Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Israel & Saudi Arabia Continue Public Flirting

Surprise Move: Netanyahu will Negotiate based on Saudi Peace Initiative
- Gil Hoffman

Israel is prepared to hold peace talks based on the Arab Peace Initiative, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprisingly declared just moments after new Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman took the oath of office, ending a month-long saga over which party would join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

“I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors,” Netanyahu said in a press conference following the swearing- in ceremony. “The Arab peace initiative includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians."

“We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region since 2002, but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”

The controversial Arab Peace Initiative – long rejected by Jerusalem and also known as the Saudi Initiative – calls for normalizing relations between Arab countries and Israel, in exchange for a complete withdrawal by Israel to pre-1967 lines and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who was sworn in as minister-without-portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office and will deal with foreign affairs and defense issues, will be involved in new regional diplomatic initiatives Netanyahu intends to advance in coming weeks. He is the Likud’s most dovish minister.

Netanyahu also praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s offer to advance peace and security in the region. Liberman, who has been critical of Egypt in the past, said he agreed with Netanyahu’s statements, including about the Arab peace plan and reiterated Yisrael Beytenu’s long-standing support for a two-state solution.

[Jerusalem Post]

Normalization Would Be A 'Stab in the Back'

Hazem Abu Shanab, a senior member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, added that normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states at this time would be a "stab in the back" for the Palestinians.
(Egypt Independent)
Note: for context, please consider viewing a prior post HERE


Saudi Arabia Expands Its Anti-Iran Strategy - Angus McDowall

Under King Salman, Saudi Arabia is expanding its confrontation with Iran to Africa, Asia and Latin America, no longer relying on Western allies to smother Tehran's ambitions outside the Arab world. The Saudis are using Muslim networks to push states into cutting off contacts with Iran, including by creating an Islamic Coalition against terrorism last November.
Some African countries have followed many Arab League states in recent months in cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. In January, Sudan cut off ties with Tehran, followed by Djibouti and Somalia. 

Palestinian Activist Complains: Official Arab Normalization with Israel Has Reached Critical Proportions

BDS activist Omar Barghouti told the Lebanese channel Palestine Today TV on April 10: 

"Unfortunately, the official Arab and even Palestinian normalization [with Israel] is on the rise. We hold the official Palestinian circles primarily responsible for this, because they are the gateway to Arab-Israeli normalization. If official Palestinian normalization had not reached this level, nobody would have dared to host Israeli delegations in Saudi Arabia, sports delegations in Qatar, trade delegations in the UAE, and delegations in Bahrain, Morocco, and so on. Official Arab normalization has reached critical proportions." 

Islamic Fear of Zionism Is Irrational - Adnan Oktar

When the Arab-Muslim world recognizes Israel's right to exist as an independent and sovereign state, the century-long bloodshed will cease. Moreover, once the Arab world decides to acknowledge Israel as a neighbor, it can focus on developing the well-being of the Palestinian people, and of the other Arab peoples doing far less well than the Palestinians, too.
(Jerusalem Post)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Son of Hamas Addresses Jewish Audience

A controversial and moving 19 minute talk by Mosab Hassan Yousef,
a son of a Hamas leader turned Arab Zionist
Mosab Hassan Yousef – the “Green Prince” – who worked as an Israeli spy, said “the Jewish nation is dear to me and when I see nations fighting against the Jewish people it hurts me.”
Speaking at The Jerusalem Post’s annual conference in New York, Yousef noted that at one point he was working for and being paid by Israel, the US, the PA and Hamas, all at the same time.

Yousef, the son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, helped the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) thwart attacks from 1997 to 2007. He later went on to write an autobiography published in 2010 titled Son of Hamas.

He converted to Christianity and fled to the US where he was granted political asylum.
[Jerusalem Post]

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Digital Profiling: Radical Solution to Identifying Terrorists

Israeli Start-Up Claims It Can Identify Terrorists by Looking at Their Face
- Simon Tomlinson

Faception, an Israeli start-up, says its technology can spot character traits that are undetectable to the naked eye, and can identify terrorists, pedophiles and ace poker players simply by looking at their face.

The company claims its software classified 9 of the 11 Paris massacre jihadists as terrorists from their facial features. Shai Gilboa, Faception chief executive, said the firm has developed a database of 15 classifiers which are used to determine personality traits with 80% accuracy. 
(Daily Mail-UK)

Israeli Start-Up Says It Can Out Secrets by Analyzing Faces
- Matt McFarland

At a recent poker tournament, Faception predicted which four players out of the 50 amateurs would be the best by analyzing their photos. Two of those four were among the event's three finalists. 

