Palestinian President Shows the World Who He Really Is

That wild speech is indeed a product of recent events. But it also fits a telling pattern.

By: Eli Lake; bloomberg.com

Photographer: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

There are two ways to understand the two-and-a-half hour rant Sunday from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in which he called for discarding past agreements with Israel.

The first way is straightforward: He means it. As Maya Angelou famously said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” In the case of Abbas, he has been showing us who he is for a while now.

He defends Palestinian Authority payments for terrorists. He called murderers “heroic brothers” when they were released by Israel in 2013 as a condition for restarting peace talks. In December he urged the Organization of the Islamic Conference to reconsider its recognition of Israel.

So when Abbas gives a Castro-esque speech laced with fake history about Israel being a colonial project of Europeans, it fits a pattern.

The second way of understanding his rant requires some creative accounting. Abbas doesn’t really mean it. Abbas has been a patient peace partner now for 15 years, but along comes President Donald Trump, who recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and asks Saudi Arabia to pressure Abbas to take a deal. What do you expect?

This is the interpretation of J-Street, the Soros-family-funded advocacy group that touts itself as pro-peace and pro-Israel. A J-Street statement on the Abbas speech began with this throat clearing: “Sunday’s speech by President Abbas no doubt reflected his own and the Palestinian people’s deep despair at the ever-deepening occupation and the lack of diplomatic progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

J-Street was careful to stipulate that this despair was “no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel.” But let’s not lose the plot. This group asserts that Abbas would not have delivered his rant “if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

J-Street here is succumbing to a fallacy of international relations. Call it the prime-mover theory of geopolitics: There is always something America can or shouldn’t do that determines the behavior of its adversaries and allies. We see this misunderstanding all the time. People say that had George W. Bush not invaded Iraq, there would be no Islamic State. Had Barack Obama not withdrawn prematurely from Iraq, there would be no Islamic State. You get the picture.

But foreign affairs are never so simple as one cause having one effect. And this brings us back to Abbas. The 82-year-old Palestinian leader certainly had reason to be disappointed with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He didn’t like Trump’s threats to cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority. But none of that quite explains a speech that wishes for the U.S. president’s house to come to ruin, accuses Israel of importing drugs, and threatens to blacklist companies that do business in the occupied territory and report their names to Interpol for bribery.

To explain this vitriol as purely a reaction to despair or hopelessness is to ignore recent history. Abbas was elevated to his position after George W. Bush asked the Palestinian people to elect leaders not tainted by terror. Recall the Iranian shipment of arms coordinated by Abbas’s predecessor Yasser Arafat in 2002, during the final months of the second intifada. Abbas on the other hand had distinguished himself in this period by delivering a brave speech calling for nonviolent resistance to occupation, when Arafat was praising the suicide bombers.

The current Palestinian leader has been dining out on that speech now for 15 years, while consistently rejecting peace offers and later negotiations. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank. This could have been the basis for new negotiations, but nothing happened.

Under Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas was offered an independent state in 2008. Olmert recalled in a 2015 interview that he told Abbas: “Remember my words, it will be 50 years before there will be another Israeli prime minister that will offer you what I am offering you now. Don’t miss this opportunity.” Abbas didn’t take the offer. Instead he asked to study the maps.

After Israelis elected Benjamin Netanyahu, he succumbed to pressure from the U.S. president, Barack Obama, to freeze some settlement activity as a condition for peace talks. Abbas didn’t even deign to negotiate. In Obama’s second term, Netanyahu released violent prisoners as a condition for restarting the talks. Again, Abbas didn’t budge.

To be sure, the Israelis too have continued to expand the population in existing settlement blocs. The world is less focused on the plight of Palestinians as the Middle East has moved on with the Arab Spring and civil wars that followed. But Abbas remains stuck today as he was in 2005 when he won his only election to be the Palestinian president. He is a prisoner of a dysfunctional liberation movement.

