Thursday, September 20, 2018

Truth Leaks Out

Abd Al-Bari Atwan, a Palestinian journalist, lets the truth leak out

Arafat Told Me He Went Along with Oslo Accords "to Bring the PLO Back to Palestine" 
    
To mark the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian journalist Abd Al-Bari Atwan [pictured] revealed in Rai Al-Yawm on Sep. 13 that PLO leader Yasser Arafat told him he did not believe in the Oslo path, but that he was going along with it because it was an opportunity "to bring the PLO and the resistance back to Palestine" and to drive out the Jews.
    

Atwan also noted that Arafat had cooperated with, funded, and armed members of Hamas, and had coordinated with Hizbullah to dispatch ships bringing weapons to the Gaza coast. 
(MEMRI)
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Monday, August 27, 2018

Cyber Siberia & Return from Cyber Exile





Returning from Cyber Exile - Bruce

"Cyber exile" is a relatively new concept.

I never thought it would happen to me.  I'm an "ideas" guy.  I like debate and find the free flow of intellectual discourse to be one of the most enjoyable things about being alive.  That, apparently, is no longer a vogue notion.  That ideas are to be banned from the public square is a relatively new concept in the American psyche.  It seems to have gained acceptance, as my experience attests to.

I've been associated with the National Havurah Committee [NHC] secondary to my membership in an affiliated congregation.  Thus, I've been a relatively quiet member of their electronic listserv for many years.  Periodically I would post an article I found interesting and thought others would find interesting as well. 

(Note: a "listserv" is an electronic bulletin board/mailing list that distributes emails to subscribers. It is not unusual for organizations to use listservs to facilitate communication among its members.)


It's not that I didn't know most NHC listserv members were very liberal and left.  Some of them are my friends.  It's that I severely underestimated how much the world has changed...how much ideas can be shunned.  Or rather, I was to be shunned.

Jonathan Tobin has called this phenomenon "...the twenty first-century's version of Puritan New England's stocks where the public could mock and pelt offenders with garbage for violating community norms."

It began innocently enough on December 21st, 2016.  I read, enjoyed and posted a piece I thought worthy of consideration on the National Havurah Committee listserv.

Even now the piece strikes me as intellectually sound and interesting.  The scholarly article was called "Celebrating Orientalism" by Richard Landes.  It was published in a journal called Middle East Quarterly [Winter 2017, Volume 23].  Click HERE to view the article.

In my email to the NHC listserv I introduced the article as follows:

Dear Cyberspiritualists,

I just read a rather lengthy article, that lays out a fresh intellectual
reframe for understanding the MidEast.  Worth printing, reading and
debating over Shabbat.

Many on the left have a strong distaste for religious triumphalism...except
when it comes to the religious triumphalism of Islam.  This piece offers an
analysis of that tendency and its dangers.

For those averse to long pieces, allow me to tempt you with this gem:

*"It took a millennium of constant and painful efforts for Western culture
to learn how to sublimate man's libido dominandi to the point of creating a
society tolerant of diversity, one that resolved disputes with a discourse
of fairness rather than violence, and one where positive-sum encounters are
a desired norm. To insist, as many liberals do, that this exceptional
achievement be considered the default mode for mankind regardless of how
far the "other" is from this cherished goal, and to exempt enemies of
democracy from the civic responsibility of self-criticism even while
redoubling its burden on oneself, is to undermine the freedoms Western
civilization has built up over centuries."*

See:
http://www.meforum.org/6400/celebrating-orientalism

Warmly,
Bruce Xxxxxxxx :}

The avalanche that followed my post was not to be believed.  In the hundreds of email postings that followed, I was accused of Islamophobia, racism, white supremacy, fascism and bigotry.  It should be noted that many listserv members, even those disagreeing with the piece, defended me.

Nonetheless, two days later I was removed from the listserv, receiving this simple notification banishing me to cyber-Siberia:

The Executive Committee of the NHC Board of Directors has decided to remove you from the NHC-DISCUSS listserv, as your most recent email is really not appropriate.  We have all kinds of lively debates in our community, on everything from Israel politics to how to count a minyan, but we feel strongly that an NHC listserv cannot be used to disseminate Islamophobia or any other form of bigotry. 
-Harpo Jxxxxx, Treasurer of the Board

There was enormous pressure on the NHC Board of Directors from the membership to reinstate me.  Despite this pressure, it was almost a year before I was reinstated.

