Friday, December 27, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: Egypt’s Moment of Truth

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)
Read the article en Español (translated by Shula Hamilton)

On Tuesday of last week the residents of the city al-Mansoura, which is in the Dakahlia section in the northern part of the delta awoke to the sound of a strong explosion that was heard 20 kilometers from the center of the city. A car loaded with dozens of kilograms of standard explosives detonated next to the building of the region's security administration, killed fourteen security people on the spot and wounded more than a hundred. The great damage caused to the surrounding buildings testified to the strength of the explosion. As of the writing of these lines, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the day before the attack a Salafi organization by the name Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) published a warning to the security organizations' people that they are actually infidels because they collaborate with a secular regime. At any rate it is clear that the attack was the work of a group of professional, well-trained jihadists with a solid intelligence and technical infrastructure.

The government of Egypt immediately raised the level of preparedness in all police stations, security centers and government institutions throughout the country to the highest level, because the jihad organizations' operational style is to create a number of attacks scheduled closely together in order to intensify the effect of fear among the population. Nevertheless, the country can clearly not give total security to its institutions without severely harming the population's freedom of movement. If it is decided to impose a nighttime curfew as was done following the revolution of January 2011, it will be at the expense of indigent street vendors who actually enjoy the late evening hours rather than a lot of customer traffic, and the government is not interested in arousing hostility among them.

Who is responsible for the attack? There are two natural candidates. One is a group of jihadists that is based in Sinai and in the past half year has absorbed severe blows from the Egyptian army, but was not eliminated. The second is any organization in Egypt, not in Sinai, that protests, according to its violent ways, Mursi's removal from the presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood movement condemned the attack. There are those who take the condemnation seriously, assuming that the movement is not interested in escalating the battle with the regime so that they will not be defined as a terror organization and exposed to punitive measures as a consequence. And there are those who believe that the condemnation is just lip service since the movement is furious about the regime removing Mursi and bringing the heads of the movement to trial on false charges, in their words.

About six months ago, on the 4th of July, 2013, the day after the army had deposed the elected president Mohamed Mursi, I published an article for this podium entitled "The Moment of Truth Draws Near". In this article I wrote:

The names of organizations such as "al-Takfir wal-Hijra" (Excommunication and Emigration) and "Al-Nagun min al-Nar" (Saved from the Inferno) fill senior officers of the Egyptian army with dread, because they know that there are enough people among the Egyptian population who identify with the radical ideas of these organizations and would set off car bombs and cause mass murder among people that they suspect of helping to remove the Muslim Brotherhood from power, after they had won it legitimately in fair, democratic elections."

I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but car bombs are an acceptable means throughout the entire Middle East - from Iraq to the Atlantic Ocean, from Syria to Somalia - to express rage and resentment against the regime or against anyone who is disliked by anyone else just because he belongs to a different religion, a different community or a different ethnic or tribal group. Using a car bomb allows the attackers to transfer a large amount of explosives to a place very close to a target without arousing suspicion, and the effect that is achieved - whether in harm to people and damage to property or the influence on morale - is great. That's how it is in the Middle East, and what happened on Tuesday morning in al-Mansoura is not fundamentally different in character from what is happening all throughout the area.

The car bomb as a means of attack is not new in Egypt either: Approximately three years ago, during the night of January 1, 2011 a car bomb loaded with explosives detonated in front of a church in Alexandria and about thirty Christians leaving New Year's Eve mass were killed. However, this time the car bomb was intended not to harm Christians, but Muslims, not a religious minority but a symbol of a regime - the building of the Dakahlia region's security administration.

Since the attack, the Egyptian communications media have been mobilized for war, and since "the end justifies the means": the Islamist groups from the Muslim Brotherhood all the way up to the terror organizations in Egypt and in Sinai have been defined as the enemy, and their religion - according to government spokesmen - is not Islam because Islam does not permit the killing of Muslims. There is no one in the official Egyptian media who would try to express understanding for the attackers' motivation or try to find any sort of justification for their action against the regime. They are evil incarnate, "black terror" in Egyptian terms. The Egyptian media does not give a stage to defeatist bleeding hearts, because its people know quite well that Egypt - as a society and as a state - will succeed in standing up to Islamic radicalism only if its residents are willing - emotionally and practically - to wage an all-out war against it with the determination to triumph over it and physically destroy it.

As part of the media war against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, the sheikh of al-Azhar spoke in a radio broadcast where he repeated the judgment from about ten years previously that said that someone who blows himself up to kill others is not a martyr but a murderer whose place is eternal and everlasting Hell, and his act is not istashhad (the intention of martyrdom) but murder for which he will be judged in its full severity. Egyptian radio also quotes the religious sages of Saudi Arabia, a country that is considered the leader of the Salafi stream of Islam, supporting the approach that forbids all terror attacks, and especially suicide attacks.

