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Latest News in Israel – 6th January

Netanyahu calls to pardon Elor Azaria after Hebron manslaughter conviction

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized the manslaughter conviction handed down to Elor Azaria as a “difficult and painful day for all of us.”

In a statement released some eight hours after the conviction – long after many other politicians had already reacted – Netanyahu said it was painful “first and foremost for Elor and his family, IDF soldiers, and many citizens and parents of our soldiers, myself included.”

Netanyahu said he supported a pardon for the soldier.

“I call on all citizens to behave responsibly toward the IDF, its officers and the chief of staff,” he said. “We have one army which is the foundation of our existence.

The IDF soldiers are the sons and daughters of all of us, and they must remain above all disagreements.”

Netanyahu has come under criticism over the last nine months for various comments made on this issue, initially criticizing the soldier, but later calling the family to express support.

Immediately after the incident, Netanyahu issued a statement that “the IDF expects its soldiers to behave with composure and in accordance with the rules of engagement,” adding that the incident in Hebron does not “represent the values of the IDF.” Two days later he wrote a Facebook post saying, “The IDF is a moral army that does not execute people. IDF soldiers have absorbed with their bodies the terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens and deserve support.” He said he trusted that the IDF would conduct a thorough and fair investigation “as it always does.”

Nevertheless, he called Azaria’s father shortly afterward. Months later he defended that phone call, saying he told Azaria’s father to have faith in the army.

“You know what I told him? Word for word: Place your trust in the IDF, in the chief of staff, in our commanders and soldiers and our justice system,” Netanyahu said. He went on to compare Azaria’s parents to those of soldiers who die or go missing in combat, a statement for which he later apologized, following a public outcry.

In April, Netanyahu said, “Our soldiers are not murderers. They act against murderers, and I hope that the way will be found to balance between the action and the overall context of the incident.”

The next day he said that he was certain that the military court would take into account all the circumstances surrounding the incident.

“As a father of a soldier and the prime minister, I want to say again that the IDF backs up its soldiers,” he said. “In my familiarity with the military justice system, I am convinced that the court will consider all circumstances regarding the incident.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Liberman: I don’t like the verdict, but we must respect it

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday urged the Israeli public to “accept and respect” a military court’s conviction of IDF soldier Elor Azaria for manslaughter in the killing of a disarmed Palestinian stabber in Hebron, but also said that he didn’t like the verdict and that the defense establishment would help Azaria and his family “in any way it can.”

Liberman, when still an opposition MK last March, argued against Azaria being charged and predicted that he would be acquitted.

Speaking at the court minutes after Azaria was convicted in a unanimous decision in which the judges determined that the shooting last March was unjustified and that Azaria had opened fire on the prone assailant because he believed that “terrorists deserve to die,” Liberman declared, “A verdict has been delivered. Even those, like myself, who like the verdict less, must accept and respect it.”

He called the conviction “very difficult,” but said there was a need to read the judges’ lengthy verdict carefully, and “count to three,” before expressing further opinions.

Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, sits in the courtroom before the announcement of his verdict at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Liberman said the criticisms of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, and of the army in general, “have to stop” and that “the army must emerge strengthened from this” and must retain the widest possible consensual support.

Eisenkot on Tuesday rejected claims by Azaria’s supporters that he should be seen as a child whom the nation is committed to protecting. “An 18-year-old man serving in the army is not ‘everyone’s child,’” Eisenkot said. “He is a fighter, a soldier, who must dedicate his life to carry out the tasks we give him. We cannot be confused about this.”  (the Times of Israel)

‘Hamas, Islamic Jihad currently deterred from fighting Israel’

Not only Hamas, but even Islamic Jihad is currently deterred from fighting with the Israeli military, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon told an IDC-ICT Herzliya conference Monday night.

Ya’alon said that the beating which the IDF gave Gaza in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge had successfully brought “complete quiet” to the Palestinian enclave, despite small groups of Salafists and ISIS wannabees that occasionally fired rockets into open fields to show their frustration with Hamas.

He made the comments as part of a conference on the future threats Israel faces and in honor of Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch’s new book Defensive Shield.

Emphasizing the IDF’s power relative to its adversaries, he said, “we could have ended the [2014 Gaza] war in eight days” as opposed to the 50 days it took. However, he did not divulge further into why the government did not try to end the war sooner.

The former defense minister had some other optimistic comments, stating that the Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian borders are all relatively quiet and that threats from jihadists in the Sinai also do not rise beyond a certain threshold.

Even as Ya’alon signaled optimism in those areas, his comments about US President-elect Donald Trump, ISIS and “the main enemy” of Iran were much more sober.

