Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Women’s empowerment - Haifa conference Nov 2013

Haifa is the centre for the activities of MASHAV, the training arm of Israel's Foreign Office. The courses offered in the centre bring people from all over the world even from countries with no diplomatic relations.
In November together with the UN Development Program and UN Women, MASHAV and the Haifa Centre is organizing the 28th International Conference for Women Leaders on “The Post-2015 and Sustainable Development Goals Agenda: Ensuring the Centrality of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Next Framework.”.
If this conference is anything like the last, it will be very impressive. See more details of the work empowering women in the article below

Women’s empowerment: Education as a tool for achieving equality
10/20/2013 21:45

Investing in women’s and girls’ education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty.

As the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals approaches, a number of processes are under way among UN Member States, the UN system, academia, policymakers and civil society to reflect on the post-2015 development framework.

A growing number of states are reviewing and prioritizing the lessons learned that need to be incorporated into the post-2015 framework. The most recent (2012) Millennium Development Goals Report revealed that while there was notable progress in some gender equality dimensions there remains much to be done in every country, at every level, to achieve equality and women’s empowerment.

Empowerment means moving from enforced powerlessness to a position of power. Education is an essential means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to fully participate in the development process. Sustainable development is only possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunities to reach their potential.

Women and girls experience multiple and intersecting inequalities.

Structural barriers in the economic, social, political and environmental spheres produce and reinforce these inequalities. Obstacles to women’s economic and political empowerment, and violence against women and girls, are barriers to sustainable development and the achievement of human rights, gender equality, justice and peace.

Across much of the world, either by law or custom, women are still denied the right to own land or inherit property, obtain access to credit, attend school, earn income and progress in their profession free from job discrimination.

Women are significantly under-represented in decision-making at all levels.

While the economic benefits of educating girls are similar to those of educating boys, recent findings suggest the social benefits are greater.

Women have the potential to change their own economic status and that of their communities and countries in which they live yet usually women’s economic contributions are unrecognized, their work undervalued and their promise undernourished.

Unequal opportunities between women and men hamper women’s ability to lift themselves from poverty and secure improved options to improve their lives. Education is the most powerful instrument for changing women’s position in society.

Investing in women’s and girls’ education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty.

In line with the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives established by the international community, MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, consistently promotes the empowerment of women, considering women’s education a critical component of development policy and planning, and central to sustainable development.

Following important changes in the international development landscape in recent years MASHAV adopted a dual approach to development: We engage in active development policy dialogues and development diplomacy, thus contributing to and shaping policy at a higher, multilateral level.

And, through professional programs, we maintain an active and effective presence at the field level.

One of MASHAV’s earliest affiliate training institutions, The Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center (MCTC), has addressed the connection between gender, poverty reduction and sustainable development for over five decades.

MCTC places education at the core of women’s ability to contribute to all activities, working to enhance knowledge, competency and skills, including in the development process and in their contributions to civil society.
Guided by this mindset, MASHAV, together with MCTC, the UN Development Program and UN Women is organizing the 28th International Conference for Women Leaders on “The Post-2015 and Sustainable Development Goals Agenda: Ensuring the Centrality of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Next Framework.”
This November, senior women and men from the public and associative sectors – ministers, members of parliaments, heads of women’s associations, representatives of international organizations and representatives of the judicial, business and academic sectors – will convene in Haifa to discuss progress achieved and gaps remaining in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals from a gender perspective. We will highlight lessons learned and best practices in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Education is important for everyone, but it is a critical area of empowerment for girls and women. This is not only because education is an entry point to opportunity but also because women’s educational achievements have positive ripple effects within the family and across generations.

Education is much more than reading and writing. It is an essential investment countries make for their futures, a crucial factor in reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I am a Muslim by Faith but......

"I am a Muslim by faith, a Christian by spirit, a Jew by heart, and above all I am a human being." ~ Dr. Tawfik Hamid.

Dr. Hamid is an Egyptian scholar and author of the article.
The world needs more people like him---ones who have the
courage to face-up to reality.

