bloggists have taken to their social media platforms to speak quite openly of their newfound fondness for the Jewish state.

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Meeting Of Minds. “The people of the Middle East want peace with Israel and for the leadership to promote it,” says Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Amar (bottom, center) at the interfaith conference in Manama, Bahrain, on Monday, December 9, 2019.

There is no problem with Israel. It is important because of Jerusalem that is holy to Jews and Christians, while Islam’s holy places are Mecca and Medina,” Sultan said via the social media platform.

Is this the yearning of the younger generation to have normalization of ties or is there some indirect influence from Saudi officials? Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman is trying to change the image of his country and perhaps the best way to do this is modernizing attitudes towards countries like Israel and recognizing that there is more to be gained bilaterally and regionally through warmer ties.

It may still be a while until formal ties are recognized but the winds of change are blowing in the Middle East and this time, they are rich with promise.

 

A Burning Issue, Doused

Israel ingenuity proves  ‘Light’ Years” ahead with its ‘Light Blade’ laser, ready to counter Gaza’s burning kites and fire balloons

By David E. Kaplan

Having repeatedly tried to devise life-saving responses to counter existential threats from Gaza – most notably the ‘Iron Dome’ that intercepts missiles and sophisticated technology to thwart terror tunnels – next up for Israel inventiveness was a solution to deal with the threat of kites and balloons.

Kites and balloons?

While kites and balloons would conjure up in most parts of the world images of ‘kid’s stuff’, not so in Israel’s Western Negev where for local residents, they are associated with death, devastation and destruction.

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Play With Fire. A battery of young Gazans directing their lethal kites to Israel.

These balloons and kites have caused over eight thousand acres of Israel farmland, forests and nature reserves being reduced to burnt-black swaths across a once verdant landscape.

However, what a difference a year makes in the “Start-up Nation”!

In October 2018, a writer in Ynetnews penned an article titled ‘Kite, Balloon Terrorism Continues Scorching Israel’s Land’.  Lamenting that despite the IDF’s efforts following 100 days of kites and balloons terrorism, which caused massive damage to agricultural produce and destroying Israeli land, the writer noted that “the threat was only increasing.”

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Field Of Fire. An IDF soldier runs in a field near Kibbutz Mefalsim, which was set on fire by balloons from in Gaza. In 2018, the Mefalsim was the first location set ablaze by a fire balloon. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

The article further noted that while the IDF was operating a system able to detect and track the balloons and kites, they were however, still “not being intercepted while in the air.”

Rising to the challenge, Israel has come up with an answer.

It was revealed in The Jerusalem Post this past 2019 Christmas Day that  “Israeli security forces have unveiled a new laser-beam system designed to take down incendiary aerial devices which have burned countless acres of land over the past two years as well as drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace.”

Dubbed the ‘Light Blade’, the system was developed by engineers in the private sector along with researchers from Ben Gurion University  of the Negev (BGU) and technological departments within the Israel Police and IDF.

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Blade Runner. Eagle eye ‘Light Blade’ ready to laser any income incendiary balloons or kites.

Trial ‘Balloon’

Successfully tested by the police, it is believed the Light Blade system is the world’s first system to destroy deadly “fire kites and arson balloons”. Not only is this a game-changer to counter the balloon and kite threat from Gaza, trials optimistically further  indicate that the Light Blade would also neutralize armed drones – a threat mostly emanating from Iranian-sponsored terrorists in the north.

The Light Blade is a laser system that looks much like a miniature Iron Dome – the more familiar anti-missile defense system that protects Israel from short-range rocket attack. The Light Blade tracks the suspicious airborne object, locks onto it, and blasts it with a unique laser beam. If the incoming projectile is a balloon loaded with flammable material, it will explode in the air. If it is a drone, its motor will be ZAPPED forcing it to crash.

The result – another major threat to Israel neutralized.

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Taking On Terror. Israel’s new Light Blade laser-defense system set to neutralize the balloon and kite threat from Gaza. (Credit: Israel Police)

The Charge Of The Light Blade

The Light Blade can work night and day and has a two-kilometer (1.2 miles) range. It is also relatively inexpensive to produce which will enable the security forces to equip themselves quickly with a large supply.

The system was developed over the past year by three experts in electro-optics and lasers: Prof. Ami Yeshaya, Dr. Rami Aharoni and Dr. Udi Ben Ami. They established a company called OptiDefense to create the technology, signing a cooperative agreement with the police led by Border Police chief, Yaakov Shabtai.

