Friday, April 8, 2016

Open Letter to the Edinburgh University Students' Association - Denis MacEoin

by Denis MacEoin

When you support the Palestinians exclusively, you offer support to censorship and state control of expression. You need to think about this very carefully, because otherwise you reveal yourselves to be hypocrites of the first order.

  • No one holds meetings to call for reform in Islamic states. Instead, people like yourselves pass resolutions condemning the only country that defends those rights for all its citizens and visitors.
  • If your government in Scotland or the UK banned books, imprisoned journalists, censored films, or prohibited campus meetings, you would be rightly outraged. You depend on free libraries, uncensored (though never unbiased) newspapers and journals, and direct access to the Internet. None of those freedoms exists in any Muslim country. Not in Egypt, not in Jordan, not in Saudi Arabia, not in Iran, not in Pakistan.
  • Israel is, in every respect, a free society. When you support the Palestinians exclusively, you offer support to censorship and state control of expression. You need to think about this very carefully, because otherwise you reveal yourselves to be hypocrites of the first order. To attack a country that defends the rights you demand for yourselves and your friends is morally unforgivable.
  • There are no apartheid laws in Israel. Arabs (both Muslims and Christians) in Israel have the same voting rights as Jews, have political parties of their own, serve as members of parliament, serve on the Supreme Court and other courts, are diplomats, lawyers, military officers, scientists, academics, and anything else they wish.
  • "Those who know what real apartheid is, as I know, know that there is nothing in Israel that looks like apartheid. ... There is a widespread allegation, really a slander, that Israel is an apartheid state. That notion is simply wrong. It is inaccurate and it is malicious." -- Kenneth Rasalabe Joseph Meshoe, President of the African Christian Democratic Party in South Africa.
Dear Students,

As a concerned Edinburgh graduate, I write you with a sense of déjà vu, as I have done this before.

I want to restate and expand on my objections to your 2016 motion and resolution to boycott the Jewish state of Israel. Let me put that a little differently: the only liberal parliamentary democracy in the Middle East, one of the very few genuine democracies in the world today. I would like all of you to read this; only your willingness to do so, at least to listen to the arguments of others, will justify your claim to be intelligent young people studying at a world-class university.

At Edinburgh, I qualified with a first-class MA in Persian, Arabic and Islamic History, and went on to Cambridge, where I took a PhD in Persian Studies, dealing with a religious and historical topic in 19th-century Iran. After that, I taught Arabic-English translation and Islamic Civilization at a university in Morocco, then Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University in the UK. Later I accepted an invitation to join the Gatestone Institute as a Distinguished Senior Fellow. There, I research and write on subjects relating to Islam, the Middle East and Israel. I have written about forty books, think tank reports, and a long list of articles on these topics.

I only write the above to explain that I am adequately qualified to address you on the topic of the Israel-Palestinian struggle. It embarrasses me to say that your grounds for passing a boycott motion are unworthy of anyone who claims to be well educated, intelligent, or well informed. Sadly, the reasons given in your resolution are childish, ignorant, and based on nothing but a series of lies or at best misunderstandings. If you stop reading at this point, I call you out as traitors to the most basic principles of academic work: the need for open dialogue, critical debate, and readiness to change one's opinions in the presence of evidence. If you cannot abide by those principles, you are not fit to be at university at all. If your self-righteousness and your conviction that you are utterly right all the time cannot be changed, you will never understand what it is to take part in any intellectual debate. This is a letter that I hope many of you will read, in the hope that you are not frightened by dissenting opinion.

So, let me begin with some simple points. I assume that most or all of you are feminists, that most or all of you insist on women's rights and equal status for men and women worldwide. Now, as we are in some measure talking about the Middle East and the Islamic world, it is probably not necessary to spell out to you that no Arab country and no Islamic nation gives full rights to women, and that many openly oppress their female citizens. Forced veiling; beatings, floggings or stonings to death; women who have been raped treated as adulteresses and stoned; the legal status of half a man; bans on travel without permission from a man; women forbidden to drive cars, honour killings of women, female genital mutilation (FGM) of young girls, and non-consensual divorce are commonplace.

I would have thought you might pass a resolution about Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Somalia or somewhere similar. But instead, you pass boycott motions about Israel. In Israel, men and women have equal status under law. Muslim women are free to wear veils and many do, but no woman is ever arrested or fined if she prefers not to wear one. Honour killings or FGM are punishable offences under Israeli law, but few take place. Women in Israel -- Christians, Arabs and Jews -- are free to walk on the beach in swimsuits, to go dancing in nightclubs, to live with male or female partners with or without marriage, to serve in the army, navy and air force, and to enter any profession, in or out of the government, for which they are qualified. They receive equal justice under law. They live lives identical to yours in free Western countries. So, if you are feminists, why do you sanction Israel and leave brutal misogynist regimes without a word of criticism? Does that seem like hypocrisy to you? It certainly seems so to me.

You probably all support rights for LGBTQ communities. Perhaps you take part in gay rights parades, no doubt some of you are either gay or have gay friends, and none of you would tolerate psychological or physical abuse directed against people of diverse sexuality. But take a look at Arab countries and Islamic countries. In Gaza and the West Bank, they kill homosexuals by throwing them off roofs or beat them to death. In Iran, they hang them. In Saudi Arabia, they behead them. Under the Islamic State, they also throw them from roofs. Not a single Islamic country gives any rights whatever to gay men and women, to transsexuals or transvestites. In the Middle East, tens of thousands of gay people live in fear. But no one ever marches against these places, writes petitions demanding gay rights, or passes boycott resolutions against them.

In Israel, gay pride marches take place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There are no laws forbidding homosexuality. Tel Aviv has been described as the gay capital of the world. The Israeli army does not sanction soldiers who are gay. Israeli law protects people of all sexual orientations -- and it does so because it is a country based on full human rights for all its citizens. This is not "pinkwashing": using gay rights to cover up other abuses. It is gay rights in practice, which is why many Arab and Iranian gay people flee to Israel. Providing such protection only serves to make Israel even more hated by many countries surrounding it and even many farther away. This too is hypocrisy, pure and simple. To attack a country that defends the rights you demand for yourselves and your friends is morally unforgivable.

