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Latest Israel News – 8th September

What Do ‘Moderate’ Muslims Think About Blowing Up Israeli School Buses?

Is merely choosing not to actually carry out a terror attack oneself enough to qualify as a ‘moderate’ Muslim?

Military instructor and researcher Hussein Aboubakr grew up attending Muslim schools in Egypt.

Looking back at his Muslim education, Aboubakr believes that Westerners simply do not understand the values that Islam actually promotes.

When politicians reassure their citizenry, after terror attacks, that most Muslims are “moderate,” Aboubakr says that it all depends on what the definition of “moderate” is.

Watch as Aboubakr describes what most (though not all) so called ‘moderate Muslims’ think about imposing Sharia Law and supporting terror attacks on Israeli civilians.  (Prager University)

Israeli jets said to hit chemical weapons, missile site in Syria

Israeli warplanes in the early hours Thursday allegedly struck a facility in northwestern Syria where the regime is said to have stockpiled chemical weapons and missiles.

The Syrian army confirmed in the morning that a military site near Masyaf was bombed, saying the attack was carried out by Israeli jets and killed two people.

“Israeli warplanes fired several rockets from the Lebanese airspace at 02:42 a.m. on Thursday targeting one of the Syrian military posts near Massyaf, killing two army personnel and causing material damage to the site,” it said in a statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

The Syrian military said the attack was “a desperate attempt to raise the collapsed morale” of the Islamic State group “after the sweeping victories achieved by the Syrian Arab Army” and affirmed Israel’s “direct support” for IS and “other terrorist organizations.” It warned it could have “dangerous repercussions.”

Unconfirmed Lebanese reports said Israel also struck a convoy belonging to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. Opposition sources quoted by Israel Radio said the airstrike in Syria destroyed weapons stores including chemical-tipped missiles that were to be delivered to Hezbollah.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on any of the reports.

The target in Syria was apparently a Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) facility near Masyaf, which is in the northern Hama region. CERS is a Syrian government agency that Western officials have long associated with the production of chemical weapons.

A senior member of the Syrian opposition, citing security officials still working for the regime at the time, told The Times of Israel in 2014 that Assad’s forces were stockpiling chemical substances and missiles carrying chemical warheads at the site, which was not made available to international inspectors tasked with ensuring the destruction of the weapons.

Syrian opposition forces have in recent months claimed the Masyaf site, and other CERS facilities, have been working on a joint projects with Iranian specialists to develop chemical weapons capability for missiles.

In April the Trump administration placed sanctions on hundreds of CERS employees following a chemical attack on the Syrian rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens of civilians, including children. On Wednesday, a report by a UN war crimes commission said it had clear evidence that the Syrian regime was behind the attack and that it had used sarin nerve gas.

In 2005, then US president George W. Bush placed sanction on CERS, alleging it was producing weapons of mass destruction.

Five years later, in September 2010, the director of the Israeli National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau said that CERS facilities would be destroyed if the agency continued to provide weapons to terror groups.

Brig.-Gen. (res) Nitzan Nuriel, speaking at a summit at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, said CERS was providing weapons to Hezbollah and the Palestinian terror group Hamas, and called on the international community to target it if it didn’t end its support for terrorism.

In February 2013, US intelligence officials told The New York Times that an alleged Israeli airstrike on a Lebanon-bound convoy carrying advanced anti-aircraft weapons days earlier may have inadvertently hit the central CERS research center for developing chemical and biological weapons.

Israel has for years been widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.

In August a former commander of Israel’s air force said that it had carried out dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys destined for the Hezbollah over the past five years. The remarks by Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel revealed for the first time the scale of the strikes, which are usually neither confirmed nor denied by the IAF.

The most famous Israeli strike in Syria took place almost exactly 10 years ago, on September 6, 2007, when IAF aircraft bombed a suspected nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fray during the six-year-long civil war in neighboring Syria, but has repeatedly said it will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapons.

In May, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the IDF only carries out raids in Syria for three reasons: when Israel comes under fire, to prevent arms transfers, and to avert a “ticking timebomb,” namely to thwart imminent terror attacks on Israel by groups on its borders.

Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 rockets on Israeli communities during its latest war with Israel in 2006. Since Tuesday, tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers have been staging a mock 10-day war against Hezbollah in northern Israel, marking the IDF’s largest exercise in nearly 20 years, the army announced Monday, amid tensions over growing Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon.  (the Times of Israel)

Ex-IDF intel chief: Israel enforcing its ‘red lines’ with Syria strike

Amos Yadlin says reported attack on chemical weapons and missile facility sends important messages to ‘great powers’; warns of retaliation

By Stuart Winer    The Times of Israel

https://www.timesofisrael.com/ex-idf-intel-chief-israel-enforcing-its-red-lines-with-syria-strike/

A former head of Israeli military intelligence said Thursday that an overnight airstrike on a Syrian chemical weapons facility that was attributed to Israel sends a message to world powers that the country intends to enforce its red lines when it comes to protecting itself.

General (res) Amos Yadlin tweeted that the facility in Masyaf hit overnight had also produced barrel bombs that were dropped on Syrian civilians, adding a moral justification to the airstrike that wasn’t directly related to Israel’s own security interests.

The Syrian army confirmed in the morning that a military site near Masyaf was bombed, saying the attack was carried out by Israeli jets with missiles fired from Lebanon, and killed two people.

Opposition sources quoted by Israel Radio said the airstrike destroyed weapons stores including chemical-tipped missiles that were to be delivered to Hezbollah.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on any of the reports.

Yadlin, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, wrote in a series of tweets that the airstrike was “not routine.”

“It targeted a Syrian military-scientific center for the development and manufacture of, among other things, precision missiles which will have a significant role in the next round of conflict,” he said.

“The attack sent three important messages,” Yadlin continued. That “Israel won’t allow for empowerment and production of strategic arms,” that “Israel intends to enforce its red lines, despite the fact that the great powers are ignoring them,” and that “the presence of Russian air defense does not prevent airstrikes attributed to Israel.”

Yadlin was apparently referring to the presence of Russian made-and-operated S-400 anti-aircraft missiles stationed at a Syrian airbase in Latakia among the military forces and hardware Moscow sent to help the Damascus regime beat back a six-year-long insurgency. Israeli officials have raised concerns that the system, considered one of the best in the world, could hamper air operations against Hezbollah targets. Israel reportedly has a line of communication with Russia to prevent the two countries’ forces from accidentally attacking each other. Still, according to Hebrew media reports, there have been at least two incidents in which Israel Air Force jets were fired on by Russian forces.

“Now it’s important to keep the escalation in check and to prepare for a Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah response and even opposition from Russia,” Yadlin advised.

The Syrian army threatened Thursday that there would be “serious consequences” to the attack, which it claimed was “a desperate attempt to raise the collapsed morale” of the Islamic State group, “after the sweeping victories achieved by the Syrian Arab Army,” and affirmed Israel’s “direct support” for IS and “other terrorist organizations.”

The target in Syria was apparently a Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) facility near Masyaf, which is in the northern Hama region. CERS is a Syrian government agency that Western officials have long associated with the production of chemical weapons.

 

“The factory that was targeted in Masyaf produces the chemical weapons and barrel bombs that have killed thousands of Syrian civilians,” Yadlin wrote. “If the attack was conducted by Israel, it would be a commendable and moral action by Israel against the slaughter in Syria.”

Rights groups have repeatedly condemned the Syrian regime’s use of barrel bombs — large containers of explosives that are pushed out of helicopters on alleged rebel targets. The bombs are often dropped on populated areas, causing mass causalities among the civilian population, rights groups say.

Israel has for years been widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fray in neighboring Syria, but has repeatedly said it will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapons.

In May, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the IDF only carries out raids in Syria for three reasons: when Israel comes under fire, to prevent arms transfers, and to avert a “ticking timebomb,” namely to thwart imminent terror attacks on Israel by groups on its borders.

Rivlin inaugurates Munich memorial, raps Palestinians for lauding massacre

At memorial unveiling 45 years after 11 Israelis killed in terror attack at the Olympics, president says Israel ‘still waiting’ for minute of silence at the Games

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday attended the inauguration in Munich of a memorial to the victims of the massacre there at the Olympic Games 45 years ago, and castigated the Palestinian Authority for its continued expressions of support for the terror act, which left 11 Israeli Olympians dead.

