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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Nicola Sturgeon: I won’t share platform with David Cameron to stay in EU

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not share a platform with David Cameron or other Conservatives to help secure a “yes” vote in the EU referendum.

The SNP leader is strongly in favour of remaining in the EU and has demanded that each nation in the UK have an effective veto over exiting, so Scotland could not be dragged out of the EU against its will by English voters. 

But she said she would not campaign alongside the Prime Minister, Chancellor or other Conservatives in order to stay in the EU. 

“I have got no plans to share platforms with David Cameron or George Osborne or anybody else in the Conservative Party,” she told Sky News’s Murnaghan show. 

Ms Sturgeon said she would make “a very strong and very positive case for our membership of the European Union”. 

“There a number of reforms that we would argue for, but crucially I think it’s right we do that from within the European Union because exit or threatening to exit the European Union is damaging to our economy, to potential investment and to jobs,” she said. 

“What is dangerous about the approach David Cameron is taking right now is he is taking the UK perilously close to the exit door and I think that’s wrong.” 

But John Redwood MP, the eurosceptic Conservative backbencher, said that “yes” campaigners were undermining Cameron’s chances of achieving EU reform by insisting they will stay in come what may. 

John Redwood MP said ministers may have to resign to campaign for a ‘no’ vote

“If people keep on saying they are going to stay in come what may, it completely undermines the Prime Minister when he is trying to achieve what I am suggesting; trying to get back control for Britain and the British people over things like border and migration that really matter,” he told Murnaghan. 

He said he would not campaign for a “yes” vote unless Mr Cameron could achieve a “really good deal”. 

“I don’t wish to stay in the current European Union, it doesn’t work for Britain and it doesn’t work for them either,” he said. 

Ministers may have to resign in order to campaign with their conscience on the referendum, he added. 

“Of course they should be free to campaign as they see fit and they will be free to campaign as they see fit, the only issue is whether asked to leave their government positions before they do it or not. 

“What is the point of being a minister if you are charged with getting immigration down but the European Union won’t let you do it? If you’re faced with that situation the only honest thing to do is to campaign for a change in the arrangement or to campaign for out.” 

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The President Missed His Member-of-the-Tribe Moment

Last week was the White House’s reach out to the Jews week.

In an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg and in a presentation at my former synagogue here in Washington, D.C., Adas Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama held forth in an effort to mend fences, repair damage, and above all to explain his love for Israel and his relationship to American Jews, even referring to himself as an honorary Member of the Tribe (MOT).

Whether the president succeeded in convincing anyone of his solidarity with the Jewish state is not clear. More curious is why the president (or his advisors) felt the need to reach out — and why now.

Most Jews vote Democrat. Indeed a recent Gallup poll had the president’s approval rating among U.S. Jews at 54 percent. And that’s eight points higher than his approval rating with the general public. Obama’s done running for anything anyway. The president has been holding Passover Seders, Hanukkah candle lightings, and various other sundry meetings to demonstrate how much he cares. And this certainly wasn’t for the Democrats or Hillary’s benefit. She’s a Clinton. She’ll do just fine in relating to American Jews, thank you very much.

So what’s going on? Why do the Jewish thing? And will any of it make a difference? In the case of what’s more recently been the not-so-special relationship between the United States and Israel, the president’s MOT outreach is more about walking back what was clearly an unsustainable row with Israel that was creating gratuitous problems he didn’t need either with Republicans or American Jews. And here’s why.

First, Houston, we have a problem. 

Regardless of who’s to blame, there’s no way a U.S. president and an Israeli prime minister can engage in six years of off-and-on tensions and bickering without some impact on America’s Jewish community, certainly on those Jewish organizations that set the tone and provide the talking points for defining who’s pro-Israel and who’s not. And let’s be clear, Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton, who was an effective emoter-in-chief when it came to feeling your pain on Israel or on many other issues. And while Netanyahu is hardly the darling of America’s Jews, in a tough Middle East where various Arab regimes and Islamist non-state actors are behaving far, far worse, Obama’s not going to make many friends outside of the liberal and progressive wing of the Democratic party for beating up on Bibi.

