If you thought the world could exist without Israel, you’re about to be proven wrong
Sophie, a high school teenager, struggles with an assignment regarding Israel’s importance to the world. A nightmare shows her the chaos that would be life without Israel.
Female attacker tries to stab cops in Jerusalem Old City, is shot dead
Border guards shot dead an East Jerusalem woman who attempted to stab them outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday afternoon, police said.
None of the Border Police officers were reported injured in the incident.
According to police, the woman approached the officers with scissors before they opened fire.
She was pronounced dead minutes later by medics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service, a spokesperson said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry later identified the assailant as Siham Rateb Nimir, 49, from East Jerusalem.
According to Palestinian media, her son was Mustafa Nimir, who was shot dead by Border Police officers in September after an apparent misunderstanding at an East Jerusalem checkpoint.
Officers recovered the scissors from the scene, police said.
Border guards closed off some the entrances and exits to the Old City following the incident and cleared the areas surrounding them, pushing back bystanders.
In the past year and a half, the Old City, and the Damascus Gate in particular, has seen several attacks by Palestinians, and in one case a Jordanian national.
Earlier this month, an East Jerusalem man stabbed two Border Police officers near the Old City’s Lions’ Gate, moderately wounding them before they were able to shoot him.
Israel’s security services believe that many of the stabbing and car-ramming attacks seen in recent years are not only ideologically motivated, but are a form of “suicide by cop,” or “suicide by soldier.”
Though a marked drop has been recorded by security officials in recent months, 40 Israelis, two Americans, a Palestinian and an Eritrean national have been killed in the spate of stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks that began a year and a half ago.
According to AFP figures, some 250 Palestinians, a Jordanian and a Sudanese migrant have also been killed, most of them in the course of carrying out attacks, Israel says, and many of the others in clashes with troops in the West Bank and at the Gaza border, as well as in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks.
The spate of Palestinian attacks that began in October 2015 was dubbed the “lone wolf” intifada, as many of the attacks were carried out by individuals who were not connected to any terror group. (the Times of Israel)
Israel Air Force partakes in drill with Arab forces, among others
The Israel Air Force along with pilots from the United Arab Emirates and a number of other countries began a joint drill in Greece Monday, marking the second time crews from the two countries have flown side by side.
According to a statement released by the Hellenic Air Force, the “complex exercise” named Iniohos 2017, which will run from March 27 to April 6, will involve the airforces of Israel, the United States, the UAE, and Italy.
The Greek navy and units from the army will also partake in the drill, Greek media reported.
The Americans have sent 12 F-16C Fighting Falcons and an estimated 220 support personnel to participate in the exercise between NATO Allies and partner nations.
“Multinational training engagements such as these strengthen our relationships, maintain joint readiness and interoperability, and reassure our regional Allies and partners,” read a US army statement.
Israel maintains broad cooperation with the Greek airforce and has participated in several military exercises of air, sea, and ground forces with the Mediterranean country, especially following the downgrading of ties with Greece’s adversary, Turkey.
While Israel does not have any diplomatic relations with the UAE, last year the IAF took part in the Red Flag aerial exercise in the United States alongside UAE, and Pakistan.
“The IDF trains regularly in order to maintain operational competency and to prepare for any potential challenge. However, in any exercise in which the IDF takes part, information security precautions will be taken,” said an IDF statement at the time.
Israel has participated in the 2015 Red Flag exercise hosted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada alongside the Jordanian, American, and Singaporean air forces.
In November the IAF will be hosting over 100 aircraft and hundreds of support crew in a two week long Blue Flag drill. Crews from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India and Italy will land in Israel in the fall for a drill aimed at honing their skills in planning, targeting and coordinated command and control.
According to Defense News, the year’s drill is designed to simulate a range of realistic engagements, and participants will likely conduct hundreds of sorties in Israeli airspace to practice air-to-air combat, ground strikes against both moving and stationary targets, and maneuvering amid threats posed by shoulder-launched missiles and surface-to-air batteries which can block aerial access to aircrews.
