30 June 2014


From the Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), 1 JUly 2014, by Mark Leibler AC, National Chairman and  Dr Colin Rubenstein AM, Executive Director:
AIJAC mourns Israeli students Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach and condemns, in the strongest terms, their cowardly, despicable murder. We call for the perpetrators and their facilitators to be swiftly brought to justice.

Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences go to the brave families of these precious teenagers as they confront this unspeakable tragedy. We stand united with the people of Israel, Jews around the world and freedom loving people everywhere in grieving with their families. May they be comforted among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Strong evidence suggests that the perpetrators of this terror attack were members of Hamas, acting on repeated encouragement from top Hamas leaders to kidnap Israelis. This attack, and the disturbing level of approval for it in Palestinian society, is a product of the culture of incitement and hatred that has been ingrained in the population through official Palestinian institutions. This must cease for there to be any chance of peace.

Yet again, this horrendous act of terrorism shows the true face of Hamas. We join in calls for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to immediately terminate the unity agreement that tacitly has enabled an unreconstructed Hamas to escalate its violent activities.


Read on for article
The bodies of kidnapped Israeli teenagers Naphtali Frenkel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach have been found near the spot in Gish Etzion from where they were abducted.

Gilad Sha’er

Naftali Frenkel

Eyal Yifrach

The World Jewish Congress has released this statement.
“News that the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by terrorists on 12 June 2014 from a hitchhiking point in Gush Etzion near the West Bank city of Hebron were murdered was met with shock and outrage by the leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC). WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said the thoughts of the entire international Jewish community were with the families of Naphtali Fraenkel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach. The bodies of the three were discovered on Monday near the site of their abduction.Israeli authorities have evidence that the abduction was done by members of the Islamist Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip and recently entered into agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group.“We are beyond shocked, outraged and heartbroken by these despicable murders. Once again, Hamas has revealed its true colors: This group blatantly disregards human life, and it doesn’t even refrain from hijacking innocent teenagers. Those who committed this heinous crime must be hunted down and brought to justice.“Clearly, Hamas is a terrorist organization, and it must be dismantled, and it is the responsibility of Mahmoud Abbas to remove all Hamas-linked officials from his government immediately and fight terrorism vigorously and urgently. Abu Mazen needs to show leadership now,” Lauder declared.He also urged the international community, and in particular the United States and the European Union, to halt all financial support for the Palestinian Authority until Hamas is excluded from all government bodies. “This murder must spur the world into action, and the fight against fanatic, extremist groups such as Hamas must be stepped up urgently,” said the WJC president.”

Iraq's Christian Minority Feels Militant Threat

Iraqi Christian families who fled violence in Mosul and nearby towns found refuge Thursday at a community center in Kurdish-controlled Erbil.
Associated Press
BAGHDAD—Surrounded by a blast wall topped with razor-sharp concertina wire, Our Lady of Salvation Church in downtown Baghdad resembles a fortress more than a sanctuary. Despite the fortifications, however, those who worship there are feeling more vulnerable than ever.
An appeal for help in guarding the Syriac Catholic Church this month brought no volunteers. A ragtag trio of armed men protects the churchyard. At Mass, guards patted down worshipers and checked their belongings for concealed weapons and explosives. Only a few dozen people occupied the pews, the wan echo of their voices lost in the vast nave where hundreds used to worship each week.
As Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, sweep through the country, the church's small congregation and makeshift defenders highlight the precarious condition of Iraq's Christian community. The community's ranks have shrunk by half in the past decade, as the devout flee the sectarian violence that has become a hallmark of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

One man at the church said that the country's largest religious communities—Sunni Muslims and Shiites—have often been too busy fighting each other to hunt Christians, but it is different this time.
"Now all these terrorists are here from across the Middle East, and they want to cleanse the Christians," said a 35-year-old armed guard at a checkpoint outside the church's main entrance. "The youth have left. There's no one left to defend the church, and if I had the chance, I'd leave, too."
In 2010, the congregation had a taste of the perils that possibly lay ahead. At least 58 people were killed when ISIS militants attacked the church and took more than 100 hostages.

While the members of Our Lady of Salvation worry that they will again be targeted in a sectarian attack, other Iraqi Christians are simply trying to avoid being caught in the tightening vise of extremist Sunni fighters and their foes.

On Tuesday, Syriac Catholics were among those fleeing the northern town of Qaraqosh as clashes raged between ISIS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, residents said. ISIS mortars intended for the Peshmerga hit Qaraqosh, triggering the exodus of most of the 50,000 residents to Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region and its capital, Erbil.

A small fighting force stayed behind in Qaraqosh to defend its religious sites, some dating to the eighth century. The Iraqi military was stretched too thin to help, said Ammar To'ma, a member of parliament's security and defense committee.
"No one is left in the village," said a teacher from Qaraqosh, who escaped to Erbil on Wednesday. "It was total chaos."

