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Latest News in Israel – 10th August

Gaza portrayed as idyllic paradise in new Hamas propaganda video

With an eye on October’s municipal elections in the Palestinian territories, the Hamas terror group has produced a slick video showing a supposedly prosperous Gaza Strip under its rule, featuring smiling people holding up signs with the hashtag “Thank you Hamas.”

Included in the video is an image of a metallic fist statue perched atop what appears to be an IDF armored vehicle. The fist clutches a replica of fallen soldier Oron Shaul’s dog tags. The tags bear Shaul’s army number — 6092065.

Shaul was killed in action during the 2014 Gaza war, and Hamas initially claimed it had captured him alive. He was subsequently pronounced dead by the IDF and Hamas has refused to return his body.

Gaza is widely reported to be a poverty-stricken territory constantly teetering on the verge of collapse. But the video paints a completely different picture, as the organization seeks to show Palestinians — in the West Bank as well as Gaza — its achievements since seizing power in the enclave in 2007.

A massive statue of a fist holding fallen IDF soldier Oren Shaul’s dogtags appears in a Hamas video showing the beautiful side of Gaza that was released on August 7, 2016

The video makes no mention of neighborhoods and homes destroyed in the 2014 war. Instead it shows life in Gaza to be almost idyllic, as it cuts between breathtaking views of beaches, parks, stores, municipal buildings and mosques. Smiling, seemingly happy people wave to the camera, living in what appears to be an oasis of green.

It also highlights functioning law enforcement, children on roller-blades, high-rise buildings and a vibrant nightlife. University graduates, football teams, ambulance staff, fishermen and families, meanwhile, all pledge their support for Hamas.

The Islamist group — considered a terror group by Israel and most Western governments — agreed last month with the rival Fatah movement to hold municipal elections in both Gaza and the West Bank in October, for the first time in 11 years.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since a bloody coup saw it oust PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah from the coastal territory in 2007. The terror group, which seeks to destroy Israel, has been a frequent critic of Fatah over the PA’s cooperation with Israel on security matters. PA security forces frequently arrest Hamas members in the West Bank, where Fatah is a dominant power fending off Hamas attempts to increase its influence.

According to local opinion polls and political experts, Hamas — which has been enjoying unusual popularity in the West Bank and remains well-supported in Gaza — is expected to make significant gains in the upcoming elections for local councils.                        (the Times of Israel)

Ex-Shin Bet chief: World ‘hideously naive’ about widespread diversion of aid to fund Hamas

The funneling of international aid to finance terror by Hamas and other violent Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip is widespread and the world is hideously naive as regards the scope of the problem, said Avi Dichter, a Likud MK who heads the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Dichter said that almost all of the United Nations aid workers in Gaza are members of Hamas, the terror group that seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction and has fought three wars against Israel in recent years.

Dichter was speaking after Muhammad Halabi, a Hamas member and manager of operations for the World Vision aid group in Gaza, was indicted last Thursday in a Beersheba court on a number of security-related charges for his alleged central role in the financing of the Hamas war machine with charity funds.

Halabi, a member of Hamas from a young age, was handpicked to infiltrate the international charity in 2005 in order to steal money for the terrorist organization, according to Israeli investigators. Tens of millions of dollars of the charity’s funds were diverted to Hamas and used to dig tunnels, buy weapons, and support other aspects of Hamas terror activities, Israel alleges. World Vision and Halabi have denied the allegations. Australia has ceased funding the charity while it investigates the matter.

“World Vision is only a small example,” Dichter said, declaring that other, similar organizations “know very well that they are funding Hamas.”

“The fact that the donating world, which is recruited to help refugees and the needy, doesn’t understand that its cash is being pumped for terror uses… it is a naive world to the point of being hideous.”

“When you look at groups like the UN and enlightened countries that, with well-established worldviews, fall into the trap set for them by Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” said Dichter, “it just is amazing to see the extent and power with which it plays out year after year after year.”

The UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency — the UN group that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees — employs 30,000 clerks for five million Palestinian refugees, he said. And “it is clear that the number of UNRWA clerks who are working for Hama is close to 100%.”