The fact is, rational or not, many Jews worry for a living on matters concerning Israel and anti-Semitism. And that means there’s a need for constant reassurance. And with the Republicans now being the party of Israel’s best friend, beating the pro-Israeli drum, the Obama administration has been even more vulnerable to the perception that the president didn’t really have Israel’s back. And no matter how many times the president repeats the talking points about the strength of the U.S.-Israeli security and military relationship, it doesn’t seem to get through on the emotional level.

I remember briefing a Jewish group in Detroit during the George H.W. Bush/James Baker years about all the pro-Israeli things the administration was doing on behalf of Israel like destroying Iraqi Scuds and facilitating Jewish emigration from the former Soviet Union. In the Q&A session that followed, an elderly guy simply wanted to know if things were really so good, why did he feel so bad? And that’s a big part of Obama’s problem. If Obama says he’s pro-Israel and points out how the U.S.-Israeli security relationship has improved, it still fails to convey the intuitive and emotional pro-Israeli sensibilities of his two predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. It’s that standard of commitment that the pro-Israeli community in America has come to expect. Add to that Obama’s non-emotive nature; his outreach to the Muslim world in 2009; his bickering with Bibi; and the Iran outreach and what you have is the perception that the president — regardless of the Passover Seders — doesn’t connect. That Israel, to use one of grandmother’s favorite terms , isn’t in his kishkes.

Second, anger and frustration isn’t a policy.

There are times when demonstrating both of these emotions openly in negotiations can actually be productive. Henry Kissinger with Yitzhak Rabin; Baker with Yitzhak Shamir. But this administration has mastered the art of picking unproductive fights with Israel. Those are the ones in which the administration identifies unattainable goals (see a comprehensive settlements freeze; a peace agreement on all the big issues) and then fails to achieve them even though it is clear they are unachievable. This in turn makes the Israelis mad and many American Jews suspicious, and ultimately undermines U.S. credibility with Israel, many American Jews, and the Arabs too. And for what? Not much in return.

In short, sure Netanyahu can be infuriating; and yes his blatant intervention in U.S. politics on the Iran deal and his flip flop on Palestinian statehood during the heat of an election campaign (there’s a shocker for you) is maddening. But what’s the point of a white hot response that calls for a reassessment of the U.S.-Israeli relationship and threatens — even implicitly — that the United States won’t continue to oppose efforts to isolate Israel when there’s almost a zero chance the administration will follow through? What would such a policy actually produce anyway? Two states? A new Israeli government? You couldn’t create a dumber and less sustainable approach had you fabricated it in a laboratory.

Third, it’s the Iran deal, stupid.

And finally, the president is entering a critically important phase of securing what I suspect he believes is his primary Middle East achievement — an agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue. That’s one of the reasons the administration has put the Bibi wars on hold. In case you hadn’t noticed, the White House didn’t make a big deal out of the recent announcement of more housing units in Ramat Shlomo the neighborhood that sparked the big brouhaha back in 2010, or the recent announcement that Silvan Shalom, who is no dove on the Palestinian issue, will be serving as Netanyahu’s point person on the non-existent peace process.

Looking at this strategically from Washington, as the Iran deal enters what could be its final phase, the Obama administration doesn’t need to stir things up with American Jews by continuing to fight with Bibi now. What good would that do? Indeed, why make things worse? On the contrary, now is the time to reassure, to calm things down, to explain why the president loves Israel, and given how much time the president spent on Iran during his synagogue address, to make clear that he’d never do anything to jeopardize Israel’s security. Maybe then the Iran deal medicine will be easier to swallow because the patient has a more trusting bond with the doctor.

Finally without straining my credibility to the breaking point, it may well be that the president genuinely believed that he’s been misunderstood on the Israel issue. Reading the Goldberg interview you get the feeling that Obama is kind of surprised that his love for Israel, and the way in which the values the Jewish state embodies are ones that he, too, has valued throughout his life, isn’t obvious to everyone. And that given these strong feelings that he links to the civil rights issue, how could anyone question or have doubts about his commitment to Israel?

