‘America Stands with Israel,’ Proclaims Vice President

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence this week told the people of Israel he came to their nation with one simple message: “America stands with Israel.” In a speech before the Israeli Knesset, the Vice President said:

We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny. We stand with Israel because that’s what Americans have always done…

In his address celebrating the bond between Israel and the United States, Pence highlighted the power of the upcoming 70th anniversary of modern Israel and he recounted some common causes, such as opposition to terrorism and Iran’s current oppressive regime.

Pence also reiterated America’s commitment to honoring its ally by moving its embassy to its rightful place in Jerusalem, a move NRB has advocated and welcomes. “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” he declared simply, and later added, “By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction. And fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.”

Pence concluded his Knesset address:

The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world. And the United States of America is proud to stand with Israel and her people, as allies and cherished friends. And so we will “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” that “those who love you be secure,” that “there be peace within your walls, and security in your citadels.” And we will work and strive for that brighter future where everyone who calls this ancient land their home shall sit “under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.”

At NRB’s 2017 convention, the association’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution expressing support for Israel. The Board called on NRB members to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and for the U.S. “to stand steadfastly by Israel, even as others malign, abandon, or attack her.” They also urged Christians to “reject and guard against the dangerous Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.”

Next month, in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel, NRB will host a special session at Proclaim 18 in Nashville, Tennessee, that will feature Christian ministry leaders Kay Arthur and David Jeremiah; award-winning singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith; and others.

Proclaim 18, which will also feature a visit from Vice President Pence on its opening day, will be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville February 27-March 2, 2018.

 

Pence Speech Rife with Biblical References Rocks the Knesset

By: Lahav Harkov; jpost.com

VP Pence’s Biblical speech to Knesset met with multiple standing ovations.

Pence speech rife with biblical references rocks the Knesset
US Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem January 22, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/ARIEL SCHALIT/POOL)

US Vice President Mike Pence was met with one standing ovation after another in the Knesset, during his speech rife with Biblical references and expressions of support for Israel and the Jewish people.

Under US President Donald Trump, Pence said, US-Israel ties are stronger than ever.

“We stand with Israel, because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny…The people of the US have always held a special affection and admiration for the People of the Book. In the story of the Jews, we’ve always seen the story of America. It is the story of Exodus, a journey from persecution to freedom, a story that shows the power of faith and the promise of hope,” he stated.

Pence, the first US Vice President to address the Knesset’s plenary, spoke to a packed room.

A devout Evangelical Christian, Pence paraphrased Psalms: “The USA is proud to stand with Israel and her people, as allies and cherished friends. And so we will pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that those who love you be secure, that there be peace within your walls and security in your citadels. And we will work and strive for that brighter future, so everyone who calls this ancient land home shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.”

“We recognize that peace will require compromise, but you can be confident in this: The USA will never compromise on the safety and security of the State of Israel,” he stated.

“The US remains committed to peace,” Pence stated, saying that the US will support a two-state solution if both sides want it. That comment was met by a standing ovation from the opposition, while the coalition noticeably stayed in their seats.

The vice president announced that the US embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of next year, emphasizing that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

He also spoke out against Iran, calling the nuclear deal a “disaster,” and saying Trump will not certify it again.

Pence rapped Iran as the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and used the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” several times, saying it “respects no creed, stealing the lives of Jews, Christians and especially Muslims.”

“Together with our allies we will continue to bring the full force of our might to drive radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth,” he said.

During his speech, Pence waxed poetic about Israel and Jewish history.

“As I stand in Abraham’s Promised Land, I believe that all who cherish freedom and seek a brighter future should cast their eyes here and marvel at what they behold…How unlikely is Israel’s birth; how more unlikely is her survival,” he said.

Pence said the Jewish people held on to the hope of returning to their homeland over a 2,000 year exile, “through the darkest and longest nights.”

“Tomorrow, when I stand with my wife Karen at Yad Vashem to honor the six million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust, we will marvel at the faith and resilience of your people, who just three years after walking in the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect yourselves, to reclaim a Jewish future and rebuild the Jewish State.”