The Abbas we saw on Sunday was not a leader inviting his people to embrace dark conspiracies and hopeless struggle. Rather, Abbas was meeting many Palestinians where they already are. He was reflecting a movement that equates Palestinian nationalism with the negation of the Jewish state.

Eventually Abbas will die. His legacy will be that of a weak man who was unwilling and unable to challenge deep flaws in his people’s liberation movement. If there is ever to be peace or Palestine, the Palestinians need a leader who will challenge a liberation myth that Abbas has never relinquished.

 

After Second Incident, Swedish Anti-Semitism Watchdog Warns of Wave of Attacks

jta.org

Police arrive after a synagogue was attacked in a failed arson attempt in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dec. 9, 2017. (Adam Ihse/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) — In the aftermath of a second anti-Semitic attack this week in southern Sweden, the spokesman for a local watchdog group said the Jewish community must be vigilant but will not go underground.

Willy Silberstein, spokesman for the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, spoke to JTA on Monday hours after an incident in Malmo in which police said they discovered traces of a flammable fluid near a Jewish cemetery that they suspect had been targeted by arsonists.

“There is a wave of anti-Semitic attacks right now, and I suspect this won’t be the last incident,” Silberstein said.

A spokesman for the Swedish police said there were no suspects in custody in connection with the incident.

On Saturday night, several men hurled firebombs at a synagogue in the nearby city of Gothenburg hours after hundreds marched through the city in protest of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday in a White House announcement by President Donald Trump. Three arrests were made.

Notwithstanding the incidents, the capital of Stockholm will have a public lighting of a Hanukkah menorah in a central square on Wednesday, Silberstein said.

“People are advised to be vigilant but normal life continues, even under increased police protection, which we received this week,” he said of the centers of the Jewish community of Stockholm, where some 18,000 Jews live.

Swedish police reportedly have tightened security near Jewish sites throughout the country in the wake of the two attacks.

Silberstein said wearing a kippah in Stockholm is relatively safe, “but there are some areas of Malmo where I wouldn’t advise it.”

Following the attack in Gothenburg, some observers, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, linked the incidents to the Swedish government’s perceived hostile attitude toward Israel. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom last year said that killings of Palestinians who attempted to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis were “extrajudicial executions.”

But Silberberg rejected the claim, saying authorities have done much to protect Swedish Jews from attacks, whose perpetrators are often Arab or Muslim.

“Maybe more could have been done,” he said, “but generally speaking the Swedish authorities have taken necessary measures.”

The attacks in Sweden followed a violent assault on a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam Thursday and chants in Arabic about killing Jews that were heard in Vienna, London and Berlin, as well as in Malmo at protest rallies against U.S. recognition of Israel’s capital. In France, the boycott of Israel was promoted at two protest rallies, in Paris and Lyon. The rally in Paris featured calls to free Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons on murder charges, who were celebrated at that rally as “heroes.”

The Amsterdam attack ended with the arrest of a 29-year-old Palestinian waving his national flag who smashed the eatery’s windows, broke in while staff was inside and took out a flag of Israel that was hanging in the restaurant. Two police officers who watched his actions with passers-by arrested him as he exited the restaurant.

Ronny Naftaniel, a board member of the CEJI organization for education against hatred and a former director of the Dutch CIDI watchdog on anti-Semitism, criticized the Dutch judiciary for a draft indictment of the man, who admitted the actions attributed to him, because it did not contain a reference to his actions as a hate crime. He is to be charged with vandalism and theft, according to the Dutch media.

“When you enter a kosher restaurant, break in and take the Israeli flag, you are not committing a break-in,” Naftaniel wrote Monday on Twitter. “You are committing a hate crime.”

 

How a network of citizen-spies foiled Nazi plots to exterminate Jews in 1930s L.A.