23 June 2014

The Arab world slowly learns the truth about Hamas

From Commentator, 12 June 2014, by Ahmed Abdel-Raheem:

It may seem extraordinary, but Hamas used to be seen as gentle and enlightened by many in the Arab world. But as the reality of its brutal rule in Gaza is revealed, minds are changing, as this personal testimony illustrates


How Hamas deals with opponents

As an Arab, when I heard about the Fatah-Hamas unity government, I was happy and saw this as positive. In fact, like many in the Arab world, I had always thought that Hamas was a force for good and represents a majority of the Palestinian people.
However, my eyes were opened via a chance meeting I had recently with a Palestinian from Khan Yonis who related some horrible stories that disclosed to me a dark side of Hamas that had not been visible to me. Before telling any of these stories, I should say that the young man at first asked me not to write anything about our meeting.
"Please don't write about what I told you; please don't write anything; Hamas reads everything in the news, and has a very strong intelligence body; they even spy on us; it is not difficult at all for them to know what they want to know; if they know me, they will kill not only me but also my whole family; they're real criminals."
After a long series of attempts, I convinced him that I would keep his identity anonymous and that everything wouldl be okay.
The young man was genuinely frightened. He said that Hamas had killed four people (a physician, a judge, an engineer, and a lawyer) from his family, who were semi-opponents of the group. "Hamas broke into our houses using heavy weapons; Hamas militants invaded us like tartars and we were like orphans with no power at all to resist; they killed many of us,'' he stated.
I was shocked to hear this and became even more shocked to learn how Hamas won the parliamentary elections in 2006. According to my interlocutor, before the elections, Hamas got rid of all opposing heads of families, and imposed its full control on the people. ''If someone just thinks of protesting, Hamas gets them killed,'' he added.
When the Arab Spring happened, some Palestinians saw some hope of change and wanted to protest against Hamas and its dictatorial rule. "Once one young man from our district agreed to whistle from inside his house in a sign of protest against Hamas; but the group knew about him; they brought him to one of their headquarters and began torturing and humiliating him, '' the young man said.
"Hamas is not that easy and kind as you think; oh, really you have no idea what Hamas is,'' he added.
If this is to denote something, it is that the real problem is not just between Hamas and Fatah. Rather, it is between Hamas and the people. Importantly, if the people really don't want Hamas, any Palestinian unity government will be meaningless.
This disconnect between the people and the regime that rules over them applies all across the Arab world, regardless of the ideological basis of the regime in question.
It perfectly applies, for example, to the situation in both Egypt and Syria. In both countries, two dictators strongly claim that they won ''presidential elections'' and that the large majority of their peoples support them, while in fact those two dictatorships kill their own people and keep using force to stabilize their fragile thrones.
This will never work. The people might keep silent for some time; but they will in the end move like a volcano against the dictatorship. This is the most important lesson from Egypt's January 25 Revolution. Put another way, power is the people, and the people is power.
Finally, as an Arab, I call upon Hamas to listen to the people and to leave those who want to protest to express their voices. This is the only way a Palestinian unity government can succeed. This is the only way democracy can be achieved.
The writer is an Egyptian poet, actor, and political intellectual. He is also pursuing doctoral research in cognitive science

Six days that changed the world

From J-Wire, June 18, 2014, by Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin*:

