Illustration by International Artist Phillip Ratner-ratnermuseum.org
Israel Seen – 2016 Media Highlights from Major Sources on Israel
In Christmas message, Netanyahu underscores thriving Christian community in Israel
(JNS.org) In his annual Christmas message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the common bonds that Jews and Christians share as well as the thriving Christian community in Israel.
“To all of our Christian friends around the world, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” Netanyahu said in a video message from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), one of the world’s largest pro-Israel Christian ministries, with branches in more than 85 nations and supporters in 160 countries.
Netanyahu added that he is “proud” of Israel’s relationship with the Christian community and “the bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization.”
At the same time, Netanyahu noted that Christians and Jews are under threat from the “forces of intolerance” and “barbarism,” and that he is proud that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is thriving.
“I’m proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it’s no accident. It’s because of our commitment to religious freedom; it’s because of our embrace of our heritage; it’s because of our embrace of our common future,” Netanyahu said.
ICEJ Executive Director Dr. Jürgen Bühler responded to Netanyahu’s statement by wishing the Jewish people a “Happy Hanukkah” and giving the Israeli leader a silver Hanukkah dreidel as a gift.
“It was a great honor to host the Prime Minister at our Embassy headquarters and to receive his good holiday wishes for Christmas,” said Bühler.
“This indeed is a season when both communities can celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. And this timely display of solidarity shows once more that Israel is a country where religious freedoms are not only safeguarded but even encouraged,” he added.
Dr. Einat Wilf
With the cosmic alignment of Christmas and Hanukah, holiday merriment is abound, enabling plenty of relaxing reading time under the covers. So here are my five links for the season.
1) An Op-Ed in Haaretz co-written by Adi Schwartz and myself titled “The War Isn’t Over Yet”, which argues that “The Palestinian refugee problem, and particularly its continuation, is the result of an Arab and Palestinian decision to convey a clear message: The war they began sixty nine years ago in response to the United Nations Partition Plan – that war isn’t over yet.”
2) An Essay published in The Tower titled “Israel: The Unsynchronised Country”, in which I argue that “Israel has one glaring problem: lousy timing. Most of Israel’s apparent problems, certainly the ones its critics claim it has, emerge from Israel’s repeated inability to be synchronised with prevailing global moods.”
3) A short video discussing the possibility of a President Trump moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, in which I argue that the long standing US policy of holding the status of west Jerusalem hostage to the dispute over the future of east Jerusalem makes no sense.
4) An Essay published in The Tower titled “The Intersectional Power of Zionism”, which argues that “Zionism has a story to tell that is not only about Jews or for Jews. Zionism tells a simple story: Victimhood is not destiny.”
5) And with sisterly pride, introducing the antidote to the post-truth era: Rootclaim a new open data-driven platform that integrates all available evidence to reach conclusions about the likelihood of competing hypotheses. I believe Rootcliam could revolutionise human decision making from medicine, to law to intelligence to politics. Go to the website, or read more about why it might change everything.
CAMERA’s BDS Conference At Harvard
“CAMERA doesn’t censor, it simply adds to the dialogue in the marketplace by substituting truth for falsehood and letting people pick and choose what arguments they want to accept, as long as all the arguments are presented,” said Alan Dershowitz in this video address to CAMERA’s BDS conference at Harvard Law School.
by Bat Ye’or • December 22, 2016 at 6:00 am
- The Jerusalem Declaration of UNESCO seeks to Islamize, with the help of many governments in Europe and other Christian countries, the ancient history of the people of Israel.
- But what does this declaration mean for Europe and Christianity? Wasn’t Christianity born out of Israel? Wasn’t Jesus a Judean Jew, as were the apostles and evangelists? Or was it Islam that Jesus was preaching, in Arabic and in the mosques?
- Where are the great Catholic or Protestant voices to protest against this Islamization of Christianity? This passivity, this indifference makes you think that Europe will soon look more like Lebanon.
- European countries recognize terrorism everywhere except in Israel, where they themselves are allies of these terrorists whom they call “freedom fighters” or “militants”, against “occupation”.