I was born a Muslim and lived all my life as a follower of Islam.
After the barbaric terrorist attacks done by the hands of my fellow Muslims everywhere on this globe, and after the too many violent acts by Islamists in many parts of the world, I feel responsible as a Muslim and as a human being to speak out and tell the truth to protect the world and Muslims as well from a coming catastrophe and war of civilizations.
I have to admit that our current Islamic teaching creates violence and hatred toward non-Muslims. We Muslims are the ones who need to change. Until now we have accepted polygamy, the beating of women by men, and killing those who convert from Islam to other religions.
We have never had a clear and strong stand against the concept of slavery or wars, to spread our religion and to subjugate others to Islam and force them to pay a humiliating tax called jizia. We ask others to respect our religion while all the time we curse non-Muslims loudly (in Arabic) in our Friday prayers in the mosques.
What message do we convey to our children when we call the Jews "descendants of the pigs and monkeys"? [Yet, both Arabs and Jews are descendants of Ibrahim (Abraham)!] Is this a message of love and peace, or a message of hate?
I have been into [Christian] churches and [Jewish] synagogues where they were praying for Muslims.  While all the time, we curse them, and teach our generations to call them "infidels", and to hate them.
We immediately jump in a 'knee jerk reflex' to defend Prophet Mohammad when someone accuses him of being a pedophile while, at the same time, we are proud with the story in our Islamic books that he married a young girl seven years old [Aisha] when he was above 50 years old.
I am sad to say that many, if not most of us, rejoiced in happiness after September 11th and after many other terror attacks.
Muslims denounce these attacks to look good in front of the media, but we condone the Islamic terrorists and sympathise with their cause. Until now our 'reputable' top religious authorities have never issued a fatwa or religious statement to proclaim Bin Laden as an apostate, while an author, like Rushdie, was declared an apostate who should be killed according to Islamic Shari'a law just for writing a book criticizing Islam.
Muslims demonstrated to get more religious rights as we did in France to stop the ban on the hijab (head scarf), while we did not demonstrate with such passion and in such numbers against the terrorist murders. It is our absolute silence against the terrorists that gives the energy to these terrorists to continue doing their evil acts.
We Muslims need to stop blaming our problems on others or on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. As a matter of honesty, Israel is the only light of democracy, civilization, and human rights in the whole Middle East.
We kicked out the Jews with no compensation or mercy from most of the Arab countries to make them "Jews-free countries" while Israel accepted more than a million Arabs to live there, have their own nationality, and enjoy their rights as human beings. In Israel, women cannot be beaten legally by men, and any person can change his/her belief system with no fear of being killed by the Islamic law of 'apostasy,' while in our Islamic world people do not enjoy any of these rights.
I agree that the 'Palestinians' suffer, but they suffer because of their corrupt leaders and not because of Israel.
It is not common to see Arabs who live in Israel leaving to live in the Arab world. On the other hand, we used to see thousands of Palestinians going to work with happiness in Israel, its 'enemy.' If Israel treats Arabs badly as some people claim, surely we would have seen the opposite happening.
We Muslims need to admit our problems and face them.  Only then we can treat them and start a new era to live in harmony with human mankind. Our religious leaders have to show a clear and very strong stand against polygamy, pedophilia, slavery, killing those who convert from Islam to other religions, beating of women by men, and declaring wars on non-Muslims to spread Islam.
Then, and only then, do we have the right to ask others to respect our religion. The time has come to stop our hypocrisy and say it openly: 'We Muslims have to change !

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just What Happened to the 1.95 Bill Euros?

The EU has just announced that it doesn't know what happened to 1.95 billion Euros. Such fiscal responsibility!!

A friend living in the UK has tried to warn leaders of the UK and EU for years, of the irresponsible handling of the funds donated to the PA by the UK and Europe.

Below is his letter listing his attempts to raise awareness of fraud and yet until today no-one seems to care or even listen. And whose money was it? - why the taxpayer of course!