During the September 1972 attack on the Munich Olympic Village by the Black September Palestinian terror group, 11 Israelis were taken hostage. Two were murdered in the Olympic village and nine others were executed at the airport. A German policeman was killed in a shootout with the terrorists during a botched rescue attempt.

“There are still those who see in the murder of sportsmen a heroic deed,” Rivlin said, before singling out the party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “Just last year, Fatah marked the massacre of the sportsmen as an ‘act of heroism.’

“The center we are inaugurating today must be a message to the whole world: There can be no apologizing for terrorism. Terror must be unequivocally condemned everywhere. In Barcelona, in London, in Paris, in Berlin, in Jerusalem, and everywhere else.”

The president, attending the inauguration with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and victims’ relatives, also said that having waited 45 years for the memorial, Israel is still waiting for another historical injustice to be rectified, and for a minute’s silence to be observed at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games to remember Israel’s dead.

“Our brothers who were murdered were not just the State of Israel’s sons,” Rivlin said. “They were the Olympic family’s sons. A family which for many years abandoned its commitment to them.

 

“’The games must go on’ — so said at the time the President of the Olympic Committee, in a sentence which will be remembered eternally as a disgrace,” he noted.

“For 45 years – almost half a century – the victims’ families, and the State of Israel looked expectantly for this moment: the inauguration of a center of remembrance and a memorial in the Olympic Village.”

In his speech, Steinmeier acknowledged that Germany was unprepared for the attack, even though international terrorism was not a new phenomenon at the time.

“It should have never been allowed to happen,” he said. “Until today, we carry a heavy burden regarding this catastrophe. And this better recognition is part of the commemoration of this day — and I think it’s overdue, and we owe it you, dear family members.”

Steinmeier then turned to the present, noting that there are still people who preach anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

“In Germany, our way of life includes inseparably a commitment to our history, a commitment to the history of the Holocaust, the responsibility for Israel’s security that grows out of it, and the rejection of any form of anti-Semitism.”

The International Olympic Committee first commemorated the victims of the Munich massacre at the Rio Olympic Village in August 2016.

To date, IOC officials have maintained that a minute of silence would politicize the Games, compromising “collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family.”

The memorial is the result of a decades-long campaign by relatives of the massacre victims for a permanent memorial to the athletes.

It occupies a large exhibition area and is carved into a grass mound, creating the effect of an open wound. A triangular column in the center of the memorial displays the biographies and photos of those killed on panels with texts in German, Hebrew, and English. A large LED screen plays a 27-minute loop of news footage broadcast during the events of 1972.

The memorial cost 2.35 million euros ($2.8 million). Funding came primarily from the State of Bavaria, the German federal government, the City of Munich and the International Olympic Committee.

A “school of democracy” will eventually be located in the tower at the Fürstenfeldbruck airport, the site of the fatally botched rescue attempt.

Ankie Spitzer, who was 26-years-old when she lost her husband, the coach and fencing master Andre Spitzer, in the attack, was also on hand.

She told the Deutschlandfunk radio station ahead of the ceremony that she could not deal with the fact that her loving husband had been brutally murdered and “no one regretted it. It took 45 years, but I don’t regret the long and lonely journey that brought us to this day. This is what I wanted.”  (the Times of Israel)

Middle East Expert: In ‘Inevitable’ Next War With Hezbollah, Israel Will Have to Cope With Tunnel Threat, Like in Last Gaza Conflict

 

A future war between Israel and Hezbollah is “not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” a Middle East expert and former Pentagon official said on Wednesday.

Referring to the massive drill the IDF is currently conducting near the Lebanon border, David Schenker — now the Aufzien fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank — said, “The Israelis are preparing for what everyone believes is the inevitable. Large-scale IDF exercises are important, not only to train for this inevitability, but to send a clear signal that Israel is ready this time. In 2006, based on the results of the war, Israel was not adequately prepared.”

However, Schenker pointed out, “neither Hezbollah nor Israel are enthusiastic for the next round.  Both sides understand the costs, both in terms of blood and treasure, will be enormous. Alas, after the war ends in Syria, the pressure on Hezbollah to return to its mission of ‘resistance’ will be significant. And with so many superfluous young militiamen/terrorists with nothing to do in Lebanon, it will likely be just a matter of time until Hezbollah once again starts probing and provoking Israel. At that point, the slightest miscalculation, like last time, could again spark a war.”

