.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Riyadh Ballet Stymied By Burqa Requirement (PreOccupied Territory)

Our weekly column from the humor site PreOccupied Territory

Check out their Facebook page.



Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, July 29 - Attempts to promote Saudi Arabia and its capital as a forward-looking, culture-rich destination have hit a snag as a flagship project, the Royal Saud Ballet Company, remains unable to recruit top-flight dancers because of a law mandating a shapeless, full-body dress for all females. Ballerinas fear the garment will interfere with the dancing.

King Salman has tried to continue the modernization of the kingdom begun by his predecessors while maintaining strict enforcement of traditional religious behavior. This has resulted in ultra-modern trappings jarringly juxtaposed with ancient mores, such as fleets of luxury cars that only men are allowed to drive, or the latest technology used to broadcast the beheadings of homosexuals. In the case of the would-be ballet, simply finding experienced instructors has proved next to impossible, threatening a pet modernization project with closure even before it gets off the ground.

Consultants helped place ads in European, American, and Asian publications, seeking both dancers and teachers to participate in, and train ballerinas for, the nascent company. The ads promised lucrative returns and the exciting opportunity to help birth what Salman hopes will become a leading cultural institution in the region and beyond. However, few, if any, interested applicants proceeded past the first set of inquiries, after discovering that all performances, or even rehearsals in the presence of men, would have to take place in full burkhas, which would impede the dancers' movements and possibly put them at risk of injury while performing certain textbook ballet moves.

Additionally, the candidates discovered, there would be no simultaneous dancing of men and women, a public modesty requirement that automatically rules out almost all classical ballets. Officials have repeatedly insisted they seek to make Riyadh a cultural powerhouse, not an experimental, avant-garde venue for productions of marginal impact, a desire that conflicts with the availability of popular ballets involving unisex ballet productions.

With no credible applicants for teaching positions, and barely a handful of potential dancers - mostly relatives of the royal family who already trained in Europe - the managing director of the ballet company announced a delay last month in the scheduled debut performance. Planners had hoped to make a splash on the regional cultural stage with a modified, a version of Balanchine's choreography for The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, adapted for local tastes both to enhance modesty and to remove any possible references to non-Islamic cultural touchstones. Opening night was initially scheduled to grace a newly opened Royal Saud Ballet Hall, slated to begin operations next May. But now ballet officials are considering indefinite postponement, unless the lack of seasoned, willing talent can be addressed soon.

If in fact the ballet does not come to fruition, Minister of Culture Ahaf Bin Toqin has already developed preliminary plans to repurpose the ballet hall for a different, more popular spectacle: the beheading of homosexuals. "Our first crop of subjects will probably come from the cohort of applicants for the male roles," he predicted.

07/29 Links Pt1: Report: Child-Killer Kuntar 'Killed in IAF Airstrike'; Iran’s Rhetoric and Arafat’s ‘Jihad’ Speech

From Ian:


Child-Killer Samir Kuntar 'Killed in Syria Airstrike'
Reports are coming out that Israel targeted and killed the notorious child murderer Samir Kuntar today (Wednesday).
According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Israel Air Force struck a vehicle carrying five fighters loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad. Three of the passengers were from the Syrian People's Committees, while Kuntar and the fifth person belonged to Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Kuntar was born in Lebanon to a Druze family. In 1978 he and three other terrorists from the now-defunct Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) snuck into Israel by boat and attempted to kidnap the Haran family from their home in Nahariya. The wife managed to hide in a crawlspace with the two-year-old daughter, but the husband and four-year-old were taken.
Kuntar and his associates took their hostages to the nearby beach, where Israeli soldiers and police officers encountered them. According to the official account, Kuntar shot the father in the back, then beat the daughter to death.
JPost Editorial: Pollard and Iran
Former US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross admitted in his 2004 book, The Missing Peace, that he advised then-president Bill Clinton against releasing Pollard in the framework of the 1998 Wye Accords negotiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term (this despite Ross’s belief Pollard’s life sentence was disproportionate and that he deserved to go free unconditionally).
Ross argued that Pollard was simply far too valuable as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis Israel to be released cheaply. Ross thus furnished us with the definitive explanation for Pollard’s inexcusably drawn-out agony.
Pollard has long suspected as much and had urged that he not be used as a “sweetener” to persuade Israel to agree to dangerous unilateral concessions. Despite his prolonged plight, Pollard has repeatedly pleaded not to be traded in return for the release of Arab murderers and terrorists, whose crimes bear no relation to his case and are morally incomparable to it.
The very thought that Pollard would now be exploited to “sweeten” both Israeli opinion and that of American Jews on the Iran issue is morally repugnant in the extreme.
It is instructive to recall that Pollard’s sin was passing information to a friendly country on such matters as Iraqi and Syrian WMDs, Soviet arms shipments to Damascus and Libyan air defenses. Indeed, this was largely data withheld by the Pentagon in violation of the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel.
The departure from all punitive precedents in Pollard’s case smells foul. Iran’s nukes constitute an existential danger to the Jewish state. Hence, it is unthinkable that anyone should consider Pollard’s release as rendering the Iran deal more palatable to Israelis.
This is an insult to our intelligence that condescendingly belittles the gravity of our predicament.
Jonathan Pollard on forthcoming release: 'I'm looking forward to being reunited with my wife'
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard will be released from prison after serving 30 years of a life sentence on November 20, the US Parole Commission announced Tuesday.
The Parole Commission relayed the decision to Pollard's lawyers, Elliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was also told and broke the news on Twitter.
"I am looking forward to being reunited with my beloved wife Esther," Pollard said through his attorneys. "I would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, who provided grass roots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials, and saying prayers for my welfare. I am deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small."
Pollard's lawyers said that they are grateful and delighted that their client will be released soon. "The decision to grant parole was made unanimously by the three members of the Parole Commission, who make their decisions independently of any other US government agency. The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East."

