Dragnet for fugitive Tel Aviv gunman passes its fourth day
Security remained high in and around Tel Aviv on Monday as the search for a fugitive gunman who shot dead two Israelis in an attack on Dizengoff Street on Friday stretched into a fourth day, with police seeming no closer to finding the suspect.
Tel Aviv City Hall said municipal security services had stepped up patrols, with an emphasis on schools and daycare centers.
Security was enhanced at creches, nursery schools and educational institutions across the city, including police and private security officers posted outside these buildings throughout the day.
The heightened alert was most pronounced in north Tel Aviv, especially in Ramat Aviv, where a cellphone belonging to the shooter – believed to be Arara native Nishat Milhem – was found on Friday not long after the attack.
Also on Friday, a taxi driver from Lod was found murdered near the Glilot Interchange, on the northern edges of Tel Aviv.
Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) suspect that Milhem may be hiding out in the Ramat Aviv area, where he has worked in the past year.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on the Knesset TV channel that the shooter “is more sophisticated than we thought. He’s not naïve. He didn’t carry his cellphone on the day of the attack so that it would be harder to locate him.”
Erdan remarked, noting the panic and fear disrupting daily life for many Israelis, despite the fact that many more people die in traffic accidents.
“It is important to maintain routine. There are also many traffic accidents and every day in recent months there are attacks and knife attacks and our country is not meant to conduct itself according to the actions of terrorists or to traffic accidents or other things,” Erdan said.
On Sunday night, police arrested one of Milhem’s brothers on suspicion of being an accomplice to the attack. A second brother had been arrested on Friday, and is expected to be released on Tuesday.
In court on Monday, Milhem’s father, Muhammad, repeated his call for his son to turn himself in, saying “I am calling on my son directly – if you can cooperate with me, call me and ill arrange things for you. If you don’t want to, then have a friend contact me.”
The suspect’s father also spoke in Arabic in appealing to his son to turn himself in, and repeated his condemnation of the attack.
Police and the Shin Bet held a series of security assessments on Monday to gauge the progress of the search, but have yet to issue any call for the public to stay indoors or abandon their typical daily routine. (Jerusalem Post)
IDF soldier wounded in West Bank stabbing
A terrorist stabbed and lightly wounded an IDF reserve soldier Tuesday morning at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank.
Security force shot dead the assailant.
Magen David Adom paramedics provided initial medical treatment to the victim in his 30s before evacuating him to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The IDF said it was looking into the incident. (Jerusalem Post)
Security forces in intensive hunt for Hebron gunmen
Security forces including the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency are in the midst of an intensive search for the Palestinian gunmen, or gunman, behind two shootings on Sunday that left two soldiers injured.
As the intelligence search continues behind the scenes, the IDF’s Central Command units have increased searches of homes, as well as rooftop scans around the Hebron area, where both attacks occurred.
Yet military sources said on Tuesday that it was too soon to conclude that Palestinian violence had decidedly entered a phase marked by shootings, in place of the stabbings and vehicle rammings that have been common for the past three months.
Figures documenting the number of West Bank security incidents, including Molotov cocktail attacks, shootings, and rock throwing on roads, actually show a decrease over the past 30 days, until the Hebron shootings occurred, according to one source.
The shootings do not necessarily mark the start of a new armed phase in the Palestinian violence, the source cautioned, pointing to the November shooting of 19-year-old IDF soldier in the Hebron area. At that time, the shooting led many to proclaim the appearance of a Hebron sniper, but in fact, after intelligence work, a 16-year-old with a hunting rifle was arrested for the attack.
“He was not a sniper. Until we fully understand the incident, and come full circle to apprehend the shooters, it is too soon to know if something new has appeared,” the source said.
IDF Central Command has dealt with past shooting attacks, and is not surprised by new ones, the source stated. Nevertheless, gun attacks are an obvious escalation and present a most immediate danger to the lives of soldiers, the source added.
On Sunday, a gunman from Hebron’s Abu Sneineh neighborhood moderately wounded a female IDF cadet as she stood by the main staircase leading from the street to the Cave of the Patriarchs. She had been on an IDF educational tour of the cave. On the same day, a soldier was lightly injured in a shooting attack at Hakvasim Junction in the South Mount Hebron area.
In mid-December, an IDF source told the Post that the military is preparing for a significant escalation in Judea and Samaria, in the form of a rise in firearms attacks, as well as attempted intrusions by armed attackers into West Bank settlements.
“This will not end tomorrow. The wave of terrorism will continue – no one can predict for how long. We will encounter more shootings. It will not be an organized shift, but I expect to see more gun attacks and attempts to infiltrate communities,” the officer said.
“They will try new things, because the current attacks aren’t working. We’ve studied them. Stabbings have not been very effective recently. They will try something else,” he warned. (Jerusalem Post)
Poll: Israelis say Jewish, Palestinian terror should get same treatment
More than half (56 percent) of Israeli Jews say the same interrogation methods should be used on suspected Jewish and Palestinian terrorists, according to the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University’s monthly Peace Index Poll, released Monday.
Over a third (36%) of those polled say Jewish suspects should be interrogated less harshly. Among United Torah Judaism and Shas voters, the percent of those who agree was much higher: 54% and 74% respectively.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Jewish Israelis say Jewish terrorists should not be given more lenient sentences for their acts, with 30% taking the opposite stance.
The poll was taken on December 29-30, 2015, before the state attorney’s indictment of two Jewish Israelis suspected of committing a July arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma and murdering three members of the Dawabsha family; an 18-month old toddler and his parents.
A plurality of Israelis (43.5%) say the Shin Bet’s methods of interrogating Palestinians are appropriate, compared to 21% who say they are too mild and only 7% who consider them too harsh. A relatively high rate (28%) did not know.
When it comes to Jewish suspects, 36% of Israelis say the method is appropriate and 23.5% said it is too harsh, more than three times as many who said so about Palestinians.
The vast majority of the Jewish public – 88% – say the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) is making every possible effort to prevent Palestinian terrorist attacks against Jews, and most – 78% – say the same of efforts to stop Jewish attacks against Palestinians.
The vast majority of both the Jewish (80.9%) and Arab (81%) populations agree with some level of certainty that if the attack on Duma were intentionally perpetrated by Jews, it should be called an act of terrorism.
In addition, 73.4% of Jewish Israelis and 59.9 of Arabs agree to some degree that the Jews who attack Palestinians are a marginal, minority part of the national- religious population.
