Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Canadian Parliament overwhelmingly passes anti-BDS motion

From JPost, 23 Feb 2016:

The motion calls on the Canadian government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”      

Canada’s Parliament passed a motion formally condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The motion passed Monday in a 229-51 vote, CIJ News reported. Introduced last week by members of the opposition Conservative Party, the motion won support from the ruling Liberal Party as well.

It calls on the Canadian government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

In addition, the motion notes Canada and Israel’s “long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations.” The motion says the BDS movement “promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.”
Speaking in favor of the motion last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said
“the world will win nothing for boycotting Israel but depriving itself of the talents of its inventiveness.”
Canadian Jewish groups have praised the motion. In a statement last week, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said, according to the European Jewish Press,
“The boycott movement does not contribute to peace and is not pro-Palestinian. It is discrimination based on nationality, and it harms both Israelis and Palestinians alike by driving the two sides further apart. The BDS movement is a fringe movement and is outside genuine peace efforts.”...

"Containing ISIS, keeping Assad weak"

Israel should
  • favor a Kurdish state and Druse autonomy in Syria;
  • must prevent Islamic State from securing a presence on its border;
  • has the tools to deter Hezbollah; and
  • would like to see President Bashar Assad’s regime remain on the ropes,
former national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan says ...
As the Syrian civil war enters its sixth year – and the international community continues cease-fire talks that are limping on both legs – the growth of Islamic State could spell the destruction of the Syrian state and solidify jihadi networks on the border, says Dayan, a former commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, who rose to deputy chief of IDF staff, one level short of his uncle, the legendary chief of staff Moshe Dayan.
“Even if Syria disintegrates – or is undergoing disintegration – we don’t want Syria to be a kingdom of ISIS,” says Dayan, who today is chairman of the Mifal HaPayis national lottery.
What Dayan would like to see emerge from the Syrian chaos is the strengthening of ethnic/religious minorities.
“I am in favor of a Kurdish state and we want the Druse to have autonomy,” he says.
Getting back to Islamic State, Dayan notes that the Syrian-Israeli border was a secure frontier for a long time.
“We don’t want ISIS to be there. We prefer the Syrian army along the border,” he says, although he notes wryly that “a weak Syria is good for Israel.
“My position since the beginning of the civil war is that Israel does not have an interest. Assad is not our friend. We don’t have to help him and we don’t do anything to eliminate him.”
Letting Islamic State deploy along the Israeli border could create a situation where Israel may one day find itself fighting Islamic State, Dayan says.
One security remedy for the Golan border, he suggests, would be “to form a security belt of 8 to 10 kilometers” to keep out rockets and jihadi groups, including the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida. “It would not be an easy task,” he admits.
Dayan stresses the need to “prevent infiltration of strategic weapons to terrorist organizations.” He cites surface-to-air missiles, chemical weapons and long-range rockets as additions to terrorist arsenals that would ring alarm bells in Jerusalem.
The jihadi terrorist entities could obtain Katyusha rockets at some point and fire the rockets into northern Israel, he says. But, notes Dayan, “Israel is very strong when it comes to military influence about what happens in Syria.”
Dayan sees Islamic State as an idea or a vision that is bigger than the organization itself, and the threat posed to Israel by the group is not just on the Golan border.
“The main mission of the new head of the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] will be to prevent the formation of ISIS cells among Israeli Arabs and to prevent the group’s influence [from growing] in Gaza and the West Bank.”
On Israel’s eastern border, Islamic State poses a threat as well – not directly to Israel but to the economically struggling Hashemite kingdom, which, he says, is at real risk of destabilization.
“ISIS is an existential threat to Jordan,” Dayan states bluntly. Israel acts as strategic insurance for Jordan and must stay in control of the Jordan Valley to prevent Islamic State from penetrating the West Bank from the Hashemite Kingdom.
When asked about the possibility that Hezbollah could gain control of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border, Dayan says: “We can deter Hezbollah.” He also points out that Hezbollah’s resources are stretched across Lebanon and Syria.
In the effort to navigate Israel through the zig-zag complexities of the Syrian civil war – a conflict that has resulted in some 470,000 deaths, according to a report issued earlier this month by the Syrian Center for Policy Research – the key is for Jerusalem to pay close attention to its relations with the US, Turkey and Russia, Dayan says.
“It is quite a pity and a disappointment that Russia has become more reliable than Washington in the region,” says Dayan. He cited the Obama administration’s decision to abandon Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and support the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi as a pivotal point in the waning of American power in the region.
The effects on the region have been significant. “Saudi Arabia looks around and sees Russia delivers more than any power,” he says.
With diplomatic rapprochement between Israel and Turkey on its way, Dayan suggests Jerusalem adopt a pragmatic approach in its relations with Ankara.
“We should try and settle [the problems in] relations, but it is not that we can have an alliance with Turkey,” he says.
Some of the key impediments to rekindling the relationship relations involve President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s insistence that Israel lift its blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Erdogan’s aid to Hamas, a US- and European Union-designated terrorist entity, in Turkey is another stumbling block to an agreement with Israel.
The proposed deal would see Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas member operating in Turkey, leave the country. However, additional Hamas members would continue to operate in Turkey.
Dayan says: “We are not sure if we can arrive at an agreement with the Turks. We should try. We don’t look for new enemies. We have enough.”
Asked to name the three most pressing security threats to Israel, Dayan answers: the Islamic Republic of Iran, delegitimization, and terrorism.
He defines delegitimization as a national security issue because it threatens the “cohesion of Israeli society.”
Dayan says a situation is emerging where Israel is riven by internal conflict over “the relationship between parts of Israeli society, especially when it comes to serving in the military.
“I am not worried about difference of opinion, but we are in one boat; it is difficult navigating where we are sailing to,” he says.
*Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