Jimmy Carter had a similar problem with the Jewish community over his Middle East policies when he was president. He could never understand how his moral and religious commitment to Israel could lead American Jews to any conclusion other than he was a strong supporter of a Jewish state. When I interviewed the former president in 2007, some 25 years after his presidency, he still seemed at a loss to explain why his Middle East policies were so unpopular and cost him so much Jewish support during his 1980 loss to Ronald Reagan. Both Carter and Obama seem to think of themselves as “smartest guys in the room” types. That means having convinced themselves of their own arguments and deeply held convictions, they don’t feel the pressing need or they lose sight of the fact that in politics you also need to convince and persuade other people too.

This latest campaign Obama seems to be on to assuage the Jews of America that he’s really one of them likely won’t have much of an impact. We’re pretty late in the game for transformative changes in how the public sees the president on any issue. Those Jews and non-Jews who don’t trust the president on Israel won’t be moved by his words; and those who do, will.

And what’s more, late in the game or not, we still have 20 months to go in the Obama presidency. Look at this as an interlude, if you will, a period between rounds in the Obama-Bibi wars. It’s likely only a matter of time before the two are back in the ring, on Iran implementation, settlements, or the Palestinian issue. Indeed, before the final bell, there’s plenty of time not only for more fights with Republicans, Israel, and American Jews, but ample time for more presidential speeches to try and patch things up.

Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images

Friday, 29 May 2015

Netanyahu: ‘General idea’ of Arab Peace Initiative is good: During a media briefing yesterday, Israel’s Prime

During a media briefing yesterday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his support for a two-state solution and backed the overall principle behind the regional Arab Peace Initiative.

Speaking to a selection of political and diplomatic correspondents in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu addressed a wide range of issues. He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, saying, “My position remains a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish state,” although he emphasised that Israel’s security concerns must be addressed, adding that borders themselves are less important than “the nature of the regime on the other side.” Last week, Netanyahu publicly declared his support for “the vision of two states for two peoples” during a press conference alongside European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. Earlier this month, Netanyahu’s new government announced that it would “strive to reach a peace agreement” as part of its agreed policy guidelines and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has since been appointed to head any future talks.

During yesterday’s briefing, Netanyahu also addressed the Arab Peace Initiative. The 2002 Arab League proposal suggested full Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a series of conditions, including the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel. In 2013, the Arab League softened its demands by accepting the principle of land swaps on pre-1967 borders. Israel has never officially responded to the initiative, although it has been a matter for public debate. Netanyahu commented yesterday that, “There are positive aspects and negative aspects to it [the Arab Peace Initiative]” and that clearly “the situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed.” Nonetheless, he summarised, “the general idea — to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”

On several occasions in recent months, including during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last year, Netanyahu has said that a wider rapprochement with the Arab world could lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Jews fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and searched out new places to live.

Jamaican synagogue

Jamaican synagogue

Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, but mainly Portugal, settled in Jamaica beginning about 1530 to avoid the Inquisition. At this time, the island was a Spanish territory. In Jamaica they continued to profess being Catholic, but they were able more easily to continue their Jewish observances in secret than on the Iberian Peninsula.

Irwin Berg provides more details: in 1655, the British navy sailed into Kingston, Jamaica, led by an Anousim pilot, Campoe Sabbatha. Once the British conquered the island from Spain, the Jews were able to more openly practice their religion. Over time Jews from other Spanish colonies made their way to Jamaica and their numbers grew.

Although most Jews settled in Spanish Town and Kingston (on the southwest shore of the island), they lived everywhere in Jamaica. Their numbers were surprisingly large until recent times.

Year (and Jewish population)

1700 (400)
1735 (800)
1881 (2,535)
1957 (1,600)
1978 (350)
2005 (250)


In 1671, the citizens of Jamaica petitionedthe British government to expel all members of the local Jewish community. Governor Lynch, the colonial governor in Jamaica, opposed the petition and it was not enacted. However, the citizens did manage to get a special tax decreed against Jews in 1693.

In 1703, Jews were banned from using indentured Christian servants, and in 1783, they were again taxed, previous exemptions of duty on the Sabbath were taken away, and they were prohibited from holding any public positions. The Jewish communities flourished despite these restrictions and, when the British Empire declared equal rights for Jews living in any colony in the early 19th century, ten percent of the whites in Jamaica it was claimed were Jews (this according to Ralph Bennett who researched the subject after discovering that his wife had Jewish roots in the Caribbean).

