What Is a “Refugee”? The Jews from Morocco versus the Palestinians from Israel

What Is a “Refugee”? The Jews from Morocco versus the Palestinians from Israel

by Alan M. Dershowitz
Gatestone Institute
March 10, 2018 at 3:00 am

The Arab exodus from Israel in 1948 was the direct result of a genocidal war declared against the newly established Jewish state by all of its Arab neighbors, including the Arabs of Israel. Approximately 700,000 local Arabs were displaced.

Approximately the same number of Jews were displaced from their Arab homelands during this period. Nearly all of them could trace their heritage back thousands of years, well before the Muslims and Arabs became the dominant population. The most significant difference is between how Israel dealt with the Jews who were displaced and how the Arab and Muslim word dealt with the Palestinians who had been displaced by a war they started. Israel integrated its brothers and sisters from the Arab and Muslim world. The Arab world put its Palestinian brothers and sisters in refugee camps, treating them as political pawns — and festering sores — in its persistent war against the Jewish state.

The time has come – indeed it is long overdue – for the world to stop treating these Palestinians as refugees. That status ended decades ago. The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Neither are the relatives of the Palestinians who have lived outside of Israel for nearly three quarters of a century.

A visit to Morocco shows that the claim of Palestinians to a “right of return” has little historic, moral or legal basis.

Jews lived in Morocco for centuries before Islam came to Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh. The Jews, along with the Berbers, were the backbone of the economy and culture. Now their historic presence can be seen primarily in the hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and abandoned synagogues that are omnipresent in cities and towns throughout the Maghreb.

I visited Maimonides’s home, now a restaurant. The great Jewish philosopher and medical doctor taught at a university in Fez. Other Jewish intellectuals helped shape the culture of North Africa, from Morocco to Algeria to Tunisia to Egypt. In these countries, Jews were always a minority but their presence was felt in every area of life.

Now they are a remnant in Morocco and gone from the other counties. Some left voluntarily to move to Israel after 1948. Many were forced to flee by threats, pogroms and legal decrees, leaving behind billions of dollars in property and the graves of their ancestors.

Today, Morocco’s Jewish population is less than 5,000, as contrasted with 250,000 at its peak. To his credit, King Mohammad VI has made a point of preserving the Jewish heritage of Morocco, especially its cemeteries. He has better relations with Israel than other Muslim countries but still does not recognize Israel and have diplomatic relations with the nation state of the Jewish People. It is a work in progress. His relationship with his small Jewish community, most of whom are avid Zionists, is excellent. Many Moroccans realize that they lost a lot when the Jews of Morocco left. Some Israelis of Moroccan origin, maintain close relations with their Moroccan heritage.

The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Nor are the Palestinians.

How does this all relate to the Palestinian claim of a right to return to their homes in what is now Israel? Quite directly. The Arab exodus from Israel in 1948 was the direct result of a genocidal war declared against the newly established Jewish state by all of its Arab neighbors, including the Arabs of Israel. If they had accepted the UN peace plan — two states for two people — there would be no Palestinian refugees. In the course of Israel’s fierce battle for its survival — a battle in which it lost one percent of its population, including many Holocaust survivors and civilians — approximately 700,000 local Arabs were displaced. Many left voluntarily, having been promised a glorious return after the inevitable Arab victory. Others were forced out. Some of these Arabs could trace their homes in what became Israel hundreds of years back. Others were relatively recent arrivals from Arab countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Jordan.

Approximately the same number of Jews were displaced from their Arab homelands during this period. Nearly all of them could trace their heritage back thousands of years, well before the Muslims and Arabs became the dominant population. Like the Palestinian Arabs, some left voluntarily, but many had no realistic choice. The similarities are striking, but so are the differences.

The most significant difference is between how Israel dealt with the Jews who were displaced and how the Arab and Muslim world dealt with the Palestinians who had been displaced by a war they started.

Israel integrated its brothers and sisters from the Arab and Muslim world. The Arab world put its Palestinian brothers and sisters in refugee camps, treating them as political pawns — and festering sores — in its persistent war against the Jewish state.