It is one of those ironies of history that the controversy surrounding the federal government’s refusal to label any part of Jerusalem as “occupied” by Israel broke in the media on June 5, the anniversary of the start of the Six Day war in 1967. 
That war is remembered principally for the Israel Defence Force’s astonishingly rapid trouncing of the combined military might of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Less well remembered is the crisis in the preceding weeks that led to the war.
The crisis began when the Soviet Union, for reasons which are still unclear, spread false rumours among its Arab client States that Israeli troops were massing at the border for an attack on Syria. Egyptian and Syrian intelligence services, and observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation located on the spot, all confirmed that the rumours were groundless.
Regardless, Egypt’s President, Gamal abdel-Nasser seized the opportunity to escalate tensions with Israel. Many have now forgotten the massing of 100,000 Egyptian troops, armour and artillery in the Sinai peninsula up to the border with Israel; Nasser’s expulsion of the UN peace-keeping force in Sinai; the imposition of a naval blockade by Egypt upon Israel’s southern port of Eilat; the closing of ranks of the Arab States behind Egypt; and, most ominously, the wave of popular frenzy whipped up by Nasser as vast crowds in Arab capitals exulted in the anticipated destruction of Israel.
Israel’s imminent demise was widely predicted. There was talk of a ‘Second Holocaust’. Israel’s Foreign Minister at the time, Abba Eban, recalled that diplomatic messages of support which Israel received from friendly nations had “a disturbingly valedictory tone”.
Outnumbered by more than one hundred to one, outgunned, and unable to compete with the wealth and diplomatic influence of the Arab States, Israel faced its hour of maximum danger – alone.
It is worth recalling that history to understand why, in the absence of a comprehensive peace agreement with those who have repeatedly sought its destruction, Israel steadfastly maintains its control over the West Bank and the parts of Jerusalem it captured in 1967.
Revisionist writers have since tried to deny or play down Egypt’s egregious series of aggressive acts, going so far as to claim that Israel needed and wanted a war at that time.   But in truth the Israelis were caught utterly unprepared by the crisis that precipitated the war, and went to extraordinary diplomatic lengths to avoid it.
It was Nasser who was intent on war and he said so openly, making his ultimate goal crystal clear. In a speech to the Arab Trade Union Congress on May 26, Nasser declared 
“Egypt will, thanks to this war, at long last wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.”
The Palestinians too made their intentions plain. The chief of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Ahmed Shukeiry, declared that after the Arab victory, Israeli Jews born abroad would be “repatriated”, while the native-born could stay. However, Shukeiry added, “I estimate none of them will survive.” 
Egypt’s air-force, and Nasser’s dreams of conquest, were left in a smouldering ruin on the ground in the first hours of the war. In the following days its troops were driven out of the Sinai to the western side of the Suez Canal.
The Jordanians opened hostilities on Israel’s eastern front with artillery and small arms fire into Israeli cities. The Israelis responded by driving them out of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories which Jordan had conquered and annexed in 1948, but which were never at that time named “the Occupied Palestinian Territory” by the UN, as they are now.
The Syrians were driven off the Golan Heights from which they had shelled Israeli kibbutzes and towns.
Israel’s victory was widely hailed in the democratic world. The Arab states were seen as bullies who had picked a fight with a small but gallant foe and received their comeuppance.
These days, Israel’s critics claim that the sole or principal obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and its “illegal settlements”. Yet at the break of dawn on 5 June 1967, as the Arab States and the Palestine Liberation Organisation heralded the destruction of Israel and its Jewish population, there was no Israeli “occupation”, and there were no settlements.
For Israel’s critics, there is no getting around this brute fact: that the core of the Israel-Palestinian conflict was, and remains, the refusal of Palestinian leaders to reconcile themselves to Israel’s existence as the national home of the Jewish people.

*Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin are the Executive Director and Public Affairs Director respectively for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. 

Bridges for Peace Australia: Bring Back Our Boys

A message from Keith Buxton, National Director, Bridges for Peace Australia:

Dear Jewish community friends
We stand shoulder to shoulder with you in prayer and hope for the safety and well-being of these three young men.  We also remain committed for the long haul in the efforts to:
  • combat anti-Semitism and terror against Israel, her citizens, and Jews everywhere - to expose, educate, equip and engage
  • offer tangible support and advocacy for our Jewish friends world-wide and their state, Israel.
The item below was published today by our International leadership in Jerusalem from http://www.bridgesforpeace.com/au/prayer/#1.

Shabbat shalom - Keith

Bring Back Our Boys—Eyal, Naftali and Gilad

  From left to Right
Gilad, Naftali, Eyal
On Thursday night (12 June), three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. The three Israeli teenagers, all yeshiva students, were last seen late Thursday night in the area of Gush Etzion. Israel holds the Palestinian Authority, headed by President Abbas, responsible for the fate of the kidnapped teens and for terrorist activity emanating from the areas under its control.
Eyal Yifrah, 19, is the eldest of seven siblings. He chose to complete his last year of high school in a city with a low socio-economic status, through a program targeted at developing such towns. His family describes him as a vital, energetic, sports-loving boy. He is a youth counselor, who loves to travel and play tennis. While Gilad Shalit was in captivity, kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist organization, Eyal made sure to send Facebook message to raise awareness to the fact that Gilad had not seen his parents for five years.
Naftali Frenkel, 16 years old, is an American citizen. He is the second eldest of seven children. He loves to play basketball and plays the guitar. Naftali is a responsible and poised young boy. He is a gifted student, with a talent for school and academia. Naftali was on his way home from school—and was kidnapped by the Hamas terror organization before he could reach his family.
Gilad Sha'er, 16 years old, is very close to his siblings. He loves to read, listen to music, study hard and spend time with his grandparents. He volunteers to help others, is a youth counselor and works with children. He is much loved by his peers and teachers. He always helps around the house and loves to bake. His sisters are hoping he comes back home again, to bake a new cake or muffin, like he always does.
(By the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 18, 2014)
Photo Credit
Prayer Focus
Join the nation of Israel as they beseech the Lord and cry out for the safe return of the three kidnapped boys. Ask the Lord to strengthen Eyal, Naftali and Gilad as they are held by terrorists. Pray for the comfort of the families during this time of waiting.
Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me and violent men have sought my life; they have not set God before them.
- Psalm 54:1–3 NASB

Boycott, Shmoycott....

