Former Israeli UNESCO Envoy: New Resolution Ignoring Jewish Ties to Jerusalem ‘Truly Scandalous’ But Will Have ‘No Real-World Impact’


UNESCO’s approval of a resolution that ignored the Jewish people’s ties with Jerusalem holy sites was “truly scandalous” but will have “absolutely no real-world impact,” a former Israeli ambassador to the global cultural body told The Algemeiner on Thursday.

David Kornbluth — who worked as an Israeli diplomat for more than three decades and served as Israel’s UNESCO envoy between 2005 and 2009 — said such resolutions have only two tangible effects — “putting off Israelis with UNESCO and the UN” and “inciting extremists among the Arabs to carry on with fairytale propaganda.”

“Unfortunately, UNESCO has gone the wrong way,” Kornbluth told The Algemeiner. “The Executive Board, which passed this resolution, has always been very problematic. But until a few years ago, it didn’t dare to attempt to do anything that was so counter-intuitive and so contrary to the facts.”

The resolution, Kornbluth emphasized, “doesn’t help the Palestinians in any way and it doesn’t help get peace negotiations going.”

Furthermore, he noted, “it pushes any possibility of ever reaching an agreement on matters like Jerusalem even further away.”

At Thursday’s meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris, 24 countries voted in favor of the resolution and six — the US, UK, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia — voted against. 26 countries abstained and two countries were missing from the vote.

Kornbluth took some solace in the fact that no European country backed the resolution.

“You can’t call it a diplomatic success, but it wasn’t a bad vote total for Israel,” he said. “It used to be just America, and maybe one or two other countries, who would vote with us on issues like this.”

“I think more countries have come to realize that these resolutions are destroying UNESCO,” Kornbluth continued. “I would’ve liked to have seen France vote against the resolution, but it’s hard to get Europeans to stand up and be counted. The United States, however, all through the last decades, has been a staunch ally of Israel at UNESCO.”

Kornbluth went on to say, “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu has been saying for a while now that Israel’s status is improving at UN organizations and there will be more and more states that come out to support us or abstain. So this might be a step in that direction.”

Promoters of the resolution included a slew of authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes, Kornbluth pointed out, and the two biggest world powers to support it were China and Russia.

“In democracies, history is history and we don’t change it by UNESCO resolutions,” Kornbluth said. “But that is not the case with these dictatorship countries. These countries don’t have the same relationship as the Western world does with the facts. As [the late US Ambassador to the UN and New York Senator] Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.’ Hopefully, there will be even more Western states who realize that next time, as it’s really their history that is being challenged as well.”

The language of the resolution, which uses Arabic names for Jewish holy sites like the Temple Mount and Western Wall, “plays into the hands of those around the world seeking to delegitimize Israel,” Kornbluth said. “It plays into the old lie of Zionism is racism. It plays into all those old lies from decades ago. And it gives extremists more energy. But in truth, the whole thing will not get them very far. However, they do enjoy it in their propaganda world.”

Kornbluth did say there would be many people at UNESCO who would be upset by the resolution, as it would lessen the chances of the US Congress restoring funding to the organization — funding that was cut off after UNESCO admitted “Palestine” as a member state in 2011.

“This whole thing is very sad for UNESCO,” Kornbluth said. “The passage of the resolution is worse for UNESCO than it is for Israel, that’s for sure.”

Original Article: Algemeiner

UNESCO Backs Motion Nullifying Jewish Ties to Temple Mount


Due to Israeli efforts, no European country backed the motion, which describes the Temple Mount as holy to Muslims alone, without mentioning the site’s significance to Jews.

UNESCO adopted an anti-Israel resolution Thursday that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.
Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the decision while six voted against and 26 abstained while just two were missing from the vote.
The U.S., Britain, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution.

A senior source said that the efforts of Israeli diplomats significantly changed the votes of European states, none of which supported the motion. Israeli efforts, he said, succeeded in swaying France, Sweden, Slovenia, Argentina, Togo and India to abstain from the vote.

The resolution, which condemns Israel on several issues regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites, was advanced by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.
The resolution asserted that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, it includes a special section dealing with the Temple Mount, which says the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to the Jews as well. In fact, it mentions neither the Hebrew term for the site – Har HaBayit – nor its English equivalent, the Temple Mount. The site is referred to only by its Muslim names – Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision as “absurd theater,” adding: “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.”
“With this absurd decision, UNESCO lost the little legitimization it had left. But I believe that the historical truth is stronger and the truth will win,” he said.
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, said in response to the vote: “The Palestinians have lost all support in Europe, including France, Spain and even Sweden. Along with the shift of position of key countries such as India and Argentina to abstention, the vote constitutes a significant achievement [for Israel] compared to the opening conditions for prior votes.”
The UNESCO executive board made a similar resolution at the organization’s previous conference in April. The resolution was passed with the support of a number of European states, headed by France. This caused an acute diplomatic crisis between Israel and France, which included a harsh telephone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande.
The French president and other senior French officials promised after that incident that they would not support such resolutions in the future.
Chairman of the Zionist Union party and leader of the Israeli opposition, Isaac Herzog, urged UNESCO to withdraw the resolution, saying: “UNESCO betray their mission, and give a bad name to diplomacy and the international institutions. Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in response to the vote: “No forum or body in the world can say that there is no connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem.  A body that does so is simply humiliating itself.” The president added that “we also understand criticism, but history cannot be changed.”
For his part, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said: “This decision is a message to inciters and rewriters of history working tirelessly out of hate.”
In the past weeks Shama-Hacohen and Israeli ambassadors in dozens of capitals worldwide attempted to convince as many states as possible to oppose the resolution, or to at least abstain or not vote at all.
The Foreign Ministry issued a brochure with pictures of archaeological findings proving the historic affiliation between the Jews and Jerusalem in general and the Temple Mount in particular, as well as the existence of the Temple Mount at the site where the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today.
One of the findings shown in the brochure is the Arch of Titus in Rome, on which images of holy artifacts that the Romans took as spoils from the Second Temple in Jerusalem are depicted. These include the Menorah, which is the symbol of the Israeli state today.
In a letter Shama-Hacohen distributed to the ambassadors of UNESCO’s executive board’s 58 member states, he wrote that without undermining other religions’ affiliation to Jerusalem’s holy sites, the archaeological facts and historical evidence presented by the accompanying brochure “leave no doubt…of the deepest and longest Jewish presence in Jerusalem since ancient times.”
He wrote that every attempt to distort history and undercut the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem “is an attempt to rewrite history in a dangerous, unfair and one-sided manner.”