You probably agree that all people should be free to worship and practise their religion openly, or not, under the protection of the law. And you all probably agree that religious people and atheists also should have the right to live freely, without persecution. No Arab or Islamic state offers that sort of protection. In Iraq and Syria, in Gaza and the West Bank, Christians have been killed in huge numbers or driven out. In Egypt, the indigenous population of Coptic Christians suffers severe persecution and sees its churches destroyed. In Iran, Christians are regularly arrested, and the country's largest indigenous religious minority, the Baha'is, are openly persecuted. Baha'is are hanged, imprisoned, denied access to education, forbidden to work in any profession. Their holy places throughout the country have been systematically bulldozed and sometimes mosques have been built on the sites.

In Israel, the Christian community is the only one anywhere in the Middle East to have grown in numbers since 1948. All the holy places of all religions -- Muslim, Jewish, Christian -- are actively protected under the Law for the Protection of Holy Places. The Baha'i religion has its World Centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Haifa, and its two holiest shrines there and outside the city of Acco. Pilgrims come from around the world. The Baha'is are among the most hated people for Muslims everywhere. But not in Israel. Yet no one marches to defend the religious rights of Baha'is in the Islamic world; no one brings petitions to the Iranian embassy to protect them or others from persecution; no one holds meetings to call for reform in Islamic states. Instead, people like yourselves pass resolutions condemning the only country that defends those rights for all its citizens and visitors. By siding with the persecutors and sneering at the only country that since its inception has actually implemented all human rights, you show nothing but contempt for those rights. That is not just sad, it is despicable.

You are students, young people with your minds open to new sensations, new information, new questions, a galaxy of differing opinions, learning how to weigh and balance your own assumptions and those of others. You have access to the most amazing technologies and sources of information -- resources that simply did not exist earlier. In order to access all this, you require freedom of speech, a world without censorship, a free press, the right to protest, and to question received opinion. If your government in Scotland or the UK banned books, imprisoned journalists, censored films, or prohibited campus meetings, you would be rightly outraged. You would march to defend those freedoms were there a threat to take them away. You depend on free libraries, uncensored newspapers and journals, and direct access to the Internet.

None of those freedoms exists in any Muslim country. Not in Egypt, not in Jordan, not in Saudi Arabia, not in Iran, not in Pakistan. Censorship is rife, secular views are everywhere condemned. Freethinking bloggers such as Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, several in Bangladesh, and many in Iran have been imprisoned, sentenced (in Badawi's case) to lashes, or (in Bangladesh) assassinated. The majority of newspapers in these countries are state-owned. Books are banned and burned across the region. Television stations are closed down for the pettiest of reasons, as happened recently in Egypt to MP Tawfiq Okasha. There is no freedom of speech in Gaza or under the Palestinian Authority, and those who breach the rules are, as often as not, found with a bullet in their head.

Israel has as much freedom of speech as the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, the United States, Canada, Australia or any other Western democracy. The only restrictions on the press are those relating to national security -- as in all democracies. Anti-Israel NGOs operate freely in Israel, anti-Israel articles appear daily in the press, notably in the left-wing newspaper Haaretz. Arab politicians speak against Israeli policy daily in parliament or in interviews with the press. When arrests are made, Jewish extremists are as likely to be charged as Arabs. Israel is, in every respect, a free society. Yet you choose to condemn it. By doing so, you condemn the very freedoms you yourselves benefit from in your ivory towers in Scotland. And when you support the Palestinians exclusively, you offer support to censorship and state control of expression. You need to think about this carefully, because otherwise you reveal yourselves to be hypocrites of the first order.

Let me take this one step further. Are you aware that your motion is anti-Semitic? I want you to think about this carefully, too. What, you may ask, does boycotting Israel have to do with hating Jews? You are, I do not doubt, fiercely anti-racist, and for that I strongly commend you. Racism is still an ugly feature of modern life, not only in the West, but across a swath of other countries. It is ironic in the extreme, therefore, that your boycott motion was presented by the BME [Black and Minority Ethnic] Liberation Group. Ironic, because anti-Semitism has been and remains one of the most poisonous and genocidal forms of racist hatred. Across Europe, anti-Semitism is growing to levels reminiscent to that of the 1930s. The 2015 figure for anti-Semitic incidents was 53% higher than for 2014. Jews are leaving Europe and taking refuge elsewhere, most of them in Israel.

Fair criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. But exaggerated, libellous, and false criticism most certainly is. That is not my opinion, but the view of several major bodies dedicated to anti-racist work. At the university level, the Regents of the University of California, along with many other American universities, have just condemned anti-Zionism as anti-Semitic. Another official body you should know and recognize, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, has the following as their working definition of anti-Semitism:
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for "why things go wrong." It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust). Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.
Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.
That definition also forms the basis for the current U.S. State Department definition, with wording almost exactly the same. If you are serious about scholarship, may I suggest you buy or borrow a copy of Kenneth Marcus's book, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, published last year by Oxford University Press. Read chapter 6 in full. Marcus is the Founder and President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Formerly, he was Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and held the Chair in Equality and Justice in America at the City University of New York. He is, in other words, an authority on precisely those human and civil rights issues with which the BME concerns itself. And he agrees that exaggerated and malign criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.

Your resolution is one passed by an anti-racist organization and presented by a group supporting the rights of black and other ethnic minorities. Yet it is, by definition, racist in character and, frankly, racist in intent. Are you proud of that? Can you sleep at night knowing you have joined a chorus of hate against the most persecuted race in human history? I am sure you support the right of self-determination for a thousand national, ethnic, and other groups round the world. Yet you call for an end to Israel, a state created after the genocide of six million Jews so they could to exercise their right to self-determination.

When people march on European streets side by side with far-right Muslim extremists chanting "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas," surely even you must admit that something is seriously wrong.

Your motion states that "The actions of the State of Israel are in violation of international law," with some supposed examples but not a single piece of evidence. In fact, the State of Israel has an impressive record of full compliance with international law at all levels. Your statement contradicts the opinions of very large numbers of experts in international law, a body of men and women whose knowledge of this subject far surpasses that of undergraduates who spout claims that have no legal or factual or historical backing.

It is often said, for example, that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal under international law. In fact, the truth is just the opposite. Under the original partition plan advanced in UN Resolution 181 in 1947, Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza was permitted, just as Arab settlement in Israel was permitted. The law has not changed since then.

