February 28, 2020

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07/07 Links: Are Palestinians ready to tell ‘supporters’: ‘WE’RE NOT YOUR TOY’?; Can the Islamic State be defeated?; Reinventing the Israeli discussion on campus


From Ian:

Are Palestinians ready to tell ‘supporters’: ‘WE’RE NOT YOUR TOY’?
YET SOME observers are optimistic. Towler noted a change in how the British media treated the Gaza situation in the following days.

“Initially, the deaths of ‘innocent protesters’ were seen as marks on Trump – the human cost of his arrogance. For 24 hours the media joined in the clamor against Trump, and against the State of Israel.

But then, when Hamas admitted that over 50 of those who died that day at the border fence were in fact Hamas members, they realized they had been played by Hamas.”

With media outlets apologizing, Towler notes a significant departure: “In the past they would never have accepted fault. The press would have ignored the evidence and continued the campaign against Israel.”

Towler believes this is indicative of a broader change in attitude.

But it is not just in Europe where people are beginning to realize that intervention in Palestinian affairs is wrong. The same is happening in Iran, which has also “drafted” the Palestinians for its own cause. But last week, Iranians protesting the funding of external wars were chanting “Death to Palestine!” In both the European boycott and the Iranian military cases, Palestinians are victims of policies that are meant to help them, but in reality hurt them.

Nevertheless, Kontorovich does not think that recognition of this would lead to a change: “Palestinians will certainly suffer economically from any boycott of settlements, but that fact is unlikely to deter European boycotters, who are not truly trying to help the Palestinians but rather to hurt Israel.”

“Palestinians feel abandoned,” a Westerner working with them in the West Bank observed. They feel abandoned by the Arabs, who are cozying up to Israel; by the US, which moved its embassy to Jerusalem; and by Europe, whose actions promote conflict and perpetuate their narrative of victimhood.

Could this be an opportunity for Palestinians to get closer to Israel? After all, unlike in Europe where the conflict with Islam is viewed by many as a clash of civilizations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a dispute. Bitter as the conflict might be, Israelis and Palestinians often actually like each other and get along well. That is clear in places where they interact (such as workplaces, malls and entertainment events) and evident in the decades that preceded the outbreak of violence.

Palestinians telling Europeans and others who hijacked their cause “We are not your toy” could help unleash the massive untapped potential in Palestinian society – and indeed lead to peace.

Seth Frantzman: Can the Islamic State be defeated?

This week a delegation of US senators, including Lindsey Graham and Elizabeth Warren, toured the Iraqi city of Mosul. After seeing some alleyways festooned with rubble from last year’s battle with Islamic State, they saw the historic al-Nuri Mosque that ISIS destroyed last June. Even though bodies are still be found in the rubble of Mosul and bombs left behind by ISIS are still a threat, the senators walked without body armor alongside Iraqi officers, including Nineveh plains commander Gen. Najim al-Jabouri.

The tour was optimistic and illustrated the continued US commitment to the battle against ISIS. Across the border in Syria warplanes from the anti-ISIS coalition and fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces are bearing down on the last pockets of ISIS in an operation called Roundup. According to the coalition ISIS has lost 300 square kilometers of ground over the last months, as the operation enters “phase two.”

However, ISIS is still active in a swath of territory that stretches from the Sahel in Africa all the way to the Philippines. It exploits ungoverned spaces, weak governments and ill-defended borders to percolate among existing extremist groups that have sworn allegiance to it. These include Boko Haram in Nigeria, an ISIS affiliate in Niger that killed four US soldiers last year, “Sinai Province” in Sinai, the Khalid bin al-Walid faction in Syria next to the Golan, increasingly deadly fighters in Afghanistan and other affiliates throughout the world.

