Sunday, August 12, 2018

It’s not ‘anti-Arab’ to criticize an Arab supporter of terrorism

My column from JNS.ORG about western Jewish liberal reaction to events in Israel.

It’s not ‘anti-Arab’ to criticize an Arab supporter of terrorism

Eight Jewish organizations this week signed a public statement accusing Israel of being, in effect, a racist state. Seven of them were left-of-center groups whose harsh criticism of Israel is old news. But one of them was the National Council of Jewish Women, a venerable American Jewish organization that ordinarily does not associate itself with such vile smears of the Jewish state.

The statement, distributed on July 31 as an Internet advertisement, accused “the Prime Minister and Government Ministers” of Israel of engaging in “shameful and dangerous incitement” against Israel’s Arab citizens.

That is an extremely serious charge. A regime that deliberately incites hatred against citizens of a particular ethnic and racial group is behaving on the moral level of some of the worst authoritarian regimes in memory.

So what’s the evidence? Where’s the proof that the Israeli government has degenerated into a mob of racist inciters?
The declaration cites three pieces of “evidence.”
The first refers to an incident in April. An Israeli news report claimed that some fans at a soccer game in the Israeli Arab village of Sakhnin refused to stand, or even booed, during a moment of silence for Israeli victims of a recent flood. The article was then posted on the Facebook page of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with a statement by the prime minister calling the fans’ behavior “an utter disgrace.”
Criticizing individuals for their behavior is not “racist,” and it’s not “incitement.” In this case, however, as soon as doubts arose concerning the accuracy of the report, the prime minister’s staff removed it from the Facebook page. Certainly, it was careless of them not to have looked further into the story before publicizing it. But that’s not the same as deliberately and maliciously trying to whip up hatred of all Israeli Arabs.
The other “evidence” in this week’s declaration was even less credible. It pointed to the fact that two cabinet ministers strongly criticized the pro-terrorist statements and actions of Arab Knesset member Ayman Odeh.
The ministers didn’t criticize Odeh for being an Arab. They didn’t call for Arabs to be banned from the Knesset. In fact, they didn’t call for any action against Arabs at all. They called for action against Odeh because of his indisputable record of supporting terrorism and terrorists.
For example, in an interview with Israel Army Radio on Oct. 6, 2015, Odeh was asked about that week’s Palestinian murders of U.S. citizen Eitam Henkin and his wife, Na’ama, in front of their four young children. At first, Odeh avoided endorsing the murders, but then he asserted that Palestinians have “a right to struggle” against Israel. He cited the first intifada—with its thousands of bombings, shootings and other attacks—as an example of “struggle” that is “fully justified.”
Pressed by the interviewer as to whether throwing rocks at Jews is legitimate, Odeh replied: “I always blame the occupation for being guilty. I cannot tell the nation how to struggle, where and which target to throw the rock. I do not put red lines on the Arab Palestinian nation.”
Knesset member Itzik Shmuly denounced Odeh’s statements as “angering and disappointing.” Shmuly represents the Zionist Union, better known as the Labor Party. One of the eight groups signing this week’s statement was Ameinu, better known as the U.S. wing of the Labor Party. I wonder why they didn’t include Shmuly in their denunciation of “incitement.” I guess if “our guy” says it, then it’s not incitement.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya television on March 4, 2016, Odeh was asked about the wave of Palestinian knife attacks against Israelis. He replied: “We should examine our history and the history of the nations to determine strategies. There is no doubt that a popular intifada is most beneficial to the Palestinian people. I, from my place, cannot tell the Palestinian people how to resist.”
Just six weeks ago, on June 18, Odeh took part in a conference in eastern Jerusalem sponsored by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). The PFLP and the DFLP are terrorist groups that have murdered and maimed many hundreds of Israelis—and Americans—since the 1960s. That’s who Ayman Odeh chooses to associate with. And that’s why he deserves to be criticized.
I’m not surprised that J Street and Americans for Peace Now signed the “anti-incitement” declaration. Pointing an accusing finger at Israel has become their trademark. But I am profoundly disappointed that the National Council of Jewish Women would sully its good name by allowing itself to be dragged into this smear of the Jewish state.
I’m giving the leaders of the NCJW the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they were misled by the other signatories. Perhaps they did not see the final text before they gave their approval. Maybe they didn’t carefully research the claims that are made in the anti-Israel declaration. They can rectify this error by immediately disavowing the declaration.
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Well, that's what I think and invite you to comment.

