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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 week Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, signed an order banning male Murabitun and female Murabatat Islamist groups from Jerusalem’s sacred Temple Mount (Har HaBayit). In an earlier LI post we highlighted how these groups have been maintaining a permanent presence on the site, and intimidating and harassing non-Muslim visitors on a daily basis. The Murabitun/Murabatat are self-identified “guardians of Al-Aqsa” who consider it a duty to protect the integrity of the Muslim Noble Sanctuary from devout Jews and Christians who just want to pray there. In fact, they’re a bunch of hecklers who’ve been allowed to act with impunity for far too long. Now they’re being shut down. It’s a move that comes as welcome news to the many devout Jews and Christians who’ve been trying for years to raise public awareness about the situation. But the fight for religious freedom and interfaith respect on the Temple Mount isn’t over yet.

    After a murder and multiple stabbing at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade last Thursday, by an individual who perpetrated an attack a decade ago, the anti-Israel movement has kicked into high gear. There is a concerted effort to undermine an indisputable truth -- Israel is the safest, most-welcoming, most open society for LGBT individuals in the Middle East. The term "Pinkwashing" is a growing part of the anti-Israel movement's attack on Israel, by claiming that Israel promotes its positive gay rights record in order to (pink) wash its alleged crimes against Palestinians. (There also are Greenwashing and Redwashing claims made against Israel.) The pinkwashing movement, which has a particular hold among anti-Israel students and faculty on campuses, seeks to turn Israel's positive gay rights record into something bad. The pinkwashing movement is nearly silent, at the same time, on the plight of Palestinian gays, who are relentlessly persecuted and often flee for their lives. This latest effort to exploit the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade attack, however, is even worse. Call it "Reverse Pinkwashing," seeking to use an isolated incident to deny the truth about Israel's gay rights record in order to wash away the violent and pervasive persecution of LGBT individuals in Palestinian society. Below I examine the crime, the Israeli gay rights record, the dismal status of gays in Palestinian society, and the Reverse Pinkwashing exploitation in the wake of the attack.

    Yesterday July 26, 2015, Jews worldwide marked Tisha B’Av, an annual fast and day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples. The 37-acre Temple Mount compound (roughly about the size of 15 football stadiums) in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where the Temples once stood, is Judaism’s most holiest site. The Jewish Temple, replica Jerusalem The Temple Mount (Har HaBayit) has been the focus of Jewish longing for millennia. According to Jewish tradition, it’s the location in which God’s “shekhina” (presence) is thought to reside. The area is also considered sacred to Muslims who call it the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, and see it as the third holiest site in Islam. It is commonly considered the “furthermost sanctuary”—the site from which the Prophet Muhammad made his Night Journey to the Throne of God. Today it houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. [caption id="attachment_136002" align="alignnone" width="600"]The Dome of the Rock The Dome of the Rock[/caption] Tisha B’Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

    On July 16, Israel’s Christian Empowerment Council (CEC) released a short pamphlet titled Test The Spirits: A Christian Guide to the Anti-Israel Boycott Movement (BDS). It’s authored by Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth in the Galilee. The new guide garnered some publicity in Israel. But here in the U.S., other than a press release featured by JNS and a few other websites, it hasn’t received a lot of attention. Spread the word about this terrific new resource. Test The Spirits rejects the isolation and vilification of Israel under the banner of Christian values. It’s an unreserved and heartfelt vindication of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

    Louis (Lou) Lenart, an American fighter pilot during World War II who later helped to fend off an Egyptian advance on Tel Aviv during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence passed away on Monday (July 20) at his home in the central Israeli city of Ra’anana. Lenart is a legend in Israel, where he’s hailed as “The Man who Saved Tel Aviv”. On May 29, 1948—just two weeks after the fledgling Jewish state was invaded by the armies of five Arab nations—Lenart led the newly-formed Israel Air Force’s (IAF) first combat mission, stopping a massive Egyptian army column less than 30 miles away from Tel Aviv. In what can only be described as one of the greatest fake-outs in military history, Lenart—who, as the most experienced pilot, led the assault—and his three buddies flew four junk Czech-built German Messerschmitt fighter planes for a country that had no actual airforce. Dropping 70 kilogram bombs on the Egyptian column and attacking them with gunfire, this bit of daring-do managed to convince the Egyptians that there was enough competition in the sky to warrant a retreat. There can be no doubt that Lenart helped to turn the tide of the war.

