Can We Please Stop Talking about Hasbarah? (Jerusalem Post)

A Dose of Nuance: Can we please stop talking about ‘hasbara’?

The problem is not with how Israel tells the story, but with how the Western world has grown tired of Israel.

By DANIEL GORDIS \  11/06/2014 15:02

It's almost invariably the first question during the Q&A session.

Whether I'm speaking in the US or Australia, Israel or Europe, at a JCC, a book fair, a synagogue or a federation - someone always asks it. At Limmud or a university, too. It makes no difference. Someone invariably asks, "Why does Israel consistently do such a terrible job of telling its own story? You people do so many things so well. Why can't you do hasbara [public diplomacy]?" 

In fairness to Israel, I think the Foreign Ministry has, in fact, gotten a bit better at it. We've been represented in recent years by several ambassadors to the US, for example, who have done excellent work. During this summer's war, the IDF was tweeting furiously - at times predictably and foolishly, but at times thoughtfully. At the very minimum, the IDF was at least giving Twitter users who wanted Israel's side of the story some basic material to work with.

All the progress notwithstanding, though, I often sympathize with those people asking the question. We’re better, but not good enough; despite the justice of our cause, we do at times seem utterly incapable of telling our story compellingly.

Many wonder why. So, too, did I.

But the next time someone asks me that question, I’m going to change my answer. No longer am I going to recount the history of when Israel apparently stopped investing as heavily in hasbara, and no longer am I going to try to explain that our story is a complex one, not readily reduced to sound bites.

Instead, I’m going to remind the questioner of whats happening in Israel, and why, no matter what we do, hasbara is essentially useless and hopeless. It is so utterly useless, in fact, that I think we just ought to drop the concept and the term.

The notion behind hasbara is that if you only tell your story in a sufficiently compelling and powerful way, some people will “get it,” and Israel will no longer be tied to the proverbial whipping post of the international media.

But after what happened on October 22, does anyone still believe that? As is well-known, a Palestinian driver with a terrorist background (he had spent time in Israeli jail for terrorism, and was a family relation of a former head of Hamas’s military wing) plowed into a group of innocent pedestrians at a light rail stop, killing two people (a baby, Chaya Zissel Braun, who died just hours later, and 22-year-old Karen Yemima Mosquera, who succumbed to her wounds after several days) and wounding six others. When the driver tried to escape, he was shot and killed by police.

A horrible story, but a simple one.

Yet how did the international media report it? The initial AP headline, changed following an outcry, was “Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem.” Yes, you read that correctly. As far as the headline was concerned, the story was that Israeli police shot a guy. That he had tried to kill people, that he had intentionally run them over and wounded several of them grievously, that he was a known terrorist – all that was apparently irrelevant to the headline. All the initial AP headline chose to note was that “those Israelis” had shot another Palestinian

Tell me – what good would hasbara have done? The AP eventually relented and revised their headline (amazingly, though, the URL of their post – news.yahoo.com/ israeli-police-shoot-man-east-jerusalem- 153643679.html – retained the original headline for a while, even after they revised the text), but Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch (so hostile to Israel that even its founder, Robert Bernstein, ended up repudiating the very organization he had founded), has not relented. Immediately after the attack, he tweeted: “Palestinian deadly crash into train stop. Israel calls it ‘terrorist attack... typical of Hamas.’” Note the implication behind Roth’s language: Was it a terrorist attack? Well, the Israelis say so.

Days later, when the second victim died, Roth continued in his stance: “Second fatality from Palestinian who drove car into Jerusalem train stop. Police treating it as ‘purposeful attack.’” Those Israelis, again... “treating it” as a “purposeful attack.” What would Mr.

Roth call it? Does anyone imagine that any hasbara would have influenced Roth’s poisonous hatred for Israel? When Karen Yemima Mosquera was buried, The Guardian headline read: “Jerusalem car crash funerals held.”

Car crash? And underlining the headline, The Guardian notes that she was killed “when a car driven by a Palestinian man veered onto a Jerusalem pavement crowded with pedestrians.”

What good would hasbara have done? A memo from the US Consulate in Jerusalem (the consulate has since removed the memo from its website) referred to the attack as a “traffic incident.”

Would hasbara have changed that? Let’s not kid ourselves. Israel makes plenty of mistakes and does many foolish things – just like any other country.

But it is also viciously pilloried in the international press, as the response to last week’s horrific events make clear.

The problem is not with how Israel tells the story, but with how the Western world has grown tired of Israel. There are many reasons for this, but hasbara is not the answer.

No one has explained this phenomenon better than award-winning Israeli journalist Matti Friedman.

“You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were – the pool into which the world spits.”

Precisely. And would hasbara – even the best we might imagine – have any impact on that? Obviously not. So can we please not talk about hasbara anymore? Let’s stop asking why the Israeli government is so incompetent at telling its story, and focus on the question that matters.

Let’s start asking instead: Why has the international community’s moral compass become so utterly dysfunctional?

The writer is senior vice president, Koret Distinguished Fellow and chairman of the core curriculum at Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college, in Jerusalem. His latest book, Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, was recently released by NextBook.

Students for Justice in Palestine Internal Document Revealed by AMCHA Calls for Illegal Action Against Jewish & Pro-Israel Events

TAKE ACTION: Please join AMCHA in writing and/or calling the Presidents of Universities with active SJP chapters to ask that they remain alerted to violations of Jewish and pro-Israel rights to freedom of assembly and expression by SJP chapters.  For your convenience, we have published a list of contact information for Universities with active SJP chapters.  

Upon discovery of a disturbing internal SJP document revealed by AMCHA Initiative, 15 Jewish and education advocacy groups wrote to the presidents of more than 100 universities with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters to warn them of the strategy outlined for disrupting pro-Israel student events – conduct which is subject to prosecution and conviction under state criminal laws.
 
The foundational document of the SJP group at Binghamton University (SUNY), entitled "Declaration of Principles and Strategies," has a section called, “With Regards to Tactics and Strategies Used to Counter Zionist Normalization,” which spells out a strategy for disrupting pro-Israel events. Specifically, the document details the engagement of, “non-violent disruption of the event in question" depending on the number of SJP members present. The disruption of on-campus events violates New York State law.  Sec. 240.20 of the New York Penal Law outlaws “disorderly conduct,” which includes “without lawful authority,…disturb(ing) any lawful assembly or meeting of persons.”  All states have similar laws restricting the disruption of public events if this same tactic were to be employed by other SJP chapters.
 
The document is extremely troubling in that it outlines a clear strategy for targeting, ostracizing, harassing and silencing students. It advocates behavior consistent with “anti-Zionist normalization” campaigns being waged by SJP groups across the country, whose explicit purpose is to delegitimize all pro-Israel perspectives and actively suppress their expression on college campuses.  These campaigns have resulted in dozens of Jewish and pro-Israel students’ events being disrupted and Jewish and pro-Israel students feeling harassed, intimidated, and stripped of their constitutionally-protected freedom of expression and association.
 
See HERE for a sample of Israel-related events that have been disrupted by SJP students on more than 20 U.S. campuses including:

  • On March 12th, 2013 at DePaul University, SJP members and other protesters shut down the event of Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas (sponsored by Center for Jewish Law & Judaic Studies) with their disturbances. The event ended early.
  • On Mar 3rd, 2014 at Vassar College, at an event to discuss a class trip to Israel, Jewish students who spoke were heckled, drowned out with a finger snapping noise and loudly laughed at.
  • On Sept 9, 2014 at Loyola University-Chicago, SJP members verbally assaulted their Jewish peers, yelling insults at them before creating a human wall to block Hillel’s attempt to advertise Birthright trips to Israel.

The illegal and uncivil strategy of violating Jewish and pro-Israel students' freedom of expression and assembly has to stop.

You may see the letter to Presidents of universities with active SJP Chapters HERE.

You may see the letter to Binghamton University President Harvey G. Stenger HERE.
 
TAKE ACTION: Please join AMCHA in writing and/or calling the Presidents of Universities with active SJP chapters to ask that they remain alerted to violations of Jewish and pro-Israel rights to freedom of assembly and expression by SJP chapters.  For your convenience, we have published a list of contact information for Universities with active SJP chapters.  

You may either:

  • write to a specific university on the list you are affiliated with either as a student, relative of a student, donor or alumni. You may see the list HERE.
  • write a bulk email to all presidents on the list by copying and pasting these batch email addresses - press HERE for bulk email.

Abbas’s Palestine is the Real Apartheid State, by Jonathan Tobin

In recent weeks, critics of Israel have been crying foul over the fact that Jews have moved into some apartments in East Jerusalem neighborhoods.The fact that the homes were legally purchased and that the new residents were merely attempting to reside in the country’s as-yet-undivided capital was seen as irrelevant since the presence of Jews in Arab-majority areas is considered to be an obstacle to a potential partition of the city should a peace agreement with the Palestinians ever be signed. But even if we were to concede that such moves do infuriate Arabs, surely no one, not even Israel’s most adamant opponents, would be comfortable with laws that banned the presence of Jews in parts of Jerusalem or anywhere else. Right? Wrong.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas reacted to the fact that Jews have bought homes from Palestinians in parts of Jerusalem by vowing to toughen existing PA laws that forbid such sales. Yes, that’s right. In “Palestine”—be it the existing PA or Hamas states or the future independent Palestinian state that Europe is so eager to recognize even without it having to make peace with Israel—it is against the law to sell land or a home to a Jew.

The question of whether Jews should move into majority Arab neighborhoods or towns is a question of judgment. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected any peace deal that would give them an independent state and a share of Jerusalem since it would require them to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. It is possible to argue that the two communities are better off living separately. But voluntary separation is one thing, legal restrictions on the right of Jews to live in some areas is something very different.

After all, in the State of Israel, which is routinely and falsely accused of being an “apartheid state,” Arabs may live where they please. When some areas have tried to restrict sales of property to Arabs, Israel’s courts have ruled that this is inconsistent with the principles enunciated in the country’s basic laws. While Israel is not a perfect society and the Arab minority faces challenges that are often rooted in the century-old war over the land, the principle of equality before the law for all citizens is upheld.

But in “Palestine,” not only are there no courts or government to prevent individuals or groups from discriminating, but there it is the government itself that both promulgates and ruthlessly enforces such bias.

As the Times of Israel reports:

According to the official Palestinian Wafa news agency, Abbas on Monday imposed a sentence of hard labor for life on “anyone diverting, renting or selling land to an enemy state or one of its subjects.”

Jordan’s penal code number 16 article 114, applicable in the Palestinian territories, previously subscribed “temporary hard labor” to perpetrators of the crime.

In practice, this means Jews may not buy, rent, or sell land. In other words, should the state of Palestine that sits in the United Nations ever become a real sovereign country it will be the apartheid state, not democratic Israel.

The purpose of such laws is to thwart the Zionist enterprise by which Jews have returned to their ancient homeland by legally purchasing land. But the motivating factor here is Jew hatred. Should Palestine ever become a reality, the neighborhoods where Jews have bought homes would be part of it. At that point these few Jews would be no threat to the Arab majority. But the Palestinian vision of statehood remains one in which Israel would be a country where Jews and Arabs live while Palestine will be a Judenrein—Jew-free—entity.