We all know that money drives people to throw out integrity and that greed overwhelms many in authority leading them to ignore the needs of their own community. However sometimes money is divested or stolen for a Political reasons to manipulate circumstances. As far as the Palestinian Authorities, whether HAMAS or FATAH, all three of these reasons are applicable and the third, the Political intention, is to discredit Israel.  The theft of aid funds for all these reasons is something which I have been keen to bring into the open because not only does it prevent ordinary people receive help but it helps form a view that Israel is the cause of poverty amongst Palestinian Arabs.
In 2003 I wrote to my MP raising concerns about the divestment of European funds given to the Palestinian Arab Authorities in particular Yasser Arafat who I alleged had stolen a minimum of 560 million dollars of aid given to help the Palestinian people. I received a letter in reply from Baroness Symons Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in February 2004 as follows;

“The EU commissioner for external affairs, Chris Patten, has made it clear that “there is no case for stating that EU money has financed terrorism”. Indeed a working group based on the New York Council on Foreign Relations commented that EU payments were subject to “the most extensive and intrusive monitoring system in any post-conflict situation. The European Commission attaches strict conditionality to the direct budgetary assistance provided to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The conditions reinforce the need for transparency on the PA’s public finances, strengthening the prudent management of the budget, and encouraging progress on overall financial and administrative reform. We are satisfied that the EC, with the assistance of the IMF, is ensuring the conditions are met”. 

The then head of Palestinian Arab terror Yasser Arafat died in November of that year leaving a $1.3 Billion dollar fortune and thousands of Palestinian Arabs hungry. Where did that money come from?????

In November 2006 I gave evidence to a House of Parliament Select Committee as follows;

Para. 50. Finances given by both Government and non-government organisations have historically been proven to be misappropriated by Palestinian Officials in such sums that there is increasing poverty amongst the Palestinians.

51. Finances from aid organisations who are, in some cases, using partner organisations to deliver them, are often diverted and are being used to fuel violence and abuse children by incorrect and inhumane methods of teaching.

52. The teaching in the schools and particularly in the summer camps is simply planting the seeds of hatred in the children of a Nation and would never be accepted in Britain. The intention is that, for the foreseeable future, there will be a hatred of the Jewish people by Palestinians.   
53. Some of those finances are also being used to promulgate information which is unbalanced and favours the Palestinians to the detriment of Israeli’s who are also suffering.

54. Finances from some charitable organisations held here in the UK are being directed towards such organisations as HAMAS who are clearly responsible for the deaths of many innocent Israeli’s and by their own admission are the perpetrators of the continued barrage of rocket attacks against Sderot. 

55. We should understand that terrorism is the key issue affecting poverty amongst the Palestinians and Israeli’s alike. It should be made perfectly clear that neither suggestions of poverty or impoverishment will be accepted nor that there is no vindication for acts of hatred. The teaching of such hatred should also be highlighted and openly condemned. 

56. Both Jews and Arabs should be considered equally by those organisations charged with the responsibilities of helping the impoverished. To this end an enquiry should be carried out that looks at the issues surrounding the decline in the economy in places such as Sderot and its effects, in order to allow organisations to distribute finances in a more balanced and fair way. 

57. All efforts should be made for monies that have been given to the Palestinian’s to help fund their needs, but which have been misappropriated, to be recovered and reintroduced. There should be International condemnation of the perpetrators in an effort to deter such diversions occurring in the future. 

58. There should be a close and detailed record of the actual use of finances given to the Palestinians by Official/Government organisations, Aid and partner organisations to prevent monies being used for the purposes of terrorism whether it be in training or teaching or propaganda.  These finances should not in any way be used for bias or unbalanced reporting, as is currently the case. 

So this was my stance in 2006 and this was published by the House of Commons International Development Select Committee report on Development Assistance and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In June 2011 I wrote to my Member of the European Parliament raising again my deepest concerns regarding the divestment of funds from European Aid given to help the Palestinian Arabs.  On 18th October 2011 my MEP wrote to me attaching a letter from Mr Stefan Fule MEP who has responsibility for such aid within the E.U. In that letter, which was dated 31st August 2011, Mr Fule stated that;

“All aid funds to Gaza had been fully accounted for and that stringent ex ante and ex post auditing and verification had been carried out by internationally qualified auditing firms”. The letter assured me that it was possible to verify the end destination of each individual payment made and that this was done monthly”.

And now, surprise, surprise, this week the European Court have published a report showing that €1.95 Billion Euros given by the European Union to the Palestinian Authority between 2008 and 2012 has been wasted or lost. 

