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Latest News in Israel – 30th July

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Fatah: PA has begun “gradual disengagement” from Israel

The Palestinian Authority announced on Monday that all government employees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will again receive only 60% of their salaries by next week due to the ongoing financial crisis the PA is facing.

The employees have been receiving 50-60% of their salaries for the past few months. The authority says that it’s unable to pay full salaries because of Israel’s deduction of allowances paid to families of security prisoners and “martyrs” from tax and tariff revenues it collects and transfers to the PA.

The announcement was made by PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh during the weekly meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in Ramallah.

The cabinet urged Palestinian universities to charge students of family members who work in the public sector 50% of their tuition fees until the end of the current financial crisis which the PA is facing.

The cabinet also decided to pay NIS 110 million to needy families, pointing out that NIS 90 million of the amount was allocated for the Gaza Strip.

Shtayyeh said he has decided to form a legal committee consisting of several PA ministries to “document and follow up on the crime of the house demolitions” in the Wadi al-Hummus area near the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher. The findings of the committee will be brought before Palestinian courts, he added.

The prime minister affirmed his government’s full support for the families whose homes were demolished, “in the face of attempts to expel them from their land.”

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Referring to last week’s decision by the Palestinian leadership to halt signed agreements with Israel, Shtayyeh said that the move “came as a response to Israel’s continuous violation of signed agreements, including piracy of Palestinian money, land confiscation and home demolitions.”

The “piracy” refers to Israel’s deduction of payments made by the PA to families of security prisoners and “martyrs” from tax and tariff revenues collected by Israel each month on behalf of the Palestinians.

Announcing the decision to halt agreements with Israel last Thursday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that a committee would be established to devise mechanisms for implementing the decision. A senior PLO official said last weekend that the proposed committee will meet soon.

However, it was not clear by Monday whether the committee has been set up. Several Palestinian political analysts and activists expressed skepticism over Abbas’s announcement, noting that this was not the first decision of its kind. They pointed out that the PA has over the past four years announced the formation of at least seven committees to look into ending all agreements with Israel.

Moreover, some political analysts pointed out that previous decisions by key decision-making bodies, including the PLO, to suspend security coordination between the PA and Israel in the West Bank and revoke Palestinian recognition of Israel, have never materialized.

In a related development, Majed al-Fityani, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, claimed on Monday that the PA government has launched a series of measures to gradually disengage from Israel.

He did not specify the nature of the measures, but said that they would take into consideration the interests and needs of the Palestinians.

Fityani told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station that the government was continuing to prepare plans to end Israeli control over the resources of the Palestinians.

Contacts between the PA and Israel, he said, are being conducted “at the lowest level.” The Fatah official said that there was no point in maintaining contacts with Israel, “which is supported by the US, its partner in the occupation of our people.”

He added that the PA government was working toward ending economic relations with Israel by signing agreements with Jordan and Iraq in the fields of energy and fuel. “Economic boycott [of Israel] is an important factor at this phase and is part of a national strategy to disengage from Israel,” Fityani said.

Regarding security coordination with Israel, he said it too was at its lowest level and is only limited to the needs of Palestinians living in West Bank areas exclusively controlled by Israel. “No one can claim that there is an ordinary security relationship between Palestine and Israel,” he said.  (Jerusalem Post) Khalen Abu Toameh

PM said to float plan for Palestinian building permits in West Bank’s Area C

The high-level security cabinet is debating a plan introduced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant building permits to Palestinians in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, alongside such approvals for neighboring settlers, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday.

After two lengthy meetings on Sunday and Monday, the ministerial body has yet to reach an agreement on the politically sensitive matter.

Palestinians are rarely granted building permits in Area C and recent years have seen the total number of approvals remain in the single digits, compared to the thousands green-lighted for Israeli settlers.

The plan will allow Palestinians to construct 700 housing units, according to Channel 13 news.

It was not immediately clear why Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, brought the plan to a security cabinet discussion, given that only his approval is required (followed by that of a bureaucratic body within the Defense Ministry) for the granting of building permits in the West Bank.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office did not return a request for comment.