"Rivlin: Support for Israel must not become issue in US presidential election"

Rivlin emphasized to the the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that US and Israel solidarity are based on the values of democracy, freedom, and liberty.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizati
President Reuven Rivlin speaks with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (photo credit: PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCE)
Support for Israel has never been and must not become a political party issue. It is bipartisan, President Reuven Rivlin told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Thursday. The bonds between the two countries are based on values of democracy, freedom, liberty and equality, he said, and emphasized that during the current US presidential election season, when candidates and campaigns try to win points and votes, it was his deep hope that the close relationship between Israel and the US will remain beyond debate.

...Issues touched on by Rivlin in his address and the subsequent question-and-answer session included
  • Iran,
  • the role that the US should play in the Middle East,
  • the fight against anti-Semitism,
  • the need to build bridges of understanding between Jews and Arabs,
  • Jewish unity,
  • the changes in the Middle East which are turning enemies into allies and friends into enemies,
  • Russian involvement in Syria,
  • developments among the Kurds, and
  • the conflict with the Palestinians.
Rivlin said: “We must all stand united in the fight against anti-Semitism. Across the world we are seeing a rise in this old and new disease. Jewish students are threatened on campuses around the world. In Europe, 70 years after the Holocaust, Jews are afraid to wear a kippa in the street; and there is more and more pressure to boycott the world’s only Jewish state. We must stand firm against those threats. Israel is your partner in this fight and you are our partner.”
With regard to Egypt, Rivlin told his guests that “democracy is not always according to Jefferson,” and that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is trying to defend Egypt from fundamentalism. Israel understands that and there is strong cooperation between the two countries as they try to keep ISIS out of Sinai, because if ISIS takes over Sinai, this poses an acute danger for both Egypt and Israel.
Taking what happened in Libya as a guideline, Rivlin doubted that Syria will once again become a united nation.
He lamented the fact that so much time has gone by without an understanding being reached between Israel and the Palestinians, a factor which he believes impedes Israel’s ability to live together with the surrounding nations.
...Without actually naming the Oslo Accords, he recalled that “we thought that peace was on the threshold, but in a very short time we were awakened from the dream.”...

Christian priest tells UN: "Israel is the only Mideast country not persecuting Christians"

Father Gabriel Nadaf, an outspoken advocate for IDF service, lambasted the UN Human Rights Council for its anti-Israel bias.

Father Gabriel Nadaf of Nazareth, a Greek Orthodox priest, has been promoting IDF service to Christian Israeli Arabs for many years.

By defending Israel, Nadaf has become the target of brutal attacks by enemies of the Jewish state. He has received countless threats. In 2013, his eldest son was beaten by an Arab from his home town of Nazareth; the following year, he enlisted in the Israeli military.

Don’t miss Father Nadaf telling the world that “those trying to destroy the Jewish state…are hastening the death sentence of Christians in the Middle East…”

Israel and Germany Sign Agreement on Nanotechnology and Cybersecurity R&D

Israel has established itself as a world leader in cyber technology innovation and many countries, including Germany, are seeking Israel’s expertise and partnership.
Netanyahu Merkel
PM Netanyahu meets with German chancellor Angela Merkei. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO) (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Director General of Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry Amit Lang and Germany’s Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research Thomas Rachel signed on Wednesday a Joint Declaration of Intent to cooperate on nanotechnology and cyber-security.

In the declaration of intent, the two officials expressed interest in “strengthening bilateral cooperation on research and development and technological innovation,” Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry said in a statement.

Such cooperation includes joint programs to support small and medium-sized companies active in the field of nanotechnology, as well as cooperation between research institutes from both countries.
The agencies tasked with implementing the declaration are the Israel Innovation Authority under the Office of the Chief Scientist, and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany.
The two parties will also issue a joint call for applications in cyber-Security, which is expected to become a platform for relevant industries and entrepreneurs in both countries for cooperation in cyber-security, through funding assistance for joint R&D projects in the field, based on the R&D agreement previously signed by the two ministries.

“The decision to publish a joint call for applications is an expression of the vast economic and research cooperation between Israel and Germany and of Germany’s position as one of Israel’s key trade partners,” the statement said.

The signing of the agreement was part of a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with other ministers and directors of government ministries to Berlin this week for the sixth G2G meeting with the German government.