The battle between the supporters of political Islam, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood and those who oppose them is a battle for all of the stakes:  it is not only that they have been deposed from the presidency that they had won in fair elections, but it is also about hundreds of their supporters who have been imprisoned during demonstrations in al-Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, who were sent to roach infested prisons, where they are humiliated: they are kept in very crowded conditions, do not see the light of day, and many of them have begun a hunger strike. The regime relates to the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters as if they are terrorists, so why shouldn't they behave the way they do?

The Constitution

The historical background of the attack is also important: in mid January a referendum is supposed to be held in Egypt to approve the new constitution that a committee of five intellectuals has written, that is intended to replace the Islamic-leaning constitution that was adopted during Mursi's days. The explosion was intended to warn people away from standing in lines in front of voting locations so that they would not be vulnerable to terror attacks.

The Islamic groups are divided in their approach to the referendum: The Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations that support them object to the principle of participating in a referendum since participation grants the present regime and its deeds a seal of approval. They feel therefore, that Egyptians who object to it should boycott the referendum. Moreover, the Brotherhood objects to the broad authorities that the draft of the new constitution grants to the army and the president at the expense of the parliament. They object to the authority to bring civilians to a military court and the prohibition against political parties founded on a religious or ethnic basis, because they believe - and to a great extent they are correct - that this constitution will bring Egypt back to the dark days of Mubarak, thus negating the achievements of the revolution of January 25, 2011, which enabled them to take control of the parliament and the presidency. On the other hand, the Salafis, who oppose the Brotherhood, believe that there is an obligation to participate in the referendum and approve the constitution, in order to undermine the status of the Muslim Brotherhood. Each side enlists religious sages to issue edicts of religious law supporting their positions.

Nevertheless it is important to note that even within the liberal, secular public there are many who object to the constitution because of the limitations that it places on the right to demonstrate, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Recently several human rights activists - men and women - have been sentenced to prison for demonstrating against the regime and publishing articles on the Internet about things that the regime took issue with. Clearly, even if the constitution is approved and afterwards a parliament and president are elected, there will be many - liberals and Islamists alike - who will not accept the situation, and will claim that there was fraud and will act in both legal and illegal ways to destabilize the situation in the country.

In recent days two rumors have been spreading in the Egyptian street. One is that there are groups who are distributing forged versions of the drafted constitution, in order to cause the citizens to vote differently from the way that they would have voted for the true version. The second rumor is that General al-Sisi was killed in a terror attack two months ago and the regime has replaced him with a double who looks like him and sounds like him. This rumor is especially important in light of the possibility that General al-Sisi might stand as a candidate in the elections for president.

The Arab Envelope

The terror attack in al-Mansoura cannot be seen as separate from the events that are occurring throughout the Arab world: the terrible destruction and inconceivable suffering that has befallen the citizens of Syria, the mass terror attacks that occur almost daily in Iraq, the unending war between the tribes in Libya, and in recent days the war - how surprising: between the tribes - in the Republic of South Sudan. All of these events flood the communications media, and the atmosphere that is reflected from them is that "the whole world is a battlefield and all of the people are fighters". 

With the critical and ever-deteriorating internal situation in Egypt, and the external, situation encumbered by multiple crises continually increasing in severity within the regional envelope, the chance that people will begin to think according to cold logic is fading. Emotions become intensified, the urge for revenge increases, and the desire for wanton, even self-destructive revenge more and more takes control of anyone who can harm others. The "Arab Spring" has eliminated some echelons of the elite who could have managed these countries and it has left their populations as victims for those with radical agendas who have no qualms about using any means to impose their will on others.

The Middle East seems like a boiling swamp of fire, blood and tears, and Israel must maintain a distance from this burning cauldron. Reality proves again that Israel is not the Middle East's problem; the problem is rather its residents and their culture.

Allah in his wisdom wrote in the Qur'an: "Allah does not change what is in people's souls, until they change what is in their souls" (Surah 13, Verse 11).


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by SallyZahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper. 
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

Jewish Rights in the Land of Israel

by Jerold S. Auerbach

Diplomatic negotiations are invariably accompanied by rumors fueled by a combination of inside knowledge, leaks, and vivid imaginings that anticipate their outcome. So it is with current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which seem to limp along in limbo, periodically interrupted by Secretary of State Kerry's frenetic visits and palpable arm-twisting of Israel. But a report in Arutz-7 (December 23), Israel's right-wing news service, suggests that behind the public screen of negotiating paralysis Israel is preparing to make sweeping and, to say the least, alarming concessions. 

