Monday, September 30, 2013

Abbas at the UN: Decoding the Babble

September 27, 2013 By Arlene Kushner
Mahmoud Abbas – putative president of the Palestinian Authority – addressed the UN General Assembly on Thursday, focusing on the negotiations between the PA and Israel. How eminently reasonable was the tone he attempted to project.  There he stood on the dais, expressing his intention to work hard for peace, even pleading for peace.
“Our quest is supportive of the path of peace,” he assured those assembled.
“I affirm before you that… we shall continue [the negotiations] in good faith and with open minds, strong determination and an insistence on success…we shall …foster the most conducive atmosphere for the continuation of these negotiations…”
Ah! That he should truly be what he would have us believe he is. But an even cursory look at his words tells us that he is not.  The leopard has not changed his spots.
We might start with that bit about fostering “the most conducive atmosphere…” Khaled Abu Toameh has just described the atmosphere that Abbas fosters:
“Although Abbas and some of his aides have been telling Israelis, Americans and Europeans that they are opposed to violence and terror attacks against Israel, they continue to incite Palestinians against Israel on a daily basis.”
The irony is that Abbas himself provides an example of this incitement in his talk, as he refers to almost daily attacks on the Al-Aksa mosque.  This is pure and outrageous fabrication.  The reality is that Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount – which is where the mosque is located – are sometimes accosted by stone-throwing Arabs, and sometimes prevented from visiting at all because of threats of Arab riots.
“The objective of the negotiations,” he explains,
“is to secure a lasting peace accord that leads immediately to the establishment of the independence of a fully sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all of the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967, so that it may live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and the resolution of the plight of Palestine refugees in a just agreed upon solution, according to United Nations resolution 194, as called for by the Arab Peace Initiative.”
This run-on sentence must be unraveled. What we are seeing here is the Palestinian Arab “narrative”: A host of claims without legal or historical basis that have been repeated so often that much of the world believes them.
There is no “occupation.”  “Belligerent occupation” applies only when a sovereign state moves into the territory of another sovereign state.  This was not the case here, when Israel took Judea and Samaria in a defensive war in 1967.  What is more, and perhaps more significantly, this area is historically the cradle of the ancient Jewish nation. This fact – the reality of the region as the heritage of the Jewish people – was recognized in the Mandate for Palestine, an international legal document mandating establishment of a Jewish homeland from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Prior to the ‘67 war, Jordan was the presence on the other side of the Green Line, not “the Palestinians.”  And so, in no event should that land be referred to as “Palestinian land.”: And, it should be noted here, that Green Line was merely an armistice line, which Jordan, when signing the armistice agreement, concurred would be temporary only.
UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed shortly after the war in ’67, recognized that Israel would not move back behind the Green Line, as this would not provide a secure border. That resolution referred neither to a “Palestinian state” nor to a “Palestinian people.”
As to the “refugees,” Palestinian Arabs and their supporters routinely point to Resolution 194 as proving that they have a “right to return” to lands in Israel they left in 1948.  But this is a misrepresentation of the facts.  That was a General Assembly resolution, and GA resolutions are merely recommendations – not binding and without weight in international law. What is more, while one phrase in the resolution speaks of “return,” when one reads the entire resolution, it becomes apparent that this was only one option mentioned, along with resettlement.
Israel has never agreed to the Arab Peace Initiative, for it was a “take it or leave it” deal that is nothing more than a formula for her destruction – precisely along the lines that Abbas spells out here.  Recently there were suggestions by representatives of the League that “minor” adjustments “might” be made but were never approved by the League.
The initiative consists of a two-part plan. First, to push Israel back behind the indefensible armistice line.  And then to push on that “right” of refugees to return to their villages of  65 years ago, thereby inundating Israel with a hostile population.
We see this two-track theme in Abbas’s speech. In one place he refers to the “injustices” of 1948, and in another, the “occupation” of 1967. There is a reason why Palestinian Authority textbooks routinely reflect “Palestine” from the river to the sea.
Abbas indicates that if Israel signs on to the deal he outlines, there will be recognition from 57 Arab and Muslim states, but this is simply not the case.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has 57 members, but by no stretch of the imagination have they all signed on to recognition of Israel, whatever the parameters of an agreement.  The Arab League consists of 22 members.
What must be emphasized here is that Israel would, ostensibly, be recognized. But not Israel as the state of the Jewish people.  This is more than a technicality, for it is the intention of supporters of the Palestinian Arabs to push for Israel as the “state of all its residents,” by which is meant that its Jewish character would be erased.
Lastly here I note the outrage of Abbas instructing Israel that it is time to “stop relying on exaggerated security pretexts and obsessions.”
In 1967, the Security Council recognized Israel’s need for secure and defensible borders.  How much more so is this the case in the volatile Middle East of today.  Nightly operations by the IDF in Palestinian Arab areas of Judea and Samaria control the threat of terrorism.  Radical Islamic groups would have a field day, were the IDF no longer able to enter within the borders of a Palestinian state. What is more, should Jordan fall to Islamists, there would be risk from farther east.
Where Israel’s borders are set is of enormous, existential, import.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Unlocking the problems of the Middle East