Pointing at the possibility that US policy on the Middle East may change after Trump takes office on January 20, Ya’alon  stated  that  “In recent years, the current American government decided to be very passive and to disengage from the Middle East.”

“We do not have the same interests as everyone. Everyone views ISIS as an enemy. For us, Iran is still the central enemy and suddenly it changed to part of the solution for the US,” he said, arguing that Iran is exploiting the current situation to “acquire hegemonic power in the region.”

While unsure that Trump would view US interests as identical to Israeli interests, he did express hope that Trump would take a stronger stance than the outgoing Obama administration at pressing Iran to reduce its sponsorship of terror.

After Ya’alon’s remarks, the former deputy head of the Mossad and current Strategic Affairs Ministry Director-General Ram Ben Barak discussed challenges faced by intelligence agencies, saying that “in the age of social media” they “cannot go back to what was and must switch disks” and their mentality.

Despite challenges faced by intelligence agencies, he said that “we know how to use covert operations very well. I won’t specify, but we know how to stop [enemy] countries from achieving things they want to achieve.” He comments were in line with standard code language many officials use for Israeli attacks on weapons transfer in Syria, which Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has confirmed.

Discussing future scenarios, the former deputy spy chief said, “let’s say you want to destroy a [nuclear program] core. You can send aircraft and bomb the core which will be destroyed, but that is almost like declaring war. Or you could also do it with commandos, destroy it just the same…no one sees them go in or out and no one declares war.”

Continuing to praise the use of special operations on the ground, he said, “we need to invest more funds in special operations units, even if it means fewer aircraft or tanks. There is no choice in light of what is happening in the region…there should be more covert operations.”

IDC Lauder School Dean Boaz Ganor partially agreed with Ben Barak, but said that there needs to be an “integration” of airpower and covert operations to address the region’s newest threats.

Pointing to defeating ISIS as an example, he said that the US could not defeat ISIS because it “refused to put boots on the ground” and was very strict about avoiding collateral damage to civilians when targeting ISIS in urban areas. Emphasizing the importance of special operations, he said, “if you won’t put boots on the ground, then at least sandals,” noting “when you fight with a terror group in civilian areas, you cannot be decisive without boots on ground.”

Regarding airpower he said, “Who won the war? It was Russia, who…used massive power” without worrying about collateral damage in a way “the US would not do.”

Ganor advised the US and the West to “raise the intensity of air strikes” even if that “raised the amount of collateral damage” provided international law was still not violated – implying that the Obama administration’s standard for avoiding civilian casualties has been stricter than the international law standard.

Also addressing the conference were Hirsch, whose book covers his decades as a special forces commander, Brig.-Gen. (res.) and former Prime Minister’s Office Counter-Terrorism Bureau Director Nitzan Nuriel, Maj.-Gen. (res.) and MK Eyal Reuven (Zionist Union.)  (Jerusalem Post)

IDF major critically hurt in 2014 Gaza war dies after 2.5-year coma

Major Hagai Ben Ari, who was severely injured by sniper fire in Operation Protective Edge, passed away late Tuesday evening.

Ben Ari, who was 31-years-old when he was inured, was serving as the commander of training in the elite Maglan unit.

The injury occurred on July 21, 2014 during the IDF’s ground operation in Gaza.

Ben Ari was hospitalized in a coma and was later brought to his home in the Golan Heights community of Nov, where he died.

IDF Major Ben Ari

IDF Major Ben Ari

He is survived by his wife and three children.

Speaking to Army Radio, Hagai’s brother, Noam Ben Ari stated, “We are experiencing great pain, though we know that he is no longer suffering, the injury was so severe.”

“These past two and a half years have been a battle for his life,” Noam continued, stating that it took him some time to understand just how seriously his brother had been injured.

Following his injury, Ben Ari was named a symbolic commander of the Elite Paratroopers Reconnaissance Unit.

Before his injury he had been set to be promoted to the position.  (Jerusalem Post)

Esteemed Israeli archeologist censured at Temple Mount

One of the nation’s most vaunted archeologists said he is not daunted by an incident on the Temple Mount Sunday where he was rebuked by a Muslim Wakf guard and police officer for referring to Judaism’s holiest site as the “Temple Mount” during a tour on the compound with US college students.

Jerusalem Prize winner and Temple Mount Sifting Project cofounder Dr. Gabriel Barkay said he was guiding an interfaith group of 22 undergraduates from UCLA when he was interrupted by an Arab guard for making the seemingly innocuous reference.

“I was lecturing about the history of the Temple Mount to the students, some of whom were Muslim and Christian, and one of the Wakf guards tried to listen to my explanations, and when he heard the words ‘Temple Mount,’ he got upset,” Barkay said.