Historian Edward Long described the Jews in 17th century Spanish Town as follows:

The Jews here are remarkably healthy and long-lived….I think they owe their good health and longevity, as well as their fertility, to a very sparing use of strong liquors, their early rising, their indulgence on garlic and fish, Mosaic Laws, sugar, chocolate.

The oldest Jewish cemetery in Jamaica is located at Hunts Bay, midway between Kingston and Spanish Town. It was opened shortly after the British conquered the island in 1655. According to Mordecai Arbell in The Portuguese Jews of Jamaica, the tombstone inscriptions in the Port Royal cemetery are in Hebrew and Portuguese with some English.

Berg personally visited Jewish cemeteries in Falmouth and Montego Bay and noted that, by 1890, no readable tombstone in those two cemeteries contained any Hebrew. However, the number of graves in the Jewish cemetery suggest that there must have been a substantial Jewish community in Falmouth. The oldest readable inscription Berg found was of Isaac Simon, who died on January 17, 1815, at age 60.

In Spanish Town, the Neveh Shalom Synagogue was established in 1704. This place of worship largely serviced Jews of Sephardic descent and so another synagogue was built in 1796 to serve Jews of Ashkenazi descent. The two Spanish Town congregations united in 1844. Today, the site of the Sephardic Synagogue and its adjacent cemetery replete with gravestones featuring names such as Henriques, De Souza, de Pass, Melhado and Nunes, lie largely in ruins, but the Neveh Shalom Institute, a foundation that exists to preserve Jewish Remains in Colonial Jamaica, has plans for its restoration. Archival work is already under way.

In 1655, following the English Conquest, Amsterdam Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel visited Lord Protector Cromwell and requested permission for Jews to settle in England. The request was granted and the implied permission in English colonies led to another influx of Jewish settlers to Jamaica from places like Amsterdam. All Jewish settlers had to be naturalized as British citizens and as such they were entitled to own property, a right denied to Jews in Medieval Europe.

The town of Falmouth was foundedsometime around 1770 and the Jews who came to live there were merchants and traders dependent upon the sugar plantations surrounding the city, as well as upon international trade.

Jews in the city of Port Royal workedprimarily as merchants and money changers, rather than farmers and planters. Trade between commercial centres inhabited by Jews such as Amsterdam, the Dutch colonies of Curaçao, St. Eustatius and Saba, the Danish St. Thomas, Genoa, Venice, North America, London, Turkey and India was brisk. The ability of Jamaican Jews to speak Spanish also propelled their success in trade with Spanish America. Goods traded included pepper, cocoa, vanilla, pimento, cocoa and sugar.

By the 19th century, some Jewish merchant families in Port Royal moved into shipbuilding and construction. Jamaican Jews were limited by law to ownership of two slaves only, unless they owned plantations, and few did. In addition, they were charged with only using Jewish indentured servants although this restriction was loosely imposed and therefore largely ignored.

There is little documentation of Jewish life in Port Royal, but Edmund Heath, in a description of the 1692 earthquake, noted the existence of a “Jew’s street” and synagogue.

Most Jews who survived the 1692 disaster left Port Royal and joined their brethren in Spanish Town, Kingston, Montego Bay and other locations islandwide.

In the mid-1800s, Jamaican Jews were given the right to vote and they quickly began to acquire local political power. By 1849 eight of the 47 members of the Assembly were Jewish and, that year, the legislative body decided not to meet on Yom Kippur. (all of the above from Wikipedia)

The first synagogue in Kingston is said to have been built in 1744, but perished in the Great Kingston Fire of 1882. Another, an Ashkenazi Synagogue, appeared in 1787. It too, was lost in the fire of 1882 and replaced in 1887. In 1907, however, both synagogues and many other buildings were destroyed by the Great Kingston Earthquake.

Modern History

Until late in the 19th century, Jamaican Jewish ritual and customs were Orthodox. In 1884 the United Congregation of Israelites was formed from a union of the Ashkenazi and Sephardic congregations, and it continues to exist to this day. This congregation was an umbrella organization for Jamaican Jews from all sections of the island. In 1913, it introduced a prayer book which included an English transliteration of Hebrew prayers for a population that largely could no longer read Hebrew.