In 1948-49, Egypt illegally occupied Gaza, and Jordan the West Bank, as a result of a war of aggression against Israel. Those were illegal occupations, yet nobody complained or demanded the removal of Egyptian or Jordanian troops.

In 1967, acting again in a war of defence, Israel displaced the aggressors Egypt and Jordan from Gaza and the West Bank. The occupation was recognized as fully legal by UN Resolution 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). According to the UN today, "Security Council resolution 242, adopted on 22 November 1967, and resolution 338, adopted on 22 October 1973, are considered basic instruments in all subsequent discussions of a Middle East peace settlement."

According to Resolution 242 (which has never been revoked), Israel is entitled to remain in Gaza and the West Bank until secure borders are agreed. As Israel has never forced any of its population into the Palestinian territories, the Fourth Geneva Convention, which you cite, simply does not apply. That is a matter of legal fact, not woolly opinion. Resolution 242 was very carefully worded to indicate that Israel did not have to pull out of "all the territories" -- just some.

In 2005, Israel, at very high cost to its own citizens, pulled lock, stock and barrel out of Gaza. Hamas then killed PLO politicians and took control, and before long launched a series of wars against Israel. Hamas's 1988 Covenant calls for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of Jews worldwide. I hope that is not something any of you support.

Since 1967, Israel has made over half a dozen very serious offers of peace towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, including one offer of 97% of the West Bank and one of 100%. Each one has been rejected by the Palestinians, whose official bodies still demand the creation of a Palestinian state in place of Israel, which would lead to the expulsion or murder of all Jewish Israelis. So much, then, for the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Your motion suggests that only Palestinians have a right to determine their own futures. That is pure discrimination.

Another charge you level at Israel may be found in paragraphs 14 and 16 of your motion. That is the charge of apartheid. Describing Israel as an apartheid state is, as I have noticed, another anti-Semitic libel. It is libellous for the simple reason that there is nothing in Israel that begins to resemble South African apartheid. Clearly, not one of you knows the first thing about apartheid, apartheid laws, and apartheid government in South Africa. If you did, you would be thoroughly ashamed even to suggest that Israel practises apartheid today.

Let me quote a modern South African politician who lived through the Apartheid years. Kenneth Rasalabe Joseph Meshoe, President of the African Christian Democratic Party, lived as a black man through the Apartheid regime. He has this to say about Israel:
"Those who know what real apartheid is, as I know, know that there is nothing in Israel that looks like apartheid. ... [The apartheid claim] is an empty political statement that does not hold truth... There is a widespread allegation, really a slander, that Israel is an apartheid state. That notion is simply wrong. It is inaccurate and it is malicious.
"The BDS movement is a real pain... to us in South Africa who love the truth, BDS movement is not a democratic movement; they are a movement of intimidation, a movement that performs hatred. People who don't believe in hatred should not allow the BDS movement to stop them from doing the right thing."
Meshoe and many other South Africans know what they are talking about. Do any of you? A Muslim friend once told me how he went to Israel to get information on its apartheid policies in order to write a book about it. But for however long he stayed, he could not find a single instance of apartheid. Today, he speaks worldwide on behalf of Israel. And he is right.

There are no apartheid laws in Israel. Arabs (both Muslims and Christians) in Israel have the same voting rights as Jews, have political parties of their own, serve as members of parliament, serve on the Supreme Court and other courts, are diplomats, lawyers, military officers, scientists, academics, and anything else they wish. Arab women win beauty contests and singing competitions. 20% of students in Israeli universities are Arabs because 20% of the population is Arab.

Dr Tarek Abu-Hamed, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, works as Israel's Deputy Chief Scientist. Rana Raslan, an Arab woman, was voted Miss Israel. Omar Barghouti, an Arab founder and leader of the BDS movement, is studying for a PhD at Tel Aviv University. Dr Rania Okby is the first female Bedouin female physician in history and a proud Israeli. Yiytish Aynaw, a black Israeli of Ethiopian origins, was Miss Israel in 2013. The Master of Ceremonies for the 2014 Israel Prize Awards was Shibel Karmi Mansour, a Druze Israeli. Colonel Ghassan Alian, another Druze, is commander of the Israel Defense Force's Golani Brigade. The 2009 Eurovision singer for Israel was Mira Awad, an Arab woman. Israeli Arab Miriam Kabha, an attorney, was selected as the country's National Commissioner for equal employment opportunities. Salim Joubran, a Justice on Israel's Supreme Court, is an Arab. The Acting President of Israel in 2007 was Majalli Wahabi, a Druze Arab.

I could extend this list for pages. You are intelligent. Do your own thinking. Think of blacks in apartheid South Africa. Not a single one could have achieved any of these things.

There is no segregation on Israeli buses, trains or communal taxis. No separate queues anywhere for Jews and Arabs. No segregation at beaches, restaurants, cinemas, bars, shops, theatres -- anywhere. In Israel, Jews and Arabs work together, are friends, intermarry, and attend lectures, concerts, and parties together. There are no segregated places in Israeli hospitals. Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists sleep on the same wards and are treated by a range of nurses and doctors, some Jewish, some Muslim, some Christian, and many atheist. Israel is a secular society, not a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia.

If you want to protest about apartheid, do not look at Israel. Look at Lebanon and other Arab countries, where Palestinian refugees are denied citizenship, refused entry to most professions, forcibly kept in camps, or even banned completely. And please do not bring on the lie that the Jews ethnically cleansed Palestinian Arabs in 1948. Here is what the current Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, had to say about that in 1976, in the official PLO journal Filastin al-Thawra:
"The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny but, instead, they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe, as if we were condemned to change places with them: they moved out of their ghettos and we occupied similar ones. The Arab States succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity."
History matters.

How many of you have ever been to Israel? I don't mean with guided tours organized by the BDS movement or other hate groups who set out to give you a false impression of life in the country. I mean simple holidays where you can move around freely and experience everyday life, just as you might in India or Thailand or anywhere you have not been before. If you have never been to Israel and seen it at first hand, you have absolutely no right to condemn it or to pass resolutions against it. If you are frightened that going there might shake you out of your prejudgements, then you are cowards. If you actively oppose visits to your campus by Israeli speakers or experts who favour Israel, or if you turn up at pro-Israel events just to shout and disrupt them, you are again cowards. If you cannot bear to listen to the views of the other side, then taking sides in ignorance is cowardly as well as dishonourable.