Nasrallah really hates the idea of Israel working together with Arabs

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah whose loyalty to Iran is total, gave yet another speech about how "Palestine" is the most important issue in the Muslim world.

Parts of the speech reveals what bothers him:

Sayyed Nasrallah said that the resistance project was inflicted by major losses in the past year, due to the events taking place in the region.

“The most major loss is the fact that Palestine is now out of the international and popular concerns, something which gave the enemy a historical chance in order to implement its scheme,” his eminence said.
What is that scheme? Ethnic cleansing? Expansion from the Nile to the Euphrates?

Not quite:

Sayyed Nasrallah noted that the Zionist enemy has been seeking to normalize ties with several Arab states, adding that Tel Aviv is taking advantage of the losses inflicted upon the resistance project.

However, he stressed that despite “the regrettable events taking place in the region, there are strength elements within our Ummah that the enemy still fears.”
And one more thing he fears from Israel:
Meanwhile, Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that the existential struggle which minorities have been engaged in has made from Israel a minor threat.
We warn against considering Israel as the “protector” of some minorities in the region, we may reach this situation someday.”
He seems to be referring to the Druze.

One other thing: While Iran tells people in English that it never starts wars with other countries, Nasrallah explains what they do engage in:

The resistance leader said that both Iran and Hezbollah stand with whoever raises the flag of the resistance, regardless his sectarian or political belongings.

He called on any Muslim or Arab country to bear its responsibilities towards Palestine.

“We guarantee that Iran will pave the way for any Muslim or Arab country to lead the resistance project if they bear the responsibility of defending Palestine,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.
Iran is willing to risk the lives of every Arab to fight Israel. Very big of them.


How Amnesty lies and twists the truth

Right after I posted my last article on Amnesty's latest report based on its executive summary, the actual Amnesty report about the fighting in Rafah last year was released. It took me about two minutes to identify the first lie.

An engineer corps soldier who took part in the incursion told Breaking the Silence that his orders were “to make a big boom before the ceasefire”, without being given any specific targets
The Breaking the Silence quote shows that this soldier was not in Rafah to begin with! He was talking about a completely different battle in northern Gaza.

And even his testimony shows the exact opposite of Amnesty's thesis of a bloodthirsty, vengeful IDF:

Before the first ceasefire they told us we were going in [to the Gaza Strip] to take down a house. We went down quick and got the gear we needed ready and then we asked, “Which house are we taking down?” And they said, “We want to make a big boom before the ceasefire.” Like that, those were the words the officer used, and it made everyone mad. I mean, whose house? They hadn’t picked a specific one – just ‘a’ house. That’s when everyone got uneasy. At that moment we decided pretty unanimously that we would go speak with the team commander and tell him we simply aren’t going to do it, that we aren’t willing to put ourselves at risk for no reason. He chose the most inappropriate words to describe to us what we were being asked to do. I guess that’s how it was conveyed to him. “We’re not willing to do it,” we told him. It was a very difficult conversation. Him being an officer, he said, “First of all, so it’s clear to everyone, we will be carrying this thing out tonight, and second, I’m going to go find out more details about the mission for you.” He returned a few hours later and said, “It’s an ‘active house' (being used by combatants for military purposes) and it’s necessary you take it down, and not someone else, because we can’t do it with jets – that would endanger other houses in the area, and that’s why you’re needed.” In the end the mission was miraculously transferred to a battalion with which we were supposed to go in, and we were let off the hook. After the ceasefire a bulldozer and emulsion trucks (transporting the explosive liquid) and the driller (a drilling system for identifying tunnels) came to our area, and work started on the tunnels in our zone.
All Amnesty wants you to get out of this is that some IDF officer said he wanted to make a big boom on a random house, and it is clear that this was not the mission at all. And the very idea of such a mission is so anomalous and disgusting to IDF soldiers that even when they think their commander is ordering them to do so, they refuse!

Amnesty, of course, has no problem lying and claiming that this is proof of Israeli war crimes miles away.