Look for my new book in October, "A Father's Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror"

The Day Trump And The Media Saw Eye To Eye

In case you missed my column on A look at an extraordinary event-

The Day Trump And The Media Saw Eye To Eye

Something remarkable happened in the nation’s capital last week. The president, who derides
most journalists as purveyors of “fake news,” and journalists who openly despise the president, suddenly found an issue on which they could agree: the innumerable virtues of a visiting dictator who shelters murderers of American citizens.

It was a week in which enraged journalists compared the president’s border policies to those
of the Nazis, and prominent Democrats called for mobs to besiege administration officials
whom they spot in restaurants. Yet, amid all this sound and fury, the political combatants
paused, set aside their mutual hatred for a few hours, and joined hands in a lovefest devoted
to a foreign tyrant who rules by royal decree and provides haven to the killers of American
women and children.

Who is this extraordinary despot who captures the hearts of American journalists and the
president alike? Why, it’s King Abdullah of Jordan, of course.

Liberals are outraged when Trump seems to behave like a would-be monarch, yet they swoon
when a real-life king came to town. Conservatives were furious over the exchange of Bo
Bergdahl for Taliban killers of Americans, yet they rolled out the red carpet for the Jordanian
leader who protects killers of Americans.

After President Trump and King Abdullah met at the White House, they spoke to reporters.
Trump began by praising Abdullah as “incredible” and “fantastic.” The reporters then asked
about the president’s executive order concerning border separations, about the chances for
Middle East peace, and about the administration’s forthcoming Mideast peace plan.

Later in the day, the president spoke to reporters again. They asked about Harley-Davidson
moving some of its operations overseas; the tariffs dispute; the actions of steel manufacturers; U.S.-China trade; the Supreme Court travel ban ruling; the process for deporting illegal immigrants; and funding for the border wall.

President Trump did not say a word about the killers of Americans whom Abdullah is
sheltering. And not one journalist asked him about it. It was “Don’t ask, don’t tell” at its most

But since the president and the news media won’t tell you about it, I will. On August 9, 1982,
Palestinian terrorists firing submachine guns and throwing hand grenades attacked lunchtime
diners at the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant in downtown Paris. Six people were murdered, 22
were wounded. Among the fatalities were two women from Chicago: Grace Cutler, age 66,
and Ann Van Zanten, age 31, a curator at the Chicago Historical Society.

In 2016, Zuhair al-Abbasi, one of the perpetrators of the Paris attack, was detained in Jordan
because of an Interpol warrant. France asked Jordan to surrender him. Jordan refused, claiming the French-Jordanian extradition treaty went into effect only after al-Abbasi was arrested in Jordan.

Then why not extradite him to the United States? The U.S.-Jordanian extradition treaty has been in effect since 1995. But the Trump administration has never asked Jordan to hand over al-Abbasi.

Exactly 19 years to the day after the Paris attack, on August 9, 2001, terrorists bombed the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed, 130 wounded. Three of the
fatalities were American citizens, including 15-year-old Malki Roth. Two of the terrorists were
captured. One was 21-year-old Ahlam Tamimi. She confessed, was sentenced to 16 terms of
life imprisonment, and then released in a 2011 prisoner exchange.

Tamimi settled in the Jordanian capital of Amman, where King Abdullah’s regime rewarded her
with her own television show, called “Breezes of the Fire.” She repeatedly boasted on air about her role in the Sbarro attack.

Last year, the Trump administration finally unsealed a U.S. indictment against Tamimi that had originally been issued four years earlier. Why it took four years to unseal it was never explained.

When the indictment was unsealed, Tamimi was added to America’s Most Wanted list. Yet, no
monetary reward was offered for her capture, as is routinely done in all such cases. It took an entire year of pressure by the Roth family to finally get the Trump administration to post a reward.