The guard then consulted with nearby police officers stationed on the compound, who told Barkay to cease using the term for the duration of the visit.

“The policeman told me he had to accept the complaint, so I used the letters ‘TM’ going forward to describe the site,” he said. “We stayed up there from 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. and didn’t have any other problems. The whole thing is ridiculous.”

Indeed, noting that “Temple Mount” and “Solomon’s Temple” appear frequently in Islamic literature, Barkay dismissed the episode as “stupidity.”

“Temple denial has become so ridiculous that it actually helps the Israeli cause,” Barkay said.

The incident comes after UNESCO ruled in October that the Temple Mount has no connection to Jewish history.

Asked how the students had reacted, Barkay said: “They began to understand the delicacy of one of the most contested places on earth.” The Muslim students, including one woman who wore a hijab, did not object to his historically correct terminology, he added.

Police did not comment on the matter.

Sunday’s incident, reported by The Times of Israel, was not the first time Barkay, who visits the site roughly every six weeks, has found trouble on the compound.

“I’ve had all kinds of issues before, including violence,” he said, noting that he was physically and verbally attacked by Arabs there several months ago, and routinely faced harassment before the government banned the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel from the site in 2015.

Nonetheless, Barkay said he will continue to visit the holy site.

“I am not deterred by this at all,” he said.

Over a year ago, Barkay said that “the Temple Mount is the most delicate and the most important archeological site in this country, and it was never ever excavated – because of politics.”

As a result, Barkay said, the historic plateau where the First and Second Temples once stood has become a “black hole in the history of Jerusalem.”

“Jerusalem may be the most excavated place on earth, but the most important place in Jerusalem is totally unknown,” he said.

Although Israel technically regained sovereignty over the Temple Mount after reunifying Jerusalem during the Six Day War, the government’s concession to allow the Jordanian government to oversee the coveted holy site has resulted in what Barkay termed a “catastrophe.”  (Jerusalem Post)

PA media shows Israelis killing Santa Claus

pmw1-2

Cartoon from official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 28, 2016. Israeli soldier: “He tried to carry out a stabbing operation.” (PMW)

Israeli soldiers killed Santa Claus and then falsely accused him of trying to stab Israelis, according to a cartoon published in the official daily newspaper of the Palestinian Authority.

The cartoon, published on December 28 in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, shows a bleeding Santa who has just been shot by an Israeli soldier. The caption reads “He tried to carry out a stabbing operation.”

Santa is propped up against the security wall, with the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre shown in the background. Presumably Santa was trying to cross one of the checkpoints into Jerusalem before he was shot.

Another cartoon published in the same paper on December 26 showed Santa being accosted by two Israeli soldiers with Stars of David on their helmets. Santa is held at gunpoint at a checkpoint while the second soldier is holding a knife, presumably about to plant it next to Santa to fabricate a stabbing attack in order to create a pretext to murder him.

pmw21

Cartoon from official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 26, 2016 (PMW)

These cartoons repeat the belief widely held by Palestinians and repeated across their media that Israeli soldiers murder Palestinians and then plant knives next to them to provide a pretext for the killing.

Israelis accuse the PA media of inciting violence through rhetoric and cartoons such as these.

Just two days after the second cartoon was published, a Palestinian woman attempted to stab a soldier at the Qalandiya checkpoint and was lightly wounded after being shot in the leg by Israeli security forces.

That was just the latest of a series of attempted stabbings at the Qalandiya checkpoint, a major crossing point between Jerusalem and the Qalandiya refugee camp north of the capital.

While Fatah officials, including the head of the party, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, have denounced anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish imagery appears often in the party’s official media.

This is not the first time that Christian imagery and narrative has been used by the PA to show alleged Israeli oppression.

Three years ago Abbas published a lengthy Christmas greeting, calling Jesus “a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world.”

Although he reiterated his commitment to the peace negotiations with Israel, he expressed harsh criticism of Israeli policies, including an accusation that Jerusalem is responsible for the plight of Christians in the Holy Land.

“We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation,” Abbas wrote. “This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland.”

Ironically, although the Palestinian Authority uses Christian imagery of Santa and Jesus to attack Israel, the number of Christians in the West Bank has fallen dramatically since the PA took control of the area. (the Times of Israel and Palestine Media Watch (PMW) )

Surly Obama makes a fine mess

by  Greg Sheridan   The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/greg-sheridan/un-resolution-on-israel-obama-compounds-middle-east-mess/news-story/f0d68088cfff3ffb619e3956038d9f6c

The sheer irresponsibility and multiple counterproductive consequences of the outburst of anti-Israel actions from US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in their last days in office have been shrewdly captured by one of the world’s great journalists.