Palestinian sources have apparently disclosed that in stages over the next decade Israel is prepared to withdraw its soldiers and civilians from the strategically crucial Jordan valley, and the biblical homeland of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). In Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the historic Old City and the Temple Mount, the holiest Jewish site, would form an autonomous region under international supervision.

This "disclosure" may only represent scare tactics designed to stiffen the backs of the Netanyahu government and its negotiators. But it nonetheless raises the perennial question about the legality of Israeli "occupation" of "Palestinian" land since its 1967 victory in the Six-Day War and the subsequent proliferation of Jewish settlements (now numbering more than 120, with 350,000 residents).

Israel's critics incessantly claim that it is illegally "occupying" Palestinian land, and that Jewish settlements violate Article 49 of the Geneva Convention (1949), which stipulates that an "Occupying Power" may not "deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." But Article 49, as a bevy of international law experts have pointed out, applies to the invasion of sovereign states and is inapplicable to Israel because Jordan never held legal sovereignty over the West Bank. Furthermore, Jewish settlers hardly were deported or transferred, as were the citizens of European countries by Nazi Germany during World War II; they relocated entirely of their own volition.

Indeed, Jews have enjoyed the right of "close settlement" west of the Jordan River under international law dating to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (Article 6) granted to Great Britain in 1922. That included what illegally became Jordan's West Bank between 1948-1967 no less than Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Hebron, and the surrounding land.

Following World War II, when the United Nations replaced the League of Nations, Article 80 provided that "nothing in its Charter shall be construed . . . to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments." U.N. Resolution 242, carefully and laboriously drafted following the Six-Day War, stipulated that Israel would only be required to withdraw its armed forces -- civilians were not mentioned -- from "territories" gained in the war, not from "the" territories or "all" the territories.

There is, consequently, an irrefutable legal argument, grounded in nearly a century of international law, which supports Jewish settlement throughout Judea and Samaria. It bolsters historic Jewish claims grounded in the biblical text, King David's rule, and subsequent periods of Jewish national sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

There is only one problem: successive Israeli governments since 1967, whether on the left or right, have abjectly failed to assert Jewish settlement rights. Why? Left-wing politicians have long since relinquished settling the land of Israel, the dream that galvanized their pioneering socialist Zionist predecessors, for normalization, individualism, prosperity, world approval, and peace now.

With occasional exceptions, right-wing politicians -- most conspicuously Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- have tacitly endorsed Labor Party anti-settlement policy. Apprehensive of the religious right, and its relentless determination to settle the entire Land of Israel, their secular principles have made them wary of religious claims based on divine promise.

In their determination to stifle the religious right, and retain their hold on power, Netanyahu and his political allies have ignored the irrefutable legal case for Jewish settlement throughout Judea and Samaria. The Israeli Foreign Ministry declares on its website: "Jewish settlement in West Bank and Gaza Strip territory has existed from time immemorial and was expressly recognized as legitimate in the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations, which provided for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Jewish people's ancient homeland." Yet one would need to search long and hard to find statements even by right-wing ministers supporting Jewish settlement rights under international law.

Recently a group of international legal experts has begun to fill the void left by politicians. As Nadav Shragai documents in Israel Hayom (December 23), lawyers at the Regavim Institute Center for Zionism, Justice and Society, and the Legal Forum for Israel have strongly and persuasively asserted that Judea and Samaria are not "occupied territory." Indeed, Jewish settlement rights are solidly grounded in ninety years of international law and "the historic right of the Jewish people to sovereignty over the Land of Israel."

Even if John Kerry embraces the Palestinian position, that is no reason for the government of Israel to abandon legitimate historic and Jewish claims to its own homeland.

Jerold S. Auerbach is author of the forthcoming Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Turkey: Are Erdoğan's Days Numbered?

by Harold Rhode

It appears that the Islamic Gülenists and the secular Atatürkists -- not friends in the past -- have forged an alliance and are now ascendant.