The Justice Department also belatedly issued a wanted poster with Tamimi’s photo. But it’s
written in English, not Arabic. And it appears only on the department’s website, not in the
streets of Jordan. It’s not even posted at the American embassy in Amman.

Indeed, the Justice Department has told the Roth family that if a bounty-hunter were to capture Tammy and bring her to the U.S. embassy in Amman, the U.S. would refuse to accept her because she must be transferred according to the extradition treaty. Talk about a Catch22!

And so, the murderers of Americans continue to walk free in Jordan, the Jordanian regime continues to receive $1 billion in aid each year from the Trump administration, and justice continues to be trampled upon.

Well, that's what I think.
Stephen M. Flatow

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This column and others I have written may be read on line at JewishPress.comBe sure to be on the lookout for my book "A Father's Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror" out in October.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Riots in Gaza - What if the Israelis didn’t shoot?

A scenario that is not quite out of the possible - if Western critics had their way- my JNS column:

What if the Israelis didn’t shoot?

It’s been a month now since the Israeli government made its controversial decision to stop shooting back at the Palestinian mobs surging toward the Gaza fence. Let’s see how things turned out.

Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli
forces along the border with the Gaza
strip east of Gaza City on May 11, 2018.
Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
At first, of course, Israel’s leaders insisted that they had a right to defend the border. But eventually, international pressure got to be too much. All those editorials in The New York Times accusing Israel of brutality. The constant hectoring by the hosts of cable TV’s “Morning Joe” and “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” The condemnations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The U.N. resolutions.
Then American Jews jumped on the bandwagon. At first, it was just the predictable groups—Jewish Voice for Peace and J Street denounced Israel. That’s what they do. But then, Rabbi Rick Jacobs started squirming when the pundits on his favorite MSNBC talk show began criticizing Israel, and soon his Union for Reform Judaism was proclaiming how “alarmed, concerned and profoundly saddened” it was about the deaths of all those Gaza rioters. Not much alarm, concern or sadness about the border kibbutzim being devastated as flaming kites set their crops ablaze. But never mind all that.
The Anti-Defamation League, increasingly resembling the Obama administration for which its national director once worked, chimed in with “concern” of its own. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations dithered, unable to reach a consensus on what position to take. Right-of-center groups issued their usually verbose, over-the-top press releases that nobody took seriously. No wonder the Israelis felt so alone. They really were.
So Israel announced that its soldiers would cease firing and expressed the hope that the Gaza mobs would reciprocate. Unfortunately, the word “reciprocity” is not in the vocabulary of the Palestinian Arabs. As soon as the Israelis stopped shooting, the mobs rushed forward.
Not just the few thousand who happened to be at the border that day. Word immediately spread that the Zionist enemy had collapsed, and soon there were tens of thousands of Gazans streaming towards the border fence. Then hundreds of thousands.
The young men with knives and steel bars were followed by waves of women armed with empty bags. Older Israelis remembered scenes from the 1948 war, when an Arab military force was about to overrun some Israeli town, and neighboring Arab women would rush to the scene with their empty bags, anxious to loot the Jews’ property.
What happened next wasn’t exactly a surprise. After all, on May 14, Washington Post reporters Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha had asked the would-be border-crashers about their intentions. Here’s what they reported:
“ ‘We are excited to storm and get inside,’ said 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura. When asked what he would do inside Israel, he said, ‘Whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones’ . . . Two other young men carried large knives and said they wanted to kill Jews on the other side of the fence.”
Mansoura was true to his word. As the Israeli soldiers retreated, Mansoura led a mob of hundreds across the border fence and through the fields of nearby Kibbutz Mefalsim. The kibbutz security men were hopelessly outnumbered. Mansoura and his comrades smashed their way into the communal kitchen, helped themselves to dozens of knives and then invaded the homes of the kibbutzniks. What happened next is too gruesome to recount here.
In the old days, the kibbutzim were American Jewry’s pride and joy. More than a few J Streeters had spent a summer on a kibbutz, picking olives and fantasizing about how a more socialist, egalitarian Israel might gain favor in the eyes of Western intellectuals. Alas, now the kibbutzim in southern Israel just got in the way. Why did they have to build them so close to the Gaza border anyway? the Jewish peaceniks wondered with dismay.
Those two “young men with large knives” who told The Washington Postthat “they wanted to kill Jews” kept their word, too. So did hundreds, and then thousands, of other Gazans. For Israel’s leaders, the choice was between headlines about dead Palestinians or retreating. They ordered the army to continue its retreat. Border towns such as Sderot and Netivot were overrun. The slaughter was horrific.
Finally, at Ashkelon, the army dug in. Tel Aviv, after all, was just 36 miles away. The left-wing Israeli intellectuals who bitterly protested when the army was shooting rioters at the Gaza border changed their tune as the Palestinian mobs got within striking distance of the cafes on Dizengoff Street.
There was a brief lull in the violence as the Palestinians filled Molotov cocktail bottles with gasoline, and the Israelis positioned thousands of sandbags along Ashkelon’s perimeter. Surely, now the world would see that the Palestinians were the aggressors, Israel’s beleaguered leaders thought. Surely, now Thomas Friedman and the United Nations would stop criticizing Israel, they thought.
But as the firebomb-throwers surged forward again and the Israeli army shot back, it all started again. Headlines about the number of dead Palestinian “protesters.” Liberal Jewish leaders expressing “sadness” over the “clashes.” Pundits calling for Israel to stop using “disproportionate force.” Ex-State Department officials pontificating about the need for Israel to “compromise.”
And that’s what it would look like, a month after the Israelis stopped shooting at the Gaza attackers.