The point here is that peace is possible if both sides are prepared to compromise and recognize each other’s legitimacy. But the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority of Abbas, that both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry constantly praise as a true peace partner for Israel, is not only not interested in compromising. It is also promulgating and attempting to enforce laws that are based in anti-Semitic incitement. Were Israel to ban Arabs from moving into homes they owned in West Jerusalem, it would prompt an international outcry and condemnations from the United States. But instead America condemns Jews who move into Arab neighborhoods and stays silent when Abbas seeks to treat those who sell to Jews as criminals.

Instead of the Jewish home buying in Jerusalem being an obstacle to peace as Israel’s critics claim, it is the Arab attempt to criminalize selling to a Jew that best illustrates why peace is not yet possible

Full transcript of George Deek’s speech in Oslo 9/27/14

http://youtu.be/8m6ux-IeNo4

Topic: "My family's story in 1948 - fleeing Jaffa, building a future in Israel."
George Deek, Israel's vice ambassador to Norway, giving a lecture in the House of Litterature in Oslo, during a MIFF event 27 September 2014.

When I walk in the streets of my home town Jaffa, I am often reminded of the year 1948. The Alleys of the old city, the houses in Ajami neighborhood, the fishing nets at the port – they all seem to tell different stories about the year that has changed my city forever. One of those stories is about one of the oldest families in this ancient city – the Deek family – my own.

Before 1948 my grandfather George, after whom I’m named, worked as an electrician, at the Rotenberg Electricity Company. He was not very interested in politics. And since Jaffa was a mixed city, he naturally had some Jewish friends. In fact, his friends at the electricity company even taught him Yiddish, making him one the first Arabs to ever speak the language. In 1947 He got engaged to Vera – My grandmother – and together they had plans to build a family in the same city where the Deek family has lived for about 400 years – Jaffa.

But a few months later, those plans changed, literally overnight. When the U.N. approved the establishment of Israel, and a few months later the State of Israel was established, the Arab leaders warned the Arabs that the Jews are planning to kill them if they stay home, and they used the Deir Yassin massacre as an example. They told everyone: ‘Leave your houses, and run away’. They said they will need just a few days, in which with 5 armies they promised to destroy the newly born Israel.

My family, horrified by what might happen, decided to flee, with most others. A priest was rushed to the Deek family’s house, and he wedded George and Vera my grandparents, in the house, in haste. My grandmother did not even have a chance to get a proper dress. After their sudden wedding, the entire family started fleeing north, towards Lebanon. But when the war was over, the Arabs failed to destroy Israel. My family was at the other side of the border, and it seemed that the fate of the brothers and sisters of the Deek family was to be scattered around the globe. Today, I have relatives in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Dubai, the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Australia, and more.
 
The story of my family is just one – and probably not the worst – among the many tragic stories of the year 1948. And to be frank, you don’t need to be an anti-Israeli to acknowledge the humanitarian disaster of the Palestinians in 1948, namely the Nakba. The fact that I have to skype with relatives in Canada who don’t speak Arabic, or a cousin in an Arab country that still has no citizenship there, despite being a third generation– is a living testimony to the tragic consequences of the war.
 
According to the U.N. 711 thousand Palestinians were displaced, we’ve heard that before – some fled and some forcefully expelled. At the same time, because of the establishment of Israel, 800 thousand Jews were intimidated into leaving the Arab world, leaving it mostly empty of Jews. As we’ve heard before, atrocities from both sides were not uncommon. But it seems that this conflict was not the only one during the 19th and 20th century that lead to expulsion and transfer.
 
From 1821 to 1922, 5 million Muslims were expelled from Europe, mostly to Turkey. In the 90’s Yoguslavia broke apart, leading to 100,000 people dead and about 3 million displaced. From 1919 to 1949, during the Visla operation between Poland and Ukraine, 150,000 people died, and 1.5 million were displaced. Following World War II and the Potsdam convention, between 12-17 million Germans were displaced. When India and Pakistan were established, about 15 million people were transferred.

This trend also exists in the Middle East, For example the displacement of 1.1 million Kurds by the Ottomans, 2.2 million Christians who were expelled from Iraq, And as we speak today, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and even Muslims are being killed and expelled in a rate of 1,000 people per month, following the rise of Radical Islam. The chances of any of those groups to return to their homes, is almost non-existent.

So why is it then, Why is it that the tragedies of the Serbs, the European Muslims, the Polish refugees or the Iraqi Christians are not commemorated? How come the displacement of the Jews from the Arab world was completely forgotten, while the tragedy of the Palestinians, the Nakba, is still alive in today’s politics? It seems to me to be so, because the Nakba has been transformed from a humanitarian disaster to a political offensive. The commemoration of the Nakba is no longer about remembering what happened, but about resenting the mere existence of the state of Israel.
 
It is demonstrated most clearly in the date chosen to commemorate it: The Nakba day is not April 9th – the day of the Deir Yassin massacre, Or July 13th – the day of the expulsion from Lod. The Nakba day was set on May 15th – the day after Israel proclaimed its independence.
By that the Palestinian leadership declared that the disaster of the Nakba is not the expulsion, the abandoned villages or the exile – the Nakba in their eyes in the creation of Israel. They are saddened less by the humanitarian catastrophe that befell on Palestinians, and more by the revival of the Jewish state. In other words: they do not mourn the fact that my cousins are Jordanians, they mourn the fact that I am an Israeli.
 
By doing so, The Palestinians have become slaves to the past, held captive by the chains of resentment, prisoners in the world of frustration and hate. But friends, The evident yet simple truth is – that in order not to be reduced to sorrow and bitterness, we must look forward. To put it more clearly: To mend the past, first you have to secure the future. This is something I learned from my music teacher, Avraham Nov.

When I was 7 years old I joined the marching band of the Arab-Christian community in Jaffa. That’s where I met Avraham, my music teacher, who taught me to play the flute and later the clarinet. I was good. Avraham is a holocaust survivor, and his entire family was murdered by the Nazis. He was the only one who managed to survive, because a certain Nazi officer found him gifted in playing the harmonica, so he took him home during the war to entertain his guests.
When the war was over and he was left alone, he could have easily sat, and wept and cried over the greatest crime of man against man in history, and over the fact that he left alone. But he didn’t, he looked forward not backwards; He chose life, not death; Hope , rather than despair.

Avraham came to Israel, got married, built a family, and he started teaching the same thing that saved his life – music. He became the music teacher of hundreds and thousands of children all over the country. And when he saw the tension between Arabs and Jews, this holocaust survivor decided to teach hope through music to hundreds of Arab children like me.
Holocaust survivors like Avraham are among the most extraordinary people you can find.
I was always curious to understand how they were able to survive, knowing what they knew, seeing what they saw. But throughout the 15 years I have known Avraham when I was his student, he never spoke about his past, except once – When I demanded to know.
What I came to realize was that Avraham was not the only one, and that many Holocaust survivors did not speak about those years, about the holocaust, even to their families, sometimes for decades, or even a lifetime.
 
Only when they had secured the future did they allow themselves to look back at the past. Only when they had built a time of hope they permitted themselves to remember the days of despair. They built the future in their old-new home, the state of Israel. And under the shadows of their greatest tragedy, Jews were able to build a country that leads the world in medicine, agriculture and technology –Why? Because they looked forward.
 
Friends, this is a lesson to every nation that wishes to overcome a tragedy – including the Palestinians. If the Palestinians wish to redeem the past, they need to first focus on securing a future, on building a world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be. And the first step in that direction, without a doubt, is to end the shameful treatment of the Palestinian refugees.

In the Arab world, the Palestinian refugees – including their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren – are still not settled, aggressively discriminated against, and in most cases denied citizenship and basic human rights. Why is it, that my relatives in Canada are Canadian citizens, while my relatives in Syria, Lebanon or the gulf countries – who were born there and know no other home – are still considered refugees? Clearly, the treatment of the Palestinians in the Arab countries is the greatest oppression they experience anywhere.
And the collaborators in this crime are no other than the international community and the United Nations.

Rather than doing its job and help the refugees build a life, the international community is feeding the narrative of the victimhood. While there is one U.N. agency in charge of all refugees in the world – the UNHCR, another agency was established to deal only with the Palestinian ones – UNRWA. This is no coincidence – while the goal of the UNHCR is to help refugees establish a new home, establish a future and end their status as refugees, the goal of UNRWA is opposite: to preserve their status as refugees, and prevent them from being able to start new lives. The International community cannot seriously expect the refugee problem to be solved, when it is collaborating with the Arab world in treating the refugees’ as political pawns, denying them the basic rights they deserve.
 
Wherever the Palestinian refugees were granted equal rights – they prospered and contributed to their society – In South America, in the U.S., and even in Israel. In fact, Israel was one of the few countries that automatically gave full citizenship and equality for all Palestinians in it after ‘48. And we see the results: despite all the challenges, the Arab citizens of Israel built a future. Israeli Arabs are the most educated Arabs in the world, with the best living standards and opportunities in the region. Arabs serve as judges in the Supreme Court; Some of the best doctors in Israel are Arabs, working in almost every hospital in the country; There are 13 Arab members of parliament who enjoy the right to criticize the government – a right that they exhaust to the fullest – protected by the freedom of speech; Arabs win popular reality shows;
And you can even find Arab diplomats – and one of them is standing in front of you.
 
Today, when I walk the streets of Jaffa, I see the old buildings and the old port, But I also see children going to school and university; I see flourishing businesses; and I see a vibrant culture.
In short, despite the fact that we still have a long road ahead of us as a minority, we have a future in Israel.
 
This brings me to my next point- The time has come to put an end to the culture of hatred and incitement- because Anti-Semitism, I believe, is a threat to Muslims and Christians, as much as for Jews. I arrived to Norway just over two years ago, and here was the first time that I interacted with Jews as a minority community. I’m usually… used to seeing them as a majority. And I have to say, it looks very familiar.

I grew up in a similar environment, in the Arab-Christian community in Jaffa. I was part of the Orthodox Christians, who are part of the Christian community, who are part of the Arab minority, in the Jewish State of Israel, in the Muslim Middle East. It’s like those Russian dolls, you open a big one and there’s a smaller one inside? I’m the smallest piece. A Jew in Norway or an Arab in Israel, being a minority means that you are always a part of a small community where everyone cares for each other and supports each other; It’s a beautiful thing to know that no matter what, you always have a community that will care about you.

Being part of a minority community has been a blessing throughout my life. But friends, the life of a minority is also a life of constant struggle for fair treatment. Sometimes you are discriminated against, and might even be a victim of hate crimes. Even in a democracy like Israel, being an Arab minority is not always easy. Just over a year ago, a bunch of price tag bullies walked into the Arab Christian cemetery in Jaffa, and they desecrated the graves with writings “death to the Arabs”, and one on the graves in that cemetery, was my father’s.
Being a minority my friends is a challenge anywhere, because being a minority means being different. And no nation has ever paid a heavier price for being a minority, being different, than the Jewish people.

The history of the Jewish people added many words to the human vocabulary: words like expulsion, forced conversion, inquisition, ghetto, pogrom, not to mention the word holocaust.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explains accurately, that the Jews suffered throughout the ages, because they were different. Because they were the most significant non-Christian minority in Europe, And today the most significant non-Muslim minority in the Middle East; But friends, in fact – aren’t we all different? The truth is: being different is what makes us human! Every person, every culture, every religion is unique, and therefore irreplaceable. And a Europe, or a Middle East, that has no room for Jews, has no room for humanity.
 