Two weeks ago Israeli jets were targeted by surface-to-air missiles fired from Syrian regime air defense batteries. While no jets were lost, it was the most dangerous incident between the two countries since the war in Syria broke out in 2011.
Russia has also delivered the advanced S-300 and S-400 air defense systems to the war-torn country, capable of engaging multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 380 kilometers away, virtually all of Syria as well as significant parts of Israel and other neighboring countries such as Turkey and Jordan. (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas said to acquire highly explosive short-range rockets
Hamas has acquired dozens of large, highly explosive rockets, more powerful than those previously in its arsenal, that could be used to devastating effect on the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported Tuesday.
Each rocket is said to contain hundreds of kilograms of explosive material, far beyond the capacities of the other missiles and mortar shells believed to be in the terrorist group’s hands.
In the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas launched thousands of rockets and mortar shells at Israel and had dozens of its attack tunnels destroyed. In the two and a half years since the conflict, it has worked to refill its spent weapons caches and rebuild that military infrastructure.
According to Israeli assessments, it achieved that goal earlier this year.
According to the Army Radio report, the new rockets have a short range of a few kilometers, comparable to that of a mortar shell, but pack an explosive punch unlike anything seen before in the hands of Hamas.
While the Iron Dome anti-missile system can intercept short-range rockets, it is less effective against mortar shells and other projectiles with shorter ranges, as it cannot locate, target and shoot them down quickly enough.
Thus far, the Gaza-ruling terrorist groups has manufactured dozens of these rockets since the 2014 war.
Though new to Hamas, this type of armament is not entirely new to Israel, as the Iran-funded Hezbollah terrorist group is believed to possess similar, if not superior, capabilities.
The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has largely held since the war. In 2016, for the first time in 30 years, no Israelis were killed as a result of attacks from Gaza. And the past two and a half years have also seen historically low numbers of rocket attacks emanating from the Strip.
Nevertheless, Israeli officials refer to the next round of conflict with the terrorist group as an issue of when, not if, and the apparent assassination of Hamas leader Mazen Faqha last week raised the possibility of such a clash.
On Monday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal accused Israel of killing Faqha and changing “the rules of the game” — and vowed revenge.
“Israel decided to change the rules of the game, and we accept the challenge,” Mashaal said in a speech broadcast at a memorial service in Gaza, in reference to Friday’s killing of Faqha. “The Zionist occupier took from us a great hero and for this we will not sit quietly.”
Israel has not acknowledged any involvement in the killing.
In anticipation of future conflict, Israel is now drawing up contingency plans to evacuate up to a quarter-million civilians from border communities to protect them from attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah or other terror groups, it was reported last week.
A senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with protocol, said the idea resulted from lessons learned in the 2014 war, in which communities were not evacuated but residents eventually left on their own.
Tens of thousands of Israelis left their homes near the Gaza border as the fighting dragged on, turning some areas into ghost towns. The exodus was sparked by Palestinian shelling along with the fear of heavily armed Gaza terrorists infiltrating Israel through tunnels.
Border communities vulnerable to mortar shells and heavy short-range rockets like the ones now believed to be in the hands of Hamas are the most in danger.
Israel’s Iron Dome defense system was seen as a game-changer in the 2014 war, ensuring a decisive protective edge from short-range rockets fired from Gaza. But the security official said there were not enough of the defensive systems to cover attacks on multiple fronts, and it is mostly ineffective against mortar fire. (the Times of Israel)
US planning Israeli-Palestinian-Gulf peace summit, sources say
Members of the Trump administration are exploring whether to host a landmark conference over the summer that would bring Gulf Arab leaders, the Palestinian Authority president and Israel’s prime minister onto the same stage for the first time, sources tell The Jerusalem Post.
US officials are quietly gauging interest in the event, according to the Israeli sources, who requested anonymity in order to respect their relationships with the new administration.