The western side of Crescenta Valley Park, known as Hindenburg Park, gained notoriety in the late 1930s when the Bund, a political group styling itself after the Nazis, staged several rallies there. (Historical Society of Crescenta)

By Steven J. Ross / LATimes.com

On July 26, 1933, a group of Nazis held their first public rally in Los Angeles. As Jewish groups in the city debated how they should respond to Adolf Hitler’s persecution of Jews in Europe, L.A.’s Nazis, many of them German emigres, gathered at a biergarten downtown, wearing brown shirts and red, white and black armbands with swastikas.

The Nazis belonged to a growing movement of white supremacists in L.A. that included many American brothers in hate: the Ku Klux Klan, a group of Hitler supporters known as the Silver Shirts, and a dozen like-minded organizations with vaguely patriotic names such as the American Nationalist Party, the Christian American Guard, and the National Protective Order of Gentiles.

Some weeks ago, white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., chanted “Jews will not replace us.” Their predecessors were even less subtle: They called for “death to Jews.”

Unwilling to wait and see if any of them would act on their threats, Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer and World War I veteran who had helped found the Anti-Defamation League, decided to investigate the anti-Semitic hate groups. In August 1933, mere weeks after the rally, Lewis recruited four fellow World War I veterans, plus their wives, to go undercover and join every Nazi and fascist group in the city.

“Leon Lewis understood that hate knows no national boundaries.”

Lewis’s recruits did not know there would be another world war. And they certainly did not know a Holocaust would occur in Europe.

But once they had infiltrated the groups, they understood that they had to take the Nazi threat seriously. They repeatedly heard fellow Americans talk candidly about wanting to overthrow the government and kill every Jewish man, woman and child.

Lewis’s operatives were all Christian, save for one Jew. They regarded their mission as an American one. Their intention was to gather sufficient evidence of illegal activities by the groups, then turn it over to the appropriate government agencies, after which Lewis planned to return to practicing law. What Lewis did not anticipate is that local authorities would prove indifferent to — or supportive of — the Nazis and fascists.

Within weeks of going undercover, Lewis’s network of spies discovered a plot to wrest control of armories in San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego — part of a larger plan to take over local governments and carry out a mass execution of Jews. Lewis immediately informed L.A. Police Chief James Edgar “Two-Gun” Davis of the Nazi scheme to seize weapons and, as Lewis warned in a memo later, to “foster a fascist form of government in the United States.”

Lewis was shocked when Davis interrupted him to defend Hitler. The police chief, he noted in the memo, told him: “Germans could not compete economically with the Jews in Germany and had been forced to take the action they did.” The greatest danger the city faced, Davis insisted, was not from Nazis but from communists living in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights. As far as Davis was concerned, every communist was a Jew and every Jew a communist.

Lewis got a similar response from the Sheriff’s Department and local FBI agents, many of whom were sympathetic to the Nazis and fascists. He decided he had to continue the operation, and his spies agreed.

From the summer of 1933 until 1945, while many Americans closed their eyes to the hate growing around them, Lewis’s spies and informants, who numbered close to two dozen at the height of operations, risked their lives to stop Hitler’s minions and alert citizens to the danger these groups posed.

They uncovered a series of Nazi plots. There was a plan to murder 24 Hollywood actors and power figures, including Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Charlie Chaplin and James Cagney. There was a plan to drive through Boyle Heights and machine-gun as many Jewish residents as possible. There were plans for fumigating the homes of Jewish families with cyanide, and for blowing up military installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories on the day Nazis intended to launch their American putsch.

These plans for murder and sabotage failed because Lewis’s operatives penetrated the inner circles of the hate groups and foiled them. Charles Slocombe, Lewis’s ace spy, thwarted two of the most deadly plots to kill Hollywood figures, one of them by turning Nazis and fascists against one another and raising fears that they might be arrested for murder due to leaks inside the German American Bund and Silver Shirts. Slocombe stopped a second mass murder plot by convincing three of the plotters that the mastermind behind the plan, the British fascist Leopold McLaglan, was about to betray them.

Knowing their inner circles had been infiltrated, but not by whom, and unwilling to risk prison, the groups postponed their plans. Permanently.

