Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Who's afraid of the NGO law?

From Algemeiner, 3 Jan 2016, by Matan Peleg:
The Israeli Knesset. Credit: James Emery

The Israeli Knesset. Credit: James Emery

...something tectonic has taken place in Israel ... there has been an awakening to the relationship that Left-wing NGOs, whose mission is to demean and de-legitimize the state of Israel, have with foreign governments — mostly in Europe.

That relationship is based on financing. Lots of it.

Israelis intuitively know that this threatens our self-determination and even sovereignty. Why? Because foreign governments are players seeking to change Israeli policy concerning the Palestinians, as they seek to further the Palestinian agenda.

Foreign governments can influence world bodies, other governments, trade relationships and a whole host of geopolitical issues that private donors to NGOs — no matter how wealthy or influential — cannot hope to match.

So when a law is proposed that would require an NGO receiving significant foreign funding to identify itself as working on behalf of that government, most Israelis believe this to be reasonable, justified and not an incursion on the operational freedom of NGOs.

Rather, the opinion of most Israelis matches that of the US Supreme Court, which has opined that “democracy is not a suicide pact.” Simply stated, democracies have the right, indeed the obligation, to protect themselves. The proposed Israeli law is just such a protection.

...The law applies to any NGO that receives foreign government funding. (The fact that the only NGOs receiving such funding are left-wing ones bears out the fear of why that money is being given in the first place. No money is being given to groups that support the state, only those that stand in active opposition to it.)

The law would not prevent the NGOs from receiving the funds; rather it would require a clear identification and affiliation between the funder and a donee organization. The only conceivable reason that the NGOs should be worried is because somehow the very relationship they have with these governments could be worrisome.

And that’s the whole point....

If an organization gets money from the Schwartz family or the Schmendrik Foundation, that bespeaks identification of the donors with the cause they are giving to. But when the government of Sweden, Belgium, Scotland or Norway is writing checks, they are looking for the organizations to reflect their own policies and priorities, and will have considerable influence in setting the NGOs’ course.

The recent defection of Bassam Eid from B’Tselem because the European funders of the NGO insisted that he not pursue allegations of malfeasance against the Palestinian Authority, but only against Israel, is just one such example.

So, let the Left howl and cry, calling the rest of us fascists and McCarthyites, and predicting the demise of democracy in Israel. The more they cry, the more they point the finger, the more marginal they become.

Israel strengthens, not weakens, its democracy with the NGO Law. It is long overdue and much needed.

Israel's population nearly 8.5m at end of 2015

From Globes [online], 31 December 2015:

Israel flag

At the end of 2015, the population of Israel has reached 8,462,000, the Central Bureau of statistics reports. Over the past year, the country's population has grown by 2%.

The Jewish population has reached 6.335 million (74.9%), the Arab population 1.757 million (20.7%), while 370,000 (4.4%) are defined as others.

The population should surpass 10 million by 2025. 

Over the past year, 176,700 babies were born, and 28,000 new immigrants came to the country. 25% of the new immigrants came from France, 24% from Ukraine, 23% from Russia and 9% from the US. 

Iran's Plan for Syria Without Assad

From The National Interest, 30 Dec 2015, by Joyce Karam:

Bashar al-Assad has been a valuable ally but not an indispensable one
On February 25, 1987, late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad sent his troops to the Fathallah barracks in West Beirut, where they killed twenty-seven members of Hezbollah in a move designed to show Syria’s upper hand over Iran in Lebanon. Almost three decades later, this modus operandi is completely reversed under Assad the son, as Syria sinks into a war of attrition and Tehran gains the upper hand in Damascus.
For Iran, Bashar al-Assad has been a valuable ally but not an indispensable one. His coming to power in 2000, followed by the Iraq war in 2003 and Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, freed Iran’s hand in the Levant. Hezbollah under Bashar al-Assad has received weaponry and political backing unthinkable in his father’s time, including long-range Scud missiles and a 2010 Damascus visit by the party’s chief Hassan Nasrallah. But while Tehran has worked since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011 to prolong Assad’s hold on power, it has also planned from the very early stages of the conflict for the day after, should its ally fall or should the regime lose Damascus.
Even as Iran sits at the negotiating table in Vienna, its strategy overlooks the political debate and the successive failed processes. It is instead rooted in creating new realities and proxies on the ground in Syria, looking beyond Assad and preserving its core interests. These interests are defined today by three goals:
(1) Ensuring arms shipments continue to Hezbollah;
(2) Gaining a strategic foothold in Levant and against Israel;
(3) Preventing a stable government opposed to Iran from fully ruling over Syria.
While these three goals are met today under the depleted rule of Bashar al-Assad, Tehran is putting in place new non-state military structures that would protect these interests should Assad fall. Iran, according to Reuters, has established a massive Alawite force (Assad’s ruling minority) that numbers over 200,000 men, and has recruited Shia fighters from as close as Iraq and as far as Afghanistan to carry out its fight.
High on Iran’s priorities is protecting and sustaining arms shipments to the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah through Syria. This support has guaranteed strategic depth for Hezbollah, and turned it to Iran’s strongest proxy asset in the Middle East. Since 1982, Hezbollah has developed a political and military stamina that made it both a powerful broker in Lebanese politics and a strategic threat to Israel. Today, Hezbollah’s role has been a game changer in the battlefield in Syria, holding critical areas and so far helping prevent the fall of the capital Damascus.
The party’s involvement in Qusair, Qalamoun and Zabadani since 2013 magnifies its focus on supply routes, and its determination at any cost to prevent the rebels from controlling those areas. It was Zabadani, after all, where in 1982 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) stationed their headquarters to train the early recruits of Hezbollah. It was also through Zabadani that David Dodge, former head of American University of Beirut, was taken and transferred to Tehran during Lebanon’s foreign hostage crisis (1982–1992). The town’s passages and proximity to the Bekaa Valley makes surrendering its control a nonstarter for the party.
On the battlefield, Hezbollah has made headways in Zabadani, and has negotiated a deal with the rebels that would allow population swaps from different parts in Syria. The agreement would entail bringing threatened Shia in the towns of Fu’a and Kefraya in northern Syria to replace the local population of Zabadani, whose population would move to rebel-held areas.
These tactics highlight Iran's cold pragmatism in Syria and its nitty-gritty involvement and calculus, irrelevant of the Assad regime. Hezbollah and pro-Iran militias are less present in the far north and east of Syria; those territories are not as critical for Iran as the coast and the Lebanese border, and could eventually be ceded to the rebels in a future ground settlement. When it comes to routes to Syria, post-Saddam Iraq has also granted Iran much-needed airspace and recruiting ground to reach and operate, despite U.S. complaints to the Iraqi government.
By becoming a critical player in Syria, Iran also attempts to poke its archenemy Israel from a new battle front that has been quiet since 1973. Iran’s move to build a presence near the Golan Heights is a red line for Israel, and has instigated preemptive military action more than once in the past year. In January, Israel assassinated Hezbollah’s Jihad Mughniyeh with four others in Quneitra near the Golan Heights. The year ended with the killing of another member, Samir Kuntar, who has been operationally linked by Israel to the Golan front.
In promoting the above two goals, Iran is also establishing that if Assad falls, it will have enough proxies and presence in Syria to secure its influence and prevent a hostile regime from effectively taking over. The strategy in Syria looks very similar to Iran’s playbook in Iraq and Lebanon, where heavily armed and trained nonstate actors are securing Iran’s interests. Both the Iraqi and Lebanese models prove that these new militia structures are there to stay and are not bound to UN resolutions or state and international agreements. Hezbollah has effectively ignored UN resolutions calling to disarm it (UNSCR 1559), and the newly formed Hashd Shaabi militia in Iraq ignores the SOFA agreement between Washington and Baghdad.
This makes the chatter in Vienna on withdrawal of all militias from Syria a rhetorical fantasy in the near future. More broadly, Iran's strategy and operational buildup in Syria lays to rest the argument that its fate will be tied to Assad, or that a fragmented Syria will diminish Tehran's interests.
Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem was recently quoted in The New Yorker telling John Kerry's aide in 2010 that “If we don’t succeed in opening up our economy, you’ll come back here in ten years and you’ll meet with Mullah Assad.” It has taken only five years for Iran’s influence to supersize in Syria, and it has the structure to continue with or without Assad.