Major political events have rocked the political scene in Turkey the past two weeks. Turkey's once seemingly-invincible prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seems in a tailspin. A few days ago, he lashed out at U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and threatened to expel him from Turkey. Erdoğan claimed the Ambassador told other Western diplomats that the "empire [Erdoğan and his associates] is about to fall.[1]"

Clearly, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's policy of "Zero Problems With Our Neighbors" -- meaning the alliance with Turkey's Sunni-ruled Arab neighbors -- has failed. Turkey now has problems with almost all its neighbors. It appears that the Gülenists and the Atatürkists -- not friends in the past -- are now ascendant. It is unlikely that they, or whoever might take over in Turkey, would want to continue this failed approach.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L), and Fethullah Gülen. (Image source: World Economic Forum [Erdoğan] -- Diyar se/WikiMedia Commons [Gülen])

Long-brewing political struggles within the ruling AK party have also surfaced. They boil down to two radically different views of Islam. In the first, Erdoğan's faction identifies and allies itself with the [Arab] Muslim Brotherhood. This faction was strongly supportive of the ousted Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi, and also of Syria's fundamentalists. In the second view, supporters of the Fethullah Gülen look down upon "Arab Islam." To them, "real" Islam is "the Islam of the Turks - meaning the people who live in Turkey, Central Asia, and Western China."[2] [3]

To the outsider, these differences might seem to be distinctions without differences: supporters of both views understandably want Islam to be a major part of the political order. But for Turks, these differences are seismic: the question is, do they belong to the Middle Eastern Arab and Muslim political camp, or do they belong to the wider Turkish world?

Since Erdoğan and his fellow Islamic fundamentalists took power in 2002, Gülen and his forces have been in the background, building prep-schools and propagating their version of Islam -- in Turkey, in the Turkic world, and also in America. It is not surprising that when Gülen faced legal difficulties in Turkey[4] in 1999, he fled to the U.S., ostensibly for medical treatment, apparently still ongoing.[5]

On May 31, 2010, Erdoğan's government backed and encouraged a flotilla of Turkish ships supposedly to bring needed supplies to the Gaza Strip, ruled by their fellow Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalists, Hamas. Gülen may have seen this as an opportunity indirectly publicly to chastise Erdoğan. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal [6], Gülen argued that as Israel legitimately controlled the waters off Gaza, the flotilla should have asked for Israel's permission to land there. Gülen did not criticize Erdoğan directly; people rarely criticize others directly in Turkey. But culturally, his choice of words indicated to Turks that he was blamed Erdoğan for creating the crisis.

Gülen has not been known to be supportive of the Jews, nor for that matter of the U.S. or the West.[7] But now in his battle is evidently to ensure that Turkish Islam defeats the so-called Arab-Muslim Brotherhood type of Islam supported by Erdoğan, the Jews and the West might well seem useful allies. As many Middle Easterners say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." A friendship, or alliance, might be temporary, but may continue as long as required.[8]

Earlier this year, the enmity between Erdoğan and Gülen broke out into the open, evidently ignited by Turkey's Gezi Park protests -- weeks of riots and demonstrations against the Turkish prime minister[9]. Erdoğan encountered enormous difficulty putting them down; in so doing, he alienated large sections of Turkey's population. Gülenists, active in this uprising[10], possibly discerning political weakness, may well have used that crisis as an opportunity to try to defeat their opponents.

Perhaps in revenge, Erdoğan -- often quick to respond emotionally[11] -- proposed laws to ban dershane [prep-schools], the bread and butter of the Gülen movement, and where Gülen recruits followers, who later become the political and financial backbone of his movement.[12] For the Gülenists, Erdogan's proposed ban appears to have been the decisive provocation.

Since Gülen's self-imposed exile, his supporters, well-placed throughout the Turkish bureaucracy, have continued to provide him with extensive influence inside the Turkish police and judiciary, and are believed also to have infiltrated the secret services, law enforcement offices and even the AK party itself.[13]

Gülen's supporters responded to this proposed ban by arresting 52 members of Erdoğan's closest associates, including sons of two of his cabinet ministers, and charging them with corruption. According to rumors circulating in Turkey, some of Erdoğan's relatives are also involved in the plot ; the facts are still unclear.[14] The central figure in this corruption scandal is an Iranian Azeri, Reza Zarrab -- married to a popular Turkish singer -- who was illegally trading with Iran. Zarrab is charged with bribing the sons of the Turkish ministers -- some of Erdoğan's closest associates.

At the same time, the Israeli national airline, El Al, announced that, after a six-year hiatus, it would resume flights to Turkey. Apparently the Turkish government had been refusing to let Israel observe the flight security procedures it follows everywhere else in the world,[15] but out of nowhere, Turkey seems suddenly to have acceded to Israel's security demands.

Further, the judiciary released from jail the retired General Çevik Bir, who had been strong advocate of U.S.-Turkish-NATO relations. Bir had been the central figure in the "February 28 Plot" -- evidently dreamed up by Erdoğan and his associates as a means of finding some legal ground for which to prosecute opponents. Bir, it was claimed, was the central figure of this alleged plot, allegedly hatched by the Generals of National Security Council, to overthrow the Islamist government of Erdoğan's mentor, Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan.

