Israeli Leader Says Relations with Arab World Are Best Ever

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister says the country is enjoying its greatest relations ever with the Arab world, even without a peace accord with the Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Foreign Ministry personnel Wednesday ahead of the Jewish new year, saying the extent of relations has yet to fully be made public. He said their scope was greater than “any other period in Israeli history.”

Israel has peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. In recent years it has grown closer to Sunni nations over shared concern about Iran’s growing influence in the region. However, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations are hesitant to normalize ties before a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu has been promoting Israel’s improved international relations under his watch. Next week he makes a first visit to South America.

Bennett: ‘I Am the Education Minister for Everybody’

By: Sarah Levi;

He praised the state of Israeli education, adding: “Education is our real national security.”

Naftali Bennett. (photo credit:AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

I am the education minister for all the children of Israel – religious, secular, haredi, Druse, Arab, Circassian, Beduin, all,” Naftali Bennett said during Wednesday’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee meeting ahead of the upcoming school year.

Led by Shas MK Ya’acov Margi, head of the committee, and Bennett, the session touched on a variety of issues relevant to the education system including, hadata (“religionization”), classroom size, parent payments, special education and the Transparency in Education initiative.

“The Education Ministry is leaping in infrastructure and achievements in math, physics, chemistry, English, while classroom sizes are shrinking significantly,” Bennett said.

He praised the state of Israeli education, adding: “Education is our real national security.”

Bennett explained the need to build more classrooms, recruit better teachers and change the model of preschools, adding: “It’s a lot of hard work; I want to start the school year drama-free. The department should be for the students, not for theatrics.”

Bennett praised the new Transparency in Education website, saying: “It’s the first of its kind in Israel which allows transparency in all aspects of the educational systems including details on institutions, budgets, educational climate, classroom violence and how many graduates go to the army or national service. Now, everything is open and on the table.

I invite you to look. This will help us deal with questions in the future.”

He also emphasized putting more effort in teaching English, promising that this year, the level of English will increase.

“It is 2017 and there are kids who can’t write a email or have a conversation [in English]; we will fix this,” Bennett said.

During his presentation, he unveiled a program called “Israeli Judaism.”

“I am proud of this program,” he said. “There’s talk of religionization; there is no religionization, which is to give every child in the State of Israel a chance to get to know the ways of our people, to know what kiddush is, to know who Tchernichovsky is and who is the Rambam, and who is Moses; to know what havdala is.

“It’s not a sin to open a siddur.

We are proud of this. I am proud of this program and I invite all the members of the Knesset, everyone, to open the book and stop with the media spinning.”

Bennett also explained that this program gives teachers the ability to teach “why we need a state and why not move to Australia. We need answers for these things.”

On the issue of haredim in the school system, Bennett said: “I am not at war with the them. I don’t want a war, I want to work.”

Addressing the issue of parent payments, he promised to reduce such payments by 2019, noting his connection with the Finance Ministry.

He concluded with special education, describing that when he arrived at his current post, problems abounded as the system was on “autopilot.” He explained the budget was sufficient but wasn’t reaching enough. “With my political power, I procured a quarter of a billion shekels and 100% is going toward special education.”

His comment was met with angry outbursts from a mother who, while holding up a photograph on her phone of her son, claimed her son was being neglected and that there was no place in the school system for him. She was then physically removed from the meeting.

Next Friday, some 2.2 million students from preschools to high school will begin the school year.


El Al Will Fly Again Between Israel and Argentina, Decades After the Flight that Carried Eichmann

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – JULY 9: An El Al Boeing 747 passenger jet is towed to its gate after landing at Ben Gurion Airport July 9, 2003 near Tel Aviv, Israel. The Israeli government has begun to sell off all 100% of its stake in El Al, hoping to raise as much as US$150 million, about equal to what is owed in employee liabilities. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The national air carries of Argentina and Israeli signed an agreement to begin flights between Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv.