The Peace Index also asked Jewish Israelis if they fear being harmed in the current wave of terrorism. The number that said yes has steadily risen over the months, reaching 70% in December, after it was 67% in November and 57% in October.
Among Israeli Arabs, 65.5% fear being harmed in a terrorist attack.
As for support for a two-state solution, 84% of Jewish Israelis and 75.5% of Israeli Arabs see little chance that one will be implemented in the next decade, though 52% of Jews and 80% of Arabs support such a solution.
In previous years, the rates of support among Israeli Jews for the two-state solution came to about two-thirds and even higher.
Nearly three-fourths (72%) of the Jewish population say the Jews’ historical, religious and cultural bond to the land is stronger than that of the Palestinians. All United Torah Judaism voters polled and 96% of those who voted Bayit Yehudi concur with the statement. Meretz was the only Zionist party in which a majority (81%) of voters believe Jews and Palestinians have a similar religious, cultural, and historical bond to the land.
Among Israeli Arabs, 43% said Jews and Palestinians have a similar bond to the land.
The Peace Index Poll was taken among a 600-person representative sample of the Israeli adult population and has a 4.1% margin of error. (Jerusalem Post)
Two Arab-Israeli passengers deplane following demands of Israelis on-board
A number of Israelis returning from a vacation in Greece with Aegean Airlines on Monday caused a scene when two Arab-Israeli men boarded the same aircraft and drew their attention.
This did not fare well with the Israelis on board who turned to the flight attendants and said they would not allow the plane to embark with the two men on board. Despite the scene caused by the Israelis, the flight attendants went about their cabin-preparations as usual, and the captain prepared for take-off.
When the crew was ready for take-off, the Israelis refused to take a seat – violating takeoff procedures which require that all passengers remain seated for take-off – preventing the aircraft from taking off.
According to Israel Radio, which broke the story, an argument broke out between the Israeli and Arab passengers. The Greek crew was in utter shock and could not fully comprehend the exchanges between the sides.
The argument carried on for an hour, after which the crew realized that there was no end in sight. They approached the two Arab-Israeli men and offered them a hotel for the night and flight for the following day. They took up the offer to return to Israel Tuesday morning.
The Israelis on board continued to make a scene even after the two Arab-Israelis deplaned, demanding that the crew conduct an additional security check. The crew, fed-up with the Israelis, refused to give in to their demands, and told the passengers to take a seat, otherwise, they’d be taken off-board sans-compensation.
The Israelis gave in to the threat, agreed to take a seat, and made their way back to Israel.
A statement by Aegean said, “On the scheduled Aegean flight A3 928 from Athens to Tel Aviv on January the 3rd, an initially small group of some passengers very vocally and persistently asked for two other Israeli passengers to be checked for security issues.”
“While it is indeed unfortunate that they were possibly racially profiling the customers, indeed their fellow Israelis, because safety must be first, the pilot did feel compelled to delay the flight call the police so to check again the two Israeli passengers documents and identities. This did take some time of course but the documents were indeed checked and were ok.”
“Unfortunately by that time, due to the delay, a much larger group of passengers were reacting despite the assurances given by the crew about the two passengers. So with the agreement of the two Israeli passengers that were affected, for which we are very thankful, we offered them overnight stay and transport the next day, we offloaded their luggage. We also offered any other passenger of course the possibility to disembark in case they did not feel secure.”
“The whole episode , which did indeed delay the flight for more than 1 hour and 30 minutes, is indeed very unfortunate and we are grateful that the two Israeli passengers affected did agree to fly the next day. We thank again the two Israeli passengers that agreed to disembark for their understanding and collaboration and we apologize for the whole episode which was indeed extremely unfortunate.”
The Director of Amnesty International in Israel Yonatan Gher said the incident on the plane reflected the Israeli government’s incitement against the Arab Israeli community following the Tel Aviv shooting attack last week in which two people were killed.
Nashat Milhem, the suspect in the deadly Tel Aviv attack, who is still at large, is an Israeli Arab who hails from the Galilee.
“Two days have not passed [since the Tel Aviv terror attack] and we are hearing about two Palestinian citizens of Israel on a flight bound for Israel who were taken off the plane following the demands of Jewish passengers,” Gher said.
“People should not be surprised by such shameful acts when the prime minister [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]
stands at the forefront of incitement and the racist narrative against an entire sector of society, during the last election and now as well,” Gher said.
On election day in March, Netanyahu was criticized when he urged voters to go out and vote because “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls.” Netanyahu was also criticized on the weekend when he went to the site of the terror attack in Tel Aviv and said Israel “would demand loyalty to the laws of the state from everyone.” (Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu slams MKs for differentiating between attacks
Terrorism is terrorism, whether it happens in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Duma, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the Knesset Monday.
His comments came hours after MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint List) differentiated between Friday’s shooting in Tel Aviv and the terrorist attack that killed Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in front of their four children near Eilon Moreh in the West Bank.
When asked if the attack in Tel Aviv was terrorism, Sa’adi said: “Clearly, and I condemn it.”
However, he would not give a yes or no answer to the same question about the Henkin’s murder.
“Settlers are occupiers that steal the land of the Palestinian nation. We are against harming innocent civilians, but there is a difference between settlers, who are occupiers, and Tel Aviv,” Sa’adi said.
Netanyahu referred specifically to Sa’adi’s comments during his response to a no-confidence motion on Monday.
“We are in a wave of terrorist and murderous acts and I expect all members of this house to condemn these criminal acts,” he said. “Just two hours ago, Osama Sa’adi was interviewed and refused to condemn the murder of the Henkins and said he differentiates between the murder of Jews in Tel Aviv and in Judea and Samaria “Terrorism is terrorism and it does not matter if it happened in Jerusalem, Ra’anana, Hebron, Tel Aviv or Duma,” he stated.
When MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) interjected to tell Netanyahu that MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) refused to call the Duma firebombing terrorism, the prime minister added: “Terrorism is not determined by the identity of its perpetrators or its goals. It is unacceptable in its essence.”
Netanyahu repeated: “I expect all MKs, from MK Sa’adi to MK Smotrich, to condemn all terrorism without using euphemisms or stuttering. Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism.”
Soon after, Smotrich wrote on Twitter: “As someone who lost his best friends in terrorist attacks, the comparison between me and MK Sa’adi is bizarre. He supports terrorism; I condemn it. The prime minister knows that.”
Smotrich wrote an op-ed last month explaining why he thinks the Duma attack is not terrorism, which his party leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, denounced.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) addressed the Knesset after Netanyahu, saying he “completely identifies with the fact that terrorism must be fought uncompromisingly and uprooted, and there is no doubt we are all united in condemning it.