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Leading Light. Leading the ‘Light Blade’ project, Border Police chief, Yaakov Shabtai.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 News that witnessed a string of tests, the Light Blade passed with flying colors.

The system provides an almost complete response to the threat of balloons and kites and provides an effective and safe solution to the drone threat,” a beaming Shabtai proudly told the network.

Hopefully this will  mean the end of the arson balloon and kite threat that have caused millions of dollars of ecological damage in the south, burning thousands of acres of cropland and forests.

Who knows what new threats may emerge that will forever require Israeli ingenuity to neutralize!

C’est la vie

 

Remembering the Forgotten

Former Miss Iraq speaks out at UN about Jewish

refugees

By David E. Kaplan

While focus on the Palestinian refugees of 1948 has remained steadfast, there has been scant global interest of the massive plight of Jewish refugees. There were over 850,000 Jews living in Arab countries and Iran at the time of Israel’s independence. Some scholars even think the number is closer to one million and yet few in the Arab world talk about why Jews suddenly left lands  they had lived in for over  2500 years.

One Muslim Arab who talking about it, is Sarah Idan (Arabic: سارة عيدان‎), an Iraqi beauty queen who represented her country at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017. A self-described “secular Muslim”, Idan received death threats after she posted a selfie with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, and then had her citizenship revoked.

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Peace and Love. Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman (left) and Miss Iraq Sarah Idan pose for a picture at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017. Idan fled Iraq with her family following the fallout after taking a selfie with Miss Gandelsman during the Miss Universe competition which she captioned ‘peace and love’.

On the 4th December 2019, the former Miss Iraq  spoke at the United Nations headquarters in New York City about Jewish refugees from the Middle East “being largely forgotten”, and that there needs to be more awareness of their plight. The UN event was held in coordination with JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), and was attended by ambassadors from around the world and UN officials.

It’s about time,” Idan  told JNS. “That decision should have happened many, many years ago. We always talk about Palestinian refugees and other countries, but we never talk about the Jewish refugees.”

Idan’s native Iraq once boasted a large community of Jews having lived there for over 2600 years.  That came to a tragic and traumatic end with  the exile of 135,000 Jews during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Few outside the Jewish community recall the violent riots known as the Farhud that erupted in June 1941 – mainly in Bagdad – targeting the Jewish population. Dejected soldiers of a failed coup took advantage of a power vacuum and swarmed into Jewish communities together with a bloodthirsty mob, murdering 179 Jews, injuring more than 2,100, and leaving 242 children as orphans. This act of violence was celebrated across the Arab world and in Nazi Germany.

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Revelations About Refugees. Former Miss Iraq Sarah Idan speaking in support of Jewish refugees at a Dec. 4, 2019 event at U.N. headquarters in New York. (Photo: Israeli Mission to the United Nations)

Similar tragedies unfolded across Muslim lands over the same period , which Idan was bold enough to speak about  and at the very forum that perennially attacks Israel – the UN.

While familiar with the plight of the Palestinians, it is doubtful that the esteemed diplomatic representatives to the world body are as familiar that in the North African region:

– 259,000 Jews fled from Morocco

– 140,000 from Algeria

-100,000 from Tunisia

– 75,000 from Egypt

– 38,000 from Libya

Or that in the Middle East, apart from the 135,000 Jews exiled from Sarah Idan’s Iraq:

– 55,000 fled from Yemen

– 34,000 from Turkey

– 20,000 from Lebanon

-18,000 from Syria

– 25,000 from Iran

In most of these country there were pogroms resulting in the mass murder of Jews.

The forgotten Jews2.JPG

 

In her speech, Idan, spoke about the history of Iraqi Jewish refugees, the kinship she has always felt for them, and how she could personally relate to the struggles they faced by being expelled from Iraq.

She also spoke about her trip to Israel in 2018, where she met Iraqi Jewish refugees in Jerusalem and connected with them. She said they welcomed her “with open arms and with so much love, even though my country treated them unfairly.”

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The Beauty And The Peace. The two former beauty queens, Sarah Idan (left) and Adar Gandelsman toured Jerusalem together and uploaded a video of themselves in the Holy City. They added the caption “Salam and Shalom” – the Arabic and Hebrew words for “peace”.

When I saw Iraqi government stamps on their passports saying, ‘one-way exit—not allowed to return,’ I started crying,” she said.

“I told them I was utterly ashamed. Not because of dirty politics, which led to the ethnic cleaning of 135,000 Jews from Iraq, but by my own people, who watched this happen and didn’t have the courage nor sympathy to stand with the Jewish community.”