World Vision cast doubt Thursday on the accusations by Israel, insisting it conducts regular audits and evaluations to ensure financial aid in Gaza reaches those who need it most. Halabi denied “all these accusations,” his lawyer Mohammad Mahmoud said Sunday. On Monday, the charity said the numbers in Israel’s allegations didn’t add up.

Dichter also responded to questions about the manner in which the Israeli defense establishment was dealing with the renewed threat posed by terror tunnels dug by Hamas under the border from Gaza to enable attacks inside Israel.

“The state is investing enormous amounts of money to find solutions, both technological and engineering, for the problem,” he said. “There are advances, the efforts is being justified.” But, he said, Israel did not have a complete answer to the threat, and the danger of renewed attacks from the tunnels was emphatically still present.

An as yet unpublished state comptroller report into the 2014 conflict in Gaza allegedly faults Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and war leaders for not taking the tunnel threat seriously enough at the time. Hamas used the tunnels to launch several deadly attacks inside Israel during the two-month long war the IDF calls Operation Protective Edge.

“The threat is still there,” Dichter said. “Hamas is dedicating its heart and soul and all its resources to produce invasive tunnels.”

“It is a threat that the defense establishment, and the IDF in particular, see as a central threat in the Gaza arena. The efforts to deal with that threat are tremendous.”

As a result of those efforts, “Hamas will start to understand that it is digging for itself the biggest graveyard dug for terrorists,” he predicted.

Dichter also criticized a weekend statement from the Defense Ministry that likened last year’s US-backed international deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program with the 1938 Munich Agreement signed by the major European powers with Nazi Germany.

The row over the year-old deal, and the Defense Ministry’s bitter comparison to the Munich Agreement, flared after US President Barack Obama claimed Israeli security officials now back the Iran deal as IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot was visiting the US and as a senior Israeli official was also there to finalize a critical 10-year US military aid package for Israel.

Dichter noted that the Defense Ministry was the main beneficiary of the US aid package and that “it was a mistake to (criticize the Obama-backed deal by invoking Munich), and certainly a mistake in timing.”

Hebrew media reports Saturday also said it was not clear who had drafted the incendiary Defense Ministry statement, but that it had been approved by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

“Obama is in his last months,” Dichter said. “Anyone who thinks it is appropriate to criticize or in general to analyze the processes of the US president over the last eight years regarding Israel in particular and the Middle East in general should show restraint and wait until January.”

Dichter also backed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who last week called for the annexation to Israel of Ma’ale Adumim, a major West Bank settlement located to the east of Jerusalem.

“It is just a matter of time,” Dichter said. “It is not a question of if Ma’ale Adumin will become part of Israel, but rather when.”

Dichter said that previous peace negotiations between various Israeli governments and the Palestinians all worked on the assumption that Ma’ale Adumin will be part of the Israel.

“We even got the blessing of the Americans in one form or another over the years,” he claimed

Ma’ale Adumim’s size and location makes it particularly important for both Israelis and Palestinians. Many Israelis see the settlement, home to some 40,000, as a suburb of Jerusalem and important to the defense of the capital from the east, while Palestinians say its presence renders the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem almost impossible.                 (The Times of Israel)

IDF demolishes EU-funded Palestinian homes in South Hebron Hills

The IDF on Tuesday morning razed five unauthorized Palestinian modular structures in the South Hebron region of the West Bank, three of which had been funded by the European Union.

Israel has been under intense international pressure to halt such demolitions. But right-wing politicians have increasingly urged the government to take action to halt what they call a growing phenomenon of illegal Palestinian building.

The five structures in question were part of the village of Um al-Kheir, which is located next to the settlement of Carmel. Three of them were newly built, very close to the security fence around Carmel.

The non-governmental group B’Tselem, which has opposed such actions, released a video of the demolition, which showed the shovel of a crane taking down the structure within minutes as the villagers watched. (Demolition of illegal West Bank structures ‏

It said that 27 Palestinians, including 16 minors were left homeless.