“The question is how your government deals with the terror. Unfortunately, it is being weak and failing to deal with it,” he said. (Jerusalem Post)
IDF: 2015 marks lowest number of casualties in a decade
The number of Israeli soldiers who died during their service in 2015 was the lowest in a decade, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.
According to IDF Personnel Directorate data, a total of 36 soldiers died in 2015. Six were killed in the line of duty, seven in road accidents and two in other accidents. Six died of terminal illnesses, and 15 other deaths were considered “suspected suicides.”
In 2014, 70 soldiers were killed in the line of duty, 67 of them during Operation Protective Edge waged in the Gaza Strip over the summer. Thirteen soldiers were killed in road accidents, and 15 soldiers committed suicide.
In 2013, 40 soldiers died: five in the line of duty, two in Israeli Air Force activities, 10 in road accidents while on leave, and the remainder of illnesses. (Israel Hayom)
PA TV: Europe created Israel to “get rid of” the corrupt, scheming Jews
As part of this month’s 51th anniversary celebrations of the Fatah movement, PA TV rebroadcast a documentary on the history of Fatah. The film entitled “Fatah: Revolution until Victory,” includes a section showing a fundamental aspect of Palestinian Authority Antisemitism. The film was previously broadcast on PA TV in 2013 and 2014.
The Fatah film opens with classic demonization of Jews:
“[Europe] suffered a tragedy by providing refuge for the Jews… Faced with the Jews’ schemes, Europe could not bear their character traits, monopolies, corruption, and their control and climbing up positions in government.”
Palestinian Media Watch has documented that a basic component of PA historical revision is to deny there was any Jewish history in the Land of Israel. To explain why millions of Jews would immigrate to the Israel without a historical connection the PA claims that Zionism was not a Jewish idea but rather a European idea. And it was created by Europeans, not to return Jews to their homeland, but to get rid of the scheming and corrupt Jews who, according to PA ideology, caused Europe so much suffering.
The film explains that England, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Italy, all expelled Jews because they suffered from the Jews’ presence. Finally, when the Balfour Declaration facilitated the establishment of “a national homeland” for the Jews, Europe supported it because it “saw it as an ideal solution to get rid of them.”
The following is the excerpt of the PA TV broadcast on Fatah that demonized Jews:
“Faced with the Jews’ schemes, Europe could not bear their character traits, monopolies, corruption, and their control and climbing up positions in government. In 1290, King Edward I issued a decree banishing the Jews [from England]. Following him were France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Italy. The European nations felt that they had suffered a tragedy by providing refuge for the Jews. Later the Jews obtained the Balfour Declaration, and Europe saw it as an ideal solution to get rid of them.” (PMW)
Bill to double property tax on Jerusalem’s ‘ghost apartments’ approved
Effective immediately, the cash-strapped Jerusalem Municipality will double property taxes on the capital’s 10,000 so-called “ghost apartments,” generally inhabited by wealthy overseas homeowners who spend a fraction of their time in the city.
Formally approved on Monday, the measure – which will charge absentee homeowners NIS 223.56 per square meter, instead of 111.50 – comes amid a fiscal crisis in the capital that Mayor Nir Barkat says requires NIS 450 million to remedy.
The municipality’s budget shortfall resulted in the abrupt termination of 170 city sanitation workers last week, followed by their reinstatement on Sunday, after the Finance Ministry agreed to give the municipality NIS 17 m. to cover the costs of the employees.
Still, Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon remain at odds over the vast majority of funding the mayor says is necessary from the ministry to balance the capital’s budget.
“This increased rate of collection is made possible following last week’s approval by the Ministers of Finance and Interior of the Jerusalem Municipality’s request to double the property tax charge for vacant apartments in the city,” the municipality said in a statement on Monday.
“Doubling the municipal property tax for these vacant apartments is part of the model initiated by Mayor Nir Barkat with a view to encouraging absentee owners to rent out their property, and thus increase the supply of apartments for young people and families.”
Indeed, the municipality said the increased municipal taxes to be collected from vacant apartments will “serve to promote reduced-price housing for young people and families in the city.”
According to the municipality, a team was formed by the city and Jerusalem Development Authority six years ago to gather information regarding vacant apartments in the capital owned by foreign residents.
Barkat subsequently contacted the homeowners in writing, asking them to rent out their apartments for the benefit of the city’s young population, and six management companies were selected to work with the owners with the goal of persuading them to rent out their properties.
“Doubling the municipal property tax for ‘ghost’ apartments constitutes an important step in adding thousands of apartments for young families in Jerusalem,” said Barkat on Monday.
“Young people are the ‘oxygen of the city,’ and we are working all the time to attract young people and young families to Jerusalem. The entry of thousands of vacant apartments into the market will dramatically increase the supply of apartments for rent to young people, and will also lower rental rates in the city.”
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz, who helped spearhead the initiative, has long lamented that the capital’s ghost apartments have markedly reduced the city’s housing supply, resulting in under-inhabited neighborhoods and stalled housing and economic growth.
“Expensive housing impairs the ability of young people to stay in Jerusalem and build their homes and lives here,” he said last year, following three years of intensive lobbying.
“We believe that some of these people will rent out their apartments because of this decision.” (Jerusalem Post)
Lapid calls for expanding settlement blocs, outside of E1
Israel should build in the West Bank settlement blocs except for the “controversial” area of E1, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told The Jerusalem Post on Monday as he put forward a plan to separate from the Palestinians.
“Let’s unfreeze the places we can unfreeze,” Lapid said on the sidelines of the second regional business conference in the West Bank city of Ma’aleh Adumim.
He referenced what many on the Israeli Right believe is a de facto settlement freeze by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which in the last year has approved very few new Jewish building plans in Judea and Samaria.
In both his private and his public comments in Ma’aleh Adumim, Lapid gave a plug for renewed building in the third-largest Jewish city in the West Bank, which is home to more than 34,000 people.
Building there has lagged that of the other four largest West Bank settlements in recent years, with fewer than 300 new homes having been finished there in the last five years.
“Let’s not wait for doomsday,” Lapid said as he explained that there are steps Israel can take to help jumpstart the frozen diplomatic process with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This includes clarifying Israel’s position with regard to West Bank settlements.
“Let’s talk about the practical things that can be done now – unfreezing Ma’aleh Adumim,” said Lapid.
Lapid told the Post he believes Israel should make a distinction between the controversial isolated Jewish communities in the West Bank and non-controversial settlements in the blocs – such as Ma’aleh Adumim.
