30 April 2013

Response by the Technion Students Association to University of Sydney’s Student Representative Council’s call to discontinue cooperation with the Technion

30 April 2013:
Regretfully, we have been recently notified of a resolution by the University of Sydney’s Student Representative Council (SRC) calling for the university to discontinue its cooperation with the Technion.
For more than two millennia academia has played a vital role in human progress and enlightenment, whilst global cooperation has spurred science and technology throughout the world.
Since its establishment, almost a century ago, the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, has played a key role in pushing humankind forward, through research and alumni activity.
The Technion is the source of extensive contributions to human knowledge and well being, spanning various fields of science, medicine and technology. These include
  • the Nobel Prize winning research on ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation;
  • Rasagiline, a drug effective in the treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases;
  • the “Snake Robot”, an innovative search and rescue robot invaluable to earthquake survivors;
  • the Nobel Prize winning and paradigm-shifting discovery of quasi-crystals;
  • pioneering work in data compression, such as the Lempel-Ziv algorithm; and
  • much more ...
Technion research has benefited the world greatly. Alongside these there are important contributions of Technion alumni, including “ReWalk”, a motorized walking assistance system for the paraplegic, developments in semiconductors and data storage and more.
To affirm these, in a recent and comprehensive survey by MIT, the Technion was named sixth in innovation and entrepreneurship amongst universities worldwide.
In addition to these tremendous contributions, we are proud that our university serves as a model of coexistence. The student population includes students from Israel’s various minorities, and nearly a fifth are Arab students from across the country. Side by side, Arab, Jewish and international students study, work and engage in extra-curricular activities.
Therefore, we were extremely surprised by SRC’s call to cut ties with our university. This is no more than a boycott of a link for accumulating knowledge and promoting innovation; a boycott of science and academia. This is a malicious step to undermine a path to support peace, instead of encouraging a model which should be replicated.
We call on our fellow students at the University of Sydney to revoke this unconstructive resolution. We call the administration of the University of Sydney to continue its important cooperation with the Technion, of high value to both institutions and to human progress, peace and stability.

Uni of NSW condemns anti-Semitic Max Brenner protesters

From UNSW, 30 April 2013:

The University of New South Wales deplores all forms of racism and discrimination and condemns in the strongest possible terms the virulent anti-Semitic comments made on social media in relation to the opening of a Max Brenner shop on campus.
We are sure the University’s student body is also horrified and offended by such statements, which to our knowledge have been posted on social media sites external to the University.
We would hope that the organisers of today’s protest would reject these comments categorically.
The University supports and encourages the free expression of diverse views and open debate on campus but it must be lawful, respectful and responsible, as spelt out in the UNSW Codes of Conduct for staff and students.
As the University has previously stated, the fit-out of the Max Brenner outlet is underway and it will be open by early June.

HonestReporting/NSWJBD Mission to Israel - November 2013

After you watch these testimonials by 2012 participants, you won’t hesitate to book for this year’s Mission,

November 18-26 inclusive.

See 2012 itinerary below for an idea of what’s in store.

Mission Cost is $3600

(excluding airfare  - we can recommend an agent)

 Places are STRICTLY LIMITED to 36 and are filling fast.

Click here to place your $500 deposit now to ensure you don’t miss out.

Full registration shortly, and second and final Mission payments will be due September and October.

Monday November 26th, 2012
Arrive in Israel. Transfer to David Citadel hotel in Jerusalem. Evening at leisure.
Tuesday November 27th, 2012
9.30 am Introductions
Joe Hyams – CEO, HonestReporting
Yair Miller - President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
10.00 am “Welcome to Israel” – Mark Regev, Spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office, formerly from Melbourne, Australia
11.00 am “Fighting Media Bias” – Joe Hyams, CEO, HonestReporting
1.00 pm Travel to HonestReporting’s International Headquarters for a buffet lunch with panoramic views of Jerusalem
2.30 pm Drive to Yad Vashem
“Holocaust Denial & it’s Implications for Advocacy” - Ephraim Kaye – Director of International Seminars
Return to hotel
6.30 pm Dinner at “Darna” an authentic Moroccan restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem with Guest Speaker Amotz Asa El, former Executive Editor of the Jerusalem Post, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, a staff columnist at the Wall Street Journal/MarketWatch, and a private consultant for media ventures.
Wednesday November 28th, 2012
9.00 am “Monitoring Palestinian Media “ - Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch a Watchdog group that monitors Palestinian media for incitement to violence and anti-Israel propaganda
10.45 am “Debunking the Demographics Scare” - Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli Ambassador to the US, and expert on US-Israel relations
12.00 pm Lunch at Café Rimon in downtown Jerusalem
1.15 pm Tour the Security Fence with Boaz Raz - IDF Spokesperson, including closed-door briefing
Return to hotel (time permitting)
6.00 pm Dinner at Noya, in an historical, preserved building in the center of Jerusalem, with a magnificent décor.
Thursday November 29th, 2012
7.30 am Full Day Tour with Patrick Amar, Tour Guide and Israel Advocate
Discussion of Bedouin Issues and Culture with a member of the Bedouin community at the Museum of Bedouin Culture
Falafel lunch in BeerSheva with a visit to the Australian War Memorial, the scene of the historical charge of the 4th Light Brigade in 1917
Visit the city of Sderot - view the collection of Kassams at the police station; visit a house which was destroyed by a direct hit from a rocket; explore the center of commercial activity in Sderot.
Travel to Gaza Border Crossing – Overview of the region plus briefings by IDF spokesperson responsible for humanitarian aid into Gaza
Return to Jerusalem
Evening at leisure
Friday November 30th, 2012
9.00 am Travel to Gush Etzion – an inside look at communities over the green line
Audio/Visual Presentation at Kfar Etzion
Discussion of Current Issues with David Shire, a member of Neve Daniel
Lunch at Gavneh, a hilltop restaurant with a panoramic view
2.00 pm Return to Jerusalem; free time to prepare for Shabbat.
4.00 pm Bus to Western Wall for Kabbalat Shabbat and a traditional Shabbat dinner in the Old City of Jerusalem
Walk back to hotel
Shabbat, Saturday December 1st, 2012
Optional Shabbat morning services in the beautiful 100-year old synagogue of Yemin Moshe overlooking the walls of Jerusalem, or in other Congregations throughout Jerusalem. (Other options available from hotel Concierge)
2.00 pm Buffet lunch at David Citadel hotel
3.00 pm “What Arabs in the Region are Really Thinking” Khaled Abu Toameh, Israeli Arab, West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, and the US News and World Report
5.30 pm Havdalah – bringing the Shabbat to a close, in the traditional way.
Break for refreshments
6.30 pm “NGOs, Human Rights and the Campaign to Demonize Israel” - Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, President, NGO Monitor and Political Science Department, Bar Ilan University “Palestinian Media Incitement
Sunday, December 2nd , 2012
8.00 am Travel North for full-day with Elliot Chodoff, Military Analyst, IDF Major (res.)
Depart Jerusalem for North via Jordan Valley along the Jordanian Border
Picnic lunch in the Golan Heights bagels
Ascend Mt Ben Tal
Topographical Overlook from the Kinneret
Dinner in Tiberias.
Return to Jerusalem
Monday, December 3rd , 2012
7.30 am Travel to MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at Kibbutz Shefayim
11.00 am "The Arab spring and its implication on Israel, local and global arena" – Dr. Boaz Ganor, Head of the Homeland Security Studies Programs (Graduate Degrees, Executive Program and Bachelor specialization) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel
12.00 "Contrasting Secular and Religious Agenda Terroism" – Dr. Jonathan Fine, Academic Advisor Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy at the IDC, Herzliya, Israel
Return to Jerusalem. Visit MediaCentral – Israel’s premier bureau for overseas correspondents
3.00 pm “Give Peace a Chance” – Yoav Peck, Peace Now
4.00 pm “Kaleidescope: Israel Society in the 21st Century” - Prof. Itzhak Golnoor Herbert Samuel Professor of Political Science (emeritus) at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
5.15 pm “Serving the Foreign Press in Israel” - Aryeh Green – Director, MediaCentral
6.30 pm Dinner at Sheyan– a captivating merge between Jerusalem's eclectic atmosphere and China's traditional cuisine
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Time for packing, shopping and check out for those leaving today.
10.00 am “Election Overview” – Gil Hoffman, one of Israel’s foremost English-speaking domestic policy
11.00 am “How to Effectively Advocate for Israel: Practical Training” - David Olesker, Director of JCCAT
1.00 pm "Ethics in the Field: An Inside Look at the IDF” - IDF Colonel (res.) Ben-Tzion “Bentzi” Gruber
2.00 pm “Where Do We Go From Here?” Joe Hyams & Yair Miller
2.45 pm Farewell luncheon and closing remarks at Gabriels Restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem
Transfer to BenGurion airport for those flying tonight.