The South Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yohai Damri said he was glad that the IDF was finally taking the issue seriously.

“I hope this is just the start of a trend that counters the lack of law enforcement, where the state of Israel turned a blind eye [effectively legalizing] such building,” Damri said.

On Sunday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked visited the South Hebron Hills to see the unauthorized Palestinian construction for herself.

“I saw on this trip a tremendous amount of illegal Palestinian building in Area C, with the help of foreign funding. We can’t allow for a double standard when it comes to building. It’s not clear to me how those who fight against Jewish building in Judea and Samaria are a leading force in illegal Palestinian building,” Shaked said.

Already on Monday the US condemned such activity.

“We are concerned by the accelerated rate of demolitions undertaken by Israeli authorities that continue in the West Bank as well as east Jerusalem,” State Department Press Office Director Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters in Washington at the daily briefing.            (Jerusalem Post)

Israel wins first Olympic medal since 2008

Israel won its first Olympic medal since 2008 on Tuesday after Yarden Gerbi claimed a bronze medal in the women’s under-63 kilogram judo competition at the Rio games.

She became the fourth Israeli judoka to take an Olympic medal, joining Yael Arad (silver medal – Barcelona 1992), Oren Smadja (bronze – Barcelona 1992) and Arik Ze’evi (bronze – Athens 2004). Israel’s four other medals came courtesy of Gal Fridman (bronze – Atlanta 1996, gold – Athens 2004), Michael Kolganov (bronze – Sydney 2000) and Shahar Zubari (bronze – Beijing 2008). Gerbi also became just the second Israeli woman to win a medal, joining Arad.

Gerbi received a bye into the second round on Tuesday where she faced Cuba’s Maricet Espinosa. She found herself in an early hole after Espinosa registered a yuko, the smallest score that can be awarded, with 3:25 minutes remaining. However, she bounced back and secured the win with 1:24 minutes left, pinning down Espinosa for 15 seconds, earning her an ippon, judo’s version of a knockout.

The quarterfinal against Brazil’s Mariana Silva began in a festive atmosphere, with the locals and the Israeli fans cheering their representatives. Gerbi needed to receive treatment with 2:20 to go after getting hit in her mouth and beginning to bleed.

With no score being registered in five minutes, the battle went into golden score in which the first judoka to get on the board wins. Gerbi thought she deserved at least a yuko on a couple of occasions, but the Australian referee questionably chose to ignore her attacks. After 1:58 minutes of golden score, Silva registered a yuko and progressed to the last four.

Gerbi recovered and beat China’s Junxia Yang in her first bout in the repechage before overcoming Japan’s Miku Tashiro in the battle for the bronze, registering a yuko and a waza-ari for a convincing win.

Yarden Garbi wins bronze for Israel. Zionist Federation of Australia is proud.

Yarden Garbi

Gerbi will receive a bonus of NIS 250,000 from the Olympic Committee of Israel. She was considered to be one of the delegation’s best medal hopes in Rio, but had experienced several near misses in recent major events. After claiming a gold medal at the 2013 Worlds and a silver in the event the following year, she ended last year’s edition, as well as this year’s European Championships, in fifth place, losing in the bouts for the bronze medal.

Elsewhere, Maayan Davidovich climbed up to fifth place in the women’s RS:X windsurfing competition on Tuesday. Davidovich ended the fourth race of the competition in 11th place, but finished the fifth in fourth and the sixth in third, taking her to a total of 35 points.

Flavia Tartaglini of Italy leads the competition with 24 points, with Davidovich a mere eight points from Stefaniya Elfutina of Russia in third place.

The windsurfers will enjoy a rest day on Wednesday before racing three more times on Thursday. There will be 12 races in total before the top 10 take part in the medal race on August 14 to determine final positions.

Also Tuesday, Dudi Sela, ranked at No. 65 in the world, lost to world No. 13 David Goffin of Belgium 6-3, 6-3.

Sela was the first Israeli man to participate in the singles event at the Olympics since Gilad Bloom in Barcelona 1992.