As Israel girds for elections in September, several right-wing parties have vowed to prevent Palestinian expansion in areas of the West Bank that they hope Israel will annex.

The last time a plan for Palestinian building permits was brought for its approval, the security cabinet froze it indefinitely. That plan related to the expansion of the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, just bordering the Green Line. Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman had introduced the proposal in 2017, hoping to allow for the crowded Palestinian city surrounded almost entirely by the security barrier to expand within the space still available.

But after settler leaders got wind of the program, they launched a campaign to pressure ministers to refrain from “rewarding terror” and managed to bring the plan to its knees.

The Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcomittee — the Defense Ministry bureaucratic body that authorizes West Bank construction — had been slated to convene this month to advance the latest batch of settlement building, as the subcommittee does four times a year. However, that meeting has yet to take place.

According to the Oslo Accords, Israel has full military and administrative control over Area C, which comprises about 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory.

The security cabinet discussions on Sunday and Monday came days before a US delegation led by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is slated to arrive in Israel, as well as other countries in the region, in order to promote the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Responding to the Kan report, Yesha settlement umbrella council chairman Hananel Dorani said that “instead of fighting against the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of Area C and destroying the illegal construction that is rampant there, the prime minister is raising the possibility of surrendering to the phenomenon and approving the illegal construction, and perhaps even approving further construction. We fully oppose this and call on the ministers of the security cabinet to oppose this proposal.”

As recently as last week, senior right-wing politicians spoke out against Palestinian expansion in Area C. United Right leader Ayelet Shaked toured the West Bank with the pro-settlement Regavim NGO and vowed to put an end to illegal Palestinian construction, which has increased over the years.

“In recent years, as part of an organized and funded effort by the Palestinian Authority, we have witnessed a massive takeover of Area C,” said Shaked.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog claims that such construction is a result of Israel’s refusal to grant Palestinians additional permits.

Hagit Ofran from the left-wing NGO told The Times of Israel last week that preventing natural Palestinian expansion beyond the Green Line would “only be an interest of the Israeli government if it intends to annex [the West Bank] and facilitate a system of apartheid.”            (the Times of Israel) Jacob Magid

Likud MK: PA 100% to blame for failure of Oslo Accords

“The Palestinian Authority is 100% to blame for the failure of the Oslo Accords,” said Avi Dichter, Likud MK and former director of Shabak, Israel’s internal security agency, to an audience in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening.

He made his remarks at a conference organized by the pro-Zionist nonprofit Im Tirtzu (“If You Will It”) in collaboration with Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights on the topic of Israel’s legal rights.

Dichter said it was obvious what PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s intentions were right from the start. Dichter noted that early on Arafat visited Egypt and returned with four mass murderers hidden in his car.

Dichter, who was responsible for the area that included the border crossing through which Arafat returned, said he wasn’t permitted to search the vehicles but it was obvious something was up as “Arafat was six inches taller than when he left.”

It turned out later that the terror chieftain was literally sitting on one of the murderers who was lying on his car seat.

Dichter said the Palestinian Authority never fought terror and that some of the organizations it established to fight terror became terror groups themselves. He also noted that it is PA law that terrorists are entitled to salaries. They receive 12,000 shekels a month. If the terrorist is an Israeli citizen, he receives an additional 500 shekels a month.

The former Shabak chief also touched on Israel’s legal rights, the religious nature of Arab hostility toward Israel. He gave in-depth discussion of the efforts to pass the Nation-State Law, which he introduced in 2011. The law finally passed in July 2018.

The Nation-State Law, which came under widespread attack by its critics as “racist,” defines Israel as a Jewish state. Dichter noted that during a final committee discussion, in which Arab Knesset members attempted to torpedo the legislation, one of them shouted at the end, “We want a state of all its citizens.”

Dichter said the comment was revealing and showed the importance of the Nation-State Law. It presents an obstacle to those who would like to dismantle Israel from within and turn it into a multicultural hodgepodge made up of many nations.

Regarding the Left’s opposition to the law, Dichter said, “There are no greater hypocrites than the Israeli Left.”