The report noted that the EU investigators visited sites in the West Bank, and Gaza and noticed what was described as “significant deficiencies” in the management of aid funds transferred to the Palestinians. Editors of the report complained that measures were not taken to reduce serious risks such as "corruption or funds not used for purposes for which they were transferred."

A sum of €1.95 Billion Euros is a massive amount of money to lose? How could you waste or lose that amount of money when those around you are allegedly hungry refugees?

Did you also notice that the report states that measures to reduce the serious risk of corruption had not been made!!!!! What had all those replies to my letters been about?

On 24th September 2003 President Bush made an executive order on the financing of terrorists number 13224.This order requests Tax Exempt organisations such as Charities who partner Palestinian NGO’s to include in their agreements a certification regarding financing which would ensure that none of their funding would be used in any way to support terrorism in whatever form whether directly or indirectly through propaganda or education. Palestinian NGO’s were outraged by this request but the USA had ample evidence of misuse of funds and the request was clearly reasonable for any Government or organisation to make, and should naturally be a condition by all parties who send or receive financial support. So if the USA knew about corruption then why did the EU and UK deny any corruption and fail to place upon the PA the same or similar conditions when giving such vast amounts of aid?

I was tempted when I wrote to my MP and MEP on Tuesday morning to ask what have the Wolves have done with our money. However it is an insult to Wolves who share their kill and even vomit up their fill to feed their young for the good of their community. The leaders who stole this aid do not deserve to be called Wolves.

But what about those who gave the money and later lied about its accounting knowing full well that Palestinians, and Israeli’s for that matter, are suffering because they have failed to have a robust system which prevents Palestinian Arab leaders from becoming rich and using this money for their own terrorist activities rather than giving it for the purpose for which it was given.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

IDF Uncover Terror tunnel

IDF forces discovered a kilometer-long tunnel that starts in the Gaza Strip and goes to the comprehensive fence around Kibbutz Ein ha-Shlosha. It is apparently intended to kidnap Israeli citizens or to activate explosive devises. According to one military official, “It was one of the most impressive and complex tunnels ever exposed.”

Oct 13, 2013, 02:00PM | Rachel Avraham

The IDF discovered last Tuesday a terror tunnel dug in the Southern Gaza Strip in the Palestinian Authority that led to the area of Kibbutz Ein Ha-Shlosha.  The security system in the tunnel is appraised as one of the most sophisticated and long tunnels located in recent years, intended to implement the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers or to use explosive devices. 
The IDF and the security establishment checked the tunnel, which turned out to go around three hundred meters inside Israel, in order to verify that the method it was established isn’t booby-trapped.   During the weekend, there were forces in place to destroy it.  The localization of the tunnel was made possible following IDF tracking sequences after Palestinian attempts to dig a tunnel to engage in smuggling into and out of Gaza.
"Identifying activities each day" Photo Credit: Reuters
In a conversation with Channel 2 News, a military source stated that this is not the only tunnel that was discovered recently and that terror organizations continue their efforts to try to infiltrate Israeli territory.   “The kilometer long tunnel is one of the most impressive and complex tunnels ever exposed,” he said.
“The tunnel was exposed in time to prevent a disaster,” Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, within whose jurisdiction the tunnel was discovered, stated.  “The cooperation between the farmers that work the fields to the last furrow, and the IDF that defends us, has proven itself.  We trust completely the IDF and their prepared squads that permit us to continue our routine lives.”
Major-General of the Southern Command: “Identifying activities each day”
 “We identify that on the ground in Gaza itself, each day hundreds of people dig defensive and offensive tunnels,” Major General of the Southern Command Sammy Turgeman stated two weeks ago in an interview with Channel 2 News.  “Hamas is an organization that presently finds itself in a corner and it needs to decide what it is facing.  On the one hand, they suffered a severe blow in Operation Pillar of Defense, and on the other hand, they endured the disintegration of the radical axis between Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, and above all, the loss of strategic support with the fall of Morsi’s regime,” Major General Turgeman explained. 
 According to Turgeman, Israel is the main destination of the Gaza terror organizations’ operating under the umbrella of Hamas.  He stressed that this is highly important for the ability of Hamas to control the Gaza Strip.  “We need a mechanism that controls the security aspects inside Gaza.  Hamas knows this.  I don’t see an alternative to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip,” Turgeman stated.    
Destroying the tunnels
Destroying the tunnels Photo Credit: Channel 2
Last week: Incident at the Security Fence
 Last week, the quiet along the Gaza border was broken.  The Golani Brigade forces killed a Palestinian man and arrested an additional one.  The two Palestinians were observed in the middle of the night by security forces when they approached the Security Barrier in Northern Gaza.  The Israeli soldiers opened fire on the two, after following the proper procedures for suspected infiltrators.
 The incident is being investigated by the Israeli Defense Ministry.  Examinations carried out show that the two weren’t armed, but tried to illegally infiltrate into Israel.  Following initial fears that the two attempted to harm Israeli soldiers, the local population was ordered to remain near bomb shelters.   