Meanwhile, teenage swimmer Ziv Kalontarov finished the men’s 100-meter freestyle heats in 45th place out of 59, registering a time of 50.65 seconds.                (Jerusalem Post)

Rivlin and Sharansky to aim for Jewish unity at pre-Tisha Be’Av conference

It is no secret that early in his presidency, President Reuven Rivlin offended the leaders of the Conservative and Reform movements.

Later, he tried to make up for it by saying that all Jews are brothers. Later still, together with the Jewish People’s Policy Institute and with the backing of Rabbi Benny Lau, with whom he has a very close relationship, Rivlin hosted a pre-Tisha Be’av conference last year at the President’s Residence.

In the interim he had met with the American leadership of the Conservative and Reform movements. The meetings had been cordial and of a reconciliatory nature, but Rivlin had refrained from endorsing their requests for equal status for all Jews from all streams of Judaism.

When Rivlin was in the United States last Hanukka, he participated in a function sponsored by the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York and attended by rabbis of different denominations. He said then that it was important for the State of Israel to show full respect and sensitivity to all American Jews. “It is important to remember that we are all one family,” he said.

Since then, Rivlin has continued to promote an ideal of Jewish unity. Toward this end, together with the Jewish People Policy Institute, he will once again host a pre-Tisha Be’av conference and study session with Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews.

A spokesperson for the president said haredi representatives had been invited to attend. The theme of the unity session is remembering the past and educating for the future.

The session will be opened by Rivlin and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who has been an outspoken advocate for accepting Reform and Conservative conversions, not to mention those of Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein.

Unless they are accepted, there is no way for non-Orthodox Jews to feel that Israel is their home, Sharansky has argued.

Other speakers on Thursday will include: Noam Dan, former head of Binah – the Jerusalem Secular Yeshiva’s pre-military academy; Rabbi Dalia Marx, PhD, associate professor of liturgy and midrash at Hebrew Union College; Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; and Rabbi Yermi Stavisky, principal at Himmelfarb High School.

The respondent will be Israel Prize laureate Eliezer Schweid, professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The event will be moderated by prize-winning journalist Shmuel Rosner, who is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute       (Jerusalem Post)

Elite undercover strike unit receives IDF Chief of Staff’s Decoration of Honor

The IDF undercover strike unit “Duvdevan” received the IDF Chief of Staff’s Decoration of Honor on Sunday. The unit has gone on hundreds of missions over the past year and is leading the fight against the Palestinian wave of terror.

The General Staff Committee on Decorations recommended the unit for the decoration in a move which was praised by the President of the Military Prosecutor’s Office.

The committee said that “the Duvdevan unit has been leading the ongoing fight on the West Bank front of the IDF Central Command over the past year, and carried out many complicated missions. The unit has taken part in hundreds of complex combat missions, the goals of which were to arrest wanted terrorists, prevent terror attacks, and attack terrorist infrastructure.”

Duvdevan. Zionist Federation of Australia supports Israel


They added that “an honorable mention should be awarded to the commanders and soldiers of the unit who have demonstrated devotion to maintaining their goals, bravery, striving for contact, and creativity in carrying out their tasks.”

Fighters in the elite unit of the IDF Central Command – which was incorporated into the new commando unit along with Egoz and Rimon – developed new fighting methods to defend against the current wave of terror which have intensified the fight and brought the unit deep inside Palestinian territory.

Amongst the operations carried out by the unit was the operation to arrest the murderers of the Hankin couple next to Nablus, arresting the murderers of Malachi Rosenfeld, Danny Gonen and Dafna Meir. They were also involved in assassinating the members of the terror cell who killed Micky Mark.   (Ynet News)

Saudi judoka forfeits Rio match, apparently to avoid Israeli

Saudi Arabian competitor Joud Fahmy forfeited her first-round judo match against Christianne Legentil from Mauritius at the Rio Olympic Games on Sunday, in what Hebrew media said was a maneuver to avoid facing Israeli judo fighter Gili Cohen in the next round.

