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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.

    This past Monday, in a rare example of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously (393 to 0) passed a non-binding resolution declaring the horrors committed by the Islamic State against Christians and other religious monitories to be genocide and crimes against humanity. The State Department has until tomorrow (March 17) to decide whether it wants to make a similar classification of ISIS’s atrocities, as required by Congress. Written into the omnibus spending bill passed in December, the deadline is congressionally mandated. But, as of this writing, it would appear that Secretary of State John Kerry is still having some difficulty seeing what everybody else sees.

    Most people around the world firmly hold to the view that Israel’s residential housing communities built in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank are “illegal”. For years, this fictitious claim has fed a wild campaign of incitement and ‘lawfare’ against Israel, based on the myth that Jews have no legal right to live or make their homes on Palestinian-claimed lands in the West Bank. But the truth is that Israel isn’t an unlawful occupying power—certainly not according to any binding international laws. Now, Northwestern University Professor of Law Eugene Kontorovich, a leading expert in the fields of constitutional law, international law, and the intersection of law and economics, is on a speaking tour of universities and colleges to explain why. Eugene Kontorovich, headshot Below I summarize the legal case for Israel’s West Bank settlements according to Kontorovich. A 50 minute video of his remarks is also embedded.

    This spring three U.S. mainline churches, the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), the United Methodist Church (UMC), and the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU), will feature a number of anti-Israel BDS-related resolutions at their annual meetings. Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists are already anticipating that “2016 could be the biggest year yet for church divestment”. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO), an anti-Israel umbrella group for the BDS movement, recently released a call to action encouraging supporters to sign petitions, and follow and ‘like’ the efforts of anti-Israel member groups within these liberal Protestant churches via emails and social media. UCEIO, Huge News on church divestment Below we highlight what’s in store in the months ahead in the anti-Israel movement’s ongoing campaign to hijack America’s liberal Protestant churches.

    In November 2015, The Nation, a prominent progressive magazine, published an essay by controversial professor Steven Salaita which raised complaints from a prominent Rabbi that the essay crossed the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli policy to anti-Semitism. As we noted in many prior posts, Salaita is a virulently anti-Israel academic who had a contingent offer at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign rejected in 2014. He sued and got a money settlement, but not the job. Salaita's since become “enshrined as a symbol” in the American academy of the trouncing of academic freedom and the trampling of shared governance protocols. Salaita's essay in The Nation brought harsh criticism from a Professor of Jewish thought and culture:
    Apparently it’s Zionism that ails the neoliberal university, along with everything else amiss in the world. You can read here his goodbye at the Nation. What reads like it was taken straight out from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the complaint that Zionism occupies the American mind and the American university expands as a logical next step on the basic view from the tweets and the book that “Zionists” are enemies of humanity, supporters of war crimes, adorn themselves with the teeth of Palestinian babies, etc, etc. Don’t be surprised when the next stage in on-campus Palestinian solidarity activism takes aim at purging U.S. academe of “Zionism,” namely Birthright, Hillel, study abroad in Israel, Israel Studies, and Jewish Studies.
    The essay also prompted Rabbi Jill Jacobs, a leading voice in American Jewish Conservative circles, to write in complaint. In a Letter to the Editor sent to The Nation in November, Jacobs contended that Salaita’s article contained a series of disturbing anti-Semitic statements.

    Last week I drove out to Rochester, NY to give a talk titled ‘Fighting the Hate: When Does Anti-Israel Become Anti-Semitic?’. Sponsored by ROC4Israel, a new pro-Israel organization that we featured in a post back in October, my lecture centered on how legitimate criticism of Israel can be distinguished from criticism that crosses the line into anti-Semitic hate speech. A video of my 60 minute lecture, which also captures its accompanying PowerPoint slide show, is now available on YouTube (full embed lower in post). Below I highlight the main themes. I break the hour-long lecture into segments so that readers can click on to those parts of the talk that are of most interest.

    The fallout from the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday will roil the Middle East region for some time to come. Below, I review the recent developments since our last posts (see here and here) and discuss some of the lessons to be learned from this latest episode in the unraveling of the Muslim Middle East.

    Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties with Iran

    As we reported, Saudi Arabia has broken diplomatic ties with Iran. On Sunday afternoon, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir announced at a press conference that Iranian diplomats had 48 hours to leave the kingdom.