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

First Bedouin cosmetics label in the world.​​

In the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, located in the Negev desert near the Israeli city of Be'er Sheva, Maryan Abu Rakayek has set up a natural cosmetics company.

Using methods learned from her grandmother, and passed down in the Bedouin community from generation to generation, Maryan transforms traditional herbs and other natural ingredients into cosmetics, soaps and other treatments. "Desert Daughter" is a growing company, and the first Bedouin cosmetics label in the world.​

See video story below, with thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Peace-Dripping Nuclear Lamb

 Ali Salim October 8, 2013 

They ignore the words of the Ayatollah Khamenei, who defined statesmanship as fraud and deceit hidden in smiles, and then sent Rouhani off to negotiate with the West. There are people who actually think that the Iranians, who spent so much on their nuclear bomb project, will actually give it up and abandon their dream of controlling the Arab oil fields, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, then on from there.

The Middle Eastern Bazaar

Russia's Putin calculates his every move, and only goes to war to win. Considering the might of the West balanced against his own weakness, he apparently saw that the smart thing, should the U.S. decide to attack Syria, would be to stand on the sidelines and let Assad, his ally, tough it out alone. Concerned, even momentarily, that the U.S. might actually carry out its threat and attack the Syrian regime as it promised when the use of chemical weapons was called a "red line," Putin was quick to save the U.S. from itself. While Obama yelled "hold me back," however, in reality he did nothing and was planning to do nothing: the U.S. looked afraid.

Despite Syria having begun to reveal the locations of its chemical weapons storehouses, Putin is still squirming. He has no way of being certain that all the locations will be revealed – nor does anyone else. He refuses to let the chemicals enter Russia for destruction. No one knows where they will be destroyed or who will accept responsibility.

Now, while Putin is demanding that Israel also destroy the weapons of mass destruction he pretends it possesses, he also fancifully claims that Syria has chemical weapons "only" as a strategic balance to the "Israeli threat." Putin has said that, given Israel's technological superiority, it has nothing to fear from Syria -- another manipulative lie, this time for the ears of the Arab and Muslim world, which, as usual, hears only what it wants to. Putin knows full well that if Israel so desired, it could attack and defeat Syria or any other Arab country without once taking recourse to non-conventional weapons, especially now that these countries have been weakened by the Arab Spring.

Putin, having negotiated with the U.S. and discovered how easily it could be swayed -- is now, like a rug merchant in an Arab bazaar, trying to renegotiate the original arrangement to extort more. Having identified America's weaknesses, Putin is now doing his best to exploit it to the maximum, making the U.S. the biggest loser: Given its current situation in the UN and Congress, even if the U.S. wanted to attack Syria, it could not carry out its threat: The U.S now cannot attack without support from the UN Security Council, and, possibly to its relief, it is not going to get it.

The Arab and Muslim world is hard, implacable and unrelenting: here, in the Middle East, might is measured in terms of results on the ground, not in rhetoric. Since the Kerry-Lavrov agreement was reached, the status of the United States has plummeted and burned, despite the American campaign to market Obama as the super-strategist who achieved a diplomatic success while carrying a big stick. The truth is that the U.S. made empty threats that were never carried out. Worse, everyone knows he could not have carried them out: both domestically and abroad, he looks weak.

In the Arab and Muslim world, the agreement to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons was represented as an American failure, both moral and operational; and as a strategic Syrian surrender to Israel. The worst aspect of the agreement, however, was that it gave the Syrian regime a green light to continue using conventional weapons to kill Syrian civilians. Putin came away from the agreement looking like a great statesman: mature, responsible and trustworthy. 