It has now been 70 years since this exchange of populations occurred. It is time to end the deadly charade of calling the displaced Palestinians “refugees.” Almost none of the nearly five million Arabs who now seek to claim the mantle of “Palestinian refugee” was ever actually in Israel. They are the descendants — some quite distant — of those who were actually displaced in 1948. The number of surviving Arabs who were personally forced out of Israel by the war started by their brethren is probably no more a few thousand, probably less. Perhaps they should be compensated, but not by Israel. The compensation should come from Arab countries that illegally seized the assets of their erstwhile Jewish residents whom they forced to leave. These few thousand Palestinians have no greater moral, historic or legal claim than the surviving Jewish individuals who were displaced during the same time period seven decades ago.

In life as in law there are statutes of limitations that recognize that history changes the status quo. The time has come – indeed it is long overdue – for the world to stop treating these Palestinians as refugees. That status ended decades ago. The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Neither are the relatives of the Palestinians who have lived outside of Israel for nearly three quarters of a century.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of “The Case Against BDS.”

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Posted in Conflict Resolution, Genocide, Mid East Policy, Peace Process, Refugees, Right of Return, Rule of Law | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Settlements and International Law

Israeli Settlements and International Law
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
30 Nov 2015
Attempts to present Jewish settlement in West Bank territory (ancient Judea and Samaria) as illegal and “colonial” in nature ignores the complexity of this issue, the history of the land, and the unique legal circumstances of this case.​​
The Historical Context

Jewish settlement in the territory of ancient Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is often presented as merely a modern phenomenon. In fact, Jewish presence in this territory has existed for thousands of years and was recognized as legitimate in the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations in 1922, which provided for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland.

After recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and “the grounds for reconstituting their national home”, the Mandate specifically stipulated in Article 6 as follows:

“The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use”.

Some Jewish settlements, such as in Hebron, existed throughout the centuries of Ottoman rule, while settlements such as Neve Ya’acov, north of Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion bloc in southern Judea, and the communities north of the Dead Sea, were established under British Mandatory administration prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, and in accordance with the League of Nations Mandate.

Many contemporary Israeli settlements have actually been re-established on sites which were home to Jewish communities in previous generations, in an expression of the Jewish people’s deep historic and abiding connection with this land – the cradle of Jewish civilization and the locus of the key events of the Hebrew Bible. A significant number are located in places where previous Jewish communities were forcibly ousted by Arab armies or militia, or slaughtered, as was the case with the ancient Jewish community of Hebron in 1929.

For more than a thousand years, the only administration which has prohibited Jewish settlement in these areas was the Jordanian occupation administration, which during the nineteen years of its rule (1948-1967) declared the sale of land to Jews a capital offense. The right of Jews to establish homes in these areas, and the private legal titles to the land which had been acquired, could not be legally invalidated by Jordanian occupation – which resulted from their illegal armed invasion of Israel in 1948 and was never recognized internationally as legitimate – and such rights and titles remain valid to this day.

In short, the attempt to portray Jewish communities in the West Bank as a new form of “colonial” settlement in the land of a foreign sovereign is as disingenuous as it is politically motivated. At no point in history were Jerusalem and the West Bank subject to Palestinian Arab sovereignty. At issue is the right of Jews to reside in their ancient homeland, alongside Palestinian Arab communities, in an expression of the connection of both peoples to this land.

International Humanitarian Law in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) prohibits the transfer of segments of the population of a state to the territory of another state which it has occupied as a result of the resort to armed force. This principle, which is reflected in Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), was drafted immediately following the Second World War and as a response to specific events that occurred during that war.

As the International Red Cross’ authoritative commentary to the Convention confirms, the principle was intended to protect the local population from displacement, including endangering its separate existence as a race, as occurred with respect to the forced population transfers in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary before and during the war. Quite apart from the question of whether the Fourth Geneva Convention applies de jure to territory such as the West Bank over which there was no previous legitimate sovereign, the case of Jews voluntarily establishing homes and communities in their ancient homeland, and alongside Palestinian communities, does not match the kind of forced population transfers contemplated by Article 49(6).

As Professor Eugene Rostow, former US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs has written: “the Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the local population to live there” (AJIL, 1990, vol. 84, p.72). The provisions of Article 49(6) regarding forced population transfer to occupied sovereign territory should not be seen as prohibiting the voluntary return of individuals to the towns and villages from which they, or their ancestors, had been forcibly ousted. Nor does it prohibit the movement of individuals to land which was not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state and which is not subject to private ownership.