Aerolineas Argentinas President Mario Dell’Acqua and an El Al vice president met Friday at the Argentine Embassy in Tel Aviv to sign the final agreement. The flights will begin next month.

They will be the first flights between the two nations since 1960, when an El Al flight carried the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires to Tel Aviv and his trial in Israel.

A visit to Argentina by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Argentina is in the planning stages and, if confirmed, he will announce the first official flight at that time. The visit, part of a trip to Latin American countries, is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12 and 13, and would be the first by a sitting Israeli prime minister to Argentina and Latin America.

The president of Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella DAIA, Ariel Cohen Sabban, and the group’s vice president, Alberto Indij, participated in the codeshare signing event.

“We celebrate the historic event, which means that more Argentinians can travel to visit Israel and also we are happy to see the Argentinian flag in the Israeli sky soon,” Cohen Sabban told JTA from Israel.

In March, Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and Israeli Ambassador to Argentina Ilán Sztulman had signed a framework agreement in Buenos Aires. The Argentine Foreign Ministry wrote then on its web page that the agreement “was made possible by the excellent relations that exist between aeronautical authorities, in addition to the historical bonds between both countries. It will be supplemented by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which will enable the immediate operation of scheduled flights by the designated airlines.”

According to the announcement in May by Argentina’s official gazette, the commercial flights will have a stopover in the Spanish airports of Madrid or Barcelona.

On May 19, 1960, a special Israeli delegation headed by Minister Without Portfolio Abba Eban left Tel Aviv for Buenos Aires to participate in the 150th anniversary celebration of Argentine independence. At least this was the official version of that inaugural trip, as JTA reported at the time.

But the following day, Eichmann was brought on the El Al plane that had landed in Buenos Aires the day before carrying the diplomatic delegation from Israel. The Holocaust mastermind, who was held in the Argentine capital for nine days, was dressed in the uniform of an El Al crew member.

The flight back to Tel Aviv stopped for refueling in Dakar, Senegal, and on May 22, the plane landed in Israel, where Eichmann was arrested. He was convicted there of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1961 and hanged the following year. It is the only time that Israel has used the death penalty.

Anti-Semitism is an Integral Part of European Culture

Netanyahu’s visit to Hungary and his meeting with leaders of Visegrad countries highlights the difference between these governments and the rest of Europe concerning Israel.

By: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld;

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
The writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.

The recent visit of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Budapest – the first visit of an Israeli

Prime Minister since the fall of communism – received much international publicity. The media reported on both his meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and with the heads of the Visegrad group countries, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Yet in their reporting, many media outlets did not focus on the most important issues.

Orbán leads the right of center Fidesz party. He declared in a public statement after the meeting with Netanyahu that Hungary had sinned when it cooperated with Nazi Germany during the Second World War and that it had not protected its Jews. He also said that Hungary would protect all its citizens in the future. Yet, in the recent past Orbán praised the longtime Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy, a Hitler ally.

Orbán’s declaration about his country’s Holocaust guilt was important politically both for himself and for his party. Such admission of Hungarian Holocaust guilt is not unprecedented. Several Hungarian prime ministers including Gyula Horn, Péter Medgyessy and Ferenc Gyurcsany  have acknowledged their country’s war crimes or issued apologies.

In a 2013 study, 91% of Hungarian Jews stated that anti-Semitism had increased in the past five years, a higher percentage than in the seven other countries investigated. Ninety percent of Hungarian Jews saw anti-Semitism as a problem in their country. Anti-Semitism has not abated since. The extreme right and anti-Semitic Jobbik party received 20% of the votes in the 2014 elections. Its leader, Gabor Vona, is now trying to move the party somewhat toward the center to become a serious competitor for Fidesz prior to the next election which will take place in 2018.

Countries do not change their culture easily. Hungary has a long history of anti-Semitism which dates back many years well before its collaboration with the Germans during the Holocaust. The postwar communist regimes suppressed anti-Semitism. However after their fall in 1989, it soon reared its head again. Yet while there is extreme verbal anti-Semitism, for the most part it has not become violent. That may change though. Like in most European countries, Jews living in Hungary have to realize that anti-Semitism is an integral part of European culture. Its intensity varies from country to country. While anti-Semitism has to be fought, it is far too embedded to be eliminated.