A senior Foreign Ministry official said Israel received information over the past week that numerous Arab states, including those that signed the resolution proposal with the Palestinians, support it due to public opinion at home. “A number of Arab states have reportedly expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the Palestinians’ moves in UNESCO,” he said.

They speak out sharply against the Palestinians and say they exaggerate and become more radical but stress they have no choice but to support the resolution out of domestic political considerations.”
Shama-Hacohen told Haaretz the move is a blow to UNESCO, as such acts are the reason for the United States’ continued suspension of its membership fees to the organization.
“The Palestinians’ persistence is costing UNESCO about 100 million euros in American membership fees,” he said. “Just a few days ago the American ambassador said in public for the first time at a debate in UNESCO that decisions about Jerusalem prevent the administration from obtaining a majority in Congress to approve the payment.
“Albert Einstein has already said that insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. The Palestinians and Arabs apparently disagree with him, and try time and time again in the same failed manner to sever the strongest tie between a nation and a certain location in human history,” said Shama-Hacohen. “There is no older, deeper and stronger connection than that of the Jewish people to Jerusalem in general and the holy sites in particular.”
Original Article: HAARETZ

United States Criticizes Israel Over West Bank Settlement Plan


The Obama administration on Wednesday castigated the Israeli government for approving plans to create a new Jewish settlement on the West Bank, three weeks after it signed a lucrative military aid package with the United States and just as President Obama was traveling to Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres.

In an uncommonly harsh statement, the State Department “strongly condemned” the move, asserting that it violated Israel’s pledge not to construct new settlements and ran counter to the long-term security interests Israel was seeking to protect with the military deal, which provides $38 billion in assistance over the next decade.

The new settlement, one of a string of housing complexes that threaten to bisect the West Bank, is designed to house settlers from a nearby illegal outpost, Amona, which an Israeli court has ordered demolished.

The timing of the approval especially infuriated the White House, American officials said, because it came after Mr. Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations. Mr. Netanyahu, they said, gave the president no advance warning, even though Mr. Obama expressed deep concerns about Israel’s continuing settlement construction. The officials declined to speak for attribution owing to the sensitivity of the issue.

“It is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the U.S. and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for a two-state solution that he so passionately supported,” the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, said in the four-paragraph statement.

The harsh words also rekindled speculation that Mr. Obama might lay down guidelines for a proposed peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians before he leaves office, either in a speech or, less likely, by backing a resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

“The administration has been escalating its rhetoric in opposition to West Bank settlement activity for more than a year,” said Martin S. Indyk, who served as Mr. Obama’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. “The government of Israel doesn’t seem to be listening.”

“At a certain point,” said Mr. Indyk, who is now the executive vice president of the Brookings Institution, “the administration may well decide that there needs to be consequences for what it now sees as an effort to close off the two-state solution.”

Mr. Obama, officials said, has kept his own counsel about whether to thrust himself back into the peace process. After two failed attempts to broker an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the president is leery of getting involved in another hopeless effort, aides say. He would also likely consult with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, were she to win to make sure his move did not complicate her plans.

The plan for a new settlement grows out of a bitter impasse between the Israeli authorities and settlers in Amona, which sits on a hilltop near the Palestinian administrative capital, Ramallah. Israel’s High Court of Justice has ordered the residents of Amona, which is built on private, Palestinian-owned land, to leave by Dec. 25.

The government’s plan is to move them to the newly approved settlement, built on public land, which would initially have 98 houses and eventually could accommodate up to 300 houses. The settlers have so far refused, creating an acute political crisis for Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition government.

The Israeli authorities have dealt with other such standoffs by seeking to retroactively legalize the settlements. But because Amona is built on private Palestinian land, it cannot solve the problem with legal machinations. Israeli authorities view the settlement as a “satellite” of another settlement, Shvut Rachel, which itself was retroactively legalized and lies within the redrawn boundaries of an established settlement, Shilo.

“The 98 housing units approved in Shilo do not constitute a ‘new settlement,’ ” Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “Israel,” the ministry added, “remains committed to a solution of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel.”

For American officials, the problem is that Israel is establishing a string of settlements, which the administration’s statement said “effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote.” The latest settlement, the State Department said, was “deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than to Israel.”