Speaking on Israel’s upcoming 70th Independence Day, Pence said the Shehechiyanu (“who has granted us life”) blessing, said to thank God on momentous occasions.

Pence’s blessing was met with a standing ovation from nearly all of the MKs present, as were several other points in his speech.

At the start of the speech, Joint List MKs held up signs that said “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” They were immediately ejected by ushers. Holding up signs or other props in the Knesset is prohibited in all plenary sessions, and when a foreign dignitary speaks, there is a zero-tolerance policy against heckling.

Pence took the interruption in stride, praising Israel’s “vibrant democracy.”

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh tweeted that he was proud to lead his party in a “strong, legitimate protest, against the Trump-Netanyahu regime’s exaltation of racism and hatred, who speak of peace solely as lip service.”

Pence’s speech was otherwise extremely well-received from both the opposition and the coalition.

The vice president concluded his speech with “God bless the Jewish people, God bless Israel, and God bless the USA.” Likud MK Yehudah Glick shouted: “God bless you, Mr. Vice President!”

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz called Pence’s speech “inspiring,” and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said “it will go down in the history books of both nations.”

 

US Wants to Cut Money for Palestinian Refugees

By: Matthew Lee and Julie Pace; apnews.com

FILE – In this Jan. 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization, according to U.S. officials. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed,l)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization, according to U.S. officials.

President Donald Trump hasn’t made a final decision, but appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first installment to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Future contributions would require the agency, facing heavy Israeli criticism, to demonstrate significant changes in operations, they said, adding that one suggestion under consideration would require the Palestinians to first re-enter peace talks with Israel.

The State Department said Sunday that “the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place.” The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the matter.

The administration could announce its decision as early as Tuesday, the officials said. The plan to withhold some of the money is backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the officials said.

Haley wants a complete cutoff in U.S. money until the Palestinians resume peace talks with Israel that have been frozen for years. But Tillerson, Mattis and others say ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Mideast, notably in Jordan, a host to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and a crucial U.S. strategic partner.

In another sign of the growing tensions in the region, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas railed at Trump in a fiery, two-hour-long speech on Sunday, saying “shame on you” for his treatment of the Palestinians and warning that he would have no problem rejecting what he suggested would be an unacceptable peace plan. The speech by Abbas ratcheted up what has been more than a month of harsh rhetoric toward Trump since the president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

The U.S. is the Relief and Works Agency’s largest donor, supplying nearly 30 percent of its total budget. The agency focuses on providing health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel’s establishment in 1948. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region.

Eliminating or sharply reducing the U.S. contribution could hamstring the agency and severely curtail its work, putting great pressure on Jordan and Lebanon as well as the Palestinian Authority. Gaza would be particularly hard hit. Some officials, including Israelis, warn that it might push people closer to the militant Hamas movement, which controls Gaza.

The U.S. officials said any reduction in American assistance could be accompanied by calls for European nations and others to help make up the shortfall.

The U.S. donated $355 million in 2016 and was set to make a similar contribution this year; the first installment was to have sent this month.

But after a highly critical Jan. 2 tweet from Trump on aid to the Palestinians, the State Department opted to wait for a formal policy decision before sending any of the $125 million.

Trump’s tweet expressed frustration over the lack of progress in his attempts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and he pointed the finger at the Palestinians. “We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” he said. “But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Although Trump referred to all U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, the contribution to the refugee agency would be the first to be affected.

Three days after the tweet, at a Jan. 5 White House meeting, senior national security officials try to find a way forward. Led by representatives from the State Department and Pentagon, all but one of the members of the “Policy Coordination Committee” agreed to continue the funding, officials said.

The lone holdout was Haley’s representative, who insisted that Trump’s tweet had set the policy and the money must be cut off, the officials said.

The meeting ended in a stalemate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then weighed in, telling his Cabinet that he agreed with the critique of the agency. He said the agency only perpetuates problems and should cease operating in the region. Netanyahu and other Israelis accuse it of contributing to Palestinian militancy and allowing its facilities to be used by militants. They have also complained that some of its staff are biased against Israel.

Netanyahu suggested transferring the agency’s budget to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which aids refugee matters everywhere in the world. It was not immediately clear whether any withheld U.S. assistance would be shifted.