The Hungarian government’s poster campaign against American billionaire George Soros has drawn much attention. He promotes the settlement of Middle Eastern refugees in Hungary and other European countries. Soros’ policy is seen as hostile by the Hungarian government. The government campaign was also exploited by anti-Semites who drew graffiti on billboards. As a result, Hungarian Jews were worried about anti-Semitism surrounding the campaign.

Some Jews asked Netanyahu to cancel his visit. But an Israeli Prime Minister meets many leaders without this indicating that he is in agreement with all their policies. For instance, Netanyahu visited the Netherlands. This does not mean that he agrees with the current government’s continuous refusal to admit their predecessors’ major failures toward Jews during the Second World War. Nor does Netanyahu have to approve the massive unvetted immigration there of people from Muslim countries in which anti-Semitism is rife. This immigration is the greatest threat to Dutch Jews and Israel in that country since the Holocaust.

This is not the only worrying aspect of the Dutch reality concerning Israel.  A 2011 study by the University of Bielefeld, found that almost 39% of the Dutch were in agreement with the statement: “Israel conducts a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” The figure for Hungary was barely different:  41%.

The Israeli ambassador to Hungary came out against the anti-Semitism. The Israeli foreign office explained the Israeli position in a statement that it meant “in no way to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny its right to defend itself.”

Concerning the meeting with the leaders of the Visegrad countries, the main media attention was focused on the scathing remarks Netanyahu made about Europe without realizing that a microphone was open. Part of his remarks were substantially correct even if he would have phrased them differently had he realized that his statements were no longer private.

The level of anti-Semitism in the Visegrad countries differs. In 2014, an ADL study asked 11 basic questions concerning classic anti-Semitic attitudes in a number of countries. It found that 45% of Poles harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. In Hungary the figure is 41%, and in the Czech Republic 13%. No data is available for Slovakia. When asked if Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust, 62% of Poles responded yes, with 61% of Hungarians agreeing. 44% of Czech citizens answered affirmatively to the same question.

In 2004, I interviewed Mark Sofer, then Deputy Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. At that time the Visegrad countries and several others had just joined the EU. He said: “Conventional wisdom tells us that the accession of these countries to the EU is positive for Israel. For once, conventional wisdom may well be correct.” He has indeed been proven correct. These and other central European countries often support Israel in a frequently politically hostile EU. They are also important for Israeli investors.

Another reason these countries are important not only for Israel but also for European Jewry is that they oppose immigration. The immigrants are to a large extent Muslims from the Middle East. Brussels and the leaders of European countries know well that most Muslim immigrants have been indoctrinated with extreme anti-Semitic propaganda from childhood. An advisor to the European court wants it to reject the challenge by Hungary and Slovakia against the EU European council decision that EU members must take in hundreds of asylum-seekers.

Yet the EU leaders do not care. The decent thing would have been to vet Muslims immigrating into Europe so that these so-called liberal democracies would not have admitted anti-Semitic immigrants. As this is not the case, the policy of the Visegrad countries not to receive immigrants is preferable. In this way in future at least a few European countries where Muslim anti-Semitic hatemongers will not play a prominent role.


Archaeologists Find 2,000-Year-Old Rare Stone Vessel Used in Jewish Rituals

By: Daniel Eisenbud;

“This discovery provides fascinating evidence of ritual purity in the daily lives of Galilean Jews during the time of Jesus,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

Archaeological excavations inside the ancient workshop.. (photo credit:Israel Antiquities Authority)

A rare 2,000-year-old workshop for the production of chalkstone vessels, dating to the Roman Period, was recently unearthed by archeologists from the Antiquities Authority during excavations in Reina, in the Lower Galilee.

