How Palestine “Occupies” Itself

By: Dr. Asaf Romirowsky; besacenter.org

Nabeel Shaath, Member of Fatah Central Committee, Representative of the State of Palestine at the UN in 2016, UN Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 606, October 7, 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: “Occupation” has become an all-purpose Palestinian tool. On the one hand, the Palestinians claim the Israeli “occupation” makes serious negotiations with Israel impossible. On the other, they claim the “occupation” makes the development of local institutions and civil society impossible. Western and Israeli diplomats have largely avoided criticism of this strategy, possibly because it has become a central tenet of Palestinian identity.

A consistent Palestinian strategy for seeking statehood while blaming Israel for its absence has been codified through the narrative of “occupation.” The anniversary of the 1967 war brought this to the forefront in endless accusations regarding the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank. There is even an assertion that Gaza is still “occupied.”

Occupation is a Palestinian tool to avoid negotiations, since “no tactical brilliance in negotiations, no amount of expert preparation, no perfect alignment of the stars can overcome that obstacle.” Nor is progress in Palestinian economics, institution-building, or civil society possible, because –  as Nabeel Kassis, Palestinian Minister for Finance, put it – “Development under occupation is a charade.” Even the Palestinian Authority’s own repression and crackdown on freedom of the press is, according to Hanan Ashrawi, caused “of course [by] the Israeli occupation.” And despite the palpable underdevelopment of Palestinian institutions and civil society, Europe must keep funding them, since “Preparedness for several possible scenarios with a long-term focus on functioning institutions is what is required from the EU and other donors in Palestine.”

In 2011, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas put forward the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) at the UN, we saw this process in action. The approach is specifically designed to prevent any direct negotiations with the State of Israel. Some Palestinian supporters even opposed the UDI precisely because Palestine “lacks the most essential elements of statehood: independence and sovereignty, and effective control over its territory. The fact is that Israel, the occupying power, has the final say in most matters affecting the destiny of the Palestinian people.”

Despite the high-sounding rhetoric about the declaration, which followed the 1998 Palestinian “Declaration of Independence,” its goal was to put the onus for a Palestinian state on the UN. But Palestinians are already treated by the UN like no other entity, whether state or people. Vast financial and administrative resources are dedicated to the “Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” Despite these efforts, which have cost many millions and have lasted almost 70 years, long predating the 1967 “occupation,” there is still no Palestinian state.

Palestinians and their supporters want to have the occupation both ways. It is the trump card for their own refusal to negotiate and failure to develop their own society, but it is also a useful tool for further internationalization of the conflict and prolongation of their international welfare status.

This pattern has been clear for decades. Even Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State, understood the façade. “There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace,” she said. “That is the only path that will lead to the fulfillment of the Palestinian national aspirations … Nor is it viable to build the institutions of a future state without the negotiations that will ultimately create it.”

Until now, however, successive American administrations have challenged only Palestinian rhetoric, not Palestinian methods – and the rhetoric of “occupation” has not been directly challenged at all. This is because, alongside “refugee-ness” and victimhood, it stands close to the center of Palestinian identity, at least in political terms.

The UDI strategy was a diplomatic way of selling the so-called “occupation.” Nothing can happen in Palestinian society or politics, such as the development of Palestinian state institutions or a culture of peaceful coexistence with Israel, because of the “occupation.” Empty symbolism like the UDI shrewdly facilitates the long-term Palestinian goal of eradicating Israel by co-opting the UN and the international community of NGOs. This long march through the institutions has broadened the global delegitimization of Israel at a low cost. The inevitable failure of UDI efforts to create a viable Palestine nonetheless rally the cause, while its political successes undermine Israel. The speed of change is slow enough to maintain the illusion of peace and all-important Western aid.

Threats are part of any diplomatic toolbox, and Palestinians excel at them. Insufficient American trumpeting of “even-handedness,” and, above all, any challenges to Palestinian narratives of victimhood (and the resulting need for international aid), produce new rounds of threats. The Palestinian Authority now sees stagnation and lack of appetite within the Trump administration, especially after Jared Kushner’s last visit. Thus did Ahmad Majdalani, an aide to Abbas, comment after the meeting that “if the US team doesn’t bring answers to our questions this time, we are going to look into our options, because the status quo is not working for our interests.”

A new approach to internationalizing the conflict and promoting the Palestinian narrative is being developed. Hence the plan to change the international definition of “Palestinian territories under occupation” into “a Palestinian state under occupation.” This would shift attention back to the “occupation” while requiring nothing from the Palestinian Authority.