While E1 is an unbuilt area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, American pressure has kept Israel from building there for more than two decades.
“E1 is controversial and so we should deal with it as with other places that are controversial,” he said.
In a diplomatic and economic address he made at the conference, Lapid called on the government to freeze Jewish building in isolated settlement in exchange for building in the blocs.
“Under those conditions, the government could have demanded, and achieved, a cancellation of the EU labeling in places like the Golan Heights and Ma’aleh Adumim, which everyone understands will remain a part of Israel,” he said.
“In the past six months, I’ve spent a considerable amount of my time campaigning for Israel’s image abroad. I’m telling you it can be changed, it can be improved, we can make people and countries change their minds,” he said.
“If I was prime minister tomorrow, that’s a deal I would make. Building in the blocs, in Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Gush Etzion – in exchange for a freeze outside the blocs.”
His Yesh Atid party and centrist Israelis believe that “Ma’aleh Adumim is a part of Israel. It will always be a part of Israel. There is no future agreement [for a two-state solution] in which it is not a part of Israel,” Lapid said.
But the city lacks approved building plans to allow for new construction because it is “paying a price for the fact that the State of Israel refuses to clearly differentiate between the settlement blocs and the settlements outside them,” he said.
If the government would simply say: “We’re building in Ma’aleh Adumim because that is within the blocs, but not in Yitzhar and Tapuah because they aren’t… the Americans, the world, would remove their objection to building, and Ma’aleh Adumim would receive the growth it deserves.”
Israel has not made such a clear ideological statement because the Left wants to give Area C of the West Bank to the Palestinians and the Right doesn’t want to hand them anything.
He insisted that the concept of the settlement blocs, which was recognized by former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, is still relevant.
“There is such a thing as settlement blocs. They are part of life, they are part of the political discourse, let’s not pretend they don’t exist,” he said.
Lapid sympathizes with those Israelis on the Right who believe it is wrong to make such a political distinction with the West Bank, which is Israel’s biblical heartland.
“But there is a political reality, and a demographic reality, and a security reality, and an international reality,” Lapid said.
“The plan I’m offering is clear. Build in the blocs, freeze outside the blocs, work to cancel the EU labeling of products here and in the Golan Heights, change the way Israel works in the international arena, separation from the Palestinians. I’m not talking about peace, but separation,” he said.
“I do not think there will be peace in the near future,” he told the Post.
Therefore, he said, it’s important that security cooperation continue with the Palestinians and that the IDF retain the ability to enter Palestinian cities such as Ramallah and Nablus to protect Israeli citizens so Hamas does not seize control of that territory.
The next step diplomatic step that needs to happen, he believes, is a regional summit with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf countries to discuss separating from the Palestinians.
Israel should be building its alliances with those countries so it can help them battle regional terror and Iranian military aggression.
Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, who is a long time member of the Likud party, said he welcomed Lapid’s visit and his strong words in support of the city despite his comments regarding E1.
Just last week, Israeli officials clarified that Netanyahu is not prepared to support building in E1 at this time.
“It’s clear that we have to build in E1,” said Kashriel. But in the interim, the government can approve other plans that would allow him to construct some 1,500 new units in his city, the mayor said. (Jerusalem Post)
IDF tests new digital 3-D map command system
A team of IDF programmers and engineers is developing a digital battle command system that will take the IDF’s ground troops into the future, reported the IDF Blog. “Noked,” as the hi-tech, interactive mapping system is known, is an acronym for the Hebrew words “digital battle procedure.” With it, said the developers, commanders will have a clear picture of the front lines, seeing exactly where each unit is located in real time and interacting with other commanders to coordinate their moves.
Noked fills a screen with a complete 3-D map of the battlefield, says the military website. Commanders can then use transparent layers to fill the map with information as it become available.
“The picture comes alive. You can move layers around and zoom in on the map,” Major Moshe Castro, the officer in charge of the project, told the military website.
Noked’s most important feature is its ability to communicate battlefield changes and developments in real time. A unit that comes under fire, for instance, can pull up a 3-D map layer and quickly find a spot to relocate to, and its new position will be instantly communicated to all other active units.
After the battle is over, the system allows for all troop movements to be replayed and reviewed, allowing the IDF to learn fine-tune strategies and methods.
The first Noked prototype was revealed at a recent hackathon hosted at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. Maj. Castro and six of his soldiers were on hand for the demonstration. “We tested the system and it worked,” he said. “I believe in this idea, and I believe it will spread around the military,” he said.
The system was recently presented to the army as part of its multi-year training plan, and Castro will now have to pitch the platform to the military leadership. (Arutz Sheva)
Mexico first to approve prostate cancer drug invented at Weizmann Institute
Mexico has become the first nation to approve a drug based on bacterial chlorophyll to treat early-stage prostate cancer. The breakthrough technique invented by Israeli scientists, which seems to involve no side effects to speak of and can preclude prostate removal, is also undergoing approval processes in Europe.
The combined therapy of the novel drug, Tookad Soluble, and laser illumination was invented at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot. Clinical development was done together with Steba Biotech, a Luxembourg company specializing in prostate cancer therapies.
The therapy, provided as an outpatient procedure lasting just a few hours, has been approved by the Mexican health authority Cofepris for the focal treatment of early-stage prostate cancer, Weizmann announced Monday.
Focal treatment is a cousin of targeted treatment. The idea is to treat diseased tissue while not touching noncancerous tissue, since many of the cancer therapies are generally poisonous or otherwise obnoxious to the body. It is the latest wrinkle in prostate cancer therapy, as an alternative to whole-gland therapy, culminating in radical excision of the offending gland.
The therapy paradigm developed by Prof. Yoram Salomon of the Biological Regulation Department and Prof. Avigdor Scherz of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at Weizmann consists of an intravenous Tookad infusion, immediately followed by shining near-infrared laser light “inserted” into the sick tissue using thin optic fibers, guided by ultrasound.
Plants famously use chlorophyll to turn sunlight energy into food. Certain bacteria can do the same. Scherz is the one who first cooked up Tookad in his lab from bacteriochlorophyll.
Once the drug is administered, the laser light “turns on” the circulating drug locally. The result is the extensive generation of unstable toxic molecules, oxygen and nitric oxide radicals, which damage the blood vessels feeding the tumor. Starved for blood and oxygen, the tumor tissue dies but nearby tissues remain unaffected.
Where the light is not shined on the drug, it circulates around the patient’s blood system doing nothing much until being totally cleared after some three to four hours.