As I reflect on this experience, it is not hard to chalk this up to an increasingly polarized polity and a partisan divide that has worsened significantly over the last decade or so.  Tolerance for opposing views is limited by an elevated sense of political correctness gone amok.  The First Amendment, while still intact, has been socially chipped away at by accusations of "hate speech" that have been applied so liberally [no pun intended] as to be rendered almost meaningless.

As fate would have it, an early mentor of mine just died as I'm writing this.  David McReynolds, a pacifist and long time socialist, was a friend and a strong influence on me in my 20's and early 30's.  His New York Times obituary stated:

Mr. McReynolds resigned from the Socialist Party in 2015 after he was censured for comments he had made on social media. In one, he expressed concern over Islamist extremism following a terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper in Paris. 
“The failure of the Socialist Party, its tendency to substitute a kind of left rhetoric for serious analysis, is to be regretted...,” Mr. McReynolds wrote after his resignation.
Source: New York Times [8/18/18]
Even David McReynolds, a morally centered soul from the left wing intelligentsia, could not escape politically correct cyber exile!

I don't mean to compare myself with such a great thinker as David McReynolds, but the irony is poignant.

I am sad to say that my cyber exile was quite effective.  I no longer identify with the NHC community, despite my continued affiliation with a member congregation.

I am planning to leave the NHC listserv...this time voluntarily.
[Bruce's MidEast Soundbites]
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

To Palestinian Arabs: "It's Over"

Palestinian Arab flashes a V for "victory" sign with his hand...but have they reached the end of the road?

Time for Palestinians to Stop Fighting Lost Battles - Daniel J. Arbess 

Palestinian Arabs need to realize it's time to stop fighting lost battles and accept reality.

Israel is the ancestral and legal homeland of the Jewish people. Its capital is Jerusalem, as the U.S. has belatedly recognized, with other countries following. 

Israel's enemies lost the Six-Day War more than 50 years ago and relinquished the West Bank and the ancient city of Jerusalem.

The 1967-borders-and-land-swaps formula of the 1993 Oslo Accord is an artifact of history, overtaken by developments on the ground, and the Palestinians rejected itA broad alignment is coalescing among Israel and its treaty partners, Egypt and Jordan, and the consensus now informally includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, among others. With this Israeli-Arab detente, the Palestinians are finding that they are the last holdouts of an Arab world that has accepted Israel and will make peace with it.

Arab leaders who truly want to help their people know the path is through creativity, negotiation and compromise, not violent "resistance" - a euphemism for terrorism - and war.

Polls show the Israeli public wants a dignified outcome that integrates the Palestinian people into Israel's thriving economy and culture of innovation.

But security comes first. How could Israel ease security restrictions while Palestinian leaders are indoctrinating and inciting new generations to violence?
The writer is CEO of Xerion Investments and a co-founder of No Labels.
(Wall Street Journal)
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


In the wake of Israel's announcement that they will be the forth country to land on the moon [the United States, Russian and China were first], this gem was done by awesome blogger Aussie Dave on IsraellyCool

Friday, June 15, 2018

Pipes: 'War is Not Traditionally Conducted Like This'



Interview with Dr. Daniel Pipes 

Question: Was Israel hurt by the recent Gaza conflict beyond the PR black eye? Did Hamas gain anything from it?
Hamas and the PA both know that if Palestinians die, Israel looks bad. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. I don't know how deep and important that PR black eye is. There's so much else going on in the world that I think this is not the most important development of late.
But there is this bizarre transformation where the Palestinian leadership wants Palestinians dead and the Israeli leadership wants them alive. It's not the way war was traditionally conducted.


Question: Getting back to the embassy move, it seemed the reaction in Arab capitals was muted compared to what it might have been in previous years?
It was extraordinary. Not a single Arab capital, including Damascus and Baghdad, said more than a perfunctory word or two about this. Instead, it was Ankara and Tehran that were exercised about it, and, to some extent, the Europeans as well.
The Arab states used the conflict with Israel, for some decades, as a way of mobilizing opinion and distracting opinion away from the current local problems. It's a tiger they want to get off of.
What's really interesting is that you see major cracks in Muslim hostility towards Israel, spectacularly in Saudi Arabia
[Canadian Jewish News]
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Friday, June 01, 2018

Gaza Woes Began with a Tragic Mistake

Ariel Sharon was the force behind the disgraced Gaza disengagement.

