Anti-Israeli activists to fly to Ben Gurion

Poster in French: Welcome to Palestine on 8 July 2011. Join us or help!

Organizing is underway to bring anti-Israeli activists to Ben Gurion airport to then travel to the West Bank to support the Palestinian right of return.

It’s the latest attempt to embarrass the Israeli government in the court of public opinion.

According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, expatriated Palestinians, declaring refugee status, are being urged by Hamas to fly to Israel.

“Their objectives are to show solidarity with the Palestinians, embarrass Israel and raise international public consciousness for the so-called ‘right of return,'” The center says. Those behind the movement, Meir Amit says, believe that the flotilla planned for later this month designed to break the barricade of the Gaza is too narrow in scope. This demonstration has, instead, the goal of “lifting the siege from all Palestine.” the center says.

“A call was recently posted on Hamas’ main website for ‘Palestinian refugees’ to take regular commercial flights to Israel’s airports (referred to as the airports of ‘Palestine occupied since 1948′)…” the center says.

A poster calls for Palestinians to fly to Israel on July 8.

“They are supposed come from various countries around the world, including Germany,” the Meir Amit assessment says.

“After a protest at the airport, they are expected to go to Judea and Samaria for solidarity meetings with Palestinians.”

According to Meir Amit, there are 15 organizations planning the propaganda event, most of them territory-based and Palestinian. The most prominent organization is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which specializes in obstructing IDF activities in the territories. The ISM sends activists and volunteers from foreign countries to the weekly demonstrations in Bila’in, Ni’lin and other friction points in Judea and Samaria and its leaders hold central positions in the flotilla project.

Israelis give 1,000 Palestinians gift of hearing

Samah, 10, receives hearing aids. Starkey Hearing Foundation photo

The Starkey Hearing Foundation and its Israeli partners have fitted more than 1,000 West Bank Palestinians with hearing aids.

The hope is that the Israel-Palestine Hearing Mission of Peace will  promote greater communication and understanding among the local communities through improved hearing, organizers say.

The three-day mission to distribute the hearing devices brought together Americans, Israelis and Palestinians at the  Khaled ben Said school in the West Bank.

A team of audiologists from the Starkey Hearing Foundation, along with experts from the Sheba Medical Center and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel worked together to fit each of the recipients who ranged in age from four to 75.

 

Jews News’ Eliyokim Cohen cross between Howard Beale & Jon Stewart

By GARY BAUMGARTEN

OK, he’s not exactly telling you to stick your head out the window and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But pretty close.

Eiliyokim Cohen, who lives in a small settlement on the West Bank, mixes humor and outrage with his Jews News video blogs everyday. In a way, he’s a right wing version of Jon Stewart, using humor (a daily feature is a “phone call” from his “neurotic mother” back in the United States) and facts to, well, tell Israel’s story from a settler’s viewpoint.

For example, when President Obama said that Israel must go back to the pre-’67 war boundaries, Cohen interrupted his video blogcast to take a “call” from his mother to assure her that he was not, suddenly, living in “Palestine.”

The Boston native, who now lives in Shiloh, says his mother, who, of course, watches every podcast, takes it all in stride.

“She thinks it’s funny,” Cohen says.

His rants are all posted on YouTube and on Facebook.

Cohen says he started two years ago penning a blog expressing what he says is decidedly his right wing views about Israel. But he got tired of just writing and wanted a way to bring his personality out. Thus, the creation of Jews News.

“I call it a mixture of offering a logical right wing rational approach. Mixed with garage humor.”

The skits get your attention. But they don’t mask the message.

“No one in the mass media says the truth about Israel. There’s always someone they have to answer to. Well, I can say what I really think.”

Right now the Jews News World Headquarters set is simply Cohen in front of an Israeli flag. But he soon hopes to create a professional looking set. With a green screen and a real news desk.

Of course, it won’t be too terribly professional. “The studio will be in my spare bedroom,” he acknowledges.

Something he’s not particularly ashamed about.

“I want to make this like a cult classic.”

Jews News is getting some 700 daily hits on YouTube. And is picking up several hundred more each day on Facebook. So it’s beginning, as intended, to go viral.