The excavations took place in a small cave in which researchers found thousands of chalkstone cores and other production waste, including fragments of stone mugs and bowls in various stages of production, the authority said on Thursday.

The ancient site is the fourth workshop of its kind to ever have been discovered in Israel. It was uncovered during the course of construction work at a municipal sports center conducted by the Reina Local Council.

According to Dr. Yonatan Adler, senior lecturer at Ariel University and director of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, during the first century of the Common Era, Jews throughout Judea and the Galilee used tableware and storage vessels made of soft, local chalkstone.

“The reason for this curious choice of material seems to have been religious, as according to ancient Jewish ritual law, vessels made of pottery are easily made impure and must be broken,” Adler explained on Thursday.

“Stone, on the other hand, was thought to be a material which can never become ritually impure, and as a result, ancient Jews began to produce some of their everyday tableware from stone.”

Although chalkstone vessels have been unearthed at many Jewish sites throughout the country, Adler said it is extremely unusual to uncover a site where such vessels were actually produced.

“Today, we are excavating a second site near Reina, located 1 kilometer from here,” he said.

“Until now, only two other similar sites have been excavated, however both of these were in the area of Jerusalem.

Our excavations are highlighting the pivotal role of ritual purity observance – not only in Jerusalem, but in the far-off Galilee as well.”

The excavations also revealed an artificially hewn cave from which ancient workers quarried the raw material for the chalkstone vessels.

“Ancient chisel marks cover the walls, ceiling and floor of the cave,” Adler said.

“Inside the cave and on the ground nearby are strewn thousands of stone cores, the ancient industrial waste from stone mugs, and bowls produced on a lathe. Hundreds of unfinished vessels were also found, apparently damaged during the production process and discarded on-site.”

While similar finds have been recorded in other parts of the country, Yardenna Alexandre, an archeologist at the authority specializing in the study of the Galilee during the Roman Era, described the most recent discovery as an unprecedented opportunity.

“Throughout the years, we have been discovering fragments of these kinds of stone vessels alongside pottery in excavations of houses in both rural and urban Jewish sites from the Roman Period, such as Kafr Kana, Tzipori and Nazareth,” said Alexandre.

“Now, for the first time, we have an unprecedented opportunity to investigate a site where these vessels were actually produced in the Galilee.”

Alexandre added that Jews using stone vessels for religious purposes is well attested in Talmudic sources, but noted that the phenomenon also appears in the Wedding at Cana narrative in the Gospel of John, where the water-turned-to-wine is said to have been held in six jars made of stone: “Now, there were six stone water jars set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing 20 or 30 gallons each” (John 2:6).

Moreover, she said a link to the narrative lies in the location of the excavations at Reina, just south of the modern village of Kafr Kana, identified by many scholars as the site of New Testament Cana.

“It is possible that large stone containers of the type mentioned in the Wedding at Cana of Galilee story may have been produced locally in the Galilee,” Alexandre said.


Netflix Producting Israeli Spy Thriller ‘The Angel’ to Premiere Next Year

By: Amy Spiro;

The new film is based on the story of Egyptian spy Ashraf Marwan.

Netflix logo. (photo credit:REUTERS)

While Israeli audiences are now getting used to Netflix in Hebrew, international audiences can get ready for a Netflix original film about a real-life Israeli spy.

The video-streaming giant has signed on to produce a film based on Uri Bar-Joseph’s book The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, published last year.

According to a Variety exclusive, The Angel, which will be directed by Israeli Ariel Vromen, begins shooting this month in London and is expected to premiere globally on Netflix next year.

The book and film follow the story of Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and a close adviser to his successor, Anwar Sadat. Marwan, it turns out, was a spy for Israel for 27 years, and tried to warn the country of the 1973 Yom Kippur War before it broke out. However he couldn’t hide his identity as a mole forever, and finally met an unfortunate end in London in 2007.