A glance at the main political players in Libya

From The Associated Press, Feb. 19, 2016:

As U.S. warplanes strike an Islamic State target in eastern Libya, attention again is focused on the North African country that has endured so much chaos since the 2011 overthrow and death of its leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

Since Gadhafi's fall, two competing governments have emerged in Libya, backed by a loose array of militias, former rebels and tribes. The United Nations has been trying to broker a deal to establish a unity government that could bring peace in the oil-rich country, rein in militants like the Islamic State group, and restore order in what has become a major conduit for migrants heading to Europe.

A look at the major players:
The capital of Tripoli and most of Libya's western coastal cities answer to the General National Congress, the former parliament whose mandate expired in 2014. Backed by Islamist-affiliated militias known as Libya Dawn, the parliament has expelled the Libyan government outside Tripoli, seized the international airport and fought rival militias in battles that forced foreign embassies to close and displaced thousands. The GNC is headed by Nouri Abu-Sahman, whose Salvation Government runs the western part of Libya. The Tripoli-based prime minister is Khalifa Ghwell.
A parliament made up mostly of non-Islamists was elected in 2014 and is based in the eastern city of Tobruk and supported by area tribes. Its internationally recognized government is based in Bayda. The parliament endorsed the U.N. peace deal but rejected a proposed unity government for Libya. Khalifa Hifter, who served in Gadhafi's army before defecting to the opposition in the 1990s, is general commander of the armed forces in eastern Libya that support the parliament. These poorly equipped and organized troops depend on militias mostly made up of civilians who defended their neighborhoods in Benghazi. Hifter considers the Tripoli authorities as terrorists and declared a coup against them in 2014. The leaders in Tripoli consider him a holdover from the Gadhafi era.
Libya Dawn — A coalition of militias from Tripoli and the western city of Misrata, Libya Dawn was until recently Libya's most powerful militia, and it serves as the armed force for the GNC. But the U.N. peace effort and fears of the Islamic State group's power have caused deep rifts. Many of the Tripoli-based militias, which are mainly Islamists, oppose efforts to set up a unity government, fearing a loss of patronage. Except for hard-liners, the Misrata militias, which have long been considered some of the toughest fighters in Libya, back the U.N. peace deal and have focused more on fighting IS since it seized the city of Sirte, a Gadhafi stronghold east of Misrata.
Islamic State group — Affiliates to the Islamic State group first arose in the eastern city of Darna in 2014 after many of its extremists pledged allegiance to the militant group. The number of IS fighters in Libya is believed to be about 5,000, mostly made up of jihadis from Tunisia, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. IS now controls only the central city of Sirte and nearby villages, but they have carried out some of worst attacks in the country, including in Tripoli, and have tried to capture or disrupt oil facilities east of Sirte. The group has joined with other militias in Benghazi against Hifter and fought rivals elsewhere in the country. They also are believed to have helped with attacks in neighboring Tunisia. IS was dealt a serious blow after militants believed to be linked to al-Qaida and supported by the local population drove the IS extremists out of Darna last summer. In November, a U.S. airstrike in Darna killed an Islamic State leader, Wissam al-Zubaydi, an Iraqi national who also was known by the pseudonyms Abu Nabil al-Ansbari and Abu Mghira al-Qahtani.
Ansar al-Shariah — Believed to be al-Qaida branch in Libya, Ansar al-Shariah has been blamed for the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in 2012 when four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The group has weakened since the death of its most prominent leader, Mohammed al-Zahawi, in 2014. Many of its members have joined IS in Sirte; others fought alongside IS against Hifter in Benghazi.

Polish museum exhibits US artist Frank Stella's synagogues

From AP, 18 Feb 2016, by VANESSA GERA,

Frank Stella                        
U.S. artist Frank Stella poses in front of one of his works  
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An exhibition is opening in Warsaw of abstract works by prominent American painter Frank Stella that were inspired by painted wooden synagogues that once existed across Poland but were destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.
"Frank Stella and the Synagogues of Historic Poland" opens Friday at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and will run through June 20.

Museum officials say it is the first time that Stella's geometrical and highly abstract works have been shown alongside the sources that inspired him — architectural drawings and documentary photos of synagogues taken before the war — as well as models and drawings of his own that he used to create his large-scale constructions.
The works are from his Polish Village series produced in the 1970s. He embarked on that project after he was inspired by a 1959 book by Polish architects Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka entitled "Wooden Synagogues." The exhibition also features photographs of the synagogues by Szymon Zajczyk, a Jewish photographer and art historian who was killed in the Holocaust.
Poland was once home to Europe's largest Jewish community, a vibrant community that numbered nearly 3.5 million people before the war. Most were killed in the Holocaust, with many traces of their culture also destroyed.

Museum director Dariusz Stola said his institution is an appropriate venue for the works because one of its key exhibits is a spectacular, full-scale recreation of a 17th-century painted synagogue — the kind that inspired Stella's creations.

The museum is holding two days of events starting Thursday celebrating the 79-year-old New York-based artist, who traveled to Warsaw for the opening.

Stella has worked as an artist for more than 60 years. His works are on display in museums and galleries across the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.