The Saudi Olympic team tweeted that Fahmy had sustained injuries to her arm and leg during training and was advised by medical staff not to compete, the Hebrew language Ynet news site reported. According to Channel 2, Fahmy was not hurt, but simply dropped out to avoid competing against the Israeli judoka.

Cohen then lost to Legentil in a brief second-round bout later in the day.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel, though an ex-Saudi general led a delegation to Jerusalem two weeks ago, and met with Israeli officials and politicians, in the latest of a series of conciliatory moves. A former Israeli cabinet minister who met the visiting group said at the weekend that normal ties between the two countries might not be too far away.

Minutes before Cohen’s loss, Israeli judoka Golan Pollack was also eliminated, just over a minute into his opening match against Zambian Mathews Punza, in a major upset.

Punza managed to get the heavily favored Pollack on the floor and hold him there, clinching the requisite 100 points and moving to the next round.

The loss for Pollack continued Israel’s poor showing thus far in the Rio Games.     (The Times of Israel)

Pentagon Eyes US Iron Dome To Defend Forward-Based Forces

Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Raytheon, its US partner for Iron Dome production, are working to transform the combat-proven Israeli interceptor into a fully American system in defense of forward-deployed US forces.

Americanized versions of the Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptors are being offered under the Raytheon-trademarked SkyHunter brand for a US Army program aimed at defending against a spectrum of threats, from cruise missiles and UAVs to rockets, artillery and mortars.

The Israeli-designed Tamir interceptor has already been adapted for launch from the US Army’s developmental Multi-Missile Launcher (MML), part of the service’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 — Intercept (IFPC Inc 2-I) program.

In an April IFPC program test at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the MML-launched Tamir scored its first intercept on US soil against a target drone.

Israeli government and industry sources say half of US production funds funneled into Israel’s Iron Dome program in recent years is already going to Raytheon, which produces major components for the Rafael-designed Tamir interceptor in multiple facilities throughout the US.

If selected for the US Army’s IFPC Inc 2-I program, the Tamir would be upgraded to US standards, produced in the United States and rendered “100 percent Raytheon,” said Yosi Druker, head of Rafael’s Air Superiority Systems division.

“The minute that the US decides to procure Iron Dome, we will transfer all the knowledge and production file to Raytheon,” Druker said.

He noted that a Rafael-Raytheon teaming agreement governing prospective sales to the Pentagon calls for Rafael to become subcontractor to its US partner. “Under our agreement, we will produce 40 percent to Raytheon’s 60 percent, but the capabilities will be 100 percent Raytheon.”

Druker said Rafael is now in the process of providing through Raytheon detailed price and availability data to the US Army.

And while the Tamir/SkyHunter is just one of three interceptors under evaluation by the US Army, Druker said the low cost and proven track record of Iron Dome should give it a competitive leg up on other options still in development.

“It’s clear that according to price and capability and maturity of the system, Iron Dome has advantages,” the Israeli executive said.

John Patterson, public relations director for Raytheon Missile Systems, declined to comment on the issue, other than to note that Raytheon has “an excellent working relationship with Rafael.”

The firm has not yet publicized the planned SkyHunter, although the it has formally registered the system’s name and logo as its trademark. According to Raytheon’s description of the trademark, SkyHunter is “a ground-based missile interceptor system consisting of a guided missile with electro-optic sensors and adjustable steering fins for tracking and destroying incoming enemy rockets, missiles, artillery and mortars.”

A May 26 report from the service’s Army Test and Evaluation Command, published on the US Army’s website, said the fast-tracked IFPC Inc 2-I program is based around the service’s developmental MML and existing mission command and control, sensors and interceptors. It said the Army’s open network architecture aims to integrate “any sensor, best shooter and optimal interceptor” capabilities to address a variety of targets.

“Developmental programs tend to require several years to reach a point where they can begin engineering demonstrations similar to what the IFPC Inc 2-I program accomplished in less than one year,” the report noted.   (Defense News)

Is the Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg’s Death Finally Solved?