    In recent posts we have discussed Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a U.S. based organization that has established itself as the “Jewish wing” of the Palestinian solidarity movement. JVP plays a critical role in numerous aspects of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States by giving Jewish cover. In so presenting itself as the Jewish justification for BDS, JVP serves the role of washing away the stains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism which are central to the BDS movement's founding and conduct.

    1. JVP - Not a Major Player in Jewish Life

    Founded in 1996 by a small group of left-wing San Francisco Bay Area Jews, JVP worked in relative obscurity for years. Today it looks poised to break into the big leagues of American Jewish organizational life. According to its website and recent press releases, JVP currently has a youth wing and a Rabbinic Council, over 65 member-led chapters across the country, and 200,000+ online supporters. But looks can be deceiving. It’s difficult to pin these numbers down. According to Yitzhak Santis, Chief Programs Officer for the Jerusalem-based watchdog group NGO Monitor, “JVP provides no evidence” for its claim of tens of thousands of Jewish American followers. It doesn’t actually require that its members be Jewish or American.

    Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a Palestinian Christian organization headquartered in Jerusalem, is a group you probably never heard of. But Sabeel plays a critical role in seeking to reverse Christian support for Israel around the world. In the U.S., Friends of Sabeel - North America (FOSNA) is behind or involved in virtually every divestment resolution pending before various Christian denominations, often teaming up with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). You need to know about Sabeel, and how Sabeel and JVP team up against Israel. Sabeel provides the Christian liberation theology, JVP provides the Jewish cover.

    1. United Church of Christ

    For the past few days, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) has been deliberating in Cleveland, Ohio on several resolutions related to Israel. Back in 2005, the UCC passed a resolution condemning Israel’s security barrier and calling on Israel to “tear down the wall” (Israel’s construction of the security barrier began in 2002 as a counterterrorism measure). This week its General Synod is considering a divestment resolution modelled after the one that narrowly passed last year by a 310-303 vote in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest of several Presbyterian denominations in America.

    In the saturated market of pro-Palestinian activism, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has emerged as a major player. On its website, JVP now boasts over 60 member-led chapters across the country and more than 200,000 online Facebook and Twitter supporters. These days it’s also flush with new funding sources. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which describes JVP as the “largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States”, until very recently the organization reported an approximate average of $300,000 in annual contributions. By 2013 that figure had jumped to over $1 million. NGO Monitor notes that according to JVP’s 990 tax forms, from 2005-2011 the organization more than tripled its total revenues. It’s unclear where all the money is coming from. As NGO Monitor observes, JVP isn’t very transparent about its donor base. But the group has received some modest funding from the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, an Arab-American foundation that also financially supports the virulently anti-Zionist Electronic Intifada; The Wallace Global Fund, which also supports the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank that’s long been a clearinghouse for anti-Israel positions; and The Firedoll Foundation, which also funds other pro-BDS groups.

    Last Sunday tens of thousands of Israelis participated in the annual Jerusalem Day march and flag procession, which runs through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter en route to the Western Wall. Jerusalem Day—Yom Yerushalayim—celebrates the reunification of the city following the 1967 Six Day War. As a tribute to the holiday, in an earlier post I offered at least five reasons that Yom Yerushalayim is worth celebrating. Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to change the “provocative route” of the march to avoid potential confrontations between the revelers and east Jerusalemite Palestinians. Two Israeli leftist NGOs argued that in previous years the flag-bearing procession had sparked violence and “unnecessary disruption for local residents”.