Looking Back, the Gaza Pullout Was a Mistake - Sever Plocker 

Gaza isn't controlled by the Palestinian Authority, as the supporters of the disengagement - myself included - expected. Gaza was basically handed over to Hamas, which failed to establish a civilian government there. Instead, it established a wild military regime seeking conflicts and lacking any civilian goals.
    
Immediately after Israel pulled out of there, it turned out the strip wouldn't be like Singapore - but rather like Benghazi. The Hamas militias had no interest in an organized transfer of the production and real estate assets Israel had left behind. They preferred to build training camps in greenhouses than grow tomatoes there. And the PA vanished from the area. That sealed the enclave's fate.
    
The economic, social, and security situation in Gaza has deteriorated in the years that have passed since the disengagement.
    
Looking back, the disengagement was a mistake. Had Israel remained in Gaza, the economic gap between the Palestinians in the strip and the Palestinians in the West Bank would have been narrowed, and a solution would have been found for the transfer of goods and people between Gaza and Hebron. The PA would have maintained its rule - and would have even grown stronger. Tens of thousands of Gazans would be working in Israel, as they did in the past, and the level of violence would have dropped
(Ynet
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UPDATES: 

Gaza Casualties Don't Tell the Story - Aron Heller

A senior Israeli Cabinet minister rejected international criticism of Israel's open-fire policies along the Gaza border, saying the disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties does not reflect the true story.
    

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Gallant, who once commanded the Gaza region, urged the world not to "calculate who is right and who is wrong by the numbers of the casualties."
    

"In the Second World War, 7.5 million Germans were killed and only 500,000 British. So who was the aggressor, the Germans or the British? The issue is not the numbers. The issue is who is doing what."
(AP)
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- Efraim Karsh 

  • The perception of Palestinian violence as a corollary of Gaza's dire economic condition has dominated the discourse on the situation there. Yet this is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. It is not Gaza's economic malaise that has precipitated Palestinian violence; rather, it is the endemic violence that has caused its humanitarian crisis.
  • Countless nations and groups in today's world endure far harsher socioeconomic or political conditions than the Palestinians, yet none has embraced violence and terrorism against their neighbors with such alacrity and on such a massive scale.
  • There is no causal relationship between economic hardship and mass violence. In the modern world, it is not the poor who have carried out the worst acts of terrorism and violence, but rather the militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed circles of society.
  • The 9/11 terrorists were not impoverished peasants or workers driven by hopelessness and desperation, but educated fanatics motivated by hatred and extreme religious and political ideals.
  • In short, it is not socioeconomic despair but the total rejection of Israel's right to exist which underlies the relentless anti-Israel violence emanating from Gaza and its attendant economic stagnation and decline.
  • Only when the population sweeps its oppressive rulers from power, eradicates endemic violence from political and social life, and teaches the virtues of coexistence with Israel can Gazans look forward to a better future.

    The writer, director of the Begin-Sadat Center, is emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London.
(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
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Friday, May 11, 2018

Let's Go Fly a Kite: Palestinians Champion Eco-Terrorism



Israel Weighs Responses to Palestinian Arson Kites

With the number of Palestinian arson kite attacks now reaching as many as 15 per day, the IDF is considering dramatically escalating its response after Israeli towns near Gaza experienced a large number of blazes. The army is determined to end the phenomenon before it sparks a fire that turns deadly in a populated area within Israel. Weather conditions in the area are dry, windy, and hot - ideal for fires to spread. 
(Times of Israel)


IDF Arabic spokesman Avichay Adraee tweeted to his 171,000 followers in Arabic that the Israel Defense Forces would not tolerate the burning kites which have destroyed acres of fields and crops in Israel. "The arson phenomenon is not hidden from our eyes, and we are taking it very seriously. Attack kites are not a kids game and we don't see it that way....I advise you to stop working for Hamas and start working for yourselves to solve your own problems."  

Incendiary helium balloons released from Gaza caused fires in seven locations in Israel. One balloon set a wheat field ablaze near Kibbutz Mefalsim. Another caused a fire in the Be'eri Forest. Farmers estimate the damage to their fields that caught fire near harvest time at hundreds of thousands of shekels. 
(Ynet News)
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EXTRA: for those with more time: 


A short documentary "Behind The Smoke Screen" exposes Hamas' strategy



UPDATE:  

- Judah Ari Gross

After weeks of setting fires in Israel using "incendiary kites," Palestinians are now using a new arson tactic: helium balloons.
    