A synagogue was built in Montego Bay in 1845, but the congregation declined during the 20th century and, when the synagogue was destroyed by a hurricane in 1912, it was never rebuilt.

Most of Jamaica’s Jews left for Britain, the U.S. and Canada between 1962, when Jamaica became independent, and the 1970s, when political unrest was widespread. This sharply reduced the island’s Jewish population, which by 1978 had only 350 remaining (see the figures above).

This sharp reduction in so short a period seems to have lit a desire to survive among those remaining. In 1969 a Hillel School was founded by the United Congregation of Israelites in Kingston as a secular private primary and secondary school.

As noted above, the Neveh Shalom Institute was founded in 1997 to preserve the sites of old Jewish synagogues and other remains. In 2006 the Jewish community celebrated the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in Jamaica by inaugurating a Jamaican Jewish Heritage Center.

The British periodical Jewish Renaissance has reported that, although the rate of intermarriage and interracial marriage is high in Jamaica, more families of mixed marriages today are choosing to bring up their children as Jews, whereas in the past Jamaican Jews who married out of the faith most often brought up their children as Christians.

Jamaican synagogue interior

Jamaican synagogue interior

An umbrella group called the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean has been formed; it includes Jewish communities in Costa Rica, EI Salvador, Bahamas, Jamaica, Aruba and Panama, among others. The group helps the communities maintain their Jewish identity as members migrate out or marry non-Jews.

An article in Wikipedia claims that an estimated 420,000 Jamaicans have Sephardi Jewish ancestry, due to the Spanish Inquisition.

A very detailed timeline of Jewish history in Jamaica can be found on the Jamaican Jewish History website. . The site also hosts a list of Jewish religious leaders on the island.

A general site for conducting Jamaican genealogical searches can be found here.

Another site has an interesting collection of Jamaican Jewish history, including profiles of leading Jews in Jamaica, newspaper clippings and even a list of those killed during the Inquisition years in Jamaica dated from 1691.

A comprehensive set of links to Jewish Jamaican history can be found here.

Dr. Rebecca Tortello writes a history of the Jews of Jamaica.

UPDATE: Debra Klein published an excellent personal account from her own trip to Jamaica. It’s on the DailyBeast website.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Davidson urged to consider Scots Tories' split from UK party

A Tory backbencher has suggested that the Scottish Conservatives should, in light of Holyrood gaining more powers, seriously consider separating from the UK Tories completely and become a fully autonomous party, fighting a "separate fight for the Union" north of the border.

The view from John Stevenson, a Scot who represents Carlisle, echoes similar views from Labour politicians in respect of Scottish Labour. Andy Burnham, the frontrunner to succeed Ed Miliband as his party's leader, has made clear there "is a case" for Labour in Scotland to become a completely discrete entity; a view opposed by his colleague and rival for the leadership Liz Kendall.

But now the idea of the Scottish Conservatives breaking away from their fellow Unionists south of the border has been mooted by Mr Stevenson.

Writing on the Conservativehome website, the Aberdonian says: "I maintain that if we are to build on the success of this election, there remain three parts of the country we must target. These are - cities, the North, and Scotland. 

"And since the last election, the truth is that we have made little electoral progress in these areas. The good news is that we are now in a much better position to make some real headway in these places."

In terms of urban seats, Mr Stevenson argues that the image of the Tories is changing for the better while in northern England the idea of a northern powerhouse is beginning to gain traction.

But he goes on: "As for Scotland, to a large extent the normal rules of politics have changed up there. Again, this provides us with a huge opportunity.

"There is a clear need for an appealing centre right party in Scotland. Ruth Davidson had a great referendum campaign and performed fantastically in the Scottish leadership debates not by attacking her opponents or pretending to be something she wasn't but by proudly defending and espousing Conservative Party policies."

He adds: "This has given us a good platform to kick-on from for the Scottish Parliament elections but with the inevitable transfer of further powers from Westminster, the Scottish Conservative Party has to seriously begin to think about the idea of separating completely from the national party and becoming an autonomous organisation; continuing a separate fight for the Union and Conservative values north of the border

Be wary of ‘tough love’ on Israel

I am watching with increasing concern the abandonment of the Zionist dream by so many American Jews as a result of the recent elections in Israel, as if that community can ever feel safe absent the existence of Israel.