The various factions of the Syrian opposition, who have a vested interest, were not even invited to the deliberations. A number of days after the agreement was announced, they announced their refusal to accept it. As the various factions are also at war with each other, and shoot each other whenever the opportunity presents itself, there is really no alternative to Assad. Thus the American-Russian agreement will perpetuate the chaos and bloodshed for years to come. The agreement strengthens only Iran, which floods Syria with arms and logistical aid, even as it sedates the American administration with unscrupulous diplomatic rhetoric.

The Iranian Spin

Those parts of the West that have apparently succumbed to America's misguided interpretation of events are now celebrating "victory." Iranian president Rouhani arrived on America's shores and delivered at the UN a peace-dripping speech, bought and lapped up by the Americans, who seem to think Iran's "reversal" was the result of Obama's brilliant statesmanship. Rouhani finally recognized the existence of the Holocaust of the Jews and called for global cooperation, and there was even a rumor, since disproven, that in Tehran supreme leader Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa banning the development and use of nuclear weapons. Surely the millennium is at hand, but what if the lamb turns out to be a nuclear wolf in sheep's clothing? Now, after the American fiasco in Syria, the Iranians are certain that the U.S. will never strike them; that its only weapons are words on a teleprompter.

Having fully understood the U.S. mindset, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei set forth his plan of "heroic flexibility," a masterpiece of words, marketing a whole series of concepts without changing one single aspect of Iran's nuclear program. Only few in the Western world know that the Shi'ite operative principle at work is taqiyya: that to advance his goal, a Muslim can lie to the enemy, the infidel, the non-Muslim, with total impunity and religious sanction. Now that the U.S., in the eyes of the Middle East, has revealed itself as nothing more than a paper teleprompter, the Iranians have fallen over themselves uttering words such as "Lasting peace, No to war, Stability, Dialogue" -- all the tranquilizing words that can chloroform the West into a false sense of security, while deep in the mountains the centrifuges keep spinning, and Iran keeps on completing its bomb.

Even as the words came dripping off Rouhani's tongue, in Iran's backyards parades were held, featuring scores of long-range missiles capable of reaching Europe, the Persian Gulf, Israel, and American bases in the Middle East. Rouhani, who has attended several such parades, claims the weapons are just for self defense and that Iran has never started a war or initiated military confrontations against any country. Oh really? While Rouhani was devoutly dripping peace, Mansour Haghighatpour, a member of Iran's National Security Council, announced that as a result of Iran's "flexibility," American-Iranian relations would improve and break the back of the "reactionary" [pro-Western] Arab regimes in the Middle East and the "Zionist regime." This is the ayatollahs' real approach to peace.

The world's short memory may not recall that Iran fought a bloody, determined war for eight years against Iraq, and, thanks to the recent American withdrawal, has almost completely taken over the place. The missiles in Rouhani's peace parade bore the inscription "Death to Israel." At any given moment, Iranian fighters can be found slaughtering Syrian civilians while Iran provides training, arms and massive amounts of money to Hezbollah; and Iranian intelligence and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards maintain terrorist and espionage networks around the world, including South America.

The Americans, garlanded with olive branches, sit in the stands and watch as the Iranians land. The Iranians' visit means only that they have found the Achilles heel in the Western sanctions that threaten their economy. By showering the administration with compliments and marketing "ideological flexibility," the Iranians want to soften a superpower that dares not attack but takes refuge in words; cause the economic siege of Iran to crumble, and -- above all -- preserve their nuclear program.

On the eve of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan of Turkey was called "The Sick Man of the Bosphorus." Unfortunately, along the Potomac, there seem to be sick men as well, who mistakenly think the Iranians, after having spent so much on their nuclear bomb project -- and after suffering international economic sanctions, cyber attacks, and the loss of scientists under suspicious circumstances -- will actually give it up, rather than envisioning the Shi'ite apocalypse; the return of the Mahdi; control of Arab oil; occupying the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf; taking over the Middle East and after it, possibly world domination. The sick men of the Potomac seem mistakenly to think that the Iranians, captivated by Obama and possibly motivated by the Syrian fiasco, will suddenly decide they do not want a nuclear bomb or world domination, after all.