In total, 4,300 acres, or nearly seven square miles of land, have been burned in more than 250 fires over the past two months, more than half of it in nature reserves.
    
The blazes have wreaked havoc on local wildlife, ecologists say. And there are more fires every day.
    
A pilot program using drones to take down incoming kites and balloons did not succeed in blocking the attacks, Israel's Kan TV reported. 
(Times of Israel)
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VideoBite: New Film by Clarion


A new film is to be released shortly by Clarion Project.  Judging by their prior releases, this is bound to be a gem.  

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Israeli Mossad's Home Run





Exposing Iran's Nuclear Archive: A Fantastic Intelligence Feat 
- Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror

The Israeli intelligence community has once again proved it has extraordinary capabilities.

Reaching the secret Iranian nuclear archives, stored in an ordinary building so as not to attract attention, entering the facility and transferring the contents to Israel are all abilities that will remain important in future efforts to identify any Iranian attempt to deviate from the framework of the nuclear accord
    

The Iranians should internalize that they have been penetrated, that Israel has the ability to reach the most sensitive places in Tehran and that they should think twice before they act.
The writer is former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel and former Head of Israel's National Security Council.

(Israel Hayom)
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Iranian Regime "Humiliated" by Daring Mossad Operation
- Yonah Jeremy Bob 
    

Dr. Harold Rhode, who served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, said Israel "humiliated the Iranian government by capturing all of this material," and many Iranians were laughing at the Islamic regime on social media.
(Jerusalem Post)
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UPDATE

Mossad Snuck Nuclear Files Out of Iran with Authorities "on Their Tails"      

Agents of Israel's spy agency Mossad smuggled hundreds of kilograms of files on Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program out of Iran with Iranian agents "on their tails," Israel's Hadashot TV reported Tuesday.
    

The operation required an expansive operational infrastructure within Iranian territory.
    

The secret archives had been moved by Iranian authorities several times in a bid to keep them secret.
    

In January, Mossad agents received information pointing them to certain safes in a specific container inside a warehouse maintained by the Revolutionary Guard's Intelligence Organization in an industrial area of southern Tehran.
    

The team then broke in, removed the files and transferred them to a secondary location.
    

Iranian officials realized that information had been taken before the files were out of the country.
(Times of Israel)
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Monday, April 30, 2018

Reflection on Israel's 70th Birthday



As Westerners Grow Unsure of Their Identities, Israelis Are Confident of Theirs 
- Evelyn Gordon

90% of Israelis define themselves as Zionist. Zionism is simply the belief that the Jewish people has a right to its own state, and that a Jewish state therefore ought to exist.
    
This has enabled Israel to escape one of the modern West's besetting ills. In a world where elite opinion scorns both religion and the nation-state as anachronistic but has failed to provide any compelling source of identity to replace them, many Westerners have grown increasingly unsure of their identities.
    
Israelis, in contrast, are very confident of their identity: They are Jews living in the world's only Jewish state. This is the state created precisely so that all Jews, anywhere, will always have a home.
    
While a January 2017 poll headlined "Six in ten around the world think their society is 'broken,'" it's difficult for most Israelis to feel that way when, against all odds, Israel has not only successfully maintained the first Jewish state in two millennia, but also turned it, in 70 short years, into one of the world's most thriving countries.
    
Thus, despite arguing bitterly over what policies their country should pursue and complaining endlessly about its many shortcomings, Israelis are overwhelmingly glad that a Jewish state exists, and committed to both preserving and improving it. And that's why most will be celebrating on Israeli Independence Day. 
(JNS)
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Saudi Crown Prince to Palestinians: Make Peace or Shut Up



Palestinians Must Make Peace or Shut Up 


At a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [pictured] castigated the Palestinian leadership for rejecting opportunities for peace with Israel for decades, and said they should either start accepting peace proposals or “shut up.”

Citing what it said were multiple sources, Israel’s Channel 10 News on Sunday night quoted what it said were remarks made by the crown prince at the meeting that left those who were present “staggered” by the ferocity of his criticism of the Palestinians.

“For the past 40 years, the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities again and again, and rejected all the offers it was given,” the Saudi leader reportedly said.

“It’s about time that the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table — or they should shut up and stop complaining,” he reportedly went on. 

