Friday, June 28, 2013

Kerry resumes tough Mideast peace mission

AMMAN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s drive to revive Middle East peace talks hit familiar warning signals Thursday as Israel’s prime minister stressed security needs and a Palestinian negotiator denounced Israeli settlement building.

Kerry, on his fifth visit to the region, met Jordan’s King Abdullah for talks focused on both the peace process and the Syrian civil war.
He later met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and was to return to Amman for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Friday.

Israeli settlement building on occupied land Palestinians seek for a state remains a main stumbling block to the resumption of peace talks that collapsed over the issue in 2010.

Kerry’s arrival in Amman Wednesday coincided with news Israel had approved 69 new housing units in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, while building continues elsewhere.

“Obviously steps like this are unhelpful, but we remain hopeful that both parties will recognize the opportunity and the necessity to go back to the table,” the State Department said.

“Settlement activity in and around occupied East Jerusalem is one of the main reasons why the two-state solution is disappearing, as without East Jerusalem there will be no Palestinian state,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Netanyahu, professing his support for the creation of a Palestinian state, which he says must be demilitarized, has quietly frozen most housing starts in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The myth of the inevitable Jewish minority in Israel

ISRAEL IS “running out of time,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the American Jewish Committee in Washington this month. A two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict must be reached soon or “the insidious campaign to de-legitimize Israel will only gain steam,” he warned. “Israel will be left to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state, but it will not be able to fulfill the founders’ visions of being both at once.”

It’s an old refrain, erroneous but popular: Israel must make peace with the Palestinians before high Arab birthrates turn the Jews into a minority in their own land.
In Jerusalem a few months ago, President Obama echoed the same claim.
“Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.”

This so-called “demographic argument” may sound compelling, even ominous. But it rests on an obsolete stereotype of Arab women as baby mills, outbreeding their Jewish sisters at such a pace that it is only a matter of time before Jews are numerically overwhelmed.

In the 1960s, when the fertility rate for Israeli Arabs (9.2 births per woman) soared far above that of Israeli Jews (3.4 births per woman), that demographic challenge certainly seemed plausible. Yasser Arafat liked to say that the ultimate weapon in his arsenal against the Jewish state was “the womb of the Arab woman.” The Palestinian Authority has always understood the propaganda value of population data. As the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics began its first census in the West Bank and Gaza in 1997, the bureau’s director, Hassan Abu Libdeh, assured The New York Times that the results would amount to nothing less than “a civil intifada.” In 2005, the bureau predicted that Jews would be a minority in “historic Palestine” (i.e., west of the Jordan River) by 2010. Now it says the tipping point will come by 2020.
Don’t count on it.

Arafat’s boast notwithstanding, Palestinian women, like women throughout the Muslim world, are bearing far fewer children than they used to. Within Israel proper, the birth rate among Muslims has trended steadily downward and stands now at 3.5 children per woman. It is even lower for Palestinians in the West Bank — just 2.91, according to the CIA Factbook. In a 2012 survey by the Population Reference Bureau of family planning attitudes in the Arab world, 72 percent of married Palestinian women (ages 15 through 49) said they preferred to avoid a pregnancy. That was typical of the modern Middle East: The same survey showed most Jordanians, Egyptians, and Syrians felt the same way.

Continue reading.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Israel Tied for Second Most Educated Country

Report shows 46 percent of Israelis aged 25-64 have college degrees 

By Stephanie Butnick

According to Canadian newspaper The Windsor Star, Canada was ranked the most educated country in the world, with 51 percent of its population aged 25-64 possessing a college or university degree. Tied for second place are Japan and Israel, both with 46 percent. The United States, with 42 percent of its population holding college degrees, was ranked third.

The rankings were published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an 34-country policy advocacy group headquartered in France, as part of its “Education at a Glance 2013″ report.

Canada gets an ‘A’ for higher education, but public funding needs work: OECD [The Windsor Star]

Monday, June 24, 2013

Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah conspired in Morsi’s jailbreak

Egyptian court: 2011 attack on 3 prisons, which freed thousands — including the man who became president — was result of collusion between Islamic groups

Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court on Sunday said Muslim Brotherhood members conspired with Hamas, Hezbollah and local militants to storm a prison in 2011 and free 34 Brotherhood leaders, including the future President Mohammed Morsi.
The court statement read by judge Khaled Mahgoub named two members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood — Ibrahim Haggag and Sayed Ayad — to be among the alleged conspirators in the attack on Wadi el-Natroun prison on Jan. 29, 2011.
It is the first statement by a court that holds members of the three Islamist groups — the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah — responsible for a series of jailbreaks during the chaos of Egypt’s 2011 uprising. Two other prisons in which Hamas and Hezbollah members were held were also attacked.
Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders have maintained that they were freed by local residents. Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Brotherhood, has denied involvement in the attacks on prisons.
The court statement is likely to further fuel opposition to Morsi’s rule just a week before his opponents are scheduled to stage massive protests to force him out of office. The planned June 30 demonstrations mark his first anniversary in office as Egypt’s first freely elected leader.
The past year has seen growing polarization as Egypt struggles with a host of problems that many accuse Morsi of failing to effectively tackle. They include surging crime, rising prices, power cuts, fuel shortages and unemployment.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mideast News Site Offers Diverse Voices—but Often Parrots Syrian Regime

Al-Monitor, a D.C.-based website, publishes Washington bigwigs, Israeli columnists, and, worryingly, Hezbollah-aligned writers

Monday, June 17, 2013

French court tosses Twitter appeal, orders it identify anti-Semites

PARIS (JTA) — A French appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling which ordered Twitter to divulge details of users who posted anti-Semitic content.
In a decision handed down Wednesday, the Paris Court of Appeals upheld a January 24 ruling that said Twitter must provide data on some users to France’s Union of Jewish students and four other human rights organizations that filed a complaint against the company in November 2012 for allowing anti-Semitic content.

The lower court’s ruling in January gave Twitter 15 days to comply and imposed a daily penalty of $1,300 for every day beyond that period that Twitter failed to comply. The online magazine PC Inpact, which on Thursday published the latest ruling in its entirety, calculated the judge’s decision could cost Twitter some $200,000 in penalties.
“This ruling is another step toward making Twitter answerable for its ongoing refusal to comply with France’s laws on hate speech,” Jonathan Hayoun, the president of the Union of Jewish Students in France, or UEJF, told JTA. “Unfortunately, there has been no progress or cooperation by Twitter so far.”

The UEJF first took action against Twitter last year after the hashtags #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”) and #unjuifmort (“a dead Jew”) became hugely popular because they were used in what Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes.” Hashtags are labels used to index tweets on a particular topic.

Twitter has appealed the January ruling, prompting UEJF to open in March a separate procedure against Twitter at Paris correctional tribunal for violating hate speech restrictions. UEJF requested the court force Twitter to pay $50 million as compensation to organizations fighting racism in France.
Twitter argued in court that since it is an American company it adheres to U.S. laws and is protected by the First Amendment and its broad free speech liberties. But the French judge in January said that comments by Internet users in France are subject to France’s stricter legislation against racist and hateful expression.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Facing the Naked Truth About My Father’s Declining Health, and What It Means for Me

When I was young, my father cared for me. Now he’s old and needs my help, but can I really provide it?

By Simon Yisrael Feuerman for Tablet Magazine

It starts as just another Sunday visit with Dad. He has been having some trouble breathing, and he is shaky on his feet. When it’s time for me to leave, he asks me to stay a little longer. “I need to take a shower,” he says with apology. “I am afraid to do it alone.” I nod. He needs me there to spot him, to make sure he doesn’t slip. He is suffering from a blockage in his lung, and his doctor has advised him not to bathe alone.

Everything is in order. My father, a military man and quintessential planner, has strategically placed towels here, clean clothes there, chairs where he can rest between his bed and the shower. But still, as he limps across the room, stopping every few steps to catch his breath, he says: “Don’t leave. I need you.”

I am angry. I don’t want to be doing this. But my mind wrestles with itself: This is the man who formed me, diapered me, rocked me in the cradle. He taught me how to tie my shoes, zip up my coat, balance a checkbook, study a page of Talmud.

Of course I stay—my father needs me. But that does not stop irrational thoughts from erupting inside, as though I’m still 15 years old and he is 45: Since when am I supposed to take care of him? Why doesn’t he just take care of himself? He’s the father, for God’s sake. But for some of us, as adults we must now return the lifetime of care to our parents, even if inside we never feel grown up enough to take care of anyone. As Father’s Day reminds us—not that we needed the reminder—a father is a father is a father. He cared for you; now you care for him.

Continue reading.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Orthodox Yeshiva Set To Ordain Three Women. Just Don’t Call Them ‘Rabbi.’