From the Jerusalem Boardroom #196, June 20, 2014, by Yoram Ettinger:

1.  "Financial Times contacted 15 of the world's biggest fund houses and 10 of the largest global pension funds to ask them what their stance was (on boycotting Israel).  Half declined to comment or said they had no view; the remainder did not respond to requests for comment.  A Dutch fund manager, who asked to remain anonymous, believes several senior executives at PGGM (the Dutch pension fund which was the first to announce that it would drop its holdings in five Israeli banks due to their financing of Israeli settlements) now regret excluding the five Israeli banks…. Both ABP, the biggest Dutch pension fund, and Nordea Investment Management, the large Nordic fund house, have since announced that they will remain invested in the Israeli banks….  (Financial Times, June 15, 2014).

2.   US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro (Globes, June 16, 2014) on the mutually-beneficial, win-win, two way street US-Israel relations: "Two thirds of the more than 300 foreign research and development (R&D) centers, in Israel, were established by US companies.   The key elements of US high tech products are developed in Israel.  Israeli companies operate in all 50 States.  In Massachusetts, Israeli businesses contributed over s$6bn to direct income, and generated more than 6,600 American jobs. Intel employs almost 10,000 Israelis in its four R&D centers and two manufacturing plants. In 1985, the US and Israel concluded a Free Trade Agreement, which transformed the US to Israel's leading trade partner: a $45bn annual trade balance…."  Intel Capital and Blumberg Capital led a $10mn round of private placement by Israel's Fortscale (Globes, June 3).   

3.  During 2013, Norway's government-owned $900bn pension fund, which is the largest sovereign fund in the world, increased its holdings in Tel Aviv-traded stock by 43% (totaling $1bn), and its holdings in Israeli government bonds by 40% (totaling over $1bn), in addition to $200mn in TEVA Pharmaceuticals bonds.  Norwegian companies are increasingly interested in Israel's offshore oil and natural gas explorations (Globes, June 10).

4.  A month following its acquisition of Israel's Yad2, for $230mn, Axel Springer is offering to acquire Israel's Zap Group for $40mn (Globes. June 10).

5.  "Hearing an Indian official talk the other day about Delhi's booming arms trade and ever-closer relationship with Israel, I had a thought that also struck me while listening to Israeli businessmen in Beijing….. Pivot to Asia is a term that might be applied to Israel.  Its trade with China has boomed, reaching more than $8bn in 2013 from a pittance when diplomatic relations were established in 1992.  Europe huffs and puffs about the West Bank settlements; Asia does business.  India has already bought sea-to-sea missiles, radar for a missile-intercept system and communications equipment from Israel… (New York Times, Roger Cohen. April 24, 2014).   

6.  From 1984 through 2013 Israel's population grew from 4.1mn to 8.2mn. annual inflation was reduced from 447% to 1.5%, foreign exchange reserves expanded from $3.3bn to $90bn, exports surged from $10bn to $90bn, budget deficit/GDP ratio was reduced from 17% to 2.5%, defense expenditures/GDP ratio was shrunk from 20% to 5.5%, GDP increased from $26bn to almost $300bn and GDP per capita catapulted from $7,000 to $39,000 (Sever Plocker, Yediot Achronot).