No matter how strongly worded its condemnations, some former diplomats said, it would do little to change Israel’s behavior. They urged Mr. Obama to lay down his version of a road map to a peace deal.

“Of course he should,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt. “These statements are meaningless if there is no action. The U.S. should expect Israel not to do these things, especially as ‘compensation’ for removal of an illegal outpost.”

Israel has a long history of ill-timed announcements on settlements.

In 2010, four months after Mr. Netanyahu had agreed to a moratorium on the construction of settlements in the West Bank, municipal authorities in Jerusalem approved 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem that had been excluded from the agreement. The announcement came as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was visiting Israel, and was viewed in Washington as a slap in the face.

At Mr. Obama’s behest, Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, delivered a 43-minute lecture to Mr. Netanyahu over the phone. Officials said the episode angered the president more than Mr. Biden himself.

Settlements have poisoned the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu from the earliest days of the administration. Mr. Obama demanded that Israel halt construction as a gesture to draw the Palestinians back to the bargaining table. Mr. Netanyahu complained that the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, frittered away most of the 10-month moratorium before sitting down to talk.

The timing of this approval, administration officials said, was particularly galling: Israeli authorities approved the settlement on the day that Mr. Peres, one of Israel’s founding fathers, died — and two days before Mr. Obama arrived in Jerusalem. That raised the possibility that the news could have leaked out while the president was at the funeral, which officials said would have dwarfed the diplomatic uproar during Mr. Biden’s visit.

For Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, it is a bitter coda to a relationship that seemed to end on an uncharacteristically gracious note in New York, when the two men smiled for the cameras, and the prime minister invited the president to Israel to play golf at a course next to his house.

Privately, the president raised concerns with Mr. Netanyahu about settlement construction and what Mr. Obama regards as its corrosive effect on the peace process. On Wednesday, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said the administration felt misled yet again by the Israelis.

“We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this announcement,” Mr. Earnest said. “I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well.”

Original Article: New York Times

Saudi Arabia unblocks online access to ‘The Jerusalem Post’


A reader in Saudi Arabia also wrote on Twitter on Monday that he can now access the site from there on his mobile device.

After years without reliable verification, a Saudi Arabian journalist confirmed on Monday that Saudis can now access The Jerusalem Post online from inside the Kingdom.

A reader in Saudi Arabia also wrote on Twitter on Monday that he can now access the site from there on his mobile device.

It is unclear when the Kingdom stopped censoring, but it apparently blocked access to the site beginning in May 2013. The Post features extensive coverage of Saudi Arabia and its role in the Middle East peace process.

“Traffic in the Kingdom actually went back up in summer of 2014,” Ilan Yogev, the Post’s content collaboration manager said on Wednesday, adding he has not seen any change to suggest that something is different in recent months.

Ahmed Abdel-Raheem is an Egyptian artist and PhD student and lecturer at Al-Lith College for Girls at Saudi Arabia’s Um Al-Qura University.

In 2013, he wrote on the conservative British website The Commentator, “Over the past week I have tried to access the website of the newspaper The Jerusalem Post, but every time I click the link of the paper, I have received the message: ‘Sorry, the requested page is unavailable.’” At the time,’s managing editor said, “Since the start of May, there has been an almost 100% drop in the number of visits to from Saudi Arabia. Up until April 30, we were getting hundreds of visits from Saudi Arabia every day, and now it is less than 10. There is clearly a demand for news from The Jerusalem Post, and it is a shame that the Saudi regime is proving yet again that it is determined to stifle freedom of thought and expression among its own population.”

While it excluded the Post in 2013, the Kingdom at that time allowed other major Israeli news organizations to operate.

All major Israeli news websites are now accessible in the Kingdom, according to recent reports.

Original Article: The Jerusalem Post

Palestinians say ‘two states’ but not ‘for two peoples’


Palestinian Authority officials have been using a deceptive version of the “two states for two peoples” motto when they speak to different audiences, according to a leading Israeli scholar.

Eytan Gilboa, professor of international communications at Bar-Ilan University and former consultant to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made the charge in his remarks at the 2016 National Israeli-American Conference held in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

More than 2,000 Israeli-Americans from around the country attended the conference. Gilboa’s panel, which attracted a standing-room only audience of about 150, also included Ron Prossor, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Dennis Ross, a former U.S. Mideast envoy, Koby Huberman, co-founder of Israel Peace Initiative, and Dana Weiss of Israel’s Channel 2 news network.

Gilboa said that PA officials who speak of “two states for two peoples” when addressing Western audiences, leave out the words “for two peoples” when speaking in Arabic to a different audience. “That’s because they do not accept the idea that the Jews are a national people with a right to national self-determination,” Gilboa said. “They still do not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a permanent Jewish state.”

This Palestinian rejectionism, Gilboa said, is reinforced by “the PA’s official maps, which still do not show Israel, and the textbooks they use in their schools, which do not recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Prossor was only slightly more optimistic than Gilboa about the chances for peace. Prossor said that while Saudi Arabian, Jordanian, or Moroccan officials sometimes seem to take a more positive attitude towards Israel than in the past, “the problem I discovered during my years at the U.N. was that the officials who were willing to go on the record with such comments were the ones who had the least influence within their governments.”

What’s unclear is whether unofficial expressions by moderate Arabs could turn into practical steps to advance a comprehensive regional peace with Israel, Prossor said. While doing a spot-on imitation of the voice of former Israeli president Shimon Peres, Prossor said that Peres “probably would say something like, ‘We need solutions, not resolutions.’”