There are, along the Potomac, people who actually think that one bearded ayatollah at the United Nations means the Iranians have waived these desires. They ignore the worlds of the Ayatollah Khamenei, who defined statesmanship as fraud and deceit hidden in smiles, and then sent Rouhani off to negotiate with the West.

America is likely to get so caught up in words that it believes the legend it has created for itself.

The sanctions against Iran must be continued until there is proof that both its arsenal and nuclear potential have been destroyed. If the sanctions slacken or end, no leader will be able to renew the momentum.

There are people along the Potomac who wishfully think that the achievements of the negotiations in Syria increased their stature and deterrent capabilities; unfortunately, the opposite is true. More than one country has begun disregarding the United States; and many more, because of America's perceived weakness, are fearful. The Iranians, on the other hand, are laughing out loud.

Ali Salim is a scholar based in the Middle East

Sunday, October 6, 2013

'We are not Arabs. We are Christians who speak Arabic'

Yisrael Hayom - Dror Eydar – October 4th 2013

Many of Israel's Christians feel that their history, culture and heritage have been hijacked by Muslim Arabs in the region, while they feel a much stronger link to Israel's Jews • The Jewish state is the only place where we are protected, they say.

It was not just any conference. Even the word "historic" would not do it justice. This was nothing short of the shift of an ancient paradigm.

For a long time we had grown accustomed to thinking about the Middle East as an Arab region. But this region, the vast majority of which was actually originally not Arab, was conquered in the seventh century by tribes hailing from the Arabian Peninsula. They imposed their religion, their culture and their language on the indigenous population, and to top it all off, claimed ownership of the land in the region.

But the social and diplomatic firestorms currently raging around us have begun to chip away at this monolithic point of view among various ethnic groups, whose identities are actually different than the ones we have lazily attached to them, and their voices are beginning to be heard loud and clear: "We are not Arabs," they are saying. "We are Christians who speak Arabic."

At the "Israeli Christians: Breaking Free? The advent of an independent Christian voice in Israel" conference in Jerusalem, one after another, Israeli Christian representatives took to the stage and greeted the audience with a "moadim l'simcha" ("times of joy" – a common Jewish holiday wish of good tidings). The first speaker was the Rev. Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth and spiritual leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum.

Naddaf is an impressive man, who speaks in a reserved tone, but is nonetheless articulate and resolute. "I am here to open the public's eyes," he said. "If we want to refrain from lying to our own souls and to the general public, we must say clearly and unwaveringly: enough!"

"The Christian public wants to integrate into Israeli society, against the wishes of its old leadership. There are those who keep pushing us to the margins, keeping us the victims nationalism that is not our own, and of a conflict that has nothing to do with us," he said.

Naddaf spoke of the Christian roots, planted deep in this land since the dawn of Christianity. This is where Jesus Christ's doctrine first emerged. The Christian faith, he said, came out of the Jewish faith and its biblical roots. As far as Naddaf is concerned, what happened in the seventh century was an Arab invasion from which the Christians also suffered. He added that he wasn't very proud of the Christian crusades either, and distanced himself from them.

He surveyed the dire situation currently faced by Christians in Arab states, and said that the realization that Israel is the only country in the region that protects its Christian minority has prompted many Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians to develop a desire to contribute to the state of Israel. That is how the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum came to be.

Naddaf quoted the founder of the forum, Maj. Ihab Shlayan, as saying: "The Christians will not be made into hostages, or allow themselves to be controlled by those who wish to impose their nationality, religion and way of life upon us. We will not agree to hide behind the groups that control the streets. We want to live in Israel -- brothers in arms and brothers in peace. We want to stand guard and serve as the first line of defense in this Holy Land, the Land of Israel."

"We have broken through the barrier of fear," Naddaf went on to say. "The time has come to prove our loyalty, pay our dues and demand our rights." He spoke about the death threats that he and his friends face, and added that despite the hardships they continue forward "because the State of Israel is our heart. Israel is a holy state, a strong state, and its people, Jews and Christians alike, are united under one covenant."