Meanwhile, I am looking in the full report for quotes to support Amnesty's claim in their executive summary that
Public statements by Israeli army commanders and soldiers after the conflict provide compelling reasons to conclude that some attacks that killed civilians and destroyed homes and property were intentionally carried out and motivated by a desire for revenge – to teach a lesson to, or punish, the population of Rafah for the capture of Lieutenant Goldin.
What public statements support that conclusion? Amnesty's full report supplies exactly one that does no such thing:
Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said Israel’s assaults were mostly aimed at convincing Hamas never to try it again: “When they come out of their bunkers and they look around, they are going to have to make a serious estimation of whether what they have done was worth it.” These statements indicate an intention to generate material damage as a deterrent.
Lerner's statement does not in any way indicate that the IDF intended to inflict damage as a deterrent. He was talking about damage that occurs during the course of a war where Hamas chooses to hide among civilians, necessitating the destruction of civilian buildings that Hamas turned into military targets.  Amnesty has no shred of evidence that the IDF chose a single target for non-military reasons.

And this is the quote that Amnesty is using as proof of Israeli war crimes. It betrays not only their willingness to twist the facts to reach their pre-conceived notions, but also a willful ignorance of how modern armies make their decisions.

Amnesty chooses to anthropomorphize the IDF as a vindictive person, not as an organization with multiple layers of checks and balances - and there is plenty of documentation that shows every step that goes into IDF decision making that contradicts Amnesty's blanket statements.

The organization is beneath contempt.

Amnesty's new report takes soldiers' quotes out of context (updated)

Amnesty International today is releasing yet another report that tries to prove Israel committed war crimes in last year's Gaza war, this time regarding the events surrounding the kidnapping of Lt. Hadar Goldin in Rafah - who was abducted during a ceasefire.

Just like the Gaza Platform, the upcoming report uses the services of the anti-Zionist "Forensics Architecture" team to take one-sided evidence and twist it to make it look like an impartial investigation.

At the moment, only the executive summary is available. Yet even its use of sources proves its bias.

It quotes two IDF soldiers who were interviewed by "Breaking the Silence" to prove purposeful Israeli fire into civilian areas.

An Israeli infantry officer described to Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence the events that
ensued after the Hannibal Directive was announced on the radio:
“The minute ‘Hannibal Directive’ is declared on the radio, there are consequences. There’s a fire procedure called the ‘Hannibal fire procedure’ – you fire at every suspicious place that merges with a central route. You don’t spare any means.”
Here's the entire testimony:

So I heard that the reconnaissance platoon got into a confrontation, and that it looked like we were talking about two [IDF soldiers] dead and one captured. That’s when the mess got started. The minute ‘Hannibal Directive’ is declared on the radio, there are consequences. There’s a fire procedure called the ‘Hannibal fire procedure’ – you fire at every suspicious place that merges with a central route. You don’t spare any means. A thousand shells were fired that Friday morning, at all the central intersections. The entire Tancher [Route] (the continuation of Highway 4 in Gaza) was bombed. The air force attacked places inside Rafah City, places in which we knew there were Hamas militants. Was there collateral damage to houses? I’m sure there was. It was very intense, that incident. After the area was hit by 1,000 shells that Friday morning, I saw Tancher in ruins. Everything totally wrecked.
Even the BtS soldier says that there was no intent to hurt civilians and that no civilian structures were directly targeted..

Here's Amnesty's second quote:
An artillery soldier said his battery was “firing at a maximum fire rate” right into inhabited areas.

The full testimony:
During occasions when there was a significant amount of fire [directed at our forces], or during the ground incursion to Gaza – to Shuja’iyya – I know my unit fired a lot. One of the senior officers in my unit talked about how we had fired [at targets] that were in very close proximity to our forces, how we had really saved them. He said it was an important mission and that apparently during it we had also killed a number of civilians. They said that tragically, some uninvolved civilians were apparently hit, but that it was a situation where it would either be our troops or civilians [being harmed]. He said that it wasn’t even a question, that it was obvious that our troops [came first]. They emphasized the fact that that was obviously not done on purpose.

Did he say what the mission itself was, what the role of the [artillery] battery was?
To assist them with artillery fire. If they need flare shells, or if they need smoke to conceal themselves, or, of course, if they need explosive shells to evacuate [forces from the field]. The battery fired 900 shells [that night], and the battalion fired about 1,200 or 1,500, I think. There were certain stages during which we were firing at a maximum fire rate – after Goldin was kidnapped, (an IDF soldier captured near Rafah) and in Shuja’iyya.
Keep in mind that breaking the Silence itself cherry picks IDF soldiers' testimonies already to make the IDF look as bad as possible. Amnesty is further taking the BtS quotes out of context as evidence of war crimes.

It is not a war crime, or a violation of international law, to prioritize soldier's lives higher than unintended civilian casualties. On the contrary - it is what a normal military commander is supposed to do in every army on Earth. But Amnesty does not like to tel its readers what actual international law is.

Other quotes that Amnesty supposedly claims as evidence of "war crimes" are not directly quoted in the executive summary - we just have to trust Amnesty that these quotes exist and mean what they claim they mean:

Public statements by Israeli army commanders and soldiers after the conflict provide compelling reasons to conclude that some attacks that killed civilians and destroyed homes and property were intentionally carried out and motivated by a desire for revenge – to teach a lesson to, or punish, the population of Rafah for the capture of Lieutenant Goldin.