Of course, declaring a de facto state does not make it a reality. Nor will declaring that state to be “under occupation.” The reality is that both the essential non-existence and the victimized character of the Palestinian state represent a conscious decision to embrace failure. This will not change unless there are direct negotiations, a choice the PA has consistently refused.

While a functioning Palestinian state remains desirable, it is telling that the Palestinian leadership has refused to directly negotiate with Israel and uses bodies like the UN to endorse a “virtual” state with no viable institutions. Is the Palestinian goal a state of their own, or just the erasure of Israel? If the latter, it is to be followed by what? Insisting upon a Palestinian state must go hand in hand with reviving the moribund Palestinian political system and institutions that would support it, like a free press. But these are demands that should come first from Palestinians. When such demands come from Israel or Western countries, they collide with the narrative of “occupation.”

Palestinian nationalism has never seen the conflict as one between two national groups with legitimate claims and aspirations. Israel’s existence – indeed,  Zionism itself, the very idea of Jewish nationalism – is regarded as wholly illegitimate. Palestinian acceptance of the two-state solution was a means of appeasing the West and its stated desire for all parties to live in peace according to democratic, national ideals. But for Arafat in his day and now for Mahmoud Abbas, the two-state solution was a mechanism with which to buy time until the Palestinians can finally overcome and defeat Israel. The language of “occupation” plays a key role.

Whether Palestinians think they are an “occupied state” or “Palestinian territories under occupation,” as long as Palestinians cling to the notion of being “occupied” and Israel remains the “occupier” we are destined to see more of the dynamics of the past and fewer possibilities in the future. Until we see more self-awareness, self-criticism, and a sense of accountability, Palestinian identity and statehood will remain occupied in perpetuity. Palestine is indeed “occupied” by shadows of its own making.

Dr. Asaf Romirowsky is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets

By: Nicole Perlroth and Scott Shane; nytimes.com

Kaspersky Lab’s products require access to everything stored on a computer in order to scour it for viruses or other dangers. Credit Sergei Ilnitsky/European Pressphoto Agency

It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs.

What gave the Russian hacking, detected more than two years ago, such global reach was its improvised search tool — antivirus software made by a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, that is used by 400 million people worldwide, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies.

The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s own network alerted the United States to the broad Russian intrusion, which has not been previously reported, leading to a decision just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers.

The Russian operation, described by multiple people who have been briefed on the matter, is known to have stolen classified documents from a National Security Agency employee who had improperly stored them on his home computer, on which Kaspersky’s antivirus software was installed. What additional American secrets the Russian hackers may have gleaned from multiple agencies, by turning the Kaspersky software into a sort of Google search for sensitive information, is not yet publicly known.

The current and former government officials who described the episode spoke about it on condition of anonymity because of classification rules.

Continue reading the main story

Like most security software, Kaspersky Lab’s products require access to everything stored on a computer in order to scour it for viruses or other dangers. Its popular antivirus software scans for signatures of malicious software, or malware, then removes or neuters it before sending a report back to Kaspersky. That procedure, routine for such software, provided a perfect tool for Russian intelligence to exploit to survey the contents of computers and retrieve whatever they found of interest.

The National Security Agency and the White House declined to comment for this article. The Israeli Embassy declined to comment, and the Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Russian hackers had stolen classified N.S.A. materials from a contractor using the Kaspersky software on his home computer. But the role of Israeli intelligence in uncovering that breach and the Russian hackers’ use of Kaspersky software in the broader search for American secrets have not previously been disclosed.

Kaspersky Lab denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, the Russian hacking. “Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts,” the company said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. Kaspersky Lab also said it “respectfully requests any relevant, verifiable information that would enable the company to begin an investigation at the earliest opportunity.”

The Kaspersky-related breach is only the latest bad news for the security of American intelligence secrets. It does not appear to be related to a devastating leak of N.S.A. hacking tools last year to a group, still unidentified, calling itself the Shadow Brokers, which has placed many of them online. Nor is it evidently connected to a parallel leak of hacking data from the C.I.A. to WikiLeaks, which has posted classified C.I.A. documents regularly under the name Vault7.

For years, there has been speculation that Kaspersky’s popular antivirus software might provide a back door for Russian intelligence. More than 60 percent, or $374 million, of the company’s $633 million in annual sales come from customers in the United States and Western Europe. Among them have been nearly two dozen American government agencies — including the State Department, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Justice Department, Treasury Department and the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The N.S.A. bans its analysts from using Kaspersky antivirus at the agency, in large part because the agency has exploited antivirus software for its own foreign hacking operations and knows the same technique is used by its adversaries.