East Jerusalem and semantics

From the ABC, 18 June 2014, by Glen Falkenstein*:
George Brandis made the right decision to not refer to east Jerusalem as "occupied". Such loaded language would threaten Australia's trade and cooperation with countries in the future....
...During Senate Estimates, Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis responded to questions put to him by Senator Lee Rhiannon by stating that "the Australian Government does not refer to east Jerusalem by the descriptor 'occupied east Jerusalem', we speak of east Jerusalem."
He went on to say the Government believed the term "occupied" has "pejorative implications" that were "neither appropriate nor useful". Brandis's stance was later backed up by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Both Brandis and Rhiannon acknowledged that the term has become quite commonly used; but saying something loudly and a lot doesn't make it right.
In 1948 Jordan invaded east Jerusalem as part of hostile aggression to overturn a UN plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Jordan captured and held east Jerusalem, with the rest of the West Bank, until 1967, when it attacked Israel - as part of a larger war with Syria and Egypt - and as a result lost control of this land. In 1988, Jordan renounced any claim to the area.
Israel formally annexed east Jerusalem in 1980. This is an area that includes the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter, where a sizeable Jewish population has existed for thousands of years.
Both treaty language and academic opinion make it clear that the term "occupation" in international law refers to the control by one country of the sovereign territory of another. East Jerusalem has never been the sovereign territory of a Palestinian state and Jordan has renounced any claim to sovereignty. Therefore, it makes no sense to call this area "occupied" when the alleged "occupier" has at least as much claim to it as anyone else.
Of course, it is commonly accepted, including by successive Israeli governments, that most of the Palestinian-inhabited land captured in 1967 will and should be relinquished by Israel to form a Palestinian state in a final peace deal. However, use of the term "occupied" to describe contested areas is both counterproductive and prejudicial, given the facts on the ground and prevalent international law.
Brandis, as Australia's chief legal officer, was doing his job by recognising the legal reality and refusing to allow Australia to be party to ...debates concerning loaded and inaccurate terminology.
Nor was this a shift in Australian foreign policy, as some media reports would lead one to believe. A search of public statements by past governments, both Labor and Coalition, reveal it is not in fact traditional for the Australian Government to use the term "occupied" to describe east Jerusalem. (See also here, here, and here.) Instead, less inflammatory language has almost always been used.
The clarifications made by the Attorney-General should allow all disputed issues to be discussed and negotiated.
This is consistent with Australia's treatment of other disputed territories around the world, with the Government opting to refer to them as "disputed" rather than occupied, seeking to avoid injecting more heat into bilateral hotspots.
For instance, following the recent trade agreement with Japan, Australia, while raising concerns regarding the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the islands referred to as both the Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands, avoided the use of inflammatory language so as to avoid either alienating or angering either side.
Use of language referring to the islands as "occupied" would not only have undermined trade and cooperation with either or both powers, but detracted from Australia's ability to communicate or mediate with China and Japan on this and other issues essential to trilateral relations.
Perhaps it is with this in mind that Brandis referred to the disputed territory of east Jerusalem.
Australia has both vibrant Israeli/Jewish and Palestinian communities, and maintains important trade links with both Palestinian and Israeli industry. Why would you not want to maintain a realistic and logical approach to contentious areas, and maximise communication with all sides to effectively promote efforts to achieve a viable two-state solution, a stated bipartisan goal?
The clarifications made by the Attorney-General should allow all disputed issues to be discussed and negotiated. It certainly does not endorse Israel's 1980 annexation of the area any more than it endorses the Palestinian claim that the territory should all rightfully be part of their future state.
...If Australia seeks to play a part in encouraging a final peace deal, it is obvious that the Government has adopted a practical approach to these issues, by allowing them to be debated, deliberated and negotiated between the parties....
*Glen Falkenstein is a policy analyst and staff writer at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).

