Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

I found this blog post that my sister shared as very human. I didn’t agree with every word shared, but it certainly brought to life the very real way that Israeli human beings feel amidst a barrage of senseless terrorism. I continue to hope and work for a resolution to the Arab Israeli conflict and feel there are many ways in which the present Israeli government is harming Israel’s future as it turns a beautiful country into a garrison state where alienation, division and fear rule, let alone burn bridges with potential and existing partners. But there is no doubt that when Palestinians attack Israeli civilians randomly, they destroy hope even more and set back their cause as well as the cause of moderates by forcing the most rational human beings to feel the need to fear and reject the “other.”  Time for moderates to seize back the agenda for the sake of all the people that are suffering so much.

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Published under Middle East Feb 29, 2016

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Jews and France

Published under Middle East, Religion Feb 10, 2016

The New York Times opens its story of anti-Semitism in France last week with a terrifying paragraph:

“It was the heavy leather-bound volume of the Torah he was carrying that shielded Benjamin Amsellem from the machete blows.”

The barbarism and brutality of the attack by an ISIS inspired youth on a Jew brings a feeling of insecurity that public kippa wearing campaigns cannot erase. This is the latest incident of local Jewish communities being a prime target of terrorists attacking nations.

Whether organized attacks like Mumbai, Istanbul and Paris or seemingly the lone wolf attacks in Toulouse and now Marseille, Jews and their community institutions are always on the list for terrorists trying to make a point.

For your average citizen, terrorism has sadly become like any other impersonal disaster. The victim of a mass terrorist incident is not targeted for anything other then the misfortune at the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet this obsession of attacking Jews, and there definitely is a trend, makes these incidents against the community far more personal.

I have criticized Tariq Ramadan and others for air-brushing anti-Semitism out of some of these attacks. Ramadan and others have claimed that Jews have just become the symbols of the state, and are not attacked because they are Jews, but a good target of a critic of the state and its policies.

The dehumanizing nature of this analysis shows a remarkable turn around in the genesis of anti-Semitism. Where as in the 20th century Jews were mainly victims of the State, now they are victims because of it. An expression of aggression towards liberal democracy is apparently the cause for running towards the nearest Jewish school or kippa wearing teacher to express a murderous rage against the West. The Jews have moved from being the outsiders in society to being the ultimate protected insider, thus a great target for attack.

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One State or Two?

Published under Middle East Feb 05, 2016

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There are three processes taking place in Israel that, if not reversed by 2025, will end this country’s life as a modern Jewish democracy.

One process is taking place on the hills. In 1975 there were a few thousand settlers in Judea and Samaria. In 1995 there were around 120,000. Today there are 400,000. Over the past four decades, the Gush Emunim settlement movement has achieved a complete and total victory over Israeli officialdom. First it established facts on the ground, then it got those facts officially recognized, and then it tripled, quadrupled and quintupled them using state resources.

The result is a toxic demographic-political omelet which will be very hard to turn back into the egg mix from which it came. If the number of residents in Judea and Samaria reach 600,000, 700,000 or 800,000 by 2025, it will no longer be possible to divide the land, and Israel will become a binational state. Whether this binational state is no longer Jewish or no longer a democracy, the Zionist enterprise will have met its end.

The second process is taking place in people’s hearts and minds. In 1975, Aharon Barak was appointed attorney general. The appointment of the young, brilliant, independent legal professor to this elevated position indicated that Israel was becoming a genuine liberal democracy. The years of David Ben-Gurion’s statism were followed by the years of human dignity, human rights, and the building of strong, independent democratic institutions. For three decades Israel knew a relative golden age of ever-strengthening rule of law, expanded freedom of expression and the establishment of a truly free society.

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Legislation making its way through the US Congressional process is finally addressing financing of Hezbollah.  The US Government is finally targeting banks, individuals and institutions that fund and do business with terrorist groups and their proxies, including incendiary stations like Al Manar.  It is important to double down on this track, so funders of terror will know there will be consequences to their impunity.  As the below article indicates,  impact is beginning to be felt.  Hezbollah has over decades built a global funding network that traffics in drugs and contraband from Latin America to the US.   It is high time that those networks be targeted also.

Times of Israel: Hezbollah Said Mired in Financial Crisis, by Times of Israel Staff and Agencies

A Lebanese banking delegation is reportedly heading to the US next month after Washington said it would impose sanctions on terror group Hezbollah, which is said to be mired in financial crisis.

The US House of Representatives voted unanimously on December 16 to impose tough new sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

According to Lebanese media reports, a team representing the Association of Banks in Lebanon will head to New York and Washington to discuss the new proposed guidelines with Treasury and State Department officials.

Sources linked to the delegation told the Lebanese An Nahar daily “the sector has no problem with the US authorities which are closely following up on Lebanon’s commitment to international laws and adherence to them, but that these commitments must be re-confirmed after the issuance of the said law,” according to a translation by the Naharnet website.

The reports said the Iran-backed Hezbollah is facing financial difficulties, and failed to pay November and December salaries to its officials.

The bill targeting the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington and Israel, passed the Senate last month. It now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The legislation also targets Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar by aiming to cut the broadcast of satellite operators that air the channel’s programming.

The House adopted the measure 422 to 0, following a unanimous vote in the Senate on November 17.

Obama will sign the legislation, a senior administration official told AFP, adding that the administration has worked with Congress for years “to intensify the pressure against the Hezbollah terrorist organization.”

The new rules direct the president to prescribe punishing regulations against financial institutions that conduct transactions with Hezbollah or otherwise launder funds for the organization.

It also requires the administration to present to Congress a series of reports highlighting the group’s narcotics trafficking, transnational crime and operations of international groups linked to Hezbollah, especially in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The administration will list those particular countries that support Hezbollah, or in which the group maintains a key logistical base.

“Hezbollah has had to cast a wide net because most Lebanese banks have not wanted to do business with them,” a congressional expert on the legislation told AFP.

With participants in Hezbollah’s global networks “in our cross-hairs, they should be worried,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce told lawmakers Wednesday ahead of the vote.

“There is no question that Hezbollah is stronger than ever,” said congresswoman Jackie Walorski, who described the group as a dangerous enemy to Israel and one that has amassed more than 150,000 rockets and missiles and gained hardened battlefield experience in Syria.

 

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Ynet News, Elior Levy

Elior Levy Jenin, once the home of suicide bombers, is now the quietest city in the West Bank. After 4 attempted attacks at the Jalamah checkpoint, the residents realized their economic prosperity could stop, and rushed to restore calm; ‘an attack at the checkpoint is an attack against us,’ says local businessman.

Jenin, once a stronghold of suicide bombers, is the quietest town in the West Bank these days. After four attempted terror attacks at the nearby Jalamah checkpoint, the people there understood their economic prosperity could be endangered and immediately took action to calm things down.

It’s a quiet morning hour at the entrance gate leading into Jenin. Palestinian workers are standing on the other side of the Gilboa-Jalamah checkpoint, waiting for the contractors to pick them up. Some light up a morning hookah and smoke while sitting on one of the nearby benches in the checkpoint’s well-taken-care-of entrance. A few Palestinian businessmen, wearing nice suits, are quickly making their way from one side to the other. An outsider passing by wouldn’t be able to tell that Israel and the Palestinian Authority were in the midst of the worst escalation of violence since the second intifada.

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Regards from Medieval Times

Published under Israel, Middle East Dec 01, 2015

Yedioth Ahronoth – November 30, 2015

Regards from Medieval Times

By Nahum Barnea

An American acquaintance of mine got up one morning after a sleepless night, read the newspapers, brought herself up to speed on the social networks, and told her husband in a minor state of panic: “The Middle Ages are making a comeback.” When he asked what she meant, she said: the massacres being committed by ISIS in Syria and Boko Haram in Africa; the terror attacks in Sinai and Paris; the knifing terror attacks in Israel and the territories; the xenophobia in Europe and the United States; the statements being made by contenders in the race to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

That is certainly quite a long inventory. Even if the Middle Ages aren’t really making a comeback—history repeats itself only in poems—it seems to me that millions of people, members of competing nations and religions, today yearn for the values that reigned in Europe during those dark days. The world is too complicated for them: they want it simple, basic, visceral and unambiguous. Either you submit to me on everything, or you’re to be sentenced to death.
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For years I’ve advocated and explained that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or ISIS do not represent true Islam, and that they try to hijack a religion of peace in the name of their deformed inhumane extremist ideology. I explain that it would play into their strategy to deem Islam itself as the problem, and to foment a division among religions. I’ve always explained our task is to empower moderates in all societies, including Muslim leaders, that can be role models to their people.  I still believe that the key is to empower moderates everywhere so they seize back the agenda from forces of violent absolutism that are otherwise going to drag civilization into the dark ages.  That said, listening to the attached video also makes me confront a troubling reality that we cannot escape.  It is important for all of us, including heads of state and religious leaders, particularly Islamic leaders, to acknowledge the source of this fundamentalism and confront it head on.  So long as we turn a blind eye to those who teach hatred and fund extremist education, we will never really be able to turn the page of terror.  We cannot beat terror purely with force.  Force is necessary to defeat those who threaten us. But education that highlights our shared values and shared human fate is even more important as the only long term solution to overcome fatalistic ideologies such as that of ISIS.  Every religious leader and head of state and civic leader – whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or other – needs to actively work to discourage their religion and their national pride from being misused to dehumanize the other.  Educating children to recognize what we all have in common – what brings us all together, what binds our fate as the human race, and the empathy that we need to find towards one another – is the only true long term antidote to terrorism.

 

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