“Antivirus is the ultimate back door,” Blake Darché, a former N.S.A. operator and co-founder of Area 1 Security. “It provides consistent, reliable and remote access that can be used for any purpose, from launching a destructive attack to conducting espionage on thousands or even millions of users.”

It is not clear whether, or to what degree, Eugene V. Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Lab, and other company employees have been complicit in the hacking using their products. Credit Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

On Sept. 13, the Department of Homeland Security ordered all federal executive branch agencies to stop using Kaspersky products, giving agencies 90 days to remove the software. Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine C. Duke cited the “information security risks” presented by Kaspersky and said the company’s antivirus and other software “provide broad access to files” and “can be exploited by malicious cyber actors to compromise” federal computer systems.

That directive, which some officials thought was long overdue, was based, in large part, on intelligence gleaned from Israel’s 2014 intrusion into Kaspersky’s corporate systems. It followed months of discussions among intelligence officials, which included a study of how Kaspersky’s software works and the company’s suspected ties with the Kremlin.

“The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky,” D.H.S. said in its statement, “could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”

Kaspersky Lab did not discover the Israeli intrusion into its systems until mid-2015, when a Kaspersky engineer testing a new detection tool noticed unusual activity in the company’s network. The company investigated and detailed its findings in June 2015 in a public report.

The report did not name Israel as the intruder but noted that the breach bore striking similarities to a previous attack, known as “Duqu,” which researchers had attributed to the same nation states responsible for the infamous Stuxnet cyberweapon. Stuxnet was a joint American-Israeli operation that successfully infiltrated Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, and used malicious code to destroy a fifth of Iran’s uranium centrifuges in 2010.

Kaspersky reported that its attackers had used the same algorithm and some of the same code as Duqu, but noted that in many ways it was even more sophisticated. So the company researchers named the new attack Duqu 2.0, noting that other victims of the attack were prime Israeli targets.

Among the targets Kaspersky uncovered were hotels and conference venues used for closed-door meetings by members of the United Nations Security Council to negotiate the terms of the Iran nuclear deal — negotiations from which Israel was excluded. Several targets were in the United States, which suggested that the operation was Israel’s alone, not a joint American-Israeli operation like Stuxnet.

Kaspersky’s researchers noted that attackers had managed to burrow deep into the company’s computers and evade detection for months. Investigators later discovered that the Israeli hackers had implanted multiple back doors into Kaspersky’s systems, employing sophisticated tools to steal passwords, take screenshots, and vacuum up emails and documents.

In its June 2015 report, Kaspersky noted that its attackers seemed primarily interested in the company’s work on nation-state attacks, particularly Kaspersky’s work on the “Equation Group” — its private industry term for the N.S.A. — and the “Regin” campaign, another industry term for a hacking unit inside the United Kingdom’s intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Israeli intelligence officers informed the N.S.A. that in the course of their Kaspersky hack, they uncovered evidence that Russian government hackers were using Kaspersky’s access to aggressively scan for American government classified programs, and pulling any findings back to Russian intelligence systems. They provided their N.S.A. counterparts with solid evidence of the Kremlin campaign in the form of screenshots and other documentation, according to the people briefed on the events.

It is not clear whether, or to what degree, Eugene V. Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Lab, and other company employees have been complicit in the hacking using their products. Technical experts say that at least in theory, Russian intelligence hackers could have exploited Kaspersky’s worldwide deployment of software and sensors without the company’s cooperation or knowledge. Another possibility is that Russian intelligence officers might have infiltrated the company without the knowledge of its executives.

But experts on Russia say that under President Vladimir V. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer, businesses asked for assistance by Russian spy agencies may feel they have no choice but to give it. To refuse might well invite hostile action from the government against the business or its leaders. Mr. Kaspersky, who attended an intelligence institute and served in Russia’s Ministry of Defense, would have few illusions about the cost of refusing a Kremlin request.

Steven L. Hall, a former chief of Russian operations at the C.I.A., said his former agency never used Kaspersky software, but other federal agencies did. By 2013, he said, Kaspersky officials were “trying to do damage control and convince the U.S. government that it was just another security company.”

He didn’t buy it, Mr. Hall said. “I had the gravest concerns about Kaspersky, and anyone who worked on Russia or in counterintelligence shared those concerns,” he said.