There is consequently strong evidence that many such attacks in Rafah between 1 and 4 August were serious violations of international humanitarian law and constituted grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention or other war crimes.
If they have quotes like that, why not use them in this summary? Because the quotes are not nearly as clear-cut as Amnesty wants the world to believe, and they know that reporters will trust their analysis of the quotes rather than evaluate them directly.

Interestingly, the executive summary doesn't mention the number of civilians killed in this operation. BtS said "between 41-150 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians." That is a very imprecise number. It will be interesting to see if the Forensics Architecture team, supposedly committed to unbiased research, bothered during the past year to determine exactly how many civilians were actually killed during these three days of unbridled firepower in an urban battlefield where Hamas is purposefully hiding among civilians.

Civilians were killed in Rafah. It was tragic. Amnesty wants the world to believe that it was deliberate and they are willing to spend lots of money and effort to twist the truth to reach their pre-determined conclusions.

UPDATE: The final report does not contain a single quote that indicates that IDF soldiers intended to "take revenge." The only quote from a soldier that mentions "revenge" says the exact opposite: '“Anyone who abducts should know that he will pay a price. This was not revenge. "

Amnesty is lying.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Two Overnight Eldertoons

I had tweeted this a couple of days ago but might as well post it here too:





And I tweeted this joke on Wednesday, thanks to Yerushalimey for coming up with it:

07/28 Links Pt2: Pollard will be freed Nov 20; Latest Blood Libel: The Case Of Mohammed Abu Latifa

From Ian:

Pollard will be freed November 20, Israel's justice minister announces
Jonathan Pollard, the former civilian analyst for the US Navy convicted of spying for Israel, will be released from US jail on November 20 after serving 30 years of a life sentence.
“The decision to grant parole was made unanimously by the three members of the [US] Parole Commission, who make their decisions independently of any other US government agency,” Pollard’s lawyers said in a statement. “The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East.”
In a statement Tuesday evening, Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also confirmed Pollard’s impending release.
Pollard was formally eligible for parole on November 21, but will be freed a day earlier — Friday the 20th — as the 21st is a Saturday, Channel 2 television said.
Under the terms of his parole, Pollard will not be able to leave the US for five years, Channel 2 said, although President Barack Obama can overrule this condition.
His lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, have asked Obama to intervene and allow Pollard to leave the country and relocate to Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported. (h/t Yenta Press)
How to Treat Jonathan Pollard in the Age of Edward Snowden
What Pollard did was bad enough; I have no desire to sugarcoat it. But the constitutional fact of the matter is that it stopped well short of treason. The government poisoned the very proceeding in which it had promised not to seek a life term. So Pollard went away for a longer stretch than America has ever given anyone for a similar crime. No one need feel shy about calling it an injustice.
Williams himself likened the government to the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. He ended his opinion by quoting the famous curse against them — “And be these juggling fiends no more believ’d, / That palter with us in a double sense; / That keep the word of promise to our ear, / And break it to our hope.” In all my years covering the courts, I don’t think I’ve read an opinion quite like it.
How ironic it is that Pollard, who went away before the rise of the World Wide Web, will emerge from prison — if he does emerge — into the age of Wikileaks. Today our university campuses are lionizing those who have disclosed our secrets in a protest against what they see as abuses by the government. They fear the very government from which Pollard purloined his packets.
So what are all those who rode the high horse against Pollard going to do when Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are put in the dock? Pollard passed his secrets to an American friend. Assange ran a Web site that made our secrets available not only to friends but to enemies. Snowden did something similar, passing secrets to the press. They claim to be acting on high-minded principles. So did Jonathan Pollard.
NGO Monitor: Questions for Amnesty on the Rafah Report and Pseudo-Fact-Finding
At a press conference tomorrow (July 29) in Jerusalem, officials from Amnesty International will market a new report, building on its error-filled and blatantly biased “Gaza Platform,” and promote claims that it can “shed[]s new light on violations of international law committed” during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Amnesty is repackaging the pseudo-research of other non-credible political advocacy NGOs, and masking the absence of substance with the illusion of “forensic” work, according to Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor.
Any journalists, diplomats, and others who might be in attendance, having cleared Amnesty’s selection process used to block potential critics, should avoid taking these “research” claims at face value. Amnesty has been shown to lack any credible research methodology, as well as military and legal expertise.
Here are 10 questions that Amnesty should answer about its Rafah report, “Gaza Platform” (which forms the basis for Amnesty’s Rafah publication), and partnership with other anti-Israel political advocacy NGOs:

"The Nation" sportswriter blames Israel for US police brutality

We've already seen how Dave Zirin, "sports writer" for The Nation  who has a special obsession with Israel, disregards facts that get in the way of his hate. And how The Nation has no interest in correcting his egregious and provable lies.

He's at it again. This time he is so incensed that some NBA players are visiting Israel that he is telling them that Israel is responsible for every time a black person is assaulted or killed by an American cop.

Yes, really.

On December 12, you were one of several Sacramento Kings players to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt during warm-ups. The shirts were worn to commemorate the last words of Staten Island’s Eric Garner and protest his death at the hands of the New York Police Department. It was a brave act, a link in a chain, which aligned some of the NBA’s biggest stars with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Of course, lethal police brutality has been directed at black Americans for as long as there have been police. But the #BlackLivesMatter movement has emerged out of a dramatic spike in this violence. Roughly 400 people were shot and killed by police over the first five months of 2015, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the average of the past decade. Those killed are primarily black and brown, as police departments have outfitted themselves in military fashion. Finding justice for those killed has proven to be a near impossible task.