Without ever firing a gun, Lewis and his spies managed to defeat a variety of enemies. Only after Congress declared war on Germany did government authorities finally relieve Lewis — “the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles,” as Nazis called him — of the burden of tracking down these dangerous elements. Nevertheless, he and his operatives continued to monitor the groups throughout the war years.

Leon Lewis understood that hate knows no national boundaries. Foreign-born Nazis and American-born Silver Shirts and Klansmen gladly joined together in targeting Jews and communists. And few Americans, either inside or outside the government, tried to stop them in those early years.

He and his network of spies understood the importance of vigilance. They refused to allow their city and country to be threatened by hate. With their actions they show us that when a democratic government fails to stop extremists bent on violence, citizens must protect one another, no matter their race or religion.

Steven J. Ross is a professor of history at USC and the author of “Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America.”

 

US, Israel to Exit UNESCO Over Its Alleged Anti-Israel Bias

AP News; townhall.com

PARIS (AP) — The United States announced Thursday it is pulling out of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for “fundamental reform” in the agency. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel plans to follow suit.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department’s statement was unexpected. The Paris-based agency’s executive board is in the midst of choosing a new chief — with Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the heated election heading into Friday’s final vote.

Outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova expressed “profound regret” at the U.S. decision and tried to defend UNESCO’s reputation. The organization is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions, but also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

Bokova called the U.S.’s planned departure a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism. The U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now with “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism,” she said.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead. It cited U.S. belief in “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel also plans to withdraw from the agency, saying it had become a “theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”

Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have instead named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

Praising Trump’s decision as “brave and moral,” Netanyahu said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare for Israel’s withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington’s move as heralding “a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel.”

“The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the U.N,” Danon said. “The alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever.”

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and it was not discussed with other countries. The officials were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called UNESCO’s July designation of Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory the latest of many “foolish actions” that had made the agency “a chronic embarrassment.”

Haley also criticized UNESCO for “keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters”

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003.

The State Department informed Bokova it intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

“We will be carefully watching how the organization and the new director-general steers the agency,” Charge d’Affaires Chris Hegadorn, the ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press. “Ideally, it steers it in way that U.S. interests and UNESCO’s mandate will converge.”

UNESCO’s 58-member executive board plans to select Bokova’s successor from among three finalists remaining from the field of seven candidates under consideration at the beginning of the week.

Along with al-Kawari, Qatar’s former culture minister, the finalists are Audrey Azoulay, a former culture minister in France, and former Egyptian government minister Moushira Khattab. The board’s pick then goes to the full UNESCO general assembly next month for final approval.

___

Lee reported from Washington. Edith M. Lederer in New York, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

 

Deputy Mayor of Frankfurt Seeks to Ban ‘Deeply Antisemitic’ BDS

By: Benjamin Weinthal; jpost.com

The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” the deputy mayor of Frankfurt said.

Protesters attend a rally against anti-Semitism in Frankfurt August 31, 2014. . (photo credit:REUTERS)

The deputy mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, submitted a bill that would ban municipal funds and space being used for activities that aim to boycott Israel.

Becker, a leading German political voice against antisemitism, said on Wednesday, “The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign with its messages uses the same language as the National Socialists once used to express: ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’” The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” he said.

The proposed law would outlaw all public funding and space for the support of “the antisemitic BDS activities.”

The bill in Frankfurt, which has a population of nearly 733,000, would also urge private companies to refrain from commerce with BDS groups.

The deputy mayor spearheaded his Christian Democratic Union’s adoption of its anti-BDS platform at the party’s congress in 2016.

Becker said on Wednesday, “Frankfurt maintains, with its partnership with Tel Aviv, a special closeness to Israel and has continued to expand over the previous years this special relationship.”

The municipality said in a statement that Becker announced Frankfurt’s clear position against BDS in light of anti-boycott measures taken by other national and regional legislatures, including Munich’s.

Becker said BDS, at its core, is a movement that “delegitimizes the State of Israel and uses the method of a boycott to defame [Israel].” He cited BDS actions to intimidate artists who want to appear in Israel.