- This alliance has ruined Europe — because the enemies of Israel are also enemies of Christianity and of Europe. How can you ally yourself with those who want to destroy you, without in fact dying yourself?
- The same obsessive hatred Hitler had for Israel, which led to the ruin of Europe, has persisted today in the European Union against the Jewish State. The great irony is that in trying to destroy Israel, Europe has destroyed itself.
Today we are witnessing the coming of the worldwide caliphate. This expression means that the Muslim view of history is currently prevailing in international institutions. We see it with the Jerusalem Declaration of UNESCO, this palace of revisionism. The Jerusalem Declaration seeks to Islamize, with the help of many governments in Europe and other Christian countries, the ancient history of the people of Israel.
The Venice Declaration of 1980, issued by the European Community, which tried to force Israel to survive in an indefensible territory, already prescribed its disappearance and replacement with a people that had never even manifested itself before 1969 — and all with the assistance of the Soviet Union and especially France. The Islamization of Jerusalem and the delegitimization of the State of Israel were already set out in the Venice Declaration, which to this date the European Union has continued to view as valid.
Greece-Israel-Cyprus Relations: Ripe for Expansion?
- Relations with Greece and Cyprus provide Israel with allied neighbors and bring Israel closer to Europe in terms of security, trade, and energy.
- Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are the only working democracies in a region of undemocratic, semi-democratic, and failing states. This is a powerful motivating factor for cooperation.
- Israeli-Greek relations have advanced to a degree where the militaries’ air forces and navies are conducting joint operations and joint maneuvers.
- Israel expressed deep gratitude to both countries for sending fire-fighting aircraft when widespread fires hit Israel in November 2016.
- Greece, Israel, and Cyprus have decided to formalize their proposal for the construction of a pipeline from gas fields off the coast of Israel. The three democratic countries can guarantee in the long-term a secure means of delivery in an effort to minimize Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Inter-state relations consist of rational choices aimed at producing desired outcomes. For Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, this means a continuation of stability and security in the chaos that has erupted from the Arab Spring. In light of this upheaval in the Middle East, cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel is essential to produce a haven of stability.
First, for Israel, Greece and Cyprus represent a bridge of stability to Europe, a stable region close to home. This security dimension is important for a country surrounded by pockets of instability and sources of radicalism. Both countries provide Israel with an allied neighbor and bring Israel closer to Europe in terms of security, trade, and energy.
Second, Israel is also a crucial security actor in a region affected by drastic domestic changes within states lacking a culture of peaceful co-existence. Currently, Greece is heavily saddled by the influx of refugees fleeing war. Cyprus, Greece, and Israel share similar significant interests such as security, energy security, and the need to deal with radicalism and terrorism.
These three countries have a lot to gain by deepening multilevel cooperation.
Third, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are the only working democracies in a region of undemocratic, semi-democratic, and failing states. This is a powerful motivation factor for cooperation since democratic values are a fundamental criterion for partnerships. This strategic partnership could set the groundwork for future cooperation among these states.
In the last few years, Greek-Israeli relations have intensified due to the intensity of threats, the urgency, and the need to solidify relations in a region tormented by multifaceted threats. Israeli-Greek relations have advanced to a degree where the militaries are conducting joint air force operations and joint maneuvers by Greek and Israeli navies. Greece permitted an overfly mission by Israeli military aircraft in Greek air space in 2014. An Israeli military attaché has been stationed in Athens since 2014. These are major choices on the part of Athens, whose foreign policy of the past had focused exclusively on building a one-way relationship with the Arab world, leaving Israel out of the picture.
Israel expressed deep gratitude to both countries for sending fire-fighting aircraft when widespread fires hit Israel in November 2016.
A Stable Axis of Power
Greece-Cyprus-Israel relations are setting clear ground rules of engagement for states to operate as regional stabilizers. Jerusalem, Athens, and Nicosia constitute a stable axis of power that should be expanded to fill the vacuum of leadership in the region. The tripartite cooperation between the three countries as well as the joint declarations that followed recent meetings were labeled “non-exclusive,” thus leaving the door open for others willing to participate. Yet, any potential candidates for joining this cooperation will have to be clear about its intentions, policy choices, and above all their support for peace and democracy. These trilateral understandings are a message to the region. Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are initiating an alliance of stable nations, who share common values, and are willing to fight (in different ways) terrorism.