The cautious perspective offered by Gilboa and Prossor at the conference contrasted sharply with Ross, who said he believes there is “a new reality, a new landscape” in the Middle East. He urged the next U.S. president to undertake a behind-the-scenes diplomatic initiative there.

Ross said that Israel should announce that “there won’t be any Israeli sovereignty east of the security barrier,” a position which went further than his recent calls for Israel to halt all housing construction east of the barrier. Ross’s new position would mean that Israel would retreat to approximately the pre-1967 armistice lines.

While Ross cited Egypt’s current cooperation with Israel as evidence that a regional peace might be possible, Prossor and Gilboa sounded a cautionary note regarding Israel’s relations with Egypt. “We have had peace with Egypt since 1979, and no territorial conflict with them, yet Egypt’s media and school textbooks are still very anti-Israel and even anti-Jewish,” said Prossor, who is also the former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “This shows what a big challenge we still face–there may be a chance for broader peace, but we have a long way to go.”

Gilboa said between Israel and Egypt there “is a peace only at the leadership level–it is not a warm peace, a peace between ordinary people.” Gilboa pointed out that the Egyptian government “has for so many years been educating the Egyptian people to hate Israel, it will take many, many years to reverse that problem.”

Orgininal Article: JNS.ORG

Israel is gearing up for a scenario-summer

prep scenario

In any future war, Israel will be hit with the largest rocket salvos seen in its history – that was the stark warning issued by Brig.-Gen.

Zvika Haimovich, commander of air defenses in the Israel Air Force on Monday.

Speaking at the Israel Air Missile Defense Conference at Rishon Lezion, which was organized by the iHLS website, he said that Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas were carrying out joint research and development of rockets, adding, “We can see a lot of live tests in Gaza with Hamas, and with Iran and Hezbollah [in Lebanon]. They have put in a lot of effort into increasing and improving their skills.”

Hostile entities will seek to overwhelm air defenses with heavy salvos, Haimovich said.

“In the future, we will meet and engage much bigger salvos,” he said. They will come from multiple directions, and a “regional war” is a more realistic scenario than a single-front escalation.

Gazan and southern Lebanese weapons storage facilities house many thousands of rockets, Haimovich said, adding, “It doesn’t matter how many. We are dealing with a complicated environment.”

Israel’s enemies have concluded that firing large numbers of inaccurate rockets is insufficient, and in recent years, they have begun moving away from that tactic, and toward accurate, guided projectiles, he said. With rockets becoming accurate, the difference between rockets and missiles has become fudged, he added.

Hezbollah can cover more than 75 percent of Israeli territory with its rockets and missiles. “If we are talking about the multi-directional threat, this is much more complicated than what we faced five to 10 years ago. We will deal with very big numbers of salvos, of more than 50 to 100 [projectiles]. It doesn’t matter if this is [fired] by Hezbollah or Hamas. We will meet new surprises on the battlefield, that’s for sure,” the air defense chief said.

Additionally, enemies will fire cruise missiles at Israel in the next war, he warned.

“It’s not a nightmare. It’s a very realistic scenario.

This is the way we prepare and train our commands and units to be ready for the next event.”

The appearance of Islamic State in Sinai has added to the list of entities that can fire projectiles at Israel, Haimovich said.

In response to the mounting threats, the IAF’s air defense units are focused on creating flexibility, and updating their battle doctrine, to ensure they are dealing with future, rather than the past.

The IAF’s air defense units will need to be able to select the right targets out of a very crowded sky in any future conflict, Haimovich said, describing that task as a “huge challenge.”

He admitted that Israel has a lack of resources, and not enough interceptors to defend against the full range of aerial threat. “This means we have to maximize our interceptors. It [also] means that rockets and missiles will hit the State of Israel in the next escalation,” he armed.

The IAF’s mission is to minimize the damage, he added.

He called for the acquisition of more air defense batteries and interceptors, but added, “This isn’t enough.” Integrating the various air defense systems, creating cross-branch IDF cooperation, and working with the US are all needed, he argued.

“We need to prepare our units. I really don’t know when next war will occur. It’s a kind of race between us and the other side. Our challenge is to always be in front, and to be one step ahead of our enemies and neighbors,” Haimovich said.

“It’s not very optimistic, but this is a realistic scenario.”


Original Article: The Jerusalem Post

Arab States Voted For Israel to Lead UN Legal Committee

arab un for isra

Amid reports about a number of Arab countries secretly voting in favor of Israel’s chairmanship of a prestigious United Nations committee, Israel’s ambassador to the UN told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that he “recognizes the importance of the 109 countries that voted for us.”

Ambassador Danny Danon was responding to a report in the London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, according to which at least four unnamed Arab states did not join efforts on the part of a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries to thwart Israel’s candidacy to lead the UN General Assembly Sixth Committee — also known as the UN Legal Committee — and in fact voted in support of Israel.

Danon was elected on Monday to chair the committee — a move that is being hailed as historic, as he will be the first Israeli representative to lead a permanent UN committee since Israel joined the international body in 1949.

According to a translation of the Arabic Al-Quds Al-Arabi report provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), “diplomatic sources” told the newspaper that “at least four Arab countries supported the Israeli candidate.” Further proof cited by the Qatari daily was that “Danon’s statement [following the vote] included no criticism of the Arab group” which attempted to thwart Israel’s nomination.

While Danon was unable to comment on the number of Arab countries that supported Israel — since, as he pointed out, voting took place through secret ballot — he did tell The Algemeiner, “This victory sends the message that Israel intends to play a significant role in the international arena for years to come.”

“Israel is a full member of the UN and will not be treated as a second-class citizen in the parliament of nations. We will not allow dictatorships and anti-Israel countries to harm our standing in the international community,” he said. “Those who tried to block our appointment would be well advised to take note of the jurisdiction of this committee, as they have much to learn about international law.”

The Sixth Committee is the UN’s primary forum focusing on issues of international law and combating terrorism. Nominating the chairmanship for the legal forum is based on a rotation system among the various geographic zones. This year, the 28 member states of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) voting bloc — which includes almost all western European countries, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Israel, New Zealand and the US as an observer — were responsible for nominating the next leader of the committee.

Danon received 109 votes out of a possible 193, with Arab and Muslim oppositionists writing in their own candidate.
Original Article: Algemeiner

UN GENEVA: Israel gets singular focus at UN rights body

Geneva 2

Wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Enforced disappearances, torture and extremist attacks infringe on human rights worldwide. Tyrannical, autocratic leaders and their allies from Belarus to Burundi repel dissent with an iron fist.

But while human rights abuses are legion in these troubled times, only one country has its record inspected at every single session of the United Nations Human Rights Council: Israel, over its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel, which trumpets its bona fides as a democracy in a difficult neighborhood full of enemies, is crying foul. And it is not entirely alone: Other critics, notably the United States, also decry what they see as an entrenched bias in United Nations institutions and an obsession with the Palestinian issue at the expense of other crises around the globe.

As the council convened Monday in Geneva for its second, weeks-long session this year, “Item 7” considers the human rights implications of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. The standing item at the 10-year-old council has come to exemplify the spotlight on Israel in a number of U.N. bodies.

“I don’t know whether it’s fair or unfair, but it’s obvious that the majority of members want to continue to focus on the situation of Israel and Palestine,” council president Choi Kyong-lim told The Associated Press.

Of 233 country-specific HRC resolutions in the last decade, more than a quarter — 65 — focus on Israel. About half of those are “condemnatory.” Israel easily tops the second-place country in the infamous rankings: Syria, where since 2011 at least 250,000 have been killed, over 10 million displaced, and swaths of cities destroyed, was the subject of 19 resolutions.

“The U.N. continues to single out Israel, the one liberal democracy in the Middle East,” said David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman. “Imagine that. A country with free speech, free elections and minority rights is condemned more than mass murdering dictatorships like North Korea, Iran and Syria. That speaks for itself.”

Shortly after taking office in 2007, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticized the standing item on Israel, saying he was “disappointed at the council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”

It hasn’t budged since.

Over the years, the council has variously criticized Israel’s presence in the Golan Heights and its detention of Syrian suspects without trial, a lack of cooperation with U.N. human rights investigators, its expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and its muscular and at times deadly response to militants’ rocket attacks from Gaza that have killed Israeli civilians.

This session, no resolutions are planned on Israel, but it still gets automatic billing.

Israel’s expansion of West Bank settlements in recent years has garnered sharp criticism, even of allies.

The criticism of Israel spans many U.N. bodies. Take some other recent examples:

—Israeli officials bristled after the U.N.’s cultural agency, UNESCO, passed a resolution in April that put the Western Wall in Jerusalem — Judaism’s holiest site — in quotation marks and described other Jewish sites as “so-called.”

—An HRC resolution in March called on U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein to set up a database of businesses operating in settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights. U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper said that move “only serves to reinforce the council’s one-sided actions against Israel.”

—On Friday, Zeid condemned Wednesday’s gun attack in Tel Aviv that killed four people. But he quickly expressed concern about the response, saying that Israeli authorities could be engaging in “collective punishment” with some measures against Palestinians like canceling 83,000 travel permits granted to West Bank and Gaza residents during Ramadan. Israel’s mission in Geneva accused his office of “using the murder of innocent Israelis to attack Israel.”

Palestinians accuse Israel of intransigence in applying U.N. resolutions.

“Israel tries to say that the U.N. is not the place to solve problems,” said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki. “Israel tries hard to single out the Palestinians by saying the conflict will be solved by the two sides and in the same time it continues confiscating lands and building settlements. Israel … doesn’t listen to anybody.”

The Palestinians, who have been gaining a greater presence in U.N. institutions in recent years, have allies like the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which has often led the push for resolutions critical of Israel. An OIC official did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment, saying only that its ambassador to the council had recently left.

John Fisher, Geneva director for Human Rights Watch, said that while his group believes Israel’s record deserves attention, it also has been calling for “attention to situations that are not on the council’s agenda at all, but should be.”

The more economic and political heft that a country has, the more it can block intense scrutiny. Uber-rich Saudi Arabia thwarted efforts to create an international probe of rights abuses in neighboring Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition has led a campaign including air strikes that have left hundreds of civilians dead.

On the side of those less influential, there’s Eritrea: a small, poor country on the Red Sea whose African neighbors want to highlight in this session with a resolution critical of its rights record.

Nearly from its inception, the HRC has drawn criticism for its make-up. This year, China, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela and Burundi are among its 47 members. Diplomats insist the HRC reflects the world, and cannot only include peaceful Western democracies. They say no country is fully above reproach.