This column and others can be read on line at

Monday, March 19, 2018

Israeli Officials Blast Jewish Visits To Qatar

Israeli Officials Blast Jewish Visits To Qatar

What are we to make of Jewish leaders who visit Qatar as the guests of the emir?  I'm opposed to such visits as my March 8, 2018 column in the Jewish Press makes clear.

It’s the Jewish controversy that just won’t go away. Nor should it.

Fully six months after Jewish leaders first began trooping off to Qatar, the op-ed columns of American Jewish and Israeli publications are still filled with lively commentaries on the affair.
And well they should be. Because this sordid episode has laid bare patterns of behavior among some Jewish leaders that need changing.
* There needs to be accountability. The members of these Jewish organizations should have been allowed to vote on whether their leaders should hobnob with an emir who finances Hamas.
* There needs to be transparency. Who went? How many times? Who paid their expenses? Do any of the visitors have business interests in the Gulf?
* There needs to be an open and honest discussion. The Jewish officials who went to Qatar need to stop responding to their critics with such extreme defensiveness. Cut out the name-calling and mud-slinging and threats of lawsuits. Discuss the issues calmly and seriously.
And please stop telling us the Israeli government secretly approved of the visits.
Have you ever noticed how people who want to defend indefensible behavior always seem to claim that unnamed “Israeli officials” secretly authorized their actions? Sorry, friends, blaming Israel is not going to get you off the hook.
Way back in November, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, told Forbes magazine that Israel did not approve of Jewish leaders going to Qatar.
Subsequently, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington told Haaretz “that anyone who says [the Jewish embrace of Qatar] has won the blessing of the ambassador is not telling the truth.”
Then The New York Times reported: “The parade to Doha grew so large that Itai Bar Dov, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, issued a scolding. ‘We do not approve of these visits by the Jewish organizations to Qatar,’ Mr. Dov said.”
If that’s not enough, consider what two other prominent Israeli officials have said in recent days.
Acting Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that the spectacle of “self-appointed members of the Jewish community running to Qatar is an exercise of pure ego.”
According to Hotovely, “They never checked with anyone in the Israeli government. Qatar is responsible for the funding of Hamas and other terrorist groups that target us and our children. We are baffled by this development.”
Major-General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, who formerly served as Israel’s national security adviser, likewise takes a dim view of the Qatar pilgrimages. “I think it is a huge mistake for American Jewish leaders to go over to Qatar,” Amidror has said. “They are using these Jews, and their tremendous egos, to gain international legitimacy. What chutzpah for them to think that they have the power to change [Qatar’s] deeply entrenched views.”
Amidror, who has also served as head of the Israeli Military Intelligence research department, said that Jewish officials should have insisted, as a prior condition to visiting Qatar, “that Qatar stops its financial and material support for Hamas and other terrorist groups” and “Al Jazeera’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views be totally changed…. Otherwise, Qatar is just using these Jews and their tremendous egos as a cover to gain international legitimacy.”
Six months have passed since the American Jewish leaders’ romance with Qatar began. Qatar is still financing the mass murderers of Hamas. Senior Hamas fugitives are still being sheltered in Qatar. The Qatar-sponsored media outlet Al Jazeera is still filling the airwaves with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda.
And so the controversy will continue, until the Jews who allowed themselves to be used by Qatar publicly acknowledge that they were wrong, and apologize to the members of their organizations and to the entire Jewish community.