Bir was also one of the major architects of the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement in the 1990s, and a strong opponent of Fethullah Gülen, whom he apparently saw as an Islamic fundamentalist and a long-term danger to Turkey's secular and democratic Atatürkist Republic. Because of Bir's outspoken animosity against the Islamists, which included the powerful Gülen, Bir seems to have been an important factor in Gülen's decision to flee the country.

So why was Bir -- an opponent of Gülen -- released by a heavily Gülenist judiciary? Although the reasons behind Bir's release are not yet clear, as an opponent of the Erdoğan government, however, he could now be an ally of Gülen.

Where Turkey's once highly influential military stands is unclear. So far, it has been silent. It has historically been -- and its senior officers still are -- steeped in the Atatürkist secular and pro-Western tradition. At least for the moment, the Islamist Gülenists[16] seem to have forged an alliance of convenience with Turkey's secularists. The beneficiaries of this political upheaval could well be the West, the U.S., NATO, and Israel. Stay tuned.


[1] "Erdoğan implies US ambassador to be expelled", Today's Zaman.
[2] For a further explanation of the differences between these two Islamist factions, see Harold Rhode, "Mapping Political Islam in Turkey".
[3] We in the West use the word "Turkish" as an adjective to describe Turkey, and "Turkic" to describe Turks in today's Russia, the Central Asian Republics, and in Xinjiang, China. Nevertheless, there is a feeling that despite their differences, all of these peoples emanate from one people, and are like close family. From their point of view, Non-Turkish and non-Turkic Muslims are not part of the "family."
[4] See, "Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition", Rachel Sharon Krespin, and "Turkish investigation into Islamic sect expanded", BBC News. 21 June 1999.
[5] "U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam". 60 Minutes, CBS News, May 13, 2012.
[6] "Reclusive Turkish Imam Criticizes Gaza Flotilla", Wall Street Journal.
[7] From personal interviews with students educated in Gülen schools in Turkey and Central Asia, his people look for potential supporters from among their students. Those selected are invited to "sohbetler" ["conversations"] where anti-American/Western, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic views are often propagated, but kept private not to jeopardize political support abroad.
[8] This is similar to the "alliance" at present between Israel and many Sunni leaders -- especially the Saudis, and the Gulf States - who oppose Shiite Iran. After "regime change" in Iran, it remains to be seen how long this "alliance" will last. Similarly, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, until America liberated Kuwait, the Saudis and Kuwaitis maintained relationships with Jewish groups in Western capitals. The day Kuwait was liberated, the Saudis and Kuwaitis severed virtually all contact with these Jewish leaders.
[9] For more on these riots and demonstrations, see, "Turkish police storm protest camp using teargas and rubber bullets," The Guardian.
[10] This is from conversations with Gülenists throughout the country at that time.
[11] Public examples of these emotional outbursts are many. To cite just two: In June, 2009, Erdoğan lashed out at Israeli President Shimon Peres, calling Israelis killers. Earlier this year, when the Gezi Park demonstrations took place, he labeled the participants "Çapulcus" - low-life good for nothings.
[12] "Draft law aims to ban all prep schools, punish if necessary", Today's Zaman.
[13] "Fethullah Gulen: Is Islamic Cleric in Self-Exile Behind Turkey's High-Profile Arrests?", International Business Times
[14] "More arrests as power struggle racks Erdogan government in Turkey,"
[15] "Israeli airlines to resume flights to Turkey after six-year hiatus," The Jerusalem Post
[16] For a detailed study of Gülen's Turkish/Turkic Islam, see "Fethullah Gulen and His Liberal 'Turkish Islam' Movement", GLORIA.

Harold Rhode


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A "State for the Jews" or a "Jewish State"?

by Zalman Shoval

With every passing day that brings us closer to January, when the Americans intend to unveil their "framework agreement," we see increased Palestinian efforts to sabotage and postpone the negotiation process. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dispatched a diplomatic message to U.S. President Barack Obama that included the Palestinians' traditionally extremist positions, along with an attempt to grasp onto security understandings allegedly reached during negotiations with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ("understandings" that have long passed their expiration date and which were irrelevant and discarded even at the time).

Within this context, we should pay attention to comments made by Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh, formerly a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, one of the leaders of the Fatah movement and considered to be a close confidant of Abbas, at a press conference last week. Without any attempt at disguise his words, Shtayyeh expressed what Abbas himself and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat prefer to not say aloud at this stage, as it pertains to recognizing Israel "as the Jewish national homeland" or as "the Jewish state." 