The first graduating class at Yeshivat Maharat may not have the title, but they do have jobs at Orthodox synagogues

By Batya Ungar-Sargon

MaharatOn June 16, three Jewish women will be ordained as Orthodox members of the clergy in the inaugural graduation ceremony of Yeshivat Maharat, which bills itself on its website as “the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as Spiritual leaders and Halakhic authorities.” But even though Yeshivat Maharat also claims to be “actualizing the potential of Orthodox women as rabbinic leaders,” its female graduates will not be granted the title of “rabbi.” Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Rachel Kohl Finegold, and Abby Brown Scheier will instead be ordained with the title of “maharat,” a Hebrew acronym for manhiga hilkhatit rukhanit toranit, or female leader of Jewish law, spirituality, and Torah.

While the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements of Judaism have been ordaining women since 1972, 1974, and 1985, respectively, the Orthodox community has resisted this development, except in a few unofficial cases in Israel. Orthodox women have completed courses of study in Torah and Jewish learning but they have typically been granted nonclerical titles, such as yoetzet halakha—halakhic adviser.

Sara Hurwitz, dean of Yeshivat Maharat, was the first Orthodox woman to be ordained in the United States. In 2009, Hurwitz received smicha from Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of both Yeshivat Maharat and the Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah as well as leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx, and Rabbi Daniel Sperber, a professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University and president of the Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies. Originally, Hurwitz was also ordained with the title maharat, but Weiss changed her title to rabba—a feminization of rabbi—in February 2010, incensing the Orthodox rabbinical community. Weiss is known as a figure who courts controversy, but the brouhaha in this case was short-lived. By March, the Rabbinical Council of America issued a statement about “discussions” that members of the Orthodox RCA had with Weiss: “We are gratified that during the course of these conversations Rabbi Weiss concluded that neither he nor Yeshivat Maharat would ordain women as rabbis and that Yeshivat Maharat will not confer the title of ‘rabba’ on graduates of their program.” Hurwitz continues to use the title of rabba, but no future graduates will have that option.

Continue reading. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Arabs in Israel’s Highlands

The Druze are a unique people living in northern Israel. Neither Jewish nor Muslim, they are Israeli citizens who have an interesting bond with the Jewish state.
There are 120,000 Druze living in Israel, as well as larger populations in Syria and Lebanon. They are Arabs who broke away from Islam in the 10th century, and they follow their own religion, revering Jethro as their main prophet.

Before 1948
, the Druze were persecuted by Arab nationalists–and, during the Israeli War of Independence, they fought alongside Jewish soldiers. Since then, Druze serve in the Israeli army, with a higher percentage of officers than the general population. There are also currently five Druze members of Knesset.
The Druze exist as a closed society, neither accepting converts nor living with outsiders. One of the Druze community’s most high-profile visitors of late was Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who filmed a documentary in 2007, The Olive and the Tree: The Secret Strength of the Druze–in which she explored their culture, their relationship to Israeli Jews and Muslims, and the ways that they’ve managed to preserve their very private cultural identity (and secrets) in a world that leaves them very little room for either.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Outrage: Paris Museum Glorifies Palestinian Terrorists

by  for HonestReporting

An outrageous new “art” exhibit, which refers to Israel as a “colonial power” and Palestinian terrorists as “fighters” and “victims of the Israeli military,” has opened in a museum in Paris. Suicide bombers are referred to as “militants” who heroically set out to “assassinate Israelis.”
According to the JTA, the exhibition of 68 photos entitled “Death” by Ahlam Shibli opened on May 28 at the Jeu de Paume museum of contemporary art in Paris. The museum is subsidized by the French government.

The museum’s English description reveals (emphasis added):
This work is based on the demand for recognition that became apparent with the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against the colonial power in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The Second Intifada lasted from 2000 to 2005 and claimed several thousand deaths on the Palestinian side.
Death exhibits some of the ways in which the ones who are absent become present again—“represented”: Palestinian fighters, who fell in the course of their armed resistance against the Israeli incursions, and victims of the Israeli military killed under different circumstances (Shaheed and Shaheeda); militants who carried out attacks which they knew would lead to their death, among them the men and women who detonated explosives on their own bodies to assassinate Israelis (Istishhadi and Istishhadiya), and the prisoners. The former are dead, the latter are alive, jailed for a large part if not the rest of their lives.
The representations designate any person who lost his or her life as a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine: a martyr.

This exhibition justifies and  glorifies Palestinian terrorists.

The JTA continues:
According to CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish communities, the people commemorated in the photos are “mostly from the [Fatah-affiliated] al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades [of Hamas] and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” All three are designated by the European Union as terrorist groups.