How Cohen got from Boston, where he was an unaffiliated conservative Jew, to Shiloh, where he fits right in with the other Torah observant settlers, is an interesting story. You might say that Torah saved his life.

The short story focuses on a high speed police chase in 2008. “I was high on cocaine,” Cohen says, when he was arrested.

While out on bail, he began to study Torah. After he had done his time, he enrolled in a yeshiva. After which, “I decided to come here. On a one-way ticket.”

He’s never looked back.

Since making aliyah, Cohen has become more conservative in his political views.

“I was always very liberal in terms of America stuff,” he says.

The closest attention he paid to politics in the U.S, was if someone running for office promised to legalize marijuana. Any candidate that wanted to legalize weed, “I would have voted for in a second,” he said.

Now, his head is in more serious issues. Like Torah. Survival. And encouraging others to make aliyah. And hosting Jews News.

Cohen believes that in a way, his new-found activism was shaped during his childhood, when the TWA flight his aunt was on was hijacked by Hezbollah terrorists. She survived the attack and became observant.

“That kind of framed my family’s life,” he says. “And our views on Israel.”

So in a way, the transition wasn’t as difficult as it seems.

Since arriving in Israel, Cohen has become “extremely right wing.” Which, he says, “is the only thing you can really be if you claim to be a Jew.”

The two-state solution to which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subscribes actually runs contrary to being pro-Israel, he argues. Because too many Arabs want Israelis dead.

“If it’s just 1 percent, that’s 20 million Muslims waking up each morning wanting to kill Jews,” Cohen argues.

That’s his pragmatic argument. Religiously, he believes the land where Shiloh stands, was given to the Jews by God. And the Jews, he says, have claim to the land, “until someone can disprove the Torah and tell me God was wrong.”

Of course, when he says it on his show, it comes out less dry and strident. Which may explain why he decided he wanted to perform in front of a camera, rather than write his thoughts.

“I’m finding that this way, even people who disagree with me, say they enjoy my shows,” Cohen says.

What’s even more important, he says, they keep coming back for more. Which means, he can brag to his mother on her next “call” that he must be doing something right.

Gary Baumgarten is editor of The Jewish Reporter.

Obama Middle East speech changes nothing

Jews would be evicted from West Bank settlements like this one under the Obama Doctrine. Sony Stark photo

By LEON T. HADAR

Wishful thinkers who had expected President Obama to lay out a new U.S. grand strategy for the Middle East – the so-called Obama Doctrine – during his much-anticipated address at the State Department on Thursday were bound to be disappointed.

That post-1945 American presidents were able to enunciate a series of U.S. “doctrines” to help mobilize support at home and abroad for American policy in the Middle East reflected a reality in which Washington – driven by pressures of the Cold War and the Arab-Israeli conflict – was advancing a set of core strategic goals that seemed to be aligned with U.S. interests and values.

The “good guys” deserving U.S. protection and support were the “moderate” Arab regimes that were supporting American (and Western) interests, providing access to the region’s oil resources, and seeking some form of coexistence with Israel. In that context, it is important to remember that until the administration of President George W. Bush started advancing its Freedom Agenda, no administration declared that spreading democracy was a core U.S. interest in the region.

The current political upheaval in the Middle East is just the latest and most dramatic in a series of changes that have been transforming the region since the end of the Cold War and that are making it more difficult for any U.S. president to articulate a set a principles that could guide policy in an area of the world that has been drawing in more U.S. military and economic resources.

Indeed, Obama’s speech only helped to demonstrate the failure on the part of the president and other officials and lawmakers to provide a clear rationale for U.S. intervention in the Middle East. Hence, Obama was trying to draw the outline of a revisionist narrative in which the goals of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia were aligned with U.S. interests and values – despite the fact that the demonstrators there ended up ousting from power staunch pro-American allies.

And while most Americans would probably applaud Obama’s call for protecting individual rights, freedom of religion, the emancipation of women, and the promotion of free markets in Egypt and other Arab countries, there are no indications that the majority of the people who are driving the change that supports these principles.