In such a conflict, the IDF — like it did during the last Gaza war in 2014 — will likely have to cope with the threat posed by underground tunnels, Schenker noted.

“In the aftermath of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, the scale of Hezbollah’s tunneling capability became apparent,” he said. “During the conflagration, Israel destroyed several large tunnel systems, complete with ventilation, plumbing, and reinforced concrete ceilings, which stretched miles. One of these tunnels was built within 100 yards of the border and Israeli and UNIFIL observation towers, essentially, right under Israel’s nose. So Hezbollah has a high degree of capability and will.”

“It’s unclear how this compares to Hamas’ capabilities [in the Gaza Strip],” he continued. “To be sure, though, Hezbollah is a valued strategic asset of Tehran, which has undoubtedly transferred its own cutting-edge technology and equipment to the organization.”

In Schenker’s view, the changes made recently by the Security Council to the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon — UNIFIL — marked a “symbolic win for Israel and the international community,” but were “unlikely to change anything on the ground.”

“UNIFIL already had all the authorities it required to search for weapons in south Lebanon,” he explained. “It has not done so in a sustained manner. And on the few incidences when it did, these UNIFIL forces — specifically, the Spanish contingent — were attacked, almost certainly by Hezbollah.”

“There is a real disincentive for being aggressive in carrying out the UN mandate,” Schenker went on to say. “Of course, neither the government of Lebanon, nor the Lebanese Armed Forces, have ever adhered to their own responsibilities on this front mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”  (the Algemeiner)

‘Israel is standing with you’: Israeli Embassy helps Harvey victims cope

While experiencing a power outage themselves on Tuesday, Israeli Embassy officials in Washington packed up aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, where catastrophic flooding left 300,000 people without electricity and 30,000 displaced from their homes.

 

The embassy maxed out purchasing cleaning products and packing materials at Costco after asking IsraAid, an Israel- based disaster relief organization, what Texans need most.

“We arranged for a large shipment of aid weighing several tons,” said Itai Bardov, spokesman for the embassy who helped pack the truck.

“The message to the people of Texas is that Israel stands with you.”

The embassy partnered with ‘Movers 495,’ an American-Israeli co-owned moving company, to make the shipment, with support from the Foreign Ministry.

A box packaged by the Embassy of Israel in Washington following Hurricane Harvey

The Houston consulate will continue to distribute aid from the city itself, Bardov said.

Harvey was the wettest hurricane ever to make landfall in the US and was one of the costliest storms the nation has ever endured. Reconstruction of Houston and the surrounding area will take several years.

And just as Congress prepares to debate a recovery package for Harvey, a new storm named Irma – the strongest recorded in the Atlantic Ocean in decades – is tracking toward Florida.

Meanwhile, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry last week pledged $1 million to Houston’s Jewish community. The money will go to rebuilding the city’s synagogues, schools and community centers damaged by the historic flood.

“The Jewish state is measured by its response when our brothers around the world are in crisis,” Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement released last week. (Jerusalem Post)

“Start Up Nation” Creates Miracles, Eliminates Parkinson’s Tremors Painlessly

“It’s a joy to be able to use chopsticks again….or simply hold a fork, write a legible sentence, apply make-up in less than a half-hour, or just hold the paper on which my sermon is written, without it shaking wildly,” said Rabbi Yocheved Mintz.

Some medical miracles you can see. Others you cannot. Rabbi Yocheved Mintz thought her hand would never stop trembling because of her Parkinson’s diagnosis, but that all changed during her recent trip to Israel.

This remarkable turn of events is the result of an exciting collaboration between Israeli doctors and engineers. Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa is the first hospital to partner with medical device developer Insightec to improve its MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound treatment for individuals with severe neurological disorders. With tremendous success, Rambam has treated 62 patients to date with Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Tremor, both at home and abroad, with MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound.

With no operating room, no incisions, and no pain, Rambam is among the few international facilities offering this completely noninvasive technique. As the leading location for the procedure, Rambam treats tremors of moderate to high severity, drastically improving a person’s quality of life, including the ability to eat, drink, write, and complete any activity that requires controlled, accurate movement. Without this treatment, tremors may heighten on one side of the body, and over time may worsen, resulting in severe disability.