Meanwhile, even though the Palestinians are not showing any clear signs of flexibility on the other issues (refugees, Jerusalem, borders, security, etc.), it seems that the matter of recognition, or more precisely the lack of recognition, is playing an increasing role in how they conduct themselves. 

On our side there are those who have raised an eyebrow and inquired, either innocently or with intent to butt heads, "Why is Netanyahu insisting so much on receiving recognition from the Palestinians?" Those who make this argument are ignoring the point or do not understand the real reasons behind the all-out war being waged by the Palestinians on this issue. Outwardly they list reasons such as the claim that defining Israel as a Jewish state could threaten the status, even the existence of non-Jews living in Israel -- a demagogic argument largely aimed at slandering Israel. 

But the real reason, as stated, is different: The Islamic world in general and the Palestinians in particular reject the very notion of the Jews as a nation or people, and because in their view Judaism is only a religion it stands to reason that the Jews do not deserve their own state. That is why Shtayyeh reiterated the following during his press conference: "Maybe a state for Jews, but not a Jewish state."

What stems from this is that while the official Palestinian position supports the creation of a Palestinian state, there are quite a few Palestinians who ultimately hope for one state for two peoples (in which the Jewish minority would be allowed, in the best case, to live as second-class citizens, just as they did for centuries in various Arab lands). 

"There is indeed a state called Israel, which for lack of any other choice we were forced to recognize as an existing fact because it is stronger than us militarily and because it has an ally like America," they say, "but if the day comes when these basic variables change, we will know how to deal with this illegitimate state, which settled in our midst and which the nations of the world created at our expense to compensate the Jews for what they did to them in the Holocaust."

Prof. Yehezkel Dror wrote years ago that even if we reach an agreement with the Palestinians (which he supported pursuing), such a thing would not necessarily guarantee an end to the conflict. Shtayyeh's words only serve to confirm this sentiment. The recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people is the real test for the Palestinians and whether they truly are serious about peace. 

The equation is simple: Not recognizing Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people means not recognizing the right of the Jewish people to its own country; in other words, Israel's right to exist.

Zalman Shoval


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Indiana Stands Up

by J.R. Dunn

Evidence continues to amass that 2013 was the year the left went a step too far.

Along with near-universal defiance of ObamaCare's various "mandates" and the belated but effective blowback against the gay thought police occasioned by Phil Robertson's GQ homily, we now have Indiana University cutting ties with the American Studies Association (ASA) over the organization's submission to anti-Semitic BDS policies. 

On Monday, December 23rd, university president Michael McRobbie announced IU's immediate withdrawal from the ASA over the organization's announcement of an academic boycott against Israel. 

The ASA's announcement was yet another step in mainstreaming the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, an effort to rally international support for Palestinian demands against the Israeli government. Lofty in rhetoric but sleazy in execution, the BDS movement attempts to reduce Israel, a Western democracy in the classic European mold, to the level of the former authoritarian South African apartheid regime. The movement follows a blueprint set down by Palestinian activists, strongly suggesting that the ASA has allowed itself to be weaponized by the Palestinians for use in their lengthy war against the existence of the Jewish State. 

Ironies in this situation are myriad. Perhaps the most stinging is the fact that the direct target in this case, Israeli higher education, is the center of intellectual leftist opposition to the government, particularly as regards its Palestinian policies. 

In rejecting the ASA, President McRobbie took the stance that BDS is a serious blow to academic freedoms:
Boycotts such as these have a profound chilling effect on academic freedom, and universities must be clear and unequivocal in rejecting them. Indiana University strongly endorses the recent statement on this matter by the Association of American Universities and the long-standing position in this area of the American Association of University Professors.
Indiana University values its academic relationships with colleagues and institutions around the world, including many important ones with institutions in Israel, and will not allow political considerations such as those behind this ill-conceived boycott to weaken those relationships or undermine the principle of academic freedom in this way. IU stands firmly against proposals that would attempt to limit or restrict those important institutional relationships or this fundamental principle.
IU and McRobbie must be applauded. Such an action is nearly unheard of from a university, particularly a state institution. (We should also admire the effective tactic of announcing the move just before Christmas, followed by two weeks of winter break when the campus will be effectively empty.) Other universities should heed McRobbie's call and join Indiana in standing up for academic freedom and the values of the West.

J.R. Dunn


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Defeat the Enemy

by Zvika Fogel

The Arab world, especially its radical Islamic component, is taking advantage of Western political weakness. Almost every Western leader is currently choosing to avoid making the tough decisions necessary to combat radical Islam, which is threatening the free world. Fears of short-term political losses at home are preventing Western leaders from exhibiting the courage to ensure normal life in their countries in the long run.