In this regard, it should be noted that Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been established only after an exhaustive investigation process, under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Israel, and subject to appeal, which is designed to ensure that no communities are established illegally on private land.

Just as the settlements do not violate the terms of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, they do not constitute a “grave breach” of the Fourth Geneva Convention or “war crimes”, as some claim. In fact, even according to the view that these settlements are inconsistent with Article 49(6), the notion that such violations constitute a “grave breach” or a “war crime” was introduced (as a result of political pressure by Arab States) only in the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, to which leading States including Israel are not party and which, in this respect, does not reflect customary international law.

In legal terms, the West Bank is best regarded as territory over which there are competing claims which should be resolved in peace process negotiations – and indeed both the Israeli and Palestinian sides have committed to this principle. Israel has valid claims to title in this territory based not only on the historic Jewish connection to, and long-time residence in this land, its designation as part of the Jewish state under the League of Nations Mandate, and Israel’s legally acknowledged right to secure boundaries, but also on the fact that the territory was not previously under the legitimate sovereignty of any state and came under Israeli control in a war of self-defense. At the same time, Israel recognizes that the Palestinians also entertain claims to this area. It is for this reason that the two sides have expressly agreed to resolve all outstanding issues, including the future of the settlements, in direct bilateral negotiations to which Israel remains committed.

Israeli-Palestinian Agreements

The bilateral agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians, and which govern their relations, contain no prohibition on the building or expansion of settlements. On the contrary, it is specifically provided that the issue of settlements is reserved for permanent status negotiations, reflecting the understanding of both sides that this issue can only be resolved alongside other permanent status issues, such as borders and security. Indeed, the parties expressly agreed – in the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1995 – that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction or control over settlements or Israelis and that the settlements are subject to exclusive Israeli jurisdiction pending the conclusion of a permanent status agreement.

It has been charged that the prohibition, contained in the Interim Agreement (Article 31(7), against unilateral steps which alter the “status” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip implies a ban on settlement activity. This position is unfounded. This prohibition was agreed upon in order to prevent either side from taking steps which purport to change the legal status of this territory (such as by annexation or unilateral declaration of statehood), pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations. Were this prohibition to be applied to building – and given that the provision is drafted to apply equally to both sides – it would lead to the dubious interpretation that neither side is permitted to build homes to accommodate for the needs of their respective communities until permanent status negotiations are successfully concluded.

In this regard, Israel’s decision to dismantle all settlements from the Gaza Strip and some in the Northern West Bank in the context of the 2005 Disengagement Plan were unilateral Israeli measures rather than the fulfilment of a legal obligation.

Conclusions

Attempts to present Jewish settlement in ancient Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as illegal and “colonial” in nature ignores the complexity of this issue, the history of the land, and the unique legal circumstances of this case.

Jewish communities in this territory have existed from time immemorial and express the deep connection of the Jewish people to land which is the cradle of their civilization, as affirmed by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, and from which they, or their ancestors, were ousted.
The prohibition against the forcible transfer of civilians to territory of an occupied state under the Fourth Geneva Convention was not intended to relate to the circumstances of voluntary Jewish settlement in the West Bank on legitimately acquired land which did not belong to a previous lawful sovereign and which was designated as part of the Jewish State under the League of Nations Mandate.
Bilateral Israeli-Palestinian Agreements specifically affirm that settlements are subject to agreed and exclusive Israeli jurisdiction pending the outcome of peace negotiations, and do not prohibit settlement activity.
Israel remains committed to peace negotiations without preconditions in order to resolve all outstanding issues and competing claims. It continues to ask the Palestinian side to respond in kind. It is hoped that such negotiations will produce an agreed secure and peaceful settlement which will give legitimate expression to the connection of both Jews and Palestinians to this ancient land.

Posted in Conflict Resolution, Fourth Geneva Convention, International Humanitarian Law, Israel, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Mid East Policy, Peace Process, Right of Return, Rule of Law, Zionism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

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Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein charges “Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem amounts to a war crime.”
Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein charged in a report he issued last week that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem amounts to a war crime.

This assumption must be premised on the idea that the West Bank and east Jerusalem are occupied territory. This assumption also must be premised on the idea that Jordan somehow could lawfully ceed to the Arabs of Palestinian extraction, (to wit the PLO, a terrorist entity) this territory. This assumption ignores Jordan’s own breach of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention during it’s illegal 19 years occupation of Judea and Samaria/Shomron!