Friends, let’s not forget- Anti-Semitism may begin with Jews, but it never ends with Jews.
Jews were not the only ones to be forcefully converted under the inquisition; Hitler made sure that gypsies and homosexuals, among others, suffered alongside the Jews; And it is happening now again, this time in the Middle East. The Arab world seems to have forgotten that its greatest days in the last 1,400 years were when it showed tolerance and openness towards those who are different. The genius mathematician Ibn Musa el-Khawazmi was Uzbeki,
The great Philosopher Rumi was Persian, The glorious leader Salah a-din was Kurdish,
The founder of Arab nationalism was Michel Aflaq – a Christian, And the one who brought the Islamic rediscovery of Plato and Aristotle to the rest of the world was Maimonides – a Jew.
 
But rather than reviving the successful approach of tolerance, Arab youth are being taught to hate Jews, using anti-Semitic rhetoric from medieval Europe, mixed with Islamic radicalism.
And once again, what started as hostility towards Jews has become hostility towards anyone who is different. Just last week more than 60,000 Kurds fled from Syria towards Turkey, afraid of being slaughtered. On the same day, 15 Palestinians from Gaza drowned in the sea trying to escape the claws of Hamas; Bahai and Yazidis are at risk. And on top of it all, the ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Middle East is the biggest crime against humanity in the 21st century. In just two decades Christians like me have been reduced from 20% of the population of the Middle East to a mere 4% today. And when we see that the main victims of Islamist violence are Muslims, it is getting clear to everyone – At the end of the day, hate destroys the hater.

So friends, If we wish to succeed in protecting our right to be different, if we want to have a future in that region, I believe we should stand together – Jews, Muslims and Christians: We will fight for the right of Christians everywhere to live their faith without fear, with the same passion with which we will fight for the right of Jews to live without fear. We will fight against Islamophobia, but we need our Muslims partners to join the fight against Christianophobia and Judeophobia. Because the thing at stake is our shared humanity.

I know that this might sound naïve, But I believe that it’s possible, and the only thing that is standing between us and a more tolerant world is fear. When the world changes, people start worrying about what the future holds. This fear makes people shrink themselves into the passive position of victims, rejecting reality, and looking for someone to blame for being behind all this. It is true today as much as it was true in 1948. The Arab world can overcome this mindset, but it requires the courage to think and act differently. This change demands that the Arabs realize that they are not helpless victims, It demands that they open up to self-criticism, and to holding themselves accountable.
 
Up to this day, not a single history book in the Arab world questions the historic mistake of rejecting the establishment of the Jewish state. No prominent Arab academic has come out saying that if the Arabs would’ve accepted the idea of a Jewish state, there would’ve been two states, there would’ve been no war, and there would’ve been no refugees’ problem. I see Israelis like Benny Morris who is with us today, who dare to challenge the narratives of their leadership in Israel, taking personal risks in the quest of a truth that is not always comfortable for their people. But I fail to find their Arab equivalents. I fail to see a debate questioning the wisdom of the destructive leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Hussaini; or the unnecessary war launched by the Arab league in 1948, or any of the wars against Israel, in the years that followed until today; And I fail to see self-criticism in the Palestinian mainstream today about the use of terrorism, the launching of the second intifada, or the rejection of at least two Israeli offers in the last 15 years to end the conflict.

Self-reflection is not a weakness; it is a sign of strength. It brings forth our ability to overcome fear and face reality. It demands us to look sincerely into our decisions, and take responsibility for it. Only the Arabs themselves can change their reality. By stopping the leaning on conspiracy theories and the blaming of outside powers – America, the Jews, the West or whoever – for all the problems; By learning from past mistakes, And by making wiser decisions in the future;
 
Just two days ago the U.S. President Obama stood at the U.N. podium in front of the General Assembly and said: “The task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task – a task for the people of the Middle East themselves. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds”.
 
Lately I’ve read a very interesting article by Lord Sacks about rivalry among brothers in the bible. There are four stories about rival brothers in the book of Genesis: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. Each story ends differently -
In the case of Cain and Abel, Abel lies dead. In the case of Isaac and Ishmael, they are standing together at their father’s grave. In the case of Jacob and Esau, they meet, embrace and go their separate ways.
 
But the case of Joseph ends differently. For those who are not familiar with the story: Joseph was the 11th of Jacob‘s 12 sons and Rachel‘s firstborn, in the land of Canaan. At some stage, because of their jealousy of him, his brothers decide to sell him to slavery. However, after a while Joseph rose to become the second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh. When famine struck Canaan, Joseph’s father Jacob and Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt. And there, instead of punishing them for what they have done to him, Joseph decides to forgive his brothers.

This was the first recorded event of forgiveness and reconciliation in literature. Joseph provides his brothers with all their needs. They prosper, they grow in numbers, and they become a great nation. At the end of the story, Joseph says to his brothers “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” By that, he meant that by our acts in the present we can shape the future, and by that redeem the past.
 
Jews and Palestinians, we might not be brothers in faith, but we certainly are brothers in fate. And I believe that just like in the story of Joseph, through making the right choices, by choosing to focus on the future, we can redeem our past. Yesterday’s enemies can be tomorrow’s friends. It happened between Israel and Germany, Israel and Egypt, Israel and Jordan. It is time to start in making a ray of hope in the relations between Israelis and Palestinians, so that we can put an end to the replaying of old grievances, and focus on our future and the exciting possibilities it holds for us all, if we’d only dare.

I still didn’t tell you the rest of my family’s story in 1948. After a long journey towards Lebanon, most of it by foot, my grandparents George and Vera reached Lebanon. They stayed there for many months. And while there, my grandmother gave birth to her first son, my uncle Sami. When the war was over, they realized that they had been lied to – The Arabs did not win the war, as promised. And at the same time, the Jews did not kill all the Arabs as they were told would happen.

My grandfather looked around him and saw nothing but a dead-end life as refugees. He looked at his young wife Vera – not even 18 yet, and his newborn son, and knew that in a place stuck in the past with no ability to look forward, there is no future for his family. While his brothers and sisters saw their future in Lebanon and other Arab and Western countries, he thought otherwise. He wanted to go back to Jaffa, his hometown. Because he worked with Jews in the past and was a friend to them, he was not brainwashed with hatred.
 
My grandfather George did what few others would have dared – he reached out to those that his community saw as their enemies. He got hold of one of his old friends from the electricity company, and asked for his help to get back. And that friend, of whom I’ve heard through my father’s stories, and never knew his name, not only was able and willing to help my grandfather get back, But in an extraordinary act of grace, he even helped him get his old job back at what has become the Israeli electricity company, Making him one the very few Arabs who work there.

Today, among my siblings and cousins we have accountants, teachers, insurance agents, Hi-tech engineers, diplomats, factory managers, university professors, doctors, lawyers, investment consultants, managers of top Israeli companies, architects and even electricians.
The reason that my family have succeeded in life, the reason that I’m standing here as an Israeli diplomat, and not as a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon – is because my grandfather had the courage to take a decision that was unthinkable to others. Rather than falling into despair, he found hope where no one dared to look for it; He chose to live among those who were considered his enemies, and to make them his friends; For that, I and my family owe him and my grandmother eternal gratitude.

The story of the Deek family should serve as a source of inspiration to the Palestinian people.
We cannot change the past. But we can secure a future for our next generations, if we want to mend the past some day; We can help the Palestinian refugees have a normal life;
We can be sincere about our past, and learn from our mistakes; And we can unite – Muslims, Jews and Christians – to protect our right to be different, and by that preserve our humanity;
Indeed we can’t change the past, But if we do all that, we will change the future.

Why is Israel Portrayed as the Worst Country in the World?

This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.

When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.

You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.

Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. They may convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem, and indeed the Jews’ fault. But journalists engage in these fantasies at the cost of their credibility and that of their profession. And, as Orwell would tell us, the world entertains fantasies at its peril.

Matti Friedman's work as a reporter has taken him to Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Moscow, and Washington, DC, and to conflicts in Israel and the Caucasus. His first book, The Aleppo Codex, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and his second, about Israeli infantrymen holding an isolated outpost in Lebanon, will be published next year. He lives in Jerusalem.

Richard Kemp: Risks of Withdrawal from West Bank!

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4806/israel-security

Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.

The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.

There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.

Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.

If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.

Nor can there be a one-state solution with democratic rights for all because that would spell the end of the one and only democratic and Jewish state and the beginning of a new autocracy and the next exodus of the Jews.

For those who do not want that to happen, the harsh reality is continuation of the status quo. But the status quo can be significantly improved, by gradual and progressive increases to PA autonomy in the West Bank, to the point where a state exists in virtually all aspects other than military security. That progress can only be achieved through low-key bilateral negotiations with concessions from both sides. It cannot be achieved by Kerry-like peace processes that demand big sweeping strokes to deliver groundbreaking, legacy-delivering announcements.

Nor can such progress be achieved in the face of a Western world that reflexively condemns every move Israel makes and encourages the Palestinian Arabs to believe that the fantasy of a two-state solution or a one-state solution on their terms can become a reality in the foreseeable future.

As so often in the paradoxical world of geopolitics, the well-meaning actions and words of national leaders and international organizations have unintended consequences. For the Israel-Palestine situation, the unintended consequences of Western actions are to deprive Palestinian Arabs of increased freedom and prosperity and to undermine the security of the only stable, liberal democratic state in the Middle East. If the West actually wants to help, its leaders need to face up to this unpalatable truth rather than continue to delude the Palestinian people as well as themselves.

Instead, Western leaders should use all available diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel and while they continue to brainwash future generations to believe in that goal.

Colonel Richard Kemp spent most his 30-year career in the British Army commanding front-line troops in fighting terrorism and insurgency in hotspots including Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. From 2002 - 2006 he heading the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Prime Minister's Office.

CAMERA Campus Programs

http://www.cameraoncampus.org/campus-programs/ccap.html#.VEpNEL5H3u0

http://www.frontpagemag.com/upload/pamphlets/mhgc.pdf

We need to take action and teach college students about Israel and the Middle East. Unfortunately in the last few years, college campuses have become havens for Muslim Students Association and "Students for Justice in Palestine "with their "Apartheid Weeks" Throughout the school year and across the country, the two groups sponsor extremist speakers who support terrorism against Israel and call for an Islamic jihad against the United States. 

Please encourage your children and grandchildren to become activists on their campus.

It's Time to Beat the Jew Haters by Caroline Glick

http://carolineglick.com/its-time-to-beat-the-jew-haters/

Jews hold know by now that turning the other cheek and going through life in denial does not work. In much of the world "right" is the result of "might" and weakness is exploited. Those of us who support liberal values and want to preserve the freedom we have because we live in a democracy with separation of church and state, with founding fathers who admired the Jews, need to stand up now before it is too late. We are blessed to live at a time in which Jews have been able to regain sovereignty over our ancient homeland after 2000 years of wandering.

Please stand up for Israel and stand up for the rights of women, religious freedom, artistic freedom (but not the freedom to spread hate) and equal rights before the law.

Submission: Ayaan Hersi Ali, Bret Stephens & Thane Rosenbaum

Last night I attended one of the many outstanding programs produced by the Forum on Law, Culture & Society, directed by Thane Rosenbaum.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an outspoken defender of women's rights in Islamic societies. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, she escaped and arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands, where she served as a member of the Dutch Parliament. In 2004, with director Vincent Van Gogh, she made the documentary film, Submission, a film about the oppression of women in Islamic cultures for which Van Gogh was murdered. She established the AHA foundation to help oppressed women and has written three books. 

Bret Stephens is the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and editor of the WSJ who appears often on television.  In my opinion, he is the most brilliant political thinker and commentator we have in the US today.