“The use of near-infrared illumination, together with the rapid clearance of the drug from the body and the unique non-thermal mechanism of action, makes it possible to safely treat large, deeply embedded cancerous tissue using a minimally invasive procedure,” Weizmann stated.
The marketing approval follows success in the Phase III clinical trial in Mexico, Peru and Panama, involving 80 patients. The test confirmed efficacy and the “minimal side effects” previously found in Phase II clinical trials, Weizmann stated.
Pressed by Haaretz, the Weizmann team explained that the side effects found were “transient and were related to the procedure itself” – meaning, not the drug. They included, for instance, the side effects that may be caused by insertion of a catheter, such as burning when urinating shortly afterwards. Others may feel nausea after anesthesia, but the Tookad itself was not seen to have side effects.
Meanwhile in Europe, a second Phase III clinical trial was recently wrapped up. The study compared disease progression, the rate of freedom from cancer and urinary and erectile functions in patients treated with Tookad and those undergoing active surveillance with a follow-up of two years, among more than 400 patients in 11 European countries. The findings are being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency.
Weizmann and Cofepris have not begun the process of seeking marketing approved in Israel yet. The normal process for any Israeli-developed drug is to first seek approval in the United States or Europe, explained the institute’s spokesman, Yivsam Azgad: Israel is simply too small to be able to sustain a system for the regulatory testing of drugs, which is extremely expensive and complicated. When the Food & Drugs Administration in the United States or European authorities test and approve a drug, they hand over the file with all the test information, which Israel reviews for the sake of its own regulatory approvals. (Ha’aretz)
Jerusalem Post Editorial
Should we get excited about a report this week in The Wall Street Journal that revealed the US had eavesdropped on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? It is, after all, discomfiting to see the US, Israel’s closest and most important ally, spying on the Jewish state’s leader.
One would think that relations between the countries are good enough to allow for open communications and the sharing of the most intimate and classified information.
Ultimately, the two countries share the same goals and values. It is impossible to imagine a scenario in which the two countries could possibly become enemies. If at some time in the future they did become enemies, it would mean that one or both countries had radically changed.
One of the reasons supporters of Jonathan Pollard find it so difficult to accept or understand the stiff prison sentence and the intransigence of consecutive US presidents regarding the possibility of a pardon is the belief that, in the end, the US and Israel are close allies. Spying on an ally is quite different from spying on an enemy.
Also, spying on heads of state is quite different from the sort of spying on private individuals the US National Security Agency conducted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Even sharp critics of US surveillance techniques, who can be hysterical about the need to protect individuals’ privacy even when doing so hampers law enforcement bodies’ attempts to stop terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris and San Bernardino, make such distinctions.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the most vocal critics of US surveillance tactics, wrote, for instance, that while the US’s surveillance of “the private conversations of officials of allied democracies is certainly worth debating… those revelations… are less significant than the NSA’s warrantless mass surveillance of whole populations,” since “countries have spied on heads of state for centuries, including allies.”
This might explain the cavalier response in Jerusalem to the Journal story published on Tuesday that revealed the US’s eavesdropping on Netanyahu.
As The Jerusalem Post’s senior diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon noted in a news piece on Thursday, top officials in Jerusalem reacted “with a yawn” to Journal’s report.
“I was not knocked off my chair,” National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio in response to the revelations.
Former National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror, now a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Army Radio that “the US listens to everybody, therefore we don’t have to get excited about this. The US does not say this in public, but everyone knows it and everyone knows that everyone knows.”
Amidror’s and Steinitz’s reactions probably reflect the sentiments of the Prime Minister’s Office, though no official response has been given.
Admittedly, not all countries have reacted with such equanimity to US surveillance, including countries considered strong American allies. In December 2013, when it emerged that the US had been bugging the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Merkel was livid.
In an angry exchange with President Barack Obama, Merkel compared the snooping practices of the US with those of the Stasi, the all-powerful secret police of the communist dictatorship in East Germany, where she grew up.
What is troubling about the revelations regarding US eavesdropping on Netanyahu, however, is the fact that Obama explicitly promised in January
2014, shortly after the Merkel imbroglio, to stop snooping on the leaders of close US friends and allies.
“The leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue, I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance,” he said.
Does this mean that Obama does not consider Israel a close friend or ally? Or does it mean that the US president’s promises are sometimes not backed up with actions? Either way, the Journal story should be a cause for concern.
As we start 2016, it behooves Obama to do for Israel what he has done for agents of Cuba, Russia and China, as well as for numerous Guantanamo prisoners, when he signed to release them so that they could go home to their respective countries.
In this light, Israel’s request for an ill, harshly punished Israeli agent named Jonathan Pollard to be sent home after 30 years in US jails does not seem too much to ask.
Palestinian Leaders Promise a New Year of Violence and Death
by Khaled Abu Toameh The Gatestone Institute
Instead of wishing Palestinians a happy and prosperous New Year, both Fatah and Hamas are asking their people to prepare for increased violence and “resistance,” including suicide bombings, against Israelis.
Fatah’s armed wing used the occasion to issue yet another threat: “We will continue in the path of the martyrs until the liberation of all of Palestine.”
Masked Palestinians in Bethlehem attacked several restaurants and halls where New Year’s Eve parties were supposed to take place. The assailants, eyewitnesses reported, were affiliated with Abbas’s Fatah faction, not Hamas.
Hamas banned Gazans from celebrating New Year’s Eve, saying such parties are “in violation of Islamic teachings.” Hamas does not want young Palestinians enjoying their time in restaurants and cafes. Instead, Hamas wants them to join its forces, armed and dressed in military fatigues, preparing for jihad against Israel.
After failing to offer their people any hope for the future, Fatah and Hamas are now telling Palestinians that they should expect more violence and bloodshed during in 2016.
In separate messages to the Palestinians on New Year’s Eve, the two rival Palestinian parties pledged to pursue, and even step up, “resistance” attacks against Israel. Needless to say, the messages did not make any reference to peace, coexistence or tolerance.
Instead of wishing Palestinians a happy and prosperous New Year, both Fatah and Hamas are asking their people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to prepare for increased violence and “resistance” attacks against Israel. The two parties have nothing to offer the Palestinians besides more bloodshed and despair.
Hamas, which has been in power in the Gaza Strip for almost 10 years, is even reported to be preparing for a new wave of suicide bombings against Israelis. The last time Hamas launched suicide attacks in Israel was during the second intifada, 2000-2005, which wrought havoc and destruction to Palestinians.