President Trump Did the Right Thing by Walking Away from UNESCO — for Now

By: Alan M. Dershowitz; gatestoneinstitute.org

  • By withdrawing from UNESCO – again – President Trump is sending a powerful message to the international community: that we will no longer tolerate international organizations that serve as forums for Jew-bashing.
  • This important message was encapsulated in a powerful statement made by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley: “The purpose of UNESCO is a good one. Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment… US taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense.”
  • “There is no crueller tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” — Charles de Montesquieu, French lawyer and philosopher (d.1755)

The State Department announced on Thursday that the United States would be withdrawing from the UN agency UNESCO.

The U.S. agency citied financial reasons, the need for reform and the body’s “continuing anti-Israel bias.” President Trump’s decision to leave UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – as of December 31, 2018, was an appropriate foreign policy decision that will hopefully prompt a much-needed rethink of the United Nations, its purpose and practices. It will also send a strong message to the Palestinians that statehood cannot be achieved on the basis of UN resolutions alone, and that the only way forward is to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, during which mutual sacrifices will be required.

In the aftermath of WWII, the intended goal of the Paris-based UN body was a noble one: to promote basic freedoms and security through international collaboration on education, science and cultural projects. UNESCO-sponsored projects focused on literacy, vocational training, equal access to basic education and preservation of human rights and historical sites are indeed praiseworthy. In practice, however, the 195-member body – with its automatic anti-Israel majority that exists in every institution of the UN – has become a springboard for Jew hatred and the rewriting of history.

To be sure, UNESCO is far from the only UN agency regularly to single out Israel for reproach. Yet, its anti-Israel adoptions have been abhorrent even by the low standards established by the broader multilateral institution. Consider a resolution introduced in May, which denied Israel – and the Jewish people’s – legal and historic ties to the city of Jerusalem, including its holiest sites. It called the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron – considered the resting place of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs – and Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem, “Palestinian sites.” Shamefully, this vote was deliberately held on Israel’s Independence Day. Only two months later, the cultural body convened in Krakow, Poland – a city soaked in Jewish blood – and declared the city of Hebron, holy to Jews, an endangered Palestinian heritage site.

Even for some of the harshest critics of Israel, this historical ignorance is sometimes too much to swallow. In October 2016, for example, when UNESCO passed a resolution denying Israel’s connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall – referring to them only by their Muslin names – UNESCO chief, Irina Bokov (whose intentions and motivations are themselves often curious) questioned the text of the Arab-sponsored resolution on Jerusalem.

This egregious distortion of history is not particularly surprising when considering the anti-Semitic political culture that has come to underpin UNESCO, particularly since 2011, when it became the first UN agency to admit the Palestinians as a full member. Hillel Neuer of the watchdog organization, UN Watch, noted that between 2009-2014 the cultural body has adopted 46 resolutions against Israel, yet only one on Syria and none on Iran, Sudan, North Korea, or any of the other known violators of human rights around the world. In fact, a representative of the regime of Syrian dictator and mass murderer Bashar al-Assad sits on a UNESCO human rights committee.

Neuer further highlights this double standard: “UNESCO paid tribute to mass murderer Che Guevara, elected Syria to its human rights committee, and created prizes named after the dictators of Bahrain and Equatorial Guinea, whose ruler Obiang says God empowered him to kill whomever he wants. UNESCO has a noble founding mission, but that has been completely hijacked by the world’s worst tyrannies and supporters of terror.”

This is not the first time that the United States has pulled out of the hypocritical UN cultural body. Under President Reagan in 1984, the United States walked away from UNESCO owing to financial mismanagement and “hostility toward the basic institutions of a free society.” It was only in 2002 that President G.W Bush re-joined the body and stated that the United States wanted to “participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance and learning.” But this vision was upturned when President Obama halted funding to the UN body in 2011 (US funding at the time accounted for one-fifth of UNESCO’s budget) when Palestine was accepted as a full member. This original level of financial support has not been restored and the cultural body has since missed out on close to $600 million of American funding.

Among the reasons are that by withdrawing from UNESCO – again – President Trump is sending a powerful message to the international community: the United States will no longer tolerate international organizations that serve as forums for Jew-bashing. This important message was encapsulated in a powerful statement made by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley: “The purpose of UNESCO is a good one. Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment…US taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called UNESCO’s “extreme politicization” a “chronic embarrassment.” Photo: Getty Images.

The political thinker Charles de Montesquieu famously said: “There is no crueller tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” It is precisely because UNESCO purports to be a cultural and educational body that its false credibility masks its pervasive bigotry.