Frankly, I never thought that I would live to see the day when the likes of Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami, among others, would urge American Jews to act against Israel and/or to actively lobby the US government to “reset” its traditional support for its only democratic and reliable ally in the Middle East. This is the same US government that, under the current administration, has been guilty of a failed foreign policy which has turned America into a non-trusted partner about whom the Arab world’s leaders makes jokes.

These dyed-in-the-wool liberal critics of Israel’s policies are actively working to rally American Jewish opinion against Israel by stepping up their condemnations of the prime minister and calling on the US to ratchet up the pressure on Israel.

For example, at the annual J Street conference in Washington, in a speech to 3,000 attendees, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s executive director, accused Netanyahu of harming the US-Israel relationship through “partisan gamesmanship” and called on the Obama administration to put forth the parameters for a resolution to the conflict at the UN Security Council.

In addition he urged his members to lobby schools across America to change their maps of Israel to clearly identify the “Green Line” and to support BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) activities aimed at punishing Israel economically.

Earlier last week, in an op-ed in Haaretz, another harsh Netanyahu critic, Peter Beinart, called for the Obama administration to “punish” Israel on several fronts – including by backing Palestinian “bids” at the United Nations and denying visas to and freezing the assets of Israeli settler leaders. He specifically named Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett as one of those who should be so treated.

Beinart also urged American Jews to ensure that Netanyahu and members of his Cabinet are met with protesters at Jewish events and urged American Jews to support the BDS movement.

But these self-described Zionists who, in Beinart’s words, suggest “tough love” for Israel, are living in a dream world that can come crashing down on them at any moment.

They have forgotten the lessons of history that apply to people living as a minority in a society (yes, Jews are, indeed, a minority in the US). And that applies to everywhere Jews live except, of course, Israel. There simply is no long-term guarantee of safety when living as a minority.

As we have seen often this past year in Europe, anti-Israel sentiment easily ramps up to anti-Jewish behavior, with our enemies making no distinction between the two. It is simply obscene for outspoken members of the American Jewish community to use their public platforms to encourage activities which are hurtful to the State of Israel. Eventually, the enemies of the Jewish people in America, and there are many to be sure, will use the fact that Jews are advocating punishing tactics against Israel as justification for all kinds of anti-Israel and, by association, anti-Jewish activities.

After all, if the Jews are saying boycott Israeli products why should the rest of us (i.e. the non-Jews) be more Jewish than the Jews? Sadly, in the rush to criticize Israel after the elections, and to support the venomously narcissistic behavior of the current occupant of the White House, these self-proclaimed liberals have forgotten that 83 percent of Israel’s eligible voters did not vote for the Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu. Are our brethren in the US so committed to punishing us that the 5/6 of the population who did not vote Likud should be penalized financially? More importantly, if these objectors have their way, and financial ruin descends upon Israel, do they have a fund to save this 83%? If I, as a business person here with a significant number of American clients, lose my business, will my welfare checks come from the likes of Beinart and Ben- Ami? Well, we know the answer to that question.

Sadly, those in the American Jewish community who are counseling “tough love” do not understand international diplomacy or how the mind of the current US president functions.

As Bret Stephens wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal: “Here is my advice to the Israeli government, along with every other country being treated disdainfully by this crass administration: Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back. The Saudis figured that out in 2013, after Mr. Obama failed to honor his promises on Syria; they turned down a seat on the Security Council, spoke openly about acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan and tanked the price of oil, mainly as a weapon against Iran. Now Mr. Obama is nothing if not solicitous of the Saudi highnesses.”

That’s what is means to be a free people in our land.

My American Jewish friends: be careful. Most of you in today’s liberal establishment there never lived at a time when there was no Israel. Most of you do not remember when people did not walk around in America wearing visible signs of their Jewishness.

Most of you do not remember the vicious anti-Semitism of personalities like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, while conveniently forgetting the latter-day anti-Semites like Mel Gibson and Oliver Stone.

And lest you think these are isolated individuals, according to a recent study by the Anti-Defamation League, “only” nine percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic attitudes.