·         Douglas Murray: September 23, 2013  Favorite "Key Issue" Fizzles Out
·         The idea that solving the Israel/Palestinian question is the key to unlocking the problems of the region was what everyone who wanted to sound as if they knew what they were saying was most delighted to say: "What was that about Yemen? Well of course the real problem we need to solve is the Israel/Palestinian issue." Rarely in diplomatic history has so much been got so wrong by so many people for so long.
·         With the civil war in Syria grinding through its third year, Egypt descended into ethnic and inter-religious barbarism, and the American Secretary of State reduced to promising "unbelievably small" action by the world's only super-power, it is hard to find any chinks of light. But one, perhaps, exists. It is that we may finally have seen the explosion of one of the most embedded and central myths of our time: the idea that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the "key" to sorting out the problems of the Middle East.

·         After seeing what has happened since the "Arab Spring" began, this might be an appropriate moment to ask whether or not every Western foreign minister deserves simply to be sacked and sent back to school. Rarely in diplomatic history has so much been got so wrong by so many people for so long.

·         For at least the twenty years since the Oslo Accords, the idea that the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the "key" to unlocking the problems of the Middle East was the leitmotif of any discussion about the Middle East and North Africa areas. So pervasive was it that people could refer to the "Middle East" problem as though everyone agreed that there was only one problem across that whole set of benighted lands.

·         While of course it would be nice if all disputes could be solved — Cyprus, Kashmir, Turkey, Morocco, Tibet -- what is worse is that the allegation came from every side of the political spectrum. Politicians of the left said it. Politicians of the right said it. The idea that solving the Israel/Palestinian question was the key to unlocking the problems of the region was what everyone who wanted to sound as if they knew what they were saying was most delighted to say: "What was that about Yemen? Well of course the real problem we need to solve is the Israel/Palestinian issue." "A bomb was planted in which Western city? Well what we really need to do is solve that border dispute issue of the Israelis."

·         Further, one of the oddest things about all this is that for some reason, when the alleged centrality of the issue should have been swept aside most completely, it became instead even more central.

·         After 9/11, when Western cities began to be places on the front-line of a global effort to express innumerable Islamist grievances and extort endless Islamist demands, the free world's leaders instead decided to play this long-defunct tune one more time.

·         For instance there was the whole Bush era push to address the "key" issue. Tony Blair boasted in his memoirs of his determination to persuade George W. Bush that the quid pro quo for support for the war in Iraq must be a boost to the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Blair's belief in the centrality of the issue was endless -- as it remains. Then, as now, it was confirmed by a particular type of politician on the ground. Blair recalls a meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in September 2006 in which Siniora stressed that there could never be peace in the region until "Israel/Palestine" was resolved. "With it, everything is possible; without it, nothing is," he said. Blair clearly nodded this through, "I pledged again to do what I could to get the U.S. president to refocus our efforts on it."

·         Elsewhere Blair recalls another period of mulling on the Israel/Palestinian issue. "With that [the peace talks] stalled, all manner of bad things were going to happen." This idea was not just the pet theory of the Prime Minister. It permeated the Foreign Office establishment as well as Blair's disciples and heirs in Parliament. David Miliband, his former Foreign Secretary was still talking about the centrality of the dispute just last year when, by then in opposition, he used a television interview on something else entirely to talk about that this dispute being the one that was "key" and most in need of addressing.

·         This is not, however, just a Labour party problem. The Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has repeated the same theme ad nauseum. And so has the Foreign Secretary William Hague and every one of the current political establishment with barely one exception.

·         If a list of exponents of this fallacy were ever compiled in full it would outrun the patience of the most diligent reader. The message, needless to say, ran across Europe. Catherine Ashton -- the lamentable EU Foreign Minister -- has spent her time in office even since 2009 parroting the "key to the region" motif. She has shown a remarkable ability to hold this thought in her head even as her period of office has seen the Middle East fall apart almost everywhere other than in the Israel/Palestinian areas. Even the former head of the British domestic intelligence service, MI5, has said that the "grievance" over the Israel/Palestinian issue is a factor we must address for domestic security reasons.

·         I have dwelt on Britain, but the same story can be told anywhere in the West. It can be told by the bucket-load in each and every European country. And of course the same story can be told in the U.S. -- where the current administration as well as their predecessors seem to have swallowed the motif hook, line and sinker.

·         In three years of uprisings, overthrows, revolutions and counter-revolutions, barely a protester in any country has come out onto the streets to express their irritation at current housing arrangements in East Jerusalem. In every instance they have come out to demand a say in their future or to demand work, fair pay, opportunities or simple amenities such as food. The demands of the Palestinian people and their propagandists in the West have not even been at the bottom of the list of demands in a single one of the Arab uprisings. And just as Israel has played no part in their revolutions, so it has played less-than-no part in their ensuing civil conflicts.

·         It is time to face up to the fact that in almost all Western countries, entire foreign ministries and political establishments have been caught repeating a motif so wrong-headed, so completely mistaken that if they had any shame, they should now be silent. In the meantime we should tell them that although it is possible we will listen to them at some point in the future, we will not do so until they have gone away for a time and successfully returned.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The UNRWA Dilemma

by Timon Dias

September 17, 2013
If the entire Palestinian Authority leadership lives off an international welfare check that arrives only because the conflict still exists, there isn't much incentive for ending the conflict.
The Palestinian people, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, have received per capita, adjusted for inflation, 25 times more aid than did Europeans to rebuild war-torn Western Europe under the Marshall plan after the Second World War.
Most of these funds, according to the study, reached the Palestinian people through The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
UNRWA is the only UN refugee agency dedicated to a single group of people, and the only agency that designates individuals as original refugees if they have lived in areas effected by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, for a minimum of only two years, before being displaced. UNRWA is also the only UN agency that designates the descendants of the original refugees as refugees as well – even though 90% of UNRWA-designated refugees have never actually been displaced.

UNRWA, furthermore, violates the UNHCR Refugee Convention by insisting that two million people (40% of UNWRA's beneficiaries) who have been given full citizenship in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, are nevertheless still classified as refugees, and by encouraging them to act on a "right of return."

Although, since World War II, fifty million people have been displaced by armed conflict, the Palestinian people are the only ones in history to receive this special treatment.
Before describing why UNRWA is a body that drastically reduces any chance of a lasting peace, let's take a look at which citizens are funding UNWRA. After all: "There is no such thing as public money, there is only taxpayers' money."

The total 2012 UNRWA budget was $907,907,371. Although the permanent supportive rhetoric for the "Palestinian case" from the Muslim world might lead one to expect that UNWRA is funded mainly by Muslim countries, in fact UNRWA is almost entirely funded by Western taxpayers: The USA, EU, UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands and Japan pay $644,701,999, or 71% of the annual UNRWA budget. The funds from the second largest donor, the EU, are of course already composed of EU taxes from its member states.

So where do the Muslim states rank? First in, at #15, is Saudi Arabia. The land of palaces and private gold leaf painted Airbus A380's on the Royal runways chipped in $12,030,540 -- less than half of a tiny country such as the Netherlands. Second, at #18, is Turkey, the supposedly economically flourishing state of a prime minister who zealously supports Hamas, but which contributes only $8,100,000. Qatar, which stands accused of paying millions in bribes to win the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, and is now spending millions on the construction of high end soccer stadiums, contributed exactly $0 to its Palestinian brothers in faith

These figures also reflect the nature of the role Muslim countries play in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. In their rhetoric, they are permanently hostile towards Israel and sympathetic to slogans such as: "Free Palestine," still basically a euphemism for "Destroy Israel." Even this meager support, however, appears to strengthen the Palestinian leadership's resolve to say no to peace whenever that occasion arises. The non-existence of peace, however, is what perpetuates Palestinian agony, along with Muslim states' refusal to deliver anything helpful when it comes to either the material needs or the human rights of the Palestinians. The role of most Muslim states in the conflict therefore seems a subversive one, aimed at the perpetuation of Palestinian suffering to divert attention from their own deficiencies such as their terrible human right record, lack of democracy, and the repression of their own peoples; Assad allegedly lavishly paid Syrian Palestinians to storm the Israeli border in 2011, to divert attention away from his bloody crackdown on his countrymen and to let the world media focus on Israel shooting Palestinians on the border.
Muslim states use the Palestinian people as pawns in a hostile game of chess against Israel.
Now that we know where the money does and does not come from, it might be helpful to review how UNWRA spends it. Just a minor detail to keep in mind along the way: The personal wealth of PA president Abbas is estimated at $100 million. UNWRA also funds for Palestinian children summer camps in which the entire focus seems to emphasize the children's right of return to the villages in which their grandparents are said to have lived, as well as the means to achieve this: Jihad – as shown in a rather disturbing documentary, Camp Jihad, produced by David Bedein.

In one scene from it, for example, a woman asks children to tell her where they are from. They respond with Jaffa, Haifa and so on, but admit they have never been to these places. The woman then shouts: "We will return to our villages with power and honor. With god's help and our own strength we will wage war and with education and jihad we will return!"

In another scene, a group of even younger children is told by a woman in traditional Arab clothing that: "Our grandparents were having a BBQ on the beach, and then a wolf appeared. Who was the wolf? The Jews. What did the Jews do to us? They expelled and deported us. They killed us and shot our families."

Apart from summer camps like these, the whole implementation of UNWRA might actually be counterproductive. If the entire Palestinian Authority leadership lives off an international welfare check that only arrives annually because the conflict still exits, there isn't much incentive for ending the conflict.

But there might be something more fundamental at play. German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn's 2003 book, Sons and World Power, explores the relation between war and the number of males in a society. Heinsohn writes:

[D]espite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA's budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in its own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza's untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war-by-proxy against the Jews of Israel.

If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their children themselves, without UNRWA's help. This would force Palestinians to focus on building an economy instead of freeing them up to wage war. Of course, every baby lured into the world by our money up to now would still have our assistance.

If we make this urgently needed reform, then by at least 2025 many boys in Gaza -- as in Algeria -- would…be able to look forward to a more secure future in a less violent society.
Despite the many subversive factors UNRWA adds to an already volatile situation, however, there is outspoken Israeli support for UNRWA. These voices, however, always strongly emphasize that UNRWA should limit its work to humanitarian missions, and refrain from political alignment – even though this train has long-since left the station. In 1967 the Comay-Michelmore Exchange of Letters initiated Israel's policy of cooperation with UNRWA. As recent as 2009 this policy was reaffirmed by a representative of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry, Dr. Uri Resnick, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he proposed to maintain "close coordination."

In 2010, Canada's government of Stephen Harper redirected its UNRWA funding directly to the Palestinian Authority to increase accountability. In 2011 the Dutch government announced it would thoroughly review its UNRWA policy. The Israeli government urged its allies to leave their UNRWA policies as they were. As Steven Rosen and Daniel Pipes explain:

Israeli officials distinguish between UNRWA's negative political role and its more positive role as a social service agency providing assistance, primarily medical and educational. They appreciate that UNRWA, with funds provided by foreign governments, helps one third of the population in the West Bank and three-quarters in Gaza. Without these funds, Israel could face an explosive situation on its borders and international demands that it, depicted as the "occupying power," assume the burden of care for these populations. In the extreme case, the Israel Defense Forces would have to enter hostile areas to oversee the running of schools and hospitals, for which the Israeli taxpayer would have to foot the bill – a most unattractive prospect. As a well-informed Israeli official sums it up, UNRWA plays a "key role in supplying humanitarian assistance to the civilian Palestinian population" that must be sustained.

By perpetuating the Palestinians' refugee status and enabling a demographic that does not educate its members for peace, UNRWA is an obstacle to peace. Ironically, however, UNRWA's humanitarian work relieves Israel of the hypothetical "responsibility" of caring for over five million Palestinians.

Can the West, as UNRWA's largest funder, do anything to realize a more balanced UNRWA policy? In the same piece Rosen and Pipes offer an option that unfortunately has not yet been put in to practice:

Can the elements of UNRWA useful to Israel be retained without perpetuating the refugee status? Yes, but this requires distinguishing UNRWA's role as a social service agency from its role producing ever-more refugees. Contrary to its practice of registering grandchildren as refugees, Section III.A.2 and Section III.B of UNRWA's Consolidated Eligibility & Registration Instructions allow it to provide social services to Palestinians without defining them as refugees. This provision is already in effect: in the West Bank, for example, 17% of the Palestinians registered with UNRWA in January 2012 and eligible to receive its services were not listed as refugees.

Given that UNRWA reports to the UN General Assembly, with its automatic anti-Israel majority, mandating a change in UNRWA practices is nearly impossible. But major UNRWA donors, starting with the US government, should stop being accomplices to UNRWA's perpetuation of the refugee status.

Donor states should, therefore, consider attaching strict conditions to their funding. With its annual $233,328,550 donation, the US should take the lead, and individual EU member states could inquire what the actual share of each is in the annual $204,098,161 EU donation, and then seriously consider imposing conditions on delivering this share.

If the current situation is left untouched, the Palestinians are left suffering, fed on dreams and violence.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Egypt: Christians Killed for Ransom

Raymond Ibrahim September 2, 2013
Not only are the churches, monasteries, and institutions of Egypt's Christians under attack by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters—nearly 100 now have been torched, destroyed, ransacked, etc.—but Christians themselves are under attack all throughout Egypt, with practically zero coverage in Western media.

Days ago, for example, Copts held a funeral for Wahid Jacob, a young Christian deacon who used to serve in St. John the Baptist Church, part of the Qusiya diocese in Asyut, Egypt. He was kidnapped on August 21 by "unknown persons" who demanded an exorbitant ransom from his impoverished family—1,200,000 Egyptian pounds (equivalent to $171,000 USD). Because his family could not raise the sum, he was executed—his body dumped in a field where it was later found. The priest who conducted his funeral service said that the youth's body bore signs of severe torture.

In fact, kidnapping young Christians and holding them for ransom has become increasingly common in Egypt. Last April, 10-year-old Sameh George, another deacon, or altar boy, at St. Abdul Masih ("Servant of Christ") Church in Minya, Egypt, was also abducted by "unknown persons" while on his way to church to participate in Holy Pascha prayers leading up to Orthodox Easter. His parents said that it was his custom to go to church and worship in the evening, but when he failed to return, and they began to panic, they received an anonymous phone call from the kidnappers, informing them that they had the Christian child in their possession, and would execute him unless they received 250,000 Egyptian pounds in ransom money.

If those in Egypt being kidnapped and sometimes killed for ransom money are not all deacons, they are almost always church-attending Christians. Last April, for example, another Coptic Christian boy, 12-year-old Abanoub Ashraf, was also kidnapped right in front of his church, St. Paul Church in Shubra al-Khayma district. His abductors, four men, put a knife to his throat, dragged him to their car, opened fire on the church, and then sped away. Later they called the boy's family demanding a large amount of money to ransom child's life.

The hate for these Christians—who are seen as no better than dogs—is such that sometimes after being paid their ransom, the Muslim abductors still slaughter them anyway. This was the fate of 6-year-old Cyril Joseph, who was kidnapped last May. In the words of the Arabic report, the boy's "family is in tatters after paying 30,000 pounds to the abductor, who still killed the innocent child and threw his body into the toilet of his home, where the body, swollen and moldy, was exhumed."

As for Christian girls, they are even more vulnerable than Christian boys and disappear with great frequency. As an International Christian Concern report puts it, "hundreds of Christian girls … have been abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and forced into marriage in Egypt. These incidents are often accompanied by acts of violence, including rape, beatings, and other forms of physical and mental abuse."

Thus, while it is good that the nonstop attacks on Egypt's churches have received some media attention, let us not forget the many, often young, Christian lives quietly being destroyed in Egypt, by those who would have the Muslim Brotherhood return to power.

Footnote – News You will not see in the international media

Since late March, almost 100 Syrians have arrived at two hospitals in Galilee. Forty-one severely wounded Syrians have been treated here at the Western Galilee Hospital, which has a new neurosurgical unit as well as pediatric intensive care facilities. Two of them have died, 28 have recovered and been transferred back to Syria, and 11 remain here.

An additional 52 Syrians have been taken to the Rebecca Sieff Hospital in the Galilee town of Safed. The latest, a 21-year-old man with gunshot and shrapnel wounds, arrived there on Saturday. A woman, 50, arrived Friday with a piece of shrapnel lodged in her heart and was sent to the Rambam hospital in the northern port city of Haifa for surgery.

Little has been revealed about how they get here, other than that the Israeli military runs the technical side of the operation. The doctors say all they know is that Syrian patients arrive by military ambulance and that the hospital calls the army to come pick them up when they are ready to go back to Syria.

The Israeli military, which also operates a field hospital and mobile medical teams along the Syrian frontier, has been reluctant to advertise these facilities, partly for fear of being inundated by more wounded Syrians than they could cope with.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said that “a number of Syrians have come to the fence along the border in the Golan Heights with various levels of injuries.” He added that the military has, “on a purely humanitarian basis, facilitated immediate medical assistance on the ground and in some cases has evacuated them for further treatment in Israeli hospitals.”

Now, efforts are under way to bring over relatives to help calm the unaccompanied children. When the 13-year-old arrived, she was in a state of fear and high anxiety, according to Dr. Zeev Zonis, the head of the pediatric intensive care unit here. “A large part of our treatment was to try to embrace her in a kind of virtual hug,” he said.

Days later, the girl’s aunt arrived from Syria. She began to care for the Syrian children here, living and sleeping with them in the intensive care unit. The staff and volunteers donated clothes and gifts. The aunt, her face framed by a tight hijab, said a shell had struck the supermarket in their village suddenly, after a week of quiet. A few days later, she said, an Arab man she did not know came to the village.

“He told us they had the girl,” she said. “They took me and on the way told me that she was in Israel. We got to the border. I saw soldiers. I was a little afraid.”
But she added that the hospital care had been good and that “the fear has passed totally.” She was reluctant to speak about the war back home, saying only, “I pray for peace and quiet.” Sitting up in bed in a pink Pooh Bear T-shirt, the niece, who was smiling, said she missed home. She and her aunt were expected to return to Syria later this week.

Asked what she will say when she goes back home, the aunt replied: “I won’t say that I was in Israel. It is forbidden to be here, and I am afraid of the reactions.”