(Washington Post)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Laughing at ISIS

An excellent satirical mocking of ISIS
Humor and ISIS - A.J. Caschetta
To date, the best example of satire targeting the Islamic State came from one particularly brave Kurdish comedy group in a skit that aired on KurdSat TV in 2014.

The musical skit features five comedians with fake beards and Islamic State regalia pretending to be Islamic State fighters, singing their anthem and strumming their Kalashnikovs like guitars. The song parodies the Islamic State with acerbic wit in the tradition of Pope and Fielding, portraying its members as hypocrites who "strive for jihad and sex." The "brainless" Islamic State members sing "We are bearded, dirty and filthy," "Our leader is called qaqa," and "We hate the smell of nice mint." The group's atavism is mocked with "We bring history to the present" and "we scare women and children."

Not only does their parody make Westerners laugh but it also targets prospective Islamic State recruits.

The song's choral refrain is one of the most trenchant insults in the history of satire: "We are ISIS. We are ISIS. / We milk the goat even if it's male."

Using humor against the Islamic State and all variants of Islamism is worth trying.
[The Sun-Sentinel]

Friday, May 20, 2016

What Starts in Israel, Spreads to the West

from INSPIRE Magazine

Al-Qaeda magazine calls for stabbing attacks in US

An online magazine published by Al-Qaeda’s main affiliate urges stabbing attacks on Americans, following the wave of incidents in Israel. It also says damage to US economy could be inflicted via killings of businessmen and entrepreneurs in their homes. 
The article titled ‘O Knife Revolution, Head Towards America’ published in the Inspire magazine invites “zealous Muslims in America who clearly see their Muslim brothers in Palestine being tortured” to carry out terrorist attacks on the American soil, as quoted by Vocativ.

The magazine says it is the “duty” of each Muslim to “spread this revolt to the throats of Americans in their very own homes.”

Israel has seen a surge in street violence since October with ‘stabbing attacks’ claiming 28 lives. At the same time, security forces killed 133 Palestinians who they said were assailants, according to Reuters.

The article also calls for “professional assassinations” and “home assassinations” of renowned American businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Future of MidEast Peace Lies with Arab Partners

For MidEast Peace, Look to Israel's Arab Partners - John Hannah
  • It's virtually impossible to imagine Israel and the Palestinians conducting fruitful negotiations under the current circumstances. Mistrust is at an all-time high. Gaps on the core issues are wide. Talks have been in deep freeze for over two years. For months on end, young Palestinians have targeted innocent Israelis in a wave of random stabbings.
  • The Palestinian leadership seems weaker, more divided, and more paralyzed than ever, utterly incapable of taking on the compromises that even the most generous peace offer would require.
  • If outside intervention to impose a deal rewards the Palestinians' refusal to negotiate, what incentive would they have to return to the table, rather than merely sit back and wait for even greater international pressure to be brought on Israel?
  • President Obama might more productively direct his energies during his waning months in office to the slightly more auspicious diplomatic ground of Israel's thickening links with a handful of key Arab states.
  • Unfortunately, Israeli officials complain that the U.S. remains far too focused on the Palestinian issue, while missing entirely the historic opportunity to advance relations between Israel and the Arab states. That's the real peace process play that America should be pursuing.

    The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Foreign Policy)


Arab States Willing to Amend 2002 Saudi Peace Initiative
- Daniel Siryoti

[A] Channel 10 report said Arab countries have indicated that some of the clauses in the Saudi initiative [were] open to negotiation include demands that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights and grant Palestinian refugees a "right of return."  

(Israel Hayom)

Israel, Egypt Nearing Compromise - David Wainer

Israel may agree to settle for half of the $1.73 billion fine Egypt was ordered to pay it so talks on exporting Israeli offshore gas there can go ahead, people familiar with the negotiations said. Payments would be spread over 14 years. An international arbitration court in December ordered Egypt to pay Israel damages for violating a contract to supply Israel Electric with Egyptian gas.

Israel's willingness to compromise on the fine reflects the tight cooperation between the countries since Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi became Egypt's defense minister in 2012, then president in 2014. Egypt exported natural gas to Israel until it canceled the agreement in 2012 as its wells became depleted and the pipeline carrying it came under repeated sabotage. 