“The Nation-State Law cements in law the Jewish People’s national rights, but does not infringe on anyone else’s civil rights,” he said.

The conference was dedicated in memory of Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger who was murdered this past March in a terror attack. He had courageously turned back to face a terrorist and according to reports managed to get off four shots with his personal weapon before he was outgunned.

His widow spoke to the conference, clearly still suffering from the blow of her loss. She spoke about his efforts to establish a yeshiva in South Tel Aviv, which has been overrun by African illegals who have turned the area into a drug and crime-infested neighborhood.

Sheffi Paz, a social activist in South Tel Aviv, also spoke at the conference Paz said that the government has abandoned South Tel Aviv and is unwilling to tackle the problems caused by the influx of thousands of illegal migrants. “I’ve lost faith in all politicians,” she said.

Goldi Steiner, founder and co-chair of Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, said that learning about Israel’s rights is the key to combating false claims against Israel.

“There is only one way to counter the ever-growing accusations of apartheid, occupation, and all the lies propagated by anti-Israel organizations like IfNotNow and B’Tselem, and that is through education.”

Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu, noted that one cannot accurately evaluate the Arab-Israeli conflict without first understanding Israel’s legal rights.

“When discussing the conflict, it is critical to first understand that the Jewish People have legal rights to the Land of Israel,” said Peleg.

“This is precisely why we have teamed with Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights to educate students and the broader public about Israel’s legal rights,” added Peleg.

The opening talk was given by popular Israeli journalist Amit Segal. He argued that Israel is divided into two camps: Israelis and Jews. With those who identify as Israelis tending to vote left and those as Jews voting right.

In this election, Segal said there’s a fight over the Russian vote between Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party and Likud leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Liberman is appealing to the Russians as a “family,” asking them to question whether they really have anything in common with the haredim, or ultra-Orthodox.

Netanyahu is appealing to them on the basis of “tribe,” telling the Russians that they belong to the tribe of the right-wing, which includes haredim, he says.

We won’t know the verdict until after the elections, Segal says.  (WIN) Staff

Discovery of Ancient Coins in Hungary Helps Identify Forgotten Holocaust Victims

A unique collection of antique and Roman-era coins was unearthed under a home located in Hungary’s World War II Jewish ghetto, according to a recent AFP report. It is assumed that the treasure was buried by a member of the previous Jewish homeowners murdered during the Holocaust.

The 2,800 gold and silver coins from several continents and decades were found by the current homeowners in the town of Keszthely, 190 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of the capital, Budapest. The family stumbled upon the coins in February while working in their cellar.

The homeowners, who have asked to remain anonymous, turned the coins over to the Keszthely’s Balatoni Museum, where they are presently on display.

The family explained that “five carefully sealed and buried glass jars” were slowly retrieved. “When we opened one of [the jars], we were greeted by an amazing sight, just like in a fairy tale: hundreds of coins, real treasure.”

Though the collection has not yet been valued, director of the museum Balint Havasi told AFP that the find is was “unique… in terms of geographic spread, time period — from antiquity to 20th century — and the large volume.”

According to Ferenc Redo, an archaeologist and coin expert, about half the collection is from Pannonia, a province of the Roman Empire that covers modern-day western Hungary.

Also found were antique coins from pre- and post-revolutionary France, 19th-century German territories, and both Tsarist- and Soviet-era Russia, as well as coins from South America, Africa, Asia and British-ruled India, reported AFP.

“It’s sad that someone put together such a worldwide collection but tragically could not continue,” Redo told AFP.

Engraved jewelry with the name “Pollack” was found in the jars. The Pollacks were well-known Jewish traders in Keszthely before World War II, according to the report.

Efforts are being made by archivists and historians to track down descendants of the Pollack family in order to return the treasure to its rightful owner. If no one is found, ownership will revert to the state.

The museum plans to digitize the find.

“It’s a priceless collection that can also help us learn about the Holocaust,” Havasi said. “We also hope the exhibition will spread the word about the coins, and that a legal owner will turn up.”