On Friday afternoon it was announced that former French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay – a Jewish woman – was elected as UNESCO Chief. Azoulay said that “UNESCO is going through a profound crisis” but that she hopes to fix it from within. I hope she succeeds in this mission. I hope she can turn UNESCO from an organization that promotes bigotry in the false name of culture, into one that opposes all forms of bigotry. Given the nature of its voting membership, this will not be easy, but with pressure from the U.S., it may have a chance of succeeding. Perhaps then the U.S. will maintain its membership in and financial support for UNESCO.

 

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.

 

Israel shuts down for Yom Kippur

By: TOI Staff; timesofisrael.com

Roads and airwaves fall silent, but security and rescue services remain on high alert.

Israelis ride their bicycles on a car-free highway on Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv, Friday, Sept 29. 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel shut shut down on Friday for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

All flights in and out of Ben Gurion airport ceased at 1:35 p.m., while public transport gradually halted with buses and trains stopping their routes until after the fast day.

As sundown approached all local radio and television broadcasts gradually fell silent.

Yom Kippur begins Friday at sundown and ends Saturday night.

 

It is marked with a 25-hour fast and intense prayer by religious Jews, while more secular Israelis often use the day to ride bicycles on the country’s deserted highways.

Thousands of worshipers crowd the Western Wall in Jerusalem for traditional selihot prayers the day before Yom Kippur, October 10, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Security and rescue services, however, remain on high alert.

For the Magen David Adom Rescue service, Yom Kippur is one of the busiest days of the year with hundreds of extra medics, paramedics, ambulances and volunteers deployed across the country.

Most injuries over Yom Kippur come from accidents on the roads as tens of thousands of children and teens take advantage of the deserted streets to ride their bicycles. Other common Yom Kippur injuries are caused by parents leaving children unattended outside synagogues and, of course, dehydration and complications from fasting.

Israelis ride their bicycles on empty roads in Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. The photo was taken on October 3, 2014. (Danielle Shitrit/Flash 90)

However, the weather this year is expected to be relatively mild, with even some light rain expected in the north.

Meanwhile, the IDF imposed a closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. The closure is expected to last until midnight on Saturday, “depending on a situational assessment,” the army said.

Israeli policeman stand guard as cement blocks are placed by Israeli security forces on a road linking the Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina and West Jerusalem, on Oct. 11, 2016, ahead of Yom Kippur (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The closure is a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays. However, in a less common move, the military also announced that Palestinian workers would be barred from entering Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a measure that is not normally taken during closures. The army said special permission may be granted in some cases.

This additional restriction is likely tied to a terror attack on Tuesday morning, in which a Palestinian gunman hid among a group of laborers waiting to enter the Har Adar settlement, outside Jerusalem. When he was called to stop, the terrorist opened fire with a handgun, killing three security officers and wounding a fourth.

In addition, the Jewish high holiday season, which began last week with Rosh Hashanah, is generally seen by defense officials as a time of increased tension in the region, when the risk of terror attacks is higher.

 

Border Policeman, 2 Security Guards Killed in Har Adar Terror Attack

By: Tovah Lazaroff, Anna Ahronheim, JPost.com Staff; jpost.com

 

Israeli military enforces closure on the assailant’s home village. Hamas praises attack. Assailant had history of domestic violence.

Border Police officers stand guard at the scene of the terror attack in Har Adar. (photo credit:AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Soldiers patrolled the seam-line area of the Har Adar settlement Tuesday night after a 7:14 a.m. terrorist attack at its back gate claimed the lives of three Israelis and wounded one other.

According to Border Police, the Palestinian assailant approached the town’s gate posing as a laborer. When the officers manning the gate grew suspicious of him because of his unusual clothing, he pulled out his weapon and opened fire.

After an exchange of gunfire, the assailant was shot dead, but not before fatally injuring three people and severely wounding another.

It was the first terrorist attack in the 31-year history of the settlement that abuts the Green Line just outside Jerusalem.

The victims – Border Police officer Solomon Gavriya, 20, of Be’er Ya’acov, and security guards Youssef Othman, 24, of Abu Gosh, and Or Arish, 25, of Har Adar – were buried in cemeteries in their hometowns late in the afternoon.

Israeli media identified the attacker as 37-year-old Nimer Mahmoud Ahmad Jamal, a father of four from the West Bank village of Beit Surik. The man is said to have had a valid work permit allowing him to enter Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israel Defense Forces closed Beit Surik and the nearby village of Biddu after the attack. Residents can enter the villages but can only leave for humanitarian reasons.

Troops also raided Jamal’s home and arrested three Palestinians, including two of his brothers, on suspicion of involvement in the attack.