This epidemic of killings has been aggravated by the influence of Israeli police practices on US policing. Since 9/11, police chiefs and high-ranking officers from across the United States—from Ferguson to New York City—have traveled to Israel for training in the arts of suppression. As Ali Winston reported, “[a]t least 300” chiefs from across the country have gone to Israel for these workshops. Former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer called Israel “the Harvard of antiterrorism” after one all-expenses-paid trip. The NYPD, which took the life of Eric Garner and broke the leg of NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, now has an office in Tel Aviv.

Since 9/11, Israel has turned its repressive capabilities into an exportable commodity. It instructs on surveillance, crowd control tactics, and psychological operations like keeping lights on police cars at all times.
Zirin is not the first idiot to make this argument. Rania Khalek did the same in May, and I demolished it then:

First of all, the programs that Khalek highlights are not for riot control. One of them mentions a demonstration of "crowd control" during a terror attack - not a training session - but most of the training was for counterterrorism techniques such as intelligence gathering and operations to capture terrorists before they begin their operations; border security, mechanisms to delay terrorists on their way to a target such as checkpoints; and site security - the protection of the restaurants, shopping malls and buses that are the preferred terrorist targets, preventing bombings, securing airports and border crossings and performing mass rescue operations.

Secondly, even if Israel did offer training in riot control, it is up to individual police departments to decide on their techniques. They wouldn't photocopy Israel's manual for riot control. They take the lessons that they like and incorporate them into their own programs. One has to be thoroughly consumed with hate in order to blame Japan if someone kills another with a karate kick. (In fact, I am very surprised that Khalek didn't notice that the Baltimore police offers krav maga seminars. )

(For those interested, here is a blog post from someone who took Baltimore cop riot training in 2000, with a comment from someone who took it in 2008. Nothing about Israel, of course. )

According to Khalek's moronic logic, there is another organization responsible for Baltimore police actions:

The United Nations.

Yes, the UN offers police commander training, and one of the sessions was attended by a major in the Baltimore Police Department.  Clearly the UN is culpable for the Baltimore riots.

Do you hear how stupid that sounds?

That is how stupid Rania Khalek's argument, the same argument used by other Israel haters, is.

But it isn't stupidity that animates Khalek's half-baked theories. It is pure hate.

The Electronic Intifada readers who buy this argument, however, are truly stupid.
The same goes for readers of The Nation who buy this garbage.

Zirin also mentions that Israeli police used tear gas against Ethiopian protesters, not mentioning that the response was only to those who were throwing bottles and bricks while trying to storm a police headquarters.  He of course didn't mention that subsequent rallies by Ethiopian Jews who were rightly protesting discrimination were successful and changes are being made including Israeli police promising to hire more Ethiopian Jews. But that doesn't fit Zirin's narrative of racist Israelis.

The only person filled with hate here is Zirin. But blind, irrational, hate against Israelis is perfectly OK for people who pretend they are against blind, irrational hate.

Palestinian Statehood: Aussie Labor’s Pains Dulled – For Now (Daphne Anson)



“This weekend the ALP [Australian Labor Party, led by Bill Shorten] will hold its 47th National Conference in Melbourne. As the highest decision-making forum of the ALP, the conference will set the content and tone for a raft of key Labor policies for the next three years.  One of the most hotly contested issues to be addressed is whether to recognise the state of Palestine…. Last year the British Labour Party – along with the rest of the British parliament – voted to recognise Palestinian statehood. It is time for the Australian Labor Party to follow suit.”

So ran, inter alia, an op-ed last week on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC’s) Religion and Ethics site by postgraduate (“graduate student” in American terminology) Paul Duffill of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. (http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/07/23/4279347.htm)

Voilà!  Swift to lend his support to Duffill’s article was the Centre’s director, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, who added a nasty little augmentation:
“Another form of necessary pressure can be exerted from outside governments and governing parties such as Labor, by joining the growing worldwide campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Hence CPACS' [the Centre’s] response to the call for the academic boycott, by withdrawing cooperation from institutional links with Israeli universities. That, too, is not an alternative to dialogue as often misleadingly claimed, but conceived in order to bring about propitious conditions for it.”

Sounds like gun-to-the-head enforcement to me.  But I digress.

The ALP conference meets every three years and decides on party policy, at least nominally.  The ALP is dominated by factions – a byzantine and complicated situation –  and the resolution that was due for debate on Sunday, 26 July,  spearheaded by New South Wales right-wing powerbroker Tony Burke in consultation with the party’s shadow foreign affairs minister (since 2013) Tanya Plibersek – a Left faction member who in 2002 infamously said “I can think of a rogue state which consistently ignores UN resolutions whose ruler is a war criminal: it is called Israel and the war criminal is Ariel Sharon. Needless to say, the US does not mention the UN resolutions that Israel has ignored for 30 years; it just continues sending the money”) – was supported by both the left and right factions of the party in New South Wales.  But it was staunchly opposed by the party’s right faction in Victoria, a faction which includes such prominent pro-Israel Jews as Michael Danby and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus.