The museum quotes the “honest finders” of the coins as saying, “We transfer the objects found intact and complete with our inventory and photographs to the Balaton Museum today with the request that we would like anyone […] to be able to see it there. We would like the objects to be displayed at an […] exhibition, as we consider it highly important that the next generations, our children, grandchildren can see them in complete, original, intact condition, and not to get into a museum store to sink into oblivion again.  (United with Israel) Staff

Jewish man shot outside Florida synagogue ‘making progress,’ as police undergo investigation

A driver passing by the Young Israel of Greater Miami around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday night fired six shots at Yosef Lifshutz, 68, with four of them striking him the leg. A volunteer of Hatzalah, the nonprofit emergency medical service organization, was reportedly at the synagogue and helped the victim. Lifshutz was taken to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, where he underwent surgery.

Farley Weiss, a representative from the National Council of Young Israel, told JNS that Lifshutz remains in the hospital and is “making good progress.” His brother is with him.

“There clearly is a major concern that the shooting of this shul-goer at the Young Israel of Greater Miami is a hate crime,” said Weiss. “It’s taken very seriously by the Young Israel of Greater Miami and National Council of Young Israel, and by the Jewish community as a whole. We hope that the person or persons who did this will be apprehended very quickly because clearly there’s heightened tensions until that happens, and that we can come up with a better system to help prevent these types of shootings. Prayers are going out for him.”

“The investigation has to run its course, but anytime that someone is shot sitting outside a synagogue, it’s going to create fear in the Jewish community,” synagogue member Yehuda Kaploun told Florida’s Local 10 News.

The motive for the shooting remains unclear.

Miami-Dade Police Department detective Alvaro Zabaleta told news outlets the attacker got out of a black Chevrolet Impala and opened fire. Detective Angel Rodriguez told JNS it is too early in the investigation to determine whether the shooting was a hate crime, though the police department is investigating.

‘An important member of our congregation’

Friends and congregants at Lifshutz’s synagogue reacted to the shooting at the synagogue, saying that he was an important member of the community.

They said Lifshutz was sitting on a bench outside the synagogue, waiting to escort the elderly Rabbi David Lehrfield in for afternoon prayer services when he was shot. The rabbi of the synagogue described Lifshutz to Miami’s WSVN news station saying, “He’s a wonderful person. Everybody loves him.”

Congregant Koby Litowich, a board member of the synagogue who saw the shooting took place, called the incident “scary [and] terrifying,” and said that Lifshutz “helps out on a regular basis. He volunteers. He helps the rabbi. He’s an important member of our congregation.”

Jewish organizations reacted quickly to the shooting, which comes at a time of heightened concern regarding anti-Semitism and safety at synagogues following the deadly attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway.

Sara Gold Rafel, executive director of the southeast division of StandWithUs, told JNS, “StandWithUs is horrified by this shooting, and our thoughts are with Yosef Lifshutz and his family as we wish for his speedy recovery. We hope the authorities are able to apprehend the perpetrator as soon as possible, and determine whether or not this was yet another hate crime targeting Jews at a synagogue.”

Yaakov Hagoel, vice chairman of the Jewish Agency, said, “I call upon the U.S. authorities to put an end to the wave of anti-Semitic terrorist attacks that are being perpetrated against Jews in the United States. It’s time for Jews to be able to live their lives like any other citizen.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said that “we are saddened but cannot be surprised any more when a Jewish person is shot in front of a synagogue this time in Miami. We pray for his recovery as we intensify our efforts to keep our entire Jewish community safe.”

The incident comes almost five years to the exact day after Rabbi Joseph Raksin of Brooklyn, N.Y., was killed as he walked to the Bais Menachem Chabad synagogue in Miami Beach, just two blocks from the Young Israel.

‘Help prevent future crimes’

Damon Salzman, president of Young Israel of Greater Miami, posted a message on the synagogue’s Facebook page in which he called the shooter a “bully.”

He wrote, “It does not take a criminal mastermind to shoot an elderly person sitting on a bench. It does not take terrorist to try and kill someone isolated and defenseless. It takes a coward. It takes someone without courage to attack an elderly defenseless man sitting in front of a place of sanctuary. It takes someone devoid of humanity to perform such a disgusting and repulsive action.”