Following the closure of Beit Surik, some 15 Palestinians rioted against the IDF in Biddu.

A general closure of the West Bank has not been imposed and Palestinians with work permits can still enter Israel, an IDF spokesman said.

The attack took place at the back end of the settlement, called the Biddu gate, because it borders the Palestinian village of that name. Some 200 Palestinian laborers cross daily through the gate and into Har Adar, as did Jamal, who had a work permit for communities in Judea and Samaria.

It is not currently known if the assailant belonged to a terrorist organization, but Hamas has praised the attack and called for others to carry out similar ones.

Jamal was well-known and trusted in Har Adar, where he worked privately for a number of families.

Early Tuesday morning, Jamal hid a gun under his jacket and headed to the gate, as he normally did.

But the jacket, an unusual item in the September heat, aroused the suspicion of the security officers who called him over for a special inspection.

Jamal “pulled out a pistol he had in his possession, and fired at close range at the security guards and the [Border Police] officer,” police said.

The two security guards and the Border Police officer were immediately killed. Other officers at the scene shot and killed Jamal.

Har Adar’s security team head, Amit Steinhart, was wounded, but was able to call Har Adar council head Chen Filipovitz and urge him to rush to the scene.

“He asked me to look out for his wife if he died,” Filipovitz said.

The council head replied: “Don’t be ridiculous, you are not dying.”

Filipevitz arrived in minutes and helped cover the bodies.

He recalled how the night before, Othman had stayed late in the council offices to help fix the television. In the council offices workers fielded calls all day, telling people of Steinhart’s recovery and the tragic fate of the three slain victims.

Palestinian workers were asked to leave by noon and will not be allowed into the settlement on Wednesday, save for a few necessary exceptions.

Har Adar Resident Drora Bardizchev, who had employed Jamal in her home, said in an interview to Channel 10 News that she was shocked by the attack. She said she had enjoyed a very good relationship with him, often spending time alone with him in the house and drinking coffee together during breaks. She said the man, whom she referred to as Nimer, had been under stress in recent months due to a domestic dispute with his estranged wife.

The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) issued a statement saying Jamal had significant personal and family problems, including a history of domestic violence. The statement added that his wife had fled to Jordan several weeks ago, leaving him to care for their four children.

The IDF Spokespersons Unit released a Facebook post that Jamal had written to his wife, in which he stated that his actions were unrelated to their relationship. In the post, which was published on Facebook on Monday, he wrote that he was to blame for their poor relationship due to jealousy and stupidity and that she should care and educate their children according to the teachings of God.

The gun used in the terror attack in Har Adar. (COURTESY ISRAELI POLICE)

The injured Israeli, the town’s security chief, was rushed to hospital for treatment.

The attacker’s home village, located about a kilometer away from Har Adar, has been placed under a military closure.

St. Sgt. Solomon Gabaria, Yossef Otman and Or Arish, the victims of the Har Adar West Bank terror shooting, September 26, 2017. (Courtesy Israel Police)

One of the victims murdered was identified as border police officer First Sergeant Salomon Gabaria (20) from Be’er Yaakov. Yossef Otman, from Abu Gosh, and Or Arish (25) from Har Adar were identified as the slain security guards.

Israel’s police superintendent Roni Alsheich said the actions of the security officers prevented a far more serious outcome.

Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance teams that arrived first at the scene pronounced the three victims dead.

MDA paramedic Zohar Lomar described the efforts to save the fourth person shot in the attack: “I went to treat him, he was suffering from gunshot wounds in the stomach and chest. We transferred him to the ambulance and evacuated him to hospital, all the time continuing lifesaving treatment… On the way he spoke to us and told us about what had occurred.”

Moshir Abu Katish, a Muslim volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah, was also one of the first responders on the scene. He lives in the neighboring Arab-Israeli town of Abu Gosh.

“I raced over to the scene, which took place near the fence of Har Adar. Security forces had shot and killed the terrorist who had carried out a shooting attack against a group of Israelis,” Abu Katish said. “I ran to treat the injured people who were suffering from gunshot wounds to their upper bodies. Unfortunately, the three more seriously injured people in the attack were pronounced dead at the scene. We treated a fourth person who was injured at the scene before he was transported to the hospital for further treatment and observation.”