Yocheved Mintz

Many patients with significant tremors that are unresponsive to medication can now consider Rambam their go-to solution. This procedure only requires a few hours, but can last a lifetime, producing significant and immediate relief from the tremor. Using high-intensity ultrasound waves, doctors can precisely target the diseased area of the brain, preserving all healthy surrounding tissue.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to accurately direct the ultrasound waves to the specific site in the brain where the tremor is initiated – hence the treatment name – MRI-Guided FUS. The doctor monitors the patient in real time and adapts treatment for optimal results.

“Our innovative physician-scientists integrate medicine, engineering and science to provide the fastest, safest results,” says Professor Rafi Beyar, Director and CEO of Rambam Health Care Campus. “Our holistic approach facilitates redemptive treatment for patients, restoring their hope.”      (Virtual Jerusalem)

Unprecedented 7,200-year-old vessel for food storage rituals found in Jordan Valley

A unique 7,200-year-old clay vessel recently unearthed in the Jordan Valley by researchers from Israel and Germany may represent the oldest evidence yet of ancient class structure as it relates to food storage rituals in the Near East.

The relic was discovered at the Tel Tsaf archeological site during digs overseen by Prof. Danny Rosenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa, and Dr. Florian Klimscha of the German Archeological Institute in Berlin.

Prof. Danny Rosenberg, of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, holds the ancient vessel

According to Rosenberg, the clay vessel provides unprecedented insights into ancient political and socioeconomic class structure among elites during a period that remains somewhat mysterious.

“Until now, discussions of the early transition to complex societies in this area have focused mainly on later periods, and on the connection between the development of socioeconomic elites and the ability of certain individuals or families to store large quantities of food – beyond their own needs – for survival,” Rosenberg said on Wednesday.

“In this context, the findings at Tel Tsaf provide firsthand evidence of the early connection between food storage on a large scale and the observance of a ritual associated with the successful storage and preservation of agricultural yields.” Located near the Jordan River, the Tel Tsaf site was first documented in the late 1940s.

It was subsequently excavated during the late 1970s, and later between 2004 and 2007.

Archeologists working at the Tel Tsaf excavation site near the Jordan River. (Courtesy of University of Haifa)Archeologists working at the Tel Tsaf excavation site near the Jordan River. (Courtesy of University of Haifa)

Since 2013, with the assistance of an international team of experts equipped with advanced scientific methodologies, Rosenberg and Klimscha have led a multidisciplinary project at the site, focusing on the area’s ancient economy and environment.

The rare findings unearthed at Tel Tsaf include numerous silos found in the courtyards of ancient buildings once used for large-scale grain storage.

The silos, the researchers said, are evidence of the storage of food on a scale not previously documented at sites from this period.

“The wish and ability to store food certainly constitutes an important step in the transition of humans to societies characterized by more complex social organization,” noted Klimscha. “It also seems that Tel Tsaf’s location, near a major water source such as the Jordan River is no coincidence, considering the site’s potential to accumulate such a large amount of crops.”

Rosenberg said that with the exception of the finds at Tel Tsaf, no evidence of mass-food storage between 7,500 and 6,500 years ago has been found in the region.

“The significance of storage for development of complex societies is evident by later testimonies from our own region,” he said, “but even more so from Mesopotamia and Egypt, where complex, pre-state and state-level societies emerged and engaged in the intensive storage of food as an essential condition for the development of a social hierarchy.”

Researchers have long debated the early emergence of societies characterized by social and economic elites, a phenomenon frequently associated with the Bronze Age, which in the Near East began around 5,300 years ago.

However, no evidence has previously been found illustrating that large-scale food storage in earlier societies was accompanied by social or ritual acts intended to ensure the successful storage and distribution of produce.

During the excavation season at Tel Tsaf two years ago, researchers found numerous pottery shards in a room situated in the center of a cluster of silos and cooking installations.

The fragments appeared to belong to a single vessel. After painstaking work, they managed to reassemble the pieces, and were surprised to find a unique miniature vessel with a height of around 20 centimeters and a small, window-like aperture on its side.