Prince Salman also told the US Jewish leaders that “the Palestinian issue is not at the top of the Saudi government’s agenda” and elaborated, “There are much more urgent and more important issues to deal with — such as Iran,” according to the TV report.
[Times of Israel] 
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UPDATE

"Arab NATO" to Confront Iran? - Yara Bayoumy

The Trump administration is quietly pushing ahead with a bid to create a new security and political alliance with six Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, to counter Iran's expansion in the region, according to U.S. and Arab officials. 


The effort, known as the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), might be discussed at a summit in Washington in October. "MESA will serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism, and will bring stability to the Middle East," a spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council said. 
(Reuters)
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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Israel - Iran War Continues



The Implications of the Syrian Base Bombing 
- Brig.-Gen. Dr. Shimon Shapira

The bombing of the Syrian T-4 air force base struck an Iranian drone section of the base under exclusive Iranian command. The commander of the drone unit was killed. On Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, the top advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, called the bombing raid on T-4 "Israel's crime" and warned during a visit to Damascus that it "will not remain without response."
    

The damage to the Iranian target raises the likelihood of a deterioration in the military situation between Iran and Israel. Iran may increase its attempts to strike at Israel via the Golan Heights using Hizbullah and Shiite proxies in Syria. 
The writer served as military secretary to the prime minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. 
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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Israeli Airstrike Stopped New Iranian Threat - Yaakov Lappin

The recent missile strike on a military airbase in central Syria looks like the latest installment in a long-standing Israeli campaign to police its red lines. Usually, such strikes are driven by incoming intelligence of threatening activity.
    
If left unchecked, Iran would flood Syria with Shi'a militia groups and terrorist organizations, arm them with missiles, and set up terrorist cells. It would convert southern Syria into a new launch pad for attacks against Israel.
    
Israel seeks no conflict with Russia but is unwilling to ignore the activities of Moscow's allies - something Israel has communicated to Russia repeatedly. Statements released by Moscow on Monday indicate Russian displeasure at Israel's alleged actions. Yet Israel has responded that it will not blink when it comes to defending its security. 
(JNS)
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Israel Is Resolved to Prevent Iran's Entrenchment in Syria 
- Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin 
  • The reported airstrike on Monday at the T-4 airbase in Syria is a result of two colliding vectors: Iranian determination to entrench itself in Syria and Israeli resolve to prevent it.
  • The strike's timing drove Syria to first attribute it to the U.S. as a response to Assad's use of chemical weapons (CW) against civilians in Douma. However, the target hit is connected to Iran and not to CW.
  • It is not from T-4 that the CW-dropping aircraft came, while reports of Iranian casualties are a strong testament.
  • That being said, a strike may well serve two purposes, promoting two objectives in a single step: Preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria with advanced weaponry and sending a moral message that using CW to commit mass murder is not acceptable.
  • To that end, even if Israel does not take responsibility for the strike, it is important that Israel make its voice heard denouncing the use of CW.
  • Assad's chemical weapons and their use in Syria awaits a U.S. and Western response, and one cannot rule out the possibility of a U.S. strike on regime targets.
  • Relevant targets in this context may include Syrian regime helicopters and airplanes enabling CW delivery, as well as Syrian air defenses, whose destruction will remind Assad of his vulnerability.

    The writer, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
(Twitter)
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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Pinch Me: Saudi's Recognize Jewish Rights



Saudi Prince Recognizes Jewish Right to "Their Own Land" 
- Jeffrey Goldberg

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [pictured] told me he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state of their own next to a Palestinian state. "I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land." No Arab leader has ever acknowledged such a right.
    
"Our country doesn't have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend - he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia, coming from America, coming from Europe."
    
"Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it's a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel." If Prince Mohammed actually achieves what he says he wants to achieve, the Middle East will be a changed place. 
(Atlantic)


Hamas bussed thousands of Gaza residents to the border with Israel to begin a six-week protest campaign ahead of the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence. This protest would mark "the beginning of the Palestinians' return to all of Palestine," according to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. It didn't.
    
Tectonic plates are shifting in the Middle East as the Sunni Arab world counts the cost of the failed Arab Spring and the defeat of Sunni Arabs by Iranian-backed forces in Syria. Today, Arab states seek protection from Israel and the U.S. against an ascendant Iran and a restless, neo-Ottoman Turkey.
    