Dov Baksht, the commander of  ZAKA rescue and recovery organization, who was at the scene of the terror attack, said, “This is a very difficult attack –  a terrorist opened fire at close range on four Israelis. The outcome is very bad, with three Israelis killed and the body of the terrorist. The ZAKA team at the scene has three ambulances to evacuate the murdered victims and ZAKA volunteers are working to collect the remains.” Baksht added, “The forensics teams from the Israel Police are currently working on the scene. We are waiting until they have completed their work and then we will enter the scene once again to complete our sacred work.”

On Tuesday evening, Israeli security forces arrested two of the assailant’s brothers in connection with the attack, The IDF Spokesperson’s unit reported. The brothers were taken in for questioning.

A general view of the scene of the terror attack in Har. (AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman condemned the attack and vowed to hunt down the terrorists and those who sent them out to kill Israelis. Liberman stressed that there is no difference between Palestinian-fueled terror and fundamentalist Islamic terror in Europe. He added that before there could even be talk of negotiations, the world must demand that the Palestinian Authority cease its inciting ways.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin responded to the attack, saying the nation’s hearts were with the families of the victims. “The brutal terror attack exposes, once again, the daily reality that Israeli security forces, who are on the front lines, have to deal with,” said Rivlin. “We will continue to confront terror and put our hands on the attackers and their backers.”

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said there were no prior indications about the assailant’s deadly motivations. He placed responsibility for the attack at the feet of the Palestinian Authority, which, he said, encourages terror with its policy of handing out stipends to terrorists and their family members.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the attack “The Palestinians’ welcome greeting to American envoy Jason Greenblatt.” She said the Americans must focus all their attention on ending the murderous Palestinian terror efforts and that any negotiations with them are futile as long as they continue to incite to terror.

Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay called on the government to act “with an iron fist” against terrorists whose sole purpose is to harm Jews. “Har Adar is a community that for years exemplified coexistence between Jews and Arabs. This attack is a severe blow to the relations between the two communities,” said Gabbay.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabarin blamed the policy of the Israeli government for the attack. “The far right Israeli government is responsible for the bloody circle of violence and the conflict’s enshrinement,” he said. “There is no such thing as an enlightened occupation. There is no occupation without resistance.”

In July, three Jewish family members were killed when a Palestinian terrorist entered the West Bank Settlement of Halamish and stabbed them while they were sitting down for Shabbat dinner. The terrorist in that incident was incapacitated by a neighbor, a soldier who was home on leave.

 

4,000-Year-Old Decapitated Toads Discovered in Ancient Jerusalem Tomb

By: Daniel K. Eisenbud; jpost.com

Discovery from Canaanite period sheds new light on ancient funerary rituals during Middle Bronze Age.

Nine headless toads discovered by archeologists inside a well-preserved jar placed in a 4,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem shed new light on burial customs during the Canaanite period of the Middle Bronze Age, the Antiquities Authority said on Monday.

The excavation, which took place in 2014 prior to the expansion of the Manaḥat neighborhood, near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, also yielded evidence of the cultivation of date palms and myrtle bushes, possibly as part of funerary rituals.

According to the excavation’s directors on behalf of the Authority, Shua Kisilevitz and Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe, the section of the Nahal Rephaim basin, where the tomb was unearthed, was once fertile ground for settlements, particularly during the Canaanite period.

“In recent years, excavations in the area have uncovered two settlement sites, two temples and a number of cemeteries, which provide new insight into the life of the local population at that time,” the researchers said in a joint statement.

Kisilevitz and Turgeman-Yaffe added that after removing a large rock blocking the tomb’s opening, they discovered several bowls and jars still intact.

“In one of the jars, to our surprise, we found a heap of small bones,” they said.

“For an archaeologist, finding tombs that were intentionally sealed in antiquity is a priceless treasure because they are a time capsule that allows us to encounter objects almost just as they were originally left. At that time, it was customary to bury the dead with offerings that constituted a kind of ‘burial kit,’ which, it was believed, would serve the deceased in the afterworld.”

A subsequent study of the bones, by Dr. Lior Weisbrod of the University of Haifa, revealed the nine headless toads’ corpses.

Another intriguing finding came to light through analysis of sediments collected from the clay jars and examined under a microscope. The examination, by Dr. Dafna Langgut of Tel Aviv University, revealed that shortly before the vessels were placed in the tomb, they came into contact with various plants, including date palms and myrtle bushes.

“This fact is interesting because this is not the natural habitat for those species, and they therefore seem to have been planted here intentionally,” concluded Langgut. “During this period, the date palm symbolized fertility and rejuvenation, which could explain why the ancients cultivated the trees in this environment, where they do not grow naturally.”

Based on their findings, the scholars say the florae may have been part of an orchard planted in an area where funeral rituals were held, during which offerings of food and objects were made to the deceased.