“Now is the time to act as a hero. … A hero is someone who does what is required especially when it is neither the easiest, nor the most enjoyable, nor the most popular thing to do.”

“Our first course of action is to take care of the man who was shot,” he added. “Our second course of action is to have cool heads. Not to react like we would first want—with righteous indignation and suspicion and perhaps violence. Rather, to pursue a stronger collaboration between the leaders of our community, our synagogues and schools, and the local law enforcement not only to bring this villain to justice, but to help prevent future crimes as well.”

He concluded by saying that the well-respected security agency Community Security Organization has assembled a program to help train members and coordinate security among Jewish institutions.

Salzman said, “This endeavor can only work if every organization is invested in its success. We can work together to try and prevent another senseless tragedy. Together as a neighborhood, as a community, we can be stronger.”  (JNS) Shiryn Ghermezian

WATCH: Israeli ‘Artificial Vision’ Device Opens New World for the Blind

A wearable ‘artificial vision’ device created by OrCam, a Jerusalem-based startup, opens up a whole new world for the blind and visually impaired.

OrCam MyEye increases the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired.

The device can read texts and barcodes; recognize faces; identify products, money notes and colors; and even tell the user the time and date. It does this by conveying visual information audibly.

OrCam’s wearable AI-driven MyEye 2 artificial vision device will now be available to members of the Rochester, N.Y.-based American Council of the Blind at a special discount, according to a recent agreement. (United with Israel)

The Iranian refugee who loves Jews and the state of Israel

“I feel like I’m home in Israel,” said Atour Eyvazian, an Assyrian/Armenian Christian who fled religious persecution in Iran.

Eyvazian lives in Texas, but his love for the State of Israel is deeply rooted. He is visiting the country for the first time this week.

“I was walking around the [Mahaneh Yehuda] market in Jerusalem earlier and I was smelling the fruit, touching and looking at it; talking to the vendors, to the people – that is how it once was in Iran,” he said, implying that the diversity in Israel was what made him feel like he was back in his home country again.

It’s the first thing he recalled as he began to tell his story.

Eyvazian was born in Iran in 1965, the child of an Assyrian mother and an Armenian father.

“Before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, people were getting along,” he recalled. “That’s what Iran was like, you could walk around freely. No one paid attention to who was Christian, or Jewish or Muslim. Life was good. But then, after the revolution, things became tough for Christians and Jews.

“The government changed and they divided the culture,” he continued, making it clear that he loves the people of Iran and that the problem with the country is its government, which he says is evil.

Atour Eyvazian plants trees in the Golan Heights (Credit: The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews)

Atour Eyvazian plants trees in the Golan Heights

Following the revolution, if you were not Muslim, “you were seen as impure and spiritually dirty” – an infidel – “and if you went to the market and touched fruit, vegetables or items there, you were told you have to buy it” because it was contaminated.

When Eyvazian was 18, he fled Iran illegally.

“The year was 1984,” he said. “I left through the mountains to Turkey. There were two guides who were to take me to Istanbul, but they left me at the border and robbed me of everything. They took everything; I was devastated.”

Asked why he escaped from Iran, Eyvazian said that he was the only son in his family.

“My parents didn’t want me to go into the army,” he said, explaining that it was in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War and at that time, anyone from the age of 10 or 11 to 50 could be used to fight in the military.

“And as someone from a different religion, you were seen as half-human; you weren’t like them,” he said. “The minorities would be sent to war and they would come back dead – and they were shot in their backs, not the front.”

He explained that because he was 18, the perfect age for a soldier, he could not leave Iran legally.

“IT TOOK me almost a week to walk through the mountains to Turkey,” he said. “I had two $100 bills; my mother sewed one into each side on my pants so that if I got into trouble, I could buy my way out.”

Eyvazian recalled the freezing conditions as he trekked through the mountains on his way to the border.