No event has been formally planned, and additional sources from both Israel and the US deny that a summit is the purpose of a recent flurry of American diplomatic activity in the region. But several discussed the idea as a concrete goal of an administration seeking a momentous foreign policy victory.
“The president wants to bring them over – a public event with them,” one senior Israeli source told the Post on Tuesday. “I think its feasible, but the question is what happens after.”
As a precondition to the conference set by Arab participants, Israel would have to agree and adhere to an informal, unspoken freeze on future housing construction outside of established settlement blocs, said the official.
Discussions over a construction pause – which would not be characterized publicly as a “settlement freeze” – are already well under way. But four days of meetings last week led by Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, and Yoav Horowitz, chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were inconclusive.
“About half of their time” together was devoted to the issue of settlements and no agreement was reached on freezing construction, an American source said.
Traveling to Amman for this week’s Arab League Summit, Greenblatt said “the time has come to make a deal” and that Trump believes an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “will reverberate positively throughout the region and the world.”
If such a summit were to take place, leadership at the crown prince level from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would join their Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts beside Israelis in front of cameras – an unprecedented television moment that Trump would savor.
But Israeli and Arab figures are questioning what the summit would accomplish in hard policy terms, and some White House officials are questioning the proposal as well.
Israeli officials are torn between the certain benefits and potential costs of a summit.
They believe that public engagement with Riyadh and its regional partners would be a major diplomatic achievement – the result of years of quiet talks over Iran and its regional activities. But some officials are particularly nervous that a conference teasing the promise of peace talks would raise Palestinian expectations – a moment of hope that would quickly be dashed when direct negotiations invariably fail to take off.
“It can lead to an intifada if we don’t have a plan for afterwards,” a second official suggested. “Both Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Netanyahu will show up, but neither is likely to come with deliverables.”
One senior Trump administration official told the Post the US simply is not working toward a specific event. “The administration is concentrating on building relationships with parties in the region,” the official said. “We’re just not contemplating such a conference at this time.”
Trump has spoken passionately of his desire to broker Middle East peace and of his interest in a broader regional rapprochement among Israelis and Arabs. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top adviser, has consulted with several Gulf leaders on how best to proceed with a peace process incorporating regional players.
“Trump said at his press conference that he wants a settlements slowdown, and he talked about the outside-in approach using the regionals. So this is not that far of a jump,” said one former State Department official involved in Middle East peace issues. “One plus one equals two.”
Arab world leaders are expected to visit Washington in April and May. Those visits may lay the groundwork for a summit, sources said.
Republicans in Washington are echoing Israel’s cautious optimism over the idea.
Fresh off a visit to Lebanon, Israel and Jordan last week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) cautioned Trump against moving too fast.
“The timing for a splashy, high-profile, new set of negotiations does not seem to be right,” Cotton told the Post, questioning the stability of the Palestinian Authority. “Quiet, confidence-building measures might be appropriate.” (Jerusalem Post)
Hezbollah threats prompt Israel to add extra Iron Dome systems on warships
Four ships being manufactured in Germany that were originally slated to each contain a single Iron Dome launcher reportedly will now have two.
The threat of Hezbollah rockets targeting offshore natural gas platforms has prompted the Israeli Navy to add an extra Iron Dome launcher to the Sa’ar 6 missile ships that are currently being manufactured for Israel in Germany, Defense News reported on Monday.
Defense News quoted a senior Israeli naval officer as saying the change in design was prompted by Hezbollah’s arsenal of Grad rockets and longer-range projectiles.
“Because of this growing threat, we’re adding another launcher on the Sa’ar 6,” Defense News quoted the officer as saying of the ships intended to defend Israel’s offshore assets.
Hezbollah is known to have various long- and medium-range missile systems, including the Iranian- made Fajr-5, the M-600 rockets, Zelzal-2 and the shorter-range M75 and Katyushas. But, according to a senior IDF officer in the IAF’s Air Defense Division, the terrorist group is continuously working to acquire missiles with larger warheads and longer ranges.