During the four years it took me to complete my PhD, my entire system of beliefs and assumptions was challenged profoundly, and in the end I abandoned many of them. I did that because my research entailed the examination of Persian and Arabic manuscripts in an Iranian archive, which meant that I was exposed to new levels of evidence that turned my assumptions upside down. That is a hard thing to go through, although I have never regretted it.

For you to face challenging facts about Israel and Jews may be equally disturbing. But it will be worth it in the end. You only have to possess the courage to go through with it, to read material that shows you evidence you have dismissed or ignored before. But if you are worth your salt, if you are to play a serious role in the world outside your university enclave, with its "safe space" policies and its political naïveté -- if, in short, you are ever to grow into maturity and leave behind your childish fantasies -- you really need to do this.

Travel to Israel, find Jewish homes to visit and share meals with, meet Israeli Muslims who love their country because it provides them with freedoms they could not hope to enjoy in any Islamic state, see why Israelis are forced to prioritize security, look closely at the security fence, one of dozens in the world, and find out why it was built. Draw your own conclusions. Do not let anyone else, whether anti-Israel or pro-Israel, tell you what to think. But do get out of your comfort zone, ask hard questions of both sides, go through the effort and come out the other side. You have all been conned. Just take the plunge, and in the future vote with integrity.

The Israel you present is a fantasy Israel, an Aunt Sally or Jim Crow invented by prejudiced minds to further the anti-Semitic dream of wiping out the Jewish people, starting with the world's only Jewish state.

If far-left socialist and far-right Islamist and fascist hoaxes of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, of Jewish power and wealth, of a cabal of Elders of Zion were even remotely true, don't you think there would be many Jewish states in the world today? Don't you think the enemies of Israel would have been wiped out in their entirety, given that the Israel Defense Force is one of the most powerful in the world? The Tsarists and the Nazis constructed lies about the Jewish people, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion -- lies that all educated people know for what they are. Today, the Arab states, Iran, Pakistan, and others tell almost identical lies, draw similarly grotesque cartoons, ascribe miraculous sinister powers to Jews and Israelis, and call for another genocide to match the Holocaust. In 2002, the leader of the Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, made the following recorded statement:
"Among the signs [...] and signals which guide us, in the Islamic prophecies and not only in the Jewish prophecies, is that this State [of Israel] will be established, and that the Jews will gather from all parts of the world into occupied Palestine, not in order to bring about the anti-Christ and the end of the world, but rather that Allah the Glorified and Most High wants to save you from having to go to the ends of the world, for they have gathered in one place -- they have gathered in one place -- and there the final and decisive battle will take place."
That is an unambiguous threat to complete what Hitler started. Will you please think about it and look for the many hundreds of Palestinian, Arab, Iranian and other threats to accomplish the same thing? And ask yourself what side you wish to occupy. If you are indeed people of goodwill and humanity, the answer will come swiftly. In my early teens, I watched a teacher roll up her sleeve to reveal tattooed numbers. Not once since then have I veered from my support for the Jews. As a non-Jew, I could shrug my shoulders and say the Jews and Israelis are none of my business. I choose the moral path. Will you continue to shrug your shoulders and will you do even worse and continue to undermine the one country where Jews can take refuge in time of peril?

To get into a university of Edinburgh's calibre means you are clever young people. You have worked hard to get there. You have demonstrated (and, I trust, still demonstrate) academic ability. My criticism is that you are not using your brains well. You pontificate on a matter about which you are clearly poorly informed. You parrot charges that have no substance. You adopt an extreme position without listening to the views of your opponents. You seem not to have read any balanced books or articles about Israel, yet you leap on a very slippery bandwagon to vent hatred against it. Israel is not without its faults, just as Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland are not without their faults.

Israel can and should be criticized in a moderate, balanced manner. But you go farther than that, singling out Israel for boycott while leaving some of the greatest human rights abusers to go free. If you cannot see the iniquity of that, or understand why it is a matter of shame for intelligent, educated people to take such an extreme position, then you are failing your responsibilities to engage with truth in a rational and unbiased manner. One can have no patience with that. Above all, do not pander to your prejudices -- they will kill you morally and emotionally.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Denis MacEoin
Distinguished Senior Fellow, Gatestone Institute

Denis MacEoin


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

The Mullahs’ Plan To Hit Israel - Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Defiant Iran gets more awards from Obama.

The Islamist state of Iran’s blatant aggression and provocative attitudes have reached an unprecedented level.

After the nuclear deal, and Obama’s appeasement policies towards Iran, the ruling Islamists of the country have become very public and vocal about their ideological objectives.

Most recently, the Fars News Agency, the Islamic Republic’s state-controlled news outlet, quoted Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Maassoud Jazzayeri, warning the United States to stay away from Iran’s redlines―one of which is Iran’s ballistic missiles.

In addition, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was also quoted by the ISNA agency as stating, "The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2000 km is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance." Iran has increased its short–and medium–range ballistic missiles, and currently boasts the largest ballistic missile stockpile in the Middle East.

But what will Obama’s response to these threats be? Most likely there would be more bowing to the ruling clerics of Iran and giving them more carrots. Iranian theocrats have learned that intransigence works with Obama.

There is a simple rule that if you reward a student or your kid for bullying and breaking the rules, you will be encouraging his/her bad behavior, which can ultimately become dangerous for everyone around that person. In addition, if you show students your weakness–such as being willing to give them extra points so that they give you good reviews at the end of the year–they will take advantage of that, or as the Persian proverbs goes: "they will milk you to the end." 

And this is exactly what Iran is doing and how President Obama is encouraging the Islamic Republic’s aggression. Iranian leaders have become cognizant of the fact that intransigence absolutely works with the White House, and threatening Obama with pulling out of the nuclear deal will lead to Obama offering more concessions to the mullahs.

There is a basic rule in Iran’s politics and in Iran’s Supreme Leader’s philosophy: concessions means weakness.  Once someone shows you his/her weakness, you have to speed up getting more concessions from him or her until there is nothing left to get from them.