“When the two guides left me, I saw an old man walking and I spoke with him. He spoke back to me in Farsi and asked if I was coming from Iran. I told him I was, and that I was also looking for a bus.

“He pointed and said ‘just go straight,’” but little did Eyvazian know that he was being set up to be captured by the Turkish forces and incarcerated.

“He basically sold me out… I was captured in Baskale,” a town close to the Turkey-Iran border, he said. “Trucks with soldiers came and they let out the dogs – German shepherds – I was surrounded.”

Over the two-week period in which he hiked through the mountains and was then being processed by Turkish authorities, he lost 20 kg. He showed the Post a large scar on his upper chest from a knife wound he received during his time in prison.

After spending 40 days incarcerated – during which he was treated terribly and given almost no food, little access to a bathroom, and was hardly spoken to – he was released, using the money his mother had sewn into his pants to bribe his way out.

He showed the Post a large scar on his upper chest from a knife wound he received during his time in prison.

His parents – who were in their 50s “so the government didn’t care for them” – left Iran after finding out that Eyvazian had been caught and arrested by the authorities.

“If a relative or child committed a crime, the Iranian regime would punish the family to make an example out of them,” he said.

After an arduous process and a six-month stay in Turkey, Eyvazian made it to the United States, a day he remembered proudly: “November 4, 1984.”

He began working as a janitor, and for the first time in his life he felt free.

“I was always high and smiling,” he recalled.

While working, he also got his bachelor’s degree and an MBA. Despite his struggle, he now owns several businesses and restaurants in the United States, where he resides with his family.

BUT WHY does he love Israel?

His passion for the Jewish state began after he saw an infomercial on late night TV for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

“Rabbi [Yechiel] Eckstein was on TV talking about bringing elderly Russian Jews to Israel,” he said, adding that this resonated deeply regarding his own journey, since both his father and grandfather had been through hardships in Russia before going to Iran.

Eckstein founded the Fellowship, as it is now known, in 1983, with its main mission being to promote understanding between Jews and Christians and to broaden support for Israel. Eckstein passed away suddenly earlier this year, and the organization has been taken over by his daughter Yael.

“I’ve always had a soft heart for the Jews and Jewish culture,” Eyvazian stressed. “They have been wronged so many times – and I want to do everything I can to right that wrong.”

Atour Eyvazian plants trees in the Golan Heights (Credit: The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews) Atour Eyvazian plants trees in the Golan Heights (Credit: The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews)

The Iranian immigrant decided to start donating whatever he could to the Fellowship, and over time kept count of how many people he had brought to Israel with the donations he made.

He later met with Eckstein, and his relationship with the Fellowship and its rabbi blossomed.

“The Fellowship brings Jews and Christians together,” he said. “Jews and Christians have so much in common… Christians without Jews don’t understand their roots. The more I read books about what happened to Jews, their persecution and their history, the more I felt like that Israel is their home,” adding that he always asks, “What I can do to help them?”

EYVAZIAN DECIDED to take the trip with his family, because his children have gone through university and had a lot of questions about Israel.

“I wanted this trip to be educational for them, to break the stereotypes we all have,” he said, adding that the one he’d heard about settlements was shattered during his visit.

“I thought when they spoke about settlements, that it was like an invasion – it meant people were being moved from their land and Jews were coming in,” he said. “That’s not the case.”

“Israel is a small country with a few million people, and millions around them that don’t want it to exist,” he said, adding that seeing the Bible come to life and how this country really is the only democracy in the Middle East have been some of the highlights.

“Wow, there is so much freedom here. Everyone is so friendly and from colorful backgrounds. You see Orthodox Jews, and women in bikinis, men smoking – all at the same time… This is the true meaning of freedom.”

He was asked about the BDS movement, and those who call Israel an apartheid state. “People who say that don’t know the truth. In this land, I have more freedom than the place I was born. That tells you about democracy. Anything bad toward Israel is evil. The rights Muslims have in this country is something they wouldn’t have in their countries. I don’t understand how they can talk about boycotting,” adding that he is also “puzzled about Jews who don’t support the State of Israel.”

He called on his fellow Christians to step up their fight in defending Israel.

“The fight for Israel is about good and evil,” he said. “My message to Christian friends is that they need to step it up. The Christians need to support the Jews.”

Asked about the Iranian regime, he stressed that he cares deeply about the Iranian people, but agrees with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sentiments that the government must be stopped.

“After 1979, they began to export not only oil and gas, but the revolution as well,” he said. “The Iranian government is a cancer, and if we don’t do something, it will grow. We need to get as many nations together to stop them.”

He encouraged the Iranian people to do everything that they can to tell the international community about the situation in Iran, acknowledging that he knows how difficult such a thing is to do.

“I will stand by you, Israel,” he said. “I will share the messages and the truth about Israel.” (Jerusalem Post) Ilanit Chernik

How Palestinian Leaders ‘Guarantee’ Freedom of Expression

by Khaled Abu Toameh                  The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14620/palestinians-freedom-of-expression

  • The [Palestinian Committee for Supporting Journalists] revealed that there has been a “marked increase in violations against journalists by the Palestinian security forces in recent months” and said that it has documented more than 104 trespasses since the beginning of 2019.
  • Thus far, however, the new Palestinian government has dashed these hopes for basic journalistic freedom.
  • The continued crackdown on public freedoms under the Palestinian Authority means one of two things — both of which are bad news: either the prime minister has no real control over the Palestinian security forces, or he truly cares nothing about freedom of expression and unimpeded journalistic jurisdiction. Neither scenario bodes well for the future of human rights for Palestinians.

During a meeting with a Human Rights Watch (HRW) delegation last week, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh promised that no Palestinian will be arrested or prosecuted for exercising his or her freedom of expression.

“Freedom of expression is a sacred right for every citizen,” Shtayyeh was quoted as saying. “The government has guaranteed citizens the right to express their opinion through constructive criticism, whether in terms of social media or websites.”

Only one day before Shtayyeh assured the HRW delegation that his government would not crack down on Palestinians for expressing their views, however, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank arrested journalist and political activist Thaer al-Fakhoury, 30, for allegedly “vilifying the public authority.”

Fakhoury’s lawyer, Hijazi Obeido, said that his client had gone on a hunger strike after his incarceration. “The Palestinian Preventive Security Force summoned the journalist for an interview and arrested him immediately after his arrival,” Obeido said. “Last Wednesday, he his detention was extended for four days, and not 15 days as requested by the prosecutor-general, due to his health condition.”

The lawyer continued that al-Fakhoury, a resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, had remarked during a court hearing that he was being interrogated about a video he allegedly posted on social media. The video reportedly mentions the names of Palestinians who work with the Palestinian security forces, the lawyer added. The journalist has denied any connection to the video.

“The arrest of Thaer al-Fakhoury is a clear violation of the freedom of press work and the Palestinian law that protects the freedom of opinion and expression,” Skyline International, a Sweden-based human rights organization that focuses on social media and free speech, tweeted in a statement. “The arrest is a violation of promises made by [Palestinian Authority] Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh not to arrest any journalist in his region. Skyline International calls for the immediate release of Fakhoury.”

The Palestinian Committee for Supporting Journalists also called for the immediate release of al-Fakhoury. The committee said it rejects the arrest of Palestinian journalists because of their work and appealed to Shtayyeh to instruct the judicial authorities to refrain from issuing orders to arrest Palestinians for expressing their opinion or because of their journalistic work.

The Committee revealed that there has been a “marked increase in violations against journalists by the Palestinian security forces in recent months” and said that it has documented more than 104 trespasses by the Palestinian security forces since the beginning of 2019.

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHRP) said that its representatives visited al-Fakhoury on July 27 to check on the circumstances of his arrest and the legal measures taken against him.

According to ICHRP, al-Fakhoury called off his hunger strike ahead of the visit. “We hope he will be released as soon as his detention expires on Monday,” the group added. “The Hebron Magistrate’s Court decided on Thursday 25/7/2019 to extend his detention until next Monday, on charges that the Commission considers related to his journalistic work. The Commission calls upon the security services to stop summoning or arresting journalists for their journalistic work or because of it. We also call on the prosecution and Palestinian courts not to issue arrest warrants against citizens for freedom of expression or press work.”