Reported the ABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann last week (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-23/alp-conference-matters-more-than-most-chris-uhlmann/6642366):

 ‘In 2014, NSW Labor [on Burke’s initiative] adopted a resolution on recognising a Palestinian state.
It said that if "there is no progress to a two-state solution, and Israel continues to build and expand settlements, a future Labor government will consult like-minded nations towards recognition of the Palestinian state".  It might seem like a small step, but it is a big deal for some and is furiously opposed by the diminishing band of ardently pro-Israel Labor MPs and senators.  Expect a similar resolution to be debated, and probably passed, at the conference.  What is intriguing about this fight is that it is not a Left-Right divide. It is a NSW resolution, supported by both factions in that state.  It will be vigorously opposed by the Victorian Right, which happens to be Mr Shorten's power base.  One side-effect of Labor's growing embrace of a Palestinian state is that it is losing donations and support from the Jewish lobby, a group that once staunchly backed Labor.’

In fact, there was, at the conference on 26 July, a somewhat watered down version of what was expected.  As summarised by Sky News:

‘A future federal Labor government would consider recognising a Palestinian state if there was no progress in the next round of the Middle East peace process.  Labor factions reached a deal at the ALP national conference on Sunday on the wording of a resolution on the issue, but ditched making a formal change to its policy platform…
.
The motion was carried with applause.

It recognises that any resolution of the situation should be based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, a timeframe to end Israeli occupation, demilitarisation of Palestinian territory, agreement on a solution to Palestinian refugee issues and resolution of the issue of Jerusalem's final status.
It also recognises settlement building by Israel in the Occupied Territories may undermine a two-state solution and calls for Israel to stop all such settlement expansion to support renewed negotiations toward peace.

The conference rejected the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Ultimately, the motion was a compromise in the wake of the Left and Right factions putting up separate resolutions.’

Proposed by Tony Burke, and seconded by Queensland delegate Wendy Turner, the resolution goes as follows:

“The Australian Labor Party Conference:
Affirms Labor’s support for an enduring and just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders internationally recognised and agreed by the parties, and reflecting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state.

Deplores the tragic conflict in Gaza and supports an end to rocket attacks by Hamas and the exercise of the maximum possible restraint by Israel in response to these attacks.

Supports a negotiated settlement between the parties to the conflict, based on international frameworks, laws and norms

Recognises in government Labor retained its commitment to two states for two peoples in the Middle East and specifically

Did not block enhanced Palestinian status in the General Assembly;

Restated the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is occupied territory;

Opposed Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, recognising that a just, peaceful and enduring resolution will involve a territorial settlement based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps;

Held that the settlements are illegal under international law.

Recognises that any resolution will be based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, a timeframe to end Israeli occupation, demilitarization of Palestinian territory, agreement on a solution to Palestinian refugee issues, and resolution of the issue of Jerusalem’s final status.
Recognises that settlement building by Israel in the Occupied Territories that may undermine a two-state solution is a roadblock to peace. Labor calls on Israel to cease all such settlement expansion to support renewed negotiations toward peace.

Rejects the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Condemns the comments of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the recent elections where he ruled out a Palestinian state and further condemns his appeals to race during the campaign.

Recognises a lasting peace will require a future State of Palestine to recognise the right of Israel to exist and the State of Israel to recognise the right of Palestine to exist.

Recognises the special circumstances of the Palestinian people, their desire for respect, and the achievement of their legitimate aspiration to live in independence in a state of their own. This is a cause Labor is committed to.

If however there is no progress in the next round of the peace process a future Labor government will discuss joining like-minded nations who have already recognised Palestine and announcing the conditions and timelines for the Australian recognition of a Palestinian state, with the objective of contributing to peace and security in the Middle East.”

No joy for Lynch and his fellow BDSers, then.  Still, it was enough for The Guardian Australia in its live coverage to bleat:

“A decision by a small bloc of the right in Queensland to vote with the left on the recognition of Palestine undercut a carefully calibrated deal on a platform amendment struck between the NSW right and the Victorian right.

 The end result was the Labor conference passed its strongest ever motion on the recognition of Palestine.”

And of course there is a sidelight on this issue which does not reflect well on the ALP – the latest outbursts concerning "the Israel lobby and its quite objectionable control over Australian policy" by former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, of the New South Wales right faction, whose speech a fortnight ago at the Australian National University (ANU), co-hosted by the Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine (AJPP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) – the latter two being virulently anti-Israel – has been described and roundly condemned by, among others, an ANU professor present who noted Carr’s “demeaning and scoffing at members of the Jewish community” who  are active on Israel’s behalf:  ‘His tone, focus and implication was that the activity of those people meeting and lobbying the government of the day was "disproportionate" and improper”…’ : see AIJAC’s report at http://www.aijac.org.au/news/article/carr-s-offensive-anu-speech

By the way, I was amazed to see, on the multicultural SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) website, “Palestine” listed as the second item on “key issues” to be considered by the ALP conference, along with, in numerical order, asylum seekers, climate, same sex marriage, party reform, gas reservation, China free trade agreement, and Socialist objective.   No mention of what should be one of the key issues confronting any Australian party at the present time, especially a party of the left like the ALP: housing affordability.   For in this country’s capital cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, house prices have skyrocketed to shocking levels unimaginable even a decade ago.  This national scandal has been exacerbated by overseas buyers outbidding locals, and has condemned countless people to perhaps an entire lifetime of renting – this in a country in which short-term leases of six months to one year are the norm, where renters have few rights, and where a tight, unregulated private rental market is a landlord’s paradise.  The situation is reaching tinderbox proportions, but none of the established parties appears interested in addressing it – presumably because politicians across the political spectrum are property-owners themselves and are delighted to see house prices climbing inexorably.