The recent advances constitute just the security dimension of this new tripartite cooperation. Cyprus and Greece provide Israel with close proximity to Europe, a continent where, despite problems, democracy flourishes. The intensity of threats, as well as the deteriorating security in the Middle East, point to the need of further cooperation between the stable forces in the region. This is a historic moment for the future of this region and the time is ripe to produce more allied relationships amidst the chaos of the Middle East.
In a very promising development, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus have decided to formalize their proposal for the construction of a pipeline from gas fields off the coast of Israel. They are taking their case to the EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, thus making a formal step in materializing the project. The feasibility report of the proposal and its financial competitiveness are encouraging. The project possesses strategic advantages since it uses the safest route to Europe. The three democratic countries can guarantee in the long-term a secure means of delivery in the effort to minimize Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
About Dr. George Voskopoulos
Whole Arab Villages in Judea and Samaria Stand Empty as residents flee to U.S.
Media reports about the Arab struggle to retrieve the lands of Amona has been presented by politicians and the media as part of an Arab tradition of loyalty to their land.
Indeed, one of the Arab claimants against the Amona community has been quoted as saying, “If your child dies, you can make another one in his place, but land that you sold cannot be replaced.”
And yet, a report in Friday’s Makor Rishon suggests reality on the ground in Judea and Samaria reflects a somewhat different set of values. Local Arabs may not be willing to sell their land, but many of them don’t live on said land either, preferring instead to emigrate to the US.
According to reporter Assaf Gibor, Route 60, which runs from Afula, on Israel’s side of the “green line” through Jenin, near Shechem, through Ofra and outside Ramallah to Jerusalem and then through Gush Etzion, past Hebron all the way to Be’er Sheva, features ghost villages on either side of the highway. The Jewish settlers of Ofra and Amona have been wondering what has happened to neighboring Arab villages such as Silwad, three miles from the main road and about 8 miles north-east of Ramallah. A visitor happening inside the village can see numerous, luxurious villas, that are deserted.
Gibor, who describes those empty homes as “white elephants,” met in Silwad a man in his 79s named Salah, who sat with him over a cup of coffee and revealed that he’s been living in Puerto Rico for 52 years. Having left in 1964, before the Israeli liberation of 1967, Salah got his BA in Puerto Rico and MA in Tennessee, and now he is retired and living off his rental property on the island. His children were born in the US, one is a lawyer, the other a pharmacist, both Harvard graduates. Sadly, they’ve only visited the old country once – but both speak Arabic.
Hamza Awada, 21, who lives with his parents in Arizona, met Gibor in Dir Dibwan, not far from Silwad. He is visiting to conclude a two-year wife search. It’s an arranged marriage, and after the wedding the happy couple will move to America. Hamza has lived in New York City and in Arizona, as well as in Jordan. “Life here in the village is quaint, but it’s not for me.”
Hamza describes himself as a Palestinian, not as an American, and he likes the sense of community in the village his parents had left in their youth. He’d even like to come back some day, maybe. But “life here is difficult,” he says. “It’s hard to find work, make a living and earn enough to support the lifestyle I’m used to abroad.” He plans to maintain the same ties to the old place his parents have kept: visit every few years. He speaks Arabic with his parents at home, but at school and elsewhere outside the home it’s all English.
According to Gibor, between 80 and 90 percent of Dir Dibwan’s residents have an American citizenship. One local resident, Muhammad Manasra, who splits his life between the village and California, estimates the population in the two neighboring villages at 16,000, most of them living abroad.
One of the most common methods used to obtain a US Visa is marrying an American citizen.