If anything, considering the findings of several opinion polls conducted in the Middle East, Arab governments who will be more responsive to their people’s aspirations are probably going to be less inclined to move in the direction set by Obama and to embrace policies that will be less favorable to the interests of the U.S. and Israel.

Reiterating – as Obama did in his speech – that the collapse of the authoritarian regimes in the region doesn’t have to lead to civil wars between religious, ethnic and groups sounds nice. But the experience of Iraq – not to mention Lebanon — suggests otherwise, especially as the struggle between Sunnis and Shiites seems to be spilling over into Bahrain and the rest of the Persian Gulf.

And while in Iraq U.S. policies are helping to put in place a Shiite-led government with ties to Iran, in Bahrain Washington is backing the Saudis in their effort to suppress a Shiite revolt backed by Iran.

In fact, the alliance between the U.S. and the Saudi Arabian theocracy – less democratic than Syria, more corrupt than Libya, the purveyor of radical Islamic values, where women and non-Muslims have no political and other rights — makes a mockery of much of what Obama was saying on Thursday.

Moreover, Obama’s address on Thursday also highlighted what could be construed as a paradox. The more American military and financial commitments in the Middle East keep rising the more the U.S. becomes marginalized in the process.

Indeed, contrary to the hopes articulated by some Arabs and Israelis, Obama’s speech did not amount to the kind of “game changer” that could bring back to life the dormant Palestinian-Israeli peace process. There is very little that the Obama administration could do to change the status-quo in Israel/Palestine. Why pretend otherwise?

Well, perhaps because Obama believes that he does not have any other choice but to continue muddling through in the Middle East from which the U.S. will not be able to extricate itself anytime soon. Hence, Obama’s disjointed response to the upheaval in the Arab World: Grudgingly supporting the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, unenthusiastically backing limited military action in Libya, projecting a nuanced attitude to the unrest in Bahrain, and confounding supporters and opponents in Washington and in the Middle East who tend to project into him the respective fantasies (peacemaker) or nightmares (anti-Israeli).

That may not a doctrine. But then that is not too bad if you consider that his predecessor in office had one. With the single-minded determination required to prevail in ideological combat, W. saw the world through the prism of a great idea – the struggle between good and evil – and tried to impose it on a the complex reality of Iraq where the ethnic and religious identities took precedence over notions of democracy and liberalism.

Obama should be praised for recognizing that what is happening in the Middle East may follow neither the model of Iran in 1979 (radical Islam) nor the outline of Eastern Europe in 1989 (liberal democracy), but could instead generate a mishmash of changes that don’t fit into a linear and coherent pattern. But at some point, the costs of his ad-hocish and accommodating responses to the developments in the region could prove too high to sustain in the long run.

Leon T. Hadar is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy, international trade, the Middle East, and South and East Asia. He is the former United Nations bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post and is currently the Washington correspondent for the Singapore Business Times.
His analyses on global affairs have appeared in many newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as in magazines such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, World Policy Journal, Current History, Middle East Journal, and Mediterranean Quarterly. The broadcast outlets CNN, Fox News, CBC, BBC and VOA have interviewed him. This article first appeared in the Huffington Post.

 

Bibi decries Palestinian violence

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the state of Israel, legally established 63 years ago, continues to extend a hand of peace toward its Arab neighbors. But, he says, the invasion of Israel’s borders Sunday by those who oppose Israel’s very existence is an indication that the hand that’s being offered is being rejected among extremists.

Thousands of Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese attempted, many of them successfully, to breach Israel’s borders on Sunday to mark what the Arab world calls Nakba Day, or “Catastrophe Day” – the day the modern state of Israel was created. Israelis celebrated last Tuesday – the day of independence on the Hebrew calendar.

Ten protesters were killed when Israeli troops and police fired at them as they attempted to illegally enter the country en masse.  Many more were injured.

“I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighboring countries who have turned the day on which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage,” Netanyahu said.

“There is no place for this, for denying the existence of the state of Israel.  No to extremism and no to violence.  The opposite is true.”

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman says that, at one point during the rioting, Palestinians on the West Bank used an ambulance for cover as they threw rocks at Israel troops. The IDF says that the rioters also used flares and firebombs, burned tires and damaged property.

Some of the most violent clashes occurred when hundreds of Syrian rioters infiltrated the Israeli-Syrian border into the village of Majdal Shams where they attacked IDF forces, the IDF says.

The IDF says that, in an attempt to turn the rioters back to Syria, forces fired selectively towards rioters who were targeting security infrastructure.

Rioting was reported, as well, in several locations in the West Bank. The IDF says that, south of Ramallah, in Qalandiya, approximately 600 Palestinians rioted.

There was rioting in the Gaza as well, most notably adjacent to the Erez Crossing where hundreds of Palestinian rioters threw rocks at IDF troops. The crossing, which is used to bring humanitarian supplies into the Gaza, was damaged during the rioting, the IDF says. Soldiers fired at the legs of rioters, the IDF spokesman said, in order to dispurse them and prevent them from entering Israeli territory.

IDF forces also spotted a Palestinian planting an explosive device along the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF says soldiers opened fire hitting the bomber.

Syria condemned the killings as  “criminal acts” by Israel.

Dr. Moustafa Barghout, a Palestinian activist, said the coordinated effort in the West Bank, Gaza and along the Syrian and Lebanese borders was the direct result of the recent unification agreement, reached in Egypt, between Hamas and Fatah, Voice of America reported.

Those who believe that Palestinians have the right to return to Israel after being displaced when it was created heralded Sunday’s protests. MSNBC said they felt that the issue of return would be lost through negotiations and that the clashes put the issue back on the radar.

Israel opposes any suggestion that Palestinians have the right to occupy Israel in large numbers, fearing that a such massive influx of Arabs, many of whom, Israel argues, have no previous connection with the land, would tip the demographics so that Israel would no longer be a Jewish state.

Territory annexation suggestion a bad idea

Kahlon

By GARY BAUMGARTEN

Another Likud minister says if the Palestinians unilaterally declare statehood as they have threatened, Israel should unilaterally annex the territories, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“You declared statehood? No problem. We will also declare…As children say: ‘You started it!’” the story quotes Moshe Kahlon as saying.
The most accurate part of what Kahlon says is “as children say.” Because he, and others in Likud who are making the same argument, are acting as children.

The issue of achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a serious one. Neither side should be acting like children.

Kahlon knows its not a serious suggestion. Annexing the territories would create demographic issues that doesn’t want to confront.

A unilateral declaration by the Palestinians would be scoffed at by the United States and other supporters of Israel who feel that the only satisfactory resolution is one that is negotiated and agreed upon by all parties.

If Israel is to unilaterally declare anything, it should be that peace talks have been scheduled. The Israelis should show up at the table. Whether the Palestinian leadership sends delegates or not.

If Israel does that, the Palestinians have just two choices. Either come to the table to negotiate with Israel. Or refuse to come to the table, which would take away from them the high ground they’ll try to capture by declaring a state.

Joseph’s Tomb tensions remain

Joseph's Tomb. Photo: Jay Williams

A group of young Israelis attempting an unauthorized visit to Joseph’s Tomb is the latest indication of rising tensions over access to the site.

The JTA reports that the IDF and Israeli police tracked the settlers, who were joined by activist Baruch Marzel and MK Michael Ben-Ari. The action followed by days the killing of a West Bank settler by a Palestinian police officer outside the tomb.

Control of the Jewish holy site, in Nablus, is a matter of contention. Palestinian control of Joseph’s Tomb was supposed to be temporary. In October, 2000 the IDF announced that its forces had “temporarily evacauated” the Border Police unit that had guarded the tomb and its holy articles acting upon orders from then Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The decision was prompted by a Palestinian attack on the Israelis guarding the site.

“The responsibility of guarding the area was handed over to the Palestinian forces that obligated to keep the integrity of the site  and prevent any harm to it,” the 2000 IDF statement said.

Ynetnews is reporting that Limor Livnat, the sports and cultural minister whose nephew, Ben-Yosef Livnat was killed by the Palestinian police officer, is calling upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open the site up to Jewish worshipers again.