Newly published diaries of the first KGB chief state that the Swedish diplomat was liquidated on Stalin’s orders in a Soviet prison in 1947.

by Ofer Aderet              Ha’aretz


Sweden to declare Raoul Wallenberg dead 70 years after mysterious disappearance Excerpts of Himmler’s work diaries published in Germany Salvadoran savior of thousands of Jews during Holocaust honored by Germany The mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, has returned to the headlines with the recent publication of Soviet general and first KGB head Ivan Serov’s diaries — which may provide a solution to the affair.

Behind the diaries’ publication is Vera Serova, the KGB chairman’s only grandchild. Four years ago, Serova, a retired ballet dancer, wanted to renovate her grandfather’s Moscow dacha, which she inherited. The workmen found the journals in suitcases hidden inside the garage wall; they were disappointed that the treasure turned out not to be money or jewels but only papers. The book, “Notes From a Suitcase: Secret Diaries of the First KGB Chairman, Found Over 25 Years After His Death,” was published in Russia in June. “I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947,” the ex-head of the former Russian secret police and intelligence agency writes in his diaries. Wallenberg was killed in a Soviet prison and Serov quotes his predecessor, Viktor Abakumov, as saying the order to kill Wallenberg came from the top: Joseph Stalin and then-foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov.

What has been previously reported is that Wallenberg died in a Soviet prison in 1947. Now for the first time there is a record of a senior official with access to the relevant information saying he did not die a natural death, most likely from a heart attack or heart failure as the Soviet government had stated, but was murdered. And yet, it is still not clear why he was killed. Wallenberg, a Swedish businessman born in 1912, was sent by the Swedish Foreign Ministry as its special envoy to Budapest in the summer of 1944 with the goal of saving the approximately 230,000 remaining Jews from the gas chambers. By then, the Nazis had already deported over 400,000 Jews, almost all of them to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

To help the Jews survive, Wallenberg and fellow Swedish diplomat Per Anger issued thousands of “protective passports” identifying the owners as Swedish subjects and providing a certain amount of protection from deportation. They also rented 32 buildings in the city, which they declared Swedish diplomatic institutions and where they hid some 10,000 people. At a risk to his own life, Wallenberg himself rescued Jews from trains heading to the concentration camps. After the Russians had liberated Hungary from the Germans in May 1945, he was arrested by the Soviet forces — most likely because he was suspected of being a spy, either for the Germans or the United States.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem declared him a “Righteous Among the Nations” in 1963. Over the years, his disappearance at the hands of the Soviets made him one of the most famous “righteous gentiles” of World War II, as did the Russian refusal to clear up the circumstances of his disappearance and death. In 1957, the Soviets said he had died in prison due to heart problems 10 years earlier. In 1991, after the fall of communism and the Soviet Union, a joint Swedish and Russian inquiry commission was established to look into the matter. However, their report, published in 2000, did not provide any new information, claiming that all documents relating to Wallenberg had either disappeared or been intentionally altered. Serrov, who died of a heart attack in 1990 at age 84, wrote in his diaries that he had examined the Wallenberg file — the Soviets have always denied that such a file existed — and found evidence that Wallenberg’s body was cremated after his death, in the form of a document signed by two officials of the Lubyanka Prison in 1947 testifying to the cremation. Abakumov, a general and the minister of state security at the time, was arrested in 1951 and executed for treason in 1954. It seems Abakumov presumably said during his interrogation, when Serov was KGB chairman, that Stalin and Molotov had ordered Wallenberg’s death.

An article about the new book published last week in The New York Times quoted Russian historian Nikita Petrov, an expert on the Stalinist era and also on Serov, as saying the word “killed” has never appeared in any official Soviet document concerning Wallenberg. “They did not use this word,” Petrov stated. “They said it appears he was killed, but we know nothing about this, we don’t have any documents. In Serov’s diary, you can find this word as a fact.” The diaries were edited and condensed into a single 632-page volume, and its publication coincided with a small exhibition on Serov at the Russian Military-Historical Society. Serova told the Times that part of her goal was to restore her grandfather’s reputation. Wallenberg’s niece, Marie Dupuy, published a response on her website, “Searching for Raoul Wallenberg.” She called on the Russian Federal Security Service archives “to present this documentation, which has not been made available to us during previous investigations of the Wallenberg case.” But she called into doubt the reliability of some of what Serov had written, saying the original diaries must be “thoroughly evaluated.” “[Serov’s] notes include a number of factual errors which cast some doubt on the reliability of at least part of his recollections,” wrote Dupuy.