In many cases, Arab wives who discover the US lifestyle after having grown up in poverty in Judea and Samaria, refuse to go back. “My brother married a woman from the nearby village of Beitin,” Manasra relates. “There are many Palestinian-Americans there, too. He brought her to the US, arranged for a visa, and the minute she landed there her eyes opened, like she discovered a new world. He would work and she moseyed through the malls and spend money. They had two children, and when the elder was five, my brother wanted his wife and both children to go back to the village so the children learn Arabic and become familiar with Palestinian culture. His wife refused. It ended very badly. They divorced and today both live in the US separately. My brother’s house is sealed,” he says and points at the deserted villa.
Arab immigration from Judea and Samaria has been going on for decades. Official Palestinian Authority figures suggest there are three million Arabs living there. In reality, the figures are lighter by at least one million, according to many experts. Since 1997, Israel is no longer operating the census there, and the PA count does not abide by international norms, whereby a person who has been absent for a year or more from his country is no longer counted. Demographers Yaakov Feitelson and Yoram Ettinger suggest the figure of 1.8 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria, as opposed to the PA claim of 2.9 million.
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|Yesh Atid leader: We need to get Palestinians out of our lives|
“What we need to do is build a high wall, and have us on one side and them [the Palestinians] on the other side” Yair Lapid tells Channel 2 • Likud: The public knows Lapid represents the Left • Yesh Atid: Isn’t Likud tired of calling everyone ‘leftists’?
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid Photo credit: Reuters
Myths and Facts
Islam’s Tenuous Connection to Jerusalem
December 22, 2016 | Eli E. Hertz
Despite 1,300 years of Muslim Arab rule, Jerusalem was never the capital of an Arab entity. Oddly, the PLO’s National Covenant, written in 1964, never mentioned Jerusalem. Only after Israel regained control of the entire city did the PLO “update” its Covenant to include Jerusalem.
Overall, the role of Jerusalem in Islam is best understood as the outcome of political pressure impacting on religious belief.
Mohammed, who founded Islam in 622 CE, was born and raised in present-day Saudi Arabia; he never set foot in Jerusalem. His connection to the city came years after his death when the Dome of the Rock shrine and the al-Aqsa mosque were built in 688 and 691, respectively, their construction spurred by political and religious rivalries. In 638 CE, the Caliph (or successor to Mohammed) Omar and his invading armies captured Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire. One reason they wanted to erect a holy structure in Jerusalem was to proclaim Islam’s supremacy over Christianity and its most important shrine, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
More important was the power struggle within Islam itself. The Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphs who controlled Jerusalem wanted to establish an alternative holy site if their rivals blocked access to Mecca. That was important because the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca was (and remains today) one of the Five Pillars of Islam. As a result, they built what became known as the Dome of the Rock shrine and the adjacent mosque.
To enhance the prestige of the “substitute Mecca,” the Jerusalem mosque was named “al-Aqsa.” It means “the furthest mosque” in Arabic, but has far broader implications, since it is the same phrase used in a key passage of the Quran called “The Night Journey.” In that passage, Mohammed arrives at “al-Aqsa” on a winged steed accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel; from there they ascend into heaven for a divine meeting with Allah, after which Mohammed returns to Mecca. Naming the Jerusalem mosque “al-Aqsa” was an attempt to say the Dome of the Rock was the very spot from which Mohammed ascended to heaven, thus tying Jerusalem to divine revelation in Islamic belief. The problem however is, that Mohammed died in the year 632, nearly 50 years before the first construction of the “al-Aqsa” Mosque was completed.
Jerusalem never replaced the importance of Mecca in the Islamic world. When the Umayyad dynasty fell in 750, Jerusalem also fell into near obscurity for 350 years, until the Crusades. During those centuries, many Islamic sites in Jerusalem fell into disrepair and in 1016 the Dome of the Rock collapsed.
Still, for 1,300 years, various Islamic dynasties (Syrian, Egyptian, and Turkish) continued to govern Jerusalem as part of their overall control of the Land of Israel, disrupted only by the Crusaders. What is amazing is that over that period, not one Islamic dynasty ever made Jerusalem its capital. By the 19th century, Jerusalem had been so neglected by Islamic rulers that several prominent Western writers who visited Jerusalem were moved to write about it. French writer Gustav Flaubert, for example, found “ruins everywhere” during his visit in 1850 when it was part of the Turkish Empire (1516-1917). Seventeen years later Mark Twain wrote that Jerusalem had “become a pauper village.”