Various reports have suggested that Hamas was now considering activating its West Bank “sleeper cells,” in preparation for resuming suicide bombings against Israelis. Hamas, according to the reports, is also planning to target Israeli security and political figures.
Hussam Badran, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, painted a grim picture of what awaits Palestinians during 2016. In a message to Palestinians, Badran announced that the current wave of terrorism, which he referred to as the “Al-Quds Intifada,” would escalate during the coming year. He also hinted that Hamas was indeed considering resuming suicide attacks against Israelis: “The year 2016 will witness a development and escalation of the intifada and all forms of resistance operations.”
His message, like those of many Hamas officials, did not contain any reference to the harsh living conditions of Palestinians under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. When Badran and other Hamas officials talk about waging “all forms of resistance” against Israel, they are actually referring to plans to launch suicide bombings and other terror attacks against Israelis.
The Hamas New Year’s messages do not offer Palestinians in the Gaza Strip any hope that their leaders are working towards ending their misery and state of despair. There is no promise to help solve the problem of unemployment or poverty in the Gaza Strip. Nor is there any promise to help solve the crisis with Egypt, one which has resulted in the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt for most of 2015.
As if that were not enough, Hamas last week banned Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from celebrating New Year’s Eve. Hamas security officers warned owners of restaurants and hotels against holding New Year’s Eve parties, saying that this practice is “alien to our traditions and values and in violation of Islamic teachings.” Hamas also justified the ban by arguing that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip must show solidarity with their brothers in the West Bank, who have been waging a campaign of stabbing and vehicular attacks against Israelis since early October.
By banning New Year’s Eve celebrations, Hamas is following the example of other Islamist terror groups such as the Islamic State, which have denounced such parties as “un-Islamic.” These groups consider New Year’s Eve celebrations as being part of the same Western culture they are seeking to replace with extremist Islam and Sharia law.
Hamas cannot tolerate scenes of Palestinians rejoicing and celebrating the arrival of a new year. It does not want to see young Palestinians enjoying their time in restaurants, cafes and hotels. Instead, Hamas wants young Palestinians to join its forces and prepare for jihad against Israel. Hamas prefers to see young Palestinians dressed up in military fatigues and carrying weapons. It wants the young men, instead of celebrating and rejoicing, to participate in digging more tunnels under Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt.
Similarly, President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, which this week celebrated the 51st anniversary of its first armed attack against Israel, is hoping that 2016 will witness more violence. Several Fatah officials and groups marked the anniversary by vowing to step up “resistance” against Israelis and urging Palestinians to join the “struggle” against Israel.
Fatah’s armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, used the occasion to issue yet another threat to launch terror attacks against Israelis. “We remain committed to the option of an armed struggle,” the group rote in a leaflet distributed in the West Bank. “We will continue in the path of the martyrs until the liberation of all of Palestine.”
President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also head of Fatah, also had nothing to offer his people on New Year’s Eve, other than more messages of hate and defiance towards Israel. In a message to his people, Abbas once again justified the current wave of violence by saying it was the “result of the continuation of occupation and settlements, and the desecration of our holy sites.” He added: “Our people won’t capitulate, surrender or accept humiliation.”
As Abbas was addressing his people, masked Palestinians in Bethlehem attacked several restaurants and halls where New Year’s Eve parties were supposed to take place. Eyewitnesses said that the masked men opened fire at the restaurants, halls and vehicles, to prevent Palestinians from celebrating. The assailants, eyewitnesses reported, were affiliated with Abbas’s Fatah faction, not Hamas.
The leaders of Fatah and Hamas have once again shown they have nothing to offer the Palestinians other than violence, destruction and death. These leaders want their people to remain in a combatant mood in order to pursue the fight against Israel. As such, the year 2016 does not look very promising for Palestinians under the current leadership of Fatah and Hamas.
New Year’s Wish: A Worthwhile Palestinian Partner for Peace
by Jagdish N. Singh The Gatestone Institute
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has never been a man of peace. Even now, he continues calling for Jewish blood. Israel, however, has offered peace deal after peace deal – never even to receive even so much as a single counter-offer.
Sometimes, Abbas harps on Israel’s settlement policy as the sole reason for the absence of peace in the region. But before 1967 there were no settlements — and still no peace. What, then, was the PLO thinking of liberating? If you look at any current map of “Palestine” from the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, it blankets the entire country of Israel.
“For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years, how long?” — Mahmoud Abbas, saying recently that the “occupation” has existed since Israel’s creation in 1948.
One wonders if or when the U.S. administration and the Europeans might ever be serious about promoting real peace and prosperity in the disputed Palestinian territories. Sadly, the White House, in pinning all its hopes on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, has just been trying to hook its cart to someone not only with a shelf-life that officially expired years ago, but who is also too corrupt to be of any help to his people.
In backing Abbas, whose four-year term in office ended in 2009, both the White House and Europe have tragically undermined a productive future for the Palestinian people — in the same way that strengthening the Castros’ dictatorship in Cuba has dealt a death blow to a productive future for the people of Cuba. As with Iran, these are rulers that do not need to be need strengthened, they need to be removed.
Instead, at a White House meeting with Abbas in March 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama commended him as “somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side, in peace and security — a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people and a state that allows for Israelis to feel secure and at peace with their neighbors.”
That would have been superb if any of it were true. Obama seems to have acquired the bad habit of either hoping that if he says something, his mere voice magically makes it true (“You can keep your doctor;” “Al-Qaeda is on the run,” and the Iran deal will “prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon”), or, bluntly, of lying: saying something that is not true all the while knowing that it is not true.
In an interaction with Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, ahead of the White House Hanukkah party recently, Obama said there was “the need for leaders like President Abbas to unequivocally condemn violence which has been taking place, the need to end incitement, also the need for Israelis and Palestinians to find mechanisms in which to dialogue and arrive at peace.” Now that was true: there is the need. There is just no one on the Palestinian side to do it.
The current crop of Palestinian leaders appears to think that cozying up to racist, Jew-hating European elites, and to unelected, untransparent and unaccountable organizations such as the UN and the EU, might, in contravention of piles of international agreements, hand the Palestinians statehood, free of diplomatic cost, free of obligations, and free of any responsibility to treat either its people or its neighbors in a civilized way.
Abbas, like his former boss, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, has never been a man of peace. Even now, he continues calling for Jewish blood.