A Note of Optimism for Israel's Future - Yossi Melman

Iran's Sunni Arab enemies have turned to Israel, which is reaching out with secret military and intelligence deals to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The writer was a senior correspondent for 27 years on national security, intelligence and strategic issues at the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

(Jerusalem Post)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Obama Stretching His Red Line Again: More Use of Chemical Weapons

Can Assad Keep Crossing the "Red Line"? - David Ignatius

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, apparently relying on a government source, reported May 2 that Assad's forces used sarin gas last month against Islamic State fighters after they attacked two Syrian air force bases east of Damascus.

Stockpiles of this deadly gas were supposed to have been removed from Syria in 2014.

"With the continuation of fighting in Syria, it is reasonable to assume that the regime won't hesitate to use these weapons again, especially after already having done so...without any reaction," an Israeli source told me.

Are Obama and Putin ready to tolerate a situation in which the use of chemical weapons is seen as "normal," despite a Russian-American agreement that they should be banned?
(Washington Post)


Assad Regime Drops Chemical Weapons on Syrian Town "in Revenge for Shot Down Russian Helicopter"
- Raf Sanchez

Dozens of civilians - mainly women and children - were rushed to a makeshift hospital in the Syrian town of Saraqib with their lungs burning from chlorine gas. The chemical weapon was dropped onto the town by the Assad regime late Monday in an apparent act of revenge after nearby rebels shot down a Russian transport helicopter, killing five Russian troops. 33 people were treated for chlorine inhalation and all survived.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kurdish Independence Coming

‘This is our 1948’: Kurds close relationship with Jews and Israel
-Seth Frantzman

“Do you know why we like Israel?” “The help in the 1960s, when Israel supported Kurdish resistance?” I wondered.

“That is a tiny reason,” said the major.

“We had Jews in this region, in our communities and we say ‘blood is blood’ and it is something you cannot abandon. We have gone through the same things, both suffered a lot.”

He pointed out that the Jewish people had suffered up until the foundation of Israel. “We have many of the same enemies around us and we are struggling for our state.”

Elements of this story appeared in most conversations I had in Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, last year. Some men claimed to have Jewish cousins. They were eager to show photos of Jewish houses in Aqrah, where some peshmerga we met were from. In Amadiya there were stories of “holy Jewish graves” from times of old. In the town of Alqosh there is the grave of the Jewish prophet Nahum, which some Jewish groups have shown interest in helping preserve and encourage visits to.

Hussein Yazdanpana, the leader of an Iranian Kurdish party that is in exile in Iraqi Kurdistan and has been fighting Islamic State, is enthusiastic about Kurdish-Jewish ties. Meeting him at a frontline observation post west of Kirkuk city, he spoke about the Holocaust and the shared suffering of Jews and Kurds as well as common values such as freedom and democracy.

“I look forward to good relations with Israel and the Jewish people in which we fight terrorism together in this region.”

In meeting throughout Kurdistan, the constant refrain is that the Kurds are today living in their [hoped for] independen[ce] year.

While other nations in the world gained independence long ago, such as Israel in 1948, the Kurdish nation of 30 million is divided between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. In Iraq they are closest to a functioning independence state, running their own affairs with an autonomous government. In Iran they suffer under the Persian-speaking and Shi’a dominated regime. In Turkey, although Kurds have representation in parliament, the Turkish government has been fighting a war with Kurdish communist guerrillas from the PKK party since last year. Cities are under curfew and thousands have died.

In Syria, the Kurdish areas have come under the control of the YPG, a left-leaning movement that has been the main force fighting ISIS. The Kurdish area of Syria has suffered greatly, with cities like Kobani in ruins and although it wants an autonomous, federal structure after the war, no one is supporting its desires.

This mutual interest between Israel and Kurdistan is unique in the region.

In many countries, such as Morocco or Egypt, even depicting Jewish history in the country is seen as controversial.

In contrast, in Erbil you can buy books in Kurdish about Golda Meir and about the history of Kurdish Jews.

In the Kurdish regions of Iraq, much of the talk today is about a referendum and eventual independence. The war with Islamic State is grinding on and Kurds have successfully pushed back the extremists and gained key allies, not only among Western powers, but also in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, countries usually hostile to Kurdish interests.