Indeed, Jerusalem’s importance in the Islamic world only appears evident when non-Muslims (including the Crusaders, the British, and the Jews) control or capture the city. Only at those points in history did Islamic leaders claim Jerusalem as their third most holy city after Mecca and Medina. That was again the case in 1967, when Israel captured Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem (and the Old City) during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Dershowitz: Move US embassy to Jerusalem in three stages
Speaking in Jerusalem Wednesday, the outspoken law professor said he would vote to abolish the UN if he could.
Professor Alan Dershowitz
Prof. Alan Dershowitz against the United Nations: Speaking in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, he said, “If I had to vote on it, I would have to bite the bullet and vote to abolish the United Nations, as I think it has done more harm than good.”
Dershowitz and former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold conducted a “dialogue” at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), where Gold serves as President. The occasion was the Annual Memorial Lecture in honor of founding JCPA president Prof. Daniel J. Elazar. Close to 250 people were in attendance.
The topic of discussion revolved generally around the recent U.S. elections and the election of Donald Trump as they relate to Israel, but it predictably veered onto other topics as well. Dershowitz said that in no way could Trump’s election be viewed as a “mandate” for his policies, as the United States “is basically split down the middle. Trump won the electoral vote, while Clinton won the popular vote. It could have gone either way! And this is why we cannot allow Israel to become a partisan issue – because we could have lost!”
He further said that he has hopes that Trump will succeed, “but my expectations for this are lower.” Dershowitz noted that Trump’s appointments so far do not indicate a consistent policy towards Israel. He emphasized that in general, “xenophobia is not good for Israel. Jews should be wary of being seduced by those who are pro-Israel if they are in fact racist, xenophobic, etc. We fell prey to Communists in the 30’s and in general, Jews thrive in the political center.”
In response to a challenge by Gold regarding his use of the term “populism” concerning Trump, Dershowitz said, “Trump is not a real populist, because he’s not an ideologue.”
Gold sought to impart a positive impression regarding Trump’s presidency vis-à-vis Israel: “I believe his team has excellent relations with Netanyahu’s team, and there is no danger of any hostility towards Israel.” He acknowledged that the situation is dangerous, “as the world order is basically collapsing, and the Trump Administration and the new Secretary of State will have to restore it.”
Dershowitz heartily agreed: “I supported Obama twice, but I blame him for the breakdown of the world order. I believe he will go down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents domestically, but one of the worst in terms of foreign policy. I warned him personally that he could go down in history as a Chamberlain. He has managed to alienate every single country in the Middle East, except for one: Iran…”
Both Gold and Dershowitz, in fact, lamented the destabilization and the unpredictable nature of various countries, specifically citing examples from the Arab world. This is why some in the audience expressed surprise at Dershowitz’s comment that “now is the best time for Israel to come to an arrangement with the Palestinians – without sacrificing an iota of its security – in order to ensure our continued good relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates.”
Regarding the French initiative in favor of a two-state solution, Prof. Dershowitz said, “This would be a disaster. It would show the Arabs that they can achieve their goals via the UN, BDS, the International Criminal Court – in any way other than direct negotiations.”
“I am in favor of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem,” says Prof. Dershowitz,
“but it should be done in three stages.” He said the Administration should first right a historic anomaly by declaring its recognition of western Jerusalem as part of Israel, and then should declare that it wants and plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem “in consultation with our allies.” Only later should the embassy actually be relocated, he said.
Dershowitz stated that he had spoken with three Israeli prime ministers that very day, including Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and even incarcerated Ehud Olmert.
According to former Ambassador Gold, “Binyamin Netanyahu has made Herculean efforts towards peace,” as opposed to Mahmoud Abbas, who he said “continues to stall. Our challenge at this time is to continue to forge good relations with the Arab countries while the Palestinians continue to be stuck in themselves.”