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    Author: Miriam Elman

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    Miriam Elman

    Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, where she is a research director in the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration.

    Today Israel marks a national day remembering the Jewish departure and expulsion from Arab and Muslim lands. In a series of events that spanned over three decades (from the 1940s through the 1970s) and have rarely been acknowledged until very recently, nearly one million Jews were expelled from their homes across the Middle East and North Africa, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, and Iran. Thriving Jewish communities—many of them centuries old—were wiped out during these years as Jews were subjected to arrest, properties and assets were seized or set on fire, and draconian anti-Jewish laws were instituted. Violence against Jews was either instigated or tolerated by the authorities. The hostility led to waves of Jews being uprooted from their homes, and sometimes fleeing for their lives—typically with nothing other than the clothes on their backs.

    Since October 2015, Israelis have endured stabbings, car rammings, and shootings in a wave of Palestinian violence that’s tapered off somewhat but hasn’t really come to an end. Now it looks like arson can be added to the list. This past week Israel has been battling massive fires with at least some of them caused by deliberate “nationally motivated” arson. Most people on the planet would say that if arsonists start fires, then they should be held responsible for the damage. But as we’ve noted on many occasions on this website and as I discuss further below, some of Israel’s worst detractors aren’t like most people. Instead of blaming the arson-terrorists, they want to pin it entirely on the pine trees.

    For Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, the most prized possession is the body of an Israeli, alive or dead. Those bodies are used both to inflict mental anguish on the Israeli public, but also to trade for prisoners who themselves have killed or attempted to kill Israelis. It's a sad, ghoulish dance by Israel's enemies. There have been many similar kidnap attempts in Israel proper, as well as Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"), in which local Palestinian terrorist groups have tried to kidnap, or succeeded in kidnapping, Israelis. Because of Israeli control of the area, unlike in Gaza and Lebanon, the kidnapping doesn't get far, resulting in repatriation or death. Yet, in the prevailing narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the settlements in the West Bank and the Jews who live in them are called the main obstacles to peace. West Bank settlers—some 350,000 Israelis—are typically stereotyped as zealots and racists who are hostile to Arab Palestinians.

    President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise that the United States would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of the Jewish state. He also vowed that when he became president he’d relocate the U.S. embassy from its current beachside location in Tel Aviv to the Holy City. U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv Beach Satellite   Now, some are saying that once he’s in the Oval Office, Trump will go back on his word.

    Last night Israeli media (see here and here) reported the breaking news that four Palestinian men who had been detained since Thursday by their own government for visiting with their Jewish neighbors over the Sukkot holiday last week were finally set free. i24news reports:
    The Palestinian Authority on Sunday released four Palestinians it had held in detention since Thursday after they attended a religious festival in a nearby Jewish settlement, Israel Radio reports.

    Wrapping up its session in Paris that began several weeks ago, yesterday the United Nation’s cultural agency adopted a Palestinian and Arab state-sponsored resolution on Jerusalem that ignores both Jewish and Christian attachments to Jerusalem’s sacred sites. As we noted in a recent post, the resolution had already passed on October 13 at the committee stage when 24 UNESCO member states supported the measure (6 states, including the U.S., voted against; 26 abstained; and 2 state missions were absent for last week’s vote).

    The United Nation’s cultural body—UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)—passed a resolution in Paris yesterday that challenges both Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem’s holy sites. The resolution was passed as Item 25 (titled “Occupied Palestine”) of the provisional agenda for UNESCO Executive Board’s 200th session. The document (full text here) was advanced by the Palestinians along with Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan. Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the resolution; 26 abstained; and only 6 voted against according to media reports. Those that voted against include: U.S., Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia.

    Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a non-Jewish organization that provides cover to the anti-Israel boycott movement (BDS) by legitimizing and mainstreaming its assault on Jewish identity. As we’ve noted in prior posts (see here and here), JVP activists operate in multiple arenas to exploit Jewish culture and traditions, putting them into service for a vehemently anti-Israel and anti-Zionist propaganda campaign. Various Jewish celebrations and commemorative life-cycle events are constantly being manipulated for Israel-bashing and pro-boycott messaging. Last April, this identity theft of Jewish heritage was particularly visible during Passover, when JVP promoted BDS in a newly released Haggadah and staged ‘liberation seders’, appropriating the holiday’s rituals and texts for an anti-Israel narrative. Now, JVP is usurping the Jewish High Holidays.

    Last month, Syracuse University (SU) made headlines when a faculty member in the Religious Studies Department dis-invited an award-winning Israeli NYU Professor and filmmaker from a campus event out of fear of offending the political sensibilities of her BDS-supporting colleagues (see our prior posts covering the story). At the time, pro-BDS faculty signed a petition (subsequently posted onto Facebook) denying that any pressure to disinvite the filmmaker had existed and expressing their commitment to free speech and academic freedom. But now many of these same professors, keen on moving the campus in a BDS direction, are making demands that call into question this articulated devotion to a campus community open to free expression.