This sounds good, but it translates to 21,000,000 people. It means that there are far more anti-Semites than Jews in America. This may be one reason why the Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly reports that anti-Jewish hate crimes exceed hate crimes against any other religious group. On some university campuses, Jewish students (who often make up the vanguard of those liberal elements recommending boycotting Israel) have recently been spit at and called “dirty Jews” and worse. The problem is greater for those students who are known to support Israel on campuses where anti-Israel activism runs high.

My mother, of blessed memory, when I was growing up in the half-Jewish, half-Irish Catholic neighborhood of High Bridge in the Bronx, told me often: “Don’t get them angry.” I can still hear the words cascading out of her mouth. She knew well the risks associated with living as a minority in any society, and how best to avoid trouble.

My grandfather, who punctured his left eardrum in order not to serve in the notoriously anti-Semitic Russian army of the czar, and who came to America in the early 20th century to raise his children there and experience the American dream of the time, would be aghast at the rantings of people like Beinart and Ben-Amir, who use their significant communication abilities to trash Israel and the Jewish people.

But my guess is that these same people who are so eager to point accusing fingers at others will be, when anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in America, as it most surely will, the first ones in line to buy tickets to Israel. And this country which they so gleefully trash will be here to welcome them home as they gratefully deplane and kiss the ground on which we walk.

The author is a 31-year resident of Jerusalem, former national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel and president of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm.

46,000 websites spreading ‘Jihadi ideology': Algeria minister

ALGIERS – Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamed Issa said Monday that there were some 46,000 internet websites promoting a “jihadist ideology”.

“Recent studies have shown that there are over 46,000 takfiri websites that are spreading jihadist ideology, which serves the interests of Daesh,” Issa said at a Monday seminar in Algeria’s Mostaghanem province.

The minister was referring to the militant group that last year seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

“These websites help recruit members, especially European ones, to these takfiri and jihadist groups,” Issa said.

“With terrorism being openly promoted on websites and satellite television channels, extremist religious discourse is becoming increasingly dangerous,” he added.

Issa went on to say that the Algerian state should be more proactive in regulating religious speech.

“The concept of religiosity is inseparable from that of patriotism,” he said.

Some Algerian security experts say the country’s northwestern provinces continue to host numerous Al-Qaeda-linked militants, despite an ongoing government crackdown against such groups.

In recent months, Algeria has deployed thousands of troops along its borders with Libya, Mali, Niger and Tunisia with the stated aim of preventing infiltration by militants.

Why Is BDS Failing?

The passage of an anti-BDS bill in Illinois is highly significant. During the 10 years of BDS activity in Illinois, state exports to Israel are up 25%; Israel’s exports to Illinois are up 66%; and now both state houses passed an anti-BDS law with teeth that will serve as the model for the rest of the US. Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago executive vice president Jay Tcath tells VOI’s Gil Hoffman how the anti-Israel movement is being beaten.


Fatah’s Armed Militias Warn Israelis: “You Must Leave!”

The international community and the media often ignore the fact that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah has a number of armed groups. Their fight is to destroy Israel, eliminate the “Zionist entity” and achieve the “right of return” for millions of descendants of refugees.

The Palestinian Authority leadership has never distanced itself from the rhetoric and actions of these groups. Fatah’s militias will be the first to reject any peace agreement that includes the slightest concession to Israel.

Several Fatah leaders, in fact, often speak in English about the need for reviving the peace process, while in Arabic they praise and endorse the Fatah gunmen.

Many in the international community often refer to the Palestinian Fatah faction, which is headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, as a “moderate” group that believes in Israel’s right to exist and the two-state solution.

What these people do not know is that Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), consists of several groups that hold different views than those expressed by Abbas and other English-speaking Fatah officials.

Some of these Fatah groups do not believe in Israel’s right to exist and continue to talk about the “armed struggle” as the only way to “liberate Palestine and restore Palestinian national rights.”

One of these groups is called The Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – El Amoudi Brigade.

The Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is Fatah’s armed wing, established shortly after the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000. Although the Palestinian Authority leadership maintains that the group has been dissolved and its members recruited into its security forces, scores of gunmen continue to operate freely in Palestinian villages and refugee camps in the West Bank.

Based in the Gaza Strip, the El Amoudi Brigade, which consists of dozens of Fatah gunmen, is named after Nidal El Amoudi, a top Fatah operative killed by the Israel Defense Forces on January 13, 2008, after he carried out a series of armed attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers during the second intifada.