Israel finds itself in the eye of the Islamic storm, surrounded by Arab countries going through revolutions and internal strife. Neighboring countries have become fertile ground for terrorist groups that seek to conduct attacks against the Jews, the enemies of Islam. Moreover, at the same time, Arab leaders, fearful of Islamization at home, are pressuring Israel to refrain from exerting the full military and diplomatic force required to defend its citizens and borders. 

This is how Israel's "campaign of deterrence" took shape in recent times. The nature of this campaign is that every few years, or, in the worst-scenarios, months, Israel is forced to conduct a new military operation.

We are in the midst of a battle between wars. This period is characterized by military operations to restore deterrence, rather than achieve victory. The Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense -- all of these were designed to strengthen Israel's deterrence, rather than defeat the enemy. The immediate implications of this are the need to preserve the deterrence achieved and examine the responses of the enemy. Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south did not wait long to invest all of their energy in acquiring and developing long-range rockets and building underground cities and tunnels that lead terrorists to the rear of the military deployed on the border and inside Israeli communities in the Gaza area.

After the sniper attack on Tuesday in which an Israeli was killed on the Gaza border, Israel should have bombed the homes of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his henchmen to send a powerful message that we intend to defend ourselves in every way possible. While such a response could lead to a regional conflagration, strong action like that would provide an opportunity to defeat Hamas, push back the date of the next battle and perhaps even bring Hamas to the realization that the use of force will achieve nothing for the Palestinian people.

As we have learned nothing from the Egyptians on how to deal with Hamas terror and we have not been able to maintain our deterrence, the next battle is not far off.

The more than one hundred terror incidents in Judea and Samaria each month are definitive proof that even when we choose the path of reconciliation and compromise, there remains on the ground an ongoing extremist ideological belief among the Palestinians against our right to live here. The Palestinian Authority, with which we conduct negotiations about coexistence, does not have the desire or capability to deal with extremism among its people. If that is the case, we must complete the job of defeating terrorism in Judea and Samaria. Western leaders, who keep pressuring us to make concessions and pay an unbearable price in lives, must understand that supporting Israel in its fight against terror is part of the overall Western fight against terror, and benefits everyone.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel is a former chief of staff of the IDF Southern Command.


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Palestinian President Abbas Hijacks Jesus’s Identity

by Joseph Klein

As Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivered his Christmas greeting which described Jesus as a “Palestinian messenger.” He also decried the supposed harsh treatment of Christians today under the Israeli occupation, as opposed to the supposed loving treatment accorded to Christians by the Palestinians.

Abbas’s identity theft insults the name and legacy of Jesus of Nazareth. For many Jews, Jesus, who was born into the Jewish faith, was a great prophet. For Christians, Jesus is the Son of God and redeemer. He transcends petty battles over territories and is no single group’s “messenger,” much less the Palestinians’ personal emissary. Even other Palestinian leaders realized that Abbas might have put his foot in his mouth. They tried to temper his statement by claiming that it wasn’t meant to be understood in a religious context. But a YouTube clip released last Sunday by the Palestine Liberation Organization had a decidedly religious theme. To the music of Silent Night, the video shamelessly portrayed a figure, who was presumably Jesus, holding a cross and riding in a chariot past armed Israeli soldiers and through an Israeli security barrier to Bethlehem.

Abbas was only reflecting the serial identity thefts committed by Palestinians.

Last year, for example, a Palestinian university lecturer claimed on a Palestinian Authority TV program that Moses was a Muslim who brought “the Muslims of the Children of Israel out of Egypt.” The Palestinian lecturer then went on to extol the conquest by the Children of Israel of the land of milk and honey as “the first Palestinian liberation through armed struggle to liberate Palestine.”

That’s a neat trick of revisionist history considering that Islam did not even come into being until at least a millennium later, and it was the Greeks and then the Romans who first used the name Palaistinê as simply the descriptor for the geographical region in which they lived.

The truth is of no consequence to the Palestinian propagandists. Just as Jesus was magically transformed into a “Palestinian messenger” in the Palestinians’ mythology, the Jews who escaped from Egypt and their Jewish descendants who settled in the land of Israel were magically transformed into “Muslims” who liberated “Palestine.”