29 April 2013

Anti-Israel protest turns anti-Semitic

From: The Australian, April 30, 2013, by Christian Kerr:    

JULIA Gillard has denounced the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement ahead of anti-Israeli protest action planned at the University of NSW today.
BDS action at UNSW has turned ugly, with anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying material appearing on a Facebook page opposing the opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus. Postings on a Facebook page promoting today's protest have attacked "Jews and Jew lovers" and said the figure of six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany was an exaggeration.
"Tell us again how there was no hidden Zionist agenda with the Holocaust and the eventual creation of the state of Israel," one reads.
The Prime Minister said yesterday through a spokeswoman that the government had always been firm in its opposition of the BDS movement, which equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa.
"This campaign does not serve the cause of peace and diplomacy for agreement on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine," she said.
"I welcome the strong ties our universities have with Israeli researchers and academic institutions, and I hope those ties will deepen in the years ahead."
The University of Sydney Student Representative Council this month called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, including severing the university's ties with the world-renowned Technion in Haifa.
The Prime Minister's comments come a week after she became the first Australian politician to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism.
"In the face of anti-Semitism, there can be no bystanders," she wrote. "As citizens, as leaders and as nations, we must act."
...Some Greens, including NSW senator Lee Rhiannon, have backed the movement in the past. Support for BDS is credited with dashing the Greens' hopes of winning the seat of Marrickville in the 2011 NSW election.
The group Students for Justice in Palestine has called for a boycott of the University of NSW Max Brenner outlet, due to open in June.
...Australian Union of Jewish Students spokesman Andrew Goldberg said: "The boycott Max Brenner movement has turned into a hotbed of blatant anti-Semitism. Classical anti-Semitic comments have been made, clearly irrelevant to discussion about Max Brenner. The organisers have effectively endorsed these comments by dismissing legitimate concerns about anti-Semitism as 'trying to shut down debate about Israel'."
Mr Goldberg called on university officials to "ensure that those with an anti-Semitic agenda will not be allowed to spread their hateful and discriminatory agenda on campus"...


Australian BDS hate-speech

Student activism in NSW seems to be taking a dark turn.
...it would not be especially surprising to hear that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel ('BDS') movement is steeped in antisemitism.
While BDS supporters always claim that this is not the case, time and time and time again its prominent figureheads slip into overt Jew-hatred, and other BDS supporters consistently circle their wagons to defend the bigots.
In recent days, students at the University of New South Wales ('UNSW') have seen perhaps the most publicly explicit example of this phenomenon to rear its ugly head on Australian shores. A bizarre collective of Muslim students, students from the extreme left, prominent Muslim community leader Rebecca Kay, and "Jihad Sheila" Raisah Douglas, have come together – united only by their sheer hatred of Jews in general and Israelis in particular.
This all took place on the Facebook page for an event entitled 'Rally! Say no to Max Brenner at UNSW'. As the name suggests, the event, organised by a group calling itself 'Students for Justice in Palestine, UNSW' (SJP UNSW), is to protest the opening of a branch of the wholly Australia-owned Max Brenner Australia on campus at UNSW.
There was a brief report about the event by Ean Higgins in the Australian this morning, however the print report did not mention hate speech at all, and the online version only mentions it in passing:
The rally's organiser, computer science student Damian Ridgwell, said he expected a big turnout, with speakers to include Palestinian students and a "Jewish anti-zionist" female student. "The aim is to raise awareness of the campaign for Palestinians to obtain liberation and justice," he said.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said protesting against a Max Brenner outlet "is as immoral and counterproductive a tactic as is BDS in general". ... "As for the appalling racist invective on Facebook which has accompanied this issue, the less said the better." Mr Ridgwell said some Facebook posts did not reflect the views of the organisers.
Otherwise, Higgins referred only to the "robust exchanges" on the Facebook page. As screenshots obtained by AIJAC from numerous Jewish students indicate, to refer to the vitriol on that page as "robust exchanges" is a severe understatement.
Below is a breakdown of what took place.

