Friday, June 26, 2015

Palestinian Arabs Against BDS

From Fikra Forum, 25 June 2015, by Bassem Eid*:

Everyone appears to have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As I learned on a recent trip, South Africans especially display an interest in solving the problem, even more, or so it seems to me, than the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. And others far away point to the South African history of apartheid as a warning to Israel about its occupation or alleged discrimination against Palestinians.

Unfortunately, almost all of those so ostensibly dedicated to finding a solution have their own agendas, and these may not be to the advantage of either Palestinians or Israelis.

A prime case in point is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As a Palestinian dedicated to working for peace and reconciliation between my people and our Israeli neighbors, I do not believe that they are helping our cause. On the contrary, they are just creating more hatred, enmity, and polarization.

Recently I was asked to talk at the University of talk was disrupted by students wearing BDS and other radical T-shirts. They interrupted me and did not allow me to continue speaking, and in the end the event had to be abandoned. As a campaigner for peace and human rights activist, I am used to hostile reactions from those who disagree with my standpoint. However, even in my own country, I have never witnessed the kind of raw hatred and sheer unreasoning aggression that confronted me on this occasion.

There is no connection between the tactics and objectives of the BDS movement and the on-the-ground realities of the Middle East. Israelis continue to come to the West Bank to do business, and most Palestinians continue to buy Israeli goods. Indeed, if you ask Palestinians what they want, they'll tell you they want jobs, secure education and health. And the people who are failing them in this regard are their own leaders: Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza. The focus of Palestinian Authority leaders is on enriching themselves and their families, rather than serving the interests of the Palestinians. They are not a generation of leaders that are able to bring about a viable end to the conflict. Indeed, they are not even interested in uplifting their own people. Unfortunately there is no immediate alternative to Abbas, who finds continuous excuses not to hold elections.

As for Hamas in the Gaza strip, it was they who provoked last year’s destructive war with Israel to gain support among their own people. They then cynically used their own population as human shields during the fighting to generate sympathy for their cause when innocent lives were inevitably lost. As in the past, Hamas will inevitably try to use some of the money it receives from international donors to reconstruct the terror tunnels and replenish its missile arsenal. There is no hope in the near future to solve this mess -- except perhaps among the ordinary people of Gaza, who may compel Hamas to hold its fire against Israel.

For the time being, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in any case receiving less international attention than before. Rather, the focus at the moment is on the Islamic State (IS). This is indeed a more urgent threat to the region and beyond. It is most dangerous to Muslims themselves as it challenges the authentic message of Islam.

Many Muslims feel let down by their own leaders and want to take revenge on them. The so-called Islamic State provides the worst extremists among them with the pretext to do this.

The Palestinians are tired of the peace process. Both sides have learnt to manage the conflict, rather than solve it. That is why there is only one way to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and that is for both sides to have sufficient goodwill to negotiate their own peace deal. It cannot be imposed by outside diplomatic or economic pressure.

BDS spokespeople justify calling for boycotts that will result in increased economic hardships for the Palestinians by asserting that Palestinians are willing to suffer such deprivations in order to achieve their freedom. It goes without saying that they themselves live in comfortable circumstances elsewhere in the world and will not suffer any such hardship. It would seem, in fact, that the BDS movement in its determination to oppose Israel is prepared to fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood. As a Palestinian who actually lives in East Jerusalem and hopes to build a better life for his family and his community, this is the kind of “pro-Palestinian activism” we could well do without. For our own sake, we need to reconcile with our Israeli neighbors, not reject and revile them.

*Bassem Eid is a human rights activist, political analyst, and commentator on Palestinian domestic affairs.

Investors defy media's misrepresentation of Israel

The June 15, 2015 issue of the Economist Intelligence Unit praises Israel's economic performance, expecting 
  • a 3.4% growth in 2015 and rising in 2016, 
  • declining unemployment [currently at 5%], 
  • steady inflation (1.3%), 
  • an export surge in 2015, 
  • a narrowing 2015 trade deficit and a 2019 trade surplus, 
  • larger natural gas production/export, 
  • robust private consumption and 
  • expanding current account surplus (3% of GDP in 2014, 5.2% - 2015 and 7.4% -2019).

The London and China-based $3bn private equity fund, XIO, acquired Israel's bio-med company, Lumenis, for $510mn (Globes, June 19, 2015). 