The “Anti-Normalization” Campaign and Israel’s Right to Exist

by Khaled Abu Toameh                   The Gatestone Institute


For many Arabs and Muslims, the conflict with Israel is not about a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. These opponents have no intention of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, even if it allows for the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

A leading cleric, Dr. Ali Daghi, Secretary-General of the International Muslim Scholars, wrote: “There is a consensus among Muslims, in the past and present, that if an Islamic land is occupied, then its inhabitants must declare jihad until it is liberated from the occupiers.”

“Anyone who calls for peace with the Zionists should be brought to trial for high treason. Normalization is treason.” — Ramzi Al-Harbi, Saudi writer.

Let us be clear: these are not fringe voices. This is mainstream Arab and Islamic society. What bothers them is not the “normalization” with the “Zionist entity,” but the fact that Israel exists. For the masses, jihad against Israel is the solution, not another peace initiative endorsed by unelected Arab dictatorships.

Arabs and Muslims are up in arms over a controversial visit to Israel by a retired Saudi general, Dr. Anwar Eshki, who is being accused of promoting “normalization with the Jews and the Zionist entity.” If “normalization” with Israel is being denounced as a major crime and sin, one can only imagine what “peace” with Israelis would be considered in the Arab and Islamic countries.

General Eshki and a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen met with Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj.-Gen. Yoav Moderchai and several Knesset members from the opposition. The Saudi delegation also travelled to Ramallah, where its members met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials.

The anger engendered by the unprecedented visit by the Saudi delegation to Israel shows that many Arabs and Muslims continue to believe that Israel has no right to exist despite the optimism voiced over the so-called Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

Several Arab and Muslim leaders insist that, according to this initiative, an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital would lead to the creation of “normal relations” between their countries and Israel.

However, the outrage the Saudi delegation’s visit to Israel has triggered throughout the Arab and Islamic countries points to one conclusion: that for many Arabs and Muslims, the conflict with Israel is not about a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. Nor is the conflict about Palestinian rights and “normal relations” between Israel and the Arab and Islamic countries.

Those opposed to the visit are expressing their feelings under the banner of “Anti-Normalization” with Israel. The existence of Israel on “Muslim-owned” land, however, is the real problem. These opponents have no intention of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, even if it withdraws to the pre-1967 lines and allows for the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. This, of course, stands in sharp contrast with the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, which many in the Western world mistakenly believe would put an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The first to express outrage over the visit were thousands of Saudis, including top Islamic clerics, who took to social media to express their poison and hatred for Israel and Jews. Many reminded their listeners of fatwas (Islamic religious decrees) banning any form of “normalization” with Israel and Jews, who are referred to as “infidels and polytheists.” The fatwas also forbid Muslims from giving up any part of “Muslim-owned” land to non-Muslims.

In Islam, if land has ever been under Muslim control, like southern Spain, el-Andalus, it must belong to Muslims to be as an endowment, or waqf, held in trust for Allah, in perpetuity. As the entire Middle East was under the control of the Muslim Ottoman Empire from 1259-1924, many Arabs and Muslims believe that the entire area belongs only to Islam, regardless of who may have lived there before.

Jews, who have lived continuously in Biblical Canaan and Judea for three thousand years, might well wonder how they can be accused of “occupying” their own land.

One of the leading clerics, Dr. Ali Daghi, Secretary-General of the International Muslim Scholars, wrote: “There is a consensus among Muslims, in the past and present, that if an Islamic land is occupied, then its inhabitants must declare jihad until it is liberated from the occupiers.”

Clearly the two-state solution is not the goal of this cleric and his friends. Nor are they interested in “Palestinian rights.” Rather Dr. Daghi is concerned about the “right” of Muslims to all the land, including those parts on which Israel exists today.