The HRC has had achievements in places like post-genocide Sri Lanka, whose new government has been generally receptive to scrutiny and has cooperated with the council. Some Latin American countries are expected to lead an effort in this session to support protections for people based on their gender identities and sexual orientation.
Original Article: The Washington Post

Palestinians are victims of their Palestinian Authority

Bassem Eid

Bassem Eid, born in the Jordanian-occupied Old City in Jerusalem who currently resides in Jericho, is the founder and executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group established in 1996 during the Oslo process to monitor human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority against its Palestinian citizens.

Bassem is a harsh critic of the Palestinian Authority and a leading voice against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement who is not afraid to speak the truth about Israel or the conflict in the Middle East. For his refusal to blame Israel as the sole source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has been called a “traitor”, his talks have been disrupted, and his most recent lecture at the University of Chicago was shut down by a mob of anti-Israel activists, forcing him to be escorted out by police for his own safety.

Bassem spoke in Toronto on March 11, 2016.

Bassem started the talk by saying that contrary to popular opinion, the biggest conflict is not between Israel and the Palestinians, but between two Palestinian factions – Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Since the Palestinians became divided in 2007 when Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip, they have been unable to reach any kind of unity, in spite of several previous attempts. Unlike Israel, which is interested in reconstructing Gaza after the 2014 war, he explained that neither the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah nor Egypt are willing to do so.

“When you look at the Middle East today, you will find that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the least significant conflict in the Middle East. As a Palestinian, I don’t want to live in Syria, or Iraq or Libya or Yemen. It’s much better for me and for my children to live under the Israelis. It’s the safest place in the Middle East”.
The Egyptian government and the Palestinian Authority are not interested in reconstructing Gaza because of Hamas. For the last several years Hamas – which was designated by the Egyptian government as a terrorist organization in 2015 – has been waging a terror campaign in the Sinai Peninsula. Hamas also offers terrorists from other groups who are fighting in the Sinai a kind of shelter inside the Gaza Strip. As a result, Egypt has been applying pressure on the Gazans to get rid of Hamas, which included flooding terror tunnels, bulldozing neighbourhoods in order to expand the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt, building an underground barrier to prevent tunnelling by Gazan smugglers and by keeping the Rafah border crossing shut most of the time, keeping Gazans trapped in the enclave. Palestinian Authority is not interested in reconstructing Gaza because Mahmoud Abbas believes that putting pressure on Gaza will pave the way for Abbas’ Fatah faction to take back control over the Gaza Strip which it lost after the Hamas takeover in 2007.

Israel, according to Bassem, wants to help with the Gaza reconstruction efforts, but is very concerned that the money and building materials will be used for terror infrastructure instead of civil infrastructure, which was damaged during Israel’s defensive war against Hamas in the summer of 2014.

According to Bassem, Hamas-controlled Gaza is one of the major obstacles to peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

His harshest criticism is reserved for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. “I believe that Abbas only represents his two sons and his wife. Nobody believes that Abbas is going to build any future Palestinian state. If you ask Palestinians what is the most important thing for them today, most of them will say jobs. To secure the education system and future for my children. Nobody is talking about settlements or war or foundation of the Palestinians, which means that the majority of people these days want economic prosperity, not a state”, he said.

Bassem is certain that only economic prosperity can lead to the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since the Oslo Accord was signed, Palestinians received billions of dollars in aid. “Did these billions succeed in creating even one job for the Palestinians? Palestinian Authority doesn’t care about the economy.

The only ones who care about the Palestinian economy are the Israelis.” In addition to 92,000 existing work permits which enable Palestinians to work in Israel, in February the Israeli security cabinet has approved a new plan which would see 30,000 additional Palestinian workers employed in construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and other areas.

“Egypt and Jordan occupied us for 19 years and never offered us a state. Why should Israel offer us a state?”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer a priority for the international community which is trying to manage the growing Islamist terrorism in the Middle East and its spillover into Europe. As a result, the Palestinian Authority’s anger is growing, and to raise the international community’s awareness, it resorts to terrorism. Bassem believes the catalyst for the most recent wave of Palestinian terrorism was Abbas’ speech at the UN last September. Shortly after the speech, Palestinians unleashed the still ongoing so-called Knife Intifada during which dozens of Israelis were murdered and hundreds injured. “Violence attracts the eyes of the international community which will, in turn, pushes for resuming negotiations. The only ones who benefit from the storm of violence is only the Palestinian Authority”.

Abbas keeps the cycle of terror going by honouring the terrorists as “martyrs” and by meeting with the terrorists’ families and paying them $2,000-$3,000.

“When you have a President who is trying to sacrifice his people, I don’t think the people should have to have any expectation that this person is going to solve our problems. Ordinary Palestinians are fed up not only with the international community or the UN, they are primarily fed up with the Palestinian leaders. While people lose their trust in the leadership, I don’t think we should have any kind of expectation in the near future of a resolution to the conflict.”
“When will the Palestinians wake up? When will the international community wake up? When will they start recognizing the Palestinians are not victims of the occupation but the victims of their own leadership?”

“The international community wants to impose more and more pressure on Israel and ignore the internal conflict among the Palestinians. My message today is to point out the sickness of the Palestinian society. We must start to realize that we are a part of the conflict that we are responsible on our daily lives and not only blame Israel.”

The current violence taking place right now might seem like the majority of Palestinians are supporting it because they are silent. They do not. They are scared of speaking out and stand up and criticize and protest the so-called establishment. The stabbings will never bring any independence and will not solve our problems.