Thane Rosenbaum is the author of many books and essays who is a senior fellow of the NYU School of Law. Every year the Forum has a film series which he organizes and for which he leads the post-screening discussions.

I hope that you will all be able to watch this program soon on JSSTV.org, (formerly Shalom TV).

People have succeeded in silencing Ayaan's voice on college campuses like Brandeis. That's because many "liberals" do not allow free speech if it does not fit with their world view. I fear that we have a generation of college graduates who only know the propaganda they hear, funded by Arab oil money

The Jewish Press: Behind the Curtain of Anti-Israel Rage

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/behind-the-curtain-of-anti-israel-rage/2014/10/22/0/

Zola, wrote Podhoretz, “charged that the persecutors of Dreyfus were using anti-Semitism as a screen for their reactionary political designs.”

Podhoretz then delivered his own J’Accuse:

“I charge here that the anti-Semitic attacks on Israel…are also a cover. They are a cover for a loss of American nerve. They are a cover for acquiescence in terrorism. They are a cover for the appeasement of totalitarianism.

“And I accuse all those who have joined in these attacks not merely of anti-Semitism but of the broader sin of faithlessness to the interests of the United States and indeed to the values of Western civilization as a whole.”

Dershowitz: Metropolitan Opera Stifles Free Exchange of Ideas about a Propaganda Opera

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4808/klinghoffer-opera

One of the terrorists—played by the only Black lead singer—is portrayed as an overt anti-Semite, expressing hateful tropes against "the Jews". But he is not the killer. Nor, in this opera, is Klinghoffer selected for execution because he is a Jew. Instead, he is picked because he is a loudmouth who can't control his disdain for the Palestinian cause.

At bottom The Death of Klinghoffer—a title deliberately selected to sanitize his brutal murder—is more propaganda than art. It has some artistic moments but the dominant theme is to create a false moral equivalence between terrorism and its victims, between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups, and between the Holocaust and the self-inflicted Nakba. It is a mediocre opera, by a good composer and very bad librettist. But you wouldn't know that from the raucous standing ovations received not only by the performers and chorus master, who deserved them, but also by the composer, who did not. The applause was not for the art. Indeed, during the intermission and on the way out, the word I heard most often was "boring." The over-the-top standing ovations were for the "courage" displayed by all those involved in the production. But it takes little courage to be anti-Israel these days, or to outrage Jews. There were, to be sure, a few brief expressions of negative opinion during the opera, one of which was briefly disruptive, as an audience member repeatedly shouted "Klinghoffer's murder will never be forgiven." He was arrested and removed.

What would require courage would be for the Met to produce an opera that portrayed Mohammad, or even Yassir Arafat, in a negative way. The protests against such portrayals would not be limited to a few shouts, some wheelchairs and a few hundred distant demonstrators. Remember the murderous reaction to a few cartoons several years ago.

Israel's Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean, by Efraim Inbar

by Efraim Inbar
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2014

About 90 percent of Israel's foreign trade is carried out via the Mediterranean Sea, making freedom of navigation in this area critical for the Jewish state's economic well-being. Moreover, the newly found gas fields offshore could transform Israel into an energy independent country and a significant exporter of gas, yet these developments are tied to its ability to secure free maritime passage and to defend the discovered hydrocarbon fields. While the recent regional turmoil has improved Israel's strategic environment by weakening its Arab foes, the East Mediterranean has become more problematic due to an increased Russian presence, Turkish activism, the potential for more terrorism and conflict over energy, and the advent of a Cypriot-Greek-Israeli axis. The erosion of the state order around the Mediterranean also brings to the fore Islamist forces with a clear anti-Western agenda, thus adding a civilizational dimension to the discord.[1]

The East Mediterranean Region

The East Mediterranean is located east of the 20o meridian and includes the littoral states of Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza (a de facto independent political unit), Egypt, Libya, and divided Cyprus. The region, which saw significant superpower competition during the Cold War, still has strategic significance. Indeed, the East Mediterranean is an arena from which it is possible to project force into the Middle East. Important East-West routes such as the Silk Road and the Suez Canal (the avenue to the Persian Gulf and India) are situated there. In addition, the sources for important international issues such as radical Islam, international terrorism and nuclear proliferation are embedded in its regional politics.

The East Mediterranean is also important in terms of energy transit. Close to 5 percent of global oil supply and 15 percent of global liquefied natural gas travels via the Suez Canal while Turkey hosts close to 6 percent of the global oil trade via the Bosporus Straits and two international pipelines. The discovery of new oil and gas deposits off the coasts of Israel, Gaza, and Cyprus and potential for additional discoveries off Syria and Lebanon, is a promising energy development.

Breakdown of the U.S. Security Architecture

The naval presence of the U.S. Sixth Fleet was unrivalled in the post-Cold War period, and Washington maintained military and political dominance in the East Mediterranean.[2] Washington also managed the region through a web of alliances with regional powers. Most prominent were two trilateral relationships, which had their origins in the Cold War: U.S.-Turkey-Israel and U.S.-Egypt-Israel.[3] This security architecture has broken down.

In the post-Cold War era, Ankara entered into a strategic partnership with Jerusalem, encouraged by Washington.[4] The fact that the two strongest allies of the United States in the East Mediterranean cooperated closely on strategic and military issues was highly significant for U.S. interests in the region. Yet, the rise of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) since its electoral victory of November 2002 has led to a reorientation in Turkish foreign policy which, under the AKP, has distanced itself from the West and developed ambitions to lead the Muslim world.[5] With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at its helm, Turkey supports Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot; helps Iran evade sanctions; assists Sunni Islamists moving into Syria and mulls an invasion of Syria; propagates anti-U.S. and anti-Semitic conspiracies while the regime displays increasing authoritarianism at home. Moreover, Turkey's NATO partnership has become problematic, particularly after a Chinese firm was contracted to build a long-range air and anti-missile defense architecture.[6]

Turkish policy, fueled by Ottoman and Islamist impulses, has led to an activist approach toward the Middle East and also to strains in the relationship with Israel. This became evident following the May 2010 attempt by a Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. In October 2010, Turkey's national security council even identified Israel as one of the country's main threats in its official policy document, the "Red Book." These developments fractured one of the foundations upon which U.S. policy has rested in the East Mediterranean.

Stability in the East Mediterranean also benefited from the U.S.-Egyptian-Israeli triangle, which began when President Anwar Sadat decided in the 1970s to switch to a pro-U.S. orientation and subsequently to make peace with Israel in 1979. Egypt, the largest Arab state, carries much weight in the East Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa. Sadat's successor, Husni Mubarak, continued the pro-U.S. stance during the post-Cold War era. The convergence of interests among the United States, Egypt, and Israel served among other things to maintain the Pax Americana in the East Mediterranean.

Yet, the U.S.-Egyptian-Israeli relationship has been under strain since Mubarak's resignation in February 2011. Egypt's military continued its cooperation with Israel to maintain the military clauses of the 1979 peace treaty. But the Muslim Brother-hood, which came to power via the ballot box, was very reserved toward relations with Israel, which the Brotherhood saw as a theological aberration. Moreover, the Brotherhood basically held anti-U.S. sentiments, which were muted somewhat by realpolitik requirements, primarily the unexpected support lent it by the Obama administration.[7]

The Egyptian army's removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in July 2013 further undermined the trilateral relationship since the U.S. administration regarded the move as an "undemocratic" development. Washington even partially suspended its assistance to Egypt in October 2013, causing additional strain in relations with Cairo. This came on the heels of President Obama's cancellation of the Bright Star joint military exercise and the Pentagon's withholding of delivery of weapon systems. The U.S. aid flow has now been tied to "credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically-elected, civilian government through free and fair elections."[8] Israeli diplomatic efforts to convince Washington not to act on its democratic, missionary zeal were only partially successful.[9] These developments have hampered potential for useful cooperation between Cairo, Jerusalem, and Washington.

The turbulence in the Arab world since 2011 has also underscored the erosion in the U.S. position. This is partly due to the foreign policy of the Obama administration that can be characterized as a deliberate, "multilateral retrenchment … designed to curtail the United States' overseas commitments, restore its standing in the world, and shift burdens onto global partners."[10] It is also partly due to Washington's confused, contradictory, and inconsistent responses to the unfolding events of the Arab uprisings.[11] Furthermore, the ill-conceived pledge of military action in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad and the subsequent political acrobatics to avoid following through elicited much ridicule.[12]

This was followed by the November 2013 nuclear deal, hammered out between U.S.-led P5+1 group and Iran, that allows the Islamic Republic to continue enriching uranium as well as weaponization and missiles—the delivery systems—that has been viewed in the East Mediterranean (and elsewhere) as a great diplomatic victory for Tehran. Regional leaders have seen Washington retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan, engage (or appease) its enemies Iran and Syria, and desert friendly rulers. All have strengthened the general perception of a weak and confused U.S. foreign policy.

Drained by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and blessed with new energy finds, Washington does not want to get dragged into additional conflicts in a Middle East that no longer seems central to its interests. As it edges toward energy independence, Washington is apparently losing interest in the East Mediterranean and the adjacent Middle East. This parallels Obama's November 2011 announcement of the "rebalance to Asia" policy.[13] The rise of China is an understandable strategic reason for the reinforcement of U.S. military presence in Asia. While little has been done to implement the Asia pivot, cuts in the U.S. defense budget clearly indicate that such a priority will be at the expense of Washington's presence elsewhere, including the East Mediterranean. The U.S. naval presence in the Mediterranean dwindled after the end of the Cold War and the mounting needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[14] At the height of the Cold War, the Sixth Fleet regularly comprised one or two aircraft carrier task forces; today it consists of a command ship and smaller vessels such as destroyers. While the U.S. military is still capable of acting in the East Mediterranean, the general perception in the region is that the Obama administration lacks the political will and skills to do so.

The possibility that European allies in NATO or the European Union will fill the U.S. position in the East Mediterranean is not taken seriously. Europe is not a real strategic actor since it lacks the necessary military assets, a clear strategic vision, as well as the political will to take up the U.S. role. Others, such as Russia, which has long maintained a base in Syria, might.

Growing Islamist Presence

Elements of radical Islam are increasingly powerful around the East Mediterranean basin. The Muslim-majority countries have difficulties in sustaining statist structures, allowing for Islamist political forces to exercise ever-greater influence. Indeed, Islamist tendencies in Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey all threaten the current unrestricted access to the area by Israel and the West.

Libya remains chaotic three years after the uprising against Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi. Such lack of order may lead to the disintegration of the state and allow greater freedom of action for Muslim extremists.[15] Libya's eastern neighbor, Egypt, is now ruled again by the military, but it is premature to conclude that the Islamist elements will play only a secondary role in the emerging political system. They still send multitudes into the streets of Egyptian cities to destabilize the new military regime. Apart from the important Mediterranean ports, Egypt also controls the Suez Canal, a critical passageway linking Europe to the Persian Gulf and the Far East that could fall into the hands of Islamists.

Even if the Egyptian military is able to curtail the Islamist forces at home, its grip over the Sinai Peninsula is tenuous. Under Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, attempts to dislodge the Sunni jihadists roaming Sinai have increased, but full Egyptian sovereignty has not been restored. This could lead to the "Somalization" of the peninsula, negatively affecting the safety of naval trade along the Mediterranean, the approaches to the Suez Canal, and the Red Sea. Nearby Gaza is currently controlled by Hamas, a radical Islamist organization allied with Iran. Containment of the Islamist threat from Gaza remains a serious challenge.