Israel Navy shoots down vessel in exercise in July 2016 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)
According to Israeli estimates, Hezbollah has stockpiled more than 100,000 missiles.
Last July, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Hezbollah now possesses 17 times the number of missiles it did 10 years ago when UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was adopted at the end of the Second Lebanon War.
Hezbollah now has “more missiles below ground in Lebanon than the European NATO allies have above ground,” Danon said as he presented recent IDF intelligence about the terrorist organization to the Security Council, including aerial photographs revealing Hezbollah positions and statistics about the organization’s weapons stockpiles. (Jerusalem Post)
Only 12% of Israelis believe full West Bank withdrawal would end conflict
Israeli Jews are today significantly less willing to support a withdrawal from the West Bank than they were in 2005, according to a poll released Monday by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Likewise, there is much less willingness now to agree with the parameters put forward by former US president Bill Clinton during his last days in office than there was a decade ago. Those parameters include a demilitarized Palestinian state, Palestinian security control of the West Bank, Jerusalem as the capital of both states, and the Temple Mount in Palestinian hands, with Israel retaining control of the Western Wall.
According to the poll conducted by Mina Tzemach, while some 60% of Jewish Israelis would support a withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a peace accord in 2005, only 36% would agree today. Likewise, support for the Clinton parameters has dropped from 55% in 2005 to 29% today.
Dore Gold, the former Foreign Ministry director-general who heads the JCPA, said the survey shows “the Israeli public implicitly understands that the Middle East remains a very dangerous and chaotic region and is not about to stabilize in the near future.”
He said the Trump administration “cannot ignore the trends in Israeli public opinion as it formulates its policy on Middle East diplomacy.”
The poll showed that only 27% of the population retained any belief that negotiations would lead to an agreement in coming years, while 69% said they either tended not to believe that would be the case or did not believe it at all.
While 17% of the Jewish population said Israel should agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank, fully 77% said it should not. When the settlement blocs were excluded from a future Palestinian state, the numbers changed dramatically, however, with 37% saying Israel should agree to that situation, but a majority of 57% saying it should not.
Only 12% of the respondents said they believed a withdrawal to the 1967 lines would end the conflict with the Palestinians, while 79% believed that it would not.
Regarding Jerusalem, 41% of respondents said Israel should agree to a situation in which the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be under Arab sovereignty and the Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control, while just over 50% said Israel should not agree to such an arrangement.
Regarding the Temple Mount, fully 83% opposed transferring the Temple Mount to Palestinian sovereignty.
Asked if Israel should make the establishment of a Palestinian state conditional upon a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, 71% said it should, compared to 20% who said it should not.
Regarding the Jordan Valley, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel must retain in any final agreement, 81% thought it was important to hold on to the area in any agreement, while 8% thought that was either not so important or not important at all.
Asked about some kind of confederation between a future Palestinian state and Jordan, 48% favored the idea, while 33% were opposed.
In other questions, 84% agreed with the statement that the world will be critical of Israel regardless of how far it goes to reach a settlement with the Palestinians.
The survey was taken among a representative sample of 521 Jewish Israeli adults via Internet interviews on March 20 and 21. The study has a reported maximum sampling error of 4.4%. (Jerusalem Post)
Israel to renew diplomatic ties with Nicaragua
Israel and Nicaragua will renew bilateral relations after a seven-year freeze, the Foreign Ministry confirmed early Wednesday, following reports that the two would restore ties.
The Central American country suspended diplomatic ties in 2010, in protest over the flotilla incident, during which violent pro-Palestinian activists and IDF troops clashed fatally aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that a country would announce the renewal of diplomatic ties with Israel next week, but did not say which one.
The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the matter.
“Today, we’re blessed to have relations with over 160 countries and the number continues to grow,” Netanyahu said at the president’s residence in Jerusalem.
“Next week an additional country will announce the establishment of relations with the State of Israel. Last year, I visited five continents, not including Latin America, [but] including the leading powers of the world: the US, Russia, China, and of course other countries — Britain, Australia, African countries, Muslim countries [such as] Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.”