She also stated how antisemitism paved the way for the expulsion of Jews from Iraq.

As an Iraqi, I learned so much from parents and grandparents about how the Jews played a pivotal role in the development of our country. What I always heard from my family was that they had such good hearts, were well educated, respected and loved. Sadly, a 3,000-year chapter of Jewish life in Iraq, along with the larger Middle East and North Africa, came to an abrupt and traumatic end — and much of this is the result of antisemitism.”

The Baghdad-born model and human-rights activist concluded by saying:

 “It is only by recognizing and facing the historical injustice endured by the 1 million Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East that we can move forward to a better place of humility and healing.”

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Food For Thought. Miss Idan went for a tour of Jerusalem before dining at an Iraqi-Jewish restaurant in the city, saying: “I do not believe Iraq and Israel are enemies.”

Correcting The historic Injustice

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon announced that Israel will submit a resolution to formally recognize Jewish refugees from Arab countries. He aims to “put Jewish refugees in the right place in history and change the narrative so in the future, one day, when the issue of the Palestinian refugees will be brought up, we will be able to bring our issues as well.”

The ambassador is all too familiar with the history  as his late father, Joseph Danon had been a Jewish refugee from Egypt who moved to Israel shortly after the establishment of the Jewish state.

During the 1948 War of Independence, thousands of Egyptian Jews were put into internment camps, forced from their jobs, and arrested. Jewish synagogues, homes, and businesses were bombed, and many Jews were killed and wounded. Between 1948 and 1958, more than 35,000 Jews fled Egypt. Danny Danon’s father arrived in 1950.

Like the Iraqis that Idan met in Jerusalem, Joseph Danon was among the 850,000 Jews who were expelled or fled from their homes in Muslim lands during the mid-20th century.

Recognising that Jewish communities existed in Arab countries for more than 2,500 years, Ambassador Danon lamented  that “Every time the U.N. talks about the refugees of Israel’s war of Independence, they speak only of the Palestinian refugees!”

What about the Jewish refugees?

The ambassador emphasized that Jewish refugees should not be forgotten; denying the rights of Jewish refugees and attempting to erase them from the narrative is an antisemitic historic injustice. “We must work to correct the historic injustice that has left the Jewish refugees out of the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

From Iraq With Love

Kudos to Sara Idan in speaking out at the UN despite the threats to her life and those of her family who today live in the USA. She remains undaunted.

When snapping and posting online the first photo with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman at the 2017 pageant in Las Vegas, Idan added the caption:

Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel“.

But some people in Iraq did not see it that way and sent her death threats.

“When I posted the picture, I didn’t think for a second there would be blowback,” she told CNN at the time. “I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary.”

The intimidation did not stop the beauty queen reuniting with   Gandelsman the following year in Israel, when she again posted fresh pictures online. Idan posted a photograph and a video on her Instagram page, with the caption: “Sisters reunion

Despite the pressure from the Miss Iraq organisation, a defiant Idan refused to remove the selfie, and added a follow up post saying:

I would like to apologise to anyone who considered the photo to be offensive to the Palestinian cause as this was not the aim behind the post, it was merely a call to peace and hope for a solution to the crisis.”

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Shuk’ing Experience. Iraq’s representative at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant, Sarah Idan, (left), animatedly engaging with Israelis at Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, June 2018. (photo: Hadashot)

Like most visitors to Israel, Idan toured Jerusalem’s famed Mahane Yehuda Market where she was warmly received.

 “It actually felt weird,” she wrote. “The people look like my people. And the city looks like Damascus, like Syria, and I’ve been there, so everything seems familiar to me.”

She believed that “there are a lot of Iraqi people who don’t have a problem with Israel or with the Jewish people. There are a lot of Iraqi people on my side, and I believe they are happy I am here.”

If only the sisterhood developed between the former Miss Israel and Miss Iraq could evolve into  a brotherhood  of their respective countries.

 

 

*Feature Picture: Miss Iraq Sarah Idan—recently designated as an Ambassador for Peace by UN Watch, which invited her to the United Nations—took the floor at the United Nations to support peace with Israel. Following two speeches to the UN’s highest human rights body, the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee reportedly called for her Iraqi citizenship to be revoked, labeling her advocacy a “crime.”

Israel And The Southern Coexistence

Exploring the complex relationship of Jews and Muslims in southern Israel

By Ziv Israeli

For many people around the world, Israel’s southern district is probably imagined as a combination of Arab villages mixed with Jewish settlements and towns in the middle of the desert where it constantly rains missiles.