In a 1936 essay called The Stup­idest Thing, GK Chesterton prefigured Obama perfectly: “Any man at any moment may do a stupid thing. It is the rare privilege only of a gifted few to do about six stupid things at once. It is reserved for really fine farcical heroes, like the heroes of the superhuman farces of PG Wodehouse; the sort of stories in which a man throws away a lighted cigar, which at one and the same moment sets fire to his father’s most favourable will, spoils his fiancee’s beauty, breaks the vase he might have sold for a thousand, sets the hotel on fire involving damages in millions and singes his sister’s dog, so that it yelps and bites her wealthy suitor in the leg.”

At the fag end of his presidency, Obama reversed the longstanding US position of vetoing wildly one-sided anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council. Instead he passed a resolution claiming that every Israeli who lives anywhere beyond the 1967 ceasefire lines is an illegal settler, and that ludicrously blames Israel for the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and by implication puts that dispute at the centre of the Middle East’s woes. This was followed up by Kerry’s last big speech as Secretary of State, 70 minutes spent lambasting Israel and the settlements.

This is truly an epic cluster mess that will have doleful consequences for a long time. Malcolm Turnbull rightly, and courageously, called out the resolution as “one-sided” and “deeply unsettling” and said, further, “Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made equally strong statements. She and the Prime Minister displayed moral clarity and strategic sagacity.

Obama, on the other hand, emerges as his own kind of post-truth president, his undergraduate certainties and left-liberal pieties utterly undisturbed by eight years of Middle East reality. To believe, while hundreds of thousands die in Syria, civil war rages in Iraq, Yemen and Libya collapse, and the sectarian Shia-Sunni hostility rips through the region, that Israel is somehow the central issue in the Middle East is irrational, impervious to facts.

Kerry’s speech, in which he condemned the make-up of the Israeli governing coalition, was sharply criticised by British Prime Minister Theresa May, who issued a statement saying: “We do not believe it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.”

Although Britain voted in favour of the UN resolution, May also said she did not think it was sensible to focus on one issue such as settlements to the exclusion of other issues.

So Obama finishes office with the governments of the US’s two closest allies in the world, Australia and Britain, condemning him. Obama always damages and offends America’s friends while he never lays a glove on America’s enemies. He is that most horrible of strategic creatures, an impotent enemy and a dangerous friend.

Consider Egypt. Nothing that Obama has done in the past eight years has helped Egypt at any point.

Egypt, the giant of the Arab world, is perhaps Washington’s most important Arab ally. Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel that makes an immense contribution to stability in the Middle East. At the urging of Israel, and of the team around president-elect Don­ald Trump, due to be inaugur­ated in two weeks, Egypt withdrew its sponsorship of the resolution in question. Any semi-responsible, indeed broadly adult, administration in Washington would have decided at that point to make sure the resolution didn’t pass, so that the government in Cairo would not be embarrassed.

We don’t hear much about Egypt at the moment because the military government has stabilised the situation. But Egypt’s economy is challenged, and it is involved in its own deadly fight with Islamic State-affiliated terrorists in the Sinai. The broad future of Egypt is deeply uncertain.

Almost nothing in the Middle East — beyond the terrible humanitarian emergencies of right now, none of which involves Israel — should be of more long-term importance to Washington than promoting economic development in Egypt, and the simultaneous gradual development of institutions that might in time support a more representative political system.

But that, of course, is the challenging business of long-term, patient, even quiet, strategic purpose, and those words are entirely foreign to Obama.

Instead, by getting New Zealand to substitute for Egypt as the resolution’s sponsor, and then organising for the resolution to pass, Obama has actually penalised the government in Cairo for being a friend of the West and a force for moderation.

Cairo was in an impossible situation. Trump was begging it not to sponsor the resolution, the Obama administration was ensuring the resolution passed. If Obama had one speck of the statesman about him, removing that dilemma from Egypt would have outweighed all other considerations. Now Egypt’s government will be accused of being a plaything of the Western powers by its internal and regional enemies, who will weld both extremist Islamism and paranoid nationalism into their charges against Cairo.

And just for good measure, New Zealand will certainly, and deservedly, be damaged in its relations with the new Trump administration.

This is all a pretty good day’s work for Obama.

Many people have commented that the resolution encourages the worst tendencies within Palestinian politics. Why compromise on central issues like territorial dispositions — even though every serious player, even the Obama administration in its lucid moments, recognises that such compromise is necessary — when the UN promises you everything?

Tony Abbott made a good moral case against Australian taxpayers giving money to the Palestinian Authority when that authority pays pensions to the families of terrorists as a reward for their terrorism, including one who stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli girl.