It is against this backdrop that the old Palestinian alliance with the Arab nations has frayed. Most Arab rulers now see Palestinian demands as an inconvenient obstacle to a necessary strategic alliance with Israel. Prioritizing Palestine is a luxury many Arabs feel they can no longer afford. 
The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College. 
(Wall Street Journal)
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UPDATE


An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw - James S. Robbins

We may be on the verge of seeing a historic normalization of relations between Israel and several major Arab states - all thanks to Iran. On March 13, representatives from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, among other countries, gathered at the White House for a meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. An Israeli delegation also attended, marking the first ever publicly acknowledged diplomatic meeting involving these countries and Israel.
    
A new diplomatic paradigm is rapidly emerging. The Palestinian issue is no longer the marquee concern it once was. Iranian expansionism, nuclear and missile proliferation, and radical extremism are the critical issues pushing Israel and the Arab states together. Palestinian leaders have shown no great willingness to adapt to the new circumstances. And to the extent the Hamas faction draws closer to Iran, it puts itself on the wrong side of the peace equation. 
The writer is senior fellow for national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council. 
(National Interest)
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Happy 70th Birthday Israel!

Israel will celebrate its 70th birthday later this month

Koolulam's popularity has soared since it kicked off in Tel Aviv in 2017, with Israelis jumping at the opportunity to come together with thousands of strangers - to sing. In under an hour, participants learn a three-part arrangement of a Hebrew or English song, and then perform it for a video to be shared on social media. Views have reached millions. 

On March 13, 2018 there were simultaneous Koolulam gatherings in five different cities: Jerusalem, Dimona, Ashkelon, Rishon Lezion, and Kiryat Motzkin, with 7,500 people singing.
    
Co-founder Michal Shahaf Shneiderman said, "The impetus was to bring Israelis of all backgrounds together, regardless of their political views or affiliations." She chalks up Koolulam's breakout success to a desire by people to feel part of an inclusive group or community - even if only for a couple of hours. 
(Times of Israel)
Note: Israel celebrates its 70th birthday at the end of April
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Monday, April 02, 2018

John Bolton's MidEast: Three State Solution


The Subdivision of the West Bank & Gaza - David Singer 

President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as National Security Adviser flags the possibility that the centrepiece of Trump’s eagerly-awaited "ultimate deal" could involve the subdivision of Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) and Gaza between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

Such tripartite negotiations would replace the stale-mated Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiations - suspended in 2014 following a PLO walk-out.  

Now Abbas and the PLO have:

1. Rejected considering any future Trump proposals following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December.

2. Declared the Oslo Accords “dead” in January.

Enter Trump-appointee John Bolton into this Israel-PLO standoff – as President Trump ponders how to fill this negotiating void.

Bolton has an answer - provided with amazing prescience on 5 January 2009 in his Washington Post article headlined “The Three-State Solution”:

“Let's start by recognizing that trying to create a Palestinian Authority from the old PLO has failed and that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Hamas has killed the idea, and even the Holy Land is good for only one resurrection. Instead, we should look to a "three-state" approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Among many anomalies, today's conflict lies within the boundaries of three states nominally at peace. Having the two Arab states re-extend their prior political authority is an authentic way to extend the zone of peace and, more important, build on governments that are providing peace and stability; we need real states with real security forces.”

Bolton still retains these views – telling Eric Shawn on 21 January 2018:

“I hope at some point the Administration recognizes and perhaps it is already quietly – that the two-state solution isn’t going anywhere. If anything I would say to King Abdullah of Jordan – “Be prepared to reassert Jordanian sovereignty over part of the West Bank – negotiate with Israel”. I think that’s a far better outcome than the continued pursuit of a mythical – I believe – unattainable viable Palestinian state”

Bolton’s appointment is shaping up as yet another Trump-inspired circuit breaker. Ambassador David Friedman has already said Abbas' be‎havior may make him irrelevant in negotiations.

Trump’s decision to accept Bolton’s advice would spell curtains for Abbas and the PLO and give Trump the momentum he needs to get meaningful Israel-Arab negotiations started.
[Israel National News]
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Friday, March 16, 2018

Americans Love Israel...Really



American Support for Israel at Record High - Yair Rosenberg 

This week, Gallup released its annual poll on American attitudes towards Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As it has for decades, the survey showed overwhelming American support for Israel.

What is remarkable about the polling on Israel is how consistent it has been. Notably, despite endless talk about the Democratic party "turning against Israel" under Obama, Democratic support for Israel is essentially the same in 2018 (49%) as it was when Obama took office in 2008 (48%).