Luckily, this harsh and unrealistic image that we often get from people that are depending on mainstream media mostly, has nothing to do with reality.

In this article I will try to explain some surprising facts about Israel’s southern area – a region that for over ten years has been exhausted by almost constant warfare; but is also surprisingly flourishing, developing and refusing to abandon its natural coexistence and hope for peace.

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Border Crossing. Crossing more than physical boundaries, Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip pray as they wait on the Israeli side of the Erez terminal to cross back into Gaza. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

So let’s start, shall we?

First, here are some basic facts:

  • Israel’s southern district is the largest of all six, spreading around 14,185 square kilometers (approx. 5,476 squared miles).
  • The district is populated with approximately 75% Jewish, 20% Muslims and 5% other religions.
  • The largest city is called Ashdod, but the district’s capital city is called Be’er Sheva (“the seventh well” by loose translation!)
  • Even though the town of Sderot is usually a news star because it is the closest city to the Gaza Strip and usually the first in the line of fire, it’s actually one of the smallest towns in Israel.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians work in Israel on a daily basis, and thousands of them come from the infamous area called the Gaza Strip.

Wait, what?

Gazans working in Israel?

Yes! You are reading it right.

Let’s try to explain this awkward fact – and understand what it means, from both sides.

Despite the fact that the Gaza Strip is being held hostage by Hamas and other terror groups committed to the destruction of Israel as part of their jihad against the Jewish state, there is another side to the story!

Hardly known and never appearing in the foreign media, Israel hands out permits allowing the entry of thousands of citizens from the Gaza Strip to provide them with work on a daily basis.

As reported in The Times Of Israel on November 1st, It appears “that Israel has expanded a program in which it had long provided hundreds of permits to business owners to travel to Israel and the West Bank for commerce. Palestinian officials say it is now providing some 5,000 so-called merchant permits and awarding them to Palestinians working as laborers in construction, agriculture and manufacturing.”

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New Israeli Tech, Old Bedouin Ways At Wadi Attir. A revolutionary sustainable agriculture, dairy-farming and tourism initiative is taking root in the Negev Bedouin community

This is positive news of improving relations for the benefit of all.

Sadly, before Hamas took over Gaza, there was a time when around 60% of Gaza’s work force was employed in Israel. Then came Hamas and with it –  executions, wars, unemployment and despondency. Today there are older brave voices from Gaza revealing the truth  – how people are missing the “good old days” of working in Israel. Peace, security, employment and trade with Israel has given way under Hamas to frustration and misery.

However, all this does not detract from  the coexistence of Jews with over 300,000 Muslims in Israel’s southern district.

Here are some lesser known facts:

  • Most of the Muslims in our southern district are Bedouin living a traditionally pastoral nomadic lifestyle.
  • Israel is investing huge sums of money any resources in opening doors and closing gaps for the Bedouin, including, but not limited to – funding education, health care, affirmative actions and ease of entry to higher education.
  • As a result, an ever-increasing number of Bedouin students are attending Israeli colleges and Be’er Sheva’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) – the only university in the south of the country.

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    Bedouin Education Conference. Bedouin students on January 3, 2018 at the Teach First Israel (TFI) conference at Ben-Gurion University’s Jusidman Science Center for Youth on TFI’s work with the Bedouin community in Israel. The conference brought together educators, civil society and government leaders to share knowledge about improving quality and access to education in Bedouin society at large.
  • In 2016, the Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Development, dedicated a special student center serving Bedouin women students. It was the first of its kind, a social center and “warm home away from home” for Bedouin women students who study at the University.
  • Bedouin are employed in all type of professions and jobs from doctors, lawyers, pharmacists to working in education and the police force.
  • Another cool fact is a city named Rahat. With a population of approximately 70,000 – Rahat is the largest Bedouin city in the entire world!

With the city of Beersheva  in close proximity to Rahat, most Bedouin students from Rahat study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, some also at Sapir Academic College in Sderot.

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Revelations In Rahat. Not only the largest in Israel, Rahat is the largest Bedouin city in the world.

And where in the entire western/eastern/Muslim world would you find such a city?

Only in Israel!

But what about the military?

Can you find Bedouin in the IDF and are they allowed to join?

Yes!

Although Bedouin are not obligated to join the IDF, many choose to join voluntarily!

And they’re a huge asset.

They’re some of the world’s best trackers, and an Israeli combat soldier will tell you that they trust them even if they were blindfolded.

Many soldiers have stories of military operations that would’ve gone completely wrong without their Bedouin commerades-in-arms.