Marwan is set to be portrayed by Dutch-Tunisian actor Marwan Kenzari. Israeli actors Sasson Gabai (The Band’s Visit) and Ori Pfeffer (Hacksaw Ridge) will also be joining the cast. The film will be shot in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

Vromen, a native of Tel Aviv, is best known for directing the 2012 film The Iceman. He also directed 2016’s Criminal, which starred Kevin Costner and Gal Gadot.


The Only Book on Palestinian History You Will Ever Need to Read

A historian counters mendacity with powerful satire.

By: Ari Lieberman;

There have been many books written on Palestinian identity and history but none are as scholarly and authoritative as Assaf A. Voll’s “A History of the Palestinian People, From Ancient Times to the Modern Era.” Voll’s exhaustive account of Palestinian history is summed up in 120 fact-filled pages brimming with substantive information that most will find useful.

University students working under harsh time constraints will find the book particularly suitable because it can be read cover-to-cover in a matter of seconds. That’s because all the pages are blank save for a quote in the beginning of the book attributed to the Seinfeld character George Costanza – “Just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

One comical reviewer at Amazon amusingly noted that the Voll’s book was plagiarized. “The work is identical to the book, Everything Men Know About Women: 25th Anniversary Edition,” said the reviewer. The reviewer is correct but the author’s transgression is minor compared to fantastical mendacity propagated by those pretending to be historians and academics at some of the world’s top universities.

The notion of “Palestinian history” is farcical and Voll’s understated but illuminating point unabashedly exposes this abject lie. The name “Palestine” is an invented name concocted by the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

In 132 CE, the Jews of Judea (alternatively known as Eretz Israel) launched an open revolt against Roman occupation of their land. Led by its charismatic leader, Simon Bar Kochva, the anti-Roman insurgency nearly succeeded, as evidenced by archaeological discoveries and historical accounts but was ultimately suppressed some three years later after intense and bitter fighting.

Hadrian was keenly aware and understood that the Jews could never be defeated by force of arms alone. He believed that in order to defeat the Jews, he needed to break their spirit as well. He therefore embarked on a bitter campaign of severing the Jewish nexus to the Land of Israel. Among his many cruel edicts was the renaming of the city of Jerusalem to “Aelia Capitolina” and the Land of Israel to “Palestine.” While the former name was never accepted, the latter abominable renaming unfortunately stuck and over time supplanted the land’s historical and original naming.

To be clear, there has never in the history of mankind been a Palestinian state, a Palestinian capital, a distinct Palestinian language, currency or culture. In December 2011, Newt Gingrich noted this indisputable fact and made the following observation;

“Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community…”

Gingrich was widely criticized for his politically incorrect but historically accurate statement but none of his critics were able to upend the veracity of his comment. Ironically, Arab leaders have occasionally voiced opinions similar to those expressed by Gingrich. Those opinions were of course made in Arabic to Arabic audiences but they were nonetheless made.

In a revealing 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw, PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein stated,

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

In 2012, a Gaza-based Hamas government official named Fathi Hammad noted the following while pleading for Egyptian oil;

“Every Palestinian…throughout Palestine can prove his Arab roots, whether from Saudi Arabia or Yemen or anywhere…personally, half my family is Egyptian, we are all like that.” Hammad continued, “Brothers, half the Palestinians are Egyptian and the other half are Saudis…Who are the Palestinians?” he asked rhetorically. “We have families called al-Masri whose roots are Egyptian, Egyptian! We are Egyptian! We are Arab! We are Muslim!” Hammad’s rant was curiously and conspicuously devoid of any reference to an independent Palestinian identity and that is because there simply isn’t any.

As Zahir Muhsein candidly notes, the notion of Palestinian nationalism began as a tactic following the Arab defeat of 1948. Prior to that time, most Arabs living in mandatory Palestine thought of themselves as either subjects of the Ottoman Empire or citizens of Greater Syria. The rest were transient workers from the vast Arab and Muslim expanse lured to the area by better fortunes fostered as a result of increased Jewish economic activity and business expansion.

Arabs residing in Gaza and the so-called West Bank from 1948 to 1967 had no problem living under Egyptian and Jordanian occupation. But the very notion of Jews occupying a centimeter of “Arab soil” was considered an abomination and an affront to Arab and Muslim honor.

Assaf Voll’s satirical account of Palestinian history is a book about nothing. It is nevertheless a forceful repudiation of those in academia, the media and elsewhere wishing to perpetuate historical inaccuracies to advance mendacious narratives. If there is to be a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, we must start by recognizing and acknowledging certain unwavering and perhaps unpleasant truths, and chief among them is the myth of Palestinian history.

20th Maccabiah Games, Known as Jewish Olympics, to Open with Record 10,000 Athletes

Athletes from the U.S. delegation to the 19th Maccabiah Games celebrating during the opening ceremonies at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, July 19, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A record 10,000 athletes will be competing at the 20th Maccabiah Games, the so-called Jewish Olympics.

Some 30,000 people are expected to attend the opening ceremonies Thursday at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, which will be nationally televised on Israel’s Channel 2. It is the third largest sporting event in the world, according to organizers.

The athletes in the 43 sports represented at this year’s games come from 80 countries. Israel and the United States have the largest delegations. The latter will have over 1,000 athletes, according to Maccabi USA. Among them will be Anthony Ervin, who won the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle last summer at the Rio Olympics 16 years after doing so for the first time in Sydney.

In addition to the dozens of events taking place in the host city of Jerusalem, competitions will be held at 68 sports complexes throughout the country.

Soccer is the largest sport at the games, with more than 1,400 athletes from 20 countries participating.

The competition categories are youth, open, master’s and Paralympics.

Many international Jewish sports stars have launched their careers at the Maccabiah, and often return to play or coach at the games.

Canada to Apologize and Give $10,500,000 to Muslim who Murdered U.S. Soldier

By: Robert Spencer;

He pleaded guilty to killing an American soldier. This outrageous shakedown epitomizes the weakness, flaccidity and wrongheadedness of the West’s response to the global jihad.

“Omar Khadr to receive apology and $10.5M compensation package from Canada: official,” by Rob Gillies, Associated Press, July 4, 2017 (thanks to Lookmann):

The Canadian government is going to apologize and give millions to a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15, with Canada’s Supreme Court later ruling that officials had interrogated him under “oppressive circumstances.”

An official familiar with the deal said Tuesday that Omar Khadr will receive $10.5 million. The official was not authorized to discuss the deal publicly before the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. The government and Khadr’s lawyers negotiated the deal last month.

The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.

Omar Khadr spent 10 years in Guantanamo Bay. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with U.S officials.

Khadr was the youngest and last Western detainee held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba….

After his 2015 release from prison in Alberta, Omar Khadr apologized to the families of the victims. He said he rejects violent jihad and wants a fresh start to finish his education and work in health care. He currently resides in an apartment in Edmonton, Alberta.

Israelis Outraged by UNESCO Decision on Hebron Holy Site

File – In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 file photo, Israeli border police stand guard on the site known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the West Bank city of Hebron. The UNESCO World Heritage committee on Friday, July 7, 2017 put the West Bank city of Hebron on its list of world heritage in danger, a contentious decision that has drawn outrage from Israel. (Bernat Armangue, File/Associated Press)

By: Ian Deitch and Monika Scislowska/

JERUSALEM — The U.N. cultural agency on Friday declared the old city in the West Bank town of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site, a decision that outraged Israeli officials who say the move negated the deep Jewish ties to the biblical town and its ancient shrine.

The move was the latest chapter in Israel’s contentious relationship with UNESCO, an agency it accuses of being an anti-Israeli tool that makes decisions out of political considerations.

While the Palestinians welcomed the action, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “another delusional decision by UNESCO.”

Both Jews and Muslims revere the same site in Hebron as the traditional burial place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs — Jews call it the Tomb of the Patriarchs, while for Muslims it is the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The 12-3 vote, with six abstentions, came on a secret ballot at an annual UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland. The proposal came from the Palestinian side. Israel contended that its historic links to Hebron were ignored and its ambassador to UNESCO left the session.

 UNESCO spokeswoman Lucia Iglesias confirmed that Hebron’s old city was put on the agency’s World Heritage list and on the list of sites in danger. She would not elaborate, saying the exact wording would be decided later.

The decision obliges the World Heritage committee to review its status annually.

“This is a historical development because it stressed that Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque historically belong to the Palestinian people,” said Palestinian Minister of Tourism Rula Maayah.

But Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said UNESCO’s “automatic Arab majority succeeded in passing the proposed resolution that attempts to appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people.”

She added: “This is a badge of shame for UNESCO, who time after time chooses to stand on the side of lies.”

Netanyahu expressed outrage that UNESCO determined the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron “is a Palestinian site, meaning not Jewish, and that the site is in danger.”

“Not a Jewish site?!” he asked sarcastically. “Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah — our patriarchs and matriarchs!”

Netanyahu pointed to extremists blowing up religious sites in the Middle East and said, “It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured.”

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the vote “does no one any good and causes much harm.”

“It represents an affront to history. It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable U.N. agency,” she said in a statement.

She had sent a letter to two senior U.N. officials before the vote, urging them to withhold the designation from UNESCO, according to the U.S. Mission to the U.N.

Hebron is part of the West Bank, a territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. The international community considers it to be occupied.

Palestinians claim the West Bank is an integral part of a future independent state, a position that is widely backed internationally.

Israel says the territory’s fate, along with other core issues like security, should be resolved in negotiations.

In the meantime, Israel has built dozens of settlements in the West Bank housing about 400,000 Israelis. The Palestinians — and most of the world — consider these to be illegal obstacles to peace. Israel says the future of the settlements also must be decided through talks.

Hebron is especially contentious. Several hundred ultranationalist settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves in the city, amid about 170,000 Palestinians. There is frequent friction between the two populations.

Many viewed Friday’s UNESCO decision as the latest example of an ingrained anti-Israel bias at the U.N. and its institutions, where Israel and its allies are outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

Although their rocky relationship goes back decades, recent resolutions by UNESCO also drew outrage in Israel for diminishing the deep Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

In September, Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO after it adopted a resolution that Israel says denies the deep historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem.

The UNESCO resolution, titled “Occupied Palestine” and sponsored by several Arab countries, used only the Islamic name for a sacred hilltop compound in Jerusalem. The compound is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Israel’s national UNESCO committee, said after Friday’s vote that “Israel will not resume its cooperation with UNESCO so long as it remains a political tool, rather than professional organization.”

In a statement, Netanyahu said he would cut another $1 million from the membership money Israel sends to the U.N. and use it to establish a “Museum of the Heritage of the Jewish People in Hebron and Kiryat Arba and Hebron” and for other heritage projects related to Hebron.

Yitzhak Reiter of the independent Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research said UNESCO’s decision would allow the Palestinians to “score points” in negotiations over the future of West Bank territory, since they could claim that UNESCO has sided with them.

It also could bolster their efforts to fight what they believe are Israeli attempts to take over disputed religious sites in the Holy Land.

Israel strongly rejects Palestinian claims it is trying to change the status quo in either Hebron or in Jerusalem’s Old City.

“They want to make sure that there will be an international forum to monitor the situation in Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs that will prevent Israel from future transgressions or overstepping its current presence in the city,” Reiter said.

Hebron has a long history of violence.

In 1929, Arabs killed 67 Jews in a rampage still seared into Israeli minds. In 1994, an Israeli settler shot and killed 29 Palestinian worshippers at the holy site before he was beaten to death.

Many of the Palestinians involved in the current wave of attacks that began in 2005 came from Hebron. The attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces since then have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British student, mainly in stabbings, shootings and vehicle assaults. In that period, 251 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Israel identified most of them as attackers.

Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian religious and political leaders, compounded by social media. Palestinians say it stems from anger over decades of Israeli rule in lands they claim for their state.