Unsung heroes: first responders

From ITC:
First responders experience a unique struggle: care for those they are responsible for while simultaneously caring for themselves and their families.
In today's environment of nearly daily terror attacks, first responders and caregivers are under extreme pressure. They must care for others while simultaneously taking care of themselves and their families.

Our experience working with caregivers and first responders has taught us that constant exposure to traumatic events and the intensive work with victims can quickly lead to professional burnout and secondary traumatization.

As we are now in our third month of the recent terror wave, caregivers and first responders are of particular concern to ITC; we ensure that the people who work tirelessly to take care of our citizens are also receiving the care they need to face trauma every day.

Zaka is a humanitarian organization, coordinating over 1000 volunteers in Israel and also helping Jewish communities worldwide. They respond to tragic incidents like terror attacks to help rescue the victims capable of being rescued, and recover, identify and bury the dead as well as any other human remains.

Yossi Frenkel, pictured above (right) has been an active Zaka volunteer for over 13 years. Most people find this sort of work gruesome and repelling, but not Yossi. He saw the opportunity to consistently distribute kindness that could never be repaid.  That's real chesed... true giving," explains Yossi.

It does, however, expose him continually to trauma. Yossi manages the trauma by compartmentalizing the experience. "When I receive a call, I'm no longer Yossi. I'm Zaka until I'm back home."

"But some calls are easier to detach from than others. we are, after all, human beings with emotions, and compounded exposure to evil, destruction and death takes its toll."

For help detaching emotionally and moving past each experience, Yossi phones his mother after every single Zaka mission to review the entire incident, even if it's in the middle of the night. "It gets the experience, the horror, the images - away from me." He encourages all the other Zaka volunteers to go to the counselors and debriefings, but Yossi's mother is the most effective for him.

The other ingredient that keeps Yossi grounded is focusing on the positive in life. Instead of "there was a terrorist attack", he reframes it as "the terrorist is no longer on the street - no longer a threat." Yossi delves into his outlook further, "You can take ANY incident and find strength in it. I draw strength from this rather than allowing it to drain strength from me."

It also helps that Yossi owns a restaurant. "When I return to the restaurant from a Zaka call, people are having fun and living life." This scene draws Yossi out of the world of Zaka and back to the everyday world - underwriting his positive transition back from Zaka to Yossi.

Yossi would never dream of giving up his volunteering. "II appreciate life more because of my work in Zaka, and my appreciation of life motivates my work for Zaka."

Over the years Zaka volunteers have received psycho-social care and support from ITC experts.
The Trauma Unit at Jerusalem's Shaarei Tzedek Hospital provides care for major traumatic injuries resulting from falls, car collisions, fires… and terror attacks. 
Dr. Ofer Marin is the Deputy Director General and Director of Trauma Services at Shaarei Tzedek.

The Trauma Unit is a very intense place to practice medicine. Medically, patients are in critical condition and their injuries could cover different medical specialties. Dr. Marin’s staff is fluid.

“We assemble teams and borrow specialists from the relevant departments in the hospital. We can have over 50 staff members under my direction at one time when a terror attack brings in multiple casualties, like it did this week.”

Dr. Marin schedules ongoing professional education for his staff to ensure that patients receive the advantage of the most up-to-date technology and methodology.

Working in the Trauma Unit is also intense emotionally for the medical staff, especially over the past few months as victims of intentional traumatic attacks were almost a daily occurrence. Not only are the staff members exposed to this trauma daily, they live in the area, so they are affected on two fronts. Often, a trauma nurse will hear of an attack seconds after it happens, so she can prepare for the arrival of trauma patients. Simultaneously, however, she is thinking of her husband and children who live in the area, checking her phone, in the dark about their whereabouts. It’s an incredible and constant struggle.

Dr. Marin and the staff under his direction including nurses, doctors and surgeons manage the emotional impact proactively.

“We speak about these topics regularly, and that helps a lot,” Dr. Marin explains. “We also have a psychologist on staff who specializes in PTSD. We’re the only trauma unit in Israel that has one, and it’s a tremendous benefit.”

The trauma-specialized psychologist works with patients and their families, but also works with the doctors and nurses who inevitably feel the strain from constant exposure to trauma. She gives direction and tools to all trauma unit staff to use with patients and in their own self-care.