Here is a chain of events that can easily help us understand how we got here with Iran. It also helps predict how President Obama and the White House will respond to Iran’s recent aggression and threats to the US and Israel.

When the nuclear negotiations were initiated, Obama announced his terms. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei, gave an inflammatory speech, lashing out at the US. Obama’s response was to increase the number of centrifuges that Iran can hold and give Tehran more leverage in uranium enrichment. Obama also agreed not to include issues such as Iran’s ballistic missiles, human rights or the fate of those Americans imprisoned in Iran during the negotiations.

Now Khamenei knew the game. He used another shrewd tactic by giving another speech threatening the US that he will pull out of the negotiations if certain conditions were not met. Obama’s response was to immediately allow the Islamic Republic to receive all sanctions relief (including the removal of United Nations Security Council’s sanctions), even before Iran finishes its 10-year obligations. Obama also gave Iran a green light to become a nuclear state by enriching uranium at a level that they desire, spinning as many centrifuges as they like, and buying arms with no limits, after the 10-year period.

Khamenei and the IRGC leaders wanted to more forcefully milk the cow, as the Persian proverb goes. Iran launched its ballistic missiles in violation of the JCPOA (UNSCR 2231 Annex II, paragraph three), which states that Iran should not undertake any ballistic missiles activity “until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.”

President Obama ignored it. Iran launched ballistic missiles several times more. President Obama issued a superficial statement criticizing Iran. Khamenei immediately gave his Nowruz speech heavily lashing out at the United States, the “Great Satan," and implying that he will pull out of the nuclear deal.

To appease the ruling clerics of Iran, Obama immediately backed off his statements by breaking the promises that he made to the Congress when he was trying to get his nuclear deal through. In other words, he is now preparing to give Iran access to the US's banking and financial system, and he has already lifted sanctions against Iran that are not related to the nuclear program, but to Iran’s ballistic missiles, terrorism and human rights violations. Iran was also removed from the list of countries for which there is a travel ban, although it is prominent sponsor of terrorism.

Thanks to Obama’s weak leadership and appeasement policies towards the mullahs, Iran is already publicly attacking several countries in the region directly or through its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, Badr, Kataeb Imam Al Ali, Harakat Al Islam, etc. Iran would have never dared to be so intransigent and aggressive when the UNSC sanctions were previously imposed on Iran. However, sanctions are being completely lifted, thanks to Obama. 

Iran has a history spanning over 2,500 years and it goes without saying that that the mullahs are among the shrewdest politicians. They can smell weakness from thousands of miles away and they know how to exploit it. Obama’s weakness–that he fears his so-called crowning foreign policy achievement (the nuclear deal) might fall apart–has led to Iran’s bullying, and has driven his carrots-but-no-stick policy towards Tehran. It appears that Obama is indeed focused on scoring superficial records in his name, such as the nuclear deal or visiting Cuba. But there is no doubt that his so-called “accomplishments” will be forgotten soon. The things that are important are the lives that have been lost, the human rights violations, and the escalation of regional conflicts on the part of Iranian leaders thanks to Obama’s decisions.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist, author, business advisor and public speaker, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review (Harvard University).  Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh grew up most of his life in Muslim countries (both Sunni and Shiites nations). He is the author of the memoir “A God Who Hates Women” and the upcoming memoir “The Renegade.” Dr. Rafizadeh can be reached at Follow him at @Dr_Rafizadeh.


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Watch: Anti-Israel activists shout down Jerusalem mayor in US - David Rosenberg

by David Rosenberg

Campus police sit idly as Jerusalem Mayor shouted down during SFSU talk by anti-Israel activists chanting "intifada, intifada".

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat received a rude reception on Wednesday, when anti-Israel activists crashed his public appearance at a California university.

Barkat was scheduled to speak on Wednesday afternoon at San Francisco State University’s Seven Hills Conference Center about his background in the high-tech sector and how those experiences have helped him as mayor of Israel’s largest and most diverse city.

The venue for the talk was chosen because of its proximity to the Silicon Valley, an area known for its high concentration of high-tech firms.

Only minutes into his speech, however, anti-Israel activists aligned with the Students for Justice in Palestine movement entered the conference hall, chanting slogans and shouting down Barkat.

Campus and city police were called, yet they stood idly by, allowing the unruly protesters to drown out the mayor’s address.

As can be seen in the video, audience members began clearing the hall, leaving it largely empty. Barkat eventually left the podium to sit amongst those few who remained.

SJP activists waving the PLO flag cheered on the current wave of terrorism against Israelis, chanting "long live the Intifada". Other slogans included "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", a thinly veiled call for the destruction of Israel.

Barkat speaks at SFSU Jerusalem City Spokesperson

David Rosenberg


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Time for the US to Deal with the Iran Deal? - Michael Curtis

by Michael Curtis

Increasingly serious to the world is the recent provocative behavior of Iran in two ways: its flamboyant arms deals and its missile launches.

In his 1936 song "I've Got You under My Skin," in a complicated melody with repeated notes, Cole Porter advised, "Use your mentality; wake up to reality."  In view of a number of recent international events, that advice and a repeated wake-up call for President Barack Obama are long overdue.

New alarm bells for a coherent U.S. foreign policy have come from a number of these event[s], from the ungracious omission by the White House of words of French President François Hollande to the apparent underplaying of the threat of home-grown Islamist terrorists to the increasing belligerence of Iran.

On March 31, 2016, at a meeting in Washington, D.C. with Obama, President Hollande called for cooperation between the U.S. and France on the crucial issue of what Obama has called "violent extremism."  Hollande uses more correct terminology.  He remarked, "But we are also well aware that the roots of terrorism, Islamist terrorism [sic] are in Syria and Iraq.  We therefore have to act both in Syria and in Iraq, and this is what we are doing within the framework of the coalition."

In most undiplomatic behavior, the initial White House transcript including the English translation of Hollande's remarks erased his words "Islamist terrorism."  To save face, the bad behavior was later labeled a "technical error," and the correct language was made public, but the unwillingness of the U.S. president to acknowledge the reality expressed by the French president of the real nature of the terrorism was evident once again.