Israel is viewed even more positively than head-to-head polling about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would indicate. When asked simply whether they viewed Israel favorably (rather than to choose a side in the conflict), "83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favorably."

Support for Israel is higher among older brackets, but still robust among the young. As Gallup puts it, "Israel also receives higher favorable ratings from adults 55 and older (80% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (72%) or 18 to 34 (65%)."
(Tablet)
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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cutting Edge Video Technology May Unravel Trust In What We See

Above is a completly bogus-fake video of President Obama giving a speech he never gave.  The implications of this technology are far reaching.  

Terrorists Will Soon Be Able to Fake Videos - Elliot Friedland 

“The idea that someone could put another person’s face on an individual’s body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process. This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year.” 

— Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
New technology with the ability to create hyper-realistic fake videos has the potential to wreak havoc on the political landscape, lawmakers and technology experts say.
The tech allows people’s faces to be superimposed onto different bodies in other videos. Different technology can also allow allow facial expressions to be altered. Adobe even has a program to create new audio from text.
Currently, fake video technology requires manipulation of existing video footage of a person, and cannot create fake video from scratch with just a picture.
Right now, the technology is not that widespread and can still be detected by experts. But it is improving rapidly.
Such videos have already caused controversy. Fake pornographic videos have been made by face-swapping celebrities into pornographic movies. In February 2018, the popular content sharing website Reddit banned the r/deepfakes subreddit, which had been used to share fake pornographic content featuring celebrities. Reddit updated its rules prohibiting sharing pornographic content of someone without that person’s consent to include faked images. In February 2018, the pornographic website Pornhub banned deepfake videos from its platform.
The combination of the different emerging technologies means it is highly likely we will soon see videos of public figures saying and doing things which never happened, that are all but indistinguishable from the real thing.
In July 2017, a team of researchers created a fake video of former president Barack Obama giving a speech he never gave, as an experiment.

The national security implications for terrorist groups using this technology are very worrying.

They will be able to create images of politicians announcing strikes that never happened, announcing anti-Muslim policies that don’t exist, making racist and bigoted remarks they never said or even footage of war crimes that never took place.
As Lawfare blog writes “The spread of deep fakes will threaten to erode the trust necessary for democracy to function effectively, for two reasons. First, and most obviously, the marketplace of ideas will be injected with a particularly-dangerous form of falsehood. Second, and more subtly, the public may become more willing to disbelieve true but uncomfortable facts.”
The deepfakes trend takes existing problems with fake news to the next level. As fake news spreads, the public will be less and less inclined to believe what they see, hear and read, and more inclined to rely on tribal in-groups and partisan sources they trust to support their specific narratives and interests.
Terrorists can and probably will manipulate these passions in three main ways:
  1. Faking anti-Muslim hate crime and anti-Muslim bigotry in order to sow distrust between communities. It achieves this goal by making Muslims more afraid of non-Muslims, and by making non-Muslims less likely to trust stories of anti-Muslim bigotry.
  2. Faking terrorist attacks and making sophisticated threats to spread fear and reduce our ability to respond appropriately to genuine danger.
  3. Faking news reports or other information about genuine terrorist attacks, in order to increase confusion and put more lives at risk (ie falsely giving information that a suspect has been subdued when in fact there are more gunmen at large).
Deep fake videos are “like a weapon of mass destruction in the world of fake news and extremist propaganda, especially for hostile intelligence agencies engaging in political influence operations,” Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro said.
Yet despite the risks, the technology is ploughing ahead with no signs of slowing. The website deepfakes.club offers tutorials to anyone with an internet connection on how to create fake videos.
Nor are government attempts to develop reliable ways of authenticating content likely to be effective.
We all will need some form of authenticating our identity through biometrics. This way people will know whether the voice or image is real or from an impersonator,” Congressman Ro Hanna (D-CA) told The Hill. He called on the military’s research and development wing, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create secure authentication techniques.
Yet the lighting-quick development of digital technologies suggests any such process would become liable to manipulation. It even opens up the possibility of a fake video being stamped with a real mark of authentication.
“Any technology that will allow you to fingerprint, the adversary is going to figure out how to take it out, manipulate the content, and then put that fingerprint back in,” Dr. Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College, who specialises in digital forensics told ABC News“That is almost guaranteed.”
Cybersecurity experts are working on possible solutions to the coming threat, but so far have not agreed on a viable path forward.
[Clarion Project]
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