One of the photos is of Osama Buchkar, a PFLP operative who killed three people and wounded 59 in a terrorist attack he carried out at an open market in Netanya on May 19, 2002. The caption to his picture says he “committed a martyr mission in Netanya.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Google is close to ending the speculation and buying Israeli Company Waze

WazeGoogle is close to completing a $1.3 billion deal to acquire social mapping firm Waze — finally ending months of speculation about the startup — according to media reports out of its native Israel.

Globes, a leading online newspaper in the country, reports that Google is currently tying up final deals and ‘will soon’ announce that it has captured the much sought after startup — which both Apple and Facebook have been linked with in recent times.

Update: AllThingsD cites two sources close to the deal who verify Globes’ report, one estimates that the acquisition could be announced as soon on Tuesday.

The deal would be an interesting one that would pair Google’s vast expertise and data in the mapping space, with Waze’s engaged and growing community of drivers and map editors (see below for stats and data). Waze CEO Noam Bardin has spoken of the difficulty of competing with ‘vast players’, and linking up with Google would provide some serious steel and new resources for the service. You can also imagine Waze’s ‘socialified’ maps fitting well with Google Maps and Google+, while it would also be a defensive move to prevent the technology being acquired by Apple or other rivals.

Interestingly, Globes says — citing sources — that the key to the deal is Google’s decision to allow Waze’s senior management and core team to remain based in Israel, where the search giant has a growing presence of its own. That runs opposite to the issues that were said to have broken Facebook’s efforts to land Waze for a reported $1 billion.

Continue reading.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Israel Beats Honduras in Soccer Match

The two countries played a friendly game at Citi Field this weekend

A sea of blue and white at Citi Field in Queens—but whose? By chance, Honduras and Israel, which played an international soccer friendly there Sunday, have strikingly similar flags. With an announced crowd of 26,170, nearly a quarter of the New York region’s estimated 60,000 Hondurans must have been in attendance, with customary soccer-fandom accouterments: horns, face paint, and flag capes. The motto for the Catrachos is “Ahora Sí Papá”—now we’re not kidding anymore, we really mean it. On the Israeli side: schools of overexcited boys, Long Island families, shirtless bald Israelis, and matching-T-shirted groups still buoyant from the earlier Celebrate Israel events in New York, which included an 8 a.m. run in Central Park and a midday parade down 5th Ave. One fan I met in the stands explained her presence by pointing to her young daughter—a curly-headed coffee-skinned cutie—and saying, “Her father is from Honduras, I am from Israel.” From behind first base a chant would take root and grow—HON-DU-RAS! HON-DU-RAS!—only to be countered from left center field by a less numerous, but no less boisterous EH RETZ IS-RA-EL! EH RETZ IS-RA-EL!—drowned out by breaching jumbo jets.
Out trotted Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General in New York (wide applause), mostly to introduce the other Grand Pooh-Bah, Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire (huge applause), who seems to enjoy something of a mascot role for Israeli sporting causes. My friend, neither Honduran nor Israeli, was concerned that the Hondurans were warming up with passing drills, while the Israelis seemed to be doing nothing but IDF-inspired calisthenics.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Operating Room of the Future

Israel is at it again, leading the way in medical technology for non-invasive surgery.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

3-year-old Israeli’s kidney saves Palestinian boy

Health minister praises Noam Naor’s ‘noble, inspirational’ family 

By AARON KALMAN for Times of Israel 

KidneyWhen three-year-old Noam Naor fell out the window and was pronounced clinically dead 10 days ago, his parents decided to donate his organs. One kidney was given to another Israeli child. The other saved the life of a 10-year-old Palestinian.

The operation, carried out Sunday at the Schneider children’s ward at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital, was deemed successful.

Health Minister Yael German on Sunday praised the Naor family for the life-saving act, which she called “an example” for everyone.

“In my eyes, Noam’s parents are noble and an inspiration to us all,” German said. At the hardest moment of their life, they made a difficult decision that their son’s death would bequeath life to a Palestinian child.

“Their donation is a source of pride and an example of humanity and kindness,” the minister said.

The Palestinian boy had been treated with dialysis at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for seven years before the match was found. The Health Ministry’s transplant center contacted Noam’s parents, and asked them if they’d be willing to donate the kidney to someone who wasn’t Israeli — specifically, a Palestinian.

“It doesn’t matter who gets the kidneys, so long as fewer children need to undergo dialysis treatments,” News1 quoted Noam’s father as saying.

The father of the boy who received the donation told the site he had “no words” that could express his feelings, but wanted to thank the donor’s family who gave his son “a new life after years of waiting.”