22 June 2014

Righteous and unrighteous Christians on Israel

The Presbyterians [USA] have fallen into a bizarre and extreme anti-Israeli bigotry. But decency is mounting a fightback. True Christians will have nothing to with this behaviour, and they're protesting loudly 
At a moment when the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PC, USA) is holding its meeting in Detroit, a group of Christians on June 13, 2014 courageously issued an open pastoral letter that criticized the focus and tone of the present and possible future attitude of the Church towards Israel.
The General Assembly (GA) is no longer debating, as it has done since 2000, the issue of how the Israeli occupation of territory taken in 1967 can be ended, but the question of whether the State of Israel should exist.
The pastoral criticism stems from the consequences of the publication in January 2014 of Zionism Unsettled, a 74-page supposed “study guide” produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, a unit of the PC (USA). The guide states clearly, “the problem is Zionism.” Therefore, if Zionism is the problem, then logically the end of Zionism is the solution.
The guide, in weird postmodernist language, defines Zionism as the manifestation of “exceptionalist religious ideology fused with political power.” This bizarre formula echoes that of “Jewish Supremacism” coined by David Duke. Not all members of PC (USA), or indeed of any other church, can be happy about its link with Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who in fact highly praised the “study guide.”
So did Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, and an acquaintance of Barack Obama when they were both in Chicago. Khalidi’s view is similar to that of the PC (USA):
“The denial of the rights of the Palestinians is largely driven by the exception of Zionist ideology and its real world implications.” Despite the endorsement of these “authorities,” the “study” is a remarkably biased document in its demonization of Israel, and its promotion of ethnic and religious stereotypes.
The pastoral letter of protest against all this pungently maintains that it is not only patently false but also morally indefensible to argue as does the PC (USA) that any Jewish desire for any form of statehood within its historic homeland is inherently discriminatory. The pastors also support a two state solution, a secure, independent Israel with a Jewish majority living in peace alongside a viable, independent Palestine.
The letter recognizes a truth that has long been ignored or deliberately misrepresented by the advocates of some form of boycott of Israel and by the mainstream media. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement purports to be limited to bringing an end to the Israeli “occupation” of Palestinian lands but its real goal is the end of Israel as an independent state. Divestment should be opposed for that reason.
But the PC (USA) General Assembly is doing the opposite. At the June meeting of the GA, 879 resolutions have been offered, and 138 of them concern Israel. As usual they call for the end of Israeli “occupation,” the condemnation of Israel that it continually violates UN resolutions and international law, and divestment, reported to be only $17 million, from the three apparent founts of evil in the world, Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.
Since 2004, the PC (USA) has called for “a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.” Many resolutions of this nature calling for boycott have been passed.
The GA in 2012 overwhelmingly supported a boycott of products manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 2014 it is seeking to withdraw church pension fund and foundation investments from corporations that contribute to and profit from what it calls the “growth of the Israeli settlement infrastructure and the oppressive military occupation that controls Palestinian’s lives.”
Even more important is the rejection by the pastoral letter of the charge that Zionism is “like other colonial movements.” This rejection is significant in two respects. It is based on the history of the Holy Land that Jews have been present there for several thousand years, and have a legitimate claim to the land, even if not to all of it.
Even more, the now-fashionable accusation of Israel being an “apartheid” state negates the legitimacy of Israel having any share of the land, and denies the Jewish connection to the area.
It is disheartening that the narratives and documents emanating from PC (USA) are the antithesis of dialogue on complex issues and implicitly are grounded in hatred, not a desire for peace. Perhaps not coincidentally, as a result of its evident bias its membership is reported to have declined from 3.1 million in 1983 to 1.7 million today.
Even more perplexing is that this bias and animosity, not only by the Church but also by others especially the advocates of boycott, should exist and prevail in the light of recent events, two of which are particularly pertinent. One is the kidnapping, assumed to be by members of Hamas, of three Jewish boys, two aged 16 and the third 19, who were yeshiva – religious -- students in the Hebron area on June 12, 2014.
The boycotters of Israel might be aware that the boys were taken in an area that is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, not in any “occupied territory.” Moreover, they might be perplexed, even offended, that on news of the abduction, Palestinians handed out candy in the streets to celebrate. 
The second event, on the same day of the kidnapping, is a dramatic illustration of the dialectically opposite value systems of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land area of which the PC (USA) and others appear unaware. It was the medical treatment in June 2014 of Amina Abbas, wife of the president of the Palestinian Authority, in a hospital in Tel Aviv.
She was given a private room with guards at the door while she underwent foot surgery. Paradoxically, the granddaughter of the Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, the rival of Abbas, was also treated in an Israeli hospital in November 2013.
It is saddening that members of religious denominations should ignore the complex problems and the horrors of the Middle East, and reduce them to a single factor and source, Zionism.
They seem to be unconcerned about the relentless violence in Syria and the cruel terrorism of ISIS, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, that glories in slaughter of its enemies.
Why do the members of these religious groups, and the secular boycotters of Israel, lose all credibility and any commitment to truth by adhering to a double standards regarding Jews and other people? Are they all hypocrites?
*Michael Curtis, author of "Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East", is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in political science at Rutgers University. Curtis is the author of 30 books.

20 June 2014

Mahmoud Abbas has made a pact with devil: kidnaps are but one outcome

From The Australian, 20/6/14, by Shmuel Ben-Shmuel*:

    Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, centre, with members of the new Palestinian unity gov
    Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, centre, with members of the new Palestinian unity government in Ramallah early this month.
    AS a parent, I’m terrified by the too-true revelations that a school- aged boy called the police in a panic to say he and his friends had been kidnapped.
    As an Israeli, I’m resigned to the reality that the abduction of 16-year-olds Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah is just the latest evil chapter from the Hamas terror playbook.
    Just 10 days after Hamas and Fatah signed a so-called unity deal, the fairytale is over. No longer can we continue to delude ourselves that there will be lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas aligns himself with such a murderous organisation.
    The nightmare these teens find themselves in now follows more than a dozen thwarted kidnapping attempts this year. It proves that a Palestinian government with Hamas as a ruling constituent is the key impediment to lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
    In addition to having a charter that directly calls for the violent destruction of Israel, Hamas has launched more than 10,000 rockets and mortars at, and infiltrated dozens of suicide bombers into, my homeland. Hamas is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians, and their actions mere days after signing a peace agreement make it clear they haven’t changed a bit.
    We are witnessing the acts of an evil enterprise that sees nothing wrong in the new low of kidnapping teenagers who would be too young to vote in Australia, and would most likely just be worrying about the sorts of things normal Year 10 students fret about.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is entirely correct in his characterisation of a Hamas-Fatah partnership as “bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for the region”. But make no mistake; the burden faced by Palestinians is as great, if not greater, than that faced by everyone else. Since taking power in Gaza, thousands have perished as the result of Hamas’s murderous commitment to frontier justice, cronyism and administrative indifference.
    In the ensuing civil war, Hamas militants threw their opponents gleefully off roofs and out of hospitals. Their children’s television shows glorify martyrdom, jihad and ridding the earth of Jews; thereby instilling in an entire generation hate, fear and mistrust. I fear the unity deal will only unnecessarily subject the Palestinians of the West Bank to further Hamas brutality.
    Without a shadow of doubt, a unity government with Hamas as a member is the single largest obstacle to a peace agreement. Even after signing the unity pact, Hamas still categorically rejects the Quartet conditions to stop terrorism, recognise Israel and accept previous agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
    It has long been defined as a terrorist organisation by Australia and practically every other Western nation, and Australian government representatives abroad are explicitly instructed to avoid contact with Hamas officials.
    It seems that where Australia and the rest of the civilised world see a threat, Abbas sees an ally. In witnessing every parent’s worst nightmare — the abduction of these innocent boys — we are observing the entirely predictable ramifications of teaming up with a terrorist organisation whose raison d’etre is the annihilation of Israel.
    Peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but also requires the presence of goodwill. By siding with Hamas, Abbas has made a pact with the devil, and must now face the consequences. While Israel regrets the President’s decision to choose an alliance with terror over negotiation, the world community must hold the Palestinian Authority and Abbas responsible for any attacks that emanate from Palestinian-controlled territory.
    I applaud the efforts of so many to bring our boys back, and hope and pray that they will be found quickly and safely. But our hopes must not stop there. We must instead strive to vigorously pursue the promise of peace that is possible only if we reject Hamas. The Palestinians deserve a government that will represent their needs and aspirations, and this is not a one with Hamas as a core element.
    As an Israeli, parent and diplomat my personal aspirations and professional goals are identical: lasting peace. If Abbas can rejoin the international community consensus on the dangers of Hamas, he will find a willing partner for peace in Israel. I hope and pray that this will happen before another tragedy.
    *Shmuel Ben-Shmuel is Israel’s ambassador to Australia.

    09 June 2014

    Resisting a destructive tide of prejudicial terminology

    From THE AUSTRALIAN 9 JUNE 2014, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor:
    Part of East Jerusalem.
    Part of East Jerusalem. Source: AP
    WHEN Attorney-General George Brandis told Senate estimates the Australian government would not under any circumstances refer to East Jerusalem as occupied East Jerusalem, he was not changing government policy.
    He certainly was not changing Coalition government policy. He was changing policy as it evolved when Bob Carr was foreign minister, but this was not longstanding Australian foreign policy.
    The Abbott government, on election, reverted back to the longstanding Australian government practice of seeking neutral language to describe territory in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank which are disputed between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in several statements and interviews had made it clear that the government did not regard all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Most importantly, she also did not state that the settlements were legal either.
    The truth is they concern disputed territory, the status of which will have to be resolved in negotiations. This is what the relevant UN resolutions provide for, although UN resolutions themselves are not by their nature binding international law of and in themselves.
    Brandis was right in international law. More importantly, he demonstrated significant political courage on a vexed and extremely complex issue.
    The situation at law is that Israel acquired control over the Sinai desert, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in defensive wars to prevent the surrounding Arab states’ ambition of annihilating Israel from taking place.
    Israel gave back the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace. It unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Under the Oslo accords it does not control day-to-day life in most of the West Bank, such as its capital, Ramallah.
    East Jerusalem is a special case. Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980. This annexation was rejected by the UN Security Council. But rejection of Israel’s annexation does not automatically make East Jerusalem occupied territory.
    ...Part of the confusion in this case arises from the two different meanings of the word occupied. In a general sense, Israel occupies the territory that Israel controls, just as Australia occupies the territory that Australia controls.
    But in international law, occupied territory normally means the territory of one sovereign nation which is occupied by another sovereign nation.
    Before 1967 Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, which it had no right to do. Incidentally it denied Jewish access to the Western Wall, commonly called the Wailing Wall, Judaism’s most holy religious site. However, Jordan today makes no claim at all for sovereignty over East Jerusalem or the West Bank.
    If you claim that every Israeli settlement is illegal...then you have to claim that the Jewish presence at the Wailing Wall is illegal, and the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem is illegal.
    That is an absurd claim and no one believes that in any settlement Israel could ever leave those areas.
    It is much more accurate, and much more helpful, to describe East Jerusalem and the disputed parts of the West Bank as disputed territories.
    In all other territorial disputes, this is commonly done. In the South China Sea, no one describes the islands which China has taken control of, but which the Vietnamese and Filippinos passionately believe belong to them, as occupied territories. They are always called disputed islands.
    Similarly it is not normal parlance to describe India’s presence in Kashmir as an occupied territory. It is, even if you’re pro-Pakistani, routinely rendered as disputed. Ditto the Turkish-controlled area of northern Cyprus. Only Israel is singled out for linguistic discrimination.
    But very specifically, pre the Carr incumbency in the foreign affairs portfolio, it was extremely rare for Australian ministers ever to refer to the occupied territories. It may have happened once or twice. I cannot recall a Coalition government minister ever using the term.
    In my life I can never recall any government minister using the term occupied East Jerusalem. But as the passionate campaigns against Israel have gathered pace and momentum, people have been swept up by this unhelpful, inaccurate and distorting terminology.
    Brandis, with a lawyer’s love of precision in language, and fortified by extensive and detailed discussions with Bishop and her senior officials, has cleared up the ambiguity and resisted a destructive tide.
    That’s a good thing to do.