If Abbas truly believes that Jesus is the Palestinians’ “messenger,” then Abbas would do well to listen to the message of Jesus about truth. Jesus is quoted in the Gospel of John as declaring “the truth will make you free.” The Palestinians are not free today because they lie, not only to the world but also to themselves. Their false narrative of their own identity and history is one example. Abbas’s theft of Jesus’s identity is another. One more case in point is Abbas’s lie in his Christmas greeting about how the Palestinians treat the Christians so well while the Israelis treat them harshly. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Abbas claimed that Christians “are an integral part of the Palestinian people. Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have and as established in our declaration of independence and draft constitution.” That is an outrageous lie, considering the persistent pattern of harassment, discrimination and persecution visited upon Christians at the hands of Palestinian Muslims.

Abbas’s professed concern for Christians in Gaza “trapped under siege,” and for “those who are prevented from worshiping in Bethlehem,” is nothing more than rank hypocrisy. Moreover, to address any legitimate complaints about restrictions imposed by the Israeli government on Palestinians moving about freely in the territories in order to thwart terrorist attacks, Israeli authorities have announced that such restrictions will be eased to enable thousands of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank and Gaza to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem.

The Palestinian Authority’s constitution declared that Islam is “the official religion.” Sharia law applies, which means that in practice members of any faith other than Islam are treated as second class residents by Palestinian Muslims.

Michael Curtis, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University wrote the following account of Palestinian Muslims’ treatment of Christians:
Christians have suffered direct harassment. They have been intimidated and maltreated; money has been extorted, land and property confiscated, and Christian women have been abused, raped, abducted and been subjected to forced marriages. Attempts have been made to impose the Islamic women’s dress code on them…Christian holy sites have been disparaged or insulted…Theft of Christian land and property as well as desecration of Christian institutions and disparagement of the religion has occurred. There are allegations of Christians being forced off their land by gangs upheld by a corrupt judiciary. Businesses have had to pay protection money to maintain their existence. Individuals who have converted to Christianity have been threatened. After a Christian man dated a Muslim woman from a neighboring village in September 2005, armed Muslims crying “Allahu Akbar” attacked the Christian city of Taibe, setting fire to homes and businesses and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Just as Nazis storm troopers thought nothing of invading the sanctuary of churches and monasteries to carry out their evil designs, the Palestinian militants have done much the same thing. In July 1997, for example, the PLO evicted monks and nuns from the Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron. On April 2, 2002 Palestinian gunmen took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which they used as a base from which to fire upon Israeli soldiers. The Israeli soldiers did not fire back out of respect for the Christian religious institution. Professor Curtis, describing the Palestinian invasion of this holy site, wrote: “Priests, monks, and nuns were essentially hostages of the Palestinians, who apparently stole gold and other property including prayer books.” The church was used as a latrine during the Palestinian occupation.

It is no wonder that since the Palestinian Authority assumed control over Bethlehem in 1995 the Christian population has plummeted from being a majority of the total population to less than twenty-five percent of Bethlehem’s population.

As further examples of the Palestinians’ pattern of destruction and intimidation, a Catholic church and a school were vandalized in August 2007, a Young Men’s Christian Association library was set on fire by Palestinian Authority militants in 2008 destroying thousands of books, and 70 Christian graves including stones and crosses were severely damaged in the village of Jiffna, near Ramallah in 2009. Anti-Christian riots have been reported in Ramallah, Nazareth and surrounding villages.

Gaza under Hamas is even worse. Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden. The owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore was brutally murdered after being kidnapped and then stabbed and shot multiple times in 2007. Christian stores and schools have been firebombed. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials urged Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors. It is no wonder that since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has taken off for safer places to live and worship.

Israel, on the other hand, respects and protects freedom of religion for members of all faiths. It opened Christian holy sites in Jerusalem for Christians to visit in 1967, when Israel defeated the Jordanians and reunified Jerusalem. The Jordanians had closed Christian and Jewish holy sites to worshipers of both faiths when the Jordanians had occupied Jerusalem. Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian communities, including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants, have grown more than tenfold. In Jerusalem alone, the number of Arabs—including Christians—has tripled since Israel reunified Jerusalem in 1967. Israel is not perfect, to be sure. But its citizens are far more hospitable to Christians than Palestinian Muslims are to Christians.

Abbas claimed in his Christmas message that the Palestinian Authority remained committed to the peace talks with Israel. But then he reiterated that the Palestinians expected nothing less than “ending the occupation of the Holy Land with the establishment of a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian State on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital.” And he is reported to have handed Secretary of State John Kerry a letter laying down “Palestinian red lines,” which include “the refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” What exactly is Abbas willing to negotiate in good faith? Apparently, nothing. And even if he were inclined to engage in real negotiations, he cannot control Hamas, which remains committed to Israel’s destruction.

These are not the “tidings of comfort and joy” in the Holy Land that one would hope for in this Christmas season.

Joseph Klein


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.