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein’s report charges that,

“The establishment and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel, including the legal and administrative measures that it has taken to provide socioeconomic incentives, security, infrastructure and social services to citizens of Israel residing in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, amount to the transfer by Israel of its population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” ….

“The transfer of the population by an occupying state into an occupied territory is a grave breach of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore a war crime.”

Notice that his report construes article 147 to mean that settlement activity “amount to the transfer by Israel of its population;” while ignoring the fact that article 147 prohibits forceable population transfers and Israeli citizens settle in Judea and Samaria/Shomron of their own accord. Jewish citizens of Israel are not forceably transfered into an occupied territory as was the case with Jordan and their ethnic cleansing, viz forceable population transfer of Jews from the very territory the report accuses Israel of and into which Jordan transfered it’s own population during it’s illegal 19 years occupation of East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria/Shomron!

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Trump administration backs PLO in terror lawsuit, angering conservatives

By JTA
March 11, 2018 15:54

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration sided with the Palestine Liberation Organization in a terrorism lawsuit the Supreme Court may soon consider, drawing an angry rebuke from conservatives, including one of its most steadfast Jewish community defenders, the Zionist Organization of America.

In 2015, a federal jury in Manhattan ruled in favor of American victims injured in six terror attacks that occurred in Israel in 2002-2004, handing down a $656 million decision against the PLO. An appellate court overturned that decision a year later.

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Solicitor General Noel Francisco supported the appellate court’s finding in a Supreme Court filing last month, mostly on technical grounds.

The Trump administration’s argument “hurts the American terror victims, aids and comforts terrorists, and makes them less concerned about facing consequences for their hideous actions,” said a March 7 statement by Morton Klein, the ZOA president, and Susan Tuchman, the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice.

The Supreme Court will say by March 29 whether it will consider the appeal by the litigants in the case, known as Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization.

The lead plaintiff, Mark Sokolow, told JTA in an interview that he was shocked by the solicitor general’s filing. He noted that the Obama administration had intervened on behalf of the PLO in 2015, persuading the District Court to substantially lower the bond — usually the equivalent of the judgment, in this case $656 million — which allowed the PLO the resources to file its appeal.

The Obama administration argued then that the award would cripple the ability of the Palestinian Authority to function, which would pose a risk to US interests in the region.

“We did not think anything along those lines would come out of this administration,” Sokolow said, citing President Donald Trump’s invocations of “America first” when it comes to foreign policy.

Trump has gone much further than the Obama administration in using American funds to pressure the Palestinians to hew to US policies. His administration has frozen $65 million in transfers to the United Nations relief agency assisting Palestinians and their descendants. It backs a bill in Congress that would cut US funding to the Palestinians until the Palestinian Authority stops paying the families of Palestinians who attack Israelis and Americans.

(The Obama administration withheld funds commensurate with the payments to Palestinian attackers; the bill Trump backs would cut almost all funding to the Palestinians.)

On the other hand, Trump is deeply invested in a bid led by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Sokolow, his wife and two of his daughters were injured in a suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem in 2002 that killed an 81-year-old man. His fellow plaintiffs are families of victims of terrorist attacks in Israel that killed 33, including several Americans, and wounded over 450. Their suit argued that the late PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat had paid attackers and their families.

They were suing under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows American victims of international terror attacks to sue for damages in the US.

Francisco’s filing touched on issues of preserving the executive branch’s prerogative to intervene in such cases in order to protect American foreign policy interests — the core argument of the Obama and Bush administration’s interventions in the lawsuit, launched in 2004. But most of it turned on technical constitutional arguments.

The PLO is entitled to due process, the solicitor general argues, because it qualifies as a “person” under US law. The filing also argues that the presence of two PLO offices in the United States does not meet the test of establishing the PLO as a legitimate US target for litigation. It also argues that the terrorists would not have necessarily known that some of the casualties were American, which mitigates another application of US law, that allows lawsuits against entities that deliberately target US interests.

The legalities drew special ire from critics of the filing. “The United States has in effect assented to the jurisdictional hurdles imposed by the Second Circuit, which will prevent many if not most victims of international terrorism from suing to hold their terrorist attackers accountable,” said the ZOA.