Israel, however, ever since its creation in 1948, has offered peace deal after peace deal – never to receive even so much as a single counter-offer — apart from war. Israel has, since its creation, been a tireless advocate for peace with Palestinians. All Israel asked in return were defensible borders, as agreed to by all parties in UN Security Council Resolution 242; no “right of return,” so that Israel will not become the twenty-second Arab state (and a radicalized one, at that), and an agreement to the end of conflict to prevent war from being reignited every few weeks, as sometimes appears to have become a Palestinian habit. Israel also insists, as it must, on an undivided Jerusalem — both to ensure freedom for all faiths, and — as it learned the hard way — that Jerusalem will not become another Palmyra of devastation or the headquarters of an Islamist State. Israelis no doubt remember all too well that when east Jerusalem was under the control of Jordan, before 1967, its Arab inhabitants took 38,000 ancient headstones from the Jews’ sacred Mount of Olives cemetery to use as flooring for their latrines.
In keeping with the policy of his predecessors, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said in the UN General Assembly this year: “I am prepared to immediately resume direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions whatsoever.”
In addition, it is only thanks to round-the-clock protection from Israel’s security forces that the Abbas is literally able to exist. Hamas, as he is well aware, would have killed him long ago.
While Netanyahu had always worked with the existing security, economic and civil cooperation of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian leadership, regrettably, seems never to have tried to bring its people either peace or development. In August 2005, Israel forcibly removed more than 8,500 Jewish residents from the Gaza Strip — with no conditions for the Palestinians – to let the Palestinians make this exquisite section of seaside land into another Côte d’Azure or Singapore. The Israelis even left their greenhouses there to give the Palestinians an economic head start. Within hours, every last greenhouse was looted or destroyed.
Then the Gazans, in free and fair elections, voted in Hamas — which the U.S. designated a terrorist group — to run their government. In just a few weeks, Hamas was throwing Palestinian Authority officials off the highest floors of Gaza’s buildings and expelling whoever had not yet fled. Abbas, to this day, cannot visit his own house in the Gaza Strip.
As a notable postscript, reliable accounts indicate that if the Palestinians on the West Bank were to hold free and fair elections to replace Abbas tomorrow, they, too, would elect Hamas.
In addition, in conformity with the Jew-hating members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, (OIC), the Palestinian leadership indulges in daily incitement promoting violence to eliminate Israel. This scenario has not changed since Arafat and the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, concluded the Oslo accords in 1993; it may even have intensified.
Notwithstanding its occasional diplomatic postures, the Palestinian leadership has proceeded with its practice of hatred and violence against Israelis and Jews. Successive Palestinian leaderships have ideologically followed the policies of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and friend of Adolf Hitler, who “created the permanent problem of Palestinian violence.”
The Palestinian leadership keeps insisting — possibly in the belief that history can be shaped to whatever is said the loudest (especially if accompanied by a sword) — that there is no historical connection between the Jews and the land of Israel/Palestine. They market this misrepresentation even in the teeth of massive historical and archaeological evidence which proves the opposite. This year, they defrauded an all-too-willing UNESCO into renaming the clearly Jewish sites — Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs — Muslim sites. Obviously there never were any Muslim “patriarchs,” let alone a Muslim woman named Rachel. So this treacherous act was a cultural theft in broad daylight, and committed with the full complicity of that club of dictators and anti-Semitic racists, which should, in a decent word, be closed down.
Never mind that for nearly four millennia there has been a land that is named Judea. Never mind that the Temple Mount is sacred not only to Muslims, but also to Jews, as the site of their two ancient Jewish Temples, the last of which was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE. Palestinian leaders insist that Muslims alone have a right to be there. (Jews are already not allowed to pray there: it might be advisable to take that as a warning.) Jews can be no more than dhimmi, a tolerated but subordinate religious minority, under the paid protection of Muslims — never a sovereign people equal to a Muslim Palestinian state, or its Jews to Muslim nationals.
The Palestinian Authority, in conformity to Muslim anti-Semitism, still refers to Jews as “apes and pigs” intent upon destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, despite all evidence to the contrary. PLO Executive Committee member Mahmoud Ismail has declared that the presence of “settlers”(meaning “Jews” — in the view of many Palestinians, all of Israel is one big “settlement” and all Jews are “settlers”) is “illegal,” and every measure taken against them is “legitimate and legal,” and a “national duty.”
The Palestinian Authority has done much to start, and nothing to stop, the recent violence against Jews that the ISIS-inspired Palestinian youths have been indulging in throughout Israel. And members of Abbas’s Fatah party have openly been “part of the incitement campaign.”
Fatah has also been distributing leaflets honoring terrorists; photographs include pictures of Abbas as well as Arafat. Rockets have been fired at Israel by Fatah’s military wing, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and Abbas himself has deliberately fueled the flames of terror against Jews.
He has recently been trying falsely to claim — again in an echo of the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini — that the al-Aqsa Mosque was threatened by the Jews.
Far from condemning calls by Hamas for a “Day of Rage, Abbas chose to refer to it as a “popular uprising.” Abbas also regularly lionizes terrorists and continues to hand them awards.
In 2013, he posthumously celebrated Abu Jihad, head of the PLO’s military wing, accused of planning attacks that killed 125 Israelis. Abbas described Abu Jihad as “the model of a true fighter and devoted leader.” In 2010, Abbas gave a military funeral to one of the key planners of the PLO’s terrorist attack that murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. And so on.
Sometimes, Abbas harps on Israel’s settlement policy as the sole reason for the absence of peace in the region. But before 1967 there were no settlements — and still no peace. What, then, was the Palestine Liberation Organization “liberating”? If you look at any current map of “Palestine” from the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, it blankets every inch of Israel — “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea,” as the Palestinians openly admit. Both the Hamas Charter and the PLO Charter (which has never, contrary to rumor, been amended) call for the destruction of all of the State of Israel.
The reality is that Abbas, like Arafat, seems never to have been serious about honoring his agreements — probably now more than ever, when the whole world can see that Iran is being generously rewarded for repeatedly violating the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
One could easily discern Abbas’s real designs in what he said at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last year: “For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years, how long?” He is saying that for him, the “occupation” has existed since the day of Israel’s creation – not since 1967. For Abbas, the timeline starts in 1948, when Israel was founded, not after the 1967 Six Day War, which led to Israel assuming control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Abbas is not what some political leaders may wish him to be: “among the last of Arafat’s generation of leaders who led the Palestinians from brutal terrorism to recognition of the state of Israel”.