Nonetheless, there is a reasonable realpolitik case for Canberra maintaining an extremely modest aid effort for the Palestinian territories, as a bit of diplomatic cover for Australia in the UN and the like. While Obama remains, I am sure Canberra will make better judgments than Washington

Why Did Obama Pander to the UN’s Stunning Anti-Israel Bias?

There are horrific injustices all over the world, including and especially in the Muslim world, but those are ignored by an institution obsessed with Israel.

by Maajid Nawaz      The Daily Beast

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/30/why-did-obama-pander-to-the-un-s-stunning-anti-israel-bias.html

Just before Christmas the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. By allowing the motion to pass, President Barack Obama crowned his miserable track record in the Middle East with one last high school debating gesture. This was then embellished by Secretary of State John Kerry’s warning shot delivered to Israel Wednesday.

Israel is not the biggest problem in the Middle East, by a long shot. But you wouldn’t know that from the disproportionate way in which the UN has treated the country. Despite abstaining from the vote, America’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power herself noted that for as long as Israel has been a member of the UN it has been “treated differently” from other nations. And commenting only a week before this latest resolution, even outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agreed that “decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports, and committees against Israel… In many cases, instead of helping the Palestinian issue, this reality has foiled the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”

You would think that the head of the UN knows when his own organization is displaying an institutional bias. Resolution 465 already existed, rightly condemning settlements. To this day, 47 resolutions concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict have been adopted by the UNSC.

From 2016 alone one need only look at the 18 resolutions against Israel adopted during the UN General Assembly in September, or the 12 resolutions adopted in the Human Rights Council. These were more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran, and South Sudan combined.

Arabs, Muslims, Islamists, liberals, leftists, and our international organizations share this institutional bias.

Opposing Israel is The One Ring that binds us all. It is the sacred god that must not be questioned. So deep runs this bias against Israeli transgressions, that to call it out is to arouse immediately incredulity and ad hominem abuse.

So entrenched is it, that few noticed how on the very morning of Resolution 2334 a motion seeking to stem the flow of weapons  going to what the UN itself fears are genocidal killers in South Sudan failed.

The Security Council could not even bring itself to adopt the simplest of resolutions calling for a seven-day ceasefire to halt the tragedy of Aleppo. Yet when it came to pushing through a final year-end condemnation of Israel, the Security Council suddenly mustered the will to act.

Secretary Kerry noted that Israel’s current government is its most right wing in history. Without a hint of irony he failed to mention that’s exactly what happens when a country faces repeated jihadist terrorist attacks. Just look to Europe and the U.S., magically made “Great Again.” He also left out the nature of Israel’s proportionate electoral system, which allows fringe elements to hold more mainstream parties hostage, drifting them to the right.

No, Resolution 2334 will not help peace. It can only hinder it. For the UN’s posturing will not go unnoticed inside Israel, and can only encourage further intransigence by facilitating the rise of Israel’s religious right under Naftali Bennet. It will also undermine the legitimacy of the UN itself.

The assumption behind America’s abstention from Resolution 2334 and Secretary Kerry’s latest remarks highlight the lazy thinking that has beset us.

Speaking during the vote, America’s ambassador to the UN said, “one cannot simultaneously champion expanding Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution.”

On Wednesday, Secretary Kerry reinforced the view that the two-state solution “is now in jeopardy… The result is that policies of this [Israeli] government… are leading towards one state.”

This is simply false. The fact that this sentiment is even expressed betrays the deep bigotry of low expectations held in the West toward Arabs and Palestinians.

Settlements are illegal. But why is it that Israel is expected to integrate—and does a reasonable job of including—the 20 percent of its population that is Arab, yet a Jewish presence of 500,000 settlers in any future Palestinian state is deemed “an obstacle” to the two state solution? Are Palestinians assumed to be ethno-fascists? Are they not capable of building a multiethnic state just like Israelis? Is this how low the standard is to which Western leftists hold Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims?

Any Jewish settlers who remain in Palestine after a peace deal is struck should be expected to adopt Palestinian citizenship and become Jewish-Palestinians, like the many Christian and Muslim Palestinians. If this prospect is too much for them to accept, they will always have the option of aliyah, to voluntarily repatriate back to Israel. Add land swaps to the mix, and the two-state solution is not dead. It remains very much possible, except in minds that are clouded by the UN’s obsession with condemning Israel and that harbor the bigotry of low expectations towards Palestinians.

To cite UN disproportionality against Israel inevitably leads to accusations by the left that one’s fallen into the fallacy of “whatabouttery.” That is, trying to distract from one’s own transgressions by shouting “what about” someone else’s. In this case, supposedly trying to downplay Israel’s abuses or failings by making it look like the victim of what the Americans call “piling on” by the UN.