Palestinian cops fire on Jewish worshipers

Jewish worshipers leaving Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus where they had gone to mark the end of Passover were fired upon by Palestinian police. One person, a nephew of a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, was killed. Four others were wounded, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Palestinian youth clashed with Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers threw rocks at Palestinians after the shootings.

In another incident, the Palestinian News and Info Agency reports that Jewish settlers Sunday attacked a Palestinian school bus on a field trip between Ramallah and Jerusalem breaking out most of the buses windows with rocks.

Arabs attack Jewish shepherd, then complain to cops

ISRAEL TODAY

JERUSALEM – Israel National News is reporting an attack on a Jewish shepherd in Samaria that characterizes the absurd situation that the Jewish residents of the West Bank often find themselves in.

The incident began  when a shepherd from the small Jewish village of Givat Ronen was tending his sheep on a hilltop not far from the Palestinian town of Nablus.

According to the report, a group of Arab men suddenly approached and attacked the Jewish man, prompting him to call for help. A number of neighbors from Givat Ronen immediately answered the call and fought back against the Arab attackers.

At this point, the Arabs called upon the Israeli police to come protect them from the Jewish settlers, despite the fact that they had initiated the confrontation.

This sequence of events is repeated on almost a daily basis in Judea and Samaria in an ongoing effort to present the Jews of the area in a negative light, both to the international community and to the rest of Israel.

That effort has been paying off, even in Israel, where average Israelis living in suburban areas like Greater Tel Aviv largely view Jewish settlers as extremists and an obstacle to peace in the region.

Article courtesy of Israel Today Magazine.

 

Stalemate over peace

Ashwari/By Carsten Sohn

By GARY BAUMGARTEN

It’s becoming a familiar refrain.

The Palestinians want their own state. The Quartet; the EU, Russia, the USA and the UN, push for an agreement.

The Israelis want to negotiate. The Palestinians claim they do. But not so long as the Israelis continue to build on the West Bank.

Stalemate.

Now, a PLO official is rejecting out-of-hand a proposal being drafted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The AFP quotes Hanan Ashrawi as saying the plan is a “reinvention of Israeli occupation.”

The plan, mind you, hasn’t even been released yet. Ashrawi is rejecting based on reports of possible pieces of the plan that have been leaked.

Stalemate.

Those leaked reports, if accurate, reflect a proposed resolution. That’s what happens in negotiations. One side proposes. The other side counter-proposes. Somewhere along the way there is a give and take. And then, hopefully, as a result of the negotiations, there is, ultimately, an agreement. But the Palestinian leadership, isn’t interested in first seeing the proposal, then counter proposing. Any proposal, the report says, that doesn’t give them everything they want, will be rejected.

Stalemate.

The Palestinian game plan, it seems, is to say “no” to anything Israel offers even before it’s offered. In the hopes of getting the UN to believe that Israel is being unreasonable and uninterested in a negotiated settlement. In the hopes that a Palestinian state, with boundaries to their liking, will be declared and imposed. Leaving the Israelis out of the equation.

It’s not a strategy likely to work. Because, even an Obama administration that’s viewed as less-than-friendly toward Israel by many Israelis, isn’t likely to favor a non-negotiated settlement.

Stalemate.

The Palestinians want a full and unconditional withdrawal from the West Bank of all Israelis, who they argue are illegally occupying land. The Israelis argue that ownership of the land’s in dispute. But even if they were successful in displacing about half-a-million Jews, a question remains. Would that actually result in a peace?

Given that the complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza in the name of peace hasn’t stopped the rocket attacks, launched, literally, from land the Israelis abandoned, one must wonder.

Israel is placed in a poor light even when it makes a complete withdrawal. Palestinians fire rockets into Israel. Israel retaliates. Israel gets criticized. Because its military prowess and weapons arsenal so surpasses that of the Palestinians. Palestinians who wanted them to leave in the name of peace. Then continued to attack when they did.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the United States Congress next month. Perhaps, then, he will detail his plan for a negotiated peace. Chances are, whatever he says, will be immediately rejected as unpalatable and a non-starting point by Ashrawi and company.

Stalemate.

Gary Baumgarten is editor of The Jewish Reporter.