    This Sunday is Yom YerushalayimJerusalem Day—the newest holiday on the Jewish calendar, celebrating the reunification of Israel’s capital. This Sunday’s festivities are expected to attract tens of thousands of Israelis from across the country for the annual march from Jerusalem’s center of town to the Western Wall, and the popular Dance of Flags celebration (Rikudegalim). The parade traditionally enters the Old City via the Muslim Quarter en route to the Western Wall (the Kotel). What could be wrong with that? Apparently, plenty.

    It’s only been a few weeks since the last scandal and already UCLA is embroiled in yet another controversy over its alleged anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist campus climate. Back in February, in an incident that generated media headlines and a tidal wave of condemnations, several student government leaders questioned sophomore Rachel Beyda’s eligibility for a seat on a council judicial board because of her Jewishness. Legal Insurrection broke the story and had the good wisdom to cache the videotaped meeting. LI later provided the incriminating evidence to the media. Now some faculty and community members are up in arms over a conference honoring the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), one of the preeminent Jewish theologians, public intellectuals, and civil rights activists of our time. The conference, titled “Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity,” will take place on the UCLA campus on May 3 and 4. Sponsored by UCLA’s Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and co-sponsored by Hillel, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, the Center for the Study of Religion, and the Departments of History and English, the two-day conference brings 24 top-flight scholars to the UCLA campus. It’s obvious that this is going to be a serious academic event, with a rigorous scholarly program and a star-studded guest speaker and panelist lineup. Except that one of these academic superstars—Cornel West, a Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus, Princeton University—is also a notorious intellectual hero of the BDS movement and an outspoken critic of Israel. And he’s been invited to give the keynote address.

    Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism (Yom Ha’zikaron) begins at sunset. It transitions on Wednesday evening to Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut). Due to the time difference, Israelis are already honoring the 23,320 fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism since the beginning of political Zionism, among them 553 fallen with graves unknown. Israel came to standstill Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. for a minute-long memorial siren. The siren was followed by the lighting of a memorial flame at the Western Wall (the Kotel), the site of the official state commemoration ceremony. On Wednesday, another official ceremony will be held at the Mount Herzl military ceremony in Jerusalem. It'll honor the 116 soldiers and former soldiers who died over the last year, 67 of them killed in this summer's Operation Protective Edge. They have left behind 131 bereaved parents, 187 siblings, 11 widows, and 26 children, two of whom were born after their fathers died.

    It’s getting tougher to be a Jew in Britain. According to a report by the UK’s Community Security Trust, anti-Semitic incidents have skyrocketed in 2014, reaching the highest levels ever recorded. The Simon Wiesenthal Center reports that British Jews are increasingly afraid to visit Jewish-owned stores. A recent UK study finds that almost half of those surveyed believe at least one negative stereotype about Jews is true, including such statements as “Jews chase money more than other British people” and “Jews have too much power in the media”. In March, an angry mob attacked a London synagogue. And earlier this month, the deputy director of a London-based interfaith organization told The Guardian that:
    In the last few months, the tone on my Facebook feed has changed. There’s more fear being expressed, and some friends won’t go to events at a synagogue or Jewish community centre now because of the security aspect…Three Faiths Forum works with about 10,000 young people a year. Over the past few months, their questions have become more pertinent and can lead to very challenging discussions. Questions we’ve had to Jewish speakers include: ‘You said Jews believe in charity—do you also believe in killing Palestinian babies?’ and ‘Why do Jews keep money under their hats?’ We had to explain that the man the student had seen was probably just adjusting his kippah under his hat, and that Jews keep money in pockets just like everyone else.”
    It’s a lot of awful. Which is why for many British Jews the recent cancellation of a blatantly anti-Zionist and BDS-promoted conference at the University of Southampton has been cause for celebration.