The first two screenshots taken on the evening of 21 April, subsequent screenshots taken in the evening of 22 April.
The event was created in the afternoon on Sunday 21 April. By the next evening, the page was already peppered with severe anti-Jewish comments.
The main perpetrators of throughout have been Aussie ex-pat Raisah Douglas and University of Sydney graduate Aymen Shalak. While Shalak is no public figure, Douglas has quite a profile. She first came into the spotlight when her husband was arrested in America on terrorism charges, but became widely-known in Australia as one of the "Jihad Sheilas" profiled in a 2008 ABC documentary.
Shalak was posting under the moniker 'Ayms Machiine', and Douglas began posting under her own name, but after she became aware that screenshots were being taken of her comments, quickly changed her screen name to 'Umm Ayaan' (meaning simply 'mother of Ayaan').
Shortly after some students opposed to the boycott began challenging comments on the page, Douglas posted this particularly nasty comment, saying that her Catholic grandmother had taught her "as a youngster about the evil greedy money loving nature of Jews", and that she had "hated em [sic] ever since".

The comment quickly garnered five 'likes', but was deleted a few hours later. The 'likes' were from Abbas El Hajj Hussein, Sami Tahiri, Touraj Vaziri, Mazen Sefian, and Elle Najjarine.

An apparently Jewish student named 'Rachel Rothstein' very quickly took a screenshot of the comment and posted her own comment on the page protesting the antisemitism. Douglas immediately rushed to defend what she had said:

Meanwhile, another member had posted a picture allegedly of a Palestinian child wetting herself while being taken away by Israeli soldiers, which Rothstein exposed as a doctored image. In the ensuing discussion, 'Elle Najjarine' commented that 'Only news Jews are happy with goes through via media':

When Najjarine was challenged on this point, Douglas immediately came to her defence, saying "take a good unbiased look at who owns and runs what in the media!"
An interesting character who then appeared was Sydney Muslim community leader Rebecca Kay, who came under mild criticism last year for accusing non-Jewish journalist Joe Hildebrand of criticising the Muslim community in Australia because he was a Jew.
Posting as 'Rebecca Forbankstown', Kay joined the harassment of Rothstein, whilst mentioning nothing about the racist abuse to which Rothstein was being subjected. It was not until the next evening that Kay noted that things were "getting out of hand" (this will be featured in a subsequent post).
Also defending Najjarine was Shalak, who ridiculed Rothstein's plea for the antisemitism to stop.

An hour after telling Rothstein that she 'make[s] up some funny ones', Kay posted that BDS was a 'basic human rights issue', pleading for other members not to 'get draw [sic] into religious debates'. Again, no mention of the hate speech that she had arguably given her tacit approval to:

Meanwhile, 'Moon Elhassan' - another member of the page - asserted that 'Our problem is with the Zionist state of Israel. Not Judaism or any other faith.'
Immediately undermining this was a flurry between Rothstein and Shalak, essentially consisting of Shalak hurling both sexual and racial abuse at Rothstein, including the unambiguously racist "sue me jew".

The next day, it seems that the organisers of the event had become aware that there had been what the Australian later referred to as "robust exchanges" occurring on the page. As a result, posting as 'Boycott Max Brenner at UNSW', they asked for respectful dialogue and committed to "keep[ing] the page clean and remov[ing] comments/posts that make personal attacks and abuse either side."

Three hours later, none of the comments mentioned above had been removed, barring the first comment in which Douglas referred to her anti-Jewish education. At the time of writing, a number of those comments remain on the page.

Screenshots taken in the late morning on 23 April.
If there was any sincerity in the plea from the organisers, it had fallen on deaf ears, and certainly been poorly implemented.
All of the posts in the ongoing debate around the doctored image not only remained, but had been added to. After a gibe by Rothstein that the image was a fake, Shalak responded with "so is the Holocaust."
Rothstein again denounced Shalak's antisemitism and noted that the event's organisers had been deleting comments other than the antisemitic ones, but that the antisemitic ones remained. This prompted Douglas to tell Rothstein to "stop being a dickhead" and not to play the "anti Semite [sic] card". This from the woman who had recently been discussing how she had hated the Jews since childhood.

Meanwhile, Moon Elhassan had made another attempt to mitigate the hate speech, this time under the premise that it would "make it easy" for the people on the page to be accused of antisemitism. When confronted with the fact that posts on the page had been unambiguously antisemitic, Elhassan took the line that this was not the real issue:

Similarly, the plea for respect by the event organisers had descended into yet another racial vilification-fest. In response to Rothstein's condemnations of the hate speech on the page, user Touraj Vaziri had called for someone to "block and report this moron called Rachel." Shalak then chipped-in by calling Jews a "cursed people" who had been "banished from the holy land".

Sadly, this was far from the end of these activities. Later this week, we will be posting yet further examples of the horrific comments being made while the organisers, Rebecca Kay, and Facebook looked on.