The 70-member anti-ISIS coalition that the US helped put together starting in August 2014 has an impressive list of members. But its mission is less clear today. The coalition recently met in Morocco, where 52 delegations, including 24 from Africa, attended. Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition against Daesh, helped preside over the event. He was appointed under Obama and is one of the few high-level holdovers who has stayed on in the Trump administration. He provides consistency to the anti-ISIS campaign, but the campaign itself is not entirely clear on where it is headed.

Asylum Seeker Who Allegedly Murdered Jewish Teen Also Accused of Raping 11-Year-Old

Iraqi asylum seeker Ali Bashar, who allegedly raped and murdered 14-year-old German-Jewish teen Susanna Maria Feldman, has also been accused of the multiple rapes of an 11-year-old girl.

Bashar, 21, along with a 14-year-old Afghan migrant named Mansoor, is said to have brutally raped an 11-year-old girl several times since March, German tabloid Bild reports.

According to police sources, Bashar allegedly first raped the 11-year-old in March. She is said to have been raped by Mansoor in April, and then in May the pair, and possibly Bashar’s 13-year-old brother, raped her once more. Police were tipped off after the victim came forward.

Following the claims, 21-year-old Mansoor was placed into police custody, but the 13-year-old brother could not be charged because he is in the Middle East.

The Afghan had already become known to police because he helped them find the body of 14-year-old Susanna Feldman after Ali Bashar had fled the country back to his native Iraq, where he was later captured outside of Erbil by Kurdish forces and returned to Germany.

During his arrest in Iraq, Bashar allegedly confessed to the murder of the young girl but denied allegations that he raped her before killing her.

Palestinian with knife, meat cleaver arrested outside West Bank settlement

Police on Saturday foiled an attempted stabbing attack, detaining a Palestinian man carrying a knife and a meat cleaver near a West Bank settlement.

The man was stopped by traffic police near the settlement of Beit El in the northern West Bank. As he was acting suspiciously, officers searched his vehicle and found the weapons.

The man, a 28-year old from the village of Dura, near Hebron in the southern West Bank, was taken for questioning. He told police he was planning to carry out a stabbing attack, police said.

Earlier in the day, border police at the Shuafat checkpoint near Jerusalem arrested a Palestinian who tried to go through the metal detector while carrying a knife.

In figures published this week the Shin Bet security service said that there was a drop of 40 percent in the number of terrorist attacks nationwide documented in June, when 220 such incidents were registered.

The first half of June was Ramadan, a Muslim month-long holiday when observant worshipers fast from sunrise to sundown. Ramadan usually features a spike, not a decrease, in terrorist activity. Israeli security services massively increased their presence in Jerusalem in June to prevent disturbances.

Large fire caused by kite sent from Gaza rages outside Israeli kibbutz

Two fires blazed near Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip Saturday afternoon, caused by incendiary kites flown into Israel from the territory.

A large fire was raging near Kibbutz Or Haner, Channel 10 news reported. Nine firefighting teams were at the scene, with the support of four firefighting aircraft.

A second fire was reported near Kibbutz Nir Am.

Officials said there was no current danger to the communities themselves.

Recent months have seen an uptick in violence at the Gaza border, with weekly violent Palestinian protests, ongoing rocket attacks, and the new phenomenon of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border, sometimes at a rate of several dozen each day.

The incendiary devices have sparked near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks, and forests. Some have been found connected to explosive devices.

On Friday police launched a campaign urging children to stay away from any unknown kites, balloons, or drones they may find on the ground this summer.

On Friday thousands of Israelis took part in a rally near Gaza calling for the return of the bodies of IDF soldiers held by Hamas.

Iran summons Dutch envoy over expulsion of 2 diplomats

Iran’s foreign ministry on Saturday summoned the Dutch ambassador to Tehran over the Netherlands’ expulsion of two Iranian diplomat, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

The report quoted the ministry’s spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, as saying the “unfriendly measure” by the Dutch government was “irrational and illegal” and that Iran reserved the right to reciprocate.