But I am not engaging in this fallacy I am calling it out.

In reality Israel has been the perennial “what about” excuse used by Arab despots seeking to silence their domestic opponents or the foreign critics of their ferocious repression of dissent. To call for greater freedoms in these countries where there was little or none was to be accused of “Zionist collusion.” And as often as not, the UN played along. Note that this is the same institution that chose to elect Saudi Arabia—yes, elect an absolute monarchy—as chair of its human rights committee, and then decided to pass a motion condemning Israel’s human rights abuses.

Sneering from the comfort of their keyboards, Western leftists have grown complacent with the luxury of free speech. They have never had to suffer the wrath of an Arab dictator’s torture cells. But anyone who has ever been unfortunate enough to have spoken out against an Arab dictator from within knows the reality of their whatabouttery all too well.

An expectation of proportionality is distinct from the whatabouttery fallacy. When Israel was bombing Gaza in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, reacting to Hamas terror attacks, our demand was for Israel to respond proportionately. Back then, we didn’t allow Israel to dismiss our concerns for proportionality by claiming we were engaged in a whatabouttery distraction from Hamas terror attacks.

If proportionality can work against Israel, it must be allowed to work for it too. Yes, we can condemn two things at once, hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time, but those two thoughts must be in proportion to each other.

With that said, there is not a single crime that Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stand accused of that an Arab totalitarian despot or absolute monarch has not committed manifold times and on a daily basis. From torture and occupation, to proxy wars in foreign countries, to treating non-citizens—including Palestinians—as second class, to a lack of democracy, Arab despots top it all.

Look at Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his coup in Egypt, the chaos in Libya, even the Taliban, Lashkar al-Tayyiba, al-Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS, sexual enslavement, beheadings, child soldiers, and the use of chemical weapons—the reality of the greater Middle East lies bare for us all to see. Yet as America’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power noted, this year the UN passed more resolutions against Israel than these other problems combined.

For the better part of 23 years I have been deeply engaged in this debate. Like most left-leaning teenage politics enthusiasts, my starting point was hostile to Israel. Like too many Muslims and all Islamists, I once rejected Israel’s right to exist. I am familiar with all sides of the argument, and have written from both perspectives on this debate. I eventually realized just how ossified my thoughts had become.

Our unwillingness to hear outside our own echo chambers has severely limited our ability to innovate solutions. A critical mass of Arabs, Muslims, and leftists still struggle with Israel’s historic legitimacy, leading us to constantly overplay our hand at such venues as the UN. Like a broken record, we are guilty of repetitive sloganeering, lazy thinking, emotional decision-making, and a dogmatic approach to what should be the art of politics. We have allowed our political, religious, and ideological tribalism to shape our emotional response to the point of developing an unhealthy obsession with Israel. It is post-truth.

We who have been pro-Palestine have become our own worst enemies. When new thinking on any issue is instantly labeled treacherous, only inward looking violently inbred and dogmatic ideologies such as jihadism can thrive. All the more reason why creative thinking on this issue among Arabs, Muslims, and the left is so important.

I know that in writing these words I will inevitably be charged with being pro-settlements and much more. This tends to be the default reaction of those who love to deal only in absolutes—a right wing trait, no?

In truth, I believe Israeli settlements to be illegal under international law, built on occupied land, and that Netanyahu has been uncooperative while in office, and that a two-state solution is not only still possible, but is the only viable option for solving this conflict. Yet still I maintain that Resolution 2334 was an amateur, emotional move by liberal dogmatists that will only aid the Israeli right.

There is nothing unique about the Israel conflict deserving such disproportionate attention. Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Cyprus, Kashmir, and Taiwan are but a few other disputed territories not fetishized like Palestine is at the UN and in our media. All of these disputes involve deep religious, historic, and political meaning for their respective parties.

Only the overwhelming narcissism of our Abrahamic faiths – including those among us who define themselves against them—would deem the religious and historic significance of the “Holy Lands” to mean anything more than other lost holy lands for Buddhists in Tibet, or Sikhs in Khalistan, which was lost to Pakistan a year before Israel’s creation. Only by releasing the “exceptional status” pressure from this conflict, by stripping it of its religious hyperbole, by removing it from the spotlight, by simply placing it on a par with every and any other conflict in the world—tragic but not unique—do we stand a better chance of solving it, because the stakes are lowered and the frothing prophets of doom, with their Armageddon pathology, are taken out of the equation. Let us call this “Israeli unexceptionalism.”