Most recent items in: Anti-Zionism

28 April 2013

25 April 2013

The Trap of Moral Equivalence

From the Gatestone Institute, 24 April 20-13, by Douglas Murray:
People love to lay the blame for the stalemate at 50:50. But the facts do not support this.  
Israeli schoolbooks do not teach children to hate and destroy Palestinians, as the Palestinian schoolbooks do of Israelis Even the most extreme Israeli politician does not threaten to wipe out the Palestinian people, as even mainstream Palestinian politicians do of Israelis.
Today, in an age that often seems of pragmatism and managerial-ism in politics, [we] should ...encourage and praise those rare individuals who are willing to buck such trends.
...If the democracies can do one thing to help guide the Middle East in a more liberal direction, it is by simply showing our friends and potential friends in those countries why the freedoms we enjoy could profitably be enjoyed there as well.
If we are seen to be saying, to quote Groucho Marx, "These are our principles and if you don't like them we have other principles," we risk enshrining the worst message of the Islamists: that we democrats are bad friends with insubstantial values. This period in history is too important to be left solely to those allegedly sophisticated' British foreign-office types who revel in making no moral judgements at all.
...Canada has ...shown the significance of values is in the matter of Israel. The Harper government has shown that it is possible to remain unbending when it comes to civilizational values.
In particular, it has shown that it can resist the honey-trap of equivalence. While accepting that there are issues to deal with on all sides, it is not just incorrect, but flat-out wrong, to treat the Israeli and the Palestinian governments as negotiating equals. People love to lay the blame for the stalemate at 50/50. But the facts do not support this. Israeli schoolbooks do not teach children to hate and destroy Palestinians, as the Palestinian schoolbooks do of Israelis. Even the most extreme Israeli politician does not threaten to wipe out the Palestinian people, as even mainstream Palestinian politicians do of Israelis [see www.Palwatch.org]. At no end of the spectrum of Israeli parliamentary politics (which includes Israeli Arabs as full members of parliament) is there anyone like, for example, Mariam Farhat.
Known as "Mother of the Nation," Farhat rose to popularity among Palestinians because she had supported three of her sons in going to their deaths in so-called "martyrdom operations" to kill Israelis. In 2002 she recorded a video with one of her sons before he headed out on his murder mission, and said "I wish I had 100 boys like Mohammad. I'd sacrifice them for the sake of Allah. When I see all the Jews in Palestine killed, that will be enough for me." At the funeral of her third son she said, "I have four sons left. I hope that they all become martyrs." Her popularity propelled her to election as a Hamas representative.
After her death, the "moderate" Fatah Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas opened a mourning tent at his headquarters in Ramallah and posthumously awarded her the "medal of sacrifice."
As long as even Abbas takes such an attitude towards the murder of Israeli civilians, it is not just disingenuous but wrong to claim moral equivalence between the sides.
It is precisely this realization that sits at the core of the Harper government's convictions. Convictions are not just opinions or oft-repeated talking points. They are principles which the holder is willing not only to be praised for, but to be criticised for and even suffer for. There is no reason why the Canadian government should suffer for supporting freedom and liberty at home and abroad. Just as there was no reason why Thatcher should be so criticized by some .... But even when politicians of conviction do suffer the odd buffeting by the winds of popular opinion, they should brave them as Thatcher did. For as she realized, as her death has shown and as Churchill -- her only peer among recent statesman -- said, it is the only way to ensure that "however the fates may play," they will "march always in the ranks of honor."

Australian Muslims urged not to participate in Anzac Day celebrations

From The Daily Telegraph, April 24, 2013, by Alicia Wood:
A RADICAL Muslim group will likely stir the anger of Diggers and their families after urging Islamic Australians not to participate in Anzac Day celebrations.
Hizb ut-Tahrir published an opinion piece on its website on the eve of Anzac Day, titled "Anzac Day is not for muslims."
It suggests those who fought at Gallipoli were part of a military "failure".
"Further, the 'Anzac spirit' is more mythology than history. It ignores indiscretions by the ANZAC soldiers such burning the belongings of locals in Egypt, brawling, getting drunk and rioting, and contracting venereal diseases due to time spent in local brothels.
"It ignores the fact that Australian troops were merely used as fodder for British imperial designs. It sanitizes all the bad to surgically create a mythological legend worthy of celebration," it said.
Premier Barry O’Farrell has condemned the publication, saying it was "contemptible."
"I am appalled by the statement but, from past experience, know the call will be ignored by the vast majority of Australian Muslims," Mr O’Farrell said.
"Anzac Day is a day we commemorate those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy in Australia, including the right to practice the religion of our choice. Attempts to use the day to try and divide are contemptible."
NSW Opposition leader John Robertson said the comments were "disgraceful and offensive".
"This group is clearly out to try and hijack the true meaning of Anzac Day with these abhorrent views, but they will fail," Mr Robertson said.
"As Australians mark Anzac Day around the country with pride, they will be remembering the bravery, spirit and mateship of our diggers past and present."
"Anyone who seeks to undermine the true meaning of Anzac Day clearly has no understanding of who we are as a nation."
The Hizb ut-Tahrir piece goes on to say that Islamic Australians should not recognise Anzac day either "actively or passively".
"In sum, Anzac Day represents a nationalistic celebration, linked to the ideology of a disbelieving people, of events involving wars against the legitimate Muslim authority of the time. There is no justification whatsoever for Muslims to be actively or passively taking part in it."

24 April 2013

Protesters ‘intimidate’ South African Jews

From JPost, 17 April 2013, by SAM SOKOL:      

Trade union official: Jews cannot "cry foul" of violence when Israel "murders and occupies."

Palestian and Israeli supporters argue in Durban, South Africa 2001
Palestian and Israeli supporters argue in Durban, South Africa 2001 Photo: Reuters (file)
The South African Zionist Federation complained of “intimidation” and a “violent assault” by protesters affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) against the Jewish community during its Independence Day celebrations at Johannesburg’s Gold Reef City amusement park.
The protesters “threw stink bombs into the audience, attacked and injured an elderly woman and forced themselves onto the stage, where they attempted to attack the performers,” the SAZF said in a statement, explaining that it views such actions as “blatantly infringing [upon] the right of the Jewish community to celebrate its culture and heritage.”
The SAZF addressed a formal complaint to the police, which they say are considering “appropriate charges.”
“It has become a typical ploy of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in South Africa to provoke ugly confrontations and then falsely claim to have been victimized,” the organization added.
In response to the SAZF’s complaints, COSATU’s international relations secretary Bongani Masuku told The Jerusalem Post, "They celebrate in South Africa, but murder, occupy and brutalize in Palestine..." ...

23 April 2013

The Travelling Rabbi – My African Tribe

Tuesday 28 May 2013, 7:30pm
Perth Hebrew Congregation, Freedman Road, Menora.

The Travelling Rabbi

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft is literally the keeper of thousands of Jewish souls in far-flung communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

Known as ‘The Travelling Rabbi’, he has helped preserve diminishing communities, reclaimed lost Jews, and importantly, established new, growing communities.
His work is recognised by kings, presidents and leaders throughout the world and he is the recipient of many honours and awards.

Hear his fascinating stories and remarkable experiences, presented in words and pictures, many of which feature in his recently published book,
“The Travelling Rabbi – My African Tribe” to be launched in Australia during his visit.