The Netherlands last month expelled two workers from the Iranian embassy, the Dutch intelligence agency said Friday, without revealing the reason for their expulsions.

“Two workers from the Iranian embassy were expelled from the Netherlands on June 7,” AIVD spokesman Hulbert Bredemeijer told AFP.

“Unfortunately I cannot divulge any details of the matter,” he said.

The Dutch move came well before Belgium, France, and Germany this week detained six people over an alleged plot to bomb a weekend rally of the opposition People’s Mujahedeen of Iran in a Parisian suburb.

French shipping firm drops Iran over US sanctions threat

The world’s third largest shipping container group, the French-owned CMA CGM, has decided to withdraw from Iran over the threat of US sanctions, its chief executive said Saturday.

“Because of the Trump administration, we have decided to end our service to Iran,” Rodolphe Saade told an economic conference in Aix-en-Provence in southern France.

“Our Chinese competitors are hesitating a bit, so they may have different relationships with the Trump administration.”

In 2016 the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines allowing it to lease spaces for vessels, operate joint shipping lines, and cooperate on the use of port terminals.

US President Donald Trump announced in early May the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal and the reinstatement of sanctions against the country, as well as against foreign companies who do business with it.

Washington said the sanctions would be immediate for new contracts and gave companies already working there up to 180 days to cease trading.

Reinventing the Israeli discussion on campus

One of the issues facing discussions about Israel on campus is not just hostility by the changing demographics of the student body. There are more international students than in decades past. That includes students from the US, China and throughout the Middle East. Even though statistics show universities in the UK are still overwhelmingly white – 80% according to a 2014 study – they are more diverse than before. That means that when there are discussions about Israel, the forum will impact not only the UK but also the world.

Hunter and Shachor say that one of the important things for them is reaching out to those who might be the leaders of tomorrow by targeting top-tier institutions. But the main thing is to “normalize” the discussion of Israel on campus.

“THE IMPORTANT part is that by hosting these events… you normalize them. The reason Ayalon was protested was that it wasn’t a frequent event [where] an Israeli comes, and they [anti-Israel activists] tried to create a deterrent,” says Hunter. The more Israeli faces who come and speak, the more it becomes a normal event. “Let’s look at the India-Pakistan conflict: It was the 100-year anniversary of the Partition recently, but no one says India or Pakistan shouldn’t exist and no one argues that a Pakistani speaker should be no-platformed. So there you have a similar conflict with sensitivities, so how come we can discuss that normally but not Israel-Palestine?” asks Hunter.

Indeed, responds Shachor, there is a kind of blanker ban on Israelis in some places. Even critics of Israel are attacked. With 50 talks hosted, the activists think they are on the right track.

They also see signs of success. When Olmert came there were students from Bahrain, Syria, the UAE and Turkey. “For people who come from countries that don’t have freedom of expression and can suddenly hear someone firsthand who has featured heavily in their media,” it can change them, says Hunter. “We aren’t trying to convert campuses to being pro-Israel; we try to sustain an image of being non-partisan. But bringing in people who are not knowledgeable of Left or Right and not as familiar with the conflict, they want to be in the middle and learn something,” says Shachor.

But there is an uphill struggle. Some other pro-Israel groups are set in their ways and are suspicious of a new organization, especially one run by younger people. Hunter and Shachor and their team see being young as an asset. “We know how young people think. One thing we are doing now is we create these short monologues on Facebook, talking about freedom of expression,” Shachor points out. The real test will come in the next few years, as more Israelis seek to speak on UK campuses. If the violence of the past is reduced, then the Pinsker Centre’s work can be seen as a success.

BDS-funding Dem candidate Scott Wallace sinking, Cook moves #PA01 to ‘Leans Republican’

Democrats had high hopes for a pick up in the newly-redistricted 1st District of Pennsylvania, the result of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that threw out the 2010 redistricting for allegedly violating the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The issue of whether partisan redistricting violates the U.S. Constitution remains an open question, despite recent SCOTUS decisions. But since the PA Sup Ct decided the case based on the PA Constitution, the attempt to get SCOTUS to review the case failed.