Naddaf was followed at the podium by Lt. (ret.) Shaadi Khalloul, the spokesman of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum and an officer in the Israel Defense Forces Paratroopers Brigade. Khalloul, a scholar who studies the history of the Christian faith in the region, spoke about the eastern Christian identity that had been stripped of his people. Over the last three years, he has fought Israel's Interior Ministry over recognition of his community as Aramaic Christians.

We are "B'nei Keyama," which means allies in Aramaic, he said. He has nothing against the Arabs, but it is simply not his identity. It is especially problematic for him because being associated with the Arabs pulls him into a conflict that is not his own, entirely against his will.

Khalloul said that the way to integrate into Israeli society was through military service in the IDF, which he described as a melting pot, but also through education. It turns out that Israel's Christian population is not educated in their own history, only the history of the Arabs and of Islam.

"The typical Christian student thinks that he belongs to the Arab people and the Islamic nation, instead of speaking to the people with whom he truly shares his roots -- the Jewish people, whose origins are in the Land of Israel."

Adding to that point, Rev. Naddaf stepped in and said, "It is unthinkable that our children will be raised on the history of the Nakba and on the hatred of Jews, and not be taught their history."
It was no coincidence that Khalloul chose the Aramaic word for allies to describe his people. In his view, Israeli Christians are not mercenaries, as they might be perceived, but in fact allies. "We want to defend the holy land alongside the Jews," he insisted. He mentioned the Christians' support for the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews in the 1947 UNSCOP Committee. In a letter to the committee at the time, the Maronites rejected any reference to the land of Israel as Arab land.

Khalloul said further that global Christianity supported them, but refrained from making the support public because of the fact that Christians in the Middle East are hostages in the hands of Islamic forces.

Remarking on the ongoing debate surrounding the issue of a Jewish-democratic state vs. a so-called state of all its citizens, Khalloul said that he preferred a Jewish state that takes care of all its citizens over a state governed by all its citizens, without a Jewish identity.
"Several decades ago, 80 percent of the Lebanese population was Christian," he recalled, "but the 20% Muslim minority imposed their Arab identity on them and many of them left. Today, only 35% of the population is Christian."

Syria, too, he added, is comprised of Christians and Kurds who are not Arab. "Where is the respect for these groups? For their history and their culture?" Only in a Jewish state, he concluded, will different groups be given the right to exist.

Naddaf then interjected and said, "That is not just [Khalloul's] opinion. The entire forum shares this view."

The last representative to take the stage was Capt. Bishara Shlayan, whose initiative to establish the Christian Israeli Party was first reported in Israel Hayom this past July. Following the report, Shlayan was bombarded with responses from all over the world.
"We were raised on Arab political parties," he said, "the communists, and then the National Democratic Assembly. In time, I realized where these Arab parties were taking us -- only against Israel."

He said that Islam was imposing itself on the Christians in the region. Thus, for example, the ancient "Miriam's Spring" evolved into the "Nazareth Spring." In his youth, he had received a red flag, he recounted. But today, he sighed, "our children are being raised on the green flag, on anti-Israeli culture."

"We need to create a different culture," he continued. "We need to hand out Israeli flags to every child. Education begins here. You enter a school in Nazareth, and you will not see a single Israeli flag. They don't recognize it. You will only see Palestinian flags."
Shlayan is well aware of the claims that Israeli Christians are not afforded all the rights to which they are entitled. "That may be," he said, but "you have to begin by pledging loyalty to your country and serving it. I believe that."

All the above is only part of what was said at the recent conference of the Liaison Committee of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel.

The Christian communities' march toward the heart of the Israeli consensus has an iconoclastic significance. It is reminiscent of Abraham's smashing the idols and thereby smashing certain thought conventions and patterns. It is important not only on the inter-faith and theological level; it is also important to Israel's efforts to prove our rights to the world. Parts of the Christian world see us as the crucifiers of the Palestinians, even though this could not be further from the truth. Therefore, when the Israeli Christians stand by the State of Israel and declare that this is the Land of Israel and not Palestine and that Jews did not steal this land but rather returned home as the Bible prophesied, it has immeasurable significance.

We, as a society and as a state, must embrace these courageous people, who spoke from the very deepest recesses of their hearts. We must help them, provide for them and integrate them into our society. And no less importantly, we must protect their lives. Our lives and our future depend on it.