The book will be on sale at a special price of $30 cash only. Profits from the sale of the book will go to The Rabbi Moshe Library at SGOFOTI (Support Group of Families of the Terminally Ill) Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

22 April 2013

Boycotting academic freedom

From The Conversation, 19 April 2013, by Gregory Rose, Professor of Law:
Continued boycotts of Israeli academics pose a threat to the very freedoms that academics hold dear. AAP/Joe Castro
On Wednesday last week, the Student Representative Council at the University of Sydney adopted a motion to boycott Israeli academics. The motion called specifically for the University to cut its current research ties with the Technion, Israel’s leading higher education technology institute, and supported the general academic boycott of Israel called for by the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS).
That the boycott suppresses academic freedom is clear but less obvious is that it does not promote international peace and that it is fundamentally racist. Earlier this year, The Conversation published an argument in defence of the boycott by the CPACS' Paul Dulffill, and the issue deserves to have both sides discussed.
What is the launching of a universal boycott of Israel intended to achieve? The purported reason given by CPACS – and supported by the SRC – is that because Israeli academics reside in a country alleged to have breached international law, those smarting academics will supposedly turn around Israeli foreign and security policy.
In reality, Australian academics have minimal influence on this country’s foreign policy, and even less in Israel where national security concerns predominate. Of course, Israeli academics facing attack tend to fight back like the rest of us when pushed against the wall. The academic boycott will never be effective in its supposed objective of changing Israeli policies.
Nevertheless, Students for Palestine and CPACS supporters of the boycott might still assert that it has secondary value in Australia, perhaps because the boycott raises academic awareness here, which might percolate through to Australian foreign policy makers. So, if an implicit objective is to generate Australian antagonism, a local boycott targeting Israeli academics might supposedly influence Australian foreign policy. However, there is no evidence that this symbolic activism at the University of Sydney will influence government or swing votes in the ballot box.
On their own avowal, the members of both the University of Sydney SRC and CPACS are active in Palestine solidarity campaigns and have picked a side in an international dispute – Dulfill says that the CPACS “can hardly be expected to be neutral or disinterested”. That conflict is complex and their choice is morally questionable, but they wish to push their interests on others.
Advocacy for the university to officially engage in a boycott and to propose that it be adhered to by academics is intellectual totalitarianism, anathema to respectable universities which resist political pressure to adopt partisan policies or repress academic research. Within a learning environment the freedom to doubt, to analyse and to form and articulate an independent perspective is fundamental and the essential quality of a university.
Choosing official sides between competing nationalities, religions and races politicises a campus, alienates members of faculty staff and is toxic to faculty collegiality. Jews would be alienated but not only them. It is reminiscent of ideological purges within the Soviet and Chinese communist parties.
Let’s put this in comparative perspective: should the University of Sydney cease all collaborative research with Indonesian institutes until the Papuan self-determination movement is satisfied? What about publishing official Sydney boycott manifestos on the democratic failures in China, Fiji, Malaysia and Singapore? If the problem is military applications of technology, then it must also boycott the ANU, the universities of NSW, Wollongong, and the list goes on.
Should the University of Sydney itself be boycotted if it does not officially adopt a boycott of Israel? Should University of Sydney academics who do not individually endorse an official boycott be penalised?
It has been truthlessly suggested that the academic boycott does not affect individual academics and that the Palestine Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) guidelines are clear on this. To the contrary, the PACBI guidelines do not meaningfully distinguish between Israeli academics and representatives of their institutions. Normally, any academic engaged in an international collaboration is assumed to informally represent his/her own institution. For example, an outstanding Australian-Israeli biomathematics colleague was told by a science journal that it could not publish him because of his Tel Aviv University address.
Academics are members of a social sector who typically tend to be public intellectuals and advocate for individual freedoms, liberal values and social justice. Professor Dan Avnon of the Hebrew University, who was not allowed by the Sydney CPACS to spend part of his sabbatical there, had sought to undertake individual academic work in Arab-Jewish peace studies. Shunning people who typically reach out for peaceful dialogue is an irony all can see.
Of course, the threat to academic freedom would be limited if this is the only boycott. Then, ambivalent University of Sydney staff might feel some relief: the boycott would simply be a symbolic demonstration of the University’s claim of a moral high ground. Just the Jewish state alone and no more. Sad, that is.
Australian suppression of peaceful engagement with Israeli academics could make sense only because its objective has nothing to do with peace. The long-war objective of the academic boycott is the same as the trade and diplomatic boycotts that Arab states have imposed on Israel since its inception 65 years ago.
The Friends of Palestine approach within the SRC and CPACS entails denial of any Jewish state. They are warriors in the conflict, adding fuel to its fire. There could be no more elegant demonstration for why Jews need their own country.
Disclosure Statement

21 April 2013

Canadian university student union strips anti-Israel group of official status

The University of Manitoba Student Union (UMSU) in Canada has become the first student group in North America to ban the anti-Israel “Israel Apartheid Week” and strip the anti-Israel “Students Against Israel Apartheid (SAIA)” group of official status.
The motion, which passed 19-15, bars SAIA from receiving student funding or using student activity space on campus, the Winnipeg Jewish Review reported.
Pro-Israel students argued that the anti-Israel student efforts violate university policy which protects the “dignity and self-esteem” of its students and prevents them from “discrimination or harassment.”
...The move at the University of Manitoba comes amid recent battles on North American college campuses between pro-Israel and anti-Israel students.
Last week, the student government at the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara rejected a resolution to divest from Israel, joining several other California schools—UC Riverside, UC Berkeley and Stanford University—who have rejected Israel divestment resolutions...

20 April 2013

The next insanity “Unilateral Peace: creating a two-state solution, alone”