Netanyahu’s position, coupled with Haley’s firm opposition to the funding, led Tillerson, with the support of Mattis, to propose the $60 million compromise, the officials said.

Trump, whose Jerusalem decision last year upset the Palestinians along with the announcing plans to move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city, was said by one official to have expressed cautious backing of the compromise.

 

Ben Gurion Airport to Undergo $1.43 Billion Upgrade

By: jta.org

A view of the terminal hall at Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, Dec. 17, 2017. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport will undergo upgrades and expansions at a cost of $1.43 billion.

The Israel Airport Authority announced the plans on Monday, saying the upgrades are necessary to accommodate an expected 50 percent increase in passenger turnover in the next five years, the Israeli business daily Calcalist reported.

Earlier this week, the airport welcomed 2017’s 20 millionth passenger, according to Calcalist.

Among the scheduled upgrades: 86 additional check-in stations, more stations for self check-in, plus six more luggage-screening machines. The airport also will add eight passenger boarding bridges and two additional shuttle gates.

Construction of a new Terminal 2 is scheduled to absorb domestic flights after the closure of Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov airport, the business daily Globes reported.

 

Technion’s New China Campus Fuses Israeli Innovation and Chinese Resources

By: Adam Abrams; jns.org

A dance performance at the Dec. 18 inauguration of the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT). Credit: GTIIT

Last week’s inauguration of the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT)—the first Israeli university campus in China—represents a fusion of the Jewish state’s innovation with the Asian giant’s abundant resources and comes amid developing ties between the two nations.

“[GTIIT] will serve as a reminder to China of Israel’s unique assets such as excellence in advanced education and the ability to innovate,” said Carice Witte, executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership (SIGNAL), an institute working to advance Israel-China relations.

“Depending on how the university evolves, it could also provide an ongoing platform for Chinese to become acquainted with Israelis and for Israelis to learn how things are done in China,” she told JNS.

GTIIT was initiated as a result of the Haifa-based Technion – Israel Institute of Technology’s collaboration with several Chinese institutions, including the Guangdong Provincial Government, the Shantou Municipal Government and the Li Ka-shing Foundation. The foundation donated about $130 million towards the project.

Kevin Hattori, associate director of communications for the American Technion Society, told JNS that GTIIT serves as a “bold indicator of the increased global reach and stature” of the Israeli institution.

The new GTIIT campus was officially inaugurated during Hanukkah with the Jewish “Shehecheyanu” prayer blessing the initiative, and with numerous Israeli and Chinese dignitaries affiliated with the project attending the Dec. 18 event.

The campus of the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT). Credit: GTIIT

Campus and curriculum

The school’s inauguration came two years after a groundbreaking ceremony in December 2015. The new campus—situated near China’s Shantou University—spans 1 million square feet and houses 13 buildings, 29 classrooms, 14 teaching laboratories and 55 research laboratories.

Three-thousand students are expected to attend the school during its first decade and will engage with a broad curriculum ranging from marine biology and coastal planning to medical science.

Currently, 216 undergraduate students are already studying at the school in the fields of chemical engineering, materials engineering, biotechnology and food engineering. These students are slated to become the first graduates of GTIIT in 2021.

Although graduate-level studies have yet to commence, a program for higher-level academics will soon be offered at GTIIT. Additionally, a broader range of studies at the university will eventually include environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, bioscience and bioengineering.

Impact on Israel-China relations

Regarding the broader trajectory of Israel-China ties, SIGNAL’s Witte said bilateral relations are “in large part led by China,” mostly due to a lack of Israeli understanding of the Chinese culture and mentality.

“For this to become more balanced, Israel and its government will need to gain a much deeper understanding of Chinese culture, how things work there and what it takes to establish long-term mutually beneficial relations,” said Witte, whose organization recently conducted a survey on the subject of Israeli views on China and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

BRI is a development strategy proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping that outlines the need for China to play a larger role in global affairs through the establishment of a Chinese-centered international trade network.

“The [survey] results showed that while Israelis like China and Chinese culture, their knowledge and understanding remains extremely limited. If this continues in key areas of Israeli society, China’s long-standing Middle East policies could become a serious challenge for Israel,” Witte said.