It is precisely this disgraceful situation – one of immense distress to an entire generation of young people, which is bifurcating Australia into a society of “haves” and “have nots’ as never before – that should be high on the agenda of the ALP. Not the status of Palestine, and certainly not awarding statehood without due negotiation with Israel to recalcitrant Palestinians.


07/28 Links Pt1: Overwhelming Israeli Opposition Strongest Sign Iran Deal Is A Bad One

From Ian:

Overwhelming Israeli Opposition Strongest Sign Iran Deal Is A Bad One
No country has more to lose from a military confrontation with Iran than Israel — and no country has more to gain than Israel from a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.
And yet, an overwhelming majority in the Jewish State views the Iran deal as a catastrophic mistake, one that potentially threatens the country’s very existence. This reality alone should make you think twice about the Obama administration’s claim that it negotiated a strong deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Critics of Israel’s position on the Iran deal are often quick to paint Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a warmonger. But why would Netanyahu be anxious for a military confrontation? Israel would likely be the main target of any Iranian response to a strike on its nuclear program, even if the attack was conducted by the United States. With Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah armed with an estimated 100,000 rockets in southern Lebanon, the consequences of an Iranian retaliation could be very grave for the Jewish State.
Conversely, Israel would benefit most from a deal with Iran that actually prevented the Islamic Republic from being able to obtain nuclear weapons capability. A good deal would eliminate the threat of an apocalyptically anti-Semitic regime being able to gain the means to make its genocidal dreams a reality. At the same time, a good deal would remove the need for a possible military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities that could precipitate a bloody confrontation between Israel and Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah.
 Jennifer Rubin: Blaming failure of a rotten deal on Israel?!
Kerry does not “fear” Israel would be blamed; he is threatening to blame Israel if U.S. lawmakers decide that the deal is not in the interests of the United States. Not only is he inciting anti-Israel fervor, but he also is repeating another canard, namely that Israel controls Congress. In doing all this, the administration echoes ancient tropes against the Jews and not-so-ancient ones against an Israeli government that won’t meekly assent to its death.
The administration sounds more unhinged with each passing day, no doubt because it is not convincing Democrats to stand with the White House in defense of a rotten deal. In particular, many lawmakers who insisted on disclosure of the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program are learning it won’t be in the dealIn other words, the administration caved on PMDs and the deal would go into effect without ever forcing Iran to disclose information necessary to conduct adequate inspections. (“Outside nuclear experts said understanding Iran’s past nuclear work was critical to verifying the new agreement because it establishes a baseline for what Tehran has done in the past.”) Democrats who insisted on a credible inspection process and know that it depends on our understanding of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program have a choice: Cave (as the president did, thereby sacrificing their own credibility) or insist the president go back (with additional leverage in the form of new sanctions) to obtain what Kerry once promised he would get.
No wonder the administration is throwing a fit, louder and more overtly anti-Israel with each passing day. The president and his advisers desperately want to divert attention from their own grossly defective deal — and blame Israel if it fails. Nothing could be more revealing of the deal’s weakness and the Obama administration’s hostility to Israel than the manner in which it is defending the deal.
Can @TheTimes cite examples of Bibi saying he ‘opposed’ Iran negotiations? #IranDeal
In a July 28th article (Huckabee likens Iran deal to Holocaust), Times of London Middle East reporter Hugh Tomlinson claimed that Israel’s prime minister not only opposes the current Iran nuclear deal, but actually has opposed negotiations with Iran altogether.
Here’s the relevant passage, in the penultimate paragraph of the article.
Congress has two months in which to review the Vienna accord before voting to accept or reject it. Israel, which bitterly opposed negotiations with Iran from the outset, has been lobbying Congress for months in an attempt to block the deal.
Given that serious negotiations with Iran date back to 2009, Tomlinson is in effect saying that Binyamin Netanyahu has “bitterly opposed negotiations with Iran from the outset”. Indeed, Tomlinson has made this same claim on at least one other occasion.
However, as CAMERA has demonstrated, despite some media claims echoing Tomlinson’s take on Netanyahu’s position, the fact is that the prime minister has consistently supported negotiations with Iran, albeit one which achieved ‘a better deal’ than the one the six world powers have been prepared to accept.
A Washington Official, and the Washington Post, Fabricate Israeli Praise for the Iran Deal
The Post's headline promises a discussion of Israelis who feel the deal is "good" for their country. And the article goes on to name four prominent Israeli security experts. The message for readers, then, is that even if Israel's government and the largest opposition party are united against the deal — an inconvenient reality for the deal's advocates in the American government and the media, who normally can find allies among Israeli politicians who are so often at each other's throats — at least those in the know understand how truly good the agreement is.
Except it isn't true. Let's look at the security experts named in the piece:
Tharoor first mentions Ami Ayalon, a former head of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, and links to a Daily Beast piece entitled "Ex-Intel Chief: Iran Deal Good for Israel."
Unfortunately for Tharoor (and for Daily Beast commentator Jonathan Alter), Ayalon, who begrudgingly supports the deal because it is "the best plan currently on the table" and because he believes there are no available alternatives, nonetheless has said in no uncertain terms, "I think the deal is bad. It's not good."
Tharoor then cites former intelligence chief Efraim Halevy, but strangely links to an Op-Ed Halevy wrote after a framework agreement was finalized in Lausanne last April but before the details of this final deal were agreed upon in Vienna this month. In a more recent (and thus relevant) Op-Ed, Halevy described what he sees as several strong points in the agreement and concludes that it is "important to hold a profound debate in Israel on whether no agreement is preferable to an agreement which includes components that are crucial for Israel's security."
He didn't explicitly state which side of the debate he favors, although there is a sense that leans toward the idea that Israel must get behind the deal. But like Ayalon, his tepid defense of the deal, if it is even that, seems to hinge on the idea that this agreement makes the emergence of any other, better deals unrealistic. "There will be no other agreement and no other negotiations," Halevy says in his recent Op-Ed.

UN comes out against religious freedom

The statement by the UNSCO in response to Israel's stopping an anti-Jewish riot (which is being condemned in all Arab capitals) on Tisha B'Av is a masterpiece of diplomatic doublespeak:

Following tensions and incidents in the Old City of Jerusalem over recent days, resulting in a number of injuries and arrests, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, made the following statement: 
I am concerned by recent incidents and heightened tensions in and around the Holy Sites of the Old City of Jerusalem and call upon people on all sides to maintain calm. Provocative actions and language carry the seed of violence and ultimately undermine the ability of worshippers of all faiths to have access to their respective Holy Sites. Respect for the status quo is in the interest of all and is essential for stability.

I call upon all religious and political leaders to prevent extremist elements from abusing the sanctity of Holy Sites and the different religious sentiments of all people.
It sounds even handed - but it isn't.

First of all, he calls for the maintenance of a status quo that is undeniably biased against the religious rights of Jews to pray on their holiest site. His mentioning "ability of worshippers of all faiths to have access to their respective Holy Sites" together with that statement means that to him, the Temple Mount is not a Jewish holy site but a Muslim one (or else the word "respectively" makes no sense.)

His timing of the statement after Israeli police stopped a major attack shows that to the UN, only Muslim religious rights are sacred. When he calls to prevent "extremist elements from abusing the sanctity of Holy Sites and the different religious sentiments of all people" he is not referring to the masses of Muslims who regularly and proudly harass Jews who come to the site daily, but the Jews themselves whose very presence there gives them the epithet "extremists."

Yes, the one woman who called Mohammed a pig after enduring a half hour of Muslim abuse could possibly be called an "extremist." But Mladenov is using the word in plural, meaning that he accepts the Arab narrative that all Jews who assert their religious rights should be dismissed as extremists.

So while the statement pretends to be directed at no one in particular, it is obvious from the timing, the context and the mention of the "status quo" that the UN is blaming only one side for the clashes and wants to keep the Temple Mount Judenrein.

There is an implied insult to Muslims here as well, since it is obvious that Muslim authorities cannot and do not want to curtail their extremists. Therefore his call to  prevent extremists from acting is directed only at Israel. Meaning that it is obvious to him that for Muslims, incitement and extremism is the norm, and only Jews have the ability to reason with and stop their "extremists."

His pretense of even-handedness falls apart with only a little analysis, and no Muslims are upset at his statement because no one thinks it is directed at them.

Mecca imam: Jews invented sexual harassment

There have been stories going around Saudi media about sexual harassment in the Kingdom.

Sheikh Saud Al-Shureem, one of the imams and preachers of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, put it into context by tweeting that the Jews were the first ones who committed sexual harassment.

He is referring to a story that is not from the Koran or the Hadith but rather in the biography of Muhammad.

Wikipedia explains:

In March 624, Muslims led by Muhammad defeated the Meccans of the Banu Quraish tribe in the Battle of Badr. According to Ibn Hisham, a dispute broke out between the Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa (the allies of the Khazraj tribe) soon afterwards when a Muslim woman visited a jeweler's shop in the Qaynuqa marketplace, she was pestered to uncover her face. The goldsmith, a Jew, pinned her clothing such, that upon getting up, she was stripped naked. A Muslim man coming upon the resulting commotion killed the shopkeeper in retaliation. The Jews in turn killed the Muslim man. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa.
...and eventually to the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish tribe from their homes by Mohammed.

Apparently, his point is that if Muslims aren't repulsed by the idea of sexual harassment of women, knowing that it is a Jewish invention should do the trick.

(h/t Ibn Boutros)