He also noted the boycott activities of “department store police” who stigmatize Israeli products in order to pressure stores to turn against the Jewish state.

Anti-Israel activists have over the years marched into stores in Bremen, Bonn and other German cities to single out Israeli goods for opprobrium.

Becker said his city is engaged for a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, Becker wrote on his Facebook page: “With the rising terrorism in Europe, more and more people start to understand the situation that Israel has been facing since David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of Israel on May 14, 1948. This rising awareness should also open the eyes of the people in Europe to see that it is up to us to support Israel, as it is the only democratic country under the rule of law in the Middle East. Israel is the democratic bridge between Occident and Orient and is linked closely to our European values and virtues and way of life.”

He continued, “This year marks a decade of suffering for the people in Gaza. No, not from Israeli policy, as many people in Europe might think.

No, people in Gaza suffer from a lack of freedom, from a lack of democracy, from the brutal rule of Hamas, which is betraying its own people and has been governing Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2005 and Hamas took over power in 2007 after fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The corrupt leadership of Hamas has received hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade, but the money has not gone to the people, but to the accounts of corrupt Hamas leaders and to the funding of terrorism and terrorist infrastructure in their fight against Israel.”

Becker further said that “there should not be any European tax-money funding terrorism. And as long as it is not possible to track where our tax money meant for the humanitarian aid in Gaza goes, we should freeze our financial support.”

 

When It Comes to Islam, Logic Is Put in Reverse

By: Michael Brown; christianpost.com

Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 25 books and hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire.

Have you noticed that, immediately after an Islamic terrorist attack in our nation, the airwaves are ablaze with warnings – not against Islamic terrorism but against Islamophobia. So, the fear is not that there will be more terrorist attacks. The fear is that people will be fearful of Muslims. That is misguided enough (although I too deplore when the larger Muslim community is blamed for what the radical extremists do). But what just happened in Bondi, Australia takes this illogicality to a whole new level.

As reported on News.com.au, “A LOCAL council has banned the construction of a synagogue in Bondi because it could be a terrorist target, in a shock move that religious leaders say has caved in to Islamic extremism and created a dangerous precedent.”

Yes, the Jewish community was not allowed to build a new synagogue for fear that it would be targeted by radical Muslims. Talk about a reverse in logic.

The decision had been fought in the courts, but it was upheld this week, leading to outrage and dismay.

“Jewish leaders are shocked the decision appears to suggest they cannot freely practice their religion because they are the target of hate by Islamist extremists — and that the council has used their own risk assessment of the threat posed by IS against it.

“The head of the local Jewish community said the council and the court had effectively stifled freedom of religion and rewarded terrorism.”

As expressed by Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, the “implications [of the decision] are enormous. It basically implies that no Jewish organisation should be allowed to exist in residential areas. It stands to stifle Jewish existence and activity in Sydney and indeed, by creating a precedent, the whole of Australia, and by extension rewarding terrorism.”

Logic would tell you that if terrorism is the problem, you stand against it, not punish potential victims. Logic would tell you that if you bow down to the threat of terrorism, you empower it. What were the people of Bondi thinking?

While the Muslim population of Australia is growing rapidly, it still constitutes only 2.6 percent of the population, and the Australian media constantly defends Islam as a religion of peace. Why, then, so much fear? If the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, why be afraid to build a synagogue in Bondi? Is the government not able to deal with a handful of radicalized, violent Muslims?

In Muslim majority nations where strict Islam is practiced, Jews and Christians are reduced to second-class citizens, having to pay the jizya tax and deprived of the right to build new synagogues and churches. Yet today, in Australia, where non-Muslims outnumber Muslims by roughly 40 to 1, a Jewish community cannot build a new synagogue. To ask again, what kind of logic is this?