The prime minister went on to speak about Israel’s growing ties with Asian powers such as China, Vietnam and India, whose prime minister, Narendra Modi, is expected to visit Israel this summer.
“All of this symbolizes the dramatic change in our international standing,” Netanyahu said.
The exact number of countries Israel has diplomatic relations with is actually 159. The last country to renew ties with Israel, in July 2016, was Guinea, a Muslim-majority nation in West Africa.
The announcement is not the first time the two countries re-establish ties that had been severed. Relations between Jerusalem and Managua were first cut in 1982, as a consequence of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and re-established 10 years later.
Nicaragua, a mostly Catholic country, is closely aligned with Iran — which runs training camps for its militias in the country — and usually votes against Israel in diplomatic forums such as the United Nations.
In the Israeli government’s recently published work plan, which lays out the goals of the various ministries and government agencies for 2017-2018, the Foreign Ministry said it wants to make “efforts to renew diplomatic relations with the four countries that severed them” — Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. (the Times of Israel)
Buzz: a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip for young adults with special needs
The Zionist Federation of Australia, its Australian principal supporter, Gandel Philanthropy and its organisational partners, Access Inc, Flying Fox and Friendship Circle have announced the first-ever Australian Taglit-Birthright Israel trip for young adults with special needs (cognitive).
Over 500,000 young Jewish adults from around the world have enjoyed the magic of these 10 day experiences since the program’s inception in 2000.
Taglit Birthright Israel trips are free – including flights, accommodation and board and all touring.
Our group will be called “BUZZ” – in Hebrew, “זבַּ ” means “falcon” – connoting flight, strength and freedom. The group will depart Australia in late November, a beautiful and mild time of year to travel.
This initiative will enable 15 participants with special needs to experience the gift of a 10 day educational tour of Israel. The special needs trip is supported by Gandel Philanthropy, the Australian Principal Supporter of Taglit Birthright Israel for the past five years, who have generously matched the contributions of several organisations and individuals for this particular initiative – among them Friendship Circle and JNF NSW.
Laurence Joseph represents Gandel Philanthropy on the Steering Committee preparing for the program. He said: “Gandel Philanthropy and the Gandel family are very proud to be the Principal Australian supporter of the Taglit Birthright Israel Program. We are very pleased that this exciting and fantastic program is being now extended to young Jewish people with special needs and we are very proud to support this initiative.
“To be able to ensure these young people are included the same way as other young people in the Jewish community is very important to us. These young people should have the same opportunities to connect with their own Jewish identity, to experience Israel, and to connect and make friends with young Israelis. This trip will be an invaluable experience for them.”
Just like all Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, the group will tour key sites in Israel, enjoy immersive experiences and participate, first hand, in Israel’s vibrant culture.
The program will be tailored for the group in terms of pace and intensity, incorporating as many of the Birthright core elements as possible.
Ginette Searle, Executive Director of the ZFA, added: “Since the inception of Taglit Birthright Israel in 2000, over 4200 young Australians have had the benefit of the remarkable experience that is Birthright.
“Buzz” is an initiative that we are extremely proud to be able to bring to the community – to enable a group who were previously unable to participate in Birthright to do so. Experience from similar groups around the world shows a tremendous impact not only for the participants, but also for the community on their return. We’re excited about the fact that so many community organisations are working together, in a true collaborative way, to make this dream a reality”.
Information sessions will be held in Sydney on 26 April and in Melbourne on 4 May. Prospective participants, their families and prospective buddies are encouraged to come along, hear what it’s all about and how to apply to be a part of this exceptional initiative.
Members of the Buzz team will be at each session, ready to answer general questions or speak with people personally about the trip.