Bassem also slammed the international community for threatening to recognize the Palestinian state. “Which state are you going to recognize? How can you recognize a state when there is no infrastructure, no economy, when over 52% of the people are living in refugee camps? Show me one Arab country whose politicians are going to recognize the Palestinian state. I doubt there is even one Arab country right now that is interested in it.”

Between 1948 to 1967 Gaza was ruled by Egypt and the West Bank was ruled by Jordan, neither of which want to take the territories back. He finds it hypocritical that the Egyptians and Jordanians call on Israel to recognize the Palestinian state. “Egypt and Jordan occupied us for 19 years and never offered us a state. Why should Israel offer us a state?”

Bassem offers a creative solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by dividing the West Bank and Gaza among Palestinian tribes. “We have famous tribes in Nablus, Hebron and Gaza. They can rule different cities and their own areas and their own people. This is what’s going to happen in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, which will be divided between tribes. Palestinians, who are Arabs from Arab nations, can also be based on tribes. Let us have this solution – to divide the territories among tribes. It’s probably the only solution to the conflict.”

Original Article: CIJ News

Jordan cancels plan for security cameras on Temple Mount

TM cameras

PM says kingdom will halt program, aimed at preventing violent clashes at holy site, because of Palestinian opposition.

Jordan’s prime minister on Monday said his government had decided to call off a plan to install surveillance cameras at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, derailing a US-brokered pact to ease tensions at the volatile hilltop compound.

Abdullah Ensour told the state-run Petra News Agency that Jordan was calling off the plan due to Palestinian concerns.

“We were surprised since we announced our intention to carry out the project by the reactions of some of our brothers in Palestine who were skeptical about the project,” he said. “We have found that this project is no longer enjoying a consensus, and it might be controversial. Therefore we have decided to stop implementing it.”

The decision came just days before the Jewish holiday of Passover — a time of increased activity at the site. The Temple Mount is revered by Jews as the site of the biblical Temples, and by Muslims, who call it the Noble Sanctuary. It has been a frequent scene of violence in the past.

In a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Jordan offered to install the cameras last fall after clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces.

The Palestinians had accused Israel of secretly plotting to take over the site — a charge Israel strongly denies — while Israel pointed to videos showing Palestinian protesters using the mosque as cover while throwing stones and firecrackers at police. The idea was that transparency by both sides would help ease tensions.

But the plan quickly ran into trouble, with the Palestinians objecting to Israeli demands to place cameras inside the mosque. The Palestinians also said that Israel would use the cameras to spy on them.

Israel wants cameras installed everywhere in the compound, including in the mosques, to document the alleged hoarding of stones and weaponry by Palestinians in preparation for clashes with Israeli security forces. Jordan, the custodian of the shrine, only wanted cameras in open areas to show alleged violations by Israeli security forces.

Palestinians earlier this month placed notices in the Jerusalem compound warning of plans to smash any security cameras installed at the site.

The Jordanian decision could deal an embarrassing blow to Kerry, who had hailed the deal at the time it was announced last October and pushed behind the scenes in recent months for the sides to wrap it up.

There was no immediate reaction from the US, Israel or the Palestinians.

Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces erupted at the compound in September, preceding a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence, including stabbing, shooting and vehicular ramming attacks that have killed 29 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese since October 1. Some 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in this period, most of them while carrying out attacks, according to Israeli officials.

Israel captured the Temple Mount, site of the biblical Temples, from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed the area, but it left Jordanian religious authorities in charge of the Muslim holy sites there. While Israel controls access to the holy site, Jews are barred from praying there.

Israel and Jordan have close but quiet relations in other areas, such as security coordination against Islamic extremists. Israeli and Jordanian officials have shied away from commenting about the cameras on the record, presumably not wanting to upset the delicate ties between the countries.

Original Article: The Times Of Israel



Western countries are turning a blind eye to the genocide that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is committing against Christians in Iraq and Syria, reports the U.K.’s Daily Express, citing a charity group.

ISIS has already executed thousands of Christians and forced thousands more to flee ancient Christian communities in northeastern Syria and western Iraq, notes the article, adding that the jihadists demand they either covert to Islam, pay an extortionate rate/tax, or face execution, while other Christians are crucified.

“Despite concerns being raised by religious leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the plight of Christian refugees is largely being ignored by the western world,” reports Daily Express.

Jewish peer George Weidenfeld, who was able to escapee Nazi-occupied Austria with the assistance of British Christians, is funding a charity known as the Barnabas Fund in an effort to save the Syrian Christians.

“I have a debt to repay,” Lord Weidenfeld, who was rescued by Quakers at the age of five, told Daily Express.

ISIS “is unprecedented in its primitive savagery compared with the more sophisticated Nazis. When it comes to pure lust for horror and sadism, they are unprecedented. There never was such scum as these people,” later added Weidenfeld.

The charity has already mounted a series of missions to rescue the Christians in Syria.

Christians have reportedly been crucified, beheaded, raped, and forced to convert to Islam by ISIS. All the while, Christian children are being sold into slavery.

“It is like going back 1,000 years seeing the barbarity that Christians are having to live under. I think we are dealing with a group which makes Nazism pale in comparison and I think they have lost all respect for human life,” the charity’s founder and international chief Patrick Sookhdeo told Daily Express.

“Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law,” he added. “For them what they are doing is perfectly normal and they don’t see a problem with it. It is that religious justification which is so appalling.”