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Education & Empowerment. A Bedouin student at Sapir College, Sderot, Israel, March 6, 2018. Although their number is still low in comparison to the general public, the number of Bedouin students enrolled in undergraduate programs in Israeli institutions has doubled over the last decade, according to data from the Council of Higher Education.

Wait, Muslims that are being integrated completely in Israel?

Isn’t Israel supposed to be an apartheid state…?

Well, now you know that the facts on the ground tell a different story.

But is it all sweets and roses besides for Hamas?

Unfortunately it is not.

Let’s look at a more complex example, shall we?

Take for example a small Palestinian town called Idna.

Just a few minutes’ drive from my hometown, called Qiryat Gat.

Many people from Idna have work permits, because they’re living on the other side of the Green Line border, which means that they are actually under the jurisdiction of the Palestinians.

As a result, many Palestinians are working with us every day – for years – in our area that contains mainly agricultural fields, farms and various types of factories.

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Turning Desert Into farming Land. Project Wadi Attir’s ecosystem restoration initiative is combatting desertification. (Photo: courtesy)

We know them well, and deep friendships have formed over the years.

There’s even a local hero in my town – a guy that works as a construction contractor from Idna inside Israel that became famous for pulling a woman out of a car after witnessing a car accident. There was an article about him in our local newspapers!

I know him and his sons personally.

Wait, what?

Palestinians working in Israel again?

Relationships?

I Bet you didn’t hear that on any mainstream news channel!

Although you should have.

You should probably be asking yourself:

“Why didn’t I?”

But that’s a different topic again.

So what happens to the coexistence when horrible incidents actually happen?

Beside barrages of missiles from Gaza that may indiscriminately kill everyone, that is.

Well, to be honest, it’s not easy.

It’s never easy, the feelings are heavy on both sides.

Let’s describe a real incident that actually happened – right outside my house.

One Friday night, my wife and I were watching Lord Of The Rings for the who knows how many times.

Suddenly I heard something that sounded like a woman crying.

I put on my shoes, told my wife that I’ll be right back and went outside.

I found two women – one in her 20’s and one in her 40’s, wearing jogging clothes, sitting and crying, holding their necks. They had been stabbed.

What would you do?

I ran back to my house, told my family to lock the doors, that there’s a terrorist around somewhere and went to assist the two victims, not knowing who’s the attacker and where he was. I just hoped that he wouldn’t return.

Since we’re still talking about Israel, in about five minutes the place was swarming with armed people.

Policemen, soldiers on vacation, other security forces – my quiet neighbourhood turned into a war zone in minutes.

And all because of one brainwashed young man from Idna.

Yes, Idna.

The same town we have trusted to send him in from, with a permit.

About 30 minutes later they captured him hiding in my neighbour’s yard.

Because that specific terrorist chose to surrender when the security forces found him and since Israel is a law abiding democracy, he was arrested.

Unfortunately, even in towns like Idna, extreme Jihad brainwashings by radical Muslims may affect people, usually the young ones.

But how did this incident influence the coexistence between the folks in Idna and in Israel?

Well, the first few days were hard, especially for the workers that came from Idna.

Israel did the right thing to allow them in despite of that incident.

But the feelings were difficult.

Most of them looked ashamed, the moment we started talking about it they’d start sounding apologetic, and that kept going for about 3-4 days.

That’s it.

Anyone surprised?

After all, most of the people on both sides don’t want or care about any wars.

Certainly not about a made up lie about Israel being an apartheid state or another lie – that all Muslims want a pointless Jihad.

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Star Material. Winners of the Desert Stars’ 10th grade social entrepreneurial challenge. Desert Stars is a not-for-profit organization developing a cross-tribal network of young Bedouin leaders in the Negev. (Photo: courtesy)

To sum up this tip of the iceberg article about the incredibly resilient coexistence in Israel’s southern area,

Let me ask you one thing:

Is anyone still surprised why our southern district, even after years of horrible terrorist attacks and barrages of missiles is refusing to lose hope in peace?

And why should we?

When the other side still has hope as well?

Missiles, Jihad, air raids, violent demonstrations and terror might be a part of our lives here – but it’s definitely not the only narrative in our area.

Every obstacle to our coexistence with our neighbors, as cruel as it may be, is only a milestone in our continuous striving for peace and normalization.

Israel will never lose the hope for peace,

And nothing will change that.

 

About the writer:

Ziv Israeli1.pngZiv Israeli is a family guy from Israel,

A proud Zionist with a passion for accurate journalism.