North of Israel, along the Mediterranean coast, sits Lebanon, a state dominated by the radical Shiite Hezbollah. It has already laid claim to some of the Israeli-found offshore gas fields. Moreover, Syria, an enemy of Israel and long-time ally of Iran, exerts considerable influence in Lebanon. The Assad regime remains in power, but any Syrian successor regime could be Islamist and anti-Western.

Further on the East Mediterranean coastline is AKP-ruled Turkey. A combination of Turkish nationalism, neo-Ottoman nostalgia, and Islamist-jihadist impulses has pushed Ankara away from a pro-Western foreign orientation toward an aggressive posture on several regional issues. Turkey is interested in gaining control over the maritime gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, which would limit its energy dependence on Russia and Iran and help fulfill its ambitions to serve as an energy bridge to the West. This puts Ankara at loggerheads with Nicosia and Jerusalem, which share an interest in developing the hydrocarbon fields in their exclusive economic zones and exporting gas to energy-thirsty Europe. Indeed, Ankara also flexed its naval muscles by threatening to escort flotillas trying to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

West of Turkey is Greece, a democratic, Western state with a stake in the protection of the Greek Cypriots from Muslim domination. However, it has limited military ability to parry the Turkish challenge alone and is wracked by economic problems. Many East Mediterranean states also would likely favor the return of Cyprus to Turkish (and Muslim) rule. This preference introduces a civilizational aspect to the emerging balance of power.

A New Strategic Equation

There is now a power vacuum in the East Mediterranean and an uncertain future. Several developments are noteworthy: a resurgence of Russian influence, the potential for Turkish aggression, the emergence of an Israeli-Greek-Cypriot axis, an enhanced terrorist threat, greater Iranian ability to project power in the region, and the potential for wars over gas fields.

Russia: The power vacuum makes it easier for Moscow to recapture some of its lost influence after the end of the Cold War. While U.S. and European navies in the region have steadily declined for years as this theater has been considered of diminishing importance, Russia has retained its Tartus naval base on the Syrian coast and has gradually improved its fleet size and stepped up patrols in the East Mediterranean, roughly coinciding with the escalation of the Syrian civil war.[16] Moscow's new military footprint in the East Mediterranean has been underscored by multiple Russian naval exercises. During his visit to the Black Sea Fleet in February 2013, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stressed that the "Mediterranean region was the core of all essential dangers to Russia's national interests" and that continued fallout from the Arab upheavals increased the importance of the region. Shortly after, he announced the establishment of a naval task force in the Mediterranean "on a permanent basis."[17]

Moscow also gained full access to a Cypriot port.[18] A member of the European Union but not NATO, and painfully aware that the West is not likely to offer a credible guarantee against potential Turkish aggression, Nicosia has come to consider Moscow a power able to provide a modicum of deterrence against Ankara.[19]

Russian diplomacy and material support have also been crucial to keeping Syria's Bashar al-Assad in power, making Moscow a tacit ally of Iran.[20] No less important, Russia has increased its leverage in Egypt—the most important Arab state—following the military coup. According to many reports, a large arms deal, to the tune of U.S. $2-3 billion, and naval services at the port of Alexandria, were discussed between the two countries at the beginning of 2014. If these deals do indeed materialize, this would represent an important change in Egyptian policy. It is not clear whether the Western powers fully understand the strategic significance of Egypt moving closer to Russia.

Despite its problems with Muslim radicals at home, Moscow has also maintained good relations with Hamas. In contrast to most of the international community, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization, in 2006, the Russian government invited a Hamas delegation to Moscow for talks.[21] In 2010, together with Turkey, Russia even called for bringing Hamas into the diplomatic process attempting to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.[22]

Finally, Russia—an energy producer—has shown interest in the newly discovered offshore energy fields.[23] In July 2012, Russian president Vladimir Putin visited Israel to discuss the gas fields, among other things. In December 2013, Moscow signed a 25-year energy deal with Syria that opens the way for its eventual move into the gas-rich East Mediterranean.[24]

Turkey: The Russian encroachment has been paralleled by greater Turkish assertiveness. Under certain conditions, Ankara may be tempted to capitalize on its conventional military superiority to force issues by military action in several arenas, including the Aegean, Cyprus, Syria, and, perhaps, Iraq. The potential disintegration of Syria and the possible establishment of an independent Greater Kurdistan could be incentives for Turkish intervention. The collapse of the AKP's earlier foreign policy, dubbed "zero problems" with Turkey's neighbors, could push Ankara into open confrontation. Aggressive Russian behavior in Crimea could reinforce such tendencies.

Similarly, Turkey's appetite for energy and aspiration to become an energy bridge to Europe could lead to aggressive behavior. Turkish warships have harassed vessels prospecting for oil and gas off Cyprus. [25] Cyprus is also the main station for a Turkish desired pipeline taking Levant Basin gas to Turkey for export to Europe. Ankara might even be tempted to complete its conquest of Cyprus, begun when it invaded and occupied the northern part of the island in 1974.

Ankara has embarked on military modernization and has ambitious procurement plans. Turkish naval power is the largest in the East Mediterranean.[26] In March 2012, then-navy commander Admiral Murat Bilgel outlined Turkey's strategic objective "to operate not only in the littorals but also on the high seas," with high seas referring to the East Mediterranean. The December 2013 decision to purchase a large 27,500-ton landing dock vessel capable of transporting multiple tanks, helicopters, and more than a thousand troops, reflects its desire to project naval strength in the region.[27]

Israel, Cyprus, and Greece: Turkey's threats and actions have brought Israel, Cyprus, and Greece closer together. Beyond blocking a revisionist Turkey and common interests in the area of energy security, the three states also share apprehensions about the East Mediterranean becoming an Islamic lake. Athens, Jerusalem, and Nicosia hope to coordinate the work of their lobbies in Washington to sensitize the U.S. administration to their concerns. Battling an economic crisis, Greece wants the new ties with Israel to boost tourism and investment, particularly in the gas industry, while deepening its military partnership with a powerful country in the region.[28] Moreover, the emerging informal Israeli-Greek alliance has the potential to bring Israel closer to Europe and moderate some of the pro-Palestinian bias occasionally displayed by the European Union.

Following Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Greece in August 2010, cooperation between the two countries has been broad and multifaceted, covering culture, tourism, and economics. One area of cooperation discussed was the possibility of creating a gas triangle—Israel-Cyprus-Greece—with Greece the hub of Israeli and Cypriot gas exports to the rest of Europe.[29] Such a development could lessen the continent's energy dependence on Russia.[30] Another project that can further improve the ties between the countries is a proposed undersea electric power line between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. Currently Israel and Cyprus are isolated in terms of electricity and do not export or import almost any power.

Israeli-Greek military cooperation has already manifested itself in a series of multinational—Greek, Israel, and United States—joint air and sea exercises under the names Noble Dina[31] and Blue Flag (which included an Italian contingent).[32] Greece also cooperated with Israel in July 2011 by preventing the departure of ships set to sail to Gaza.[33]

International terrorism: Developments in the Arab states of the East Mediterranean have increased the threat of international terrorism. As leaders lose their grip over state territory and borders become more porous, armed groups and terrorists gain greater freedom of action. Moreover, security services that dealt with terrorism have been negatively affected by domestic politics and have lost some of their efficiency. Sinai has turned into a transit route for Iranian weapons to Hamas and a base for terrorist attacks against Israel. Hamas has even set up rocket production lines in Sinai in an effort to protect its assets, believing Jerusalem would not strike targets inside Egypt for fear of undermining the bilateral relations.[34] Syria has also become a haven for many Islamist groups as result of the civil war.

Furthermore, as weakened or failed states lose control over their security apparatus, national arsenals of conventional and nonconventional arms have become vulnerable, which may result in the emergence of increasingly well-armed, politically dissatisfied groups seeking to harm Israel. For example, following the fall of Qaddafi, Libyan SA-7 anti-air missiles and anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades reached Hamas in Gaza.[35] Similarly, in the event of a Syrian regime collapse, Damascus's advanced arsenal, including chemical weapons, shore-to-ship missiles, air defense systems, and ballistic missiles of all types could end up in the hands of Hezbollah or other radical elements.[36]

Finally, terrorist activities could adversely affect the navigation through the Suez Canal, an important choke point. Salafi jihadist groups have attacked the canal several times already.[37]

The Iranian presence: The decline in U.S. power, the timidity of the Europeans, and the turmoil in the Arab world have facilitated Iranian encroachment of the East Mediterranean. Indeed, Tehran's attempts to boost its naval presence in the Mediterranean are part of an ambitious program to build a navy capable of projecting power far from Iran's borders.[38] Tehran would like to be able to supply its Mediterranean allies: Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. Entering the Mediterranean also enhances Iran's access to Muslim Balkan states, namely Albania, Bosnia, and Kosovo, giving Tehran a clear stake in the outcome of the Syrian civil war. Assad's hold on power is critical for the "Shiite Crescent" from the Persian Gulf to the Levant, which would enhance Iranian influence in the Middle East and the East Mediterranean. Tehran has also been strengthening naval cooperation with Moscow, viewed as a potential partner in efforts to limit and constrain U.S. influence.[39]

Wars over gas fields: The discovery of gas fields in the East Mediterranean could potentially escalate tensions in this increasingly volatile region. Competing claims to the gas fields by Israel's former ally Turkey as well as by its neighbor Lebanon (still in a de jure state of war) have precipitated a buildup of naval forces in the Levant basin by a number of states, including Russia. Israel's wells and the naval presence protecting them also offer new targets at sea to its longstanding, non-state enemies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Conscious of these threats, the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, has approved the navy's plan to add four offshore patrol vessels.[40] Israeli defense circles hope that Israel's expanding navy, combined with continuous improvement of land and air assets and increasing cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, will give pause to any regional actor that would consider turning the Mediterranean Sea into the next great field of battle. Indeed, the Israeli navy is now preparing to defend the gas field offshore of Israel.[41]

The future role of Russia in these developments is not clear. Some analysts believe that Moscow is interested primarily in marketing the region's energy riches. Securing gas reserves in the East Mediterranean will also help Moscow safeguard its dominant position as a natural gas supplier to western Europe, which could be challenged by new competitors in the region. Yet, delays and disruptions in moving gas to Europe might further strengthen Russia's role as a major energy supplier to Europe and keep prices high, which is beneficial for Moscow. Moreover, as the Ukraine crisis indicated, geopolitics still is a dominant factor in Russian decision-making.

Conclusion

Stability in the East Mediterranean can no longer be taken for granted as U.S. forces are retreating. Europe, an impotent international actor, cannot fill the resulting political vacuum. Russia under Putin is beefing up its naval presence. Growing Islamist freedom of action is threatening the region. Turkey, no longer a true ally of the West, has its own Mediterranean agenda and the military capability to project force to attain its goals. So far, the growing Russian assertiveness has not changed the course of Turkish foreign policy. The disruptive potential of failed states, the access of Iran to Mediterranean waters, and interstate competition for energy resources are also destabilizing the region. But it is not clear whether the Western powers, particularly the United States, are aware of the possibility of losing the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea to Russia or radical Islam, or are
preparing in any way to forestall such a scenario. U.S. naiveté and European gullibility could become extremely costly in strategic terms.