The evidence of Islamist terrorism has long been clear and frightening for Europeans.  More than 30,000 Islamists from 104 countries have gone to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  The reality of the problem has been made more precise by a study commissioned by the Netherlands national coordinator for security and counterterrorism (NCTV) and issued on April 1, 2016 by the International Center for Counterterrorism (ICCT).  It deals with the threat and the policy responses in Europe both at the EU level and within the individual EU member states.    

The study analyzed nine European countries in depth concerning the number of foreign fighters who came from the EU countries to join ISIS and the danger they constituted.  It estimated the total number as between 3,922 and 4,294 jihadists from the EU countries, about 30% of whom have returned home. Of the total, 2,338 came from four countries: Belgium, France, Germany, and U.K., with Belgium having the highest per capita contingent.  The returnees have acquired basic military training and battlefield experience.  They pose a real danger, especially to Belgium and France.

Among other details in the study are the facts that almost all of the fighters came from metropolitan areas or suburbs; that about 17 percent are women; and that a minority, ranging between 6 and 23 percent, were converts to Islam.

Increasingly serious to the world is the recent provocative behavior of Iran in two ways: its flamboyant arms deals and its missile launches.

On March 28, 2016, a U.S. ship in the Arabian Sea stopped a large Iranian arms shipment, containing thousands of weapons, AK-47 rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers headed to Yemen, where Iran has been supporting the Houthi rebels in the fight against a Saudi-led coalition.

Even more provocative are the military actions.  Iran test-fired two Qadr-H ballistic missiles from northern Iran on March 23, 2016 with the words "Israel must be wiped out" written in Hebrew on their sides.  A major figure in Iran's Revolutionary Guard said that the 1,200-mile range of the missiles is "to confront the Zionist regime," and indeed, they could hit Tel Aviv.

In addition to the display of Iran's combative role, the firing of the missiles showed the Iranian contempt for the U.S. in an even more stark fashion than usual, because the launching occurred while Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel on an official visit.  Moreover, in what appears to be deliberate mocking of Obama's non-action over his red line in Syria, the deputy chief of the Iran Revolutionary Guard issued the warning that Iran's defense capacities and missile power are among the Iranian nation's red lines,  and "we won't allow anyone to violate" them.

The launching of the missiles is of course a violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, which forbids Iran from developing missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.  Iran persists that its missiles are solely conventional, but clearly this is untrue.

Though the U.S. administration acknowledges this, it still insists that the launching is not a violation of the nuclear deal with Iran.  Mr. Biden has said that the U.S. will act if it finds evidence that Iran broke the terms of the nuclear agreement.  Obama, puzzlingly, has commented that Iran was obeying the "letter" of the deal but not the "spirit."

Neither Obama nor Biden had heeded the declaration of the ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, on March 30, 2016 that missiles, rather than diplomacy, will be part of Tehran's relations with the outside world.  He made clear that the whole concept of negotiating with the U.S. is flawed.

The launch is a provocative act of aggression, not a sign, as Obama had hoped, that Iran would become more moderate.  No one can now doubt that part of the $150 billion Iran will obtain as a result of the nuclear deal will be used for a serious military buildup and that Iran will continue to pursue its program to obtain nuclear weapons. 

In addition, one can now expect an arms race in the Middle East.  It was noticeable that Saudi Arabia hosted a military exercise, Operation Desert Thunder, in which 20 Muslim countries took part as a coalition to defend themselves against terrorism and against Iran.

It was clear from the beginning that the U.S. and its associates had made an ill-advised nuclear deal with Iran.  It is equally clear that Iran is committed to maintain its aggressive stance toward the West, especially as one views the role and power of the Revolutionary Guards and their leader, Qassem Suleimani.  The problem of Iran has become even more serious as it is working with Russia to upgrade its anti-aircraft defense systems, making an attack on Iran increasingly less likely and more dangerous.

For the U.S., the warning of Iran comes not in the night, as Cole Porter might have suggested, but in clear daylight, and it has been repeated, repeated in the ear of the U.S. administration.

Michael Curtis


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The Perils of Not Listening to Iran - Shoshana Bryen

by Shoshana Bryen

The Iranians have been clear and consistent about their understanding of the JCPOA.

  • The Iranian firing of a missile within 1500 yards of U.S. aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in December, and the kidnapping and photographing of a U.S. Navy ship and crew (the photographs were a violation of the Geneva Convention) were test cases. Other than an apparent temper tantrum by Secretary Kerry, there was no American response. Oh, actually, there was. Mr. Kerry absolved his friend Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of responsibility.
  • The Iranians were confident that the Americans could be counted on not to collapse the whole discussion over violations along the edges. Their model was American behavior in the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process." The Palestinians violate agreements and understandings with impunity because they know the Administration is more firmly wedded to the process than the specific issues on the table.
Supporters of President Obama's Iran deal are starting to worry -- but that is because they believed him when his lips moved. They heard "snapback sanctions" and pretended those were an actual "thing." They are not, and never were. They heard Treasury Secretary Jack Lew say the U.S. would never allow Iran access to dollar trading because of the corruption of the Iranian banking system and Iranian support for terrorism -- and they wanted to believe him. And sanctions? The administration said that sanctions related to non-nuclear Iranian behavior -- support for terrorism, ballistic missile development, and more -- would be retained.

Supporters believed Secretary Kerry when he said sanctions on Iran would be lifted only by a "tiny portion," which would be "very limited, temporary and reversible... So believe me, when I say this relief is limited and reversible, I mean it." They all but heard him stamp his loafer.

The mistake was not just listening to the administration say whatever it was Democrats in Congress wanted to hear, while knowing full well that once the train left the station it would never, ever come back. The bigger mistake was not listening to Iran. The Iranians have been clear and consistent about their understanding of the JCPOA.