The Chinese investment giant, Fuson Group – which recently acquired Israel's Alma Lazarus for $240mn - is acquiring a controlling interest (52%) in Israel's insurance and investment group, Phoenix, for $470mn (Globes, June 22). 

On June 23, the Economist Intelligence Unit reported that these acquisitions followed in the footsteps of 
  • China's Bright Food acquiring Israel's Tnuva, 
  • the Shanghai International Port Group winning a tender to operate Haifa's new port, 
  • the China Harbor Engineering winning the tender to build Ashdod's new port, and 
  • a joint venture between the China Railway Group and Israel's Solel Boneh winning an $800mn contract to develop the first segment of Tel Aviv's light rail network. 
  • Also, the value of high tech start up financing rounds, involving Chinese investors, tripled to $302mn during 2012-2014 and reached $117mn during the first four month of 2015.

Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, praised Israel's technological initiative and creativity, stating that the Jewish State is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to startups (Bloomberg, June 9). Schmidt participated through is private equity fund, Innovation Endeavors, in a $15mn private placement in Israel's Yotpo. He was joined by Bloomberg Capital, Vintage Investment Partners, etc. (Globes, June 24). The US venture capital fund, Formation 8, joined by Samsung's and Qualcomm's VC funds, invested $10mn in Israel's Mantis Vision (Globes, June 5).

Computer Associates
US giant, Computer Associates' (CA) 12th Israeli acquisition: IdmLogic for $20mn (Globes, June 9). British giant, Johnson Matthey Investments acquired Israel's StePac for $27mn (Globes, June 5).

  • Israel's SolarEdge raised $126mn on Wall Street
  • The total raised by Israeli companies during the first quarter of 2015 was $1.5bn, compared to $3.9bn during all of 2014 (Globes, March 30). 
  • The Silicon Valley Khosla Ventures, Bloomberg Capital and NyCa Investment Partners participated in a $40mn round by Israel's FundBox (The Marker, March 30). 
  • KKR's first investment in Israel: leading a $35mn round by Israel's ClickTale, joined by Europe's Amadeus Capital, Goldrock and Viola Credit (Globes, January 29). 
  • Israel's BioLine raised $25mn on NASDAQ (Globes, March 9). 
  • Fidelity Growth Partners led a $20mn round by Israel's AppsFlyer (Globes, January 21).

Cyber Technology
  • Lockheed-Martin, EMC, IBM, Oracle, eBay and Deutsche Telekom (the latter teamed up with Ben Gurion University) operate in the newly established cyber technology park in Beer Sheba, Israel (Wall Street Journal, June 5). 
  • Israel accounted for 10% ($6bn) of global cyber tech sales in 2014. 
  • Eight cyber Israeli companies were acquired for $700mn in 2014. 
  • The number of Israeli cyber companies doubled during the past five years (i24 News, May 26).

Israel and Italy established joint R&D labs, in Israel, in the areas of neurology, solar, outer space, cyber, water treatment and health sciences (Globes, March 3).

Trade with Britain
Britain's Secretary of State for Business and Innovations, Sajid Javid stated: "The past few years have been a golden era for Anglo-Israel business… expecting bilateral trade, currently valued at $6.9bnm to continue growing…. (Algemeiner, June 9, 2015).”

The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous

From the New York Times, 25 June 2015, by RICHARD KEMP*:

LONDON — As a British officer who had more than his share of fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, it pains me greatly to see words and actions from the United Nations that can only provoke further violence and loss of life. The United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s conflict in Gaza, prepared by Judge Mary McGowan Davis, and published on Monday, will do just that.

The report starts by attributing responsibility for the conflict to Israel’s “protracted occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” as well as the blockade of Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza 10 years ago. In 2007 it imposed a selective blockade only in response to attacks by Hamas and the import of munitions and military matériel from Iran. The conflict last summer, which began with a dramatic escalation in rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, was a continuation of Hamas’s war of aggression.

In an unusual concession, the report suggests that Hamas may have been guilty of war crimes, but it still legitimizes Hamas’s rocket and tunnel attacks and even sympathizes with the geographical challenges in launching rockets at Israeli civilians: “Gaza’s small size and its population density make it particularly difficult for armed groups always to comply” with the requirement not to launch attacks from civilian areas.

There is no such sympathy for Israel. Judge Davis accuses the Israel Defense Forces of “serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” Yet no evidence is put forward to substantiate these accusations. It is as though the drafters of the report believe that any civilian death in war must be illegal.

Referring to cases in which Israeli attacks killed civilians in residential areas, Judge Davis says that in the absence of contrary information available to her commission, there are strong indications that the attacks were disproportionate, and therefore war crimes. But all we get is speculation and the presumption of guilt.

The report is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.

The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: “None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.”

The report acknowledges that Israel took steps to warn of imminent attacks but suggests more should have been done to minimize civilian casualties. Yet it offers no opinion about what additional measures Israel could have taken. It even criticizes Israel for using harmless explosive devices — the “knock on the roof” — as a final warning to evacuate targeted buildings, suggesting that it created confusion. No other country uses roof-knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of I.D.F. warning procedures, including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops, that are known to have saved many Palestinian lives.

Judge Davis suggests that the I.D.F.’s use of air, tank and artillery fire in populated areas may constitute a war crime and recommends further international legal restrictions on their use. Yet these same systems were used extensively by American and British forces in similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are often vital in saving the lives of our own soldiers, and their curtailment would jeopardize military effectiveness while handing an advantage to our enemies.

The I.D.F. is not perfect. In the heat of battle and under stress its commanders and soldiers undoubtedly made mistakes. Weapons malfunctioned, intelligence was sometimes wrong and, as with all armies, it has some bad soldiers. Unnecessary deaths resulted, and these should be investigated and the individuals brought to trial if criminal culpability is suspected.

The reason so many civilians died in Gaza last summer was not Israeli tactics or policy. It was Hamas’s strategy. Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and munitions in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack them and that civilian casualties would result. Unable to inflict existential harm on Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people in order to bring international condemnation and unbearable diplomatic pressure against Israel.

Judge Davis’s report is rife with contradictions. She acknowledges that Israeli military precautions saved lives, yet without foundation accuses “decision makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel” of a policy of deliberately killing civilians. Incredibly, she “regrets” that her commission was unable to verify the use of civilian buildings by “Palestinian armed groups,” yet elsewhere acknowledges Hamas’s widespread use of protected locations, including United Nations schools.

Most worrying, Judge Davis claims to be “fully aware of the need for Israel to address its security concerns” while demanding that it “lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza.” Along with the report’s endorsement of Hamas’s anti-Israel narrative, this dangerous recommendation would undoubtedly lead to further bloodshed in both Israel and Gaza.

*Richard Kemp, a retired British Army colonel, is former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

US Congress slams BDS in trade legislation

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), who has been instrumental in anti-BDS legislation, issued the following statement on 24 June 2015:
Today, Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, released the following statement after House and Senate passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which includes bipartisan language Roskam authored to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. These provisions, which were originally introduced as Roskam’s H.R. 825, the U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, were unanimously adopted into the House and Senate versions of TPA in April.
“Today, for the first time in nearly four decades, Congress sent legislation to the President’s desk to combat efforts to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel. The recent wave of boycotts originating in Europe, including French telecom company Orange’s decision this month to sever ties with Israel, demands a robust response from the United States. This is that response. The bipartisan TPA provisions I authored are simple: if you want free trade with the United States, you can’t boycott Israel. After today, discouraging economic warfare against Israel will be central to our free trade negotiations with the European Union. Congress will not be complicit in the marginalization of our ally Israel by watching these attacks from the sidelines. Instead, we have decided to fight back against the BDS movement and ensure the continued strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

In 9 Years' Existence, UNHRC Condemned Israel More Times Than Rest of World Combined

From a UN Watch Briefing, Vol. 539 |  June 25, 2015:    

Ahead of Debate on Gaza Report, UN Watch Releases Evidence of Systematic Bias at UN's Top Rights Body

GENEVA, June 25, 2015 - In the nine years of its existence, the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more times than the rest of the world combined, revealed UN Watch today, ahead of a new report to be released by the Geneva-based NGO that documents endemic selectivity and politicization at the world body.

The outcome resolution for the latest Gaza report, to be introduced at the UNHRC this week by the Palestinians together with the Arab and Islamic states, will condemn Israel exclusively, and will mark the 62nd resolution targeting Israel since the new and improved Council was created in 2006 -- while the total of all other UNHRC condemnatory resolutions for the rest of the world amounts to 55, with most of the worst violators given a free pass, if not a seat on the council itself.

Sadly, with members like China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Venezuela and Qatar, the UNHRC today may possibly rank as a more corrupt international organization than FIFA.