In October 2017, Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of Congress urged the solicitor general to support Sokolow’s appeal. Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., initiated a letter in the US House of Representatives signed by 67 Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who helped author the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act which underpins the plaintiffs’ case, initiated a letter signed by 23 senators of both parties. Rice is Sokolow’s representative in the House. Grassley a year ago joined a number of other senators in filing an amicus brief in the case; the House has also filed an amicus brief.

Lawmakers have yet to weigh in on the solicitor general’s filing, but cries of outrage are already reverberating in conservative media, usually a redoubt of Trump support. Joel Pollak, a top editor at Breitbart news, scored an exclusive interview with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and asked tough questions about Francisco’s filing.

“The question some of [the plaintiffs] have raised is why the Trump administration is taking the opposite side from them — why it’s fighting their attempt to claim damages from the Palestinian government. Is there any prospect of a change in that policy?” Pollak asked.

Sessions seemed caught off guard.

“Those present very difficult legal questions,” he said. “And our team is working on it. So I will have to get back with you on the status of that case.”

Brian McNicoll, a columnist on the conservative Townhall website, chided Sessions and Francisco: “Doesn’t it seem like the administration of the most pro-Israel president in a generation might be interested in winning justice for Americans injured or killed by terrorists?”

James Glassman, a top State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, wrote in a Op-Ed for The Hill that siding with the PLO in this case would not help advance the peace process. “In fact, it is counter-productive,” he said. “Imposing actual, financial costs on those who use and support terrorism is the right way to achieve peace.”

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A New Bipartisan Consensus on Israel

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A New Bipartisan Consensus on Israel
by Stephen M. Flatow / JNS.org

The Algemeiner

J Street and the radical wing of the Democratic Party have worked hard in recent years to chip away at the party’s traditional support for Israel. And they’ve made some progress — to judge by recent public opinion polls –in the changes in the Democratic Party platform and the number of Democratic congressmen who have signed J Street’s letters criticizing Israel.
But a speech at the AIPAC conference, made by the senior US senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, has struck a powerful blow against those trends in his party.
As the Senate minority leader, Schumer is the most powerful figure in the Democratic Party today.
What he said to AIPAC has established 10 principles of a new American political consensus concerning Israel and the Palestinians. And J Street is far outside of it:
1. Tearing down Jewish settlements will not bring peace.
“Now, some say there are some who argue the settlements are the reason there’s not peace,” said Schumer. “But we all know what happened in Gaza. Israel voluntarily got rid of the settlements there, the Israeli soldiers dragged the settlers out of Netzarim, and three weeks later, the Palestinians threw rockets into Sderot. It’s sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.”
2. Giving more Israeli lands to the Palestinians will not bring peace.
“Some say it’s the borders,” Schumer told the AIPAC conference. “But they forget during the negotiations in 2000, Ehud Barak was making huge territorial concessions that most Israelis didn’t like, it was [Palestinian head Yasser] Arafat who rejected the settlement. It’s not the borders, either.”
3. Making concessions on Jerusalem will not bring peace.
Schumer: “And [the obstacle to peace is] certainly not because we’ve moved the embassy to where it should belong in Yerushalayim [Jerusalem]. It’s not that either.”
4. Most Palestinians do not accept Israel’s existence.
The reason “why we don’t have peace,” Schumer said, is “because the fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East.”
5. The Torah says that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews.
It may not be politically correct to acknowledge Israel’s biblical right to the Jewish homeland. But it’s a fact that is acknowledged by millions of Jews and tens of millions of Bible-believing Christians. We don’t have to feel embarrassed to say it, just as the senator was not embarrassed to say: “Of course, we say it’s our land. The Torah says it.”
6. Israel remains vulnerable.
A generation that has grown up with an Israel that seems almost invincible has to be reminded that creation of a Palestinian state would reduce Israel to just nine miles wide, as it was before the 1967 Six-Day War.
Schumer recalled walking through the corridors of his high school in Brooklyn that Spring, his radio glued to his ear, “deathly worried that Israel would just be pushed into the sea by the Arab onslaught. … Now, the younger generation never experienced this. They haven’t lived through a time when Israel’s very existence was balanced on the edge of a knife.”
7. The Palestinian Authority isn’t “moderate.”
The great myth of the Oslo era was that the Palestinian leadership genuinely made peace and rejected terrorism. “Too many believe that this Palestinian Authority is moderate and really wants peace.” But it does not, declared Schumer.
8. The Palestinian Authority (PA) actively supports terrorism.
It’s not just that the PA leaders are unreasonable and extreme; they directly support terrorism. “The dark truth,” Schumer said, is “that the Palestinian Authority, every day, actively aids and abets terrorism.”
9. The PA’s payments to terrorists must cease.
The PA can’t disguise its payments to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead terrorists. It can’t pretend they are “social welfare” payments. It cannot route them through a third party. What it must do, Schumer said, is to “cease making payments to the families of terrorists.” Period.
10. The PA must stop glorifying terrorists.
It’s not a case of “we have our heroes, and they have theirs.” It’s not a matter of “what they do is their business.” Glorifying terrorists encourages more terrorism. “The PA has to stop calling them martyrs,” said Schumer, and “stop giving them parades.”
The leadership of the Democrats, as represented by Schumer, has now in effect joined hands with the leadership of the Republicans — and the majority of the American public — when it comes to Israel.
J Street and other harassers of the Jewish state have been left behind in the dust. A powerful new pro-Israel consensus has been reaffirmed. I hope it continues to grow.

Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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Abbas: Peace with Israel is ‘treason’

Abbas: Peace with Israel is ‘treason’
March 8, 2018

Why would the Palestinian leader make genuine peace with the Jews when the PA’s aspirations remain what they have always been, namely, the destruction of the Jewish state?

By: Daniel Krygier

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah recently that he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor” by signing any agreement with the Jewish state that does not live up to Palestinian aspirations and demands. This was clearly a reference to the Trump administration’s peace plan, which is expected to be unveiled in the near future.

Briefly, Abbas’s statement illustrates why the Arab-Israeli conflict is perhaps the world’s most intractable conflict. In theory, it is easy to solve, but in reality virtually impossible under current circumstances. The reason is quite simple: Arab leaders like Mahmoud Abbas have incited their populations for decades against the very existence of Israel within any borders. Why would the Palestinian leader make genuine peace with the Jews when the PLO’s aspirations remain what they have always been, namely, the destruction of the Jewish state?

Many liberals in Israel and abroad have for years dismissed the PA’s hateful propaganda against Jews and Israel as “meaningless statements for internal consumption.” Self-appointed liberals also believe that, magically, peace can be achieved by Israeli concessions alone. This self-delusion is rooted in desperation and the refusal to recognize the vast cultural and mental gulf separating the Middle East from Western democracies. Abbas is at the same time instigator as well as a hostage of a culture of hatred against the Jewish state that does not leave any room for compromise.

The difference between Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, is more in style than in content. Abbas has carefully cultivated an image of “moderation” in the international arena by claiming that he seeks the establishment of an Arab state along the 1967 ceasefire lines, with “East Jerusalem” as its capital. However, Abbas has himself admitted that he rejected the peace offer from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. This offer from 2008 gave Abbas everything the Palestinians say they want – in English: a state next to Israel with a capital in “East Jerusalem.” The problem is that nothing short of Israel’s destruction will satisfy Abbas’ despotic regime in Ramallah.

In 1979, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Nearly 40 years later, the peace remains cold, and hatred against Israel and Jews is endemic in Egyptian society. From the point of view of the “Arab Street,” Sadat was a “traitor” for signing a peace deal with the Jews. The price for treason in the Arab world is usually death, and Sadat paid with his life for the Camp David peace agreement with the Jewish state.

Abbas is in no hurry to end his luxurious and internationally funded lifestyle for a signed paper with the Jews that would endanger his own life. As long as it is considered “treason” in Ramallah, Gaza and elsewhere to make peace with the Jewish state, the Arab-Israeli conflict will continue, and Israeli concessions will only make it worse.

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Silver Half-Shekel: Mitzvah Protecting The Souls Of The IDF Soldiers

Silver Half-Shekel: Mitzvah Protecting The Souls Of The IDF Soldiers

Breaking Israel News
By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz March 8, 2018 , 3:50 pm

Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” Exodus 30:15 (The Israel Bible™)

After nearly 2,000 years of waiting, it is now possible to purchase a silver half-shekel that can be displayed at home and stored in a vault for use in the Third Temple. Or it can be given to IDF soldiers to protect them from their enemies.