The jar with the headless toads was among these offerings, they concluded.

Research and analysis on the excavation will be presented on October 18 at the conference “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region,” open to the public, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

Israel and US Open First American Military Base in Israel

AP News; townhall.com

BISLACH AIR BASE, Israel (AP) — Israel and the U.S. inaugurated the first American military base on Israeli soil on Monday, which will serve dozens of soldiers operating a missile defense system.

The move comes at a time of growing Israeli concerns about archenemy Iran’s development of long-range missiles. Together with the U.S., Israel has developed a multilayered system of defenses against everything from long-range guided missile attacks from Iran to crude rockets fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The base’s opening is largely symbolic and isn’t expected to bring operational changes. But the Israeli military says that along with other measures, it sends a message of readiness to Israel’s enemies.

“It’s a message that says Israel is better prepared. It’s a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the commander of Israel’s aerial defense.

The base is located within an existing Israeli air force base and will operate under Israeli military directives.

Israeli and U.S. military officials cut a ribbon at the base Monday, where the American and Israeli flags flew side by side and soldiers from both countries commingled.

Israel’s multi-tier missile defense system includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from the Gaza Strip. David’s Sling is meant to counter the type of medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country’s nuclear ambitions, its development of long-term missiles, hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria, where its troops are supporting President Bashar Assad.

Israel is worried that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah will establish a long-term presence in Syria near the Israeli border.

 

Seals from Judean Kingdom Period Shed Light on Life in Ancient Jerusalem

By: Daniel Eisenbud; jpost.com

Some of the seals are inscribed with biblical names, several of which are still used today, such as Pinchas.

A complete seal bearing the name “Achiav Ben Menachem.”. (photo credit:ISRAELI ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY/ CLARA AMIT)

A rare collection of ancient seals inscribed with the names of officials dating to the Judean Kingdom prior to the Babylonian destruction has been unearthed near the Old City’s walls during excavations conducted by the Antiquities Authority.

Dozens of seals, made of small pieces of clay used to officially close letters, were well preserved in the City of David and serve as evidence of their owners.

According to Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, directors of the excavation funded by the Ir David Foundation (Elad), the seals illustrate the advanced administrative underpinnings of Jerusalem during the First Temple period.

“The earliest seals bear mostly a series of pictures,” the archeologists said on Monday.

“It appears that instead of writing the names of the clerks, symbols were used to show who the signatory was, or what he was sealing.”

Dr. Joe Uziel with ancient seals at the City of David. (Eliyahu Yania/ The City of David)

During later stages of the period – from the time of King Hezekiah (approximately 700 BCE) and up to the destruction of Jerusalem, in 586 BCE – the seals bear the names of clerks in early Hebrew script.

“Through these findings, we learn not only about the developed administrative systems in the city, but also about the residents and those who served in the civil service,” they noted.

Some of the seals are inscribed with biblical names, several of which are still used today, such as Pinhas.

“One particularly interesting seal mentions a man by the name of Ahiav Ben Menahem,” they said.

“These two names are known in the context of the Kingdom of Israel: Menahem was a king of Israel, while Ahiav does not appear in the Bible, but his name resembles that of Ahav [Ahab] – the infamous king of Israel from the tales of the prophet Elijah.”

Although the spelling of the name, “Ahiav,” differs somewhat from “Ahav,” they said it appears to be the same name.

“The version of the name that appears on the seal discovered, Ahiav, appears as well in the Book of Jeremiah in the Septuagint, as well as in Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 15:7-8),” they said.

Chalaf and Uziel added that the appearance of the name “Ahiav” is interesting for two main reasons.

“First, because it serves as further testimony to the names that are familiar to us from the Kingdom of Israel in the Bible, and which appear in Judah during the period following the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel,” they said.

“These names are part of the evidence that after the exile of the Tribes of Israel, refugees arrived in Jerusalem from the northern kingdom, and found their way into senior positions in Jerusalem’s administration.”

While Ahab is portrayed as a negative figure in the Bible, his name continues to be in use, albeit in a differently spelled version.

“It was used both in Judea during the latter days of the First Temple, as reflected in Jeremiah and on the seal; and also after the destruction in the Babylonian exile, and up until the Second Temple period, as seen in the writings of Flavius Josephus,” the researchers said.

The stamps, along with other archeological findings discovered during recent excavations, will be exhibited to the public for the first time at the 18th City of David research conference, the annual archeological conference held by the Megalim Institute, on September 7 at the City of David National Park.