Israel, which has had a close clandestine relationship with Kurdish groups that dates to the 1960s, has generally been supportive of Kurdish rights. In January, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked expressed support for Kurdish independence.

In a 2014 speech to the Institute for National Security Studies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Kurdistan was “worthy of statehood.” All of these developments in the last years point to an enduring bond between two Middle Eastern peoples that is growing and can be cultivated.

[Jerusalem Post]

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Muslim on Muslim Anti-Semitism

Mehdi Hasan critiques UK Muslim community

Anti-Semitism Infects the British Muslim Community - Mehdi Hasan

There are thousands of mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who harbor deeply anti-Semitic views. It pains me to admit this but anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace. It's our dirty little secret.

I can't keep count of the number of Muslims I have come across - from close friends and relatives to perfect strangers - for whom weird and wacky anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are the default explanation.

It is sheer hypocrisy for Muslims to complain of Islamophobia, and yet ignore the rampant anti-Semitism in our own backyard
(New Statesman-UK)

Monday, May 02, 2016

Preventing Jewish Prayer

Palestinians try to demolish part of Joseph's Tomb in October 2000.
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Why Deny Jews the Right to Pray? - Jonathan S. Tobin

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Arabs rioted on Thursday. Were they complaining about Jewish settlements or the lack of a Palestinian state? No. Their issue was the fact that a group of Jews had entered the city, and as is their right under agreements concluded with the Palestinian Authority, sought to pray at the Tomb of Joseph, an ancient Jewish site of worship.

Palestinians threw rocks and burned tires. But Israeli troops defended the pilgrims and, thanks to the army’s efforts to prevent injuries on either side, no Palestinians were reported hurt. This wasn’t the first time Palestinians sought to prevent Jews from praying at the tomb. There was a similar incident in February. Prior to that, the tomb and the synagogue that encompasses it were burned last October as well as in 2000 in a bloody riot at the start of the second intifada.

Why can’t the Palestinians accept the site of Jews praying at an ancient site? It has nothing to do with arguments about borders, settlements or statehood. It’s the same reason they treat Jewish prayer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism — to be a declaration of war on Islam. It’s a function of a narrative in which the presence of Jews in any part of the country is seen as offensive and a challenge to national pride. It’s also the reason why the Palestinians and their allies managed to get UNESCO to pass a resolution that denied any connection between the Temple Mount and the Western Wall and Judaism or the Jewish people.

As Yossi Klein Halevi noted in an insightful article published last week in the Los Angeles Times, the whole point of this campaign is to deny Jews not only a state but also the right to their own history and faith. [Their] purpose [is to] deny Jews rights in Jerusalem, Nablus or anywhere in the holy land, [and] to erase the entire Jewish story.

They do it because only by denying the narrative of Jewish history that validates the rights of Jews to sovereignty in their ancient homeland can you achieve their goal of delegitimizing the modern state of Israel. If you accomplish that goal, you can not only convince a credulous world that a democratic Jewish majority nation is an “apartheid state,” but also deny Jews self-defense and allow hate-driven terrorists to be glorified as heroes and martyrs fighting for human rights.

One doesn’t have to agree with Jewish settlements or even think it wise for Jews to want to pray on the Temple Mount or even at a shrine inside an Arab city like Nablus to understand that defending those rights involves more than just religious issues or the desires of some to act in a manner that some think is provocative.

The current Palestinian campaign of hate has its origins in canards about Jews harming Muslim holy sites but what is at stake is not a question of defending mosques but denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem or any spot in Israel as well as the West Bank.

Liberals who sympathize with Israel wish that Jews would stop praying in Nablus and shut up about the Temple Mount, just as they would like to see West Bank settlements removed. But the Palestinian goal isn’t different rules for prayer at holy places or even a state with a border that might conform to the pre-June 1967 reality when Jews were denied the right to pray at the Western Wall. It is, as both Hamas and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas have both said, reversing the “occupation” that began in 1948, not 1967.

Keeping the peace in Jerusalem and Nablus is a serious problem and Israeli authorities are working to do just that even if it means adhering to rules that discriminate against Jews like the prayer ban Israel enforces on the Temple Mount.

But as the UNESCO vote and the Nablus riots remind us, the issue isn’t where Jews may pray. It’s whether Jews have any rights at all. And that is a fight from which all decent persons who claim to oppose anti-Semitism should not shrink from.
[Commentary Magazine]