In years past, I have pointed out the hypocrisy of feminists and LGBT activists siding against Israel and with Hamas, as well as the absurdity of portraying Hamas as the victim. As I noted in 2014, “As the standard, anti-Israel, pro-Hamas narrative goes, Israel has the Iron Dome defense whereas Hamas has no such defensive shield. In other words, it’s not fair that Hamas is unable to murder the civilians it targets day and night, since Israel’s superior technology is able to shoot down their missiles. Talk about taking all the fun out of terrorism.”

Others have pointed to the self-contradictory message sent by Islamic extremists who say, “How dare you call us terrorists! We will kill you! Off with your heads!”

Yes, nice guys, one and all. How did we misjudge them?

When it comes to the outrageous decision in Bondi, local Jewish leader Vic Alhadeff said it well: “This simply shows how we’re all losing our freedoms. Those who want us to be afraid are winning, and this ill-conceived judgment represents a dangerous precedent.”

And do you know who should lead the protest against the court’s decision? It is the Muslims of Australia. They should say as one man, “We renounce terrorism, we believe in freedom of religion, and we affirm your right to build a new house of worship. In fact, we want to stand with you to combat radical Islam, and we pledge our help and support.”

Does that have a chance of happening? We shall see, although it may be highly unlikely. (I’d be thrilled to be wrong here in my skepticism.)

But there’s another group that most certainly can and should stand up, and that is the Christian community of Australia. Let them raise their voices and shout to this beleaguered Jewish community, “Bondi is not a ghetto, and Australia is not a war zone. Together, we will stand for freedom, liberty, and safety.”

What a message this would send to the Jewish people of Australia and beyond.

 

Australian city bans the building of a new synagogue — and the reason has people fuming

By: Beth Baumann; theblaze.com

The Bondi City Council in Australia voted against building a new synagogue in the area because of potential terrorist threats. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Jewish community in Bondi, Australia, was shocked after the city council denied the construction of a new synagogue. According to the council, having a synagogue less than a mile from Bondi’s famous beaches could pose a terrorist threat to local residents and tourists.

Even more shocking to them was the Land and Environment Court’s decision on Wednesday to uphold Bondi’s ruling.

According to Jewish leaders, Bondi’s decision stripped Jews of their right to freely practice their religion.

“The decision is unprecedented,” Rabbi Yehoram Ulman told news.com.au. “Its implications are enormous. It basically implies that no Jewish organization should be allowed to exist in residential areas. It stands to stifle Jewish existence and activity in Sydney and indeed, by creating a precedent, the whole of Australia, and by extension rewarding terrorism.”

Chief executive Vic Alhadeff of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the officially elected representative body for the Jewish community in South Wales, said he hasn’t heard of other religions being denied a place of worship because extremist organizations are targeting them.

“It’s a very sad day for Australia if an established community, which needs a house of worship, is refused permission to build it because of fear that others may pose a threat,” Rabbi Ulman said. “This simply shows how we’re all losing our freedoms. Those who want us to be afraid are winning, and this ill-conceived judgment represents a dangerous precedent.”

The synagogue’s proposal included a required risk assessment, which had security features built into it, including setback buildings and blast walls. Both the council and the court cited those security measures as a reason for denying the building.

“The proposed development should be refused as the site is not suitable for the proposed synagogue use as the Preliminary Threat and Risk Analysis relied on by the Applicant raises concerns as to the safety and security of future users of the Synagogue, nearby residents, motorists and pedestrians in Wellington Street and the physical measures proposed to deal with the identified threats will have an unacceptable impact on the streetscape and adjoining properties,” the ruling stated.

According to the city council, if the design was changed to increase security it would be too unsightly, which would also be unacceptable.

When the proposal was put together, Jewish leaders commissioned a terrorism expert to review the plans. The Friends of Refugees from Eastern Europe, who challenged the council ruling, argued the expert didn’t indicate any risk to those passing by.

“It would seem that a more sophisticated risk assessment process could be required for matters such as a potential terrorist threat,” Commissioner Graham Brown, who ruled on the case, said.

Rabbi Ulman said the decision threatened the Jewish religion’s future in Australia.