    08 June 2014

    Clarity from the Australian government

    From PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting
    (Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Sunday, 8 June), made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:

    ...Over the weekend we ...heard an interesting declaration from the Australian government of a kind that we do not always hear. It simply said that eastern Jerusalem is not occupied territory; the minimum is that it is an area in dispute. To say this sharply and with such clarity and, I would say, courage, is refreshing given the chorus of hypocrisy and ignorance, ignorance not only of ancient history, but of recent and current history.
    What has really happened here? Who invaded who? Who occupied what? What is subject to negotiation? What is the area in dispute? These are new things.
    I certainly appreciate this stand by the Australian government and I am certain that all those who want to see an agreement here based on peace, justice and truth – and it is impossible to build peace based on historic lies – would agree. There is truth and it must be embraced. It requires many, many conclusions and steps, but it certainly does not require the sanctification of lies.

    02 June 2014

    Strauss Group targets Australia

    From The Australian, 3 June 3014, by Damon Kitney:
    Ofra Strauss says Strauss Group’s vision is to see the spread and dip category growing an
    Ofra Strauss says Strauss Group’s vision is to see the spread and dip category growing and ‘to see more Australians eat hummus’ Source: Supplied
    ISRAEL’s biggest food and beverage company and the world’s largest hummus manufacturer wants to expand its emerging dips and spreads business in Australia to capitalise on growing demand for its products.
    Strauss Group, which in addition to dips and spreads owns the Strauss Coffee and Max Brenner Chocolate Bar brands, is also considering expanding its Strauss Water purification division into Australia after launching a joint venture in China.
    The company’s chairwoman ...Ofra Strauss, said the expansion of the group’s dips and spreads business in Australia would be spearheaded by Obela Australia, part of a global joint venture between Strauss and soft drinks giant Pepsico.
    Obela Australia was established 2½ years ago to market the Red Rock Deli brand of dips. In September 2012, Obela bought the operations of Copper­pot dips, including its production plant. Last year Obela launched its own range of hummus in Australia.
    ...Strauss offers a diverse range of dip products in the US market such as salsas and guacamoles through its Sabra brand, also a joint venture with Pepsico, and Ms Strauss said Obela could do the same in Australia.
    ...Strauss Group, which has turnover of $US2bn, now has a presence in more than 20 countries after striking partnerships with Pepsico and other multinationals such as Unilever, Lavazza, Danone, Haier, Virgin Group and TPG Capital.
    Half its revenues now come from outside Israel. In Australia its 30 Max Brenner outlets are owned by a private Australian company backed by entrepreneurs Tom and Lilly Haikin, who licence the brand from Strauss Group.
    Strauss’s water business produces drinking water heating and cooling WaterBars for in-home and business use and has a joint venture with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group to market its products in Britain.
    In China it has a partnership with the Chinese electronics giant Haier and Ms Strauss said she would like to see the division with a presence in Australia in the future.
    “I hope we will. I can definitely see a great niche for the water purification business. Australians are alert to the water issue as a whole. The green approach to less bottles, less plastic,’’ she said.
    Eighteen months ago Strauss Group launched an initiative called Alpha Strauss focusing on developing a food technology industry in Israel, to make it the “Silicon Valley of Food’’.
    Foundation partners for the project have included Pepsico, Danone, Estee Lauder and Cargill and Strauss currently has ventures with 20 start-up companies across its portfolio.
    Ms Strauss said the program could have application in Australia, as part of the push for improved innovation in the food industry to capitalise on soaring demand from the Asian middle class.
    “What is great about Australia is that it is the gate to so many other places and markets. Australia is a small country in terms of population. So with projects like this, it is easier to bring people together.’’ ...
    “For us it would be great if the two countries would do it. It is not about competition.
    “There is such a big need now in the world, in the whole supply chain.’’