Palestinians have long been in a bad way, denied of all fruits of development in modern times. Despite that, the rulers of both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the extreme Islamist Hamas, ruling the Gaza Strip since 2006, are too preoccupied with their own comforts and luxuries to think of the masses. Abbas is estimated to be worth $100 million. In 1997, a Palestinian administrative report found “$326 million of the Palestinian autonomy government’s $800 million annual budget had been squandered through corruption or mismanagement.” Abbas and his cronies have squandered the money of Arab refugees.
In the Gaza Strip, the situation is even worse. Hamas has planned to pay salaries to their tens of thousands of employees by distributing among them 1000 dunams (247 acres) of land — part of which once housed the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
The land was supposed to provide a solution to the severe housing crisis in the Palestinian-controlled area. Hamas seized total control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, and has transformed it into a base for various Islamist groups to launch terror attacks against Israel and Egypt.
At the same time, the Jewish state is flourishing in almost all fields of life, including advanced science and technology, medicine and renewable energy sources. It is hard not to think how beneficial it would be for the Palestinians if they had a leader who actually cared about them, one who could even co-exist with the Jewish state and take advantage of its advances.
Jagdish N. Singh is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi.
A Dose of Nuance: What the American Jewish Left has against Israel
by Daniel Gordis The Jerusalem Post
It may sound surprising to say “American Jewish opposition to Israel,” and not to “Israel’s policies,” but it is sadly accurate.
On December 13, Haaretz and the New Israel Fund sponsored a conference in New York City – a “new Israeli American discussion” – on Israel and the challenges that it faces. President Obama spoke by video; President Rivlin attended in person. A list of entirely unsurprising speakers all denounced, among other sins, Israel’s role in the current stalemate in peace discussions.
Then, Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, stood to speak. Power, not known for particularly warm attitudes to Israel, was a natural speaker for the event.
What she said, though, was apparently not what conference organizers had in mind.
As J.J. Goldberg noted in the Forward, Power spoke about the growing threat of global anti-Semitism, the ways in which the UN has turned Israel into a punching bag, and Israel’s helpful contributions to international crises such as Ebola and the Haiti earthquake. She also made clear the US’s continuing opposition to Israeli settlements.
The stony response she received, as reported by Goldberg and others, has left many pundits wondering what, precisely, has happened to the American Jewish Left. Why the opposition to what Power said? What, after all, was objectionable? Why, as Goldberg pointed out, was there a representative of Breaking the Silence, but no one from the security establishment who advocates a two-state solution – not because the Palestinians “deserve” it, but it would be good for Israel’s security? The Haaretz conference and the reactions it elicited present an appropriate moment for us to recognize both that American Jewish opposition to Israel is not new, and that it now takes a very different form of opposition from what it once was.
It may sound surprising to say “American Jewish opposition to Israel,” and not to “Israel’s policies,” but it is sadly accurate.
During the American Jewish debate about whether to support the 1947 UN partition plan, many American Jews were expressly opposed to the idea of a Jewish state. These were not religious reactionaries who felt that the Zionists were usurping the role of God. These were everyday American Jewish leaders, many of them involved in the American Council for Judaism.
Though they asserted – and still do – (see http://www.acjna.org/acjna/about_principles.aspx) that their opposition to Israel stemmed from their belief that Judaism was a religious and not a national tradition, the truth is that they were worried that a Jewish state would expose American Jews to accusations of dual loyalty.
The leadership of the American Jewish Committee (which is today a very different organization) was more explicit and honest. Writing in 1952, Jacob Blaustein, then head of the AJC, said that the AJC “reaffirmed our support of the new state… in the conviction that it was the only practicable solution for some hundreds of thousands of the surviving Jews of Europe.” It was not the flourishing of the Jewish people that sovereignty would make possible, nor the fulfillment of a two-millennia-old dream, that moved the leadership of American Jewish life. There was a problem in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Jews had nowhere to go, and the best solution to the problem was a Jewish state.
Thus, Blaustein warned, Israelis should not misread American Jewish support for the state. “Israel also has a responsibility in this situation,” Blaustein continued, “of not affecting adversely the sensibilities of the Jewish citizens of other states by what it says or does.” For, as Blaustein made clear, “We repudiate vigorously the suggestion that American Jews are in exile. The future of American Jewry, of our children and of our children’s children, is entirely linked with the future of America.”
American Jews, Blaustein insisted, would not be caught in the trap of the dual- loyalty accusation. America was their home; Israel, in turn, was a solution to a problem.
Over the years, that attitude shifted as American Jews became more secure in the United States, and thus less worried by the accusation of dual loyalty. After the 1967 war, American Jews could celebrate the Jewish State’s victory with no worries of any accusations of disloyalty (thus essentially ending the era in which the American Council for Judaism was a significant player in American Jewish life).
The participants at the recent Haaretz/ New Israel Fund conference are as secure as Americans as any American can be. What, then, fuels the animosity that leads them to object to Samantha Power pointing to the undeniable fact that the UN has become, as David Ben-Gurion put it, the “theater of the absurd,” or that anti-Semitism is now a global problem? What could possibly lead these people to be disappointed by a speech in which Power pointed to Israel’s positive contributions to addressing Ebola, or its humanitarian response to the Haiti earthquake? The issue is no longer dual loyalty. No one has put it better than Peter Beinart himself, who was, of course, present at the conference. As Beinart wrote in the New York Review of Books a few years ago, “Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists… people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals… people deeply devoted to human rights for all people… But the two groups are increasingly distinct.”
Beinart is right. Jewish statehood is always going to be a challenge for the sort of liberalism in vogue among American Jews.
As long as Israel is a Jewish state, making Israel both democratic and Jewish will be a challenge. Not impossible, but challenging.
For American Jews for whom that tension is discomfiting, it is Israel’s Jewishness – and not its democracy – which will remain unsettling. For American Jews who do not understand (or cannot accept) that Israel is an ethnic democracy, not a liberal democracy along US lines, a state which puts Jews first (think Law of Return) will always be troubling, if not anathema.
Why does this shift in American Jewish sentiments matter? It matters because as long as the issue was a worry about dual loyalties, the problem could be addressed by how Jews (both American and Israeli) spoke about Israel, and by American Jews gradually feeling more secure in the United States. The new hostility to Israel, based on a commitment to a form of liberalism that often yields fundamental opposition to the idea of a Jewish state, cannot be so easily addressed.
Which explains why, when Samantha Power said nothing objectionable, but did not join the pile-on against Israel, she was greeted with a steely cold silence.
We would do well to take note. Because that reaction is just a glimpse of where we are all heading.
The author is Senior Vice President, Koret Distinguished Fellow and Chair of the Core Curriculum at Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college, in Jerusalem. His latest book is Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul.