by Khaled Abu Toameh
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that the lack of a “two-state solution” has fueled the rise of the Islamic State [IS] terrorist group reinforces how clueless the U.S. Administration is about what is happening in the Arab and Islamic countries.
Speaking at a State Department ceremony marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Kerry said that the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was vital in the fight against Islamic extremism, including Islamic State.
“There wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation,” Kerry said. “People need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with the humiliation and denial and absence of dignity.”
The U.S. State Department later denied that Kerry had made the statement attributed to him.
Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters that Kerry’s comments were distorted for political gains; she pointed a finger at Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
“What [Kerry] said was that during his travels to build a coalition against the Islamic State, he was told that should the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved, the Middle East would be a better place,” Harf explained.
The Islamic State is one of the by-products of the “Arab Spring,” which began as a secular revolt against Arab dictatorships and degenerated into anarchy, lawlessness, terrorism and massacres that have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims.
The “Arab Spring” did not erupt as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, it was the natural and inevitable outcome of decades of tyranny and corruption in the Arab world.
The Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis who removed their dictators from power did not do so because of the lack of a “two-state solution.”
Nor did the Arabs revolt because of the failure of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the last thing these Arabs had in mind when they took to the streets to protest against decades of dictatorship and bad government.
It is this “Arab Spring,” and not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt. And it is the same “Arab Spring” that saw the emergence of Islamic terror groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic Front, the Army of Mujahedeen, Jund al-Sham and, most recently, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The rise of the Islamic State is a direct result of the anarchy and extremism that have been sweeping the Arab and Islamic countries over the past few years.
The thousands of Muslims who are volunteering to join Islamic State are not doing so because they are frustrated with the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. They are not knocking on the Islamic State’s doors because they are disappointed that the two-state solution has not materialized.
Kerry is anyway naïve to think that the jihadis believe in something called a “two-state” solution. The only solution the Islamic State believes in is the one that would lead to the establishment of a radical Sunni Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East where the surviving non-Muslims who are not massacred would be subject to sharia law.
Not only is the Islamic State opposed to the “two-state solution,” it is also opposed to the existence of both Israel and a Palestinian state. Under the new Islamic Caliphate, there is no room for Israel or Palestine or any of the Arab and Islamic countries.
Had Kerry studied the goals and ideology of the Islamic State, he would have discovered that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not even at the top of the group’s list of priorities.
In fact, the “liberation of Bait al-Maqdis” [Jerusalem] is ranked sixth among Islamic State’s objectives.
The group’s first goal envisages stirring chaos in the Arab and Islamic countries.
Second, the group will move on to what it calls “management of savagery” in these countries.
Third, Islamic State will embark on the process of establishing an Islamic Caliphate.
Fourth, it will proceed with “liberating neighboring countries and expanding the size of the Islamic Caliphate.
Fifth, the group will start the process of “liberating the Islamic countries,” including Bait al-Maqdis.
Obviously, Kerry must have missed the speech delivered by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last July.
Al-Baghdadi did not talk about the “two-state solution.” Nor did he call on Muslims to join his group because of the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Instead, al-Baghdadi told his followers that, “Allah likes us to kill his enemies, and make jihad for his sake. O Allah, give Islam victory over the disbelief and the disbelievers, and give victory to the mujahideen, in the East of this earth and its West.”
What Kerry perhaps does not know is that the Islamic State is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. The terrorist group did not even bother to comment on the last military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The failure of the Islamic State to express solidarity with the Palestinians or Hamas during the war drew strong condemnations from some of the Arab world’s leading columnists.
“What is shocking and strange is that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups that claim to speak on behalf of Islam did not make a single move as Israeli planes were shelling civilians inside the Gaza Strip,” remarked Egyptian columnist Jamil al-Afifi. “Nor did any of their wise men come out to condemn the ruthless killings (in the Gaza Strip).
Kerry did not reveal the identity of the “leaders” who told him that the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians was a “cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation” in the Arab and Islamic countries.
What is clear, however, is that Sunni scholars do not seem to share Kerry’s assessment.
Last month, over 120 Sunni scholars issued an open letter denouncing the Islamic State and its religious arguments. “You have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder,” the letter said. “This is a great wrong and an offence to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world.”
Needless to say, the scholars did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a cause for the rise of Islamic State.
That is because unlike Kerry, the Sunni scholars know that the Islamic State is completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And unlike Kerry, the Muslim scholars fully understand that Islamic State has more to do with Islam and terrorism than with any other conflict.
Asked to speculate on the future of wearable tech, a US design company drafted ‘Project Underskin’ – a digital tattoo that would be implanted in your hand and allow you to trade data with a handshake, monitor your vital signs or even unlock a door, according to Fast Company.
NewDealDesign , who drafted the concept, are known for their work on the popular Fitbit activity trackers. “When we started working on it, everyone was a little squeamish about implanting something. But there’s a lot of cultural precinct,” says Jaeha Yoo, Director of Experience Design. “Obviously tattoos, piercings – people are implanting birth control. This stuff is going on now. It’s not a huge step forward to implant something like Underskin.”
The team envisage the device running off the body’s own electro-chemical energy, staying on permanently and allowing the wearer to unlock their door by touching the handle, or activating a credit card by holding it.
Because the implanted tattoo would also recognise movement, the designers believe it would be able to distinguish between different social modes of interaction that are expressed via the hand. “If you high five someone that’s very different than hand-holding, or a closed fist, or an open palm,” explains Mr Yoo. “The hand is where a lot of self expression happens.”
As for your health stats, the information would be kept private via encoding and limited display. Project Underskin envisions a small, public display on the side of the hand but a larger screen that sits in the palm, to be consulted just by the user.
Although there are no plans in place to develop the implant, NewDealDesign say Underskin could become a reality within five years, given the current state of electronics research.
by STOYAN ZAIMOV
The death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five children, was upheld by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Thursday. Bibi has been convicted of blasphemy for drinking from the same bowl of water as Muslims and making derogatory comments about the prophet Muhammad.
“The case against Asia Bibi is a great example of how Christians and other religious minorities are abused in Pakistan by fundamentalists wielding the controversial blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws were originally written to protect against religious intolerance in Pakistan, but the law has warped into a tool used by extremists and others to settle personal scores and persecute Pakistan’s vulnerable religious minorities,” said International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark.
“Sadly, the vast majority of blasphemy accusations brought against Christians and others are false. Unfortunately, pressure from Islamic radical groups and general discrimination against Christians in Pakistan has transformed trial courts and now appeals courts into little more than rubber stamps for blasphemy accusations brought against Christians, regardless of the evidence brought to bear in the case.”
Bibi was sentenced in 2010 following an incident in 2009 where she was harvesting berries with a group of Muslim women in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women accused her of drinking from the same water bowl as them, which was considered unclean as she is a Christian. Following an argument, the women went to a local cleric and told him that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam.
BBC News noted that the sentencing sparked global condemnation from several human rights groups, who criticized Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws. ICC and other critics of these laws say that they are often used to settle personal scores and unfairly target minorities, especially Christians.
Bibi’s appeal hearing was initially scheduled to take place on March 17, but was delayed and rescheduled, before finally taking place on Thursday. The Christian mother’s lawyers have said that they will take the case to the country’s Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, Christian mother Meriam Ibrahim was spared the death penalty and allowed to go free by the court in Sudan, after having initially been found guilty of refusing to identify as a Muslim and for marrying her Christian husband. Ibrahim’s freedom was won in part thanks to a huge international campaign that petitioned for her release, which included pressure on Sudan from several American politicians, such as Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
by Itamar Eichner
Changes in the makeup of the UN Security Council have made Israel’s diplomatic stance worse and strengthened the Palestinians’ position on the world stage.
During the weekend, five new members were elected to enter the UN Security Council on January 1, 2015, as non-permanent members for two years, while five current non-permanent members will evacuate their seats. Spain and New Zealand will replace Australia and Luxembourg. But the biggest surprise was Turkey losing a seat to Spain 60-132, in a blow to recently-elected-president Erdogan.
Israeli diplomats said that following the changes in the council’s makeup it is likely Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be quick to try his luck in asking the UN Security Council to grant Palestine full membership in the United Nations. So far, the Palestinians managed to obtain non-member observer state status at the UN General Assembly, but recognition from the Security Council will make them an official member of the UN.
Unfortunately, an American veto for such a move is not something Israel can take for granted anymore. Diplomatic officials said Israel is taking into bracing for a bad scenario in which the Democrats lose their Senate majority in the midterm elections in two weeks time and will then be free of obligations, which might lead them to get back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for all of the public clashes with the Democratic administration at the White House.
“A diplomatic storm is coming in January,” a diplomatic source said.
Should the Palestinians petition for a full membership at the United Nations, this is how the member states are likely to vote:
The permanent states: United States – will object. Russia – will likely support, in order to embarrass the Americans and force them to veto. China – will likely support, in order to embarrass the Americans and force them to veto. Britain – has yet to decide, but after its parliament voted to recognize a Palestinian state in a symbolic move, it is likely the Brits will remain on the fence until the very last moment. France – has yet to decide.
The non-permanent states: Chile – leaning towards support. Lithuania – leaning towards objecting. Jordan – will support the decision. Chad – will support the decision. Nigeria – on the fence.
The new non-permanent states: New Zealand – yet to decide Spain – yet to decide Angola – yet to decide. Malaysia – will support the decision. Venezuela – will support the decision.
Israel’s hope: American veto
The council has 15 members, five of them permanent and ten of them are non-permanent. In order to pass a resolution, a nine vote majority is required. Even if the resolution passes, each of the permanent members has the right to veto the decision.
So far, Israel has had two lines of defense in the Security Council: The lack of majority for decisions favorable to the Palestinians and, more importantly, a guaranteed American veto. Before the change, the Palestinians seemingly only had seven states that supported their plight to join as a full member, so the American veto was not as crucial.
Now, the situation has changed. Following the election of the five new states, Israel has lost two friendly states that supported it – Australia and Rwanda. Instead, the new council makeup now includes Venezuela and Malaysia, two problematic states that could be counted automatically as those who would vote in favor of the Palestinian request.
Turkey’s loss, however, brought a sigh of relief to Israel, as the situation would’ve been far worse had Ankara gotten a seat – not only would the Palestinians have the 9-state majority they needed, they’d have 10 ‘yes’ votes guaranteed.
Israel’s last line of defense is now the American veto, and it is counting on it. But the Americans would do anything to avoid having to use their veto power, and it’s likely they will put pressure on other Security Council members not to support a unilateral Palestinian move.
The Americans will probably try to present alternatives such as the revival of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Europeans, on their part, will try to reach a compromise – not to accept the Palestinians as a member state, but rather set parameters for a permanent agreement that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Such parameters would include Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, land swaps and declaring East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
Israeli diplomats are saying that Abbas now has tailwind that will likely push him to go for broke and make good on his threats: Not only turn to the UN Security Council to set a deadline for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders by November 2016, but also turn to the International Criminals Court at the Hague.
In addition, these changes at the Security Council will not only play a part in the vote on accepting the Palestinians into the UN, but in other resolutions concerning Israel, like condemning settlement construction or military operations, calling for UN inquiry committees on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more.
How smart are today’s computers?
They can tackle increasingly complex tasks with an almost human-like intelligence. Microsoft has developed an Xbox game console that can assess a player’s mood by analyzing his or her facial expressions, and in 2011, IBM’s Watson supercomputer won Jeopardy — a quiz show that often requires contestants to interpret humorous plays on words. These developments have brought us closer to the holy grail of computer science: artificial intelligence, or a machine that’s capable of thinking for itself, rather than just respond to commands.
But what happens if computers achieve “superintelligence” — massively outperforming humans not just in science and math but in artistic creativity and even social skills? Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, believes we could be sleepwalking into a future in which computers are no longer obedient tools but a dominant species with no interest in the survival of the human race. “Once unsafe superintelligence is developed,” Bostrom warned, “we can’t put it back in the bottle.”
When will AI become a reality?
There’s a 50 percent chance that we’ll create a computer with human-level intelligence by 2050 and a 90 percent chance we will do so by 2075, according to a survey of AI experts carried out by Bostrom. The key to AI could be the human brain: If a machine can emulate the brain’s neural networks, it might be capable of its own sentient thought. With that in mind, tech giants like Google are trying to develop their own “brains” — stacks of coordinated servers running highly advanced software.
Meanwhile, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has invested heavily in Vicarious, a San Francisco–based company that aims to replicate the neocortex, the part of the brain that governs vision and language and does math. Translate the neocortex into computer code, and “you have a computer that thinks like a person,” said Vicarious co-founder Scott Phoenix. “Except it doesn’t have to eat or sleep.”
Why is that a threat?
No one knows what will happen when computers become smarter than their creators. Computer power has doubled every 18 months since 1956, and some AI experts believe that in the next century, computers will become smart enough to understand their own designs and improve upon them exponentially. The resulting intelligence gap between machines and people, Bostrom said, would be akin to the one between humans and insects. Computer superintelligence could be a boon for the human race, curing diseases like cancer and AIDS, solving problems that overwhelm humans, and performing work that would create new wealth and provide more leisure time. But superintelligence could also be a curse.
What could go wrong?
Computers are designed to solve problems as efficiently as possible. The difficulty occurs when imperfect humans are factored into their equations. “Suppose we have an AI whose only goal is to make as many paper clips as possible,” Bostrom said. That thinking machine might rationally decide that wiping out humanity will help it achieve that goal — because humans are the only ones who could switch the machine off, thereby jeopardizing its paper-clip-making mission.
In a hyperconnected world, superintelligent computers would have many ways to kill humans. They could knock out the internet-connected electricity grid, poison the water supply, cause havoc at nuclear power plants, or seize command of the military’s remote-controlled drone aircraft or nuclear missiles. Inventor Elon Musk recently warned that “we need to be super careful with AI,” calling it “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”
Is that bleak future inevitable?
Many computer scientists do not think so, and question whether AI is truly achievable. We’re a long way from understanding the processes of our own incredibly complex brains — including the nature of consciousness itself — let alone applying that knowledge to produce a sentient, self-aware machine.
And though today’s most powerful computers can use sophisticated algorithms to win chess games and quiz shows, we’re still far short of creating machines with a full set of human skills — ones that could “write poetry and have a conception of right and wrong,” said Ramez Naam, a lecturer at the Silicon Valley–based Singularity University. That being said, technology is advancing at lightning speed, and some machines are already capable of making radical and spontaneous self-improvements.
What safeguards are in place?
Not many thus far. Google, for one, has created an AI ethics review board that supposedly will ensure that new technologies are developed safely. Some computer scientists are calling for the machines to come pre-programmed with ethical guidelines — though developers then would face thorny decisions over what behavior is and isn’t “moral.”
The fundamental problem, said Danny Hillis, a pioneering supercomputer designer, is that tech firms are designing ever-more intelligent computers without fully understanding — or even giving much thought to — the implications of their inventions. “We’re at that point analogous to when single-celled organisms were turning into multicelled organisms,” he said. “We’re amoeba, and we can’t figure out what the hell this thing is that we’re creating.”
When robots learn to lie
In 2009, Swiss researchers carried out a robotic experiment that produced some unexpected results. Hundreds of robots were placed in arenas and programmed to look for a “food source,” in this case a light-colored ring. The robots were able to communicate with one another and were instructed to direct their fellow machines to the food by emitting a blue light.
But as the experiment went on, researchers noticed that the machines were evolving to become more secretive and deceitful: When they found food, the robots stopped shining their lights and instead began hoarding the resources — even though nothing in their original programming commanded them to do so. The implication is that the machines learned “self-preservation,” said Louis Del Monte, author of The Artificial Intelligence Revolution. “Whether or not they’re conscious is a moot point.”
by Debbie Smith
Masked Arab rioters threw fireworks and rocks at security forces on the Temple Mount on Wednesday, hours before the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Riot police pushed the attackers back by setting up roadblocks, but it was not enough to deter the unrest. The rioters continued to throw rocks, bricks and iron bars at police from inside the Al-Aqsa mosque, while shooting fireworks at police and spraying an unidentified flammable liquid on them.
They also threw a firebomb at police, which ignited, wounded four officers lightly. The police later restrained the rioters and removed all barriers protecting the entrance to the mosque. The wounded policemen were treated on the spot. The Jordanian Waqf keeps an iron fist on the Temple Mount and its activities; Jews face constant discrimination and violence for visiting the site, and there is a blanket ban on Jewish prayer there.
Perhaps the most hotly contested thirty-seven acres of land in the world, the Temple Mount in the old city of Jerusalem, is considered a holy site to the three largest monotheistic religions in the world; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each of these, attribute significant events in the history of their religion as having occurred there. Control of this holy site is so contentious that it threatens to ignite war at almost any moment!
The Islamic claim to the holy site rests on a vague Koranic verse in Surah 17:1 which reads, “Exalted is he who took his servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings we have blessed, to show him of our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” This story of the flying horse with the face of a woman is found in both Islamic tradition and commentary, according to an article in the American Thinker.
The tradition teaches that Mohammed took a trip to “the farthest mosque” or al-Aqsa, in Jerusalem on the back of a magical horse, with the face of a woman, wings of an eagle, tail of a peacock, and hoofs reaching to the horizon. Mohammed tethered the horse to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, and was transported to the seventh heaven with Gabriel, along the way meeting Jesus and holy men of Judaism and Christianity. Although Jerusalem is not named in the verse, the location is assumed by Islamic scholars.
One of the problems with this narrative is the time line. Mohammed died in June 632 A.D. so of course, the trip would have had to occur prior to the date. Historically, Muslims did not gain access to Jerusalem until the year 637 A.D., five years after Mohammed’s death. These two facts are not debated by Jews, Christians, or Muslims, as they are considered historical truth. Therefore, no al-Aqsa mosque existed in Jerusalem during Mohammed’s lifetime. Mike Konrad in his article in the American Thinker categorizes the supposed al-Aqsa mosque, visited by Mohammed, as a “fraud.”
Before his death, Mohammed attempted to recruit the Jews to join his fledgling religion; he established the direction of prayer toward Jerusalem. Unsuccessful in this attempt, he then murdered many of the Jews and changed the direction of prayer toward Mecca. Mohammed’s abandonment of Jerusalem is consistent with the fact that the Koran never mentions the city.
Fifty years after Mohammed’s death, in 682 AD, following a war between two Islamic factions, pilgrims were prevented from reaching Mecca and Jerusalem was chosen as an alternate site for the Hajj. Sura 17:1 was used to justify the change and thus the history of Jerusalem as an Islamic holy site was concocted.
According to the Israeli scholar Dr. Mordecai Kedar, Islamists, by claiming the Temple Mount, seek to delegitimize both Judaism and Christianity, and thus present Islam as the replacement for both. Believing that both Jews and Christians have altered the Word of God, thereby forfeiting their favor with God, Islam seeks to expel the two faiths from Jerusalem. “Only Islam-“the religion of truth” has this right, (to possess Jerusalem) and forever,” claimed the Shaykh Ikrima Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem, on the Palestinian Authority radio. “Though Judaism and Christianity can exist side by side in Jerusalem, Islam regards both of them as betrayals of Allah and his teachings,” continues Dr. Kedar.
Mike Konrad, in his piece, asserts that anyone who has studied history knows that “only the Jews have a genuine religious claim to the Temple Mount. Even Christians- who do have a legitimate claim to other sites in the area-do not contest the Mount.” Since 1967, the Temple Mount has been controlled by a Jordanian Waqf, an endowment to an Islamic religious trust. Jews are forbidden to pray or worship freely on the Temple Mount. Israel has strictly enforced the Waqf, even prosecuting Israeli offenders. Requests by the Israeli government for the Jordanians to lighten the restrictions on Jewish prayer have been to no avail.
The frequent riots on the Mount indicate that as Israel moves more toward the political right, Jews are asserting their claim to the Temple Mount and the Muslims are defiantly resisting. Since neither the Jews nor the Muslims seem inclined to relinquish their claim to the sacred site, the violence will likely continue and could escalate at any time.
by Isi Leibler
The exceptionally vicious U.S. condemnation of Israel with regard to housing construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem is not merely misguided but also reflects irrational bias. Incidentally, this behavior also has many ominous parallels to the inhumane incarceration of Jonathan Pollard, despite pleas for his commutation from all sectors of American society.
The harsh outburst relates to a 2,600-unit housing project planned as an extension of an exclusively Jewish neighborhood adjacent to the suburb of Talpiot and Kibbutz Ramat Rahel both within the Green Line. It incorporates primarily barren land on which Ethiopian and Russian immigrants had been housed temporarily in mobile homes. Highly significant — but a fact that is ignored — is that nearly half of the construction was designated to provide housing for Arabs.
Construction permits were approved two years ago but it was the far left-wing group, Peace Now [Shalom Achshav], that saw fit to highlight the issue in a press release on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in a calculated effort to embarrass the prime minister and provoke tensions.