The result of the judicially-imposed new districts was expected to be a pick up for Democrats of possibly 3-4 seats. One of those seats was PA-01 centered in Bucks County.

Scott Wallace, heir to a massive fortune, appeared to have it all — money and progressive credentials.

But then, right after the primary, a bombshell landed on the Wallace campaign in the form of an investigative report at The Forward documenting how Wallace’s foundation funded the anti-Israel BDS movement, Dem Scott Wallace (#PA01) foundation funded worst-of-the-worst anti-Israel pro-BDS groups.

As explained in our post, Wallace claimed he was unaware and blamed some unnamed other person in the foundation. Wallace’s campaign, however, has never responded to our inquiries as to what Wallace knew, and when he knew it. That’s important, because Wallace’s foundation funded the worst-of-the-worst BDS groups, as I explained in that original post:

Taliban Laud ‘Famous’ Washington Post for Article on Their ‘Just Islamic Governance’

The Taliban are taking umbrage with “enemy propaganda” that refers to them as an insurgent or terrorist group, arguing that the Washington Post correctly characterized them as a parallel government in a recent article.

That WaPo piece, published June 21, reported on a June study, “Life under the Taliban shadow government,” by the Overseas Development Institute, a British think-tank.

“Taliban governance is more coherent than ever before; high-level commissions govern sectors such as finance, health, education, justice and taxation, with clear chains of command and policies from the leadership based in Pakistan down to villages in Afghanistan,” stated the think-tank. “The reach of Taliban governance demonstrates that they do not have to formally occupy territory to control what happens within it. Governance does not come after the capture of territory, but precedes it. The Taliban’s influence on services and everyday life extends far beyond areas they can be said to control or contest. That the Taliban set the rules in vast swathes of the country is a reality with which few in the international community are willing to engage.”

The Washington Post article said the study painted a “very different portrait” for “those who imagine that Taliban control in some regions of Afghanistan consists mainly of men being beaten for failing to pray and girls being forced to stay home from school.”

Australian glasses co. under fire for ad campaign filmed at Holocaust death camp

An Australian glasses company apologized and took down its new ad campaign after coming under fire earlier this week for filming it on the grounds of a Holocaust death camp in Croatia.

In the photos and video shots for Valley Eyewear’s new “Black Zero” collection, a concrete flower statue erected in memory of the tens of thousands killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp can be seen in the background.

Valley Eyewear director Michael Crawley told the BBC that his company was unaware that it was a death camp when they arrived to film there. “We didn’t want to offend anybody. We’re a respectful brand. I apologize to anyone who’s offended,” he said.

Crawley said he agreed to take the pictures and videos down after the head of the Jasenovac memorial reached out to him.

The ads were harshly criticized on social media, with one user asking the company on Twitter why they didn’t just film it in Auschwitz. Another said the company was innitialy dismissive of concerns and posted a screen shot of the response he received from what appeared to be Valley Eyewear’s official Facebook page.

Smartphone system for blind wins 1st Silver Economy Award

Israel-based Project Ray was chosen Best For-Profit Organization at the inaugural European Silver Economy Awards silvereconomyawards.eu/ sponsored by SEED and the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme in Brussels, Belgium.

Project Ray’s app and adhesive tags turn any smartphone into a fully accessible, tactile device for people with vision impairment. The system enables tactile use of the phone, messaging, social networks, WhatsApp, calendar, navigation, voice recording, note taking, emergency services, banknote recognition and more.

Project Ray also was named Most Promising Israeli Start-Up at the Start-Up Nation Forum held by the Israeli Embassy as part of the 2018 VivaTech exhibition in Paris.