“By pulling the terror threat argument they have shown that they are completely out of touch both with the reality and with needs of their constituency,” Ulman said.

 

Iran Condemns Its Soccer Players for Match with Israeli Team

By: apnews.com

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s soccer federation condemned two Iranians who play for a Greek team on Friday for participating in a match against an Israeli team, Iranian media reported.

The federation “strongly condemns” the participation of Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi in a match for Greece’s Panionios against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv a day earlier in Greece, it said in a statement reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.

On its Farsi-language Twitter account, Israel’s foreign ministry praised the players for ignoring what is considered a taboo in Iran by playing against the Israelis. Maccabi won the UEFA Europa League match 1-0.

Israel and Iran are bitter adversaries and traditionally, Iranian athletes refrain from playing Israelis. Iran’s government usually rewards such behavior.

The federation said it is reviewing the case and will make a final decision after speaking with both players who in the past have also played for the national soccer team. Fars reported that the two may now be banned from playing on that team again.

At a previous match against Maccabi in Tel Aviv, both refused to play.

The last competition between Iranian and Israeli sportsmen on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine. From time to time, Iranian players who play for foreign teams have played Israeli teams.

In February, a teenage Iranian chess player angered authorities when he played, as an individual, against an Israeli competitor in the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports anti-Israeli militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

US Academic Group Overwhelmingly Rejects BDS

By: Benjamin Weinthal; jpost.com

“The boycotters, whose entire identities revolve around boycotting Israeli Jews, cannot let go of the issue and seek to insert it into unrelated organizations.”

BDS. (photo credit:WIKIPEDIA)

Academics from the elite Modern Language Association (MLA) voted by a significant margin on Wednesday to reject a boycott of Israeli universities.

MLA members voted 1,954 to 885 to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions advocated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. MLA has a total of 18,279 eligible voters and 1,828 votes were required to ratify the resolution, wrote Anna Chang on the MLA website blog.

The resolution’s anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) language stated: “Whereas endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature; Whereas the boycott’s prohibition of the evaluation of work of individual Israeli scholars conflicts with Resolution 2002-1, which condemns boycotts against scholars; and Whereas endorsing the boycott could curtail debates with representatives of Israeli universities, such as faculty members, department chairs, and deans, thereby blocking possible dialogue and general scholarly exchange; Be it resolved that the MLA refrain from endorsing the boycott.”

Writing on the website of Legal Insurrection, the Cornell Law professor William A Jacobson, said, “This represents a staggering defeat for the boycotters. MLA has almost 5 times the membership of the American Studies Association, the largest academic group in the US to have adopted academic BDS.” He added, “Needless to say, supporters of the boycott are very unhappy with the vote result and again threatening to engineer mass resignations.”

Jacobson, an expert in BDS who has written extensively on academic BDS, wrote the key takeaways from the MLA row over BDS are: “One lesson is persistence. The key to BDS efforts is to wear good people down. At MLA and elsewhere, the boycott push is a multi-year, ongoing effort.

“Another lesson is to educate people. BDS, as all hate, prevails where propaganda is unchallenged. MMFSR [MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights] members produced fact sheets and other factual information to counter the false narratives and ahistorical arguments of BDS. A third lesson is not to be passive.”

He added, “The boycotters, whose entire identities revolve around boycotting Israeli Jews, cannot let go of the issue and seek to insert it into unrelated organizations.”

The pro-BDS group MLA Members for Justice in Palestine, which advocates within the Modern Language Association for “international solidarity with Palestinians” and the boycott of Israeli academic institutions – tweeted on Wednesday: “Principled resignations and principled continuance both good responses to ratification of anti-boycott res. MLA will support BDS eventually.”

Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told The Jerusalem Post, “MLA’s latest vote rejecting BDS is very encouraging and positive proving that there are those who see the intellectual dishonesty of the BDS movement and how it would have damaged the MLA. Above all it shows that there is an understanding that scholars boycotting other scholars goes against everything a university stands for.”