From JPost, 19 April, by MARTIN SHERMAN:
Does Aussie philanthropist Frank Lowy realize he is helping promote a South Lebanon-like reality on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv?
Palestinian activists erect tents in E1, January 11, 2013.    
Palestinian activists erect tents in E1, January 11, 2013. Photo: REUTERS
...It is becoming increasing difficult to avoid recognition of the fact that any prospect of a negotiated two-state-solution (TSS) is receding into oblivion.
...True, it seems that the bitter realization has set in that there is no Palestinian negotiating partner with the desire and/or the ability to deliver a durable peace accord.
As prominent and persistent two-stater Ami Ayalon (former commander of the navy and the Shin Bet) conceded in an interview with Charlie Rose (August 8, 2012):
“We have to accept [something which] if you had asked me two years ago I would not [have] accepted... there is no Palestinians partner...”
Yet, despite the acknowledged disproof of the major tenet buttressing their political thesis, obsessive two-staters have begun to conjure up ... the concept of “Peace without partners.” No kidding ...
One of the first symptoms of this disturbing intellectual malaise appeared in the international media a year ago, in the form of a New York Times opinion piece titled – yes, you guessed it – “Peace without partners.”
Written by a trio of well-known Israelis – Ayalon, Orni Petruschka, a successful hi-tech entrepreneur) and Gilead Sher (formerly prime minister Ehud Barak’s chief of staff) – and almost immediately endorsed by Tom Friedman (itself a reason for concern), the article plumbed, new depths of absurdity.
The authors (all founders of an organization known as Blue and White Future (B&WF), whose stated objectives include endeavoring to “resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a ‘two states for two peoples’ solution”), acknowledge:
“We recognize that a comprehensive peace agreement is unattainable right now... It now seems highly unlikely that the two sides will return to negotiations...”
Yet, undaunted by recalcitrant realities, the intrepid trio nevertheless urges:
“Israel can and must take constructive [unilateral] steps to advance the reality of two states based on the 1967 borders...regardless of whether Palestinian leaders have agreed to accept it.”
...In the past, when they still clung to the illusion that “there was someone to talk to,” the logic driving the TSS paradigm was that in exchange for transferring territory to Palestinians, Israel would receive some sort of negotiated quid pro quo from the Palestinians in the form of a mutual peace – or at least, non-belligerency – accord.
This principle has now been entirely jettisoned.
The concept being seriously proposed and aggressively promoted is no longer one of “land-for-peace” but in effect “land-for-nothing” – naught, nada, zilch, zero...
In the light of the consequences of previous experience with unilateral initiatives, it is difficult to overstate the gravity of this initiative, were it to gather sufficient momentum to impact Israeli policy-makers.
...This notion of “constructive unilateralism” is being bandied about with increasing frequency in the mainstream press both in Israel and abroad. In recent months it has been the topic of discussion in both the electronic and printed media – in radio and TV interviews, in opinion columns and in letters to the editor, including in the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy and The Washington Post to name but a few.
...The elements of this proposed “constructive unilateralism” appear repeatedly in several of the previously mentioned media items, but arguably the most concise articulation thereof is to be found in a Foreign Policy article (March 18), headlined “Unilateral Peace: It’s time for Israel to move toward a two-state solution, alone if necessary,” authored by Maj.- Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and Gilead Sher.
Yadlin was credited as former chief of Israeli Military Intelligence and director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies ["INSS"], and Sher as co-chairman of B&WF, a senior research fellow at the INSS.
In the article, Yadlin and Sher set out the elements comprising “constructive unilateralism”: “We suggest a new series of unilateral steps towards disengagement that have a better chance of succeeding [than the 2005 Gaza disengagement].
“First, Israel should renounce its sovereignty claims over areas east of the security fence... Second, it should end all settlement construction east of the fence.
And third, Israel should enact a voluntary settlement evacuation and compensation law.”
They continue: “Israel should coordinate these moves – particularly those related to security – with the United States, the international community and the PA...The Jordan Valley and possibly other strategic locations should provisionally remain in Israeli hands to prevent the smuggling of weapons... and assure Israel’s security,” leaving the reader to puzzle over what the meaning of “coordinated unilateralism” is and what to do if others decline such “coordination.”
On this issue Sher, in an earlier op-ed, “Time has come for 2 states,” (January 29) is a little more assertive, if no less fanciful: “The IDF will remain in the territory until the security responsibility will be handed over to an element that is acceptable to us (we learned this lesson in the aftermath of the Gaza disengagement of 2005).” This position which closely parallels views set out in the previously cited Ayalon et al. New York Times piece: “...the Israeli Army would remain in the West Bank until the conflict was officially resolved with a final-status agreement.”
So there you have it – the elements of the new TSS-paradigm driven by “constructive unilateralism”:
• A voluntary forgoing of Israeli claims to sovereignty over virtually all of Judea and Samaria while maintaining the deployment of the IDF – thus instantly transforming “disputed” territories into unequivocally “occupied” ones.
• An initiative to remove all Jewish presence east of the security barrier, either by financial inducement, economic deprivation or eventual physical abandonment.

A mega-South Lebanon
Clearly, under these conditions any hope that “the conflict [will] be officially resolved with a final-status agreement” is detached from reality. For why should the Palestinians offer any quid pro quo to negotiate the withdrawal of the IDF when Israel has a priori conceded sovereignty to them and ceased all construction of the settlements, condemning them to inevitable decay and disintegration? Indeed, what would be the justification for any further IDF deployment in the sovereign territory of others – especially as that deployment itself is likely to be cited as the major grievance precipitating the belligerency between the sides? Little imagination is required to comprehend the catastrophic consequences should such a policy fail in inducing/coercing the Jewish residents to evacuate. For by voluntarily voiding its claims to any affinity with the land, Israel will have deemed itself indelibly an “occupier” and all settlements “illegal,” since it would have no power to legalize their existence.
But even if it were to succeed, the prospects are scarcely more palatable. It is difficult to know how to characterize the political-legal structure that would prevail in an area whose only residents are non-Israelis and over which Israel makes no sovereign claims, yet maintains the deployment of its military – unless you think of pre-2000 South Lebanon. And we all know how that ended – in ignominious unilateral flight of the IDF.
Significantly, Yadlin and Sher seem to view this favorably, claiming: “The decision to withdraw... was correct...unilateral action legitimized Israel’s border in the north...”
Could this reflect their real intentions? And if not, how do they propose preventing repetition of such undignified and unreciprocated “unilateral action to legitimize Israel’s eastern border” – and the subsequent stockpiling of formidable armaments on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.
Seamless symbiosis
Formally, this concept of “constructive unilateralism” is being promoted by the previously mentioned B&WF, which describes itself as “a non-partisan political movement...funded by private donors in Israel, the United States and elsewhere.”
However, even a cursory glance at the identities of the individuals involved, the vehicles of publication and the cross-organizational affiliations will reveal an almost seamless symbiosis between Blue and White Future (B&WF) and the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), chaired and largely funded by Australian billionaire philanthropist Frank Lowy.
Thus although the two are organizationally separate, there is a striking overlap between the figures who endorse the “constructive unilateralism” idea and their attributed affiliation with the INSS – from the director of the institute, through prominent senior research associates to junior interns. Indeed, the concept has been touted in the INSS’s quarterly publication Strategic Assessment and a plausible case could be made for the claim that the institute provides the intellectual bona fides for B&WF’s public activism.

Does Frank Lowy realize?
... one can only wonder whether the devoted Zionist billionaire Lowy is aware that the institute that he funds is vigorously promoting a policy which, rather than preclude an apartheid-like reality, would create a South Lebanon-like one on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.
True, it is a policy proposal with an impressive array of supporters, including the former heads of the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence. But with all the esteem I (genuinely) have for their achievements, past seniority is no guarantee of current infallibility.
That said, the proposal does contain elements that Israel should adopt.
As I have urged in numerous columns, Israel should embark on unilateral initiatives – not those geared to relinquishing territory but to retain it. It should embark on a large-scale and vigorous program of evacuation-compensation – not for Israeli Jews, but for Palestinian Arabs.
Perhaps the generous billionaire might consider alternative causes to support.
After all, if there is no moral defect in funding the voluntary evacuation of Jews from their homes in Judea-Samaria to facilitate the establishment of what, in all likelihood, would become a failed mini-micro-state and a base for radical Islamist terror, what possible moral objection could there be to funding the voluntary evacuation of Arabs from their homes to prevent the establishment of such a base for Islamic terror?

Radical Australian Muslim Preacher Inspired the Boston Marathon Bomber

From the International Business Times, April 19, 2013, by GARETH PLATT:
Feiz Mohammad, the radical preacher cited by dead Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is a former boxer who blames women for being raped and called for a prominent Dutch politician to be beheaded.
Sheikh Feiz thinks Jews are pigs and women are to blame for being raped.

Widely known as ‘Sheikh Feiz’, the preacher was born in Australia circa 1970-1 but fled to Lebanon, the homeland of his parents, eight years ago after becoming one of the world's most controversial Islamic lecturers.
He has been investigated by Australian police for inciting violence and terrorism, and was even captured on a British TV documentary encouraging children to become martyrs for Islam six years ago.
Feiz has been described by some as Australia’s most dangerous sheikh, because of the number of connections he holds to known terrorists.
Although it is not known whether the hardline sheikh has any direct links to Al-Qaeda, he has regularly broadcast sermons from the group’s spiritual leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, on his website.

Boxing, bodybuilding and hard drugs
Feiz’s parents emigrated from Lebanon to Sydney before he was born, and he has described his family as “so-called” Muslim – hinting strongly that he disapproves of their level of commitment.
The future preacher competed as a boxer, bodybuilder and horse trainer in his teens, and apparently used drugs before rediscovering his faith and moving to Saudi Arabia, where he studied Islamic law.
Upon his return to Sydney, Feiz founded the Global Islamic Youth Centre in the suburb of Liverpool, reaching a community of more than 4,000 Muslims, and began to make the radical sermons which have earned international notoriety.
In 2007, a Channel 4 documentary entitled Undercover Mosque broadcast footage of Feiz urging children to become “soldiers defending Islam”, adding “there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a Muhajid.”
In 2010 he described Dutch politician Gert Wilders, an open opponent of Islam, as “evil filth” adding: “Anyone who mocks our learning, laughs at the Islam [sic] and degrades it must enter death – decapitate him, cut off his head.”

Hardline views
In sermons propagated on YouTube, Mohammad has cited alcohol, hip hop and consumerism as among society’s greatest ills, and warned that “every innovation is misguided”.
He has even claimed that Jewish people are pigs, and asserted that “anyone who tries to play with the sacred code of Shariah is kaffir… the only law for him is beheadness (sic), execution.”
In a sermon on rape, made in March 2005, Mohammad told an audience - who had each paid $15 to see him - that a victim has “no-one to blame but herself. She displayed her beauty to the entire world.
"Strapless, backless, sleeveless, showing their legs, nothing but satanic skirts, slit skirts, translucent blouses, miniskirts, tight jeans: all this to tease man and appeal to his carnal nature.
"Would you put this sheep that you adore in the middle of hungry wolves? No... It would be devoured. It's the same situation here. You're putting this precious girl in front of lustful, satanic eyes of hungry wolves.”

Mohammed fled to Lebanon in 2005, and reports differ as to his current location.
Although it is widely reported he is now living in Malaysia, where he continues to give regular lectures, some suggest he has returned to Australia...

18 April 2013

Announcing the launch of the Israel Travel Centre's new look website!

Jerusalem Banner
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·       Choose from a wide range of tours
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·       Enjoy fabulous extensions to Petra and beyond in Jordan
·       Join our Life Changing Holy Land Group Tours
·       Sign up for our annual Christmas Tour to Bethlehem NOW

To celebrate our new site, we are offering 5% off all new bookings for HOLY LAND & BIBLE TOURS for the month of April and May!

Click here for the deal of the MONTH:

Travel with the Israel Experts @ www.israeltravelcentre.com.au

16 April 2013

Jordanian Hatred: One More Reason Why Peace Won’t Happen

From Commentary magazine, 12April 2013, by Jonathan Tobin:

Anyone who regularly follows the translations of the Palestinian media available on Palestinian Media Watch (www.palwatch.org) or www.Memri.org understands that the blithe talk about the possibility of Middle East peace that is heard on the left is utterly unrealistic. But keeping one’s finger on the pulse of a Palestinian culture that continues to foment hatred of Jews and Israel isn’t the only indicator of just how deep this animus runs in Arab culture. Just as informative is a look at the cultures of the two Arab countries that have already made peace with Israel: Egypt and Jordan. The potent anti-Semitism of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the prejudice that runs throughout the culture of the largest Arab nation is well documented. But the situation in Jordan is less well known.

Jordan’s reputation as a moderate Arab nation stems mostly from the attitude of former King Hussein and his successor King Abdullah. Like his father, the Jordanian monarch is well spoken in English, charming and, despite the criticisms he lobs across the border at Israel in order to maintain his standing as an Arab leader, very much uninterested in conflict with the Jewish state. But his people and even those in his government are a very different manner.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, 110 out of 120 members of the Jordanian parliament have endorsed a petition calling for the release of the former soldier who murdered seven Jewish children in 1997. The shocking incident at the Island of Peace along the border between Israel and Jordan prompted King Hussein to personally apologize to the families of the victims for what he considered a blot on the honor of both his country and its armed services. But to the overwhelming majority of Jordanians, he appears to be a hero. If that doesn’t tell you something about how difficult it is to imagine the end of the Middle East conflict, you aren’t paying attention.