Witte’s cautionary tone regarding Chinese expansion in the Middle East comes as Beijing has been actively pursuing a larger role as a mediator in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. China hosted a conference on the peace process Dec. 21, and earlier this year urged the international community to support its president’s four-point plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establish an independent Palestinian state.

Following the Trump administration’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has shunned the U.S. and encouraged increased Chinese and Russian involvement in the peace process.

In the meantime, the Israel-China relationship’s advances in technology and academia are more clear-cut. The inauguration of GTIIT “marks a new era of cooperative research between Israel and China in science, engineering and the life sciences,” said the American Technion Society’s Hattori.

“The GTIIT,” he said, “combines the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Israel and the Technion with the unbelievable scale and resources of China to form a major research institute that will help Israel, China and the world at large.”

 

New Israeli Law Would Make it Harder to Divide Jerusalem

By: Ilan Ben Zion; apnews.com

FILE – In this Dec. 6, 2017 file photo, a view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, some of the holiest sites for for Jews and Muslims, is seen in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel’s parliament passed a law Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, requiring a supermajority to relinquish control over any part of Jerusalem, a move that could hamstring the city’s division in any future peace deal. But the law itself can be overturned with a simple majority, making it largely symbolic. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s parliament passed a law on Tuesday requiring a supermajority to relinquish control over any part of Jerusalem, a move that could hamstring the city’s division in any future peace deal.

The amendment bars the government from ceding Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem without approval of at least 80 of the legislature’s 120 members. But the law itself can be overturned with a simple majority, making it largely symbolic.

The law also permits the government to remove outlying Palestinian neighborhoods from the city, a move promoted by hard-liners to preserve Jerusalem’s Jewish majority. They would be turned into separate municipalities under Israeli control.

The Knesset approved the legislation in a 64-52 vote early Tuesday, with opposition politicians saying it would make it even harder to make peace with the Palestinians.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally, to be the capital of their future state. Tensions rose after President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital last month, breaking with decades of U.S. policy and an international consensus that the city’s status should be decided in peace negotiations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the legislation “tantamount to declaring war on the Palestinian people.”

“This vote clearly indicates that the Israeli side has officially declared the end of the so-called political process and has already begun to impose dictatorial and de facto policies,” Abbas’s office said in a statement.

The amendment came just days after the ruling Likud party’s central committee called for the annexation of West Bank settlements.

The steering body’s decision was symbolic, but indicative of the prevailing opinion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, which is opposed to the internationally-backed concept of a two-state solution. The Palestinians condemned that decision and accused Trump of emboldening the Likud party.

 

Trump Warns Palestinian Authority it May Lose US Aid Money

By: Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin; apnews.com

FILE – In this Dec. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks with reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Trump is threatening to cut off aid money to the Palestinian Authority and acknowledging that the Middle East peace process appears to be stalled. Trump says in a pair of tweets that, “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue …peace treaty with Israel.”(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Acknowledging his push to broker peace in the Middle East has stalled, President Donald Trump appeared to threaten to cut off U.S. aid money to the Palestinian Authority, asking why the U.S. should make “any of these massive future payments” when the Palestinians are “no longer willing to talk peace.”

Trump, in a pair of tweets, said “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.”

“They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue … peace treaty with Israel,” he wrote.

Trump infuriated Palestinians and Muslims across the Middle East when he announced late last year that the U.S. would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there, upending decades of U.S. policy and igniting protests.

While the Palestinians haven’t closed the door to a potential deal with Israel, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the announcement had destroyed Trump’s credibility as a Mideast peace broker, calling the decision “a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process.”

Senior Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement Wednesday that Trump had “singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace” with his Jerusalem declaration.

Tuesday’s tweets are a tacit admission by Trump that his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has thrown a wrench into his administration’s plans to restart the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, which he had dubbed “the ultimate deal.”

Trump tasked son-in-law Jared Kushner with restarting the effort, and brought his former attorney, Jason Greenblatt, into the White House to lead the negotiations. Trump’s Mideast peace team had held meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders for nearly a year ahead of an expected peace proposal.

But by recognizing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, Trump was seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem — which Israel captured in 1967 — for their capital.