Days before Congress failed to block the JCPOA, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, outlined Iran's red lines.
  • To block "infiltration" of "Iran's defense and security affairs under the pretext of nuclear supervision and inspection... Iranian military officials are not allowed to let the foreigners go through the country's security-defense shield and fence."
  • "Iran's military officials are not at all allowed to stop the country's defense development and progress on the pretext of supervision and inspection and the country's defense development and capabilities should not be harmed in the talks."
  • "Our support for our brothers in the resistance [Hezbollah, Assad, Yemeni Houthis, Hamas, Shiites in Iraq] in different places should not be undermined."
  • A final deal should be a "comprehensive one envisaging the right for Iran to rapidly reverse its measures in case the opposite side refrains from holding up its end of the bargain."
  • "Iran's national security necessitates guaranteed irreversibility of the sanctions removal and this is no issue for bargaining, trade, or compromise."
  • "Implementation... should totally depend on the approval of the country's legal and official authorities and the start time for the implementation of undertakings should first be approved by the relevant bodies."
  • Iran would not be limited in transferring its nuclear know-how to other countries of its choosing.
The Iranians deliberately and openly conflated what the Administration claimed would be limited sanctions relief related to specific Iranian actions on the nuclear program with the larger issues of sanctions for other Iranian behavior. The Iranians were confident that the Americans could be counted on not to collapse the whole discussion over violations along the edges. Their model was American behavior in the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process." The Palestinians violate agreements and understandings with impunity because they know the Administration is more firmly wedded to the process than the specific issues on the table.
The Iranian firing of a missile within 1500 yards of U.S. aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in December, and the kidnapping and photographing of a U.S. Navy ship and crew (the photographs were a violation of the Geneva Convention) were test cases. Other than an apparent temper tantrum by Secretary Kerry, there was no American response. Oh, actually, there was. Mr. Kerry absolved his friend, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, of responsibility, noting, "it was clear" that the footage did not come from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He blamed the Iranian military, as if they do not work together.

Iran's announcement that it would pay $7,000 to each family of Palestinian terrorists killed by Israel "to enable the Palestinian people to stay in their land and confront the occupier," elicited the disclosure that Mr. Kerry was "extremely disturbed."

Iran's ballistic missile test in November, in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, prompted U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power to say, "The U.S. is conducting a serious review of the reported incident," and if the reports were confirmed, the Obama administration would bring the issue to the UN and "seek appropriate action."

By February, however -- after yet another ballistic missile test, in which the missiles carried explicit threats to Israel, Mr. Kerry said he was prepared to let the matter drop. "We've already let them know how disappointed we are."

Iran's firing of a missile within 1500 yards of a U.S. aircraft carrier in December, and its kidnapping and photographing of a U.S. Navy crew were test cases. Other than an apparent temper tantrum by Secretary of State John Kerry, there was no American response, except that Kerry absolved his friend Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of responsibility. Pictured above: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (left) and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (right).

Responding to Senator Lindsay Graham's suggestion that Congress might increase sanctions against Iran, Mr. Kerry replied, "I wouldn't welcome [that] at this time given the fact that we've given them a warning and if they decide to do another launch then I think there's a rationale."

Kerry may not have to wait long.

Just this week, Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Maassoud Jazzayeri was quoted by the FARS News Agency reiterating, "The White House should know that defense capacities and missile power, specially at the present juncture where plots and threats are galore, is among the Iranian nation's red lines and a backup for the country's national security and we don't allow anyone to violate it."

Now, he is believable.

Congress is beginning to breathe fire, but it is not yet clear what it can or will do in the face of the Obama Administration's executive actions. Last week, angry congressmen were reduced to threatening to "name and shame" American companies that do business with Iran because they cannot figure out how to stem the tide of the Obama Administration's indulgence of Iranian provocations. That reaction is not even close to good enough.

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.


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Rent To Criminals -- Or Else - Matthew Vadum

by Matthew Vadum

Obama's threat to the nation's housing providers.

Welcome murderers, rapists, and thieves as your tenants or you will face huge monetary penalties, the Obama administration said in a new threat aimed at the nation's landlords.

Among convicted criminals, only drug dealers and drug manufacturers will be excluded from special protection as tenants under the administration's novel interpretation of housing law.

“The fact that you were arrested shouldn’t keep you from getting a job and it shouldn’t keep you from renting a home,” Obama's far-left Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Julian Castro, told the annual meeting of the National Low Income Housing Coalition this week.

This is part of the campaign by the most radical left-wing president in American history to de-stigmatize criminality itself. The Left views criminals -- especially minorities -- as victims of society, oppressed for mere nonconformism. Lawbreakers, they believe, should be treated the same as law-abiding citizens.

Obama's policies strike at the very heart of the criminal law system. Removing the stigma of a criminal record undermines the system and respect for the law and attacks the underpinnings of civilization itself.

Of course, a criminal record carries with it a degree of social stigma, as it should. Removing or watering down that socially beneficial stigma reduces disincentives to commit crimes and hinders the marginalization of the antisocial. Without stigma and social ostracism, society would eventually collapse.

But this administration treats criminals as a protected class. It wants felons' voting rights restored. It supports legislation "banning the box," that is, banning employment applications that ask if the applicant has a criminal record. It wants to empty the prisons and afford illegal aliens special protection by frustrating law enforcement in so-called sanctuary cities.

Refusing a prospective tenant is now fraught with danger in the Obama era. Since minorities are over-represented in America's criminal cohort, landlords are automatically deemed racist if they balk at housing criminals.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect because of race, national origin, or other protected characteristics,” said the enforcement directive issued by Castro.

“Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African-Americans and Hispanics," the document states.

It may be true that, as the HUD guidance states, "African Americans and Hispanics are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the general population," but that's only because African-Americans and Hispanics commit crimes at rates out of proportion to their numbers in the United States.

Ignoring a black would-be tenant's criminal history amounts to what David Horowitz calls "black skin privilege." The African-American lawbreaker gets a free pass because of the color of his skin.

That's not what America is supposed to be about.

The legal memorandum continues, "While the Act does not prohibit housing providers from appropriately considering criminal history information when making housing decisions, arbitrary and overbroad criminal history-related bans are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification.”

The guidance laments that "When individuals are released from prisons and jails, their ability to access safe, secure and affordable housing is critical to their successful reentry to society."

It continues, "Yet many formerly incarcerated individuals, as well as individuals who were convicted but not incarcerated, encounter significant barriers to securing housing, including public and other federally-subsidized housing."

Cue the violins.

Perhaps before these sprung jailbirds committed their crimes, they should have considered the ramifications of their lawbreaking. But that's not the way things work in Barack Obama's world where criminals and terrorists are romantic heroes worthy of admiration and hard-working business people are worthy of sneering contempt.

Criminals have oodles of rights; landlords, not so much.