I remain unaware of a single Middle East pundit not tied to Obama’s State department who holds that the outgoing president has done a good job in the Middle East. Obama cut a deal with Iran and conditionally lifted sanctions, while the Iranians, Hezbollah and Russian President Vladimir Putin aided Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he used crude chemical bombs and massively destructive weapons against his own people. And just as Obama’s inaction allowed others to act in Syria, his inaction at the UN set the tone once again, this time reaffirming the notion that Israel is the region’s biggest problem. That is despicable. It is inexcusable. And I could remain silent no more.

Azaria verdict may pose far-reaching global implications for Israel

by Yonah Jeremy Bob               The Jerusalem post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Analysis-Azaria-verdict-may-pose-far-reaching-global-implications-for-Israel-477448

A court case that reverberated across the country on Wednesday may see even greater ripple effects beyond its borders, as far as the International Criminal Court and Israel’s legitimacy are concerned.

At the ICC, Hebron shooter Elor Azaria’s manslaughter conviction may affirm the credibility of Israel’s apparatus for prosecuting its own soldiers.

This is important because it is the decisive issue affecting whether the ICC will dive deeper into the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

If Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda finds that the IDF properly prosecutes its own for alleged war crimes, then she is barred from intervening, as the ICC is only a court of last resort when a country fails to prosecute its own. (IDF soldier shoots dead subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, part of Elor Azaria case)

If she finds that the IDF does not properly prosecute its own, she can decide to move to a full criminal investigation.

Many countries have failed to seriously prosecute their own, especially when politicians and the general public rally around the accused soldier. In the Azaria case, many politicians and the general public rallied behind him.

Military Advocate-General Brig.-Gen.Sharon Afek and the Jaffa Military Court have been subjected to heavy pressure and criticism for indicting and convicting Azaria, and yet they did.

The conviction of Azaria is the strongest move Israel has made to date which could get the ICC to back off.

But will it be enough? The Jerusalem Post has reported in the past that the ICC team probing Israel has closely followed the case. But the case is only one, and the ICC could view it as a sideshow compared to the hundreds of incidents it is probing from the 2014 Gaza war.

That said, if the recent UN Security Council Resolution against Israeli settlements was an indecisive but possible major blow to Israel in its defense against any ICC charges relating to the settlement enterprise, the Azaria verdict is a major if indecisive blow to Israeli critics who argue that all IDF probes are a whitewash.

One can already see critics having to tactically adjust to Israel’s legal reality in the aftermath of the Azaria verdict. They can still claim Israel whitewashes too often, or that senior officers get off and only rankand- file soldiers are prosecuted. But that is a world away from being able to claim that Israel never convicts its soldiers of serious crimes for shooting Palestinians.

It says something that Azaria was convicted of manslaughter not for shooting a skinny teenage rock thrower, but for shooting a dangerous Palestinian attacker who had stabbed an IDF soldier with a knife.

For critics of Israel, whether in the legal sphere or in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, this conviction will stand as an inconvenient, immovable fact that diminishes their chance of convincing neutral parties.

For the ICC, if it invalidates Israeli prosecutions, it will have to explain away this case to the US, Europe and others.

The recent UN Security Council Resolution still hangs as a cloud over Israel’s legal community and legitimacy. And internally, those against the verdict will cry fowl that Israel’s lawyers and courts care more about world criticism than about its own soldiers.

But if there were ever an answer to defang the damage caused by the Security Council resolution in the legitimacy battle, Israel’s military courts just gave one.

Why the sudden hatred of Israel?

The Jewish state is a stand-in for Jews in a revival of anti-Semitism

by Victor Davis Hanson                   The Washington Times

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/4/why-the-sudden-hatred-of-israel/

Secretary of State John Kerry, echoing other policymakers in the Obama administration, blasted Israel last week in a 70-minute rant about its supposedly self-destructive policies.

Why does the world — including now the United States — single out liberal and lawful Israel but refrain from chastising truly illiberal countries?

Mr. Kerry has never sermonized for so long about his plan to solve the Syrian crisis that has led to some 500,000 deaths or the vast migrant crisis that has nearly wrecked the European Union.

No one in this administration has shown as much anger about the many thousands who have been killed and jailed in the Castro brothers’ Cuba, much less about the current Stone Age conditions in Venezuela or the nightmarish government of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, an ally nation.

President Obama did not champion the cause of the oppressed during the Green Revolution of 2009 in Iran. Did Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama become so outraged after Russia occupied South Ossetia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine?

Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was never so impassioned over the borders of Chinese-occupied Tibet, or over Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

In terms of harkening back to the Palestinian “refugee” crisis that started in the late 1940s, no one talks today in similar fashion about the Jews who survived the Holocaust and walked home, only to find that their houses in Eastern Europe were gone or occupied by others. Much less do we recall the 11 million German civilians who were ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe in 1945 by the Soviets and their imposed Communist governments. Certainly, there are not still “refugee” camps outside Dresden for those persons displaced from East Prussia 70 years ago.