Trump said his decision merely recognized the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital and wasn’t meant to prejudge the final borders of the city.

In his tweets, Trump argued his decision had taken “Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.”

When Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, he insisted, counterintuitively, that the move would improve, not hurt, prospects for clinching a peace deal.

In the days after the decision, Trump administration officials said the strategy was based on the notion that Israel had lost faith in the U.S. as a committed partner during the Obama administration. With trust in Washington restored, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government would be more inclined going forward to make tough concessions that would ultimately be needed for a peace deal, the U.S. officials argued at the time, and Israeli officials quietly indicated that they could potentially do so.

No one spelled out, however, what the Palestinians would receive in return.

Trump on Tuesday also issued a threat to cut off foreign aid dollars to an unspecified list of countries that don’t reciprocate.

“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others,” Trump wrote, appearing to reference a Jan. 1 tweet lambasting Pakistan for failing to do enough to combat terror groups while taking U.S. aid. “No more!” Trump had tweeted Monday.

Trump’s language marks a striking departure from decades of bipartisan American practice and reflects Trump’s transactional view of global affairs. U.S. leaders of both parties have long utilized foreign assistance dollars — a minor percentage of the overall budget — to promote American interests abroad, alleviate humanitarian crises and support oppressed peoples.

Trump’s envoy to the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, foreshadowed Trump’s warning earlier Tuesday at the U.N. Security Council. Haley said the president doesn’t want to give more funds “until the Palestinians are willing to come back to the negotiation table.”

“We still very much want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show they want to come to the table,” Haley said. “As of now, they’re not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid. We’re going to make sure that they come to the table.”

Since a Dec. 21 U.N. vote condemning Trump’s Jerusalem decision, U.S. officials have been weighing various options for retaliating against the Palestinians for pushing the resolution, which passed by a 128-9 margin.

Those options, which were to be discussed by Trump’s top national security aides at a meeting next week, included several involving cutting off some or all aid to the Palestinian Authority. Another option would cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides services to the Palestinians in places like Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon.

The talks are in their very early stages, with no determination yet of a fixed amount or percentage of assistance to be cut, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

However, the officials noted that only a relatively small amount of the more than $220 million that the U.S. was planning to send to the Palestinians in the current budget year actually goes to the Palestinian Authority. Most of that assistance flows to non-governmental groups that are involved in building civic organizations that promote good governance, anti-corruption efforts, and health and education projects.

The officials said one possibility would be to redirect aid from the Palestinian Authority to those groups. Similar proposals were envisioned for the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians, the officials said, noting that Palestinian children in Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon would be disproportionally affected by an immediate and complete cut-off.

Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, said it had not been informed of any changes to U.S. funding at this time.

One basket of money that is unlikely to be affected is security assistance that helps the Palestinian Authority coordinate police cooperation with Israel, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations.

___

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

How a March to Save Soviet Jews Changed America — and the World

By: Mikhail Fridman; jta.org

Former refuseniks Natan Sharansky, left, and Vladimir Slepak join Elie Wiesel and the American Jewish leader Shoshana Cardin at the march on Washington, D.C., in support of Soviet Jewry, Dec. 6, 1987. (Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

(JTA) — Thirty years ago, Jews in the Soviet Union were not allowed to study Hebrew, eat kosher food, talk about Zionism, go to a synagogue or, most important, leave the country. If they tried to emigrate, they would almost certainly be refused, lose their jobs and be blackballed in their professions. They would then be put on trial and imprisoned for being unemployed.

Thirty years ago, American Jews understood that if Soviet Jews were being silenced, American Jews would have to be loud.

On Dec. 6, 1987, some 250,000 American Jews got very loud. They gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to protest the plight of their Soviet brethren on the eve of a U.S.-Soviet summit. Organizers weren’t sure the demonstrations would work – and there was real worry that a small
demonstration would do more damage than no demonstration at all. But after 25 years of tireless activism, American Jews gathered in huge numbers and used their voices to change history.

I came of age under a regime that barely tolerated and actively persecuted me, my family and my friends because of our heritage. The pre-summit protests showed the world that my community was not alone. The power of unified action won for us our fundamental freedoms.