    Yesterday the University of California at Berkeley rescinded its suspension of a course, Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis—a vehemently anti-Israel, one-credit, once-a-week, student-led course. The entire purpose of the course appears to be political advocacy and organizing, in violation of university policy for an academic class. California Regents Policy 2301 provides:
    “The Regents…are responsible to ensure that public confidence in the University is justified. And they are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination…constitutes misuse of the University as an institution”.
    The course was so obviously political advocacy that the course poster [see Featured Image and below] used the completely discredited BDS propaganda map which was so false and misleading that MNSBC apologized for once using it during a news segment.

    Early Tuesday morning, roughly 60 ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews tried to make an unauthorized visit to Joseph’s Tomb, located inside the Palestinian city of Nablus near the biblical city of Shechem. According to multiple media reports (see here and here), the group had to be extricated by Israeli troops after their convoy came under attack by Palestinian rioters in the vicinity. [caption id="attachment_170045" align="alignnone" width="600"]Joseph's Tomb | 2011 | credit: YouTube screenshot Joseph's Tomb | 2011 | credit: YouTube screenshot[/caption]

    Last Thursday, Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) reported that Arab-Israeli MK Yosef Jabarin traveled to Hadarim Prison to visit with top Palestinian terror mastermind Marwan Barghouti. After the visit, Jabarin reportedly claimed to be “impressed” by the terrorist’s “serious intention” to run for chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA), despite being holed up in an Israeli jail cell:
    During their meeting, Jabarin and Barghouti discussed efforts to reconcile split Palestinian factions before the upcoming municipal elections, which are set for October. Barghouti emphasized that the success of the local government elections could pave the way for democratic elections in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the office of the chairman of the Palestinian Authority after Abbas—which would give him a chance to supersede Abbas”.
    Other than this brief mention in Arutz Sheva and an editorial in a website catering to religiously-observant Jews, I couldn’t find this news item covered by any other mainstream media outlet. That’s not surprising.

    On this day 15 years ago, a Hamas terror gang based in the West Bank executed a bombing attack on a busy restaurant in the center of Jerusalem.  In the horrific act of savagery 15 people were killed, including 7 children. Two U.S. citizens were among those murdered. Four additional Americans were wounded — one severely. In total, some 130 were injured with varying degrees of severity by the “human bomb” and his team of accomplices. The mastermind was Ahlam Tamimi, relative of Bassem Tamimi, and a hero to this day in her home village of Nabi Saleh where international activists still protest the security barrier constructed in response to the Sbarro and dozens of other suicide bombings. Tamimi MEMRI revised 2012 In this post, I revisit the 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing.

    On Sunday, July 31, 2016, I drove down to Ithaca, NY to give a talk titled “Hate Speech and the New Antisemitism: Why Anti-Zionist Extremism is on the Rise and What We Can Do to Stop It”. The lecture was sponsored by the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community (IAUJC). The Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICUCME), a local grassroots anti-racism organization, assisted with the event logistics and publicity. A video of my 60 minute lecture is now available on You Tube (full embed lower in the post). Below I highlight its main themes, breaking the hour-long lecture into segments so that readers can click on to those portions of the talk that are of most interest.

    On July 18, 2016, in a well-attended public ceremony in downtown Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority (PA) honored the life and work of Ahmad Ibrahim Jbara. Jbara, also known by his nom de guerre Abu Sukkar, was a terrorist who masterminded a deadly 1975 bombing attack in Jerusalem in which 15 people were murdered and nearly 80 wounded when a refrigerator packed with explosives detonated. For this heinous crime, Abu Sukkar was sentenced to life plus 30 years. In an Israeli prison, he would become among the most well-compensated individuals within the Palestinian community, benefiting from a generous monthly salary bestowed on him by the PA. In 2003, Israel released him along with 99 other prisoners as a ‘good will gesture’ to the PA on the eve of a summit meeting in Jordan.

    On Tuesday morning July 12, 2016, the family of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the 13-year-old Israeli girl who was brutally stabbed to death on June 30th as she lay asleep in her bed, was granted special permission to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—the most sacred site in Judaism. Hallel’s anguished parents, Rina and Amihai Ariel, had reportedly requested permission to ‘pray for the ascent of Hallel’s soul’ at the holy place that was dear to her and their hearts. [caption id="attachment_177363" align="alignnone" width="550"]Credit: The Times of Israel Credit: The Times of Israel[/caption] Rina Ariel had written directly to PM Netanyahu asking him to personally intercede. Via a YouTube video that went viral over the last few days, they also invited their fellow Israeli citizens to join them in the special prayer service:

    Over the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of devout Muslims were guaranteed unfettered access to their holy spaces on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount—the most sacred site in Judaism. Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, which concludes on July 5, additional units of Israel’s National Police were mobilized to ensure that worshippers could safely pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Islam.

    Protection of Muslim Worshippers