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ISRAEL

NEWS WITH VIEWS ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Palestinians: When the Mountain of Fire Erupts by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Palestinian Authority is now paying the price for harboring, funding and inciting gang members and militiamen who until recently were hailed by many Palestinians as “heroes” and “resistance fighters.”

Hamas’s dream of extending its control to the West Bank now seems more realistic than ever — unless Mahmoud Abbas wakes up and realizes that he made a big mistake by authorizing local and municipal elections.

The blood pouring out in Nablus and other Palestinian towns is proof that Abbas is on his way to losing control over the West Bank, just as he lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007. In an emergency meeting held on August 25 in Nablus, several Palestinian factions and figures reached agreement that it would be impossible to hold the vote under the current circumstances.

Hours after his security officers lynched a detainee, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged Palestinian businessmen living abroad to support the Palestinian economy by investing in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority (PA), he asserted, was “working to provide security and safety to encourage investment.”

According to Abbas, “The Palestinian territories are living in a state of security stability, which we are working to provide for residents and investors alike by enforcing the rule of law and enhancing transparency and accountability.”

It must be nice to create your own reality, especially if your true reality is that of the 81-year-old Abbas.

In his speech before the businessmen, Abbas neglected any reference to the latest wave of “security chaos” in PA-controlled areas in the West Bank, specifically Nablus, the largest Palestinian city.

War and Peace in Putin’s Middle East With America on the sidelines, Israel and the Arabs play a new game. P. David Hornik

The Times of Israel reports that, on Tuesday night, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin…and discussed regional issues and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

It was hardly, of course, their first chat. In June, Netanyahu was in Moscow to meet with Putin. He was there, too, for that purpose in September 2015 and April 2016, and last November they met briefly at the Paris climate conference. Their agenda includes making sure there are no unwanted Israeli-Russian military confrontations over the skies of Syria, as well as the strong Israeli-Russian economic ties.

Meanwhile the Israeli daily Haaretz cites Egyptian media as reporting that “Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi said that…Putin has expressed a willingness to host…Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for talks in Moscow.”

What’s going on?

According to other reports, Sunni Arab states—particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia—want such talks and have been pushing for them. Both countries have close security cooperation with Israel. Egypt has recently warmed up diplomatic ties with a return of its ambassador to Israel and a visit to Israel by its foreign minister early in July. The Saudis, for their part, sent an unprecedented delegation to the Jewish state later in July.

This line of speculation says that Sunni Arab states want to keep building up ties with Israel—a crucial ally against Iranian expansionism and ISIS, and a source of energy and technological know-how—but need Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking to appease domestic populations that remain, for the most part, intensely hostile to the Jewish state.

Luther’s Anti-Semitism Back to Life by Petra Heldt

At the Lutheran assembly in New Orleans, there was one resolution to end all US aid to Israel, and one to divest from Israel. Both resolutions, de facto, intend the destruction of the State of Israel. The anti-Israel character of the resolutions fits the old-style Lutheran anti-Semitic diatribes.

The ELCA group “Isaiah 58” recommends two sources. One is the book by Bethlehem Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb, Faith in the Face of Empire, which recommends Islamic sharia law as the remedy against Israeli occupation. The other is the 2009 Kairos Palestine Document of the World Council of Churches, which aims for the elimination of the State of Israel.

So who is interested in the anti-Semitic Lutheran resolution? The conclusion is that all those are cheerful about this resolution who like to see Israel disappear, be it with a one- or two-state solution; all those who distribute millions of dollars to Hamas in Gaza to enable the destruction of Israel while the intended recipients — namely the children in Gaza — remain deprived; all those who turn a blind eye to the education of Palestinian children in summer camps and schools where they are taught to murder Jews and to destroy the allegedly non-existent State of Israel; all those who fail to put the record straight about the just and right support that many Israelis give to Palestinians.