“All the pottery vessels we are familiar with from this period have an opening on the top, facing up, just like most pots and cups in any modern kitchen,” Rosenberg explained. “But this vessel is dome shaped, closed on the top, and covered with red-painted clay balls, whose significance is unclear to us.”

The researchers said they believe that the vessel is actually a model of the silos.

“This vessel is not ‘functional,’ and was found in a building that was used for intensive storage, on the floor in a room surrounded by numerous silos similar to those we are familiar with from archeological and ethnographic records from various parts of the world,” said Klimscha.

“We can hypothesize that this vessel was associated in some way with the silos, and particularly with the act of storage,” she continued. “From later evidence, we know that humans created vessels symbolizing larger storage structures; and, indeed, pottery vessels similar to this one – though larger – appear a few centuries later in [this] region, used for secondary burial.”

Rosenberg and Klimscha said the size and characteristics of the vessel – together with the archeological context in which it was found – reinforce their contention that it symbolized the silos and was probably used in a ritual setting, possibly as part of the ceremonies that preceded the placement of grains of wheat and barley in the silos, or their removal from storage.

The correlation between the growth of food storage capacity and the human cycle of life and death is well known to researchers from various sources, including later findings from the ancient Near East.

“Tel Tsaf offers a glimpse into a unique time capsule, with excellent preservation of organic remains and other archeological findings that reflect a thriving community practicing long-distance trade,” said Rosenberg.

“Putting together all these findings, the picture reveals an increasingly strong connection between ritual and intense food storage and consumption,” he added.

“We believe that the economic prosperity reflected by the astonishing findings from Tel Tsaf was accompanied by notable changes in the way the community of Tel Tsaf organized itself, and by rituals and ceremonies that were practiced in order to ensure that this prosperity will last.”

The miniature silo may be the best example yet of the connection between the desire to store large amounts of agricultural crops to gain social and economic advantage, and rituals intended to sustain and ensure economic prosperity, Rosenberg and Klimscha said. (Jerusalem Post)

The prisoner exchange imbroglio

by Isi Leibler                The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Candidly-Speaking-The-prisoner-exchange-imbroglio-504422

It has been reported that Israel is once again engaged in negotiations with Hamas on the issue of prisoner exchanges.

There is no certainty whether the three Israelis—Ethiopian born Avera Mengistu and the Bedouin captives Hisham al-Sayed and Jumaa Abu Ghanima—all of whom entered Gaza of their own accord and allegedly suffer from mental illness—are still alive. Hamas has refused to provide video documentation even though Israel had offered to release several Palestinian prisoners in return. Israel also seeks the remains of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul from Hamas in order to enable their families to have closure and give their loved ones an honorable burial.

Profoundly emotional factors are involved. It is an ancient Jewish tradition to prioritize pidyon shvuim—the redemption of captives. It reflects the compassion and humanity that has characterized the Jewish people over centuries of persecution and dispersion. The credo of the IDF is never to forsake its sons on the battlefield, which includes a moral and ethical obligation to do everything possible to bring home its soldiers—dead or alive.

The IDF is a citizens’ army; every parent identifies with the families of abducted soldiers and tends to support any compromise that will return them home.

Despite initial declarations not to capitulate to outrageous demands, the Israeli government has until now—in response to enormous public pressure—ultimately succumbed to Hamas blackmail. Since 1948, Israel has released over 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for 19 captive Israelis. In October 2011, with the support of 80% of the population, 1,027 terrorists—including the most vicious and barbaric serial murderers—were released in exchange for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel has suffered harrowing experiences in relation to previous exchanges and paid a heavy price for its grotesquely disproportionate concessions.

Many of those released returned to terrorism. One of them, Mahmoud Qawasmeh, financed and dispatched the murderers of the kidnapped three teenage boys in 2014. Another, Yahya Sinwar, is currently the fanatical leader of Hamas in Gaza, determined to “liberate” Palestine “from the river to the sea.”

In 2012, a committee formed by then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak, headed by former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, recommended the adoption of regulations designed to ensure that future hostage deals are not determined by public emotion and media hysteria, which led to grossly inequitable swaps with terrorists in previous exchanges. Regrettably, these recommendations remained just that and were never institutionalized as law by the Knesset. The argument was that if implemented, future Israeli captives would be killed immediately.