The Trump administration just doesn’t get Gaza

My JNS.ORG column-

The Trump administration just doesn’t get Gaza

The Trump administration’s conference on the situation in the Gaza Strip this week “focused on the need for the Palestinian Authority to take control over Gaza,” a White House official told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. If that report is accurate, it means that the United States still doesn’t understand the basic problem in Gaza—or how to solve it.

The idea that Hamas is the “bad guy” and the Palestinian Authority is the “good guy” is a fallacy that began with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, and is still the mindset of too many people in Washington.

The attempts to distinguish between the “moderate” P.A. and the “extremist” Hamas always foundered on the reality that the P.A. regards Hamas as its brother, not its enemy. Brothers may quarrel from time to time—they may get into a scuffle now and then, or even try to kill each other—but they remain brothers.

The P.A. leadership promised, as part of Oslo, to disband all terrorist groups, seize their weapons and outlaw them—in short, to put them out of business. But here we are, 25 years later, and Hamas still has active terrorist cells throughout the P.A.-controlled parts of Judea and Samaria.

There’s no doubt that the P.A. has the means to eliminate Hamas in the territories; it has one of the largest per-capita security forces in the world. Yet it has never even outlawed Hamas. It has never made a real effort to capture its members or confiscate its weapons. It has not extradited a single Hamas terrorist to Israel, even though the Oslo agreement obligates it to do so.

Even The New York Times, a longtime cheerleader for the P.A., has occasionally conceded that Hamas and other terrorists roam free in P.A.-run cities. On March 23, 2014, the Times reported that Israeli troops were forced to enter the Jenin refugee camp in pursuit of terrorists because although Jenin is under the “full control” of the Palestinian Authority, “the Palestinian [security forces] did not generally operate in refugee camps.”

When the P.A.’s newspapers, television and radio glorify terrorists as “martyrs” and “heroes,” they don’t talk about only Fatah terrorists. They glorify Hamas murderers, too.

When the P.A. pays salaries to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead terrorists, they don’t give out the payments only to Fatah members. They pay Hamas murderers and their families, too.

So there’s no reason for surprise that the P.A. boycotted this week’s conference on Gaza in Washington. No matter how hard the State Department crowd wishes it, the P.A. is not going to fight Hamas for control of Gaza. In fact, it’s not going to fight Hamas at all.

The solution to Gaza’s various ills is not to pump more international money into the region. That has been tried for decades, and it hasn’t worked. The solution is regime change. But a change from Hamas to the P.A. —even if it were possible and even if the P.A. were amenable to that— would not represent genuine change. It would mean replacing one corrupt, violent Palestinian dictatorship with another corrupt, violent Palestinian dictatorship.

Not every group of people with a grievance deserves, or is ready for, self-rule. Some have too little experience with the culture of democracy to establish and run a free society; the last thing the world needs is more dictatorships. Some are too violent to live in peace with their neighbors; that is the danger Israel faces.

For years, advocates of Palestinian statehood urged Israel to grant self-rule to the Arabs in Gaza. They claimed that if the Gazans were allowed to rule themselves, they would become peaceful neighbors since surely they wouldn’t want to risk losing their self-rule. It would be an experiment to see if giving them a fully sovereign state could succeed. Yitzhak Rabin took that risk (my family paid a high price for it) and then Ariel Sharon decided to take that risk.

The tens of thousands of rockets fired from Gaza at Israel over the years have demonstrated that the experiment was an abject failure. Gaza proves that the Palestinian Arabs are not yet ready for self-rule. Neither conferences in Washington nor handouts from the international community will change that.