Lutheran Churches worldwide are getting ready to honor the 500th anniversary of their founder Martin Luther. Martin Luther’s well-known anti-Semitic diatribes and biblical commentaries have been worked through and are in disrepute with many Lutheran Christians. A generation ago, in 1994, the Lutheran leadership in the US, “in concert with the Lutheran World Federation” (LWF) condemned Luther’s anti-Semitism and expressed its desire to “love and respect” the Jewish people:

“In concert with the Lutheran World Federation, we particularly deplore the appropriation of Luther’s words by modern anti-Semites for the teaching of hatred toward Judaism or toward the Jewish people in our day. Grieving the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred, moreover, we express our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people.”

At that time the LWF was under the leadership of President Gottfried Brakemeier, a Brazilian of German origin, and a Professor of theology. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was headed by the Presiding Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom. Both clergy are still well-respected men of faith who have set the Lutheran Church on a recognizable Christian track. Now, that effort seems to be lost under the influence of two present Lutheran leaders, LWF President Munib Younan and ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton.

Lutheran anti-Semitic hatred of old against the Jewish people is back to life. This became clear, again, at the triennial assembly of the ELCA in New Orleans, August 8-13, under the title “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action.” Celebrating such an acclaimed kind of freedom and renewal, the assembly approved of the destruction of Israel in the Memorial on “peace with justice in the Holy Land.” There were two resolutions, one to end all US aid to Israel and one to divest from Israel. Both resolutions, de facto, intend the destruction of the State of Israel. The anti-Israel character of the resolutions fits the old-style Lutheran anti-Semitic diatribes.

An Israeli Arab Speaks Out: “I’m Loyal to the Country That Gave Me Everything”

http://daphneanson.blogspot.com/2016/08/im-loyal-to-country-that-gave-me.html

Many people will already have seen this heart-warming video by a brave Israeli Arab lady.

UCI’s SJP Fascists Campus hate group gets a wink and a nod to continue anti-Semitic activities. Ari Lieberman

On May 25, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) witnessed a shocking display of blatant anti-Semitism coupled with egregious suppression of free speech and open discourse. Campus Brown Shirts from the hate group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) violently disrupted a movie screening organized by pro-Israel groups. The screening featured the acclaimed documentary, Beneath the Helmet, which documents the personal experiences and challenges of Israeli soldiers while undergoing basic training in a paratroop battalion.

A large and vocal group of SJP hooligans initiated a campaign of violent intimidation aimed at disrupting the event and causing harm to the attendees. They blocked entrances and exits preventing ingress and egress to and from the building. Those already inside were literally trapped while others who tried to attend were physically blocked. One female student who tried to attend was threatened and chased by a number of SJP members. She was ultimately forced to call the police while taking refuge in a nearby building. Additional police were dispatched to escort the attendees out of the building where the screening was held.

As noted by Lea Speyer of the Algemeiner, the disruptive rabble shouted slogans like, “Long live the intifada,” “f*** the police,” “displacing people since ’48 / there’s nothing here to celebrate,” and “all white people need to die.”

Though the event was not canceled and the screening went on as scheduled, the upheaval and environment of fear caused by the SJP’s antics distracted from the event and dissuaded many from attending. A re-screening was subsequently held on June 8 and also featured the short film, “Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus,” which was shown before the screening of “Beneath the Helmet.”

Given the magnitude of the SJP disruption and the blatant display of racism and anti-Semitism, one would have thought that campus officials would have instituted stern action against the vile offenders. Shockingly, however, administration officials gave the SJP what amounted to a mere slap on the wrist. An email from the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Thomas A. Parham, noted in part:

“After a thorough review, the student conduct investigation is now complete. The investigators found that SJP, the group that organized and led the protest, violated Student Conduct Policies regarding disruption: ‘Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures, or other University activities.’ As a result, SJP was issued a written warning, effective immediately and continuing until March 29, 2017. As part of the sanction, SJP must host an educational program by November 18, 2016.”

University officials acknowledged that the SJP violated the student code of conduct and disrupted free speech and university activities. Nonetheless, officials decided to limit the sanction to a pathetic warning and requiring the SJP to host an “educational program.” No doubt the SJP will use the “educational” opportunity to advance their pernicious, anti-Semitic venom thus defeating the purpose of the sanction.

Israel and Texas: A Growing Alliance By P. David Hornik

Over the past decades Israel has been growing and developing at a phenomenal pace. Thanks to ongoing immigration and a high birthrate, its population has doubled over the past 30 years. Since 1990 its GDP per capita has tripled. And the start-up nation—still very small with a population of 8.5 million—has become a world leader in some of the most important fields.

After a recent visit to Israel as head of a delegation from his state, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush noted, among other things, that Israel’s water-desalination company, IDE Technologies, is considering a “program in Texas to help cities, communities and industrial partners meet their water needs.” Israeli firms are already helping California solve its water crisis.

It should come as no surprise in light of a recent Scientific American article detailing Israel’s pioneering innovations in this field. Just 15 years ago Israel, one of the world’s driest countries to begin with, was suffering from a drought and at the brink of a water catastrophe. Now, thanks to its revolutionary desalination technology, Israel not only fully supplies its own water needs but is at the forefront of solving the world’s water crisis.

During his visit Commissioner Bush met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “discussed [with him] several economic areas where Israel and Texas can work together.” Bush noted that “Texas is home to the Silicon Prairie” while “Israel is the Silicon Valley of the Middle East.” We locals call it Silicon Wadi—the Tel Aviv-area beehive of Israeli high-tech companies that a Forbes article speculated could become “the dominant tech ecosystem in the world.”

At present, as Israeli commentator Yoram Ettinger notes, according to a recent study tiny Israel is “one of the top five world high-tech powers.” Only two countries—the U.S. and China—have more companies trading on the NASDAQ. Israel is one of only eight countries in the world to have launched space satellites, “a global co-leader with the US” in that field—and so on.

Of particular relevance to the Texas delegation’s visit was Israel’s offshore natural-gas exploration, which it is doing in partnership with Houston-based Noble Energy. It was Noble that, at the start of the millennium, first discovered the natural-gas deposits off Israel’s coast. Today the huge Tamar gas field is already online, and the even larger Leviathan field is on the way. Israel will be exporting natural gas to Jordan next year, and it is nearing a deal with Egypt. And although the politics are complex, Israel is also talking about possible gas deals with Turkey and with Greece and Cyprus.

Why There Can Be No “Demilitarized” Palestinian State by Louis René Beres

Any treaty or treaty-like compact is void if, at the time of its entry into force, it conflicts with a “peremptory” rule of international law – that is, one from which “no derogation is permitted.” As the right of sovereign states to maintain military forces for self-defense is always such a rule, Palestine would be within its lawful right to abrogate any pre-independence agreement that had (impermissibly) compelled its own demilitarization.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), now officially a Nonmember Observer State to the United Nations General Assembly, will likely seek next month a Security Council resolution favoring full Palestinian sovereignty, probably as part of a cooperative Security Council initiative with France. Following such an initiative, the current U.S. president, or the next U.S. president could then be moved to accept the PA position on the grounds of some prior Palestinian “demilitarization.” Unfortunately, any such acceptance would be without any legal or practical value; therefore no state of Palestine should ever be approved because of any apparent promise of demilitarization.

Whoever wins the November election, the next U.S. president will have to deal with the continuing issue of Palestinian statehood. For the moment, agreeing to any such new Arab sovereignty – a 23rd Arab state – would appear to be contingent upon some prior acceptance of Palestinian “demilitarization.” After all, for a new president to disregard this seemingly prudent contingency would immediately place the United States in stark opposition to Israel.

More precisely, it would put Washington at odds with the core requirements already laid down explicitly by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nonetheless, there is substantial irony to this obligation. Simply put, meaningful Palestinian demilitarization could never take place. In essence, international jurisprudence could not allow it. First, international law would not necessarily expect Palestinian compliance with any limitations on negotiated agreements concerning national armies and armed forces.

But what if the government of a fully-sovereign Palestinian state were in fact willing to consider itself bound by some pre-state agreement to demilitarize? There is still a big problem. Even in these improbable circumstances, the new Palestinian Arab government could likely identify ample pretext and opportunity to invoke lawful “treaty” termination. Here are some specific examples:

Anti-Israel Double Standards Enable Assad’s Brutality by Noah Beck

http://www.investigativeproject.org/5595/anti-israel-double-standards-enable-assad

Syria’s civil war claimed 470,000 lives since it started in March 2011, the Syrian Centre for Policy Research announced in February. That’s an average of about 262 deaths per day and 7,860 per month. The carnage has continued unabated, so, applying the same death rate nearly 200 days after the February estimate, the death toll is over 520,000.

Such numbers are staggering, even by Middle East standards. However, the violence has become so routine that it only occasionally captures global attention, usually when a particularly poignant moment of human suffering is documented. The most recent example is Omran Daqneesh, a 5-year old Syrian boy who was filmed shell-shocked, bloody, and covered in dust after the airstrike bombing of his Aleppo apartment block.

The tragic image of Omran caused outrage around the world, as did the image of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian boy whose body washed up last September on a beach in Turkey. Yet Omran’s plight demonstrates that, nearly a year after the last child victim of Syrian horrors captured global sympathy, nothing has changed.

If anything, the violence in this multi-party proxy war seems to be getting worse. Since Aylan Kurdi’s drowning, Russia began blitz-bombing Syria in support of the Assad regime. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) estimates that nine months of Russian airstrikes have killed 3,089 civilians – a toll that is greater, by some estimates, than the number of civilians killed by ISIS. By contrast, Syrian civilian deaths caused by U.S. airstrikes are probably in the hundreds (over roughly twice as much time, since U.S. airstrikes began in the summer of 2015).

Israel, One of the World’s Driest Countries, Is Now Overflowing With Water by Rowan Jacobsen

This post by Rowan Jacobsen was originally published on Ensia.com, a magazine that highlights international environmental solutions in action, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

“Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished throughnational campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Driven by necessity, Israel is learning to squeeze more out of a drop of water than any country on Earth, and much of that learning is happening at the Zuckerberg Institute, where researchers have pioneered new techniques in drip irrigation, water treatment and desalination. They have developed resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters than can halve the water usage of most homes.

The institute’s original mission was to improve life in Israel’s bone-dry Negev Desert, but the lessons look increasingly applicable to the entire Fertile Crescent. “The Middle East is drying up,” says Osnat Gillor, a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute who studies the use of recycled wastewater on crops. “The only country that isn’t suffering acute water stress is Israel.”

Hamas, Palestinian Authority Target Journalists Ahead of Election by Khaled Abu Toameh

Both of the journalists who were arrested made the mistake of reporting on the suffering of Palestinians living under Hamas rule. These are not the kind of stories that Hamas wishes to see ahead of the local and municipal elections. Rather, Hamas wants to see printed lies of prosperity.

It is a puzzle why foreign journalists choose not to report about the campaign of intimidation facing their Palestinian colleagues.

One might wonder if the human rights groups neglect these abuses because of their continued obsession with destroying Israel.

Palestinian journalists are at the top of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas hit-list in the crackdown occurring alongside preparations for the Palestinian local and municipal elections, scheduled for October 8.

The crackdown is part of an ongoing campaign by the two rival parties to silence critics in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Neither Hamas nor the PA tolerates a free and independent media — especially on the eve of a crucial election that could have far-reaching political implications in the Palestinian arena.

A Hamas victory in the upcoming elections would be catastrophic for President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. Such an electoral outcome would be tantamount to a vote of no-confidence in their policies and performance.

Hamas, for its part, is investing a huge amount of resources in the election campaign, in hopes that the results would further boost its standing among Palestinians. Hamas fears that a defeat would undermine its power in the Gaza Strip and pave the way for its collapse.

As the election campaign heats up, it is clear that Hamas and the PA agree on one thing: intensifying their repressive measures against Palestinian journalists.

This media crackdown is essentially ignored by international human rights organizations. Why? One reason is that when Israel is not involved, assaults on freedom of the media and expression do not interest them.