 

New York Times Unleashes Onslaught of Five Op-Eds Hostile to Israel

By: Ira Stoll; algemeiner.com

The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

When the New York Times opinion page hired Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, two outspoken Zionist veterans of the Wall Street Journal, a friend of mine warned me that the hires could be a mixed blessing from a pro-Israel perspective.

Now all the anti-Israel editors already at the Times will feel like they can let loose with impunity, because the hiring of Stephens and Weiss provides a ready response to accusations of “bias.” So said my friend.

Or, as I put it back on April 13, writing about Stephens: “Anyone who thinks the Times hiring of him was motivated primarily by a desire to respond to the paper’s pro-Israel critics might want to think again.”

My friend’s warning turned out to be prophetic.

In the weeks since the news of the Stephens and Weiss hires broke, the Times has — as if compensating — unleashed a barrage of op-eds savagely hostile to Israel and Jewish interests. Among them:

  • An op-ed by a Palestinian terrorist, Marwan Barghouti, complaining about conditions in Israeli prisons and likening Israel to South Africa under apartheid. Even the New York Times’ own public editor, Liz Spayd, publicly faulted the Times for initially identifying the author as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian” rather than as a convicted terrorist and murderer.
  • An op-ed piece by a Palestinian lawyer, Raja Shehadeh, complaining about the Israeli checkpoints he must pass through between Ramallah and Ben-Gurion International Airport. “We cannot afford to abandon the struggle and must do what we can to end this occupation,” declared the Times article. It was adapted from Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation, a book that already has also been the basis of both a New York Timesmagazine article and a long essay in the New York Times Book Review. (The book review essay itself was the subject of a Times correction after it falsely accused Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, of publicly calling for Palestinians to be deported to Jordan.)
  • An op-ed by the president of the National Iranian American Council, Trita Parsi, claiming, falsely, that the Iranian nuclear deal has “restrained” Iranian policy on Israel. “Iran’s actions and rhetoric on the Jewish state have shifted remarkably ever since nuclear negotiations began,” the article claimed, inaccurately.
  • An op-ed by the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, claiming, falsely, that Iran “has been aiding the victims of extremism in Iraq and Syria,” and offering advice to America on how “to avoid the spread of terrorism and militant extremism.” It is breathtaking, coming from the representative of a country that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Mr. Zarif has had at least seven New York Times op-ed pieces since 2003, four of them since April 2015, prompting at least some wry speculation that the Times editors will make him their next op-ed page columnist hire after Stephens.
  • An op-ed by another Palestinian lawyer, Diana Buttu, calling for the disbandment of the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that it “served as a subcontractor for the occupying Israeli military…. to keep Palestinians silent and quash dissent while Israel steals land, demolishes Palestinian homes, and builds and expands settlements.” The op-ed instead calls for a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas, which she conveniently refers to as a political party rather than a terrorist group. The op-ed calls for Palestinians to “press for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, like those that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.”

Any single one of these op-eds, taken alone, would be totally outrageous and indefensible. The onslaught of all five of them, in six weeks, constitutes an outbreak of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hostility at the Times on a level with the Jewish cemetery desecrations and bomb threat calls against Jewish institutions that the Times blamed on President Donald Trump and treated as front-page news a few months back.

Writing in Vox, David Roberts denounced Stephens as a “cosmopolitan, well-educated, reflexively pro-Israel war hawk.” The Times Cairo bureau chief, Declan Walsh, publicly denounced Stephens on Twitter as “not cool,” falsely accusing him of “ascribing a pathological condition to an entire race of people.”

It’s one thing to see the Stephens hire triggering antisemitic or anti-Israel tropes in other publications. It’s another to see them erupting in the columns of the Times itself. That’s not to blame Stephens, or Weiss, for the reaction. It’s not their fault. Their presence at the Times probably almost certainly nets out positively for the pro-Israel side. But the backlash can’t be ignored. It must be taken into account. Precisely as my friend predicted, it sure has been brutal.