More recently, few nations at the U.N. faulted the Kuwaiti government for the expulsion of 200,000 Palestinians after the liberation of Kuwait by coalition forces in 1991.

Yet on nearly every issue — from “settlements” to human rights to the status of women — U.N. members who routinely violate human rights target a liberal Israel.

When Mr. Obama entered office, among his first acts were to give an interview with the Saudi-owned news outlet Al Arabiya championing his outreach to the mostly non-democratic Islamic world and to blast democratic Israel on “settlements.”

Partly, the reason for such inordinate criticism of Israel is sheer cowardice. If Israel had 100 million people and was geographically large, the world would not so readily play the bully.

Instead, the United Nations and Europe would likely leave it alone — just as they give a pass to human rights offenders such as Pakistan and Indonesia. If Israel were as big as Iran, and Iran as small as Israel, then the Obama administration would have not reached out to Iran, and would have left Israel alone.

Israel’s supposed Western friends sort out Israel’s enemies by their relative natural resources, geography and population — and conclude that supporting Israel is a bad deal in cost-benefit terms.

Partly, the criticism of Israel is explained by oil — an issue that is changing daily as both the United States and Israel cease to be oil importers.

Still, about 40 percent of the world’s oil is sold by Persian Gulf nations. Influential nations in Europe and China continue to count on oil imports from the Middle East — and make political adjustments accordingly.

Partly, anti-Israel rhetoric is due to herd politics.

The Palestinians — illiberal and reactionary on cherished Western issues like gender equality, homosexuality, religious tolerance and diversity — have grafted their cause to the popular campus agendas of race/class/gender victimization.

Western nations in general do not worry much about assorted non-Western crimes such as genocides, mass cleansings or politically induced famines. Instead, they prefer sermons to other Westerners as a sort of virtue-signaling, without any worries over offending politically correct groups.

Partly, the piling on Israel is due to American leverage over Israel as a recipient of U.S. aid. As a benefactor, the Obama administration expects that Israel must match U.S. generosity with obeisance. Yet the U.S. rarely gives similar “how dare you” lectures to less liberal recipients of American aid, such as the Palestinians for their lack of free elections.

Partly, the cause of global hostility toward Israel is jealousy. If Israel were mired in Venezuela-like chaos, few nations would care. Instead, the image of a proud, successful, Westernized nation as an atoll in a sea of self-inflicted misery is grating to many. And the astounding success of Israel bothers so many failed states that the entire world takes notice.

But partly, the source of anti-Israelism is ancient anti-Semitism.

If Israelis were Egyptians administering Gaza or Jordanians running the West Bank (as during the 1960s), no one would care. The world’s problem is that Israelis are Jews. Thus, Israel earns negative scrutiny that is never extended commensurately to others.

Mr. Obama and his diplomatic team should have known all this. Perhaps they do, but they simply do not care.

Israeli Settlements Are Not the Real Barrier to Peace – Tim Montgomerie (The Times-UK)

Whenever the world’s only Jewish-majority state affronts their sense of morality, tens of thousands of Britons march through London. But, revealingly, they’ve turned a blind eye to Syria’s barrel-bombing of civilians and its illegal use of chemical weapons.

The moral failure of many Britons is multiplied at the United Nations, supposedly the world’s home of human rights. Over the past decade the UN has condemned Syria eight times but has 223 times attacked the nation in which, if you are Christian, homosexual or other minority, you are probably safer than anywhere in the Middle East.

The UN’s one-sided approach was on display again with a motion demanding an end to settlement-building by Israelis. Thanks to the UK and, more surprisingly, the U.S., it was allowed to pass. While construction in disputed territories does undermine peace prospects, the focus on the issue has been engineered by Palestinians and diverts attention from their failings.

Bigger barriers to peace include polling that finds at least one million Palestinians view Islamic State positively. Then there’s Hamas, the proscribed group that runs Gaza, and its charter’s genocidal call to kill Jews. Or, if the UN is really looking for root causes, how about the anti-Semitic “educational” materials circulating in schools in Gaza and the West Bank?

When you are surrounded by people who want you dead, Israelis can’t be blamed for not rushing to repeat what happened after their 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Vacated settlements became launchpads for missile attacks. I’ve visited the bomb shelters that Israeli schoolchildren scurry to when alarms sound.

What those who deserted Israel at the UN miss is that today’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be understood within the context of the radicalization of the region. Israel is in the front line against radical Islam and, in the words of the author Sam Harris: “We are all living in Israel, it’s just some of us haven’t realized it yet.” And the “we” includes the majority of peace-loving Muslims and other victims of Islamist terror.