Over 500,000 young adults from 67 countries around the world have taken part in a Taglit-Birthright Israel program since the program’s inception in 2000. Over 4000 young Australians have, to date, enjoyed the Birthright experience – and now we’re pleased to be offering that same birthright to a group which has until now not had that chance. (Jwire)
New High-Speed Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Rail Nears Completion
Valley of Ayalon
The bridge over the Valley of Ayalon, a landmark of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail project set for completion in 2018.
A new high-speed rail line connecting Israel’s holy city to its leading metropolis — Jerusalem to Tel Aviv — is set to revolutionize transportation in the Jewish state when it becomes operational at the beginning of 2018.
The ambitious 10-year effort to construct a high-speed rail link between the two cities is the largest project undertaken by Israel Railways in the past decade, and is also one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in Israel’s history.
Shahar Wiesman, head of communications for Israel Railways, said that “everything in this project was never done in Israel before, so each part was done in collaboration with an experienced foreign company,” Israel21C
Upon completion, the $1.9 billion project will enable commuters to travel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in less than 30 minutes, significantly reducing the current hour-long commute when driving the 60-kilometer (37-mile) route.
The train will operate from a new transportation center in Jerusalem and will feature scenic routes through the hills surrounding the capital city. The new train line will also include stops at Ben Gurion International Airport and Tel Aviv’s existing four railway stations. (the Alegemeiner)
Palestinians: We Have the Right to Poison the Minds of our Children
by Bassam Tawil The Gatestone Institute
They Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas wish to continue teaching children that the conflict with Israel is not over a two-state solution, but the “liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” which means the annihilation of Israel. The goal is for the students to believe that Israel is one big settlement that has no place in the Middle East.
Along with Hamas, Abbas and his PA plan to continue inculcating Palestinian children with the idea that they should look to terrorists who kill Jews as their role models. It might be illuminating if the conversation between Trump and Abbas were to be informed by these uncomfortable facts.
In an ironic turnaround, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) is now the object of intimidation and threats made by many Palestinians.
UNRWA is reportedly planning to introduce some changes to the curriculum in its schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Palestinians are rather unhappy about it. They claim that UNRWA has “succumbed” to Israeli pressure to make the changes.
The proposed changes are based on leaks to Palestinians and have not been confirmed by UNRWA. Palestinians claim that they learned about the plans to introduce the changes during meetings with senior UNRWA officials.
According to the Palestinians, the changes are intended to “eradicate” their “national identity” and “history” and distort their “struggle” against Israel.
The Palestinians claim that the new textbooks have replaced the map of “historic Palestine” (including Israel) with pictures of a pumpkin and a bird. Palestinian textbooks often feature maps of “historic Palestine” without Israel. Cities inside Israel, such as Haifa, Jaffa, Tiberias and Ramle, are referred to as “Palestinian cities.” The Palestinian Authority (PA) media also refer to these cities as “Palestinian cities inside the 1948 Land.”
In one fourth-grade textbook, the Palestinians charge, UNRWA has replaced the map of Palestine with a picture of a traditional Palestinian woman’s dress.
The new textbooks make no reference to cities in Israel; they mention only cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, such as Nablus, Jenin, Gaza City, Jericho and Ramallah.
Unsurprisingly, an UNRWA revision of the Palestinian presumption of Jerusalem as the “capital of the State of Palestine” to Jerusalem as a “Holy city for the Abrahamic religions” did not go over well with Palestinians. In addition, they are angry because the UNRWA textbooks make no mention of the Jordan Valley along the border between Israel and Jordan.
The controversial textbooks have also removed photos of Israeli soldiers patrolling near schools and references to Palestinian prisoners held in Israel for terrorism. Moreover, the new textbooks are missing the previous references to “Palestinian Prisoners’ Day” — an annual event marked by Palestinians in solidarity with imprisoned terrorists.
Palestinians are also protesting the removal of words such as “occupation” and “checkpoints” from the new textbooks.
If true, the proposed changes to the Palestinian textbooks should be welcomed as a positive development towards ending anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian schools, including those belonging to UNRWA. In light of the widespread Palestinian protests and threats, however, it is doubtful whether UNRWA will succeed in making the proposed revisions.