The guidance document comes a week after HUD issued a guidance called "FAQs: Excluding the Use of Arrest Records in Housing Decisions" cautioning public housing authorities and other landlords against rejecting applicants with arrest records for federally-subsidized housing. Landlords are required to conduct their own independent investigations of the allegations against rental applicants including but not limited to examining police reports and gathering witness statements.

It's quite a bureaucratic burden. Chances are many landlords won't bother to do it and undesirable tenants will get apartments they shouldn't get.

The Left doesn't care about fair play.

President Obama's pro-criminal views are difficult to distinguish from those of Angela Davis, the two-time Communist Party USA vice presidential candidate who is now a beloved figure in the academy. The Sixties radical demanded the release of all minority criminals because they were "political prisoners" of the racist United States, victims of a capitalist “prison-industrial complex.”

In a recent speech at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Davis railed against the mythical prison-industrial complex and "the deep structural racism embedded" in the American criminal justice system. "Racism continues to play a determining role in who gets stopped by the police and who doesn't," she said. "It determines who gets arrested and who goes free, who gets longer sentences and who gets shorter sentences."

There is no trustworthy evidence supporting this outlandish claim.

The effort to hurt landlords is a peculiarly Maoist part of President Obama's seven-year-old war on American norms and values. Landlords were labeled "enemies of the people" during the Communist dictator's reign and persecuted, reeducated, and executed in order to pave the way for Mao Zedong's fundamental transformation of Chinese society.

The Obama administration may not be as aggressive as the Mao regime but it has employed some of the late revolutionary's admirers. Former Obama White House spokeswoman Anita Dunn and former manufacturing czar Ron Bloom identified Mao as a personal hero and former green jobs czar Van Jones, an admitted communist, has been described as a Maoist.

Presumably it's a coincidence that Obama's HUD secretary shares the surname of the two Communist gangsters who run Cuba.

Matthew Vadum


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Israel, EU clash over Palestinian buildings - Ben Sales

by Ben Sales

Humanitarian aid or political meddling? EU claims Israeli policy makes it build illegally, admits it does so to establish 'Palestine.'

EU-funded illegal Arab buildings
EU-funded illegal Arab buildings
JTA Photo Service
(JTA) In a ramshackle village off a dirt road in Judea and Samaria’s central hills, near an inhabited shack with a cloth roof and tin walls, stands an outhouse bearing a peeling sticker with the European Union flag. The text below the flag reads “Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.”

The outhouse is a much sturdier structure than the ones that surround it in this unrecognized community, with tight screws, clean walls fused at right angles, a hard roof, a lockable door and an air vent. It’s one of some 1,000 buildings across the Israeli-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria with construction funded by the European Union.

From toilets to houses and schools, the buildings have set off a controversy over who should - and who may - provide for Palestinian welfare in the areas, which are known collectively as Area C. Buttressed by Regavim, a right-wing legal rights group, Israel contends that the EU buildings were built without Israeli permission and contravene international law. Israel has demolished dozens of the buildings in recent years.

“They're building without authorization, against the accepted rules, and there's a clear attempt to create political realities there,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told members of Israel’s foreign press corps in January. “And when we take down this illegal construction we're then, again, condemned, so it's a Catch-22 here.”

The EU counters that Israel has abdicated its responsibility toward Palestinians under its control, so Europe is picking up the slack. During the past two years, the EU has provided some $15 million for Area C Palestinian development. In addition to buildings, the money funds water pipes and roads for Palestinian villages. The EU and the Palestinian localities have coordinated to create "master plans" for infrastructure, water projects and roads.

“The situation would also be greatly improved if the Israeli authorities were to approve the master plans for development submitted by local communities,” the EU office in Jerusalem - known as the Office of the European Union Representative - wrote in an email to JTA. “Failing that, Israel has the duty to agree to and facilitate international relief schemes and grant unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance.”

Anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C, which includes all Israeli towns and covers about 60 percent of Judea and Samaria's land area. Area C Palestinians live in some 180 villages, most of which are not recognized by Israel. Unrecognized villages often lack basic infrastructure and planning, and are under threat of demolition. Israel annually demolishes dozens to hundreds of Palestinian buildings in Area C, according to Bimkom, a group of Israeli planners and architects that advocates for Palestinian construction rights.

Israel rejects nearly all the Palestinian requests for building permits in Area C. Of 240 Palestinian permit requests in 2014, just one was approved, according to Bimkom.

“There’s no direction or plan of action,” said Alon Cohen-Lipshitz, Bimkom’s Area C director. “This is an attempt to create control and deny Palestinian development. [They’re] not even considering those who are there.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, which manages Israel's policies in Judea and Samaria, has plans for four towns for Palestinians in Area C. Regavim says these towns are aimed at organizing haphazard Palestinian settlement across the territory. But opponents contend the towns could also take many Palestinians away from their agricultural way of life and place them in more crowded living arrangements.

COGAT’s policy of demolishing illegally built structures, however, doesn’t always translate to practice. In a March report, Israel’s state comptroller faulted COGAT for not enforcing laws against illegal building by both Palestinians and Israelis in Area C, and for executing demolition orders in an unorganized, unsupervised and non-transparent fashion. Both critics and defenders of COGAT point to the report as evidence that Area C’s legal practices need to improve.

Regavim has also accused the European Union of meddling in Israel’s politics by entrenching Palestinian presence around Israeli settlements. Israel's relations with the EU already are strained following a European-Israeli spat last year over the EU’s guidelines encouraging the labeling of goods produced in Israeli towns in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

“They themselves are doing unilateral moves in Area C and not asking, not discussing with Israel,” said Ari Briggs, Regavim’s international director. “They have made a decision to work directly with the Palestinian Authority to give more control and power to the Palestinian Authority in Area C.”

The EU acknowledges having a political goal. Its 2014 Palestinian Humanitarian Implementation Plan says European funding “could pave the way for development and more authority of the P.A. over Area C.”

This goal, the EU says, is consistent with Israel’s commitments in the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords. If much of Area C is to become part of a Palestinian state, the email said, there should be no problem with providing homes for Palestinians there.

“Area C is part of the occupied Palestinian territory and part of any viable future Palestinian state,” the email said. “The EU has repeatedly called for a fundamental change of Israeli policy to enable accelerated Palestinian construction, as well as social and economic development in Area C.”

Ben Sales


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