Over 20 years ago, Reuven Prager, the tailor specializing in Biblically-styled clothing who sells such coins, started minting silver half-shekel coins for the purpose of performing the Biblical commandment incumbent upon every Jewish male. Regardless of personal wealth, every Jewish man was required each year to give a half-shekel coin to the Temple.

The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” Exodus 30:15

In Temple times, the half-shekels funded the costs of the Temple service. It was also required in order for public offerings to be considered communal since every Jewish household had contributed towards its purchase.

The half-shekel was described in the Bible as weighing 20 geira.

This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight—twenty giera to the shekel —a half- shekel as an offering to Hashem. Exodus 30:13

Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, a renowned Torah scholar from the Middle Ages, who is more famously known as the “Rambam,” said that the weight of the coin was equal to 160 grains of barley, which in modern measurements would be approximately eight grams of silver. The value of the coin is dependent upon the whatever the market’s value is on silver.

Even after the destruction of the Second Temple, the practice was continued until 135 CE when the Roman Emperor Hadrian outlawed it.

Prager’s deep desire to recreate this mitzvah (Torah commandment), despite its having been out of practice for almost 2,000 years is reflective on how dear the commandment is to Jews. Due to the significant time gap from when the half-shekel was last given, Prager conducted research on a subject many modern rabbis have not covered.

Every year, Prager chooses an image for the coin based on the utensils for the Temple. While has placed featured images of the musical instruments and vessels on the coin, he has avoided using the image of the seven-branched menorah (candelabra) that stood just outside the Holy of Holies.

Silver half-shekel (Photo courtesy Reuven Prager)

“I only wanted images of vessels that actually exist now and stand ready for the Third Temple,” Prager explained to Breaking Israel News. “The menorah that stands in the Old City is supposed to be used for Third Temple, but it is is only gold-plated. The Bible states specifically that the menorah be made out of beaten gold.”
Reuven Prager (Screenshot)

Prager is scrupulous about the Biblical requirements, and since the menorah is such an essential part of the daily Temple service, he has refrained from using its image on his half-shekel silver coins.

“This year, I received a Halachic (Torah law) ruling concerning my Biblical wedding ceremonies that surprisingly, also applied to the half-shekel,” Prager explained. “It referred to the halacha that states that in the absence of a menorah made from beaten gold, a menorah made from any metal could be used in the Temple service.”

Prager applied this ruling to the half-shekel project, and for the first time, he chose a menorah as the image for the face of the coin.

Performing the mitzvah requires sanctifying the coin to the Temple. This changes the status of the coin, making it forbidden to use the coin for any other purpose. Since there is currently no Temple for sanctifying the coin, performance of the mitzvah today is typically completed by handing such a coin to “Otzar Hamikdash” (the Temple treasure), an organization that was established for the purpose of storing these coins until the building of the Third Temple.

Three times a year, a ceremony called Trumat HaLishka is held in which the coins are given over to Otzar Hamikdash, and are officially considered to be sanctified to the Temple. The next ceremony will be held on Thursday, just prior to the beginning of the Hebrew month of Nissan.

Otzar HaMikdash has thousands of coins stored in a vault to be used for the Third Temple insured for 125 percent of their value, taking into account the fifth that must be added to replace anything sanctified.

And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. Leviticus 27:31

Five years ago, Prager added another Biblical aspect to his endeavor.

“Whereas every other commandment incumbent on adult men begin from the age of 13, the mitzvah of the half-shekel is unique in the Torah in that it is incumbent from the age of 20,” Prager noted. “This is because initially the mitzvah was intended as a way to count the men available for battle.”

Everyone who is entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, shall give Hashem’s offering. Exodus 30:14

Prager decided to reconnect the mitzvah to its military roots by setting up a fund called, “MASHAL” – Mahatzit Shekel L’Chayal – (half-shekel for a soldier). Prager uses the funds to purchase silver-half shekels. He then goes out to the streets of Jerusalem and distributes the coins to young IDF soldiers, religious and secular while explaining to them the mitzvah and the significance of the coin.

Also, a confirmation email is sent to the donor when his coin is given to a soldier.

“The packaging for the coins distributed to soldiers was designed so it fits into their military identification card that they carry in their uniform at all times,” Prager said.

“They can take it into combat. The Bible wanted to have them do this mitzvah so they have an insurance policy for their soul from the moment they go into the army.”

To purchase coins, contact Reuven Prager by email at begedivri@hotmail.com.

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