    According to media reports last week (see, for example, here and here) Scott Harrison, a Scottish anti-Israel activist, was sentenced last week to a year in jail. Back on October 25, 2014 he threw acid in the face of an 18-year-old woman manning a stall in Glasgow shopping center. The stall was owned by the Israeli cosmetics company Kedem. The victim, Greek-born Iona Georgianna, said she felt like her face was “melting” during the horrible attack. Luckily, a quick-thinking co-worker had the good sense to throw water on her head, sparing Georgianna from the worst of the acid’s effects. A Scottish court handed down the 12-month sentence for assault to injury. Harrison will be held in custody pending the results of an appeal filed by his lawyers.

    Drawing on the stories of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, Christmas is viewed as a time of peace and goodwill to all. But for anti-Israel activists and organizations, the holiday season is a perfect occasion to conduct political warfare against the Jewish state.

    NGOs, The PA, and The Hijacking

    For years vehemently anti-Israel NGOs (non-governmental organizations), charities, and even church groups have been exploiting Christmas symbols, themes, and traditions in order to promote one-sided narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Exploiting Christmas for anti-Israel These recast religiously-themed narratives situate Israel and Jews as the villains and omit any mention of terrorism, or Israel’s need to protect its citizens from harm. Palestinian Christians in these narratives are depicted as undeservedly maltreated by Israel. Special attention is given to how Palestinians are allegedly hurt by the security barrier surrounding Bethlehem and its adjacent communities.

    In two recent posts (see here and here) we reported on the December 20 assassination of Lebanese Druze terrorist Samir Kuntar in Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus. As we highlighted, Kuntar received three life sentences for his role in a 1979 terrorist attack which brutally devastated an entire Israeli family. Kuntar was caught at the scene of the attack after a shootout with police and was convicted of murder.

    A controversy brewing in St. Louis progressive activist circles sheds light on how the anti-Israel movement’s effort to demonize Israel by hijacking the Black Lives Matter agenda is intensifying. At issue is an offensive poster and cartoon featuring the image of a prominent St. Louis Rabbi Susan Talve. Both were circulated last week on social media by HandsUp United, a “social justice organization” based in Ferguson, Missouri. The anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace is supporting the effort to demonize Rabbi Talve, and the vile anti-Israel cartoonist Carlos Latuff has created a cartoon meme that is spreading. This is all part of an effort to turn Black Lives Matters into an anti-Israel movement, an increasing focus of anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists.

    Targeting St. Louis Rabbi Susan Talve

    Rabbi Susan Talve, who leads St. Louis’ Central Reform Congregation, is a well-known and nationally respected figure in St. Louis’ interfaith community and in the Ferguson protest movement. Last year, she was named one of America’s most inspiring rabbis by the Forward. For years she’s taken a leading progressive position on racial issues in the United States. Since the Michael Brown fatal shooting in Ferguson, just outside St. Louis, in August 2014, she’s also voiced opposition to racial profiling and policing policies at numerous public events.

    Last week on November 22, Al-Awda—the Palestine Right to Return Coalition—proudly announced on Twitter the co-hosting, with Jewish Voice for Peace and others, of Alison Weir at an event in Cleveland: It isn’t surprising that Al-Awda would take the lead in promoting Weir and her group and website If Americans Knew (IAK). The two organizations are basically cut from the same cloth. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Al-Awda is a notorious anti-Israel campaigner that views Zionism as “inherently racist” and is unwilling to accept Israel’s existence.

    Israelis have endured yet another week of nonstop terrorism. As we’ve noted in a number of prior posts, the ongoing attacks are a consequence of a “systematic Palestinian incitement to violence”. Really it’s nothing new. But in recent weeks it’s involved much of the Palestinian political and spiritual leadership preaching a visceral hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. In recent posts (see here and here), we also highlighted how virulently anti-Israel, and even anti-Semitic, views permeate Palestinian civil society. As noted in a report published this week by The Tower, which describes nearly a dozen “outrageous” types of incitement, the reality is that both Palestinian leaders and the public support brutal terror attacks against Israelis, routinely lionize murders, and view Israel as fundamentally illegitimate.

    Forty years ago, on November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted resolution 3379, which declared the Jewish people’s national aspirations to live in their ancient homeland to be a form of racism. On that day, 104 UN delegates acted shamefully. But two ambassadors—one from the United States, the other from Israel—joined together to speak the “conscience of the world” and condemn the blatant expression of bigotry. By all accounts, they made a good tag team. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the U.S. Ambassador, was an Irish-Catholic who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma but moved to New York City as a young child, growing up on the rough and tumble streets of Harlem and eventually serving in the United States Navy. [caption id="attachment_149832" align="alignnone" width="450"]Daniel Patrick Moynihan Daniel Patrick Moynihan[/caption] Chaim Herzog, the son of Ireland’s Chief Rabbi, was raised in Dublin but migrated to Palestine in 1935 where he fought for the Haganah, Mandatory Palestine’s Jewish paramilitary force, the British Army, and later the Israel Defense Forces.