In Syria alone, the Christian population has plunged by nearly two-thirds since the country’s civil war started in 2011, Daily Express reports.

More than 700,000 of Syria’s Christian population of 1.1 million have been displaced by ISIS.

No more than 250,000 Christians remain in Syria, estimated Mr. Sookhdeo.

“In Aleppo, to give you one illustration, there used to be 400,000 Christians four years ago. Today there may be between 45,000 and 65,000,” he said.

Mr Sookhdeo is struggling to find countries that will take in the hundreds of thousands of Syrian Christians whom he believes have “lost all hope”.

The Barnabas Fund has already liberated 158 Christians from Syria. They were taken to Poland, where the charity found them a new home.

Mr. Sookhdeo recently traveled to eastern Europe in search of “refuge for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian Christians who continue to live under the tyranny of IS,” reports Daily Express.

The charity chief accused the British government of employing a Syrian refugee policy that is unfair to Christians.

Sookhdeo believes that “Britain’s offer to take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees inadvertently discriminates against the Christian communities most victimised by the Islamic State butchers.”

Only taking refugees from the camps excludes many Christians, because most of them prefer to live in church halls or with other families instead, noted Mr. Sookhdeo.

“Because these people are Christians they can also integrate very quickly within the churches…There are eastern European countries that are sympathetic but once we hit the UK and some of the other countries, they say they don’t want to do it,” he also said.

Some European nations have expressed a willingness to take in Christian refugees from the Syrian conflict.

Original Article: BREITBART

EGYPT: Sisi presents the Egyptian agenda to an indifferent world

Sisi presentation

Egyptian president puts squarely on the table the issues confronting the Middle East as seen by his country.
As the 70th session of the UN General Assembly opens, the eyes of the world are focused on Syria and the Russian military presence there; America is looking to implement the nuclear treaty with Iran, in effect making that country the dominant power in the Middle East; and the pope is extolling humanitarian values and ignoring the plight of whole Christian communities eradicated and massacred.

Yet the Egyptian president managed to make his voice heard, however briefly. In a lengthy interview to the Associated Press on Friday, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed once more that comprehensive cooperation between Arab states and the West is needed to defeat the growing terrorist menace that has already destroyed a number of countries and is now threatening the land of the Nile.

It was not necessary to belabor the point.

Islamic State is progressing almost unchallenged in Syria and Iraq in spite of the feeble efforts of a ramshackle coalition of Arab and Western countries doing little more than conduct some ineffective air raids. Three semi-autonomous regions and two rival governments are fighting over what used to be Libya, with any number of feuding militias tearing the country apart – and dispatching weapons and terrorists to Egypt and neighboring states; a hapless UN representative is futilely trying to achieve some sort of compromise.

In Yemen, pro-Iranian Houthi rebels are defying a coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and with the support of Egypt, and there is no end in sight.

The much needed comprehensive cooperation that Egypt is calling for will not be forthcoming.

Though all know how dire the situation is, but Middle East countries as well as the great powers are still guided by their own narrow interests. America has abandoned the region to the tender mercies of Iran; and last week, France at long last agreed to send its warplane to bomb Islamic State, but only in Syria, and not in its Iraqi strongholds. Iran is asserting its dominant position, Hezbollah grows stronger, Russia is sending weapons and warplanes to Syria in a move that threatens what’s left of the stability of the region.

The West is scrambling to adjust to the new reality.

Bashar Assad, who is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of his own people, is now “part of the solution” and the West which had been clamoring for his departure is ready to engage in talks. Of course, the civil war is driving millions of Syrians to look for a brighter future in Europe…

A strong Egypt is vital for Western interests – that was part of the unspoken message of President Sisi. He said that relations with Washington “were improving” and that they were “strategic and stable.” This is a diplomatic way of showing his disappointment with White House policies: Military aid to Egypt was only restored some weeks ago, after having been frozen for many months though it was desperately needed to help the country repulse the onslaught of Islamic terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula who have sworn allegiance to Islamic State. Joint “Bright Star” military exercises with Egypt and other Arab countries haven’t resumed yet. And Egypt is still waiting for special equipment and instructors to train Egyptian troops for anti-guerrilla warfare. Furthermore, the White House still has close links with the Muslim Brothers, Sisi’s bitterest enemies since they were toppled from power by a popular insurrection backed by the army.

The Brotherhood is still relentlessly trying to throw the country into chaos.

The Egyptian president made it clear that more should be done to solve the Palestinian issue. Such a solution, he believes, would be a game changer in the region and would lead to the peace treaty with Israel being extended to other countries. This was probably addressed to pragmatic Arab states and Saudi Arabia, to the Gulf states and even to Morocco, Egypt’s traditional allies – and perhaps silent allies of Israel in its fight against a nuclear Iran; Sisi would like them to exert pressure on the Palestinians to renew negotiations with Israel without useless preconditions, with a view to coming to a reasonable compromise. A very positive view, the Israeli prime minister was prompt to say.

In this remarkable interview Sisi put squarely on the table the issues confronting the Middle East as seen by his country. He may have been trying to stress that Egypt was still the greatest and most important Arab state, implying that should it be overrun by radical Islam the results would be a disaster not only for the region but for Europe, which has begun to realize what a flimsy barrier the Mediterranean Sea is, and even for the United States.

Is anyone listening to this most serious warning? It is unfortunately doubtful. The so-called great powers will stick to their narrow views and narrow interests, determined not to see the elephant in the room.

Original Article: The Jerusalem Post