The Palestinian Preventive Security Service, whose officers arrested al-Fakhoury, claimed that he was taken into custody on suspicion that he committed “acts outside the framework of freedom of expression, and not because of his journalistic work.”

The security service did not provide details about the alleged “acts” the journalist is said to have committed, but insisted that the proceedings against him were “in accordance with the provisions of the law.”

The arrest of al-Fakhoury exemplifies what a promise by the Palestinian prime minister is worth. After the meeting with the HRW delegation in his office in Ramallah, Shtayyeh posted a statement on Twitter in which he said that he “confirmed my government’s commitment to/ guarantee of the right of Palestinian citizens to free speech through constructive criticism. In this regard I emphasised that no arrests or persecution will happen.”

Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist Muhanad Karajah said that freedom of expression under the Palestinian Authority is not consistent with the minimum of what is guaranteed by Palestinian law. He also accused the Palestinian security forces of failing to carry out court orders to release detainees.

He and other legal experts and human rights activists urged the Palestinian security forces to stop “politically-motivated” arrests and to honor court orders. The “politically motivated” arrests refers to Palestinians who are detained because of their political affiliations or for expressing views deemed critical of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.

Palestinian sources said that despite Shtayyeh’s promise, the Palestinian security forces continue, almost every day, to arrest Palestinians for their purported affiliation with rival political groups.

As Shtayyeh was meeting with the HRW delegation, the Palestinian security forces released Yasser Mana’, a researcher and expert on Israeli affairs, after 45 days in detention. Mana’s family said that the Palestinian security forces had ignored a court order to release their son a week ago. The Palestinian security forces did not say why they arrested the researcher.

A committee representing families of Palestinian political detainees said that at least 118 Palestinians were arrested by various Palestinian security services during June.

The committee pointed out that dozens others have been summoned for interrogation by Shtayyeh’s security forces.

Among those targeted by the Palestinian security forces are four journalists, 28 university students, 24 political activists, eight merchants, seven teachers, six engineers, four mosque preachers, 99 former security prisoners (held by Israel) and 91 former “political detainees.”

Palestinian journalists and human rights activists were hoping that the Shtayyeh government, which took office only a few months ago, would take a fresh direction regarding human rights and freedom of expression and the media — turning away from the brutal censorship that has for so long characterized the Palestinian regimes.

Thus far, however, the new Palestinian government has dashed these hopes for basic journalistic freedom.

The continued crackdown on public freedoms under the Palestinian Authority means one of two things – both of which are bad news: either the prime minister has no real control over the Palestinian security forces, or he truly cares nothing about freedom of expression and unimpeded journalistic jurisdiction. Neither scenario bodes well for the future of human rights for Palestinians.

Greenblatt to Palestinians: “What You’ve Been Promised Is Probably Not Achievable” – Eric Shawn (Fox News)

Jason Greenblatt, the president’s point man on peace in the Middle East, told Fox News in an interview: “We want tremendous lives for the Palestinians. We want lives that mirror the lives of Israelis as long as we can keep everybody secure. We are not going to get there with slogans.”

The administration sponsored a “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain on June 25 to bolster the Palestinian economy. “Not only did the Palestinian Authority boycott the conference themselves, they tried to undermine the conference by asking others not to go. What a tremendous opportunity that they missed.”

“Nobody is here to force something on them that doesn’t work, but we are also…direct enough to say what you’ve been promised is probably not achievable.”

“Nobody can force a deal on either side but, similarly, the deal that you want is just not there, so the only way you are going to get better lives is by sitting down directly with the Israelis.”

“None of us can get the Palestinians and the Israelis to agree on a deal if they don’t want to do that deal. It’s not for America, it’s not for the European Union, it’s not for anyone who is interested in this conflict to make decisions for the Israelis or the Palestinians.”

“We don’t live there, we don’t suffer there, we don’t fight there, we don’t die there. It’s really up to the two sides to do [a deal].”