Paying any price is unsustainable, reduces Israel’s deterrent power and endangers national security. Israel, as a state under siege, cannot allow itself to be subjected to such extortion by terrorists. It is not applied in any other country.

It is not merely that Hamas is regarded as heroic for achieving such grotesquely distorted swaps. It provides our enemies with the evidence that kidnapped hostages are Israel’s Achilles’ heel and creates an incentive for further kidnappings. It enables them to demonstrate that terror is infinitely more effective than negotiations in achieving their objectives. It also creates an environment in which incarcerated terrorists remain optimistic that, ultimately, Israel will be forced to release them, at which time they will return as heroes rewarded with generous remuneration.

Their lust for our destruction is insatiable and continued capitulation to disproportionate demands will inevitably culminate in greater tragedies.

Before entering any negotiations, Hamas leader Sinwar is demanding release of all 60 prisoners still under arrest for reverting to terrorist activity since their release in the Shalit exchange. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has rightly refused, stressing that Israel must not repeat the mistake of releasing Palestinian murderers in return for captives held by Hamas. He emphasized that those released for Shalit set the tone for Hamas in Gaza and returned to their former terrorist activity.

The defense minister’s remarks were in response to a passionate plea from Simcha Goldin, father of Hadar Golding whose remains have been held by Hamas since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. To his credit, Goldin has rejected initiatives which would yield disproportionate concessions to Hamas. Rather, he accused Lieberman of being “weak” and “cowardly” in not having forced Hamas to return the bodies of the soldiers so that their families could bury them and have closure. Lieberman said he accepted Goldin’s criticism and pledged to do his utmost to retrieve the soldiers’ remains, but not if this were to undermine Israel’s security or result in the death of more Israelis.

Lieberman’s comments were made following the resignation of Israeli negotiator Lior Lotan, allegedly because he felt he was given insufficient room to maneuver. He subsequently complained about Israeli weakness in its approach.

There have been other suggestions. The very least we should do is mount a full global campaign calling on the United Nations and human rights organizations to assume their responsibility in a compassionate and equitable manner. Amnesty International, which invests massive resources applying double standards to continuously depict Israel as a rogue state but glosses over Hamas atrocities, was obliged to condemn the kidnappings, but beyond an initial statement, has failed to pursue the matter

Some suggest more radical measures. Lotan, the former negotiator, recommended that Israel turn the tables on Hamas by capturing or arresting 200 prominent Hamas activists for every Israeli held. Others suggest that Israel should cease returning the bodies of Hamas terrorists to their relatives as well as drastically downgrade the living conditions and restrict the conjugal rights of jailed Hamas terrorists. Some even urge that the siege on Gaza be significantly intensified.

Opponents claim that such steps would serve to alienate global public opinion and some military sources fear that they would spark a renewal of hostilities.

It is dangerous for armchair critics not in full command of the facts to make dogmatic recommendations.

One cannot argue with bereaved parents whose children were killed or captured, but that does not mean that one must agree to their demands if that will compromise the security of the people of Israel. We must remain conscious of the fact that with Hamas we are dealing with barbarians who have repeatedly reiterated their intention to initiate hostilities against us at a time of their choosing. If we announce our objectives to the world, public opinion—not counting the views of the bleeding hearts—is likely to side with us.

Admittedly, this is not an easy decision. Releasing another large group of murderers must be resisted—but merely making speeches is also unacceptable.

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt that “we will not allow significant development in the Gaza Strip … without securing the return of the missing IDF soldiers.”

So perhaps the decision-makers have come around to the view that the carrot-and-stick approach is worth trying.

The Forgotten Palestinians

by Khaled Abu Toameh              The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10941/forgotten-palestinians

Ayman Qawasmeh and Issa Amro would have been better off being arrested by Israeli authorities. Had that happened, their stories would have made it to the pages of major Western newspapers. CNN or NBC might have dedicated an entire program to their ordeal. Without a way for the Western media outlets to implicate Israel, however, their tale remains buried — along with their freedom.

The group also points out that it has documented some 472 cases of deaths consequent to torture in Syrian detention centers and prisons over the past few years.

Would anyone like to know about the true apartheid laws applied to Palestinians in different Arab countries? The information is readily available: all that needs to happen is for the Western media and the rest of the international community to reconsider their obsession with Israel and to start paying attention to the real Palestinian victims — those living in the Arab countries.

More than 1,600 Palestinians have gone missing in Syria, and hundreds have been killed, since the beginning of the civil war there. This is not the type of news that makes it to mainstream media in the West, however.

To catch the eyes of the international community and media, Palestinians need to live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip or Jerusalem. These are the lucky Palestinians whose stories (and plights) are regularly covered by the international media. Why? Mostly because these are the Palestinians whose stories are often linked, directly and indirectly, to Israel.

It is no secret that Western journalists and mainstream media outlets have developed an obsession with Israel. Everything that Israel does (or does not do) receives widespread coverage, especially if there is a way to blame Israel for inflicting suffering on the Palestinians.

When Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas imposed punitive measures against the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, denying them medicine, electricity and salaries, somehow the mainstream media finds a way to implicate Israel.

Abbas’s ongoing crackdown on the Palestinian media, including the arrest of journalists and Facebook users, is also apparently not newsworthy, in the view of the Western media. Who cares if Abbas blocks 30 news websites because of their criticism of his policies and actions? Who cares if Abbas just this week ordered the arrest of journalist Ayman Qawasmeh, the director of a private radio station in Hebron?

Qawasmeh was arrested shortly after he criticized Abbas and called on him and his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, to resign. Western journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dismiss these stories only, it seems, because they lack an anti-Israel angle.

As if the arrest of Qawasmeh were not enough, Abbas’s security forces later arrested Issa Amro, a Palestinian activist from Hebron, for speaking out against the arrest of the journalist. Amro was taken into custody after he published a Facebook post criticizing the Palestinian Authority security forces for arresting the journalist and stifling freedom of expression.

Qawasmeh and Amro would have been better off being arrested by Israeli authorities. Had that happened, their stories would have made it to the pages of major Western newspapers. CNN or NBC might have dedicated an entire program to their ordeal. Without a way for the Western media outlets to implicate Israel, however, their tale remains buried — along with their freedom.

The tragic tale of Palestinians in Syria exposes the double standard of the international media and community when it comes to covering the Middle East: when Israel is not involved, journalists are not involved.

What happens to Palestinians in Arab countries seems to be rather ho-hum to most of the world. So what if thousands of Palestinians have gone missing or have been killed? If an Arab state is involved, the media stays away.

The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria says that it has documented 1,632 cases of Palestinian detainees, including children and women, who have gone missing and remain unaccounted for in Syria. Among those missing are journalists, physicians, nurses and relief workers. The group says that the detainees have been subjected to “all forms of torture” in various detention centers and prisons in Syria.

The group also points out that it has documented some 472 cases of deaths consequent to torture in Syrian detention centers and prisons over the past few years. The actual numbers could be much higher, it says, in light of the secrecy and severe restrictions imposed by the Syrian authorities. Families are afraid to announce the death of their loved ones out of fear of retribution by the Syrian authorities.

In another report, the same group reveals that some 3,570 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, including 462 women. Meanwhile, the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus has been under siege by the Syrian army for more than 1510 days.

The Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria has been under siege by the Syrian army for more than 1510 days.

Another Palestinian refugee camp, Dara’a, has been without water supply for more than 1,247 days (Yarmouk has been without water for more than 1088 days). The report also discloses that more than 85,000 Palestinians have fled Syria to Europe by the end of 2016, while more than 60,000 have found refuge in Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

These horrific figures are the norm in the Arab world’s war-torn countries, where Arabs and Muslims have been displacing, torturing, and killing each other for many years. Disturbingly, the plight of Palestinians in Arab countries barely merits international attention. This silence has deadly consequences, and it is directly related to the disproportionate coverage the international media gives to Israel.

Consider: one Palestinian shot by an Israeli policeman or soldier is likely to get more coverage in the international media than thousands of Palestinians who are being illegally incarcerated and tortured to death in an Arab country.

Innumerable stories can be published about the way the Arab countries mistreat Palestinians — from denying them basic rights such as citizenship and equality to imprisoning and torturing them.

Would anyone like to know about the true apartheid laws applied to Palestinians in different Arab countries? The information is readily available: all that needs to happen is for the Western media and the rest of the international community to reconsider their obsession with Israel and to start paying attention to the real Palestinian victims — those living in the Arab countries.