The successive statements by both the White House and State Department spokesmen must be considered among the most bitterly prejudiced and unbalanced condemnations of Israel ever expressed by the U.S. They make a mockery of repeated claims by the Obama administration that it considers Israel to be a close ally.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest stated, “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere, not only with the Palestinians [sic] but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki took it even a step further and said that these construction plans would “call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.” This outrageous remark will be seen as an attempt by Obama to reassure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he would still stand by the Palestinians, despite condemnation of Abbas’ disgusting U.N. speech, which was also a slap in the face of the U.S.
This was clearly a crafted position. The U.S. is fully aware that the location for this construction is in the heart of Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods and will always remain under Jewish sovereignty. They also conveniently overlooked the fact that this particular project was to include Arab housing.
To compound matters, the administration also condemned the legitimate purchase of seven residential homes by Jews in the Silwan Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. In so doing the Obama administration is endorsing the PA’s policy of preventing Jews from buying homes in Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem. This, despite the fact that Arabs live freely among Jews in west Jerusalem and throughout Israel. The U.S. is therefore validating the “Judenrein” ethnic cleansing policies of Abbas, who had the gall to accuse Israel of being an apartheid state in his recent belligerent U.N. address.
The U.S. statements unequivocally exhort other countries — including Israel’s “closest allies” — to condemn Israel over this routine municipal construction which contrary to utterly uninformed allegations, in no way undermines a two state solution. Not surprisingly, they have already been echoed by individual European countries and the European Union, which also called “into question Israel’s commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement.”
They went so far as to convey the message to moderate Arab states that Israel is “poisoning the atmosphere,” discouraging them from reciprocating Netanyahu’s efforts to reach out and develop a new relationship with them.
The bitter attack on Israel for construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of its own capital is unique not only because of the disproportionate ferocity of this public condemnation of an ally but also when viewed in the broader context. Setting aside the Gaza war and the histrionic attacks against Israel by Abbas at the U.N. General Assembly, it is impossible to comprehend such a reaction against the backdrop of regional events. Entire countries — Iraq and Syria — are imploding; literally millions have been displaced from their homes and become refugees; over 200,000 were murdered in Syria alone; barbaric decapitations of innocent people which are publicly circulated on the Internet.
Yet, it is against the background of this maelstrom that the U.S. sees fit to condemn and isolate its most devoted ally, the sole democratic state in the region and the only place where chaos does not prevail. Why? Because two years ago, the municipality of its capital, Jerusalem, approved a housing project in a Jewish neighborhood (which would also provide housing for Arab residents).
The irrationality and severity of these rebukes of Israel, encouraging other “friends” to join in the condemnation, suggests that Obama remains obsessively determined to force Israel to adopt his approach. And this, despite the events of recent months and his own admission in his U.N. speech that he had hitherto erred in asserting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a major impediment to regional stability.
No responsible Israeli government could ever contemplate acquiescing to such demands. We must never apologize for building homes in Jewish Jerusalem and there is an element of insanity in the U.S. condemning us for doing so.
Netanyahu speaks on this matter on behalf of the entire nation. This is not the approach of a particular government. It reflects the consensus — other than the extreme left-wing Meretz and marginal post-Zionist groups. This is a time for us to stand up and be counted. Opposition Leader MK Isaac Herzog should speak up as a genuine Labor Zionist leader and state that his party is at one with the government regarding construction in Jerusalem. Should he fail to do so, he will be turning his back on the Labor Zionist ideals of Israel’s founders and his Labor party will become a discredited delusional left-wing marginal group.
The response of the American Jewish leadership is also crucial. They have until now displayed a reticence to respond publicly to biased statements on Israel expressed by Obama. But this will put them to the test. If the leaders fail to speak out against such a vicious attack which effectively encourages other countries to join in exerting pressure on Israel, it will be perceived as dramatic erosion of their political influence and their community standing. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) should now actively launch a public information campaign, speak out robustly about Israel’s rights in Jerusalem and make a concerted effort to canvass support from members of Congress.
If Obama can behave in such a contemptuous manner towards Israel five weeks before congressional elections, one is left with a chilling feeling that we may see even more unfortunate initiatives during the remaining term of office of this president who seeks to distance himself from Israel as he simultaneously engages with rogue states and appears determined to rehabilitate Iran.