UN Watch released the following statistics today, and urged Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to again rebuke the Human Rights Council for treating one particular group of human beings, Israelis, out of all proportion:

I. Total UNHRC Condemnations, 2006-2015
Israel: 61
Syria: 15
Myanmar: 12
North Korea: 8
Iran: 5
Belarus: 4
Eritrea: 3
Sri Lanka: 3
Sudan: 2
Libya: 2
Honduras: 1
Afghanistan: 0
Algeria: 0
China: 0
Cuba: 0
Equatorial Guinea: 0
France: 0
Iraq: 0
Lebanon: 0
Russia: 0
Pakistan: 0
Somalia 0
Turkmenistan: 0
UK: 0
USA: 0
Uzbekistan: 0
Venezeula: 0
Vietnam: 0
Yemen: 0
Zimbabwe: 0

Total on Israel: 61
Rest of World Combined: 55

Methodology: includes all resolutions from 2006 to 2015 that singled out specific countries for condemnation under agenda items 4 and 7. Excludes resolutions that also praise the country concerned, or those adopted as matters of "technical cooperation."

II. Country-Specific Agenda Items: Only Against Israel

There is a special agenda item targeting Israel at every regular session of the UNHRC. No other country in the world has its own agenda item -- not Sudan, not Syria, not North Korea. It is under this agenda item No. 7 on Monday, which Western democracies in the last year have mostly boycotted due to its selectivity, that the Schabas-Davis report on Gaza will be formally debated.

III. Special Rapporteurs
The permanent Special Rapporteur on Israel’s alleged violations is the only one at the UNHRC whose mandate examines only one side (Israel’s actions, but not Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Fatah); who in advance presumes the country concerned to be guilty; and which has no expiration.
By contrast, even the HRC mandate on Sudan examines all sides, government and rebels; does not presume violations in advance; and must be renewed each year. The mandate against Israel was the only one inherited in 2006 from the old Commission on Human Rights that was not subjected to the required review, rationalization and improvement (RRI) process.
From 2008 to 2014, this mandate was held by 9/11 conspiracy theorist Richard Falk. He continues to accuse UN Watch of having ruined his life for getting him condemned by Ban Ki-moon and other world figures. On the day Falk was obliged to retire, the Council appointed his wife and colleague Hilal Elver Falk to a separate post at the HRC. 

IV. Emergency Sessions That Condemned Countries, 2006-2015

  • 7 on Israel. Each was initiated by Arab and Islamic states, and was devoid of any condemnation of Hamas terrorism or other Palestinian violations.
  • 4 on Syria. Some of the concluding resolutions included language drafted by Syria's backers.
  • 1 on Central African Republic. Criticized all parties, but failed to name government or other responsible agents.
  • 1 on Libya. At the end of Qaddafi regime.
  • 1 on Cote d’Ivoire
  • 1 on DR Congo
  • 1 on Myanmar
  • 1 on Sudan. Outcome resolution also included praise.
  • 0 on all the rest of the world

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Israel's response to the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry

From the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 June 2015:

Israel is studying the Commission of inquiry Report (COI) from the United Nations' Human Rights Council (UNHRC). However, some initial comments can be made about the COI process in general:

1. It is well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset. Just as Israel seriously considers every complaint, no matter its origin, it will also seriously study this report. We take note of the fact that the authors of the report admitted that they lacked much of the relevant information.

It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound   difference between Israel's moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted.

2. This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate, and initially headed by the grossly biased chairperson, William Shabas. The UNHRC has a singular obsession with Israel, passing more country-specific resolutions against Israel than Syria, Iran, and North Korea combined- in fact, more than against all other countries combined. The commission of inquiry's mandate presumed Israel's guilt from the start and its original chairman, William Shabas, was compelled to resign due to a blatant conflict of interest (paid work for the Palestinians), which he concealed from the United Nations.

3. The COI also lacked the necessary tools and expertise to conduct a professional and serious examination of armed conflict situations.

Israel will consider the report in light of these essential failings. It would encourage all fair-minded observers to do the same.

4. Israel is a democracy committed to the rule of law, forced to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists who commit a double war crime: They indiscriminately target Israeli civilians while deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians, including children, by using them as human shields.

5. In defending itself against attacks, Israel's military acted according to the highest international standards. This was confirmed by a comprehensive examination by Israeli military and legal experts, as well as reports produced by internationally renowned military professionals.

Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the law of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies. Israel will continue to investigate alleged wrongdoings in accordance with international standards and to cooperate with those UN bodies that conduct themselves in an objective, fair and professional manner.