The details of the Island of Peace shooting were horrific. Ahmed Daqamseh, one of the Jordanian soldiers on duty at the site that day, turned his gun on a group of visiting Israeli schoolgirls, killing seven and injuring five. The death toll was limited only by the fact that his gun jammed. He was spared a death sentence because a tribunal ruled that he was mentally unstable. But the elevation of his former defense attorney, Hussein Mjali, to the post of minister of justice in 2011 gave new life to the campaign to spring the killer.

Unlike other such causes to free long-imprisoned figures, this effort isn’t based on any ideas about a miscarriage of justice or an overly harsh sentence. It is, instead, based on the abhorrence with which Israel and Jews in general are viewed in Jordanian society. Daqamseh is unrepentant about his crime and that appears to make him popular. Part of this can be traced to the fact that the majority of Jordanians are Palestinians who are generally marginalized in a government run by and for the Hashemite ruling family. But it must also be traced to a general current of Jew-hatred that grips the Arab and Muslim worlds. It is only that feeling that can explain the desire of so many in Jordan to treat a madman who went on a rampage killing little girls as a hero or imprisoned martyr.

The problem between Israel and its neighbors has never really been the location of borders, settlements or the severity of its measures of self-defense. It’s about the unwillingness of a critical mass of Palestinians and Arabs in general to tolerate Jewish sovereignty over any portion, no matter how small, over part of the Middle East. The hate that leads serious people to demand freedom for a mass killer of children is the same factor that makes true peace unlikely in the foreseeable future. This is regrettable, but those who wish to claim any insight into the politics that drive the Middle East conflict cannot ignore it.

Israel celebrates the 65th anniversary of its independence (Yom Haatzmaut)

From AIJAC, 16 April 2013, by Sharyn Mittelman:

Today, Israel celebrates the 65th anniversary of its independence (Yom Haatzmaut).

On 14 May 1948, the day in which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and David Ben Gurion who became Israel's first Prime Minister, read out the State of Israel's Declaration of Independence. (Israel's independence is celebrated today rather than next month because it goes according to the Jewish calendar. May 14, 1948 was was the Fifth of Iyar, which is the same Jewish calendar date as today.)
The Declaration began with these words:
"The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland..." 
On that day, the Jewish ‘hope' to be a free people in their ancient homeland became a reality - recalling the famous words of Theodore Herzl, considered the father of modern political Zionism, who said, "If you will it, it is no dream." That dream also included a vision for a free society where all people are treated equally irrespective of race, religion and gender.
The realisation of the State of Israel has not come without tears and that is why on the night before Yom Haatzmaut, Israelis mark Yom Hazikaron, a day to mourn the country's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. According to 
Haaretz, there are 23,085 fallen Israeli soldiers and 2,493 other victims of hostile activity.
But with immense gratitude to the sacrifices of those who fought for Israel and those who helped build Israel, it has become a homeland for the Jewish people from over 100 countries. Its existence has been a refuge for the Jewish Diaspora - welcoming Jews from Europe who fled antisemitism and/or survived the Holocaust, an escape for Jews fleeing the discrimination of the Soviet Union, hunger in Ethiopia and persecution across North Africa and the Middle East.
Israel faces many challenges both domestically and in terms of security threats, but Yom Haaztmaut should be a time primarily for reflection of its many achievements.
It is worth pausing to recall that overall, Israel has surpassed the wildest of expectations, to become not only a prosperous homeland for the Jewish people but a vibrant democracy, a strong military force in the Middle East, and an innovative world leader in technology, science and medicine. Israel's agricultural know how is also being used to assist the developing world. To celebrate Israel's birthday, ISRAEL21c published an article - "65 ways Israel is saving the planet" which noted contributions including: Israel's invention of drip irrigation, which revolutionised agriculture; a toilet that requires no water; a water purification system that delivers safe drinking water from almost any source, including contaminated water, seawater and even urine; and Israel's program "Eye from Zion" that sends eye doctors from Israel to do free cataract removal operations in places such as Vietnam, China, Myanmar, the Maldives and Azerbaijan. Israeli culture is also booming with the formidable revival of the ancient Hebrew language, a renaissance in Torah studies and Israel's films, literature and music gaining international acclaim.
In addition, international surveys repeatedly show that, despite all the insecurities, violence and controversy that has been a part of the Israeli story for the last 65 years, Israelis are, compared to people in other Western countries, among the happiest in the world. How can Israelis be so happy when they are surrounded by conflict? In an 
article in Haaretz, Allison Kaplan Sommer writes that she asked positive psychology expert Dr Tal Ben Shahar how this could be, and he explained that this was also part of the Israeli success story:
"Ben Shahar believes that the top predictor of happiness is spending time with people we care about and who care about us. With Israel being so geographically small, there is little that stands between Israelis and their close friends and family. Friday night dinners with extended family are a matter of course, even for the young and hip. And in the typical Israeli community, there are a lot of people who care about us - if anything, who care too much. Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, the guy who runs the corner store, often feel too close, too ‘in our face,' and we often wish everyone would butt out of our business, but, apparently, it's a good thing in the long run; human connection is human connection, even when it's extremely annoying. At least this contact prevents utter isolation, which seems to be a leading cause of unhappiness.
Another Shahar-ism is that ‘happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning.' Even when Israelis run low on pleasure, they are never, ever short of meaning. We overdose on meaning. The national narrative means that simply living in the state of Israel and making it through any given day is meaningful..."
Little Israel, a third of the size of Tasmania, has achieved so much despite facing ongoing security concerns and an international campaign to delegitimise its existence.
Perhaps that is why Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has referred to Israel as a ‘modern miracle' in her Yom Haaztmaut message, she 

"On behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, I extend congratulations and good wishes to the people and Government of Israel on the celebration of Yom Haatzmaut - Independence Day. Israel is 65 years young, even as the State fulfils a dream of faith and rebirth that is over 3000 years old.   Just last month, President Shimon Peres, a founding father of the State captured modern Israel with these words: ‘We have a rich heritage and a great dream. As I look back, I feel the Israel of today has exceeded the vision we had 65 years ago. Reality has surpassed the dreams.' Israel is a modern miracle..."