    In a few days the world’s Christians and Jews will celebrate Easter and Passover. It’ll be a weekend of good food (and at my seder, plenty of good Israeli wine)—but most of all it’ll be an affirmation of freedom and faith, an expression of joy, hope and renewal. But for many people across the planet it’ll be an opportunity to indulge in a bit of Jew-bashing. Brace yourself as the planet’s anti-Semites engage in their annual rite-of-hate, when the internet will soon become awash in the crazy notion of the blood libel. It’s a centuries-old mad idea that Jews kill gentile children for making matzo, the unleavened bread that’s eaten during the Passover holiday. As Lord Jonathan Sacks, emeritus Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, and one of the leading intellectuals of our time, recently wrote in an important article on the resurgence of global anti-Semitism (it’s behind the Wall Street Journal paywall, but his remarks are also captured in this CNN interview):
    The idea [of the blood libel] is absurd, not least because even the tiniest speck of blood in food renders it inedible in Jewish law.”
    As explained by Sacks, the libel was an English invention, originating in Norwich around 1144. It was introduced into the Middle East in the 19th century, where it helped instigate the targeting of innocent Jews in Lebanon and Egypt (and, most famously, in Syria with the Damascus trials of 1840). This violence and hatred against Jews happened decades before the first wave of persecuted European Jewish refugees arrived in pre-state Israel seeking refuge in their ancient homeland. Zionism didn’t provoke it.

    Between July 17 and August 5 of2014, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed 32 tunnels in Gaza — 100 kilometers of concrete-lined and accessorized passageways dug deep beneath the earth’s surface with openings near Israeli homes and kindergartens. Hamas murdered dozens of the nearly 900 diggers in its employ, fearing that they might reveal the tunnel locations to the advancing Israeli army. This vast tunnel project, estimated to have cost some $90 million, was designed to dispatch an invasion force of thousands. In one of the tunnels the IDF found half a dozen motorcycles which would’ve been used to ferry terrorists into Israel, and bring Israeli hostages out. Hamas Gaza Tunnel NYT video These lesser known facts, and hundreds more, are compiled into a new report on the 2014 Gaza War, released last week by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), an Israel-based think tank headed by Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN who also served as an advisor to PM Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term in the 1990s. A must-read document, written by the JCPA’s team of legal, military, media, and diplomatic experts, it details what really happened in this war that Israel never wanted, and the disaster that it miraculously averted. Warning: the document is long and dense; it’s not something you can cover in an hour, or even a day. But it’s well worth taking the time to read. The document includes hundreds of hyperlinks to relevant sources and video clips. There’s one of Hamas calling for Israel’s destruction, and another of terrorists infiltrating Israel.

    On Tuesday Israel’s people will elect the 34th government of their country’s short 67 year history. PM Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’s bid for reelection once looked rock solid, his Likud party guaranteed to come out ahead of the pack. Now, his political future is hanging on a thread. His main rival, the Zionist Union—a new party with a pretentious-sounding name (as if only Isaac (Buji) Herzog and Tzipi Livni are the true Zionist heirs)—now has a considerable four seat edge in final media polls released on Friday. A four day legally required moratorium on polling has kicked in, so that’ll be the best guess until the election returns start coming in on Tuesday night. Netanyahu is feeling the heat. Last Thursday he acknowledged that there’s a “real danger” he’ll be ousted if the Likud can’t close the gap. He’s already indicated that he’ll resign as party leader and withdraw from political life if the Likud ends up with less than 18 seats. This would be a tragic career finish for someone who in the last few months has done so much to advance the cause of Israel and the Jewish people, the Middle East region, and the free world.

    One day before the terror attacks in Copenhagen, during a Friday, February 13 sermon, Hajj Saeed, the imam of the city’s Al-Faruq Mosque rejected inter-faith dialogue with Jews calling it a “malignant idea”. There can be no reconciliation with the Jews, said Saeed; it would be like trying to “reconcile Truth with Falsehood”. It’s easy to dismiss Saeed’s words as the rantings of a hater. In fact, that’s what people involved with interfaith organizations tend to do. Everyone pretends as if Muslim preachers the world over aren’t saying these things. The only problem is that they’re getting harder to ignore. These days it seems like a week doesn’t pass without hearing about some hostile imam or sheikh shouting “death to the Jews”, or some angry mob harassing Jews on the streets.
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