The Israeli perspective on the East Mediterranean region is colored by its vital need to maintain the freedom of maritime routes for its foreign trade and to provide security for its newly found gas fields. While its strategic position has generally improved in the Middle East, Jerusalem sees deterioration in the environment in the East Mediterranean. A growing Russian presence and Turkish assertiveness are inimical to Israel's interests. Developments along the shores of the East Mediterranean also decrease stability and enhance the likelihood of more Islamist challenges.

In civilizational terms, the East Mediterranean has served as a point of contention in the past between Persia and the ancient Greeks and between the Ottomans and Venetians. It is the location where the struggle between East and West takes place. After the Cold War, the borders of the West moved eastward. Now, they could easily move in the other direction.

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and a Shilman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

[1] Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, pp. 22-49.

[2] For more, see Seth Cropsey, Mayday: The Decline of American Naval Supremacy (New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2013).

[3] Jon B. Alterman and Haim Malka, "Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Geometry," The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2012, pp. 111-25.

[4] Efraim Inbar, The Israeli-Turkish Entente (London: King's College Mediterranean Program, 2001); Ofra Bengio, The Turkish-Israeli Relationship. Changing Ties of Middle Eastern Outsiders (New York: Palgrave, 2004).

[5] Rajan Menon and S. Enders Wimbush, "The US and Turkey: End of an Alliance?" Survival, Summer 2007, pp. 129-44; Efraim Inbar, "Israeli-Turkish Tensions and Their International Ramifications," Orbis, Winter 2011, pp. 135-9; Ahmet Davutoğlu, Stratejik Derinlik: Türkiye'nin Uluslararası Konumu (Istanbul: Küre Yayınları, 2001).

[6] Tarik Ozuglu, "Turkey's Eroding Commitment to NATO: From Identity to Interests," The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2012, pp. 153-64; Burak Ege Bekdil, "Allies Intensify Pressure on Turkey over China Missile Deal," The Defense News, Feb. 24, 2014, p. 8.

[7] Liad Porat, "The Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt-Israel Peace," Mideast Security and Policy Studies, no. 102, BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Ramat Gan, Aug. 1, 2013.

[8] Tally Helfont, "Slashed US Aid to Egypt and the Future of the Bilateral Relations," Institute for National Strategic Studies, Washington, D.C., Oct. 13, 2013.

[9] Interview with senior Israeli official, Jerusalem, Apr. 7, 2013.

[10] Daniel W. Drezner, "Does Obama Have a Grand Strategy? Why We Need Doctrines in Uncertain Times," Foreign Affairs, July/Aug. 2011, p. 58.

[11] Eitan Gilboa, "The United States and the Arab Spring," in Efraim Inbar, ed., The Arab Spring, Democracy and Security: Domestic and Regional Ramifications (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 51-74.

[12] Eyal Zisser, "The Failure of Washington's Syria Policy," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2013, pp. 59-66.

[13] "Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration's 'Rebalancing' toward Asia," Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., Mar. 28, 2012.

[14] Seth Cropsey, "All Options Are Not on the Table: A Briefing on the US Mediterranean Fleet," World Affairs Journal, Mar. 16, 2011; Steve Cohen, "America's Incredible Shrinking Navy," The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 20, 2014.

[15] Florence Gaub, "A Libyan Recipe for Disaster," Survival, Feb.-Mar. 2014, pp. 101-20.

[16] Thomas R. Fedyszyn, "The Russian Navy 'Rebalances' to the Mediterranean," U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Dec. 2013.

[17] Ibid.

[18] InCyprus.com, Jan. 11, 2014.

[19] Interviews with senior officials, Nicosia, Oct. 10, 2012.

[20] Zvi Magen, "The Russian Fleet in the Mediterranean: Exercise or Military Operation?" Institute for National Strategic Studies, Washington, D.C., Jan. 29, 2013.

[21] Igor Khrestin and John Elliott, "Russia and the Middle East," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2007, pp. 21-7.

[22] The Jerusalem Post, May 12, 2010.

[23] Thane Gustafson, "Putin's Petroleum Problem," Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 2012, pp. 83-96.

[24] United Press International, Jan. 16, 2014.

[25] For example, see, Gary Lakes, "Oil, Gas and Energy Security," European Rim Policy and Investment Council (ERPIC, Larnaca, Cyprus), Oct. 23, 2009.

[26] "Turkey," Institute for National Strategic Studies, Washington, D.C., Dec. 24, 2012, pp. 19-25.

[27]The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2014.

[28] Bloomberg News Service (New York), Aug. 2011.

[29] The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2013.

[30] Ibid., Aug. 2, 2011.

[31] The Times of Israel (Jerusalem), Mar. 25, 2014.

[32] Arutz Sheva (Beit El and Petah Tikva), Nov. 25, 2013.

[33]Haaretz (Tel Aviv), July 2, 2011.

[34] The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 11, 2011.

[35] Reuters, Aug. 29, 2011.

[36] Defense News (Springfield, Va.), Dec. 12, 2011.

[37] USA Today, Nov. 4, 2013.

[38] Shaul Shay, "Iran's New Strategic Horizons at Sea," Arutz Sheva, July 30, 2012; Agence France-Presse, Jan. 17, 2013.

[39] Michael Eisenstadt and Alon Paz, "Iran's Evolving Maritime Presence," Policy Watch, no. 2224, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Mar. 13, 2014.

[40] Israel Hayom (Tel Aviv), July 10, 2012.

[41] Defense News (Springfield, Va.), Feb. 27, 2012.

 

CAROLINE GLICK: Obama the virtuoso manager

Since he assumed office nearly six years ago, US President Barack Obama has been dogged by allegations of managerial incompetence. Obama, his critics allege, had no managerial experience before he was elected. His lack of such experience, they claim, is reflected in what they see as his incompetent handling of the challenges of the presidency.

In everything from dealing with the Congress, to reining in radical ideologues at the IRS, to handling the chaos at the Mexican border, to putting together coordinated strategies for dealing with everything from Ebola to Islamic State (IS), Obama’s critics claim that he is out of his league. That he is incompetent.

But if Israel’s experience with him is any guide, then his critics are the ones who are out to sea. Because at least in his handling of US relations with the Jewish state, Obama has exhibited a mastery of the tools of the executive branch unmatched by most of his predecessors.

Consider two stories reported in last Friday’s papers.

First, in an article published in The Jerusalem Post, terrorism analyst and investigative reporter Steven Emerson revealed how the highest echelons of the administration blocked the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office from assisting Israel in finding the remains of IDF soldier Oron Shaul.

Shaul was one of seven soldiers from the Golani Infantry Brigade killed July 20 when Hamas terrorists fired a rocket at their armored personnel carrier in Gaza’s Shejeia neighborhood.

As Emerson related, after stealing his remains, Hamas terrorists hacked into Shaul’s Facebook page and posted announcements that he was being held by Hamas.

Among other things it did to locate Shaul and ascertain whether or not he was still alive, the IDF formally requested that the FBI intervene with Facebook to get the IP address of the persons who posted on Oron’s page. If such information was acquired quickly, the IDF might be able to locate Oron, or at least find people with knowledge of his whereabouts.

Acting in accordance with standing practice, recognizing that time was of the essence, the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office began working on Israel’s request immediately. But just before the US Attorney secured a court order to Facebook requiring it to hand over the records, the FBI was told to end its efforts.

In an order that senior law enforcement officials told Emerson came from Attorney General Eric Holder’s office, the FBI was told that it needed to first sign an “MLAT,” a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Israel, a procedure that would take weeks to complete, and is generally used in cases involving criminal prosecutions and other non-life threatening issues.

In other words, facing a bureaucracy acting independently, Holder – reportedly Obama’s most trusted cabinet secretary – acted quickly, decisively and effectively. And thanks to his intervention at the key moment, although Israel was able – after an exhaustive forensic investigation – to determine Oron’s death, today it is poised to begin negotiations with Hamas for the return of his body parts.

Then there was the unofficial arms embargo.

In August, The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House and State Department had stopped the Pentagon at the last minute from responding favorably to an Israeli request for resupply of Hellfire precision air-to-surface missiles. The precision guided missiles were a key component of Israel’s air operations against missile launchers in Gaza. The missiles’ guidance systems allowed the air force to destroy the launchers while minimizing collateral damage.

In keeping with the standard decades-long practice, Israel requested the resupply through European Command, its military-to-military channel with the US military.

And in keeping with standard practice, the request was granted.

But then the White House and State Department heard about the approved shipment and spun into action. As in the case of Oron’s Facebook page, they didn’t reject Israel’s request. They just added a level of bureaucracy to the handling of the request that made it impossible for Israel to receive assistance from the US government in real time.

As State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf put it at the time, “We’re not holding anything. A hold indicates, technically, that you are not moving forward on making a decision about a transfer…. These requests are still moving forward; there’s just additional steps in the process now, and there’s been no policy decision made to not move forward with them…. They’re just going to take a little while longer.”

The Hellfire missiles, along with other ammunition Israel requested during the war, arrived in September – a month after the cease-fire went into effect.

On Friday veteran military affairs reporter Amir Rappaport reported in Makor Rishon that the hold on the Hellfire missiles was only one aspect of the White House’s decision to stop arms shipments to Israel during the war. Shortly after Operation Protective Edge began, the administration stopped all contact with the Defense Ministry’s permanent procurement delegation in the US.

According to Rappaport, for the first time since the 1982 war in Lebanon, “The expected airlift of US ammunition [to the IDF] never arrived at its point of departure.”

The difference between Obama’s actions during Operation Protective Edge and Ronald Reagan’s partial arms embargo against Israel 32 years ago is that Reagan made his action publicly. He argued his case before the public, and Congress.

Obama has done no such thing. As was the case with the FAA’s scandalous ban on flights to Ben-Gurion Airport during the war, Holder’s prevention of the FBI from helping Israel find Oron, and Obama’s arms embargo were justified as mere bureaucratic measures.

As Harf claimed in relation to the embargo, there was no hostile policy behind any of the hostile policy moves.

Obama and his senior advisors are simply sticklers for procedure. And since during the war Obama insisted that he supported Israel, policymakers and the public had a hard time opposing his actions.

How can you oppose a hostile policy toward Israel that the administration insists doesn’t exist? Indeed, anyone who suggests otherwise runs the risk of being attacked as a conspiracy theorist or a firebrand.

The same goes for Obama’s policy toward Iran. This week we learned that the administration has now offered Iran a nuclear deal in which the mullahs can keep half of their 10,000 active centrifuges spinning.

Together with Iran’s 10,000 currently inactive centrifuges which the US offer ignores, the actual US position is to allow Iran to have enough centrifuges to enable it to build nuclear bombs within a year, at most.

In other words, the US policy toward Iran exposed by Obama’s nuclear offer is one that enables the most active state sponsor of terrorism to acquire nuclear weapons almost immediately.

But Obama denies this is his policy. For six years he has very deftly managed Congressional opposition to his wooing of the Iranian regime by insisting that his policy is to reduce the Iranian nuclear threat and to prevent war.

Opposing his policy means opposing these goals.

Consistent polling data show that Obama’s policies of harming Israel and facilitating Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal are deeply unpopular. His successful advancement of both policies despite this deep-seated public opposition is a testament to his extraordinary skill.

On the other hand, Obama’s virtuoso handling of the federal bureaucracy and Congress also reveal the Achilles heel of his policies. He conceals them because he cannot defend them.

Obama’s inability to defend these policies means that politicians from both parties can forthrightly set out opposing policies without risking criticism or opposition from the administration.

How can Obama criticize a serious policy to support Israel when he claims that this is his goal? And how can he oppose a serious policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons when he says that he shares that goal?

At least as far as Israel is concerned, Obama’s mastery of the federal bureaucracy is complete. It is not incompetence that guides his policy. It is malicious intent toward the US’s closest ally in the Middle East. And to defeat this policy, it is not necessary to prove incompetence that doesn’t exist. It is necessary to show that there are far better ways to achieve his declared aims of supporting Israel and blocking Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Separationists Run Amok in Milwaukee Jonathan S. Tobin

Americans are rightly afraid of radical Islamists who seek to subjugate, behead, and enslave non-believers in the Middle East in the name of their faith. Ours, however, is a country where religious freedom is at the core of our identity as a nation. But many of us are so obsessed with separating religion from the state that we are prepared to go to any lengths to make it harder for individuals to practice their beliefs even when doing so threatens neither our liberties nor interferes with the rights of others. A classic example of this separationism run amok is to be found in Milwaukee where, of all things, the Jewish Federation supported the effort to prevent Jewish students at a local public high school from erecting a sukkah where they hoped to eat their lunch so as to comply with religious law about observance of the Feast of Tabernacles. In doing so, these liberal extremists taught us a lesson about how fear of religion can be almost as destructive of liberty as religious extremism.

The eight-day festival of Sukkot is one in which Jews are instructed by the Torah to eat their meals in temporary huts called sukkahs in commemoration of those used by their ancestors wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. Such small structures are, as Tablet magazine points out in their piece about this story, to be found at the corporate headquarters of Google as well as at places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But the small Sukkah erected at Milwaukee’s Nicolet High School that had existed in previous years was forced off campus in no small measure because the local Jewish Federation’s Community Relations Council considered it a violation of the separation between church and state.

The reasoning behind this seeming example of cognitive dissonance is that liberal true believers see any accommodation of belief on public property or in a public education setting as the thin edge of the wedge of theocracy. To their thinking, the mythical wall of separation must be erected so high that government institutions should exhibit no hint of faith. While the Founding Fathers intended the First Amendment to ensure that there would never be a state religion in the United States, modern-day liberals have distorted this sensible restriction. Instead of the constitutional prohibition of government favoring one religion over another, contemporary liberals have sought to redefine the Constitution as being hostile to the expression of religious faith in public settings.

This misguided sentiment stems from some real concerns that were dealt with in the past. State-run schools ought not to be promoting religion in the classroom as they used to do, especially when that usually was done at the expense of marginalizing religious minorities. But that justified opposition to state prayers at schools has morphed into an obsessive desire to ban Christmas trees or carols. Rather than seek to ban discrimination against their faith, many liberal Jews wish to marginalize all faiths, a divisive effort that undermines the good communal relations they purport to support as well as creating a naked public square with respect to faith that does far more harm than good. Their fear of faith leads them to invent restrictions against its expression instead of protecting religious freedom.

That is the twisted logic that led the Milwaukee Federation to push for the elimination of the Jewish students’ inoffensive sukkah.

That a group that pretends to represent all Jews would seek to prevent Jews from practicing their faith is more than ironic. It is a travesty. That travesty is only exacerbated when the person responsible for this outrage happens to be Hannah Rosenthal, whose last job before joining the federation was as the Obama State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Rosenthal was the person that Americans would have looked to for leadership and outrage were sukkahs banned by some foreign government. But instead of being an advocate for more religious freedom, in her new guise as communal leader Rosenthal has adopted the liberal separationist faith as her new Torah and led the charge to expunge even the most harmless expression of Jewish practice at a local high school.

Sadly, one Jewish student interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said she felt “a little awkward” because if Christians “put up a Christmas tree or a crèche, we’d feel uncomfortable with that, so why put up a sukkah?”

That, in a nutshell, tells you not only what’s wrong with separationism but also with a Jewish community that is raising its children to fear other religions and to “feel awkward” when they see other Jews practicing their faith in a manner that does no harm to others.

This is, in part, a legacy of a past in which Jews did feel threatened and marginalized by the majority. But at a time when Jews are free to not only express their identity in any place or profession in the United States but to actually practice their faith unhindered by prejudice, such attitudes are not only outdated; they are highly destructive.

The problem here is that liberal Jews fear conservative Christians far more than they do ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Taliban (as Tablet points out, it is unlikely that the federation would have opposed accommodations of Muslim practices). And they are so paranoid about it that they are ready to restrict examples of Jewish faith in the public square in order to forestall any manifestation of Christian faith there.

Hard as it may be for many liberal Jews to accept, Christians don’t threaten Jewish life in this country. But such extreme separationism is a symptom of the indifference to faith and Jewish identity that has created the demographic disaster that does threaten the Jewish future in the U.S. that was revealed by last year’s Portrait of Jewish Americans produced by the Pew Research Center. While some may have hoped that Jewish Federations would provide the leadership to help the community respond to the survey’s results, we find in Milwaukee that they are part of the problem, not the solution.

Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com. He can be reached via e-mail at: jtobin@commentarymagazine.com. Follow him on Twitter atTobinCommentary.

What The "Two State Solution" Has to Do with the Rise of Islamic Extremism

What The "Two State Solution" Has to Do with the Rise of Islamic Extremism: Zero
by Khaled Abu Toameh
October 20, 2014 at 5:00 am
http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4801/two-state-solution-isis

The "Arab Spring" did not erupt as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, it was the outcome of decades of tyranny and corruption in the Arab world. The Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis who removed their dictators from power did not do so because of the lack of a "two-state solution." This is the last thing they had in mind.

The thousands of Muslims who are volunteering to join the Islamic State [IS] are not doing so because they are frustrated with the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The only solution the Islamic State believes in is a Sunni Islamic Caliphate where the surviving non-Muslims who are not massacred would be subject to sharia law.

What Kerry perhaps does not know is that the Islamic State is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. Unlike Kerry, Sunni scholars fully understand that the Islamic State has more to do with Islam and terrorism than with any other conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's claim that the lack of a "two-state solution" has fueled the rise of the Islamic State [IS] terrorist group reinforces how clueless the U.S. Administration is about what is happening in the Arab and Islamic countries.

Speaking at a State Department ceremony marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Kerry said that the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was vital in the fight against Islamic extremism, including Islamic State.

"There wasn't a leader I met with in the region who didn't raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation," Kerry said. "People need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with the humiliation and denial and absence of dignity."

The U.S. State Department later denied that Kerry had made the statement attributed to him.

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters that Kerry's comments were distorted for political gains; she pointed a finger at Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

"What [Kerry] said was that during his travels to build a coalition against the Islamic State, he was told that should the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved, the Middle East would be a better place," Harf explained.

The Islamic State is one of the by-products of the "Arab Spring," which began as a secular revolt against Arab dictatorships and degenerated into anarchy, lawlessness, terrorism and massacres that have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims.

The "Arab Spring" did not erupt as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, it was the natural and inevitable outcome of decades of tyranny and corruption in the Arab world.

The Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis who removed their dictators from power did not do so because of the lack of a "two-state solution."

Nor did the Arabs revolt because of the failure of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the last thing these Arabs had in mind when they took to the streets to protest against decades of dictatorship and bad government.

It is this "Arab Spring," and not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt. And it is the same "Arab Spring" that saw the emergence of Islamic terror groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic Front, the Army of Mujahedeen, Jund al-Sham and, most recently, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The rise of the Islamic State is a direct result of the anarchy and extremism that have been sweeping the Arab and Islamic countries over the past few years.

The thousands of Muslims who are volunteering to join Islamic State are not doing so because they are frustrated with the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. They are not knocking on the Islamic State's doors because they are disappointed that the two-state solution has not materialized.

Kerry is anyway naïve to think that the jihadis believe in something called a "two-state" solution. The only solution the Islamic State believes in is the one that would lead to the establishment of a radical Sunni Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East where the surviving non-Muslims who are not massacred would be subject to sharia law.

Not only is the Islamic State opposed to the "two-state solution," it is also opposed to the existence of both Israel and a Palestinian state. Under the new Islamic Caliphate, there is no room for Israel or Palestine or any of the Arab and Islamic countries.

Had Kerry studied the goals and ideology of the Islamic State, he would have discovered that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not even at the top of the group's list of priorities.

In fact, the "liberation of Bait al-Maqdis" [Jerusalem] is ranked sixth among Islamic State's objectives.

The group's first goal envisages stirring chaos in the Arab and Islamic countries.

Second, the group will move on to what it calls "management of savagery" in these countries.

Third, Islamic State will embark on the process of establishing an Islamic Caliphate.

Fourth, it will proceed with "liberating neighboring countries and expanding the size of the Islamic Caliphate.

Fifth, the group will start the process of "liberating the Islamic countries," including Bait al-Maqdis.

Obviously, Kerry must have missed the speech delivered by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last July.

Al-Baghdadi did not talk about the "two-state solution." Nor did he call on Muslims to join his group because of the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Instead, al-Baghdadi told his followers that, "Allah likes us to kill his enemies, and make jihad for his sake. O Allah, give Islam victory over the disbelief and the disbelievers, and give victory to the mujahideen, in the East of this earth and its West."

What Kerry perhaps does not know is that the Islamic State is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. The terrorist group did not even bother to comment on the last military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The failure of the Islamic State to express solidarity with the Palestinians or Hamas during the war drew strong condemnations from some of the Arab world's leading columnists.

"What is shocking and strange is that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups that claim to speak on behalf of Islam did not make a single move as Israeli planes were shelling civilians inside the Gaza Strip," remarked Egyptian columnist Jamil al-Afifi. "Nor did any of their wise men come out to condemn the ruthless killings (in the Gaza Strip).

Kerry did not reveal the identity of the "leaders" who told him that the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians was a "cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation" in the Arab and Islamic countries.

What is clear, however, is that Sunni scholars do not seem to share Kerry's assessment.

Last month, over 120 Sunni scholars issued an open letter denouncing the Islamic State and its religious arguments. "You have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder," the letter said. "This is a great wrong and an offence to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world."

Needless to say, the scholars did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a cause for the rise of Islamic State.

That is because unlike Kerry, the Sunni scholars know that the Islamic State is completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And unlike Kerry, the Muslim scholars fully understand that Islamic State has more to do with Islam and terrorism than with any other conflict.

Cold Turkey, by Michael Curtis (Oct. 20, 2014)

College students should be able to answer some simple questions. Which country in the Middle East has been declared guilty of “ethnic cleansing?” Which country in the area has prevented the return of refugees to their homes and former properties? Which country has flouted Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention of August 1949 that prohibits an occupying power from deporting or transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies? Which country is responsible for a unilateral declaration of independence?  Contrary to what they may hear from their professors, the correct answer is that all these things are performed by Turkey.

Turkey is not the flavor of the month. To say that Turkey is a disappointment in the fight against Islamist terrorism is to state, even understate, a truism. Turkey is a member of NATO, the only Muslim member of the organization, and President Barack Obama still regards it as a regional ally, and as a symbol of Islamic moderation and liberalism.  However, in view of its behavior in recent years, no one can view it as a helpful partner to the US and the other countries prepared to counter Islamic terrorism. In 2003, before the Second Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq against Saddam Hussein, Turkey refused to allow the US to use its bases in the country.  It is still refusing to support the US led coalition to deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and again has prevented US reconnaissance and bombing sorties over Syria from the US air base at Incirlik.

To this unhelpful and uncooperative policy has been added even more negative behavior, the direct and indirect help given by Turkey to terrorist groups, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Islamic State, and other terrorist groups.  Turkey provided logistical support and sheltered Hamas operatives. It helped the Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. It helped the Islamic State (IS) by allowing arms, material, and personnel to pass through Turkish territory, and through black market transactions with Iran it enables IS to sell the oil from the 10 oil fields and refineries it has seized.  By these sales IS gains about $2 million a day. Erdogan denies this relationship with Iran, which is continuing, thus violating the policy of sanctions against that state.

All this is familiar and distressing. Equally well known and deplorable is the refusal of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow the considerable Kurdish minority some form of autonomy or self-determination in Turkey.  He views and executes the fight by military attacks and fighter jets against Kurdish groups, especially the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that he regards as a terrorist group, as more important than the fight against the Islamic State.   Erdogan has even refused to allow US arms transfers to go to the Kurds who are really fighting the main threat to the world, the Islamic State.

What is less familiar or ignored is that Turkey is guilty of crimes as defined by international law because of its occupying of territory and encouraging settlements in a country to which it has no rightful claim. President Erdogan has been all too ready to criticize the State of Israel for occupation, its settlements, and its actions.  Sometimes this criticism is expressed mildly but more often it is in excessive and belligerent language. In May 2010 he accused Israel of “state terrorism” for preventing the flotilla organized from Turkey from sailing into Gaza.  He remarked of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in July 2014 that it was “worse than Nazi genocide…and (Israeli) barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s.”

Erdogan’s rhetoric suggests he may be a believer in “Jewish world conspiracy or Jewish power,” and even in the blood libel, ritual murder accusations of Jews killing Christians for their blood to make matzos for Passover. Either consciously or unconsciously, this kind of rhetoric echoes antisemitism. He asserted that Israel was behind the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt who was removed from power in July 2013 by Field Marshal el-Sisi. Erdogan also called on the world to stop Israel’s desire for genocide because its lust for blood would not end.

Erdogan is eager to call on the world for action concerning Israel, but when the “world” speaks about his own misdeeds or those of his country he ignores it. He refuses to acknowledge the opposition of the world to Turkey’s illegal occupation of part of the island of Cyprus. The issue is a simple one. Cyprus, which had been under British administration since 1878 and had been a British Crown Colony since 1925, became an independent country, the Republic of Cyprus, in 1960, according to a Treaty of Guarantee signed by Britain, Greece, and Turkey. However, hostilities between Greek and Turkish Cypriots began in 1963. A UN force, the Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), was set up in March 1964 to help restore normal conditions following this violence. Fifty years later UNFICYP is still there, now under the leadership of a woman general from Norway, trying to maintain stability in the area.

On July 20, 1974, 30,000 Turkish troops invaded the island, and they seized and held about a third of it.  In what can be seen as Turkish ethnic cleansing, more than 180,000 Greek Cypriots were evicted from their homes in the north of the island, while 50,000 Turkish Cypriots moved to areas under the control of the Turkish forces.  Contrary to the Geneva and other international Conventions, Turkey has transferred some of its own population into the area.

On November 15, 1983 Turkish Cypriot authorities unilaterally declared the establishment of an independent state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The United Nations Security Council immediately considered this declaration legally invalid and called for its withdrawal. The European Union also condemned this unilateral declaration of independence. Nevertheless, Turkey has ignored this “call on the world for action,” even though no country except Turkey has recognized the legitimacy of the TRNC state.

Those concerned with Middle East issues should not be oblivious, as many have been, to the improper nature and significance of Turkish behavior in Cyprus, the illegal occupation of part of a country, the establishment of Turkish settlements in the area, the continuing presence of Turkish troops, and even the imposition of a Green Line that separates the two political entities in Cyprus. For some years the UN Security Council has been passing resolutions about this situation, the most recent one being Resolution UNSC Res. 2135 of January 30, 2014, commenting on the degree of stability along the Green Line.

But Turkey has not only defied the UN regarding its illegal occupation and settlement policies. It has blatantly denied political reality and threatened hostilities against the legitimate Republic of Cyprus. On October 13, 2014, President Erdogan reprimanded a Greek Cypriot member of the European Parliament who referred to Turkish troops in North Cyprus as “invaders.” He also refused to listen to proposals for withdrawal of Turkish troops.  When the EU admitted Cyprus as a member, Erdogan commented that it should have been admitted as “southern Cyprus….there was no country named Cyprus.” In fact the whole island had been admitted as a member, but EU common rights and obligations refer only to the part under the internationally recognized government, the Republic of Cyprus. In January 2014 Turkey refused to implement fully the customs agreement with the EU because it would include Cyprus.

Erdogan, an authoritarian and belligerent ruler, who has been accused of corruption and of undermining the independence of the judiciary, had already in September 2011 threatened to attack the Republic of Cyprus if it allowed the US based Noble Energy Company to drill for gas in the large Leviathan natural gas field that Israel is exploring. The international community, to which Erdogan so often appeals regarding the actions of Israel, should now condemn Turkey for its displacement of persons, ethnic cleansing, deprivation of the rights of individuals, and racist and ethnic discrimination against minorities that are not Muslim or Sunnis.

Amb. Ayalon corrects Kerry & why Israel is not Connected to ISIL's Rise

The denial released by the State Department's deputy spokesperson, according to which Secretary Kerry did not connect between Israel and the growth of ISIL was a standard and expected diplomatic move. However, the denial is not enough to fix the immense damage caused by Kerry's words from this past Thursday. While the junior spokesperson's denial was laconic and brief, Kerry's words were spoken to the cameras, and furthermore, his words were read off paper, after being carefully formulated and written with deliberate forethought.

If Kerry the politician wanted to curry favor with the large audience which filled the event hall at the top floor of the State Department building in Washington, he succeeded. This crowd was comprised of leaders of the Muslim community in the United States, who all nodded in agreement as Kerry boasted on the pulpit.

His words may have had a diplomatic goal, raising support and sympathy from Muslim and Arab states for the military moves made by the Americans against Islamist radicals in the Middle East. So far, the US-led coalition forces have failed to stop the spread of ISIL in the Middle East or of the Al-Qaeda offshoots in the heart of Africa. According to the estimates of US military experts, it will be impossible to defeat ISIL without the use of ground forces, which will lead to an unavoidable increase in the number of casualties among the civilian populace.

Or maybe Secretary Kerry, who cast all his hopes, as well as his reputation, on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wanted to increase the pressure on Israel. Kerry fears that the political leadership in Israel is taking advantage of the world's focus on ISIL in order to avoid a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

Whether he meant to or not, Kerry linked the ISIL terror and radical Islam in the Middle East to Israel and the Palestinian problem, completely ignoring the true cause of violence and terror in the Middle East and beyond, which is a result of a radical Islamist ideology. The Islamist terror groups take advantage of the despair in Arab society, which suffers under backward dictatorial regimes who do not allow hope for a better future.

Providing a stage for such a twist of reality is dangerous as well as harmful, because it provides a boost for ISIL terror and supplies leaders of the region with an excuse with which to avoid true, painful reforms. If Kerry meant to pressure Israel to be more flexible when dealing with the Palestinians, in order to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough, the opposite is true, and his words merely strengthen the Palestinians' tough and uncompromising positions.

Precisely in front of the leaders of the Muslim community in the United States, Kerry should have repeated the words of his President, who stated last month at the United Nations General Assembly: "The situation in Iraq and Syria and Libya should cure anybody of the illusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems in the region".

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Exclude Me At Your Own Peril, by Dr. Naomi

I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors of Auschwitz, taken to concentration camp on D Day, in full view of the US and its Allies. Exclude me and try to silence me at your own peril, because this looks like 1939 all over again. When the Jewish people are divided, we give comfort to the enemies and disaster strikes easily and painfully.

 I was silenced at my former synagogue, at which I had been a member for thirty years. I was not allowed to present an on-line course about Jeremy Ben Ami came to this synagogue and invited the J-Street membership, including many Christians who have voted for divestment from Israel. He claimed that Israeli textbooks are as bad as Palestinian textbooks; that the IDF is an immoral army; and that Jews should not build “illegal” settlements. Of course, he did not mention illegal Palestinian settlements, or Palestinian hate education, incitement, or homicidal attacks on innocent civilians. 

Why is there no peace between Israel and its neighbors? Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian leadership do not want peace. It doesn’t serve their purposes. They need Israel to blame for all of their economic problems. Arabs were offered a state in 1947. They rejected the offer and attacked and almost destroyed Israel. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Has Israel gotten peace?

Isn’t it interesting that the conditions of Palestinians under “occupation” is better than that of Arabs living in the rest of the Middle East? Isn’t it interesting that the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens do not want to leave to be part of a new Palestinian state?  Isn’t it remarkable that health and life span under occupation has markedly improved?

Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East, as confirmed by Freedom House’s 2010 report. Israelis enjoy free press, and the Israelis who vote in and die for their country are entitled to make their own decisions.

Israel is a miracle. It is the only country in the world to which an ancient people has returned after thousands of years of exile, and the only county in the world in which an ancient language has been revived. One million Jews were expelled from Arab countries and Iran. Israel has re-settled refugees from all over the world. Most Israeli Jews are the children or grandchildren of refugees. In 62 years, Israel has given many gifts to the world. What have the Arab and Iranians given the world except oil?

Jews in the Diaspora should be praying for the survival of the Jewish state, smaller than New Jersey and surrounded by murderous enemies. Israel has not had one day of peace in 62 years, yet against all odds it is a vibrant democracy in a sea of dictatorships, has the best human rights record in the region, and is the only reliable ally the US has in the region. Where are you Jews of the Diaspora?

I’ll tell you where Jews of the Diaspora are-- they are fighting among themselves, as the world is campaigning for Israel’s destruction with boycotts and sanctions. And crazily, there are too many Jews in the Diaspora that side with the free world in accusing Israel by a double standard. How shameful!

The justification for J Street was to provide a place for Jews who are liberal and pro-peace to support Israel. It was to be an alternative to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. Can you really believe a group funded by Arab oil money and George Soros, a Jew who has never supported Israel, is pro-Israel? AIPAC has retained its influence because it is bi-partisan. J-Street tries to paint AIPAC as a conservative group. This is a simple and obvious lie. Now at many of our universities, including ivy league schools like Princeton University, the students do not have the opportunity to hear from Israeli diplomats or supporters of a close US/Israel relationship, essential for US security, but from supporters of terror who blame everything, including terrorism, on Israel. Apparently, there is no room at many campuses for groups like CAMERA, Stand With Us, AFPT, CUFI, AIPAC, JNF or AJC.

I am not afraid of honesty. I am afraid of lies. I am afraid of the traitors among us.

But there is yet some hope-- it is long overdue that fellow readers educate themselves about the true situation at hand in the Middle East. Don’t let the likes of Ben Ami and mainstream media lie to you. Educate yourself. Luckily, JerusalemU.com that offers a remarkable and comprehensive online course titled Israel Inside/Out taught by experts like Professor Bernard Lewis and Historian Sir Martin Gilbert. There are also educational initiatives from CAMERA, Stand With Us, AIPAC, AFPT, JNF, CUFI.

Jews, Christians and Muslims, do yourselves a favor and learn the facts.  Go to JerusalemU.com and view original news reports, interviews, interactive maps and documentaries. After you study the truth behind the headlines, you will understand why you cannot exclude my voice. Israel is the canary in the coalmine. The Muslim militants want to get rid of Israel, the little Satan; then the US, the big Satan. We are in a struggle for our lives. We must stick together and stick to truth.