A girls’ school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. (Image source: UNRWA)
A recent study into schoolbooks used by UNRWA-run schools found that the texts consistently delegitimize and demonize Israel. The schools do not teach Palestinian children to recognize Israel. The research was conducted by Dr. Arnon Gross, who translated the books, and Dr. Roni Shaked, both from the Harry Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
In these currently-used books, Zionism is defined as a colonialist movement that was founded by European Jews in order to gather Jews from all around the world and bring them to Palestine. No mention is made of the religious or historical connection of Jews to the Land of Israel or to Jerusalem. Instead, the UNRWA textbooks teach that Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are Muslim holy sites.
Not surprisingly, vicious rivals though they are, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have joined forces to thwart UNRWA’s planned changes to the textbooks. This is an issue that these two corrupt regimes can agree on: inciting children against Israel and denying its existence.
Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, warned that any changes to the curriculum would “harm the history and national rights of the Palestinian people, as well as their resistance” against Israel. By “resistance,” the Hamas official means terrorism against Israel, including suicide bombings and the launching of rockets at Israel.
According to the Hamas official, UNRWA and the international community need to understand that “the option of resistance is the only and shortest way for restoring Palestine and liberating our land.”
In other words, Bahr wants to go on teaching Palestinian children to continue perpetrating terror attacks, in order to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic empire. In fact, Hamas has long been teaching precisely this in its own schools in the Gaza Strip. Yet Hamas is making it manifest that UNRWA is to follow suit in its schools. Children studying in the UN agency’s schools are to continue learning that Israel is nothing more than a figment of the imagination.
The past few days have seen Palestinians in the Gaza Strip staging a series of protests against UNRWA. They warned the agency against making the changes, which are designed to “distort the minds of Palestinian children” and which “do not comply with the culture of Palestinian society.”
Hamas has refused to allow UNRWA to teach about the Holocaust in its schools. From Hamas’s point of view, the UN agency seeks to “poison the minds of our children by taking steps that only serve” Israel. “UNRWA is trying to justify Israeli crimes against the Palestinians by teaching the so-called Holocaust in the context of human rights in UNRWA-run schools,” Hamas said. This attitude is far from surprising: Holocaust denial has always been an integral part of Palestinian and Arab narratives.
It is easy to see why Hamas and other extremist Palestinian groups would be opposed to changing textbooks that delegitimize and demonize Israel. More difficult to understand is that the Palestinian Authority, whose president, Mahmoud Abbas, says he is opposed to anti-Israel incitement, also came out against UNRWA’s planned changes.
A statement issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Education in Ramallah warned that it would take “punitive measures” against anyone who tries to change or tamper with the curriculum. “Any attempt to change the Palestinian curriculum will be considered an assault on Palestine and an eradication and dilution of our national identity,” the ministry cautioned.
The language used by the PA is strikingly similar to that used by Hamas to threaten an organization that has for decades helped millions of Palestinians to survive. In this regard, the Palestinians are once again biting the hand that has fed them. Ask Kuwait and other Gulf countries that used to give Palestinians billions of dollars before the Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
In his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington in mid-April, Abbas is expected to renew his commitment to combating anti-Israel incitement, according to senior PA officials in Ramallah. One wonders how Abbas plans to account for the PA’s threats against UNRWA regarding the textbooks.
The PA, like Hamas, plans to continue indoctrinating their children through poisonous textbooks that depict Jews as evil occupiers and land-thieves who build “racist walls” and demolish houses for no reason. They also wish to continue teaching children that the conflict with Israel is not over a two-state solution, but the “liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” which means the annihilation of Israel. The goal is for the students to believe that Israel is one big “settlement” that has no place in the Middle East.
Moreover, along with Hamas, Abbas and his PA plan to continue inculcating Palestinian children with the idea that they should look to terrorists who kill Jews as their role models. It might be illuminating if the conversation between Trump and Abbas were to be informed by these uncomfortable facts.