In mid-June, Project Ray CEO Boaz Zilberman and General Manager of US Operations Patrick Olsen were at the 2018 M-Enabling Summit in Washington, DC, where they introduced the RAY-K2 smartphone, an Android-based device with dual mode access to Ray and Android interface systems with a complete set of accessibility features including an eye-free user interface.

Yiddish version of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ opens off Broadway

It might seem meshuga – crazy – to stage a beloved musical in a language that most of the audience won’t understand. But Tevye the dairyman and his family will speak Yiddish in an off-Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof” directed by Oscar and Tony winner Joel Grey.

Previews start Wednesday for the show, which will be the first-ever U.S. production of “Fiddler” in the language that its characters would have spoken.

During a rehearsal at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, housed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan, Grey said that “I always knew what this play was about, and that’s how I had the chutzpah to tackle it,” using the Yiddish word that roughly translates to cheekiness.

“We work in English first on the scenes so that everybody understands the characters, and the third or fourth time we do it in Yiddish, and we just keep at it.”

There will be supertitles in English and Russian for theatergoers who don’t know their schmaltz from their schmutz.

“Fiddler on the Roof” opened on Broadway in 1964, starring Zero Mostel as Tevye and ran for eight years. It has been a favorite of schools and community theater groups ever since and has been revived on Broadway four times. Its songs, including “Sunrise, Sunset” and “If I Were a Rich Man,” are familiar even to people who’ve never seen the show.

Filipino guest workers come to Israel — and decide to embrace Judaism

One of the biggest days of the year for Ronaldo and Bernadette Lopez is Christmas.

They open up their Filipino restaurant in South Tel Aviv, and their friends bring their families, crowd the place and eat embutido, a rolled pork dish from their shared home country.

But this year may be different because the Lopez family no longer celebrates Christmas. In April, they converted to Judaism. And as of May, they still hadn’t told their Filipino friends about the decision, which followed a year-and-a-half of study and an oral exam they had to pass.

“Not yet,” Ronaldo said, laughing as he prepared chicken in their restaurant last month. “I’m keeping it as a secret for us. Until now I am still in the cloud nine. I don’t believe that I passed everything. They will be shocked. They will not believe that I already converted to Judaism.”

Like many of the approximately 25,000 Filipinos working in Israel, the Lopezes came for jobs as caregivers to the elderly, arriving in 2003. But with the conversion, they have taken a major step that most of their fellow expatriates have not: While many Filipinos come to Israel for a few years to make money in a developed economy, they tend to remain culturally separate from Israelis.

Many communicate with their employers in English, with a few Hebrew words mixed in. They largely retain their Catholic religion. Because Filipinos live with their clients for most of the week, they have a much smaller footprint on the everyday life of Tel Aviv than neighboring African asylum seekers, who face racism and cultural resentment. (Relations between Israel and the Philippines are also improving. Rodrigo Duterte, the controversial Filipino president, is slated to visit later this year.)

But the Lopezes have sought out connections with Israelis. They have lived here for 15 years. This is the only country their two sons, aged 9 and 13, have known. Israel’s government gave them a license to run their restaurant. And Bernadette says Israelis have been supportive of their integration.

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green visits Israel

Draymond Green, an All-Star forward for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, met in Jerusalem with Israel’s president.

Green presented Reuven Rivlin with a Warriors jersey during their meeting Wednesday. The basketball player is in Israel as part of a visit organized by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Hadashot News reported.

“It’s not every day that I meet an All-Star,” Rivlin told Green. He also tweeted a welcome to Green.

Rivlin said that, like many Israelis, he watched the NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers live, which is very early in the morning in Israel. The Warriors swept the Cavs to win their second consecutive title and third in four seasons, all at the expense of the LeBron James-led Cleveland squad.

“You did not have a simple task, defending LeBron James,” the president told Green. “You’re an amazing team, and it was a true pleasure to watch you play. I hope this will only be the first of many visits.”

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