    As we’ve noted in a number of prior posts, for weeks Palestinian politicians and religious authorities have been invoking wild conspiracy theories in official print, TV and social media channels often centered on claims that Jews are putting Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque in danger. In reality no Jews are “violently invading” the Al-Aqsa mosque, much less praying there. But the campaign of lies is encouraging Palestinian young people to believe that their community is under attack, and that Islam’s honor and its holy sites need defending. So Palestinian leaders are a big part of the problem. But now a new study suggests that elites aren’t just instigating the terror — they’re also reacting to deep-seated attitudes popularly held among “ordinary” Palestinians.

    In a previous post, I noted that the U.S.-Israel military relationship remains solid. But back in 1948, America failed to support Israel militarily when the fledgling Jewish state needed it most. In fact, as former Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross writes in his important new book, the U.S. government was downright hostile to Israel in its early years. Ross, who now serves as the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and as Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, notes that nearly all of President Harry S. Truman’s major foreign policy advisors saw the emergence of Israel as “doom and gloom for the United States.” At the time, this was also the predominant view within America's national security establishment. Support for the Jewish state was considered of “no strategic benefit.” The fear (totally unfounded, as Ross points out) was that it would come “at enormous cost to our relations with the Arabs.” In a chapter devoted to the Truman presidency, Ross describes how most leading U.S. national security officials at the time were on a “mission against the Jewish state.” Then senior members of the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA maintained a “hostile posture toward the Jewish state and continued to see only risks associated with U.S. support for it.” Most also thought it highly “improbable that the Jewish state would survive over any considerable period of time.” So the consensus was that siding with the Arabs was the safer bet. To be sure, as Ross rightly remarks, “Truman was a good friend of Israel.” But the “actual support he provided was limited.”

    For years we've been reporting how President Obama has been trying to insert as much daylight as possible between the United States and Israel. But the reality is that the American-Israeli “special relationship” will weather the storm of this “needlessly combative” administration. Israel is wildly popular among the American public. Americans recognize the shared values and common interests that bind the two countries together. A congressional majority understands the threats Israel faces from the region’s oppressive dictatorships which routinely call for Israel’s destruction, and from political and religious leaders who incite their people to murder Jews.

    This Thursday Israel’s 10-member security cabinet unanimously voted to approve a series of tougher measures against Palestinian rock and firebomb throwers. The new measures are being adopted following a heated debate this past week over what the government and police can and can’t legally do (shoot them with live fire? lock them in jail for longer periods? penalize the parents?) to crack down on Palestinian youth who hurl stone and petrol bombs onto highways and city streets with increasing impunity. There are no easy answers here, or simple solutions. According to experts familiar with these cases, rock-throwing is mostly being perpetrated by unorganized and leaderless young men, making it hard for Israel’s security and intelligence forces to prevent impending attacks. These angry Palestinian kids probably aren’t usually receiving direct orders to terrorize Jews. But they’re acting within an ideological environment that encourages and condones these attacks. In addition to incitement by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Israeli Arab leaders incite violence by spreading falsehoods about the Al Aqsa Mosque:

    Yesterday we posted on Israel’s decision to outlaw as “unlawful organizations” two Islamic Movement-funded groups which for years have been harassing and intimidating non-Muslim visitors to Jerusalem’s revered Temple Mount, Israel Finally Outlaws “Temple Mount Screamers”: As we noted, while the new policy comes as a welcome move for many devout Jews and Christians, merely banning some abusive hecklers from the sacred site does nothing to change the more pernicious problem: the flagrant disregard for religious pluralism and tolerance exhibited in the rhetoric and policies of the site’s Muslim authorities. Our post went live on Saturday evening (EST). Since it wasn’t yet being reported in the MSM, we were unaware that at that very moment Israel’s police and security forces were executing an operation in east Jerusalem in an attempt to avert a planned attack on Jewish worshippers ahead of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which begins tonight). According to media reports released this morning (EST) and throughout the day, Israel’s security forces were searching for explosive devices that were believed to be hidden in east Jerusalem on Saturday night.