Another senior Saudi religious leader, Adel Al-Kalbani, the former imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, joined the “anti-normalization” campaign by declaring: “When we were young, they used to call them the Zionist enemy. For sixty years, this enemy has not changed. But we have changed!” The “change” he is talking about relates to those few Arabs and Muslims who are willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Saudi sheikh Esam Al-Zamel said, “The hatred for Israel and the Zionist enemy is inscribed in the hearts of our generation. We must inscribe these values and principles in the hearts of our children.”

Another Saudi citizen, Sultan Al-Jumeri, said, “Normalization and extending a hand to the Zionist entity must remain a disgrace and sin that will chase the perpetrators to their last day. This is a betrayal of the history, the land and the martyrs.”

Fahd Al-Shumri, also of Saudi Arabia, remarked, “Normalization means recognition of “Israel.” This will lead to another phase: relinquishing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and recognizing the Jews’ right to the land of Palestine.”

For his part, Hassan Al-Mutairi, a Saudi preacher, wondered, “Is there any Muslim who supports normalization with the Zionists? The stone and tree will remain witness to our enmity to the Jews.”

He is referring to a hadith (the words and actions of Mohammed), which is also a part of the Hamas Charter, that states:

“Judgment Day will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the rocks and the trees, but the rocks and the trees will say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him — except for the gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews.”

Some Saudi and Arab writers described the visit by the Saudi delegation as a “stab in the back” against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel. They urged the Saudi government to take immediate punitive measures against the former general and his delegation members, in order to deter others from committing such a “big crime” against Arabs and Muslims.

“Israel will remain our number one enemy in spite of the Zionists,” remarked Saudi writer Amal Zahid. Ramzi Al-Harbi, another writer from Saudi Arabia, commented, “Anyone who calls for peace with the Zionists should be brought to trial for high treason. Normalization is treason.”

Many Palestinians also joined the bandwagon by adding their incendiary and hateful remarks against the Saudis who visited Israel.

“We salute every Saudi who rejects normalization with the occupation,” said Palestinian political analyst Ibrahim Al-Madhoun.

Not surprisingly, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups also issued statements strongly condemning the visit of the Saudi delegation to Israel and calling for a ban on such trips. These groups even went as far as condemning a number of Palestinian Authority officials, such as Jibril Rajoub, for participating in the meetings between the Saudi delegation and Israeli officials.

The Palestinian “Resistance Committees,” a coalition of various Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip, denounced the visit as a “crime against Palestine and its people.” The groups described the visit as “shameful” and warned against attempts by some Arabs and Muslims to “accept the existence of the Zionist terrorist entity on the land of Palestine.”

The widespread campaign against the visit of the Saudi delegation to Israel is the direct result of decades of anti-Israel indoctrination in the Arab and Islamic countries, including the Palestinians. At the core of this campaign is the denial of Israel’s right to exist and a denial of any Jewish link to “Muslim-owned” land.

Let us be clear: these are not fringe voices. This is mainstream Arab and Islamic society. The Palestinians, too, have long been part of this campaign, promoting their own “anti-normalization” drive to prevent anyone from meeting with Israelis.

By allowing (and sometimes endorsing) such campaigns, the Palestinian Authority is shooting itself in the head. Each time a PA official, including President Mahmoud Abbas, meets with Israelis, a large group of Palestinian “anti-normalization” activists react by denouncing the encounters and calling for a total boycott of Israel.

The anti-Israel BDS movement provides an inspiration to these haters. As far as the enemies of Israel are concerned, the campaign should not be only about boycotts, divestment and sanctions. As the fury over the visit to Israel clearly shows, what bothers them is not the “normalization” with the “Zionist entity,” but the fact that Israel exists.

The world can continue talking about the Arab Peace Initiative for as long as it wants. The facts on the ground show that the Arab and Muslim masses continue to see Israel as an alien body that was forcibly planted on “Muslim-owned” land. For the masses, jihad against Israel is the solution, not another peace initiative endorsed by unelected Arab dictatorships.

Great Video Clip about Israel with Music by Matisyahu