Speaking at the event, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush called on Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to “let these people go.” The next day, President Ronald Reagan confronted Gorbachev with news of the protest, and the U.S. government began to focus on the plight of Soviet Jews in its exchanges with Soviet authorities. Reagan regularly carried lists of refuseniks into meetings, insisting that their circumstances be addressed. Slowly but surely the gates of Soviet Russia began to open, all the result of resolute advocacy by the American Jewish community. It is not exaggeration to say that the American Jewish community set my people free.

Many Jewish families can trace their presence in the U.S. directly to that day on the National Mall: PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, actress Mila Kunis, singer-songwriter Regina Spektor and Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg, among others. The scale of the eventual exodus from the Soviet Union to the U.S. was vast. Today, former Soviet Jews and their offspring account for 10 to 15 percent of the Jewish population in North America.

As a Jew brought up in Lvov in Ukraine, my gratitude toward the American Jews and the pride I feel in their accomplishment is immense. In 1987, Soviet Jews were only 40 years away from one of the worst genocides in world history – the Holocaust, whose scale and unfathomable cruelty in the
countries of the former USSR are not yet properly documented to this day. Many of us still carry the scars of that horror, as well as from Stalin’s purges and other violent anti-Semitism in many corners of the world.

Were it not for the 1987 march in Washington, whole families would have been lost, American society would have not been as enriched, and the world would have lost untold technological and cultural advances. None of this would have been possible had Jewish people and their leaders in America
decided instead to play it safe.

The struggle to achieve religious and cultural freedom has defined and shaped all of human history. Every generation, whether Jewish or not, must confront humanity’s bloody history and fight to achieve and maintain the freedoms that are rightfully ours. The world learned 30 years ago that it is
those choices that make the difference.

The lesson I carry with me on this anniversary is a powerfully uplifting one: When we unite behind the common good, when we stand up to danger, and when we join hands to take action, great things can happen. The Jewish community across the world, no matter where they or their grandparents
call home, should look back to the 1987 march on Washington with pride and a renewed sense of purpose. Together we called on the world to let our people go – and our people were freed.

 

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.”

 

1 in 5 Brits Don’t Know Christmas Is Celebration of Jesus’ Birth: Poll

By: Michael Gryboski; christianpost.com

(PHOTO: SCREENSHOT/YOUTUBE/CHRISTMAS STARTS WITH CHRIST)

A recently released survey has found that about 20 percent of Britons do not know that Christmas Day is a celebration of Jesus’ birth.

The History Channel and Onepoll.com surveyed 2,000 British adults and found that one in five respondents did not know the true meaning of Christmas.

“Almost one in 20 thought Jesus was born over Easter — the holiday which is actually held to mark his death and subsequent resurrection,” reported the London Economic on Wednesday.

“Around one in 10 were unable to name Bethlehem as the town considered to be His place of birth while another 10 percent were unaware He was born in a stable.”

The poll was conducted in conjunction with the release of a documentary titled “The Real Jesus of Nazareth,” featuring actor Robert Powell.

“For many of us, Christmas is a festivity we all look forward to celebrating with our loved ones,” a History Channel spokesman told The Independent.

“But over time, it seems people are becoming more and more unaware about the real reason we mark the day and the story of Jesus.”

This is not the first time that a History Channel-sponsored survey conducted by OnePoll.com showed an apparent large-scale ignorance of the past among British citizens.

In October, the History Channel released a survey showing that many Britons were unaware of several basic facts pertaining to Wold War II.

“Despite its name, 43 percent were unaware the Battle of Britain was fought in British airspace,” the Sun reported earlier this year.

“And almost two-thirds could not name 1944 as the year of the D-Day landings. One in 10 even had no idea Adolf Hitler was involved in the war.”

Another survey released in April coducted by Onepoll.com on behalf of the History Channel found that of 2,000 respondents many had a poor understanding of the history of the Vikings.

“Almost four in 10 admit they believe the Vikings were just like the stereotype of ferocious raiders with blonde hair and big beards, but more than one in 10 aren’t convinced the Vikings even existed,” the Mirror reported last spring.

“One in four were also unaware the Vikings raided the U.K., with more than one in 20 believing they targeted south America instead.”