During the last war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas (“Operation Protective Edge”), the El Amoudi Brigade claimed responsibility for firing dozens of rockets at Israeli cities and IDF soldiers.

Sources in the Gaza Strip claim that many of the group’s members are former security officers, still on the payroll of the PA. Other sources claim that the group is funded by ousted Fatah official Mohamed Dahlan, who is currently based in the United Arab Emirates, and the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah.

It is worth noting that the Palestinian Authority leadership has never distanced itself from the El Amoudi Brigade’s rhetoric and actions.

Help revive the lifestyle of the Jewish shepherd's of the BibleIn addition to an official website, Fatah’s El Amoudi Brigade regularly issues threats to pursue the armed struggle against, and destroy, Israel. Last week, the group posted a video with a message to the “Israeli enemy” on the 67th anniversary of the creation of Israel — which Palestinians refer to as “Nakba Day” (Day of Catastrophe).

Entitled, “A Message to the Israeli People” and accompanied by Hebrew subtitles, the video declares that the “battle for the liberation (of Palestine) was closer than ever,” and warns Israelis: “Our Nakba (catastrophe) is unforgettable; soon you will have to leave because you have no other choice.”

The Fatah video shows the group’s members during military training in the Gaza Strip, in preparation for the next battle against Israel. “We have prepared the best soldiers,” says the song in the background.

In a separate statement on the same occasion, the Fatah group emphasizes that the “armed struggle” against Israel “is the only means to liberate Palestine.” It also stresses that the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to their former homes inside Israel cannot be compromised and is non-negotiable. “Our people reject all alternative options to the right of return,” the statement read, repeatedly referring to Israel as the “Zionist enemy.”

Elsewhere, the Fatah group boasts that its men have been able to manufacture a new 12-kilometer range rocket called 107 that was used against IDF tanks and soldiers during the last war in the Gaza Strip.

The El Amoudi Brigade is not the only armed Fatah militia operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Another significant group in the Gaza Strip, which also participated in the last war against Israel, is called the Martyr Abdel Qader Hossaini Brigade. Like its sister group, El Amoudi Brigade, the Martyr Abdel Qader Hossaini militia also supports the armed struggle against the “Zionist enemy.”

A third major Fatah terror group is called the Abu al-Rish Brigades, which has been responsible for many terrorist attacks against Israel and the kidnapping of foreigners in the Gaza Strip. The gang, which describes itself as the “military wing of Fatah,” also refers to Israel as the “Zionist enemy” and claims to have participated alongside Hamas in the last war in the Gaza Strip.


Gunmen from Fatah’s Abu al-Rish Brigades, which describes itself as the “military wing of Fatah,” appear in a September 2014 propaganda video.

The international community and the media often ignore the fact that Fatah has a number of armed groups that are still openly dedicated to the “armed struggle” and terrorism as a way of “liberating Palestine.” They also ignore that “moderate” Fatah leaders who speak in favor of peace and the two-state solution do not distance themselves from these groups. Several Fatah leaders, in fact, often speak in English about the need for reviving the peace process, while in Arabic they praise and endorse the Fatah gunmen.

The presence of armed Fatah gangs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is a sign of the huge challenges that any Palestinian leader would face if and when the Palestinians and Israel reach a peace agreement. Obviously, these Fatah groups will be the first to reject any peace agreement that includes the slightest concession to Israel. Some of these groups are opposed in principle to peace with Israel because they simply do not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

This is something that the international community — first and foremost the U.S. — needs to take into consideration when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Decision-makers need to know that opposition to peace with Israel will come not only from Hamas, but also from many groups within Fatah. As the armed groups themselves indicate, their fight is to eliminate “Zionist enemy” and achieve the “right of return” for millions of descendants of refugees to their former homes inside Israel.

Meanwhile, Abbas and other Fatah leaders, who are fully aware of the actions and threats of their loyalists, are doing their utmost to stop the world from hearing what the Fatah gunmen have to say about peace and the two-state solution. The question remains: Until when will the international community continue to bury its head in the sand and pretend that Fatah is a unified, moderate and pragmatic group that seeks peace and coexistence with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians?

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute